Features Category Archive

Tags in MT admin interface


It took a few hours but I've gone and done it. I hacked out the "suggested tags" UI goodies from del.icio.us and grafted it into the Movable Type admin's "Edit Entry" template.

Now for my purposes, the "suggested tags" are a set of set slugs; terms another component of this behemoth of a project seeks out via a nice SQL LIKE statement and then republishes elsewhere. However, the core code allows me to use it to, say, feed in all my aggregated tags, suggested tags, popular tags, etc...

Movable Type's new "AltTemplatePath" config directive (3.16 up) makes hacking the UI much easier and less worrisome when upgrading time comes around.

And no, I didn't even open Hacking Movable Type yet. I swear.

Graphical Command Line, precursory

I've been composing a post about "Graphical Command Line" interfaces, which what alot of "AJAX" enabled features on websites are, and what Quicksilver, a Mac application, is... but it's getting so long and involved and I just don't have the time that I will give you a résumé of my thoughts on all this which I posted on Quicksilver's message board:

Quicksilver is a Graphical Command Line. It combines the ability to manipulate files and applications, executing application commands on files, like a CLI, while using the strong visual cues of a GUI, blurring the line between recall (CLI: gotta remember the right commands and where everything is) and recognition (GUI: navigate to where my files and apps are)...

When you use QS, you are constructing a command to execute, only you are not doing it alone in your mind (like in a CLI/Terminal/C Prompt) trying to remember everything, because as you type, QS *shows* you possible matches of what you may want or may do. The power of the CLI with the diminished need to learn "arcane commands"...

Other examples of GCL, meaning, where a predominantly text-input based User Interface guides you along with visual cues (even if they are text-based), are (in order of appearance in the ecosystem):
- Google Suggest / "LiveSearch"
- ecto & 1001's tagging mechanism
- Jonas's "tags4WP" WordPress tagging plugin

Input output, part 1

I've been thinking a lot lately about this thing we call the personal weblog, especially the evolution I see, working exclusively on other people's, in how they are used and how their owners want to use them. It comes down basically to output and, increasingly, input as well.

For this scenario, there are two "actors": the individual and the group, or, the weblogger and the network. Me and you; the self and the other:

me and you

From my point of view, everything I put on the network is output, and everything I acquire from the network is input:

me and you talking

(This is why we say it is a conversation. Also notice how I consider The Weblog to be an extension of me - or more precisely, several aspects of me - and The Network as the aggregate of all of the extensions of you... as well as the product of any and all interactions thus produced. But that's another fight.)

This entry is output. Every picture in my photolog is output. Every picture I put on flickr is output, every song I listen to, as tracked by audioscrobbler, is output, every URL I tag in del.icio.us is output.

Every comment and trackback you all leave here (or anywhere I have left something) is, to me, input. Every technorati cosmos linkback is input. Every picture from my contacts in flickr is input. Every last.fm profile recommended song is input. Every weblog entry of yours that I read, be it in my RSS aggregator or my web browser, is input. Every grouped, inboxed or otherwise found URLs on del.icio.us is input. Every red dot on the map locating my visitors is input.

I could go further and say that every email and IM I send is also output, and that I receive, input... but that is out of the scope of the interaction paradigm I am concerning myself with here. It needn't be, but I'll leave that there for now. It is however just an interface thing.

That's a lot of microcontent to keep track of, and if we consider microcontent to be the atoms of "The Web 2.0", then there are also the electrons of those atoms, metadata, to think of. And just like electrons, it is the metadata that can help us bind it all together (amongst other things).

All of this is happening in our web browsers and RSS aggregators. Take this "weblog" for example. Weblog entries, photolog "moblog" entries, links, my 10 most recent flickr pics; all there, and I haven't even integrated my last.fm list, my del.icio.us URLs, my technorati cosmos, etc... On the RSS side I have crammed in all the output I generate locally, to the dismay of some of you.

My clients, and myself included, not only want to share more output, but we also want to keep track of more input, some of which we also want to share, and some that doesn't necessarily need to be. As something of a web interface designer, this all presents me with a very real problem, one that needs a solution. This is what I will try to address here in part 2. Stay tuned! Hah!

Devices of Design

I attended the "Devices of Design" symposium, hosted by the CCA (Canadian Center for Architecture) and the Daniel Langlois Foundation for Art, Science, and Technology (Daniel Langlois was the founder of Softimage).

Devices of Design, a collaboration between the Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA) and the Daniel Langlois Foundation for Art, Science, and Technology, was initiated in response to the increasingly widespread use of digital media and software technologies in architectural design as well as in the domain of construction. A colloquium and a subsequent roundtable discussion will address both the consequences that this shift implies for contemporary architectural theory and practice, and the urgent need for better understanding of the archival and conservation issues that such new media and technology raise for research institutions worldwide.

The general question I gather they were tackling was "now that our work, the endeavors of architecture, is virtually totally digital, what do we archive for posterity?". This got sidetracked almost immediately to "what is virtual? what is a document, as opposed to a scribble? what is memory?".

[This event was VERY densely packed with great presentations and thought provoking materials. Therefore, not only am I having a heck of time writing it all down here, time wise, but also it makes for a VERY long entry... one which I will have to come back to and add to for a little while yet...]

Open Source Religion

"Release early, release often."

(disclaimer: many of the facts - names of cultures, places, people and dates - are not terribly known to me. I am not a scholar, I'm a hobbyist.)

There exists a fantastic Open Source project that has been under active development for well over five thousand years. I shall refer to it here as "The::WoRd", a cleverly played acronym for "Theologism - Western Religions".

Though there is disagreement over where and when the project exactly started, it is generally understood that various groups of people in various regions of the area we currently refer to as "The Middle East" started it. Each started with the basic goal of somehow explaining "The Great Mystery of what is Life and Death all about". (One would assume that prior to the beginning of the project, this involved a lot of gesturing, humming-and-ahhing, and head scratching... as is still very much the case today...)

In the initial Alpha stages, each group just sorta started from scratch, using their own language, and built up terribly buggy frameworks. Some quit, some crashed, others got picked up by local governments seeking to streamline their processes (as that whole project was also just beginning...).

Over time, developers from many of these efforts would sometimes meet, presumably at Bird-of-a-feather sessions or Foo Siege Camps. They'd swap ideas, what worked, what didn't, "how did you fix that problem?", etc. Every now and then some intrepid soul would come by and talk about standardizing and everybody would blink and take another sip of their coffee. Or whig out and kill him. Depended.

Some of these projects had neat codenames like "Zoroastrianism"! Still in use today even. Sumerians, the Ebla culture, the Mitannians, the Hittites, indus civ... a few amongst a seeming plethora.

Trade was booming thanks to the development of city states (hellooo government!), and one group seemed to move around quite a bit back then. Babylon, Egypt... all over really. It was during one of their mass migrations, or rather Exodus, that one of these aforementioned standardizers, fellow by the name of Moses, had a blazing vision and declared: "Enough of this Golden Bullsh!t."

Behold The::WoRd version 1.0. Codename: Judaism. Ten rules, two stone tablets and One God.

And thus begins a long process of unifying codebases, standardizing language (more or less... this whole project is amazingly language agnostic...), calculations, revisions, revisions, revisions, annotations, etc.

Every good Open Source project eventually branches. New needs, new features, new bugs. Heh. A brash young hell-raiser, Jesus, raised as a carpenter and so a real practical, hands on kinda guy, figures he wants to simplify it all. Things had gotten out of control, feature creep and whatnot. He felt the original power was hidden in too many doodads. (He wasn't to be the last.)

At this cross-roads, we are introduced to The::WoRd version 2.0., Codename: Christianity. What a killer app, w00t!

The rest of the story is fraught with many many more branches, revisions and all the holy wars and bloodshed such things normally entail. Not long after 2.0, one Mohammed shows up and declares he's got an even better idea and releases 3.0: Islam. Lean, mean and even more flexible than it's ideological inheritance, Islam is a smash hit with all the hip kids who are into this "new" thing called "open communication" and spreads like wildfire, or, if you prefer, like fresh hummus on a pita. (Mohammed's words, unlike his predecessor's, were immediately written down and copied and distributed. A bunch of northerners from Europe swiped the whole Christian codebase, bolted on a fancy, if bloated, GUI, limiting what one could do with it and enforced a monopoly known as the Christian Dark Ages of Silence. Meanwhile, the Middle East became the center of learning and culture; the processing and storage needed to saturate the lines of communication...)

The funny thing is, as a dear friend likes to put it, right around the same time all this started, a couple of chinese figured it all out, smiled and farted.

Process through adaption

Continuing on my current theme of "data management", let me share with you an example from my own experience.

I mentioned a few weeks back how overwhelmed I was by the size of my MP3 collection.

McLuhanists, and others surely, will often cite how disruptive any new medium can be in our lives, viscerally even, until we learn to "deal with it". (What constitutes a "medium" is ascertainable by applying the McLuhan Tetrads, something I very much want to explain in english sometime.) Also, it seems we are in a situation where we are creating mediums faster and faster and with greater and greater disruptive effects, at a pace we are essentially unable to cope with. But I digress. But it is relevant! Anyways...

So, my MP3 collection.

I can identify three distinct phases in my archival methods for MP3s, each corresponding roughly with changes in available technology. I say roughly because while yes new technologies had evident impact, later on there was not only more MP3s around but also more technologies (apps, protocols, methods) and each had different absorption rates in my digestion of them. Heeee!

Phase 1 - Discovery (or Willy Nilly)
Oh my god. This is SO cool.
Going back to my old archive CDs I see that starting late 1998, I start having a folder called "mp3" into which I literally would just dump mp3 files. The files would be named with the track and artist name. ID2-3 tags were barely present and if so, hardly used really. Each of my archival CDs from that period was named after a character from whatever book I was reading and I figured that was plenty of a mnemonic device to remember that "Archive CD Jacopo Belbo" had a copy of "The Dukes of Hazard" theme song. We're talking maybe a dozen or two mp3s per archive CD. That worked for about a year.

Phase 2 - Hunter Gatherer (I start building a home)
Whoah, I need to put this stuff somewhere I can find it.
Napster hits like a hurricane. We all spend hours and days hunting for individual tracks, making little piles, renaming files and scrubbing ID3 tags. Every now and then a friend drops by with a full album ripped directly from a CD. Blessed be thy name. Alphabetized folders containing /artist_name/album_name/tracks*.mp3. I haven't added to that archive in over a year and it sits at about 17Gig. (The previously mentioned blog entry was about my malaise of trying to figure out how to incorporate all my new stuff into my old scheme.)

Phase 3 - We're all in this together (The Village)
Hey, do you have X? I can send you Y... it's sorta like Z.
This is where I am right now. All the mp3s I've amassed over the last year (36Gig - notice the increase in volume) sit in an a hierachy which begins with a folder named for *where I got it from*.
Notice I still keep trying to keep everything neat in artist/album folders. Thing is, my work is greatly reduced now, because I either get them already like that, or the ID3 tag information, which was entered in a distributed fashion by all the other mp3 sharers in my social network, is correct and I can easily rename stuff programmatically if I need to.

So again, my malaise from a few weeks back was because I was trying to shoehorn my new reality into my old system. Realizing the ground has shifted allows me to just accept that I need to stick with this new system. For now.

So what's next?
Well, it hasn't started yet, but I imagine something like last.fm figures. Information like "who" recommended a track and "why" and "how" will supplement the "where from".

More freeform and shared taginess is something I'm also very interested in seeing applied here... if 200 listeners "categorise" track X or artist Y as "indie electro laptop rap rock", who am I to argue? And why would I? I'll have a way of finding it easily.

Sidenote: I am one of those iTunes users who has selected to disable that software's "Keep Music Folder organized" feature, because I like doing organization on the filesystem level. Again, the malaise comes from being in a situation where that is becoming less and less feasible. I will have to give up eventually I suspect, but not until the management applications catch up to the shifted ground themselves. In this case, iTunes would need to be tied into my (future, networked) AddressBook... ;)

email UI

email has been much on my mind again lately. The fact that no email reader (client, MUA, etc) does things the way I'd like is frustrating, and many powerusers I have spoken to agree...

This evening I hooked up with Karl again, and over some green tea and a sticky thai rice desert with mango, we discussed, amongst other things, email UI. For the nth time. Semantic Web ideas were fresh in our minds as Karl had given a presentation on it and RDF earlier this morning.

Now in researching for this post I remembered and retrieved two email projects which actually DO much of what I want. However one was merely an IBM research project (they do SO MUCH awesome stuff at Big Blue!) and the other is, well, temperamental. I will mention them again later after I have described what I have in mind.

So, imagine this:
You don't manage your email anymore into folders/hierarchies. Your email client just stores everything into a dated space - like weblog archives, "/2004/10/21/21.14.49.mbox" - just to keep things nice and structured, in small parcels so as not to choke the OS and the Indexing mechanisms, and to have unique IDs for and URIs to every email.


The email client gives you a few configurable view options:

  1. Smartlists (Entourage has always had this, and it is coming in Apple Mail.app 2.0)
    Smartlists would filter based on rules you derive from data already part of every email your client archives. Date sent, Date recieved, status, presence or absence of attachment, junk-mail headers, etc...
    "show me all unanswered email from the last 3 days"
    "show me all emails with attachments" (this becomes a pseudo filesystem - Cory would love this)
    SmartLists are basically saved searches for known/established meta-data and character strings.

  2. AddressBook/LDAP integration/contact-based aggregation + analysis
    i.e. a list of all contacts, whom you have email to/from, sorted by most recent/frequency/volume + Bayesian(/Bloom?) filtering/learning/weighing (don't show me this contact, drop priority on this sender)

  3. Unlimited and customizable TAGS (à la del.icio.us/flickr... the current sweethearts)
    You assign tags to emails by maintianing a list of them and dropping emails onto the tags you want to associate them to or using the existing filtering tools - instead of sending it to a "folder" assign it a tag or two or three. (Filters could also influence weight...)
    Filter: incoming From: karl -> montreal, quebec, canada, french, friend, +10
    Filter: incoming From: joi -> tokyo, japan, english, friend, client, +10
    Filter: incoming From: mom -> family, guilt, -5

    The killer feature of this is you can have emails in multiple "categories", whereas previously with folders, you had to come up with a taxonomy - which needed revision every few weeks as your situation/sotial network/needs evolved - and place your email within it. Each email could only be in one folder...

  4. Thread arcs and thread highlighting
    I think most recent email clients do the thread highlighting, but only one I know of (GNUmail.app!) implements "thread arcs". With all the above display possibilities, the odds that all or even some emails which are part of a thread are displayed in the same list are slim, making thread highlighting marginally useful, if not outright useless.
    A thread arc (IBM Technical Research Paper PDF), on the other hand, appears in the individual email's display, and shows you that a) this email is part of a detected thread, b) where it is positioned in that thread AND c) allows you to click through the thread history.

Sounds good, no? I think so.

Ok, so I mentioned a few existing developments which have some or much of these features, as well as some of the plumbing.

IBM "Remail"
Remail does much of what I described above and more (calendars, IM...). Instead of tags, it does "collections". Similar concept. As far as I can tell, it is purely an internal research tool. Someone should learn from what IBM has learnt and DO IT.

Zoe is interesting for a number of reasons, but equally uninteresting... The good and the bad are as follows:
a) flat hierarchy
b) indexed / fully searchable (Lucene)
c) Contact sourcing
d) Plays nice with various outside stuff, Mail.app, Entourage, FTP, Blogger, RSS, etc...
a) Web-based app (u'd think this was good but eh...)
b) in neverending and sporadic development
c) a PITA to install and use properly
d) the developer is a bit of a character I've heard...

Funny thing is that zoe was trumpeted all over as "Google your email" over a year ago. Then Google unleashed GMail. And GMail does tagging...

Other worthy mentions:
Ludovic hasn't updated the main news page recently but the changelog for the "nightly builds" for the most recent one shows he's still working on his very nice MUA which runs on Linux, OpenBSD, FreeBSD and Mac OS X.
Awesome research project for visualizing "email landscape" and "email social network". Not only stunning but useful for the above mentioned Contact listing/visualizing.

p.s.: Yes I've mentioned much of this in the past. Goes to show how important email is to me. ;)

When thoughts collide

I received today my copy of Christopher Alexander's "The Timeless Way of Building" and floated down through the two first chapters as though carried by a gently nimble stream of clear water. More peaceful pondering on that later.

I ordered it for I had seen it mentioned in Ben's profile on Flickr. I briefly met Ben at ETech. His job title at Ludicorp (the makers of Flickr) is "Itinerant Philosopher". I trust in the serendipity of such encounters, even when it means ordering an expensive hardcover book.

Curious to see what other bloggers may have to say about the tome, I keyword-searched Technorati for its title and found that Peter Kaminski, of SocialText, had mentioned it just recently.

Of online social interaction, in the context of applying Alexander's ideas to the development online social spaces, he says this:

whereas architectural patterns of use have thousands of years of experience to draw on, online interactions have only been occurring for decades. It will take time to learn how people best interact online

In an earlier entry here, I pointed us to Mark's "explanation" of McLuhan's "The medium is the message", wherein this is said:

Right at the beginning of Understanding Media, [McLuhan] tells us that a medium is "any extension of ourselves." Classically, he suggests that a hammer extends our arm and that the wheel extends our legs and feet. Each enables us to do more than our bodies could do on their own. Similarly, the medium of language extends our thoughts from within our mind out to others.

I am of this mind:

For the first time, humanity is developing a medium which is not an extension of a faculty we already posses, but one which Douglas Adams refers to as, paraphrased, "the most cursed of social diseases": telepathy. Perhaps even something a step below omniscience. Not knowing "everything", but having easy access to "a heck of a lot". Having built out the infrastructure for our extended central nervous system and memory, personal logging and explicit social network systems will extend our "knowing". While we are at the very very beginning of these developments, it is paramount that we not only stop and ponder the ramifications and changes this will engender, but also make damn sure we move forward in a spirit of what Alexander refers to as "The quality without a name": alive, whole, comfortable, free, exact, egoless, eternal.

As the well placed stones in a garden.

Let me sum it up this way: what do you call a situation where potentially I can know where you are, what you are doing and what you are thinking, and you I? How do we build it, for it WILL be built, making sure we don't drive ourselves collectively batty?

Michael Moore publishes letters from U.S. soldiers in Iraq

I just received an e-mail from good friend and former employer, Warren Wilansky. Warren and the gang at Plank Design do all of Michael Moore's websites.

He sent me the text of the latest Mike's Message.

A small excerpt:

What they are saying to me, often eloquently and in heart-wrenching words, is that they were lied to -- and this war has nothing to do with the security of the United States of America.

Also just made available are 20 letters that U.S. soldiers have sent to Mr. Moore.

There are two basic messages in this: 1- the war in Iraq was/is a sham and 2- things over there right now are far far worse than we are being told.

Please read some of these letters, as well as Mike's Message.

AND, if you are lucky enough to live in a place where, for example, your television service offers European or other non-U.S. news outlets, subscribe to these channels now and see for yourself. (Here in Montreal, Videotron offers "EuroNews" which pulls together video reporting from many european journailsts in Iraq right now. It is frightening frightening stuff they are telling us...)

Oh and blog about this message too... It is important!

On a related note: if you can get your hands on a copy of "Uncovered: The Whole Truth About the Iraq War", a film in part funded by the MoveOn.org Voter Fund, it is well worth it.

Stick this in your Google and smoke it

In a comment on Joi's site, Stewart Butterfield remarked:

I have no idea how to settle an argument about this, but I contend that, for the overwhelming majority of blog readers and writers, blogs have almost nothing to do with 'content', and everything to do with identity and relationships.

Yup. I have to agree entirely. To be precise, not all weblogs would be about content (few are) and not all weblogs would be "identity & relationship building". Many turn out to be a bit of both, in varying proportions (as well as being any number of other things, of course).

For example, predominantly "content-focused" weblogs would be maintained by their authors with the desire and belief that what they are publishing is worthwhile, relevant, interesting, etc... The validity of said belief is beyond the scope of my point, and the desire is at least notable. Among these we can count blogs by Journalists, blogs by pseudo-journailsts (no negative connotation implied!), academics, hobbyists blogging about their hobby, etc. Their goal, if I may say, IS to "publish and share hopefully, somehow, relevant content and perhaps elicit conversation/communication revolving around said content".

Examples of this would be Dan Gillmor and Jon Udell (tech journalism), Anders Bell's Phluzein and danah boyd's Connected Selves (academic/specialized interest), etc...

On the other end of the spectrum we would find the often maligned "what I had for lunch today" style weblog. Here, the idea is to share a bit of one's self and one's life, much as one does at the family dinner table or when "shootin' the shit" in light social settings and daily interactions. "Hey I saw such and such movie last night. I liked it." This essentially identity and relationship management. You get to know a heck of alot about somebody quick by reading their entries of this nature. You get to know them, as much or as little as they want you to, and they get to know you, as much or as little as you want them to.

Again, no absolutes: I am merely setting a possible scale.

So, why mention Google in my title? Well folks, my little RowBoat here leans heavily to the "identity and relationship" side, and as such it seems rather pointless for it to be involved in the ongoing Google-washing that his happening. You wouldn't believe how many referers I get from search engines where people want a picture of a rowboat or to know where to rent a rowboat. If I actually wrote about rowboats, it'd make sense, but as it is, it is merely a silly title I thought up when I was asking myself the perennial newbie blogger questions: "what is this weblog of mine? and what shall i call it?"

So, as of today, using the wonders of the "robots.txt" file, I will disallow search engine crawling of my archives. Also, more serious stuff (content I feel may be of some value/genuine interest) will be remanded to a separate weblog, which I will announce in due time,and which will not be closed to search engine crawlers (spiders, robots, what have you).

The effect of this, I expect, will be that I will be more inclined to fill up RowBoat with stuff about me and my life (fun eh!?)(as you opined, Mike), as well as actually post more of the smarty pants theories I come up with... and they will be much better written and researched of course (as you suggested Anders).

Talking to myself

Continuing on the cyborg theme, I thought to myself:

I've been here on the sofa all afternoon, fumbling with my awkward iBook, and yet it is here, with this sub-par setup, that my thoughts flow most freely into the computer, and not at my desktop. It must be the relaxing recline of the sofa, for the larger screen and use of a mouse, instead of the restrictive 12" inch screen, clumsy trackpad and awkward keyboard navigation, are far more conducive to my interaction with the machine.. but not with my thoughts.

So, mobility wise, what do you want?

Well, let's see. For starters, a heads up/goggle-type display with an enormous "Desktop" (no need to go architecting 3D UI OS's), voice navigation and voice dictation. Added to that a pair of gestural data input gloves. With this, an application which presents everything I say (commands excluded or in a meta window) as text which, via the gloves, I can "copy paste" wherever I need it: chat with Joi, comment reply to Aaron, email to ... whoever, blog entry, etc...

To continue on the concept that conceivably the brain can "learn" to use new virtual artificial extensions to my "self", my two hands could merely be triggers or "training wheels" to new, multi-tentacled, again, virtual interfaces (read: fingers). Think of the special robotic multi-fingered hand prosthetics in "Ghost in the Shell". Why lob off one's hands and replace them with robotics when their existence could be fully virtual, yet controlled by the brain? It IS feasible, I have SEEN it.

I posit that with less effort than to learn sign language, our brains could learn to use virtual extensions like these.

It's like riding a bicycle! Right Marshall? ;)

This is also a basic theory of "good design". You know "how" to use a tea kettle just by looking at it. By making it intuitive, as opposed to a language learning process, you make it more useable.

It all comes down to wasted CPU cycles in the brain. The less I must process "how", the more I can process "what"... and where, who, when...

The Library of Am'zon

I was going to write something about this new Amazon feature which searches the contents of books now and not just ttitles, authors, etc... But Wired beat me to it. In fact, apparently they beat themselves to it, which is interesting in itself, but anyways.

Not withstanding all the politics and theories discussed in the Wired article and everywhere else, this feature is, or rather, will be, a boon for anyone with a book collection to which one often wishes to refer to.

This is just the beginning. Bezos has already shown an openness to open standards and has commuted that to Amazon itself. Witness TypePad's integration, and the ability for anyone to set up their own version using their API and some "simple" XML transformations.

I'll gladly give Amazon my credit card number if I can maintain a list of all the books I own, and be able to run a content search on them. Cross reference away, it's fine by me. As long as I can find the passage I'm thinking of and on which page it appears on. And if I can build my own interface to it, so much the better. It costs Amazon next to nothing, ups their mindshare and consequently will sell more books. Simple. Brilliant.

The business of riding a board down a slope

In Lao Tsu Sun Tzu's "The Art of War", he speaks of force, momentum, inertia and control. While the book's context is warfare, it can, and has been read and applied to many different things, including business strategy. (Thinking about it, it can apply to any human activity, as action requires all four...)

Here is my attempt at applying these four concepts, through the metaphor of snowboarding, to the task of entrepreneurship. Bear with me: I have been a snowboarder for fifteen years and have negotiated all sorts of terrain, plowed through every condition, pulled every trick; I have yet to be an entrepreneur.

A quick comment for Warren

Wilansky 2003: The Imperial Presidency

Ouch. First of all, speaking for myself, I ain't no "commie". ;)

That said, I am reading a very interesting book by one Sir Herbert Read, titled "To Hell with Culture". Amongst other things, he goes on about democracy (the driving idea being the role of culture in so-called democracy), and how a "real" democracy is "physically impossible". One thing I find very interesting in his writing is that he reminds us that Marx and Engels were fundamentally democratic. As always, the good things get corrupted by power, and culture is the tool used for greasing the ascent of the corrupt.

All the more reason why ideas like Ito-san's "Emergent Democracy" et al (like Jim Moore's "The Second Superpower Rears its Beautiful Head"), and not to mention what's going on with the Dean Campaign, are so interesting and bear further thought and elaboration...

Again, these things are not the end-all, be-all solutions or anything; they are, however, the harbringers for some very interesting thinsg to come.

Welcome to 1996, scientific publishing industry!

Good friend Anders points out this Guardian Online article, "Publish and be praised".

"Good morning houseplants. Yeees, it's time to get up now."

No joke, the article reads like it's 6 years old.

This technological revolution, perhaps as significant as the invention of the printing press, has the potential to dramatically increase the impact of scientific discoveries.

Gee! Really?

Where to begin hacking this apart?

First of all, let's forget for a moment that the Internet allowed the emergence of collaborative development, the Open Source movement, etc, which have in turn allowed information technology research and development to progress at a rate never before seen in all of human history, in any human endeavor.

To wit, the problem lies not with the publishers, who, like any good cornered animal, of course will fight to the death. You'd think the scientific community would understand that resisting evolution is a good way to guarantee obsolescence and extinction. Adapt, or go away.

Yes, the problem lies with the seeming majority of members of the scientific community itself. They as a group, make up the scientific community and thus control it's ways and means. As stated in the article, the practice of scientific journal publication is over 350 years old and very lucrative business processes are built upon and rely on it. Publishers' and published researchers' lives and livelihood depend on this archaic structure. But it is in their power to change this, and for the better.

So this Mr. (Dr?) Michael Eisen co-founds the Public Library of Science, essentially a free, online scientific journal.

To attract the best papers, we hired the best staff, recruited the best academic editorial board of any journal in the world, and trumpeted the benefits of open access to the scientific community and the public.

And it has paid off. Prominent scientists from around the world have sent us their best work.

Great. No, really, this is great. However, he obviously didn't learn anything from the dot-com bust, if he'd even heard of it.

"Let's use the same socio & economic infrastructure we already have and just slap a website on top of it. It'll be great!"

That would have worked, for a year or two, back in 1998-1999.

DISCLAIMER: I must say now, before I go on, that no, I do not believe "Weblogs" and "Wikis" are the ultimate solution to all of the world's ills, but here is a perfect example where they, used judiciously, could REALLY be of great benefit..

The first thing that needs to change is the view that the validity of a researcher's work is judged by a few select members of academic editorial review boards and the reputation they have brought to journal X, Y or Z. The definition of "peer-review" needs to be stretched a bit.. nay.. ripped wide open. Ok, maybe not wide open, but it does need to give substantially.

Second, academics and researchers need to awaken to and understand the power of the persistent URI (web address). They need to see the ease and flexibility current self-web-publishing offers. Ok, granted, these tools are not quite user-friendly enough for prime time but we're getting there, so get ready!

Current tools could be easily customized for simple, decentralized, peer-group-reviewed publication of research papers, et al, while maintaining and preserving the author's rights, reputation and all important fragile egos.

Yes there are many issues, as with all things. Obstacles are meant to be overcome.


- "Dhammapadda - The Sayings of the Buddha"

Live in joy,
In love,
Even among those who hate.

Live in joy,
In health,
Even among the afflicted.

Live in joy,
In peace,
Even among the troubled.

Live in joy,
Without possessions
Like the shining ones.

The winner sows hatred
Because the loser suffers.
Let go of winning and losing
And find joy.

There is no fire like passion,
No crime like hatred,
No sorrow like separation,
No sickness like hunger,
And no joy like the joy of freedom.

Health, contentment and trust
Are your greatest possessions,
And freedom the greatest joy.

Look within.
Be still.
Free from fear and attachment,
Know the sweet joy of the way.

How joyful to look upon the awakened
And to keep company with the wise.

How long the road to the man
Who travels with a fool.
But whoever follows those who follow the way
Discovers his family, and is filled with joy.

Follow then the shining ones,
The wise, the awakened, the loving,
For they know how to work and forbear.

Follow them
As the moon follows the path of the stars.

"To hell with culture"

To Hell with Culture
Sir Herbert Read (1893-1968).
Leading poet, publisher, educational theorist and social reformer, who was one of the most influential art critics of the twentieth century.

Having only read the introduction thus far, I wish to share with you some excerpts of it which I find highly relevant today, in the context of the cultural phenomena we are observing with the advent of weblogging et al, and the political ideas which have begun to float because them, "Emergent Democracy" chief among them. I also am personally fascinated by the roles of the artist, personal freedom and social expression.

Turn your tongue one hundred times before speaking.

Smart Mobs - Cell Phone Recording May Breach Privacy

Folks are going ape about cellphones with call-recording features. Privacy this and privacy that.

On the above linked entry I commented:

Very simple: never say anything that you will regret. What's the big deal? The issue here is not privacy, it is discretion. The person recording your conversation is the person you are having the conversation with in the first place. When I have conversation with you via email, we both have records of it. Same for IM, or weblog commenting/trackbacks.

I wish I had recordings, and transcripts, of every phone call I ever was involved in. Not for legal issues, or blackmail, but for a record of memories and ideas and people.

and then further added:
if you cannot say things you won't regret, don't regret the things you say.

Call for tenders...

As this Japan trip rapidly approaches, my anxiety level increases somewhat.

I've posted to Joi's "Going to Japan" WikiPage some info about my trip and what kind of help/info I'm looking for.

Anything and everything is welcome! :)

Teenaged cyborgs, moblogging and Emergence.

Link found on Smart Mobs, and quotes below lifted from the Miami Herald article it linked to.

''[Cellphones] extend the spatial and temporal boundaries of a physical encounter,'' she said, explaining that cellphones are providing a way for young people to stay in touch when they are apart.
It is far more than a mere "way to stay in touch when they are apart". That what we've been using telephones for since the start. The interesting part is how cellphones, with integrated, easy instant messaging "extend the spacial and temporal boundaries". Extend? It erases them, and not merely for "physical encounter": for direct communication. Take this:
Linked by cellphones and possessing the ability to exchange silent messages anytime, anywhere, these young people respond to each other quickly, creating the feeling of always being connected.
"Always being connected" + "always being able to communicate" = social network, and more. Read on.

While we're on the topic... (RSS)

Joi Ito has gone and done it. He bought and read Ben Hammersley's new O'Reilly book "Content Syndication with RSS", Of course this means I have to run out and get it too (shame on me for not having it already!).

As Mr. Hammersley says, Ito-san nails the issue right on the head:

It's flexibility vs. simplicity. RSS 2.0 is cool because it extends the simplicity of the original 0.9x RSS with modules. RSS 1.0 is cool because there are so many things you can do with RDF. The problem with RDF is that it is so ugly to read. Honestly, this morning I wouldn't understand what I have just written. The geek inside me is now awake and I want to learn everything there is to know about RDF, bu it took a bunch of people pummeling me to get me to care, whereas plain old RSS 0.91 got me excited just looking at the code. So, I guess I'm on Dave's side in terms of keep it simple and help get it widely accepted. On the other hand, the RDF stuff really does allow a lot of the semantic web attributes that we are talking about in the emergent democracy debate and the RDF framework, once it really starts to get picked up inside of applications could be really powerful.

Myself, I've been cheering for RDF. Not out of any profound understanding of it, mind you. Just out of a very high-level overview conception I have formed over the course of some reading and conversations about it. It does seem to me to be hugely powerful, but I must say that I too tend to have my eyes gloss over whenever I actually look at the code itself. Then again, the same happens, to a lesser degree when I look at any mark up (except HTML/XHTML... after tens years of the stuff I have found myself dreaming in tables some nights!).

Anyways, yes RDF "allows" incredible flexibility, and yes it is a, forgive my french, a "bitch". The true tragedy here is that it has not been adequately picked up by tool developers, which would allow it to reap the benefits of a moderate critical mass.

Let's look at it a tad deeper though, and compare it to other "standards" out there.

And by all means, if I am way off or outright wrong in what I say, feel free to correct me!!! Karl? Ben? Aaron? Steph? Anyone! :)