Social Category Archive

A place or a feeling?

Bruno throwing snowballs at me and Ty
Originally uploaded by Shawna Nelles.

Last night at Laïka, I had a brief conversation with Michael, founder of Ile Sans Fil and good friend, about various things, including how places are not just geographic coordinates or a point on a map or an intersection of two streets or a corner of a neighborhood: they are communities, shared experiences, stories (as Matt Jones said somewhere sometime somehow I don't remember).

One example of this is how the Flickr isflaika tag, which get aggregated into Laïka's ISF portal login screen slowly morphed from showing cups of coffee and glasses of beer, to people hanging out, to pictures of the staff... then increasingly to pictures related to the community of Laïka (former staff member on the beach in Thailand, me in Shinjuku, one of the regular DJs, Vincent Lemieux, playing in Tokyo, etc...)

This picture is of Bruno, the big boss, caught in his afternoon fun today of throwing snowballs at neighborhood regulars as they came by. The photo was snapped by Shawna, whom I met one evening at Laïka and who is now one of The Officemates.

I know where that corner is: it's in me heart.

Running man?

Part of the premise of the movie "Running Man" is how the main character gets framed as a murdering police officer by manipulating video evidence.

Now, Photoshopping images and AfterEffects-ing video is already possible but it's still a huge pain to do things convincingly. High priced gear and pros territory.

Poisson image editing is some complex mathematics that will make this kind of stuff easier. For better or worse... ;)

poisson image editing

Poisson 2

Two papers:
Poisson Image Editing [pdf]
Patrick Pérez Michel Gangnet Andrew Blake
Microsoft Research UK

Drag-and-Drop Pasting. [pdf]
Jiaya Jia, Jian Sun, Chi-Keung Tang, and Heung-Yeung Shum, SIGGRAPH 2006.


Every time I come to Japan, the biggest frustration is getting a mobile phone. This time it's not a phone I need (I have two I could use) as much as just a connection. It seems that will be just as hard, if not harder to pull off.

Besides my keitai from 6 months ago, I also have my Nokia N80 which works on the 3G network here. In fact, I've got signal right now, but it's on roaming via my provider back home. Hello $3 a minute. And remember I disabled data/GPRS. SMS doesn't really exist here. Or rather, you don't really exist here if you can't email from your mobile.

So not only do I not exist here yet to all the people I know (and who are not necessarily IM or PC email contacts), but also all those people have ceased to exist for me... because the Address Book in my keitai was wiped. (The address book is the heart of your social network)

I'm going bat5h17 stir-crazy here. I need a mobile connection. ;)

The big question mark here is: are SIM cards in japanese keitai software-locked to the device they are in? I popped someone's SoftBank SIM into my N80 and it jumped on the network, but stupidly we didn't try to DO anything with it, like place or receive a call. I'm betting setting the device up for email in such a scenario is a P.I.T.A too.

The carriers, and in fact the law, here make it so hard to even just get an account, that no-one has tried this yet, or rather, it is so rare and specialized knowledge, it just isn't available.

So yeah... crazyyyyy...

I just had lunch with Mika who graciously allowed me to try her SIM card in the N80. After asking for her unlock code, the phone immediately jumped on the network. We successfully made a phone call AND, most importantly, I was able to send an email via the 3G. (i.e.: the network's data access point was autodiscovered and added to my available Access Points.)

This means that one solution is to find someone to get me a cheap phone+plan, and pull the SIM card out. ;)

Everything part II

continuation of previous post

They say there is opportunity in chaos. The chaos they speak of exists generally outside, and on the fringes of, "The System". Humanity, for better or worse, seeks always to order, structure, the chaos and benefit form it somehow, bringing it into "The System". This is how we, as a society ("The System"), move forward.

Intrinsic to this ordering, is contextualizing. It is what it is all about. Contexts are signifiers, icons, containers... parts of a system.

Find the context that you are interested in, even passionate about. Learn as much of it as you can, and never stop learning about it.

Then, go out to fringes and look at what's new in the chaos. What new elements and attributes are relevant to your contexts. Identify them and think of how they can be made useful, valuable to yourself and all around you.

The chaos is the environment. The world in it's myriad evolutions and revolutions. What new elements and bits has a shift in technology, medium, politics, economy, etc... created.

Then, just do it. But do it because it's what you must do, need to do, want to do. Everything else will come.


(rambling alert!!!)

Everything is a node.
And every node can be, at once, part of many contexts, and can also, just by being, create many contexts.
Every node has many properties.
And contexts can add and modify properties of nodes.
And every context has many properties as well.

This is what is on my mind. It is infused in everything I do and everything I am; from building multi context web aggregators, to how I view my self, society, and my place in it.

I am
I, the base node in my experience, who's core context, my self perception, which is only clear to me when I am lying quietly, alone... am.

Some examples

I do
Professional context: web specialist. This context groups me with a large number of people (globally). Some are friends, acquaintances, etc (relationship contexts), most I don't even know exist.

Where I do
I live and work in Montreal. This reduces the number of people in my professional context to a geographic context of "Montreal". (In my case this is deceptive: I am not part of the local web scene really and therefor I know very very few of my fellows here. But for arguments sake, let's ignore that.) We can further refine the geographic context with a location context: Laika. If I were more connected in teh social context of Montreal, very likely I could identify more web-workers at Laika.

Profession context: web-worker
Geographic context: Plateau, Montreal, Quebec, Canada (AND or OR)
Location context: Laika, BoLab

What I like to do:
Professional interests context: web-based communications, mobile connectedness, peripheral awareness, etc etc.
Personal interests: (some overlap... ;) Phenomena of culture, movement of society, perception and translation of environment and how that affects, feeds, informs and drives the previous two.

Who I like to do with:
Relationship contexts. Some broad ones, many specific one, and as many individual ones as individual nodes I interact with. Much overlap (node from Friends Context A is [relative of] node in Acquaintance Context Y, etc)

Time context. File created? File updated? File last accessed? File access frequency, across time. Forgetfulness, fog of time.
(Replace "File" with "Relationship", "Interest", "Location", etc... When was the last time I was in Vienna? Often had I been there? How frequently do i return? When was the last time I thought of snowboarding? Went? When was the last time I saw her? Emailed him? ... ... ...)

And so on... just imagine.

RDF (Resource Descriptive Framework) exists for the purposes of modeling the information sphere on the reality of nodes and contexts.

Wheels within wheels, the myriad creatures.

MIT Center for Collective Intelligence


Our basic research question is: How can people and computers be connected so that—collectively—they act more intelligently than any individuals, groups, or computers have ever done before?

Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated.


If the world were 100 people.
(a flash movie based on an old internet meme)
Share what you can.

Open Data Movement talk in Helsinki

For the last two weeks I have been dying for an excuse, any excuse, to be in Helsinki right now. The announcement of Matt Biddulph's Aula talk today comes a full 48 hours too late for me to do up and go. Flights went from $1,200 to $6,000 (cause I'd want to go tomorrow morning and not stay a week.)

My personal tragedies aside, I am very pleased and intrigued by the fact that the Aula folks, and entourage, are peeking into Open Data. Though, from the write up it sounds more like Open Content they are talking about...

Around here, Michael and a bunch of a bunch of folks have been organizing Civic Access:

Citizens for Open Access to Civic Information and Data (CivicAccess) is a group of citizens which believes all levels of government should make civic information and data accessible at no cost in open formats to their citizens. We believe this is necessary to allow citizens to fully participate in the democractic process of an "information society."


  1. To encourage all levels of governments (county, municipal, provincial, federal) to make civic data and information available to citizens without restrictions, at no cost, and in useable open formats.

  2. To encourage the development of citizen projects using civic data and information

Making civic data and information freely available to citizens is important because:

  • Citizen participation in decision-making is fundamental to democracy

  • Good decisions are made by informed citizens

  • Quality civic data and information are fundamental to keeping citizens informed in an "information society"

  • Taxes have already paid for civic data and information; therefore these should be made available at no cost to citizens

  • Citizen projects using civic data will generate innovative solutions to social, economic and environmental problems

  • Citizen projects using civic data will allow citizens to creatively plan their communities

  • This is what a democracy looks like!

In this context, Open Data refers to such information as government activities (like "TheyWorkForYou" and "OpenSecrets"), geographical data (hello all you geo wonks, salivating at Google Maps. Can you imagine what geographical resources your government, which you pay for, has access to?), and in combination with Open Content--cultural objects, like BBC archives, all the way to local event listings...

Sorry, distracted by work.. but you get the picture right?

Location Portals

Michael finally went and got himself a "this is not personal!" weblog where he will talk about something that is central to everything he hopes and dreams about (in a non personal way! hehe).

If you're interested in location based, locative media, especially how it relates to community and all that (I'm drunk, bear with me), please visit, and subscribe to Location Portals. Having conversed with Michael over the years many times about all this, I assure you he has some terrific insights, not to mention in depth experience, and wishes to share that, and build on it.

Go go go!


Quick! Someone make a t-shirt for these people.

It should say:

"Non-conformity is the new conformity"
"zealotry is sexy again!"

("I'm with stupid"'s already been done.)

Pride is such a terribly dangerous thing. And too often people confuse pride in their work (what they have produced, with love and attention and skill and experience and and), and pride in their tools. (Or worse, instead of pride in one's society's culture/contribution to humanity, pride in one's rivers and lakes, cities and towns, laws and forms of government, ideologies and religions, color of eyes, hair and skin... etc etc...)

Pride yourself on (the quantifiable) doing good, not (the terribly subjective) being good.

/rant off. ;)

10 years on

I just came across this interview with Joi done in 1995.
Reading it I am struck by a few things:
- 10 years ago Joi was roughly my age.
- He saw very very clearly what was going on, on many different levels and across many sectors, and thus it was very very easy for him to predict certain things (most of which came to pass) and bank on them successfully.
- Having that vision comes from being open, attentive, curious and having access to a lot of people and information.

Note to self.

Marvin! Robots!

Picture 2

My friend Marvin, whom I met at the Global Voices conference in London last december, sent me an email the other day. Amongst other things he shared this:

I wanted to tell you of my success in being accepted as a Fellow in the Digital Vision Program at Stanford. For 9 months, starting in September, I will research and develop my project, Robotics Stimul-I, and then return to Jamaica to implement it.

Robotics Stimul-I builds on the work I started with the innercity kids in Jones Town, and aims to show that learning robotics can increase literacy and numeracy for a group of at-risk youth. This activity will take place at a the community's own Robotics Learning Center that will be built as a part of the project. The idea of such a facility has it's roots in MIT's Computer Clubhouse concept and is also inspired by Lego Mindstorms Centers.

Once this is completed, it will Jamaica's first Robotics Learning Centre and the first community resource of this nature, built right in the heart of the innercity.

Please recommend any person(s)/organization(s) that you think might support this project.

I am really happy to see Marvin's momentum with this. I'm definitely going to try to hook him up with anyone I know who might have any kind of interest in this stuff, from robotics to community projects.

The screencap above was us trying to troubleshoot iChat AV between him and his sister.

Medieval ballisticism

In a follow-up to my "It's not about you" post a few weeks back, Mike Migurski, lead dev on ReBlog, points me to this complaint on "The Taming of The Band-Aid", a small, local weblog about one person's agricultural efforts in rural Florida:

This is new technology. We're out on the cutting edge, folks. Given that fact, technology gets put into play before abuses of said technology can be forseen. And I do see what "Garden Voices" is doing as abuse, plain and simple. They are generating revenue by posting original material without permission - material which, by the way, is copyrighted under Blogger's terms and conditions.

It seems "Garden Voices" (hehe) is reblogging tf23's content, without permission, with attribution (which ReBlog goes out of it's way to make possible) and yes of course... is trying to generate revenue with banner ads.

Classic water-mill setup. Just add water...

Again, I only point this out to say that the key issue here is awareness. The more awareness one has, the more one can help oneself. tf23 has several avenues of recourse, the least effective being to call Jonah, and turn of RSS. Also, tf23 should ask him/herself why he/she is blogging and for whom. Is it for fame? Fortune? Ego? or sharing? Sharing with whom? Why? (Do you see the spiral forming?)

It is a very hairy issue, inelegantly handled in this case but I suspect we will hear this kind of thing more and more.

Mike's comment on the entry bears pointing out as well:

Being quoted is a touchy subject, and I do think that's an appropriate word to describe what Reblog does. There's also a very fine line between being angry at having your work reblogged, and being angry because no one's paying attention. The big lesson of Reblog (and digital media in general) for me has been that the creators of a work have even less control over its dissemination than in the past, that this is *an intentionally-designed feature* of the internet (in fact, it's THE feature of the internet), and that it's a lot more interesting to embrace the weirdness than to fight it.

We essentially agree, inasmuch as we say "It's here, deal with it. Inform yourself and [re]act accordingly".

Gentle brush past my shoulder

This is so close to me it's not even funny.

Nokia and Yahoo! add Flickr support in Nokia Nseries Multimedia Computers

You can upload your full size photos to Flickr directly from the camera or image Gallery application on your Nokia Nseries device. Another supported feature is the ability to add comments to the photos that are uploaded from the Nokia Nseries device.

You know who you are. All 5 or 6 of you. (or do you?)
Big smile. I am just happy to be in the room. Even just as a whispering ghost.

Now if only one of these phones fulfilled *my* I/O needs. (ahem... pen entry, dictation input, cerebral interface... :p

Summing it up

My post on "it's not about you" the other day sparked a good thread of debate which culminated in Hugh staking some key points, and Karl responding very clearly and directly, and in my opinion, right on the money, so to speak.

If that's not your thing, here's a picture of me scratching my neck in front of some sakura.



It's not about you

At least not the way you may be led to believe it is.

With apologies to Stewart and Caterina, the whole Flickr team and all the folks involved in this "Web 2.0" stuff, who, for the most part, are truly wonderful people and bring us wonderful things.

It's not about you, it's about your data--or "bits of your life digitized and uploaded"--and the way you structure it and contextualize it and share it. That's what the big money hubbub is about.

You see, what happened is this: enough dot-com bubble casualties, many of them web designers and programmers and information architects and the like--people who knew how to publish to the web, be it text or photos or audio files or video pieces--got tired of doing it by hand, coding up html and maintaining whole websites. They decided to build tools to automate all that. They called them Content Management Systems before, when they still had their jobs building large e-commerce sites in 1997. But now they started using them to self publish, and they added a few really nice features like comments and "RSS feeds". Weblogs were born and slowly but surely over the last 3-4 years... well you see what happened.

"The promise of the web has been realized!" "The read and write web!" More or less. It is truly great stuff, don't get me wrong. I ain't knockin' it, even if I am nibbling on the hands that feed me.

But that's not what the bankrollers are on about. They don't care about your newfound ability to publish your thoughts or your pictures. They are just glad that you are doing so. Why? Because in an information based economy, data is your primary natural source. And flow of data creates movement which can be harnessed.

Like a water-mill.

The difference is that these millers don't need to go find a river: they can make one. And that's what sites like Flickr,, Upcoming, YouTube, Newsvine and the lot of them, have done.

Centralize, centralize, centralize. Concentrate and control.

What that means:
1- your data is not under your direct control.
2- what is done with your data, is not under your direct control.

So what? What are these people doing with your data? It's pretty simple: they use it to drive advertising revenues.

Here's how. I mentioned structure and context. When you publish something, share it, you try tell a story; you labor to package it up, give it meaning (semantics through communication technologies, like language) and you place it on the web within a context, be it via categories, tags, links to related information. You are organizing data.

To folks like Google and Yahoo!, that is worth gold. Literally.

Before I continue, lest I be labeled disingenuous, I should make clear that I am NOT railing against all this. I use Flickr every day--more like 300 times a day; it's my #1 destination, almost as often as my email inbox--and I manage weblogs that sport Google Ads and Technorati tags and links and all that stuff. I just want to try to make sure people actually realize what is going on.

We are all working for them. For free. That's how it's "about we". It's not a "media revolution", it's a reversion to feudal medievalism. "Voluntary servitude" it's been called (back in 1548!) (This is worth a read too though it has quite a Marxist taste to it. ;p

The counter argument is "but they are providing a service which in order to survive must sustain itself economically somehow, and you free information people are the first to yell "information wants to be free" and so it is and we can't rely on subscription or pay-per-content schemes." Totally fair. And services like all the above mentioned all do fairly decent jobs of providing ways to export and retrieve your data. One way or another, you gotta pay to play, right?

The malaise remains however: they are profiting from our ignorance (or forgetfulness). Whether it is ignorance of their actions or ignorance of your abilities (to do any of this yourself in a de-centralized way) or rights.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go check what pictures my friends uploaded, what links they bookmarked and who's talking about me.

This has been another poorly formed and expressed rant brought to you by a bottle of sake, three deadlines and 12 hours in front of too many screens.

David Suzuki

I've been meaning to write about David Suzuki for a long time, and haven't yet mainly because I have not done what I told myself I'd do first: actually get acquainted with "his stuff", knowing it would affect my life pretty profoundly, beyond the effect of watching "The Nature of Things" growing up.

Go on, go on, read up.

Anyways, I have yet to dive in, but I came across this article in the Harvard Gazette: Suzuki's passionate plea for change, talking about his acceptance speech for an award he just won:

The human footprint on the Earth is very different from what might have been surmised when modern humans first emerged on the African savanna 150,000 years ago, Suzuki suggested, as not-very-impressive creatures who walked upright and didn't have much hair.

"If any human being in those early days had said, 'Ha! Piece of cake, we're going to take over this whole savanna, we're going to take over this planet,' we would have laughed him into a cave and said, 'Don't listen to him, he's nuts.'" (this is classic Suzuki stuff! I can *hear* him saying it, grinning on CBC on Sunday evening.)


For more than two decades, Suzuki noted, scientists have been warning about impending global environmental crisis. In 1992, a group of leading scientists of the world, including half the world's living Nobel laureates, issued a warning to humanity: "'Fundamental changes are urgent if we are to avoid the collision our present course will bring about,'" he quoted from their statement. "No more than one or a few decades remain ... . A great change in our stewardship of the Earth and of life upon it is required."

"The media response was terrifying," Suzuki said, pausing for effect: "There was none."


In addition to the news media, Suzuki also blasted conventional economics as "not a science but a set of values posing as a science," which tends to dismiss concerns like the ozone layer and underground aquifers as mere "externalities."

But, he emphasized, "There is no environment out there. We are the Earth."


"the Earth is our mother; not poetically, not metaphorically, but literally."

So with that, my friends, I tell you this: I've been working with a lot of human rights and freedom of speech people lately and it's time I also dive into the sustainable development and environmentalist camps.

Get me my hippie spray. ;p

Orwell's "Notes on nationalism"

Don't have the time to expound on this seminal text more profoundly at the moment but wanted to point it out.

First a salient quote:

Indifference to objective truth is encouraged by the sealing-off of one part of the world from another, which makes it harder and harder to discover what is actually happening. There can often be a genuine doubt about the most enormous events. For example, it is impossible to calculate within millions, perhaps even tens of millions, the number of deaths caused by the present war. The calamities that are constantly being reported--battles, massacres, famines, revolutions--tend to inspire in the average person a feeling of unreality. One has no way of verifying the facts, one is not even fully certain that they have happened, and one is always presented with totally different interpretations from different sources. What were the rights and wrongs of the Warsaw rising of August 1944? Is it true about the German gas ovens in Poland? Who was really to blame for the Bengal famine? Probably the truth is discoverable, but the facts will be so dishonestly set forth in almost any newspaper that the ordinary reader can be forgiven either for swallowing lies or failing to form an opinion. The general uncertainty as to what is really happening makes it easier to cling to lunatic beliefs. Since nothing is ever quite proved or disproved, the most unmistakable fact can be impudently denied. Moreover, although endlessly brooding on power, victory, defeat, revenge, the nationalist is often somewhat uninterested in what happens in the real world. What he wants is to FEEL that his own unit is getting the better of some other unit, and he can more easily do this by scoring off an adversary than by examining the facts to see whether they support him. All nationalist controversy is at the debating-society level. It is always entirely inconclusive, since each contestant invariably believes himself to have won the victory. Some nationalists are not far from schizophrenia, living quite happily amid dreams of power and conquest which have no connection with the physical world.

Now this was written somewhere near the end of World War II, and as such is very dated, not only in it's use of examples but in it's language and structure of classification of things. Orwell seemingly used, though with disclaimers right from the start, the word "nationalism" to encompass the sea of all -isms, despite diving into a few of the more fashionable ones from his time. All of which is perfectly acceptable and reasonable but reading it today it begs updating, not just historically but semantically as well.

That said, please take the 20 minutes to read it, suspending for the duration any hang ups on historical frameworks, localized criticisms (he's on about British intelligensia of the time which really is just a micro-representation of society of any time and place, always affected by environment and circumstance of course)... and yeah... read it with, for lack of a better term, "the timeless eye".

And then ask yourself: "What is acceptable to me? And why?"



on lies: a necessary and healthy feature of sociality is lying. Lying is a feature, not a bug. The great dream of a utopian society is a system where lies are not necessary; the great nightmare, one where it is not allowed or even possible. That said, realizing you have been lied to, can be... very painful.

Fumi: what do you want to be when you grow up?
Me: I am what I want to be: myself. And I never want to grow up!
(I was very surprised myself to hear these words cross my lips.)

When I am here, strange colors appear in my life. I have bought a pair of socks; deep red. I have bought an umbrella; muted orange. What next?


Happy 2nd Birthday Flickr!

Mosaic: Happy Birthday Flickr!
Originally uploaded by jbum.
Wow, I totally missed it this year.
Happy birthday gang!! Thanks SO much for this wondrous world of marvels.
I moblogged Stewart, Ben and Eric introducing Flickr at ETech 2004, and I was lucky enough to be in Vancouver for the 1st birthday too. Sigh. :)

歲歲平安 Suìsuì píngãn

(Everlasting peace year after year)

恭喜发财 Kung hei fat choy to my chinese friends celebrating the new year; may it not be a dog.


Sadly ironic, my sister's puppy somehow managed to asphyxiate itself with a plastic bag yesterday while everyone was out of the house. As she cried, my 4 year old nephew consoled his mother by saying "at least it wasn't one of us..."

Local Government Organizations (LGOs)

ICLEI (International Council for Local Environmental Initiative) - Local Governments for Sustainability

We provide technical consulting, training, and information services to build capacity, share knowledge, and support local government in the implementation of sustainable development at the local level. Our basic premise is that locally designed initiatives can provide an effective and cost-efficient way to achieve local, national, and global sustainability objectives.

UCLG - United Cities and Local Governments

United Cities and Local Governments is a new world organisation dedicated to promoting the values, objectives and interests of cities and local governments across the globe. It is the largest local government organisation in the world, with a diverse membership that includes both individual cities and national associations of local governments.

United Cities and Local Governments is the global voice of cities and the main local government partner of the United Nations. It promotes the policies and experiences of local governments in key areas such as poverty, sustainable development and social inclusion.

Urban Ecology Center

The goal of the Urban Ecology Centre is to build and share expertise concerning the most viable approaches to sustainable urban development and how they may best be implemented in our neighbourhoods and city.

Where's my head?

It's not that I am going senile or any such thing... it's just that...

"my memory space is being flattened, in places, especially recently, by prolonged use of asynchronous text-based tele communication"

In other words, I am beginning to suspect that the use of such things as Instant Messaging and email is somehow confusing the brain, which is normally used to associating experiences with way more environmental clues (such as person's face, lighting in the scene, sounds around, geo context, etc) than you get with an email or an IM chat.

I've already mentioned that I sometimes imagine conversations with people, in my head/telepathically, as if I were actually having them/via IM. I suspect this is akin to ghost limb syndrome. My brain just assumes I can continue the communication, regardless of TCP/IP stack (er, IM software and internet connection). Whether the person is there or not is irrelevant because as far as my brain knows, it's all imaginary anyways right? I mean, there's no live person in front of me, I did not displace myself to interact with this person, etc.

Now I am also seeing the effects of this, theoretically, on my memory as well. My brain is actively "flattening" my memory space of all my other communication modalities as well, as if to compensate following some sort of "lowest common denominator" rule for how much meta data to store, or at least, to keep actively "close by" and easily accessible.

What that means is, I will remember the message of a communication, almost word for word. But I will need to greatly labor to recall a) WHO the conversation was with b) WHEN the conversation took place c) WHERE it took place, be it in physical space or via which network protocol, and of course all three are related and cross referenced. (If I remember who it was with, if it was with a local, I will have to look further for environment clues such as "was it live conversation?", "was it on the street, or at Laika?", etc etc.)

Of course I make this sound far more drastic than it is, but I also am merely scratching the surface of this phenomenon which I can sense is very definitely happening to me.

(The title of this post is taken from my light hearted impression of my mother who can sometimes be a bit absent minded.)


Justin's made his backchannel experiments an official project at the USC IMD, where he is studying.

Having experienced several types of backchannel setups myself, though never of the intensely focused and tweaked 14 screens of the ZML, I can say it is definitely not for everybody. You have to not only be of the kind of mind that can assimilate multiple input streams at once[1] and need to prepare yourself beforehand: being aware is key.

[1] This reminds me of the warrior's gaze, as explained in Miyamoto Musashi's "Book of Five Rings":

In regards to the Gaze of someone, he notes that a person must be able to perceive that which is all around him, without moving their eyeballs noticeably, which is said to be a skill which takes an enormous amount of practice to perfect. He notes that this is again one of the most important parts of strategy, as well as being able to see things which are close to you, such as the technique of an enemy, or far away, such as arriving troops, or enemies, as that is the precursor of battle, in that your actions go off what you see.


ConstellationW3 had a setup like this as well apparently at their last big thing at the S.A.T. (I missed the event and the site seems down so nyah...)

freedom vs. liberty

Dictionary definitions of these two terms, just to make something clear:

the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint : we do have some freedom of choice | he talks of revoking some of the freedoms. See note at liberty .
• absence of subjection to foreign domination or despotic government : he was a champion of Irish freedom.
• the state of not being imprisoned or enslaved : the shark thrashed its way to freedom.
• the state of being physically unrestricted and able to move easily : the shorts have a side split for freedom of movement.
• ( freedom from) the state of not being subject to or affected by (a particular undesirable thing) : government policies to achieve freedom from want.
• the power of self-determination attributed to the will; the quality of being independent of fate or necessity.
• unrestricted use of something : the dog is happy having the freedom of the house when we are out.

1 the state of being free within society from oppressive restrictions imposed by authority on one's way of life, behavior, or political views : compulsory retirement would interfere with individual liberty.
• (usu. liberties) an instance of this; a right or privilege, esp. a statutory one : the Bill of Rights was intended to secure basic civil liberties.
• the state of not being imprisoned or enslaved : people who have lost property or liberty without due process.
2 the power or scope to act as one pleases : individuals should enjoy the liberty to pursue their own interests and preferences.
• Philosophy a person's freedom from control by fate or necessity.

freedom, independence, liberty
The Fourth of July is the day on which Americans commemorate their nation's independence, a word that implies the ability to stand alone, without being sustained by anything else.
While independence is usually associated with countries or nations, freedom and liberty more often apply to people. But unlike freedom, which implies an absence of restraint or compulsion (: the freedom to speak openly), liberty implies the power to choose among alternatives rather than merely being unrestrained ( | the liberty to select their own form of government). Freedom can also apply to many different types of oppressive influences ( | freedom from interruption; freedom to leave the room at any time), while liberty often connotes deliverance or release ( | he gave the slaves their liberty).

Notice how the two definitions are very different except for in one instance; both include "the state of not being imprisoned or enslaved". Somewhere along the line, this convergence of definition allowed for a flip in the popular culture to occur, where simplistic freedom replaced the far more sinewed--and thus complicated--liberty in the public discourse. This is a tragedy.

Freedom and liberty are NOT the same thing. Freedom is devoid of responsibility ("nothing left to lose"?) and awareness for it's environment, people and society included...

"My freedom ends where yours begins"

This maxim speaks directly of the true nature of what it means to live in a group (which connotes a society, which connotes all sorts of things like laws and politics.) If "freedom ends", then it is not by definition freedom, for freedom has no limits. If I accept that there is a self and an other, and that we have met, then it is with liberty that we must live together. I am free to kill you, but living in a group it goes further than mere freedom, for I have the liberty to choose to do so and suffer the responsibility such an act entails.


"Have the courage to change what you cannot accept,
the strength to accept what you cannot change,
and the wisdom to know one from the other."

I've long admired this proverb but it never quite sat well with me. I know why now. Or rather I always sensed why, but now I can explain it.

True wisdom lies in accepting all, including what may seem unacceptable.

The trick lies not in the acceptance, but what you do with what you have accepted. To not accept is to reject, and when you reject something, you are finished with it; you no longer have any possibility to do anything with it, be that change it or place it on the back shelves of your consciousness.

When the world presents you with a gift, you accept it. Now you can choose to do many things. If it is repulsive to you, have the courage to change it, or the strength to hide it away and bear the weight of doing so. If you cannot change it yourself and you feel you must, have the temerity and drive to recruit others to help you.

Equally important is, if the gift is joyous, have the generosity to share it others. :)

This has been on my mind for a very long time. Very often when speaking of buddhism and zen with people, their perception of these philosophies is that they are dismissive and lead to complacency because of their focus on accepting the world as it is. This is very far from the truth however. One cannot truly appreciate anything without accepting it when it appears before us. Accepting something affords us to chance to inspect it and to know it more deeply.

I accept that there are atrocities in the world. So far I have shouldered the burden of merely carrying this knowledge along with me, all the while being mindful of it, watching it, learning it, and my relationship with it. All of this is by no means an excuse for inaction--another misunderstood concept of zen and buddhism; action and inaction. I accept also my actions/inactions but know that they will eventually move into directed action.

The lesson here is that acceptance is not a destination, it is a starting point. Once you have accepted something, you must choose what to do with it and how you will live the relationship with what you have accepted.

Two disturbing

Mark Federman recently posted two rather disturbing entries.

And How is One Certified as Sane?

Although this story is a year old, one of our students brought it to my attention last evening. According to the British Medical Journal (and numerous other sources), Bush plans to screen whole US population for mental illness

Whew, good thing they didn't actually try that. But the fact that someone over there seems to have even thought of it...

and Fallujah - The Hidden Massacre:

The weapon in question, apparently called MK77, is the replacement for napalm that caused so much horrific death and destruction in Vietnam, and was subsequently banned by the United Nations. However, a weapon with precisely the same grotesque and deadly effects, under a different name, is being used by the very country that is loudly decrying WMDs.

MK77 apparently contains "whiskey pete," the military slang for white phosphorus. According to two soldiers who participated in these missions, and now (after being discharged) have supplied information to the RAI producers, white phosphorus incendiary bombs explode on impact and spread a gaseous cloud for 150 metres in all directions. Wherever the gas touches skin, the skin burns immediately. White phosphorus gas actually burns the skin to the bone beneath clothing, leaving grotesque corpses with apparently undamaged clothing. Gas masks are of no use, since the gas melts the rubber, and the skin underneath. If you inhale the gas, "it will blister your throat and lungs, and you will suffocate, and then burn from the inside out."

Nasty. Revolting.

On the upside, Mark also reports:

Over the next few years, I am embarking on a serious (as in PhD-serious) study of the emergence of a new corporate form that is consistent with the 21st century, as opposed to being grounded in the 19th century and the Industrial Age.

I look forward to hearing the results of this study (or follow along on it's progress?)! It's sure to be highly interesting.

Expression Under Repression

Rebecca and Ethan and a few other of the Global Voices Online team were WSIS in Tunisia this week and today gave a workshop presentation on "Expression Under Repression", despite technically having been canceled "by the authorities".

Very exciting, awesome job gang, bravo!
Ethan and Rebecca (and John and many others I'm sure) have some interesting reports from WSIS.

Human hands

In the process of clearing up a misunderstanding, Ethan points to a great article by one Justin Mason about cellphone repair stalls in the streets of India. Amongst other things, it speaks to how most people in a consumerist culture regard the articles they consume as "black box" products (buy, seek help to repair and/or discard; "black box" refers to anything which you know more or less how to use and what it's function is but have absolutely no idea how it does what it does, nor how to fix it if it stops doing what it does. For most of us, our cellphone is a "black box".)

More specifically, it points out how consumers of black box products somehow assume that if they don't know how a thing works, surely no one but the manufacturer could possibly know. This is of course total crap.

Let me put it this way:

What human hands can build, human hands can take apart.
What a human mind can conceive, another human's mind can deduce.
Who does which is a question depending on distribution of value (time, money, sentimental attachment, depth of consumerist streak, etc) and occurrence of need.

Even if I knew how to resole my shoes and could afford the time to do so, I probably wouldn't. If I had a cobbler down the street who could do it for n% less than the cost of a brand new pair, I'd consider it...

See what i am getting at?


Friend Hugh started up a neat "sorta Project Gutenberg for audio books" called LibriVox. The project has gotten some good traction and attention - Hugh was invited to the recent Open Library launch shindig by Brewster Kahle - and he's confident that the catalogue's growth is progressing exponentially.

LibriVox volunteers record chapters of books in the public domain in digital format, and we release the audio files back into the public domain (catalog and podcast). We are a totally volunteer, open source, free content, public domain project. Our objective is to make all books in the public domain available, for free, in audio format on the internet.

LibriVox is always looking for volunteers, to read and record chapters of books in the public domain, but also to help with other aspects of this growing project: technical (cataloging, social networking, web design, communication); graphics; publicity; coordination of volunteers etc etc... We have about 80 volunteers right now, more than 10 books finished, and we expect to have 30 done by the end of 2005. Right now all our titles are in English, but we hope to have other languages soon. Come help us out.

Up for some reading out loud? :)

Immersive Web

About a week ago I went for chinese food with Michael. We hadn't seen each other in a few weeks and Mike had just returned from what seemed like a very exciting trip to Europe. He recounted parts of his trip and his recent move, and once we had finished, the carbo-coma kept us in our seats. As I poured us some more tea, I said to him: "so, I've been thinking about this thing lately... the Immersive Web."

Disclaimer: I am fully aware that there are loads of people who have been thinking about this stuff for a long time, who naturally know waaaay more than I do, etc etc. And while I've taunted Joi about his recent World of Warcraft "research", I trust implicitly that he knows what he's doing and doing it for good reasons. (No seriously. But I just had to link that PotatoChopped picture ;)

In a nutshell, what I mean by Immersive Web, is the combination of everything we know about 3D, virtual reality, networked "video games" and Open Source software projects, Open Standards, interoperability, accessibility, "self publishing", sharing and the whole kit-and-kaboodle linked with URLs.

Michael got really really excited and made it very clear that he definitely thought this was a very very important topic and one he had been thinking about for a long time. I knew he had some involvement with the 3D/games stuff through GameCode, but didn't realize it was something he held so close. Sometimes stuff goes over my head... or... in one ear and out the other... ;) I should also add that Michael's web-handle is mtl3p: "Montreal third place".

Fast forward to this afternoon: I am sitting in the conference room at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society, at the tail end of a Fellows meeting and the topic slowly shifts to "virtual worlds like Second Life and such". Some words fly out of my mouth, some hand gestures are made, some glances are thrown and all of a sudden I have volunteered Ethan and myself to write a 2 page paper on how/why Berkman should get involved in online virtual spaces, or something like that. Wahoo!

I shoot an email to Michael telling him such. Thirty minutes later he replies: "wow." "Goes fast doesn't it" I send back. A few minutes later my phone rings and it's him of course. "So, you at home? Whatcha doing?" "Dude, I'm at Berkman..."

Hehehehe. Then something funny happened, and I did something I haven't told him I did yet. Michael starts explaining why he thinks that my naming it "Immersive Web" is very very important. He is VERY excited as he is explaining this to me... so I switch my phone to speaker mode, letting Ethan listen in. ;)

Now, Michael does a really great job of explaining the socio-politcal and cultural ramifications of all this stuff and the naming, but I also needed to express an actual scenario of how I see an end product of "Immersive Web".

It came to me in two pieces; the first on the way to dinner, talking with Ethan, and the second walking back to the hotel after dinner, talking with Rebecca.

First of all, it should be relatively easy for me to upload and setup my own little "virtual place" on a server somewhere, the same way I can upload and install a weblog today. It shouldn't matter which "vendor" or "package" or "distribution" I choose, it should be able to be part of the greater community; the same way it doesn't matter, as Rebecca correctly pointed out, if I use Movable Type, WordPress, TypePad or Blogger to blog: I can still publish HTML and various RSS feeds, leave comments and have comments left for me, be aggregated and searched and most importantly, I can link and be linked to (that's what the Web *IS*).

Ethan pulled at the logic and we arrived at the question: "ok so what do we do with this?" 3D chat avatars are hold hat. Yawn, been there done that, right?

I emailed a scenario of use to Michael stating thusly:

"Let's say I want to share with you what it's like to stand at Hachiko Square in Shibuya, Tokyo. In a full featured and flexible immersive web environment, I could pull together various "media" from my personal archive and construct a very personal view/experience, pulling together perhaps a Google Earth/Map type of geo visualization, stitch in a bunch of photos I may have taken, a few other people have taken (pulled in dynamically via RSS feeds of tags from Flickr for example, and made available to me), play a recording I may have taken while there (or one someone else took and that I pulled down off the web, perhaps CC licensed?)... Imagine I could actually go and grab a premade virtual wireframe framework of that whole area, and "pin on" it my memories to share with you ... and whoever I gave the URL to it to."

(I should rewrite that to make it less redundant and to the point... it was stream of consciousness...)

Ethan pointed out : "but I can do that on a webpage now!" Yes and no. You can assemble all the bits and pieces but until you stitch them into an "environment", a situated and explorable "space", they remain just fragments, barely held together with some sort of narrative context which depends on the storyteller's story telling ability.

(Granted, very few people can create stunning 3D environments in even the simplest 3D CAD or game authoring system, but give any child a glue gun, a marker, some materials and a wall or four and watch the world he/she creates for you! Also, not every weblog is a impeccably designed masterpiece... most are straight default templates with a photo here and there...)

I also threw in:

"Two things that gave weblogs traction were: "simple" webpage making (post an entry and the webpage is "made for you") and the fact that the created "page" had a unique URI (a "permalink").

The first steps of Immersive Web is about laying the groundwork and making the infrastructure decisions which will eventually allows us "simple" "3D environment making" and giving it a URL..."

Another aspect that Michael is very keen on driving home is the fact that we have learnt over the last 10 years how to manage large scale distributed development of open source software projects. (Need I say it? Linux? Amongst hundreds of thousands of examples...) This is key since 3D virtual stuff, networking protocols, communications standards, programming etc etc etc ... all the stuff we will need to do to make something like an Immersive Web happen will require alot of work by alot of people with a lot of different skill sets.

I think it can be done.

(I am hoping to spend a good amount of time at the USC Interactive Media Department this winter. When I mentioned all this to Scott Fisher, a pioneer in the field of immersive media, his answer was immediate: "sounds good! let's do it!" Awesome. :)

You say hello, I say goodbye...

Well, it's happened.

The American-based internet giant, AOL, wholly-owned by Time-Warner, has formed a working partnership with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to permit unlimited surveillance of the millions of AOL online members, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Commerce.

“AOL works ‘closely with the DHS’ to supply information on any AOL customer and allows agents from these entities ‘free and unfettered’ access to AOL Hq at Dulles, VA for the purpose of ‘watching over and keeping surveillance ’ on the millions of AOL customers,’ according to the report.

So that's it. As soon as I can set up a reliable Jabber server on one of my machines I am ditching all commercial IM services: AIM, ICQ, MSN, GTalk.

Bye bye.

(p.s.: rumors are flying of a Google takeover of AOL Time Warner. ”The Matrix“ indeed.)

What we need is more McLuhan

I've been meaning to send some link love (daaah, cannot believe I used that phrase) to Mark Federman's new weblog. Mark's the Chief Strategist at the McLuhan Center at the University of Toronto. He used to write at their official weblog but understandably a situation arose where Mark's voice was being confused with the Center's "official" voice. It's been a few months actually. Sorry Mark for not mentioning it earlier.

So, free to use his own voice, Mark's been writing some really kick ass stuff.
If Corporations are Obsolete, What is Their (Reversal) Successor?
The Obsolescence of Mass-Media Journalism
Trusted Computing (a hot topic around here lately ;)
and Fascism Anyone? (I love this one, mainly since I have been saying this for over 10 years to anyone who will listen... without credentials or references mind you, just on gut instinct...)

Of course I am biased; as anyone who's had a deeper conversation with me will attest to, I always end up talking about McLuhan... or buddhism... or both combined.

Anyways, good stuff. Check it out, and Mark, keep it up. :)

Google swallows the internet whole, and you with it

First, it was about "indexing" all of the web. Then, it bought a small chunk of that web (Blogger). Then Google said "hey, there's more than the web out there!" and Google Mail was pushed out. Quickly followed by Google Talk.

There was some murmuring recently about something initially called "Ajax Office", wherein you could do all your word processing and spreadsheet work in a web browser and the files would be stored on a remote server. Google was mentioned as "a good place to do it".

I'm not sure what the deal is here but check this out... Google Wifi. Here's the salient part of this:

Why would I want to download and install Google Secure Access?

Google Secure Access allows you to establish a more secure connection while using Google WiFi. By using Google Secure Access, your internet traffic will be encrypted, preventing others from viewing the information you transmit.

Does Google Secure Access connect to a VPN server?

Yes, Google Secure Access connects to Google's VPN ("Virtual Private Network") server provided for this service.

As with everything Google does, yes this is a very good and very much needed service. But what this means is that everything you do on the network goes through Google's servers.

What sort of information does Google have access to?

If you choose to use Google Secure Access, your internet traffic will be encrypted and sent through Google's servers to the Internet. The data that is received will then be encrypted and sent back through our servers to your computer. Your privacy is important to us, we strongly encourage you to read our Privacy Policy to be fully informed about how your privacy is protected.

Oh please. Policy? A few words to soothe my worries? "Policy" is as weak as the paper it is written on, not to mention the laws of the country they are used in. (For example, it is the policy of Yahoo! China to share the contents of their database with chinese police.)
Encryption? You're joking me right? We're talking about the single largest networked computer in the world. Not to mention they are the ones encrypting the tunnel for you. You don' think they can decrypt it?

Is there a fee for using Google Secure Access?

No, Google Secure Access is free.

Of course. You are supplying them with their main invaluable natural resource: content. For free. Who's getting the real bargain here?

Nothing is free, and if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. ;)

Trust is something that must be fluid and reflexive. Faith is very very dangerous.



"Lead Camino developer Mike Pinkerton has announced that he has accepted a position at Google."

Public (and there are more such announcements coming)

  • Micah Dubinko -> Yahoo
    XForms Specification Editor

  • TV Raman IBM -> Google
    Participant of many W3C working groups

  • Flickr Team Ludicorp -> Yahoo
    includes Stewart Butterfield, Caterina Fake, Eric Costello, Cal Henderson, George Oates, John Allspaw, Heather Champ, Aaron Straup Cope, Corey Fake, Serguei Mourachov, Paul Lloyd, Kakul Srivastava, Ana Zavala, Dathan Pattishall

  • Dave Beckett Bristol Univ. -> Yahoo
    RDF / Semantic Web, created of librdf

  • Vinton Cerf MCI, ICann -> Google
    One of the "Fathers of the Internet"! What a catch!

  • Mike Pinkerton AOL -> Google
    Camino/Firefox developer, joins Google's Firefox dev team

"I am leaving King Yao. He is so obsessed with the ideas of benevolence that I am afraid something ridiculous will come of it. In any event, funny or not, this kind of thing eventually ends with people eating each other raw.

"At that moment, there is a great wave of solidarity. The people think they are loved, and they respond with enthusiasm. They are all behind the king because they think he is making them rich. Praise is cheap, and they are all competing for favor. But soon they will have to accept something they do not like and the whole thing will collapse.

"When justice and benevolence are in the air, a few people are really concerned with the good of others, but the majority are aware that this is a good thing, ripe for exploitation. They take advantage of the situation. For them, benevolence and justice are traps to catch birds. Thus benevolence and justice rapidly come to be associated with fraud and hypocrisy. Then everybody doubts. And that is when trouble really begins."

"Flight from benevolence"
Chuang Tzu

Brush up your french and read this page by Karl. Or, hehe, trust the Google translation of it. ;)

Also, an amusing, cheesy, tongue-in-cheek but really quite accurate tale of Google as the 9 billion names of God. (Er, not the sentient part... that's just silly.)

On *isms

Cynicism is, IMHO, the worst *ism there is, for it is the only *ism that cannot be cured with more education.

That said, here is a nice set of guidelines for civil discourse.

Safe travels gaucho

So, Steven's probably sitting on the tarmac at Pierre Elliott Trudeau Airport right now, beginning a 2 month trip to Cuba and, I suspect, to the core of himself.

No, he's not going to go sit on the beach. He's brought with him his bicycle, his Powerbook, his dSLR... and all his knowledge and experience in IT, networking, web communication. Not to mention a desire to do some good.

Over dimsum yesterday, I asked Steven exactly what his plan is. At least, where is going to start, what's he going to do.

Well, first he's meeting with a leading cuban paediatrician in hopes to have cuban participation in, an international research networking project Steven undertook for the Pasteur Institute.

He's also going to go visit the Linux user group at the Universidad de La Habana. They have an Ubuntu-based Linux distro, which apparently comes bundled with pre-configured Jabber client and RSS aggregator. I have a feeling he'll be dropping some of his ace WiFi-fu on them, having established his own community WiFi network in his hometown.

And then he's off to cycle all over the island, staying with families in their homes along the way. Apparently Cuba is extremely well suited to such cycling trips, with excellent roads and government subsidized rooming houses all over.

I made him promise to blog and photolog as much as he possibly can.

Bonne route mon ami. Be safe.



We envision a country where Cambodians can learn and use computers in their own language, a country that does not have to change to a new language in order to use computers!

Bravo. They're translating and localizing stuff like Firefox—renamed Mekhala— and OpenOffice and an email client, as well as providing Khmer Unicode software for people's computers. Fantastic.

Steven's also been telling me about the Cuban Linux distro, based on Ubuntu, which comes bundled and pre-configured with a Jabber IM client AND account, as well as an RSS aggregator.

Your rights to photograph

Your Rights and Remedies When Stopped or Confronted for Photography

The general rule in the United States is that anyone may take photographs of whatever they want when they are in a public place or places where they have permission to take photographs. Absent a specific legal prohibition such as a statute or ordinance, you are legally entitled to take photographs. Examples of places that are traditionally considered public are streets, sidewalks, and public parks.

Members of the public have a very limited scope of privacy rights when they are in public places. Basically, anyone can be photographed without their consent except when they have secluded themselves in places where they have a reasonable expectation of privacy such as dressing rooms, restrooms, medical facilities, and inside their homes.

Taking a photograph is not a terrorist act nor can a business legitimately assert that taking a photograph of a subject in public view infringes on its trade secrets.1

On occasion, law enforcement officers may object to photography but most understand that people have the right to take photographs and do not interfere with photographers. They do have the right to keep you away from areas where you may impede their activities or endanger safety. However, they do not have the legal right to prohibit you from taking photographs from other locations.

Good to know.

[1] interesting juxtaposition here: "Taking a photo is not a terrorist act" AND "taking a photo of somrhting in full public view is not an infringement of commercial trade secrets." I venture to say that if not already then very soon, so-called "acts against corporations" will be considered tantamount to terrorism. "You're terrorizing our profit margin! Die!"

Found via Digg & © 2003 Bert P. Krages II (woah! more meta!)

Flickr & Creative Commons


Help push the more widespread awareness of the use of Creative Commons licenses on Flickr.

You can copy and paste the code below into your Flickr Profile's "Describe Yoruself" field:

And of course pick a license and use it yourself...

Microsoft says

Teach your kids the basics of safer blogging before they start

Dated July 7th, MS published this article in their "Security At Home > Child Safety" webzine. Interestingly, much of it applies to everyone, not just kids:

- Ask yourself if you are you comfortable showing any of the content to a stranger.
- Check out other blogs to find positive examples for your kids to emulate.
- Never offer any personal information.
- Never post provocative pictures of yourself or anyone else.
- Assume what you publish on the Web is permanent.

I suppose that as with all child-rearing guidelines, it makes sense but ...

[link via IM from Stevey. For someone who "isn't a blogger", you sure find some deep and obscure and not yet blogged about stuff dude...]

Pointing thataway

I just want to point out that Joi's recent entry on the whole Live 8 thing has the best comment stream I've seen over there in a long time. (Sorry Joi... it's not you, it's the nutjobs and relentless pessimists that get me down.)

I've nothing much really to add to the conversation as it seems to me to be right on track, at least in civility, however most interesting to me are two things, both brought up in these comments:

a) how much awareness is actually raised, how is it raised, what ideas and views are actually implanted, how effective are these ideas in spurring action, and how efficient is this methodology?


b) who's really benefitting at all? I'd hate to think it is the WaBenzi (link via Ethan's stream, well worth adding to your inbox), though it looks like it is. As more than one commenter says, corruption is the biggest barrier to relief. In nature, as in all things, corruption and decay invariably lead to death, which makes room for rebirth, renewal and change. In human affairs though, the greedy desire for maintaining the status quo, trying to maintaining some system of forced control, stretches that time out, often with the result of passing off the death and dying to innocent bystanders...

I'm watching you

Gen Kanai
Johnny Shoepainter
miyuki jane
Pete Barr-Watson
Jean Snow
Yuka Oishi
Ryou in the box
mmdc hash

A month ago, joshua mentioned an easy breezy little addition one can do to one's site to allow users to easily bookmark entries on one's weblog.

In some cases though, you might like an easy way to see how many people, and who, has bookmarked an entry on your weblog.

But how!? hash, my friends, hash.

You know that little "and X other people" link under each entry? Click on it. See that string of weird string characters in the query string? That's an MD5 hash of the bookmarked URL.

What follows is the list of ideas -in sequence of how they came to me and I dismissed them - of how this could be implemented, and why each can't or shouldn't be. The last one is the best bet. I couldn't do any of these myself, except for one, since I can't code to save my life.

1- MT Plugin run from CRON
Hashes every permalink and checks it against, grabs the RSS feed for each and caches them "locally", parses them out for stats and outputs the numbers ("25 people think this is delicious!") into the templates via template tags.
The idea is based on Ado's excellent MT-Technorati plugin which does basically the same with Technorati. The problem is that is really really sensitive to "abusive behavior". Send it too many requests too quickly and joshua will hate you. Also, calculating that many MD5 hashes, retrieving that many RSS feeds and parsing them all and rebuilding them, every 10-15 minutes, puts a hella load on your server. Ferget it.

2- A simple MD5 hashed permalink link.
"Click here to see who'ed this entry!" style. No numbers, no fancy getting and parsing. Number of ways to do this, server side.
a) If you are running PHP you can just add a little call to it's built in MD5 function, feed it your permalink et voila.
<a href="<?php md5('<$MTEntryPermalink$>');" title="is it delicious?">is it delicious?</a>
<a href="<?php md5('the_permalink();');" title="is it delicious?">is it delicious?</a>

b) Abstract it away with some sort of plugin. In MT, this means that the MD5 hashing occurs at build time and is done by Perl. In WP's case, it's at page request time.

Problem: you have large amount of entries and lots of traffic. Every page request launches an MD5 hash request. System resources-wise, your server needs this like a hole in the head.

3- Client-side, Javascript baby!
Ohhh this could work. A simple JS function included in the header, called from the link:
<a href="#" title="is it delicious?" onclick="do_md5_link('<$MTEntryPermalink$>');">is it delicious?</a>
(any number of ways)

4- Client-side, AJAX/ScrumJAX baby!!!
Basically, do number one above but inline, in real time. On click, MD5 the URL, query for the RSS for the bookmarks of that URL, parse it out, pop a layer showing the number of hits and, whatever, say, the list of users who bookmarked it.

Any takers?

[thanks to Aaron for the hash and calling me a lazy pig-fucker.]

Playing Flickr Peepshow

Playing Flickr

For one week in May, the diners in Restaurant 11 will be confronted with the photos the users of Playing FLICKR select. By sending a keyword through SMS, users can request all photos on the database that are tagged with that particular keyword.

Flickr peep-show

Users can interact with the installation by SMSing tags (keywords) to the server, after which the photographs on flickr tagged with those specific keywords will start showing up on the screens of the the installation.

Mediamatic. Good site. Wish it had a feed.

Google aquires Dodgeball

"On May 11th was acquired by Google!"

The people at Google think like us. They looked at us in a "You're two guys doing some pretty cool stuff, why not let us help you out and let's see what you can do with it" type of way. We liked that. Plus, Alex and I are both Google superfans and the people we've met so far are smart, cool and excited about what they're working on.

Congrats to them I suppose... but I must say... if I read one more "and the folks at [insert new multibillion dollar multinational parent corporation] are really cool and really really like us and we really really like them" letter, I'll heave hoooo!

"Meet the world" flags

 Home Flags Brazil
 Home Flags China
 Home Flags Columbia
 Home Flags Usa
 Home Flags Europeunion

We started to research relevant, global, and current facts and, thus, came up with the idea to put new meanings to the colours of the flags. We used real data taken from the websites of Amnesty International and the UNO.

A couple more here, and the designer's statement here.

Link via Stevsey.

The keitais are coming!

Slowly over the past year I've noticed a subtle transition in the mobile phone handsets that have been available here in my home market. But today it really struck me as apparent: the keitais are coming.

Not in features or cultural influence so much mind you; merely in form factor, but this in itself is indicative.

Accessing the "available handsets" sections of the three mobile service providers here in Montreal, a year ago you'd find mostly the small Nokia-style handsets. Today, Fido (5 clam vs 8 puck), Rogers (11 clam vs 7 puck) and Bell (10 clam vs 5 puck) all exhibit predominantly* clamshell models.

* After actually counting, Fido still has more "pucks" than clamshells, the funny thing being that it was while visiting Fido that the increased number of clamshells available struck me.

I find this very odd since that form factor is closely tied to the handset's usage, which is hard to explain to someone who's never seen it "in action". Think of it literally as your own little network access device, which you hold up as if checking your makeup in you pocket mirror - heh - and thumbing your way through the UI using a scroller, and typing kanji using the keypad. We don't have immersive information services, nor do we have a text-based mobile communication culture, so we don't use the like that.

I wonder why *this* shift. Why the skin and not the guts?

Also funny to notice them now finally hawking "we have cameraphones!". A year ago it was still "we have faceplates and ringtones!" ;)

Google Maps application contextualizes real estate

This is stunning. By combining Google Maps and craigslist housing listings you get a very quick visual contextualization of the economic distribution of population for a city; which the affluent neighborhoods, which are less so.

Not that that is necessarily a barometer by which to find an apartment or a home, mind you.

What I find most compelling is ... well, let's say for argument's sake I had to relocate to San Francisco. With the rental listings visually laid out before me, I immediately have an image and an idea of where each place is. If you already know the city, then it spares you the effort of locating the place in your mental map, which is a very subjective map to begin with; but if you hardly know the city, bam, there it is. Enhancements would include "show me where these 5 contacts of mine live in relation to this listing" ... show me the bus stops, grocery stores, cafés with decent coffee and WiFi... ;)

And where to get a baguette...

what daaa?

Jean Snow reports on something funny, yet inevitable, happening in one of his english classrooms:
What's a Cassette?

there was one kid (about 7 or 8 years old) who took the cassette box and put it up to his ear. He had no idea what it was. We opened the box for him, and he just stared blankly at the cassette inside.

Sound familiar?

"Attention Deficit Trait" caused by the technologies of constant interruption:

Clive Thompson via Techdirt has a fascinating post on Attention Deficit Trait, a related sydrome to Attention Deficit Disorder, according to Dr. Edward Hallowell.
"It has basically the symptoms as ADD -- such as an inability to concentrate on one task at at time -- except it's context dependent.

ADT is caused by the technologies of constant interruption in the modern workplace and the modern home, such as email, instant messaging, SMSes, mobile phones, and endless meetings (or endless preplanned children's sports).

The thing that makes the two conditions different, he says, is that ADD seems to be hardwired, while ADT goes away when you're on vacation or in a relaxing, non-hyper-stimulated place."

I guess "trait" is better than "disorder", but I am weary of it being so labeled. This behavior is definitely environmental - as our tools are part of our environment - and contextual. Also, referring to them as "technologies of constant interruption" smacks of luddite old-folk speak; it just sounds negative, when it not necessarily is.

Or maybe it is. Maybe we can't get used to - and function efficiently with - constant formatted data input. I don't see why not though. I mean, we process constant raw data input (5 senses, +?). Language processing, be it aural or visual, is a hack* of our mind and thus requires more resources, but we should be able to adapt no?

I guess that's what we are doing. Well... some of us anyways... ;)

*Looking at a page of text and reading are very different. Hearing a person speak and listening are very different. I have always considered communication to be an intrusion of sorts; an insertion. Words carrying ideas inserted into my mind like hot needles... as opposed to individual experience and deduction of environment seeping in and steeping. ;)

Let's expand on folksonomies

First of all, purely for background and some interesting ideas, the Wikipedia definition of "taxonomy".

Taxonomy (from Greek ταξινομία (taxinomia) from the words taxis = order and nomos = law) may refer to either a hierarchical classification of things, or the principles underlying the classification. Almost anything, animate objects, inanimate objects, places, and events, may be classified according to some taxonomic scheme.

and "folk taxonomy":

A Folk Taxonomy is a vernacular naming system, as opposed to a scientific naming system which is simply known as a Taxonomy or as a Scientific Taxonomy.

Folk Taxonomies are generated from social knowledge and are used in everyday speech. They are distinguished from scientific taxonomies that claim to be disembedded from social relations and thus objective and universal.

Anthropologists have observed that taxonomies are generally embedded in local cultural and social systems, and serve various social functions.

So, as I've said, I really think all this tagging stuff is great but will be much more interesting once we really start to do more integrating and more social stuff with them. Here's what I mean by that.

The current flat, one dimensionality of the tags-based info management tools we see today (, flickr, et al) is essentially "selfish" or "based on the individual"; the loner walking through the world ascribing his own names to the things he comes across. Sure the fact that those names are there for all to see and aggregated into intersected view (show me everything everybody marked as "funny"!) is neat, but not terribly useful for they lack context, increasingly, especially as the databases grow (and oh my are they growing).

The first thing I'd like to see are some basic true "folksonomies": taxonomies generated and maintained by folks. This of course creates a host of technological presuppositions, like personal tag management software/services and tag aggregation and dissemination. Even more tricky are the social and cultural ramifications, which we still suck at but can muddle our way through as always. ;)

Also, there are already a handful of folksonomic "tags" which are inherent to the system and/or the data in question: date & time stamps, media type, resource URI, ID3 tags (on MP3s)... any standardized-by-usage metadata really.

Key here is the understanding that nothing is forced; you either use the folksonomy or you don't, you either contribute to it or you don't. Up to you. Either way, it is very much like our transition from loose tribes to tight knit communities, with all the value - and headaches - that engenders. It is also consistent with the nature of true democracy, and social life: You have the right to not participate, but you have a duty to do so if you choose to benefit from it.


Just came across Tagsurf. Haven't wrapped my head around it yet but having registered and logged in (the registration process is made difficult by a barely legible capcha), it looks to be very powerful.

I guess one way to describe what I *think* this is about is URL tagging + annotation + access control + Flickr style goodies + customization + filtering/custom views + RSS for everything... for "topics".

Seems brand spanking new so there isn't much in it yet. Gonna play for a few days see where it goes.

Update 1:
So I'm using it to annotate stuff I find, be it news articles, blog entries, neat stuff... URLs basically - and you all can comment ("reply") to my annotations, or trackback to them from your weblog. It's on steroids, and so much more. I can trackback to whatever it is I'm writing about (if the source accepts incoming pings), you can use it as a comment system for your own blog if you wish, or as a blog in and of itslef. You can track topics, discussions on specific topics or specific URLs, tag everything system wide or just for yourself, select a copyright license for your notes...

LOTS of features... and amazingly, with a totally spartan UI, it is still quite usable; you just have to play with it to "get it".

Ohhh... community trust meters! :)

Update 2:
Here is a Bookmarklet for easily adding stuff to Tagsurf.
Duh, they have their own Bookmarklets already done:

Now what?

So AOL has updated it's Terms Of Use for AIM:

Although you or the owner of the Content retain ownership of all right, title and interest in Content that you post to any AIM Product, AOL owns all right, title and interest in any compilation, collective work or other derivative work created by AOL using or incorporating this Content. In addition, by posting Content on an AIM Product, you grant AOL, its parent, affiliates, subsidiaries, assigns, agents and licensees the irrevocable, perpetual, worldwide right to reproduce, display, perform, distribute, adapt and promote this Content in any medium. You waive any right to privacy. You waive any right to inspect or approve uses of the Content or to be compensated for any such uses.

(eWeek article)

It's bad enough that so much of our communications are going though their systems as it is, now they have the balls to claim they own it.

Just what kind of derivative work can AOL produce from millions of Instant Messages a day? Why, keywords of course. How much do you think a marketing exec would pay to know that his top brand was mentioned X more times today than his competitor? Hrmm? Homeland security would love a daily report of how often someone said "bomb" or "ok, we're set" in the last hour...

It's really too bad that IM didn't develop the same infrastructure as email, where every ISP would handle the account for you, every hosting package came with a IM server built in, etc... Just like mail and www now. Can it still be done? Is it perhaps Jabber's time, now that AOL could conceivably experience a mass exodus, now that there is a plethora of IM clients available, and that even the next version of iChat will support it? Hrm. Is there a business model which could run such a service?

The King of Yet-Also

Momus gives us this fantastic essay about Michael Jackson:
Nota: This is not about your or my or anyone's morals.

One of the reasons the Michael Jackson trial is so unfortunate is that the world of Either-Or will pass judgment on a creature of Yet-Also. The world of clear, unambiguous categories will pass judgment on someone who flies Peter-Pan-like over the binaries that confine and define the rest of us.


Consider all the extraordinary ways in which Michael Jackson is Yet-Also. He's black yet also white. He's adult yet also a child. He's male yet also female. He's gay yet also straight. He has children, yet he's also never fucked their mothers. He's wearing a mask, yet he's also showing his real self. He's walking yet also sliding. He's guilty yet also innocent. He's American yet also global. He's sexual yet also sexless. He's immensely rich yet also bankrupt. He's Judy Garland yet also Andy Warhol. He's real yet also synthetic. He's crazy yet also sane, human yet also robot, from the present yet also from the future. He declares his songs heavensent, and yet he also constructs them himself. He's the luckiest man in the world yet the unluckiest. His work is play. He's bad, yet also good. He's blessed yet also cursed. He's alive, but only in theory.

Do try to read the whole thing. I'd reprint it here but am weary of such things. Go go... it's a Peter Pan story!

Forbes copy writer has odd sense of humor

From the Forbes 400 Richest in America 2004 writeup of Pierre Omidyar:

Former computer programmer launched online auctioneer Ebay in 1995. Today the world's biggest dot-com ($62 billion market capitalization), which lets consumers bid on everything from arcane Americana to Iraqi dinars.

Millions of people buying and selling worthless junk... at least Pierre spends his money to do good. ;)

Non-Disclosure Agreement

After not even hearing the words for well over 3 years, today I was faced with no less than two prospective NDA's to sign. I haven't yet.

Reading over the one I did get sent to me, I am struck by how... inhuman... it is. Essentially, the NDA says "We, Corporation X, are interested in shoving some data into your CPU and RAM, but by no means may you add this data to your memory, at least not for five years."

In other words, in exchange for the chance to make some money, I relinquish my "self" and serve as a dummy processor.

This makes me uneasy in the extreme. The cost of doing business is relinquishment of self.
I left the corporate world over this. I think I may turn down two very lucrative contracts over it as well.


Pssst.... over here...
(Sneaky buggers)

Area bagel

or "What do Amazon, A9 Search, Yellow Pages, 90210, and the Mile End of Montreal have in common?"

Trying to see if I had a connection, I hit my A9 bookmark. It worked. Once there I noticed a prominent link to Yellow Pages (with a link under it saying "here's how we did it." That made me curious...)

First of all, it linked me to Yellow Pages listing for my last stored search on A9. Now it was asking me for a U.S. Postal Code or City/State. 90210 is the only US Postal Code I know. Pop that in, and replace the aforementioned search term with "bagel".

Impressive result. A listing of bagel shops in Beverly Hills, CA., complete with hotlinked map. And at the top of the list is "St-Viateur Street Bagels". Back in Montreal, St-Viateur Bagels is one of two most renowned bagel shops. It is located on St-Viateur Street, the same street where Open Da Nite is/was/will be (Fire!).


Not finished yet. Click through on that listing. You are presented with a strip of pictures ostensibly of the shop's storefront. Seems to be the wrong picture but FRET NOT... you can "WALK DOWN THE STREET" and find the right picture and TELL Amazon "this is the right picture of this business' storefront" (Best picture?).

Amazon is sucking reality into it's databases (somewhat warping it in the process...)


Communication in Evolution: Social and Technological Transformation

An Interview with Derrick de Kerckhove
Director, McLuhan Program  
conducted by Álvaro Bermejo

AB: In spite of its totalising ambitions, can the Net develop a new Humanism, a new Enlightenment?

DdeK: Maybe, but Humanism and Enlightenment may not be the right models for the moment. The Net is really trying to provide as many people as it can reach with access to as much useful information as can be accessed. The Net is proposing a completely new modality of memory and information distribution. We are all in the aristocratic situation that Moliere described when he said: “A gentleman is someone who knows everything without having to bother to learn anything”. This is the natural condition of the new humanism.

AB: In 1962, when Man landed on the moon, we believed that in the near future we would be sleeping in the Jetsons' folding beds, and living in apartments shaped like flying saucers. Forty years on, our dream is to live in a log cabin on the shores of a lake, nuclear energy frightens us as much as do fossil fuels, and children in the Third World are being called Jonah, Rebecca and Moses, as in the Old Testament. Are these transitory tendencies or rebellion against the System?

DdeK: McLuhan invented the tetrad to explain just this kind of phenomenon:

  1. every new medium extends a human property (the car extends the foot);
  2. obsolesces the previous medium by turning it into a sport or an form of art (the automobile turns horses and carriages into sports);
  3. retrieves a much older medium that was obsolesced before (the automobile brings back the shining armour of the chevalier);
  4. flips or reverses its properties into the opposite effect when pushed to its limits (the automobile, when there are too many of them, create traffic jams, that is total paralysis)

So it is conceivable that new media will tend to evoke or recall much older human situations. Lifetsyle commercialism takes advantage of this without knowing anything about it. Some people start a trend without really thinking that they are, let say “Downshifters”, that is, people who would rather take a cut in salary to get out of the rat race and spend more time with their family, or in the country home with or without electricity, or “survivalists”, who believe in turning back into self-defense, not trusting civil society, or electronic hermits, people who live in total human isolation, but are hyperconnected via television, radio, the Net, SMS and what have you. In all these cases, all it takes is a handful of people with a discernable plan or attitude, for some clever advertising executive to spot it and turn it into a fad or a fashion. The next generation of media, based on quantum computers will bring back the age of spirituality and mysticism well beyond anything the New Age philosophy could achieve because it will supported by authentic scientific pretensions.


AB: In your books, in between the irony and the revelations, one senses a powerful call for a change of paradigm. What would be key to a new identity?

DdeK: The change of paradigm will depend on the third phase of electricity, the quantum phase. We have already absorbed the analog and the digital phases, and the quantum computer is already at a more advanced stage than the digital computer was when John Von Neumann began developing its architecture in the late forties. Today, we are at the post-Galilean moment when matter and science once solid are turning to liquid again. We may be getting back into a new kind of quantum cosmology where man is again at the centre of the universe, not as the centre of physical matter, but just of the information we have developed about it.  As quantum physicist Erwin Schrodinger put it:

Our perceiving self is nowhere to be found within the world-picture, because it is itself the world-picture.

The key to the new identity is what I call “selving”, that is the self in progress, in becoming, as in quantum physics where “things are not, they merely tend to be”. The new identity is in perpetual formation and reformation at the moment of use and on line it is fluid and aggregative as when people meet and change their perceptions of each other during the meeting. I sometime suspect that screens were invented only for the purpose of allowing several persons, minds, identities to meet and share thinking and speaking at a distance. The new connective thinking system is the screen.

A read well worth the time and attention and concentration.

Tags, ontologies, community and feedback

"Com' follow me now!"

Thinking hard about tags - the new black as Ado says - and various conversations I've had recently, mostly with Karl, about ontologies, explicit relationships (hah!), etc.

Say I have a bunch of files that I have, one way or another, already tagged with pertinent, non-private, information.
Say I share that information and/or file with a community style site.

For many of my files - most in fact -, there already are ontologies, as I've mentioned before. On the FileSystem/OS level, such things as Date Created, Date Modified, File Type - could be useful; on the Applications level, well, for instance iTunes (or any MP3 player for that matter) has a very clearly defined ontology: it's called ID3... ID3 TAGS, people!

Let's stick with the MP3 example for now. I'll do pictures after.

Most of my music has pretty clean ID3 tags: artist name, track name, album name, star rating, genre... Ah genre. Tricky thing trying to categorize music. Wouldn't want to be responsible for what happened to Curt Cobain, you know... "Don't pigeonhole my music man!" Anyways. So, iScrobbler watches iTunes and tells AudioScrobbler/ what I am listening to.

I am too tired to do a TCP dump so I don't know what iScrobbler is telling the mothership exactly but I would like to think it's sending MORE than just artist and track name. The ID3 spec makes room for lots of information, but let's stick with the aforementioned four, since things like "Track number", "Track length" and their ilk are too contextual (which album it's off of, how the track was encoded) to be really useful in a "sharing environment". So, I assume Scrobbler is only relaying track and artist names. This is already problematic due to typos, misspellings, differing entry methods - "Cat Stevens", "Stevens, Cat", "Caht Stebenz" - but can be moderated...

Similarly, if Scrobbler relayed the genres and ratings *I*, and everyone else, set for tracks, not only would they have a potential headache on their hands, but more importantly, they would have some VERY valuable information. Cynics in the room are already screaming "yeah, valuable to music companies!", but I rather think "yeah, valuable to music lovers!".

So here's what they do. First, capture and relationally store all ratings.
"1,275 out of 134,548 listeners of 'Wild World' give it 4 stars."
"264 out of 45,843 listeners of 'Cat Stevens' give him 2 stars."

For record companies, clear metrics - for music lovers, clear indicators of quality...

Then, genres. This is where it gets interesting. Store ALL incoming genres associated to tracks, but only actually 'ascribe' the, say, 5 or 10 most frequently attributed.

Next, open it up for community editing, Wikipedia style. Wikipedia proves that if you provide the community with a valuable resource of authoritative enough information, the community will roll up its sleeves and tend the garden.

But it's not valuable enough, not authoritative enough... until you open it up even more...

Ontological APIs. KABLOOIE.

"According to [ your friends | your 'musical neighborhood' | Scrobbler ], this track has been tagged to be of the following possible genres..." If you find one you agree with (betcha ya will!) you pick it, if not, you enter your own, which gets sent along back to the Ontology server... Feedback loop.

[Hrm... Imagine CDDB was open like that... holy cow.]

Ok, pictures now. You KNOW I'm gonna say Flickr. I'm also gonna say EXIF and Fotonotes. And tags tags tags tags...

There's alot of talk about the shift from top-down enforced hierarchies to the bottoms-up (hihi!) "folksonomies" and I'm thinking "How nice! We've gone from fascism to marxism! And it took all of... 3 months!"

Democracy, people. Create loose, general ontologies, and let community leaders manage them... In Flickr's case, how about simple stuff like "color", "person", "place", "food", "cat", "dog", "stupid cousin"...

Or how about less simple stuff, like full geographical ontologies - city names, capture device ontologies - camera make and model.

The argument that is sure to erupt is "why? if everyone just tags everything, it'll all be easily findable anyways!" Wrong. Relationships between data - subject verb object - grammar - some structure is always needed, and here we have an opportunity to get in in the middle and do it right...

Otherwise, as Karl says, we will go from an ocean of files to an ocean of tags, and no closer to home.
(Google translation of Karl's entry. Beware. It's almost as good as if he'd written it in english himself... ;)

7:30am. Shall I sleep or just stay up now?


Amazon: 'Do Android Crows Fly Over the Skies of an Electronic Tokyo?: The Interactive Urban Landscape of Japan (Architecture Landscape Urbanism)' (Akira Suzuki)

Do Android Crows Fly Over the Skies
of an Electronic Tokyo?

The Interactive Urban Landscape of Japan
(Architecture Landscape Urbanism) 2001
- Akira Suzuki

Picked this little gem up at the CCA bookstore the day I attended the Devices of Design symposium. I bought it purely for the cover and intriguing title. Glad I did!

A book about Tokyo architecture and urbanism, Suzuki starts off with "The number of mobile phone subscribers in Japan already exceeds 60 million". Hooked me from the start. ;)

A short, oddly bound tome (each recto/verso page is one sheet folded in half and bound... a terrible waste of paper and feels very strange in the hand), one quickly goes through the 72 pages of texts, pictures and illustrations. We are led through a quick historical tour of such things as the traditional "yojōhan" 4 1/2 tatami mat room and its social role as the cha no ma - living room - to the splitting of the nuclear family, the advent of the one-room mansions and capsule mansions, the spread and ubiquity of the conbini - convenience stores ("twenty thousand stores in Greater Tokyo alone, or one for every one thousand five hundred residents"!), the cultural forces that brought about these developments, and of course the cultural changes these developments brought about.

Once we've understood that, things get... cyber. Starting with the mass adoption of televisions at the time of the 1964 Tōkyō Olympics, which shifted the seating arrangement in the cha no ma from one where family members faced each other around the central table to the corner where the television set sat. "The television replaced the father" and thus began eroding the fabric of the traditional japanese family unit. At the extreme opposite end we are shown the Gifu Kitagata Apartment Building project, in which one part, designed by Kazuyo Sejima, places the wash basin facing the large south facing window. This was done, the author surmises, for the daughter, and to highlight the role in social and urban change that the modern japanese high-school girl plays... or rather, that they all, collectively play.

This is where we dive into, you guessed it, cellphones!! Shibuya epiphany, sugoooiii!

(I'm digressing, but let me add that Mimi Ito's research of mobile phone usage in Japan speaks volumes on the communication, coordination and cooperation going on every second, in the virtual world that is the mobile, individualized data space.)

So, we have a shift to single/individual person dwelling needs, and infrastructure of conbinis - anything you need, anytime - and an overarching system of communications facilities - keitai, i-mode, internet, television. The result is "Tokyo is vanishing into invisible communities and communications", where the true goings-on - interactions, work, play, group activities - of it's inhabitants happen in an information-based "space". The physical environment is secondary and merely serves the basic needs of the citizens, and even that is seen to be collapsing into neglect.

Examples of how networked information spaces can affect physical space, and vice versa, are given as such:
- "Seijinshiki" coming of age celebrations, where thousands of 20 year old girls all initiate cellphone calls to their friends and asshii-kun - young men chauffeurs - in one area at once, crippling the network.
- The Pokemon "disaster", where almost 200 children suffered epileptic seizures due to rapidly flashing animation scenes, broadcast via television. Not only was the event precipitated by a network, but for the millions of others who only knew of it because of news reports, the apprehension of the reality of the event came via the network.
- The Tamagotchi Phenomenon. At first, large numbers of teenaged girls shared "tamagotchi breeding tips" via their cellphones. Not wanting to be left out of the fun, even larger numbers of salary men got in on the game, causing catastrophic tamagotchi shortages, networked-rumor spurred runs on stores... hilarity ensues...

The title of the book, which is only made crystal clear in the final paragraph, speaks of flocks of individuals, navigating an information-based world, by simple communications, through a marginally relevant physical environment.

"The real city is loosely absorbed into a number of network levels and it is in them that we see the phantom city we know as 'Tokyo'. The actual city of Tokyo has already become little more than a dummy through which we discern the happenings taking place among these invisible networks."

Notice the crow feather in the upper left corner on the cover's picture. Nice touch.

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.


New environments inflict considerable pain on the perceiver

The biologist Otto Lowenstein, is his book on The Senses (Penguin Books,Ltd.), has some most helpful observations on the problems that arise upon any change in sensory mode, such as a result from a technological creation of a new environment:

... patients, blind from childhood, on whom normal vision has been bestowed by an operation. Previous to this "opening of the eyes," they had been living in a world of tactile experience, of sound and scent, full of objects familiar to them in terms of their restricted range of sensory experience. How they shrink at first from the welter of additional stimulation, longing at times to return to the relative seclusion of their former world!

- Marshall McLuhan - War and Peace in the Global Village

In a postpostmodern state of mind.

In order to avoid ambiguity, over- or false- interpretation, it is crucial that one properly contextualize every element, in relation to every other element in it's environment.
Meaning can only be found in the relationship of each object with each other object in it's environment.
Each relationship, symbiotically influences the being of each object, connecting each into the whole.
This applies to everything: concepts, objects, individuals... humans.

Without you, I am less me. Or, conversely, with you, I am more me.

By easing communication, we enhance, strengthen the relationships, binding all elements tighter to the one.
By externalizing, reaching out, we draw in, collectively. Osmosis.

It is fascinating to me how many instances of evidence of these concepts are to be found in our cultures.

Identites and celebrity

"Madame Hollywood"
Felix Da Housecat

Everybody wants to be hollywood
The fame, the vanity, the glitz, the stories
One day I'll become a great big star
You know like the big dipper
And maybe one day you can visit my condo
On the big hill you know like 9-0-2-1-0

Just imagine my face in the magazine
People analyzing my look, my body or
Any plastic surgery.

You know like the big dipper
And maybe one day you can shake
My hand on the planet Hollywood

You say I'm not underground
I'm rich, I'm famous, I vanish, I'm glitz
I am the story, I am the star
You know like the big dipper

Sex, Drugs & Rock n' Roll
It's Over
I decide it's over

Everybody wants to be hollywood
And maybe one day you can visit my condo
On the big hill you know like 9-0-2-1-0
Oh Yeah

How am I not myself?

- Do I bring my own chains?

- We always do...

I ‚ô• Huckabees

Tail wagging

As Joi links to me from his entry on Chris Johnson's Wired article "The Long Tail", I figure I should riff a bit on what I see in all this and why I reminded him of Momus' excellent "Pop Stars, nein danke!" article.

[This will mostly only make sense if you've read both articles and are mildly insane, like me.]

So if you look at this chart, way past the right most end of the "tail"... that's you and me. That's you and me and our friends who are in local bands, making our own electronic music/videos, writing poetry, taking pictures as hobby, etc. We don't actually figure on this chart, but we could if the numbers were stretched and the criteria slightly adjusted.

Right, so it is not only getting easier and easier to produce stuff (*cough* micro content), but it is getting easier and easier to share it as well. Also, it is getting easier and easier to aggregate it and more importantly "communitize" it, i.e.: "check out what I just found that you may like".

In Momus' article he speaks mostly of the indie music scene in early '90's Britain, which is an awesome example, even today, or rather more so today because everything he more or less predicted, or rather "saw happening", is happening or has happened. "Democratization of means of production and distribution."

"In the future, everyone will be famous for fifteen people." Provided those 15 people aren't your mother and your closest friends and that your stuff is actually of some appreciable quality, those 15 people may, just may, tell their 15 people about it... and so on.

(Legally, this is another place where Creative Commons makes ridiculous loads of sense, by the way.)

Following me?

One of the effects of all this is a fragmentation of culture, or micro-cultures if you will. If we look at western music classifications and their associated groupings, gone are the days of "I'm mod, I'm a rocker, I'm punk, I'm a rapper, etc." At this moment, the kids are saying things more like "well, I am into band x and y, but every now and then I'll listen to d..." There are of course still general lines of exclusivity that some less insightful people stick to... "But you listen to x! How can you possibly like d!?!" A-ny-ways. Xenophobia is hard-wired into lack of education/experience/knowledge/exposure.

All of a sudden I am reminded of U2's Bono yelling onstage during the Achtung Baby tour of 1992: "Is this rock 'n roll?! Is THIS rock 'n roll?!" And "good taste is the enemy of art."

You'll notice I am drifting further and further away from business model aspects. That's just because I am way more interested in the philosophical/sociological/cultural and metaphysical aspects... but I'll spare ya.

Oh! Let's go back to that first graph and reinterpret it, for my purposes, as signal/noise x audience ratio. The X axis is signal -> noise, the Y is number of "listeners". The better the signal (less noise), the more people tune in. Takes alot of work/talent to produce a good signal, right? But hey some folks listen to the noise, hoping for some good signal here and there. God bless mom, she loves all my noise. So do a handful of friends. As I get better at producing signal with less and less noise, network dynamics pretty much guarantee more listeners. And so I move left on the graph.

DJ Dangermouse at Web2.0 says:

Mashing is so easy. It takes years to learn how to play the guitar and write your own songs. It takes a few weeks of practice with turntable to make people dance and smile. It takes a few hours to crank out something good with some software. So with such a low barrier to entry, everyone jumps in and starts immediately being creative. I don't understand why that is illegal.

Right now, it is damn hard to get to the point far enough left on the graph where hobby/interest becomes an economically sustainable endeavor. That's because that point lies on the other side of such things as "the music industry", "the publishing industry", "the movie industry", "the blogosphere" *cough*. In the world of distribution-via-atoms (CDs, DVDs, books, magazines, movie theaters), these barriers were erected naturally by the economics of the undertaking. As these economic barriers slide right due to electronic dissemination/distribution (hello everyone from McLuhan to Negroponte and countless others), my barrier to feeding myself from my signal gets smaller.

And oh god are the barrier profiters fighting tooth and nail to keep those barriers to the left of that graph! Cornered animals they are.

This has been a high noise ratio rambling. Thank you for tuning in, SETI.

Lost in connections

Just noticed that in his track "God Only Knows" off of Fantasma, Cornelius samples, or rather, covers a piece of, The Jesus & Mary Chain's "Just Like Honey", which is the closing track of Lost In Translation as the credits begin to roll. In those credits, A Bathing Ape (Bape) are credited as fashion consultants. (The orange camo t-shirt that Bill Murray wears is Bape.)

Finding links for this entry, I realize that the #1 hit on Google for "Bathing Ape" is a link to an article on "A List Apart" (a webdesigner's staple, run by Jeffrey Zeldman) written by buddy Adam Greenfield, who organized the 1IMC, which is one of the reasons I went to Japan last year and where I ended up meeting Joi. I had met Adam in Joi's comments and then in person at SxSW 2003, where I also briefly met Zeldman...

Arrrgh! ;)

Tack this onto my previous entry titled ... omg... this is ridiculous... I couldn't remember the exact title of the post I want to link to here so I googled an approximation of it and add my handle at the end... and guess who comes up.

The mind reels...

Ah here it is: "Meshing storylines from my life".

One hour well wasted. ;)

Addendum: I should add that it was also at the 1IMC that I met a bunch of really great people whom I am very happy to call friends: Jim, Ado, Dav & Mie, Pete, Gen, Jane, Justin...

(I am NOT name dropping!! Just tracing lines!)

A9 leveraging Amazon

Shopping on Amazon to "cash in" a gift certificate, I notice an awkwardly shoehorned ad at the top...



Boris, since you've been using recently, virtually everything at is automatically an additional π/2% (1.57%) off for you. Collecting this discount is zero effort on your part. It will be applied automatically at checkout (it will happen whether you use the shopping cart or our 1-Click Shopping®). You don't need to do anything to get this discount except keep using as your regular search engine.

Sweet! Suckers! I just checked it out once or twice really... ;)

We don't advertise this additional discount that we give in exchange for using, so if you want your friends to know about it, please tell them. It is probably the only way they'll find out. All they have to do is use as their regular search engine. They should make sure they are signed in to (it should be recognizing them by name) so that we can be certain they get credit for their visit.


While the π/2% discount is a good additional reason to use it isn't the best reason. licenses its web search results from the industry leader Google, and then supplements those results with Amazon's Search Inside the Book™ results. The coolest feature is that keeps track of your search history for you on the server side. To see how this works, do some A9 searches from your computer at work and then sign in to from your computer at home.

Wow! Like frikkin magic! Hahahahaha!

How can we afford this additional π/2% discount?

Pray tell!!

Sponsored links revenue -from the small text-based ads on and search results pages -will help offset costs we incur through the Rewards promotion. With our automatic π/2% discount, we are effectively sharing with you some of the money we collect from sponsored links, i.e. sharing the pi.

Pfffffaaahahaha... Zing! Right over my head! Whatever! Give me my 1.57% off you stingy bastards.

Please use and tell your friends.

Ummm. NO. Oops. i just did...

Thank you

No, no, please! Thank YOU.

Now if only there were some way I could get a cut of everything you all may buy because of this post...


Creative Commons Activists and Activism

I'm thinking that one of the things the folks at Creative Commons haven't done yet (perhaps it is in planning or discussion?), is provide a way for people who are so inclined, and so disposed, to "spread the word".

Activists, evangelists, et al. The so-called grass-roots.

While the Creative Commons website provides loads of information about CC (animations, cartoons, explanations of licenses etc ... all VERY well done!), I can't seem to find a resources center and a community support network for people to get really involved beyond choosing a license and applying it to their work - provided they get it and they actually produce stuff.

There are loads of people who don't read weblogs, or WIRED magazine, who not only don't know that they as creatives have options, but also don't fully realize the cultural lock-down they are living in. Ignorance of rights and responsibilities is the death knell for freedom, choice, democracy...

So, an example: the previously mentioned POP Montreal Festival starting this week. A music festival promoting mostly independent musicians trying to get exposure and "make it". They get more established acts to come and play and hook them up with smaller bands as openers to give them exposure. That's the basic idea, as I understand it.

Now, say I wanted to promote Creative Commons at these events. I am not a musician, but I know some people involved in the POP Montreal organization who would probably be interested in all this stuff. Where do I get materials I can show them? Materials I can print up and distribute, or a clear, concise statement of purpose, for this context, I can yell in someone's ear over a rock song as they stand in front of me and I hand them a flyer/sticker/whatever? A package I can hand to each of the bands performing at the festival, to get them thinking about all this?

I am looking at the Dean techy diaspora, busy at work creating community building tools such as CivicSpace. Take a look at this: "SpreadFirefox". A grass roots, organized effort to Spread the Word about Firefox (the popular-but-not-popular-enough-yet Mozilla based web browser).

This effort needs to be waged on many fronts, right? Not just the artists themselves, not just politicians (who don't act so quick as when they have a fire under their ass), not just the all-to-rare leaders of industry who get it... but the people, hitherto known as the consumers, as well.

I think this needs to be talked about...

"Surroundings Defend System"


The weapon against boring and weary surroundings

With seamless vision diminishers, adjustable safetybelt, 40 Watt stereo speaker installation and standard compliant 3.5 mmm jack-plug for fully compatible audio-experience, you can totally shut yourself off from the surrounding world and it's annoying inhabitants!

Yes, well, clever but... most people walk around completely oblivious to their environment as it is. No surrounding is "boring and weary" when your senses are fully engaged and you are actually processing the data they are feeding you.

Someone wearing this must be quite boring and weary themselves... not to mention obtusely jaded and cynical. ;)

(via near near future)

Timestamp timezones in Flickr

(and by extension, in social software enabled content management systems, especially moblogging ones)

Currently, Flickr timestamps everything in it's developers' timezone, Pacific Standard Time. To anyone not on the western seaboard of North America, this is pretty much useless. Who bothers doing timezone conversions when looking at friend's pictures? ;)

So, two options: display the timestamp based in the timezone of the poster or, even better, in the viewer's. The former is arguably also just more metacrap, the latter is a far more useful frame of reference for the viewer.

"Ohhh he/she posted this 20 minutes ago / while I was making coffee, he/she was in a restaurant in Shibuya / etc..."

Brings you closer to me, you know. :)

An example

Here is an example of information hunting and establishing connections between bits of data online. This story will remain intentionally vague and short on specific URLs for two reasons: to protect the individual's privacy and to keep my Google rank low for a specific bit of technical wizardry involving a certain mp3 player and a certain make of automobile. Unlike others, I am not interested in becoming the support desk for this little bit of information.

This story begins because of an entry a few days ago where I mention in passing the aforementioned setup. This evening I received an email from someone asking me kindly how I had done it, as his brand new car doesn't allow him to use the (to remain nameless) radio frequency interface solution.

Now the name of the person sounded very familiar, as it is a common name in these parts. To boot, buddy had his own domain, named after himself. Nevermind that I'll sometimes Google people whom I come across, but give me a vanity domain name and for sure I am going to whois you.

I now know where Monsieur lives and even got a map pin-pointing his address specifically. Not that I needed to since I know the neighborhood quite well, it being only a few blocks up from me... small world...

So okay, I hit reply and start writing some of the basics. However my car and my mp3 player are 2-3 years old and surely stuff's been updated. A quick trip to the web forums on the most popular, and useful website dedicated to owners of this particular make of car and I see that indeed, things have evolved. Copy and paste a few URLs and "good luck mon ami!"

This all took about 5-10 minutes. Slow compared to if I had had all this information in my head and/or we were all connected pseudo-telepathically but hey... it used to take weeks to ship cargo across the Atlantic, today it take days, if not hours... and that's atoms, not bits...

It is all about technology. If I were a faster typist... or if my interface to my computer and by extension to the Net wasn't through a clunky keyboard and primitive pointing device...


I finally went out and got a cameraphone. Well, it's actually way more than that but anyways.

So I have begun "moblogging" like a fiend. You may have noticed. I am sending pics to both my own MT-based MobiLog AND to my super cool neato Flickr account (which appears in the navbar here).

Now, I want ALL OF YOU to start moblogging too. If you have a cameraphone, go sign up for a free Flickr account and get into it. OR, better yet, email me and I'll send ya an invite and get you going... One of the many cool things about Flickr is we can all share and see what the other is posting and be kept up-to-date...

Death in the age of Social Software

Following the dreadful email mentioned in the previous post, I was contacted with the following suggestion:

... should we put something onto the bulletin board at Friendster for the non-bloggers who know her there? It seems like a grim task, but maybe you could also notify the people on her friends list. It seems like the right thing to do.

I have a few reservations about this. Any thoughts?

An economy of caring

Friend Jim Moore is doing all he can to garner attention, raise awareness and just get people to care about a situation of genocide and other nastyness happening in Sudan at the moment.

Much of his efforts are focused on getting the blogosphere to CARE and visit and link to and subscribe to Sudan: The Passion Of The Present Blog.

Jim wrote me a few days ago to say hi, and also to see if I had any thoughts on helping getting the word out. I was immediately reminded of two things: a conversation between Jim and Joi that I was privileged enough to sit in on in which they discussed how hard it seems to be to get people to care about things outside of their own immediate spheres, and the concept of "The Attention Economy".

The information is all there, available to any one of us. The "Attention Economy" is, loosely, about getting enough attention to the information that matters or is of value. Weblogs seem to do this quite well. But there is another threshold: caring. Once one's attention is grabbed, for example the news of genocide somewhere in the world, there is a gap between intellectually "getting it" and viscerally "feeling it".

I think, in the information overflow of today, we've definitely turned on some sort of desensitization mechanism. A major part of that mechanism is a belief, and therefore actualization, of helplessness. "Yeah but what can I possibly do?"

Weblogging's power of growing attention is definitely one, albeit small perhaps, "thing I can do", which creates a sense of caring in the individual. And when many people exchange, share, spread that caring, we create an "Economy of Caring".

Enough caring always results in some kind of action. Call it emotional payoff.

Who, what, when, where and why, and the death of the author

After reading Foucault's short piece "Author Function", I thought the following.

Take any expression, be it a text, a song, a painting, and label it "The What". Label the author (composer, painter, etc) "The Who", and and attach it as a property of The What. The Who property can contain the properties of "The When" and "The Where", giving us the contexts of a point in time and a point in space: environmental geo-political, historical, cultural context for The What.

If we bypass The Who, and ascribe The When & The Where directly to The What, as is the case with much Whats in the history of human expression, the role of The Who is stripped of it's Ego (or Id). Who said What, for Who's sake, is to a large extent quite irrelevant.

However, if I consider that had the aforementioned piece not been adorned with the name of Michel Foucault, I may not have stumbled across it, or even read it for that matter. The Who becomes a broadcast tower, a cultural signal repeater. The taller the tower, the further it's reach. The height of the Tower of Who is a function of relevance, quality, reliability... and social network engineering. I say engineering because it takes a lot of work to build one's Tower of Who. Who am I. Who do you think I am. In marketing, this is called brand building. And the more time one spends on building one's Tower of Who, the less one spends on refining one's What.

Arguably, in a cultural system where every What has clearly mapped When and Where, the Who becomes increasingly irrelevant.

With timestamps and GPS coordinates, the battle against the ego begins in earnest.

As for The Why... are we not still trying to touch the face of godliness? Are we not still merely trying to recreate the world in our own collective and connected minds?

I and U

Jyri posits:

What counts as a person? What might it mean to design not for preexisting, independent individuals with fixed boundaries but for partially known, locally enacted performances, out of which "individuals" may temporarily materialize as relational effects? How might a non-atomistic metaphysics be enacted in the mundane practices of design, amidst the very real pressures of for-profit mass production? How might one sustainably practice design, insisting that the division between people and machines and other nonhumans is not a stable, universal lawlike division, but a locally negotiated temporary cut? What would it mean to even ask such a thing? To risk it?

Much time have I spent pondering the concepts of "person" and "identity". Nodes in a network, faceted identities, etc, ad nauseam. The classic question always returning to me: "who am I?" While I am quite comfortable in my view of my self, I am particularly fascinated with how that interfaces with the outside world. "Who do you think I am?"

A current view of my "self" and my environment is more sub-atomic and multi-connected. A visualization of myself thus may render as a cluster of constantly evolving multi-surface shapes, each interfacing with my environment in different ways; each interface an individual and unique relationship.

What Jyri posits fits nicely into my view. How does one design for an audience of individuals who are nothing like the set definitions ("user/ consumer/voter/member/actor/author/hero/villain/agent/node/ sender/receiver/mover/shaker") that market analysis set them out to be?

On a constant basis I interact, not only with people, but with objects as well: computers, software applications, cellphone, chair, espresso maker, pepper grinder, shoes, jeans, magazines, cars, wine glasses, product packaging, etc. With each of these objects, I share a special relationship. The more attuned each object is to the surface of whichever particle of my identity it is interacting with, the tighter, more enjoyable, and possibly long-lasting, the relationship is.

This is not new; the best designers, artists as well, know this and work towards it. You must speak to that one little part of your audience that is most receptive to what you are putting forth. You must find that little part, and establish the relationship.

"It grows on you." Especially when you foist tons of fertilizer on it! Ahem.
The assembly-line of mass-production is currently tuned to crank out millions of copies of a design, once market desire is focused in balance with economic potentiality. The next step, customization per segment, is already evident, but constrained to a limited amount of choices: the color of your car, the faceplate of your mobile phone. Here again, the brushstrokes are wide. As industry's ability to micro-produce grows, we will see finer lines in it's works.

The market wants a mobile phone. "Done."
This segment wants exchangeable faceplates, that one requires productivity features. "Done, and done."
Boris wants a small device with a camera, handwriting recognition, PDA functionality, Always on Internet access, Personal Area Network access, oh and it has to be blue. "Um, we can't make that just for you, sorry."

Still today, market research consists of ascertaining what a group of people want. "What do you, as a group, want?"
Current customization, of hard goods anyways, is still constrained to "What do you, from these options, defined by what the group you seem to fit, want?"
Will industry reach a level of production capability where it can ask: "Boris, what do you want? We will make it for you."

Of course in the digital realm this is much easier. Pushing bits is easier than pushing atoms. Custom compilation music CDs can already be bought from wall-mounted kiosks.

Until industry can attain such a level of customized production, designers will remain constrained to designing for "you-as-part-of-this-group", as opposed to "this-one-specific-sensibility-that-this-individual-has".

But NO! Wait!
It is entirely true that groups of individuals share sensibilities and desires. And yes, industry has learnt to home in on those. Hello Apple people! The key point however is that these sensibilities are identified, verified and after making sure they are stable enough to warrant the investment of design, production, marketing and distribution, they are exploited. And THEN, it is made sure that these sensibilities are reinforced, woven in tighter into the fabric of the individual's identity... because hell we tooled up a multi-billion dollar mechanism to exploit it! We wanna milk this as much as we can!

And here I come back to how this relates to identity. Lifestyle marketing and design is all about meshing with individual's identities. And then taking them over. The current "consumer-backlash" comes from individuals who have the awareness to see that they, on the level of their own identities, are being manipulated in order to sustain industry.

Until industry does not need to disrespect my interfaces, it will continue to do so.

My answer to Jyri
What does it mean? It means a required level of respect, of relationship nurturing, one to one. I believe for-profit production is evolving, for it must, and could one day attain the level where it is sustainable to do micro customization. The ramifications are staggering, especially if it happens too quickly. Think of the socio-economic impacts... political as well. We are seeing it already.

Perhaps we are seeing the designer slowly morphing back into the artist, who must whisper to the deepest corners of who we are.

And we must whisper back... This is what will be different from here on.

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?

Equal schmequel

Equal footing of social standing on a level playing field is a pipe dream; one that if you smoke too much from will blind you to the malcreants who will take advantage of your torpor to hoist themselves above you.

This applies equally to the current debacle about the "A-list bloggers" as to the state of "democracy" in the world at large, and everything in between.

The ones "on the top" stand on our shoulders. When they forget that, it is our task to shake them down.

What do you call it when

This morning, out of the blue, old buddy Michel IMs me this:

i had a friend who had a cool idea for something that'd be kinda like friendster, but for books, music and dvds and stuff.

so basically a group of friends library. where you have your people on your list that are allowed to borrow. and you have your list of books, etc... and the system would let you know who has what, and what's available from your friends.

Not an hour later, a new buddy, who shall remain nameless, mentions he is consulting a also nameless company to build a "social network" tool that would show "people who friended XXX also bought YYY"...

And now, I stumble across a post by also new buddy Jyri Engström where he makes this prediction.

(And he uses the term Kula... Hmmmm...)


About a year ago I had a vision of the worldwide hurricane of garbage and doodads created by entities such as EBay, whereby literally hundreds of thousands of items were flying around in FedEx and UPS parcels all around the world everyday, at any given moment. A veritable typhoon of physical object exchange, encircling the globe...

Friendster about to up the ante... a tad

Decided to drop in on Friendster for the first time in weeks.
Was greeted by this...

In the next few weeks, we will be introducing changes to the system to improve site performance. If all goes according to plan, Friendster will be faster, the system will scale with the growth of the community, and you will have more choices for setting your privacy levels on Friendster.

At the bottom of this page, you must make two selections. You must select the level of exposure for your profile, and you must select the level for exchanging messages between you and other Friendsters.

These settings will be saved for you until the site improvements are introduced. However, you may change these privacy levels at any time through the Account Settings area of your Home Page. If you do not select these levels, the system will automatically default both settings to your third degree of friends (friends of friends of friends).

We hope that you are as excited about the improvements as we are. If you would like more information, please visit Help.

Thanks to everyone who has shared their feedback with us on these important issues.


Orkut versus

Clay Johnson over at DFA just sent me these Alexa "traffic comparisons":

Truly amazing. In the space of 3-4 days, Orkut went from off the radar (ranked greater than 100,000 most visited site) to number 772!!!
(At the moment, Friendster is 218, Tribe is 4,493 and LinkedIn, off the radar, is 125,816.)
(Also at the moment, Orkut is down for "improvements"...)