Archive for March, 2005

Joshua Schachter *is* delicious

March 30, 2005

Popular social bookmark site, widely credited with helping to popularize the current tagging craze, has accepted venture capital funding that will enable creator Joshua Schachter to devote his energy to developing the service full-time, as reported by Schachter himself
in a post to the [delicious-discuss] mailing list.

Congratulations, Joshua!

Scaling pains at a community site

March 29, 2005

Quoting from The LitKicks Board Archive (I interviewed Levi and discussed Literary Kicks in the book):

In January 2001, I was playing around with some Java software at work when I heard the poet Gregory Corso had died. I decided to try this new software out by putting up a Corso tribute board, and this is how the LitKicks boards were born.

The boards grew and evolved into a massive social experiment, often taking on a life of their own. Last July, 684,000 messages later, Caryn and Jamelah and I decided to shut down the boards and redesign the entire site for a more focused, literary experience. We’ve been getting hate mail ever since. Take, for instance, this charming missive that recently arrived: “You should know that you have singlehandedly destroyed a great community. I could never have guessed that you would commit such a selfish and domineering act to people who were your friends, by which I include myself.”

The truth is, we like getting hate mail because it makes us feel like someone cares what we do. But, in fact, it was a very difficult decision for us to change the site, and I guess it was my own techie pride that prevented me from revealing one major reason we had to make this change. By the summer of last year, the board software was falling apart.

Once healthy and fast, the system was choking on its backlog of data, and it could take two or three minutes to pull up a message more than a few months old. In early 2004, many of us tried to read through the old boards to find the best poems and stories to use in the Action Poetry book, and this was when it became clear how bad the situation had become. Any message over a year old had been lost in a cold oblivion, from which it might be coaxed out if the software felt like it. I had always viewed the boards as a literary experiment, but literature is something that endures through time, and the software wasn’t letting this happen.

In fact, I work as a web systems architect, and I know how to build scalable community software that can elegantly handle massive amounts of traffic. But LitKicks wasn’t built that way. I had never set up the infrastructure required to handle the level of activity we were getting on this site, and by the summer of 2004 LitKicks was a Titanic waiting to sink. If you ever tried to read a LitKicks page and saw a Java error — well, yeah, that was the iceberg peeking through the hull.

I liked the old boards a lot. There was a creative anarchy there, and a real spirit of fun. But there was also an overriding mood of underachievement, a sort of prevailing “dumb chic” (no doubt inspired by Charles Bukowski, the epitome of dumb chic), that seemed like a creative dead end. Occasional moments of genius cropped up on one board or another, but there were also long stretches of depressing banality. By the spring of 2004 I wasn’t sure if I wanted to rebuild the existing site with a different software package or instead come up with an all new format, a new beginning for LitKicks. I asked Jamelah and Caryn if either of them felt remotely satisfied with the boards, and when they both told me they didn’t, the decision seemed clear: shake things up, try something new.

The new LitKicks is still “finding itself”, I think. The public reaction to the board shutdown was more negative than I’d expected, and I think some people are still warming up to the new format, which is designed to move slower and generate more thoughtful writings and conversations. But LitKicks has been around for more than ten years, and the site is designed to change, to evolve, to do surprising things. The current version is our latest attempt at being what we should be, but we’re not going to rest or stop here, just as we’ve never stopped at any of our previous incarnations.

As for the old boards, I’m happy to tell you that I’ve moved them all to a brand new archive server, designed to be fast and error-free. Here it is, for all posterity: the permanent LitKicks Board Archive.

Looking back at this vast array of human-generated spontaneous content, I have to wonder, what does it all mean? There are over a hundred thousand poems here, for instance … but what do they all add up to in the larger scheme of things? How can these poems be read? What significance does yesterday’s stream of literary ephemera hold today, if any?

I was very proud when the Library of Congress included posts from various LitKicks boards in September and October 2001 in their web archive of that moment in history. But what about the rest of this huge mass of content? I am really not sure what good this archive is, and for that matter I am still not exactly sure what good LitKicks is. I’d like to hear what you think, and I’d like to know whether or not you think these old boards are worth archiving at all, and why.

I also wanted to explain why I left two of the more popular (but less literary) LitKicks boards out of the permanent archive. It was a hard decision not to migrate Mindless Chatter to the new server. But this board had about three times as many messages as any other LitKicks board, and while most of it certainly was mindless, I really didn’t find that much of it was timeless. We had laughs on this board, but you probably had to be there, and you can’t be there anymore, so Mindless Chatter didn’t make it to the archive.

I felt less ambivalent about my decision not to move the Flames board into the archive. This actually felt good to me. During the 42 months of the LitKicks Boards Experience, I often had to remind writers that the point of LitKicks wasn’t to help strangers dislike each other, but to help them like each other. Flames was a fun place (some of my own best posts showed up there, I think) … but I am not going to pay disk charges to store hatred and misunderstanding. Both these commodities are cheap, and readily available elsewhere.

Anyway, I do have text-file backups of these boards, along with the others, so nothing is lost to posterity. I hope you’ll go visit the LitKicks Board Archive in its new home, and I think you’ll agree with me that there’s a hell of a lot of interesting stuff there. Thanks for being part of it, if you were. And whether you were or not … hang around, and help us figure out what the current version of LitKicks is supposed to evolve into.

Yahoo 247

March 29, 2005

The other day I was talking to someone about Steve Rubel’s great Micro Persuasion weblog and the energy and enthusiasm he demonstrates as he avidly filters key blog news and posts about whatever he cares about (note to self: add his headlines to the list of feeds down the right side…).

Anyway, I just scored a Yahoo! 360 invite and I’ll echo Steve since he’s doing all the original thinking these days (Trying Out Yahoo! 360):

Today I received an invite to try out Yahoo! 360 – Yahoo’s new
blog/social networking platform. I will play in the sandbox tonight and
post some thoughts. If you have specific questions, please leave a
comment on this post.

First impressions are that it’s a pretty good draft of tying together Yahoo’s latent social-network tools and the blogging interface is “not bad.”

Did Hugh skew it?

March 28, 2005

Over at Personal Democracy Forum, Micah Sifry reviews Hugh Hewitt’s book Blog (about the political blogosphere) and finds it useful but hopelessly biased toward the right. This shouldn’t be surprising, given Hewitt’s day job as a right-wing talk radio host, but it’s still somewhat disconcerting given the misleadingly neutral-sounding title of the book. It seems that one thing that hasn’t changed about the Web is the way people writing about tend to model Narcissus, gazing into it like a big mirror. announces major overhaul

March 28, 2005

Andy Baio IM’d me this morning to alert me to the new version of ( News: Huge Changes!).
Improvements includes the following:

  1. Personal and self-promotional events now permitted / enabled.
  2. Tagging!
  3. A RESTful developer’s API.
  4. Upgraded, more legible design.
  5. E-mail/SMS Reminders.

Lazyweb request for help with mySQL (phpwiki problem)

March 28, 2005

Over at The Power of Many, the wiki-driven portion of the site is down because of an error of some sort in the “page” table in the mySQL database. I’m kind of stymied now and don’t know whether the error is even fixable, or if I’ll need to revert to a backup.
Please drop me a line if you are experienced with php / mySQL and think you might be able to lend me a hand. Thanks in advance!
Update: Nevermind. Andy Baio pointed me in the right direction. A data table had crashed. I was able to repair it in phpMyAdmin. All is once again right with the world. Thanks, everyone who helped,!

Lazyweb request for peer-to-peer backup system

March 27, 2005

By jove, I think David Weinberger has spun out yet another brilliant idea in P2P backup

I think I’m missing something obvious, but why can’t I find a p2p backup system that lets me and a designated buddy swap storage space? I’ll give my pal, say, 5GB of storage on my computer if she’ll give me 5GB on hers. My computer is pretty much always on, and so is my buddy’s. All we need is some basic sw for letting us designate the directories we want kept up to date and for making the p2p connection. Maybe a little encryption and compression. Neither of us guarantees 24/7/365 access, multiply redundant raid arrays, or whatever, but it would help me sleep better knowing that when my house melts, the drafts of that unfinished awful novel will survive.

Does this software — preferably free and open source — exist and I’ve just missed it? If it doesn’t, have I missed why this is a bad idea?

How businesses can embrace blogs and wikis successfully

March 27, 2005

Quoting from Blog and Wiki Best Practices

Infoworld has posted a comprehensive package
on the use of blogs/wikis in internal communications as well
as for corporate communications/PR. Platforms reviewed include JotSpot, Socialtext and Moveable Type. The package is rich with good information. Here’s a summary of the article’s best practices. Note how they suggest to plan for leaks. Intel learned this the hard way. Also notice how they encourage companies to support popular bottom-up corporate bloggers.
Microsoft clearly is doing this. Cut this out and stick it on your
company’s break room bulletin board next to your favorite EEOC document.

Johnson wouldn't blog a book while writing it, Weinberger might, I did, others will

March 25, 2005

Quoting from Steve Johnson on books and blogs:

Steve Johnson has a brilliant post on why he doesn’t blog his books as he writes them:

The problem for an author is that books are not written the way they are read. They usually take years to write, from original proposal to final proofs; they are rarely composed in sequence; and by the time you submit a final manuscript, you’ve invariably read every page dozens of times, mostly out context.

So for me at least, the trick of writing a book is somehow shedding all the layered, time-shifted contortions of writing, and somehow recreating what it would feel like to sit down as a newcomer to the book and start reading..

…And private, linear, slow is exactly the opposite of the experience of blogging. .

Read the whole thing if only because it is itself an example of Steve’s blend of logic, insight and voice.

I wrote Small Pieces Loosely Joined entirely online, posting updated drafts every day. That was a mistake. What’s the point of reading, much less commenting on, drafts the author is going to throw out tomorow? So, next time, I think I’ll aggressively blog ideas as they occur and post drafts of chapters as I finish them. I think. [Technorati tags: ]

This blog started off as a private place for my editors and I to gather notes and references, then it became a place for editorial discussion and a way for me to sift through all my references when writing or rewriting a chapter. I never posted my drafts on line but very occasionally a sentence or two from a blog entry ended up more or less verbatim in the book. When the book came out last fall the blog became a site for promoting the book’s sales, and a way of continuing to cover the same “beat” even after the printing presses had gone to bed.


March 25, 2005

Did some yoga this morning for the first time in months. What a relief. I nearly cried in downward-facing dog as I felt my calves stretching out of their tight cramp. And in the warrior pose, my shoulders felt like they might crumble and fall off, but something tells me this is just the countervailing effort I need to stabilize those muscles that are aching from all the guitar and ukudelia.