Archive for September, 2007

RE: Join my network on LinkedIn

September 30, 2007

'LinkedIn: Invitations Received' screen snap
This is a quandary for me. I try to keep my LinkedIn network literally to people I know and have worked with or with whose work I am familiar. From what I can see, you seem like an excellent person to know, I’m flattered that you enjoy my posts on that list, and I appreciate your providing that context since so many invitations I get have robogreetings on them.
I couldn’t bring myself to click the “I don’t know Jack…” button, but since I take LinkedIn literally (I want to be able to recommend people from my own direct experience) I also don’t feel right accepting your invitation.
I hope you understand.

Oakland for Obama?

September 28, 2007

Obama logoJust got a call from an organizer named Barbara with the local Barack Obama for President campaign, telling me they are opening a new Northern California campaign office in downtown Oakland, and inviting me to a grand opening party for the office on 4136 14th Street (near Broadway) this Sunday, September 30, from 1 to 5 pm.
I’m thinking of going. I haven’t gotten involved in a campaign yet, nor have I picked a candidate, but I do like what I’ve seen of Obama so far, even as I wish he would take a harder line on ending the war in Iraq.
They say the party will have music and they expect the media there so they’re hoping to get the word out, so consider this my first volunteer effort for the campaign, trying to get the word out about this party just a little bit more.

Skin-deep semantics

September 27, 2007

Somewhere along the way web developers learned that bold and italics tags (don’t even mention underline) were verboten, careless mingling presentation with semantics and structure, but that emphasis and strong emphasis were cool. Heck, even Dreamweaver and related products now automatically insert em and strong tags in wysiswyg mode when the user clicks buttons labeled I and B.
There’s a problem with this, though. In some ways it’s the equivalent of the CSS-styled span tags Word now inserts to apply font (typeface) choices just exactly the way it used to littler HTML output iwith font tags. So, what’s the problem?
The problem is, for example, that italics does not always mean emphasis. The semantics behind the typesetter’s choice to use italics can mean a number of things. Yes, it can signify emphasis. It can also mean the title of a book or record. It can mean that the word in question comes from another language.
Mindlessly applying em to a French word is semantically as useless as applying an i tag. In fact, I’d say it’s worse. At least italics are traditionally associated with foreign words. Emphasis is not. It’s more like a homonym – it looks the same but it means something entirely different.
So what’s a standards-conscious, POSH, separation-of-semantics-and-presentation web developer to do? It seems that the workaround would be to (as usual) choose the best tag (I like cite for titles, which happens to render in italics in most browsers) and then define classes for the semantic meanings involved.
By all means, continue to use em and strong when dealing with emphasis, but come up with some for word-from-another-language, and then apply it.
Creators of wysiwyg tools might want to trap clicks of those I and B buttons (note I used the i and b tags here because I am literally talking about italics and bold, not emphasis and strong emphasis!), and ask the author which of the several meanings traditionally associated with italics or bold they have in mind. Then create or apply the appropriate markup.
Problem solved.
UPDATE: Noticed that Zeldman praises the new Apple Store’s standards-adherence and encourages his readers to view the source. I couldn’t help noticing the site’s use of strong to produce bold inline headings. I guess a case to be made (tortured) to say that an inline heading is a phrase you wish to emphasize, but isn’t it really a heading that just happens to be bold? Strong is the new bold.

Graphing the social graph graph

September 26, 2007

social graph logo
Just noticed there’s a conference coming up in a few weeks here in the valley that seems extremely narrowcast to me: Graphing Social Patterns: The Business & Technology of Facebook.
A lot of the usual suspects of social network bloviating are speaking (I count two women out of 20 named speakers), including representatives from Facebook, LinkedIn, O’Reilly (Tim himself), Forrester Research, TechCrunch, and of course Scoble, and others.
The conference describes itself as
> for developers and marketers on how to build and distribute apps for the Facebook Platform. This event is for both business executives & technical developers who want to learn more about the Facebook environment, and how to reach online communities using social networking platforms and applications.The conference will be held in San Jose, CA from October 7th-9th. Main conference sessions are Monday 10/8 and Tuesday 10/9; an optional pre-conference workshop is Sunday, 10/7.
If you’re interested, you can register at EventBrite.
They’ve certainly populated the conference title well with buzzwords. The term social graph, popularized by facebookistas (and annoying to those who consider it an obscure jargon synonym for social network – oh, and don’t get jonas luster started on how social network software is not the same thing as a social network) seems to be everywhere these days, and of course people love to talk about recognizing and capturing (or detecting, heh) patterns.
For a counter view of the importance of Facebook’s social graph as a platform for application development, check out the truth about facebook apps: most people ignore them:
> Once installed, most widgets are ignored.
> Slide’s “Top Friends” boasts the most active users: 2.7 million people, or 20% of its user base, use it every day. The app with the highest engagement percentage: “WarBook,” a medieval fantasy game, is played by 18,000 people a day, or 42% of its install base. The “iLike” app, oft-cited as a Facebook success story, may be less popular than we thought: 646,000 people, or 9% of its install base, use it daily.
(via cwodtke’s tweets, who recently noted that she and I seem to be on some sort of convergence path)

Invasion of the *funny* snatchers, you mean

September 25, 2007

Mankind's Last Hope logo
Our survey of the zany madcap futuristic scenarios of the 21st century takes us now to the year 2055, where we will learn from “a post-apocalyptic workplace situation comedy” called Mankind’s Last Hope who conquered the human race, why, and what they’re keeping the remnants of our ragtag band of homo sapiens alive for (hint, it involves greeting cards, scrimshaw, and protein).
A while back my friends Dan aka Cecil aka Dan and Jeff “The Pompetus of dBase” Green collaborated on the aforementioned sitcom, writing a pilot and ultimately an entire first season. My participation has been limited to table reads and watching an early undress rehearsal of the theatrical staging of the first three episodes in play form by the Virago Theatre Company
These three episodes are now slated to open October 26 at Rhythmix Cultural Works (2513 Blanding Ave, Alameda) and run for two consecutive weekends.
Cecil aka Dan aka Cecil has more information on his bblog, where he also features a preview of the show’s new theme song, penned by erstwhile Stryker keybist Brent Jeffers, so you know that’s got to rock.
I always wanted to consume must-see TV filmed before a live studio audience and now that chance is coming mega-soon, as the kids will say in the year 2055, if there are any kids left alive.

In the year 2000

September 24, 2007

2000.jpgFriends and cow-orkers alike have heard me make the now clichéd quip about being disappointed not to have a jetpack yet, living as we do in the year 2000. Jetpack has in fact become a sort of shorthand for some awesome feature that probably won’t get included in a final design.
I still remember some of the sci-fi and futurist inspired visions of where we’d be in the year 2000. Remember George Jetson’s complaint? (“These three-day work weeks are killing me!”). So this article projecting life in the year 2,000 AD from a July 22, 1961 issue of Weekend Magazine mixes the sublime with the absurd, and a handful of things that aren’t entirely off the mark.
Some excerpts:
> looks as if everything will be so easy that people will probably die from sheer boredom.
> You will be whisked around in monorail vehicles at 200 miles an hour and you will think nothing of taking a fortnight’s holiday in outer space.
> You’ll have a home control room – an electronics centre, where messages will be recorded when you’re away from home. This will play back when you return, and also give you up-to-the minute world news, and transcribe your latest mail.
> You’ll have wall-to-wall global TV, an indoor swimming pool, TV-telephones and room-to-room TV. Press a button and you can change the d├ęcor of a room.
> The status symbol of the year 2000 will be the home computer help, which will help mother tend the children, cook the meals and issue reminders of appointments.
(But apparently gender relations will revert to the postwar norm.)
> At work, Dad will operate on a 24 hour week. The office will be air-conditioned with stimulating scents and extra oxygen – to give a physical and psychological lift.
> Mail and newspapers will be reproduced instantly anywhere in the world by facsimile.
> There will be machines doing the work of clerks, shorthand writers and translators. Machines will “talk” to each other.
(Using XML, no doubt.)
> It will be the age of press-button transportation. Rocket belts will increase a man’s stride to 30 feet, and bus-type helicopters will travel along crowded air skyways. There will be moving plastic-covered pavements, individual hoppicopters, and 200 m.p.h. monorail trains operating in all large cities.
Rocketbelts? Where’s my jetpack?
> Our children will learn from TV, recorders and teaching machines. They will get pills to make them learn faster.
…and to palliate their ADD. (via Reddit)

How you say I Know You Rider en Francais?

September 22, 2007

Jerry singing RiderEarlier this year a friend on the Deadwood Society mailing list sent around this video excerpt from a French film called Gimme shelter, l’Airplane et les Stones à Altamont.
The first half of the clip shows the Dead playing “I Know You Rider” in Hérouville in 1971. I love the band from that era. Lean, with only five players, able to turn on a dime, heading into that Bill Kreutzman-peak jazzy sound of the early-mid ’70s, Pigpen still relatively hale and hearty, Jerry with his iconic Tommy Chong look, none of the weariness that would later hang over the band.
Jerry shreddingThe excerpts from Gimme Shelter are depressing, the self-righteous Angels defending their right to beat up passive hippies with pool cues, the ineffectual complaints from the Airplane onstage. It’s interesting to see the lingo subtitled in French. The clip from the Dead’s one-off concert at a villa in France are really what bring me back to this footage for a second look.
The clip also features some documentary interview footage, all in French, which I can’t follow. I wonder if this movie is available in the U.S.?
(Administrivia note: This bit of Saturday Dead blogging is being posted on my main blog at not at the sorely neglected Uncle John’s Blog because these days I’m trying to do all my blogging in one place. I will try to figure out a way to make posts like this show up over there without munging all the stuff that has been posted there directly.)

A corridor of flickering light

September 21, 2007

float_masthead.jpgThe Illuminated Corridor meets the Internet Archive. What does that even mean? To find out, I went to the source, Oakland artist, musician, and impresario Suki O’Kane:
wake up!: What is the Illuminated Corridor?
Suki O’Kane: The Illuminated Corridor is a next step in outdoor cinema: a nomadic public art installation that creates site-specific illumination of public space, drawing on local traditions of film and live music. Using the model of temporary public art intervention, we mask street lighting and relight facades with projected video and film, accompanied by live musical performance.
Launched in the Summer of 2005 and involving a collaboration of over 75 Bay Area filmmakers, media artists, sound artists and musicians, the Illuminated Corridor catalyzes new work, showcases diverse collaborations between performative projectionists and performing artists, and covers a vast territory of film and music genres.
That sounds really interesting. How do people respond to it?
They perambulate, mostly, caught in the various gravitational pulls of the simultanous work the way folks are drawn to, or driven from, works in a gallery setting. Two unique things happen: the viewers walk among the performers who are set up in the middle of the street, unmediated by stage or velvet rope; and the view is not traditional. No projection screen or makeshift shower rod proscenium is used. The image goes directly onto facades, which absorb and reflect in very different ways, bitten by age, use and grime.
We’ve been asked, and by as many artists as audience members, why we would permit light to get swallowed up by the facades when we could cloak, Christo-stylee and light a place up like, well, Christmas. We might someday, but for now we’re confusing matters by experimenting with the perception of where illumination is coming from in a Corridor. Is it what the artists are applying? or is it what the facades are releasing?
How many times have you done this before?
We are Number Six. From the original Bayennale version at Jack London Square to the encyclopedic circus of Oakland Ironworks we moved to an exquisite corpse model: a righteous cut-up of Vertigo outside the LAB built from a deft edit of the film by Sarah Lockhart and assignment of notes from Bernard Hermann’s score. We reconvened at the spiritual home of the IllCorr, 21 Grand Art Gallery, in the Fall of 2006 with Mobility, a themed performance that asked artists to consider the range of meaning in the word: from the darkened lot of Saturns to the creeping gentrification of Northgate to the iconic story of 21 Grand itself, displaced three times yet continuing to grow as a central force in Oakland arts.
Then, with enormous irony, we were the inaugural performance on The Great Wall of Oakland, an 8-story windowless facade addressable only from the rooftop of the Broadway Grand, a condo project that evicted and razed 21 Grand as a first step in realization. Good Times, which they were, was the name of the piece we commissioned local composer Dan Plonsey to create for an eight-piece string ensemble.
What’s the theme this time?
Prelinger on Prelinger. This Corridor seeks to illuminate the Prelinger Library, a private research library open to the public with collections encompassing some 50,000 books, periodical volumes and printed ephemera. The Library is linked to the Prelinger Archive, a collection of ephemeral films that are a key creative resource to artists of the Illuminated Corridor, and serve as a touchstone for the broader community of film, sound and bricolage artists. For many of the artists participating in this Corridor, it’s a love letter to the Prelingers for their contributions to the creative commons, their stewardship of the artifact, and their encouragement of appropriation and associative discovery.
The Corridor will take place during the Library’s traditional Wednesday Open House evening hours, where we are inviting people to lose themselves in the stacks of an extraordinary library turned inside out for an evening.
Why? No really. Why why why?
Corridors have a lot of subjects in them: public art, expanded cinema, intermedia, cultural intervention and reclamation, and this particular Corridor is meant to press questions straight from how do we protect our right to know and our right to remember. But we try to never forget that it is simply fun to watch movies outside with the neighbors. Innocent, ad Hoc, unfiltered, community-based, with a transgressive overtone (we were meant to use the building to hold the contents, but we’re using it to show some cinema), it’s hard to walk away from a Corridor without feeling like you just got away with something. We want to transform these spaces, so that when we all return there in the course of our normal day, we can never see it in the same way again. Ephemerally imbued. Like that.
So there you have it. The Illuminated Corridor, a collision of public art, live music and film, next happening on Octoer 3, at the Prelinger Library, bounded by Eighth, Folsom and Rodgers Streets in San Francisco, CA.

Sisters are doing it for themselves

September 20, 2007

At BarCamp Block I first heard about plans for She’s Geeky, a tech (un)conference for women by women. Immediately, I was intrigued. It sounds like a great idea, I love the title, and the organizers are some of the coolest folk I’ve met on the geek circuit.
One of the prime movers is Kaliya Identity Woman Hamlin, a strong advocate of the OpenSpace unconference model for events.
She’s Geeky takes place October 22 and 23 in Mountain View, CA (near Palo Alto). Here’s a description In their own words:
> This event is designed to bring together women from a range of technology-focused disciplines who self identify as geeky. Our goal is to support skill exchange and learning between women working in diverse fields and to create a space for networking and to talk about issues faced by women in technology.
Kaliya goes into some more detail about here “motivations and hopes” on her IdentityWoman blog, and addresses any concerns folks might have about exclusivity (which is a good thing, because even in this male-dominated tech world, I sometimes get that twinge of entitlement when something is for me, about me, catering to me and my ilk, etc.), saying, “My motivation is not to create an event that is ‘exclusive’ but to help create a space for women who some times are very isolated in different niches of the tech world. One women I spoke with yesterday recently found herself being one of only 12 women at a tech conference of 600.”
I have no doubt that She’s Geeky will be a watershed event and I look forward to reading about it and studying its impact.

Shining a spotlight on money in politics

September 19, 2007

I’ve written about MAPlight before but from time to time I feel the need to post an update about the amazing work it’s doing. (Disclosure: I am an advisor to this nonprofit, although my direct involvement is limited.)
Since the last time I mentioned MAPlight it’s gone from just documenting donations to California politicians to covering the Federal level as well, at a new site that launched back in May, called Our Congress (“Our Congress tracks every vote and campaign contribution for all U.S. Senators and Representatives”).
That alone is a huge addition to the service it provides. If you’re interested in what Congress is up to, also check out OpenCongress, another project that has received support from the Sunlight Foundation (as has MAPlight).
Then in May, MAPlight won the NetSquared innovation award for “social impact, sustainability, and technical innovation,” taking first prize in a contest based on open voting online, and earning a $25,000 prize grant.
More recently, MAPlight announced a set of customizable widgets “that allow anyone to track presidential fundraising on their own blogs, social media sites, and personal Web sites.”