Archive for November, 2007

My slides from Unbroken Chain

November 28, 2007

Here are my slides from our panel at UMass (called “They Made a Fine Connection”):

Without my comments, the slides are kind of telegraphic. If I get a sound recording of our panel, I’d link them together into a slidecast.
I’ll also put my thoughts down about the symposium soon, possibly to be published in Dead Letters volume four.
If you want more of this Dead navel-gazing stuff, check out John Perry Barlow’s keynote and Q&A session from last year’s Southwest Texas PCA conference (thanks to David Gans.

The limits of multitasking

November 27, 2007

unclear search in gmailI was running a search on a labeled group of messages (from a mailing list) in my mailbox, looking for just the unread ones, but I was also doing something else at the same time (actually two or three other things, drinking coffee, firing up a YouTube video, looking for a file on my desktop) and I ended up typing “is:unclear” instead of “is:unread.”
But maybe a good email search *could* find the messages in your inbox that are unclear?

Unescaped entities on the loose

November 26, 2007

So, I’m back from the Dead Symposium at UMass (I’ll post my slides soon), and Thanksgiving has come and gone, and I’m at the office now wrestling with my new MacBook Pro, trying to get everything possible onto it from my old G4 without breaking any of the new stuff. I think I’m almost there (knock wood), but it has put a crimp in my blogging.
There’s a backlog, though, and I’ll be working through it over the next few days. However, I’m also standing on the verge of getting serious about my next book and I’m not sure how that’s going to affect my blogging. The book will get precedence for daily writing, so blogging may turn into a blow-by-blow account of the process. I also plan to post my notes and drafts on a wiki site as a way of doing it in public and soliciting input along the way.
In the meantime, I was just down getting coffee in bldg B here in Sunnyvale and noticed the XM station on the TV overhead playing a David Bowie song they referred to as “quot;Heroes”quot; from the album of the same name. I don’t know if that was a typo in an HTML entity of if XM has its own crazy dialect for special characters but it looks like something got escaped and then didn’t get unescaped, which is a little bit how I’m feeling about that Dead conference I mentioned in Amherst.

For public consumption

November 14, 2007

patternlibrary-brownbag.jpgA few people have asked me about when they might be able to see the recording of my brown bag on the Yahoo Pattern Library and so I wanted to post a little update.

This got delayed because of a cold that laid me up for all of last week, but I’ve just completed a thorough review of the footage to identify anything I may have discussed that wouldn’t be appropriate for public consumption. (It was an internal brown bag, so the primary audience was other designers at Yahoo.)

That’s now done. I need a sign off from legal (they’ve been very helpful), and then I need to sit down with the videographer to get a couple of snippets removed and to take out a few slides, and then we should be good to go. It will run as part of YUI Theater (on the YUI blog), and I’ll post a reminder and a link to it here as soon as it goes live.

Slow blogging ahead, or behind?

November 13, 2007

olpc.jpgYeah, what she said: FringeHog: In Praise of Slow Blogging.
Or is it a he? There’s no byline and several authors for the site.
Also, should I get an OLPC (one laptop per child) XO laptop in the buy one / donate one program? They look like they might be a great conference tool. Seven hours of battery life.

My photos from Oaxaca

November 12, 2007

Well it took nearly forever, but I’ve finally got all my photos from my trip to Oaxaca posted to Flickr. I organized them into umpteen sets by event and then collected those all together into one master collection, linked from earlier in this sentence. The badge in this entry points to the same photos except because the badges don’t work with collections yet it does so by pointing to a unique tag applied to all the photos.
I have stories to tell from the trip as well, but one thing at a time.
UPDATE: for some reason the Flash badge I tried inserting is breaking here in my blog even though the code for it seems to work in a number of other test situations. I’m looking into that now. Meanwhile, I’ve tried making a non-Flash badge and inserting that above in the hopes that that will resolve the problem. In the meantime I’m pasting in the code for the non-working Flash badge below until I get things sorted.
UPDATED UPDATE: Well the other badge broke too. Some conflict between the CSS for the blog and for the badge, I bet. Oh well. I added a sample picture above and am parking the code for both badges below, which will render as a long hash string until or unless I figure out a way to make them work.
UPDATED UPDATED UPDATE: Even the broken badge code seemed to be breaking the rest of my blog, so I’ve removed it for now.

Some possible best practices for social design

November 6, 2007

bokardo.jpgJoshua Porter, who specializes in Social Web Design and with whom I’ve debated in the past around the perennially boring topic of “Information Architecture vs. Interaction Design, Which is the Best Discipline EVAR!?!?,” has culled an interesting list of social design best practices from Google’s documentation of its new “OpenSocial” API collection.
The interesting (to me) recommended practices are the following (re-paraphrased, somewhat, from how the practices are labeled in Google’s document, using some of Joshua’s verbiage where I found it clearer):
> * Enable self expression via personalization
> * Show what friends are doing
> * Let people explore friends and friends of friends
> * Provide commenting features
> * Expose multiple areas of similarity
> * Solve real world problems through social connections
(The other recommendations were interesting too but they seemed to be more about good widget design and good web experience design in general and not particularly about social, let alone open and social.)
The last item, of course, was the theme of The Power of Many.
The browsing-friends-of-friends one is questionable, too. At LinkedIn, that’s an option. I guess it goes to openness, but it also cuts against privacy. I don’t necessarily want everyone viewing my address book or using me as a step-ladder to meet someone else. To me that’s not social – it’s antisocial. More importantly, I believe in leaving those decisions in the hands of the user as much as possible.
Porter sees some other important issues here:
> [W]e’re clearly seeing a set of practices emerge across all social software that centers around getting people started quickly, allowing for self-expression, engaged in real-life tasks, yet also allowing for flexible discovery and play…. [S]ocial networks have changed the way we look at software in just a couple years.
> [O]nly two or three of the best practices are necessarily part of “social networking” software. They could be used in any kind of social software, be it productivity software for groups or even e-commerce sites that help people find the right product.
> That, to me, is the essence of social design. It isn’t relegated to social networking, even though the rise of social networking is what helped to clarify and refine the ideas. It’s about building software that takes advantage of social connections to provide enhanced value.
Good food for thought.

National sick-as-a-dog month

November 5, 2007
My Wish List

A friend asked me via twitter if I was doing National Blog Post Month as well as National Novel Writing Month, because apparently I had up to that point posted every day in November, but in fact I was not doing the former and am no longer doing the latter.
In fact I’ve been trying to post to this blog nearly every day for a while now, with an emphasis on weekdays, but this has nothing to do with the month of November. As for the novel-writing thing, I’m punting. This is slightly to do with the nasty cold that has laid me up this weekend and made it fairly impossible to feel creative or have ideas or write anything substantial. But it’s more than that. I just realized that the timing isn’t right.
In terms of fiction I have my last novel still in my head, since it’s between first and second drafts right now.
And in terms of creative writing I still have a half-written memoir to return to that got shelved when I wrote my last nonfiction book.
And in terms of nonfiction I have a new book dying to come out of my head and that’s the real reason. I think I need to put my creative, extracurricular energies toward the new book on presence and devote my fiction-urge to getting the last novel ready for the agent-publisher mill or the dumpster.
So maybe I need to thank this cold for forcing me to rethink my priorities, but screw that. Not when I still feel like an assembly line for dead white-blood cells.
One last unrelated note. My birthday just passed and the ritual asking me of what I want for my birthday from family members is still going on, and I generally point to my Amazon wish list but it’s not exactly an easy link to remember, so I’ve added a button to my blog here and I’ve stuck it in this post as well so it will pop up in a few other places. This is not a gift-solicitation from readers but more of a convenience for me as I do the tiny bit of writing I’m bound to get to today before my next swoon.

What can I say about OpenSocial?

November 2, 2007

opensocial.jpgThe blog world, along with my slice of the twitter world, is abuzz with attempts to understand, analyze, deconstruct, laud, and excoriate Google’s new OpenSocial initiative.
One key question seems to be: is this true openness or simply using the (increasingly at risk of dilution) “open” mean as a handy cudgel to ward off Google’s current nemesis, Facebook, with it’s extremely popular but closed application development platform, active and growing userbase, and impending social ad network play?
Another key question I’m hearing people ask is whether this is a hand-off attempt by Google to hew to its roots of faciliating access to information and monetizing the traffic and data that passes through its metaphorical ands or is it an attempt to do judo and place itself at the hub of the social web as it matures?
My meta question might be to ask whether each pair of possibilities is truly mutually exclusive.
But I don’t feel like I really can comment on this right now.
If I were still an independent writer or even just a user experience consultant at an agency with a blog, I’d be much more comfortable jumping into the geek-punditry fray, but I’m not.
I work for a company that view Google and Facebook as competition, a company full of people who use both Google and Facebook, a company in the midst of announcing and operationalizing its new strategy, a company that has just made a commitment to openness and has its own ideas about what that mean, and it’s really just too hard to figure out what has been announced and what hasn’t and I really don’t want to talk out of school, so I’ll just adopt a wait and see attitude and for the time being keep my opinions to myself.

Stumbling out of the gate

November 1, 2007

[writing image stolen from an online zine]I’m feeling a bit under the weather, fighting off some kind of bug. That’s my first excuse. I woke up on time today after going to be really early last night. I was exhausted. I got up, put the coffee on, and sat down to fold some laundry. The cat was still asleep, which is unusual.
Got my stuff together, poured the coffee and it looked like I had fifteen minutes to start working on my novel for National Novel Writing Month this year. With a blank mind I sat down and started writing, had an idea, then a sentence. One followed after another. By the time I had to head out for work I had about 600 words. Not bad. Not sure where it’s going but that’s the idea.
On the bus I tried to add some more. Put another 400 or so words down, but now I don’t like the way it’s going. I’m having second thoughts. I start thinking: Is this really a good time to be starting a new novel? Don’t I have a nonfiction book on presence to write? a fulltime a job? a novel in the can that needs revision? a memoir I stopped working on to write my last nonfiction book that needs attention now? This blog? A life?
Should I pull the plug?
In the shower at the gym I thought maybe the problem was the second scene. It nailed things down too far in a direction I wasn’t liking. Maybe through that away, go back to the first ambiguous scene. Keep it and add from there. Maybe go to another perspective, another point in time.
On IM, B suggested maybe instead of a novel I write a bunch of short stories. For that matter, I could spend the time working on the memoir. It’s at least a third done and 30 days of solid work might put it over the hump.
I’m going to have to play it by ear. I kind of wish the people who were reading my previous novel draft for me would give me some feedback so I could decided where I’m going with that one. Things are piling up.
So I guess I’ll keep working at it for now. We’ll see.