Archive for December, 2007

The twelve-month review

December 20, 2007

Levi Asher tagged me with a meme, according to which I am to list the first sentence of the first post of each month for the past year. I’m game:
* January: “The talented Lisa Williams has launched Placeblogger” (Local blogging gets a site)
* February: “Grab your preferred username at Useless Account before someone else does!” (Signing up for the sake of signing up)
* March: “This story (Open Call From the Patent Office) suggest that a breath of fresh air may be entering the patent-review process” (Open sourcing the patent process)
* April: “What knowledge would be lost to the company if I were to leave tomorrow? What do I know that I have done a thousand times that I think everyone already knows?” (Pattern Mining)
* May: “Hmm, those options have an excluded middle.” (Answering danah’s twitter questions)
* June: “Over on the Well, in the public Inkwell topic, I’m interviewing my pal Nick Meriwether about his new book, All Graceful Instruments: The Contexts of the Grateful Dead, a scholarly work looking at the Dead phenomenon from a variety of perspectives.” (I’m interviewing Nicholas Meriwether)
* July: “If you missed Every Breath You Take: Identity, Attention, Privacy, and Reputation last March at South By here’s your chance to hear me, Ted Nadeau, Kaliya Hamlin, Mary Hodder, and George Kelly take on these topics, very early one Sunday morning after an untimely daylight savings change and, for many people, a night of carousing and drinking free drinks sponsored by startups and web behemoths.” (Podcast of my sxsw panel is now live)
* August: “Three jobs I have held: vendor at Yankee stadium, freelance legal summarizer, assistant sexton” (Three things about me you may not have known)
* September: “23. Write lots of numbered lists.” (35 ways to draw more readers to your blog – a series)
* October: “Since I started at Yahoo my workaday routine involves riding a shuttle from Oakland to Sunnyvale with a big laptop computer crammed on my lap so I can work, browse the net, or as I’ve been doing lately, blog.” (Can I blog from my iPhone?)
* November: “I’m feeling a bit under the weather, fighting off some kind of bug.” (Stumbling out of the gate)
* December: “Get salad greens and heirloom tomatoes at the farmer’s market at Splash Pad park” (Things to done)
I’ll pass this meme contagion along by infecting So-called Bill, Cecil, Leisa, Woody, and Christina.

Calendar made of people

December 18, 2007

The big version of the human calendar is amazing!
The portable version is kind of cool too.

From Craig Griffen, who also brought you the human clock.

I am not Spock

December 16, 2007

I trust Jon Lebkowsky. I think I even spelled his name right. I met him on the Well, knew him by reputation as a blogger, sxsw presence, and fringeware review alumnus. He and I cohost blog, formerly blog.ind, a featured conference on the Well.
I trust Aldon Hynes. We met as tech-savvy volunteers for the Dean campaign. I interviewed Aldon for the Power of Many book. We were both credentialed bloggers at the 2004 Democratic Convention, which may be the only time we’ve met face to face. A picture David Weinberger took of Aldon and myself in Boston that was posted to Flickr is perennially one of the few image results for searches of me on
I don’t see what has to do with any of this.

Community site responds to homicide epidemic in Oakland

December 13, 2007

I just heard today about Not Just A Number, a community journalism project coproduced by the Oakland Tribune and
It endeavors to tell the real human stories of Oakland homicide victims, rather than letting them become merely statistics.
The site speaks for itself, and I feel like I might be cheapening it by talking about how it works technically (there are maps that show murder sites that lead to multimedia testimonials about the victims, and so on, but how it works isn’t really the point).
It just seems like the right sort of response (among many) to one of the worst crises in my adopted home town. It’s not like it solves the problem, of course, but it feels like a way to keep the humanity in the picture. I wonder if a similar approach could be applied to other, possibly more positive, community needs?

Voice over iPod?

December 11, 2007

voice-over-ipod.jpgRemember when I said that an iPod touch with wifi and Skype (or similar) would obviate the need for an iPhone?
Well, according to the unofficial Apple weblog, that day may be closer than ever:
> [iPod] touch hacker eok has ported Samuel’s SvSIP to the iPod. SvSIP uses the SIP protocol to connect to other participants and to allow you to talk over WiFi…. eok has been able to both send and receive calls and promises screen shots as soon as possible.

Nevelson revisited

December 10, 2007

[crumlish siblings in front of nevelson sculpture (link to larger image)]
After I posted about that Louise Nevelson exhibit at the de Young museum and seeing the model for the sculpture near my parents’ apartment at 92nd and Park Ave in New York, my sister scanned and emailed me a photo of the four of us siblings posing in front of the sculpture, circa 1974.
(The image above links to a much larger version, not quite as cropped.)
From left to right, handlewise, that’s xifer, moo, xourmas, and xian. I’m making a muscle and entertaining xourmas. moo is, I believe, pretending to smoke a cigarette and not making a vulgar British gesture. xifer is looking stylish in her coat.
Yes, we really dressed that mod back then.

As promised, my pattern library talk

December 7, 2007

As the third curator of Yahoo!’s Design Pattern Library I often receive a lot of thanks and praise from website designers and developers for the way we at Yahoo! have offered this resource to the world. I usually try to explain that much of the goodness happened before I came on board and that I can’t really take credit for it, but when my ego needs a boost I just smile and nod.

When Erin Malone and Matt Leacock and others first launched the internal pattern library, they presented a talk at the IA Summit, called Implementing a Pattern Library in the Real World: A Case Study (and subsequently the linked article on the same topic at Boxes and Arrows). Then Erin and Bill Scott took the library to the public on the Yahoo! Developer Network website and Bill enriched the library with tons of Ajax-y goodness, closely tied to the YUI Library.

Since that time, I came on board and I’ve worked on reorganizing the library, updating the patterns, and shepherding a new generation of patterns through our internal refinement and review process, with an eye toward identifying useful social and openness patterns that we can share with the whole Web. So when people come up to me at conferences or find me on mailing lists for information architects and interaction designers frequently the are curious about how the library has evolved in the years since it was founded, what our internal process looks like these days for writing, reviewing, approving, and rating patterns, and how we decide which ones to publish in the open library.

Recently, I gave a talk at Yahoo! as part of our UED Brown bag series, called The Pattern Library Wants YOU!, intended to update oldtimers on changes and improvements to our process and infrastructure and to orient new designers about the library, and of course to encourage people to get involved. Ricky Montalvo, our ace videographer for YUI Theater and YDN Theater, recorded my talk and edited it together with my slides, and we just spent a week or so removing any too-sensitive information and getting our friendly legal folks to sign off on releasing the talk to the public.

So, without further ado, here is the public version of my talk, which should answer a lot of those questions I’m hearing these days.

(This post was adapted from the YUI blog by sticking it on a block of wood and banging a nail into it.)

Finding my bliss

December 6, 2007

jchead.jpgA week or so ago I posted a semi-whimsical question on Facebook:
> Has anybody seen my bliss? I was following it but I think I fell too far behind.
(Hat tip to Joseph Campbell, pictured here, who seems to have coined the phrase “follow your bliss.”)
My friend Aldon Hynes wrote an interesting post, Following Our Bliss, inspired by this, saying, in part:
> Christian has a good job. He’s published a book. He’s newly married. I would have expected him, of all people, to be keeping up with his bliss. Perhaps it is endemic of how hard it is to follow your bliss these days. Perhaps some of it is that people aren’t even sure what their bliss looks like anymore.
He then goes on to talk about his own various ups and downs recently and closes by saying
> So, I’m not sure where Christian’s bliss has gone. Perhaps it is walking down the street, talking with my bliss, stopping to befriend a homeless man, spending a little time helping a teenager find her voice, and doing a little social networking to help other people find bliss that is more meaningful than talking about fashion, horoscopes and the desire to find Mr. Right in an Internet chat room.
Believe me, I am well aware of my blessings and how fortunate I am in my life, my love, my work, and so on, but I still wrestle – as probably many people do – with wondering whether I am engaged in the best possible uses of my short time here on earth. No doubt there is a grass is greener component of this, and not everyone is sucked into a higher calling. Some of just muddle through, trying to follow our bliss and sometimes losing sight of it around a corner just up ahead, but I think it’s probably that urge to thrive and grow that really matters.

A message to you, Rudy

December 5, 2007

duce.jpgSince Rudy Giuliani is running for president of 9/11, WFMU is running a remix contest encouraging people to put together tracks using his incessant invocation of that day (when his command center proved to be so ill-placed):
> Here’s over two minutes of wall to wall September Eleventh’s, courtesy of America’s mayor. Your mission: turn some or all of them into music, to be reposted here.
There are already a bunch of submissions up on the blog.
One of my favorites is Gary Lambert’s Revolution #9/11.

Discovering Louise Nevelson

December 3, 2007

Model For Night Presence IVSo yesterday B and I went into SF in the afternoon to visit our friends D and P and get some cultcha. We went to the deYoung museum in Golden Gate Park and took in the Louise Nevelson exhibit.
For some reason I did not know who Nevelson was. I read her bio on the large placard and started looking at her mostly wood sculptures, but she was unfamiliar to me. A gap in my art education. I liked her work a lot, her way of using found scrap wood and then painting it all matte black (later white and still later gold) and then assembling it into towering cubes of surfaces, patterns, shadow and depth. I liked her obvious cubism influences and her prints and drawings.
When looking at a wooden piece (shown above) called Model for Night Presence IV, I suddenly did a double take. I knew this work, or at least the work it was a study for. Night Presence IV is in fact a huge metal sculpture situated on Park Avenue (in the middle of the boulevard) at 92nd street, the intersection nearest to my parents’ apartment.
I never really liked that sculpture much. It’s a muddy brown color and the scale is kind of oppressive. Also, we were young when we moved up there (it had only been dedicated, it turns out, a year earlier), and it’s not quite the right size for climbing on, especially when compared to Hans Christian Andersen or the Mad Hatter in Central Park.
The shapes were incomprehensible to me as well, but looking at the small wooden sculpture I liked it very much. I could see that the cut round pieces of wood were from balustrades or carpentry. The wavy columns looked sensuous and inviting. The shape harmonious overall. Was it simply a matter of scale? Looking at a photo of the large sculpture (and consulting the memory imprinted in my mind) the proportions seem different, but is that simply a matter of foreshortening and perspective or did she truly alter the design when going from the wooden model to the metal final version?
Also, will I now appreciate and even like the sculpture next time I’m visiting at home, now that I know who made it and how it was made? Only time will tell.