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Journal for 30 March 2006


The busier I get, the less I get done. I mean, I still have follow-up work to do from SXSW, about two week’s worth of laundry in the hamper, a car past-due for an oil change, and my taxes. And I still haven’t written about this past weekend’s grand cat incident. Argh.

On deck for this weekend: Fixing the above, and Beth Orton at First Ave.

Posted in Journal at 10:23 pm

MovieLog: Rabbit-Proof Fence


Rabbit-Proof Fence is a very pretty and surprisingly well-acted film, one that manages to confront racism without being preachy about it. While there’s apparently some disagreement as to its accuracy, it does work as a basic introduction to the Stolen Generations, something I suspect most of us outside Australia don’t know much about. (More surprising than anything else is that the Australian government continued the policy of removing mixed-race Aboriginal children from their parents up to the 1970’s.) And for that, it’s worth checking out. 8/10.

Posted in MovieLog at 11:52 pm

MovieLog: Why We Fight


It doesn’t contain anything most of us don’t already know, but Why We Fight does do a good job of stitching together all of the elements that led to us being stuck in Iraq, and does so in a more level-headed manner than would be taken by someone like Michael Moore.  Numerous Republicans, including John McCain, are given significant screen time, and their words are among the most persuasive in the movie, although not always in the way they’d like them to be.

Recommended, but only to those who can stand being frustrated for a few hours.  8/10.

Posted in MovieLog at 12:37 am

Looking Back at SXSWI 2006


So, anyway, a not-so-quick wrap-up on SXSW. I’ve waited a week to write this, hoping I’d develop a more nuanced view on what in general I felt was a fairly disappointing conference, but I haven’t, so here goes.

First, the good: As with previous years, I met a lot of smart, talented and frighteningly intelligent people, and got the chance to catch up with folks I only see when in Austin. There were a number of good panels as well, with the Ambient Findability, Ubiquitous Computing, Folksonomies and (dangerously overcrowded) Online in Offline Spaces panels sticking out. This year also brought the opportunity for me to drag a couple of people to the conference, and it was very cool to see them take full advantage of all it had to offer.

That said, SXSW didn’t seem to have quite the friendly, collaborative feel it had in previous years. To be sure, that was at least partly due to the size of the conference. (The scale really hit me at the frog design party, when I remember thinking that if there were people there that I knew, I was never going to run into them.) But the conference had more of a corporate feel as well. Where in previous years it was usually pretty easy to meet people by simply turning to a neighbor before a panel and saying hello, this year doing so seemed to be an invitation to a sales pitch.

Now, I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with a business-orientated conference–I’ve been to a number and have generally found them to be useful–but one of the main things that made SXSW so great was that it usually seemed to transcend the business element. It was a place that people would talk about the web in terms of culture, art and community, usually with straight faces, and often without any discussion of monetization. While that heritage was still evident this year, the focus had shifted dramatically from previous years, and I’m concerned about what future conferences will bring. To boil it down, I’d gladly give up the free food and alcohol for a smaller conference where people don’t bring up connecting on LinkedIn in their second or third sentences.

I’m not sure anything can be done about this year’s shift, or even if anything should be done. The conference has grown, and barring a Bubble 2.0 situation, it’s probably going to stay big. One of the more interesting conversations I had was with an accomplice from last year who’d ditched SXSW for BarCamp Austin, and had clearly had a fantastic time at it. I’m looking to attend MinneBar, but obviously not as a replacement to SXSW. The problem is, if you have a conference–or unconference–that’s primarily made up of geeks, the main thing it’s going to turn out is a bunch of people geeking out, and that’s only a small part of what has made SXSW special in the past.

The word “culture” keeps popping into my head. That’s what I feel we’ll lose if SXSW goes corporate, and I’m not sure something will rise to replace it.


This is my fault, but my panel judgement was very poor this year. With the exceptions listed above, I didn’t learn all that much from them, and there was nothing that really surprised or frightened me. I specifically regret missing the Creating Passionate Users and Future of Radio panels, both of which were spoken of highly by those who attended. Hopefully there will be podcasts.


I know I’m coming across as cranky, and probably a bit disrespectful, but that’s not my intention. SXSW has changed, and I’m having trouble adjusting to it.

Posted in Journal,SXSW,Travelog at 1:38 am

MovieLog: V for Vendetta


I’m not even going to waste time reviewing this one. Let’s just say I was thoroughly disappointed. 4/10.

Posted in MovieLog at 8:43 pm

Journal for 18 March 2006


Well, I’m back in a pleasantly snow-encrusted Minneapolis. SXSW was different this year, and I’m sure I’ll have an inordinate amount to write about it, but for this weekend at least I expect to be content to stay offline and recover.

Posted in Journal at 10:16 am

SXSWi: Panel: RSS – Not Just for Blogs Anymore


Panel: DeuPree / Johnson / Frye (Feedburner) / Levin

Currently at least 75 million consumers and business people in the USA and UK. Only 17-32% actually know they’re using RSS

2003 RSS use: blogs
2005 RSS use: Podcasts / Commercial Customers / Other Peer Produced Content (bit torrent, etc.) / Web Services / Watchlists / Blogs

Feed items are getting a life outside of their parent RSS feeds.

  • news filters
  • spliced feeds
  • personal aggregators
  • resysndication
  • blogs of remixed feeds

How do you retain attribution of your content when you publish with RSS? How do you even know when people are even doing that?

Johnson: If you have a podcast, have at least one RSS feed with all podcasts included, not just the last 5 or ten. Some people may not have heard your stuff before, and may be interested in all of them.

Problems with RSS: Tracking is hard, most filter out javascript due to security, give up all presentation control.

Frye: A lot of publishers don’t understand that their content will be getting republished.

DeuPree: Bloglines currently crawls over two million feeds, over five million articles a day. 1.5 billion articles in their index.

Other than blogs: podcasts, videos, photos, classified serches, advertisements, product newsletters, package tracking, calendard & lists, education, group conversations.

Can tell what the top links and converations. Like pubsub, can see whatever posts are being posted about a particular topic.
(Lots of crap getting added to during this panel. But in a good way.)

Posted in SXSW,SXSW Panels at 4:27 pm

SXSWi: Peter Morville: Ambient Findability


Peter Morville – Lemur and Polar Bear books from O’Reilly.

Most information architecture is handled by people who don’t even know that phrase.

One thing learned over decades is that it’s important to provide multiple routes to the same information.

One of the biggest problems on sites today is search. We need a systemic approach to the search problem.

What does the word usability mean? Now almost synonymous with quality. Other elements, defined by Morville:

  • useful
  • usable
  • findable
    • can people find your website
    • can people find their way around your website
    • can they find your products despite your website
  • credible – what are the design elements that lead to people believing you and trusting you? If it’s well organized and designed, people will trust you more.
  • valuable – Need to be focused on user experience, but also at the same time benefit the sponsor.
  • desirable – Something that people find attractive and want to use. People like pretty things.
  • accessible

Being higher in Google search influences people’s trust. The higher you are, the more people often trust you.

Moreville has worked with Site wanted to improve people being able to find things from the homepage. Moreville started to ask how people get there in the first place. They said, don’t worry, we’re number one or two in Google. People searching cancer got the homepage, but so did people searching for breast cancer, skin cancer and prostate cancer. Many of those searches got sites for drug companies.

Any architect, either in physical or virtual spaces, has to have one foot in the past and one foot in the future. “In some sense we’re always designing the legacy systems of tomorrow.”

Def: Ambient Findability: The ability to find anyone or anything from anywhere at anytime.

A wealth of information creates a poverty of attention. – Herbert Simon, Nobel Laureate Economist.
In a world where it is so hard to get attention of our customers, shouldn’t we make it as easy for them to find what they need when they need it? (As opposed to pushing stuff towards customers.)

In a world where we can chose our news, how should we make our decisions?

We’re starting to import vast amounts of information of our physical worlds into virtual ones. Google earth, for example. Cisco Wireless Location Appliance — helps hospitals find their wheelchairs. Hospitals are unable to find between 10 to 15 percent of the devices they own. Wrist watch with GPS to track your kid.

Look at “The Transparent Society” by David Brin.

How do we make bigger, more findable needles when there are more haystacks. It’s not going to be BOB from Microsoft, or anything that followed it that’s kind of like it. Or information visualization. Or Google Earth.

How can we improve Google Maps? It’ll get you there, but it usually won’t be the best route, or take into account traffic, weather, etc. We’ll have to bring user interaction into the solution. And in many cases “Don’t make me think” is going to become more important.

Who will save us? Revenge of the librarians and metadata.

The old way creates a tree. The new rakes leaves together. Folksonomies vs. Taxonomies. The leaves get burried and rot.
Holy crap, he just pulled up How Buildings Learn by Brand referencing Pace Layering. Fast: Fashion and art and commerce to slow, culture and nature.
Categories have to start to emerge. Look at categories in Flickr.


How do we find the unknown unknowns? IE, the stuff we don’t know we don’t know?

Look into IBM’s public image monitoring solution. Help companies monitor who’s saying what about you and what trends are emerging.

This is the future: [________________] [GO]

Search is the new interface of commerce, goverment, etc. And that’s only going to grow. But the end of the search is only the end of the serach for the engine, but the beginning of the search for the user.

Posted in SXSW,SXSW Panels at 4:30 pm

Items Noted Elsewhere: Newspaper Edition


Holy crap. Just found out that McClatchy is buying KnightRidder. While I’m concerned about what will happen to the 12 papers they’re going to unload, McClatchy is a pretty good company as far as journalist standards go, so hopefully this will be a good thing for the newspaper business in general.

Thank God it wasn’t Gannet.

Posted in Items Noted Elsewhere at 2:59 pm

SXSWi: Craig Newmark Keynote


Wales: Tell me about the culture of trust.

Newmark: Customers pretty much run the site and we handle the infrastructure. My title is Customer Service Rep and Founder, and that’s what I do. It’s important as it keeps him from being detached from reality, which often happens when people become

Wales: Tell us about information warfare.

Newmark: I may be overdramitizing this by using the term, but we have problems with scams, west africans, traditional pranks, but we can handle that. But around Oct 1 from last year, started seeing political disinformation. Lots of ugly stuff, much of it posted anonymously. There’s an ugly obsession with Hillary to even today. You’ll also see people shilling for or against products.
W: I’ve heard you say crooks are early adopters.

N: We started seeing Nigerian scammers and that kind of stuff early. It doesn’t increase that much, though. The motivating system of most people is do unto others, and as more not technological people get online, the better the community becomes.

W: You’ve said Tivo will save democracy.

N: Politicians have to save a lot of money for TV ads. But Tivos allow you skip ads. His fantasy is that people would skip political ads, politicians wouldn’t have to save for them, and that would be a good thing. I think it’s a patriotic duty for people to skip political commercials.

Posted in SXSW,SXSW Panels at 2:53 pm
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