Sunday, October 31, 2004
Weblog research challenges
This is a note to myself (because I woke up thinking :); to be expanded later.
Weblog research challenges:
- Moving target
- Sociotecnical system (technology and practices of using it evolving together)
- Heterogenity: technology, practices
- Subcultures without clear borders (lots of "fussy logic" :)
- Population is unknown --> sampling
- "Teasing data" - lots of out there in public, but getting it is a challenge (distributed, heterogenious formats)
- Interpreting data - underlying practices are oftenunclear (invisible that matters!)
- Bloggers as researchers --> metablogging that changes practices
- Weblog researchers who blog --> changing the system
- Ethics: informed concent (unknown population :), involvement, public vs. personal...
- Complexity :)
This post also appears on channel weblog research
Friday, October 29, 2004
Travel plans: US in January
As the title says - I'm going to cross Atlantic and be in US in January (fingers crossed: still have to get a visa).
The first part of the travel plan is more or less clear:
The second part is quite open. I'd like to stop over at 1-2 places in US mainland on my way back home to meet interesting people. I have no particular preferences for places, but some ideas for what I'd like to do there:
- Meet bloggers. Those that I know online and those that I don't know. Actually, being a blogger is not a requirement :)
- Meet researchers doing interesting things, especially around: social software, weblog research, corporate blogging, personal knowledge management, lurking in communities, emergent metadata/ontologies...
- I'd be happy to present my work, do some interactive teaching/brainstorming, establish a common ground for collaboration opportunities and do other work-related things. It also may be a good idea to organise US edition of BlogWalk...
- Have fun.
So, any options/suggestions/invitations are welcome... I'd prefer to go somewhere where I can do interesting things with interesting people. Also it shouldn't ruin my budget, so I'd prefer somewhere relatively easy to get and relatively cheap to stay (or with local hosts who like strangers around :)
This post also appears on channel BlogWalk
Thursday, October 28, 2004
Playing with forces in a middlespace
Bottom-up phenomena has accelerated in recent years because of social software. A relatively simple decentralized pattern of enabling more connections and groups to form has complex results. These results (for example: open source, the long tail, heterarchical organization, emergent democracy, wikipedia and participatory media) hold great promise. Bottom-up production is driven by social incentives, comes at a lower cost, realizes economies of speed and enhances quality through diverse and greater participation. Despite these benefits, Bottom-up phenomena is perceived as a significant risk because the dynamic of control is uncertain. But every risk has its rewards and can be managed if known.
Where the bottom-up and top-down meet -- middlespace -- is the realm of policy, metrics, incentives, cooperation and sharing control.
Looking back now I realised what got me into doing my PhD at the first place - fascination with formal/informal interplay in learning... Where the bottom-up and top-down meet. Middlespace. Taking control over your life and leadership as releasing energy of others.
I remember the feeling that got me there, instant knowing that I found something that could keep me focused for four years of PhD and probably longer... I moved beyond looking for synergies between formal and informal learning, but I'm still there, fascinated by playing with forces in a middlespace.
Tuesday, October 26, 2004
Converging metadata and emerging ontologies
I shouldn't be quoting that much, but I guess you can forgive someone with a trojan flu for lack of summarisation :)
In a great post, Metadata for the masses (via Many-to-Many), Peter Merholz advocates free tagging of documents as opposed to choosing tags from inflexible top-down classification systems, which often force users to view the world in potentially unfamiliar ways. I tend to agree with that from my experience of taxonomies, which often become obsolete within two years. Then Peter writes about the limitations of free tagging:
Clearly, such tagging systems are not a panacea; they present many potential drawbacks. With no one controlling the vocabulary, users develop multiple terms for identical concepts. For example, if you want to find all references to New York City on Del.icio.us, you'll have to look through "nyc," "newyork," and "newyorkcity."
That's were ontologies come in handy. They give a community of people the ability to develop a common meta-classification model that sits on top of existing ones and bridges them together. An ontology can define "nyc", "newyork" and "newyorkcity" as synonyms, define "Time Square" as included in "nyc" etc. See for example Arisem, who are doing a good job there. In a sense, ontologies allow communities to build a common language from the ground up, which is essential in knowledge creating environment. Top-down norms can be introduced later, when language can be "industrialized" for larger communities.
I have mixed feelings about ontologies... From one side, they could be really useful. Next to connecting metadata from different people or communities ontologies could be used to connect data from different systems (e.g. your weblog and del.icio.us tags). And, of course, one could imagine all kinds of great things with inference rules (always wonder if I picked up the right meaning of the term from my colleagues ;).
From another side, ontology development could be complex and costly, so I'm always wondering if it's worth it.
This doesn't mean that we can't think of ways to support converging metadata and emerging ontologies.
Converging metadata could be a result of social pressure.
It can be done as in k-collector where people can select from the list of existing topics (their own and others) or add their own. Or as in nutr.itio.us by choosing del.icio.us tags of others for a link you are about to add.
This approach can help cases like nyc/newyork/newyorkcity, where we deal with different ways of writing the same tag. For example, after finding out that majority of del.icio.us users used visualization and not visualisation I changed s into z in my own tags.
Next to it we can think of emergent ontologies.
Ages ago Liz Lawley described how relations you can do it with del.icio.us:
Add a site to your del.icio.us bookmarks, and then look to see who else has added it. What descriptive tags did they use for it? As an example, here are the current links to Metacrap in the del.icio.us system. I used the terms metadata and semweb. Other terms used include taxonomy, ontology, ia, humanFactor, and xml.
Funny enough, del.icio.us does it now automatically, but you can see it only for some posts, so I was surprised by the discovery.
So, check my links on aggregation, middle column, lower part - it shows other users who bookmarked same links and tags they used (rss, tool_rss, feed, meta, syndication, atom).
Of course, you need a critical mass of tagged links to do it and, of course, quality varies, but just think how much you can do with something like this. For example:
- have "raw" ontologies that could be good enough for some purposes and reworked manually for those where more precision is needed
- do "translations" of tags (e.g. my 'aggregation' is your 'rss')
- find like-minded people
- find areas of agreement (shared language/tagging) and disagreement (totally different tags) in a community
Side note: as an alternative to folksonomies, from Peter Merholz
Ethnoclassification, to the best of my knowledge, was coined by Susan Leigh Star for her Digital Libraries conference workshop "Slouching Toward Infrastructure."
Personal KM at KM Europe: 9 November, 15:00-18:00
One more instance of dreams coming true :)
KnowledgeBoard workshop at KM Europe: Personal KM?
In spite of KM's evolution as a field, a key question remains unresolved: 'How do we improve knowledge workers' productivity?'
Much of knowledge management practices are focused on an organisational level; interventions and systems are designed and implemented without much thinking of how they would match the practices and daily routines of individual knowledge workers. While this personal side of knowledge management seems to be neglected in corporate KM initiatives it has increasingly become a topic of discussion by KM practitioners.
Personal KM is about personal effectiveness: about knowing what is your expertise, being an effective networker and finding time to participate in interesting conversations, about managing your ideas, communication and documents, selecting tools that help without adding stress, about getting your work done and knowing how to make space for reflection and learning even when deadlines are piling up.
Knowledge Board is proud to host an afternoon workshop on Personal KM on November 9th, providing a space for collaborative exploration of the emerging world of Personal Knowledge Management. In this workshop we are going to share personal experiences of being effective knowledge workers, to look at methods and tools that make us smarter and to discuss what and how personal KM can add to organisation-wide KM initiatives.
So, you are very welcome to join us on 9 November, 15:00-18:00 (and make sure you are there for dinner after it :)
Two places to contribute:
I'll post more details soon. Email or Skype me if you have burning questions...
And, if you don't want to miss others at KM Europe (last year's sad story), add your name and details to People at KM Europe page.
This post appears on channels KM Europe, knowledge management
Saturday, October 23, 2004
As a trojan...
This flu is like a trojan on your computer - everything still works, but slow and strangely, you try to figure out what is wrong and try catching the intruder, but fighting it is not easy...
Trying to let my body to get into the flu fully, so it can fight and recover; working at home - fun and lots of things done; talking, reading, movies... Feel really strange...
Anyway, this flu associates strangely with a few lines from Leonard Cohen spotted at Dina's blog:
Ring the bells that still can ring,
Forget your perfect offering,
There is a crack in everything;
That's how the light gets in.
Friday, October 22, 2004
Thursday, October 21, 2004
Guessing if a link leads to a weblog or not?
Technical weblog research question:
I have a list of links and I'd like to find out which of them lead to weblogs. Is there a way of doing this automatically?
Things that I thought about:
- guessing from url - would work for weblogs hosted in most popular platforms
- check if there is RSS/Atom feed - would exclude weblogs without feeds and include general sites with RSS feeds
- match url against database of any weblog indexing site - would include only subset of weblogs and you have to get the database first
Do you have any suggestions?
This post also appears on channel weblog research
In case you see me online at Skype and try to call, but I'm not answering:
- it's not because I don't like you (I probably do :)
- it's a Skype synchronisation problem... I run it at work and usually forget to switch off when leaving. Then I connect at home, but as Skype doesn't synchronise I end up with being online at two machines. In a strange way some incoming calls only pop-up at work, so I don't see them at home and find "missed calls" next day at work...
So, if you are calling me on Skype and I'm not answering while you see that I'm online, please email me or drop an instant messaging note (I'm on MSN most of the time, on Yahoo & AIM occasionally, nicknames via email).
And - as there is no way to synchronise Skype contact lists as well, please, forgive me if I ask for authorisation for the second time :)
Wednesday, October 20, 2004
Crafting one's workplace to fit personal preferences
Tom Erickson in 1995 essay Work and Spirit:
It's popular to talk about the boundaries between work and leisure getting increasingly fuzzy. But for me, until I began working at home, it felt more like work was seeping into my leisure and home time, and that the non-work aspects of life were shrinking. Technology has made it easy for work-life to follow us home, but not as easy for home-life to follow us to work. Only now that I work at home, do I find that there is a better feeling of balance between the two.
This beautifully written essay (wonder is it Tom's research or writing that is turning me into his fan ;) gets me thinking again on turning work into life - may be bringing Home or "personal" is one of the missing ingridients?
Some time back I wrote in personal KM Q&A about my views on future developments in PKM (bold is added now):
I believe at this moment we are at "raising awareness" stage, trying to understand why personal perspective in KM is important. I think we should expect development of better tools and efforts to integrate existing ones. I guess personal KM coaching and training will be an interesting development. It may not have this name, but a believe that it will be a growing demand for developing awareness of one's expertise and marketing it, personal networking and personal information management skills and may be also skills of crafting one's workplace to fit personal preferences.
May be this last point is more important than I thought: knowing what is "life" for you and making sure that it has place at your workplace.
I guess it's the whole art of choosing and shaping your work to make you happy... I'm still learning it, but this is my main working rule so far:
take risk to try it - find what and how you like doing and try fitting it your existing job (aka hand-made magic)
As an example - me, a year ago, on changed PhD focus:
I didn't think that I would seriousely look at weblogs in my PhD research. Well, you never know: Life has more imagination than we carry in our dreams.
Having some victories makes ongoing battles easier :)
Interviewing over IM
Voida, A., Mynatt, E.D., Erickson, T., & Kellogg, W.A. (2004). Interviewing over instant messaging. In extended abstracts of the ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI 2004). Vienna, Austria, April 24-29. New York: ACM Press, pp. 1344-1347. (If you don't have full-text access to ACM, you can get .pdf here or here)
Abstract. Interviews are a cornerstone of human-computer interaction research. As a research method, they can both be deeply valuable and distinctly challenging. Pragmatic challenges of interviews include the travel that may be required to meet face-to-face with a respondent or the time necessary to transcribe the exchange. As a tool for conducting interviews, instant messaging presents some compelling potential benefits to mitigate challenges such as these. And yet, over the medium of instant messaging, the genre of the interview takes on a different character. Drawing from our experiences conducting interviews over instant messaging, we reflect on the implications of using this new medium for conducting interviews.
It's just 4 pages, so I'm too lazy to summarise...
I'm really thinking of doing IM interviews for my PhD research. Any experiences I should take into account?
Monday, October 18, 2004
Tag-based bookmarking in a browser and why people need bookmarking
Tom Coates on tag-based bookmarks in browsers (via Brian Dennis) - applying del.icio.us tag-bookmarking model to a browser:
To summarise the problems with current bookmarking systems then, we could say that (1) the process is slow and annoying (2) that it requires us to continually refine and redevelop our taxonomies if we're going to keep track of everything, (3) that URLs can belong in a number of bins and that (4) we can be left with unmanageably large lists. An ideal system would therefore speed the process up of both bookmarking a site and retrieving it later. An ideal system would try to alleviate the problems of categorisation and would work as an a priori assumption that a URL might wish to be stored in multiple bins. An ideal system would not display all the links by default. An ideal system would, in fact, use tags...
Tom provides a whole scenario and mock-ups of tag-based bookmarks in a browers... What I'd add is that we need to think broader than easy classification, bookmarking and finding. The study I blogged almost a year ago (Keeping found things found on the web) suggest that when deciding what to do with interesting web-pages people may think about:
- Portability - being able to take it with you
- Number of access points - being able to access information from different locations
- Preservation of information in its current state
- Currency of information - having updated version of information
- Context - remembering why it was saved
- Reminding - remembering that something has to be done with it
- Ease of integration into existing structures (e.g. e-mail with link can be easily archived with other e-mails, while bookmarks have their own structure)
- Communication and information sharing
- Ease of maintenance
From this perspective del.icio.us would be more powerful than tagged bookmarks in a browser :)
And, have no idea how I missed folksonomy as a new term for it :)
See also (re: more things to do with tags): LiveTopics wishlist or topic-based blogging support
Formation of norms in a blog community
Carolyn Wei (2004). Formation of Norms in a Blog Community. In Laura Gurak, Smiljana Antonijevic, Laurie Johnson, Clancy Ratliff and Jessica Reyman (ed): Into the Blogosphere; Rhetoric, Community and Culture of Weblogs, University of Minnesota. (other papers)
The purpose of the study is to identify common themes, behaviors, and practices with respect to content and site design within this community of knitting bloggers and to examine the formation of these norms, particularly in relation to the community’s stated rules.
- weblog community: 300+ knitting weblogs from Knitting Bloggers NetRing (English)
- method: content analysis (homepages + 1 months' posts), 33 weblogs (stratified random sample), two coders (the author/member of ther community and non-member researcher)
It's an interesting paper, especially given that it describes specific weblog subculture:
Like many other online communities, the Knitting Bloggers embody a distinctive culture, where members are often passionate about knitting and are excited about getting to know like-minded people either through personal interactions or through the words on a blog. Relationships between the knitting bloggers can move fluidly online and offline. Some bloggers regularly get together in real space to participate in "stitch 'n' bitches" (informal knitting and gossip parties) or go to yarn stores. Group activities may also be carried out online. One interesting tradition is the "knit-along" where a group of people knit from the same pattern, such as for slippers or a sweater, and blog their progress. Often, one of the knit-along bloggers will post pictures of the participants’ finished items as they complete the knit-along. The unique culture of knitters who blog likely contributes to some of the behaviors observed in member sites.
As Jan Schmidt already commented the paper doesn't really look at formation of norms, but rather at actual practices compared with norms stated in Knitting Bloggers NetRing membership guidelines (e.g. writing about knitting or displaying web ring code). I'm more interested in emergent norms (Jan also suggests a need for classifying norms), e.g. common knitting weblog features:
Some features on the knitting blogs are unique to the knitting genre. One convention is to track progress on knitting projects or to show off completed works. Over 57% of the bloggers tracked their "Works in Progress" or the items that they are currently knitting. These were directly listed or were linked on the home page. Over half of the blogs also kept lists or photo galleries of their completed works. Another popular practice was to keep a separate list of links to favorite knitting blogs in a side bar, without commingling them with links to other kinds of sites: over 60% of sites linked to other knitting blogs in this manner, suggesting Knitting Bloggers spend time visiting other blogs in their community. These simple normative practices help knitting blogs develop a distinctive flavor, one that allows visitors to see that the blogs are knitting blogs even if the posts are not exclusively about knitting.
The way Carolyn defines a community membership (those who are members of Knitting Bloggers NetRing) is an interesting one:
On membership in multiple communities (defined as belonging to multiple knitting rings):
Membership in multiple web rings leads to a question for future research: how do blogs adhere to norms and rules for multiple blog communities? Granted, there is much overlap of interest and probably practice between these knitting blog communities, but when differences exist between them, how does a blogger resolve them?
On studying own community (re: my own approach):
...it was discovered that prior immersion in Knitting Bloggers was extremely useful in certain situations. For example, it may be difficult to distinguish between a personal knitting project and a group knit-along project without prior knowledge. Much of the writing in a blog is in shorthand, and it can be difficult to detect the whole story behind the blog by looking only at a month-long block of posts. For example, a blog author might fully describe embarking on a knit-along glove project and refer to it subsequently without mentioning the knit-along. Without prior knowledge, a coder may not be able to tell the difference.
This post also appears on channel weblog research
Sunday, October 17, 2004
More than a weblog: voices of buildings and Second World War through personal stories
Today is the last day to nominate weblogs for Best of the Blog award. Although I can think about many really good weblogs, I nominated only two...
Both weblogs are Russian, both are powered by LiveJournal (which is most popular blogging platform in Russia) and both are examples of "more than a weblog"...
The first one, Moskva kotoroy net ("Moscow that do not exist" literally, but I'd translate it as "Dissappearing Moscow") is a journal from the site with the same name. It's about historical buildings of Moscow that are being destroyed or reconstructed in a way that there is not much left...
This journal gives voices to buildings - those that do not exist any more tell their stories and those that are threathened cry for help - so more people hear those voices and then words are turning into actions that help to save some buildings... For me this is one of the most powerful examples of "weblog activism".
The second one, We are successors of our Victory is a LiveJournal community (working as a group weblog) for Our Victory. Day by day project, which portrays Second World War through the eyes of people. The weblog is there to collect stories of people participated in the war and their families...
Most of stories are written by people of my generation, telling stories of their grandparents. The stories are very different, but all make that war very personal and very close... And, between other stories I found a story from memories of Michail Katukov, which added another dimention to the street named after him where I lived for almost 20 years...
It's pity that most of you don't read Russian - these two are powerful examples of what weblogs could do...
Saturday, October 16, 2004
Public Displays of Connection
Something to read over the weekend: Public Displays of Connection by Judith Donath and danah boyd in BT Technology Journal (thank to danah for sharing):
Abstract. Participants in social network sites create self-descriptive profiles that include their links to other members, creating a visible network of connections — the ostensible purpose of these sites is to use this network to make friends, dates, and business connections. In this paper we explore the social implications of the public display of one’s social network. Why do people display their social connections in everyday life, and why do they do so in these networking sites? What do people learn about another’s identity through the signal of network display? How does this display facilitate connections, and how does it change the costs and benefits of making and brokering such connections compared to traditional means? The paper includes several design recommendations for future networking sites.
I may come back to this post and add notes...
Google: selling your soul in pieces?
Google does great things, but it asks for your data in return.
It says no evil... Of course, you don't have to sell your soul at once, it just will take it in pieces - find what you need on the web, get paid with AdSense, connect at Orkut, email at Gmail, share your ideas at Blogger , organise your photos with Picasa, and now also search your search your desktop - and pay with your data every time you do so.
It knows the tricks well: useful tools are difficult to resist and you don't mind to pay a bit in return (I use Gmail knowing how creepy it is - it makes life so much easier). Selling pieces of your invisible other self seems to be safe and it's so easy to forget how easy pieces of data could be connected.
Anyway, I wonder if there is another future... We are getting more and more connected, we want more and more integration and transparency, so may be letting our data go is just the price we have to pay? May be the only choices we have is to whom we sell pieces of our souls and how much we get in return?
Sharing your desktop with your Orkut friends anyone?
Thursday, October 14, 2004
Mobile BookCrossing Zone
I believe that the best thing that could happen to a book is to be read, so my books always travel across homes of my friends (and sometimes forget to come back :).
So, in case you haven't come across it yet, let me introduce BookCrossing. The idea is simple:
The '3 Rs' of BookCrossing...
I'm going to move to another house soon, so I guess it's a good occasion for some of my books starting their travel in the wild. Usually I prepare for a travel far in advance, so I'm going through BookCrossing release techniques forum trying to figure out what would be a good place to release my books... I'd appreciate if you can share some experiences in case you have them.
- Read a good book (you already know how to do that)
- Register it here (along with your journal comments), get a unique BCID (BookCrossing ID number), and label the book
- Release it for someone else to read (give it to a friend, leave it on a park bench, donate it to charity, "forget" it in a coffee shop, etc.), and get notified by email each time someone comes here and records journal entries for that book. And if you make Release Notes on the book, others can Go Hunting for it and try to find it!
Next to releasing books once in a while, one can also start a BookCrossing Zone somewhere in a place with regular releases of books. When reading about it I've got an idea - why BookCrossing Zone should be located in a place, why not mobile?
So, what do you think about Mobile BookCrossing Zone? Something like:
- there is an event with many like-minded people coming together - for example a conference
- you ask them to bring books they would like to share with others
- you provide labels to mark books, a place to release them and a sign that explains rules of the game
- see what happens
Wondering if something like that would work... May be we should try at next BlogWalk :)
How many abandoned Bloglines subscriptions are there?
Richard MacManus on changes in Bloglines subsriptions in 3 months:
Remember my post 3 months ago that analysed Bloglines subscriber stats? Well I thought I'd review the numbers. You can blame Seb Paquet for this ;-) Why? Because he's just posted something on his weblog for the first time in over 3 months, which got me thinking about how his time away from blogging affected his stats. It turns out his Bloglines subscriber numbers have increased by 25% over the last 3 months, despite him not posting a single new entry! A similar story for Mark Pilgrim, who has all but turned his back on blogging - yet his stats are up 31%.
My subscriptions are 15% higher (compare with Richard's own 78% growth and check absolute numbers as well)... Read the rest for more statistics and discussion...
My two cents:
1. As I wrote before, I'm a bit scared about my own high numbers. Mainly because I can't return the favour (with my 200+ subscribtions I'm on the edge of what I can handle), so it makes me feel blogging more like broadcasting than a conversation, which I want it to be.
2. I keep wondering how many "dead" subscriptions are there? In a world of news aggregators Bloglines is similar to Blogger in the world of blogging - free, easy to try introduction platform that many play with and then decide that it's not for them or move somewhere else. So I wonder how many abandoned Bloglines subscriptions are there...
Btw, if you are not reading Richard's blog you should give it a try (only be prepared for long, well-researched and well-crafted posts :)
Wednesday, October 13, 2004
LiveTopics wishlist or topic-based blogging support
One of the directions that keep on popping up when I'm thinking about blogging in KM context is topic-based blogging. There are a couple of reasons behind it:
- personal - if blogs are used as a personal knowledge management tool than ability to tag posts is important to be able to organise, retrieve and share them
- corporate - once weblogs are used in a company one would want to be able to slice an aggregated stream of posts into topic-based streams to support knowledge sharing
liveTopics and k-collector are good examples of personal vs. corporate implementations (see also: liveTopics and k-collector compared) and del.icio.us is an example of connecting personal and shared views on topics together.
In this post I'd like to focus on personal side and describe what topic-based blogging functionalities one may want as a blogger. And because I'm very practical and selfish I'd describe it as my liveTopics wishlist :)
What liveTopics do now
- allow adding topics for every weblog posts - e.g. check this post via browser
- display a list of posts per topic - e.g. my posts about liveTopics
- display topics as a frequency list or recently updated list - e.g. my topic index
- provide an interface for managing topics (renaming/deleting + backup + some settings)
My liveTopics wishlist
- I'd like to be able to print posts for a topic or combination of topics (so far I can think of AND/OR combinations, but may be I'd want more once related topics are there ;)
- Topics indication in my RSS feed (e.g. in ENT format)
- RSS feed for each topic (ideally for a combination of topics as well :)
- Related topics
- Indication of a relation (below are different overlapping! dimentions)
- Automatic vs. manual
- Internal vs. external
- Me vs. others
- Once relations are there one can do all nice things with inference rules.
- For example automatically including narrower topics when broader topics are selected, e.g. when someone selects communities posts on blog communities are shown as well even if they are not explicitly marked that way
- Relations between topics
- Small liveTopics/Radio specific things
- Shortcuts for topics added automatically
- Expanding of posts by topic in topic index pages
Of course, I wonder how many of those things are "nice to have"/"Lilia specific" and which features would be used by many blogger, but this is a "further research direction" as I'd write in a paper :)
I'm not a big fun of joining YASNs just for the sake of it, but my discovery of Plazes has a little story behind it.
I guess I heard about it first in a conversation about geotagging weblogs between Martin and Rick. Then I've got an invitation from Matt, registered, but was too lazy to install Plazes launcher that you need to make it work. Then the story took a funny twist. I was looking for a WiFi in Florence, found Ben's office at Plazes and as a results of some out-of-the-blue emailing had a pleasure of meeting Ben Hammersley. Today, reading about social networking and logging physical proximity in a paper by my colleague I thought of it and decided to give it a try. I guess my adoption process took around 1 month, so I wonder if I'd qualify as an early adopter :)
Anyway, I'm there now:
Once you are online and logged in Plazes show your location and allow you to see where are others. I guess it's interesting in several cases:
- knowing where are your friends (yes, it's YASN as well :)
- knowing who is at the same plaze - just think of the all great possibilities to meet new people at conferences and geeky encounters in cafes in strange cities :)
- knowing about interesting plazes around (including those with free WiFi) as you can search for plazes within different radius
I added it to my homepage and will see how it works... So far I added it to my home page. Not sure if I'll keep it there as it seems to make loading a bit slower (have to check it) and shows me plazeless from time to time. Anyway, it's still beta, so hopefully it will improve.
Features I'd love to see in the future:
- friends porting/discovery, so I don't have to struggle in one more YASN discovering which friends are there (btw, if you are there you can add me - I'm there as mathemagenic)
- ability to hide the exact plaze and show only the city where I am (because sometimes I want a bit of privacy :)
- calendar - ability to show my future plazes (e.g. travel plans), probably at the city level as well (because I can't know in advance specific locations I may be in
Monday, October 11, 2004
Was thinking what defines a vacation... Some may think that I spoiled my little vacation by doing work-related stuff - reading papers as well as talking about weblogs and geeky things with Ben Hammersley, Riccardo Cambiassi, Mark Rendeiro and some blogless people - but I still feel that this was a vacation and not work.
So I came with a definition:
Vacation is the time when I do only things that I feel like doing and not things that I have to do.
It worked pretty much that way (apart from waking up at 6:30 today in the morning to catch a train :)
Saturday, October 09, 2004
Get away random thinking
A few strange days. Travelling, relaxed, beauty of Florence, wine tasting, great conversations with people I just met, good food, some geeky talks, sunshine, walking around...
Feels so strange getting online after a few hours walking in Assisi, being silent, soaking into the atmoshpere of old walls, stories about saints' lifes, more stories on walls of cathedrals, without beginning and without an end, more sunshine...
Was sitting on a wall watching sun going down the valley and reading a book I picked up in a random bookstore in Florence, Sold. It's about a story of Zana Muhsen, a girl raised in UK and sold into a marriage into Yemen by her Yemeni father at the age of sixteen. It's about faith and fight, loosing and finding hope, as well as about differences between cultures that may be just a few hours flying in between. Being surrounded by medieval walls made the story of learning to live in a stone house more real, made me feeling how fragile is what we have now and take for granted...
Anyway, time to get some food. Hopefully I can find some grapes to fit old pecorino of unknown variety that tastes so good. It's may be a good alternative to eating in a place full of tourists :)
Thanks to everyone for the birthday greetings. I'll be back to email in a couple of days.
Thursday, October 07, 2004
Wednesday, October 06, 2004
Talking about RSS in a company
Just a quick recap of some ideas from today's internal presentation on RSS...
Questions people ask
- What's in it for me?
- Why is it better than existing ways of distributing/aggregating data?
- How many feeds are there? Where do I find them? What if a website doesn't have an RSS feed?
- How comes that it is supposed to reduce information overload if it looks like increasing it?
Think of strong arguments that explain/illustrate why with RSS things could be done differently (ideally examples should be taken from the context of people in your audience).
Think of existing examples of RSS feeds that would be interesting for people in your audience. Not necessary job related - finding an RSS feed of hot vacation deals may do the trick.
Think of possible uses of RSS internally (ideally if you can get a support from a couple of different departments, so it can illustrate a need for RSS from different perspectives).
Get someone without a Blogger reputation to speak. Ideally someone without a weblog. Ideally talk about RSS before you scare people with weblogs :)
More general considerations when you think about RSS uses in a company (with additions of insights from "around BlogWalk" talks in London)
RSS bandwidth problem, its likelyhood and possible solutions.
Access rights: security for internal RSS feeds and reuse of external (commercial) RSS feeds.
Tools to produce RSS: integration with existing systems, reusing metadata as much as possible and reducing manual work.
RSS readers: integration with existing tools (e.g. Outlook), low/no hassle installation and support, ability to cope with access rights.
"Filtered" (according to user preferences) RSS feeds: smart filtering/meta-data/topic matching, selected feeds to choose from, expert filtering.
Introduction trajectory (just thinking aloud here)
- Got some early adopters of RSS readers internally and talk to them to find how "RSS lifestyle" fits in the company.
- Find/create a critical mass of RSS feeds relevant for people in a company.
- Sort out access rights issues.
- Make sure RSS reading tools are there, easy to use and well integrated with existing systems.
- Now talk about it...
This post also appears on channel BlogWalk
Tuesday, October 05, 2004
Sunday, October 03, 2004
Blogging and paper writing
People may think that I'm blog addict when I talk about my blogging experiences. Wouldn't judge the addiction part, but I can't be not enthusiastic if I have experiences like those of last few days...
Last week I had a crazy idea of finishing a paper earlier than expected...
It was pretty close to the deadline, so I wasn't sure if I can ask someone at work... I could see booked schedules, but it was also about cultural norms - you don't pop up with a request to do something on a short notice in a Dutch "plan everything ages in advance" culture and you don't ask people who think about work-life balance differently from you to review something on Friday afternoon (which, of course, ended up to be a Friday evening :)
It was also about the state of the paper. I had lots of discussions with colleagues (should ask if they want their names here :) on the earlier versions of the paper and was in a middle of reworking it... What I needed most on Friday was a "fresh eye" view on it as well as English check :)
So after hesitating a bit I ended up asking for help in my PhD crisis post (which probably made it more dramatic as the crisis has not much to do with the paper :)
I didn't expect to receive so much support... For me it was more than offers to review the paper, but more of emotional "hang in there" that make going though difficult times much easier... So, thanks a lot for all who reacted!
I've got more review offers than needed, so I didn't ask everyone and ended up working with Collin Brooke, Lloyd Davis, Mark Rendeiro and Matt Mower (guys, thanks again!). It came to be a really interesting experience of review-rework cycles over the weekend, so I'd like to share some reflections...
Collaborative editing (or tools to support review-rework)
Using Word's "track comments" feature is most usual way to work on a paper with others. Of course, it doesn't work well when a paper is edited by several people at the same time as you end up with three different commented versions.
I thought about wikis in this context, but don't think that this is a particularly good solution:
- There is a need for an easy way to see changes in the text and deal with them.
- Wikis assume equal rights of all contributors, while this is not the case in a paper writing. Usually there is someone more "in control" than others: it's about "author-reviewers" or "first author-coauthors" relations. For example, in a case of coauthoring using Word it's easy to find out who is the first author is - the one who accepts/rejects changes :)
So I wonder if you know some good tools (or better practices of using existing tools).
Closer look at language
This time I realised how rewarding a review by native speakers could be... Many comments made me thinking about ways I use English, English as it should be, as well as making my ideas more crisp. In some case my use of strange language constructions is an attempt to articulate specific side of an idea, but unless someone pays attention to the strange language construction I do not see other sides of it.
I also got more convinced about the value of learning while doing authentic tasks. Last year I took a course on academic writing with lots of exercises of English use in all kinds of cases. And, of course, I have books that supposed to help me with all kinds of rules.
Still, these things couldn't compare with going through the paper and comments with Matt on Skype - discussing use of rules in specific contexts, different ways of using familiar words, subtle differences and hard to explain cases of "not sure why it is like that but it should be like that" (btw, native speakers, there could be a business model behind it next to a good feeling of helping someone :)
My paper is pretty loaded with my "empowering individual" values and, as one could expect, my reviewers seem to share these values too (bloggers are quite distinctive crowd). As sharing values doesn't mean sharing opinions this worked well: since I was able to receive comments on my arguments without questioning the value of this work. But thinking about it left me wondering how well it will do with someone from another camp :)
Saturday, October 02, 2004
Here it comes... Trees are still green, but orange and yellow start to get through, reminding that the full glory is coming... Time for warm sweaters, long skirts, short skirts (ah... everything goes well with a warm sweater :), walking around, looking, absorbing, thinking...
I don't feel sad anymore that summer is over. Autumn is just behind the corner, so I put away my summerwear and get out warm sweaters and skirts...
If you ever wondered what my favourite season is - here it comes...