Wednesday, August 31, 2005
BlogDay 2005: emotional connection
I came across this weblog 12 days ago. Yesterday I found out that she lost her husband to liver cancer. Those 10 days in between were the strongest emotions I had from blogging - a mix of hope and sadness...
I wasn't sure if linking to it was appropriate. Still the chronology of the events doesn't let me to separate my feelings about Badger's story and my thinking about 5 blogs to list for BlogDay2005:
For one long moment on August 31st, bloggers from all over the world will post recommendations of 5 new Blogs, preferably Blogs that are different from their own culture, point of view and attitude. On this day, blog surfers will find themselves leaping around and discovering new, unknown Blogs, celebrating the discovery of new people and new bloggers.
Inevitably two themes blend in one - I'm thinking about the power of blogging to open a window in someone's life, to invite strangers, to share, to think, to celebrate and to be sad together... So I redefine the rules - the rest of my BlogDay 5 are about emotional connections as well...
B2OB - Barriers and Opportunities to Organizational Blogging / Barreiras e Oportunidades Organizacionais ao Blogging
Mónica André - I remember her telling me to look for someone "with a stick in her hair" at Web-based communities 2004 conference, long time since our first email around KnowledgeBoard blogroll, immediate intellectual connection, exchanging references over coffee at the airport, sunny afternoon in the park another time, talking about weblogs in organisations, life and research, and following her advice to take backwards route to Castelo dos Mouros in Sintra...
Monica blogs in Portuguese. I don't know the language, but read her weblog - somehow it creates a feeling of being connected...
Anna Katarina Arnfred VallgÃ¥rda, someone I've never met or exchanged emails with. She just finished her Masters and got PhD scholarship. For me her weblog is a window in a world of urban studies and location aware applications - last year I picked up a pointer to Life between buildings, the book that I loved immediately and kept on referencing (one, two, three).
Time Goes By - What it's really like to get older
I didn't have an opportunity to talk to Ronni Bennett at "BlogHer"... Even if I would I probably wouldn't find words to say - her writings turn me into a listening mode - the desire to learn and fears of learning what does it mean to face the unknown, and a mix of admiration and respect for someone who knows and turns this knowledge into words.
Conversations with Dina - Creative Chaos - Dina Mehta's Blog
I wonder if there is a need to introduce you to Dina. I discovered her weblog ages ago at the time when I hardly knew female bloggers. We went through countless weblog conversations, emails, Skype chats, we missed each other at Reboot and BlogHer... Dina is Indian - I can't avoid thinking about it every time I read her blog - she adds secret spices that change the taste of usual thoughts.
I stop here and think of so many others I'd like to add to this post. I should do it more often - there is no need to wait for another BlogDay...
Tuesday, August 30, 2005
Can I have tags instead of folders with my RSS feeds as well?
What I really want is RSS reader that would allow me tagging feeds - folders do not scale anymore :(
May be it exists, but I'm suffering from not knowing - tell me then...
And, since I'm here - my ideal feed reader would*:
- be web-based synchronised with desktop client (so I can read feeds offline as well)
- let me read password-protected feeds
- let me tag feeds - no folders any more!!!
- have "remember" link under every post, creating a subset of posts per feed that I'd like to remember - and it wouldn't be the same as "keep new" of Bloglines that screws up the whole idea that number of unread posts indicates posts
- have "add to del.icio.us" link under every post (I don't want to use "remember" link for that - those I posts that I'm not able to categorise yet)
- let me track conversations (the data is there - one more step please)
- let me specify/switch between views:
- for some feeds I like full-text view, for others headline view
- sometimes I like to see posts per feed, but for some feeds I'd like to read together, mixed in a stream (something I miss from Radio newsreader experience)
- sometimes I want to see new posts, sometimes all posts, sometimes only those in "remember" category
- could be great to have "conversations" view - to see not posts per feed, but posts per conversation
- could be great to have "what my friends read" view (thinking of NusEye + more) or use tags from other users...
- given all flexibility about views - I'd like to be able to specify which of them (does not) influence read/unread status
- let me share my subscriptions as a plain list without tags (because I don't feel comfortable letting people know how I categorise them)
* I'm using Bloglines now, so this refers to my experiences with it (= may be considered as "how to improve Bloglines" as well :)
See also my posts and bookmarks on blog reading
Saturday, August 27, 2005
Studying weblogs at Microsoft: start from Mini
If for whatever reasons you have to understand Microsoft culture start from reading Mini-Microsoft. I didn't know about it till someone mentioned it in one of the interviews I did with Microsoft bloggers, but since then it became a very useful resource to understand how things work inside the company.
It's anonymous, sharp and full of love, frustration and desire for change. It's full of details, stories and great conversations in the comments - similar to those that you might hear if you manage to get in the right circles.
For sure it's not objective, but it's a good way to start wondering about things and to know better how to ask questions...
And - Mini - I wonder if there are chances I can interview you for the study I'm doing. Seriousely. I promise anonymity (and food of your choice if you care :). Email/Skype/(206)2346381.
Just an observation
Necessary disclaimer before the rant: These are my words. I am not speaking for the 60,000 people at Microsoft. Please do not attribute my words to Microsoft, the MSN Spaces team, MSN, or any such thing. I work for Microsoft so that may be hard. But please try.
[Continues with notes on Google Talk]
Friday, August 26, 2005
Tuesday, August 23, 2005
Monday, August 22, 2005
Link love: lists, clouds and action points
I was thinking of commenting on the unfolding discussion on link love since BlogHer, but couldn't find time to write it up properly (which for me required going through the fast-growing number of posts). Don't think I'll do it properly now, but given our work was referenced a couple of times I feel responsible enough to do it...
I'm in the Feedster top 500 (as some friends nicely point out). So what?
- I don't have people knocking on my door asking me to speak at conferences or wanting to place ads in my weblog - being in the list doesn't mean that you are in the inner circle (I suspect that A-list is not something defined by whatever top-X list anyway).
- I do not see any personal value of being in this list or using it to find others. The only thing it brings is egosmiling - ha, I'm in the list - me having some fan registering the fact. If I disappear from it tomorrow I'd smile again and go on.
These are my personal indicators that lists of popular blogs do not work.
A few things could work. Smart combinations of blog metrics, or better visualizations of conversation clouds because I guess we are more interested in finding the cloudmakers and connecting with them...
I guess there is already some understanding in the community of what is needed. Probably something like those visualizations.
Available for you and me. For our own weblogs or topics we are interested, not only for those researchers choose to study. Trusted and clickable.
From what to how
I'm not sure that the problem is in the lack of algorithms. At least those that come from research are published. I think it's pretty much about the teasing data.
It's not enough to come up with a great formula. You have to test it - to see what comes out, to try it on different data sets, to implement it as a tool, to make tools open for a public, to make sure all these scales...
But it starts with the data. And the data is not public.
I can not speak for others, but I can talk about problems we have with the data needed for our research (which addresses some of the "link love" aspects). What we need to develop algorithms and tools are pretty simple: blog content in "full-text RSS quality" via APIs...
We tried many of the current blog indexing tools: no luck (those that are pretty close to what we need, BlogPulse, Technorati and Bloglines are either consider the data they collect commercial or do not have APIs to access it). As a results Anjo is working on weblog spider instead of community discovery algorithm.
I know other researchers working on weblog spidering instead of working on algorithms to process and visualise weblog data. I wonder how many other people out there who would play with the data if it would be accessible without any threshold. I believe there are many.
I was very sad to hear last week that upflux didn't gain much support from players in the blog indexing market. I wonder if open access to weblog data is a "nice to have, but never real" dream. And I wonder if Mary's effort will turn it into reality...
Btw, are there any Technorati tags for this conversation?
Saturday, August 20, 2005
Studying weblogs at Microsoft: connecting the dots
"Connecting the dots" is the biggest fun I have doing my study of weblogs at Microsoft... As an outsider I have the excuse of asking stupid questions and the value of insights coming from getting enculturated into local practices. As an insider (signed NDAs :) I have certain degree of trust and access to the information I wouldn't be able to reach otherwise. As a blogger I pay attention to the details. As a researcher I have time to go around and ask questions and I have an inclination to look how details fit into a bigger picture.
With fun comes the responsibility.
Sometimes I realise that having access to all bits and pieces, blog initiatives through the company and experiences of different people as well as time to study those I may discover things that nobody knows yet (at the end, this is what research is about :). I see how things happening in the different parts of the company are connected. I see people who may be much better knowing about each other. I hear about the events from the different sides. All that knowledge can be useful if it turns into action.
And this is where the hard choices came into play again. Before coming to Microsoft I thought that my usual researcher vs. blogger problem wouldn't appear in this case. Since I'm not studying my own community I thought I could stay distant as an observer. It doesn't work.
The first reason is that as an intern I'm part of the company, at least for the time being. So, I feel responsible for doing some good while I'm here.
I'm also a blogger. It makes talking to other bloggers easier, but often it pushes me out of the "just observing" end because I have my own how do I blog over here? burning questions next to the pure research interests.
Finally it's personality. I can't walk away silently knowing that I know something that could help people trying to solve a particular problem. Even if it means being a better researcher.
So, I'm not a true observer - I contribute and often my contributions are results from having advantage of "connecting the dots" as a researcher. Once in a while I introduce people, suggest solutions or provide information that wouldn't be there without me. I also leak things that I probably shouldn't...
All these make me more of a participant than observer and probably change things I'm studying. Bad on methodology side.
But the same things open new doors, turn into trusted relations or give life to unexpected developments that help understanding blogging at Microsoft much better.
You win some, you lose some...
Friday, August 19, 2005
The kindness of strangers
And while I'm trying to get somewhere else unknown glitches load Profgirrrrl in my browser. I scroll down and read this:
Graduate school is a bleak time, both personally and financially, for many people. I can't even imagine being in graduate school and dealing with the added heartbreak and stress of a terminally ill spouse (cancer) with mounting medical bills and a health care system that is largely failing to cover those bills and keeps benefits that we all pay for like Social Security and Medicaid out of reach for 2 years (at which point the Medicaid is useless) because a grad student's salary is just a touch higher than the limit. I'm not kidding.
Sigh. But this is what badger is dealing with.
I follow the link and the first post I read makes me going through archives and jumping over links and crying as I read about the fragility of life and the durability of stone and finding a call for action and getting my credit card out and thinking about the kindness of strangers as one more community indicator (also here)...
May be it's only because cancer left scars in my own family, but I guess there is more to it.
Preparing your armors?
Some Microsoft employees showed up at an Open Source event dressed as Darth Vader and a pair of Imperial StormTroopers. I can't say that I'm surprised. Working for Microsoft pretty much means that you learn to expect attacks on the company and even you as an individual. You either learn to live with it and see the humor or, well, I don't know what "or" is in this case. All the Microsoft employees I know seem to take this sort of thing in stride. Or at least if it does upset them they keep it under wraps.
Those things should be hurting a lot...
When I interview Microsoft bloggers many talk about their desire to show human faces behind the "evil empire" image. I thought that the "showing human face through blogging" was a corporate strategy, but, even if it is, behind it are the strong emotions of people working for the company.
I was on another side of the fence, now I have an opportunity to be inside. Last week I was proof-reading my own story about doing internship at Microsoft Research (did an interview). I realised that I was very positive about my experiences here and I felt kind of guilty about it - as I had to explain how I actually could be happy working in this company...
It's not the first time when I feel happy working for a company, but never before I felt the need to explain and excuse it. I wonder why I read Liz Lawley explaining why she wants MSN to succeed
and don't see danah boyd telling why she spends her time contributing to Google and Yahoo (I was wrong). I wonder how much it has to do with learning "to expect attacks on the company and even you as an individual" and preparing your armors... |
Thursday, August 18, 2005
Studying weblogs at Microsoft: sampling by location
After two weeks of interviewing I started to feel familiar and confident at Microsoft Campus at Redmond – knowing how much time is would take to one or another building, developing a classification of parking spaces, learning when it’s time to change lanes to take a turn and finding my own favorites (RedWest, without any doubt).
Inside buildings it’s not that easy as well – most of them are not linear (hallo, semilattice :), so finding the right room may be a challenge. The indicators are not straightforward: you follow one that indicates the directions to the room you need to find out that the number is not on the next one. I’ve learnt not to panic and to follow the most obvious route instead – usually the right number appears on the next panel (after trial and error I found out that those routes are not the shortest, but at least they lead you where you want to go).
Last week I caught myself feeling that I do something goof for the study each time I have an appointment in a building I haven't been before. I guess it has something to do with sampling – different building means someone from the group I haven't been talking before – more diversity...
Wednesday, August 17, 2005
BlogHer aftermath: more on the speakers list
Nancy joins me in my uneasy feelings about the speakers list and teases out few more things in a conversation with Mary Hodder in the comments. I feel like adding to it...
First the disclaimer: I believe that the initiative to get more new names known is a worthy one and I think Mary did a good job acting on it. I have my problems with it, but I don't have a better solution yet, so I'm trying to articulate what are the issues hoping that it would help working it out.
I guess there are a couple of reasons why I'm uncomfortable with adding my name to the list:
- Reinforcing existing status quo. I came to check the list and I saw the usual suspects. Yes, most of names in the list are women, but most of them I know well - their names make circles through weblogs and conferences. It's just another A-list...
- Lack of confidence and benchmarking. I read some of the profiles the list - those people look so smart and so experienced - my confidence is lost... How do I know if I'm good enough to be in that list? How do I find out?
- Need to aggressively market yourself (this is how I feel looking at the list). This may be part of the game, necessity and a skill to be learnt, but this is not something what I feel comfortable with. I don't like when other people do that, but I even more uncomfortable reinforcing it by doing the same. If we talk about games I don't want to play this is the one.
I also have to add that for me the specific issue of the speakers lists is just an indication of the broader set of feelings and uncertainties that I can't describe well yet. Or it's a indication that I probably know my answer to my personal version Shelley Powers' questions - do I want to compete more?
I feel that somehow all these is related to accomodating diversity and helping others to enter unknown worlds, we just have to figure out what the new rules of the game should be... BlogHer was a good model for that, a welcoming world where
Every person I spoke with was someone who, under any other circumstance, I could spend hours with in delicious conversation. Ronni Bennett
Monday, August 15, 2005
Papers of WWW2005 workshop on the weblogging ecosystem
Papers from WWW 2005 2nd Annual Workshop on the Weblogging Ecosystem: Aggregation, Analysis and Dynamics (see also papers from the workshop in 2004):
- Extracting Latent Weblog Communities: A Partitioning Algorithm for Bipartite Graphs, Kazunari Ishida
- Discovering Important Bloggers Based on a Blog Thread Analysis, Shinsuke Nakajima
- The EigenRumor Algorithm for Ranking Blogs, Ko Fujimura
- Tomographic Clustering To Visualize Blog Communities as Mountain Views, Belle Tseng
- The Political Blogosphere and the 2004 U.S. Election: Divided They Blog, Natalie Glance
- GIS and the Blogosphere, Matt Hurst
- Analyzing concerns of people using Weblog articles and real world temporal data, Tomohiro Fukuhara
- Learning Contextualised Weblog Topics, Paolo Avesani
- Blogging, RSS and the Information Landscape: A Look at Online News, Kathy Gill
- Differences between Blogs and Web Diaries, Toshiaki Fujiki
I believe that engaging with researchers is something to be seriousely considered while thinking of blog metrics - hopefully will have more time to write about it...
I haven't been blogging for a while… In the middle of BlogHer something happened to the computer at home that runs Radio and the one who could fix it has left the house to see me in Seattle.
After "BlogHer" I desperately wanted to blog, but somehow I never able to write knowing that it wouldn't be posted anywhere soon, so you’ll have to read the stories of others (or, start with a summary by Julie Leung).
...Talking with a couple of bloggers about reading private blogs of their teenage kids – something different and strange and ethically unresolved for myself.
...Mena Trott, sitting alone in an empty lobby – just a girl at a conference – so different from the celebrity appearance last year at BlogTalk...
...Sitting on the floor at identity blogging session (Nancy's notes), too low to see the speakers – just listening, being hit by their stories of revealing themselves online and thinking about all those parallels to vulnerable writing is ethnography...
...Growing discomfort with the discussions about linking and power, realizing that I don’t like female A-listers and the tipping point of it – strange inner resistance of adding my name to the speakers list started by Mary Hodder with the idea to make female speakers more visible.
Next year: go if you have a chance (regardless of your gender) or sponsor a blogger next to you.