Off the Top: Technology Entries

March 28, 2015

Interview with New Steve Jobs Biographers is Quite Good

On Friday I saw that John Gruber had interviewed the authors of Becoming Steve Jobs as part of Apple’s Meet the Author Podcast series. I had been reading snippets and reviews about the book for a couple weeks, with Steven Levy’s “The War Over Who Steve Jobs Was” and Rick Tetzeli’s Fast Company except “The Evolution of Steve Jobs” and found them interesting and much more inline with the many books I read over the years about Apple and Steve Jobs, than I did the Walter Isaacson book snippets I read.

This morning I watched the iTunes podcast of Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli: Meet the Author and it more than lived up to expectation. It was incredibly good. So good I bumped the book to the top of my wishlist.

Why this book?

I have read quite a few books about Apple and Steve Jobs with Alan Deutschman’s “The Second Coming of Steve Jobs”, Steven Levy’s Insanely Great, and Adam Lashinsky’s “Inside Apple” standing out from the many others I read and all the Silicon Valley history and culture books I have read along the way. They stood out as they grasped the lore, debunked it as well as extended it. They filled in the gaps with new stories and understandings. But, under it all they looked to only tell the stories of what, the place setting, and how, but they get to the why.

This book seems to fit why I liked the others with filling in the background and understanding the lore. This book seems like it will fit well in my underlying interest.

My fascination with Apple and Steve Jobs has to do with influence and foundation setting. In particular its early-ish influence and foundation setting with me.

I was born in the Bay Area, but grew-up up and down the whole of the West Coast in and just outside the major cities until my second year junior high when my parents moved to the California’s Central Valley. Being back in Northern California and a little over and hour from San Francisco we got San Francisco stations. This meant in the late 70s the personal computer was being talked about a lot. My dad was a systems and operations guy in the health insurance industry and there were always magazines around with computers in them. His fascination and work with computers rubbed off.

But, being in Northern California meant television and print news also covered computers and technology. This hippy guy with long-ish hair and a scruffy beard was continually on talking about what was happening today and in the near future. It was Steve Jobs. His near future visions influenced my perception of reality and how things should be. Our family’s first computer came in 1983 and it was an Osborne Executive, which I learned to use and copy code (copying small software that was handed out in local user groups) and play around with to see how things worked until they broke (then I swore and did it again).

But, in 1984 the Mac came out and that changed my whole perception of things. Not only did I have computer envy for the first time, but I also began to understand the future of where things were headed and was (then) thankful I didn’t go into computer science as a major as things became much easier to use (what I sorted out a few years later is much of what I wanted to do would have been aided by having a formal CS background). But around this time I also was meeting people who worked at Apple and they loved what they did and loved their jobs. Many at college had Macs and our newspaper my last semester not only was set up with Macs, but we got a new type of software, desktop publishing, for Mac from Aldus, called Pagemaker. It was so new we got a lot of training as part of the deal. We sort of had a digital newsroom (with a fully functional sneaker net).

After Jobs left Apple I followed what he was doing and had deep interest in Next. During this time I still had Macs around with most jobs and in grad school a couple students had Macs, but they weren’t as prevalent as they were in the late 80s in California. Often jobs I had would have a Mac around for creatives or testing, but by the mid–90s they were buggy. When Jobs came back to Apple as advisor as part of Apple purchasing Next in 1997 I still knew a few people at Apple and they were quite happy to see him back in some capacity. The shifts and changes at Apple fascinated me as the guy who influenced a lot of my belief in personal computing, what is was doing and could do, and how it should be done (with a focus on the user and ease of use - this was a “no duh” for me in the early 80s as I was making and breaking things on my Osborne).

Around 1999 I started cluing into the Steve Jobs keynotes again and in 2001 I picked up my first Mac, a PowerBook G4 Titanium, lovingly known as a TiBook. I got it because my laptop I was using, a light Toshiba, was tied to my project I was on and I left that project. I missed having a laptop, but I really wanting power, good screen, and ability to have UNIX / LINUX as well as a major consumer OS. In the TiBook I had UNIX as the core of OS X with command line ability, OS X, Classic Mac, and importantly a Windows emulator that allowed me to use Visio and MS Project (those needs would dwindle and become tiresome the more I got used to the Mac and its ease of use and its “it just works” approach to things - these do not always hold up). But my needs for the 4 OSs on one device that was powerful and relatively light eased into the background as the lack of needing to spend regular time maintaining things turned quickly into me just doing my work on the device.

Over the years with my Mac and increasing interest in Apple and how they do things and frame things, I got to know even more Apple folks as friends went to work there and I gave a some talks inside Apple. I was also running into people who had managed at Apple and I enjoy interacting with them as they think and work differently, which often fits how I like working and approaching things.

It is this trying to understand why my Apple tools and software (mostly) work really well for me and how I enjoy working with Apple (and ex-Apple) folks (I also have this enjoyable fit with McKinsey folks, but for very different reasons). It is trying to understand the what, how, and why of the fit with Apple, but as well as they “this is the way things should be” that was seeded in my head in the late 70s and was feed and groomed through life, that has me interested in understanding Apple and Steve Jobs.

January 16, 2013

A World without Aaron Swartz

It was a weekend not focussing on technology or internet much, but I saw some usual patterns that are the usual signs that something is not well, but I had other things that took priority of focus. Sunday I gave a quick look and let out that human deep gasp and my kid looked up and asked what was wrong as my head slumped. I was late to the news that Aaron Swartz had taken his life. I don’t know what site I read it but all my screens of services and people I follow closely where sharing the news and their remembrances.

Aaron’s passing was beyond the “he is too young” and “what a shame”, he was not only someone special he was changing the world and had been for quite a while with his sorting through the battles of standardizing RSS, working with the Creative Commons to create a modern equivalent that could be relatively easily used attach to published and shared content allowing much better and more open access to it, he helped contribute to Reddit as it was hatching and stayed with it through to it being purchased. He has done so much more since. But, he died at 26 years old. At 14 when he was partaking in the RSS discussions on listserves nobody knew his age. Nobody had a clue and it wasn’t known until they asked him to come to a gathering to discuss things face to face. This story of his age and the wonderful story about how people found out was spread on listserves I participated in and at around post conference drinks in the early 00s. At the age of 14 Aaron had lore. He had earned the respect and right to be a peer with the early grey beards of the Web that were battling to understand it all, help it work better, and make the world better because of it. Aarron fit right in.

I was at a few events and gatherings that Aaron was at in the early 00s but I never had the chance to work or interact with him. But, I have worked and interacted with many who did have that fortune and even with the lore Aaron had they were impressed by his approach, capabilities, and what he could accomplish. In the tech community it is a meritocracy and you earn credibility by doing. The world has always been changed by those who do, but also by those who are curious. but are guided by an understanding of an optimal right (correct way).

What we lost as a society was not only a young man who earned his place and credibility, and earned it early, but he gave to others openly. All the efforts he put his heart and mind to had a greater benefit to all. The credo in the tech community is to give back more than you take. Aaron did that in spades, which made thinking of a future with whatever he was working on a bit more bright and promising. Aaron’s blog was at the top of my feed reader and was more than worth the time to read. He was a blogger, an open sharer of thoughts and insights, questions as well as the pursuit of the answer to the questions. This is not the human norm, he was a broken one in all the understandings that brings as being outside the mainstream norms, but much like all those in the Apple “Think Different” ad campaign he made a difference by thinking different and being different from those norms.

I love David Weinberger’s Aaron Swartz was not a hacker. He was a builder. as well as his Why we mourn. From the rough edges of hearing friends talk about their working with Aaron and following along with what he shared, we as a society were in for a special future. Doc Searls’ Aaron Swartz and Freecom lays out wonderfully the core of Aaron’s soul as a native to the Net in the virtues of NEA (Nobody owns it; Everybody can use it; Anybody con improve it). Doc also has a great collection of links on his memorial posting, many from those who worked with Aaron or knew him well on his Losing Aaron Swartz page.

Dang it, we are one down. We are down a great one. But, this net, this future, and this society that fills this little planet needs the future we could have had, but now it is ours to work together to build and make great.

How to we get there? Aaron’s first piece of advice from Aaron Swarts: How to get my job is, “Be curious. Read widely. Try new things. I think a lot of what people call intelligence just boils down to curiosity.”


December 28, 2012

My Landline is Out, But Do I Have a Landline?

It is quite apropos that Stacy Higginbotham at GigaOM wrote a piece on Over half of American homes don’t have or use their landline, as earlier this week I pick up my landline phone so I could call my cell phone so to find it, as I didn’t want to wake up the laptop to Skype or Google voice call it, then found there was no dial tone. I messed with the connectors a few times and still nothing. I think I only used it to check dial tone once or twice (it was less money to get a landline phone with internet and tv channels than with out it) as to sort out if internet or cable were out as a first step. I was a little peeved I didn’t have a landline dial tone, which is really odd as I haven’t had a landline phone since early 2008, as when I did it was never for me as my cell phone was my contact number from early 2000s.

After a couple days I was looking at the back of the cable router and noticed it had two RJ–11 jacks for landline phone. I thought I would try the other jack to see if I got a dial tone. Sure enough I did. Within 10 minutes the phone rang and it was a wrong number in a language I wasn’t quite familiar with. I then remembered a call in the middle of the night with a non-intelligble caller and I had then unplugged the phone. After hanging up, I reconnected the phone to the non-working jack again. Now I don’t really have a landline again. Phew.

For those about to ask, “What about those people who are going to call that number?” Well, I don’t give that number out and the only people that may have that number is the cable company and I have them sending email and they use my mobile number. Heck, I don’t even have that landline number should I want to give it out. Being that it is a cable landline and not the old copper landline, it will not even work if the power were out.

June 4, 2008

Lasting Value of Techmeme?

Tristan Louis has a post looking at Is Techmeme Myopic, which is a good look at the lasting value that Techmeme surfaces. This mirrors my use of Techmeme, which is mostly to have a glance at what is being discussed each day. Techmeme has a very temporal value for me as it is a zeitgeist tool that tracks news and memes as they flow and ebb through the technology news realm of the web.

Personally, I like Techmeme as it aggregates the news and conversations, which makes it really easy to skip the bits I do not care about (this is much of what flows through it), but I can focus on the few things that do resonate with me. I can also see a view of who is providing content and I can select sources of information whose viewpoint I value over perspectives I personally place less respect.

April 5, 2008

Getting to the National Press Club's AFFIRM Event

Yesterday evening I had the wonderful fortune to speak on a panel for AFFIRM Web 2.0 event, which was held at the National Press Club. I really enjoyed the panel as the moderator (Dan Mintz CIO of the U.S. Department of Transportation) and other panelists (Chris Rasmussen: Social Software and Knowledge Manager and Trainer, National Geospatial - Intelligence Agency; and Geoffrey Fowler: Editor in Chief, CIA Wire) were all fantastic. The sold out audience was deeply engaged and asked really good questions.

Impediments to Getting to the Event

While I deeply enjoyed the event and conversation that followed, getting to the event was a completely different story. I felt like I was in a misinterpretation of the joke "how do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice" with battling Washington, DC's often horrible transportation/traffic woven into the punch line. The event was to start at 5:30pm, it was raining and during rush hour. The drive from the office to the National Press Club normally takes 35 minutes with some traffic. I thought about taking the Metro, but the last couple of times I have used Metro I have been stuck with horrible delays and outages. I opted to leave an hour early, which I figured would work well. This was not enough it seems.

Technology Did Not Save Me

I made it to about 7 blocks from the National Press Club is great time then all went wrong. It started sleeting and in typical Washington, DC form the rules of the road were thrown out the window and chaos was deeply embraced. I was listening to XM Radio's DC traffic and weather channel in the car, which did not mention anything about downtown Washington, DC traffic had come to a complete halt. I flipped to regular WTOP on regular radio to sort out why I had not moved an inch in 20 minutes (having 10 minutes left to get to the event on time). Neither of these options were working so I tried to Twitter to get feedback and let others know I was running late (I was not actually connected to the people at the event - silly me), but SMS was not going out. I tried calling others at the event, but mobile signal was saturated and when I got through I got no answer and voice mail was full. I had been using the ever wonderful Google Maps and expanded my view to look at the freeway traffic congestion and all of the DC region was red (stopped in its tracks). I was able to get to Mobile Twitter to read and send messages, but it did not help traffic.

Finally, I was able to travel 4 blocks to get to New York Avenue after traveling 1 block per 30 minutes and turn and find a parking lot that was going to be open past 7pm (Washington, DC thinks people only work and go home). I walked the last remaining 2.5 blocks to arrive at 6:35pm, a wee bit late and a wee bit damp (even with an large golf umbrella). Thankfully, they waited and I was whisked to the head table and the event started.

February 22, 2008

Remote Presentation and Perception Matrix for Social Tools

This post is also found at: Remote Presentation and Perceptions Matrix for Social Tools :: Personal InfoCloud with moderated comments turned on.]

Today I did something I had never done before (actually a few things) I sat in my office in my home and gave a live web video presentation to a conference elsewhere on the globe. I presented my nearly all new presentation, Keeping Up With Social Tagging to the Expert Workshop in: Social Tagging and Knowledge Organization - Perspectives and Potential that was put on by the Knowledge Media Research Center in Tübingen, Germany.

Remote Presentation Feelings

While the remote video presentation is normal for many people inside their large organizations and I have presented at meetings and conferences where my presentation was provided to other location on live video feed (my recent Ann Arbor trip to present at STIET was HD broadcast to Wayne State in Detroit), this home office to conference presentation was new to me. The presentation and video link used Adobe Connect, which allowed me to see whom I was talking to, manage my slides, text chat, and see myself. This worked quite well, much better than I expected. I did have my full slide presentation in lightroom view set up in Keynote on my external monitor on the side and used Awaken on the side monitor as well to help with timing.

The ability to get feedback and watch the attendees body language and non-verbal responses was insanely helpful. I have given webinars and done phone presentations where I had not visual cues to the audience responses, which I find to be a horrible way to present (I often will expand on subjects or shorten explanations based on non-verbal feedback from the audience). Adobe Connect allowed this non-verbal feedback to be streamed back to me, which completely allows me to adjust the presentation as I normally do.

One thing that was a wee bit difficult was having to change focus (I suppose that comes with use and experience), but I would watch audience feedback while presenting, peek to the side to see where I was with time and slides (to work in the transitions), but would then try to look at the camera to "connect". Watching myself on the video feedback the moments I would try to connect through the camera I would open my eyes wide as if trying to see through my iSight and boy does that come across looking strange on a close range camera. I also (unknown to myself until recently watching a video of another presentation I had done) use a similar facial expression to add emphasis, I am realizing with a camera as close as it is for web presentation also really looks odd. I am sort of used to listening to myself (normally to write out new analogies I use or responses to questions), but watching myself in playback from that close of a range is really uncomfortable.

One thing I really missed in doing this web video presentation was extended interaction with the attendees. I rather enjoy conferences, particularly ones with this focussed a gathering as it makes for great socializing with people passionate about the same subjects I am passionate about. I like comparing note, perceptions, and widely differing views. It helps me grow my knowledge and understandings as well as helps change my perceptions. Live face-to-face conversation and sharing of interests is an incredibly value part of learning, experiencing, and shaping views and it is something I greatly enjoy attending conferences in person. I am not a fan of arriving at a conference just prior to a presentation, giving the presentation, and then leaving. The personal social interaction is valuable. The video presentation does not provide that and I really missed it, particularly with the people who are so closely tied to my deep interest areas as this workshop was focused.

New Content in Presentation

This presentation included a lot of new content, ideas, and concepts that I have not really presented or written about in as open of a forum. I have received really strong positive feedback from the Faces of Perception, Depth of Perception, and Perception Matrix when I have talked about it with people and companies. I have included this content in the book on social bookmarking and folksonomy I am writing for O&Reilly and pieces have been in public and private workshops I have given, but it was long past time to let the ideas out into the open.

The components of perception came about through reading formal analysis and research from others as well as not having a good models myself to lean on to explain a lot of what I find from social computing service providers (web tools in the Web 2.0 genre as well as inside the firewall Enterprise 2.0 tools) as tool makers or service owners. The understandings that are brought to the table on a lot of research and analysis is far too thin and far too often badly confuses the roles and faces of the tool that are being reviewed or analyzed. In my working with tool makers and organizations implementing social tools the analysis and research is less than helpful and often makes building products that meet the user needs and desires really difficult. I am not saying that this conceptual model fixes it, but from those who have considered what it shows almost all have had realizations they have had a less than perfect grasp and have lacked the granularity they have needed to build, analyze, or research these social tools.

I am hoping to write these perspectives up in more depth at some point in the not too distant future, but the video and slides start getting the ideas out there. As I have been walking people through how to use the tools I have been realizing the content needed to best us the model and matrix may take more than a day of a workshop of even a few days to get the most complete value from it. These tools have helped me drastically increase my value in consulting and training in the very short time I have used them. Some are finding that their copying of features and functionality in other social services has not helped them really understand what is best for their user needs and are less than optimal for the type of service they are offering or believe they are offering.

February 5, 2008

Social Computing Summit in Miami, Florida in April, 2008

ASIS&T has a new event they are putting on this year, the Social Computing Summit in Miami, Florida on April 10-11, 2008 (a reminder page is up at Yahoo's Upcoming - Social Computing Summit). The event is a single-track event on both days with keynote presentations, panels, and discussion.

The opening keynote is by Nancy Baym. I have been helping assist with organization of the Social Computing Summit and was asked by the other organizers to speak, which I am doing on the second day. The conference is a mix of academic, consumer, and business perspectives across social networking, politics, mobile, developing world, research, enterprise, open social networks (social graph and portable social networks) as well as other subjects. The Summit will be a broad view of the digital social world and the current state of understanding from various leaders in social computing.

There is an open call for posters for the event that closes on February 25, 2008. Please submit as this is looking to be a great event and more perspectives and expertise will only make this event more fantastic.

January 14, 2008

Ma.gnolia Goes Mobile

On Friday Ma.gnolia rolled out a mobile version of their site, M.gnolia - Mobile Ma.gnolia. This had me really excited as I now have access to my bookmarks in my pocket on my mobile. Ma.gnolia gives a quick preview in their blog post Ma.gnolia Blog: Flowers on the Go.

What Mobile Ma.gnolia Does and Does Not Do

First, off the mobile Ma.gnolia does not have easy bookmarking, which is not surprising given the state things in mobile browsers. I really do not see this as a huge downside. What I am head over heals happy about is access to my bookmarks (all 2800 plus). The mobile version allows searching through your own tags (if you are logged in). It currently has easy access to see that is newly bookmarked in Ma.gnolia groups you follow, your contact's bookmarks, popular bookmarks, your own tags, and your profile.

Mobile Site Bookmarks

One thing that is helpful for those that use mobile web browsing is having easy access to mobile versions of web sites. Yes, the iPhone and many smartphone users (I am in the Nokia camp with my well liked E61i) can easily browse and read regular web pages, but mobile optimized pages are quicker to load and have less clutter on a smaller screen. The iPhone, WebKit-based browsers (Nokia), Opera Mini, and other decent mobile web browsers all have eased mobile browsing use of regular webpages, but having a list of mobile versions is really nice.

Yesterday, Saturday, I created a Ma.gnolia Mobile Version Group so people can share web pages optimized for mobile devices (quicker/smaler downloads, smaller screens, less rich ads, etc.). One of the ways I was thinking people could use this is to find sites in this group then bookmark them for their own use with tags and organization that makes sense for themself. The aim is just to collect and share with others what you find helpful and valuable for yourself. This group will be monitored for spam as the rest of Ma.gnolia is (Ma.gnolia uses "rel="no-follow"" so there really is little value to spammers).

Ways You Can Use Mobile Ma.gnolia

This means if you tagged a store, restaurant, bar, transit site, or other item that has value when out walking around it is really nice to have quick access to it. It can also be a great way to read those items you have tagged "to read" (if you are a person that tags things in that manner) so you can read what you want in the doctor's office, bus, train, or wherever.

I have a lot of content I have bookmarked for locations I am work, live, and visit. When I come across something I want to remember (places to eat, drink, learn, hang, be entertained, etc.) I often dump them into the bookmarks. But, getting to this information has been painful from a mobile in the past. I am now starting to go back to things I have tagged with locations and add a "togo" tag so they are easier for me to find and use in the Ma.gnolia mobile interface. I have already added a bookmark for an museum exhibit that I really want to see that is not far from where I am. When a meeting is dropped, postponed, or runs short near the museum I can make a trip over and see it. There is so much information flowing through my devices and it is nice to be able to better use this info across my Personal InfoCloud in my trusted devices I have with me and use the information in context it is well suited for, when have stepped away from my desk or laptop.

I am looking forward to see where this goes. Bravo and deep thanks to the Larry and others at Ma.gnolia that made this happen!

February 2, 2007

Stikkit Adds an API

Stikkit has finally added an API for Stikkit. This makes me quite happy. Stikkit has great ease of information entry and it is perfect for adding annotations to web-based information.

Stikkit is My In-line Web Triage

I have been using Stikkit, from the bookmarklet, as my in-line web information triage. If I find an event or something I want to come back to latter (other than to read and bookmark) I pop that information into Stikkit. Most often it is to remind me of deadlines, events, company information, etc. I open the Stikkit bookmarklet and add the information. The date information I add is dumped into my Stikkit calendar, names and addresses are put into the Stikkit address book, and I can tag them for context for easier retrival.

Now with the addition of the API Stikkit is now easy to retrieve a vCard, ical, or other standard data format I can drop into my tools I normally aggregate similar information. I do not need to refer back to Stikkit to copy and paste (or worse mis-type) into my work apps.

I can also publish information from my preferred central data stores to Stikkit so I have web access to events, to dos, names and addresses, etc. From Stikkit I can then share the information with only those I want to share that information with.

Stikkit is growing to be a nice piece for microcontent tracking in my Personal InfoCloud.

January 31, 2007

It is Finally IT and Design in Enterprise (and Small Business)

My recent trip to Northern California to speak at the UIE Web App Summit and meetings in the Bay Area triggered some good ideas. One thread of discovery is Enterprise, as well as small and medium sized business, is looking at not only technology for solutions to their needs, but design.

IT Traditions

Traditionally, the CIO or VP IT (and related upper management roles) have focussed on buying technology "solutions" to their information problems. Rarely have the solutions fixed the problems as there is often a "problem with the users" of the systems. We see the technology get blamed, the implementation team get blamed (many do not grasp the solution but only how to install the tools, as that is the type of service that is purchased), and then the "users need more training".

Breaking the Cycle of Blame and Disappointment

This cycle of blame and disappointment in technology is breaking around a few important realizations in the IT world.

Technology is not a Cure All

First, the technology is always over sold in capability and most often needs extensive modification to get working in any environment (the cost of a well implemented system is usually about the same as a built from scratch solution - but who has the resources to do that). Most CIOs and technology managers are not trusting IT sales people or marketing pitches. The common starting point is from the, "your tool can not do what you state" and then discussions can move from there. Occasionally, the tools actually can do what is promised.

Many, decision makers now want to test the product with real people in real situations. Solution providers that are good, understand this and will assist with setting up a demonstration. To help truly assess the product the technical staff in the organization is included in the set-up of the product.

People and Information Needs

Second, the problems are finally being identified in terms of people and information needs. This is a great starting place as it focusses on the problems and the wide variety of personal information workflows that are used efficiently by people. We know that technology solutions that mirror and augment existing workflows are easily adopted and often used successfully. This mirroring workflow also allows for lower training costs (occasionally there is no training needed).

Design with People in Mind

Third, design of the interaction and interface must focus on people and their needs. This is the most promising understanding as it revolves around people and their needs. Design is incredibly important in the success of the tools. Design is not just if it looks pretty (that does help), but how a person is walked through the steps easily and how the tools is easy to interact with for successful outcomes. The lack of good design is largely what has crippled most business tools as most have focussed on appealing to the inner geek of the IT manager. Many IT managers have finally realized that their interface and interaction preferences are not remotely representative of 95 percent of the people who need to or should be using the tools.

It is increasingly understood that designing the interaction and interface is very important. The design task must be done with the focus on the needs of real people who will be using the product. Design is not sprinkling some Web 2.0 magic dust of rounded corners, gradients, and fading yellow highlights, but a much deeper understanding that ease of use and breaking processes into easy steps is essential.

Smile to Many Faces

This understanding that buying a technology solutions is more than buying code to solve a problem, but a step in bringing usable tools in to help people work efficiently with information. This last week I talk to many people in Enterprise and smaller businesses that were the technical managers that were trying to get smarter on design and how they should approach digital information problems. I also heard the decision managers stating they needed better interfaces so the people using the tools could, well use the tools. The technology managers were also coming to grips that their preferences for interfaces did not work with most of the people who need the tools to work.

Technology Companies Go Directly to the Users

I have also been seeing the technology tool makers sitting with their actual people using their tools to drastically improve their tools for ease of use. One President of a technology tool maker explained it as, ":I am tired of getting the blame for making poor tools and losing contracts because the technology decision makers are not connected with the real needs of the people they are buying the tools for." This president was talking to three or four users on problems some of his indirect clients were having with a tool they really needed to work well for them. This guy knows the tech managers traditionally have not bought with the people needing to use the tools in mind and is working to create a great product for those people with wants and needs. He also knows how to sell to the technology managers to get their products in the door, but knows designing for the people using the product is how he stays in the company.

January 9, 2007

Digging Out of Digital Limbo

Things are mostly back to normal here. The new MacBook Pro has been wonderful (it is a bit odd to mostly focus on it as a tool and not the center of adoration as I normally do for Apple products) and even better getting my digital life flowing again. I found some gaps in e-mail had been backed-up in an odd place and they were restored.

The gap between sending my PowerBook out for data recovery (not possible as the drive was toast) and getting the MacBook Pro in my hands, even until the time of my first full back-up was one of trying to balance new info and old. Fearful of a "perfect storm" I was pushing my digital life out into corners of the internet. I have been pulling things back in to my laptop and re-building notes from paper I jot quick bits on.

Moving Forward

I have since picked up a Maxtor OneTouch III Turbo with one terrabyte of capacity set to RAID1 across its two drives (translates to mirrored 500MB drives). This seems like an insane amount of space, but knowing I can have more than one version of a back-up (that is part of what knocked me out) and can back-up my other external drive info (where my 70GB of music is stored) provides a nice peace of mind. I am also integrating my Amazon S3 into the equation as well as my .Mac storage. I am using Apple Backup and Retrospect Express to currently do my back-ups. I want a book able image for use on my Intel Mac, which it seems to have the capability of providing. I am still looking at other options. I have been a big fan of Carbon Copy Cloner, but it does not provide a bootable image capability on Intel Macs.

This New Year

I mostly have my feet under myself this new year, oh yes, Happy New Year! Work is taking off full bore and some of the bumps from last year seem to have been ironed out and lessons learned. I had planned to do a year end book wrap-up and a first year in business as InfoCloud Solutions, Inc., but the lack of a computer pushed those ideas off the table. I do not make New Years resolutions, as I try to make needed adjustments as they are needed and try not to put them off to some arbitrary date. I will be providing one or two most posts later this week, when the pile subsides and things go out the door.

Until then, enjoy Macworld and do your backups.

December 27, 2006

Happy Boxing Day

Today being Boxing Day (December 26th) it was nice to get a box. One that contained my new laptop (MacBook Pro) to fill in for the dead PowerBook (blew its hard drive), which will get a new purpose in life upon its return. After I got out of the shower this morning I check e-mail on my mobile and found that the laptop had been delivered. And as I looked over the balcony railing to call to see if it was true, I saw the box sitting on the floor. I am now beginning to get back up to speed putting my digital life back to fill the gap of the past two week or more. Now it is pulling the last 2 months back together

December 15, 2006

Ghosts of Technology Past, Present, and Future

The past two days have brought back many memories that have reminded me of the advances in technology as well as the reliance on technology.

Ghost of Rich Web Past

I watched a walk through of a dynamic prototype yesterday that echoed this I was doing in 1999 and 2000. Well, not exactly doing as the then heavy JavaScript would blow up browsers. The DHTML and web interfaces that helped the person using the site to have a better experience quite often caused the browser to lock-up, close with no warning, or lock-up the machine. This was less than 100kb of JavaScript, but many machines more than two years old at that time and with browsers older than a year or two old did not have the power. The processing power was not there, the RAM was not there, the graphics cards were not powerful, and the browsers in need of optimizing.

The demonstration yesterday showed concepts that were nearly the exact concept from my past, but with a really nice interface (one that was not even possible in 1999 or 2000). I was ecstatic with the interface and the excellent job done on the prototype. I realized once again of the technical advances that make rich web interfaces of "Web 2.0" (for lack of a better term) possible. I have seen little new in the world of Ajax or rich interfaces that was not attempted in 2000 or 2001, but now they are viable as many people's machines can now drive this beauties.

I am also reminded of the past technologies as that is what I am running today. All I have at my beck and call is two 667MHz machines. One is an Apple TiBook (with 1 GB of RAM) and one is a Windows machine (killer graphics card with 256MB video RAM and 500MB memory). Both have problems with Amazon and Twitter with their rich interfaces. The sites are really slow and eat many of the relatively few resources I have at my disposal. My browsers are not blowing up, but it feels like they could.

Ghost of Technology Present

The past year or two I have been using my laptop as my outboard memory. More and more I am learning to trust my devices to remind me and keep track of complex projects across many contexts. Once things are in a system I trust they are mostly out of my head.

This experience came to a big bump two days ago when my hard drive crashed. The iterative back-ups were corrupted or faulty (mostly due to a permission issue that would alter me in the middle of the night). The full back-up was delayed as I do not travel with an external drive to do my regular back-ups. My regularly scheduled back-ups seem to trigger when I am on travel. I am now about 2.5 months out from my last good full back-up. I found an e-mail back-up that functioned from about 3 weeks after that last full backup. Ironically, I was in the midst of cleaning up my e-mail for back-up, which is the first step to my major back-up, when the failure happened.

I have a lot of business work that is sitting in the middle of that pile. I also have a lot of new contacts and tasks in the middle of that period. I have my client work saved out, but agreements and new pitches are in the mire of limbo.

Many people are trying to sync and back-up their lives on a regular basis, but the technology is still faulty. So many people have faulty syncing, no matter what technologies they are using. Most people have more than two devices in their life (work and home computer, smart phone, PDA, mobile phone with syncable address book and calendar, iPod, and other assorted options) and the syncing still works best (often passably) between two devices. Now when we start including web services things get really messy as people try to work on-line and off-line across their devices. The technology has not caught up as most devices are marketed and built to solve a problem between two devices and area of information need. The solutions are short sighted.

Ghost of the Technosocial Future

Last week I attended the University of North Carolina Social Software Symposium (UNC SSS) and while much of the conversation was around social software (including tagging/folksonomy) the discussion of technology use crept in. The topic of digital identity was around the edges. The topic of trust, both in people and technology was in the air. These are very important concepts (technology use, digital identity, and trusted technology and trusted people). There is an intersection of the technosocial where people communicate with their devices and through their devices. The technology layer must be understood as to the impact is has on communication. Communication mediated by any technology requires an understanding of how much of the pure signal of communication is lost and warped (it can be modified in a positive manner too when there are disabilities involved).

Our digital communications are improving when we understand the limitations and the capabilities of the technologies involved (be it a web browser of many varied options or mobile phone, etc.). Learning the capabilities of these trusted devices and understanding that they know us and they hold our lives together for us and protect our stuff from peering eyes of others. These trusted devices communicate and share with other trusted devices as well as our trusted services and the people in our lives we trust.

Seeing OpenID in action and work well gave me hope we are getting close on some of these fronts (more on this in another post). Seeing some of the great brains thinking and talking about social software was quite refreshing as well. The ability to build solid systems that augment our lives and bring those near in thought just one click away is here. It is even better than before with the potential for easier interaction, collaboration, and honing of ideas at our doorstep. The ability to build an interface across data sets (stuff I was working on in 1999 that shortened the 3 months to get data on your desk to minutes, even after running analytics and working with a GIS interface) can be done in hours where getting access to the wide variety of information took weeks and months in the past. Getting access to data in our devices to provide location information with those we trust (those we did not trust have had this info for some time and now we can take that back) enables many new services to work on our behalf while protecting our wishes for whom we would like the information shared with. Having trusted devices working together helps heal the fractures in our data losses, while keeping it safe from those we do not wish to have access. The secure transmission of our data between our trusted devices and securely shared with those we trust is quickly arriving.

I am hoping the next time I have a fatal hard drive crash it is not noticeable and the data loss is self-healed by pulling things back together from resources I have trust (well placed trust that is verifiable - hopefully). This is the Personal InfoCloud and its dealing with a Local InfoCloud all securely built with trusted components.

December 13, 2006


I am currently limping along on an external hard drive for my laptop with the last good back up from two months ago. I am missing notes from the last few conferences and my kGTD, which I just got running well.

I am mostly wanting to get work related stuff out and kid photos and movies (and e-mail).

November 4, 2006

Retooling Offline

There are two phrases that I am finding odd today. One, is actually from last night as I took the kid to dinner and when we were done we were told, "our computer went down and they are having to retool it". All I could think of was making widgets and gears by hand or building the casts and dies to create new parts. What was really meant was the computer system was rebooting (for 35 minutes) and being updated.

The other oddity is the message from Growl that "Joe Smith is now offline" when a person leaves Skype and other IM tools. I am sorry that the person is no longer in service. But it means they are no longer available for instant messaging or calls. They do not exist as one of my neighbors I can click on and chat or talk with as I want or wish. Going off line is tantamount to not existing, so even though the person in their physical embodiment is fine and well, they are broken as you can no longer get to them.

August 24, 2006

Net Neutrality Faces Biased FTC

FTC to the Rescue?

Monday the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC Chairman, Deborah Platt Majoras, stated the FTC was going to look into the Net Neutrality issue. Her statement already shows the outcome based on her language and the tools they are going to use to investigate.

Chairman Majoras has formed an "Internet Access Task Force", which could be good, but depends on who is on the task force. Where things get troubling is the Chairman&'s preference for reliance on the markets to sort things out and using "cost benefit analysis" as their policy tool.

The "Market"

The Chairman's preference for the market to sort things out is very problematic as there is really no market. In economic terms the market normally applies to a "free market", which is setting where their is open competition and many players. With Net Nutrality we are talking about the telecom companies being the the providers of bandwidth that stands between the consumer and those with the content on the Internet. It is rather funny to call the telecom industry a market as their are now four players and possibly three soon (Verizon, ATT, and Qwest) for landlines. That is not a market but an oligopoly (a small number of providers). An oligopoly does not act like a free and open market, but much more like a monopoly. The prices do not very, there is very little differentiation between products. The consumer has little choice, well they get a different brand on their phone bill.

The "Tool"

The Chairman stated she was going to use a "cost benefit analysis" to determine what is happening. There was one very strong point that came out of graduate policy school, cost benefit analysis (CBA) is highly biased and really does not pass the laugh test (mention it in serious settings and you are not taken seriously or you are out right laughed at).

The problem with CBA is the variable you are investigated are weighted with nothing to back them up. Lets say you want to compare sheep and cows and figure out which is better. You can examine weight be market value divided by the cost to raise the animal. But, if you live in a cold climate you may value the wool of the sheep more, so you use CBA to give weight to the wool in the equation, which is fine until you go to assign value to the wool. Assigning values makes the CBA highly biased.

Two Wrongs Do Not Make a Good Decision

The Chairman said she prefers markets to sort things out, but a free market does not exist. She said she wants to use a heavily biased tool to sort things out. These are not the words of an open arbitrator, but somebody who has made up her mind. She is trusting a biased market to be good players (we broke that market up once before for similar tactics).

Whom Do We Trust

I have worked in the telecom industry a couple of times. In the early post Ma Bell break-up doing work for an alternate long distance carrier (one that barely served a whole area code in the California Central Valley) I put speed dialers into homes and businesses to help them deal with the many extra numbers needed to dial for the cheaper service. I also did analysis work for market entry for telecoms in the late 90s (including work for Bell South involving market assessment tools and visualizations of the data for policy work and decision making) mostly focussing on wireless and satellite broadband.

I did have some trust in the telecoms when they were in a free market, but they have not been playing fair as their numbers have dwindled. In the Net Neutrality debate they have taken a three legged argument (telecom, consumer, and content provider) and removed themselves from the argument. The telecoms want people to believe a lie that it is the content owners and the customers that are on opposite sides. But, in reality it is the telecoms that stand between the people and the content and the telecoms have threatened to extort money from the Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, and others. The telecoms fed the lies to Senator Ted Stevens to make him look like a bufoon talking about the "Internet are just tubes".

Do we trust Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo? Well the content providers are far more in number than those. Every web start-up is a content provider. MySpace, YouTube, Dabble, RocketBoom, Ze Frank, and every blog and videoblog are your content providers too. I do trust Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo with my content, but I also have trust and have faith in the small players.

The Real Market is Bottom-up Innovation in a Free Market

Who stands to lose if the FTC mangles its investigation (remember they have already claimed their bias)? It is the small players that will not be able to pay the extortionist pricing of the telecoms. Innovation often begins with the small players taking risks. Google started a few years ago as a small player in a free market. Companies like YouTube, Dabble, RocketBoom, etc. are the new Googles, but they need a free market, not one that is biased toward the oligopolies.

August 21, 2006

Acceptance of Innovation Takes Time

This past week Boeing cancelled its in plane internet connection services, called Connexion. The service has been in development for six years, but only in limited service for about 18 months. Boeing stated it did not get the acceptance and use of the service it expected. While Boeing was using satellites, which produce solid quality, its competitors are using less expansive and more fickle cellular approaches.

Acceptance Takes Consistency and Ubiquity

If I remember right it was only two or three airline carriers (Luftunsa) that had this service only on some of their planes. The people who I knew who used Boeing's services on airlines loved it, but they were never sure if the plane they were flying on would have access. This lack of consistency lowered the expectations of those who loved the service. These early adopters were reluctant to encourage others as the service may not be available. There are many people that want this type of service and to the level of bullet-proof service Boeing provided.

Air travel (like many others in the service industry) is an industry that is build around habits. Heavy travelers all have very set patterns and even well patterned alternate habits. They have certain airlines they fly (affinity programs encourage this), what airlines they use, hotels, and rental car they depend upon. The big mantra is no surprises and consistency. Packing their travel bags and gear with expectations of that they will need, with a big nod to what will not be needed so it is not packed (lighter travel is better than heavy travel). Depending on internet connection on the plane for many was not consistent and could not planned around.

Be Patient

How would Boeing get to the expected customer base? As a start they should take a lesson from Amazon, which puts innovative ideas in place all the time, but then lets the users catch-up to the tools. With Amazon their early adopters will use and play with their innovations (around which Amazon uses the feedback and iterates the products). Did Amazon announce their gold box? No, they put it out there and tested it and over a couple years it has become a staple that many people use as part of their regular Amazon experience. Amazon is doing similar things with tagging on their product pages and it is growing slowly.

Tagging is another area that is a slow growth. Currently there is less than .5 percent (half of one percent - comprised from Nielsen estimate of 750 Million people on the web and a compiles number of 2 to 4 million people using tagging services, not including blog categories as tagging) of people on the web tagging. Even with all of the hype tagging is still out in the long tail, and is an edge activity. Will tagging hit the next phase of innovation growth and spike in usage, the hockey stick curve, in the near future? It will take patience, consistency, iteration, and much better light bulb moments (quick a ha moments for those not using tagging).

Broadband In Planes Doomed?

It sounds like there are other technologies that are doing similar things to what Boeing was trying, but not as solid. These technologies are less expensive to implement and lower costs for those that fly. Can a poorer technology take off? The VHS (a greatly inferior product to Betamax) took the market.

It seems there is a future for broadband for those companies that can stay for the long run and help build demand and wait for demand to catch-up to innovation.

August 18, 2006


Yesterday we added RAM to our Apple PowerBook to take it from 1GB to 2GB. My machine can now keep up with my somewhat excessive state of open applications and tabs. My tools all now have returned to their very responsive selves.

July 27, 2006

WebVisons and MIT TechReview

Back from WebVisions

I am back from WebVisions in Portland, Oregon (the most enjoyable city in the U.S. for me) where I presented on Tagging in the Real Web World (my slides will be available at the end of this week). I loved WebVisions again as it is a great developer/designer to developer/designer conference with people sharing methods and frameworks with others to raise the level of everybody. It is a wonderful open sharing conference in the spirit of SXSW Interactive on a little more manageable scale.

MIT Technology Review Mentions Personal InfoCloud

I came back to a really nice mention in the MIT Technology Review article by Wade Roush on The Internet Is Your Next Hard Drive, which points to the Personal InfoCloud as its framing idea. I am increasingly seeing people wanting to store and have access to information across devices and services (or control their own destiny, as Gina Tripiani wants). It is about personal choice where and how their data, information, and media is stored. We are wanting continual access to the information, but may not want or have continual access to the internet or may not want it stored on us. Wade's article brings up some interesting options for those that want some or all of their storage on-line. It is time to dig into these options and see how close they get from a Personal InfoCloud perspective and personal aggregation, when we want and need the information at our finger tips (you know, the technical nirvana we have always dreamed and talked about).

June 3, 2006

Missing the Second Screen on the Road

One of the things I miss when traveling, other than family is not having my 20 inch widescreen monitor next to me. I am in the Seattle for work related stuff and was meeting with people yesterday in their offices and everybody had at least two 20 inch widescreens (or larger). I am working off my 15 inch widescreen Powerbook, but I miss the acreage of overflow space I have on my desktop in my office. In the hotel (Marriot Courtyard with free (did I say free, as in every hotel around the globe should offer this as my entertainment is through this connection not the television) broadband) I am sitting next to a rather large television and looking at it wondering when will this turn into a large widescreen monitor? I have turn the television around looking for a means to output my second screen onto it (I should note my second screen is where I keep my IM, calendar, e-mail, etc. so I can see it, but also ignore it) for my secondary information.

I have been recommended the Courtyard hotels by a few friends as they like the consistency and the business (tech nomad) focus. I will have to say I am rather liking the hotel. Oh, I do miss the more posh hotel accommodations, but having free broadband that work and does not nanny me every time I replug-in (you know, the please sign-in screen that seemingly have amnesia as they forget you signed in an hour ago, but you closed your laptop to take a shower and it thinks this is a new session). I like the mini-market (er, make that nano-market) that is open 24 hours with food, drinks, snacks, etc. The free business paper, although I do like the Kimpton Hotels free Financial Times (I have a long post coming at some point regarding why I can't find articles and columns on the Financial Times site, as easily as I can on the paper version, where as the Wall Street Journal is the opposite, as I can find what I want and need online, but struggle to find it in the paper version.). It is the little things, truly little things for me, that make a difference in a tech/business nomad hotel. The bed is very important, but hassle-free broadband, good hassle-free food (buffet over menu with broad selection of quality items), workout space, gathering space to interact with others, good work desk and chair (ergonomic for working), and good papers. These are the things that do it for me. Comfort, tech friendly, and friction free should be the aim.

April 11, 2006

Odd Moments in the Day - Odd Moments with Technology?

Today brought an odd moment. I looked up at iChat (my IM interface) and I see my name (Thomas Vander Wal) and podcast under Jeremy's name, which means Jeremy is most likely listening to a podcast interview with me. I had never seen that before.

Now I decide to share that odd moment with Jeremy, which I did not realize would cause Jeremy to have an odd moment.

How can the world of pervasive/ubiquitous computing ever get off the ground when we give each other odd moments through our friendly stalking? By the way I prefer using stalking, where as some people like the term monitoring, but the term monitoring does not cause me to think about privacy implications that I believe we must resolve within ourself or learn to better protect our privacy.

The incident today still causes me to chuckle for a short moment then realize how open we are with things on the internet and how different that seems to be even though most of our life has been public, but to a smaller and more localized group. It also resignals that change that came with the internet (well and much of technology) is that we can not see those who can see us. In a town we know the local video store guy knows what we rent, but now Amazon knows what we bought as do those people on our friends list whom we share our purchases with so they can have some insight as what to buy. My local video store guy in San Francisco, near California and 2nd or 3rd Avenue, was amazing. He knew everything I rented in the last few months and would provide perfect recommendations. Did he use a computer to aid himself? Nope, he was just that good and his brain could keep the connection between a face and videos rented and if you liked that video. He knew my taste perfectly and was dead on with recommendations. Not only was he on with me, but most others who frequented his store. He was great recommending, but also could help people avoid movies they did not like.

Was the guy in the video store freaky? Not really, well to me. He was a person and that was his role and his job. I worked in a coffee house for a while first thing in the morning. After a couple months I knew who the first 10 customers would be and I knew about half of the orders or possible variations of what people would order. People are patterned, I could tie the person's face to that pattern for espresso coffee drink order and I could recommend something that they should try. To some this was a little disturbing, but to most is was endearing and was a bond between customer and shopkeeper as I cared enough to know what they would like and remembered them (I did not often remember their names and most of them I did not know their names), but I knew what they drank. If is the familiarity.

So, with technology as an intermediary or as the memory tool what is so freaky? Is it not seeing into somebody's eyes? Is it the magic or somebody more than 3,000 miles away knowing what you are listening to and then have the person whom you are listening to pop-up for a chat? I think it is we have collapsed space and human norms. It is also difficult to judge intent with out seeing face or eyes. I was in a back and forth recently with a friend, but could not sense their intent as it seemed like the tone was harsh (for a person whom I trust quite a bit and think of as being intensely kind and giving) and I finally had to write and ask, but it was written from a point where I was bothered by the tone. My problem was I could not see the eyes of the person and see they playfulness or gestures to know their intent was playful challenging.

While at the Information Architecture Summit a couple/few weeks ago in Vancouver a few of us went to dinner and we played werewolf (my first time playing). But, I was reminded that the eyes hold a lot of information and carry a lot of weight in non-verbal communication. I could pick the werewolf whose eyes I could see, but in two occasions the werewolf was sitting next to me and I could not see their eyes. There was one person in each of the two games whom I did think was the werewolf as their eyes were signaling similarly to people who were not telling the truth in the cultures I grew up in.

Could technology be more easily embraced if it had eyes? Should we have glancing as Matt Webb has suggested and built an application to suggest? But could we take Matt'a concept farther? Would it be helpful?

This was a long post of what was just going to be pointing out an odd moment in the day.

April 3, 2006

Mr. Thackara Provides Fodder for Two Loose Thoughts

Things have been busy of late after a return from Vancouver, British Columbia from the IA Summit. It took a week to get through taxes stuff for a four month old company (as of January 1) and a large stack of e-mail (in which responding meant more e-mail).

Yesterday morning I had the pleasurable fortune to have breakfast with John Tackara of Doors of Perception fame. I really need to put two things out there that popped up in conversation that I need to think about more deeply.

Children today are not into the web tied to computers, but focus on their friends through the mobile voice and text messaging. I have been running into this comment quite a bit from Europeans, but increasingly from parents of teen and pre-teens in America. Having a computer is not a large interest for them, but they live in their mobiles as a means to connect, filter, share, convene, and stay tethered to those that matter to them, their friends. The quick 10 to 20 year scenario for this could mean the web is dead and is a technology that had an immense impact, but was a technology that was relatively short lived. Are our communication technologies trending through ever shorter life spans? This could bolster my thinking that the web is increasingly a temporary terminus for information to be shared and picked up and used in context in other media that is better situated within people's lives.

This leads us to context. I keep looking at much of the information that is on the web as being out of the proper use context for most people. We read information on the web, but the web is not the context in which we will make use of this information we find. The web as it has been traditionally built is marginally better than television, in that an address for a car lot flashed on the television screen is as usable as it is plastered on a web page. The address does us more good in our pocket, in driving (or mass transit) routes, in our mobile that is in our pocket, etc. than it does on the web page, but few web pages today get that clue.

I have also been thinking about tagging and particularly tagging in the folksonomy subset as the tags providing mental context to external information. We use the tags to pull back these bits of information or to aggregate this information when we pull on the digital threads that draw what is at the ends of these tag tethers closer to ourselves. A chunk of information or media out on the web is lacking context to our lives with out these tags. When we have needs, most always framed in the context of a need related to a subject we use tags related to that subject to draw back in that which we found or other people with similar vocabularies have found. These tags provide context for the few thousand chunks of information out of the billions that we have explicitly expressed interest in and have placed the context upon based on its relationship between the information or object and ourself.

March 24, 2006

Portland Airport Understands Today

I am currently sitting in the Portland Airport between flights using the Airport&039;s free WiFi and free power in a free business center. This is such a smart idea. I will try to fly through Portland when heading to the Northwest from this point forward.

I was able to sync mail that I did on the plane. I have refreshed my RSS feeds. Now I just need Gmail to work again (who is this little start-up Gmail that has such poor email service of late)?

March 8, 2006

ETech is Emergent? [updated]

I thought this would be the year I was going to ETech, but with a few other things going on it was not the year. I have many friends that go each year and I see them very rarely.

But, I think I would have been very frustrated by ETech this year. It is still about the web. Achingly, still about the web. The problem is digital information and media is increasingly living beyond the web. The web is but one platform to distribute information, but thinking people live their lives in and on the web is silly. Want the information that is on the web, but need the information in their lives, in their devices they have with them, and in context to the rest of their life.

The panel that triggered this reaction is one by friends, Jesse and Jeff "Designing the Next Generation of Web Apps". In Tom Coates review the binary approach (web for reading and web for apps) sounds so short sited and really caused the trigger. Is Emerging Tech just rehashing the current and the past? Or can it move forward? I am not seeing much of that forward movement this year.

People live their lives attracting information and focussing on the Come to Me Web and Personal InfoCloud we know people need the information to better mesh into their personal digital information workflow, which involves very little of the web. People find the information that they want and need and work very hard to keep it attracted to themself for easy refindability. Other than social bookmarking tools and a few others web based tools, much of this is done with tools that are beyond the web. Some people tuck all of their needed information and links into e-mail, others calendar, to do lists, PIMs, text files, syndication, e-mail, SMS, MMS, documents, mobile syndication, mobile documents, outlines, wiki on a stick, etc. There are many tools and many ways of working around lack of web access when people need the information most.

Many people, unlike those of us that build web-based tools (I am in that category), don't live on the web and their digital information needs to live beyond the web as well. That is the future of the web, it is a platform for just one state of information. That state that the web represents is the state of information transience. The information is in the process of moving from the creator to the person needing that information for their own use or for their reuse. This use will most likely not be on the web, but the reuse of information may be on the web.

The web as it exists now is a tool for publishing and aggregating. Some will use the web for use and reuse, but we need far more options that the web for real people to adopt their future and our now. We, as developers of tools, information, and resources must pay attention to real people. We must pay attention to their lives beyond the web and the large box in front of them. We need to understand their problems that they really have, which revolve around refindability and information reuse in their environment and context.

Now please go back to paying careful attention to the great things that friends and other alpha geeks are presenting at ETech and other conferences and un-conferences as that information is needed, but remember we are moving beyond, far beyond this current state of the web.

[update] Um, well Ray Ozzie just made me wish I was at ETech. He just showed what is emergent and what is the future. It could answer many of the items I just listed above. You go Ray!

February 4, 2006

Internet was down

I have been dealing with my internet access going up and down all afternoon. It seems there is some outage beyond my DSL provider, as I can get access to them easily, but the hops stop just after their router. This is what they are reporting also. I left about 5:00 to go get WiFi access at the local Starbucks, but they were out too. After negotiations at home to get work done that is all web-based, I finally found access about 10 miles north of us in Gaithersberg/Rockville. There were a few others at the coffeehouse (part of a small chain that used to be here in Bethesda also) that had been going through the same thing.

This new year I have had this discussion about an "always-on society" is fine until it is broken. I clear time to get work done around my son's naps and other down times, when the work load is light. When the network is out, increasingly this is the case, or the power is out I am sunk. More and more of our work is moving toward web-based applications, but our networks are not bullet-proof.

My trip to San Francisco nearly had me ready to give up on WiFi as it was really difficult to track down (it is not everywhere) and the carriers block so many port one can not send secure e-mail or other normal tasks. As WiFi expands its footprint is seems to be less usable. On my recent trip the most reliable connection was on my hip in my Treo, but I can not do the work on web-based applications that I needed to from that device. As web applications get richer interfaces the limits to what devices can use them. Unless the rich web interfaces degrade we are going to have problems with this diverging problems based on usage.

I get quite used to an always-on mentality and a instant or quick response communication. When it does not happen, it seems problematic and I wonder what went wrong. It was like this through the holidays as people who would respond in under an hour, or in at least a day were taking longer than a week. January turned into two to three week response times as everybody is swamped, or battling for their jobs with budget cuts.

As much as I like the public access to WiFi idea, it is not hear yet. The current state of things is making the mobile broadband cards from the mobile carriers look very tempting. It creates two classes of people, but the cost recovery (based on high rates while on business travel) and easy access is very tempting.

January 21, 2006

Small Technology Business in 2006 is About Paper

There are a few things that I have found to be rather ironic in running my own company in 2005 and 2006. InfoCloud Solutions, Inc. is a technology/digital information consulting and product development company. The irony is that I have written more checks, bought more stamps, and sent more physical mail in two months than I have in the last five years. The all-in-one printer/fax/copier/scanner (only black and white fax and copier work after one year) that I have been trying to get rid of has been used rather often. Faxing in 2005 is just odd to me. Very odd. Most of these faxes have been MoUs or NDAs.

The banking process for business is more secure and formal than for personal consumer banking. The formality also slows things down a little bit.

January 20, 2006

New Hosting and Peace of Mind

Most of the e-mail coming in is now coming through the new hosting company. I am getting feedback from people that they can see this new site. The change of the domain to the new hosting started resolving correctly in 30 minutes for me, which was very fast.

The choice in hosting came down to two strongly recommended companies, and Segment Publishing (SegPub). Both had nothing, but positive recommendations and each had more than four recommendation (Pair actually had over 10 recommendations). Both offered the services I wanted and needed (PHP, Python, secure mail, MySQL, solid up-time records, and Rails (Rails was more of a nice than a need)).

I chose SebPub based on two things that separated it from Pair. One was price, SegPub was a little less and offered a good introduction and trial period. It is an Australian company (servers in the US) and payments are in Australian dollars. Secondly, the first person to recommend SebPub put me in contact with the guy who runs SegPub in a chat. I was able to asks a lot of questions specific to my needs and he was able to easily point me to the needed information or just provide it in the chat. That personal touch was an incredible sell. Just knowing there is that access helped. I had really grown tired of waiting a few hours between responses to trouble tickets and e-mail exchanges and not getting resolution and just getting the ticket closed.

Getting things prepared and moved over took the usual amount of time, but I had far fewer bumps than I thought I would have had. I needed to better optimize MySQL to perform better in MySQL4. I was to the point I needed to make the hosting change and the time disruption was not welcome, but I knew I could focus when the transition was over and done.

So far I have been incredibly happy. I also know that Pair would also be a very good company to go to as well. This option gives me great peace of mind.

January 12, 2006

A Better Day and Brigher Future

Things are a little better on this end today. I was able to delete the Photoshop French version and reinstall a Photoshop demo (I was very surprised I was able to do this and get back to the exact days left on the tryout where is left of yesterday) so I could continue to work. The shipment of the new package will be the fourth attempt to get this right by Adobe (their stock price is what?).

I have received many great suggestions on hosting and am looking at two of them seriously. E-mail has been up all day today as host hosting, which is good.

Along this front I am really getting tired of my own blogging tool. I no longer have time to keep running and the effort it takes to write, check, and post does not work for me any longer. I am doing too many things at once and not paying enough attention to the actual writing, which I really need to. I also blog adding all the mark-up needed (including needed character encodings). I really want to turn on comments again as readership here has grown and I really want to get back to "conversations" (not just monologues plus e-mail). There are things I want to build that I think would help the blogging community, but it is really fruitless to do this for a tool that has an install base of 1.

I have my options narrowed down for me as I will be running two sites from it and be using it as a CMS as well as a blogging tool. The two candidates I am down to are Movable Type and Drupal. I am leaning toward MT mostly because they have a very active support system inside the company and user-base. Drupal has a killer user-base that is very innovative and the tool has many social and community aspects to it that I really like. I will most likely be playing with both. Both have a good track record running more than one site off an install and using shared components for the different sites.

Now it is sorting out, which I can dump my current site into most easily and clean out the mark-up and encoding so to let the blogging tool do it (will make for easier current specification RSS/Atom feeds). I am also wanting to keep the 1770-plus URLs the same (as well as RESTful), which I have not sorted out. Suggestions are welcome.

January 11, 2006

Need Web Hosting Recommendations

Hey, I am back on-line and have e-mail. After the fourth major outage is five days I am needing a new hosting option. E-mail me suggestions, please. My InfoCloud Solutions, Inc. site and e-mail are on the same server and need solid hosting (this has been the worst six months of hosting I have had in the 10 years of having a personal site on-line), beating Interland on poor service (actually they may have been much worse, but that is far enough away) is a feat.

I like the people at the current hosting company and running servers is a thankless horrible job that I don't ever care to do again.

I really would like bullet proof e-mail, or close to it. LAMP stack hosting is required (preferably with PHP and Python for the "P") Ruby on Rails would be a nice to have (but that is mostly testing and I can do that on my laptop).

December 31, 2005

Two Wonderful Phone Service Calls - How Odd

This past week I had two wonderful experiences. The first was with Adobe customer service and sales support. I have been trying to do a "cross-platform upgrade" from my Windows Photoshop to the current Mac version. I have been trying this for a couple years. The phone services has been miserable and often would take over 45 minutes for them to pick up.

Not this week. The phone was picked up by customer service by Adobe in less than 3 minutes (I seriously thought I had dialed the wrong number). They fixed some problems with my account information, but I needed to talk to another department to get the upgrade I wanted completed. They transfered me to the sales group, which had all the information I had just changed and we started working through what I wanted (ultimately the Adobe CS Premium Suite). We found I could not directly do that going the cross-platform route, but I could upgrade to Photoshop CS and once that was installed and authenticated do the upgrade to the package I desired. All of this was less than the full price, not the optimal price I had been hoping trying to get.

What impressed me was the competence, speed, politeness and the working through their arcane rules to get me what I desired. In all I was done in 20 minutes.

The second also involved the phone and a voice automated solution. But after trying to exchange airline flight miles for a magazine subscription on the web, which seemed not work in any browser I had to verify my frequent flier number and extra authentication code. I first called the help number for the magazine people, which took me to a human, who seemed very confused with the information his computer was providing him (he had at least eight addresses and name variations for me (there was a more button to see the rest). He asked how I heard about the program and said I was on my preferred airline site and was linked to theirs to get magazines. That seemed confusing as he asked how long ago I got the software. A couple minutes later I could not give him answers that fit his check boxes and our conversation ended.

I then tried the airline's number to complete the magazine transaction if the web did not work or a person needed assistance. It was a voice interactive system (I loathe these). It asked some simple questions and I responded and it understood. It authenticated me very easily and quickly by me reading my needed information. I authenticated by telling it my address and it understood (this is a beautiful task given my street name and city). Next it started reading the magazine offerings and said I could interrupt and just tell it what I wanted. I interrupted (this never works with the local phone company for information) and it understood what I wanted. My transaction was complete and in under 5 minutes. I was completely impressed, which happens very rarely.

December 20, 2005 is Back

Yeah!! is back. After many hours, if not a day of being down due to residual effects from a power outage. I bet Joshua is looking forward to somebody else managing the servers.

I has been a bad week for the popular stuff on the web with TypePad outage problems in the past week as well (yes, that meant Personal InfoCloud was down).

Does it bug me? Not so much. being down meant I was not cross posting with Yahoo! MyWeb rather than to both places. If this site is down I am not too happy as my work e-mail is on the same server and I have been living in e-mail lately. But, I think with TypePad and and the like with their outages I have appreciation for what it takes to keep that up and running. I also know the problems inherent in scaling those type of services. At some point the killer ease of use applications become more about killer sysadmins and server/datastore optimization skills. That is where one learns to grow up.

Along those lines, I am quite happy to see Technorati get their server situation sorted out and they are now running at usable speed again (it was a seemingly long time coming).

October 2, 2005

MIT Technolgoy Review Emerging Tech Conference Aftermath

I had a great time at the Technology Revirew's Emerging Technologies Conference. It was odd for me as I have not been purely an attendee at a conference in a few years, but this worked very well. The panels and speakers were fantastic and many of those who spoke were around for meals and other events. The conversations were fantastic and I am just getting back to those I met to follow-up (as I am preparing for two presentations, setting up a business, and a few other items that have pulled my attention in recent weeks).

I have to say the Technology Review staff deserves a giant applause as they are simply wonderful people who are bright and energetic about the subjects they cover.

September 27, 2005

Off to TR Emerging Tech Conference at MIT

Tomorrow afternoon I am off to Cambridge, MA to attend the Technology Review's Emerging Technologies Conference at MIT. I am really looking forward to this, as I will see some familiar faces and get a slightly different view to the tech world than I have had before, with nanotech and stem cell panels combined with the digital world I live in.

September 12, 2005

No More Waiting...

I suppose I should note here that the last day at my current job will be October 6, 2005. I am not sure what the next full step will be, but I will be focussing my full attention what I have been passionate about for the past few years. Rather than spending a few hours every evening and weekends on my passions, it will become my full-time job. The details will show themself in the next few weeks and months. I need the time to persue some options and have time to think about and consider others.

For the last couple years I have joked I commute to my day job, but telecommute to my private life. Well, my private life is where most of the Model of Attraction, Personal InfoCloud, Local InfoCloud, and work takes place. Pieces of this work make it into the day job, but not enough to keep me excited or engaged. I am really wanting to see more great work and products that easily functions for people across devices, across platforms, and is easy for real people to use and reuse.

The world has been shifting to a "come to me web". We are seeing the easiest way to make this easier for people attract what they want this is to learn what each person has an interest in, as well as what their friends and peers have interests in. This will help the findability of information and media for people, but the real problem is in the re-findability of that same information and media for people so they can have what the want and desire at their finger tips when they want it and need it. We have all of the technology needed to make this happen, but it needs research, quick iterative development, and removing the walls around the resources (information/media, unwarranted device restrictions (American cell companies have created the failure of the missing robust mobile market), and unwarranted software restrictions). Paying attention to people and people's interactions is the real key to getting things right, not trying to beat your competitor (focussing on the wrong goal gets the poor results). Make the products people need that solve problems people have (with out introducing problems) and you will have a winner. People have so many needs and desires and every person is different so one solution will not fit all and we should never make things just one way.

These will be a long few weeks with more small steps for me. There is a lot to get done and to consider in the next few weeks. In this is preparing for speaking and traveling on top of the other needed work to be done to prep for this next step. I will pop back up and fill you in when I know more. but, the count down has begun.

September 5, 2005

If I Gave Awards...

I have been a big fan of Mac OSX Hints for quite some time. After this past week and some oddities with a couple of things, Mac OSX Hints is my first stop in solving or taking proactive steps. Not only does the site provide solutions to nearly everything I have ever run across, but it also explains the issues at hand so I have an even better understanding of the system. Awesome.

August 30, 2005

Barcamp UK

It looks like the UK has caught barcamp fever in the manifestation of barcamp UK. This is utterly brilliant how this is spreading.

I have a small design gathering I went to last year in Amsterdam and will be attending again this year in Berlin. Last year's utterly wrecked me in a wonderful way. All of the work and playing with ideas and solutions to problems that were manifesting on the web were echoed by others and it was a great experience that gave me more energy to pursue my Model of Attraction and Personal InfoCloud work of designing across platforms and devices for people to use and reuse information more easily. One of the areas that has been problematic is the integrating desktop broadband and mobile use of the same services and information/media. Many people have been finding the Personal InfoCloud a good framework to think and design for this reality and one of the areas where this is really of interest of late is Europe (hence, my three trips there and four conferences where I will be presenting).

Best of luck to Suw as she leads the way. Go help her as you will be quite glad you did.

August 20, 2005

BarCamp is Rocking the Free World

I started following BarCamp on IRC, Flickr, and streaming video. Today I was able to participate in one of the discussions. This is one of the better things I have done lately directly on the web.

It has not been perfect as people go outside and gather, but nobody takes the streaming camera. It is like not having legs, or other communication means.

Go follow along. You are invited.

July 12, 2005

Passion and the Day-to-day

This has been an up and down month so far with health, work, technology, and time. In general 2005 has been a rough year for respiratory issues already for me as I am nearly 3x the normal problems for a full year. These issues zaps energy and fogs the brain (something I really loathe).

The day-job is muddled in past problems, issues that have been plaguing people and have been solved years ago, but where I am resources and bureaucracy keep the long past current. Outside of the day-job I am working with the now and future, which I have really been loving. I have been working on responding back to many questions that have come in through e-mail about possible work and helping people through problems grasping and implementing efficiencies for current web development, folksonomies, and Personal InfoCloud related items.

I have also been working on my presentation for WebVisions, which involves completing it, tearing it apart and nearly starting over. To date I have nearly 25 hours working on this presentation, mostly integrating new material and editing out past content. This is in contrast to day-job presentations, which take me about an hour to build.

In a sense I am still time traveling on my daily commute. The gap is about four to six years of time travel in each 40 minute to hour commute. This is really wearing on me and it is long past time to move on, but I have not had the time to put forward to nail down the essentials for moving my passion to my day job (time and family needs that have filled this year).

So today, I was quite uplifted as my subscription issue of August 2005 MIT Technology Review arrived. The cover topic is Social Machines and I am quoted and have a sidebar box. That was up lifting as it relates to my "real work". This is right up there with Wired's Bruce Sterling article on folksonomy and Thomas Vander Wal.

Now the real work continues. If you are in Portland for Web Visions or just there in general later this week, please drop me a note and I will provide my contact info. If you are not in Portland and would like me to come to you and discuss and help along these topics please contact me also.

July 6, 2005

Social Machines in MIT Technology Review

In the August issue of MIT Technology Review in Wade Roush's cover story on Social Machines (posted on Wade's site) I get a nice quote. The article is well worth the read, even worth picking up the issue when it hits the stands. The article covers the social, mobile, and continuous computing world that some of us live in and many more will be doing soon. Those of us working at the front of the curve are working on ways to make it smoother for those who will follow along soon.

Convergence and the seamless transfer from stationary computing to continuous computing leads to drastically different interactions with information and media. We are already seeing the shift of people using mobile phones as just a voice communication medium to one that includes text and media interactions, or the from people listening to their mobile phones to looking at their mobile phones. Three years ago I made this shift and I was extremely frustrated as I had many more desires than my mobile phones could assuage. But, it is getting better today even if it takes more human interaction than is really needed to sync information, let alone have moved close to me (or whomever is the wanting to have the information or media stay attracted to themselves or have attracted in certain situations). It is this that is my focus of the Model of Attraction and the focus of the Personal InfoCloud.

June 29, 2005

One in a World of Many More

Ben Hammersly points out the doom and gloom around Grokster is missing one clause, which is in the U.S. Just because things are borked in the U.S. does not mean that the rest of the world is broken. The U.S. is one country, whose government lacks foresight, but there are many many more countries out there that have not mangled foresight.

May 24, 2005

Wade Roush and 10,000 Brianiacs

I have been following Wade Roush' continuousblog since its inception a few weeks ago. Continuousblog is focussing on the convergence that is finally taking place in the information technology realm. I had a wonderful conversation with Wade last week and have been enjoying watching his 10,000 Brainiacs evolve in 10,000 Brianiacs, Part 1; 10,000 Brainiacs, Part 2; 10,000 Brainiacs, Part 3; and soon to be 10,000 Brianiacs, Part 4.

Wade's concept of "continuous computing" fits quite nicely in line with the Personal InfoCloud as we have access to many different devices throughout our lives (various operating systems, desktops, laptops, PDA, mobile phone, television/dvr, as well as nearly continuous connectivity, etc.). The Personal InfoCloud focusses on designing and developing with the focus on the person and their use of the information as well as the reuse of the information. It is good to see we have one more in the camp that actually sees the future as what is happening to day and sending the wake-up call out that we need to be addressing this now as it is only going become more prevalent.

May 21, 2005

Super Spam Build-up

Super spam build-up. Thursday night I did my weekly pull of my stored "junk" e-mail, which was more like 10 days of build-up. I had found some legitimate bounced e-mail during my past round when I scanned through the mess, so I was saving up until I had a little time to visually parse through the pile. This time I had 31,000 items in the junk mail bin. I did not even look in the output bin this time, I just did a straight push to delete and dumped the trash.

If you sent something that you did not get a response on that you believe should get a response lets try this again. Send it. I have around 15 e-mails I have been working on longer responses to, but am going to be sending, "I got it" responses then put it in my longer response queue.

April 22, 2005

O'Reilly Radar

I am adding the new O'Reilly Radar to my RSS aggregator to follow for a while to see if it is worth adding to my regular links page, which needs some pruning and planting. The Radar is a blog focussing on what four people at O'Reilly believe is new and interesting to them.

I found the link through a folksonomy feed, but found the developer mistook categories and general tagging for folksonomy and weighted tag use visualization for folksonomy. Both categories and tagging are very helpful tools, while weighted visualizations are already seeming passé due to over and improper use (sparklines are far more useful as are just having a numeric value). Folksonomy is not a tag applied by the content generator is is applied by the content consumer so the consumer can come back to find the information more easily. I like the irony that O'Reilly did not think a book on folksonomy would be needed, but they can not get it right on their own site (or their developer liked the buzz word and nobody knew any better).

What the do have is worth watching.

April 12, 2005

Entering the Bubble

Today my copy of John Thackara's In the Bubble: Designing in a Complex World arrived. I have read through 10 pages so far and it seems like it may live up to what I had hoped it would, my next book I obsess over. The last book was Digital Ground. Digital Ground took rough edges off many of the ideas I had been working through for a few years. It also extended me limited view to a much broader horizon. It is with this expectation that I read In the Bubble.

I will keep you apprised of my adventure through the pages.

April 8, 2005

Tech Expo Fose was Ho Hum

I made it to Fose (the government-centric tech trade show) today. I was impressed nor intrigued by extremely little. There was mobile and a very good showing from the Open Source community, old old news to non-government folks. I was completely blown away by many booth's lack of understanding of their own products, particularly the Microsoft booth, I was interested in the One Note as it seemed similar to Entourage's Project (they were unfamiliar with any of the Microsoft Mac products and did not know they made products for the Mac - although they did laugh at my Keynote is PowerPoint with out swearing quip). The MS booth was pushing the product, but nobody seemed to have a clue about it. I was also interested in Groove (I was a fan from when I was using the beta of it many years ago) and wanted to see its current state. Microsoft really needs to hire people who not only care about their products but know about their products and what the company is doing. (This is truly not a Microsoft slam as I am getting some long long lost respect for them on some small fronts.)

I was quite impressed with three booths, Apple, Adobe, and Fig Leaf Software as they were extremely knowledgeable and were showcasing their wares and skills and not goofy side-shows. They had the skills and wares to show off (Blackberry also had a good booth, but I did not have a great interest there).

Apple was showcasing their professional line of hardware, including their servers and SAN, which blew all other server solutions out of the water on price and capability (including Dell and HP). Apple was also showcasing their new OS Tiger, which they were able to show me does search, using Spotlight, in the files comments in the metadata (now labeled Spotlight comments just to make it clear), which will make my life so much wonderfully better, but that is an other post all together. Tiger's Dashboard was also very impressive as it has an Expose-like fade-in ability. I tried asking the same questions to a few different people at the Apple booth and they were all extremely knowledgeable and across the board may have been the most impressive for this.

I hounded Adobe about their InDesign CS2, GoLive CS2 (standards compliance), and Acrobat (tag creation and editing). Not every person could answer every question, but they were able to bring over the right person who had deep knowledge of the product. Adobe has products I like, but there has always been one or two tripping points for me that keep me from fully loving their products and from using their products exclusively in Web development workflow.

The guy at the Fig Leaf booth (a Macromedia training and development shop in Washington, DC. I asked why no Macromedia and was told they pulled out at the last minute, but I had to thank the folks at Fig Leaf as they have the best Macromedia training anywhere in the area (nobody else comes remotely close and most others are a complete waste of time and money). I was really looking for Macromedia to talk about ColdFusion as their last product was so poorly supported by Macromedia it has been strongly considered to drop the product from the workflow. Fig Leaf, not Macromedia was the firm that posted the work arounds to ColdFusion server flaws when you run the CF MX product in a secure Microsoft environment. There is a lot about the Macromedia site that is really difficult to use and it is nearly impossible to find the information you want as well as get back to that same information. Macromedia does make some very good products and they have been very receptive to web standards for quite some time, but there are things that make embracing them so very difficult.

Overall, I got a lot from the show, if only from a very small number of vendors. I think I am finally going to switch up to the Adobe CS2 Premium Suite as it seems like a very good suite, and it has been difficult getting the cross-platform upgrade for the Windows to Mac switch from my PhotoShop 6 license (thanks to help from people in the booth that may be less painful than the two or three hour calls I have previously endured). Also thanks to the faux doctor who handed me a bottle of mint candy pills from the Blackberry booth (chili dog with onions was not good fair prior to going to Fose).

January 31, 2005

Apple Really Does Things Differently

Apple really does things differently. My laptop has pasted its 3rd birthday with me a week or two ago. I love my TiBook like no other computer I have ever owned (the Osborne Executive that was my first will always have a special place) has been this much of a dream. During the last six months the hard drive would click and occasionally pop, but since it passed there have been no hard drive problems. You see that is just weird. All other computers run fine until the day they get through their warrantee then kablam everything goes (actually with many of the Dells at work they just go at any time, even if it is a few days after they were purchased).

I have used this laptop harder than most desktops I have ever owned and it just keeps going. I have lost a USB port (lighting storm) and the latch is a little flakey, but it is killer other than that. I have never been this happy with a laptop before and certainly never a desktop. It may be that desktops are so malleable that draws me to replace nearly every part in them during the first year I own them. You see about the time I started getting into computers was the time I stopped doing nearly all the repairs on my own cars. Cars got too complicated with all of the computing and hardware needed to calibrate them properly. Computers were less expensive and you could make things on them that helped you. So I guess my tinkering was held over from my under the hood days.

I have been keeping my eye on a getting a new Powerbook to replace my current one. Since it has been quite some time since the last model adjustments on the Powerbook line it is time for something new. I have reservations about getting something new as the TiBook has strong sentimental value (I made me find the joy in computing again and removed the pain and cursing that comes with Windows machines (for those unaware the world does not have to be that way and for millions of us it is not that way)). Now I have found myself in that waiting game around a computer company. Will it be a G5 that is announced soon or will it be a bump in speed and on the G4 line and better peripherals? I am somewhat hoping for the G4 as I am not a fan of first generation models, but since Apple has broken all of my other painful stereotypes around computers it may not be so bad.

Thank you Apple from freeing me from a world of crappy computers.

January 19, 2005

Technorati Opens Spam Tagging - Updated

The talk this past week was all about Technorati and their tagging tool, but the tool offers very little value and may be an incubator for spam more than a folksonomy tool.

Where gets folksonomy right (I know this is reflexive) by having many people tag online objects, Technorati gets folksonomy backwards with one user spitting tags into an aggregator. The only link I would trust in Technorati's tool is one that I also found on

Why so harsh? Technorati has created a tool not from social interaction and using the internet to build value through the network effect (Technorati made the power curve popular, which is the visualization of the net effect). Technorati has no moderating the content that can be dumped in my any slimy spammer that now has a ripe new target. Lacking moderation and any socially derived checks to the system I am quite disappointed with Technorati and this effort.

I use Technorati keywords to track things I have an interest in and their tool does a great job pulling in information (I also use Feedster for the same purpose) and find it to be the top of its class in this effort.


Eric Scheid provides an excellent suggestion, which made me realize it is easy for Technorati to get it right and much of my problem was the links went in the wrong direction. Eric states...

I have a suggestion for another link format for "technorati" tags which would turn things around ... it would look like this:

<a href="" rel="tag.TAGNAME1 tag.TAGNAME2">descriptive text for the link</a>

This way I can tag the pages I *link* to, and not just the pages I publish.

I'm also able to assign multiple tags to the linked page, and of course since other people could well be linking to that same page they can apply their own tags too. Think of the social tagging nature of without the intermediary of

All we need is the "tag." prefix to identify the tagging relationship, as distinct from other relationship types (eg. vote-for, XFN, the usual W3C things, etc).

Yes, this modification would make Technorati tags a true folksonomy. Will they fix it to get it right?

January 8, 2005

From Tags to the Future

Merlin hit on something in his I Want a Pony: Snapshots of a Dream Productivity App where he discusses:

Tags - People have strong feelings about metadata and the smart money is usually against letting The User apply his or her own tags and titles for important shared data ("They do it wrong or not at all," the burghers moan). But things are changing for personal users. Two examples? iTunes and Nobody cares what "metadata" means, but they for damn sure know they want their mp3s tagged correctly. Ditto for, where Master Joshua has shown the world that people will tag stuff that’s important in their world. Don't like someone else's homebrewed taxonomy? Doesn't matter, because you don't need to like it. If I have a repeatable system for tagging the information on just my Mac and it's working for me, that's really all that matters. I would definitley love that tagging ability for the most atomic piece of any work and personal information I touch.

This crossed my radar the same time as I read Jeff Hawkins' discussion about how he came up with Graffiti for Palm devices. He noticed people did not find touch typing intuitive, but they saw the benefit of it and it worked. Conversely in the early 90s people were interacting with handwriting interpreters that often did not understand one's own handwriting. Jeff came up with something that would give good results with a little bit of effort put in. Palm and Graffiti took off. (Personally, I was lucky when I got my first Palm, in that I was on the west coast and waking on east coast time, which gave me two or three hours of time to learn Graffiti before anybody else was awake. It only took two or three days to have it down perfectly).

Merlin's observation fits within these parameters. Where people have not cared at all about metadata they have learned to understand the value of good tags and often do so in a short period of time. iTunes really drives the value of proper tagging home to many (Napster and other shared music environments brought to light tagging to large segments of the population). In a sense folksonomies of and Flickr are decedents of the shared music environments. People could see that tagged objects, whose tags to be edited and leveraged had value in one's ability to find what one is looking for based on those tags.

As the web grew up on deep linking and open environments to find and share information. So to will tagging become that mantra for the masses. All objects, both digital and physical, will be tagged to provide immediacy of information access so to gain knowledge. Learning to search, parse, filter, and leverage predictive tools (ones that understand the person's desires, context, situation, and frame of reference so to quickly (if not instantly) gather, interpret, and make aware the information around the person). Should the person be late for a meeting their predictive filters are going to limit all be the required information, possibly a traffic jam on their normal route as well as their option A route. A person that has some free time may turn up the serendipity impact and get exposed to information they may normally have filtered out of their attention. The key will be understanding tags have value and just as metadata for other objects, like e-mail subject lines, can be erroneous and indicators of spam, our life filters will need the same or similar. We will want to attract information to us that we desire and will need to make smart and informed choices and tags are just one of the means to this end.

December 28, 2004

Information Waste is Rampant

Fast Company published costs facing business. The top four relate to poor design and information use: Poor knowledge harnessing ($1.4 Trillion); Digital publishing inefficiencies ($750 billion); Data quality problems ($600 billion); and Paper-based trade processes ($400 billion). That is 3.15 Trillion U.S. dollars down the tubes with no benefit.

The solutions are not that difficult, but everybody seems happy to use the rear view mirror to view the future.

Christina stated, "What me worry" about design and business. The whole CIO is a sham as the CIO is a technology driven person, which is tangentially related to information and technology still hinders information flow if not planned for properly (more on this is coming in the near future here on this site). There needs to be a chief level position that cares about the information, the people using it, and the people who create the information. To Christina's post I responded with the following on her site (posted here so I can better keep track of it):

It seems like the 80s all over again. The focus on design in the to late 80s, mostly with unified branding and creative practices formally brought in-house. There was a lot of push around design, mostly labelled branding (nearly the exact same discussions, but slightly different terms). Much of this was around the brandhouses like Landor. The business community embraced the results and tried to incorporate the creative culture as part of their own.
What happened? The innovators were bought by large advertising or public relation firms and the firms changed their industry term to communication companies. Companies created corporate communication divisions (comprised of adversising, PR, branding, and other creative endevors) and had high level management visability.
By the early 90s the corporate environment had largely subsumed the communication into marketing and business schools that has embraced the creative mindset followed suit. Today marketing is often what trumps design and there is no creative in marketing. The creative departments by the late 90s had been gutted by the web craze. This left business types with little creative craft understanding as those driving what was once good.
It is not suprising that currently named "design" is taking off, as what was good about the creative was gutted and most companies lack central design plans. There is tremendous waste in cross medium design, as few sites are built with an understanding of the digital medium, let alone cross platform design or true cross media design. Part of the problem is far too few designers actually understand cross-platform and/or cross-media design. There is millions wasted in bandwidth on poor web design that is using best practices from the late 90s not those from today. There is no integration of mobile, with a few exceptions in the travel industry. There is still heavy focus on print, but very little smart integration of design in the digital medium. This even applies to AIGA, which is a great offender of applying print design techniques on the web. How can we expect business design to get better if one of the pillars of the design profession has not seemed to catch on?

There are large problems today and we need to break some of our solutions were have been trying to get to solutions that work. Not only do today's solutions not work today, they will not work tomorrow as they are only stop gaps. Cross-platform, cross-device, and cross-medium design solutions are needed, but technology is not here to deliver and few that I have run across in the design world are ready for that change as they have not made the change to today's world.

Today's designer focusses on getting the information in front of the user and stops there. They do not consider how this person or machine may reuse the information. There is so much yet to improve and yet the world is progressing much faster than people can or want to change to keep up. There are designers and developers who will not build for mobile (it is not that hard to do) because they do not see them in the user logs. They fail to see the correlation that their sites suck for mobile and mobile users may test once and go somewhere else for their information. The people that are seeing mobile users in their logs are the ones that have figured out how to design and develop for them properly (most have found that it is relatively inexpensive to do this). This is not rocket science, it is using something other than the rear view mirror to design for now and the future.

December 23, 2004

Mobile in Suburbia

Last weekend I stopped in one of our local malls to do a little shopping before Christmas. The mall, White Flint, is a decent small suburban shopping mall. The mall has just gone through a minor renovation. One of the things that was added were small sitting areas in the center areas of the mall. They are nice little conversation areas to stop and rest your feet, etc.

One of the things in nearly every hand in the lounge areas was a mobile device. The age range was 30s to 60s and nearly every person had a device in their hands. There where some mobile phones, but most of what I saw were BlackBerry's and Treos. I don't know what tasks these people were doing, whether it was e-mail, games, checking shopping lists, price comparing on the web, text messaging, or what.

It dawned on me. Suburbia is onto mobile. Coming back from Europe in November I was down about how far behind the U.S. is with mobile (and personal technology use in general). One of the things that gets a lot of attention is urban use of mobile devices, but much of the U.S. is not urban it is out in the 'burbs. Molly presented a view of suburbia at Design Engaged and it has had me thinking about how people deal with information and how they use personal technology in suburbia. The mobile devices at the mall was an eye opener (granted I do not live in test market America as a mall with valet parking may not count as representative of the rest of anywhere). The mobile uses in Japan are reported as largely during commutes and walking time. In Europe I witnessed similar trends. In the U.S. we are married to the car (for better or worse), but we do go to the mall and leisure activities for families in suburbia revolves around kids sporting events, extra curricular activities, shopping, and waiting in lines. There is a lot of down time and it seems mobile has an opportunity to be the snack entertainment and information consumption time.

The trick is how to integrate mobile into the rhythms of the suburban life. How to use mobile to check and reset Tivo settings, get store and price information for items on the mobile user's or their family's Amazon wishlist. There are uses for pointers about cheapest gas when your car is getting low or a nearby car wash just after it rains. The mobile device can make easy work of this and it does not require much computing power, only some location and predictive web services.

There is so much more that could be done, but the carriers are completely clueless in the U.S. about services. It seems like it is prime target area for a Yahoo, Google, or Amazon that can integrate related information and provide quick responses to the users of their service. It much be effortless and painless. It must be a benefit but unobtrusive. It must respect the person and their desires for sharing information about them, but still provide predictive input for the person's uses.

I think we just expanded the Personal InfoCloud one more rich layer.

December 17, 2004

Destroyed Good Only To Get Great

Earlier this week we sheared half of the head of one of our earphones off leaving it less than usable as a earbud. Hence I went out that same evening and picked up a set of Shure E2C earphones. I have heard rave reviews about them and some friends really enjoy their set.

After picking them up and getting them home, I was feeling like these better rock for the money, which is nearly what I paid three years prior for my set just I had destroyed. I commute to work and have ample time to listen to music and downloaded BBC and Studio360 radio segments.

The E2C come with two different types of ear pieces and three different sizes of each set. I tried a couple different sizes of each and found one size of the foam (most outside sound dampening of the two kinds, not that sound dampening was my primary goal) that seemed to work best. But, after 10 minutes of trying to read the directions and trying different contortions I could not get a decent bass sound out of the earphones. But, finally I did it just right and I got full range. I listened for a moment or two to what ever I had playing and was in utter awe. I was hearing pieces in music I had owned for nearly 10 years that I had never heard before.

The remainder of this week I have been listening to music with acoustic instruments as there is much richness to that type of music. I have heard bowing on acoustic bass during songs on bass lines I never noticed. I also heard quiet undertones I had never heard that now were readily apparent. One of the things I noticed today, while listening to Dave Brubeck's Take Five, was I could approximate the room size during the drum solo as the reverberations of the sound had texture and echo of music rooms and studios I had played in. I have a new love for the music I have and it is a great joy to listen and take in the subtleties on my commute.

The ear phones I had before had very good sound, but the E2C may be some of the best earphones or speakers I have ever listened to music with. The E2C wires are not as lithe as the Sony wires, which would make more active listening a little more difficult, I imagine. I am not too worried about active listening at this point, but just being transformed to new places through the music.

Busy Busy Busy

Yes, things have been a little quiet here. Yes, things are alright. There are some people who are members of the "clean plate club". Well we are members of the "full plate club". Yes, we have a little too much on our plate at the moment. We have the usual work, articles, home life (teaching our son to catch the ball and throw the ball (which only may be so we can say "I said no throwing the ball in the house"), try not to laugh when he opens the oven door and yells in "Hot Hot Hot!!!", and teach him to speak a language that we his parents understand), and some projects we volunteered for as we inanely thought there would be more than 24 hours in our days ahead.

We have been a little sick in the past week. We are also thinking of moving our site to the new host we have been paying for and which has some wonderful things we need like secure e-mail and the ability to put all my domains on one hosting service. Oh, did I mention we have been trying to shop for Christmas? We have not picked up a tree as I was sick last weekend (as well as the parent in-charge) and I gave that gift to others in the house (the early presents were not welcome).

I also got to run errands tonight trying to find a laptop power adapter for somebody in the house that put theirs through the paper shredder, which lead to much amusement at CompUSA and Best Buy. I did learn a renewed love for Apple as they have one power adapter for their laptops (I also realized I largely only travel to places with Apple stores (official or fantastic independently owned)). It seems Dell has many variations to their power adapters and their newest laptop does not work with most of the "universal" power adapters.

Now I am going to get some sleep or check off something else on the to do list.

Would We Create Hierarchies in a Computing Age?

Lou has posted my question:

Is hierarchy a means to classify and structure based on the tools available at the time (our minds)? Would we have structured things differently if we had computers from the beginning?

Hierarchy is a relatively easy means of classifying information, but only if people are familiar with the culture and topic of the item. We know there are problems with hierarchy and classification across disciplines and cultures and we know that items have many more attributes that which provide a means of classification. Think classification of animals, is it fish, mammal, reptile, etc.? It is a dolphin. Well what type of dolphin, as there are some that are mammal and some that are fish? Knowing that the dolphin swims in water does not help the matter at all in this case. It all depends on the context and the purpose.

Hierarchy and classification work well in limited domains. In the wild things are more difficult. On the web when we are building a site we often try to set hierarchies based on the intended or expected users of the information. But the web is open to anybody and outside the site anybody can link to any thing they wish that is on the web and addressable. The naming for the hyperlink can be whatever helps the person creating the link understand what that link is pointing to. This is the initial folksonomy, hyperlinks. Google was smart in using the link names in their algorithm for helping people find information they are seeking. Yes, people can disrupt the system with Googlebombing, but the it just takes a slightly smarter tool to get around these problems.

You see hierarchies are simple means of structuring information, but the world is not as neat nor simple. Things are far more complex and each person has their own derived means of structuring information in their memory that works for them. Some have been enculturated with scientific naming conventions, while others have not.

I have spent the last few years watching users of a site not understand some of the hierarchies developed as there are more than the one or two user-types that have found use in the information being provided. They can get to the information from search, but are lost in the hierarchies as the structure is foreign to them.

It is from this context that I asked the question. We are seeing new tools that allow for regular people to tag information objects with terms that these people would use to describe the object. We see tools that can help make sense of these tags in a manner that gets other people to information that is helpful to them. These folksonomy tools, like Flickr,, and Google (search and Gmail) provide the means to tame the whole in a manner that is addressable across cultures (including nationalities and language) and disciplines. This breadth is not easily achievable by hierarchies.

So looking back, would we build hierarchies given today's tools? Knowing the world is very complex and diverse do simple hierarchies make sense?

November 21, 2004

Tying Things Together from Design Engaged

Design Engaged is still interfering with the regularly scheduled thinking, which makes it one of the best gatherings I have been to in the last few years. It has been a positively disruptive experience. I have posted my notes on other's presentations, which are sketchy at best. The gaps can be filled in to some degree using Andrews links to Design Engaged posted presentation. Andrew also has wrangled the Design Engaged favorite book list.

I have two or three pieces that I am building essays or some other format from some of the ideas that bubbled up. Some are reworkings of some of my own ideas that have been changed by other's idea infusions and some are pure mashings of other's ideas. Now it is just finding time (as usual).

November 12, 2004

That Syncing Feeling (text)

My presentation of That Syncing Feeling is available. Currently the text format is available, but a PDF will be available at some point in the future (when more bandwidth is available). This was delivered at Design Engaged in Amsterdam this morning. More to follow...

October 26, 2004

That Synching Feeling in Amsterdam

No I am not in hiding, I am popping up on some favorite lists and comment sections of sites. I am spending my free time working on a presentation for Design Engaged entitled "That Syncing Feeling". The focus of the 15 minutes presentation (yes, this is hell for me) is the future of keeping your information with you, particularly when you need it. Yes, this is an essential part of the Personal InfoCloud, which still requires a manual process today. I will hopefully show how close we are and what metadata will be needed to help us accomplish this feat.

If you are not one of the 25 folks in Amsterdam for this session I will post the presentation, perhaps even an annotated version if you are good like you always are.

October 1, 2004

Cyber Hole

One element of Homeland Security that gets little coverage, but could be be one area that is the most vulnerable is the cyber front. It does not bode well when the U.S. Cyberterrorism Czar resigns. This makes at least three in three years, not to count those that have had the job offered and turned down. The word on the ground is one of the nation's greatest vulnerabilities is also tied to one of the party in the White House's largest donors. Every Czar left out of frustration. This one gave less than one day's notice. Amit was also considered by most of the industry to be a very influential person and to listen to what industry needed to provide a safe digital environment in the U.S.

Is it most important to protect donors to your political party or to protect America and its infrastructure? My job is reliant on a safe infrastructure. If you are reading this you are using the infrastructure.

September 16, 2004

43folders for Refining Your Personal InfoCloud

I have been completely enjoying Merlin Mann's 43folders the past couple weeks. It has been one of my guilty pleasures and great finds. Merlin provides insights to geeks (some bits are Mac oriented) on how to better organize the digital information around them (or you - if the shoe fits). This is a great tutorial on refining your Personal InfoCloud, if I ever saw one.

Everytime I read this I do keep thinking about how Ben Hammersley has hit it on the head with the Two Emerging Classes. The volume of information available, along with the junk, and the skills needed to best find and manage the information are not for the technically meek.

September 5, 2004

Emerging Class Divide with Technology

Ben Hammersly does a wonderful job of highlighting the current state of The Emerging Two Cultures of the Internet and extends it in More on the Emerging Two Cultures. The two cultures are the geeks and real people. There are many tools and means to access digital information on the internet, but these are mostly available to the geeks that are early adopters or in some cases the adopters. Ease of use has not hit many of our friends and relatives.

Ben looks at the web as an place that again takes increasing knowledge and understanding of the arcane to get through the mire of spam, nefarious pop-ups, and viruses. There are some of us that understand how to go about doing this dance (or bought a Mac to make the whole thing easier) and do not find it difficult, but many would like to have the hours back to work on things more fun. The average person does not have the capabilities or time to stay on top of all these things. Ben's description of the Windows XP SP2 pitfall is right in line with the diverging communities. There is not a need for these, if things were done better in the first place.

Easing the Digital Realm

We have a system of tools that make information creation easy in digital formats. These tools may not be our best friend as of yet as many tools may be seemingly easy to use, but the tools are lacking when trying to easily develop information in an optimal format to ease the use of the information by the person consuming or interacting with that information. As people accessing information we find a lot of information, we may not always find the information we desire or need.

But, once we get the information and try to consume that information by copying parts into our reference notes for our work we run into difficulties. We also have problems storing the information so we can have it at the ready when we need it. It is very difficult, not impossible, to have information follow us in our Personal InfoCloud, which is our repository of information we want following us for our easy use and reuse.

Unfortunately those of us that can wrangle and have the time to wrangle with the tools to get them to easily, efficiently, and accurately perform in a manner that makes our lives easier are relatively few. There should not be two classes of people, things need to get better. The focus needs to get on the people using information and trying to reuse it.

June 17, 2004

Malcolm McCullough Lays a Great Foundation with Digital Ground

Today I finished reading the Malcolm McCullough book, Digital Ground. This was one of the most readable books on interaction design by way of examining the impact of pervasive computing on people and places. McCullough is an architect by training and does an excellent job using the architecture role in design and development of the end product.

The following quote in the preface frames the remainder of the book very well:

My claims about architecture are indirect because the design challenge of pervasive computing is more directly a question of interaction design. This growing field studies how people deal with technology - and how people deal with each other, through technology. As a consequence of pervasive computing, interaction design is poised to become one of the main liberal arts of the twenty-first century. I wrote this book because I ran into many people who believe that. If you share this belief, or if you just wonder what interaction design is in the first place, you may find some substance here in this book.

This book was not only interesting to me it was one of the best interaction books I have read. I personally found it better than the Cooper books, only for the reason McCullough gets into mobile and pervasive computing and how that changes interaction design. Including these current interaction modes the role of interaction design changes quite a bit from preparing an interface that is a transaction done solely on a desktop or laptop, to one that must encompass portability and remote usage and the various social implications. I have a lot of frustration with flash-based sites that are only designed for the desktop and are completely worthless on a handheld, which is often where the information is more helpful to me.

McCullough brings in "place" to help frame the differing uses for information and the interaction design that is needed. McCullough includes home and work as the usual first and second places, as well as the third place, which is the social environment. McCullough then brings in a fourth place, "Travel and Transit", which is where many Americans find themselves for an hour or so each day. How do people interact with news, advertisements, directions, entertainment, etc. in this place? How does interaction design change for this fourth place, as many digital information resources seem to think about this mode when designing their sites or applications.

Not only was the main content of Digital Ground informative and well though out, but the end notes are fantastic. The notes and annotations could be a stand alone work of their own, albeit slightly incongruous.

March 31, 2004

Push to Talk is Over Rated

Push-to-talk is just nuts, unless you are the network engineers, tech support, courier, or plumber it is a rude tool. There is little purpose for push-to-talk other than make grown men feel better because they never were allowed to have walkie talkies growing up. I love to pick them up and announce "clean-up on aisle 7".

February 14, 2004

Rael on Tech

Tech Review interviews Rael about rising tech trends and discusses alpha geeks. This interview touches on RSS, mobile devices, social networks, and much more.

January 27, 2004

Project Oxygen Still Alive

Project Oxygen has progressed quite well since we last looked in (Oxygen and Portolano - November 2001). Project Oxygen is a pervasive computing system that is enabled through handhelds. The system has the users information and media follow them on their network and uses hardware (video, speakers, computers, etc.) nearest the user to perform the needed or desired tasks. Project Oxygen also assists communication by setting the language of the voicemail to match the caller's known language. The site includes videos and many details.

Project Oxygen seems to rely on the local network's infrastructure rather than the person's own device. This creates a mix of Personal Info Cloud by using the personal device, but relies on the Local Info Cloud using the local network to extract information. The network also assists to find hardware and external media, but the user does not seem to have control over the information they have found. The user's own organization of the information is important for them so it is associated and categorized in a manner that is easy for them to recall and then reuse. When the user drifts away from the local network is their access to the information lost?

This project does seem to get an incredible amount of pervasive computing right. It would be great to work in an environment that was Project Oxygen enabled.

January 18, 2004

Portable Personal Information Repository

MIT's Technology Review discusses Randolph Wang's wireless PDA for personal information storage (registration for TR may be required). This brief description (I could find no longer nor explicit description at Wang's Princeton pages nor searching CiteSeer) is very interesting to me.

One PC at work, another at home, a laptop on the plane, and a personal digital assistant in the taxicab: keeping all that data current and accessible can be a major headache. Randolph Wang, a Princeton University computer scientist, hopes to relieve the pain with one mobile device. Designed to provide anytime, anywhere access to all your files, the device stores some data, but its main job is to wirelessly retrieve files from Internet-connected computers and deliver them to any computer you have access to. WangĂ­s prototype is a PDA with both cellular and Wi-Fi connections, but the key is his software, which grabs and displays the most current data stored on multiple computers. Wang has tested his prototype with more than 40 university and home computers on and around the Princeton campus. He eventually wants to shrink the device down to the size of a wristwatch to make carrying it a snap.

This is really getting to a personal information cloud that follows the user. This really is getting to the ideal. Imagine having everything of interest always with you and always available to use. Wang's solution seems to solve one of the ultimate problems, synching. The synching portion of this seems to stem from PersonalRAID: Mobile Storage for Distributed and Disconnected Computers, which was presented at a USENIX conference. I really look forward to finding out more about this product.

January 3, 2004

Mixed Feelings about Apple Store in Bethesda Maryland

Mac Network News is reporting an Apple store coming to Bethesda, Maryland in Montgomery Mall.

I have very mixed feelings about the Apple store coming. While I trek to the Tysons and Clarendon stores in Northern Virginia and would love a store 5 to 10 minutes from my house, I still feel a very close tie to the local Apple resellers. I am a huge fan of the Absolute Mac store as they have an extremely knowledgeable staff, great customer service, and quick turn around times on perfectly done repairs and upgrades (I am willing to make the 20 minute trek to the store on Saturdays -- no late weeknight hours). (Absolute Mac has also been a fantastic resource to the local business community that understands Apple products let them get their job done and not have the computer get in the way.) I am also a customer of Mac Upgrades here in Bethesda and enjoy the ability to drop in on my way home from work or as a walk-in while doing other errands.

The local Apple resellers have provided expertise beyond what the Apple stores have provided and have better turn around on service times. The local stores are also very tied to the local community. The Absolute Mac store has been pushing to start a chapter of the local MUG, Washington Apple Pi, which would be a great meet-and-share for the Maryland Apple fans, while Mac Upgrades is a sponsor of Apple Pi.

All this said, I look forward to the Apple store coming to Montgomery Mall (my guess is it is going in where the Eddie Bauer store just vacated, which is near the official Palm kiosk). The Apple stores do a great job of introducing Apple products to the frustrated uninitiated PC consumers. The Apple stores are great venues to sit and watch new Apple users, be it iPod, iTunes, or Mac computers, come in and rave about their new found joy in digital consumer products and great computing products that actually let them do their job. I don't know how many times I hear customers stating they no longer battle their computer to do their work and are no longer wasting time or a lot of money on support for their PCs. These folks have been hardcore software programmers, business managers, store owners, students, designers, stay-at-home moms, etc. The love affair for Apple product grows from new seeds in Apple stores. The stores also provides hands-on experience to third-party consumer products and a broad array of software and add-ons.

While the Apple stores are great outreach and expansion devices for Apple and its great computing resources for consumers and enterprise buyers, the support and feeding on the Apple community has been performed by the local resellers and authorized repair shops. It would be great to have the Apple store offer repair and other services from Absolute Mac and Mac Upgrades, where applicable. Apple really needs to foster these relationships that have maintained and grown fans of great products for years.

December 14, 2003

Sir Clarke Portends Humans will Survive the Deluge of Information

I had read the Arthur C Clarke Humanity will survive information deluge interview from OneWorld South Asia. I had pulled the print version of this article into AvantGo and read it on the train commute.

The article had some great insights into the flood of information. He pointed out that over time we have adapted our ways to cope and manage information. When the printing press was developed people wondered how they would ever keep up with everything and how they would ever read 1,000 books. Most opted not to read everything and became selective. The selection of reading benefitted the whole.

The interview does a wonderful job of highlighting responsibility and the challenges ahead. We have access to an extreme breadth of information and we must find ways to expand the access and accessibility to that information to all that are willing. Sir Clarke points out that not all technology is helpful and neither is there a technological solution for every problem, in fact technology can impinge progress.

I encourage you to read the article itself and get inspired.

November 21, 2003

Jack into iPod

On the ride to work on the DC Metro today I read Feel Free to Jack Into My IPod from WiredNews and loved the story. Not so much for the sharing the actual iPod, but the later discussion of integrating Bluetooth and Rendezvous into the iPod. The "jacking" an iPod is a nice social idea, but the idea of being able to listen to another's playlist on the ride to work would be a great way to find new music, as radio sucks.

I would also love for an iPod to act as a source for my laptop or desktop machine. The technology of Bluetooth is relatively small and can fit in cell phones that are much smaller than an iPod. Rendezvous is a software application (if I have understood correctly). This combination should not be that difficult to produce.

This could lead to awkward moment where one person is following another person, not to cause harm but to listen into their iPod streaming. We could end up with random acts of Stream Stalking flooding the news.

Kim Polese Leaving Marimba

Kim Polese is leaving Marimba. In the heyday of Marimba (the days it was "pushing") Kim was the prime woman in Silicon Valley as she was in front of the game. It may be time for her to get back to that as an entrapreneur.

October 26, 2003

Geeks take charge

Steve Lohr, of the New York Times wrote As Silicon Valley Reboots, the Geeks Take Charge. This article hits the pre-tech boom development process and how things are again. The development of solid applications takes passion, intelligence, and personal energy. These things are needed as the road is tough, but worth it for the developers and for the users. Getting the geeks back in the driving seat helps greatly as the business and marketing folks that tried jumping in during the boom seemed to do far more harm than good with their buzzwords and greed, which pushed products to market long before they were ready.

The article highlights some great companies with great products that have survived and blossomed since the boom.

October 25, 2003

Information structure important for information reuse

John Udell's discussion of Apple's Knowledge Navigator is a wonderful overview of a Personal Information Cloud. If the tools was more mobile or was shown synching with a similar mobile device to have the "knowledge" with the user at all time it is would be a perfect representation.

Information in a Personal Information Cloud is not only what the user wants to have stored for retrieval when it is needed (role-based information and contextual) but portable and always accessible. Having tools that allow the user to capture, categorize, and have attracted to the user so it is always with them is only one part of the equation. The other component is having information that is capable of being captured and reused. Standards structures for information, like (X)HTML and XML are the beginnings of reusable information. These structures must be open to ensure ease of access and reuse in proper context. Information stored in graphics, proprietary software, and proprietary file formats greatly hinders the initial usefulness of the information as it can be in accessible, but it even more greatly hinders the information's reuse.

These principle are not only part of the Personal Information Cloud along with the Model of Attraction, but also contextual design, information architecture, information design, and application development.

October 15, 2003

Most disruptinve technology

In a discussion this weekend it was determined the most disruptive technology is having a kid. It is also the most wonderful experience.

October 2, 2003

Death of E-mail

Ray Ozzie discusses the death of e-mail as a work process tool. Of course Ray has an interest in this as his Groove application provides encrypted shared workspaces for workflow and sharing. If you rely on e-mail for document sharing or an Intranet, Groove is a large step above and beyond these technologies. E-mail was not designed, many many years ago, for the type of tasks and volumes that are required of it today. As every work environment struggles with privacy and security most e-mail solutions do not provide a sufficient level of support, particularly with e-mail storage limitations.

E-mail also does not often provide portability and tracking across various work environments. Groove however does do this. I was testing and using Groove in a beta mode and the free version a year or two ago. Groove had these capabilities then.

Yes, secure e-mail is available on many e-mail platforms, but the portability and retention of state of work does not work as easily on other applications. The one downside of Groove for me is it does not yet have an OS X version,

September 9, 2003

InfoWorld CTO sees it all in Mac

InfoWorld CTO switches to Mac OS X as he replaced his Linux server and two PCs. This was a three year old G4 box that made the other boxes obsolete.

I have had a the similar experience with one Apple Powerbook. My PC, which has been relegated to games and a Windows test platform, has been in the shop for over two weeks getting a proprietary power supply (PCs have been commoditized?). I have not missed it, actually it has been ready to be picked up for four days now, but I do not need it. I do want to burn some stuff off on to discs that is resident on its hard drives, but that is all it really means to me.

August 3, 2003

Sports venues go high tech for added experience

There are two recent articles about how technology is changing the experience at sporting events. Chris Monicatti adds flavor and details to St. Paul Hockey and Safeco Field swimming with data and replays at will. These technological advances are now in the luxury boxes, but the ability to add to the experience for the fan the the nosebleeds, should not be that far behind. Although the venue modifications in St. Paul can enhance any event, including concerts by changing the content of the images on the walls and the content available in the devices, which is a little bit more of a challenge for those in the cheap seats.

Currently, for the rest of us, the best it gets is box scores and news on handhelds while we are at games. Sports are data and information treasure troves for those of us that love delving into the info. Digging in the box scores and stats are how many learned to love math and statistics. Having updated info at the tips of your fingers at games would be incredible. The SF Giants had (and may still have) in 2001 a beaming portal to beam updated game day info to those with Palm OS devices so to keep score and keep up on the stats of each player. It was a nice treat. What is being touted is so much more.

Take me out to the ballgame.

July 7, 2003

League of Extrodanary Gentlemen only from download

Apple purportedly gets the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen soundtrack for the Apple Music Store. Oddly it seems there is no physical CD rights for distribution in the U.S. To me this seems like a good step forward, it would be a great step forward if there was also a true CD quality version available for download rather than a lossy compression of the music for download. Don't get me wrong I enjoy the size and comparative sound of the Apple MP4 format, but I prefer even much less compression, particularly with music from a symphony.

June 6, 2003

UPS gets worse

The UPS snafu gets better. Today I tried following up with UPS, twice. I called during lunch to check where UPS though my package was. When they said it was put on a truck in Texas to be shipped to me I complained. They said it was a ground package so it had to be shipped ground and maybe it really was not in Texas. I asked how it would not be in Texas if it scanned three times in Texas (once in Fort Worth, and twice in Mesquite). I asked to speak to the supervisor, but after a wait I got the same person back who said it seemed the package would be out for delivery that afternoon. (It was not and that was the second time I had been lied to by UPS representatives in this mess.) The person asked if I could give my zip code to get a better time estimate. The person appologized as they had to "say the numbers outloud as they typed because the numbers get confused from their brain to their fingers".

I got home after the promissed delivery time this evening and their was no package. I called customer service again. To check on the package (the UPS tracking system on-line provides the exact same information customer service gives you) I called "customer service" again. This time they confirmed that the package was actually in Texas and was put on a truck to get to Maryland. This would take six days to get to me as that was the shipping time from Texas to Maryland for a ground package. I asked if the package could travel the 1300 miles in 13 hours like it had on June 4th. Customer Service said that was not possible for a ground package. I was told repeatedly that six days is the travel time for a package going from Texas to Maryland. When I pointed out the package was in Maryland two days ago and less than 25 miles from the delivery point, the customer service person returned to their script and said the package must have been rerouted because of bad weather or an act of God. I wanted to know what bad weather would cause the package to go from 25 miles from deliver to 1300 miles from delivery and an act of God would have been reported in the paper. At no point did UPS take any responsibility for the package getting mis-routed. I did get told a few times UPS only has the information in their database and they do not know where the package actually is and do not have control over where the package goes. I was told that UPS customer service can not identify a misrouted package only the computer system can identify a misrouted package and the computer did not see anything wrong with the package going to Texas after being 25 miles from the delivery site on the promissed delivery date. I asked the person on the other end of the phone if she saw a problem with a package being 1300 miles after it had been 25 miles from delivery to her. She started reading from the script. I asked her to stop reading the script and asked if calling customer service could correct the missrouted package. She said no customer service could not do that as their system did not show a problem. I pointed out that I was a customer with a problem with UPS service and wanted assistance. The script reading ensued again. I asked her to stop again. She did, I asked if it was customer service that I called as I was not getting any help and I was a customer with a problem. There was a very long silence. She said yes it was customer service very quitely and she appologized that she could not help me. That was a first for UPS, an appology. I asked who I at UPS could help, she said their was no over riding their system and there was nobody in the company that could do anything to help.

Nobody at UPS that I have talked to seems to think there is any problem with a package being very close to the delivery point then 1300 miles away on the delivery day. Very odd and a very sad state for what was a decent company.

May 26, 2003

Views of the future of software

Every now and then I run across something that really gets me thinking and twisting every way I look at the idea. Dave Winer's Who will pay for software, Pt. I and who will pay, Pt. II along with Tim Bray's Business Ignorance and Try then Buy. These four articles look at the state of the software industry. The consensus, go figure, is not too bright unless one is Microsoft.

As Joshua noted the other day I tend to view Microsoft's products dimmly. This is partly because the Microsoft products are rarely the best in their field, and they rarely have ever been the best. Marketing is Microsoft's strength and they have made a bundle and gained prominance not out of having the best product, but through their business skills.

A few years ago I started on a project that put me back in the UNIX environment, which I dreaded at first as much of my work for the two previous years had been on Windows based systems. I relearned to love UNIX and Linux as my develoment skilss had grown greatly. I found UNIX and Linux gave the developer and SysAdmin far better control and I could control security problems far better than I ever could in the Windows world. I left the UNIX-based project to head back into a Windows world about two or three years ago. In doing so I really wanted to have a UNIX based machine to keep up my skills, I was also in need of a laptop as my old laptop was tied to my project.

I made a decision to buy a Mac TiBook and run Mac OS X. This gave me the laptop, the UNIX underpinnings, and a solid interface. I had not used a Mac since 1990 for work after using friends Macs and loving them. I used Mac's as test environments over the past few years, but the instability of the pre-OS X operating systems and the vast difference in interfaces from Windows and no command line kept me away. From the first month I had my Mac I was in love with it, well it was a frustrating love in the way that you find that perfect mate and they just don't suck and never seem to iritate you. I hated to say the Mac was a computer as it did not cause headaches and did not cause problems. Everything I needed to do for side-projects and even work for a Windows environment was dirt simple and just worked.

This love of simplicity and an aim for perfection at Apple has a new mark for me to evaluate everything that Microsoft does. Granted the Windows software on Mac seems to be far better than the Windows OS versions, sometimes seeming to be an order of magnitude better. The Mac OS X seems to offer a very rare balance, in its simiplicity, beauty, ease of use, and control. While not all of Apple's applications are perfect, they are far better than many other offerings out there.

Apple has a flirting love affair with Open Source applications and has been making it very easy to add Linux-based apps and have them take advantage of the OS X interface, with its X11 (still in beta and it just rocks).

After reading the four articles above I have been somewhat worried that the attempts at great software that bubble up may have a tough road ahead, which is a true shame. A behemoth company that creates mediocre software (MS) may be ruining the opportunities for great software to exist, unless we can find solid methods for funding these great things. Mediocre software leads me to fits of swearing and having another human generation on its way into our home in the next few months I do not want these fits of swearing or the limited view of the world that is nothing like those of us that dream of a better world with computing want to see. I want my child to know that they can have beauty, control, and perfectly built software and operating systems that will help them through life and not provide a means of frustration.

May 16, 2003

Mac trains its user

A while back I turned on speech feature in OS X. I only have it speak system and application alert to me. I have chosen Victoria (the Uli's talking moose has always been a similar voice for me). A few weeks ago, when Joy was away the TiBook lid became ajar during the night waking the TiBook. It was not much longer before the TiBook began speaking, as our house has all hardwood floors the voice carried. This startled me from my sleep and had me quite startled, then I realized what it was and went to soothe the Mac and put it back to sleep.

This last week a similar incident happened, but with Joy home and I asked Joy what she said. In the middle of the night, out of a dead sleep, Joy said "it was your computer talking" and went right back to sleep. I got up to check and put it back to sleep.

I guess this is our baby preparation application. Somehow I don't think that is the intended purpose, or even any demi-intent for use. I guess our Mac nows understands our lives better than we thought and "just works".

April 28, 2003

Apple changes music buying and bring reality to the industry

Michael Sippy expounds on Apple iTunes 4 and music store, which sounds much like my life, but I do still buy CDs (but only if they are less than $15). I have found virtually nothing coming out of the major record labels for the last 5 years that was worth buying. I can find five to 10 discs each year I am interested in buying, but very little of it is the interchangable Brittney's or the 400 Machbox 20 Wannabee's. The major labels over produce garbage by the truckful and wonder why they can't sell music. Things get so bad for the industry they hire a mindless shill to point fingers at pirates. Ever look at what many of these folks have downloaded? Much of it is not forsale in the local record store. Now with Apple it looks like there is no need for the major labels if Apple starts picking up indi artists. It looks like somebody is finally smart enough to make money on in the music industry. Mabye the shrill shill will go away and take her lawsuits with her.

April 26, 2003

Great news for Anil as he joins Type Pad and Movable Type company

There was great news this week from Anil who has recently become a member of Six Apart, which was recently funded (yes, great products do still get funded and money is still around for great products). Six Apart are the makers of Movable Type, and just introduced, Type Pad. This was the best string of news I have heard in a long time.

April 10, 2003

Wireless Network Drive

Seemingly cool technology from Martian Technology, a wireless network drive with 120GB of storage and USB printer sharing.

March 21, 2003

Now less competion in the tech marketplace

Wall Street Journal reporting Cisco is buying Linksys. In all I think this is a good idea as I like Cisco products and they care about their products. On the other hand the lack of competition in the technical sectors can not be good in the long run. We need options, much like when I got fed up with Windows and switched to Apple (actually Apple provided a better solution and I switched last January and found a much easier and reliable way to do computing, which caused me to question why we put up with inferior products from Microsoft). In the U.S. we were educated to believe competition was good and the evil empire to the East did not allow competition. Now the U.S. government seems complacent to allow, and even encourages (at the FCC) the removal of competion. The lack of competion was un-American. Where is the U.S. now if we are removing competition from the marketplace?

March 14, 2003

Goodbye glasshaus and Wrox

Owen broke the news today that glasshaus books is gone. So is its parent company Wrox books and all the other imprints from this publisher. Matt has very kind words to say about glasshaus and I will concur that they were wonderful to review books for. I looked in to my work bag and found two of my five reference books that travel from home and work are glasshaus (Cascading Style Sheets: Separating Content from Presentation which is a great book to get to understand CSS1, CSS2, and the box model, and Constructing Accessible Web Sites a great reference book on accessibility). I have a few others that I get great use from also, including Usability: The Site Speaks for Itself as an overal inspiration book for redesigns and understanding the use of various pages.

A few years ago I was picking up Wrox books left and right. I have a few ASP, PHP, UML, and XML books (some that have migrated to boxes in the basement as I do not use or prefer that language at the moment. On the whole Wrox and glasshaus had great authors that really communicate well and create books that are very useful as resources and good reads.

Centrino poor WiFi functionality says Mosberg

WSJ's Walt Mossberg offers his insite on Pentium M and Centrino. The Centrino portion of the Intel solution seems to be a sham marketing ploy. If device makers use a real WiFi card with full capabilities the device makers can not use the Centrino or Pentium M monikers that are tied to all the hype.

February 9, 2003

Europeans recycle satellites

Europeans are known to be recyclers. Now it is satellites that Europe is thinking of recycling. The Beeb reports The European Space Agency can reuse satelites for digital radio. The mobile digital services like OnStar and digital radio can be performed by older satellites. This is much less expensive than floating new birds.

January 14, 2003

Gender and using technical instruction

In First Monday A Gendered World: Students and Instructional Technologies by Indhu Rajagopal with Nis Bojin offers a good insight into some gender differences in learning with technology. I want to come back and read this in full.

January 6, 2003

Dumbing down of computer and information design books

My trip to bookstores in Florida had me seeing what the person on the street sees as computer books, "Dummies" guides. There were eight shelves of Dummies computer books with a handful of Microsoft publisher books thrown in for color variation.

When I returned home I took a trip to Barnes and Noble and found the computer Web section filled with GUI tool books (Dreamweaver, FrontPage, GoLive, etc.) where there were shelves of HTML, DHTML, CSS, Perl, proper design (by Zeldman and Veen), or Information Architecture books. This trend worried me more than what I saw in Florida. The GUI books did not get into proper markup or understanding of information. The books were concerned with how to make better use of more bandwidth. Not one place in the many books I pulled off the shelf did I see any mention of the user or information use (let alone information reuse). The beauty of learning how to develop properly is knowing when the GUI tools are wrong, but better is knowing what is built properly will work well on broadband and on mobile devices. If the information is important and cared about it should be made available, accessible, and usable.

December 23, 2002

Emergance finally makes my reading list

My other reading on my quick trip to Spokane, Washington included Stephen Johnson's Emergence, which I am finally getting around to. It is a wonderful book that cuts across many fields of expertise and ties them together in a well thought through manner. Not much in the book is really new, but the connections of the cross-currents makes a fun read. It has sparked the Alan Turing interests in me again and has me looking for my Metamagical Themas by Douglas Hofstadter, which must still be in a box. Metamagical opened many of the doors Johnson opens in Emergence, but is a more approachable manner. I will hopefully finish Emergence on my next quick jaunt.

December 11, 2002

Liars want more money to for blank media

IT Buisiness writes, "Media levy hike may force vendors to drop products", which seems to be part of my problem with the proposed increase in price of any medium to false levels that are not set my the market. In a sense the increase is being proposed by folks who are not creative, are finding they are not creating value, they have nothing productive to contribute, and have found a means to slip their overly padded pockets before the consumer again. The reasons given for the increases are the same poor lies about the starving artists. The artists are starving because of the middle men. The liars in this case have added notthing to society and want to force folks to pay their unproductive behinds more money to copy my own content I created or content I bought and would like to have fair use (my own edit of a movie or a mixed CD I can play in my car). The liars want to point fingers at you when they should point fingers at themselves. Every new media was the downfall of a media's industry. The liars cry "poor me" at each and every turn, but they are replaced with folks that learn to take advantage of the medium and create compelling content. The current band of unsuccessful business must bereplaced with a breed that understands how to take advantage of the medium. The liars know their days are numbered in their own jobs, because they are incapable of doing their jobs.

Supernova conference explodes with ideas.

I have been very intrigued with supernova and the coverage on blogs (supernova's own blog, Doc's day two and day one, Kevin Werbach's coverage, and Cory on boingboing). There is a lot of great ideas and imressions of technology and its next steps. This is very good for the mind and digital spirits. Oddly none of the intended topics were stellar, but the tangential conversations really were on target.

December 5, 2002

Females and technology

There are two intriguing articles in the BBC Tech section regarding females and technology. One covering Women as Africa's new tech warriors and another looking at children learning technology from building Lego robots. The second article brought out a particularly interesting point, in that girls tend to build the robots in a social manner and tend to script a story to build around, while the male groups had one lead that moved the tasks forward. I tend to think the girls approach is slightly better, in that it involves thinking through scenarios, which is a large part of what IAs, interaction designers, and user-centered designers do. It is along the lines of the measure twice, cut once approach. The article on Africa was intriguing to me seeing the gender stereotyping spanning continents. There are few things that I believe are out of reach from anybody learning (this could be my American can do enculturation), but getting over stereotypes and learning how people learn best and work best is very important.

October 11, 2002

Update on lack of broadband progress

I am still with out most of my outbound e-mail capabilities for my usual accounts. I can see all the inbound e-mail, but I am mostly devoid of responding, which is driving me crazy. This will get resolved once DSL arrives, I am still waiting on Verizon to get their act together and tie the phone number to the address. The last residents of the house has DSL running at a really good clip, but nobody can see that until Verizon understands their role in the world.

We finally got satellite TV today, which is a huge improvement over cable. Why? Much better picture, much better sound, cheaper, and channels like Tech TV and BBC America. The downside is the current placement of the dish, on the right hand corner of the roof on the front of the house. It could be a good reason to remove the tree that is creating this issue or to get the dish moved when we paint the eaves.

I spent today trying to figure out why we had no phone signal, well it turns out the PC modem fries the phone lines. I was waiting for contractors to come and fix a furnace, closets, and the dish guys. All the contractors were stuck in the traffic related to trying to find the DC shooter and we calling the often to let me know of their delays. The shootings really have not un-nerved me as the odds are long that I or anybody I know would get shot. I am much more aware of my surroundings, much like living in the UK in the late 80s with the IRA bombings and such.

I was put off from doing some work for a while today as the CD I burned on a nearly up-to-date security patched Win 2k box would not be acknowledged in the Mac. This is odd as it is how I move files out of XP Home (miserable version of XP). I finally got the CD to run in the PC (I finally had a reason to assmble it after nearly 2 weeks in the house) and reburned them on a CD, which did run on OS X. This little task and figuring out that the PC modem has phone voodoo here caused the loss of a couple hours. I knew I should have pulled the box of blank CDs out of the packing box they are in.

I am trying to focus on getting a couple reviews done, user/usability test a new site, get back to writing some articles, and putting our office together.

September 21, 2002

House appeal

It is settling in that we will be moved by this point next Saturday and I will most likely be without broadband access for a week or two at that point. I have Earthlink dial-up, which is barely passable and restricts access to most of my e-mail addresses. We are also leaning toward satellite TV over cable, mostly because our cable supplier can not process payments and their billing system has been one step away from being fully hosed for nearly six months. This may be the perfect opportunity to get Tivo into the house.

On the house front, the painters are done and the walls and ceillings are beautiful, and now that we can open our doors to the outside and open windows, we are very happy with the job done. Our floors started getting refinished yesterday and we have wonderful red oak flooring that is looking amazing after one coat of light stain. It is a huge improvement.

August 18, 2002

Hierarchy of Information Needs

Lou discusses the relationship between information architecture and technology, which sparked the following brain dump on my part:

This subject of information and technology has been of interest with me for quite sometime. The term "IT" has been vastly dominated by the technology portion of the term. Oddly, in organizations that have Chief Information Officers (CIOs) and with out Chief Technology Officers (CTOs) the CIOs role is largely focused on technology to serve the information (this is fine), but the stress has been technological solutions. As nearly all of us in the IT field know, the technical solutions are far from perfect (I know nothing is life is perfect) and many times require reworking business processes to take advantage of the technologies best traits. This is much akin to Keith's point about technology companies selling products and not whole solutions.

In my work I came to it from the information and communication side many years ago and along with it I married the technology side, as it was a wonderful pairing with great promise. Over the years I have heard more than anybody's fair share of, "we don't have to worry about knowing the information, we can code around it". This is the point, I learned when you pull in the reins on the technical team. This is what drew me deeper into the realm of the technical side.

If we look at information from the communication viewpoint and what role the information will play as it transfers information to humans and to other machines for use and also reuse. We have to understand the information as its basic levels, similar to Maslow's "Hierarchy of Needs". What are the human elements thatare intended, i.e. what purpose does the information serve? What properties does the information need in order to transmit this information for best use? If the information is corporate sales trends and assessing and tacking variables that impact these trends, then we have to identify the human audiences that will be using this information. The basic level of "Information Need" is do we have the proper data or information to be able to create this type of report. Do we have the information types to provide usable information for the various audiences and do we understand the vocabulary of these audiences (vocabulary in this sense can be textual and visual as some audiences may best understand the information in charts and graphs, while others will best understand textual quantitative indicators). Do we have the basics to begin building this content, which will be tied to a technological question as to how the data and information is captured and stored? Once we can answer yes to these information, human, and technical questions we can move up the "Information Needs” hierarchy. It is also at this point that we know we can publish some information to have some folks make use of it, but we know the use of the information at this point will be far from optimal and the information may not be used in its proper method.

The next level would be questions of information use. We have established we have the data and content to build the information, but how will the information be used and who/what will be using the information. These questions will help shape the information structures and the medium(s) used to convey the information. The information may require different vocabularies that need to be established or used so the different audiences can best understand and make use of the information. What is the environment that the information will be used in and in what context? When these answers are established, only then can the technology to be used for the varying mediums be established. This level gives a great level certainty that the information and its use will be effective.

Far too often the technology is chosen with out asking these questions and the medium is used is driven by the technologies limitations, which limits the information's use and efficiency. Many organizations found that their reliance on storing all information in Adobe Acrobat did not fit their efficient information needs. Acrobat works best for replicating print versions of information and has other properties that work passably, like searching the text, providing information that is accessible to those that are handicapped, quickly accessing sections of that information over a network connection, etc. Many corporations found it was best or even desired to not store their information in Acrobat, but to offer the information in Acrobat as an output of another information storage methods that provided far greater information use and reuse (this does not apply to every organization as their are some organizations that make proper and efficient use of Acrobat and it serves that organization perfectly). These organizations came to the conclusion that the information was the primary importance and the information and its use should drive the technology.

The next step is to determine how the information can be optimized to take advantage of the mediums being used. This will allow the information to have the most impact. As the medium and technologies have been chosen to best present the information, at this point there are steps that can be taken to improve the marriage between the medium and the information. For example, we know that one of the mediums for the information will be Web pages; the information will need to be structured in a manner that takes advantage of the possibilities with that medium. The Web browser gives us the ability to present textual information and charts together, while providing relatively easy access to more detailed information and/or an interactive media presentation that permits the user to see the charts change over time based on the selection of these different variables (done with Flash, DHTML, etc.). Similar information could be offered in a PDF of the printed report that would print on 8.5 by 11 inch paper and one for A4 paper (the international standard paper size).

The last phase it validating and testing the information dissemination. We continually need to test to ensure we have identified all the audiences that are using the information, we are capturing all the data and information is required and makes sense to have for the information's use, we are capturing and storing the information in a means that is efficient for our needs to use the information, we are providing the audiences the information in a means that is most usable and efficient for them, and the information is being found and used.

This Information Needs hierarchy allows the marriage of technology to information where and when it makes sense. This Information Needs seems to be the basis for the user centered design, information architecture, knowledge management, experience design, etc. There is an understanding of the balance that is required between the creators of the information; the information itself; the technology to capture, store, process, and present the information; and the users of the information.

In the past few years the technology and not the information nor the user of the information were the focal points. Money has been spent on technologies that have failed the purchasers and the technology and the whole of the information technology industry gets blamed. There is a great need for people that are willing to use their minds to create the foundation for information, its use, and the technologies that can help make this more efficient. The balance and the steps in the proper order must be there to give information and technology a chance.

August 5, 2002

Phone in your parking

Technology and parking is a wonderful match, yet to happen, but one can pay for parking by phone in Hull, England, writes BBC news. Finding avialable parking is what I eagerly await. Knowing where there is an open meter, open spot, or a garage that is not full.

August 1, 2002

Vote MP3

Would you vote MP3?

July 28, 2002

BBC tech

In an examination of the BBC News site I found myself getting lost trying to find the technology section. Technology always was placed as a sub-category of Science and Nature, which was something I learned over time. Now it is its own section on both the UK and World versions of the news site. I like its separate placement, but I also used to find some interesting items in the science/nature/tech melange.

July 11, 2002

Technology change

Some ask why it is good to understand information and its use before making a choice on technology... A few years ago a small burrito shop near where I lived had great burritos. You ordered your burrito and the staff went behind a room screen and appeared in a couple of minutes with a tasty product. Your order was rung up on an adding machine, but your money was put in a separate cash drawer that put the coins in the coin slots, but placing any coin in any slot and all denominations of coin were in all coin partitions. The paper money was handled in the same manner. After a year or so of semi-regular visits I noticed they had a new cash register. The staff was proud of their new technology. I ordered and paid. The drawer opened from the register they purchased to help better control their money. The organization of the coins and cash had not changed as everything was still intermingled.

June 7, 2002

IIS on XP Home

Those who have XP Home and want to run IIS (perhaps to build and test ASP) should read 15 seconds IIS on XP Home hack. This is an inexpensive solution to Microsoft not stating anywhere in their marketing materials for XP Home, or in their early tech papers, there is no official way to run an IIS server on the box.

May 31, 2002

Techs urged to mingle in politics

Bill Thompson urges tech folks to get involved in politics, this is needed to protect the world as we know it can be, which is better with technology.

May 21, 2002

Emerging tech review

Good coverage of Emerging Technology Conference, which provides links to those that noted what happened at many of the sessions. Nice presentation too.

May 16, 2002

Tim O'Reilly keynote at Apple WWDC

Tim O'Reilly's keynote from Apple's WWDC, which focusses on watching Alpha Geeks and how they use technology.

Emerging Tech Conference coverage

There is a lot of amazing things that have happened at the Emerging Tech Conference 2002. Great minds discussing great things, what could be better.

May 1, 2002


The Beeb profiles roborats. Sort of cool, sort of freaky. You be the judge.

April 15, 2002

Not an incubator, but a place for great ideas to grow, but Nathan and Edward will not say who is involved.

The WSJ's Thomas Weber has an opion I strongly believe in, Record Companies Should Attempt To Compete for Music Fans' Loyalty. I have a strong belief in competition of the marketplace. Media companies have poor business leaders who do not know how to compete and take advantage of changing parameters of their business environment. When VHS came out movie companies complained that it would take away sales. Solid business minds learned not to cry wolf, but to compete. The record companies have failed in the marketplace and learning to take advantage of a changed marketplace.

April 11, 2002

Wired magazine's article on Moby delivers good insight on not only the person, but also the brand. This may be the first article by Wired that I have really liked in a long long time. Moby continually intrigues me with his morphing genre styles. I also like this techical approach and innovation. This article gave me better appreciation of the man and the brand. (There is an indirect comparison to Puff Daddy - or what ever he thinks will sell a record.)

March 30, 2002

CeBit a portal to the future

In reading Brian Livingston's Symbian cell-through, I found it contained a great intro paragraph...

I'VE traveled to this German city to cover developments of interest to Windows users at CeBit, indisputably the world's largest computer trade show. More than three-quarters of a million souls wander its 27 convention halls each year. Regrettably, only 1 percent of CeBit's visitors are Americans. That's a shame because hot technology often bursts forth in the European market first, taking a year or two to be adapted for the States.

It seems that CeBit and not Comdex is the big tech show in the world. Not only is it the biggest, but the on the leading edge.

March 27, 2002

I took a step today that I have not done in a long long time. I wrote Congress. Yes, I was a fellow in the U.S. Senate, which was a wonderful experience and gave me a strong coating of cynicism. This EFF Congressional Alert regarding the Consumer Broadband and Digital Television Promotion Act (CBDTPA). I have a feeling I will be writing much more to my friends on The Hill (Mike you there and listening?).

To understand more read Matt's using Lincoln to rebut Michael Eisner, Scott discussing not being able to provide his music freely, Rebecca's outlining of the case against the CBDTPA, and Paul's outlining the issue and steps also.

In my note to Congress, using the online form at the Senate Judiciary site I tried to remind those in Congress that America was founded on the pursuit of freedom, the provision of a free competitive marketplace, and a fertile environment for innovation. The CBDTPA essentially is a grossly un-American pursuit as it removes competition, freedom of expression, and grossly inhibits innovation. The law does try to protect those in business that do not have the bright minds to know how to adapt and use technology to their advantage. These business have forgotten how to compete and forgotten how to innovate. The irony is Disney was founded on free content and technical innovation. Eisner is an embarrassment to the Disney tradition as he is trying to pimp Congress into protecting his inadequacy as a business leader and innovator. Congress should not be protecting the powerful that have lost their ability to stay in power.

America was built on innovators like the Edisons, the Wright Brothers, Fords, Walt Disney, Steve Jobs, etc. Innovation and competition is what has kept America at the forefront of the global marketplace. Innovation and competition have provided wealth that America should share. Innovation and competition sparked the skills to conquer disease. Innovation and competition gave us great technology that allows us to investigate and advance science and learn how to take better care of the Earth.

The Bill proposed by Hollings should be called, in all honesty, "The Anti-American Way Bill".

March 26, 2002

March 22, 2002

I am really enjoying my new cell phone. However it is the first phone in a long time that I really needed to learn the keylock. Not only does the phone dial easily, but the speakerphone is quite loud. I had my phone tucked away in my bag, which would believe one to believe that the loud walkie talkie sounds ("please hang up and dial again" and other gems) were from some idiot's phone or the custodial services. Nope they were from me. I have learned to easily operate the keypad lock, which also saves my pockets from talking to me.

March 20, 2002

Ooh, cookie paranoia strikes the CIA. The U.S. Congress blundered its understanding of cookies and has proven itself inept on understanding technology. The U.S. in trying to combat cross-site cookies, as in Double Click, ended up giving cookies themselves a bad name. Cookies running on one site and not sharing information with another site are innocuous and actually are what keep sites running properly. Cookies ease personalization and enable bringing desired information to the user easily. I know you understand this, you are using the Web and you are intelligent as you come to a site that is overly verbose.

March 15, 2002

March 14, 2002

Great flat sounds reports about a device that will turn any flat surface into a speaker. Now that would make for a booming iPod.

February 20, 2002

I found Zoomify to be an insanely cool application. The clarity of the zoomed image was stellar. It reminds me of some of the LuraTech graphic compression applications I tried a couple years ago, when I was looking to build a document repository for Web based use that allowed quick loading snapshots of the documents prior to downloading. Zoomify would be a great application to inspect photos and painting details while keeping the image weight relatively low. Genius.

February 11, 2002

While ArsDigita may be gone, the content from ArsDigita University lives on. It is a good inexpensive resource for great technical instruction.

In following the ArsDigita closure, I have found many linking to a diary of a start-up, or how ArsDigita began. The goals and inspiration for the company are a place that many would want to work. Remembering back there seemed to me many places that had high-minded goals, but lost sight when money came in. Philip Greenspun also offers his take, which includes a great insight...
Spending time in the aviation world has given rise to some thoughts about why there are so few plane crashes and so many business failures. The FAA establishes strict guidelines on what training and experience is required before someone can be pilot-in-command in various situations (daytime, nighttime, instrument conditions, single engine, multiengine, turbine, all alone, one passenger, lots of passengers, etc.). The president of United Airlines can't hire his old college buddy and put him behind the yoke of a 747 because he has a good gut feeling that Biff can handle the job. Very seldom is a pilot legally able to get into a situation that is beyond his or her capabilities, training, and experience (JFK, Jr., for example, was flying in instrument meteorological conditions with only a visual flight rules rating; he was legally required to make an immediate U-turn and fly back into the clear). But in the business world the Peter Principle rules: people are promoted until they reach a job at their level of incompetence. Because there are no standards, it really isn't possible to say whether a person is unfit for a business job until and unless you give him or her the job. Afterwards it is tough to admit that you made a mistake and demote or fire the incompetent-at-that-level person.
This is very much a meritocracy mindset, which a lot of us that are in techinical fields hold to be true.

February 4, 2002

There is a void of technology based television shows these days. I miss seeing and hearing what is new in technology, well maybe not. I have become very addicted to's video snippets. One does need more than a dial-up modem to really love the streaming video. Seeing and hearing discussions, views from the exhibition hall floors (like LinuxWorld tour) and seeing leaders in their field and market discuss the topics of the day (like HP CEO, Carly Fiorina discuss HPs Linux strategy) really bring to life the news.'s news anchors really help get the most out of their guests. The video stream uses Real technology, which has its plusses and minuses, but it provides a great clean stream of the mostly talking heads and techology demonstrations.

February 2, 2002

Last Days of the Corporate Technophobe the NY Times headline reads. This article on how business is driven by information and the organization of information is paramount. The business world, or now those that did not "get it" before, is a knowledge-sharing and information processing realm. Those with out the ability are lost, or as this article states:

Not being able to use a computer in the year 2002 is like not being able to read in the 1950's.

This is important for us that create applications, Web sites, and other technologies. We have an important job in assisting the ease of information use and the process that helps this information become knowledge. Digging through the heaps of data can be eased so that the user can find the information that is important for their purposes. A large part of this job is creating an environment that will make for the ease of information use and mining the desired bits and bytes. A centralized or a minimum interconnected system of data stores that have the ability to keep information current across resources. Finding the snippets of information is often daunting in a large database centered system, but even worse in environments that have stores of segregated documents and data files (like MS Access). Information Architecture is vital to this effort assisting in helping create a navigatible structure of information. Looking at Google and its great improvements in vast information searching is the right direction also.

Also on O'Reilly Net is the wrap-up of the Bioinformatics Technology Conference. The field of bioinformatics technology is of complete interst to me as it solves real world problems using what we have built with our minds and hands.

January 3, 2002

IBM DeveloperWorks has an indepth focus on wearable computers. This intrigues me to some degree (okay alot). I am also intrigued with the changes for the user to make information application more useable in “this environment”.

January 2, 2002

An USA Today article on poor product design provides insight that is helpful not only to product development, but also application development. The insights (while not new to most of us, but most likely very new to USA Today readers) include not including the consumer early enough in the process, product design team not well balanced, and technology runs amok.

These very closely apply to Web/Internet/Application development's downfalls. Not including the user in the development phases and/or testing with users early and throughout the development process. Having a development team that does not have a balance of visual, technical, and production skills can be problematic. Lastly, projects that are technology for technology's sake, very rarely offer success.

Conversely, success comes from getting these things right, involving the user and understanding how users would interact and use what you are building. Having a balanced team so that visual, technical, and production issues can be addressed and solved appropriately. And lastly knowing when and how to best use what technologies will drive success.

This last element, understanding the technologies, will help you get over the hurdle of accessibility/508 compliance. It will also help you find the best tools to interact with the users of the site/application. Having DHTML elements to provide action on a site or to serve information, when the user audience does not fully have the capability of addressing or handling the presentation, will have detrimental effects. Know what your elements your users have turned on and off in their browsers and what versions they are using. It is important to know what threshold of user profile can be the cut-off for developing a site. If 10% of your users have JavaScript turned off should you still develop elements of your site that are JavaScript dependant without providing an alternate service? Know and set this percentage threshold, as it will help understand why you can and can not use certain technologies.

November 8, 2001

The following is an overview of the ASIS&T lively debate between two leaders in the field of human-computer interaction -- Dr. James Hendler and Dr. Ben Shneiderman. I have heard Schneiderman a couple times before and agree with much of his approach. I had not heard or read Hendler, but I have a feeling I will be digging out some of his works. There is a lot of common ground between the two speakers. Again these are rough notes. The future of web use: visual, social, universal (Ben Schneiderman)
  • Getting the cognitively comprehensible right your users get feeling of mastery
  • Effective visual display is key
  • Community has become central to Internet use
  • Central to Internet use is trust
  • Key element is building trust
  • Universal usability is essential
  • Online help does not go far enough to helping the user
  • Human interaction over intelligent agents
  • Ontology is very important

Creating Ben's Web (James Hendler)

  • Agents interact in conversational interaction: user asks question agent replies w/ options
  • Shared communications extends knowledge & gives context & depth
  • Agents work on your preferences
  • Web does not have central ontological organization principle
  • Schema to schema translators needed
  • Semantic web

November 5, 2001

I continually turned down my free offers to receive the Darwin magazine, but this article on failure to communicate, about computers communicating to replace our rote tasks. This article focuses on Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which was the sponsor for the advent of the Internet; MIT's Project Oxygen; and the University of Washington's Portolano Project.

My favorite home automation site is Mister Home. I am constantly returning to see what he has added to list of functionality. At some point I will take the dive into X10 and Mister Home may be my first stop.

Lawrence Lessig has a new book, The Future of Ideas, in which he discusses the freedom of information flow that drive innovation and commerce. He also discusses the hinderance that some industries try to place on this flow of information and the direct and indirect effects this has on growth of ideas and expanding markets.

November 2, 2001

NY Times provides Digital Model Trains Help Engineers in its Circuits section (posted on Thursday). The article shows how model environments can provide insight and experience in the real world. Check the associated article if you hear the whistle blow for further links.

November 1, 2001

Fortune examines the Tech and Telecom blame game, which tries to lay blame on who is responsible for the lack of broadband access.

Previous Month

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License.