Off the Top: Travel Entries


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.



May 22, 2007

Getting to the Ultimate City Guide

This past week I was in Mexico City for work. My approach to the trip was filled with apprehension as I had never been there and much of the word of mouth and news of Mexico City was on the side of "express kidnappings and other non-cheery events. I pinged my Twitter friends and a couple people responded that they had been to Mexico City in the past year and offered great insights and advice (mostly not to hail taxis on the street and the usual advice for large cities (stay in busy areas, etc.)).

I did not have a lot of time to explore, but I really did enjoy my trip there. But, I was really not well prepared for the trip (mostly because it was rather last minute in a rather busy stretch of other non-related work).

The second day of my trip I felt far more comfortable as I had walked around my busy neighbohood getting a feel for it as I searched for food (there were many options, but I wanted local food not Korean or Argentinian). Walking around there were many offers for taxi rides, table dances, and flat-out prostitution offers. I had a fairly good shield of ignoring the individuals, but some were quite persistent. I found the early morning helped ground me a little better and found the buildings and architecture similar in a way to Bastia, Corsica. This tiny bit of grounding helped connect me to some understanding and provided a connection.

Most travel guide work better for me after I have been some place and preparing me for things I want to discover the next trip, than for preparing me for the first trip.

Trip Preparation and Pre-mapping

The trip was not the only trip I was not well prepared for, my trip to Berlin in Fall 2005 was much the same. But, with the Berlin trip I read and had many travel guide and nothing was really sticking (it too was in a busy travel and work schedule).

The travel guides really do not work well for me as I have nothing for the information to stick to. I have no reference point of familiarity for the information to adhere. Once I gain a foothold of perspective and foundation the information about a place starts making sense. All it takes is a drop of knowledge and the ripples of understanding and familiarity start taking hold.

What I really seem to need is that core grounding point. I have tried Google Earth and other satellite enhanced mapping systems (I am increasingly a fan of Microsofts Live Maps for this as its 3D models are quite helpful), but they still need some level of reference for the info to stick. Information combined with some 3D and 360 views of areas would help. Once I have a point I can hold onto I can then easily expand the knowledge.

The small bit of understanding makes unrolling surrounding areas and deeper understanding easier. For me the thin connection to Corsica helped put the architecture in context. This bit of context is like a Google Map showing an area then pre-loading other near and related information to unpack and apply quickly.

Personally, I like to have cultural understandings of things that are fixed and malleable. Fixed are things like phone systems (GSM) and ease of getting wifi or solid internet access, along with usual cost. Malleable are things that have options like places to eat, things to see and do, etc. Cultural components, like taking many photos in a neighborhood is something I like to understand, do people think a white guy (I was one of a handful I saw in my couple days) taking pictures of buildings and building details is a threat to them? Does this make me a sure target? Is it culturally improper?

Finding Guides that Fit Context

One of my issues is I am often traveling from a business context and need the fixed information. I find the Economist City Guides really good for the basic worklife understanding. I also have cultural (often sub-cultural) interest along the lines of use of technology, food, street art, local information design, social interaction patterns, etc., which seems to come from shared personal experience rather than printed resources.

Ultimate Guide

I think my optimal wish it to have an immersion guide experience prior to traveling, based on the location I will be staying. Then once I am in a location have information rolled out based on context, such as time to eat the food options based on my interest and level of adventure with which I am comfortable. Unrolling understanding and background based on surroundings for where I am and what is around the corner (literally and figuratively) would be fantastic.

This is a familiarity I now have with Amsterdam and parts of London. Some of this familiarity came from having a personal guide take me through those cities nearly 20 years ago. This provided me with an understanding of layout, core elements (transportation systems, cultural understanding, food, etc.), and comfort with a feel for the cities.

Most of the time I am ready for my first trip after going to a city once or have a fellow traveler guide me through their understanding of the city along with a local resident.



October 11, 2006

No Fly Zone Around My Head

Grrrrr! Not traveling anywhere for the next few days. The doctor visit turned into a no-fly advisory. It seems this little headache is a sinus that is very inflamed and could blow with slight pressure change, like on an airplane.

I have already undone my flight, now it is meetings, hotel, and rental car to cancel and figure out what I am forgetting.



Checking on Clearance to Fly

I am supposed to be in the San Francisco Bay Area tomorrow. But, now I am needing a doctor's okay to fly due to a nasty sinus infection. I have had too many friends head to the skies with more minor conditions and had severe problems come from it. Last year, when I had a similar issue my doctor suggested it was a good idea to get checked when things are a bit congested. This morning I felt like I had a battle with a large nail gun to my left eye, sinus area, and brain, so bad it hurt to breathe.

I should know in a little bit if I am free to soar tomorrow.



October 1, 2006

Sydney Update

A little update... The trip to Sydney has been fantastic, even if I have been working, preparing for presenting, prenting or deeply enjoying other's presentations at Web Directions and OZ IA. I am finally getting out to see Syndey and the bits around it today. I have been here since Monday morning and it is now Sunday, but that is the way it is and I would not change it.

Oddly, I not only lost a day getting here, crossing the dateline, but I lost a day once I got here as Monday and Tuesday really blurred into one another. This trip was one of the more brutal trips, as far as personal disconnectedness (jet lag to some), that I have experienced. It took until about Wednesday night for all my bits to start feeling like there were all in the same place. By Thursday everything was running "normal".

I have been spending a fair amount of time with people from the Web Directions conference, as they are the ones who made this fantastic trip possible. I have met many incredible people and I have been made aware of the vast talent that is in Australia. Count me stunned as I wash of the paint of ignorance that has kept my eyes from noticing this sooner. But, on the web I have no idea where anybody is (this year I have not been sure where I am at times). I have been really impressed with the people that are here from Western Australia both in their knowledge/skills and friendly nature. I became aware of the incredible Port 80 on this trip, which seems to be one of the most vibrant web sharing groups I know of. I was surprised to learn that Site Point is from Melbourne as I have been reading their site and books for years. I even found out that Google Maps was started here before being bought by Google (is Google the new Microsoft with the "not invented here" tag for all their killer services?) and is still driven from here.

To all I me at Web Directions and OZ IA, please keep in touch. In fact, just shoot an e-mail from the contact button/link to make this easier. I met many people who have inspired me and light a fire under my desire to spend time projects I care about and be the best I can be. The passionate discussions about things we all care about have been wonderful as well. The world on this trip became insanely flat, as I have had a really difficult time sorting out where I am (that should change shortly as I get out and actually see a little of Sydney and what makes Sydney unique).

I am already thinking about how I can get back to see more places and the people again, but on their home turf. It would be nice to see people in Western Australia, Melbourne, ACT, Brisbane, etc. There is so much greatness here in Australia, I am glad much of what I have learned and discovered is only a mouse click away, but seeing people face to face and hearing stories of their efforts to make a better web for more and more people is what it is all about. I am going to come away from this trip deeply inspired. Thank you.



September 30, 2006

OZ IA Presentation - Folksonomy for IA is Posted

My just delivered presentation to OZ IA on, Folksonomy for IA (PDF 4.3MB).

Now it is time to focus on other's presentations and get then finally enjoying Sydney and the surrounding area. I am thinking of heading to Manley for the Jazz Festival on Monday.



September 26, 2006

Personal Disconnectedness of Travel and Gerneric Architecture

Um, what does one do at 2am in the morning (after sleeping four hours and waking at 1am)? Blog.

Unfocussed Curor Bliking

I am finding that this long distance traveling has been really increasing my personal disconnectedness time this year, where the mind, body, and soul are not joined. Some call it jetlag, but it seems deeper. There were times yesterday where my motor skills just were shot (as they normally are with long travel on the first day). Other times my mind would just freeze mid-thought or sentence. It is not a bad thing, but more of a just "is" thing. It feels like the unfocussed blinking cursor syndrome, where a window on the desktop has a blinking cursor and you believe that if you type your text will show up there (the password box on a web form), but in reality it is some completely different window (like chat session) that has focus and displays the text as you hit enter to submit.

The SimCity Model for Urban Redevelopment

At a meal yesterday (brunch at Darling Harbor or dinner at Bondi Beach) I began to think that many cities are just replications of SimCity with similar architecture, where the cities are rather modern and/or developed in the mid-1800s. You can plop down a new structure that is similar to one from another city. Much like the new buildings in Darling Harbor look strikingly like the new Baltimore, Maryland Inner Harbor. Much of Sydney yesterday felt like something on the North America West Coast, as they were built and grew up about the same times in the mid-1800s and had similar cycles of growth over time. On Pitt street in Sydney, where it is a pedestrian mall, it really felt like there were some Commonwealth flourishes, like shopping arcades, put in San Francisco's Financial District.

Architecture as Cultural and Location Grounding

This quasi-generic western culture Pacific Rim architecture washing tended to compound the personal disconnectedness I was experiencing. Not only was my being disconnected, but the physical markers of my surroundings were off kilter as well. I somewhat experienced that in Berlin last Fall with the new modern architecture around Potsdam Platz. I felt far more grounded and connected in Friedrichshain as it was not modern and had native architectural elements that were not pan-global.

When I travel to Europe I like doing my time correction to resolve the personal disconnectedness is Amsterdam as it is distinctly Amsterdam. I know internally that I am in a different city, different country, and different culture. But, in Amsterdam they speak English very well and are technically adept (often leading to better understanding of mobile usage and other technosocial interactions that are missing in America as it lags Europe with technical adoption on many many fronts.

Similarly, I found Innsbruck to be similar to Amsterdam in its distinctive architectural elements, but even its modern architecture was very germanic. Growing-up I was a model railroad fan, but many of the buildings were not similar to the architecture I knew growing up on the West Coast of the United States as the larger makers of pre-built buildings and models for model railroads was from Germany, the Netherlands, or Belgium (I really do not remember the name of the company), but when taking a train from Schiphol to Amsterdam many of the post-war-modern (World War II) buildings looked straight out of the scene set catalogs for modern railroads. But, there were many buildings in Innsbruck that had the same architecture mixed in to the Tyrolean architecture.



September 25, 2006

Now in Sydney with Minor Trials of Travel

I made it to Sydney today. The flight, all 14 hours was not so bad (in part because I sat next to Derek) as the seats and services were good. I was surprised by bag made it as it started out on another airline. But, when I checked into the hotel my computer connector bag had gone missing on the trip, which had international power converters, connectors, dongles, headphone adapters, and a little widget I rely on for business. I was able to replace some of the important connectors (video to VGA and an iPod connector), but the other things will take some time.

One of the things that struck me is how much it seems like the West Coast of North America with the architecture and city layout. There were parts today that felt like Vancouver, Seattle, or San Francisco, but it is not. One thing that is odd is the sun is in the Northern part of the sky and the trees are do not have leaves as of yet. One things that is good is the time and date of this blog post should be accurate for the first time in months (I am working on fixing that as it is not tough, but it just takes a little time).

As I write this I am realizing my brain and soul have not quite caught up with where my body is at the moment. I am really looking forward to going to sleep tonight. I mean really really looking forward to it.

One thing I learned so far on this trip is how much of a mess the Los Angeles airport is. I have seen a lot of airports the past year, but LAX is really the pits. Nobody knew what terminal I needed to get to so I could make my connecting flight. The police officer sent me to the international terminal and pointed out that changing terminals means you go out of the terminal and walk outside to get to the next one or pass many to get to the one you need. After I was directed to the Tom Bradley International Terminal, I tracked down an "information person" who was holding a sign saying that. He had not heard of United, nor had he heard of Sydney, nor Australia (yes, I did say he was the information guy in the international terminal).

I flew in to the one with American Airlines and it was decent. But, where I needed to go was United and that was a dump. The security screening set-up is pathetic as they have very little space and had TSA officials nearly falling asleep. The signage in the terminal had to have been the worst of any airport I have been to. Not only that, but I was able to get into the premium flight lounge, which was falling apart, as the electrical sockets were falling out, the bathroom has holes in the wall, and the lights were burned out in one part of the main section. This was a premiere lounge? Meh.

I am very happy to be in Sydney and looking forward to seeing people at WebDirections 2006 (wd06) and OZ IA.



September 14, 2006

Trip and d.construct Wrap-up

I am back home from the d.construct trip, which included London and Brighton. The trip was very enjoyable, the d.construct conference is a pure winner, and I met fantastic people that keep my passion for the web alive.

d.construct

The d.construct conference had Jeff Barr from Amazon talking about Amazon Web Services, Paul Hammond and Simon Willison discussing Yahoo and its creation and use of web services for internal and external uses, Jeremy Keith discussing the Joy of the API, Aral Balkan presenting the use of Adobe Flex for web services, Derek Featherstone discussing accessibility for Javascript and Ajax and how they can hurt and help the web for those with disabilities, myself (Thomas) discussing tagging that works, and Jeff Veen pulling the day together with designing the complete user experience.

Jeff Barr provided not only a good overview of the Amazon offerings for developers, but his presentation kept me interested (the previous 2 times my mind wandered) and I got some new things out of it (like the S3 Organizer extension for Firefox.

Jeremy was his usual great presenting form (unfortunately a call from home caused me to miss the some of the middle, but he kept things going well and I heard after that many people learned something from the session, which they thought they knew it all already.

Paul and Simon did a wonderful tag team approach on what Yahoo is up to and how they "eat their own dog food" and how the Yahoo Local uses microformats (Wahoo!).

Aral was somebody I did not know before d.construct, but I really enjoyed getting to know him as well as his high energy presentation style and mastery of the content that showed Flash/Flex 2.0 are fluent in Web 2.0 rich interfaces for web services.

Derek was fantastic as he took a dry subject (accessibility) and brought it life, he also made me miss the world of accessibility by talking about how JavaScript and Ajax can actually improve the accessibility of a site (if the developer knows what they are doing - this is not an easy area to tread) and made it logical and relatively easy to grasp.

I can not comment on my own presentation, other than the many people what sought me out to express appreciation, and to ask questions (many questions about spamming, which is difficult if the tagging system is built well). I was also asked if I had somebody explain the term dogging (forgetting there was a rather bawdy use of the term in British culture and using the term as those people who are dog lovers - this lead to very heavy laughter). Given the odd technical problems at the beginning of the presentation (mouse not clicking) things went alright about 5 minutes or so in.

Lastly, the man I never want to follow when giving a presentation, Jeff Veen rocked the house with his easy style and lively interaction with his slides.

I am really wanting to hear much more from Aral and Derek now that I have heard them speak. I am looking forward to seeing their slides up and their podcasts, both should be posted on the d.construct schedule page.

London Stays

The trip also included an overnight stay in London on the front and back end of the conference. Through an on-line resource I had two last minute rooms booked at Best Western Premiers that were great rooms in well appointed hotels. The hotels even had free WiFi (yes, free in Europe is a huge savings), which was my main reason for staying at these hotels I knew nothing about. I really like both locations, one near Earls Court Tube Station and the other Charing Cross Road and SoHo. The rooms were well under 200 U.S. dollars, which is a rarity in central London. I think I have a new place to track down then next time I visit London.

London People & Places

I had a few impromptu meetings in London and an accidental chat. When I first got in I was able to clean-up and go meet friends Tom and Simon for lunch at China Experience. We had good conversations about the state of many things web. Then Tom showed me Cyber Candy, which I have been following online. I was then off to Neal's Yard Dairy to pick-up some Stinking Bishop (quite excellent), Oggleshield, and Berkswell. I then did a pilgrimage to Muji to stock up on pens and all the while using Yahoo Messanger in a mobile browser (a very painful way to communicate, as there is no alert for return messages and when moving the web connection seems to need resetting often).

That evening I met up with Eric Miraglia for a great chat and dinner, then included Christian Heillmann (who has a great new book (from my initial read) on Beginning JavaSctipt with DOM Scripting and Ajax) in our evening. The discussions were wonderful and it was a really good way to find people of similar minds and interests.

On my last day in London I ended up running into Ben Hammersley as he was waiting for a dinner meeting. It was great to meet Ben in person and have a good brief chat. Somehow when walking down the street and seeing a man in a black utilikilt, with short hair, and intently using his mobile there are a short list of possibilities who this may be.

Food

My trip I had a few full English breakfasts, including one in Brighton at 3:30am (using the term gut buster), which was my first full meal of the day. The breakfast at the Blanche House (the name of the hotel never stuck in my head and the keys just had their logo on them, so getting back to the hotel was a wee bit more challenging than normal) was quite good, particularly the scrambled eggs wrapped in smoked Scottish salmon. The food the first night in Brighton at the Seven Dials was fantastic and a great treat. Sunday brunch at SOHo Social in Brighton was quite good and needed to bring me back from another late night chatting, but the fish cakes were outstanding. The last evening in London I stopped in at Hamburger Union for a really good burger with rashers bacon. The burgers are made with only natural fed, grass-reared additive free beef. This is not only eco-friendly, but really tasty. I wish there were a Hamburger Union near where I work as I would make use of it regularly.

Too Short a Visit

As it is with nearly every trip this year, the time was too short and the people I met were fantastic. I really met some interesting and bright people while in Brighton and I really look forward to keeping in touch as well as seeing them again.



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.



July 28, 2006

Platial Turning it Up

A few months ago a couple of friends pointed me to Platial a social geo-annatation site that is build on top of the Google map API. As luck would have it I met up with the creators and developers of Platial while in Amsterdam at XTech 2006. I was in deep "just got off an overnight flight" syndrome, but really enjoyed talking with them non-the-less.

Platial is headquartered in Portland, Oregon and on my recent trip I stopped in to say hello. Not only do they have killer developers and staff, an incredible workspace, but great things are coming to Platial. I left even more impressed with the tool and the direction it is heading than I was prior.

If you have not tried it, head on over and give it a try. Remember to keep coming back as they have more killer stuff in the pipeline.



June 17, 2006

World Cup Celebration

It is that time in life's cycle where I get a wee bit distracted. It is time for World Cup. I had the wonderful fortune to be in Europe as World Cup started, but being in Amsterdam as het Oranje played was quite special. I managed to hang out with Peter at his workplace and watched. It was amazing how Amsterdam became silent then roared when the Dutch scored.

I was staying in a nice little hotel, ACH Leidse Square, near the Vondel Park and not far from Leidseplein. This made it easy to walk through one of the central location for people to aggregate during football matches, the Leidseplein. From about five blocks away I could hear the roar as a goal was scored from nearly any team. The Leidseplein was awash in many block colors of people's home or favorite national team. This is not something that the USA really gets. Football is an international sport with more viewers for the World Cup than 12 Super Bowls. World Cup connects the world and cultures, probably more closely than the Olympics. It is a pageant of color and passion for national and regional pride. There is beauty in the game of motion and dance. It is a game where size and power is not essential, but skill and cunning can level a playing field. It is a game of teams and working together.

The USA has a team in the World Cup, but it is seemingly lost on many who live in the country.

Since the 1980s I have grown to enjoy World Cup more and more. In 1998 many work meetings seemed to fall in mid-afternoon lunches at tapas restaurant bars in Washington, DC as our work was with Europeans and Latin American clients. A little wine and espresso wrapped discussions about strategy and assents of telecom markets with clients. But the main focus was the game with work interspersed. If the client's national team was doing well the work went well as they had a positive feeling about the meeting, but if their team was not doing well they focussed a little more on the meeting and a lot got done.

This summer I have the ability to catch a few games around work and share it with our international neighbors. We all wear our colors of pride and our kids learn about passion, color, dance, and sports of beauty.



June 13, 2006

Now to Sort and Respond to the Inboxes

I am back home with full Internet and full e-mail. I have much digging out to do as well as wash from 7 days on the road, which followed 2 days home and 5 days on the road.

The Microlearning conference was fantastic. I really enjoyed all the people and presentations. I will write-up a little more on the Microlearning conference and microcontent in general as well as Innsbruck and Amsterdam notes.



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.



May 26, 2006

TechCrunch Party in Seattle

I am in Seattle next week for a few days and while there I will be heading to the TechCrunch Party on May 31st. It looks like a good event, as most TechCrunch events go. If you are around you will need to sign-up on the wiki to attend.



May 21, 2006

Light Overview of XTech and Amsterdam (including BarCamp Amsterdam)

This trip to Amsterdam for XTech 2006 (and now bits of BarCamp Amsterdam II has been quite different from previous trips, in that Amsterdam is now getting to be very familiar. I also did not spend a day on the front end of the trip walking around adjusting to the time change and spent it inside at XTech, where I saw many friends, which really made it feel more like a floating island comprised of geographically distributed friends that I see when I travel.

It has been great seeing good friends that I really wish I could see more and/or work with on projects as I believe some killer things could get done. I also met people and got to hang out with many new people, which is always great. I was pleased to spend time with people I have only partially spent time with in the past.

I quite enjoyed XTech as it was a good amount of geekery, which provided sparks of inspiration, very good feedback on the "Come to Me Web" and "Personal InfoCloud" stuff I presented. The session had Paul Hammond, Tom Coates, and then myself presenting ideas that focussed on open data, using open data, and building for personal use and reuse of information in our three presentations. It was a fantastic set up.

There were many Mozilla folks around, which was fantastic to hear where the Mozilla/Firefox development is going. This was a very good cross pollination of people, ideas, and interests.

I also realized I need to through out my presentation on Personal InfoCloud and Come to Me Web and rebuild it from scratch. I was finding that my presentation that I have been iterating on for the past year or so is something that needs restructuring and refocussing. I get very positive comments on the presentation, but in delivering the presentation I have made many minor tweaks that have disrupted my flow of delivery. I believe that starting from scratch will help me focus on what gets delivered when. I am really do not write out the presentation in long form as I think that would make it stale for me.

I am heading home tomorrow, but I have not quite felt like I was in Amsterdam as it is really no longer a foreign place. It is still one of my favorite places to be. I spent much time exploring thoughts, spending time with people, playing with digital things, but not deeply finding the new bits of Amsterdam (outside of a few hours this morning). Ah well, I am back in a few short weeks.



May 16, 2006

Upcoming Conferences I am Presenting at and Attending

Okay, things have been quite busy here. But, here will be changing as I am hitting the skies a bit in the short term. This means I may be near you so reach out and we can hang out and chat. I am completely looking forward to all the places on my schedule and seeing all of the people.

XTech

I am off to Amsterdam, Netherlands (no not that other one) this week to speak at XTech. I will be presenting Developing for the Personal InfoCloud on Thursday at 11:45 in the morning.

BarCamp Amsterdam

On Saturday I will be attending BarCamp Amsterdam for part of the time.

Seattle Area

Following the Amsterdam trip I should be in the Seattle area for work. I don't have dates as of yet, but if you shoot an e-mail I will be sure and connect.

Microlearning 2006 Conference

I will be heading to Innsbruck, Austria for the Microlearning Conference and preconference (June 7). I will be talking about microcontent in the Personal InfoCloud and our ability and desire to manage it (one means of doing this is folksonomy, but will be discussing much more).

Following Innsbruck I may be in Europe a bit longer and a little farther north. I will be in Amsterdam just following the conference, but beyond that my schedule has not yet fully jelled.

WebVisions 2006

I will be heading to WebVisions 2006 in Portland, Oregon July 20th and 21st. I will be speaking on Friday the 21st about Tagging in the Real World. This will look at how people are making use of tagging (particularly tagging services) and looking at the best practices.

The Fall

In September it looks like I will be in Brighton, UK for a wonderful event. I should also be in Australia later in September for another conference.

As these events get closer, I will be letting you know.

Yes, I know I need to be publishing this information in hCal, but I have been quite busy of late. But, I am moving in that direction very soon. You can also follow what I am watching and attending in Upcoming for vanderwal.



April 26, 2006

Just Alarming

I seem to have attracted fire alarms to myself. Last Friday just as I was being introduced to speak at Yahoo! the fire alarm went off and we had to evacuate. Last night, here in the conference hotel in Long Branch, New Jersey I had just fallen asleep when the fire alarm went off. We did not have to evacuate, but rather than getting to sleep at 11:30 the night prior to speaking it was about 1:30am.



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)?



February 3, 2006

San Franccisco Reawakens the Need for a Smart Address Book

I am back home in Bethesda, Maryland from my trip to the San Francisco Bay Area this week, coming only a couple days after getting home from Seattle. Today I was wiped out, some from the travel itself (red-eye overnight flights and getting up at 4 am on the East Coast to catch planes), but mostly from 19 to 20 hour days this week. The brain begins to go a wee bit with this shift.

I met with many wonderful people and had great conversations and business meetings, as I always do in the San Francisco Bay Area. The downside it WiFi networks blocking secure connections. I have had more mail blocked or "reached my quota" notices to fill a year all in one short trip.

Need for Better Mobile/Portable Communication

I also realized we (those of us that are not always stuck at a desk or have friends or collaborators that are not stuck at some desk) need much better communication. We need an address book and multi-medium communication tools that are a hell of a lot better than the poorly thought through mess we currently deal with. I was needing to repoint a group of people from one location to meet-up to another at 4:30 for a 7:00 gathering. People may not be pulling e-mail (which I did not have access to the account I sent the initial e-mail from and that caused 6 of 15 sent to bounce back with spam challenges, which I did not get on my mobile device for some very odd unknown reason).

Solving Communication with People in Digital Context

What is the solution? Again, (again that is for those that heard or read my Design Engaged presentation on Clouds, Space & Black Boxes, that I have yet to write-up, but come to a same conclusion for a very different reason) I know we need a very smart address book. We need an address book that has exhaustive contact information, should the person permit us to have this information, for their communication devices and means of accessing them. The address book should have contact rules based on that person's preferences. Connecting to a calendar for that person could instruct our address book the best means to connect to this person. Another alternative could be a ping service that our address book queries that tells our address book what is the best means of contacting that person.

Smart Address Book Contents

Once we have a smart address book that has all of the rules, or could be easily updated through the same ping service for the address book, we prepare our message and our address book selects the best means of contacting that person. We would have some information going out to e-mail, a blast SMS/text message to mobile devices, voice script that gets dropped directly into voicemail, calendar updates, etc. Not only should our networks (WiFi, mobile device, broadband mobile, etc.) not inhibit out transmissions, but our devices should use the best or a combination of messages that work for that person, based on their current context.

The Smart Address Book in Action

Simply it would work like this (any device will do - desktop, laptop, mobile, etc): We create a message we need to send and mark it with the proper urgency and time to live (Tuesday night the message had 2.5 hours for time to live). In our address book we select the people we want to receive the message. Our address book pings that person's communication priority file, which checks who we are requesting the ping, the urgency, and the time to live of the message. The response back to the ping weighs our request and based on the person's preferences and availability (calendar or live settings) and a rating of how good we are in their eyes we are with our requests. The response tells our address book the preferred method(s) of contact for the information. Our address book adds the address/routing for the message in that person's preferred interaction mode and sends the messages. The smart address book and message preparation can be done on a device or on an external service. Either way we should easily have the ability to do it from any device we have at our disposal.

This should some much of the information routing problems we have. If our smart address book could also capture some of the addressee's preferences and rules it would be helpful too, such as they do not answer their home phone, but may answer their mobile phone, but their preferred method of hearing from us is IM or personal e-mail. I have really been noticing in the past couple of years that the world is made up of text people and voice people. It is all about preferences and understanding personal need and personal interaction efficiencies.

Attention to Personal Information Workflow

The rules could also account for often to contact a person when you have not heard from them on a request or deadline. There are cracks in life (some very small and some large) and things fall into these cracks. The smart address book and messaging system could trigger follow-up based on one's own known personal workflow.



January 24, 2006

Bay Area Trip Jan 30 to Feb 1

A real quick note: I will be in the Bay Area Monday, January 30th through Wednesday, February 1st. Want to get together, please send me an e-mail.



January 23, 2006

Off to Seattle This Week

I am off to Seattle for much of this week to be part of Microsoft Search Champs v4. It is a rather impressive group of people invited to Search Champs and I am humbled to have been included. I will have just a wee bit of free-time there to see family and friends in the area. I have only let a couple people know I am heading that way as I really do not know a lot about my schedule, other than all of my nights are booked while I am there. I should have Thursday afternoon free and Friday morning.

Seattle is one of the places I grew-up (until early grade school). I have not been back since 1991 or 1992. It is a place that I still miss, although not as much as the Bay Area.



January 11, 2006

Real Time Flight Tracking Site for Your Mobile

Thanks to Tim Boyd I found a wonderful Mobile Flight Tracking Tool (the flight tracking tool is described by Jon Gales the developer. Tim took a photo of the flight tracking tool running on his Treo.

This is exactly the right tool to do the job that many need. Everybody complains about the lack of mobile interfaces to flight on-time information when they are needing to meet somebody at the airport. The airlines solutions either do not exist, are not detailed enough, or have interfaces that are cluttered (even on a Treo). Airlines suggested arrival times are a joke as they are trying to compensate for their tendencies for late arrivals, which they get penalized on. This has lead to a 45 minute flight from Washington to New York being stated at a flight time of 2 hours or more. On-time flight is not anything close to an efficient guide.

Most of the airline sites only think of the desktop for decent information, but where real-time flight arrival information is important is when you are on the go. Jon Gales's application solves a real life information need in the context of life. A standing ovation for his work is in order. I wish more apps like this were in existence, information solutions for people's real lives (we do not sit at our desktops and most do not carry their laptops where ever they go).

When designing for the mobile (this app horizontally scrolls on my Nokia 3650 and solving that is a relatively easy solution) we need to cut out the clutter. We need to understand the information need and the information that can be provided on that small screen. Paring away what is not essential is a vital task. Getting to what is important is also important. What is important is accurate and useful information for people's given the context that people wanting to use the information on the go face.



December 4, 2005

Back from England

I am back home after my trip to England (UK) with stops in Oxford, London, Brighton, and London (Heathrow). It was a very good trip on many fronts, which I will share later. I was amazed at the transportation problems in London (traffic jams even with Congestion Charging, outages on the Tube due to security issues and switching problems on the Central line, and clueless ticketing agents at Victoria Station (who asked if I wanted "day return" at 16.47 hours and I said no, still ticketed it for me, which really messed things up the following day trying to return from Brighton to London, but also took nearly 15 minutes to process my credit card payment).

None-the-less I met with fantastic people at each step of the way. Oxford had changed quite a bit since 1988 when I last lived there, but not so much I was lost. I had a great time meeting David Smith in person and chatting about everything it seemed in a little more than a couple hours (it is always great to meet people in person that you have known on-line as it gives understanding to the digital references we have in our heads, it also allows for asking questions we never get around to on-line). I really enjoyed going back to The Centre for Mediaeval and Renaissance Studies and meeting current students studying there from St. Mary's College of California to get the tour. The Centre is still wonderfully run and brought back a great part of my life. I also got to visit the QI (Quite Interesting) bookstore and private club. The bookstore is wonderful as it jogs the mind in wonderful ways in that it arranges books by there, intermixing fiction and non-fiction and various subjects to create wonderful themes. I had a meeting with somebody new to me at the club and really enjoyed the venue and my company (I would hope to have the fortune of both again in the not too distant future).

London was really turned around for me as I was staying in a different section that I had ever before and was approaching it from a different angle. I really enjoyed the Online Information Conference as it brought some good questions and regarding folksonomy and brought some very bright people together. The Open Rights Group initial gathering was fantastic and I met some great people there with stellar ideas and drive. I also had a great meeting at DNA on my InfoCloud work and they had some brilliant questions that followed (unfortunately my Mac did not want to drive their beautiful monitors (not sure what went wrong as it was the first presentation in more than 50 that my Mac did not just fall in love with the monitor and just want to run off with them).

I also had an utterly brilliant time in Brighton and Hove with the Clear Left gentlemen and Pete Barr-Watson. I had never been to Brighton and Hove, but found I really enjoyed it. It reminded me of Oxford in 1988 when I walked down the main street in Hove looking for breakfast.

The ticketing mix-up, poor traffic, increasingly bad weather, and the need to care for work related to running one's own business kept me from returning back into London proper on Friday afternoon. I dropped my things off at the hotel near Heathrow (and was berated by the taxi driver in a very un-polite British manner for having such a short inexpensive fare not the 40 to 50 pound fare he had been waiting in queue for three hours for). The weather turned and I had not heard back from two friends I was hoping to meet up with for pints after their work on Friday (turns out my stupid phone will not send e-mail while I am in Europe and my requests were still sitting in my phone).

I never got to do the shopping I intended to do (other than Muji, Neal's Yard Dairy (with Matt Biddulph making wonderful suggestions), and buying the Banksy book. I did realize I was not quite dressed properly as I thought would work, so I stopped into Charles Tyrwhitt at 92 Jermyn Street in London to fix the situation with a new shirt and seven fold tie (I picked up the tie from a much less expensive stack, but with the somewhat baffling price reduction it made it seem less that my other option).

I also hope I never have the mis-fortune of dealing with British Midland Airways (BMI) again. They did not have the capability to deal with an electronic ticket, they were completely disorganized (with the exception of one wonderfully patient and helpful gentleman at their customer service desk), and under trained. I sat at the gate a Heathrow Terminal 1 watching the flight departure time come and go before we boarded, which I was told by those sitting next to me is quite normal. At Heathrow Terminal 1 they only announce the gate for the flight 45 to 30 minutes prior to the flight. It does not seem they have the capability to plan beyond this, nor do they point you to the correct security entrance. This made for no shopping in their shops and no relaxing. It was a very poor experience and one I do not care to ever repeat. In all, the signage in Heathrow (Terminals 4 arrivals and 1 departures) was horrible. It was difficult to sort out what direction to go. Conflicting signage was up about the Tube and Heathrow Express, with some saying things were not running and others stating where to go. In all the rail transportation related information in the UK is a mess as there is no easy central place on the web to find travel times and prices. The privatization has seemed to lead to nicer rail cars, but poor service and poorly coordinated information. I will take the less nice cars from 1988 and much better service, thank you very much.

In all I had wonderful accommodations, great hospitality, and had wonderful conversations with bright people. This was what I really wanted from this trip. I also got a lot more, but that will be coming in time.



November 26, 2005

Off to London Oxford and Brighton

I am off to London, England tonight. I will be in Oxford Sunday night and through lunch Monday. I will be in London Monday afternoon through Thursday early afternoon. I am in Brighton Thursday late afternoon through Friday morning. Friday I am back to London to Saturday Morning.

I am speaking at Online Information on Wednesday on the topic of folksonomy. I have a handful of other gigs during the days along with seeing some of London that was not there when I lived in England in 1988. I am most interested in chatting, listening, and seeing people. Give a shout if you have an interest.

I am reachable by the usual e-mail.



November 21, 2005

Language as a Divider

A wonderful piece about language and experience by Meg had me recalling recent language adventures. Having been in the Netherlands, Brussels, Berlin, and Boston in recent weeks the shifting of language (and jet lag) and its impact on communication was brought back to me.

While much of the Netherlands (particularly Amsterdam) is fluent in English, I always feel badly using it as my default. The downside is I really do not speak Dutch, I have a vocabulary of about 20 or so words (although this last trip thank you was about the extent of it) so I fall back on English very quickly. Being of Dutch ancestry is the driver for the guilt, I feel like I am letting down previous generations.

The trip to Brussels was a little more problematic as English is not spoken everywhere, but they do speak French (I know a little more French than Dutch)and Flemish (close to Dutch, but not my forte). I had to rely on friends (mostly Dutch) to navigate menus and other essentials. But, Brussels is a very English friendly city.

Now we get to Berlin. I speak some German (Deutsch) from years of schooling. I can get by with my remedial Geutsch, but it does not get me as far as I would like. I can ask, "what beer is she drinking" and then follow-up with "I would like a large one of those, please". Food is fine, but complex directions (particularly with a city whose parts I am not familiar nor the transportation systems) were lost on me. These needed English. I also found that nearly all of the channels on my television at the hotel were in Deutsch (except for a time slice of CNN interwoven), although others friends in the hotel seemed to have more English channel access (could be related to my horribly flakey WiFi, which they did not experience either). All of the newspaper options in the hotel were in Deutsch, which made the Financial Times not quite as wonderful as usual.

When I got to Boston and checked into my hotel I went out to go to the reception and passed a newsstand on Harvard Square that was selling the Financial Times I had been trying all day (18 hours already) to get my hands on. When I went to ask for the paper my English had failed me. I had lost all languages for a moment. Language quickly returned, but I could easily ask for the paper in Deutsch, as well as for how much, and say thank you in Deutsch or Dutch. This I knew would not get me far. I just sort of mumbled something in some language and tucked my paper in the back pocket of my Barber coat and went off into the night.

I usually have this problem in English as I can always think of the larger words, but always pause to think of the more simple words or the one that is more culturally appropriate. English is not one language, but many culturally loaded variants. The use of sofa rather than couch or supper rather than dinner frames who you are in other people's minds. Let alone various terms from cross professional disciplines, which can quickly alienate you or engender you to those to whom you are speaking. So I often pause to pull from the appropriate vocabulary, but most often I can only think of one term and just go with it, then hope I get called on it so I can explain I am not exactly the person they think I am (that rarely happens and inferences of who I am are sealed). C'est la Vie!



November 17, 2005

Design Engaged and Symposium on Social Architecture

I got back home late Tuesday night from Design Engaged in Berlin and Symposium on Social Architecture in Cambridge, Massachusetts at Harvard. I had a deadline to meet by midnight Tuesday. Much of Wednesday was spent unbolding e-mail and getting essential replies out (more of this to do today) and unbolding my feed aggregator (1500+ things). I also spent time posting photos of the trip to Berlin (currently at 216 photos, possibly a few untagged).

Design Engaged

Design Engaged was somewhat different from last year's event in Amsterdam. It was still interacting with many of my favorite people, but it was a little larger, in a new space, in a new city (one I was not familiar with), and had a larger representation of women. All of these turned out good, but I felt a little more disconnected. The disconnection I think was attributable to an unfamiliar city, staying at a hotel away from where the sessions were, and not having most of the people staying at the same hotel. I tended to stick with those staying at my hotel, which was good for those relationships. But, part of this was tied to my unfamiliarity with the city.

This unfamiliarity changed for the better and I have learned something about myself, and that is all good. The unfamiliarity shifted to familiarity. I got to know some incredible people and spend time with people I knew, but now know much better. I got to know Berlin. I have not been to a completely new city that I had time alone in quite a while (Brussels last month was new to me, but I was with a large group I had become familiar with, I all were staying in the same hotel, and I had very little interaction with the city itself). My first impression of Berlin was good, nothing more and nothing less. This was formed on an outing to Potsdamerplaz and walking back through Mitte.

Part of the Design Engaged experience is interacting with the city. A group of us headed out to Friedrichshain, which was part of East Berlin and is not being torn up and made western to the degree that Mitte or Alexanderplaz have been and are going through. This was the perfect outing for me as I really wanted to understand East Berlin or get a flavor of what pre-unified Berlin was like. I was interested in the Soviet style architecture and the working neighborhoods. Why? They are something I do not understand and had not experienced. I was utterly thrilled with our exploration of the area, both on our own and with a local who life is in that neighborhood.

I also learned a fair amount about myself on the Berlin part of the trip. I use various supports to explore that which is new. I use friends to guide in new surroundings and meet new people. Familiar surroundings to best embrace new people and expand my knowledge of the surroundings. I learned that having much new causes me to fall into an observation mode and a little less interactive. There are people I really wanted to get to know better and spend more time with. I tended to spend time with the people I already know well, in part to catch-up and get to know better. I also spent a lot of transit time trying to take in as much of my surroundings as possible. Understanding the lay of the land, the flavor of the neighborhood, trying to glimpse what the neighborhood was, what that neighborhood is becoming, and the expression of the people who live in and move through that area. The architecture, design layers (planned and emergent layers -- painted and overlayed), traffic patterns, lines of sight, etc. are all important components to understanding the people, their interests, and indicators of importance. Digging through the international layers (Starbucks (particularly behind the Brandenburg Gates is problematic), Duncan Doughnuts, American brand advertising, and global mass produced products), which in my opinion are disruptive to the local culture.

After returning home I know I have a much better understanding of Berlin and it is a city I would love to return to so to spend more time and explore. Now that I have a foundation of understanding I am ready to drink in more. I also realized that observation limited my getting to know others better than I would have liked. Ever single person at Design Engaged this year was utterly fantastic. It is a very special group of people. There are no egos. There are no agendas. There are people who love sharing, learning, embracing, and exploring. This is something very special and something very different from most any other gathering. Part of it is the event is not about certainty, but exploration, asking questions, listening, and growing all in a shared experience. Unfortunately I am more ready to engage others and interact now that I am home, but hopefully there will be more time.

Symposium on Social Architecture

Counter to the Design Engaged the Symposium on Social Architecture was in a somewhat familiar place, but I only knew a few people prior. I knew many from digital interaction, but personal "in place" interactions were limited. There were more people who knew of me, than I knew of prior. I was continually having to put people in context of digital and idea spaces (some of this is now connecting). I had somewhat slept much of the journey from Berlin to Boston (transferring in Washington, DC) so I was not really dealing with jet lag. On the first night there was a reception at the Harvard Faculty Club and I met many fantastic people. I noticed there was a fair amount of clustering by gender, which was bothersome as there were a few women I wanted to chat with, but I found some very good discussions in the men's clusters and did not break free. There are many women whose work I find insanely helpful and wanted to say thanks and engage in some longer conversations.

The symposium was utterly fantastic. Every session had something I really enjoyed and there was a lot of reassurance of my own understandings and directions. I am not as fully engaged in the social software realm as I would like as it is an insanely important component of how we do things on the internet and it is growing ever more important. Much of my work discusses the Local InfoCloud as an intersection with the Personal Infocloud.

I have a lot of notes from the day (but more complete notes will be expressed in a later posting). I heard a lot of mention of local (closeness drawn through interconnection in social contexts), which was a reinforcement of my understanding as well as the language (or problems with the language) I have been dealing with at times. I heard a lot of discussion of all current social software is simple software, as it is easy to understand what the value is and the barrier to entry is a relatively painless in comparison to the reward received in the perceived value. Many also discussed building tools that got out of the way, they just let people interact. This was explicitly stated by Tina Sharkey of AOL, which made me very happy as it was a large social portal that expressed they understood what to do and have done it. It is not the tool that is important, so much as it is the social interactions that are the key. The tools should be a platform for connecting and communicating not for controlling.

I also met one of the people responsible for Steve, The Art Museum Community Cataloging Project, which could be the most important folksonomy and tagging endeavor that is ongoing. The importance is in part their work, but the research into tagging and folksonomy is insanely helpful and seems to be the best work out there at the moment. The work proves the strong positive significance that tagging and folksonomy plays in connecting people to objects and information. Having the world framed in a language or vocabulary is incredibly helpful and that is not often a result of formal taxonomies as they tend to optimize toward the norms and not embrace the edges. I will be writing about Steve more in the future, but I was so excited to meet somebody tied to the project so I could have more conversations and learn what they have found to be helpful and not so helpful.

The panel on politics and social software, particularly in relation to Katrina, was great. It highlighted the problems with politicians and their lack of understanding technology that could better connect them to their constituents, but also technology that could better enable solutions and resolution for their constituencies. I was completely moved by this panel.

The piece I had disappointment in was the closing. Er, the closing was Stowe Boyd interviewing me about what I found of interest from the day and what I would take home. Stowe asked the perfect questions, but I learned something about myself, I framed my responses literally and too personally. I let myself down in the responses as they were too general and did not capture the whole of what I got from the day nor the strong themes I noted. I was still taking in the politics panel and re-digesting the day based on that context. When I get a new perspective or new information I run the world I perceive through that lens and adjust accordingly and then emerge with a slightly reshaped or more inclusive framework. I think my closing remarks were poor, because I was integrating the last panel into my understandings. The rest of the day went largely as I expected, but the wonderful politics panel disrupted me in a positive manner. I apologize for the poor closing observations. For me it was the poorest part of a great event.



November 10, 2005

Berlin is Good

I am quite enjoying Berlin. The fog burned off about noon, but the weather was still chilly. Me, I am still in a gentle fog from the over-night flight. The S-Bahn and U-Bahn metro system was rather easy to figure out and it reminded me of a cross between the London Underground and Boston's T. The accommodations are good, but the WiFi is very flakey.

I did not follow my normal instincts and stay away from the crowd gathering and a ton of police (Polizei). Standing on a street corner with many Polizei wagons and many motorcycle with lights going, I waited. The waiting brought a large motorcade with the President of China driving past. Well, I really was waiting so I could walk down and see the east side of the Brandenburg Gate, which I did.

On my way out to the airport I managed to take a slight jog going back home. On Monday when I return I am heading directly up to Cambridge, Mass. to the Symposium on Social Architecture, sponsored by Berkman Center for Internet & Society at the Harvard Law School. This looks to be a great event and should be a great follow-up to Design Engaged.



November 9, 2005

Off to Berlin

Off to Berlin this afternoon to participate and absorb at Design Engaged. The usual travel info works for me (usual phone forwarded to the GSM travel phone).



October 16, 2005

Closing of the First Phase of the Fall European Tour 2005

I am back in Amsterdam tonight after a wonderful trip to Brussels for the Euro IA Summit. It was quite refreshing to talk to people that have a different perspective from Americans on IA, mobile, technology, privacy, and the possibilities for social interaction with digital devices. Last year after Design Engaged in Amsterdam I believed Europe to be farther ahead on internet and mobile (including mobile internet) than America. I now firmly believe Americans have a lot to learn from the Europeans.

I wanted to come and present the InfoCloud information in Europe because I thought they would be more ready for it. They would be able to provide criticism and questions that I do not get in America, mostly because the Europeans have been implementing mobile and trying to work through a means to access information in the environment and context where the information makes sense. Boy, was I right. The InfoClouds are more than mobile, as they are a means to think about information access, personally managing that information (or providing people the ability to manage, use, and reuse the information intelligently) and reusing it as that information is needed and framing the information in ways that make sense (web 2.0 fit this bill). I ran into smart thinking about web 2.0 here, not the just go do it, just open your information up, but working to think about if it made sense to do the cool and how they would do it intelligently.

The Europeans also really get cross-cultural sensitivity and are smart about how to approach working with other cultures. I was delighted to find what American's call internationalization is referred to as localization. How brilliant. How understanding. How unalienating. There is a distinct understanding that people are different and we need to understand that and embrace that. Hmm, there is a very strong reason why it is called the Personal InfoCloud and not the User InfoCloud. If you are not thinking in a local sense you will not get to the personal sense. You can get from localization to personalization, or from the Local InfoCloud to the Personal InfoCloud and also back. We all deal with more than one Local InfoCloud and I received some of the best questions about the interaction between the various Local InfoClouds and the Personal InfoClouds. Interaction be between the social part of personal it of immediate interest here. People are very tied to their communities here, it is a strong part of their identity.

I found myself surrounded this weekend by insanely smart people, who love what they do, and are doing things to help others. Everybody was incredibly friendly and genuinely interested in learning everything they could and sharing what they knew. I could not have asked for a better way to have spent any of this time. I would do all of this again in a heartbeat.

Thank you to all of those that I had the pleasure of sharing time with. Who were incredible hosts in their countries. Who asked and listened and from whom I learned to do the same, as when you listen you can learn. I learned an incredible amount. Thank you again. I am ever so much looking forward to my next two trips.

Peace!



October 12, 2005

Amsterdam Time

I have been getting adjusted to Amsterdam time today. This means coffee and a little snack, followed by coffee, then coffee and a little snack, an then coffee, and then lunch with coffee and carbonated iced tea (that is a little odd as bubbles in iced tea usually mean it has gone bad long ago).

The weather and the lighting today is stellar. I spent much of the day chatting and going around Bensterdam, which ended hanging out on Ben's houseboat and watching the boat traffic and chatting. Amsterdam has come to life as a livable city more today than any other time.

I have been focussing intermittently on the presentation for tomorrow. I will post it tomorrow evening or Friday morning.



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 22, 2005

JetBlue Goes Meta

Last night I made a mad dash from the excellent Jaron Lanier lecture/performance at Berkeley on "Can Soulful Music Survive Digital Epistemology?" to get to the Oakland airport to catch my flight. I was in a bit of a rush and not paying any attention to anything on the radio, which may have just been KFOG.

When I got to the airport it was pretty much straight through security onto my JetBlue flight back home. As soon as we were headed down the runway many of the DirectTV screen were showing a plane landing with its front wheel on fire. As I switch my attention to my screen and switch to the news I see a JetBlue plane make an emergency landing. I looked out the window of our plane heading down the runway and thought it was not going fast enough to get airborne. Just then the wheels lifted off.

This was an odd experience for me, but not as odd as the meta experience of the JetBlue passengers on the plane with the locked front landing gear. These passengers were watching their own plane live on television, thanks to DirectTV, up until the last 10 minutes.

In all of this as I was watching and taking off, I could not help but be amazed at the quality of the pilot that landed the JetBlue plane with the locked landing gear. The skill that was needed to do a perfect landing and keep the plane from tipping over or crashing was just amazing. At that moment I felt I was on the best airline ever (I have felt this on many other occasions for other wonderful reasons, but not like last night).

I am quite thankful for the people who brought me out to the Bay Area that they could put me on JetBlue to begin with (I love their direct flights and the extra room after row 11).



September 21, 2005

Great Travel Bag

One very good thing I found out on this trip to the Bay Area. I love my new travel bag it is a Victornox carry on that is the same size as my (er my wife's) bag I had been using. This bag not only has more room in it (I fit three days of clothes (did not know what I wanted to wear), an extra pair of shoes, too damn many beauty products (but not toothpaste), and a bottle of Vitamin Water), it wheels around wonderfully (it did not tip over or tip on one wheel), and it is the first towing handle that I love. The handle curves so the bag is not only easy to pull, but it never hit my foot. This is a huge pet peeve with luggage with wheels (not that I want to go back to the days with only carrying luggage) they always clip the back of my foot when towing it behind, well until now. The wheels on this are very well placed and large, which mitigates many bag problems I have normally had.

When I get a product that is well designed, particularly one in a class of products that are abysmal or never design quite right, it is a great moment. The difference between this wonderful bag and others are rather small, but details are what separates commodities from great products (this is why I love Apple products and German cars).

Looking around the airport and plane yesterday I saw people battling their bags and I just wanted to tap them on the shoulder and say "just get one of these".



Travel Update

I am on extended stay in the Bay Area (more than the 12 hours I was here in August). Yesterday driving down 101 from San Francisco toward San Jose there was a lightening and thunder storm. So strange as they never (or rarely) happen in the Bay Area. They are common at home in the DC area. I guess it was my gift. [Yes, I discussed the weather (I loathe, utterly loathe, chatting about the weather. We have this thing called the internet and you can see instantly get weather info. Abnormal or drastic weather conversations are fine. My son seems to have picked up on this and asks every morning, "is it raining?", to which my wife smirks.]

I am still baffled by rental cars. I enjoy my beast I drive when at home, but rental cars in the U.S. only seem to serve the purpose of what poor cars the U.S. car makers produce. In the intermittent downpours yesterday the fact that not all cars (particularly the one I was driving) do not have Anti-lock Braking Systems (ABS). I have not owned a car in 10 years that has not had ABS.



August 17, 2005

Fall Tour - Intitial Europe Stops Announced

I will let you in on the beginnings of my Fall Tour, which is still developing at this time. There will be a European flavor, which will be very good as the markets there are in the midsts of developing for robust cross-platform usage by people trying to connect their digital lives across devices. The mobile market is far more mature than in the United States and with broadband penetration rates over 50 percent in many European countries (through the help of government funding to make this a priority of their infrastructure and therefore a public good) the usage is driving richer media design perspectives. I am excited to have the opportunities to present and investigate more in these advanced digital life markets.

The European part of the Fall Tour (as it stands today with more stops still possilbe):

I am open to meeting, working, and presenting around these times in locations "relatively" close and I will most likely be flying in and out of Amsterdam for all portions of this tour, and yes each gig is its own trip. I may be in London and surrounding environs for a few days surrounding my panel.



August 13, 2005

Back from "Vacation"

I am back home from a week (um, with an interruption) at the New Jersey Shore. It was a good week, but a different week. Our usual destination of Spring Lake is undergoing change. Over the past seven years we have been going there we have watched the housing prices rise. But this year we were seeing many of the stores we knew replaced by real estate offices and many stores were saying good bye to us as it was their last year, they too are being out priced and replaced by real estate offices.

The oddity is that many who go to this quaint little slice of the shore love the quiet, the wonderful neighborly nature of the community, and the main street (3rd Street). The increasing residential housing costs have hit the main street and part of what has made Spring Lake a great destination (very much like going back in time) is being thrown away. The success is killing what has made it a success.

We also noted there were far fewer people this past week than there have been in past years. Many have said the B&Bs are getting overpriced and a couple have left the marketplace. We also have noted that the homes that are for sale are on the market for a lot longer. The quiet nature is getting some of the pushy New York feel (which is fine in NYC or the Hamptons, but that is not what we have been wanting on a week away).

This trip also had a quick jaunt out to San Francisco thrown in the middle so to speak at . I ordered a car service that picked me up at 5:40am that took me to the Newark airport. The driver was one of Jackson Browne's road keyboard players in years past. We talked about the music industry, travel and kids, Europe, and the changes in Spring Lake (echoing all that we had heard). I got to Newark to find out Continental had overbooked the flight and I did not have a seat (had I known this I would have booked on an other carrier), but it turned out well.

I had another whirl wind trip through the Bay Area and had not enough quality time with people I wished I had more time to hang with. I met a few new people that I a really would like to have gotten to know a little better. I must apologize to a couple people I cut short at as I was leaving PARC, as I was running late to, drive up 280, return my car, have a quick face-to-face meeting, and get on my plane. I am now trying to sort out my next trip back.

I got back into LaGuardia the next morning at 9am (after changing planes in a quiet Cleveland). I took the shuttles to Grand Central then to Penn Station to catch the New Jersey Transit train back to Spring Lake. I was running to get a ticket and then catch the train, but did not get the arrival time into Spring Lake. I figured I could get the information on my Treo easily enough as it was New York and it would be mobile enabled. Um, wrong. The web version is only JavaScript enabled (with no thought for no script versions) and therefore does not work on a mobile device (it can be a rather slick site on a laptop or desktop), which is what I needed.

I had a nice last few days at the shore and it was more relaxed than the first part. I had a nice chat on the beach, which may turn into a trip north in the end of September.

It is rather nice to be back on my laptop with a broadband connection. Using my Treo for connectivity to my digital life was a stretch. It was better than the year prior, but there were also times then the advances of the web toward AJAX, general DHTML, and rich interfaces left the needed information unaccessible from a mobile device. The page size for these pages was huge (many over 200kb), which is fine on broadband, but not smart on a mobile device. The lack of a link to a mobile version (I have not found a version of a site that I needed that offered a mobile option) was quite silly (a page without the JavaScript would have worked just fine or search for mobile could have been a solid solution).

Lastly, my Treo 600 seems to be on its last legs again. It has been only 18 months (or 20) since I got it, but it is not keeping up with the my wear and tear. My Startac and my Motorola 270c took more punishment and kept going for twice as long. The OS is getting buggy and crashing on me, which was not happening until my last day at the Shore. But it is a recurring problem tied to Snapper mail and the web browser in some way. The limitations of the memory, the added large SD card does not help, really show when trying to use the devices as one's main devices for a week. It is just an intermediary device, which it is designed to be, but the rigors of vacation use for light web, 50 plus e-mails a day, calendaring (although not dealing with iCal subscription) really made live tough. I did not have access to del.icio.us, Flickr, nor my RSS feeds (although I could have loaded FreeNews from FreeRange Communications if I could get Java running on my Treo again without it crashing).

Well, I am home. I have a ton to catch up on this weekend and to follow-up on from this week. I have to nail down some arrangements for the "Fall Tour". I will be back shortly with some more stuff here or over at the Personal InfoCloud site.



April 28, 2005

Micro-trip to the Bay Area

I have an incredibly short trip to the Bay Area beginning tomorrow. I will be on the ground there less than 24 hours and nearly all of it will be either sleeping, prepping, in meetings or transit to and from the airport. I was hoping for a trip of three days at least, but that will come. Should you see me, say hi and I may have time for a quick coffee or something.



January 28, 2005

Amazon and A9 Provide Yellow Pages with Photos

Everybody is talking about Amazon's (A9) Yellow Pages today. Amazon has done a decent job bringing photos into their Yellow Pages for city blocks. This is a nice touch, but it is missing some interaction and interconnections between the photos and the addresses, I hope this will come. I really would like to be able to click on a photo and have the Yellow Pages information show up, everything I tried on Clement Street in San Francisco, California did not work that way.

One of the things that really hit me in playing with the tool today at lunch was how the Yellow Pages still suck. I have had problems with the Yellow Pages for..., well ever. I grew up in cross-cultural environments with British and French influences in my day-time care givers growing up. I moved around a fair amount (up and down the West Coast growing up and Europe and the U.S. East Coast). Culture has their own vocabulary (let alone language) for the same items. What I call things, depends on context, but no matter what, the Yellow Pages do not match what I wish to call what I want (or sometimes need).

Today's search I used one of the Amazon search sample, "Optica", which had some nice references. Knowing how I usually approach using the Yellow Pages I search for glasses (as that is what I need to get or need repaired) or contacts. Doing this in a paper Yellow Pages usually returned nothing or pointers to a couple other places. One would thing online Yellow Pages to be different, well they are, they returned nothing related. Glasses returns restaurant supply and automotive window repairs with not one link to eye glasses, nor a reference to "you may be looking for...".

A9 is a great search tool and Amazon.com has great product tools and incredible predictability algorithms, which will be very helpful down the road for the Personal InfoCloud, but the current implementation is still a little rough. I can see where they are heading with this. And I can dream that I would have this available for a mobile device at some point in the next two or three years.

Once very nice piece that was integrated was reviews and ratings of Yellow Pages entries. This is great for the future, once they get filled out. It will also be great once it is available from mobile device (open API so we can start building a useful tool now?). But, it brings my scenario of the future to light rather quickly, where I am standing in front of a restaurant looking at over 100 restaurant reviews on my mobile device. There is no way that I can get through all of these reviews. Our supporting full complement of context tools will be needed to get pulled into play to get me a couple or four good reviews that will mean something to me.

This is but a small slice of the Personal InfoCloud, which is much broader and focusses on enabling the person to leverage the information they have and find. Pairing these two and enabling easy access to that information when it is needed.



January 23, 2005

Back from SF

I am back home from San Francisco and I arrived home to 4 or 5 inches of freshly fallen snow. Yesterday I was sitting outside at overlooking the Bay Kelly's Mission Rock (freshening the sun block) and chatting with a friend while driving around in his convertible. I love my season's, but this really was tough. Although the temperature today was not as bad as the 14 degrees and windy at 4am on Thursday morning when I left.

I had a great trip, but it was far too short. It was the most crazy intense (in the most wonderful way) two days I have spent in a long time. I spent a lot of time on the freeways around the Bay Area, which allowed me to witness the Rollerball tactics of the CHiPs as they briefly stop traffic around a stalled vehicle or accident to push the accident out of the freeway and seem to gesture, "Game On" and all the cars resume their 85 mile per hour pace.

I finally had time to sit down face-to-face with friends and people I have been e-mailing and chatting with for a while to get some things done a little more quickly, as well as just put wonderful faces to the digital shell I had known. I am not sure who invented in person face-to-face interaction technology, but they are a genius as it is such a better technology than chat, e-mail, blog comments, or even the phone. So much gets done and it is such a broad channel of communication with all the non-verbal. There is so much energy that does not get conveyed in the electronic medium.

I will have to say I did more text messaging in two days than I have in quite some time. But, I also talked on the phone more in two days than I have in three months (other than with family).

Thank you to everybody I got to see on this trip, you made it wonderful. I am really sorry for not getting to see as many people as I would have liked as my time was jam packed from morning to night. One way or another there should be more trips.



November 25, 2004

Personal Mobile Usage Pattern

One of the things that bubbled up while using a phone other than my usual phone on my trip to Amsterdam was my normal use patterns. I use my mobile phone (Palm Treo) not only to communicate with others, but also to communicate with myself.

I often send myself e-mails with ideas for projects or articles. I also send e-mails to myself on things to spend time thinking about later or to research later. I had one of these moments in talking with Peter Bogaards about Paul Otlet, whom I have problems remembering. I started reaching for my tool to send a note and had a different phone, which took a little more effort, but got the job done.

I also SMS myself with the cross streets of where I parked my car, or what garage level and other metadata. This solves an ongoing problem, particularly in Georgetown, where my normal parking patterns are ousted, I am parking in a completely new location, or parking in long term at an airport. All part of my mind occasionally not being on the task at hand or I am just deep in thought and did not make a conscious effort to remember where I parked.

One other usage I have is taking a photo of my radio display in my car or the song name and performer. This mostly happens when listening to XM Radio (satellite) as the options are broad and deep, which works wonders for coming across new music I like. The radio in my car does not have a means to save the song name, or even better would be to e-mail me the song info, a link to listen to a snippet, and buying information. I resort to the tools at hand. Yes, I only (well usually) take photos while stopped. I usually have 5 to 10 photos of my radio on my mobile at any one time. It makes it handy when I go into a music store or wait until I can put it in a wishlist online. I use my Amazon Wishlist to find items of interest in a store or to add to my Wishlist and having that live access has made things far better for me as a consumer (my only desire is to have a better mobile interface to one's own Wishlist on a mobile it would seem to have immense benefits for Amazon).

I also browse the web and read articles that I save down to my device to I have access in no-signal zones or zones that I do not have MMS or web access and just phone (DC METRO while underground). I often save down Boxes and Arrows articles for such trips. I also push articles and presentations I am working on to my mobile as back up as well as for review in down periods.

How do you use your mobile?



2 Feet, Thousands of Miles, and Time

My first afternoon in Amsterdam I ran in to Mike Kuniavsky in the hotel. Then Ben arrived and we stood in the hallway near the registration desk chatting and trying to work out logistics. My GMS phone has SMS and so did Mike's phone, with a Dutch SIM chip. He sent the introductory hello SMS ping to my phone so that I would have his local number. Once it was sent we waited for a minute or two to have the ping leave Amsterdam, go to the U.S. hit my carrier, route the ping back to my phone in Amsterdam a couple feet from the phone that sent the SMS.

I know this has been done thousands if not millions of times already, but the time bubble was wonderful. The length of time it took seemed like forever, particularly SMS at home can hit in seconds (with the exception on CDMA networks which seconds are about a minute or two). Yet, when thinking of the vast miles the ping traveled in that short a period of time it is still astounding.



November 15, 2004

Back to Telecommuting to My Personal Life

I am back home from a fantastic conference, Design Engaged. An incredibly deep thanks is owed to Andrew for putting this conference on. I am so tired, but so amazingly still on the conference high that comes from spending time with people (some new to me and some already friends) who are bright, witty, and have similar view on the world and where it can be going. Having the conference in Amsterdam was wonderful and that really added to the uplifting nature of the conference.

Amsterdam is such a fantastic place for me, not only because some of my family comes from there, but the pace, the bikes, the freedom of expression, fantastic architecture, incredible public transportation that is truly world class, color and light built into the fabric of the city in ways that are permanent.

One question came up a lot in conversations, "do you telecommute?" My answer is no, I commute to work, but I often telecommute to my personal life. This conference allowed me to put actual people to the weblogs, comment names, IMs, and e-mails to a large portion of those I find to be holding a conversation that really helps frame my mindset. The conference was a synchronous time-place that collapsed hours, days, and weeks of asynchronous on-line conversations through weblogs and digital meta-trails as well as comment posts. Not only was the mind energized and engaged this weekend, but so was the heart as I got to know many much more deeply and still found wonderful warmth, which is a mark of fantastic people to me.

I am ready to go back, but that moment in time is gone. I can hope for future workings with each of these folks again. My life has been greatly enriched and I am deeply thankful.



November 10, 2004

Off to Amsterdam and Design Engaged

I am off to Design Engaged today, which is in Amsterdam. I will try to keep up with things here, but you can hopefully follow along with photos at vanderwal on Flickr.

I will be posting the That Syncing Feeling presentation after it is presented on Friday, which may be Saturday.

Could somebody please remind folks in the Netherlands they are a loving and accepting people. Being of Dutch heritage is something I take great pride and I would like to keep it that way.



November 3, 2004

METRO Trains More than Bump

Washington DC METRO crash will make a mess of things for a few days. This accident with one train going over another, was noted as one train "bumping" another by METRO just after it happened. Fortunately today was a driving day as I had a dentist appointment, but tomorrow will be an utter mess.

This is the latest in a string of messes on the system of late. In the last two years my commute has gone from 35 minutes to nearly an hour on the train each way to and from work. Driving has also become horrible and had similar congestion problems. Part of the problem is lack of funding for maintenance and up keep.



September 20, 2004

SeatGuru

While on the subject of travel sites, SeatGuru is another site to have in your pocket. I have yet to book my flight to Amsterdam, but the airline I will most likely go with is not listed. This will work wonders for domestic flights however.



September 19, 2004

Boutique Hotel Guides

Adam has provided a link to greatsmallhotels, which seems to be a very good resource along with Tablet Hotels. Both resources focus on boutique hotels around the globe. The price range in greatsmallhotels is broader and has some wonderful looking options at the lower end of the scale. Tablet Hotels has slightly better reviews, the interface is more appealing to me, and I really like the "Sensory Guide" to guide you to things around the hotel's location that match: look, listen, taste, touch, and scent.



June 16, 2004

Airport Bliss

On my recent trip through the Minneapolis airport I heard a lot of Prince over the airport loudspeakers as well as from the stores. That was a great welcome to Minneapolis. I have been through that airport four times in the past couple months and the airport and the view flying in has me very intrigued with the city, or at least wanting to get out of the airport for a few days.

The impact of the airport made me think about other airports and I can think of none that I have been drawn step out and explore. This could be because the airports I do enjoy I also enjoy the city. Portland has a nice airport with good amenities and it seems to echo the nature of the city. I have not been impressed with the Atlanta airport and have not been outside of the airport. I liked Heathrow terminal 4 and I have enjoyed London and its surroundings. I have spent a fair amount of time in the Paris Charles DeGaul airport and always find things to explore and enjoy, much like Paris. All I remember from Schiphol in the Netherlands is the signage, which seemed very good and nothing else stood out and that is not representative of what I know of the Netherlands and particularly not Amsterdam.

The Minneapolis airport is built in a box layout with parallel outcropping for the waiting areas. There is one main mall area that includes a Lands' End store, which is something I have never seen. The voices on the loudspeakers oozed Mid-West nasal, "Would the person who lost a Hi-Un-Day car key come to the main kiosk."



May 3, 2004

Accounting for Abscense

It is good to be back in our house, but a large part of me has not quite caught up as it is still out West, home. We had a great trip visiting family in Washington and California and some friends in the San Francisco Bay area. The only thing that would have improved it would have been more time to see more friends and better soak in the community. We were very happy to see our friends and family that we did and we wished we could see them more often.

The trip was a great trek with Will, who turned seven months just before we left. For a relatively little guy compared to us adults he sure has a lot of stuff. He was a real trooper on the plane flights out West, then to California (he seemed somewhat amazed at what he could see looking down outside the window as we flew over Mount Shasta as he was look left stare down and press his head to the window then spin 45 degrees right and do the same), and then back East. He seemed to make everybody smile in the airport and on the streets has he practiced his waving and smiling every chance he got.

When we got to California it was just plain hot. It was in the mid-90s in the Central Valley and we were sweating and dreaming of the cool San Francisco air. When we arrived in SF (after lunch in Oakland at Zachary's Pizza for a fantastic deep dish) it was still 91 degrees. I only had heavy jeans, dress khakis, and heavy cargo pants. I was so disappointed in what the locals called amazing weather. As soon as we checked in the hotel and got Will napping I headed out for some lighter pants or shorts. We had a great location in a wonderful hotel in the Financial District, the Park Hyatt was a great place to stay with Will as the staff went out of their way to be accommodating and we had nearly every amenity right out our door in the Embarcadero Center and surrounding streets.

We became more awake the longer we were out West as Will took quite a while to adjust to the time and kept us waking on East Coast time until Thursday. We took advantage of staying in the heart of the City by walking up through Union Square on Wednesday and then saw my old neighborhood and had lunch at Cha Cha Cha after cruising Noe Valley, which provided my old Spinelli blends from Tulley's.

Our way back to the Central Valley we stopped at St. Mary's College to take a very quick peek at the changes, cruised through Walnut Creek to see the catalog outdoor mall it has become, and to Lafayette for dinner.



April 13, 2004

SeatGuru -- An Airline Seat Guide

You know that all seats on commercial airplanes are not created equal. But, you do not know which is best. SeatGuru is where you should go to find your answer.
[Hat tip Doc]



March 1, 2004

IA Summit in Austin

Late last night I got back from the IA Summit in Austin. The Summit was great as it sparked a few ideas, I learned new things, I got to see friends of like minds, and learned the world is still alright. The Summit Blog offers a good snapshot of the Summit. I could not have enjoyed the Summit without James' iCal of the Summit as I was able to drop it into my Personal InfoCloud and truly get what I wanted out of the Summit.

The sessions were very good this year, there was always something I wanted to attend (on a few occasions there was more than one session I really wanted to attend). I really enjoyed Jesse's James Garrett'sBrand-driven IA session which was entertaining and insightful. Victor Lombardi's Incorporating Research on Navigation into a Design Method really gave me a strong insight into some of the current research, particularly a summary of Andrew Dillion's Shape of Information, that helped flesh out some of my own ideas. The UT Austin student's presentation on Extreme IA, using Extreme Programming methodologies for IA research and tasks. Tony Byrne's Critical Review of Enterprise CMS was extremely valuable for myself as it made the current CMS marketplace more coherent for me (I went to an all day session on CSM on Friday that was largely an echo of much of my CMS experience and provided a few good insights that I did not have in my tool belt, which did not strike as large of a chord as the Critical Review).

I need a little time and sleep to digest the conference some more.

Travelling

I knew the Summit would be jam packed into nearly all my waking hours so I was looking forward to the travel time to write and reflect. My trek to Austin was an educational experience as I had purchased US Air tickets off Travelocity for the round trip. My ticketing info said US Air flights with partners United and CanadaAir. On Thursday evening I stood in a non-moving line at the airport for 45 minutes only to jump the line to ask about my flight. The agent said, "We no longer run the flights to Chicago, you are now on a flight run completely by United". I went to United to find out I was very late (30 minutes before the flight and trying to point to the long line at US Air and trying to eek out the words 45 minutes). It was a fast trek behind the counter agent as she rushed me to the short security line with my carry-on and my check-in bag as I did not have time to check my bag and I was short on time to get to the last gate out on the airports tendril. That morning I moved my small pocket knives to my check-in luggage so I would have the ever resourceful and needed tools in Austin. I was stuck in Security as they dug out the offending .75 inch pen Swiss Army knife and the regular sized one then rescanned my bag.

By the time I got to the gate the doors to the flight had shut (10 minutes before the flight). I was on to the adventure of finding a flight or series of flights to Austin assisted by the helpful gate agent. He tried 9 different combinations as he muttered about the snow in Atlanta and the Carolinas. Finally he said he was going to make a last ditch effort with Continental. I followed him to the gate to Houston and was able to get a seat to Houston and a connection to Austin on the last flight to Austin. Then a snag. The flight was leaving in three minutes, but my ticket was a US Air ticket for a United flight and needed to be converted by US Air to United so they could in-turn transfer it to Continental. The helpful gate agent said he would go back out to the lobby and exchange the ticket and he took off jogging. Five minutes later he returned with my exchanged tickets and they reopened the gate doors and the very helpful Continental gate agent carted my luggage down the gateway, but with out the wheelie extending handle out so he looked like a hunchback galloping after me). I finally sat in my seat and was quite numb from the experience). I was able to relax a little and write a little on the flight and on my 2 hour plus layover in Houston, but only about a third of what I had hoped to get done.

For the return flights I decided to leave even earlier for the Airport. It was a good thing I did so as I went looking for US Air and CanadaAir (regional) for my flight back as that is what the ticketing said, with both flights co-branded with United. The Austin airport does not have a presence for US Air nor CanadaAir. I thought I was in for another great adventure. This time I tried United first (no other closely related options). I handed the ticketing agent my ID and she handed me my United tickets, but my flight was delayed with "wheels up" at 5:40 and boarding at 6:00pm. This was as confusing as the rest of the trip for me so I just went with it. It turns out I was on a small regional jet that did not have enough room to write on the laptop, but I did have a great seatmate that had also been to the conference and we had a very good chat. The flight from Chicago home was the usual tight forward accommodation that does not permit opening a laptop. But, I did get home after 1am this morning.



February 22, 2004

NY Times Does Austin Texas Style

Those going to Austin this upcoming weekend for the IA Summit or a few weeks for SXSW should read the NY Times What's Doing Austin travel review or one of the other Times Austin travel reviews. Unfortunately for me my trip is going to be jam packed with IA conference and I and cursed not to be able to make it to SXSW Interactive.



July 12, 2003

Fred an iBook and Cambridge photos

My friend Fred picked up an iBook just prior to his trip to Cambridge, England for a summer study session. So far the switch has been good. He has posted his first pictures from Cambridge on his .Mac site. His pictures bring back wonderful memories of mine from the other side of the Oxbridge family.

He has found a rather inexpensive WiFi connection in a coffeehouse there. If you know of others post them and I am sure it will be greatly appreciated.



June 24, 2003

BBC Proms means Summer

Summer means many things and BBC Proms are one of the highlights. Great classical music at great prices in and wonderful venue. When going to the Proms get there a little early to wander around and take in the building.



March 30, 2003

More Portland and IA Summit photos

A few Portland and IA Summit photos (81) have been added to the photo gallery. It looks like I still need some tweaking of the BetterHTML tool to up the quality of the photos. I had been hoping to complete these earlier but errands and constant sleeping hindered progress.



March 28, 2003

Portland Moving Public Art

I uploaded my quicktime movie of Portland moving public art(3.5MB Quicktime movie) that is located across the street from Powells Books. This was taken from my digital still camera, but I really wanted have a picture of this in action. Now I share.



March 26, 2003

Portland Photos begin

I am posting photos from Portland. I started with Design Within Reach and Portland Rose Garden. I had a little help from BetterHTMLExport for iPhoto on Mac OS X, which did a decent job. I may tweak it some to improve the quality of the pictures.

People photos and hopefully write-ups will come tomorrow. I was sucked into (yeah right) to the Georgetown NIT game tonight. Back to being productive tomorrow.



March 25, 2003

Portland Dreams

The trip to Portland, Oregon was wonderful. The city was not quite familiar at first and many things seemed to be about 90 degrees off. One night walking with Joy we came across a public square near the Bank of California building and it was very familiar as it was near (I believe) a building my dad worked in and I remembered the view. The problem was it all was facing the wrong direction.

Portland was rainy in that wonderful clean Oregon way. I spent nearly all of my time downtown. I had a great meal, with Joy, at Jake's Famous Crawfish on Thursday night. The bread at Jake's is an elastic sourdough with a perfect crust. I had the clam chowder, which seems to have a sweet smoked bacon and the hint of wine or sherry. Joy had cod and I had shark for our main course. Each of them was great.

Portland is a city that pays attention to the details. The street and public signage is very clear and easy to use. The city is filled with public art and ornamental iron works. Portland also has a great blend of older buildings which have kept their decorative elements and newer buildings designed with personality. The public transportation is some of the best in a U.S. city as it is easily accessible at street level. On the way out I took the street car to the airport and found it very easy and dropped me off right at the airport needing minimal walking to get inside (there was an issue with a quick door closing that could have been rather problematic, were it not for some friends).

I was very impressed with the PGE Park, a multi-purpose outdoor ballpark-stadium. I saw many Portland Maverick games (now the Beavers) in the 70s here as well as the Portland Timbers professional soccer team. The park has the true feel of a post-WWII ball park with retro signage and iron works. Much of the feel is it is an older park, but it feels new and clean at the same time. Portland is in contention to get a major league baseball team, as is Washington, DC. and from this trip and seeing the park, it has a true baseball feel to the area. The feel reminded me of Fenway Park in Boston, but much closer to the downtown. I know Portland is planning a new Portland ballpark, but PGE seems wonderful.

One of the best assets of Portland has to be Powell's Books. The book assets of the store are truely impressive. I wandered around on Thursday night for a while, but spent a couple hours and a few dollars (or so) there on Monday before leaving. I found great buys (they have used books next to the new books) on many books I had been looking for and picked up Douglas Hofstadter's Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought, which has been of particular interest, but I had not been able to find a copy to see if it was what I had hoped it would entail. My book purchases caused me to have an overage charge for my bag I checked on the airline, but it could have been the Tully's Coffee.

I have many photos of Portland to download and post over the next few days.



March 21, 2003

Enjoying Portland

I am enjoying Portland, even with an airplane cold in my head. You can also follow along on my Thomas Vander Wal Hiptop Nation blog.



January 26, 2003

Learning proper French Cooking at and Inn

We has a wonderful weekend at a L'Academie de Cuisine French Cooking weekend held at the Mercersburg Inn in Mercersburg, Pennsylvania. The Inn was fantastic, with wonderful accommodations, great common rooms, caring innkeepers that are friendly and very helpful, and very good food.

The cooking portion of the weekend was great. It was a present from Joy and it turned out to be a wonderful gift. The weekend revolved around the founder of L'Academie, Francois Dionot guiding the 14 students through making a four course French meal each day. The 14 split into four teams that prep and cook their portion of the meal. The meals are prepared in the kitchen of the Inn, which is just large enough for the 14, the instructor and his wonderfully helpful wife, and one person helping clean-up. Saturday's meal was a Cream of Cauliflower and Roquefort Soup with a Roquefort Flan, Quennelle of Salmon with Saffron Butter Sauce (our dish we helped create), Beef Goulash with Mashed Potatoes, and a Caramelized Pear Cake with Calvados Creme Anglaise. Today's menu was a Bourride of Fish with Aioli, Quail Salad with Polenta and Porcini Dressing (our dish), Chicken Blanquette with Root Vegetables (including salsify), Phyllo Tart of Chocolate and Raspberry with Chocolate Sauce.

We had a lot of fun and learned a lot. Francios is a perfectionist as one would expect and hope for as it pushed us to expand beyond what we knew. We also learned about adding more salt, not table salt, but wonderful sea salt (Sel de Mer) and kosher salt (containing all the minerals that should be in salt). Everything that was made was wonderful and a glass of wine was raised to the team that helped create that course. We also met wonderful people also taking the course, which was an added blessing. We plan to make courses at L'Academie a regular part of our lives and hope the rest of them are as fulfilling as this weekend.



November 15, 2002

All aboard to Philly

I am utterly tired and a little crispy. I am heading to Philly for a very quick trip. I decided rather than drive I would take the train. I need to read and write and have a little down-time without an Internet connections. What a better way than the train. I went to the Amtrak site to check times and prices. It was a pretty good site, only it did not consistantly keep my previous selection when I would change one element to check price and arrival time combinations. The explainations were at the very bottom of the page (I was using a browser without alt tags turned on, which may have helped). It was a rather quick and easy to use site. The not keeping the previous selection did get me a wrong ticket time reserved, but when I called customer service it was easy (completely hassle free) and free to change my selection. I will see how the rest of the trip goes. (I have travelled by train a lot on the East Coast as it saves on driving and dealing with what to do with the car in NYC.)


November 10, 2002

Tablet Hotels gets Experience Design and IA right

The November 2002 edition of ID Magazine reviews Tablet Hotels. For those that are not familiar, Tablet Hotels is a Web site that focusses on well designed hotels that are not from the cookie cutter molds of the large chains. These boutique hotels presented are from around the world. The site allows users the ability to select by location, amenities, and the traveler's agenda.

The response to "What was the biggest design challenge in creating the site?" points to the success:

The booking path was the greatest design challenge. We built our own proprietary real-time reservation engine, and when we began, we really wanted to create something outstanding and above and beyond the sterile process that's out there now. However, as we got into it, we found ourselves handcuffed by the antiquated systems that the engine had to connect to (GDS and hotel inventory systems). Throw in the fact that our site caters to an international audience and that the language terms and general policies of hotels vary greatly throughout the world, and we had our work cut out for us in our information architecture.

The small site of Tablet Hotels had not only their own information architecture (micro IA) to work through be the semantic variations of an industry so to digitally interact with various players (macro IA). The pairing of these two extremes seems to be wonderfully executed. The visual design of the site attracts the international customers searching for design and customer focussed hotels. Each hotel has a well written snippet and are photographed from design friendly perspectives. The reviews also offer a "citysense", which is a, self described, sensory guide to region covering: look, listen, taste, touch, and smell. The interactive components are also executed very well with allowing the user a the ability to select the elements/facets that are important to them when making the selection for their hotel.

The Tablet Hotel site is very well thought through and has spent much time and consideration walking through the whole array of Experience Design/User-Centered Design roles, including information architecture, to make a site that raises the bar for other hotel sites.



November 7, 2002

Window on Paris

Jason and Meg are in Paris and offering up wonderful stories. I am having a wonderful time dreaming though their relayed adventures. This is a wonderful time of year for Paris as the crowds are down and it is the balance tips toward a working city not a tourist destination. This time of year it is a little chilly and walking by the sidewalk crepe stands and feeling the warmth from the heat and the smell lifts the soul.


August 28, 2002

Jish boards a plane

If you think our skies are safe, go read Jish is all aboard. Some how I have a the feeling he could retell this one at Fray Day. I am going to miss Fray in SF this year and miss seeing all the wonderful folks that attend and tell their stories. I will be trying to go to the DC event.


August 4, 2002

Expat from your couch

Two good resources to help understand living as an expat in France or an expat in the Netherlands. There is another Paris Expat that I have been reading for a while. These offer a great escape while sitting in the US.


May 20, 2002

Rough travel

Home. Travelling was rough this trip, but worth the break. I have flown on five or six times since September and this was the first one that was just horriffic. It could have been the airline, I just don't know. My trip home I did not miss a flight, which is a good thing, but there was surly flight attendants and negative leg room. I am sure it will be better on my next trip, which will be the end of June.


Travel

Ah, back to Internet connectivity, and broadband at that. It is good to have Internet connectivity, but it will be better to be home. Tomorrow is a travel day back home.


May 16, 2002

Short trip to NoCal

I am busy packing and loading docs and needed info on the laptop for a very quick trip to Northern California. I will see some people there and talk about things. I will not have Internet access, but my cell phone should work. I may have access Sunday night, but should be back on Monday to see my wonderful wife and get my broadband fix.


May 6, 2002


April 14, 2002

We went to Altoona, PA for the wedding of friends of ours. The wedding was wonderful and we got to see friends we had not seen in a while.

I really had not spent much time in that part of the country. The drive was like a trip through a model railway set, the ones I used to read about in magazines when I was young. The trip also reminded me of trips through Swiss mountains and Austrian rolling hills.



April 6, 2002

Were I not tethered, Boston to Alaska summer trek job with Philip Greenspun, would be a great experience. Maybe it fits your fancy, so apply.


April 2, 2002

Travel Amsterdam in NY Times

The Sunday New York Times travel section had a good article on Amsterdam. Such good memories.


March 13, 2002

I am sitting in the Austin Airport using an 802.11b wireless connection to collect and read e-mail and to post here. The world of wireless connectivity has been kick ass this trip. The SXSWi guerilla wireless efforts by Cory (boingboing) Doctorow were greatly appreciated and widely used and many of us would offer our first child or at least a beer for his fine efforts.

Another observation of this trip is the insanely wide use of Apple laptops. They were everywhere at the conference, it was almost as if they were in the conference bag of goodies. Those of us on Mac had little problem grabbing wireless connections and were showing our pictures to others we had taken. By the end of the conference many of the Windows folks were cursing their non-compliant and non-easy to adopt laptops. Not only were the graphic folks using Apple, but the tech geeks were too (this is where I fit in, believe me). Even Doc Searls was Mac'n around. In the land of Dell, Apple proved to be king.

I am somewhat saddend to be heading home and leaving old and many new friends behind. SXSW is a place were passion for the Internet rules and sharing our passion, knowledge, and experience is what it is all about. Hair color, age, gender, skin color, or location is not important as the passion binds us together. We are all out to make the Web and Internet a better place to be. To a person we all have become much better people because of the free sharing and passion. Jack Vallenti and his trying to label us terrorists is not only poor sighted but a fat lie. We share to grow and learn. Jack only want to play his Anderson card and shred our reality. (There will be more later to clarify and to help you understand what I mean by these comments.) Liars and fear mongers are trying to steal the truth, but Austin let truth ring out. You bet your sweet bippy, I'll be back.

I love all those I met and whose paths I crossed and wish all safe journies home. Keep the passion alive.



February 18, 2002

I have posted a quick photo journal of this recent trip to NYC. The slide show is a presentation built with PB's SnapGallery. The images were cleaned-up and reduced in PhotoShop prior to moving them in to the SnapGallery. I found SnapGallery very quick and easy to use. I have a strong feeling I will be playing with it some more.


February 17, 2002

I found it very frustrating to use Earthlink/MindSpring on the road. I have many e-mail accounts that I use on a regular basis. Earthlink refused to pull some accounts and blatantly refused to let me send e-mail from any of my e-mail accounts, but the one they own. I stopped using Earthlink months ago for e-mail as it was nothing but spam. I know they don't like people using accounts other than theirs so that they are not the conduit for spam. I just need a usable solution. I have two Web-based accounts and really like Mail2Web, but my favorite account uses a non-standard login that causes outgoing mail to have strange traits on M2W. Yahoo and other accounts are options, but I really like hitting reply in my e-mail client so to keep continuity. This weekend saw many unsent e-mails sitting in my outbox, only to be deleted after it was too late. Suggestions appreciated.


The New York City log goes a little something like this... We did the obligatory trip to Tal Bagels on First Ave to fuel up on my favorite bagels. Saturday I was able to knock out much of the computer set-up, but I had a feeling early on (Wednesday or Thursday) that I would need cables. We needed longer phone cord, but also when looking for a monitor stand that one can slide a keyboard under. The cords were no problem, but the stand was another issue. We went trekking through the mid-50s on the Eastside up into the mid-60s trying everyplace I had remembered seeing the stands. But, we got one of two answers 1) sorry we stopped carrying that a year ago, or 2) sorry we stopped carrying that four to six months ago.

After an hour and a half of searching we stopped at Mangia at 50 57th Street for lunch. Mangia has great salads and sandwiches for lunch. The salads were very good and the grilled vegetables were amazing.

The post-nourishment lead us to Rizzoli's Bookstore to peruse the art and design books, but did not make a purchase. We started back on our search and happened to stop into Fauchon for some chocolates, and to try our French on the Japanese staff (odd cultural blur). Then we were off to the Upper West side, beginning at Lincoln Center. We walked up West Broadway and stopped in Gracious Home, a wonderful "We have everything" home store. The did not have the desired monitor stand, but they did have an amazing tool section, lamp selection, kitchenware, and everything you could ever imagine with all of it seeming to be top quality and top brands. We stopped a few other places on the way to Zabars to look around and sample. By this point it was time to head back to rest up for dinner after stopping in nearly ten places that had the monitor stands in the past. At Work Stand on West Broadway, I finally had to tell somebody I was beginning to take this personally.

Our evening included dinner at MI, which was very good Asian fusion, with very slow service. We did happen to see Charlie Rose at dinner, which some how added to the dining experience. Next it was off to the Rise Bar on the 14th floor of the new Ritz-Carlton New York, Battery Park. The bar looks out across the Hudson River to the Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn, Staten Island, Jersey City, and from the outside deck up to where the Twin Towers stood. In all it was a great night with Joy's family and friends of hers and theirs. We did finally found a place that would order the monitor stand for us.

Sunday was another trek to Tal and off to find more cables to try to get an HP printer to talk with the new Dell. We also needed cables and a converter box to get the DVD player running. These efforts after our hunting left us with a working DVD player and a noncommunicative printer. This of course lead to lunch at the near-by Houston and then off to visit a new baby and his parents on the Upper East Side. It seemed like such a short visit before we had to get back and pick up our bags to head back home.

It was a jam packed weekend and once again I have a great place in my heart for NYC. The people in NYC definitely are now very friendly and courteous. This to me is a little un-nerving as I like the New York edge. But, it was also nice to have people being completely sweet and helpful at every turn.



February 16, 2002

I am feeling like Carrie Bradshaw as I look out the window and type on my Mac laptop, but that is about where the similarities end (thank my lucky stars). It is good to be in NYC, but it is a quick and filled trip of setting up a computer and home theater. A possible trip to SoHo and a couple other side stops.

Last night flying in I caught a bright light out of the corner of my eye, it was the WTC pit brightly light for work at night. I had made a conscious decision not to go down to there, but here I was flying right over and peering down in. I am staying with the brother-in-law that worked in the tower 2. I also got a flash back to 1990 on my first trip to NYC and meeting a friend in the Trade Center, which on my way back overheard a groupd of tower workmen singing "I've got the Power& by Snap. That scene was vivid in my head. It added a very different tone to the start of this NYC adventure.

It is looking like there may a trip to the Prada store today, as I mentioned it to Joy, who mentioned it to her sister. It could be 10 minutes of cool and then an hour or more of "what was I thinking". I used to love to shop, but now it is sort of eh.



February 14, 2002

This weekend it is off to NYC for a very short visit. I am setting up a computer, Internet connection, and DVD player for a relative. In late Friday, install (expecting to have to run out for cables and other items "not included") on Saturday day, get taken out to dinner for the duties provided, brunch and packup Sunday and return home. This may be the first trip to NYC that I have not had a huge desire to see something. The Cloisters would be nice or the Planaterium, but I just don't see it fitting in. Maybe I need regular visits to NYC, just to see friends and take in things I never have done. I now know a good smattering of folks in NYC, but I will see most of you in a couple weeks in Austin.


February 5, 2002

I have a very strong feeling I am going to be living vicariously through Jay's site for the next few months or years. Jay is off to travel the world after leaving his job (well not really his choice), moving out, selling his possessions, and heading on the road then off to Europe. Sunday's posting was a great find and a wonderful travelogue piece.


January 27, 2002

Also stumbled across... Walking Info, a site for pedestrian's and cyclists. There is good information related to safety and trends. (I found this in a Google search for France, crosswalk, signs, which I still have not found what I am looking for, a man's figure with briefcase and 40's type felt hat crosswalk signal sign found in Lyon in the late 80s).


I stumbled across Metropole Paris, a weekly 'zine about Paris (in English) in quasi-weblog style. The writing, stories, and photos are enjoyable in a friendly manner.

Previous Month

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