tecznotes

Michal Migurski's notebook, listening post, and soapbox. Subscribe to this blog. Check out the rest of my site as well.

Jun 29, 2005 3:30am

notes on look and feel

I've been planning a visual overhaul of Reblog's stylesheets. They are starting to look puffy and dated, and its time to cut out a little fat. I've collected a small group of application fragments that I think are particularly good designs to emulate.

Jun 27, 2005 10:18pm

we are speaking at where 2.0

Eric and I are presenting our MoveOn Virtual Town Hall project at O'Reilly's Where 2.0 conference this week.

Stamen collaborated with MoveOn.org to create a live, map-based application which allows thousands of people to simultaneously communicate with MoveOn staff, featured speakers and one another. The project encourages a visceral sense of "being there" among participants, provides an immediate visual picture of the spread of MoveOn membership, and allows that community to connect with itself in a powerful new way. Upwards of 50,000 members have participated in these online town hall meetings simultaneously. Migurski and Rodenbeck will describe the nature of collaborative engagement that live online maps can provide.

MoveOn.org's Virtual Town Hall presentation: Thursday, June 30th, 1:45pm- 2:00pm, in the Westin St. Francis, San Francisco.

Jun 26, 2005 7:16pm

razorbern, amazing photographer

Razorbern's photos on Flickr have been among my absolute favorites over the past few weeks. Here are a few that I expecially like:

Jun 25, 2005 5:46pm

GSV released

I've taken my previously-mentioned giant-ass image viewer, renamed it to "GSV", and cleaned it up a bit for easier distribution under a BSD license.

Check it out.

Features:

  • Allows viewing of extremely large images on the web, by segmenting them into smaller tiles and showing only what will fit on the screen.
  • Complete visual control through vanilla CSS.
  • No server-side technology required.
  • Developed in Mozilla and Safari, tested in Internet Explorer, reportedly works in Opera.
  • Thanks to behaviour.js, very little actual Javascript knowledge required.
  • Includes Python script for segmenting images.

Jun 24, 2005 2:15am

reblg, again

Marc Canter posted a lengthy reply to my previous post about reblg. It's a great point-by-point answer, and has been clarified somewhat through conversation as well. He really has a grand vision of a microcontent mesh, and it's both aspirational and achievable, so I'm into it. There are still a few difficulties I'm having with it, though, mostly of the "metacrap" variety.

Overall I'm really into the possibilities here, because I think that microformats have great potential to pick up some of the sem-web slack in a way that's incrementally reachable.

Marc lists a few benefits for content creators in addition to the ones I mentioned. One is:

It's imperative that the structure of the microformat or micro-content be maintained. This is the 'challange' that RSS has put us into - services like UpComing.org enable subscription to one's personal events, but the structure of the event is lost. That's gotta stop. We NEED to maintain the structure of stuctured content!

Okay, yes. But right now I subscribe to an iCal version of my Upcoming.org events, and they appear in my calendar app along with all my other events and appointments. That's not just structure, it's structure in a format I can use directly. hCal isn't there just yet, and it's the easiest one of the microformats to render unambiguously. Imagine hReview butting up against straw man #7.

Something else he says, later:

Going back to the islands of functionality..... For us (as an industry) to equal Longhorn and whatever Apple comes up with - it's imperative that we come up with techniques to implement the mesh. A mesh that inter-connects tools togfether. That's the infrastructure we're proposing.

I'm curious why Google isn't on the list with Apple and Microsoft. I view them as being in the best possible position to provide the kinds of aggregation services that microformats need, and the least likely to cooperate openly. Just as tags are useless without a Del.icio.us or Flickr to provide a comparative context, semantic microcontent requires that like be compared with like for it to make any sense. A decent search engine that was microcontent-aware would certainly help, and this seems to be exactly what Marc's proposing.

I bet it would take Google a month tops to implement the expected response for a search like "format:hcal san francisco skinny puppy shows".

Marc pledges not to commericialize the data, which is a bit of a bummer to me. Having a plan for commercialization up-front means that you're prepared for the eventuality (because it always comes up), and you're talking about it from day one so nobody from the information-wants-to-be-free crowd freaks out down the line.

Anyway, it's a lot to digest. Especially as it relates to ReBlog, because there's so much overlap it's scary. He's right that we're converging on the same spot from different direction - ReBlg has the big picture with not a lot of proof-of-concept, while ReBlog has been working pretty well for a year now in the specific domain of RSS content curation. It's a few plug-ins and bookmarklets away from realizing half this stuff.

Jun 23, 2005 3:10pm

cameron's blog survey

I took Cameron Marlow's weblog survey so he can finish his PhD, and you should too.

Jun 22, 2005 4:49pm

continuous partial attention

These are excerpts from Nat's notes on Linda Stone's Supernova 2005 talk on Attention.

I see twenty year cycles. Coming through in the cycles is a tension between collective and individual, and our tendency to take set of beliefs to extreme then it fails us and we seek the opposite.

...

1985-2005: Network center of gravity. Trust network intelligence. Scan for opportunity. Continuous partial attention is a post-multitasking adaptive behaviour. Being connected makes us feel alive. ADD is a dysfunctional variant of continuous partial attention. Continuous partial attention isn't motivated by productivity, it's motivated by being connected. MySpace, Friendster, where quantity of connections desirable may make us feel connected, but lack of meaning underscores how promiscuous and how empty this way of life made us feel. Dan Gould: "I quit every social network I was on so I could have dinner with people."

...

The next aphrodisiac is committed full-attention focus. In this new area, experiencing this engaged attention is to feel alive. Trusted filters, trusted protectors, trusted concierge, human or technical, removing distractions and managing boundaries, filtering signal from noise, enabling meaningful connections, that make us feel secure, are the opportunity for the next generation. Opportunity will be the tools and technologies to take our power back.

"I quit every social network I was on so I could have dinner with people." I thought I was just nuts.

Brilliant.

Jun 21, 2005 11:16am

contagious media trophies

"Awards for the winners of the Contagious Media Showdown. Custom printed on our 3D printer, each trophy represents the traffic to the site over the course of the contest."

How cool is that?

Jun 21, 2005 2:38am

reblg considered baffling

So Marc Canter announced reblg today:

Ever wondered why you cant just click on an article and blog it? Where's the universal "Blog This" button? Concerned that while microformats and micro-content standards are taking off, our existing tools will lose the structure of these chunks of reviews, events, media. Etc.? Where are the reblogging tools that maintain the structure of microformats and micro-content? Tired of being forced to use only the latest tool or utility to take advantage of a new standard wish you could use ANY tool or utility instead? Where's a routing service to enable me to send posts to whatever tool I chose? Well then you know why we created ReBlg.com, a universal "Blog This" button and routing service.

I'm confused, but here's my interpretation:

Reblg hopes to spur the growth of microformats on the web, by introducing a tool (or set of tools) that create an incentive to post in a structured format. Presumably Reblg will be sensitive to hCal, hReview, and the other microcontent formats currently being pushed by Technorati. I don't see a format for your basic "blog post" but I imagine that such a thing is not too far out. Reblg's Grease Monkey script will parse HTML and add little orange "blog this" buttons next to recognized content chunks - calendar events, etc. Users of the script and other Reblg tools will be able to click those buttons and have them route the clicked-upon content to a blogging tool of their choice.

The benefits to weblog writers would be:

  • Faster time-to-repost. Adding a piece of microcontent to your site would be a one-click operation, presumably with an extra "are you sure?" step and some space for comments thrown in.
  • Easier to find re-postable content. If Six Apart and Blogger get on-board, many sites will be publishing this easy-to-repurpose material by default.
  • Faster spread of your writing. Providing standard ways to repurpose your writing means that your readers can pass it on with less muss, less fuss.

The benefits to Reblg/Marc Canter would be:

  • Marketable data. The Reblg service handles the transition between a click of the orange button and a post to your site. Each re-post would be routed through the server, along with immediate information on who's posting what and where they're getting it. Right now, Technorati and other similar sites get a lot of their information via trackback pings generated when a post is published. Here, Reblg gets much of this same information when a post is conceived. Holy crap!
  • Copious whuffie.

I'm not fully clear on how this beats the One Microformat To Rule Them All, the URL. It feels to me that a lot of blogs have had this problem licked for some time, by providing permanent links to individual content chunks. I guess it's Marc wants to get not just the text of the linked item, but also the markup and semantic content. An item posted as an hCal event would stay that way through any number of "reblggings." I'm not sure I agree that this is necessarily a desire shared by others, though, because I can't piece together the first list of benefits above into any shape that would make sense for mid-stream users - people coming across reblgged posts and wanting to pass them on. hCal could be useful, if someone were to cook up an HTML-to-iCal bridge for it, but right now it's about as useful as the rest of the semantic web.

One place I can see this being insanely cool would be to make the linkage information open, like Del.icio.us does. If (as a writer) I could see who has been repurposing my microcontent, it would help close the already-tight post response ego trip loop accelerated by Technorati.

Oh yeah:

Final NOTE: We feel horrible about being so close to Reblog.org. They're nice people but we use the term reblog completely differently. Hmmmmm.

Dammit Marc, it's a great name, think up your own! Help me understand how this use of "reblog" is different from ours.

Jun 21, 2005 12:38am

a new table for stamen

Eric and Zach went to Home Depot and returned with this stunning piece of furniture for the front room:

Jun 20, 2005 6:53pm

giant-ass image viewer

I've been experimenting with segmented, javascript views of significantly large images. See what I'm talking about here.

Update, Monday morning: This has caught the eye of Kottke's remaindered links and O'Reilly's Radar, which is making me think that I should take the javascript version a little more seriously.

So, I promise that at some point in the next few weeks, this will be packaged up into a nice little script that can be easily incorporated into any website.

Jun 18, 2005 7:42pm

adam: back from the dead?

Adam Greenfield has recently started posting again. I guess he was busy writing a book. It's nice to be reading V-2 again on a semi-regular basis; it was one of my favorite weblogs last year.

Jun 12, 2005 10:46pm

fridgediff

Silly ubicomp idea.

FridgeDiff is a software + hardware system designed for installation in refridgerator doors. A webcam is pointed towards the fridge interior, and an automated snapshot is taken each time the door is opened and closed. The photos are compared pairwise, so that differences in fridge contents and arrangements can be timestamped. Image analysis techniques would be used to help identify the movement of items from one spot to another, but the real power would lie in providing information on food age. Any particular item could be tracked backwards in time to its first appearance, so that age could be determined to help judge when items should be discarded.

Additionally, metadata about the items might be provided with the aim of encoding expiration date information. If the fridge knew that a given had a 2-week lifespan, it could warn the user (via SMS, RSS, whatever) of impending spoilage. This meta-information need not be added synchronously - instead of depending on barcode readings or ubiquitous smart foods that announce themselves via RFID, FridgeDiff would sport a web services connection, allowing for large-scale, distributed content-tagging. By harnessing the food-identification smarts of the Bored At Work Network (BWN), FridgeDiff lets the collective intelligence of the internet teach it about food's behavior over time.

All of this would have just saved me the intense, personal hassle of cleaning out the back of our refridgerator and disposing of a full bag of moldy leftovers.

Jun 9, 2005 11:41am

truck on fire

Three reasons we didn't get any sleep last night:

Jun 7, 2005 1:36pm

shawn in morocco

Shawn has been posting his amazing photos from Fes, Morocco.

Lots of human-scale interior spaces such as this one, hot on the heels of fresh attention paid to Christopher Alexander's work.

Jun 7, 2005 12:40pm

copyright idiocy

Two from Andy:

Plan to extend copyright on pop classics:

Britain's super-rich rock veterans are about to get even richer. The government wants to extend copyright laws to ensure pop songs are protected for almost twice as long as the current 50 years. ... James Purnell, the new minister for creative industries, believes the change will allow record companies to generate extra revenue to look for new talent and nurture it. Purnell, who will outline his plans in a speech next week, said: The music industry is a risky business and finding talent and artists is expensive. There is a view that long-term earners are needed so that the record companies can plough money back into unearthing new talent.

$#@*!!

Tough shit, James. Why is it that international copyright terms are being standardized up instead of down? The way things are going, who knows if these record companies will even be around to collect royalties in ten years, not to mention 60.

Digital photos can look great, but some labs won't print those that appear too professional:

Photofinishing labs increasingly are refusing to print professional-looking photographs taken by amateurs. The reason: Photofinishers are afraid of infringing on professional photographers' copyrights.

Double $#@%!!

I must not have been paying attention when we crossed over into Bizarro-world.

Jun 5, 2005 2:58am

RSS reuse

An interesting conversation has been brewing over at Read Write Web. It starts with a note about SuperFeedSystem and its marketing language:

What if you could have constant new content on your site ... without having to write a word of it? Now you can with the wonderful power of FEEDS. ... Use other people's information to have constant, new, expert articles auto-added to your sites.

There's an element of personal interest for me here, because I'm a co-writer of ReBlog, and our language says:

A reBlog facilitates the process of filtering and republishing relevant content from many RSS feeds. reBloggers subscribe to their favorite feeds, preview the content, and select their favorite posts. These posts are automatically published through their favorite blogging software. ... reBlogs are useful to individuals who want to maintain a weblog but prefer curating content to writing original posts.

Wow, sounds pretty similar.

I believe we avoid the thornier redistribution issues aired on Richard's site by focusing on the personal nature of reblogging, and taking care to build a clear chain of attribution into the reblogged news items. However, the technology is effectively the same between the two projects: SuperFeedSystem could probably be used to publish an Unmediated or Eyebeam ReBlog, while our software could be used to co-opt other people's written works into a search engine juicer.

Legally, the issues here are also identical. A few commenters argue that the second S in RSS grants implicit permission to re-use, but I don't believe this to be the case. Copyright law is clear that the owner of a work has the right to determine where and how it is reproduced. I don't think that the publication format is an implied license. I'm actually surprised that this conversation is even taking place - the stated goal of groups like the Creative Commons or the FSF is to provide for ways to unambiguously license material without requiring the old-style byzantine permissions runaround. It feels as though most of these questions have been asked and answered countless times, and that in 2005 it's enough to slap a CC badge on the work and be done with it. Richard's site lacks one, therefore he reserves all rights except fair use (excerpts, attributed quotes).

Still, I can see why there's a point near the end of the comment stream where the spittle flies a bit; ultimately it comes down to user's intent with a program like SuperFeedSystem or reBlog. If attribution is given in good faith and content is sampled judiciously, there rarely seems to be a problem.

A commenter near the bottom says:

I've never used any of Rich's articles, but now I definitely know that I won't. I would think that most people would get the hint from this conversation. Please keep life simple for newbies like me. RSS has been fun so far without the legal mumbo jumbo.

The whole point of a Creative Commons license is to recognize that new technologies allow for wholesale duplication, recontextualization and redistribution, and to formalize the licensing process with a simple pattern.

Jun 2, 2005 2:32am

VJ book: print with comments

Tim Jaeger is currently working on a project called VJ-BOOK.

VJ-BOOK is one of the first books that will be published on VJ culture, and potentially the first to theorize VJing in a way that breaks down the practice and reception of live visuals in a systematic, structured way.

The book is meant to be an academic work on VJ'ing, which is a lot more interesting than the glut of mid-1990's rave flyer books that functioned solely as collections with no commentary or reflection. The most fascinating aspect of this book for me is the beta reader concept:

Beta-Readers will serve an important function in VJ-BOOK. Contributing to its semi open-source format, PDFs of the different sections will be distrubuted to selected parties ahead of time (approx. Aug 2005) who will then add comments, additional photos, anecdotes, etc. These sections will be distibuted according to the readers unique areas of knowledge (software, a particular scene, etc.). This will serve to produce an authorship model that is similar to threaded online conversations rather than a single, stand-alone text.

Early printed books came with wide margins built-in, for use by readers when taking notes or adding glosses. These were necessarily personal, while Tim's are slightly more public without sacrificing the "official" feel of a printed book. Purple numbers in a printed work could serve as a bridge or peg to open the margins to the wide world. Incidentally, these same themes are explored in Narrating Bits, an interactive academic work that we helped develop with Erik Loyer earlier this year. This project was just mentioned on the excellent Information Aesthetics weblog.

Jun 1, 2005 11:39am

international symbol of RSS

I just got through posting this to an entry on Radar about the general incomprehensibility of XML/RSS icons on web pages:

The one thing all those buttons have in common is white text on an orange background, which is becoming something of an international symbol for a feed independent of format. RSS Equalizer and RSS Content Builder.com even use this convention in their product logos. It won't be long before this pattern enters the global consciousness, "the thing that decided decaf coffeepots should be orange."

Why not jump-start the process and ditch the letters altogether? A symbol such as this small image has a number of advantages over the RSS and XML buttons:

  • Orange and contains three enclosed elements. This echoes the older buttons for those familiar with them.
  • Visually distinctive, but still wordlike and usable within a text stream or verbal explanation.
  • Designed to be small.
  • Independent of language or character set.
  • Three bullets look like an ellipsis and imply repetition and continuation.

Jun 1, 2005 10:55am

eyebeam's guest reblogger

Starting this week, Eyebeam's guest reblogger of the fortnight is VJ Tim Jaeger. Until I shifted my focus completely to net-based visuals and data graphics (and co-writing ReBlog ;), VJ'ing was my most serious side project. I produced a lot of free video loops, experimented with 3D rendering in Max/MSP, and participated in local video events.

It should be fun to see what constitutes the cutting edge of the genre since I last performed.

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