May 22, 2002

Eric Kristoff has pointed out the keenness of the interface to Kartoo. It really does warrant further experimentation, but they're doing a lot of stuff seemingly on the fly that is pretty, well, keen.

Posted by esinclai at 10:19 PM
Making Sense of Mailing Lists

Chris Dent has posted a summary of his UnRev II mailing list visualisation (if I may misuse the term) project, as Creating conceptual access: faceted knowledge organization in the Unrev-II email archives, in conjunction with Kathryn La Barre (Actually, she's first author, so I may have the attribution reversed). It's an interesting piece about visualising content on a specific mailing list, as well as some forward directions as to how such could be improved.

Like a lot of these sorts of things, I'm impatient for a couple improvements (without denying the high-worth of these sorts of experiments!). I'd like to be able to manage this sort of view in near-real time, which would probably necessitate better automation of concept analysis. In my dream world, I'd like to see improvements such that the viewer can interact with the data (ala Touchgraph, which I believe Chris used). And beyond mailing lists, as I've discussed with some others, it would be very fruitful to tie this sort of analysis to real time chat. Odigo and other products approached this, but not very intelligently. In saying that, I expect there'd probably very funky shifting in any graph as messages came in, given the very informal nature even business chat can take. Nonetheless, something to look for.

Posted by esinclai at 10:05 PM
Clearing Arcana I

One of my loyal readers has pointed out that the last piece - on authority and OSS development 0 tended a bit toward the insidery. This is an apt criticism, which I'll be attempting to correct going forward. That said, this piece on GPL and distributed software by E.E. Kim is not only apropos, but also ties into some other issues discussed and to be discussed in these pages.

Posted by esinclai at 11:54 AM
Open Source and Authority

Authority is not a person, but a process. In the standard corporate software development world, authority often takes the form of a person, a manager of a product's lifecycle who in turn controls the livelihood of her team members. In the OSS movement authority may be vested in the form of the person (albeit a person who often has little remunerative authority), but it can just as easily take the form of the process. And in any case, any lack of authority's existence can greatly diminish the chances for a project's success.

Recently on the Bootstrap List, there's been a set of discussions about licensure of the product and how this question of licensure could be key to the projects sucess in the marketplace of ideas.

In my thinking about it, it may be that the licensure question, and the development process its answers engender, may be key to the projects success, but not in the marketplace of ideas, but in the internal market of development itself. The subtlety is not that the license type is key, but that the license discussion exhibits the needs of the process.

I'm no Eric Raymond, only a casual observer. But it seems obvious to me that the key to true success of an OSS development model is in the authority which is laid onto the project. If I go to Sourceforge or Freshmeat, I can see a multitude of products under development. Some of them are even bootstrap institute friendly in both goals and license. But for the most part they languish there, stale at relase 0.13 "builds". I think to some part this is because there is no authority for the development beyond a momentary itch and rush of excitement. For development and software to be sustained, authority must set in for the project.

In his note that I see as a challenge to the list, Chris Dent says in essence the best tool that could be provided for the bootstrapping of OHS development would be a "pocket-guide spec". It's this succinct but overriding focus that drives the best OSS projects. In order for an itch to be scratched, one has to know where the itch is to point your finger or backscratcher. One needs a map to the territory, even though the map is NOT the territory to be scratched.

In the case of the FSF, much of that driving force comes from Richard Stallman who - though he may not be involved with the day-to-day decisions that drive FSF products, has been so deeply ingrained in the process for so long that his spirit is there. In the case of Apache, there's a concretely defined goal that has driven the development of the code (and I note that Chris has noted in his referenced posting the corporate goals that made much of this development possible). For a product like Jabber, the development has moved from being the modus scratcherandi of Jeremie Miller to being driven by the Jabber Enhancement Proposals (JEPs), who present a more decentralised but less ontrolling focus - a model taken from Python and well used in the Perl community as the newest revisioning - still vetted by Larry Wall, but driven by the community.

In the case of the OHS, there are some snapshots of this authoritative model, but discussion on the lists wanders adrift in the commons without authority being envisioned (and, as the conversation wanders, the energy toward running code is taken into other pursuits). Does this mean that Englebart should step in and drive development and modelling? Perhaps not. But Bootstrap Institute, if not Doug himself does need to step in and provide more authority, a quickbook and focus, into the process.

[note: since I started corralling (perhaps unsuccessfully) these thoughts, Eric Armstrong has begun what I see as attempts to move the list to this agreement on our authority.]

Posted by esinclai at 05:48 AM
May 21, 2002
Freenet and Expiry of Content

Mike Dupont mentions again the concept that freenet has promoted of content expiration in a discussion on the Bootstrap list regarding about how best to manage projects.

Mike's concept, like freenet's, seems to be that old content can safely expire, where old content is determined by the lack of reference to information.

I need to get a better understanding of this, but I worry that it takes us too close into the realm that Eric Kristoff and I have discussed, where our new more accessible content may become our old, inaccessible and lost content.

In a bootstrap context, Bardini relied on old journals (online) of the Englebart group to reconstruct the processes and social network that was his research lab. But what if that information had expired in a freenet sense?

I may be a bit half-cocked here, so further reading is necessary. But I hate the idea of losing content, as Anne can tell you from harsh experience.

Posted by esinclai at 07:28 AM
May 19, 2002

The Human-Links product (from France, about a year back now, or so it seems that development may have stalled at that time) looks like it tries to cross-pollinate document references and ideas among users in some P2P manner. Attempts to try it out failed on WindowsXP, however, with the installer complaining that it's files are corrupt. (from bootstrap list).

[update: I've exchanged emails with Yves Simon, the lead developer. They do indeed have probems with Windows XP. Further correspondence will be warranted, as installation on my W2000 box had problems - post install, however). The project released code this year, however, so I stand corrected.]

Posted by esinclai at 09:22 PM
May 15, 2002
Weblog Bookwatch

What is it that people who produce weblogs read in an offline state? That's the apparent goal of the Weblog BookWatch by Paul Bausch.

In effect, he grabs links to Amazon from weblogs that post the existence of their updates to Not the perfect solution - my links to, for example, won't get caught. But an interesting bit of sideline data to be sure.

And in another bit of 'catch Eric's Eye', it does have an RSS feed too.....

Posted by esinclai at 09:44 PM
XML and Search

Seeing this PR driven newsblurb about the Inktomi search toolkit's availability and use of XML structures reminded me of the joys of search engines. Like, what ever happened to the START initiative that the now subsumed Infoseek was deep into. Was it disintermediated by the XML revolution that followed? Since I can no longer find good resources on it (yet), maybe it just drifted away in bit rot. How would it have worked if integrated with Neurogrid? Much learning and reading to do there still.

[note: while looking, found this bit about tilebars and this bit about the Cheshire II project...]

Posted by esinclai at 07:46 AM
May 14, 2002
Language Use and Usenet Mining

An interesting, if lite, study of language use, or rather extrapolation of language use, has been posted to Usenet comp.lang.* Traffic Evolution.

In essence, the author mined for postings for particular language references (perl, cobol, etc). An interesting experiment. Could it be extended to Google's other interfaces? Larry Wall has used similar information derived from job boards in the past. How do all these match up?

As always, more questions than answers.

[note: edited to add link to Wall's State of the Onion]

Posted by esinclai at 06:58 PM
May 12, 2002

Fishcal looks like a very clever idea. It's a fish-eye view of a calendar, allowing full zooming and dezooming for context, clever finding, and a bunch of other nifty bits. At the project site there's a video that does a much better job in motion than that of the screenshots.

Posted by esinclai at 04:25 PM
Visualising Weblogs

Casey Marshall has a java applet and dataset of some size that presents "A Picture of Weblogs". It allows - on a purely cross-linked basis - so no content or real context linkage as yet. Still, an interesting picture. He's also posted a Touchgraph version as well. Nifty stuff.

Posted by esinclai at 11:22 AM
May 11, 2002

I came across this Column by Nick Denton on some web log or another (someone running bloxsom, if memory serves). I do wonder if the strains of burnout that I've seen in coworkers past (and to some degree present) wouldn't be mitigated if we took a smarter tone in how much work we do.

And of course, this is a mode also promoted by Peopleware afficionados - though I've known some proponents (self included) who find it simpler to intelectually understand PW than implement it in our working lives....

Posted by esinclai at 12:56 PM
May 06, 2002
Floating the Cross-Promotion Idea

If you haven't heard, it's Blimp Week over at Mike Whybark's weblog. Everything you may have wanted to know about the lighter than air world!

Posted by esinclai at 10:21 AM
May 02, 2002
NYC - a boy's view

Anne has already written up some of the nice moments of our trip. Some additional reflections from me - the boy's view, if you will.

We did buy a ton o' books. A pre-release of the Weinberger book from the Strand, for example. Among other items:

  • Another history of Zine's and small press comics for ongoing project A.
  • A history of Pacifica radio.
  • A collection of Kokoschka portraits, purchased after the show at the Neue Gallerie.
  • A collection of Weimar Germany era journals by Count Harry Kassler
  • Two books from the Pollan edited Modern Library Garden Books series, including one by the Polish writer Karel Capek (author of RUR)
  • A collection of pieces from the Talk of the Town, signed by Lillian Ross.

As Anne said, it would appear that one can't buy books in Chicago; though we do. Oh, for a good personal catalog!

One of the other wonderful things we did was go to the exhibition of tapestries at the Met. Stunning large things, yet with a comlex density of image and language that is hard to convey in words. It's like if you took all the lingual and and referential depth of great writers and put it in woven form. Coincident with this I've been reading some Trollope. While in my 20th century prejudices led me to be skeptical, Trollope works nicely in multiple layerings of influences to his characters lives - and multiple layers of commentary and authorial intrusions in those lives.

Pushed over the edge to leap into this by PBS' The Way We Live Now, our Tivo then didn't manage to record the final episode. So now I have to work through the 800 page novel -- which we already own on our shelves...

Posted by esinclai at 09:19 PM
Shame and Humiliation

I've realised periodically during the course of my life that I sometimes seem to be driven by the opinions of others. I don't believe I do this beyond in any degree beyond that of most reasonable people, but I do derive some of my self-opinion by the judgement of others.

So when Mike Whybark threatens - because this page is empty, to move me to his slumbering status, it hurts.

All that has to happen now is for those self-reflections to make it up here - less self, more reflection...

Posted by esinclai at 08:35 PM