January 31, 2006
2006 Conferences

Around the end of the calendar year and into the beginning of the calendar year, we have discussions at work about conferences. As a rule these need to be planned early, which can be problematic for a lot of the 'hipper' conferences in new technologies (for whatever reason I never seem to get wind of them until the latter half of the year, which makes it hard to schedule from a project or budget basis). I've started building a list (actually, the original date of this entry in draft was a month ago!) of conferences and other get togethers I have spotted which I have at least a passing interest in, and they do still tend toward the front of the year.

My relationship with conferences is somewhat odd. I enjoy the opportunity to get out and encounter new ideas, new people and different aspects of technology. Often they don't directly impact my day to day work, though I think that can be part of the benefit - one I've offset by self-finding some attendances in previous years. .

Currently under consideration...

RecentChangesCamp (Feb 3-5, Portland)

This is next week. Unlikely at best! Looked interesting, as an open conference format discussion around wikis. Looks to focus on the community aspects of wiki tech and the positive aspects of changing the world. In PDX, which I like. Thanfully, some people I know will be on hand, and the output should be strong.

ETech 2006 (March 6-9, San Diego)

I've made it to ETech before, and they've been very interesting. This year looks no different in that regard, though they've nicely moved away from excess 'Make' hype and have a nice smattering of attention/collaboration/communication sessions. Certainly worth the shortlist, though time may be tricky.

SXSW 2006 (March 10-14, Austin TX)

Austin good. My only experience with SXSW is back in the early 90s when I caught a Caspar Brotzmann Massaker gig. The interactive conference is, consequently, new to me, but it looks like a good lineup. It seems rather public (blogging, web design) rather than more enterprise in focus, but there's enough there that such is hardly a definitive critique.

YAPC::NA (June 26-28, Chicago)

It's here in Chicago. It's deeply affordable. I'm there, barring surprises.

OSCon 2006 (Jul 24-28, Portland)

Again in PDX. Reports out of last year's in PDX were very positive (I was in town at the time but on holiday), and OSCon is always on my shortlist of interest. Had to decide this early, but usually inspiring. In some ways more technical than I deserve, but the output is still helpful.

WikiMania2006 (August 4-6 Boston):

Looks a bit too focused on the wikimedia stuff which is currently intellectually engaging but not practically engaging. I heard good things going into last year's though.

WikiSym2006 (Aug/Sept, Somewhere in Europe)

Along the lines of RCC, another open conference on wiki stuff. Distance makes it unlikely, esp as AZ and I are planning to be in .eu in May and then maybe early in the following year if we can swing it.

CSCW 2006 (November 4-8, Banff Alberta CA)

Two years ago I was able to attend 1.25 days of the CSCW week when the conference was here in Chicago. It was good, the proceedings were good. I would expect much the same, but Banff?!? In November? Surely that's the definition of an inclement workspace....

Any suggestions from the distracted masses? What conferences and get togethers am I missing for the coming year in the areas of collaboration and emerging tech?

And shouldn't I get one of those projects rolling to have a chance of speaking, rather than lurking, at a conference?

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Posted by esinclai at 10:10 PM
January 30, 2006
GTD 1-2-3 : Collecting

I attended one of the GTD 1-2-3 sessions (basically a half day teleconference on GTD methodologies) this evening. It's a decent review, though not deeply enlightening yet by comparison to the RoadMap seminar (more expensive, but more inspiring). That said, a few good fleshouts of ideas and some reinvigoration was had.

As with last time, I've got notes. In OPML format, and as dynamic HTML again. These notes are primarily for my own reference, but I'm happy to share them out.

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Posted by esinclai at 09:24 PM
January 29, 2006
nearband backchannel

Following a series of links on a Wikipedia talk given at the OSAF back in August, I come across what looks to be a relative innovation in the field.

On a photo by Tantek Çelik of a slide, Elizabeth Lawley has provided some critique (as she also does another slide). This functions like a slow collaboration (or nearband) backchannel. Unlike a simple weblog post -about- a seminar presentation which is distinct from the presentation itself, this ties itself to the presentation in time, much as a backchannel commonly does. Some future means of tying this metadata to presentations outside of photos (perhaps a wiki meets S5 process) would be an interesting development.

The talk itself looks to have been fairly interesting. 90 servers back in August and from their posted information another 40 or so were ordered in the next quarter. Small wonder they're expending considerable effort in fundraising.

[ I got started from this image, as scriptingnews pointed out a Brand reference. And I left being impressed with the volume of Tantek's postings, but also the granular detail provided within the tagging (ccshirt, foocamptshirt, technoratisticker, etc) ]

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Posted by esinclai at 02:58 PM
January 28, 2006
Wireless Networking in the Developing World

Tim O'Reilly points to the existence of a new book, Wireless Networking in the Developing World, a free book released under a Creative Commons license, produced by Rob Flickenger and Tomas Krag. And of course, a wiki is available for discussion and errata.

I mention this here, rather than via del.icio.us, first as it may be of interest to a project a friend has been noodling on, but also because the essay itself goes on to explain some of ORA's goals with their licensing and remixing - there is an undercurrent of frustration with the takeup, but some justification that it does work in some instances.

Not having access to SafariU content, I do wonder - does it have the facilitative functions of transclusion and granular addressability? Would those indeed be critical to longterm success of such projects? Eric Armstrong has been arguing recently that such is the case, and he does make some good case examples. Perhaps he and Tim should have a chat.

[ Aside. I know it's really O'Reilly Media, not ORA any more. Old habits die hard, and I really wish they'd bring back the bookmarks! ]

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Posted by esinclai at 06:30 PM
January 27, 2006
Udell, Ferren, Engelbart

When I feel doubtful about my place in the world of technology and the applicable value of the work I do, I often find it helpful to think about Doug Engelbart, listening to him describe in one of many interviews his goals, the genesis of his goals, and his dogged perseverance toward meeting his plan.

This column by Jon Udell feints at exposing some of that inspiration, and provides a few pointers to other resources around the same area.

As a species, we face huge political, social, and technical challenges. The only way to tackle them effectively, he believes, is by enhancing our ability to create, share, analyze, and collectively act on representations of knowledge.

I haven't yet come to the same depth of decision as Engelbart on my own goals, and I don't have pretensions to bringing the same degree of brainpower and understanding to the problems he takes on. I do regain inspiration in the ultimate goals of his work, and reviewing his work periodically allows me to refocus on that. Listening to the gentle perseverance in Engelbart's cadences and the (in hindsight) gracious discovery of his goals aids in the ongoing focus and refocus.

Posted by esinclai at 06:33 AM
January 26, 2006

Long ago AZ turned me onto the Mekons, and I've been listening off and on to the various projects ever since. So it's with some happiness that I can point out that Jon "Leeds -> Chicago" Langford has two notable appearances webside this week.

First, he and Sally Timms and one of their lineups (Ship and Pilot, which includes Tony Maimone) have contributed not one but two tracks to the upcoming Sandinista Project.

Secondly, this same lineup had a lovely session this past week on Sound Opinions. Worth checking out.

Posted by esinclai at 06:46 PM
Merkel At Davos

Steven Johnson is at Davos, blogging along intermittently. His post on Angela Merkel's presentation (Merkel At Davos) evinces a number of, well, troubling interactions:

Helpful. Dell gave a fascinating mini-course on economic incentives as well, explaining to the Chancellor that it's difficult to get people to work if they make as much money NOT working. Merkel took it all in with a cheery demeanor -- she told Dell "Good advice" in English -- but I kept waiting for her to strike back...

Yimeny. No wonder we can't get those we try to denote as allies to get along with us.

Cold comfort, but after the coming economic collapse, those who learn to get along will probably be best placed to get along.

Posted by esinclai at 07:54 AM
January 25, 2006

Scott adds a nice note to the question of how collaboration works. He rightly points out that collaboration is deeply intertwined with communication. Though he takes a design (customer/client) focus on this, it's a useful reminder of yet another facet of collaboration as we experience it.

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Posted by esinclai at 10:15 PM
engrossing read

This has been pointed to in a number of places, but the Google Code examination of real world web markup use is fascinating (if geeky) reading. Certainly an insight into what once can do with large sets of raw data when you begin to slice it (the slicing is neither good nor evil, though the commentary might be - though the delicious relaxed language is a nice touch).

Like many amateurs, I'm blushing to realize that if they had happened to hit some of my pages (particularly those I've left behind from earlier lives, but probably current ones also) they'd find a number of common (read 'newbie' errors).

More validation would help my pages, but at least I don't leave MSWord output tags all over.... Textmate does just fine for most work, thanks.

It's interesting to see how the various <meta> elements and <a> extensions have panned out (though there are no actual percentages shown throughout). nofollow seems to have a bit of traction by comparison to the others, but tag seems less used than I would have initially expected, though after reflection on its rather specific purpose at the moment, not surprisingly so.

Note: the graphs require SVG support (e.g. Firefox). First time I've knowingly seen SVG used so nicely.

Posted by esinclai at 09:28 PM
The Ig

Clearly a rip from VH1, so some may have already seen this snippet of Iggy Pop (and Bowie) from the Dinah Shore show, but wouldn't it be cool if the Dinah Shore punk shows would be collected just as the Tom Snyder Tomorrow Show: Punk & New Wave have been.

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Posted by esinclai at 06:33 AM
January 24, 2006

I suspect this will be all over the 43folders, Attention and ProductivityOnMac world before long (or maybe it is passed already and I missed it)....

It's not Yojimbo, either!

I've been playing a bit today with a MacOSX lifestreams-like tool, OnLife. It's interesting though clearly young.

Basically, OnLife uses Applescript and other ObjC like plugins to monitor a selected series of applications - by default things like NetNewsWire, Mail.app, Safari, iTunes, Adium and MSWord are included. It doesn't dive too deeply in most applications, preferring to record that some document named 'foo' was in focus from time X to time Y. With some more exposed applications, it digs a bit deeper, caching a snapshot of a web page, or a snippet of email text.

It's certainly interesting - in my early use it has raised my consciousness of what I am doing in odd ways. It's not perfect - there seems to be some system pausing as OnLife polls various applications (this is as much Applescript, likely, as OnLife). The OmniOutliner plugin doesn't seem to capture information yet (possibly a distinction between OO and OOPro). The UI is a bit clumsy in rescaling. It doesn't use Core Data.

This would be richer if I was an OSX user full time, but since most of my day is in the Windows XP and/or Solaris world, mostly my avocational time is being tracked for me.

What will be interesting with a tool like OnLife is extending it - can the Applescript extensions allow me to find what Ecto document I was last working on? Can the Omnioutliner plugin be fixed (perhaps even to grok KinklessGTD documents?).

In discussion with a friend about this today, we waxed off on how a growl or growl++ centralized notification or pubsub system for this would be better. Of course, as soon as we started the conversation we realized we had both read the same DrunkenBatman essay....

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Posted by esinclai at 09:09 PM
January 23, 2006
Browser Wars recall

On one of the BlueOxen collaboration lists, Murray Altheim provides a bit of background on the browser wars during the Spyglass years (prompted by reference to a piece (pdf) on something called "Interpretive Structured Modeling". The story rings true to some old reading I did (when we were trying to figure out how to be a nimble group in a larger organization, a bunch of us tried to digest Cusumano and Yoffe's Competing On Internet Time which provided some insight (rather rose-tinted, if memory serves) into the methods used by Netscape - plan to be big, grow quickly, build the systems to sustain that early, etc).

It'd be interesting to review the Netscape work anew, given Netscape's change and redeployment of assets throughout Sun, AOL, and Open Source....

[Altheim's encapsulation also rings true with the David Bank's work "Breaking Windows, though I don't recall that work getting into the economic details of the arrangement. ]

In any case, Altheim provides a nice snapshot of what happened in those years, a good snippet to digest

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Posted by esinclai at 06:29 AM
Recommended Viewing

We recently had some subscription problems with McSweeney's lately... But they're all straightened out now, thanks.

When we received the most recent issue of the mag, they bundled a sample (premiere) issue of Wholphin. I've only dipped into it, but it's worth seeking out if for nothing but the Spike Jonze portrait of Al Gore from the 2000 presidential campaign. It's a human Gore, much like the portrait drawn by Nicholas Lemann in a New Yorker piece published in that same year. Gore is even more humanized here, relaxing with family, casually discussing policy in broad strokes in one cut, but deciding on a family film or showing off family artworks in another.

It's all a bit depressing, when you see some politicians running with good impulses inside them, but those same impulses rarely get seen or exemplified in office.

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Posted by esinclai at 06:22 AM
January 22, 2006
Simple Tip for Mail.app

I'm sure this is common knowledge, but following the principles that a) writing things down assists in my recollection and b) I'm wrong about what other people consider common knowledge more often than not...

To open links embedded in a mail message in Mail.app without bringing the browser into focus, command-Click. Since I have new links set to open in tags, I can now stack up a bunch of 'read/review' while I'm processing my email and filing it, without doing a command-Tab dance back and forth.

Should save me minutes a day at home! Focus problems are one of my most ire-inducing bugaboos, and this provides some amelioration to one of them.

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Posted by esinclai at 11:28 AM
January 21, 2006
Augmenting Thoughts

Leonard Lin has a nice post (and picture) about a recent Doug Engelbart presentation on Large Scale Collective IQ. This was the second of a two parter on the topic (the first part has a video available, hopefully the same will be come about for those of us in geographies which have fewer engagement opportunities like Future Salon).

Within his post, Leonard discusses a number of topics (including his proposition that the disaggregated environment we have in the web may have many of the properties of the AUGMENT system). He also muses a bit on the repeated topic - if these tools are so powerful, why have they not been more widely spread? Where is the code for AUGMENT which Doug has been able to use for 40 years, but few others have, and why hasn't it been duplicated?

I've wondered the same myself (and judging Leonard's recent MyWeb2.0 links, he's on the tip still). My understanding is that the AUGMENT system got wrapped up by Tymshare and then McDonnell Douglas/Boeing (flipping through the coda, this is discussed in Tools for Thought, and by the discussion of source code progress at the Computer History Museum). So again, some historical pieces of experimentation have become locked in archives, largely forgotten by their owners.

There are some experiments to duplicate or grow upon the work directly. There's a paper and website for an Open Augment being developed in concert with the Bootstrap Institute for example (which looks static at 2003, from their website). And there's ongoing discussion within the BlueOxen communities (particularly in the mailing archives - the last two weeks have suddenly been quite active).

There's a lot of creative tension inherent in Leonard's post, the struggle to learn from systems by replicating and replacing them at the same time. Current implementors need to be able to easily see the design and implementation in order to learn how to reimplement with the same power, which is difficult when the project is shrouded. Engelbart has been broadcasting the benefits, theories and design, which has certainly kept it alive and relatively unshrouded.

A secondary problem occurs to me, however. It seems that systems like this depend on historical state being available. Historically this would have worked in a centralized manner - a corporation or institution would own the system and its contents, and be beholden to maintain that state. On an individual basis, how can we duplicate that? How can we, with our 10 year history of web services plan to challenge the long term?

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Posted by esinclai at 10:29 AM
January 20, 2006

Some linkbloggetry and catchup:

Lawrence "Ren" Weschler is joining the Chicago Humanities Festival staff, as Artistic Director. This is a nice mirroring of the Midwest -> New York procession we mused about after seeing the William Maxwell panel at CHF 2005. More on this, but it's fascinating to me that Maxwell, Shawn, Ross, Thurber and other notable New Yorker luminaries brought their midwestern sensibilities to New York and changed some of the literary landscape along the way.

The Newton Museum, mentioned in this space earlier, has been successfully sold, to Walter Smith, one of the creators of that platform. Nice to keep it in the family.

Gapers Block is featuring Bound Stems in their Transmission for this week. 75 Minutes featured them in their 15 Minutes offshoot a couple weeks back. Good stuff.

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Posted by esinclai at 06:36 AM
January 19, 2006
The Three R's

By bringing these two sources and formats together, I complete the three Rs.

AZ, counsel and editor and CEO of Whimsy for KittyJoyce Productions, blogs about the Guardian's "Excuse me, weren't you in the Fall?" piece

Danny, semWeb gadfly and menagerie chronicler, blogs about the Grauniad's "Excuse me, weren't you in the Fall?" piece.

Click already.

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Posted by esinclai at 06:48 PM

In the winter months, for whatever reason, AZ and I turn to older books. The comfort of a musty tome on a chilly evening, even if we don't own any brandy snifters.

Some Trollope in recent years, or (in AZ's case) often older novels like Richardson's Clarissa. This week has been taken up by Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice, having been reminded by the recent film adaptation what a great yarn it is. And it truly is wonderful, full of ups and downs and internal discovery. What I didn't expect was the impact the book would have on my dream state. Austen's long sentences and referral based exposition (better to show the impact of the action than the action itself) has made my dreams both wordier and more elusive, and this appears to have carried over into some of my daytime broodings as well. I should do a word count on my outbound emails to see if this is leaking further.

I wonder, if I were to take up Hemingway would my subconscious become punchier and brisker?

Two more Austen notes: I see that there is a recovering and rebranding campaign underway, which feels needless to me. And I took a look at several pages of Berdoll's Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife: Pride and Prejudice Continues this weekend. Not to be bought, unless you like the bodice-ripper format

Update: curiously, Rael appears to have Austen on the mind also.

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Posted by esinclai at 06:51 AM
January 18, 2006
New Yorker and Slow Design

Michael Bierut has an excellent (and presumably broadly linked) piece regarding the evolution of the New Yorker's design over the past 80 years. In a word, slow. In other words, stately, measured, considered.

Definitely worth a read, and worth more than just a del.icio.us link pointer.

Touch wood the interface of the archive will receive a native compilation for the Intel based OSX boxes, so my reading experience will improve just that much!

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Posted by esinclai at 06:29 AM
January 17, 2006

Thanks to Cabel @ Panic, I have another reason to recall why I like Jimmy Carter.

(as an aside, Panic also host the cool and Apple ][ philic Beagle Bros. Museum)

Posted by esinclai at 09:54 PM

It's with pride, bemusement and a tincture of chagrin to note the changes at Indiana University recently.

No, not the Adam Herbert, IUB Chancellor vs IUB Provost changes (though we have plenty of opinions about that, I tell you!). It's the developments at WIUS, the friendly rival (and arguably offshoot of) WQAX, whence I did many delightful years of radio (and so did AZ, as we all know).

WIUS has landed a low power FM license, and to use it are registering the call letters WIUX. With some ego, I hope this is a small homage, as the frequency they will be using is 100.3 FM, the (cable) FM frequency long used by WQAX starting in the early 1970s and through the 1990s when things fell apart.

It's good news, and one to follow indeed. Next time AZ and I are down will be after January 30th, when WIUX expects to be live, and we'll be listening with interest.

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Posted by esinclai at 09:00 PM
Geeky Testy

I think in the several years I've been doing this weblog, this is the first time I've done one of these tests.... However, the Are You a Librarian test was reasonably accurate (certainly so for those who have seen Anne and my bookshelves!)

Aspiring Librarian
You scored 41% on knowledge of librarianship.
You're getting there - you know more than most people about libraries. Maybe you're starting Library School and getting yourself ready to take over the profession. Or maybe you already work in a library but just don't know some of the history and details. But, you're more of an aspiring librarian than a full-fledged librarian.
Link courtesy of Jack Vinson.
Posted by esinclai at 06:48 AM
January 16, 2006
on unsubscribing from the dsc

Way back in the day, when podcasting was young, one of the first podcasts I subscribed to was the Daily Source Code, Adam Curry's experiment on the wire. It could be a bit fulsome at times, but it was heartfelt most of the time.

At the time, the motto of the show was "users and developers partying together." As Adam was then in the process of getting his Applescript code incorporated into the then rough code of iPodder and iPodderX, there was a lot of give and take. Musings on what would work best for the growing userbase of both producers and consumers of the audio content that was a blip on the bandwidth counts of most ISPs.

Fast forward a number of months, and suddenly it has all changed. I find myself fast forwarding over Curry's declamations and samples of PodSafe Music (frankly, his tastes and mine barely overlap). He's constantly telling the audience of his now jetset, bi-continental PodShow driven lifestyle, which may be interesting in abstract terms but not something I need on a daily basis. And really, the killshot for me was that I grimace inside every time he performs a (non-funded, he'd maintain) placement for the Senseo coffeemaker.

So it's not in my subscription list. If anyone does hear Curry come back around to the old format, let me know - he's got a radio sensibility that, when not caught up in slickness, is engaging. Meanwhile, it may not be cool, but I'm happy with the WNYC, BBC and NPR feeds as the core (but not the all!) of my podcast feeds. I guess I'm just not Nü Media enough.

This decision is inspired in no small part by Merlin Mann's Modest Change "Cancel Something." I've done the low hanging fruit; now for some tougher things.

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Posted by esinclai at 09:15 PM
January 15, 2006
Link Capturing

Two links of interest today. As ...pickhits... is traveling, a bit brief.

I'm sorry not to have been able to make it to the WorldWide Newton Conference this time around, since it was stateside and not in Paris like it was last year. There was a demonstration of Paul Guyot's Einstein emulator running not on an OSX box, but on a Sharp Zaurus. It's a very clever and very cool hack, but it feels a bit like moving from one legacy hardware platform to another (though still with a very cool OS). Slides are available for the curious - I don't have the necessary hardware, so I can't comment beyond the overviews provided. Adam Tow does have a bunch of shots of WWNC in general.

Also across the transom came the GTDrawings site of Joan Mas. She makes nice pen and ink, and some color, illustrations of key watchwords and concepts from GTD. This seems to be a trend in general - now that Strunk and White has been illustrated, what's next?

There is a casual link between these two items, by the way. Also at WWNC 2006, Ronnie Simon provided a presentation on how to perform the actions of GTD and build a system using the Newton. I look forward to the slides on that one (if in no small part to see how contexts were handled, as they are not available in the native applications.

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Posted by esinclai at 10:21 PM
January 14, 2006
Citizen Journalism Redux

The IDS article mentioned a while back on this venue has been published as "busting out block from buster" (lack of capitals intended...). As produced, it's a nice roundup of rental venues for those living in Bloomington, though gives short shrift to the free venues (and indeed, I expect Herman would consider it a failing of his educational purpose to be bell hooks -ized as he is here).

What didn't happen, as in the MeFi thread referenced by A in the comments to the last post, is the impact of new technology on the information gathered for the article. This may, on reflection (and conversation with AZ) a sign of differences between young 'uns and old 'uns. Though I've been online long enough to remember when all these things (weblogs, IM, etc) were unexpected, I still relate to them differently than those who have been surrounded by them for most of their formative years.

Pass the geritol McFlurry!

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Posted by esinclai at 09:49 PM
January 13, 2006
ipod updater 2006-01-10

One of the benefits of a reasonable backup regimen (Retrospect + Backup 3 (warning: quicktime!), with the irregular SuperDuper execution, thank you very much) is a sense of (certainly not impunity) recoverability from system upgrades. So I try to get the benefit of this whenever I can.

It is with no small degree of delight that my least favorite iPod bug (as earlier documented by John Gruber) was fixed by the current iPod updater. Smart playlists modified on the iPod (for example, my @todo playlist of recently added tracks I haven't heard) now update properly!

It only took several months of impatience, too.

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Posted by esinclai at 06:31 AM
January 12, 2006
Freemind GTD Connect

Jacques Turbé was generous enough to make YA format for the GTD Connect notes (blogged about here the other day) for the GTD list.

What he did differently is make a mindmap out of them in FreeMind format. It's quite cool, and may pull me into playing a bit more with mindmapping tools - the last time I did so was with PersonalBrain (warning: java!), but that's a bit of a different beast (and that was 3 or more years ago).

FreeMind is... well, it appears to suffer a bit from aggressive cross-platformness that I recall noting to myself when I looked at it a few months ago. So another appeal to my small readership - is FreeMind the best bet for inexpensive OSX mindmapping, or are there other tools to be investigated? It would appear from earlier research that much of the current adoption is on Windows.

Aside: Because of what I assume are MIMEtype issues, I had to use curl to grab this most easily, but a contextual-click -> save as... should do just as well.

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Posted by esinclai at 09:22 PM
podcast advertising and podcast placement

Podcasting is developing, expanding and changing a lot lately - and this is sure to get a small boost for individualized podcast thanks to the placement of support deep into the new iLife upgrades from Apple. At the same time, there are increasing efforts to provide for monetization of podcasts that become popular - some way to prop up the bandwidth costs they've increasingly entailed.

Recently I've noticed that the Podshow network seems to have signed up Earthlink as a major advertiser, with their advertisements getting early-show placement in several productions on their network (I only listen to two of these presently, so I have only a small sample). It's been jarring to me to have these placed in the Gillmor Gang podcast. I think it's a poor match.

The Gillmor Gang is a 'thought leader' roundtable, where pundits and actors in the industry discuss technical movements of interest to corporate geeks and CxO types. It's a great show, one I regularly enjoy. But Earthlink seems ill placed here - I don't think of them as providers of corporate IT services, and their advertisement used, extolling their anti-virus protection and helpful support staff, does nothing to bring them into that fold.

It may be that Earthlink is looking for hip cachet by associating themselves with a new buzzwordthy trend. It may also be that podshow's sales staff mismarketed the placement. And of course, it may be that there's a bandwidth for placement tradeout between the companies. But it's always jarring despite Steve's introductions (and thanks to the scrollwheel, easily skipped).

What will be interesting to follow in this is how the various monetary support schemes take hold and morph. What will work, the now ubiquitous 'quasi-ads' from the Daily Source Codes (urp), the sponsorship announcements in Coverville, or the slickly produced ad types from Earthlink? Will Audible's podcast format for advertisers take hold?

Personally I'm most supportive of user-sponsorship, as being championed by the Conversations Network (but as a disclaimer, I'm a volunteer editor for them (albeit now slackfull in my commitment of time)).

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Posted by esinclai at 06:53 AM
January 11, 2006
Skype and Doing

When I attended the Connect call last night, I finally took the opportunity to play around with SkypeOut, as semi-cents a minute of long distance is a much better rate than I get from either my mobile or landline telcos.

It worked remarkably well - I had a single drop out, which could have been at any point in the transaction, and just as likely to occur on my mobile phone during the 90 minutes the call took. There was a little latency echo, but not dramatic.

The one issue this does raise - if I were going to be doing this more regularly, a decent headset would help a lot. I know some of my distributed worker pals use this tech more than I do.... Any recommendations?

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Posted by esinclai at 06:38 AM
GTD Connect Notes

After attending the GTD RoadMap session here in Chicago (due to the then munificence of my employer) last October, I took a bit of a time gamble and signed up for the GTD Connect circle - basically a series of ongoing discussions furthering the work being done in the GTD seminar. In my thinking, it might be a nice complement to the other reading in personal improvement I do.

Last night I attended the first of the followup session teleconference calls, and took some notes. They are sketchy, but possibly useful to others. I've attached them as GTD Connect 20060110 (opml).

And so now I'm off to take the actions from the call - processing the notes further.

Update: after some discussion on the GTD list (and some well-placed and pointed counsel from my editor), I've also pulled together a dynamic HTML version thanks to OmniOutliner's export functionality.

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Posted by esinclai at 06:33 AM
January 10, 2006

I was moved by Ebrahim Moosa's Opinion piece in today's NYT "Pilgrims at Heart" (reg req'd). Though largely directed at the Muslim tradition of Hajj, it simultaneously contains insights and inspiration for human behavior in general, and nicely ties together a few of the common threads of the various religions of Abraham.

If I had a highlighter:

Hajj literally means, "to continuously strive to reach one's goal."
Pilgrimage embodies exile by requiring seekers to suspend customary routine, enter new environments and live by new rhythms and rituals.
To play on the words of the poet Federico García Lorca: the imagination hovers above ritual, the way fragrance hovers over a flower.
A prolific 13th century mystic, Ibn Arabi, wrote that pilgrims were mistaken if they believed that swarming like moths around the cube-like stone centerpiece, the Kaaba in the Holy Mosque, was the loftiest act of venerating God. Rather, noted Ibn Arabi, it was the human heart that deserved the highest sanctity. For neither the offerings made, nor the hardships endured, reaches the divine. Instead it is the compass of the heart that counts.

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Posted by esinclai at 06:32 AM
January 09, 2006
More on technical support

There's a lot more discussion of tech support running around the net. Courtesy of Mr Frankenstein (who I always imagine saying, ala Gene Wilder "Franken-Steen!"), a reference to Ethan Zuckerman's recent posting on how to improve technical support.

A recommended read.

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Posted by esinclai at 10:18 PM
pulling vs pushing vs telling

I've been thinking about how support works with customers, internal or external, lately, most importantly how the communication and interactions with them are cast. I've been playing with three primary categories to frame my thinking.

Particularly, are the interactions pull operations, push operations, or a statement operations?

In a push interaction, the discussion surrounds steps you are telling the counterparty to reach to the solution desired, but as you the provider have defined it. Metaphorically, you stand behind the users, pushing them forward. The conversational tone is one of answers from the vendor.

Statement operations are not disimilar to the push operations, save that they are often less satisfactory to the customer, delivered from above, often in a 'voice of god' manner

Finally, in a pull operation, the provider is in front or alongside of them, socratically asking questions to draw out the problem definition and discover the path the customer might follow to achieve their solution. In my experience as both resolution requirer and support provider, this often proves to be most satisfactory to both parties. In dialogue is discovery, and in discovery is the human capacity embodied and expanded.

In the heat of the moment, it often seems easiest to use one of the first two categories - it seems to close the ticket faster, or get the phone call resolved yesterday. But the final operation can be more fulfilling, and can reduce the interactions ahead as well (or at least improve the quality of the interactions).

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Posted by esinclai at 09:57 PM
January 08, 2006
Truistic musings

In my life, I work a lot with collaboration software, both as a provider, and as a consumer. Recently a truism occurred to me, thinking about institutions of size beginning to take up more freeform collaboration software (or, as may also be the case, seeking to exert greater control over the freeform collaboration software which has gown up from the grassroots). It's a shower thought, so the punchy language was my structure to keep it straight:

Collaboration is the personal ownership of responsibility. Compliance is the institutional ownership of responsibility.

When an individual takes part in a collaborative endeavor - posts a message in a chat room, creates or edits a page on a wiki, comments on a weblog post, or even just sends an email to a distribution list - they are stating something from themselves, be it a fact, an interpretation, or just an apparently innocuous joke. In many systems this ownership is tacit - the authentication happens at the front end, and the attribution is placed without a thought on the part of the owner. This is, imho, healthy.

Compliance, on the other hand, is an organization's statement that they are aware of, and at a high level responsible for, these individual statements. This can take the form of knowing what these messages are (and persisting them in offline stores), or the SOX signatures of the CEO on the financial statements.

There seems to be an interesting struggle between these two, in that the latter takes a retrospective view in most cases, where the former is forward moving. The former is, in many ways, more tightly binding in a social construct, accreting over time and collaboration, whereas the latter is binding from external forces - legal, regulatory, institutional. And despite the press coverage of the failures of leadership at our major companies, compliance is rarely personal in this interpretation.

How can the two of these be normalised? Need they be?

Posted by esinclai at 09:24 PM
January 07, 2006
Huzzah again

I note that Scott (nee' Scotty) Southwick, an internet pioneer (because, you know, the late 90s was the time for pioneers) for Liszt and generally swell guy, now has started a personal blog. Nice to have him aboard, through his sojourn down to the wilds of MO.

Posted by esinclai at 06:57 PM
The Pride and the Prejudice

AZ and I pulled ourselves out into the again chilly winter to see the newest rendition of Pride and Prejudice. I've got an unmanly soft-spot for Jane Austen (I note that this is not necessarily unmanly for the techie sort).

It's a nice rendition, but it got me thinking about the impact of technology on the way these movies are made. There are many tight shots, close work under covers and doorway peepings that accentuate the store, which combine with some of the most appropriately dizzying shots of dances and conversations (small cameras on lightweight cranes, perhaps), which make the world more real and visceral than the older films of this work might have. They bring the viewer closer into the world of the characters.

This integrates nicely with the rare breed trust style of livestock used liberally in the film, rendering the outside world as real as the interior world of the characters. Old school livestock, in a word, is awesome. Funny horns, mottled hides....

There are minor flaws, of course. I'm sure the fog on the ground in the proposal scene was rendered (and badly so). And the Darcy character's ambition was too broadly cast, too early, for my taste. But Austen sure could write a social romance, and this one brings it to the screen well.

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Posted by esinclai at 09:32 AM
January 06, 2006
Huzzah! redux

Mike had the first link to it:

Spencer Sundell - Web Developer gets jiggy wit de blog, somewheres around fifteen years after beginning his web life. WELCOME!

But allow me to also welcome Mr Spencer Sundell to the fold, indeed. I'm not sure it's 15 years, but it's as long as anyone I know personally, from his beginnings at Tezcat.com until today.

I await the oncoming flood of infoconcernment.

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Posted by esinclai at 06:27 AM
January 05, 2006
Citizen Journalism?

Like, I have this thing to write? And I'm, like, on deadline? And I can't seem to find my phonebook, so I can't actually look some stuff up? And it's, you know, kinda cold outside and stuff.

Thank goodness for livejournal. 'journal is for 'journalism!

for the IDS

Happily, facts were found.

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Posted by esinclai at 09:26 PM
January 04, 2006
mantra for 20060104

Write down more. Collect more. Process more.

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Posted by esinclai at 07:04 AM
January 03, 2006
no technorati love

Seriously, why does technorati.com appear to hate me? I've been tagging posts for a while now, and pinging technorati correctly (and it appears to accept my pings - my log page shows that it sees my updates), but my tags don't seem to get picked up and indexed.

Looking at the help pages and comparing it to the resultant tag, er, tags in my outbound html... it all looks fine to me - though I expect I must have something misconfigured that eludes my aging eyes.

Oh someone on the slackfulweb, please enlighten this darkening confusion! A little road lighting on the social highway

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Posted by esinclai at 09:49 PM
January 02, 2006

AZ and I have been participating in some online reading circles lately - AZ in greater quantity and duration than I have, in no small part due to the encouragement of our pal Sivani.

One of the groups I'm in is the Booker Prize reading group. I've been oddly fascinated with the Man Booker - a UK centric prize - for the last few years - perhaps because our annual trip (well, two years running) was coincident with the announcement of the shortlist, which gets a lot of coverage in the UK newspaper.

Thus far I've read three of the books with the circle - Muriel Spark's Loitering with Intent (a bit overshaded and under-inspiring for me), Ruth Prawar Jhabvala's Heat and Dust (better than Spark, but a bit underwhelming of a take on colonial India - I felt the mirrorings and shadowings were a bit heavy-handed and missed the delicacy I was accustomed to from RPJ's adaptations with Merchant Ivory), and William Trevor's The Children of Dynmouth (which was dark and enjoyable in a bite sized morsel).

The present book being read is one of this year's shortlists, Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go. I'm enjoying it so far. But like the others, it's a dark read; I'm only 20% through at the moment, but it's quite filled with foreboding. So in order to win the Man Booker Prize, do you have to be dark? I don't think so, considering the other two Booker works I've read. Monica Ali's Brick Lane (shortlisted two years ago) and Hollinghurst's The Line of Beauty (2004's winner) were not nearly as dark as the books we've read in the group. I'd strongly recommend Line of Beauty - it's a rich book with an engaging take on class and cross-cultural divides, wrapped up in a Thatcherite Britain mise en scène.

The book circle has had a benefit of pushing me to read books and authors that have been on my list for some time; the conversation and encouragement help, though there is a definite benefit to AZ and I reading the same book at the same time - lots of discussion happens offlist.

If there were something similar for 'reading in cog sci and collaboration thinkers', I'd love to take part in that. Seems like it might be too rarefied a topic, however

For more reading fun, check out a list of Guardian reader's favorite and recommended works for the 2005 year of reading. Some good recommendations there (if only we had more shelves!).

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Posted by esinclai at 09:43 PM
January 01, 2006

Last night AZ and I went out on our traditional New Year's Eve celebration (traditional these last few years, anyway). We get in the car and drive up to Evanston, where they have First Night Evanston, a citywide celebration with music, comedy, and fireworks.

At least, that is the ostensible reason for us to we go up there. What actually occurs is that AZ and I go to dinner at Trattoria Demi, an inexpensive and fast (but tasty!) italian cafe, and catch a movie. Last night we caught up with Peter Jackson and saw King Kong. There's nothing like a big ape and a brontosaurus stampede to really ring in the New Year!

The movie was, unsurprising once one's read the reviews, rather good. Some of the CGI is offputtingly obvious, but there are large bits of wonder too. AZ was a bit put off by the quantity of dino-content, but most boys-into-men will not feel the same way, I suspect.

And then home to hear the neighborhood's unsponsored fireworks.

Now the hard part comes - our planning for the next year is underway. Lists! Next Actions! Anyone hear biplanes?

Posted by esinclai at 05:37 PM