October 25, 2006

A few weeks ago, when I was at the Touch and Go festival, I ran into a friend of AZ and mine who now works for Britannica. He intimated that the company was thinking more about social software, in no small part because of the mindshare challenges presented by Wikipedia [eb | wp] et al. to the commercial underpinnings of Britannica.

I thought a bit about the conversation over the course of the evening, but didn't get to put any thoughts down before the splendrous noise of Scratch Acid pushed the thoughts to the back of my mind.

Well, it looks like one of the first pieces of that evolution he discussed is coming to pass, in the form of Britannica Blog, a multi-author weblog from some of the producers at Britannica. It's early days yet, but with some good fortune and some more transparency, maybe they'll be able to show the institutional side of the knowledge-editorial story. There's more social outreach to be done by this grey lady of the libraries, but it looks like they're making a decent start.

What else could they do? Off the top of my head, some ideas I'd steal from the social software movement:

  • More attribution and matrix-knowledge about authors
  • Historical views of entries (new and revised is promoted, but how?)
  • Transclusion (and, duh, purpling)
  • user commentary and tagging
  • reduced limitations on the non-member viewer (ok, this is social as much as removal of barrier). Why restrict the curious from the 'related' items, for example? Why the very short summaries for non-featured content?

Obviously, from the inside these are hard, difficult questions. There's multiple (and sometimes competing) fiduciary responsibilities at play - to the knowledge and accrued information that makes the Britannica product, to the historical strength of that editorial content, and to the corporate ownership of that information and rights thereto. A balance is, doubtlessly, an ongoing game.

{aside: I would have linked to EB across the external links in this, but couldn't due to lack of content, unless specifically noted the links are to Wikipedia, despite the experimental attempt}

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Posted by esinclai at 10:27 PM
October 22, 2006
Updating the GB

Two updates based on Gapers Block this week...

  • First, having dined at the Zephyr on its last day, we learned that they are nearly ready to start building out a prospective space on Clark Street just north of their current longitude of Wilson Ave. Stay tuned to the Zephyr Web Site for details.
  • Also, GB announces the interesting Taoist Tai Chi society opening up in Chicago. I've been learning a bit of Tai Chi from a Reverend at All Saints' Episcopal Church in our neighborhood (a group of us meet biweekly and - as you might imagine given my attendance - church membership is not a factor), and finding more in the 'hood is great news.

Diner breakfasts, ice cream and mental and physical balance? Who can resist this combo plate?

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Posted by esinclai at 06:22 PM
October 21, 2006

A few weeks ago I woke up from a dream with an idea and left myself the note below.


Anyone have a clue as to what it means? It looks vaguely work related, but utterly indecipherable to me in my waking state. Could I have been designing a captcha scheme for jungian dream interpretation?

Posted by esinclai at 12:01 PM
October 20, 2006

While discussing an early 90s pop masterpiece:

Well, that's debatable. Smack is not known as the smart people's drug of choice.

Ah, mornings at KJ North.

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Posted by esinclai at 07:12 AM
October 18, 2006
Things I (re)Learned in Texas

During a brief sojourn driving across the state and stopping for visits, I discovered and rediscovered many things - three quick pickhits, and one observation for the moment:

  1. The courtesy pass, whereby a slower car on a two lane road (but with paved shoulders, a very decent invention) will pull over sufficient for easy passing by those following, is a fine thing. It reduces anger, in part because the holdup of gritted teeth is removed, but also because the passer then is socially encouraged to perform the 'thank you wave', promoting social harmony.
  2. You can't get breakfast tacos like you can at old houses in Bryan Texas. This review of Tampico should whet your appetite (and if you live in B/CS, expand the waistline). Well, you can, if you go to neighborhood restaurants in San Antonio like Taco Haven. Thanks to Wes and Darryl for the introductions!
  3. The omnipresent Corps at TAMU is still, well, omnipresent. They know discipline.
  4. Some former roommates and presumably still pals are doing a group blog around politics and fruit, Phronesisaical. Its name may be unpronounceable, but the thought (and righteous bile) are quite palatable indeed.

Can't wait to go back for a less hectic (well, less than 5 cities in 5 days) visit soon!

Posted by esinclai at 09:16 PM