March 31, 2005
Freedom 2 Connect Conference
Is going well.. moblogging it on flickr. It's at the American Film Institute Theater in Silver Spring, MD. Day 2 is just starting...
Yesterday, someone on the Small Blue Networks panel said that the average American sends 13 text messages per year. In the EU, the average is 53 messages a month for the top 75% of users (according to Forrester research 3/18/05) It's just a barometer reading of where we are at socializing with technology. Obviously Americans use cell phones, but we are not using all the functionality because the phones our telcos accept, and our service plans, don't make it easy.
For the past three years, I've been text messaging people regularly and I often find that they call me back, rather than hit reply.. and the question I usually ask is why. They almost always say it's too hard to reply. Also, a decent number don't get through to them, but I don't know what percentage. But my phone says I send around 40 messages a month, and from memory, it seems that maybe 5 per month don't get through to the recipient.
I can understand why people don't feel confident about text messages or want to use them, and yet, they are so much easier than voice mail messages, and there is a written record for the address you are meeting someone at, or the phone number of someone, or the time of an event. Text messaging is just so much easier and discreet than calling, and there is no timeconsuming VM system to navigate. It's too bad the telco's haven't realized this is an opportunity for people to connect and share information, rather than just barely participate in text messaging, by charging for it as if it's a scarce commodity, is nuts. And holds us back from yet another socializing experience with technology and people.
March 29, 2005
Whole Lotta Freedom Talk Goin' On
Or at least it converged today.. here in Washington DC and Silver Spring MD. I spent the day helping Greg Elin, Dwayne Hendricks and David Isenberg with the Freedom-2-Connect Conference preparations (it's David's baby). F2C starts tomorrow.. and then afterwards, we swung by Dupont Circle, where the first CopyNight meetup was converging, post Grokster hearing at the Supreme Court (check out a few photos of the morning lines of folks who didn't get tickets to watch the hearing).
Seth Schoen was there and he did attend, along with about 20 others who had see the arguments in person. He said that a few folks made it in with tickets, but not without spending the night out there to get them. Apparently, Kragen Sitaker and Beatrice Murch were no.s 2 and 3 in line, arriving at 3pm yesterday. And Seth was no. 18, arriving at 8pm. Alex Haldeman, Ed Felton's student and his new fellow blogger on Freedom-to-Tinker, made it in, but some of Ed's other students did not. Seth also said he brought a pile of betamax tapes to give to people to hold up during the hearing. And while waiting in line, he saw Jack Valenti, and someone said, go get Valenti to sign a tape! Apparently, Seth didn't want to but Annelee Newitz said she would, so Valenti looked at it, mentioned he rarely sees betamax tapes, and signed it.
Please take this next paragraph with a grain of salt.. it's what Seth told me about what he saw today.. just a quick retelling of what he mentioned an hour or so ago.. and I'm really hoping he blogs it soon.. but it's third hand. I'm only doing this because his blog is down and I thought it was interesting, but I hope after his travels that he puts it back up and tells this story himself. But for now, I urge you to read first hand accounts.
Seth told us about three things that were concerning about the questions asked by the Justices. 1. They focused on how Grokster had 'willfully blinded' themselves to what users would do, in order to create a system that would allow user's privacy about their own activities. He was concerned for other kinds of software that builds in privacy. 2. 'Bifurcation' -- where there was the old Grokster technology based upon the first Napster technology model (from 4 years ago), and then there is the second model currently in use, so the bifurcation in the case has to do with how both sides of the case agreed to separate the two phases. Apparently the justices were very confused by how the two parties could agree to such a thing. So they spent a lot of time discussing this. 3. The Justices asked a lot about 'commercially significant' uses of the technology.. this is a footnoted item in the Sony Betamax case but was taken up in a more major way in this case. The question is, is this 'sufficient to support your business.'
Seth also stayed for the case following, on cable service, saying that there was a lot of discussion about what a service is... but again, I urge the reading of first hand accounts until the transcripts come out shortly.
March 23, 2005
Our Media Goes Live...
Marc Canter and JD Lasica have been working on this project for some time.. and it went live Monday. Congratulations!
March 22, 2005
Bobby Short Died
So, this isn't a napsterization story, but Bobby Short died yesterday, and I loved his work. His music performance was totally analog, and I only ever saw him at the Cafe Carlyle in NY, (which is really old world too) except once at Yoshi's in Oakland. I was taken to the Cafe Carlyle to see him by a friend when I was pretty young, and I was hooked, going back when I could. It was a very expensive indulgence, but on a few occasions over the past two decades it was really fun to touch a rare world that represented great old style, and his singing and engagement with the audience was very elegant, and yet personal, and casual at the same time. It was fun. And I'm sorry he's gone. Rest in peace, Mr. Short.
Ann Livermore at HP.. On DRM
You know, I'm loving this thing Esther is doing, with PC Forum. We're watching lots of very cool women, accomplished, well spoken, powerful, talking about their areas of expertise. And their not here because they are women, they are here because they are brainy, cool and very insightful... the Open Source panel is *only* women, because those are the relevant people needed to talk about these issues.
But Ann Livermore from HP was up earlier .. talking about DRM .. and it was a scary thing. She talked about the hardware makers responsibility to make DRM based products to protect content makers, but then said there is an "... obligation that sits on individuals as well, technology companies can't do all of it..." in terms of respecting copyright. She says HP is an "... advanced and active proponent of DRM for Hollywood..." but admits "... it's the value chain that is going to be disintermediated." Which is code for the old networks of content makers and distributors.
Thank goodness. I'm really at the point where that old value chain is so clueless and obtuse, that I think they deserve what they get for not figuring out how to work with the web, and sharing and remixing of content, and instead fighting it so stupidly when it's been so obvious for so long that this was a folly. But HP isn't helping by allowing for temporary delay of this with DRM that will ultimately be cracked, or moved around, by the network.
The internet is a delicate ecosystem, and while DRM won't kill it, it will create a situation where most users of HP and other DRM based products won't even know they've been left out of socializing with technology and routed around by the network. The network will move on, but it's one of the many things that will keep some folks and some parts of it back.
March 21, 2005
Doc Sez, Jus Gimme a Cool Drink a Water Before I Die
He compares hotels that offer free broadband connections (usually cheap ones) to expensive hotels that charge (the one we are all in costs $14.95 a day at PC Forum). And each time you close the laptop, you have to got through the arduous process of logging in again.. splash-screens, billing, slow loading.. ack!
So Doc suggests it's as if, when you stepped into the shower at your hotel room, there was a screen asking you to authenticate payment for $14.95 for water. And later, if you wanted to brush your teeth at the sink, well.. you must go through the process again to authenticate that you paid in the last 24 hours.
I think we should have a Kum-bay-ah sing-in here at the Princess by where they sacrifice the virgins (big fireplace by the pool) to plead our case for free broadband at expensive hotels.
Bid on this ticket for Freedom 2 Connect, and the Proceeds go to EFF
I'm going to F2C and really looking forward to the conversation. I've blogged before about how ridiculous the situation with telco's, bandwidth and cell phone access is in the US, how we are 5-7 years behind Asia and Europe in terms of using truly high bandwidth services and cellphone platforms to socialize with the technology and these new forms of communications. We have *tiny*band here in the US, and our cell phones have been highjacked by the providers, both in terms of the hardware functionality and the service and web access, The whole thing is utterly ridiculous, and drives me crazy because it's such short term thinking by the telcos sacrificing the long term gain. And the idea that the FTC and the FCC allow this is even crazier.
So I want to know, the reason I'm attending the conference (because you know this issue is in a way peripheral to my main work, and yet it is the basis of all our connectivity which I'm so dependent upon) is because I want to know more from people who study and research these issues, but much more importantly: What do we do about this? What can we work together on to fix this situation?
Of course, I'd love for people not at the center of this F2C world to bid on the EFF ticket, because more brainstorming power from the outside would be great to have, and it would help out EFF.
I want some practical, constructive action plan, that users can implement online and in person, to move this situation to a better place. The speakers and attendees are a smart, well informed, active group of people. And I would consider it a huge success if we came up with a plan like this at the conference.
Who Has This Phone Now?
Steve Chan, a SIMS graduate student at UC Berkeley, was in Thailand over the winter break and lost his Nokia 7610... his wife left it behind in a cab. This phone is part of a group of phones that are part of a photo metadata project organized by Marc Davis and Nancy Van House at SIMS. Software was installed in all the 7610's, called MMM-2. It organizes metadata for photos taken with the phone around the content and implied context of the photo, and the social community around the photos, either with respect to the bluetooth devices nearby or for sharing photos.
The phone has been in use by some other party, taking these two photos... the first uploaded in January, and the second two weeks ago. The MMM software uploads photos automatically, unbeknownst to the current user of the phone. Steve has tried to call the phone several times, the calls go unanswered or are hung up on, and he doesn't have much information about who has the phone, except from these two pictures and the metadata MSS collects around them. And since the user of the phone 'found it' I'm thinking about what are the ethics around posting these photos. One thing I'm thinking about is that the first photo appears to be a child, though may be a small woman and involving her causes me to question posting it, even though I was given permission to do so by people running the metadata program, and Steve emailed a bit more information, implying his permission as well. Of course, I want to help Steve, and think about this problem, but what about this? What does it mean to post a photo of a young child in order to ask for information? On the other hand, the child's photo may be more closely tied to the current user of the phone than the second, with the two adults.
So, do you know these people .. which might give some clue about who has this phone? If so, leave a comment or email Steve.
March 18, 2005
ReMix It Babe
Also, Creative Commons is relaunching the CC-wiki license for this.
So go wiki on code!
March 17, 2005
For me it was revelatory. Something I started doing last August and September with Tantek Celik, at Technorati (I used to work there). We would sit, side-by-side, working on the usability of the site, where we picked through about 50 little niggling problems that I'd found over the previous 9 months (yes, I'd found more.. but fixing 50 was great) to make those little problems go away. We started out deciding just to fix a couple of things, so I took him through the user's perspective about why something might be broken from their perspective, and it was boring, tedious, time-consuming to do this.. and yet.. immediately as we refreshed the changes, we would both see the improvement and understand how users would like the change. So we fixed another and another.
These were problems that I knew about, had documented, or had found in several rounds of user testing. I did what is common in usability, documenting these issues. The engineers would read the reports, comment on them in conversation, quote the user's, and generally agree. But then, nothing would change. And that's not to say that these engineers at Technorati, or the ones I've worked with elsewhere, weren't brilliant or personable, or desiring of good usability and user satisfaction. They are.
But the reality is, written reports, while read and interesting to engineers, are hard to translate into change. But this extreme usability (we didn't call it that then) actually worked (though I left Technorati just after so it didn't continue there that long).
One thing to note is that this sort of extreme usability takes different forms depending on the stage of engineering development. I have worked with it at early state needs assessment and prototyping, in the form of rapid iteration during development of working software and web services, and even well after a site or software has been in use. What is important to know though, is that all the usability work that would normally be done, whether needs assessment, user profiling, interviews of one sort or another, or led discussion focus groups, has to be done on the usability side, and reporting and documentation is still necessary. But after that, extreme usability or pair programming with engineers is very effective, just as engineers will spend time coding and developing before they get to the pair programming session with a usability person.
This fall, I worked with several engineers, and I just insisted we sit down, and pick through the problems side-by-side. Wow, they said. This is fantastic, we are making really good progress and users are responding quickly and favorably to the changes!
By the time we got to the Usability Sprint in February, where we did this for three days, and named it as extreme usability, I have become fully convinced that this style of usability and engineering partnership is really key to the next generation of interface and information architecture development. It's pair programming. And I highly recommend it.
March 16, 2005
SBC Global Does It Again: Lost Their Cluetrain Ticket And Didn't Even Notice
So, I just found out that last week, SBC Global, my DSL provider, started blocking port 25. That's the port for outgoing email. I have not been able to send outgoing email from home since then, or here in San Diego at the Westin over wifi, and I guess this is why. I've only sent email on hardwire connections from my hotel rooms over the past 6 days.
And it gets better.. I learned this from a breakfast meeting mail list.. *not* SBC Global. There is a form, however, that you can fill out to get unblocked. Thanks SBC. And thanks to Ben Gross for finding the ticket and letting me know!
eTech... (if it's Tuesday, it must be eTech, no?)
So I left SXSW for eTech Monday afternoon.. and it's been fun here in San Diego.. seeing lots of great folks. But it's also high contrast: at SXSW, there were about 50% women, both onstage and off, compared to eTech, where one documentarian told me he was working hard to take photos of women. 9% of the speakers are women and in the audience, I see about one woman every four rows or so. It's a very male event here.. which I don't mind.. it's fine.. but defintely has a different flavor than conferences that are balanced and interested in having both men's and women's points of views mixed together (is this the west coast geeky equivalent of Poptech?). It's also not nearly the great-party-with-great-entertainment atmosphere that SXSW is.. but then they get that whole, filmaker/musician group that is just all about entertainment. The average age is about 10 years older here to. But it's much more serious, and the content is more techy, geeky, and in someways intellectually deeper than SXSW. It is a great place though to socialize and talk with very interesting people who play around with fun technologies, and I'm really enjoying that!
Really interesting talks here by Cory Doctorow, Stewart Butterfield, Clay Shirky, Tim O'Reilly, Wendy Seltzer and Jason Schultz, and many more. I'm videoing a bunch of them for Lisa Rein, who should have them up in a week or two -- it's a lot of work digitizing all this footage and putting it up so thanks Lisa for doing that will all the footage I'm shooting!
Since I'm videoing.. and that takes a lot of focus and logistical deftness, I'm listening and not really taking notes. I'd say David Weinberger's site is the place to be for an interesting take on things here.
Oh, and I heard last night and this morning from three people (yes three) that David's Tag BOF (which I stupidly missed last night) was the best thing they'd attended yesterday. Apparently it was an amazing discussion.
March 12, 2005
Defragging the Room
We defragged, and yet it's still a fire hazzard with so many people jammed in. Oversubscribed. So I'm here at SXSW.. the Interactive section (film is concurrent and music starts shorty, I gather) which Marc Canter just referred to as the 'bastard stepchild' of the other two sections... and the opening talk with Jeffrey Zeldman who's keynoting the fun. The room is really crowded.. totally oversubscribed even.
BTW.. Kaliya just proposed that we have a 'going to eTech party' for people torn by the bad scheduling .. Robert Scoble, Marc Canter, me... who else is foolish enough to do both in the same week?
Must say though, this is a very fun conference, arty, fun, good time, definitely younger and hipper, more forward thinking and yet with a good balance between the engineering/geeky stuff and the design/social side of things.
Speaking in two hours on trust and social software.
March 05, 2005
Noting the fab fab fab Yahoo 10 site (screenshot below, but I really recommend playing with the actual site).
Choicepoint Scandal Unspun
Tara Wheatland over at bIPlog has the definitive post on Choicepoint, their culpability over the cracking of their systems and people's data, and what's really going on. Many of the news stories were apparently inaccurate, and she dissects the spin Choicepoint put out to minimize their responsibility and some of the activities they engage in that are very unsettling. Check it out!
Also, check out EPIC's pages on Choicepoint. There's lots more background on this company that has been, for example, providing data to government agencies that those agencies would be barred by law from collecting on their own because of privacy laws that came out of Watergate. Well worth knowing what is happening with the company that stores all the information it can aggregate on you.
March 03, 2005
The Value of a Link
Thank goodness someone is thinking about this. I mean.. what is the value of a link? The Federal Election Commission thinks a link, if it directs the readership of a blog to a campaign website, might be worth the amount that gets donated to that campaign due to the link.
I can see why this issue comes up.. in analog terms. People who make in-kind contributions have to be listed by the campaigns as donors. Unless they don't coordinate their activities with the campaign. Though they still might have to declare their activities with the FEC. However, to bloggers, a link is free and often not just a referal but rather a pointer to a source or to background information.
Valuing campaign contributions as it were, from digital sources who link this way may also not get the true value of the link. The FEC is proposing to apply rules of analog campaign activity to the internet. So bloggers, linkers... are they press... are they contributors of in-kind linking or words... or are they expressing opinion? What is their status and is it based on what they do, or say, or based on self-identification? I'd say it's as varied as blogs are: blogs are a tool, remember? It's like asking what is the status of this piece of paper? Is it a letter, a newspaper, a shopping list, a diary? The status depends on how it's used but there are many possibilities and otherwise it's just a flexible tool for communication.
Of course, there are multiple meanings for links. A link can be an endorsement, a referral, a pointer to background information, a literary expression and a joke, all at the same time. And more. Some readers may view the link in singular ways.. but some will see all the meanings and the point is... regulating that is going to be, practically speaking, very difficult. Because linking is a form of speech. And blogging is a kind of expression. And the status of the blog sending the link also has something to do with the value, and therefore, every link, depending on the text, the linker, the linkee, and the types of linking occurring, shifts the value of a link.
Nonetheless, the FEC is hot on the trail of the value of a link according to Declan McCullagh at c|Net:
- This is a big deal, if someone has already contributed the legal maximum, or if they're at the disclosure threshold and additional expenditures have to be disclosed under federal law.
- Certainly a lot of bloggers are very much out front. Do we give bloggers the press exemption? If we don't give bloggers the press exemption, we have the question of, do we extend this to online-only journals like CNET?
I think this is a bad road to go down.. but if the FEC is going to do it, they need to call in some folks who understand and live in the blogosphere, rather than coming at the problem from the outside looking in, to figure out what it really means when bloggers write, link or otherwise interact with campaigns.
My favorite quote is this: "..because there's no standard for being a blogger, anyone can claim to be one...." Oh for the love of self identification and transparency. You can only really claim to be one if you actually write one. How about instead: "..because there's no standard for being a blogger, anyone can write one...". It just feels a lot more representative of what actually happens.. because it's based on doing, not claiming.