Archive for June, 2005

Google Technorati meeting scheduler ranking oddity

June 27, 2005

Meet-O-Matic, the world’s simplest meeting scheduler, now ranks very high on Google when you search for “meeting scheduler”, for a mixture of reasons, including this very posting. This is great news, on the one hand, but at the same time, it is hard to ignore that this is definitely weird-city: Googling for meeting scheduler just now I discover that a measly little blog posting of mine about Meetomatic is ranked 4th. The posting uses the technorati tag ‘meeting.scheduler’, as will this post I’m writing just now. Or rather, to state things more correctly, the page is the one that’s ranked 4th, but there’s only one posting on it: my measly litte one (plus a handful of and furl references too)! Well, there’ll be two once this posting is logged. But although such a high ranking is nice to see, I’m slightly alarmed that Google is giving such high weighting to a single tag self-referential blog entry, as this would appear to open the door to some cute rank-spamming tricks via Technorati.

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OK, I admit it…

June 27, 2005

I simply do not ‘get’ The White Stripes, who headlined at Glastonbury the other day. No, I wasn’t there: caught some segments on the BBC. I’ve said before (here and here) that I listen to anything and everything, so I figure either I’m too old, too out of touch, or they’re not that good. Anyway, I did a little straw poll amongst some knowledgeable music-types much younger than me. Seems I’m not necessarily out of touch nor too old… though a quick perusal of key words just now suggests the listeners out there are similarly divided: but hey, that’s music!

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Wikitorials came and went in LA Times, plus some ’side moans’…

June 24, 2005

I noticed via a Ross Mayfield posting (he in turn found it from a Blogging LA posting) that the Los Angeles times was embarking on a bold new experiment. As the LA Times themselves stated:

Watch next week for the introduction of “wikitorials” — an online feature that will empower you to rewrite Los Angeles Times editorials.

Ross Mayfield had originally suggested

This is one media experiment to watch.

Doc Searls was not so sure (see link in a moment below).

[I pick out Ross and Doc because I have great respect for their individual opinions… and they differ on this one, as I read it, so that makes me want to dig a little deeper.]

Now it appears that the LA Times has shut down the Wikitorials community

Ross is

a bit irked

and has suggested an Open Letter to the Wikitor

Doc commented:

I thought the idea was too silly to live, anyway.

Doc also points to a thoughtful commentary by Jeff Jarvis, who writes.

The New York Times and other media outlets have covered the collapse of its wikitorial project and I’ve heard more than one old-media person say, well, I see LA tried wikis and it’s dangerous.

But no. This is like hearing Kathie Lee Gifford try to rap and then, upon hearing the results, declaring hip hop dead.

The LA Times didn’t understand what it was doing and made three criticial mistakes:

1. Collaboration vs. argument — I said this from the start: They didn’t get that wikis are a collaborative medium where, even when people disagree, they try to find common ground, knowing there can be only one outcome, or else the wiki will, by its very nature, fail. This is why I suggested having two wikis, instead — one pro, one con and let the best wiki win — and Jimbo Wales was starting to do that… but the trolls took over the forest first.

2. Care and feeding — All communities need attention. The Times should have gone to Jimbo and, he said today, he would have had a few good Wikipedians watch over their foray. You don’t build a town without cops. You don’t build a community site — a town online — without a clean-up crew, either. He also would have explained how to use wikis, since he knows. But the paper thought they knew best and this leads to be biggest mistake:

3. Newspaper ego — Here is the Times’ worst mistake and its most predictable: They think everything is about them. I’ve sat in meetings with newspaper editors who earnestly think that the best use of internet interactivity is to let the people talk about what they have written, to discuss them, to keep them in the spotlight they built for themselves. There is no bigger institutional ego than a newspaper’s. Presidents and popes get humbled more often than editors. Well, at least they used to.

No, guys, the best use of a wiki would have been to have the public create wikis to share their knowledge and viewpoints with you.

Jeff writes a lot more… worth a read.

[Side moans: I must be gettin’ old: (1) Ross’s posts indicated ‘trackback links’ but I’ll be damned if I can find the URL for them; (2) creating this post has involved way too many mouse-clicks, back-and-forth window shuffling, pasting of bits and pieces of different text – man, these tools (even using WordPress with WYSIWYG plugin are really not up to the task of rapid-fire multi-link chopping/commenting, IMHO).]

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Cell phone tracking, WiFi triangulation, and more…

June 16, 2005

Blaine Price dropped by my office yesterday to fill me on what he’s doing with mobile geolocation, trust and privacy. If you check out Blaine’s home page you’ll see an image at the bottom that looks a little bit like the one I’ve included here at the right of this blog entry.

It’s based on a tool provided by CellTrack.SPV-Developers.Com which is an open-source player in the increasingly-interesting cell-triangulation niche. It gets ever more interesting as the accuracy and algorithms improve. In this case, the strength of your signal from multiple cell masts is accessible as a ‘footprint’/’signature’, for which you can update a database with ‘here I am’ postcode information. The more people that do this, the better the resolution of the service. As the CellTrack group says:

CellTrack is free and open source utility for tracking the location of GSM cellular phones. Currently some smartphones running Windows Mobile are supported.

A free CellTrack client can be downloaded and installed on your phone. This runs in the background and collects information on the GSM cell towers in your phone’s vicinity. This information can be used to estimate the geographical location of your phone.

The client can be configred to automatically perform certain actions when the phone location changes. For example, CellTrack can be configured to automatically switch your phone to silent when entering work, or to divert all calls to your home line when you are at home.

Another key player in a related is PlaceLab, which uses any and every technology information source available to help pinpoint locations:

Place Lab is software providing low-cost, easy-to-use device positioning for location-enhanced computing applications. Place Lab tries to provide positioning which works worldwide, both indoors and out (unlike GPS which only works outside). Place Lab clients can determine their location privately without constant interaction with a central service (unlike badge tracking or mobile phone location services where the service owns your location information).

The Place Lab approach is to allow commodity hardware clients like notebooks, PDAs and cell phones to locate themselves by listening for radio beacons such as 802.11 access points, GSM cell phone towers, and fixed Bluetooth devices that already exist in large numbers around us in the environment. These beacons all have unique or semi-unique IDs, for example, a MAC address. Clients compute their own location by hearing one or more IDs, looking up the associated beacons’ positions in a locally cached map, and estimating their own position referenced to the beacons’ positions.

How much do you reveal about your whereabouts, and to whom do you reveal it? That’s where Blaine comes in. This looks like very neat stuff; stay tuned….

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Meet-O-Matic still trumps group calendarware…

June 16, 2005

Dan Gillmor posts an entry referring to a Mike Landberg article about group calendaring. Mike writes:

Trumba ( does an outstanding job of delivering shared calendaring to home computer users, assuming everyone involved is willing to sign up for a Trumba account and faithfully keep their personal calendars up to date.

And Dan concludes:

Bottom line: Keep looking. Sigh.

I say this: Sign up for an account? Keep calendars up to date? Ha! Read my Get Real posting on “How to build a meeting scheduler”, which talks about the design philosophy (including no registration, no ‘up to date-ness’ requirement) underlying Meet-O-Matic.

OK, OK, it’s a narrow niche that Meet-O-Matic covers (coarse-grained scheduling, e.g. “let’s get our book group together” or “can we schedule that corporate away day some time in the next two months”), but it sure rules the roost in that niche and yes, I’m damn proud of it.

[via a Marc Canter entry – natch!]

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Social Software and the Psychology of Programming: PPIG 2005

June 8, 2005

I’m giving a keynote address at the 2005 Psychology of Programming Interest Group 17th Annual Workshop – PPIG 05 at The University of Sussex, at the end of this month.

I haven’t really done mainstream ‘Psychology of Programming’ for years, but that was precisely the point, I believe, of getting involved with this event.  In working out the contents of my presentation, I decided the natural thing to do was focus on "PP2SS: From the Psychology of Programming to Social Software", and look at avenues for synergy.

I was dismayed to find that there is precisely ONE entry for ‘psychology of programming interest group’ out of Technorati’s 11,000,000 tracked blogs (hey, after I post this, there’ll be twice as many).  Also, Googling for blog yields only 1 hit, meaning that the PPIG community isn’t taking social software seriously at all – which to me seems totally crazy.

Here’s an excerpt from the talk summary I just sent off a few moments ago:


How does the Psychology of Programming fit into Social Software?  Right now, it doesn’t: but it should.  I believe that PPIG has much to offer the Social Software community, and vice versa.  In this talk, I will outline four ways in which a symbiotic PP/SS relationship could grow:

1. SS -> PPIG: Existing social software tools can at the very least ‘service’ the PPIG community. Community members can provide mutually-referential blog entries describing their research, group wikis, and use RSS newsfeed aggregators and trigger alert services to act in a primary news dissemination capacity.  Rapid interchanges can take place using a variety of synchronous social software tools.  Right now, such tools are regarded as ‘fringe’, which is absurd: in the rest of the world, they are mainstream.

2. PP -> SS: Psychology of programming ideas can be of great benefit to the social software community.  For example, current software environments underlying blogs and wikis are often extremely frustrating to use, typically because the deploy the wrong affordances or clash with the user’s own mental models of the underlying virtual machines.  This is ‘home territory’ to PPIG, and is therefore a ripe area for cross-fertilization.

3. PP(SS): Social software usage (as opposed to tool design) is a great domain of study for the PP community.  For example, discourse patterns across ‘duelling blog entries’, and the ebb and flow of conversation in blogs, wikis, and instant messaging, is a ripe topic for investigation.

4. SS(PP): Applying a social software perspective to the very act of programming is another means of fostering synergy.  Indeed, collaborative programming environments and paradigms, popular in the open source and MOO worlds, already familiar to many in the PPIG community, could be re-examined in the light of the latest tools and interaction styles emerging in the social software world.

The talk will conclude with a view of what a PPIG workshop ought to look like in 2010.

Technorati Tags: PPIG, psychology, programming, software.psychology,



Tributes to Rob Milne…

June 6, 2005

… stalwart of the AI community who died tragically near the summit of Mt. Everest on 5th June, are pouring in as comments on the expedition blog site maintained for Rob by the good folks at the Artificial Intelligence Applications Institute at the University of Edinburgh.

What a terrible loss to the AI community and to his family and friends, to whom we convey the sincerest condolences.

See the original BBC news report, a followup BBC news report and Edinburgh’s Everest expedition site

This is a very sad and sober ending to the earlier rather jolly-sounding reports such as ‘Edinburgh Goes Xtreme Too‘, and really makes one appreciate what a serious and deadly task these climbers undertake. Readers of our related reports about Lorenzo Gariano (Xtreme Podcasting), who has been on the North Face this whole time, will be interested to know that Lorenzo is safe, but only just —
he had a hair-raising experience and has just been recovering from partial frostbite and partial blindness; his accounts continue on the Everest Expedition Xtreme Podcasting site, (actually go to the Everest audio replay page and click on the one for 02 Jun 2005 16:40 UK time).

Yow… humbling…

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Two-Orders-of-Magnitude Overload Conjecture

June 1, 2005

RSS aggregators give users, especially early adopters of new technologies, a two-order-of-magnitude (i.e. 100x) ‘power boost’ in dealing with the ‘knowledge flow’ whipping around us. But whenever there’s a three, four, five, or six order-of-magnitude (i.e. 1000x, 10,000x, 100,000x, or 1,000,000x) spread of ‘adopters of new technologies’, not only are such technologies not new any more, but a two-order-of-magnitude ‘power boost’ is insufficient. This phenomenon itself is not new, but history tells us there are three ways to go: more power, more knowledge, new technology. …

Read my full posting on the subject over on Get Real.

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