I spent the past few days sitting in some airports which means I got a lot of writing done in the downtime. I jotted down a bunch of things that have been bouncing around my head regarding social software, some half-baked, some fully baked.
I really like the map idea and think it could be successful. If anyone has a spare few million around and wants to try melding GIS software with community data, drop me a line. :)
This month marks Philip Greenspun's tenth year publishing on the web. Sometime in 1995, I stumbled across http://photo.net/~philg and proceeded to learn quite a bit about web publishing, photography, storytelling on the web, and eventually how databases and collaborative community spaces are built.
There are three or four people that shaped my learning about web technology and during a time where books on the subject were rare, it was due to these folks that I got jobs doing web things and created a number of personal sites and services. They were generous enough to share everything they learned along the way and I've tried my best to pass along my lessons to others. I remember reading every word of Philip's guide to building a community site online and then buying a hardcopy when it was released. The book taught me how to view any potential site as a giant database that could be used by thousands. I used a lot of the ideas when planning out the mechanics and programming of MetaFilter and two years later I was getting accolades for the work inspired in part by this book.
I've put some effort into tracking down and personally thanking the folks that helped me out early on by publishing tutorials, but Philip was one I never got around to contacting. So thanks again Philip for all you've done and I hope to see you continue for ten years to come.
After four tries, I finally got to see Return of the King today. It seems living in a small town of 30k people that only has one cineplex showing the movie on a single screen makes for many sold out shows.
The showing I caught was turned up really loud and at several points I was terrified by the action. The first couple hours were scarier than any horror movie I've seen. I haven't read the books, so I can't remember the names of them (were they modors from azkiban or raelians from babbiton?), but those giant flying pterodactyl things with the guy from Scream riding them were really scary. Whenever they flew over the crowd I felt like an 8 year old wanting to bury my face in my hands and leave the theater, totally terrified.
It also struck me how epic the whole journey was and I wondered why I've never heard of Tolkien re-enactment groups, since the whole thing felt so Civil War-ish. A quick search on google reveals there actually is a Middle Earth Historical Reenactment Society and a House of Cardolan group that specializes in these sorts of things.
My favorite song from Johnny Cash's last cover songs disc was definitely Desperado. And now, a flash artist/fan has made a video for it that is loaded with monkeys. I didn't think there was any way to improve on the song, but throwing a few chimps on horses just proved me wrong. This is even better than the song alone. [via vidiot]
This is pretty cool: MetaFilter in Iraq. Jeremy also posted his reactions to being in on the Saddam raid last week, with the rest of the story to come.
For the second time in my life, today I felt what it was like to read an email sent by someone no longer living. It's an odd feeling to know they are in your address book but that any email sent their way will go unanswered. You can also look back at the last 2 or 3 things they sent and read them as if the messages were new. Their email address still exists, though someone else (or an auto-response script) will be bouncing the bad news from here on out.
To be quite honest, my extended family feels a lot like my extended neighbors, or any large set of strangers I've spent time with. There are a few standout pals, a sea of unknowns, and a real bastard or two all lurking among the crowd. Sure we all share a bit more body chemistry than a group of strangers, but I've never felt particularly close to people simply based on genetics.
One of the standout pals among the strangers was my great aunt (grandmother's sister on my dad's side). She spent most of her life as an educator, researching how children and the developmentally disabled learned going back into the 60s. Very early on I could tell she was different than all the other family members I knew. She stressed learning above all else and I remember during the times I got to spend with her that she taught me an important life lesson. She taught me that doing the minimum to fulfill a requirement was only doing an ordinary amount of work, and while that was satisfactory, putting in a bit more effort would yield extraordinary results. "Why be ordinary when you can be extraordinary" has carried with me since I was a kid.
She was the first grown up to teach me it was ok to be smart, that excelling at what you do was important and commendable, and that other people's opinion of you didn't really matter.
I'm going to miss my Aunt Molly. I can't make the funeral this weekend, and I haven't seen her in person in almost two years, but I did get to talk to her on the phone a couple weeks ago and I planned a trip to see her at the end of this month so we could catch up. However, she went from initial diagnosis of pancreatic cancer to death in just a few weeks, surprising us all. She's gone but her lessons live on in my life and I'll continue to do my best passing them along to others. So long Molly, I love you and will miss you greatly.
I've met, read, and been interviewed by some lazy reporters in my time, but I'm pretty impressed by John Leo's display of ineptitude. He wrote an article about how the left thinks Bush is Hitler and scoured a few site looking for supporting evidence. One of them is MetaFilter. Here is his entire quote:
Another vexing question about Rove: Is he Goebbels or Josef Mengele? Goebbels is the top choice among antiwar commentators, but a writer to the MetaFilter site said: "Karl Rove made up stories about John McCain, just as Josef Mengele conducted medical experiments on children in Auschwitz."
Now read the post he plucked it from.
Clearly -- to anyone that reads the post -- they could see it was posted in a mocking, over-the-top tone. The comment used in the quote is obviously a joke. Other comments on the thread by MetaFilter's conservative and liberal posters were mocking the article and writing it off as pathetic, but Leo used it anyway. It's the laziest display of "journalism" I've seen and now it is being syndicated across a range of conservative news sites.
I don't dispute the fact that a small segment of the extreme left thinks bush is hitler. But many pundits on the right have tried to push their viewpoint that extremists are the left going back at least to the WTO protests in Seattle (where a few psycho anarchists were supposed to represent anyone that didn't vote for Bush) and that's ridiculous. It's as ridiculous as trying to paint all conservatives as white supremacists. Quoting someone's joke intended to mock an extremist screed is also ridiculous and beyond the pale.
Just got back from what was easily the best meal I've had in Oregon at the Joel Palmer House. Jack, the founder, is a renowned mushroom expert going way back and searches the local forests for truffles, porcinis, and chanterelles, then serves them up in his meals.
He captured the essence of mushrooms in every dish. The dishes tended towards hearty and earthy flavors but were also a bit heavy and creamy, which is just fine for winter. He toured the dining area at one point and I got to ask him what he serves in the summer and he said "lots and lots of local berries, but the dishes are best eaten when it is cold outside." Their wine list had an impressive chunk of the entire willamette valley region to offer as well.
I really wanted to ask him how risky it was to harvest wild mushrooms specifically to serve customers, but figured it was best to skip that kind of morbid topic at a fine meal ("have you ever served fugu encrusted with death caps?" or "So what are our chances of dying tonight?" probably would have been my questions).
If you go, by all means opt for the "mushroom madness" prix fixe menu which is what I imagine is the closest you could get to judging an Iron Chef battle. There are five courses all based around different mushrooms, then a dessert that includes them as well. The portions started small and light, as they should be, but eventually grew into full sized plates. I had to practically be rolled out of the place by the end.
But it was a nice place and a great dining experience that I'll be dragging all my out-of-town visitors to enjoy.
I just ran across the Bullmoose Republican site, complete with multiple blogs. The strange thing about them is reading their four pillars, they don't sound like republicans at all. They don't sound like democrats either, though their stance makes them sound centrist to me. I suspect a party like this could gain a lot of support, but I doubt next November's choices have much in common with these folks.
While browsing through hours of free music (with an intent to buy) at Magnatune, I came across the electro sitar stylings of Anup. He's got that whole "sitars over beats" thing down that all the club kids are nuts for these days. But for a seasonal gem, listen to his take on Jingle Bells (mp3).
Listening to the song makes me want to go door-to-door in my neighborhood and perform Bollywood musicals to it.
When I first saw Customized Classics a few weeks ago I felt like kicking myself. It's hard for most people to understand what "public domain" really means, and what value it can give us as a culture, and directly as capitalists and entrepreneurs.
Project Gutenberg has recently uploaded their 10,000th public domain book, and Brewster and the gang are working on the "million book project". To demonstrate the potential of the public domain, and show people what movies, music, and stories used to be like when there was an active public domain (that at one time was only 14 to 28 years old -- imagine making new movies and music from 60s stuff totally free of copyright), I've been kicking around ideas of how to exploit these free works (again, for demonstration purposes more than anything else).
One idea I called "judge a book by its cover." Take these public domain classics, create exciting, artistic cover designs (perhaps by famous designers), and sell them via the new crop of print-on-demand services. A few months ago there was news of Oprah's book club coming back to life and only selecting classics from the public domain, and how publishers would have to rush to meet the demands, but how anyone could print them up.
I've been coming up with other ideas but nothing is as good as customized classics. They just do a search-and-replace on names of your choosing, and spit out a custom book to you for 25 bucks or so. Brilliant and simple.
If you have grandparents like I do, you might have gotten envelopes mailed to you from time to time. Inside these envelopes, you would usually find a piece of paper folded up with some writing on it, and either taped to the paper or floating freely you'd find a story cut out of the newspaper. The note would often say something like "Saw this in the local paper today. Thought you might be interested in it."
Newspapers are still ubiquitous but they used to be bigger in their day and age, and if you missed that day's paper or lived in a different area, chances are you weren't going to catch that story and clipping and sending it was the only way to share that info (aside from saying "hey grandson, go down to your library and ask for LA Times microfiche #32344 and look for A12 on it).
I got some newspaper clippings in the mail today and I realized that my parents and grandparents and I have a lot in common. It seems like blogging here is a lot like the newspaper clipping thing they do, but I do it all the time and for anyone that finds this site, where their work is for an audience of one (me).
Looking at my archives for the last piece of news I blogged about, it's not much of a stretch to read this post and imagine getting the following note along with the story clipped out of the paper:
Here ya go sonny boy, here's a nice story I thought you might enjoy. You still do the work on a computer, right?
The Creative Commons Moving Images Contest deadline is three weeks from today, and there are lots of great prizes. You can use Flash or video to illustrate how Creative Commons works (here's a sample of how we describe it to musicians), no more than two minutes in length.
To be honest, we haven't had a ton of entries yet, so get cracking creative types, there's gold in them thar hills!
Design Within (no one I know's) Reach is holding a contest to design a chair using only champagne corks and wire. Pretty cool concept and I can't wait to see the winners, though it's sad to know the grand prize would only serve as a downpayment on 75% of the products they offer in their inventory. Why not let the winners pick out any chair DWR sells?
When I lived in SF, my supervisor was Matt Gonzalez and my experience with his office was great, as he responded to my comments in a timely manner. I also remember following the local news and frequently seeing him getting press for following common sense instead of party politics. I recently learned he's the only mayoral candidate that has roommates and rents in SF, so he's probably got more in common with 3/4 of the voters than anyone else.
I'd love to see Matt win and steer the city back on the right path. Vote for him if you can.
update: crap! so close, yet so far away.
"'There comes a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can't take part; you can't even passively take part, and you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you've got to make it stop. And you've got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you're free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!"
I know where I'm stopping to eat whenever I take a long road trip and I need to check email, servers, directions and/or the weather forecast: Denny's.
I'll take a sunshine slam with a side of
free wifi (crap, it's not free -- It'd be nice if they gave you an hour on the house if you were buying 10-20 bucks worth of food. Money grubbing bastards. And now I see they killed the meatless sunshine slam. Forget what I said about Denny's, they suck.).
Just a quick update to my earlier post on cleaning up the clutter of windows and making my PC and mac more inline with each other: Mobydock is an incredible little app that does a much better job replacing the windows taskbar than the earlier app I was using. I've been able to get cool new features, customize it to my programs and liking, and it works great for switching apps by clicking on their dock items (here's a screenshot). It's freeware on top of all that, though I'd gladly pay for them to keep updating it.
The previous dock clone I was using got shut down by Apple, and I'm not sure this one is much different, but it works great for me now.
Wow, they really did kill MP3.com. So much of the net's history gone in a flash, I do hope they create some mechanism (that isn't laden with DRM) to bring back music hosting for anyone that can record a song at home on their PC.
I bet GarageBand.com takes off in the absence of MP3.com, they were like a better version, though they require users and musicians to actively participate for it to work.
Want to see how much more information is stored in a photo taken with a 6+ megapixel digital SLR? I took a few test shots with my new Digital Rebel at the highest jpeg quality setting, which is about 3000x2000 images (not a RAW or TIFF image). Here's a shot of my cat sitting in the sun, downsized to 750x500. And here's a 750x500 chunk of the original photo. Notice there's nary a hint of pixelation anywhere. After years of using 1 megapixel cameras and more recently a 3 megapixel camera, the stuff coming out of the SLR is unbelieveable.
I haven't printed anything with this camera yet but I bet prints from inkjets or ofoto are going to look superb given all the detail in these images.