Sunday, January 22, 2006

Mash Pit - Long Live the Hackathon

Chris and Brad hosted Mash Pit (#1) this past week, a day-long hackathon focused on mashups to improve people's lives.  Really cool event, sorry I missed it.  (Can I trade in a year or two of my server-side C/Java mental archives for some shiny new Javascript or Python?)

I definitely want the Event in a Box that one of the teams put together.  Not that I post a ton of them, but when I post an event, why should I have to post to so many diffferent places?

Whuffie Tracker looks tres useful too.  I admit it ;)


Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Search SIG Bonanza

Search SIG – Search Different: Tagging, Social Bookmarking and Sharing

Last night’s Search SIG was a great room-packing event that brought out close to 250 people from my estimate.  Nice job Dave and Jeff — I rarely see an SDForum SIG with half that many people.  It was also good to run into a bunch of folks I haven’t seen in a while, including Jean Sini of Stickis, David Marks of Loomia.

The panel of founders of “social search” companies, Digg, Wink, and Kaboodle, along with Forrester’s Charlene Li, was a great mix.  The discussion centered around tagging and search.  A couple points I found interesting:

  • Kaboodle is for shopping.  I somehow missed that when I saw the demo at TagCamp.  Now that I get it, I think Kaboodle will succeed wildly.  I’ve already migrated some of my links for a digital media receiver I want to buy to my new DMR page on Kaboodle.  Auto-discovering and storing prouct image/description/price info for stuff you’re shopping for is a simple but huge improvement over researching products the “plain link” way.

  • A prediction by Charlene Li that there will be a whole ecosystem of services that rate, rank, and measure tags and taggers across the growing set of tag-centric sites.  Makes sense if the data is there to be harvested, which it is for the most part it seems to be.

  •’s Josh Schachter had the quote of the night when responding to the question about how to virally grow like did: “Tap into the bored-at-work network.”  Brilliant.

  • Digg spy rocks — seeing the pulse of the Web in real time is just plain fascinating.  But overall Digg desparately needs tags.  My eyes bleed when viewing stories by category.  It’s just too granular.

Charles Hudson and Brian Cantoni have additional writeups.

Next Collaboration SIG Jan 23rd – How Hackers Collaborate

Speaking of SIGs, the next Collaboration SIG event, How Hackers Collaborate, will be held on Monday January 23rd in Palo Alto. 

We’ve got a great lineup including “old school hackers” Lee Felsenstein of the Homebrew Computer Club and Jim Warren of the West Coast Computer Faire, along with some “new school” folks like David Weekly and Jeff Lindsay of SupperHappyDevHouse.

We really want to provide more face to face for attendees, so we’re mixing up the format and doing a “collaborative panel” BrainJams-style.  Basically everyone will split up into small table discussions led by our panelists, rotate a couple times to mix and match, and then the panel will get up and hold a traditional panel discussion based on the evening’s converations.  We’ll see how it works!

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Friday, January 06, 2006

Cingular's New Voice Mail System is Aggressively Idiotic

WTF was Cingular thinking when they re-designed their voice mail system late
last year?  It definitely gets my vote for the worst product of 2005 — it rubs
me the wrong way every single time I use my phone.

Why?  They force you have to listen to the entire length of a message
before you can delete it

The basic use case for VM is to listen to each message as far as you need to
and then save or delete it.  “Oh yeah, heard that already… delete.” or “Don’t
need to hear from him again…delete.” 

Imagine designing an email client that forces you to scroll through to the
bottom of each email message and then pause for 5–10 seconds before deleting
it.  Aggressively Idiotic.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

First Wiki Wednesday of '06

My calendar finally aligned with a Wiki Wednesday last night and I’m going to make sure it does again in the future — I had a really good time.  “JotSpot spy in the house” kidding aside, the Socialtext office with its glass-walled conference rooms (and keg!) is great for these type of gatherings.  And with Peter “Twiki” Theony also hanging, there was plenty of good wiki going around. 

Much of the conversation revolved around the pros, cons, and approaches of structure and process in wikis, particularly with respect to Microformats

Kent Bye shared his Echo Chamber Project, who’s goal is to develop collaborative techniques for producing documentary film and news that break the 2–viewpoint ghetto and incorporate the multiple sources that more closely approximate “truth”.  

Kent’s developing these techniques by creating a documentary on the run-up to the Iraq war.  Wikis and microformats can help track all the details/sources/research/media around a given subject, giving access to primary sources so everyone can vet and contribute.  Really cool stuff — gotta hook Kent up with my good friend Bart Cheever who’s putting together San Francisco’s DMAC digital media conference.

We also talked wikis and structure in a more general sense.  Ross asserted that, “one man’s/context’s structure or process is another man’s/context’s hard-to-figure-out mess” (my paraphrase).  While I agreed to this principle at a high level, my take was it’s human nature to create structure and process, and wikis are a great tool to scratch that itch.  Rapidly ramping-up, re-factoring, and re-using structure helps keep it from becoming that impenetrable backwater.  If done right.  And of course the search for “right” is (and will likely always be) a work in progress.

Looking forward to the first Wednesday next month.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Embrace Small Increments in 2006

No, this isn’t a new year’s resolution post.  It’s a “things I’m going to try to do or get better at” post. 

Don’t ask me what the difference is.  But I don’t make resolutions anymore after my earnest resolution last year to ‘get more exercise’ (original, I know) fell so spectacularly flat.

But every year there’s that special period from Christmas to New Years that is so conducive to navel gazing.  We’re just exiting that special time, and these themes are top of mind.

Experiment More

No, not the fun-munchies-while-camping-in-Borrego-desert kind of experimentation.  More the “try new approach to XYZ and try to measure the difference” kind of experiment.  This is inspired in a big way by the culture at JotSpot where I work.

Finish More

I’m tired of having too many un-finished threads in my life.  95% is not finished. 

Embrace Small Increments

Somehow I’ve gotten into the habit always judging things (ideas, events, outcomes) based on their “big bang” impact.  If something is a small improvement or has less-than-the-end-game effect, I don’t value it or ignore it altogether. 

I no longer think this is healthy or wise.  This quote by Scott Hampton (by way of Seth Godin) hit the nail on the head:

“If you can't change the little things in your methods, you'll never change the big things. Pick something, make it better. Don't worry if it is just a little thing. If you lather, rinse, and repeat that a few times, you will have made a big difference.”

There are lots of other things swirling in my head, like do my absolute bestest to savor Arielle and Ethan’s young lives, get more exercise, go out on more limbs.  But the best approaches seem to all point back to the themes above, particularly embrace small increments.

Happy New Year to you — I’m really looking forward to 2006!