Monthly Archives: August 2004

Excellent discussion of Wikipedia authority

Corante.com has a great summary of The Importance of… > The Great Wikipedia Authority Debate” href=”http://www.corante.com/importance/archives/005925.php”>The Great Wikipedia Authority Debate. I have used the Wikipedia as a student excercise and found that it requires quite a bit of setup, in terms of communicating values and norms, to work. I certainly do not believe in setting up a Slashdot-like reputation system, if that is what is being contemplated. Wikipedia works now, and will work in the future, just the way it is. Thinks I.

Painting the town wet

Printerbike

The note from Joi Ito’s web about the arrest of the organizer of something called Bikes Against Bush is interesting (aside from the fact that you can get arrested for being in NY with a bicycle nowadays.)

The technology of the dot-matrix printerbike is very cool, but isn’t it a little too complicated? I remember reading from one of Hemingway’s books about people walking around the streets of Paris with a rolling drum which would paint the word “Cinzano” on the sidewalk in water – which would, eventually, evaporate, hence no need to clean up at all.

This bike, ingenuity aside, strikes me as a high-tech answer to a low-tech problem. Still cool, though.

A new Agenda, this time for all of us

I followed Eirik Newth‘s recommendation and listened to the Gillmor Gang’s discussion of the ramifications of Microsoft’s announcement that Longhorn will be missing the WinFS file system when it comes out in 2006. Setting aside that this is further evidence that Microsoft has become 1980s IBM (including the practice of preemptive announcements and the time-honored “midlife kicker”), an interesting comment made by one of the particpants intrigued me: That Microsoft by having this delay may give away a large market to Google.
Despite having worked with computers for quite a while now, I still have problems getting used to what we can do with abundant processing, storage and communication. Google’s 1Gb Gmail, coupled with blogging/wikiing/blikiing technology and (still for a while) graphics processing at the desktop, can presumably mean a return to the mainframe topology – that is, all your apps and all your data can be on Google.
This is not as far-fetched as it sounds – essentially, the problem of storage is not size of files, but duplication. I have hundreds of presentations, but probably also hundreds of copies of my favorite slides. A networked information format, with component-based information items linked together to form documents – across users, accounts, and organizations, could conceivably be stored on the 100,000 and counting servers that Google has. A very clean Wiki-based interface could be the preferred way to go for those of us who want deeply functional, simple software.
Many years ago, Lotus had a wonderful product called Agenda – text-based, freeform, lightning-fast (and, apparently, still available). The problem was unsupported file formats and limitations on content size – and the product eventually was abandoned in favor of the elephantine Lotus Notes. Imagine an Agenda-style software, stored in one place, with little duplication and a very simple interface. XML-based content, separation of content and display, sensible design choices and global search.
Well, one can dream, but I think this is getting a little closer to reality once we let go of the client-centric model of computing we seem to be clinging to. Fun.
Incidentally, I will listen more to the Gillmor Gang and the other stuff at ITconversations.com. Interesting stuff, picked up in a format that reminds me that all these bloggers and digerati out there are real people, available for a teleconference if only the topic and the audience is interesting enough.

The life digital and the life unexamined

I thought I was living digitally (wireless network at home, teleconferences and cellphones, blogging and wikiing and teaching electronically), but Joi Ito has a degree of connectivity that is couple of standard deviations further out.
In the end, he asks whether he is a freak, or whether this is the way people will work. I think he a bit on the edge, but less for his use of technology than for the disjointed way he works, jumping from one conversation to the other, because he can. In the end, more people will use the technology, but most people will not jump between conversations the way Joi does.
New technology will always be used first by those with the highest need for it. Joi Ito is a venture capitalist and a technologist – and as such, may need to talk to three groups of people as soon as he wakes up in the morning. The first users of a technology also shape its design – and the introduction of the ability to talk to many people fast means that more of us are going to talk to more people, fast.
The interesting thing, as far as I am concerned, is how we can use the technology in the slower lane. Realizing that increases in quantity and convenience is a quality in itself, how can the technology help us increase the quality of our conversations?

Microsoft and geography: Not too bad

The Guardian has a story about how Microsoft has lost money and reputation because their employees don’t know geography (via Techdirt).
In all fairness, I didn’t think these mistakes were that bad. First of all, they have little to do with geography, and more about political history and culture. Secondly, for a company that does as much software as Microsoft, over so many years, this isn’t really that much, and the mistakes not that huge. And with a workforce to draw on that does not know where the Pacific Ocean is (you would in Redmond, or at least in Seattle), it is pretty much a wonder they manage to do anything international at all…..
Not that the Grauniad themselves have that much to brag about….