November 2002 Archives

pie update


Last night, my southern-born husband informed me that after some consideration, he had determined that he had never had a better pecan pie than the one I made for Thanksgiving dinner. Nicest thing anyone's ever said about my cooking. Seriously. I'm feeling like a domestic goddess.

virtual gentrification?

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I was digging around for articles on client-side transformation of XML documents, and stumbled across Molly Holzschlag's article "There Goes the Neighborhood" from the June 2000 issue of Web Technique. The first two paragraphs really caught my eye...

I'm so tired of the terms "venture capital" and "angel investors." What happened to the Web I loved�that strange, diverse place where human expression, information, and global community were as important as commerce?

Once a place for information exchange and personal expression, the Web is now driven by commercial endeavors. While this has been great for technological innovation, which is exciting, human issues have been relegated to the Web's alleys and back roads in the rush to develop Web "properties." In essence, the Web is undergoing gentrification�a virtual urban renewal.
For home-page enthusiasts and small businesses, attraction to the Web's resources is being tempered by a raised bar of access. Technologists must develop sites based on commercial rather than personal values. In our rush to embrace and define technology that ultimately belongs to us, we must examine how we're developing our properties�philosophically and technologically.

What a difference a couple of years--and a few blogs can make, eh?

i am not making this up

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I am literally typing this as I walk on my treadmill--3% incline, 4mph.

Why? Last night, I made a deal with myself. Every day, no blogging (reading or writing) until I've exercised. Given how addicted to this medim I've become, I figured that would be some powerful incentive.

As I was on my way down to the basement this morning to make good on the deal, Gerald (my husband) reminded me that my trusty TiBook can sit right in the magazine rack on my treadmill. "Read while you walk," he said. So I am. Photo of setup to follow after I'm done.

missionary position


So, how many US-based bloggers found themselves evangelizing this medium at the dinner table last night? And of those, how many realized that the people listening to them just weren't getting it...yet?

Yeah, I thought so.

Last month, I posted about how blogs were making me feel the way the web had when I first saw O'Reilly's Global Network Navigator site back at Internet World in December of '93. (Sure wish I could find the old web sites for the first GNN and the IW'93 conference...but they're long gone, it seems. Even the GNN capture is from several years after its launch, only days before it was acquired by AOL.)

I spent a lot of time evangelizing in those days, trying to find a way to explain the power and potential I saw in the web to people who saw it as a second-class, poorly-controlled, inefficient publishing mechanism. Back then, quality control was a huge problem on the web, the visuals were painful, and the tools were challenging (remember trying to install winsock, or get MacPPP working?). But the potential was there, and it didn't take very long before the rest of the world saw it. At the end of dinner last night, I recognized my feelings of enthusiasm and frustration as exactly what I'd felt ten years ago when having conversations with friends and family about the internet.

I do wonder how much effect the evangelizing of the early adopters had to do with the mainstreaming of the 'net. Would it have happened even if we hadn't spoken at conferences, written books, and told everyone we knew how cool it all was? In retrospect, did it do anything except provide "I told you so" rights in the end? I can't help but think it mattered, though. That we planted seeds, and that eventually we contributed to the critical mass, to the reaching of a tipping point (that book is sitting next to me right now, begging to be read!).

So I held forth on blogs at dinner last night. Apparently I was convincing, since my stepfather created his own blog after I left! It's a pretty topic-specific blog (on learning Portuguese), but it's a start. Meanwhile, my mother is reading poetry blogs and occasionally surfing my blogroll. The one who I think would make a great blogger is my sister, who used to write for an ezine called Booklover's Review.

storytelling at its best

If you haven't read Dervala Hanley's blog yet, don't wait. Go there now. She's an Irish woman who's travelling in southeast asia, and her stories of her travels are beyond compare.

women bloggers

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Thursday's NYTimes has an article on women and blogging: Telling All Online: It's a Man's World (Isn't It?). Features Jeneane Sessum and Elaine Kalilily, as well as BlogSisters.

I took a look at my own blogroll. Out of twenty-four blogs (not counting group-authored blogs), six are by women. That's 25%. Pretty close to the % of women in professional computer positions in 2001 (28%, down from 36% in 1990).

But those raw numbers are not a clear indicator of my blog reading habits. Of those twenty-four I count seven that I always read, and that have a significant imact on my own thinking and writing. Of those, three are by men, and four are by women. And as my blogroll has morphed over the past few weeks, I have added more women, and dropped more men. Not because of their gender...but because of their voice.

The article puts it this way:

People who track blogs hate to make generalizations, but many acknowledged that female bloggers often have more of an inward focus, keeping personal diaries about their daily lives.

If that is the case, the Venus-Mars divide has made its way into Blogville. Women want to talk about their personal lives. Men want to talk about anything but. So far the people who have received the most publicity (often courtesy of male journalists) appear to be the latter.

I think this is close to the mark, but not exactly right. The "inward focus" rings true, but the "personal diaries" does not. The women whose blogs I read seem to speak with more of a personal and recognizable voice. But what they write goes far beyond a personal diary. They write about research, about law, about information architecture, about copyright, about gender, and about blogs themselves. But they write about them with grace and style, with a voice that is unmistakably theirs, unmistakably personal. I like that.



On the phone this morning, talking about blogs (what else? well, plenty, actually), Halley said "it's all about voice."

Still working on my voice, I think. Personal, professional, exuberant, cautious, wide-ranging, focused...where's the right balance? What's a not-yet-tenured professor to do? ;-)

let it snow!

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Woke up this morning to this beautiful view out my front windows. (Click on the picture for a larger version.) We've been alternating bright sunshine with brief flurries all day, so everything's still sugar-coated.

I do love the way the world looks when it's covered with fresh-fallen snow. Clean, bright, picture-book pretty. A good day to build a snowman with the boys, and then come inside for hot chocolate.

food, food, glorious food


Had a delightful time cooking in Sally's kitchen yesterday, and drove home feeling thankful for many things...not the least of which was the amazing smell of the still-hot food in my car. (To view larger versions of the photos below, simply click on the small ones.)

This is a not-very-good picture of Sally & Eric's beautiful cobblestone house out in Marion, NY. It doesn't do the house credit...I took it when it was already getting dark, through my car window, so it's dark and blurry. :-( But it is a lovely house. I arrived late, mostly because I'm an idiot. First, I went to an unfamiliar grocery store to buy my supplies, thinking that since it was on the way, it would save time. (Ha! Took me 20 minutes to find the pecans...) Then, as I cruised down I-90 singing to the oldies station, I blew right past the exit, and had to keep going in order to turn around. But I got there.

As noted previously, I had three items on my cooking agenda...the fabulous sweet potato & turnip gratin from Epicurious that we first tried last year, a classic pecan pie, and a maple pecan pumpkin pie. All turned out beautifully.

The gratin is described by the recipe author like this: "The cream and butter make this so delicious your guests will lie in bed and remember it happily all year long. You only serve this kind of dish once in a very long while, so the caloric intake is moderated." Words cannot describe how fabulous this is. Even confirmed turnip-haters like myself cannot resist it. (Really, what wouldn't taste good after being baked for 90 minutes in heavy cream, butter, and imported parmesan?) This is the finished product moments after it came out of the oven.

I decided against the epicurious recipe for the pecan pie, opting instead for the recipe on the Karo syrup bottle. The epicurious recipe had chopped pecans in the filling, and whole ones on top. The Karo recipe called for 1-1/2 cups of whole pecans in the filling--since it's the pecans I love, I decided to go this route and have the pie be mostly pecans with sugar and fat to bind them together. The picture shows the completed pecan pie, with the uncooked pumpkin pie ready to go in the oven. The pumpkin pie has maple flavoring and chopped pecans in it; tomorrow before dinner I'll top it with maple-flavored whipped cream and whole pecans.

if you can't stand the heat...

...stay out of my kitchen today.

Well, not my kitchen, exactly. I'm off to a friend's house (a gorgeous old cobblestone out in the country, with a fabulous remodeled kitchen) to spend the day cooking. Thanksgiving dinner at mom's house Thursday, but we're bringing pies and a side dish.

On today's cooking agenda:

Sweet Potato and Turnip Gratin (sinfully delicious)
Old Fashioned Pecan Pie
Maple Pecan Pumpkin Pie (my husband's favorite)


the walls can speak

Over on AKMA's blog last week, I posted a comment about how comments were more than just "graffiti"--how they resulted in a conversation with the walls, in a way, since comments can cause the decor itself to change when you're dealing with "the living web."

A wonderful example of exactly that is at grumpygirl's site today, where she's got a new comic strip featuring a brand new character. Read down to the bottom to see the connection.

new links pages


I've reskinned my links pages. XHTML compliant, all CSS, table-free. Still not quite right in IE for Windows, but seems to work properly in the other browsers I've tested. I used Albin.Net's "bullet-proof rounded corners", but I guess I broke something while I was customizing my pages and made it non-bulletproof.

Feedback is welcome and actively solicited--on content and organization, navigation, design, yada yada.

Because the content is generated from a mysql database, the old version can continue to exist peacefully with the new version. I'm working on cleaning up some interface aspects of the admin tools; once it's done, I'll make it available to anyone who wants it. It's a nice way of keeping track of links, since it not only provides nice hierarchical categorization (easily customizable), but also can be accessed from anywhere.

pattern languages for ICTs

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From Seb's site, a link to an interesting article called Academics on the Web: finding each other /ourselves.

There has been a recurring problem in academia concerning how people find each other rather than just the officially published work and how people find themselves or position themselves as part of a wider /global community. The Web and Internet technologies now provide opportunities to create presence 'out-there' of self and work but collectively we could also try to find ways to critically re-evaluate our work and debate and question the moral basis for what we find ourselves doing.

It's from a CPSR program called Shaping the Network Society: Patterns for Participation, Action and Change. As a part of that, they've created a system to store and share "pattern languages for living communication."

A related article on the site, Uncovering and Understanding Our Common Language by Doug Schuler, includes several of those patterns.

Guess I need to read up more on the whole concept of pattern languages. I understand it in a broad sense, but it's cropping up everywhere these days, and I think I need a better/deeper understanding of exactly what it is.

changing mail packages


This week I intend to switch from my beloved Eudora (which I've used for more years than I can count) to the OS X In part for the spam filtering that mail provides, in larger part because it's hard for me to justify spending the $ on yet another Eudora upgrade when mail is free.

Spent yesterday cleaning out my various mailboxes (the inbox alone had nearly 3000 messages accumulated, and that doesn't count all the messages in the 15+ other mailboxes that things get filtered into). When I told Gerald what I was doing, he asked why I didn't just start fresh with the new mail program, and leave the old stuff archived in Eudora if I needed it.


Why not, indeed? Why does the thought of that trouble me so? I think it's because I have such a sense of "living in" my computer. Switching the environment that I spend so much of my time "in" is a lot like moving. As an inveterate packrat, who's also quite mobile (or has been, anyway), I tend to see moving as my opportunity to clean house. Why keep what you're not willing to carry? I suppose I see the mail program the same way. If I'm not willing to transfer it to the new program, or archive it to a file, should I really be saving it at all?

So despite the appeal of starting up mail "clean," without the accumulated detritus of years of conversations, I'm sticking with plan A. Today will be cleaning day. And it's fun, actually, since I get to sift through all the messages that at some point I thought were worth keeping after I read them. Particularly enjoyable are the messages my mother has sent me after spending days with the boys--she writes beautifully (hey mom, why not start a grandmother blog, to keep all those anecdotes in?).

All in all, not a terrible way to spend a gray, damp, cold November day here in Rochester, while the kids are on school and I'm on vacation.

hall on mo' better moblogging

Justin Hall has a great article about "mobile blogging" called TheFeature :: It's All About The Mobile Internet. Talks about conferencing blogging, as well as the impact that mobile devices like iMode phones will have (are having?) on blogging and communication. A lot of Smart Mobs-type stuff here.

(Found the link on Joi Ito's Web. Joi's quoted in the article, too!)

power of search and replace

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From Clay Shirky's "guest blog" on BoingBoing, a pointer to this, um...excellent modified version...of the Asilomar Institute's 25 Theses for information architecture.

okay, i'll play

Mike says: " I need to be rich and/or famous."

(via Seb.)

conference blogging

Yesterday, Yale Law School held their "Revenge of the Blog" conference. LawMeme has put together alist of bloggers who reported on the conference.

According to Denise Howell's coverage of the conference, Mickey Kaus described blogs as "wormholes to disparate viewpoints." That's reinforced by reading the various descriptions of the conference itself.

At Pop!Tech, I enjoyed being able to read real-time blog coverage from David Weinberger, Ernie Svenson, and Dan Gillmor, all while watching the speakers live in the Opera House. Why? Because it gave me some "triangulation" of views. They'd think of angles on the speaker I hadn't thought of, and I could read that and factor it into the experience. It was not unlike the kind of whispered conversation I might have with a friend sitting next to me, but I had the "whispered" comments of some pretty smart folks. It enriches the experience.

In fact, this kind of conference blogging is exactly why I want to encourage my students to blog my class next quarter while I'm teaching. I know they want to be typing (I teach in a studio lab), so why not give them the opportunity to have their interactions with the computer fold back into the class, rather than pulling them away from it?

Of course, the conference blogs work because people are there by choice, and want to hear, read, and think about the speakers. I don't know how well that enthusiasm will transfer to the classroom. But I'm hopeful, since I'm teaching electives rather than required courses next quarter. We'll see.

de croy's first law of government

From The Volokh Conspiracy, via Instapundit:

de Croy�s First Law of Government runs as follows: Concede no powers to your friends that you would not give to your enemies. If you are a Republican, the Law can be applied in the following form: give no powers of surveillance to the Bush administration that you would not be comfortable seeing in the hands of Hillary Clinton.

Read the whole post. It's an excellent discussion of the "Total Information Awareness" travesty that Poindexter et al are foisting off on a mostly unsuspecting public.

more simultaneous idea emergence

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This morning in the shower I was humming a Christine Lavin song to myself. It's called Rushcutter's Bay, and in it, she's singing about being in Australia. "I can't believe it's November, I'm upside down, The other side of the world."

So then I start thinking about "being upside down," in relation to location. And from there I wonder to myself whether compasses work the same way in Australia as they do in North America. (Yes, I realize as an educated person I should know this, but I don't.) Which leads me to start thinking about the concept of compass point directions, and then maps. "How effective were maps before we had compass points," I wonder. And since Joi Ito recently posted a comment regarding my post on mapping the infome, and I recently posted one to his blog about "maps" of social networks, I then get to thinking about Internet maps, and how perhaps the real problem with all these Internet visualization tools is that we don't have shared reference points to orient ourselves on them.

As I wasn't exactly in a place where it would be easy to blog this train of thoughts, I mentally filed it away for later. Then I found a trackback alert in my mailbox this afternoon, showing that Brandon Barr had linked to my post from his texturl blog. I followed the link, to his ghosts in the machine post. In it, he says:

The geographic and topographic metaphors are somewhat problematic to me. Joi Ito's comment to Liz's post touches on precisely what I find problematic: the utility of internet visualizations. The utility of Jevbratt's visualizations is difficult to place, because her maps are counter-inituitive to what we usually think of as a map. I would contend that the power of maps requires a degree of permanence in what they represent--if highways constantly shifted, Rand McNally would be out of business. So, one sees utility in a project to visualize the backbone of the internet, while one might see less hard utility in a static maps of dynamic web information flow. There is utility, but it isless tangible. More like catching ghosts.

Fun stuff, this.

There was more serendipity in the process, as well. While trying to find the link to Joi's social network diagram post, I stumbled on an other post of his in which he quotes Sean O'Reilly telling his brother Tim "Korzybski's brilliant observation, in the latter half of the 20th century, that the map is not the territory morphed into the bizarre idea that there is no territory at all, which to most rational individuals is simply absurd."

I've always loved that Korzybski quote--"The map is not the territory, the thing name is not the thing named." I first encountered it reading Bateson's Mind and Nature, which I've been wanting to go back and re-read lately in the context of the 'net as an organic entity.

There's an important thread in all of this, that I can't quite grasp in its entirety yet. But it helps a lot to put this much into words. More later.

blog research opportunity?


After I raised the issue of bloggers doing collaborative research at Jill's talk, I've been thinking about how to legitimize such an activity. Of course, in technology fields, one of the holy grails of research respectability is NSF funding, so I took a look at upcoming program solications solicitations to see what might fit.

Found myself at the Information Technology Research (NSF 02-168) solicitation, which is written so broadly that it can be used to support a great variety of activities. And I think there's a lot of room here for potential impact of weblog publishing on scholarly activity and dissemination of information. So, how to put together a workable proposal?

Unfortunately, the deadline for "small" proposals is December 12 (small means no more than $500K for 3-5 years). But the deadline for "medium" proposals (up to $4 million!) isn't 'til February.

I suppose I could spend the break working on this, and try to get someting in next month. But I'm more intrigued by the idea of trying to do something larger and collaborative, and shooting for the medium version. Anybody want to play? (Alas, since it's NSF funding, we all have to be US citizens, I think.)

Ideas floating in my head involved designing new curricula, creating new professional publication models, sponsoring a conference, developing a new online resource center for microcontent publishing, etc, etc. Need to think more on the topic.

in search of beautiful syllabi

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My online syllabi are serviceable, but far from stunning. A tad embarassing, really, since I supposedly teach aesthetic as well as information design, and I should be paying more attention to the "user experience" of my students.

There are plenty of business web sites for me to look at for design ideas, but very few well-designed academic sites that I've been able to locate. Anybody out there with suggestions for good examples of online syllabi? Not training classes, but academic classes...with course outlines/schedules, readings, assignments, grading criteria, links to student work, blah blah blah.

I've hit designer's block on this, and need to be pointed towards academic eye-candy to get unstuck. [geez, does that sound like an oxymoron, or what?] I'm not looking for school or department sites, or for professor's personal sites. Just syllabi.

Thanks in advance for any links you can provide.

(suggestions as to functionality, content, and/or bells-and-whistles that you've seen and liked on syllabi are solicited as well)

vacation? what vacation?


Today I'm turning in my grades for the fall quarter (something I enjoy about as much as AKMA does), and then our "break" begins. Except there's the minor detail of having to do course prep for the two classes I'm teaching starting a week from Monday--Web Design, and XML for the Web.

Happily, I'm looking forward to teaching both classes. But the quarter schedule is brutal. Not enough time to wind down between quarters, not enough time to do the prep at the level I'd like, so that I can walk into the classroom feeling prepared. (Or is that a fantasy? Does it ever really happen?)

Then there's also my personal to-do list. Get to the gym every day. Spend way more time with the boys. Give the blog and the link lists a visual makeover (which dovetails with the course prep, since I'll need to brush up on my CSS skills). Bake. Catch up with Weez, who I haven't seen nearly enough of this quarter--and maybe start working on a collaborative article with her. Read--CSS books, XML books, tech/society books, and whatever the kids are wishing for at the moment. Enjoy Thanksgiving dinner at mom's house.

Need to update the blog to include some personal accountability components, a la Jill Walker's daily to-do list.

Sounds relaxing, doesn't it? :-)

no original thoughts


After I finished blogging Jill's talk at HUMlab, complete with my expression of concern about "interaction overload" vs "information overload," I did my daily blogsurfing. And what should I find on Steven Johnson's blog but a reference to fabio sergio's connectedland essay, which contains the following line:

From a world where people's main issue has been managing information we might be thus evolving to a connected world where problems will also come from managing interaction. With content. With other people. With the devices that allow us to interact with content and people.

On the one hand, I love that these ideas seem to emerge simultaneously from multiple sources--it's a validation that I'm making the connections in a way that makes sense to people besides me. On the other hand, I hate that I seem unable to produce an original thought. My skills tend to be in putting the pieces together, in seeing the big picture and then filling in details. But much of what I piece together seems to have been put together--with more grace and style--by others first. <sigh>

live! in person! it's jill/txt


jill.jpg I'm waching Jill Walker give a talk at HUMLab in Sweden right now. (Click on the image to see the larger version.)

They've set up a realmedia stream, and a chat environment, so I'll be able to type questions later that the audience can see on the screen.

The talk is in a Scandinavian language that I don't understand (not sure if it's Norwegian, Jill's native language, or Swedish). But because Jill's provided notes on her talk, and is talking about blogs that she's displaying, I can follow along reasonably well.

It's an amazing thing, all this technology. I can be watching Jill in Sweden, chatting with the audience there via text chat, IM'ing my 8-year-old son, talking on the phone with a colleague, waving hello to colleagues in the hall outside my office, and writing this blog entry, all at the same time. It's not information overload, it's interaction overload. I don't do well at splintering my attention in this way, so I'm going to close my door, close iChat, hang up the phone, and turn my attention to Jill and the chat.

mapping the web infome

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My mother sent me this link to Lisa Jevbratt's fascinating Web Infome Imager.

The Infome Imager is a software for creating visualizations of the World Wide Web. The software allows the user to create "crawlers" (software robots, which could be thought of as automated Web browsers) that gather data from the Web, and it provides methods for visualizing the collected data. Some of the functionality of the Infome Imager software is similar to a search engine such as Google, but with some significant differences. Those differences shifts the software's functionality from being merely a tool for finding information on the Web to an art project which is generating new understandings of the Web. The Infome Imager crawler collects "behind the scenes" data such as the length of a page, when a page was created, what network the page resides on, the colors used in a page and other design elements of a page etc. It scratches on the surface and glances down into the subconscious of the Web in hopes to reveal its inherent structure, in order to create new understandings of its technical, aesthetic and political functionalities.

Using the interface on this web site, the user sets parameters for the crawler and the visualization. The software allows the user to manipulate the crawler's behavior in several ways. The user decides what data the crawler should collect and how the data should be visualized. S/He can choose different methods - ways of "placing" and translating the data into color - for visualizing the data. The result of the crawling process is a visualization which also functions as an interface linking to all the sites the crawler visited. The visualizations/interfaces created with the Infome Imager are collected on the Infome Imager Web site, and can be viewed there by the creator as well as by other users.

I hesitated about blogging this, since it doesn't strike me as a site that can handle a large amount of traffic heading its way. On the other hand, the limited number of comments here in the past few days may mean that my 15 minutes of fame are over, and that I'm unlikely to drive much traffic towards anyone. :-)

(My visualizations of this blog are #s 2051 and 2052, respectively, in the "manifestations" list.)

grumpygirl redux

A new conversation between grumpgirl and her friend the ant, continuing the thread of "what is a blog." Lovely.

risk and delight

Today I had a parent-teacher conference with Lane's third-grade teacher. No big surprises there. She knows he's smart, she doesn't know why he won't demonstrate that in his work. Why doesn't he put forth his best effort, she wonders. The nice thing about having a kid who is so very much like me is those questions are easy to answer.

Putting forth your best effort is scary. Criticism of half-hearted work is easy to take. Criticism of work that you believe is the best you can do is much more difficult to handle. Like me, Lane doesn't want to put forth effort on anything that he doesn't believe he can do well. Not just well, actually, but better than those around him.

It's taken me 40 years to be honest about that particular character trait, and it saddens me a bit to see it manifesting itself in him. It's a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it can push you towards excellence. On the other hand, it can prevent you from enjoying the delights of dabbling. definition of dilettante

I was thinking today, as I read through many blog entries written with grace and style, how much like a dilettante I feel in this world right now, and how hard that is for me. But my discomfort with the term was eased greatly as I looked at its etymology. Delight. That's the goal, isn't it? To find delight in what we do, at whatever level of accomplishment we reach. How did the word shift from such a positive origin to such a negative context in today's usage? Superficial and amateurish are not what most of us aspire to. Delighted (and delightful)...that's another story.

why am I doing this?

E-mail today from a favorite student. (Names removed to protect the innocent...and the irretrievably stupid. 'Xxxx' is the student; Yyy is the boss.)

You'll never guess what one of the boss' told me the other day... I wrote them a proposal for something that they asked for and he came back to me at my desk and said, "Xxxx, as Yyy and I's net-worth goes up you need to use smaller words and simpler sentences. This is too hard to read. Make this paper into a bulleted list." No joke. Isn't that insane?

<sigh> Makes me wonder if there's really any validity to the things I tell my students about communication skills and grokking the big picture. Maybe I have become too cloistered in my ivory tower to understand the world they have to work in. Maybe while I sit in my office, the entire outside world has remade itself using Dilbert as a blueprint.


immersive experiences

Halley Suitt has been blogging about Harvard's "digital identity/branding" conference the past two days. I particularly like this post, which gets to the key issues that trouble many faculty about the whole distance learning push on campus.

The president of Harvard, Larry Summers dropped by to open this conference. I was particularly intriqued by one issue he brought up. He described all the benefits of watching a football game in your living room -- good seat at the 40 yard line, instant replay, comfortable couch, 72 degree temperature, clean bathroom easily available, etc. and then the unfavorable conditions in a stadium -- usually poor, distant seating, no instant reply, hard bench, freezing conditions at time, dirty bathroom at the end of a long concrete ramp. He asked, "What is the nature of an attractive experience?"

In other words, why the heck would anyone attend a football game? What attracts people to a group experience? What is it that makes a shared classroom experience better? Is there something irreducible about an in-person classroom experience? (Most of us believe there is.) What is it about distance learning that just doesn't cut it? Where do the digital and the in-person experiences compliment one another? Do they conflict?

It's not just what attracts people to a group can have a "group experience" where a whole bunch of folks watch that same football game together in your living room, and still you can wish to be there in the cold, in the end zone, part of that experience.

I thought about this a lot after PopTech. After all, why go to PopTech? Everything's streamed after the fact. You can watch it at your leisure, replay the bits that went too fast, even project it on the wall and invite your colleagues over.

The easy answer is the interactions before/after/between speakers, the 'networking.' But that's not it for me. I enjoy meeting folks there, but what I really love is somewhere in that opera house shared experience. The whispered conversations with the people sitting around me. The conversations that carry over from the opera house to the hotel to the dinner table. It's the total immersion in the experience, unencumbered by the other aspects of my life at the periphery.

That last bit may be the crux of it. When I was finishing my dissertation, I found I only got real writing done when I removed myself physically from the environment where other work needed to be done. The total immersion was necessary, critical, vital to the process. Perhaps the best experiences have to be.

decentralized bibliographic services


Jill Walker has had an interesting series of posts related to the privileging of Amazon through book links, and asked about developing methods of neutral linking.

I did some poking around, because it seemed to me that somebody must already be doing this. Yup. There's a group called working on a "bibp://" protocol for links to books. They call it a "decentralized bibliographic service network." Basically, users could instruct their clients on what resource(s) to use for retrieving bibp links--from libraries to booksellers. (In the same way they can now specify mail clients for mailto: protocols, or LDAP servers for directory lookups.)

Problem is, it doesn't seem to be terribly active or visible. The IETF draft (Bibliographic Protocol Level 1: Link Resolution and Metapage Retrieval) was last updated in August of 2000. One of the participants in this project, Robert Cameron, wrote an article about it in 1997 for First Monday, entitled "A Universal citation Database as a Catalyst for Reform of Scholarly Publication."

So the question for me becomes how to get this type of project a little higher in the public consciousness, and more actively into the development pipeline. The potential is there, but if it's so far under the radar that nobody builds it into their systems, it won't help anyone.

monolithic information structures

Jill Walker has an excellent post on the issue of "hardcoded privilege" in her blog today. (Alas, Tinderbox doesn't support Trackback, so this won't be a bidirectional link. I'll post a note in her comments pointing this way.)

In it, she raises the issue of the growing information aggregation based on Amazon (daypop, allconsuming, etc), and the privileging of amazon that results. She raises it in the context of the impact on smaller bookstores, but that's not the part that scares me.

What I don't like is the narrowing of the information pipelines, and our resulting dependence upon the goodwill of the pipeline owners. Recently, I've seen other people commenting on the danger of treating Google as a public information infrastructure, and the same holds true here.

What happens, for example, if Amazon decides that they don't particularly want to include books on a particular subject in their collection? It's their right--they have no public duty to carry items on their virtual shelves. But if they become the de facto sole source for books on the 'net, it's only a matter of time before that happens.

I don't know what the answer is. But it does make me wary of services that reify this monolithic structure, no matter how seductive the services they provide may be.

no longer hidden talents

This evening, selected faculty from our department will be performing at an informal coffeehouse event. The festivities will be webcast (and, I presume, archived) by our streaming media class, at

Yours truly has precious few talents that she feels would be appropriate to display in front of her students. So she's hopped into the wayback machine, and retrieved her varsity letter jacket and pompoms from her days as a Sweet Home High School Pantherette. (Faithful readers will note that this explains the sudden trip to Buffalo.) The audience will be subjected to a brief monologue on life as a Pantherette (possibly accompanied by inappropriate language and burning of tissue paper flowers), followed by a historically accurate performance of the fight song routine.

Other highlights of the show will include Professor Henderson performing a stand-up routine while dressed in an elephant ballerina costume, and Professor Axelrod reciting original Vogon Poetry.

7:30-9:30pm, eastern standard time.

Don't count on blazingly fast streams, as I fear there may be some contention for resources.

alter ego names


'technolibrarian' is boring.

need a new name for my librarian alter ego.

any suggestions?

blogs as college teaching tools


As this quarter winds down, I'm thinking about how to fold my rekindled enthusiasm for web-related technologies into the two courses I'm teaching next quarter--Web Design & Implementation for undergrads, and a seminar in XML for the Web (undergrads and grads).

Group and individual blogs seemed like a no-brainer concept, but I've had a hard time finding them used effectively in higher ed contexts.

Then today, I saw a mention on grumpygirl's blog that led me to a blog that was clearly written by a student whose professor was talking about web design. The problem? As grumpygirl notes, the student provides no contact info, and no link back to a class site.

Not to be deterred, I change into my alter-ego, the technolibrarian. (Cue music. "Ain't no info lost enough, ain't no details obscured enough, ain't no meta tags bad enough, to keep me from finding more about you..."). A search in Google on Jessica's user ID and her teacher's last name (which she's helpfully mentioned in a post) yields quick results. She's apparently a student in in Charles Lowe's Writing About Digital Culture class at Florida State.

My first assumption was that it would be a technology course, but it's not. It's a freshman comp class! How cool is that? Geez, my freshmen would love a class like this. I need to find a way to open a channel of communication with the Language and Lit department at RIT about this. (Luckily, my mom teaches there. How convenient. :-)

From the syllabus:

First-Year Writing courses at FSU teach writing as a recursive and frequently collaborative process of invention, drafting, and revising. Writing is both personal and social, and students should learn how to write for a variety of purposes and audiences. Since writing is a process of making meaning as well as communicating, FYW teachers respond to the content of students' writing as well as to surface errors.

[ . . . ]

In this class, we will be exploring many aspects of digital culture, including virtual communities, the history of the internet, creating hypertext, open source, artificial intelligence, blogging, etc. We will read Snow Crash, a cyberpunk sci-fi novel, and use the novel as a jumping off point for exploring directions that technology will take us in the future, as well as how these changes will impact society. We also will read many articles from the web which discuss some of the subjects listed above. And you'll be encouraged to expand your research to explore aspects of digital culture not covered in this class. Since this is a writing class and because learning about digital culture also means being an active participant, we will make heavy use of the class web site and every student will keep an individual weblog, or "blog."

Excellent. Must e-mail him asap to find out how the blogging is going in that class.

poptech spam?!?! feh!

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Pop!Tech is a truly civilized conference. Small crowds, smart people, fabulous presentations. (Not to mention beautiful setting and amazing food.)

That's what makes getting SPAM based on my attendance there so infuriating.

Hello Elizabeth,

It was great seeing you at Poptech.

I am wondering, whether your organization has a need for software
development or hiring contract software engineers.
We specialize in custom software development in technologies including .NET
and J2EE; Systems Integration and providing software consultants.


Have I piqued your interest? How about visiting our website at [blah, blah blah]...

A pox on this guy's house for abusing the participant list he was given. Sheesh, I didn't even meet him at the conference, and he sends me this garbage? Yeah, sure, my university regularly hires software engineers, rather than creating them. He didn't even bother to check what my "organization" was!

And how is it possible for anyone to attend this conference and still be boneheaded enough to do this? (He was in fact a conference attendee...I checked my list.)

I'm torn between wanting to put his name here to give this vilification the 'personal touch', and not wanting to give him one frigging iota of publicity. To mention him, alas, is to help his Google ranking.

But somebody send Ashok a copy of the Cluetrain Manifesto, please. If there was ever someone who needed a seat on the train...


you can go home again

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Well, I can, anyhow. So today I did. To Buffalo, for an hour, to see my father. He's spent the past few months digitizing the thousands of photos, slides, and negatives cataloging our family's life that have been piled in a cupboard for years. Over 3000 images captured so far.

Family in front of fireplaceIt's amazing the way a randomly chosen image can open a window into your own past. This time the fates were kind to me, and the image was one that brought back the best rather than the worst of times.

down the rabbit hole

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Am feeling a bit like Alice today. After I wrote that, I went looking for the original text, and found it at CMU. Right on target it was:

In another moment down went Alice after it, never once considering how in the world she was to get out again.

The rabbit-hole went straight on like a tunnel for some way, and then dipped suddenly down, so suddenly that Alice had not a moment to think about stopping herself before she found herself falling down a very deep well.

Either the well was very deep, or she fell very slowly, for she had plenty of time as she went down to look about her and to wonder what was going to happen next. First, she tried to look down and make out what she was coming to, but it was too dark to see anything; then she looked at the sides of the well, and noticed that they were filled with cupboards and book-shelves; here and there she saw maps and pictures hung upon pegs. She took down a jar from one of the shelves as she passed; it was labelled `ORANGE MARMALADE', but to her great disappointment it was empty: she did not like to drop the jar for fear of killing somebody, so managed to put it into one of the cupboards as she fell past it.

My adventures in the blogosphere seem to be starting out quite similarly. One moment I'm minding my own business, teaching introductory multimedia classes and chauffeuring children to cub scouts, and the next I'm exchanging e-mails with Joi Ito, Marc Canter, Chris Locke, and Halley Suitt.

Along the way, I'm passing all sorts of interesting nooks and crannies, with barely enough time to register their existence before I've slid past them into the next virtual space. Time seems to have sped up in a strange and somehow exhilarating way.

What is it that's so seductive about this medium? Is it the breaking down of boundaries between personal and public? Maybe.

What do you think? (I know you're out there. Even without checking my server logs.)

fun with captions

David Weinberger provides this gem. I needed that laugh today.

grumpygirl rocks


Grumpygirl (she must have a name, but I can't find it on her site. :-\ ) regularly posts cartoon dialogs between herself and an ant, in which she gives us a wondeful view into her own internal dialogs on interesting questions. Today she has one on "what is a blog?", which I particularly liked.

we're hiring

Yes, it's true. Nobody else in the technology world is saying that these days, but we do have a position open in our department here at RIT.

PhD not required, MS (or MA, or MFA...) is. Ability to see IT holistically ("computing in context") important. High tolerance for chaotic environment, eccentric colleagues, and cold winters necessary. Take a look at our courses to get a broad sense of what we teach; take a look at our faculty to see the range of people and backgrounds who teach here. (And no comments about the piss-poor web site, please; I had no hand in its design.)

It is, in fact, an excellent place to work. Rochester is a surprisingly livable city, particularly good if you've got kids--schools are excellent, cost of living is outrageously low (you SoCal types would cry if you knew what I paid for my house), art and culture are pervasive. Excellent wine is within an hour's drive.

And just think how cool it would be to have people introduce you as "the professor."

If you're interested, send me mail. (If you can't find my address without my linking it here, you probably aren't the right person for the job, anyhow.)

ps one more particularly nice perk for those with kids; faculty--and their immediate family members--get free tuition at RIT.

a little off the top...


Trying to pare down the blogroll. There's no way I can survive grading week with as many blogs as I'm trying to follow right now. Dropped most of the "name" bloggers. My bottom line seems to be whether I can imagine myself actually enjoying a conversation with the writer, based on what they've posted publicly. If they feel too foreign in interests or tone, and the potential for interaction seems unlikely, I'm just saying no.

Was perusing kottke's archives, since it seemed unfair to make a keep or toss decision based on vacation postings, and found this most excellent illusion, which my kids will probably like as much as I do.

Must go home now. To bed, perchance to sleep. Back at 8am to watch freshman suffer through a lab practical. Ugh.


Have been thinking a lot today about disciplinary boundaries...and about boundaries in general. The most intimately "life changing" technologies I've encountered (e-mail, laptops, wireless networking, digital video recorders, cell phones) have had as their defining quality the explicit breaking down of time/space boundaries.

Similarly, the theorists who have been most influential in my thinking are those that broke down boundaries between "disciplines." Bourdieu, Habermas, Foucault...all hard to place in one traditional box.

One of the things that drew me into librarianship was that it was an ∏ber-field--a big picture vantage point where one got to see information come together into a coherent whole. Need to revisit the whole issue of how I ended up here, in such a tech-focused environment. Too often drowning in the details of implementation, not enough time spent on the big picture vision. On the other hand, vision without implementation is hollow. Where's the balancing point?

Not enough thoughtful librarian blogs out there, I think. The Shifted Librarian is widely linked to. Fellow UMich alum Lou Rosenfeld has a good IA-focused blog. Jessamyn West's looks interesting. Need to poke around more.

back on the treadmill



After 18 months of regular and exhilarating exercise (usually accompanied by my brown doppelganger*, boxing partner, and best friend, Elouise), I dropped the ball over the summer. Between mid July and early November, I went from 5x a week at the gym or working out in the basement to 3x, to 1x, to...well...nothing. Blech.

Simultaneously, my mood and energy dropped. I knew getting back to the gym would make me feel better, but I felt too worn out to do it. Rationally, I could see how I was making it worse by not just going, but it was easier to make excuses.

Then today, I was clicking through links and ended up at Halley Suitt's blog. And she's got these inspirational posts about exercising.

So I closed the computer, went down in the basement, got on the treadmill, and walked two miles. Then lifted weights. And I feel good (you knew that I would...).

*that phrase comes from a day when she covered a class for me. we're both 4'11-3/4" tall, both born the same year, but she's very Filipino, while my german/swedish paternal lineage dominates the eastern european blood from my mom's side. she announced to my students that she was my brown doppelganger. few of them got it (no big surprise), but it still makes me laugh.


Tom Coates posted about the new iBlog tool.

Have to agree with him on several counts. First, I'd much prefer a tool that allows you to work on the desktop with whatever server-based tool you'd like. Second, it ought to integrate better with existing "i" apps, like iPhoto and iTunes. (Love the link Tom provided to Kung Tunes, which puts your iTunes info on your web page...) And I think I'm with him, too, on the discomforting usurpation of Apple's "brushed metal" interface (and the tabbed web site interface).

Done better, something like iBlog would be fabulous. I'd particularly like one that could be easily configured for kidblogging. I think my boys would love to blog, if I had a simple, kid-friendly interface that they could run on their (ancient) iMac. Maybe I'll find a talented student who wants to do an independent study with me next quarter and have them build a kid-friendly web interface to MT...

circle game

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I'm increasingly convinced that the natural affinity principle I mused about earlier this week will be a major force in helping people manage the infoglut associated with the expanding "blogosphere."

Today's example. Jill Walker linked to an interesting blog called texturl. Read through a few entries, and found that the author, Brandon Barr, (a) lives here in Rochester, and (b) attended a symposium on 'language and encoding' today in Buffalo that my mother also attended (and that I wanted to attend). [added later: can't trackback without a link to a specific post, it seems. here it is.]

So yeah, texturl's on my blogroll now. Was probably only a matter of time before I circled around to it.

For no particular reason, I've settled on 25 as about the limit for what I can put on the list. Am finding it not too difficult to jettison some to accomplish this, however. At least not yet.

<addition time="a few minutes later" context="while surfing links that seem to interconnect the nodes I'm interested in">

My first sense of blog interconnections and "circles" was that they were likely to be relatively static and impermeable. My initial experiences seem to indicate more permeability than I had suspected...I ended up linking to, and then being linked from, many of the people whose writing I most enjoyed. Hrmmm. What to think? Open? Closed? Permeable? Impermeable? Unpredictable? Inevitable? Still too early to say, I think.


blog appeal

Apparently the guys who run the "hot or not" photo rating service (can't bear to link to it...) now run one for blogs. That I can live with. So, is my blog hot? or not? Inquiring minds want to know. :-)

blog genealogy

Another interesting one, though it's more dependent on user input.

Blogtree tracks the process by which blog authors inspire and encourage new blogs. When I registered, I was able to specify which blogs I considered to be my "parent" blogs--those which inspired me to create my own blog. (Different from those that I read regularly, though there's obviously some overlap.)

Based on that input, it generates a family tree for me, which includes a list of "siblings"--other blogs with similar genealogy. If my blog inspires a friend or reader to create his or her own, it would then become one of my "child" blogs. Hmmm. Not as awe-inspiring to me as things like allconsuming or waypath, but fun and informative nonetheless.

more ecosystem tools

Stumbled upon Waypath today, which goes beyond the link analyzing that most of the other blogging ecosystem tools offer.

The Waypath Project's Related Weblog Navigation engine analyzes weblog entries to determine their core conceptual makeups, compares them with one another to find out how related they are, and presents you with its best guess as to what's related to your original input. This is done all automatically, using available technology.

Very cool. Plugged in my blog address, and got back an interesting list that included some sites I'd not encountered before, and liked very much.

optical illusions

Bulge02.jpgBlogdex says everyone else already knows about Akiyoshi's optical illusion pages.

I'm linking anyways, because these are very cool.

did foucault foreshadow blogs?

From a post to the poetics mailing list, by Jeffrey Jullich, responding to recent announcements of list members starting blogs.

it reminded me of Foucault's ~Technologies of Self,~

as if that book had predicted this. In short, what ~Technologies~ says is that the two main forms by which the West built up (the illusion of) Self and the subject, how the West invented subjectivity, was through letter-writing and diary-keeping. Having been through a letter-writing phase (for a short seven years ---since March 1994? The new List interface no longer sub-divides into Archives and Early Archives), for mysterious reasons the List atrophies and "bloggers" begin to spawn off of it. Is it that the preliminary exercise of having practiced Self through a communal letter-writing mode has nurtured a sufficient basis of Self for them to individuate off (as though "blogging" paralleled the maturational phase away from family)?

Intriguing thoughts.

excellent entertainment

cat bowling.

Thanks, Firda!

css colouring book


css colouring book -- table-less skins for web sites (including MT blogs). This edition is called "simplicity"; spring 2002 was "lemons are not obscene". Lovely stuff.

by Firda.

on the importance of being standard

Via Andrew Hinton's memekitchen a great article by Zeldman in Digital Web Magazine. "99.9% of Websites are Obsolete."

Often, non-standards-compliant sites work in yesterday's browsers because their owners have invested in costly publishing tools that accommodate browser differences by generating multiple, non-standard versions tuned to the biases of specific browsers and platforms. This practice taxes the dial-up user's patience by wasting bandwidth on code forking, deeply nested tables, spacer pixels and other image hacks, and outdated or invalid tags and attributes.

More good food for thought for next quarter's web design students.

recursive decontextualization

David Weinberger has an interesting column in Darwin Magazine called "What's Info Got to Do With It?"

Decontextualizing something constitutes changing its nature since context comes first: Things only are what they are in context. Meaning is emergent and irreducible.

So does it follow that blogs, by their nature, change the nature of the content they excerpt and link to? How does my context modify David's meaning? If meaning is irreducible, can it also be endlessly malleable throught this process?

And can I find any other ways to avoid grading exams this afternoon?

natural affinity

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Interestingly, the more time I spend reading blogs and following links and searching Google for content, the more I seem to end up in the same places rather than different ones.

I think that perhaps the effect of having this enormous "public sphere" of information is that like minds are better able to seek each other out and make connections. What seems purely serendipitous at first looks more and more purposeful or even inevitable.

Case in point. This week's elections had me thinking about the works by Habermas that I read during my first year of doctoral study. At the time (1992), I was struck by the relationship between Habermas' "ideal speech" situation and the communication environment provide by the Internet (e-mail and usenet, basically; this was still what Clay Shirky calls "the Before Time", pre WWW).

So I went Googling for people who might have explored the connection between blogs and Habermas' "public sphere." Who did I find? Why, Jill Walker again, in a blog called "blogonblog" that she and her colleague Torill Mortensen put together for a paper they'd written.

Somehow, though, this didn't surprise me. In the best of all possible worlds (for me, at least), it's intellectual affinity that draws people together. The fact that my early reading of Jill's current blog led me to link to her site and regularly read her entries seems an excellent indication that we share a common way of thinking about technology and the way we interact with it. This was an affirmation that I can trust my instincts, that if I follow my interests they'll lead me to the people who share them, and that those connections will be the ones that matter.

There's a cyclical component to this, I think. A reaching out and connecting to new ideas and new people, a circling back that affirms the value of those connections and integrates them into your own sphere, then more reaching out, using those new nodes in your personal network. There's a self-limiting quality to the process--you only reach out as far as your capacity allows, returning to the relative "safety" of known entities, adding a node or two at a time, paring the non-essential components as you go.

xml, semantics, & information architecture

Found these in Andrew Hinton's 25 Theses for Information Architecture, linked from Corante on Blogging.

Lots of resonance here for me. This is where my inner librarian and my inner technologist reach mutual understanding. Information technology needs to be about the technology facilitating the storage, dissemination, and use (by people) of information.

12. One goal of information architecture is to shape information into an environment that allows users to create, manage and share its very substance in a framework that provides semantic relevance. 13. Another goal of information architecture is to shape the environment to enable users to better communicate, collaborate and experience one another. 14. The latter goal is more fundamental than the former: information exists only in communities of meaning. Without other people, information no longer has context, and no longer informs. It becomes mere data, less than dust. 15. Therefore, information architecture is about people first, and technology second.

I need to ruminate on this some more. The "semantic" component is where the power of XML lies, to be sure, and I want to be sure to emphasize and build on that in my XML for the Web course next quarter.

It's not enough to know that this is a critical area of's also necessary to communicate that clearly and effectively. Russell Beattie wants to know why he's only now hearing about RDF when he's been using XML since '98. Probably because the people who understand its value and significance haven't been effective in getting the message out, and in operationalizing it in a way that allows people to "grok" its value and importance.

So, anybody got great examples of XML (RDF or not) being used in web contexts that I can use to make my class really "get it" next quarter?

one reason to be glad I don't live in Alabama anymore

From today's NYTimes article on the disputed vote totals in the Alabama governor's race:

Late Tuesday, election officials in Baldwin County distributed figures that showed Siegelman with 19,070 votes, enough to give him the victory in the unofficial statewide count.

But on Wednesday, the county certified results that gave Siegelman 12,736 votes while leaving Riley's numbers unchanged. That erased the governor's thin margin in the statewide count and put the GOP congressman ahead by 3,195 votes out of 1.3 million cast.

Probate Judge Adrian Johns blamed a software glitch for the earlier figures.


The unofficial count showed Riley with 670,913 votes statewide, or 49 percent, Siegelman with 667,718 votes, or 49 percent, and Libertarian John Sophocleus with 23,242 votes, or 2 percent.

Both major-party politicians declared victory and acted as if they were governor-elect, with Siegelman talking to legislators about a special session and Riley appointing a chairman for his transition team.

rtfm moment

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balcony.jpg It finally occurred to me that there had to be a relatively easy way to add a photo to a MT entry, or Joi wouldn't be doing it so often. :-) So I actually rtfm. Here's my first attempt. Since I don't generally dine with personalities as well-known as Joi gets to list, I decided to provide a photo of the VIPs who most often grace my dinner table--and who keep me most firmly grounded in the real world. On the left is my six-year-old, Alex; on the right is my eight-year-old, Lane. This was taken at our cousin's condo in Navarre Beach, Florida, sometime in July. They're holding up their (at that moment) most prized possessions, items purchased in the gift shop at LAX.

This was our first day in Florida after being in LA, so they got to dump Pacific Coast sand out of their pockets into the Gulf waters. Quite the frequent travellers they were this summer. Rochester to Atlanta to Birmingham to Atlanta to LAX to Camarillo to LAX to Atlanta to Florida to Birmingham and finally back home. In three weeks. Never again. (I have never been as thankful for the existence of gameboys as I was during those three weeks.)

research informing practice

Why does it seem so difficult to convince teachers that research has a role in informing their daily practice? This has always been an issue in librarianship, too. A frequent topic of discussion (and frustration) in the hallowed halls of academia. Never a good answer or a solution. We talk past each other instead of to each other. We need to find common ground for communicating ideas. Theory and practice have to inform each other, on an ongoing basis, for progress to be made.


technology enabling connections


I came home tonight and announced to my husband that I've decided blogs are "the way and the truth and the light." Only partially in jest. But in the past few weeks, I've gone through what feels like a genuinely transformative experience. I remember feeling the same way when I discovered e-mail, and CompuServe, and FidoNet, and mailing lists, and ICQ. All of them "social technologies." All of them changed my view of the world. (Hey, I met my husband via FidoNet. 'Nuff said.)

For the past few years, I've been living in too much of a box--interacting only with the people directly around me at work and at home. I feel like a switch has been thrown, and I have a new and insanely powerful communication channel available now--one that lets me connect with people who share my ideas and interests, one that lets me think "out loud" (which has always been how I prefer to think), with immediate feedback and reinforcement.

The connections I've already made through this medium are truly extraordinary. When was the last time I could say that someone I was having a one-on-one conversation with had just had dinner with Lawrence Lessig? Or that I was exchanging ideas about my web design course with someone at the University of Bergen? Or that a major figure in the development of software my students use every day had been reading my online thoughts?

Yeah, so there's obviously an ego thing there. (Shades of Sally Field: "They like me! They really like me!") But it's more than that. It's the thrill of finding kindred spirits--people who are enthusiastic about technology in the way that I need to be if I want to teach it well. These kinds of connections are what can keep me intellectually alive.

doc searls to world: "start a blog!"

Doc Searls has a great post today, entitled "Cause your own effects," in which he discusses giving advice to someone with career woes. What does he say they should do? Start a blog, of course.

Anyway, I was responding to this guy's request by email when I decided to cut the last line and paste it over here. � You can be the pinball or you can be the pinball machine. With a blog you can create your own machine.

Yes, yes, yes! That's exactly why I want to change the way I (we?) teach web design. I want to stop teaching them how to be pinballs in the corporate web machine, and start teaching them how to create their own machines.

blogging as a research tool


The only good thing about being sick is that it gives me carte blanche to lie on the couch and blogsurf.

Was playing around on Allconsuming, which led me to Jill Walker's blog. She's working on her doctorate at the University of Bergen (Norway), and has some great papers on her site related to blogging. Personal Publication as an Online Research Tool is good. Even better is a paper she presented at the June 2002 ACM Hypertext conference, called Links and Power: The Political Economy of Linking on the Web. The abstract for the latter is short and sweet:

Search engines like Google interpret links to a web page as objective, peer-endorsed and machine-readable signs of value. Links have become the currency of the Web. With this economic value they also have power, affecting accessibility and knowledge on the Web.

Jill also has a link to a post on "nomadic writing" written by her friend (and "blog cluster" neighbor) Adrian Miles.

My blogroll is taking over my life.

more reasons to love css

I had forgotten what a great resource A List Apart was. With a new quarter beginning soon--one in which I'll be teaching a section of XML for the Web, and one of Web Design & Implementation--it's good I rediscovered it.

A few articles that will be immediately useful--CSS Beyond the Browser: Going to Print, Practical CSS, and Using XML.

The problem with teaching these kinds of technologies isn't finding material--it's finding the good material. This goes on my "short list."

social software

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Clay Shirky is "guestblogging" on the side bar of boing boing this week, and starts out with this great line:

I'm obsessed with social software these days. In the Before Time (<=1994), the standard internet tools like usenet and mailing lists were inherently social, but on most of the Web, the height of interaction was one-click ordering. So I'm thrilled whenever I see anything actually making real conversation possible. Particularly interesting is the way the blogosphere is becoming an inside-out usenet, with the content centralized and the namespace distributed, instead of the other way around.


round and round and round she goes

Speaking of links going round-and-round...

I followed a few links on the Tara Grubb political weblog trail after reading about her candidacy on Joi Ito's blog, and somehow ended up at an interesting piece on Lots of heated discussion there about the significance (or lack thereof) of a relatively peripheral congressional candidate using a blog as a key communication tool. My favorite line from that debate:

Weblogs are a means of politics as usual. They have, as the Firesign Theater liked to say, "A power so great that it can only be used for good or evil." And you can quote me on that.

But what was really interesting was that when I backed up to the root level of, I found an article about RSS, which in turn led me to Paul Ford's really excellent piece on "the Semantic Web," (which was also a topic on Joi's blog today).

So, it may be a big web, but it seems to keep circling around the same relatively small set of ideas. Or maybe it's just me going in circles. (Very possible, given the large doses of benadryl I'm taking tonight...) Tomorrow I might start building a "map" of my own personal view of blogspace.

get it? got it? good!

My colleague's blogs are sprouting up all over. Jeff Sonstein has several, and Mike Axelrod has one now. Mike's started his with a discussion of whether blogs are, indeed, the "next big thing."

So now I'm looking about and I see signs of convergence again. The trackback, the ping, the post and counter post and the centralization and searchability of personal writing. We exist as individual authors, yet we live in a community. A community that does not want walls and boundaries. A community however can not exist with them. So perhaps the new walls and boundaries of writing on the internet have been redefined as "linkages" and response.

spam solutions?

According to this article in O'Reilly's Mac Dev Center, all the things I'm doing to try to prevent my address from being harvested by "spambots" fall into the "completely to mostly useless" catagory. They do mention a tool that sounds intriguing, called SpamFire, which works with any Mac mail client to filter out spam. Will have to download it and try it with Eudora, my client of choice.

librarians lead the way

Once again, it appears that librarians are leading the way in analyzing and explaining a key information distribution technology. Greg Notess, a columnist fo the library magazine Online, has an excellent article entitled The Blog Realm: RSS, Aggregators, and Reading the Blog Fantastic. He also wrote a column on blogs last month, called "The Blog Realm:�
News Sources, Searching with Daypop, and Content Management"

But for every blogger out there, there are probably a dozen or more others who prefer reading to writing. With the explosion of Weblogs come new ways of reading them.

The solutions used to keep up with blogs are often called news aggregators. Much of the current software is still buggy and imperfect. It is in some ways like the early days of the Web when many issues were still being resolved, but these approaches may well become more integrated into e-mail, Web browsing, and stand-alone software in the next few years.

Makes me proud to be a librarian, it does.

(Thanks to Corante on Blogging for the reference.)

defining a discipline

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I've been asked by a group of senior colleagues in our department to participate in a discussion group to help define the nature of our emerging academic discipline.

IT is the perpetual "Rodney Dangerfield" of the academy, generally dismissed as "applied computing." But those of us involved in it know that it's far more than that. We grew out of CS--and HCI, and Instructional Design, and Information Science, and Communication, and MIS--but we're not just "applied" versions of any of them. We go deeper into mechanics than many of the more theoretical fields we draw on, but we focus more on the context of computing than the applied fields.

Our faculty come from a wide range of backgrounds (from Computer Science to Library Science to Chemistry to Philosophy to Education and beyond), and teach in a wide range of areas. We have concentrations in networking & systems admin, learning and performance technologies, web application development, multimedia development, database design & administration, application programming, and more. Our students learn both the how and the why, and not just in a business context.

So, what are we? Right now, the process of defining that is a bit like the blind men and the elephant. We're each focused on our own piece, and while we know that they must be connected, we don't really understand the whole. That's what this discussion group is going to try to do. Can we come up with an effective description of what we do (beyond "contextual computing," which is what I usually call it, for lack of a better term)? Can we develop formalisms to describe the underpinnings of our field?

Or will it turn out that there's "no there there," that we're not in fact a discipline, but rather a collection of teachers and classes that can't coalesce around a meaningful core?

In our first discussion, we all seemed to agree that just as bioinformatics can be traced to a signficiant event/discovery (the human genome project), IT can probably be traced to the point where internetworking reached the desktop, and the graphical web was born. We're not just the study of the Internet, but almost everything we do revolves around the 'net in some way. But what does that mean in terms of defining our underpinnings?

I'm looking for good readings for our group to use as think pieces--things that talk about the changes in technology (and perhaps the study of technology) since the early 1990s. Suggestions welcome.


Have been playing with Movable Type's templates and styles, trying to come up with a design that feels like my own. Definitely a time-sink. Too many hours coding, not enough hours playing. Feel free to comment on the appearance. (It started out as the "Georgia Blue" template, but it's been signficantly modified.) Still working on the archive templates.

when I grow up...

I want people to say things like this about me:

[s]he's very smart, nice, well-dressed and important


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