November 2005 Archives

what's in my to-read pile?


I just got an IM ping from someone who was curious as to what was in the pile of articles I've decided to bring with me on my trip.

Right now my mind is buzzing with questions and ideas related to social bookmarking systems (like or Yahoo's MyWeb 2.0), information-seeking behavior, and information network formation, so most of my reading has at least a tangential connection with those topics. In no particular order, here's what I'm planning to dig into tomorrow:

I'm also listening to Alberto-Laszlo Barabasi's Linked on my iPod this week, and have ordered the book to be delivered to me in Rochester (I pay sales tax to Amazon if I have it delivered to me in Seattle, so it's worth getting it while in Rochester and lugging it back!)

Y'know, I'd really like a tool to allow a select group of people to build a collaborative bibliography. Something like CiteULike, but with the ability to create a specific set beyond simple tagging, and allow it to be added to by specific people. Is there any such collaborative bibliographic tool out there? (Maybe I should poke around and see if CiteULike or Connotea provide that capability...)

revenge of the grownups


My father just sent me a link to a NYTimes piece called "What's the Buzz? Rowdy Teenagers Don't Want to Hear It" that totally cracked me up. Here's the key concept:

Mr. Stapleton has taken the lesson he learned that day - that children can hear sounds at higher frequencies than adults can - to fashion a novel device that he hopes will provide a solution to the eternal problem of obstreperous teenagers who hang around outside stores and cause trouble. The device, called the Mosquito ("It's small and annoying," Mr. Stapleton said), emits a high-frequency pulsing sound that, he says, can be heard by most people younger than 20 and almost no one older than 30. The sound is designed to so irritate young people that after several minutes, they cannot stand it and go away.

Oh, I so want a room-sized version of this. Wouldn't it be lovely to have a room that kids couldn't stand to go into, but grownups could sit in and relax? Or to turn this on in my office at RIT when I'm willing to talk to colleagues but not students? The possibilities are endless...

eastward ho!

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Tomorrow morning the kids and I will head east to Rochester, where we'll be spending a week in our old stomping grounds. It will be odd to be home but not home--someone else is living in our house, so we'll be staying with my mom while we're there.

The boys are pretty excited about seeing their friends. Me too.

I'll still be accessible via the usual email, IM, and phone contacts. Wifi in my mom's house, wifi on campus, wifi in most of the coffeeshops I frequent there...

While there I'm hoping to reinvigorate my lab at RIT--in my absence, its been dormant, and I have some ideas for things the folks I left behind could be working on. I'm also hoping to foster more interaction between the RIT social computing club and the lab, as well as perhaps getting our public workshop plans back on track.

I've also printed out a substantial stack of research papers that I'm hoping to get through on the airplane--in hopes that the kids will be able to amuse themselves reasonably well with books and gameboys while I read (I hope, I hope, I hope....).

I'm planning to be around the RIT campus on Thursday and Friday, exact times to be determined (I have to work around the array of doctor's appointments that the boys and I have while home...nothing serious, but we've waited to deal with myriad small problems until we were back with our regular health care providers). If you want to get together, drop me a line and I'll see what I can work out.


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My life has been a tapestry of rich and royal hue
An everlasting vision of the everchanging view
A wondrous woven magic in bits of blue and gold
A tapestry to feel and see, impossible to hold.

--Carole King

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays--I associate it with family and warmth and food and laughter. Amazingly, I've never had to make my own Thanksgiving dinner. Most years I've eaten at my mother's house (where I wish I could be this year, as well), and there have been a few wonderful and memorable Thanskgivings with Gerald's family in Alabama. (The contrast between the two is fodder for another post at some point...)

This year we're far away from both of those gatherings, but we'll still be celebrating with family. We had planned to go up to Marysville to spend the day with my uncle and aunt in their house on the sound. Plans changed, however, when my 93-year-old grandmother took a bad fall in Rochester and had to be hospitalized for fractures of her pelvis. My uncle headed to Rochester, and my aunt changed her plans to have dinner with her stepsister in Olympia--so we're tagging along for that dinner.

I toyed with just staying here and cooking our own Thanksgiving dinner for the first time, but events conspired against me. On Monday morning we woke up to find that the compressor had gone out on our refrigerator (well, our landlords' fridge), and Sears won't be able to get a repair person out until next week. No fridge makes any kind of serious cooking a whole lot harder, since you can't do any prep in advance.

So no maple pecan pumpkin pie this year. No sweet potato and turnip gratin (the yummiest dish I've ever made for a Thanksgiving dinner). No sweet potato casserole. We'll be toting a couple of store-bought pies instead...

We'll have to make up for this over the winter holidays--we'll have a big latke dinner, of course. But maybe we'll also have a Thanksgiving-style dinner that we make ourselves, complete with all of those favorite recipes, and some friends over to share in the bounty.

In the meantime, we're off to Olympia for the day. May your day be a rich tapestry full of warmth and love and gratitude.

switching to dynamic publishing


Ever since I upgraded to Movable Type 3.2, rebuilding has been much slower on my current host. That's caused two problems, one just annoying and the other more serious. The annoying part is that marking comments as junk (an all-too-frequent need) forces a rebuild, which is painfully slow and often times out on the intranet at work. The serious part is that most incoming trackbacks are failing, probably due to timeout issues.

So tonight I'm going to try switching from static to dynamic publishing--for the non-geek readers out there, it means that most pages on the site won't be saved as individual static documents, but instead will be generated on-the-fly when you request them.

If the site breaks in the process, don't panic--it's all backed up. Worst case I'll revert back to original settings and live with the problems. Best case it'll be working perfectly in a few minutes, and trackbacks will start working as they should again.


Update: It worked. Only two real problems, which were relatively easy to fix. The first problem was that I use mt-textile and smartypants for text formatting on the blog (the former lets me use things like underscores to create italicized text, or asterixes to generated bulleted ists; the latter handles typographic niceties like em dashes, curly quotes, and true ellipses). Those text processors don't work properly with dynamic publishing, but I found this post on Movalog with information on how to fix that. The second problem involved the fact that I had some custom PHP code in my templates that used movable type tag variables--apparently since the dynamic templates are PHP based, this causes some problems. There are apparently ways to call the variables, but I didn't feel like mucking with them, so I just changed the few instances to non-variable code (using rather than the BlogURL variable, etc). Not the most elegant fix, but it was expedient, and now it all works. And since I'm planning on a site redesign over the holidays, it wasn't worth spending too long on the template code.

The good news is that the trackback problem does appear to be fixed--a number of new trackbacks have appeared over the past few days, after a long dry spell that I suspect was technological (especially since I saw several inbound links on other sites that hadn't registered here). Mission accomplished!

brilliant presentation on identity

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It's bad enough watching most powerpoint presentations in person, so I almost never am willing to watch a streaming video of one after the fact. But as I was cleaning out my inbox today, I stumbled across a link a colleague had sent me to a presentation at this years OSCON (Open Source Conference) by Dick Hardt of Sxip.

I would have deleted it, if it hadn't included glowing recommendations from both Cory Doctorow and Larry Lessig--two people whose opinions I don't dismiss lightly. So I took a chance and clicked on the link.


Now that's a good presentation. Visually effective, great style, good enough to survive transformation into a low-bitrate streaming presentation.

(Update: Had I read more of the archives of Presentation Zen, I would have realized that Hardt uses a style much like that of Larry Lessig [whom I've never had the privilege of meeting or even listening to], and which has even been named "The Lessig Method.")

donate a sleeping bag; save a life

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The weather's getting colder here in the Northwest, but I'll be spending a cozy Thanksgiving in a warm house surrounded by family and friends.

In the earthquake-damaged areas of Pakistan and Kashmir, however, many people are fighting to stay alive as the temperature drops.

North Face Sporting Goods, in collaboration with one of the relief organizations, is sponsoring a "Gear Drop" where you can drop off your sleeping bags, tents, and other cold weather survival gear at their retail stores through tomorrow--they'll ship what you bring to Kashmiri victims. (For local readers, the local North Face store is 1023 1st Avenue in Seattle.) They're also offering a 10% discount for items that you purchase there for the relief effort.

Colleagues of mine at RIT are in the process of organizing a site to coordinate similar initiatives, at if you can't make it to North Face today or tomorrow, take a look at their site over the next few days to check for other opportunities.

I'll be bringing some items to North Face in Seattle tomorrow. I hope you'll also do something to help the millions of victims in Asia. It's easy to feel bad about disasters when they happen--and equally easy to forget about them when they're not in the headlines anymore. Please don't forget about these people. You can help.

google and anonymity


I'm a big fan of Google's search engine, and use it regularly. I also use GMail, and Google Groups, and Google Maps, among other services. But recently I've been thinking about just how much information Google has about me based on my use of those services.

Most of us assume that when we do a search on Google that it's essentially anonymous. But in fact, most people have a small file sitting on their hard drive (a "cookie") that Google uses to uniquely identify them--not just when they're logged in to a Google services like GMail, but all the time. And personally, that creeps me out. The fact that every aspect of my information seeking behavior is being recorded, and that use of that data isn't really restricted by any laws or policies (other than the amorphous "do no evil" mantra) feels...well...icky.

So today I did some poking around, and found a very nice little bookmarklet (basically an "active" bookmark that takes an action rather than simply loading a page) called GoogleAnon that I've added to all of my browsers (with three computers that I use regularly, and at least two browsers running on each, that's a lot of browsers...). The web site explains it in detail, but in a nutshell what it does is replace the unique identifier in your Google cookie with a zeroed-out version. You can still use all the services you'd normally use, but it will no longer associate those with the identifier on your computer.

Installing the bookmarklet is quite simple--just follow the instructions on the GoogleAnon page.

Even if you don't install the bookmarklet, or clear out your Google cookie, it's worth reading through the whole site, and thinking about the issues of search and privacy. There's always a balance to be struck between the convenience and the risk of personalization, and I think we should all be making informed choices about that balance.

the culture of "the deck"

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There are many things I've been delighted and impressed by during the nearly five months I've now spent at Microsoft. However, there have also been a few things that i've found extraordinarily disheartening. One of the latter has been the organizatational dependence on "the deck" (that is, Powerpoint files) as the standard mechanism for conveying nearly all information.

Tonight I was reading through one of the blogs I've recently added to my aggregator, the most-excellent Presentation Zen (by Garr Reynolds), and I came across a post entitled "The sound of one room napping." It included this wonderful passage, which sums up beautifully what I've been trying to say to the people around me at Microsoft:

Attempting to have slides serve both as projected visuals and as stand-alone handouts makes for bad visuals and bad documentation. Yet, this is a typical, acceptable approach. PowerPoint (or Keynote) is a tool for displaying visual information, information that helps you tell your story, make your case, or prove your point. PowerPoint is a terrible tool for making written documents, that's what word processors are for.

Why don't conference organizers request that speakers instead send a written document that covers the main points of their presentation with appropriate detail and depth? A Word or PDF document that is written in a concise and readable fashion with a bibliography and links to even more detail, for those who are interested, would be far more effective. When I get back home from the conference, do organizers really think I'm going to "read" pages full of PowerPoint slides? One does not read a printout of someone's two-month old PowerPoint slides, one guesses, decodes, and attempts to glean meaning from the series of low-resolution titles, bullets, charts, and clipart. At least they do that for a while...until they give up. With a written document, however, there is no reason for shallowness or ambiguity (assuming one writes well).

To be different and effective, use a well-written, detailed document for your handout and well-designed, simple, intelligent graphics for your visuals. Now that would be atypical.

I wish there was some way to make this (and Tufte's The Cognitive Style of Powerpoint, and Atkinson's Beyond Bullet Points) required reading for every Microsoft employee.

[Note to self and colleagues: Use your powers for good. Make the above resources required reading in introductory IT classes.]

i'm just sayin'...

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If Microsoft had chosen to name its book digitization and search product "Microsoft Print," it seems likely there would have been widespread accusations of copycat tactics.

But when Google renames their product "Google Book Search," nary an eyebrow is raised.

(Obligatory fair-and-balanced link: Niall Kennedy posts a Flickr photo of one of the godawful Powerpoint slides from the recent Window Live announcement, and the comments on the photo are both hilarious and damning. It is indeed true that the "culture of the deck" at MSFT is deadly.)

corante ssa: snippets for my panel today

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I'm posting these snippets in an attempt to avoid using powerpoint just to display text today. Context will have to follow in a later post.

We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us. (Winston Churchill)
The artist creates beautiful things. Art aims to reveal art and conceal the artist. The critic translates impressions from the art into another medium. Criticism is a form of autobiography. People who look at something beautiful and find an ugly meaning are "corrupt without being charming." Cultivated people look at beautiful things and find beautiful meanings. The elect are those who see only beauty in beautiful things. Books can't be moral or immoral; they are only well or badly written.

People of the nineteenth century who dislike realism are like Caliban who is enraged at seeing his own face in the mirror.

People of the nineteenth century who dislike romanticism are like Caliban enraged at not seeing himself in the mirror.

It is the spectator, and not life, that art really mirrors.

--Oscar Wilde
We're trying to build a site that reflects what the world says, but it will also reflect what you look for within it. The web is Caliban's mirror, and Technorati a magnifying glass in front of it. If you don't like the reflection, you can change where you look, but you can also change what we reflect back with your writing and linking. --Kevin Marks
So, does the Internet open people up or shut them down? The existence of echo chambers by itself doesn't answer the question. And we should probably worry whether "open" and "shut" are themselves metaphors that shut down our understanding of how we decide, believe and act. --David Weinberger
Weblogs enable groupthink circles to form. This is only natural and mirrors any real-world social aggregation process. The nice thing about this is that it does not spoil the fun for those who seek intellectual diversity. As a reader, you get to choose your neighborhood on a fine-grained, per-person basis - and this is unlike any other social situation I've seen. You can make that neighborhood as diverse as you want. So you're not stuck with echo effects unless you want them. --Seb Paquet
Echo Chambers have a valuable pedigree in the Invisible College. Just as with the Invisible College, by allowing like-minded individuals to argue over, agree over, and develop new ideas, Echo Chambers facilitate new thinking and specialism. But Echo Chambers do more: they are visible, open access versions of Invisible Colleges, and as such allow generalism. Their visibility allows those same like-minded individuals to look out and see where their thinking lives on the landscape. Their open access allows others to look in and appraise and critique.

Nuking Echo Chambers is, to use an - ahem - gentler phrase, throwing the baby out with the bathwater. How about giving people the benefit of the doubt, allowing for them to be curious? Why not just concentrate on building tools for better visibility and access?

--Piers D. Young
While we go to conferences to see our friends, the opportunity to learn and really think from a new perspective is still there. We all learn from new people and yet we rarely leave a conference having met more than a handful of people. But try going to a different country - it's a mind-opening experience. You see your own culture from a new lens. You come back to your home environment and you bring with you ideas based on observations abroad. There's something very powerful about really moving oneself out of one's comfort zone, out of the norms. --danah boyd
How does a user new to a social software project establish a sense for how his interest match with the popular interests of the most active users? Where are the the tools that let me search against delicious like data to see what’s popular with people who have traits or interests I care about? For example: there will never be a luddite group on What other hidden biases are there? The digital divide as an important but easy example, but there are more subtle ones. Are there inherent biases that most active users in social software have (e.g. technical, high math SAT scores, etc.)? How does this impact how social software should be designed? A traditional software designer can shape the design around different, and possibly under-represented, user’s needs - but if social software is user driven what counterbalances are there?
--Scott Berkun

corante ssa: "is business ready for social software?"

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This is a panel that Stowe Boyd is leading, with Seth Goldstein and Kaliya Hamlin.

Seth says that the answer to the question of "Why now? Why is business now noticing and implementing social software solutions?" is three letters: API. Says that sites like and Flickr only got interesting/popular when developers were able to create things using the API. (Not sure I completely agree with those examples, but I agree in concept with the importance of APIs. What he's not acknowledging though, and what I think is also important, is ease of use and design simplicity.)

(This is being held in a large law school lecture room, theatre style, which is not well-suited to audience engagement. These kinds of rooms trip my "bored student" switch, and I find it much harder to stay engaged.)

Seth quotes Josh Schachter describing as "crystallized attention." (Ah...just realized that Seth's the president of

Stowe asks if we're going to see a backlash against these social, collaborative tools in the enterprise--will employers see this as "wasted time" because the ROI is less explicit? (My unspoken comment: We're already seeing that backlash with email. Also, we need research that makes that ROI more explicit--how does the organization (not just the individual) benefit from use of these tools.

Seth: We all work for Google, whether we know it or not.

Comment from Adam Greene in the audience--quotes someone as saying that "tags are about memory, not about categorization." Do you take the "folks" out of folksonomy when you impose tagging "rules."

(The backchannel discussion is becoming more interesting than the panel discussion...not because the panel is boring, but because conversation is inherently more interesting that presentation in most cases. The exceptions are speakers like David Weinberger who can really grab your focus.)

Kaliya talks about the "Hollywood model" of teams that come together for a project and then disband and go to other projects. Stowe asks how many people in the audience are working in that mode now, and a number of hands go up. In the backchannel, the question of whether this is necessarily a good thing is raised--as is the fact that key players in those Hollywood groups are unionized in order to ensure that they're compensated appropriately.

Seth talks about AttentionTrust--says it's founded on the idea that we all are entitled to a record of our own attention. Google, Amazon, etc are doing an excellent job of recording our actions and attention data; consumers haven't had good ownership of their own data. (I'm not convinced yet that these attention.xml files are much more than a way to make it easier for more companies to have more data about me...)

[I apologize to the panel for not better representing their remarks. Between jetlag and room architecture I'm having a hard time staying focused.]

corante ssa: david weinberger opening remarks

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Today I'm at the Corante Symposium on Social Architecture (hereafter referred to as "SSA"), which is an interesting collection of both "the usual suspects" and some faces that are new to me. Stowe Boyd from Corante did some welcoming remarks, and then turned things over to David Weinberger.

David breaks the shit and fuck barriers in the first two minutes of his talk. His powerpoint is for shit, he's fucked because he dropped his laptop and it won't work now. (And by transcribing that, I've probably just guaranteed that this blog post will be filtered by most library computers...)

David starts by saying that we're all probably tired of explaining blogs at conferences (most of us never expected that we'd be using the term "reverse chronological order" quite so often, he says). This symposium assumes that everyone here is past the point of needing to have the technology carefully explained to them.

He says that social software is in some sense the fulfillment of the hope that the Internet could fundamentally change relationships in business contexts.

References Eleanor Rosch, and says we need to start by defining what we include within the umbrella term of social software. Tosses out a list of tools (wikis, weblogs, email, IM, etc), then asks what these things have in common?

  • they connect people to people
  • they tend to be relatively low-tech, small, bottom-up, inexpensive
  • very human, suffused with human voice

He talks about the publishers' responses to Google Print, and says the stupidity of the arguments is an indication of the fear of cultural change--"both sides are getting stupider," he says, which is the indicator of significant change. The battle he sees is between centralized, controlled information and a "wide-open" model of information that the web represents.

(My unspoken question: isn't Google Print just another form of centralized, controlled information?)

We're moving from pyramidal to hyperlinked organizations™. Social software lets us route around the hierarchy of the organization.

What does David worry about? Three things:

  1. Social software (and the net in general) has a tendency to blow apart the old ways of connecting; how are we going to reconnect?
  2. Social software allows us to localize, and form smaller and often transient groups. How do we get the knowledge out of the small group? How do we avoid getting too comfortable in our small groups? (The world isn't flat, he says, it's "lumpy," filled with clusters that form and dissolve...)
  3. Are we now forming a "new boys' network"? New groups form, and then exclude others (for the best of reasons...). Will existing patterns of exclusion persist, or will we create new ones? (e.g. those who can use IRC vs those who can't)

Criticizes the "echo chamber" label, because it turns the very basis of conversation into something negative. If you look at only one site, you'll see only one conversation, true--but most people choose to look at a variety of sites. (This is a huge challenge in building the tools--how do you avoid the Memeorandum effect on conversational spaces?)

You need some degree of sameness to enable conversation, but you need some degree of difference to even be able to approximate the truth.

boston bound


I'm packing today for a short trip to Boston, where I'll be participating in the Corante/Berkman "Symposium on Social Architecture." I'm looking forward to meeting some of the other participants in the symposium--folks I know of but haven't met, like Kaliya Hamlin, Zephyr Teachout, Andrew Rasiej, JD Lasica.

Taking the redeye out tonight, and a night flight home, so there won't be any great aerial photos. But I realized this morning that Boston is one of the few big cities in the US that I haven't visited as an adult, so I'm going to be sure to do a little sightseeing on either side of the symposium itself. So there will be photos, oh yes. Just not from the airplane.

miles to go before microsoft sleeps


Shelley Powers wrote a thoughtful post yesterday in response to Kathy Sierra's comparison of Microsoft and Apple and the differing expecations each company's users have.

Here's the passage that really got me thinking:

All in all, Apple promises what it can deliver. Apple promises to be easy, and it is; Apple promises to be sexy, and it is. What Apple doesn’t promise is what it can’t deliver: to be a cheap, reliable work horse.

Microsoft, on the other hand, is a company that makes claims based on its weaknesses, rather than its strengths. It makes grand promises about security, and thus virtually guarantees being a target; releasing, on average, one new security bulletin a week. It brags about reliability, when the operating system has to work on devices that range from the powerhouse to the puny. It seeks to win over business based on the stability of its products, and just when developers had created a wealth of applications in one environment (COM, DCOM, and COM+), it abandons it and the developers in favor of something completely new (.NET).

To be blunt: Microsoft has a corporate death wish, but will never be allowed to die and will, instead, thrive. This rather astonishing contradiction is based on the fact that the Windows operating system is about as ubiquitous as the common cold; the kicker is the reason it’s so ubiquitous is that Microsoft makes promises it can’t keep. Soooo, Microsoft gets slapped, true; but it gets slapped all the way to the bank.

Saying there’s a double-standard, then, when people complain about having to re-boot a Windows laptop, as compared to having to re-boot an Apple powerbook implies that both systems are focused on the same audience, and based on the same promises. It ain’t no such thing.

She's absolutely right.

Definite food for thought as Microsoft goes through its latest attempt to reinvent itself.

Plenty of promises left to keep...

hit by lightning - literally!


We got a call this morning from the family that's leasing our house in Rochester while we're on sabbatical--apparently the chimney of the house was struck by lightning this morning! There are bricks littering the lawn, and the ones that fell down the chimney caused soot to spew out into the family room, setting off smoke alarms and generally causing chaos.

The good news? Our insurance company is Amica. One phone call was all it took. The Amica rep immediately confirmed we were covered, said someone would be out within hours to take a look at the damage and start arranging for any short-term preventive work necessary to keep things from collapsing further, as well as to figure out what kinds of repairs and cleanup would be necessary. We've got a $500 deductible, but after that all the reconstruction and cleanup will be covered in full. Such a relief.

hooked on blummy


Like many of the enthusiastic early technology adopters (a nice way of saying "obsessive geeks") I know, my browser's bookmark toolbar (the bookmarks that are ever-present along the top of my Firefox window) is overflowing with special-purpose "bookmarklets"--special-purpose bookmarks that actually run a javascript to accomplish a task. One of them, for example, lets me add a page to my bookmarks. Another converts an Amazon item page URL to a version that includes my Amazon Associates ID so that I can get a small % of the profits when someone buys an item because I linked to it. Two others do a searches for the page I'm looking at in or Technorati, so I can see who's linking to or writing about the site.

The problem is that they're overflowing the bookmark bar now, so I have to give them short, cryptic names to fit them all in. And that makes them hard to find.

The solution? A nifty little too called "Blummy," which lets me consolidate them all into one. The web-based interface on the Blummy site lets you configure the size and contents of your bookmarklet collection. When you're done configuring the tool, you simply put the Blummly bookmarklet link in your toolbar in place of the many links it contains. Clicking on the Blummly link displays a nice little CSS div on your screen that contains all of the blummlets you've specificied.

They've got a quite a few "standard issue" bookmarklets on there for people who are looking to add some functionality. But more importantly, for me, they offer the ability for you to build your own "blummlet," thereby allowing me to replicate all the bookmarklets that were cluttering up my toolbar.

So, what's in my Blummly box? Right now, I've got 7 blummlets:

  1. post to (explained above)
  2. lookup (list of users who've linked to the page I'm currently viewing)
  3. Technorati Cosmos (list of weblogs linking to the page I'm currently viewing)
  4. CiteUlike (post to the academic equivalent of
  5. Wikipedia Lookup (look up the selected/highlighted text on the page in Wikipedia)
  6. Amazon Associates link-maker (explained above)
  7. King County Library System lookup (Jon Udell's "library lookup" tool--looks up a book in the library catalog of your choice)

Most people won't ever have a need for this...but for those of us who tend to collect these special-purpose bookmarks, Blummly is a great tool.

airplane window photos

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Seattle sunset and clouds from airplaneOn my way home from Internet Librarian I had to fly through Salt Lake City, Utah. I was flying in the late afternoon, and got some nice photos from the airplane window in both Utah and Washington. They needed a little cleaning up (cropping, and an occasional "enhance" in iPhoto, nothing significant), so I didn't upload them immediately. I had a little time during lunch today, so I captioned and tagged them and uploaded to Flickr.


lane's marketing campaign

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Lane's been working tonight on a variety of advertising materials for his new toys-for-tweens blog.

This is the one I liked the best...

if (gift.knowledge = false) {
goto = ;
      } else {

my son's new venture:

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Lemonade.jpgMy son Lane came downstairs last week and announced that he'd come up with an idea for a new domain name (his old one, he'd determined had too many hypens and was too difficult to remember). I asked him if he was sure his new idea wasn't already registered, and he assured me it was available. (For an 11-year-old, he's pretty tech savvy. Dunno how that happened.) "What's the domain name," I asked? "," he replied. (As in "I so want one!") I blinked, surprised, and asked him if he was sure it was available. He was sure--and he was right.

So for about $8 I registered the domain name, and set it up on my multi-domain hosting account. And then we had a little talk. I pointed out that if he ran it as a blog, and regularly posted information about products he thought were cool, that he could actually make money from the site. He was dubious--it hadn't occurred to him that a web site could make money rather than simply consuming it. So I told him about Chris Pirillo's site, and gave him a rough estimate as to how much money Chris was making through Google Adsense. He was suitably impressed. The clincher was when I added that he could probably make that part of his homeschooling--there'd be a writing component, an economics component, a technology component. What's not to like?

After we talked about "monetization strategies" (as I've learned to call them now), he realized that without readers, he'd be unlikely to make much money. So I made a deal with him. Once he had more than three entries, and had committed to at least five entries a week, I'd post an announcement here to get him started. With any luck, some of my faithful readers will take a look, and (if they like what they see) give him a quick shout-out via a link.

Why should you bother? Well, as a parent of two "tweens," I can tell you that it can be a challenge to know what's hot (or is it cool?) in their world at any given point in time. I'll see something in a store that I think is great, and they'll roll their eyes in exasperation at my cluelessness. I want to play Katamari; they want to play Jak X. And with the holidays almost upon us, I think there's some real value in having a kids'-eye view of what's new and notable. Got kids you need to shop for? This is a great way to get ideas.

This isn't Lane's first foray into blogdom--he kept a (now-defunct, due to spam overload) blog about his trip to Japan nearly two years ago. And he's been maintaining his own domain for over a year, teaching himself Javascript so that he could start to build his own virtual world. But this is his first attempt at an online business, and I'd rather have him doing this than delivering papers on cold, wet mornings.

So go. Read. Enjoy. Comment. Click ads. Buy gifts for your favorite tween. Subscribe. And link to him, wouldja? Give a kid a break...

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