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conference curation

I got an email this week from Russell Davies, one of the participants in this year's Microsoft Research Social Computing Symposium, thanking me for my "conference organizing/curating." And I realized that he'd perfectly summed up the process of putting on an event like SCS. Yes, there's some organization...but more importantly, there's a lot of curation--choosing themes, picking the right people to speak about those themes, putting the content in an order that reveals a narrative.

For next year's event, I fully intend to have Moo cards printed up with the title "conference curator" on them. :)


This morning at breakfast, after listening to me bubble over with happiness about the just-ended social computing symposium, a friend told me that she thought I was the most grateful person she knew.

I've been turning that over in my head all day, and have come to the conclusion that (a) she was right about me being a fundamentally grateful person, and (b) I'm very grateful to have gratitude be one of my defining characteristics.

When people start in 12-step programs, one thing their sponsor often asks them to do is to make a gratitude list. Even if the world seems to be crashing down around you, it's usually possible to find something to be grateful for--the hot cup of coffee you're sipping, a hug from a child, the song that made you want to get up and dance, the way the light and shadow looks in the last moments of a sunset. The act of writing those things down--or speaking them aloud to another person--shifts your focus in a profound way. If you do it on a regular basis, it can fundamentally change the way you see your life (and yourself).

One of yesterday's speakers quoted Sheryl Crow's song Soak Up The Sun in his talk: "It's not having what you want, it's wanting what you've got." That really resonated with me, and this morning's conversation helped me to realize why.

Every year running this event takes everything out of me. I go into it a giant bundle of stress and worry. But every year I leave feeling ridiculously happy and energized. I've had my mind stretched by brilliant people who said things that informed and inspired me. I've connected people who I know will go on to do great things together. And I've had a chance to work and play with some of the people I love and respect most in the world. That's what I want, it's what I've got, and it's a pretty damn good reason to be grateful.

vitoria-gasteiz, november 2010

I arrived at the Bilbao airport on Wednesday evening, where, as expected, a driver was waiting for me. Not just for me, however--there were four of us arriving at the same time, and that certainly made the 45-minute ride from the airport to Vitoria-Gasteiz cramped. I was grateful when we finally reached the hotel, and then delighted when I arrived in my room and found that I had a suite with a balcony overlooking the city. Unfortunately, I never actually got to see the city from the balcony during daylight hours, despite the fact that I spent two nights in the room.

View from Vitoria Hotel Room 4

The CARVI conference was unlike anything I've attended before. It began with a series of political speakers, praising the innovations coming out of the research organizations that sponsored the event, after which a number of conservatively-dressed men and women donned 3-D glasses and stood around television sets looking very impressed.

CARVI Attendees With 3D Glasses 2

After that, we moved to another room and the series of symposium talks began. Each speaker was scheduled for 20 minutes, with no time in between, which meant that it didn't take long before we were an hour over schedule. My 11:20 talk turned into a 12:30 talk, after which there were still several hours of presentations to go before lunch. This is apparently quite common in Europe--and especially Spain--but my blood sugar suffered mightily as the day wore on.

Despite my growing hunger, I really enjoyed the talks by Narcis Parés Burgués from Barcelona ("Interactive Playgrounds: the Interactive Slide, a Practical Example") and Maria Roussou from Athens (The Challenge of developing virtual reality serious games).

When we finally did eat lunch at 3pm, it was primarily passed appetizers (tapas-style, or "pintxos" as they're called in the Basque region), and lots of wine. I was quite sure after that lunch I'd have a hard time staying awake, but I was more than pleasantly surprised by the post-lunch speakers, who included Matt Oughton from Vicon, demonstrating their amazing motion capture system, and Brent Strong from Disney Imagineering, who gave a spectacular talk about the design process behind The Sum of All Thrills ride at Epcot.

The symposium events wrapped up at 7:30pm, at which point they returned us to the hotel (a 20-minute bus ride), and told us that there'd be a bus to take us to a speaker dinner at 9:00. I knew there was no way I'd make it through that, so I begged off and got some sleep.

The next morning the bus picked us up just after daybreak again, and I returned to the conference for a few hours of presentations on virtual reality engineering. At 1pm, a taxi took five of us back to the Bilbao airport--but this time, at least, we had a minivan! I sat next to Maria Roussou, who, it turned out, was also planning on spending a night in Bilbao. We hit it off famously, chatted the whole way to the airport, and decided to have dinner together later that night.

london, november 2010

It's been over thirty years since I last visited London--a brief stop as our family returned from a sabbatical year in Malta. It's been over forty since I lived here as a child--on the first of my father's sabbaticals. But somehow, it felt familiar when I arrived on a rainy Monday morning. The voices, the colors, the sense of the city--they didn't feel foreign, didn't feel odd.

I took an airport shuttle into the city, not realizing that I could have easily taken the Underground--that's what I get for not doing my homework before the trip. The van dropped me off a block from my friend Alice's office, where I stopped in to get the keys to her flat. She was in meetings, so I headed back out, splurging on a taxi so I wouldn't have to wrestle my suitcase through the rain. I enjoyed every minute of the ride, watching the streets of the city through the rain-blurred window.

Rainy London Through Cab Window

Since my hosts weren't planning to be home 'til 8, I decided to attend the opening reception for Internet Week Europe, to which I'd received an invitation. It was an easy tube ride from the Old Street station near the flat to the Covent Garden stop, and a short walk from there to the nearby Hospital Club.

Outside Entrance to the Covent Garden Tube Stop

I'm so accustomed to attending tech events that I simply assumed there'd be familiar faces at this one, and it was a bit of a shock to realize that there weren't any. That turned out to be for the best, really, since my travel-addled brain wasn't really up for small talk. I settled myself in a relatively quiet corner with a passionfruit martini, and took full advantage of the very delicious appetizers that kept being brought by for me to sample--little gourmet versions of traditional British fare, like bangers and mash, and yorkshire pudding.

Once I'd eaten my fill, I simply left, and headed back to spend a lovely evening catching up with Alice and getting to know her daughter Poesy (Cory, alas, was in the US while I was in the UK).

On Tuesday I woke up surprisingly early, and headed off to the "official" hotel for the AdAge conference I was speaking at, The Montague on the Gardens. (While I'm being reimbursed for my travel costs, it was a little pricey for me to front the money for two nights there...) I dropped my bags, and headed to the British Library, where I browsed through the historical documents room (the Magna Carta! yowza!) and had a nice lunch in the cafe.

By then I was exhausted, the weather was still cold and rainy, and I decided to simply hole up in my room for the rest of the day. It was a lovely room, though a little small...

Montague on the Gardens Room 1

But then I looked out the window, and realized that I was literally across the street from the British Museum...and there was no way I could resist that lure. Three hours later, as the museum closed it doors, I only wished I'd had more time. From the Magna Carta in the morning to the Rosetta Stone and Cleopatra's Mummy in the afternoon. Not a bad day, all in all!

Cleopatra Mummy

Wednesday morning I packed up all my things (again; I got good at that on this trip) and headed to the Creativity & Technology conference venue. I've never spoken at an AdAge event before, and I have to say I was mightily impressed. They made me feel instantly welcome, the event ran like clockwork (in no small part due to the amazing work of David Teicher and Matt Kinsey, who'd handled all of the arrangements for my visit), and the other speakers were truly wonderful. I was very glad to have had the chance to participate--and I had a chance to meet a number of people I really enjoyed, including one of the brilliant minds behind the "man your man could smell like" campaign.

A car picked me up at lunchtime, and ferried me off to the airport, so I could head to Spain for the next part of my European adventure. I wish I'd had more time in London, but I felt as though I'd used what I had well...

back on the road...

It's been nearly six months since my last work-related trip--that's probably some kind of record for me over the past few years! But the travel plans are starting to fall into place again, and--perhaps due to the hiatus--I'm finding myself excited rather than exhausted by the prospect of my upcoming trips.

Where am I going? I'm starting with a west coast trip in a little over a week, to Monterey and San Francisco. I'm delighted to be doing a keynote again at Internet Librarian, after missing last year due to the Picture the Impossible game. My talk is going to be on a relatively new subject for me--information visualization (infoviz)--with (not unexpectedly) a social spin on the topic. Then, since I'll already be out west, I'm going to head up to San Francisco for a couple of days to see friends and "take some meetings" before flying back home.

I'll only be home for a short time, however, before I head out again--this time hopping across the pond to London and Spain. In London I'll be speaking at the AdAge Creativity and Technology conference, where my talk is entitled " 'Somewhat Neglected': The vast untapped market for social computing innovations". As soon as that talk is over, I'm headed down to Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain, where I'll be talking about Picture the Impossible at CARVI 2010 (8th Congress on Virtual Reality Applications).

So, there will be more airport checkins, more travel photography, and quite likely more blogging in the weeks to come!

early seeds of a new talk

I got an email today that might result in my giving a talk at a tech conference in London later this fall, and it forced me to start thinking about what I'd like to talk about. My conference song-and-dance tends to go in cycles, and the PTI cycle is about played out (for me, at least).

When I talk to students about how to come up with ideas for research, I encourage them to read current research in the areas they're interested in, and to look not just at the obvious "further research is needed" section at the end of most articles, but also at the things that seem to them to be missing from the approach current researchers are taking. So I took that advice myself, and did some poking around at what some of the smartest and most interesting people I know are saying in their talks these days.

One of the talks I looked at was Matt Jones' on "Immaterials." Matt's a brilliant guy, and an amazing presenter, and I find that his talks almost always send my brain spinning off on interesting tangents...and this talk was no exception. That link is to images of his slides and a text version of his talk, but here's the video:

Most of what set my mind in motion is in the first five or six minutes of the talk, specifically around the areas of sociality and what's "somewhat neglected." I think he's correct in targeting the weakness of a lot of current social software (though I think Facebook is changing that on many levels). But I also think that the bulk of social software innovation "somewhat neglects" a very significant group of potential users--and that's those of us who happen to not live in major metropolitan areas.

As an example, as a social software researcher whose academic home is in an "interactive games and media" department, I'm particularly interested in how games are beginning to extend outside the box (where the box is a screen) into our day-to-day lives. "Big Games" developers like Kevin Slavin and Jane McGonigal and Elan Lee are doing amazing things in big metropolitan areas like NYC and SF and Seattle, where there's a critical mass of technologically "hip" consumers. Software like Foursquare was originally designed for urban hipsters...people who wanted to know where the party was going on at any given point in time, so they could join it.

But what about those of us who live in the smaller spaces? The small cities, towns, villages, and even (horror of horrors) the suburbs? Those of us whose lives currently revolve more around home and family than parties and friends? In my experience, these populations have not been well served by social software and game design innovations.

While it's true that 79% of the US population is defined as living in "urban" areas, many of those urban areas are relatively small. As a resident of the Rochester, NY metropolitan area, for example, I'm counted in those statistics as an urbanite...but my experience and social environment is very different from that of a Manhattan resident.

I see populations all the time that are desperately underserved when it comes to group-forming and community-maintaining tools. K-12 schools are a great example. Most school websites that I've seen are awful...and even when they're not awful, their primary purpose is generally distributing information from the schools to the parents. There are seldom mechanisms for parents to talk to back to the school (other than through an email link to a specific teacher or administrator), let alone for parents to talk to each other.

(I got excited when I heard Matt reference a project related to K-12 schools in his talk, but from what I can tell by poking around online, it's really about data visualization rather than community building.)

Other interesting innovations that focus on local community and experiences, like GroupOn and Living Social, are also primarily focused on residents of major metro areas. (Rochester has Groupon, for example, but not Living Social--at least not yet).

There's a lot of potential for these kinds of social tools--community support tools, location augmentation tools, "life as a game board" tools--to be useful in smaller scale environments, but we need to think about how to scale them (where by scaling I mean to more different locations rather than to more people in the same locations).

So, I'm going to start fleshing all of this out, to see what kind of talk begins to emerge. It's fun to have a new talk topic to wrap my head around. :)

circle of trust

At last year's social computing symposium, one of the participants (alas, I can't remember who...but I think it was Elan Lee) suggested that we try an interesting exercise. It's not exactly a "circle" of trust...more like a square. But it was great fun, nonetheless.

I didn't realize that Ponzi Pirillo had captured it on video and put it on YouTube, until my older son's best friend found it and showed it to him.

I highly recommend trying this yourself. It seems impossible that it would work, but it does!

creative constraints

I'm attending a really great NSF-funded workshop on Productive Play this weekend, and Thomas Malaby, who's sitting next to me, just cited a lovely quote from Igor Stravinsky. I don't want to forget it, so the blog is the obvious place to save it :)

The more constraints one imposes, the more one frees one's self. And the arbitrariness of the constraint serves only to obtain precision of execution.


minitex conference keynote

I gave a keynote this morning at the Minitex ILL Conference in St. Paul, and I've uploaded the powerpoint file to Slideshare. Unfortunately, Slideshare doesn't show transitions, so a number of the slides are messed up where I have multiple images that aren't supposed to be on the screen at the same time, but if you go to the Slideshare page for the presentation there's a link to download the original .ppt file.

(Since you can't hear my actual talk, I need to acknowledge that the "happiness" slides are shamelessly stolen from Jane McGonigal's recent talk on gaming and happiness. :)

yes, i gave my talk in costume

I'll post the slides tonight or tomorrow, but thanks to the wonderful Flickr-using librarians who attended my talk last week, you can see my attempt to recreate one of my World of Warcraft characters on stage.

Here's the character, featured on my opening slide, courtesy of David King:

Slide showing Maleficent

And here's me in costume, courtesy of Steven Kaye:

Liz in costume

ala gaming and libraries: thom gillespie

Thom's talk is on "why we shouldn't take serious games seriously." He starts with some great stories about his experiences with how giving people the ability to create media changes everything. The stories don't translate well from his conversational style to the blog, so I'm not going to try to include them here, other than to say that they're pretty compelling anecdotes about the power of participatory media. I'm reminded of how critically important stories are.

Talks about moving from the library school to the telecom dept at Indiana because the library school simply didn't get fun and entertainment.

Studying games is not reading some critical analysis of a game--it's playing the game. Play first, talk/analyze afterwards. You can't critically analyze a film without watching the film. He brings students to his house to eat and play games--he provides food, they provide the games. Board games, card games, things that allow real socializing during play.

Shows a picture of people playing DS games, where they don't even talk--compared to the board games where they're interacting constantly. ("Like a room full of Trappist monks bent over their texts...")

Nothing inhibits the design of any game more thana room full of computers. The most important thing is a big table, with paper and scissors and markers and tape.

Lots of great examples of how he teaches game design--mostly at his house. :)

Must go prepare for my talk. (And yes, I'll post the slides when I'm done.)

Came in a little late, and Eric Horvitz is giving examples of how data mining your own activity (driving patterns, for example) can provide useful predictive services. ("Going to the airport? There's a backup on I-5 South.")

Users should control their ow data mines. There should be a shroud of privacy between your local private data and other systems. Context and additional content can come from outside, but personal data and resulting predictive models should be inside.

Notes that what's offensive and intrusive changes over time. In the 1800s, "rapid photography" was intrusive, and in the 1920's a ringing phone intruded into the private sanctity of the home. Shows some research they've done on people's preferences about sharing what with whom. What kinds of information are treated similarly? Currently working on privacy preferences and tradeoffs with web services. What's the biggest "bang" you can get for the personal data "buck"?

Value has a diminishing returns (submodular) curve, while the cost is an accelerating curve (supermodular). Can combine those to find the "sweet spot"--where should you stop asking about information because it will make people uncomfortable and not give you much of an increase in value?

Shows the survey they used about how much people are willing to share--I actually took this survey about 3 weeks ago. I wonder about the generalizability of this data, though, since the target survey population was very tech-savvy folks, many of whom are well aware of how much information is already stored about them. Notes that there is a rise in "preference and intention machines" that balance risk and benefit.

Next up, Tadayoshi Kohno from Univ of Washington. Talks about what privacy "actually means." Starts with dictionary definitions. Argh. I hate it when my students do this. It's too much of a cliched presentation opening.

One response people have is "privacy is dead, deal with it." Also "I've got nothing to hide." (I hear this a lot from my students.) And users often choose improved functionality over privacy (for example, customer loyalty cards).

On the other hand, some people say that privacy is critical. When people hear about privacy breeches, this can (temporarily) change their views. For example, the AOL search log controversy, the implementation of Facebook news feeds.

Shows a news article showing that loyalty card details have been used in some court cases (eg divorce cases). [that would be a nice example to use in my class]

Who's responsible for protecting private info? The data collector? The user?

Ends with "privacy is not dead, just complicated."

[There are more speakers, but I'm tired of transcribing...]

Oh, great line from an MSR researcher whose name I didn't catch (will fill it in later): "Privacy is a non-renewable resource."

msr faculty summit: using social relevance to enhance CS

John Nordinger talks about the fact that they've used gaming to reinvigorate CS curricula, but are concerned that some are being left behind with that. So they're starting to think about socially relevant curricula to broaden the appeal further. Many schools are still seing a precipitous decline in enrollments, and this is one possible solution.

Shows a graph of enrollment that's quite grim. It's not just the already known problem of few women, but men are declining as well. Becoming an issue of national competitiveness, as well. Asian PhDs are growing rapidly, ours are declining. Our internet use is still top, but growing at 2%/year, while China (currently #2) is growing at 20%/year.

What do they mean by "socially relevant"? What's socially relevant to girls that are sophomore, juniors, seniors in high school. (I'd argue relevant to middle school, which is closer to where we lose them.) It can be "top down," like global warming, AIDS, etc. Students are influenced by media--both online and broadcast/print. But also bottom-up relevance...what is relevant to them now, and how can we make computers/programming more compelling to them? (Programming their own Facebook apps, for example. Tools for personal finance, shopping, etc.)

How can we make CS more compelling to people not currently drawn to the field? How can we engage a new crop of students and make them feel good not only about what they make/contribute, but also about computing generally.

John hands off to Devika Subramian (Rice).

She says "Where have all the freshmen gone?" has become our new theme song in CS.

Where are the "defectors" going? To other branches of science and engineering. Why? They see CS curriculum as very narrow. CS = programming. Computing for its own sake is unappealing. They foresee a "Dilbertian" future as 'programmer cogs'. They see BioE and EE as offering more opportunity to have an impact on RL problems. CS is seen as the plumbing, rather than the idea side of the process. It's perceived as a support or overhead function, as opposed to a mainline/value-generating function.

The price of our sucess is that ubiquity of computers make them fundamentallyless interesting as an object of study. This generation of students is very entrepreneurial. But our current CS curricula doesn't prepare them for recognizing and leveraging business related opportunities related to computing. (So why doesn't MSR bring MIS and IT faculty to these events? We're the ones who do know this...)

We have, for the most part, let outsiders define who we are. We need to let people know that we are more than just programmers. So, what message can we send?

  • A place where a small group of people can still make revolutionary advances in all areas of society (Microsoft, Google, Wikipedia, Facebook, eBay, etc)
  • The primary technological enabler for solving real-world problems; creating needs and meeting them. [hmmm. creating needs??]

What is socially relevant computing? It is computing for a cause, for a purpose. For example: "can we evacuate Houston in 72 hours?"; "can we predict the efficacy of a cancer drug for patiens by using their genomic and proteomic profiles?" It is computing that meets a need in some context---how can computation help me organize my music, my thoughts? It embeds the study of ocmputer science in the context of society.

Provides some examples of existing curricula that do this, but says we can do much more. Describes how Rice is offering a new CS1/CS2 course this fall in conjunction with Civil & Env Eng and Poli Sci, with support from the City of Houston, to buld computational tools for planning the city's response to major hurricanes.

Shows a really nicely done video that advertises a bioengineering course at Rice called "Bioengineering and World Health." Why don't we have this kind of compelling course and marketing material in all of our CS curricula? What would that look like? Mentions the "Threads" curriculum at Georgia Tech, and the Chicago Math Spiral Approach. (I'll add links later.)

Now on to Mike Buckley from Univ of Buffalo. They're overhauling their CS1 and CS2 and capstone classes, as well as their labs. Why do students overwhelmingly go into social science in greater numbers than CS?

He looked at four textbooks, and shows the inane examples that they use. Counting donuts. Counting puppies. Constructing ducks. It's embarassing. Newspapers, however, are a better source of examples. What's the #1 cause of firefighter deaths, for example? Heart attacks. So he used that example as a focal point for the CS1 curriculum that year (would like more information on this; he's very vague, constrained on time--but he's close enough to set up a visit when I get back to rochester).

How can we attract non-traditional CS students--including students at academic risk, and those with behavioral problems?

They build a research lab where students could investigate problems outside of their coursework. They use non-traditional ancillary materials, and draw on expertise outside of the classroom.

For the first month, they teach dsign and modeling. How programmers view the world. Problem spaces vs solution spaces. "The Dream Curve". Their labs and example problems have a societal emphasis. They talk about "The Tao of Engineering": ritualists, pessimists, travelers.

Makes his freshmen read The Tao of Pooh, the Design of Everyday Things, Buddhism Plain and Simple, Neutral (about a 14yo with CP). [ cool!] No puppies and ducks, but modeling distribution of pollution in the great lakes. random numbers, they use the Princeton Egg simulation for predicting the future.

They study the Therac-5, the Hubble deformity, the Denver Airport baggage system, and other engineering errors.

His capstone students work with the severely disabled, building systems that help real people. Shows wonderful, inspirational examples. (All static photos, though. He totally needs videos about this!!)

msr faculty summit: bill griswold on 'community on the go'

Bill Griswold's presentation is actually entitled "Community on the Go: The Quest for Mobile 2.0". I'm trying to ignore the "2.0" buzzword usage.

He claims web 2.0 is "democracy on the internet," or "democracy made possible on the internet," which I find a bit of a stretch. The audience here, I have to remember is very traditional CS faculty--not, for the most part, people who live in today's web services world. So he's giving a pretty basic overview of "look! my mom can comment on my photos" and "this is what we call a 'mashup'." What are dangers, he asks..."noise, misinformation, you can't escape your past." Those are no different from physical space he says (I'd disagree, particularly on the last item).

I suspect I'm not going to learn much here, but this might be a good presentation to point some of my less web-savvy colleagues towards.

Mobile 2.0 is Web 2.0 everywhere, all the time. However, it's in a "divided attention" context. What kind of democracy do you get in a divided attention context, he asks. (Well, our students are already dividing their attention, even at a larger screen. It's a reality, not a possiblity.)

The web experience is incomplete, he says. (Andy Phelps is typing on his iPhone next to me right now, and raises his eyebrows, flashing me the quite-complete Safari browser he's looking at.)

He talks about hardware shortcomings, but most of what he's talking about is a short-term problem (processor speed, graphics capability, short battery life).

Says Twitter is "Mobile 1.5". Makes some claims that I wonder about..."most Twitters come from the web", for example. That's exactly the kind of research I'd like to do. Most people generalize about Twitter based on their and their social network's use of the tool.

Where we could really be in mobile 2.0 is "augmenting the real-world commons." Adds the idea of "microtasking," "proactivity" (where your phone lets you know that you should be paying attention to something), "context awareness," "in situ computing," and "public displays."

Added dangers--trying to sip from a fire hose, the stalking aspect of context awareness. (Leaves out corporate "stalking" and data gathering; do we really want Google, or AT&T, to be able to track our every move?)

In the microtasking discussion, he makes some claims about Flickr (compared to the Dropshots) he shows that I think are incorrect--for example that Dropshots organizes photos by date, but Flickr only gives you a linear flow. In fact, Flickr has many ways to view photos, many pivot points (including day, date, month, year, tag, etc).

Talks about "in situ computing" in the context of his active classroom work. Allowed students to ask questions anonymously in a backchannel (his work on active classroom is of the best quotes I've heard about backchannels was his line that it "prioritizes the question, not the questioner.") Love, love, love what he's doing with the use of mobiles and SMS in this context. Great stuff. They've got an "ActiveCampus Explorer" for the mobile that looks very cool. Campus map, local chat/messaging, etc.

Discusses some context aware apps they've been working on--for example, location-based reminders. (e.g. When I get home, remind me to call my Mom.) What if you could leave annotations related to a place ("this restaurant has great hot cocoa") for a specific person, or a group of people connected to you--and they'd see it only if/when they went to that place, or searched for notes related to that place. This is the kind of mobile app I'm really fascinated by. They studied this, and found that people used location as a proxy for other concepts (busy/not busy). Found that it calmed people--"it was a relief knowing I would be reminded." Interesting, and relates to the whole David Allen "open loop" concept.

Proactivity---augmenting peripheral perception. They used something called "PeopleTones", which played a friend's unique sound when s/he is nearby. First problem is detecting proximity reliably using celltower triangulation. The second is conveying the alert unobtrusively; they use da short personal sound clip and vibration. Two novel vibration encoding algorithms were used ("think microMorse code"). Nature sounds were not effective for identifying who it was, but music was very effective (whether music was chosen by self or target). Even though they expected music to be more disruptive, they found that users found it more helpful than annoying. Even if they didn't act on the knowledge, they "liked to know" that someone was nearby. (This is important. Ambient presence. He notes, and I agree, that this is also the appeal of Twitter.)

"When I was going to Bob's birthday, I know who was there when I pulled up because of the ringtones."

"I could tell if Melissa was home when I passed by Claremont." (Hmmm...that definitely brings up the stalking question!)

Mashup idea that came out of this: Mashup PeopleTones with Place-Its ("pounce" on someone you need to talk to about something).

(Note to to Kevin Li about this later this week; he's an intern at MSR this summer.)

Moves on to the topic of "community-based context awareness"--what if everyone carried a carbon dioxide sensor that coud report atmospheric conditions and report them to a central server so that aggregate information was available. (Hmmm...this seems like it would be awfully easy to game if you were an unethical industry person. Coudln't you spam inaccurate information intentionally?)

Also discusses "RealityFlythrough"--multiple cameras viewing the same scene, stitched together into a single immersive coherent view (basically video Photosynth, it sounds like). Really interesting idea/demo.

returning home from gls

Lane and I are on our way back from Madison, where we just attended the Games, Learning & Society conference. Lane spoke on two panels, I spoke on one, and we both had a great time.

Thursday night, my guild had a RL meetup and WoW-playing session in a lab on the UW campus. We crammed about 20 not entirely sober people into the room, and much hilarity ensued. Lane was with us, and when Gerald called to see what we were doing Lane hesitated and said "Well, it's not exactly a conference activity." Indeed. :)

Lane did amazingly well on both of his panels...he's a natural, and enjoyed it enough that he wants to go back next year and speak again. (So, if you're looking for an articulate and technically-savvy teen to speak at your conference, let me know..) I didn't get photos of him, alas (poor planning on my part, but the folks from Global Kids got at least one.

I had a good time on our "Families Who Game Together" panel, and an even better time taking part in a mock trial (of World of Warcraft, for being "bad" to a teenager) that Ted Castronova ran during his fireside chat session on Friday.

My biggest takeaway from the conference was the strong sense that there is not yet a reliable and authoritative source of good information on video games and gaming for parents--especially parents who aren't gamers themselves. That's something I want to try to address this fall. The Lab was already planning to start running educational seminars on social networking software (like Facebook and MySpace) for the Rochester community this year; we can easily add gaming to those plans, and also work on creating an online resource (along with the other faculty in our game design & development program). Seems like a promising direction for looking for funding, as well. :)

For now, Lane and I are resting comfortably in the Northwest WorldClubs lounge at MSP. Well worth the $85 for a two-month membership. Free wifi for both our computers saves us $20 right away. Free wine and snacks saves us another $20. And having a comfortable place to sit where it's quiet and there are ample power outlets during our three hour layover? Well, that's priceless.

supernova 07: clay shirky's "provocations"

Clay starts by showing a photo of a Shinto shrine that has been rebuilt exactly many times over 1300 years. UNESCO won’t certify it as a 1300-year-old building--because it has been rebuilt over and over again. This is an example of them prioritizing "solidity of edifice, not solidity of process."

He then compares it to a conversation fifteen years ago with AT&T, trying to convince them that Perl was an appropriate tool for development. When asked where the support came from, he responded that "we get our support from a community"--which to them sounded a bit like “we get our Thursdays from a banana."

Money quote on this from Clay: "They didn't care that it didn't work in practice, because they'd already decided it didn't work in theory."

Perl, he says, is a Shinto shrine. It exists because people love it and care for it.

Best line of the day: Our tools turn love into a renewable building material.

Best predictor of longevity for anything—do the people who like it take care of it?

Linux gets rebuilt every night, by people who don't want it to wither away.

Until recently, the radius and half-life of our affection has been limited. In the past, little things could be done with love, but big things required money. Now, big things can be done with love.

Later in the discussion, Clay says the communication process (Delphi, etc) is a kind of a mcguffin. The bringing people together and getting them to talk to each other is the important piece. Denise argues that "the process needs to come to a conclusion that gives the decision maker what they need to make a decision" (and that they resolve conflict).

An audience member asks if there is there social software we can deploy to fix problems with cross-cultural communication snafus? Denise: "Expedia." (nice)

supernova panel on "virtual life or virtual hype?"

Raph Koster leads off, saying that "3D is a red herring," and that most of the people in virtual worlds at this point are playing games.

Rueben Steiger from "millions of us" says that "people like 3D environments," that we "think in 3D" and thus the 3D internet is inevitable. The numbers now aren't important, he claims.

Clay Shirky says that the aspect to look at is game vs non-game. Games have led the way in adoption of virtual worlds. We're not headed towards general purpose virtual worlds, but rather towards specific implementations for specific purposes, and games are a prime example of that.

Raph points out that 3D, 2D, text is not the issue. ("It's all bullshit. It's irrelevant.") We've had text-based vws for a long time. If there isn't stuff TO DO, people go away. If there is stuff TO DO, they stay. If there isn't something useful TO DO, that's unique to that environment, it won't work. (Chat won't keep people in VWs, for example.)

(This seems to me to be very accurate for adults, perhaps not as much so for kids.)

Rueben claims that SL is a game, because life is a game. It's just a really really broad game. The inflection point for user adoption is around 3.5 hours...before that, attrition is high, after it's low. Funneling people to compelling content doesn't do it. Having them meet people does.

Clay says "I've never in my life bet against the users." The users are getting left behind by SL. The attrition both short and long term is significant. He says that games are cognitively special, and that game-like situations cannot be trivially imported into work (or the reverse).

Rueben says that registered users isn't the important statistic, it's number of hours of system use...which has been going up.

Raph calls bullshit on all them. Hours of use are measures of devotion, but not measures of adoption. Need to ask "of recurring users what percentage are coming back month after month?" There are industry standard methods for measuring this. To industry insiders, the LL numbers look wrong.

An audience member says that he wishes the panel would quit talking about Second Life.

Rueben proposes a grid with two axes--social to entertainment, and 2D to 3D.

Clay notes that we have seen over and over again that communication cannot be a perfect substitute for transportation.

Raph does a quick history of social virtual worlds. Too hard to encapsulate. Says that the 3D worlds folks seem to think they're going to "swallow the web"--and he thinks they're wrong.

Some discussion about federated vs scattered identity. Identity in a utility form is not the same as identity in an avatar or personality form.

Raph points out that virtual worlds and virtual reality have almost no overlap in practice. VW designers are not informed by VR research. What matters fundamentally is emotion, not representation; communication, not representation. Making representation better isn't the point.

An audience member asks if Facebook is a VW--Raph says that the dividing line is whether there's a modeling of "space"--is there north, west, east, south in Facebook?

Clay: screens are not the path to simulating being in a room. "Jaron Lanier is the Charles Babbage of our generation."

Time's running out, and I've left a ton out. This was a five-star panel. Smart, funny, articulate people who really know the field. One of the reason my notes are sketchy is because I was really engaged in listening...

o canada

This week I'm off to give keynotes at two different Canadian conferences--the Manitoba Library Association meeting in Winnipeg on Wednesday, and Webcom Montreal on Thursday. I leave Tuesday morning, and come home Friday evening.

I've never been to either Winnipeg or Montreal, so it's a bit of an adventure. I'm a bit sad to leave behind the fabulous weather Rochester is having right now (no, I'm not being sarcastic), but looking forward to the talks and to seeing some new cities.

If you're in either city, and want to get together, drop me a note...I should have some free time available.

sirsi dynix executive conference: stephen abrams

I slept in this morning, catching up on the lost hours of rest from the night before. Then I relaxed for a bit in my lovely room, drinking surprisingly good coffee from the room coffeemaker and eating the delicious candy that I got as a thank you gift from the conference organizers. So I missed the morning programs for the conference, but this afternoon I've got the energy to actually blog again!

Stephen Abrams is one my favorite library world speakers. He's articulate, funny, and insightful. So his talk on "learning from web successes" is likely to be good.

Starts with a great YouTube video on librarians and IT

(there are several more in the IACPL on YouTube to see them)

Also shows Introducing the Book, one of my favorites.

Then goes into a lengthy series of statistics. Demographic, technological, etc. (Not going to try to summarize them. Too many, too fast.)

The basic message? "Shift happens." We're in a period of intense change.

Why aren't we going to where the users want to be, rather than trying to force them to where we are?

How visible are the features of our libraries, and our library web sites? Is it like an enormous closed swiss army knife, where you don't know what's there or how to get it out?

I wish he wouldn't confuse "social networking sites" with "social networks."

Points out what a bad job most libraries do at providing a federated search interface to multiple databases. (This was painfully obvious when I asked my students to do a task analysis on the process of finding an ACM article on the RIT library site. They had no idea they should start with the ACM Digital Library database, and so it took them forever to find the article.)

Are we integrating the library into social and academic experiences, rather than allowing ourselves to be trapped by physical and organizational walls?

Makes book recommendations. Nothing new here for me, but probably new for this crowd... Godin's books, Daniel Pink's A Whole New Mind, Friedman's The World is Flat, Beck & Wade's Got Game, Freakonomics, The Wisdom of Crowds, Gee's What Video Games Have to Teach Us about Learning and Literacy, Ideaspotting, Johnson's Everything Bad is Good for You, Gladwell's Tipping Point and Blink.

fading fast

As I alluded to in a previous post, I arrived quite late last night--checking into the hotel after midnight MST (past 2am my time). It took a while to fall asleep (always does in a new bed), and I woke to blinding sunshine through the windows and screeching toddlers next door (the walls might have blocked the sound, but the connecting door was less effective).

I was fine until about 3pm MST, when I could feel the energy start to drain out of me...thus the lack of afternoon live blogging. I probably shouldn't have had that glass of wine at the cocktail hour, and now I'm barely holding on to functionality--with a 6pm keynote I wanted to hear and a 7:30 dinner appointment still ahead. /sigh.

I'll catch up on sleep tonight, I think, and plan on joining the conference midday rather than bright and early.

sirsi dynix executive conference: my talk

As promised, my slides.

(It's a 13MB download, so proceed only with a fast connection...)

sirsi dynix executive conference: lee rainie

I always have mixed feelings about being on the same program as Lee Rainie from the Pew Internet & American Life Project. He's totally amazing, and I love listening to him. But I hate having to talk after him, since he's such a difficult act to follow...

Starts with a confession ('because it's Sunday') that his initial proposal to Pew didn't even mention libraries as potential users of the data--but they turned out to be the biggest consumer of their data. "The library-industrial complex is amazing to behold."

Talks about how Internet use changes communities of learners. Cites McLuhan, and every technology having its own "grammar." If that's the case, their research indicates that the grammar of the Internet seems to be to create and foster communities.

93% of American teenagers use the internet!

Most notable gaps are age (young people use it more), education (increases use), disabilities (lower use), and language preference (new surveys on Spanish-speaking people indicate much lower adoption). Race is becoming less of an issue, at least from a cultural standpoint--it's economic class that's more important.

A growing number of broadband users see the Internet as a place to "hang out." They also see the Internet as their most important source of news.

People have phones, but (surprise, surprise) the majority don't use all the features they have access to. Partly they're frustrated by the interface, but more often they just want phones to be phones. They have "feature fatigue." (from an HBR article)

Women want maps on their phones.

Pictures are becoming a critical part of conversation and communication. (Yes! I"ll be talking about this.)

Wirelessness is more important as a predictor of active use of the internet than even broadband access.

55% of 12-17yos have profiles on social networking sites. 55% are users. These are not exactly the same 55%! Some lurk but don't have profiles; some have profiles but don't spend much time using the sites.

Girls use the sites to support and reinforce existing social networks. Boys use it to "meet new friends." 2/3 of profile creators limit access to their profiles. They're not indifferent to privacy.

Five New Realities

1) There are more people in more communities thanks to the Internet. 84% of internet users belong to an online community, including communities that pre-dated the internet presence. You can find the groups more easily online. Internet use is a predictor of whether people have joined any kind of social group!

2) Many communities with heavy online communities are highly socially meaningful. They often have a "real life" component. Online communities are tremendous places to build online capital.

3) New kinds of communities afforded by the Internet. The newer breed is built around individuals themselves. For example, communities that emerge when someone falls ill. (Or, perhaps another example, the community that arose around Jim Gray's disappearance.) Communities around user-generated content. Around a blog post, aYouTube video, for example. We're not bowling alone.

4) Communities behave in different ways. Groups are much more on "high alert" status, responding more rapidly to new inputs. Quotes Gillmor "If someone knows something in one place, everyone who cares about that will know it soon enough." (I may have that quote wrong.) Talks about Howard's idea of "Smart Mobs." (Tells a compelling story about 30 kids being notified and arriving at the scene of an accident involving their friends--before the police got there. People customize information not just for a daily "me," but also for a daily "us". (Yes! Facebook news feeds, for example.) Librarians should think of themselves as nodes in these information networks.

5) People in groups tend to need other people. ("Who knew Barbra Streisand would be right?") People who said the internet was useful in major life changes--34% said the net put them in touch with people who offered information and advice, and 28% said it helped them find professional sources. The internet, for most people, was tool to find other people. IN a world of information abundance, social networks and other people matter more and more and more. So, action item for librarians--you need to be a visible node in the network.

In conclusion...the people libraries want to serve are changing the way they interact with each other, and the way they learn. They're more self-organizing and self-directed. They're better equipped to capture and disseminate information. They're more tied to group outreach and knowledge. They're more tied to group insight. More attuned to friend and foe, competitors and allies, through scanning their networks.

sirsi dynix executive conference: jerome nadel

(whoops. forgot to change status to "published," so this is going up hours after I wrote it...)

I managed to get myself out of bed at a fairly early hour despite a very late arrival in Colorado Springs, aided by the blindingly bright sunlight streaming through my windows. So I'm here for the first speaker of the day, Jerome Nadel of Human Factors International.

We're in the 3rd wave of the information age, he says. The 80s were about hardware, the 90s were about software, today it's about usability. We've had a shift to 'self-serve'--from ATMs to computer-based shopping. We don't want intermediaries. In the library, we want to query directly--from open stacks to OPACs.

He claims it's provocative for him to say that the library is no longer just a physical place. Um...duh? That's not exactly a new concept.

Things that work are both useful and usable.

What are the attributes of usable things? Can be distilled into three key factors: easy to learn, hard to forget, easy to explain. This means that wherever you are, the things you need should be there.

User-centered design is too user-centric, he says. It's not just about making the user happy. It's also about influencing the user through the interaction model you create. This is driven by business needs. Need to know the organization's success criteria, as well as the users' needs.

(For my 425 students: he's emphasizing the creation of personas, the cataloging of user types, with tasks specified by high and low frequency.)

He's frustrated with people talking about "2.0" as a collection of technologies rather than a paradigm. Having a blog, or a wiki, doesn't make you a "2.0" organization.

Shows a before and after from the Library of Congress web site--now it focuses more on the tasks and users that the library supports. The earlier version was designed much more around the library's organizational structure. (This is pretty basic IA stuff, but probably appropriate to this audience.)

Contextual pointing. Wherever I am, point me in the relevant next direction. Portals that work are "about you."

Says that you need a large "n" to use folksonomies effectively. I disagree. Smaller "n"s give you local picture. Invaluable for persona development, localization, etc.

Says people are less and less willing to use browsing because the browsing paths haven't been well designed.

Results are more important than search. (Not sure I buy his argument that libraries focus "too much" on the latter. How do you separate search and results? They're intertwined.)

kicking off the spring travel season

I leave Rochester this afternoon for Colorado Springs, where I'll be giving a talk at the SirsiDynix Executive Conference on "Social Computing and the New Community Environment." On the roster with me tomorrow is Lee Rainie of the Pew Internet & American Life project, someone whose talks are always interesting and informative, Gary Price, one of the most knowledgeable people in the world on search engine topics, and Helene Blowers, whose work with her staff on "Library 2.0" blew me away at Internet Librarian (alas, I think that post got lost when the servers hosting mamamusings died). So I expect to be a doing a lot of live blogging while I'm there.

I've never been to Colorado Springs, and I'm seriously considering taking the cog railway up to the top of Pikes Peak on Monday. I'm not afraid of heights, but I am a little worried about altitude sickness.

I haven't traveled to a conference since early November, which is a pretty long stretch for me. But the spring is going to be busy in terms of travel. After this trip I'm only home for a week before going to DC to serve on an NSF review panel. March is surprisingly quiet (I'm not going to either ETech or SXSW this year, alas), but in April I've got back-to-back keynotes at WebCom Toronto and Computers in Libraries, and in May I've got back-to-back keynotes at the Manitoba Library Association and WebCom Montreal.

The at the end of May I'm heading back to Seattle to start my ten-week stint as a visiting researcher at MSR. Yay! The boys are still in school during June, but will be heading out with me for July and August. Gerald will be there for all of July and August, and it looks the boys may alternate between Rochester and Seattle so that they spend some time with their friends this summer while still getting a chance to visit friends in Seattle. It's nice that they're old enough to be able to have some voice in their summer plans.

I suspect that the increased travel will lead to increased blogging, as well, since the three months here at home were wonderful for me, but not particularly filled with bloggable events!

more conference travel

Only a week at home before I leave again. This time to Banff, for the ACM Computer-Supported Collaborative Work conference (also known as "CSCW").

I leave Saturday, and on Sunday I'll be doing a tutorial on folksonomies with David Millen from IBM Research. Then two days of conference-going, and a redeye flight home Tuesday night (ugh) so I can be in class on Wednesday.

Happily, the conference I was supposed to speak at next Thursday in Toronto has been postponed until the spring, so once I'm back from Banff I'll have some breathing room.

this week's presentations

As promised during my talks, here are downloadable (PDF) versions of both the presentations I gave this week.

The title slides include a Creative Commons license--specifically, the Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 license. That means you're welcome to use or adapt anything I included, so long as you don't sell it or neglect to give me credit.

Internet Librarian 2006 Closing Keynote - 2.2 MB PDF
(Originally entitled "Social Computing and the Information Professional, but it ended up "All the World's a Game, and All the Men & Women Merely Players")

Blog Business Summit 2006 Panel on Blogging Tools & Trends - 510 KB PDF
(This is really just a few screen shots in case my net connection didn't work, and titles for each of the key topics I wanted to talk about. If you weren't there, it won't make nearly as much sense.)

blogging internet librarian

This year, my Internet Librarian keynote is on Wednesday afternoon—I’m the closer. So my husband quite reasonably asked why I was going out on Sunday. There are two reasons. The first is that when you’re the closing keynote, you really have to attend the conference and listen to the speakers who precede you, so that you don’t end up replicating content attendees have already heard. The second is that this is one of the few conferences I attend where I get more information than I give.

So, as usual, I’ll try to blog the sessions I attend. Thank goodness for my Verizon broadband card, which is giving me net access even in the Marriott ballroom, which doesn’t have wifi for conference attendees.

symposium reflections

The symposium wrapped up on Tuesday night, and I took yesterday off--went to Pike Place with my family, played some WoW, and made every effort not to do a post-mortem until I'd had a little rest. But this morning, it's time for me to think about what went right and what went wrong and what I'd do differently if I were to do it again.

For those of you not interested in this kind of navel-gazing, I've placed the rest of this post "below the fold." And for those of you who would prefer to read about the content of the event rather than the process, I strongly recommend Tim Burke's excellent series of "liveblogged" entries.

symposium online access

The folks at MSR don't seem to have put the necessary information on the event web page (that will hopefully be fixed soon), but we do in fact have the live video feed running at (with about a 27-second delay due to routing and restreaming issues), and the IRC channel will be irc://

Join us!

symposium countdown

This year's social computing symposium is the first event I've ever had primary responsiblity for running, and it's been quite a learning experience. I have to say, doing something like this at Microsoft, where the quality of administrative and technical support is so high, makes it a whole lot easier. Even so, it's more work than I initially anticipated, and I'll be very glad when all the prep work is done. (I don't want to say "when it's over" because I'm so looking forward to the event!)

We are planning on webcasting the event outside of Microsoft, so you're welcome to sit in on the talks remotely, and to participate on the backchannel (which I'm tentatively planning to have at irc://

I do want to make a point of thanking MSR for its willingness to support this event. It's not cheap to put on a conference, particularly when you offer travel support to all the speakers and students attending, and don't skimp on food and drink. When you're the person in charge of the budget, it becomes much clearer just how much it costs to put on an event of this sort. Could it be done less expensively? Sure. But MSR was committed to attractomg and bringing in a wide range of participants, and providing an environment conducive to discussion and interaction, and provided the funds to make that work as smoothy as possible. That includes the funding to webcast the event, which is a non-trivial exercise, and allows it to be open to far more participants than we could squeeze into one room.

It's not just MSR that's been supportive. Several product groups stepped up to help support this event, including Windows Live (aka MSN), which is sponsoring the dinner on Monday night, and Channel 9 (and 10), which is sponsoring the reception on Tuesday evening. Many thanks to both of those groups for their recognition of the value of this event and the conversations it enables.

milken conference: media moguls on parade

This last panel--"The New Media Age: Surviving and Thriving in a World of Changing Technology"--is moderated by the very entertaining Dennis Kneale, the managing editor of Forbes. Speakers are:

  • Peter Chernin, President and COO, News Corp.; Chairman and CEO, Fox Group
  • Robert Iger, President and CEO, The Walt Disney Co.
  • Jonathan Miller, Chairman and CEO, AOL

Moderator: Are we really at the digital revolution now, or are we still a decade away?
Chernin: There's been unbelievable change over the past ten years, but that the pace of change will only accelerate from this point. People are still desperate to see stories, to see content, to consume information. They want to be entertained, be informed. (Wow. Amazingly passive view of the audience.)

Moderator: Is Disney catching up to online piracy, or are they still trying to stop it the way Disney tried to stop the VCR?
Iger: We're not playing a game of catchup, but we do need to get on board the train, so to speak. Otherwise the consumer will simply pass us by. Technology to media companies is what refrigeration was to Coca Cola.
Miller: The old projections were that the new media would replace the old media. But that's not what happens. The new doesn't replace the old, but things rebalance. What's going on now is real convergence. People are being convergent--they are multimedia, multidimensional, in ways they haven't been before.

Moderator: Is the video industry doing a better job than the music industry?
Miller: We're not stupid. We see what happened to the music industry!
Iger: WE've got to get with the program--the barriers we've perceived are dissolving, and we have to occupy this space.
Chernin: We as an industry were better positioned to deal with piracy. You get piracy when price points and access aren't acceptable to the market. The video industry has a long history of tailoring products to different needs and different markets (PPV, DVD, theatres, HBO, etc). They understand that different platforms require different price points.

Moderator: Have any of you visited YouTube? 40 million viewings a day of tiny little web-based videos. All from users. The revolution is happening from the bottom up--how do you deal with that?
Chernin: The incredible pent-up demand for video is amazing to see. Most of the favorites on YouTube are copyrighted material. There's a huge demand for our video product.
Iger: User-generated content, as ridiculous as it is (he's talking about America's Funniest Home Videos, which he first started at ABC), is endlessly fascinating to people. It won't put us out of business. We're living in a world where people are spending more time consuming media of all kinds--for companies int he business of creating media, that's a good thing.
Miller: Amazon didn't replace WalMart. YouTube won't replace current content creators. The big question is how do you find the things you want? Your social network becomes important as well as formal guides.

Moderator: Are the movie studios the ones who will create this content? Or will other, younger people need to do it?
Miller: The history of the media world says that the great broadcasting companies didn't create the great cable companies, and neither of those created the great internet companies. New companies tend to arise, while they may well later combine.
Chernin: MySpace cost 540 million, and was probably the best deal they ever made. He asks the moderator why the edge he seems to have about MySpace--is his profile not attracting the kinds of people he wants?

Moderator: The decision to put Disney/ABC shows on iTunes was stunning. How many conversations did they have with affiliates over this?
Iger: None.
Moderator: Excellent!
Iger: Of course new delivery puts a strain on existing channels. But asking permission would have resulted in it never getting done. We create a lot of value for the stations when we create these shows, and the stations still get to show them first. What the music industry ignored is that the customer had a lot more power over how they got and used music in a digital age, and ignoring that power shift was their biggest problem. Disney's not going to ignore that power shift. We're going to continue to make moves for the big screen, but they'll move onto new media more quickly.
Chernin: Fox is trying to do a 60-day post-theatrical high-def release. That's a better direction than trying to have the two compete with each other. "My job is not to protect the existing business, it's to maximize the current business and find ways to grow the new business." You have grow more than you erode, or someone else will be sitting in your chair. We won't replace the billions in revenue from theatrical releases until we've got something that will generate more revenue.

Moderator: What's happening with new development in content?
Miller: New kinds of music content--downloadable music videos and concerts. You can't put music on TV and get good ratings, but you can put it online and "cum" (as in "accumulate") an audience over time. A big question is how do you find content? They want to make video search as good as text-based search.

Moderator: If I can download a show without commercials for $2, aren't you undervaluing commercials?
Iger: We're selling a few things. Convenience is critical (mobile, time-shifted). The experience is good, but not nearly as good as what you'll get on a big HD TV. Their experience has been very positive. They put a $9.99 movie called "High School Musical" on iTunes, and it was incredibly popular.
Moderator: What more are you doing with properties like High School Musical?
Iger: It's out on DVD this week--you can buy it at WalMart. :) We're also looking to turn the company into a more global company--we have great brand depth but not as much breadth as we'd like. They're releasing it in other languages, they're releasing materials for schools to be able to do it as a school play. The soundtrack album went double platinum in 7 weeks.
Miller: Disney has always set a standard of multiple platforms for products. These things are additive, not subtractive. They grow the reach of the property. The fact that something's been viewed 30 million times on YouTube doesn't mean they won't watch more of it on TV. It may make them more likely to watch it on TV.
Chernin: We're thinking a lot about different media for delivery. We're thinking a lot about interactive aspects of delivery. We invented "Mobisodes" for wireless. That's about as exciting a platform as exists. There are twice as many cellphones as televisions in the world, and probably 3-4x as many as there are computers. Our new affiliate deal lets us run shows not just after they run on the network, but also run it before it's on the network for a higher fee. Are there people desperate to see the finale of a show, and willing to pay $4 for it. In return, they give the network affiliates a 12% share of that first year's revenue.

Moderator: Bob Iger, are you cutting a share of your extra revenues to your local affiliates?
Iger: Not from our iTunes downloads. We have a very different relationship with our affiliates than Fox has. ABC pays compensation to their stations already, whereas Fox gets paid by their affiliates.
Miller: If you think about what Google did, they cut everybody in on the action. Because of that, everyone put that box up there and it kept spreading. The web model says figure out how to cut everybody in on the action and they'll be your distribution path.

Moderator: Is Google a distribution rival?
Iger: We don't see them as a rival--perhaps that's a mistake. They're a tool that consumers can use to find our content. Google is both distribution and content; search results are a kind of content. They have become a real force in the advertising world, for good reason. Advertisers are paying extra to advertise in the Internet-based distribution. They won't be able to charge for shows that force you to watch ads. But other choices for download may well be for pay (downloadable, archivable versions, for instance).
Miller: Internet advertising is becoming as expensive in CPM terms is comparable to many cable channels. Search fragments things--it sends people in lots of different places. In a world that fragments, the people who have things that are truly unique stand out the most.
Iger: In a world with much more choice and fragmentation, the value of brands will increase. Most of our investment is in brand.
Chernin: Traditionally, CPM have tracked audience size. Advertisers are so desperate to get video advertising on the web, they're willing to now pay a premium for getting those ads online.

Moderator: Most of the time our ads don't hit people when they most need them. Google does this perfectly--you see the ad when you're engaged in the shopping behavior. It's more targeted, shouldn't it be more expensive?
Miller: If someone visits a car site, they're 10-30% more likely to click on a car ad the next time they see it.
Chernin: That's a very simplistic view of advertising. Ads aren't just to sell things. Some are there to build brands, some are intended to generate interest, others to sell a specific product.
Iger: I agree completely.
Miller: Google ads can't, be definition, be underpriced--they're offered in a marketplace, and you pay what the market thinks it's worth.

Moderator: Why the $2 price for television shows? Why not higher?
Iger: Well, these were things that were already available for free the night before. You're going to watch this on a much smaller and lower quality screen than your television. They felt they should be reasonable in their pricing.
Miller: The scarier thing would be will anybody buy it? Will they buy something they could get for free on their TV?

Moderator: What are the obstacles? Does anybody really want to watch Gary Coleman in a rerun on their cell phone?
Chernin: None of these models work at all if there's rampant piracy. [missed some here]
Miller: The biggest obstacle is making great experiences. People want what they want when they want it...moving media across platforms is not fluid and easy now. What Jobs and Apple did was they made it great, they made the experience great. Great experiences lead to adoption, and then the money follows.
Iger: Conflict and competition among channels and retailers. We want to create more value for our shareholders, and we're not sure we can grow these new channels without damaging existing ones. We need to stay in touch with the consumer in this ever-changing world. It's not an obstacle, but it is a challenge.

Moderator: Was their internal opposition at Disney to these changes?
Iger: Of course. Change results in fear, but you have to overcome that. That's why I'm charged to do, really, more than anything else in my role as CEO. You can't ask all the questions and get all the answers before you make these have to take some risks and get things out there. We have to give people what they want often before they know they want it.
Chernin: The most positive thing happening right now is all this experimentation. There's very little first mover advantage now, we can steal ideas that work from each other. (laughter) The growth of the distribution model benefits the content creators.

Moderator: I'm fascinated with "sellavision", the 24 promotion. How did that work?
Chernin: I thought it was both a brilliant idea, and a dopey idea. Cell phones aren't great platforms for narrative content. But it allowed them to learn a lot about how to deliver short-form content. This is a rush hour medium--people are watching on trains and in airports.
Moderator: what wins? Cell phones or ipods?
Iger: They all win. They're all important. And cell phones are enormously important in helping them to enter global markets with branded content.
Miller: We still don't know if cell phones are a derivative medium (a tiny TV), or a truly new medium. We're focused on mobile search right now more than mobile content. (Wow, search is a big theme for AOL in today's presentations. Fascinating.)

Moderator: So, if this new distribution takes off, who loses? Does Comcast lose?
Iger: Not if they migrate off their traditional approach and start to deliver to multiple platforms--they could be fine. But he's not focused on who loses, he's focused on who wins. Content companies are well positioned to win.
Chernin: The losers are those who are trying to protect rather than grow their businesses.
Iger: "You'd better start swimming or you'll sink like a stone, the times they are a changin'..."
Miller: Is geography now a limiting factor or an enabling factor for companies? That's shifting.

There's some brief Q&A at the end, but I'm all typed out.

milken conference: "internet from 10 feet away"

I'm not quite sure what the title of this panel has to do with the description they've provided, but the lineup of speakers was interesting enough that I wanted to check it out.

  • Mark Burnett, President and Founder, Mark Burnett Productions Inc.
  • Kevin Conroy, Executive Vice President and COO, AOL Media Networks
  • Kevin Corbett, Vice President, Digital Home Group, and General Manager, Content Services Group, Intel Corp.
  • Blair Westlake, Corporate Vice President, Media, Content and Partner Strategy Group, Microsoft Corp.
  • Moderator: Ken Rutkowski, Host, President, KenRadio Broadcasting

Westlake talks about the NAB conference--notes that HD was a huge focus, but the conference seemed light in terms of people.

(The moderator is extraordinarily annoying. I suspect he may have been a used car salesman before he became a radio announcer.)

Programming, search, playback, monetization--these are the important aspects of video that the AOL guy identifies. He leaves out things like "creation," of course, because this panel is clearly about the Internet as a broadcast tool. (The description begins with the outrageous line "The Internet is finally emerging as a true entertainment medium.") The world is divided up into "content owners" and "consumers."

Burnett says the "new primetime" is 9-to-5, because so many people in offices have broadband access and use it constantly to access content for personal reasons (chat, email, shopping). But there's "nothing to watch or do," he says, which is what he sees as his job to remedy.

(Must. Not. Speak.)

Am looking around the room...once again, I seem to be the only person with an open computer. The free wifi has disappeared, much to my chagrin, but I'm using Ecto to write this so.

Moderator raises the "user generated content" flag--"what about YouTube? Will it make you more accountable?" Mark Burnett says he thinks YouTube is great. Why would anyone who's a professional content maker fear user-generated content? In the end, it makes you better at your job, which is to give the advert-watching public what they want. And there are incredibly talented undiscovered filmmakers out there, who are using YouTube to get things out.

Burnett claims that the Intenret will allow us to know everything about who's watching what. The complete disregard for privacy issues here is stunning. He dismisses those trying to block this kind of surveillance as blocking inevitable progress. "Of course we need to know exactly who's watching."

Burnett again: "Who would buy a computer without Intel? They'd be crazy to do that!" (Oy.)

AOL guy says "Version 1 of the internet was about typing in a URL and going to what we think of as an immersive experience." (Huh?) New profiles are people who aren't interested in going to a URL and being in the environment you create--they want the material made available to them (widgets, gadgets, etc). I think what he's trying to describe is the aggregation process--people wanting to pull in your content into "their" space (MySpace page, etc). Ah, yes. Now he uses the "Web 2.0" term.

They're all convinced that text gives way to audio which gives way to video--and that everything's about video. Why would anyone want audio when they could have video? (And, implied, why on earth would they still be bothering with text?)

Blair gets tagged on DRM. "Unfortunately it's gotten a bad reputation." Notes that the Sony root kit was a big factor in making the perception more negative, but says the root kit was not DRM, and that those shouldn't be confused.

AOL guy says this is a non-issue, that we just need a "rebranding effort" around DRM. All DRM is intended to do is establish some business rules. If you get it right, you can have new business models (like pay-per-view).

Burnett says he's not concerned about illegal downloads. "Nobody up here is missing any meals as a result," he points out to laughter. The opportunities to sell more content are massive, he says. Bigger than ever.

"It's gone from the information superhighway to the content superhighway," says the Intel guy.

The AOL guy says they're building an interactive programming guide to online content. Search and browse becomes the organizing principle for finding interesting timely content. (That's not an organizing principle!)

At this point I think I've heard enough. I'm off to take a break before the last panel of the day.

milken conference: sally ride on engaging girls in science

There are disappointingly few people in this room, but the panel is a great lineup:

  • Ronald Packard, Chairman and Founder, K12 Inc.
  • Stephanie Rafanelli, Science Teacher, Menlo School
  • Sally Ride, Former NASA Astronaut; President and CEO, Sally Ride Science
  • Jane Swift, Former Governor of Massachusetts; Managing Partner, WNP Consulting LLC

It's wonderful to hear these accomplished, articulate women speak.

Ride and Swift both do an overview of the depressing statistics on the underrepresentation of women in STEM education and careers.

Swift points out that our educational offerings are failing to engage girls (and boys) in science. She says that dramatic reform typically doesn't come (from government) unless there's a cataclysmic failure, a train wreck. The problem they're talking about here is a quiet disaster, and hasn't galvanized a response. She criticizes the assumption that if we focus on the needs of girls, and create separate learning spaces for them, that we shortchange boys. The point is to create complementary environments that are designed for learning needs, not to create an either/or dichotomy.

Packard talks about key approaches. You need to make science interesting through hands-on activities. Very few primary education teachers have science or math degrees, so their comfort level is low for teaching this material. His company has been developing materials to support teachers and increase their confidence in teaching science and math. He points out the problem with the lack of visible role models for women and minorities. They've been working in Philadelphia to highlight real people in scientific jobs to help change the perceptions of kids.

Last speaker is a high school science teacher who's quite engaging. She's taught at an all-girls' school, but now teaches at a co-ed school. She asks her students every year to draw a picture of a scientist. Even in the girls' school, these 7-9 graders almost always draw men with stereotypical 'mad scientist' characteristics. She's never had more than 22% of her students in a given year draw pictures of women. Cultural perceptions aren't changing. Even her school, which is highly supportive of her work and speaking, has only now (after 11 years) thought to have her speak to her colleagues about these issues.

She makes an important point about the extent to which the girls she teaches perceive their math and science skills as being weak. They'll say they're not good at math, when their grades contradict that. But once they've convinced themselves that "math is hard," they start opting out of science and math classes.

An audience member--Paula Stern--asks what opportunities are out there inciting girls to involve themselves in math. She also plugs NCWIT's upcoming town hall meeting.

Rafanelli makes a great point about kits and toys for teaching science--to attract girls, they need to be social. Girls want to do things with their friends, and if the kit is designed for one person it won't be as attractive. Ride points out that science itself is collaborative and communicative, and the teaching tools need to reflect that.

Packard talks about the importance of contextualizing science education so that girls see the relevance to things that they care about.

Packard also says his experience is that if you don't test something, it doesn't get taught. If you're going to test, you have to test everything--not just literacy and math. Rafanelli says that very few primary teachers do "real science" in their classrooms, because they're having to teach to the tests, and the tests don't include science. (They're not arguing for the value of testing--they're saying that if you're going to have testing, you can't have it focused so narrowly and still have broad education.)

milken conference: our panel

As promised in our panel, here are our blogs:

milken conference: "global overview" luncheon panel

We've got audience response devices here at our lunch table--apparently we're being quizzed as we go along, and each table can "vote" on the correct answer.

The moderator for this panel is Paul Gigot, the editorial page editor for the Wall Street Journal. He begins by talking about GDPs, import capital, China-US trade balance, and a variety of related economic indicators. What are the prospects for the world economy? How sustainable is the current rate of expansion? What is the impact of the current world security situation on economics?

Panelists are Gary Becker (Nobel Laureate, Economic Sciences, 1992; University Professor of Economics and Sociology, University of Chicago), Vaclav Klaus (President, Czech Republic), and David Rubenstein (Co-Founder and Managing Director, The Carlyle Group).

Klaus is the first speaker. He says he's somewhat reluctant to discuss "global, cosmic, somewhat undefined topics" because they're too often a way to avoid talking about specific issues that we can do something about. It reminds him of the old communist days where they were unable to discuss problems at home, but they were encouraged to discuss the problems of Indian peasants and the miserable living conditions of the American middle class.

He says we should not listen to those who want to block globalization and open society. His experience of living in a closed communist society has taught him the importance of ideas (ideals?) and openness.

Communism has gone, but liberty and openness have not become the guiding principles of the world today. There are still many attempts to restrain freedom, which he sees most clearly in Europe. Its current social and economic system is not about freedom, it's about regulation and protectionism.

He dismisses the centrality and importance of most "global issues" being discussed here, and says the real challenge is in the dearth of new ideas. The problem is in political correctness, fair speech rather than free speech, special interest politics, the ambitions of those who consider themselves better than the rest of us and believe they should be our teachers, guides, and leaders.

Next up is David Rubenstein. He quizzes the audience on things like "how many think the stock market will be higher in a year," and "how many of you would vote again the same way you did in the last presidential election." The economy of today is not the one we grew up in. The US is no longer the principal economic engine. What happens outside the US is as important now as what happens within. Today's economy has been globalized and "internetized."

Last speaker is Gary Becker, whom the moderator introduces as, among other things, a "pioneer blogger."

Great productivity growth in the US economy, starting around 1995. Productivity drives growth, and he thinks productivity gains will continue into the foreseeable future.

Talks about China and India. Shows workforce comparison between China and India. China has double the GDP, more women in the workforce, smaller % of children (10-14) in the workforce, much higher literacy rate. But he focuses on reduced protectionism, and the importance of providing a good environment for commercial interests.

He thinks the real economic risk is generally that the government tries to do too much, and tries to do things that it's not capable of doing--at least not efficiently.

Gigot asks Becker if he's worried about incipient inflation. Becker says inflation is largely determined by monetary policies. This discussion then heads in a direction that's somewhat over my head, so I'm not going to try to summarize it. (I'm suddenly remembering why I switched majors from Econ to History when I was a junior in college...)

(David Weinberger, as usual, does a better job of capturing key content.)

I had breakfast this morning with the other members of our panel, and if our conversation was any indication, our panel this afternoon is likely to be quite lively.

This first panel of the day includes the followingg participants:

  • Greg Cappelli, Managing Directory & Senior Research Analyst, Credit Suisse
  • Edward Guiliano, President, New York Institute of Technology
  • Ted Sanders, Exec. Chairman Cardean Learning Group, former Acting Secretary of Education
  • Ted Mitchell, President & CEO, NewSchools Venture Fund (moderator)

(This room is full of people in black suits. Good thing I've got one on now...)

Driving question is "whether the pre-eminence of the American educational system is destined to maintain itsel."

Cappelli starts with Powerpoint charts (sigh) to compare GDP among countries, focusing on China. China's is currently 6th in the world, but is predicted to be 3rd in a few years. Foreign direct investment into China is huge. 110 million Chinese are between 18-22 years of age. Lots of private investment in education in China. More facts and figures, but am waiting for implications...

Guiliano says that China is swallowing the American model of higher education--he says that in 5-20 years we won't call it the American model anymore, we'll call it the "world model." He talks about "international education" (education that takes place outside your home country) is growing quickly. The biggest challenges and opportunities in higher ed will not take place here in the US. What/how/where we teach will be transformed by this huge global need, and a paradigm shift will result. (The focus is here on external pressures creating changes; not much discussion about internal pressures from a new generation of students with different expectations...) He notes that the ruling classes in China--the government and educational leaders don't speak English, but the younger generation does.

Ah, now they're shifting to the "world of the student." Sanders talks about challenges to global economic success. 1 in 5 Americans have passports. 87% of college-educated Americans can't find Iraq on a map. 65% of college-educated Americans can't find France on a map. Notes that in one generation, China has become the largest English-speaking nation in the world--all because they made a commitment to teach English to every single college student. More discussion of how poorly we communicate information about the world around us--not enough in our news, not enough to prepare us for living in a global economy. He says we also need real, person-to-person connections with people from other countries and cultures.

This room is full, and I find myself wondering who the audience is, and why they're here (in this room, as well as at the conference). Typically when I speak at a conference I have a pretty good sense of the audience, and what their information needs are. In this case, I feel as though I'm flying blind. Why are there so many people at this panel? What is it about global education that they're interested in? Do they want to understand education? Critique it? Influence it? Because this panel is entirely lecture-driven--with no participation from the audience--it's hard to get a sense of the audience needs and interests.

An audience member says that Europe is moving towards a 3-year baccalaureate; is that something we should be doing here? Sanders says yes. It's less expensive. And here we got...they move on to how the real problem is obstructionist faculty. I'm doing deep breathing exercises and trying not to say anything at all. I know it's futile. Faculty are such an easy scapegoat, particularly when they're not around to defend themselves.

Another audience member, a former university president, talks about (Qatar's? China's? Dubai's? I missed which country) "education city." (I've been to Dubai's version of this, it's quite amazing.)

A discussion about language learning resources points us to Chengo, a Chinese language learning resource geared towards middle-school ages that was a US-China collaboration.

An audience member asks where the next generation of faculty members will come from. The panel looks discomfited. "It's hard to find faculty," says the university president. The answer is to recruit on a global scale. (That's not an answer.)

Another question: a woman says young people are not being taught the critical skills they need to succeed in the real world. Kids are dropping out of school due to lack of relevancy. Young people are job hopping. How are schools preparing students to network and communicate? Panelist responds that very little is being done with K-12, because we're concerned with "grinding through literacy and numeracy." Totally sidesteps the question by saying "we ought to be doing that stuff in undergraduate education."

milken conference: agassi, armstrong, and nyad

I'm at a table up front for the conversation between Andre Agassi and Lance Armstrong, moderated by Diana Nyad. There's quite a crowd here, so I doubt I'll bringing back a Lance Armstrong autograph for my younger son. But I'm close enough to snap a cameraphone photo, and to feel engaged with what's going on here.

(There are a lot of recognizable names at the tables around me; I literally tripped over Richard Riordan's feet on my way to my seat...)

Nyad starts with a retrospective of Andre Agassi's career, with photos projected to illustrate it. Mentions that he's raised 52 million dollars to help kids through his charitable foundation. That's followed by an equally rich intro of Armstrong's career. (He was a world champion triathlete at 16!) I didn't realize that his testicular cancer had spread to his lungs and brain when he was diagnosed. She notes, quite rightly, that this is one of the most impressive athletic achievements ever.

She asks Armstrong to talk about the talent necessary to be an endurance athlete. He's often asked whether the physical or mental aspects are more important. They're both necessary, he says. You need to be born with the physical capability--but the mental capability is, if anything, more important.

Upon reflection, it's not being int he best shape of his life he'll miss the most, nor is it the glory of being on the winner's stand. He'll miss the dinner with the 8 guys on his team, those moments at the end of the day, even more.

Armstrong describes himself as "old" at 35...and Andre says wryly "Yeah, I remember that." (At which point Armstrong, not jokingly, describes Agassi as his hero.)

Nyad poses a similar question to Agassi--are his talents something he was born with? Or is it something you can learn? He was born with athletic skill, but his skill was nurtured properly by his family. He was never taught things that held him back down the road. (He's quite engaging and funny--I'm utterly charmed.) About his playing style, he says "The most important point to me is the next one."

She asks him how you keep focus when you're older and have a more complicated life. He says that having good people around makes all the difference. A wife that's willing to travel with him. A business manager that's been his friend and partner for decades. It's not (just) a sport where you have to train, it's a sport where you have to recover. (Interesting; I hadn't thought of it that way.)

Is it tougher to recover now that he's older? Yes, absolutely. But you get smarter, too, and can train smarter as a result. "A strong body obeys and a weak body commands." Now that's a quote worth posting over my mirror. He says he's very goal-oriented, but his goal is tomorrow, not Wimbledon. Tomorrow is the next step to Wimbledon, perhaps, but that's not the whole focus.

(I note that Nyad and Armstrong are both wearing jeans, which makes me feel oh-so-much better about not wearing a suit today.)

Nyad asks Armstrong how age has affected his performance. He says the most valuable thing you can have as an athlete is experience. Cycling, he says, is made up of the three things--marathon (because it's grueling), NASCAR (importance of drafting), and chess (tactics are crucial). Life is harder now that he's not racing--racing is simpler. All you have to do is eat, sleep, ride (as long as you're wearing the yellow or holding the cup over your head, he notes wryly).

She asks Agassi about the state of technology in the sport today. He's known as someone who researches every aspect of his sport--so where is he now with that? He was ahead of the curve in terms of the importance of physical training in his sport. When he started nobody did weight training, for example. Tennis doesn't have an off-season, so you have train differently. Equipment has made tennis a ballistic sport--it's violent, he points out. When you can serve at 150mph, what does that mean for the person on the receiving side?

Armstrong responds to the same question--talking about the fact that cyclists want a weight lifter's legs on a jockey's body. ("My soulmate!" cries Agassi, to much laughter in the room.) Keeping your weight low is the most important thing. After the illness, he was 15-20 pounds lighter, which made a big difference. The bike he rode for his first win was 22 pounds, and the bike he rode for the last win was 14 pounds. His team spent lots of time on technology to lighten the weight--clothing, gear, etc.

One last question for Agassi--what was it like when he was at his lowest. "I never played a match I expected to win. I never took one thing for granted." Most importantly, he said, he never tried to be more than one day better each day. Each day can be better, but you have to take it one day at a time. He never knew where he'd end up, but he knew that tomorrow he'd better than today, because that was in his control.

And a last exchange for Armstrong about his commitment to cancer survivors. The fans move on to a new sports hero. But what you do off the sports stage is what will matter for the long term. This army of people, this family of cancer survivors, those are the people you have to make time for. She asks if cancer will be solved in his lifetime. "While we're sitting here," he says, "there's a 47 year old woman dying in a hospital here, leaving 3 children behind." Why is he here and she isn't? Because each of these cancers is a different disease, and we need to be working to understand and treat all of them.

Nyad closes by saying that in sports there are many winners--but few champions. And both of these men are champions.

frustrating conference day

First I ended up in the wrong session this morning. Then I got stuck waiting forever for the shuttle from the Century Plaza (I got put in the "overflow" hotel) to the Hilton, and by the time I arrived the afternoon session on Educational Philanthropy (with Andre Agassi as a panelist!) was already full, so I'm stuck out here in the lobby.

On the plus side, at lunchtime I stopped by Macy's, and found a lovely suit on sale, so I'll be wearing it tomorrow in order to blend in better with the natives. I also acquired a USB cable to charge my phone with--I forgot to bring a charger with me, and the phone was nearly dead.

Agassi and Lance Armstrong are speaking this afternoon, in a larger room (which I'll get to early, thankyouverymuch), although it's on a health topic rather than education. (Diana Nyad is moderating their conversation; quite an all-star lineup!)

I'm debating whether or not to attend the dinner event tonight. The topic is "the future of space," and that's not something I have a burning interest in. But the introductory remarks are by Leonard Nimoy, and that's oh-so-tempting. My guess is his remarks will be short, however, and then there will be two hours of dinner conversation with people I don't know. My inner introvert is lobbying hard for a food court dinner at the mall followed by an early night in the hotel.

milken conference: "ensuring america's success in education"

First panel of the day. I was assured a few minutes ago that WiFi would be available, but the "Milken" network that shows up for me is requesting a WEP password. The self-proclaimed "technology guy" for this room decided it must be a "Mac issue" (insert eye-rolling animation here), and the "Mac expert" he called in did the classic "I dunno" shrug, so I'm stuck without connectivity for this session. Thank goodness for Ecto. (Update, 30 minutes later--woohoo! They fixed it!)

I also ended up in the wrong room, for which I'm kicking myself--I wanted to attend the panel on "Mind-to-Market: Increasing Role of the University in the Global Economy." But now I"m stuck on the far side of the room with no graceful way to exit. Aargh. This panel looks interesting, but far less relevant to my specific needs and interests right now.

Speakers on this panel include Harriet Arnone (VP for Planning at NYIT, and Provost of NYIT's Ellis College),Dennis Vicars (Exec. Director of Professional Assn for Childhood Ed Alternative Payment Program and CEO Human Services Mgt Corp), Tom Vilsack (Governor of Iowa), and Susan Tave Zelman (Superintendent of Public Instruction, Ohio Dept of Education).

The moderator, Susan Sclafani (Managing Director, Chartwell Education Group) starts by talking about declines in educational achievement and production, despite the concurrent increases in expenditures (we're second highest in the world on per student spending). The students are not the problem, she emphasizes. There's a disconnect in the system between what we know is critical for their success, and what the students know.

Arnone laments current students' increasing inability to clearly and logically describe and defend a position, and the need to improve those communication and analytical skills.

Vilsack talks about the pushback (from parents, not students) when they tried to make high school curriculum more rigorous. He notes that this means not just math and science and language, but also their creativity. (He's very articulate, charming, and convincing.)

Vicars talks about early childhood education. In a good preschool, everyone's an artist, everyone's a singer, everyone loves math.

Zelman talks about the development of STEM high schools throughout Ohio, schools in which they will cultivate "both sides of the brain"--not just the procedural aspects of science, but the affective aspects as well. (She cites Daniel Pink, whose excellent book I blogged about last year...)

There's a lively dialog that follows, but I'm not tracking it closely because this isn't really my area of professional focus.

milken institute global conference

I'm having a serious "how did I get here" moment...

This conference is nothing like any I've been to before. I may be the only person here not in a suit--and that includes all the staff members at the registratio desk. I'm typing this in the "AOL Pavilion," an ultra-modern tent that feels more like an electronics store, with multiple TV screens showing news, sports and weather, loud upbeat VH1-style music that I think is supposed to show all these staid business people what "the kids" are listening to these days, and a variety of odd and uncomfortable workstations with computers where those same staid business people are checking their mail and forgetting to logout. (I've seen a staffer stop at least 3 people to tell them they really need to log out...)

There is no wifi, at least not here in the pavilion. Instead, we have to use these public workstations, which are running "AOL Explorer" as their browser. I'm hoping I might find a bit of wifi in the main hotel, since it's a Hilton, but I'm not holding my breath.

I'm headed to a series of talks today related to corporate partnerships with education, in hopes of getting tips on how to increase external funding for my lab at RIT; if I can do that, going back there (as opposed to staying at MSR) would start to look much more attractive.

So here's the question--do I go shopping for a suit today? Or just stick with what I feel comfortable wearing? I can argue it either way. "Be yourself" or "When in Rome?"

Wifi or no wifi, I'll be blogging a lot of what I see today. I don't often get to attend conferences with speakers like Lance Armstrong and Leonard Nimoy. Should be quite an experience...

itwf 06: dissemination to and priorities of industry

This panel starts with Juan Gilbert from Auburn, whom I wrote about yesterday. He's editing a new IEEE computer society "Broadening Participation in Computing" series. The inaugural issue will be in March 2006. This helps to bridge the "real research" gap. (The article announcing the series, linked above, is excellent.)

He also recommends a number of other publications, starting Communications of the ACM (ITWF PI Roli Varma has an article in the February 2006 issue on making computer science minority friendly). Other journals he mentions are Jorunal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering, ASEE Journal of Engineering Education, International Journal for Service Learning in Engineering, Int'l Journal of Eng Ed, IEEE Transactions on Education. Most journals ask for suggested reviewers--and he strongly suggests that we use other people from this research cohort.

How do you make your research "count" for promotion and tenure? Funding helps enormously. (Amen.) As a faculty member, you have to do research, service, and teaching. Leverage your graduate students. ("Am I overworking my graduate students? No! I'm introducing them to reality!" :D )

Shows a Flash-based game he built to teach algebra with rap, hip-hop. The game is absolutely fabulous. I want this for my kids!!

Next up is Margaret Ashida from IBM, talking about increasing diversity in industry. Discusses an article by David Thomas on "Diversity as Strategy" in the September 2004 Harvard Business Review. It costs $6 to buy the reprint from HBR, or you can read the free interview with Thomas on the IBM web site.

Last speaker is Revi Sterling, whom I first met at MSR. She left Redmond for Boulder last summer, though, to become a PhD student at UC, and it's great to see (and hear) her again. She talks about some of Microsoft's initiatives, both internal and external. Getting businesses to look beyond the ROI-driven, quarterly mindset to longer-term intiatives with slow payoffs is a challenge. Focusing on concepts like "infrastructure" and "end-to-end solutions" gets more positive response from technology organizations. It's about contextualizing properly. She encourages more creative thinking and bolder partnerships. (She's amazingly articulate and poised, even in the face of often inaccurate criticism of "industry" generally. Makes me sad that she left Microsoft before we had a chance to work together more closely...)

itwf 06: afternoon presentations by 2004 grant recipients

I'm not blogging most of this, but I'm super-impressed by what's happening with Auburn University's Scholars of the Future program. Going beyond understanding why to fixing the problem is refreshing to see. And I really enjoyed the presentation by the PI, Juan Gilbert (despite his obviously inaccurate assertion that Auburn is the "flagship" institution of the state. ;).

One important takeaway was the value of supporting students' attendance at Tapia, a conference on minority involvement in computing that alternates years with the Grace Hopper Conference on women in computing. (I'm going to Grace Hopper this year, and will be looking for ways to take as many RIT students as I can...)

itwf 06: diana oblinger on "educating the net generation"

Diana Oblinger, the keynote speaker today, is the VP of Educause--which has recently put out an e-book on this topic of "Educating the Net Generation," which I downloaded last week but haven't read yet... She's got quite an impressive vita, including a stint at Microsoft. And she seems like a dynamic speaker, which is great.

She says she's not going to talk about IT directly. She wants to help us understand more about the differences in today's learners. We're all products of our environment, she points out, and there are very different factors influencing the "Net Gen" (web, cell phone, IM, MP3s, online communities) than those influencing Baby Boomers and Gen X. She shows a chart shwoing the average amount of media exposure the "average person" will have by age 21. (Average starting where, I'm not sure...)

Talks about "neuroplasticity"--the brain reorganizes itself throught life. Stimulation changes brain structures, the brain changes and organizes itself based on the inputs it receives.

Who are these learners? (She notes these are generalizations, broad-brush portraits, and of course there are exceptions.) Five characteristics: digital, connected, experiential, immediate, social. (Her definitions of "connected" and "social" seem quite similar...)

Educationally, what does this mean for learning preferences? Peer-to-peer learning. Interaction and engagement (this doesn't mean "entertainment," or "easy," which seems to be how Baby Boomers perceive it). Visual and kinesthetic--images, movement, and spatial relationships are important. "Things that matter"--they want socially relevant, problem-solving contexts for learning.

(Five-minute assessment: she's great! and her slides aren't awful! Also, it appears that I'm a NetGen mind in a Baby Boomer body!)

These are also time-constrained learners. 87% of college students commute, 80% work, 35% are adult learners, 31% of enrollment increases will be in adult learners. (Wow. These are stats I hadn't heard before.) But much of what we do in education is not designed for people who are time-constrained.

She shows figure about children 6 and under consuming media. Interesting that "screen media" (which combines both TV and computers, things I see as very different) is one category, and "reading" is another. Much of what my kids do on the screen involves reading. Does reading only count if it's books? If so, I don't do much "reading" anymore.

"Interpretive flexibility"--meaning is shaped by culture, technology, our understanding of education.

Students are harbingers of social and cultural change. Back to the "connected" issue--the Internet is their primary communication tool. "Peer-to-peer"--she talks about social bookmarking! She mentions and CiteULike!! In my head, I do a happy dance!!! Wikipedia as an example of "distributed cognition." Talks about the culture clash between traditional academia and "amateur culture." (Implicit "wisdom of crowds" references--I'm currently reading that book, and have a post or two brewing on it.)

Another characteristic that's emerging is "self-service"--people are doing more for themselves, like online banking, shopping, travel arrangements. It's an obvious segue to self-service learning, as well as informal, organic, activity-based, self-activated, open-ended learning.

(Yow. I can't keep up with her.)

She talks about Flickr, and shows screen shots. (!!!) She talks about how hard it is for her to go from her inherent preference for text to multiple media. (This is forcing me to rethink my current development project, which is good but also daunting.)

Time-shifting--from TV it's a short hop to controlling other kinds of content delivery.

This is a move away from the traditional hierarchical higher ed model.

Now she's talking about MMORPGS (she calls them "alternate realities," which I find somewhat problematic). She shows numbers on amount of time spent on games, number of players, revenue for the industry. Points out the average age of an online gamer is 37.

Now she's on to participatory media and culture. Cites estimates of number of blogs, blog readers, posts per day and hour (Lark, 2005 -- don't recognize the reference).

[I am beside myself with delight that the topics I'm most passionate about are being inserted into this event, and being done so by someone who's so engaging and articulate.]

The cultural shift is towards networked, mobile, participatory. There are also different perceptions. Today's students were born after the change curve had started its dramatic upwards curve, and as a result their expectations are different--they don't expect to have 3-5 years to master a technology before a new one supplants it. (That's an important point, one I've not heard made before. Academia has so not kept up with new technology, and the idea that we can or should spend 5+ years studying the use of a technology is becoming increasingly problematic.)

These interfaces are shaping learning. She talks about Alice in Wonderland--new technologies are offering that model, the ability to "fall into" these immersive virtual environments. Cites JSB's "learning to be." Points out that we need not just immersion, but also reflection. Need to be able to take a step back and think about how it worked. That combination is very powerful.

Shows some sobering figures on US higher ed generally, challenging the "we're number one!" perception.

New critical skills for the workforce: expert thinking (identifying and solving problems for which there is no routine solution--pattern matching, metacognition), and complex communication (persuading, explaining, interpreting information; negotiating, managing, gaining trust, teaching, etc).

Key point: education is not equivalent to content. Lots of good points she's making, but I can't keep up.

If you sum up everything we know about educational research, you find that we get educational value from:
* challenging ideas and people
* active engagement with challenges
* supportive environment
* real-world activities
* social activity
* unbounded by time or place

Provides some interesting examples:

  • Allowing students to do a virtual version of a science lab before doing a real-world version, the quality of the real-world experience is greatly enhanced. Both is better than either/or.
  • Shows an archaeology class project from UBC where the students had to build a virtual fly-through of Athens.
  • Hand-held genetics game called "live long and prosper" where students move around the room "exchanging DNA" between their programs. More experiential, more interactive, more engaging.
  • MIT "Environmental Detectives" game where students work in teams to solve a hypothetical local health problem--they have to interact with the environment to accomplish this

Games are fundamentally immersive (she points out it's not just the graphics, it's the gameplay that makes them immersive and engaging).

Shows a classroom just like ours--everybody stuck behind a big monitor. Contrasts to room (apparently at NCSU) with circular tables and laptops, designed for "built pedagogy." A single focal point at the front of the room with chairs bolted facing forward--this forces a mode of teaching. Putting people at round tables says "we want you interact." (Which is why we're doing the symposium setup in rounds of 10, rather than classroom/lecture layout.)

Talks about NCSU's SCALE-UP program ("student centered activities for large enrollment undergratudate programs"). This looks fabulous! Need to read more about it.

Emphasizes the need for more informal learning spaces. NCSU again--"fly spaces" in the student center, easily configurable for small group work. Glass matters--seeing people practice their profession is fundamentally engaging (I love this about the Golisano building at RIT).

Moves on to information literacy--cognitive, ethical, and technical aspects (gives props to librarians, who've been talking about this for decades).

What do employers really want from students, in terms of learning outcomes? It's not being able to program in C++. It's the more abstract skills like communication and problem solving (how many times have we heard this from our advisory board? but this isn't completely true--often the technical skills are the baseline, and what differentiates two students with the same skills are those higher-level cognitive abilities).

Shows figures on satisfaction with web-based learning (study done at UCF); younger students are least pleased by the web-based environment. (She translates that to the young people wanting to have more social interaction, but it seems to me there's more going on there. I suspect that some of it is that the majority of the web-based course management tools are horrendously awful, and younger people have higher expectations.)

She's done. (Phew. That was an amazingly content-packed hour. I wonder how much, if any, got absorbed by the audience.)

First question--how do we convince our administrators to put in the kinds of collaborative spaces that she described? She answers that Educause is doing a lot more executive outreach to help facilitate this. They're trying hard to raise awareness of the importance, but they need face time. They've got a book coming out in August on learning space design--will have to look for that. Like the NetGen book, it will be a free e-book.


itwf 06: "disseminating your good results"

The first panel here is focused on disseminating research, and includes Andrew Bernat, the executive director of the Computing Research Association, Kathryn Bartol of UMCP, Bobby Schnabel of the National Center for Women & IT at UC Boulder, Eileen Trauth of Penn State, and Catherine Weinberger of UC Santa Barbara.

Bernat talks about "what goes wrong?" with getting women involved with computing research. He points out that finding a woman or minority takes more time (because they're scarce resources), and faculty are often under the gun on producing research results. What do we do? "Make it easy." Need to find the people who want to make a difference, and provide them with support--facilities, workshops, reinforcers. And if none of that works, bribe them. (Depressing note: He talks about a program where they did this, and it was really successful, but...only about half of the people participating got tenure. Ouch. What does that say about institutional commitment to these kinds of efforts to broaden participation?!)

Bartol discusses management-related publications and conferences where researchers can disseminate their work, the idea being that the ideas need to get out to business and management faculty who consult with industry. (Why not go straight to the trade press so people industry will see it themselves, though? Probably because there's no reward in academia for publishing that way...)

(I think I'm going to come down with a serious case of powerpoint poisoning before this workshop is over...)

Trauth differentiates between direct interventions (contributing to practice), and indirect interventions (contribution to future research). When we publish in academic channels, we're doing indirect interventions, helping to foster research by others that can build on what we've done. When we work directly with schools and businesses to implement the kinds of changes that our research results suggest would be useful, that's a direct intervention. She tosses out a great line--"What good is power if you can't use it?" So, for example, when asked to chair the SIGMIS conference in 2003, she did so under the condition that the topic be diversity. She also discusses ways she contributes to practice--teaching a human diversity course, giving lectures and presentations. For the lectures, she's not always asked to speak about gender issues, but she brings those issues in by using her gender research as a case study in her discussions of qualitative research methods, etc.

Weinberger shares a striking factoid: women with college degrees in computer science earn 30-50% more than women with degrees in other fields, regardless of age. (Wow. She says her article will be in Eileen Trauth's upcoming Encyclopedia of Gender and IT--would really like to see how that figure was generated. And yes, the encyclopedia is outrageously priced. :P On the one hand, I'd like to say you should ask your local library to consider buying it. On the other, I'm appalled by the price, even for a library, and wonder why this work couldn't have been done as an open online publication...) Another interesting factoid from her article--women are more likely to see themselves as unable to complete CS work than any other field (including medicine).

She offers the suggestion that dissemination should start with teaching undergraduates, and also with teaching faculty. And she suggests that we put together a short guide to the research we've been doing in this field, geared towards busy faculty who don't have the time or inclination to read through this body of work. A short, focused publication that could be easily and inexpensively disseminated. (What a great idea!) She asks "what if new NSF grant recipients were required to spend time online learning about our most compelling research results?"

Last up is Schnabel, talking about "Effective Practices and Dissemination." One of the key areas of focus for NCWIT is "creating a national community of practitioners with a sustaining infrastructure," which has involved creating alliances with academic institutions, K-12 schools, and industry/workforce. They're still trying to learn how to make this an effective organization for social change. Becoming a partner in the alliance carries with it a responsibility to do more than just attend meetings and be "part of the club." It looks like they're doing some interesting things, and they've definitely got some great people working with them.

They're doing a weird thing with questions--people have to write them down on index cards and pass them up, where they'll be read by the moderator. There are fewer than 75 people in the room, so I'm not sure why they aren't letting people voice their own questions.

(I stepped out to get some coffee, and apparently a heated discussion about how research proposals are evaluated, and how faculty are evaluated on research...trying to pick up the pieces of the conversational thread to see if I can figure out what's going on.)

Ah...apparently one of the panel members (who shall remain nameless, as I didn't hear the whole context and don't want to implicate improperly) implied that research into underrepresentation isn't "really research," and that this kind of research doesn't get faculty "fame and fortune" the way other kinds of research do. There's clearly a cultural divide here between the technologists and social scientists. For the social scientists, obviously this is the "real research." For computer scientists, it's harder to make the case for this focus.

This issue has troubled me since my first interactions with the ITWF research community. So much of the research comes from the "outside"--people studying computer science/computer scientists without being a part of that world. I'm often struck by how non-conversant in basic CS concepts and terminology many of the social scientists studying underrepresentation are. But I think it's true that it's very hard for those of us in technology to justify taking time away from our applied research to focus on this topic. In many research universities, it's far more important for junior faculty in technology fields to be doing research in their areas of specialty. The model at CMU, where Margolis and Fisher worked together, is one I'd like to see more often. (In that case, the CS representative was someone with sufficient seniority that they didn't need to worry about things like tenure and promotion--but if that model becomes more widespread, it may become easier for less senior faculty to do similar work.)

There's an interesting side discussion about the CS/IT divide, and the extent to which a faction of CS doesn't see a value in IT. But when CRA goes to the hill, they talk about IT, not CS, because that's where the money goes.

...and that's a wrap. break time. back later. (today's keynote on the "net gen" looks interesting, and I'll definitely blog it)

nsf principal investigators' meeting - it workforce

For the next two days, I'll be listening to (and participating in) a series of discussions on research into women's participation in computing. The ITWF program, which funded my grant research into gendered attrition in IT, has funded a number of really interesting research and implementation programs, and many of the researchers will be talking today and tomorrow about their work.

Two years ago, I attended a similar meeting and didn't blog it, because people seemed quite edgy about preliminary results being reported out. This year, however, I intend to blog the interesting things I hear--this is, after all, government-funded research, and the proceedings I received have no disclaimers limiting my ability to share the information. I promise to clearly indicate where results are tentative or preliminary, and to point you to the people you need to contact if you want more information.

Posts related to this workshop will have itwf 06 in the title, so you (and I) can keep track of them.

(It's odd--I'm surrounded by a bunch of really talented, intelligent, accomplished researchers, but I keep getting this feeling that "this is not my tribe." Very different from attending events more focused on social and collaborative computing. Nobody I've talked to here seems to have any idea what I'm talking about when I say "social bookmarking systems," for instance--I keep wishing I'd brought a giant stack of this week's Newsweek cover story so I could just hand it to them and say "I study this stuff.")

2006 msr social computing symposium

Two years ago, I was thrilled when I received an invitation to Microsoft Research's first social computing symposium. I had a wonderful time at the event, and found a lot of kindred spirits in the world of social computing research and development. I also made my first contacts with Lili Cheng and Linda Stone, who've gone on to be the best mentors anyone could ask for. Lili, who managed the social computing group at MSR (until she left to direct the user experience team for Windows Vista), was responsible for my sabbatical invitation.

Last year, with my plans to join the group over the summer well underway, I combined attendance at the second symposium with a househunting trip, and once again connected with people who amazed and inspired me.

This year, I find myself not just attending the symposium, but running it. Upon Lili's departure from MSR, followed quickly by the departure of Shelly Farnham (who'd masterfully managed the event for the past two years), Marc Smith inherited the event and asked me to run it. The event takes place May 7-9 this year, and we've narrowed the focus a bit from past years. The two areas of emphasis for this year's symposium are online "third places" and/or mobile social software. As in past years, we've split the group approximately into thirds--Microsoft & MSR, industry experts, and academics. We've also made a significant effort to bring in new names and faces; the repeat rate from past symposia is quite low (38/90 who have been to at least one of the events, only 19 who've attended both; those numbers are 23 and 9 if you look only at non-Microsoft attendees).

First, the bad news--the symposium is totally full. We keep the event small, both to foster community and to keep the cost manageable. Microsoft covers the entire cost of the event--facilities, meals, and transportation/housing costs for those presenting (and for doctoral students). Now the good news--if you weren't invited, you'll still have a chance to participate. We'll be webcasting the event live (the panels and the closing keynotes, though not the "open space" discussions.) We'll also have a live backchannel, probably IRC. (I was thinking about trying Campfire, but they've got a limit of 60 concurrent users, and with 90 participants onsite and an unknown number of external visitors, that's probably too low a cap.)

I'm working on getting a public web page up with information about the event, including the schedule and participant list--with any luck, that will be available by the end of this week, at which point I'll update this post to point to it.

This year's event wouldn't be happening if Microsoft Research wasn't maintaining its commitment to social computing and open dialogs, and if MSN/Windows Live hadn't stepped in to help support the cost of the event. Also providing some support were Channel 9 (and its new sister, on10), and MSCOM. (So you understand why the number of invitations had to be constrained, the cost of the event will end up being over $60K. Seattle's not a cheap place to throw a party.)

It's easy to hate Microsoft--there have been many reasons over the years (from business practices to blue screens of death) to do so. But it's worth giving them credit for activities like this one, which benefit the community as a whole through fostering community and collaboration. Anyone who's attended the past events will tell you this is not a marketing ploy, and that they got something of value of out of the experience.

Currently playing in iTunes: Nobody Else from the album "Los Lonely Boys" by Los Lonely Boys

april is the cruellest month

As noted in the earlier entry, I'm on my way to Durham, NC, for an NSF PI meeting. (No, the grant research isn't done yet. Yes, it was supposed to be done a year ago. No, I don't really want to talk about it.) I was up painfully early this morning. Note to self: never to book a 6:30am flight on the first day of daylight savings time; the clock woke me up at what it claimed was 4am, but my body believed it was 3, and I'll end up with an extra hour of jet lag.

I only got back from Rochester on Tuesday night (edging towards Wednesday morning), so it wasn't much of a respite. Barely time to empty the suitcase, run the clothes through the laundry, and repack. The PI meeting lasts through Tuesday night, but I'm not headed home from there. Instead, I fly from Durham to Boulder (well, to Denver, where I'll take a shuttle to Boulder), to participate in an NSF site visit of the National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT). I arrive in Boulder Wednesday afternoon, the site visit is Thursday, and then I head back to Seattle that night.

At that point I get to stay home for over a week, after which I take a two-day trip to DC to speak about social information tools at a Knowledge Management conference, the details of which escape me at the moment.

Then I'm home, and in full-on crunch mode preparing for this year's MSR Social Computing Symposium (more on that in the next post). Yikes!

sxsw serendipity

The best part of SXSW isn't the panels (though there are often excellent presentations). It's the serendipity. The hallway/restaurant/party connections and conversations. The friend-of-a-friend introductions. The silliness and the creativity and the laughter.

I slept late this morning, and made it to the conference in time to bump into Justin Hall, who led me to where Joi was speaking--so I got a chance (after what I think has been nearly 1.5 years) to give him an in-person hug and hello. After that I was hungry, and couldn't find anyone who wanted to eat (even using Dodgeball didn't yield its usual excellent results), so I wandered off to Iron Works BBQ for one last hit of regional food. As I sat down, Lili called out my name--she, Jenny, and Scoble were there, along with Craig Newmark (yes, that Craig), and Cathy Brooks. It was a lovely lunch, with lots of laughter. One lunch like that, and the camaraderie it fosters, is worth the price of the trip to Austin.

This afternoon I'm sitting in the overflow room for the Burnie Burns keynote, getting caught up on email and blog posts and text messages. At 3:30 I've got to decide between games and stories, and then I'll grab my suitcase and try to catch 20 minutes of Bruce Sterling before I head for the airport, and back to my family and bed and kitchen and other comforts of home. As always, I'm glad I was here, but I'm also more than ready to head back home.

sxsw 2006 update

Yes, I made it safely to Austin. Blogging silence was due to massive overcommitment on Saturday (I ended up speaking on three panels), and then massive decompression on Sunday (I didn't even attend one panel, though I did make an appearance at a couple of receptions before turning in early again).

The panel I was most worried about, the book digitization panel, went (I thought) extremely well. Daniel Clancy from Google, Bob Stein from the Center for the Future of the Book, and Danielle Tiedt from Microsoft's book search program were my fellow panelists, and we tried to involve the audience heavily in the conversation. We capped it off with a delicious bbq lunch at Ironworks. The panel I didn't expect to speak on was danah boyd's "Designing for Local and Global Social Play," which went really well. The highlight was a game that we played called "the secret game" which I'll describe in a separate post.

Today I'm trying to shift back into conference mode, starting with Peter Morville's talk on "ambient findability" (the subject of his new book, which I really need to get and read). Peter and I went to the same library school, a few years apart, so while we don't know each other except peripherally, I'm always happy to see how well-respected his work and ideas are in the tech community.

As usual, Peter's doing a good job of using PPT as a way to show useful graphical examples, rather than bombarding us with bullet points. Yay.

He's talking about search right now, and about search as a system. He notes that companies spend more time on tweaking the search interface, and not nearly enough on the results interface. This includes not just ranking and clustering algorithms, but also the interface design that lets you pick out key information from the results screen.

He cites Marcia Bates' work on information seeking behavior, and points out that it's much more complex than search engine designers typically recognize. Search is an iterative process--searches don't exist independently of that iterative, linear process.

Talks about the problem with the term "usability"--what does that mean? What are the components of a good user experience? (Lists useful, usable, findable, valuable, desirable, accessible, credible as a few criteria.)

(I'm not providing a lot of the details, because I'm assuming that much of this is in his book...)

He shows some examples that he provided to NIH regarding searches for cancer-related information, and notes how many searches on cancer are done in public search engines as opposed to on their site, which doesn't come up high in the rankings. (Where did he get these search term frequency figures from August 2005? Isn't this the kind of data that the government requested and that everyone was so concerned about being provided?)

Finally gets into the ambient findability piece (halfway through the talk). "The ability to find anyone or anything from anywhere at any time." Hmmm. That doesn't sound so great to me, actually. The panopticon has a very dark side. (He does acknowledge that, to some extent, though without as much reservation as I feel at the prospect.)

"A wealth of information creates a poverty of attention." (Herb Simon) [searching on that phrase pulls up some interesting sites on attention...]

Shows a device intended to be locked onto a kids' arm to track their location and give you access via a web interface. Discusses the strong emotional response people have to this. Interestingly, he says, reviews on Amazon complain primarily about it not working well enough, not about potential privacy issues.

Cites David Brin's book The Transparent Society, with a long quote on "reciprocal transparency" that I don't have time to write down. (I didn't know about this book; will need to track it down)

What's going to solve information retrieval challenges, help us make the needle in the haystack bigger? He doesn't think it's going to be artificial intelligence (ms bob isn't going to save us), nor is it going to be information visualization (which is beautiful but not always useful; shows treemaps as an example). Even with maps--the applications are beautiful, but often not nearly as usable as we need. Most people jsut want to get from point a to point b--and they use the text directions more than the map itself. Collective intelligence and user participation need to be in the solution. (Hmmm. I can think of refutation to this...)

So, who's going to help us? the librarians, of course. (Puts up a slide with "Revenge of the Librarians"--where have I heard that before?) Has the web turned us all into librarians? ("Metadata is sexy now!" he proclaims.)

We should be careful not throw the old ways of organizing information out as we adopt the new ways. Quotes David Weinberger: "The old way creates a tree, the new way rakes the leaves together." What happens to piles of leaves, he asks? They rot, and become food for new trees.

(There's more to this presentation, but I tuned out for a bit while i dealt with incoming IM and email and text messages... My guess is this is one of the things that will end up with the podcast up on the sxsw podcast page, so you can watch it yourself if you're interested...)

pre-dawn packing

It's so quiet in our house at 4:30am. And cold, this morning--it's actually colder here in Seattle than it is back in Rochester, which is unusual. Feels odd to be packing sleeveless tops and sandals, but it's going to be 90 in Austin, so sweaters don't make a lot of sense. (Though I do recall the convention center being quite frigid, so I'm bringing a fleece pullover.)

I've downloaded a few TV shows for my iPod, checked my mail, told American to ping me if my flights change. I've printed my boarding passes, packed my camera, and remembered my brand-new Bose noise-cancelling headphones (a gift from Gerald that I've been looking forward to trying out on an airplane). I've packed socks and bras and underwear, pants and shirts and sandals, hairbrush and toothbrush. Still have the nagging feeling I'm forgetting something, but chances are I won't remember what it is until after my plane's in the air. With luck it will be something easy and inexpensive to replace in Austin.

Now it's time for breakfast, sleepy hugs and kisses from Gerald and the boys, and a (hopefully traffic-free) trip down 405 to SeaTac. Austin, here I come...

spring travel plans

Every year I seem to have two "crunch" times for back-to-back travel commitments--early spring, and late fall. This year is shaping up to be no exception. On the books for the next two months:

  • SXSW/Interactive in Austin, March 10-14. I love Austin, and I love SXSW, so this should be fun. Speaking on one panel on Saturday morning, moderating another...and then I get to just relax and enjoy the rest of the event
  • Back to Rochester for a week, March 22-28, along with the kids. Visiting family and friends, meeting with colleagues, and participating in a friend's dissertation defense (I'm her outside committee member). Oh--and celebrating Weez's wonderful news!
  • NSF ITWF PI conference (transation: National Science Foundation's "Information Technology WorkForce" program meeting for Principal Investigators) in Durham April 2-4
  • NSF site visit of the National Center for Women & Information Technology in Boulder, CO, April 5

I was also supposed to attend an event in Santa Barbara, but it conflicts with the PI meeting. :( And I'm cancelling a commitment to speak at a KM conference in DC in April, because the travel is just too hard on all of us here in the Lawley household. And because I'm hosting this year's Social Computing symposium here at MSR, and the planning will probably be taking up a good bit of time at that point.

Not as bad as some spring travel stints I've had, but busy enough that I'll be glad when it's over.

conference registration software?

Does anyone know of a good, free, lightweight, event registration software system that I could install on a unix-based web server?

I'm running an event that will have ~90 people at it, and I want an easy way for them to be able to register for the event, and submit basic bios (and photos, ideally, but I can live without that). No money collection, no complex program management. And it would be nice to be able to have basic functionality built in to generate a list of participants, and even nametags.

Yes, I know this is buildable, probably with relatively little effort. But I have zero free time and zero dev resources to devote to this, so would much rather avoid reinventing the wheel if the wheel already exists.

gypsies, tramps, and thieves

I'm on my way back to Seattle right now from San Francisco, where I was speaking at the Syndicate conference (topic: "searching the syndisphere"). It was fun to speak on the topic, which involved channeling my inner librarian in order to champion the role of the user in the search context.

It was even more fun, however, to see some folks whom I only tend to see on the conference circuit, as well as some whose names I know from online contexts but whom I hadn't had a chance to meet in person. (I started to list people by name, but realized that I'd probably leave someone out and offend them, and that it sounded too much like name dropping...)

As I was sitting in the speakers room (the best place to find familiar faces, not to mention power outlets near tables) yesterday morning, two people I didn't know saw each other and exchanged enthusiastic greetings. Apparently they hadn't seen each other since they'd crossed paths at another conference some months ago. One remarked to other that these conferences had become the modern day equivalent of gypsy encampments--same faces, same setup, new town, new audience.

I loved that metaphor, and shared it via IM with my friend and MSN office mate Brady Forrest, who replied with this:

cables hanging from the waist instead of tiny bells

t-shirts instead of colorful blankets

secrets being pilfered instead of food and trinkets

demoers instead of performers

works for me

Works for me, too (although I'd probably substitute Treos for cables in the description). I love the image of a band of folks on the fringes of polite society setting up a show in town after town, gathering to entertain (and, some might claim, con) one population after another.

I'm happy to be a part of this motley crew--they're a modern mobile tribe for me, people with whom I have a strong connection and affinity, but limited opportunities to see in person. So I'm grateful that I can grab time with them in our modern-day encampments of speaker rooms and catered luncheons.

brilliant presentation on identity

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.")

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

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

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.

collin brooke on blogging practices

I'm posting this as much for myself as for anyone reading the blog. Lately I keep coming across things that really force me to stop and think, and then they slip away and out of my attention radius. When they're here in the blog, they're less "out of sight, out of mind."

Collin Brooke posted a nice piece tonight on "Blogging Practices, and I found his criticisms of academia to be right on target:

I'm constantly struck by how little we seem to understand or even talk about what it takes to publish, what publishing our work accomplishes (and in some cases, how little it can accomplish), what the real costs and rewards for our work are, etc. As I was preparing that talk a couple of weeks ago, it seemed like the height of obviousness to me to describe humanities scholarship as Long Tail work, and yet, I see indications all around me that we don't want to think of our work in that way: our aversion to collaboration, our inability to aggregate, our obsession with celebrity, etc. Hell, I have to fight every day to keep those things at bay--I love to imagine being paid lots of money to keynote conferences, to have my work read and discussed far and wide, to be semi-famous. But that's a Head reward system that disguises the more modest (but potentially longer lasting) rewards at the Tail end of things.

So, I'm in a strange place as an academic. I was recently paid money ("lots" is a relative term, I suppose) to keynote a conference. Unlike many academics, I have little aversion to collaboration or aggregation. But I am a tenured associate professor with a lab of my own, and I often feel like a stranger in a strange land no matter where I am.

Early on in my blogging, I wrote about aspects of synchronicity and collaboration in blogging, as well as my frustration with the fact that I seemed unable to produce original thoughts--that my skill was in synthesis rather than creation.

As time has passed (and I've gotten tenure, and some modicum of readership--though that's been dropping lately with my relative paucity of posts), I've started to be able to forgive myself for my lack of traditional scholarly output, and to be able to value my role as more of a human aggregator.

I wish academia did a better job of valuing the kinds of skills I've got--sifting and sorting, connecting the dots and seeing the big picture, intuiting and forecasting. It's not that traditional research isn't valuable--it's just that it's not the only way to put education and knowledge to work. RIT is better than most schools in recognizing a diversity of scholarship approaches (basing its recent scholarship policy on Boyer's reasonably broad definitions. But they're the exception rather than the rule.

To the extent that I'm part of the "head," the best thing I think I can do with that visibility is connect up more people in the tail. I don't want to get stuck in an incestuous echo chamber of digerati blogs and conferences--which is perhaps why I took such pleasure in being at Internet Librarian, where I was learning every bit as much as I was teaching.

(Collin tagged his post with academy2.0, which made me smile.)

internet librarian 05: parting thoughts

This is the first conference I've attended in a long time that's made me want to blog non-stop. And it's not insignificant that it's a library-focused conference that inspired me.

When I took a job teaching information technology, instead of a job teaching in a library school, I assumed I was leaving my library roots behind. I wasn't able to justify travel to library conferences, and I felt my ties to the professions starting to dissolve. But over the past several years, with the rise in social computing as a theme in technology, I'm delighted to find the threads weaving back together. Suddenly, libarians are talking about the same things that technologists are talking about--managing information, collaborative filtering, metadata and classification schemes. And I'm in the wonderful position of having a legitimate foot in both camps.

At the speakers' reception last night, Michael Stephens told me he was preparing to do a survey of librarian bloggers, and asked me if I'd participate. It was lovely to be thought of as a librarian in the present tense.

And now, as I fly over Utah's extraordinarily beautiful Great Salt Lake (I've never seen it before, and am grateful for the clear skies that are allowing me this bird's-eye will be on Flickr soon), I'm thinking about how to keep these bonds a little tighter in the future. I really should touch base with some of the faculty I know at UW's I-School, and see about maybe giving an occasional guest lecture over there. And I'll be working hard on the folks at MSN, whose absence was notable this week. Google's not making the mistake of ignoring libraries in their quest to win the hearts and minds of searchers, and MSN shouldn't be making it either. If that's the only tangible legacy I leave behind, it will have been a year well spent.

internet librarian 05: search engine choices

Greg Notess and Gary Price, two genuine experts on search engines and our choices.

Greg and Gary both start out by saying "Google's not the only answer." It's the job of information professionals to know all of the options, not just the most popular one. Gary notes how hard it is for anybody but Google to get the word out about their products.

Current web search engines with unique databases
* AskJeeves
* Google
MSN (says librarians really should pay more attention to this!)

meta engines
* A9
* clusty/vivisimo
* dogpile (one of the few that hits all 4)


  • redlightgreen
  • topix
  • findory (heh...I just had dinner with the ceo of this.)

Greg says that he doesn't like to start his searches with Google. As a reference librarian, if he starts with something other than Google it boosts his credibility with patrons--he's not just doing the same thing that they do! :) Shows the example of a discussion list posting that was only available on Yahoo (not on Google or MSN). If you care about comprehensivenss, you have to be willing to use multiple sources.

AskJeeves give you a different kind of relevance view. Says they've come the farthest on "quick info" on a search. Shows a search on "Chicago" as an example. He and Gary then also show a search on "the Beatles," which gives you a variety of useful "expand your search" options. They note that AskJeeves have reduced the number of ads on their pages, which many people don't realize. (In contrast to other

MSN Search is up next. Acknowledges that not all Microsoft products are best of breed. BUT...MSN search is no longer powered by other people's indexes, and right now they're doing a better job than anyone else of keeping things fresh. They also mention that MSN Search gives you free access to Encarta content. You get two hours of access each time you do a search leading to Encarta (can limit to Encarta only, or let it be part of the overall results). They haven't promoted it, but it's a feature that librarians should be promoting--particularly as a comparison to wikipedia.

Shows MSN's search builder, which is great for showing people how to build complex searches--uses drop-down boxes and sliders for ranking. They don't show; will have to ping them about that, because I suspect they may not be aware of it.

Next up is Yahoo; they recommend that people use rather than, to avoid clutter. Shows that you can edit the tabs (there's a tiny "edit" link up there...) to the kinds of vertical/specialized searches you want. (That's cool! I didn't know that!) If you're logged into Yahoo, the settings will follow you. In advanced search, they show off the creative commons option, as well as their "subscriptions" search, which is extremely interesting (Mary Ellen mentioned this on Monday, too). He shows the blog search stuff that's been added (that's another post that's brewing for me; I'm extremely unimpressed by their implementation of blog search). Then they show Mindset, as well--again, I don't love that shopping/research is the only axis. Shows the shift from "did you mean"

Complains about lack of transparency in how search engines (especially Google) works.

Damn. I need to go to the airport, and will miss the metasearch and vertical search discussion. Hopefully someone else will blog it...I'm outta here!

internet librarian 05: google debate

Rich Wiggins squares off against Roy Tennant in a debate over "Google: Catalyst for Digitization or Library Destruction?"

Rich starts off, and is utterly charming. Some funny starting slides, hard to capture in print because of their visual impact.

Starts by talking about a similar debate they had 4 years ago. (The slides are dense with bullet points now, and I'm sitting where it's hard for me to see the screen, so I'm not going to try to transcribe them. Later I'll look for a pointer to the presentation online.)

How many bytes are in the LIbrary of Congress? This is a non-trivial question, with lots of technical aspects. You can't gloss those aspects (resolution, color, etc) because you'll end up wasting effort. Rich cites Brewster Kahle's estimate of 20 terabytes.

Rich says it's becoming so inexpensive to capture full-text and images that complete digitization is becoming realistic. Disk space is cheap, scanning technology has improved. He asked google what they're using, and they wouldn't answer. (Color me shocked...) I wonder whether Microsoft will be more forthcoming, considering their partnership with OCA. I hope so. [add musing on google's secrecy here]

Refers the comment last night by Stephen Abrams that we spend more money getting abook through ILL than we do to buy it. (That's a really interesting thing to think about.)

There are a bunch of straw man arguments here. He dismisses the preservation argument--we have better access, since you can still get the stuff online after a fire. (But what happens when the power goes out? That happens a lot more often...) Doesn't address the question of what happens when data is stored in proprietary formats--do we know what format Google will store this information in?

His bottom line, "Google Print has taught us to 'think big.'" (hmmm. does the period go before or between the single and double quotes there?)

Argues that this vision of digitization will have to be done by a forward-thinking company -- not by government. It has to be a company. (He claims that Google invented Ajax!!!!) Mocks Microsoft, saying they're playing catchup, and not very well. "Hmmm...Google's going to digitize millions of books? We'll digitize 150,000!"

Now it's Roy's turn. Starts out by saying that his bottom line is "more access is better." He thinks it's great that Google's digitizing stuff, that OCA is doing it, that libraries have been doing it for decades. There's a lot of room for everyone to be involved. Says he's going to try to be provocative, and starts out a halloween-themed slide that reads "Google: Devil? or Merely Evil?" (I didn't get a photo of this, but would love to get the slide from him.) Says he's going to talk about the scary monsters that he sees lurking in this project.

The first monster: the fair use problem. He's concerned about Google trying to shield themselves with fair use. Because this has pulled the issue into the courts, it has the potential to result in restriction of fair use rights for everyone, including libraries.

The second monster: Closed access to open material. For example, there are many copies of Call of the Wild that are freely avaialble. But when you go to Google Print, you won't know that--you'll see the reprinted, proprietary version from a publisher, without an indication that it's in the public domain and can be found from other sources. "And to add insult to injury, they give you links to buy the book, but no links to libraries." He's been assured this will change, but it hasn't happened yet, and there's no guarantee that it will.

The third monster: Blind, wholesale digitiazation. He's not so sure this is a good thing. Large collections in research libraries are choked with out-of-date crap, so that their collection numbers are high enough to keep them in their "tier." Also, because copyrighted information is more difficult to get to, people will rely on old, out of date information because it's free and easy to get to. Is this a good thing? (This is a great point that I haven't heard mentioned before.) OCA is more focused on selective digitization--for example, American literature.

The fourth monster: advertising. How long before we see ads for antidepressant medication next to Hamlet? Google's window of opportunity to do "good things" will be constricted by their responsiblity to stockholders.

The fifth monster: secrecy
The agreements between Google and libraries have been largely kept secret. Before the announcement, the Google libraries could not even talk to each other. Michigan revealed theirs (but not until a Freedom of Info Act request forced it, and months after the project was announced). Rumor has it that UM has the best agreement from the library perspective, and that other libraries are agreeing to much less onerous terms. This is a hot button for me. One of the things that I really like about Microsoft is the extent to which its researchers regularly collaborate, publish, and present outside of the company. If Google's intent is purely philanthropic, why does the commitment to "provide access to the world's information" stop at their front door?

The sixth monster: longevity.

  • What do google, Enron, and WorldCon all have in common? Answer: They are or were publicly traded companies motivated by profit. Two are now gone.
  • What does google have in common with libraries? Answer: They're both on planet earth. (much laughter)
  • How old is the harvard library? Answer: 400+ years. How old is Google: 7. So, which of these organizations do you want to trust with your intellectual heritage?

Now Adam Smith gets a chance to respond. Flashes a charming grin, and says "I'm not that dangerous, am I?" :) (This is what scares me most about Google. Their people and their products are indeed so seductively charming, it's easy to take their claims of purely philanthropic motivation seriously.)

He encourages feedback and criticism--says that's how they make their products better. They launch things quickly so they can get feedback quickly. They walk a difficult path in trying to make many parties happy. Their goal is to make information more accessible, not hidden in library stacks. Says he'll be here to answer questions.

He's asked about the scanning process--they've developed a proprietary non-destructive scanning process, but are not at liberty to disclose that. Someone asks about privacy, Adam refers them to Google's privacy policy. Someone else asks if it's true that one of the libraries requested that only manual page turning be part of the scanning, and he again invokes "no comment."

I ask about the disjoint between the stated policy of helping the world by making information accessible and the veil of secrecy surrounding everything they do, and he's unable to respond--says he's only been there two years, and isn't really familiar with the reasoning behind their policies on disclosure. I express surprise that he hasn't asked for clarification, since I would think he's asked this fairly often, and he says he's never been challenged on this in a public forum before. I'd love to think that's not true, but I suspect that the Google mystique, which they cultivate so very well, has a lot to do with that.

Lots of discussion, not all of which I capture mentally (let alone here on the screen).

my public apology to adam smith of google

So, I owe Adam Smith an apology. I was awfully snarky in my blog post last night, and somewhat unfair in my characterization. He was gracious enough to stop by to say hello this morning, after having read my post, and I apologized to him then. But if I'm going to ding him publicly on my site, I feel as though I should apologize publicly, as well.

First of all, as many people pointed out to me this morning, he's most definitely not over 40 (while I cannot authoritatively confirm his gender, I'm still fairly confident that he's male...).

Second, as someone representing his company, he's under significant constraints in terms of what he can say. When I went through employee orientation at Microsoft, I was warned many times about how quickly people would distort what I said or wrote simply because of my affiliation with the company. I was skeptical, but since then I've seen first-hand how that does indeed happen, and I can't fault Adam for being cautious in his responses, and sticking close to the party line.

Finally, I have to give him (and Google) huge props for being here, and engaging in the dialogue. He's weathered a lot of criticism gracefully, and that's not easy to do even when you don't have hundreds of people watching you.

glory days

I'm in my hotel room, getting ready for bed while my iPod mini plays songs on shuffle. Right now, Bruce Springsteen is singing "Glory Days," a song I love but haven't listened to in ages. And it got me thinking not about high school, but about library school.

It's odd being at a library conference without the bulk of my library posse...a group of tech-savvy librarians that coalesced in LITA in the late 1980s when many of us were students or recent alums of the University of Michigan School of Information and Library Studies (at least two name changes ago; it's now the School of Information).

For years and years we've gathered at ALA conferences--for dinner, drinking, and occasional debauchery. During those years we've married and divorced (not each other, thankfully), changed jobs and career paths and addresses. We've gotten older, too. We don't drink quite as much as we used to, or go out quite as late.

The part that's the hardest for me to come to terms with cognitively. We're not the young turks at the conferences anymore...we're a bona fide old guard. We're library directors, business owners, and pundits. We're the ones giving the keynote speeches. I can remember vividly the night that two of us ended up accidentally crashing the LITA president's reception in New Orleans, and feeling so completely out of place. Fast forward to today, when at least two of our crowd have been LITA presidents themselves (including my companion that night), and the bulk of us have been on the board at least once.

Here at Internet Librarian, I see the next posse hanging in the halls. They're talking about blogs and flickr and They're laughing out loud at the stodginess around them (as well they should), and carving out their own space. And I find that I'm not at all jealous. I love seeing them blaze their own paths, create their own disruptive force. I don't want to go back to who and where I was fifteen years ago. But I am oh so glad for the friendships that were forged during those conference romps, and the memories that remain. I can only hope that this new group of go-getters will have as many joys and successes in the profession that we've had.

So here's to you, my glory day friends. You know who you are.

internet librarian: the googlebrary

Tonight's panel is moderated by Stephen Abrams, with a number of library pundits and Adam Smith from Google Print. Before the presentation even begins, a young man circulates around the room handing out a glossy sheet with the Google logo at the top entitled "The Facts About Google Print." Gotta love their ability to spin things. It's not an "FAQ," it's not "information"--it's Facts.

I've spent a lot of time over the past few days talking with librarians who are openly enthusiastic about Google's digitization project--not because they love Google, but because they desperately want this information in searchable form. This evening at the speaker's reception, someone said to me "the only question is when this will happen." I looked at him in surprise, and responded that I thought that an equally important question was "who."

So, the panel's about to start...and the first thing I notice is that I seem to have been transported into a web 2.0 panel: all white men, all the time. The only difference is that all of these men are over 40. <sigh> I don't mean to denigrate any of the panel members--they're all smart, accomplished guys. Rich Wiggins from MSU, Steve Arnold from Arnold Info Systems, Roy Tennant from Cal Dig Lib, Mark Sandler of Univ Mich, and Adam Smith from Google Print.

Oh...wait! Barbara Quint, editor of Searcher Magazine, is here, virtually (via speaker phone). A truly invisible woman in this case.

Stephen Abrams is a great moderator--energetic, funny, engaging. Notes that Google's under fire from publishers and authors, and now the threat of congressional hearings. "I'm sorry, I'm from Canada. We think your congressional hearings are great entertainment."

Starts with Adam. "I'm Adam, I'm from Google, and I'm here to give you the TRUTH about Google, and dispel the misinformation that's out there about Google." (Heh..."I'm from the government Google and I'm here to help you.")

"We're doing this out of necessity, not desire." (They're hitting this line hard in a lot of contexts these days; I rather liked Nicholas Carr's comment on this approach last week.)

Shows the three "user experiences" they intend: the publisher program, public domain books, and copyrighted books. The last is the one that's most contentious. Smith says: "This is allowed under fair use." Huh. Judge and jury, case closed? If it were that clear cut, would there be this much controversy surrounding it? While they may well be right, to present opinion as fact is troubling.

Abrams takes over again, and says that we're going to move fifteen years into the future. We've built the megalibrary, and we're looking back: what did we do right? Or...what did we do wrong? How did we get here?

Rich Wiggins starts out. He appears to have fallen under the Google spell... "Looking back, the leading search engine company, worth billions, has digitized the world's culture." A truly utopian vision. (I like Rich, and he'll probably read this, so I'll apologize in advance--Rich, I'm criticizing the ideas and tone, not the person. :)

Roy Tennant totally takes the other end: Google is bankrupt due to mismanagement, and the rest of the world has figured out how to do digitization well. (Adam, he says, has cleverly cashed out in 2009.) The MARC format is dead, libraries have discovered that systems don't integrate well, and have come to grips with how to change them. I like this Utopian vision a lot better than the last one! (He and Rich are debating tomorrow morning; I'll definitely have to attend that keynote!)

Mark Sandler: In 2020, Internet Librarian has become the Librarian conference; ALA in turn has become the American Print Library Assn. (Much laughter...) Google may or may not be there--he doesn't know what the life span of a 7-year-old multi-billion dollar company is. But in Billings MT and Berea KY there are now libraries with 50 million, 100 million volumes available to their readers (from the speakerphone, Barbara's voice cries "Yes! Yes!").

Barbara looks back from 2020 to 2006, when Google launched "Google Press" (I can't make sense of what she's saying--the voice cuts in and out...) Five years later, it is renamed the "Google Full Court Press." (wish I could hear all of this)

Steve talks about his book, "The Google Legacy." Says he's the only person in the room whom Sergey Brin has said is stupid. (Anybody have the cite to that? I couldn't find it in a quick search...) He says he's not interested in Google Print or Google Scholar, he's more interested in GoogleBase, which allows Google to become world's largest publisher of scientific information. Abrams asks him to explain GoogleBase, and he responds: "I'm not explaining Google Base. It's not my job. Sergey thinks I'm stupid, and we have someone here from Google that Sergey thinks is smart. Let him explain it." Heh.

He makes a critical point here, though. Microsoft's products don't delight. Google's products do delight. (Quick round of Microsoft bashing ensues, during which I'm glad I'm not on stage. :)

Adam gets to have his futuring moment. Says 2006 was a turning point year, where "we all worked together to do the right thing." We freed ourselves from the worries of digitization and formats. In 2020 everyone is an author, everyone is a publisher, everyone is an archivist, everyone is involved in the creative process. (He should read danah's post from nearly two years ago... "Consumption and production are fundamentally different and there are different forms of pressure when engaging with either. There is no way that one can possibly say that the threshold for consumption is equivalent to the threshold for production.")

(Roy suggests a round of Kumbaya at this point. I nearly fall off my chair. You go, Roy!)

Stephen asks "what will happen to the librarians in 2020?"

Mark says that some of them will be gone. Why would we need "local providers" when they have the WalMart of libraries? (He says this with a straight least Roy seems to raise his eyebrows.) Local libraries are going to have to change their mission. It has to be about access, about pampering users and adding real value to their lives. They're going to be like "cosmetic counters". WTF?!? Apparently he's serious here--he keeps going on this tack, as I become increasingly astonished.

Barbara weighs in over her spotty audio feed. (I have to ask...why are they using a telephone line run through the sound system rather than a high-quality IP solution with a direct audio line out of the computer? Skype gives far better quality than what we're hearing.) She says readers are more tightly connected to their readers, authors are building books out of Google's content. Book prices are dropping, open access keeps increasing. Librarians are helping to discriminate between good, bad, lousy and lousier materials. "when everything is digital, you're paying people to help you not read bad stuff." Librarians become censors. (Why the choice of that extraordinarily loaded word rather than the less judgmental and polarizing term "filters"?)

Roy says he wants to jump into this "digital lovefest." Digital won't make print go away--it never will. Putting digital materials online increases book circulation. Libraries have never been just about "stuff." They're about service. That doesn't change when collections are digital. (Yay!)

Rich says the cloudy part of the crystal ball is about how we'll be accessing this information. Display technology will change a lot about how we access things. If we have "e-paper" widely available by 2020, it changes this discussion.

Steve says everyone in this room needs to wake up the associations and get them more engaged in the role of the library as an institution. Unless that happens, we'll have a repeat of what happened in Salinas, where the library was shut down. This is a job for everyone here to carry back to the associations and be militant about it, so we don't become marginalized. Also, the library is an institution about learning and information, not limited to a type of material. It is a manifestation of how to organize and access information, whether it works with digital or print artifacts. Having said that, he thinks there will be a "pushing down" of librarianship into some institutions (like schools), and a pushing up into businesses--but the pain will be in the middle. That's where the impact of Google will be.

Abrams breaks in, and says Adam is an "immigrant" into the world of libraries. What does Adam think?

Adam responds by saying that just because everything is digital doesn't mean everything is good. (Um, yeah. This isn't news to anyone in this room.) Editorial control will still be relevant and important. How do we communicate what's good, when everyone's "good" is a little different. Hopefully the "truly good" will rise to the top.

Stephen points out that Google has two new patents for determining the "quality" of information. Asks Adam what the impact of that will be on libraries. Smith doesn't seem to really answer the question directly.

Audience questioner takes the room to task about the fact that we're taking this very lightly; also points out that many of the panel members have a vested interest in Google's success in this space. Barbara responds (again nearly unintelligible, but seems to be focused on serials).

Librarian from a small library says that his life isn't long enough to read what they already have, let alone adding so much more. How do we evaluate all that information? (I'd like to see more discussion of collaborative filtering here...) Mark responds that as a collection dev officer, they try to buy "all but the very worst books." Says in research libraries they've always operated on the "long tail" model--you can't anticipate what researchers might want, so you collect broadly to try to cover all the bases. Maintaining that physical collection is tremendously difficult, and makes it harder and harder to move forward.

An audience member asks about preservation...Adams quite appropriately points to the work being done by academic researchers in this area.

A couple of questions about digital rights management. One commenter says Michigan's agreement with google is quite impressive in this regard. (I'm starting to feel a little bad for him; the audience wants him to answer all of their questions about what they think is wrong with Google, and of course that's not fair for him.

I ask about the fear of a single source--Steve responds that there will be at least three companies that will do this, that the market will force this to happen. Google will be one, obviously. Yahoo is looking at this as well. MSFT will probably be in that space. There will not be a single source, no matter how hard anyone tries. That will be emergent--the market will accomplish that. (Barbara says we have three: open content alliance with Yahoo and whoever else joins, and Amazon, and Google.) Steve disagrees--he believes there will be three, and the only one we know for sure at this point is Google. Barbara responds that right now we do have three--digitization is coming from three players, not one. Roy points out that Yahoo is only one of many players in OCA.

And then, as if on cue...

Big Announcement The Open Content Alliance tonight had an official inaugural event in San Francisco--and at the reception it was announced that Microsoft is joining the alliance, and is funding the digitization of 150K books over the next year. Microsoft's contribution will be known as MSN Book Search.

Smith's response: Google absolutely welcomes Microsoft's participation in OCA, because it's all about making the world a better place.

Some discussion about what will happen to the physical artifacts? Who will take responsibility for ensuring that the books themselves continue to exist? Will they be lost in the digital shuffle?

Roy: Librarians still have a lot to learn about Google. And Google still has a lot to learn about libraries. (he gets some applause on this)

[Oy. I'm tired. There are other things being said, but I'm no longer able to listen and process and type. Sorry.]

internet librarian 05: fabulous flickr meme

internet librarian 05: my keynote

I promised the audience this morning that I'd blog my own keynote, though there doesn't seem to be much point to it given the great coverage from so many other conference bloggers: Librarian in Black, Library Techtonics, The Shifted Librarian, dave's blog, See Also, Travelin' Librarian, walking paper, and the official conference blog. (I got these from Technorati and the conference blog list; if you blogged the talk and I missed your post, leave a comment...)

Overall, I think the talk went well, though I didn't have the "high" I sometimes get when everything just clicks. Maybe it's just hard to connect with such a big room. Or maybe I actually overprepared--I spent a lot of time last night trying to organize my thoughts, but it felt like I was trying to do too much--I didn't feel as though I was delivering a clear take-away message. If I were grading, I'd give it a "B," I think.

But for those of you who've come to the site because I promised links and details from the talk, here are the notes I was talking from, annotated with links as appropriate:

how much things have changed since the 2003 conference, as evidenced by things I overheard on Monday morning:
  • "yeah, they're talking about social software and blogs and all that stuff." -- in a classic "that's so 5 minutes ago" voice
  • "I flickr'ed a photo of you and Stephen Abrams."
  • "it's blah blah flickr blah blah tags blah blah don't be afraid..." (literally)

Yesterday Technorati indexed its 20 millionth blog - an elementary school in France

It's hard to speak on the second day (but at least it's not the third)

  • Lee Rainie took the Long Tail and CPA pieces - and stole my "no powerpoint" thunder
  • Jenny Levine and Jessamyn West took the tagging
  • Mary Ellen Bates & Gary Price took the social bookmarking

So what's left for me?

  • Long Tail details -- it's all about social/viral: this is where librarians shine
  • Why do most search tools still suck? (Kathy Sierra's concept car image and happy users graph)
  • Power of social search -- people are better filters than algorithms (myweb vs Google for "clay" or "tags"; can't link to the myweb because you have to be logged in as me for it to work)
  • Trusted information sources are not the same as "buddies." What if you could syndicate your library bookmarks? What if you could provide proactive (rather than reactive) search filters? (the LaGrange Park Library has started using!)
  • dark side of social tagging: What happens to the long tail? if there's not a critical mass of taggers, are the tags really helpful? Or do they end up making the long tail even more invisible? Is "majority rules" the best way to describe content? (ESP game example)
  • is continuous partial attention bad for us, or just bad for us? attention is a form of capital--we're going to have to start earning it, not demanding it.
  • lifehacking is better than prozac: geek GTD cults, 43 Folders,, NYT magazine article, 10/16/05 "Meet the Life Hackers" (behind the paywall now, so I won't link to it)
  • and for the person who slipped me the note at the end of the presentation, here's the link to Mary Czerwinski's Microsoft Research study on how big screens make you more productive... :)

internet librarian 05: karen schneider on blogging ethics

I've know Karen Schneider for more years than I'm willing to admit in public, and I've never been disappointed in one of her presentations...

She shows off the newly-revamped Librarians' Internet Index, which looks great. "Websites you can trust."

After attending the Berkman symposium on web credibility, she started thinking a lot about blogging ethics. Why do ethics matter?

On a "micro" level, your blog represents you and everything you're connected with, including librarianship. Great quote: "For most readers, you are the last stop between the reader and the truth." From a utilitarian standpoint, being ethical is a strategic approach. Information has a long half-life. Being ethical is a form of self-preservation..."the blogosphere can be cruel. the biblioblogosphere can be crueler."

On a "macro" level, "The harder we work to make the world a moral place, the better it is for everyone." She points out that librarianship is a profession defined by its concern for others--witness librarians' willingness to go to jail rather than provide information about patrons.

She flashes some "rules of blogging," but they're gone before I can look up from my screen. :)

Five things not to say about your blog

  1. It's only a blog
  2. So-and-so does it
  3. Everyone understood what I meant
  4. They can always look up
  5. Nobody trusts the web anyway

Key Rules

Be transparent

Talks about the importance of transparency, quotes wikipedia ("An activity is transparent if all information about it is open and freely available.") and David Weinberger ("For most blogs, we want to know what the writer's starting point is."

Lack of transparency can be dangerous... Talks about Jeff Gannon, a "one-man-astoturf" White House correspondent. Turned out to be, among other things, a male hustler. ($1200 a weekend?! wow...) Being transparent is pre-emptive--you take the wind out of the sails of people wanting to dish dirt on you. (Shows a photo of the real Robert Fisk, namesake of the verb "fisking.")

Cite it (and check your facts!)

Talks about Gorman's infamous "revenge of the blog people" article. (Aside: the best swag I'm bringing home from this conference is my "One of the Blog People" button.) She notes that he complained about blogs, but never cited the ones he talked about. Link to and name your sources and documentation. Avoid anonymous sources. Always check a secondary source (well, I'd argue that this is true only if you're asserting that it's factually true).

"There is nothing more pathetic than a librarian who gets the facts wrong." (She says that's worse than a NYT reporter that does the same, and I agree.)

Lots of good tips for how to ensure accuracy, which I'm not going to repeat here.

Be Fair

WHO has defined fairness as "The attitude of being just to all."

Some good tips: Let a source know when s/he is "on the record." Don't present opinions as fact. If you claim be objective, you really have to present opposing sides of an issue. Let your readers comment (within reason). [I don't know if I agree with the last one...but that debate's been held in enough places that I see no reason to rehash it here.]

Admit Mistakes
(tuned out for a few minutes here...sorry...mostly about how to acknowledge )

Shows Justinland site, "brother of bridezilla" posts. Why? The unreliable narrator can be interesting and fun. April fool's is an exception.

All in all a very good, very clear, very useful presentation for library bloggers. Brava!

powerbook video adapter needed!

If any powerbook-toting Internet Librarian attendees are reading this, I desperately need a powerbook DVI-to-VGA video adapter for my keynote tomorrow morning. I left both of mine at home :(

Worst case scenario, I'll borrow a laptop from someone else and load up my images from a USB drive, but it would be nice if I could use my Mac.

So, if you're here in Monterey and have one of these that you could lend me for 45 minutes tomorrow morning, email me at myblogname at gmail dot com, or comment here, or just stop by the podium before my talk tomorrow morning....

internet librarian 05: expert panel on searching

This is a two-part session, so it will go for nearly two hours. We'll see how long I last. But I feel some sense of obligation to go to the search-related sessions so that I can go back and ask MSR or MSN to reimburse me for the extra day here that the conference organizers didn't cover (I get two nights in the hotel as a speaker, but if I'd only stayed for that I would have missed a lot of the most interesting search presentations on either Monday or Wednesday).

Genie Tyburski starts out by talking about "setting limits" on time, sources, email, etc...makes me wonder if this is going to be somewhat like a "lifehacking for librarians" session. (If not, that would be a great session for a future IL panel, I think. Jane, you reading this? What do you think? :) She says email is unreliable, unproductive, and distracting. (Well, you could say the same thing about people, couldn't you?) She talks about disposable addresses for logging into websites (I prefer the BugMeNot approach, when possible). Yes, this is sounding a lot like a lifehacker kind of talk. Not sure I'm going to get a lot out of it, since I'm already a faithful reader of 43 Folders and Lifehacker, and a recent convert to the GTD approach. She pushes RSS, but I see this as a false dichotomy. It's not an alternative to email, unless most of your email comes from distribution lists. RSS is great for one-to-many, but lousy for one-to-one or many-to-many.

She talks about a tool called "WebSite-Watcher," which she runs as a desktop application to monitor websites for changes. (Ah, shades of the infamous Winer-Watcher...) I'd prefer to lean on publishers to provide RSS rather than using this approach (I assume this is basically screen-scraping to generate the equivalent of RSS updates). Also mentions one called TrackEngine--she describes it as a similar approach, but a quick look at their site makes me wonder. They describe themselves as an "active bookmark manager"--will have to spend a little time with it to see what it involves.

Next up is Gary Price, from and Can't read the stuff on his screen, but it's online. He reminds us of how few people have actually hear of RSS--the Yahoo survey said 12%. Points out how important explaining and describing this to end users is. He talks about a couple of bookmarking/clipping sites: Furl, eClips, filangy (huh...haven't heard of this last one. worth exploring). He also demos Website-Watcher, and recommends it highly. My first impression is that it's so ugly--but clearly it has devoted users.

Whoa--he gives the first mention of MSN I've heard, and a plug for Nice to hear someone talk about a site other than Yahoo.

Shows, a metasearch engine for job sites--not just compilation sites, but also job postings on corporate sites--here's a search for Microsoft jobs in Redmond. Points out that monitoring job openings can give you insight into what companies are up to.

Recommends Whois Source for good domain name searching/monitoring. Provides some nice tools; will have to start using this one.

Shows a couple of useful special-purpose research and news sites:
* Diplomacy Monitor for government documents from all over the world
* Paper Chase for legal documents
* iHealth beat for health technology
* SmartBrief: targeted newsfeeds on industry topics (subscription required, but it's free)
* he calls this his service of the year for 2005, the best news service he knows of--better than Yahoo or Google
* awful search, but great sources and topic organization

He's reeling off more stuff, but I'm burning out here. :/ Think I'm going to skip out on the last section, which is Steven Cohen's riff on RSS, followed by Q&A. I need the mental break more than I need more links...

internet librarian 05: social software and public libraries

I'm here not so much to find out things I didn't know so much as I am to find out what a skilled, savvy librarian thinks her not-quite-so-savvy colleagues need to know. (This session is pretty crowded...a good sign.)

Jessamyn West cracks me up. Funny, smart presentation on "Flickr, tagging, and the F-word." I walk in a few minutes late (oops), and she's talking about Flickr. Focuses on the metadata available on Flickr, particularly in the form of tags. She shows photos of hers tagged with "library" as an example. Goes on to show other neat tag tricks--from clustering to tag clouds to affinity groups.

She shifts into a tagging v classification riff, in an attempt to calm ruffled library feathers. Does a brief discussion of "folksonomy" (she calls it "the F-word"). Says the most interesting thing about it in contrast to traditional classification is that it's flat. Downsides? Synonym problems (library? libraries? il05? il2005?) Who should the burden be on--the tagger or the searcher?

Talks about "desire lines," that the paths that people put down are a clue to where the "official" paths should go. She has a number of links to related reading; will see if I can find those and add them here.

(I love that when she's done tagging, she's available on IM. This is definitely a tech-savvy panel.)

Next up is Jenny Levine, the famous "Shifted Librarian," who talks about She does a basic overview of how it works, then goes to how libraries are using it. the LaGrangeParkLibrary reference librarians use it as a shared "ready reference" site. Great examples of tagging problems (dvdstobuy and dvdstopurchase...beyond the overlap, there's the time-senstivity of those tags). Thomas Ford Memorial Library web site has a live links feed from del.

Then shows CiteULike, the academic/bibliographic version. (Doesn't show the sweet integration with existing sites like ACM.)

Then it's a rapid-fire run through other tagging, 43 Things, Yahoo! MyWeb, Yummy! (a PDF posting service--I hadn't seen this one), a few others.

Suggests the D-Lib article on social bookmarking (by the folks at Nature magazine) for more reading, along with articles by Clay Shirky and Thomas Vander Wal.

There's a question about what happens when people assign inflammatory tags. Jenny's sanguine--"this will work itself out."

Jenny shows the Technology Review August issue on social computing tools, recommends it as an indication that this is a "watershed" point.

(Am going to hit "post" and then come back later to clean it up and add links.)

internet librarian 05: 30 search tips in 40 minutes

Mary Ellen Bates' annual search tips talk. This was a great talk two years ago, and I've been looking forward to this year's version. I just hope I can keep up!

  1. Mine the Creative Commons for images, audio, web site tools ( is a hierarchical catalog; is the CC search tool; Yahoo CC search is more comprehensive [])
  2. Use MyYahoo's MyWeb 2.0 feature to search "my and my friends' sites" [Argh! Another one of my topics for tomorrow!] She focuses on the "search my sites" rather than the "search my community," though, so she leaves me a nice window.
  3. See also AskJeeve's, which allows you to click "save" on the search results page for the items you want. Allows you to create an "annotated webliography" (great term!)
  4. Google's Personalized Search; searches pages you've visited before. You can turn search history on and off at (Calls this and the previous two "the rise of the truly customized electronic ready-reference shelf.)
  5. Start searching podcasts -- includes tags; searches a voice-recognition transcript;; (Podcasts are more important now that "professional" content producers have regular podcasts--news, analysis, etc. Some content is only in audio form.)
  6. Furl It (I suspect she selects this rather than because it archives the full text of the page--which is a really nice aspect.) Mentions this is great for training, because it can sidestep firewalls. While she was talking, I found this nice piece on the copyright issues on Furl.
  7. See how others search web--browse, and see search strategies at the end of the answers. You can learn from their approaches.
  8. Consider Wikipedia (hits standard talking points; not a bad overview considering the time crunch; the fact that it's even being included in this talk is evidence of how much this conference has changed in 2 years)
  9. Use "squishy Boolean"; it's a relevance ranking. Dialog's TARGET command (target hybrid green clean car? ? automobile?); LexisNexis' SmartIndexing relevance threshold ( subject(cybercrime 9*%) ). She has an article in the March/April 2005 Online magazine on this.
  10. Use blogs to search hidden web content. A site may not be spidered by a search engine, but someone may well find and blog it. Use BlogDigger, BlogLines,, to find things indirectly--you're leveraging the blog experts's ability to find obscure content. (No time to dig up URLs...)
  11. Try a new search engine once a month. helps--it's a toolbar that that lets you pick from a wide range of search engines. Also NeedleSearch, for Firefox, and "Super Search" Konfabulator widget.
  12. Yahoo's Mindset feature (I don't care for this because it assumes everything fits on a research/shopping slider, but I do see the value in being able to reduce ecommerce sites in search results)
  13. Watch for video-search capabilities.,,, etc
  14. Use search engine "hybrids" - (science related web sites and fee-based services), Yahoo's search subscriptions (get bibliographic info on subscription-protected material),, (search library catalogs around the world).
  15. Use BlogPulse's Trend Search to track blog buzz over time, and see the relative poularity of terms in blogs.
  16. Search for words likely to be mentioned on a web site (looking for information infertility drugs, she searched for the names of three different drugs from different manufacturers--this helped eliminate company web sites)
  17. What works best for the professional online services doesn't work well with web searching. Complex searches don't work on the web. Order of search terms matters in a web search. Forget precision and go for what will likely float to the top.
  18. Compare search engines. Dogpile study found 85% of results of the first page of search results to be UNIQUE []. See (shows which pieces are unique to each service) and [eeek! missed it the next one, but it does side by side google and yahoo...which I though was a violation of Google's ToS]
  19. Check out new-ish search engine with great advanced search features. Supports proximity search, phonetic, and "approximate spelling"
  20. Collect examples of site spoofingk for those "a-ha" moments in educating your clients. vs; vs (which one is the anti-WTO site?); dhmo.
  21. Watch for new applications of Google Map images. For example, (she attributes this to Craigslist, not realizing that it's a mashup between the two sites, not a craigslist feature); traffic (
  22. Check out newer data visualization tools. has a demo showing data viz for Yahoo searching. This is a big change for librarians, who are used to text results.
  23. Other visualizations -- shows the treemap version of Google News.
  24. Use to find specialized portals and directories. Intended for web managers to find places to get linked, but it's valuable as a list of specialized sources.
  25. Y!Q from Yahoo Contextual searching--lets you highlight text on the page to refine your search. Can search from any web page. Requires IE toolbar or plug-in for best performance.
  26. Yahoo's Site Explorer: Lets you search pages within a domain or subdomain. Can also generate a list of all outgoing links from a web page.
  27. Consider Amazon's SIP's and CAPS; great way to brainstorm search terms from a book on a topic. Also their new Text Stats for a book ("Fog Index, average syllables per word, words per dollar and per ounce)
  28. Use phrase search to find specialized directories of information. Google and Yahoo syntax: intitle:"directory of" {subject word}
  29. Try Konfabulator widgets (yet another Yahoo property...). Includes a number of search widgets, but she talks about a wider range)
  30. Her favorite way to kill time when customer "service" puts me on hold:, or buy a self-contained version from This kind of machine-learning will start to inform search tools.

internet librarian 05 keynote: lee rainie

I was up bright and early this morning so that I could walk on the wharf before breakfast and still make it to the keynote this morning. One of the reasons I particularly like speaking at Internet Librarian is that it consistently attracts interesting presenters (thanks in no small part to the efforts of Jane Dysart, the program chair). Lee Rainie, from the Pew Internet & American Life Project, is the headliner today.

(An aside: I hate conference room chairs. They're exactly the wrong height for me, so I end up with my laptop sliding off my lap. I need to get one of those nifty portable desk things that I've see Joi using.)

There's an "official" conference blog this year, as well as a wiki.

Ah, finally they've gotten through the preliminaries and mutual congratulations and moved on to introducing Lee.

No powerpoint! w00t! (The audience applauds when he says this, including the woman sitting next to me...who's working on her own powerpoint presentation for a later talk. She seems not to recognize the irony.) He also refers to a conference where there was a projected IRC channel during his talk. Does a nice job of summing up the pluses and minuses of that. (He says to try googling "Lee Rainie and Yoda," but when I got online and tried it I had no luck...) He thanks us for not putting him through that hazing here.

He asks how many people are live blogging his talk (~6), and how many plan to blog aspects (another handful)--good indicator of changes in the profession.

He reads from a text about what happens when new technologies enter mainstream culture, the role of information gatekeepers is significantly affected. Turns out that he's reading from the history of the printing press--but it could just as easily be applied to the internet.

What's happened over the past year, from his project's point of view? What's coming?

  • More than 2/3 of internet users now have broadband access of some kind--and broadband users are very different from dial-up users. They do different things, for different amount of times, and with more impact on their lives.
  • 1/3 of American adults do not consider themselves internet users, and 1/5 have never used the internet
  • The dial-up users of today are not as interested today as their predecessors in wanting access to lots of bits (those who wanted that access have it now; the rest don't feel "left behind" for the most part)

Obvious place of decline is chat rooms. Blogs, IM, and threaded discussion forums appear to have taken up that slack.

Teenagers and the internet:

Kids ages 12-17 are more connected than others, more intense users. They love and use IM, they love and use their cell phones (only 45% have cell phones--but if they have them, they love them). If you combine their IM and cell phone use, teenagers are redefining what it means to be present (great quote). His daughter was featured in a news story entitled "the conversation never ends". 8 out of 10 teenagers play online gains (54% gain in 2 years). Also a 38% increase in getting news online; 71% growth in buying things online (up to 43% of teens). They increasingly use the Internet for health information--particularly for "sensitive subjects."

Strikingly, teens are creating content. He says they're about to release a new report on this topic. (Yay!) New surveys show that 19% of teenagers have created blogs (3x the adult rate); an even higher % have created and worked on their own web sites.

Teenagers are frenetic multitaskers. Hardly any of them do a single thing at a time. They've been referred to as Generation "M" (for media). When you add up the time they spend using their various forms media, it's about 8.5 hours a day--but they do it in 6.5 hours of real time.

Question: How do teens respond to advertising? Answer is that they see it as just one more input--they're skeptical, but not as put off as adults. (That resonates with what I've seen in my kids.)

Question: Is there less depth of contact because of "all this stimulation". (Geez, what a value-laden question.) I jump in here (because I can't keep my mouth shut, natch) about last week's MSR piece from NYT Magazine (which I refuse to link to because they've put it behind their stupid "Times Select" paywall), and the fact that we can't necessarily extrapolate from our own experiences (and limitations) to those of our kids.

Politics and Internet

(Missed some of this...)

Tried to test for the extent to which people isolated themselves from opposing views online. They found that the internet contributed to a wider range of political views. Wired Americans, and especially broadband users, were more likely to have encountered opposing views. The Internet appears to be more of a door opener than an echo chamber.

Stephen Abrams asks about the extent to which consumers are aware of how search option optimization has affected their information consumption? Rainie says no, most internet users are quite unsophisticated, even to the extent of not differentiating between paid and non-paid search results. Notes that there's still a huge education role here.

Internet and "Major Moments"

They redid a survey about how people used the internet at "milestone moments' in their lives--buying a house, having a child, facing an illness, etc. He cites a bunch of numbers, but I can't keep up. (I assume this will be in an upcoming Pew Report, anyhow.)

Question: Is there backlash to the "always on, always connected" trend? Rainie says there's anecdotal evidence that's changing--from email-free Fridays to computer- and connectivity-free vacations.

What are the key trends he sees?

There are public toilets in France now that have IP addresses; there are golf balls with RFID tags. Says the RFID-ification of American is well underway. Mobile access is untethering us--you can start cooking dinner by sending commands from your phone, for example.

Their numbers on content creation are nearly 3 years old; they're about to do a new one.

Emphasizes the social dimension of search--says he sees that as incredibly important.

What should librarians be paying attention to?

  • Chris Anderson's "Long Tail" concept; does a good job of a quick broad brush explanation of the idea, cites Anderson's blog. (Damm! I was going to talk about this tomorrow. This is why I don't prepare presentations in advance; I always end up having to change things at the last minute...) How do people discover "Long Tail" stuff? Word of mouth and reputation systems. Rainie says (and I agree) that figuring out the social network aspects of this will be fascinating and important.
  • Rheingold's Smart Mobs: How do people self-organize using technology?
  • Linda Stone's discussion of "continuous partial attention"

Can libraries help us find the balance between being connected and being contemplative? (best line of the talk...)

He thinks that librarians are best suited to helping us create "information habitats" that strike this balance.

Wow. Great presentation! Rainie's wonderful, and sets an awfully high bar for me tomorrow!

testing flock

I'm up far too late, trying to get ready to leave for Monterey tomorrow, where I'll be attending and speaking at Internet Librarian 2005.

While my clothes spin in the dryer, I'm playing with Flock, the new socially-enabled browser. It accesses my bookmarks, and lets me post to my blog. I'm sure it does additional nifty stuff, but discovering the rest of its features will have to wait until after I've packed, flown, and settled into my hotel.

It's a three-day trip, with lots of wonderful presentations, so I expect that I'll be blogging regularly while I'm there--as I did two years ago when I attended the 2003 IL conference. One of my most-linked-to-posts ever was my live blogging of Mary Ellen Bates' "30 Search Tips in 40 Minutes" session from that conference, and I'm looking forward to attending her session again this year!

life is good: airborne edition

As I got out of my car in the SeaTac parking garage, at my feet was a sheet of paper advertising stickers from the "Life is Good" line of products. It made me smile, because lately my life has, indeed, been good. That's not to say there haven't been challenges, changes, and occasional crises. But those are part of any life, and I'm increasingly aware it's up to me to determine the level of happiness or suffering I experience.

I'm writing this as I fly over the Cascade mountain range, en route to NYC via Delta's new subsidiary, Song. So far, I'm very pleasantly impressed with Song's service. They're clearly trying to compete with JetBlue, from the quirky and entertaining safety announcements (today's was done to flamenco music) to the seat-back television. The music selections are good, the headphone connections accommodate my beloved Etymotic earphones, and the overpriced food at least looks appetizing. (I brought my own snacks, though, and I've opted for party shuffle in iTunes while I type.)

This is the first time I've traveled in quite a while; one of the great advantages of being in a major tech city like Seattle is that I don't have to leave town to interact with people active in my areas of interest. Why go to a conference, after all, when you can have dinner guests like Robert and Maryam Scoble, Buzz Bruggeman, Lilia Efimova, Nancy White, Lili Cheng and Linda Stone? In fact, it's been about five months since I've traveled for work-related reasons. This is a short trip, though. I arrive tonight at 7pm EST, and leave 48 hours later. Just enough time to give the opening keynote tomorrow at C2, enjoy presentations from a few other people, admire the view (I hope) from my hotel room, and then head home.

There hasn't been much blogging in this space (or any of my spaces) recently. Not because of any conscious decision to take a break...I just don't seem to have been in the blogging mood. I've been pretty focused on building a comfortable social and professional space for me and my family, and that takes a lot of offline engagement. At home we've been entertaining fairly frequently (it's a lovely house for that)--both kids and adults. And at work, my efforts to increase my interaction have definitely born fruit--resulting in a lot less free time. But traveling always seems to spur me to write. I'll probably churn out a few posts over the next two days, both here and on M2M (and maybe misbehaving, even!). And there will be occasional cameraphone photos on Flickr (alas, I forgot my Canon A95 on this trip).

oxford/london plans

My UK trip is fast approaching, and I'm having to start to think about logistics.

I get into Heathrow late Saturday morning (a direct flight from Seattle, in fact!), and will be going to the rental apartment in London that I'm sharing with my colleague--Scala House.

Sunday we'll take the train into Oxford for the symposium we're presenting at (leaving my colleague's partner to play in London during our absence) and will stay in Oxford through Wednesday midday. Then we'll take the train back to London, and will stay in the apartment through Sunday, when we all head back home. (I leave early on Sunday morning. Blech.)

So, what night is good for a London blogger/geek get-together? Should we use this post as a gathering point?

Updated 2:11pm

I'm going to be meeting Tom Coates on Thursday night, at a time and location as yet to be determined. Will provide more details here as I have them.

I may be going to visit MSR Cambridge Labs on Friday--still working that out.

Looks as though I'll be meeting Foe for coffee on Saturday.

microsoft research faculty summit: monday morning

I'm spending the morning at the Microsoft Research Faculty Summit, an annual conference sponsored by MSR. It's an invitation-only conference attended by about 400 CS researchers from around the world.

I'm not going to blog the whole thing (I'm not even going to attend the whole thing, since I have some meetings that conflict), but I will blog the ones that are particularly notable, starting with the kick-off event--a dialog between Bill Gates and Maria Klawe, the dean of engineering at Princeton.

it's all over but the bubbling (and the kvetching...)

Done, done, and done. With grading, that is. Final essay exams, weblog posts, homework questions, chat participation. I've made my list, and I've checked it twice. I had a number of students who did really good work this quarter. And, unfortunately, several who ignored a large part of the course requirements and are likely to be extremely displeased with their grades. Tomorrow morning I'll electronically "bubble in" their grades, and then brace myself for the onslaught of "how could I get a..." that will result. By waiting until tomorrow to formally submit the grades to student records, I delay the grade announcement emails until tomorrow night, after commencement (though the students can see their final average via the courseware gradebook function if they look). By then I may have recovered sufficiently from grading-induced sleep deprivation to manage the barrage gracefully.

Part of why I haven't been posting recently is that I've been busy--end-of-quarter work, faculty meetings, 72 hour trips to the west coast, taking care of a sick husband, etc. But part of it has also been that overall, life is good, and that isn't really fodder for interesting blog posts. Christine Lavin, one of my favorite singer/songwriters ever, has a song called "Please Don't Make Me Too Happy," with these lyrics:

Please don't make me too happy
Because if you do
My songwriting will suffer
From the bliss you'll put me through
Nothing's quite as boring
As two people this in love
We'll be so blinded by the stars in our eyes
We won't see the stars above

There's something to that, really. Angst is a great source of creativity, and I've been awfully short on angst lately.

The LA trip was lovely...had lunch with Allan Karl, and dinner with with someone I've known since kindergarten, but had fallen out of touch with. I also met with folks from USC's Annenberg Center about a potential collaborative grant project, and then got to go to the pre-SSAW party before heading back home.

I think I'm still in denial about the upcoming move, despite the fact that it's less than a month away. That's going to have to change, soon.

We're mulling over car purchase/leasing options, as well as house refinancing options, as well as necessary home repairs before we leave. Ack. While next year we'll be in good shape financially, the dual salary won't start 'til July, and there are going to be a lot of expenses before then. We've got some juggling to do over the next few weeks to make it all fall into place.

social computing symposium kickoff

The 2005 social computing symposium started this evening with a reception and dinner. Already I'm totally excited about the interactions I had with really interesting people. This year seems to be a more diverse mix than last year, and I've already gotten a chance to meet someone I really wanted to see--Lilia Efimova of Mathemagenic (as well as lots of other great people).

It seems as though this year there's less of a sense of us vs them, academics vs practicioners, and more of a sense of fluidity. It's a little early to make that call, I suppose, but my first sense of the group as a whole was very positive.

I've met a lot of wonderful people who are based here in Seattle, both tonight and over the past few days, which has left me feeling really enthusiastic about our upcoming move. It's so much easier to make a change like this when you know that there will be a social network to cushion your arrival in a new place.

Despite all the goodness here, however, I'm starting to get a bit homesick. I miss my boys (all three of them), and will be glad to get back home on Wednesday morning.

trillian feature

Since I'm stuck on my PC this week, I've been using Trillian as my IM client. It's a really nice multi-protocol client, so I can use it for AOL, Yahoo, and MSN IM, as well as IRC.

What I didn't realize until today is that it also does automatic lookup of words and phrases in your text in the Wikipedia. So today when I was chatting with someone about when the social computing symposium starts, it highlighted the word symposium for me--and displayed this definition when I rolled over the highlighted word:

Originally, the term symposium referred to a drinking party; the Greek verb "sympotein" means "to drink together". The term has since come to refer to any academic conference, irrespective of drinking. We have literary depictions of symposia in the sympotic elegies of Theognis of Megara, as well as in two Socratic dialogues, Plato's Symposium and Xenophon's Symposium.

Hmmm. I kind of like the original definition.

blogging sxsw 2005 on many-to-many

I'm doing real-time blogging of SXSW/Interactive 2005 conference sessions over on Many-to-Many (in large part because of guilt over having not posted there in ages). Pop over there for my comments on what's been going on.

Much as I enjoy this conference, I'm really missing being home. Will be glad to head back on Tuesday for a full month of no travel...

delta blues

It's getting easier and easier to see why major airlines are getting their butts kicked by companies like JetBlue and Southwest.

I'm sitting in the Rochester airport, where Gerald and the boys dropped me at 12:30--with plenty of time to catch my 1:55 flight to Atlanta. The Delta line was extremely, worrisomely long--long enough that I wondered if they'd had to cancel a flight since I left the house (I'd checked online). But the prominently placed display screens showed my flight with an on-time departure, so I patiently waited my turn. And waited. And waited. Because they kept calling Cincinnati passengers up to the front of the line--guess being there on time doesn't pay.

When I finally did get to the desk agent, he informed me that my flight had, indeed, been cancelled due to weather. But they were "having problems with their computers," which is why there was no public indication of that fact (which would have saved me the 45 minute wait in line, since I could have called Delta on my cell phone and made alternate arrangements).

The next flight out isn't until 5:45pm, and it's not fair to Gerald and the boys for me to ask them to come get me again and go through the goodbyes once more. So I've settled myself into the Frontier Business Center at the airport, in a passably comfortable chair, with free wifi and power. I've got a giant latté from Finger Lakes Coffee Roasters, and enough work (and neglected blogs) to keep me busy for a while.

This trip kicks off a busy month; I'll be in Atlanta for the NVHA Innovations conference on Social Network Media (with some other great folks). I get back on the 2nd, then leave on the 5th for Dubai, where I'll be speaking at the 7th Woibex Women in Business Conference. I return from Dubai on the 10th, and then leave again on the 12th for SXSW/Interactive, where I'll be moderating a panel entitled "Spam, Trolls, Stalkers: The Pandora's Box of Community" with panel members Jay Allen, Cam Barrett, Jason Kottke, and Steve Champeon.

The plus side of all of this for, you my online friends, is that I'll be online and available to write and chat a whole lot more than usual. Expect to see me on AIM a good bit, and for blog posting to increase a bit.

"there's something big happening"

I'm taking a break from grading my students' web pages to read David Weinberger's ongoing coverage of the Harvard "Votes, Bits, and Bytes" conference. Wish I'd been at the session he wrote about this morning, organized by Ethan Zuckerman and Rebecca MacKinnon.

Ethan says that we're here today to talk about blogs as bridges, borrowing Hoder's metaphor from yesterday (blogs as windows that give you insight into someone's world, blogs as cafes where people can talk together, and blogs as bridges). There's something big happening, Ethan says.

Indeed there is.

Omar from Iraq talks about the importance of blogging as a way of routing around propaganda. Then he talks about how the open comments from around the world on his blog helped his nephew "If I visited America a year and a half ago, I would have felt llike a stranger. This time I feel like I'm with friends, and that is the greatest gift I can think of."

This is how I feel, as well. From Norway to Australia, France to Japan, Brazil to South Africa...I have friends around the world now that I would never have had without this blog to facilitate connections. I can say without a flicker of doubt that my blog is the one technological tool that has most fundamentally changed my professional life.

who's going to cscw?

Sunday I leave for Chicago, where I'll be attending the ACM CSCW (computer-supported collabortive work) conference. The technical program runs Monday through Wednesday, and I'm speaking on a panel that danah boyd put together Wednesday. The topic is "The Use of Digital Backchannels in Shared Physical Spaces," and the list of other participants on the panel is great.

I've skimmed through the list of speakers, and recognize a few names from both the literature and from the Microsoft social software symposium back in the spring. Who's going that's not speaking?

And what's the chance of a blogger meetup in Chicago while I'm there? In addition to seeing the information highwayman and his faithful sidekick, there are a few Chicago bloggers I'd love to meet (or see again). I'll be there from Sunday afternoon through Wednesday afternoon, staying at the Hilton--and at present, I have no evening plans.

search champs meeting thoughts

So, I already mentioned my main problem with this meeting over on misbehaving. And David Weinberger's posted some good observations about the meeting today. But there are some other things that I'm noticing today.

One is that there are a couple of people here who are dominating this discussion, and being heard over them is a challenge. That's discouraging. Free-for-alls aren't necessarily the most effective way to get a variety of opinions, particularl when some of the voices are convinced that they have the only right answers in the room.

Another is that I hate sitting at a table watching people talk for hours and hours at a time. Why aren't they doing some breakout groups, so that they can isolate some of the voices, get people to talk about things that they care about and/or are knowledgable about? I'm not the right person to ask about things that are Windows-specific--but I know a lot about information-seeking behavior. Put me in a small group with the people developing the web interface aspects I'm interested in, and let the windows geeks talk about platform-specific issues.

It's also quite clear that a room full of blogger geeks is not a good cross-section of the web-using world. Things that power users care about--from tabbed browsing to ubiquitous RSS feeds--aren't necessarily important to the rest of the world. My kids need a good search engine...they don't care (yet) about RSS feeds, and probably won't for quite some time. My freshmen students (in IT and CS) don't use aggregators. Maybe it's true that the rest of the world will follow the geeks, but maybe it's not.

fixin' ta go

My southern stepdaughter tutored my friends last year in the art of southern leavetaking. "Fixin' ta go" was a central phrase in that tutorial--since then, it's become a symbol of drawn-out, sociable preparations for departure around here. (Weez even uses it as one of her AIM away messages...)

At any rate, I'm fixin' ta go to Santa Clara tomorrow morning, to attend (and speak at) Supernova. I leave Rochester at 8:15am, change planes in Chicago, and arrive in San Jose around 12:40pm. I've downloaded a slew of entertaining audiobooks from to amuse me en route. Still on the to-do list are backing up the computer, finishing laundry, and packing.

See you in sunny California...

all-star blog panel @ rit tomorrow

Those of you in the Rochester area might want to attend the panel on "Weblogs and Cross-Disciplinary Communication" being held Friday from 4:30 - 5:45 on the RIT campus, as part of the Media Ecology Association Conference.

I'll be chairing the panel, and the other participants are:

  • Clay Shirky
  • Jill Walker
  • Seb Paquet
  • Alex Halavais

It will be held in the Liberal Arts building, room 06-A205.

Hope to see you there!

you may ask yourself "how did i get here?"

One of the questions I've been asked a lot lately, mostly by full-time academics, was how/why I started blogging. It's not a quick and easy answer, but I've been asked it enough now that it's probably worth having it here in a public and somewhat permanent form.

confessions of a backchannel queen

I'm enjoying this symposium quite a bit. (For more detailed coverage of content than I'm providing, try David Weinberger or Danyel Fisher.) More than I expected to, actually. I was more than a little surprised to be invited, since most of the invitees are people who have achieved great prominence in their fields, and for good reason. They've written books, started companies, shifted opinion. On the academic side, there are people whose work has been enormously influential, people whose work I've followed and been influenced by for years, like Lee Sproull and Sherry Turkle. On the non-academic side, there are people who have written books that I love (Steven Johnson, David Weinberger), and others who have started amazingly successful companies (Scott Heiferman, Joi Ito).

As if I was feeling inadequate enough in this heady company, during the breaks and meals, people keep asking me things like "So, what are you working you on now?" Seems like a simple question, no? But I'm realizing that I don't really have a "thing" that I'm working on. What I'm best at (and I've reflected on this before) is integration and commentary. I'm great at assessing what's going on, finding the key components, and putting the pieces together into a big picture. But integration is very different from creation, and my sense was that this was mostly a gathering of creators. So I came in expecting to feel a bit out of place.

microsoft social software symposium

My colleagues and students (not to mention my family) have been making pointed comments lately about my absence. And while I'm worn out from traveling, and tired of being away from home, the last few months have been a great opportunity to extend my contacts in the technical world, and get a sense of what other people are doing and thinking about in emerging technologies.

Tomorrow morning I leave at the crack of dawn for my last scheduled trip this spring--I've been invited to the Social Software Symposium that's being held by the Social Computing group at Microsoft Research (along with IBM Research and FX/Palo Alto).

There've been some complaints about the invitation-only nature of this gathering , which is understandable. There's always an inclusion/exclusion issue when you try to keep a popular activity restricted in terms of size in order to enhance the quality of interaction. I know I was bummed not to be at FooCamp, or at Clay's social software gathering a while back, but I was still glad to be able to see the ideas that emerged from both.

I am delighted to find that the symposium will be recorded, and the recordings made publicly available--and that those of us attending will be allowed/encouraged to blog and otherwise disseminate what's going on. I'll be blogging while I'm there, and hopefully using what I hear and learn to inform the things I'm working on curricularly and that I write about online (here, and there, and there).

Private note to Scott Koon: I would like to think that I don't smell only of "soap and old books," though as a librarian and a mom, I know that I probably do carry the permanent scent of both. And while I haven't met many of the people who'll be at this symposium, I know for a fact that danah boyd, Clay Shirky, and MImi Ito are all pretty far from most people's ideas of stuffy Ivory Tower academics! :)

new ad

One of the talks I enjoyed most at sxsw was the keynote by's Eli Pariser and Zack Exley. They were articulate, committed, and inspirational.I'm delighted to see that MoveOn has acted quickly to put together an ad based on Rumsfeld's "Face the Nation" appearance on Sunday. Well worth watching. Send it to a friend.

blogging sxsw (or not)

Obviously, I've not been doing much conference blogging on this trip. I was thinking a bit about why that was, and there are a number of factors. First is that I'm starting to oversaturate on conferences and travel, so it's harder to get excited enough to want to blog anything. Second is that while I've heard some interesting things here, not much of it has been been really new to me--there's a lot of overlap between the presentations I've heard thus far and the things I've heard at other conferences this year. Third is that there are other people doing a marvelous job of blogging some of the presentations I've been at--most notably Heath Row, who's blogging the sessions he attends at Fast Company and the sxsw conference blog. (If you haven't seen Heath's conference blog reports before, you're in for a treat; he's amazingly good at capturing not only extensive detail from a presentation, but also the tone and context.)

Thus far, SXSW for me has been less about the presentations and more about the people. I'm having a chance to meet a lot of people who I've long admired, but have never met in person, as well as getting to know some people better who I'd only met briefly in the past.

I'm hoping that tomorrow and Tuesday bring some new ideas and inspiration--but even if they don't, the interactions and connections are well worth the trip. Relationship building, in the long run, is worth a lot more to me these days--professionally and personally--than information consumption.

step away from the laptop...

I had a lovely dinner last night with Allan Karl, at an excellent restaurant here in San Diego called Rainwater's on Kettner. No laptops or electronic devices of any kind were involved, which was a huge relief.

One of the things I've found most disconcerting about this conference has been the unwillingness of so many of the participants to shift their mode from the keyboard and screen to the real world of face-to-face communication. There's great value to the backchannel, especially in conference presentations where you can't speak out loud with your neighbors to discuss what's being said. But in the hotel lobby? In the restaurants? In the participant breakout sections? I remember when Steven Johnson posted about Clay Shirky's social software gathering last year--he noted that the backchannel seemed to suck the humor out of the room and into the chat. But at this conference, the backchannel seems to be sucking everything out of the room and into the chat, which I find depressing.

So, anyway, dinner. It was a great reminder of the real-world rewards of this new electronic community I've become a part of. Allan and I had a great time talking, laughing, eating, and sharing a bottle of wine. That kind of experience cements a friendship in a way that instant messenger just can't do. I don't use technology for the sake of using technology--at least, I try not to. I use it to enhance the things that I care about in my life--friends, family, my research. Yesterday afternoon I spoke to my kids over iChat audio. I arranged to meet Allan using email and IM. And I participated in great discussions about my areas of research interest during presentations. But all of those spill over into the real world, and I use them to enhance the real world, not replace it.

stop. breathe. bask. write.

I realized this morning that I was starting to burn out on conference and professional time. I went straight through for nearly 18 hours yesterday...starting at 7am over the conference breakfast, hitting 4 sessions in the morning, going to the conference lunch, then 4 more sessions, then dinner with conference-goers, then 2 evening session, ending after 11pm.

So today I'm slowing down, and finding some time for myself. I skipped a couple of morning sessions (though I did go to hear Marc Smith's great talk at 8:30), had lunch with Judith Meskill and her friend Estee in the sports bar, and now I'm basking in the sun on the steps of Horton Plaza, where I've discovered a free wifi hotspot. Sitting in the sun--in February--is quite a luxury for those of us who live in the great frozen north, so it's doing me a lot of good to spend these few free minutes soaking it up.

I will go back for some of the presentations this afternoon, including a demo of Wallop by Lili Cheng that I'm really looking forward to. Then I'm having dinner with Allan Karl, which I'm also looking forward. And I end the day with the women and tech BOF...I have no idea who, if anyone, will be there. Hope it won't be an empty room, but if so at least it means I can get to sleep a little earlier.

More later today--or perhaps tomorrow--with some of my thoughts on what I've heard here, and the ideas that have emerged in my between-meeting chats with interesting people here at the conference.

emerging tech miscellany

For those who attended my presentation this morning (the crowd was small, but engaged and interested--it was fun!), and for those who couldn't (cough...joi...cough...danah...cough), the barest of notes (well, pictures, really) are here.

Tonight danah and I are doing a participant session on our blog definition/categorization idea, at 9pm. And tomorrow (Wednesday), I signed up to do a BOF on women and tech for those who want to continue the conversation that got cut short at the end of the presentation today.

If you're here and haven't come up to say hi, please that I'm done talking, I'm a lot happier to be here. :)

travel insanity

You know you're really in trouble when your schedule starts to look a lot like Joi's!

1/29-31, Chicago (consulting)
2/9-12, San Diego (speaking @ ETech)
2/21-3/3, Tokyo (tourism)
3/3-6, Shanghai (tourism)
3/13-16, Austin (speaking @ SXSW)
3/18-19, Washington DC (serving on NSF ITWF Review Panel)
3/28-30, Redmond, WA (Social Software Symposium)

Happily, things look like they'll calm back down again after that flurry of flights. Which is a good thing, for me and my family.

A student told me today that he didn't understand how I was able to do everything that I do--conferences, classes, family, etc. But I'm not sure that I actually do everything that everyone thinks I'm doing. There's a lot of smoke and mirrors involved. And there's also a lot of working in the spaces...multitasking during meetings and while sitting on the couch, while flying in airplanes and sitting in terminals.

The biggest down side of that multitasking is that I'm seldom completely in the moment--my attention always seems to be diverted a bit by the things I ought to be working on, the deadlines that are creeping up on me. So I'll be glad when life calms down a bit...spring brings some relief, and summer even more. For now, I'm going to put the computer down, and step away from the keyboard for a bit.

sxsw roommate

I'm going to be at SXSW Interactive in Austin this March, and plan on staying at the conference headquarter hotle, the new Hilton. Would be great if I could find a woman to room with there. Let me know if you're interested.

travel plans for the new year

It's going to be a busy, busy first quarter for me, it seems.

A trip to Chicago in January to do some consulting.

A trip to San Diego in February to speak at O'Reilly's Emerging Technology Conference.

The much-anticipated Asian trip with my mother and son in late February/early March.

And I've just agreed to be on a panel ("Streetwise Librarians and the Revolution in Public Information") at SXSW Interactive in Austin in March.

Whew. I'm tired just looking at that. :/ Every one of them is a trip I'm really interested in making, but in the aggregate, it's a daunting itinerary for someone who much prefers sleeping in her own bed...

mea conference deadline extended

The deadline for proposals for the Media Ecology Association conference has been extended to December 15th. The extensions announcement has details on the conference and the kinds of proposals they're looking for.

One panel proposal that has been submitted (and I suspect has a good chance of being accepted) is one that I'm chairing on "Weblogs and Cross-Disciplinary Communication." On the panel with me will be Clay Shirky, Seb Paquet, Jill Walker, and Alex Halavais. That alone should be reason enough for you to want to attend (or, better, yet, to propose your own presentation).

Here's our abstract:

While weblogs have been touted as an emerging publishing medium, academic weblogs are often used more for communication and dialog with other scholars and interested readers than they are for traditional broadcast publishing. Unlike mailing lists, weblogs combine broad accessibility (unhindered by subscription requirements) with clear authorial voice on the part of the weblog writer(s). The panel will discuss the opportunities and problems presented by weblogs as a tool for cross-disciplinary communication and collaboration.

And while Rochester's weather may be the moment, in mid-June it's quite wonderful here.

rushkoff blog

Somehow I missed that Douglas Rushkoff (a professor at NYU in the same Interactive Telecom Program where Clay Shirky teaches) has a weblog. (And has, apparently, since several months before I even started mine.)

Which reminds me that I have to get moving on my blog panel proposal for the upcoming Media Ecology conference here at RIT in June, where Rushkoff will apparently be giving a plenary presentation. It's due December 1st. Ack!

I've noticed that when I'm on the right track intellectually, everything starts to seem connected. In this case, Rushkoff is connected to Sue Barnes, a new faculty member at RIT whose interests are very close to mine. He's also connected to Clay, with whom I co-author Many-to-Many, and to Howard Rheingold, who I know through a couple of channels, and who's speaking this spring here at RIT.

All of that points to the best kind of convergence, the kind that says to me there's a critical mass of connections and content and interest to spin into something really interesting.

internet librarian: notess on "harvesting blogs"

Points out that we're still in a "hunting and gathering" mode; there's no comprehensive, accurate search.


  • Do "collection development" to find key weblogs in your area
  • Search weblog/rss search engines for both broad and specific content areas
  • Wander occasionally; follow "what I read" links, comments, trackbacks

Oh my goodness...he's showing an RIT student's post on LexisNexis. Pretty entertaining. "I never realized that RIT's library bought access to LexisNexis and any RIT student can log in and do searches for free." I'm delighted that the student is blogging, and that he found and appreciated the library content--but disappointed that our students don't all know about these resources. This speaks to a need for better, more targeted marketing by our library (and I know they're not the only ones).

He mentions and demos a lot of blog search tools, some of which were new to me. I also didn't realize that Micah Alpern's "trusted blog search" tool could search blogrolls now.

Final points, which I may use to start my presentation:

  • Be aware of blog movement
  • Not always necessary
  • More useful in some fields than others
  • Blogs constantly changing
  • One of the "hot" technologies

(What happens if we roll back the clock ten years, and substitute "web" for "blog"? Or much further back, and substitute "book" for "blog"?)

internet librarian: levine/cohen on rss

One bonus for me of attending this conference was getting a chance to meet Jenny Levine, the Shifted Librarian! (She's on the same network that I'm using ("Deep Blue Wireless", $8.95/day), so if she had a Mac we could use Rendezvous to share information and collaborate. But she's not. There's an amazingly small number of laptops here, and I've only seen one other Powerbook. Huge change from tech industry conferences.)

She and Steve Cohen are talking about RSS;it's a basic introduction to RSS, for people who aren't familiar with it at all, so I probably won't blog much about it.

Most of the presentations I've seen today, this one included, start with a list of characteristics, rather than showing the functionality first. A list of aggregators at the beginning is less helpful than a list of aggregators at the end. Start with the "why should I care"--then dig into the what and how.

This is the first time I've ever actually seen the Radio aggregator; explains a lot about why so many Radio users tend towards the "link and comment" approach, and often incorporate large verbatim components from the sites they're commenting on.

Didn't know that Yahoo! Groups provides RSS feeds. Need to look into that.

Jenny's showing some useful sites that generate Javascripts with RSS feed content for your web site, complete with style info. Feedroll is one. Seems like a good interface.

Internet Librarian: Greg Notess on "Google Gambol"

Came in late, so missed the first 15 minutes; the room is packed, probably a combination of the topic and the fact that Greg Notess (who runs Search Engine Showdown) is an energetic, entertaining presenter.

Some useful nuggets, for those who care about search engine tips and tricks:

Internet Librarian: 30 Search Tips in 40 Minutes

Mary Ellen Bates on tips for searching effectively. These are her tips, not mine. My comments, when I have them, are parenthetical.

I almost hate to share these, because these are the kind of tips that let people like me come across as an "angel of information mercy" to the people who ask me for help in finding things!

BTW, Mary Ellen is a great presenter. Funny, interesting, clear. She's got a free "tip of the month" email update, which you can also read on her web site.

Internet Librarian: morville on "ambient findability"

Yes! A Boingo/DeepBlueWireless hotspot in the conference center. Hate to pay another $9/day for access (since I'm already paying in my hotel), but it's worth it to me to be able to blog the conference.

Peter Morville is kicking off the "searching" track with a talk on "ambient findability."

Interesting graphic showing "cells" of characteristics. Usable, Useful, Dedsirable, Valuable, Accessible, Creditble, and Findable. He wrote an article called The Age of Findability ("just Google it," he says). Shows a great quote from a response to his article: "[This is] a case of librarians trying to muscle intot he usability field with their own spin...findability is just a subset of user-centered design."

aoir: "digital divide: opportunities and challenges"

Dianne Looker (Dalhousie): The Internet And The Gender Digital Divide

Canadian study on Internet use. They looked at 15-year-old boys and girls enrolled in school.

Findings from YITS/PISA

  • Males slightly more likely to have a computer in their home.
  • Males more likely to use computers in every context
  • Males more likely to use the 'net for almost all tasks. (only possible exceptions were word processing and educational software) "Males use computers more and use them for more and different tasks."
  • Boys feel more positively about computers. See it as more fun, more important, more absorbing.
  • Boys rate their skills higher!!! (Twice as many males as females report that they have high skills.)

90% of boys and girls have any access. Slightly more boys have computer at home, slightly more boys have internet connections at home.

Types of use of computer is related to home access. For those with no home access, boy and girl patterns are more similar. For those with homea ccess, there is more divergence, with boys using the computer more and for a wider variety of activities.

Males much more likely to say they use the computer out o personal interest; girls much more likely to say they use it for school/study needs.


  • Gender has an effeect, but at-home access seems to have more of an effect. Questions about causal direction. Data suggests that interest-->access, rather than the reverse. Because boys are interested, they create access for themselves.
  • Need more details on why and how males and females use computer and the Internet differently. Need qualitative research to fill in the stories.

Found that it's not that high achievers use IT more...access isn't correlated with school success or involvement.

(In a response to a questioner, the Pew researcher noted that girls are using IM more than boys, but most other activities are more boys than girls. It is in the teenage life online report on the Pew web site.)

aoir: "network formations: producing and consuming online games"

Jason Rhody, a talk called: /Em Speaks, Or Textual Practices, Online Communication, And Asheron's Call

Game studies is going through a legitimization process, including a controlling vocabulary (other things, too, which I missed).

How have games established a sense of agency within the virtual world, while maintaining a controlled environment. Persistence is a key component, a sense of history.

How have players taken an active role in shaping Asherons Call?

Games are social practices; online games operate within a physical and computational environment as well.

Shows screen shot from Asheron's Call. Notes the amount of textual information still provided. Expandable chat window at the bottom, which shows status and activity as well. "Emote" function, some of which are programmed-- eg surrender, teapot. Also simple text-based emotes (which appear to work much like the /me command in IRC).

"I can want to jump, but desire and action only meet when programmed."

Non-programmed emotes demonstrate for players the limits of their control.

Lots of discussion of interface components, focusing on user-developed tools (plug-ins) for visual display. Various pop-up windows, navigational tools. Can "hack" the data flow, reinterpret and enhance it.

Players have been able to "penetrate the narrative" in this way.

In game studies, "narrative" is a touchy concept. One side is more traditional (narratologist), draws from other media types. Ludologists argue that games are not narratives, that they are unlike other narrative forms. e.g. "Tetris can't be compared to War and Peace"

Historical context for gaming is important. While games may not be narratives per se, but they can contain narratives. So Tetris may not be a narrative, but Asheron's Call certainly contains narrative.

aoir: interesting audience comment

From a questioner, who teaches at a somewhat conservative school. She showed her class the Homeless Blogger's site, and it made them angry -- they felt that it should be illegal for him to solicit for funds online, and that if he had a blog, he ought to have a job, and a home.

Fascinating stuff. No time to think about it...another interesting speaker now.

My notes from the Saturday Friday afternoon session. This was a great session, with interesting stuff on metaphors for the Internet. (Paging Dr. Weinberger...)

aoir: "broadening the blog panel, part 1"

The blog panel I was on was so big that it got split into two time slots, and the first one was from 8:30-9:45am. I took notes for that one (no WiFi at that time), but then my computer got pressed into use for projection during my panel (for Jason Nolan and for me), and I didn't really take notes much after that.

So, here are my belated notes from session 1, featuring Cameron Marlow (of Blogdex fame), Alex Halavais, Matthew Rothenberg, and Thomas Burg.

aoir: "blogging: authors and consequences"

Elijah Wright (presenting with Lois Scheidt and Susan Herring) on the weblog genre. There's a popular view, but it represents an unrepresentative elite. Most of the bloggers mentioned in mainstream media reports of blogging are male. "Blog Research on Genre" project (BROG), with a goal of empirically characterize the "typical blog."

[Ack! Isn't this like trying to characterize the "typical person"? Or the "typical woman"? Is there any value in an "average" representation? Why do we need to see blogging as an undifferentiated label??]

Defined blogs as "HTML document with entries in reverse chronological order." (No mention of authorial voice would a software revision list be a blog, under this definition??)

Used a random sample from for their analysis. Used web content analysis,through lens of web genre characterics. Coded features of blogs, quantified results.

Hypotheses: (1) Blog content tends to be external to the author (news, links); (2) authors are typically well-educated adult males, (3) blogs are interactive, actively soliciting comments, and (4) blogs are heavily interlinked.

  • Of sample, 70% were personal journals. (Numbers gone too fast to see the range for other types.)
  • 91% are 1 author, 54 male, 60 adult, 57% students.
  • Gender and age of blog author varies according to blog content. (Shouldn't variables be reversed there?) Second most frequent profession mentioned was "unemployed."
  • of blogs allowing comments: 43. seems to be related to the default settings in blogging software.
  • 70% include external links (excluding "badges" for software developers, e.g. MT or blogger). This means 1/3 of all weblogs have no links !

Blog content is mostly personal, and often intimate. authors are roughly eqully split between male and female, adult and teen. Adult males create more filters and k-logs (in fact almost all are created by males), females and teens create more personal journals.

Conclusion: Blogs featured in contemporary public representation are not representative.

They acknowledge that sample size is small, and is English-only. However, more recent samples seem to reinforce conclusions. Present several interpretations, but I find these overly speculative. You don't know why people do things until you ask them, or at the very least do more qualitative inquiry into the phenomenon.

Jump right to predictions:

  • Increasing mundane use.
  • Increasing contentiousness
  • Increasing commercialization
  • Increasing non-blog use of blog software

I am reminded of a line I heard from Pat Cadigan (a sci-fi author) at an ALA conference, when she warned against "the danger of predicting the future in a straight line."

So, they ask, what then is "new about blogs?"

  • Ease of update means more interactive webpages
  • Creators can be itneractive yet maintain control
  • Blurs distinction between traditional HTML documents and text-based CMC

That last one is where my interest lies. Blurring of boundaries (just search my archives for "boundaries" to see previous references to that theme). Susan Herring puts up a graphic showing a continuum of web pages to CMC.

More conclusions:
* blogs may ultimately be transformative, but not in favoring a specific content, audience, or quality
* rather they create new affordances that will be open to a variety of uses (cf email)
* important to look at "typical" blogs as well as intersting unusual ones
* look at socio-political, social-psychological, and technical implications

I asked if they had concerns about creating a "typical" profile of a diverse population--response was that they realize they need to break it down more.

Also asked if they might consider longitudinal studies--does content change over time? Go from externally focused to internally, or the reverse?

(Update: Cameron Marlow has a wiki page with his notes on this session.)

(Another update: Elijah Wright has posted the PPT presentation from this session, so you can check my #s and find the ones that I missed!)

aoir: "hacking women"

Sarah Stein, NCSU
"Hacking women: media representations of the technically proficient woman"

The Net and VR5 both cast women as hackers. Surprising, because women are almost absent from the real world of hackers.

What is the effect of media representations of women "transgressing" into internet and gaming culture?

Hacking is one way in which men enter and advance themselves in software development. Joy, passion, creativity are typically associated with the media image of the hacker.

Why are there no female hackers? Perhaps because men are more able to find relief from fixed time schedules and daily tasks (much of the daily caretaking and routine drudgery of life falls to women).

Shows a series of clips from both The Net and VR5. Interesting stuff. Will need to go back and watch The Net again. Have never seen VR5. Is it available on DVD or reruns at all?

The women are skillful and competent with technology, but socially inept. There's teh big question: Does technological skill mean deficiency in "womanliness"?

In both of the narratives analyzed, the women go from asexual figures, clothed in baggy garments, to more feminine and stylish apperances.

Not sure I buy the argument that portrayals of geek guys don't lessen their sense of masuclinity...or that the portrayals of female geeks necessarily makes them less "womanly"--unless we want to buy into stereotypical definitions of what constitutes femininity.

In both of these narratives, mothers are physically present but mentally incompetent (comatose, etc). What message does this sound? Women can go into the technical domain when they are freed from family demands--but they can only reclaim their femininity by "rescuing" their mothers, and taking on the caretaker role.

[Will follow up with her to see if the paper is being published, or will be. Can't find a web site for her at NCSU, at least not via Google.]

Audience member notes on the extent to which gender norms are being "policed" and reified in current online environments and media messages surrounding these environments. Is there any reason for optimism?

Sarah Stein replies that the hope lies in "activist feminist" work. There's no open door inviting revisions; we have to breach the barricade and take it on.

She references Mary Flanagan...need to find out about her work. Creating new representations of online environments.

Audience member suggests that the Internet allows us to "escape binary gender" (updated version of "on the Internet nobody knows you're a dog"?). Can we put gender behind us?

The problem is that nobody exists solely online--nor do they want to.

(Note to self: Interesting to think about the representation of maternal figures in Sarah Stein's examples. Many of the women I've interviewed for the grant have described their mothers as "computer illiterate.")

open wifi in queen street cafe!

I finished my presentation, and escaped in search of lunch. Wandered down Queen Street, and into the Bishop and the Belcher, a pub that had enough people inside to indicate edible food, but not so many as to make for a wait.

And miracle-of-miracles, there's an open WiFi network here. w00t!

As to the presentation, it went fine. Thanks for all the good wishes, and suggestions--slightly revised version of the presentation is now up. I took lots of notes about the two blog panels, and will post them later today once I've cleaned 'em up a little bit. No networking at the conference (yet...Apple seems to be working on it, and we had 15-20 minutes of connectivity before it disappeared again), so no live blogging. If they get the wireless working later, I'll see what I can do. Jason Nolan ("and his team," he said) are doing a conference blog, too.

coming up for air

Haven't been blogging, but I have been working. Finishing up the paper for AoIR, and putting up an MT-driven web site for my grant research.

I leave for Toronto Wednesday night, and once I get through the Thursday morningn presentation I'll get to relax and enjoy both the conference and the city.

There are two restaurants I ate at when I was in Toronto in July that I'm hoping to visit again while I'm there. One is the Epicure Cafe on Queen Street W, where I had an excellent and surprisingly inexpensive dinner the night I arrived for ALA. The other was a wonderful Mauritian restaurant called Blue Bay Cafe at the corner of Dundas and Roncesvalles. (I'm blogging this because I'd forgotten the names of both, and needed to have a friend remind me. Now I'll have the names and links easily available as needed.)

conference scheduling woes

Aaaaargh! I just realize that Tim Berners-Lee is speaking at AoIR. Which would be great if it weren't at exactly the same time as my panel.

That is so completely and utterly unfair.

choosing a toronto hotel

I finally got official $ approval for my "international" travel to Toronto next week (for AoIR 2003), so I'm looking at hotel options. I've narrowed it down to two choices (neither or which is the conference hotel, the Hilton--too expensive, since I missed the cutoff for the conference rate).

It looks like a choice between The Metropolitan (looks more luxurious, and has wifi throughout the public areas, as well as broadband in all the rooms) and Cambridge Suites (appears to be closer to the conference hotel, has roomy suites and free breakfasts).

I think I'll have to call tomorrow to see (1) if the Metropolitan charges for in-room broadband, (2) if Cambridge has broadband in all their rooms (may only be the pricier ones), and (3) what each charges for parking (which, as I recall, is a highly lucrative side business for Toronto hotels).

Anybody have experience staying in either of those hotels?

(And no, the paper's not done. But it will be before I get there Wednesday night!)

happy dance!

Received a few minutes ago:

Dear Elizabeth,


You have been accepted as a presenter at the
O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference 2004
at the Westin Horton Plaza, San Diego, California,
February 09, 2004 - February 12, 2004.

The following proposal has been accepted as a 45 minute
session for the event:

"Breaking Into the Boys' Club: How Diversifying Your Team Can Expand Your Market"

Y'all come, y'hear?

amazingly useful site for academics

My colleague Tona Henderson introduced me to an amazingly helpful site this quarter. It's called Papersinvited, and it collects calls for papers from conferences and journals worldwide.

When you register, you create a profile and tell the system what topic areas you're interested in following. In addition to the existing topical categories (I subscribe to "Library and Information Sciences," "Knowledge Management," "Communication," "Digital Arts," and "Internet and Online Services"), you can specify up to five keywords to look for in announcements (I have "weblogs," "blogs," "social software," "gender," and "women").

Each time you log in, it shows you current announcements in the areas you've selected. You can delete them if you're not interested, or add them to a planner, which is a calendar that shows you upcoming submission dates, notification dates, and conference dates.


I don't know why it's free, but it is. And it's incredibly useful to those of us who are under various pressures to publish and present in peer-reviewed contexts.

aoir conference plans

I was trying to remember which presentations at the Association of Internet Researchers conference I was planning to attend, and had to poke through my outbox to find the email I sent to a colleague about the topic.

So to save myself that hassle next time, I'm posting it here, in an easily searchable context. External memory, indeed.

(Caveat...all the URLs changed between the first time I found the panels, and the second time. Apparently the URLs are tied to time slots, rather than unique presentations, so if they change the schedule, the URL changes, too. Blech. So if they're wrong when you click on them, it's not my fault!)

8:30 - 9:45: The first of two panels on "Broadening the Blog" -- Alex Halvais, Thomas Burg, Cameron Marlow, and Matthew Rothenberg

10:00 - 11:15: The second of the blog panels, with Aaron Delwiche, Taso Lagos, me, Jason Nolan, and Jo Ann Oravec.

Unfortunately, at the very same time there are two panels that I really wanted to go to. <sigh>

From 8:30-9:45 is a panel on Online Social Research: Methods, Issues, Ethics. And from 10-11:15am are two things I wish I could attend, one panel on Online Research Methods, and another on Identity and Gender.

2-3:45pm: A panel on Gendered Subjectivities, including a presentation called "Hacking Women: How Popular Media Represent the Technologically Proficient Woman."

8:00-8:30am: Blogging BOF

8:00-8:30am: Blogging BOF (yes, again. don't know why)

2-3:45pm: Expanding the Boundaries: Methodological Issues in Doing Internet Research

8:30-9:45am: Broadening Options and Raising Standards for Qualitative Internet Research: A Dialogue among Scholars

fall frenzy

This is a crazy quarter in terms of traveling. Normally I don't travel much, if at all, during the academic year (except during breaks). But this quarter, I have three back-to-back trips in October and November. So today has been travel arrangement day. :P

October 16-19 I'll be at the Association of Internet Researchers (AoIR) annual conference in Toronto, where I'll be on a blog-related panel that Alex Halavais put together. Minor detail...I need to write the paper. Ack. (It's based on some earlier work I did related to Usenet, so I'm not at ground zero. But I'm still a little panicked.)

October 26-28 I'll be at a workshop in Albuquerque, NM, for PIs (principal investigators) in NSF's ITWF program. Everyone who's gotten research money over the past few years from that program will be there to talk about their research and share ideas, results, etc. I'm excited about this, because it's a great opportunity to get to know other researchers in the area of women and computing. However, because of the spam filtering problem I mentioned yesterday, I didn't know I had to prepare a 5 page summary paper--which is due Monday.

November 2-4 I'll be at the Internet Librarian conference in Monterey, CA, where I'll be on a keynote panel on blogging "Top Tech Trends for Libraries" (sort of a 'do-over' of the ALA panel I was on, but sharing the podium with new people), and then doing a separate presentation on "Beyond Blogging." I'm way behind on getting the paperwork done for that, too. (If y'all are reading this, I am coming. Really. I promise I'll have everything filled out and sent back by the end of this weekend!)

All that has to be balanced with MW afternoon teaching schedule. I really don't feel good about missing more than two classes a quarter (it's only a ten-week quarter, so there are only 20 class meetings). So that means rushing home on Tuesday the 28th and Tuesday the 4th (including a red-eye flight home for the latter), so that I can make it to my Wednesday 2pm class.

Which is a very roundabout way of saying don't be surprised if blogging falters a little during the next couple of weeks. That's a lot of stuff to prepare for.

do people look like their blogs?

Blogging has been slow this week because I've been at Supernova, trying to process the experience of suddenly meeting--in person--scores of people I knew only through "social software." It was a lot to take in. I was talking to my friend Elouise about it this morning, and she said it reminded her of "meeting someone at a church social whom you'd sketched in the nude." Oddly enough, that is in fact an excellent analogy. I think many people do feel as though they're exposing themselves in their blogs, and it's disconcerting for them to then to meet their audience in a real-world social context.

Shelley, for example, talks about the disjoint for her between her online persona (as shown through her weblog) and her real-world self. She speculates that

...those people who write weblogs read by spouses, kids, and employers tend to write differently then people like me who are, for all intents and purposes, obscured from view because we've kept the two worlds far apart.

I think she's probably right. For me, however, the real and virtual worlds have been "intertwingled" for so long that I'm not able to see them as separate worlds. And I suspect that for many of us, that will be increasingly the case.

There's a discussion about this same topic happening on the Emergent Democracy mailing list right now. Greg Elin had this to say:

As more technology becomes more familiar and more commonplace, the dividing line between "real" and "virtual" blurs and becomes increasingly besides the point to discuss outside of specific contexts.

And in response, Kevin Marks cited Shelley's post from above, and added this:

And the way we were blurring the line at SuperNova, with blogging and IRC ongoing throughout, and showing IRC on stage at the end (which I was watching via iChat AV...) was very intersting.

I was the person who put IRC on the screen while they talked. I did that because I wanted people at the conference to see the vibrant channel of communication that was co-existing with the real-world conference in the room. And perhaps most interesting to me about the room/channel mix was the way they impacted each other.

As I told the Supernova audience (in the less than 60 seconds that were left to me after the previous panel ran late) was that as I watched and participated in the IRC conversations during the conference, three modes of activity became apparent to me. When a dynamic, interesting speaker was talking (like, say, David Weinberger), the channel was very quiet. We were taking notes, paying attention, looking at the stage rather than the screen. When a panel presentation with some interesting topics was going on, the channel tended towards discussion of the speakers' comments, which were then augmented by comments from those not even in the room. And when a speaker failed to catch the interest of the room, rather than physically walking out, people escaped into the virtual lobby to talk about everything from socks to the plural form of the word penis. [Damn, now I've gone and tripped the filtering software again.]

Yes, the lines are blurring. Some people already find that frightening. There's a safety, a distance, that computer-mediated communication provides. For all the talk of exposing ourselves electronically, of taking risks in our blogs, the text and the screen provide a buffer, a layer of protection. But I think that for these technologies to reach their greatest potential, they have to become integrated into our real lives, not kept scrupulously separate.

So, even though it was scary and overwhelming to meet so many well-known bloggers at once--Joi Ito, Halley Suitt, Allan Karl, Simon Phipps, Ross Mayfield, Anil Dash, Mena Trott, David Weinberger, Adina Levin, Cory Doctorow, Dan Gillmor, Jason DeFillippo, Sarah Lai Stirland, Arnold Kling, and so many more--it was a very good thing for me, too. It helped make this world of social software more real for me, more integrated into my life, more tangible and human.

So thanks, Kevin, for making it possible for me to be there.

Update, 5:13pm
Ross points out, in the comments, the original motivation for this post's title--which I left out in my rush to post before I left the office. Yes, several people seemed quite surprised by my appearance. It seems the coffeeshop photo on my blog doesn't accurately convey my youthful, vivacious demeanor. Or something like that. However, I suspect that they found that interacting with me in person wasn't all that different from interacting online.

ambulance chasing at supernova

So, I'm at Supernova, which is being massively blogged (see the conference blog, David Weinberger, etc for real-time coverage).

I, however, am much too tired to be listening carefully, let alone real-time blogging. Why am I so tired? You probably think I was out late, belly-dancing at Joi's party. Nope. In fact, Halley and I left the party early, since we were tired. A funny thing happened on our way to catch a cab, however.

After waiting much too long for a cab on King Street, we decided to walk down King Street to find one at the metro stop, joined by Paddy Holahan, a nice Irish gentleman who'd been at the party, too. When we got to the stop, there was a line of cabs...but we were on the wrong side of a wire fence, about 3-1/2' high. Halley and Paddy decided to climb the fence. Being the less adventurous sort, myself (and about a foot shorter than either of them), I decided to walk around.

By the time I got around the fence to them, Halley was limping. Apparently she'd tossed her (spiky-heeled) shoes over the fence first, then hopped over...right onto the heel of her upside-down shoe. Yeah. Ouch.

"When was the last time you had a tetanus shot," I asked. She couldn't remember. Uh-oh.

Got to the hotel, and the assistant manager grabbed a first aid kit and took a look. A short look. After which he suggested it was time to call the EMTs. He was was a nasty puncture wound. A few minutes later, three delightful EMTs showed up in a big-ass ambulance. Next thing I knew, I was in the front seat, Halley was in the back on a stretcher, and we were on our way to Arlington Hospital. That was around 11pm.

At 3am, they finally wheeled Halley back out of the ER, heavily drugged on Percodan, and unable to walk. We called a cab (which the hotel gave us a voucher for!), and we were back in the Hyatt at 3:30am, where they even provided her with a wheelchair.

Ever the go-to girl, however, at 8am I dragged my sorry self out of bed, grabbed some coffee, and ended up sitting between Joi Ito and Sam Ruby.

Now Clay's talking, and it's (unsurprisingly) entertaining and interesting enough that it's almost penetrating my sleep-deprived brain. Sure hope the blogging accounts fill in the content blanks for me later, once I've had enough caffeine to be rational.

california, here i come...

In November, that is. I'll definitely be speaking at the Internet Librarian conference in Monterey.

So, what's going to be the least expensive way for me to get to Monterey from Rochester? Airfare directly to Monterey from here is outrageously expensive (~$600rt), so that's not ideal. Airfare into SFO from here is about the same (right now; I suppose it could drop).

One possibility is to fly JetBlue (my favorite airline) from Rochester to Oakland ($308rt), and then rent a car. Mapquest says it's 120 miles. Is that a silly thing to try to do? Will the roads make me crazy and stressed? Or would it be fun and beautiful and worth it?

Other ideas?

speaking at supernova

Looks like I'm going to be part of a wrap-up panel at Supernova next month, along with Anil Dash and Dan Gillmor. Ack. A-list bloggers. And me. Kinda scary. :)

Kudos to Kevin Werbach, who's made a serious effort to include women's voices in his conference program.

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