Archive: March, 2007

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Saturday, March 31st, 2007

Ghost in the Machine Tags

Richard has some very nifty ideas up his sleeve for the next iteration of his site. Some of these are design-related and some are technical. He just gave a peek into the technical side of things by explaining how he’s using tags to tie content together. Not just any old tags, mind: machine tags.

You may remember that Flickr rolled out machine tags a while back. That’s their name for what’s basically tripletags; tags that take the form of namespace:predicate=value. There’s some tight integration between Upcoming and Flickr using the machine tag upcoming:event=[ID]. You can see a looser coupling (one way rather than bi-directional) in the recently-updated events section of Last.fm which uses lastfm:event=[ID]. As an example, take a look at the page for a Low Lows concert I went to and took pictures of.

Richard is making use of machine tagging to associate his Flickr pictures with his blog posts. He’s also planning to use Amazon’s API to associate ISBN numbers with blog posts, raising the question of which namespace to use:

We therefore need a triple-tag version of the ISBN tag, and here’s my suggestion: iso:isbn=0713998393. ISBN is a standard recognised by the International Organisation for Standardization (ISO) so I thought it made a certain sense for ISO to be the namespace. Other standardised entities could be tagged in a similar way, such as iso:issn=15340295.

Seems like a sound idea to me. I might experiment with machine tagging reviews here in that way and then pulling in complementary information from Amazon.

But that’s for another day. For now, I’ve gone ahead and integrated Flickr machine tagging here… but this works from the opposite direction. Instead of tagging my blog posts with flickr:photo=[ID], I’m pulling in any photos on Flickr tagged with adactio:post=[ID].

Now, I’ve already been integrating Flickr pictures with my blog posts using regular “human” tags, but this is a bit different. For a start, to see the associations using the regular tags, you need to click a link (then the Hijax-y goodness takes over and shows any of my tagged photos without a page refresh). Also, this searches specifically for any of my photos that share a tag with my blog post. If I were to run a search on everyone’s photos, the amount of false positives would get really high. That’s not a bug; it’s a feature of the gloriously emergent nature of human tagging.

For the machine tagging, I can be a bit more confident. If a picture is tagged with adactio:post=1245, I can be pretty confident that it should be associated with http://adactio.com/journal/1245. If any matches are found, thumbnails of the photos are shown right after the blog post: no click required.

I’m not restricting the search to just my photos, either. Any photos tagged with adactio:post=[ID] will show up on http://adactio.com/journal/[ID]. In a way, I’m enabling comments on all my posts. But instead of text comments, anyone now has the ability to add photos that they think are related to a blog post of mine. Remember, it doesn’t even need to be your Flickr picture that you’re machine tagging: you can also machine tag photos from your contacts or anyone else who is allowing their pictures to be tagged.

I realise that I’m opening myself up for a whole new kind of spam. But any kind of spam that requires namespaced tagging on a third-party site is pretty dedicated. If someone actually goes to that much effort to put a thumbnail of an inappropriate image at the end of one of my blog posts, I probably wrote something particularly inflammatory in that post—which would make the associated thumbnail a valid comment, I guess.

Here are some examples of posts I’ve been machine tagging on Flickr:

Once again, like Upcoming and Last.fm, these are event-based. But the machine tagging would work equally well for location-based posts. So when I go up to Scotland next week and blog about it, I (or you or anybody) can then go to Flickr, find some nice pictures of Edinburgh and using the adactio namespace, associate the pictures with the blog post.

It’s a strange mixture of RESTful URLs here and taggable objects there.

If nothing else, this will be an interesting experiment. Machine tags don’t have the low barrier to entry of regular tagging but they aren’t as complex as something like RDF. It might be that they hit the sweet spot between accuracy and ease of use.

Oh, and if you find any Flickr pictures related to this blog post, tag them with adactio:post=1274.

Andy Pearson is a web designer and developer from the UK

A nice subtle lifestream implementation complete with fading over time.

WikiHome - JotSpot Wiki (continuouspartialattention)

There's been a steady increase in talk around continuous partial attention (what with Twitter and all) so I here's the mother lode: Linda Stone waxing lyrical and expanding our vocabularies.

disambiguity - » Waterfall Bad, Washing Machine Good (IA Summit 07 Slides)

Leisa's slides from the IA Summit in Vegas. Looks like it was an excellent presentation, channelling the spirit of Kelly Goto and Jeff Veen.

YouTube - Otters holding hands

Quite possibly the cutest thing ever captured on video.

Thursday, March 29th, 2007

You take the high road…

…And I’ll take the low road but I just might be in Scotland afore ye. Next week, actually. April 5th, to be precise. That’s the date of the Highland Fling conference in Edinburgh.

This will be a focused grassroots one-day event and I think it’s going to be fun. The focus will be on and the grassrootsiness comes courtesy of the reasonable price of £125. There are still tickets available so if you fancy a day of inspiration and learning in an historic city, grab one for yourself.

I have the great honour of being asked to deliver the opening keynote. I hope I can deliver the goods. I’ll have my work cut out for me just meeting the high standards of the rest of the day’s schedule. The line-up looks really good. If I have one criticism, it’s that the line-up is distinctly male and non-Scottish. It would have been nice to see more local representation (says me, the Southener).

This imbalance may well be addressed a day later. Refresh Edinburgh doesn’t have a confirmed venue yet but it will definitely be taking place on April 6th, Good Friday. Sign yourself up if you can make it.

I’ll definitely be there. I’m going to stick around Edinburgh for the weekend too. My last visit was all too brief. I’m looking forward to spending more time in such a beautiful—and downright cool—place. See you there.

Wednesday, March 28th, 2007

Newsvine - Hacking John McCain

John McCain stole Mike Davidson's bandwidth. This sounds like a job for .htaccessman.

Tuesday, March 27th, 2007

Reckoning

When I gave a talk with Andy at South by Southwest I jokingly made reference to the Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory. After reading Kathy Sierra’s last post, that joke isn’t funny anymore.

I just want to add my voice to the chorus of right-minded people who find this situation unacceptable. I wish there was some way I could channel my anger into something that would help. In the meantime, I can only echo Tim Bray’s call:

Anyone who is remotely connected with the people doing this needs to dig that story up and tell the community.

There will be a reckoning (and I don’t mean that in some wishy-washy karmic afterlife way).

Monday, March 26th, 2007

mezzoblue § Chalkwork Basic Royalty-free Icons

Dave has made some icons — very nice ones.

Friday, March 23rd, 2007

Molt:n Core » Jeremy Keith killed JFK?

Apparently I look like Lee Harvey Oswald and Keanu Reeves. Whoa! Cameron Adams, on the other hand, looks like a bunch of girls (a bunch of hot girls, admittedly).

Interview with Jeremy Keith » Make Me A Speaker! Blog

Meri asked me a few questions about public speaking. I was only too happy too answer them.

Google Maps API Official Blog: KML and GeoRSS Support Added to the Google Maps API

Google gets behind GeoRSS. This is good. Somewhere, Mikel Maron is doing a little dance.

Wednesday, March 21st, 2007

Flickr: adactio's photos tagged with lastfm:event=97947

Yes, there is a reason why I'm using this machine tag. Watch the next release of Last.fm for machine tagging goodness on events.

Tuesday, March 20th, 2007

Twitter (kottke.org)

Jason Kottke likes Twitter too.

Digital Web Magazine - Redesigning the ExpressionEngine Site

A really nice article by Jesse Bennett-Chamberlain detailing the process behind a site design.

Monday, March 19th, 2007

Twitter… again

Everyone’s talking about Twitter, even the Wall Street Journal.

As usual, opinions are pretty polarised. Sometimes those poles swap over. The process goes something like this:

Signing up for Twitter.

This is stupid. I don’t get it.

Adding friends. What a pain!

Eating a cheese sandwich.

Trying to get some work done: getting distracted by Twitter.

@somebody: Really? Me too! Cool.

I love Twitter!

I’m surprised that Kathy Sierra doesn’t like Twitter seeing as it’s the classic example of creating passionate users. But as she freely admits:

I am not in the target audience for Twitter—I am by nature a loner.

Plenty of other people are hating on Twitter because it doesn’t appear to offer any practical value: it’s not productive. As I said before, neither is blogging.

Leisa nails the real value of Twitter. She calls it ambient intimacy:

Ambient intimacy is about being able to keep in touch with people with a level of regularity and intimacy that you wouldn’t usually have access to, because time and space conspire to make it impossible. Flickr lets me see what friends are eating for lunch, how they’ve redecorated their bedroom, their latest haircut. Twitter tells me when they’re hungry, what technology is currently frustrating them, who they’re having drinks with tonight.

While I was away at South by Southwest, Jessica found all the updates from Austin really helped her feel more connected to the people there. I need to get one of those giant plasma screens that were scattered around the convention centre and put one in my flat.

Just occasionally, Twitter is genuinely useful as Leisa can attest (Tantek has a similar story of narrowly-avoided airport confusion from his trip to Vancouver for Web Directions North). But it isn’t really about usefulness or long-term gain.

Lots of people are saying that Twitter is a fad and it won’t last. You know what? That’s fine. Not everything has to last. The whole raison d’être behind Twitter comes from answering a simple question in the present tense:

What are you doing?

If you don’t like Twitter, that’s fine. I understand completely. There’s loads wrong with it and it’s fundamentally not for everyone. But for the rest of us, let us have our fun. We’re not harming anyone and we’re getting some genuine emotional value from technology. That’s a rare thing these days. Yes, I’ll probably get bored with it and move on to something new but in the meantime, Twitter is fun. It really is as simple as that.

Oh, and if you think that Twitter is a waste of your time, here’s a real time-sink: Twittervision.

Subtraction: Oh Yeeaahh!

Khoi has posted the slides from his grids workshop online. Download and learn.

Adobe Labs - Apollo

The first public alpha release of Apollo is out. Grab the runtime and then play around with some of the sample apps (none of which are that impressive but it's the thought that counts).

memespring | Twitter watcher

Another fun toy that uses Twitter's API, this one from Richard Pope.

Sunday, March 18th, 2007

Typography at South by Southwest

I had a very blasé attitude towards attending the talks at South by Southwest this year (though I had a strict regimine of parties to attend). The only presentation I really didn’t want to miss was Web Typography Sucks by Richard and Mark.

So it was that, despite a late night after the Great British Booze-up and South by Northwest, I made sure to get to the conference centre for the 10am start. I’m so glad I did. The presentation was absolutely amazing.

Mark and Richard had a fantastic rapport and the three months of preparation really showed. They packed in a ton of information and presented it all in an engaging and easy-to-digest way.

Yeah, I know I’m biased because I work with Richard but ask anyone who was there: these guys were on fire. You can go ahead and download the slides but you won’t get quite the same effect. Once the audio is released on the SXSW podcast you can follow along as you listen.

The typographical fun continued after lunch. I went to the world premiere of Helvetica, the movie. The screening was open to both flim and interactive attendees and the interest in it was phenomenal: the queue to get in stretched most of the way down the convention centre.

I loved this documentary. I wasn’t sure how well it could hold my interest—especially given the late night I’d had—but it had me gripped. I know it’s hard to imagine a gripping film about a typeface but that’s exactly what this was. It was also thought-provoking and funny. And the soundtrack was pretty cool too.

The director was on-hand to take questions afterwards along with David Carson who said some typically inflammatory things.

My only regret was that Joe wasn’t there. He would have loved hating it.

If you find out that Helvetica is coming to a screen near you, don’t miss it.

twittervision

A mesmerising mashup of Twitter and Google Maps. I could watch this all day.

Socialising at South by Southwest

Much as I enjoyed the panels and presentations at South by Southwest this year, the real reason for making the trip to Austin is to hang out with fellow geeks. It really is like Summer camp.

There are some people that I consider very good friends that I only get to see at SXSW. I hope that situation will change and I’ll get to see these friends more often but in the meantime, Austin in March is the time and place for me to catch up with my buddies.

At the same time, one of the things I love about SXSW is getting to meet new people. Sometimes these are people I’ve been reading online for years; sometimes they’re complete strangers. Either way, I’m constantly amazed at just how nice everybody is. Is it something specific to geeks or did the human race just get a whole lot more pleasant while my back was turned?

Daytime socialising revolved around lunch, usually something Mexican although the steak as big as my head at the Hoffbrau was probably the lunchtime highlight. The traditional trip to the Iron Works involved the finest minds in JavaScript—a fun and constructive way to gorge on meat while discussing the Document Object Model.

The real fun started in the evening. I donned my trusty cowboy hat and ventured forth, guided by Adactio Austin. My little mashup was of help to quite a few people, which is gratifying to know.

I may be just a little biased but I honestly thought that the Great British Booze-up was the most fun. It wasn’t too loud but it wasn’t too quiet; it wasn’t too crowded but it wasn’t too empty. It was just right. And if everyone else there had just a fraction of the fun that I was having, then it was definitely a success.

As usual with events involving Clearleft, Andy did all the work and the rest of us sat back and took all the credit. For the record, Andy’s the man to thank and I for one welcome our new British Booze-up overlords. I think we’ll have to have another one next year, don’t you?

To all the people I met this year at South by Southwest: it was an absolute pleasure. And if I couldn’t remember your name in the corridor the next day, please forgive me. I’m not as young as I used to be and the Shiner Bock probably doesn’t prolong the life of my brain cells.

Speaking at South by Southwest

This was my third year attending South by Southwest and also my third year speaking.

It seems to have become a tradition that I do a “bluffing” presentation every year. I did How to Bluff Your Way in CSS two years ago with Andy. Last year I did How to Bluff Your Way in DOM Scripting with Aaron. This year, Andy was once again my partner in crime and the topic was How to Bluff Your Way in Web 2.0.

It was a blast. I had so much fun and Andy was on top form. I half expected him to finish with “Thank you, we’ll be here all week, try the veal, don’t forget to tip your waiter.”

As soon as the podcast is available, I’ll have it transcribed. In the meantime, Robert Sandie was kind enough to take a video the whole thing. It’s posted on Viddler which looks like quite a neat video service: you can comment, tag or link to any second of a video. Here, for instance, Robert links to the moment when I got serious and called for the abolition of Web 2.0 as a catch-all term. I can assure you this moment of gravity is the exception. Most of the presentation was a complete piss-take.

My second presentation was a more serious affair, though there were occasional moments of mirth. Myself and Derek revisited and condensed our presentation from Web Directions North, Ajax Kung Fu meets Accessibility Feng Shui. This went really well. I gave a quick encapsulation of the idea of Hijax and Derk gave a snappy run-through of accessibility tips and tricks. We wanted to make sure we had enough time for questions and I’m glad we did; the questions were excellent and prompted some great discussion.

Again, once the audio recording is available, I’ll be sure to get it transcribed.

That was supposed to be the sum of my speaking engagements but Tantek had other ideas. He arranged for me to rush the stage during his panel, The Growth and Evolution of Microformats. The panel was excellent with snappy demos of the Operator plug-in and Glenn’s backnetwork app. I tried to do a demo of John McKerrell’s bluetooth version of the Tails extension using a volunteer from the audience but that didn’t work out too well and I had to fall back on just using a localhost example. Still, it was good to be on-hand to answer some of the great questions from the audience.

And yes, once the audio is available, I’ll get it transcribed. Seeing a pattern here? Hint, hint, other speakers.

As panels go, the microformats one was pretty great, in my opinion. Some of the other panels seem to have been less impressive according to the scuttlebutt around the blogvine.

Khoi isn’t keen on the panel format. It’s true enough that they probably don’t entail as much preparation as full-blown presentations but then my expectations are different going into a panel than going into a presentation. So, for something like Brian’s talk on the Mobile Web, I was expecting some good no-nonsense practical advice and that’s exactly what I got. Whereas for something like the Design Workflows panel, I was expecting a nice fireside chat amongst top-notch designers and that’s exactly what I got. That’s not to say the panel wasn’t prepared. Just take one look at the website of the panel which is a thing of beauty.

The panelists interviewed some designers in preparation for the discussion and you can read the answers given by the twenty interviewees. Everyone gave good sensible answers… except for me.

Anyway, whether or not you like panels as a format, there’s always plenty of choice at South by Southwest. If you don’t like panels, you don’t have to attend them. There’s nearly always a straightforward presentation on at the same time. So there isn’t much point complaining that the organisers haven’t got the format right. They’re offering every format under the sun—the trick is making it to the panels or presentations that you’ll probably like.

In any case, as everyone knows, South by Southwest isn’t really about the panels and presentations. John Gruber wasn’t keen on all the panels but he does acknowledge that the real appeal of the conference lies elsewhere:

At most conferences, the deal is that the content is great and the socializing is good. At SXSWi, the content is good, but the socializing is great.

Saturday, March 17th, 2007

The microformats process

John Allsopp has created this flowchart of the research and development involved in the creation of a new microformat. It looks kind of like the workflow of any good iterative development.

The Morning News - South by South-BEST! by Todd Levin

Todd Levin of tremble.com pens a truly hilarious write-up of South by Southwest Interactive 2007.

Storytelling at South by Southwest

South by Southwest Interactive 2007 was predictably wonderful; simultaneously exhausting and exhilarating. On the one hand, it seems like I spent the entire time goofing off and having fun but at the same time, it’s been the most productive conference I’ve attended in quite a while.

SXSW is a great barometer for testing the current zeitgeist in the kingdom of the geek. Personally, the Southby canary in the Web coalmine was telling me one thing: it’s all about telling stories, baby.

Finally, technology is being relegated to its correct role: a tool for allowing people to connect and share their stories. Whether it’s Ruby on Rails, Ajax, tagging or the World Wide Web itself, I got the feeling that what really matters now is personal communication—storytelling by any other name.

Zeldman nails it when he says that independent content is the new web app. I for one welcome our new storytelling overlords.

The obvious poster child of this new revival is the superb Ficlets, brainchild of Kevin Lawver and executed—with AOL’s approval—by a kick-ass team including Jason Garber and the amazing Cindy Li. But even if you look at any of the other hip web apps like Twitter and Flickr, you’ll find that the reason why they’re so engaging is that they’re allowing people to tell their stories.

Even at South by Southwest, people were using the Web to tell stories. There’s the comedic tale of of course but there was also tragedy and even some romance. Listen to Bruce Sterling’s closing rant which rambles around the subjects of blogs, wikis, video and fan fiction (even when I disagree almost entirely with what he says, I still enjoy listening to him speak).

Mind you, this is all my own personal subjective impression of SXSW. It may well be that other people thought that advertising, revenue and business models were the hot topics but that’s certainly not what I experienced. I found a real spirit of excitement swirling around the question, “how can we make it easier for people to communicate?” Answering that question means tackling a range of subjects from visual design, typography through to the mobile web, accessibility, interaction design and the user experience. The question was confronted head-on in Kathy Sierra’s keynote but its presence could be felt hanging over all the presentations and panels I attended.

What I love most about this feeling I got from South by Southwest is its familiarity. It reminds me of why I got into web design in the first place.

Let me tell you a story…

I was at one of the innumerable late-night SXSW parties. In this case the free booze and music was provided by the good folks at Purevolume and Virb. I just had my Wii cherry popped and I was describing the experience to Andy who was my co-coinspirator for the How to Bluff Your Way in Web 2.0 presentation. John Halcyon Styn came over and told us effusively how much he enjoyed said presentation.

Now, plenty of other people had come up to me to give positive feedback about our jolly jape but this compliment from Halcyon really meant a lot to me. You see, he was one of the people who inspired me to make stuff for the web. I distinctly remember sites like prehensile tales, 0sil8 and the inimitable Fray triggering something in my brain that made me realise what it was I wanted to do with my life.

Here we are, ten years later, and South by Southwest has confirmed the choice I made back then. There’s a familiar feeling in the air and it’s nothing to do with corporate buy-out or business models. It’s the feeling of exhilaration and excitement that comes from connecting with people through a shared experience. It’s probably the same feeling that our ancestors had when they gathered around the campfire at night to swap stories. They had fire, we have the hyperlink. Our campfire is the whole world. Our stories are individual and multitudinous. Our time is now.

Co-evolution of neocortex size, group size and language in humans

The Dunbar number gets bandied about a lot in conversations about social networks these days. Here's the original paper that shows the research behind the oft-misused term.

Friday, March 16th, 2007

reboot 9.0

May 31st and June 1st are the dates for this year's Reboot in Copenhagen. Get on the site to suggest speakers and talks for the topic, "Human."

Thursday, March 15th, 2007

microformatique - a blog about microformats and “data at the edges” : Semantics in HTML Part III - Towards a semantic web

John Allsopp has posted the third and final part of his superb series, Semantics in HTML. Read them all.

Sunday, March 11th, 2007

Liberty Alliance Members

Upcoming events about Identity. A lot of these are happening in Europe; I should try to get to one.

Thursday, March 8th, 2007

Ficlets | Welcome to Ficlets!

Project Apeshirt is finally revealed and it's pretty darn cool — collaborative short fiction.

Tuesday, March 6th, 2007

Twitter / Ackbar

Now Admiral Ackbar is on Twitter too. "It's a traaaap!"

Poetry reading - WordRidden

Jessica's English translation of a 19th Century German poem in the public domain – possibly the only English translation of this poem in existence.

Southby

The Clearleft office will be deserted from Thursday of this week to Tuesday of next week. That’s because everyone is going to be letting off steam at geek Summer camp: South by Southwest Interactive.

This will be my third year at the conference and I’m really, really looking forward to it. Sure, the panels and presentations will probably be good but the real reason for going is just to see all my friends and peers gathered together in one place. Most of San Francisco will be transplanted to Texas for a few days, the Philly gang will be there en masse, the Seattle-ites will be flying their geek flag high, the Oz Squad will represent (and I can’t wait to see them again) and, of course, the Brit Pack will be out in full force.

As I did last year, I’ve put together a microformatted Gmapped list of parties and events I’m planning to get to at Adactio Austin. You can subcribe to the calendar and stick it on your phone or iPod if you want an easy way to keep track of the time and location of the next party while you’re in Austin.

Of particular note is The Great British Booze-up, a party extravaganza organised by Clearleft, Boagworld and @media America. There will be booze and food a-plenty as well as great company. Mind you, there’s a lot of other good stuff on that evening. I may have to nip out to see Cindy participate in 20 x 2 and get to the Heather Gold show for a beer. In any case, I’ll start the evening at the Yahoo BarTab and finish at South by NorthWest.

Not every night is as busy as that. Friday looks relatively free (apart from Break Bread with Brad which is not at the Gingerman this year—it’s at Buffalo Billiards). Brian Oberkirch pointed out that Lucinda Williams will be playing over at Stubb’s that night. I may go to that if I can round up a posse of like-minded fans of her own gravelly brand of Southern country.

So overall it’s shaping to be one hell of a good time…

But…

My enjoyment of South by Southwest is going to be tinted by a heavy dose of regret. That’s because Jessica won’t be coming. The Home Office is extending her residence permit. That’s taking quite a bit of time, to put it mildly. While that’s going on, they’ve got her passport so she can’t leave the country so she can’t come to Austin. This, as you can imagine, makes me quite upset.

Traveling without my soulmate feels strange, as if I’m only half there. I’m sure I’ll still have a grand ol’ time in the heart of Texas but if you see me with a hangdog expression every now and then, you’ll know the reason why.

disambiguity - » Ambient Intimacy

An absolutely brilliant summation by Leisa Reichelt that nails Twitter's appeal: ambient intimacy.

Monday, March 5th, 2007

Coffee/latte art - the mark of a professional barista

Coffee porn, some of which is from the baristas working at Travelbag in Brighton.

Sunday, March 4th, 2007

MiniAjax.com / A showroom of nice looking simple downloadable DHTML and AJAX scripts

A collection of scripts. There might be some good stuff here but use with care and discretion.

Watching the stream

Ever since I hacked up my little life stream experiment and wrote about it, it’s been very gratifying to see how people have taken the idea and run with it. Emily Chang has written about the resources she came across when she was putting her life stream together. Sam Sethi has been talking about life streams as a rich vein of attention data (which reminded me of John Allsopp’s thoughts on why blogging as we know it is over).

Of course this idea of mashing up time-stamped (micro)content—usually through RSS—isn’t anything new. Tom Armitage touched on this during his presentation at Reboot in Copenhagen last year:

Whenever I publish anything with a date attached, there’s a framework for ongoing narrative. The item published is our narrative, but the date gives it ongoingness. It takes time for the pattern to emerge; initially, throwing data at that black box, it seems random. For instance: I upload photos to Flickr at arbitrary intervals. I go silent on my blog without explanation. It may seem, in the short-term, like a blip, but in the long-term, it’s an important part of my story. My blog is full of delicious bookmarks right now because I’ve been busy at work, and writing this talk. That’ll be reflected in the longer game, when I write my post-Reboot blog entry, and suddenly the pattern becomes clear.

If you haven’t yet done so, I strongly urge you to read the rest of Telling Stories — What Homer, Dickens, and Comic Books can teach your (social) software. It’s quite brilliant and discusses many issues that are even more relevant today with the rise of OpenID and the clamour for portable social networks.

Jeff Croft has been pioneering the life stream idea for quite a while now, originally calling it a tumblelog. His implementation uses APIs rather than plain ol’ RSS. He’s right in thinking that APIs are a more robust solution for long-term archiving but I think of my life stream as being a fleeting snapshot of current activity.

As Jeff points out:

The result is that most people’s lifestream looks great for the first several days back, but then get all sparse at the bottom, where only one or two sources are still providing information.

CSS to the rescue. I’ve updated my life stream to give vibrant colours to newer entries and faded, eventually illegible colours to older, less relevant content. It’s kind of like Shaun’s recent experiments with age and colour.

I love APIs but when something as simple as RSS does the job, I’ll go for the simple solution every time (hence my love of microformats). In fact, I see RSS as being a kind of low-level short-term API or, as Rob Purdie put it, the vaseline of Web 2.0.

The ubiquity of RSS is what makes Yahoo Pipes possible. Now anybody can make a life stream by plugging in some RSS feeds into a pipe. Here’s one I made earlier. When I tried to do this a few days ago, I couldn’t get it to sort by date properly: it was sorting the pubDate field alphabetically—that seems to be fixed now.

Using Yahoo Pipes isn’t quite as straightforward as it could be. It still feels kind of techy and intimidating for non-geeks. This is the same problem that Ning used to have. Its services were ostensibly being provided so that non-techy people could start mashing stuff up but the presentation was impenetrably techy. That’s all changed now.

Ning has completely rebranded as a social network builder. Personally, I think this is a brilliant move. After just a few seconds on the front page, it’s absolutely clear what you can do. By providing example sites, they make the point even clearer. You can still make all the same stuff that you always could on Ning—videos, photos, blogs—but now it’s all wrapped up as part of a clearer goal: creating your own social network site.

When Yahoo Pipes launched, it looked like it might be competing directly with Ning. Now that’s not the case. The two services have diverged and are concentrating on different tasks for different audiences.

I’ll be keeping an eye on Ning to see how it deals with the issue of portable social networks. I’ll be watching Yahoo Pipes as a tool for creating life streams.

Saturday, March 3rd, 2007

YouTube - This 'n' That

Paul's voice has been sampled from his this'n'that magic trick and used for this stop-motion animation. Brilliant! I <3 mashup culture.

Thursday, March 1st, 2007

FT.com / Home UK / UK - Brighton cluster at new media cutting edge

I'm living on the cutting edge, apparently. This article is more like a press release meets an annual report, completely missing out the real reasons why Brighton is a cool place to live and work.

Upcoming.org Suggestion Board

Did you notice that Upcoming recently switched from liquid to fixed? Have your say about that here.

FlashAid version 1.0 released at Aral Balkan

Aral has been busy whipping FlashAid into shape. Now let's get busy kicking the tyres.

Ning - Create your own Social Networks!

Ning has relaunched as a roll-your-own-social-network service. I guess that leaves Yahoo Pipes unchallenged in the roll-your-own-mashup field.

Showdown - Markdown in Javascript

A JavaScript port of John Gruber's excellent Markdown. I use Markdown for my blogging CMS so I may incorporate this into the GUI.

Main Page - MakeMeASpeaker

Meri has created a wiki where would-be speakers can get advice and mentoring from established speakers. I don't know if I'm established but I'm offering my services.

Morethanseven » UK Meetup Finder

Gareth has mashed up Google Maps with meatspace geek gatherings in the UK.