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October 31, 2005


Okay, who's a geek?

Yeah, that'd be me. I got tired of scrawling out the tail end of my blog URL onto my official business card, which only contains my root URL. And so, I took advantage of Hugh MacLeod's GapingVoid Blogcards:

The front of my blogcard
The back of my blogcard

C'mon. You know you're jealous. My blog now has its own business cards, something it can hand out when it hobs and nobs with other blogs at parties.

Appearing on a Shelf Near You

Culture Shock and the Practice of ProfessionIt's always kind of fun to see your name in print, particularly when it doesn't require any additional work on your part. Culture Shock and the Practice of Profession: Training the Next Wave in Rhetoric and Composition (Amazon) has finally been released, and lucky chapter #13 was written by myself and Paul Bender, with a fairly expository title: "Isolation, Adoption, Diffusion: Mapping the Relationship Between Technology and Graduate Programs in Rhetoric and Composition." Hmmm....I wonder what it's about....

Seriously, we wrote the essay at a time when Nardi and O'Day's Information Ecologies was just hitting people's radar screens, and we were trying to articulate a model for measuring programs that involved more than just "How new are your computers?" or "How many do you have?" We came up with three spectra along which programs might locate themselves--Responsibility, Representation, and Role (demonstrating once more my alliteration fetish). We argue that if you were to map these spectra as axes on a three-dimensional graph (and yes, I actually drew such a graph for the article), and then plot our various programs, that we'd end up with something like a bell curve rotated along its horizontal axis. Isolation, adoption, and diffusion are our terms for the low end, middle, and high end of that 3-D bell curve. Finally, we close with some concrete recommendations for moving from one end of the graph to the other.

It's not the most ambitious piece of writing I've ever undertaken, but it stands up well enough considering that I worked on it with Paul when I first got to Syracuse a few years ago. It's not as elaborate as, say, the recent piece in CCC on new media infrastructure, but in fact, it's not a bad complement to that essay. Our essay takes a more generalist tack, and a generous read of it would say that what we do is to try and establish some vocabulary that might be used in describing what DeVoss, Cushman, and Grabill call infrastructure.

And hey, I'm in a generous mood. I'm proudest, though, of the fact that it's hard to write technology essays that hold up for more than a year or two, and I think ours does. That's not bad.

Also, just by way of observation, there are 2 chapters in the book co-written by professors and graduate students at Syracuse. So, 4 authors, 2 chapters, including me and mine, and of the four of us, I'm the only one who's still at Syracuse.

And p.s., Alex has a chapter in it, too...

October 29, 2005

Blogging Practices

I mean to respond to Dylan's trackback on my post from yesterday, but not just yet. For right now, I recommend a visit. What he talks about there is precisely the same kind of motivation behind our work on CCC Online, and in the next day or two, I'll post something that details that connection.

For the moment, I want to call attention to Alex's "Blogging in the Plural", which is a piece of an essay that ended up on the cutting-room floor. Too bad, because in it, Alex offers an initial attempt at defining blogs not in terms of the artifacts or the artificers, but in terms of practices. To wit, he offers four:

  1. Networked communication
  2. Ongoing, reciprocal communication
  3. A low threshold for participation
  4. Transparency

Alex notes towards the end of the entry that the cultures of hacking and of scholarship draw on these themes as well, and in fact, this is something that I've been talking about lately with a couple of different people. I think I'd add a fifth category as well, which is "regularity" or "consistency" over time. Although the threshold for an individual entry is relatively low (both in terms of time and technical expertise), the broader commitment is fairly large, and the reciprocity makes this commitment sustainable. In other words, part of my motivation is self-generated, but part of it too comes from the fact that I know I have an audience, however small or large it happens to be.

The larger resonance here for me, though, is the way that we have (to a degree) mystified what it is that we do as academics. While this could easily be another "why don't we blog more" sort of rant, I'm not really in that kind of mood. I'm not always sold on the idea that we need to be more transparent, at least to the non-academic world, but otherwise, the issues of networking, reciprocity, and threshold seem to me to be academic practices that remain largely unremarked. I'm thinking here primarily of publication, although there are parallels to be drawn with other of our practices as well.

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.

I feel like I'm blathering a little bit, and I've got other things to work on, so I'll end there for right now. Visit Dylan, visit Alex, and talk amongst yourselves.

Technorati tag:

October 28, 2005

Academy 2.0?

I've been thinking about this for maybe a couple of weeks or so, ever since my NFAIS talk (slides available here (scroll down to 10:45), cast coming soon as I can revise), and Alex's nice post applying O'Reilly's Web 2.0 overview reminds me to think about it more seriously.

I haven't been very good lately about posting my thoughts on Web 2.0, and what it might mean for academia, but one of the nascent plans in my head, in addition to adding the new category on my own space, was to open up a Technorati tag, and to encourage folks in our roughly defined neighborhood to start using it. I'm struck, for instance, by the way that George and others have been using tags to do their Teaching Carnivals, and it seems to me that this kind of approach could work well if a handful of us were to simply agree on a tag, and just use it when appropriate.

How about it?

Technorati tag:

October 27, 2005

Chicago wins the World Series!!

Never in my wildest dreams, given their strong showing a couple years back, did I think an entry with that title wouldn't be about the Cubs, and would instead be praising their South Side brethren.

One of the reasons that I've never gotten all that much into hockey is that it never really crossed the line into comprehensibility for me. In other words, and I'm fully willing to admit my own ignorance here, I just don't understand what makes one squad good and another bad. I've been to a few games, and I've enjoyed them, but I don't really understand the sport in the way I do most others.

And while I'm happy for the Sahx, almost as happy as I was last year for the Sawx, I must admit that I really don't understand how a team with pretty good pitching and average hitting managed to lose only a single game in the playoffs. Granted, their pitchers pitched above themselves (Garland and Buerhle couldn't pitch out a paper sack for much of the 2nd half of the season), and granted, they're a very solid team, but position by position, they're not that much better than the Red Sox, Angels, or even Astros (who got there with very good pitching and below average hitting). Are they?

Maybe the answer is consistency, top to bottom. The Cardinals last year had a staff that was comparable, certainly, but lost to a team with a couple of serious stoppers in Schilling & Martinez (and Lowe pitched out of his mind). The Astros' stoppers didn't. Bakke turned out their best pitching performance of the Series, and the 'Stros didn't support him.

Hmm. Still, I would have liked to see the one matchup that didn't happen, and that would have been White Sox-Yankees. The Red Sox had to play the Yanks to get in, and the Angels had to play them in the first round, but the WSox got through without having to face them. I would have probably preferred to see the Sox face the Cardinals, who seemed to age before our eyes in the NLCS. (You have no idea how hard it is for me as a Cub fan to type the first part of that sentence.)

In the end, though, however it happened, the Sox buzzsawed through the other teams, and did it in a way that all the big budgets and moneyballers couldn't have predicted. Good for them.

And a razz to all of the sports twits who think that the quality of a series is measured by its TV ratings, and only national TV ratings at that. I can't tell you how tired I get of the idiots who honestly believe, in our ESPN-saturated sports culture, that they don't have any influence over perception, that they're just "reporting" the "facts." Every time one of the talking heads asks whether people will be interested, they're raising the possibility that it won't be interesting. And the fact of the matter was that, for all that it only lasted four games, this was a fun series to watch.

Even if the Cubs weren't in it...

October 26, 2005


The peoples, they sometimes ask me, "Collin, we know that there's no way that we will ever be able to achieve the level of encyclopedic, dictionarious smartitude that you yourself display on a daily basis, but if you were to imagine for a split second that such an impossibilistic transformulation might be achievocated, where would you suggest we begin?"

My answer is a simple one: cryptic crosswords. At the back of Harper's and the Atlantic every month, you'll find cryptic crosswords--they're crossword puzzles on steroids. Each clue is itself a puzzle, and often even placing the answers into the grid requires a little extra as well. Here's an example clue: this month's Harper's puzzle, 5 down: "Put new flavor in substance mess." "Mess" is the synonym for the answer, and the rest requires you to put "new flavor" (N+TANG) into "substance" (ELEMENT), arriving at ENTANGLEMENT. Simple, right? Every clue is like that. Much of the time, I have to let clues sort of sink into my subconscious, where the rules for doing things with language are a lot more fluid. I'm usually better at solving them late at night for that reason.

I'm feeling in a bragging mood today, because I completed this month's puzzle much more quickly than I normally do (and during the day no less), suggesting that perhaps my genius biorhythms are beginning to peak for the month. Usually these puzzles take me upwards of a week, and that's when I manage to finish them, which I do probably only a third of the time.

So that's the "achievement" part of my title. I'm also in a decent mood because today was the final step in the dental cycle that included drilling, scraping, a root canal, and finally, today, a more or less permanent crown. I didn't fully realize, I don't think, how much dread both preceded and accompanied this process, a fact that became clear only as that dread lifted.

So yeah, it's not been a bad day.

October 23, 2005

Dear CBS,

Just so you know, pre-empting the final four minutes of what had become a really good, close, and hard-fought game between two of the best teams in the NFL (Philly & San Diego), so that we can see the first quarter of an average game between two largely underachieving teams (Buffalo & Oakland)? Not so smart.

I hate the "regional loyalty" package, where all I get to see are Bills', Jets', and Giants' games, but I understand why you might stick with that model. At the same time, pre-empting a good game for the 1st quarter of one of these is stupid.

Just so you know.

October 19, 2005

Common Census

Here's a groovy little information visualization (hat tip to infosthetics),

a collaboratively generated geographical map of the US that visualizes how the country is organized culturally, as opposed to its traditional political boundaries. the map attempts to show how the country is divided into 'spheres of influence' between different cities at the national, regional & local levels. in practice, it is based on the collective 'votes' from thousands of users about which city they belong to, what they consider to be their local area & which major city most influences their area, as well as their life.

You can cast your "vote" over at their site, commoncensus.org.

Me? I just like the pretty colors...

October 18, 2005

No shirts, no shoes, no shots

For a few days now, I've been wanting to post something about the recently-announced NBA dress code, and a few of the colossally moronic responses to it. My personal fave was a particular player, who makes more in a year than I may in my entire career, suggesting that it wasn't "fair" unless all of the players received clothing stipends on top of their salaries...

And then I read Mark Cuban's post on the subject. At the risk of sounding like I'm fawning, if there is someone out there who honestly doesn't believe that Cuban is good for the NBA and good for pro sports in general, that person needs to read this entry.

You don't have to agree with everything he does, but the one thing that you should take away is that Cuban treats his players (a) like adults, (b) like professionals, and (c) like they have a stake in more than just wins and losses when it comes to the team. In other words, he treats his players in exactly the way that many fans wish that players would behave. In other words, he gives them the respect that he expects in return. And what do you know? It works.

More power to him.

Top 10 Blog Usability Mistakes?

Okay, I should really just let this one go, but I haven't posted in a couple of days. Jakob Nielsen's latest Alertbox is about "weblog usability," and in the grand tradition of his Top 10 Mistakes feature, he's offered us the top ten design mistakes from weblogs. They are...

  1. No Author Biographies
  2. No Author Photo
  3. Nondescript Posting Titles
  4. Links Don't Say Where They Go
  5. Classic Hits are Buried
  6. The Calendar is the Only Navigation
  7. Irregular Publishing Frequency
  8. Mixing Topics
  9. Forgetting that You Write for Your Future Boss
  10. Having a Domain Name Owned by a Weblog Service

Oh, the temptation. Let me start by saying that this list tells me little beyond the fact that Nielsen is incredibly out of touch. The only bit of fairness I'm willing to offer here is that he does exempt "just private diaries intended only for a handful of family members and close friends." Still, though.

Here's the quick rundown of my objections:
1 & 2. See voluminous discussions re pseudonymous blogging
3. This assumes a scan-dump model of reading that simply isn't widely applicable to the blogosphere, even if it is sometimes a useful piece of advice.
4. Ditto. Weblogs are not encyclopedia articles.
5. I actually agree with this one, although I don't practice it myself and don't find it to be a usability issue.
6. Almost every single weblog EVER that I've read doesn't actually rely solely on calendar navigation.
7. This is downright stupid. The point of RSS is that you can read updates without being "able to anticipate when and how often updates will occur."
8. Mixing topics? Umm, read weblogs much?
9. Tribblicious.
10. This is also pretty ridiculous. Design a la Geocities is not the same thing as owning a Typepad or Blogger account.

The chief objection that I have with almost every one of these "mistakes" is that they misunderstand weblogs almost completely. Nielsen begins his article by suggesting that weblogs are simply a subset of websites and are thus subject to the same sorts of usability principles that Nielsen is famous for applying to the web in general.

The model for trust in the blogosphere, though, is not the same as it is for corporate sites, and there are places where Nielsen clearly confuses the two. And as a result, the cynicism of some of this advice is jarring. The notion that publishing frequency, for example, is simply a usability issue (and one to be solved by "picking a publication schedule"?) is almost laughable. The absence of any attention to context or nuance, or indeed the discussions in the blogosphere about many of these same issues, makes this column embarrassingly bad.

October 15, 2005

On a Cingular 1-day pass

I need to remind myself, for the umpteenth time, that I'm not really the sort of person who likes to worry about catching a ride. And so, when I scheduled my return trip to Syracuse at 1:45 with the idea that I might be able to do something Saturday morning, I was basically fooling myself. Some two hours in advance of my departure, I'm sitting here in Penn Station, having ponied up for what amounts to a 2-hour wifi pass, so that I can do something other than stare at the other poor souls in the waiting area. I always hate myself for scheduling early departure times on trains, planes, etc., but I guess I need to remember that the only difference between early and later times is the amount of time I'll spend waiting.

Still, I've gotten caught up on my feeds, and a couple of days of email, and if I'm feeling frisky, I might even get a little reading done on the train for Tuesday's class.

The presentation seemed to go well--several people came up over the course of the day to tell me so. To me, it felt a little uneven--especially when I'm not working with a script, I tend to wobble, get nervous, lose vocabulary, and change my mind about what I'm saying almost as I'm saying it. I'm not saying that all that happened yesterday (well, except for the nervous part), but...

If I can, I'll get a slidecast up of it while it's still relatively fresh, but if you'd like to know what it was about, try this. Visit Kathleen's AOIR writeup first--the people that the presenters were talking about were the ones I spoke to yesterday. Too early to tell if anything will result by way of contacts/projects, but I did swap cards with a woman from Atypon, the company working on AnthroSource (see Speaker 2 of KF's writeup), and I'm crossing my fingers.

My talk was a mix of Web 2.0, Long Tail, and social bookmarking, and I think that I'm onto something in this regard. As I explained CCCO to people, it seemed to make sense to them, and I think that it's a model that will scale up. We'll see. In addition to 'casting my talk, I have it in mind to do a little geegaw on social bookmarking, sort of a "why is it important for educators?" thing. Seems to me that I saw someone a week or so asking for such, and I think I have a point or two to make. Maybe that's something else I'll hammer out on the train today.

That's about all I have at the moment. I'm gonna empty a few more feeds, maybe get some brunch, and hit the train.

October 13, 2005

Have a Cluckety Cluck Cluck Day

I have to admit that the tease from last week, which showed Jin speaking English, was a huge disappointment. Lost has been doing well enough without resorting to "...and then he woke up!" sorts of trickery.

Last night's episode was one that didn't perhaps excite as much as the first few have. Other than Bernard being alive, there weren't a lot of answers to our ongoing questions. But I think that it was necessary from the perspective of the overall narrative--not every episode should promise to answer! all! your! questions!

And I really liked Hurley's backstory this time round. He and Locke continue to be the most interesting characters for me. Maybe it's because both of them believe, but from such different points of view.


Anyhow, I won't be blogging for a few days. I'll be in NYC giving a talk at the Humanities Roundtable event sponsored by the National Federation of Archiving and Indexing Services, and my guess is that free wifi will be hard to find.

That is all.

October 11, 2005

No accident

I'm pretty sure that no one in their right minds would have noticed this other than me, but who knows?

As I was watching the Yankees' last gasp last night, they put in two pinch runners, Tony Womack and Mark Bellhorn. My first response? "Hey, those are both ex-Cub second basemen!"

And as I thought about it, the list of former Cub second basemen in this year's playoffs continued to grow. Bellhorn, Womack, Eric Young (Padres), Jose Vizcaino (Astros), and of course, Mark Grudzielanek (Cardinals). I'm pretty sure (but could be wrong) that all active ex-Cub second basemen made the playoffs this year, which is a pretty astounding (albeit useless) bit of baseball trivia.

But before you write your local GM and demand a trade for Todd Walker so that you can make him the 6th ex-Cub 2B and ride that trend into next year's playoffs, think about this: this is also the year that the best Cub 2B of all time, Ryne Sandberg, was inducted into the Hall of Fame. It could very well just be a one-year deal.

Reading this, you'd think that I have nothing but time on my hands. You'd be wrong. That is all.


As you might gather from previous entries, it's rare that I offer unqualified praise for sites like the Chronicle. In fact, I'm a little behind in the sense that I haven't yet thanked CHE for publishing something sensible about weblogs (and by someone who actually knows about weblogs).

But leave it to Inside Higher Ed to publish something so brilliant and timely on the topic of technology. In their Views section today is a piece called Mirror, Mirror on the Web, and it's specifically about the relationship between print journals and the websites that mirror them. I don't want to ruin your experience of reading this modern masterpiece for the first time, but here was one of my favorite parts:

Although the quantity and quality of writing that I read online almost certainly differs from the scholarly reading I do, I would argue that the biggest change is that I practice reading differently. And this is a truth that, traditionally, disciplines in the humanities have been slow to accept. We are still prone to thinking of technology as something added to what are already substantial professional duties, instead of conceiving of it as a way of approaching those duties differently.

Oh. My. God. The amazing thing about this is that I was just thinking this very thing not more than a couple of weeks ago. This writer has absolutely nailed it. And in what is perhaps the most impressive part of the piece, he goes on to explain how he's trying to make this insight concrete in the form of the journal website he's editing.

All I can say is Wow. But don't take my word for it. Go read it yourself, and take its insights to heart. This could be the opening gesture for a radical transformation of the academy as we know it.

Really. It's just brilliant. Brrrr-illiant. That is all.

October 10, 2005

Wayne Booth, 1921-2005

I know. Three posts in a single day is largely unprecedented, but news just came across a listserv that Wayne Booth has passed on. His is not a household name, even in rhetoric circles, and Wikipedia's entry on him is woefully inadequate, but Booth was one of the people who helped rhetoric (re)emerge into its own discipline in the 20th century. He probably doesn't receive the attention nowadays that he deserves for that contribution.

He began as a literary critic (as did many of the canonical 20th C rhetoricians), and the Rhetoric of Fiction is still a staple on many reading lists. Although we carnivalized (and cannibalized?) his latest offering, The Rhetoric of Rhetoric, I've always considered WB to be worth reading, if for no other reason than his optimism. Modern Dogma and the Rhetoric of Assent was one of those books that everyone in my grad program read at one point or another, one which attempts a decisive break from the modern dogmas of skepticism and doubt in favor of the kind of rhetorical generosity that certainly characterized that last book of his.

I can't say that I always agreed with Booth, but I can say that I almost always wanted to. He was someone who made the field richer, and who never stopped trying to convince others of that richness and value. Disagreements or no, that's good enough for me.

That's all.


This is my question:

Is there a term for people who are spatially challenged? I've always been pretty good with maps and with translating them into physical location--several summers of pizza delivery will do that for you. But I also encounter so many people who claim that they have trouble with space (including a random carload of strangers last night). So, somewhat in parallel with dyslexia, my proposal for such a term is dyschoria.

There are certain parts of Syracuse that flip me around direction-wise, which I will henceforth describe as dyschoral, for all that they induce in me temporary dyschoric episodes.

I'm sure that there's another term out there, what with all the emphasis in recent years on multiple intelligences (spatial intelligence is one of them), but if there is, I haven't found it yet. And "dyschoria" leads to only one result on Google, at least until this entry cycles through.

That is all.


Okay, so maybe that's debatable.

But one thing that's gone largely unremarked in the talking heads' gush over yesterday's marathon matchup between the Braves and Astros is the crucial role that Kyle Farnsworth played. The Braves brought him in yesterday in the 8th to protect a 6-1 lead. And as KF gave it up in consecutive innings to Berkman and Ausmus, Rick Sutcliffe (Sutty??) talked about him as though he'd never been to the playoffs before--the playoffs are a whole different experience, quoth Sutty.

Well, shame on Sutty. If his memory were a little longer, he might have recalled that Farnsworth got the call in Game 6 of the NLCS two years ago, when he was pitching for the Cubs. Yes, Prior got into the jam that eventually made Bartman a household name, but KF came in, faced 4 batters, walked 2 of them, retired only 1, and gave up 3 runs. For years, Farnsworth's best pitching came in the 7th inning--whenever the Cubs used him as a stopper or a closer, KF demonstrated decisively that he has all the talent in the world, but lacks the head to be able to use it. He's had wicked, wicked stuff for several years now, but as soon as the pressure's on, he's a house of cards.

Which means, most likely, that even had the Braves been able to pull yesterday's game out and win another, they would have been in a similar situation (with similar results) had they visited the house of Cards.

As I was watching the game yesterday, and they brought Farnsworth in, 5-run lead or no, I knew the Braves were in trouble.

October 7, 2005

Identity 2.0

Derek mentioned this to me yesterday, and as I was cleaning up my feeds, I found a couple of different references, and thought to pass it along. If you

  1. are interested in the relationship between technology and identity,
  2. have no idea (but want to) what Web 2.0 is about, and/or
  3. are interested in seeing a really smart SMART Powerpoint presentation,

then get thee hence, to Dick Hardt's keynote address for OSCON 05, called "Identity 2.0." Hardt's delivery is a lot like Kenny Mayne's on ESPN, and he combines it with a funny, rapid-fire PP presentation that will force you to learn something in spite of yourself.

That's all.

October 5, 2005

A clue?

Tonight's episode of Lost offers plenty more names and references for the conspiracy theorists to cut their teeth on, so rather than attempting a catalog of them, I thought I'd mention the one that jumped out at me the most, and that's the appearance of Flann O'Brien's The Third Policeman, which is the partially obscured book past which Desmond runs as he packs up his stuff and leaves the station.

Why this book? Well, once upon a time I thought I might write a dissertation in Irish Literature, and I would have almost certainly taken O'Brien as my subject. Third Policeman is one of his best books, unappreciated at the time he wrote it, and probably doesn't cross the radar even of most literature students. Of 3P, Bookslut offers the following in her plot synopsis:

In The Third Policeman, our hero and narrator, a nameless young man with a wooden leg, assists in a money-motivated killing, and, after trying to retrieve the stashed goods some time later, passes into a strange otherness -- a place that superficially resembles the Irish countryside, but which casually disobeys the normal laws of How Things Work. He encounters a small building of impermanent and shifting geometry which turns out to be the local barracks -- it is here that he meets the policemen. The novel has that special quality -- the fantastic made believable, yet retaining its power to amaze -- that is the hallmark of authors like Borges, Kafka, or Barthelme. The events are alternately frightening, baffling, and hilarious, and are brought into three dimensions by perfect, musical prose.

Some of this should sound more than familiar to us who watch Lost, yes? It's been a long time since I've read 3P, but I'll have to see if I can't dig out of whatever box I've laid it in, and see if there's anything else worth mentioning. It's been a long time, too, since Turn of the Screw--perhaps someone else can offer a connection/hint?

October 3, 2005

Go Padres!

Over the next week or so, we're going to hear all sorts of nonsense about the playoff-worthiness of the San Diego Padres, who won the NL West with an underwhelming record of 82-80, a record that would have earned them 4th place in the NL East (and even then, only a game lead over the last place team).

You think the Padres don't deserve it? Just wait. One quarter of the way into the NFL season, and the standings for the NFC North are as follows:

Chicago, 1-2
Detroit, 1-2
Minnesota, 1-3
Green Bay, 0-3

And just so we're clear, the division's 3-10 record includes 2 intradivisional games, which means that the NFC North is actually 1-8 against the rest of the league. It's really difficult to imagine that any of these teams will win more than 6 or 7 games this year. We may actually have a team in the NFL win their division while earning themselves a top-10 draft pick for the following year. 10 out of the other 12 NFC teams would be in first place in the North.

And so on. So before you jump all over the Padres, who have done a really nice job of rebuilding as a mid-market team, take a look at the definition of suck that is the NFL North. And I say that as a lifelong Bears fan.

That's all.

Web 0.3

Okay, this is gonna be a little snarky.

I've been ramping up on Web2.0 references for my talk next week, and there's some good stuff to be had, especially lately. And so, when I came across Steve Johnson's note about his recent column on the subject for Discover, I was psyched.

And so I go over to the Discover site to pick up the article. And there I discover (sorry) that while I can print it out, I can't print out a print-friendly version. Why not? Because this feature is reserved for members. As is the ability to email the article. After all, why would a site want to increase its own traffic through word-of-mouth?

Oh, it gets better. Members are also allowed to "rate the article" and/or "bookmark it." Here's the irony. Both of these are hallmarks of Web 2.0 apps. Ratings and tags both increase the value of content, but as Chris Anderson notes in his summary of O'Reilly's essay, one of the core principles is

Network Effects by Default

Only a small percentage of users will go to the trouble of adding value to your application. Therefore: Set inclusive defaults for aggregating user data as a side-effect of their use of the application.

Discover clearly gets it insofar as they've got SBJ writing for them. But Chris's characterization is dead-on: the value-add of Web 2.0, once your users move beyond novelty, is trouble. It's not a privilege to be granted by the site, but a contribution from the users. Imagine how sparse the reviews and lists would be on Amazon if they charged you money, or even just layered it behind a demographiquiz. And actually, those aren't even the default net effects: imagine how much worse Amazon's "people who bought X also bought Y" feature would be if it were restricted in that fashion.

This really hasn't been that snarky, I suppose. And maybe I'm projecting a little, but it seems to me that part of Web2.0 as well is keeping the threshold as low as possible for the kind of collective intelligence that we're after. Requiring me to be a member in order to get a print-friendly version of an article that's available anyway? I'm pretty sure that's Web0.3 or so...

That's all.

October 1, 2005

World enough and teeth

It's been a thin week here, not the least reason for which was the fact that I had my first root canal. Imagine my joy. In fact, it's really been a week or so since I was able to shove aside the excitement of my impending oral surgery in order to get some work done. And blogging has, well, suffered.

Here are the posts that you would have gotten to read this week, had I been able to write them. If you're lucky, and really really nice to me, perhaps I'll crank one or two out this weekend:

  • A much more elaborate read of Weinberger's "The New Is"
  • A TV rundown, wherein Alias, Lost, Prison Break, Invasion, and Threshold are considered
  • A response to the "pink locker room" scandal at the U of Iowa
  • At least one or two linked replies to stuff I've browsed but haven't been able to think about
  • A combination post where I praise LibraryThing, and talk about my upcoming appearance in NY (10:45 am)
  • An exhortation to brush one's teeth more regularly and effectively
  • A fond farewell to the MLB regular season

That's about it for this week. I'm pretty sure, had I not had mouth troubles, that this would have been my best week of blogging ever, so I can only apologize to all of you who have checked back daily expecting to see more than a couple of lame entries. Rest assured, though, that the pain you feel at your loss is a distant second to the pain I'm feeling. Really. Trust me.

That's all.