February 13, 2006
Fetch the brains
Somehow this evening's game turned from a discussion of zombie movies, and in particular Mash's plans for escaping the zombie hordes both at home and at work, into a challenge to my scripting skills. I'm not sure whether I really want to post any real content apropos of said challenge, since after all any content would only fall victim to the voracious zombies, but then again, I'm not entirely comfortable posting waffle like this. Oh well, done now I guess.
November 20, 2005
At last, an explanation for 'Web 2.0'
Paul Graham: "The 'trends' we're seeing now are simply the inherent nature of the web emerging from under the broken models that got imposed on it during the Bubble."
May 23, 2005
Scoble: "The idea is to make a movie review look different from a calendar entry."
This is a misleading way of putting it. To human readers, movie reviews might still look like book reviews, calendar entries, Flash games about fighting bananas or any other kind of Web page. What is useful is to provide internal structure and metadata that allows programs to organise the reviews more effectively. Enabling programs to break down a movie review into (say) title, cast and body content enables new, movie-centric applications, just as RSS' enabling programs to break down a Web page into stories enabled aggregation, syndication, etc.
What I'm interested in is less new presentation than new navigation. I want to post book reviews to my site and have them navigable by author and title, rather than by date. (So instead of seeing a calendar over on the right, you'd see maybe a couple of A-Z grids, which would take you to "all authors beginning with A." Or something.) I want the author's name to be a link that takes you to all my other reviews of books by the same author. I'd like to be able to make a link which takes you, via Technorati or the like, to a list of other reviews of the same book. Oh, and of course I want to make it easy for you to buy the book, unless it's The Da Vinci Code of course.
By the way, TypePad's TypeLists are a primitive implementation of this kind of feature. As well as some possibilities (such as linkage to Amazon), they show up some of the difficulties in the whole idea. Do I really have to provide a star rating for everything I review? What if the metadata authorities decide that a book review must specify genre, a concept I loathe, despise and will have no truck with? How much flexibility can we offer authors before the schema becomes so general as to be useless? (In the current draft, the simple-review schema makes everything optional except the title of the review. Consumers can't even rely on finding the name of the book or movie being reviewed. Conversely, there's no optional field for series or hero, so I can't subscribe to "all reviews of Stephanie Plum books.")
Now, none of these questions are new. The SGML folks have been battling with them for decades and have won limited victories such as Dublin Core. I was unable to find any reference to such efforts on the structuredblogging.org site, which I found rather alarming. I'm not proposing DCMI or OASIS or whoever as an arbiter of structured blogging standards -- they're too slow-moving and too centralised for the weblog world. But these are smart people confronting similar questions and trade-offs to the structured blogging issue, albeit in a different environment: you gotta think we could learn a great deal from their experiences (both positive and negative) and decisions.
Structured blogging is a tough problem, especially given the decentralised and fiercely independent nature of webloggers and communities. But it opens up a world of exciting applications based around tailored, fine-grained metadata, just as we already have a range of applications based around the coarse-grained metadata of RSS. It's a problem well worth cracking.
I love America
I ordered some CDs from the US recently and many of them came with a Dreadful Warning from no less an agency than the FBI:
Gotta love a country where CDs merit a Dreadful Warning but guns don't.
March 14, 2005
Challenging my comment about my not representing my employer when I write here, Tyme White comments on the lack of personal information posted here, and suggests that, because I choose not to post personal details here, I must "instinctively know there could be a problem" (if I were to post such information). This really surprises me, especially since Tyme herself admits to feeling uncomfortable writing her own "about" page.
Look, we sorted this out on Usenet years ago. Your online identity comes from what you write, what you do, how you interact, what relationships you form. That's how people form their opinions of you, decide whether to trust you, figure out whether your tastes and values align with their own. Your real-world identity and credentials may help, but they're not mandatory. If I write an "about" page calling myself Nerkin the Pixie and claiming I work on the Dwarf Tenderising team at the Happy Valley Rendering Plant, you may think I've chosen a stupid handle, and you may initially find it harder to know where I'm coming from (though you might jump to some conclusions regarding recreational pharmaceuticals), but it won't change whether or not you share my taste in books. The Da Vinci Code will still be crap no matter who I work for.
Vaguely related to this, I happened across Hurricane Blog's remark that "I know some people who are very private... these people are not maintaining weblogs. You shouldn’t maintain a weblog unless you are secure in yourself and your beliefs." But one can be secure in oneself and one's beliefs but not court publicity or want to share one's personal life. (Hurricane Blog itself being a fine example: the author describes it as "mostly anonymous.") And, by contrast, what about all those teen angst weblogs we keep getting told are clogging up the Web? Sometimes it seems that the most insecure people are the ones most eager to share their lives in public.
March 11, 2005
Scoble: "The reality is you're always representing your employer when you talk in public, no matter how many disclaimers you make." Nonsense. You're no more "always representing your employer" than you're "always representing your country" or "always representing your dog."
In my own case, I'm pretty sure most people who stumble across this site don't know who I work for. So how can I possibly be "representing my employer"?
September 04, 2004
The new music industry
Fantastic, forward-looking discussion over at the Guardian between Feargal Sharkey and Jem Finer of how music and the music industry can move forward in the Internet environment. Realistic about the dangers, excited about the opportunities, and very much focused on working musicians.
January 19, 2004
Spam goes bonkers
In my head I know it's an attempt to fool Bayesian spam filters, but in my heart I like to imagine that the spam kings think there is someone out there who'll see these subject lines and think, "Contradistinct dereference instrumentation flunk? Wow! I'd better read that right now!"
October 25, 2003
No wonder spam keeps growing
BBC News: "A third said they had clicked on a link in a spam message to get more information, while 7% said they had ordered a product or service advertised."
September 20, 2003
Plain text and common sense
New Scientist: "Instead of sending easy-to-read, virus-safe plain text emails, the computer wizards at [Transport for London] prefer to bury their simple replies in big computer files readable only with the help of more big computer files."
Educators are going to so much effort to train people not to routinely open attachments. What can TfL possibly be doing that can't be expressed in plain text or at least simple embedded HTML?