Blog posts tagged "participation"

KrazyDad: Mayor of the North Pole

February 16th, 2010

I’ve been blatantly cheating at foursquare for the past week … At some point last week, I devolved into a 12 year old hacker, and I spent many spare hours (and my computer’s spare cycles) abusing the system with a set of scripts operating fake accounts. Not only did I add new venues like the North Pole, but I started persistently checking into coveted landmarks, like the Statue of Liberty. – Jim

I would have thought that cheating at 4sq was so easy as to not invite this kind of concerted effort. Afterall cheating is implicitly allowed in the social contract of the site, a fact that may or may not have gotten lost as it expanded beyond the ex-Dodgeball early adopters, and the game mechanics forefronted.

I assume that Foursquare are carefully monitoring the return they get on the game mechanics, and at some point they’ll burn down the game, which was necessary to get the early adopters in the door, but which will forever strand the product on one side of the chasm, and move to a more utilitarian product — critical mass reach, social cascade ignited.

4 Years

April 12th, 2006

Leonard’s recent post, More than a Stopgap got me thinking about my original goals for re-launching this site. Similarly I was wanting to experiment with ways to expose, and explore the 4 years and 3319 entries that compose this site.

4 Years

4 years ago Monday, we had just moved out of our apartment in SF having moved to the city at the worst possible time to try to find jobs, Jasmine was back East lining up a design job in Boston, and I had just gotten back from a walk on one of my beloved Santa Cruz beaches, and decided that writing about it would make a good first blog entry.)


Some of the work on adding tags (and tag combos), and related entries (see middle-right column when viewing an entry) was an initial attempt, as was the Zeitgeist-esque archives page. But I never really was able to take it as far as I wanted. Why?

  1. Insufficient time to implement grandiose schemes
  2. Changes I made were invisible to aggregators, and therefore most people have never seem them
  3. No one else is as interested in my old content as I am

But I still thinks it’s an interesting an unsolved problem. Google is not always the best entry point to the world’s knowledge, chronologically new-new-new is perhaps not the best way to tell our personal stories.

From the Archives

Just found a post calling for a repository of community patterns from April 2002 similar to Clay’s Moderation Strategies.

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The *Really* Social Web

April 7th, 2006

One thing you notice showing up to these parties is you see the same (lovely) faces over and over. Figured it should be possible to take that knowledge of who is in the scene to mine the event sites for the “Social Web”, all those nifty Webbish events happening all over. (native to a Web of parties?)

Turns out there is a nearly 1 to 1 correlation with Upcoming Popular except where Upcoming Popular is better. Yet more proof that index funds beat managed funds every time.

Ah well, it would have been nifty. (and might still work for a different scene)

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SF Techsession, Vast, April 1, and Verticals

April 1st, 2006

SF Techsession 2: Communities and Interaction was a vast improvement over the previous one. Better presenters, better products, better questions, better venue, better food, better open bar.

I confess that I was mildly disturbed that I was able to make it two instances of a monthly even in SF given that I love 3000 miles away, but I can’t imagine there is a third topic as close to my heart as community or calendaring.

Vast on April 1st

Apropos, one of the participant, Vast, the “vertical search platform” has the only funny April Fool’s gag I’ve seen. (I’m not a fan of the holiday) They announced their Credit Cards vertical search today, and its a nicely done implementation. (Vast’s trademark low budget web design adds credibility to the whole gag)

Vast is making noise by “giving it all away”, they’re catchy “Steal this Site” link at the bottom of each page captures the imagination. Except they aren’t giving me the one thing that would be most valuable for both of us. I want to build vertical of data I care about, and Vast wants to learn about new segments, talk about an architecture of participation waiting to happen.

My take away was an idea with the same sense of inevitability that Epinions had, and I worried about similar deep conceptual flaws.

Home Rolled Verticals and Blogs

Speaking of which why aren’t any of the blog search engines distinguishing themselves by providing a search platform ala Amazon’s Alexa Web Information Service? While its relatively challenging to figure out how do something cool with Alexa’s raw index (hence the need for DIY interface to Vast), everybody seems to have a story about what they would do if could convincing crawl the blog/conversation space.

The Others

Skobee is a slick and simple as it seems, built by ex-PlumTree’ers (the folks who also built O’Reilly’s Connection. Also presenting Songbird, and Mozes

Social Search and Aesthetic Judgement

March 29th, 2006

Great quote from Thomas Hawk comparing image search engines

“If I were Google and Microsoft right now I’d be thinking about where I could find about 2 million or so users to rank my pictures on the cheap rather than wasting time on all this other stuff.”.

Still I think 2006+ is going to be about rediscovering that smart computers can help us get value from the rankings of handful of personally relevant opinions as well as 2M strangers in aggregate.

update [2006/4/3]: It was pointed out to me that Google has a stake in von Ahn’s ESP game (not to mention a whole new CMU/Pittsburgh lab focusing on data mining and AI).

My hopes for MusicBrainz 2.0

January 21st, 2006

The post on BB today reminded me of MusicBrainz. I’m still patiently waiting for MusicBrainz to add support for arbitrary, user-contributed, emergent flat classification. (i.e. what the rest of us calling “tagging”, but that term is overloaded for audio files.)

My original desire was driven by the desire to build playlists by mood, or theme (‘electronic’, ‘sensual’, ‘dark’), but since then Pandora has launched and showed us another set of axes to explore (‘mild rhythmic syncopation’, ‘extensive vamping’).

I think the ability to hang a variety of arbitrary data off of the MusicBrainz model would kill CDDB deader then a stake through the heart, and at the same time creating a platform where its easier to collaborate in public then in silos. Tagging is just the first, easiest to under form that might take. Got to use all that lovely RDF to some purpose!

Tom’s Phonetags is useful prior art.

Pandora and the Vector of Personalization

January 7th, 2006

I’m getting good stuff out of Pandora mixing Frontier Psychiatrist with Feel Good, Inc. What are you mixing?

Recommendation cocktails are the way to go.

Most recommendations are either one dimensional (if you liked X you’ll like Y), or, more often, assume that all our little quirks added up describe our one true nature (e.g. Amazon). In fact we’re more complex then that, described by a multitude of often unrelated vectors. Pandora lets you experiment with the dot products.

Thanks Rob for pointing out this feature, I had missed it the first time through, and had written off Pandora.

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Yelp, User Contribued Content and Feed Design

December 23rd, 2005

Yelp gets feeds just right. I’m not sure I’ve ever said that before about anybody.

They’ve got:

  • a feed of my reviews allows me to re-purpose the content I create (No RSS, No Content Creation],
  • a feed of my (as yet non-existent) network’s reviews
  • feeds contain the full content of my review (again my content, I created it, give it to me)
  • rich feeds; they use the geo namespace to embed lat/long
  • Both RSS and Atom 1.0 feeds

Very nice.

A minor nit. These are feeds of reviews, not feeds of places, so it makes sense that the rating is included in the title of the entry, but I’d still like to see the rating and location’s name presented in separate structured elements as well (say for example I want to syndicate my reviews locally, and display a graphic of the stars)

Also per category feeds might be useful.

On Book Listing Services

November 6th, 2005

For years I’ve wanted a decent website where I can manage my relationship with books. (not especially complicated, but voluminous)

For a while there was largely nothing, then there was Allconsuming which was wonderful, but slowly died, and went dark before being re-incarnated in the mold of a 43x tool. And I have this memory of there being a nifty little $14/mo tool, back in the days when I didn’t pay for websites, but I wasn’t able to find it.

Last Fall, I started sketching down notes towards building my own, and in the intervening year its become an interestingly crowded space. (who knew so many other people felt the pull) Even in the 6 weeks since I first started jotting down sites for this blog post, the space has evolved with LibraryThing coming out solidly on top as the most active: most actively developed, most actively used, and most actively engaged developer.

That said, in a cursory search (mostly of my links) I turned up 5 other very similar services

Also the Bookshelf example app from 24L, and the intersting related services What Should I Read Next?, and Library Elf

None of them are quite there yet, and I want more, more, more!

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Interestingness, Community, Infrastructure, and the Academy

October 28th, 2005

In the “few thoughts, loosely joined” school, Anil’s recent post The Interesting Economy, got me revisiting worn grooves, thinking about community.

Anil posits that Flickr’s users, creators of value and “interestingness” are getting short changed, or at least in the future our understanding of Flickr’s value proposition will lead us to conclude their users are being short changed. It’s part of an ongoing struggle to define our norms around participation, community, hosted tools, and ownership. (On a side note, syndication can mix into this explosively, as with this thread last Summer on Meetup and EVDB)

Actually Anil’s point was more interesting and more subtle, and worth reading, but as the signal bounced around the echo chamber, it degraded into “Hey, I make Flickr interesting, pay me!”.

I mean as software tends towards commodification (as t approaches 0), clearly Flickr derives its value from its participants, yes?

No. Quite the opposite.

I could replicate Flickr’s software (call it Flickah, a Boston Flickr derivative), give it away free, and still people would pay to be part of Flickr. And in fact if I ever managed to grow the community to a fraction of Flickr’s size I’d be in trouble. Flickr isn’t a photo hosting site, it’s a salon, and unsurprisingly value accumulates most quickly to the salon owner. Value arises from the centralization.

Community Service Models?

So assuming software, what alternatives models exist for a community to host a service they find useful? How do communities gain and support the values of centralization without handing over control? A Flickr, an Upcoming, or an Audioscrobbler provide value in direct proportion to the size of the community, while the centralization of a Google Maps (or a Geocoder) makes an expensive resource affordable. It’s a question I’ve been wrestling with for a while (community+service). And a question I asked at techdinner recently to surprising results.

I expected to hear about grid computing, alternate economic models, p2p, etc. Instead it was suggested that maintaining such a resource, or at least some subset of such community resources is the role of the Academy in the 21st century. (less surprising given the presence of Berkman-ites in the crowd)

Perhaps not a Google Maps, or Flickr but maybe Harvard should be hosting the definitive URI for books? I was intrigued. (not to mention a little appalled given my stint doing tech for Higher Ed.)

Last thought, in the multitude responses to Anil, it was pointed out that interestingness can be gamed, as can most deployed reputation systems. Yet eBay works? How? By making buy in into the system cost real cash, something Flickr print is poised to do. As a print service not terribly exciting, but what a great way to quantify interestingness. Actually Getting Social

October 26th, 2005

It is interesting to sit on a blog post for 3 weeks, and see how well they age. Most age very badly, but some age badly for excellent reasons, i.e. the world changes. (politics are a great example of this right now, but that isn’t what I’ll be talking about)

Digital Lifestyle Aggregation: Using My Friends

I’ve had this persistent idea, nagging me, that somehow I should be able to use my Flickr contacts to filter the overwhelming amount of data that gets pushed at me, with the small idea being if I had a way to capture the accounts of all my various contacts, then I could at least build a smarter del inbox. I had started to sketch out a tool (I was thinking ning) called “theyisthey” to keep track of relationships I know between people’s various identities. (43people subscriptions are one step in this direction, and certainly an indication of how social software can be used for purposes more interesting them high score lists.)

Hear the Good News

Well we showed up en masse (Brian, Ben, Eric Hopp, Jared, Mako, Seth and I) to the Joshua’s Berkman lunch yesterday, and the most explosively interesting thing I thought he said (beyond some numbers which Brian wrote down) was that “networks” are in the works. A replacement for del’s broken inbox metaphor, networks are 1-way, opaque social networks that you can build to not only filter content, but also enhance it. (e.g. when tagging a link, see the tags and notes from everyone in your network who has also tagged this link, or install the Firefox plugin to see your networks notes on webpages in the wild)

Very cool.

(also count it, 5 Hampshire alumns in the house, we offered to make Seth an honoray Hampshire alumn, but he turned us down)

CommonTimes: Social Bookmarking as Open Editing

September 26th, 2005 is perhaps the beating heart of my web these days, not because I find bookmarks so useful, but because its useful to have a generic service for streaming links. But generic only gets you so far, as an engine for discovery can be painful, flipping through pages and pages of chronologically sorted results. Its comparable to the difference between Google’s search, with its largely generic listing of pages, and Google News which uses its domain knowledge to chunk, categorizes, and summarize the days news.


This is what CommonTimes is about. A project Jeff, Brian, and others launched a few months ago; it iterates on the successful model of to provide news centric “open editing” for the web. A vertical social bookmarking site, with a light touch editorial process to keep the site on topic.

The Web Needs Editors!

CT provides most of what you’d expect, tags, groups, bookmarklets, heat maps, RESTful APIs and some nice touches like an “Add from Bloglines” Greasemonkey script, and an adapted version of the del AJAX browser.

Perhaps more importantly CT points forward to a strategy (among many) for dealing with ever expanding problem of information overload, “smarter clients.” (Do I sound like a Microsoftie?) One approach is the AI-inspired, strong editor approach of a tech.memeorandum .

But personally my gets are on the “many editors makes categorization easy” technique that has got to be the years surprise success story, combined with tools which take advantage of available metadata, either through inference of explicit scoping.

Now that the idea is out there I’m surprised that there aren’t dozens of these vertical bookmarking sites.

Scaling Down, Scaling Up

Of course social sites, do rely on having a community, and there in perhaps lies the key challenge to building a site like CommonTimes. Thankfully there are solutions. Like breaking out of our silos, becoming a consumer as well as a producer of webservices. I want to tell CT about how to fish in my link stream (e.g. subscribe to, and then remix with its own services.

Finally a link to get you started: Ten Ways to use CommonTimes

Meditations on a Changing Web: Delocator and Community Annotations

April 5th, 2005

The Starbucks Delocator which flashed across Boing Boing today (not to mention hit my inbox mere minutes later, thanks Steve) embodies in itself an interesting tension I’ve been trying to tease out for a while. Would it be too horribly smug to say it’s a tension between Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 and leave it at that? Probably.

What Is It?

In brief it is a website that attempts to offer a national (presumably U.S. national as it asks for zip codes) database of independent coffee shops, in order to support those fine and public places.

Things it gets right (Web 2.0-ish):

  • geographic – the physical was missing from the web for so long, that even though it is becoming standard each new website which can tie the virtual experience to real world location presents a little epiphany.
  • user built – this is an art project so the mail off a stack of phone books to China and pay to have them typed in route was never an option, but still its clueful to see someone make user contributions front and center.
  • its pretty (ok, that might not be Web 2.0-ish)
  • its opensource

Things it gets wrong (Web 1.0-sih):

  • roach motel – why should I contribute to this database when there is no way to get a dump of the data?
  • no maps
  • no user editing – a quick scan of my area shows it is not only sparsely populated, but that of the 3 entries I did find I could add additional info to all of them.
  • no user profile, no community, no reputations – you can see that I added June Bug, but rather then my name being a link to my profile, its a mailto with my address!
  • no permalinks – can’t really expose a database of first class web objects without permalinks
  • a splash screen, with a popup window!?!?! I feel like I’m in a timewarp!

And just to be clear, I’m not attacking Delocator for this, my own minimal attempt at cataloging and promoting independent coffee shops falls down on most of of these points as well. Just talking them through.

A Short Story About Roach Motels

So why would you possibly want to provide a dump of your entire database? Re-use and re-mixing. Projects like delocator, openguides, addyourown, et al. are one facet of how we’re starting to annotate our spaces around us. Projects like mappr are another. THe more we can get the data out of it’s silos, the more we can combine it to interesting effect. (and if we can just get it all into RDF we can sit back and let Jo do the rest)

But a simpler story is, when do you want info like Delocator (or any of these) provide? When you’re out. Not when you’re sitting at home in front of the computer. Opening up your data means you can get someone to help you with a mobility solution, be that a cell phone based interface, an iPod compatible database, or a clever PDF to print out and stick in your pocket.

Two Way Data Interchange

What we really need is a data format for this stuff. I personally I know the website, address, phone number, etc of about 100 independent coffee shops not listed on the Delocator page. (call me obsessed) And I have most of that information stored digitally. If I had a way to send them an XML file of that information we’d both be happier. Similarly I’d be happy to contribute to addyourown, chefmoz, and openguides, and would love to be pulling out the data from those sites to enrich my own listings. But not if I have to re-type it!

State of the Art

I did a brief survey of available formats last Summer, and didn’t come up with anything compelling. The ChefMoz format looked like it might be a decent starting point, I no longer remember what I found so problematic about it. Anyone else interested?

update: a bit more on Delocator

From 3 locations to 7 in a couple of hours is pretty good growth, I’m impressed. And I wouldn’t have thought to add City Feed, which is one of my all time favorite places. (just decided what I’m doing for lunch!) But how do we define non-corporate? In Boston this is particuarily hard where almost everything is part of a mini-chain. I’ll grant you Emack and Bolio’s with its 7 locations in Boston probably makes the cut, but how about ERC, with its 20 locations in 6 states?