Jul 29, 2008

Twittering The Quake...

Read the article for some choice tweets

It seems as though this is the sort of thing that Twitter was designed for: quick firsthand reporting and pithy status updates for friends. Searching Twitter for mentions of the earthquake, which can be done here, reveals a cross section of reactions that puts your average "man on the street" interview to shame.

Twittering The Quake...

Jul 27, 2008

Shirky’s Law and why (most) social software fails

Michael Nielsen examines why some social software tools fail in his recent post, Shirky’s Law and why (most) social software fails.

Shirky’s Law states that the social software most likely to succeed has “a brutally simple mental model … that’s shared by all users”.

Mr. Nielsen gives three reasons why it is so hard for software developers to obey this law. The keeping it simple part is pretty hard to do and many times is the result of happy accidents and unplanned consequences.

A strange consequence of all this is that much of the most successful social software was invented by accident.

Ward Cunningham invented the first wiki because he was tired of responding to user’s requests to update a website he ran. To save himself time, he made the page editable, and told them to update it themselves. He was shocked when this small change utterly transformed the dynamics of the site.

One of the first widely used pieces of blogging software, Blogger, was originally a small part of a much more ambitious project management system. The project management system never caught on, but Blogger took off.

The team that developed Flickr wasn’t originally building a photo sharing service. They were building a multiplayer online game, and decided to let players share photos with one another. When they realized the players were more interested in sharing photos than playing the game, they dumped the game, and built Flickr.

Shirky’s Law does not mean the software itself needs to be simple. Social software like Digg and FriendFeed uses complex algorithms to rank the relative importance of submitted items. But the complex parts of the software are hidden from the user, and so do not add to the complexity of the users’ mental models.

There are many lessons to be learned in these examples: that the solutions came from trying to solve much more complex problems, that complexity does not need to show up in the user interface, and that simple solutions can transform processes.

I especially like the story of Blogger and it's origins rooted in project management software. Blogger has achieved significant commercial success which may have clouded enterprise thinking about blogs and social software (this blog is hosted on Blogger although this post is neither an endorsement nor a critique). I have talked to many enterprises that see little or no use for blogs in the corporate IT toolkit. Yet here is Blogger, the sole survivor of an effort to improve communication and collaboration of a complex business process, project management. The designers of the Blogger's parent tool knew that blogging (or blogging-like activity) was integral to project management and included it in their product. The Blogger example illustrates that enterprises need to shake-off the "consumer" labeling of blogs (and other social software) and realize that many social tools originated in the attempt to solve complex interactive situations that benefit business processes. 

So while you're planning the next big thing, don't forget to watch out for the simple successes.

BTW: If you liked this essay then follow the link to Mr. Nielsen's essay on The Future of Science. Although it is focused on collaborative markets for the scientific community - and having learned the lesson that that answers aren't always where you expect to find them - this essay provides good food for thought when considering other communities or working models.

[Thanks Volker]

Michael Nielsen

Jul 20, 2008

Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog








Sadly I might be too late with this announcement, but just in case they leave the free episodes up longer, this is not to be missed. Joss Whedon (Buffy The Vampire Slayer fame) partnered up with other talented, out-of-work due to the writers strike folk to pull off an Internet-only distributed mini-epic. As explained in the site's Master Plan page:

Once upon a time, all the writers in the forest got very mad with the Forest Kings and declared a work-stoppage. The forest creatures were all sad; the mushrooms did not dance, the elderberries gave no juice for the festival wines, and the Teamsters were kinda pissed. (They were very polite about it, though.) During this work-stoppage, many writers tried to form partnerships for outside funding to create new work that circumvented the Forest King system.

Read entire the master plan for the full story.

Yes, that is Neil Patrick Harris in the banner. Seriously, don't miss this. http://www.drhorrible.com

Master Plan

Jul 10, 2008

Disassembling the iPhone 3G

The guys from ifixit.com flew all the way to NZ to be 4th in line to buy the iPhone G3 as early as possible. And then they went home to take it apart! This is my favorite bit of the post:OTQqbZKJ4PfZLZYf-large


The recycle marker on the battery is blacked out with a sharpie. Suspicious...



Sigh, it bugs me how Apple has yet to figure out how to be more eco-friendly. C'mon Apple, don't forget your progressive roots.

iPhone 3G - iFixit: iPod, iBook, & PowerBook Parts and Accessories

Jul 6, 2008

Privacy depends on where you put the information

The judges upheld the verdict in Quon v. Arch Wireless, which determined that if an employer contracts with an outside provider for messaging -- as most do -- it does not have the right to ask the service provider for transcripts of the text messages employees send out. The same concept can be applied to e-mail communications if the employer outsources that service instead of maintaining it on an internal server.

When I heard this recent ruling I was struck by how it contradicts most US corporate attitudes, especially regarding e-mail. In the United States corporations take the position (and policy) that corporate provided e-mail content is property of the enterprise and employees should have no expectation of privacy. I won't get into whether I think this is good idea or not, it's just they way things are in the US (BTW the attitudes are much different in the EU and other parts of the world).

So why then should users expect privacy when texting? The primary difference is where the information is managed and stored. According to the ruling, if information is hosted by an outside provider and not the employer, then privacy can be assumed. If it's hosted on servers owned by the employer, then privacy should not be expected. This covers any information including e-mail, texting, chat logs, documents and files. Given that model, then one can expect that SaaS-based information management includes privacy and on-premises applications do not imply privacy. Regardless of who's paying for it.

This may throw a spanner in the works of cloud computing for some organizations. Smaller organizations may have no choice and need to figure out other ways to keep tabs on information in the cloud (e.g., journaling and archiving on corporate servers). Larger organizations may select specific users that will not be allowed to work in the cloud. Compliance audits and e-discovery will likely be tested by legal teams citing the ruling as a reason for not providing information.

But here's the real mind-spinning contradiction: the recent US FISA Amendments Act not only paves the way for the US Government to perform un-warranted search and surveillance of hosted information sources but also grants immunity to providers who have already violated customers privacy.

E-Commerce News: Privacy: Workplace Text-Messaging Ruling Wows Privacy Advocates