Thursday, March 29, 2007

Social Media Consensus Workshop, Liveblogged

I fell into this by accident because it was (surprise) happening in my office -- Socialtext's nascent co-working space, which is still under construction. So this morning I met Bronwen and Jim from Social Media Consensus. Other people: Stowe Boyd, JD Lasica, Britt Bravo, Pim Techamuanvivit from Chez Pim, Tom Foremski, Vincent Lauria, Sara Olsen, Eszter Hargittai, Julia French, and others.

Our first exercise was run by Pim. We split into small groups to look at a non profit site and react to it by brainstorming a list of words, then focusing down those lists and reactions. Sites were Global Voices,, Gimp Parade.

Notes on Global Voices, discussion led by Eszter.

* Noble goal and great idea, poor design and implementation
* hasn't quite taken off or had an impact
* low Google/Technorati rank. They're not even registered on Technorati
* navigation and having to scroll past the giant tag cloud; confusing

My own reaction to GV is very different; I think of it as useful and it comes up all the time for me when I'm looking for blogs and news (in English) from Latin America. I also think of it as a beginning, a small but extremely important start, in facilitating representation of voices from many different countries.

Stowe adds that it has unclear goals. Manifesto makes it sound like it's around activism. Bronwen's perception is that they influence NGOs like Amnesty International. Sara Olsen points out that the concept of free speech is culturally biased. Stowe tells a story about people's reactions to his tshirt that says "Stamp out free speech".

Other keywords: free speech, discovery, not interactive or intuitive.

Julia points out that the expectation of interaction is fairly new. Stowe says we require and need conversation, interaction, that the lack of it is as bad as it gets.

Notes on

I was in this group. We had a very positive impression of, with keywords like belief, people, community, identity, activism, progressive. I signed up for the site as we were talking. It was very clear what it was, what it was for, and how to use it. It is activism focused but also very personal and it's possible to differentiate many voices. (Or maybe Britt and JD and Pim and I are all the most optimistic fluffy-bunny optimists of the group today?!)

People are made of ideas, and ideas are made of people. We can move back and forth very seamlessly.

What if Global Voices could work this way? It would be scalable, expandable.

Notes on Gimp Parade

Critique of presentation and style. Based on Blogger. Enormous amount of information, difficult to navigate. Hard to access and tell what we were looking at. Bronwen explained what the site and blog and carnival are about.

What we want to see: the site representing its value, its status and value in its own community, its readers, who they are and what they think. The content is great, provocative, dynamic, emotive, genuine, authentic, has a real voice. Stylistically it's handicapped by being bland. Notes about subcultural immersion: you can drop in from outside that subculture and learn about it. Would anyone google and land on this site? Maybe not, you might come to it from links in from others in the community. When you hit that page, as an outsider who landed there from a google search, you would have no idea what it's about. Moving to better technology than Blogger and its About page capabilities would help. A question: is it looking bland in some ways because it's trying to be accessible to machine readers, etc? Is it really accessible that way?

Bronwen points out that people with disabilities are hugely more likely to blog than other categories of people. Re-forming identity online. (So true, and for me, disability drove me very hard into online identity, in the early 90s and then later when I was increasingly mobility-impaired, using a wheelchair and limited by pain and exhaustion.) Bronwen also brings up some disabled bloggers who left online communities because of the pressure of being tokenized and put in a position of always "representing" and losing their ability to have personal conversations.

Notes on Netsquared, led by Sam Perry

Positive aspects:
Negative: What is it? What are they doing? Not clear enough. We came up with verbs. Verbose. Confusing. Made our minds close. Remixing - two columns confusing. The sponsor validation is good but didn't link in to the rest of it. Where are they leading us to? Uninviting. Stopped us. Impasse. Hidden.

Rounded corners, we love rounded corners. Mission statement too fuzzy. We know what they're trying to do, but the site doesn't say that! Trying to do something social, but not getting there. We're professing to be social and have a social nature, but the tools aren't there. Stuck. If you know someone who's tied into it, you get it, but if not, you won't get it. The sitemap is good. Julia mentions being authentic and authenticity, and that's not happening here. It's hard to add yourself. The site is pretty though. Stowe adds that the DNS is misconfigured. You can't comment or add yourself or interact with it at all without registering. We want more visual, more people, more photos and video.


What I'm noticing here is that the sites we're talking about, other than, are not social networks, and we want them to be. We all in this room seem to believe that social networks are inviting, welcoming, intuitive, and powerful.

After lunch: I missed some of the discussion, and had to be in and out of the meeting unfortunately, but these words were recorded on sticky notes:
usability, aesthetic, design, entertainment, accessibility, political, change, ego-feeding, constructive, progressive, community, global, international, action, people, beliefs, interactive, discovery, people (again) informative, activism, empowering, impact, identity, discovery, ideas, sustainability, sustainable business model. Combining all this up: impact -- joining people, campagning against/for, affecting change, bringing attention to something, activation point rather than tipping point, engagement---- policy critical/cognitive, analytic, social impact. The point of these lists of words and the discussion around them is to figure out what things need to be measurable and measured for SMC's indexes.

Eszter points out there's decades of research into points of social change. Polls and getting background information on people, which is tricky to do when you have aggregate data on the web, there isn't standard data form for social scientists. This is crucial for measuring social issues and representing everyone, not just elite groups. (***fangirls Eszter***) (***invites Eszter to come speak for Wiki Wednesday***)

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Increasingly upset about the mean kids

This keeps getting worse and worse. I had read in several places that Maryam Scoble was "mentioned in" but that's got to qualify as one of the worst euphemisms ever. "Mentioned"? For god's sake people. It's one of the nastiest pieces of racist, misogynist, cruel, psychotic garbage I've ever read. It's not snark and it's not satire.

I'd like to know exactly who wrote it. I'd also like to know who thinks it's funny. Go on, sign your names and stand up proudly to defend your brand of humor. Cowards.

What a fucking outrage. I keep trying to calm down and have perspective, and to say what I've got to say about being fearless and not letting this panic people into demanding more closed spaces and less free speech, and I still think that, but then I get mad all over again, and am feeling in the grip of that particular internet outrage obsession where I want to check technorati every 15 minutes and see what else has been revealed, and now that I've read this I'm back to square 1 of boiling over with rage.

I'm going to go read Pandagon and poke around in the feminist blogosophere because I think I'm only going to find the rage I need to inhabit there. Maybe Twisty Faster will write something. Tennessee Guerilla Women... zuzu at Feministe...

I know that there are people who wish this would blow over. But I think we need to look at the ways racism and misogyny are connected here. I'd like us ("the blogosphere") to reject racist hate speech very firmly. Fine, let there be free speech and let it exist in some nasty little dark corner of the web where the white power insane-o people lurk. But not anywhere that we approve of and link to, not in our own tech blogger communities.

I think it's fine for us to do this. I am a harsh critic of my own community as well, as you can see if you look at my calling-out of misogyny from people who came to BlogHer when a bunch of women I consider friends and colleagues talked misogynist smack about the BeJane women from some Microsoft blog, using the rhetoric of woman-hating against them. That wasn't okay with me either, so I pointed it out.

I've been the target of dumb internet name-calling and yeah it bothered me and I whined to anyone who would listen. Yet at the same time I was kind of amused. It never crossed the line into completely cruel. It was just a bunch of people calling me a dumbass. And there was a level on which I not only didn't mind, I kind of admired them on the principle that I like polemics, I engage in them, and it's only fair that I be the target of them sometimes, and without polemical writing everyone would be wishy washy and boring and there'd be nothing to take a stance against. However, the instances I've seen so far from cross the line from satire, humor, and polemics into actual insanity.

Here is a further thought.

Rage and powerful writing can combine to create calls to violent revolution. For instance, the SCUM Manifesto. Calls for violence attempt to justify extreme actions. I don't agree with violent revolutionary methods. Yet in then 90s when I was about 20, I re-published, in a tiny xeroxed zine form, The SCUM Manifesto, because I felt that the rage that led to that call to revolutionary action was important and should be heard, though I arrive at a different conclusion than Solanis did and would like other people to agree with me and NOT to go off shooting. Yet I think that reading it has value; it can help people to understand a particular moment in history, a rant and a manifesto that was important, and a rage against injustice. Reading it helped me understand my own feminist rage against injustice. I realize that many people might disagree with me here, but I feel it's important. The point now of my own linking to the archived version of the racist hate-filled diatribe against Maryam is not to promote it or to harm her. It's to document a phenomenon, now, that many people don't understand exists. I've heard so many white guys and some white women say that there is no particular racism or sexism in the tech industry. What a laugh! There totally is. The people who think like this, we have to expose their hate, and "name the problem", so that we can resist them with firmness and unity.

I would rather that the post about Maryam had never been written, and I feel sorry for the hate-filled, bitter loser who wrote it. His rage, I'm guessing, must be against people like Kathy and Maryam because they're popular. How shallow! Get over it! Some people are popular because they're nice, funny, fun, warm, and did I mention nice? To look at someone who is loved, and full of love themselves, and to feel the need to tear them down -- for no reason other than perhaps the suspicion that others might be nice to the "popular" person in an ass-kissing way and might not critique them honestly on a professional level -- is cruel and evil. It is not in any way "speaking truth to power" -- the illusion I suspect that misogynist person, or community, was entertaining.

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Monday, March 26, 2007

Patriarchy exists and we're kicking its ass

My blood is BOILING WITH RAGE from reading about the threats and extreme harassment that people made against Kathy Sierra.

And I wish I could ride in on my warhorse and help fix it, but I can't. I'm not even surprised at the threats and harassment. That stuff and real life acting out of it happens every minute of the day. The surprising thing is someone speaking up *in public* in her own voice, unmediated.

Kathy rocks for speaking up. She rocks for calling this out and exposing it on her blog. She rocks for calling the cops and the FBI, and for saying so. She wasn't shamed into silence or afraid of being called "too sensitive" or "humorless", two things which often stop women from speaking up. I admire Kathy's strength. I imagine the moment after she wrote that post, when she was looking at the "Publish" button and wondering whether to push it. I'm glad she did. I'm inspired, and I take her public response as a good example.

My immediate, visceral reaction is this:

You know what, jerks, bring it on. I'm not afraid and none of that shit will ever, ever, shut me up.

I really like what Dannie Jost said in Kathy's comments:

On the grand scale of things, this is very unfortunate and totally unacceptable, it is however necessary to continue the fight which is nothing more than a fight for human rights and dignity. Learn to deal with your fear, do not let them win...

Molly Holzschlag added in the same vein:
I've always believed this is a self-correcting community. Well folks, we need to correct this absolutely unacceptable, abusive, illegal and heinous behavior.

Kathy, your community is with you. Your abusers will not win this one, oh no, unless they are ready to take on the rest of us, who greatly outnumber these sick and twisted people who are obviously jealous of your success.

Keep being yourself, don't stop and let the bastards EVER win.

Thanks for those thoughts, Molly, I knew I liked you!

I'd like to link out further to reclusive leftist, who describes the exhaustion we experience as women bloggers:
Every time I read somebody saying that patriarchy doesn’t exist anymore, feminism’s won, etc., etc., I think, try being a feminist blogger for a while. Or if you already are a feminist blogger, wait a bit until the shit finds you. Or try doing online research on anything connected to feminism and find yourself shoulder-deep in a slime pit of woman-hating so toxic it makes you want to weep with fear and despair.

I do feel that fairly often -- but in this case, am more angry than despairing.

Some commenters mentioned a book called "The Gift of Fear" which sounds interesting but also maddening. I get the idea it's to tell women that if they start feeling afraid they should pay attention to that and get the hell out of dodge. SCREW THAT. Like we need any more "chilling effect"? How about a book called "The Gift of Total Rage" or "The Gift of Collective Action To Overthrow Patriarchy," suckers. To hell with fear.

Now let's kick some ass.

I'd like to make a call to action. When this kind of shit happens, we'll call it out and document it in public. Call it in the moment. Call it in front of your coworkers. Call it if it's major or if it's minor, it's all part of the same spectrum of misogynist behavior. How about just saying, once in a while, right in the moment if you can, "That's not funny," when it's really not. Say it crosses your boundaries. Say it's not acceptable to you. This takes practice, but with time, we can all do it and find strength in numbers.

Update: Really good post from Min Jung Kim, It's awful, yes. I'm happy to see people like Robert Scoble and Mike Arrington speaking up in support of Kathy, and considering the times they didn't speak up. So I hope they hear Min Jung's points about the pressures on women to be anonymous online, and in particular, Asian American women:
it is also important to be quite clear that this is not the first time this has happened.

It’s just the first time it’s happened to someone that you know.

You see, I’ve known several other women (specifically Asian American women bloggers - Comabound, BadGrrl, C., A., J.,N, etc) who have had to pull down their blogs, shuttle from one domain to another, remain utterly anonymous, password protect their sites, or give up their online communities altogether. The list is longer than I’d like.

Why? Oh yes, stalkers. Rape fantasies. Obsessed emails. Comment trolling.

Threatening notices. IM harassments. Flowers sent to your work office. Etc.

I’ve gotten them all too.

This is NOT NEW.

We could also do well to think about the reaction to this situation and what was the blogosphere-wide reaction to that dude who was harassing Lynne D. Johnson so bad a couple of years ago? (Here's some links on that incident: Hip Hop Hates Me; krispexgate; That damn lesbo; xxl mag online.

My own reaction at the time? Did I say anything? I can't remember. Makes you think doesn't it?

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Sunday, March 25, 2007

SuperHappyDevHouse: Serial enthusiasm

I'm at SuperHappyDevHouse cussing up a storm as my wireless connection goes in and out. I've been messing with Kayuda, with Pipes a little, writing up notes, and talking with people who are all showing me nifty software. I just tagged about a dozen mindmapping and brainstorming apps in from my conversations with Ben Suter and David Montgomery. Tried a few of them... Ben showed me his Narrator software, which does something mysterious with architecture mapping and has a component that generates diagrams that then can be viewed as 3-D models. But with a mindmap-like interface, drawing and defining links between objects. When I got him into trying Kayuda he squeaked with glee.

Tantek and I talked briefly about wiki gardening. I also got into a conversation in the line for the bathroom (before I discovered the secret bathroom) about it. As more and more people get into wikis, as they have been doing with blogs, we'll need more and better wiki gardening tools. I need them right now for multiple wiki platforms, and I don't have them, and I don't think anyone does. I wonder if there will be interesting visual representations of wikis as networks, and ways to fiddle with that, and better batch editing of wiki pages, and ways to run stats that will hook straight into wiki manipulation and administration tools. This could also have a crucial social and community component; ways of representing stories about the ways people are interacting, patterns and clusters of interaction exposed could give ways to deal with problems of group dynamics that arise on wikis big and small. A bunch of people talked with me tonight about throttling down the speed of web interaction, adding limits to the volume people can contribute, maybe especially toning down "noisy" people, adding "friction" -- same stuff Kaliya Hamlin was talking about at SXSWi.

A ton of people are here from startup school. They're all starry eyed right now so it must have been some super powerful koolaid over there.

Whump and I and Les Orchard were talking about people who are serial enthusiasts. (Us.) We love some nifty new software for a week and talk about it all over the place and blog it and poke it and then run off after something else. I wonder what our actual rate of new-software-adoption to "ooo shiny". I accused whump of feeding me a constant stream of interesting new things and of knowing everything about new stuff AND actually using a high percentage of it and knowing it in more depth than people who burble about shiny new things usually know. He denies this and feels ashamed of his inability to adopt all nifty software orphans. Les says he is known for being the person to ask if anyone wants to know, "Hey, is there a Web 2.0 company that does X thing?" and he always knows, because for a while he was reading 1000 feeds. That's what happens if you snap your achilles tendon while getting off the bus. I pointed out that "evangelist" might not stay in vogue forever as a job title, because the oo shiny people who get hired for that, well, if you're that way, can you possibly sustain that feeling about a single product for years? So we all three were sitting here wishing there was a job for serial enthusiasts, who are maybe an intersection with early adopters. My theory is that there are people who have excellent "nifty filters" and are tormented because they recognize niftiness unusually well, so well that they notice the potential and niftiness of so many things that it's not humanly possible for them to use all of those things. This might also be seen as (or might be) sluttiness, or a lack of discrimination and ability to recognize what's truly nifty and useful as well as the lack of going deeply into those things. Perhaps both qualities combine to make the deepest serial enthusiasts. A level of quick insight and holistic grasp of possibility is good, as well as the ability to generate different idea-pathways quickly, like a chess player foreseeing future developments. Whether or not that sort of person is useful in the real world, I value that quality in people.

(Somewhere in here I looked at Rohit's Angstro thingie, challenged a bit of the "what would be useful" concept of it, marvelled at Plasma Pong's silliness and beauty, and talked to a dude who's part of a Linux TV company which I've forgotten the name of but he was screaming with delight about Angela (?) something, his CEO, who rocks and is an enormous genius, and how they're a tiny quiet company that is about to take over the world; and at Eric Tiedemann's Monome tuning application which he nicely explained to me though he could barely contain being appalled that I didn't know anything about the mathematics of tuning; and I started installing Planet Venus on my server, and then went on an extended bitter rant to Whump about how and why nowhere ever exports me a decent opml file, or imports it right, and all my effort is lost when I switch platforms or accounts, so I've become disheartened about feed readers. Whump had a neat setup that he promised to write up later in his blog, with Planet Venus running every once in a while and then pushing up to a server. Later in the night, I looked at the sort of messy tangle I made on Kayuda and I think that it's not a good representation, and it might not even be useful, and I wonder how to restructure it so that it would be. Strict limitations on number of nodes to convey a central idea, with baroque flourishes and digressions allowed in a sort of overlay? )

I can't believe how many people are crammed into this house. It's nuts. But I have the feeling I don't want to leave... it's all cosy... I have a spot on a couch... the network is working again so I'm all happy. I have contradictory impulses to go talk with people and then on the other hand to lurk on the irc channels and "talk" the way normal people do, on the internet, without this weird "moving your mouth" or "looking at people in the face" component to it.

Some dude came up to me and said "This is your house, right?" "No... why do you ask?" "Because... uh... because you're cool?" I think that was either meant to be several layers of irony more than it came off as, or else he was a bit drunk...

Okay, it *was* all cosy until I read some really gross and annoying posts on Valleywag about SHDH and women. At least there are nice people like whump and cyn and Ben and Tracy. That don't make a person feel like there's women who count as human, and other women who don't, and as if there are only a few slots for the humans and a perpetual struggle to prove oneself worthy, and the perpetual need to represent for one's entire gender... at all times... It's a bad way to set up a frame for the universe. I get so pissed off reading stuff like that and want to respond in kind, or at least by regendering it or being "funny" right back by objectifying guys, which doesn't work anyway because the power dynamics are different. Anyway, grrrrr.

My uncle just got home - he went to the Mermen show at 12 Galaxies and loved it and also loved the Extraordinaires. Maybe I should have cut out early from shdh when I stopped being productive, and gone to the show.

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Monday, March 12, 2007

SXSWi: Open Source business models

Alan Shimel, Fischer, Levin, Jarrell, Cavazos.

Questions and statements from the audience.

Alan Shimel: there's two categories of open source community members: consumers of open source. A company who wants to use open source. using linux, php, to develop their web site. Not developers. The restrictions and licensing issues are less of a hassle and not a focus. The consumers don't care which license it is. People who use open source as components of their products are a different category. That's where the excitement is. Is that company who uses components and sells a product a parasite on the community? It's this category who is the focus of recent licensing changes, the people who are selling and trying to make a profit. If you're profiting from my work, I should profit as well. It's useful to break it down into those two camps. I'm on both sides of the table. We use the snort engine, etc. And we have a new product coming out which is open source.

Cavazos: The term open source license doesn't give you enough information to have a meaningful discussion.

Fischer: ... creating a level playing field with alliances, standards. Can you have a kind of Microsoft gigantic Office situation? The answer is no. Leveling the marketplace. Not gigantic market share. But you can do very well. That's one way to play open source. 2nd aspect, companies who do customization more than open source. There's Second Life, for example. Look at how much open source software is very very good. It wouldn't succeed if it wasn't. In-house lawyers do need to look at the licensing because it often enforces generosity.

Cavazos: Why would we do this instead of keeping it all ourselves? Models that involves customization or consulting. We're going to bet on ourselves. We're okay, we're fine with allowing the core to be out there. And we're going to take one step ahead and use our expertise. We have the smartest people and the most creative innovators and we can create a business model around that. Consulting and customization.

Levin: VP of product strategy at Socialtext. Open source has been our model from the beginning. We used an open source product called Kwiki. A lot of our developers come from the open source community and they have their own projects... Open source for us is kind of like weather. We shouldn't fight it, we have to live with it and work with it. My personal interest is not in licensing expertise, my interest is with respect to business strategy. How does this help my company, how does this help our customers be more productive. The question from the audience was "How can I sell this to my customer base?" That goes to one of the value propositions around open source. You're reducing your customer's risk. If you're a relatively small development shop, there's no guarantee you're going to be around in 10 or 15 years. You're not lockkng them in. The open source community will be there in 10 years. You're helping your customer. That's very valuable. It's not just the software itself. My company has a variety of models which reduce cost for the customer of maintaining the software. And we also offer an open source download.

Don Jarrell: I worked with proprietary companies. Open source offers the freedom to cooperate. ... Beyond a layer of adaptation to an integrated product. Proprietary companies who make a companion product and break down the price point. So there is an open source version with a proprietary companion product. Comparable to making a "Lite" product. The open source part can be free. Can gain market share, can participate in the open source community, and have a viable model. A variety of proprietary companies are using this, for example, Compiere.

Alan Shimel: Linux as the most successful model. The core code from ... 20 people. 60 companies. There's a relatively small amount of people contributing the core code. The vast amount of users use it, find bugs and fix them, maybe 80%. In security, that's the last thing on the budget. Open source kind of filled that vacuum very quickly. Linux and security. It's not free though. We see a ton of companies who are commercializing that space. There's something like 1.4 billion dollars invested in open source.

Mark Fischer: If anyone here has any of that 1.4 billion dollars I think we'd all like to have some of that... (audience laughter) The number of people writing sophisticated OSS is very small. The contrast between that and wikipedia is very sharp. Every 12 year old can write text. Not every 12 year old can write sophisticated code under a licensing model. Like Second Life and its server software, is this realy open source or is it user customization? The mix and match model is one of the ways you can make money off of open source. Add something valuable to it . Like the music indstry, in a world without DRM, making money off the addon stuff like backstage passes and tshirts. If you say everything's open source and give it away, then it's not going to work. You have to add some value to commercialize it and to build a base and attract investors. Not everything can be based on advertising.

Cavazos: We can look at open content models and think about that in relation to open source software business models.

Alan Shimel: Does Flickr have a right to those photographs? Does Delicious have any right to the content there?

Fischer: The free software model is fantastic but it's not for everyone. Do you make every user a creator and they get a revenue share? The next frontier is users as creators. Open community but with revenue share for (some) users.

Adina Levin: Socialtext itself and some of our customers has.... Interestingly enough our documentation isn't open. But we have sites with best practices information and documentaiton that we have open. We have customers using wikis for that kind of public information, especially to support best practice information. It's less around how to share the revenue, but how do I reduce the cost of producing it while maintaining the quality of it and issues around control. A lot of people who have a traditional approach are concerned to lock it down to maintain quality. And then we try to explain to them that it's valuable to open it up and get more contributions. And then spend more energy on the monitoring side and less on trying to prevent contributions.

Cavazos: The elements of community, what does it take to get critical mass and get the quality of development up. The communities of contributors are much smaller than you would think. It's a small community, but the rest serves a viable part in that quality control. They're vetting, calling it out as bad when it's not good. And that's what I that plays into what Adina said.

Alan Shimel: 92% of the people in the community don't even play with the code. We have a freeware version of our code that's not open source. People are still downloading it and using it.

Cavazos: How many people actualy read the licensing..

Adina: I'm glad to hear that Asterisk... we use Asterisk at Socialtext and we are not locked into one service provider, and as a software development company we can customize and build extensions. Basic use, basic quality deployed to a number of applications, and then the steps after that might include extensions. The ability to do that is of value to us.

Alan Shimel: I think you just described what a lot of people do. "It's nice to know I could do it if I wanted." But how many people actually do?

Adina: You're paying for risk reduction and no lock-in.

Alan: I know, but how many people actually take advantage of that...

Jarrell: we started this conversation about business model. "Open Source" label but what we're touching on is other segments like managing contributions, release, thinking very carefully about stuff other than the distribution model. We should turn our attention to some of those things.

Cavazos: ...

Alan Shimel: Important to clearly, sharply define, where's your value added. Especially if you're combining open source with propriety. On the dual licensing, it boils down to this. If you're using that software for your own company it's okay, make your changes, contribute back to the communiyt. If you're turning around and using that component and profiting and selling it as a component as a bigger package, you should be, the people who contribute that component should be compensated for that.

Audience: Why should that be a distinction? Every use is a profit motivated use. If you're using it internally why aren't you also obligated to give back?

Shimel: Explains the distinction with Asterisk as a model.

[Right, but why is that different, really. ]

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Sunday, March 11, 2007

SXSWi: Non-developers to Open Source Acolytes: Tell me why I care

Elisa Camahort is moderating. Annalee Newitz, Dawn Foster, Erica Rios.

Annalee Newitz explains the entire complicated insane definition and history of the Open Source movement in less than 3 minutes. Free redistribution, available source, derivative works okay, no restrictions on tech or users (http;// Licenses: gpl, MOzilla public license, BSD License. Commonly used open source software (oss): Firefox (MPL), OpenOffice (LesserGPL), GNU/Linux (GPL), BSD (BSD), WordPress (GPL), Apache (Apache License), Rails (MIT License), PHP (PHP License). The GPL is viral and powerful. Anytime you use software that uses GPL that you intend for redistribution, you have to release under GPL.

Elisa: I know some of the names of this software. But Rails? Apache? Okay, well, really I know what Apache is. But why does this matter to me?

Dawn Foster talks about OSS structure and leadership. It looks chaotic from the outside. Random people contributing code. How in the world can you end up with anything reasonable? But that's not how it is. You'd be surprised how hierarchical it is. OSS community structure.
Bug Reports: Community members submitting bugs to improve the project.
Contributors: Community members contributing to committers for review.
Committers: Trusted community members with access to modify code.
Maintainers: Direction and decisions for a portion of the project.
Leaderships: Strategic decisions, project direction.

Elisa: So, I'm not the only one who had no idea that all this existed behind the idea of open source. Erica is going to talk from the point of view of a company using open source software.

Erica Rios: My role at the Anita Borg Institute is to maintain the technical aspects of the organization. We use WordPress, for example. I see myself as a customer for these tools. I want help with installation, configuration. Is it going to have an impact on my server maintenance, what cron jobs I should run, what about backups, patches. When I hire people I need to know what kind of time and money I need to invest to maintain the software. What kind of customer service support do I get from a tool? The staff, my users, who are also the customers for this software. Does the tool do what they need it to do? Is it easy to use? Are they going to be able to figure it out, with or without support? There's a self-sufficiency question. Will everyone be coming to me for that help? I think of it like hardware. We're lucky enough to have HP Labs donate space to us. Our machines are still on warrantee and I can get service. Do I always need to know the details behind why something's not working? Is the community "friendly"? Am I going to go looking for help and be told RTFM? Because I've already tried.

Elisa: When you were looking at open source tools, was that part of your due diligence, did you look at the friendliness of that tool's open source community?

Erica: Absolutely. And it doesn't have to be a hierarchical traditional manual or documentation scenario. The community is so robust that I can type my question into Google and get an answer right away.

Guy in audience gets up and takes a mic. A lot of people don't realize some open source tools and projects offer paid support. Ubuntu, etc.

Dawn Foster talks more about open source and paid support.

Erica Rios. Developing friendships with other users and developers. If you have a personal relationship then people are much nicer in their explanations. With documentation, when it's written in plain language, it's more helpful. I have a degree in computer science, but I appreciate documentation in plain language, and it helps me communicate to my less technical users. Quality community can demonstrate their intelligence through the quality of a product but not feel ego-driven to demonstrate it in their documentation.

Elisa invites questions from the audience.

Same guy from audience: Questions about where the open source software came from. Fear of patent suits from big huge companies, etc.

Annalee Newitz: I've heard people talk about their management saying "You can't use an open source code because it'll creep into our code and we'll be sued." People need to be educated about the legal ins and outs of open source licenses. For example the GPL is one of the most radical ones... A company lawyer is good to go through the license and explain to management. There's a lot of online explanantions written by lawyers, for example through the EFF or some from Creative Commons. It's sad that people move away from the GPL but from a business perspective it makes a lot of sense.

Dawn Foster: It's less of a risk, because if there's proprietary code in there, someone's going to have noticed it. Or they can notice it. It's not really that different.

Annalee: I would strongly agree with that. The fact that you can look at the code means you can tell if there's a problem.

Audience member: Myth of putting it al out there and it being exploited.

Dawn Foster: I tend to worry less about being exploited by open source Eric Raymond "with enough eyeballs... all ... are shallow" I worry about backdoors and things in proprietary code, that I'll never know is there. The empowerment of being able to look at the code

Annalee: That's why you hire security auditors, etc. BSD, used by the miliatry, you can lock it down.

Liza: I'm going to be the downer here. THere is a cost for making it useable for people with no technology background. For example WordPress, it's so beautiful! But it's hard for people to use and to understand. So, users assume that level of customer service is free and that it's going to be free and that there's no cost to maintain it. And this makes it hard for developers and consultants to monetize what we do. Upgrading, security issues, etc. People coming into open source, think that it's going to be free .

Dawn quotes Richard Stallman, Free as in freedom, not free as in free beer. There are costs, time and money.

Annalee: When you're looking for a return on investment, long term will it be more costeffective to have this invest in maintaining this rather than paying Microsoft for a new license every couple of years? So yes, the long term costs are way better.

Erica Rios: We look at it that way at Anita Borg Institute. That's one of the key philosophical reasons I put to management, the flexibility we get.

Kimberly (from audience): Speaking as soneone who once upon a time had all sorts of Microsoft certifications and has now gone more into open source, there is more flexibility, there is very little barrier to entry, it's really a meritocracy. They can contribute and there's opportunities for them, they can build stuff for non-profits. To get Microsoft certified you pay a lot of money and yes there's support and community but open source has way more opportunity.

Elisa: Is there a way in open source to validate what level they are in an open source community?

Kimberly: I've had people use me as a reference

Woman in back: It depends on the community.

Erica: Now that I've gone through this process I look at how much a person has contributed and how much of it has been accepted in to the main trunk fo the software.

Dawn Foster: It's good for companies and hiring and companies can see people's code and status in a community before hiring them.

Frank (from audience): Reliability and continuity. You can always get someone to maintain it because it's not proprietary. Voting machines and cryptography. If the source isn't out there there's always someone out there who is so clever they can't see their own mistakes. But a community can see it and can find the broken places. As American people we need to get the source out there so we can rely on our voting machines.

Elisa: Thank you so much for bringing that up and articulating it. Let's talk about the philosophy and the reasons for supporting it. HOw many of you buy organic food, and free trade coffee? (Show of hands) We make economic decisions based on philosophical, emotional, ethical reasons. How many of you make technological decisions based on that? (Show of hands, a fair amount)

Guy in grey hoodie: (question)

Elisa: Kaliya Hamlin, getting non developers involved with open source communities. It's extremely intimidating, I can tell you. I'm a wannabe, but there's an idea that it would contribute to the greater good. Anyway, what's the ethical reasons to use open source?

Annalee: Oviously there's a lot of technical reason to choose it. And that's an ethical choice too, to make the technical choice that would benefit the most peopl.e But when yo have a product made by people donating their time, or a company is giving 20% of their time to give back to open source, you simply get a higher quality. People are working together. They own it. When people own the stuff they produce, it will be better. When you produce software that is proprietary and your company owns it, you are alienated from it. But with open source you put your love into it. You can play with it, deploy it, use it with your friends, fix its security holes...

Erica Rios: analogy of the free library. If we can't contribute and have free access to intellectual knowledge, we undermine democracy. Women and systemic reasons why girls and women often drop out of technical fields. Access. Open source is a unique opportunity for all women to have access to knowledge. If all software code was proprietary, I would never have looked at a pice of code in my life. I couldn't have afforded it. Period.


Erica: Dr. Fran Allen, just announced as a Turing Award winner, first woman to be granted this award. It's highly likely that a girl at the high school level right now, who has access to open source code, may achieve something as great as Fran. It gives other people access and opportunity and to contribute at higher levels. It's a key consideration in us achieving equality between genders in technical fields, and as we increase participation, we'll increase innovation.

Jory Des Jardines (audience): The Wisdom of Crowds. Ran an open source business project, because people didn't ahve the motivation, aka, pay. Does money mean motivation? Money makes it easy to commit, people are flowing in and out of this project. The explanation you're giving explains the structure, but what is the motivation for an engineer to bother?

Annalee Newitz: There are other rewards that people work for. We're at a conference where there are artists. They're hoping to make money, but they want people to appreciate their work. They want to create something beautiful and be acknowledged for it. Why do people want to have a higher reputation on Digg? They're not getting money for it. Well, some of them are. (laughter ... re. crowdhacking prank.) But there's a point, Hey, I've spent 4 years doing this kickass thing, now pay me.

Dawn Foster: Contributors to the Linux kernel. They pay people fulltime to do nothing to contribute to those projects. Those companies are motivated for that software to be good.

Guy: Dispel that there's anything anticapitalist about open source. More of them are libertarian than anti-capitalist. And about self interest and profit, my company went to open source, time, energy, money chasing clients on IP issues, waste of time. We got a better rate for our time to offer consulting services around it and provide the software as open source.

Erica: Who is mostly willing to work for free? Women. the motivation to work is there. There's a lot of stereotypes that we default to when we look at what it is that isn't working. There's probably a lack of supportive culture. Asked by Mozilla to tell what could help keep women developers. My answer was I don't know, ask the ones who are there and ask the ones who are leaving.

Woman with short black hair in audience: Ideals, but as a business manager, of a sucessful open source consulting and educaiton company, we charge a fair amount. It's a myth that keeps developers away from open source. Like it kind of smells like patchouli a little bit...

Elisa: You will not find musicians in an orchestra playing for free. Actors will do it for free. Bloggers used to do it for free but that's changing. Now we have blog consulting. People had passion that seemed to translate into not getting paid, Oh if I love doing it i shouldn't get paid. Open source has that too, if I'm passionate about it I shouldn't charge.

Annalee: You don't have to do it for free, just get your boss to let you spend 50% of your time doing it because it helps improve the product.

Guy in audience: I'm not understanding, please explain, what is the distinction between building proprietary products on top of open source software.

(Well, it depends on the license! )

Annalee: that's a good question and it gets debated a lot in open source communities. They are spelled out in the licenses. For example what will happen with Google and the GPL license. People need to be a little bit geeky about legal language and licensing.

Audience: How geeky do you need to be to say you're into open source?

Erica: For example our crm system....Not important for us to customize that part. But to customize web solutions is very important. If we don't need to hack it, let's not do it.

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SXSWi: Attention panel

Notes on "Every Breath You Take: Identity, Attention, Presence and Reputation".

Christian Crumlish, Ted Nadeau, Mary Hodder, Kaliya Hamlin, George Kelly

Christian Crumlish talked about how new cell phones are. Etiquette still developing. How much of your attention can I have? Establish level of communication or mode of being present and paying attention. Maximize or optimize your presence. Let's take a look at Plazes. Trazes, history of where you've been. "I finally gave in, last night, and I'm on Twitter". Tribute to Leslie Harpold David Howard, who documented changing his name. (Me and the woman next to me snort a little bit... It becomes way important and interesting when men do it...) Porn search expose. People who have a separate computer for browsing porn. Cognitive dissonance on iChat as Thomas Vanderwal chatted to someone who was listening to his podcast. Unmasking digital identities. Attention spying on yourself.

Kaliya's talking about OpenID. Namespaces are on the rise. Often people have 100 identities and that's growing fast. Instead of us getting a different identity from every company we deal with, WE should tell the different companies and websites who we are. OpenID, inames, and LID all cooperating to have one login box instead of competing with each other, with the Yadis protocol, an XML-XRDS document. sxip also joined this protocol. Kaliya explains the

(I signed up with a while back. And at last week's hackathon, a developer at Socialtext implemented OpenID in our wiki software.)

Ted Nadeau says our non-monetary assets are: Identity, Attention, Intention, Influence, Reputation. (In addition to Str Dex Int Wis Con Cha.)

He explains his identity in brief. Your reputation appears different to different viewers. You are not the authority on your own reputation. Systems based on reputation. EigenTrust. Whuffie. Karma. Opinity. None are compelling to Ted. Conceptual models - Pythia's Framework for building reputation systems. "a ubiquitous, spontaneous, and highly efficient mechanism of social control". It's good to know. It's useful. It's good to know if someone's scary when they're drunk. Shame can be useful socially. Big reputations - corporations, wwf wrestling personalities. Polytheistic gods - Zeus, Ganesh. Films, soap operas, consistency. Big, consistent, shared. Bigger entities like nations. eBay, LinkedIn, WoW, Amazon, academia's citation indexes (Hirsch number), Google pagerank. Problems: Reputation theft, damage, loss, stuck, Identity first, reputation later. 'Sybil' attack, karma-whoring. Call to action: Deepen the conversation. Implement Reputation systems.

Mary Hodder is amazed that Ted can be funny this early in the morning. She'll explain a bit of background for academic views of attention, but then will talk about them from a user specific perspective. Systems collect data on you. IM data, you don't spend a lot of time thinking about the meta data. Your google searches, too; maybe somewhere in the back of your mind you know they're collecting information on you. It doesn't seem that consequential, but it's incredibly consequential. There's an attention economy built on top of everything we do. Gestures. A gesture is a vote of confidence. The Attention Trust asserts that you own a copy of your information. You own a copy of your attention stream. The Attention Trust built a recorder. Citation of McCarthy and red scare. He said that certain behaviors were not common and therefore were outside the social norm. WE're engaging in the social norms. If the government can subpoena the clickstreams for Microsoft or Yahoo then they're segmenting a section of the population away from everyone else and saying they're not normal. If only the Yahoos, Googles (and governments!) of the world have that attention pool, then that gives them too much power. If all our attention information is public then it's more difficult for the government to make false claims.

I agree strongly with Mary Hodder. Public pools of information are a protection against abuse by powerful entities. They aren't a perfect protection, but they give us all a chance.

George Kelly is talking about Mapping Persoality Visibility. Johari charts.

You know, I saw people doing this on LiveJournal last year but never followed the link. It's like a slam book (a concept I learned from the Judy Blume book Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great. I thought it fascinating but never could get anyone to agree to try it.) Good, now I can try it: Johari window for Liz Henry.

Questions: The idea of a single repository where all this stuff goes is a problem. We have multiple identities and shifting identities over time. A blog means it's too much in one place. (Lizzie ?? "prematurely grey" might be her old blog. Ah. Liz Burr.)
Christian: I don't know. There are a lot of us that have multiple identities and then are merging them back together or splitting them apart.
Ted Nadeau: Working for companies. Integrating their identity moving forward. Youth maybe is more intuitively able to see that we're one person not many. Identity, and maintaining and coalescing an integrated identity.

Wow, I dig all the stuff Ted has been saying.

Kaliya: People in this room have a unique opportunity to help with this problem. The physical world translating into the logical world and back. Things that have friction in RL now have zero friction online. Work on increasing identity friction. That will help. (Did I get this backwards? Kaliya will you explain that more somewhere online where I can read and link to it? You just blew my mind but I don't think I understood.)

Mary Hodder talking about the "wearing my work clothes to bed" or "bikini at the bank" concept. Yes! Be able to move between multiple online identities. (That would increase friction rather than having all your online stuff and real life stuff be together in one repository.)

Well, we've been talking about that and having 4 different personas which are easy to switch between, since the first barcamp at least, but I haven't seen it happen yet in any software or web platform. People still respond to this idea with "But you can just log out and back in again with a different name." No. Not to the 20 places online that are all tied together and that I use together.

?? who works for Alternet and Jim Hightower etc. What people are putting out there about me or others. Firms googling potential candidates and not hiring them. Jill at Feministe. Her picture etc. up there and some conservative guys ranking her, etc as if she's some kind of internet slut. But law firms will be looking at her and she's afraid it will hurt her career. Unfortunate response was

Mary HOdder: Law school class, some guy playing tetris during a lecture. Video shot of it and put up on Dabble. He wanted it taken down.

Kaliya: It's improper to make judgements about someone's personal life and work places will need to learn that. If they judge people on their personal life they are going to lose good people. Creating social norms is important. Something bad happens to me now in email? I blog it. We have a personal platform to out bad behavior.

Christian Crumlish: We're in a wild west phase and we're waiting for that to mature...

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Saturday, March 10, 2007

SXSWi panel on commercialization of wikis

Here's some notes on Ev. Prodromou's talk on commercialization of wikis. (Here's his slides, which he just nicely emailed to me.)

Does commerce belong in wikis?
- the wikisphere needs a healthy ecology

Supporting a wiki project
- out of pocket
- donations, grants, govt.
- wiki farm. Wikia. Nurturing the wild wiki.

Four types of wiki businesses:

  • Service provider: Wikispace, wetpaint, pbwiki
  • Content hosting: wikiHow, Wikitravel, Wikia. Focus on particular topics. Managing the wiki itself and developing its culture and community.
  • Consulting: Socialtext, biggest company in this area. Taking the wiki method into the enterprise. Going into companies and showing them how to use wikis. Use wikis and wiki theory to help companies make the best wikis out there. Being professional wiki evangelists.
  • Content development: WikiBiz. Started on Wikipedia. Offered a service to write Wikipedia pages for companies, following Wikipedia policies and procedures.

    Prodromou is most interested in talking about the content hosting variety. Crowdsourcing. There's suckers, yahoos, rubes, you get them to do your work for you, and then sell it back to them.

    Wikinomics. This is the kind of model that that's trying to sell. Get a sucker to work on your site for free, hahaha.

    Prodromou says: "EFF THAT. I hate the term crowdsourcing. It's one of the ugliest terms ever invented on the internet. People in wiki software are some of the most idealistic, altruistic people on the planet. We don't want to exploit people."

    Platform for knowledge. Knowledge havers and needers. You are in both categories. Crossing that line and providing a platform for knowledge havers and needers to communicate. Give them focus and direction. Be a steward of that knowledge and its flow. "You" as the wiki provider are not the focus. It's noble, it's decent, and there's no exploitation involved.

    Rules for commercial wikis:
    - have a noble purpose
    - demonstrate value
    - be transparent
    - extract value where you provide value
    - set boundaries
    - be personally involved
    - run with the right crowd.

    I disagree with his chart about blogs, photos, wikis, and ego. (He measured blogs as contributing value mostly to the blogger's ego!)

    A plug for Creative Commons. Let go. Go with the freest kinds of license. Citing the post-Katrina disaster relief sites with names and locations of people, as a noble purpose. (True, but more complicated than that, often.)

    Ways to add value: software development, systems admin for big wikis, community management, external promotion, carry the torch. Community management is becoming a profession.

    Transience of wiki communities. Typical user sticks around for a couple of months. But the community continuity has to be maintained.

    Being transparent is important. Any hint of bogusness, duplicity, tricking, exploiting, is awful. People go away because of that. You put up that wall, people are going to leave.

    Commercializing. Ads. Physical media that use the content, books. Any attempt to extract value out of hte user database itself is bad. They're your community (not your spam target...)

    Set boundaries. The users can't set your business decisions but they can set parameters and make decisions for their community. But the business also has to have boundaries to not set community policy or only set it so far.

    Personal involvement. Have a user page with a picture. Be present. Run with the right crowd, be part of open content, open source communty. People judge you based on who you hang out with. Find partners, find projects that you would like to work with.

    Commercial wikis are healthy additions to the net and to free/open content. The commercialization should be mindful and careful.

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  • SXSWi notes: High Class, Low Class Web Design

    Notes on High Class and Low Class Web Design.

    Respecting your audience. Do you treat them as equals? Culturally, educationally? What if they're not your peer group? People who call their audience "marks". Fans officially, but the treatment in the industry is "marks".

    This is the 2nd panel that has used this carny terminology. Evan Prodromou was also critiquing the mindset that treats an audience as marks or suckers.

    The room is very large and crowded, so I can't tell who is speaking. Someone's talking again about being too class conscious and how that leads to a lack of respect.

    Methods of making design decisions. Measuring sales with varying design in publishing and in web design and with usability studies. Liz Danzico is talking about usability, class, and layout.

    Web sites and products targeted at "lower classes" use statistical methods of determining good and bad design, while stuff for "upper classes" rely on personal expertise for design. That maps to other high end products like fashion and luxury goods. For high end they're designed and they see what happens, while for "lower" they are the product of testing. Steve Jobs mentioned...

    (I think that it's pretty funny that this panel purports to be respectful, but they're using terminology like "high" and "low" which I find inherently disrespectful. And I would talk about "working class" not low class or "unwashed masses". Jeez!!!)

    Khoi Vinh talks about the NY Times and their testing process. He disagrees, I think, that the NYT is high class, but also says that if you think it is "high class", he would like people to know that they do do testing and usability studies.

    Appropriate design and aspiration. If you are designing for an audience that is different than you, do you aim for uplifting their sensibilities? Or do you design based on what you know they already like? A question for designers in the audience to consider.

    Liz Danzico talks about how to tell how much is too much. When you've gone over someone's comfort level. The toothpaste ad with toothpaste smeared on the guy's chest. (Audience laughter)

    Brant talks about his experience at WWE. Expanding the design for a wider audience who would not be embarrassed to pick the magazine up. Men in their 20s.

    Starsky and Hutch, Dukes of Hazzard, int he past. Now we have Sorpranos, Lost. Complicated shows. People stopped looking down on their audience. TV is better than it was 20 years ago. Quote from Paul Rand. The Language of design. The public is more familiar with bad design than good design. It is, in effect, conditioned to perefer bad design... The new becomes threatening, the old reassuring." You're exposed to a certain design style your whole life. Is this design taste related to class, what you learn ? Or is there an inherent goodness or badness that transcends?

    This question relates well to a book I've been thinking about all year, A Framework for Understanding Poverty. It explains a lot of class conversations and expectations in relation to class. Working class geographies of understanding the world are based on people and trust of people. Middle class geographies of importance are rooted in stuff, in brands and quality of stuff. Upper class geographies prioritize aesthetics and discernment. Aesthetics is a tool often used to establish and maintain class boundaries.

    Wow, Peter from Adaptive Path just made that very point about aesthetics and class mobility. Aesthetics is used to prevent that class mobility! I was just thinking about Widmerpool's overcoat from Dance to the Music of Time; he gets it subtly wrong and the upper class characters know it and shun him; he can't ever really pass. IMHO, in the U.S. this is also used to maintain race and gender boundaries that connect to class status.

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    SXSWi: Kathy Sierra's opening remarks

    Kathy Sierra's opening remarks has two or three overflow rooms full of people. We're responding to the screen just as if Kathy were in the room - what a great speaker!

    Humanizing software and the net.

    Audience participation exercise:

    If you had to either save a guy from drowning or photograph it, how would you tag it in Flickr? Stand up, this makes you a "designer" (or i would say a content person)

    If you had to code open source software or have sex... Ruby or Python? Stand up.

    If you haven't stood up, look around you at the people who have a job!

    Now talk to a person who isn't your same kind.

    1) help users get together offline. face to face still matters.
    2) make software interactions feel more human
    - What can the user do with a human but not a computer?
    - body language, gestures, (photo of face expressing "Whaaaaaa!?" or WTF: knit brow, questioning, maybe a little bit pissed off, puzzlement)
    - Look confused, ask a question. You can't do that with your software. Does your software know anything about that face?
    - photos of anxiety, bewilderment, head in hands. Other entity responds to "looking confused"

    A neurological quiz. Various "I-statements". Aspies unite! In the tech world we are actually proud of our Aspergers. All our applications have Aspergers. (Also, all cats have Aspergers.) How can we compensate? Our app must know that a person is confused.

    Nobody is passionate when they feel like they suck. Passion threshhold, Suck threshold. Your apps make people feel like they suck instead of getting them up past the suck threshold. I no longer suck, but I'm not good or expert anymore. We have to get people past that threshold. The passion threshold is when they're so good they feel confident and expert. Passion isn't about a tool, it's about people feeling good about their ability.

    Add a WTF button.

    A great point: the help file or faq thinks you look like (photo of smiling confident student-looking guy with pencil poised to take notes) but really you're like (photo of guy looking frustrated and flipping off his computer).

    Example of a user in Excel. "I used to use Excel a long time ago and I just want to add up the numbers in a column" The help is utterly unhelpful and her screen captures are hilarious. People actually want to say "I'm lost. I'm stuck. I don't know how I got here. I want to do a thing, but I don't know what it's called."

    Goal of the WTF button: Get user to the right context asap. Then give him an understandable set of questions. Let the user choose a high level statement. "I'm lost." Narrow the context.
    What other emotions can a computer recognize? buttons with faces. Click on picture of what you're feeling. Bastards! Terror! WTF! Happy! You suck. He's not really feeling "you suck", he's feeling, "I suck". Hating software you're hating it for making you feel like an idiot. If you can't fix your application you can still help by reorganizing your documentation.

    Looking confused tells a human, a human teacher for example, to try telling you a different way. Software gives you one chance, it's like saying "I'm only going to tell you this once." You'll know you've succeeded when they feel creeped out.

    Conversational language. Talk like a human. Use the word "you". Contractions. Your brain reading conversational language - pays more attention.
    The positive impact of good user experiences. If make a user have a slightly better experience, you've done something good. You give a person an opportunity to be in the "flow" state.


    Those are some of the happiest moments in a person's life. That's the kind of experience we're giving people all the time.

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    Friday, March 09, 2007

    SXSWi How to Rawk panel

    Min Jung Kim is leading a panel for people at SXSWi for the first time. "How to Rawk SXSW".

    The gist of this panel is: We're popular and cool. Here is what you should do: Stalk us. We offer ourselves up as stalkable. Follow us and what we're doing, and you'll have fun.

    Their advice is focusing around how to make social contacts and manage them with techie tools, and how to manage a constantly shifting flow of social information.

  • remember to sleep and eat
  • Or not, but try not to look like a skeeze. If you show up in the same clothes, buy a sxsw tshirt downstairs!
  • If you meet someone famous that you hate, hand them your camera and ask them to take a picture of you and your friends. That's what Nick did to Jason Calcanis. (huge laugh from audience)
  • Glenda: Talk to people you don't know. Don't stick with your clique.
  • Min Jung: Crash that party. Go to lunch with people who you don't know but whose blogs you read.

    The room is packed, and right now the panelists are all making fun of being sanfransocial and the idea of "continuous partial attention". You're at dinner with people who are only halfway there because they're texting with people across town who are cooler than you. What to keep from your swag bag and what to throw away. Keep: temporary tattoos, stickers, the "Make" booth stuff, the sharpie marker, the bag itself. The pocket guide.

    Actually I hear that you're supposed to get other people to color in bits of your sxsw bag, which is meant to be colored in.

    They're joking horribly about getting the autographs of people who are internet famous.

    Sync the sxsw calendar with your iCal or with your phone or ipod...

    Twitter, Dodgeball, keeping up with the whirl of activity by tracking or stalking your chosen geek hero or conference cruise director.

    Personally I can't keep up with Min Jung! She's a party animal!

    I didn't catch what they said about microformats and the hcard markup for the sxswi site, but it looked good. It's somewhere on Tantek's site.

    Nick recommends mobile web and using twitter. He makes fun of Tantek some more and Tantek's constant texting. A warning from Lynne Johnson not to run up a $250 text message bill. Use the web site instead (again, twitter...)

    I don't use mobile web, but watching everyone do it here tempts me to get it all set up. The sxswi site looks pretty useful.

    I've been thinking I should make a Ning thingamajig for a sxswi social network. Not to diss microformats and hcard, but I want everything as a social network so I can remember "I met so and so, can't quite remember what we talked about, but they were a friend of this other person whose name I do know." I could find people again from that, where I can't find them in a dump of a million hcards or even the stack of business cards I end up with post-conference. Now we're looking at Lynne's twitter page. Plazes. More Dodgeball. More twitter. Consumating. How to find open wifi spots., Catherine Yu has put together a great checklist of stuff for the conference that will help you make the most of the conference.

    It's the age of twitter. Damn, people! At least I know I'm not alone in my inability to shut up about it.

    There is a lot of advice about parties. I like parties, but am not really that into being in bars; bad knees, slightly deaf, and really I like to just be anywhere reasonably quiet, with computers and wireless. So, for the non-party animals, the geeks, the introverts, or the shy, I would say that you can "rawk" sxswi by inviting random people to hang out with you. Go to lunch or dinner with one other person, and make a more in depth connection than one you might make at a huge sxsw party or music show. Have a conversation, write about it and blog it, link up to people, engage with them online a little bit. Maybe make a connection outside your comfort zone, talk to someone you don't know who might not be in your exact area of techie expertise. I believe strongly in the value of that kind of connection and conversation. For me, the point of conferences like this is, Deepen the Conversation.

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  • SXSWi impressions

    All important communication happens on Twitter.

    Hanging out at Little City checking my email on the street with a tall iced chai. The guys at the table next to me had a blog which explained how to secede and establish your own government; they just got a takedown or cease and desist letter from the NSA! I told them to send it to Chilling Effects.

    Old friends. Kristine K. swooped in to the cafe and carried me off. We lived together at 21st St. Co-op in the mid-80s; me in the loud suite, 1A, and her in 1B. I used to slip love poetry under her door, comparing her to fire and minnows and volcanic lava. With brutal casualness, she would explain to me how my ankles were too thick and she only was attracted to women who were dumb. Then she'd go "come and talk to me while I'm taking my bath!" and like an ass, I'd go and die a thousand deaths. Meanwhile, her and Roy and Katya... I won't go there. Anyway, we drove around Austin, talked about her writing, about everyone we know, about our marriages, our kids, the past; went to visit Ken at the Open Door preschool, and then me to the Cedar Door & her to go work at the convention center doing something music-related. Next week she interviews Peaches - rather thrilling. Her big hulking old steel american car does not have a working reverse drive, so she carefully positioned the car for me to hop out and push the car back. As always I gain +10 to my tonguetied butch roll and that seemed also to give me magic muscles, because I succeeded in pushing the car into the parking spot.

    Her tips for Austin: Ran, a bar or nightclub with dancing, over on 2nd and Lavaca, where there are all types of people but things are pleasantly queered up; Alamo Drafthouse, movie theater with dinner, also at 2nd and near there, maybe Colorado. El Arroyo - where I remember going in the 80s. We lamented the death of Chances, the best lesbian bar in Austin. Now it's Club Deville and is still pretty good.

    At the Cedar Door. The standard Austin bar thing with a patio, a sort of tent thing, christmas lights. No trellis though - usually there is a trellis. Where the fuck is my bar patio trellis! Long wild conversation with Prentiss Riddle about open source, labor, ownership of work, capitalism, alternate economies and their effects good & bad. He talked about Ed Vielmetti's concept of the superpatron - open source libraries - community developers. I didn't get to talk as much as I would have liked to David Nuñez... maybe later... I met a bunch more UT people including an interesting guy who is "bibliotrash" on I do not remember his real name but with that handle, I'll be able to find him.

    More old friends. Dennis Trombatore came to pick me up. We had the depressing conversation quick in the car so as not to upset his wife about one's expected lifespan and aging and the meaning of life and how one chooses to life one's life. "It's not me that will have to deal with it so it doesn't upset me. A few months of pain and morphine... then poof." "Yes, while it lasts enjoy going out and sitting in the air and feeling the sun. Then bang." Of course this was upsetting as in theory I would be one of the people left grieving. But we cross our fingers for radiation and hormones! Dennis is proof that being a philosopher for real improves life, because you've thought plenty in advance about death. I finally got to meet his wife Sheila and see their house. Books & pottery everywhere! It was like old times as we were instantly catapulted into the most intense out-there conversations. His pottery teacher Joe Bova. 500 animals in clay. I admired his bowls and other people's. We talked about the odd gestalt of fun people we had at work in 1987 or 1988. Lisa, Abbey, Stephanie, Sabina, me, and others... Jim McCullough and how he's a fantastic writer... Hegel. The meaning of life. The experience of time. "Every animal's objective is to corrode the boundaries of time." Sentences like that used to fly out of him at an insane pace and all pretense of library work would stop and I remember (my 18 year old self) thinking, "Wait! Stop! I have to hold onto this thought and this minute!" Because often it was so far over my head that I couldn't follow as fast as I would have liked, but could only react in parallel. I am advised to read Heraclitus, and Alex Mourolatos' book and translation of the pre-Socratics. I admired his edition of Singer's History of Technology in many volumes and resolved to buy it as a present! I told him to read "Flow" and also "Understanding Poverty" as we got deeper into talking about class (in relation to everyone we know in common.) I am also advised to read Robert Coles who wrote about the psychology of children. We talked about work and the way that he is in the library and how it is being "on" all day long

    Vespasio is the best Italian restaurant in the entire southwest, according to Dennis.

    Then off to about 8 million bars as I followed Chris Messina and Tara Hunt around, because they're fun and cool but mostly because I needed to get into their hotel room and go to sleep. I can't even remember whatall bars they were at. Moonshine, Buffalo Billiards, something else very loud. At bar #8 million I realized I could just take their key and go, so that's what I did, but on the way (very tired and spaced out) I met more fun people, talked with Min Jung, Glenda, Leslie, the french maid guy (and I did not get into that but maybe I will later) and Scott from Laughing Squid and all those people. Everyone that I don't know is familiar-seeming. Sipped drinks out of test tubes. Fell over with exhaustion. Then a hot bath. My roommates showed up. Tara and I talked non stop about our work, about co-working, all that sort of thing.

    In the morning they were very beautiful. You know how people look all innocent when they're relaxed and asleep? Like that. Also the bed was very white and they were very pink and gold and blond looking, Tara in her lacy camisole and Chris looking more macho than you'd think. I almost took a photo of them curled up with arms around each other, asleep, but figured I could bloggaciously violate their privacy just as well with words as with pictures. They were the sweetest thing ever!

    Breakfast at Las Manitas, as planned. Ran into Scott B. and Shannon Clark and more people I vaguely know or might have met once. Heavenly, heavenly coffee perfect and mellow and strong, with chilaquiles verdes and platanos. The food is like a fabulous dream. As we left I talked for like 1 second with someone named Cory who wanted to talk to me, but she vanished as I paused to talk with Sarah Dopp.

    That's my story and I'm sticking to it!

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    Monday, March 05, 2007

    Deep, then flippant, thoughts on SXSWi

    I'm getting ready to fly out to Austin for SXSWi, where I'm going to talk at a session on Sunday afternoon, "Fictional Blogging". Marrit Ingman at the Austin Chronicle interviewed me here: Where the Wild Things Blog. For once, I'm not talking about myself or making anyone's eyes glaze over with my wild Theories About Twitter:

    Liz Henry, who will present the Fictional Bloggers panel with blog-novelist Odin Soli of Plain Layne fame, emphasizes the importance of disclosure. "We want lying we can trust, lying that's transparent," she explains. "We don't want to feel stupid and be tricked by hoaxes. But some lying, the lying of fiction, is good and ethical. It creates distance between a person and the world, and in this distance we can explore crazy, fascinating ideas."

    Henry adds, "If corporations used fictional blogs seamlessly and with artistry, a lot of people wouldn't mind the fakitude. They'd be entertained. We could potentially love the PSP2 fake bloggers just as we love Chaucer Hath a Blog if the PSP2 blog was any good."

    Instead of being good, the ad company responsible for Sony's viral campaign, Zipatoni, drew the ire of consumers with the blog's lack of corporate disclosure, ostensibly teenage pidgin, and blatantly fake "flogging." ("so we started clowning with sum not-so-subtle hints to j's parents that a psp would be teh perfect gift," read the first entry on, itself shut down last December.)

    "Companies who want to build out a fictional character should hire novelists and playwrights, role-playing gamers and LARPers, bloggers and social media people – creative world-builders who understand how to bring life to an online presence. Blog readers and Web-entertainment consumers are sophisticated. They want depth to a character," Henry says.

    Odin is an awesome geek and all-around internetty consultant sort of person as well as a novelist. I like how he includes his old .plan files as part of his web site. I always thought of them as old school blogging... And I wish I still had mine!

    I'm working now for Socialtext now, as their open source community manager, but my panel has nothing to do with that and everything to do with my history as a bookish and writerly and bloggity person.

    But because I'm being soaked up to my eyebrows in wikis right now, I talked about them with Marrit too, so bear with me while I write that up and quote myself at enormous unquotable length:

    I'd love to see companies blog creatively from the points of view of minor characters in a novel or other fictional series. I don't want Harry Potter's blog; I want Dobby's blog or Neville's or Pansy Parkinson's. Or better yet, a network of interlinked fictional blogs and worlds. In the imaginary world, we aren't limited by truth, reality, history, or time. We can have Genghis Khan blogging in dialogue with Caroline Ingalls and Picard and two hundred different Harry Potters, with real people thrown in the mix. A smart company would interlock its fictional worlds and information and allow participation from everyone in the building of alternate fictional realities. There's a lot of energy in fanfiction, for example. This energy should be welcomed by media owners and publishers, who need radical change in their approach to intellectual property.

    Book publishers aren't getting wikis either - or not enough of them are getting it. Every book needs a wiki. Every book needs a blog, but I'd push it further and say that they need wikis too, or blikis.

    Wikis have enormous creative potential. Socialtext uses wikis and blikis to increase collaboration and speed up communication in big corporations. Corporate wikis change the ways people talk with each other at work, or how they approach the definition of a project. But novelists and creative writers need to play with wikis in many other areas. Wikis are clearly useful for worldbuilding in science fiction and fantasy. But let's push it further. We could write a novel as a wiki. Someone should do that for Nanorimo! Maybe they already have. It's a scary thought, isn't it, if you're a writer? It challenges the idea of authorship, authority, style, and the singular voice of the genius artist. That's a fine challenge with a ton of potential. When we get our first excellent bestselling novel written by a wiki collective -- better yet by an open collective -- we'll know that our society's approach to the generation of knowledge has evolved. Fans groups of particular wikinovel hive minds will spring up. Literary criticism will change as well, and academia's resistance to collaboration will have to evolve to change with the times.

    Book publishers aren't getting how to make a blog into a book. What is the value of the book? Besides editing the blog and making it portable, a book should annotate. The book of Riverbend's blog, for example, could have been a fantastic book rather than just a nicely bound bundle of printouts. Add information, indexes, annotation, glossaries, diagrams, geneologies. Enrich a blog; don't just print it. Publishers think people don't want footnotes. They're wrong. When people love a world, a character, or a subject -- or a blog -- they want to know everything, on different levels. A generation that grew up listening to DVD commentary tracks and writing complex Wikipedia articles about Pokemon characters does, indeed, love footnotes, and the option for depth of information they provide.


    The conference was great last year. It was supposedly the year of everyone marveling at OMG there are girls and brown people here OMG OMG there is a line for the women's room at a tech conference! Diversity was nice, I think it will continue, and I hope it has positive and tangible results for the "diversity-providers" as well as making everyone else feel all warm and fuzzy. The conference itself benefitted, if you think of their increase in attendees as being correlated with the array of speakers from different backgrounds - and I do think that's true. I had to laugh a bit at the SXSW magazine that came in the mail last month, and its article on the British Invasion. What a spin. "Last year we had women! This year omg white guys are invading our conference! It's so radical!" Every cliche was invoked. It was sweet, really! I'm not complaining -- British geek guys are super sexy, they dress nicer than American white guys, they don't make the bathroom lines longer for all the women (that's important!) and I think they grace any conference with their cute accents and snarky comments and the way they act sort of uptight and then get drunk and let it all hang out. Kind of like Spock. The invasion's fine with me!

    In fact, right after I talked with Marrit about collaboration, world building, and wikis, I had lunch with Paul Youlten from Yellowiki, a very fascinating multi-tentacled person who is now building a collaborative fictional Latin American geographical space, Batán. I did not quiz him too deeply on the imperialist implications of his Bruce-Chatwin-esque wiki thing because I think it's a fine cultural experiment, and if English-speaking people are going to construct a fake Latin America, they might as well make it overtly fake rather than constructing it on real cities where people actually live. (I realize that only about 3 people will get this or laugh at it, but it's worth it to make them laugh really hard. This means you, Brian, Prentiss, and Gabby!)

    (Meanwhile, as I'm blogging this in a cafe, there's a guy across from me with a big Daviswiki sticker on his laptop. Wiki Everywhere!)

    Back to the conference!

    I'm looking forward to seeing some people I don't see that often - to the rush of intense conversations - to eating breakfast at my favorite breakfast place ever which I shall not name because I don't want you all to go there and make it too crowded - And to picking up some more Turitella fossils from the limestone bed of Shoal Creek, because I gave all the ones I picked up last year to little kids. And to going to all the wiki panels and open source panels and doing more soaking-stuff-up.

    Also notable in my pre-conference rush: I got very excited at getting my cute little MOO cards. I have two kinds - one for my real name stuff and one for the main pseudonymous-me.

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    Thursday, March 01, 2007

    Wikchix meetup, Thurs. March 1

    If you're in the Bay Area and are a wiki-ish person, you might like to swing by the Wikichix meetup tonight. Add yourself on this wiki page or on the wikichix page if you're registered there; either way. So far, only about 5 people have actually signed up.

    We'll have another meetup in April, because over email, people have shown a lot of interest. I'd love to pull in some Woolfcampers and Feminist SF wiki contributors as well as Wikimedia-focused people, to share ideas about wiki theory and community politics as well as tech tips or whatever else people end up bringing to the meetup.

    I was just reading over Annalee's article on the Wikichix on Alternet, reading the comments, and marvelling anew at the huge misunderstandings. It is very strange to me that so many people (incorrectly) see such a group as having an agenda of creating an alternate feminist version of Wikipedia; when actually its purpose is more to share stories and talk about the experience of being female in a specific male-dominated environment, a purpose that is hardly new and that has Linuxchix as a model. Part of what many women experience online in highly male-dominated environments is:

    - the discounting of the substance of what they're saying
    - the demand that women be always calm and care-taking, while guys have permission to get angry
    - the demand that women never be wrong, while guys can be wrong and correct themselves, be corrected, or change their minds
    - never-ending commentary about looks, sexual banter and references to sexual tension, sexual commoditization, remarks on one's girl-ness
    - the assumption that what guys consider is important is The Important Thing and what women consider important is trivial and can be dismissed
    - always having your credentials and knowledge and background questioned; having to prove yourself over and over; basic competence, much less expertise, constantly doubted; condescension
    - the struggle women have against internalizing all of the above.

    All of that is worth discussing in women-only forums. I called this Wikichix meetup but didn't call it as women-only. The wiki and mailing list are women only, though.

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    Very cool literary reading: Nalo Hopkinson, Jewelle Gomez, Marta

    This is going to be an amazing reading. I hope to see lots of you there! I will probably be late, unfortunately, but will be there and then be at the afterparty at Debbie Notkin's house.

    Octavia E. Butler Memorial Tribute Fundraiser

    Nalo Hopkinson
    Jewelle Gomez
    Susie Bright
    Marta Acosta
    Jennifer de Guzman
    Guillermo Gomez-Peña

    A fundraiser reading to benefit the Octavia E. Butler Memorial Scholarship.
    Fabulous fabulists honor one of our great writers and raise funds for the next generation.

    Sunday, March 4, 5 - 7 pm

    The Starry Plough
    3101 Shattuck Avenue
    Berkeley, CA.

    $5-20 sliding scale.

    The Octavia E. Butler Memorial Scholarship will enable writers of color to attend one of the Clarion writing workshops, where Octavia got her start. It is meant to cement Octavia's legacy by providing the same experience/opportunity that Octavia had to future generations of new writers of color. In addition to her stint as a student at the original Clarion Writers Workshop in Pennsylvania in 1970, Octavia taught several times for Clarion West in Seattle, Washington, and Clarion in East Lansing, Michigan, giving generously of her time to a cause she believed in.

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