Anthologize

Anthologize is a tool for content creators to turn their website, and other materials they have syndicated I believe, into a book. It was produced by the Center for History and New Media’s “One Week, One Tool” project. They used a number of extant ideas and projects as their starting points:

UPDATE: Further along in the traditional publishing workflow comes editing and I just came across a website that allows for a kind of crowdsourcing of editing: it’s called BiteSizeEdits. Fascinating.

UPDATE 2: There’s a commercial site doing this: http://leanpub.com/.

DevonThink Academy

I have recently started using DevonThink again for keeping track of diverse research notes and documents. The good folks at Devon Technologies have a great collection of on-line tutorials — simple, small amounts of prose with an illustration, affairs — that are perfectly parsed for learning a little bit here and there to improve your understanding of the application and how you might use it. Great support like this only makes me like — in an emotional sense of the word — the product more, which makes me want to use it more.

Federated Is the Future for Open Source

In his remarks to this year’s OSCON, Tim O’Reilly makes the interesting assertion that “federated is the future for open source”. His assertion comes out of his interest in the internet as the next operating system. His example makes the point very clearly (paraphrased):

Imagine yourself out with friends and you decide to get a pizza. What do you do? If you have one of the new smart phones [by which he means iPhone or Android], you can quite literally put the thing to you mouth and speak the word pizza into an app and it will search for places to eat pizza that also happen to be nearby.

The technologies involved are quite astonishing: touch sensors (to activate the app) motion sensors (the device has to know you are moving it up to your head to know to turn on the microphone), a GPS radio (to know where you are), and a microwave radio (to transmit your request).

But the technology doesn’t end there: the speech recognition is not being done on your phone in many instances but “in the cloud” as is the cross-indexing of eateries and your location. All of this is assembled into some form of text — HTML or otherwise — and then sent back to your handset, which now offers you a range of options.

Amazing stuff. But even more amazing is that really how Google, for example, know how to understand your spoken request is because they have a pretty good sense of what goes with what. They are, after all, in the search business as well. It’s all this data that makes it possible to give you not just an answer but a semantically-rich and appropriate one.

Obviously, the more you can cross-pollinate these various data sets, the more interesting your results will be and the more kind of innovation become possible. But Google owns its (your) searches and Facebook owns its (your) social graphs. Given that the current trend is in this direction, O’Reilly asks the pressing question of where does the open source community go when a lot of these companies are built on open source — Google runs on Linux after all and gives away a lot of the software it developes — but the data itself remains beyond our reach?

Knowledge for All

The University of Prince Edward Island cancelled their subscription to Web of Science:

This is to inform the UPEI campus community that we have not renewed our subscription to ISI’s Web of Science database (WoS). We realize this is a key research database for many of you and we have taken steps to ensure access to appropriate alternative resources, as well as the WoS back‑files. Late last year we received notification that our subscription price was going to increase by 120%. A number of factors went into the decision not to renew:

‑ a challenging fiscal climate means that we are unlikely to see an increase to Library budgets;
‑ any subscription increase in these challenging times is difficult, but an increase of 120% is simply not acceptable;
‑ we would have been forced to sign a 3‑year agreement, with additional increases in each of the 3 years;
‑ a weaker Canadian dollar would have a significant impact on our subscription costs;
‑ accommodating this level of increase lends credence to the vendors’ business practices and we felt it important to make a statement against these practices (see http://chronicle.com/article/U‑of‑California‑Tries‑Just/65823/ for a recent decision at UC).

UPEI is also leading an effort to create a free and open index to the world’s scholarly literature called “Knowledge For All”. This proposal is currently being sent to various Canadian and international library consortia in an effort to gain support for the project. One goal of Knowledge For All is to ensure that scholars and members of the broader public are no longer disenfranchised by a broken system of scholarly communication. We will provide the campus community with updates on this effort.

It’s interesting to note that it may very well be the smaller universities that make some of these shifts, perhaps clumsily, first because they usually are closer to the economic trends than the majors. I think such is also the case with my own university.

Webkit Demos

Apple has a page of demonstrations that emphasize the full possibilities of HTML5. As others have noted, it’s not strictly HTML5, as a number of these features are a function of WebKit. To make matters a bit more complicated, Apple’s version of WebKit is a bit more robust, in terms of cutting edge functionality, than Google’s — and I assume other browsers built on WebKit. That said, kudos to Apple for building there browser on top of an open source project and for making all their developments open source as well. That some of these cool new possibilities only work in Safari should goad other browser providers, especially — and obviously — those also using WebKit, to step up. This is the way to make the functionality of the web move forward.

Privacy is a right.

Privacy is, of course, an evolving social compact. In the modern era, we have enjoyed, thanks both to economics as well as philosophies and policies keeping pace as best they can with the changing economic context, an expansion of privacy. More of us than ever before live comfortable lives with an increased sense, and scope, of what we consider private. Much of our notions of privacy have to do with the spaces within which we interact with others. Thus, we have the notion that our front yards are more public than our back yards, if we have such a thing, because one is more viewable from the clearly public space of the street than the other. Our living rooms are more public spaces than our bedrooms, a fact we emphasize by putting the living rooms between the front door and our bedrooms.

But how do we define privacy within the so-called “virtual” space of the internet? We have come to regard certain information about ourselves as private. Sure, there have always been unscrupulous efforts or acts that revealed our privacy was more tenuous than we would like to believe, but usually those acts have been met with outrage.

Some enterprises or pundits have, in what has always struck me as a power grab, declared that “privacy is obsolete.” Give it up, they tell us. Give it up and we shall be set free. Don’t believe it.

More insidious has been the efforts of some enterprises — and here I am thinking directly of Facebook, but also of that stupid website where you share your credit card purchases and perhaps even, in some sense, GDGT — to whittle ever so slowly on our privacy expectations or, perhaps worse, to bargain with us. There gambit is simple: give up some of your privacy and in return you get … all the coolness that is “social media.” That would include a sense of community, of connectedness that was one of the promises of the internet (but not the only one).

But to return to a better definition of community than the one that gets slogged around the interwebs, what you get isn’t “community” but “association” as Max Weber made so clear at the beginning of the twentieth century. Communities are made up of the people who are around you because they are your neighbors or your family. They may or may not be “like” you in some larger sense. In fact, they often are so unlike you that they drive you crazy. Associations, however, are voluntary groupings of individuals who come together around some abstract sense of togetherness. This could be Methodists or it could be Masons. Ham radio operators were perhaps the first to use an information technology to seek out other like-minded individuals who never knew in person.

Yes, Facebook does offer you a bit of the real version of community, but it does so with an eye to mapping you, your friends, and your relationships. It is the kind of data that organizations, both private and public, salivate at the thought of getting.

And most of us have gladly given up our privacy in order to have this sense of community, of connectedness.

And it was convenient to do so. We could have built our own infrastructure to transport our ideas, but here was somebody else with the light rail system already set up. They weren’t charging money, only asking us to give up a little bit of our privacy here, and a little bit there, and suddenly, once we were on the train and enjoying the ride, they announced, “oh, you have no privacy, unless you ask for it.”

Nonsense.

And so I am deactivating my Facebook account. Not deleting it, because I want to keep my name, but deactivating it.

You Are Not a Curator

Thank you, New Curator, for trying to take a bit of wind out of the sails of the ship that seeks to take a perfectly useful term, curation, and a perfectly useful set of skills often embodied in trained professionals known as curators, or also as librarians, and make it so overused as to be as useless as “data mining” or, now, “social media.” Here’s the link.

Google’s Gift of Fonts

Google has just made the web a bit more interesting, at least from the point of view of making design more interesting by offering a suite of fonts that any website can use. As most everyone who has ever tried to design a website is aware, almost all browsers are dependent upon a user’s local portfolio of type faces, or fonts, for constructing the text of a web page, unless that font is provided by the website, which gets into hairy software distribution and use issues, or everything is rendered as a graphic, which puts a strain on even generous download speeds — never mind your own server resources.

What that has meant is that you had to design a website targeting the most common type faces installed on almost every computer or else risking the user’s browser showing something else into its place with perhaps unappealing results. (Meaning an ugly or incomprehensible layout.) And thus the rise of Times and Verdana as well as the conquest of Helvetica by Arial.

Microsoft has been something of philanthropist here, by widely distributing a number of faces such that almost every computer has Georgia and Tahoma. Unless, of course, you are using Linux, in which case you are just out of luck.

But Google has changed all that by setting up a central font server and making it incredibly easy to use 18 different type faces — the link will take you to a page that shows them off quite nicely. All anyone designing a website needs to do is to plug the following code into your header:

<link href='http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Molengo' rel='stylesheet' type='text/css'>

And then place the following in your style sheet:

h1 { font-family: 'Molengo', arial, serif; }

Note: for purposes of illustration I am using the Molengo face in this example, but it’s also the new case for the body of posts here at The Human Experience.

Try Molengo for yourself.

No More Facebook

File this under your life is your data or your life is data and you should own that and if you choose to rent it out, you should profit from it and not somebody else. Or, put another way, apparently my own concerns about Facebook and how it displaces the promise of the web, are shared by the technorati. (I’m not saying I was the first; I’m just saying it’s nice to know others are worried too and that I’m not either paranoid or alone in being paranoid.) Jason Calacanis has put together a nice list of reasons in his own inimitable style. (I like the way Calacanis thinks: I don’t necessarily always like the way he acts, but that’s another matter.)

iPad Second Impressions

I’m working on a fuller discussion of my use of GoodReader on the iPad that I will post soon, but as I continue to put the Apple tablet through its paces, I thought I would post notes as I go.

First, I should note that I am in fact composing this on the iPad and that typing on it, while in landscape mode, is far easier than I would have imagined. I can actually imagine doing some serious work like this. It’s a little difficult to get the iPad proposed just right in your lap, but once you’ve achieved some ergonomic compromise, you can type pretty well. (Note that I am not a touch typist and so I may be more open to alternative keyboards than better typists are. I know that my typing follows no best practice ever devised.)

Second, the iPad needs a case. Either the Apple case or something like the MarWare EcoFolio case. If you are using this thing around the house especially, it just doesn’t feel quite right to lay it down unprotected — this will make more sense to those readers with children and/or pets. The smooth aluminum back feels too “slidy” and the glass top just a hair too nice and fragile not to have something to flip over it when not in use. Something that stays attached is going to be better precisely because the iPad is so easy to use that you find yourself moving about with it, and chances are you’re going to put it down in a different place than where you started … And where did you leave that slip case.

I bought an inexpensive Kensington slip case to use while waiting for something better to come available — it was $5.99 on Amazon — but using a slip case on the iPad is not the same as using one on a laptop. The primary problem is that the controls of the iPad remain exposed while you are putting the slip case on, and while the unit is inside, and so you can too easily turn it on.

## Surfing Mobile Safari

Web browsing in mobile Safari on the iPad is as amazing an experience as many observers commented. There really is something quite … Er, magical? … to touching a link with your finger tip rather than clicking it with a mouse. And all the other features of the multi-touch user experience really come to life on this size screen/UI.

Given this, this lovely touch interface, it boggles the mind that *Show Top Sites* is not a built-in part of the Mobile Safari interface. There’s room in the toolbar.

The second question mark for Mobile Safari is the lack of *Find* functionality. Again, there’s room in the toolbar.

More observations as they come.

Amazon Reviews of Classics

Jeanette Demain of Salon has a [wonderful compilation of reviews][comp] written by Amazon members of various *great works of literature*. Please note that I do not subscribe to such a notion, and so the compiled reviews are both telling for how ordinary people encounter literary texts as well as how those of us who are more interpelated into the *great works* paradigm than we would like to admit — okay, that would be me — are as apt to *tut-tut* such parochial or provincial or uncultured perspectives.

In short, it’s a great way to see on which side of the fence you stand.

[comp]: http://www.salon.com/books/feature/2010/04/02/mean_amazon_reviews_open2010/index.html

Sometimes Twitter Is Good

I only *tweet* occasionally. Not as many people follow me on Twitter as read this blog. I’m okay with that. And, for the record, I only check my Facebook page once every two weeks. I am completely not okay with the fact that Facebook not only makes it impossible for me to get back out anything I put in, but that they are using whatever I put in to sell me stuff. Others are okay with that, but the promise of the web, to me, was that it would not only be a read-write experience but that we would own our own writing. Facebook is easy and convenient, but it’s not democratic.

But back to Twitter. There’s a guy who tweets [things his dad says](http://twitter.com/shitmydadsays). Apparently he got a deal to write a pilot for television. (I’m not making that up: you’ll have to look it up on TechCrunch, though — I already closed the page.) This is kind of cool. It means people can experiment with content and it might just end up paying the bills. For the record, his dad, be he fictional or real, says mostly expletive-laden things that occasionally make you smile. Only one made me laugh out loud:

> “No, I’m not a pessimist. At some point the world shits on everybody. Pretending it ain’t shit makes you an idiot, not an optimist.”

Make Stuff Not Search

Derek Powazak has a nice post about SEO optimization: don’t do it. Or, as he details, do it the way you would have done good content in the first place and don’t spend time, nor money, trying to “optimize” for various search engines (e.g., the mighty Google, which shifts and tweaks its algorithms weekly anyway). Powazek goes on to argue that SEO is, in fact, [poisoning the web](http://powazek.com/posts/2090).

It goes without saying that this applies a broad range of industries, disciplines, vocations and it shouldn’t surprise anyone that there YAP (yet another post) that really is some version of *do what you love because you love it* — okay, the echoes of Joseph Campbell’s “follow your bliss” make my head hurt — which is really becoming something of a Web 2.0 mantra. Don’t get me wrong, I like it … I even believe it. *Yikes!*