Ed Bilodeau

This weblog had moved: http://www.coolweblog.com/bilodeau/

# Notice (Oct 19/05): So ends my stay here on Blogger. This morning Google implemented an anti-spam 'feature' that forces me to answer a challenge phrase when I want to post to my own blog. No notice of the change, nothing. Worse is that it doesn't even work! I type the phrase, submit, "An error occured", post deleted. Damn you, Google. Chances are I will revive my blog somewhere else, sometime soon. I'll post the new coordinates here as soon as they become available. (BTW, I'm unable to post anything to my RSS stream, so I'd appreciate it if readers could spread the word and ask people to take a look at this notice)

Update (Oct 19/05, ~noon): After a frustrating few hours (and not just trying out alternatives to Blogger), I've decided that this is a good time to take a break from all this. A day? A week? Who knows. But I need to step away from it before I pass a heavy magnet over the whole mess.

Update 2: According to this post, the reason I'm seeing the CAPTCHA (challenge phrase) is that Blogger has classified my blog as spam. Thanks. User for five years and now I'm spam. I searched the Blogger site, but there is no mention of how to get the spam flag turned off. There is also no way of contacting anyone at Blogger. Wow. Spam they say I am, so spam I must be. Maybe it is time to take a break.

Monday, February 28, 2005

Still thinking about Google Toobar : At the beginning of my post on the legal issues surrounding the Google Toolbar, I noted that I hoped that writing the post would allow me to move on. It hasn't worked out that way.

Why? Because I'm reading more posts that in my opinion continue to skirt this core issue and potential solution. Framing the conversation in terms of "that's evil!" or "that's bad" is about as useful as say that war is bad. Yeah, OK. I think we can agree on that, but we can we do about it?

The deeper frustration is the realization that my posts here are not really part of the conversation. I'm part of the Long Tail. Heck, I'm the tip. As such, my ability to influence the head is limited if not non-existant.

This, in itself, isn't bad or wrong. What is wrong is my expectation that it could be otherwise. That I could post something to my blog and that it would somehow resonate so strongly that the head would notice. Ahh, maybe it just takes time.
McGill morning - Feb 28, 2005 :
McGill morning - Feb 28, 2005
Originally uploaded by ebilodeau.

I'm testing Flickr-Blogger integration. Oh, and my camera is working again. The short version of the story is that it took me over two years to figure out that I needed to replace the batteries...
Monday morning : Monday mornings are a struggle for me. This morning a bit more so, since I am trying to refocus on my research work (as opposed to my office and teaching work). My research work habits are not strong enough to carry me along once invoked. Its a struggle.
Karl's summary of Northern Voice 2005 :
"J'ai un indicateur pour savoir si une conférence a été bénéfique pour moi ou pas. C'est le nombre d'idées qui me vient en écoutant les différentes interventions. C'est un compteur qui crépite. Cette fois-ci, il n'a même pas passé le niveau critique de détection, à l'exception de la conférence de Steph Downes."

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Jef Raskin, A Life of Design : Jef Raskin, a key designer of the Mac, passed away this weekend.
Google's raid on the commons : There has been a fair amount of commentary in the last few weeks about the Google Toolbar feature that more or less duplicates the Smart Tags functionality Microsoft tried (and then retracted) a few years back. Something about it must have struck me, because I’ve found my thoughts coming back to it again and again, like a problem that I was trying to work through. I’m hoping that my writing this post, I’ll get it out of my system so that my brain can move on to other things.

What bothered me at first was that people were getting upset about Google modifying the content they published on the web. The fact that it was being modified in ways that would allow Google and others to make money with no compensation going to the content’s author only made things worse. (On a deeper level, I think that many people were upset at the realization that Google is a public company whose mission is no longer to “do no evil” but to make money, a topic that deserves a separate post of its own.)

Publishing content on the Web is about publishing content in a structured format (usually XML) for others to make use of. Traditionally, this has meant viewing in a browser according to the guidelines laid out by the W3C. The movement to XML (including XHTML) over the past few years was, in part, a move away from this model, to a space where content is published without an explicit understanding of how it might be used by others.

Under this new model, it makes little sense to go through the effort to publish XML content and then complain when someone is using it in a way you hadn’t intended.

Having said that, XML content is still protected by intellectual property laws. It is still protected by copyright. An application that makes use of someone else’s intellectual property must still respect the relevant laws. Somewhere in here is a solution to the Google Toolbar problem.

My thinking here was more influenced by the Creative Commons licenses, since they map directly to the behaviours of the Google Toolbar.

Assume that I have a web site, and that the content on that web site is protected by an Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs license.

Next, take a user that has the Google Toolbar installed. When that user visits my site, the Google Toolbar modifies the display of the page so that it contains ads and links, modifications that contribute to the commercial activities of Google and/or other companies.

In this scenario, while Google has respected the Attribution aspect of the license covering my content, it has violated the NonCommercial and NoDerivs aspects.

(Disclaimer: I’m not a lawyer, so I don’t know how well any of this would stand up in court)

This situation is not unique to the Google Toolbar. It is shared by every application that makes uses web content in ways other then straightforward consumption of that content by individuals in (more or less) the way it was indented. This includes RSS aggregators, browsers, any software that could be said to be creating a derivative work based on original sources.

While it might be difficult to create a definition of “derivative work” for this new medium, it is by no means impossible. Already it is possible to embed licence information in content files so that it could be read and understood by software seeking to make use of that content (ex: the Google Tolbar would only add links to content containing a Creative Commons Attribution licence, the only licence which explicitly allows derivative, commercial works).

The biggest challenge will probably be for individuals whose intellectual property rights have been violated by, for example, Google to persue them in the court of law. Here also, though, I’m assuming someone will find a way to make that happen as well.

Friday, February 25, 2005

forksplit: Hot Battery Problem : iPod user writes about her experiences at the Apple Store. A three-hour wait... Nice job, Apple.
Your name is finally called, along with the name of the 'Genius' who will be assisting you. You walk down the line at the Bar to Brian. Brian is a short, cross-eyed troglodyte, whose attempt at a hipster 'do, nose ring, and smug, self-assured demeanor do little to hide the fact that he's clearly thrilled to have access, for the first time in his life, to an unending supply of technologically retarded women he can simultaneously punish and save.

You set your iPod on the shiny counter. You've been waiting almost three hours. 'So, the wheel is, like, stuck,' you begin. 'It's been kind of slow since I got it.'

Brian smirks and holds up a hand for silence. 'Wait, wait, wait,' he says in the same tone your tutor used on you when you were twelve and you asked if dogs in France barked with an accent. 'What's your name?'

You're slightly taken aback and a little annoyed, but this guy holds the keys to a new iPod, one that hasn't been dropped multiple times and continuously pawed at during long subway rides. You tell him your name and smile tightly.

'Well, I'm Brian,' he says magnanimously. 'What can I do for you?'

Go read the whole thing... well worth it!
IBM increasing support for PHP :
The two companies intend to devote programmers to make PHP work better with corporate databases and Web services protocols. IBM also plans to establish an area dedicated to PHP on its developer Web site, which will include technical resources such as white papers.
Collection of programming-related e-books : IT Questionbank as assembled a collection of links to programming/technical e-books, including more then a few from O'Reilly.
How Much Should an IPod Shuffle Cost? :
"She estimates the 512MB of flash in the cheaper of Apple's two IPod Shuffle models costs the company around $37.50 for each player. That's about two thirds of the estimated total $59 that Apple spends on materials needed to make each 512MB IPod Shuffle. The product retails for $99 giving the company a profit of about $40, or roughly 40 percent."
Switching to RSS Bandit : I'm about a third of the way through moving my RSS feeds over to RSS Bandit. Although this solution will not allow me to view my feeds from any machine, it will (hopefully) keep those feeds up to date. I was noticing that with the My Yahoo RSS aggregator it would sometimes take hours for a post to show up, which in my case, defeats the purpose of using RSS at all.

Of course, My Yahoo doesn't have an OPML export option (which should have sent up a red flag for me), so moving to RSS Bandit is a longish, manual process. Better get back to it.

[10:00am] Update: Done. Back to work.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

http://flickr.com/photos/tags/calm/show/ : Make yourself a nice herbal tea, take a few minutes out of your day, and relax.
ACM Queue: A conversation with Tim Bray :
"XML was frozen and published in February 1998. As it came toward the end and it became obvious—well, not obvious, but likely anyhow—that this was going to get a lot of momentum, we were besieged by requests for extra features of one kind or another. We basically lied and told the world, we would do all that stuff in version 2. You have to shoot the engineers and ship at some point, right? I think there will never be an XML version 2. There is an XML version 1.1, but it’s controversial and not widely supported."

Good interview, covering Bray's throughts on XML, RDF, etc.
Battlestar Galactica Blog : Maintained by Ron Moore, one of the writers on the series. Lots of Q&A. Excellent.
del.icio.us search is limited : From what I can tell, the search function in delicious doesn't search the title of your items, which is unfortunate, since the title usually contains important keywords... :/

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Your Camera Does Not Matter :
"Your equipment DOES NOT affect the quality of your image. The less time and effort you spend worrying about your equipment the more time and effort you can spend creating great images. The right equipment just makes it easier, faster or more convenient for you to get the results you need."

Great article. The same applies, I believe, to all sorts of things, like computers, notebooks, etc...
I give up : I've been trying to reestablish the peace and quite of my old office, but I've failed.

Due to poor planning, the phones of those who have moved are not properly set up, and aren't likely to be fixed for a week or so. The problem: the office I'm in was previously occupied by people whose phone rung the department's main line. I'll spare you the details, but as it stands, I have *two* phones in my office that ring every time someone calls the department.

I also, btw, can't close my door to my office, since it cuts out too much light from the people working in cublicles in the main area.

I no longer have a physical space that supports my work. Luckily, having spent most of my working career in cublicles, I have mechanisms for coping. Namely, headphones. Cue up Sebastien, crank it up, and create a nice little space in my head.

(I've got to shake this mood before my next meeting.)
A conversation with Alan Kay : Kay has a great quote regarding the status of computer science education:
All of these ideas could be part of both software engineering and computer science, but I fear—as far as I can tell—that most undergraduate degrees in computer science these days are basically Java vocational training. I’ve heard complaints from even mighty Stanford University with its illustrious faculty that basically the undergraduate computer science program is little more than Java certification.

There is a need for universities to provide an education in the study of the science of computing (computer science), the development of computer hardware (electrical engineering), and the development of computer software (software engineering).

To repeat the often noted comparison: you wouldn't hire a physicist to design and build a bridge, so don't hire a computer scientist to design a build production software.
Bad software morning : First, delicious isn't working. My patience has just about run out. Time to start looking seriously at alternatives. Great idea, but not ready for prime-time.

Second, for some reason, in Blogger edit-mode, Ctrl+D does't open the Bookmark window, but reloads the current window, deleting your post in progress. Probably a 'helpful' hotkey built into the UI. Thanks for nothing. (I know, what business did I have trying to bookmark something while editing a post? Not the point.)

Third, Blogger decided that I had left a required field blank, when they were all clearly filled. That's just wacky software.


Fourth, the Yahoo RSS aggregator doesn't seem to be reading in all the RSS feeds properly. For example, the post from IEBlog (What have you guys been doing since IE6?) isn't listed, even though it is within the display parameters I've set.

So, my bookmarking, blogging, and rss reading software are on the fritz this morning. The ironic thing is that in all cases, what they do, the functionality they provide, is bone-simple. Now I know why people roll their own.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

3M Security Glass Ad : A rare example of good/clever advertising. While a few comments do pick at the technical problems, the creative is excellent.

If you work in advertising (as I did for about a year or so), you do get to see some good creative work. What makes advertising so infuriating is that 99.9% of what is produced, of what we are bombarded with, is crap. The production is often slick, but the ideas and execution are weak, weak, weak. You can't even appreciate the craftwork that went into it. With this piece of work, you can.
Jason Kottke: Doing kottke.org as a full-time job : Side-stepping the obvious, cynical post, a sincere "good luck!" to Jason.
Moving start up : My stuff is in my new office, my computer set up and connected. My phone, thanks to the rapido services of our tech support, is at least 10 days away. I'll probably end up spending most of the rest of today unpacking and settling in. Better to just accept it then worry about it.
Moving shut down : Desks are starting to move. I'll be shutting down now and offline for a hour or two while everything gets sorted out.
Stephen Downes: Community Blogging : After reading/skimming through Nancy White's transcription of the talk, I've gone and downloaded the MP3 version to listen to later when I am unpacking my office. Not that Nancy's transcription wasn't good (far from it), but the ideas that Downes builds to at the end resonate strongly with my thoughts on social/collaborative/sense-making software in general.
c|net: Shorter hours in software :
'In companies that have a lot of overtime, they waste a lot of hours during the workday,' said Tom DeMarco, a consultant at The Atlantic Systems Guild who has written about human resource issues in the technology field. 'A normal workday has come to be selected over time because it is productive.'

Monday, February 21, 2005

Moving : Tomorrow morning I'm moving to a new office. Not far, though. The next one over. I keep the view of the campus and the mountain, but also gain a few windows onto the hallway. My challenge, aside from dealing with the time lost packing today and unpacking tomorrow, will be how to position my desk to get some sort of privacy and feng shui going.

Tonight, Nathalie and I are heading into St.Lambert to sign our a lease on a new apartment. Our new place is smack-dab (sp?) in the middle of the village, which is exactly, exactly what we were looking for. We're very excited and relieved. There is still a lot of hard work to do over the next few months, but having secured a place to move to feels like a great weight off my shoulders.

More info/details/etc later.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

My Yahoo! : I just finished setting up a My Yahoo site as my main 'portal'. I added two RSS aggregators on separate pages: one on the main page for news, and a separate one for 'people' weblogs. I also added a number of bookmarks to commonly accessed URLs (uploaded from my browser's bookmark list). Not sure how long I'll use it, but I thought I would give it a try.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Pulling down all your delicious posts : To pull down an XML file with all your delicious posts, use the following URL:

Use your delicious username and password when prompted.

This is useful if you want to do something fancy code-thing with them, or if you just want to back up your posts (for whatever reason).

It might also be useful if you want to try to move your posts to another system. However, you would probably need to do some sort of coding to convert the delicious xml into something the target system can understand.

Update: ohcoolohcool... Excel does a good job of parsing XML. Just to make you all cringe, I could prob use the Excel file as a datasource, pull what I want into Word, and save the resulting document as an HTML file! Sweeet!
Why the delicious feed is sucking out : From the about page:
Please do not poll any single RSS feed more often than every 30 minutes. RSS feeds are not updated more than twice an hour, and you will receive an error if you try to crawl more frequently.

Oookay... I guess embedding the RSS feed in my blog isn't such a good idea, then. Sucky.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Connections 2005 presentation proposal : It looks like I may be presenting at this year's Connections 2005 conference. Here is the text of my presentation proposal, for those who are interested in such things:
The role of communities of practice in the socialization of students into a profession

As society’s need for specialists has increased, universities have responded by providing professional education is areas such as medicine, law, engineering, management, and education. A professional education is meant to provide an intensive and specialized intellectual training to individuals seeking to gain membership to a specific profession. Professional education is typically conceived and thought of in terms of a formal curriculum, a perspective which reduces the process to a series of courses to be completed successfully by the student. While the curriculum perspective addresses the manner in which students acquire an understanding of the theoretical and practical knowledge on which professional practice depends, it does little to ensure that students develop a professional identity or become a part of the larger social and culture structures of their chosen profession.

My research will use communities of practice as more a more comprehensive, holistic perspective from which to study the process of professional education. Through a qualitative research methodology, I will investigate the professional education of software engineers with the goal of exploring and understanding the varied and shifting social contexts of learning that students participate in as they move through and try to make sense of their professional education. From this process, I will seek develop a model of professional education that brings to the fore the processes that enhance and impede the professional socialization of students.

This presentation will provide an overview of professional education, professional socialization, and the development of professional identity. It will show how communities of practice can be used to provide a useful perspective on professional education, both for the researcher as well as for the participants in the process.
Update #2: Student anonymity in open learning environments : Just to put the cap on the issue of student anonymity in open learning environments I raised back in November, we had a meeting back in January where it was decided that this was a real and important issue.

While the existing policies already address the issue, it was felt that teachers may not make the link between the policy and experiments with open learning environments. I drafted a letter clarifying the issue, a letter which was edited and greatly improved upon by others. The letter will be sent out by the Office of the Deputy Provost and Chief Information Officer to all faculty at the university.

I'll link to the text of the letter should it be made public at some point.

I have to say that I am pleased to see how quickly we were able to make this happen. I know that two months may seem like a long time to some, but at McGill, it is quite fast indeed!
Aaron on XML.com: Eat Drink Feel Good Markup Language :
When the Eatdrinkfeelgood Markup Language was conceived, a review of the existing work of describing recipes in XML yielded two observations. First, most applications simply lacked the features I was looking for. Second, the rest seemed only to exist as an effort to 'monetize the recipe space.' So, I sat down and wrote my own.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Delicious frustration : I want to use delicious to keep track of bookmarks but to stream them to this site as well for readers who are not users of delicious or RSS readers.

The service, however, has been very spotty, with yesterday being the worst it has been in quite a while. This morning, there appears to still be problems with the RSS feed, resulting in a slower load-time for this page and an error message in the side bar. Not to mention that my linky goodness is not available to readers.

What to do?

I'm late for a meeting.
Cory Doctorow: I, Robot : This story is the first of his fiction that I have every read. Not bad at all!

And before you ask:
About this story, Cory says, 'Last spring, in the wake of Ray Bradbury pitching a tantrum over Michael Moore appropriating the title of 'Fahrenheit 451' to make Fahrenheit 9/11, I conceived of a plan to write a series of stories with the same titles as famous sf shorts, which would pick apart the toalitarian assumptions underpinning some of sf's classic narratives.'

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

del.icio.us/tag/centralizedbetaunreliableservice : Its days like today that make me wish there was a decentralized version of delicious.

I believe that in the long-term the software to support ad-hoc tagging will be decentralized, or rather, will be based on a standard format that is generated and read by a mix of client and server software.

I demoed delicious to some folks at GSLIS the other day, and the first question was, "Neat, but what happens if the server disappears?". Indeed.
Moleskine notebooks and the failure of reality : Great post on Moleskine, dare I say it, disappointment?
However, I notice that nobody mentions that most gel pen ink seeps through the silky pages and often stains the facing page too.

Reading this post, I can't help but think that this is how I would feel if I bought a Mac. How to deal with the failure of reality as it crashes up against the allure of the brand.

I have two notebooks: my older Clairfontaine and my newish Moleskine. The first was a fraction of the price of the third, but gets used much more often. The Moleskine has a sacred quality that prevents me from using it to jot down a book reference, a note that I need to pick up kitty litter on the way home, an anxious listing of things I need to do tomorrow. No, the Moleskine is only for the Big Ideas.
Update on getting organized : At the beginning of the semester, I decided that I needed to get organized. So I set up a paper-based task organization system based on 43 folders (31 days + 12 months...; Google for the details). It works fairly well, and definitely better then anything I've tried before.

There is still lots of room for improvement. One adjust I made was to add four more folders to further organized the tasks for each day. These folders map onto Covey's four quadrants:

- urgent / important
- not urgent / important
- urgent / not important
- not urgent / not important

One immediate benefit: when you drop something into either of the "not important" folders, you can't help but ask yourself, "Why the hell am I even thinking about this?"

The problems: classification is not easy. The hard question is: "for who?". Urgent for who? Me? You? Them? Important for who? (The answer is, of course, "for ME!")

Another problem: the classification changes over time. Not urgent or not important can become urgent and important, even for me. The solution is to reclassify on a regular basis (and not throw items out, as a suggested before).

(Actually, you could throw them out, and wait for it to come around again when the status does change. If it never comes back around, well I guess it wasn't so important after all!)

I'm working on the daily sorting, culling, classification of the things I have to do.

Meanwhile, my research sits in the corner of my office, looming
a dark, opaque cube. There is no way
that thing will ever fit in a folder! I need to
break it down.
Jason Kottke: My analog Palm Pilot : Ok, ok, Karl, Aaron, all of you. You were right. I see now that it was a mistake to take my older sites offline, causing links to what are obviously very influential documents to break. See also: http://del.icio.us/tag/hipsterpda   :)

Monday, February 14, 2005

Ubisoft, Canadian govt to create "university" :
"With this major development project, we are reconfirming our educational commitment to provide support for the talent of tomorrow while allowing us to reach our goal of creating 1,000 new jobs in Montreal by 2010," said Martin Tremblay, president and COO of Ubisoft's Montreal studio.
While not quite what I would call a 'university', this is great news nonetheless.

Friday, February 11, 2005

From the archives: HipsterPDA.... Bah! : I finally got around to locating a few documents that I wrote a while back on paper-based alternatives to tech-gadgets:

» The Ideal Ebook
» PaperPDA

A sample:
In the end, I had spent a few hundred bucks to learn, finally, that there was nothing I could buy that was going to get me organized. Fast-forward a few years. Today's PDA are nice, feature-packed, but expensive as hell. Expensive to me, since the risk of it turning into shelfware are pretty high.

So I came up with a plan. Get organized first, and then look into purchasing some technology to make the job of staying organized even easier.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

This is about user-supplied metadata : From a post on D. Weinberger's site:
Ian Black of Autonomy says that the Auutonomy project head at Ford's training department says 'Metadata is for the birds' because his department generates 5 million new objects per month, too much for manual tagging.

The last sentence should read something like, "...too much for manual tagging of every item by the authors."

However, much of the recent discussion of tagging is about users of these objects tagging them. They may create 5 million objects per month, but how many of those are actually used? How many of those would an individual, alone or part of a group, feel is valuable enough to tag for their own retrieval or for someone else's discovery?

The current state of the discussion around tagging is very much of the 'blind men and the elephant' variety. Throw out the word 'tagging', and the discussion that comes up is rarely based on a common agreement of what questions we are even trying to answer.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Fully Situated: Episode 5 : The latest episode of my audio show (for those of you who don't subscribe to the separate RSS feed).
Carnet Web Karl: You can't take pictures of the Eiffel Tower :
Je suis en colère, donc désolé par avance. Mais j'emmerde tous les briseurs de création, tous les protectionnistes de l'image, laissez moi prendre la ville comme je l'aime.

aside: Karl still gets top prize for having the hardest-to-permalink blog! :)
InformationWeek: Cisco's Net Income Nearly Doubles : You know what they say: "As goes Cisco's fortunes..."
BBC: Fiorina resigns as boss of H-P : Whaa?

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Back to the chair : Of course, as soon as the freezing wears off, I can feel that the fillings need adjusting. So back to the dentist I go.

Aside from the 1/2 cup of bran I had for breakfast, I haven't eaten in a while. Starting to get hungry! :|
Ugh : Two hours in the dentist chair and three fillings later, I'm finally getting down to work.

I decided to set myself up in McLennan on the first floor, near the windows looking out onto Sherbrooke street. Its a cold, grey, rainy day, the kind that tricks you into thinking that spring is just around the corner.

Two hours of battery life left, two hours to lunch. I should be ok, but I had better get to it.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Our apartment building is in the news! : I'll give you the quick translation. Our apartment building is being converted into condos. The owners sell one of the apartments as a condo. However, that apartment is currently being rented by someone! No problem, say the owners. We'll move her to another apartment in the building. Ok, says the man buying the condo, and he goes ahead with the purchase.

Small problem: The person renting the apartment doesn't want to leave, nor is she under any obligation to do so! The guy who wants to move into in condo can't. Too bad for you, say the owners. Its your condo now.

The buyer says the notary who looked over the papers should have caught this problem. The notary says they had no way of knowing that the man wanted to live in the condo he was purchasing.

And landlords wonder why they have such a bad reputation? The notary should also be ashamed for providing such poor service. What good are they if they can't protect you from dangers like this one?

I'm not sorry we're moving.
Montreal Social Software Conference Wiki : I'm glad to see this idea still has some momentum behind it, although I can't say I have really done anything to help it along aside from express interest initially. Given everything else on my plate, I doubt I will be able to do much more then attend.

I am hoping that a date is decided upon sometime soon, since I would like to publicize the event at the talk I am giving on March 17. Worst-case I suppose I could provide students with a link to the wiki.
Tweaks abound : Most of the night has been spent cleaning up template code and making numerous tweaks to the look of this site. That should quell the Fever for a while...
Blogger chewing up my code (?) : I'm almost certain that Blogger decided to mess with my template HTML. It seems to display ok, but the underlying code has been modified. It looks machine-generated, with lots of line spacing removed. The CSS doesn't look the same, either. Maybe it has just been too long since I looked at the template, but I'm pretty sure this isn't my code. Then again, who knows?

Thursday, February 03, 2005

I'm giving a talk on... oh NO! : March 17, 12:15 PM
What if the users decided where the books should go? Folksonomies and the de-professionalization of metadata creation.
A look at how tools such as del.icio.us and Flickr make use of user-supplied metadata to facilitate the retrieval and discovery of information, potential benefits of this approach, as well as the challenges and problems already well known by the LIS community. Presented by Edward Bilodeau.
Sponsor: Graduate School of Library and Information Studies
Location: McLennan Library Building, 3459 McTavish Street, MS 42 (ground level, entrance off McTavish)

BTW, this talk is open to everyone, so I'm expecting all you metadata propeller-heads in town to drop by and say hi! :)
ASIS&T 2005 Information Architecture Summit : Its here in Montreal (March 3-7), and I'll be there. I'm looking forward to the presentations but also to maybe meeting a bunch of folks I only know through the Web. Maybe I should try to organize a meetup? Anyone else going?

I'm also part of a group presenting a poster on the KMCoP project. Should be fun!
Ariadne: Looking for a Google Box? : Let's skip right to the conclusions:
# It performs as specified, is easy to use, and has powerful configuration and maintenance options. It provides an effective Web index.
# It costs real money (a per-two-year fixed fee), and is dependent on the vendor for support in the case of hardware or software failure.
# It is not maintenance-free-Oxford, for example, would expect to continue to devote ongoing time to tuning and analysis (perhaps 0.05 FTE).
# It is not clear that a single box can always provide an external search as well as an internal one."

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

"There are no items to show in this view" : My inbox is finally empty.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Control mechanisms essential to collaborative categorization : In order to be useful to more then one person, a classification/categorization scheme must be controlled. The two or more people involved need to have some sort of shared understanding of the terms being used to classify items, and the process by which classifications are assigned to terms. This process can be formal or informal, strict or loose, static or dynamic, etc. But the control mechanism has to be there if the metdata produced from the effort is going to be useful.

Traditionally, control has meant the development of formal taxonomies and vocabularies, and the professionalization of the role of classifier (i.e., librarian/information specialist, but let's just call them librarians for the sake of simplicity). Librarians, charged with helping their clients to locate the information relevant to their information needs, have devised these schemes, along with the methods, tools, and training needed for users to be able to locate items using these schemes. It is hard work for everyone, and far from problematic. But it works fairly well for what it was designed to do.

Adhoc tagging (sorry, terms like folkonomies and tagsonomies still sound ridiculous) is aiming at a slightly different problem space, although, done properly, the solutions should scale to the more formal case outlined above. The main idea is to build a system that allows a group of people to collaborate on the categorization/classification of digital items of some sort.

The current tools, to a large extent, define this group of people as "everyone using the systems." There are,mind you, ways to define subsets of users. Delicious gives you an inbox. Flickr allows you to create a group of contacts, and further refine that list into friends, family, and other contacts. A good start, but still much too rudimentary to be useful. (For the record, I think these sites should focus on aggregating the basic data, exposing that in a useful and reliable way, and then letting others develop software that uses the raw data streams to provide a useful tool. More on that some other time.)

A lot has been written about the problems faced by the current systems: spammers, inappropriate material, inconsistent application of tags, etc. The solutions that I have seen are mostly variations on the traditional, centralized control. Top-down rules imposed by the aggregators, to be adopted by all users.

The strength of collaborative classification tools is the people using them. The control mechanisms must be there, but they cannot be imposed. They have to be socially negotiated by the members of the group. There are limits to the size of group that can accomplish this negotiation in a meaningful way. These groups of interest might be a group of friends, a group of students in a class, people working together on a project, people in a department, members of a professional organization, a group of subject librarians, a group of specialists spread across the world. These groups need tools that allow them to control who participates in the process.

(You didn't really think this was going to be a big, warm, fuzzy group-hug-free-for-all, did you?)
Burningbird: Cheap Eats at the Semantic Web Cafe : Good discussion and summary of Technorati tags (didn't I just slam that site?), as well as more general issues of ad-hoc tagging. Its a longist post, but let me pull out one question that Shelly raises that I think is key:
Can cheap semantics scale?

I was hopeful when she began to talk about identities, but it remained more of a comparison to the social categorization and not an essential element in making social categorization useful.

Technorati: NewsTalk : Over the past month or so I've been using Technorati's NewsTalk page to see if it would provide a useful filtering of the news. The idea is that is ranks news items according to how much the news item is being talked about (linked to?) in the blogosphere.

To date, the results have been less then spectacular, basically the same items I see on the main pages of all the big news sites. Could it be that, as a whole, the blogosphere talks about what the media feeds us? Until these 'social' tools provide some way for users to define their own communities as something other then "everyone", their usefulness will be severly limited.

But that's not why I wrote this post. This morning, NewsTalk is feeding up the same generic list of news stories. Although this time, under the first five or six items is the following message:
There are no inbound links to this site from bloggers currently in our database.

WTF? So what exactly is this supposed to be doing? If no one is linking to the news item, how can it be the most talked about?

Oh, well. One less site to visit.