The future of preDevCamp

On Friday, Dan Rumney made some important announcements on the preDevCamp blog that I’d like to expand upon.

Meet your new organizing team
To fill in for whurley‘s and Giovanni‘s unfortunate departures, Greg Stevenson and myself will be stepping in to help co-ordinate the various preDevCamp events around the globe.  Greg has already been hosting some webOS training sessions (pre-preDevCamps, if you will), and will be invaluable bringing this knowledge to the community.  And while I’ve helped plan a barcamp or two, I’m positively giddy for the chance to help build a stronger community and facilitate knowledge transfer on such a massive scale.  Combined with Dan’s experience bringing preDevCamp where it is today, I think we’re going to make a wonderful team. Continue reading “The future of preDevCamp”

Individualizing Social Media with a Personal Information Layer

We’ve leveraged social to the point where there’s a big melting pot of content out there, but how do you make all that data more useful? The next step of social media is to take a step back towards a more personal information layer.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the direction of social media and what it means to me, and I’ve found myself uninterested at best. So we share stuff. Big damn deal. There’s so much content being shared to me that I ignore almost all of it now, at least compared to what I was consuming a year ago. No offense to any of my contacts, but I’ve reached the point where enough is enough, and while all that firehose of content is still in my input stream, I’ve altered my patterns to only consume what’s relevant to my interests at that moment.

For example, tweets are skimmed while walking up the stairs (Confession #1: Or when I’m in the restroom. Hey, just being honest), but hundreds of messages may be ignored if I decide to do something more interesting for a weekend. Neglected RSS feeds pile up to the dreaded 1000+ mark. I used to have a level of background stress because I was “behind,” but after learning that I’m no worse off without this information, I now have no regrets using the “mark all as read” button with reckless abandon.

The content’s there, now make it relevant.

While too much content isn’t a bad thing (until you reach the point where you’re so unable to manage it that it becomes easier to ignore), I didn’t bring up the previous rant and confession to focus on content filtering. I think that’s a problem to be solved with some sort of relevancy engine, something that reads in your context, available resources, and attention profile, and feeds you the data that’s most useful to you at that moment. But even that intelligently consumed content can be made much more useful if I have a highly customized layer to help me organize my own meaning for that data.

But there’s bookmarking tools, you might say. And tags. With these tools, you can organize content however you want. To be honest, I could never get started using bookmarking services until just a few months ago when I started using, because it has a nice balance between the metadata robustness of a bookmarking service and the relevant content highlighting of a tumblelog. (Confession #2:  the first service was actually ma.gnolia, but only for a few heavily-frequented topics. And all those links are gone now, bless ma.gnolia’s heart.)

Bookmarking services are flexible, but that also means they’re very generic. Their biggest flaw is that even when given the option of clipping content, you’re recording a copy of what someone else said or likes or thinks is useful. What if I like the author’s advice, but find that it doesn’t work for me 100%? Feedback can be shared publicly in comments, but they’re merely a footnote to the original content.

The first step of social media was to make everything public; the next step is to make it more applicable to your individual situation.

I’ve come up with an idea I call a personal information layer. This data layer is a different concept than annotation as found in services like Diigo, where users’ adjustments float like post it notes. The personal information layer should look and interact just like the original content, but customized to the preferences for an individual user. Recipes are a good example. I may like much more sage than the original author called for, or perhaps my oven requires an additional 10 minutes cooking time. The content is way more valuable to me when I can alter it according to my taste and needs.

Remixing is hard enough now. What happens to copyright in an Internet like this?

This question felt a lot easier to deal with when I was trying to keep the data in the personal information layer truly personal (read: private), but it just won’t work that way (Confession #3:  also, I loathe the idea of building another social graph). Even individual adjustments to public content is useful data, so there’s value in sharing it. But this will be harder to defend than deep linking and reblogging…this is making potentially minor changes to someone else’s otherwise verbatim content and collecting it all under your own name. Simultaneously collecting and customizing data is another step towards the ideal Internet, but at what point does Emeril’s pie recipe become Brittany’s pie recipe? What’s the significance if it was Kathy’s version before Brittany saw it?

I can’t predict how the Internet community will respond to any of these challenges; I don’t think anyone can until a demo is released in the wild to see how people react. And of course, I wouldn’t go through the trouble of documenting all these questions and ideas if I didn’t have a hell of a use case I hope Dave and I have time to experiment with over the summer.

Plans underway for preDevCamp San Diego!

As soon as I read on WebOS Arena that @whurley, @giovanni, and @dancrumb were organizing a worldwide Pre development invasion, I knew that San Diego had to be a part of it.  Even though we don’t know the launch date yet, over 60 cities have committed to host developer events one week after we’re able to get our hands on the phone that’s going to revolutionize the mobile cloud computing experience.

What’s a DevCamp?
We haven’t had many developer camps in San Diego, but they’re like a BarCamp centered around creating applications on a common platform or language.  Users just like you will lead sessions covering everything from basic functionality, differences between the Pre and existing Palm devices (and the iPhone!), brainstorming sessions, and lots of group hacking time.  From what we know about the Pre’s webOS so far, applications are written in super easy HTML and CSS, so just about anyone should be able to get up and running after an intro session to the webOS SDK.  But even if HTML ain’t your style, we’ll need people to come up with application ideas and help test the code other people create.  Palm will also be releasing an emulator, so you can still participate even if you can’t buy the hardware before the event.  If you’re a creative type and have been getting excited about the Pre, you need to sign up now!

Help wanted!
If you’re interested in throwing conventional organization out the window and helping find a venue and some sponsors, don’t forget to check that pretty little volunteer box on the registration page so I’ll know to get in touch with you.  If you’re interested in sponsoring, contact me and Giovanni Gallucci.

Watch the preDevCamp San Diego blog and the @preDevCamp twitter account for further information, and start spreading the word now that San Diego’s going to kick some webOS development ass sometime in the next five months!

The relationship between copyright and license

Even though I’ve been releasing my artwork under Creative Commons for several years, today was the first day I really thought about the relationship between copyright and license.

It all started when I received a message on Flickr inviting me to participate in a photography contest on a saltwater aquarium site.  I have a ton of great images from the California Academy of Sciences that I could submit, so decided to check it out.  The rules are pretty standard, but the following declaration they requested gave me cause for alarm:

I YOUR NAME certify that I am the author and sole owner of the material I am submitting to I understand and agree that may use my material anywhere on I understand and agree that may resize my material if needed. I understand and agree that I remain the owner of the Copyright of all material submited [sic] to and that a Copyright notice will be add [sic] to my picture.

Copyright notice will be added this way: ⓒ YOUR NAME 2008.

This immediately reminded me of Flickr users who go out of their way to add those copyright notices to their photos and specify that all rights are reserved, do not use without permission, etc.  I respect that some people need to maintain extremely tight control, but being so limited in how I can share these works (and link back to them) drastically reduces their art’s value to me.  The copyright symbol is a mark of disgrace, and I want nothing to do with it.

I mentioned my predicament on Twitter and got some enlightening (and memory jogging) responses.  I remember now how copyright is automatic and exists for all creative works.  It means that you have control of the work, but the copyright (and the copyright symbol) isn’t what makes someone a creative dictator or anarchist.  The license is what specifies how others can use the work.  That license can be all rights reserved or one of the Creative Commons licenses, but the copyright still exists.

I think why this was a point of confusion for me is because I’ve never seen ⓒ specified on a photo without the intent of all rights reserved, and I didn’t want the stigma of a more restrictive license just because of this contest.  I wrote the organizer back to say that I would prefer that my photos not be watermarked at all, or to use CC-BY-SA if they must add something.  I may be over-drawing the line, but there’s no shame in defending your principles.

Where there’s a smoke alarm…

Two of the six fire trucks that were on my street, originally uploaded by Lisa Brewster.

When I came home from work tonight, I noticed a strange burning smell. It got stronger as I walked towards my apartment, and soon I heard a smoke detector going off. I walked around a bit to pinpoint the source, and sure enough I found an apartment that had a funny burning smell (no smoke or flames).

Continue reading “Where there’s a smoke alarm…”

Making sense of lifestreaming

So earlier this week, Dave and I were published in a lifetracking/streaming article (thanks to sweet friends Brynn and Chris) in the Washington Post called Bytes of Life. We thought our conference call with reporter Monica Hesse went pretty well, but neither of us expected to get the kind of coverage we did for talking about a little statistics app we’re working on that we’ve tentatively called I Did Stuff, which is basically a combination of every good idea we’ve had in the last year.

The premise for I Did Stuff lies in the belief that we’re tracking so many aspects of our life now that computers need to not only make sense of this data for our own use, but also use it to deliver status on demand. One common example I’ve used is that of the “reverse twitter”…basically to combine Google calendar, IM status, and whole host of other data sources into one remotely queryable interface. And anyone can ask this interface “Where is Dave?” and receive a response like “Well he isn’t in front of IM, but he has class in 10 minutes, so he might be in transit. But his phone is on the charger, so he either forgot his phone or is oversleeping.”

Which was a great idea a year ago, and as far as I know still hasn’t been done. But since then, this idea has grown into so much more. Not only do we want to create an AI who can infer status for others, we want it to learn more about us than we know ourselves.

Continue reading “Making sense of lifestreaming”

Justifying soybeans
Soybeans…lol by ardie96750

More and more I’m noticing health-conscious people say “I don’t eat soy” with the same self-righteousness with which vegans inform their more barbaric friends that they don’t eat meat, saying that something in soy mimics estrogen and can have noticeable effects on the development of children, especially males. Being as distrustful as I am of the American food system, I bookmarked this snippet for further research.

A quick search informed me that the concern is caused by phytoestrogens, which are plant compounds that are molecularly similar to and therefore can have similar effects as estrogen. Flax seed and other oilseeds contain the highest total phytoestrogen content, followed by soy bean and tofu. The benefits of these foods have been touted in the health food circuit for years, and soybeans have been a major staple of the Chinese diet for oh, five thousand years. And they seem to be doing just fine.

Continue reading “Justifying soybeans”

Standing naked before you

Ok, so I have a confession to make.  For the last several months I’ve been pretty doggone sick.  It started back in October right after the fires, but I’ve been through a number of seemingly unrelated phases.  Breathing problems, high blood pressure, severe loss of appetite…the list goes on.  As public as I tend to be with my life, there are certain kinds of vulnerabilities that I’d rather not disclose.  But now that I’m one follow-up appointment away from being pretty sure that I’m ok, I’m more comfortable telling this part of my story.  Plus it makes my recent twitter messages come less out of left field.

Continue reading “Standing naked before you”