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26 November 2003

Dear reader

Ben Hammersley has invited his readers to become his friends on Tribe.net:

I'm playing with Tribe.net, one of the many social networking sites out there. It wants, as these things do, to get me to send all of my friends an invitation to join. Fair enough, except that I don't really care about my friends. If I've got their email address to hand, I already know them. I want new people. So I'm inviting you, my unknown reader.

Howard Rheingold asked them to announce themselves and feedback:

So now I'm wondering -- who's out there? And what do you get out of this? I know smartmobs.com gets 1000-2000 unique visitors a day (5000 or more when Slashdotted). Who are you? What do you do? Where are you? What do you want to be fed here?

If you are a regular reader, feel free to introduce yourself, make up a fake name, whatevever means you want to use to express yourself -- and add a comment below.

and Danah Boyd 'gets meta' about it:

So, my blogs have weirded me out lately. Even this note feeds oddly constructed... i have no idea who the hell is reading this, but i know it will be part of my public archive. And that's particularly strange since i deconstruct my own blog entries as though they are just another piece of text and i imagine what i must be like from these entries and what an odd picture...

And then there's interaction. I created the blog for my own records, but i put it out there publicly to engage folks to challenge me or provide me with better resources. Unfortunately, most commenting comes from spam. And the majority of non-spam comes from extreme opinons (or my beloved roommie) so i know that my audience is not represented in commenting land.

So who is my audience? Now? 10 years from now?

A question seems to be running through the weblogs I read at the moment. And that is how do writers of weblogs make sense of their 'readers', beyond visitor stats, referrers and occasional comments?

Not all of them need to. Stewart Butterfield seems to enjoy the randomness of it all:

Talk about distributed conversations ... I love these threads of comments on weblog posts that wander completely off into space, presumably populated with posts from people who found the site via a search and have no real idea what is going on and don't care much. They just want to get their two cents in.

Posted at 06:56 PM in Social software | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

24 November 2003

Mobile devices for teens

Alex Taylor presented his work on Mobile Phones for the Next Generation at the BBC last Friday (thanks to Hannah McBain). The headlines of his talk were gift giving, tangible memory stores and the expression of social networks.

There is a lot to be gleaned from the detail of his work, but in brief he identified the following design criteria for mobile devices for teenagers:

  • Admit usage/viewing of content in small groups (2 to 4 people)
  • Admit combination of photos, sounds, type and drawing in the same message
  • Provide individual memory sticks for saving messages/other content
  • Admit communication of identity, feelings, mood and other status of users
  • Express and add to the user identity
  • Express the preciousness of a private object
  • Express playfulness

    Posted at 03:50 PM in Children and teens | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    23 November 2003

    Coffeehouses and 'public man'

    Dan Hill's musings on information flow in coffeehouses reminded me of Richard Sennett's account in The Fall of Public Man:

    As information centres, the coffeehouses naturally were places in which speech flourished. When a man entered the door, he went first to the bar, paid a penny, was told, if he had not been to the place before, what the rules of the house were (e.g., no spitting on such and such a wall, no fighting near the window, etc.) and then sat down to enjoy himself. That in turn was a matter of talking to other people, and the talk was governed by a cardinal rule: in order for information to be as full as possible, distinctions of rank were temporarily suspended; anyone sitting in the coffeehouse had a right to talk to anyone else, to enter into any conversation, whether he knew the other people or not, whether he was bidden to speak or not. It was bad form even to touch on the social origins of other persons when talking to them in the coffeehouse, because the free flow of talk might then be impeded.

    The turn of the 18th Century was an era in which outside the coffeehouse, social rank was of paramount importance. In order to gain knowledge and information through talk, the men of the time therefore created what was for them a fiction, the fiction that social distinctions did not exist. Inside the coffeehouse, if the gentleman had decided to sit down, he was subject to the free, unbidden talk of his social inferior.

    Posted at 06:55 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    21 November 2003


    Skype is the next phenomenon from the people who brought you KaZaA. Just like KaZaA, Skype uses P2P (peer-to-peer) technology to connect you to other users – not to share files this time, but to talk for free with your friends.

    There is a new Skype beta version available, with a ringtone manager and the ability to block unwanted callers. I'm not sure that I welcome this update, as one of my favourite uses for Skype so far has been nuisance-calling Matt. Particularly when we're in the same room. Maybe he'll block me?

    A recent Technology Review feature about Skype predicted that it could change the way people think about communication.

    I think this is probably true.

    We leave Skype running in the background when Matt's online in Helsinki and I'm in London. It's an easy, casual way to keep someone present when they're not. You hear the rhythms of their typing, occasional laughs or sighs or mutterings, and you can break into conversation when you feel like it. You can have conversational spurts, rather than one big download. It's casual, background conversation rather than a focused IM exchange or time-pressured telephone call.

    Posted at 11:02 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    20 November 2003

    Me++ and the 2 Matts

    I went along to William Mitchell's talk at the Tate Modern last night, on Me++: The Cyborg Self and the Networked City.

    Matt Webb has posted his notes. Matt Jones has too. So I don't need to. Instead, I'll just highlight one snippet from Mitchell's talk that I hope might be true: "Extended fields of presence create extended networks of reciprocity and domains of moral obligation."

    (Oh, and if you haven't already, make sure you experience The Weather Project.)

    Posted at 02:15 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    'Stop RFID'

    TechWeb reports that many consumer, privacy and civil liberties groups - including the EFF and Privacy International - have endorsed a position statement on the development and use of RFID.

    In this position statement, they identify the following threats to privacy and civil liberties:

  • Hidden placement of tags
  • The creation of a global item registration system in which every physical object is identified and linked to its purchaser or owner at the point of sale or transfer
  • Massive data aggregation, which could be linked with personal identifying data
  • Hidden readers
  • Individual tracking and profiling, without transparency or consent

    And recommend the following minimum guidelines:

  • Openness, or transparency... Labeling must be clearly displayed and easily understood.
  • RFID users must give notice of the purposes for which tags and readers are used.
  • The collection of information should be limited to that which is necessary for the purpose at hand.
  • Accountability. RFID users should be legally responsible for complying with the principles.
  • There must be security and integrity in transmission, databases, and system access. These should be verified by outside, third-party, publicly disclosed assessment.

    Finally, they suggest the prohibition of these practices:

  • Merchants must be prohibited from forcing or coercing customers into accepting live or dormant RFID tags in the products they buy.
  • There should be no prohibition on individuals to detect RFID tags and readers and disable tags on items in their possession.
  • RFID must not be used to track individuals absent informed and written consent of the data subject.
  • RFID should never be employed in a fashion to eliminate or reduce anonymity. For instance, RFID should not be incorporated into currency.

    Found via RFID Privacy Happenings

    Posted at 01:59 PM in Identities for things | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    18 November 2003

    EyeToy Groove!

    The second instalment of EyeToy, EyeToy Groove, has arrived - with 25 tracks, multiplayer and freestyle modes, and a save and replay function.

    (Don't know what EyeToy is? It's simply a small motion-sensitive camera that sits on top of your TV, plugs into PlayStation 2 and puts the player's image on the screen. The player controls the game by moving their body.)

    There isn't a single person I've introduced to the EyeToy who hasn't immediately loved it. It's something to do with the ease of use and the way each game plays to different strengths, giving everyone a chance to win. And there's a lot to be said for just seeing yourself (and your friends) on the TV - in 'happy', 'sad' and 'silly' profiles.

    I can't wait to get this one, even though the dancing games are not my best. I'm strictly Wishi Washi.

    Posted at 07:31 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    17 November 2003

    Name check

    According to AC Grayling, emotions of self assessment involve beliefs about what other people think of us, or of the people or things we identify with. There's probably as much anxiety as boredom at play when people spend their time:

  • Counting friends
  • Picture-searching their first name
  • Taking quizzes
  • Tinyurling their name
  • Checking their Link Cosmos
  • Shaping their playlists
  • Googling for themselves

    Self assessment is just a bit too immediate online.

    Posted at 02:48 PM in Identity | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    13 November 2003

    Gadget for the (sensibly) paranoid

    Very pleased to see a shredder included in TIME Magazine's Coolest Inventions 2003:

    Dumpster divers who make a living from personal information pulled from the trash don't care what form it comes in—paper, plastic or floppy disc. So why not play it safe? The MD 100 Media Destroyer is a paranoid's dream come true. It flattens raised numbers on old credit and ATM cards before cutting them to ribbons. It shreds a CD in about four seconds, reducing it to shards too small to be used for any kind of data recovery. It slices right through floppy discs, metal clips and all. You have to fold letter-size paper before feeding it through the 5-in. slot, but at least you don't have to remove the staples first.

    Not paranoid enough to want one? Read up on identity theft and you might be.

    Posted at 11:20 AM in Identity | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    10 November 2003

    Hybrid social software

    Tom Coates is right when he says that people need to get past their infatuation with social networking sites and remember what went before. Interestingly that seems to be what Microsoft has done with Wallop, which is (apparently) built on IM. So, with Wallop there's no need to register again; create yet another profile; build a new friends list; or learn new tricks to move from conversation to publishing.

    What social networking sites like Friendster have shown is that some people enjoy creating public profiles, displaying their friend lists and browsing people. This can easily be layered under IM. In fact, sites like IMchaos and BuddyZoo have been doing this from the sidelines for a while.

    BuddyZoo, for example, runs analysis on AIM Buddy Lists to let you (or teens, more likely):

  • Find out which buddies you have in common with your friends.
  • Measure how popular you are
  • Detect cliques you're part of
  • See a visualisation of your Buddy List
  • View your Prestige, computed the way Google computes PageRank to rank web pages
  • See the degrees of separation between different screen names

    And IMchaos recently developed an IM-based blog:

    Do you have a blog? Do you wish you had more traffic to it? Well how about putting your blog straight into your AIM profile – and knowing who is reading it at the same time!

    ...Whenever you feel like it, just log on and type your thoughts, mood, and what music you are listening to. We will automatically update your blog, which people can access from your AIM profile. When people read it, their screen name will be added to the visitor log (which only you can see).

    Posting from IM to a blog is not very far removed from crafting an expressive away message, which is already immensely popular with students. And you can easily imagine a scenario where you could publish an IM conversation to your blog, so long as you had the consent of all participants. (Loads of people already cut and paste IM conversations into blog posts.)

    So it all seems quite sensible, in principle, and the foregrounding of regular contacts is an especially nice feature. But of course because it's Microsoft it will most likely be proprietary.

    Posted at 10:16 PM in Social software | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack