Monthly Archives: April 2005

Craigslist housing + Google Maps = brilliant

Wow, this is cool. You can choose any city that Craigslist covers, sort by price range and see all of the places for rent in the city. If you click on a bubble, you can see the details including pictures. Sooo soo cool. I wish i would’ve had this when i was surfing for housing. *This* is how visualization becomes excessively useful.

i love portland

As part Intel’s Urban Atmospheres, Chris Beckmann and Eric Paulos have been distributing matchbooks that say “i love/hate portland” on them. On the inside, there’s a message to text message your secret identity. When you do, it knows where the matches were distributed and sends you a message to indicate what you love/hate about Portland. You later get messages from other people about what they think.

So, i’m sitting in a cafe in downtown Portland writing my talk for tomorrow. It’s a pretty bougie cafe, complete with leather cozy chairs and a million types of coffee. The bathroom is covered in anarchist grafitti. There’s a note that says 50% of Portlanders arrived in the last 10 years – go back to California! Lots of comments about our president and our freedoms and whatnot.

This very crunchy early 20s kid comes in with his guitar and opens up his nice laptop, immediately commenting to my friend about his music (ah, iTunes sharing). I surf his music (since his comment is clearly meant to encourage that) – mostly small bands plus an assortment of Yes/Rush/Led Zeppelin. A girl comes in and sees him – he says he’s off to work, is she? She hasn’t worked since January; he remarks on how cool that is (i.e. escaping the man). On his way out, he picks up a thing of matches and exclaims “fucking pretentious hipsters.” I can’t help but ROFL.

I love Portland.

in defense of BoingBoing (or why i’m not a journalist)

Last week, i posted a link to a news article about a high school banning blogging which Cory reposted on BoingBoing. In turn, Phil Gyford critiqued BoingBoing’s journalism and Clay worried about about the way memes spread. The commentary on Gyford’s post is rich with anti-BoingBoing attitude (as well as some very interesting dialogues).

So many aspects of this collection of material bother me. Embedded in all of this is an assumption that what any of us bloggers do is journalism. I, for one, am not a journalist and have no desire to be one. In the case of the post in question, i put it up there for my own reference and because it references the ongoing paranoia that people have about kids and blogging, questions of its educational value, etc. I don’t care one ounce about the truth value of that article – i simply care about the fact that people are talking about this, journalists feel the need to report on things this way. I’m not trying to be a reporter so much as i’m trying to document things that are of interest to me.

Truth be told, i hate writing, yet i write for a living. That said, blogging is not what i consider to be my writing. My writing comes in very formal structures, goes through peer-review and takes forever to reach its intended audience. My blog is my little land of ponderings, ideas, links, rants, etc. Much of what i write there is inexact at best. But it’s my zone, my tool of procrastination and documentation. I even take Many-to-Many more seriously than my blog because at M2M, i feel like i’m producing text for an audience (and it’s why i blog there much less frequently). On my blog, i’m writing it for me and those who might get a kick out of it. I don’t want to be told that i have to live up to journalist’s rules simply because i have an audience. I’d rather the audience go away than be expected to have to do something with that blog. The blog is for me and if it became a responsibility, it would go because the last thing i need is more responsibilities. Besides, me trying to make meaning about my life is neither of journalistic or academic caliber.

This connects deeply with what i think Cory and Xeni are doing (i don’t know the other BB people as well). They are blogging the things that matter to them. “A directory of wonderful things” is not meant to be a universally agreed upon notion of wonderful. Cory and Xeni’s posts are clearly what’s most wonderful to them. Thus, it absolutely kills me to see people bitch and moan about BoingBoing, as though it’s written for them. What makes BB special is that many of the quirky things that those characters blog are also appreciated by others. But it’s not about the readers, it’s not about journalism, it’s about what matters to the writers. Y’know what – i’m not interested in everything that they have to say either. But it’s their blog and i just skim past the things that don’t matter to me. And of course they don’t have open comments – no one wants to manage self-important audiences who bitch constantly. Yuck. It’s not about not wanting criticism – goddess only knows that they get plenty of that all the time in every form imaginable. It’s about not wanting to have everything you write be attached to constant negativity intended to make you miserable.

Perhaps i’m in a funny position because i know and love Cory and Xeni. Sure, they’re quirky characters and that comes through in their blogging. And yes, they have passions that border on obsessions. Sadly, i realize that the way people are treating them looks a lot like how people treat celebrities in this culture. And, honestly, that’s pretty sick.

I guess what it comes down to is that i don’t really understand why readers of blogs expect so much from bloggers. I know that i struggle with this and i know that it makes some of my fellow bloggers utterly irate. Why do people expect blogs to be journalism? Why do readers expect bloggers to be attentive to them simply because they read? This causes me excessive amounts of guilt. I literally do not have the time in the day necessary to respond to all of my email or to talk to everyone who approaches me because of my blog. It makes me cringe to be called a bitch because i can’t do it and i get so frustrated because people expect something from me that i can’t offer. People think that having an audience of people you don’t know is a blessing, but it’s also a curse. And i don’t know how to resolve the good and the bad in an easy way. But when i see people say horrid things about Cory and Xeni, it makes me sad because i know how much that stings. What motivates people to say these things? I mean, sure, i could go meta on the psychology of humanity, but that’s not good enough. It’s the difference between knowing and _knowing_.


the scent of history

I breathe in deeply and the scent of bonfire fills my nostrils triggering my lips to curl up just slightly. A tear of memories rolls down my face and the chords of “Both Hands” pulse through my body.

After realizing midday yesterday that i was mentally exhausted, i decided to join friends up north at this place called Slide Ranch. After a beautiful drive on Rt 1, i landed at this magical place and it was like flashing back in time to the days of Watermyn. Music in the air, communal veggie food, very hippie style (in that good way). After dinner, folks sat around a bonfire which had a big metal tub on top of it – the hot tub. The ocean lapped up on the shore within sight. I laid on a hammock looking up at the stars and watching the planes approach SFO. With guitars out and collective vocals strong, Ani’s voice emerged and i thought back to the days when Erin would play Ani for me on the piano when i came home.

There was something so calming about that world – a kind of peace that i had forgotten in my city rat lifestyle. Organic farming, permaculture, live music, natural fibers… things i believe in from the depths of my soul but have gotten lost in my material culture that is so heavily mediated. What does it mean that those roots are fading? ::sigh::

son kite (on finding heaven)

So, i’m supposed to exercise yet i’m always too exhausted to exercise (mostly cause exercising is boring). And i want to socialize but i have no time to socialize. I decided a few weeks ago to combine these two by making dancing rules. I can go dancing iff 1) i only leave the dancefloor for cigs, water, bathroom; 2) i maintain a constant sweat (which translates to staying in the psytrance room); 3) talking is done through body movement; 4) drinking is prohibited.

Last night was round 2 of this plan and it went brilliantly. I went to bed after work, woke up at midnight and went over to 1015. My *FAVORITE* DJ duo in the whole wide world was in town – Son Kite. I went straight to the front of the audience, parked myself in front of the stage and danced danced danced my ass off. Now, Son Kite is the music of my Master’s Thesis. When i was working on that darn thing, i only had one CD after having all of them stolen. So i played it on repeat for the bulk of the duration of my thesis writing. The music is brilliant – it’s what happens when you have classically trained musicians play psytrance with the goal of making genuinely beautiful sounds.

That said, the CD pales in comparison to Son Kite live. OMG. Not only did i get my dance on, but i got to find a meditative peace that i haven’t seen in a long time. I was totally on a different plane, relaxing into the beautiful sounds. The most amazing sounds come out of them when they start playing electric violin. Wow wow wow. For anyone who has any appreciation of electronic music, you must see them live if they come to town. I brought out DnB, breaks and goth kids last night and they lurved it – a rare thing.

I came home, physically exhausted and proceeded to work all day. Exercise truly is a good thing.

techno-ethics (what is “evil”?)

We can all come up with ways to justify even our worst behavior. This is why i’m always a bit wary of “don’t be evil”-esque mantras. Evil on what terms?

When i heard about WordPress’ questionable practices, i couldn’t help but sigh. I totally agree with Waxy’s request that we not engage in angry mob justice. That said, i’m very concerned that folks are justifying, defending or explaining Matt’s decision (ex: 1 2). He is a nice guy – i totally agree. And perhaps we should all be very defensive of nice guys who are friends or friend-of-friends. But he did fuck up. And he did use our collective social capital for his personal gains.

I don’t want to talk about should’ves but i want to talk about what ethics we are promoting and what happens when we drag companies/enemies through the coals for similar behavior.

There is a value in our community that transparency rules. Of course, few of us live up to that value either professionally or personally. We protect our own interests regularly. Yet, we yell and scream when others do the same… unless they are our friends. This has a name – it’s called “team face” (see Erving Goffman). Yet, when team face occurs, the ‘us’ and the ‘them’ get clearly defined. It’s not such an open community when we are engaging in team face. This is an ethic that we must consider.

We all want to make a living (and some of us want to get rich). A mouse-over Erving Goffman’s name makes it very clear that i will make some small amount of money if you purchase his book. Explicit advertisements on blogs lets you know that others are making money off of this practice. I consult and i don’t tell you (my blog readers) everything that i tell certain companies. Of course, we begrudge people for this. And we lynch companies for asking users to pay for currently free things (think of the Six Apart fiasco). There is selfishness and self-interest all-around. Yet, what’s the balance?

The problem that i have with Matt’s decision is that he used community resources (reputation) to engage in a practice that i find despicable for his own gain under the justification that it would be good for the community in the long run if WordPress grew. There’s no doubt that WordPress is a great product but it’s a product built on open source and that’s why the community likes it. They like it for its transparency, for its code of honor that flies in the face of big companies. What upsets me is not that he simply engaged in selfish behavior (because we all do) but that he used the community’s reputation to do so. We had no ability to say “not in my name.” This is the “benevolent” dictatorship problem.

What’s worse is that we all pay for it. Social technology works because of social norms to be honorable. Pagerank works because most people do their best to be honest. And those who don’t are considered spammers. What does our community have to gain from any effort to usurp pagerank? I would argue that we have much to lose. Folks may not like Google’s pagerank system but do you remember what search was like 5 years ago? Google changed most of our lives and perhaps a new iteration is necessary but it should not be done through foul play. That’s a terrible way to innovate.

I think that this situation requires some deep reflection on all of our parts because i suspect that our defensive reactions make us look hypocritical as hell. What kind of community of technologists do we want to build? What ethics do we want to hold onto? Do we have collective values? How are we going to collectively encourage those ethics? How are we going to react when social contracts regarding our collective ethics are broken? I hope that we can get out of our defensiveness and really think about what this implies for all of our endeavors. We all fuck up and i’ll be the first to forgive Matt. That said, i think that we should all take this situation as a lesson and really think about and discuss what does it really mean to be ethical and socially responsible in a technological environment. Let’s learn from our mistakes and that of our peers.

Sixfoo! 660

Sixfoo! 660: “Finally, a way for social networks to stay connnected to other social networks, and meet interesting social networks like yourself.”

Look at their sample page; they mock many of the main social networks out there with fabulous photos and descriptions based on stereotypes (LJ=goths, Orkut=Brazilians, etc.). ::giggle::