Saturday, December 11, 2010
Monday, December 06, 2010
Jason Putorti's response to a question on Quora.com about the growth of Mint.com.
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
The stemming "from"
The conversation "with"
These exhibits illustrate a simple conversational string. The string is not pieced together neatly, but each segment shares an element with another segment that links them all together.
What else might these exhibits illustrate? Is Twitter a kind of open email? If it is a kind of open email, how, for the betterment of mankind (because that's all that really matters these days), will Facebook's newly announced messaging platform build on the advancements which Twitter's open message system has already brought to human communication?
Jack Dorsey, co-founder of Twitter, brought the ubiquitous status update to project twttr: what am I doing? Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter, brought the other key ingredient: what happens if it is all open?
"Think of it," Biz told me in May 2008 expounding on thoughts he had held for years about what an open email system might be like,"if it was all open, you could search on it, find new people to talk to, a lot of information passes through." This is probably why "updates" (pre "tweet" being defined as such) came default as open messages in 140 characters or less. This feature is fundamental to Twitter. It is of lofty importance. It is, in fact, exactly how Twitter transforms the barriers and boundaries to human communication we once had into old barriers and boundaries. All those old boundaries. Them olden barriers. Like smoke signals, Morse Code, telegrams, Pony Express, printing press, not to mention borders, continents, planets.
First, I really hope longer form linked conversations inside Facebook will lead people to engage in more serious discussions across sites and platforms. Let's all hope for this, because if Facebook's new email system is "more like IM" as they say, where people really can be on different networks , conversations might be able to bloom on the inside and outside that lofty Facebook garden wall. It may take a while to get over the wall, but let's hope for the best.
Second, I is my greater hope that somehow my three exhibits inspire more people to think deeply about large and small conversations we type, send, and read every day. I'm especially interested in how the nature of human interaction in written form continually evolves, and what is the role these platforms and systems play in that evolution. How messages route themselves and flow, how messages get shared, how they can be displayed. This is just the beginning of a new millenium for humans, but recognize that it is an enriched millenium. There are infinite ways to mine the "from," "with," and "between" messages that now circle the globe. That mine isn't just a gold mine, it is something far more precious. The mine holds all free and open human conversation, all happening in real-time. Everything all at once. Conversations of those talking, of those listening, and of those just being talked about.
Monday, November 08, 2010
Monday, October 25, 2010
Thursday, October 21, 2010
|thought on a skateboard|
While reading this, I was also watching this out of the corner of my eye.
His movement seemed effortless to me. That was what fluttered into my attention while my eyes were too busy with the blog. To see it as I did, just ignore the skateboard all together. It looks as if he's effortlessly traveling through the world like a knife through butter.
When viewed this way, his path selection boggles the mind. His seemingly random turns and the paths he chooses differ I think from those most of us would take. Yet, every time (at least in these clips) he picks the best line.
Lately I get excited when data gets processed. It can be fascinating at nearly any speed, though as I've grown older, I tend now to prefer high speed processing of ever larger data sets. Like a toddler watching a stone rolling or a kid rolling stones. I like the speed at which the course of action takes place.
If we knew what the skateboarder knew, ate what he ate, hung around him his whole life, I bet every one of us right now could imagine ourselves skateboarding like this guy. It's exciting times we live in, to process massive amounts of real-world data that we have at our disposal. We'll come further than we are now.
Thursday, October 14, 2010
This is kinda a big deal, despite being a 24 hour event and not an ongoing project. Locally there is a man here in Northampton who updated fb on fires and calls to the area fire departments, which during a rash of arson fires last year I found comfort in following. I wish all departments could do this, or had the technology at their disposal to make this sort of public notification near automatic.
Here are some links related to this story:
Greater Manchester Police page about the project
Twitter accounts: http://twitter.com/#!/gmp24_1, http://twitter.com/#!/gmp24_2, http://twitter.com/#!/gmp24_3, http://twitter.com/#!/gmpolice
Greater Manchester Police's Flickr account
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
Thursday, October 07, 2010
I started thinking about it years ago when I started watching Singing in the Rain and I was tweeting at the time about something as I watched. You know the beginning of Singing in the Rain? If you don't, well go watch it. Pay attention to the time things happen, and how certain details are flashbacks and others seem to disregard time all together. Go now, watch it tonight and come back and read from this point on. We'll wait.
(You must have recently watched Singing in the Rain to proceed.) You now have all the help you require to figure out how THE GAME both starts and how it operates in the manner it does. In short, all those time blips and jumps in the movie, well, they're just like the references we make every day about our ordinary everyday lives: ""X just happened." @jrome said Y ago, via Twitter.com."
Keeping Singing in The Rain in mind, here's how THE GAME works in a nutshell. I'll include why it is that this is remarkable at all on this blog at a somewhat later date, since you'll only understand it if you or anyone you know spends some time playing THE GAME. You'll have to really try hard to figure it out. But it'll be worth it. See if you can figure it out. I know you can do it.
<(Did you get all that?)>
START. Instructions for THE GAME are given in the form of tweets. Instruction distributions for every other game I've played in my life tend to come before said game has started, so I also did this by tweeting the two, what I call, fraternal end cards. These are BEGIN and BEGIN1. Yeah. Benji and Menachem. These two represent a manifestation of the current GAME (manifestations, being what they are, subject to change for games set well in the past, or at least for those occurring before these tweets) and are notable in the following two images respectively:
OPENING GAMBIT. So when the person chooses to start THE GAME, he/she clicks on the link to a twitter status keeping in mind the clue says "go back to the time of this tweet" NOT that the tweet should mean anything in particular to the person reading it. The tweet is about trash or something. Whatevers. The important part for now is when was it tweeted? ...I'll give you a minute.
Got that part? Are you there now, at some time in the past? Okay, make a note of the time. (And "No, it's not all there is to THE GAME." It's not all hunting for clues and following links.)
BEGIN1 tells you to open up @jrome's tweet stream around that time. That can be hard, but you'll get there. Just keep scrolling.and hitting that "more" button at the bottom. Benji also tells you to look at this blog from the time of that first tweet, which, to save you the time and effort, is here.
Only now has THE GAME begun. You're actually PLAYING at this point if you've clicked a link. You may as well follow the rabbit down the rabbit hole if you've come this far, or spent this long reading this post on a fall/winter/spring/summer day. Remember, follow the blog posts just as you would read tweets on the web, from the bottom up. Scrolling to the bottom brings you to some instructions about starting a video by one of those guys from Animal Collective a bit ahead of starting a video on Vimeo. Hmmm.
Well, that was a trippy way to get started. Kind of like the trip Alice took, no? Well, maybe, maybe not. The point is you can keep going. Continue to follow the rabbit, or just get back to your real life outside of Twitter. However, be warned, the more you follow the rabbit, that is, with every clue you may realize (or I hope you will if you're not familiar with Twitter) THE GAME is your life. It also IS your life. You play on Twitter, but THE GAME is just life. Actions you can track back to, enjoy for reasons other than the obvious, or maybe reasons that are blatantly obvious. You follow links and look for meaning. You look at pictures of people. Of their kids doing fun things. Sad things. Life things. Sometimes people explicitly tell you what to look for. Sometimes they don't. That's THE GAME. Following @jrome and @fakejrome can help you play THE GAME or at least make it more enjoyable to get started. "Enjoyable" is here used in the sense that you can play for a brief bit of time everyday and dig as deep as you like or have time for. This makes THE GAME better for everyone who is playing. Especially those that don't like to dangle their prepositions like I did two sentences ago.
The point of all this, you may be wondering... I wanted to give a value to everything that flows through Twitter. Everything. Every little hiccup. Every bit of spam. It all sits there as the part of a story that hasn't been told yet.
"Huh?" you say. Yeah. It's hard to even want to begin to think in that direction. Create something from other people's junk tweets? Not just those junk tweets. Any and every tweet can be used in THE GAME. This means anyone can pick up a lonely tweet that didn't mean a thing and give it some value. Creative people with time to kill or out to make a life of it, can mine tweets for new types of interactive games, interactive workouts, interactive learning. The key is to start somewhere. Following the instructions that BEGIN and BEGIN1 laid out is one way. You can at any time create another.
So when spam and just regular old tweets bore you, turn them into a new branch of THE GAME. All you have to do is merely tweet, "Hey, I'm playing THE GAME. You can too: http://twitter.com/jrome/status/26669267705 pls RT " Soon maybe your friends will play too.
Tuesday, October 05, 2010
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
When we're early to a party we witness things about the party that folks coming later won't necessarily notice. Things like the names of the other early comers, before it gets difficult to hear and make out faces in the darkened and overly crowded room. The color of the walls in the kitchen with all the lights on. How clean or dirty that shag rug is that's all over the living room. The brand of stereo pumping out the AirTunes. The nice fresh new handbag the hostess got on sale at Marshall's only just that morning. OMG there are a zillion details about that party!
So many details in fact it is entirely possible not all of them will ever be recorded. We could make some up later, sure, but the details are countless. Countless. A number hard to grasp. So many, and to some people details that could rightly be far too mundane to notice. I mean I'm talking about just some dumb details about a party, right? I'm there early. Friends of mine or not, those coming later won't necessarily notice details about the earliest stage of the party I'm witness to right now. It's also true the late comers will have a different perspective than me about the party, and some details, many might even be called insights, will come from them and not me or my fellow early comers. Those are facts about thinking about parties. Which brings me to this here party's - this partay involving my writing and your reading - discussion topics.
Scope of Tweets
Do we suppose that people didn't share information they now tweet about prior to Twitter launching in July 2006 (when it was twttr.com)? What forms of communication from times prior to 2006 could be representative of the types of information flowing through tweets today? The truth is many, maybe all forms of communication could be thought of as tweetable today. Most especially today with sharing links, hashtags, and even annotations. These are contenders: The short message written on a napkin your mom left for you on the counter. The quick email to a friend. My IM status when you're feeling spunky or expressive. The long form letter you wrote to your dad, then stuck in an envelope addressed to him. The news headlines, the articles' contents, all the pictures. The note your mom wrote in your favorite book when you were but two years old. The commercial break's catchy ditty.
Reach of Tweets
Facts stand alone and are used to construct Situations. Information, useful for making Decisions or Judgements about a particular Situation, is a binding of the Facts by a Person, for better or worse, about a Situation. Information has the potential to grant a Person a certain degree of relevancy among other people who may wish to consider the Situation in this way or that. When a Person's Information has value to other people, that Person's Information is said to flow. It may flow like a brook in the hot dry Summer or faster than Niagra Falls in the Spring. When other people find a Person's Information has little or no value to them, they become End Users, those Persons who do not pass Information. But a Person's Information needn't stop flowing because of the existence of End Users. It may stop, but can also flow now or later or never. So yes, a Person't Information may start to flow again, for though End Users became such because a Person's Information once had little or no value to them, they can cease to be End Users when a Person's Information becomes something of value to them, at which point they may either pass along a Person's Information, or moreover, they may themselves become a Person with Information to share that may even contain additional Facts as to why a former End User became a driving force in the Flow of Information.
Information in tweets effectively never goes away. A Tweet is quasi-permanent for the sake of this post. And to make even that last caveat moot, when anyone on Twitter tweets information they heard about, it becomes something of their own. Countless sources spring up around similar collections of Facts. If a Person has a degree of influence among their followers who chance to see and react to that Person's Information, it will flow to the next phalanx in the following degree of separation. Tweets can march, fly and flow across the globe, and those that do can be said to have satisfied the conditions in the observations above, to such a degree that they have indeed flown.
Depth of Information
Can all the information that once existed be re-tweeted? Will it matter?
Monday, September 27, 2010
Friday, September 24, 2010
Thursday, September 23, 2010
Friday, September 03, 2010
Thursday, September 02, 2010
One of the features I've loved about last.fm for a very long time has been how it let's you tag your music. It gives you a list of your popular tags and also a list of popular tags other folks have given the song you're about to tag. Often the top tags are the kind you'd remember seeing in a record store when there were such things (I assume they exist, but I hardly shop for records anymore...gosh, that's sad.) Anyway, they had and probably continue to have dividers each with a label describing various types of music. The top ones, as you'll see are usually pretty good descriptors, but a little bland. A little ways down though and you start to get to the tags that seem to just speak to you, as if to say "that hits the nail on the button!"
I'm sure machines and machine tagging will eventually learn to be creative and hip in labeling things we need to find more easily. Personally I can't sit around and wait for that... but in the meantime I'll just continue to label things the way I've always done, in my own words.
BTW - I have no idea what Jonsi is singing about in this track, since some of it is in Icelandic, so "great lyricists" is tongue-in-cheek...as it is when I usually apply it. Maddy, my seven year old, sings the song word for word with what sounds like perfect Icelandic inflection. Could be at that age, the live inner elf helps with that sort of thing.
Saturday, August 28, 2010
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
From: "Field Notes Brand" <email@example.com>
Date: August 25, 2010 11:08:55 AM EDT
Subject: Field Notes Brand: Today Is Wednesday
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also make to our mail subscribers, so...
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As you were. Love,
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"I'm not writing it down to remember it later.
I'm writing it down to remember it now."
Forward to a pal.
record collections of today, hallowed, important, necessary and
redundant. I thought of this whilest shelving books on Corbusier in
the stacks of Cornell's Fine Arts Library under Sibley Dome.
Wednesday, August 04, 2010
Thursday, July 29, 2010
Thursday, July 08, 2010
Sent to you by Jrome via Google Reader:
Al-Bueire, 6 July 2010
Today we made a foot patrol of Al-Bueire, an area on the edge of Hebron where settler harassment is a serious problem. We simply walked, slowly, up and down the road that runs through the village. Now and then we approached a Palestinian on the road, and each time the approaching figure visibly slowed down, cautiously trying to work out if we were friend or foe. What a way to live. We called out "As-salam aleikum" to reassure people.
None of the settlers came down to the village while we were there. (And indeed, this is one of the main goals of our foot patrols.) But they have been around recently, with daily encroachments small and large, trying to harass the native inhabitants out of the area.
As we walked, a family called us in to their house, offering us tea. The father of the family introduced himself as Dr Sufian Sultan, while his son proudly told us that Dr Sultan has a PhD in agriculture, and was once the head of the Palestinian Environmental Authority. Both father and son spoke good English.
We ask them if they had any problems with the settlers. Dr Sultan chuckles at the question.
"Let me tell you what happened yesterday. Settlers came to our property and started trying to uproot some young fig trees we had planted. They were also cutting our irrigation pipes and vandalising the grape vines.
"My sons went to stop them destroying the trees, and there was a struggle. They were pushing each other. One of my sons knocked the hat off the head of one of the settlers. Soon 20 more settlers came, and they started throwing stones. My sons escaped and came back to the house.
"Then I went out, to try to ask them to stop. They threw stones at me also, so I went back inside my house.
"I called the police, but when they heard an Arab on the phone, they just hung up. I called the Palestinian Authority, and they said they would help. But they called the Israeli Occupation authority, who sent some soldiers down here.
"The soldiers arrived at our house, and we told them what had been happening: the settlers invading our property, destroying things and throwing stones. The army captain said, 'Why are you telling me this? This is not a problem for me.'
"They did however want to know about the hat that one of my sons had knocked from a settler. They said, 'Where is the hat?'
"They detained one of the boys who was here working on the house, and took him to the settlement. This boy was not even there when the settlers were causing trouble. At the settlement they asked the settlers if this was the person who took their hat, but the settlers said no, it was not him. So they let him go."
I ask him if there is any kind of help he can turn to.
"Sometimes the Christian Peacemakers Team come around here. One time an American from CPT even stayed at our house, but the Israelis did not like this. Soldiers came to our house at three o'clock in the morning, and kicked the door down. They took all our IDs, and searched the house. They asked me if I had any weapon in the house, I said no. The soldiers were searching the kitchen, and in the drawer they found a cooking knife. He said, 'What is this?' I said, 'It is a knife.' He said, 'Why do you have a knife?' I said, 'Sometimes when you are cooking, you need to use a knife.' Then they left the house."
Dr Sultan and his son seem to find these incidents quite funny. I suspect this is not the worst of their experiences with settlers and soldiers, and ask them what other kinds of things happen.
"The settlers burn cars, they destroy our crops. Sometimes they wait on the hillside above the road, and when a Palestinian drives past, they try to drop large stones down onto the car. The worst was in 2004: one of the settler leaders here was killed after a rivalry with another settler. They wanted to bury the dead man on that hill over there (Dr Sultan points to a hill on the other side of his farm). Even the Israeli authorities said no, this was not allowed. So over 1,000 settlers came here, and they went crazy. They went in big groups to all the houses here, smashing windows and starting fires. All the Palestinians went to hide in their houses.
"They came to my house, and they were throwing stones at all the windows. Then one of them cut the gas pipe at the side of the house, and he was trying to start a fire with the gas. A soldier was standing there watching. I asked a soldier, please, stop this fire. The soldier said okay, and he put out the fire.
"There were thousands of dollars of damage to the houses around here, and many cars destroyed."
We all sit quietly for a minute. The Palestinians look at us carefully; all our faces are sad and grim. They look at us intensely because they want to make sure that we understand.
Dr Sultan's mirth has disappeared now. He chooses his words carefully, then tells us, "We are suffering here. It is not easy to say."
Things you can do from here:
Sunday, June 27, 2010
my mother and I scattered his ashes in Hatteras, NC, near a bench on a
beach access boardwalk where he would sit on during the many visits he
made to the Outer Banks.
Hatteras was one of his favorite places. The solitude, the sounds, the
ocean, the climate, but most of all the place, drew him and his wife
and children again and again to this spot. I'm here with my mother, my
wife, and kids. They never knew my father. To them he's just a man in
photographs, who they often mistake for me. He's a lot more than that,
a lot more than me I think. I won't describe him, other to say I
think it means a lot to him that we're here and we're walking on the
same beaches, sitting on the same benches and talking about our visits
to Lee Robinson's before they built the new store, to the Red & White
when the floors were wooden, to Hatteras Sands when the hurricanes
came and the tents were destroyed and how I finally beat Mom at ping
pong after years of losing every match, and of course trips to the
light, the heat inside, the many steps, the wind, the sun, the Apple
Uglies at the Orange
Gingerbread House. I have 37 years of history to this place, I can see
my children building their own memories. To them it isn't where their
grandfather is buried, it really is their place now.
Thursday, June 24, 2010
Wonder what will happen when people abandon Facebook like many of us did to AOL back in the late 90s...certainly there will be a lot more content to syphon off, but perhaps there will be something better and more useful in the near future to make this all seem like crazy talk anyway.
Search Amazon.com for guide to flickr
Originally uploaded by Gramma Kit
While fast food is fast food and probably not ever worth the time, there's a mini golf (we call it Putt Putt around here) in Cortland NY that's excellent fun, for those who like that sort of thing. And there's even an old drive in A&W next door. I like their root beer. Always have. Probably because I grew up playing putt putt and getting thirsty.
Thursday, June 10, 2010
I'll update the music periodically to give you a glimpse of the cool stuff you can buy with your pocket change. You can also check out much more music I like, and stream full tracks, on Last.fm. Check me out there if you even care...
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
Ah, nostalgia. I used to work at Sibley Dome... a.k.a. the Architecture & Fine Arts Library. I worked there as an undergrad student for four years from 1991-1995 including three summers and three winters for 39.5 hours a week. I was a quiet legend. No air conditioning, creaky floors, lots of dusty 18th century collection vacuuming, and I loved it all. But I love the CU library app and this video for it. I just hope the Fine Arts Library hasn't lost all it's non-digital character.
Tuesday, April 06, 2010
There are a lot of first adopters out there loving their new iPads. This is to be expected since the device is new, it's good looking, it's novel - there isn't anything really like it out there, except the iPhone, which is equally loved I'd say by people who own them. Now, the iPad is remarkable for many reasons, but I'm going to stress just one: it is a piece of hardware that more than anything else going right now, is ripe for business to be had with it. I don't mean big business, because every bean counter will look at the 30% Apple takes from being the purveyor of the ecosystem and pass up any opportunity to dive in. It's the latest sense of the phrase "Apple Tax." However, smaller folks or progressive medium to large sized businesses can get in and do things with the iPad that will make business happen. They may not create enough business to open up a new division, but for some lagging businesses (I'm looking at you dictionaries and reference publishers) this is the time to jump in and get going. Apple's market cap is nearing the great Microsoft, and -- without much to back this claim -- I predict Apple will eclipse Micro$oft in market cap and in market relevance within the next two years.
The business revolves around software applications, no secret there. There is no novelty to the development process, other than the iPad is a breakthrough device. Fast enough processor to impart smooth touch controls and fast seeming application performance, large display with sharp colors and beautiful contrast, and the best UI going. Better than any laptop, better than iPhones (which it most resembles), better than Blackberry, better than Android, better than Palm, better than Microsoft. Producing apps for the iPad means pushing software to the next level in terms of usability and interaction. How many iPhone dictionary apps behave like print dictionaries? In my mind they all do, but I'll grant the random commenter's claims of saved search, audio pronunciation, Scrabble score, etc. What I'm getting at is how many apps out there have evolved the dictionary into something new? Who will do for dictionaries what Apple has done with the iPad? And who will be the first to put this new dictionary on the iPad?
I won't even start on encyclopedias...
Wednesday, March 31, 2010
- I'll pay for news that's local
- I'll gravitate to news sources that are free, but only if they serve a niche well (can't be too general) or have a particular angle to hit and grind
- I could be persuaded to buy some access to premier publications if they have features (like kick ass sharing or research features)
- I'll subscribe to longer form news journalism, but only those that kick a most serious ass (The Economist, The New Yorker, The Atlantic)
Narrowing this already narrow publishing point down to The Issue involving my own business niche with dictionaries: The above points illustrate why publishers will have such serious issues when print finally does diminish so far as to be unsustainable. Without a product people can buy, who will feed the expensive authoritative lexicographical factories? (Non-authoritative? You may be able to sustain with cheaply produced pulp.) Paywall services rely on 1) great design, great execution, great features that allow users to rock their own world and 2) authoritative content. Unless your dictionary is the top of the heap within a narrow category, or unless it's Webster's or OED, you better be planning to make a top tier service incorporating all of your best content on the web right now. If not, you'd better be really good at grabbing eyeballs and selling advertising.
Monday, March 29, 2010
The lesson here for digital reference folks is coming up with not only great content, but great interface, great features, and true value. I don't think any online dictionary has all four. I don't think any online encyclopedia has all four.
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Sunday, March 21, 2010
Sunday, March 14, 2010
Saturday, February 27, 2010
Friday, February 26, 2010
To many people, dictionaries are boring and frustrating. To start with, they contain lots of words, many of them hard to say and too many of them just plain ridiculously obtuse. Thousands of pages written in goddamned shorthand code or something. WTF? And, where oh where are all the pictures!? But maybe the biggest mojo killer: it takes a ton of mental work just to read and comprehend a single entry. Why even bother unless you're a nerd doing crosswords or trying to beat your mom at Scrabble?!
Well, super-dictionaries aren't gonna make every lameability issue go away. There will still be lots of words, millions actually, and some of the content may still leave user pondering WTF? But what super-dictionaries can do is give the word "dictionary" back some long-lost mojo. Like it had before there was TV or telephones. You see, dictionaries are to super-dictionaries as DUPLO is to LEGO (or even Lego Technic, if that means anything to you.) Super-dictionaries are infinitely expandable by design. More robust data doesn't equal more features on its own accord, but an expandable and flexible data structure enables greater and more powerful features.
Oh, snap! There's not a single super-dictionary available on the open web. (Remind me what year it is, again?) There are only a few publishers working with super-dictionaries and they're keeping the data to themselves for editorial purposes. Right now while super-dictionaries are used to make the content of dictionaries better, they aren't being used to make the users' experiences any richer.
Until there are some super-dictionaries on the web, we'll just have to dream, like Orion Montoya, who back in 2007 wrote: "I want my computer’s dictionary to be a lexical Bloomberg terminal that reads my mind." I like to think he meant "reads my mind" in the way a BMW is said to drive or how the best handling bicycles "disappear beneath the rider." It's just a better tool to inform human expression.
“I was reading the dictionary. I thought it was a poem about everything.” - Stephen
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
On these sites millions of queries pound the dictionary databases per day. Four million queries a day from one site alone, I heard, and it's not even in the top three. For over ten years data has been collected, all of it bound up in log files. Astounding to all who glance at it for sure, but, I'll go out on a limb here and tell you, no one I know of has bothered to give such usage the attention it duly deserves. I've heard lexicographers tell me outright it's all garbage – “the top words are the swear words, day in day out” and “the list is filled with misspelled words, gobbledegook and worse.” Publishers insist they already know what people need; they point to the frequency data every publisher keeps on words in the English language. Frequency data in turn informs the wordlists used for the different sizes of dictionaries they publish, from the wordlist of the smallest mass market paperback to that of the largest unabridged dictionary sitting on a wooden stand in front of the librarian's desk. Online dictionary usage follows patterns similar to those publishers' frequency of usage, but it's more like iTunes set to play on random. You'll note, the longer you listen, iTunes seems to play the Greatest Hits more often. So too with online dictionaries. People look up the Greatest Hits every day without fail. But here's the kicker, with lists that are millions of words deep, including so much “gobbledegook” it's too hard even for the trained lexicographical mind and editorial eye to separate word meat from the word bones. Computational analysis, so rarely applied outside corpus work, has to my knowledge never been applied to the logfiles, the dregs of actual usage left by the unwashed user. To further compound any science involved in digging deep into such data, the majority of reference website traffic flows through sites that have licensed publisher content but who are not required to let the publishers know what words get looked up and when. There are some publisher controlled sites that receive enough traffic to produce interesting data, so therein lies some hope for change and insightful development.
Before I forget to mention it, this blog post is really about distribution of dictionary content via the web. Getting publishers caught up on what hard usage data can illustrate is just a part of producing a better editorial process for dictionary content production, and it touches tangentally on issues of distribution. Getting usage data at all these days from content you control and distribute is a tricky feat, one most publishers may believe is only achievable from building a destination website, along the lines of Dictionary.com or Merriam-Webster.com. I hope not every traditional reference publisher is thinking that, but I fear most are. Publishers who have already built websites with hundreds of thousands or even millions of database queries per day may even be happy with their usage numbers; although they've probably locked their minds down on how those database hits affect the value of ads or how they may turn users into customers of their print or electronic wares. That's a major mistake.
Digital publishing, generally speaking thus far in man's evolution, is the broadest and easiest form of distribution ever conceived. No dictionary publisher has had this fact drilled into their skulls yet, but there are a few so called internet companies that fully comprehend the kind of distribution reference publishers must come to fundamentally understand, appreciate and perhaps even leverage. Here's a super short list of factoids to keep in mind as you mull all this over:
- 50 million tweets flow through Twitter's servers a day although tomorrow that number will be higher and in six months it will be three times that number. Those are rather high numbers, huh? Given the shift occuring giving real-time search such high marks for the Business of the Future, Twitter is sitting pretty. It is in fact the model for all others to follow – broad user adoption around the world, low threshold for participation, growing like crazy.
- 30% of Ask.com traffic is reference based, and if Google or Microsoft gave out such figures, it's likely to be a similar percentage of Google and Bing search traffic too. (There's good reason for that dictionary link on nearly every Google search results page.)
Where people communicate, where they consume content or any type, and where they search for answers, dictionary content seems to play an important role in people's comprehension and understanding of one another. Honestly, digital content doesn't need to reside on sites one or two clicks away. It really needs to be built-in everywhere. Due to the traditional business of the dictionary publishing industry, digital reference content has mirrored its physical print parent in terms of distribution. Locked in, locked down, shipped once. That practice is not gonna fly much longer. Businesses built on those models are already crumbling. Print dictionaries are rapidly phasing out – I've heard talk of 60% drops in print sales this past year from the industry leaders. When that segment of their business is reduced to niche, publishers will have some serious decisions to make beyond just that of early retirement.
So to avoid going down with the ship, what follows is my bit of free advice for dictionary publishers. The first two numbered points are critical. They need to be properly understood. The bullet points are forward facing details on how to take the two crucial points to heart and create business from them.
- Be everywhere, because that's the only place dictionary content really matters. Remember, no more sitting moldy on a shelf. If you can make a product and it gets stale the moment it leaves an editor's hands, think twice about making it and then just don't. Living breathing reference looks far different than what publishers and editors already know and probably love too much. No one is actually doing living breathing real-time everywhere dictionary reference yet, but that doesn't mean it can't be done or business models can't spring into existence to support such a thing. Do it justice dictionary publishers. C'mon! You have it in your means to really rock the word. Besides, people really like you. No one wants to see you fade away like the covers on your books.
- What do dictionary publishers have against making their content available broadly available, let alone broadly available for free? What do they fear? Will they see additional losses of print sales? Will electronic licensing and royalties evaporate? Publishers are missing the massive forest ecosystem for a couple of handsome trees. There are millions of potential users in the world, ready to look up a word from a quality dictionary. Some want print and will always buy it and use it more than anything else, no matter what. Some will use the dictionary that came with their Kindle when they're reading on their Kindle. Still others, particularly in Asia, prefer a handheld electronic device. For the vast majority, they are going to want their dictionary in more places than one. Being human, their needs will shift from moment to moment. The internet is the sole method by which content can be delivered to nearly all of them. For applications or devices that live offline, there will always be licensing deals. No serious dictionary publishing house can be without a sweet side dish that is its licensing business.
- Build scaleable distribution around an open API. Build a few toy models for fun, on the web or as desktop software, to illustrate key features the API makes available to developers. An open API will allow web and software developers to pull in dictionary content from any application with access to the web.
- Publishers who want some semblence of control can make developers register for an API key. Such a low barrier won't keep serious developers away.
- Popping Fresh Data. The API feeds client applications on an as-needed basis, which means editors can be working on content one moment and push it out to the world the very next. Yes, they'll be constantly working; no one said real-time would be easy. New editorial and lexicographical work flows will obviously need to emerge, not only for content going out over the API, but also – and this brings us back full circle to usage data – for content coming in; consumer usage data (anonymized of course) can be analyzed by lexicographers, studied by licensees, and utilized in existing sales cycles.
- What's the business on the table with an open API? Well, recall 30% of search engine traffic is looking for reference content. That's a start! This open API model will allow developers to more easily reach users, and provide dictionary content those users really want to see: high quality dictionary content free of charge. Publishers needn't charge developers to access the API. Publishers should instead focus on making money on the incidentals. The more use dictionary content gets, the better position the publisher will be in to monetize. This was Google's modus operandi in its meteoric rise.
- Launch with content that's already been published. Don't hesitate. Make everything of quality available from the API.
- Iterate often. This could be the most important point beyond that of the open API. If at first you don't succeed, try a different angle. You will fail once or twice or many times. Learn from the failures. Keeping development teams on staff that are agile and sharp will help.
Thursday, February 11, 2010
|Chris Messina (@chrismessina)|
2/11/10 10:36 PM
Answers to: Where is Twitter going with OAuth? What's up with OAuth? http://bit.ly/whatsupwithoauth /by @raffi via @joshelman
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Sent from my iPhone
Tuesday, February 09, 2010
Sunday, February 07, 2010
Ah, the powerful effects of data visualizations! A straightforward, old-fashioned, and simple written history of an object, a code, a product, an application, a structure, etc. just can't cut it anymore. It's the data. It's the usage of a thing over time. Usage gets overlooked. My only questions are when will Ken Burns do a documentary for PBS, entitled "Twitter: the social awakening of human beings" and will it be in 3D?
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
5:01 PM Oct 18th, 2008 from web
Some details you won't miss. You won't miss clinking keys, you won't miss the click of the latch or the smack of lips eating toast at the quiet breakfast table on a wet, cold winter morning. But when they come back, they come back like the smells from the scratch and sniff books you read as a child and now read to your own children, like the smell of the house you grew up in or of your favorite soup that Mom still makes for you.
Why bring this up? Because Twitter is like this. Well, it can be like this. Something ought to happen to enable it to be more like this. We live in a time when we can physically live further from our loved ones and still talk to them or see them on Skype on a daily basis. Incredible, yes, but still not, to steal a word from Apple's Steve Jobs, "magical." And yet Twitter allows us to live apart and know incredibly personal details - things we likely would have missed had we been standing right there - about those same people we care most about. Like we're reading their personal email, over their shoulder; reading their thoughts in the shower; listening to their music as they're hearing it make them happy.
My goal in life will be to enable the world to share more of themselves, not less, on Twitter. Yeah, just to see what people can learn from each other and about themselves through this remarkable new medium.
Friday, January 22, 2010
Thursday, January 21, 2010
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Sunday, January 17, 2010
Hey, and Harper's wanted me to tell you that you can Subscribe today for $16.97/yr and get instant web access to 159 years of Harper's Magazine. But will you ever read it all? Maybe they should charge you $5 and hope you never come to the site, just graze once or twice. I'd forget to come back, truth be told. Plunk down my money and I would just plain forget. Maybe I could pay them to remind me to come back and read? I guess if you're a real reading type person, $16.97 per year will sound just over the top outrageously cool. But you know what would have been even more fun? Paying $34.07 per year, because it kinda spells LOVE if you look at it upside down and have bad eyesight. I wonder if you could actually pay that amount...ya know, just to show your affection and spread your cash around. Click the link below and try to ask them! Enjoy!!!
Saturday, January 16, 2010
Thursday, January 14, 2010
Wednesday, January 13, 2010