Archive for March, 2007

SXSW: Spam

Sunday, March 11th, 2007

Spam of All Kinds: Dealing with Online Abuse was mostly a dense rundown of the state of current email spammer and anti-spam practices. Steve Champeon emphasized the incredible load put on email providers by spam, most of which is invisible to users.

I have been moderately surprised for awhile that whitelisting hasn’t become more or less the default for email. I think Champeon’s “things not to do” slide indirectly said not to use whitelisting (it said to not transfer burden to other legitimate users — most whitelisting services make users not on the whitelist jump through some hoops to get on the list).

A question I would’ve asked if the session didn’t run out of time: Why hasn’t spim become a major annoyance? I accept instant messages from unknown parties but almost never get spim.

SXSW: Designing for Global Audiences

Sunday, March 11th, 2007

I attended Perspectives on Designing for Global Audiences because the topic is important for Creative Commons — parts of the CC site are translated into many languages, there are many jurisdicton affiliates, some of which run their own sites. I want to do much more and better.

The panel’s focus seemed to be on big budget projects — their advice could be summed up as “hire locally and do lots of research.” This mindset caused them to take an audience question about asking users to help with localization as merely being about how to conduct user research.

One panelist claimed that communication is the first use of the net, then ecommerce, and finally entertainment, where the net is well developed. This sounds to me like a simple extrapolation from development in wealthy regions — I wouldn’t be suprised if entertainment arrives before ecommerce in some places.

Practical tips were interspersed. I’ll assume there’s some truth to these, which included:

  • Chinese don’t like whitespace, pack a page with information.
  • In Latin America “rich media” is hated more than spam. Yay, another argument against Flash.
  • Many audiences don’t like scrolling. Too bad, I don’t like clicking and prefer long pages.

SXSW: Blogging Where Speech Isn’t Free

Sunday, March 11th, 2007

On Blogging Where Speech Isn’t Free, moderated by Jon Lebkowsky…

Robert Faris of the showed a worldwide filtering map and a Venn diagram grouping jurisdictions according to whether they filter for political, security, or social content. Most that filter do so for all three. Filtering is very hard, so excepting a few jurisdictions that disallow net connectivity period, most attempt to induce a climate of self-censorship.

Ethan Zuckerman showed the map of press freedom and pointed out that blogging takes off in moderately repressive jurisdictions that restrict the formal press, sending journalists to the net.

Shahed Amanullah said there are many Muslims in the US who want to debate radicals on their websites but are afraid to because merely visiting those sites will catch the eye of US security. He also said that among other things we can do is to highlight the persecution of bloggers in the Muslim world.

Shava Nerad took on a number of FAQs about .

Jasmina Tesanovic mentioned the popularity of , which has a very impressive Alexa rank (1,376) considering its small and relatively poor potential audience (Serbia). The site is hosted in the Netherlands.

A questioner gave examples of the importance of expatriate media about repressive jurisdictions, which Zuckerman reiterated, using the term “” to describe expatriates and the stateless.

I completely forgot to ask a question about the overlap between filtering for political and economic protectionist (i.e., copyright) purposes.

Update 20070313: Read Zuckerman’s in-depth panel writeup.

SXSW: Semantic Web 2.0 and Scientific Publishing

Saturday, March 10th, 2007

Web 2.0 and Semantic Web: The Impact on Scientific Publishing, probably the densest panel I attended today (and again expertly moderated by Science Commons’ John Wilbanks), covered , new business models for scientific publishers, and how web technologies can help with these and data problems, but kept coming back to how officious Semantic Web technologies and controlled ontologies (which are not the same at all, but are often lumped together) and microformats and tagging (also distinct) complement each other (all four of ’em!), even within a single application. I agree.

Nearly on point, this comment elsewhere by Denny Vrandecic of the Semantic MediaWiki project:

You are supposed to change the vocabulary in a wiki-way, just as well as the data itself. Need a new relation? Invent it. Figured out it’s wrong? Rename. Want a new category of things? Make it.

Via Danny Ayers, oringal posted to O’Reilly Radar, which doesn’t offer permalinks for comments. This just needs a catchy name. Web 2.0 ontology engineering? Fonktology?

SXSW: Web hacks copyright

Saturday, March 10th, 2007

Sergio Villarreal and Kent Brewster gave an interesting, if mostly offtopic talk on Web Hacks: Good or Evil (or: Welcome to Web 2.666). Many web technologies started off as “hacks”, notoriously <img> and .

The rest of the presentation followed loosely from the premise that “content” is, will be (via services like Dapper) and needs to be “everywhere”, largely via feeds and now . From this came three observations:

  • JSON everywhere as an alternative to feeds
  • “IP” is a questionable concept
  • Suddenly, everything is hackable (e.g., via a service like

And three recommendations:

  • Don’t wait for pipes to drain your feed (publish JSON)
  • Don’t stop writing!
  • The web hates authors and loves writers (continue to create, as opposed to selling previous creations)

The last seems like an observation, or a repeat of the previous recommendation, but is a really nice soundbite.

The presenters struck me as being far too optimistic (or pessimistic if you want) about the impact of their technologies (Brewster is a technology evangelist for Yahoo!) — closing slide “Copyright is dead” and imagining a copyright-ignoring YouTube appearing in Kazakhstan, and having an impact.

Factoid: Brewster said Yahoo! has about two dozen full time people reviewing content flagged as porn, mostly moms, with higher than standard cubicle walls.

SXSW: Commercialization of Wikis

Saturday, March 10th, 2007

Evan Prodromou gave an excellent presentation on Commercialization of Wikis: Open Community That Pays the Bills. Check out his slides.

A few points:

  • Other stuff will be recognized as having wiki nature, e.g., .
  • Four categories of wiki businesses: service provider (Wikispaces, Wetpaint, PBWiki), content hosting (wikiHow, Wikitravel, Wikia), consulting (SocialText), content development (WikiBiz). My comment: at first blush Wikia would seem to be a service provider, but they are also deeply involved in content creation and community management.
  • Down with and the notion that wiki contributors are suckers or sharecroppers. Better to think of wikis (and wiki businesses) as platforms for knowledge. Contributors use your wiki to help each other, not to give you free content. My comment: I’m not so down on crowdsourcing. Yes, it is MBA language, but the usually involve compensating contributors. Crowdsourcing shouldn’t be conflated with sharecropping, nor confused with community purpose.
  • For wikis purpose more important than friends or ego for blogs (cf. blogs and social networking).

Seven rules for commercial wikis:

  1. Have a noble purpose — e.g., shared knowledge (use a free license), help a community.
  2. Demonstrate value — most interesting example is “carry the torch”; wiki communities can be transient, an entity that keeps focus helps.
  3. Be Transparent.
  4. Extract value where you provide value — most obviously, advertising for hosting.
  5. Set boundaries.
  6. Be personally involved.
  7. Run with the right crowd — e.g., open source and open content, or you will be suspect of being a crowdsourcer.

It appears that Prodromou’s Wikitravel lives by these rules and has succeeded.

Update 20070317: Prodromou has a roundup of blog responses to his presentation. It was great indeed catching up with him.

SXSW: Web business anecdotes

Saturday, March 10th, 2007

Web App Autopsy description:

There’s a lot you can learn from just looking at your own code line by line. Join us as we dissect a live web application that uses modern web technologies and see how the code can show us what it took to create a web app from idea to launch.

Instead the panel consisted of random anecdotes from four people who run web businesses, each of which has tweaked something or other. Oh, and look, conversion ratios!

A panel such as this desperately needs focus, and probably a moderator who has deep and varied experience in whatever the focus is, probably a consultant or academic.

Update 20070313: On the other hand, Sean Ammirati has a very postive writeup of this panel.

SXSW: Art, like, inspires me to design

Saturday, March 10th, 2007

The nearest The Influence of Art in Design came to its topic was showing a couple web sites that use color schemes to match fine art visuals incorporated in the site. Otherwise, it was all about “inspiration.” You should really try listening to some different music and see how that changes your creative process. Or maybe go to a museum and think about what you like about the pieces you see. Yeah.

The best quote I’ve heard attempting to relate art and design is “Art is the experimental end of design” from Caleb Chung, designer of the Furby. Sounds nice to me, but I don’t know how much water it holds. Is there a website or book that explores this using concrete examples?

SXSW: Online Publishers & Ad Networks

Saturday, March 10th, 2007

Skipped to the second half of Online Publishers & Ad Networks. I must have missed the part considering the question of “selling your own ad space, being part of a small ad network or teaming up with a search engine” but I imagine the first two have lots of explaining to do.

Nobody knows what form advertising accompanying short form videos on the web or small form devices will work best. I suggest that it should be as unobtrusive as text ads on a web page, or I will skip your video.

SXSW: Why XSLT is Hello World

Saturday, March 10th, 2007

Arrived about half an hour into Why XSLT is sexy to see in on the projector. What the heck were they talking about for the previous half hour? Left.

I have long wondered about using XSLT as an (untrusted) code distribution mechanism (e.g., acquire and run XSLT as an alternative to invoking a web service), but I suppose performance and functionality constraints make it a really niche case.