Esthetics of social software

Jon Lebkowsky and Honoria have an interesting insight about evaluating social software according to esthetic, leading to some reflection about the criteria for an esthetic of social software.
Thinking out loud, here are some criteria to consider…
* ease of groupforming
* intimacy gradient — ability to create spaces on a continuum from public to private
* expressiveness — ability for individuals and groups to express mood and style
* shared memory — the social software equivalent of bookshelves and mantelpiece photos
* attractive front porches — social public areas preceding private spaces
* helpful navigation — clear signage, or meditative exploration
I’m on vacation, so I don’t have Christopher Alexander near to hand; that would bring some good insight.

Parts of Patriot II become law

During the fanfare around the capture of Saddam Hussein, President Bush signed a bill that gives the FBI the power to search a broad range of financial records without a warrant.
The FBI now can get these records by issuing a “National Security Letter.” “To get the records, the FBI doesn’t have to appear before a judge, nor demonstrate “probable cause” – reason to believe that the targeted client is involved in criminal or terrorist activity.”
The definition of financial institution has been expanded from banks to include stockbrokers, car dealerships, casinos, credit card companies, insurance agencies, jewelers, airlines, the U.S. Post Office, and any other business “whose cash transactions have a high degree of usefulness in criminal, tax, or regulatory matters.”
This provision of the unpopular Patriot II act was pried off and attached to the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2004, an omnibus bill funding all the intelligence activities of the federal government.
There’s a good reason the founding fathers didn’t like searches without warrants.
Quotes are taken from this article in the San Antonio Current; story via Ross Mayfield


You can tell the families of tourists. It’s not just the sneakers and the cameras. The adults have a dogged, purposeful expression. Just seen attraction two-of-five; three-of-five is next, gotta get our money’s worth. The kids look bored unto death.
One of the best parts of travelling is sitting down and watching the guys in greatcoats and chic haircuts, the people loading and unloading, the pathologically thin women in orthopedically crippling shoes. The cops making sure the guy sleeping in the church doorway is sleeping.

Matt and Ben

On Saturday night, I saw “Matt & Ben”, the off-broadway play, about Matt Damon and Ben Affleck in their pizza, beer, and rehearsal days. The screenplay for Good Will Hunting falls from the ceiling, testing testing the friendship of the aspiring actors, who’d been buddies since Cambridge Rindge and Latin. The play is written and performed by two women, Mindy Kaling and Brenda Withers, who carry off the drag pretty well, showing the loyalty and rivalry between the buddies, til a fight scene at the end which overstretches their abilities.
My favorite parts of the play were the cameos of eccentric sage JD Salinger, who discourages the guys from adapting Catcher in the Rye, their previous project, while nibbling on a pudding cup, and Gwyneth Paltrow, who encourages them to use the supernaturally acquired script, while making secret love to a cupcake.
The show’s set in a grungy Somerville apartment in 1995. The details of the set were mostly spot-on, with period phone and boombox, a plaid couch they must have gotten from the house of some grad student friends of mine, and Papa Ginos pizza. The only flaws in detail were a mismatched Mac monitor and PC chassis, an out-the-window outdoor skyline that was the Village, or maybe Brooklyn, and an issue of Wired that you could tell was later from the thickness of ad pages (it was the 12/96 issue with the brilliant Neal Stephenson Hacker Tourism article).
Went with my host Judith, who is the worlds best date for cultural fun. (Don’t get me wrong guys, I’m hetero). Off to more New York tourism.

Jews on Christmas

Went on the night of the 25th to a performance with several Jewish groups at the Knitting Factory.
The headliners were “What I Like About Jew”, a duo who perform goofy comic songs on Jewish themes. “2 pubic hairs and a 3 piece suit/Today I am a man” was one chorus. One of their pieces is the gleefully offensive Hannukah with Monica.
The best musician was Matisyahu a Hassidic Reggae/Dub performer who re-appropriates the Reggae references to Zion and the messiah. Cindy Cohn played sweet folk guitar with sharp-tongued lyrics “who do I need to fuck to get laid around here.” Todd Barron did excellent deadpan standup comedy.
It was very enjoyable — lots of native New York life forms.
Then I got food poisoning from the post-performance dinner, and spent most of the day with barely enough energy to get up. Hopefully will feel better to enjoy more of the trip.
I have intermittent wireless connectivity from the Verizon phonebooth hotspot catty-corner from my host’s apartment; if you need to reach me, call my cellphone.

Catching up on blog-conversation

Zephoria grouches about a-list bloggers being catty and self-serving and mean.
To which I respond in comments:

It’s just gossip, world-readable.
Social networks that sustain conversation also harbor gossip, for good and for bad. For good– models of behavior and thought to learn from the different lives of others (I hate to link, for fear of embarrassing people). And for bad — cattiness, schadenfreude, one-upsmanship, and posing.
Seems to me that the ethics of blogging overlap mostly with the ethics of gossip.

Verisign + Evoting

from Wendy Seltzer back in September.

The collision of two bad ideas — unverified e-voting and VeriSign — is a really, really bad idea.
VeriSign has been chosen by Accenture (the former Andersen Consulting) to provide key components of an Internet absentee voting system for Americans abroad. This is the same VeriSign that recently unilaterally altered the workings of the domain name system to return a VeriSign search page when someone mis-typed a .com or .net URL.
I can see it now: mis-mark your ballot and your vote gets automatically redirected to the candidate of VeriSign’s choice. “We found these similar candidates: Did You Mean to vote for Arnold Schwarzenegger?”

Anti-Social Software 2

Joi Ito on address book roulette:

It originated with business cards, but has moved to mobile phones. There are three people: two players and a judge. The two players pick someone from their address books and reveal them to each other simultaneously. The judge decides which one is more famous or important. The loser has to shred the business card or in the case of mobile phones, delete that entry from the address book. It’s quite funny because you try to play important people to beat the other person, but if you lose, you lose a valuable phone number. The judge’s perspective of what sort of person is important also comes into play in an interesting way.
It’s no fun when you have backups of your phone numbers, but in Japan, where most people don’t backup their mobile phone numbers, it’s often for keeps.

Anti-Social Software 1

From Cory

On that note: I have a special request to the toolmakers of 2004: stop making tools that magnify and multilply awkward social situations (“A total stranger asserts that he is your friend: click here to tell a reassuring lie; click here to break his heart!”) (“Someone you don’t know very well has invited you to a party: click here to advertise whether or not you’ll be there!”) (“A ‘friend’ has exposed your location, down to the meter, on a map of people in his social network, using this keen new location-description protocol — on the same day that you announced that you were leaving town for a week!”). I don’t need more “tools” like that, thank you very much.


More or less taking the day off. This morning, I bought supplies for the NYC trip:
* CD player to listen to music on the airplane
* Gloves, for New York weather
* Battery for cellphone
Hmmm…. coulda gotten good headphones and power adapter for the laptop instead. Didnt’ think of it.
Being Jewish, I’m exempt from the frenzy of rushing and shopping (talk to me before Passover). The fun is in browsing, without a tight deadline, to-do-lists, and consequences.
For folks who celebrate Christmas, have a very merry. And a happy vacation to all.