Squidoo: pulling Amazon lists out of Amazon

One of the cool Amazon feature is the list — users post their 10 favorite Taiwanese films, 17 favorite waffle-making gadgets, and so on.
It’s handy and fun. It draws on primal foraging instincts. And it’s closely tied to Amazon, and only losely tied to the listmaker. Amazon has user profiles, but they are tightly constrained.
Squidoo enables users to make lists, and offers to help its members increase their fame and fortune by linking their personal site to the Google-friendly link haven. It’s an odd combination of fun amateur topics such as the coolest laptop bags and sandwich recipes, and moderately creepy get-rich-quick ads for foreign exchange trading and mystery shopping.
The lists are much prettier than a bare delicious link collection, but they take a little more effort to create. Time will tell if it has the magical combination of benefit to the individual and increasing benefit to the group.

Media elitism in Berkeley

The most interesting question on last week’s panel at the Berkeley Hillside club on old and new media was raised by John Markoff of the New York Times. Why, he asked, at a time of great democratization of media, are we seeing increasing concentrations of wealth and power? Why isn’t media democratization translating into political and economic democratization?
A few thoughts toward answers:
* Knowledge doesn’t become power directly. People who are getting information from Glenn Greenwald’s blog about the slow parliamentary strangling of the NSA warrantless wiretapping investigation still needs coordinated action in order to persuade legislators.
* Blogs are widespread and cheap. But tools for more direct organizing — email tools, databases, volunteer management tools — are harder for volunteers to come by and harder to use.
* Online organizing needs to be coordinated with in-person organizing and persuasion in order to have enough effect.
Aside from that interesting question, I agree with Scott Rosenberg that the panel would have benefited from breaking out of the tired old “old media vs. new media” frame.

Siderean: but what does it do?

I ran across while preparing for a panel on “tagging 2.0” at sxsw. They sell a faceted classification product used for information retrieval. They did Facetious, a cool del.icio.us mashup which applies facets to delicious tags.
In order to describe their hack as part of my talk on collaborative tagging, I wanted to know how it works. Does the software create the facets? Does the software suggest facets, which are then selected and edited by human administrators? Or do humans create the facets for Siderean to fill in?
I ordered collateral from the website — needed to fill out a form for each piece of collateral, and talk to a salesman first. The collateral didn’t answer my question — it was all benefit/result marketing, with nothing about the software itself. So I emailed the salesguy. He said he could only answer the question if Socialtext was seriously interested in partnering with Siderean.
So I didn’t include Siderean in the presentation. Does anyone have a clue how the software works?

SXSW 2006: RSS, it’s not just for blogs anymore

At SXSW, I facilitated a session on “RSS: not just for blogs anymore”, with Chris Frye of Feedburner, Scott Johnson of Ookles (formerly of Feedster), and Robyn Dupree of Bloglines.
The panelists gave many examples of the non-blog uses of RSS. The most prevalent is audio/video, which currently represents 20% of feedburner-measured content. “Structured blogging” applications like calendars and restaurant reviews are nifty and seeing experimentation, but not big takeup yet. RSS on mobile devices is used by a small number of users, but those users are very heavy users.
The most fun part of the session was the “fireside demo” format modeled after Wiki Wednesday. This being SXSW, there were plenty of people in the audience with interesting RSS applications. People lined up at the mic to give examples of RSS uses and hacks, including:
* Stuffopolis, a utility for keeping track of lending personal stuff
* Toolshed, a toolset for online music promotion
* 30Boxes (calendar) and Dodgeball plugins for WordPress by Andy Skelton
Here’s the delicious list

One web day

I went to a “one web day” organizing event yesterday. I have a bit of ambivalence about the theme, and want to explore the emotion.
The internet is a wondrous creation of humanity. The ability to connect across space and remember across time is stunning to contemplate. It is well worth celebrating.
The model of a “day” dedicated to celebrating, raising awareness, and protecting — along the lines of “earth day”– feels like original and unreconstructed hippie-dom. The level of sincerity and optimism is a bit embarrassing, given the waves of cultural disillusion that followed the euphoria. (mind you, the original earth day, be-ins and what not are all before my time).
Unlike the original Earth Day, One Web Day is assertively anti-anti-commercial. The goal is to embrace the commercial providers, big and small, who help bring the internet to people.
The most well-greased way to make a holiday mainstream in US consumer culture is to drive it with consumerism. Mother’s day was invented to sell flowers and cards. Christmas is used to sell most of everything. It is easy to imagine web day promotions on internet access, Flickr memberships, and other addictive subscriptions.
And yet the most powerful marketers — the telco and content oligopolies — are dedicating vast resources and efforts to make the internet a less connected place, with less of the open access, easy of information distribution, and ease of sharing that make the internet what it is.
When I think about One Web Day, it is hard to think about celebrating the internet without thinking about the amount that is at risk. Much of the remix culture rennaissaince is illegal, or under legal threat, because of bad law. While US telcos try to get laws passed to make municipal broadband illegal, European cities, one after the other, are starting fiber-to-the-home initiatives that will get residents first-class broadband while US connectivity falls behind.
And yet, people won’t engaged in protecting something they don’t think to value. Part of the value of One Web Day is sharing the idea and the feeling that the internet is worthy of appreciation. Wanting to protect it comes as a follow-on.
I guess the way to make it work is to get the themes of protection and sharing into enough hands, and take advantage of the commercial momentum to spread the word.

half-full or 3/4 empty

at a San Francisco dinner shindig, with a group of startup people, money people, and others in the subculture. The genetic effevescence was about remix culture, clean energy, 3d hacking, and the digital native generation.
I don’t know whether it is just me but every silver lining has a pretty heavy cloud. Clean energy is grand, especially if it can help compensate for the very large amounts of fossil fuel energy it takes to make our food. Remix culture is cool, except for the fact that it is largely illegal, and remixers could get priced out of the market in a non-net-neutral economy. Kids in the US will grow up with tech as a native language; and 50% of kids will be obese; and many will have fewer opportunities than their parents. People in the room felt free to snark about “your call may be monitored by the NSA”, but Senate Intel just voted not to investigate illegal spying. The polar bears are dying in the heat.
The short-term looks fun and interesting; the longer term looks murky.

Speaking of invitations…

Upcoming has good attributes of both guy culture and Silicon Valley culture.
In girl culture, there are infinite nuances to invitations, non-invitations, and anti-invitations. Girls invite to pre-parties, afterparties, and other intimate moments that complement official get-togethers. When a traditional girl wants you to come, she looks you in the eye an invites *you*. When a traditional girl wants to know you’re only sort of welcome, she tells you that there’s an event going on. When a traditional girl wants to snub you, she tells the person standing next to you that they are invited to her event. Bonus girl points for making sure you hear, while whisking the other person away.
Guy invitations are delightfully simple, by contrast. A guy describes an event, and assumes that’s an invitation. Hey, there’s a tailgate party. Or hey, we’re going riding.
Upcoming does the delightfully simple, guy-like version. The event is declared, with a time and a place. The attendee declaresly, openly and impersonally, if they are “watching” the event, or, “attending” the event. Here it is, come if you want to, no big deal if you don’t.
Upcoming also has aspects of bay area culture. People have a facility at declaring parties. There’s Mobile Monday, and Tag Tuesday, and Wiki Wednesday, and “bar camp”. People pick themes or places and flock, often enough that you need some automation to keep track of it all. And the communities are big and dispersed enough that a public bulletin board is helpful; in smaller communities, it’s easier and more obvious to let the subcommunity who needs to know more directly.
The one thing I wish it did was slurp events into a personal calendar. Today’s task was copying and pasting sxsw sessions and parties.

Incentives to decentralization

Edgieo is a conceptually nifty decentralized listing service — like craigslist, but it aggregates listings you put on your blog. The bit this misses is how and why an individual would put a listing on his/her own blog rather than craigs list or ebay, when those services already have a large audience and easy listing tools.
In order to get adopted, a standard needs to be:

  • supported by an existing community
  • supported by a widely used tool, or
  • of benefit to the user him/herself, or
  • a mix of these. As far as I can tell, edgeio doesn’t have any of these, just a sprinkle of decentralization magic pixie dust.