Digital Culture as social network

Over at Read/Write web, there’s an article today about how is moving towards becoming a social network:

But Joshua has bigger plans for – it will essentially turn into a social network, with more focus on people instead of data. I learned this when I asked Joshua what kind of new functionality we can expect to see from delicious over the coming 6-12 months? Joshua replied:

“One of the amazing things about our users is how smart and far-reaching their interests are. While delicious previously has been very much about just the data, in the future I hope to allow our users themselves to come forward within the system. Additionally, I want to help people connect with others within the system, either to people they already know or discovering new people and communities based on interest.”
(emphasis mine)

This points to a social networking future for, perhaps more so than a content bookmarking one (which it currently is). delicious already has a ‘Your network’ feature, but that basically just connects users’ bookmarks. I think what Joshua is talking about is expanding this into a more full-featured social networking system – with commenting, groups, etc. Perhaps similar to Imeem, which combines content browsing with social networking.

I would argue that is already a social network. It’s possible to identify users with similar interests (a la Facebook), you can “subscribe” to a users information, you can send links to users in your network, your network acts as a sort of friends list…it’s all there already. If what Read/Write means is that the individual user will become the focus rather than the user’s content…I hope desperately that’s not the case. is nearly perfect at what it does. I would hate to see any of the functionality buried or de-prioritized for the sake of becoming more social.

Now what I would like to see is a collaborative folksonomic site that merges and flickr (both owned by yahoo now). Not inside the current site of either of them, but some new site where you could see how the tags interacted…search for “cats” and get flickr pictures of cats along with links on cats. Hell, if returned relevancy ranked links, you’d have a sort of human-powered Google…both sites and pictures that have all been vetted by an actual human to relate to tag X. I’d love to see how that would look…Yahoo? Pretty please?

Digital Culture

Hackers Unite!

Holy Crap! Thanks to Patrick for pointing out to me that Wired is featuring a story about the Hacker’s On Planet Earth (HOPE) Conference, which was evidently co-organized by Greg Newby.

Conference co-organizer Greg Newby, a computer science professor at the University of Alaska, said the conference reflected “the hacker spirit, which is about exploration and questioning.” He added, “This involves political awakening, as well as open sharing of information.”

So why do I care? Little did I fully appreciate at the time, but Dr. Newby was my professor for my Information Security class at UNC. Turns out I was learning from one of the best…it was an amazing class. One of the things that stuck with me was that at the beginning of the semester, he told us that he had set up a server in his office for us to crack…and that we should just go to it. Every day we learned a bit more about intrusion, and then used those exploits on our target. It was a phenomenal way to learn about security and network issues in a very practical manner.

EDIT: Wow. I didn’t actually realize that Dr. Newby had been denied tenure at UNC. Thanks, Justin, for bringing this to my attention…I knew he left for Alaska, but I had no idea it was under such trying circumstances. So terrible for him, and for SILS…he was absolutely one of the best professors I had while at SILS.
Digital Culture

Get your Jimi

Jimi Wallet

While it looks like the Jimi has been around awhile (I’ve found articles in Treehugger and Gizmodo going back to 2004), it only popped onto my radar over the last few weeks. Several years ago, I decided that carrying a wallet was really stupid. I mean, a huge hunk of cowhide in my back pocket only made sitting uncomfortable, and it seemed to accumulate crap faster than I could clean it out.

My initial solution, which worked for a long time, was to use a leather business card holder as a front-pocket wallet. It held maybe 6-10 credit-card sized objects, and had just enough room for folded bills. The problem was, it too accumulated stuff (receipts, extra business card here and there) and over time it has stretched just enough so that unless it’s full, things now fall out of it when it’s opened.

Then I saw the Jimi. I bought a Jimi. And after spending a week with it, I’m completely sold. Jimi only holds (and when I say only, I mean only) 5 cards and 3 folded bills. That’s it. If you believe you need more than that on a daily basis, Jimi isn’t for you. But it perfectly deals with my: Driver’s License, Medical Card, faculty ID, RFID key, and debit card. That’s all I think I need for day to day processes. For all the stuff that I need once every 6 months (Costco card, Sam’s Club card, whatever) that will go in my old wallet, and into the glove compartment of my car.

If anyone out there is looking for a simpler way to handle wallet duties, the Jimi might just work.

Digital Culture

Weird question for the blogosphere

Does anyone out there have any experience getting a small run of something manufactured? I’m talking small, plastic or foam, less than 1000 pieces. Could be easily formed, one piece, nothing complex…just an injection model of some sort.

I have another $1000000 idea, and am interested in seeing the cost of experimenting with it. Thoughts?

Digital Culture

Hacking a fireplace

This is by far the coolest fireplace ever.

Tiki Fireplace

Complete photoset here, with step by step shots of how it was done. All I know is, it’s freaking cool. Makes me want to mod our fireplace into something cool, which is always the sign of a good hack. It makes others want to do it.

Master's Paper

Stephen Wolfram, and more ranting about Access v. Openness

So today, Stephen Wolfram put his book A New Kind of Science online, accessible to whomever.


It is in an atrocious format (terrible “one page image at a time” thing). It’s horribly difficult to read in this format, and can’t be taken with you on a device (downloaded to a laptop, thrown on a PDA) with any ease. In addition, the Online Terms of Use would choke a horse. Here are some outtakes:

“The terms, conditions and notices below (“Terms of Use”) govern your use of this Site. Your use of this Site constitutes your agreement to these Terms of Use. If you do not agree with these Terms of Use, please do not use this site. Wolfram reserves the right to change, modify, add, or remove portions of these Terms of Use at any time. It is recommended that you refer to these Terms of Use on a regular basis.”

Gee, thanks Stephen…you’re allowed to change the rules in the middle of the game, if you wish.

“Visitors are encouraged to peruse this Site, but must recognize that its content is protected by international copyright, trademark and other intellectual property laws and may not be mirrored, redistributed, printed, publicly performed or displayed, reproduced in bulk, or archived without advance written permission.”

Then later in the page, you find this:

“Personal use is not restricted. Restrictions apply only to material you wish to present publicly or use commercially.”

Umm….one of these things is not like the other…can I mirror the site for personal use? Can I print it for myself?

I suppose in one sense, it’s nice that this is available electronically at all. But how much nicer is Cory Doctorow’s newest book “Eastern Standard Tribe.” It’s available in no fewer than 15 different formats, downloadable, changeable, and licensed under the Creative Commons License.

This, to me, is the difference between “Open Access” and what I’m calling “Open Information.” One gives you what they want, the others gives you the ability to make what you want. There’s a huge difference in the two.

For a particularly bizarre example, check out Cut’n’Paste”n”Rock’n’Roll a site which takes the text of Cory’s two books (Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom and Eastern Standard Tribe), Alice in Wonderland, and the BBC new feed, and allows you to “mix” them as you might mix music. Very, very cool, and not possible with overtly restrictive IP controls.