March 29, 2000
All the taxonomists in the house say, "Whoa!" From
a discussion on a mailing list comes a couple of tasty links for
those obsessed with categories, hierarchy, and taxonomic representation
of information. "Was
Ranganathan a Yahoo!?" dwells on library classification
schemes and how they relate to Web-based taxonomies. A
Comparison of the Schools of Taxonomy is grounded in biological
classification, but has suggestions for all such information organizing.
March 26, 2000
I'll shut up about it eventually, honest. My
review of The Tipping Point, is now on Epinions.
Language is a virus.
I've transcribed the brilliant essay, "The
Metamorphoses of Epidemia", for your edification. It's
a thought-provoking discussion of the spread of information in society,
using an epidemiological model in discussing both transmission and
vaccination. Particularly relevant to folks interested in The
J-PUNK! On Friday
night, I danced my way to a higher ground at a Japanese Punk/Pop
show. It was definitely the best live music I'd seen in months.
The two amazing bands were Spoozys,
a Man-or-Astroman?-like space
surf freak fest (with a performance that was, frankly, far better
than the last M-o-A? show I saw), and Lolita
No. 18, a Ramones-descended all-girl band. Make sure to read
their Profile. Listen to them cover the Ramone's "Rockaway
Beach." (scroll down) Unfortunately, they've just ended
their US tour.
March 24, 2000
Collaborative Consumption. Jeff Veen discusses
how TiVo has changed his TV viewing patterns.
Hrm. Wow. It's been a
The Tipping Point.
This past week I finished The
Tipping Point, Malcolm
Gladwell's just published book on how certain cultural phenomena
can be explained with an epidemiological model. It's a great (and
fairly quick) read, filled with interesting stories and facts. My
only issue with it is that Gladwell acts like the carpenter, for
whom every problem is a nail--he sometimes applies the epidemiological
model in ways that don't make sense. It's a forgivable lapse, seeing
as how this book succeeds in an area where most don't even try--it
gets the reader to think. Time willing, I hope to write a fuller
review on Epinions.
Follow this. It
brings me to thinking about how the internet allows us to explicitly
track the discrete aspects of social phenomena in a way too difficult
to do in 'the real world.' For example, about 7 months ago a friend
of mine ICQ'd me, pointing me to a site that linked to me with a
comment. Going there, I realized it was an old friend's site, and
clicking around it, I found a story of her travels, wherein she
pointed to the site of a woman she met. I followed that link, and,
intrigued by that woman's site, emailed her. She wrote back, and
in short order we met and started dating. (The dating didn't last,
which is why I'm not being explicit as to who these people are).
The point is, 1) Had my friend not ICQ'd me, I would likely never
have dated that woman and, 2) it's weird that I can so easily track
the whole process.
Nyah nyah. The
Man Who Hates Weblogs sent this
link (a religious nut railing against paisley, of all things)
to an email list I'm on. And I'm pointing to it from my Weblog,
because 1) I think it's cool and 2) I think it will annoy him.
March 17, 2000
Oh, and I almost forgot.
When I was staying at Deepleap
world headquarters I found out something interesting. It turns out
that Bryan Boyer, in a
late night fit of work-induced madness, is the guy behind the Superfriends
Don't forget. I
want your coffeehouse sketches and patterns!
corridor snap well-captures
the feel of SXSW. And, uh, feel free to ignore those
Everything old is
new again. This is a theme that cropped up a couple of times
during presentations at SXSW. Before rampant mass media, the bulk
of communication happened by word of mouth--person to person.
The mass media, by providing a centralized source of Information,
often overwhelmed the effects of word of mouth. In the interface
culture panel I moderated, Steven Johnson discussed how the Web's
technologies were leading to a return to polycentrism, the
notion that there are myriad clusters with their own centers, typically
affinity groups that share some interest or other commonality.
A model I found useful
is that of epidemiology. I've discussed it
before, (scroll down a bit). To sum--memes spread through word
of mouth communication in a viral fashion. The mass media irradiate
this virus, overwhelming it with a present-everywhere-at-once (both
figuratively and literally--broadcast waves *are* ever-present radiation),
inoculating its effects. The internet's fluidity, however, allows
memes to spread faster than the mass media can irradiate.
Politics came up in the
interface culture discussion, and I wrote this note to myself: "Was
Jesse Ventura's election the result of our interface culture?"
What effect will collaborative filtering (a key element to polycentrism)
have on politics? What happens when I'm told, "People who
voted for Candidate W also voted for Candidates X, Y, and Z"?
What happens when people
are treated as objects? As we further mediate social interaction
by way of computer interfaces, it necessitates an alarming degree
of discreteness. In the physical world, trust is a complex and fluid
construct, the subtle utility of which is key to functioning in
society. At Epinions, we allow you to trust or distrust someone
at the click of the button. The metaphysical implications cause
my head to spin.
(Did you want
a thoughtful, edited, discussion on computers, interfaces, and
society? You came to the wrong place. My dial currently points
to 'spew.' The result of Peet's coffee and no food for breakfast.)
Anyway, getting back
to that old/new thing I started this ramble with, I also attended
a session on "ebooks", which triggered memories of Scott
McCloud's talk at Web99 on how comics were returning to their pre-Gutenberg
roots. Scott pointed out that in ancient times, comics-like stories
were told in long single threads, where the panels adjacent
to the panel you were reading directly related. With the printing
press and codices, comics acquired the left-to-right-then-hop-back-to-the-left
again reading mode that we now use. Though seemingly minor, the
cognitive shift is quite powerful--when you reach the right end
of the page, the panels adjacent to the one you're reading aren't
directly related. You lose your sense of flow. This is exacerbated
by the end-of-page phenomenon, where you can't see what is to come.
In his talk, Scott commented
on how the form of pages have constrained the content of comics,
and how the Web (and computers in general) will allow comics to
return to the long-thread format, as he demonstrates in My
Obsession with Chess. During the ebooks talk (see, it all comes
together!), audience participants commented on the potential for
ebooks to return us to the world of illuminated
manuscripts, the pre-Gutenberg form of the book, and their colorful
texts, annotated over time.
Plus ca change, plus
c'est la meme chose.
March 16, 2000
Cleanse yourself. With the clickamajig fun of Soulbath.
March 15, 2000
Spindly. Valdis told me that he's updated the Internet
Industry Alliances map. Clicky draggy fun!
SXSW Interactive is
over. Fun. Busy. 10am --> 2am three days in a row. Reconnected
with old friends, made some new
March 10, 2000
Oof. Well, we've gone live with a new
look. The feel hasn't really changed-- all the buttons remain
in the same place, with a couple exceptions. Oh, and we're also
premiering new commercials.
My favorite is the breast
March 9, 2000
Keepin' it real. From X
comes a pointer to Franz
Kafka Pictures Photo Album, with the most non sequitur MIDI
SXSW. I'll be
there. Arrive Saturday night. Staying with these
people. Blathering about "design"
and "interface" and "culture" as if I actually
know more than other people. Remember: the podium only gives the
appearance of being expert.
More of that sweet,
sweet Java goodness. My dad
offers up this drawing and explication of his favorite (now gone)
For me, the most important feature of any coffeehouse is its outside
tables. I hardly drank coffee at all until I was in my mid-twenties
and Pupi's Bakery opened up a small patio on the Sunset Plaza
section of the Sunset Strip to accommodate patrons waiting for
their designer cakes and pastries to be decorated. Pupi's was
ahead of its time and brewed its last drip roast a long time ago,
but I have been a heavy duty, rain or shine; winter, spring, summer
and fall outdoor coffee drinker ever since.
Whether alone with a book, hanging out with friends or exploring
a new neighborhood, city or country, only the sidewalk or patios
tables will do for me. Give me a hardwood bench or a wobbly folding
chair on the sidewalk over indoor upholstery any day.
The coffeehouse with the shortest line at the order counter is
the only interior design feature I ever notice, or care about.
Best of all are the coffeehouses in New York and France where
waiters will come out to the sidewalk to take your order.
Dad raises a point I
had not addressed previously. Atlas has no sidewalk seating, whereas
Farley's does. Simply, sidewalk seating extends the coffeehouse
directly into the community, an integration that blurs the lines
between the two.
March 8, 2000
Coffee achievers. Ask, and ye shall receive! Jessamyn
offers up this diagram and discussion of her favorite joe space:
my fave coffeehouse is this one. wide, long walk to the counter.
places to sit out of the way or places to sit in the traffic pattern,
both computer users and coffee drinkers have access to the counter
& entrance/exit. in the back there's a "back room" for more formal
events. the whole place is airy & kinda sparse with nifty little
conversation nooks. always good music and the coffee can't be
Seemann offers up a diagram of his coffee klatsch, The Biz Pod:
Here's my favorite place to get coffee: The Biz Pod
I usually sit right next to the coffee. But if I need a napkin
or a sense of space, I have to walk over near Pablo.
Often the coffee isn't fresh, or it's from the $2.99 can Bob
got from CostCo, but it's always free. And these past two weeks,
there have been lots of Girl Scout Cookies left on top of the
Lots of windows? We go a step further: We have only two walls.
This gives everyone walking by a chance to chat, fostering close
links with the outside world. Editors and reporters can better
tell if this is a place they want to visit, or perhaps they'll
see an acquaintance.
March 7, 2000
I'd love to get more coffeehouse
patterns from folks. (See March 5 if you don't know what I'm talking
about.) Mine were purely architectural. Obviously, there are many
other factors contributing to a successful coffeehouse (menu, staff,
What is information
architecture? A number of people attempt to answer
In fact, a whole
conference is devoted to defining it. I'm loathing that phrase,
and what I see as its too-wide application. Architects make spaces,
environments in which people engage. Increasingly, I (and others
who do what I do) make tools to help people accomplish tasks. There's
little architecture here--it's more industrial design.
March 5, 2000
Forgive the reticence.
Things are brewing.
in the footsteps of Wired's
coverage, ZD News Network reports
on the 5k award, with a
coupla quotes from me.
As a coffeehouse obsessor, I wondered why I so disliked my closest
Cafe), and so loved Farley's
and other establishments around the city. I've begin to pick apart
design patterns in the layout of coffeehouse space.
Here are a couple quick
sketches of those spaces.
As Wide as it is Deep. Upon approaching a coffeehouse,
the store's layout should be at least as wide as it is deep. This
affords the patron to quickly get a sense of the space's whole,
without having to peer far into the establishment. You can't be
comfortable until you have a grip on what's around you.
Order and Pay in the Back. Non-obviously, the ordering
process is key to maintaining a community feel to a coffeehouse.
If you order immediately upon entering, it exacerbates the situation
from the previous pattern, where you don't get a sense of the
totality of your environment. It's easy to simply enter, get your
drink, and leave.
By having to walk to the back, you take in the entire store,
seeing all the other patrons, perhaps running into people you
Windows windows windows. As a community space, it's important
for the coffeehouse to be a part of the area around it. Big windows
allow patrons to see out, feel connected to the world. And by
allowing passers-by to see in, they can better tell if this is
a place they want to visit, or perhaps they'll see an acquaintance.