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Archive for January, 2008

SezWho – managing messy comments

I got a demo of, a system that enhances the commenting systems at blogs and other sites. If you plug it in to your blog, your readers can rate comments. The system tracks the reputation of commenters and uses that to weight their ratings of other commenters. (To rate a comment, you don’t have to join SezWho but you do have to supply an email address; they are going to enable you to rate anonymously, although since you won’t have a reputation, your rating won’t count for much.) You can click to see where else a commenter has commented.

Reputations are based on ratings, with influence gauged within communities of interest. Communities of interest are determined by the tags attached to the posts you’re rating.

Jitendra Gupta, who walked me through the product, points to the discovery element: If you find someone who comments well, you can click on her name and discover her blog and also easily see all of her comments on other sites.

The basic service is free. For a subscription, you get access to the details of the data about your site.

Privacy: You can manage your profile to some degree. If you unsubscribe, your history of comments and profile are hidden.

SezWho seems like an easy way to add functionality to your commenting system. It could be of great use for sites with so many comments that readers need some guidance, but I’m personally wary of adding a reputation system to smaller sites (like this one) where a comment rating system provides needless shaping of attention. It’s not like there are so many comments on that you need a reputation system to figure out which ones to read. A reputation system provides a power to the crowd that, for smaller sites, we don’t need the crowd to have. For larger sites, it’s a different story.

Of course, that’s different from SezWho’s discovery function. Jitendra says that in the next release, there will be an option to “turn off the rating functionality and just have the context piece.” That provides a way to stitch together comments across sites, and, in general, stitching is a good thing because lack stitching is the number cause of wardrobe malfunctions.

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Pizzas sliced and diced

BoingBoing (via Kottke) points to the Slice blog’s taxonomy of regional pizza styles.

Yeah? Well in the third order of order, we can have our pizzas with whatever toppings we want, including over a thousand from the Dewey Decimal system alone!

Yo, Flickr: Tear down your tag limit!

I tried to add “wwii” to this photo in the Flickr collection of Library of Congress photos, but was told that the 75-tag limit had already been met.

I wonder if Flickr can be persuaded to up its limit? There’s info we’re not capturing!

Early tagging at Flickr + Library of Congress

Poking around the photos the Library of Congress has posted at Flickr shows some of the strengths and weaknesses of social tagging.

For example, take this 1940 photo of two kids gathering potatoes in Maine. There are about 80 tags, ranging from potato, maine, and boys to rural, bucolic, plaid, browen, and pommes de terre. The comments include people appreciating the aesthetics of the photo, recollecting their own lives on farms, and nattering on gaily about the cute hats the kids are wearing. For example:

I grew up in southern Minnesota in the 50s. I was probably 5-6 yrs. old. In the fall after the potato fields had been harvested, they allowed people to come in and collect the potatoes that the machines had missed. I can still remember the cold cloudy day, playing with my brothers in the furrows of the field, throwing clods of dirt at each other, instead of picking up potatoes, and getting yelled at by my Mom.


this ‘human interest’ is really ‘awesome’ during the world war ll eras, you can survive eating potatoes in the whole year, wthout rice. potato a native of pacific slopes of s. america, in 16th c., with roundish or oval starch containing tubers used for food. batata or sweet potato, is widely known in the philippine island, brought to table and used for food. biggest plantation of potato in the philippines is in northern luzon.

Three people have played with Flickr’s feature that lets you draw a box around a portion of a photo and add an annotation. All three are wastes o’ time (obviously in my opinion): “I love these barrels” is not worth the visual interruption. (You only see the boxes if you move your mouse over the photos.) So maybe Flickr will turn these off for the LC photos. Maybe not. We’ll see.

Nevertheless, this is some very cool stuff. Sure, some of the tags are oddball. So what? In the great wash of tags, they will lose significance. Meanwhile, that photo of two children harvesting potatoes, which had been locked away behind brick and paper walls, now is in the world, gathering meaning, memories, and connections.

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Managing Rules of Thumb

At this quite new site you can post your favorite rules of thumb and rate others’. For example:

“When you’re playing blackjack, assume that any unseen card is an 8.”

“The crossbar on your bicycle frame should come just to your crotch when you straddle the bike with your shoes off and your feet flat on the ground.”

To manage the multiplicity, the site has 151 premade categories, and users are allowed to vote rules into or out of the “main collection.”

moi moi moi

Doris Obermair interviewed me at the Picnic conference in spring 2007, and now has posted an edited version in which I talk about the effect of the miscellaneous on business. (With Spanish subtitles.) (By the way, I list videos here.) [Tags: ]

EiM at Google Print

Everything Is Miscellaneous is indexed, searchable, and previewable at Google Print. Yay!

Library of Congress partners with Flickr…and you

Very interesting posting from the venerable Library of Congress on its blog (which by itself is pretty cool). Here’s a snippet:

Out of some 14 million prints, photographs and other visual materials at the Library of Congress, more than 3,000 photos from two of our most popular collections are being made available on our new Flickr page, to include only images for which no copyright restrictions are known to exist.

The real magic comes when the power of the Flickr community takes over. We want people to tag, comment and make notes on the images, just like any other Flickr photo, which will benefit not only the community but also the collections themselves. For instance, many photos are missing key caption information such as where the photo was taken and who is pictured. If such information is collected via Flickr members, it can potentially enhance the quality of the bibliographic records for the images.

We’re also very excited that, as part of this pilot, Flickr has created a new publication model for publicly held photographic collections called “The Commons.” Flickr hopes—as do we—that the project will eventually capture the imagination and involvement of other public institutions, as well.

Except for my general nervousness about putting this stuff into a privately held, for-profit organization, I think this is quite cool. It has the advantage of putting the data where the people already are. As a footnote to the posting says, it takes a photo of a grain elevator as an example “because it helps illustrate that there are active Flickr user groups for even such diverse subjects as grain elevators.” As the Commons page says,

The key goals of this pilot project are to firstly give you a taste of the hidden treasures in the huge Library of Congress collection, and secondly to how your input of a tag or two can make the collection even richer.

You’re invited to help describe photographs in the Library of Congress’ collection on Flickr, by adding tags or leaving comments.

Gives me little goosebumps.

And, by the way, the photos are fantastic. [Tags:library_of_congress tags flickr folksonomy taxonomy photographs metadata ]

Copyrighting dance

I had a stimulating dinner conversation with someone who works for an institution that preserves the work of a well-known choreographer. (I’m being a bit cagey because I may not be representing this person’s views accurately.) The institution licenses productions very carefully and is stringent in insisting that every element of the productions be authentic, i.e., be as the work was originally produced. Predictably, I wondered why the institution didn’t loosen up. The choreographer would have more influence because her (or his — caginess!) works would be more frequently performed. After all, if the Beethoven Institute insisted that all performances must be on original instruments, using exactly the same pacing, intonations, sonic dynamics, etc., as Beethoven intended, our culture would be far poorer because we’d hear much less Beethoven and many fewer creative interpretations of his works. In fact, Beethoven would have copyrighted himself right out of culture.

But, replied my dinner companion, it’s different with the work of a great choreographer. The work consists of the details of music, costume, lighting and gesture. The gap between composition and performance is smaller than with a musical score; in fact, there is no gap.

I am not convinced. Nor am I not unconvinced. I think I think that the magic of metadata could let us have our cake and dance it too: the association could authenticate those performances that met its criteria, while freely (liberally, if not for free) permitting non-canonical performances. I don’t know the status of Gilbert and Sullivan’s copyrights, but the D’Olyly Carte group performs a similar metadata function: There are many productions of Gilbert and Sullivan works — a couple of weeks ago, we saw a delightful Mikado that updated lyrics with references to Dick Cheney’s little list — but if you want to see an authentic version, you go to D’Oyly Carte.

But, much as a I like metadata, I’m not confident that I understand the dimensions of the issues in copyrighting something that seems to fall between a score and a performance. [Tags: ]

From AKMA:

Alert! Cool Googlosity Feature! On a hunch, I just typed the carrier name and number of Margaret’s plane flight into the Google search box, and Google correctly parsed that data and offered as the first search result a link to the actual status page for that flight — but on the search results page, it also listed the flight’s origin, destination, scheduled departure and arrival times, and its present status — right there atop Google results page one, no messing with airlines’ arcane “enter this data into that box and click the following agreements, and by the way what’s your credit card number, your flight club number, and an email address at which we can harass you for the rest of the internet’s lifetime.”

Nice parsing, Google!

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