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Archive for June, 2010

SpokenWord lookng for curators aggregates podcasts, almost all of which are free, and makes it easy for users to export them to, say, iTunes. It’s a non-profit site and is all about the openness. (Disclosure: I’m on its board.) Now SpokenWord is looking for volunteers to curate podcast feeds and episodes in topics that interest them. Their curated collections will be the main feature at the SpokenWord site, because nothing knows what’s interesting to humans better than other humans do. Details here.

Twitter metadata and where standards come from

Matthew Ingram at Gigagom blogs about an upcoming Twitter feature called Twitter Annotations. Well, it’s not actually a feature. It’s the ability to attach metadata to a tweet. This is potentially great news, since it will give us a way to add context to tweets and to enable machine-processing of tweets, not to mention that URLs could be sent as metadata rather than as subtractions from the 140-character limit. This is yet another example of information scaling to the point where we have to introduce more information to manage it. How about one of those bogus “laws” people seem to like (well, I know I do): Information sufficiently scaled creates a need for more information.

Twitter is specifying the way in which Annotations will be encoded, but not what the metadata types will be. You can declare a “type” with its own set of “attributes.” What types? Whatever you (or, more exactly, developers and hackers) find useful. Matthew cites a number of folks who are basically positive but who express a variety of worries, including Google open advocate Chris Messina who warns that there could be a mare’s nest of standards, that is, values for types and attributes. Dave Winer takes Google to task for slagging off on Twitter for this. I agree with his sentiment that Goliath Google ought to be careful about their casual criticisms. Nevertheless, I think Chris is right: Specifying the syntax but not the actual types and attributes will inevitably give rise to confusion: What one person tags as “topic,” someone else will tag as “subject,” and some people might have the nerve to actually use words for types in, say, Spanish or Arabic. The nerve! [THE NEXT DAY: Here’s Chris’ original post on the topic, which is more balanced than the bit Matthew excerpts, and which basically agrees with the next paragraph:]

But, so what? I’d put my money on Ev Williams and Biz Stone any time (important note: If I had money). You couldn’t have seriously proposed an idea as ridiculous as Twitter in the first place if you didn’t deeply understand the Web. So, yes, Chris is right that there’ll be some confusion, but he’s wrong in his fear. After the confusion there will be a natural folksonomic (and capitalist) pull toward whatever terms we need the most. Twitter can always step in and suggest particular terms, or surface the relative popularity of the various types, so that if you want to make money by selling via tweets, you’ll learn to use the type “price” instead of “cost_to_user,” or whatever. Or you’ll figure out that most of the Twitter clients are looking for a type called “rating” rather than “stars” or “popularity.” There’ll be some mess. There’ll be some angry angry hash tags. But better open confusion than expecting anyone — even the Twitter Lads — to do a better job of guessing what its users need and what clever developers will invent than those users and developers themselves.

Every color is miscellaneous

I’m embarrassed to say that I just read Randall Munroe’s fabulous color survey from early May. Readers were asked to supply names for colors. It’s a rich experiment: Naming and discrimination, gender differences, hacking, tagging, spamming, hilariousness. The results also seem to support prototype theory’s idea that we agree on what the “real” (prototypical) colors are, at least within a culture: This is blue, but that one is a variant that needs a modifier in front of it (“light blue”) or for which we use a variant name (“teal”).

Randall writes the webcomic XKCD, of course, which is the Doonesbury of his generation, except while you can imagine Garry Trudeau writing a satiric HBO series, you can’t imagine him running and analyzing a color survey.

(I heard about Randall’s color survey via the Mainstream: Christopher Shea at the Boston Globe blog. Christopher also points to Stephen von Worley’s color map. BTW, that post by Christopher also has a great note about iPad censoring a graphic version of the oft-banned James Joyce’s Ulysses. Anyway, I’ve really got to do a better job keeping up with XKCD.)

Democratized curation

JP Rangaswami has an excellent post about the democratizing of curation.

He begins by quoting Eric Schmidt (found at 19:48 in this video):

“…. the statistic that we have been using is between the dawn of civilisation and 2003, five exabytes of information were created. In the last two days, five exabytes of information have been created, and that rate is accelerating. And virtually all of that is what we call user-generated what-have-you. So this is a very, very big new phenomenon.”

He concludes — and I certainly agree — that we need digital curation. He says that digital curation consists of “Authenticity, Veracity, Access, Relevance, Consume-ability, and Produce-ability.” “Consume-ability” means, roughly, that you can play it on any device you want, and “produce-ability” means something like how easy it is to hack it (in the good O’Reilly sense).

JP seems to be thinking primarily of knowledge objects, since authenticity and veracity are high on his list of needs, and for that I think it’s a good list. But suppose we were to think about this not in terms of curation — which implies (against JP’s meaning, I think) a binary acceptance-rejection that builds a persistent collection — and instead view it as digital recommendations? In that case, for non-knowledge-objects, other terms will come to the fore, including amusement value, re-playability, and wiseacre-itude. In fact, people recommend things for every reason we humans may like something, not to mention the way we’s socially defined in part by what we recommend. (You are what you recommend.)

Anyway, JP is always a thought-provoking writer…