ARCHIVE: March, 2006

On Banish

Joel Spolsky has an interesting view on design:

“If you have been thinking that there is anything whatsoever in design that requires artistic skill, well, banish the thought. Immediately, swiftly, and promptly. Art can enhance design but the design itself is strictly an engineering problem.”

What I like about Joel’s piece is that he focuses on design as creating something for real people in real-world contexts with real-world constraints to use.

The One Crucial Idea of Web 2.0

Listening to James Surowiecki’s talk on the Wisdom of Crowds (mp3) at the SXSW Conference (I’m attending vicariously), I was struck at how pervasive this idea has become in such a short period of time. And the reason, of course, is the success of Google’s Pagerank algorithm, which harnesses the wisdom of crowds to model the way we value content.

If there is one idea that encapsulates what Web 2.0 is about, one idea that wasn’t a factor before but is a factor now, it’s the idea of leveraging the network to uncover the Wisdom of Crowds. Forget Ajax, APIs, and other technologies for a second. The big challenge is aggregating whatever tidbits of digitally-recorded behavior we can find, making some sense of it algorithmically, and then uncovering the wisdom of crowds through a clear and easy interface to it.

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On Man or Machine

Wired’s Ryan Singel in Man vs. Machine in Newsreader War

“in the future, will you find your man vs. machine story relying on a human-edited source or from an algorithm?”

This is a fascinating question, and Singel provides a solid account of where we’re at.

Monetize This!

Martin Lamonica’s piece Making Web 2.0 Pay is indicative of the growing concern among Web watchers, venture capitalists, and other interested techies who are worried how to monetize the amazing innovative period we’re in. However, I think his piece, though illuminating, is exactly the type of thing that developers should run away from immediately because it focuses on the problem of making money at the industry level, and not the level that matters: the level of your individual users.

In his piece Martin discusses issues like making money via mashups, building to flip, and commodity office applications and points to several reasons for the new boom:

  1. High-speed internet connections
  2. Ajax
  3. APIs
  4. Cheap startup costs

So Lamonica’s point is that it is simply easier to create now. These seem like very reasonable factors for the new companies and products we’re seeing. However, simply having the means doesn’t really lead to innovation…but solving someone’s problem in a better way does. So in addition to technology-related reasons, I would add a couple more factors to Lamonica’s list, including two that can directly lead to solving people’s problems…

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OPML Podcast

Alex Barnett, Adam Green, John Tropea and I recorded a podcast last week on OPML:

OPML podcast (58 min 13MB .mp3)

We talked about the new OPML 2.0 Draft, namespaces, and structured blogging. Adam talked at length about what the new spec means for the development community, while John spoke about the creative ways in which OPML is being used. I learned a lot about how OPML might be used as a container format for some of the interesting activity in and around other structured formats.

As always, Alex has written up a set of great notes.

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On Patterns

Clay Shirky via Nat Torkington:

“We are literally encoding the principles of freedom of speech and freedom of expression in our tools.”

I hope he’s right. It sometimes feels like we should be, but aren’t.

Clay’s pattern library is interesting, too, following closely on the heels of the Yahoo Design Pattern Library.

The interesting difference between the pattern libraries is that Yahoo’s is a library of interface elements, while Clay and Co’s is made up of social elements modeled in an interface. Both really great tools for discussion/inspection.

The Digital Funes the Memorious

Jorge Luis Borges, the great Argentine writer of the 20th century, wrote of the Uruguayan Funes the Memorious, whose perception and memory became infallible after falling from a horse in the mid 1880s:

We, in a glance, perceive three wine glasses on the table; Funes saw all the shoots, clusters, and grapes of the vine. He remembered the shapes of the clouds in the south at dawn on the 30th of April of 1882, and he could compare them in his recollection with the marbled grain in the design of a leather-bound book which he had seen only once, and with the lines in the spray which an oar raised in the Rio Negro on the eve of the battle of the Quebracho. These recollections were not simple; each visual image was linked to muscular sensations, thermal sensations, etc. He could reconstruct all his dreams, all his fancies. Two or three times he had reconstructed an entire day.

And thus Ireneo Funes lived like no other before or since, remembering all that had happened to him. And remembering that he remembered. This vicious cycle led not to the incalculable awakening of genius that one might expect. Instead, it led to the opposite: a painful sagacity of everything he wished to forget.

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On Intention

Doc Searls on his new idea: the Intention Economy:

“In The Intention Economy, the buyer notifies the market of the intent to buy, and sellers compete for the buyer’s purchase. Simple as that.”

The whole piece is excellent.

Familiarity in the Recommendosphere

Daring Fireball‘s John Gruber makes a great point in his recent post: Familiarity Breeds a User Base

In referencing Joshua Micah Marshall’s two reasons for not using a Mac (despite admitting that he’s heard great things about them), Gruber suggests that we underestimate the power of familiarity. He says:

“But the reasons behind his (Marshall’s) reluctance to switch are eminently reasonable, or, if not quite reasonable, understandable. He’s a political nerd, not a computer nerd, but he’s cobbled together enough knowledge about Windows and PC hardware that he’s comfortable knowing he can get his work done with them, and that when things go wrong, that he can probably fix them.”

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On Why Ugly Design Works

Robert Scoble on ugly design:

“We trust things more when they look like they were done for the love of it rather than the sheer commercial value of it.”

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