Ramana Rao's ~~ Information Flow ~~ Blog


Friday, May 23, 2003

Though I've appreciated the Radio Userland product and support, I've moved to MoveableType.  I wanted a server-based blog solution for convenient access form anywhere.  And I do have and maintain my own domain and webserver.   Go to my current blog.

9:39:07 AM      comment []

Thursday, April 10, 2003

Yesterday morning, as I was jogging on a treadmill, I watched the scene of Iraqis trying to topple the statue of Saddam Hussein.  CNN's Paula Zahn comments that it looks like they are going to bring the statue down in no time.  Scanning across the bank of four stations before me, I could see all showing the same scene.

The "minders" are all gone, yet for half an hour all I saw was climbing on the statue, and sledge-hammering at the base and so on.  Nothing on what was happening elsewhere in Baghdad, other than two and half miles away where it was reported fighting continued.  What are all the other Iraqis doing (not too many at the statue scene)?  How many people need help in what form?  What needs to be done to restore immediate order?

The symbolism of yesterday's pictures are so obvious that it was utterly predictable that this morning's papers would all use the same pictures.  Today, I listened to an NPR interview with three newspaper editors, USA Today, an Arab English paper, and a French paper.  The first used the toppling of the Statue, the other two used a picture of the US flag draped over the statue.  The interviews made clear that the editors understand quite well the obviousness of these images, but operated as necessary in the vehicle of the mainstream press.

Understanding that doesn't stop me from popping off, possibly pigeon-holing myself, as I might in a conversation.  Posting it in a blog for anybody who cares to see is like saying it in a bar where I don't really care who might be in earshot?  But I aint Madonna, the whole bar isn't watching me.

Let me just pop off then:

* The statue didn't come down as fast as the initial call.  How many rounds of initial calls have been fired?

* Symbols of Saddam are being desecrated everywhere but Saddam himself is nowhere to be seen.  And what about the reality of thirty years of Saddam and three weeks of getting Saddam?

* Are acts of celebration starting to well over into gloating and I-told-you-so-ism?

* Give me some pictures of what concretely we are doing to get Iraqi back on a course ...  maybe I can accept yesterday's picture of a young Iraqi male kissing the cheek of a Marine liberator ... but, in thirty years, will we look into the eyes of
an Iraqi women accepting a Nobel prize?

Saturday, April 05, 2003

Personal computers and cell phones.  And the "inventors" had to press on for a long time.  And continue to press on, still not satisified that their visions have been achieved.   It's about software and functions, not hardware and platforms.

Alan Kay: "Twenty years ago at PARC, I thought we would be way beyond where we are now. I was dissatisfied with what we did there. The irony is that today it looks pretty good. The result of our work is techniques for doing software in an interesting and more powerful way. That was back in the seventies. People today aren't doing a lot of work to move programming to its next phase."

Martin Cooper: "I call them the error interface wars. I think a huge amount of money has been wasted in this area. And the thing I think about most is, who cares? What people really care about are the kinds of services they get and how it's going to affect them.... We should not be talking about CDMA and TDMA and i-mode, we should be talking about voice service, Internet access, downloading music, taking pictures, making people's lives safer, making people's lives more comfortable and more convenient. The telecommunications industry has gotten into a technological mode that has retarded its development."

Monday, March 17, 2003

In the March and April issues of Technology Review are a pair of articles that explore the range of themes covered in my Always On Piece on both capture devices everywhere and aggregation of information.   Hmm, to see them you will have to provide some private information.

Can Sensemaking Keep Us Safe? By M. Mitchell Waldrop
"New intelligence software finds meaning in the chaos of clues scattered throughout data-saturated networks. The challenge: to unravel terrorist plots before they happen."

Surveillance Nation By Dan Farmer and Charles C. Mann
"Webcams, tracking devices, and interlinked databases are leading to the elimination of unmonitored public space. Are we prepared for the consequences of the intelligence-gathering network we unintentionally building? "


8:58:24 AM      comment []

Monday, March 10, 2003

Information Flow has been for me a thought about the positive things that can happen from unsticking information thats stuck ... and Always On is about the ability to get at the information with those everywhere-said A's (anywhere, anytime, anything ...) 

But then I'd have to live in a cave, to not see that all kinds of dangers lurk in reality.  My blogged piece on the Always On Network is not much on answers, but it hurls the questions into a context that is go, go, go, innovation, technology, business.

Saturday, December 28, 2002

This year, I regularly visited the blogs of Mark Pilgrim and Peter Merzholz.  Both Peter and Mark turned thirty this year.

These are two great examples of how things work with Blogs. Neither is famous from publishing a book, neither is a journalist per se. Yet both have built strong personal brands through sustained writing on the web.  You can see them both furiously learning about all kinds of things and openly communicating about them.  Neither knows me, but I know them.  Is that spooky?  Or is it really no different than the asymmetry that exists between writers or celebrities in general and their followers?

Are there more 30 year olds with sizable audiences than there were before the Web and Blogs?  I'm not sure.

10:42:15 PM      comment []

Tuesday, December 24, 2002

As I put together my last issue of Information Flow for the year, I reflect on various things 2002.  One big thing is BLOGs.   I started but didn't ignite on blogging myself; but, I do believe that 2002 is the year that blogs have tipped.  Earlier, I thought it might have been the 92 or 93 of blogs (compared to diffusion of the web), but in fact it may really have been the 94.

Okay so I feel the need to organize lots of blog goodies I wandered upon in the last six months.  And what else would I do it in than a Star Tree.  In the spirit of ship and fix ... <trumpet horns> ...  a Star Tree of the Blog World  is born.  Just try clicking, dragging, and double-clicking, you will quickly get the hang.

Wednesday, November 06, 2002

Okay, blog pie on my face!  Got blog, didn't add entries for a long time.  But have to have an entry now to push out against my new site design.

By contrast, I have succeeded in publishing a regular email newsletter, because the contract with audience is explicit.  They subscribed expecting monthly delivery.  The Blog at least if nobody is paying attention to you is like messages to space. 

And meanwhile I haven't moved from capturing notes with Emacs and text files. My notes are rough, often intermix facets of life that I wouldn't necessarily show to the world.

8:24:28 PM      comment []

Friday, August 23, 2002

In the last issue of Information Flow, I explain faceted classification or access systems.  Essentially they are about allowing users to access content (whether by search or by navigation) from whatever angle they are thinking about it.

Our VP of marketing at Inxight David Spenhoff, who worked at an ecommerce catalog company in the past, commented that this seems to be like "parametric search," which is the dominant catalog search model especially in complex product environments such as electronic components.  Yes, indeed, parametric search is about searching for objects by any of their attributes.  Indeed it's just like a structured query on a relational table, anyway, another angle on the "relational" analogy of Marcia Bates.

The challenge arises in defining or conceptualizing facets for content collections that effectively anticipate how users might want to come at the content.  It's a lot easier for Wines, Cheese, electronic components, and so on, especially when the stuff is already stored in databases and regularly thought about in standard ways.

Thursday, August 01, 2002

I agree with Weinberger's on the challenges for the Semantic Web.  His statements about it being over his head, notwithstanding, it strikes me that he's nailed much of what I said less effectively in the Semantic Web panel at Stanford Venture Lab.  Yes it does seem like the grand claims of Knowledge Representation and CYC all over.  And yes, you must focus on situations where you can add value with this kind of technology, for example, as he says

"normalization of metadata works real well in confined applications where the payoff is high, control is centralized and discipline can be enforced. In other words: not the Web."

His other example of adding metatags to every page using say Dublin Core also demonstrates one other key requirement of SemWeb application.  The cost of doing the encoding of knowledge (or simply tagging of content) has to be paid by the beneficiary.  I think he has a great theory that Google indexing the tags would create the necessary benefit to justify the pain of tagging.  This is what I felt missing in an earlier blog entry on "Dublin Core metadata: A character in search of an author?"

It's these baby steps toward the big vision, or perhaps really just more carefully selected applications, that are likely to be the payoff of the protocol work around the Semantic Web or metadata.  Just as it was with AI where there have been some tremendously useful applications of the technology even as the grand scientific challenge remains illusive.

Wednesday, July 24, 2002

"The most cautious of the panelists, Rao seemed determined to deflate the hype bubble at every opportunity, declaring flat-out that he thought any VC would be foolish to invest in any Semantic Web business plans at this stage. Like all the panelists, he does believe it will ultimately be important, but thinks the current level of hype is grossly out of proportion to the reality (or unreality) of the technology infrastructure."

Gosh, I didn't realized how determined I was, but I guess this guy's right on target.  I do hate hype, especially on cool technologies.  To me cool is about useful.  It doesn't matter if it might take a while for everybody to see how useful.  I think there are short term and long term wins for things Semantic-Web-ish, especially some of the concrete protocol work, but many of underlying memes have been around for a while, ... that was true of the Web itself, so perhaps I'll be shamed shortly ... maybe I need to write a more useful position, then I might make Alan Wright's favorite list anyway.

Tuesday, July 09, 2002

Article is a good entry into Dublin Core as much for it's observation about now.  There will certainly be ongoing debate about whether other (older) metadata standards are just fine, thank you, but nevertheless I think it's something well worth understanding.  I must interject on one point at least:

"What we need is for Web pages to categorize themselves, which categorizations could then be computer-read and -collected. It's already possible, but it ain't happening. Dublin Core metadata can be added to any Web page and allow you to categorize their subject-matter on a range of criteria, including Library of Congress and other bibliographic classifications (much more applicable to the Web than is generally known), author name, free-form subject text, and more."

yes, but you can't push the costs (general sense) onto each person to do, they have to see benefit or they won't do it at all, hence only a few extremists (right now) doing this for random pages.  If the beneficiary is the consumer of the page, and there is no benefit to the producer to tag (other than audience, which we can't say we'll "monetize" later), then tags have to be added by the consumers.  Hence one of the drivers for automated categorization solutions.

Saturday, June 29, 2002

From a period before the current Blog breakout, http://www.nathan.com/thoughts/personalsites/index.html

"Personal websites are one of the few new forms of personal expression to arise out of the last few decades--certainly out of the computer and media industries. No longer a simple curiosity, the growth in personal websites points to some inherent need people have for self-expression."

The distinction between blogs and personal websites? ... not much, just that with personal CMS to take care of mechanical timestamping and archiving of entries many, many more people can treat a website as a journal.

Tuesday, June 04, 2002

"I may be in a position to order a few books for a small group of colleagues who will be participating in a mini-conference this summer. The point of the exercise will be helping academic theologians move beyond the "PowerPoint" level in their appreciation of the possibilities of technology and the Web. If I had roughly US $100 each to spend on books, what would you recommend that I buy for them?"

Many of the usual books recommended in this discussion, ... but an interesting idea about making an online hyper-linked bible.  

What about reading books, ... viewing them as portals to a point in idea space.  All the reviews and conversations and links related to those book together form a manifold within the full noosphere or memosphere or whatever you want to call everything.  When you link, you define yourself by adding the manifold as another dimension of yourself.

On the other hand, maybe you define nothing, and ... you merely link. (I hear somebody yelling loosen up.) 

Sunday, June 02, 2002

Since 5/31 Friday evening--depriving myself of sleep to avoid depriving the family of me during the day (too much anyway) --I have been experimenting with Radio Userland 8.0.8 and especially it's aggregator as a springboard for exploring the Blog world.

My original experience with Radio Userland 7 about a year ago didn't hook me.  Partly, time.  2001 was a tough year, and it's hard to play with things like Radio Userland when you are laying people off, and dealing with shall we say a "rotation of management" around you.  But also significantly because I just couldn't understand it .. I couldnt even understand the morass of Userland sites.   Another problem ... my fingers are wired for emacs and I really didn't think I'd be "comfortable" inside the little submission box of a blog.  I did spin up a blogger account or two, and did half-heartedly dump a few "web travel" links into it last year, but mostly I was back to my *.txt files on my disk.

Lot's happened in the last year for sure.  Now I'm convinced.  About Radio Userland ... and blogs in general.    Reading blogs (& news) through the aggregator is amazing ... time to unsubscribe to various things coming in via email.   I started to wonder how I could more easily subscribe to RSS feeds.  Where were the "yellow pages" and could I add items to my "addressbook"?  Didn't really seem so, but what timing ...  I watched over this weekend as a simple idea on applying "Web mechanism" spread before my eyes across the whole Blog infrastructure community.  On the other hand, it makes me think  it's not such a big or mature blog world after all because 1) well this is a pretty primitive idea not to have been had or taken off before and 2) it certainly did reach the corners of the world quickly, so the real world is bigger by a lot. It feels a little like '92 or '93 w/ the Web.  Something's happening, and ... certainly the blogerati have been shreaking about it for the last year.

Anyway here I am, because this certainly has something to do with Information Flow.

© Copyright 2003 Ramana Rao.