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Wednesday, March 03, 2004
The future of attention management

danah boyd: What I want in an RSS tool. A concentrate of insight. Pure goodness.
If anyone wants to know why the early players get all of the attention, it's because RSS feeds focus on people, not ideas, and the early players are too overloaded with following the other early players to consider new people.

What do you think? []  links to this post    9:02:19 PM  
Why write papers?

Andrew Chen writes about his ambivalence, as a researcher who blogs, towards writing academic papers. It struck a chord with me - I've had very similar thoughts.

[...] what I blog about now, can be read about now and processed now - but what goes to a paper or whatnot for some conference just sits and waits until then - and gets the (smaller?) audience of the attendees, etc…. I arguably get a little bit more prestige out of it, and it becomes something I can put on a “list of published works” (assuming the darn thing gets accepted anyway), but I have a feeling that the prestige and “list of published works” comes at a price of it coming out slower and to what might not necessarily be the most apt audience.

In my experience, if what you're into is interdisciplinary, emerging-stuff research, as far as impact is concerned you're better off blogging your ideas. When you do, it tends to generate trails of links that automagically attract interested people from many different directions (given a critical mass of bloggers who care about your general area of interest), which enables your ideas to grow and sparks creative collaboration.

On the paper/conference scene, from the outset you face the problem of choosing a specialized forum, which likely does not match your ideal audience very well. And even if your submission is accepted there's a fair chance that it won't generate much interest or useful feedback (apart from a couple reviews by people who probably don't care much). In such a case all you'll get from the extra effort is an extra line on your academic CV.

I feel that unless you're pursuing research that fits within a somewhat mature line of inquiry, a research blog is to traditional means of disseminating research as eBay is to yard sales: given equal effort, your odds of getting what you need are much better.

What do you think? []  links to this post    6:06:08 PM  
Blog design showcase

Blog design showcase at cre8d-design. Could be handy if you need inspiration. (via Nick)

What do you think? []  links to this post    12:55:34 PM  
Enlarging the circle

Joi Ito writes:
"something that I'm trying understand is the process that people go through to reach a higher level of caring for human beings outside of their immediate circle. I think that this process holds the key for some of the important contributions that technologies can make."
Yes! This is the circle of empathy issue. Note that the circle needs to extend not just in space (caring about remote others)  but also in time (caring about unborn others) -see e.g. Brian Eno: The Big Here and Long Now.

What do you think? []  links to this post    11:54:46 AM  
The freedom to be yourself in public

Cory Doctorow posts a couple observations that resonate with me in a comment to danah's post on homophily and blogging:

1. The Internet is full of weird people. Like science fiction, technology and RPGs, the Internet since its earliest days has attracted people who didn't fit in with the local norm, who sought community online -- the alt. heirarchy is like a roadmap of locally socially unacceptable hobbies, practices and beliefs that migrated to the net. This has its pluses and its minuses, but the net always framed itself as a place where you could come and woo your muse of the odd with other oddfellows, so no surprise, really, that it's full of people facing inwards, talking about their own heterodoxy.

2. The Internet makes you weird. The ability to browse all the possible kinks, find the ones that tickles your pink, and dive in, free from socially normative disapprobation, is a fast ticket to becoming One Of Us. No one is *really* a "mundane," but many people button themselves up and pass -- even to themselves. The net's seductive lure is to join the kink SIG that corresponds to your inner Imp of the Perverse and shut out everyone who would have you know that you're a perv for being *really* into, you know, rubber or chess or Klingons.

I recall conversing with Tom Munnecke on how one can view blogging as a personal "coming out" experience, going public with what was once private. And I think this process that many people are undergoing has the effect of speeding up the change and diversification of overt personal practices and social norms. While this might be scary to some, in my view it is a good thing, as it allows us to
  • be aware of how many others are different from, and similar to us;
  • be less afraid of behaving in ways that are closer to who we really are; and
  • make meaningful connections with strangers that we would otherwise have never found out about.
Coming to terms with who we are is crucial to well-being, and though it might not be necessary, I have no doubt that speaking out can be helpful - for more on that see "Using a blog for self-help?".

[Update: Just found this post by Andrew Chen which seems related. In it he states that “normal” people will probably never blog. Which makes me wonder if normality is the same as conformity...]

What do you think? []  links to this post    10:42:11 AM  

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