Friday, March 25, 2005

Google AutoLink is Not Evil (Apologies to William Gibson)

Suppose someone created a pair of really cheap magic glasses that when you wore them and you looked out at the world they would add visual information to what you saw. When you looked at buildings they would add little annotations that told you what companies or public services were available in the building. When you looked at a book it would tell you a synopsis of the book, it's cost and some comparison price shopping information. When you went to a museum and you looked at works of art they could give you information about the artist, they would highlight information on the artists technique and pointed you to other artists in the same period, influences, and artists that they have influenced. Wouldn't these glasses be useful? This is what Google AutoLink does in your web browser. This argument has been raging for a while. IT Conversations has a great panel show on it (Denise Howell's Sound Policy: Google's AutoLink with Cory Doctorow, Robert Scobel, and Marty Schwimmer) and I highly recommend listening in to get a good synopsis of the controversy. it seems that folks are aligned in two camps. The first is the "Content Providers" who say that AutoLink changes the way they originally intended their pages to be rendered and may provide links to competing web pages, etc. The second is on the side of users who argue that any new tool to enhance the browsing experience is inherently good. I tend to fall in with the second camp as long as the user has the choice to turn this feature off. That would be my only restriction. I have to be able to take off the glasses.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Our news is absolutely flooded with stories on Terry Schiavo. Our President has apparently left his beloved vacation short to rush to Washington to try to save this persons life, although it's debatable whether there is any "person" left in Terry Schiavio's body. In case anyone is wondering I'm pretty convinced this story should end with the removal of the feeding tube. There doesn't seem to be much point here folks. She's gone. Her body just doesn't know it yet. Now what is really irritating me, and this may sound pretty callous, is that every newscaster, pundit, and armchair expert on vegetative states, is pronouncing this name incorrectly. Schiavo is not pronounced like Shy-voh. It's pronounced Ski-a-voh. Trust me. It's Italian. Schiavo in Italian means slave.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Plutarch Rocks!

"The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled." -- Plutarch

Podcast/Weblog Logjam

I did a bad thing. When I was in Hong Kong I stopped reading and listening to my subscribed blogs and podcasts. I subscribe to 110 weblogs and only 16 podcasts. While I've caught up with all the weblogs posts I'm grinding through the 1.5 days, that's 36 hours, of audio content that has backed up in my iTunes. I guess I could just toss all of this content but I'm worried I might miss something. I only subscribe to 16 podcasts and I've got a ton of backlog. I know a lot of people have been down on podcasting for exactly this issue and that the podcasting community has mainly dismissed it with a lot of hand-waving but I think the completely temporal nature of podcasting is a weakness. At the very minimum the notion of podcasts about podcasts should be more popular or more useful. That might explain a lot of the popularity of Mr. Curry. I think the real solution has to be rooted in having better meta-data attached to what are otherwise amorphous blobs of binary data. MP3 ID tags don't cut it. Just take a look at the Technorati Top 20 MP3s feed to see what I mean. At least Technorati is trying to add something more than Title, Artist, and Album. Proper, standardized, extensible, meta-data would allow us to create more intelligent recommendation, rating, and search for podcasts and might help alleviate the logjam. For now I guess I'm going to have to drain my playlist one minute at a time.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Question for the Day

Is it ever wrong to imitate Google?

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Another White Guy Lost in Translation...

While I was in Hong Kong I had some free time, between work and sight seeing, to catch up on some reading. (For those of you who visit my site as opposed to reading the feed, my "Recent Reading" sidebar is horrendously out of date.) In any case, before I left my wife gave me a copy of The Piano Tuner. It's a story set in the 1800's of a piano tuner who is drafted into her majesties army to tune a piano that was shipped to a very important military commander in the hills of eastern Burma. The commander is a enigmatic figure who has been given control of a post in the Shan Hills, an area of critical importance to the British empire. The story is riveting and it was drawn into it even more since like the character in the book I was a westerner in Asia with more than a slight case of sensory and cultural overload. Daniel Mason, the author, seemed to capture this meme perfectly. His narrative was thick with vivid imagery and the history of the Shan Hills and fraught with tension as we follow one man's journey into places unknown. I know some of you may compare it to something like Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness or its modern adaptation Coppola's Apocalypse Now but the Piano Tuner is a lot more nuanced, less focused on the military action, and more focused on the interior, psychological story when eastern and western cultures collide. As in any collision there's an exchange of matter and of essence to the extent that it's difficult to pull the elements of the interaction apart cleanly. Like the characters in the book they are forever changed. The Piano Tuner is a great book. Curl up with it and a steaming cup of jasmine tea.