Monday, December 29, 2008

The Art of Radical Exclusion

Chris Guillebeau over at the productivity blog The Art of Non-Comformity wants you to say no. Saying no so frequently in fact that the quality of the things you say yes to rises exponentially.

From the article:
    "Here’s the idea: we make time for what’s important to us.

    If I fail to fulfill a commitment I’ve made in a timely manner, it’s because of a conscious choice I’ve made. If I don’t return the phone call I said I would, it’s because I chose to do something else.

    I may or may not have a good excuse for why I failed to honor the commitment, but one thing’s for sure: if I make a habit of it, I will soon lose the trust of the person who had relied on me.

    To prevent this from happening, I sometimes practice the fine art of radical exclusion. This is where I deliberately ignore or decline any number of inputs, messages, or requests for my attention in order to focus on what I decide is more important. "

Monopoly as a "Life Lesson"

Having read for years that an aging mind needs to stay active to remain agile, it was interesting to read that BBC Magazine suggests that board game players, young and old, benefit from the social, mental, and patience-building aspects of sitting down to play them. If you've still got relatives hanging around from the holidays, why not turn off the screens and take a spin past Park Place?

Article here and a thanks to Lifehacker

Friday, December 19, 2008

Amazon's Windowshop Beta

Under the category, "HOW DID I MISS THIS"! If you haven't seen the new Amazon Windowshop site, check it out right now! Looking a lot like cooliris technology, the interface allows you to browse Amazon virtually - plus it has audio (music and spoken word) AND it includes great CD and book cover images as well as movie clips. Using space bar to zoom in on items. Click the space bar again to zoom in more. You can click on stuff to buy it or download it. Very easy and intuitive. Also a lot of fun.

Now, if we could only integrate this into our online catalog!

You can't afford NOT to own a $900 espresso machine

OK, this has little to do with information science but most of us drink coffee. I stumbled upon a nifty little anonymous article on Soul Shelter that explains it clearly. Here is a teaser:
    “OK, consider this: One double latte costs three dollars at a coffee shop, so your outside coffee-drinking habit comes to six dollars a day for you and your wife. That’s $2,190 per year in after-tax dollars,” Dave extrapolated. “Assuming you’re in the 27 percent tax bracket, that means you have to earn $3,000 before taxes to pay for those lattes. That’s more than a month’s wages for a substitute teacher here in the state of Oregon.”

Check out the post for details. I am still not dropping a grand on a coffee machine (mine was a couple hundred) but the argument is sound.

eSlick Release is Imminent

Prepped for January release, the eSlick, manufactured by the same company that builds the Kindle for Amazon and sold by a company more famous for their free alternative PDF reader, Foxit Reader, boasts 600x800 reflective screen, 128MB of RAM and a claimed 8000 page battery life and a price of $229. The downside is that options for loading and viewing content of the eSlick look to be fairly limited: files, mostly PDFs, are loaded through the USB port.

Frankly, another one doomed to fail if you ask me. And it isn't necessarily because the device is crappy in any way but for me is more because the experience is crappy - as it is with ALL eBook readers. I have used a Kindle, a SONY Reader, a Palm and my iPhone to read and probably others I forget and it is just not fun. While it is nice to be able to carry a virtual library around in my pocket, I guess I am stuck in the ink on paper world. And, I am pretty sure I am not alone. As we boomers give way to the X/Y/Millennial generations I am sure expectations will change. Until then, the eReader market is gonna be tough.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Discipline of Content Strategy

Kristina Halvorson has posted a spot-on commentary on the state of web content strategy over at A List Apart.
    "We, the people who make websites, have been talking for fifteen years about user experience, information architecture, content management systems, coding, metadata, visual design, user research, and all the other disciplines that facilitate our users’ abilities to find and consume content.

    Weirdly, though, we haven’t been talking about the meat of the matter. We haven’t been talking about the content itself."

Good stuff, and personally as a web designer it hits a little too close to home.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Popular user-edited online encyclopedia Wikipedia has finally released a mobile-friendly version of the web site at

The site is basically a slimmed-down version of Wikipedia which supports 14 languages, and according to BoingBoing even has a mysterious Spoken Wikipedia setting that—though currently not enabled, may presumably one day read Wikipedia articles to you.

Friday, December 12, 2008

eBooks come to Nintendo DS

Nintendo, the Japanese video games company that brought us Donkey Kong and Mario the Plumber, is to announce a deal with the publisher HarperCollins today to make literary classics available to read on its DS portable games consoles.

The 100 Classic Book Collection ranges from Shakespeare and Dickens to Jane Austen and the Brontë sisters. It will cost about $30 and will be available initially only in Britain.

Readers will turn the pages by brushing a finger across the screen. If the collection is a success, Nintendo may expand the range of books available.

Nintendo’s first entry into book publishing provides less choice than Sony and Amazon, but at about $150 the DS costs about half that of the Sony Reader. Latest industry figures from Chart Track show that two million Nintendo DS machines have been sold in Britain.

James Honeywell, a Nintendo executive, said: “When you go on holiday, or if you’re a commuter, lugging around a big paper book can be a bit of an inconvenience. Now you’ve got this whole library that you’re taking with you.

“We hope to encourage people to try books that they wouldn’t go out and purchase themselves.”

From The Times Online

Is Apple in the book-banning business?

Apple has refused to allow an application called "Comic Reader" in the iTunes Store because they don't like the comic book it ships with -- effectively, they've gotten into the business of banning or approving literature. It seems Apple would approve the application, ComicReader, but not the comic it ships with, Murderdrome. Follow the logic: Murderdrome is NOT an application - it is literature (of a sort). Interesting comment here at MikeCane2008.

Caution: He uses some pretty graphic scenes from Reservoir Dogs - ready for download in iTunes - to make his point that Apple is not comparing Apples to Apples.

iRex Digital Reader 1000S

At $750 the 10 inch Wacom-based touchscreen tablet is certainly the Rolls Royce of eBook readers, but it falls short of the never available, always sold-out Kindle from Amazon. One interesting feature is that you can "print" to it - meaning you can send documents from your PC via the print command. Another means to get content is PressReader, a third-party Windows app that securely transmits "800 newspaper titles from 81 countries, including The Telegraph, Washington Post, USA Today, Die Welt, NRC Handelsblad, Le Figaro..."

Anyway, doomed to fail if you ask me. Reviewed at Gizmodo

Library Director Foils Thief

When a thief grabbed and ran with a charity donation box Ann Arbor library director, Josie Parker, ran after him. He tripped in front of her dropping the box. All of the money, about $146, was recovered but Ms. Parker broke her leg.

The incident took place Sunday about 9:35 p.m. at the Borders store in the Arborland shopping area in east Ann Arbor. Parker was volunteering with a gift-wrapping program that benefits the book club. While Parker was wrapping gifts, a man in his 20s approached and stole the donation box, and Parker instinctively went after him.

Full story here.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Death of a Library

The Donnell Library in midtown NYC is no more. If you have ever been to MOMA it was the big library across the street. The city fathers decided to turn it into a luxury hotel and while the library is going to be reopened at a fraction of its size in the basement of the hotel, because by law the space MUST be used for a library, it won't be open for years.

Link to the posting blog "Driven by Boredom" and more pics. Pic above courtesy of the site.

SMS texting from Gmail now available

If you have a Gmail account, just click on Settings, and go to the Labs tab. Scroll down until you see "Text Messaging (SMS) in Chat" and select Enable and Save Changes. Then just type a phone number into the search box in the chat window on the left, then select "Send SMS." You can also select the contact you want to SMS first and then add their phone number. Associate a name with the number and it will be saved in your "contacts" folder so next time all you have to do is enter their name and start chatting.

Full instructions here

Teacher busts kids for handing out "free" copies of Linux

A teacher in Austin, TX sent an angry email to a local Linux HeliOS Project, which builds and provides Linux computers to disadvantaged or 'exceptionally promising' students, accusing them of piracy for distributing the free operating system and chastising them for encouraging her students to do the same. She threatened to have the group's organizer investigated by the police, too. In a complete fog she goes on to say:

    "This is a world where Windows runs on virtually every computer and putting on a carnival show for an operating system is not helping these children at all. I am sure if you contacted Microsoft, they would be more than happy to supply you with copies of an older verison of Windows and that way, your computers would actually be of service to those receiving them..."

The note, response and comments are here on Blog of helios

Thanks to BoingBoing

The Social Media Etiquette Handbook

Social Media pro Tamar Weinberg has written up "The Ultimate Social Media Etiquette Handbook" over at her Techipedia blog. Learn what not to do to benefit from LinkedIn, Twitter, FriendFeed, and other communities from someone who really knows.

Facebook, for example:

  • Adding users as friends without proper introductions. If you’re looking to make friends, tell people who you are. Don’t assume they know you — especially if they, well, don’t.
  • Abuse application invites and consistently invite friends to participate in vampire games. Many call this spam.
  • Abusing group invites. If your friends are interested, they’ll likely join without your “encouragement.” And if they don’t accept, don’t send the the group request more than once by asking them to join via email, wall post, or Facebook message.
  • Turning your Facebook profile photo into a pitch so that you can gather leads through your Facebook connections. Thanks, but no thanks. Facebook is about real friendships and not about business — at least not to me.
  • Using a fake name as your Facebook name. I can’t tell you how many people have added me and their last name is “Com” or “Seo.” I’m not adding you unless you can be honest about who you are. Once upon a time, Facebook deleted all of the accounts that portrayed people as business entities or things. I wish Facebook would employ the same tactics yet again, because I’m not adding a fake identity as a friend.
  • Publicizing a private conversation on a wall post. In case it isn’t obvious, Facebook wall posts are completely public to all your friends (unless you tweak your privacy settings). Private matters should be handled privately: via email or even in Facebook private messages.
  • Tagging individuals in unflattering pictures that may end up costing your friends their jobs. Avoid the unnecessary commentary also, especially on your childhood pictures that portray your tagged friends as chubby and not so popular. Further, if your friends request to be untagged, don’t make a stink of it.
  • Wednesday, December 10, 2008

    Search and find magazines on Google Book Search

    Google announced today an initiative to help bring more magazine archives and current magazines online, partnering with publishers to begin digitizing millions of articles from titles as diverse as New York Magazine, Popular Mechanics, and Ebony.

    Link to article here.

    The Maryland Court of Appeals, the internet and the first amendment

    In Annapolis, the Court of Appeals took a trip to cyberspace Monday, as the judges heard arguments in a clash between the First Amendment right of people to speak anonymously and the ability of a businessman to pursue a claim of defamation based on anonymous comments posted on the Internet.

    Independent Newspapers Inc., which publishes community newspapers on the Eastern Shore, is fighting a discovery order to surrender the names of people whose posts on an online community forum allegedly defamed the operator of a Centreville Dunkin’ Donuts by characterizing him as a polluter.

    Interesting case and article here from The Daily Record

    More futile resistance to technology

    A few days ago we blogged about Amazon's releasing an iPhone application that matches photos snapped of retail items to Amazon's inventory giving shoppers the "almost" instant ability to compare prices. The reaction has been interesting and mixed. For example, a Target store in Michigan recently requested a shopper to stop scanning merchandise, saying it went against store policy. There has even been a call for banning iPhones from some stores or even installing a cell phone jammers (now that is a truly GREAT idea - jeez).

    While I can see arguments from both sides - sort of - there is no stopping this technology and retailers better figure a way to capitalize on it soon or face yet another consumer migration.

    Tuesday, December 09, 2008


    Have you ever wondered what the Moon writing system (an early competitor to Braille) looks like? Or which languages are written right-to-left or vertically?

    You can find all that and more at Omniglot - writing systems and languages of the world. It is a rich and fascinating resource on all things about languages. Enjoy!

    Monday, December 08, 2008

    Facebook and the Social Dynamics of Privacy

    James Grimmelmann of New York Law School has written a brilliant essay on privacy issues and social networks services entitled Facebook and the Social Dynamics of Privacy.

    Trying to do nothing less than re-shape our attitude towards privacy on social networks, Grimmelmann builds an erudite and extensively documented argument that our framing of privacy problems, and most of the solutions we have in mind, are bad fits for social networking services.

    Thanks to BoingBoing

    Thursday, December 04, 2008

    Amazon Mobile iPhone app lets users search via photo has released its new Amazon Mobile application for the iPhone and iPod touch. The new application allows users to search and browse products offered by both Amazon and various third-party partners, access Customer Reviews, and make purchases using 1-Click Shopping. In addition, the app offers an experimental feature called “Amazon Remembers.” Users may snap a picture of an item using the iPhone’s camera, and then upload it to Amazon, which then tries to find products similar to the ones in the photos. When the user receives the results, they may purchase the item immediately, or “remember” it for later reference in his/her Amazon account. Amazon Mobile is available now as a free download from the App Store.

    So far I have used it to scan and successfully find my hard drive, my watch, several items by bar code and even two pieces of art from off my office wall!

    Update: Apple on Friday, December 5 said 300 million iPhone apps have been downloaded from its App Store since it opened in July. 300 million since July!!!

    Wednesday, December 03, 2008

    Nokia N97 and iPhone

    Here's a look at Nokia's newest phone and ways it compares to the iPhone. Nokia's

    Robert Scoble says:
    1. It does 16:9 video. The iPhone doesn’t even do video. So, how can you go to a Daft Punk concert and record it to taunt your friends?
    2. It has a 5 megapixel camera. The iPhone only has 2, and the quality isn’t even close. The camera also has a dual LED flash, so you can take pictures in the dark where the iPhone can’t.
    3. I can type three Facebook status messages on the N97’s nice QWERTY keybord in the time that I can type two on the iPhone.
    4. It does copy and paste, so you can copy URLs to send to your friends. The iPhone can’t do that.
    5. It has replaceable batteries so you can charge up three batteries and Facebook for days, while the iPhone needs to be hooked back up to the wall for recharging after a few hours.
    6. The GPS device does turn-by-turn and has a built in compass, so you’ll get to your parties faster than with the iPhone, which doesn’t have a compass and doesn’t do turn-by-turn.

    Price? $550 before subsidy, so price should be about $350 in stores.

    Availabilty? Second quarter of 2009.

    (Another look in a 1:35 video here.)