Archive for October, 2007

« Previous Entries Next Entries »

Raising Sand: Plant, Krauss, Burnett, Ribot

I’ve been listening to Raising Sand since I downloaded it. It was an impulse buy at 6 in the morning— looking for something to listen to during a day of writing html form code with jquery. Love T-Bone Burnett’s production and Marc Ribot’s guitar. You may remember Ribot’s stellar work on Tom Waits’s Swordfishtrombones. Robert Plant and Allison Krauss‘s voices blend beautifully. Particularly impressed with Plant’s ability to sing harmony, and the rhythm work of bass player Dennis Crouch and drummer Jay Bellerose.

Not A Keyboard, But an Amazing Simulation

Flat Apple Keyboard

Taking the torch from Xerox Parc, Apple has lead the field in taking the general computer user beyond the traditional input devices. Graphic User Interface, the mouse, the touchpad, and most recently multi-touch. The direction is a bias against the mechanical for human/computer interaction. Apple decided against a mechanical keyboard for the iPhone, and it looks like they’re continuing in that direction with this patent filing. Unwired View makes the filing a little more understandable.

The keyboard becomes a software environment, and that opens a world of possibilities. We’re very early in this game, and currently the mechanical keyboard is much more usable than the various virtual keyboards out there. We prefer the tactile feedback, but that’s the challenge Apple appears to be tackling. How do you put a beautiful simulation of the act of typing on the glass?

The current form of human / computer interaction via KVM (keyboard/video/mouse) has been an unnatural configuration from the start. It’s always been about the needs of the machine and the network. It’s only through the expansion of interaction modes that the current configuration of computing can be de-centered and distributed into a ubiquitous set of new devices. The iPhone is a tentative first step on that journey.

WorldCat: The Way to Find that Book you were looking for

Library Catalog

Listening to a Jon Udell podcast is a real pleasure. I usually listen while walking around downtown San Francisco on my lunch hour. Jon takes the most obscure corners of the technology world and makes them engaging. He’s very good at connecting things. His conversation with Stuart Weibel is a great example. He starts with metadata issues around catagorizing books and ends up with WorldCat, the best possible way to find a book in a library— and possibly my new favorite search engine.

Yes, I know. It’s easy to find any book on Amazon, but sometimes you don’t need to buy a book, you just need to read it. And with WorldCat you can find any book held in any participating library. And because we’re talking about libraries, most are participating. Unlike the world of commerce where incompatible proprietary standards are considered a competitive advantage, libraries just want to help people find books. It’s a beautiful thing.

As a side note, my favorite library doesn’t participate in WorldCat. It’s a membership library in Downtown San Francisco called The Mechanics’ Institute Library. It was established in 1854 and has one of the most beautiful chess rooms you’ll ever set eyes on.

Mahalo and Searching for Healthcare

Red Cross

Microsoft has launched “Healthvault,” a private archive for personal medical data. Google, sans Bosworth, is trying to figure out how to connect people searching for health information with quality results. Both of these are very serious approaches to a serious issue.

I’m wondering if it’s Mahalo that has the right approach. Calacanis is focusing on the top 20,000 searches— which fills the front page of Mahalo with celebrity gossip, gadgets, music, television, movies, etc. Stuff that’s obviously popular. It’s a little like the People Magazine of search. “People” started as a single page in Time Magazine, it was like dessert. Time realized some people like dessert all the time.

Mahalo does some nice “How to” pages, for instance How to speak French, or How to play the Guitar. Mahalo is mostly for searching and finding the fun part of the internet, elective studies. But what about serious things like health? Well there’s more in the Mahalo health category than I would have thought. The Cancer category has decent set of pages. Currently you can search and find information a large number of healthcare topics, from autism to West Nile Virus. The topic of healthcare is particularly suited to Calacanis’s idea of search results shaped by a smart person. When an individual searches for health information, they’re not looking for a list of links. They’re looking for answers.

Note to Jason: let’s see some more “How to” pages in your healthcare category. The concept and format of your SERPs gives you an order of magnitude advantage over Google’s method of delivering information. The key here is the emotional charge of the search. Of course there’s a charge when people search for gossip about their favorite celebrity, but there’s also a very serious emotional charge when you search for information when you, or someone you love, has an illness and you need guidance.

« Previous Entries Next Entries »