Archive for March, 2008

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Day trading the information stream: Reading and Writing

Our filtering of information pouring off the network is starting to resemble the activity of a NASDAQ market maker. A market maker is a buyer and seller in a set of tickers on the electronic market. She’s always looking for pools of liquidity, ways to match up a buyer and sellers in whatever trading or crossing network that provides the acceptable transaction.

We are buyers and sellers of information. Techmeme, Delicious, Twitter, Google Reader, Technorati, The Gang and NewsGang, The NY Times, MSNBC, YouTube, iTunes, Facebook, MySpace, CNN, your favorite Blogs, Meg Fowler, Chris Brogan, KR8TR, Karoli, C-SPAN, The New Yorker, The Public Library,, TechCrunch, Mahalo, Google News, Yahoo News, ESPN, Digg, TWIT, Your personal network, and Your friend’s networks are all pushing information into the marketplace. You choose what to buy. You also sell your own writing, photos, music, films, radio into the networks you have access to, the pools the provide the most liquidity.

Just like a Hedge Fund, or a portfolio manager, we try to put together the best portfolio of feeds, and pick the best stories and pieces out of the stream. The term we hear these days is “curator” or “editor.” But the sense of time is not of the long term investor, but rather of the day trader or the market maker.

The Precise Ambiguity of @megfowler ‘s definition of Twitter

Ludwig Wittgenstein

Meg Fowler threw up her hands and finally said, “This is what I do.” She was trying to explain how Twitter goes to some new users. It’s a question that surfaces naturally with the uninitiated. They examine the “rules” and the capabilities, and then answer the question “What are you doing?” But somehow that doesn’t seem to adequately represent the buzz of talk surrounding Twitter.

The first thing new users observe, once they start following veteran users is that the question about what one is doing is only occasionally answered. What are the rules they ask, what are the rules about what to put in to those 140 characters, if you’re not answering the question?

This is where words begin to fail us. How to explain all that is not answering a question? How to explain who hears and who doesn’t? How to explain the river of talk that one follows? To explain one’s experience of Twitter, is to explain one’s self. Everyone’s experience is slightly different.

Meg Fowler’s description brought to mind Ludwig Wittgenstein’s discussion of how we learn and use language in his book Philosophical Investigations. Certainly we can talk about rules when we speak of language. But that’s not how we learn and eventually use language. Rather than learning a set of rules, it’s more a case of “this is what I do,” and you must do what you do.

Asking what one should fill the 140 characters with is like asking what words one should fill one’s voice with. Many social network sites attempt to provide context and set the rules of engagement. Following rules is what machines do, not what people do. I’ve often thought of human-computer interaction as the encounter between a world purged of ambiguity with a world filled with ambiguity. Twitter thrives on the ambiguity of its purpose, it’s a machine that leaves room for the human.

And Meg Fowler, why look to her as an authoritative voice? In a medium where most of use are finding our way and learning the landscape, Ms. Fowler has filled in those 140 characters more than 11,646 times.

Narratives & Embellishments: Cariati, Hager, Ulriksen

Vuillard’s Garden (detail) Christine Cariati

The opening reception for Christine Cariati, Liz Hager and Mark Ulriksen’s group show at Back to the Picture is tonight (Saturday, March 29th) at 7:00pm. You can find all the event details here. I’ve already dropped by the gallery and the work looks great.

Learn more about each of the artists on their web sites:

The image at the top of this post is a detail from Christine Cariati’s painting “Vuillard’s Garden.” The painting is, in part, a tribute to the intense pattern work in the paintings of Edouard Vuillard. The medium is gouache on paper. Gouache is opaque watercolor, and a notoriously difficult painting medium. Cariati’s natural landscapes are filled with color, beauty and spirit, even as the figures portrayed act out a darker Darwinian drama.

Liz Hager’s Digital MetalTypes are a revelation. I’d never seen photographs printed on to a bright copper metal sheet before. Hager incorporates self-designed textile patterns, 19th-century studio portraits and her own botanical photos into a series of captivating photo-montages. Through these images and the stories that accompany them, the viewer is invited into a private world filled with the secret thoughts and unconventional associations of its inhabitants. The viewer decides where to draw the line between fact and fiction.

Mark Ulriksen is well known for his covers for The New Yorker magazine. Over the years he’s had some of the great ones. Most recently his cover “The Emperor’s new clothes” was a wry comment on the troubles of Eliot Spitzer. Ulriksen creates acrylic paintings for most of America’s major publications, book publishers, advertising agencies and graphic designers. He paints pictures of the famous and infamous, newsmakers and homemakers, musicians and athletes, dogs and politicians. This show will exclusively showcase his work for The New Yorker.

Twitter: A Simple Tool for Connecting Two Nodes

The viral contagion that is Twitter is directly related to its simplicity. Twitter is one of the smallest possible connectors of nodes on the network. Follow. Unfollow. Block. Post 140.

Some think we want more complexity. We want more depth, more features. But the fact is we want to build up complexity out of simplicity.

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