Archive for April, 2008

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Personal Data Management: Mesh, Evernote, the Atom and the Wave

A couple of early observations about MS Mesh:

Storage space will need to be unlimited and permanent. Imagine a 7 year old starting to use Mesh today. What will their data storage, connection and organization requirements look like in 20 years? Why should anyone need to delete anything ever?

It’s early yet, but it seems like there’s a missed opportunity around changing the desktop and folders metaphor. The single stream tag and search metaphor allows every object to be tagged (or filed) in many categories at once and retrieved along many facets. As the stream of data that is pointed at the Mesh grows, the idea having to drag things to folders stops making sense.

Although not a platform, Evernote does a good job of allowing you to save things to a storage space using multiple devices. They have Web, Phone, PC and Mac clients and you can send items via email. Tagging is already in place, but it doesn’t current support standard feed protocols or SMS. And it doesn’t support both individual and group storage, or have a newslog of system activity.

The physics of personal data storage seems to come down to the atom and the wave. Are things to be stored individual objects or are they streams? The answer is that they exist as both depending on your perspective. Can you mix the metaphor? Can you put a stream in a folder?

While not strictly competing, it will be interesting to compare these two services as they go forward. Complexity and simplicity are large factors in user acceptance. The service that can be most useful to digital natives will eventually go viral. What would a digital native save? And how would they like to access it?

In Dialogue: Shirky, Anderson, Bateson and Schumacher

Technology annihilates distance. There are some good things about that and some bad. While it’s at it, I’d also like technology to do something about time. I’m reading Clay Shirky’s book “Here Comes Everybody” and I can’t help but want to thread some conversations together. Unfortunately, time gets in the way. I guess I’m looking for something like what Norman O. Brown created with his book “Closing Time.” Two texts rubbing up against each other, Brown put James Joyce and Giambattista Vico into conversation across time.

I keep imagining a conversation between Gregory Bateson, E.F. Schumacher, Clay Shirky and Chris Anderson. It’s the podcast I’d like to listen to on the BART train tomorrow morning. Time prevents that from happening. When will technology do something about that? Perhaps it doesn’t have to, if I listen closely enough, I can hear hear the texts in conversation.

A Gathering of Tribes: Tree Huggers and Foodies Rock the House

Last night Friends of the Urban Forest held a fund raiser at Anne Sommerville’s Greens restaurant. It was a gathering of tribes and a connecting point for future action. The treehuggers and the foodies have a common agenda around environment, sustainability and engagement. Mayor Gavin Newsom’s office presented FUF executive director Kelly Quirke with a proclamation, a representative of Nancy Pelosi’s office expressed her support of the urban forestry movement, and Katrina Heron, speaking on behalf of Alice Waters, spread the word about the Slow Food Movement.

Learning what else you can do with a Juniper Berry

Juniper berry

Clay Shirky’s comparison of Gin and Television as mechanisms by which pain is soothed, and a cognitive surplus created, connects with a number of things I’ve been thinking of recently. The appropriate response to Shirky’s essay is to create another essay, or perhaps a photograph, that comments and connects to it. We live in a consumer society, and thanks to folks like Ralph Nader, we have some rights as consumers. But we are coming to the end of the era where we define ourselves by what we consume. 

With the vast new set of consumption choices flowing through the network, the issue of gluttony arises. You can’t just eat everything. Human beings don’t scale, and human attention doesn’t obey Moore’s law. What happens when our total number of waking hours, and not just for today, but for the rest of our lives, can be filled with high quality “content” programmed by the best curators and editors on the planet? Fill out a profile, push a button, and the entire sequence can be put into a feed ready for your attention. As material is consumed, and new material becomes available, a constant recalculation of your feed will occur assuring that you will always have the highest quality and most appropriate “content” available. Philip K. Dick is smiling somewhere.

The assumption built into this model is that we just need more and better gin. Shirky points out that if we went on the wagon, we’d have a tremendous surplus of time on our hands. And if we look at what the digital natives are doing, we’d see that 100% consumption is boring. They want all transaction to be full duplex, read/write, consume/produce. At its origin, Tim Berners-Lee created a 2-way web, but the conversation shouldn’t be limited to the network.

If we become a nation of producers as well as consumers, won’t there even be more content to consume? Yes, but there will be no obligation to consume it all. It’s also important to remember that all conversations don’t happen with words (written or spoken). A photograph can speak to an essay, so can a melody, a video, a dance, a scribble in a notebook or a painting. With a whole new set of tools and media widely available, I see a nation returning en mass to their parlor pianos and singing a song about “gin and television” and then uploading a video of it to YouTube.

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