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Ambushed by Eugene Eric Kim

So here’s something I’m not quite used to (yet?).

Eugene Eric Kim has written a wonderful post on the Blue Oxen Associates blog about his use of my ideas around Contextual Authority Tagging in his work with organizations regarding reproductive health.

Terrell’s premise is that reputation in context can be extremely valuable, often more valuable than what you say about yourself. For example, suppose you asked me for three words to describe myself. In a work context, I might say, “collaboration, transformation, do-gooder.” That is how I perceive myself, or at least how I want others to perceive me. Those three words have gone through a personal filter, which may be filtering useful information. Maybe I’m too modest to say certain words. Maybe I’m deluded. Or maybe I simply don’t know what others value most about me.

There are three interesting pieces of information here:

* What do others say about you?
* What’s the difference between what others say about you and what you say about yourself?
* If you and everyone else get to see what is said about you, how will what is said evolve over time?

I’m anxious to see what Terrell discovers about these and other questions. If his premise is correct, then there are all sorts of interesting applications of this. For example, many knowledge management tools include some sort of expert finder, which is generally reliant on what people say about themselves in their personal profiles. It may be more valuable to have an expert finder that’s oriented around what others say about you.

He’s included some Wordles of the types of information and interactions that come from having people share stories and talk about one another.

Earlier this year, I facilitated a strategic workshop for Civil Liberties & Public Policy (CLPP), another reproductive health advocacy and leadership organization, and I kicked things off with this exercise. The visualizations from that exercise are particularly instructive. Here is a visualization of all the words that the participants used to describe each other:


This is most rewarding to me – and I look forward to working with Eugene in the next few months on some collaborations. I think we have a lot to offer each other in the ways we see these tools.

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Social Web FooCamp and IIW8

I’ve been in the library a lot in the last few weeks, but just managed to remember booking some flights for upcoming fun stuff on the west coast.

Social Web FooCamp

In only a couple weeks (gah, how’d that happen…) I’ll head back to the Social Web FooCamp. This is a great honor to be invited back and I hope to continue providing insight and ideas on the tangle/noisiness/mess of our social Internet.


I’ll be at IIW8 again in May. This is a fantastic event and one I hated missing last Fall. I really look forward to seeing everyone in the Identity community again. So much has changed in only a few years – and Doc Searls, Kaliya and Phil Windley always put on a great un-conference.


And then, back to the library. Also, found two guys in Brazil who simulated my (not finished yet) dissertation. I guess that means I’m officially in a race now. Excellent.

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Later Button poster at iConference 2009

Two weeks ago the 2009 iConference was held at the Friday Center here in Chapel Hill, NC. There were lots of great posters and papers and hallway discussions.

Jacob and I presented our poster and have since posted it online over at dlist.

We ran a Mechanical Turk study with over 2000 responses to help determine whether people would be willing to share their stuff more after some time had passed.

This study investigates users’ willingness to disclose information with respect to how long ago that information may have been created or captured. Users were more willing to share items as time passed.

Potentially, a “Later Button” should be put into practice to address this latent willingness (40% of sharing scenarios) to disclose information at a later date.



The most striking outcome of this research is the apparent willingness of over 40% of people to share these types of information with others “later”, across demographics, the intimacy level of the item itself, and the perceived audience. This suggests a gaping disservice on the part of current tools.

Tools like Twitter and Facebook should consider an interface control that allows their users to designate the sharing of items “later”. The more granular data from this study (dividing “later” into more discrete chunks of time) suggests a strong default for this control to be set at “one month” of elapsed time between the creation/capture of an information item and its availability to the designated audience.

The apparent collapse of nuance between “inner” and “outer” audience and between “very” and “somewhat” intimate items suggests a flattening of how we understand and relate to our information sharing and our perceived audiences.

Are Facebook and/or Twitter to blame for this apparent flattening of our friendscape? Are all our friends equal when it comes to the mediated sharing of personal information?

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MPACT Family Trees at ALISE 2009

I spent the past week in Denver, CO at the ALISE annual conference. There were many nervous PhD students interviewing for faculty positions – but I was not one of them – still have a ways to go.

On Thursday, I presented the third paper to come out of the MPACT project, where we propose some analytics around academic mentorship.

MPACT Family Trees: Quantifying academic genealogy in library and information science:

Academic genealogy is valuable because it provides context, history and has the potential to predict future trends in the field. However, it is most commonly done casually and without the rigor to provide a platform for discussion beyond the anecdote. This paper presents a novel technique for calculating genealogical scores for individuals and academic “families.” This data-driven technique provides a platform for greater contextualization and insight into an academic’s legacy.

The slides of the talk are located on the project site.

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Don’t Delete Your Humanity

I’ve often wondered about family photo albums. We store images and memories for later (for us, for others, for our children and their children).

But what’s usually more interesting to me is what isn’t stored. When thinking about when the camera comes out at family events or gathering of friends, it’s usually during the happy times. We don’t have photos of funerals or the morning after a bad night or disappointment or rejection. We oftentimes only have photos of happy times.

We go out of our way to smile in photos – to try and capture when we’re most pleased, most happy, most full of life. We sometimes go months without images as we work through our normal days doing our normal things, being our normal selves. This stuff largely doesn’t get captured.

Or rather, it didn’t.

Now, digital photography has put a dent in this previous behavior. We see a lot more of life being recorded today than ever before. Digital imagery has brought the cost down to the point where each image is effectively zero (we only pay with our time dealing with the cables and the uploading/downloading/processing of all that we shoot).

However, with all these new, low-cost, practically free images of our life comes a delete button. It is usually rendered with an image of a trash can – and it’s just as free. We use it all the time.

And we’re whitewashing our existence.

Creating so many images gives the impression that we’re capturing more of our lives than ever before – and we are. Mathematically, we’re capturing more moments – but, when we systematically use the delete button to get rid of the ones that aren’t quite right (and then just take another), it actually does more to hide the truth than when it simply cost too much and we didn’t take photos for months at a time.

Because that was part of the beauty of the Polaroid. Mystery clung to each impending image as it took shape, the camera conjuring up pictures of what was right before one’s eyes, right before one’s eyes. The miracle of photography, which Polaroids instantly exposed, never lost its primitive magic. And what resulted, as so many sentimentalists today lament, was a memory coming into focus on a small rectangle of film.

Or maybe not. Digital technology now excuses our mistakes all too easily — the blurry shot of Aunt Ruth fumbling with a 3-wood at the driving range; or the one of Cousin Jeff on graduation day where a flying Frisbee blocked the view of his face; or of Seth in his plaid jacket heading to his first social, the image blanched by the headlight of Burt’s car coming up the driveway; or the pictures of you beside the Christmas tree where your hair is a mess.

Digital cameras let us do away with whatever we decide is not quite right, and so delete the mishaps that not too often but once in a blue moon creep onto film and that we appreciate only later as accidental masterpieces. In fact, the new technology may be not more convenient but less than Polaroid instant film cameras were, considering the printers and wires and other electronic gadgets now required, but at this one thing, the act of destruction, a source of unthinking popularity in our era of forgetfulness and extreme makeovers, digital performs all too well. Polaroids, reflecting our imperfectability, reminded us by contrast of our humanity.

– Michael Kimmelman, NYTimes
The Polaroid: Imperfect, Yet Magical

When we have a collectively sanitized view of ourselves, we do lose some of our humanity.

Or maybe this is all just too much self-importance, and the people who come later simply won’t care about what we did today, whitewashed or not – they’ll be swimming in their own flood of sensory overload and virtual family vacations and simulated birthday cakes.

Or maybe it’s just the archivist in me who fears and loathes the delete button…

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Seadragon on the iPhone

I love Seadragon. It feels so natural.

I think it’s one of the things we’ll be seeing ‘everywhere’ as soon as we get our heads around how to use it.

It’s got so much potential.

Consider the following four “promises” of Seadragon:

  1. Speed of navigation is independent of the size or number of objects.
  2. Performance depends only on the ratio of bandwidth to pixels on the screen.
  3. Transitions are smooth as butter.
  4. Scaling is near perfect and rapid for screens of any resolution.

And now, it’s on the iPhone (for Free).

One step at a time.

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All My Hosted Stuff with Dynamic Sharing

In the near future, we’ll all be able to host our own data.

A few years ago it was very hard to do so, but possible, because nearly all the stuff being hosted was simple text with an occasional image or graphic. Then, our bandwidth increased and digital media creation tools were delivered into the hands of ‘the rest of us’. We quickly outstripped our ability to host and manage all our content and a market for hosted applications was born. It hit its stride with Web 2.0.

The boom created a fantastic amount of opportunity. It also stripped us of control. While we were distracted by all the shiny new toys being offered over AJAX, we forgot that owning our own stuff was important.

Today, we’re back to the time when most of the people on the web were seeing it through the AOL lens. Our data lives in silos and some of these silos even claim that your stuff is actually their stuff (have YOU read the Facebook Terms of Use?).

When you post User Content to the Site, you authorize and direct us to make such copies thereof as we deem necessary in order to facilitate the posting and storage of the User Content on the Site. By posting User Content to any part of the Site, you automatically grant, and you represent and warrant that you have the right to grant, to the Company an irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid, worldwide license (with the right to sublicense) to use, copy, publicly perform, publicly display, reformat, translate, excerpt (in whole or in part) and distribute such User Content for any purpose, commercial, advertising, or otherwise, on or in connection with the Site or the promotion thereof, to prepare derivative works of, or incorporate into other works, such User Content, and to grant and authorize sublicenses of the foregoing. You may remove your User Content from the Site at any time. If you choose to remove your User Content, the license granted above will automatically expire, however you acknowledge that the Company may retain archived copies of your User Content. Facebook does not assert any ownership over your User Content; rather, as between us and you, subject to the rights granted to us in these Terms, you retain full ownership of all of your User Content and any intellectual property rights or other proprietary rights associated with your User Content.

We need to swing the pendulum back the other way. We need to be able to host ALL our own stuff, or at least, be the proxy whereby we manage access to all our own stuff (even if it’s hosted on a vetted, corporate-backed network in a large datacenter somewhere in the ‘cloud’).

When you come to see my pictures, you come through – but the images could actually be served from Flickr via API. And if/when I change that arrangement and move to via API, you’d still access them through


I want dynamic sharing. I want to be able to put all my bits in one place (for sanity, for ease of backup, etc.) but I want some control over how those bits are shared with others (if at all).

I want dynamic privacy based on a set of rules. These rules can be simple. These rules can be complex. There can be sets of rules that seem to cover 80% of the people 80% of the time. The flexibility in a system like that would be paramount – how we deal with that flexibility is a different problem to be solved.

I want sharing rulesets that determine which stuff is visible and which stuff isn’t. I want to have rulesets that determine this visibility by viewer, type of data (pictures/video/status), viewer tags, tags on the data, reputation from a third party, time of day, time passed since the creation of the stuff… Let it be whatever – that’s the point. A rules engine that can handle arbitrary rules and apply them on the fly.

The graphic above is a first attempt at drawing what I want. People will come to get stuff from me (or send stuff to me). Their request will be processed through a set of rules I’ve put in place, identified as coming from a person/device I know, and then filtered through whatever authorizations that person/device has been granted. If they are then allowed to see or receive what they’ve requested, I’ll send it to them.

This has to be done with open source tools and protocols and we’ve already got two of them in the wild. OpenID for authentication and OAuth for authorization. Additionally, we have XRDS-Simple for service discovery. We need an Open SharingRulesEngine (OShaRE?).

I want to have a full audit of how my stuff is getting accessed. I want the ability to drill down and figure out what’s going on. Not that I’ll use it very often – but I want to know that I can.

I want to be in control of who sees my content. If you see a photo I took, embedded somewhere else, I’d like to know that happened. I’d like to have a feel for where the edge of my ‘influence’ lies and how it’s interacting with the rest of the world.

We’ve seen rules engines and rulesets and recipes before. They exist for business and email (procmail) and distributed archival infrastructure (iRODS). Help me build one for granting access to my stuff!

This could all be a pipe dream. I’m not convinced one way or the other (the current sticking point is the realization that the gatekeeper software has to know about every piece of content I create/store… complex… but doable…). But I do know that if the option for individuals to host their own identity and their own content is available, the market for innovation will move that much faster. And that’s almost always a good thing.

Whaddya say? 2 years for basic infrastructure that can do this? 5-7 years before it’s polished and anyone is using it but me?

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The Alexandrine Dilemma

Mark Pesce gave a keynote entitled “The Alexandrine Dilemma” at the New Librarians Symposium last Friday. He spoke about how Library Science, its skills and philosophy, are necessary for everyone to embrace and understand as we move forward in our networked world.

Quite inspiring, as someone who’s selected that line of work, if I do say so myself.

A few samples:

In fact, because the library is universal, library science now needs to be a universal skill set, more broadly taught than at any time previous to this. We have become a data-centric culture, and are presently drowning in data.

I could go on and on, but the basic point is this: wherever data is being created, that’s the opportunity for library science in the 21st century. Since data is being created almost absolutely everywhere, the opportunities for library science are similarly broad. It’s up to you to show us how it’s done, lest we drown in our own creations.

The dilemma that confronts us is that for the next several years, people will be questioning the value of libraries; if books are available everywhere, why pay the upkeep on a building? Yet the value of a library is not the books inside, but the expertise in managing data. That can happen inside of a library; it has to happen somewhere. Libraries could well evolve into the resource the public uses to help manage their digital existence. Librarians will become partners in information management, indispensable and highly valued.

In a time of such radical and rapid change, it’s difficult to know exactly where things are headed. We know that books are headed online, and that libraries will follow. But we still don’t know the fate of librarians. I believe that the transition to a digital civilization will founder without a lot of fundamental input from librarians. We are each becoming archivists of our lives, but few of us have training in how to manage an archive.

When you announce yourselves to the broader public as the individuals empowered to help us manage our digital lives, you’ll doubtless find yourselves overwhelmed with individuals who are seeking to benefit from your expertise. What’s more, to deal with the demand, I expect Library Science to become one of the hot subjects of university curricula of the 21st century.

One interesting note – and somewhere I think Mark misses the boat:

It’s interesting to note that uses Google’s text search-based interface. Based on my own investigations, you can’t type in a Library of Congress catalog number and get a list of books under that subject area. Google seems to have abandoned – or ignored – library science in its own book project. I can’t tell you why this is, I can only tell you that it looks very foolish and naïve. It may be that Google’s army of PhDs do not include many library scientists. Otherwise why would you have made such a beginner’s mistake? It smells of an amateur effort from a firm which is not known for amateurism.

This isn’t a shortcoming of Google – this is a liberation from the shortcoming of the historical reality of shelf space as the limiting factor in a physical library. These numbers have all been subjectively applied by the local librarian and rarely agree across libraries. Additionally, these subjective assignments reflect more about the culture making the assignment than the content of the work.

I’m surprised Mark swung so wildly on this point. If we’re all sharers now, and we bring our own opinions to the table. What we need more than ‘search by catalog number’ is a means to sift/sort the multiple readers’ opinions of what a book/work is about. This may include expert and non-expert opinion – the point is that the work can be filed in multiple places at the same time.

As Clay Shirky has said, “there is no shelf”:

People have been freaking out about the virtuality of data for decades, and you’d think we’d have internalized the obvious truth: there is no shelf. In the digital world, there is no physical constraint that’s forcing this kind of organization on us any longer. We can do without it, and you’d think we’d have learned that lesson by now.

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Oh, and I got married

After many months of planning and lots of food and bills and people later – I’m married!

Whitebox Weddings Blog – click to see a ton of incredible images

Our wedding turned out as well as we’d dreamed and we’ve been pleased that others seem to think it was pretty good too.

Save The Dates

Brooklyn Bride – featured
{casando idéias} – in portuguese – we’re at the bottom
Sparkle Thots – a repost with praise
classicly modern – we’re the ‘baby pics’ example
paper+cup – comment says ‘omg. adorable.’
snippet & ink – thinks we had a great idea

how we made the save the dates – in kelly’s flickr


sew mama sew – feature post on the fabric pockets


Official Whitebox Weddings Blog – many, many great images. beautifully captured.
Brooklyn Bride – Real Weddings – featured again – with Kelly’s big write-up
Amy Love Sweet Love – lots of love for the kraft paper and crayons on the tables
Oh So Beautiful Paper – love for the fabric invitations
Kayelily’s Blog – our officiant
all weddingstuff – in kelly’s flickr – photobooth shots, little us, savethedates

How We Did It
Whitebox Weddings – photographers sara and mel – fantastic
The Barn at Valhalla – venue in the woods
The Photobooth – we went with the ‘classic’ – dip and dunk – and a digital scanner

Moo – our little selves on little cards (and for a while, we’re the second listing on their weddings page)
Etsy – found our ringbowl and guestbook
IndieBride – advice, ideas, vendors, morale

William Travis Jewelry – engagement ring, palladium – we designed it, he made it

Wedding Ring Workshop – we made our own wedding bands, for each other, also palladium (use our referral code, SF8/308)
Urbina Designs – we used Alba Urbina’s studio to make our wedding bands
LaRussa’s Trattoria – rehearsal dinner
Clyde Cooper’s Barbeque – reception/dinner
Neomonde – reception/dinner

Vollis Simpson – whirligigs for our people

Kim Bloomfield – cake baker extraordinaire, working with Sally (and we’re the banner photo, mid-feb09)
quilts on the walls – family-made, hung on nc tobacco sticks

Thank you everyone who helped make the day a success. I’m so proud of all my people.


Doubting what we see as truth

Our eyes have always been the thing we trusted the most. We have used them to define and measure the world around us. We believe things with our own eyes. We have to see it to believe it.

That’s been changing for a while, and we’re in for more changes very soon.

Audio as Truth
The tools were new, the medium was new, and the output was hard to forge. What we heard on the radio, or any recorded media, was ‘official’, in part, because it was so expensive. Only companies using the medium for ‘real work’ or profit could afford such devices and time and expertise.

Orson Welles changed how we viewed media just prior to Halloween 1938. The broadcast of The War of the Worlds episode created, for the first time, doubt in our ability to trust what we heard in recorded or broadcast media. This was expensive! This sounded like news! This must be real!

Image as Truth
By the time the personal computer came along, the price had lowered for the production of ‘quality’ print making. Desktop publishing ushered in an era of anyone being able to produce what looked state of the art, for print media. In a few short years, our computers were capable of producing and manipulating graphics. Photorealistic images were now stored in the computer and Photoshop made its first appearance.

It has become a verb now. “That looks ‘shopped'”. We don’t trust what we see in a still image. We assume that anything in a still image, an ad, a photo, has been retouched and reworked and presented just as the creator has envisioned. We now trust our media outlets, on behalf of their reputations alone, to present to us non-doctored, non-photoshopped images. It’s become about integrity, not cost.

Video as Truth
As the computers have become more powerful, we have lost faith in moving images as well. Movies shown in theaters today are commonly augmented with CGI (computer-generated imagery). We are accustomed to seeing superheroes flying, explosions far too big for movie sets, and monsters that don’t really exist. This has become normal and we don’t think much of it. New tricks (bullet-time from the Matrix) are few and far between and noteworthy when they have their coming out.

But we still trust ‘live’ video. We assume that if it looks real, and is fairly recent, that it’s probably real. The cost has been too high for regular people to manipulate this medium. We are in the time, for video, as we were before War of the Worlds, for radio.

But not for long.

A few bits of technology, of late, are beginning to allow us to see what our new future holds. We are beginning to grasp at the tools that will allow us to manipulate entire scenes and series of videos.

Microsoft’s Photosynth

Microsoft Live Labs’ Photosynth allows a community of photographs to be analyzed and pulled into a single experience. You can ‘interact’ with a 2.5 dimensional space and zoom in and out from photos mapped into a common navigable interface. The interface is a near duplicate of what the sci-fi and police forensics TV shows were doing in mock-up just a few years ago (CSI used this software itself recently). View a bunch of examples here (if you’re on a Windows machine).

TED Demo of Seadragon and Photosynth from March 2007

UW’s Video Enhancement

The University of Washington’s Computer Science department has been working on enhancing video through a variety of techniques. It’s not tight edits. It’s not CGI. It’s augmentation, that takes the reality of the clip and enhances it. Super resolution, object removal, etc.

Using Photographs to Enhance Videos of a Static Scene from pro on Vimeo.

George Allen’s macaca moment. Could have been faked? Probably not today… but give it a few years. We are in for a rude awakening our next presidential election. Videos with subtle changes, tight edits, and falsehoods will make their appearance and I hope we’re savvy enough to ignore most of them in 2012.

Media Literacy
This brings up the issue of viewer education or media literacy. As the rules of the game continue to change, we need to keep up. The problem of course, is that the computer capabilities and the software are moving much quicker than public uptake. Maybe YouTube will save us all…

Americans believe what they see – as fact.

The impulse to record family history that is more wishful than accurate is as old as photography itself. In the 19th century, people routinely posed with personal items, like purses or scarves, that belonged to absent or dead relatives to include them, emotionally, in the frame, said Mary Warner Marien, an art history professor at Syracuse University and the author of “Photography: A Cultural History.”

In India, she said, it is a tradition to cut-and-paste head shots of absent family members into wedding photographs as a gesture of respect and inclusion. “Everyone understands that it’s not a trick,” she said. “That’s the nature of the photograph. It’s a Western sense of reality that what is in front of the lens has to be true.”

An imbalance between the tools and our media literacy has the potential to undermine our sense of democracy and trust. We need education about these issues. Let’s hope there are some remarkable examples of faked video that trick people *before* it matters. Let’s hope there are some cases where what we see is NOT what happened *before* we’re voting to decide our leaders. We need discourse and fact-checking, dialogue and transparency.

Seeing is not necessarily believing, anymore.

Update: Stanford announces the ability to replace arbitrary surfaces in video with any other arbitrary video or still image. This works for placing ads in home movies or (re)creating a scene for different audiences based on content. Stanford is calling it ZunaVision.

The future is here. I hope you’re paying attention.

UPDATE: And this is only promotional, but the comments are telling…

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