Archive of Posts from July 2004

End of the Universe

Oh, and here's a great line from the Dyson talk during the audience Question & Answer—

Guy: What are your thoughts on the end of the universe?
Freeman: It's not looking good.

OSCON, Thursday

I spent all day yesterday at OSCON in Portland. The day started with a keynote by Freeman Dyson and his son George Dyson (moderated by Tim O'Reilly).

Freeman Dyson on screen

One of the things that struck me from the conversation was the idea of the "domestication" of technology. Freeman felt that the failure of nuclear technology was in part due to the fact that you can't have a small nuclear project. In other words, you can't run down to Radio Shack and pick up a fission kit and power your home projects with nuclear energy—it's solely the domain of large projects. By contrast, biotechnology is becoming domesticated. Freeman mentioned plant and animal gene-splicing kits for backyard breeders that are only a few years away. He mentioned a future children's game where kids compete to see who can grow the prickliest cactus, and the fact that DNA synthesizers—while currently outrageously expensive—are coming down in price. What I took away from this is that decentralization and adoption by a wide number of people is a key attribute if a technology is ultimately going to be successful.

There were a lot of other good elements in the talk, and they did discuss the dangers and unintended consequences related to new technology. Though Freeman said luck would prevent catastrophe, as it always does. (hmm.)

ora screen

For the rest of the day I was on the O'Reilly-track. I saw a preview of their new magazine, Make, which looks fantastic. It's produced by Dale Dougherty and edited by boingboing pioneer Mark Frauenfelder who were both on hand to describe it. One of the first feature articles is how to build your own kite photography rig. Dale mentioned the inspiration for the magazine came when he realized there was no Martha Stewart for tech geeks.

I also saw a demo of SafariU, a tool that lets teachers assemble custom books from various sources. This is definitely a disruptive technology for the college book market, but should be very appealing to professors who want more control over course material. And I gave a demo of the newly launched Safari Affiliate Program, and their related Web Services—a project I've been involved with for a while. Like I mentioned yesterday, Safari is doing the important work of making books available as bits in addition to atoms—something I first read about in Being Digital almost ten years ago. It seemed like a far-off future at the time, but here we are.

Dan Gillmore, We The Media

Dan Gillmor was the first mainstream journalist (that I remember) who published a weblog. What might be even more surprising is that the paper he writes for—The San Jose Mercury News—gave him the freedom to experiment with the format. (Many offline newspapers have yet to discover how the web's first native format can fit into their own websites.) So Gillmor has been participating through weblogs for a long time, and tonight at Powell's Tech he gave a personal history of his growing awareness of the ways new media technology are changing journalism.

Dan Gillmor

I was surprised that his talk wasn't completely focused on weblogs. Of course he mentioned them, but his major "data points" where he realized journalism was changing revolved around mailing lists. He also talked about his new book, We the media, and I'm looking forward to reading it.

Gillmor's message about weblogs and the web is not about revolt against big J—or dismissing weblogs as narcissism. I think it's easy to pick one of these camps and fight, but Gillmor has a stake in each camp. All of the ideas he mentioned tonight about these new channels of communication were intertwined with stories from his own experience, which is a very blog-like way to present things. Maybe blogs will end up helping mainstream journalists speak to people on a more personal level.

The energetic Paul Graham was also there to talk about his latest book, Hackers and Painters. He read from the endnotes, and I'm sure it didn't do his book justice. There wasn't much about the spirit of hacking in what I heard. They ran out of his book so I'll have to pick it up another time.

Paul Grahm

Amazon and Real Names

Amazon is encouraging reviewers to use their real name for reviews. [via anil] awww, but that might ruin Andy's Amazon.com Knee-Jerk Contrarian Game for future generations. Won't somebody at Amazon please think of the children?

Open Source Conference this week

I'm going to be in Portland at various times this week taking in the sights and sounds of the Open Source Conference. I'll even be saying a few words at a breakout session on Thursday afternoon. (For some reason the term "breakout session" makes me think of a dimly-lit room full of people playing these.) If you're going to be at the conference, I'll see you there!

Wow! Freeman, Esther, and George Dyson are going to be speaking on Thursday night morning. The topic is: Infinite in Three Directions: In Praise of Open Thinking.

NYT: 'Diarists' can't do 'real' journalism

danah boyd rightfully takes the NYT to task for a recent article about blogging—Demeaning bloggers: the NYTimes is running scared. For some reason this made me think: what if bloggers collectively stopped linking to the New York Times website?

Please register

I'm thinking about setting up a registration form like this for this site so I can create a "better online experience" for you. You want a better online experience, right? (Thanks for the inspiration bugmenot!)

Pacific Northwest Dangers

There are some grave dangers lurking here in the Pacific Northwest: black widows, rattlesnakes, Starbucks. Those are just a few of the perils that some Scottish geography professors warn their traveling students about—Scottish students visit strange land: the Northwest.

photo prints

I'm going to start offering prints for a few of my photolog pictures. You can see if a print is available for a particular photo by clicking the "details" link that follows the caption. For example, today's photo—crescent city lighthouse—is available as a print. If you click the details link, you'll see an option to buy the print with PayPal as the last line of the info there.

I recently had some digital photos printed at Adorama and I was very impressed with the results. I used their ICC printer profiles to get the colors right before printing, and I think that made a big difference. People have asked for prints in the past, but I wasn't happy with the quality of prints from digital images. So my recent success prompted me to try offering prints. It's definitely an experiment and I'll let you know how it goes.

new photolog rss feed

I just added an rss feed for my photolog. Someone sent an email requesting one, and I'm not sure why I haven't set one up before. Thanks for the nudge, Dudley. (It looks like Dudley has some photolog-specific features in his RSS reader.)

Luna's river walk

Today sk and I took the happiest dog on earth for a walk along the Willamette River.

luna at the river

luna at the river

luna at the river

The river was bird-central where we were today. We saw a blue heron, golden eagle, pelican, and a whole flock of vultures. A little sandpiper was "barking" at Luna and didn't seem very afraid—it kept bobbing and flying around her. I was kicking myself for not taking my zoom lens.

Webvisions Report 4

A few more photos from Webvisions. Michael Buffington, looking at Cam's laptop, Kevin Smokler on screen, and hanging out in the convention center hallway:

michael at webvisions

laptop at webvisions

kevin at webvisions

hanging at webvisions

There were quite a few more people attending this year and more panels.

Webvisions Report 3

A few more pics from a weblog panel this afternoon, Matt Haughey and Jason Fried:

matt at webvisions

jason at webvisions

I'm listening to a design talk with Jason Fried right now. He's talking about improving interface design.

Webvisions Report 2

Just got done with a "book signing"—where I didn't actually sign any books—but chatted with the weblog authors behind Considered Design and Blue Hole. I'm now listening to Anil Dash talk about the value of weblogs.

Webvisions Report

This is pb reporting live from the Webvisions conference in Portland. I was a little late arriving, but ran into Anil Dash right away. I got this shot of him being interviewed by the conference videographer:

anil at webvisions

Here's conference organizer/consultant Nick Finck watching the interview:

nick at webvisions

And so far I caught the very end of Ernest's session about design ROI:

ernest at webvisions

I also ran into Portland blogger Cat of frykitty fame, and it was good to finally meet her. I'm currently listening to Matt Owens talk about his media design projects.

Travels with Luna

Just got back from a trip to Sebastopol, CA. We drove up and down highway 101 instead of taking I-5 so we could enjoy the coastal scenery. We took Luna, and this was her first extended car ride—about 12 hours each way. She did great on the ride and slept whenever she was in the car.

We stopped quite a bit along the way, and had a very relaxing trip. I was reminded how beautiful the great state of Northern California is, and we kept talking about how nice it would be to take even more time to explore the wilderness areas, trails, redwood groves, and campsites we continually saw signs for.

Luna on the beach

Luna has a lot of fun at the beach, and we stopped at several along the way. She usually hits the sand and wants to run as fast as she can, but the rocky beaches in CA were a bit different. She had the same enthusiasm though, and she could have scrambled up and down rocks all day.

Luna on the beach

In Sebastopol, Luna had a buddy to hang out with while we were there.

Luna and Domino

Domino is about five times Luna's size, and Luna was pretty shy at first. After the first day they got along famously.

The dogs weren't the only ones having fun. We had fun with friends and family—here are a couple pics from sk's birthday celebration at her grandma's house.

preston and sk blowing candles

We split our drive home into two days, and stayed on the coast the last night. We spent about ten hours on the road yesterday and stopped several times to walk around and take pictures. I'll be posting them in the photolog. As much fun as it is to travel, it's always nice to get home and sleep in your own bed. Though I bet Luna would do it again tomorrow if she could.

Luna in Sebastopol

FedEx Tracking, RSS style

Ben Hammersley put together a script that will convert FedEx tracking information to RSS: Track! Your! Packages! (in RSS) [via code: the WebSocket]

Catching up is hard to do

I've been bitten by the anti-blogging bug. Or I haven't been bitten by the blogging bug in a while. Had a great 4th of July weekend with canoing, grilling, and catching glimpses of fireworks from far away. The 4th is also sk's birthday, and we had a very relaxing day filled with ice cream cake and Curb Your Enthusiasm. We saw Spider-Man 2 over the weekend, and here's my four word review: don't believe the hype. We saw it at the brand new Carmike Theater in Corvallis. The theater is nice and new, but sterile and lacking personality. I'm looking forward to The Darkside.

I updated the design of ORblogs last Friday. Though it looks basically the same, there was quite a bit of CSS tinkering that went on. The texture for the sidebars is a modified Squidfingers 62. And I was inspired by the subtle use of shadows to offset the sidebars by ShaunInman.com. I suddenly have a bunch of ideas I'd like to pursue for ORblogs—a new design has helped shake up my sense of what's possible there. I continue to be impressed by the quality of writing and coverage of all things Oregon by Oregonians. I learn something new about my state every day from local bloggers.

Webvisions is coming up in Portland on July 16th, and I'll see you there. I'm going to be speaking somewhere, sometime during the Open Source Convention coming up in Portland the week of July 26th. And an event at which I'd like to be a former-audience member—Dan Gillmor is going to be speaking about weblogs and Journalism at Powell's Tech on July 28th. The talk is called Grassroots Journalism By and For the People. Right on.

Bookwatch in NYT

Weblog Bookwatch was mentioned briefly in the NYT today: How to Please a Critic under A Summer Book Tour: "Last summer I suggested trawling for beach reading ideas at automated recommendation sites..." Check out the article to find out what's happening this summer. (She mentions the LOC's One Book project.)