Monthly Archives: July 2005

Reporting back from BlogHer

I spent Saturday at the BlogHer conference. Arrived somewhat late for the morning session which was titled: Play by today’s rules, or change the game? When I arrived, discussion was focused on the Technorati A list, and other similar lists (and why there are very few women on these lists). Ideas ranged from developing other more multidimensional lists, to having a BlogHer list, to linking more to each other.

Since I had never seen the Technorati 100 before, I headed there. And predictably, found few women on it. I generally find such lists to be unidimensional and mostly useless, so do not feel unduly concerned that it is a male-dominated list. The important issue is reaching the people you want to connect to. The web is all about being able to reach the Long Tail. So, the more relevant question to me is: Do women bloggers have a harder time reaching people who are interested in the same topics? If the answer is yes, then that is more problematic.

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Going to BlogHer!

Initially skeptical, I am now totally caught up in the excitement of going to BlogHer. Its a conference about blogging and women, but I don’t quite know what to expect. Will there be discussions about why women are not more visible in technology? Or why statistics show that women are leaving technology? To be honest, the specific sessions are not that important to me. Whats great is that BlogHer is happening, and so many women are excited to be meeting there, and thinking about quintessential women’s issues such as what to wear to the conference!

And yes, I will be blogging from BlogHer. Tomorrow night is the first event – the Pre-conference dinner.

How the used book market creates value

Hal Varian is one of the few economists whose articles I read regularly. He was the Dean at SIMS, while I was teaching there, and writes a regular column for the New York Times. Today’s column is about used book sales, and how that impacts Amazon. When Jeff Bezos launched used book sales at Amazon, there were dire warnings that this would cut into sales of new books. Hal’s analysis shows that any losses to publishers are more than offset by gains to consumers, and to Amazon’s bottomline. Go here to read the whole article.

Tagging versus categorizing emails

Word is Yahoo will soon be coming out with its OddPost inspired version. Ethan Diamond, one of the Oddpost founders, now working on Yahoo mail thinks that users are more likely to use folders than tags to organize emails. I tend to agree. I like the controlled messiness of tags for my bookmarked urls. And the social discovery of others’ bookmarks is very compelling. But for something as personal and important as my email archive – I prefer either a combination of folders and robust search.

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Asian or Brazilian: London Tube shooting

There is an interesting aspect to the tragic shooting of the Brazilian electrician on the London tube. All initial reports (including direct ones from bystanders) mention an Asian man. When you look at the picture of the man shot dead, he does not look Asian (at least to me) (I think the British conception of Asian is Pakistani/Indian, in contrast to the American conception of the word Asian which is more Chinese/Thai/Taiwanese…).

This nonrecognition highlights how difficult it is to identify someone’s ethnic origins, especially in an atmosphere of stress and suspicion. Another explanation – the expectancy was that someone acting suspicious on the Tube is likely to be an Asian man; the logic is reversed – anyone acting suspicious starts looking like an Asian man. There are many Social cognitive phenomenon you could use to understand this mistake.

Reminded me of the PBS test of sorting people.

BayCHI talks as podcasts

baychiWe just started releasing the talks as Podcasts. I was going to wait till we have more podcasts online before writing about it, but it was mentioned this morning in New York Times article on Podcasting (Steve Williams, the BayCHI volunteer who did a lot of work for making this happen, is quoted at the bottom of the article.) So, now that the whole world know…

There are 5 talks currently available – Steve is painstakingly working through our years of talks (thanks Steve!)…

-July 12th, 05
Scott Weiss: Mobile Media Download Usability: The Experience Running A Large-Scale Comparative Study

Paul Braund: Information and Communications Technologies Development at the Edge of the Network Society

-June 14, 05

Milton Chen: Experiments in Desktop Videoconferencing

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BayCHI panel about Web 2.0

Every few months, I muster the energy to organize a full fledged panel for BayCHI. August is one of those months. And this time the topic is – “Are you ready for Web 2.0?”.

If you are in the Bay area, come by to PARC on August 9th. We sometimes have a packed house for the more popular events, so arrive early to make sure you get a seat.

Currently I have confirmations from Stewart Butterfield (Flickr/Yahoo); David Sifry from Technorati; and Paul Rademacher from There might be one or two more additions to the panel.

Update (7/24/05): Thomas Vanderwal of PersonalInfoCloud will also be joining us.

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How to build a software product on the cheap: Open Source + Usability

Joe Krause recently wrote that “Its a great time to be an entrepreneur“. Yes, it is. Joe talks about cheap hardware, free infrastructure software, cheap global labor markets, and search engine marketing. There is another reason that its a great time to be an entrepreneur – an excellent example of which is Joel Spolsky’s latest project: CoPilot.

Take a good open source software. Something really useful. Something well built, that solves a real problem. Something like VNC. You can take your pick from the many flavors of VNC – Tight VNC, Real VNC, Ultra VNC …- . There is no better way to share your screen with someone – if you are willing to deal with the usability problems that come with it.

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The rising star of corporate anthropology

corporate anthropologyTwo recent articles about anthropology in the corporate environment caught my eye.

The article in Fortune magazine focuses on anthropological work at Microsoft and contrasts modern corporate anthropology with its origins:

“Their fieldwork is far removed from the popular perception of the anthropologist as lantern-jawed adventurer in baggy shorts and pith helmet, canoeing up the Amazon in search of the proverbial lost tribe. But there is a certain correspondence between Microsoft’s research agenda and the work of those old-time anthropologists, many of whom were funded by colonial governments that needed to understand their native subjects in order to rule them more effectively. The modern version of this knowledge-power dynamic is Microsoft, a multinational technology colossus that hires anthropologists who study the natives in order to sell them more software.”

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Blogging from IBM “New Directions in Mobile” conference

ibm mobile conferenceI am at the IBM: New Directions in User Computing conference. It is the annual user interface summer conference held at IBM every summer. During Dan Russells’ and Steve Cousins introduction, we learnt that this is the 13th such conference. This year, the focus is on mobile computing.

Its about 100 or more people. I saw a lot of Bay area HCI researchers (the same ones that you run into at CHI conference). Unsurprisingly, there are quite a few IBM researchers and interns. Also, unsurprisingly, there are very few practitioners. This is mostly the CHI crowd – i.e., mostly researchers.

I was there for just the morning. Really enjoyed a talk on Social Mobile Computing by Ian Smith from Intel Research Laboratory in Seattle.

Here are my notes for the talk.

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