The tax

I was IM’ing with my cousin in India, showing her to use She just started her first job as a researcher and needs to keep track of various research services she uses. I explained to her all about tags, and how you can see what others thought of same url. After she had saved a few urls and some oohs and aahs over tags and watching others, she asks – “and how do I remember this url? it is really hard to remember!”

What delicious irony in that the url we use to remember our other urls is so hard to remember. Its almost as if some of the mental energy freed up by offloading all other urls is taken up by remembering how to spell Its the tax! I for one am glad to pay it.

Off to IA Summit

I am posting this from the airport – heading to Vancouver for the IA Summit just as soon as the airplane starts boarding. This is my first time at Vancouver which I am very much looking forward to. And apart from any talks that I might attend, IA Summit is a time for meeting friends and catching up. Its the conference I know the most people at and feel the most home at.

I have two events that I will be participating in. One is a panel on Tagging and Beyond: Personal, Social and Collaborative Information Architecture. I will be participating with people whose views I respect a great deal: Gene Smith, Danah Boyd, Scott Golder and Mimi Yin. I will be talking about the issues I talked about at SXSW.

My other event is a talk. I submitted it as “Sorting in an age of tagging“, but its subtitle could be “A Social Manifesto for Information Architecture” or “The missing chapter in the Polar Bear book”. I am still putting the talk together, but mostly I want to talk about how the “social” is such a crucial part of information architecture, and how the web is not just about designers creation information structures that users navigate, but also about groups of people creating a social reality together. Their exploration and play happens in these worlds that they create and inhabit. How does the role of the designer change? What are the information architecture problems and solutions?

For once I am planning to blog from the conference. So wait for some posts on the weekend.

Off to SXSW!

Just heading off to the airport to catch a flight to Austin. This is my first time at SXSW. Really excited to go there finally. I will be participating in a panel on Tagging. The panel is on Sunday March 12th, 11.30 AM to 12.30 PM in Ballroom E.

Other participants are
Don Turnbull, Univ of Texas at Austin
Adina Levin, Socialtext
Prentiss Riddle,
Thomas Vander Wal, InfoCloud Solutions Inc

Don Turnbull, Univ of Texas at Austin

I am going to talk about tagging as the intersection of the personal and the social. And how tagging approximates the wisdom of crowds better than many other social systems on the web. And some things that designers of tagging systems should keep in mind.

Come by and say hello if you are headed there as well. I will probably be feeling a litle lost since I have not been there before!

If its ethnography, its gotta be right: reflections on DUX 05

This thought came back to me again and again during the DUX conference that I just got back from. Many speakers told us about the “ethnographic research” they conducted. Sometimes they shared some video of their observations – of children playing, or people in their homes, sitting on a chair, or watching TV. And the audience would watch delightedly – look at that, its people! People playing, laughing, sitting, walking… It all seemed very rosy – “we observed some people, maybe for a few hours, maybe we lived with them for a week or two – they still send us postcards – the dears. And at the end of it, we had the Aha moment, when it all fell into place. And the product was born.” And everyone lived happily ever after.

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How collaboration tools help small companies go international

In his most recent column in the New York Times, economist Hal Varian writes about how technology enables small companies (even really small fry) to go international. One of the two small-fry companies he mentions, is my company Uzanto and our experiences with setting up and running an office in New Delhi.

He calls such small companies “micro-multinationals“, and says: “Both of these micro-multinational companies work pretty much the same way, using e-mail, Web pages, voice-over-Internet phone services and other Internet technology to coordinate their far-flung operations.

In my opinion, the biggest enabler of having an international office has been an Instant Messenger with voice. I do not exaggerate when I say that I live my life on Skype. Which is why I periodically wax forth about Skype on this blog, and recommend it to everyone I know.

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Reports from BarCamp: Social Text and Wikiwyg

I spent most of this weekend at BarCamp. Met a lot of interesting people, ate too much crap (I have a weakness for chocolate!), and generally had a good time. BarCamp was in SocialText offices. While talking to Ross Mayfield, I realized that the whole premise behind SocialText is a easier to use wiki – one which you can get many people in an enterprise to use. Ross mentioned how he has been receiving feedback from some customers about usabiity, and one of the demands is a WYSIWYG interface. This morning, he unveiled Wikiwyg: a WYSIWYG method for editing wikis. Apparently one of the problems has been discoverability – many users did not even realize that wikis were editable.

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Come by to the BayCHI Web 2.0 panel today!

There has been a lot of discussion of Web 2.0 recently. Some people hate the term – dismiss it as marketingware. Others think it signifies a real trend. And yet others are bent upon defining it.

At the BayCHI panel today, we will mostly steer clear of definitions. Instead we will focus on some of the key trends of Web 2.0 – read/write web, open API’s, mashups, RSS, attention, blog search, tagging etc. with panelists Paul Rademacher from Housing, Stewart Butterfield from Flickr, David Sifry from Technorati and Thomas Vanderfield of

If you are in the Bay Area, come by to PARC, Palo Alto at 7.30 PM. If you are not in the Bay Area, then wait for the Podcast. We will be posting that very soon after the event. If you write about the event, then use the tag “BayCHI” – we like to follow the conversation after our events.

And if you really must have an answer to “what is Web 2.0”, then read the definitions collected by Luke Wroblewski!

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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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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The Global Voices conference at the Berkman Center, Harvard

Later this week I am heading to the Global Voices Online at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society. Going back to the East Coast is always welcome, and I look forward to reflecting on the DialogNow experience, and how to replicate such a system. Its just about four years since I started Dialognow (it was launched in January 2002, but I started working on it just about this time of the year in 2001).

There are many people at the conference who I look forward to meeting including Hossein Derakhshan who blogs about iran, Joi Ito, and Jeff Jarvis. The conference organizer, Rebecca MacKinnon has put together a very interesting bunch of people together. And to top it all, we are being put up at Irving House, which (along with its affiliate Harding House)is my favorite place to stay in the Boston area.