Torn between the big G and 30 boxes

30 boxes feed


google calendar feed


Yes it’s true, believe it or not I’m calendaring the web 2.0 way. That is, sharing and making available all kinds of personal information about me and my whereabouts on the web to whomever cares enough to look. I suspect it will come in handy for making plans with friends and family etc. but really, I am just trying to get my life organized, particularly my summer as I’m heading into thesis writing mode and need to keep a very tightly managed schedule. NOT my speciality. But there are a couple of new services I hope will make this process less painful.

First some context. The first thing that you may find unusual is the very idea of sharing your personal schedule on the web, and I couldnt agree more. Why would anyone want to do that? This is more common than you would think these days, and sites such as and have built up large user bases just because they provide the means to share upcoming events. Typically this serves the purposes of inviting/luring others that may be interested. The benefit to sharing this information, is that you may actually pique the interest of total strangers but those that have a genuine interest in the subject of the event, so this works really well if you are trying to start a club or bring together all the ‘railroad model builders‘ in your town for instance. Yes, the information is typically ‘public’, but in the case of each of the tools I mention, that is always optional.

A new breed of web calendars are taking things a bit further in that they are (potentially) useful to input and manage all your personal events as well, aiming to provide users a means to organize their lives. Outlook killers is really what they are, which is one of the reasons I am so happy. 🙂 see.. happy. I dont know, maybe Mac users already have some awesome calendaring tool going on, but for these of us shackled to PC’s this is a godsend.

Last Month 30boxes came on the scene as announced here , and I have been blissfully adopting it as my new PIM solution. I cant even begin to get into the many features, and honestly do not want to as they are covered so well by others. Suffice it to say, its cool, its shareable, it has RSS and AJAX comin out the yingyang and an elegant and fully featured interface. (but not TOO fully)

Today of course, all the buzz is about the big G’s calendar solution. Some announcements here, here and here that give this some context in terms of the bigger picture, a la the battle w/ micro*****, but although tempting, i’ll refrain from commenting on THAT. (already running out of steam on this post as it is).

The fact is that Im a big fan of google services, too much so sometimes. At first look, this seems to be no exception. It too is cool, shareable, AJAX and RSS driven, clean elegant etc etc etc. but it presents the biggest problem for me which is user adoption. Which service will I give my clicks too? Sure the integration with gmail is nice, desirable even, but do I really want to commit ALL my interactions to the big G? Isnt there room for the little guy to get in there too? At this point it almost doesnt matter as I can easily copy information from one to the other verrry easily, the way it should be. Of course if my wordpress aggregator liked google feeds better I would be more conflicted, so for now 30 boxes wins! yay!

Friends and Contacts, (another mashup post)

flickr friends feed


I call this post a ‘mashup’ because it has been more than two weeks since my last post, (forgive me father) and I am throwing alot of the ideas I had intended to do a single posts about into one. The best of all possible posts really.

First of all I should mention, I may have found Jeff Macloud. yesss! It seems somebody (finally) happened across my earlier post which was essentially a message in a bottle, (could it have been the man himself?) and posted jeffs number in the comments. One of the advantages I have of being an underground blogger is that I can still keep my comments and trackbacks functioning with relative little interest from s p a m m e r s. Curiously, looking at my logs, and the submitted email address, the comment came from the east, maybe TO and not from Calgary at all, although I have a sneaking suspicsion…

I still have not called the number yet, but will be doing so this weekend, when I have a moment to breath. I’m excited! 🙂

So this ties in to the images I have been working on, which is a collage of labels that many social software sites use for the people that you are connected to, or have bookmarked. My pal Jeff is a ‘friend’, a good one in the real word. Even though we have been out of touch for awhile and he doesnt participate in any online socializing of any kind, that i know of. Having recently finished a big conference, my linkedin identity is gaining many new ‘connections’. via the business cards i gave out and individuals I spoke to throughout. I doubt I will ever have any trouble finding any of these people.

Social software has been built upon the capability for users to link to each other, forming networks of relationships on an adhoc, and open basis. There are rarely any barriers to adding someone to your collection, thus the early friend collecting that went on, and likely is still going on in friendster … booooring. They all work relatively the same, but differ in terms of the user experience around how those connections are framed semantically. Adding ‘friends is one of the most common terms of reference, while others use the more general, and less commital term ‘contacts‘, or ‘connections‘ which is the norm for email and IM lists as well. Flickr does use “contacts” as a general term, (even tho the folder in the url says friends) then allows you to assign users as “friends” or “family” status beyond that. Others go so far as to make you link to ‘your favorite people’. Regardless, you may or may not actually know these individuals, let alone have met them, yet there they are in YOUR list.

My question is, what are the social protocols that are forming around the process of adding friends (or whatever)? Is it rude to add someone as a ‘friend’, or whatever willy nilly, or should there be some shared context? If someone adds you as a friend, is is also rude NOT to add them? Why all the focus on the positive, why not add enemies as well? aquaintances? people i passed on the street?
Since none of my research has looked into the world of online dating, I am probably missing a huge chunk of how people negotiate these kinds of interactions, but I have always been slightly anxious adding somebody, particularly someone that I knew of, but who had no idea who I was. In almost every case I have come across, you cannot add someone to your list without them knowing it, so there it is a fairly bold and non-voyeuristic act. This is all very curious to me, and it will be of interest as I continue exploring.

dont use that word ‘folksonomy’ around here

Over the next few decades, it’s pretty clear that the massive archives of content that every broadcaster in the world has accrued over the last 70 or 80 years will start to appear on-demand and on the internet” T. Coates. rssLinkList(‘’,5,false,false);

Well tags ARE the flavor of the day there is no question. A new way they might be applied was reported here, but tagging in general continues to get press. With all of the homework I have been getting in taxonomy and ontology, I am really beginning to understand the power of this “bottom up approach” to building a conceptual model as a shared resource and reference in online collaborative spaces. (how long have i been in grad school now?) Of course I have always had faith in its effectiveness, but the more I learn how “the machine” works, the more important it seems to free users from its constraints.

‘Tagging’, or the capability to allow users to add keywords or metadata to content in any form, is permeating all aspects of virtual and technological life. T. Coates of plasticbag fame recently finished a project with the bbc on the “Annotable Audio” project, an internal attempt to test the usability of users ‘tagging’ audio content with keywords. It is hoped that this will aid future listeners sort through the long tail of content the bbc has amassed. This is possible. I found an earlier project of his on “phone tags” even more interesting as it explored the idea of using mobile phones as an interface to tagging tracks on the radio. A dream I hope is one day realized as it will mean I can stream my audio to a mobile device.

It brings the realization that this is not really new stuff. The act of labeling ourselves and our surroundings has a broad history, well… going back to cave paintings suppose. More recently though, the urban culture of ‘tagging’ or grafitti art has become a common fixture adding a layer of metadata to city spaces. In terms of ourselves, the idea of a business cards is akin to a personal tag that can be distributed to your business network. Exploring the intersection of these typical outlets for ‘ambient metadata’, with the web-based or virtual counterparts, is a group from Amsterdam named Mediamatic. This ‘cultural instituion’ conducts several interesting projects and workshops on a range of issues, but have great page of reference material on what they refer to as Mobtagging. Searching the site for tag, you can get a sense of some of the ideas they explore. One of my favorites is “Physical Metadata“, where they attempt to ‘tag the world’ as it were.

For a very extensive description of tagging in the web world you should check out ideant’s “Tag Literacy” piece. And of course no post on this topic would be complete without a link to43folders.