Monthly Archives: November 2004

Smalltown to Sepia Dreams

Takegreatpictures.com interviews Matthew Jordan Smith (bio), a celebrity photographer who was born in New York but grew up in my hometown of Columbia, SC. Smith has photographed celebrities like Oprah Winfrey, Britney Spears, Vanessa Williams, Samuel L. Jackson and Star Jones, and he has published a book called Sepia Dreams.

When I find myself slacking, then I’ve got to go out and dig deeper,
try harder, and reinvent myself, read more books, read books on
creativity, go to shows, go to museums, and take in anything I can,
visually, to be inspired.  When I first started photography I had my
goal of just being published.  And then you get published and you’re
like, ok I want to get published in this magazine.  Then you want to
shoot this campaign.  It just gets bigger and bigger and better.  The
dream just continues.  There’s always something else.  There’s a lot
more I want to do.

Blame It On the Flame

Clay Shirky talks about how poor computer-user interfaces still are at helping us find ways of managing and moderating our social interaction.

And yet, when we poll users about what they actually do with their computers, some form of social interaction always tops the list […]. The practice of software design is shot through with computer-as-box assumptions, while our actual behavior is closer to computer-as-door, treating the
device as an entrance to a social space. We have grown quite adept at designing interfaces and interactions between computers and machines, but our social tools — the software the users actually use most often — remain badly misfit to their task. […]

The design gap between computer-as-box and computer-as-door persists because of a diminished conception of the user. The user of a piece of social software is not just a collection of individuals, but
a group. […] There are also behaviors that can only occur in groups, from consensus building to social climbing. And yet, despite these obvious differences between personal and social behaviors, we have very little design practice that treats the group as an entity to be designed for.

There is enormous value to be gotten in closing that gap, and it doesn’t require complicated new tools. It just requires new ways of looking at old problems. Indeed, much of the most important work in
social software has been technically simple but socially complex.

His piece goes on to talk about what social conventions (and the technological tools used to help enforce them) have developed around Internet-related interaction. (A nod to the Social Media Group for highlighting this and the Rubel articles. SMG has also posted a link to the recent Newsweek article on wikis and Wikipedia.)

Watch that Tail

Steve Rubel of Micro Persuasion says the "long tail of the blogosphere" is going to continue disrupting the way we think of media content.

As blogging becomes more popular, it is now easier for news consumers to find specific niche blog sites that adequately meet their information needs. […] In addition,  really simple syndication (RSS) is starting to move mainstream as a tool that empowers consumers to TiVo the Web and assimilate all the content they care about onto a single Web page. Yahoo!’s recent adoption of RSS content on its My Yahoo! customized page will drive blog readership and usage. […] Taken in all together, the result is that big media will increasingly adapt and embrace blogging in order to maintain their dominance.

Steve notes how media outlets are now "openly embracing bloggers — either by
buying them out entirely or by signing them to joint operating ventures
that include revenue sharing."

The media will turn themselves into blog-like online aggregators that link readers to all relevant content in their area of focus, whether it’s a blog or a news site. […] Media Web sites will morph into social sites, employing comments, trackbacks, RSS feeds and other blog-like structures in order to create community.

Put Your Essay in the Mail

Ink Pot’s creative non-fiction contest ends in days. Nancy McCabe is judging the contest for the magazine. (A ‘thanks’ to Fred Schoeneman for reminding me.)

Has He Tried Writing Short Stories?

Excite’s Joe Kraus says that four years ago, he met Peter Ueberroth at a venture capital event. He wanted to know the secret of this man who had made his name as a millionaire, former Olympic organizer and former Major League Baseball commissioner.

I was fascinated by this guy and I had to know how he did it. So, I
asked the cliched "how have you accomplished so many amazing things in
your life" question.
He paused for a moment and I’ll never forget what he said.
"I pot plants."

Or, you could try my particular form of tilting at windmills and try your hand at writing for a living.

Poetic Duels

My friend Michael Standaert, who writes the Nipposkiss literary blog, has been putting together a nice series of interviews with the writers from the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa. He recently interviewed writer/poet Matthias Goertitz about the challenges of translating poetry and other topics.

Goeritz on the great Russian poets Alexander Pushkin and Mikhail Lermontov–and dueling:

To have that fight between the romantic soul and someone very rational
… maybe this is my only postmodern link … he sees his cage of words, he
sees his cage of conflicts and he doesn’t know how to come out. In
every poem and story of Lermontov there are moments when everything
explodes, the character implodes and everything around him explodes.
There is never a happy ending in that. I guess I try to figure out in
my writing and in some sense in my life how to overcome that, to come
through that.

Lit On the Radio

What is it with my Zoetrope friends and the radio these days? Mark Sarvas, who writes The Elegant Variation literary blog, was recently on a National Public Radio (NPR) segment called "Bloggers Influence the Publishing Industry." Mark Budman, the editor of Vestal Review, discussed flash fiction with Tom Milligan, the host of WSKG’s Off the Page. And my Night Train colleagues Sue Henderson and Tom Jackson talked about literary journals (MP3) with Jordan Rosenfeld, host of KRCB’s Word by Word.

The Politics of Disclosure

"The result of requiring public pension funds to reveal venture returns is that the best funds will simply not accept public pension funds as investors," argues David Hornik on Venture Blog. The freeze effect is real, especially since the rule inherently disadvantages public funds.

The other part of the story, of course, is to remember (i) the fiduciary responsibility that pension funds and other large institutional investors have towards their constituent investors and (ii) that investors, no matter how small they are, have a right to know in what they are invested. Tim Oren’s point that many individual investors lack the sophistication to understand or stomach the volatility inherent in VC (or other private equity) investments is valid, but that then also raises the question as to whether such investments are appropriate for them.

What does it mean if an institutional investor cannot explain an investment to his constituents? Shouldn’t an institutional investor be able to do so? I agree with Hornik and Oren that looking at the returns of funds of too recent vintage can be misleading, but the same cannot be said of funds that are at stages that should be considered of more mature vintage. If funds of more mature vintage are performing poorly, shouldn’t it be valid for investors to question the appropriateness of the fund’s investment strategy?

Covering Taipei

Taipei is planning on building the world’s largest Wi-Fi grid, according to Reuters. Taiwan’s Q-Ware is deploying "at least 20,000 access points throughout Taipei at a cost of US$70 million." Access points will be attached to street and traffic lights, and planners seek to have 90 percent of the city covered by 2005. "As far as we know, this is the only city that has tried to have a city-wide coverage of wireless service," says Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou. Hewlett-Packard is a consultant to the Taipei city government and is working with Intel, Microsoft and Cisco, reports CIO Today.

Making Computing Socially Necessary

Judith Meskill, who writes The Social Software blog, quotes from an old IBM paper on pervasive computing:

If pervasive computers are to be successful, they need to support human social lives… Designers of winning pervasive
  computing solutions will understand the mechanisms behind interpersonal satisfaction and collaborative productivity.
  They will avoid the pitfalls that disrupt successful interactions. By designing for social computing applications,
  they will move pervasive computing away from social hindrance toward social necessity. — D.C. Dryer. "At
what cost pervasive? A social computing view of mobile computing systems."