Kottke Becomes Blog-Artist

Blog pioneer Jason Kottke hopes to be the first blog artist, writing his ad-free blog full time with only the support of donations. He’s combining the concept of micro-donations (proven by the Dean campaign to be a powerful by-product of mass internet accessibility and easy online payment systems) with the concept of artistic patronage – forming (of course): micro-patronage.
It looks like he’s off to a good start. I count about 200 names on his donor list so far. If those people are giving the suggested $30, he would have earned around $6,000. That’s probably not enough to live on in Brooklyn for a year, but then again he only announced this twelve hours ago.
Full time blogging is nothing new, but Kottke aims to do this without advertisements. The link list, however, raises the question of the distinction between donation recognition and advertising. PBS underwriters have long known that a “donation” can be just as valuable as a paid advertisement. In the case of a link on the web, the donation can have tremendous value. This value comes from the search engine boost granted to sites with links from popular sites like Kottke’s. It’s the reason that comment spam exists (and works). I was offered $20 per month to host a small text link on this site, so I think $30 for a permanent link on Kottke’s site is probably a steal.
Kottke could eliminate this benefit by excluding that page from the search engines, either by using the traditional robots file or by using the new no-follow link attribute.
In any case, that’s a technicality. I’m not trying to say that Kottke has sold out – quite the opposite. I hope he succeeds.

Bus Stop Spam

I saw this at the bus stop last week and I found it rather amusing.
bus stop spam
First of all, while there are some hospital shuttle buses around Boston, there’s a pretty low probability of a heart doctor standing around in the cold down by the railroad tracks awaiting the #70. Of course, we’re not just looking for heart doctors here, but open-minded heart doctors. Who else would entertain the notion that a product called “The Greatest Vitamins in the World” could revolutionize the practice of modern medicine?
As if the advertisement wasn’t suspicious enough, I think the absurdly long URL qualifies this ad as spam. “Doctor, perhaps this patient is suffering from harmful vitamin intake. I read about this condition on the highly reputable dontforgettotakeyourvitimins1024 dot com… slash… leaston17882 website.”

The End of Reading and Writing?

Lessig reads his column aloud to introduce himself to podcasting. I just got my March copy of Wired, and I’ll probably skip that column and listen to the live version. This is part of the broader movement to record and playback the human voice. Hard drives, microphones (think cell phones), and compressed audio formats are their way to becoming as common as pens and pads of paper. What’s to stop the recorded word from taking over where the digitized word left off?
There’s no doubt that both technologies have their benefits, but the benefits of text – permanent, clear, asynchronous, searchable, small – are quickly being absorbed into audio media. Meanwhile, the benefits of audio are only being enhanced. I was never able to get my reading ability past the point where I translate text into mentally audible words (in other words, to go straight from print to mental idea). Thus, for me, reading merely adds a cognitive step that slows me down. I’m not sure why I read anything that’s available in audio form.
Writing (word processing?) is another story. The ability to work at a random pace, retrace, and rearrange gives the written word a benefit that audio just doesn’t have: it can be revised before publication. For this reason, I think Lessig’s choice to start podcasting gives a pleasant result. We get the best of both worlds: the perfection of the written and the expression of the spoken.

The Power of Many

I just finished reading The Power of Many: How the Living Web is Transforming Politics, Business, and Everyday Life by Christian Crumlish. The basic idea is that the web has enabled social groups to form and exchange knowledge, meet, form communities, enact political change, etc. While all this is true, I thought the book repeated buzzwords more than actually providing analysis of the way social behavior has been altered by technology. “Blog blog blogger blog, rss rss xml rss.” While we do live in an exciting time, I was hoping for more analysis and fewer bullet pointed lists of product features.
Now that I’ve judged the book by it’s content, it’s safe to admit that I more frequently judge books by their covers. In this case, I have to wonder just how intentional was the similarity between this book and David Weinberger’s Small Pieces Loosely Joined, which is a much better read covering a more general but related topic.
book covers

Baby Names

The Baby Name Wizard Voyager is simply amazing. There are three reasons for this: (1) We’ve had great data on name popularity for a long time through government records. (2) People are interested in names (a necessarily essential aspect of our identity). (3) It’s a fabulous interactive rendering of this interesting and accurate data.
I was named Andrew as the name was on an upward trend in popularity, though my name has always been popular. It seems my family has followed the times with our names. My parents’ names both peaked right about the time they were born.

Google Maps

Google maps are slightly better than other online map services. I’m waiting for them to layer Keyhole images over the maps so the user can see a birds-eye view. Mapquest used to have an option to view satellite images, but Keyhole has done a much better job.
It’s interesting that Google doesn’t point to their map service when you type an address into the standard search box. They recognize the address and instead point to Yahoo or Map Quest.

Harvard Square Adidas Performers

I got a note the other day from Afro-D, one of the musicians that performed in front of the Adidas store in Harvard Square last December. Apparently the performance was entirely improvised, and none of the musicians had played together before that day.
The performance got my attention, and probably the attention of others, so now that I’ve mentioned Adidas twice in three months, I thought I’d offer some links to the performers:

The didgeridoo player is from Lifted
The MC is from Audible Mainframe
I am an MC myself, in addition to being a trumpet player. I play in a band called The Eclectic Collective. . . . I also play in two other bands, Giraffe and Soul Movement.
– Afro-D

A9 Street Photography

Amazon is taking a novel approach to search engine competition. Instead of trying to make a better website search than Google (which is near perfect already), they seem to be thinking up things to search. Books were an obvious place to start, but their new yellow pages search has a very cool option to search photographs of entire city streets. You can “walk” up or down the street and see how it looked last time the A9 truck drove by (which, in the case of Boston was during the summer).
Because the camera on the truck stays parallel to the angle of the street, you can get a view of San Francisco as though the entire city was stretched flat. Take a ride on San Francisco’s #24 bus up Divisidero to see what I’m talking about.
It’ll be interesting to see Google’s response to this. They no doubt have been planning something similar. (They did buy KeyHole after all.) I’d like to see software that integrates satellite images, aerial photographs, and street level photographs into one system. Then I’d like to see all those images mapped into some sort of video game where you fly around and shoot stuff. Let’s be honest, this stuff is more about entertainment than function.

Open Source Organizations Gain Momentum

The Software Freedom Law Center launched today. The Center will offer pro-bono legal services to open source software developers. It has an impressive Board of Directors and has been funded initially by Open Source Development Labs (“home to Linus Torvalds, the creator of Linux”). This is a big step forward for open source software, as was yesterday’s announcement that the Open Source Initiative is expanding its services.