30 January 2005

Next Action Balls 2

current snapshot of my next action balls basket

close-up of a next action ball (blog exclusive)

[note to self: take Barnes and Noble University photography class]

Click here to find out what this is about, the main documentation page is now hosted via Flickr here.

Merlin Mann’s Introducing the Hipster PDA
Personal Analog Device from the c2 wiki

29 January 2005

a million monkeys typing

So this blog is on for a month now, time for a little reflection. To wrap up my experience: damn, did I know.

The title was bluntly stolen from the excellent blog of Douglas Johnston, but I couldn’t resist, it’s just the best metaphor for this phenomenon called blogs, blogging, blogosphere, blogging ecosystem etc.

Lesson nr. 1: there are many great blogs out there

This should seem to be pretty obvious to most blog readers and bloggers, but it wasn’t for me. I was scanning a few blogs for a couple of years now, I was subscribed to about a dozen, but I didn’t spend much net-time reading blogs (nor surfing in general). After I started this blog I also started to pay more attention to whats happening around me and this is amazing. It’s hard not to see that there is something big on the roll here, but I never expected to discover so many so nicely written, hip, cute,... blogs in this blogwonderland – and I could bite myself in my behind for having been so ignorant ‘till now.

Now there is a million monkeys typing (some recent numbers are given here) – expect to find info nuggets you won’t find anywhere else, thought snippets that have been unthinkable before. Digging in the crates really pays back.

Lesson nr. 2: one blog is nothing, all blogs together are circuit bending everything

So even if reading those exquisite blogs might be rewarding in itself, the surplus value is constructed within the network and interactions between all blogs. A piece of information dropped into this collective blogbody might or might not start to resonate, but if it does it spreads like a feedback looped bushfire. And it’s also ideas, thoughts, concepts,... that get amplified, discussed, fine tuned, and broadcasted.

Lesson nr. 3: bloggers are the next popstars

Blogging seems to take on a dynamic that has more in common with the music industry than the news industry. What gets traded is not news value but thought value. This is something most journalists just don’t get. Blogging is about taking a personal position, not making a facts representing preposition. Some bloggers already have some sort of popstar status and dedicated groupies as their following, and they usually really deserve it.

Lesson nr. 4: blogging is fun but also work

Duh. Serious bloggers know that, blog readers won’t care. Those interested in this topic will find a lot of information at Dave Pollards How to save the world blog (check this, this, and this entries for a start) – his blog is an overall must read.

Well, stay tuned.

27 January 2005

social web 101: Wikis

This is Part II of my weekly dummy series on web technologies with a social twist. Part I was about the superb social bookmarks manager del.icio.us, this weeks theme is Wikis. Everyone having heard of this term before (in a context other than the Wikipedia) can safely leave now – or on a second thought: stay and correct me where I’m wrong.

What’s that?

A Wiki is the result of the two principles ‘everyone can create, edit, delete and discuss content’ and ‘content is produced in atomic snippets that are linkable to other atomic snippets in a flat way’ applied on some sort of technological infrastructure that makes the creation of this content possible. Usually this takes the form of a website consisting of hyperlinked documents (but not necessarily so).

Why is it great?

Thats it?

Well, almost. The first two thoughts popping up in people seeing a wiki for the first time are usually: ‘so I can write complete bullshit as well?’ and ‘so how can I know that the information is valid?’. Well you can (write bullshit) and you can’t (know). But you do have to consider that others are watching what you do and vandalism is usually rolled back within minutes – given there is a critical mass of users. As for the validity of the content: this is a complex topic (what is knowledge, what is representation, which powerstructures and interests are involved…) but Wikis do encourage some sort of dialogical construction of the knowledge about a certain domain and often very effectively so. The result is sometimes the smallest common denominator of the participants (one of the reasons I don’t like the Wikipedia too much), but make it better if you care.

Check out a few Wikis, contribute something, its fun!

26 January 2005

How to spend 32 hours a week

Since a few month I tune into the streams of the BBC whenever I’m online – which I usually am whenever I’m at home – which I usually am. The girls have taken control over the non mainstream big-beat dance sound of Radio 1: Breezblock, Annie Mac and Annie Nightingale after the too sad pass-away of my alltime favorite John Peel One World is on 4 times a week now and doing the best keeping up with his heritage (not replicating his unique melange of a dancehall track followed by a death metal track followed by a 30’s schellack recording… but providing close-up features of record labels, genres, styles at the edge of the river); and there is the ever-jazzy-funky-groovy Gilles Peterson and the ever-talking-pressure-dropping Fabio and Grooverider.

1Xtra is Radio 1’s recent offspring and even more focused:
Drum & Bass: L Double, DJ Flight, Bailey
Various Beats: Panjabi Hit Squad, Benji B
UK Garage: J Da Flex, Richie Vibe Vee, Heartless Crew

The good news is that you can listen to all shows online for the whole next week after the original broadcast. The bad news is that this really kills time and just constraining oneself to about 16 shows a week requires effort and coordination. The good news again is that most shows really are great (after building ones portfolio, there are also a great shows for jazz, classical music, talk, features). The bad news again is that they are so great that the motivation for exploring other channels of musical input gets close to zero (economies of scaled listening pleasures at work here).

26 January 2005

Bedtime Story

Tonight it was snowing. I decided to take a midnight walk since there hasn’t been too much winter-feeling coming up this year. It was nice and quiet, all pathways were virginally dusted in white. At some point a girl – we know each other from seeing without ever speaking with each other – crossed my way.

When I went back I started to follow the prints of my own steps (this comes and goes, but at times I unconsciously and almost addictively try to place my steps at patterns if some are available). When I then came across her footprints from before I switched over to them. It was funny, I wanted to keep my current walking speed and almost had to double my stepping frequency. And suddenly I came to a point where she had begun doing the same with the prints of my way out. She quit doing this after a few steps, they obviously were to large, but I really had to laugh out loud. How likely is this?

25 January 2005

Next Action Balls

In a previous posting I mentioned some upcoming forces – the sweetness of tools – that contest my analog / minimalistic approach of implementing GTD.

Another issue is a certain amount of thinking about this approach without adding any value. Currently I’m writing all next actions on 3.5 by 3.5 sized paper-notes. Now: should I tear a NA apart (makes me feel good for a second) when it’s done or should I keep them for future reference? If I keep them, shouldn’t I track metriks like time estimated vs. time actually spent, date issued vs. date done…? If I track those, shouldn’t I look for or build a database that visualizes trends…?

No. I need to trick and stick me to simplicity. Here is my plan:

1. take a basket and remove stuff inside
2. do the next action
3. make the corresponding note a little ball and throw it in the basket
4. repeat 2. and 3. until the basket is full
weekly do the review and post a picture of the status

Here is the next action balls basket as of today:

21 January 2005

Ta-da or the Myth of the Bitless Office

The week I started implementing GTD my iBook was being repaired and I was forced to use paper and a pen. It really felt awkward at first, but it gave me some sort of anachronistic kick. Then the iBook was back, but I continued to write my next actions on cut pieces of paper, my projects on index cards (title on the one, successful outcome on the other side). I really started to enjoy the haptics and tactics of handwriting and came up with a nicely working system using categories, sorting and browsing techniques, color schemes and the indespensible tickler system – overall my whole workflow improved somehow. I tried hard to implement the bitless office – baught a paper calendar (sunflower look with flipflops on the cover), wrote my contacts on business-cards,... – but then Ta-da hit me.

Ta-da is one of the next-generation webapps that I’m really looking forward to – simple, focused and cute. Its a free webservice with a mission: Simple shareable to-do lists. It’s just what you need, and nothing you don’t.

Ta-da is one of the first webbased applications I know that really makes you forget that you are doing things within your browser. The lists can be shared (read/write for a defined set of people; read only for the world) and a RSS feed is provided for tracking changes. That’s it and its fantastic. Check it out (and me, I’m back to bits again, at least partly, I’m afraight).

19 January 2005

social web 101: del.icio.us

There is a lot of cool stuff going on on the web nowadays. There are Wikis and Blogs, Flickr and FoaF, del.icio.us, various flavors of P2P and Google Betas and personal streaming technologies,... and usually RSS feeds are provided as a unified headline stream. Its hard to keep track.

Out of pure selfishness I’ll start a miniseries on a few technologies I enjoy – hopefully some of my friends will get hooked as well ;) – with the fabulous del.icio.us

Whats that?

Its a free webservice for managing bookmarks. The documentation is short and sweet.

Why is it great?

Thats it?

Well, almost. One thing I really like with del.icio.us is the principle that everyone applies the tags the way he/she wants to. Academics and taxonomists might (and actually do) object that there are all kind of problems involved: people might use different tags for the same concept (newyork nyc …) or the same tag for different concepts (java for the island or the programming language), so even if we wouldn’t want to enforce a strict taxonomy or a controlled vocabulary we still might want to…, but what those arguments are missing is the fact that the users
are tagging info-economically and smart.

Everyone is part of the system, everyone is observing the system and reflecting his strategy of using the system, everyone at the same time is observed by the system and everyone knows this. There seems to be a permanent differentiation of tags if they become unusable (because there are too many links associated), or a unification of tags (because there is a usablility constraint with too many tags), or a homogenisation of tags (because it makes more sense if one applies the best practices of others) and so on.

There obviously are various forces at play here, but in the end del.icio.us turns out to be a powerful tool for sharing, finding, browsing informations available on the web and better suited for this than all more structured or moderated alternatives.