Saturday, May 31, 2008

A welcome to arms

Luke: Dean Kamen's wonderful prosthetic robot arm - (37signals)
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The slippery slope of telecommuting

Higher gas prices -> one-day-a-week telecommuting -> constant telecommuting -> "extreme" telecommuting from different parts of the globe.

I am skeptical. Although some lines of work are pretty amenable to this sort of progression, others certainly aren't. And distributing work in this way tends to be accompanied by attenuated organizational structures and typically a shift to temporary federations of subcontractors rather than stable long-term organizations. Definitely we are seeing and will continue to see this sort of movement in some sectors, but I don't think it will catch on across the entire workforce the way casual Fridays did. -
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Friday, May 30, 2008

Android vs. iPhone: The bottom line

iPhone is Mac, Android is more like Linux. One focuses on control, the other on customization and openness. Oh, and of course Android is built to funnel people to the web where Google can leverage its own services and ad network.

Google's Android: How Will it Compare to iPhone? - ReadWriteWeb
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CFP: Technology-Focused Collaborative Research in English Studies (Collection)

Laura McGrath, who visited us at the CWRL some time back, is calling for papers for an edited collection on technology-focused collaborative research in English studies. Looks really interesting and timely. Deadline is August 31.

CFP: Technology-Focused Collaborative Research in English Studies (Collection) | Kairosnews
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Jaiku update

The recent FriendFeed discussion has prompted Jyri to do some damage control. They are focusing on the move to Google App Engine rather than maintaining and extending the current server.

Jaikido Blog | Making progress
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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Android - I am 95% sold

I've been intrigued by Google's project to bring the Android mobile platform to market, but also worried -- Google has a habit of releasing beta software and taking on projects that don't quite get completed. But they demoed Android today. And one of many possible killer apps is Street View that uses the phone's internal compass:

Total game changer, especially for someone with no sense of direction.

Clinton strategy comes to fruition

Just before the Texas primaries, I speculated that the Clinton campaign would try to exploit the difference between primary and caucus results to argue that the caucus results were not representative.

Today, the strategy came to fruition. Here's the relevant paragraph from the report (PDF), which documents a nationwide pattern in primaries vs. caucuses.
Example 2: Texas held a primary & caucus on March 4 and once again widely different results were recorded. Over 2.8 million Texans voted in the primary and gave Clinton a 100,000 vote margin over Obama, a 52% to 48% win. However, just hours later, the Texas caucus registered an Obama win over Clinton of 56% to 44% [with 41% of the precincts reporting, total caucus participation has not been released]. Allocation of the 126 primary pledged delegates were Clinton 65 and Obama 61. Allocation of the 68 caucus pledged delegates were Obama 38 and Clinton 29. Bottom line: Obama actually won 5 more pledged delegates than Clinton in Texas. Common sense begs the question if this result was truly in line with the will of the Texas voters.
My sense is that this is too little, too late. But you can see the argument coming down the pike: The general election will follow the same format as the primaries. This looks like an attempt to hold onto Clinton superdelegates and force a brokered convention.

Twitter + FriendFeed vs. Jaiku

A thread sprang up overnight -- on FriendFeed, so it's a little biased. The highlights:
People's complaints about Jaiku:
  • They hate the interface.
  • It's too complicated.
  • It's slow.
  • Community evangelism has been lackluster, so the people just aren't there.
  • 'according to rumour, apart from its port to Google AppEngine, it's now maintained as a "20% time" project.'
Many speculate that Jaiku fits into Google's Android strategy and we'll see a location-aware Android client.

Why isn't Jaiku discussed much as a serious Twitter competitor? I just took another look and I hate the UI. Plus it's ssslllooowwww. - FriendFeed
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Monday, May 26, 2008


Wired's Danger Blog reports:
"The man who located the wreck of the Titanic has revealed that the discovery was a cover story to camouflage the real mission of inspecting the wrecks of two Cold War nuclear submarines," the Times of London and others report.
He was allowed to search for the Titanic -- but only after inspecting the wreck's nuclear reactors to see how they had been affected by being submerged.
Titanic 'Discovery' was a Secret Nuke Sub Dive | Danger Room from
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Sunday, May 25, 2008

Twitter addicts suffer withdrawal, blame everyone

Like many early adopters, I have become a Twitter addict for reasons I've discussed elsewhere on this blog. Now Twitter is experiencing a lot of down time, and Twitter addicts are getting all shaky and blaming everyone and everything for the troubles.

Jeff Jarvis wants Google to "buy Twitter and put us out of our misery." He reasons that Google should want it and could fix it. (Google already has Jaiku and Dodgeball.)

Steve Gilmour blames FriendFeed, which he implies was the "errant API project eating way too much of our Jabber (a flavor of instant messenger) resources" to which Twitter referred in its explanation of the downtime. Gilmour characterizes FriendFeed as being built on the back of Twitter, which hardly seems fair even if so much of FF's content comes from Twitter. It's not like killing FriendFeed will stop Facebook, Twhirl, AlertThingy, etc. from pulling content off, or BrightKite, IM, texting, and hundreds of others from placing content on.

ReadWriteWeb desperately looks for Twitter alternatives, looking at Pownce, FriendFeed, Jaiku, and BrightKite. Of these, only Jaiku and BrightKite accept SMS, and none serve the pipe function that makes Twitter so brilliant and indispensible. When I can SMS a service a task and have it passed on to Remember the Milk, and when I can direct-message someone and expect them to get it via SMS, then we will be in business. At present, all of these other alternatives fit into different parts of the information ecosystem.

My sense is that Twitter is going to have to (a) become more strict about the API and (b) figure out how to scale appropriately. But right now Twitter is the only service that does exactly what it does. BrightKite is the closest to it in a lot of ways, but it doesn't meet the sheer simplicity of Twitter and it doesn't perform the pipe function.

Oh, if you have a Jaiku invite, send it my way and I'll review the service in comparison to Twitter.

RESULTS: CCCC Theming Contest

Last week I announced a CCCC theming contest. As I explained, the annual Conference on College Composition and Communication always has a theme -- and given the sheer breadth of the conference, the themes always seem to be vague metaphors ("Taking it to the Streets," "Making Waves"). In turn, the themes inspire a lot of presentations with themed titles and, well, bad puns.

My challenge: to supply metaphoric themes for future conferences. The more outrageous, the better.

About the Submissions
First, a word about the submissions. I suggested that people submit themes via Twitter, blog comment, or FriendFeed comment. I received
  • 22 entries via Twitter public stream
  • 1 entry from a locked Twitter stream
  • 1 Twitter direct message
  • 1 blog comment
  • 0 comments on FriendFeed
for a total of 25 entries.

The contest post on the blog got a total of 65 hits, 54 of which were unique. Unfortunately I can't tell how many came from FriendFeed vs. Twitter, but I notice a general surge in traffic to my blog from both.

The Entries
In no particular order, here are the entries:
  • Samantha Blackmon: dang, I thought spinuzzi was the theme for the next conference! (Okay, I am not sure this was meant to be an entry, but I like the idea. CS)
  • George H. Williams: CCCC2012 (St. Louis, MO): What's the matter with Missouri?
  • George H. Williams: CCCC2012 (St. Louis, MO): What's that smell?
  • George H. Williams: CCCC 2011 (Atlanta, GA): Writing as Kudzu +
  • Bill Hart-Davidson: CCCC San Franscisco 2008: Championing Gay* Writes! (*Gay 1. adj. Happy, joyous) !
  • Collin Brooke: CCCC 2012 (StL): MIssouri Loves Company
  • Lee Sherlock: late entry #2 - CCCC: Composition or Compost? Recycling the Waste of Writing.
  • Lee Sherlock: late entry into the theming contest - CCCC 2100: Writing in a Post-Apocalyptic Age.
  • George H. Williams: CCCC 2010 (Louisville, KY) Writing/Reading/Race(ing) the Derby
  • James Ford: San Francisco 2008: Battling the Front Lines of Mini-Meta-Metaphors While Peering into the Looking Glass of Hope and Change
  • Collin Brooke: CCCC 20XX: Eponymic Neology (Every presenter must use their last name as a verb in paper title)
  • Collin Brooke: CCCC 20XX: [Insert Theme Here]
  • Lanette Cadle: CCCC--Textual Carnies: Knowing when to shout, "Hey rube!"
  • Douglas Eyman: CCCC - The Completely Arbitrary and Idiosyncratic Theme Theme
  • J. James Bono: "CCCC 200X: Writing Themes" (had to be done.)
  • Collin Brooke: CCCC 20XX: The Audacity of Scope
  • Collin Brooke: CCCC 20XX: Gone Engfishin'
  • James J. Brown Jr: CCCC 2009: The Write Stuff
  • Lanette Cadle: For the next 4Cs in Louisville: Decomposing the Center. Oh, I sense horses and compost metaphors for that.
  • Billie Hara: "gooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooaaaalll"
  • Julie Platt: CCCC 2008: No Country for Bad Comp
  • Andrew Mara: St. Louis 2012: A Rising River Floats Your Boat
  • Alice Robison: CCCC 20XX: Growing Writing During Wartime: A Coalition of the Tilling
  • Alice Robison: CCCC 20XX: Wiki! How? Developing Foundations for Metaphorical Constructions
  • Bill Hart-Davidson: CCCC 2008 San Francisco: The Hills Are Alive with the Sounds of Writing
You can see how difficult it was for me to pick a winner. We have some really outstandingly bad ones here. But I called this contest and so I must award a prize.

Honorable Mentions
Really, all of these were strong contenders.
  • Bill Hart-Davidson: CCCC 2008 San Francisco: The Hills Are Alive with the Sounds of Writing. Bill's entry evoked the Austrian countryside, and I imagined the loud scribbling of thousands of scholars. Like locusts, only less productive.
  • Alice Robison: CCCC 20XX: Growing Writing During Wartime: A Coalition of the Tilling. Alice's was appropriately contorted in order to lead to the pun, plus I detect a Talking Heads reference. I really liked this one.
  • Julie Platt: CCCC 2008: No Country for Bad Comp. Julie's entry is current, but not too current, and I can imagine the many presentation titles that would be yielded by the "country" metaphor.
  • Lanette Cadle: CCCC--Textual Carnies: Knowing when to shout, "Hey rube!" Lanette's pun on the title of Textual Carnivals is a great inside joke, and of course it keeps alive the sneaking feeling that we composition teachers aren't really doing any good. (For non-comp people, this sneaking feeling is FALSE.)
  • Collin Brooke: CCCC 2012 (StL): MIssouri Loves Company. Not technically a metaphor, but I am a sucker for a good pun. Short, to the point, sums up the feeling of a Saturday late morning session when there are more presenters than audience members.
But there can be only one.

The Winner
The winner -- who will receive a certificate fit for framing, plus a bottle of beer or 'chup, is:
  • James Ford: San Francisco 2008: Battling the Front Lines of Mini-Meta-Metaphors While Peering into the Looking Glass of Hope and Change.
James' entry really captured the spirit of the contest. Not only is it a metaphor, it is a hopelessly mixed metaphor with many components that can break off and launch themselves with sickening thuds into the titles of multiple presentations. The martial metaphor at the beginning of the theme is totally at odds with the placid one at the end. The visual metaphor is present, as it so often is, and we see the themes of the Obama campaign come in almost verbatim for that hint of trendiness, the trendiness that seems so current when the conference is planned but so stale by the time it actually arrives. Speaking of stale, "looking glass" references Through the Looking Glass and thus the attenuated ties with literature that compositionists still, er, enjoy. And the brilliant "mini-meta-metaphors" tarts up the self-referential "metaphors" with not one, but two prefixes that pretend to add layers of meanings while actually subtracting meeting.

Well done, James. Well done.