this morning I kinda had a mental breakdown, I think partially in reaction to my intense experience of yesterday. it felt like a lot, and in a good way, and today being back in my house, knowing all the work I have ahead of me this week…I melted.

so I’m trying to recover by seeing if I can reflect on the experience, summarize what I got out of it, etc.

first of all, I ::heart:: Portland. more than Seattle, seriously. cycling in Portland felt like the best most natural thing, even if I got disorientated a couple of times. (I notoriously get lost and/or turned around every. single. time. I go to Portland.) I rode all over and that felt empowering emotionally and invigorating physically. I groove on the city in ways I can’t quite articulate. plus we had a great night out on Thursday, going over to Mississippi Ave. for dinner and wandering about. plus every damn thing I had to eat was super-tasty: J Cafe, Equinox, a deli whose name I don’t remember, and Greek Cusina. (brie wrapped in phyllo covered with honey and almonds == the most amazing thing I have ever eaten.)

2nd, WebVisions has always been good to me, and this year was no exception. I had the additional pleasure of coming this time with Susan and Brian from Evergreen; they are both fun smart people, plus having the starting nub of a posse made me feel able to be more gregarious.

The panels/presentations were 50/50, to be honest, but I’d say I got something out of every single one.

# Designing for the Sandbox with Peter Merholz: excellent stuff; nothing I hadn’t really heard (read) from him before, but I enjoyed getting the message in person. Plus he’s a great presenter: creative slides and an engaging manner.
# Podcasting (Rice, Narain, & May): I had my aha! moment re: podcasting. To be honest, I don’t know if there’s any particular professional application for us right now, and I have *no* interest in doing any podcasting myself. Not a big fan of the sound of my own voice, don’t have any drive to share my rather ordinary music collection, and frankly I just prefer the written word. However, I’m enjoying Matt May’s staccato episode 20 right now…I’m vaguely aware of the issues around iTunes’ implementation of podcasting subscription, but dang that’s convenient.
# The Future of Content (Finck, Holzschlag, Smokler & Robinson): what was interesting for me about this one was the diversity of opinion I heard from other audience members. people either loved it or hated it, I think for much the same reason: it was a rambling vague amorphous conversation. also, I lost a *huge* chunk of my notes, for the precise reason that I type too goddamn fast. and what is the deal with Keith’s hair?
# I’ll get back to lunch in a minute.
# Designing for the Personal InfoCloud (Vander Wal): meh. 2 things struck me about this one: he said almost the exact same things that peterme did, but not as engagingly, and I was overwhelmed with a sense of commercial co-opting and exploitation, which is why I had to step out for a minute. although I did finally have an aha moment, which redeemed it for me.
# Why Simplicity Matters (Fogg): deeply moving. Susan said she was amazed at hearing a man express so much emotion in re: the technology; Denise similarly said that his combination of words and imagery engaged her whole brain. I totally agree.
# Why We Still Love the Web (Butterfield): this one also engaged my emotional experiences with the web, which is the reason why I keep on keeping on with this crazy thing. I realized right this minute that it’s an intense combination of a love for place, a love of a craft, and a love for specific people (y’all know who you are, right?). It was less of a presentation or learning experience than just an expression of wonder, which was a great way to end the day.

The one thing I’d really change about the programming (other than having gone to see Sarah Horton instead of Vander Wal), is that I’d’ve liked to have seen more formal opportunities for sharing/networking. One possibility that came to me this morning: one of each of the presentation slots in a room with tables and chairs, where the presenter or panel was specifically charge with making the experience more between the audience members, rather than a broadcast experience. I have a hunch that Molly was trying to do that with the future of content session, but it’s hard to get that in a darkened room with rows of chairs!

And about lunch…I had something of an informal arrangement that we were going to try to catch up with Kathy & Ann from UW, either breakfast or lunch, and Kathy brought her former colleague Denise, who came to the first WA .edu-web-people dinner. plus, in the podcasting session, Jay from Dartmouth gave me his card so I could send him my notes, so I invited him along for lunch. 🙂 which all turned out fantastic; Denise scouted us out a great deli (such good fries!), and we had a fierce rambling conversation. upshot for me, professionally, is that (a) I’m not alone in any particular thing and (b) I really need to look into drupal again.

I want to re-read my notes (wtf is going on with the paging thing in WP?!), so as to get some specific to take back to work, but in general I feel like I’m on the right track and I still have a lot to learn. which feels good.

keynote: why we (still) love the web

my brain is almost full. luckily (?) I have a week away from work to let it all sink in, while I cut drywall and pound nails, etc.

I also have my fingers crossed that I’ll win something in the evaluation form drawing. 🙂

(hey, this multi-page thing for categories is totally broken. I’m sorry, I’ll try to figure it out this weekend.)

whoa…he’s a midget.

“people of the internets”

his early life online. dude, he must be right about my age. phish newsgroup. solving an argument about feeling earthquakes by using the net: usgs gopher/web site. on his slide: “I find my people” (precisely.)

possibility & constraint. the 5k. getting to the math part: 40,960 bits: random grid, 850 words of english, tiny picture of bridge at the huntington (!!!), powers of 2 (okay, weird stuff with hypercubes), 2^40960. more than the number of milliseconds since the big bang times the number of particles in the universe!!!!
ascii. hello: positions, binary, off/on switches.

html. layered with CSS/JS. only certain moves allowed, like chess.

what makes sense: natural language. what works. what is beautiful, in a platonic (excellent) sense.

“design is the successive application of contraints until only a unique product is left” — Richard Pew. (I’m reminded of my conversation with the artist of teeny-tiny watercolors last night.)

evolution, going from static to dynamic.

oh, hey he mentions my favorite explanation of contraints: poetry! over the 20th century artists have played with contraints.

a weird euphonia to a chunk from a book where each chapter only contains one vowel. (apparently, the “u” chapter doesn’t make a lot of sense.)

somewhat silly metaphors about creativity, I guess.

flickr group that is all images with circle in square, as a spontaneous choice for contraints. then the fibonacci spiral of square/circle photos. made by a programmer who sells them as posters for $4. limiting number that come from each individual: another constraint. (I’m tired enough, and have been typing enough, that I’m mistyping more.)

kids can’t not play, at least until 7-10 yrs, sometimes at the edge of pain, power relationships, or sexuality.

“play is the exultation of the possible” — Martin Buber

the web is our playground. (yes!) kinship with other people who know html. 🙂 but each of us can say ‘our’ and mean something different. oooh…cool image of social network.

back to the hypercube. we all occupy parts of that space (the web of a trillion dimensions)…with those connections. and that’s why we continue to love the web, even through the crash and all. Brad told him that the first WV was kinda depression, because it was right at the crash.

a wave of very intense emotion from him.

q: game neverending (?) — what happened to it? it went away, but elements of it went into flickr.

q: has college friends who are flickr addicts; do you have a sense of who is into it? UAE is apparently a big audience, like Brazil for [????]. wishing he was into golf for the social interaction, father playing bridge with people he wouldn’t just invite over to hang out. come for the photography, stay for the social relationships. a flickr marriage?! playful interface is addictive.

q: why beta? will the real version be totally awesome? at the beginning it was very different; only thing the same is the profile. stopped releasing stuff a couple of months ago because of stuff that had to happen with aquisition.

q (Molly): amazing in a year of killer apps — what do you do with flickr? hit photos for contacts page, like blogs where people emit what they want to and you can aggregate it all. better relationships, because he sees what’s going on with friends. lots of horsing around at work.

q: decision to open API? also has game neverending pedigree conceptually. realized that they had to be able to ask little questions from the server, so they had to build an API, and might as well release it. 20% of all traffic is api-based. (!) wanted people to be able to get pictures out of system, and didn’t have time to build export feature, same with other features they thought about. (some heckling re: a misspelled search term) cool, beautiful, interesting, never would’ve thought of in 10,000 years.

q: video? a good question, still figuring out the best way to do it.

why simplicity matters

thought “nobody will be blogging this” because it’s a very small conference, etc. 😉

going to be personal. researching operant conditioning at seaworld, car crash with pickup truck. louder than he would’ve imagined.

first thought: ctrl+z. got big laugh.

the tools we’re creating change us. (which is why using IE drives me batty; ctrl+tab does nothing.) ballerina’s toes. a pivot point in the world…we (in this room) are replacing the roles of kings, priests, shamans, in re: creating ritual. “persuasion technology” with great power comes great responsibility.

concerns about persuasion. “how computers can manipulate people”

like fire, good uses and bad. right now it’s like slow torture. not just a nuisance. think how many hours of your month have you wasted on solving computer problems.

the digital products we create will determine the future of this planet. (yes! yes! yes!)

bongo video. (I think this is part of why Mom & Dad A. didn’t want to keep their computer.)

*frustration* — cost is higher than expected and/or benefit lower than expected — resentment, sense of powerlessness.

vs. delight. cheaper or more benefits than expected…can’t always live here, but satisfaction is good too…that point in the middle.

we need to keep our users out of that corner. “radical simplicity”

why simplicity?
# lazy
# limited abilities (40% of american adults are illiterate or semi-literate; his sister would probably fall into that category, as might mine. hi, liz; I love ya, babe.)
# busy
# it sells; fewer examples in the hightech world, but lots in consumer products, look at cleaning products. picking a small/narrow problem and solve it simply.
# inclusiveness
# empower people to do what inspires them
# untouched field, lots of opportunity; either commercially or to do good things

back to the diamond. learning brings costs down. or fun makes things seem simpler, same difference. conclusion from studying video games: secret sauce is instant feedback that you are improving.

gratitude is the healthiest emotion (?)

what gets in the way of radical simplicity? it’s just more work. simplicity is brittle, doesn’t always translate between design and execution, easily broken.

plus cost and benefit are different between people and between contexts. costs: what people hate: giving up scarce resources. (cognitive energy, physical energy, time, money; there’s the other reason…it took way too many of those resources for mom to get any benefit out of computing.)

# research. studying people outside of silicon valley and their experiences with computing. “I just want a [cell] phone that makes phone calls” — he lives in a senior community?
# empathy. can be developed/learned. #1 quality he wishes for from his students at stanford. research can be about developing empathy. being an outcast can be good for developing empathy (is it because outsiders have the dominant mindset all around them at the same time they have their own…thought for later)
# be couragous. add a new feature? get the data to support it! every feature is an opportunity for failure.

grow your freedom…his goal is to create technologies that help people grow their freedom.

OMG…so inspirational!

q: why living in a senior community? was going to be a weekend home, but turned out to be a great place to live, and great interaction opportunities.

q: web as it? research/perspective on creator’s perspective? subjective nature of the user changes perspective on web? no, but he has a story/metaphor. dad makes wooden bowls, gave him a bowl that had fingerprints in the varnish, and that’s what he wanted. you should be proud of leaving those fingerprints.

q: how you teach students empathy? if he shares uncertanties, they open up more. more systematically, pictures with cards, people photos on them. (oh, like that writing exercise from intro to fiction!)

q: how do you get to simplicity? in a few months will be able to talk about case study in detail…lots of user-facing stuff to find key components. “3 things that always came up.” solve for the smallest set. enough talking that you never hear anything new…but what is the commonality? the smaller a chunk you solve for, the better.

q: how to avoid analysis paralysis? he uses external constraints, because it’s too much fun.

q: is anybody making a phone that’s just a phone? he doesn’t know.

q: wanting a search engine for the physical world. 🙂 (more a comment than a question…) simplicity is the way of getting things done that spends the least resources. he wants to Tivo people. (I’m always wanting to blog conversations.)

q: shining examples? can you think of products that are too simple? products he admires: ipod shuffle. jump to research on web credibility (I’ve blogged that at some point) — the more it looked like google, the more credibile it was. “clean” as an adjective.


okay, so losing all my notes was teh sux0r, but lunch made up for it. Susan & Brian from Evergreen, Kathy from UW, Denise who used to be at SCCC, and Jay from Dartmouth (!!!). headache is a little better, but I think I went over the top on the caffeine. (go Mtn. Dew.)

personal infocloud, model of attraction. focus of web has changed with the turn of century, from going out, finding content provided by someone else. (ew, ppt with bullet points.)

now I am the center of the universe. 😉 usability, user-centered design. going from navigation to other modes of understanding infospace, which isn’t real space, because you aren’t going anywhere, everything comes to us. but how do you rediscover your personal infospace? or share across uses, devices, etc. scraping info possible because of web standards.

refindability. if you are the center of your information universe, how do you get through it?

sweet drawing of overlapping clouds representing sources of information. personal, global (the whole web), local (intranets, mailing lists, etc.), external (stuff you can’t get. frigging electronic journals).

what a weird chart. I almost don’t understand it. something about repurposing carharts by german skateboarders. (C has been wearing their stuff for years and years. it’s not farmer’s clothing, it’s construction worker’s clothing!)

okay, now it makes sense in comparison with this other chart: our view as designers is that the center is the local/global cloud, and for users the center is the personal cloud. we should be focusing on that center. (how?!?!?!)

properties: person-centered, continuous access (which is why wifi is so important!), organized for self, context-aware.

another presentation talking about reuse & creativity, then. all in the interest of commercial, “make it easier for them to consume” —

okay, I’m going to rant for a sec. is all this reuse stuff just another way of coopting human creativity to fuel the capitalist machine?! are the open-soure web hackery tricks just exploitation? — of the hackers themselves, I mean. it’s the converse of the warm happy feeling I had in the last session, that feeling of connection with other people, and instead the sense of being sucked into the machine. you and your online friends are friends because you both are interested in the same movie trailer. feh.

the utopia and the dystopia of the web are only a hair’s breadth apart.

how do I use this in my context?

model of attraction to replace the metaphor of navigation. receptors: intellectual, perceptual, physical, mechanical.

(I think I’m going to step out and get a drink of water, see if any of Molly’s books are left. short answer: no.)

assessing content. hmmm, maybe there should be a way to subscribe to the bulletin? learn what people do with your content — and what they want to do, or could do.

what triggers people to do something with your content or even get to it?

subscribe to a page?

gaps are an opportunity to improve.

what environments do people need your information in?

structure information for access from the middle, not necessarily the home page. making it easier for people to add your pages to their structure.

I really wish I were learning something about ways to *construct* a personal infocloud for non-webnerds. because this all very esoteric. maybe I should’ve gone to the design session, or even the blogging one.

oh, hey…I just realized: this stuff may make *way* more sense for the intranet than for the public site. after all, most of our students are a short-term audience, but employees stick around for a while, and then we can build bonds internally. ad-hoc portaling? (of course, it doesn’t seem to matter what ideas I have, because the IT people will just decide to buy something, or the CIS people will just decide to do something, and i won’t know about it until it’s all over but the shouting. but you didn’t hear me say that.)

“friendly and easy” — yes! doing something that’s working that used to be broken and horrible.

whew. unfortunately no time for questions.

future of content

Nick Finck, Molly Holzschlag (get Zen of CSS design signed?!), Keith Robinson, “Kevin Smokler”: (haven’t heard of him before, book sounds interesting)

loooong introductions!

what do we mean by content? Molly sez it’s an unanswerable question. communicating a message. Keith: blog is technology, not content. clients who refer to individual posts as “a blog”, same with Flash. Kevin’s content pet peeve: content is not an element of the design!!!!! non-graphical elements. Keith: podcast is format: the words/music are the content. audio as well as text. Molly wonders what the audience thinks.

audience (is that peterme?) — content is what people are coming to your site for. he says blogs are a genre, not a technology. (mmmm. nice distinction.) most people don’t discern design/format from meaning. (yep, that’s him. he’s a freaky-smart guy, because I think he just got right to the center of the thing.)

Molly says as a designer that she’s also thinking when talking about blogging both about it as a genre but also as a technique.

audience: service as a space where *users* create the content. Molly adds that the the service facilitates the production of content. we tend to think sometimes outside the way that users think. she’s getting mad about syndication, and how to understand the presentation of RSS/feeds/etc. Keith talks about the difficulty of explaining RSS; Kevin “if you go to 10 websites a day and the 7th hasn’t updated, then you’ve wasted your time. imagine having a program that will check to see if the sites have updated so you don’t waste your time.”

audience: social interaction? Molly: one beauty of the environment is that it’s not one-way. non-linear, global.

q: concern with blurring between experience and meaning…and the breaking of content as just another site design element. user experiences what the design is. example: delicious user experience; when behind the curtain, it’s meaningful, but otherwise baffling. Kevin: terrible interface! Molly: drive-by. (which is how I use it, too.) as a sideblog. notebook/scratchpad. for what it is, it’s amazing. show of hands: who uses it?

crap. I got all distracted by the mention of the wiki for the conference.

Molly asks if there’s a difference between information and content.

fuck. I just lost all the notes I’ve been taking for the last half-hour…and some of them were really good.

that’s sort of depressing


I’m totally enjoying WV05, once again, but then I looked at the schedule again…27 (?) presenters, 2 women. 7% of the presenters.



Eric Rice (, Matt May, who’s the 3rd guy?

“automatic delivery of media files” — that’s the best description I’ve heard yet.

sparkcasting…beercasts. sounds like that comedy central show where the guy travels around at night.

“staccato.”: Oh, I’ve seen that one before, I’d just forgotten about it. Oh, the “podcast feed” is just RSS.

Okay, why is this such a big deal?!?!?! It’s just blogging with sound…oh, maybe I should upgrade iTunes…

So it’s switching from the technical to basic how to be a radio person…how to talk, better interviewing techniques. Just keep trying & get better.

“okay, we’re done: any questions?”

radio voices? don’t worry about it! smart interesting people sometimes have lackluster voices, can be more important to be good about having something to say, interviewing, etc.

basically, some people are interested in writing, some people are interested in talking or sharing music. that’s the only difference.

q: how to tell if you’re telling a story well? focus groups, if you don’t see anyone moved, then you’re not doing a good job. (like my old writing groups, or even learning from that performance art class in high school!)

q: workflow? esp. in remote locations? carry a microphone & little tape recorder, brute force method. “as long as it’s audible it’s okay.” (good enough seems to be the motto of the web.)

I missed a question or two in tweaking my notes.

something about audience…the audience of mom & best friend is okay too. (hi, guys!)

“we don’t offer value” — but ministers are using it, here’s my daily sermon. (OMG. I wish my grandpa were still alive; I’m not a Christian, but so help me, I’d subscribe to his sermons.)

q: how is anybody going to make money? most people might not…but big names could. Howard Stern, WSJ? private, niche comment. some people will pay.

q: transcripting, searchability? (from Dartmouth guy in front of me) imbedded talk show in events: transcribe everything. (that’s sparkcasting.) MCMatt is hoping metadata will catch up. iTunes has support for chaptering (in AAC format only). he transcribes himself or gets listener transcription (fanscription) for things with “lasting value.” compares to fan subtitling of anime. capabilities of systems to emerge from community of practice (!!!!!). findability may never be what it is for text, just by the nature of the thing.

podscope, searching thru podcasts. not thru transcription, searching, kinda like OCR for audio. (hmmmmmm.) searching for “umm” 🙂

q: ???? something about repurposing rss.

sexiness of name. audioblogging vs. podcasting. it’s the same fricking thing.

q: do’s & don’ts? don’t play major label music, ask permissions from independents. old model doesn’t have space for it, legally. then a rant about crappy modern radio. no other rules. “ultimately something’s got to give here” (MCMatt) streaming licensing scheme, mechanical reproduction scheme, neither matches the model.

q: where do I find what I want? podcastalley, podcastpickle, odeo, itunes…. depends what you’re into. (is that Keith R. with his hand up?)

q: editing software? adobe audition on PC ($300), audacity (free), garage band (mac only),, audio hijack pro ($30) for interviews with VoIP (and a bunch of other stuff).

q: aggregator issues? RSS playlists? webjay does spif. 3 things will break this out: itunes, IE7, atom. atom allows multiple encloses to be able to do track-by-track w/in a post. rss ubiquity in longhorn. (sigh. joke from dartmouth guy about longhorn in ’09 or ’10.)

q: what about major label stuff with live365? streaming, live stuff. but crappy for what you pay for.

q: rambling questions about alacarte consumption, major media outlets…oh, hey, NPR podcasts. (dude. now I get it. which means yet another thing to suck me into the internets.)

another bit of distraction on my part.

q: how will podcasting develop in comparison to blogging: big money has showed up so quickly? (mhowie) not always going to be participatory (blogging): mh: I find it more intimidating the whole podcasting thing. probably won’t be as many podcasters as bloggers.

webvisions 05 — designing for the sandbox

still trying to wake up. (we had *fun* last night!)

Peter Merholz (yes, peterme…here’s a “link to his slides”: for future reference.)

canon powershot camera “we all have digital cameras…” well, maybe. he’s showing iphoto, and it looks strikingly like picasa. why does someone take photos? to share. but it’s a PITA to share.

flickr! and then uploadr. but still a lot of work…

geek in scotland reads api. while he explains what an api is, I get a big drink of my venti 2% mocha.

oh, so it’s an export tool to flickr from iphoto. which made it easy, which made it easy for him to max out his service…so he spent the $25/year to get unlimited storage, 2gb bandwidth.

moral: guy makes tool for free that makes a service easier to use. flickr got more of his money because they allowed that to happen. (…so…what goes the guy get?)

relinquish control! and create a simple architecture. (hmmmm…what nifty things could be done with the book exchange? am I smart enough to write an api?)

flickr got bought by yahoo…hopefully that won’t make them less “open and pure” (pure?!)

the sandbox metaphor: sand is information…the stuff of a service. then drop in the kids. it’s not software but a network…value increased when people can connect to one another. and then tools: what allows people to manipulate info.

philosophy: “let go” (all Alec Guiness stylee — these adaptive path people sure know how to do presentations.)

fun! not a dictated experience.

designers hate letting go. (then again, so do IT people. designer people want to control how it looks; tech people want to control how people use the tech.)

“dirk knemeyer scares him.”:,c,292,1

comparison to actual architecture: the getty in LA (someday I really want to go) — how do you work with the space that actually exists.

portals “back in the day” (hahahahahaha. in .edu-land, people are still talking portals all the goddamn time. but I suppose it’s a little different meaning of portal. which is why the term portal sux.) — bumping up pageviews by trying to keep people trapped in their zone. “sticky” — fundamentally user-hostile.

“a white light appears!”: and they’re doing okay (stock chart graphic).

cw: what’s the value/business model?

hard thing in design: stop larding with features. “if you buy me a beer I can tell you some stories” (hmmm, do I have enough money to buy him a beer?)

“when you reliquish control, you receive value”

“5 planes.”: (JJG) up from the bottom:
# strategy: goals
# scope: what are we doing?
# structure: IA
# skeleton: interaction design
# surface: visuals

abstract to concrete. and the duality of the web: software vs. hypertext. and now the diagram gets *really* complicated!

so at each level….

# surface: the obvious stuff: don’t take over. allow skinning if appropriate. be simple. example: flash guide to tent buying. cute ad, but not really useful…excels as production, but not as service.
# skeleton: don’t be too clever. calif pizza kitchen. lost his network connection…. “why don’t they have open wireless at a goddamn web conference” and ew, that is kind of a dorky interface.
# structure: the problem of hierarchy. which way do you get to recipes? allrecipes vs. epicurious. faceted classification. (is there a way to do that on *our* site? might be fun to try a different navigation method.) gah…tags. sony imagestation vs. flickr. folksonomy. increasing meaning. dmoz vs. delicious. (I showed “my delicious”: to Susan.) we hate the term usability, but that’s what people apply to us. (mmmmm…tagging as market research?!)
# scope: what is the sand in the sandbox, what are the tools? anatomy of the long tail. (what is the least popular song on Rhapsody?) wired article: amazon sold more than half of its books from stuff that b&n (physical) doesn’t/can’t carry. relationship to control? we’re not going to tell you what’s most popular: buy anything! google maps: go have fun, play. mashups. (again the mention of hacker types not being able to make money out of these things…)
# strategy: netflix! the long tail. relinquishing the control of late fees.

2 minute warning…craigslist: 1/5 of traffic of ebay, 18 employees vs. 8800. using community to help making decisions.

why doesn’t B&N have a dating service? problems with blockbuster & no late fees. walmart realized they couldn’t do video rental online: not nice but smart.

what about convergence? we don’t know what else is going on…either online, or in reality. not convergence but *divergence* — yes!

he has bullet points, but there’s no time.