I'm a sucker for great user-interface design ideas, especially if they succeed with what typically has poor UI design -- web pages. MultiMap is a company that sells maps and aerial photos, primarily for Great Britain. They offer an online map tool that is very similar to that used by MapQuest or Yahoo Maps. However, for certain regions, they have this fabulous capability to show you the aerial photo of the place, then display hovering around the cursor a slightly transparent map.
A blog on social software, collaboration, trust, security, privacy, and internet tools by Christopher Allen.
A number of my posts have been about integrating different domains of knowledge in order to better understand how human behavior should be incorporated in the design of social software. I found The Dunbar Number in sociology, and both Four Kinds of Privacy and Progressive Trust come from my work in the cryptography field. The topic of this post comes from the field of architecture. In order to provide for Progressive Trust, you need to establish what is known as an "
I believe that as we evolve social software to better serve our needs and the needs of the groups that we are involved in, we need to figure out how to apply an understanding of how human groups behave and work. One useful concept I use I call "Progressive Trust". The basic idea is to model how trust works in the real world, between real people, rather then solely relying on mathematical or cryptographic trust.
This is not a political blog, but like most bloggers I've been indundated with various discussions about the Bush Administration, Michael Moore, Red vs. Blue, etc. So much so that on some professional email lists we've had to ask the participants to use the text "[POLITICS]" in their subject lines so that we can filter out the overt political content. One of the reasons why I tend not to participate in the political discussions is because most often they are polarizing.
In my review last January of the amazing Seven Fingers of the Hand Circus I talk about why I like circuses that are more raw and intimate, i.e. more "human" then the pretentious and distancing style of Cirque du Soleil. However, I was disappointed that I saw the near-to-last show, so could not send my friends out to go see one of the great performances of the year. Last night at the recommendation of Mark Finnern I went to see Circus Contraption, a marvelous burlesque-style musical comedy circus at the very intimate setting of the CELLspace warehouse in San Francisco's Mission district.
I have for some time told people that one way that my blog was different was because I was focused on offering a high signal-to-noise ratio. I told them that they could subscribe to my blog safely, as I'd not inundate them with anything but the highest quality posts. At first, this meant that I'd not post unless I had something significant to add to the topic. No simple pointers to interesting ideas, no simple rephrasing, or simple agreement -- I had to add value.
I have been leading the design of a new Open Source collaboration tool called EditThisPagePHP, which started six months ago and now is in beta. My goal with EditThisPagePHP attempt to come close to Dave Winer's visionary statement back in May of 1999: When I'm writing for the web, and I'm browsing my own site, every bit of text that I create has a button that says Edit This Page when I view it.
I've been thinking about the nature of privacy a lot lately. I've long been associated with issues of preserving privacy. I helped with anti-Clipper Chip activism in the early 90s and supported various efforts to free cryptography such as PGP and other tools built with RSAREF from export control. However, my efforts in these areas wasn't really focused on privacy -- instead my focus was on issues of trust. I've always tried to be precise here.
As I'm studying social network software right now, I consider it my job to try many of the hundred some odd social networks out there right now. I just joined Zero Degrees, and like many others, it asked me to upload my address book. I've done this before and usually it just finds those who already have joined these networks and links us together. Typically I delete my address book at this point, and don't bother to invite contacts that are not already members of that particular network.
While I've been out attending the SXSW Music, Movie and Interactive Conference there has been a flurry of high-quality postings about Social Networking. Unlike many of my fellow bloggers, I find it difficult to post meaningful blogs while I'm on the road. It has been my policy in my own blog postings to also be "high-signal, low-noise", so normally I don't just post links without solid additional commentary, however, I'm making an exception this time because of the quality and depth of these entries.
Lately I've been noticing the spread of a meme regarding "Dunbar's Number" of 150 that I believe is misunderstanding of his ideas. The Science of Dunbar's Number Dunbar is an anthropologist at the University College of London, who wrote a paper on Co-Evolution Of Neocortex Size, Group Size And Language In Humans where he hypothesizes: ... there is a cognitive limit to the number of individuals with whom any one person can maintain stable relationships, that this limit is a direct function of relative neocortex size, and that this in turn limits group size .
I spent most of last week at the RSA Conference in San Francisco. Like last year, I found little that excited me. I overheard from a convention staffer that they had 30% more attendees, so the conference is growing again, but my week there also reinforced my opinions regarding the industry as a whole as I describe in my previous blog posting The Bad Business of Fear. I asked a number of random people what they thought of the conference.
As I head out next week to the RSA Conference I realized that it has been 13 years since I attended the first one. I remember fondly the potential and power of cryptography technology in 1991 -- public keys, digital certificates, new possibilities for privacy, digital cash, etc. After 8 more years I left the compujter security industry on March 15, 1999. The computer security industry also seemed to be filled with as much potential as it did back in 1991.
While at eTech, I attended a number of "social software" sessions. One thing I heard was a persistent call from folk like Marc Canter for all the vendors to support something called FOAF. FOAF is a standard for "Friend of a Friend" files, and is an attempt to make machine readable information about people, groups, companies, and other online resources. In particular, it is focused on representing the information that you might typically put on your personal home page in a form such that meta-data tools can interpret it.
A fascinating series of blog entries shows the promise and peril of social software and Blogs as a medium in a male-dominated technocracy: In misbehaving.net: "sexist jokes and Orkut invites", Dana Boyd writes:When i received this note, i simultaneously recognized the intended joke and felt the shudder of being so blatantly seen as an object.At Radio Free Blogistan: "This social software stuff is tricky" Christian Crumlish apologizes:In my mind, I was cracking on the phenomenon of me being linked to so many other men.
I have now had CEOs of three different social networks send me emails asking me to compare Orkut to their service. I've not had a chance to dig deeply into good answers for each specific one, but I did have some general advice that I wanted to offer given my recent experiences with Orkut.com, and my evaluation and followup on various social networking services in December. Privacy First, be extremely careful about privacy issues.
I've not just been spending time looking at social networking services, I've also been digging deeper into wiki. I've still got more to go, but some of these will be of interest to you if you are considering implementing a wiki for your community, or if you are a wiki developer. Zwiki is based on Zope, and thus has a very interesting feature set. One of the more popular features is the topic mappings that it creates.
Another Orkut user and I have confirmed a privacy hole in Orkut whenever you send a message to someone via Orkut. For instance, whenever I send a message to anyone in the system that is forwarded by email, in the message headers it will read: From: "Christopher Allen" <firstname.lastname@example.org> Reply-To: "Christopher Allen" <email@example.com; When someone reads the message in their email software, the "From:" line will be my name but the fake email of <member@orkut.
I've read of emails, Orkut messages, and blog postings since my post yesterday, so I thought I would share some with you. There have been a number of good posts, as well as user comments at Danah Boyd's blog Apophenia. Danah Boyd writes Correcting Marc Canter's Perception of My Views Marc - i don't believe that users should take these relationships more seriously; i believe that YOU should. Users will do whatever they damn well please, and i think that we should learn from them.