Life With Alacrity

A blog on social software, collaboration, trust, security, privacy, and internet tools by Christopher Allen.

Tag: Web/Tech

SynchroEdit: Simultaneous Editing for the Web

For the last several months I've been working on a new open source project that I've been calling SynchroEdit. SynchroEdit is a browser-based simultaneous multiuser editor, useful for "same-time" collaboration. The basic concept is that it allows multiple users to WYSIWYG edit a single web-based document, all at exactly the same time. SynchroEdit continuously synchronizes all changes so that users always see the same version. They can also see each others' changes as they type, see where each user is currently editing, and see each others' changes by color.

Dunbar & World of Warcraft

In my initial blog entry on the Dunbar Number I presented some statistics on group sizes based on the online game Ultimata Online. In it you could clearly see the power-law (pareto) curve, with diminishing returns at around 150, with most groups being 60 in size: More recently, Nick Yee and other researchers at the PlayOn Blog have been researching the behaviors of players in the popular World of Warcraft online game.

Extrapolative Hostility in the Online Medium

ExtrapolateTo infer an unknown from something that is known; conjecture.– The Random House College Dictionary Mick LaSalle, an acerbic movie reviewer for the San Francisco Chronicle, writes a regular column "Ask Mick LaSalle" in the Sunday paper, where he sometimes allows others to vent their displeasure at his movie reviews. In this week’s column he says something that I find very accurate to my experience with the online medium: As for why people get hostile when they hear a differing opinion, I go back to Spinoza’s definition of love and hatred.

Apple, AirVideo, and Immersive vs Ambient Media

I was reading on Slashdot a discussion about iTune 4.8 and its new capability to purchase videos from the iTunes Music Store, when I read two things that just made me say "duh" with their obviousness, yet I'd never thought of them before. Both of these "duh" moments were inspired by the comments by an anonymous Apple engineer with the handle As Seen on TV: Everybody's wrong about the video iPod thing.

New Sidebar: Recent Bookmarks

If you read my blog through an aggregator, you may not have noticed my new sidebar "Recent Bookmarks". It is a list of web pages that I've found interesting enough to annotate using the service. It is useful if you want to have an insight into what future blog entries I'm working on, as links will often show up there before my actual blog posting is out. You alternatively can view my last 10 del.

Future Topics

I've been working on an ambitious list of topics that I'd like to cover over the next year. I offer them to you here so you can have some idea the areas that I am thinking about. Office Architecture for Innovation -- Over the years I've built or converted three offices to my specifications. From this I have learned a number of things about about how to create a productive environment innovation-oriented businesses.

Dunbar, Altruistic Punishment, and Meta-Moderation

In my post about the Dunbar Number I offered some evidence on the levels of satisfaction of various group sizes based on some empirical data from online games. There I was able to show that even though the Dunbar Number might predict a mean group size of 150 for humans, that in fact for non-survival oriented groups the mean was significantly less, probably between 60 to 90. I also offered a second hypothesis, that there is a dip in satisfaction level of groups at around the size of 15.

User Content, Social Software & Online Games

Shannon Appelcline, my colleague at Skotos (an online game company that I founded in 1999), has been writing for several years a sometimes weekly, sometimes bi-weekly column on the topic of game design called Trials, Triumphs & Trivialities (rss feed for all Skotos Articles including TT&T). His latest column Social Software & Gaming: User Content discusses issues of user content and user facilitation that apply both online game communities and social software:

Voluntary Health Associations & Social Software

I'm a keynote speaker for the FVHA (Future of Voluntary Health Associations) Conference in Atlanta today. My job is to give to this community a gentle introduction and overview of concepts and products related to Social Software and Social Networking. (My slides are here - 6.6MB .pdf) In my research about this community, I find that they have some unique and interesting problems. The attendees of this conference are a collection of VPs and national directors from major Voluntary Health Associations such as American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, American Diabetes Association, March of Dimes, etc.

Dunbar Triage: Too Many Connections

As someone who now has over 171 professional "connections" in my LinkedIn Profile, 198 "friends" on Orkut, many more non-intersecting friends and acquaintances on   Tribe.Net, LiveJournal, and other social networking services, as well as a plethora of correspondents that I only interact with via email, I am trying reconcile a mismatch between my connections and my own Dunbar Number. How do I maintain meaningful relationships with over 300 people?

Google Suggest Dissected

As a former Macintosh developer, I've always been disappointed with the user-interface of web pages. The state of the art of UI design moved backwards with the advent of the browser -- we traded connectivity for ease-of-use. With the advent of pages written in Flash, some better user-interfaces were created, but at the important cost of things like being able to copy text, have semantic and meta-data information imbedded in web pages, searchability, etc.

Tracing the Evolution of Social Software

The term 'social software', which is now used to define software that supports group interaction, has only become relatively popular within the last two or more years. However, the core ideas of social software itself enjoy a much longer history, running back to Vannevar Bush's ideas about 'memex' in 1945, and traveling through terms such as Augmentation, Groupware, and CSCW in the 1960s, 70s, 80s, and 90s. By examining the many terms used to describe today's 'social software' we can also explore the origins of social software itself, and see how there exists a very real life cycle concerning the use of technical terminology.

JotSpot: Application Wiki

Joe Kraus, one of the co-founders of Excite, and new blogger has long been rumored to be working on a new wiki tool. Today at the Web 2.0 conference Joe finally unveiled JotSpot, a new type of wiki that they have named an "Application Wiki". JotSpot appears to be not only an advanced wiki, but it also moves the predominantly text-based wiki toward being able to handle structured data and web application development.

Map Mashup

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.


I keep an eye out for new ideas in Wiki technology (see my post from February Looking at Wiki), and I recently became fascinated by TiddlyWiki. It is sort of a one-page client-only Wiki written completely in Javascript and HTML. Like my EditThisPagePHP, it appears to be an elegant experiment to look into the future of this medium of user-editable content. The key feature of TiddlyWiki is that instead of WikiName links leading to new pages, it displays a new set of microcontent at the top of the current page, pushing your previous content toward the bottom of the page.

Intimacy Gradient and Other Lessons from Architecture

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 "

Progressive Trust

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.

Simple Yet Sophisticated Group Page Editing

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.

Four Kinds of Privacy

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.

Annoyed by Zero Degrees

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.