August 30, 2000
Poontang--it just won't stop. A few recent developments on the
The song that started
this all, "Oh! Mister Mitchell" (which contains the phrase,
"I'm crazy 'bout your sweet poontang") can be found on
Smith--Complete Recorded Works, Vol 5 (1927-1929), on could
be a use pre-dating the OED's
earliest known usage.
petermeme reader Chris
Tung sent along this passage from Diane Ackerman's The
Natural History of The Senses:
"... in many European languages the slang names for prostitutes
are variations on the Indo-European root pu, to decay or
rot. In French, putain; to the Irish, old put; in
Italian, putta; puta in both Spanish and Portuguese.
Cognate words are putrid, pus, suppurate, and putorius (referring
to the skunk family)." (Pg. 21)
And, perhaps most delightfully,
Bart Everson, sent me, by actual
postal mail, a videotape containing a brief documentary on the word
"poontang," where a number of people were asked what it
means, how to use it in a sentence, and where it came from. Unfortunately,
this video isn't available on the Web, but poking around Bart's
site will turn up a bunch of stuff.
August 28, 2000
Cool coworker sites. So, I've just stumbled across a couple
of sites created by folks with whom I work.
is the work of PHP guru Joyce
and her husband Tim.
Great collection of popular science books to read (I've already
added a couple to my Amazon
wish list!). I'm a fan of the Time
Scales navigation, though it takes a bit to get the hang of
it. The pair also run MysteryGuide.com,
for fans of that genre.
is Todd's personal blog. He's on my creative team. He misses Texas.
Self-organizing knowledge. Among many links on the intriguing
Project page are ones to the Principia
Cybernetica Web, which features tons on self-organization, evolutionary
theory, etc, including this piece on adaptive
hypertext, which shifts connections based on use. One of the
Bollen, has worked on other similar projects, and I found his
system to restructure hypertext networks into valid user models"[.PDF]
insightful. He has more recent publications, but they're all in
postscript and stuff.
August 21, 2000
In the blog world. Jason's posted a new episode of 0sil8.
I love the signs, but what struck me most is how much his writing
has improved. He's far more confident with words.
shit. Good healing thoughts are sent out to Fred. Remember--don't
laugh, it'll only make it hurt more. ; )
texts. Spurred by a discussion of books that information architects
read that aren't about information architecture (How Buildings
Learn, Understanding Comics, A Pattern Language),
Christina is compiling a
I'd augment with a personal list of texts that have informed my
thought, though they're hardly part of any IA 'canon.' This list
is by no means exhaustive.
Do you have books you want to share? Discuss!
(I'm trying out a new technology here, wanna see if it's worthwhile.)
for Knocking at an Empty House: Writings 1973-1994,
Bill Viola and Film
Eisenstein. Formalist theoretical thoughts from leading practitioners
of their respective fields. The kind of stuff that makes your mind
expand to accommodate new modes of thinking.
of essays by Stephen
Jay Gould. The mechanics of evolution are important when thinking
about any system, and Gould's writing was among the first (and still
among the best) I consumed. Prof.
Tim White also deserves credit for turning me on to human evolution
(which no doubt led to interests in cognitive science, etc.)
Lord. An odd choice? Well, her fascinating look at how folks actually
use Barbie, which often goes against how they "should"
play with the doll, reveals that all the design intent in the world
is helpless against a user's desires.
Disney's Theme Parks, Karal Ann Marling. A worthwhile
peek into the processes of brilliant "experience designers."
Evolution of Useful Things, Henry Petroski. Petroski's
subject matter is always more interesting than his writing style.
This book chronicles the history of seemingly mundane objects, showing
that 'getting stuff out there' is often the best course for design.
Annotated Alice, Lewis Carroll and Martin Gardner. It says
something that my first conscious exposure to the Alice books were
in annotated form.
to Talk Dirty and Influence People, Lenny Bruce. His autobiography.
Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell. More thoughts here.
Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media", Peter Wintonick,
Mark Achbar. An exemplary documentary-as-information-design. Truly
helps shape an "experience" around the information.
Cheap and Out of Control", Errol Morris. If nothing else,
for introducing me to the work of roboticist Rodney Brooks. An amazing
and enigmatic work.
Lenny Bruce, and User-Centered Design and Information Architecture.
In a mailing list discussion, a participant wondered if IA's
read/follow/understand Zen, as both deal with disassociating language
with the reality it represents.
thought, which spurred a mental tangent about another aspect of
Zen, which is accepting the world as it is. This was perhaps best
expressed by Lenny Bruce, whose guiding sentiment was to discuss
the world as it is, not as it should be--and it was this seemingly
harmless philosophy that got him into deep trouble.
designers ought to be bound by a similar approach. I often find
myself in the role of heretic, screaming, "But why on earth
do you expect people would do that? Sure, it would be great for
our system, but those folks don't give a fuck about our system!"
ties to the notes about subversion from the previous entry. Truth
and honesty are subversive.
Goddamn clueless corporate tools. So, it turns out Mastercard
is suing Ralph Nader for his presidential
campaign ad that plays off their 'priceless' thing.
as tool of subversion. This came up during Advance for Design
3. There's a feeling among the design community that its main goal,
which is to benefit the lives of other people, often runs
contrary, or at least orthogonally, to the goal of business, which
is to make piles of money. Designers fear they're marginalized,
or, worse, invisible, their contributions not really understood,
and accepted only as some kind of necessary evil.
true that designers are more humanist than business types. At the
conference, discussions occurred about 'making the world a better
place,' talks likely not to happen at an all-MBA affair (unless
it were sponsored by Ben and Jerry's).
what we want? Assimilation? To be "accepted"? Ideally,
designers would call the shots, and it would be the role of business
folks to figure out how to sustain design artifacts. But in our
market reality, business is in charge, and design is a (valuable)
resource to promote business ends.
that it's Design's somewhat outsider status that allows us an iconoclastic
voice within business' halls. That the tension is a good thing.
That in order to be made more visible, we'd need to compromise our
of Jan Abrams' Long Lake IV
Design Camp, where graphic artist extraordinaire David Shields
read from Coyote Trickster tales and discussed the subversive
power designers wield, as the shapers of communication.
how many of us would be interested in design if it weren't a bit
edgy, contrarian? I find much of its appeal lies in calling to question
that which is commonly accepted. Sure, we have to pay for it in
exasperation of others not 'getting it,' can't expect it to be *all*
fun, can we?
and disturbing. "Screenshots"
is a series of images depicting real and fictional events done in
an isometric video game style.
McCloud speaks. To
Feed. Good little interview.
Cartographic Geekery. David Weinberger's write-up on "Mapping
the Web" provides a number of good thoughts and resources
on visualizing web spaces. He wisely distinguishes maps that explicate
how the Web actually works, and maps that help us navigate web space.
the Eames film Powers of 10, and a little poking around turned
up this webified
version. Unfortunately, it's not wholly true to the original,
which was set in Chicago. Though the site mentions Chicago and Illinois,
it uses pictures of San Francisco and California. Still, the basic
idea comes across.
In a reply
to him, I wrote:
Love the mapping talk. This has been an interest for a while.
Have you pursued "self
organizing maps"? For some reason, all the research in this
area is coming out of Finland.
SOMs work similarly to things like Autonomy,
where it somehow 'understands' the information, and creates maps
of relevance based on that.
Google is, to some degree, a map that uses how people link to
There have been essentially no good visualizations of internet
mapping, though, you mentioned some interesting ones (thebrain,
I would add WebStalker
developed by manifesto-driven Brits as another interesting visualization
(though it focuses on individual websites, and not whole webspaces).
Another great general resource is The
Big Picture(sm): Visual Browsing in Web and non-Web Databases
Back from Telluride. Spent the past weekend at the third
Advance for Design conference.
Amazing group of folks. Lots of good conversations. A fair amount
of concern as to whether or not these are the people with whom I
align. Personal/professional highlight--meeting Brenda
Laurel (who, as she sat down in her aisle seat, informed me
she had 'the world's smallest bladder.') I've got tons I want to
say about the conference experience--it will take me a while to
get it all down.
of Telluride is a former mining town nestled in the crags of the
Rockies. Dramatically breathtaking, both figuratively (it's beautiful)
and literally (ahh, the high altitude). Sadly, I didn't have the
time to be outdoorsy.
fun! I'm quite a fan of the Ted
Baker online store. E-commerce for fashionistas. By presenting
the whole shopping experience in flash (including forms and checkout),
it points to a very possible direction for the Web. Elegantly designed,
I'm impressed with how Flash is used to break from the page paradigm
and offers a more holistic GUI experience. But what's really great
are the thoughtful touches--watch the introductory screen for a
bit, the one with the guy floating in the water.
Dang! It's been a week since I last wrote.
Been travelling (to Las Vegas), working (nose to the grindstone),
and hanging out. Little time for updates.
'poontang' thing seems to have come to a couple of dead ends. I'm
still not satisfied with the preferred putain origin, but
the dessert/pie/pudding root ended up going nowhere.
on a The Who kick recently. Wrote a
Nugget on The Who Sell Out, and am currently listening
Next. Though Tommy was very much a product of its
time, both TWSO and Who's Next are amazingly forward
thinking. The former features a kind of media-weary ironic detachment
that took until the mid-90s to become popular, while the latter
features both amazingly progressive sounds (I could argue Baba
O'Riley's synth is still unsurpassed) and lyrics ("meet
the new boss, same as the old boss!").
tpodd pointed me
you wanna fake being an indie rock expert?" which, according
to my indie rock friends, is dead on.
ginzu pointed me
Films" a collection of Koyaanisqatsi-esque Quicktime mood
Jakob shakes his groove thing. Watch the "Many
Moods of Jakob". (via Kottke)
Buy my stuff! Well, there's only one
thing so far. A sure-fire cure for what stumps you in Web design.
Thoughts on Napster. So, everyone and their mother is chiming
in about Napster. I figured I'd get on the bandwagon. First, some
thoughts on Napster from my buddy Trav (trav at majorleaguemarket
I am, of course, downloading tracks from Napster as I write this.
I am aware that the injunction, intended to shut them down tonight,
was stayed, but not everyone knows that, and so there's still
an air of desperation in the Napster community, so everyone's
online, so there's a lot of great hard-to-find stuff up there
Damndest part of it is, I'm not one of those diehard information-should-be-free
netheads preaching open source to the bitter end, like the software
developer at the Napster hearings. (I just preach open source
to somewhere within spitting distance of the bitter end.) I recognize
the rights to such intellectual property as music, and I don't
think it's okay to steal from people because they happen to be
successful. (Yes, I know you and others buy more CDs because of
Napster -- congratulations to all five of you.) But Napster happens
to be well-presented genius, something people always needed but
didn't know it until recently.
In fact, my favorite thing to hit the net since napster.com
is ... stopnapster.com . Their
site represents a group effort to really shut down Napster,
by attacking the principles that make it work.
Stop Napster advocates the creation of Trojan Horses and "Napster
bombs" -- files that look like Britney Spears' latest release
but contain four minutes of static or barking dogs, or, even more
obnoxious, half a minute of the real music followed by Charlton
Heston saying that theft is bad. (I'm not making this up.) When
these files are available on a network, it's harder to actually
get a good copy of the song you want. Maybe even as hard as borrowing
and copying a friend's CD.
At the risk of sounding like a generalizing buffoon, the Internet
allows people to do what they want. Direct communication between
any two members of a community is a powerful tool, it's what the
net is based on, it provides decentralization which was the whole
military purpose of its creation. If you're reading this, I probably
don't need to tell you that shutting down Napster only causes
a bunch more people to use, say, Gnutella -- which eliminates the single point
of failure that's present in Napster's file-swapping network.
But Stop Napster doesn't target a single point of failure, it
launches its assault against the trusting network of files --
and makes it untrustworthy. Open source works well when it benefits
everybody. No one ever had a reason to flood IMDB
with faulty movie information, or write buggy Apache
modules. It doesn't necessarily go so smoothly when there's a
large contingent of folks who get hurt, because they're just as
empowered as you are. They want to stop the trading of their songs,
and the net allows Stop Napster's approach to do that. Better
yet, Stop Napster hinders the sharing of selected copyrighted
songs while leaving undisputed material intact, as easy to get
The record industry, of course, isn't going about it the right
way. They erect more of the same kind of barriers that net-empowered
file transfers can vault right over anyway. The beauty of stopnapster
is that it uses the same weapons Napster does. The ability for
any unknown to join the Napster network is the root of its success,
but that also allows saboteurs to make it harder to use effectively.
(Much in the same way that advertisers have started to hit napster
-- I've had the opportunity to download a file called "Napster
down? Visit sharetraxx.com".)
So what comes next? Bigger weapons to defeat open file-sharing,
and even bigger weapons to defeat those? Do you get the feeling
you're walking down a dusty old Main Street where everyone in
the local saloon is packing heat? The old metaphor for the internet
as the wild west is not unfounded. Everyone's protecting their
We like to think that we've evolved beyond the point where you
shoot the guy that steals your horse. And we have. Maybe we even
have some respect for others. But worldwide file-sharing is a
new phenomenon, and no one's familiar with its ramifications,
and its evolution has barely begun. The RIAA, stripped of its
stranglehold on distribution, will find a way to coexist with
buyers that want reasonably-priced music. Lars Ulrich and others
won't be laughed off the stage when they want to exercise control
over their own products. With this new generation that's more
capable of taking action than ever before, I'm curious to see
how it turns out.
And from me, following
Lance's post and some
discussions I've had on mailing lists about this:
I think there's a distinct problem with this whole discussion,
because it's conflating two issues that need to be considered
Issue 1: The technology that enables peer-to-peer file distribution
Issue 2: Copyright infringement, copyright law, etc.
Peer-to-peer file distribution is not the same thing as copyright
infringement. One can happily use napster (or gnutella or freenet)
and benefit from its file sharing capabilities, and not infringe
on an artist's copyright. Or, one can use p-to-p to trade pirated
music, video, software. P-to-p is an amoral environment. The technology
doesn't care what you do with it.
Wanting to stop or control p-to-p is like wanting to stop or
control the Web. The Web is a far greater violator of copyright
infringement than Napster. But it's also proven to be an amazing
forum for personal publishing. And finally, the Web has proven
most useful in how it supports interactions which its founders
never intended--I don't think Tim Berners-Lee foresaw Webvan or
Schwab.com or even fray.com when he was noodling around in 1992.
And so my point with issue 1 is that we're WAY TOO EARLY to
begin even thinking about exerting control in this space. Distributed
file sharing is an extremely nascent technology whose possibilities
haven't really even begun to be explored (in large part because
of the smokescreen that is 'MP3' that's taken all the intention).
As to issue 2, well, copyright and property law is hardly a
new thing. The law says that copyright infringement is Bad. I
keep hearing the defense that, well, copyright holders are assholes,
so things that infringe on copyright are not really all that bad.
Which strikes me as a specious argument.
And if I hear one more person say that "Napster has lead me
to buy more CDs" I'll scream. That is so *not* the point of this
discussion as to be little more than a way to detract from the
real issue at hand. The RIAA and ASCAP have worked out a system
with the radio industry to play their copywritten music. Perhaps
they'll see Napster as another similar medium, perhaps not. Whatever
they do, as representatives of the rights holders, it's *their*
decision to make, not 'the community's'.