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June 01 - June 09, 2001
May 01 - May 31, 2001
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March 01 - March 31, 2001
February 01 - February 28, 2001
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December 01 - December 31, 2000
November 01 - November 30, 2000
October 01 - October 31, 2000
September 01 - September 30, 2000
August 01 - August 30, 2000
July 01 - July 27, 2000
June 01 - June 30, 2000
May 24 - May 31, 2000
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April 1 - April 30, 2000
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December 1 - December 31, 1999
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October 16 - October 31, 1999
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August 13 - August 27, 1999
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July 25 - August 5, 1999
July 17 - July 24, 1999

July 11 - July 16, 1999
July 01 - July 10 1999
June 09 - June 30 1999
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May 1999

April 1999
March 1999
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  past petermemes

October 31, 2000
Powerpoint Sux!
So, Brigitte brought to my attention that the HTML version of my presentation (posted below, October 28) has an annoying error message for Non-IE types. For which I apologize. When I asked Powerpoint to "Save As Web Page..." I didn't realize it was going to use proprietary MS hacks. Unfortunately, I'm too lazy to create a Netscape version of the talk. My apologies.

October 30, 2000
The best newspaper comic out there.
Has got to be Tom the Dancing Bug. It gets to you on so many levels. This is my recent favorite. This is another one I love.

October 28, 2000
Back from La Jolla.
And tired. The slides to my talk ("How Websites Learn: Information Architecture that Adapts to Use") are here:

HTML Version
Powerpoint Version
(800+ kilobytes)
Share and Enjoy. The Oompa Loompa thing was funny at the conference. Trust me.

October 24, 2000
Heading to La Jolla.
For the ACIA conference. I dunno when I'll have update opportunities.

October 23, 2000
"Postmodern" used un-ironically!
A smart hypertext essay awaits you in "Stories and Maps: Postmodernism and Professional Communication." From the abstract:

In this text, I sketch out some of the ways that postmodernist tendencies affect the careers and possibilities for business and technical communicators. Communication used to be about telling stories, about listening to narratives of discovery, learning, redemption, and war. Not just little stories, but big stories: heaven, hell, utopia. Relatively recently, though, the map has started to replace the story as our fundamental way of knowing. The new emphasis on spatial rather than temporal or historical concerns goes by a number of titles--postcapitalism, networked workplaces, nonhierarchical management--but the most popular (and often misunderstood) is postmodernism. Briefly, I see the potential for increased responsibility, prestige, and influence for business and technical communicators, but only if we are able to reconceive what we think of as the value of our work; that is, we must reposition ourselves as mapmakers rather than authors.

October 22, 2000
Our favorite Canadian.
Special to Pete Bevins--THANKS!

October 20, 2000
Robot talk.
The best online speech synthesizer I've found.

Ralph--He's Nader-rific! I'll be going to the "Nader Super Rally" tomorrow night in Oakland. Going? Let me know.

Hearty welcome! More flash tasties, this time a tourism site in Germany.

Vocoders rule. NTK points to Captain Low-Rez and the Pixel of Destiny, a nifty flash movie done in 8-bit graphix style, with all dialogue done with speech synthesizers. I love speech synthesizers.

peterme fun poll!

Purely Academic Serious User Testing Subject Protocol Question:
So, like, you're conducting a user test, and, you know, the test subject is cute, and is your age, and doesn't have a ring on the finger. Is it okay to ask the subject on a date?
Yes No Lonely, peterme? What on earth are you going on about?
View Results

October 18, 2000
Time flies. Or something.
A year ago today, I assumed my responsibilities as Creative Director at Epinions. A lot can happen in a year.

Adopt, Adapt, and Improve. I got a bunch of great responses to my request for examples of adaptive information architecture. Everything2 is probably the single exemplar of the kind of thing I'm shooting for.

October 16, 2000
When I was invited to the IA2000 conference, I thought they meant this IA2000 conference. Shoot. Gives 'bottom-up' categorization a whole new meaning. Huh huh. Collaborative filtering. Huh. "Explicit" social navigation. Hoo.

October 14, 2000
Head to the newsstands.
Stewart beat me to the punch in lauding the latest The New Yorker, which focuses on politics. A fat double issue, it'll be in newsstands for two weeks, so you have no excuse for not buying and reading it. Stew (I can call you Stew, right, Stew?) sums up the articles well, so I won't duplicate his efforts.

I call particular attention to Nicholas Lemann's essay "The Word Lab", where he discusses how the phraseology of campaigning is arrived at. A lexiphiles delight, it's scary to think how the simple twisting of a phrase gives two semantically identical wordings totally different 'meanings'. Midway through the piece, I wondered if the Lemann were familiar with George Lakoff's Moral Politics, a book I haven't read, but which I know covers the linguistics of political discourse. Then I turn the page and see that Lemann has gone to Lakoff himself for his take on the points in the article.

While loving the article, what it revealed disturbed me. Chronicling a focus group moderated by Frank Luntz, Lemann relates:

Luntz went to an easel and wrote five words: "Opportunity," "Community," "Responsibility," "Accountability," [and] "Society." "When you think of what matters most to you in life," he asked, "of all of these, which matters most to you?" When he canvassed people's opinions "opportunity" won, "accountability" was second, and "community" lost.

Luntz asked what the word "opportunity" meant to people, and as they called out answers he wrote snatches of wording on his easel: "right to choose," "personal control," "no obstacles," "everyone gets a chance," "founding principle of the country." Then the group voted among these phrases. "Founding principle" won, "everyone gets a chance" was second, and "right to choose" was third. Luntz handed out a sheet of paper to the subjects and ducked into the room where I was sitting. "You have the Republican and Democratic definitions of opportunity right there," he said. "The Republican is 'right to choose,' and the Democratic is 'everyone gets a chance.' Individual versus global."

Now, the group was picked to be rather centrist, but I was bothered by how their opinions were diametrically opposed to mine--"community" and "responsibility" are my number one and two.

I also found odd the notion that "right to choose" is a "Republican" sentiment, considering they're party platform is against that most controversial of choices, abortion. The lexical somersaulting that surrounds the abortion issue has always fascinated me--both sides are "pro" something (pro-choice, pro-life), suggesting that perhaps their ideals are somehow orthogonal.

October 11, 2000
Trite references are our friends!
My "Deconstructing..." of AOL Moviefone is up at Internetworld. (By the way, internetworld.com is a terribly, terribly designed site. They should be ashamed.)

October 10, 2000
Rate me again.
If you used the Bloghop thingy on the left before today, your rating wasn't properly tallied (an error on their side). Please rate again! Thanks.

3D is never the answer. Yet another article on how designers expect 3D to take over. Feh. I particularly scoff at:

Information architects assert that 3-D creations encourage communication, enhance education, clarify complex data and stimulate online sales, along with giving Web surfers a more lifelike environment.

Oh, do we? 3-D will *never* take hold in such fashions until:

  • We have devices that support 3D input. The mouse moves on a plane. It allows for interaction on a plane.
  • We have devices to support 3D output. A monitor is a 2D display. No amount of clever mathematics will change that.

Frankly, there's a lot unexplored options in the 2D world, visualization possibilities barely scratched at by things like ThinkMap, or Urbanpixel, or whatever tool you dig.

Jakob has said this all very well in the past. It's one of those points where I *strongly* agree with him. And one of those points where flashy designers really piss me off, because what's clear is that they want to do one thing--make something 'cool'. They have no true interest in use.

Business 2.0 is evil. I had always considered it a decent 'new economy' rag, but Tim Cavanaugh's note on how they mutilated an article of his in order to attack Jesse Jackson suggests that they're in fact quite evil. Such behavior is reprehensible.

Why Anthropology Doesn't Matter. Okay, that may be harsh, but it reflects personal Issues with the field. This is spurred by the controversy around James Neel, Napoleon Chagnon, and the Yanomami (which I first read about in the New Yorker, and about which you can follow many many links here.) I don't have opinions about this specific furor--there's too much He Said/He Said going on, and I don't know enough of the facts.

What I do know is that the only people truly concerned with this are other anthropologists. And that's sad, but expected, as the field of anthropology has done pretty much everything it can to confine its findings to a small cadre of practitioners.

I received a B.A. with a major in Anthropology from UC Berkeley. I was drawn to the study for a number of reasons, primarily because I couldn't imagine a more relevant pursuit than the study of humans.

While I loved what I learned, I grew increasingly frustrated as I realized that the leaders in the field promoted texts that could be read only by others steeped in the field, texts filled with jargon and obscure references. There was little encouragement for presenting relevant findings to laypeople--any such popularizing was frowned upon as "not rigorous."

My frustration was assuaged by ethnographic film and video, which I considered the perfect vehicles for spreading impactful anthropological thought and discourse throughout the public. My unhappiness returned, though, as I saw how the overly academic criticisms applied to texts were cast on these visual representations, encouraging an ethnographic discourse that was too obscure or dull for layfolk to embrace.

These sentiments are what lead me to believe that 'academia blows,' and drove me out of school ASAP and into the world of business, where I feel I can make an actual difference in people's lives.

As I read about this maelstrom of controversy, I shake my head in realization that so few people give a flying fuck. The paradox of the 'activist anthropologist' is that they seek to effect social change, but are seemingly wholly disinterested in attempting to do so in a meaningful way.

Mister Mojo Risin'. Over on StatingTheObvious, Sippey's got an essay on strategies to ensure that peer-to-peer file sharing doesn't suffer the Tragedy of the Commons. I posted to the discussion board, and one of the follow-ups came from Jim McCoy, creator of Mojo Nation, a P2P network built on a market model. Jim's been getting himself a fair amount of coverage, with this piece in Salon, which got Slashdotted (and Jim responds to questions, there, too.) MN intrigues me, but, because of the hoops you have to go through to set it up, I can't get it to work (after about 10 minutes of installation trials, I gave up). Are any petermeme readers using it? What are your thoughts?

October 9, 2000
More about McLuhan. Samu Mielonen writes in:

On Sept 30. you were dwelling on McLuhan's "the medium is the message".

I would like to disagree with you on your reading of McLuhan (and second hand readings of McLuhan):

"What does it all mean? Clearly, we're still figuring it out. McLuhan was very clear that, in media and communication, what's most important is not the content of the message, but the impact and affect the message has on its receivers."

I think this is misreading (IMHO) McLuhan's idea. I think you put it much better in an earlier sentence:

"The editor's notes point out that McLuhan was influenced by Harold Innis, whose books Empire and Communications and The Bias of Communication discuss how empires are shaped by their predominant media."

This is what "Medium is the message" is all about (IMHO). What is the message?

- The message contents itself? no
- The message colored by the media? no
- The impact of these? perhaps, but rather
- The impact the use of a certain medium has on a society/people (what it retrieves, what it obsoletes, what it enables and what does it turn into when taken into its logical extreme. re: McLuhan's tetrad)?

October 8, 2000
Geegaw points to Phoebe Gloeckner's website. Gloeckner is an "underground" comix artist whose work I'd never seen before. The comics seem interesting, but I'm particularly drawn to her anatomical illustrations for The Atrocity Exhibition (click 'Gallery', click 'Anatomical Paintings and Drawings'. Her links are a bit messed up, so you might need to enter URLs by hand. Or go here and click through the pages beginning with "anat".)[Oops. Never mind all that. Ms. Gloeckner wrote me to say that the links are fixed.]

Visualizing search. So, there's this TV ad for autotrader.com that does the best job of visualizing search querying I've witnessed. A guy in a white white room says, "I'm looking for a car," and thousands of cars whoosh all around him, a la that weaponry-picking scene in The Matrix. As he tailors the search, "a convertible...red...less than 50,000 miles" the cars whoosh around him until providing him the single result matching his needs. I suspect its not until such mechanisms are offered actual users will people adequately develop models of how search works.

Systems at work! So, I wasn't chosen for the jury. Happily. It was some lawsuit where an insurance company was suing a manufacturer for damages incurred when an employee made a worker's comp claim. The insurance company had to pay out (god forbid), and now they brought litigation against the maker of the thing on which the accident occurred. I don't think I would have been able to not be prejudiced. I marvel at how insurance companies will do everything in their power to not have to do the one thing that they're expected to do--pay up when something goes wrong.

Watching the justice system at work is interesting. 50 people had a day and a half taken up to select a jury of 14 (12 and 2 alternates). You can't help but figure there's a more efficient method.

While waiting, I had ample time to read Systemantics: The Underground Text of Systems Lore, a book that Michael bought and that Ed recommends (it's a safe bet to read most any book that Ed recommends). It's an amazing text. It should be required reading for anyone who deals with systems. Which is everyone. petermeme readers will adore it. 1) It's funny. 2) It's insightful. 3) It feels your pain. Some revealing axioms notes from the book:



(Example: The Congress of the United States specifically exempts itself from the Civil Rights Act, the Equal Pay Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act...)



The book also notes, STUDY YOUR BUGS. CHERISH THEM. Which reminds me of what Will Wright, creator of SimCity and The Sims, said, "Bugs are an unintended source of inspiration. Many times I've seen a bug in a game and thought, 'That's cool - I wouldn't have thought of that in a million years.'"

All about the use. Kevin has posted pictures of "use paths" throughout the UC Berkeley campus--walking paths created by how folks actually get from one place to another, often worn into grass. Such paths are delightul real-world analogs to the online notion of "social navigation." Users have a remarkable facility for making a system their own, and designers should accept that and get out of their way.

October 3, 2000
Some thoughts while I'm waiting in the Jury Assembly Room.
For the first time in my life, I've been called for Jury Duty. I don't really know what to expect. What I didn't expect was to see Jury Assembly Room fully wired for laptops, with modem access and everything. I didn't get in early enough to claim one of those hallowed spots. Next time...

My mobile phone service was GTE Wireless, which has morphed into Verizon Wireless. Under GTE, I would dial "*8" to retrieve my voicemail. When I dial "*8" now, I get a recording telling me that the system has changed, and in order to access my voicemail, I must dial "*86". The System *knows* I want my voicemail, but it won't give it to me. For no good reason, I must do it the way The System wants me to do it--which now involves an extra keypress on what is likely its most-used function. When you hang out with user-centered design folks for so long, and everyone you talk to understands that computers should fit people's needs, and not vice versa, you forget that the rest of the world doesn't think like that.

The surest way to get reader response. Is to mention McLuhan. Arturo Collantes pointed me to a project of his designed to convey McLuhan's ideas. And another reader took issue of my interpretation of the power of messages, but I just realized I ought to ask him permission before posting it!