Blog

Fake DJ sets, Weekly Recaps of the Internet, and Language Learning

After buying my second iPod, a svelte nano, I subscribed to some podcasts, unsubscribed from others, which I listen to while commuting from place to place. (And while ironing.) Here are the podcasts I'm listening to these days:

These days I'm wearing headphones more often, trying to listen to Fake DJ sets, weekly recaps of the Internet, and language learning, so I apologize if I'm not paying attention to you. If people don't support this podcasting thing, it might not make it.

I Attended Last Night's Lily Allen Concert and All I Got Was This Lousy Cameraphone Photo

I attended last night's Lily Allen concert and all I got was this lousy cameraphone photo

Two security guards, one at the front and another inside, at The Commodore asked me to leave my camera at the coat check. I tried to sneak it in anyway, but got caught, by a third security guard. My quick thinking (a lie about how it slipped my mind) got me off the hook, but I still had to check it in.

I left after 6 songs. I first considered it after she came on stage wearing jeans (and not a wide dress like I thought she would) but even her banter about men with small penises didn't push me over the edge. No, the cover of a Keane song was the final straw. She's pretty, sings catchy tunes, and has a wide range of vocal styles, but she's made entirely of evil.

TransLink Next Bus Information Via SMS

Gordon Ross points to two Simon Fraser University students who have created a service to get TransLink next bus information by text message (SMS), and an article in today's Vancouver Sun about Canadian mobile phone companies charging more than their European counterparts for Internet access. (Will Pate, in his del.icio.us bookmarks, points to an unscientific comparison between American and Canadian mobile data rates.) From the looks of it, Igor Faletski and John Boxall have next bus information for the 135, 143, 144 and the 145 from either SFU's main bus loop or residences, and the 145 from Production way, as well as whatever the next bus happens to be at any stop. TransLink has unique numerical IDs for each stop, some of which appear on the bus stop's sign, e.g. a stop in Coquitlam and another at Phibbs Exchange. The students are scraping the HTML generated by the TransLink website, so providing something like an open API or Google's Transit Feed will increase the opportunity for innovation around bus schedules, such as creating a site that lists events near bus stops and SkyTrain stations and the schedules for those stops without anybody having to manually update those schedules.

Igor and John are my new heroes, at least until the end of March, which is when they say on mytxt.ca that the experiment is slated to end. “If there is interest, we will work to make it permanent,” the site notes. I'm definitely interested, and I know others that would use this service multiple times a week, especially those who will have phones that integrate mapping directly.

A Certain Quotient of Unauthorized Excitement

Arthur Lubow: “The history of photography is stocked with precedents [of photomontages], dating back to its earliest days. You think there is something new about seamless photomontages? In the 1850s, Oscar Gustave Rejlander and Henry Peach Robinson made elaborate composites from multiple negatives. Or staged tableaux? Hippolyte Bayard depicted himself as a drowned man in 1840, and photographers have been staging such shots ever since, with F. Holland Day’s hammy impersonation of Christ at the end of the 19th century anteceding Wall’s more restrained performance in the role. Yet the use of photomontage and the staged tableau seemed fresh to Wall, [Ian] Wallace and their friends because they were using these techniques in the self-reflexive Modernist spirit of their age. Their versions were patent contrivances, calling attention to their artificiality.”

Peter Schjeldahl: “It may be enough to know that, in theory-drunk circles of the period, any sort of aesthetic appeal could be regarded as a stratagem of “late capitalist” ideology or some other wrinkle of malign social power. (The enemy’s identity was never entirely clear.) Artists were obliged to signal knowingness on this score. If critical paranoia poisoned visual and imaginative pleasure, that was unavoidable: a toll of enlightened consciousness. A lot of preachily condescending work resulted, and Wall was not exempt. But a certain quotient of unauthorized excitement, in “wow” effects of what amounts to single-frame cinematography, always set him a bit apart, as did a restlessly experimental drive.”

Both articles via the Flickr Vancouver group discussion on Jeff Wall.

This Is the Year I Read Books and Review Them

Up until about 2003 or 2004, I read up to 20 books a year, mostly on my way to work on the bus or in my copious free time not working, since my job was less than half-time. Since working full-time and on salary—meaning no set start or quitting time—priority given to dead tree editions of pretty much any written text went to reading digital ink in the form of weblogs and the delicious articles they link to.

Already this year I've read three books: The Presidency of Gerald R. Ford by John Robert Greene, [Amazon], Buddhism Plain & Simple by Steve Hagen, and most recently, Social Acupuncture: A Guide to Suicide, Performance, and Utopia by Darren O'Donnell. I am currently working my way through Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything by Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams, and have purchased Dreaming In Code: Two Dozen Programmers, Three Years, 4,732 Bugs, and One Quest for Transcendent Software by Scott Rosenberg, which sits patiently on my coffee table.

All the books have reasons why I either read them or bought them: the book about Gerald Ford because he had recently died; the Buddhism book partly on the recommendation of Web Worker Daily but also partly because my girlfriend is a practicing Buddhist (I was reading the book as a Valentine's Day gift to her, but I was afraid she was on to me when she published that); Social Acupuncture on Karen's recommendation; and Wikinomics because Will Pate attended the Wikinomics book launch in Toronto and made note that some consider Tapscott to not be a citizen of the community he writes about. Will calls him a translator and diplomat, but popularizer might be a better term. at about the same time as the Internet, and therefore. He has it right, and those that don't yet understand it or know how to benefit from it, particuarly in the business sense, are the target audience, not people like me who live it. (I bought Dreaming in Code because I have a weak tie to one of the book's protagonists, Ted Leung.)

I intend to write and publish reviews of all books mentioned, but as you can tell I'm already two books behind with a third book soon added to the queue. But this is the year I read book and review them. For now, though, that's a window into what I'm reading and thinking about these days.

Spoke at Nothern Voice, Impressions of the First Half of the Conference

My session on Blogging 101 went okay: I didn't demonstrate nearly as much as I wanted to (and when I did demonstrate how to blog, I did it at the end rather than the beginning as planned), but I was pleased with the amount and type of questions asked. For next time:

  • less boring slides, or even better, less reliance on slides
  • drink more water
  • press record when the people podcasting the session ask you to (I completely forgot, so I'm hoping that there are notes people took, which I will happily point to). Time passes, and you can cancel that regret call: I understand the podcaster involved had the presence of mind to press record for me, and they have posted the audio to my Blogging 101 session, though I understand the questions may be less audible.

I wanted to do the Brian Lamb thing and take a picture of the audience and post it. It would have made a good demonstration of posting photos to Flickr, but also, it turns out, out of the scope due to time. That tells me that not only can we do Blogging 101 sessions for a while to come—or, more likely, Blogging 201, which is how to do more than post but rather promote and do it really well—but Social Web 101, or rather, how to strategically use the tools I'm very familiar with to promote whatever it is you're interested in promoting (yourself, your company, or interesting and pertinent ideas).

Kris Krug Takes Anil Dash's Picture During Northern Voice 2007

While we're speaking about people using the tools, Northern Voice, not to mention other conferences like it, are great demonstrations of people documenting an event in real time. I wish I could do it better, that is, take photos faster and publish them faster, but since other people do it well already then I don't feel the rush. I'll post them on Sunday. Says the guy who's writing about the first half of the day before the first half of the day is over: Anil Dash's speech was an interesting, different take on why blogging is important and meaningful, I learned a little more about the subject while holding a session on it, and Travis Smith, a journalist in his own right, had a fair and balanced approach to the new and emerging citizen journalism.

Speaking at Northern Voice 2007: Blogging 101

The last couple of weeks I've been fighting a sore throat and an ear infection. It was probably about time I got sick, since everybody around me had gotten suck some way or another, but the timing is less than great because on Saturday I'm speaking at the 2007 Northern Voice blogging conference. I'm a little nervous about it, part out of lack of preparation (more about that below) but also because while the infection's gone, my left ear sometimes goes partially deaf. (I rarely talk about my health in public like this—same goes for my family—but this time I'll make an exception.) My doctor assures me it will heal fully, and it 'pops' every now and then, but it got me thinking about how Stephen Colbert, whom I learned from his Wikipedia page that he is deaf in his right ear, deals with it on a day-to-day basis. Does he, when he holds his wife's hand, stand on her right side so that his functioning ear is directed towards her? Looks like it on the photo that currently adorns the Wikipedia page.

About the lack of preparation: for three summers I did group and individual Internet training, and I've been blogging for 6 years plus now, so I know the subject matter inside and out and have experience public speaking (and enjoy it very much, I made a note of it to my colleagues at a retreat and they responded positively). It's just that I'm a little rusty, the ear infection/sore throat threw me for a small loop, and regardless of that, I'm sometimes stutter when in unfamiliar situations, making them a little scarier than they already are. (Breathing exercises help, so that should not be a big issue, plus audiences are often forgiving. Barack Obama stutters when he starts sentences, especially when he's out of rhythm, but this humanizes him.) I'm keeping slides to an absolute minimum, since I want to keep the session interactive, encouraging questions getting people to start a blog if they don't already have one. Maybe they can use it to post notes on the next session they attend!

I'm not as nervous as I let on, though, because I have a backup plan if the wireless Internet stops working (a conference full of bloggers and photographers itching to be the first to post their thoughts and photos sounds like trouble to me), and I'm confident that I know my stuff. So why so much digital ink spilled over this? Darren Barefoot wrote that Twitter doesn't solve a problem for him, but it does for me. Like Anil, I originally wanted to hate it, but I use it for one-liners, and as Tanya writes in Darren's comments, “transparency has become a part of my life, so when I saw through Tod [Maffin]’s blog that a ’social engine’ has actually made its way to the mainstream, I was pleased.” I'm pleased that blogging is mainstream, because I too like the transparency, and it's fun to share (not all the time, but a lot of the time), and admitting vulnerability every now and then lets yourself off the hook when you weren't on the hook to begin with.

Photos of the 2007 Vancouver Chinese New Year Parade

The Emperor at the Chinese New Year Parade in Vancouver

[Cross-posted from Urban Vancouver.]

Karen and I went to the Vancouver Chinese New Year parade on Sunday, but we arrived late, just catching the last 20 minutes, and even then, we were situated right at the end of the parade in front of Andy Livingstone Park (that's the soccer park in Chinatown). I took a few photos, as did many others there.

A quick search on Flickr finds some good shots. My favourite from the Chinese New Year parade set by hernandez photos is "look, a parasol!". From Tanasha's great-looking set comes the great "After Party". vfkf has almost 600 photos of the parade, probably best seen at the 'detail' version of it (still 30+ pages of photos to go through though). Be sure to check out Photocat62's photos tagged with 'gung hay fat choy' as well.

I no doubt missed a bunch, so if you have a set on Flickr or elsewhere, please drop a link in the comments and I'll add it to this list.

Overheard on the Bus, February 9th, 2007

One of the guys who were discussing what "the American version of The Office" meant, and how the survivors from Lost got to where they were, also said, not necessarily in the context of TV:

Discovery does not equal creation.

I immediately thought of the Web 2.0 equivalent: "sharing does not equal creation". Discuss.

Can Introverts Thrive in Large Companies?

I've long forgotten how I came across either article, but here are two writers talking about life in a big company. It's not clear who wrote "Thriving in Large Companies", but here are the ten tips the author provides:

  1. Learn how decisions are really made in your organization.
  2. Build relationships before you need them.
  3. Long live skunk works.
  4. Be willing to do whatever it takes.
  5. Pick your battles.
  6. Build consensus before important meetings where decisions are required.
  7. Be smart about how you spend your time.
  8. Share information.
  9. Put your manager to work.
  10. Evangelize!

No word on how introverts like me, who would find the prospect of joining a large company daunting, would thrive. Frank Gregorsky maps out why introverts do not thrive in such environments: “The more competitive the industry, the more shark-like the work culture. Extroverted sensors own this territory, and the territory comes to own them. Never forget how sprawling that territory is, despite 15 years of corporate downsizing. The terrain dictates what grows and what withers.”

He finds exceptions to the rule—large businesses that are decentralized, the culture of the branch having more to do with the style and personality of the office manager than diktats from above—and spends quite a bit of "aside" on why we're currently in a real estate bubble, blaming the ultra-competitive industry staffed almost entirely by extroverts. (He says that renters like me don't have to worry too much, and that when the bubble bursts, they too will be able to afford a decent house.) He then recommends The Simplicity Survival Handbook for those introverts who find themselves working for large companies. Any book with a chapter titled "How to Delete 75% of Your Emails" must be good (I'd be happy if just 25% of my emails were deleted).

I'm still working for a small company, and so far in my early job career I've worked in offices where I had the opportunity to meet and work with every employee of that company. How I'd handle working for a company the size of my high school, or even the size of my hometown, I don't know. But both articles guide the way, if for different audiences.

It Has Accomplished the Most Banal and Forced Kind of Crowded-Together Otherness

Two articles on teamwork crossed my desk in the last few weeks, the tabs for both briefly acting as bookends on my browser. Jeffrey Phillips writes about why and when teams fail:

  • The team members don't believe in or aren't committed to the stated outcomes
  • There is poor leadership of the team or committee
  • The goals and outcomes are unclear
  • The knowledge and capabilities of the individuals in the team are not used effectively

Compare and contrast to James G. Polous' article a few weeks ago on teamwork:

Individual productivity is beside, and sometimes even contrary, to the point, unless it comes as a result of, yes, TEAMWORK. To work in this office you must be a TEAM PLAYER. And although there is no I in TEAM there must be some other way of spelling Assured Superficial Diversity without the ego vowel, because there you shall find it in every TEAM that Human Resources can touch. The tentacular grip, once it has accomplished the most banal and forced kind of crowded-together otherness, then sets about imposing the most uniform and depersonalized sort of identity, that of the TEAM itself. Of course this is done by conditioning the team player to conceive of the team as the controlling unit of personality. This is easy in a culture in which every individual is already likely to think of themselves, consciously or otherwise, as a quasi-schizophrenic aggregate of shifting and overlapping selves.

Snowshoeing Alone on Mount Seymour

Over the weekend, I went on my first solo snowshoeing expedition. That makes it sound more significant that it really was: all I did was take the bus to Phibbs Station, take a "shuttle" bus—formerly a school bus—to Seymour Mountain for a couple hours of actual snowshoeing. The conditions were not great at all: it was raining on the mountain, which made for slushy and slippery trails. I fell a few times on the steepest slopes, at least once losing a snowshoe. Almost Sisyphean, I finally made it up, then, decided to give up on another slope, changed my mind and climbed it, then encountered another one, decided to give up, changed my mind, fell again, and decided once and for all to slide pretty much all the way down to the lodge. I proceeded to eat a delicious if sloppy chili dog while I waited two hours for the next "shuttle" down the mountain.

Rainy Mount Seymour

I learned a bunch, like: where "shuttle" picks up passengers (at the end of Oxford St. closest to Phibbs Exchange, not the end farthest from it); how to tighten my newly purchased Yukon snowshoes and untighten them (would have been better off learning that before going up the mountain); and that snowshoeing alone isn't very much fun (though everybody I pass by says Hi, just like back in my hometown). I brought my old Canon Powershot but didn't take any photos with it, instead taking only a couple of shots with my phone (see left). Tempted though I was to bring my Rebel XTi, that's not an investment I'm prepared to lose because I wanted to bum slide down just one more hill.

Other things that happened that day: a lady asked me why I took a photo of the bus stop sign at Phibbs Exchange, and I didn't have a really good answer for her other than that I'm a transit enthusiast. Also, I read a couple of chapters from Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything, by Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams, which so far I haven't learned much from but am enjoying as a popularization of Web 2.0. And I hear there was a football game on that day, but I decided to spend most of the day outdoors.

Prediction Fatigue

Last year, after the 2006 Canadian election, I made the four political predictions. Here they are, with the results:

Prediction Result
a grand coalition government between the Liberals and Conservatives! WRONG: something closer to an unlikely coalition between the Conservatives and NDP is shaping up
Ujjal Dosanjh as the next leader of the Liberals! WRONG: as ably predicted by Sacha, the winner was Stephane Dion.
more photos of Peter MacKay looking forlornly at Belinda Stronach! WRONG: but Condi Rice? Eh? Eh?
or even better, she crosses the floor again so that she can once again join a party that is actually in power! WRONG: though she did change her hair colour

After the 2007 Macworld Expo where nobody had a stake in the predictions they made as to whether Apple would announce a mobile phone, I realized that a prediction market, wouldn't work for product releases, because people would squabble about definitions. It's a tablet! It's a computer! That happens to have a phone!

I'm pretty sure I want one, since everybody else does (with the iPhone, mobile phones, already a status symbol, just consolidated their power over us), though it won't document my world quite like a Nokia N95 would. I had more to say about the iPhone, and wanted to point to people like Mark or Dave (which I wanted to do in a separate post titled, cleverly, "iCurmudgeon") but instead, I'll just say that I think I'm over my prediction fatigue and will go back to using lines from rap songs as my weblog's taglines.

Maybe You Don't Exist

When searching for people who linked to Vancouver real estate bloggers in The Tyee (which includes myself), I mistakenly put the URL in the 'blog directory', and not searching blog posts as intended. Instead of results, I was confronted with this error: “There are blogs, and then there's whatever you just typed in. If it's a blog, we don't know about it. Maybe you made a typo. Or maybe it's a blog that doesn't exist. Maybe you don't exist. (In which case, please ignore this.)” [screenshot]

I still don't like Technorati's use of re="nofollow" (especially relevant in the wake of Wikipedia using the 'rel="nofollow"' attribute on all links), but at least they have a sense of humour on their error messages.

What a Bad Product Manager Would Do and Countering With What a Good Product Manager Would Do

For a non-programmer, non-entrepreneur, non-consultant, non-manager, and non-innovator I read a lot of articles on programming, entrepreneurship (e.g. natural enterprise), consulting, management, and innovation. I read articles about, for example, requirements gathering best practices (pointed out by Boris) without ever expecting to gather requirements. And yet, I can't get enough, probably so that I can properly evaluate those who are programmers/entrepreneurs/consultants/managers/innovators or maybe just because those types of people and those types of careers interest me.

So, as a non-product manager, I spent the last couple of hours reading with interest the entire archives—yes, the entire archives—of Good Product Manager a weblog written by Jeff Lash. There's an emphasis on software/online product management, but Jeff is careful to include links to others in the field and collects anecdotes about physical product management as well. The weblog follows the model of briefly stating what a bad product manager would do and countering with what a good product manager would do. Posts are short but meaty, for 'fast food readers' out there.

(If you were wondering, someone has already claimed the title and I can't claim to have invented the phrase for the field because the phrase pre-exists on the web, but I bet if you were a product manager for the new generation of online community and collaboration tools, you could legitimately call yourself a 'social product manager'.)

Pages