I have been keeping track of things that are interesting on Delicious for some time now.
Here're my top tags from September 2009 in case you are interested in checking out my Delicious feed.
<ul> <li>design 425</li> <li>development 174</li> <li>ux 172</li> <li>programming 166</li> <li>opensource 149</li> <li>ui 148</li> <li>for_meedan 118</li> <li>usability 114</li> <li>journalism 96</li> <li>mobile 95</li> </ul>
I am working on several projects that use tags in slightly different ways, involving other specialized "social bookmarking" applications. I will post a note here when those feeds are ready! My current development activies (as a frontend coder and interaction designer) will be released over the course of 2008 at http://meedan.net and http://swiftapp.org.
Experimenting with IBM's "Many Eyes"
IBM's new Many Eyes rocks. I experimented with the nptech data last weekend and built this in about 10 minutes. It's a very rough bubble map of the users of the nptech tag. Interesting how it shows the distribution of the tagging activity. Related: Swivel and Data360.
Number of times "nptech" was tagged, by del.icio.us username
My Many Eyes account is here. (You can get an RSS feed of my visualizations.)
EDIT: Just to be clear, the usernames in the plot above do not reflect the actual number of contributions (the top posters are not getting credit for more than 100 posts each), because of a bug in del.icio.us, which I have discussed previously.
The Culture of Open Networks, or: Watch What You Tag
I'm getting into an excellent free pdf called "In the Shade of the Commons," a publication from the Waag Society, which bills itself as a small group of enthusiastic idealists ... with a mission "to make new media available for groups of people that have little access to computers and internet, thus increasing their quality of living."
They sound like a nice little bunch of information hippies in the Netherlands.
"We value information as a human resource of cultural expression rather than a commodity to be sold to consumers. ... We realize that intangible information resources raise the issue of a digital ecology, the need to understand ecosystems constituted by information flows through various media. " The Vienna Document
In the Shade of the Commons.
They have quite nicely put together a range of material about the fragility of openness in up-and-coming information societies and the need for "intellectual commons." My favorite part of it so far is the "Vienna Document," (quoted here) which summarizes a number of thoughtful progressive info-principles.
The lesson I'm taking away is not just that "information should be free" (ZZZzzzzzz.... ), but there is also need for a kind of "humane" network design that leverages openness in ways that are beneficial to more than just a select minority.
For those of us who design software (which is now 99% defined by networked computing), I think this has pretty hip implications.
I think it is brilliant to conceptualize information, as they do, as a product of "intellectual labor." In this light it becomes clearer how the information that we produce (in the context of, say, social tagging) can be evaluated as a product that can be shaped by the conditions in which it is produced, controlled, consumed and potentially misused.
Really, what is the most profitable thing to do with a massive database of human generated metadata? Exactly how often should we expect The Most Profitable Thing to line up with the most useful thing for real-live human beings?
Anyway, this line of thinking seems especially relevant to me now that I am so frustrated to discover that more than 1000 nptech tags are apparently not shown in some views of del.icio.us. I can't really blame del.icio.us for whatever is causing this, but it is a reminder that we are trusting our attention data to the databases and algorithms of a corporation with no vested interest in the integrity or proper use of our data. It's enough to make me want to start googling for an open source alternative ... but then there goes my intellectual labor being photographed again ...
A question for del.icio.us
I am still working on developing a tool for analyzing community tags in del.icio.us, but I have run into a problem that messes up the data pretty significantly. I would be interested to know if anyone has any ideas what is going on.
The problem is this: del.icio.us says that there are about 5160 items tagged with nptech in its database. I think this number is correct. But you can see for yourself that, if you put the pagination on 100, you will get to the last page (the first time the tag was used) when you hit the 41st page.
That's only 4100-ish. Are there 1000 of our entries missing?
On Teachers Moving from Web 0.5 to Web 3.0
David Warlick posts insightfully about the uses of technology in education. Right now he seems like a pretty stressed out guy.
I'm not an educator (though I do work in education via nonprofit evaluation). And I don't get quite as excited as he does when discussing the latest crop of communication technologies.
But in one of his most recent posts on his blog 2 Cents, I am right there with him pulling out my hair. The story is kind of funny actually, in a sick way (kind of like the way it's funny when Cheney shoots a 78-year-old man).
The story is like this: Warlick presented to a large group of teachers here in North Carolina recently and polled them informally about the technologies they used.
"How many were blogging, I saw only three hands. How many read blogs? Perhaps 20. How many had listened to a podcast? Maybe ten. How many had podcasted? Zero! How many used flickr? Zero! How many knew about social bookmarks? Zero! Delicious (del.icio.us)? Zero!"
This is all really not that surprising to me. I know that two years of hype about blogging has done little to clarify its value as an fun, educational tool. And these are a particular type of hype-prone ("Web 2.0") technologies.
And yet, really, these things are exciting and useful. Teachers would love these things. They aren't just hype. I only wish teachers knew more about these great, fun technologies that kids would love. For sure, I have seen great integrations of podcasting (AKA: grassroots audio) and blogging (AKA: networked writing) into the classroom — and I have seen how serious critical thinking skills are engendered in the use of these technologies.
So I think these teachers' technological literacy is unfortunate, but I don't think it's a tragedy, as David might say at this point. I think we are just at an early stage, and we (progressive type/educational bloggers) are impatient to show off the great strides the internet has made in recent years. Or at least, that's the polite way of putting it.
But when I read the following I was a little more disturbed:
"I asked how many of them had used Gopher. About three-forths of the hands went up. This surprised me. I asked about Telnet. Again, a vast majority of the hands when up."
That's right. Gopher and Telnet are not only still on people's radar, but teachers are apparently much more familiar with these medieval implements than blogs. Why is this so difficult to catch on to? It's just writing on the internet. Where are the barriers to understanding and use coming from? I know that technological literacy and the digital divide are real complex issues, but dammit, I don't get it. Why did people stop paying attention when it got interesting? Blogging is so much more engaging and Telnet was ... just such a drag!
As David writes: "These are educators who, in the early 1990s, were on the edge. They were paying attention, recognizing an emerging revolution in information, and latching on. What happened between then and now? Why have they missed the new revolution?"
I hope that online communication will become much more mainstream this year. But for now I think that white-hot hype + cold, ivory-tower perspective of technologists has done a lot to keep powerful new communication tools out of the mainstream, locked in some elite computer lab. For now I resolve again to remember that I'm part of an extreme minority of addled programmers and gizmo fetishists. I want to do what I can to remind people that simple, free, worldwide publishing and distribution is now a reality. And for now I just hope that educators aren't teaching kids that dial-up BBS's define the world of technology.
The Linc project (based in NY) has an interesting article on their use of del.icio.us (a web service that maintains lists of links for you.) I really appreciated their technical description of everything they're doing with it, but it isn't a beach read.
LINC Support Grab Bag Archive: Are you del.icio.us?
Here's a bit:
Are you maintaining lists of links someplace and looking for a way to keep them up-to-date? You might consider taking a look at del.icio.us, a free service that will allow you to aggregate links on their system, tag them with category names of your own choosing and then display them in other forums.