Posted in technology, web, work by johnsnavely on November 20, 2009

I wanted to write a blog post on Google Wave from within Wave and then publish it straight from wave neatly to my blog (as promised in the tutorial video). But this didn’t happen. So instead I just cut and paste what I sloppily wrote from wave here. Boo! On the wave were a number of coworkers who are interested in social media. But I’ve cut out their comments because there weren’t many and to protect their privacy.

Here’s my very random thoughts on Google Wave after only using for short period of time

First let’s get the ugly out of the way.

The UI is pretty awful… not just in terms of looks, but pieces of it actually don’t function correctly. (scrollbars I’m looking at you) This is pre-pre-alpha stuff… needing frequent browser refreshes after many crashes. That said, it’s getting better every week. And features show up daily. For example, a few days ago in-line commenting appeared. It crashes wave, but it’s there. Note to Google: I want an “undo” please.

Now here’s what’s nice about Wave.

I was invited to Wave by my bud T (of course). My first conversation on Wave was just asking him how to use this. The first little bit of awesome in this interaction was watching someone type. When you communicate “synchronously”, you move faster. There’s no waiting, and there’s no lag, which means I stop trying to multitask outside of wave. Seriously, I want my IM program to have a mode where I can talk this way.

After a short chat with T, we started talking about old projects so he created another wave and started writing a document that listed out our various potential projects and had a short description of each. In places he called upon me to fill in information, which I did by editing his post. Meanwhile, we had several concurrent conversations about whether other ideas qualified as projects. We also thought about inviting another participant who neither knew personally, but who we thought might have some expertise. So I started another Wave added T and the twitter bot, then we tweeted the friend and asked them for their wave ID. After a short dialog on twitter, (which should have been  conducted through wave, but becuase the twitter bot doesn’t have some basic features), we brought our internet friend into the wave and kept talking. All of these things were happening simultaneously and we were all working in a very fluid multichannel way. Wave as a sort of light weight wiki that enables chatting and document editing in one place works really great.

I really like the idea of the bots in Wave. They have a lot of potential. I see them as ways to aggregate all of my conversations into Wave. For example, all the convo’s happening on Twitter, Facebook,gReader comments, on blogs, and of course, on Wave should be seamlessly accessible inside and outside wave. This is why, even though it works like crap, the feature that I’m most excited about is the Wave to Blog bot. This bot can take a Wave and turn it into a blog with comments and vice versa; any comments on the blog appear in the wave. The commenting/conversation absence was one of my major problems with gReader; potentially, Wave could fix this issue. Right now, however, a lot of them are hollow shells of usefulness.

The other potential of Wave as an aggregator is an ability to unify content across social networks. I’d really like to move some of the stuff that I check in Reader daily (because the network I’ve cultivated there is producing content I can use) over to wave in order to talk about it with people outside of that network. Delicious is the example I’m thinking of….

Of course, since I work for Microsoft I was wondering what our company would make that’s similar to this. In some ways it is actually similar Outlook in terms of the way it uses panes and attempts to have some continuity between messenging and phone (Google Voice is going to be supported, right?)  But if I tried to imagine the above scenario with T and chl in Outlook… it just wouldn’t happen. Nor would a lot of the communication that I do in outlook translate over the Wave very well.

However, the closest piece of Microsoft software that I could imagine using for a similar collaboration is OneNote. In some ways, Wave is like OneNote without the tabbed navigation (which I don’t like very much anyway), but with a paned communication UI on top of it. (Aside, one of the bots for Wave is a whiteboard app, adding to the OneNote smell.) I wonder what a version of OneNote created specifically for the web might look like. Courier, maybe?

Really Simple

Posted in culture, programming, technology, web, work by johnsnavely on February 17, 2009

A few days ago, I gave a little presentation at work on how I use my RSS feeds. Most of it was stuff I’ve learned from T-Bone. Today, T shot me a tweet asking if I had written any of it down. Which I had not. So I thought I’d try.

First, most of this is going to be old hat for people who read this blog. Most of you probably have better solutions that me or are using software that I’m still late-to-the-party for. Anyway, here goes:

Several years ago, I was completely ignorant of RSS and readers. I had sites– blogs, news sites, social networking sites (Friendster!), etc. that I was interested in. Many, I would check daily for new updates. Then T introduced me to Google Reader, an RSS feed reader. With a feed reader (there are many out there– I use feedly these days), I read updates to websites as if they were emails in an inbox. This means I can check all those sites in one place and only when there’s new stuff! (Switching browsing modes to a push-pull strategy).

But RSS isn’t just the content of blogs. All manner of things come in the RSS flavor. For example, any search in Craigslist (and Ebay too, although it’s harder to find) can be saved out as a feed. This is how I found my apartment here in Seattle. I went to Craigslist, searched for Fremont / apartments  / 1+ Bedrooms / price range / dogs and stored the resulting RSS in my reader. Whenever a new listing appeared, it showed up directly in my reader, I didn’t have to check Craiglist. I stored several searches in different neighborhoods and called them as soon as listings came up. I got the house I’m renting now, because I “was the first to call”.

I still use this technique for shopping. I’ll create some search feeds on Ebay and Amazon of stuff I want at a price I want, if there’s a hit, I see it in my feed reader. Easy! And you can do it with jobs, services, and *ahem* dates, if you’re into that.

Another type of site that offers feeds that I keep track of are social networking sites. I’m not a huge fan of facebook, but I do like the updates. So I grab the updates as a feed. For my closer friends, I track their twitter updates, flickr photos, delicious links, locations (with dopplr), etc etc. Delicious is a nice site because, like Craigslist, every page has a feed. You can follow tags, people, people networks– combinations of those. Using a feed reader, I can finally unify the content that all these disparate social networks are supposed to connect me to anyway. I can also know if someone sends me a link in delicious or comments on my photos… those are feeds too. Now I don’t actually have to go to the site to know what’s happening, all that information comes to me.

But what if you want something different than what a given feed can offer? Say you like Slashdot, but the feed has a ton of posts that you’re never going to read. It would be great if you could filter them. Luckily you can use something like Yahoo Pipes or MS Popfly. These web services take RSS (and things that aren’t RSS, but can be converted) and let you use a graphical programming language to manipulate a data stream into an RSS feed that you can be happy with. (T has a great little tutorial on Pipes.)

The last thing I do with feeds is package up my own. I use Swurl, which isn’t great, but it does the trick. Now I’ve got a feed with my blog posts, tweets, delicious links, netflix queue etc– basically everything I’m spamming out on to the interwebs. I put that feed back into my reader. Now when I want to search for something I’ve forgotten or should know, I search my reader instead of a Search Engine or Delicious. My reader has all of my stuff and all the stuff of the people and places that I care about.

These days I’m trying to do some of the same sort of things– taking streams and modifying them– with Twitter’s version of a reader: TweetDeck. The flow is surprisingly similar in places. We’ll see how it turns out…

Twenty Four Seven

Posted in art, web by johnsnavely on February 3, 2009

A couple of years ago my friends Sam Adrian and Dan showed me some video art by one of their fellow RISD grads, Ryan Trecartin. It was pretty awesome stuff, very strange. Last night, I opened the Sunday NYTimes arts section on the front page there were a bunch of images from the videos. There was an article on Mr. Trecartin’s work and process, and an announcement of some new pieces, which I checked out on YouTube. I’m still thinking about his newer stuff, but here’s a few videos that I think fit together.

My favorite video from Trecartin is this one (Tommy Chat!):

When I saw this years ago, my first thought was Shaye Saint John’s stuff. (The backwards hands get me every time):

I’m not sure of the history but I think they might owe something to Jacob’s work:

They all seem to revel in the excessive banality that characterizes the internet. With their manic, hyperactive style, I remember my initial feelings were mostly annoyance. (Which is a way of saying that they get under your skin– a good thing.) And the videos have this wierd incessant force, conversations are assembled with parts that you sort of recognize but they lack enough context to place. After the feeling of being annoyed subsided a bit, I’m just sort of happy with their uncanny accuracy. For anyone who has spent some time on the internet, the experience of watching the videos is eerily familiar.

Put the “Burn” in Van Cliburn

Posted in music, programming, projects, technology, web by johnsnavely on March 17, 2008

I’ve been so tired of the YouTube derivatives. MC Hammer’s DanceJam (see: Kanye’s Search Engine, although K-Fed tapped that years before West did.)

This contest, however, seems pretty cool. American Idol type competitions loves them some YouTube and it makes a lot of sense for Van Cliburn (the consumate performer) to encourage precisely this type of “pop” interaction. Although the contest only serves as a primary for the larger, live competition in Texas, it’s still a great idea. I hope we have an architecture contest soon on YouTube.

And not to put my own foot in the mouth, but this does make me think that there needs to be a youtube-esque site for sound, not necessarily music but sounds and voice. The .flv format mauls sound. And, while sites like hypeM or MySpace are great for music, sometimes I just want to upload and tag conversations, lectures or just random sounds.

In preparation to buy one of these, I’ve been practicing recording my voice. I find that I don’t have shit to say when I’m talking to a machine. On the other hand, (for me anyway) it seems like my best ideas come out of conversations– which might mean I take all my ideas from my more talented friends. Regardless, it would be cool to have an Eliza (but tapped into all my delicious links etc) to talk to instead. Creepy, maybe, but also cool.

Done and Doner

Posted in projects, web by johnsnavely on January 25, 2008

Today the rhinoscripting workshop ended. T was kind enough to come to the review. It ended well, but with more questions than answers. At just six days, I feel like we ran out of time. But I’m very proud of the effort and product my students developed. I’ll post those to the website soon.


In the meantime, under the pressure of trying to find a job, I’ve finally launched a new version of my portfolio site. I haven’t tested it on all platform browser combinations, so if you see any bugs please tell me.