Volunteer for Kitchen duty

Recovered from the Wayback Machine

A few weeks ago I was approached by a person (who has asked to remain anonymous), about holding a two-week clinic for webloggers and those who read webloggers and even those who don’t but still manage to use the web without stumbling all over us. He would provide the funding and I would manage the rest, with the stipulation that the focus of the clinic was on community participation, contribution, and benefit.

After a bit of chatting with some other folks, we came up with the idea for the IT Kitchen an open participatory clinic that makes use of different technologies to facilitate interaction.

The clinic will start on a Monday and continue until Friday, the following week. Each day we’ll feature a different topic (a preliminary list is at bottom of this post), which forms the basis of the essays contributed that day. There will be different weblogging tools installed to meet people’s preferences, and an online aggregation of the different posts to one specific page. So if you want your weblogging tool installed, just volunteer to write an essay on any of the days, and we’ll install it (unless there are licensing issues associated with the tool and the tool vendor won’t waive licensing for this effort).

In conjunction with the weblog postings, I’m setting up a Wiki for Weblogging, which splits each topic into sub-topics on separate pages. The sub-topic could be from a specific question a person has, and needs more detailed information; or it could be specific categories that others want to address. On the day that the topic is released, people are encouraged to basically swarm the topic and sub-topics for that day, and add or edit the information. They can also, of course, add and edit information for the previous days’ writings, too.

During the clinic, we’ll also have an IRC channel to facilitate realtime conversations, and forums for those who prefer a more linear conversation.

Those who love photography will be asked to contribute photos to be used for the background on all of the pages, and those with design skills will hopefully volunteer to help design one or more pages.

By the end of the clinic, the writings from the weblogs will be grouped into a nice downloadable format and released online. If there is enough interest, the weblogs will be kept alive, for additional contributions over time, or as training tools for those who want to learn more about the tools. The Wiki for Webloggers will definitely be kept alive, and we can only hope, flourish with the same energy that has fed the role model for this effort, the Wikipedia. The same can be said for the IRC and the forums.

To ensure that the material can be re-used, all contributions to all of the pages will be licensed to allow copying and re-use, but not commercial sale. The wiki will, of course, also allow modifications, as will the site designs and CSS, but the weblog essays will be released, as is, without modification unless each individual author specifies a more general license at the end of their text. The same applies to the photographs and other graphics – copy and reuse with attribution, but no modification unless the contributor states such.

In addition, if anyone else would like to add technology to the environment in order to facilitate the enjoyment and enrichment of all those involved, send me a note and we’ll see if we can incororate it in.

Does this whole thing sound ambitious? Frankly, it is, and has a real potential to be chaotic, too. However, I think that chaos would be a better result than the opposite, which is little or no community participation. I will admit, my initial reaction about this clinic was nervousness, because a workshop that’s based on community participation can fall flat if enough of the community doesn’t participate. But I felt that if the topics were of interest enough, and the technology and facilities were open enough, the subjects broad enough to reach out to people with different levels of expertise, there would be enough participants to at least have a fun time, if not more.

After the initial nervousness, my next reaction then was to think about who I would invite to participate – who I would extend invitations to, to have write an essay or manage a particular topic at the wiki, or join in on the IRC channel setup for the clinic. After all, the key attraction to these events is the names of the people who participate. Gotta have names. And since most of these names are good people who share of their time willingly, I felt fairly confident that most would accept.

However, lately it seems all that weblogging has become is a cluster of very well known people, each with his or her cloud of semi-anonymous supporters. We complain about not hearing new voices, but we don’t give new voices an opportunity to participate in many of the events we hold: the conferences, the talks, the meetings, the online collaboration and group efforts. We foster the very illusion we would hope to break–that weblogging is primarily a small, visible group of ’successful’ bloggers, and a much larger number of other people who aren’t read, according to a recent New York Times article.

Well, pish tosh on that. Instead of inviting specific people and making much of them, giving them the star treatment, this entire effort is completely open: from the essays written at the weblogs, to the IRC channel and forums, and especially the Wiki for Webloggers. Everyone is invited to participate, and for those looking to extend their readership, hopefully this will be a good way to do so. Even if you’re not looking to extend your readership, think of this as a new challenge leading to personal growth; or a way of making new friends, and helping other folks int he community who are not as knowledgeable about all the ins and outs.

I still hope that several names will choose to volunteer, because most are very interesting and likable people who have a lot to contribute ; but if they do so, they’ll be a part of the Kitchen Crew – no more, no less.

(Note, though, that if you have expertise with any of the technologies mentioned here, I may ask for help if you don’t volunteer. You know who you are. Might as well volunteer and get hero points, and spare yourself my wheedling.)

The site that is hosting all of this is called the IT Kitchen, but people don’t have to be technical experts to participate. I hope that there will be those who write expertly on comment spam or issues of accessibility and CSS; but I’m just as much interested in the human aspect of all of this, including anecdotes about experiences. The only limit on your participation is your time.

As to the dates this clinic is being held: We’re starting it October 25th, and it ends November 5th, 2004. Yes, the clinic takes place at the exact same time as the US elections this November.

The reason we picked this date, specifically, is that weblogging is in real danger of becoming too US centric, and far too focused on the American political system. Though this is a topic of interest, and one that can have serious impact beyond just the US borders, it’s still just one component of the rich world of interaction that attracted most of us to weblogging in the first place.

It is a gamble holding the clinic at this time, but a good one we hope. One that re-affirms that there is more to all of this than picking one man over another in an election.

(That’s not to say that there won’t be discussion about politics during the clinic. For instance, the use of weblogs for politicians could be covered, as well as some of the work currently being done to ensure the accuracy of this election. But these will be sub-topics, and given no more prominance than any other topic. )

I’ve started a preliminary list of topics, below, and hope to get some feedback on them. I also hope to start getting volunteers for writing essays in the weblog, as well as suggestions for good sub-topic ideas for the wiki. I particularly need help now with setting up the infrastructure of all this, designing the pages, and kitchen and food-related photographs for the sites. And I need “Vounteer for Kitchen Duty” buttons that can be placed on web sites to promote this in weblogs and other sites.

(Attribution will be given to all those who participate. And a great big virtual hug from me, too.)

Thanks and I hope that you’ll all consider volunteering for Kitchen Duty.

Possible Topics:

Languages? We gotcher languages here! Programming and scripting languages used with weblogging

Many Cooks are Good! Collaboration and social software

Frying Spam ’bout what you think it is, comment, email, and referrer spam

The Stylish Webber Site design and CSS and issues of accessibility, because every stylish webber follows accessibility guidelines

Slice and Dice Syndication and Aggregation and Promotion

The Kitchen Tools Weblogging tools, how-tos, introductions, migration, porting, templates

Beyond The Kitchen Tools Extending the tools through plugins, embedded scripts, direct database intervention

Pretty as a Picture Photography and graphics, including Flash

Basic Ingredients What makes a web site tick, and what you can and cannot control, such as htaccess, hot link prevention, and so on

Movable Feast Uses and issues of moblogging, audioblogging, streaming, video blogging

Salt and Pepper Are there ethics in weblogging? Rules and regs, or is this the ultimate free environment?

Open Kitchen Two days set aside where any topic related to weblogging is welcome

Suggestions, please! Help, please! Send beer!


Submission dues (or is that dux or ducks?)

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

I threw caution to the wind and submitted my carefully crafted session proposal to O’Reilly for ETech. I thought about posting it here, but is that bad luck, or poor taste?

Regardless, I will tease you and tell you that is is very complementary to what Sir Tim really wants but doesn’t know it yet. He looks for a revolution and Great Things and a crescendo of meaning; the rest of us just want to find things.

Silly things.


What is he talking about?

I’m not stupid and I know all the technologies and people referenced, but I read this recent article by Steve Gillmor and I haven’t the foggiest what he’s trying to communicate.

He begins about the recent fooflah with Robert Scoble and the attack of the 50 foot syndication feed, using this to launch a tirade against timed updates of syndication feeds. From there, though, he travels many odd and strangely branded paths, flowing eerily from Firefox terrorizing Office, to aggregators all timed to check for updates at the same time bringing down the internet, and finally to Adam Curry’s golden-locked croon through an iPod.

Throughout his article what Gillmor seems to be doing is trying to establish an argument that syndication feeds based on RSS need to be realtime. If this is so, then what is the relationship of the following to this premise, other than a gratuitous swipe at Microsoft for Scoble daring to be critical of RSS?

The rewards for adopting the RSS model are greater for those who lag in the current online economy. By contrast, Microsoft has little apparent incentive to destabilize Office by extending the free browser to support not just content aggregation but creation. Yet that is exactly what the competition is moving toward: an RSS console that automates the capture, consumption, and routing of strategic information.

Rather than the polling of the pull model of syndication feeds, Gillmor pushes for P2P feeds based on the BitTorrent model of using networked peers to handle the loads. In this model you ‘earn’ download time by donating an equivalent upload time. In other words, you get a stream of data equivalent to donated bandwidth. Well, cool. Of course, this only requires that everyone who subscribes to a syndicated feed now agree to be a part of a P2P network. And understands what that means. And that this works within the current weblog publishing model, where over half of webloggers don’t publish to their own servers, any may not even use their own computers to access feeds through Bloglines. And may be accessing these feeds from their phones. And…

Strategic considerations aside, Gillmore trips onto the iPod platform as an example of on-demand stream I assume, and from there segues into a confusing mish-mash of names and applications that have little relation to each other–other than they’re going to replace TV and Radio and a bunch of middle aged guys with too much money and way too much ego can finally have their own shows in both mediums.

Or as Snappy the Clam states:

See how many gladhanding, namedropping shoutouts you can find in this latest conflict-ridden (now with no disclosure!) advertorial puffball from RSS cheerleader and “tech journalist” Steve Gillmor.

Exploring new ways of delivering feeds is a good thing and should be applauded, but not at the expense of losing one’s independence from the blackhole that the RSS 2.0 community seems to be at times. Most importantly, regardless of the mechanisms involved syndication technology needs to be accessible by those who don’t live and breath RSS.

(And did I happen to mention that RSS is first and foremost just a specification for a syndication feed? Not a cure for the common cold? And that it won’t solve world hunger?)


Big wind does what big wind wants

My heart goes out to the people in Florida and the Carolinas, who have been hit time and again with hurricanes this season. It also goes out to the people of Haiti, who seem like they get the short end of the stick on a regular basis.

I was reading the weblogs this morning of folks who I know live in Florida, to get a better idea of what was happening. Tom Matrullo seems to have been missed this time, luckily, and posted some pics on his flickr account (flickr is the newest social software du jour), Dave Rogers also looks to have been missed, but made a very pertinent point about the property damage caused by these hurricanes:

This hurricane season will probably cost something greater than $20B in property damage. Loss of life will be disproportionately smaller, thankfully. Yet the property losses due to acts of nature in six weeks will likely be greater than all the property losses to Americans as a result of acts of terror in the last 60 years combined. Yet there will be no knee-jerk expenditure of hundreds of billions of dollars in response on the part of the federal government.

If anything the Federal response to these events probably has been adversely impacted by all the fooflah in response the terrorism terror. Ever since I read about agricultural inspections from overseas degrading since the unit was placed under Homeland Security, I’ve had my doubts about the creation of such an overall powerful organization with an obsessive agenda greatly dependent on a continued atmosphere of paranoia. And when the FBI was assigned to the Hot Air Balloon Race, I knew that we had lost much of our sense of perspective.

(What did they think was going to happen? That a mad Islamic terrorist would hijack a hot air balloon and attack the Energizer Bunny?)

Still, seriousness of the storms aside, Dave wrote something else that absolutely cracked me up, though I don’t know if this was his intent, and I hope he’s not offended that I laughed:

By Saturday morning, it was pretty clear there would be no call for a general evacuation of the beaches communities. But it still looked as though we were looking forward to sustained winds greater than 60 kts, and that would mean widespread power outages of greater duration than we experienced for Frances. I have no canned food on hand in my apartment, and no way to heat food either. So I went up to CompUSA to look at the new iMac.

There’s more, but when I read that last sentence, I lost it completely.


Bad girls must pay

I tried to watch the movie, “The Magdalene Sisters” but had to stop, not because the movie was bad but because the movie made me so angry. If you’re unfamiliar with these spots from hell, they were convents run by the Catholic Church in several countries, and devoted to the ‘penance’ of wayward women. In them, women would toil over laundry 6 days a week, usually from 5 in the morning until they went to bed at 7 at night. If this sounds like something that must have happened a hundred years or so ago, think again: the last laundry closed its doors in 1996.

The worst of these were in Ireland, but there were Magdalene convents in Australia, North America, Scotland, and England. Women were put in these, many times without their consent, because they had a baby out of wedlock, or their families felt that the girls had ’sinned’ by having sex (or they thought the girls had sex). In some cases, the were intered if the girls were Catholic orphans and the Sisters thought them too pretty and therefore wanted to save them from themselves.

At the Laundries, they were forced to strip naked once a week as the Sisters taunted their bodies: that they were fat or their breasts too big–humiliating the girls. There hair was kept short and they were dressed in coarse shapeless dresses, their breasts bound tightly so that they seem flat chested. Some were sexually abused, both by Sisters and by the Priests. Many were beaten or otherwise tortured, and in Ireland, not allowed to leave on their own, even when they reached adult age.

It wasn’t until one of the Laundries was sold in the 1990’s and 133 bodies of women were found in unmarked graves that the story of the horror of these Convents started to be told.

A few years back I read about one woman put into the Convent for wayward behavior in the late 1960’s, and was stunned to realize that was only a few years earlier than my own ‘wayward’ behavior here in the States. I would say, “Thank God, I wasn’t born in Ireland”, except as one of the former inmates said, what kind of God exists that would allow such cruelty to innocent young girls?

The history of the Magdalenes started getting international attention when a reporter with the RTE (Irish Television), Mary Raftery, did a story on the institutions. In this country, we learned about it when 60 Minutes ran a story on it the same year. Yeah, the same ‘bad boy’ 60 Minutes of the infamous CBS documents. I guess it takes one set of ‘bad’ people to expose the truth about another set of ‘bad’ people.

The Catholic Church, of course, denounced the work as lies and fabrications, a stance it would hold through subsequent documentaries and movie release.