Recovered from the Wayback Machine

Now that you’re all thirsting for more after my little ode to the car wash, I thought I would move in for the kill with podcasting.

Eric wrote a great comment in the post associated with the Web 2.0 post:

Something’s been bothering me about this fuss over “podcasting”, and I think I’m figuring out what it is. The term “clever” is what did it for me. It’s really nothing to do with “timeshifting” your audio or anything like that – it’s just a “clever” way to use a sexy consumer gadget. It’s a rationalization for the iPod and for doing things the Apple Way.

Because, after all, when you strip it down and figure out what the meat is, it all actually gets easier when you’re dealing with things other than iPods. “Podcasting” would be a matter of hacking some batch files for my Archos; with an iPod and iTunes, you have to actually code to an API…

Podcasting is now the ‘hip’ thing, the stuff that tingles all the toes. Scoble is ga ga over it (note to self, tell Scoble about car washes), and Adam Curry is determined to become the Howard Stern of the garage waves. We are probably on the verge of a mass saturation of the Internet to bring down the routers.

i.m. orchard says he’s falling for the podcast hype. He writes:

With this switch of perspective, I think I’m falling for the hype. The key is to get out of the way: aggregate, queue, and play in the background. Yeah, there’s going to be a lot of awful crap out there, and lots of dorks eating breakfast and lipsmacking into the microphone as they blab (this is me, shuddering)—but as the number of podcasters expand, we will start to hear some blissful hams showing up with things worth listening to.

The key is to get out of the way. More good writing.

People talk about why they started a weblog, and say they were attracted to its unique characteristics. They then seem to spend an inordinate about of time trying to push it and pummel it into formats that we’ve had for hundreds of years. But you know, if it’s fun for folks and they get a kick out of it, more power to them.

But will it take off? Unlikely.

I can chuckle through a bit of twisted writing and mangled grammar and it can have appeal that goes beyond style and mechanics. That appeal could be because I like the person; or it could be because there’s bright specks in the writing and that makes the rest palatable. Heck, I wince to think of my own twisted writing and mangled grammer over the years, but I haven’t chased everyone away. Just most of the conservative Republicans.

However, I cannot handle a screechy voice, or excessive use of pauses (’uhm’, ‘ah’, ‘urh’), not to mention dead, pedantic tones and fake playfulness. Broadcasting, both visual and audio, is a skilled task that usually requires a great deal of training in addition to having a decent voice. Unlike writing, it’s much more difficult to ‘tune’ out the bad. I notice this about my own recordings, which is why I’ve only subjected you to these twice.

Additionally, as has been said elsewhere, audio files can’t be searched, or easily annotated with meta data, and can become significant drains on resources. As Scoble later wrotebecause of Podcasting I need to be able to email around large files. Many email systems won’t accept files that are bigger than 2MB’s in size.

Omigod, I am visualizing being inundated with 10MB sound files. It’s enough to make you want to unplug. Viagra spam done vocally – there is a hell.

Still, teaching people proper podcasting behavior (think static location and ‘broadcasting’ the URI, as well as text translations of the audio, and never, even emailing podcasts to your friends) should take care of most of the concerns. And I for one wouldn’t mind hearing what some people I read sound like (and many of you who I’ve heard have very nice voices). As i.m. said, The key is to get out of the way: aggregate, queue, and play in the background.

But I think about spending time in the mornings or during the day reading weblogs, and I’m reminded of those who say they get all their news through blogging, and now we’re talking about loading blogger podcasts into our audio devices to take with us while we drive or walk or hike and I wonder where this particular world will end.

Will it even invade my car wash? Pink and blue and yellow prose competing with pink and blue and yellow foam? Seems a shame somehow. But what do I know? I think car washes are cool.


At the car wash

My favorite place is not at home in front of the computer, or out on some trail somewhere, taking photos. It’s not in any city or town, in the country, or along the water, though you get close with the latter. I am in my car, but being in my car doesn’t make it my favorite place. And the place loses its magic if someone else is with me.

My favorite place is the car wash. In the middle of the car wash to be exact. I love the car wash. But before you start with, “Lady, you need a life”, give me an ear, an eye, and a sec of your time.

The excitement of the car wash starts when I move my car on to the rail and put it in neutral; I have lost all decision making power at this point except which wash I want. Do I want the wash with the pink, yellow, and blue foam, or just the pink and yellow? Do I want that clear liquid rinse they say is a wax, but how can it be when it isn’t waxy? Does my underbelly need washing? I don’t know, is my underbelly dirty?

After this decision, though, I am free from any further need for action as soon as the car starts moving forward until I respond to the bright green DRIVE light at the end.

I am isolated in the car wash. The radio is off to prevent interference with the wash sensors, and the cellphone doesn’t work through all the equipment. The wash is too short to start any task, no matter how small or trivial. If it was a bit longer, I’d feel guilty for the ‘wasted’ time, and probably whip out a notebook or some such thing, in order to do something useful. But the wash is over before this activity can be made worthwhile; so I sit and do absolutely nothing.

Nothing except watch the two young people scrub my front and back bumper and windshields to remove the corpses of tiny little creatures who zigged when they should have zagged. After that is the water spray, and I am moved to hum a note or two from “Singing in the Rain” during this event. The excitement begins to build within, anticipating what’s to follow.

First comes the big soapy strips that move back and forth across the car and take off the initial layer of dirt. They remind me of great dark blue tongues, bigger than a cat’s, even bigger than Mick Jagger’s –reaching out and licking across the glass and the metal, the tips lingering on the warm metal at the end. Following these is another shot of water, for the initial rinse, but it’s nothing to get excited about; mere foreplay made more mundane by what’s to come.

The car moves past tubes set into the wall and bright white, pink, yellow, and blue foam squirts out all over the car; pulsing to some internal beat; swirling together into a purple color that slowly drips down the sides of the windows; softly teasing small bubbles, sparkling in the light, glide past me as I look out. Always bright white, pink, yellow, and blue. Never all white, or all pink. I imagine a study was made in the past and the car wash people discovered that people respond better to different colored foam. I know I do – it wouldn’t be magical if the bubbles were all white.

But the moment doesn’t end when the foam ejection finishes. No, next comes the lighter blue yarn like threads that spin around very fast, along the the sides and top; following the contour of the car in a passionate but surprisingly gentle grasp. They start in front of my car and part ever so reluctantly as the car moves slowly forward, never losing the grip they have on the sides as they glide compellingly towards the back. At the end, they give a saucy little flip to the rear, a pat of appreciation and familiarity in passing.

Of course, once the blue threads are finished, the fun part is almost over and the excitement begins to wane. The car is rinsed with one clear water rinse and then another, followed by the wax, and though it’s pleasant, it doesn’t tingle or give one a thrill. Still, there are those fun little fans at the end, moving up and down and across the car, chasing water droplets across the hood and the windshield. A final fun and piquant moment before the green light comes on and I’m booted out.

What’s best about the car wash is that all during this experience, I don’t have to think about what tasks need finished, or what improvements need to be made in my life; who I have pleased or disappointed or let down. I don’t have to read the opinions of this wit or another, alternately cheered and depressed, calmed and angered. I don’t have to hear the bad news on the radio, or listen to even sadder news on the phone. I am slipped out of time.


We be cooking now

I just created the IT Kitchen Wiki and the first of the IT Kitchen’s weblogs. The Wiki is built using MediaWiki the same software as used for Wikipedia. The weblog is WordPress 1.3.

Elaine is helping with CSS and design, though all input and help is welcome. At this time, I’m using the default style of the Wiki, including the default image. We’ll probably continue with the default style, though I might change the image. Might not, too, because I rather like the sunflower.

(I think the sunflower should be designated the official weblogger flower, we all seem to like it so much. Besides, like the sunflower, we tend to face that which burns brightest.)

I’m using the new WordPress 1.3 theme switcher, and downloaded the Odyssey theme pack created by Root. His was the first working installation of a 1.3 theme I found, and it’s a good solid design on which to base further design modifications. At this time, I think we’re looking at going with a basic two column design, with header, footer, and background. I’m currently using Joni Mueller’s Arthurium Mix variation of root’s Gemini because it has a nice warm kitchen feel to it.

We’ll be having different color schemes and images for different categories, and apply the same across all of the different language versions. Each language version will have it’s own separate weblog, and it’s own domain, such as and so on.

My hope is that not only will we get help translating the English language essays to the other languages, but that non-English speaking people will write original essays in the non-English weblogs, and that we’ll get help translating from those languages back to English for the English weblog. (Did you all understand that? Care to translate for me?)

At this time the default page points to the English weblog, but I may add an domain, and then have the main page point to the different language versions as well as the wiki. This prevents this whole site from being English centric, even if the dominate language of the site will most likely still be English.

As for the wiki, it is going to be English, but I believe we can either create variations of the wiki for the different languages, or people can just generate different language pages as branches. I wouldn’t mind advice from wiki experienced folks about best direction for this.

The wiki and the weblog are brand new and don’t have anything in them, but we’ll be adding material to the wiki this weekend. And this is an open environment – you’re all invited to dig in and help once I get that first page up and running to set the purpose of the site. Or if you don’t want to wait, you can get a feel for the purpose by reading the original IT Kitchen announcement.

The wiki will also have a signup page for people volunteering to translate and/or write essays for the weblog, as well as wiki topic and sub-topic headings. I’ll be generating weblogs and weblog users based on these sign-up pages.

(Those who have already volunteered, I’ll be sending you usernames and passwords as soon as we have the weblog look and feel finalized. Feel free to do the wiki thing now, though. A how-to on editing the wiki can be found here.)

As for weblogging softare, I decided to stay with WordPress primarily because it’s the one I’m most familiar with, and it’s GPL licensed, which means I can package the data and the delivery mechanism without worry about license. If other folks want to install other weblogs, we’ll find a way to tie them in, but you’ll have to do the installation work and manage the style settings to match the other site’s contents.

Well, finally off to a start, and a fast start too, as we’re heading into this a bit late. I think this is going to be a great deal of fun, as well as a fascinating look at how this open site will grow and mature. Just a note that we still need help in addition to those willing to write and translate, including graphics that we can provide to people to put on their weblogs and sites to promote IT Kitchen.

And we need help promoting the site –the success of IT Kitchen is going to be dependent on people wanting to become involved. People is the operative word, here. That’s people like you.


Semanticweb meet Slashdot

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

Interesting Slashdot thread about how Lehigh University is going to build the Semantic Web all by itself.

Computer scientist Jeff Heflin and others are building the Semantic Web, which they hope will handle more data, resolve contradictions and draw inferences from users’ queries. The new improved Web will also combine pieces of information from multiple sites in order to find answers to questions.

My reaction on reading this? Anyone that writes something like …are building _the_ Semantic Web, like it’s an object you can buy from Amazon, with easy to follow instructions doesn’t know beans about the ’small s, small w’ semantic web. It’s more than just the ontologies and the syntax, and more than technology. It’s about how to get people to buy into all of this. It’s about taking that same low cost to entry that allowed web pages to explode, and applying it to meaning as well as content. It’s about getting just plain Joe and Jane to go ‘cool’ and want to be a part of it–not just the geeks and science studs.

I do agree with the good doctor that we need to find a way to resolve contradictory ontologies, though I think we have the method for merging ontologies (i.e. RDF and OWL). But none of this matters if we can’t get buy-in to annotate data with meaning. So far, we’re not reaching beyond the science of the tech, to the people. And it’s more than the fact that all of this effort is young – it’s as if we see the non-tech as passive users of the semantic web, rather than active participants.

Sometimes I think that most people who work on the Semantic Web (the big letter fellow), don’t have a clue what it’s all about. It leads to wonder how much respect these folks have for those outside of their circles.

(This attitude, of course, being why I’m not on anyone’s Christmas Card list.)

The slashdotters get it:

The whole reason the web is popular is because it’s trivially simple to create content for it. Maybe the web would be more useful if it was like a giant encyclopedia but it’s just an exercise in futility unless everyone gets on board.