Monthly Archives: January 2004

Add RSS to your

I used to use a lot as a personal news aggregator; it was handy when there were a few dozen feeds to watch and when (sigh) keeping track of the stock market was the hot thing to do. Nowadays it is not so high on my regular list.

But just to note something very handy from it, there is a new beta feature that lets you include RSS feeds in your page, so that you can get updates of the latest Vacuum weblog (or umpty-ump thousand others) right from it. So that’s pretty cool. Go to to see how it works out.

(Have I talked here about Bloglines? I should. That’s a pretty good RSS reader too, more practical if you are following lots of feeds.)


RSS Winterfest

I’m listening to RSS Winterfest, a two-day web-based conference discussing the RSS news syndication format. It’s a remarkably rich enviroment for getting people working together all at the same time, using a combination of an audio feed (via On24), an IRC channel on freenode’s “#rss-winterfest” channel, a Socialtext eventspace conference wiki, and other channels. There are at current count over 400 people who have hit the wiki – don’t know the entire event attendance – the IRC channel has 35 folks chatting live at 3pm Eastern.

New to the mix in this iteration is an RSS feed coming from our wiki – that’s proven to be very handy to keep up with what’s going on.

If we didn’t have a whole bunch of non-audio tools going in parallel, it would seem like a very, very long conference call. Two very, very long conference calls, and those are very tiring at best. But all of the coordinated online tools let you have a feel for browsing the whole thing and letting your attention be profitably divided rather than just tuning out when the talk gets boring.

Malletts Creek Branch Library

We went to visit the new Malletts Creek Branch Library today, after breakfast at Achilles. (When asked what kind of toast he wanted, Saul said “French”.) It’s a wonderful place.

The first thing that you notice when you go into the new library is how much natural light there is. Four skylights and glass walls to the south and north mean that you get natural light no matter where you are in the building. The old Loving branch was perpetually dim, so this is such an enormous change that it stops you right there. The other thing you notice is that there’s a lot of activity, many more people in the building than I ever remember at the old branch doing many more varieties of things.

At the far west end of the building opposite the entrance there’s a reading room with comfy chairs, magazines, and a fireplace. Lots of good places to sit and things to read in easy reach.

There’s a small children’s section along the south wall with a view, a fishtank, a toy fabric cake and a table full of computers. To my tastes there are not quite enough places to sit and read and too many places to type, but that might just be me. Saul seemed to like it fine though he didn’t really want to share the cake when other kids went up to play with it. So we read books in the main part of the library instead.

There are computers everywhere, catalog stations at the end of several shelves and two areas with workspace. Both areas were busy, and I don’t think there are too many computers there, though again it seemed to come at the expense of places to lounge and read. I am told though have not confirmed it for myself that there is free wifi throughout the building, and there are a half dozen seats that look like they’d be particularly good laptop stations.

Definitely worth a visit. The new building is at Eisenhower and Stone School, on the #5 and #7 bus lines. More details at the Ann Arbor District Library website.

(Thanks to Gavin Eadie for pointing out the wifi.)

Paper notebooks

Why, in this digital age, do I persist in writing longhand in a paper notebook?

The paper notebook is lightweight, portable, needs no batteries or electricity, and even the most expensive acid-free archival quality paper is much cheaper than a computer.

In the paper notebook (bound, quadrille ruled) I can write text, charts, postage stamps, graphs, mind maps, lists, and anything else that fits without loading new applications or trying to learn new features or odd commands.

If I think of something out of place on line it gets deleted or filed away somewhere I can’t find it again. If I think of something out of place on paper it can go into the margin where it’s waiting to be discovered later.

My paper records go back ten years, but my online records have been wiped out by successive waves of job changes and account purges. If I want to keep something of my own with me it needs to be commited to ink.

I can easily doodle in the margins. Try to do that online without a lot of fancy typesetting. Who needs to typeset just to doodle a bit?

When I take the paper notebook to the coffee shop it doesn’t intrude upon the rest of the space. I don’t worry too much that I’ll ruin an expensive machine with a spill or a drip.

I can open up my notebook to a random page and find something interesting in a context that makes sense. When I open up the computer I get a blank screen or a web page or something distracting.

I took a notebook on vacation with me (ah, vacation, I highly recommend it) and was able to write out longhand some things that would never havebeen workable had I lugged a computer and all of its baggage along with me. Some day when I get a proper way to transfer things to the screen (color scanner? digital camera?) I’ll share them. But for the moment they are safe between bound covers not likely to be arbitrarily deleted.

Those are reasons enough. Some writers have manual typewriters to serve as their muses. Other folks take their Palm Pilots outside in the dark where there are crickets to be heard and write by backlit glow. I have a notebook with me whenever I want to create.

I first wrote this in 1999. It’s still mostly true. But I only found it because it was posted online to my Vacuum mailing list, so in some odd way it’s not true.

I love reading through my notebooks, and get a lot of insights from looking at them. But they are difficult as communications tools for anyone except messages back to myself.

Socialtext in the Wall Street Journal

Michael Totty from the Wall Street Journal writes yesterday about the use of wikis in business, using an example from Socialtext customer Stata Labs. He writes in part:

Wikis — “wiki-wiki” is Hawaiian for “quick” — are Web pages to which anyone can make changes. They make it easy to add, change or delete online material without having to learn a complicated programming language — or get anyone’s permission. As a result, they allow companies and work teams to trade ideas, share intelligence and track projects.

See more at the Socialtext weblog.

Brave New Waves, Crush Collision, Metropolis

Some good late night radio listening:

Brave New Waves is the CBC Radio (“official state radio”) alternative late night show. It’s been running since the mid 80s when Brent Banbury was host; these days, Patti Schmidt has the mike. The audio feed I’m listening to right now (quicktime) is weirdly echoey on Patti’s commentary, but the music seems to come through pretty well. Find them on CBC Radio 2 from 0:05 to 4:00 am Eastern (Toronto) time, M-F.

Crush Collision is WCBN-FM (Ann Arbor)’s contribution to the electronic music schene – DJ Carlos Souffraint has a tremendously good time on the turntables, and it’s always a good listen. Thursday nights Eastern, followed up by a dance show.

Metropolis is a KCRW (Los Angeles area) late night show. “the hypnotic pulse of modern city life”. 10:30pm to 1am Eastern weeknights.

Links here – radio links. (more on later)