Category Archives: Calendars

Jon Udell, “Why Johnny Can’t Syndicate”, Friday January 18 2013, noon to 1:00 p.m., University of Michigan School of Information

Date and time: 

 01/18/2013 - 12:00pm - 1:00pm


 Ehrlicher Room, 3100 North Quad


 Jon Udell


 Yahoo, School of Information

In this lecture on "Why Johnny Can't Syndicate," speaker Jon Udell will review a case study — conducted in Ann Arbor and elsewhere — that uses the syndication of public calendars to explore what people do and don't understand about the Web's core principles, how we can enlarge that understanding, and why it matters that we do.

Udell is an author, information architect, software developer, and new media innovator. In 2007 Udell joined Microsoft Research as a writer, interviewer, speaker, and experimental software developer. Currently he is building and explaining a calendar network that's based on open standards and runs in the Windows Azure cloud.

His 1999 book, Practical Internet Groupware, helped lay the foundation for what we now call social software. Udell was formerly a software developer at Lotus, BYTE magazine's executive editor and Web maven, and an independent consultant.

A hands-on thinker, Udell's analysis of industry trends has always been informed by his own ongoing experiments with software, information architecture, and new media.

From 2002 to 2006 he was InfoWorld's lead analyst, author of the weekly Strategic Developer column, and blogger-in-chief. During his InfoWorld tenure he also pioneered the medium now known as screencasting and produced an audio show, Interviews with Innovators.

Udell provided the following abstract:

"In Why Johnny Can't Read (1955), Rudolf Flesch ranted that 'horrible, stupid, emasculated, pointless, tasteless little readers' were depriving kids of 'Andersen's Fairy Tales and The Arabian Nights and Mark Twain, and anything interesting and worthwhile.' He  argued: 'If you equip kids with the right conceptual tools they can read anything.'

"As we colonize the cloud we can read — and write — in important new ways. But we're failing to equip most people with the right conceptual tools for these emerging modes of literacy. A web of connected information systems entails such concepts as authority over data, indirection, standard ways to structure and exchange data, controlled vocabularies, publish-and-subscribe networks, and use and recombination of services.

"Students of the computer and information sciences learn and apply these principles. Others can too, but because they mostly don't they remain stuck at a 'Fun with Dick and Jane' level of Web literacy.

"In this talk we'll review a case study, conducted in Ann Arbor and elsewhere, that uses the syndication of public calendars to explore what people do and don't understand about the Web's core principles, how we can enlarge that understanding, and why it matters that we do."




 Allison Wachter

Contact email:


a2b3 lunch non-summary for 4th week of March 2012

Name check!

Thanks to +Gyll Stanford, +Steven W. Cornell, +Joel Vergun , +Patrick Haggood , +Dan Romanchik , +Linda Diane Feldt, +John Hritz, +Roger Rayle , +Dan Friedus, and +Brian Rice who made for good conversation at lunch last Thursday.

In no particular order, we talked about the +a2b3 Amateur Radio Club (with Dan Romanchik as the likely point of contact), since we had a couple of people who were online listening to +Skywarn for the last tornado. There was also good discussion of fruit trees and the impact of unseasonable weather on the fruit crops, and at my end of the table some neat talk about underground clay irrigation systems. Joel had a good reception from a Ypsi civic group about his DishFish project.

Events of note for the coming weeks:

Linda Diane Feldt on herbal health for men (Thursday)
Fool Moon
Huron River Water Trail meeting
A2A3 Soap Box Derby (Saturday)
Brick Bash (Saturday)
+Grange Junior Makers

Thanks to the 11 (of about 450, or 2.5%) who showed up, and to the 97.5% of you who didn't for whatever reason, it would have been crowded!

The World Calendar: every year the same (1935 calendar reform proposal)

A proposal to reform the calendar system, circa 1935, would have simplified the seasons by making every single year have the same calendar, every single quarter have 91 days and 13 Sundays, and every January 1 always fall on a Sunday. Leap years are accomodated with a mid-year extra Saturday, and the end of the year is celebrated as Year End Day, also as an extra Saturday.

Picture 1
This image is from Why reform the calendar? : A symposium of opinion prepared for the Special Committee on Calendar Reform of the Chamber of Commerce of the State of New York, as found on HathiTrust.

Remarkably, the World Calendar Association is still going strong. A word from their web site on the origin of this proposal:

Elisabeth Achelis spread the New York Times out on her desk, momentarily blanketing the plaque dear to her that bore this quote of unknown Persian origin. On that Sunday, September 8, 1929 (a date she never forgot and one she revisited fondly in her 1961 autobiography, Be Not Silent), Elisabeth found a letter to the editor of the New York Times by Lewis E. Ashbaugh of Denver, Colorado. In a brief, almost casual tone, Ashbaugh suggested that the then-unofficial National Committee on Calendar Simplification should consider the adoption of a twelve-month, equal-quarter calendar (perhaps suggested as early as 1745 and published by Abbe´ Mastrofini in 1834) over that of the thirteen-month one that was rapidly gaining popular favor. Elisabeth saw much in this simply revised calendar plan, and instantaneously knew that her five-year search for something to help the world in which she lived had come to an end.

I suppose that calendar reform is no less exotic than speling reform, and that a 12 month rearranged calendar is less exotic than a 13 month calendar where every month has a Friday the 13th.

Picture 2

Free things on your (happy) birthday in Ann Arbor

One of the most popular pages on Arborwiki is the Birthday deals page, which tracks the ever-changing Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti area retail landscape by looking at places which give you some kind of special deal on your birthday. If your birthday is coming up soon, give it a look, and if you need to poke someone on your favorite social network site to wish them a happy birthday, a link to this page is always appropriate.

Supermemo, spaced repetition and time-structured randomness

Picture 4

I've written about Supermemo before, a system for focusing your attention on things that you have previously learned in such a way that you reinforce long term memory. Given a set of items which you were confident in at a stage in the past, identify a way to re-test yourself on that confidence. Space out those retest intervals so that you keep the learning from decaying into nothingness. Repetition is the very soul of the net, and if you are careful you can repeat at intervals that don't overwhelm.

New to me this week is a similar spaced repetition training tool focused on short term memory. Referred to as "N-back" (Wikipedia), it looks at turning the process of matching repetitive items in a sequence into a game, with higher scores if you can recall that e.g. 3 letters ago there was also an 'x' in the string. The application Brain Workshop was created by Paul Hoskinson and lets you play with your current skills; I haven't seen anyone render this into hardware a la the old game of Simon.

To turn the random noise of the world into patterns that you understand and can manipulate and recognize, you need to find the useful connections and build upon them somehow. You can't just learn by remembering things out of context – it always helps to learn by doing. People love to make things into patterns, and an organized exploration of an otherwise random world can help you make connections which are key to understanding the world.

The space I keep trying to explore is remembering the names of people, some of whom I know rather well by face, others who I know only by their work. The index into this space that lends itself to randomness is the birthday, which you can be pretty sure to capture less than 1% of the set of people every day. Alas, Facebook has cheapened the opportunity for remembering someone's birthday as a distinguishing mark, so the challenge is to use this somehow else; if I happen to remember your half birthday, it's because I'm trying to remember and plan both forward and back 6 months. Even better if I send you a half-birthday postcard (to combine two unusual abilities). Wish me luck.

Museum of Creative Calendar Design and the Chrono-Shredder by Susan Hertrich

Chrono-Shredder The Museum of Creative Calendar Design has a large collection of calendars created by designers, in the genre of creative work to be given as presents to your best clients. One of the works highlighted is the Chrono-Shredder by Susan Hertrich, which "shreds every day in real time". Another set of photos of the system, as installed, is at Vvork. Core77 collects this observation:

In an exploration of fictional tools for hibernators, Susanna Hertrich developed the Chrono_shredder, a product that serves as a reminder to live one's life productively. The 365-day calendar is dispensed day-by-day from a single roll, each day shredded over an exact 24-hour period.

I can imagine creating the counterpart to this work, a calendar which is a fax machine connected to a phone line that faxes in, slowly, line by line, the image of the next day's calendar page. I'll leave it as an exercise to the reader to decide what bit rate corresponds to one 8.5" by 11" calendar page per day.