Category Archives: tech

General technology issues

Rating, Voting & Ranking: Designing for Collaboration & Consensus at CHI 2007

I’m in San Jose, California presenting a Works-in-Progress paper at the Association for Computing Machinery’s (ACM) Computer-Human Interface (CHI) 2007 conference. I’m showing off some of the interface design issues related to encouraging valid, fluid participation for a community-based internet content filter we’re developing at the University of Texas at Austin called OpenChoice.

Here’s the abstract for the paper:

The OpenChoice system, currently in development, is an open source, open access community rating and filtering service that would improve upon the utility of currently available Web content filters. The goal of OpenChoice is to encourage community involvement in making filtering classification more accurate and to increase awareness in the current approaches to content filtering. The design challenge for OpenChoice is to find the best interfaces for encouraging easy participation amongst a community of users, be it for voting, rating or discussing Web page content. This work in progress reviews some initial designs while reviewing best practices and designs from popular Web portals and community sites.

I’m also making it available to download: Turnbull, Don (2007) Rating, Voting & Ranking: Designing for Collaboration & Consensus. Works-in-Progress Paper presented at the ACM SIGCHI Conference. San Jose, CA. May 2, 2007.

Listening Post exhibit at the San Jose Museum of Art

Yesterday I saw an interesting exhibit called Listening Post at the San Jose Museum of Art about understanding, or maybe just observing, internet-based communications.

Here’s the blurb from the project’s Web page:

“What would 100,000 people chatting on the Internet sound and look like?”… Listening Post analyzes all the text—typed just moments ago—by tens of thousands of people in Internet chat rooms around the world. It presents them as six different “movements,” combining musical tones, sound effects, synthesized voice, and scrolling text. For example, in the first movement, Listening Post monitors and displays a randomly typed text beginning with “I am.” It then searches the Internet for related phrases, creating a simultaneously funny, sad, nonsensical, pathetic, yearning, quotidian, and ultimately mesmerizing tonal poem of identity in the Internet age.

For centuries, the soaring buttresses, vaulted ceilings, and luminous stained glass of cathedrals, along with hymns and chants, have transmitted that which is beyond expression. Using algorithms, software, and data mining, Listening Post generates a similar experience around what sometimes seems beyond comprehension.

It’s quite an experience with seven “movements” that range from ideas like Wave Cycle, Topic Cluster and I Am (I Like/I Love) where text from the messages floats, drifts or cycles across the many small LED screens in sync with some Philip Glass-like music.

Listening Post

The exhibit runs Saturday, June 3, 2006 through Sunday, May 20, 2007, so hurry up and take a look while it’s still there.

Nature says Happy (300th) Birthday to Linnaeus

The journal/magazine Nature has a special issue to celebrate the birthday of Linnaeus, who most think of as originating the idea of large-scale classification to understand the world and normalize scientific research.

Carl Linnaeus introduced the systematic classification upon which all subsequent natural history has been built. This Nature web focus brings together a range of material celebrating the tercentenary of his birth in 1707, including features on how the explosion of genetic data changes the way we look at taxonomy, and the conflict between professionals and amateurs when naming species. There are also commentaries by leading taxonomists on the future of their field, articles on Linnaeus’s global network of contacts and even his lost and lamented pet raccoon, original research on the origin of flowering plants and a review on speciation – the first of several such articles to be published this year, which will be added to the web focus over time along with other coverage.

The issue is behind a paywall. How would Linnaeus classify that?

Mac tip for right click

If you’re using a Macintosh MacBook Pro (and other Apple notebooks I assume), you need to know this tip:

Put two fingers on your trackpad, keep them there and click the trackpad button. This emulates a “right-click” and opens the contextual menu in most applications that have one.

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Video Games at the University of Texas

Last night I got invited to an event sponsored by the University of Texas at Austin, Center for American History to explore ideas related to the academic study of video game history, development and design. The event was full of video game luminaries including Richard Garriott, Warren Spector, George Sanger and Steve Jackson among many distinguished others.

As you might imagine, getting about 50 freewheeling game designers together can be pretty entertaining but Bill Bottorff (from Austin Business Computers, Inc.) and Don Carleton (from the Center for American History) kept the event going.

One issue discussed was the preservation of video game ephemera and digital assets related to the history of the game industry. Richard Garriott (pictured below) talked about his history in video games and even brought a few items for show and tell.

Richard Garriott, and Steve Jackson in the foreground (with the Illuminati logo)

Among some of the items for show and tell are one of Garriott’s original Apple computers that he used to develop many games (he has a running one in his office to this day) and the roll of paper tape on top of the Apple is a working copy of his first game Dungeons and Dragons I.

ORIGIN Game history from Richard Garriott

George Sanger also spoke, played some recorded music and was very entertaining, if not a bit surreal.

George Sanger, dressed in some kind of General Custer outfit

George passed around some his personal keepsakes, including this test cartridge from the Son of M.U.L.E. game. (I fondly remember M.U.L.E. myself, it’s probably one of the best games I ever played.)

Son of M.U.L.E. test cartridge

It’s hoped that this is the first of many initiatives between UT Austin and the the video game community, look for more information in the future.

Can the Internet save democracy?

David Weinberger is asking an important question tonight (Feb 14th, 2007) at the Berkman Center’s Web of Ideas series:

Can the Internet Save Democracy?

Here’s his blurb:

We’ve been through a few election cycles in which the Internet played an important part. What have we learned? Beyond being a fund-raising tool, has the Internet changed anything important about elections, politics or governance? Will it? Does the connectedness of the Net promise an invigorated democracy? Or more of the same? Or a polarized electorate? David Weinberger of the Berkman Center will present a discussion opener on this topic, to be followed by an invigorating—or polarizing?—discussion.

David says: “ I’ll probably open the discussion trying to stay as far away from facts and reality as I can”, so with that in mind I’ll provide my quip:

The internet IS democracy.

The internet is an open-ended discussion, where anyone (with access) can participate on almost equal footing and the best ideas (usually) win out. (You vote with your clicks?) Sure, it’s not perfect, but to paraphrase Winston Churchill said “the internet is the worst form of government except for all the others”.

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