Monthly Archives: February 2003

Storing in public a rough note of an ultracrepidatary half-formed thought/position had/held talking with Tony:

Professional craft is a response to scarcity. Where there is no scarcity, there is no need for professional craft. It becomes personal based on subjective drivers. Opinions, points-of-view, and reportage are now non-scarce. In the post-postfilter world, what professional crafts do we look to?

William over at iSociety posted this last week and it’s been swirling around in my head, but not being that well read or good at philosophical investigation, I’m not getting very far… ‘Ne sutor ultra crepidam’, indeed.

“Recommender systems, reputation systems and blogging networks all demonstrate an American pragmatist approach to truth: most people think x, and the system which consulted them is fair and open, therefore x is true. They suffer from a Pollyanna effect, whereby negative comments play no role; degrees of positive preference determine what’s valid.”

William paints it as an either/or; but our experience is that the play of BBCi search/select-few-human-built taxonomy truth-through-refutation against the googlesphere* / many-anon-humans-decide postivist truth seems to yield a happy solution (for now) – it’s the top-down + bottom-up model we’re shooting for on my current project too.

So here’s the thing: in your opinion, does the googlesphere pollute the taxonomist’s view over time – will it always win? Should we lock all the library scientists in a (luxury) retreat and keep them pure holy fools for our own good??? I really should get round to reading the Surgeon of Crowthorne shouldn’t I.

Or go get some coffee, calm down and shut the hell up.

* Googlesphere [noun]: The post pyra/google blogosphere…

Tom Steinberg at iWire on the brou-ha-ha about blogs, power-laws and Clay‘s part in it all:

“the blogosphere environment actually conspires against the successful evolution of difficult ideas, unless they get programmed into a form of application. This is a flip side to the creativity of the blog world, where the same constraints (i.e. noise and miscommunication) can often lead to serendipity and innovation.”

Not sure I buy everything Tom says there, but it’s a thought-provoker to be sure. Once we’re up-and-running with a decent, active population, we’ve definitely got our own ‘pearls-in-the-mud’ problem on our project. We’ve got a couple of things we think might help.

One is that we will have a strong geographical focus – so that the big national power-law curve of what people are working on becomes many smaller domains. These will have their own zipf curves I’m sure, but more comprehensible and accessible. Themes within these smaller local domains can, and will go TransLocal, which is when things get interesting.

Secondly, these smaller domains will have access to human editors: acting in sherpa-not-censor mode; who can cluster quicker, smarter and cheaper than an algorithm; at least while we are in start-up mode – also giving feedback and encouragement to those building and sailing their ships.

Thirdly – the ‘t’ word. Taxonomy. We have a large, but discrete problem domain, which gives us a large, but discrete taxonomy we can generate. Done well, it will give people structure to build their own ideas around, go translocal and ultimately the ability to improve that structure based on their experience.

We’re trying to get just the right amount of mud for good stuff to happen, but some killer pearl-detection officers and equipment on hand for everyone to enjoy.

Can we have our cake and eat it? The next couple of months will show us.

» iSociety: Scaling Clay Shirky

of a word given by a friend to me today:

Ultracrepidate ul-tre-krep’i-date, v (Latin, from ultra, beyond, and crepida, sandal)

To criticize beyond sphere of one¬ís knowledge. This very interesting-sounding and useful word for a common practice has a very interesting etymology. In a Roman story, a cobbler criticised the sandals in a painting by the painter Apelles, and then complained about further parts of the work, to which Apelles is said to have replied, “Ne sutor ultra crepidam”, or, roughly, “The cobbler must not go beyond the sandal”. As true today as it was then.

And with that, back to the wireframes for this cobbler.

» Forthright’s Favo[u]rite Words

BBC News Online is going to get a new look in the next few days. Editor-in-Chief Mike Smartt makes the >ahem< smart move of explaining to the existing user-base what’s going to be happening. Maybe some more screenshots/illustrations would have been better than a portrait of Mike, but the new design is a real evolutionary continuation and shouldn’t take that much getting used to.

“Our story pages have a new look too and we’re providing more effective links to our wealth of in-depth, analysis and feature material, along with our archive of more than two million items.

The redesign and technical improvements should also mean material downloads much more quickly.

But we’ve made sure the overall character of the site has not been lost and the navigational structure so many of you tell us you value so highly remains pretty much the same.”

Congratulations to Paul Sissons, Maire Flynn, Max Gadney and the rest of the team involved.

» BBC News: “News Online to get a new look”

Title freely adapted from Mies’ : “God is in the details”; the goal of holonic selfconsistency of the architect’s parti though all scales, all points of the experience. See also Adam’s invocation of Aalto today:

“Always consider a thing in terms of its next larger context”

I love this post at Rogue Librarian, about using good typography as the starting point to a greater design journey.

“Start with the typography, and use it to define your style, simplify your color scheme, and clean up the visual lines in your site.”

» “Looking good with less”