March 2007

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Vegas Lingers

This is Vegas

It’s easy to overlook them. The Skinner-box button-pushers, watching the wheels roll and roll. Surrounded by a ‘paradise’ that still leaves them wanting — and thinking they’ll find it like this.

Vegas was a mixed bag. I guess I’d always seen so many glamorous photos and film shots, even the ones that tried to be ‘gritty’ still managed to put a sort of mythic gleam over everything.

But it’s not mythic. It’s plastic. It’s the progeny of a one-night stand between the Magic Kingdom and TGI Friday’s. Inescapable throngs of flip-flopped, booze-soaked denizens, eyes bugged wide by the promise of … what? I’m not even sure. Entertainment, certainly, but another flavor invades the way saccharine crowds and leaves a film over any other flavor. Luxury, perhaps. Richness of the kind that first comes to mind when someone says “rich”: Trumpism mixed with Hollywood ersatz.

I don’t mean to be so down on it. Really. I’m a big fan of decadent, crazy, outrageous kitsch. But this somehow was so overwhelming, it wasn’t even kitsch. (Definitely not camp.) Now I understand why U2 filmed the video for “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” here so many years ago — and that was before it was injected with virtual-reality steroids.

The conference was terrific (except for having trouble escaping the waves of noise and humanity to have a decent conversation). I’m amazed the team made it come together as well as they did given the circumstances.

Fortunately, most of the time was much happier than I’m letting on here. Check out my iasummit2007 Flickr stream.

For the record: I know plenty of people enjoy Vegas a great deal, and they have fun gambling and seeing shows and everything, and I think that’s actually really great. Some of my family enjoy doing it from time to time, and they seem to always come back smiling. I think it just hit me in a strange way on this trip — but I’m always like that; if there’s a silver lining I’ll find a cloud. I just can’t help noticing the souls that seem to be a little lost, a little vacant behind the marquee-reflecting eyes. But hey, that’s just me.

I managed to finish my presentation for this year’s IA Summit, and present it in under 50 minutes. Huzzah!

As promised, I’m posting the whole thing with notes here on the blog. If you want the PDF of the presentation (16MB), go here:

And if you want to see the “blog post of record” about the presentation — with extra reference and research information & links — then check out the post here:

Thanks to everyone who attended the presentation and asked such terrific questions!

This sounds right up my alley … I’m fascinated with how various things in ‘real’ life behave with game-like logic and rules.

Half-Real: Video Games between Real Rules and Fictional Worlds

Half-Real is an attempt at creating a basic theory of video games: In the book I discuss what video games are and how they relate to non-digital games, how players learn to use a game, how players imagine the world of a game, and why video games are fun.


Didn’t know about this til Peter Morville mentioned it in a session today. index

Our goal is to connect the virtual and physical world by bringing the right information from the internet to the relevant place in physical space.

Map, meet Landscape.

There are already quite a few pics from IA Summit attendees on Flickr. Look for the “iasummit2007” tag.

Or just go here:

Here’s one of my contributions from last night. Crummy quality of the phone cam actually gives it an ethereal haze… makes it more mysterious in a way.

I’m trying out Flock, a very cool tool for uploading and generally mashing photos, blog posts, youtube action, etc.

Let’s see how a picture does.


iasummit2007 badge

I’m flying to Vegas tomorrow for the ASIS&T Information Architecture Summit 2007. Never been to Las Vegas before, so it’ll be a hoot.

I’m not sure if I’m going to try mad blogging of the summit here or not. We’ll see what kind of attention span and/or energy I have.

I have a feeling, really, that I’d have more fun just doing a photo blog of the trip. I’ll ponder that while I pack :-)

Rainn & Hal

If you close your eyes and listen to Rainn Wilson, especially in Six Feet Under re-runs, you can swear he’s about to say, “Dave … I can’t let you do that.”

Creeps. Me. Out.

Michael Hirschorn has some thoughtful and sobering comments on the “social computing” hype in the Atlantic Online: The Web 2.0 Bubble

The walled-garden attributes of MySpace and Facebook, like those of the subscriber-era AOL, can quickly become liabilities. And as the value of social-media tools becomes inevitably unsexy and commoditized, it may be only a matter of time before the Tila Tequilas of the world, inspiration for millions of page views, decide they might as well go elsewhere. And, just as in high school, where the cool kids go, the rest of us will follow.

Overall, in spite of his breezy/snarky delivery, I think he has a few great points — what we see now as a distinction between something like MySpace and the Web will likely blur, as personal blogs and such have more open architectures for all the same features MySpace provides and the features end up being common commodities.

He also mentions a few sites that I hadn’t heard of yet (I am *SO* out of the loop) for consolidating your online presences (which I blogged about here not long ago):, and Go figure.

I ran across a post by Nat Torkington on the excellent O’Reilly Radar blog echoing (more articulately) some of what I was trying to say in the podcast I posted about earlier today.

O’Reilly Radar > Second Life and the Future of Prototyping

The biggest appeal of Second Life from a creator’s point of view has been generous 3D building tools and the embedded event driven scripting language to control and manipulate avatars and objects. Cory is now adding the ultimate feature to the toolbox — Firefox embedded in Second Life.
Combine this with the aforementioned scripting language and you have a wonderful prototyping environment for real life gadgets, objects and experiences. Ever wonder how users would react to your new context-sensitive location-based social application? Don’t scratch your head for 12 months learning J2ME and phone intricacies, but power up Second Life and hook it to the web service you’ll be building anyhow.

IAI In Second Life

I played a small role in starting the IA Institute five years (and 30 lbs) ago, but I can’t take credit for the success it’s had since. Lots of dedicated people have worked very hard on it during that time.

Recently I became a little more involved, when Stacy Surla gently prodded me into helping with an initiative around Second Life. The IAI has purchased an island there, close to a cluster of info-science/education themed islands called the “Information Archipelago.” It may seem like putting the cart before the horse, but the challenge with something as radically new as Second Life is that you don’t really know how you’re going to use it until you start using it.

At any rate, someone in the area (in the ‘game’) saw what we were up to and asked if he could interview us for a podcast. He and Stacy graciously put up with my rambling answers — I think he said initially it was to be a 15 minute podcast, but it turned out to be a half hour — and posted the finished product. Here’s a link, and the intro from the site.

Who’s On Second Podcast 17: The New Architects of Information

I first met information architects Stacy Surla and Andrew Hinton as they were hammering the first planks together for their new island for the Information Architecture Institute. The space is just offshore from Cafe Fireball, so I got curious about what was going on over on the new plot of land. What I discovered was that the IAI is keenly interested in creating real world, online and Second Life experiences that let users get work done, find there way around and find the information they need easily and sensibly.

It’s an interesting experience being interviewed about this stuff, because it creates a bit of pressure to actually formulate an articulate answer about things that you can normally fudge on in your own head or in quick conversations with others.

In a nutshell, the reason why I think Second Life is a worthy laboratory for the IAI is this: Increasingly our physical environment is going to turn into a hybrid of semantic and concrete, with the rise of ubicomp. Why not experiment, get our feet wet and learn valuable lessons, in an environment that is already a three-dimensional semantic space?

I may jot more thoughts about this later here … it’ll also be relevant for a panel Stacy Surla is planning for the IA Summit.

Hope to see you there!

I love this quote. When asked if Web 1.0 was about connecting computers, while Web 2.0 is about connecting people, Webfather Tim Berners-Lee said,
“Totally not. Web 1.0 was all about connecting people. It was an interactive space, and I think Web 2.0 is of course a piece of jargon, nobody even knows what it means. If Web 2.0 for you is blogs and wikis, then that is people to people. But that was what the Web was supposed to be all along. And in fact, you know, this ‘Web 2.0,’ it means using the standards which have been produced by all these people working on Web 1.0.”

Tim Berners-Lee on Web 2.0: “nobody even knows what it means”

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