September 28, 2005

Want to Protest a Movie? Give Away the Plot

Very sneaky trick pulled by labor unions representing flight attendants who are unhappy with the popular Jodie Foster film Flightplan. (Which is a pretty good film, actually.)

If the film offends you, give away its plot secrets. Identify the bad guys. Whoops.

Here's the Reuters new wire story (don't read if you dont want a spoiler!).


Posted by brian at 09:30 PM | Comments (0)

Tagging for Self, Tagging for Others

Rashmi Sinha posted an article on a cognitive analysis of tagging that's being yakked about around the web right now.

I read it, and thought, nope, that doesn't quite describe what tagging is about, for me at least.

At one point, she writes, "In the digital world, we don't just categorize an object, we also optimize its future findability."

I agree with that. What I disagree with is why we do it. At least, why I do it.

I don't tag stuff for my own benefit. I couldn't care less about tags that way. I don't use them as mnemonics, I don't use them to organize my own pile of digital "stuff". I explicitly use them to help others find things.

In my own experience, tagging is about consciously optimizing an object's future findability... by others. When I go to Flickr, I'll tag things not so I can find them again. I tag them so other people will find them. I consciously think about, hmm, what words or phrases best describe and categorize this item and make it most findable by other people? I think about how other people are most likely to be thinking about tags too: how would they most likely search for something like this object? What tag(s) would they most likely apply to this object? Do I agree with what tags I think folks would most likely ascribe to this object? Are those tags already ascribed? If not, I add 'em.

This is what I do on Flickr. This is what I do on Eventful.

Another thing she talks about that I have to disagree with. She says, "Another observation about tagging - it provides immediate self and social feedback. Each tag tells you a little about what you are interested in." I think that is a dangerous assumption, to believe that each tag indicates interest. Systems built upon such an assumption will result in frustrated users wondering why they're receiving recommendations for items that mean nothing to them. Think Amazon: you go look at a book -- maybe someone's showing you something, maybe you heard about this book, or item, or whatever. You go look at its detail page. You have no interest in this type of book (say, it's a book about childcare and you have no kids, or a book about gardening when you don't have a garden). Suddenly you get recommendations for this type of book on your personalized Amazon home page. Irrelevance.

I tag items with words and phrases to help others find this item -- doesn't mean I like this item, or that I prefer or have an interest in these tags.

Maybe it's the librarian in me: just doing my job to make more stuff discoverable. Doesn't mean I have an interest in the stuff. What I have an interest in is discoverability. By others.

Posted by brian at 08:36 AM | Comments (6)

September 22, 2005


The EVDB website is now called Eventful. It's powered by EVDB.

More after I catch some sleep...

Posted by brian at 06:15 PM | Comments (1)

September 18, 2005

(Comments on) A Letter from the Editor

The Nytimes editor, Leonard M. Apcar, posted the following letter on the nytimes site, announcing their TimesSelect service. Here is some line-by-line commentary on the letter.

On Monday, Sept. 19, will launch a new subscription service, TimesSelect, an important step in the development of The New York Times.

On Monday, Sept. 19, the New York Times opens up TimesSelect, a service designed to block millions of readers from reading important commentary on issues concerning all Americans. At a time like this, when these voices need to be heard by as many people as possible, well, that's really too bad.

Subscribers to TimesSelect will have exclusive online access to many of our most influential columnists in Op-Ed, Business, New York/Region and Sports.

And people who choose not to subscribe will not. Or maybe they still can... Don't underestimate the power of the blog...

In addition to reading the columns, TimesSelect subscribers can also engage with our columnists through video interviews and Web-only postings.

You should have kept the columns free, but added the "engage with columnists" as the for-fee service. That would have struck a better balance. Actually, I doubt the engaging with columnists will be useful or interesting. It almost never is. Columnists are busy. How are they suddenly going to have time to engage with readers? I'd rather engage with them through their blogs. Oh. You don't let them have blogs, do you, Leonard.

All of our news, features, editorials and analysis will remain free to readers of, as will our interactive graphics, multimedia and popular video minutes.
I come to the site mainly for the columnists. Maybe the occasional article, but mainly the columnists. I have for nine? ten? years, having signed up for way back when it initially launched. Oh well. So much for visiting

As part of TimesSelect, The Times is also opening up its vast archive of articles reaching back 25 years and eventually back to the paper's founding in 1851. TimesSelect subscribers can read up to 100 articles from the archive a month. For many years our readers have asked for seamless access to The Times's historical archive, and we are now making this available as part of TimesSelect.
I can go to the library and get the archives there. Oh, wait. You're not going to remove them from libraries are you? Is that Phase II?

Subscribers can also benefit from several online services. Readers can save and organize Times articles -- and any pages from around the Web -- in a personal Times File. News Tracker is a powerful e-mail alert service that keeps readers abreast of the articles they most want. And if you can't wait until Sunday, Times Preview offers early delivery of articles from the magazine, book review, Arts & Leisure, automobiles, real estate and travel before they are published.

I don't want to save things in a Times File, thank you very much.

TimesSelect will cost $49.95 a year and will be free for home delivery subscribers to the newspaper. This week, you can sign up early to get uninterrupted access to the columns when TimesSelect launches Sept. 19.

It's too expensive to get home delivery of the paper, and I'm not going to shell out $49.95.

Find out more.

Actually, for a lot of folks, it's going to be "Find out less." But wait. Maybe it doesn't have to be that way.

Maybe there is a way the op-ed readers can at least get the gist of what their favorite columnists have to say, without having to pay. Idea for an enterprising blogger: subscribe to TimesSelect. Read the op-eds each day. Summarize, with selected fair use quotes. Post the summaries to a blog. Call it (hey, it's available). Put lots of AdSense ads on it. Lemme know when it's done. I'll start reading it. The AdSense should garner more than $49.95/mo, plus you'd be doing us all a great service.

Posted by brian at 12:52 PM | Comments (1)

September 07, 2005


Amazing what you find on the events radar.....

Glory Days: a Bruce Springsteen Symposium, a three-day conference featuring 150+ speakers.

Favorite EVDB tag for this conference: bruuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuce!

Now, where's the symposium on The Who?

Posted by brian at 01:38 PM | Comments (0)

September 05, 2005

The Hurricane Proclamations

Each year since the taking office, George W. Bush has issued a Proclamation declaring a particular week in May as National Hurricane Awareness Week. Here are links to the actual texts of the 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, and 2005 proclamations.

A quick overview of some of the themes over the years, and how many times they've been mentioned:

Year tropical
FEMA prepare(d),
cooperation coordinate,
2001 0 2 3 2 0 0
2002 1 2 2 3 0 1
2003 8 1 3 7 0 1
2004 1 1 1 4 1 1
2005 4 1 0 5 0 0

From the 2001 proclamation:

Increasingly, many Americans have begun working to ensure that commonsense measures are implemented to protect themselves and their property from natural disasters including floods, tornadoes, and earthquakes. Their foresight, hard work, and respect for the awesome power of nature often yields great benefits for their communities. They are to be commended for this preventive work, and we should learn from their example as we plan for future disasters.

It further says,

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) researchers and forecasters continue to improve the accuracy of hurricane warnings that enable residents to evacuate and emer-gency personnel to effectively respond well in advance of the storm's arrival. In addition, FEMA and NOAA have focused their resources toward encouraging community leaders to work with Federal, State, and local agencies, as well as volunteer agencies, schools, the private sector, and the news media to collectively undertake activities that diminish the destruction of natural disasters. For hurricane-prone areas, these measures can include residents stockpiling emergency provisions, learning evacuation routes, installing hurricane shutters, building residential safe rooms and community shelters, adopting stronger building codes, and retrofitting existing buildings. These measures have proved effective, and I encourage citizens living in these areas to look for ways that they can better prepare themselves and their communities to reduce the potential devastating impact of these storms.

Bush made a visit to the Port of New Orleans in January 2002, from which the photo below was taken. I wonder how many of these New Orleans workers shown in this photograph have homes tonight? I wonder how many are still alive?

At this rally, Bush said, "When a longshoreman is able to keep more of his own money, his family has more money to spend." The White House caption for this photo further states, "Under the Presidentís economic plan, married couples would pay less tax, the Child Tax Credit would be raised and several million working Americans would drop immediately into the lower 10-percent tax bracket."

When a longshoreman is able to keep his home and family and job because the Army Corps of Engineers has been fully funded to build sufficient levees around New Orleans, then he's more likely able to pay his taxes, Mr. President. How's he supposed to do that now?

In 2002's proclamation he raised the theme of coordination:

With preparation, forecasting, and coordination, we can save lives and improve our Nation's ability to withstand the impact of hurricanes.

The big news from the 2003 proclamation, other than the big spike in the number of times "tropical storm" was mentioned, was that new technology was going to improve NOAA forecasting ability:

Beginning this year, NOAA's hurricane forecasts will look 5 days into the future, rather than 3 days. This enhanced forecasting ability, combined with efforts to improve the accuracy of hurricane warnings, enables coastal residents and emergency personnel to more effectively prepare for a storm's arrival. In addition, Federal agencies such as FEMA and organizations such as the American Red Cross have teamed up with State and local agencies, rescue and relief organizations, the private sector, and the news media to distribute information to the public and coordinate efforts before, during, and after a tropical storm or hurricane has struck.

As for the 2004 proclamation, strangely, we were back to just one mention of "tropical storms". But Bush made a big change this year: these proclamations were no longer about awareness, but now about preparedness. In fact, since the 2004 proclamation he's called these weeks "National Hurricane Preparedness Week."

Notable from the 2004 proclamation is this:

While citizens make preparations to keep themselves safe, the Federal Government is maintaining our commitment to improve forecasts to provide advance warning and to coordinate effective emergency response. The Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency is also working on a plan to better position disaster equipment and supplies, so Federal resources to support local emergency services arrive quickly.

I'm wondering if that was the plan the implementation of which the Bush Administration later decided not to sufficiently fund.

For the first time in Bush's career as president, his 2005 Proclamation did not mention FEMA. Three times in 2001, twice in 2002, three times again in 2003, but only once in 2004, and now zip in 2005. So much for FEMA and hurricanes.

"By working together," Bush's 2005 proclamation proclaimed, "Federal, State, and local agencies, first responders, the news media, and private citizens can help save lives and diminish the damage caused by these natural disasters."

How true. We need to work together better.

Posted by brian at 09:31 AM | Comments (1)

September 03, 2005


So the question is, does the New York Times read my blog for story ideas? :-)
Posted by brian at 05:00 PM | Comments (0)

My iPod Shuffles Not

Om Malik writes about the iPod Shuffle in his blog yesterday and repeats a misconception I have heard over and over again: that the only way to listen to the songs downloaded to an iPod Shuffle is in random order.

Here's Om:

One of the hardest exercises I had to undertake ever came a few hours after I spent $99 on an iPod Shuffle. I had to decide on 75 of my most favorite songs - tracks that will entertain me almost anywhere, anytime in any kind of setting. Why? With no control over what song was going to come next, it was like programming the perfect radio station, the one that could play in a non-stop loop, and be the soundtrack of life. My life.

I wonder if he realizes this isn't true?

I am posting this right now while listening to the 4th movement from Bruckner's Symphony No. 5 in B Flat Major. Before that I listened to the 3rd movement. Before that, the second. And before that the first. It would be weird to listen to it any other way.

The way I put stuff on my Shuffle is to make a playlist, with an intentional order of songs, and then I copy 'em all to the Shuffle. And when I play 'em, I play them in sequential order, the way I want them to be played, not the way Steve wants me to play them.

Sure, it's possible to listen to the tunes in random order. And sometimes, that can be fun. Sometimes, once in a great while, enlightening, when two songs that couldn't be more dissimilar in style, timbre, mood, and genre, segue into each other and you find that they bridge just perfectly.

But most of the time I tell my Shuffle to play in linear mode. It's possible: just turn your iPod Shuffle over, and on the back side is the little white slider button, which you move to the middle position, for the linear sequence setting. Pull the slider too far down and you get the random-sequence setting.

The middle way is the way for me.

Posted by brian at 12:43 PM | Comments (1)

September 01, 2005

New Orleans

I am appalled and sicked by the tragedy in New Orleans and the Gulf States area. Particularly at what seems to be a bungled effort on the part of FEMA and the Bush Administration to get off their butts and help the people there. What has happened to the poor folks stranded at the Superdome is beyond comprehension.

It sure does seem like there is serious discrimination going on. If there were 25000 people stuck in the San Diego Sports Arena, or Madison Square Garden in New York, or, well, take your pick of venues around the nation, would the same situation be happening? Are all the delays strictly logistical or due to flooded conditions impeding access, or is there more to it, as in, these people chose to stay, now they should suffer the consequences? I just don't understand the treatment that these fellow United States citizens are having to endure. Why must the mayor practically beg for help? I don't understand.

Posted by brian at 06:20 PM | Comments (5)
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