Open Source Projects and Poisonous People

Brian Fitzpatrick and Ben Collins-Sussman, authors of the new O’Reilly book, “Team Geek: A Software Developer’s Guide to Working Well with Others”, had a great talk at Google I/O 2008 that is a must watch, Open Source Projects and Poisonous People:

There is great value in taking advice like this and turning it towards myself. By working to not be poisonous, I can encourage, lift up, empower and embolden. It’s a balancing act I’m working on and is reflected in Joe Campbell, a friend and co-worker, recent post “Gentle Strenth – Wizdom Applied”.

I’m looking forward to reading “Team Geek: A Software Developer’s Guide to Working Well with Others”.

(original post about the book is via Boing Boing)

Yesterday Android Alliance launched in Philly

Yesterday folks interested in Android development got together at National Mechanics in CC Philly and had a few drinks with one another. The big takeaway for me from the first meeting is that there are many in the region involved in mobile development (including myself) and that a community here is ready to connect.

Kudos to Corey and Arpit for bringing this together. It was fun and I hope to learn much from everyone.

Join the Google Group and follow on on Twitter.

Additional links can be had from CIM Labs.

Hyper-local is about community or it fails

There have been numerous efforts at building services focused on local communities, and almost all of them, that have not had a community element to them, have failed to one degree or another.

Just being an aggregator is not enough. You need to curate. Moderate. Collate. Summarize. Connect. Most of all – communicate! Sure software helps. But it requires hands on work by people too. And it takes time. Like forming any relationship does.

GigaOm: Mathew Ingram: “Hyper-Local News: It’s About the Community or It Fails”

ReadWriteWeb: Marshall Kirkpatrick: “Hyperlocal Heartbreak: Why Haven’t Neighborhood News Technologies Worked Out?”

Two talks from TED to watch *today*

TEDXToronto: “Neil Pasricha: The 3 A’s of awesome”:

TEDXHouston: “Brene Brown: The power of vulnerability”:


“1000 Awesome Things”

Presentation Zen: “We don’t seek your perfection, only your authenticity”

This post brought to you by Dave Rogers whose latest post over the shooting in Tucson is a must read.

Ethan Zuckerman at TEDGlobal on the challenge and opportunity

Interested in how information reaches those it needs to reach? Intersted in acts of journalism crossing cultural gulfs and divides? Interested in web services and connectivity? You will want to watch Ethan Zuckerman’s talk at TEDGlobal 2010 and I hope be inspired: “Ethan Zuckerman: Listening to global voices”:

Check out his ideas on how to use Twitter to open up your world.

Zuckerman and danah boyd are helping establish a reasoned view of the Web and its potential based upon its now decade-plus history. It is why I feel project’s like Zuckerman’s Global Voices are so important. Following is danah boyd’s talk at PDF 2009: “danah boyd – PdF2009 – The Not-So-Hidden Politics of Class Online”:


Ethan Zuckerman’s transcription of the talk

danah boyd: transcription of her Personal Democracy Forum (PDF) 2009 talk: “The Not-So-Hidden Politics of Class Online”

Clay Shirky: “Power Laws, Weblogs, and Inequality” John Naughton: “The internet: Everything you ever need to know”


“If you believe in The Long Tail, then stop saying the web is “flat” okay?”

“It exists, and its influence matters”

The call to action:

raise voices, go beyond babel, engineer serendipity, build bridges, cultivate xenophiles, rewire

“So what will it mean to bear witness in the future?”

They say that history is written by the victors. But now, before the victors win, there is a chance to scream out with a text message that will not vanish. What would we know about what passed between Turks and Armenians, between Germans and Jews, if every one of them had had the chance, before the darkness, to declare for all time: “I was here, and this is what happened to me”?

– Anand Giridharadas in the NYTimes in “Africa’s Gift to Silicon Valley: How to Track a Crisis”.

Ushahidi sounds inspiring.

The project is on Github.

10 years of weblogging

I’ve been trying to write a riff on Garret’s 10 year anniversary piece on blogging for a while now. But every time I start, it ends up way too long. So just read his piece and come back.

Okay, did that? Because as is old fashioned blogger custom I expect you to derive context for my following thoughts from my links (did you read Garret’s piece yet?) and from what I usually talk about here.

The march towards a plethora of walled-garden-social-networks has been a drag. And maybe it will be standards that will provide us a way out of the counter-personal-ownership of data mess we’re in right now. I’m hopeful. And I hope to do some hacking along the way to try and put together some duck tape of my own.

But the important thing is here we are.

Flashback to 1999. Conservatives were accusing Clinton of ‘wagging the dog’.

We were about to intervene in the Kosovo conflict. I felt our intervention in the Kosovo crisis was misguided for different reasons than those on the RIght. I felt that bombs couldn’t be the answer.

Yes, I was (and am counting who you talk to) a peace loving hippie.

I wanted to share my view, but I realized my voice held little weight, so I collected stories that supported my opinion and added them to a headline feed.

I ran that feed of headlines into My.Netscape and My.Userland so that people who might be interested could follow.

The feed reached people around the world even though I believe there were only a few hundred subscribers. People from Russia and Kosovo sent me emails to comment.

Let me repeat that again “People from Russia and Kosovo sent me emails to comment”.

I had made some kind of connection, with people from different countries, talking about war.


All it required was a text editor, searching for interesting stories that reflected my view, and manually writing out the RSS XML and storing it on a Web host. I registered the feed with My.Netscape and My.Userland and away it went.

Today, any of us can open an account at or TypePad and do that and so much more. Everything we post to Facebook, Twitter, our blogs, our forums generates RSS and Atom. These common communication formats helped lay down what is becoming the foundation of the real-time web. Where any of us have the potential to reach anyone else, anywhere.

This very post, when it goes live, will appear in Twitter, and Facebook, and even more amazingly, Google and Yahoo! in the order hours if not minutes.

What Tim O’Reilly had called the “Architecture of Participation” and Dave Winer called the “Read-Write Web”, way back when, continues to evolve and grow.

There is still much to do for it to reach its full promise. It has never lived up to its potential to enable those who need to be heard to be heard. Human nature is human nature after all and we tend to tune into voices that resemble our own. But the potential still is there to make a connection across our own biases and our own filters. The potential and capability.

For all the negatives that still abound, all the opportunities left to explore, the challenges left to solve, blogging has helped me connect with Garret, and many other terrific online travelers across the world and here in my home town. People who I consider teachers. Thought provokers. Inspiration. Friends.

You know who you are.

Thank you to all the folks who laid down this architecture for all of us to participate, twist, turn, innovate on, and completely take for granted. And thank you to all those who have made that connection with me and enlarged my heart, my mind and world.

Social Networking == Social Division?

You would think after 20 years of the Web, we would come to a better understanding that it either helps us connect, or helps us segregate. You’d be wrong.

Following is some research and reading. But first…

What do you think? How diverse are the people you associate with as friends on Facebook or Twitter? Big range in class, race, religion, sex, age? Or are you judging diversity in terms of how many of your friends like Star Wars and Star Trek? If you’re a liberal, how many conservatives? If you’re a conservative, how many liberals? Libertarians? DC versus Marvel? Spiderman versus Twilight? Protestant versus Catholic versus Jewish versus Muslim?

I work in a career that smashes many of these distinctions, except four I can think of (more on that in a bit). There is a wide variety to religious practice, sources of entertainment, favorite music, and political leanings (although there is a libertarian streak). Programmers, as a whole are all very diverse in these areas. Our online social networks reflect this.

Now on to the four ares where we are far too much alike – class, age, sex, and race. Programmers tend to come from middle class households, be mid-twenties to mid-thirties, male (and heterosexual-male at that), and white, middle-eastern, or asian. And yes, our online social networks reflect this as well.

Me and many of my contemporaries fool ourselves into thinking we’re diverse – but you have to agree – those four are rather a *big* four. If we live in environments that are half women and half black, how come our online social networks and our workplaces do not reflect that?

In the end, I tend not to believe that social networking leads to social division or helps to bring people who are different together. I think it simply reflects our reality all too well. My hope is it doesn’t reinforce it. That what we are building will lead us towards greater connection with one another, no matter where we come from, no matter who we are.

Now onto the links:

danah boyd: “The Not-So-Hidden Politics of Class Online” PDF 2009: we’re seeing a social media landscape where participation “choice” leads to a digital reproduction of social divisions.

Joshua-Michéle Ross: Three Paradoxes of the Internet Age – Part One:
More access to information doesn’t bring people together, often it isolates us.

Joshua-Michéle Ross: Three Paradoxes of the Internet Age – Part Two: Individual perception of increased choice can occur while the overall choice pool is getting smaller

Joshua-Michéle Ross: Three Paradoxes of the Internet Age – Part Three: The myth of personal empowerment takes root amidst a massive loss of personal control.

NYTimes: David Brooks: Cellphones, Texts and Lovers: People are thus thrown back on themselves. They are free agents in a competitive arena marked by ambiguous relationships. Social life comes to resemble economics, with people enmeshed in blizzards of supply and demand signals amidst a universe of potential partners.

Pew Research: Social Isolation and New Technology : People’s use of the mobile phone and the internet is associated with larger and more diverse discussion networks. And, when we examine people’s full personal network – their strong and weak ties – internet use in general and use of social networking services such as Facebook in particular are associated with more diverse social networks.

If you build it, but don’t participate, you get what you deserve

The Nieman Journalism Lab: Mathew Ingram: Newspapers get the kind of communities they deserve:

many newspapers still see comments as some kind of necessary evil: a bone tossed to readers to help drive traffic, but something that produces little else of value

That attitude is behind what renders the commenting at most newspaper websites so defective.

Surfacing the community around your news has way more to do with participating with it online than just enabling comments and walking away. In fact, doing the later by itself never works.

The web is littered with sites where commenting is enabled, and the hosts do not participate, do not curate, do not even moderate in a transparent fashion. The results of which are never good – thread after thread of trolling, personal invective, and lack of communication. This leads to far too many finding commenting as worthless add-on that you must have for a website, but for no other reason.

It’s a missed opportunity and for many of these sites, part of their failed web strategies.

If you have 10 million visitors a month and only 1 person focused on ‘community’ or ‘commenting’ – you have already failed.

Stack Overflow launches

I like what I see at Stack Overflow so far. Growing an online community of any sort can be tricky, but this collaboration engine looks smart. Additional info at Joel Spolksy’s. Hmmm… I might post a Java, Emacs, or Python question shortly to give it a whirl.