Instant message cache

While the title is misleading, “Microsoft to keep track of instant messages” might be one of the biggest advancements in communication technology in a long while. Email gave us access to an archive of past communications, but having a record of all informal messaging is like a complete memory prosthesis. The thought of having a corpus of informal dialog like that makes a thousand simple projects spring to mind.

Of course the security implications are huge. I’m pretty sure I don’t want anyone to have access to the hundreds upon hundreds of “HI HONEY.” messages I get from my mom. Especially the ones where I reply, “mom.. i’m giving a talk. i’ll chat to you later.”

Just another fad.

NYTimes: Is weblog technology here to stay or just another fad? Yet another weblog analysis focusing on the financial sustainability of weblog software companies. Weblogs are not a technology trend, they are a social phenomenon, and as such are not controlled by the state of the economy. As long as people feel the need to express themselves, and weblogs provide that outlet, they won’t have a problem affording the technology.

Ming Tsai vs. Gravedigger

Last night: Blue Ginger, a sumptuous meal cooked by celebrity chef Ming Tsai in person (host of “East Meets West”)

Today: Monster Jam at the Worscester Centrum with celebrity trucks Gravedigger and Robosaurus (eats trucks for lunch).

180&; of culture swing in less than 24 hours. The verdict to come: which is more enjoyable? Eating a remarkable meal perpared by one of America’s noteworthy chefs, or watching a giant robot eat trucks and breath 10 foot flames from its nostrils? Stay tuned…

How much info?

A source that I often cite for statistics about information overload is the How Much Information? survey which was completed two years ago at the School of Information Management and Systems at Berkeley. If you’re looking for proof that we’re headed for a Borgesian end, look no further than these scary stats.

Perusing the executive summary today, I noticed a number that hadn’t caught my eye before: in 2000, about 11,285 terabytes of email were created. That’s 500 times the amount of static HTML pages that were generated in the same time period.

Of all digital media that we are manufacturing, email consumes most of our time. Yet the tools that I use to write and consume email haven’t changed much since I came onto the internet in 1994. There are a number of research projects that I have seen, each addressing the email task from various perspectives and disciplines, but industry doesn’t seem to be listening. When will someone come out with a revolutionary email client? I don’t think it would be hard to compete, considering every client I have used tends to crash on the order of 10 times per day.. just a reliable client would be enough to capture my business.

The world just got smaller

Stanley Milgram’s seminal paper ‘The Small-World Problem’ (Psychology Today, 1967) tells the tale of the first social network study. Milgram had the brilliant idea to send packages to distant parts of America (Wichita, Kansas and Omaha Nebraska) with the instructions to try to move this pacakge to a target individual in Sharon, Massachusetts. The results were the basis for terminology that we are all familiar with today: “six degrees of separation,” “small-world,” etc.

Many attempts have been made to replicate the study with different conditions, some of which have been successful, and others which have not. All attempts to discern the small-world properties on the internet have failed, thanks to the exponential nature of social ties. “Send this email to one of your friends” is quickly translated into “send this email to all of your friends,” and suddenly millions of people are involved.

A research team at Columbia University is trying to create a controlled environment to test the small-world properties of online communities. Anyone interested in participating can sign up on their homepage:

I talked for a long while with Duncan Watts (the creator of the project) at the Sunbelt conference, and he said that the attrition rate for individuals within the study so far has been vary high. For every email in a chain, there is only a 25% chance that the given person will forward the message on. I have yet to participate myself, but I would suspect that the content of the message being forwarded is questionable enough that people might be dissuaded. I told him that the weblog community are a bunch who are used to generating memes and making them spread. If you’ve got any advice, I’m sure they could use it.

Cool city.. cool networks.. hot jazz!

ok, I’m back! the conference was great, with more social networking than you can shake a bad pickup line at. in order to inspire networking, they even had a liquor-laden hospitality room open all night hoping to generate some new weak ties. I had the most excellent time I’ve ever had at a conference, thanks to all of the people I met, and the fine city of New Orleans. I’ll post some of the most interesting sessions I attended over the next couple of days.