Creative Commons and common acts of creativity

Today I was tagged in one of those Facebook things that ask you to make up an album cover based on grabbing a couple random bits of text from wikimedia and wikiquotes, and a random photo from flickr’s Explore page. I immediately wondered about the licensing issues involved, since most of the photos on flickr’s Explore page are set to “(c) all rights reserved”. 

Sure, this is just a fun bit of remixing, and no one is profiting from it, but isn’t this exactly the kind of thing that Creative Commons was invented to support? Why not make use of it? First I looked around on flickr and discovered that they allow you to find random images, interesting images, or CC-licensed images, but they don’t offer a way to use all three of these criteria at once. 

But I’m sure that it’s possible with the flickr API. A quick search led me to this blog post by Eszter Hargittai about this very same issue. She points to this handy tool by Mike Lietz, who used the flickr API to do this very thing – show a random photo from the Explore page that has a CC license. 

With more and more people using flickr as a source for reusable, remixable images, maybe they will start to provide more robust options for exploring and searching CC-licensed content.

Misconceiving the Mainstream Media

When things that are just under the cultural radar get covered in the “mainstream media” – like a doctor using Twitter during surgery (CNN), the uproar over the new Facebook terms of service (MSNBC), or the “25 random things” meme (NYTimes) – reactions tend to range from “Oh wow, they covered this thing I like” to “Yeah, what took them so long to catch on?”

Both of these reactions are misguided. Having worked in mainstream media for many years, I can tell you that there’s no concerted effort to cover certain things, or hold off on covering things. The “media” is made up of individual people who have a lot of space to fill, whether in print, on TV or online.

Sure, some of their stories are pitched by publicists, and some news is so important it demands to be covered. But the rest of the space is going to be filled with content about things that individual writers or editors are interested in. And these things will be covered at the time when the person happens to find out about them. That might be 6 months after you’ve already gotten sick of it, but to that journalist it’s new. 

Plus, once a subculture has been covered by some mainstream news outlets, it becomes legitimate fodder for everyone else. Here’s a meta-article on NBC LA about coverage of the “25 things” meme: 25 Things Articles Arriving as Fast as 25 Things Lists.

All I’m saying is that people should neither be insulted nor impressed when their pet activity is covered in the mainstream media. It just means that the right person discovered your niche at the right moment, and there was space to fill on the page. Enjoy the moment, but keep it in perspective.

ROFLthing in the City

ROFLconA couple weeks ago I went to a one-day event called ROFLthing-NYC, put on by the same people that brought you ROFLcon last spring. 

There’s been tons of coverage of it. It was blogged by the New York Times. There are excellent interviews on Rocketboom (and video of one of the presentations). Laughing Squid posted some great photos. There’s even a ROFLcon channel on Vimeo, which has more videos. I think more of the presentation videos will be showing up there eventually. 

I loved all the talks I saw:

Lots of other interesting people were there, like MC Frontalot, Moot, and Tron Guy. There was an annoying contingent of Anonymous, who had the impression that the conference was about them, but they settled down a bit after Jason Scott invited one of them onstage to give him the opportunity to say his bit and be done. 

The whole thing went by way too fast. I hope these guys do another event soon.

The Content Strategy Conversation

Kristina Halvorson has written a very thought provoking article called The Discipline of Content Strategy over on A List Apart. The reader comments after the article are equally interesting and engaging, so I’d call it a smashing success! I agree with those that say that the discussion of this discipline is in roughly the same place that the discussion of IA was about 10-15 years ago, and I’m so happy to see people actively taking part in advancing the conversation. Halvorson makes several really good points, but there remains a need to connect the dots. This is not a criticism of the article, I think it’s just where the discipline is at this point in time. Continue reading “The Content Strategy Conversation”

Open Science, Open World

I was recently browsing a British blog called Science in the open, by Cameron Neylon, which is described as “An openwetware blog on the challenges of open and connected science.” I wasn’t sure how relevant this would be to me, but I quickly discovered that many of the openness issues facing the scientific community are similar to (or deeply related to) issues in the rest of the world of information. Continue reading “Open Science, Open World”

Floating in the Information Stream

I read this article with great interest: Is Online Noise Really Bad for You? (from RWW). It’s actually a reprint (with updates) of a previous article, but I had missed it the first time. I’ve written about information glut before, and I regularly struggle with impending overload, but this article reminded me of a different perspective, equally important

This is the paragraph that made me sit up and take notice:

“The ability to recall passively collected information that was gathered purposelessly in the past and put it to use in the future is a particularly powerful form of intelligence. A person with a substantial reservoir of generally relevant information is a great person to have on any team.”

Because, in fact, I’ve known for a while that one of the ways I approach problem solving (if it can really be called an approach) is by somehow synthesizing ambient knowledge. The reason I’m hesitant to call this “an approach” is that you really can’t predict or control the process, but by this method I have, over the years, spontaneously solved a number of problems that I really had no business solving. Continue reading “Floating in the Information Stream”

FEED: The Razorfish Consumer Experience Report 2008

Yes, I’ve been neglecting this blog, but it doesn’t mean I haven’t been productive. My employer (which has changed it’s name back to Razorfish) has published another book, which contains an article by me about semantic web and user-generated data. You can see the whole, beautifully designed document online. My article is on page 60. Congratulations to my colleagues who also contributed to the book.

Paraflows 2008

Right now I’m in Vienna for a digital art and culture festival called Paraflows. It’s been organized by several different art groups. I will be speaking on Thursday evening, as part of a week-long event called MetaSpace in DiscourseLab. I’ve met lots of interesting people here, already, and the art scene in Vienna is amazing. 

I happened through Vienna for a weekend when I was studying in Prague for my last semester in college. This was in the early 90s, and I remember stubming across a series of video installations in the U-Bahn stations. This was so incredible to me – that a city would do so much to provide very progressive public art. It seems that the tradition has continued and grown, as the Austrian government is very dedicated to supporting new and innovative areas of art, technology, and culture. 

I’ll write more about the conference, after it gets fully underway.

The Internet: Now With EVERYTHING

I have this theory that everything you could ever want is on the internet, or will be soon. In fact, I’m going to be giving a talk in a few weeks at MetaSpace in DiscourseLab, which is a 5-day event that’s part of paraflows 2008, a digital art and culture festival in Vienna, and this very idea is part of the premise of my talk.

In preparation for my talk, i wanted to find a way to generate labels that looks like cards from an old-fashioned card catalog. I figured that there must be something like this somewhere online, but I didn’t know how difficult it might be to find. I typed “card catalog” into google and this Card Catalog Generator was the fourth result, with this explanatory post called Roll Your Own Catalog Card as the fifth result.

I love when things like this happen. So, now I’m going to use this to prepare some of the graphics for my talk and, it’s very meta, but I’m going to have to mention how easily I discovered it too. Thanks John Blyberg!

Quoted in the New York Times

This doesn’t really have anything to do with central themes of this blog, but I was quoted in a Times article today, about the new walking and seating area that runs along 8 blocks of Broadway (including an area directly in front of my office): Front-Row Seats on Broadway, if You Dare.

My quote is actually the closing comment in the article. I’m not going to spoil it, though, you’ll have to read the article.