Category Archives: Dissertation Days

Illusion of Diffusion

An inveterate ‘early adopter’ like myself can’t help thinking that I might be arriving too late at the techno-party. While I consider myself to be moderately ‘tech-savvy’ I always have the feeling that I am missing the boat. I mean, what does it say about my level of technological prowess that my kids look at me with pity because I don’t use my mobile phone to ‘text’.

Sure, I have created this blog (thanks to WordPress) and I can tinker with HTML and CSS, but hacking and programming skills elude me. Is the world of technological innovation is passing me by?
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Implicit Web: Information Voyeurism

The internet has become a wellspring of really ‘neat’ information for those of us that like to know what’s going on ‘under the surface’. For instance I have a wpstats plugin that allows me to see how many visitors I have at my blog, what browser they use, and what pages they visit. It sure beats sending out questionnaires and wading through the irrelevant, superfluous, and inaccurately self-reported information available through more traditional channels of inquiry.

Not surprisingly, there is a term for this new and valuable source of information. The newly minted term is implicit web. The following is from Wikipedia:

The Implicit Web is a concept coined in 2007 to denote web sites which specialize in the synthesis of personal information gleaned from the Internet into a single, coherent picture of user behavior. Implicit data may include clickstream information, media consumption habits, location tracking or any data generated without “explicit” input from a user. Presumed advantages of implicit data include accuracy, ease of input and comprehensiveness.

This implicit information is everywhere on the web. I have Alexa rankings and PageRank indicators on my toolbar that tell me, not only how my weblog ranks relative to the rest of the websites in the universe, but also how well any other site I visit is doing. Seller rankings on eBay alert me about who to trust and who not to trust when I am making a purchase. Statistics provided on internet forums allow me to know how long other community members have been participating in the community forum and how many posts they have contributed.

Amazon provides me with behavioral patterns of others who have sought information about books or music I am currently searching. I know about similar titles they have looked at and I am privy to their ultimate choice. (Of the users who have looked at book X, Y and Z, 73% chose to buy book X) Continue reading Implicit Web: Information Voyeurism

Contemplations on a Dissertation Pt 2: Throw it Away?

Speaking at a CCT conference session designed to provide advice on how to turn dissertations into publications Markus Geisler strode to the front of the room brandishing a copy of his dissertation before summarily dumping it into the trash. The first step, he said, is to “throw the dissertation away”. He recommended starting fresh with a few of the most important concepts from the dissertation, but not to be tied to the actual text.

I liked the idea so much that I decided to apply it. I wasn’t deterred by the fact that my dissertation wasn’t yet completed.

And, truth be told, I didn’t really throw anything away. However, in the time honored tradition of adapting things to one’s own purposes, I decided to “metaphorically” throw away what I had already written by pretending that it didn’t exist.

I did this because I had recently found myself lost in the maze of my own writing. I knew, in my head, before I sat down at the keyboard, what I wanted to talk about, but once I opened the document, I was sucked into what was already there. Being tied to what was already written limited my options. I was using the existing text as a reference for where I wanted to go next. I constantly felt the need to connect the next set of ideas with those previously expressed. I realize the importance of transitions and building bridges between related concepts, but without having all the essential ideas in place, I found myself building bridges to nowhere.
Continue reading Contemplations on a Dissertation Pt 2: Throw it Away?

Persistent History: I Post Therefore I Am

“An increasing amount of our social interaction with other people (and people-like agents) will be occurring online. Visualizations of these interactions can have a huge impact on how legible these social environments are, what behaviors they encourage, and how appealing they are.�

Judith Donath, a professor of media arts and sciences at MIT, makes this observation in a visually rich tome entitled Elsewhere Mapping.
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She goes on to suggest “A Conversation Mapping can construct a rendering of each participant from the history of that person’s interactions in the environment. Such a depiction is meaningful: it can help make each person stand out as an individual. Persistent history is the information world’s version of a body.�

I love this last statement! It offers a very interesting explanation for the popularity of a wide range of online behavior. If virtual existence is important to me, and I’m convinced that my continued online existence is contingent upon the creation of a persistent and significant online presence, I will do everything I can to make that happen. Continue reading Persistent History: I Post Therefore I Am

Batman’s Utility Belt: Open Source meets Mass Customization

“Mass Customization is the ability of a company to meet each customer’s requirements-to prepare on a mass basis individually designed products, services, programs, and communications.”(Keller & Kotler 2006) Examples of mass customization include shoes and clothing made to size, custom blended cosmetics, and choose-your-own-topping pizza. This differs from the more traditional practice of providing product features that certain groups of customers seem to be asking for. In the more traditional approach features are included in some portion of a mass production run. In the mass customization approach a menu of potential features is offered and the customer can choose from that menu. The end product is the sum of standard and individually selected features. This might be specially sized clothing, different sized shoes for each foot, or a front door in blue with brushed nickel hardware. Continue reading Batman’s Utility Belt: Open Source meets Mass Customization

OED and the Wikipedia: Time and Technology

In The Long Tail Chris Anderson describes the process behind the creation of the Wikipedia as “tapping the collective wisdom of millions of amateur experts, semi-experts, and just regular folks who thought they knew something.” “This is not” says Anderson, “the way encyclopedias are supposed to be made.” This is, however, the way the Oxford English Dictionary was made. Check it out in the Wikipedia!
Continue reading OED and the Wikipedia: Time and Technology

The Devil Wears Mac

My wife and I just watched The Devil Wears Prada last night and, far from any subtle product placement, it seemed that Macintosh computers had a featured role in the movie. In the reception suite for “Runway Magazine” were two desks, each outfitted with a handsome, 23″ (I think) Apple Cinema Display. We got to see both receptionists working on their G5s and we were even treated to the Mac OSX “genie effect”. The Stanley Tucci character had an Apple cinema display in his studio, the Meryl Streep character was working on a 17″ MacBook Pro, and in the hotel room of the freelance writer was the subtle outline of a white MacBook.

The movie itself was less than exciting. My eyes glazed over with talk of Calvin Klein skirts, and Jimmy Choo shoes. The most dramatic moment in the movie came when Miranda (Meryl Streep) carelessly tossed her coat onto one of the receptionist’s desks and it landed right on top of one of the cinema displays. Would a button or zipper mar the screen? How could this character be so callous and uncaring? Alas, we would never know the consequences of those actions.

Apple is “Top Dog” with iPod

As of September 2006 there had been a reported 67.4 million iPods sold worldwide along with 1.5 billion songs sold at iTunes. With more than 8 million iPods being sold each quarter, Apple is a force to be reconned with in the world of digital music players. In fact, just as Microsoft enters the fray with it’s new Zune, iPod enjoys a 10 to 1 lead over its nearest competitor.

Here are a few interesting statistics as released by Solutions Research Group back in July 2006:

    28% of Americans aged 12 and up own a digital music player, more than twice the 12% for 2005
    Apple has increased it’s share of the market from 53% to 68%
    45% of all internet users downloaded music. This is up from 31% a year ago.
    In 2005 only 8% of Americans paid for their song download. This year the number was up to 23%.
    Women aged 15-49 are the hottest growth demographic with 27% owning digital music players compared to 8% in 2005.

Now, even as Microsoft introduced Zune to the market in November, Apple is maintaining its strong lead in sales. According to, of the top 18 slots for digital music players, Apple owns 12 with various permutations of iPod while Microsoft is coming in at number 18. It is not a familiar position for Microsoft, a company that has a 90% market share in desktop operating systems.

Equally unfamiliar for Apple is being the “top dog” instead of the “underdog”. Apple has long experienced the fierce loyalty of its Mac brand community. This community has feasted on their resentment of Microsoft and the “forces of the Dark Side” that Windows has come to represent. O’Guinn and Muniz call this “oppositional brand loyalty”. The community is galvanized, in part, by their common enemy who, in the world of commerce, usually occupies a commanding percentage of marketshare. Continue reading Apple is “Top Dog” with iPod

Brand Communities

According to Muniz and O’Guinn

“brand communities are largely imagined communities”. (2001 p.426) “They are explicitly commercial social collectives centered around a brand, not incidental contact with commercial space… Community is arguably the fundamental social relationship often used to describe relationship marketing.”(427) “Deprived of their social connections, the value of these brands to consumers would certainly be diminished.”(427) “They (brand communities) provide social structure to the relationship between marketer and consumer. Communities exert pressure on members to remain loyal to the collective and to the brand.”(427) “We hold that brands are undeniably and fundamentally social entities created as much by consumers as by marketers in a complex and fascinating dance of social construction. This intersection of brand-a defining entity of consumer culture-and community-a core sociological notion-is an important one.”(428)
Continue reading Brand Communities

Linux Round 2: Yellow Dog

Yellow Dog Linux was designed with Mac users in mind so I figured I might find it easier to set up on my Powerbook. I created a set of CDs from the sagittarious version of Yellow Dog. I partitioned my hard drive and reinstalled Tiger. Yellow Dog installation went without a hitch.

I liked the look of the desktop and response was extremely quick. I was also glad to see that my wireless network was detected and the signal was strong. The only problem was that I couldn’t connect to Firefox. I couldn’t spend any more time tinkering so I rebooted to Mac OS X. I’ll see if I can figure this out after the weekend.