Sit Down and Shut Up

Impressive Steve Jobs product presentations are built around a unifying theme. Really, the theme of our last version(*) is scalability for large institutions. This is largely architectural work hidden from most users, such as network topology or administrative support.

So far, actual users seem to have been most taken with the manifestation of this theme in the ability to control their colleagues.


*: After prototypes and two commercial versions.

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What I did with Tea Time

Guy Steele is a sweet guy who doesn’t give folks a hard time. But I have heard him several times lament that many computer science conferences are filled with variations on the same paper, which he lampoons as, “How I cataloged my CD collection with Lisp.” (I think he started saying this back when they were called record collections. I haven’t seen him in years and I suppose the routine now refers to MP3s.)

I’ve just been wrestling with a problem, and I’m so charmed with the Tea Time solution that I’m willing to sound like a college student that just learned how to do something mundane with his new profound toy. Call me a hack.

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Voting and the Emergent Value of Presence

There’s a lot of interest in voting technology for the expected record numbers of voters in the US presidential election, and voting widgets have become an expected accessory in social Web sites. But the simplest voting technology is no explicit technology. Is there a place for that in virtual worlds?

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Cultural Awareness

A little while ago we had a workshop discussing the use of Croquet by a group here at the University of Wisconsin. One participant raised the issue of cultural awareness. For example, the icons, avatars, metaphors and symbols used in Croquet might have different meanings for different people. After all, this is a world-wide communications tool.

I gave two answers. On a technical level, Brie would allow the users themselves to define different views of objects for different users, as suited to their needs and desires. But on a social level, I had no idea how such different views would be developed.

My four-year-old son just emphasized the importance of this. He was riding in the back seat as I took him home from pre-school. “Can I open this envelope we got in class?” he said. “It’s about poison stuff. Is that OK?”

“Yes,” I said, knowing that it was about poison, not that it was poison.

He opened it and I couldn’t see what he was doing in the back seat.

“Stickers!” he exclaimed. “Oh, and these are for putting on pirate medicine!”