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Notes from Underground: Perseids and Assimilation

How time flies when you’re having fun! After another quick trip to the Bay Area for some wine tasting in Sonoma, we’re back in Seattle for the full moon, meteor showers, and back-to-back DJ Anomaly shows at The Atrium. w00t!

Professionally, once again a lot’s happened since my last post on The Union of Bliss and Emptiness.  The underling ideas behind qweries still make sense, but with Google+ (and the upcoming Google Questions) it really doesn’t seem like now’s the best time to be writing a bunch of software.  Then again, in chaos is opportunity.  So Kathy Gill and I came up with an interesting ebook idea — with Google+ as the first target!  And we were just starting to get some momentum when the nymwars hit.

One thing that helps reassure me I’m on the right side in this war: during my six weeks on Google+ I’ve met literally hundreds of new and interesting people.  While the general environment is overwhelmingly male, with plenty of sexism and bigotry, my own circles are filled with a remarkably diverse group of great conversationalists (along with the occasional troll).  One of my new year’s resolutions is “spend more time on diversity-friendly social networks, and less in sexist, racist, and elitist environments”, and the last few weeks have really reminded me of how important that is.   So I’m going to renew my Dreamwidth subscription and start looking at Disapsora.

Alas, Google’s certainly giving the impression that they don’t want G+ to be that kind of place.  Their latest statements on the naming policy imply that they’re going to try to tough it out knowing full well that what they’re doing is harmful to women, lgbtq’s, activists, people with disabilities, and a lot of other groups — including many of my friends, who are unsurprisingly leaving or cutting way back on their posting.  I’m still optimistic that Google will come to their senses at some point … but when?  And until they do, how much time and energy do I want to be investing in their new world order?  Tricky questions …

Exciting times, to be sure, but somewhat stressful.  And with stresses in my personal life too … well, let’s just say I’m ready to dance.   Fortunately there’s an embarassment of riches tonight in the Seattle: Lara and Muschi at Inertia Labs’ 13th anniversary, and DJ Anomaly at the Atrium, following up last nights Perseids party with Assimilation.  Lots to look forward to!  I heart psytrance.

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Nymwars! Part 3 of Google+ and Diversity

Google+ in rainbow colorsKeep the pseudonyms and lose the assholes.

Kathy Sierra

The battle over whether Google gets to police what names people can call themselves rages on.  Ten days after Google VP Bradley Horowitz promised process changes, accounts still keep getting deleted without notice.  And while Facebook Director of Products Blake Ross got his account reactivated almost immediately, Skud’s account remains suspended (two weeks and counting) even after changing the name on her profile to Kirrily “Skud” Robert.

WTF?

Is Google listening?

Pseudonyms are not in themselves harmful. Yes, they can be used for harm, as when people use them for anonymous, slanderous attacks, trolling, etc., but in the vast majority of cases there is no harm done. Importantly, they can serve to protect vulnerable groups.

— Caterina Fake, Anonymity and Pseudonyms in Social Software

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EJ and AirBnB

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Communications tools for Startup Weekend: some recommendations

startup weekendIf we didn’t have a 54-hour time limit, of course a core team should define the problem, specify roles, set milestones, and designate team members to take on various tasks. But we did have a 54-hour time limit, and the entire team was not going to spend all of Friday night (the equivalent of three months’ time!) waiting for direction. Instead, they leaped into action, which is exactly what they should have done.

Startup Weekend Uncensored, Marina Martin on Marina’s Musings

With Seattle Startup Weekend only a week away, I’ve been thinking about a lot about ways I can get the most value from it — as well as set myself up for what my brother Greg calls a happy accident, where everything just magically aligns.  How cool would it be if I wind up as a part of a team of amazing people coming together around a great idea and functions like a well-oiled machine almost from the get-go?  So it’s worth spending a little time up front thinking about how to make that more likely — making my own luck, as Isaac Elias might say.

One thing I’m doing is roughing out a pitch, keeping the suggestions in What makes a good 1-minute Startup Weekend pitch? in mind, and thinking about how to make it appealing.  A consistent theme in the dozens of posts I’ve read about Startup Weekend experiences and lessons learned is that you get a lot more out if it if you pitch an idea … so I will.   Aaron K Whyte has more in Why I’m pitching at Startup Weekend.

Tools are the other area I’m putting time into.  What can I say: I’m a tools kind of guy.  The right communications tools make teams much more effective and pleasant; the wrong tools increase miscommunications and tensions.  With a team of people who haven’t worked together before, there will be plenty of challenges.  And with only 54 hours, every minute counts.  So time spent in advance can make the weekend much more productive.

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Changing the Game: Charting a Path Beyond Comment Threads

Innovation Challenge logo

Is it a “game changer?” Not every entry we support will be, but we should all be looking for ones that may be.

— from the review criteria for the Knight Foundation/Mozilla Beyond Comment Threads innovation challenge

Some consistent themes are emerging from the excellent Beyond Comment Threads suggestions, pointing to a radically different user experience from today.   Here’s the new world people are describing:

It seems to me that an API and a family of open-source implementations (in Python, Ruby, PHP, Java, .NET on the server side and HTML5 on the client) supporting all of this, with accessibility and multi-lingual support designed in from the beginning, would be a great project for the innovation challenge to support.  And there are a couple things I’d add to it as well:

  • support for various business models including subscription, advertising, sponsorship, app sales, etc.. A great discussion area should be a profit center for a news organization, and participating actively in comments should be a way for small businesses to help promote their products and for participants to help their careers
  • designed and implemented by a diverse team, and with a goal of prioritizing diversity — something along the lines of Dreamwidth’s diversity statement and How would Quora be different if it prioritized diversity? Many discussion forums today are dominated by a handful of loud voices and/or overwhelmingly male.  Diversity’s like security, you can’t add it in after the fact, so it’s crucial to design it in from the beginning.

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Notes from Underground: Retox, the Nexus Fire Ball at Space 550, and DJ Anomaly at ‘Beyond Rapture’

lights at The Atrium

So between activism, NWEN, and qweries, I’ve been working hard but not killing myself — and still taking lots of time to have fun, hang out with friends, and get sleep. And the universe has been aligning. Life is good.

— from DJ Anomaly and the Mysterious Voice of Ra

Life has continued to be good in my month-long road trip since DJ Anomaly’s last gig at the Atrium.  First I spent three and a half days taking the train across the country, then a week in Folly Beach South Carolina with my Mom.  Next it was out to LA with her and hanging out there with her, Greg, and her family for a week, and then driving up to Hollister for lunch with D’s family.

Nexus presents: The Fire BallBy the time we got to San Francisco last Friday, I was very ready to dance, and the fates obliged: Alchemy “pre-party” at Retox, the Nexus Fire Ball at Space 550, Death Guild at DNA.   Yay!  It was a real flashback weekend, back to the days of 2003/2004 when rationality wasn’t looking so good and we spent a lot of time at Space 550 and DNA.

Alas, some aspects of rationality still aren’t looking so good: if it hadn’t been for Save the Rave’s activism, Friday and Saturday nights would have been illegal, and I would have had to go through a metal detector and ID scanner in order to go a goth club.  And surprise surprise, the government lies: it seems like the PATRIOT Act will once again getting extended without a real debate.  Sigh.

On the whole, though, I’m in a much better space these days — and looking forward to the future even more than I was back then.

After recovering for a few days and then making our way up from SF to Seattle, I’m once again very ready to dance … and once again the fates are obliging!  DJ Anomaly’s kicking off another residency at the Atrium with “Beyond Rapture”.  [Speaking of which, the world did not in fact end at 6 p.m. today.  Whew.]  Somewhat incredibly, we got a special sneak preview last night: DJ Anomaly texted D around dinner time saying she was thinking of heading up to Seattle from Portland, D offered her our spare bedroom in case she wanted a place to crash, and then next thing you know we were listening to new “anomalous tracks”.  How cool is that?

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Beyond comment threads: any ideas about “game-changers”?

One of the best things about the web is that it enables many voices to be heard. Blogs, comment threads, forums, and social networks empower people to take part in new kinds of discussion, dialogue, and debate….

With all that activity happening across the web, how do we enable more coherent, elevated discussion?

Beyond Comment Threads.

The latest Knight-Mozilla News Technology Partnership (aka MoJo) “Innovation Challenge” is intriguing. The deadline is this Sunday, May 22, and they encourage different kinds of entries: a concept brief or blog post explaining your idea (500 words or less), an embedded video or link to a slidecast (“extra points for explaining your idea this way!”), an early software demo, proof of concept, prototype, wireframes, mock-ups … “anything, really—be bold!”  For that matter, “the challenge brief, resources, and stimuli are all suggestions. Be bold! Color outside the lines.”  Cool!

My summary on Storify has a lot more info, including links to Wendy Norris’ notes from an in-person brainstorming session in the Bay Area and online discussions on Mozilla’s site, Hacker News, and Slashdot.  The challenge brief has some pointers to emerging technologies, and highlights a few questions.  Where do you see the next radical improvement in user commentary? How do we go beyond end-of-story comment threads? How do we make commenting more social?

It also describes the criteria the reviewers will use:

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Will Facebook “archive” the One Million Strong for Barack group?

This group is scheduled to be archived

With Facebook announcing an “upgrade or die” policy for old-style groups, it’s a stressful time for One Million Strong for Barack.  As the Erratic Synapse writes in Facebook Stands Poised to Take Our Group of Over 980,000 Obama Supporters… Back to 0 on Daily Kos,

Here’s the problem: our group may not be eligible for upgrade. Furthermore, any group that fails to upgrade is “archived”, where it is converted to the new format anyway, but we lose all of our members.

Bummer.

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M&C Consulting and Qweries Launch Prototype “Canadian Election Platform Resources”

Mingarelli and Company and Qweries logos

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Ottawa, Seattle | April 21, 2011 What questions do you have about Canada’s party platforms as you prepare your vote in the May 2 general election? As they stand, do the current platforms make you want to vote? If so, how? If not, why?

That’s the goal of “Canadian Election Platform Resources,” a community site where Canadians help one another dissect and decipher party platforms.

“We’re hoping to provide accessible, crowdsourced answers to the questions Canadians care about,” said Giovanna Mingarelli, the Principal and Founder of M&C Consulting, a communications and crowdsourcing company; one of two companies driving the project.

“Infusing the election with the wisdom of crowds can lead to more open campaigns and enhanced participation on the part of voters.”

The site has launched with a handful questions about education and childcare, including some of specific interest to students, First Nations community and women. Political parties and voters are encouraged to vote and add topics to the existing platforms.

“It’s a huge challenge for voters to find out where parties stand on the issues that matter to them,” said Jon Pincus, the Founder and Chief Technology Officer of the emerging Q&A web-startup, Qweries, which provides the infrastructure for the website.

“The information is there in the party platforms, but it takes a lot of time. A question-and-answer format makes it easy for people to find answers.”

Testing two different technology approaches to see which sparks the most involvement, the English site is found at canadianelectionpartyplatforms2011.ca and the French-language site is found via programmeelectoralelections2011.ca.

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Any Canadians out there have a minute to help?

I’ve been working with M&C Consulting on a couple of Q&A (question-and-answer) sites for the Canadian election.  We haven’t gone live yet, so sites are currently at http://achangeiscoming.qotd.co/ (English) and http://ca2011fr.qweries.net/ (French).

If you’ve got a minute or two to check it out and vote for at least one answer you think is interesting, it’d be greatly appreciated.   Please leave any feedback here as a comment, or mail it to me at jon { at} qweries { dot } net.  And if you want to take the next step and ask a question or give an answer, that’d be even better!

Thanks as always…

jon

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Save the Rave at City Hall: Next Stop Sacramento?

save the rave at city hallIn my 12+ years in the scene – if I ever questioned how diverse we all really are, it was certainly very apparent tonight.

— Samantha Marie, on Facebook

It was a huge success for the electronic dance music community. With the diversity of attendance and the overwhelming support for Supervisor Scott Wiener’s resolution supporting electronic dance, it’s a harbinger of how we’ll work together in the battle over AB74.

— Save the Rave co-chair Matt Haze Kaftor

Over 400 people turned out on a rainy Tuesday night for the San Francisco Youth and Entertainment Commission’s special joint hearing. Several hundred of us were in the overflow room, watching on video until we were called to speak, and cheers erupted again and again as dozens of people spoke beautifully.  We heard from teens, students, teachers, parents, business owners, promoters, lawyers, harm reduction experts, an astrophysicist — and somebody from the San Francisco police department, who described it as the most professional hearing he had heard on the subject.   If you missed it, Trance Family SF has posted the video and mp3 audio.*  I’m so proud to be a member of this community.

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Notes from Underground: Transformation, Intersections, and the Road to Ultra

sf road to ultra flyer

With qw3ries and the intersection between writing, activism, entrepreneurship, psytrance, and transformation (and in so many other ways), I’m not just rejecting choices but finding ways to synthesize and combine them.

— from DJ Anomaly at the party without a name

Indeed!  It’s looking like my startup qw3ries‘ first forays into helping everybody get answers and find information may include an ebook about pitch competitions, questions and answers about Patriot Act activism, partnerships with startups specializing in transformation — and who knows, maybe even psytrance.   Meanwhile the re-enegerized #snubor was a hit at SXSW just as politicians including McCain, Kerry, and Obama are calling for an online bill of rights.  And starting next month I’ll be serializing revising my novel about the diversity-friendly social network site g0ddesses.net.  About those intersections …

It’s a banner weekend for electronic dance music in San Francisco.  Tonight John Digweed’s at Ruby Skye, Paul van Dyk’s at 1015, and the Road to Ultra at Mighty including Saturnia, Christine, Helios, David Christophere of Rabbit in the Moon, and more.  Tomorrow it’s Tall Sasha at SupperClub — or Pisces with Kode IV, Michael Liu, and an early (!) set by Witchdokta and Spook.  I heart SF.  I heart psytrance.

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