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quote of the day

March 31, 2005  

“if you throw a frog into boiling water he will jump out. if you throw him in cold water and then slowly start to boil it, he will die.” from vowe.net, in different context.

i was thinking the other day what would happen if cars were invented only now: would we allow driving and parking to displace all other uses of public space like walking, playing, repairing, selling, sitting, cycling, cleaning, riding or drinking and eating? would we allow public space to go monofunctional? (note that vienna is a city with very narrow streets.)

ok, the frog goes second in my collection of terribly useful phrases. the other one is “that’s like toothpaste – once it’s out of the tube there’s no way to get it back in”. (did i mention that this is a no-pictures-of-cats-no-quotes-of-the-day-blog? well, was.)

update: fastcompany.com steals my thunder: “next time, what say we boil a consultant“. well well. and was i the only one who didn’t know the frog story?


department XMLHttpRequest and department hack the web with greasemonkey: alan m. taylor hacks flickr. wow. (via del.icio.us)


just stumbled across consumerpedia (via david weinberger), a new site (only a dozen registrations so far) trying to combine wikipedia-like “the-community-administers-everything” behaviour, a slashdot-like rating system and a google-like frontpage with the business model of epinion and its million replicas (e.g. ciao.de in germany). see the review of my notebook i’ve created to try consumerpedia.

consumerpedia seems to be a blatant attempt to quickly create content that will rank well in search engines to produce clicks on high-value PPC-keywords with google’s adsense program. so far, so legitimate. the interesting point is that its makers unlike the epinions of this world decided to hand power over categorisation to their users.

although i wouldn’t use a hierarchical navigation model if i were to create a folksonomy this is still an interesting experiment: no one to my knowledge has ever dared to let users categorise data in a such a competitive (=commercial) environment.

yahoo has set the standard of hierarchical content classification on the web more than ten years ago, meanwhile a huge staff of editors reviews categories and listings (and submissions now cost a fortune). also (afaik) all product review sites depend on in-staff-classification. seven years ago a model of user-driven content classification was launched: the open directory project. tens of thousands unpaid editors constantly classify listings and create new categories. the ODP database today is used by thousands of sites, among them google directory. this however only works (with quality varying) due to a sophisticated system of editor permissions, supervision and a tough application process for new editors and listings.

clay shirky once said: “one of my colloquial definitions for social software is stuff that gets spammed“. but hey, nobody would have thought that wikipedia would work and it does, so good luck consumerpedians!


great news: yahoo has launched a search for creative commons content. so stop snitching images from google images, use yahoo/cc instead. by the way, photos and texts on helge.at are licenced under the attribution/non commercial/no derative works-licence, as stated in the footer.

if you publish photos or text on the web and don’t know what creative commons is, check it out. (via larry lessig on the yahoo search blog)


when i thought about the future-proof newspaper it became clear that there’s a need to integrate readers’ views into the newspaper, both printed and online, and to create a community of readers online. many newspapers have tried to create online communities, most have created spaces for discussion and feedback with the help of discussion forum and chat room software. that mostly led to communities where chit chat dominates most of the time and omnipresent minorities create an environment that is mostly busy with itself. advertising customers tend to avoid such spaces and click rates are low.

some online media, in austria e.g. ORF ON (at least partially) and derstandard.at, opened up their articles for reader comments, creating a thread-like environment with the article as the starting point. this has worked clearly better in avoiding social ghettos and keeping readers’ contributions on-topic of the articles, yet leads to flames and insults whenever controversy or banal issues are raised. articles about car accidents, robberies, etc. on local pages of ORF ON are dominated by comments of the quality of “the bitch deserved to die if she doesn’t know to drive”. also that form of community-software doesn’t trigger stand-alone or in-depth analysis by readers and it doesn’t reward them for their contribtions.

in the meantime an independent form of text contributions by the (more or less) broad public has appeared: the blogosphere. ownership of the spaces by weblog authors lead to a social environment that is much better able to deal with flames, insults and banality than the two models mentioned above. a commenter knows that he is only a guest on my weblog and that he’d better behave like one. if he doesn’t editing/deletion is easy and transparent. also weblogs are more likely to trigger original pieces of thought than comment functions below newspaper articles. as a third plus authors are rewarded for their contributions by a permanent virtual home that features their entire archive of posts, enriched by their readers’ comments and references from other blogs.

following this notion some newspapers have started to implement weblog solutions, as did austria’s kleine zeitung (using the fabulous twoday backend and a less fabulous webdesign).

my vision of reader participation is a combination of those models:

those are just brainstorming ideas. yet i believe is is essential for newspapers to find ways to integrate their readers into publishing. old-fashioned community solutions were yesterday, it’s all about social software now.

ps. forgot to mention: of course cooperative tagging (“folksonomy“) would play a major role, too. but that’d be a separate story.

farewell to mrs. hawelka

March 23, 2005  

leopold_josefine_hawelka (16k image)josefine hawelka has just died at the age of 92. gute reise, frau hawelka!

for non-austrian readers: mrs. hawelka was an austrian kaffeehaus-legend who together with her husband leopold has been running the famous café leopold hawelka since 1939.

despite hosting the most important austrian writers and artists for decades, being featured in the third man and becoming an increasingly important waypoint on every tourist’s tour through vienna the hawelka was never adapted to its status as an institution, neither by increased prices nor by changed interior (which is still the original from the thirties).

when i last visited the hawelka a year ago mrs. hawelka was still in control of everything and her husband enjoyed being photographed with young girls in front of the entrance. the orf quotes her daughter with “saturday she still was in office”. does anybody remember a day when she wasn’t present?

photo by agnete brun for a dagbladet article.

(update: typo fixed.)

a future-proof newspaper

March 23, 2005  

following an interesting conversation with thomas jöchler who works for the online service of the austrian newspaper kurier about how newspapers should face the internet challenge, i asked myself how my ideal daily newspaper would have to look like. today’s newspapers haven’t yet transformed enough to complement online media rather than to compete with them. (magazines by nature fit much better into the media mix.) i believe that to be future-proof newspapers will have to adopt their product definition.

paper can’t compete with the speed of the internet and it’s research and personalisation capabilities. yet it is the strength of offline reading to be less tiring and compatible with morning coffees, train commutes or other offline activity. the perfect medium for anything beyond simple news.

here’s some ideas taking into account paper’s strenghts and weaknesses how such a newspaper could look like:

in case you’ve got some spare millions to start the adventure you know where to find me;-)


motorola_rss (12k image)
interesting: motorola has announced a handset with an integrated feed-reader-function (see screenshot), called “screen3”, using push-technology. standards and their openness seem to be unclear still but i fear that this game will be set inside the ‘walled garden’ again.. (via golem.de)


imagine you’re washing your underwear and colin powell pops in. that’s what life is like when you work at an (over)hyped company. (via google’s blog)

weblog love story

March 18, 2005  

nice little love story featuring an ubahn-station in berlin, a weblog and a portion of luck: he kleiner franzose! (via praegnanz.de)
anyone thought i wasn’t going to blog about romantic topics..?

update 2009: unfortunately the site is offline. archive.org has a copy – without the images :-(.

Common misspellings: Farnberger, Fahrenberger, Farenberger, Fahnberger, Fahrnleitner, Fahrngruber, Fahrnberg.
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