Tony Hirst, Whom God Preserve, found WikiMindMap.

Type in a search term — like this:

and get this — instantly.

Branches with an ‘+’ can be expanded. Tony thinks that it’s not quite as difficult as it looks (and is already thinking of ways of going beyond it), but I think it’s technically sweet.

Web 2.0 epidemiology

From David Pogue’s Blog

It seems to me, though, that we haven’t even scratched the surface. We’ve picked the low-hanging fruit, but there are dozens or hundreds of huge Web 2.0 ideas that have yet to materialize.

I was thinking about this — a LOT — as I lay in bed last week, sicker than I’d been in years. I hadn’t eaten for two days, and I was nervous about being well enough to travel to a speaking engagement the next day. (Is it just my imagination, or are the bugs getting a lot nastier these days?)

I kept thinking: Surely I caught this from somebody — somebody who now knows what this virus’s course will be.


Somebody should come up, then, with a Web 2.0 site where people could report what they’re catching and what you can expect from it. You could see a map of your region and watch the red cloud or the blue cloud spread closer and closer to your neighborhood, the better to step up your hand washings. As you lay in bed, miserable, you’d know that at least you had only 24 hours to go. Or whatever.

[Update: Yes! A number of people have alerted me to the beta version of, which appears to be exactly what I’m describing!]

Hmmm… yes it is. Here’s a screenshot:

Facebook to do advertising. Well, there’s a surprise

Odd that it took them so long. Nick Carr has some sharp observations, plus a suggestion.

Yesterday, Facebook let it be known that it would launch a free classified-advertising service, which will compete with Craigslist. That’s a smart move. Facebook’s core users – college and high-school kids – are also big users of Craigslist. When Facebookers go off-network, Craigslist is probably one of their most likely destinations. So creating an in-network version of Craigslist will significantly expand Facebook’s control over its members’ online time. “We don’t try to lock people up or take more of their time,” Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg fibs to the New York Times today. Then he tells the truth: “If we can provide people with efficient tools, they will use the site more.” Every page view Zuckerberg steals from Craigslist is money in his pocket.

But if Craigslist is a big draw for Facebook members, my guess is that Wikipedia is an even bigger draw. I’m too lazy to look for the stats, but Wikipedia must be at or near the top of the list of sites that Facebookers go to when they leave Facebook. To generalize: Facebook is the dorm; Wikipedia is the library; and Craigslist is the mall. One’s for socializing; one’s for studying; one’s for trading…

Yahoo Photos shutting down


Yahoo will begin to close down Yahoo Photos, in favor of Flickr, the competing photo sharing site the company bought just over a year ago.

Yahoo Photos users will be given the opportunity to move their pictures over to Flickr. But Garlinghouse admits that Flickr isn’t the right sharing site for many users of Yahoo Photos, so users will be given the option to instead move pictures to Shutterfly or the Kodak Gallery.

This is an interesting move for Yahoo, a company geared towards serving the mass audience of online users. Flickr is a great service, but it’s the black sheep of popular photo sites — it’s got a different organizational system from most sites, it’s more open, and it attracts a more tech-adept user base.

Thanks to Tony Hirst for the link.

The end of professional photography?

Nice Guardian column by Andrew Brown…

Half a dozen lurid and splodgy pictures in the local paper brought home to me the death of an honourable profession this week. I took them. I am in my small way responsible for impoverishing an old friend, because he, not me, is a professional photographer, and his living has been more or less abolished by the changing world. Just as film has been replaced by digital, professionals are being replaced by amateurs. The changes are partly technological and partly economic, but the final blow to his profession has come from Flickr and similar Web 2.0 sites…

Later: Nick Carr has commented on Andrew’s piece. “It’s not that I have anything against amateur photographers (being one myself)”, he writes,

it’s that I think we’ll find – are finding already, in fact – that while amateur work may be an adequate economic substitute for professional work, there are things that pros can accomplish that amateurs cannot. We see in the decline of professional photojournalism how the Internet’s “abundance” can end up constricting our choices as well as expanding them.

Playing tag with authority

David Weinberger’s new book, Everything is Miscellaneous, was published yesterday. Lee Rainie, Director of the Pew Internet and American Life Project, has done an interesting interview with him (published in pdf format).

There’s an illuminating passage in the interview in which he illustrates the implicit values embedded in the Dewey taxonomic system:

In Melvil Dewey’s world, all information is divided into ten major topical categories that might have made perfect sense to well-educated Westerners who shared Dewey’s frames of reference, but perhaps not to others. For instance, Dewey assigned the 800-899 block of numbers to literature and then doled out numbers 800-889 to American, European and classical languages. Thus, he squeezed every other bit of literature into the 10 remaining digits. Among other things, that means Russian literature did not even get its own whole number. It comes under 891.7, amidst East Indo-European and Celtic literatures.

It was also perfectly logical to Dewey that he list material relating to pets in the “technology” block of numbers in the 600s. Here’s how he worked that out:

600 Technology
630 Agriculture and related technologies
636 Animal husbandry
636.7 Dogs
636.8 Cats1

Weinberger has also done a DIY blurb for the book on the Berkman site.

We’re very good at organizing things in the real world. Whether we’re organizing a kitchen or laying out a new corporate head quarters, we have a variety of sophisticated techniques that we’re perfectly at home with. But, whether we arrange things alphabetically, by size, or by pecking order, when it comes to real objects, we always have to follow two basic principles: Everything has to go somewhere, and no thing can be in more than one place. That’s just how reality works.

But in the digital world we’re freed from those restrictions. Whether we’re organizing our downloaded songs, digital photos, an online store, or entire libraries of scientific information, we can put our electronic stuff into as many electronic folders as we want. If your catalog of engineering equipment is on line, you can put, say, a bolt into electronic bins according to size, material, cost, quality, and whether it’s been approved for outdoor use. In fact, you don’t even have to decide for your users which categories make sense. You can let them create their own categories by “tagging” electronic items however they like. At, for example, people tag photos with whatever will help them find those photos again, and users tag the millions of books cataloged at Because these tags are public, you can click on one and find all the photos or books that others have tagged that way. This can be a powerful way to browse and an even more powerful way to do research collectively.

The alternative at such sites would be for the owners of the site to create their own taxonomy of categories. But every way we classify represents a set of interests. No taxonomy works for all interests and for all ways of thinking about a domain. For example, the vendor selling hardware such as bolts can anticipate that sometimes we’ll want to search by size, but not that someone is going to want to find a bolt to use as a gavel in a dollhouse or a bolt with a particular electrical resistance. There are an infinite number of ways we may want to slice up our world because there are an infinite number of human interests. In the physical world, we have to pick one, so we have expert taxonomists who make the best decision. But in the digital world, we can leave all the digital objects as a huge miscellaneous pile, each tagged with as much information about it as possible. Then, we can use computers to slice through the miscellany, organizing on the fly according to the categories that matter to us at that moment. So, it turns out that while the miscellaneous box represents the failure of real world organizational schemes, it is how digital organization succeeds.

This has an unsettling effect since we have large institutions that get much of their value — and their authority — from their privileged position as organizers of information. For example, the most prestigious position at a newspaper belongs to those who decide what goes in and which stories go on the front page. Likewise, businesses influence our decision processes by artfully arranging their offerings, and educators decide what will be taught and how topics relate. Now that the users and readers are able to do that for themselves, authority is rapidly shifting from those institutions to the new social networks through which we’re figuring out how to put things together for ourselves.

We are rapidly developing new principles and techniques for figuring out how to make sense of the miscellaneous so that it is more responsive to our needs, interests, and points of view. While the technology that’s emerging is powerful and fascinating, the more important change is occurring at the level of institutions and authority. That’s where we’ll see the real effect of the miscellaneous.

Later… A librarian friend writes: “I was once told that Dewey’s interest in classification was stimulated by the muddle in his mother’s jam cupboard which he sorted out and arranged nicely.” On such hinges does history turn!

1984: a bit delayed, but we’re getting there

This morning’s Observer column.

The future, as the novelist William Gibson observed, ‘is already here – it’s just not evenly distributed’. One place where it might be found is Mount Holly, Berkeley County, South Carolina. I’ve just flown over it (courtesy of Google Earth), and you’d never think it was a place where our destiny lies. The terrain is flat and wooded and includes some magnolia plantations. There’s a highway and what looks like a railway line (the image resolution isn’t great). The nearest town is Goose Creek, a settlement of 30,000 souls.

So why is this obscure spot a pivot of the universe?

The real Web 2.0

Nick Carr has an interesting post about what’s going on under the hood, as it were. It’s started me brooding…

Web 2.0 isn’t about applications. It’s about bricks and mortar. It’s about capital assets. It’s about infrastructure.

Yesterday, Google formally announced that, in addition to building a big utility computing plant in Lenoir, it will also build one a little to the south, at a 520-acre site in Mt. Holly, South Carolina, near Charleston. The company will be reimbursed by the state for some of its building expenses, and, the governor reports, legislators have “updated the state tax code to exempt the electricity and the capital investment in equipment necessary for this kind of a facility … from sales tax,” an exemption similar to one granted manufacturers. Google expects to invest $600 million in the facility and hire a modest 200 workers to man the largely automated plant. Google may also build yet another data center in Columbia, South Carolina.

At a pork barbecue celebrating the announcement of the data center deal, Google held a question and answer session with local dignitaries, but it was characteristically closed-mouthed about the details of its operation. Asked how it uses water and electricity at its sites, Google executive Rhett Weiss said, “We’re in a highly competitive industry and, frankly, one or two little pieces of information like that in the hands of our competitors can do us considerable damage. So we can’t discuss it.”

He goes on to discuss what Microsoft is doing in the infrastructure line too.

The local paper’s account of the Google deal is hilarious. Sample:

The company hopes to open its first building by December and the second building 18 months later.

It plans to begin advertising for the leadership positions on its Web site by next week at the latest.

Chris Kerrigan, president of the Trident United Way, said Google and Alcoa donated the money from the timber sale to Links to Success, a program that tries to keep children in schools in Dorchester and Berkeley counties.

Berkeley County Supervisor Dan Davis also praised the company for writing the county a check for $4.34 million for the right to tap into the water system.

Davis said the company could have spread the payment out over 30 years if it had wanted to.

John Scarborough, the county’s director of economic development, said the company’s annual payroll in Berkeley County will be about $12 million to $15 million, much of which will be spent in the area.

He said luring Google will be a major status symbol for Berkeley County.

“It shows companies that in Berkeley County we can handle the big projects, we can handle them professionally and confidentially, and we can solve problems that need to be solved,” he said.