25 July 2007

Impressions of Facebook

In between consulting gigs and standards meetings, I've gotten interested in social networking, web 2.0, and other recent buzz. I started using del.icio.us to share my bookmarks, and Twitter, and got busy with my LinkedIn account (which had been idling around 8 contacts for a long time).

The biggest buzz lately is around Facebook. Some kind of tipping point has been reached on this very recently. There are impressive growth numbers for Facebook, articles about Facebook elbowing out LinkedIn, and Facebook announced new platform APIs a few weeks ago. I figured I'd better join Facebook if I wanted to understand what the APIs can do. So, I'm a Facebook user for the last week (and I already have 4 friends; I guess I haven't tried very hard :-)

These are some initial impressions on using Facebook.

Profile. So I joined and I am presented with some forms to fill out for my profile. The basic profile questions are definitely left over from Facebook's days as a college dating service: Interested in: Men? Women? Relationship status: (my favorite choice was, "It's complicated". I could answer most questions people ask me with that). Then there's Looking for: Friendship, A Relationship, Whatever I can get, Dating, Random Play. Contrast this with the LinkedIn choices: consulting offers, new ventures, expertise requests, business deals, reference requests, getting back in touch. In either case, the choices are pretty limiting; predefined fields don't do much for me, and I don't enjoy filling them out. Especially the personal ones: Interests, Activities (and what's the difference between those two?), ... I would love to see a tagging interface, where I can pick tags or create my own, both for the categories and my answers.

Persona. Filling out the profile, I don't know what persona others will see. It's hard to tell what is visible to whom. And I don't yet know who "whom" is -- I'm just starting out: what's a network? what's a group? Which ones might interest me? What will they see about me?

Finding friends. The means for finding contacts (address books and selected email providers) does not give me a warm fuzzy. Maybe I'll upload an exported version of my AddressBook, so Facebook can search through it. Yawn.
I manage to find exactly 2 people thanks to my google mail address book, and AIM buddy list. So I invite them...
I ask myself, well what else can I do? I can post a picture of myself, but still don't know what my "page" looks like. I can write stuff on "The Wall". What's that? Who sees it? Everyone? My (then zero) friends? And what's a Poke?
Until you can participate in the community, it's hard to see what kinds of things you can do ....

User Interface. I haven't figured out how to rearrange the layout of my page. (Do they call them pages?) It would be nice if I could apply my own CSS stylesheet. On searches, and stuff, I really dislike the 10 items at-a-time view limitation. Maybe it's settable somewhere.

There's a hard limit on number of networks you can be a member of (5) and on how many groups you can participate in (200). I guess that's no big deal; at least not for me.

Enough for now. I'll add to this as I keep playing.

[For another time: Is Facebook the new Lotus Notes? (Anyone out there who wants to tackle this?)]

Next post: Facebook and NING APIs compared and contrasted.

18 April 2007

Survivalism: Remixed

Do you like Nine Inch Nails?
Do you like dub?
Well, then you probably won't like my dub remix of NIN's "Survivalism" with Mad Professor's "Vikings Dub".
Trent Reznor was nice enough to release the Survivalism tracks in GarageBand. Mad Professor posted Vikings Dub to the Reason site back in the day. All I did was combine them ...

Now available on The Official NIN Remixes site:
Survivalism (Vikings Dub mix)

Vote early and vote often; and tell your friends!

07 April 2007

Three Signs Easter is Near

First, it snowed 12+ inches on (Maundy | Holy | Great) Thursday. So it was a good day to stay indoors, fight a cold or something like it, work on websites that needed working on, and create a large pot of black bean soup for supper (hoping it is not the Last).

Second, as recently communicated to me, there is increased recent interest in research on Peeps.

Third, of course, it is time for the Pop Culture Association National Conference, which always seems to fall on Easter weekend. PCA is a treasure trove of quickly tossed-off papers on curious topics, looked at from an academic perspective. Here's this year's monstrous program, which I analyze below.

Where else can you study vampires; republican sex scandals; romance, mystery and detective fictions; Harry Potter and Robert Heinlein (yes, I know one's a character and the other's a sci-fi author; one is dead and the other isn't—yet); South Park and The Colbert Report (I suppose Comedy Channel could have a whole track of its own. "HBO Drama" did get its own session with papers on Deadwood, Big Love, 6 Feet Under and Sex and the City.); pirates; conspiracy theories, renaissance fairs, whew! They even turn reflective, with several sessions on "Academic Culture".

Somehow Borat some slipped under the radar at PCA; but there was at least one paper on Ali G.

There wasn't as much sex on the program as I would have hoped for, and what there was was filed under "Eros". But it's often "bad sex": "Pornifying Little Girls: Contemporary Fashion for Elementary School Girls" (Mardia Bishop, Shorter College), or sex I wouldn't want to partake in, e.g.: "Bushwacking: Porn and Politics" (Susan Cocklan, Virginia Commonwealth University) or "A Pornographic Version of Car Talk: Howard Stern and Conservative America" (Ann C. Hall, Ohio Dominican University). Thank goodness for "Super Sexy Selene and Her Kick-Ass Ways: Underworld and the Evolution of the Cinematic Vampire" (Mary Findley, Vermont Technical College).

An attendee pointed out to me there seemed to be more sessions on Fat Studies than Womens, Gay, or Post-colonial Studies. I guess they have their own conferences these days.

Adaptation seems to be a big theme. What's up with that? Perhaps it's subconsciously observing the category-theoretic dictum: Follow the Functors.

Some favorite titles:

  • “Sailor Moon Made Me a Third Wave Feminist!”: How a Group of Magical Girls Were in the Right Place at the Right Time for the Start of a New Feminist Identity (Stacy Rue, Independent Scholar)
  • Cheese in 18th-Century Massachusetts: Methods, Techniques, and the Challenges of Researching Popular Culture (Kristina Nies, Boston University) [In fact, Boston University cornered the market on Food as Pop cultural topic with a whole panel.]
  • Issues of Spectatorship in Stalker/Slasher Films (Yang Lin, National Taiwan Normal University)
  • “Liquor Bags and Lawn Chair Strapping”: The Aesthetics of Poverty in Trailer Park Boys (Dean DeFino, Iona College)

How about a panel on "popular rhetorical technologies"? Oh my, we're talking about Facebook and Myspace and I guess blogging .... No papers yet on twitter, or alternate reality games (wrong! see the Digital Games track...)

Some papers I wish I had heard:

  • The Wife of Bath and the Man from Mars: An Overview of Classic Literary Allusions in Select Heinlein Novels (Lisa N. D’Amico, Wichita State University)
  • DIY Snark: The Rhetoric of “Bad Craft” Blogging (Priscilla Perkins, Roosevelt University)
  • What Archetype is Your Avatar? (Dona Bailey, University of Arkansas at Little Rock)
  • There was a whole panel, Embedded Culture: Instructional Media in Fishing, Hunting, and Golf; with papers on, yes, trout fishing, bass fishing, hunting and golf.

I wish humanities were like computer science, and I could get those papers via google...

Did you ever notice how many papers in certain fields frequently have titles of the form: A B C: X Y Z? i.e., they are colonized (see several examples above). Where did that pattern come from anyway? Anyone know?

I'll be sketching and circulating a paper, working title: Trendy Topics and Troubling Tools: themes and methods from PCA, for your commentary, Real Soon Now — not!

19 March 2007

Aspects and Architecture

Finding myself with free time between consulting gigs, I've been thinking about aspects. Aspects are a very active research topic in computer science and software engineering for addressing crosscutting concerns.
Here's a non-computing analogy: imagine you are writing an outline about something that interests you. You've got 5 or 6 top-level categories, and you've refined each of them to several levels. Inevitably you find some things that either: (A) don't fit in any of those categories, or (B) rightfully belong under more than one! So maybe you add some categories, rearrange things, and guess what? You run into A and B again, and again! This happens perhaps because most things that are interesting at all can't be easily described in a single way.

Aspect-Oriented Programming. Well, maybe this is no big deal when making outlines, but it can have a big impact on software development. The impact comes from the same situations: the same code needs to be replicated in numerous places and gets tangled with other code, making it hard to maintain. Gregor Kiczales and colleagues developed the ideas of aspect-oriented programming (AOP) to address these problems back in the 1990s at Xerox PARC.

Aspects in Architecture. My particular interest is whether the insights of AOP have any use in clarifying the descriptions of software systems architectures. To that end, we organized a workshop First Workshop on Aspects in Architectural Description at the AOSD 2007 conference, and gave a paper trying to cast aspects into the conceptual framework of IEEE 1471, at the Early Aspects workshop.

AOSD 2007. I really enjoyed the AOSD (Aspect-Oriented Software Development) 2007 conference. It was held in Vancouver, BC—always a nice place to visit (more on this below).
Monday we held our workshop on aspects in architectural description. My co-organizers were Paul Clements, David Emery and Philippe Kruchten—all smart, fun people to work with. It was a small, very interactive workshop of 15 people. The papers and discussions were very thought-provoking. A summary will appear on the workshop website.

Tuesday was the "Early Aspects" workshop. Again, a very thought-provoking collection of talks and discussions, with a wider focus than just architecture, to include requirements and design. Anthony Finkelstein gave the keynote (and participated in our workshop on monday). His ideas are very compatible with the multiple views approach taken in software architecture and he has tools to support that approach. In fact, he coined one widely used notion of "viewpoint" back in the 1990s which was an important insight we used in IEEE 1471. (More about views and viewpoint some other time.)

AOSD has largely a research focus, with some industrial participation; it was very nice to talk with young researchers and see what they are up to. It was fun to be an ancient industry guy and make pronouncements like:

It's nice you are studying ADLs (architecture description languages) and inventing new ones, but remember almost no one in industry uses ADLs: most architectures, if captured at all, are written down with Powerpoint or maybe UML.

It reminded me of the spirit of early OOPSLAs. There is a lot of work on using aspects in requirements engineering, including a number of tool demos. Two of my favorites were from Lancaster University: MRAT (Multidimensional Requirements Analysis Tool) and EA-Miner. Thomas Cottenier presented some very impressive work on model weaving for a (real) software project at Motorola.

The thing I did not hear at AOSD were any new conceptual insights into aspects. The community seems to be in a consolidation phase, extending the aspects metaphor to design and requirements activities. Also, there is still some conceptual fuzziness: one that particularly confuses me is the blurring of concerns (which I think of as naming problems to be solved) with aspects (which I think of as packaging the solutions to those problems).

Sundries. Vancouver is a great town for restaurants. I did not get to as many as I might have, because AOSD provided breakfasts and lunches, and two evening receptions which included plenty of good food. The Early Aspects workshop had a group dinner at a nice Greek restaurant nearby, Kalypso. One of my favorite cafes is in Vancouver: Caffe Artigiano.

My return to the east coast was somewhat disrupted by a winter storm—which gave me chance for a stop over in San Francisco: long enough to visit friends in Mountain View and have a very nice super at a new Chinese-Indian fusion restaurant, temptations.

It's Hard to be Me

It is hard to be dJ universalStyle.
I joined twitter.com, and of course I wanted to be dj universalStyle, or djUniversalStyle or something like that. But there's a 15 character limit on "screen names".

I considered some alternatives, googling variants like dj Universal, dj UniverStyle, dj Architect, ... Who knew this namespace was so densely populated!

I finally settled on dJdU.

25 February 2007

What's Going On?

I decided I ought to create this blog. When you get this old, you start remembering things you should (maybe) write down and my kids complain I never tell them stories about myself. A blog should be easier to update, than trying to tell stories on my web page.

Why universalStyle?

Because I colonized that identifier a couple years ago as dj universalStyle [∂j/∂U for short] for making music. The original idea came from a packet of "shade brackets" proudly proclaimed to be UNIVERSAL STYLE.