The Real Paul Jones

Accept no substitutes

Month: October 2008

ContextMiner: Explore globally, aggregate locally.

ContextMiner logo
Chirag Shah created a great tool for archivists called ContextMiner which helps the archivist set up an automated set of directed web crawls across various media repositories, like YouTube. It’s already working pretty well in the pre-beta phase and has a nice set of users. But we thought that ContextMiner could do more for more people.

Chirag and I showed ContextMiner to John Conway at and Kirk Ross of the Carrboro Citizen and we all agreed that exploring the web globally could make the communty building job of local and regional news sites much more effective. How effective? We asked Dr. Sri Kalyanaraman, whose conceptual and empirical publications have identified a sense of community as one of the critical aspects in online information environments, to give us a hand in measure the effect on community building and ContextMiner.

We want to make sure we do a good job of community building ourselves so we asked Michael Tiemann president of the Open Source Initiative and vice president of Open Source Affairs at Red Hat to help us out with that part and to make sure we have the licensing and IP clear for community use and reuse and modification.

Now we had a great team that could help guide ContextMiner from pre-beta to a robust product for media aggregation and community building for news sites of all kinds but with special attention to local and hyperlocal sites.

Next step is to seek funding. With the help of Jennifer Gallina of the J-School, we put together a proposal for the Knight Foundation’s News Challenge.

We submitted the proposal today and will hear later in the month.

In the meantime, if you’d like to read the proposal, it’s here AND if you create an ID you can help rate the proposal at the same place.

Note: Our proposal does a better job of describing ContextMiner that I did above, but this picture will help some too.

How ContextMiner works

iPhone. Now with free AT&T Wi-Fi. In a very inconvenient way.

“iPhone. Now with free AT&T Wi-Fi.” So read text messages and email from ATT today.

AT&T is now offering free AT&T Wi-Fi access to our iPhone™ customers. That means free AT&T Wi-Fi access at thousands of hotspots nationwide, including Starbucks®.* Hotspots are available in cafes, bookstores, airports, hotels and universities nationwide.

While this is really nice and all, it’s as much a deal for AT&T as it is for those of us with iPhones. We already have unlimited data over the Edge network so we do have access at all those places for free already. Slower but free all the same. It never would have occured to me to buy wifi access at a Starbucks for my iPhone. Let the Edge lead (for free)!

But using the Edge is in the end slightly more expensive for AT&T than wifi. Here they are providing both in Starbuck or the airport and they say “pay for the one that cost us the least or have the one that cost us the most.” In the airport, they push a web page at you to sign on to wifi. Fair enough, but if you let your phone go to sleep, you have to logon all over again. It’s so annoying that I usually give up and just use Edge anyhow.

Now we all win. No log in web pages. Faster and better battery savings with wifi. Cheaper for AT&T and for me too!

Or so I thought.

Then I read this:

Accessing AT&T Wi-Fi hotspots is easy

Activate Wi-Fi from the settings icon on your iPhone.
Select “attwifi” from the list of available networks.
Enter your 10-digit mobile number and check the box to agree to the Acceptable Use Policy.
[doesn’t AT&T know my 10-digit moble number already?]
Tap “continue.”
[why can’t it act like other open or openish networks? AT&T knows if it’s an iPhone or not]
You will receive a text message from AT&T with a secure link to the AT&T Wi-Fi hotspot.
[almost as annoying as before]
You will not be charged for the text message. [Thanks, Paul]
Open the text message and tap on the link for 24-hour access to the AT&T Wi-Fi hotspot.
[will I have to do this every time I connect? Yikes, it’s worse than before! when my phone goes to sleep, do I have to start all over again?]

Social Datavisualization for Journos and the rest of us

Among the many things that Phil Meyer has gotten right is the need for journos to understand data and how to tell stories from that data. Lately you many have noticed that the NYTimes has been doing a lot of graphics to do just that.

The graphs looked familiar to me in some way and now I know why. IBM and NYTimes are partnering using IBM’s Many Eyes, a social datavisualization site/product, to allow not only NYTimes journos to visualize large datasets, but also you and your classes.

At the NYTimes Visualization Lab site, you have access to the same datasets that the journos have and you can visualize that data in several other ways with customized presentations.

You may have noticed some Wordle (aka word cloud) visualizations in the Daily Tar Heel recently. Chancellor Thorp’s installation speech was Wordled and shown behind him on the front page.

Holden Thorp and his Wordled speech

If you’d like to upload your own datasets or find more than the NYTimes has to offer, you can visit the IBM Many Eyes site, and go from there. Of course, you and your students and co-researchers can comment on the visualizations and datasets as you would expect on a social media site.

The media here are the datasets and the visualizations that is the interesting shift. You’ll be interested to know that the NYTimes began first with campaign finance API released earlier this month, but there is much more there now.

For those who are less than happy with IBM’s solution or who would like to try another variation on this same approach Swivel (thanks Andrew Dunn for pointing this out) offers many of the same features including the social components.

Another great site for visualization is Hans Rosling’s Gapminder which includes a great video of his 2007 TED talk. Gapminder uses animation to show the passage of time (for example).

Parts of Gapminder were acquired by Google and have been showing up on
in a quiet and very beta way.

Microsoft has been even quieter about their version of motion visualization, but I can tell you that something along the same line has been being demoed since April of this year. Expect something like Gapminder from MSFT this spring if not sooner.

Returning you to your regular programming…

Twitter ate my blog!

I feared this when I began using Twitter back in 2006, but I was able to hold out until recently. I’ve finally given in. Twitter has eaten my blogging energy; it’s taken on a lot of the function that the blog should, could and occasionally has had.

I thought, at first, that Twitter would be mostly me communicating with a few friends, like say group IM. But it wasn’t too long before Twitter became more of a timely way to share snips of news and information. A place to ask questions and give answers. One blog function done right there.

I found myself live-Tweeting at talks and events where I once would have live blogged. My idea was that these would be my notes from which I would write the real post on the blog. It was and is so convenient to just type a sentence or two. Then type one more. Especially when my tweeple were egging me on as I tweeted the more interesting events and speaker. My tweeple would snipe, make jokes and send questions that in a few cases, I ended up asking the speaker or panel. Twitter was doing a better job than my blog at reaching out and interacting with my friends. I switched from live blogging to live tweeting entirely.

My iPhone. Need I say more? My iPhone with Twittterific was almost the perfect tweeting platform. If it only had ReTweet, it would be perfect. That and browser integration and of course Cut and Paste. But the iPhone ended up better for live tweeting. It’s much less intrusive than the laptop and always with me. Small, easy to carry, easy to hide err less obvious and about right for the 140 character messaging of Twitter.

When blogging, I needed my laptop. With Twitter, I only need my phone. Great little ideas and news, the kind of things that I read Ed Cone’s blog for, ended up on Twitter from my phone and never on this blog.

When I began this blog, I promised myself an entry per day, then an entry per week day, then a pass on vacation and travel. I made good on those continually modified promises for several years. But recently I stalled on the blog. What has ended up here recently has been recipes that my tweeple have asked for. Too long for 140 character messages. And some events.

True, I’ve also been involved in a lot of other writing–grants, proposals, class notes, and the like–that draw the blogging energy out of me. Still, I blame Twitter. It does a great job of highly interactive social communication.

And my Tweets and my Twitter page is public, even posted on this blog. My Tweets are carried over to Facebook as my status messages and kept there. Very nice integration.

So I’m not gone; I’m merely tweeting.

Back to the roots – savory fall veggies

After making up some Gumbo z’Herbs, you’ll have some root veggies left — unless you only buy greens. If you add some local sweet taters and some rosemary and some roasted peppers – jalapeno and sweet green. You can have a nice seasonal main dish. I like it all a little crunchy so I make it up this way:

3 beets – medium sized
2 sweet potatoes
turnips and/or carrots (we skipped these this time out)
1/2 onion
rosemary from our abundant bush
roasted peppers to your taste
olive oil

Dice the root veggie into small cubes. Do the same to the onion. Chop up those peppers after removing the seeds. Keep chopping on the rosemary.

Saute the garlic, onion and some rosemary until the onions are transparent.

Lower the heat a bit and add the hardest roots first. In my case this was the sweet potato, how long you cook depends on how crunchy or show you prefer. Add the beets and the roasted peppers. Add the rest of the rosemary.

Yummm. Crunchy savory local and healthy.

We served this with pineapple chunks that Sally had just picked on fresh from the store.

CIO Insight into last night’s talk

Ed Cone briefly covers our hour of GSO Meetup/Greensboro Public Library fame at CIOInsight as Libraries in the Digital Age

Local Gumbo z’Herbs

Gumbo z’Herbs isn’t Gumbo as you might know it. First off, there’s not okra called for. You use file or nada. Nada being easier to come by ;-> Gumbo z’herbs is a bunch greens of different kinds all cooked up with the Trinity and roue and spices. Just like that. If not during Lent, you can add sausage or ham and seafood like oysters, but really it’s all about eating those greens in the fall or early spring.

I went down to the Carrboro Farmer’s Market and filled up on everything I needed on Saturday morning. Even though I slept in a bit, I had not trouble getting everything I needed. Proportions change according to taste and availability but here’s what I did:

1/2 head of cabbage – I used red which will mean the broth will be purple, most recipes call for green/white cabbage

1 bunch of collards

1 bunch of beet greens

1 bunch of turnip greens

1 bunch of kale (I left this one out)

whatever other greens you like say spinach, carrot tops, etc

Trinity: 1 Onion, 2 – 3 Green Pepper, buncha Celery (I used bok choy instead, tearing off the greens which I used with the greens above and chopping the stems).

Garlic – I use a lot

Oil, flour for roux (I admit I skip this part most time – kill me later Cajuns)

Thyme, allspice, file (I use this as the thickener), hot pepper (fresh, dried, roasted or powered as suits)

1/2 to 1 pound of Chorizo – crumbly kind as opposed to the hard Spanish variety (remember I was getting this all local).


Wash the greens. Wash them again. One more time. These are right off the farm and are gona be gritty if you don’t.

Stem greens as appropriate. Roll em and slice into 1/2 – 1 inch pieces then chope into sorta squares.

Boil them greens. Put the cabbage and collards in first as they take longer to cook. Later add the beet greens and finally the spinach or carrot greens. use enough water to cover. about 30 minutes of boiling all together.

In another pot, heat the oil. Then add the garlic and the trinity and the hot peppers. Stir until the onions are transparent.

Add the chorizo and brown.

Add the cooked greens dipped from the water, reserving the water.

Stir the greens in good then add the spices.

Now add enough of the reserved water to cover and keep on cooking. Bring to a boil then simmer so that the flavors blend nicely.

Serve alone or over rice.

Ed and Paul in G’boro, ConvergeSouth, ASS update, Jones at Duke

Ed Cone and I will be speaking at the Greensboro Central (Public) Library on Wednesday October 15 at 7 pm. The Greensboro Webloggers Meetup will be there too. It’ll be great to talk with the folks there who will be celebrating ConvergeSouth 2008 the next few nights (sign up now!).

Grady alerts us in comments that Ocracoke Island’s institution, Albert Styron’s Store, is again open! They also have an online store.

I spent the better part of yesterday at Duke talking with the good folks who do communications (the bad ones musta stayed home) over there. My slides which I may use with different words in Greensboro are here

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