Hidden Tribeca

Neat stuff today over at MUG with Tribeca Pentimento. This essay highlights what I love about living in old cities, the hidden (and sometimes not so hidden) history that's everywhere. Working in Tribeca I know these spots and wish it were a sunny day for exploring the neighborhood rather than a cold rainy day for coding.

Situated software

Clay Shirky's got a new essay up on Situated Software, a term he's using to describe software, "designed in and for a particular social situation or context." I find his essay really interesting, and I wish I had time right now for a more thorough response, but my own application commitments prevent me.

One reason the situated software approach works so well is the clear definition of the end users of the system. It enables developers to build for a very specific set of users and features, which is a wonderful foundation for success. When you don't have business people requesting new features for some hypothetical user or situation, your software tends to do what it's designed to do better. In software development, the use of personas — each persona represents a target user of the system — is one way to address application focus and scope. But for some time now, especially with regards to social software development, I've wondered if that's sufficient. Later in his essay, Clay writes:

We constantly rely on the cognitive capabilities of individuals in software design…[w]e rarely rely on the cognitive capabilities of groups, however, though we rely on those capabilities in the real world all the time.

This gets to something I've been thinking about for sometime now, the possibility of using personas to represent groups rather than individuals. In fact, I even proposed it as a talk for the last O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference but it wasn't accepted. I'm still tickled by this idea of modeling the groups, because as Clay writes, there's a power in groups that you don't find when the same individuals operate in isolation. By creating group personas (groupas? grouponas?), perhaps we could better design and hone our software to utilize the group's power. Then we could create software that's honestly social and situated, and it wouldn't necessarily be at odds with the breadth and reach of a Web School application.

Garden ahoy!

The Bountiful ContainerOne bitterly cold weekend day in January, I sat on my bed with McGee & Stuckey's Bountiful Container at my side and began sketching my plans for this year's fire escape garden. The goals: everything (or nearly everything) would be edible so I could cook with it; good smelly flowers, so cuttings could be brought indoors; and hardier specimens, such as a lavender that's hardy to 0° so many plants will (hopefully) survive the winter. Yesterday, I reworked some plans and placed orders. And during a scouting expedition to the garden center, I purchased a pink primrose. It now sits on my windowsill, harkening spring.

You too can begin your garden now (where now equals planning and ordering but not necessarily planting since I don't know where you live and what you're planting!), and I cannot recommend the Bountiful Container more strongly. This book has proved so useful time and time again, and I constantly return to its pages for the handholding that I, a novice green thumb, require.

Future talk

So you may have heard about Future Me, the website that lets you write emails to your future self, and set a delivery date years from now. The possible conversations are fascinating, and yet email is so clunky and leads to such asynchronous exchanges. I want immediacy in my future me chats! Thus it was with trepidation that I began an AIM conversation this afternoon with my future self.

megnut: you there?

megnut2012: yeah, what's up?

megnut: well, i'm just wondering, um, what's it like being 40? what's our life like now?

megnut2012: eh, pretty much the same as being 32

megnut: really? huh, no epiphanies?

megnut2012: nah, not so much.

megnut: what about wrinkles?

megnut: does all that wrinkle cream i've been buying lately actually work? or do you have a lot of sun damage?

My development on Future AIM Me begins in earnest later this week. Ready your questions for yourself now and look for a rough alpha in mid-summer.

Forever in New York City

Forever: A NovelWhile on vacation I read
Forever: A Novel
by Pete Hamill. It was
The Count of Monte Cristo
Interview with the Vampire
, which sounds cheesier than it was. It was perfect beach reading, and I enjoyed a great deal of it. It got me so much more curious about the City's history and made me more determined than ever to dig into
Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898

Perhaps the most interesting bit for me was actually after the book. My edition contained an interview with the author in which he talked about completing the book on September 10, 2001. And then of course, needing to go back and re-write a good chunk of the end. After all, his protagonist had supposedly experienced all of Manhattan's major events from about 1740 on. I imagine the process must have been difficult for Mr. Hamil. The "present day" world where his novel ended no longer existed, and ceased to exist the morning after he put down his pen.

Flakes are falling

If you happen across a giant swath of dry skin on the streets of New York City in the next few days, it's probably mine. After conscientiously applying SPF 30 multiple times a day in Anguilla and suffering only a bit of sunburn on my face, I am now leaving an epidermal trail throughout Manhattan. I blame the recent snow and excessive work schedule for causing my tan to flee.

Off for some sun and sand

I'm off to Anguilla — an island in the British West Indies — today for some very much needed, albeit brief, vacation. Plans include swimming, sunning, sleeping, snorkeling, and reading. Oh and eating. And that's about it. Items of note in the suitcase include: tank tops; summery skirts; one itsy bitsy teeny weeny green polka dot bikini; a fresh book,
(no, not Judy Blume's, Mark Hamill's, just because I'm leaving NYC doesn't mean I shouldn't still be thinking about it!); digital camera; and most importantly, SPF 30.

If reading this makes you jealous, I've just the thing for you: American Airlines sale! Caribbean For As Low As $198 Round Trip. So maybe you too can be doning a tiny green bikini soon as well! Updates will resume next week when I return.