Cloud Street

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

When the sweet turns sour

I’ve! just! exported! my! bookmarks! and! deleted! my! account!.
- Sophie, in comments at Burningbird

If this keeps up all the "Web 2.0" blog nerds will be working at Yahoo! by next month.
- Jake
Yup! I think that's the plan!
- Tom
(comments at

delicious was not only a community. It was also an experiment. A place for us geeks to meet and discuss. A place where we were changing the Web. Yes, WE were changing the Web through our ideas. And Joshua was good in picking the best ideas. Inviting us to give more. Now do you really think this will continue under Yahoo!’s reign?
- Pietro

Some lessons to learn here:
1. Never trust a startup service to store your important data no matter how the owner seems honest to you.
2. Never trust a corporate entity to continue storing your important data.
3. Never act like a fanboy on services you don’t trust.
- Ronald Johnson, in comments at the blog

Companies offer web services to get free ideas, exploit free R&D, and discover promising talent. They offer the APIs so people can build clever toys, the best of which the company will grab -- thank you very much -- and develop further on their own. There is no business model for mashups. If Web 2.0 really is just mashups, this is going to be one short revolution.
- Greg

This enthusiasm for big business - as long as it's a cool big business - strikes me as both dangerous and weird, not to mention being the antithesis of what's made the Net fun to work with all these years. But it is a logical development of one branch of the 'Web 2.0' hype - an increasingly dominant branch, unfortunately.
- me (on Google)

I promise not to be successful if you all give me money.
- Shelley

Update: I've switched to Simpy. It's great.

Monday, December 12, 2005

In any English town

Mark Honigsbaum, the Guardian:
Curators, librarians and archivists across Britain are being asked to scour their collections in search of documents and items relating to the lives of gay people, with a view to establishing a "virtual museum" of lesbian and gay history.

Backed by the museums documentation watchdog, MDA, the group Proud Heritage this week began sending out a two-page survey requesting that institutions throughout the country list the gay and lesbian documents and artefacts in their collections. "For the first time ever, we are asking museums, libraries and archives throughout Britain to revisit their holdings and reveal what they have that is queer," said Proud Heritage's director Jack Gilbert. "At the moment these are not classified correctly, or held completely out of context and never see the light of day."
According to Mr Gilbert the aim is to establish a national database first, featuring a few key virtual exhibits. Once the database was up and running, he said, Proud Heritage would look for a site for a permanent museum, possibly in the King's Cross area of London.
At the moment these are not classified correctly... You don't have to be Dave Weinberger to have mixed feelings about that statement. Clearly there's a case for saying that many of these artifacts aren't classified adequately, inasmuch as historians of gay experience don't have an obvious point of access to them - and this could be provided by the proposed database. And, clearly, tagging an artifact with 'gay' doesn't preclude tagging it with 'Wales' and 'early nineteenth-century society' (the Ladies of Llangollen) or with 'literature' and 'penal reform' (Wilde's cell at Reading Gaol).

But classifying an artifact only as 'gay' would, in almost all imaginable cases, be no more 'correct' than classifying it under any other single term. The project of a physical museum of gay history is welcome in terms of visibility, but in taxonomic terms it's a step back from the purely 'virtual' database project. Like any other thematically-organised museum, it would consist - almost by definition - of exhibits which were 'not classified correctly' and 'held completely out of context'.

Museums promote the illusion that the map is the territory: the structure and layout of the galleries, and the arrangement of the exhibits they contain, are designed to reproduce a certain way of structuring knowledge. (The perfect museum would be its own memory palace.) But an illusion is what it is. Objects can only reside in one place, but knowledge can be fluid and multi-dimensional; pressures to collapse those dimensions - whether in the name of group identity or commerce - should be resisted.

Not that group identity and commerce are necessarily that far apart.

Denis Campbell, the Guardian:
Six per cent of the population, or about 3.6 million Britons, are either gay or lesbian, the government's first attempt to quantify the homosexual population has concluded.
Publication of the figure comes as big name companies such as Barclays bank, Hilton hotels and cosmetics giant L'Oreal join the growing rush to cash in on a gay economy which is worth tens of billions of pounds. Barclays has just received research which showed that gays and lesbians enjoy a combined annual income of £60 billion.
Barclays spokesman Michael O'Toole admitted the bank is very keen to woo Britain's gays and lesbians by portraying itself as sympathetic to gays' desire for equality. 'We want to position ourselves as the bank of choice for Britain's gay and lesbian community,' he said. 'There's more of a push going on now to enter this market of about 2.5 million adults.'
The key word here is 'market'. If Barclay's is planning to make it easier for gay couples to take out mortgages and insurance policies, this is all to the good, but O'Toole's ambitions clearly go further. The gay 'market' is not like, say, the 'market' represented by devout Muslims: Barclay's plan for those 2.5 million adults is not to introduce them to personal banking, but to encourage them, firstly, to identify as gay; secondly, to perceive Barclay's as a gay-friendly bank; and thirdly, to switch to Barclay's on that basis. Identifying as English or middle-aged, a Frascati-drinker or a Manchester City supporter, a dog-owner or a Labour voter would just get in the way: if you're gay, Barclay's is the bank for you. The benefits for the bank are obvious; the benefits for their prospective customers, less so.

Knowledge - including our knowledge about ourselves - can be fluid and multi-dimensional; pressures to collapse those dimensions should be resisted.

PS I usually let my titular quotes stand with their cover unblown, but in this case I'll make a partial exception. For me these are probably the best - certainly the most moving - four lines ever written on the subject of exploring knowledge and where it leaves you. What I'm still not sure about is whether it's a despairing renunciation, a challenge or a celebration. Cue music:

About the university the pages let you down
It helps you find your way around in any English town
About the university the pages are in French
It helps you find your way around in any English town