Testing World Outliner

This is just a test with the WordPress editing tool of Dave Winers OPML Editor and Word Outliner software.

I owe Dave Winer a lot. He invented Frontier (which apparantly is running at the core of the OPML Editor). It got me into Blogging in 1996. I experimented a lot with it at the time an even wrote a bunch of plugins for that system. Out first univeristy blogging server was based on Frontier and UserLands Manila.

Dave is also an innovator of a rare kind and writes at scriptingnews.com. He is a developer by trade but also an Internet pioneer (or the other way around) — thinking about Internet culture and business like few do. He is always someone to listen to. He may be very subjective and personal from time to time — but we all are sometimes. He may be even wrong about things — but when he is right, he is often is dman right about it.

I lost track about what Dave is doing acouple of years ago (obviously still the same after all), but maybe I should tune in to him again. I also don’t know if I will spent more time with the World Outliner tool. But being able to edit my WordPress blog with it is a plus.

OK. Reset!

Well, as this blog obviously shows: I simply did not have the time to blog in the past (the Twitter account is more active). The past years have been of that sort. There is too much going on and I started to contemplate for a moment if I should revoke the old blogging habit from the nineties an »blog to focus«. Problem of that is that much of that is confidential stuff from my consulting work. But maybe I could use the subjects to touch some overarching topics. Let’s try…

Zoot Woman as well!

I am sorry to “spam” my music interest recently. But I am just so glad about what the Berlin team was able to pull up again. As my Last.fm profile discloses I have been listening to the britsh band called Zoot Woman recently. Now I am happy that Hobnox has the concert and an interview:

[See fullscreen and also interview available]

(Reminds me of the fact that I forgot to link the interveiw with Jose Gonzales in my last post).

Hobnox recieved the Grimme Online Award

grimmeHobnox recieves the Grimme Online Award.

The Grimme Online Award is one of the most prestigious awards for online projects in Germany. The jury does mention the quality of the design.

As Head of Concept and Design this makes me happy. But there have been many people working on the design that are not yet mentioned anywhere. And I want to give them credit here – even though some may have been working for Hobnox only a short period of time:

I want to thank everyone mentioned here for the effort that contributed to the achievement. Thank you!

Grimme Online Award Nomination for Hobnox

Hobnox was nominated for a Grimme Online Award yesterday (category “special”). The Grimme Online Awards have always been a sign post for cultural relevance of web projects for me. So this makes me very glad that Hobnox has achieved this nomination.

Side note: As announced on the FMX/08 conference the Audiotool has been updated with a TR-808 rythm composer. The next update (hopefully) will add saving compositions and maybe MIDI support.


I am going to speak about web entertainment (and Hobnox) on FMX/08 tomorrow. I will probably see some friends there as well.

I haven’t been to a previous FMX-conference. Judging from their program they do focus a lot on technology and Visual FX. The panel I have the privilege to participate in is subjected “realtime”.

I think this is a very good topic altough the notion is quite dated. But the term gets a slightly new meaning as the networks start to become real multimedia channels that can deliver streaming high quality video and multiplayer games with minimal latency and without wires.

Tinderbox 3.6.3

One of the tools I love to use is Tinderbox. The homepage says: “Tinderbox is a personal content assistant that helps you organize, analyze, and share your notes.”

I just downloaded the latest beta version (3.6.3 b17) and found that it has a list of improvements that push it forward again.

If you never heard of Tinderbox try looking at some of the screencasts that are online.

Tinderbox is a tool that has been around for ages now and while the technical progress is slow compared to other tools it remains unmatched for a lot of tasks. The sad part of it is, that it does have some limits and missing features that people expect from a writing tool. But besides of that it’s potential has not yet been fully exploited by its community.

The tricky thing with Tinderbox is, that it does “take off” unless you know how to use the tool wiseley. For a newbie it may feel like just another note-taking tool that misses some core features. But once you discovered some of the core concepts of Tinderbox a whole new set of options.

Findamentally it is a tool that keeps asking you: What do you want to do with your thoughts? How do you create relevance out of randomness? What does order in a chaotic world of fragmented information mean?

Tinderbox somehow forces you to answer these questions and define a concept how you want to process everything you write down. You may start with no such concept and try to develop it while playing around with Tinderbox. But once the level of interdependence of notes, actions, templates and such gets high (which can happen quickly) you need to become smart about how you manage you material.

Blog lag….

There has been no post here for over a month now. I really feel bad about that as I can see from different stats, that there are more than 550 subscribers to this blog (slowly growing) – which is not too much compared to some other blogs… but a hell lot of people for me. And with a 20% reach (people that actually click or act on a blog post) I think it is not wise to neglect a blog for so long. But then again I need to thank all subscribers for the confidence I sense from that.

Truth is that I have been way too busy the last month. I stopped working as a professor at the computer science department of the Cologne University of Applied Science (I still do teach Design though) and started to work on an international project related to the music and TV entertainment busniess. I probably will contemplate and write about that sooner or later, because there are really a lot of stories that I’d like to share in future.

So keep me on the radar… I am still alive!

Desire (Design and Democracy)

I think the current Privacy/We-blog seminar (see blog) is turning out very well. The students are working on a project that is very “web2.0-ish” and a profound reflection on the business models that drive this market (or new bubble if you will).

One of the questions that constantly return to me is what is the function if design as seen from strategists. There is a discourse about design is being in charge of providing “emotional value” to products – or in other words: to sense desires of consumers.

I have addressed the core strategies of design in several seminars. They were called: Perception, Mind (called “Remembering and Design” back then), Density, Simplicity and Continuity. And it always appered to me that I one day I will have to address the topic of »Desire«.

The problem with “desire” is that it appears to be a mainstream topic – but in fact is not. It is a pandora’s box and it will ultimatley lead to political implications of design. And that is probably why I postponed it several times although I am totally convinced that there is no real way to get around this issue.

One place to start is Edward Bernays, a nephew of Sigmund Freud. Bernays invented the term “public relations” and spawned research that led to the idea of “life style” and “focus groups”. His influence has been portrayed in this four hour BBC documentary “The Century of the Self” (Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3 / Part 4). If you watch that documentary you’ll see the dilemma.

The documentary ends with the impression that the affirmative politicians in western societies have eroded the notion of democracy by replacing political policy with public relations (thus tuning their speeches and programs towards the short term desires of swing voters). Like Bill Clinton has asked one of his advisors: “What is a mandate if you can’t get elected with it?”

I want to point readers, that managed read this post until here, to a document called “Design and democracy” [PDF, 148 KB / german], a lecture given by Gui Bonsiepe in 2005 at the UTEM, Santiago de Chile (and be assured that the issue of democracy is not only a matter of desinging better election ballots).

Design switch

This weblog has changed under the hood: the code is cleaner. Everything is CSS based. It doesn’t validate yet, but it will. There have been only a few minor tweaks to the design itself. It pushed most of the templating away from Tinderbox and up to the server.

The next step will be to circumvent the HTML export of Tinderbox completely and publish everything directly from a database (by converting the XML file into RDBMS tables). It will also reduce the number of agents (like the ones that collect the weblog posts for each category).

Update 5/29/2006: Some people asked me about how I did the rounded corners. Actually I am using CSS 3 styles for that which is implemented partially in Webkit (Safari) and Mozilla/Firefox. I don’t use any CSS tricks (even if I could).

No one reads what you write?

Dave Winer in this interview makes some comments about his online writing style. His weblog is less a collection of posts, but rather collection of paragraphs per day with. Sometimes he uses headlines to separate content. But generally it seems to be true that people skim blog pages a lot.

With Tinderbox it is quite easy to shape the style of a homepage. You can add some fields here and include some if/else-statements in the templates there. I wonder if I can find the time to come up with a design that is as easy and “skimmable” as possible.

The first thing I’d do is to not include the full posts on the homepage all the time. Sometimes there will just be an tiny teaser with a link to the full posting at its permanent URL. Of course I need to come up with some design tweaks for this yet. It’s a work in progress….

Featured blog

Yesterday this weblog (»details of a global brain«) was featured on »The Main Quad« – a private blog that is “promoting viewpoints and topics that are international, multicultural, multi and interdisciplinary, and all over the political spectrum” (with a focus on academic blogs). I am pleased that I appear to be the first non-native English speaking blogger in their directory and I appreciate the kind words of editor Jennifer Chernick.

Mobile photo blogging

I recently switched to a new mobile phone with SymbianOS. Nothing spectacular. It was cheap as I was extending my contract. It is a Nokia 3230. The user interface really has serious issues (which I think is amazing for a multi-million dollar company like Nokia that does not sell phones only by their external look).

I am not so much into mobile phones and I am not willing to spend lot’s of money to be an early adopter. I am more “early mainstream” in this.

I was looking for a free solution to post pictures online in a second. I was not satisfied with PicoBlogger or LifeBlog and I also did not want to use pricy MMS messages for submitting large images.

Now I found SplashBlog. This service seems to be straight forward and free for a limited amount of images. So from now on you might find some images from me on my SplashBlog site.

Update: I found something better: the fastest way to get photos online with a Symbian phone ist ShoZu. Once you have a Flickr account it’s just a click and it will be uploaded to Flickr in the background. Nice.