As of tonight, it has been ten years since we published RSS in Plain English on YouTube. I can't believe it's been so long. We owe a debt of gratittude to those of you who were with us in the beginning. It makes our day to know that you've stuck with us. We'd love to hear from you!
To mark the occasion, I wrote about how we came up with the idea for making RSS in Plain English and what happened the day we published it. Here's an excerpt:
YouTube was a year old at the time and growing incredibly fast. Soon, our discussions turned to ways we could ride the YouTube wave to new destinations. But how? We had no background in video production. What kinds of videos could be useful? What could two people and a cheap video camera do?
In 2006 YouTube was not alone in experiencing incredible growth. This was the dawn of the social media revolution and ideas like wikis, blogs and social networking were just starting to become known and adoption was slow. Being a big fan and user of these new tools, I wanted more people to use them. I believed they could be adopted quickly by the mass market.
But I also saw problems. These powerful, free and useful tools all suffered from the same malady: confusion. They were so new and different that most people couldn’t make sense of them intuitively. It was like a huge mountain of value was being obscured by a dense shroud of foggy, technical communication. Clearing that fog was the problem we decided to solve. We set out to make these new tools understandable for people like our parents using the power of YouTube videos. For the first time, we thought about what it means to explain an idea effectively using video.
I've always hated math. Since about the 6th grade, I've always felt behind and deemed myself "not a math person." As I get older, I'm realizing that part of my problem was how I was taught math. It always seemed like memorization and rules without context. I never had teachers that helped me develop a passion for math or see the the magic in solving problems. I wrote about this experience here.
Recently I learned about a series of thirteen blog posts that are meant for people like me. Steven Strogatz is an award winning mathematician from Cornell who has taken it upon himself to explain the magic of math on the New York Times Opinionator blog. Here's how it describes the genesis of the idea:
I have a friend who gets a tremendous kick out of science, even though he’s an artist. Whenever we get together all he wants to do is chat about the latest thing in evolution or quantum mechanics. But when it comes to math, he feels at sea, and it saddens him. The strange symbols keep him out. He says he doesn’t even know how to pronounce them. In fact, his alienation runs a lot deeper. He’s not sure what mathematicians do all day, or what they mean when they say a proof is elegant. Sometimes we joke that I just should sit him down and teach him everything, starting with 1 + 1 = 2 and going as far as we can. Crazy as it sounds, over the next several weeks I’m going to try to do something close to that. I’ll be writing about the elements of mathematics, from pre-school to grad school, for anyone out there who’d like to have a second chance at the subject — but this time from an adult perspective. It’s not intended to be remedial. The goal is to give you a better feeling for what math is all about and why it’s so enthralling to those who get it.
I've read the first few installations (he's posted 4 of 13 so far) and I'm impressed. It's not in plain English, per se, but he does a great job of using visuals and metaphor to explain math in a way that is new to me. Each post takes about ten minutes to read. All the current posts are here, and I encourage you to start at the beginning.
Thanks to Jay at Juxtaprose for letting me know about the series.
For a while now I've been fascinated by the idea of creating a single place (other than Facebook) that brings together all the things I do on the Web. That is why I created the zeitgeist page here on Common Craft - to have that single place to bring it together. At the same time, I've had a blog at leelefever.com that has become a pain to keep updated - I needed a replacement.
Recently I discovered Tumblr, which is a super-simple and lightweight way to have a blog with a minimum of effort.
Here's the deal. I blog here, I put photos on Flickr, I put videos on You Tube and updates Twitter, the list goes on. Anyway, Tumblr takes the RSS feeds from these sources and turns them into blog posts. This was a perfect replacement for my old blog - it is always updated.
Further, Tumblr makes it super-simple for me to add a new photo, video, quote, blog post, or whatever, via a handy-dandy bookmarklet. It's fast.
The Tumblr posts don't allow comments and there are only a handful of features, but they appear to be the right ones.
So, I've redirected leelefever.com to leelefever.tumblr.com - which will provide a constant flow of Lee-related bloggified fun from this point forward.
As the US presidential election heats up, I've been more and more interested in how the candidates are shaping up, particularly on the web.Â One of my daily newsletters, Tech President (blog), has recently become something I look forward to each day.Â It's by the Personal Democracy Forum and focuses on, you guessed it, how technology is changing politics (or not).
It's fascinating to see how things are playing out. For instance, think it's so interesting that the Democrats jumped into the YouTube debates and a number of the Republican candidates won't take it seriously. There is something about this that reminds me of the experienced executive that is too busy to worry about the company's web site.
Anyway, if you're interested in the upcoming elections and a thorough take on how the web is shaping politics, Tech President is good start.
I've been inspired and impressed by a couple of my local Seattle friends who have, over the last year, become some of my favorite online community-focused bloggers.
I first met Ryan Turner working on a big project with a large aero-space company formerly based in the Seattle area . At the time, Ryan impressed me with his mad workplace ethnographic skillz. Since then, he's gone on to work at the web design consultancy Zaaz and refocused his efforts on helping Zaaz clients wrap their minds around online communities and Web 2.0. Lucky for us, he talks about these experience on his blog - Web Social Architecture - The Mad Science of Online Communities. (at least that's the title this week. Ryan knows what I mean.)
Sean O'Driscoll is another favorite that I've come to know recently through project work. Sean's one of the few people at Microsoft that actually has "community" in his title. He's the General Manager of Support Communities and MVP. Along with his real-world experience and love for BBQing, Sean's passion for community show's through on his new-ish blog: Community Group Therapy.
Like me, Sean is always looking for easier ways to describe the trends and technologies that are shaping Web 2.0. I particularly like the racing-inspired term "tag drafting" to describe using your friends as filters for information coming from sites like Del.icio.us.
I'm looking forward to hearing more from both Ryan and Sean - keep it up, please.
Iâ€™m just starting a new project that should be really interesting. Iâ€™m working with Bill Reidâ€™s group at Microsoft, which does IT Solutions. Like so many other teams at the company, they are interested in using blogs as a way to support and connect more personally with customers.
When we first started talking about the project, it was about using blogs as a feedback loop, where the blogs would facilitate customer feedback that could be used to improve products, in this case, IT solutions. What we found was that this was putting the cart before the horse. This was about the time I wrote the Wiki This post.
Now, weâ€™re focusing the project on the blogging first- understanding best practices for building readership, listening to the blog world, writing for a blog, etc. Overall, we hope to increase the blog literacy of the IT solutions group so that the team can identify the ways in which a blog may help them achieve their goals individually and as a group.
I'm also excited to be working loosely with Lilia Efimova (Mathemagenic), who is doing an internship at MicrosoftResearch studying how they are using blogs. Like her, I hope to blog what I can.