Public notebook

London’s riverside in 1849

Old books. History. London.

Yes, these are things that make me curious and slightly giddy with delight when they all come along at once…

So I love Sydney Padua's post about her latest antique book purchase – a fold out panorama of London's riverside in 1849. Call it the Google Streetview of its time.

This is a section showing river traffic in Greenwich….

Have a look at the whole thing. It's gorgeous…


Public notebook

Crowdsensing: mobile data and predictive algorithms

In Pakistan, mobile data has helped the authorities predict where an epidemic will break out:

Researchers working for the Pakistani government developed an early epidemic detection system for their region that looked for telltale signs of a serious outbreak in data gathered by government employees searching for dengue larvae and confirmed cases reported from hospitals. If the system’s algorithms spotted an impending outbreak, government employees would then go to the region to clear mosquito breeding grounds and kill larvae. “Getting early epidemic predictions this year helped us to identify outbreaks early,” says Umar Saif, a computer scientist at the Lahore University of Management Sciences, and a recipient of MIT Technology Review’s Innovators Under 35 award in 2011.

When we think about “mobility” and its potential in business and society, we shouldn’t limit ourselves to the desktop and app paradigm.

Public notebook

Short posts and three experts of the form

Short blog posts are something I find incredibly hard to do.

Things usually play out like this:

  1. I find an interesting thing.
  2. This needs to be blogged, I think.
  3. A “short blog post” is embarked upon.
  4. It sets of ideas while I am writing.
  5. The post expands.
  6. I run out of time to edit / make it make sense.
  7. The bedraggled post sits in my drafts folder, where it stands a 25% chance of being properly edited and posted, but more usually its meaning and relevance atrophy until I have to take it out behind the CMS and put it out of its misery.

Adam Tinworth writes about the neeed for more short posts – inspired by Steph’s pledge to blog every day for ten days – in a post itself so short I am quoting half of it here:

Great idea. I’m getting increasingly uncomfortable with handing over content to Twitter and Facebook just because it’s short. This is a space I own and control. I need to nurture it more… and so I’m joining in.

Yeah – me too, Adam and Steph. Me too.

Although, I am not off to a very good start. This post is already expanding to a medium-size post…

The art of short posts is something I have been thinking about a bit over the past couple of weeks. Prior to Adam’s post, there are three bloggers I’ve noticed that do this very well – and they happen to be arguably three of the best (certainly most accomplished) bloggers about. :

  • Cory Doctorow: At The Story 2011, Cory – who founded uber-blog, Boing Boing – described blogging as creating an searchable, annotatable, public database of 50 word entries on things he finds interesting. 50 words is two sentences, give or take. What I loved about that (paraphrased) description is the clear utility of blogging (those posts add up to research, which add up to essays, talks, article, books) and the discipline of conciseness – each posts says: here is something I think is interesting and why. That’s it.
  • John Gruber: Daring Fireball could be seen as an old school link-blog, one which works incredibly well. It works because the curation and short commentary is so focused and useful – themes emerge, news stories are paired down to an important observation or trend. It also works because of frequency – lots of very useful, pertinent, restrained posts. As Adam will be interested to note, his attitude to Twitter is a distribution channel, witnessed by the @daringfireball bio: “Entries from Daring Fireball. Sort of like RSS but via Twitter.”
  • Andrew Sullivan: A real master of art of blogging – currently on The Dish, part of The Daily Beast – and someone who blogs for a living first and foremost. When I think of Andrew I will often recall longer-form articles and essays, like Why I Blog, but actually he mostly works with short posts – quotes, observations and thoughts, questions to his sizeable and engaged readership, regular featurettes like Face of the Day.

Anyway, here’s to blogging and here’s to short posts! I’m going to try and write one soon….