Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Visualizing tag clouds

I have never really got into the habit of using del.icio.us to bookmark and tag items. Maybe this is because I don't bookmark anything anymore. All of the bookmarks in my browser are ancient and essentially useless. Some of this is due to autocomplete. If you can type two characters and get the link you want, why bookmark it?

Also, I have a partial substitute in Bloglines, which provides links to the home page of many sites I'm interested in and new content on those sites. Since I tended to bookmark home pages in my browser, this really isn't much different.

Today I finally saw the light of how del.icio.us could really help me. Jon Udell posted a rather ineffective visualization of his year in tags, but the Juice Analytics guys saw it and posted a much better tag cloud viewer, which Jon then reworked in JavaScript.

The ability to see where my attention has been focused over time is huge for me. How helpful would a reminder of what you were looking at when be in assembling your year-end accomplishments for your boss, for instance? Or maybe even to figure out what accounts to charge your time to? A great addition would be the ability to tag your email and calendar items, so you'd be able to see something closer to the full scope of your work. Unfortunately, in a corporate environment, email retention policies would likely make this an impossible dream.

Another more obvious benefit is in addressing my feed reading backlog by tagging and bookmarking interesting items.

The power of well-done visualizations is an immense. The need for cheap, effective tools in this area is nearly totally unmet.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Expert prediction quality

As an IT architect, I make a lot of predictions about where technology is headed. This fascinating review (via Kottke) of Expert Political Judgment : How Good is It? How Can We Know? discusses the efficacy of experts in making political predictions. In short, get out your dartboard and you can outdo them. While the reviewer doesn't make this connection, it doesn't sound very different from success at picking stocks.

Indeed, while the realm is political prediction, what Tetlock describes seems to apply very generally to predictions. His recommendation also seems apply beyond policy debates:
Tetlock also has an unscientific point to make, which is that “we as a society would be better off if participants in policy debates stated their beliefs in testable forms”—that is, as probabilities—“monitored their forecasting performance, and honored their reputational bets.”
Probablities without accountability are worthless. Gartner has irritated me for years by saying assigning probabilities to predictions and then saying, "As we predicted ..." and never saying "which took us by surprise" or "where we whiffed badly" or even "happened much more rapidly than we thought possible" much less providing a statistical analysis of their analysts' accuracy.

We don't assign probabilities, but we clearly have accountability.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Setting Abby straight

Jon Udell does a great job of setting Abby straight about blogs and employers. While acknowledging the potential pitfalls, he clearly tells the benefits:
Here's something to consider, though. A blog can be used to narrate the key events and accomplishments in your professional life, to establish your reputation as an authority on subjects in your areas of expertise, and to educate the world about your company's products and services.

It's true that many bloggers haven't yet learned to use the medium to communicate in focused, responsible, and professional ways. But those who can are more interesting, not less so, to employers who value these skills.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Bing me!

TristanK has a vocab suggestion. I approve, but I'm open to other suggestions for one syllable alternatives for IM.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The tyranny of numbers

I am way behind in reading my feeds, and it's become apparent that some of it is due to the tyranny of numbers. How so? Simply put, a big number of unread posts is intimidating. Clicking on that link in Bloglines marks them all unread by default, and then I'm committed to reading them. My preference is to follow up on items of interest immediately, including embedded links. That's why the "river of news" approach, using "keep new" to mark items for follow up has never appealed to me.

This puts me in the strange place of reading less frequently updated or less in-depth bloggers more frequently than some of my favorites, especially when I don't have much time. In order to keep up, I need a change in ways. Why? Read all the good stuff Jon's posted in the last month or so.