Smart Lists and UI

Working in an archive, I deal with a lot of metadata. Some of this metadata is from controlled vocabularies. Sometimes they show up in lists. Some times these controlled vocabularies can be very large, like for the names of language where there are a limited amount of languages but the amount is just over 7,000. I like to keep an eye out for how websites optimized the options for users. FaceBook, has a pretty cool feature for narrowing down the list of possible family relationships someone has to you. i.e. a sibling could be a brother/sister, step-brother/step-sister, or a half-brother/half-sister. But if the sibling is male, it can only be a brother, step-brother, or a half-brother.

FaceBook narrows the logical selection down based on atributes of the person mentioned in the relationship.

meun with all the relationship options

All the relationship options.

That is if I select Becky, my wife, as an person to be in a relationship with me then FaceBook determines that based on her gender atribute that she can only be referenced by the female relationships.

Menu showing just some relationships

Menu showing just some relationships based on an atribute of the person referenced.

Pulling Interactions back to WordPress

Interactions on FaceBook vs. WordPress

For a while I have been importing my blog posts to FaceBook as Notes. FaceBook as a method of doing this via RSS. I was encountering more interaction on my posts inside of FaceBook than I was outside of FaceBook. (In addition to leaving large quantities of text, as notes, in my FaceBook profile.) This is not the kind of interaction I wanted. While I do not mind having interactions or discussions inside of FaceBook I want the discussion to be portable and to move with the content. That is, If I move my blog I want the content and the discussion both to be carried to the new hosting URL or location.

This means that I needed to make the comments which are in FaceBook integrate with the comments on my self-hosted WordPress site.

I also want to encourage more traffic to my website rather than just interacting with the content as it appears on Facebook. My first step was to stop importing my Blog posts via RSS and to find a WordPress Plugin to facilitate the integration.

A Plugin to do the Job

I found Add Link to FaceBook, a plugin which will post a link to my article to my FaceBook news feed and also sync comments and likes between my FaceBook feed and my post on WordPress. I installed this app followed the instructions and voila it works. I now have a “like” button on my pages and hopefully am increasing traffic to my blog or minimally recording a the comments made on FaceBook on my self-hosted web-site.

Privacy

Considering comments from a privacy perspective, some users inside of the FaceBook ecosystem could comment on content in my feed and think that only I had access to view that comment and this plugin would then pull that comment into a publicly accessible space. There is no way I currently know of to tell potential commenters inside of FaceBook that their comments will be made public. If it is so important that things should be kept private then perhaps making a comment on FaceBook was not the right medium to make the comment in, perhaps the commenter should have used an email. But this is not the pretense that FaceBook sets up its users to expect. (Though there are plenty of examples in the news about how FaceBook is not the most secure place to make remarks or comments which could have impact outside of FaceBook.)

Write it once Share it twice

For some time I have been challenged by learning Wiki Markup. I learned HTML 4.0 then I took on xHtml 1.1 and the market keeps evolving. I help to maintain a few wiki pages on the digital archival of language based materials on the company I work at’s intranet. Way cool that we have a wiki, but I haven’t written much their because I like to compose in WordPress (xHtml) and use the full screen mode to block out distractions. Most of what I write comes from various internet sources. I feel a certain obligation to the sources to acknowledge them publicly, if I am going to use their content privately too. Therefore, I prefer to share those things externally as well as internally. The result is that I usually post what I write to my personal blog before I post to the company intranet. In the past I have had to rework the markup syntax when I move things from WordPress to the wiki.

However, I recently found an HTML to Wiki syntax converter: http://labs.seapine.com/htmltowiki.cgi. This tool allows me to compose in WordPress, convert to Wiki syntax and then repost to the corporate wiki.

Language maps like heat maps

There is a myriad of difficulties in overlaying language data with geographical data. But it has be done and can be done. While I was working in México on a language documentation project, I learned that some of the language mixing (not quite diglossia, rather the living of two people groups with different languages in the same spaces) was due geographical factors and economical factors pulling them into the same geographic locations. In the particular case I am thinking of there was a mountain pass and a valley on the way to the major center of trade. In this sort of context the interesting things are displayed not when a polygon is drawn showing a territorial overlay of where various language speakers living, but where something is drawn showing what the density or population dispersion per general population is. Some of the most detailed (in terms of global perspective) language maps can be found in the Ethnologue .

Western Central Mexico from the Ethnologue

Western Central Mexico from the Ethnologue

However, as I was working on the language documentation project I found out how much effort actually goes into that sort of map. ArcGIS, the software used to create the maps can not auto-generate a polygon a certain distance around a combined set of given points. A set of points can be selected and each point can get a 5 mile radius. What this means is that each polygon has to be hand drawn. This sort of graphical overly that is used in the the Ethnologue does not show the density of speakers of a language in an area relative to the total population (in the Ethnologue’s defense I am not sure it is supposed to). For instance, if I wanted to know “What is the density of speakers in the Me’phaa area of México relative to speakers of other languages?” that would show me some dispersion, and by implication the peopling of the area. This sort of geographical overlay may be closer to displaying social networks, not really bilingualism or diglossia. There might be some bilinguals or some average level of bilingualism there, but the heat map method of plotting is looking still at the density of speakers to an area. A simular map might be created of New York City where certain languages are given a color based on their distribution density in the area. Additionally, these sorts of data overlays are probably more prone to lend insights on language attrition patterns or language speaker migration patterns. Also these hand drawn polygons change (a little) from edition to edition. Because the data used to create the polygons is not referenced (cited) it is hard to tell if the change is keeping pace with language attrition and/or population movement or if the changes are due to a better linguistic understanding in a particular area. When looking at the large area maps in the Ethnologue, it is hard to tell if the red dots represent “traditional” language area (or geographical center thereof) or if the points represent the current geographical center of the speaking area. Either way the plotting functions as if it were a heat map showing the diversity of languages over a geographical area.

Americas Map from the Ethnologue

Americas Map from the Ethnologue

gHeat

I am generally on the look out for web apps and APIs which can be used to overlay data to bring new insights to situations through graphical representations. I recently found a tool for overlaying data on Google Maps. This tool creates heat maps given data from another source. This tool is called gHeat. This tool was brough to my attention by Been O’Steen as he modified gHeat to display some prices for student properties in the UK. My initial thought was: “Wow how can we do language maps like this?”

Student Property Heat Map

Student Property Heat Map

Obviously I still think that language based heat maps could prove to provide language workers world wide access to visualizations of data that could really add clarity to the language vitality situation.

Plugins Removed from WordPress Extend search after two Years

I watched the State of the Word address by Matt. There are some very exciting things happening with WordPress. It is always interesting to think that WordPress and FaceBook are almost the same age, they have both had a significant effect on the internet landscape.

In his State of the Word Speech, Matt mentioned that plugins which have not been updated in two years will be removed from the search results on WordPress.org/extend. My question is:

Why choose two years? Why not choose votes of “it doesn’t work” for the past two full points on the development cycle?

So if WordPress 3.2 is the newest release of WordPress, then all plugins which are not voted to have worked on at leasts 3.0 and above would get removed from the search results. With just 2 points on the development cycle it would probably be less time than two years. So, what Matt is proposing is probably a more lenient strategy. By my question is not about what time depth but rather why time depth. Why choose time depth rather than the dynamic that an audience says something is working with the current version of WordPress?

On the semantics of “get-away” and “vacation”

Becky and I were gifted a get-away. I like these times which are relaxing to both of us. It takes a bit of effort to leave the office behind. This could be because I like work so much or because I am a creature of habit.

Hugh's Office

there are just so many cool things to be done in the office

Looking back, the one thing that I think I am going to enjoy the most about this get away was sitting down with Becky and listening to her tell me what a vacation looks like to her. We came up with two lists, one from each of us describing what a vacation was. I think it was good because it helps us each to know what the other is looking for.

Becky's Vacation

Becky's Vacation

Hugh's Vacation

Hugh's Vacation

Looking over the list, it is clear to see that there are some different colors which come to mind to each of us when we think of vacation.

    Hugh:

  • Grey
  • White
  • Green

I was thinking more inlines with mountains.

Biking in Montana

Biking in Montana

    Becky:

  • Blue

I am sure that she had more of something like below in mind.

Yacht in the Indian Ocean

Yacht in the Indian Ocean

What is interesting is that we both said something about Photography and we both said something about Water. (In all fairness it was over 100ºF in Texas when we made this list.)

But I wonder if we might enjoy a trip to the US Northwest or a trip to the Seychelles.

Becky also said that at a get-away we still cook, but on vacation someone else does the cooking.

Cultural relevance in Web-design

Being interested in Web-design, and issues of culture and art as it varies by cultural influences I have had four nagging questions. Each of these questions probably deserves more thought than I can give them right now.

  • What is the impact of cultural attitudes towards web (the internet) on web-design?
  • What are the impacts of cultural information processing on web-design?
  • Why do official Mexico websites have blinking boxes and blinking text? Why does that work for them? Is this deeply seeded in the history of computers or is this deeply seeded in attitudes of Mexican government officials?
  • This truly does deserve a link. I wish I had written this down when I had thought about it. It was 2010 when I had come across this site.

  • What are the effects of cultural design impulses on information processing?