Call for an App to Automatically Track Serendipitous Finds

One of the things I enjoy most about reading Clive Thompson’s writings, whether it is at one of the outlets to which he regularly contributes or his less frequent posts to his own blog, is how he unpacks and examines many of the activities we often take for granted in this post-network world.

In one of his most recent blog posts, he looks at how we as web surfers find the interesting flotsam that is so enjoyable to share.

Indeed, we clearly have an appetite for knowing how and where people found stuff. Every time someone creates a new tool for publishing online — blogs, status updates, social networks, you name it — users on a grassroots level immediately create conventions for elaborately backlinking and @crediting where they got stuff from. It’s partly reputational, but it also betrays the fact that we seriously enjoy associational thinking and finding.

I love how he dovetails this with some of the amazingly prescient work of Vannevar Bush. It also meshes well with Dan Gillmor’s recent call to those of us who aggregate and curates stories to dig deeper to expose the original and correct attribution for the work going into these fantastic nuggets of interest.

In his comments on Thompson’s post, Cory Doctorow teases out the call for help in enhancing or building tools to get at these trails used to find and associate content. Personally, I rely almost exclusively on RSS so usually have little trouble clarifying the original sources on anything I read. Regardless, I understand the need and the challenge. Had I any time to spare, this would be a fantastic weekend project, a good excuse to build some stronger skills in web browser extension development.

Whether you can help with the call to build better or even any tools that tackle this engrossing problem, the article is well worth a read.

“How did you find my site?” and Vannevar Bush’s memex, collision detection

Firefox Personas May Add Dynamic Update Capability

I’ll admit that I’ve never really seen a point in Mozilla’s sort of themes-light feature for Firefox, Personas. Sarah Perez at ReadWriteWeb captures exactly why I am not alone in feeling this way but goes on to suggest that may soon change.

Several ideas are under consideration for future development that are as equally meh-worthy as the idea of Personas itself. One stands out, adding the ability to incorporate ambient information into a Persona. What that would mean exactly is still somewhat vague. In other applications, ambient information is typically data that is aggregated and displayed in a highly visual, usually very simplistic way. Think about a widget that changed color from cooler shades to warmer as a stock you are tracking swings upwards in price. That would be a pretty good example.

I like this idea of using subtle aspects of Firefox’s appearance to enrich the information being viewed. I think it would do best for omnipresent information, like perhaps the response rate on your social message stream, or specific to what your are viewing. Imagine a Persona that could alter its appearance to cue you in to the ratio of ads to actual content in a page or the number of inbound links to help you develop a sense of how authority ebbs and flows over time.

In that vein, I see the ambient info suggestion for Personas as part of a very interesting cluster of features that have been explored by the lizard wranglers. It is very consistent with discussions around the semantic web, extracting, sensing and digesting information beyond the mere textual content that makes up even the most dynamic sites we are used to viewing today.