James Governor's Monkchips

Things We’ve Learned: Josh Schachter, Quotes of the Day

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That was really good. First session at the Carson Summit. Bad Carson for the socialtext deal though – I need to register with socialtext to use the Web apps wiki? That sucks. Bad Carson – as per comments from mr delicious below…
Josh Schachter is unassuming, but extremely authorative. The creator of del.icio.us is evidently a quote machine. His presentation consisted of just a few slides, with a single piece of black text on a white background.
There is no point in me going verbatim, but i tried for a few pull quotes. These contain wisdom about business models, but also good solid technical advice captured as aphorisms.
Why should an enterprise care about this stuff? Why should enterprise IT folks care about Josh’s wisdom? Because users are going to demand Web 2.0 style performance on web apps, and scale is crucial in the enterprise context. What is more, tagging is set to revolutionise a lot of enterprise information functions in the next ten years as we enter the tag gardening era – tag gardening is knowledge harvesting.
“browsers are incredibly hard to deal with”
“SQL doesnt map particularly well to these [web apps] problems.”
“Work out how to split data, get it on multiple machines. But one web server talking to 8 different databases- will blow up in your face.”
“you need to track performance. set up a nagios installation”…
“tags doesnt map to sql at all. so use partial indexing.”
“database scaling issues are important yes. but apache tuning can help a lot. put a proxy in front of it – perlbound, pound – otherwise some guy on a slow modem is tieing up a ton of resources. use rules on the proxy, such as images of a different server.”
“Have an API so you can get your data. The easier it is to get data in and out, the more people will use it. these are sophisticated users, but if if you SOAP, Corba or something insane… they won’t. delicious isn’t even REST. just gets and puts.”
“Database – identifiers? Scaling – dont expose your identifiers or people will try and do weird things with them”
“Why are users asking for that? Try and extract the story or use case, so you can work on that.”
For example – “why implement full calculus” if less than 1% of the audience would ever use it?
“Put it everywhere, on everything”
“Solve problems you have.”
In delicious its “popular over the last 24 hours”. that becomes an object of attention. it ok – when the group is biased in a particular direction. but less interesting in bigger group.
the opposite of attention is spam
“Shirky said social systems are things that get spammed.”
“Tagging is a UI”
what you were thinking about? tagging is
good for recall
not bad for discovery
poor for distribution
“not all metadata is tags – the value is in the intention. the value is in saving, with these keywords.”
a successful service? What is the mimimum amount of work the user has to do? But make them do a little work.
“User number one has to find the service useful”
“its to make the user come back – not trying to convince people.”
“before this i worked on wall street”. its important to learn how people react to system and so on.
“measure behaviour rather than claims”… why bother with status, like a 1-5 scale? If it wasn’t good people wouldnt tag it…
“So many web sites make you do something. What they are going to get?”
Basically Josh said dont force a registration or people won’t use the service – note to Carson. Note to socialtext – I already paid for this conference- and you want me to do what?
Design Grammar
“When you delete we really purge it from the system.”

[Hear that Google? jjg]
Infection Vectors
I spent zero dollars promoting delicious.
I didn’t use email because it can be associated as spam.
apps on the desktop consume http – figure out what every app is looking at and talking to. use that.
“delicious is a tool, not a community. One reason i dont want it to be a community. some community behaviours are not good.” the “you suck” effect, and flame wars 


  1. Carson opted for registration as a spam countermeasure. I agree that this adds friction. Registering with any site is a pain. But it should be clear you were only registering with this event wiki, not with Socialtext or some damn spam list. After all, the point is the opposite.

  2. thanks ross but it wasnt clear at all. and the registration was quite invasive. a LOT of compulsory questions. job title, company, formal addresses and so on.. i got to my sixth field and then lost heart.

    so unfortunately the point was lost…

  3. Java Culture Update

    Scott Mark leaves a fun comment on Steve’s post about mashupcamp: Sounds like Java “got served” at this conference – what do you make of the fact that Java doesn’t feature in mashups? Is it too stodgy of a platform…

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