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5 posts from April 2009 to get new life with WordPress/Automattic team those of us who have been around blogging for a while (crossing over the 9-year-mark myself in a few weeks), was a site we all knew not only as a very creative domain name but also as one of the earliest "ping servers". (Courtesy of today's announcement, I learned of this great post that gives some of the early history of ping servers and services.)

Then was purchased in 2005 and nothing much seemed to be done with it. Other ping services emerged. Many of us just started using Ping-o-matic rather than trying to keep up with all the various services. And over time didn't seem to get any mentions anywhere, really.

So today it was rather cool to learn that Yahoo is transferring over to Automattic for "safekeeping and further development". Automattic, if you aren't aware, are the folks behind the hugely successful WordPress blogging platform/software, as well as the Akismet blog comment anti-spam service and other tools.

It's great that Yahoo did transfer the service and thus one of the older domains can live on. Now it will be interesting to see what Matt Mullenweg and the rest of the Automattic crew do with

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Is "family identity" dead? (In a communications form)

Is the concept of "family identity" dead in terms of communications?

As I was thinking about my talk tonight over the weekend and how the ways in which we communicate are changing, one of the themes that kept emerging was what I'd call "The Death of Family Identity".

Think about it... once upon a time, there were primarily two ways that people would communicate with members of a household (outside of the obvious one of knocking on the front door):

  1. Postal mail
  2. Telephone

In both cases, there was one "address" for the family... either the postal address or the phone number. In either case, you could contact "the Yorks", for instance, by sending a letter to the address or by calling the family phone number. The mail or phone might be picked up by any member of the family, but it could be shared or passed along to other members of the family. Mom, dad, brothers, sisters, friends or whomever lived there... anyone could potentially see the mail or get the phone call.


Let's take the phone. My parents have had the same phone number for 35 years. Growing up, anyone could have called that number and reached either of my parents, myself or my brother. That was the number to call us on. Period. End of story. And while there were certainly some disadvantages to this approach... busy signals (pre-call-waiting), messages not being delivered, people listening in on extensions... there was also a solid sense of "identity". You could leave a message there and someone in the family would get it. If it was urgent, someone could try other ways to reach the person - or could provide info about where the person was.

Fast forward to today... mobile phones are ubiquitous and traditional "landlines" are being shed at a rapid pace. As today's mobile-phone-using college generation starts to buy homes, will any of them actually bother with a landline? What's the point? The mobile phone lets you receive your calls wherever you are. No more messages that aren't communicated to you by a family member... no more busy signals because your sibling is on the phone...

Personally, I wouldn't invest in the landline biz... sure, many of those who have them in their houses today will keep them until you pry the handset out of their cold, dead fingers... but that's a market that's capped. And many of us who have them may move... if I can eventually figure out a solution for fax and 911, I'll probably cut the cord, too.

But let's think about that in terms of "family identity":

  • Mobile numbers are individual - Each person has a mobile phone. Mom, dad, brother, sister... everyone has their own phone with their own number. For families who have "cut the cord", how do you just leave a message for the family? Say you want to invite them over for dinner... how do you just leave a general message? You can't... you have to call one of the individuals. Or maybe you call a couple. (Or maybe you just text them all.) It's no longer simple.

  • Mobile phones are less reliable - Your ability to reach the family members assumes, of course, that their mobile phones are reachable. Batteries die and need to be recharged. Phones are lost. Someone is traveling in an area with bad coverage (recall that I live in the wireless backwater known as the United States). Voicemail messages may not be delivered in a timely fashion. None of these were generally issues with traditional landlines.

  • Mobile phone numbers change - How many mobile phone numbers have you had in the last, say, five years? Some of you may still have the same numbers, but odds are most of you reading this have gone through several numbers. Either because you switch carriers and cannot move your number... or it's just too much of a pain in the neck and it's just easier to get a new one. Or you wanted that shiny new phone that another carrier had and so you wound up with two mobile phones? Regardless of the reason, there is more churn in mobile numbers. Anyone seriously think they'll have the same mobile phone number for 35 years?

So in a world without home landlines, how do you reach "the Yorks"? Sure, you could set up a "family number" through an abstraction layer like Google Voice that would ring all family phones... but how many people are actually going to do this?


Do I even need to discuss it? When was the last time any of you reading this wrote an actual "letter" to someone and mailed it in the postal service? When is the last time you received a personal letter?

Messages are sent online... either through "e-mail" or IM or increasingly through services like Facebook, etc. And all of those media have the same issues as mobile phones: they are almost always individual, they are less reliable, they change.

Gone are the days of the sending a letter to "The Yorks". Now you have to cc a bunch of email addresses and hope they all get there... or rely on someone in the family to send it to everyone.

(And sure, some of us, myself included, still engage in this quaint, anachronistic custom of sending "Christmas cards" to a family, but even there I've increasingly seen friends and family reciprocating with "e-cards"... that time is probably limited, too.)


Is "family identity" dead in our brave new online world of 2009? Does it matter? Are we better of with the convenience we have today and the ways we have to connect as individuals?

I don't know the answer. Maybe it doesn't matter. Maybe it does. Maybe it's just another aspect of the changing fabric of our society where we don't yet understand the full ramifications as we continue our evolution into the cloud... Part of me feels like we are losing something... but the pattern isn't fully clear.

What do you think?

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Speaking tomorrow night at Keene Public Library: "The Big Disconnect - How Communication Is Changing All Around Us"

UPDATE: Just confirmed that the start time is 7:00pm versus 6, which is what I thought it was, but I was writing my post based on info on the library's web site. ;-)

If you are in the area of Keene, NH, tomorrow night, Monday, April 13, 2009, you are welcome to swing by the Keene Public Library at 6pm7:00pm to hear me speak on: "The Big Disconnect - How Communication Is Changing All Around Us" where I'll be talking about who the ways we communicate and the tools we are use are changing... basically the topics I write about here, over at, in my FIR reports and essentially in most of the other places I write. The full abstract of the talk is below.

This whole thing started off innocently enough. Another parent at my daughter's school knew about the kinds of things I do and asked if I would be willing to talk to the library board (on which she sits) about changes in communication technology. They are apparently doing some long-range planning over these next few months and she thought my input would be helpful. My first response was (and still is) to suggest they talk to my neighbor and long-time Keene resident Jon Udell who has, among other things, created the LibraryLookup Bookmarklet Generator. She appreciated that info but continued to also want me to talk to the board.

Given that this is the kind of presentation that I do on an ongoing basis anyway, I agreed. Then somewhere along the way it seems the library board morphed this into a public presentation... when she asked me for a headshot and bio for flyers, well, I knew it was getting a bit bigger... ;-)

Ah, well... it didn't and doesn't matter to me. If I'm speaking to five people or 20 and private or public, it should be a good conversation regardless. Having this presentation has also been helpful in that it has helped me synthesize some points that I'd been thinking about for some time into a more coherent form.

So at this point it's a public event to which anyone can go. If you find yourself in Keene tomorrow night, feel free to stop by. Here's the abstract of the talk:

Is the future of our inter-personal communication a 'tweet'? Are we going to become 'friends' with everyone through sites like Facebook? What are all these 'feeds' people are talking about? And what is going on with all these e-books?

We are living in a time of great change both in terms of the technologies and tools we use to communicate but also in terms of the changes those technologies are making to the fabric of our society. Traditional media outlets are under severe stress. Newspapers are folding or stuggling. Television audiences are fragmenting and moving online. Radio empires are collapsing. Email is dying under the weight of spam. Landlines are being cut in favor of mobile phones. In the midst of all this change, people are sharing details of their lives in social networks like Facebook and MySpace. They are 'tweeting' with Twitter. They are posting video to YouTube. They are collaborating using documents 'in the cloud'. They are networking on LinkedIn. They are blogging and podcasting. They are sharing and creating information in so many new forms and ways.

In this talk, communication technology expert Dan York will discuss these trends and technologies and look at how both the ways in which we communicate are changing as the underlying technology changes. What is fueling those trends? How are people changing the way they consume information? What does it mean for each of us as we blur the contexts in which we interact with people? What are both the challenges and opportunities for organizations and businesses? What are some of the societal impacts? What about privacy? (Or is there such a thing?) And how can people most appropriately participate? Come with your questions and join in the conversation about how communication is changing all around us.

P.S. I don't know that I'm entirely comfortable with the label "communication technology expert". I suppose some people may consider me that, and I have been working with online communication networks and tools for pretty much 25 years at this point... but from my perspective the more you know, the more you know you don't know...

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Speaking at OSCON 09 in July about building a corporate blog portal with WordPress MU

OSCON 2009 As I noted today over on the Voxeo Talks blog, I'l be speaking out at this year's O'Reilly Open Source Convention OSCON on the topic of "Building A Corporate Blog Portal Using WordPress MU". I'll be talking about the challenges and lessons learned while building using WordPress MU, much of which I've documented over on the "Behind The Blog" weblog.

In my Voxeo Talks post, I included the abstract. I'm looking forward to passing along what we've learned and helping others build blog portals on top of WPMU. The more who use WPMU for such portals, the better we'll wind up making the software in the end.

If you are planning to be out at OSCON, please do stop by and say hello.

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Have you looked at the Twitter Fan Wiki lately? Amazing number of tools...

239F0ED3-565A-4A5B-8B96-F77D463A8AB2.jpgWow! Have you looked at the Twitter Fan Wiki lately? It is at:

I wound up there late last week for some reason and realized that it had been many months since I had visited the page... what an incredible number of apps built around Twitter! There is no official "count" that I could see, but dumping the page source to a file and grepping for <li> in the relevant part of the file gave a count of close to 700 listings.

If you haven't taken a look at this view of the Twitter ecosystem lately, it's worth a look. (And if you are looking for topics for your blog, you could just start at the top reviewing Twitter apps and you'd have no end of things to writing about...)

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