Saturday, July 11, 2009

Connecting networks across borders

Today I decided to mix the InterNations network with twitter, let's see if the seed sprouts:

The purpose of this is as obvious and simple as it is limited - to enable InterNations people to find each other on twitter, and to make InterNations a little bit more visible on twitter. Can't be all bad, can it?

InterNations is a pretty amazing network with local chapters in lots of cities around the globe, but it is facing an ongoing discussion on how to relate to existing and possibly competing networks. My spirit, coming from the Gnosjö area, is simple - be great at what you do, and be open and friendly to everyone else. Isolationism doesn't work.

Sometimes people as for my email, or my blog, or my flickr page, and I am a little confused everytime. What do you mean? Google me? Use "unclecj" as my nickname if you're lazy. I do keep some sort of list of where I have my profiles on different networks, but it is poorly updated so finding one service through the other or google are more reliable.

I am not kidding when I say that I am almost everywhere. It's great when the networks lower the threshold for people to get hooked by turning the signup the right way around for example by using cookies, allowing you to claim the account later, or using either of Google Friend Connect, Facebook Connect, Yahoo! OpenID, Windows Live ID or just OpenID. Asking someone to sign up is a huge threshold, if you manage a network you have to deal with that. Knowing this, I disregard the threshold and allow myself to create accounts everywhere, but I am not an average user...

So, to not make this a lenghty post - see you on the internets, anywhere!

(PS. If you're interested in seeing more of InterNations, it's an invite only network, but I can get you in, just drop me a line with your email address)

Monday, July 06, 2009

Laulupidu - if you really like shoving (a brief study of human herd behaviour)

This weekend I attended the traditional Estonian Song Festival. As other times when I have been at the song- or dance-festivals, it's an amazing experience, partly because of the truly adorable and beautiful traditional costumes, songs etc., but of course also because it's not every day you get to be one of 80 000 people in a crowd watching another 26 000 people in a "choir" (this has to be considered something like a "meta-choir" by then I think).

Actually, Estonians sometimes say it is the world's largest choir, which is pretty far from true. The record is roughly 100 000 in the Indian city of Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, and before that there was a 72-year-standing record of 60 000 in Wroclaw, Poland.

For a nerd who don't know much Estonian and who is easily distracted though, it easily turns into an improvised exploration of herd behaviour. Like when I figured I would go exploring for some precious šašlõkk (it took roughly an hour, I dropped half of it but at least I had fun) and it started raining. Obviously I was not the only one to get an uncomfortable panopticon feeling of "where could I escape?" when everyone else pulled on their rain-ponchos. It was even a bit funny how the american girl remarked something about "getting separated in cattle wagons like in the holocaust". Anyway, it all ended when found what seemed like a very determined person to follow in the slipstream of.

As anyone who has played OpenTTD will know, congestion avoidance is more complicated than just enabling huge throughput. The new Lauluväljak bathrooms may according to this have been a clever example of engineering, or a somewhat functional mistake, depending on how you view it - visitors in need were squeezed both in and out through a tiny door just where all sinks were, into a huge space of urinals of which more than 50% were unoccupied.

Similarly, essentially all of the lawn in the slope of the song-festival grounds was full, but still large amounts of people were squeezing themselves into the corridors between sectors, usually to end up standing along the sides (the corridors of course fit only a fraction of the people already sitting on the lawn) or slowly shoving themselves through to the other side - and it's a pretty large area to cross! Some... even had baby-strollers with them.

I can't imagine why not more is done to make this magnificent event into something more comfortable, safe and child-friendly. It's nothing a bunch of MOJO, some admittance estimates and some good guidelines couldn't fix. It pains my nerd heart. The ever-present irony of congestion is of course how throughput radically decreases when a link is overloaded.

Check out my pictures tagged laulupidu, or this excellent slideshow below of interesting public pictures tagged with laulupidu (my friend Steve also has cool pictures on Facebook - here's of the parade too):

(PS. So that patriotic Estonians won't locate and beat me up - I do not actually think crowd control is more fascinating than the Laulupidu, it just makes more sense for me to write about)