Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Head Nods - Toli Turns One

The toli turns one year old today... Hence some anniversary musings and some head nods...

"The 15 people for whom I'm famous are a very diverse lot and pull me in lots of directions."

"Koranteng is also a little bit nuts, which is appealing." - The Guv'nor

"I should probably only listen to one voice at a time."

"I'm all about the synthesis; I welcome the cacophony." - Tessa Lau

"novel-length diatribes" - Sam Ruby?

"Koranteng provides an explanation, a, er, interesting powerpoint and further links." - David Lobb

"novella length efforts" - Mr Feinberg

"on the written page you are so ... prolific .. that it's sometimes a bit overwhelming" - Justin

"verbose is the word... 'you need an editor' is the comment" - self

"you are obviously interested in writing... I guess writers are a different breed and have to satisify their muses" - Aaron Reed

"We need an emoticon that represents 'nod in agreement'." - JP Morgenthal

Toli Turns One

So I started posting toli at this location a year ago and it has been quite a trip. Some statistics: 115 posts, a little over 2 a week although I've picked up the pace of late to make up for that 2 month existential crisis. 37 pieces on technology toli, 29 on musical toli, 26 on African toli (although one post covered the ground of 15 lengthy posts), 24 on political toli (although this was mostly tangential, I'm not normally overtly political), 20 on literary toli (literature has been scarce of late, something that should be remedied), the rest has been a miscellany of toli of life, whimsy and more including 12 on life in Cambridge which have been very heartfelt. If you add everything up you'll recognize that I very seldom write monographs and, even when I do, I bring a lot of other perspectives to the table.

The archetypal toli intervention consists of snap judgement, changing the frame, case studies and arguments by analogy. When weaving these strands together, I tend to play with which aspects I emphasize and of late it has been more fun to go with the satirical parables to make my points. Sadly I've become more verbose and perhaps this is because I haven't been submitting to the discipline of an editor or a deadline. I'll try to remedy that and aim for shorter cuts; I do realize you don't have to explore absolutely every angle of a thing. As I've been told, you can easily verge into "that stream of consciousness effect and Proust" (thanks for that polite intervention by the way Justin). Also I might play with the layout of the blog to make things a little more approachable.

If I go by del.icio.us, it's the rich web application trail that first drew people and my writing on technology and its effects continues to tickle a certain audience perhaps because it's a little different from the norm. The music intrigues a few; if you vibe with Abbey Lincoln, cook with Rokia Traoré and are musically obsessed, you will strike a chord. Cross-posting at blogcritics also brought an audience my way.

A surprise to me is that per Furl, the most viewed post is about a blanket of soul, a post which actually got no feedback. A little disconcerting but that is ranked by views; by contrast the most bookmarked at Furl are what I expected the Gmail and DHTML architecture bit, my 3rd State of the DOM address (everything is better in version 3.0) and Cultural Sensitivity in Technology which I'm quite proud of. I wish Blogger would give some statistics so I could do some metrics.

[update] I had mislabelled some posts... It turns out that the most viewed post by far, according to Furl, is Merlene Ottey - Ageless Wonder, in which I confessed a crush on that Jamaican regal goddess of athletics which just goes to show that sex sells. Or perhaps it's a commentary about those who use Furl.

I do love music and have a stack of reviews and playlists to share and I'll be sure to repeat the Toli Music Awards in a few months.

Next most popular per Furl is that visual introduction to Ghana. That, I can understand: a photo essay is easier to digest than the 10,000 word rant it was meant to augment although that latter post has been a manifesto of sorts for those interested in Africa and the journalistic impulse. Thus the writings on Africa also tend to be very popular. The travel journalism and the more heartfelt personal writing also gain some kudos from some corners. On the whole though, most of my writing has struck a chord with someone, somewhere and, to the extent that I get feedback in whatever forum, that is a real pleasure.

Of course, I was writing long before this blog, it's a hobby that clears my mind as I mull things over. Writing feeds my curiousity and inquisitiveness. It informs my outlook on life. Still it could be said that I had previously been hoarding my jaundiced prose out of some sense of timidity. You really want to be ready before the scrutiny of others turns on you, just ask Howard Dean about premature exposure of inchoate thinking. Even though the web isn't quite like a political campaign, there's still a leap you have to take to start to engage the world and think aloud in public conversation which is what this blog has been about. A year later, I'm glad I joined the conversation.


Head Nods

If you've interacted with me in the past few months, in person, by phone, instant messaging or email, and apart from the one withering email, the conversation would have inevitably turned to head nods. I've been in such an elated mood of late that I'm all about reaching out and making connections and, when doing that, I nod my head.

I like head nods. I find that we don't do enough of them. Head nods, like hugs, give strength and comfort. These are strange days, full of heartache and the incongruous, the whole world needs some nod heads. There's even a song and dance about head nods that I'll relate at the end of this post. It turns out also that my last appreciation post was a long time ago, about Martin Geddes whose Telepocalypse is still end-to-end perfection.

In no particular order then, here are some long-overdue head nods.

I'm in such a prolific phase right now that I'm a little scared I'll burn out. Working through code, designs and architecture is easy these days, and writing of all sorts is pouring out of me. Indeed my cup runneth over with product ideas, book proposals and the like. You could do worse than grab me for half an hour and pick my brain on any subject matter. Curiously, one of the reasons for this tsunami of creativity is a little matter of a chair, thus I'll start with a head nod to the folks at Humanscale who designed the Freedom Chair that I bought as my birthday present to myself this year (I wonder if the name was an allusion to Freedom Fries). It's the most expensive purchase I've made in a long while (I'm quite frugal) and given how much I paid, I've convinced myself it's worth it. Let me shill: "the chair has transformed my life". Seriously, it happens to be the most comfortable place in my wretched bachelor pad (more comfortable even than the bed or those utilitarian prison futons). Thus you'll find me on it at 5 am and late at night; visitors are surprised that I sit in the chair when I greet them. I'm sure there are other reasons for the creative spark but the chair deserves a head nod.


To Justin Grunau, a great friend, linguist, book lover, ardent opinion-monger, technologist and prolific writer - also a late adopter to blog/wiki/social bookmarking world, but my goodness slow down. You're my sanity preservation lifejacket. And those zingers: "Is Charlie Brown fantasizing this time or did Lucy really let him kick the football for the first time in 30 years?"

To Monsieur Feinberg, dogeared Liquid Preller, duct tape wielder and "polish plumber" of technology. You've been adopted into the toli family, bro. I want to hear the sound of Floot Loops.

To the ever-insightful James Governor, keep instigating at Redmonk, maybe you'll get the good guys at these companies to stop the madness and "think about the children", those long-forgotten users. Sidenote: why is there so much testosterone in the technology industry? Even that disaster named Carly was all testosterone and no substance, why is that? It's all warlike rhetoric. Can't we all just get along? We need to get out of Deadwood. By the way you never did say whether you minded being called The Guv'nor of Redmonk, the cockneyism is intended as a term of endearment but not everyone likes name calling. I don't want my toli to be perceived like Dubya's: always giving nicknames... Anyway head nod at you, Guv. Oh and yes Maggie Thatcher deserves a savaging too and I will oblige eventually but how's this gotcha for a start.

To Tessa Lau, fellow pragmatist and skilled artisan of the Dark Matter of Technology. The IBM tribe has a gem in your Glue-layer Leadership and Unbridled Excellence (GLUE), machine-learning bravado and structure-infering hackery. I should stop gushing but I won't, I'd rather tilt my head askew and nod. Keep leading the way.

To Uche Ogbuji, I was reading something from your blog to The Girlfriend and she couldn't tell what you wrote apart from my writing. "You guys are so similar." She worries that when we eventually meet, we'll have a fatal personality clash because the shared aesthetic and interests seem too good to be true. And I will review Common at some point even though you did it all for me. A technology, Okayplayer, West-African immigrant head nod to you.

To James Fallows, many thanks for the head nod and encouragement, it came at a most opportune time. I'll be keeping my mid-Atlantic toli going and will strive to continue to "deftly walk the technology/culture line". We should talk about Kente, Guinea Fowl, and Grasscutter (Akrantie) and your time in Busia's Ghana (I too have tales about Bolgatanga). Did you know that Ghanaians won't eat imported chicken these days? We should also talk technology. I was reading one of your Techno-files pieces in The Times (from a few months ago, I'm so behind), Finally, Sisyphus, There's Help for those Internet Forms, I thought you'd appreciate my take on these things: the folktales, B-movies, coinages and thoughts on bleach.

To Jackie Malone who got me to moonlight at Inside Lotus (which I've sadly been neglecting) and whose encouragement, enthusiasm and kind words about my writing were so liberating. I'm still working on the pitch for IBM Press, O'Reilly and Wired. And yes I do need an editor. I hope you're enjoying your retirement. As you know, I love tomorrow.

To Jon Udell, I'm enjoying this great conversation we're participating in on technology and its effects. From the big picture to the little things that matter, you lay it out with clarity and verve. Let's do dinner at some point when you pass round this way. A head nod from the back of the bus.

To Hanna Russo, Rob Weir and Margaret O'Connell, my Axis of Empathy throughout my professional career. The best-kept secrets at Lotus, glad to see you blowing up IBM Software Group, God knows it needs some manhole explosions.

To Ethan Zuckerman, so much to say. Well we'll be having our beers shortly... Thanks for prompting the Chris Lydon connection. My heart's in Accra too. A head nod from North Kaneshie.

To Sam Ruby, you atomic radical simplifier you, a head nod: +1

To the powerful Richard Schwartz, let's do this crypto thing.

To James Snell: REST By Example. A Show Me The Code head nod to you.

To Mark Pilgrim, your groove made me start this blogging toli. I'm sure I'm not the first to ask, but how about diving back into blogs now that the skunkworks of monkeyed grease is done? The Unloved HTML button and other Folktales is only an African version of your Headers and soul.

To Martin Romano now at Bowstreet, the unsung hero of Bleached Unobtrusive DOM Scripting (BUDS) and many other theatrics from Freelance Graphics, to eSuite to K-station, who built rich web applications before they were called bleach. I still have the emails where the visions were laid out and will publish them for historians of technology to ponder prescience and innovation. I stand on your broad shoulders and nod my head to you. Regards to Sue and the baby.

To Chis Anderson, the Long Tail is where it's wired. I was very flattered about you calling this joint "deep but beautifully written". I don't quite know about the "clearly a genius of some sort" characterization; that's a hard standard to live up to, but I'll take all the praise I get, "of some sort" being the operative phrase. Oh, and I'll be laying "The Pitch" on you at the end of the year if my writing keeps on track.

To Noel Weichbrodt, a Barely Legal Programmer, I appreciate what you do and with style. Plus you hipped me to Cobb thus an Afro head nod to you. And with The Wife blogging hmmm, watch out.

To Sokari Ekine, Paa Kwesi Imbeah, Kenya Hudson, Akinyi Arunga, Bubu, Ory, Kwasi, Afromusing and all the others writing about Africa. The sound of your voices gives me great comfort.

To all my friends at Lotus who have made work mostly a matter of play from GPG to eSuite, to K-station to WebSphere Portal to ODC to Forms to Workplace and beyond. Elena, Chris, Lily, Ping, Willie, Angela, Adam, Joyce, Paul, MaryEllen, Bill, Mary, Eric, Asima and the list goes on and let's not forget Theresa who didn't make it but who lives on for all of us. You've all been a source of strength and learning, it continues to be a pleasure. When I recount to others that my experience of software development with you has one of collaboration with historians, linguists, dancers, physicists, musicians, artists and only the rare computer scientist many can't fathom that I am talking about the same profession. And that's the point, good software engineers are not fungible. It will be 10 years at Lotus/IBM on Sunday and I'm proud of what we've built. I hope we can stand up and take credit for our achievements and continue pushing collaboration, communities and ultimately, cool and usable software. We are fighting the Good Fight Against Technical Arteriosclerosis ©, unthinking careerism, the Boltons of the world and rank bureaucracy because we recognize the primacy of those who who use our products.
I am no one's "find". I was raised by a village called Lotus.

To some of my ever quotable fellow travellers in technology pragmatism: Coté, Reginald Braithwaite-Lee, Bill de hóra, Ryan Tomayko, Les Orchard, Mark Baker, Bob Haugen, Robert Sayre, David Lobb, Phil Wainewright, Adam Bosworth, JP Morganthal and others, Rest well and nod your heads.

A belated head nod to the View Sourcerer in Chief, Joe Gregorio. I point everyone to the RESTful web you're weaving.

To T.V. Raman, Mark Birbeck and Aaron Reed, the XForms dream draws nearer... I'll stay on the case. A distilled pattern head nod to you.

To my latest IBM connections... Dale Schultz, I'm with you in the fight against the curse of the ampersand, the hyphenated parable, the mangling of euro symbols or Rokia Traoré, a globalized head nod to you. Chris Ferris, rant on you standards natterer you, Bill Higgins, grassroots pragmatism is the thing, let's do this and David Singer, I'm with you.

On a personal note, to Sozi and Meriel who are Philly bound, you are a few of my favourite things. A cheese-steak laden head nod to you.

To "Ennis", it's so hard to believe you're not Ghanaian. And deconstructing politics and strange bedfellows like you do is a rare skill. I'm digging Sepia Mutiny. Have some waatche and a head nod on me.

To Frances who brought my voice back. See you in the building. Lights Out.

To the two Mikes, forever nodding.

To Kukua, Kweku, Ebo, Zai, Kobi, Rita, Dela, Sanyade, Russ and the rest of London crew, you've got soul.

To the Boston crew, as Digable Planets said last week, "Beantown is Red Hot".

To the French crew, on dit quoi?

To the two Brians, Stout and Sangudi, friends who keep me on the straight and narrow. Two head nods apiece.

To my family, I revel in the joy of small things and our still waters do indeed run deep. I hope my toli lets you know what I get up to when I forget to call.

And to my favourite Historian of Science who will be joining me in matrimony, a loving head nod. I'm so excited to no longer be Mr Flinchy. Bitter Roots was great accomplishment, next stop Oprah's Book Club, West Nile Blues, Atomic Junction and Berkeley next year. I can't wait.

And finally a big head nod to all who I haven't mentioned, the Readers Of The Lost Toli. It seems there are over 100 of you in Bloglines. Extrapolating a little, Bloglines is said to have 40% of the aggregator market share, that means that perhaps 250 people have been tolerating my meandering musings. That is well over the 15 I had expected. Heck, Blogshares even values this joint at $6,807.57, maybe I'll cash in and buy myself some Schnapps. Thank you all for pulling me in the directions you do, and helping me find my voice. I'll try to be more focused in the future, and briefer. Head nods all around.

Nod Your Head To This

And for the obligatory musical coda...

One of my favourite songs is Nod your Head to This by the Kings of Swing (full lyrics).

There was a dance that we used to do to this song in London clubs circa 1990-91, which was something like the tilted heads in Michael Jackson's Thriller video crossed with the robot in Herbie Hancock's Rockit joint if you can imagine such a thing. Picture if you will a dancefloor having a case of collective hip-hop epilepsy. Fire up your file-shaing app and download, this is yet another track in the long tail of music that record companies are ignoring...
And Yes, I'm Comin Fully Charged,
Equipped And Packed
To Make Your Head Bob And Weave
And Swing Forth And Back
It's Like A Tyson Bout
And This Is Main Event
And I'm Electrifyin The Minds
Of All The Ladies And Gents
Cold Swingin Things
The Way It's Supposed To Be
To Make You Nod Your Head,
Yo, Simultaneously
To A Groove That Makes You Move
And Keeps You In Sync
Just Like You're Tappin Your Feet,
Yo, You Do Not Think
About What You're Doin,
But You Can't Resist
The Kings Of Swing Is In The House,
And Hey Yo, Nod Your Head To This

Nod Your Head To This
Nod Your Head To This

It Sounds Funky

me sleepy head nod

Nod Your Head To This
Nod Your Head To This

My Toli Sounds Funky

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Anonymous said...

I believe that the items you attribute to James Snell are actually the work of Joe Gregorio?

Koranteng said...

You're right in that I omitted Joe (which will be rectified in short order)...

"REST by Example (TM)" will be all James however if I haven't spilled the beans too early. I was indeed alluding to that shared aesthetic with Joe's Show Me The Code initiative. They are both View Sourcerers and SHMECs.

And Joe, a head nod of awe...

Anonymous said...

I'm nodding, I'm nodding. It IS funky, I can hear it.


Anonymous said...

yo backatcha koranteng. great pick me up for today. and you have given me a rather splendid idea. see my post later.

how could i mind "guvnor" - i live in London. i have no desire to feel insulted by every cabbie in the city. ergo i am not insulted by guv... ;-)

what do i say to my wife, and she to me? "honest, guv"