An essential guide to fostering online community

· Applications, Best Practices, Design, Development, Information Architecture, long story short, Patterns, Social Design, User Experience

[Building Social Web Application book cover]Building Social Web Applications
by Gavin Bell
O’Reilly (October, 2009)

Gavin Bell draws on his extensive experience to offer a well structured guide to adding community elements to a website or application. His book will help any professional planning a social strategy, designing a set of social features, determining the types of relationships to foster among users, and even determining how best to manage change in an existing site or online structure.

Bell covers a wide gamut of issues that a site planner will need to consider, from developing the data schema for people, relationships, and objects; to how best to expose APIs to third-party developers; to the process of rolling out a new product or feature. Anyone developing a social website or app should keep this book handy throughout the process.

Bell and I share a publisher and our titles cover some similar issues. When I first picked up Bell’s finished book I gritted my teeth with envy. As I quickly devoured the book, though, I was relieved (or, at least I convinced myself) that our books are complementary and are each useful in their own way.

If you’re looking for one book to guide you through the entire process, from conception to launch and into the life of a social web application, then this is the book for you.

(via Christian Crumlish “mediajunkie’s review of Building Social Web Applications”.)

Richard Fleming's Walking to Guantanamo: A closely observed true thing

· long story short

Walking to Guantanamo
by Richard Fleming
Commons (Oct 1, 2008)

I loved this book from start to finish. Fleming is a charming and self-deprecating travel companion: the best kind. His pictorial eye strives to transmit clear, unfiltered images and as his readers we make up our own minds about the pros of cons of hitchhiking across Cuba. Fleming’s wit makes it one of the more enjoyable learning experiences I could imagine, and the people, birds, religions, and politics of the island now mean something to me in a way they never had before, something that refuses to accept a black or white view of the world. Fleming shares his open lens with us and reveals the small truths of human interactions.

A+++++++++ WOULD BUY AGAIN!!!!

(via Christian Crumlish “mediajunkie’s review of Walking to Guantanamo.)

When it comes to thinking, bigger really is better

· Music

cover of Think Big ManifestoMichael Port, author of a number of bestselling sales-guru business books, has now come out with a pocket volume called The Think Big Manifesto: Think You Can’t Change Your Life (and the World?) Think Again.
I like the arresting graphic design of the book (a publicist sent me an advance copy) but was somewhat wary of the bold marketing language on the wrapper. Still, I found on opening the book that I was drawn in by the author’s cool, knowing style and I prepared myself to be convinced.
I started reading the book, nodding my head: I agreed with just about everything I read. The prose voice is somewhat breathless, though, and I had trouble staying focused on the book’s flow. As brief as it is, I noticed myself skimming ahead to the summarizing statements.
I found myself agreeing with all of the specific advice in the book and wondering whether I can (or do) actually follow it myself. What most of it comes down to is daring to think big and avoiding the doubts and negativity and small thinking that can so often hold us back.
I like this kind of thing, though I am also wary of it. That is, I want self-help, breakthrough, artistic and entrepreneurial leaps, but I have also seen a lot of snake oil and easy answers in my day. So it’s love/hate with this type of thing for me, and sometimes I adore it (The Power of Now, The War of Art, Money & the Meaning of Life) and other times it doesn’t stick.
For all of the books of this ilk I’ve devoured, where are my masterpieces, my killer apps? I’m still waiting to see if this one will take.

I'm interviewing Nicholas Meriwether

· Music

Over on the Well, in the public Inkwell topic, I’m interviewing my pal Nick Meriwether about his new book, All Graceful Instruments: The Contexts of the Grateful Dead, a scholarly work looking at the Dead phenomenon from a variety of perspectives.
You can submit questions to this interview by mailing them to inkwell AT well DOT com.

This doesn't surprise me

· Music

Quoting from More Alan Furst Blogging:

More Alan Furst blogging, this time from Unqualified Offerings:

Unqualified Offerings: Henry Farrell got me into a to-do for novelist Alan Furst at GWU this evening. The food was fabulous and the author did not disappoint. Controversial GWU President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg did the introduction, and it was good – the kind of informed appreciation a writer can get, if lucky, from a very smart fan. See previous Furst-blogging on this site and current Furst-blogging from Brad DeLong. Furst read a few pages from The Foreign Correspondent, which will be out in time for Father’s Day – 2006. I have to say, the excerpt completely hooked me…

Now excuse me while I turn green with envy.

If anything I’d expect to see more discussion of Alan Furst in blogs. He’s an incredible writer and as good as Patrick O’Brian is at conjuring up a different time in all its nuances. Now that I’ve read all his books I’m always impatient for the next one, and other supposedly similar writers out there (not naming any names) don’t quite scratch the same itch.