Tag Archives: Podcasts

Daddy, where did the Internet come from?

I’m a big fan of podcasts. As a podcaster myself, you might expect me to say that. I know many people are not fans, and that’s OK – it’s a matter of taste, I think. For me, it’s convenient to be able to get information while I’m driving, or travelling via some other means or doing something else which makes reading difficult. I like some of the insight that comes out through deeper discussion of a topic, or even from the interaction of several people in a conversation, which you typically don’t get from a written post which is likely to be from one point of view. Audio can take more concentration than reading text, of course, and is difficult to scan, so I can understand objections – like I said, it’s a matter of taste. For me, podcasts need to be interesting, and ideally they need to be short (45 mins max) and easy to consume[1].

One particular podcast series which I came across recently (via epredator) is an excellent series of short pieces from the Open University – it’s called The Internet at 40 (iTunes link). It looks at the origins of the Internet and then covers a series of interviews with some of the pioneers like Vint Cerf and Tim Berners-Lee as well as less well-known people like Donald Davies and Ray Tomlinson. It’s mostly delivered in nice bite-sized 5-15 minute chunks, with only the first piece lasting longer than 20 minutes, and even then, that’s a compelling listen.

Ever wanted to know how this thing called the Internet evolved? I found it fascinating to listen to Donald Davies talking about the genesis of TCP/IP – I’d always understood it at a general level, but hearing these guys discuss the original thinking behind some of the fundamental concepts was really cool. As both an historian and a techie, it was great to listen and see my two worlds collide. Recommended.

[1] the one exception I make to the 45-minute rule are the shows from TWiTMacBreak Weekly and net@night are regular subscriptions, and the latter in particular is great for making new online discoveries. If you have the stamina for something a little longer, the TWiT network has some great shows.

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Plazes on /Talkshow

Looks like Plazes will be featuring on Stowe Boyd’s/Talkshow on Thursday. I’ll try to tune in live, but if I can’t, I’ll definitely be picking up the podcast later.

Social network capacity

I’m just listening to this week’s /Talkshow, which features Leisa Reichelt talking to Stowe Boyd. I’ve been following Leisa’s blog Disambiguity since I came across her Ambient Intimacy concept, and been following her Twitters. One of those instances where social networking tools have produced a worthwhile strand of interest.

— wiggly flashback sequence —

A few months ago I was driving home from Hursley and listening to Radio 4’s comedy programme The Ape That Got Lucky (now out on CD! also available on iTunes). I actually only caught a single episode – the second one in the series – Social Development.

There’s a section of the programme (about 7m 20s in) where they discuss the limits of the size of crowds and tribes. It is obviously a comedy, so it is presented in a humorous manner, but I found the discussion quite intriguing. The idea is that tribes used to expand in size to around 80-120 in number, but that was as large as they ever got… and even today, our brains are configured to cope with around the same number of people as acquaintances as our primitive ancestors were. Today we live in “super tribes” in cities, but we still have a limit to the number of people we can cope with… so now we break our networks into smaller tribes: associating with clubs, countries, cities and so on.

I immediately began to think about social networks. How many acquaintances can I reasonably keep track of?

— end flashback —

This same concept – the Dunbar constant of 150 – comes up in /Talkshow (about 9m in)… do the new social networking tools allow us to stretch the number? Can we keep up with more people?

My Sametime list at work probably has a few hundred people in it, but I still only regularly keep in touch with around 10 people via IM. If I look around at my online presences, I have the same groups of people in my lists on Last.FM, Twitter, Dopplr and other networks – and the sizes of those lists are relatively limited – so I probably do keep up with some people better. I think I would find it difficult to keep up with more than around 150, and certainly “intimately”. I’m increasingly relying on the ability to annotate contacts in my IM list to remember where I met them, what I know them for… a sure sign that my brain is running out of capacity for remembering things!

I’m fairly sure that the Dunbar number does apply to social software. I’m loving the network I have, but this week I started to reject people on LinkedIn and remove some people from Twitter as I couldn’t take in all the information – it was becoming noise, or I didn’t feel I’d be able to maintain the relationship well enough. The challenge is that I don’t want to allow this to prevent me from reaching out to new people in the future. I need to start trimming the list of feeds I read, for instance, to make room for new ones.

I’ve mentioned before that social networking tools have enabled me to enrich my physical network. I come back to the point that it is important to maintain a network, and develop it, through meetings in person where possible… dovetailing neatly into the fact that I’m getting together with Al Wood this evening, thanks to some monkchips-originated winedrinking, and subsequent blogging and Twittering 🙂

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