Archive for November 22nd, 2003

BU Halfway House – Best Deal in Town


Want to stay in the
heart of historic Boston, in a $300 a night room in a brand new four-star
hotel for just $24 bucks a night? Forget about Priceline and
No way will you find a deal like this on Roomsaver or Expedia. The only
place to go is to that wonderland of creative budgeting – Boston University.

For years the Dowbrigade has had to put up with poor students complaining
that the water in the swimming pool at the Cambridge Hyatt was too cold,
or that the Playboy channel was not amoung the 186 choices at the Holiday
Inn in toney Brookline. This year the spendthrift administration ($3
million to get Dan Goldin to go away) has
outdone itself yet again, renting out an entire floor of the brand new
Commonwelath Hotel overlooking iconic Fenway Park in Kenmore Square for
overflow housing.

The hotel web site desctibes it thusly:

Commonwealth Avenue. One of the world’s most celebrated grand boulevards,
with a life of elegance, splendor and tradition. This is the experience
that awaits you at Hotel Commonwealth – a newly created independent hotel
that combines the style, service and comfort of a bygone era, with the
amenities and features of the new millennium. The historic mansions,
the stylish shops of Boston’s Back Bay, the world famous universities
and medical institutions – they are the essence of Life on Comm Ave.
And Hotel Commonwealth is ideally located at the center of it all. Discover
Life on Comm Ave. Welcome to Hotel Commonwealth.

Overflow undergraduates paying the standard $5930 dormitory fees (for
250 nights works out to $23.80 a night) are placed indefinitely in $300
per night rooms. The resident advisor gets a suite.  In theory eventually
dormitory attrition via drop-outs, falling-outs, and off-campus moves will
free up enough rooms to move them back onto campus. Meanwhile, careul with
that mini-bar, Princess.

”At first it sounded too good to be true,” says August, sitting in
his second-floor room overlooking Fenway Park. ”There had to be some
sort of drawback. I was half expecting to find I’d looked up the wrong

In fact, as August soon discovered, he was one of 93 BU students — all
but six of them freshmen — who’d been assigned to two floors of the
posh hotel, which opened last year a few blocks from the BU campus. Rooms
usually go for $200 to $300 a night, with commensurate amenities. The
location could hardly be more ideal, since the Kenmore MBTA stop practically
empties into the hotel lobby.

from the Boston Globe

We Have Seen the Future – On Channel Z


The Dowbrigade has seen the future of blogging – and
it is on Channel
. This past Thursday night, Dave Winer demoed
his next-generation web-log authoring and managing solution, which has
a working title of
"Channel Z" (access via Radio).

Channel Z has the capability to change the way people create blogs,
and how they use them. At its heart is an outliner-based composition
interface seamlessly integrated into a flexible, powerful and painless
categorization system which allows you to find, access, link and display
the content you have created in multiple creative and innovative ways.

As you create in the outliner, you can integrate digital objects like
pictures, links, files and sounds.  You can organize hierarchically,
with headers and subheaders, and instantly move tree branches to other
parts of the trunk. You can arrange the content chronologically, thematically,
by urgency, or however else you want.  Best of all, with a single
click you can instantly place each entry or item in a category, or in
multiple categories.

This happens via a convenient pull-down menu listing all of your categories
(super-easy to create as many as you need) and sub-categories. By tagging
content with multiple categories you make it accessible as part of various
data sets, display formats, and linking schemes. The possibilities are
limitless and will optimally reflect the way each user arranges information
in their mind.

Dave is still exploring how this new tool for creating and managing
a blog can make it a more engaging and accessible window on
a bloggers world, and justifiable so.  You can watch the Alpha implementation
of this sweet suite taking form on We are blown away by
the blog-management stuff and can’t wait to get our
baby.  But
for the Dowbrigade, personally, the most mind-blowing aspect of the new
is its potential as the core of a content management system.

For a while now we have been using the content-management analogy to
explain blogs to a whole sub-set of people who find the traditional image
of blogs as on-line diaries repulsively exhibitionist. A blog, we explain,
is just a super-simple, browser-based content management system. You
can use it to store, organize and serve up all sorts of digital and intellectual
items: stories and notes, sound files and articles you come across, research
and work-in-progress, art and images, links and lists, email and snail-mail
letters, Word and Excel documents. You can decide what, if anything,
you want accessible to the public or to your trusted associates.  And
it will all always be there, accessible from any computer in the world
with an internet connection.

For many people the light goes on when they think of it this way. Perhaps
this organizational aspect of blogging is especially useful to the organizationally-challenged,
like your apologetic correspondent.  Be that as it may, the new
information management capabilities of Channel Z are astounding and
revolutionary. Let us try to explain how.

For quite some time we have been wary of outliners in general, as being
typical of top-down, hierarchical thinking in general. The rigidity of
hierarchies seemed to us typical of what we though of as Unix-think,
a directory/sub-directory world-view endemic among programmers and one
of the barriers between them and the people who would actually be using
A world-view
which, in our decidedly analog opinion, made it more rather than less
difficult to "think outside the box".

But the outliner at the heart of Channel Z is a flexible organizer which
is most notable for its ability to create links BETWEEN widely separate
and disparate branches of the overall tree, and find and trace relations
between information streams which would otherwise not be obviously connected.
The ability to create, change, add and shuffle levels and categories
myriad new ways of organizing and accessing the content, whatever and
wherever it is.

The more we though about it, the more we realized that the inherent
hierarchical nature of outlines is dictated only by the two-dimensionality
of the displays we use to interact with them.  Furthermore, we decided
that this tendency to view information two-dimensionally is a transitory
aberration in the evolution of human information processing.

Think about it. The external world our nervous systems have evolved
to experience is thoroughly three-dimensional. All of our senses are
programmed to process data in three dimensions. Think surround sound.
Even taste
and smell (perhaps especially taste and smell) are so multi-dimensional
that attempts to reduce them to binary data streams have proven difficult
if not impossible.

This whole two-dimensional world-view took off relatively recently,
in evolutionary terms, with the invention of paper and painting and picture
tubes. it has become so much the standard way to acquire and manipulate
information that we take it for granted that it is natural and inevitable.
Nothing could be further from the truth.

Considering recent advances in three-dimesional display technology,
I suspect that the two-dimensional mania is a blip on the radar-screen
of human consciousness, and a formative epoch which is drawing to an
end. The ability to cross-categorize and connect disparate branches of
the information tree make Channel Z a true three-dimensional tool for
content management.  As this is much closer to the way our brains
were designed to think, we can’t but see it as a huge advance in making
the virtual world an integral adjunct to our cognitive apparatus.

Its going to take some time to unlearn the two-dimensional way of thinking
and learn to use new tools like Channel Z. We suspect that even Dave
can’t imagine what some people are going to do with his latest creation.  But
as we are sure he realizes, that’s the fun part. Stay tuned…

Un-Natural Nightlights


genetically engineered pet appears to have arrived. In a development
that is likely to inspire both fascination and alarm, a Texas company
said yesterday that it would soon start selling a genetically
engineered aquarium fish that glows in the dark.

The GloFish, as it is called, is a zebra fish containing a gene from a
sea coral that makes the fish bright red under normal light and fluorescent
under ultraviolet light. Zebra fish, about an inch and a half long, are
normally silver and black.

from the New York Times