Tuesday, August 30, 2005

C'mon. This wouldn't be the space-station you're looking for.

This, on the other hand is nicely camouflaged. And with suspicious heat vents at the pole.
The Oil Drum interesting blog. (Via. John Robb)

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Dave you're being a bit racist here. Gotta call you out :-)

Doesn't Google have a service where they answer questions? What would happen if you paid them money for these answers?
What I said about Tim OReilly accepting money from the SEOs.

(In the comments)


+1 for the negative externality comment above.

Also, isn't accepting search engine optimization ads the same as accepting money for flyposting? Essentially, you're taking money for pasting adverts on someone else's (Google's) property. (That's why your "mere arbitrage" defence doesn't work.)

I'm surprised by the number of people who think this is Google's problem and responsibility to fix. It's not normally an argument in defence of flyposting that the problem belongs to the person who's fence gets flyposted.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Just Letters - A browser based multi-user Flash game

Genius!
Oh, yeah. By the way. I was 36 yesterday. I guess its time to grow up and be sensible. :-(

Good news, Gisel gave me one of those little MP3 player / recorder things. So hopefully the next podcast will come from that ;-)

Friday, August 19, 2005

BBC, master of understatement. "That may sound reckless, but President Bush's Middle East policies could never be described as cautious.

BBC NEWS | Middle East | Jordan fears loss of US favour
I HATE Java. It's all fucking sysadmin!!

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Apollo not Dionysus, Marx not Spengler, Gandhi not Jesus!

Happy not sad, chatty not mute! Celebrate, don't mourn! Fertility, not necro-fashion!


Momus vs. fashion goths
Grumpy Old Programmer on globalization
Grumpy Old Programmer on The Colour of the Wheel
Tucked away in an obscure corner BBC news :

BBC NEWS | Americas | Brazil rally urges Lula to resign

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Organic Warfare seems an interesting blog.
The story of Jean Charles de Menezes is getting very weird. If this is right it's an extraordinary cock-up.

Update. My God! According to The Times :


SCOTLAND YARD made “a series of catastrophic errors” that led to armed officers hunting the July 21 bombers shooting dead an innocent Brazilian, it was claimed last night.

Leaked witness statements from officers who took part in the botched operation reveal that Jean Charles de Menezes was restrained by one of Scotland Yard’s surveillance team before being shot eight times as he sat on a Tube train.

Documents and photographs from the Independent Police Complaints Commission investigation also reveal that one of the undercover team meant to be identifying the shot man was relieving himself as Mr de Menezes left his flat on July 22, so could not tell if they had traced Hussain Osman, one of the alleged bombers. It is also suggested that Mr de Menezes could have been taken alive.

Sir Ian Blair, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, will come under pressure to explain how a sophisticated police operation went so badly wrong.

An ITV News investigation claims that when Mr de Menezes, 27, was challenged by police on the Northern Line train at Stockwell he did not make any aggressive move. Police claims at the time that the electrician was “behaving erratically” are alleged to be false.

The blunders began as Mr de Menezes emerged from his flat in Tulse Hill in South London at 9.30am. The undercover officer who was meant to identify anyone leaving the flats admitted that he had left his post, so could not communicate observations or take video footage.

His advice was, “It would be worth someone else having a look”, to ensure that they had the right man. No other officer apparently took a picture of him, although Mr de Menezes had to take a bus to the station. Even so, Gold Command at Scotland Yard, which ran this operation, declared a “code red” and handed responsibility to CO19 — the firearms team.

This armed team had been given photographs of alleged bombers, yet no one realised that Mr de Menezes bore no resemblance to them. The report states that the firearms unit had been told that “unusual tactics” might be required and if they “were deployed to intercept a subject and there was an opportunity to challenge, but if the subject was non-compliant, a critical shot may be taken”.

CCTV footage shows that Mr de Menezes was wearing a thin denim jacket that could not conceal a bomb, and he was not carrying a bag. Far from running from police, he did not realise that anyone was following him and even picked up a free newspaper before using his season ticket to pass through the barrier. He began to run only when he saw his train pull into the station. At the time of the shooting, Scotland Yard said that Mr de Menezes’s “clothing and his behaviour at the station added to their suspicions”. It was only when Mr de Menezes boarded the train that a surveillance officer guided four armed police into the same carriage.

A man sitting opposite him is quoted as saying: “Within a few seconds I saw a man coming into the double doors to my left. He was pointing a small, black handgun towards a person sitting opposite me.

“He pointed the gun at the right hand side of the man’s head. The gun was within 12 inches of the man’s head when the first shot was fired.”

The report reveals that one of the surveillance team grabbed Mr de Menezes before he was shot. “I grabbed the male in the denim jacket by wrapping both my arms around his torso, pinning his arms to his side,” a statement says.

“I then pushed him back on to the seat where he had been previously sitting . . . I heard a gunshot very close to my left ear and was dragged away on to the floor of the carriage.”

Last night Harriet Wistrich, lawyer for the dead man’s family, said that there were still “far more questions than answers” about police conduct. The family called for a full inquiry.
Fun anti - Intelligent Design animations.

A reducibly complex mousetrap
So, a little bit after Ron kicked off Sanctuarian podcasting, I've started too.

Shouts to Sanctuarians is going to be a regular podcast, recorded Saturday mornings to coincide with Sanctuary breakfasts (although due to time differences will actually be somewhat later).

It will also be an excuse to try to get you to listen to music I like.

This first one is pretty horrible in terms of sound quality, mumbling and not getting to the point. But I'll be getting better and more focused, promise.

I'm experimenting with Dave Winer's new OPML Editor, which is where the podcast RSS etc. is being hosted. If this doesn't go well I may move it. Will keep you posted on this blog as to where it is.

If you don't want to go there or subscribe to the XML feed this is the direct link to the mp3

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

The internet is not a bunch of computers. It's not a technology. It's a language. It can be spoken anywhere.
I don't get this. If Microsoft tried to patent something Apple were already using, why is this Apple's fault for not getting to the patent office on time rather than the patent office's fault for not noticing the prior art?

Apple, Microsoft duel over iPod patent
OK. The BBC comes through with a quick summary.

BBC NEWS | Americas | Brazilians rally to support Lula
The IMF point out that Iraq's an economic basket-case. And then dole out the usual, off-the-peg advice :

Separately, the IMF said the restructuring of state banks and other state-owned businesses - with a view to "reducing the role of the state" - was essential for Iraq to create the conditions for sustainable growth.

"Further steps to strengthen financial management in the public sector, diversify revenues and the economy more generally, and enhance governance will also be important," the IMF said.

The organisation stressed the need for Iraq to reach fresh agreement with creditors on rescheduling its debt.


BBC NEWS | Business | IMF warning over Iraq's recovery
Back in January I was surprised when William Lind wrote :
Most interestingly, as the next few months will likely show, the state is fracturing in Israel, a modern, Westernized country. That is how Fourth Generation war works: it pulls the state apart at the moral level. Soon, just as Arab is fighting Arab, Jew will be fighting Jew.

Didn't see it myself. Today, however ...

Wow! G A P M I N D E R is pretty cool. This animated graph is particularly interesting.
The BBC doesn't do all that good a job covering Brazil. There's a huge political crisis here due to the corruption scandal. Today there's a massive protest planned against corruption, but in support of the PT government.

Tomorrow, there's an anti-corruption, anti-PT protest planned which is likely to be even larger. Lot's of political groups are getting together for this.

Last night I recorded two hours of interview with Hilan and Edgardo to try to get the whole story including context like Lula's background and the history of the PT.

Still haven't got everything on the scandal, but I'll try to get it up soon. Hope the BBC will say something about all this soon.
Dan Bricklin interviews Tim OReilly (on mp3). Tim's pretty inspiring here.
Steve Gillmore : If the goal is to make RSS simpler (remember, it's called Really Simple Syndication), then why have different names for it? OK, we have this cool thing called RSS, but it's complicated. Let's create a different version, call it something different, change the graphics to, let's see, 10 random implementations, and then attack it for being needlessly confusing.

The RSS crisis

Monday, August 15, 2005

John Robb : Funny how when the pressure on Iran needs to increase, new data is "found" by the intrepid reporters at a major publication

John Robb's Weblog
ThoughtStorms is shut!

I dunno. I just got kind of tired of seeing nothing but spam and spam rollbacks (thanks as always RichardP) while I was away in the UK. Haven't turned against publicly writable wiki. But, I'm just a bit stale. Will open it in a bit when I think the spammers have lost interest. If you have a burning desire to contribute, complain in the blogger comments here.

Meanwhile, thankfully the Friday evening lectures last week got cancelled, so first lecture of the semester : "advanced programming" starts in about 3 hours.

Finished recording my first podcast on Saturday. My God! I make a horrible clicking noise with my mouth when I'm deciding what to say. Spent about an hour editing all these out. Ums and ers, I don't mind - although there's a frighteningly large number of them - but these were just nausiating.

Now thinking about how I'm going to create the RSS feed and accompanying HTML page. Tempted to use Dave Winer's new OPML editor which I'm sure must be optimised to produce lists of podcasts. Just need to read the documentation ...
"We set out to establish a democracy, but we're slowly realizing we will have some form of Islamic republic," said another U.S. official familiar with policymaking from the beginning, who like some others interviewed would speak candidly only on the condition of anonymity. "That process is being repeated all over."

U.S. Lowers Sights On What Can Be Achieved in Iraq

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Dave Winer asks why people are investing money in Podcasting. What's the business model?

That's a return to one of the really interesting questions raised time and again by the rise of the internet and the subsequent investment bubble : what's the relation between importance and market value?

This question is usually obscured by a sequence of reactions the market takes to an idea, whether it's podcasting, RSS, blogging, the internet, the personal computer etc. etc. :

1) What?

2) So what? (There's no business model, nothing for us here)

3) Hmmm. This is gonna be big!

4) Gimme some of that. How much do you want?

5) Hey! I never made any money. You fraudsters!

The problem is between steps 3 and 4. By definition markets are information processing engines. They claim for themselves a kind of cognitive ability to learn, to take in information, to process it, and to make rational decisions based on this information.

Markets rightly see they can't make money (step 2) and assume that there's nothing to the idea. But the people involved can see that something's going on.

At this point, there's a kind of cognitive dissonance. We can see this is going to be big. So we assume that the market must be able to learn and reason about it. Unfortunately, the market's way of representing information, which is very clever, flexible and powerful is nevertheless limited. Markets can process any information which can be represented in the form of tradable property. But conversely, they can't reason about, and can barely see, things which can't be represented that way.

As people see the importance of the new idea, they naturally try to find ways of packaging for consumption in the market. That, they hope, will make them wealthy. In doing so, we hope the market gets to learn about and understand the idea sufficiently to know what to do with it, particularly tell us how important it is, relative to everything else.

But this is The Age of Amateurs, and more and more things are becoming recognisably important without being captured by the market.

That's one of the things that makes them good. The markets tends to try to rationalise and commoditise things. What's recognise by traders is not the full multifaceted idea, but a simulcrum, a few perceptual cues which can trigger the right response in the buyers. In doing so, ideas which have been understood and engaged by the market end up drained of their richer complexity. The products of the age of amateurs are spiky and gnarly. Over complex, unfit for the consumer. But alive with possibility and novelty.

The absurdity of the internet bubble was a symptom of frustration due to the dissonance between the obvious real importance of the internet phenomena and the inability of the market to get any recognisable hold on it. This frustration is echoed repeatedly with blogging, free software, wiki, podcasting. How do you commoditise free?

Podcasting, like blogging, the internet and the personal computer transcends the market. Sure the market makes it happen, but it's essence is not bound by it.
Richard Stallman makes a point I hadn't noticed before about Blair's deportation strategy.

Nobody should be deported to a country where he faces a sentence issued by a trial in absentia. If that country wants to ask for extradition, and makes a credible promise of a new (and fair) trial, then the request deserves to be considered normally.

2005: May - August Political Notes - Richard Stallman

Friday, August 12, 2005

Ever wanted to feel good about your malandros tendencies? Social physics to the rescue.

He found that "super daters", people who have many short relationships, have a good effect on others' lives.

This is because they break up weak couples, forcing their victims to find better relationships.


BBC NEWS | Physics enlisted to help singles

Compare (and contrast) Paul Graham (2005) with Phil Jones (from around 2001 onwards)

(Not a diss. Graham's written a good essay.)
Could this be India's Braveheart?
BBC NEWS | Americas | Experts 'decipher' Inca strings
Thought Thieves - Home

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Ron is on a roll.
Joel Spolsky finds interesting data on student programming times.

Joel on Software - Hitting the High Notes
Rup3rt, a knowledge management specialist, gets to grips with nagative knowledge.

KnowAngel ? Conhecimento negativo
Monbiot good on Climate change at the G8.

Otherwise, they will cross their fingers and place their faith in a series of techno-fixes, some of which work, and some of which cause more problems than they solve. They will study the potential of "clean coal", which so far remains an oxymoron, and accelerate the burial of carbon dioxide, which might or might not stay where it's put. They will promote "carbon offsets" (you pay someone else to annul your sins by planting trees or building hydroelectric dams), which have so far been a disastrous failure. They will encourage the development of hydrogen fuel cells, which do not produce energy but use it, and the production of biofuels, which will set up a competition for arable land between cars and people, exacerbating the famines that climate change is likely to cause. Not bad for six months of negotiations.

Guardian Unlimited | Faced with this crisis
I'm baaack!!

Just back in Brasilia from a month where I did a lot of catching up, hanging out with, and talking with friends, mainly in Brighton but some other places. The upshot is I'm kind of fizzing and overloaded with ideas and stuff I want to do. Which is dangerous because I have to get down and prepare for a heavy teaching load from tomorrow.

Nevertheless, had some great and inspiring chats and I hope to say something about some of these things soon. Meanwhile thanks to Aharon, Ben, Berkan, Daniel, Darius, Graham, John, Oli, Ron, Rup3rt and, of course, my mother. Sorry to Steve, Adrian and everyone that I didn't manage to catch up with.

Large themes (beyond the fact that London got bombed the day I arrived and the UK government has lost the plot) :

Podcasting is big. Ron has already dived in with Aural Contraception which starts with recordings from the ThoughtStormz mini "symposium" we held on geek and audio tools, and is now going on to discuss Time Tourism. Major big-up to Ron for doing recording and getting this symposium mp3ified and hosted. Thanks to Berkan for hosting it and putting me up, too.

Rup3rt has some recordings on his blog. I am definitely starting soon (at the weekend phil, NOT before preparing your first lessons for tomorrow night! - super-ego) I have some music I wanna play ya and probably a lot of explaining to do.

Second theme, Optimaes is coming back. Excitement in my inbox this morning, Matthias Fischmann is thinking of using it to model reputation economics. Meanwhile Darius and I have been talking about some more simulations of collective action problems which will almost certainly start with the code. Once I've got into the teaching, I'll be getting into this.

Aaarghhh. Stop this. Back to work

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Here's something interesting. Bush only narrowly got his new free trade agreement through. Meanwhile the Chinese are scared-off buying a US oil company.

Is economic liberalism in retreat in the US? And if so, who'll benefit? I suspect the isolationist, protectionist conservatives. How do we respond?
Aharon asks the questions others shy away from.