Friday, December 28, 2007

Ah ... so the world economic crisis is already hurting the UK.
Damn! BldgBlog is so good. Now I remember why I don't read it.

I can't cope with something this awesome in such high doses ...

Update : and I certainly can't handle another architecture blog

And robot grace
CSS Textwrap is clever
Things don't look good for Pakistan
Been commenting on the future of Microsoft and the home "device swarm" over at Gaping Void today. (Scroll down)

Then Adrian revived the subject in comments on Smart Disorganized.

"Device Swarm" joins "Yasn-as-platform" as a convenient label.

Update : and some posts at platform wars

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Why do people keep saying this stuff?

UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown has condemned the killers of Pakistan opposition leader Benazir Bhutto as "cowards afraid of democracy".

It was a "tragic hour" for Pakistan but terrorists must not be allowed to "win there, here or anywhere", he added.

Earlier, Foreign Secretary David Miliband called the apparent suicide bombing a "senseless attack".

Seriously, it's kind of embarrassing, isn't it? The Bhutto assassination is very sad for her family and probably heralds a lot of trouble. Bhutto was meant to be a popular secular politician who could bolster Musharraf in the forthcoming elections. Now, her supporters are accusing Musharraf of deliberate negligence if not active involvement, and worry that he'll call off the elections.

If he does, attempts by the West to build a proverbial shining democratic beacon in Pakistan go into remission. If he doesn't, who is likely to win? Will the secular groups spend so much time quarreling with each other that more fundamentalist Islamic groups benefit?

Whatever. The assassination was undoubtedly the work of careful planning and concerted effort by groups who had a definite goal of what they want to happen as a result of this. Do these political speeches give any indication that the politicians really have a grasp on the situation here? Do we really think that the people who killed Bhutto were "cowards"? Or "afraid" of democracy (rather than just out to sabotage it)? Or that the act was "senseless"?

How can you win any kind of fight, when you keep insisting to yourself and everyone else that the enemy is "irrational" and acting without motive or strategy? Just for once I'd like to hear a politician get up and say "Damn! We were beaten this time. Better pull our socks up before the next round." Just for once I'd like to imagine a media who wouldn't dive in and punish such an admission as a "gaffe" and start a witch-hunt against the offending politician.
CrowdSpirit crowdsources hardware development.

(hat tip 4h4r0n)
I'm fascinated by

Look at all the Dance Dance mats (including football), video glasses, PC cameras, etc.

Update: USB gloves?

Update 2 : USB incense burner, Flipping Book!
Nostalgia ... my first computer!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

US city sues UK defence company for bribery. Bravo!
For various reasons, I've never been very happy with my MPhil thesis. Looking back on it now, I tend to feel that it had lot of interesting ideas and ambition, but wasn't really a very good bit of scientific research.

That's partly because "Artificial Life" (or any kind of computer modeling) lives in a gray area between science and "philosophy". It's not quite "science" in the sense at looking at evidence from the world. Yet seems more than "conceptual analysis". It's fun to surf between the two very different worlds with their different requirements and notions of rigour, but easy to fall into the trap of doing neither well. (Especially for me, in those days. :-) )

Nevertheless, that's not the reason that the thesis wasn't online. It was because I only had it in Postscript format which is not all that common outside academia. But now, thanks to I have it available as a PDF.

Quite an impressive online conversion given that there were some horribly heavy bitmap diagrams in there. That first blank page was there in the original postscript. Not the fault of the conversion.
Added BldgBlog and OrangeCone to my "following" blogroll. BldgBlog is so darned good and I never remember to read it regularly. Now, I hope I will.

Update : OrangeCone just linked a Midified Roombas video

Update 2 : And this is even more fun. Roomba controlled by MacBook accelerometers.

Thinking about that for a second. One interesting thing you see repeatedly is the transformation of a recording technology into a user interface : for example, vinyl records used to be a music storage device. Then DJs discovered scratching and turned them into a manipulable instrument. Now you can even hook turntables up to a computer and use one record as an interface to scratch an entirely unrelated MP3.

Pen and paper is likely going the same way with tablets and Livescribes etc. (And arguably the typewriter became the computer keyboard and printer)

Now here's a guy turning a laptop into an input device for a robot. Daft? Sure. Any dafter than scratching records?

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas, happy new year and all that ... back soon

Monday, December 24, 2007

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Have to say I'm liking my blogs more and more now we have keyword tagging.

I know Blogger was late with this feature, but I'm starting to find that it changes how I think about my blogs. I feel far more confident writing for the "long term" in the blog. In the past I considered ThoughtStorms for anything long lived, and blogs for the ephemeral. These days, really ephemeral stuff goes on Twitter. I'll use blogs for quite serious essays and more focussed stuff. And while ThoughtStorms is meant to be for the longer term stuff, it has, of course, got quite out of date.

I may be revisiting what I said over on ThoughtStorms:WikiLog referencing Bill Seitz, and in many debates with Chris Dent and Eugene Eric Kim.

Briefly I've been saying that you can't merge wikis (which have semantically meaningful "pagenames" as their addresses) with blogs (which have semantically meaningless dates as their addresses) or "purpled" paragraphs (which have semantically meaningless codes) as their addresses, because working in wiki requires the fluent link-making that semantically meaningful pagenames give you and you don't have.

Well, I still think that's kind of true ... but it's also damned useful to have ways of bringing together stuff that you've put on wikis and blogs. (And twitter). Perhaps we can't dismiss the attempts to produce hybrids so easily.

Maybe tagging can help. After all tagging doesn't give a unique ID, but tags are a) semantically meaningful, and b) exist in both worlds (on blogs, and as "CategoryCategory") in wiki.

Update : Interesting to see Chris Dent experimenting with something new.
Human Slinky
I'm grabbing some free-as-in-beer samples from Zenhiser.

Writing that statement on intellectual property has really got me thinking over the last week or so. I need to write a lot more about that.

I also need to write about another thing that's come up that's pretty disturbing. But neither are 1 minute blog-posts, so will have to come back to them later.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Interesting presentation on commodotization in IT.
I shouldn't be, but I'm mildly irritated by this discussion.

So I should stop feeling irritated and make a point. Guess I'm just a hardcore fundamentalist on this issue : People have no moral rights over information just because they happen to be the ones who created it.

As far as I'm concerned, everything I create (software, music, writing) you may take and change (or not), republish anywhere with or without attribution - not because I'm very decently giving these rights to you (I am, categorically not offering them), but because they were never mine to bestow or deny in the first place.

Again : in my mind, I never had any moral rights over the works after they were produced, and you never had any moral responsibilities to consult me about what you do with them.

Actually there is one obvious inconsistency with my behaviour. I release my software under the GPL which relies on copyright restrictions to protect freedom from those who may be tempted to take the work I produced and close it. This is a purely pragmatic move. I regard the existence of copyright law which underpins the GPL as unfortunate, and I would far rather that it didn't exist and that there was no need for a GPL. But, as it does, I will try to use it pragmatically to a) enhance freedom and b) draw attention to the issue.

Also I guess there is another area where I do recognise some moral rights. That is if you take something I created and distort it in such a way as to deliberately mislead people about what I said. If, for example, you took this blog-post, changed some of the words to make it sound like I was in favour of restrictions of freedom, then I feel I would have moral reasons for complaint.

We can, perhaps, give an "exculpation" to the photographer who's feelings were hurt. But we should never grant her "reason" or accept some line like "oh, it would have been OK if they'd asked permission, that's what they ought to have done, that would have been the right thing to do, it's a question of respect". This tacitly accepts a whole framework of "creators' rights" over information that we should be resisting.

But yeah, I'm a fundamentalist ... :-)

Update : Burning Bird is right about some of the sexism though.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Great! World famine ahead :-(
Talented Friend Watch #8 : Tulio Borges on MySpace
Crayon Physics is beautiful

Update : downloaded the original demo, and yep, it's wonderful.
As part of my ongoing project to get more of my music online :

La Mer Remixes

(The stunning scenery and costumes are, of course, by Gisel)

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Lambda the Ultimate : Idioms for Composing Games with EToys

my emphasis
BTW : there already seems to be a ... but not in use.

I'll start reading "Composing Thoughts" though.
OK, here's a short essay I've been writing on Jacques Attali's "Noise" and particularly what he calls "composing". It wasn't written for this blog, so the style may sound a bit odd.

However, it does explain the new name and header graphic.

Attali takes a look at the "political economy" of music and makes the bold claim that music "heralds" or prefigures new "codes" (modes of organization) of political / economic life. The claim is explained (reasonably, I think) by appealing that music has, for the historical period Attali discusses, tended to be far more "virtual" or less material than other trades. Hence, if a new economic code is starting to become available, the musician is less weighed down by physical paraphernalia from adopting it.

Undoubtedly Attali's thesis is open to debate. But there are several aspects I find compelling. Of particular interest is the short, final chapter in which he tries to diagnose the future from the musical developments of his times. (The late 70s.) In this chapter, Attali foresees a code he calls "composing" in which a break is made with the preceding epoch of mechanical (mass) reproduction of music. "Composing" is a, perhaps utopian, vision of a code wherein music ceases to be based on an economic division of labour between musician and audience, but is made by individuals for purposes of self-expression. Attali took "free jazz" as an indicator of this. An area where he also saw a rebellion of musicians against studios, record labels and any other intermediaries that provided the economic context for musical production.

Surveying his times, Attali also noted "there is a resurgence in the production of popular music using traditional instruments, which are handmade by the musicians themselves - a resurgence of music for immediate enjoyment ... music is no longer made to be represented or stockpiled, but for participation in collective play, in an ongoing quest for new, immediate communication, without ritual and always unstable"

He was not wholly deterministic in his historicism. The utopia could be waylaid. He worried : "should we read this emergence as the herald of a liberation from exchange value, or only of the emplacement of a new trap for music and its consumers, that of automanipulation? The answer to these questions, I think, depends on the radicality of the experiment. Inducing people to compose using predefined instruments cannot lead to a mode of production different from that authorized by those instruments"

People must create their own instruments to create their own music. Not all new technologies are emancipatory. His fear is embodied by a kind of karaoke : recorded "instrumentals" of popular songs for the buyer to sing over. Here is a new product which gives the user a false sense of individual creation and expressivity; it includes the user in the production of music, but keeps the user on the tramlines dictated by the manufacturer.

Had the book been written ten years later, with an eye on the developments in the late 1970s and 1980s, the analysis could perhaps have been impressed by a number of technological and cultural developments; in particular :

- Cheap cassette recorders enabled the first wave of civil disobedience against industrial mass-commercialization of music through "home taping", while allowing listeners to start discovering a more curatorial relationship with music through making their own mix-tapes.

- Hip-hop appropriated the record turntable and converted it into a new musical instrument entirely.

- By the mid-80s, the digital sampler encouraged musicians and non-musicians to treat other musical recordings as a resource to be picked-up, (re)mixed and matched and repurposed. (Often, it should be stressed, while explicitly referencing or "citing" the earlier sources.)

I would argue that sampling (and subsequent repurposings of music, video, electronic equipment etc.) corroborates Attali's predictions of a break-down between musician and (non-musician) audience, and the creation of new instruments - even if not in the way he intended. And it further succeeds in heralding the wider political economic shifts that were to come with the growth of the world-wide web in the succeeding years.

Jazz musicians invent ideas as self-expression, but will then borrow and elaborate on the ideas of their co-performers. "Trading" licks is perhaps a misnomer; the situation is closer to reciprocal gift-giving. The sample-based electronic dance culture that started in the 1980s is similarly concerned with opportunistic borrowings and repurposings of other people's ideas. And, if the musicians sometimes hope to get rich, the scene is nevertheless a teeming, but largely under-funded ecology of pirate radio, underground clubs, indie record labels and MP3 swapping, where most participants are in it for fun. (And a little fame.)

In another passage from the last chapter of Noise, Attali has a fascinating claim. He sees that a new technology is necessary for a new code, and while he still thinks music is premonitory he also imagines that the recording of personal images and a kind of personal "television" is going to be the natural development of "composing". He concludes : "The new instrument thus emerging will find its real usage only in the production, by the consumer himself, of the final object, the movie made from virgin film. The consumer, completing the mutation that began with the tape-recorder and photography, will thus become a producer and will derive at least as much of his satisfaction from the manufacturing process itself as from the object he produces. He will institute the spectacle of himself as the supreme usage."

Unsurprisingly, Attali missed on the technical detail, but the similarity between "institute the spectacle of himself as the supreme usage" and the evolution of the web with millions of blogs and tens of millions of personal home-pages on social networks such as MySpace and Facebook (complete with photo-galleries, embedded video etc.) is striking.

I would like to say that "composing" can be more tightly defined as a combination of these elements :

1) spontaneous creation for the purpose of self-expression (and desire to create, desire to gift, even to show off)

2) opportunistic appropriation and repurposing of these creations as raw material for further creation and further self-expression (compare response videos, parodies on YouTube etc.)

3) making your own instruments (often also via appropriation and repurposing - not only "sampling" other instruments, but hip-hop repurposing the turn-table, “circuit-benders” using other electronics to create new sounds)

4) breaking down the economic distinctions between musician and non-musician / performer and audience / star and fan / zone of production and zone of consumption

Composing should be contrasted with a planned production of music through co-ordinated division of labour, well defined roles and property rights.

This new political-economic mode is, of course, now widely acknowledged and researched under such names as "peer-production" or "the architecture of participation". It is usually associated with the increased visibility of the Free Software movement in the 90s or "blogging" in the 00s (bloggers are great opportunistic "samplers" and "citers" of other online resources). But it is clearly of a continuity with these earlier musical activities.

And looking outward, it is increasingly invading more "serious" parts of the economy. Companies are today exhorted to learn how to turn their customers into co-creators of their products and services. John Hagel and John Seely Brown talk about "Pull Platforms" in which the organization of any kind of production is increasingly driven by the consumer opportunistically pulling products through the manufacturing process. The end game here could be Bruce Sterling's "Spimes" (objects which don't exist until someone decides she wants one.)

However, as the economy shifts in this direction, we also encounter variations on the threat that Attali warns of. The karaoke that produces the appearance of free expression but keeps the audience well within the existing boundaries : simulacra of participation such as "reality" TV that gives the audience a limited voting role and MMORPGs / virtual worlds whose "architecture of participation" is abusive; or similarly cavalier orchestrators of participation like Facebook who encourage you to contribute your social connections only to blatantly resell them to advertisers.

Anyway, that's the rough outline. To re-iterate "composing" is personal production, largely motivated by self-expression, but plugged into a web which makes accessing and appropriating other people's creations easy. That situation occurred with improvised music about 40-50 years ago. with digital sampling about 20 years ago (and so changed the shape of music). It was only 5 - 10 years later in the mid-90s that it started making it's effects felt in software development as Free Software went mainstream. By the 00s it had become a challenge to mainstream media of all kinds (blogs vs. journalists, MySpace, YouTube vs. television, file-sharing vs. pushed distribution channels)

It is coming to the manufacturing of physical stuff too.

Global process networks are getting more flexible; OEMs are flourishing. Johnny Chung Lee demonstrates impressive inventions that can be made at home by repurposing the Wiimote. (Of course this is because more of our stuff is now "software" wrapped around generic computers and input / output devices.)

If those trends continue, and I think they will, we will see more generic building blocks for technology (DIY powertools with multiple drill-bits), more small scale, small run, user pulled, "desktop" manufacturing mash-ups.

All of this is "composing" in Attali's sense ... and that seems to be what this blog is about (and sometimes *doing*) so it's a suitable name
OK ... the reinvention of the blog formerly known as "blahsploitation" continues apace.

I toyed with some crazy names like "Carnival vs. Lent : One man can declare war on the entire world ... and win" and "Carnival vs. Lent : Man's new dialogue with nature" ... before finally opting for the more sober "Composing" and the Gaping Void quote. I've still kept "Carnival's quarrel with Lent" in the header graphic though ...

er ... all this probably doesn't make much sense at the moment, does it?

It will if you've read the final chapter of Jacques Attali's "Noise" or at least, my interpretation of it.

Update : now here

If you missed it : why I decided to change.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Could Iraq finally be recovering? Becoming a success?
Just looking at Twitter going crazy with discussions of Knol ... no idea what it *is* or means yet, but I can't help being reminded yet again ...

This stuff has become our religion ...

Our own pantheon or daemonology. You remember that bit at the end of Neuromancer where Wintermute and all the giant AIs merged or broke up or something and all went off to become Papa Legba and the other Voodoo god-saints?

That happened!

That's exactly how we treat Google and Facebook and Amazon and Microsoft today. They are our daemonology. The supplicate them when we want stuff, and bitch about them when they don't give us what they want. We threaten, idly, to switch our allegience.

But we let them ride us. Put their logos on our t-shirts, let them dictact our file-formats and our work practice and our conversation.

This is another side to the "enchantment" of the world through ubicomp. Omniscient, omnipresent intelligences who we turn to whenever we need to get stuff done.
... name change ...
Yeah, OK, I'm legendarily lazy and disorganized. That's why I only just

a) got some important bureaucracy done today, which I may tell you about soon


b) finally got a copy of the paper I gave at the Wittgenstein Symposium in August up on the web.

It's basically an introduction to Netocracy with hints about tying it in with social network analysis. But not fully developed. Nevertheless, I think it's worth reading if you're interested in knowing more about why I'm a "left netocrat". At least, about the netocrat side. I still have to write my left-wing take on the whole thing.

Oh, and it's in Word ... don't blame me, that's what they asked for ... (oh, all right, blame me then, because I should get round to putting it in HTML and other neutral formats too ... what was that about lazy and disorganized again?)
Great talk by Hans Rosling of GapMinder.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Black is the new ... huh????!!!!

Don't worry, just playing here ... blahsploitation is in transition ... but this isn't what's coming next ... still have to work that out ...

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Yeah! Livescribe looks great! I really hope this isn't going to be vapour-ware.

(hat-tip Kaunda)

Update : reading more about this, it's very much what I want. Way more than a Kindle, or iPhone or some kind of sub-laptop. I'd like to see how good the pattern recognition is, in practice, of course, but I'd be willing write Java(!) to play around with this.

Update 2: But I'm a bit confused ... how exactly is it different from a FLY Pentop? Just marketed at a different age group?

Update 3 : OK, so the difference seems to be the LiveScribe is slimmer, and has some cool applications for recording synchronized sound and writing.
Widgety Goodness
Clearly Black is the new .... well, you know what I mean.



Vista, and even the new Windows Media Player has a kind of black Vista look on the XP machine at work.

You can do it on Ning

Apart from the Microsoft stuff, I guess this is all the fault of Adobe and Flash 9, Flex 3 etc. Or maybe it's because of these shiny "wet-looking" LCD screens on laptops (even I've got one now) where black looks pretty damned good.

Guess *this* is the new style that some people are going to try to associate with "web 3.0". Poor Jason Fried.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Here's a little secret. I don't actually like the name "Blahsploitation".

In general I think I'm pretty good at coming up with or appropriating names for things.

"Platform Wars" is a decent chunk of generic namespace I'm happy to have grabbed. I increasingly like "Smart Disorganized" and even though the original "SdiDesk" sounds clunky it's one of those clunky things that has proved solid enough. (Even if the original pun on CityDesk is lost on people.)

"ThoughtStorms" sounded fantastic when I came up with it as a chapter-title for an unfinished novel I was writing back in around 91. And it proved an extremely felicitous name for a personal wiki. "OPTIMAES", though I say it myself, is a damned fine acronym : saying and sounding everything I want. "Synaesmedia" is beautiful; a classic, even if I don't have quite the right "thing" to hang it on. I am not Synaesmedia. But has ended up as my personal homepage. Hmmm ...

NooRanch is very good as long as you know to pronounce it "noo-o" as in noosphere and not "noo" as in "new" in certain US regional accents.

"GeekWeaver" I like. It's a little bit gangly but captures the idea. And I believe it will grow to fit the programming language I'm working on. Gbloink! ... not sure what I can say ... come on, it works! Interstar was the name of a javascript and dynamic HTML game I wrote back in 1997. It was right for that. How it ended up being my generic email and login nick-name I'm not sure, but it's too comfortable to throw away.

Oh, and I have some real kicking names for a couple of below-the-radar projects I'm working on : names that are exotic, daring, memorable. Names that may make you gasp with surprise and admiration at their sheer reckless, exuberance. ;-)

And then there's "Blahsploitation". Frankly "Blahsploitation" sucks. I find it horrible. I'd never read a blog called Blahsploitation. I wouldn't link to it. Or recommend it to my friends. Ugh!

How the hell did I manage to end up with this name for my main, personal, blog? Do I look like someone who was down with the Blaxploitation revival scene of the early 90s? Do I listen to the theme from Shaft and S'Express's "Superfly Guy" (er, well actually, now you mention it ... NO! )

Really, basically, the answer is "None of the above."

"Blahsploitation" is a really dumb name ... sometime around 2003 I decided to transition my previous blog "BlahBlahWorld" (which *is* quite a good name for a blog, I think) from to Somehow it seemed like I needed a new name, but one which had continuity with the old. "blahsploitation" was all I could think of. But somehow I got stuck with it.

And yet ... is it possible, after 5 years to rename this blog? Obviously the URL is hard to change, but I could get another and forward it. I can change the title as it appears. Can I think of a name which could be better? And yet continuous? Is it starting from scratch? Would people miss the name? Lots of questions. Comments anyone?
This is what Bush should have been doing on 12th September, 2001.
BBC has a slide show of OLPC in use.
Scribe on the future of coding UIs

Personally, I'd love to see a more systemic approach to coding. Perhaps a better sibling to coding is music: both have a number of "threads" interacting over time - both in and of themselves (FOR loop = a snare drum loop), but also with each other (Global scopes = a general 4/4 beat). Shifting between the two, parallel and serial, places an emphasis on the process rather than the output (which, perhaps, is what all coders are really interested in...?)

Yep, I want one of them Reactable thingies. And for all the reasons that Scribe suggests : being able to represent the systems of software in physical manipulable objects.
Facebook Beacon : How it should have been done

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Friday, November 23, 2007

Maybe I could understand Monads. Next year I should make a concerted effort to go deeper into Haskell. And I suppose at some point I must get to grips with LINQ.
Tim Berners Lee unconsciously pinpoints exactly what is wrong with the idea of a Semantic Web.

He thinks Semantics are a kind of "higher-level" of abstraction on top of existing syntactic web-technologies. So, for example, "documents about people" are somehow "higher-level" than mere documents.

But he's got things standing on their head.

"3 oranges" is not an abstraction on top of the number "3". In fact the idea "3" is an abstraction out of all the concrete cases like 3 oranges, 3 apples, 3 Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters etc.

The higher up the levels of abstraction you go, the fewer semantic commitments you make. That's why Alan Kay points out that higher-levels of abstraction are associated with later binding in programming languages. A dynamically typed language like Python only binds names to types at run-time, whereas a more statically bound language like Java binds them at compile time. Hence it's possible to write more generic routines in Python (ones that don't care whether they're working on integers, strings or Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters) than it is in Java.

The greatest "hits" of software : relational databases, spreadsheets, word-processors, blogs etc. are those which provide powerful syntactic abstractions (relational operations, pivot-tables, paragraphs, feeds etc.) while leaving the semantic commitments as late as possible. Usually up to the end-user or some specialist business analyst working in a domain specific language like SQL.

OTOH, often the worst (heaviest, clumsiest, hardest to change, least pleasant to use etc.) software is that which either through necessity or bad design is riddled with premature semantic commitments. Software which tries to bake "customer" in at a fundamental level and assumes "customer" has-one phone-number and has-one web-site, but didn't know that we'll be sending Tweets to customers about the status of their order, and so doesn't know that customers have Twitter ids.

This is the problem with the SemWeb ... it assumes we want applications that start from the semantics. But most of the time, we don't. We want powerful syntactic abstractions over which we layer our own meaning.
Question for libertarians :

1) Libertarian : People who complain about other people earning more than them are stupid - the only thing that matters is whether your absolute wealth goes up. These people are guilty of "zero-sum" thinking!

2) Libertarian : Communism would never work, it's against human nature.

3) Erm ... exhibit 3

Monday, November 19, 2007

Wolfram's Tones is kind of scary.

A plausible cellular automata based music generation system.

Update : yuck! The ugly over-the-top branding going on on this page Wolfram's this, Wolfram's that.

tea in the chapada dos veadeiros

Talented Friend Watch #7 : Men of Focus

Re: Enso ...

John Powers points me at ShiftSpace and its grants.

Interesting ...

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Must ... stop ... watching ... net_work ... on ... Black20.
Here's a sentiment with which I can whole-heartedly agree :

The world needs more gbloinks ...

Indeed it does. My continuing idleness and inability to figure out what language / library / platform to develop for is to blame, as usual. Joe Holmburg has inspired me to look into Processing and I'm starting to think he might be right - although it pains me to write Java.

I'd like to do a new Gbloink! in ActionScript / Flash but, as I think I mentioned, there doesn't seem to be any support for Midi or virtual synths there. (Which I find totally crap, if anyone from Adobe is reading this post!!)

I think Gbloink! would make a perfect Chumby widget and that would justify me buying one.

Ah well ...

Anyway, without that to look forward to, I just want to announce that, for bizarre Jonesian reasons that I may explain in a minute, I just succeeded in copying the Midi module out of Gbloink! (which is VB, after all) into ... ahem ... Excel. And it runs fine in VBA.

Which means, musical spreadsheets ... w00t!!

To quote the immortal words of a Google-luring spam-blog, :

Everyone best black casino jack las slot vegas do this. you angst spreadsheet circus a chess last refreshed a shootout of hours. The genocide nugget wonder expenditure katharine propinquity as the progeny bantu arrowhead ever. It has "reinvented" itself as an successfully late vacation, shopping, entertainment, and best black casino jack las slot vegas destination.

Or rather, what I meant to say, I've decided that my next musical opus is going to be written in Excel - and provisionally code-named "Spreadsheet Circus".

Googling the phrase uncovered the above text, which will act as a kind of heuristical guiding star for the work. (Pull it apart and find lots of interesting imagery of casinos, cards, gambling, shootouts, angst, genocides, bantu arrowheads, slot-machines, spreadsheets, circuses etc. What more could you want in a magnum opus?)

After all, I don't see why it should be only Gisel who gets to do weird, crazy artistic stuff.

Flashing Fiber Stick Vocal Concert Things

Making pens

Of course, this one loses a little bit of the charm of innocence of the whole thing. There's a little bit too much of hard sell about it. And also, buying the blanks, ready made, seems like cheating.

But there's something quite fascinating about it ... I've always like lathes. I understand that sense of "magic" as the shaped thing jumps out of the raw material.
Fascinating and worthwhile read. How prepared is the US for a collapse?
Very cool :

Bargaining with pharmaceutical firms to bring down the price of Aids drugs and producing cheap generic versions has saved Brazil $1bn, a study has shown.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Two Facebook quickies :

1) Just caught myself surfing the videos on friends' FunWalls etc. Ouch! But from this I conclude that social routing of media is viable. Been watching stupid stuff that I probably wouldn't have watched on YouTube, and certainly not on TV.

2) I'm very intrigued by the FriendCircles application. It's the first third-party app. I've seen which effectively lets you define new categories and sub-categories of relationships with people. This is a functionality that Facebook seem to be neglecting but something like FriendCircle could provide, and in doing so, itself become a platform on a platform (and so proceed ad infinitum.)
One of my October 2004 predictions was for more internet polls and compasses.

Now the Political Compass is on Facebook, as are a multitude of self-classification widgets of the "what do you think of these films", "what's your favourite thing to do on a first date" kind of questionnaires.

Polls / compass widgets and YASNS are made for each other. A poll widget is a "feature" not a full "application". And it's essentially social. Having classified yourself, your next instinct is going to be to compare yourself with your friends and to announce your affiliations to them.

Now, what's fascinating about political compasses (eg. the world's smallest political quiz) is that they (at least some of them) have a rhetorical function : to persuade people that more options are available than merely some kind of one-dimensional left-right spectrum.

Effectively that your social beliefs can be detached from your economic beliefs.

What I'm curious about now, is whether it has been effective for this. Or do most people find themselves on the left-liberal or right-conservative quadrants? It would be nice to see the empirical evidence.

And then, what reasons there might be for either result. If there is now an even distribution across the compass, why have people traditionally not seen it? If there isn't, perhaps people have a deeper intuitive understanding of the connection between the economic world and the social which the libertarian misses?

Anyway, what that also reminds me is that there never was another official "predictions" page on ThoughtStorms. But anyone who reads me knows that this year I'm pretty continuously raving about two trends :

a) the break-up of the traditional computer into a swarm of more varied, loosely coupled devices with more specialized, exotic behaviours and interactivity. (I'm, of course, talking about all the Nabaztags and Chumbies and Wii Controllers and Roombas etc.)

b) the break-up of the traditional software-application into a swarm of more varied, loosely coupled widgets.

Both processes are analogous. And enabled by the same underlying patterns. And, I believe, will interact reinforce each other.

In both cases the fragmentation of a monolithic architecture is enabled by a cheaper underlying network to bus the information around. In the case of the desktop computer, that's mainly more ubiquitous Wifi, and secondarily Bluetooth and cheaper packet-switching mobile networks. In the case of the fragmentation of software applications, it's mainly social networks bringing the users and small applications together, and secondarily the open web 2.0 "mashup" interfaces, RSS etc.

Chumby, by accident or design, seems very fortunately placed in both these trends. It will bring socialized widgets outside of the computer : just keep Googling the term "Chumby Facebook news-feed" for a while until the obvious happens.

Which brings us to the other important enabler of the break-up of monolithic architectures. A user-control device. What excites about magic wands (ie. Wii controllers or other sticks with accelerometers that can recognise gestures) is that this is a potential input device to control / co-ordinate the swarm of devices. A mouse or joypad is still focussed on moving a pointer within a 2D space. That's great for the desktop or laptop with one screen, but not once your computer is scattered in 6 different places around your room. Even if they can all potentially talk to each other by Wifi, how do you tell two of them to start doing this now?

This is the problem that a wand solves better than anything else.

Friday, November 16, 2007

This story is, of course, doing the rounds in Brazil.

Has to be said, it's pretty disturbing. Why the hell shouldn't the guy have sex with his bicycle in the privacy of his own hostel room?

I mean, I can see that maybe the hostel owners and other residents may not have been keen. The guy was probably a bloody nuisance. But this is illegal? And cause to be put on some kind of Sex Offenders Register?

The point is, I could perhaps understand Breach of the Peace if this was in public, but it clearly wasn't.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Talented friend watch #6 : the unsinkable Joe Holmberg and Krauschanl!

Update : ah ... here's the link to the downloadable version.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Sunday, November 11, 2007

This is funny.
Light emitting fabrics !!!

Kawaii !!
OK, signed up to the world community grid.
This is something I've been hoping to see ...

some P2P action to fight cancer.
I guess one potentially interesting effect of Facebook "brand profiles" is that maybe companies will write 'bots for brands rather like IRC chat-bots. If you're going to have a "relationship" with a brand it had better be a little bit animated. Could we see a revival of chatbot AI research?
Must work ... but the lure of YouTube surfing is too strong ...

Unicorn vs. Narwhal


Cool ... the School of the Americas Watch tracks and protests US-sponsored terrorism in South and Latin America.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Today's things that rock!

Mouse free interface may have lessons for magic wands.


fast, practical parallelism

Monday, November 05, 2007

So ... I bought my copy of Enso Launcher. Pretty relaxed about it. They deserve.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Trebor Scholz and Paul Hartzog: Toward a critique of the social web via 4h4r0n

Update : As an aside, I'm not entirely sure that I buy the model behind "you should be allowed to take your contribution with you if you want to leave the YASN".

Firstly, many contributions I make in a social environment are necessarily embedded in that environment, and arguably belong to the community as much as me. If I reply to someone else's comment about a blog entry, I'm saying something I'd never have said in a different context, and I think some of the credit does belong to the people who sparked my response.

Furthermore, my comments may be essential context to further downstream replies. There's long been a debate on wikis about whether you should be allowed to delete your contributions, leaving later contributors bereft of context. A similar point may be made. Does a right to "move" from one YASN also imply a right to "remove"?

At the end, doesn't something just "smell wrong" about the idea that "community participation" is something that can be packed up into a suitcase and taken elsewhere? It's still thinking of ideas and writing as if they were kind of property. But imagine someone said "I've lived on this street all my life, always looked out for my neighbours, built a nice little cafe that's become the centre of social life, but now I should have the right to move it to the next town and set it up there." Of course it can't happen. Sure you can move the chairs and tables and signboards and cookers to the next town. But these are secondary. You're never really taking your community contribution with you.

So when it comes to community sites, what are videos and photos and blog-posts and comments? Are they like the restaurant furniture? Or are they like the friendly words that got spent building up the community? Is it possible to take them elsewhere. Is it even "right" to think of them as if they are alienated, portable things rather than as gifts that have been made to the community and now belong to it.

(Not sure yet what *my* answer is to these questions, but I want to raise them.)

Saturday, November 03, 2007

trees, brasilia
Originally uploaded by interstar
After the first rains, red trees are flowering all over Brasilia

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


Chumby is coming and has a bunch of widgets and third parties can write them.

They're in Flash, which is racing to be the client-side virtual machine of choice. (In fact Adobe are really on a roll these days.)

In fact, with things like WiiFlash and Chumby, it looks like Flash is very plausible as a scripting glue to bind together a network of devices and controllers.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Aharon (great to see you blogging mate) pushes back on walled-widget-gardens.

He thinks that the offer of protection from walled-garden platform-venders is up there with the self-serving, false promises of, say, to pick an example at random, George Bush to protect the world from terrorism. You aren't going to need it.

Instead, he's made a pitch at suggesting a genuine federated system within which we could have privacy without the closedness. If I read correctly this could be something like social-routing mixed with encryption and false packets being sent around. So, maybe I exchange some kind of public keys with trusted friends at the beginning, in a kind of P2P alternative to the YASN social network, and their clients can get an encrypted version of my news-feed.

Hmmm .... have to think more about this, I can imagine it's potentially viable ... but it's very different from much of what's being offered at the moment. And certainly nothing like what people are asking for from an "open Facebook" ...

but ...

Monday, October 22, 2007

Nick Carr has a great post on the new internet non-bubble.

Effectively what he says is that where in a post-bubble crash situation, which *should* be producing consolidation among internet players, at cheap prices. But because more investment money is pouring into the market, prices for aquisitions of new "web 2.0" companies are comparatively high.

And this continues to concentrate money in the hands of the few rather than spread it out

Now why should this be? One possibility is that technological evolution is now running so fast that it's outstripped the capacity of financial institutions and the greater economy to "digest" it. Even before the consolidation and greater stability that should accompany post-crash conditions can start to form, even newer ideas and technologies are starting to appear encouraging more competition for who'll dominate in them.

Perhaps, traditionally, the era of stability is an era when technology ceases to matter and labour traditionally provided by human workers, starts to matter more, and this is why the wealth gets spread around, more and more commodity but fixed-labour price services.

Perhaps information technology which genuinely economises of labour puts an end to this?

Alternatively Seth Finkelstein makes a great point that the lack of redistribution may be a lack of political institutions to manage it.

Alternatively again, Tom Lord thinks a boom is due to a lack of innovation.

In fact, I don't know what to think ... but it's great food for thought.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Another quick note : why is facebook full of stupid "poke-me" and "throw food at me" applications?

Because Facebook is fundamentally flawed?

No, because the tutorial application that everyone learns from is "step on your friend" ... poke-mes are all very minor variations on the tutorial.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Couple of update thoughts on YASNS / widgets

1) Yes, of course I'm predicting the triumph of closed platforms because I believe "Netocracy" is coming. (Exclusive networks.) Even if Alexander Bard dismisses Facebook ... it is a herald of netocracy

2) Interesting annecdote about cultural distinctions inside and outside Facebook. When I suggested I might hook up the RecentChanges on ThoughtStorms to have it automatically update Twitter, my friend Scribe immedietely offered to stop following me on Twitter; he didn't want updates automatically generated by programs. That's the differene with FB. If I hooked RecentChanges up to Facebook's news-feed, no-one would bat an eyelid.

3) More widget talk.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Hmmmm .... having scattered conversations all over the place. So maybe it's time for a position statement about the whole widgets and social networks tip I've been on for a couple of months.

First note, when I first saw widgets popping up eg. Konfabulator, on Yahoo and Google etc. I didn't reckon much to them. What's the point of cluttering up nice clean web-pages with heavy, not all that useful, even if pretty, gratuitous little applications? Why not just have them as separate pages and keep a handy bookmark page?

Second note, I was a bit late into social networking, I didn't understand Ryze when I joined it. (Never went back.) I got into Tribe, but mainly for good conversations. No one I knew ever really took to it. Though I met some cool people. Friends did get into LinkedIn after a few years but that was kind of boring.

Never touched MySpace ... especially after it was bought by Murdoch ... and, well, Facebook etc. sort of passed me by ... until I started reading about Facebook opening up to 3rd party developers.

That captured my interest a bit, as a Platform Wars theme. But until I read some stories about the speed at which applications were taking off on Facebook and decided to investigate, I still didn't get it.

Get what?

Well, widgets are not that exciting. And social networks are OK. But what suddenly struck me was that widgets + social networks are a lot more interesting ... from a developer's perspective.

A common criticism of "web 2.0" startups is that they're "features but not businesses". They are often tightly (beautifully) focussed on a single task, but they lack the context and infrastructure that could make a commercially viable unit. They aren't sufficiently compelling to attract customers to set up an account, to migrate their data, or to bring their friends. In a sense, they don't do customer relationship management.

What Facebook's move demonstrated was that it may be the infrastructure substrate on which "features" could have a hope of surviving alone. Social networks already have the user account / customer relationship stuff sorted. All your Facebook widget needs to do is hook into them.

What that means, if you think about it, is that we're banging the rocks together again. It's possible to think of software applications being pulverized into even smaller microchunks than current web-applications.

That's interesting in itself. Smaller, cheaper software tends to have big effects.

And it continues the most important long-term trend in software. At first, computer programs had to do everything for themselves. Then, with the invention of operating systems, much of the handling of input / output and disk management could be delegated to the O/S. On microcomputers, nevertheless, in the 80s, programs still had to handle their own fancy graphics until GUIs became available as a service that your software could tap into.

In the 90s, with the rise of web-based applications, yet more of the complex functionality of software was delegated to standardized services and components. Although we tend not to remark on it, web-apps were distinguished by their handing over storage responsibilities to a relational databases, while the building of complex forms was done by the browser.

Hold that thought ... and let's bring in John Hagel's assertion that companies are unbundling into three different kinds of specialist : those dealing with customer relationships, those dealing with infrastructure management, and those innovating new products. Now remember that, today, there's no real difference between business and IT, or between code and law, or between society and technology. So the evolution of software and the evolution of the business landscape are not merely metaphorical analogies, they are literally the same process. Both operating systems and OEMs are members of the same type : infrastructure outsourcing destinations.

The unbundling that Hagel predicts for business is enabled by, and mirrored in, software. The standardization and specialization in infrastructure continues apace with, say, Amazon's S3 and EC2. Or the recently announced Salesforce Force platform. Or the willingness of some web-companies to make their data-bases available for mashups.

But let's get back to Widgets in social networks. Or what I have started calling the "YASN-as-platform". Here we see the other side of Hagel's unbundling : the separation of product innovation from customer relationship management. What the YASN-as-platform does is make that true in software, it allows the product innovator or feature developer to treat the customer relation infrastructure as yet another service, to be accessed through standard APIs.

Everyone from Microsoft to Yahoo and Google to Facebook, MySpace, etc. are trying to turn the user or customer into a platform, accessable through software. In fact, Amazon, with their usual bluntness about such things have a service called The Mechanical Turk which is about making API calls to people. That may or may not work out for them, it's certainly innovative. But it's a little too blatant for comfort. But it's more or less what all the other YASN-as-platforms are going to be offering too.

Now, the oldest, dumbest version of this is just the old web 1.0 style "portal". Big company (Yahoo, AOL, MS, Netscape) acts as entry point for a lot of users and tries to cram a lot features + adverts on to the front page. It buys features from other, smaller developers. Smart users don't like it because it clutters their lives with unnecessary crap. And smart developers don't like it either, because their access to the user is mediated by the big company who call all the shots. In fact, typically, the developers have to sell *to* the big company, rather than directly to the customer.

And, frankly, apart from having the link in a prominent place, the big company in its role qua customer manager doesn't really offer much value to the product innovators.

With the rise of the YASNs, particularly the more savvy ones, we see a new breed of customer management company : they enable "edge" conversations and encourage customers to manage their relationships directly with each other. Users create new tribes, discussion groups, shared blogs or social networks. With the opening of Facebook, soon to be copied by everyone, they make their pitch to developers : "write for our platform and we'll bring the customers".

Which brings us up-to-date with a current discussion that's being had about the "closedness" of Facebook and the need for an open alternative. Let's focus on the positions put forward by some very, very intelligent thinkers in this area : Umair Haque and Dave Winer. Roughly speaking, you can say that both Haque and Winer see the new excitement about YASNs-as-platforms as misguided.

Haque has repeatedly stated that Facebook is Evil, recently highlighting its ongoing romance with Microsoft and tendency towards being a closed platform. Winer is eternally suspicious of the bad intentions of all platform providers, and smells trouble coming from Facebook's closedness and is calling for an alternative open standard.

They are both right, but I'm going to argue that they both ignore the potential of YASN-as-platform to offer real value through not being open (ie. not dissolving themselves back into the web.) And my prediction is that, for well or ill, these non-open platforms will become extremely successful and powerful.

Now, why don't Winer and Haque see this?

Well, I'd suspect that Winer, more or less does. As I once joked, Dave's business model is to give away platforms, sell ping-servers. The new YASN-as-platforms are not exactly built around ping-servers, but have at their heart something analagous : the ownership of a crucial communication infrastructure - one which is a curious amalgam of protocol, name-space and cultural practice. So Winer's concern is partly self-interest - he has a stake in defining new socio-technical convention infrastructures and wants his to win - but it's also moral, driven by genuine enmity to the abuses of power by platform owners.

Haque, I think, is misled by a mistake he shouldn't be making. One of his more astute observations is that markets, networks and communities are not the same thing. But you can summarize what's wrong with his position by saying that he's confused a network with a market and is advocating what would be good for a market for something which is really a network. In a market, virtues are freedom and openness to participation. In a network, virtues are primarily effective link-management and secondarily effective flows.

Regardless of the specific reasons (others can reach similar position just from an aesthetic revulsion at a return to web 1.0 style portals) the opposition to YASN-as-platform concludes that :

a) an open system would be morally more wholesome,

b) an open system would be technically as effective, if not more so

c) so either Facebook will eventually open up (dissolve itself into the web) or we should actively put the boot in by boycotting Facebook and embrace OpenID and then some open protocol for social-connection data.

Aside : as FOAF is dead-in-the-water thanks to the curse of RDF/SemWeb (DNFTT ;-) Winer's in with a chance of making it some OPML-type thang - as long has he can get Marc Canter on board and find some quick-win practical applications of friendship data. Except, like I say, this time it's not going to work.

The problem is that b) isn't true. In fact, there's a hell of a lot that a closed YASN can offer that an open rival can't.

Let me present exhibit 1 : the Facebook news-feed. Every person who installs a Facebook application can grant permission to that application to write to a news-feed about them and their activities that gets shown to all their friends. Think about that for a second, for a programmer that's like having /dev/people ! Do you want to output to the screen? To the printer? To these guys? These are friends, by the way, who have not necessarily installed your application themselves. So unless you're in the business of writing actual viruses or trojans, you've probably never had access to anything so viral.

As I hinted earlier, it's just turned human-relationship management into a service available to the programmer via an API.

Of course, it can and will be abused. At the naive level, you can imagine applications that are simply going to spam your friends. Or hard-sell your friends to install them. Nevertheless, we can hope for some tough counter-selective forces to start to work here. If you value your friends, you aren't going to let your applications harass them. And in time we can expect some applications that use this feature to provide real value.

Let's imagine a Facebook app. we'll call BabyRota : an application that let's young mothers co-ordinate baby-sitting with their friends. BabyRota offers the usual calendaring / appointment making that maybe dozens of apps offer on the web. Mothers can say when they're available to help out with baby-sitting for their friends. And can mark when they are going to be out and need someone to baby-sit for them. When two friends have installed the application and are logging their requirements with it, BabyRota can automatically find matches.

However, occasionally, when a mother can't find a match on BabyRota, she can hit a button and have a general announcement asking for help to be sent to all her friends via the news-feed. She may not have thought of her friend Steve as a likely candidate, but she does, at a pinch, trust him. And has no qualms about alerting him to the fact she'll be out this evening.

Now, the imaginary BabyRota application has a couple of interesting features :

1) it takes advantage of social-network data;

2) it has a strong requirement for control over privacy (we're assuming here that mothers don't want to broadcast the times they leave their house unoccupied to unknown strangers); and

3) it has a requirement to touch people who have not elected to install the application or to be part of the baby-sitting network.

I suggest that it's very hard to provide these features in an open system, outside of a walled-garden YASN like Facebook. Readers are welcome to try to persuade me otherwise, but features 2) and 3) are pretty inconsistent in an open context.

Technically, generating and aggregating feeds is a problem which has been well and truly solved. But you can't make this data available on public feeds without losing the privacy. On the other hand, keep the data inside BabyRota and you can't touch people outside it. The best you can imagine is letting users upload a list of friends' emails so that the program can spam them.

BabyRota's character depends on Facebook's news-feed - which is an unusual kind of beast. Starting with the fact that Facebook has got social-graph data which is independant of any particular application it has built a social convention - that it's OK for other people's applications to stick stuff on your home page.

And that's a convention which only exists within Facebook. It doesn't make sense to try to apply it outside. Because outside people haven't accepted it. That's why giving a non-Facebook BabyRota my email address-book to spam my friends won't work. Not because it's not technically possible, but because it's not socially acceptable.

I'm going to add two further contentions.

Firstly, the requirements of BabyRota are not at all uncommon. There are many parts of life which fit the pattern of "we want to do something privately in one application or network, but occasionally push it out, but only to a controlled extent". Think of companies which internally deliberate about purchases until finally releasing a purchase order to a selected supplier. I'm going to call this pattern "semi-permeable networks". Access from the outside is controlled in two ways : some people can see some things inside them.

Secondly, we can probably start to imagine many things like the Facebook news-feed. Things which are a combination of technical infrastructure, protocol, and social convention. Smart platform warriors will create and own these things. And the social convention will be nearly impossible to reproduce elsewhere, giving the platform owners very strong lock-ins. I suspect that Ray Ozzie's web-clipboard has the potential to become one for Microsoft, and this whole wave of YASN-as-platform is, as Umair worries, a huge opportunity for them to seize control. Facebook certainly have the potential to be evil in a way that Google don't.

How far can this go?

Well, when you think about it, social relationships are a very generic kind of thing. Most other relationships are merely special cases.

Tim O'Reilly has started noticing that there are a lot more social relationships than those which are currently represented in YASNS. Certainly "customer relationship management" as currently understood. But what about teacher / pupil management? Buyer / seller management? Doctor / patient management? Government / citizen management?

Why shouldn't I be able to start a company on Facebook by inviting someone to be my "employee"? Salary and contract requirements become part of the link meta-data.

Note that today, YASNs tend to offer a very restricted range of link-types and link meta-data. But, as Dave Winer has suggested, they ought to allow users and application developers to invent their own. In fact, that's got to come soon, either from FB or someone hoping to take them on. And when it does, we'll see YASNs become an instant construction kit for all kinds of "enterprise" software. Payroll, performance assessments, medical records, memos, time-sheets, tax-forms, work-flow : the whole paraphernalia of the bureaucratic enterprise will become widgetized as the firm turns itself inside-out.

Today Facebook is banned inside some enterprises. Tomorrow, it may all that holds them together.

Facebook, Ning, Salesforce (Force), Amazon etc. are constructing the next platforms which are of interest to developers; partly interesting because they make "grid" or "infrastructure" such as data-storage and computational power available. But the real revolution is the other side of John Hagel's unbundling - people management as infrastructure.

This brings many dangers : Hagel predicts the customer relationship companies will consolidate dramatically. And the fact that these platforms will own certain amalgams of protocol, name-space, infrastructure and social conventions will give them huge lock-in potentials.

But the value proposition they offer will be compelling enough to over-ride such considerations. Beyond cheap provision of infrastructure that value includes the social conventions that allow semi-permeable networks to share data spontaneously, and applications that work by accessing information that aggregates across applications and networks.

Because of this, application developers will move to these platfomrs. And they will write widgets - by which I mean very small pieces of software that are parasitic on the YASN-as-platform for storage, execution and most importantly, access to the user and her social-space.
The squatters from the Casa das Pombas were finally "provisionally released" on October 16th.

More here

Monday, October 15, 2007

The 10 squatters who were dragged off by the police at the end of last week spent the last three days (bank holiday Friday and the weekend) in prison.

Squatting per se isn't illegal in Brazil; there are even laws giving some rights to claim disused land. There are plenty of condominiums around Brasilia which are put up by property speculators grabbing large chunks of it, and who's legal status is negotiated over the subsequent 20 years or so. But the law is never evenly applied.

So after first floating claims of drug-dealing and prostitution, but being unable to back it up with any evidence. The police have finally gone with a charge of "conspiracy to form a gang to promote invasions of property" based on finding literature and how-to manuals from other squatting movements. Apparently, although it's not illegal to squat, it is illegal to organize to promote the idea or to educate people how to do it effectively.

The accused were refused "habeus corpus" on Thurday, and put in prison to await trial. The lawyer of the local IndyMedia group is working to try to get them out until the trial itself.

There's now a short video about the squat and the arrests on the CMI site.

Friday, October 12, 2007

There's something a bit scary about Rapleaf's autodiscovery of my social networking life.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Originally uploaded by interstar
Some friends of friends of mine in the "Autonomous Groups of the Federal District", have been squatting an abandoned building in Brasilia, and have just been carted off by the police. Story here in Portuguese.

Journalists seem to be spreading a bunch of falsities and inuendos about them eg. that they were the nucleus of a drug-dealing gang, that they were stealing hundreds of reais worth of water etc. (Mainly they're a bunch of anarchists and students trying to set up an arts / community centre. And do the whole "squatting" thing. And they claim they've paid their water bill.)

So pass this link on and help to set the record straight.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Raskin Jr. on the end of applications and return to the command line.

I like this very much, of course.

However, the problem with making all these sharable services between applications is defining internal interfaces that are sufficient for them to work together.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Friday, October 05, 2007

Damn! After just one day, I'm seriously close to throwing all my free-software principles out of the window and buying Enso.

It's that good!

I've started putting work stuff on it on my machine at work ... and I have a horrible feeling I'm going to be dependent by the time the free trial is over. Going back to ordinary Windows is going to be traumatic.

Anyway, I want these guys to get rich so other people get inspired to copy them and all software works like this. And so that they get round to releasing the Python scriptable extension.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007


Wii controllers meet SAP widgets.

Doubt it if you like, but we are totally gonna be juggling stock-takes, and sketching supply chains with magic wands in enterprise 3.0

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Cape and Stick Gang

Cape and Stick Gang
Originally uploaded by interstar
Ok, here's an old photo I found of me and Gisel at the bottom of Machu Picchu in 2004 ... finally put it on Flickr

Thames, London

Originally uploaded by interstar
with added Gherkin

Brighton Seafront from the Pier

This summer

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

If sailor tales to sailor tunes,

Storm and adventure, heat and cold,

If schooners, islands, and maroons,

And buccaneers, and buried gold,

And all the old romance, retold

Exactly in the ancient way,

Can please, as me they pleased of old,

The wiser youngsters of today:

--So be it, and fall on! If not,

If studious youth no longer crave,

His ancient appetites forgot,

Kingston, or Ballantyne the brave,

Or Cooper of the wood and wave:

So be it, also! And may I

And all my pirates share the grave

Where these and their creations lie!

Robert Louis Stevenson

Happy TLAP day.

Friday, September 14, 2007

More digging through the crates to put music up at Bebo.

Soft Soul Down (return of the Gay Old Snake!)

Monday, September 10, 2007

Has Facebook (or the internet) finally melted down with too much traffic?

Update : Basically, I'm somewhat miffed that, having got an evening free to work on my Facebook app. it keeps giving me this message :

Errors while loading page from application

The URL http://myappurl did not respond.

There are still a few kinks Facebook and the makers of My App
are trying to iron out. We appreciate your patience as we try to fix
these issues. Your problem has been logged - if it persists, please
come back in a few days. Thanks!

That's not true. The URL in question, on my server, responds perfectly well. It's Facebook which is running slow and (probably) timing-out.
Oh, and as part of the ongoing (and accelerating, I hope) revamp of my site, I've put the whole Great Grimpen Mire up for your listening pleasure.
I should point out that one of the coolest things on earth, without which I would be totally lost, is Subversion version control system, and TortoiseSVN clients. I now have two SVN servers, one on the web and one on a pen-drive for more private stuff, and have pretty much all my personal work on them.
OK, I've just released a new build of GeekWeaver.

Full story over at Smart Disorganized, but basically OPML + domain specific language = cool way of defining complex web-site.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Maybe ... just maybe ... I'm starting to see what Python decorators are all about.

Have a look at this example :

log1 = []
log2 = []

def declogFactory(l) :
def declog(f) :
def new(*args, **kws) :
return f(*args, **kws)
return new
return declog

declog = declogFactory(log1)

def add(x,y) :
return x + y

def times(x,y) :
return x * y

print add(1,2)
print log1, log2
print times(4,5)
print log1, log2

log1 and log2 are lists representing two alternative logs

declogFactory is actually a routine which is going to return a closure which is a python decorator.

so declogFactory receives a list as an argument and returns a decorator with the variable l bound to that list.

we assign that decorator to "declog" in the main program.

but what is declog?

decorators are functions which transform other functions, and are invoked with the @ syntax before the function they transform.

So this :

def add(x,y) :
return x + y

is applying the new decorator "declog" to the function "add".

Let's look inside the definition of the decorator

def declog(f) :
def new(*args, **kws) :
return f(*args, **kws)
return new

this decorator also takes one argument : f that will be the function to be decorated.

we, in turn define function new. All it does is append the name of the function f it receives, with the first two arguments, to the log. Then it calls f.

effectively we've wrapped a call to f inside another routine which updates the log first.

however, we don't need to do this explicitly. You'll see that, although the routines add and times have been decorated, the calls to them look exactly the same as a call to a non-decorated version.

the simple occurance of the decorator line @declog before each definition is sufficient to turn each routine into a logged routine, as we see from the output

[('add', 1, 2)] []
[('add', 1, 2), ('times', 4, 5)] []

both add and times are decorated.

note, as well, that the decorator was itself parameterized with which log. it's sufficient to change the line defining the decorator to

declog = declogFactory(log2)

to have the logging from all the functions redirected to log2 instead of log1
Doh! Of course Fuzzwich already is a Facebook app.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Paul Graham's gang Bang the Rocks Together and come up with the micro-chunkiest online video-making application yet.

Dumb but fun. When's it gonna be Facebook Application?

Friday, August 03, 2007

A quick mix of music that's doing it for me at the moment. Starts with some classic Frevo (my tune of the year so far); there's some Momus (naturally); some London DubStep; contrasted with some great, strange Brazilian electronica (a dub-stylee remix of more NorthEastern folkloric music); there's Lee "Scratch" Perry; Jackson and his Computer Band; fragments of Plaid, Yoshi's Story, Sabres of Paradise and Goodiepal, and finishing with some Turkish pop I blagged from Hilan.

Not great mixing or anything, but enjoy. And get it soon, because I don't leave these things up indefinitely.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

thinking about it ... didn't RobotWisdom invent Twitter-style microblogging

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Friday, July 20, 2007

Is it just me is there a YASNS surge going on at the moment? Yeah, I got sucked into Facebook and discovered Victoria Real, the Musical

While the Runtimers seem to be more LinkedIn kind of people. And Bebo (I hasten to add I am never going to have a MySpace account or contribute even a (whatever-the-smallest-unit-of-attention-is) to a Rupert Murdoch-owned property) has kindly given me a place to upload all my old musical meanderings. (It's time to stop pretending music comes from "bands" and people anointed by some military-dionysian complex, and recognise that heretoforthwith it's nothing but part of that glorious woven matrix known as "people messing about")

Meanwhile, I am so out of supply-chain management for the next few weeks, and so into trying to get the Wittgenstein Symposium to think seriously about right-wing flying-saucer conspiracies ... but really what I'll be ranting about if I come round your house is spimes and a daemonology where getting anything done (and I mean any-"thing") requires the blessing or patronage of the great lords Google and Yahoo and SkyPal. And where all the world is written in magic books, only by those who understand the arcane APIs of supplication.

I guess that's not so out of supply-chain management at all ... spimes get created as and where needed, except when they are mere imminences, addresses encoded into an Arphid that link to a design on some server. Are you really going to track their flickering trajectories in the cloud-chamber of psycho-history with good old-fashioned ERP? I think not, it's the great search engines and social networks that are going to reach out and embrace them : your shopping is coming by RSS ... if you say your prayers right and have been a good boy or girl.

And where the fuck is GeekWeaver? Not ready ... :-(

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Talented Us Watch ...

Meanwhile Gisel's new site almost ready, and she's getting into video editing and YouTube too.

Here's something she made with Laura at the Funarte exhibition last year. The exhibition featured 4 kilometers of plastic cord wrapped around trees in some light woodland.

The opening night had a dance choreographed and performed by Laura and directed by Gisel. I did the music. Gisel's now taken and remixed some of the footage (and the music) to make short videos.

Here's the first ...

Trivia fact : over the following month, all the plastic cord was stolen.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Talented Friend Watch #3 :

Dariush finally blogs
Talented Friend Watch #2 : Laura Virginia gets her video up on YouTube.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Talented friend watch #1 :

Haven't seen Jay for over 12 years, now I find he's doing this


Sunday, June 24, 2007

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Recent post on Smart Disorganized, about OPML and outliners.