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