Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Blair : I have nothing to offer you except telling you what to do.

Last night was the second performance of the Primavera show, and (amazingly) it was packed. Aparently Hilan managed to get a bunch of people from the MST along. Correction wasn't the MST but an international umberella organization of land reformers and other representatives of rural poverty who are in town to protest against GM crops in Brazil.

I also managed to sell about 10 CDs of the music. But you can download most of the music from the wiki. :-)

Today I'm really digging the Plaid Remix of "No Government" by Nicolette. Interesting anarchist lyrics. I wonder if she has a website with more about her.

Monday, September 29, 2003

Damn! Sometime I miss my old home-town of Brighton. Especially when this is going on.

Meatball's SpaghettiWiki
Richard Roger interviewed on Code Generation Network :

More importantly, I have used to Jostraca to save me from over-abstraction. Let me clarify this a little bit more as it is an often over-looked benefit of generative programming. With Jostraca, I can program one level of abstraction lower, safe in the knowledge that my 'hard-coded' solution can easily be generalized (that is, turned into a template), without needing to invent complex dynamic data structures, or use reflective programming. I like to call this approach, 'programming by example'. It is not that the inherent complexity has disappeared - it has just been shifted in the template scripting language, where it can do less damage. The YAGNI (You Aren't Gonna Need It) philosophy of Extreme Programming is easier to follow with this safety net.

This is really what I would recommend Jostraca (or any other generator) for. Once you get your head around using templates, it actually becomes easier to design complex systems.
Code Generation Network looks interesting. And I like the way this guy Jack Herrington is righteously bashing Java over on Greenspun's comments

The reality is that the history of Java is a litany of failure. It never worked on toasters. So they tried Applets. Now if you read "Bitter Java" Applets are listed as an anti-pattern. So they tried the desktop with Swing, and NOBODY shipped any of that. The only shipping Swing apps are Java IDEs.

So they tried the Web Server, and have basically hyped that to the point where they showed a perceived success. Sun was talking about Java 'Enterprise Applications' on the server when there was no justification or history behind it. Publishing white papers that said that Java scaled better than PHP when there was no evidence to support that, and when in fact, it was quite the contrary in reality.

Now that Microsoft has come along with .NET you see Sun trying to swing the Java community back to being interested in mobile devices. So this optimal 'enterprise language' is now the best for small 'mobile computing' applications and games programming.

We have come full circle! This toaster language grew wings and became an amazing enterprise applications language, but then back to being a toaster language. Without ever making substantive changes to syntax! Quite amazing.

Bravo! Though of course, like all sweeping rhetoric, people can pick holes in it. But on a gut level ... I like this guy! (Though he may not thank me for applauding this in particular ;-) given that Code Gen Net itself is not at all rant-like, but serious, interesting, and has loads of good stuff about code generation for Java and Enterprise computing.)

On another note, at a party on Saturday I met someone who promised to introduce me to the Brasilia Java User's Group which is apparently very big. Well, I need to network here so it would be interesting to meet. Should I try to tone down my criticism and be politic? Nah! I should go in hard and try win some benighted souls back to the paths of virtue and scripting goodness :-)

Sunday, September 28, 2003

Jon Udell : I find this generally true nowadays. Folks who consume news by way of blogs are likelier to be exposed to primary sources than folks who rely on conventional news sources. Of course everyone's time is finite, so I'm sure those primary sources often go unread, but at least they're available. When conventional news websites don't bother, they make themselves much less valuable.

Jon Udell: Monoculture on the Potomac
Philip Greenspun on Cheap Chinese cars has also inspired an interesting node : ThoughtStorms:CheapChinesCars
Review of Environment Rules Finds Benefits Outweigh Costs
Steve Antler's The Coming Class Struggle describes a political division between "product" sector and "service" sector. I'm finding this a fertile idea and writing about it on ThoughtStorms:ClassWarBetweenProductsAndServices

This is turning into a super-node making connections with a lot of other things.
BBC | Blair escapes Iraq vote

Blair interviewed on eve of Labour Party conference : The Observer
Joshua Micah Marshall is investigating the companies cashing in in Iraq
MP3s of music from the Primavera show are now up on the Primavera Wiki (Portuguese)
BeatBlog has a A Llamasoft moment

Saturday, September 27, 2003

funferal: VW threatens Brazilian workers
Here, he says, is the Bush war on terrorism: Preach free trade, but don't deliver on it, so Pakistani farmers become more impoverished. Then ask Congress to give a tax break for any American who wants to buy a gas-guzzling Humvee for business use and also ask Congress to resist any efforts to make Detroit increase gasoline mileage in new cars. All this means more U.S. oil imports from Saudi Arabia.
So then the Saudis have more dollars to give to their Wahhabi fundamentalist evangelists, who spend it by building religious schools in Pakistan. The Pakistani farmer we've put out of business with our farm subsidies then sends his sons to the Wahhabi school because it is tuition-free and offers a hot lunch. His sons grow up getting only a Koranic education, so they are totally unprepared for modernity, but they are taught one thing: that America is the source of all their troubles. One of the farmer's sons joins Al Qaeda and is killed in Afghanistan by U.S. Special Forces, and we think we're winning the war on terrorism.

Connect the Dots
How come even the BBC uses language like this? "About 15,000 more US soldiers and reservists have been told to prepare for service in Iraq because of the failure of other countries to contribute soldiers. " BBC NEWS | US and Russia warn Iran

Perhaps it's not a "failure" but a "refusal". "Failure" implies a normative which doesn't seem to exist.

BTW there's a lot of warning Iran about a nuclear weapons program that Iran denies. But given Iraq and North Korea do we have any reason to believe that this is more than a scare story based on spun circumstancial evidence?
Are you paying attention to what I've saying about the Alex Schroeder / OddMuse / Emacs connection below?

OddMuse can include any raw text from an application. That means you can wrap a script around a database and include it in an OddMuse page. You can also include RSS feeds, and you can generate your own. (Though it would be really nice if you had some more flexability over this.)

OddMuse supports various security models including "anyone can edit it", "editors with passwords can edit it, everyone else just reads", "editors with passwords edit it, everyone else can add comments but not change existing pages", "only people with passwords can read or write". And individual pages can be locked by an administrator while others can be edited.

Pages can be accessed and edited directly through Emacs. With a bit of work, that could be nicer.

OddMuse can act as a CVS repository, code tree, documentation management system, public discussion forum. All in one. With the important addition of hyperlinks between all pages of different types. And that it can generate news of all changes in RSS.

That's what it can do right now. It's all free. And very simple.

With a bit more work, Emacs access could be made comfortable, users could have more control over RSS outputs, and some kind of spider could crawl the pages and collect the code ready to be passed to a compiler.

This isn't going to scale to "enterprise" levels (whatever that vacuous term means). But it will scale to a team of programmers writing a few hundred classes and a few hundred more pages of documentation. For a programmer used to using emacs with CVS, the difference will be minimal.
Well, after a bit of playing I have Simple Wiki Edit Mode running. It does what it advertises, ie. lets me edit my wiki's raw pages in Emacs.

It's a little disappointing compared to WikiMode for emacs. Navigating between pages is a bit clunkier. It currently doesn't handle free links, and #REDIRECTs require you to navigate directly. And I see a concptual flaw in what I want. When I want to edit pages with includes, I want to see the includes. But sometimes (when I want to extract the code) I want to see the result of the pages merged together. This would require SWEM to understand the two different modes (what in BEACH I call SourceView and PresentationView). To make this really work for me, you'd need some specialization so that the emacs client knew that it was working with a special kind of wiki. And ideally, when editing code, would know about the apropriate mode for the language.

But that doesn't detract from my previous point that Alex Schroeder is probably doing some of coolest and most important hacking going on at the moment. And a bit of work on this could produce something extraordinary. Note to self. Must find time to learn elisp!

Surreal spam of the day ...

Claire has your ... human desperado bridge

Time to give major props to a guy who's been inspiring me with all kinds of cool stuff recently. And of course, in my stupidity it's taken me a while to realize it's the same person : Alex Schroeder

It started at the end of last year, when I decided to try Wiki mode for Emacs. I'm an emacs illiterate. But thanks to the magic of Debian and apt-get I had it installed in a couple of minutes. Within half an hour I was convinced that this was the most powerful 37Kb of code I'd ever used.

I learned :

  • wiki, which I'd seen before and never really got, was the quickest and simplest way to author hypertexts I'd ever encountered.
  • hypertexts were a really good way to capture my disorganized thoughts. And to note down that jumble of loosely connected pieces of information I had to store somewhere but could never think of a good way of organizing ... better than an outliner, better than a hierarchical file system, better than a weblog.
  • I really liked the way I could note things down on pages and then revise the structure by re-editing the index page
  • I liked, even more, the fact I could have different index pages representing different classification schemes
  • The fact that it could spit out flat HTML docs was very handy.
  • Wiki markup was a lot easier than HTML markup for producing things like lists, emphasis, tables, headings and subheadings which were the kind of mark-up I cared about.
  • Emacs was damned cool! Really, all I had to do was get to grips with Emacs lisp and I could create incredible tools like this. Maybe Emacs was what I'd always been dreaming of.

For the next few months I started using Emacs WikiMode to write notes for work, for private projects, my todo lists, and to prepare HTML presentations. I even sent off for a second-hand copy of Bob Glickstein's "Writing Gnu Emacs Extensions".

But ...

There were things that weren't quite right. The time-lag between writing the texts, to publishing to HTML, to FTPing the files up to my site, was still too long. And I found I didn't have time to get into emacs lisp. So I installed UseMod wiki as the core of my site. Over several months, I filled it with random scraps of thought. And gradually, it started paying off

UseMod is a great piece of code. It's one script. Which makes installation and management trivial. I was attracted by other wikis which promised more, but all had a steep increase in complexity. And I found many great wikis were happy with UseMod, and some people who'd tried the more complex wikis felt they'd gained little for the extra pain.

There were patches for UseMod, but none were rolled into the standard download. But then I came across OddMuse. A development of UseMod which incorporated all the new patches and had a couple of secret weapons of it's own : RSS inclusion. Not only did OddMuse spit out an RSS feed of recent changes. It also allowed you to include RSS feeds from other sources.

That was way cool!. It looked like the next step on the road to Wiki as a user configurable dashboard Yet it was still basically UseMod. And it was still one script.

Meanwhile I'd been promising a couple of people that I would set up specialized wikis for their projects. OddMuse became my wiki of choice. Something else took me a bit longer to notice. OddMuse included (or transcluded) raw text from other http sources. You could include text from one page in another. Or text from another wiki if it had raw output. Or in fact, any source you liked.

When I shifted to a new domain I had a problem with BeatBlog. The original beatblog script read the directory of MP3 files and spat out an HTML list of links, wrapped as javascript document.writes so that it could be included in any HTML page. On the new server, this seems to have broken. So I tried an experiment. Get the script to spit out the links as raw wiki markup and use OddMuse's raw include to bring them into a blog-like page. The strategy worked fine. So I've set up the new BeatBlog as another OddMuse wiki. (I'm not entirely happy with the look yet. Unlike most wikis or web-sites, I think BeatBlog could do with a bit of eye-candy. So regard this as a pre-alpha revelation of the new BB.)

OddMuse is also featuring in another early project. For some time I've been making notes for myself of ideas for a new progamming language and development environment. Nothing serious of course. I haven't the time and skill to develop this. But I still make the notes, and maybe the Lazy Web will help me out someday. In the meantime, as one of the key ideas is for the IDE to be wiki-like, I've been thinking of trying to use a wiki to manage my source-code. The necessary precondition is a "make" spider which would run around several pages, weaving code fragments like class descriptions, into a single program. This doesn't exist yet, but once again I find that OddMuse's inclusion of raw text can give me a flavour of it

I'm feeling optimistic about this idea. Wiki does seem a good way to organize source code. And the fact that page histories are kept means it also acts as an equivalent to CVS. But ... editing code in a browser form is lousy. If only you could plug your editor into the wiki ... well today I find SimpleWikiEditMode for Emacs which lets you edit a wiki using raw download to an Emacs buffer. Means you can use an Emacs editor as a client to an OddMuse back-end.

So why the long rambling story? Because today I just noticed that it's by Alex Schroeder. Who also happens to be a major contributor to the evolution of the original EmacsWiki mode which got me into this whole thing in the first place. And is also the author of OddMuse (adapted from UseMod)

This guy is busily spitting out all the components I've always needed, but am only just realizing I need. I fear he's secretly in control of my destiny.

'nuff respect, Alex.

Friday, September 26, 2003

ThoughtStorms: TaguchiLossFunction
According to Cringely, advertising is about to be transformed and made more "scientific" by applying the kind of statistics and sampling experiments usually done by manufacturers.
By the time this crop is harvested next year, the government hopes that the national congress will have passed a new law defining once and for all Brazil's policy on GM crops.
At the moment, Brazil is the only large agricultural exporter in the world which does not use GM seeds.
But environmental organisations want to keep it that way and are now expected to take the question to the courts, claiming that the presidential decree is unconstitutional.

BBC NEWS | Brazil gives way on GM seed
By the time this crop is harvested next year, the government hopes that the national congress will have passed a new law defining once and for all Brazil's policy on GM crops.
At the moment, Brazil is the only large agricultural exporter in the world which does not use GM seeds.
But environmental organisations want to keep it that way and are now expected to take the question to the courts, claiming that the presidential decree is unconstitutional.

BBC NEWS | Brazil gives way on GM seed
BBC NEWS | Filipinos urged to 'report-a-mistress'
Reading some of these comments I'm struck by a thought. There seem to be kids coming out of college who think Java and it's associated design patterns and styles are synonymous with object orientation and object oriented design. But there are many varieties of OO design and programming.

Just for the record, here are some of the things which object orientation does not necessarily imply.

  • compiled rather than interpreted (scripting) language.
  • strong (compile time) type checking
  • single inheritance
  • Inheritance in general (though can't say I see the point of OO w/out inheritance.)
  • Explicit interfaces as contracts
  • Classes!! (Something I want to learn more about are prototype based OO languages.
  • Model View Controller as the last word in the relation between models and interfaces.

How many of the Java patterns and design styles are left once you've relaxed all these assumptions I don't know.

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Artima : Is It High Time To Get Rid Of Classes?

Artima is interviewing James Gosling

His new Jackpot project to produce graphical representations of programs sounds very interesting.

And On checked exceptions too.

Gosling : the knowledge of the situation is always fairly localized. When you try to open a file and it's not there, you're coping strategy is really determined by what you were going for. Some guy miles away isn't going to know what to do. The code that tried to open the file knows what to do, whether it be trying a backup file, looking in a different directory, or asking the user for another filename.

I'm not sure I totally buy this. When you're writing a library you often don't know what to do in the case of an exception. Is the library being called in a GUI where prompting the user through a pop-up is the right response? Or on a web-server where redirecting to an error page is the right response. Is the error caused by a user activity which requires the user to be informed or programmer stupidity which should result in a screaming crash to alert the programmer something's wrong.

Really exception handling is a problem for Aspect Oriented Programming where context sets parameters which are woven throughout the code.
The popular myth in Brazil is that it was sparsely inhabited jungle before the Portuguese arrived. And that the few indigenous who lived here welcomed the settlers with open arms.

Yeah, right. Probably a large population of several million was here before the Portuguese. Now the indigenous are in the hundreds of thousands. And the chances are, the rest were wiped out by disease and direct conflict with the colonists.

Amazon was settled before Columbus' time: Excavations and maps confirm forest housed advanced society.

TeledyN on Googlemining
Phil Greenspun is dissing Java. He calls it the SUV of programming tools

This is, naturally, a highly commendable activity. But the metaphor doesn't speak to me. I'd say that Java is the peacock's tail of programming tools. It's a pointlessly heavy, over-engineered and difficult system to use. And the only advantage is that the guys who can use it are demonstrating extraordinary intelligence and capacity for hard work.

Further discussion

By Phil Greenspun

I added a comment to Phil's post

Stephen Dunn's got pix up from a project in a Rio Favela. Meninos de Luz

Hey! Blahsploitation has been added to Simon Reynolds's blogroll. I'm totally flattered.

OTOH, this is also a kind of failure. Because why Blahsploitation rather than BeatBlog? OK, so still totally chuffed, and I'm not complaining. But I think I still need to work on the BeatBlog concept a bit more.

Should I be spinning off musical writing onto a separate blog, especially when I haven't been writing much about music recently?
(Note, I've been writing music recently ... for a poetry show. See Primavera Wiki to find out more and download MP3s.)

Maybe I should consolidate music writing back here? Or get some blogging software which allows different categories to be filtered?
BeatBlog is broken anyway, by the move to the new domain. You can still get beats up until the move (because they're at the old site) but nothing new. A drastic rethink is in order!

ThoughtStorms: This page is not FavelaChic
A discussion with Stumbling Tongue about Micropayments.

ThoughtStorms: MicropaymentsForAndAgainst/DiscussionWithStumblingTongue
Some interesting discussion going on about RSS feeds, I'm documenting on ThoughtStorms: RssAsGenre

Saturday, September 20, 2003

Argentina gets deal with the IMF without raising utility prices.

via BBC

Seems to be a good thing ...

Friday, September 19, 2003

Aoccdrnig to rscheearch at an Elingsh uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, olny taht the frist and lsat ltteres are at the rghit pcleas. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae we do not raed ervey lteter by ilstef, but the wrod as a wlohe.

Saw taht a colpue of dyas ago. But it only jsut orcuced to me taht this msut have smoe iplamciiotn for OCR and haidnrtiwng rocgniotien, no? Are tehre any algothmirs eploxtinig tihs ... eg. foucs on the fsrit and lsat lteters. Use the mitruxe of hghetis and ceus to get the "wigeth" of the ltteers in the mdilde?

Or is it beettr to use the redudncay to hlep ifner the nxet letetr fmor the prediceng oens?

Aslo : Oghymod! Jsut relziad that this enplaixs waht all toshe icnprohmenblisee spma msegeses are!
Re-organizing ThoughtStorms:SocialSoftware.

Also ThoughtStorms:WikiIsNothingButIndexes

This week, everyone's mostly excited about :

Thursday, September 18, 2003

Woman's hour on blogging : BBC - Radio 4 - Woman's Hour - Blogging
Can people learn to be economically rational?
On Blogs and Wikis and Favela Chic | Blogalization

Stumbling Tongue has a good response to Clay Shirkey on Micropayments

Initial thoughts ...

- some of the examples (phone calls and SMS) are two way communication, not content. And I think the anti-micropayment argument is only made for content. You know that 2-way communication is valubale to you.

- his hypothetical example of the New York Times isn't demonstrated. And online games have been shifting from time-metered to flat rate subscription models for some time (Note Shirky advocates subscription models as an alternative)

- some of the argument runs on the "paid stuff will be better than amateurs", "people will prefer paid content from the NYT than bloggers". Not me. I'd read the bloggers and the free BBC.

- he also thinks people prefer video created by professionals to amateur content. Guess that's why Big Brother is such a failure, then.

- so free software has a lower quality interface, as any honest Linux user can report. DNFTT huh?

- the really interesting thing is his comment at the end ... we thought the professionals added one sort of value, but the amateurs do that just as well. So what other value are they adding?

(The alternative ignored here is that the professionals are going away, but that there's inertia in the system. It might take a few years as culture catches up.)

But Tongue's alternative take is interesting enough to quote in full :
This in turn suggests that editorialists make the money they do, not because of the scarcity of their talents, but because of something else. Is it ambitioin that’s really the scarce commodity? Or — to put it in more sinister terms — is it really hussle and a talent for networking? Or good pedigree?

Or viewing it sociologically, might it be that an organization feels a subliminal need to pay well for the guy whose name appears on the cover? Or to pay the guy who represents what the enterprise is “about,” even if he’s not in fact the hardest to replace?

But it’s not just editorialists and writers. One is reminded of many movie stars, who are certainly talented, but is their talent really what got them there? (Will the internet kill the video star?) Why do managers tend to get paid more than those they manage? Many glamorous jobs in the arts seem to provoke the same questions as the the fantastic salaries of Aemrican CEO’s, salaries which seem logical only to those who aspire to become American CEO’s.

If new technology dissolves rather abitrary organizational relationships that were required by old technology, it will unveil a lot about who loves the work, who does the work, and who gets the benefits.

- See also ThoughtStorms:TheAgeOfAmateurs
Weinberger and Gillmor's Word Pirates
Interesting : BBC NEWS | Americas | Bush rejects Saddam 9/11 link

BBC NEWS | Europe | East Europe grandees blast Castro

I watched the great Oliver Stone interview with Castro at the Brasilia film festival last week. Right after some fairly weak, nothingy sort of film about Derrida. Comandante a good and very surprising film.

Conclusion ... Castro is '"interesting". Very obviously a control freak. Probably lying about some things (certainly looked shifty occasionally, but then it's hard to read foreign body language)
Oliver Stone is sympathetic and ironic. Sympathetic in that he isn't out to damn Castro. Ironic when he jokes about to Castro that Bush will put him in prison.

He asks Castro awkward questions ... about informers in the street, the state's attitude to gays, Russian missiles etc. And takes the answers Castro gives without much judgement.

The missile crisis is obviously very close to Stone's heart, and emphasized as part of Stone's larger ongoing project of analyzing the 60s. And in the film the cockup explanation seems at least as plausible as conspiracy : Cuba young newly revolutionary country, convinced they're about to be invaded by US, turn to Russians to protect them, Russians send missiles.

OTOH Castro's claim that his government is attempting to reduce a macho homophobic culture is pretty lame. Other macho South American cultures have managed much better.

The tragedy is, the guy claims to have ideals, some of his analyses are right, his government has done a great deal to educate, improve health, and empower blacks and women. And undoubtedly the biggest problem facing Cuba is the vicious 30 year trade embargo. Without that, Cuba might easily have found some modern accomodation with capitalism, much as south east asia has.

But Castro should have stood down as leader a long time ago, and put a sensible system of elected leaders in place (even if not a first past the post one).
Sometimes it's easy to forget how extreme the Bush government is. Consider this data point (my emphasis) :

Under the terms of the multi-million-dollar fund which have been made available under President Bush for abstinence education, schools and groups can only claim federal money for sex education programmes if the classes have as their 'exclusive purpose' the promotion of abstinence.
They must make clear that sexual activity outside of marriage is harmful, both mentally and physically. If contraception is mentioned, it must only be in the context of its fallibility.

BBC NEWS | Americas | Chastity pressed on US teens

How the hell do libertarians manage to stay so close to these people?

Graham Lally on resisting the Project for the New American Century :

We cannot force people to change, we cannot expect them to suddenly see an alternative as if they were all Saul on the road to Damascus. We must analyse what we have, realise what is lacking, and offer alternatives on all fronts. We need to pick apart our own society from every possible angle, make it transparent and give people the opportunity and motiviation to look into it with their own eyes. The powers that are want us to accept what they offer, and we should have none of it, until these powers are who we are.

Good call ...

Makes me think of Gandhi's "speak truth to power". Only knowing and understanding the truth gives you the courage and capacity to stand up to power.

Also makes me think of Dave Winer wanting everybody to write weblogs.

We all need to be involved in the "picking apart" of our current society. It could be said that that's what Optimaes is about too.

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Looking into ThreadsML - QuickTopic bulletin board for when I get back to Typed Threaded Discussion
Hmm GrahamLally's De-Scribed is probably very interesting. But can't be read on the version of IE5 I'm using. Looks like there's a use of CSS to do tricks that basically break on some versions of IE (looked ok on Mozilla yesterday)

Bad trend. People are getting sloppy about browser compatability.

Thought : The American occupation in Iraq is not going to be like Vietnam where they were essentially losing a full scale civil war. And it won't actually be much like Israel, where the civilian populations are locked together in a white-hot terrorist / counter-terrorist battlefront.

But it might be like Northern Ireland. Where the British army went in ostensibly to protect the catholics, did some stupid and irresponsible things, and then stayed for 30 years trying to clamp down on a low intensity war between rival gangs, some of whom took the army to be the representatives of an occupying power; and where the anti-British action was occasionally brought back to the mainland.

I wonder if the Americans are prepared for that ...

Differences of course, NI is historically part of the UK, not a different country. So it was natural that the Brits would be there for the duration. The US always claims it will give Iraq back.

But the more American corporate investment there is in Iraq, the more secure they'll want to feel. Wouldn't want that Shi'ite majority voting in an Islamic government who nationalize the nice new oil production facilities now, would you? So you better make sure that you only hold elections if that isn't going to happen, or where that isn't allowed to happen. But then what are some disgruntled members of that Shi'ite majority going to do? Sabotage the facilities of course.

In that case you'll need some kind of security to protect them.
Could ask the UN to do it. But the price of support from Russia and China and France[1] is likely to be that the spoils get shared around a bit more. And, maybe they'll be a bit pushy on the free election front too. Far safer to do it yourself.

And maybe 30 years isn't a long time in Empire.

[1] Britain's a different case. Remember Bernie Ecclestone? Blair is quite liable to accept a bribe for some service, do the service, then give the bribe back to demonstrate how incorruptible he is. If he has traded support for Bush in return for British corporate access to Iraq, when this starts to look embarrassing I suppose he'll simply give up any claims on behalf of British companies just to feel good about himself.

Great analysis of Cancun by DanielDavies. Basically, west wanted to push rights for foreign investors (similar to the rejected Multilateral Agreement on Investment) as a precondition for free trade. Africa and Brazil/India/China wouldn't stomach it.

Nice to see Lula doing something right.

Crooked Timber: High Noon in Cancun

Monday, September 15, 2003

Free software in Africa

Open Source a No-Brainer for Developing World
Wikis aren't about finishing

Many-to-Many: The Standard-That-Must-Not-Be-Named?
More good news Blogger premium service cancelled and extra goodies to become available to cheapskate free users (like me!)

Hopefully that means RSS feeds.

But what are Google/Blogger thinking of? Maybe just getting the bloggers and the ad revenue vs. TypePad? Maybe some cunning plan to do with indexing? Maybe don't be evil becomes be saintly?

Hmm.... Or is my soul in danger?

This strikes me as a win-win-win situation.


  1. Microsoft get severely stung and IE gets crippled by a patent claim, or

  2. Microsoft throw their weight behind a civil disobedience which discredits software patents (and sets some legal precedent against them), or

  3. as Zeldman says about Microsoft's attempt to interupt the transparent access to plug-ins ... Even these clumsy, expensive, painfully disruptive approaches might not satisfy the patent holder. If they do not, then where rich media is concerned, the web could soon look like 1993 all over again.

Hmmm. Which would I prefer ... destruction of software patents, IE or Flash ... trrrricky!

Stewart Brand writes about Alan Kay in 1972!

"Ready or not, computers are coming to the people.
That's good news, maybe the best since psychedelics. It's way off the track of the 'Computers - Threat or menace? school of liberal criticism but surprisingly in line with the romantic fantasies of the forefathers of the science such as Norbert Wiener, Warren McCulloch, J.C.R. Licklider, John von Neumann and Vannevar Bush.
The trend owes its health to an odd array of influences: The youthful fervor and firm dis-Establishmentarianism of the freaks who design computer science; an astonishingly enlightened research program from the very top of the Defense Department; an unexpected market-Banking movement by the manufacturers of small calculating machines, and an irrepressible midnight
phenomenon known as Spacewar.

And this quote is ...

Since huge quantities of information can be computer-digitalized and transmitted, music researchers could, for example, swap records over the Net with "essentially perfect fidelity." So much for record stores (in present form).

WTF? ... I mean, perhaps this is a fake. A kind of urban myth?

SPACEWAR - by Stewart Brand - Fanatic Life and Symbolic Death Among the Computer Bums.
Guardian on Cancun collapse

Guardian Unlimited | Special reports | The cost of failure
Europe and US find it impossible to accept fair trade.

BBC NEWS | Business | World trade talks collapse
I've now started feeling that keeping a wiki is paying off. I've noticed it's starting to act as an associative memory. For a long while it's been useful to catalogue my ideas and the connections between them, but mostly when I go to write a page I ususally have, in my mind, the connections it will make with others.

But over the last month I've noticed a change. Maybe this wiki has hit a critical mass. (CommaCount? 462 pages, SpaceCount? 686 pages) Now I'm finding I enter a page and have in mind a number of links to make to other pages, but when I follow those links, I find the second (and higher) order connections genuinely surprising and flooding my mind with ideas.

ThoughtStorms: WikiIsPayingOff
A magic interface ...

ThoughtStorms: TheUltimatePowerInterface

Saturday, September 13, 2003

Multimedia intimations of mortality at Streatham cemetery
Somewhat late ... I missed this analysis of the browser wars when it came out in July.

ongoing · The Door Is Ajar
Huh? Is this true? Are the North Koreans denying they admitted they have a nuclear weapons program? Why? Why admit then deny? Internal power struggle? What is the evidence we have that the N. Koreans admitted they had such a programme?

The End of North Korea

Interesting Krugman Interview

Sometimes I think that's what people think. Certainly, I think that's the case with a lot of the media. The concept that the president of the United States is flat-out lying about the sustainability of his own economic policy -– that's too high a hill for them to climb. And I guess the general public tends to give him the benefit of the doubt.

But there's a definite tilt in the way these things are covered and perceived. I think the average voter in California is feeling outraged about the state's $38 billion deficit, and then you stop and think for a second. You say, wait a second –- first of all, it's not $38 billion. It turns out that was a two-year number, and this year they've closed the books. And it's only $8 billion for next year. And, anyway, that number should be as abstract and remote from the ordinary residents of California as the national budget deficit is from the ordinary American.

But there's a machine that keeps on beating it out, saying Davis is bad; Davis is irresponsible; the deficit –- he lied to us. And the press picks it up, and, in turn, it makes its way to the public. So you have a situation in which mainstream publications continue to report and hammer on Davis' $38 billion deficit, which isn't even remotely true, while Bush, for the most part, gets a free pass on the $500 billion deficit which is absolutely real.

Michael Lind : In fact, ending subsidies, if it leads to the modernization of agriculture in the developing world, is likely to destroy the very sorts of communities the pro-trade left seeks to support.
The Cancún Delusion

Friday, September 12, 2003

Aargh! A day of problems. BeatBlog and my blogroll are down. Typed Threaded Discussion has broken.

Blogroll and BeatBlog

I may be incredibly stupid and naive about this, but for years my short perl script happily chucked out Javascript code to print these lists down the side of any page I wanted. Now I've moved the scripts to my new domain, and the inclusion no longer seems to work. The only thing that seems different is that I no longer have an absolute IP address, but am using a DNS name.

Is this a well known problem ie. that this kind of javascript include never worked through DNS and I just didn't notice?

Typed Threaded Discussion

It used to work. Then I changed from using method=get to method=post. On my local server here, this change has worked transparently. Python's CGI library didn't blink. On my host's machine, I'm not getting any form values anymore. Different version of the Python cgi module? Something to do with my host's apache config?

Any ideas?

I set up my friend Darius with a wiki to talk about experience of local political action.

Thursday, September 11, 2003

Nathan Newman : A Dissent from 911 Rememberance

There's a great Far Side cartoon that goes like this. In the first frame, entitled "what we say to dogs", a man is shouting at his dog, telling him off for messing with the garbage. In the second, "what they hear", it's revealed that the dog understands nothing except occassionally, his name. The first time you see it, it's hilarious.

Today is the second aniversary of September 11th, and a friend of mine, and other opponents of American imperialism are off to the American embassy to protest. I think this is a damned stupid idea. And I'm feeling pretty depressed that we've got to this situation.

You could draw a not-at-all hilarious equivalent to the Larson cartoon, that goes something like this. Frame 1, "what we say to Americans", would have us, and our speech-bubble containing the words "Look, we are really pissed off with the way your country is throwing it's weight around. You've allowed your state to be seized by an unelected, corrupt clique who use it to make unnecessary wars; to murder thousands of civilians; to invade and occupy other countries. They crown themselves rulers, assume the right to plunder any resources that are desired by their corporate paymasters and have no sense of responsibility to maintain order, protect civil society or even plan to do these things. This junta lie, steal, break international treaties, pollute, threaten governments that oppose them, and take your constitutional freedoms from you. "

"Also note that even when your government is elected, it still manages to be in debt to corporate interests, to negotiate hypocritical trade deals with the rest of the world, to threaten us with weapons of mass destruction, to support oppressive undemocratic regimes in some of our countries, and to bribe and cajole or train terrorists to destabalize our democratic governments until they fall into line with US interest."

"So when are you going to a) open your eyes and see that this is in fact what's going on, and b) get angry enough to put your house in order?"

The tragedy comes in frame 2. "What Americans hear" is somewhat garbled in translation. "We, the benighted citizens of the rest of the world, are so driven mad with envy of your great wealth, success, power and beneficience, that we've formed an inexplicable, irrational hatred of you and your culture. We want to see you brought down, or if that can't be done, at least hurt. And we really admire those crazy muslim guys because hurting you is something they're pretty good at. We celebrate every bullet that strikes down an American soldier. And boy, do we feel ecstatic about that initial blow against you on September 11th. That must have really made you suffer."

Going and protesting outside the American embassy today is just going to re-enforce the message of frame 2 in the American mind.

Now, I know that everyone's moral compass wobbles a bit occassionally. Especially when you feel strongly about something, it's tempting to become partisan. And I know there are people on the anti-imperialist left who do think that making common cause with radical islamicism is desirable (even if only temporarily)

I also know that there are extremists on the American libertarian right who pretty much see a continuum anyway : where there's only a difference of degree between angry, jealous, irrational muslims with their failed political-economic system; and angry, jealous, irrational euro-socialists with their failed political-economic system.

But basically frame 1 is the way things really are. How we in the world feel about the US. And frame 2 is a fairy story.

I will, however, also be arguing with my friend when I see him. There is much black propaganda against the islamic world and islamic culture spinning out of the US government and media. But there's also plenty of it coming from the islamic schools and arab media against Israel and the US. And there are crazy and corrupt and stupid people on both sides. It's an extremely messy and ugly situation.

And Realpolitik, declaring the enemy of my enemy is my friend, isn't the right answer.

When September 11th happened, I had an emotional, knee-jerk reaction, that here was some poetic justice. That the world was answering the increasing obnoxiousness of the US under Bush.

But as I discussed it, and thought things through, I realized that this reaction had been wrong, both morally and strategically. The people who planned September 11th weren't motivated by any ideals I'd recognize or concur with; there was nothing good achieved; nor anything that justified the great wrong commited. And not even a strategic gain that one could guiltily welcome. In fact, the chain of events and suffering it set in motion has been pretty consistently awfull.

There's only one reason to protest against the US government, specifically today. That's if you think that September 11th was the American Reichstag; that the clique either engineered or were culpably negligent in allowing the attack to happen, in order to win unchallenged power and co-operation for their take-over of the world's most powerful nation.

For the record, I don't believe that. I believe the Bush government to have been negligent because they didn't particularly want to see or have their agents investigating anything that was inconvenient to their corporate paymasters doing deals wiht the Saudis. But nothing else. The attack was a "spectacular" (as the IRA used to term it), done for bizarre and insupportable reasons, by a small bunch of clever but deluded people, most of whom died when they executed it.

Those of us in the rest of the world, need to resist the influence of an American state that's fallen into the hands of corporations. Not out of "anti-americanism", but out of straight democratic self-interest. Unless we citizens of the rest of the world mirraculously gain the right to vote in meaningful American elections, it's intolerable that a government that has no democratic responsibility to us should have so much power over us. (I'm sure all democratic Americans would agree.)

But September 11th was not a skirmish in that battle. The islamicists are not our allies. And the attack was a crime and a tragedy which should be universally mourned and regretted.

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Latest changes to Typed Threaded Discussion

  • OPML export ... maybe buggy, but all bug reports welcome. Don't have an outliner to play with at the moment.
  • You can send a trackback to the trackback URL of any point (nice!)
  • Readers can now change the type of any post

Comments on TTD are welcome ... on the TTD :-)
Spam poetry. In their efforts to confuse Baysian filters spams full of random words are getting more surreal.

Here's one that struck me today :

absectia semiratis

valediction failsafe beachcomb polonaise
lase stage
clive flinch

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

New Momus essay on Disorentation. Bit of autobiography about language labs and wordscapes. Usual erudite and interesting stuff.

Adrian Howard : As for ideogram based languages....

ThoughtStorms: WikiNature
Just added an experimental OPML output to Typed Threaded Discussion.

Try getting an example from this page

Thoughts ...

OPML isn't ideal as an XML version of TTD. Too many superfluous levels to manage the nesting of children in different types. I could have made types other
attributes, but I have no idea whether other outliners would treat them in an interesting way or even display them.

But OPML is at least a standard that other pieces of software understand. So may get some alchemy out of it.

Adrian Howard points me to VoodooPad, a desktop wiki that seems to run Python scripts.

This is exactly the kind of thing I fantasize about having or writing. Probably me and half the wikiing, scripting world, huh? Only problem is, it seems ot be Mac only.

Sunday, September 07, 2003

If you are unprepared to encounter interpretations that you might find objectionable, please do not proceed further.

Test Your Intuitions:
Yes! Another project makes it off the back-burner.

After a recent discussion on Meatball wiki, I dug out an old half-finished project : Typed Threaded Discussion, and knocked out a basic working sketch.

Typed Threaded Discussion allows a community who want to argue in a productive way, to do a minimal amount of mark-up that captures some genuinely valuable structural information. The forum is just a basic threaded discussion group with the twist that users categorize their posts according to the relationship to the parent; whether it's a counter-argument, offers supporting evidence, asks for clarification etc. The tree of threads is then presented sorted by type. And the result is a navigable map of the relationships between the points made in the discussion.

That's the idea anyway. Now I need to test it, to see whether the results are interestingly different from normal threaded discussion. Volunteer testers welcome.

Try it out here.
Huge (8mb) flash demo from The Humane Interface.


A search engine with relevance feedback.


Thursday, September 04, 2003

More Kuro5hin discussion on alternative money.

kuro5hin.org || The future of money: private complementary currencies
Notice I'm playing with a new style ... and lost my enetations connection. Doh!

The other was looking very cramped. But I'll see whether I approve of this one. Lots of things to consider about my blog.

  • I need RSS feeds.

  • For some reason my blogrolls script has stopped working since I moved Synaesmedia to my new domain.

  • Do want to pay Blogger to upgrade or simply host my own?

Blahsploitation ...
Some people are weird :

Even though Ruby claims to be have uniform access, there are still some quirks about it. For example, if I want to print a string to stdout, in Ruby I have to do:

print "hello world!"

What I would have really liked to do was

"hello world!".print

or even

out.print "hello world!" (out is the output stream)


Wednesday, September 03, 2003

Good article by Tom Coates. plasticbag.org | weblog | (Weblogs and) The Mass Amateurisation of (Nearly) Everything...
Census Shows Ranks of Poor Rose by 1.3 Million: "WASHINGTON, Sept. 2 "
NakedWiki: "shows the reliance wiki members place on the wiki wrapper functions for home page, recent changes, and search functions."
Arnold Kling on economists moving to the right

My comments on ThoughtStorms

Do you ever get that experience where you hear about something (or someone) and you have a hazy idea of who they are. And you hear about something (or someone else) and have a similarly hazy idea.

And you conflate those two things together? Often because of some superficial similarity.

I was always doing this when I was a kid. I know because I remember the sense of surprise to realize two things were different. For example, when I was three or four I definitely used to get mixed up between France, India and America. All of them had a similar synaesthetic feel. They were all foreign countries, indians lived there, and so did the Eiffel Tower.

I distinctly remember the day I looked in a book and suddenly thought "France is a different country from America/India." (America and India themselves took a bit longer because of the obvious "indian" issue) I had a similar conflation of "Romans" and "Germans" two warlike tribes of bad guys rampaging across Europe.

Then later on, I did the same with George Bernard Shaw and Bertrand Russel (CategoryEarlyTwentiethCentury, CategoryIntellectualGenius, CategorySocialist, CategoryNameBeginsWith_Ber_Sound) and was again astounde (at around the age of 14) to realize that there were two different people.

Today I just found out that I've been doing it again. So congratulations to Bill de hOra and Bill Seitz for finally becoming separated in my mind into two distinct entities.

Seen on my Debian Linux command line :

phil@Cabral:~$ apropos microsoft
microsoft: nothing appropriate.

Happy 10th birthday to Debian
ThoughtStorms: JefRaskin
Telecentres in Sao Paolo are part of the government's attempt to eradicate the digital divide.

Tuesday, September 02, 2003

Some discussion on AnEasyInterface
Adrian Howard on companies :

They also provide a sense of community, a common environment and a location for shared knowledge. I wonder how many of those ad-hoc networks will quickly evolve into a group of people who nearly always work together.

ThoughtStorms: AlternativesToCompanies
As you might have noticed, I've added the Blogger quick link to my toolbar, I'm already noticing that this makes me more inclined to post quick links here.

Maybe this will be the start of a new era in my blogging history : regular updating. ;-)
Update to ThoughtStorms: AcademiaVsNewMedia
A weblog about Simputer
Meatball wiki's DebateTool is becoming an interesting discussion.