Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Wow! Now that's, framing!
Today I've been thinking about this great TouchGraph Wiki Browser thing. Not the wiki browser itself, but the Link Database : a format representing the links between pages which has become standardized to support it. What other network analysis functions might it be useful for?

So I wrote a quick script to play with it. To pull it in and sort the pages by number of inlinks.

See it in action on ThoughtStorms here. And read more and get the script on ThoughtStorms:AnalyzingThoughtStorms

Monday, August 30, 2004

If RDF-XML is just an XML serialization of RDF triples, why doesn't it look like this? :


Is the reason some kind of premature optimization thing?


Sunday, August 29, 2004

ScaleFree is a new blog I've added to my blogroll. Mainly about network stuff.
BBC NEWS | Americas | Bush says Kerry was 'more heroic'

THis is a bit of a no-win situation. Bush *says* the decent thing. But we can't possibly reward him for it by actually voting for him. So next time, there's less incentive for a politician to do likewise.

How the hell do we meaningfully signal approval for the good things bad politicians do? How do we encourage them in the right direction in a first past the post system?

Friday, August 27, 2004

BBC NEWS | South Asia | Afghan voting number puzzle
Just saw this : M/C Journal - How Free Became Open and Everything Else Under the Sun via Purse Lips, Square Jaw

But the M/C article misses a couple of points.

1) "Free software" from Stallman has always been a political idea. And one which can be understood as straight up "left" ie. a belief in communaly accessable resources rather than private property.

So it's slightly strange to say FOSS is broad enough to have been "adopted" by the left. It was theirs originally.

2) The confusion arises because of the move to the "right" - ie. from "free software" to "open source" - which was a deliberate political action by some people within the movement long before IBM et al became involved.

Look at the explicit writings of key people like Eric Raymond and Tim OReilly. Remember the terms "Cathedral" and "Bazaar" don't refer to FOSS vs. proprietory software. They refer to bottom-up, distributed vs. top-down, centralized ways of developing. Raymond is refering to market economies vs. centrally planned ones. In "Homesteading on the Noosphere" he is trying to assert the primacy of a notion of private property as the way to understand the political economy of FOSS.

3) Lessig doesn't strike me so much as a "Centrist" as someone moving to the left in this domain. Note he's now joined the Free Software Foundation, so is a member of the cathedral.

It's because they miss the *dynamic* history of this story, that the M/C seems to think that FOSS is just a broad idea suitably adaptable to different groups. In fact it's a left idea that's been "spun" for the right.

And remember ThoughtStorms:HackingIsaSickMachoCulture
I think Adina Levin is underestimating Jakob Nielsen.

It's probably only a rough approximation of what's going on, but his collection of points adds up to a theory which pretty much does explain the "mystery" of why 3D interfaces haven't (and in their current form, won't) take off.

And it's a theory which you can use to make novel predictions rather than just fitting previous data. So the accusation that it's "backfilling" what we already know is a bit unfair.

Despite being a self-avowed "text person", I'd point out that clearly our knowledge and knowledge tools use a lot of graphics and 2D spatial reasoning (graphs, GUIs, typography and design, diagrams, facial expressions etc.) 2D space helps simplify and understand very well. It's only 3D which we avoid as confusing.

Games are the exception, of course, because they aren't trying to simplify. They're *trying* to make things more complex and challenging. But wherever we're trying to improve the efficiency / productivity of information work, we'll be trying to squash it into 2D.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Aaargh! Anne Galloway's blog packed with good stuff again. I'm scared to go there regularly, I'd never stop trying to fit all those links and references into ThoughtStorms.
Bill Seitz created a Blogline for ThoughtStorms. I suppose you can subscribe to it too.

Update : But it needs to be showing more than the most recent 10 updates. I often edit 20-30 pages a day.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

What a fiendish thing! I just got a mail which claims to be an order confirmation for an 1800 dollar computer. It describes it, and explicitly says not to respond as this is just an automatic confirmation.

I'm 99.99% sure this must be spam. But it's REALLY sneaky. Because there's always the outside possibility someone's nicked my credit-card number and used it to order something. And if you get wind of this, you're likely to really want to get in touch with someone and sort it out.

Now, I've never seen or heard of anything like this. But it must be spam. Firstly, it's pretty strange for an order confirmation not to mention my mailing address and some reference to the card number (the last 4 digits). And the attached URL goes to someone called eurojobsearch.

But I can imagine a lot of people getting freaked into clicking on that link and a) seeing spam and b) confirming their email address for the spammer.
Venezuelan audit confirms victory

Monday, August 16, 2004

Daniel (Davies?) at Crooked Timber : Of course there is now a fairly substantial Catch-22 situation. Part of the reason why Chavez was able to win was that in recent months he’s been throwing around money like water on social programs. He was able to do this because oil was up above $40 a barrel, generating vast profits for the state oil company. A lot of the reason why oil prices were so high was that … there was significant uncertainty about supply from Venezuela because of the impending referendum. Now that some of the uncertainty has been resolved, oil futures have already started tumbling, meaning that it’s going to be that little bit more dfficult to deliver on these promises; if I were a Venezuelan, I wouldn’t be assuming that we were out of the woods yet.

Crooked Timber: Chavez declares victory
Chavez wins the referendum.

I still feel really under informed about this. Parts of the Blogosphere are vitriolicly against him. What I don't know is whether this is just whipped-up prejudice. Clearly Chavez is not the greatest guy. But he is redistributing wealth from the oil companies etc. to clinics and education programs. Maybe this is class-war. But, let's face it. If the situation were reversed and the right were in power, they'd have policies redistributing wealth from the poor to the rich. And that would be class-war too. Or maybe this is their bastard / our bastard thinking.

Miguel Octavio thinks it's probably fraud but is waiting for international observers. If so, how much fraud? How does it compare with Bush in 2000?

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Naomi Klein : ... the zealots in Bush's White House are neither insane nor stupid nor particularly shady. Rather, they openly serve the interests of the corporations that put them in office with bloody-minded efficiency. Their boldness stems not from the fact that they are a new breed of zealot but that the old breed finds itself in a newly unconstrained political climate.

Ditch the Distraction in Chief
Brian Eno on the music of the future : There will be more detail. Organic, fine-grain music. It will also become unusual for us to experience music as a stand-alone art form. It's going to become integrated into other fields. Rather like poetry is a minority art form but pop song lyrics and advertising copy are unavoidable. It's in the nature of arts to coalesce as time goes on.

Q - Cash for Questions: Brian Eno

Bill Seitz (quoting Robert Anton Wilson) on Alien Intelligence

The early stages of EvolutIon are never pretty.

I wonder why the later stages should be less ugly?

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

BBC NEWS | Brazilians decode coffee genome
A call for non-Venezuelan leftists to oppose Chavez.

Well, I'm a foreign leftist, inclined to give Chavez the benefit of the doubt. So I'd be interested in reasons I, as a leftist, shouldn't.

Unfortunately, the article simply name-checks a bunch of other left-wing groups who oppose him. This doesn't really impress me much as the left is always plagued by infighting.

Most of the actual *reasons* I hear to oppose Chavez are that he's squandering the oil money and ruining business. But that's pretty much what the right will always attack the left for. So what are the left-wing reasons I shouldn't support him?

Update: Miguel Octavio responds in the comments of the above blog.
Rup3rt says : ""I installed SDI desk and it is what i am looking for"

which I'll take as a testimonial. He says it works on XP too :-)
I wonder why so many smart people think that a list of your categories is what you should have on the front-page of your wiki?
Prozac in UK drinking water supply?

Sunday, August 08, 2004

Robert Fisk : I keep re-reading Tony Blair's statement. "I remain convinced it was right to go to war. It was the most difficult decision of my life." And I cannot understand it. ... Going to war in Iraq, invading Iraq last year, was the most difficult decision Blair had to take because he thought - correctly - that it might be the wrong decision.

(My emphasis.)

Occupation Watch:?'Can't Blair See that this Country is About to Explode? Can't Bush?'
And while Watergate created the precedent for the impeachment of Bill Clinton a generation later, the Clinton impeachment made it more difficult for Congress to impeach a future president.

How curious ... and convenient.

BBC | Watergate: Watershed or water under the bridge?

Friday, August 06, 2004

You want to see what it's like in the high-energy intellectual particle accelerator that is ThoughtStorms?

How about this, discussing ThoughtStorms: ManagementByMarkets

Usual problem though. You have a set of outcomes and their prices, but who defines these outcome / commodities. (Like who decides on the input nodes in the NeuralNetwork?) Or how do you decide the categories? (ImmanuelKant : 'Thoughts without content are empty, intuitions without concepts are blind.')

This is actually a sort of Modularity issue isn't it? How do you draw the boundaries around tradable commodities. So see also OnModules / PropertyModules.
Big topic today ... ThoughtStorms: PredictiveMarkets
I wonder whether oil running out is one of Shell's scenarios?
Look, I really believe that there's a terrible genocide going on in Darfur. And that poor blacks are being murdered by evil "arab" nomads.

But does anything raise more doubts about that basic model than this?

(Especially given stories like this.)
Why Hire Great Hackers?

Here's one possible reason you want to hire great hackers. GHs are motivated by more than money. The fact is, if you don't hire them, they're going to go off and hack anyway. If you don't hire them, they might even just go off and hack up a free competitor to your product.

So maybe you need to hire GHs defensively (a bit like Software Patents), as insurance. At least you'll focus their attention on your product / ecosystem. Even if they don't do much for it, they're unlikely to do anything against it.

More insights : ThoughtStorms: GreatHackers
Joel Spolsky interviewed (one week only )

Thursday, August 05, 2004

George Monbiot : By the time we have lost our freedoms, we will have forgotten what they were. The silence with which the new laws were greeted last week suggests that the forgetting has already begun.

Guardian Unlimited | Guardian daily comment | A threat to democracy
Speculative thinking over on the AltEnergy tribe (by Roy, but it sounds cool to me so I'm copying it here) :

I've thought up a better system, at least for the humid tropics. Make a large artificial marsh to purify ag runoff water. This needs swamp type plants to do this job. So we plant taro, an arum that rapidly produces huge starchy tubers. There's the starch to make sugars to ferment. The distilling fuel is methane gas but we'll get to that in a moment. The spent mash from this ethanol producing operation is part of the feed for a hog operation. This operation produces two valuable products, pork (and hides) and pig manure. The manure goes into a large biodigester, along with the taro leaves and other wastes, which, of course, produces the methane for the distillation process. Also the biodigester produces solid fertilizer for other operations and waste water to be purified in the artificial marsh. This waste water is rich in fertility for the growth the taro. A closed cycle with little expensive input other than labor. Comments?

Tribe Discussion: Solar Power and Alternative Energy - Tribe.net
Bill Seitz calls me out on my remark about MTV's role in the cycle of povery.

ThoughtStorms: MTVAndCycleOfPoverty

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Are people all over this amazing analysis of Apple, yet?

His point is that Apple are misleading everyone when they say Apple use iTunes to sell iPods. Instead, the long term game is for iTunes to become a DRM platform for all kinds of streamed and downloaded content.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

The BBC has a couple more details on the trade agreement thing :

* Countries must submit offers to liberalize their service industries as soon as possible

* No service sector should be excluded from liberalization

* It should be made easier for people to work abroad

I guess this means liberalizing banks and other financial services. Which easier access for foreign speculators.
Just uploaded a new version of SdiDesk. This is a really minor trial fix. Taking advice from a couple of people here. But I have no idea whether it's actually going to make things work on NT/XP until I get my hands on a machine with these and try it.
Cringely : Does Sveasoft (Or Anyone Else) Have the Right to Make a Living From Open Source Software?

Answer : anyone has the right to make a living out of free-software, as long as they don't violate the rights of users that were explicitly intended by the original authors.

Have Sveasoft violated the letter of the GPL? Maybe not.

Have they violated the spirit of the GPL?

Yes, if $50 for a CD is unreasonable for a copy.

I'd say it's unreasonable. Not because that's unreasonable for a CD, but because they are obviously running a server from which you can download older versions of the code. And there's no obvious reason they couldn't put the new version on the same server, except that they are trying to restrict distribution.

This is the most egregious point : What people don't like is ... the restriction that you can't continue to use your $20 subscription rights once you have ... violated the development group rules by giving away beta code to those who aren't qualified to receive

This is a blatant attempt to prevent you from giving away the beta. Now the restriction isn't in the license for the software, as that would certainly be in violation of the GPL. Putting it elsewhere in a bundled service may be a legal loophole but it's absolutely bad faith.

Cringely asks, in wide-eyed innocence : The question that is being neither asked nor answered here is how can one make an acceptable living from Open Source?

To which the correct answer is that it's not being asked because it's not relevant. Open Source is first about protecting my rights. And if you can make a living while respecting my rights, I support you. If you can't, then bad luck. But violating my rights in order to get paid isn't an option I have any intention of respecting.

Nor do I respect Cringely's plaintive : Those who are upset with James Ewing and Sveasoft don't generally begrudge him the right to make a living, they just wish he wasn't doing it this way. At the same time, they don't want the progress that his work has created to end. You can't have it both ways.

I absolutely can have it both ways. If people don't want the progress Sveasoft are creating to end, they can make donations to Sveasoft. If they aren't willing to, perhaps they don't want the progress that much. But Sveasoft is presumably deriving it's "progress" from someone else who explicitly asked that their work would be available with these rights. If Sveasoft didn't want that, it was their choice to write from scratch under a different license.

Monday, August 02, 2004

Why is it that when I want to see the books of visual design guru Edward Tufte, I go to a page which shows only one book. (Very nicely, I admit) But with no way to navigate to any of his other books, except through an obscure list marked :

Book 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5

floating in a non-standard / hard-to-hit location in the middle of the page?
ThoughtStorms has lots of good notes and links about hierarchies and networks. But I suddenly realized there wasn't a good overview. Now I've added it. Hopefully, this new super-index can help with your hierarchy vs. networks needs.

ThoughtStorms: NetworksVsHierarchies

Sunday, August 01, 2004

This is utterly incomprehensible to me.

(Allegedly) I am "da man" :-)

(Not that I'm egosurfing or anything. ;-)
Henry Louis Gates Jr. : Are white racists forcing black teenagers to drop out of school or to have babies?

Dunno. What proportion of MTV shareholders are white racists?

TeleDyn : who would have suspected a snail of being a predator?

No More Angels