Saturday, October 30, 2004

Friday, October 29, 2004

It's happening!

More and more people, talking about AltMoney combined with electronic networks :-)

TheFeature :: Open Source Currency

The Future of Money

Excellent point by Adina Levin : But we don't test what happens when voters make mistakes. Usability testing is critical for all sorts of systems -- particularly systems where user choices have serious consequences like voting.

The lack of usability testing -- and the lack of rigorous security testing -- show that voting administration hasn't yet caught up to the responsibility of electronic voting.


Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Joel Spolsky asks for the
Best Software Essays of 2004 and gets a great list.
Darkside industrial bhangra :

This cd will feature music and combinations that will be the first of it's kind, original dub versions of bhangra and reggae songs destroyed in industrial and experimental styles. (not gabber /fucking rave jungle mash up)


Sunday, October 17, 2004

Don't confuse the true blah of BlahBlahWorld and Blahsploitation with this faker : Blah, Blah, Blog

(Still, he has some good stories :-)

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Hmmm. Maybe I should have re-read this before embarking on my current career. :-)

As a way of organising part of the labour market, it's got more or less nothing to recommend it.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Richard Stallman went to Tihuanaco and got hooked on quinoa soup.

We did too, about seven months earlier.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Just, a mere, speculative query. If I voted Conservative in the next UK election, would I have the slightest chance of helping overturn the insanity that seems to be going on at the moment? Or are the Tories as keen on this as Labour?


no on second glance, that was a foolish idea.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

If the Americans want to extradite a British citizen, they need only prove he is who they say he is. Once their new law passes it will be entirely legal for them to ship their British victims off to Syria for torture without trial.

In other words, the British government, whose first duty is to ensure the safety of British citizens and their fundamental human rights, can no longer guarantee that we can't be tortured, or that it won't hand us over to another government which will torture us.

Guardian Unlimited | The wrap | A worm's eye view
Questions I wish people would ask me :

Q : Phil, in 2000 you were going on about how important weblogs were going to be. Now they're winning the US election. Two years ago you started ThoughtStorms and told us WikiIsTheNewFrontier. Now everyone is saying that.

So, what do you predict is going to be big another two years down the line?

Phil (impossibly smug) : Why, since you ask so nicely, little literary device, I will enlighten you.

* PollsAndCompasses

* TypedThreadedDiscussion

Q : But Phil, why?

Polls and compasses have been used for fun. But they can do real work a) collecting information about people and b) teaching people about themselves. Now that social networking services are getting lots of people together, polls let them classify themselves.

A new wave of polling software, tied to other social software will distribute and amateurize psychology.

Everyone will try their hand at categorizing and typing people. Some of the classifications will turn out to be bogus. But some will turn out to be usefully predictive of what or who people want to know, or the things they'd be good or bad at.

As to discussion. There are many new venues for it to take place. Blog comments, GMail, YASNs (like Tribe tribe discussions) etc. But they're all using models of discussion which have been around for 20 years. And consequently they're generating huge amounts of new material and knowledge which is still hard to follow or mine.

TTD is the quick hack. A minor variant of threaded discussion which can generate a lot of useful, structural meta-data for almost no extra cost. Wait for one of these venues to discover it and then watch for the explosion of useful knowledge.

Q : But does anyone ever ask you this question?

A : Nah. Everyone's a prophet these days. But you can discuss this using TTD here
Very mysterious.

We can't possibly be paranoid enough to imagine that someone's taken the material and is busily inventing a nuclear program for Iraq, retrospectively, like.

No, we can't. Don't worry, our sanity is intact.

BBC NEWS | Middle East | Confusion over Iraq nuclear assets

Monday, October 11, 2004

Eric Raymond : For the first time in my life, I find that I am seriously considering voting Republican in a presidential election.

Armed and Dangerous :: October :: 2004

(BTW : read the comments)
This is bad. Don't do it, people. However pissed off you are. It plays right into Republican hands.
Chavez twists the knife into the US economy.
This BBC story : George W Bush's campaign is running a new attack ad against the White House challenger, John Kerry.

The TV commercial accuses Mr Kerry of failing to understand the threat posed by terrorists around the world.


Correspondents say that Mr Bush, who has called himself a "war president" and part of whose re-election campaign urges voters not to switch leaders while the country remains at war, paints the struggle against militants as a long-term battle that has defined his presidency.

The script for the new ad accuses Mr Kerry of changing his mind on how best to defeat terrorism, and interprets his comments as equating the war on terror to prostitution.


Reminds me of Greg Palast's comment : They don't give a shit about popular support. Bush is running on fear. He's the fear candidate. He's the "you better get scared cuz those guys with the towels on their heads, they're coming to git you" candidate. People have to understand what the game is: pump the fear. His daddy created Osama bin Laden, who came back for us. His daddy created Saddam. And now he's creating Musharraf and all the other crazy bastards, and it's going to be a very fucking dangerous world. They're going to make it so goddamn dangerous that then they'll turn around and say, see, you need us. They're selling fear. That's their commodity.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

How curious. Saddam the geek?

The former Iraqi president also valued science and technology highly, and viewed nuclear programmes as a 'symbol of a modern nation, indicative of technological progress'.

This, the report says, explains Saddam Hussein's wish to preserve the intellectual capacity to recreate weapons programmes.

BBC NEWS | World | Middle East | Light shed on Saddam motivations
Senator Kerry gave quite a long, detailed answer on abortion, and President Bush was able to pounce and say that he did not understand Mr Kerry's answer.

That's a good move in the debate?

BBC NEWS | Americas | Analysis: Tough fight leaves race open:
BBC NEWS | Europe | Deconstruction icon Derrida dies

Friday, October 08, 2004

Today's big ThoughtStorms posting ... academia, politics and blogging. What more could you ask for in a story?

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Brasilia, Cult capital of the world

Oh yeah! It's absolutely true. Brasilia really is new age capital of at least Brazil. We have new age breakfast TV on the local channel on Saturday mornings, we have shops where you can buy spells, everybody I meet believes in astrology (not that Brighton didn't have a lot of this stuff too of course)

Down the road we have a Rosicrucian church and reading room. The other thing is, that this is a big crystal mining area. All those local crystal objects tourists buy at the airport and various hippy fairs, they come from this region.

The big destination for getting away from it all, Alto Paraiso, is a totally new age colony where they have an "airport" where you can go and wait for Flying Saucers (which are meant to be common). All the pousadas seem to be run by Trancendental Meditationists. At sun-set everyne goes up the hill (And some of them climb the TV tower) to watch sun go down accompanied by a guy in saffron robes playing a didgeridoo.

OTOH, remember this is a society of civil servants, in some cases, third generation civil servants. I think this has to be taken into account ...

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Philip Greenspun on What's wrong with the standard undergraduate computer science curriculum

Usual cynical stuff, but worth reading. And a couple of tips I'll try to incorporate into my teaching. The really interesting thing is his attempt to tie "industry requirements" with a small scale, craft model. These might not always go together, but it's nice when they do.
John Robb : Bush is Osama's choice for president

John Robb's Weblog

Monday, October 04, 2004

Politics makes strange bedfellows. Arch-austrian / libertarian site publishes John Pilger and this interesting critique of the war-hawk claim that US threats brought down the Soviet Union, and suggests Gorbachev's connections with CND were equally important.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Phil's new first rule of computer science lecturing : don't attempt to demonstrate an imperative quicksort by stepping through it on the whiteboard. Especially when you haven't tried it at home, first.

Firstly it's very long. Secondly it's easy to make a mistake.

A horrible lecture yesterday. I fell into one of those "mumbling into the whiteboard for 20 minutes with my back to the students" traps. Having started manually running through the quicksort, I found, after about 6 or 7 minutes that I'd made a mistake, coming out of the first "increase-the-lower-bound while loop" too early. I appologised and went back to correct it, but it became extremely clear that actually working through the algorithm until the list was sorted would take far longer than I wanted to spend, and the students were already ignoring me and chatting among themselves. Admitedly some were looking at the paper copy I'd given them and trying to work it out. Others were staring glassy eyed at me. So I asked if they preferred to work through it themselves or for me to continue. No one answered. Eventually one guy indicated that I should continue, but as I turned back I could tell perfectly well that even he wasn't really paying attention or following what I was saying. I panicked and took refuge in trying to work through it again for five minutes and then gave up. "It does work" I tried to assure them, lamely. "Let's look at the Haskell version."

But by then I really didn't have the presence to summon their attention back. And my vocabulary and any semblance of grammatical competence had completely disintegrated. Even the recursive version takes time to demonstrate, and the audience were restive. Was I going to expect them to do the exercises before they left? No, I relented. This time they could take them home. That was the basic cue for some to start to get up and leave. "If anyone has any problems understanding this, come up and see me now and I'll explain individually" I invited. No one took me up on the offer.

One student who had already taught quicksort on another course, took pity on me and came up and started to demonstrate that my program ''did'' really work. I let the others drift off without a word. A couple of the students stayed behind and finished their exercise. Their verdict : the Python was very complicated, but the Haskell was interesting and kind of self-explanatory. Guess I was wrong!

So, at the end of an amazing first week, I've given four classes : two in "Advanced Programming", two in "Programing Languages". All, more or less, in a language I can't actually speak. I started terrified. Gained confidence. Lost it all again in that last lecture. The only solution for next week is yet more preparation and I'm feeling totally snowed under as it is. But it is fun! At least for the moment.

Friday, October 01, 2004

BBC : The first uncensored letter from a Briton held at Guantanamo Bay shows he has been tortured, his lawyers claim.

BBC NEWS | UK | Letter 'shows Guantanamo torture'