Sunday, December 28, 2008

Being unemployed / post-Christmas holidays are great!


Here's roughly what I'm up-to at the moment.

jQuery / Javascript / Titanium

I've pretty much got jQuery under my belt. (Not hard, really) and am playing a lot with Javascript, now in Chrome. (Which is nice and fast and hasn't caused me any problems so far Kaunda).

This doesn't, of course, mean that I'm now a great Ajax UI designer (yet); but at least it's not javascript / or DOM-wrangling (via jQuery) which is stopping me.

I've done a number of cute experiments which I hope to show you soon. And then I'll try them in Titanium which looks pretty sweet too. This could be what I was hoping for from Adobe Flex / AIR.


I started playing with Django because a lot of the Python job adverts I've seen are mentioning it. (Far more than, say, Zope. And Turbogears is clearly of infinitesimal interest to prospective employers.)

The most striking thing for me is that it's almost exactly like Google Application Engine. Or rather, I suppose GAE is heavily derived from Django.

The only differences seem to be that you have a relational database behind the scenes rather than Google's own BigTable and I guess I'll need to come to terms with the templating language which I ducked out of when I was writing Mind Traffic Control.

Anyway, Django looks pretty straightforward.

A couple of days ago I was looking at the Blimpduino site. I was thinking it would be cool to have one, but my own electronics and model making skills probably aren't up to it. Same with Johnny Chung Lee's cheap multi-touch Wiimote whiteboard. I'd love to have one. And I was kind of expecting that, by now, someone would have started making and selling a pens + wiimote package for people who want this but don't want to build it themselves.

But that doesn't seem to have happened.

So I started wondering whether there's some kind of site where you can ask people in your locality to make stuff for you. Something like a cross between Rentacoder and the Alchemy part of Etsy. There are undoubtedly people with a good understanding and feel for electronics projects who could knock off a couple of IR light-pens with alacrity. Whereas I'd bumble around not doing it for months.

So where's the site which creates a market for such things? Is it Etsy? If not, and if there doesn't seem to be anything similar, I'm thinking that this is going to be my Django learning exercise. It could be a useful service. (Think that you're encouraging small-scale, on-demand local production and helping stimulate economic activity during what's going to be a pretty bad year for many people. I'll probably add the option of offering and bidding using (eg. LETS) or even barter too.)

I'll knock together a draft site over the next week or so (it *is* my Django learning exercise too) and then, as I'm off to various entrepreneurial meetups I'll talk about it to them.

If it really looks like there's nothing similar out there, I may take this further. It's a definite "should exist". OTOH I can't quite believe that it doesn't. So if someone tells me about an existing one in the meantime, I'll leave it at that.


I just discovered Chuck which appears a very interesting music programming language. I've been looking for something like this for a while, and it sounds pretty good on first listen. Time to go back to some of my more simulation oriented music experiments again.

Finally, merry circuit bent christmas and new year to you all.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

A quick and dirty place to collect links to my music.
After one more Firefox slowdown and crash (OK, with 20 tabs open including one playing streaming music, admittedly) I just switched to Google Chrome.

So far, it seems very good. Lots of tabs (including streaming music) and feels far more responsive, no crashes yet.
RIP Harold Pinter

Friday, December 19, 2008

Arguably now is the time you should start despairing of humanity. Scientists rerun the Milgram test and get the same result!!!!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Hauntological note.

It's not simply that people of my generation are getting nostalgic for the tropes and indications of our childhoods. No, of course not!

What's happening is that we're doing the important historical work of sifting. In every cultural moment there is "good" and "bad" ... that which is well made within the context and rules of the genre, and that which is not (which is mere tired copyings of earlier styles or mere pastiche of the signifiers of the genre itself.)

Our job, now, is to begin the process of analysis. To identify what will stand for us in futurity and what later generations can safely forget.

Obviously ;-)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

This talk by Kevin Kelly is quite good. Thought-provoking.

Reminds me ...
You knew it had to happen, right? Topical "satire" game of the week : Sock and Awe.
K-Punk on Oliver Postgate :

This was the voice of an adult speaking to children; an obvious point, no doubt, but where in children's TV now would you find such a mode of address? There are no children, there are no adults, there is no wonder: only adolescents in waiting, being spoken to by screamingly selfconscious adolescents in their twenties and thirties.

Just watch. Postgate is about to get elevated to the patron saint of Hauntology. Can't you just imagine GhostBox bringing out a tribute album?

Update : watch this documentary. I'm sold on the cult of Postgate. That's Composing!
Cringely's last stand (at least in his current gig) :

11) My last prediction for 2009 has to do with venture capital. While investments in technology will continue, the really smart VCs will realize there is a much better and more certain way to make a ton of money in the short term: start a bank. Look for the rebirth of community banks, in this case backed by VCs. Work with me on this one. There is no credit available because the big banks won't lend. But it takes only about $20 million to start a very fine little bank that WILL loan money because the cash can be acquired from the Fed for almost nothing and lent at high rates to technology companies that can pay it back. By creating banks the technology industry will become self-funding. And when the big banks finally stop being frozen with fear and want to take back the lending business, they'll have to buy all those little banks for at least a 10X multiple. It's not like starting Cisco or Dell, but a 10-bagger business model that can be replicated over and over again while actually helping the nation can't fail.

He now seems to have moved to
Today's fascinating miscellaneous links :

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

If you liked (could cope with) my longer, more leisurely and minimalist music (eg. the recent Serra / Reich / Glass Removals ) then you might enjoy this track from sometime early to mid 90s :

Ambient #1 : I picked up a razor and I ....

I'm slowly digitizing some of my old tapes from the pre-digital period. So all kinds of juvenilia are turning up. Not all of it great, but a lot I find kind of interesting in a lo-fi, amateur way. This was basically a live keyboard improvisation (my trusty Kawai K1) into an echo box and onto 4-track tape, onto which I'd already recorded the "on with the hits from London" radio loop. After the main improvisation set the overall structure and most of the ideas I added a couple more echoey keyboard parts and samples (including rhythmic loops and my doing breathy whhhisssshh sounds).

While we're on the subject of my long compositions, don't forget The Great Grimpen Mire, the first Gbloink! epic.
My first poll on Composing : Is Phil too cynical?

Results : Yes : 3, No : 7

30% of you find me too cynical. If I'd have voted, I'd have voted that way too. Thanks to all the others who saw my good parts, but I think I'm going to tone it down.

Not totally, of course. There are times when cynicism is the best response. ;-)

Monday, December 15, 2008

It's now too late to stop global warming.

Now it's just a question of where to try to hold the line. (In the middle of all kinds of unknown unknown feedback loops.)

Meanwhile even the IEA admit peak oil is coming within 15 years. (Watch the video)

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Auditorium is possibly the most wonderful game I've ever seen.

Update : seems to have been removed and can't remember what it was!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Virginia Postrel (of all people!) has a great story from experimental economics. Under controlled laboratory conditions, speculative bubbles happens.

She does, of course, duck the obvious conclusion : that markets are a crap way to find out how much something is worth. ;-)

(See also Markets as Bonfires of Reason)
Amazingly blatant class-war in progress. Republicans wouldn't allow US Congress to bail out the US car companies because the Unions wouldn't accept a pay cut.

What the FUCK!!!!!?

This is VERY different from putting a cap on bonuses to senior managers in the financial institutions that were bailed out.

In a real sense, the financial managers and traders were largely responsible for the economic crisis in the first place. They were making the bad investment decisions without understanding or taking seriously the risks. There's a real moral hazard issue if you reward them after they took on those risks. NOT because you want to punish them, but because you want their personal incentives to align with the reality of the work they do.

In the case of the employees of the car companies we're talking about ordinary employees that are simply getting paid the wage they (collectively) negotiated with their employer. Here the Republicans have allowed their agenda (of disliking Unionized Labour) to influence whether they think the US car industry should be supported.
A couple of posts ago I started wishing for a way to pull together songs from LastFM and Radio 3 etc. Today I find LastFM has an API and there's a HackDay on Sunday.

Probably too late to get into at this point. But London is awesome.

Monday, December 08, 2008

With jQuery and the Firebug plugin for Firefox - wow! - browser-based development is way better than it used to be 10 years ago :-)
Via Kaunda : Condition Critical

Friday, December 05, 2008

Currently loving my LastFM station throwing together happy unplanned juxtapositions of hauntology, outsider electronica, IDM, gypsy and music from Pernambuco. Just like my own mix-tapes, except automatic.

Update : Actually, I'm never satisfied. Back in the UK I'm also starting to listen to Radio 3's Late Junction. What I'd really like is to be able to do is mix (as in a Yahoo Pipes sense of pulling together different feeds) feeds from LastFM, Late Junction and other sources.
Venture Beat on the Sequoia Capital RIP : Good Times presentation.

Bad news for VC funded startups.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Johnny Chung Lee's Wiimote whiteboard has offspring.

Update : this DJ table looks incredibly fun, of course.

Update 2 : An interesting home-made multitouch input device (not screen though)

Update 3 : Audio scratch input, though, seems just nutty. If still very cool.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The looting of the US.

When Congress approved the TARP on Oct. 3, Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson acknowledged the need for transparency and oversight. Now, as regulators commit far more money while refusing to disclose loan recipients or reveal the collateral they are taking in return, some Congress members are calling for the Fed to be reined in.

WTF? (My emphasis)

More ...
I wonder what *exactly* is the purpose of "retro-roleplaying" when you can pick up originals on ebay for like two quid.

Monday, November 24, 2008

What is RjDj?
Mr. Tweet is social network analysis bot you access via Twitter. Simply follow it and it searches your network for influential people.


Though it's not necessarily obvious that just because a lot of people I follow are following someone else, I also need to be.
Back in 2003 or something I predicted a tele-presence teddy. Now MIT seem to be making one.
OK ... prompted by Kaunda, I succumbed. My LastFM radio station.
Awesome Facebook visualization : Project Palantir

Sunday, November 23, 2008

OrangeCone's UI advice for the device-swarm.
This is incredibly nice. A weird mix of post-dubstep sensibility substituting reggae heavy bass for a laid-back G-Funk vibe. (It's got a hell of a lot of bleeps and glitchy abstract rewinds but also R'n'B flava.) Rekordah provides lots of squeezed synths and chip-tune riffs over the crunky beats.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Tim O'Reilly :
This is the future of mobile: to invent interfaces that throw away the assumptions of the previous generation. Point and click was a breakthrough for PCs, but it's a trap for mobile interface design. Right now, the iPhone (and other similar smartphones) have an array of sensors: the microphone, the camera, the touchscreen, the accelerometer, the location sensor (GPS or cell triangulation), and yes, on many, the keyboard and pointing device. Future applications will surprise us by using them in new ways, and in new combinations; future devices will provide richer and richer arrays of senses (yes, senses, not just sensors) for paying attention to what we want.
Note the new poll in the right gutter.

Genuine question. What do you think?
Shamefully, the right-wing media continues to blame unionization and high-wages for the problems of the car industry. (As opposed to, say, economic crisis, oil, entanglement with finance industry, over-specialization on gas-guzzlers etc.)

Here's a good debunking.
Jean-Francois Nobel is organizing a The Future of Money conference in Mexico City.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Record breaking data
iPhone occarina
After thinking a bit, I support the UK government's new proposal to prosecute men using "forced" prostitutes.

Yeah, it's hard to prove one way or the other whether someone is "forced" eg. by circumstance such as drug addiction. And it raises interesting questions about responsibility and agency (ie. if a prostitute can't consent to sex if she's motivated to pay off her addiction, why is a burgler responsible for a robbery if he's motivated to pay off his addiction?)

But nevertheless "forced" is where you'd like to draw the line. All the cases where prostitution is justified will fall on the "unforced" side. Ignorance is already no defence if, say, you're receiving stolen goods, so why should it be different if you're having sex with enslaved women?

Of course, I think that the corollary is that brothels where women are "unforced" should be legal. (Which would further protect sex-workers.) This shouldn't be seen as a step towards the total ban on prostitution.

And personally, as with other currently criminal activities (such as supplying heroin) I believe that brothels should be legalized but only as non-profit organizations or workers' co-operatives. In other words they should be legal and allowed to provide income for their workers but not provide profits to non-participating shareholders or include too much structural incentive to "grow" the market.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

TopThoughts is a kind of (IMHO) "best of" my writing in various places over the last 5 or 6 years or so.

It's not finished yet.
The influence of Robert Peston (BBC's financial guy) in the market.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

I wonder if I can import my StackOverflow rating into my CollabFinder profile.
Dave Winer bothers to think about Detroit.
What kind of excuse is this for someone handing out legal advice?

Lord Goldsmith said his critic was "entitled to his own legal perspective".

"But at the time and since then many nations other than ours took part in the action and did so believing that they were acting lawfully," he said.

It either *was* legal or it wasn't. But "everyone else was doing it too" is wholly irrelevant!

Update : by coincidence, the Captcha for this blogpost is "fangs".

Monday, November 17, 2008

Victor Keegan in the Observer :

If there are any doubts about the seriousness of the internet moving into three dimensions, then look to China, which is planning a series of different virtual worlds able to host not tens but hundreds of millions of avatars. The idea is to attract people (as avatars) from around the world to come and buy Chinese goods more cheaply from source. In this way they plan to capture the value added to a shirt that leaves a Chinese factory for a dollar but is sold in London for $20. Since the West is virtually - sorry, actually - living off this 'value-added' revenue at the moment, our manufacturing base already having emigrated to China, the economic implications are ominous.
Oh .... yeah ... I'm in the UK

Friday, November 07, 2008

Gets worse ... less than 24 hours to go we're back to square one for taking our stuff to UK. :-(
Just a note. It's amazingly problematic and expensive to fly a couple of hundred Kg of "your stuff" around the world.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Occasionally Philip Greenspun's acerbic comments still hit the mark.

What do you call a country with a thriving financial services sector and everything else rusting and obsolete?


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Friday, October 24, 2008

Greed Eats Brains
How screwed up does a culture have to get before this starts to look like a reasonable way for parents to interact with their teenage kids?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Interestingly, this, turns out to have been my most popular post evah (I think) ... 276 hits within the last few days.

Is it all those Haskell programmers?

Update : seems to be due to Reddit.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Let them sing it for you!

Update : even cooler of course would be some automatic mixing and morphing between the atoms.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Great skype comment in a conversation with my friend Tonho :

I am crazy for science ... I think it is the only exit for be a more happy person (talking about you advice " make sure you cultivate the CHILDLIKE SENSE OF CURIOSITY AND WONDER ABOUT NATURE. Children have an isatiable curiosity about everything around them. Sights, sounds, and smell are a constant source of wonder and amazement...the are eager to learn about plants, birds and insects and are always trying all sorts of experiments with straws, bottles, mud, and love take apart a watch or mecancal toy to see what is inside and how it works. A scientist, Phil is a person who retains some of this childlike sense of curiosity and wonder about nature...and neurons.
hmmm ... going back to the UK means back to one of the most surveilled (if that's a real world) countries in the world.

Update : Get's worse.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Talented Friend Watch #13 : Hilan launches his book.

Portuguese-speaking philosophers can follow the blog of the book : Hybris Solta.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Someone in Superstruct just linked this video of Mastar in Abu Dhabai.

Frankly, I can no longer tell what's Superstruct, and what's real life.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Irony of ironies.

Oct. 10 (Bloomberg) -- Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said political leaders are discussing the idea of closing the world's financial markets while they ``rewrite the rules of international finance.''

``The idea of suspending the markets for the time it takes to rewrite the rules is being discussed,'' Berlusconi said today after a Cabinet meeting in Naples, Italy. A solution to the financial crisis ``can't just be for one country, or even just for Europe, but global.''

The cry goes up in the markets : "Help! Mr. Government! Save us from ourselves"

Remember, the reality is that markets have never been anything but the junior partners to political power. People who tell you otherwise are trying to fool you into not exercising that power.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Open Notebook Science
Oli had a couple of good replies to my last "markets" post. I'm putting my response here 'cos it's more discoverable and readable than in the comments there. But read what he says.

"Surely you're being a bit too broad in your comments here."

Nah. I think it's just you who's getting bogged down in the minutiae. :-)

But good comments, though ...

My thoughts :

1) No one thinks speculation is a good idea. People have always been against it. The problem with speculation is that there's *no* principled way to distinguish it from use of the market in the "right" way.

In both cases people buy now, hoping to sell later for a profit. In both cases people look to the behavior of those around them to learn about the world. (The whole point of a market is that aggregates information publicly, so you can't distinguish "speculators" from "honest investors" by whether they base their judgment on prices.)

"Speculation" can be suspected when prices are increasing rapidly. But there can usually be a plausible story told about why prices *should* be rising rapidly this time. (Eg. the internet changes everything.)

Then speculation is only widely acknowledged *later* when there's a crash and people realize that the prices were "wrong". (By which time, by definition, you've admitted that it's possible for there to be difference between the market price and the "reality")

2) You could *assume* that the "speculators" were the high-frequency (day-traders) and try to filter out the high-frequency movements (ie. by forcing a minimal holding time; or by, say, imposing a tax on purchases which reduces the viability of frequent trades for small gains.)

What you're up against here is a) whether the high-frequency signal really *is* the speculation. And b) whether the market loses certain flexibilities by filtering out the higher frequencies.

As I understand it, the market seems to exhibit "drunkards walk" properties (ie. random at all frequencies). The only real "trend" is a steady, underlying increase in share prices. But I suspect that tells us very little about the world and mainly tracks the increase in the money supply, so it's just a kind of inflation. [Update : See update at end of for me pulling back from this claim.]

As an aside, remember that when people talk about the stock-market "outperforming" the rate of inflation, it's nonsense. Shares are a "good" just like anything else. If their price is increasing, that's inflation. All "outperforming" means is that they're increasing at a faster rate than salaries, goods, services and the rest of the economy. In other words, the government is increasing the money supply and the capitalist class is grabbing an increasingly large proportion of it.


the current financial crisis has partly arisen because not enough theoretical work has been done on the manner of these feedback loops and therefore the kind of system dampening that is required to prevent wildly destructive effects.

At this point I realise that I should read more before pondering more, but Phil, is this the kind of thing that you've been exploring with your OPTIMAES project?

During the 20th century economics has focussed on a particular kind of mathematical model : ie. analytic treatment of equilibria. Only recently has the mainstream starting moving away from this to think about other kinds of models (informational ones, agent based ones, cybernetic ones.)

I'm particularly interested in looking at markets from a cybernetics / dynamical systems perspective. There's a rather fascinating underground current of thinking in the 20th century which is agreeably "left wing" and holistic, one that seems to encompass cybernetics, a more liberal organization theory, some psychoanalysis, spirituality, etc. (Think Stafford Beer or Francisco Varela)

What distinguishes this tradition from mainstream economic theory - which is far more game theoretical, methodologically individualist and appealing to the right - is a belief in feedback, non-linearity and emergence (not just of order but also emergent catastrophic events). I think that economic thinking needs (and is going to get) its next breakthroughs in understanding from this cybernetic / dynamical systems tradition. And the method of discovery will be computer simulation. So, of course, OPTIMAES is all about this :-)

Update : there's an interesting diversion on the comments where I'm discussing the long term trend of share-prices rising. I hypothesized above that this may just be in line with the growth of the money supply. In fact, Darius later convinced me that shares can rise in line with growth of goods and services rather than purely inflation due to the money supply increasing. (I guess I was running with a sort of gold-bug prejudice that I picked up somewhere.) So, ok, I pull back from that earlier suggestion.
Internet fallout from the crashing market
Superstruct is live.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Superstruct is going live within the next 24 hours or so.

For a glimpse of me in 2019, start following Tihuanaco Techno.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Crowdsource your marital dispute?
Two lessons I'm taking from current world financial crisis and US government bailout.

1) US-style capitalism doesn't work without government involvement. As Ayn Rand once put it, real capitalism is an unknown ideal. Who knows how ideal it is? Certainly not the US, which offers us no evidence, one way or the other.

2) Markets "don't know nuffink". Seriously, all the arguments about mark-to-market etc. reveal that these grand distributed information processing machines are pure fraud. What exactly is the worth of XYZ asset? Well, we don't know. We must stop mark-to-market because what the market is telling us is "wrong". That's why we must pump more money in, to convince the market to "know" something else about the value of these things.

Yeah, right.

Markets do not discover the "correct" value of things. We've just let free-market ideologues paint us into an epistemological corner where we assume whatever the market tells us is the correct value. Except when a crisis comes along, like today, and the result is so painful that we try to convince markets of something else.

The crisis is not because the price is too high or too low. The crisis is because markets are too volatile to be relied on as generators of knowledge. The world didn't dramatically change between the pre-crisis and now. The knowledge of the world which is incorporated in markets didn't dramatically change either. What dramatically changed were the expectations of how other agents in the market would behave. In other words, the dramatic re-valuation of assets reflects only endogenous feedback loops inside the market, not an epistemic process responsible for enabling beliefs to reliably track the world.

Now we realize that such a mechanism for generating accurate knowledge about the world barely exists. The information gathering function of the market is swamped by the "betting on other agents' behaviours" part.

Of course, none of this will stop the hypocrites who will pocket their government hand-out and go back to selling us the idea that the market is the best information aggregator that exists.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Indian troubles :

Bollywood on Strike

The Outsourcing slowdown.
Stupid, isn't it?

Everyone around the world is waiting on tenterhooks to see whether the US Congress decides to bail out the US Financial system. And, if so, will that save the US's role of consumer of last resort to keep the whole world trade system going.

I wonder why Lula doesn't just pick up the phone, call his opposites in China, India etc. and say "Tell you what. All that stuff you want to make, but can't sell to the US anymore. We'll have it. We're cutting import taxes on the things you want to sell here. You do the same with our chickens and stuff. Let's all get to keep a bit of what we're making for ourselves for a change."

I'd guess that there are lots of things governments in BRIC countries could do, fairly cheaply, to stimulate trade which routes around the current failures in the US and Europe.
John Robb :
it's very likely that the US security budget will be half of what it is today in as little as five years.

Which if you think about it, is quite a significant change. He thinks it will put a million people out of work. It will certainly shift the balance of military power in the world.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Good, accessible climate-change video with explanations of feedback loops.

It's propaganda, so sceptics won't like the rhetorical flourishes, of course; but it packs a lot of information about the systemic issues.
Nice to see MySpace in trouble.

I suspect, though, that they aren't stupid enough not to make a deal.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Cringely is a genius ... too bad no-one takes this kind of brilliance seriously. :-(

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Applied Materials have another eco-educational card game.

I'm thinking of proposing one as a Superstruct.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

I wonder if Ekranoplans have a future in more energy-efficient fast transatlantic travel.

Friday, September 26, 2008

News 3 :

It now looks certain that we're moving back the UK by the end of this year. My wife has been accepted (and got some funding) to study and work on her art full-time. So we're going to be living in London. I haven't lived there since I was a 19 year old student, with a life fairly constrained by college and my own immaturity. It's a little bit daunting, but quite exciting too.

Of course, as I haven't got funding, I have to find a way to work and support us. And I'm starting think about my "career". What do I actually want to *do* in London? How can I get it?

The easiest, most obvious option, is to just look for another programming gig. But, frankly, I'm hitting 40 next year and as you get older and more experienced, straight "programmer" jobs show diminishing returns (either of interest or comfort). It becomes more and more frustrating to work for managers with clueless, political agendas (or worse). Your capacity to instantly memorize technical trivia degrades. Your tolerance for working 15+ hours a day to hit "optimistic" deadlines diminishes. You start to realize how *powerless* you are in the typical organization hierarchy. As a programmer, you get pigeon-holed as someone who's job is to take orders, reacting to other people's agendas, but not to invent or drive things forward strategically.

I can obviously try to go *up* the hierarchy and become some kind of manager. I don't have a lot of experience of this on my CV but with my current employer I spent a year as a kind of project manager. I think I did OK. I tracked things in spreadsheets and Microsoft Project. I got the people working with me to track things too, and so brought our work back "under control". I dissuaded people who were valuable to the company from leaving. And gave space for someone who was explicitly unhappy and *did* want to leave to prepare for something else. I'd be pretty good as a team leader or mentor-manager of programmers.

And yet ...

It's still, more or less the same problem. Maybe with a bit more money and responsibility. But still *reacting* to someone else's agenda. And, what's deadly about the corporate hierarchy : as you go up you become more dependent on the people under you for *doing* the work which you may no longer be able to even understand. You start to issue the same arbitrary demands that meet your political deadlines and please *your* boss but simply pressurize and oppress those below.

Other alternatives. Teaching? Joining (or starting) a startup? Consultancy?

So, as I said, what do I really want to do when I get to the London? How am I going to get it? Is there a "third door"?
Clever Wii Wario advert on YouTube ... see why?

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Hat-tip Zby : Reviews of an interesting book on Venezuela.
Been reading a lot about biofuels and new chemistry over the last day or so.

And started wondering if there were ways to promote understanding of this kind of thing via games. Quick internet search reveals :


Anything for new, green materials?

Aside : the while trading card, top trumps thing is
Crowdsourcable obviously
Retweeting links from Winer on US bailout : ,

Quotes :
I would guess that this has to be one of the biggest peacetime transfers of power from Congress to the Administration in history. (Anyone know?). Certainly one of the most concise.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Interesting biofuels research project.

Update : It's worth highlighting this :

Q. What is your assessment of the current national conversation on biofuels? Is public understanding of the topic more nuanced than, say, a few years ago?

A. Unfortunately the press is not very good at distinguishing between the many different kinds of biofuels. Currently "biofuels," in public discourse, means corn ethanol, sugar-cane ethanol, and rape seed or soybean diesel. We're not actually in favor of three of those four. We think that sugar-cane ethanol is environmentally positive; we don't think the other three are.

It would be real useful to make a change in the lingo. We'd like to find a way to distinguish what we're doing from what's currently considered "biofuels" — because we're actually not in favor of some of those things. We're specifically not in favor of biodiesel, or much of it. If you have some used cooking oil or tallow kicking around, putting it into biodiesel is environmentally attractive. But manufacturing if from rape seed or soybean — that's actually a bad use of land.

For a hectare (2.47 acres) of soybeans, for example, you can get, maximum, about 200 gallons of biodiesel. From a hectare of miscanthus you can get 2,000 gallons of ethanol. And that hectare of soybeans also requires a lot of inputs, and has erosion and runoff. With a hectare of miscanthus, on the other hand, there's no runoffs that we're aware of, no emissions. I think it's irresponsible to use soybean acres to produce tiny amounts of fuel, diverting land away from food production. For the energy crops that we're interested in, we envision they'll be growing on land that doesn't compete with food production.
Is this true? Hell of a statistic if it is.

Every one of us needs to know that the grain required to fill a 25-gallon SUV tank with ethanol would feed one person for a year.
Hmm ... not sure about this list of predictions.

Some are plausible(ish) but there's some very bizarre space-opera ones. "Human settlement on the moon" in 7 years? Right. Warp drives?
Brilliant! Stockhausen done with toy helicopters.
News 2 :

More in the series of brief "newsey" items about what's going on late 2008. SdiDesk stirs.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Robert Peston :
But ministers are taking nothing for granted. The Treasury is working on a contingency bail-out plan, just in case.

Because there is a risk that if Paulson succeeds in shoring up confidence in US banks, the doomsayers could turn their poisonous speculative attention on the economy perceived to be the next most vulnerable - in the way that the investment bank Lehman Bros became the target after Bear Stearns had to be rescued from collapse.

In other words, the global mob of financial speculators is running a protection racket against national governments : "Buy our gambling debts or we'll burn down your economy."

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The number of people living "on the edge of emergency" has nearly doubled to 220m in just two years, one of the world's biggest aid agencies has said.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Monday, September 15, 2008

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Archers is clearly playing Superstruct. In today's episode their initiative (the Ambridge TEA) is under attack from "griefers" writing spoof IOUs and endangering the Swap Club and the whole Transition Town initiative.

Synchronicity or what!
Blog from Bolivia on what's really going on in Pando
This worth reading on why McCain campaign has gone negative.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Some quick(ish) news about a few changes that are going on, spread over a number of posts :

News 1 : Superstruct

In the next two months or so, I'm going to be heavily involved in Superstruct as an assistant game-master, "community leader" in the "Outlaw Planet" scenario. What that means is that I'll be writing somewhere (not 100% sure where yet) in the role of myself in the year 2019.

By then we'll have had another 10 years advance in ubicomp (the device swarm gets faster, cheaper, denser.) The swarm will become a focus of conflict between "legitimate" authorities (who would obviously like to use it as an instrument to protect and promote the nation-state) and anti-state, 4GW, criminal and general miscreant groups, who for a variety of different reasons are trying to use the swarm destructively.

This conflict is played out against a backdrop of four other super-threats : a peak-oil related energy-crisis; a virulent new respiratory disease with no known cure; an increase in mass-migration as people flee wars, extreme weather and other natural problems; and a break-down in the current food supply-chain (due to energy and environmental problems).

The task of the players is to tell stories about themselves and their lives, 10 years in the future, while inventing new social institutions (purposeful collaborations between previously non-collaborating groups, that we call "superstructs") to help humanity cope with the catastrophic results of the combination and interactions between these threats.

Having been doing some preparatory collaboration with other members of the Superstruct team, and going through our orientation meetings today, I can see that this is actually going to take up a lot of time and energy. (More than I originally thought.) So, expect to see lighter than usual blogging from me, or engagement in other projects (both here or on Smart Disorganized, Platform Wars, OPTIMAES etc. etc.)

(Apart, that is, from a collaborative project I have in the works with Zby, and a couple of outstanding things that are basically done and I just need to write up.)

Thursday, September 11, 2008

w00t! Looks like the suicide of the American Empire will not be postponed, after all.
Wow! The BBC's web-research labs are taking The Archers to a new level.

Total respect, of course. The BBC is a major innovator in "old-media". (Aside. One reason the UK music scene is so good : 1-XTRA, a state-sponsored radio network which tracks and feeds the ever shifting fashions and inventions of London's pirate radio ecology.)

Update : of course there's a hint of SemWebishness about this (made explicit at the end of the blogpost) but nothing that stands out. The live-rolling soap format could be made to work equally well with the SynWeb, and there's no indication which they're actually using.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Jane McGonigal: I just got rabbit-holed by my own game.

People are starting to play Superstruct! Even though we haven't officially launched yet. (I'm writing my first scenarios)
I really have nothing interesting to say about US presidential election but this is worth reading.

(Composing nee Blahsploitation will continue its tradition of endorsing Republican presidential candidates, believing that Obama would be a disaster for anyone who really hopes to see America mismanaged back into the stone-age.)

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Propellerheads (Reason) is Swedish, Ableton and Steinberg are German, ImageLine (Fruity Loops) is Belgian ...

I'm wondering (again), why the Scandinavian (and Benelux) peoples seem to own the software synthesizer and virtual studio business. And why the Free Software alternatives (which you'd imagine would attract enthusiastic contributors) have made little headway against this bastion of proprietary software.

Interesting, Steinberg are actually now owned by Yamaha whereas Boston based Cakewalk (the biggest US based music-software name) are owned by Roland. So Japanese hardware companies have moved in to take over their pure-software rivals.

Bonus question : what became of great British hope SSEYO?

Monday, August 25, 2008

Save your rubbish for a year?
Cringely has an interesting metric for assessing countries' network economy investment and predicting their future : count the Cisco certified engineers.

Looking 30 years into the future I think it is clear that the regional leaders will be China and Korea, NOT India and Japan.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Oli asks wrt Superstruct :

Have I missed something?

It looks like this 'massively multiplayer' game is basically a themed blog where people 'play' by playfully imagining the future.

Which is clearly my cue to say a bit more.

No, you pretty much got it. It's "role-playing" in the good old fashioned "use your imagination" sense rather than the video-game-inna-dungeon sense.

The assistant game-master role is a kind of moderator / collator. Somewhere between stimulating discussion by starting forum threads, finding the best posts on the subject, highlighting them, and bringing them together into a wiki to create a more intelligible permanent record. There's also some giving of feedback to players in the form of rewards for "good ideas" or "good play". Which is obviously going to be subjective (although based on more than one moderator's assessment.)

Oli's also right that this is coming from the science-fictional wing of futurology; the super-threats are deliberately played-large. Think "scenario planning" not "forecasting"; we're not aiming for the most accurate prediction of the near future but to stimulate the most creative thinking about it. The fascination is in the new institutions that the players (representing humanity) have to invent to help cope with these threats. The aim is quite serious, to use a game-like format to gather a wide-range of opinions and suggestions, which the Institute of the Future will then "reduce" into more accessible form.

For me there are two reasons I'm excited to participate :

1) the scenarios are obviously interesting in themselves. My personal expectations are not as apocalyptic as the game's, but I do think that peak-oil and the end of cheap-energy, climate change and the disruption of our food-production patterns, the break-down of the nation-state, and pervasive, non-state-controlled surveillance technologies and weapons, are almost inevitably coming in the next 20-40 years. I believe that new diseases and large scale migrations are quite possible.

So what are we going to do about them? Are we just going to carry on as normal until we crash into circumstances? Or can we start doing some planning at least?

2) The other interest is the method itself. How good are the internet and the social software tools we have at enabling constructive discussion and problem solving? Does this kind of "game" help? As you know I vary between enthusiastic boosterism and occasional crises of doubt.

I believe that the overall trend is good, but there's a need for new tools and styles of discussion. There's a danger of ignoring and talking past those you disagree with; you can destroy intelligent public discussion in a hail of FUD.

Here's a chance to work with people trying to apply the tools and the "game" milieu to this problem. Let's see how it works or how it can be made to do so.

As I see it, the game occupies an interesting position (assuming that we get the expected numbers of players). To gather information from larger groups of people you usually use something like a market (eg. a prediction market) or maybe large scale opinion polls or "market research". All of which reduce the information contribution of the individual dramatically. On the smaller scale you have journals that bring together papers by multiple researchers or reports with for or five authors.

Superstruct sits somewhere between : there's an attempt to systematically gather ideas from an order of magnitude of 1000s using a mixture of human selection (organized in a fairly flat hierarchy) with some automation (the social software tools) and some game-mechanics to structure the contributions. I don't know how it will work out, and I suspect the organizers don't either. But it will be fun finding out.

All readers of this blog are invited (and positively encouraged) to join in, of course.

Disclosure, this is actually a (modestly) paid gig (ie. being a game-master). Although clearly I wouldn't have applied if I hadn't believed it was interesting.
Students return to occupying the rectory of the UnB.

It's official. I'm going to be an assistant game-master in Superstruct, the internet "role-playing" game run by The Institute for the Future.

More soon ....

Monday, August 11, 2008

I'm debating Simon Wardley (read comments) over what generalist computer programmers with their understanding of abstraction can bring to specialist science.

Meanwhile he finds a great video of embedding electronics in paper.
Momus rises to the defence of the hipsters. The classic Momus discourse in microcosm, made urgent and relevant in this context.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Boy, can James Kunstler write!
P2P Foundation : What kind of Open Money do we need?
OReilly tracking Synthetic Biology
Meanwhile, Google continue their green policy by investing in electric cars.
Keep reading Oli's excellent comments to my last climate change post. Very, very interesting and informative.

Here's a good recent example of the anti-sceptic case. Anyone got a similar from the sceptics?
Compare and contrast : Brazil's coming golden age with what's going on on the ground.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Been undertaking one of my regular trawls through the climate change denial blogs.

Depressing as always, not so much because of Climate Change itself. If it's true, that's depressing, if the denialists are right, that's obviously a good thing.

No, what's depressing is the degree to which politics and special interest and pride and anger, resentment and malice seem to be involved in the debate.

It looks like it's on both sides. The denialists are big on highlighting stupid and pompous and venal prevaricating statements by climate change scientists. It's harder to guage whether that's a representative sampling or if they've goaded those scientists into intemperate outbursts which are then gleefully seized on as evidence of those same scientists' worthlessness.

Whichever is the case, the tools of the internet are being turned to the destruction of a knowledge and the sowing of confusion rather than it's creation, refinement and promulgation.

What's needed is something better than newspapers and television documentaries and blogs and graphs as a way of structuring this debate.

Update : Maybe we need things like this. Or TruthMapping which seems very close to a working Typed Threaded Discussion.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

New heuristic rule : blog for people, feeds for news.

I'm not sure I like FriendFeed ... even now. And after intense time on Twitter, I'm using it less.

To access people, I still want to go to blogs. I love my new pipes, but I want real, impersonal news on them : science, ecological disaster, cool nylon toys. Not my friends or blogreads saying what they do and think.

Not sure if this is a temporary thing, but it's the way that makes sense to me at the moment.
Thinking of defaulting on your mortgage?

Go for it. Don't let people suffer for the bank's mismanagement and irresponsible selling. Stop letting them blame you.

What would happen if the US financial industry collapses? Dunno, probably bad things, but better that than YOU collapsing of heart attack from stress or not being able to afford health-care.
Dave Winer :

Ironically, Knol probably would have fared better if instead of having the appearance of Google tilting the table in its favor, search engine-wise, they had put something in its robots.txt file that kept the Google crawler away, so that the opportunists would have stayed away too. That would have given them some time out of the spotlight to build up some real momentum, giving it a chance to compete with Wikipedia. Not sure what Wikia could have done, the idea seemed doomed from the start, because search isn't like a Wiki, and human-authored search results are something of a contradiction.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Skeletal Carnival is pretty damned impressive.
Sweet! BeatBlog RSS enclosures now working.
Great rant against the idiocy of buying bottled water.

Of course, people buy bottled waters because they're addicted to branding. So, what's the answer? Here's a Viridian Design challenge : to design a trendier re-usable water bottle. One that looks good and makes a statement. If the iPod can make pirating music trendier than buying CDs, why can't a "tethered" aquaPod? NO! Nestlé already got there first with that branding. It *is* a bottled water :-(

Need a better name too, then.
How did I miss Erasure's customized music?
Put together : programming languages for chip-design + chemistry labs on chips, how soon before you can start programming chemistry directly?
You'll see I'm playing with feeds more.

I have a kind of love-hate relationship with feed-readers. I love them in principle, find it hard to use in practice. Friend-feed is convenient to aggregate me, but I don't like using it for reading other people. Frankly, that's a visual thing.

But twittering / microblogging is here to stay. I love that I hear cool stuff via. Twitter before anywhere else. I know I'd be better informed if I could scan more feeds. And yet feedreaders are inflexible. By the time you've imported them into some kind of Outlook-like 3-pane monstrosity you might as well just visit the blogs. (Same number of clicks.)

Rivers of news are better ... but I want more control for filtering and processing.

What I really want is more intelligence. I want a system that learns what feeds I'm most interested in *at the moment* and highlights them in some way, and yet also adjusts automatically (and quickly) as my interest shifts. I want to be able to finely slice and dice the feeds, filter across feeds, collect statistics. I want cute dashboard visualizations. I want "algebra of feeds"

I like Pipes ... except a) I hate the UI. Sure it's beautiful and sexy and all that, but why can't I have a text edit view that looks like this?


And b) I don't like that the final presentation in pipes seems to lose images which are there when I view the incoming feed directly in the browser.

Is there a more powerful feed processing application out there? Aimed at geeks?
Another new feed-mix in Yahoo Pipes.

Don't know what to call this yet, have a look and suggest something.
Important Mind Traffic Control update today.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Privacy is nearly dead.
Meanwhile, the BeatBlog rerun just reached the first "This is the end of everything" beat. (#29) Don't worry, that was made in 2001 and clearly wasn't the end of everything. There are around 400 more to come. :-)

There was a problem with enclosures of beats in the RSS feed, but someone from promises me he's fixed the problem, so BeatBlog will finally be available to your podcatcher.
Simon Reynolds continues his ongoing meditations about locality and deterritorialization in electronic / dance music. Well worth reading.

I've been trying "Funky House" : the alleged new sound of London which is melodic, "feminine" and sexy in contrast to Grime's aggressive masculinity and Dubstep's nerdy, doped masculinity. (And, of course, is an alternative to the wonderful hardcore baroque stylings of Northern "niche /bassline house".)

"Funky House" seems to have congealed out of some very bland, globalized house sound. Last year people were talking about "wine bar music". This year, though, some smart commentators are taking notice. That may be because the London magic is working again. London is big enough to juggle multiple popular trends at the same time, and yet liberal enough to allow them to subtly affect each other and push things forward. I don't really like the driving soca-beat that seems to be becoming part of the new genre. Certainly it doesn't make me want to move the way that 2-step garage did. But the music has definitely evolved beyond yawn-inspiring A.N.Other house. The same elements (in fact, I'm sure the same singers) that fed speed-garage and then 2-step are flooding in.

Yet it's staying distinctive. The afro-beat, caribbean influences are definitely going to be strong. In fact, lush jazzy, even Brazilian, vibes could be a fixture. And this gives a very different feel from 2-step.

(Of course, these are often been the kiss-of-death for a genre. But has funky been born innoculated against it from birth? Given its wine-bar parentage, maybe the immune system is already proof against the disease? Could funky be the genre that triumphs over the curse of Bossa Nova? :-) )

Of course, funky is nowhere near as awesomely impressive as bassline house on first listening ... it is just bland and easy-listening house. I am still more enamored of niche.

And yet there is the sense of possibility here.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

It's getting easier to analyse patterns of crime and search for people's criminal records.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

I wish there was a widget I could use to show the Google Analytics Dashboard results for my blogs in the gutter here.

What's fascinating, when looking at Analytics, is how responsive the blogs are to posts. Whenever I post something, traffic can climb to about .. ahem .. er .. 20 that day (yes folks, read Synaesmedia blogs, the choice of the discerning few!) ... but when I don't post, it falls back to 5 or 6. Similar for all the other blogs.

Presumably people get feeds, but click-through when they see something.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Rewatching the famous Amen Break film from a couple of years ago.

Worth watching again ... especially thinking of it WRT "Composing".

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Fascinating article on the effect of online scientific journals on citation. Counter-intuitive result : easier availability leads to fewer citations of more popular articles.

Should this really surprise us? Isn't an emergent power-law distribution something we expect from networks with any kind of preferential attachment?

That raises two further thoughts : why should there be preferential attachment? And why wasn't there before, under the old system?

It could be that academics have got lazy now they sit in front of their screens? Perhaps they just pick the first couple of results off the list that Google provides them. But that strikes me as a highly cynical conclusion to jump to just yet. Are academics *reading* fewer papers? Or merely citing fewer?

Another explanation is that when the system had less liquidity, academics would be forced to accept what was available in their library. Perhaps they'd cite -
sub-optimally - papers which had been expensive to acquire and sort of said what was necessary, but perhaps not as comprehensively or clearly as another paper the academic had failed to acquire. Now with cheaper acquisition, academics are more likely to cite the "right" paper, leading to those papers which best encapsulate a common understanding of an idea being more frequently cited. The positive feedback comes in when, being well cited and read, the "A-list" paper comes to define the community's understanding of the idea.

Even if there is a less jaundiced explanation than academic laziness, that doesn't mean this conformity isn't a problem?

Hat-tip Zby
Inharmonious Cancer

Friday, July 18, 2008

And here's something that's more like it. How to design and fabricate vinyl toys at home. And adding character.
The Bizartz Pipe.

Dunno why. Just liked the idea of some kind of hyper-consumerist, arty, entrepreneurial pipe mixing SpringWise with ThinkGeek with Threadless with Designer Toys and Behance's selected artists. Just a blast of pure hedonistic trendiness.

The presentation's a bit crap though. Not sure what I can do about that. (Shortened texts and tiny pics.) Is that the original feeds or Yahoo's fault?

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Now an optimistic counter to the Winer piece.

Executive Summary : the "surge" proved George Bush wasn't going to run away, so opponents backed down, then found that Americans were their best friends (compared to other sects and factions.)
Polite, Pertinent and Pretty

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Must read Winer :
See, that's the joke. We all know it's about the oil, we want the oil, we're taking it by force and we know it, no one wants to say it, and no one is complaining.

Update : I'm mystified that Bill Seitz thinks Winer's commentators do a good job of countering his claims.

Of all the attempts to counter Dave's argument there, the "we could have just bought the oil" is the most naive.

Of course the US couldn't have just *bought* the oil from Saddam Hussain. It would have a) given Saddam rivers of cash, b) let him spend that cash rearming, and so c) put US interests (and military presence) in Kuwait and Saudi at risk again. After 9/11 and two years a year of FAIL against Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, at least the Neocons (crazy as they were) were smart enough to realize that the US was caught in a trap : they couldn't stay in Saudi indefinitely (that was a pressure cooker) nor could they leave, giving up the no-fly zones and punitive attacks and containment of Iraq; and so allowing Saddam to regather his strength.

Something drastic had to be done. Their Big Hairy Audacious Goal (which was always a kind of open secret) was to re-organize the middle-east entirely : to rescue the comparatively secular people of Iraq from Saddam, thereby creating a pro-American democracy in the heart of the middle-east, which would represent American interest, offer a role model for reforming Arabs in neighbouring countries etc. etc.

Of course, being able to blag the Iraqi oil industry for big business was a useful sweetener, it probably looked pretty good to influencial media barons and helped persuade politicians and their lobbyist masters to get behind the program. But, sure, straight larceny wasn't the strategic objective.

But the fact that this part of the world was considered so important to the US? The fact that the US had to have troops there. That it went to war to roll-back Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. That it "cared" enough about the suffering people of Iraq to throw billions of dollars into fighting Saddam. These are all, ultimately, driven by the requirement for preferential access to a reliable, cost effective, supply of oil.
Via Bill Seitz : Enso derived Graphical Keyboards in Mozilla

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Read, watch, laugh, weep.
Simon Wardley just started Amphilab to merge books with the digital world.

From now on, it's a step out of the mainstream and back into the brave new world of Spimes.

I couldn't be happier.

Very cool.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Why Geeks are doomed in a Suit world. :-(

Joel Spolsky said something interesting in his critique of Java-oriented Computer Science eduction.

Pointers and recursion require a certain ability to reason, to think in abstractions, and, most importantly, to view a problem at several levels of abstraction simultaneously. And thus, the ability to understand pointers and recursion is directly correlated with the ability to be a great programmer

This is so true. Great geeks understand the importance of the mental ducking and diving and wheeling and loop-the-looping up and down the layers of abstraction. The Geek's job is to see at all levels so that the requirements of one level can be solved by implementations further down.

But now consider the perenial Suit complaint of the Geek : that he starts getting bogged down in unnecessary technical details when he should just be giving a high-level progress report or talking to the customer about her problems.

He doesn't "understand business" the Suit thinks.

How tragically, irritatingly wrong. The Geek's job is to make the abstraction levels fit together. Of course the only way to achieve this is with an understanding of both the higher and the lower levels : simultaneously. And the easy shifting from one to another.

But Suits love to keep the levels separate. Their whole reason for existence, their positions depend on the notion that the levels are distinct. The rigid company hierarchy is the reification of non-traversable levels of abstraction.

It is obvious to them that "business" can be understood through the abstraction of accounting. And that the senior managers make visionary plans which require highly abstract inferences about strategic relations but don't require understanding the gritty details of technology.

To the Suit, Geek thinking, that swoops between the layers of abstraction, that claims the right to think of the problem from any perspective, is anathema.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Jason Calacanis retires from blogging.

This might all be tedious "A-lister" posturing, except, one of the symptoms we should be seeing in a shift from capitalism to netocracy is the increasing recognition of, and valorization of, the private and the exclusive.

Over time "mass", including the ability to reach many people, will give way to "fine tuning" (connection with the right people at the right time.) Even if the mails are reblogged, there's still a delay. The faster the world gets, the more significant that slight advantage gets.

Calacanis is clever and experimental. This may be a trivial move, or a regression to an earlier mode. Or may be genuine netocratic imploitation. ("Investment" in the next economy.)
Punk-loving robots :-)

Adaptive Resonance Theory
eh? Actually sound pretty clever.
Via John Robb : Joseph Stiglitz writes the obituary of Neo-liberalism.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Excellent. Kyle McDonald's Edible Beats

Point camera at screen, detect position of Skittles on a grid and interpret them as drum-hits.

Must read article on mathematical analysis of traditional musical structure.

Dmitri Tymoczko transforms musical representation int higher-level mathematical spaces to find that the twin constraints of harmony and melody (in traditional structures) are captured within particular bounded regions of these spaces.

Bonus points :
The mathematician Rachel Hall and I are also exploring some interesting resemblances between music theory and economics. Similar geometrical spaces appear in both disciplines, and questions about how to measure distances between musical chords are very similar to questions about how to measure the distance between economic states.

(hat-tip zby)

Update : your annoying Flash site may look cool, Dmitri, but it prevents me linking directly to your great essay on scale-networks in Debussy and giving it all that lovely Google-juice. FAIL!
The return of BeatBlog ...

BeatBlog's a one of those great ideas that never quite took off. I'd like to try again with the idea, so I'm going to start re-running the series at the site, with a feed going into the side-bar here ... not sure what else yet

Of course, to begin with, the beats are not exactly "fresh"; the first batch was made in 2000-2001, but I'll start introducing new stuff soon.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Here's more stuff I haven't been paying enough attention to.

Guitar Hero


Kaossilator (vs. Ghostradioshow)

Wow! These are fantastic; especially when considered together.

I really never watched a Guitar Hero video before. :-)

But what a synthesis of music and game cultures! And lights! And virtuosity. And performance.

Of course, it's "karaoke" in the sense of putting creativity on rails. And yet it hints at much potential for new instruments with new movements, new user interfaces, new syntheses of sound, light and motion.

The Kaossilator seems like more of a "real", freer instrument. Undoubtedly there are still many constraints, but it's closer. Once again the novelty of the UI unlocks novel performance possibilities, even if the resulting music (nice as it is in this video) sounds strangely unaffected by it's unorthodox origin.

How do we get Gbloink! (not necessarily the program, but the true spirit of "synaesmedia") into these damned things?

Update : or is Guitar Hero actually a degeneration towards karaoke from this?

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Really, I am so busy ... but I just got myself a CamSpace beta-tester account. w00t!!!

Oh. Oh ... what should I do? (Apart from get myself a web-cam, obviously ;-) )

Meu Deus! I have outstanding OPTIMAES to post; 20 outstanding fixes and tweaks to Mind Traffic Control in my queue; some personal stuff in Caché; two other Google App. Engine projects on the go; a long overdue GeekWeaver upgrade; promise to Folknology to play with Reactored; an urge get down to looking at TiddlyWeb with some extension / collaboration ideas; numerous unwritten blog-posts and ...

Waaaaahhhhh ... why does it all have to be so exciting?
Cute. Yesterday's Archers just started their own for the Ambridge Transition Town initiative.
I'm talking a good fight over here.
Compare and contrast : Laconica and NoseRub

(You do it, lazyweb, I'm too busy)

Update : and while you're about it, how 'bout a port to Application Engine too. :-)

(Once again, definitely not me.)
"This is only going to happen more. This is very very bad news for the economy," Mr Watters added.

Yeah, but great news for the planet, perhaps ;-)
Talented Friend Watch #12 : Mar Muriana in Moonatix.
Talented Friend Watch #11 : KrixnahTorrent channeling voices from Terra Una.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Are you gonna bet on whether the North Pole melts this summer?
Time for another blog ... my day-job is far from the kind of things I normally like to write about and follow. But maybe that in itself is scope for some interesting friction.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Dave Winer is looking for Tech. Product feeds. Is he going up as the feed-router rival of Engadget etc?

FWIW I think it would be mind-boggling if someone could persuade MadeInChina to have feeds. John Hegel and John Seely Brown's Global Process Networks on speed.
w00t! Now figured out how to make my blog feeds include the first line of posts when there's no title ... no more "untitled"s on my FriendFeed.
This is a test ....

Friday, June 27, 2008

Talented Friend Watch #10 : Felipe Sobreiro colouring Cursed Planet.

If you like comics, go over and vote for the Cursed Planet team before the end of June. They get a 12 month deal or something if they win.

Update : Cursed Planet blog.
Biofuel use 'increasing poverty'

(Hat-tip Zbigniew)

Important point. It's not "biofuels" in themselves that are a problem. It's the idea that we can somehow keep our energy consumption at current rates and just shift from using exhausted oil to biofuels. Oil and coal were always more concentrated and energy rich than biomass alternatives. Biofuels are better at smaller local scales because they consume as much carbon while growing as they emit while burning, and they are available everywhere (you don't need a mass creation and distribution system).

But if you just try to reproduce the current petrol system of mass centralized production, worldwide distribution networks and mass consumption, then of course you'll have 90% of the problems of the existing system.


Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Nick Carr cheerfully uses EBay's recent changes to their feedback mechanism to bash bottom-up self-regulating systems. In doing so, he revisits the territory famously discussed by Shirky.

Now, there's a large body of literature saying "We built this software, a group came and used it, and they began to exhibit behaviors that surprised us enormously, so we've gone and documented these behaviors." Over and over and over again this pattern comes up.

The obvious response to someone keenly highlighting the flaws in such self-regulation is "what else is there?". Who's to say EBay won't turn around and abuse this new power of secret feedback to start taking bribes for favoured suppliers?

If you say that what stops them is that they'll go out of business, defeated by a more honest rival, you're simply shifting faith in one bottom-up system (EBay's reputation) for another (the market).

If you say that it's government oversight, how and where is that being expressed?

The problem with labelling human self-regulation "weak" and calling for leviathan to come and sort it out is that leviathan is just another flawed human being, and giving him more power, simply creates a greater temptation to abuse.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Google's in-house economists
Umair's in righteous, all guns blazin' form.

Consider this. When the last bubble was in internet technology, welfare was minimally affected – jobs were lost. When it shifted to housing and credit, welfare was affected more – houses and saving were lost.

Today, it’s shifting in large part to energy and food. What happens when hypercapitalism causes a food bubble? What happens when the masters of the universe in Greenwich bid up the price of food for India, China, and Africa's huddled masses?

Update : interesting comment
Skin cancer cured by cultivating immune-cells outside the patient's body.
RepastPy for OPTIMAES
Blowing your ad. budget on Kiva investments. Cool.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Google + Electronic Arts ... Spore incorporates YouTube API to publish your creature videos directly.

Monday, June 16, 2008