Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Antikythera mechanism

The Antikythera mechanism was found in a 2000 year old shipwreck 100 years ago, now it's been reconstructed. It predicts the orbits of the known planets of the time, Olympic years, etc.
I wonder if our civilisation is as productive as the ancient Greeks per capita - taking into account the modern mad pace of change o'course.

Of course, we look at the best parts of hundreds of years of Greek history as if it were one thing, one book, one Wikipedia. It's been less than 200 years since my own country experienced it's last great cultural download and the exotic matter (steel, gunpowder) that came with it.

Monday, December 22, 2008

PLA, Bioplastics

Charlies fruit juices are coming in biodegradable plastic bottles now. Yay! commercial use of bioplastics.

The bottle points to charliesdrinks.com as a source of more information on the bottles, but all they have is a ad video and newsletters. How 90's. Wikipedia knows of course:

"Polylactic acid or polylactide (PLA) is a biodegradable, thermoplastic, aliphatic polyester derived from renewable resources, such as corn starch (in the U.S.) or sugarcanes (rest of world). Although PLA has been known for more than a century, it has only been of commercial interest in recent years, in light of its biodegradability."

It's No. 7. How long before plastics go up to 11, hmm?

grown up datamined by griefers

I have 'discovered' Don Tapscott, he's the author of 'Wikinomics' (best selling management book of 2007), 'Growing Up Digital', and the recent 'Grown Up Digital'. It basically refutes the view that young adults/Generation Y are lazy and dumb, etc. - with a little help from a $4 million dollar study across 10 countries. I had no idea the current crop of pundits were so misguided and fearful.
It's hopeful, and exciting too. I'm really looking forward to what the humans can accomplish with these new technologies and the brains that know how to use them.

Below is a messy 'live blogging' style transcript of a podcasted interview he did recently. I _highly_ recommend a listen.

they don't even think of it as 'technology', it's like the air
20M young people engaged in mybarackobama.com
coddled, violent, bad work ethic, narcissitic, net-addicted, dumb, selfish?
$4M study
smartest, less crime, more civic engagement,
good bs detectors

fearful old people, Aristotle says kids these days are disrespectful, mooch off their parents
generation gap? generation lap
his son says him talking about internet is like telling people how to change channels on a TV

baby boomers watched TV 24 hours a week - passive
different brain structure
modern kids have better switching ability, better active working memory
computer games exercise their brains

school, model of pedagogy is wrong
memorising facts is useless - old way was graduate and you're set for life - now, graduate and you're set for 15m
finding facts is good
think, learn lifelong, reinvent their knowledge bases, communicate, put things in context

smartest kids are gaming the school system to get As without going to lectures
"I don't read books - use web, google books"
straight A student, president of the Florida State students council ($15M budget), on 18 University commitees, pals went to New Orleans and set up a health clinic in the 9th Ward (still going, serves 9,000), head of a global peace exchange he founded with a couple of buddies (hope to get a global summit of heads of state)
both parents passed this year (he's the eldest) - kids play WoW to keep the family together, live in different cities
next year - MPhil at Oxford in London on his Rhodes scholarship (British Healthcare, w00t)

CEO of Deloit
Is it true that this generation are the dumbest ever?
most focussed, most discliplined, smartest ever
they build more, have happier clients

not an ADD epidemic - focussed on 5 things at once, or 3 hours of videogame

'reverse mentoring'
get your kids to mentor you - wiki, facebook, twitter, post on youtube
Don has clients that use Twitter as the new metabolism for how they run their business

mybarackobama had a iPhone app [!]

come into a company with their culture of collaboration, customisation, innovation, speed, authentication, scrutiny
hit Dilbert Inc., boss is teh Authority
? I've been an authority on something since I was 11

ban Facebook
social networks are the new operating systems of business

talking to the CIO of a state recently - the Governer had banned Facebook (young people wasting time at work)
is this a technology problem? are you sure it's not a management problem, workflow, job design, motivation?
they went to MySpace
young person said it was the single most demoralising thing management has ever done
"we don't understand collaboration, your technology, or trust you"

Brad Anderson, CEO of Best Buy
Blue Shirts: they're the closest to our customer, most like our customer, and their culture is the new culture of work
between them and me are layers of management that are trying to prevent them from reinventing this company for the 21st century
my job as CEO is to unleash the power of human capital, given them a license to self-organise
25.000 member 'unauthorised' social network "Blue Shirt Nation" - generates Dozens of recommendations per week on how to improve the company
after a 'meeting' (sitting around talking with ~8 young people) said "This is how I learn about the future of this company"
if he didn't listen to them - "half an hour after walking out of a meeting there'd be 5,000 people in this company who think I'm a jerk"

Amber has friends in early 20's - if they're in a job where they ban Facebook - they leave that job
[if thats typical - thats a huge selective pressure]

interviewed 11,000 young people in 10 countries
there are 80M in the US alone - compared to 78M baby boomers
will dominate the 21 century based on their demographic muscle alone

beginning of profound changes to the nature of democracy, the relationship between citizens and their state
Obama will use his social network to Govern
Don wants Obama to organise a digital brainstorm - 3 day conversation of the population of an entire country on the web
pick a topic: global warming, improving the economy, fixing US's reputation in the world
marketplace for ideas

if Obama fails to engage them - they'll call him to account
they'll do it anyway
they are not passive

entrenched interests will fight against this
the only way you're going to win is with an epic battle

generation next, 0-12 yrs
very different again [!]

Leo, the host: "The only real choice is how quickly we become irrelevant"
Don Tapscott: "That's probably not an overstatement"

10 years ago, cocktail party of educators
woman in her 60s, high school math teacher
got some support, money, laptops
doesn't give lectures any more
the kids are learning like they've never learned before, I know more about every one of those kids after a month than I ever have in a year
I'm a new woman, can't wait to get up in the morning

get on the bus, or wave goodbye

the promise of the 60s is finally coming true, and it's thanks to digital technology, new media

Sunday, December 21, 2008

plz to add comments, kthxbai

Oh no. I have been claimed by the gift economy.
I was reading an article on Stuff.co.nz and thought "Hey, that story's missing an important point. I know, I'll add a comment." ... and stumbled into the thicket of their "Feedback" system. "You are in a maze of twisty passages, none of which are what you are looking for."

So I left them a note saying so. You know - the whole Social Media bit. Wouldn't it be nice if we could have a conversation about this thing here, in a way that doesn't mean I have to stare at the page, poking F5, just in case someone else is looking at the page too and thinking the same thing.

I also wanted to practise explaining what Social Media was - I'd like a job in the field one day, and I'm becoming aware that the phenom is not well know yet. People kinda look at you and go "wut?"

I noticed another thing too, Feedback pages that give you no information about the person who's going to be reading it are no fun. How should I phrase it? Is it for Sue, who likes proper spelling and grammar and a soft approach - or is it for Marty, who's a straight shooter and just wants the facts asap? There's no feedback in this Feedback. It's like the new-old saw: I'd rather talk to a person than a Coke bottle.

So I said stuff, and found myself plugging ijump - well, they are the only SM specialist company I know of in NZ, there may be others, I haven't looked. I just found them through Twitter. Um, QED?

"I wanted to leave a comment on one of your stories, but I find it difficult to use your "Have your say" system.

I find Stuff's stories to normally be more interesting to me than other sites, but other online news sites like the NZHerald offer me an easier way to become involved in conversations around news stories.

I wonder if you were to tie, not just stories, but also conversations on the Stuff site out to blogs and Social Networks through RSS feeds and email, then along with making Stuff more engaging and drawing the conversation to you, you could also find out what other people are saying about your brand and get some more feedback without requiring people to click on "Have your say", or even visit the site.
I stumbled across a company that offers help in this area, ijump.co.nz, maybe they could help out. (I'm not involved with them in any way, in case you were wondering, I just noticed them on a social network called Twitter).

All the best, Vaughan"

Their captcha isn't case sensitive either. Oh Big Media, honestly... wut?

NBR does not want to have a conversation with you

Commented on a article at National Business Review. They have no email or rss feeds for articles, so I'm noting it here
Another walled garden waiting for the bulldozer.

The article is about the scrapping of the ban on new gas and coal fired powerstations, because "..modern gas-fired stations give off little in the way of emissions..".
Right. because carbon dioxide isn't an emission. Perhaps they're staffed by magical elves too.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

ISPs should look to influencers for early warning of what media to cache

It's not only brands that can benefit from paying attention to the buzz surrounding media concerning them on social networks - it's the ISPs that this media flows across too.

For example, with the knowledge of what online videos influencers are watching, an ISP could make the educated guess that these videos will attract more viewers and conversations in the future, as knowledge of the videos existence and value makes its way through local members of the influencers social networks. Then they could preferentially cache the data earlier and for longer. This way their networks could accrue a reputation for being 'faster' (at least for the most popular media) than their competitors and potentially cut down on the amount of international bandwidth they need.

This doesn't have to be done in a way that abuses the trust that customers put in their ISP to take reasonable steps to protect their privacy online, i.e. Hoovering up everything a particular customer looks at. In fact, if they were to get the information solely from the influencer's freely shared data in social networks, they could gain a greater benefit as it doesn't matter whether the influencer is a customer of their network or not.

In social media terms, this is the only data that matters. As we "Find, Filter and Forward" in Mark Pesce's words, we make precisely the judgement that the ISP can benefit from - that this thing is worth looking at, and thus worth caching. The smart pipe knows what you want to watch before you even know it exists.

I wonder if Google is already doing this with the social network data they get through FriendConnect from interactions on networks like Twitter - fine tuning the performance of their Youtube caches around the world.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Product placement > advertising because it makes you happy, not nauseous

When the Times started squealing that advertising on Facebook was too hard for Proctor and Gamble, I thought of the best ad I had seen on a social media site recently. I was looking for a moment of entertainment and decided to search for some longboarding videos on Youtube, and I found 'Western Sessions'. It wasn't too serious, just some friends having fun, and it made me happy. No, really - an advertisement made me happy. And not only did I voluntarily watch an advertisement, I sought it out

It wasn't the only longboarding video I watched ('Longboard racing in Austria' was the most exciting), but it was the only one that was explicitly an advertisement, just not the cheesy slogan kind you get on TV. Any of the other videos I watched would do as an example, but this one was interesting because it was partway between the old way of advertising where you tell the audience what they should buy, and the new(?) way, where you give the audience something nice when they ask for it and they thank you.

Lets have a look at the goods and services advertised in the video:

Domestic and/or International tourism in the Rocky Mountains
a Volkswagen Rabbit (tiny, but holds lots)
the riders - Scott and Mike
Nick the filmmaker
The team behind the scenes who put the episode together - the editor, the announcer at the start, the sound mixer...
Weather forecasts
um, elk?

...and the only explicitly advertised material was the music and Original Skateboards.

I'm betting this didn't cost thousands to put together, and it could have been done even cheaper without compromising the quality too much. At the core it's just 3 guys and their boards going out skating - and they could have rented the car and the camera.

The Times thinks advertisers have to be either intrusive or have to spend "ungodly sums" to advertise on Facebook. I think that's retarded, and the Times is hurting it's own brand when they treat me like I'm retarded.
Maybe someone on Facebook needs to start an Advertisers group, so they can all network together and come up with ways to mash their products together in an 'ad' that doesn't suck rocks.

Lets imagine the conversation:
"I want to sell clothes!"
"I want to sell Volkswagens!"
"I want to sell weather forecasts on mobile phones!"
"You guys are weird and old! I just want to go skating with my buds."

Ta. Da.

Seth Godin's right when he says that brands should be less greedy, there's lots of room on the power law distribution for many differents sizes of company, but it's really hard to get to the top. Attention is finite and the network effect works like gravity - it's hard to catch a comet (customers attention) if you're small like the moon, but easier if you're huge (have a reputation for making awesome 'viral' ads) like Jupiter.

Maybe some brands just aren't cut out to be attention catching enough that I'd want to follow them on Twitter. I don't think I'd be interested in an ad for weather forecasts, but it works well enough in the video. I can't imagine wanting to know Crest Whitestrips better, but Original Skateboards, with his habit of linking to fun skating videos? Yeah, I'd follow that.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Youtube brings down violent cop

So Fox News (or rather BoingBoing where I read it first) is reporting that the New York cop who was videoed shoving a Critical Mass cyclist to the ground has been indicted and stripped of his badge and gun and banished to desk duty after the Youtube video got > 1.6 million views. Welcome to the future of user-generated media + the network effect. If you have a camera and a compelling story, you too can metaphorically shove a violent thug to the ground.

Here's Mark Pesce talking about social media (Twitter especially) being used in similar ways.

You better believe the cops (and any other group or individual with anything to hide) will be trying to confiscate or legislate against cameras in the hands of individuals in the future. My advice is to invest in cameras that can be concealed, and cameras that can stream video live to the internet, so that even if it is confiscated they won't get the bits before they're out in the wild.
Sites like ustream.tv and justin.tv are making it a lot easier to stream video from a computer and the unfortunately named brainchild of wearable computing pioneer Steve Mann, glogger.mobi is doing the same for smartphones. There's still the old standby of snapping a pic on your phone and emailing it to flickr or your blog.

A quote from Accelerando, by Charles Stross (free online)

"Manfred's on the road again, making strangers rich.

It's a hot summer Tuesday, and he's standing in the plaza in front of the Centraal Station with his eyeballs powered up and the sunlight jangling off the canal, motor scooters and kamikaze cyclists whizzing past and tourists chattering on every side. The square smells of water and dirt and hot metal and the fart-laden exhaust fumes of cold catalytic converters; the bells of trams ding in the background, and birds flock overhead. He glances up and grabs a pigeon, crops the shot, and squirts it at his weblog to show he's arrived. The bandwidth is good here, he realizes; and it's not just the bandwidth, it's the whole scene. Amsterdam is making him feel wanted already, even though he's fresh off the train from Schiphol: He's infected with the dynamic optimism of another time zone, another city. If the mood holds, someone out there is going to become very rich indeed.

He wonders who it's going to be."

Also, Mr Lee has a Catcam

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

eee 901 book mod

Stick-on velcro ftw.

Sunday, December 14, 2008


Word density of the 3,500 responses to the request for questions on change.gov

created at TagCrowd.com

Am I being filtered?

Huh? I just clicked a link in google reader leading to a /. article discussing whether it's time to reassess the US's war on drugs and Firefox threw up a 'this connection was reset' error.. and now it works. Is Orcon testing Deep Packet Inspection, aka Australia's recently doomed 'Clean Feed'? They are owned by a state-owned company, which would make them a prime contender for a testing ISP.

The Link in question

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Which social media, when

"If you want fixed content that people comment on, you should use a blog. If you want a dynamic, back-and-forth conversation, you should use a forum. If you want to create an authoritative single document [created by many people], you should use a wiki."
Someone from pbwiki in a comment on Wikis Still Slow to Catch on Internally, Externally

It would seem to be the growing consensus that collaborative editing and knowledge creation is the coming awesomeness. Mediawiki and similar seem able to provide all of the above modes of operation - the collaborative editing of the wiki; commenting on wiki pages, like a blog; and talk pages to provide a dedicated area for discussion. So why isn't a wiki being brought forward as a means to accomplish all the above?

I think what the first comment is saying (especially in the context of its parent article) is that wiki usage is still on the borders of most/many peoples experiences interacting with text n stuff on the internet. I think we're all very famitiar now with commenting, or to put it a bit more bluntly, adding some text to some existing text by typing into a textbox at the bottom of the page. But, Wikis are a bit different looking - the text we are given, or expected to write is leavened with [[funny looking symbols]]. Suggesting perhaps that we need some more wysiwyg editors, or time for the geeky education to make its way through our bridging capital rich friends.

I think another restricting factor at work (almost exclusively for the nuubs) is the fear that they'll mess it up somehow and not be able to fix it, and everyone will know. And call them wikitard behind their back or something. This fear is too damn common and the solution is in everyones grasp.
Its called Undo, or sometimes Revert. I know it's there, but it can't be prominent enough, in either the user interface of these tools, or in the training. The fact that one of the most powerful aspects of a wiki (ie. Wikipedia doesn't disintegrate under the weight of vandalism because it's easier to click Undo than it is to commit vandalism) is not used to combat one of the most common fears slowing adoption of this critical technology seems stupid and easily correctable.

I'd like to see Undo functionality displayed more prominently, and people being taught that it's ok - you can't break the computer. It's ok, you can't lose anything, because it saves everything automatically, And here's a private sandbox where you can play and not be criticised; and here's a page of comments you can use to experiment with writing in public, but it's ok because it's not the front page or anything, and besides it's just a comment, like a post-it note or something.
And here's the Undo button for this more important seeming stuff, and here's all the authors - y'see? it's not like they're professionals or anything.
And here's the first edit of the page. Yes, thats all. It's like polishing a stone, or improving a shared cake recipe. It doesn't have to be perfect at the start, it just gets better with time, like wine or something.

Maybe all wikis should start off with a cake recipe.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Musings on Clay Shirkys 'Here Comes Everybody'

riffing on p92

Fame is an imbalance of attention - previously it's been due to technology (you can shout at the TV all you want, they can't hear you), now it's because we've run up against the limits of possible human attention (if my blog is read by millions, I can't interact with all of them).
If attention is a currency, famous people are rich.

This imbalance necessitates grouping your 'friends' on social networks into subgroups, classes of relative intimacy, or perhaps just of relative attention.
Twitter should run up against this need soon, it's got lots of famous people on it (read: poor sods that can never read all the tweets that their audience^W legions of followers spam out). They should really add that functionality sometime soon, or the writers of Twitter clients will do it for them - and then we'd all be stuck with either the-one-client-to-rule-them-all, or a mess of competing grouping systems, and no way (until someone hacks up a web api anyway) to migrate cleanly between clients.

Grouping api:
For famous people with a need for the power that a large audience of followers brings and the desire for a Twitter client that doesn't accidentally hide your best friends coffee invitation among '@brownbanana, you were SO shitfaced last night!'

Right now, either the famous don't friend you and the relationship stays one-sided (which would be running at odds with the great wish for the democratising power of the internet, and is not what I'm seeing), or they friend and get swamped. That must be interesting - post a comment and then skim through a bunch of replies.
Either way, they must be relying on the @reply, or the more intimate DM. Perhaps they reserve the DM for bestest friends..hm
The use of @replies may be self, or rather socially limiting - the need to conciously address a message to a famous person is somewhat stressful for most people (unless they're terminally friendly) and may be limiting the frequency of communication. We attribute greater social standing to the famous, and that means we value their opinion more than any random fool - perhaps because we talk to them so little (i.e. have so little of their attention) that we are aware they may gain a negative impression of us if we mess it up.

api must link between Twitter and the client they are most likely to use - I'm guessing that would be an iPhone one

#prediction, #business plan

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Global search vs Friend recommendations

Our suburb was hit with a power-cut while I was writing this, I'm putting it up so I don't forget I was thinking about this stuff

Pull, not push.
If the over-abundance of information in our lives continues to grow (and the trends point to 'hell, yes'), will my unique tastes be lost in the noise? Or will Google come to know me better than any individual ever will?
Already I see a degradation in the signal to noise ratio in my search results compared to when I first started using Google years ago. Considering that Google has only gotten better at search, the conclusion I must draw is that there is simply more noise (or perhaps my tastes have become more niche, but I doubt it).
Google can compare my past search topics, but can it reliably extrapolate into the future as I learn to like new things? Now I'm not just talking about tightly semantically related topics ('turkey dinner' - 'roast duck' 'cranberry sauce suppliers'), but linkages that are unique to me ('turkey dinner' - 'turducken' 'smallpox blanket' 'agricultural eugenics trends'), and links that I would not think of myself, yet that I would like. Things that are unique to me now, or tomorrow; but differ from most people of my demographic, or different *

Push, not pull.
How well do your friends know your tastes? "No Mum, I would not look good in that tie"
Potentially less of a privacy hurdle - you expect your friends to know you very well, Google, not so nice, just a little creepy perhaps.

* The power-cut strikes! For extra points, tell me what I was about to write, cos I forgot.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

QRcode 100trilliongooeyrobots


A better advertising paradigm - buy something for a nice stranger. This could be used on a web page easily enough, just suggest they explain why they're doing it and who/where they are 'paying back' for free content they value. Formalised word-of-mouth.

Maybe provide a QRcode, for places* where it's easier than spelling your silly url.

*Japan (where they used? to be popular) is moving to RFID, and New Zealand hasn't even heard of them.

Stolen from:

Thursday, November 20, 2008

sneaky ubuntu

I just ssh'd* into my laptop and found a bunch of common stats about the computer (System Load, Temp, % of /home used, &c) and an ad/link for a new service from Canonical called Landscape that lets you manage lots of machines. I guess Canonical are going for the server market next.

*ssh -X is full of win. now I have live webcam from the laptop displayed on the desktop :), and motion-sensing photo-taking... still plumbing the possibilities of the wee thing, it might even be a wearable one day.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Thursday, November 13, 2008

gun emplacements

light switch?

gun emplacements

door detail, generator building

Thursday, September 11, 2008

the matter around me is growing steadily more black and silver by the day