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 soup.io 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 soup.io 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 alt.money 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.