Archive of Posts from March 2009

March 31st, 2009

Swing!

Swing!

March 30th, 2009

Music Share: Media Remixed

Long before Jon Stewart made a career of media criticism via judicious editing, and back when media went viral at the glacial pace of traded bootlegs, a few studio pioneers were using clips from television as their raw materials for media criticism.

Here's Emergency Broadcast Network in 1992 remixing Dan Quayle in Watch Television:

(Get Flash to see the MP3 player.)

And here's another track from 1992—Steinski setting George Bush I to The Jackson 5 with the surprisingly relevant It's Up To You (Television Mix):

(Get Flash to see the MP3 player.)

See also on YouTube: We Will Rock You by EBN. And there's info about a great collection of Steinski's work here: What Does It All Mean?

Don't hate the media, become the media! (And remix it.)

March 28th, 2009

Bouncy Ride

bouncy ride

March 25th, 2009

  • Visualize the most viewed wikipedia articles, or compare the views of different articles. Here's more information about the launch from Jeff Veen: Announcing Wikirank.
  • "I've always thought their status updates design was brilliant. Not because it was usable or attractive, I've always thought it was terrible. But because their design didn’t make promises they couldn’t keep." Painful and true advice: make sure you can deliver what you promise through design. [via rc3]
  • "The pupil measurements showed that 3-year-olds neither plan for the future nor live completely in the present. Instead, they call up the past as they need it."

March 23rd, 2009

  • "As a survivor of the postage-stamp era, college was my big chance to doff the roles in my family and community that I had outgrown, to reinvent myself, to get busy with the embarrassing, exciting, muddy, wonderful work of creating an adult identity. Can you really do that with your 450 closest friends watching, all tweeting to affirm ad nauseam your present self?" [via davenetics]

Music Share: Bebo Valdés

I'm enjoying just about everything from Bebo Valdés right now. He was a pianist, arranger, and band leader in pre-revolution Cuba. He arranged high energy big band songs like this, Bilongo sung by Rolando Laserie:

(Get Flash to see the MP3 player.)

Valdés left Cuba for Europe and continues to record today. I especially enjoy his solo piano work where you hear echoes of his time at the Tropicana like Cuba Linda from his 2006 album Bebo:

(Get Flash to see the MP3 player.)

See also on YouTube: Americana from his Blanco y Negro concert. You can find more of his early big band songs on Guapachá con Bebo Valdés y sus Amigos.

March 21st, 2009

Sun for the Dog

Sun For the Dog

March 20th, 2009

  • this app "...makes the color of your computer's display adapt to the time of day, warm at night and like sunlight during the day." This looks great, but I'd like the app to remind me not to do any photo color-adjustments at night if I open Photoshop.

March 19th, 2009

March 18th, 2009

First Flowers

First Flowers

March 17th, 2009

March 16th, 2009

Music Share: On Green Dolphin Street

On Green Dolphin Street is my favorite jazz standard. I just never get tired of the melody. Here's the 1958 Miles Davis Sextet version featuring Bill Evans, John Coltrane, and Cannonball Adderley:

(Get Flash to see the MP3 player.)

And for contrast here's the same song recorded by Chet Baker a year earlier with a complete lack of urgency, West Coast style:

(Get Flash to see the MP3 player.)

See Also on YouTube: Sonny Rollins 1968 where the structure of the song is hanging on by a thread.

(You can get both tracks on Amazon for 99 cents.)
  • "This system of 50 symbol signs was designed for use at the crossroads of modern life: in airports and other transportation hubs and at large international events. Produced through a collaboration between the AIGA and the U.S. Department of Transportation, they are an example of how public-minded designers can address a universal communication need." [via migurski]
  • People share and vote for their favorite command-line snippets at this site, and these are the most popular. Didn't know about "sudo !!"—that's worth the price of admission right there.

March 14th, 2009

  • Cameron expands on the Economist article: "...while the average Facebook user communicates with a small subset of their entire friend network, they maintain relationships with a group two times the size of this core."
  • "...people who are members of online social networks are not so much 'networking' as they are 'broadcasting their lives to an outer tier of acquaintances who aren't necessarily inside the Dunbar circle'..."
  • SBJ's talk at SXSW about the future of news. "...in times like these, when all that is solid is melting into air, as Marx said of another equally turbulent era, it's important that we try to imagine how we'd like the future to turn out and set our sights on that, and not just struggle to keep the past alive for a few more years."
  • "Las Vegas casinos increasingly pay attention to their customers - their likes, dislikes, moods and patterns - in order to create an engaging experience." This was my favorite talk at Gel 2008.
  • "What Bruce Sterling Actually Said About Web 2.0 at Webstock 09."
  • "It makes increasingly less sense even to talk about a publishing industry, because the core problem publishing solves -- the incredible difficulty, complexity, and expense of making something available to the public -- has stopped being a problem."

March 12th, 2009

On the Plane

On the Plane

Caltrain Trains

Caltrain Trains

Old Pyra Office

Old Pyra Office

350 Townsend

350 Townsend

Giant Value

Giant Value

Lunch at Taqueria Can-Cun

Lunch at Taqueria Can-Cun

Noe Hill View

Noe Hill View

Matt and Adam

Matt and Adam

Mythbusters Shop

Mythbusters Shop

Mythbusters

Mythbusters

March 11th, 2009

ETech Day 3

Had another great day at the conference. Here are a few things that jumped out at me today:
  • Ecocities is the recurring buzzword. They are: people living at greater density, but humane and livable. With plants! (Sorry, more thoughts about the tension between density and sprawl to come. I live in a small town, and the speakers at this conference were very much focused on answering our current environmental problems with increased urbanism.)
  • Recently I speculated about what an audio Mechanical Turk project might sound like: TurkSmith. Now I know! Aaron Koblin recently paid for several thousand people to emulate bits and pieces of the first digitized song, a version of Daisy Bell. You can hear the (slightly creepy) results at Bicycle Built for 2,000.
  • The sensors are coming! You are probably being sensed right now! A company called Path Intelligence is using the unique radio frequencies emitted by the electronic devices people carry as a signature to find out where they go, and how much time they spend in their clients' locations. Similarly, Ben Cerveny talked about using sensors and location-tracking to make amusement parks more interactive—and eventually public spaces.
  • Japenese culture seems weird to us in the West (think: cosplay, anime, scrolling text over video, ultra-ultra-cute), and after a talk about demystifying Japanese culture, it still seems weird to me. But the talk was a fun tour of cultural differences.
  • We're beginning to track more and more information about ourselves and without some ethical guidelines, that data could be used against us. Gary Wolf is part of a Bay Area group called The Quantified Self where members share their own personal data-tracking methods. He's interested in how people are tracking and visualizing their own weight, mood, health care, productivity, biology, etc. Just as we try to keep the ideal that "all people are created equal" when designing people-related systems, he thinks "all numbers are created equal" is needed in relation to designing personal data systems.
  • I've been shoulder surfing (sorry, everyone) to see what apps people are using. Guess which one is up most often? Yep, Twitter. But not just Twitter. People have massive full screen grids of tweets up in applications like TweetDeck or to a lesser degree TweetGrid. Holy Twitter overload. Seriously, as I scanned the room today everyone was running TweetDeck at full screen. WTF?
  • Lots and lots and lots of food for thought. It's always simultaneously fascinating and terrifying to hear from people shaping the future.
Time to sleep and dream, the last frontier where I'm not yet sensed, tracked, measured, and visualized. AFAIK.

SJ at Night

SJ at Night

Afternoon Coke

Afternoon Coke

ETech Day 2

Here's a quick list of talks I saw yesterday at ETech and something I took away from the talk:
  • Alex Steffen, the author of Worldchanging talked about how deeply unsustainable our western lifestyle is, how aggressively we're exporting it, and how the demographics of developing nations make this situation a train-wreck. One positive point that he mentioned is: that which is measured and shown is used differently. Of course, this reminded me of stuff we're doing with Fuelly.
  • Sameer Padania of witness.org talked about the network they're building to document human rights violations. He mentioned offhand that the ability for anonymous communication needs to be built into our tools so people can report problems safely. That's tough to do and has been sticking with me.
  • Mary Lou Jepen talked about innovating at the bottom of the financial pyramid and designing for developing nations can drive innovation here as well.
  • Mike Kuniavsky talked about the new ability with GPS and RFID to track individual products, not just classes of products. He had a great term for metadata about a product: "data shadow". He talked about porting subscription models in the context of consumer goods like bicycles, cars, airplanes, handbags, etc.
  • Lane Becker and Thor Muller shared some thought experiments about what a new post-consumer business environment might look like. Like Kuniavsky, they discussed how a "loanership society" might impact how we think about owning things.
  • Nick Bilton talked about some things they're working on at The New York Times R&D lab. One idea was repurposing disposed cellphones into a network of sensors to collect data for measuring the city. He mentioned printed semicodes and SMS codes as a big part of their current strategy for attracting advertisers to print.
  • Greg Elin explained how Washington DC works in terms that computer programmers would understand. He described government as a legacy system without the built-in logic of a compiled coding language. He works for the Sunlight Foundation trying to bring more transparency to government.
  • The last session I saw had folks from BioBricks, a Creative Commons for synthetic biology. They're trying to speed up the legal hassles of sharing synthetic biological, umm, "inventions"? The talk was a bit over my head, but it was interesting to hear about some of their approaches to sharing "content".
Now it's back to the second half of Day 3 for me.

Pitcher and Slides

Pitcher and Slides

March 10th, 2009

Sake

Sake

SF City Hall

SF City Hall

San Francisco

San

Mr. Hacker Explains Washington

Mr. Hacker Explains Washington

Afternoon Coffee

Afternoon Coffee

Bird Twitters Fortune

Bird Twitters Fortune

Menu

Menu

Fish Tacos

Fish Tacos

Mike K. Talk

Mike K. Talk

March 9th, 2009

ETech Day 1

As you can probably tell from the recent slew of photos I'm in San Jose for the Emerging Technology Conference. It was snowing on the drive to the Portland airport this morning which makes sunny San Jose seem even sunnier. The conference started tonight with Tim O'Reilly's radar talk about trends and topics he's interested in. My favorite slide was about scenario planning and featured a graph with potential futures including: "The Singularity" on one end and "Economic and Environmental Collapse" on the other. So you can tell his talk was generally upbeat. No, it's tough to have an upbeat talk in this climate. He touched on the themes from his post a few months ago about working on stuff that matters, finding a robust "middle strategy" between extreme futures, and striving to create more value than you capture. His examples of reacting to the present and planning for the future pulled from a few science fiction books including Young Rissa and Doomsday Book (if you're keeping book-score at home). He just spent a week in Washington DC and seemed excited about potential changes in government openness, transparency, and connectivity. He also read a great passage from Rilke about working on small vs. big problems that I'll have to track down.

After Tim's talk there was an Ignite event where the talks seemed surprisingly focused on the past instead of the future. Molly Steenson had a fantastic talk about the history of pneumatic tubes and Victorian messaging. Then there was akrasia, knitting history, photography history, and famous leaders blowing things up as kids.

Leonard has been working on a networked photo booth called Lensley, and it was fun to see that in action. The box takes pictures automatically like a photo booth and sends the results to Flickr and/or Twitter. And combined with the conference RFID tags, knows who is in the photos. I ended up in these photos. Great start, the conference sessions start tomorrow morning.

Ignite ETech Room

Ignite ETech Room

SJ Museum

SJ Museum

Lensley Box

Lensley Box

Moon Over San Jose

Moon Over San Jose

Badge + RFID Tag

Badge + RFID Tag

Woz Way, San Jose

Woz Way, San Jose

Burgertime II

Burgertime II

Burgertime

Burgertime

Wall of Escape Interface

Wall of Escape Interface

Portland Snow

Portland Snow

March 7th, 2009

Old Radio

emerson radio

March 6th, 2009

Mochi

Mochi

March 5th, 2009

Morning Coffee

Morning Coffee

March 4th, 2009

Google Search API Rant

I'm probably the last person on earth who cares about the Google SOAP API launched in 2002, but I have to post about it one last time for completeness. This just came over the wire: Google Code Labs and the SOAP Search API:
...the SOAP Search API will be retired on August 31st, 2009. It was deprecated in 2006, when we stopped accepting new developers for the API. Since then, it's been steadily declining in usage and we believe the majority of use cases are sufficiently handled by the more comprehensive AJAX Search API.
I was disappointed about their decision in 2006 to stop issuing keys for the API, and I suppose shutting it down completely was inevitable. Even with its faults—and its early-moving tax of using the "wrong" technology—it was a real API. By that I mean you could use the API to create valuable new applications that didn't come from Google's lab. The API was unpredictable (for Google) in the sense that innovation could happen in the outside world. Their current offering (Ajax API) is far too controlled to be a real source of innovation.

So I was already irked to read this news, and then further irked at this part of the announcement (emphasis mine):
Please keep in mind that the AJAX APIs exist for the benefit of end-users; several of their features and usage guidelines are designed with them in mind. For instance, each search performed with the API must be the direct result of a user action. Automated searching is strictly prohibited, as is permanently storing any search results.
Automated searching is the point of having an API. Computers can do wonderful things that humans are too slow or too busy to do. An API lets humans tap into their computer's potential for helping them with searching, research, or collecting information. Automated searching isn't bad. And it strikes me as hypocritical coming from Google which runs potentially the largest automated process on the Web. Their *gasp* automated bots scour the web copying every page they can find. If a real human had to request every page that Google copies and indexes they'd need to put everyone on the payroll and still wouldn't have enough fingers to click them all. And if all websites suddenly adopted the policy that automated requests for information were not allowed, Google wouldn't work.

I criticize because I love. Google is a fantastic achievement and I realize it's not a public resource—it's a private enterprise. They have no motivation to open up search innovation beyond their walls. But shutting down this important door and couching it in the language of "for the users" is insulting and unnecessary. Google should own up to the fact that they want complete control over how people use their data, and they want (externally, at least) their data to be used at human speed.

March 2nd, 2009

Ignite Corvallis Wants You

Ignite events are like stunt presenting. You get five minutes on stage with 15 slides that advance every 20 seconds. They happen all over the world, even here in Corvallis. I had fun participating in the first Ignite Corvallis a few months ago and even got my picture in the paper. Jason—the event organizer—asked me to write some encouragement/advice for future presenters on the blog: You Can Present at Ignite Corvallis.

They're looking for speakers for the 2nd Ignite Corvallis on April 3rd, so if you're local think about putting together your own stunt presentation. My Ignite talk was a little nerve-wracking, but that's half the fun.

Update: Ignite Corvallis 2 Moved To October!

Cat in the Sun

Cat in the Sun