April 30, 2004

Early Visual Media

At Early Visual Media, Thomas Weyents provides images and commentary from his private collection of early illustrations, early photography and cinema, etc., including a really cool reflection on danse macabre.

[via Cinema Minima]

Posted by johndan at 08:18 PM | TrackBack

Early Visual Media

At Early Visual Media, Thomas Weyents provides images and commentary from his private collection of early illustrations, early photography and cinema, etc., including a really cool reflection on danse macabre.

[via Cinema Minima]

Posted by johndan at 08:17 PM | TrackBack

Free Videogame, or Something

Josh Nimoy provides "Balldroppings," a Mac- and Win-based interactive videogame sort of thing.

balldroppings_screenshot1.gif Nimoy explains:

BallDroppings is an addicting and noisy play-toy. It can also be seen as an emergence game. My brother Marc takes this software seriously as an audio-visual performance instrument. Balls fall from the top of the screen and bounce off the lines you are drawing with the mouse. The balls make a percussive and melodic sound, whose pitch depends on how fast the ball is moving when it hits the line.
[via Lockergnome]
Posted by johndan at 07:41 PM | TrackBack

And Really Vintage Tech

A Photoshop contest at Vintage 100 covers "Vintage Products."

[also via Boing Boing]

Posted by johndan at 07:32 PM | TrackBack

Vintage Tec

The American Business Computers Catalog, circa 1981.

[via Boing Boing]

Posted by johndan at 07:22 PM | TrackBack

Calculating the Speed of Light w/Marshmallows & A Microwave

A high school physics teacher describes how to calculate the speed of light using a microwave and a bag of marshmallows. The description is both very brief and extremely lucid.

[via metafilter.com]

Posted by johndan at 07:17 PM | TrackBack

April 29, 2004

Sam Lake on Video Game Storytelling

Jive Magazine interviews Sam Lake (writer for videogames, including Max Payne 1 and Max Payne 2 [review]) on what it takes to be a good storyteller for the increasingly complex narrative spaces of videogames).

Here's a clip from Max Payne 2:

“There are no choices. Nothing but a straight line. The illusion comes afterwards, when you ask 'why me?' and 'what if?' when you look back, see the braches, like a pruned bonsai tree, or a forked lightning. If you had done something differently, it wouldn't be you, it would be someone else looking back, asking a different set of questions."

"All this time we got the fable of sleeping beauty wrong. The prince doesn’t kiss her to wake her up. No one who has slept for a hundred years is likely to wake up. It was the other way around. He kisses her to wake himself up, from the nightmare that has brought him there."

"I was compelled to give [him] his gun back, one bullet at a time.”

And one from the interview:
As games become more and more mainstream entertainment, and the budgets grow larger, the importance of good writing will also grow. That does not mean that bad writing would go away. There will always be games that have been written well, and games that have not been written so well. Just look at movies.

[via Slashdot]

Posted by johndan at 06:12 PM | TrackBack

Spring in the North Country, Part 4


24 hours later: no snow and 82 degrees.
Posted by johndan at 03:29 PM | TrackBack

art, science, technology

Somewhat related to things I've posted here about IBM's "non-techie/non-marketing" work:
The company's Almaden Services Research group, a 22-employee outfit based in Silicon Valley, has set out on a mission to discover--and then hopefully exploit--quantifiable, predictive principles that underlie the delivery of technology services.

In other words, IBM is combining anthropology, game theory and behavioral economics with technologies from its labs to see if it can make corporate processes run smoother. The first person recruited from outside IBM to join the group was, in fact, an anthropologist.

The binary opposition between art and science has always been a barrier to effective technologies (and to understanding how people and cultures actually use/are used by technologies and technical systems). Technology is primarily an issue of communication (in both its technical and humanistic aspects). Computers aren't about coding per se, but about uses.

[via CNET News.com]

Posted by johndan at 01:55 PM | TrackBack

The Importance of Reading EULAs

From the iTunes Terms and Conditions/End-User License Agreement:
Damn. Now they tell me.

[via Lockergnome Bytes]

Posted by johndan at 01:26 PM | TrackBack

Honorific Overload

unitedtitles.jpgBoing-boing points to the immense number of titles in the dropdown list at United Airline's Mileage Plus sign-up. Coincidentally, jill/txt laments that she can't change her title to "Dr." on Scandanavian Airlines or KLM (although British Airways obliges). [via boing-boing
Posted by johndan at 12:01 AM | TrackBack

April 28, 2004

DFC Report on Defending Public IP Rights

As I promised earlier, here's a copy of the report prepared for the Digitial Future Coalition by Belden, Russonello, & Stewart: "Defending Your Right to Read, Listen and Experience in the Digital Age" [104k MS Word .doc]. The report covers a series of focus groups on how the public understands IP issues and suggests a message strategy. Briefly put, the researchers found that whoever defines the core values in the debate tends to sway general public opinion. So, for example, the articulation of P2P as "piracy" defines the issue in terms of both ethical and legal wrongdoing. (Johnny Depp's performance aside, pirates don't tend to get a lot of public empathy.) So, in general, if the P2P issue is defined as "piracy," the core values involved in that definition make it difficult to argue against crackdowns on music "pirates." So when the issue was framed as piracy or property theft of music, people tended to view the activity negatively. As one focus group participant from Southfield, Michigan said,
I don’t think you have a right to be stealing other people’s property. Its like going in and taking something off a rack, it doesn’t belong to you.
At the same time, the report suggests that it's possible to rearticulate the argument in ways that support a different set of social forces. As a man from Grain Prairie, Texas put it when the issue of Constitutional rights was raised (in the context of eBooks, I believe),
The laws are already in place and America is the land of the free. This infringes upon my Constitutional rights.
Here's a summary of the key recommendations. But the report itself is worth reading (particularly if you're interested in rhetorical research):
  1. Appeal to values of freedom and fairness.
  2. Expose the motivations of media giants.
  3. Inform these participants of real departure from traditional copyright laws represented by the new laws and proposals relating to digital material.
DFC, btw, is (as you might have guessed), a coalition representing a very large and often unrelated organizations interesting in protecting the public's right to key IP issues. A full list of member organizations is here, but among others it includes the Electronic Frontier Foundation, American Library Association, the National Writers Union, the American Association of Law Libraries, Conference on College Composition and Communication, National Council of Teachers of English, and more (I attended as a rep from the last two groups).
Posted by johndan at 02:14 PM | TrackBack

Erasing Women

Several sites report on the fact that the Department of Labor has quietly removed at least 25 factsheets and reports from its Women's Bureau website since 1999. The National Council for Research on Women today issued a report titled "MISSING: Information About Women's Lives" while Salon has posted a lengthy article on the topic [req. ad view to access]. Websites, of course, are revised and updated all the time. But the pattern of change here seems politically motivated. And to some extent, everything is politically motivated: Decisions about what research to fund, who to appoint to committees, etc. What is interesting here is the ways in which the Web, as a public space, provides an opportunity to track revisions to ongoing programs. As someone said in the pointer to this issue, it would be useful to have a watchdog group that archived changes in government website data--not really all that technically complex (although the storage issues are something to consider). [via metafilter]

Spring in the North Country, Part 3


I know it'll probably melt soon. But, still.
Posted by johndan at 12:30 PM | TrackBack

Videogames as Art

AllRPG provides Part 2 of its Videogames as Art monologue:
I myself decided a long time ago that this Games as Art thing was a movement I wanted to be a major force in, providing another reason why I'm more than happy to bear the weight of explaining how to judge a game based on artistic merit.

[via Slashdot]

Posted by johndan at 11:40 AM | TrackBack

April 27, 2004

TIPS, Part 2

Although negative publicity about the Dept. of Homeland Security's "spy on your neighbor" program, Operation TIPS, succeeded in killing it, the state of Missouri has found a back door: Buying customer name/address databases from the home-delivery arms of pizza shops. Kelly Wiese reports in an AP story:
It's dinnertime, and you're hungry and tired, so you pick up the phone and order your favorite pizza. But you might have just landed yourself a lot more than pepperoni and cheese.

If you owe fines or fees to the courts, that phone call may have provided the link the state needed to track you down and make you pay.

That's one of the strategies of firms such as a company being hired by the Missouri Office of State Courts Administrator to handle its fine and debt collections.

David Coplen, the state office's budget director, said he discovered that pizza delivery lists are one of the best sources such companies use to locate people.

"There are literally millions of dollars of uncollected fines, fees and court costs out there," Coplen said.

[via Boing Boing]

Posted by johndan at 08:46 PM | TrackBack

Why I Hate Blackboard

Here's a dialogue box from Blackboard, the courseware I use. They're apparently a market leader and the product has been in production and used for something like a decade or more.


In this dialogue box, I'm attempting to download the course grades so that I can import them into Excel--Blackboard sports a variety of grade tracking options, but they're not robust enough to allow me the grade calculation options I need. As you can see, the dialog box provides some instructions on how to import the downloaded file into Excel and a tip on finding the file after it's downloaded to my hard drive. This is good. I tried this three times in a row and wasn't able to locate the file (even after using a search function on all my local drives to find the file). I tried various mutations of the filename and was about to just give up. Then I had been (out of a habit ingrained by using thousands upon thousands of similar dialogue boxes) clicking "OK" to download the file. In fact, "OK" in this particular box actually means "Cancel"--in order to download the file, you have to click "Download" rather than "OK". Logically, I see what the designer(s) meant. And maybe I'm a moron, but that's irrelevant in this case. If a particular interface feature is so common that people expect to use it in a certain way, designers have to be very careful to not violate those expectations. (Don't even get me started about the morass of "OK" dialogue boxes that Blackboard uses for nearly every user action. In order to enter items on the course calendar in Blackboard, I have to click something like seven varying acknowledgments. For every freaking item. As you might expect, this makes it very, very time- and effort-consuming to outline a course schedule at the start of the semester.)
Posted by johndan at 01:59 PM | TrackBack

Bowie Supports Remixing

David Bowie, in one of his trademark (pun intended) canny marketing moves, is urging listeners to become producers by remixing Bowie tracks and submitting the results to a contest hosted at Bowie's official site
The story is spreading the word, reaching people everywhere with items on what Bowie calls 'mash ups' on sites in Malaysia, the US, India, Japan, Canada - you name it - and you can be sure others will follow Bowie's example. After all, he himself was probably inspired by DJ Danger Mouse's Grey Album, a re-mix of tunes from The Beatles' White Album Jay-Z's Black Album. [...] Bowie dumped Virgin in 1991 to start his own label, ISO, and in this PR exercise, wants people to use any track from his Reality CD. All 'mash-ups' must contain at least one track from Reality and mixers can also use "any other favorite Bowie track". "However," says the site, "all entries are limited to Bowie music exclusively. Don't use music from other artists."
(Gray Album discussion here, among many other places.)
Posted by johndan at 01:39 PM | TrackBack

Found on the Radio

National Public Radio's "The Connection" interviews Davy Rothbart of Found Magazine. From the Found website:
[W]e collect FOUND stuff: love letters, birthday cards, kids' homework, to-do lists, ticket stubs, poetry on napkins, telephone bills, doodles- anything that gives a glimpse into someone else's life. anything goes...
Voyeurism at its best. (This, I should note, is where I got the "Things Found in Books" occasional series that I post to Datacloud.) [via Underdog]
Posted by johndan at 11:39 AM | TrackBack

The Slippage of Signification

Financial consulting firm AXA sues Google over the fact that a search on AXA results in a page that includes Google Adwords that point to AXA's competitors (among others). The suit, in French court, will likely depend on the outcome of a pending appeal of a ruling last year in which a French travel agent protested a similar situation with Google, and was awarded nearly $90k. (Jacques Derrida apologies for the behaviour of his homeland but regrets to note that the slippage of signification cuts many ways.) [via /.]
Posted by johndan at 10:57 AM | TrackBack

April 26, 2004

Low-Watt Community Radio

Cool Wired article on low-watt radio. Although the FCC licensed a small number of low-watt stations in 2000, they generally haven't developed into the sorts of community resources envisioned by their founders and backers. Some rare successes are worth learning from:
Harvey Twite, general manager of KEDU-LP in Ruidoso, New Mexico, broadcasts world and local news, music and the games of the New York Sharks, a women's tackle football team.

Twite jumped into community radio after spending 25 increasingly frustrating years running commercial radio stations. He thinks KEDU's success is in part due to its civic mindedness. The station mostly relies on live, local DJs, rather than the automated, satellite-fed programming that increasingly dominates commercial radio.

"We're bucking the trend because the trend needs to be bucked," Twite said.


[Wired News]

Posted by johndan at 03:06 PM | TrackBack

Self-Rewriting Chips

A hardware start-up called Stretch says they've developed a processor which scans code on the fly and will add new instructions if it sees a place in the code that might benefit.

[via CNET News.com]

Posted by johndan at 02:59 PM | TrackBack

Mysterious Stallion, Part 2

This is a (slightly) better picture of the rearing stallion installed near Greg & Molly's convencience store near my home.


Still no word on who put it up. (The multi-colored designs on the horse are actually a reproduction of a world map....)
Posted by johndan at 02:32 PM | TrackBack

April 25, 2004

London Booted

Remixing The Clash's influential London Calling:

london booted coverIn February 2004 I posted a challenge on the Get Your Bootleg On forum to all-comers to take a track each from the seminal Clash LP London Calling and bootleg it. That is, remix it, add to it, subtract from it - put your own tributary spin on it. Within hours all 19 tracks had new masters (and mistresses), each charged with the task of making that track their own. 25 years on - London calls once again.

25 tracks. Joe Strummer must be dancing in his grave...

[via Metafilter[
Posted by johndan at 02:00 AM | TrackBack

April 24, 2004

Moveon.org Bake Sale

Pic from the Parishville, NY version of MoveOn.org's "Bake Sale for Democracy."


Posted by johndan at 07:42 PM | TrackBack


Kevin Fox is posting pictures of strangers at Randompixel, which is a lot more interesting than it sounds at first:
Each Randompixel camera was given to a stranger. Stickers on the camera instruct the recipient to take a few pictures and pass it along. When the camera is done, it is dropped in the mail, it returns home, and the pictures are posted here.
[via metafilter]
Posted by johndan at 07:09 PM | TrackBack

Sharing the Groove

In a second off-topic post, although related to the music recording post (so, hell, not all that off-topic after all, if you have a rolling sense of topic), Sharing the Groove provides an amazing resource for downloading out-of-print and live music. As far as I can tell, this isn't considered "theft" by the artists and labels involved--Sharing the Groove has a very strict policy of pulling any shows or collections for which the artists or their labels object. The ongoing collection of material (arranged among message boards including live alternative shows, live jazz, video recordings, and other material) has recently included things like a compendium of videotaped Tool shows, Jeff Tweedy live solo concerts, old Captain Beefheart shows, Elvis Presley studio outtakes (fascinating), Mahavishnu Orchestra sessions, tapes of 1972 Little Feat FM broadcasts, some old PJ Harvey shows, Mike Bloomfield live recordings, a collection of Nine Inch Nails videos (which no one would ever show publicily due to their extremely violent content) (I have been permanently scarred by those), a Buckethead show, Shakti concerts, a Drive-By Trucker's (private) party recorded on the Fourth of July on "Tracy's Back Porch" (literally), a Hunter S. Thompson talk, a 1970s Miles Davis shows, some John Zorn unreleased sessions, and much more. (This probably gives you a sense of how eclectic my music sense is.) The main material is in BitTorrent format for fast downloading, although they offer some other formats (such as FTP). Broadband connection is definitely recommended, but if you have it, the site is extremely worth checking out. I won't give any specifics since I think this is relatively legal (it's probably just a gray area), but I've increased my music collection by 10 or 20 GB in the last six months with some things that are really, really interesting.
Posted by johndan at 01:56 AM | TrackBack

Live Music Recording Equipment

sharp_mddr470_blue_thumb_110.jpgThis is off-topic, but I'm looking for recommendations for a solution to replace my Sharp DR7 MiniDisc recorder (I ordered this, as I order most of my high-end audio equipment, through Audiocubes--excellent service and great products.) I use the unit primarily for recording live concerts, both band sessions (run through the soundboard and into the MiniDisc) and stealth sessions at live shows (using hidden mics). I really like the DR7, but I've dropped it several times, tossed it into duffle bags full of cables, water bottles, and other devices, and just generally abused it to the point that it's started acting wonky.

Here are the features I'm looking for:
  1. Record up to two hours worth of music at middling quality (better than mp3, but that's a flexible threshold)
  2. Handle both line level and unpowered mic input
  3. Under $500 (if Kelly reads this, I mean under $300, really)
  4. Can set recording levels on the fly (or automatically) to avoid over-driving
  5. Relatively small (to the level that I can hide it during recording)
As I said, I'm considering just purchasing another imported DR7. The new Sony Hi-MDs are attractive due to the dramatically higher storage capacity, but they lack the live recording features of the Sharp models (especially the DR7). The new Sharp DR80 replaces the DR7, but it's $100 more and lacks the LCD display on the main unit (but is probably currently my number two choice). I keep hoping that a hard-drive-based player/recorder will come out that meets live recording needs, but the best bet, the iRiver HP120, seemed really cool, but doesn't let you monitor recording levels visually--you have to listen through headphones (I assume) to set recording levels, something nearly impossible to do during live shows unless you're located in an isolation booth. How brain damaged.... Let me know if you have any suggestions.
Posted by johndan at 01:17 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 23, 2004

New Hamsters to Power the Wheel

This is probably only interesting if you're interested in the software that powers datacloud (and many, many other weblogs), but Six Apart has released more info about the pending upgrade to Moveable Type:

Movable Type 3.0 is not the fabled "Pro" version as originally described. We had always imagined Pro as being a feature packed version that would contain all the features ever requested. What we've learned in the past year is that every user wants a different set of features, and we need to create a product that is not just feature-packed, but robust, extensible and geared toward a specific audience. Movable Type 3.0 and on will not be the solution for everyone, and that's okay. For some users, TypePad makes more sense. For others, non-Six Apart tools make more sense.

Movable Type 3.0 is not intended to be a feature release (3.x releases will address the addition of features). While we have devoted a great deal of resources to making the main feature -- comment registration -- sophisticated and flexible, it's the Movable Type engine that has evolved (and will continue to evolve) significantly. In this vein, we've made speed optimizations to this release as well as made processes such as rebuilding smarter.

In terms of extensibility to the engine, the main "feature" of Movable Type 3.0 is actually more powerful than any feature we could have added: it's the extensibility that we've added in the form of the enhanced plugin architecture. The plugin/developer community is one of Movable Type's greatest strengths. Since Movable Type isn't open source, this has been the way in which our users have contributed to the product while relying on Six Apart to provide the strong foundation for their work to flourish.

[via typepadistas directory]

Posted by johndan at 08:26 PM | TrackBack

And Father Ong said,

Commenting on Sentence 5 (I couldn't let this pass without pulling it up to the main interface), Bill Hart-Davidson adds,
There is no way to write, 'naturally'.

Walter Ong, "Writing is a Technology that
Restructures Thought," in Cushman, et. al. Literacy: A Critical Sourcebook.

The overlaps among modernist and postmodernist thought recently strike me as promising--we're not after different projects, so much, as engaging in extemely productive different (and mutually useful) ways of seeing, being, becoming; as Delezuze and Guattari said, not either/or, but and, and and.
Posted by johndan at 12:36 AM | TrackBack

April 22, 2004


The monochrom collective has launched a blog

monochrom is an art-technology-philosophy group of basket weaving enthusiasts and theory do-it-yourselfers having its seat in Vienna and Zeta Draconis. monochrom is the super-affirmation of the globalization trap. monochrom has existed in this (and every other) form since 1993.
Too cool by half.

update (4.23.04 10:44a): I forgot to mention that I've posted several of Johannes' links to datacloud previously, and at one pointed wished out loud that he start his own blog.

Posted by johndan at 08:37 PM | TrackBack


Making clear the connection between war and entertainment, Gamespot interviews Michael Macedonia on the US Army's in-development, massively multiplayer online game:
GS: How far along is the AWE game?

MM: In this massively multiplayer environment, we’re going to see alpha testing with users within the next two months. For alpha testing, we’re talking to the 101st Airborne out of Fort Campbell, Kentucky. So we’ll get it with real soldiers and expand it over the next course of the year.

GS: Will the game be international or just based in the US?

MM: It’ll be international, but only on the Army network. The Army runs the largest private Web portal in the world. Two-thirds of our Army is outside of the US We have a Web portal that’s called AKO, which stands for Army Knowledge Online, and our soldiers all over the world have Internet access, so they’ll be able to play the game on the Army network.


GS: Why do you feel it is such a compelling game environment?

MM: I think what’s fascinating is that we now have a medium that combines both the graphic content as well as exploits broadband, because broadband has been sort of the Holy Grail of EverQuest and Asheron’s Call, as well as others. When we didn’t have broadband widely available, we couldn’t create these huge, realistic worlds and have lots of people participate. Now we’re at the stage where we can actually do this and it’s a much more powerful environment than to, say, go do a quest. You play a MOO or a MUD, and after you do a quest, you sort of walk around and you’ve got your posse or your gang or the group you hang out with and that’s it. In our case, when you have an Army that’s 24/7, literally, around the world, in this fantastic environment where we can bring people together, bring ideas, share experiences...they can create experiences for other people to go through. They can do more than recite these experiences.

(Is it just me, or doesn't the name "Dr. Macedonia" sound like the name of a character in an MMRPG?)

[via Slashdot]

Posted by johndan at 07:48 PM | TrackBack

Accepting Candy from Strangers

SearchSecurity.com reports on their annual survey of Londoners to see how man of them would give up their passwords for a piece of candy (a chocolate easter egg).

Seventy-One Percent. Really.

A recent survey of 172 office workers waiting for commuter trains at a London financial district transit station found a shocking 71% turned over their passwords in exchange for a chocolate Easter egg. Some even gave up the goods for a pen.

"We were really quite shocked at how easy it was to get them to give such sensitive information away," said Neil Stinchcombe, one of the researchers who took part in the third annual survey on office scruples to help promote the upcoming Infosecurity Europe 2004 conference this month in London.

[via Lockergnome Bytes]

Posted by johndan at 11:26 AM | TrackBack

Sentence 5

ID Blog says,

Far be it for me to pass up a meme.

  1. Grab the nearest book.
  2. Open the book to page 23.
  3. Find the fifth sentence.
  4. Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.
So here it is:
Once programmed, a synthetic city is made to proliferate and to interact with all the other cities, according to the local conditions for the application of the model.

- from "How to Build a City," by Amale Andraos, et al,
in Rem Koolhaas, et al, Mutations


Posted by johndan at 09:06 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Prez Commercial Archive

The Living Room Candidate: Presidential Campaign TV Commercials from 1952 to 2000.

[via The Mediaburn Radio Weblog]

Posted by johndan at 08:57 AM | TrackBack

April 21, 2004

IP Report

A week or so back (it's been a blur), I went to DC to attend a briefing on some research the Digital Futures Coalition commissioned on IP and the public [100k Word file]. DFC hired the research firm Belden Russonello & Stewart to conduct focus groups sessions composed of a range of "average" citizens (people not already involved in IP work). Their findings where interesting, and suggest that the IP fight isn't' over (as my cynical self often thinks it is). Comments from the focus group include things like,
The laws are already in place an America is the land of the free. This [IP policy] infinges upon my Constitutional rights.
Posted by johndan at 10:30 AM | TrackBack

April 18, 2004

Broadband Use in US Up Dramatically

Numerous media are covering the Pew Internet and American Life report that broadband internet use is up dramatically in the US. Here's a chunk from Forbes piece based on a Reuter's report:
More than half of U.S. Internet users now surf the Web over a high-speed connection as home users signed up in droves for the faster service in the past year, according to a report released on Sunday. The survey by the Pew Internet and American Life foundation found Americans increasingly willing to pay $10 to $30 more per month to spend less time waiting for Web pages to download. According to the survey 55 percent of Internet users, or one-third of all adult Americans, have a broadband connection at home or work, the nonprofit group found
Broadband use is a good case of quantitative effects leading to broader, qualitative changes. The fact that the connection is on all the time (and not tying up a phone line) means that people do different sorts of things. IM use, for example, is different if connectivity is a constant, rather than a special event. And in homes with mulltiple computers, hubs (both wired and wireless) mean that family members don't need to schedule time to connect to the net.
Posted by johndan at 05:50 PM | TrackBack

Writing in Fragments, Part 2

Blogalization translates an article on Erika P. Buzio on the Web Log as Literary Genre:
Mexico, D.F., 30 March 2004 — A new form of writing, fragmentary and immediate, but with literary aspirations, is growing in importance thanks to the blogs and electronic journals maintained by an army of young Mexican writers. "What this really is is a collective, virtual public journal and a completely new experience of reading and, above all, of writing," says Pedro Ángel Palou, winner of the 20003 Premio Xavier Villaurrutia.
Buzio is careful to step back a little from the all too common "Weblogs will save us!" rhetoric found (not coincidentally) on many weblogs. The specific characteristics of weblogs as media do tend to encourage certain literary or textual characteristics (like casual spelling, frequent updates, etc.), but it's not a simple cause and effect issue. And similarly, many other media that people have access to are supporting these emerging fragmentary texts (instant messaging, webcams, etc.). [See the earlier posts, Broken or the Datacloud manuscript, among other things. I hadn't realized how frequently "broken" functioned as a key term for me until I searched on it on the weblog.] [via jill/txt]
Posted by johndan at 12:15 PM | TrackBack

Usability in Domestic Violence Counseling

Here's an interesting usability issue: instructions on how to erase browser histories and caches for users of a New York State domestic violence counseling website, as the first link of a page titled, "Help for Victims." [via underdog]
Posted by johndan at 11:26 AM | TrackBack

April 17, 2004

Movies and Fragments

Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill series makes no secret of its composition from the fragments of other films. A Mecury News article [free registration req.] The director is highly aware of the emotional impact of a certain scene or a bit of music, says Tim League, owner of the Alamo Draft House in Austin, which for five years has held genre film festivals programmed by Tarantino. Two years before the release of "Vol. 1," Tarantino was writing the script and "gauging audience reactions to the films he was showing," League says. "It was kind of a little incubator with test audiences for his ideas." Tarantino could probably name 200 to 300 films that inform the "Kill Bill" movies, League says. Among those screened by the Alamo were "Hannie Caulder," about a woman who learns gunfighting skills to hunt down the men who raped her, and "Death Rides a Horse," an Italian western also with a story of revenge.... "Vol. I" opens with a '70s-era clip, with a swirling, kaleidoscopic background that announces, "And Now Our Feature Presentation." This is followed by the studio logo for Toho Pictures, the Japanese company responsible for Godzilla features and the Zatoichi and Lone Wolf samurai series of movies. Gore says this is a loving, foreshadowing nod to the "Kill Bill's" numerous influences, such as Japanese yakuza films, rape-revenge movies, blaxploitation flicks, westerns and even American TV detective dramas. "He was hard-pressed to come clean about `City on Fire,' " says Gore, whose magazine is now the Web site www.filmthreat.com. "So now, I think he's being upfront on that." [via Bill H-D]
Posted by johndan at 11:06 PM | TrackBack

April 16, 2004

A Ghost is Born + Higher Ground

Wilco is streaming their upcoming album, A Ghost is Born, from their website, if you like that sort of thing. I do, very much. In somewhat related (but less happy) news, Higher Ground, a concert venue in Winooski, VT (just outside Burlington) is closing its doors soon. I saw Wilco there during their "Dropped by WB" tour before YHF was released. The club, in a strip mall, looked so irrelevant from the outside. Inside, the small venue was amazing. It held around 500 people, sported a bar and pool table. My wife and I routinely trekked the several hundred miles to see acts like Wilco, Gillian Welch, Soullive, and more. My music world just got a little quieter.
Posted by johndan at 06:16 PM | TrackBack

More Old School

Web Zen this week covers vintage electronics.

c128_spanish_advert.jpg My first computer is in this ad, from Lemon 64's site. (Actually, now that I think about it, the model in the ad is wicked faster/bigger than the older model I owned, a Commodore 64. For around a grand, I got 64K RAM, a cassette-tape drive, and a 10-inch monochrome (amber) monitor. This was considered high-end consumer level computing.) I feel old. (OK, I am old.)

Posted by johndan at 06:04 PM | TrackBack

April 15, 2004

Microsoft Opening Up Visio Schemas

In the "Gift Horse--Flip It Over to See if It Says 'Trojan'" category, InfoWorld reports that Microsoft is going to open up the XML-based schemas for Visio.
The move will make it significantly easier for users to access information residing in their Visio diagrams and to share that information with server-based CRM and ERP applications from companies such as SAP and PeopleSoft. This makes it easier for corporate users to integrate that data into their core business processes, company officials believe.... One example of making Visio diagrams more dynamic would be working with an organizational chart within Visio and "lock it" into a backend database so that any new information put into the database would in turn automatically update the information in the diagram to reflect those changes, Moore said. Making the documentation freely available, which is under a royalty-free license, can also improve users' ability to search for information in data diagrams and e-mail files, according to Moore.
[via Livia Labate on SIGIA-L]
Posted by johndan at 06:14 PM | TrackBack

(Hamster) Wheels of Steel


Levy Lorenzo has created an an Intelligent MIDI Sequencer with Hamster Control for an electronic and computer engineering course assignment at Cornell. I really hope he got an A.
This project was initially fueled by the desire to explore the MIDI protocol. It was decided that this would be accomplished by building a MIDI device. I also aimed to make something novel that had never been done before. But to balance out the unusual nature of its design, I wanted to also to create something that was very musical.After much consideration of different technical design aspects and contemplating various musical ideas, I was able to arrive at a project that would fulfill all of my musical and engineering goals.An intelligent MIDI sequencer was designed with hamster control. The MIDI sequencer intelligently produced melodies by manipulating the musical elements of rhythm and note-choice. Guided by inputs based on hamster movements, Markov chains were used to perform such beat and note computations. In culmination, 3 simultaneous voices were produced spanning 3 octaves and 3 rhythmic tiers. Each voice was controlled by two hamsters: one that was responsible for adjusting the rhythmic qualities of the melody and another that modified the note sequence. With all of these elements in combination, an output was produced with very musical qualities.All of this was implemented using an Atmel Mega32 microcontroller, distance sensors, a HamsterMIDI Controller, and 6 hamsters. Embedded C programming implemented the algorithms and computations within the sequencer.Overall, this project was successful. The control between the hamsters and the musical intelligence turned out very well. The music sounds as good as I imagined, and I am very satisfied with the outcome of my design experience.
A full PDF project report, video, and music samples are available at the website. [via boing-boing]
Posted by johndan at 05:52 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Bloggers Talking To Each Other

That title probably sounded more condescending that I intended it. But Technorati is hosting a service that tracks blog posts that are commented on by other blogs. Boinboing has a useful overview.

On one hand, somewhat incestuous; on the other hand, a community index.

As Cory Doctorow [of Boingboing & EFF fame] explains:

"Other blogs commenting on this post" at the bottom of our posts -- this is a link to Technorati's index of all the blogs that have linked to each of Boing Boing's posts. It's not quite a Discuss link, but if you have a blog and you post a comment about one of our posts to it, Technorati will find it and index it."

I'll talk more about this later -- I'm busy with book stuff today -- but let's just say that I can't wait to get this enabled on my blog.

Hey, if Cory likes it, I like it.

[via Dan Gillmor's eJournal]

Posted by johndan at 04:17 PM | TrackBack

Magic Hat

Don't Strain Your Brain in Times of Pain

- Printed inside a Magic Hat Beer Bottle Cap

Posted by johndan at 11:12 AM | TrackBack

Clear duct tape

I copped this, several levels deep, from Bryan Bell, and couldn't improve on it.
This may be the greatest invention of the twenty-first century. My mind is only now beginning to grasp the wondrous new possibilities.

"3M has shipped tranparent "Scotch" duct-tape. Kevin Kelly's been playing with it and he says it holds up as good as the silvery stuff, but strong uptake would obviate my favorite Star Wars joke: "Duct tape is like The Force: It has a dark side and a light side and it holds the Universe together." Still, we could sub in "Duct tape is like the good government: It is perfectly transparent and it holds the nation together." - Link

[via Boing Boing Blog+ via BryanBell.com]

Posted by johndan at 12:20 AM | TrackBack

April 14, 2004

Digital Futures Messaging Meeting

A responsible blogger would have, like, managed to procure broadband wireless and blog this stuff live. Or even the day he returned. But my international adventures with passport issues, coupled with the fact that I needed to deal with typical end-of-semester student concerns about passing my mass media class, slowed me down. And besides which, I'm not sure the whole BE THERE NOW ethic of live conference blogging is really worth the effort--sometimes, info is really so timely we need to get it live. But other times (like now) a couple of days isn't a big deal.

So here are my notes from the meeting. They're almost completely incomprehensible--I'm trying to get an e-copy of the 20-page report that was compiled, but I only have it in print now. It's an interesting report on focus groups that DFC put together to see what sort of public messages we could construct about IP rights that would favor balance, fair use, first-rights of purchase, etc. But for now, here are my raw notes.

(I should say, first, though, that this was a really cool meeting--30 wildly smart and committed to the cause people, hearing and responding to a very well run study on IP issues, spun towards consumer and community rights rather than just stuffing the pockets of recording execs, etc.)

-------- start of incomprehensible notes ----------

DFC Notes

Belden Russeonello & Stewart Law Offices/Washington DC

Peter Jaszi welcomes Group

"Message Development for Public Interest Copright Advocates"

35-40 organizations

eef, dfc, acm, aera, am assoc law libraries, p2united, public knowldedge, national council of teachers of english/conference on college composition & communication [that's me--which is why I get the most characters]

"master concept of the issue of property rights and the threat of piracy"

looking for a message that would cut across all demographics (balancing the very vocal pro-restrictive work)

focus groups, draft report

progressive messages (focus of the firm that did the research. they've also done work for death row inmates, guantanamo bay

message needs to be about "values and information"

"the side that gets to the core value first usually wins .... We're going to try to turn that around."

"... somebody's defined you for the public ... and that's where we find ourself" (on this issue).

public tends to see copyright law in only one direction--protection--but not creativity, freedom of speech, etc. (individual protection but not social).

"change the frame"

"they've so poisoned the atmosphere about music downloading ... they went back to their frame of reference, which was pirates and stealing."

media giants are looking for exceptions/departures from the norm.

"more government intervention"

focus on "personal use"

people tended to back the idea that they should be able to "own" things that they've already bought. Like books from a bookstore. Being forced to watch previews on DVDs was frequently cited as a bad thing (especially when their kids had DVDs that required two or three previews for the numerous times they wathched the DVD.

people are able to make the connection to freedom of speech, provided they're cued to the constitutional topic (once that's raised, people jumped to freedom of speech--one of the few constitutional rights they know...).

321 Studios: HR107 frontal assault.

rights based ... where men were concerned. Process or procedure based where women were concerned.

This seems very interesting, but we didn't spend much time on it.

Fred is going to start compiling localized/concrete messages on IP that seem to work.

------- end of incomprehensible report -------------

Posted by johndan at 11:34 PM | TrackBack

Life During Wartime

Do you know how much losing your passport during an international trip complicates your itinerary?

A lot.

Posted by johndan at 11:36 AM | TrackBack

Landing at Washington National

The pilot bet the first officer that he could land the plane at Washington National with both eyes closed and one hand tied behind his back. So as we make our approach, you may want to fasten your seatbelts.

- Vincent, the Continental Air's Self-Described "Stewardess"
on Flight CO2694, Newark to DC, 4.12.04

Posted by johndan at 11:25 AM | TrackBack

April 12, 2004

No Remote?

The Early Television Museum.

[via Beyond the Beyond]

Posted by johndan at 12:03 PM | TrackBack

April 10, 2004

History Wired


The Smithsonian is offering a public beta test of their "History Wired" project. It uses technology developed for SmartMoney's "Map of the Market" project, one of the few really good public/mass uses of infoviz; and on work by Ben Schneiderman. [via Gail Lippincott, on the ATTW-L list]
Posted by johndan at 01:58 PM | TrackBack

Bucket King

Windows Media Player clip [2.9 MB] of an amazing drummer playing on five-gallon buckets on the sidewalks of Times Square (I think).

[via metafilter.com]

Posted by johndan at 01:01 PM | TrackBack


Unmediated is "Tracking the tools that decentralize the media."

Top current posts cover topics ranging from a First Monday article on copyright activism, a proposed Center for Citizens' Media, a Wired Guide to programming AIM/MSN bots, and more.

[via Dan Gillmor's eJournal]

Posted by johndan at 12:27 PM | TrackBack

April 09, 2004

Art of the Mix

The Art of the Mix:
Welcome to the website dedicated to making mixed tapes and cds. Browse the archive and check out recent submissions. Or, submit a mix yourself. And, Art of the Mix is home to a community of people all devoted to the fine art of making mixes. For more information about what this site offers, review the Frequently Asked Questions.

[via metafilter.com]

Posted by johndan at 10:45 PM | TrackBack

Revisions tracking at microsoft.com

Someone downloaded all the .doc files from Microsoft's websites and examined them to which ones still contained revision-track info. Second-guessing the rationale behind the revisions is interesting--some appear to allude to "creating" quotes and stories for PR purposes. (Maybe it's just the writing teacher in me that thinks this is interesting.)

[via Joi Ito's Web]

Posted by johndan at 03:51 PM | TrackBack

April 08, 2004

Datacloud headed toward print

I've just sent the completed manuscript for Datacloud: Towards a New Theory of Online Work off to Hampton Press. The book and the weblog you're currently reading were originally intended to be pretty tightly linked, but the weblog has mutated wildly since then, so there's only a passing relationship. People often ask why I don't publish more things online in a "native" online format (that is, hypertext, I assume). Print media still serve a purpose, though, and provide a different sort of space for argument and criticism. It's not better or worse than online (or radio, or whatever), just different. So in a sense, perhaps Datacloud The Weblog is the same project, but in a format (and with content) appropriate to its own specific medium. The MS Word files are still online if you want to read the (uncopyedited) raw version; I expect Hampton will ask me to take them offline relatively soon, so get them while you can.
Posted by johndan at 04:11 PM | TrackBack

Make the Chicken Tap Dance

Boing-boing claims that this is actually a Burger King ad campaign (and it does have several explicit links to BK onsite--but I wonder if it's just a spoof, because it seems pretty out there), but check this for some major bizarro content: Subservient Chicken [via boing-boing]
Posted by johndan at 10:09 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Writing in Fragments, Part 2

From Foe Romeo, a reference to a BBC Report on plagiarism and the Internet:

Small-scale copying of internet essay material for coursework is a valid form of 'self-teaching', according to Dr Ellie Johnson Searle, the director of the UK's Joint Council for Qualifications:

"Pupils can change the language and grammar and put it into their own words, but if they are going to that sort of effort they are essentially self-teaching and are learning the subject anyway.

"They would not be able to make extensive alterations without an understanding of the subject."

The primary issue here seems to have more to do with ethics, at least on the surface--plagiarism is part of a social contract that requires students (and faculty) to separate out which words that they wrote, and which they gathered from another source. But, like honor codes, that distinction seems relatively pointless--who cares?

If a student can identify and mobilize a quotation that seems useful for the goal of their project (whatever that is), why even require them to modify the quote? The reason that they plagiarize is that they've been required (or at least urged) to create their "own" text. But if we remove the admonition against over-quoting (and against having too little "original" text), then students are more likely to identify where their quotes came from. And provided that the quotes they use advance the purpose of their project--clarify a point, demonstrate evidence, provide a counter-argument--why should they have to translate perfectly good words into their "own" text?

Just freaking use it.

[via foe romeo]

Posted by johndan at 01:56 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Do Not Pass Go, Do Not Collect $200

The SF Chronicle reports that Pleasanton, CA's traffic-control system has installed way smart stoplights: A sensor clocks the speed of incoming drivers 350' from the light. If they're doing more that 10 mph over the limit, the light switches to red.

(I think the only reason that this seems so funny to me is that I usually travel a modest 5 mph over the speed limit. But what I really like about it is that it makes the system smart.)

[via Boing Boing]

Posted by johndan at 01:30 AM | TrackBack

Why the Internet Failed

Shoshana Zuboff on why the Internet Revolution more really wasn't a revolution.
So here's the news flash: Revolution can't be automated. It is brewed in a perfect storm of new markets, new technologies, and a new enterprise logic. That third force--the Copernican idea--was missing from the Internet revolution. We had people hungry for a new consumption experience, and a technology capable of delivering it. But instead of a new enterprise logic, the old adversarial business model prevailed. Internet companies scrambled for survival at their customers' expense, selling private information, chasing us with ads, conning us with low prices and high fees, and secretly monitoring our behavior. They settled for a new distribution channel when they could have made a real revolution.
Sad but true. In her earlier In the Age of the Smart Machine, she cautioned that sometimes "revolution" merely means revolving around a fixed point. So it has been with the Internet. Certainly the Internet has been involved in some large cultural shifts--but the revolution never really happened. It's been co-opted, returned to late-capitalist business as usual.
Posted by johndan at 01:09 AM | TrackBack

Persistence of Memory


Phillip M. Torrone is taking a self-portrait every half hour, 24/7, for three weeks [warning: the page now holds over 1,000 pictures, so it loads pretty slowly--it does load from the top down, though, so you can start viewing before all the images load]. Spooky, in a cool sort of way, like a very slowly unfolding time-lapse movie. [via jill.txt]
Posted by johndan at 12:43 AM | TrackBack

April 07, 2004

Combating Anti-Semitism

From Crooked Timber:
It seems that the top-ranked site on Google if you search for “Jew” is an anti-semitic site. So this is CT doing our googlebombing best to correct this by linking to the Wikipedia entry for Jew instead. (See Norman Geras for more details).
According to Samantha Blackmon, Jewfaq.org is also apparently in the running for a positive link to take over number 1. [via Dr. B's Blog!]
Posted by johndan at 02:26 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Public Art


Greg & Molly's, the small convenience store near our house in the Adirondacks, recently installed this really cool statue of a rearing stallion on the property. The resolution on my phonecam pic is too low to tell, but the design painted on the horse is a map of the world. I'm not sure what the story is behind this, but I really like it.
Posted by johndan at 02:07 PM | TrackBack

April 06, 2004

Why Free Software Usability Tends to Suck

Matthew Thomas' comments on reasons that "Free Software usability tends to suck":
5. Volunteers hack on stuff which they are interested in, which usually means stuff which they are going to use themselves. Because they are hackers, they are power users, so the interface design ends up too complicated for most people to use.

6. The converse also applies. Many of the little details which improve the interface — like focusing the appropriate control when a window is opened, or fine-tuning error messages so that they are both helpful and grammatical — are not exciting or satisfying to work on, so they get fixed slowly (if at all).

Free software still operates under the assumption that the developers are the end user; indeed, look at this Google Search on the phrases "free software" + "developers are users"; it's one of the basic tenets of free software for many participants. Some of those hits contest that position, but the fact that they spend time contending it says something about the existing situation.

[via Blackbeltjones Work]

Posted by johndan at 09:08 PM | TrackBack


I've posted a rough HTML version of "Broken: Writing in Fragments," a talk I gave at CCCC in San Antonio a couple of weeks back (sans the long video clips, both for IP and for bandwidth reasons).
Posted by johndan at 11:31 AM | TrackBack

April 05, 2004

P2P and Charities

Here's an interesting set of connections: P2P, leaked advance copies of albums, and charities. Wilco's forthcoming album, A Ghost is Born is scheduled for release on June 22, but early copies were leaked to the net. (Unfortunately, I failed to snag a copy. Let me know if you know where to track one down. In the interest of ethics, I'll point out that I own both bootlegged and legal copies of YHF.) A similar thing happened to Wilco's previous album, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. Wilco, at the time, was between record contracts so they eventually began simply streaming the album from their own site for free while they negotiated with record labels. Common wisdom--at least the recording industry's line on wisdom--is that this would absolutely kill record sales. But Yankee Hotel Foxtrot debuted at Number 13 on Billboard, the highest position Wilco has ever seen. The most recent leak wasn't sanctioned (as far as I know), but my guess is that it won't hurt sales. But to show support (and probably to assuage lingering guilt), Roneo Givany has set up justafan.org. The site allows people who've downloaded the album to donate funds to Doctors Without Borders.
Posted by johndan at 08:26 PM | TrackBack

Top 10 Things They Never Taught Me in Design School

Design Observer reprints Michael McDonough’s Top Ten Things They Never Taught Me in Design School. They're more about wisdom and maturity than elegant hacks, which is why they don't teach them in design school (or most schools). Too bad.
10. The rest of the world counts.
If you hope to accomplish anything, you will inevitably need all of the people you hated in high school. I once attended a very prestigious design school where the idea was “If you are here, you are so important, the rest of the world doesn’t count.” Not a single person from that school that I know of has ever been really successful outside of school. In fact, most are the kind of mid-level management drones and hacks they so despised as students. A suit does not make you a genius. No matter how good your design is, somebody has to construct or manufacture it. Somebody has to insure it. Somebody has to buy it. Respect those people. You need them. Big time.
[via Design Observer: writings about design & culture]
Posted by johndan at 03:02 PM | TrackBack

Digitally mediated urban space

Digitally mediated urban space: new lessons for design [13.3MB pdf) by Anthony Townsend.

Very cool.

[via notes from somewhere bizzare]

Posted by johndan at 02:59 PM | TrackBack

April 03, 2004



About two months ago, my Sharp Zaurus PDA/mini-laptop/whatever went missing. I'd been in the midst of a series of trips to conferences and lectures, so I didn't have a chance to launch a full-blown search for it until a week or two back. When I didn't find it, I assumed it'd been swiped from my office on campus at some point. I was annoyed, but there wasn't a lot I could do about it; I leave my office door unlocked (as most people do) when I'm in the building. When I returned a last Monday from San Antonio at 2 am, I found the Zaurus sitting on the coffee table, with this Post-It affixed to it.


It was still wet, so I pulled the battery and set it next to the stove in the living room to dry out. The next day, I plugged it in. It booted without any problems and has been running fine since then.. I asked my wife where she found it. Apparently, I dropped it getting into or out of my truck in February or so. Not only did it sit in the driveway, it was actually plowed up past the house into a five-foot-high snowbank by the guy who plows for us.


I doubt a scenario like this was in the design spec. [via Underdog]
Posted by johndan at 05:19 PM | TrackBack

Design Case

Elegant Hack poses an interesting design problem for students (or anyone, I guess): Redesign the relatively clunky Netflix movie queue.
Queue management is fairly complex, especially in a two-person household like mine. For example, I went out of town. Suddenly philippe needed to get all "his" movies to the top of the queue. However, once I get back, we want to sprinkle a combination of his, mine and ours. We also go through moods-- comedies, classics, french. We also watch old series sometimes, like the avenger, and unlike other movies, it is *not* Kay if the second disk comes before the first. Really, once the queue grows to 200+ proportions, the problems are very different. You don't actually care if a movie is 57 or 62 in the queue-- what matters is "right now" and "someday" for a given film. How could this be handled?
[via Dan Saffer, on the ID Discuss list]
Posted by johndan at 11:40 AM | TrackBack

April 02, 2004

IM Survey Results

I've posted a first pass at theresults of the Instant Messenger survey I ran a few months back. Two quick caveats:
  1. This is a self-selected group. I posted an invitation to take the survey to a Clarkson student-run website (Clarkson Daily Jolt) and sent it to a handful of colleagues and asked them to invite their own students. The resulting group leans heavily toward engineering and computer science majors, towards male (75% or so), and towards college-aged (average age, 20.5 years).
  2. I haven't double-checked the data for errors in calculations of averages, totals, etc. They all look reasonable, but take everything with a grain of salt.
  3. Some of the questions, in hindsight, look a little clunky and probably don't get at things as well as they might.
Still, my goal with this wasn't to try to discover universal laws of Instant Messenger use. Instead, I wanted to see some specifics about how people use Instant Messenger, particularly those who use computers extensively. Some quick generalizations about the respondents:
Average number of IM sessions per day: 15.6 Move back between IM and other work/school activity:
Sometimes: 42%
Frequently or Always: 40%
Ever IM'd during a class or meeting?
Yes: 51%
No: 49%
Number of hours per day online:
5+: 42% 7+: 1%
Percentage of time spent in IM on
Work: 8%
School: 21%
Social: 65%
Other: 8%
Posted by johndan at 07:59 PM | TrackBack

April 01, 2004

PC EZ-Bake Oven at ThinkGeek

Venerable tech-culture Supplier ThinkGeek ("stuff for smart masses") announces an EZ-Bake Oven in the form of a computer peripheral:


Now the computer savvy among us can relive the fun of having your very own personal mini-oven with the PC Ez-Bake oven! It fits in a 5 1/4" drive bay and plugs right into your power supply with the included Molex connector. Also included is "PC Ez-Cook", the open-source oven controller software with hundreds of easy and creative recipes for your PC Ez-Bake oven, and even a fuzzy-logic cooking control system to precisely measure the doneness of your cake, cookie, or cheese souffle. The PC Ez-Bake oven can even be used to cook your Pop Tarts, Bagel Bites, or any tiny or flat food. YUM!
Only $29.99. (I assume this item will be availble today only.)
Posted by johndan at 08:08 AM | TrackBack