May 29, 2004

Safety First???

I'll admit. I'm a little jealous that Johndan is able to take time off from the Net right now. Wish I could do the same. . . But then again, I wouldn't have found this little tidbit via Slashdot included in a post at the Center for Defense Information. It's enough to make your hair stand on end. As Bruce Blair explains when talking about the security locks for the Minuteman missiles, "The Strategic Air Command (SAC) in Omaha quietly decided to set the “locks” to all zeros in order to circumvent this safeguard. During the early to mid-1970s, during my stint as a Minuteman launch officer, they still had not been changed. Our launch checklist in fact instructed us, the firing crew, to double-check the locking panel in our underground launch bunker to ensure that no digits other than zero had been inadvertently dialed into the panel. SAC remained far less concerned about unauthorized launches than about the potential of these safeguards to interfere with the implementation of wartime launch orders. And so the “secret unlock code” during the height of the nuclear crises of the Cold War remained constant at OOOOOOOO." So for all of those people still using "123" as their password, or some other easily guessable series of numbers, know that you are historically in the good company of our Strategic Air Defense.
Posted by at 11:40 PM | TrackBack

A Very Smart Computer...

As I was avoiding the last of my end-of-the-semester grading, I caught an episode of the show Frontiers. In this episode, Alan Alda interviews brain researchers studying memory. The segment that intrigued me most is entitled, "When Memory Lies."

http://www.pbs.org/saf/1402/video/watchonline.htm

Hmmm... truth, reality, and a gerenal belief in either caught my attention, but what kept me watching is my interest in research methodology. After completing two questionnaires about his food likes and dislikes and childhood eating experiences, Alan Alda is told that a "very, very sophisticated computer program" reviewed his survey results and came up with several statements about his past eating experiences, one of which is a claim that as a child, he had gotten sick from eating hard boiled eggs. Contensiously, Alan Alda denies having had any negative experiences with hard boiled eggs. Then, Elizabeth Loftus, the principle researcher and one attempting the persuasion, asks Alda to complete the same questionnaire about childhood eating experiences. This time, rather than selecting a 1 for definitely did not happen, Alda selects a 2. Arguing that Alda was convinced by her "suggestion" that he had had a negative experience with hard boilded eggs, Loftus emphasizes her study's conclusions that suggestions can lead people to have false memories and even change their behaviors based upon those untruths.

Loftus never discusses the role of technology in her research. She doesn't even seem to entertain her own rhetoric about technology and her continued emphasis that the "very, very smart computer" had on her seeming ability to persuade Alda to shift from a 1 to a 2. She also fails to interrogate the significant differences between the power to persuade someone about past food experiences and convincing someone about past abuse which is typically associated with false memory accusations.

The segment made me wonder a great deal more about the ethics of research practices and the assumptions that both technology and information are neutral. Technology is simply a tool to interpret data, and the narratives associated with the power of technology are not questioned as integral to the "suggestive process." Also, the information used in the study--past food experiences--is suggested to be equatible with the types of memories often assumed to be false.

It makes me feel lucky that my grandmother only once tried to feed me strawberry cake with chocolate icing topped with red hots and stale circus peanuts. Folks might not have believed me had she committed a worse crime.

Amy

Posted by at 09:06 PM | TrackBack

May 28, 2004

iBiblography

LJBook is a service that will automatically turn a body's blog entries into a printable .PDF file. Might be a nice service for someone running a course blog who wants to be able to archive without taking up server space, or for students of said course who want to "take it with them." As the title suggests, it's built for LiveJournal, but the site also has beta versions available for WordPress and Movable Type. I only looked at the MT version, which allows you to include images and comments, although the latter are apparently "buggy." It interfaces directly with your installation, so a username and password are required, but creating a temporary, additional user with minimal permissions shouldn't be a big problem. There's also a link on the site to a cover story from the Guardian (UK) from about a month ago, about POD booksellers combining with services like this to put out low-cost "blog books." Not that we should be in any big rush to get back to print, but services like this raise some interesting opportunities... [via David Weinberger]
Posted by at 08:38 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

My Mobile Fascination

So perhaps I am too obsessed in mobile technologies, but this was just plain interesting. Voter registration campaigns are turning to a new weapon to combat low turnout among younger voters this November: the cellphone. Nonprofit groups have begun collecting the cell numbers of college-age voters as part of wider registration efforts. Their aim is to contact young people through wireless calls and text messaging to improve upon the turnout among 18- to 24-year-olds, which the Census Bureau reported was 32 percent in 2000. Why restrict it to college kids? I would personally love to have someone text message me to remind me to vote. While I rarely forget the big elections I have often forgotten primaries and such. Being able to text in my vote (while wildly insecure) would help me even more. Can you imagine the power of the vote if people could (securely) text their votes for president? Full article at NYT Circuits
Posted by at 06:32 PM | TrackBack

The PrintShop moment

Photo of the Commodore 64 Print Shop manual Anybody remember Print Shop on the Commodore 64? In the '80s, Print Shop and software like it revolutionized the way we produced local documents. Newsletters, lost pet posters, banners in the high school gym -- things that used to be done on hand or typed and mimeographed could suddenly be done on our own computers, complete with different fonts and clip art. The results, of course, were absolutely horrendous: people with absolutely no design training took up simulated tools of graphic designers, producing documents with so many fonts that they looked like ransom notes. But things got better. Let's call this the Print Shop moment -- the point at which a new technology gives the broad public access to tools once considered the domain of a specific profession, resulting in an explosion of artifacts. Most of these artifacts will be badly produced, but a few will be genuine innovations, and the artifacts will eventually regain regularity as the public acquires a more discriminating eye (and templates). The Print Shop moment for desktop publishing was in the 1980s. The Print Shop moment for websites was, say, 1993-1998. The Print Shop moment for blogs started a couple of years ago and we're at the tail end of it. So what's next? The pressure to make sites accessibility-compliant; the trend toward centrally organized sites; the raised bar on web features, including searches and archiving; the proliferation of appropriate, often free software with good CSS support and plenty of templates; and the potential to move away from the detail work of coding and toward large-scale information design and application design. These factors will all move us away from website design and towards content management systems -- the next Print Shop moment. After that? True, powerful, and widespread end-user programming. --Clay
Posted by at 12:47 PM | TrackBack

May 27, 2004

Broadband Killed the Video Star

Two relevant stories on the Register: "Broadband killed the TV star": In a survey of 800 Europeans, 56 percent have cut down on TV time since subscribing to broadband. "TV: coming to a mobile near you": Digitenne and Nokia are testing TV signals on mobile handsets. Put them together and you find an interesting trend. We -- or at least the surveyed Europeans -- are turning away from broadcast media to interactive media, but at the same time we want our interactive media to handle broadcasts. Now look at what has happened in my household. Ever since we put in the WiFi network at home, TV time has actually gone up: My wife likes to surf while watching TV, and often looks up information relevant to the broadcast. Is there a market here? Oh, here's one more Register story. It sounds like a personal ad: "Scientist seeks alien cloud-dwelling bug." Don't we all.
Posted by at 07:55 AM | TrackBack

networks + cities

Jason Kottke's been on a Jane Jacobs kick lately, which has gotten me to thinking. I came to Jacobs' work late during a summer course I taught on spatial rhetoric, and wished I had known of it in time to include some of her work. Her book The Death and Life of Great American Cities is classic, and I mean that in the "everyone should read it" sense. Anyhow, Kottke links to an interesting interview done with Jacobs, parts of which I'll probably drop into the mix for the course on networks I'm teaching next spring. For example:
Q. Are people puzzled that you are now into economic theories and even biology? Many people thought you were just into city planning and building neighborhoods. Do people shake their heads and not get it? A. No, people seem to get it. They don't really find it outlandish that one would also bring in biology. Lots of people have been thinking, in some ways, along the same lines. You know, I think we are misled by universities and other formal intellectual places into thinking that there are actually separate fields of knowledge. And most people know that there aren't. But they are always getting victimized somehow by the idea that there are. And they are delighted when in some respectable way it becomes clear that there are not separate fields of knowledge, that they link up. That life and the Earth and everything in it really is a seamless web, and that's not merely a poetic expression. It is a very functional thing, that it is a seamless web, and that it is possible to understand something about these webs.
Posted by at 03:29 AM | TrackBack

May 26, 2004

Interview with Lisa Nakamura

Via Art McGee, an interview with Lisa Nakamura on race and cyberspace.
Posted by at 12:50 PM | TrackBack

May 25, 2004

Yeah I'm User-Centered, Whadda You Care?!

Rob over at Roblog says something about being a user researcher I am just not sure I agree with...
... there is one quality that I believe all user researchers need to have to be effective, and it's never taught nor even mentioned in any training programs I know of. A good user researcher has to like people. And I mean he has to like people, all people, not just his friends, peers, and colleagues. He has to be intrinsically interested in who they are, what work they do, how they feel about life, what they want to achieve, and so on. Even though user research is generally conducted to inform product design or marketing, in order to do his job well, a good user researcher must possess an interest in learning about people that transcends these goals. Gaining a deep understanding of how others live their lives must be an end in and of itself.
I see what he is getting at here. But I think there is a qualification to be made. I'd say that it is important to be interesed in people to do user research, but it is not necessary for you to care about specific individuals or the development of individuals in, say, the way we tend to do when we teach. I say this because when we think about "liking" people, we tend to think about wanting individuals to do well, to learn, to improve over time. That sort of thing is not necessary to do good user research, though. This is a curious thing. Sounds cold-hearted, but it is not as bad as it sounds. And Dr. Spinuzzi really makes this point better than I do, but there are certain advantages to being more concerned with how groups of people do things than how any one person develops over time. Among the advantages is a synchronic view of practices that inhere in a given task situation. The phenomenon mentioned in Erin's post about the lack of blog template mods, for example, could be seen not as sloth or inexperience, but as an example of genres coalescing before our eyes. Don't get me wrong though, I *love* people. Bill
Posted by at 05:49 PM | TrackBack

devil in a blue dress

Something that struck me while browsing content management systems this afternoon: "The personalisation either of the graphical, or of the programming part has only a single limit, the fantasy and capability of the programmer and web designer.The presence of many PHP-Nuke sites similar to each other is due mainly to the lack of time of those who created them or the fear that the phase of personalisation is too difficult on a technical level. In fact, it suffices to let oneself be inspired by the available themes, in order to realize how easy it is to sew a new dress to one's portal." (from the PHP-Nuke HOWTO) Besides having the most amusing metaphor I've ever seen for creating a new theme/look/skin/style for a content management system, I think this quote brings up an interesting point. Most people who install content management systems or blogging/online journal systems don't modify the existing themes, or modify them only in superficial ways (changing the colors but not the overall layout, for example). This leads to a rather unintentionally uniform appearance. Why does this happen? Is it because people are satisfied with the defauls? Is it because there's a high learning curve in changing the defaults? Is it because people need to invest more time in actually publishing content than in fiddling with the details?
Posted by at 04:06 PM | TrackBack

May 23, 2004

Time on his hands

I just returned from helping with a weekend UU youth conference (imagine 100 of the most activist teens from across Ontario, Northern & Western NY who have been taught to question all authority). Johndan appears to have done a fine job unplugging. Our kitchen and laundry area are amazingly clean. So far I'm liking this. Maybe I'll change my mind when the DTs begin. Just in case you're wondering--my plan is to tell him nothing about web happenings. Occassionally he shouts a URL accross the house to me, but I'm not going there.
Posted by at 07:08 PM | TrackBack

I am whoever spam says I am...

"And I am, whatever you say I am If I wasn't, then why would I say I am? In my inbox, the spam everyday I am"
Sampled from Eminem, "The Way I Am" from the Marshall Mathers LP
Like many others who have their e-mail addresses on the web getting swept up by spiders, I get lots of spam. Most of it gets caught in a trap that I have to clean out every couple of weeks. As I was cleaning it out today, I wondered...just who do these people think I am, anyway? And I decided to get an answer to that question. The following statements about my identity come from 48 hours worth of my spam (about 90 messages). Generally speaking, I am indadequate in many ways. Are you like me? If you are, you...
  • definitely need to refinance your house because you are paying WAY too much interest on your current mortgage...and, alas...your recent loan application has been denied; fear not, though, because if you're like me a GREAT DEAL awaits you regardless of your credit
  • can get paid today to shop, eat, surf the web, give your opinion, or do something non-specific involving Ebay
  • can avoid work altogether, making money by helping out friends from several African republics (your choice of three), by "networking with friends" in a system that is definitely not a pyramid marketing scheme, or by qualifying for 1000s of government loans that go unclaimed every year!
  • seem to be lonely, but thankfully many of your friends have fixed you up on blind dates; also, there is no shortage of hot singles in your area who want to meet you [sic] tonite!!
  • have bad luck with computers and certain other of your possessions, most of which run slowly, are infested with viruses, or simply need repairs (which you did not expect). You definitely should get many extended warranties to protect yourself, especially since at least 6 of your current warranties have expired
  • are lucky, though, in that you have won a free Xbox, a digital camcorder, several free tanks of gas, a free lunch at several fast-food chains, free money at a casino, free copies of Adobe and Microsoft software titles, free round-trip tickets, a coffee maker and various types of biscotti, and free samples of cellulite removal cream
  • are, uh, undersized compared to most men...but the problem seems to be reversible with an adequate supply of oral and topical medications and, perhaps, an exercise regimen
  • are diabetic; who knew? better lay off the biscotti
  • qualify for affordable health care (good thing, too, considering your blood sugar problem
  • can burn fat while you sleep, which sounds like a good idea about now, especially since you can meet your soul mate tomorrow!
Ah, but that's just me, or at least the version of me that I just flushed out of the spam trap. But don't worry, because even as I type this, I accumulate more identity...it seems I am also a Christian in need of Debt Consolidation... Bill
Posted by at 06:30 PM | TrackBack

needle to the vein

So does anyone know if Johndan's twitching with withdrawl symptoms yet? Perhaps we should start a pool as to whether he'll crack in the next few weeks. :)

I won't be at Computers and Writing this year, but I do hope to contribute to the Conference Weblog, which is currently about "Building a History" of the conference as it was, as it is, and as it will be. As Clancy notes at KairosNews, right now the weblog is a little stagnant. I remember that it was difficult to get people blogging related to last year's conference, too -- I wonder why that is?

In educational MOO news, the Encore mailing list has been buzzing lately with (currently nebulous) plans to form a MOO Consortium to talk about how MOOs could be used in the future, as well as how they could be integrated with other writing technologies. If you're interested in that sort of thing, now is the time to jump in!

Posted by at 06:21 PM | TrackBack

May 21, 2004

Johndan Has Left the Building

My fingers are already a little twitchy with the precognitive sense of not having any keys under them. I'm already feeling nostalgic for the net, and I'm not offline quite yet. Seems embarrassing somehow.

In my head for the past few days, I've been accumulating a long list of things I think I'm going to miss over the coming weeks:

  • the little chime that Mail.app makes when messages come in
  • reading the subject lines of spam messages
  • checking the temperature outside without having to actually, say, go outside (which is odd, because all the weather services offer me current readings based on the temperature 20 or 30 miles from my house, which, in the Adirondacks, probably varies quite a bit from what the actual temperature is right outside my door)
  • listening to Wilco's "A Ghost is Born" (as yet unreleased) via streaming audio at Wilco's website
  • skimming rss feeds in NetNewsWatcher
  • having Microsoft Word constantly correct my grammar and spelling (which is also odd, because I hate it when Word underlines something in green or blue while I'm in the middle of just trying to get words down on the screen, so I usually just ignore the suggested corrections)
  • 40 gigs of mp3s, and about twenty live shows I downloaded from SharingTheGroove (a taper's distribution website) but hadn't had chance to decode and listen to yet
  • Google News
  • altcountrytab
  • the "just on the wrong side of chaos" feeling I get from working in a half-dozen applications simultaneously
  • boing-boing
  • constantly rearranging my queue at netflix
  • having the keen sense that no matter what obscure bit of information I needed, I'd be able to Google it in a handful of seconds (even though that impression was frequently just wishful thinking)
  • typing "a href=" tags manually in the MoveableType posting interface for datacloud
  • ego surfing
Thanks to my fine team of guest bloggers, all of whom have graciously agreed to fit datacloud into their already overloaded workloads. I owe you all a beer or two at the next conference we happen to hook up at (currently, it looks like that could be either the Watson Conference next fall, or CCCC in the spring).

See you all in a month. Off to start working my way through that stack of (print) novels I've been accumulating. (First on the stack is Kerouac's Desolation Angels.

Posted by johndan at 11:55 PM | TrackBack

Jon Stewart's Honorary Doctorate Speech at William and Mary

Jon Stewart of The Daily Show accepted his honorary doctorate at William and Mary last week. Here's a transcript of the speech he gave. And here's an obligatory blockquote:
I am honored to be here and to receive this honorary doctorate. When I think back to the people that have been in this position before me from Benjamin Franklin to Queen Noor of Jordan, I can't help but wonder what has happened to this place. Seriously, it saddens me. As a person, I am honored to get it; as an alumnus, I have to say I believe we can do better. And I believe we should. But it has always been a dream of mine to receive a doctorate and to know that today, without putting in any effort, I will. It's incredibly gratifying. Thank you. That's very nice of you, I appreciate it.

I'm sure my fellow doctoral graduates - who have spent so long toiling in academia, sinking into debt, sacrificing God knows how many years of what, in truth, is a piece of parchment that in truth has been so devalued by our instant gratification culture as to have been rendered meaningless - will join in congratulating me. Thank you.

But today isn't about how my presence here devalues this fine institution. It is about you, the graduates. I'm honored to be here to congratulate you today. Today is the day you enter into the real world, and I should give you a few pointers on what it is. It's actually not that different from the environment here. The biggest difference is you will now be paying for things, and the real world is not surrounded by three-foot brick wall. And the real world is not a restoration. If you see people in the real world making bricks out of straw and water, those people are not colonial re-enactors - they are poor. Help them. [...]

Lets talk about the real world for a moment. We had been discussing it earlier, and I... I wanted to bring this up to you earlier about the real world, and this is I guess as good a time as any. I don't really know to put this, so I'll be blunt. We broke it.

Please don't be mad. I know we were supposed to bequeath to the next generation a world better than the one we were handed. So, sorry.

I don't know if you've been following the news lately, but it just kinda got away from us. Somewhere between the gold rush of easy internet profits and an arrogant sense of endless empire, we heard kind of a pinging noise, and uh, then the damn thing just died on us. So I apologize.

[via Fury.com]

Posted by johndan at 10:40 PM | TrackBack

Dan Eldon: See God for More Information

I feel so clueless (since apparently his life and work have inspired a whole movement I was unaware of), but I just stumbled over this site on Dan Eldon's work. Eldon documented his journalist and artist work in various locations (including New York, Somalia, and Mogadishu) before his untimely (and violent, war-torn) death when he was only in his twenties.

The images and journal sketches/collages are amazing. The site includes sketchbooks and journal entries from his mid-teens through his early twenties, as well as his photojournalism, writings, and material from memorials and tributes by others.

(Note: This is site is simultaneously depressing and inspiring. Don't say I didn't warn you.)

Posted by johndan at 02:36 AM | TrackBack

Kevin Kelly on Design

Kevin Kelly {Wired founder and current editor at large) points to a new book on the work of Charles and Ray Eames [amazon link], the husband-and-wife team who had two major hands in making design cool:

Long before it was hip, Charles and Ray Eames pioneered the design approach to life. Nowhere is their legacy so well represented as in this single-volume exhibit covering every project in their life's work. The Eameses were probably the tech-friendliest designers ever, without ever being hi-tech. They certainly were the first on the frontiers of exhibit, museum, and informational film design. They designed types of things that had never been designed before. This book, together with the multi-volume DVD of their brilliant short films, makes it clear that the Eames pursued their passions first. As design goes commercial in a big way, theirs is a mighty inspiring stance. This is the most comprehensive and graphic record of not only their work (3,500 images) but perhaps of any designer's work. I use this book to expand my notions of what can be designed.

[via Cool Tools]

Posted by johndan at 02:20 AM | TrackBack

May 20, 2004

Queering Nielsen

Just when you thought you'd seen the last take on the queer makeover, along comes Design by Fire: Design Eye for the Usability Guy Now if we can just get ol' Jakob to use some hair product...
Posted by at 05:27 PM | TrackBack

design education

Jessica Helfland at Design Observer releases Part 2 of some posts titled "Annals of Academia," her reflections on design education. It doesn't take a whole lot of imagination to transpose some of her comments to other fields or other techne:
In general, we introduce theory in the classroom not because of the product it generates so much as the process it informs; but in the absence of an original idea, students often see theory as a validating conceptual armature, a crutch. This is where our educational system fails us: for as long as the connection bewteen theory and practice remains thwarted by poor pedagogical direction, we cannot expect our students to know the difference. To me, the goal is to groom students whose comfort level with theory is such that they emerge from a degree-granting program able to articulate their own theories.
Helfland's reflections are worthwhile in and of themselves, but I particularly enjoyed reading the comments section from the first installment, and expect that, given a day or two, Part 2 will be equally provocative. (btw, I happened upon DO originally through datacloud, and heartily recommend it to anyone even remotely interested in visual rhetoric. Smart discussions of design theory and practice by some seriously top-flight folk...)
Posted by at 01:41 PM | TrackBack

This just in: Writing is Obsolete

One more piece from Neofiles, this one an interview titled "The End-to-End Principle"with Clay Shirky. (a.k.a. the other Clay?). The dialogue is interesting, and eventually this little exchange emerges:
NF: Will the trend towards freely-offered web content kill writing as a profession? Is the notion of the “writer” as a special talent obsolete? CS: Writing as a special talent became obsolete in the 19th century. The bottleneck was publishing. The question is whether the profession of publisher is becoming obsolete. I wrote an essay in the mid-90s called “Help, the Price of Information Has Fallen, and It Can’t Get Up” noting that reproducing and disseminating information had gone from “rare and costly skill” to “afterthought.” This is mainly a problem for publishers. Good writing will always attract a disproportionate amount of attention — the question is how to turn that attention into value. We are seeing a huge surge in experiments with non-monetary value, It would be a sign of the times if the mailbox were on sale. where the ability of a non-profit to spread its message, or the simple desire for more attention, replace remuneration as the main goal of writing.
There are interesting questions raised here for folks thinking about what, in my opinion, is a question too often ignored by those of us who think about writing a lot: "Why think so much about writing?" My usual answer to that question, when posed by, say, folks outside the field of writing, rhetoric and composition, or the like from whom I am seeking funding goes likes this: writing is so ubiquitous as to be deeply influential and ill-understood. Shirky makes the other, nastier side of this argument: writing is an afterthought to most people. Should it be? Can it be something other? Bill
Posted by at 12:42 PM | TrackBack

Unplugged Fever, Catch it!

Johndan seems to be part of a trend, or maybe he caught one of those memes (a word rapidly gaining on "blogosphere" in the most-annoying blog terminology race): disconnect! Andy Walker's piece Disconnect: It's Good For You offers some how-to advice for dealing with challenges similar to the ones cited by our bloghost. Nothing too earth-shattering here. In fact, I suspect Johndan will have a lot to add once he is back among the connected. via neofiles
Posted by at 12:19 PM | TrackBack

May 19, 2004

Opsound Radio

Opsound, the open sound repository (i.e., free music that you can use any way you like), now has a Flash-based streaming radio service. I'm not sure how interesting this will be, given that Opsound has a lot of experimental and found sound and some stuff that is clearly not meant to be taken seriously. But some of it is worthwhile. Kind of like listening to one of my favorite acts. --Clay
Posted by at 06:09 PM | TrackBack

Smiting Sinners -- Online

At the virtual Church of Fools, some avatars have behaved inappropriately, forcing parishoners to use the Smite button. --Clay
Posted by at 04:18 PM | TrackBack

Introducing Myself

Hi, I'm Clancy of CultureCat and Kairosnews, one of the guest bloggers for the next month. I'm at the University of Minnesota's Department of Rhetoric, and my interests include blogging, intellectual property, feminist rhetorics, and feminist theory. In keeping with Johndan's interests, I'll mostly blog about intellectual property here.
Posted by at 01:14 PM | TrackBack

May 18, 2004

And now, your moment of Zen...

For fans of The Daily Show or snarky humor in general, there's Jon Stewart's Commencement Address at the College of William and Mary.
We declared war on terror. We declared war on terror—it’s not even a noun, so, good luck. After we defeat it, I’m sure we’ll take on that bastard ennui.
via metafilter
Posted by at 05:44 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Mobile Emergence

Hi my name is Samantha Blackmon and I'm a guest blogger. Hi, Samantha! Now that all of that is taken care of...I thought that this was interesting considering Johndan's recent question about whether or not he should shed the cell phone as part of his exercise in disconnection. Eric Paulos, a research scientist at Intel’s Research Laboratory in Berkeley, California, launched the Urban Atmospheres and Urban Probes projects not just to explore social uses of emerging technologies, but also to test new ways of pursuing socio-technological research. Call me a skeptic, but I can't help wondering if the research is simply being done to improve marketing. The Feature article sounds more optimistic than I am. Who knows what good lurks in the hearts of Intel?
Posted by at 12:49 PM | TrackBack

May 17, 2004

Mountain Man Kelly Guest

Kelly Guest, a Canadian pro triathlete, spent three months "offline" doing major triathlon training in southern British Columbia. He stayed in a cabin by himself with no electricity or running water, and logged really impressive slowtwitch efforts. Read his stories and then feel bad about taking the elevator. Johndan, we're expecting big things from you. -Stuart
Posted by at 03:41 PM | TrackBack

Hackers & Painters (and Writers)

Since I am going off to the Computers and Writing conference in Hawaii next month, I am starting to think a little about what kinds of reading material to take on the plane. On my list is Hackers & Painters by Paul Graham, mostly based on the sample chapter I read (linked from the catalogue page). Graham's easy prose style seems just right for a long plane ride, and he has some interesting things to say about "Makers." Makers are, it seems, folks who make stuff. So for all of you fans of rhetorical invention, architecture, musical composition, etc., the maker is a figure you will relate to. Here's a snippet from pg. 18 of the sample chapter (chapter 2):
I’ve never liked the term “computer science.” The main reason I don’t like it is that there’snosuchthing. Computer science is a grab bag of tenuously related areas thrown together by an accident of history, like Yugoslavia. At one end you have people who are really mathematicians, but call what they’re doing computer science so they can get DARPA grants. In the middle you have people working on something like the natural history of computers—studying the behavior of algorithms for routing data through networks, for example. And then at the other extreme you have the hackers, who are trying to write interesting software, and for whom computers are just a medium of expression, as concrete is for architects or paint for painters. It’s as if mathematicians, physicists, and architects all had to be in the same department.
The book is due out sometime this month. Let's hope it comes out before I get on the plane.
Posted by at 12:13 PM | TrackBack

"The genie's out of the bottle"

Data Point 1: The Mercury News has an article on how ubiquitous digital photography has furnished uncensored images of the conflict in Iraq, including the infamous Abu Ghraib photos. "You can't make all the cell phones go away," one officer in Iraq tells us. "You can't make all the digital cameras go away. The genie's out of the bottle." Data Point 2: The Register reports:
It's always been something of an in joke with those who know the Japanese market for miniature cameras. You know that they are described as "up-skirt" devices, but you always assumed this was a witticism. But no: and now it's going to get the camera phone made illegal in America. The Video Voyeurism Prevention Act has now been approved. It passed the Senate last year, and has now got through the House Judiciary Committee. It, or something like it, will almost certainly become law.
--Clay
Posted by at 09:39 AM | TrackBack

No cell for you!

Hey there. Collin here, just making sure that my login is smooth. I graduated about 14 years ago, and am still tired. I wanted to second Erin's recommendation about Ecto--I haven't gotten around to ponying up for it yet (my laptop upgrade is coming in a couple of months), but it was nice to have while I was travelling, and access was intermittent. I got itchy when I hadn't posted in a couple of days, and Ecto did a nice job scratchin for me. I have to cast my vote for "no cellphone" during the month. A total ban on chips in general would be impossible, but cells are part of the grid. I think you have to restrict yourself to land lines. Oh, and did I mention that you're only allowed to play Pitfall on an Atari 2600? And no riding in cars with the OnStar system, either. I'm willing to bend a little on digital cable, but the Dish Network is out. I'm only kind of joking. It's fun to think about Luddifying my life--just don't ask me to actually do it.
Posted by at 12:22 AM | TrackBack

May 16, 2004

mt client recommendations

Guest blogger Erin checking in. I don't have much to say right now (I just graduated about five hours ago, and so am very tired). However, if you enjoy using blog clients to post, I wanted to mention two of my favorite ones for use with Movable Type. (If you've never heard of a blog client, it's basically a program that allows you to create and edit entries and then automatically posts them to the weblog when you click on a button. They usually have features like spellcheck, letting you save entries offline, etc.)


  • ecto is a client for OS X. It used to be Kung-Log, but it changed names and acquired a whole bunch of features when I wasn't looking. It currently supports posting to multiple types of weblogs and content management systems. It's free for two weeks and then $18 to keep using it. It auto-detects what system you're using based on the URL you feed it, so it's really easy to set up a weblog account.
  • Zempt is a Movable Type client for Windows (they claim they're working on a Linux port). I've only configured it once, but several of my colleagues use it and enjoy it. It's free, but they do take donations if you like it.

If people want help setting them up, I'd be glad to provide support over email or IM.

Oh, and I added the RSS feed for this journal as a LiveJournal syndicated feed. If anyone uses LJ to read syndicated feeds, you can add johndanblog (datacloud was taken) to your reading list.

Posted by at 10:47 PM | TrackBack

Conundrum

I've been attempting to draw some sort of functional dividing line to separate my "online" from "offline" lives as I prepare to go offline. I earlier decided that I couldn't avoid using computers completely, if I wanted to be technical about it--if I was going to draw the line at microchips in general, I couldn't even drive (let alone use the microwave or an ATM, talk on the phone, or watch movies on DVD); I'd have to become a hermit. This wasn't a good solution, because the point of the whole experiment was to see how going offline affected my everyday life, and I'm not really a hermit (although I sometimes aspire to that job classification). So here's my conundrum. Can I use my cellphone? I have a Sony-Ericsson T616 that, among other things, runs Java. Now I don't use many of the networked features possible with the phone. I haven't activated text or multimedia messaging, and the Java-based games that come standard with the phone are pretty dull (Q-Bert and Snakes, and I haven't downloaded any others). It has Bluetooth, but if I'm not going to use a standard computer, that's pointless. I'm leaning towards using it, given the overall goals of the experiment. But it's a complicated decision.
Posted by johndan at 10:29 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Guest Bloggers

My plans to go offline for a month are rolling along. The key step, from the perspective of the blogosphere (I find it difficult to say that word with a straight face), is lining up guest bloggers--and I've managed to round up a great crew. Kelly and Bill have already posted. I'm finishing account setup for five or six others right now, who will start posting in the next week or so. Thanks to everyone who has agreed to participate in this little experiment. I'll hang out and post occasionally, and troubleshoot as necessary, for the next four or five days.
Posted by johndan at 06:19 PM | TrackBack

MT promises?

Everybody is certainly in an uproar about Six Apart's announcement that MT 3.0 will, in some cases, be non-free. Mena of SA tries to explain things a bit:Mena's >Corner: It's About Time Liz Lawley at Many 2 Many has one of the more reasoned responses to the whole thing:
I think we’re watching a significant moment in weblog history. Justified or not, the anger among MovableType’s users will push many of them to new tools, and has permanently changed the perception of SixApart by its customers. The users have spoken, and the landscape has shifted.
Posted by at 11:57 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

May 15, 2004

Remixin' Bush

I am not sure if Johndan has posted about The Evolution Control Committee & Evolution Controlled Creations before, but they do cool stuff with other people's stuff.
Posted by at 08:47 PM | TrackBack

Head in the datacloud(s)

I am happy to support Johndan in his own personal unplugged experience, though I am a little worried about being entrusted - even partially - with the care and feeding of da 'cloud. It feels a little like looking in on someone's cat while they are away. They do pretty well on their own, cats, but you just don't want to kill them or anything while the owner is on vacation. I am not the only petsitter, of course. So that is a relief. Still, since I never really got my blog off the ground, I just am not sure I can be trusted. Time will tell...
Posted by at 07:57 PM | TrackBack

"Hi. I'm Zapf Dingbats."

MacWorld UK is running a poll: "If you were going to name your child after a font which one would it be?"

Arial (23%) and Geneva (17%) are in the lead, although Zapf Dingbats (12% and Linotype Univers Condensed Semibold Italic (8%) are still in the running.

(The poll is at the bottom of the navbar column on the left of the main page.)

[via Typographica]

Posted by johndan at 01:30 PM | TrackBack

A long month ahead

Johndan is preparing to take his month offline so he gave me some instructions and asked me to make a test entry. Yes, relationships have many tests. I started by finding that our DSL was down. Then I found that, because I couldn't read, I couldn't get logged in with the info he gave me. He says this month offline is so that he can work on his writing, but I suspect it is to push me a little towards computer competence.
Posted by at 11:28 AM | TrackBack

May 14, 2004

Jew Watch Watch

The Google Weblog reports that Google, disturbed by the fact that a search for "jew" returned an anti-Semitic website as the number one hit. Google bought an adword page for themselves that now shows up at the top of the "jew" search results (above the anti-Semitic site): "The link for the ad-word says, "We're disturbed about these results  as well. Please read our note here."
Someone searching for information on Jewish people would be more likely to enter terms like "Judaism," "Jewish people," or "Jews" than the single word "Jew." In fact, prior to this incident, the word "Jew" only appeared about once in every 10 million search queries. Now it's likely that the great majority of searches on Google for "Jew" are by people who have heard about this issue and want to see the results for themselves.

An earlier weblog campaign to move the Wikipedia entry to number one (by increasing the number of links into a site, one method Google uses to rank pages) has been successful, so now the anti-Semitic site is down to number 2.)

[via Google Weblog]

Posted by johndan at 08:27 PM | TrackBack

The Patron Saints of Graphic Design

The Patron Saints of Graphic Design. (As you might expect, the graphic design of the site itself is very nice.)
Saint Typo. Patron of Spell Checking & Google Searches. Born as Typernius but better known to his followers as Typo, this son of a drycleaner retreated to a cave near Belgrade to pursue the life of a hermit. He lived undisturbed except for fans, owls, & daily client faxes until the Duke of Copyrighting came thither a-hunting. As Typernius relates in his autobiography, the aforementioned Duke (about to be held captive in a perpetual meeting) asked him to proofread an annual report on his behalf. Typo's obsessive attention to detail soon gained a following & in his later years he entered a monastery in order to rest his eyes. He died in the Order of Strunk & White circa 303.
Underdog informs me that this site will probably only be amusing to people involved in graphic design.

[via Joho the Blog]

Posted by johndan at 07:58 PM | TrackBack

Cooking the Books at RIAA

An economist deconstructs the RIAA's claims of declining sales (in order to scapegoat p2p):
There is only one logical integration of all these statistics with the recent Soundscan data: even though actual point-of-purchase sales are up by about 9% in the US - and the industry sold over 13,000,000 more units in 2004 (1st quarter) than in 2003 (1st quarter) - the Industry is still claiming a loss of 7% because RIAA members shipped 7% fewer records than in 2003.

Forget the confusing percentages, here's an oversimplified example: I shipped 1000 units last year and sold 700 of them. This year I sold 770 units but shipped only 930 units. I shipped 10% less units this year. And this is what the RIAA wants the public to accept as "a loss."

I'll go a step further. This fact, that Sherman seems to confirm, should logically mean a smaller percentage of returns. But, shouldn't fewer returns mean higher profit margins and faster turnaround; and shouldn't that be good for both the retail and wholesale side of the industry? "Sure," admits Sherman today, "but I have no idea what US shipments looked like in the first quarter." Then how can he claim world-wide "losses" in his March speech to Financial Times New Media?

[The link to the original doesn't appear to be working--maybe slashdotted--so here's a pointer to Boing-Boing's post about the topic.]

[via boing-boing]

Posted by johndan at 06:15 PM | TrackBack

Apparent Discovery of the Library of Alexandria

BBC News reports that a joint Polish-Egyptian team of archaeologists have apparently discovered the ruins of the Library of Alexandria.
It was at the library that Archimedes invented the screw-shaped water pump that is still in use today.

At Alexandria Eratosthenes measured the diameter of the Earth, and Euclid discovered the rules of geometry.

Ptolemy wrote the Almagest at Alexandria. It was the most influential scientific book about the nature of the Universe for 1,500 years.

[via Ars Technica]

Posted by johndan at 06:08 PM | TrackBack

"Who Were You Before You Were Networked?": A Koan

I somewhat cryptically mentioned, last week, that I'm going offline for a month, from approximately May 21 to June 21. During that time, I've invited several friends and colleagues to guest blog here, so there should continue to be fresh content (more on the guest bloggers in a later post). The explanation: Several months ago, I began practicing meditation. I'm not very dedicated to it at this point, but it seems useful in a lot of ways. Sitting on my meditation cushion in my home office one day, I was listening to chimes. Not Tibetan chimes or anything so fancy--each lilting set of notes was wafting out of the sound system hooked to my PowerBook on the desk behind me: Apple Mail's way of letting me know a message had arrived in my In Box. Incoming mail makes me happy (even if more than half of it is spam): It means I'm connected, I'm acknowledged. Someone wants to tell me something, ask me a question, offer a comment. Once every few minutes, the chimes would remind me of my place in the global communications network. I'm sure there's some Zen observation I could make here about either Big Mind or, conversely, about the need to let go and free what Suziki-roshi would call "monkey mind" (buried in these contradictory concepts we might find an information age koan: "Who where you before you were networked?") Without consciously thinking about it, after about ten minutes (far short of my regular meditation session) I was up off the cushion and sitting at my desk, reading email. I've been effectively networked for approximately twenty years, since my first email account as a college sophomore at Michigan Tech. As with many users, the volume and pace of my connectivity have gradually increased to the point that the majority of my life has some degree of online being, socially, intellectually, economically. I have ongoing relationships with people I know only by their online persona. I have multiple email accounts (in addition to the three primary email addresses I regularly, I have literally dozens of lesser accounts at various services and organizations). I use IM to chat with family, colleagues, students, and friends (I sometimes IM my daughter to ask her a question when she's sitting in her bedroom, just above my home offices). I maintain numerous websites and weblogs, ranging from the weblog you're reading to sites in Blackboard that I use to disseminate information in the courses I teach. When I ego-surf Google on "johndan," I get over 3,000 hits. Our family pays the majority of our monthly bills using a networked service offered by our bank. I'm a good little eCommerce participant to the tune of thousands of dollars a year (I ordered my meditation zafu and zabuton cushions from Carolina Morning Designs over the Web). When I run workshops or present papers at conferences, I often have to bring a whole separate suitcase (and a large one at that) just to transport the various computer technologies that I use during the sessions. On occasion, I'll catch myself using two different computers simultaneously, one with each hand. During complex projects or near the ends of semesters, I'll occasionally send more than fifty email messages in a single day; I often receive three times as many, even without counting spam. How much connectivity is too much? (I thought sheepishly (as my meditation cushion sat empty behind me, giggling to itself.) This much. I decided at that point to try a little experiment: What will happen if I go offline for a month? What will happen if I'm not connected to the network for thirty days? Is it even feasible? Oddly (or perhaps not so oddly), this little experiment has become increasingly difficult to orchestrate: I want to avoid simply disappearing, because that would not simply be disruptive to my own life, but also confusing and inconvenient for others who know that the best way to interact with me is over the network. At this point, in addition to the guest bloggers I've imposed on to help post to the weblog, my various family members have been recruited to monitor this gap I'm leaving (to make sure that there are no fires to put out in my online absence). Just scheduling the month offline has been very complicated, because of the multitude of ongoing projects (research, publication, committee work, workshops, etc.) that require using a computer and network (I'm running a workshop at Holy Cross next week, ironically, on teaching and working in datacloud environments). Not surprisingly, my subjectivity is constructed as a network of both online and physical forces, tangled into a cyborgian Gordian knot. And while initially I had thought I could stop using a computer, I quickly realized that this degree of luddism is virtually impossible in our culture (or at least the culture that I'm in): my truck, our telephone, ATMs, answering machines and voicemail all now contain computer chips. I didn't want to completely isolate myself from the rest of the world and trek into the Adirondacks with a tent and sleeping bag. Instead, I wanted to see the effects of going offline, off the network. So I've scaled the experiment back to simply not using a computer for a month. Who was I before I was networked? Let's see. I'll be online for around another week, during which time I hope to get some of the guest bloggers up and running, troubleshooting the system as necessary before I disconnect.
Posted by johndan at 01:31 PM | TrackBack

May 13, 2004

Soundtrack for a City (Any City)

With portable MP3 players containing thousands of songs, it’s now possible to have your day around town scored by multiple composers, Mancini, Rota, or Alison Krauss. Rosecrans Baldwin heads to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and lets chance handle the mix.
which spawns this interesting experiment in synchronicity, reminiscient of the The Wizard of Oz against The Dark Side of the Moon:
I made a plan. I programmed my iPod to select randomly from its 1,710 songs, representing most musical genres. (Leaving it on random meant, of course, that it could play every track from Duke Ellington: Live At Newport in sequential order, but the risk was low.) I paid my way into the museum and pressed play. During the first song, I wandered aimlessly, with no strategy for where to go. When the song stopped, I did too, and then spent the span of whatever song the iPod chose next enjoying whatever piece of art was closest. Next song started and I wandered off again, stopping when the fourth song began. And so on.
Gems include
‘Listen Up’ by Oasis
‘Landscape with a Village in the Distance’ by Jacob Isaacksz van Ruisdael A woman caught me air-guitaring in one of the museum’s empty rooms and left after giving me a funny look. What can I say – I was moved. ‘Listen Up’ is one of Oasis’s best songs, and, perhaps more than ‘Wonderwall,’ its most self-defining. Guitars like bears standing at the mouth of a river, big-crash drums and a catchy hook. Liam Gallagher’s whines are ideal for the lyrics’ last-man-standing self-confidence: ‘One fine day / Gonna leave you all behind / Wouldn’t be so bad if I had more time.’ (The song in fact used to be called ‘On My Own.’) I hadn’t seen ‘Landscape’ before, but I took to it instantly. It is a thrilling painting, especially the tree in the foreground, nearly on fire from the light in its branches. The solo figure in the middle ground is an easy match to the lyrics (‘No, I don’t mind being on my own’) but it’s the picture’s vibrant darkness that’s more at home with the song’s survivalist excitement. William Grimes, the former restaurant critic for the New York Times, once described (in Leslie Brenner’s The Fourth Star) the paper’s one-to-four stars rating system:
Let’s say you’ve just gone to a movie and you’ve got reservations for dinner afterward. If you go to a one-star restaurant, I would say your conversation is mostly about the movie, punctuated by remarks about the food being pretty good. Two stars, the movie conversation gets interrupted each time new food comes. At this point, about one-third of the conversation is about the movie, two-thirds is about the food. Three stars, you’re not talking about the movie anymore…And at a four-star restaurant, your eyes are sort of rolling into the top of your head, and you’re thanking God for putting you in this place at this time.
So, Oasis and Van Ruisdael, a four-star pair.
Posted by johndan at 11:59 PM | TrackBack

SCO Caught Copying

/. mentions that SCO (currently in a high-stakes, vicious datacloud of lawsuits claiming that they own the IP to chunks of open source software) has apparently been caught stealing chunks of documentation from No Starch Press.

As Linux Journal reports:

Some time before mid-2003, SCO copied entire chapters of a No Starch book, The Book of Webmin by Joe Cooper, into SCO's on-line documentation. The infringement was described last summer as "an open-and-shut case" by a person familiar with the facts. The Book of Webmin, originally copyrighted in 2000, is available on the Web, but it is not licensed for redistribution.

SCO's array of lawsuits was never about their ownership of anything, but primarily about creating a cloud of FUD that under the cover of which they could scare people into paying them IP permission fees.

[via Slashdot]

Posted by johndan at 11:28 PM | TrackBack

Went Ashtray

I was reading along in archives of Danny Gregory's online journal (which I've praised previously; the artistry of the journal is too good to call it a weblog), and came upon this sentence, in his discussion of why even mistakes are good to keep:
Now I flip back and remember how I went astray and am the wiser for it.
I misread this as,
Now I flip back and remember how I went ashtray and am the wiser for it.
Which I sort of liked. Chaos in the system is productive.
Posted by johndan at 11:18 PM | TrackBack

Now Listening

In case your obsessively detail oriented and have been wondering how I could have listened to the same Leo Kottke song for the last two weeks, I'm not. (I spent this evening listening to out-takes from several Miles Davis sessions, a live 1973 Little Feat show [I have tickets to see them in Lake Placid in July, along with Los Lobos, Guy Clark, and a host of other roots rock acts], and the Drive-By Truckers' Decoration Day.)

The program I use to upload my current iTunes track to the weblog was erased when I re-initialized my hard drive two weeks back--and along with the hard drive went all the various configuration things in the iTunes > MoveableType setup I'd spent an afternoon tweaking in order to get the system working.

The whole setup had been problematic (Kung-Tunes is great, and it's freeware so I don't want to complain, but it routinely ate up huge amounts of system cycle for no apparent reason, and would lock up every couple of days, often requiring a reboot), so I decided to ditch it for a new system.

Easier said than done.

If you have a system that will hook iTunes (OS X) and MoveableType, let me know. I tried RecentTunes, which other people have had success with, but for some reason it's apparently not uploading the files to the server--and there's no debugging console, so I can't figure out where the error is occurring (and RecentTunes acts like everything's fine...).

Posted by johndan at 11:07 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Coming of Age in the Age of Impossible Expectations

When telling my family history I proudly tell how each generation sacrificed so that the next could achieve more--more education, more money, more prestige. But how can I achieve more than my parents? They were living the American Dream. Now if I don't achieve as much as they did I will have failed, but to achieve more than they did is virtually impossible. To this is added the pressure that there is no excuse for failure. I have had the best of everything ... if I mess up it will be entirely my fault. I feel that I just need some time. I just want everything to stop moving for a while so I can think.

Lillian Mongeau, Barnard College graduating senior
quoted in "An Apology to The Graduates,"
Anna Quindlen, Newsweek (5.17.04)

Posted by johndan at 12:38 PM | TrackBack

Classic Country Archives

An NPR report on Leon Kagarise's archive of great 1950s and 1960s country acts (before the genre sold out to marketing and went to hell, more or less):
Fifty years ago, a young recording engineer named Leon Kagarise indulged his passion for country music by dragging his bulky tape recorder to outdoor music festivals in rural Maryland.

His collection now includes thousands of live recordings from the golden years of country and bluegrass music.

Kagarise captured rising stars like Johnny Cash, George Jones, and the Stanley Brothers as they played all-day concerts at rural music parks with names like New River Ranch and Sunset Park. Fans paid $1 per carload to get in. Families would invite the performers to join them around crowded picnic tables as barbecue grills smoked nearby.

[via Lockergnome Bytes]

Posted by johndan at 01:07 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

A Party of Drunken Robots

The NY Times reports on the Frank Gehry-designed new computer science an AI building at MIT:
Frank Gehry, the architect, says his $300 million new computer science and artificial intelligence building at M.I.T. "looks like a party of drunken robots got together to celebrate." Charles M. Vest, the institute's president, sees it as "a toy box at dawn," ready for the kids to play with. Others have likened its jumble of yellow and white aluminum, polished stainless steel and orange brick towers, tubes, cubes and cones to a Disney animation, a Léger painting, fine Bordeaux wine (for its complexity and variety) or a medieval Italian hill town rising amid the gray rectangular sameness of its section of campus in an industrial part of Cambridge.
I can't really improve on those descriptions, so I'll leave it at that. [via underdog]
Posted by johndan at 12:13 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 12, 2004

Modern Ruins

foggy_ext2_sm.jpg

Modern Ruins offers a large photoessay (and some text) about contemporary urban ruins--abandoned hospitals, orphanages, factories:
I'm interested in human culture, what we do, where we have been, what we have left behind, what we have learned or not learned from past experiences. Ruins are a window into human histories, they tell the stories of the past through the stark presence of objects and architectures. Ruins capture the imagination with their ability to tell stories about our past. The rich language of architecture opens a window to the past, a poetry of architectural forms and found objects capture past events and offers them to a fleeting present. Memories are inscribed on the walls and in the discarded objects; the silent rooms and dust covered objects recall moments when these places were occupied. Perhaps the most powerful aspect of ruins is the subject that is missing in the photographs; the people who once worked, lived, walked, talked, slept and dreamed in these spaces. Ruins are the remnants of events played out, the end of the line; they stand as tribute and memorial to the past. The aging surfaces bear the etched marks of former times, memories from the past pulse from the walls.
The comments thread at the metafilter post pointing to Modern Ruins contains links to some similarly interesting sites. [via metafilter]
Posted by johndan at 05:56 PM | TrackBack

Cribsheet Phonecam

CNN reports on a high school student in Salinas, CA who used a phonecam to cheat on an exam. (I assume he was sending a picture of the exam to a friend in another location who could look up and text-message answers back to the student. (The story references an earlier U of Maryland case last year involving six students.)

One of the issues involved here, probably more complex than CNN could go into, involves the goals of various pedagogies. I've never been a fan on exams; the knowledge that they test tends to be an extremely small subset of what students might actually use in a real-world situation. More important are more complicated, project-based learning experiences that require students to cope with messy, "wicked" problems that hold no single correct answer but that can be addressed by a multitude of different approaches. Those pose their own problems--how does one objectively grade them? But continuing to rely heavily on very artificial examinations risks testing something that has little relation to the objectives of education.

Here's an allegory:

A man leaves a bar and encounters another man crawling around on his hands and knees on the sidewalk under the streetlight; the second man says he's dropped his car keys. The first man joins him as they move back and forth under the light, searching in vain for the lost keys. After quite some time searching, the first man says, "Are you sure you lost your keys here?" The second man says, "No, I lost them in the alley, but the light's better over here.

[via Gizmodo]

Posted by johndan at 03:55 PM | TrackBack

Bluetooth Against Bush

Here's an odd example of political viral marketing: WiFi Against Bush
  1. Find your bluetooth device settings
  2. Name your device "Bluetooth Against Bush"
  3. Set your device to be "discoverable" by other devices
Obviously, the process could be applied to Kerry, Nader, Jello Biafra, Johndan, or nearly any other type of bumper-sticker length statement.

See BlueRoots.org, which offers a plethora of examples, including "Bluetooth Against British Cuisine."

[via metafilter.com]

Posted by johndan at 03:38 PM | TrackBack

Writing for Google

John Gruber provides (somewhat speculative) tips on "Writing for Google":
When I talk about writing for Google, I’m not talking about how to achieve a high Page Rank score for your site on the whole. What I’m talking about is writing one article in such a way that makes it the most likely that people who are searching for the information contained therein will be able to find it.

[via Daring Fireball]

Posted by johndan at 03:23 PM | TrackBack

May 11, 2004

Physical Graffiti

Grafitti.org catalogues images of grafitti by category (train, wall, bomb), by artist, and by crew:

dtc___0buen56478592n.jpg

[train by DTC of Buenos Aires]
Posted by johndan at 10:24 PM | TrackBack

Tautologies

trans_en.gifI've seen a number of sites recently that sport the image to the right, offering free translation services in eight languages. I like Babelfish a lot--I use it a lot to get rough translations of material from non-English sites. The translations are very rough, but I can usually sort my way to a more-or-less-accurate reading, given that I usually know the context and content domain of the page. I'm a little perplexed, though, by the usability of the image that Babelfish provides people to put on their site: Babelfish provides eight target languages for translation, only one of which is English. The text in the image is English. That means that users of the other six target languages probably won't understand that they could get a free translation of the site into a language they can understand. (Underdog says they could click on the little flags, which is true. But it seems like a longshot.) In addition, given that the majority of pages on the Web are in English, it seems like there's more opportunity for translations to target languages other than English. Although I don't know what Babelfish's demographics are, so maybe most of their users are English speakers. Maybe the problem is just that the English-language sites I see are using the image inappropriately--why would an English-language site need a Babelfish-translation ad in English (since the source and target language are the same)? In any event, here's an easy solution: Ditch the main text and simply write "translate" in the eight target languages.
Posted by johndan at 10:13 PM | TrackBack

The Philosophers' Magazine

Interactive Philosophy Games. Build a god. Examine morals. Test your logic. Shakespeare vs. Britney Spears. (No, really.)

[via metafilter.com]

Posted by johndan at 09:32 PM | TrackBack

Graffiti

Public image annotation at the picture sharing site, Flickr:

flickrphotoannotation.jpg

[via boing-boing]
Posted by johndan at 09:22 PM | TrackBack

DJ Spooky Book

Paul Miller's (aka DJ Spooky) Rhythm Science book is now out. I don't have a copy yet, but it looks interesting. Here's some text from the book site:
The conceptual artist Paul Miller, also known as Dj Spooky that Subliminal Kid, delivers a manifesto for rhythm science--the creation of art from the flow of patterns in sound and culture, "the changing same." Taking the Dj's mix as template, he describes how the artist, navigating the innumerable ways to arrange the mix of cultural ideas and objects that bombard us, uses technology and art to create something new and expressive and endlessly variable. Technology provides the method and model; information on the web, like the elements of a mix, doesn't stay in one place. And technology is the medium, bridging the artist's consciousness and the outside world. Miller constructed his Dj Spooky persona ("spooky" from the eerie sounds of hip-hop, techno, ambient, and the other music that he plays) as a conceptual art project, but then came to see it as the opportunity for "coding a generative syntax for new languages of creativity." For example: "Start with the inspiration of George Herriman's Krazy Kat comic strip. Make a track invoking his absurd landscapes. . .What do tons and tons of air pressure moving in the atmosphere sound like? Make music that acts a metaphor for that kind of immersion or density." Or, for an online "remix" of two works by Marcel Duchamp: "I took a lot of his material written on music and flipped it into a DJ mix of his visual material--with him rhyming!" Tracing the genealogy of rhythm science, Miller cites sources and influences as varied as Ralph Waldo Emerson ("all minds quote"), Grandmaster Flash, W. E. B Dubois, James Joyce, and Eminem. "The story unfolds while the fragments coalesce," he writes.
Which is what the Datacloud Project is about, but DJ Shadow's book probably offers a better soundtrack. Probably way smarter, too. But I think I've got the edge on dry, academic prose.

[via Lessig Blog]
Posted by johndan at 08:19 PM | TrackBack

Play Games, Be Better Students?

Wired covers the Education Arcade Symposium:
The conventional wisdom about the video-game industry is that it's all about entertainment. But a group of 350 game designers, educators and government officials think that games can be used as a tool to teach critical thinking, and in the process, improve American education.
Interface guru Brenda Laurel is quoted in the piece:
Instead of relying on schools to teach kids how to use games to learn, libraries equipped with computers and video games may be the place where such learning can happen. Ultimately, she said, new forms of learning are about new ways of thinking. And some game designers are working to help foster that change.
[via Wired News]
Posted by johndan at 08:10 PM | TrackBack

Big Pipes

11orga.2.184.jpg

The New York Times has an excellent article (and short streaming video documentary) on the massive pipe organ (I guess "massive" is redundant when describing a pipe organ) that Manuel J. Rosales designed and built for Frank Gehry's Walt Disney Concert Hall. 6,134 pipes, three stories tall, the organ (like Gehry's building itself) touched off a storm of controversy among pipe organ traditionalists, one of whom likened the instrument to a supersized packet of french fries. Maybe, but it still looks really, really cool. (The streaming video link is on the right side of the story pages, in the "Multimedia" box. Free registration is required to see the story, but it's worth it.) [via underdog]
Posted by johndan at 07:38 PM | TrackBack

Freedom to Tinker

Check out Wulfus Khan's striking visual representation Lessig's "Free Culture."

The image is also interesting because it's composed as a collage of images and words from other people, which makes Khan's point more powerful: creativity inheres not within some isolated genius, but in the ability to move bits and fragments around, connecting them in contextually meaningful ways.

(The image is very large--1280x854 or so, so it'll load slowly. But it makes a great desktop image.)

[via Lessig Blog]

Posted by johndan at 07:23 PM | TrackBack

May 10, 2004

Designers v. Bloggers Deathmatch

A very witty analysis of interface design at Andrei Herasimchuk's Design by Fire.
’ve gathered examples of web sites of a few well known — and highly respected — web, design, and technology Gurus, along with a few web sites of a few well known Bloggers in the design sector. What are we going to do with them? Have them duke it out, Celebrity Deathmatch Style! (Ok… without the fun claymation or witty writing. You get what you pay for.) Playing for the Gurus: Richard Saul Wurman, Bruce Tognazzi, Peter Merholz, Jakob Nielsen, Edward Tufte, Gerry McGovern, Donald Norman, and Myself. Why me? Am I bold enough to claim myself a guru? Not really, but since I do consider myself fairly experienced in the field, I’m gonna play on their team. Neener neener!
[via asterisk* It's frequently a case of "The Cobbler's Children," in which the experts miss key usability/design elements that they often espouse. And I know from (cruel) experience that my own sites often have usability/design problems that are rather glaring (one semester in my Information Architecture course, students doing a presentation seized on my own site to unload their critiques--I was happy to see that they'd been paying attention to our discussions about usability/design issues, even if it was at my own expense). We (as a discipline(s)) need to recognize the fact that perfect design is unattainable, given the constraints of time versus value. In other words, nearly every site suffers from design or usabilty issues, because (a) perfect design is unattainable and (b) nearly no sites are so crucial that they are worth an infinited amount of design. The first point (a) involves the impossibility of perfect communication: Usability depends on local issues that a designer can never foresee, given that use is in specific, concrete contexts, which are never completely knowable beforehand. That's not to say that Herasimchuk's critique isn't extremely useful--it covers many important issues and provides very stark examples in some cases. Here's an example to give you a taste:
Ok, if anyone can break this streak for the Gurus, it has to be heavy-weight Nielsen, right? His web site is one of the most well-known on the planet. So how on earth could someone like Gruber even compete? We all know Nielsen’s faults. He’s put them on display so often in the past there’s no reason to bring them up again. (Ok. Here are some: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7.) To add insult to injury, Nielsen can be a bit, shall we say, overbearing. Having said that, can Nielsen’s blinding color system, poor layout and unreadable typography be forgiven for someone who is attempting to convert designers towards better usability practices? Not in this lifetime. Damn if Gruber isn’t witty, smart, intelligent and still able to pull off that cynism thing that Nielsen seems to miss by a mile. Damn if Gruber can lay on the criticism, while also explaining his point of view cleary and succinctly. And damn if Gruber’s site isn’t the epitome of simple, unobtrusive, smart typography and layout. Gruber has easily out usabilitied the king of usability. (Yes, I made up a new word.)
Posted by johndan at 11:06 PM | TrackBack

The Vanishing Tattoo

Part anthropology, part cultural study, part Indiana Jones spoof: The Vanishing Tattoo, a cultural anthropology of tribal tattoos. I remember seeing the front page of this site last year and bookmarking it so I could return; this was apparently prior to one of my bi-annual "forget to back up the hard drive prior to massive crash" episodes, and I never returned.

Here's a review from the site that describes it well:

In the style of Indiana Jones, adventurers Hemingson and Lockhart take participant observation to the max in this gritty, passionate and, best of all, ethnographically accurate exploration of the little-known world of indigenous Iban tattooing.

Dr. Dorothy Kennedy, Cultural Anthropologist,
Co-Author of Indian Myths and
Legends from the North Pacific Coast of
North America with Ethnographer/Linguist Randy Bouchard

Posted by johndan at 06:06 PM | TrackBack

Chaos & Learning

It should not be surprising, but researchers at CREST in Japan suggest that chaos may increase learning.
The researchers' simulation shows that moderate electrical coupling between nerve cells in the inferior olive could produce a type of chaotic firing that effectively recodes the high-frequency information into slower signals by imparting information within the rhythm rather than just the frequency of nerve firing. "The chaotic firing was more robust than we expected," said Nicholas Schweighofer, a researcher at Core Research for Evolutional Science and Technology. The model shows that "chaos can be useful in the brain," he said.

[via ACM TechNews]

Posted by johndan at 04:49 PM | TrackBack

Visualizing Power

Flash-based site that graphically depicts the connections among execs at corporations:
They Rule allows you to create maps of the interlocking directories of the top companies in the US in 2004.

The data was collected from their websites and SEC filings in early 2004, so it may not be completely accurate - companies merge and disappear and directors shift boards.

[Boing Boing]

Posted by johndan at 11:18 AM | TrackBack

Camping in Parking Lots

You know when you lose your car in a sea of vehicles in a mega-mall parking lot, and you find it by hitting the panic button to make its lights flash and horn honk? A company called Orange has developed the equivalent for tents. Based on a cellphone receiver and lighting system, users can text message their tents to set of the lights, allowing people to find their tents in a sea of tents in ... a mega-mall parking lot?

I suppose they're useful for Lollapalooza and Bonnaroo. [via Gizmodo]

Posted by johndan at 10:59 AM | TrackBack

May 09, 2004

Writing Manually

I received the Moleskine notebook I ordered. I have to say, it's really well put together. I've only used it a little at this point, but it's extremely ergonomic: the pages lay flat when it's open, the pages are heavy but not overly stiff (they take ink well, too), they have a stitched in elastic band to hold the notebook closed when not in use. I normally use an unlined journal, but that option was out of stock when I ordered, so I got grid ruled. The spacing on the grid might not work out for me--the lines seem a little too close for my handwriting to fit easily into them when I write on every line, but if I use every other line, the text seems to have too much vertical space between the lines. We'll see. A patient person would have waited until the unlined version was in stock, or found another store that had them in stock. But I have as much patience as a housefire, so grid ruled is it for now.

I used to keep a journal obsessively when I was a student. But as I shifted over to working with and researching computer use, my use of paper journals has declined. I still have a full shelf in my office devoted to the notebooks I kept, twenty or thirty of them ranging from the early 1980s to the mid 1990s. Various computer files (in Storyspace, or Tinderbox, or BBEdit) and now the weblog have replaced the journals.

My handwriting has also declined (partially due to RSI brought on, not surprisingly, by using a computer keyboard). My signature is famous for causing consternation among clerks and colleagues, the three or four rushed loops of ink resembling something one would do to coax a clogged pen into action.

Posted by johndan at 11:09 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Postmodernism at Nine

Danny Gregory, a graphic arts student, recounts a funny realization about color, subjectivity, and language he experienced when he was nine years old:
When I was about nine, I developed a theory. What if everybody actually sees very different colors but calls them by the same names. Like, I look at a tree and see its leaves as a color I call 'green'. When you look at the tree, you see a color that I would call 'red' but you call that color 'green'. The only way to prove the difference would be if I could climb into your body and see through your eyes and say 'hold on, you've got the colors all backwards."

It wasn't a terribly useful theory.

Which seems to summarize postmodernism in a nutshell. (Well, the "wasn't a terribly useful theory" is probably too harsh, but if you do postmodernism, you see the "truth-with-a-lower-case-t" in that statement.)

Gregory's weblog is really amazing--an mix of witty, perceptive text and scans of his ongoing sketchwork.

Posted by johndan at 10:55 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Geoff Muldaur, Part 2

What a cool show. The table that they gave Muldaur to put his mug of water, capos, etc. on was an antique Leinenkugel's wooden box (printed on the side: "Leinenkugels 24 short bottles"). (This is a Wisconsin brand of beer that we used to drink when I was in college in the upper peninsula of Michigan. Maybe an acquired tasted, but [a] cheap and [b] way better tasting than the price might indicate.) The box had four table legs screwed in an incongruous matter to the base. It looked about as bizarre as it sounds. At one point, Muldaur looked at it and said, "That's very ... um ... 'rural'." Which, in the context, sounded more like a compliment than a criticism.
Posted by johndan at 02:32 AM | TrackBack

May 08, 2004

Consumers as Designers

Another take on the "power tools" post I made yesterday. Design researcher Steve Portigal discusses the rapid growth of Photoshopped images of fictious products:
Product designers may have a negative knee-jerk reaction to all this. Who do these people think they are? Up to this point, the limited availability of glorious tools (and training needed to use them) placed this type of speculative conceptual activity out of the reach of the masses. Now the technology, if not the ability, is within reach of millions. But for designers this really is a "the-more-the-merrier" situation. These new enabling technologies (i.e., Photoshop and its brethren) further the discourse about what is possible, and what is desired—and that discourse is an essential ingredient in the work we do for non-fake clients.
Lots of great links as well.
Posted by johndan at 04:19 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Geoff Muldaur

I heading down to Edwards, NY tonight to see folk/blues legend Geoff Muldaur perform at the recently restored Edwards Opera House. I had somehow missed the fact that within all of his other amazing blues work, he did the theme song to Brazil [link to fansite] (among the best dystopian movies--or movies in general--ever made).
Posted by johndan at 03:10 PM | TrackBack

McMansion Invasion

The Evans Center for Sleep Deprivation Studies (great title) visually and verbally documents the "McMansion Invasion": small suburban homes purchased, then torn down to make way for tacky neo-rich mini mansions. Progress. When I was a kid, as we drove through Southfield (a suburb of Detroit), my grandmother used to say, "Right there's where we used to live" as she pointed at a sprawling millionaire's gated complex. "Right where the servants' quarters are, that's where our house was before the tore it down." [via boing-boing]
Posted by johndan at 09:24 AM | TrackBack

Baby Steps

According to the journal New Scientist, researchers at NYU have apparently created a nanotech, walking robot:
A microscopic biped with legs just 10 nanometres long and fashioned from fragments of DNA has taken its first steps. The nanowalker is being hailed as a major breakthrough by nanotechnologists. The biped's inventors, chemists Nadrian Seeman and William Sherman of New York University, say that while many scientists have been trying to build nanoscale devices capable of bipedal motion, theirs is the first to succeed.
Posted by johndan at 01:51 AM | TrackBack

May 07, 2004

Web Zen

garden.jpg

Web Zen this week covers Drinking Zen. Like you needed an excuse.
Posted by johndan at 10:54 PM | TrackBack

Short Films Online

Quirky. (That's a good thing.)
We are The Red-headed League. Join us as we watch short movies, read online comics, and defend red-headed rights around the globe. There are some who may argue that there is a complete and utter lack of actual red-head related content on our site. To debunk this preposterous notion, we need only to call your attention to the logo to the right. Is that or is that not a red-head? We rest our case. Enjoy the movies.

[via Cinema Minima]

Posted by johndan at 08:44 PM | TrackBack

Power Tools and Novice Users

Brian Bell discusses the perils of powerful design tools in the hands of relative novices (a debate that's been going on since the dawn of rhetoric [and probably earlier]): many design tools are (a) very powerful, and (b) very easy to misuse horribly. His specific examples relate to another piece at decaffeinated on shadowed text.
Yeah it's unfortunate that people just willy-nilly add text-shadowing to text that doesn't need it. That doesn't mean that to ability shouldn't be universally added to browsers, like other people have suggested. People are going to misuse tools, that's human nature. It's the same force that convinces secretaries that since they have a copy of Microsoft Publisher, and a CD library of 50,000 clipart images, that makes them qualified to produce the companies annual report.

Drop shadow, when used right adds to readably. It has been an integral part of television production for years and therefore is should be added to the browser.
I remember a demo that Apple Computer gave at Michigan Tech when I was an undergrad, about their new desktop publishing solutions: A Mac SE running Ready, Set, Go! (an early DTP package), and an Apple Laserwriter. People from Tech's Communications bureau were present, and their disdain for the technology was extremely apparent. And for good reason: 300 dots per inch? How utterly low-rez, compared to the CompuGraphics professional typesetting equipment they used with great skill. And to some extent, their greatest fears were realized: a lot of early DTP was horrid. Hell, a lot of current documents done with PageMaker or newsletters done in MS Word with garish, inappropriate, and difficult to read headlines (invariably done in Word Art).

Looking back, it seems like the DTP revolution was overall very culturally valuable in that it provided a new means for communication that could be used by "average" users (although the Apple rig wasn't exactly low-end at that point: probably $6k worth of equipment, at 1986 prices). But, still, the history of media technology has frequently involved large and abrupt backward steps in quality with much longer but ultimately worthwhile increases in quality (and quantity). Look at photography in the last five years: digital cameras have spawned an enormous amount of interest in photography, but at the cost of relatively very poor resolution (compared to, say 35 mm) as well as a plethora of very low-quality (in terms of design) photographs.

The key to progress lies in helping "novice" users learn important skills necessary to doing good work--something that many software and hardware developers have yet to support well.

[via BryanBell.com]

Posted by johndan at 08:34 PM | TrackBack

May 06, 2004

On Eintstein

From the Princeton Weekly Bulletin:
Librarians at Princeton University have discovered a diary written by one of Albert Einstein's closest friends, a woman who recorded the scientist's day-to-day thoughts and activities during the last year and a half of his life. Albert Einstein and Johanna Fantova spent many enjoyable hours on Lake Carnegie. "Seldom did I see him so gay and in so light a mood as in this strangely primitive little boat," wrote the Princeton librarian, who kept a diary of their conversations. The diary, written by Johanna Fantova, a former Princeton librarian, relates Einstein's musings on subjects, profound and mundane, from physics and current events to the tribulations of growing old. Fantova, who knew Einstein for more than 25 years, chronicled their regular conversations in more than 200 diary entries. In an introduction to the diary, Fantova wrote that she intended it to "cast some additional light on our understanding of Einstein, not the great man who became a legend during his own lifetime, not on Einstein the renowned scientist, but on Einstein, the humanitarian." Fantova met Einstein in the 1920s in Europe and then renewed the friendship in the United States during World War II. The two ate dinners and went sailing together in Princeton; she cut his hair, and he wrote poems to her. They also spoke by telephone two or three evenings a week. She compiled notes from their conversations into a 62-page manuscript, which is written in German and covers the period from October 1953 to Einstein's death in April 1955 at age 76.
Posted by johndan at 10:41 PM | TrackBack

A Different Asterisk

Asterisk*: The Center for the Study and Development of Narrative.
Asterisk* will enable artists, technologists, academics and students to engage in narrative experiment and research. Since Tristram Shandy, our culture has been increasingly influenced by the way in which information and stories are delivered and received. Today, new media - particularly the Internet - have brought the notion of divergent story-telling into everybody's lives.

[aside: The website for the Center is made withTinderbox, a development environment that I'm still trying to get my head around. It's extremely powerful and flexible; I'm hoping to spend some time this summer getting deeper into it. Of course, I told myself that last summer. And Tinderbox is on a list of other relatively complex and powerful apps I need to get beyond my surface-level learning with: Flash, Maya, 3D Studio Max, VirTools....]

[via Mark Bernstein]

Posted by johndan at 09:06 PM | TrackBack

Interface Design Quirk

Why are the command-keys for Copy [apple-c] and Paste [apple-v] next to each other on the keyboard? I can't count the number of times when I've pasted something unintentionally when I actually meant to copy something.
Posted by johndan at 05:57 PM | TrackBack

Understanding Web Design(ers)

D. Keith Robinson has a useful piece at Asterisk on the future of web design careers, particularly the issue of generalists versus specialists. He begins with some notes about Drik Kneymeyer's "Digitial Convergence," then moves on to a lengthy discussion.
I would consider myself a "specialized" generalist, if that makes any sense? I'm a generalist in many ways; I have design, programming, management and many other skills. I'm a specialist in that my skills are mostly front-end and interface related.

This might be a sign that this split between interface and application Dirk talks about is already happening. I used to do much more back-end and application type work, but I chose to go away from that. I think this is a good thing for it allows for a more in-depth knowledge of the issues you'll need to succeed in the future.

Posted by johndan at 05:29 PM | TrackBack

Augmenting Reality

Semacode lets users tag their surroundings with small, visual codes and connects those unique codes up with URLs:
A semacode is a small symbol that encodes a standard, web-oriented URL. The URL is embedded into a two-dimensional barcode along with error correction information. When the semacode reader software snaps the barcode, it launches the embedded URL on whatever web browser is available.

By building on top of existing technologies, semacodes take advantage of work that has already been done without re-inventing the wheel. Semacodes use existing standards in symbols (barcodes), content-resource identification (URLs), and content presentation (web browsers).

The blending of these technologies into the semacode gestalt allows any person with access to a computer to tag their local and urban environment, and anyone with a cellphone to read those tags and follow the virtual links.

[via Dan Gillmor's eJournal]

Posted by johndan at 05:23 PM | TrackBack

This is Your Life (New! Improved!)

A Guardian story in Improbable Theatre's Lifegame:
Improbable Theatre's Lifegame, in which a show is improvised around an interviewee's life story, is about to be revived at the National Theatre, London.
Best quote from a participant:
In some cases, Improbable's versions of my memories have almost replaced my actual memories: the way they did my mother singing around the house; the way they described how I came to read drama at university, creating puppets out of newspaper. They asked me how I would like to die; it wasn't something I had particularly thought about, but I said dying on a limestone ridge in the Mediterranean would suit me fine. Now every time I go on holiday and go walking on high limestone ridges, I remember their depiction of that scene.

[Blackbeltjones Work]

Posted by johndan at 05:20 PM | TrackBack

Moleskine Notebooks

As part of my plan to spend a month offline in a little over a week (I'll provide more details about this in a day or two), I ordered a Moleskine notebook. I stumbled over a posting about the notebooks somewhere recently (I can't recall where), but people apparently worship the things. A Google search on "moleskine notebook" results in nearly 7,500 hits. Kevin Kelly of Wired loves them. Apparently Hemingway, Matisse, Van Gogh, Andre Breton, Neil Gaiman, Bruce Chatwin, and others swear by them (or at least have used them--the testimonials are sometimes a bit stretched). There's even a weblog named after them (although the content has drifted).

They come in a couple of different formats, have stitched bindings that lay flat when you open the book, have acid-free paper, are made in Italy, yadda, yadda, yadda. We'll see if they're worth worshiping when I have to take all my notes with a pen.

Now I'm casting about for pens. I've been using Uniball Micro .2 mm in black ink. They're relatively inexpensive (about a buck each) and have a dark impression. People who use Moleskine notebooks tend toward relatively expensive pens, but I'm not sure its worth the expense.

Posted by johndan at 12:59 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

May 05, 2004

Screenshots

Very useful tutorial from graphicPUSH on optimizing screenshots for print. Includes not just the keystrokes needed to capture screens, but also tips on compression methods, raster versus vector, and issues with printing. Covers both Windows & OS X.
Posted by johndan at 05:22 PM | TrackBack

The Shining

The Shining, in 30 Seconds, Enacted by Bunnies [flash warning]
Posted by johndan at 05:12 PM | TrackBack

Horse Mystery Solved

Local news site, North Country Now solves the mystery of the horse statue I was previously obsessing about:
Originally part of an advertising campaign for Genessee Brewing Co. 12 Horse Ale, these horses were auctioned off with the money donated to charity. Greg and Molly Caron of Hopkinton's Greg and Molly's store, purchased this beauty. According to Greg, once the horse was purchased, the buyer could have it painted any way they wished. The Carons had theirs painted with a representation of the world. Stop out and see it, it is quite an eye-catcher!
There's a clearer picture of the horse than the phonecam ones I took previously at NCN's website (no permalink available, but there's an archive page for former front-page photos).
Posted by johndan at 03:31 PM | TrackBack

Vending Machines in Japan

A website with images and descriptions of vending machines in Japan. Any community that offers beer vending machines sets the benchmark for refinement.

[Boing Boing]

Posted by johndan at 02:53 PM | TrackBack

The Visual Record

yellow.jpg

Very, very cool photography. [via metafilter]
Posted by johndan at 02:04 PM | TrackBack

Newton for Blogging

Managing a weblog with an Apple Newton.

[via Wired News]

Posted by johndan at 01:51 PM | TrackBack

Prix Ars Electronica prizes announced

The Prix Ars Electronica has published its list of honorees. There are some way cool projects here. My favorite, from the "Freestyle Computing" category:
Thomas Winkler (Austria): "GPS::Tron"
The GPS application by Thomas Winkler is an adaptation of the classic game "Tron" for cell phones. In a very impressive performance, the 19-year-old from Hartberg, Styria expanded the game's concept by adding levels of reality and virtuality that blend into the realm of augmented reality. In Thomas Winkler's game, the player's movements in real space, which are tracked by GPS and transmitted to the cell phone's display, influence his/her position in the game. Each player is represented by a line that gets longer and longer. However, the player's own line is not allowed to cross itself or the opponent's line-if it does, that player loses. This is a game for two players-even those who are geographically distant from one another.

[via Joi Ito's Web]

Posted by johndan at 10:38 AM | TrackBack

Presentations for Geeks

The Wideaxis Wireless Presenter combines a laser pointer, RF remote control for a computer, and USB flash drive [main site here; broken-out frame page on the device here]. Apparently you can store (and control via the infrared remote) PowerPoint, WinAmp, Windows Media, Acrobat, and RealPlayer.

Sounds handy. I've been looking for a way to avoid lugging my laptop to conferences; I rarely use it outside of actual presentations, and it's a hassle to get through customs and security at airports.

[via Gizmodo]

Posted by johndan at 10:28 AM | TrackBack

May 04, 2004

Media Matters for America

A new progressive resource on media analysis, Media Matters for America:
Welcome to Media Matters for America, a new Web-based, not-for-profit progressive research and information center dedicated to comprehensively monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation in the U.S. media. Because a healthy democracy depends on public access to accurate and reliable information, Media Matters for America is dedicated to alerting news outlets and consumers to conservative misinformation -- wherever we find it, in every news cycle -- and to spurring progressive activism based on standards and accountability in media.

- David Brock,
Founder of Media Matters for America

[via Mediaburn]
Posted by johndan at 07:12 PM | TrackBack

Declining Newspaper Readership

Their readers are dying off faster than they're being replaced.

- John Morton,
Newspaper Consultant, Morton Research Inc.,
on why newspaper readership is declining

[via Terry Heaton's Pomo Blog]
Posted by johndan at 06:48 PM | TrackBack

The Politics of Design

Design Observer hosts an insightful dialogue about the redesign of Iraq's flag (insightful both in terms of design and politics).

[via Joi Ito's Web]

Posted by johndan at 10:24 AM | TrackBack

May 03, 2004

Community Book Editing Experiment

As Dan Gillmore discusses, J.D. Lasica is attempting to edit a text online, collaboratively. The upcoming Darkenet: Remixing the Future of Movies, Music and Television will be posted to Lasica's wiki for revision/comment/correction. It includes interviews/contributions from a number of key IP activists (both good and evil), among others:

Jack Valenti, Cary Sherman, Larry Lessig, John Perry Barlow, John Gilmore, Roger McGuinn, Jaron Lanier, Mike Ramsay, John S. Hendricks, Stewart Alsop, Ian Clarke, Jim Griffin, Gigi Sohn, Joe Kraus, Henry Jenkins, Mike Godwin, Benjamin Feingold, Joe Lambert, Warren Lieberfarb, Fred von Lohmann, Cory Doctorow, Ashley Highfield, Jordan Greenhall, Andy Setos, Clay Shirky, Ed Felten, Les Vadasz, Jordan Pollock, Jonathan Zittrain, Dennis Mudd, Peter Jaczi, Miriam Nisbet, James Burger, and several pirates, DJs, and DMCA violators.
Someone from Gillmor's journal asked if contributors would share in profits from the book--a valid question. The book is being published by John Wiley and sons, who frequently publish textbooks. So it seems likely that Lasica is getting some relatively good money up front on this, and a good royalty rate. Textbook contracts, as least in the area that I work, net 12% - 15% for the author.

This has always been a complex issue for me. I earn a good chunk of money each year from textbook royalties. Enough to, say, make the payments on both our Nissan XTerra and our Jeep Liberty (yes, I'm part of the environmental problem; my driveway is long enough to be a problem in the winter if we have less the 9 inches of clearance...). I don't think information wants to be free. We live in a capitalist system; there's no way to get around it. I give a lot of my intellectual labor away free, but I participate in certain aspects of the system in order to make the profit I need to live at the edges of the system, outside of town so to speak (figuratively and literally).

[via Dan Gillmor's eJournal]

Posted by johndan at 10:11 PM | TrackBack

Censoring Anti-Censorship

Declan McCullagh reports on the U.S. government's International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB), which provided users in China and Iran with access to Web-based materials that were censored by their own governments. That's good.

But an independent study says that the IBB's system quietly performs its own censorship, blocking users from viewing sites that the system thinks are pornographic. In addition to the inherent hypocrisy involved, the filter list is the traditionally brain-damaged attempt to make guesses about what constitutes a pornographic based simply on language in the URL. So, for example, http://usembassy.state.gov is censored because it includes the word "ass" in the URL. The word "gay" is also a no-no.

The issue's really no whether taxpayers should be funding access to Internet porn for people in Iran or China; the issue is that the motives don't make censorship any more palatable.

[via CNET News.com]

Posted by johndan at 01:44 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Schedule

Last weekend, I had to rebuild my main system drive due to some errors, then port all of my files over from a backup. This morning when I opened my calendar, I found out that none of my appointments had transferred, so I copied them (again) off the backup. Then I realized that I just didn't have anything on my schedule this week, and I'd never seen that before.

Of course, in the last two hours about six meetings have cropped up. But still, it was nice to have a clean slate, even briefly.

Posted by johndan at 12:37 PM | TrackBack

May 02, 2004

My Problem Child

Albert Hoffman describes the invention of LSD
By now it was already clear to me that LSD had been the cause of the remarkable experience of the previous Friday, for the altered perceptions were of the same type as before, only much more intense. I had to struggle to speak intelligibly. I asked my laboratory assistant, who was informed of the self-experiment, to escort me home. We went by bicycle, no automobile being available because of wartime restrictions on their use. On the way home, my condition began to assume threatening forms. Everything in my field of vision wavered and was distorted as if seen in a curved mirror. I also had the sensation of being unable to move from the spot. Nevertheless, my assistant later told me that we had traveled very rapidly. Finally, we arrived at home safe and sound, and I was just barely capable of asking my companion to summon our family doctor and request milk from the neighbors.
Which happens when the observer becomes bound up with what they're observing

[via (what else) boing-boing].

[Sorry--I'd be remiss if I didn't belatedly point out that the boing-boing post is actually part of Russ Kick's (of Disinformation fame) guestblog at the site. My Disinformation "Everything You Know is Wrong" T-shirt is one of my prized possessions.]

Posted by johndan at 09:18 PM | TrackBack

Click to Fight Breast Cance

Boing-boing notes this important alert
The Breast Cancer site is having trouble getting enough people to click on it daily to meet their quota of donating at least one free mammogram a day to an underprivileged woman. It takes less than a minute to go to their site and click on 'fund free mammograms' (pink window in the middle). This doesn't cost you a thing. Their corporate sponsors/advertisers use the number of daily visits to donate a mammogram in exchange for advertising.
Posted by johndan at 08:55 PM | TrackBack

Confusion

Wired reports on Neuropop's research into sonic dischord.

The sound of fingernails scraping a dusty chalkboard makes a listener immediately squirm and cover her ears.

One company believes that there is real science behind such a reaction to sounds. NeuroPop is integrating neurosensory algorithms into music to create a certain mood and evoke more intense responses from listeners. The company hopes to market its compositions to the movie industry and video game companies.

[via Lockergnome Bytes]

Posted by johndan at 05:57 PM | TrackBack