December 31, 2005

Search Engine Referrer Logs 9

22 Dec, Thu, 15:59:38 Altavista: scary santa
23 Dec, Fri, 04:35:57 Altavista: satan santa
23 Dec, Fri, 13:32:45 Google: champagne for thinking people
27 Dec, Tue, 23:16:53 Yahoo: web
27 Dec, Tue, 23:25:15 Yahoo: web
30 Dec, Fri, 18:20:00 Google: plinko mind power
30 Dec, Fri, 20:03:04 MSN Search: rose blog background codes

NB: I just tried it, and searching for "web" at Yahoo nets you 3,920,000,000 hits. Maybe it was just a (very overworked) bot.

Posted by johndanseven at 12:43 AM

December 30, 2005

9/11 in Comicbook Format


I tabbed this site in NetNewsWatcher three weeks ago, but only got around to digging through my backlogged tabs today. Anyway, here's a site offering a compendium of 9/11-related comics. Most entries are just TOCs or posters, but the site also includes the full run of Spiderman's famous black-cover issue (a cell of which is shown above). Predictably, ultra-patriotism rules, but interesting as a cultural artifact nonetheless.

[via metafilter]

Posted by johndanseven at 12:10 AM

December 29, 2005

Fonts, 2005

Typographica picks their favorite fonts of 2005. The discussions are particularly useful if you're trying to bring yourself up to speed on typography so you can stop using Times New Roman and Arial/Helvetica for everything. (Except for those of you who unironically use Comic font for everything; you need to be shot.)


Posted by johndanseven at 10:33 PM

December 28, 2005

Now Watching: John Zorn


Bootleg DVD of John Zorn's Electric Masada, Live at Nancy Jazz Pulsations (10.14.03). Zorn on sax, plus Marc Ribot, Jamie Saft, Trevor Dunn, Kenny Wollesen, and Cyro Baptista. There's something amazing about Zorn running complicated scales on his sax while directing the band with brief, one-hand gestures and (apparently) eye movements that's way too cool.

Posted by johndanseven at 04:49 AM

Adding to the National Film Registry

The US Library of Congress announced the addition of 25 films to the National Film Registry. One of the things I like about the National Film Registry is its eclecticism. James H. Billington, the Librarian of Congress, made it clear that the list is composed of culturally/historically significant works rather than being a high-brow evaluation of quality. Films added this year include such disparate works as Cool Hand Luke (1967), Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982), The French Connection (1971), Hoop Dreams (1994), and The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975).

[via Alternative Film Guide]

Posted by johndanseven at 03:46 AM

December 27, 2005

Things Found in Used Books 7


On the inside, front cover of An Introduction to Sociology (copyright 1912) that Wes Craven apparently used to own. Craven, as every Clarkson student discovers in their first week here, was a prof at Clarkson before he bought a 16 mm camera, dropped out of academia, and went into movies. ("Elm Street" is one of the main drags in town.)

Posted by johndanseven at 12:28 PM

December 26, 2005

The Needies: Co-Dependent Toys

Recognizing their own desperate need for attention, three grads of NYU's Interactive Telecomm program created a trio of interactive stuffed animals that compete with each other for your attention [Forbes article; videoclip also available there]. The creators are currently in the process of commercializing the Needies, so perhaps by next holiday season.

Clingy, jealous, and possessive, Needies want nothing short of your undying love and attention--and they're prepared to fight one another to get it.

Pick one up and give him a squeeze, and he'll reward you with fond words, flattery or a special Needie song. But soon his Needie siblings will start to complain.

"Is it my turn yet?" one might sullenly whine.

"Me! Me! Me!" another may shriek.

"Throw him," a particularly desperate Needie might even command. "THROW HIM!"

[via Slashdot]

Posted by johndanseven at 10:37 PM


Found this image in a disk archive today, an old b/w Connectix QuickCam shot from around 1995 I did for a CD-based magazine called DigiZine (I think they folded after their first issue—not my fault, I swear). I think I was trying to look pensive. The CD had an audio file of a phone interview with me about the internet and culture; mostly I remember that it also had an interview with Perry Farrell (where he talked about the intelligence of plants) and a review of Orange 9 mm's latest CD.

Posted by johndanseven at 09:53 PM

December 23, 2005

Tinderbox and DevonThink

Douglas Johnston reviews Tinderbox as a writer's environment (which I've mentioned several times here). It's currently a Mac-only app (a Windows version has been in the works for a while).

In a way, Tinderbox is like the Emacs of information management applications. Beneath each deceptively simple exterior (and, after all, Emacs does seem to be just a text editor), there lies a very powerful system with seemingly endless possibilities. Both require some effort and dedication before you begin to understand the depth of the applications and the myriad uses which slowly make themselves known as you explore their non-obvious capabilities. Like Emacs and its underlying elisp, Tinderbox has some powerful tools beyond the basic ability to write and organise text, and this case, it includes scripting tools, agents, rules, versatile export codes, prototypes and multiple views. And, unfortunately, just like Emacs, both applications are often relegated to niche power-users while mom-and-dad computer users have moved on to more straight-forward, simplistic and user-friendly software.

Let me get back to digital brain-storming for a moment. I’m a strange mix of visual tinkerer and textual thinker, and for me, things like colour, size and proximity of items have to strike a balance with text note names, hierarchy, and the ability to enter large amounts of material. For example, I like the ability to rapidly create notes as little boxes with various colours and short descriptive names, then move them around the various sections of the screen to play with categories and relationships. But once these categorisations are made, I want to be able to see the outline of all my ideas, and to write text and annotations for each item.

Like Johnston, I've been experimenting with a combination of Tinderbox and DevonThink. I'm still on the short side of the learning curve for Tinderbox (it's a pretty deep and complex app--see Johnston's emacs comment above), and I've had an easier time getting a wide range of media into DevonThink. And the indexing features of that app seem more robust. But (like Johnston), when I want to start arranging information in creative ways, making connections among sources and adding new material, Tinderbox is much better. Tinderbox is more of a freeform brainstorming app and DevonThink is more of a card catalogue or OS X Finder on Steroids (at least in the ways that I use them). (Both apps have 30-day trial versions, and relatively cheap academic prices [under $100], so they're worth checking out.)

[via Mark Bernstein]

Posted by johndanseven at 01:51 PM

December 21, 2005

Pac Man


An apparent result of finals' week stress, two students at the University of Michigan re-enact Pac Man and Ghost running through the library and a computer lab [.mov link]. Pointless, but that's the point.

[via Kotaku]

Posted by johndanseven at 10:41 PM

Make Me Think

Mark Bernstein rightly complicates the common dictum "Easier is better" in design. Pairing Steve Krug's highly influential Don't Make Me Think [amazon link] (a bible for many web designers and technical communicators) with the Bauhaus maxim, "The ultimate aim of all creative activity is the building!", Mark makes an important point: In much design, the goal is precisely to make people think.

Whenever I've been flogging the "make people think" horse (as I have been for the last fifteen or so years), someone always says, "So you think web pages should be hard to use?" That's not my point, though. Design should structure and support thinking and doing. In most contexts, that requires a combination of thinking and not-thinking.

Take an activity like writing a letter of recommendation (something I was doing on just a few moments ago). Although I've written scores of such letters, they each require careful thought about a whole array of factors: the specific person I'm recommending (including their strengths, weaknesses, and goals), the position I'm recommending them for (and all the rhetorical/contextual issues that go along with that), the awkward genre of recommendation letters (including their important variations by discipline), the layout of the letter on the page, the font selection, and much, much more. In this instance, I'm not looking for an interface that helps me not think; I'm looking for one that helps me think. So while Microsoft Office does a fairly good job at helping me not think about some aspects of these processes (wrapping lines automatically, allowing me to drag and drop chunks of text around on the page, etc.), it's general "Don't Make Me Think" approach fails to support me well in some areas that I'd like help thinking with. For example, I would appreciate the ability to be able to brainstorm on the page and to drag a network representation of the developing text around in different graphical relationships as I'm developing my ideas. And it'd be nice if I could convert that graphical network into an outline as my ideas began to gel.

Oddly, although I hadn't intended to head in this direction, I ended up describing some key features of Tinderbox, one of Mark's applications. I suppose this is not a coincidence, since Mark's "make us think" orientation is why things like Tinderbox exist. And, conversely, the "Don't Make Me Think" approach unfortunately relegates applications like Tinderbox to niche markets: People are increasingly unwilling to put time into mastering the more useful features of a complex application, because in many cases they have come to believe the notion that simple is always better.

So this isn't about intentionally bad design, or about ignoring the user—but about challenging the assumption that utter simplicity automatically constitutes good design.

[via Mark Bernstein]

Posted by johndanseven at 02:17 PM

December 19, 2005

Mondo Barbie

When Spork was around ten years old, she walked into my home office with a mason jar, held it proudly up, and said, "I thought you'd like this!" The jar was filled with Barbie heads. Just the heads.

I thought, We raised her right!


But apparently, all our anti-capitalist and feminist teachings didn't really put her that far outside the mainstream, according to some University of Bath researchers. Barbie decapitation (among other things) is pretty routine:

BARBIE, that plastic icon of girlhood fantasy play, is routinely tortured by children, research has found.

The methods of mutilation are varied and creative, ranging from scalping to decapitation, burning, breaking and even microwaving, according to academics from the University of Bath.

The findings were revealed as part of an in-depth look by psychologists and management academics into the role of brands among 7 to 11-year-old schoolchildren.

The researchers had not intended to focus on Barbie, but they were taken aback by the rejection, hatred and violence she provoked when they asked the children about their feelings for the doll.

Violence and torture against Barbie were repeatedly reported across age, school and gender. No other toy or brand name provoked such a negative response.

(The post title, btw, is from the excellent art-school-type-book Mondo Barbie, edited by Lucinda Ebersole and Richard Peabody. [amazon link])


Posted by johndanseven at 10:40 PM

Wireless MIDI Controller Glove

A prototype of a MIDI controller glove [downtempo music autostart warning] with built-in wireless, three gyroscopes and three accelerometers, with 18 hours of battery life. The prototype only cost around $180 to build, so I'm hoping some economies of scale will bring this to the market for cheap. Cool. The website includes some more details and video.

[via Gizmodo]

Posted by johndanseven at 04:20 PM

FACE: Animated CSS

FACE (Faruk's Animated CSS Enhancements) apparently lets you do web animation with CSS and Javascript (more or less cross-platform/cross-browser compatible, with the important caveat that the above link might crash Opera 8.x....) It's copyrighted, but with a general open license (for both private or commercial use). Requires a relatively good background in CSS (which is still on my to-do list).


Posted by johndanseven at 03:50 PM



Posted by johndanseven at 02:27 PM

December 17, 2005

Plagiarism, IP, and Music

The Columbia Law School Music Plagiarism Project collects music copyright infringement cases over the last century. Included are samples from original and alleged infringing songs, overviews, and text from legal opinions.

The purpose of this project is to capitalize on the distributed nature of digital information systems to collect, organize and distribute graphic and audio materials associated with music copyright infringement cases in the United States from the middle of the nineteenth century on. This documentation, especially for cases over twenty-five years old, is difficult to obtain and has never before been systematically collected or published in print or electronic format. Our goal is to accumulate and publish a complete collection of music copyright infringement opinions, comments about the musical works they consider, and graphic and sound files of relevant portions of these works.

Plagiarism per se is not grounds for a tort claim; one sues for copyright infringement based on an alleged plagiarism. While many instances of plagiarism are not actionable under copyright law, we use this term because it has long been associated with the broad notions of wrongful appropriation and publication as one's own of another's expression that are at the heart of these music copyright disputes.

I like the site--the list of cases covered is pretty extensive--I wish it didn't muddy the waters (no pun intended) by collapsing the distinction between intellectual property rights infringement and plagiarism, two very different things. As the site itself notes in cases like Campbell v. Acuff-Rose (the Roy Orbison and 2 Live Crew versions of "Oh, Pretty Woman"), plagiarism is not really the issue here. And IP rights infringements are typically not concerned with whether or not the alleged infringer needed to cite their sources--doing so isn't a legal protection.

Or maybe it should be. If IP rights were treated more like academic authorship cases--where borrowing from other sources is not only accepted, but encouraged; Creative Commons licenses would be the norm rather than the rare, activist exception--we might not have the ugly mess we have today. (Remix away!)


Posted by johndanseven at 11:25 PM

December 14, 2005

Design Within Reach: Champagne Chair Contest

For that closet modernist hiding in all of us, Design Within Reach is once again running their annual Holiday Champagne Chair Contest. It's pretty simple: design a tiny chair using the cork, wire, and foil from no more than two champagne bottles. Glue's the only allowable adhesive. No additional adhesive, decorations, or covering (paint, tape, etc.). Entries must be shipped to DWR's office by January 6, 2006. Prizes are DWR gift certificates for $500 to $2k (which will just about cover the cost of that Dordoni Worktop Table and Aeron chair that I've been wanting).

Given their aesthetic leanings, I doubt a stunning replica of your favorite La-Z-Boy has a chance. Here are last year's jury picks; click the link above for the 2005 winner.


Posted by johndanseven at 11:04 PM

December 13, 2005

Bound for Glory: America in Color, 1939-1943


[Russell Lee photo of Faro and Doris Caudill, homesteaders, Pie Town, New Mexico, October 1940]

The US Library of Congress site Bound for Glory collects Kodachrome color photos documenting 1939-1943 life in the US as part of the Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information project. Among the largest and most influential government-sponsored art projects [full gov website here], it included important works by Dorthea Lang, Walker Evans, and more--this is the first set of color images I've seen from the project, which largely used black and white.


Posted by johndanseven at 11:05 PM

A Screaming Came Across the Sky

Inverting the usual cause-and-effect connection, in the videogame/art installation Motor Karaoke, two players don fullface motorcycle helmets with built-in mics. Then they race against each other on virtual bikes that are controlled by the volume of each player's scream: scream louder to go faster.

[via Gizmodo]

Posted by johndanseven at 07:19 PM

December 12, 2005

Winter Arrives


Although we've had quite a bit of snow already, real winter has finally arrived: The temp on my menubar says -8 F, the power's flickering every few minutes, and our propane supplier forgot to fill our tank. It ran empty last night, and they can't manage to make a delivery until tomorrow at some point--so we're running on wood heat without any backup system if the power goes out and the fan on the wood heater shuts down.

If I was optimistic, I'd make much of the fact that the menubar temp seems a little off--in addition to the inexplicable sun icon (it's near midnight, and we're not that far north), the thermometer outside the kitchen window only says -3 F.

But I'm not that optimistic. (The useful part about being a pessimist is that surprises are usually nice ones.)

Posted by johndanseven at 11:53 PM

Introduction to Information Architecture

Austin Govella's posted a useful overview of sources (web and print) for an introduction to information architecture. Categories include Foundations, Introductory Books, Tools of the IA Trade, IA Websites, and more. As Govella said on the SIGIA-L list, he left off some potentially useful resources because he thought they were beyond introductory level, including Rosenfeld and Morville's Information Architecture and the World Wide Web [amazon link], which I'd include. (I use it for my Info Arch class, and it seems to work well.)

[via SIGIA-L]

Posted by johndanseven at 01:11 AM

December 10, 2005

The Plastic Figure Guide to Web Design

PingMag has published a basic guide to the website design process, re-enacted by little plastic-people toys. Here's the wireframe and blueprint stage:


[via Boing Boing]

Posted by johndanseven at 03:52 PM

December 08, 2005

M-Audio MicroTrack Review

An audiophile at O'Reilly reviews the M-Audio MicroTrack 24/96 field recorder. A couple of months back, I switched from my trusty Sharp DR-7 minidisc recorder to the just-released M-Audio MicroTrack. I've been pretty happy with the quality so far. Flash memory's relatively cheap, it has 1/8" mic input, 1/4" TRS mic input, phantom power, S/PDIF out, records mp3 or wav at various resolutions, and USB connection, among other features. And it's small, slightly larger than a deck of cards. I use it primarily for field recording of interviews and band practices. I bought mine from Sound Professionals for around $400 (Amazon's now apparently selling it for around the same price--if you read the Amazon consumer reviews, you should know that you can't set the recording levels unless the device is actively recording; this explains complaints about overdriven signals in some of the comments). (You'll definitely need an upgraded CF card, though, since it only comes with a 64 meg card.)

I pre-ordered mine before they were officially released, based primarily on the feature set. I was glad to see that the O'Reilly reviewer gave it a thumbs-up. (I still feel the sting of purchasing the [now infamous] Apple 5300c when it came out--I sent it back ten times in the first year for warranty repairs.) The O'Reilly review mentions some key shortcomings, including problems with the phantom power mic input that could potentially fry your mic, your recorder, or both, if you're not aware of the potential problem. It's not a high-end field recorder (which run $1k and beyond), but it seems to be the best product in the under-$1k range.

[via Gizmodo]

Posted by johndanseven at 10:15 PM

December 07, 2005

Fair Use & Documentary Film

Lessig points to an excellent new website on Fair Use and documentary film, created by Pat Aufderheide and Peter Jaszi. You can download the main report [pdf], but I'd recommend visiting the site and browsing.

Many of the recommendations are "best practices" rather than case law, but useful case law in this area is extremely hard to come by. So Aufderheide and Jaszi's work should be very useful to people working in documentary video. (I've already used it in making decisions about live recordings being used in a documentary.)

[via Lessig Blog]

Posted by johndanseven at 11:08 PM

Room 404, Revisited

An update and some additional links about the Room 404 post from a day or so back, from Alex.

Hi Johndan,

Fan of the blog.

Room 404 never existed. Room 404 is an Internet meme that just never dies......


Cool story mind you..

Posted by johndanseven at 08:13 AM

December 06, 2005

Understanding Spatial Relations (or Not)

Kim Kastens and Toru Ishikawa at Columbia have a brief, online tutorial describing problems students (and people in general I assume) have with maps and spatial representations. It's written primarily for teachers in the geosciences, but it would be useful to anyone studying how people understand spatial relations. Here's the short table of contents:

  • What are spatial abilities and how do they pertain to geoscience tasks?
  • How do people learn about large-scale spatial relations by direct observation of the environment?
  • How do people use and interpret topographic maps?
  • How do people comprehend 3-D phenomena?

[via The Map Room]

Posted by johndanseven at 08:05 AM

World of Warcraft Enthographies

Aaron Delwiche's students at Trinity University have posted their World of Warcraft enthnographies. Delwiche's site includes links to the final papers as well as weblogs the students maintained during the course.

Below, you will find term papers written by undergraduate students in the class "Games for the Web: Ethnography of Massively Multiplayer On-line Games."

These students used a combination of quantitative and qualitative research methods to explore sociological issues associated with massively multiplayer virtual worlds. Each student in the class pursued a different research question. Their term papers (and web logs) are linked below.

From the outset, we have intended to share the findings of our research with the gaming community. Please visit the site, and take a look at the student's preliminary research findings. We would love to hear your constructive feedback, either through e-mail or via postings to student web logs.

Please keep in mind the limitations of this research setting. Time was too short to pursue in-depth ethnographic research, and sample sizes were too small to extrapolate with confidence to the broader gaming community. For many of the students, it was the first time that they had undertaken a research project of this scope. Nevertheless, this work reflects the efforts of a new generation of scholars grappling with the social significance of this vital medium.

[via Boing Boing]

Posted by johndanseven at 07:57 AM

December 03, 2005

Simplicity vs. Design

Diagrams are frequently used to simplify complex situations. This is not one of those types of diagrams.

If it was, I don't want to think about the financial process that this diagram represented.


[click for larger version]

[via SIGIA-L, which got it from]

Posted by johndanseven at 03:24 PM

Error 404: From Real to Virtual Architecture

Room 404 offers a history of the origins of Error 404, the "not found" error you get when you try to access a non-existent web page. According to the Room 404, the error number relates to the office at CERN that housed the first, tesing versions of the database that eventually became the WWW.

In an office on the fourth floor (room 404), they placed the World Wide Web's central database: any request for a file was routed to that office, where two or three people would manually locate the requested files and transfer them, over the network, to the person who made that request.

When the database started to grow, and the people at CERN realised that they were able to retrieve documents other than their own research-papers, not only the number of requests grew, but also the number of requests that could not be fulfilled, usually because the person who requested a file typed in the wrong name for that file. Soon these faulty requests were answered with a standard message: 'Room 404: file not found'.

Later, when these processes were automated and people could directly query the database, the messageID's for error messages remained linked to the physical location the process took place: '404: file not found'.

Not sure if this is true story or not, but interesting nonetheless.

[via xBlog: The visual thinking weblog | XPLANE]

Posted by johndanseven at 12:01 PM

December 02, 2005

The Postmodern Geography of London

Jonathan Bell at The Morning News describes his postmodern geography of London. Here's a snip:

There are several Londons, a set of different cities rippling out from a central point, layering and overlapping as they go. There are the Londons of the imagination, fictional or cinematic cities, and the towns where people live and work—many interpretations, yet rarely the same place. At times, some districts slip seamlessly into each other, helped by the shifty cartography of the city’s more creative realtors, while other boundaries remain fixed and immutable, hard lines on the map that also show a social divide on the ground. In particular, the 20th- century penchant for razing and rebuilding has redrawn large swaths of the city in the modernist idiom, striking out centuries-old street patterns in places, while abutting classic terraces in others. Old and new, large and small, rich and poor still sit cheek-by-jowl, in a relationship that isn’t always harmonious. In London, you can make your own city, choosing which overlaps suit and which do not, imposing your own boundaries and no-go areas, your own favored vistas, routes, and neighborhoods. Perhaps this is the same for any city; yet, although, the modern metropolis is typically characterized by its relentless pace—be it Asian, American, African, or European—London’s constant shifting isn’t especially comparable to an all-hours construction site, spotlit in the tropical night, or to the bobbing masses, compressed into abstraction by a telephoto viewpoint. It’s not even symbolized by sprawling street markets—although it has a few—or the rigid grandeur of historical sites. No, London is about zones and spaces, perceptions and projections, places, not people.

Virtual pets and other simulations always seemed, to me at least, to occupy a space somewhere between "real" situations and novels. You can lose yourself in them, briefly at least, but eventually the boundary conditions start to show: Eliza keeps repeating, "Tell me more..." or the Sims person you created walks into a corner and can't get out. Which isn't really a diss on the simulation--if it seems real even temporarily, it's interesting. But, like following a character or story in a novel, there are boundary conditions. Which is both good and bad. That's why, for example, you can (as Spork frequently did to me) fire a grenade at me in Marathon and shout, "Dad! Catch this!")--at this stage in the development at least, virtual pets are somewhat like real pets, but they've had much of the responsibility stripped away, making them amenable to fitting into our schedules and workloads.

Posted by johndanseven at 04:01 PM

Virtual Pets

In the latest issue of the esapist, Tim Stevens discusses the ways in which virtual pets--in this case, a Nintendogs German Shepherd named Peach and a boxer named Bowser) seem to offer a little bit of companionship for busy people who don't have quite the willingness to commit to the requirements (and benefits) of a flesh-and-blood version.

So, at least in certain circumstances, virtual or otherwise non-living things can help to ease the longings to follow a dream one might suffer, thanks to a lack of money, a lack of charisma to attract a mate or simply a lack of time to do anything of substance. These replications can give you some sort of feeling of emotional connection, and while nobody would argue that these replica sensations come anywhere near the power of the real thing, these substitutes have one major advantage: They work on our schedule.

Virtual pets and other simulations always seemed, to me at least, to occupy a space somewhere between "real" situations and novels. You can lose yourself in them, briefly at least, but eventually the boundary conditions start to show: Eliza keeps repeating, "Tell me more..." or the Sims person you created walks into a corner and can't get out. Which isn't really a diss on the simulation--if it seems real even temporarily, it's interesting. But, like following a character or story in a novel, there are boundary conditions. Which is both good and bad. That's why, for example, you can (as Spork frequently did to me) fire a grenade at me in Marathon and shout, "Dad! Catch this!")--at this stage in the development at least, virtual pets are somewhat like real pets, but they've had much of the responsibility stripped away, making them amenable to fitting into our schedules and workloads.

Posted by johndanseven at 03:54 PM

December 01, 2005

Breaking Technology

Joho has a great summary of Ted Nelson's recent talk at the Oxford Internet Institute. Nelson coined the term "hypertext" and has, since then, been on a (relatively usuccessful, unfortunately) quest to revolutionize interface design. In the talk, he reminds people that technology development is rarely apolitical, and frequently driven by strategic business decisions rather than innovative thinking about how people could use computers.

He talks about the great British engineer, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, who wanted the width of RR tracks to be set at the optimally safe distance but lost to the economic interests of the carriage makers. He likewise talks about Nikola Tesla 'who invented the modern world,' including the electrical grid. Tesla wanted to give free electricity to everyone in the world by 'charging up the electrical field of the planet so that anyone with a coil could just tap off what they like.' Westinghouse stopped backing him as a result of this. 'What's the business model?' Finally, he talks about Wernher von Braun vs. Chuck Yeager. Yeager gets credit for breaking the sound barrier, although (says Nelson) a British pilot preceded him. Nelson says that Yeager later said 'I could have gone orbital, but they told me not to.' This was in 1947. Why did we hold Yeager back, he asks. Because, von Braun felt that if he let a little plane got orbital instead of large rockets, it would disrupt his political agenda. Von Braun shared Heinlein's vision of colonizing space. (Ted says this story is 'partially conjectural.')

The point: There are hidden agendas in most technological decisions. He asks why programs insist on us not entering spaces or hyphens into phone numbers. 'The real technical reason is the programmer is a jerk.' The engineer, says Ted, passively-aggressively requires the user to do something 'rigorous.' This is the techie mentality at its worst. Software is too important to be left to the techies; they need an 'overarching vision.' The reason computer games are so much better than office software is that the people who create computer games love to play games while the people who make office software 'don't give a shit.'

'Today's computer world is based on techie misunderstandings of human thought and human life.'

He talks about Doug Engelbart who shares Ted's view that 'the current computer world is absolutely lousy.' He lays this primarily at the foot of Xerox PARC's assumption that the computer GUI ought to imitate paper. Rather, it should enable rapidly changing links among the thousands among ideas and scraps. He shows some great examples of French literary works (e.g., Victor Hugo) literally cut and pasted together. But Xerox PARC called a simple hide and show operation 'cut and paste,' thus making it harder to do complex rearrangement of pieces.

[via Joho the Blog]

Posted by johndanseven at 12:47 PM