Balm for the soul

Dean Bubley:
Tablets - I've been somewhat surprised by the iPad's success, but I still don't see tablets as a major game-changing trend, beyond the "Apple Effect". I still think that the iPad is primarily a nice (and for some groups of people also very useful) gadget which complements their PC/Mac and smartphone usage. I don't see massmarket Android platforms fulfilling the same roles and I certainly don't see tablets heralding some sort of mythical "post-PC" era. I do seem them as becoming important for "social TV" use cases in the home, though. I expect to see a declining % of tablets with embedded/activated 3G radios going forward - the bulk will be WiFi-only. 2011 success rating: 5/10
Let me repeat:
I certainly don't see tablets heralding some sort of mythical "post-PC" era.

I really like these obnoxious new FSF banners

Not f'd — you won't find me on Facebook

Abandoning del.icio.us?

I understand that people are upset, but I don't get the point of moving from one problematic provider to another equally problematic provider.

It's the whole concept that's rotten, not just particular bad apples.

And in the meantime, I lose easy access to your much-valued data.

Thus, for 2011, we should all work hard on two issues:
  • Easier, but still hard: Decentralization: it shouldn't matter which problematic provider you're signed up to - I still want to browse your data in my problematic provider.
  • Hard: Make this sh*t work: We should found a democratic trust that hosts our data on a free software stack, so that we can get rid of problematic providers altogether.
Our data is worth much more than gold!


The cloud's 9/11

I think the del.icio.us situation was a wake up call for a lot of people.

Keeping it short, here are my suggestions for the future:
  • Let us pay: As they say if you don't pay for a product, you are the product.
  • A company ain't enough: Classical capitalism isn't fit to provide the service we need. I'm thinking about some sort of netizen's trust.
  • It takes an architecture: The whole stack has to be free software, and good one at that. Everything else won't cut it.
Our data is worth much more than gold!

Institutional innovators welcome!


I'm afraid of sociotards

Exhibit N:
See that cute girl or boy sitting over there? Imagine seeing what you have in common at a glance.
Exhibit N+1:
you will be able to "see" all your "friends" all the time and know which movie or TV show they're watching and watch it "with" them if you want


The Desktop is Back

Sony is back to OpenStep (!) with SNAP:
Sony’s Networked Application Platform is a project designed to leverage the open source community to build and evolve the next generation application framework for consumer electronic devices.

The developer program gives access to a developer community and resources like SDK, tools, documentation and other developers.

The foundation upon which this project is base comes from the GNUstep community, whose origin dates back to the OpenStep standard developed by NeXT Computer Inc (now Apple Computer Inc.). While Apple has continued to update their specification in the form of Cocoa and Mac OS X, the GNUstep branch of the tree has diverged considerably.

Wayland is talking about phasing out X11:

The problem with X is that... it's X. When you're an X server there's a tremendous amount of functionality that you must support to claim to speak the X protocol, yet nobody will ever use this. For example, core fonts; this is the original font model that was how your got text on the screen for the many first years of X11. This includes code tables, glyph rasterization and caching, XLFDs (seriously, XLFDs!) Also, the entire core rendering API that lets you draw stippled lines, polygons, wide arcs and many more state-of-the-1980s style graphics primitives. For many things we've been able to keep the X.org server modern by adding extension such as XRandR, XRender and COMPOSITE and to some extent phase out less useful extension. But we can't ever get rid of the core rendering API and much other complexity that is rarely used in a modern desktop. With Wayland we can move the X server and all it's legacy technology to a optional code path.

Jean-Louis Gassée:
Someday, the progress in HTML implementations and better, thicker pipes might move the boundary between local and Cloud applications. But for the time being, conventional desktop “productivity” apps such as word processors, spreadsheets, and presentation programs have an advantage over their Cloud competitors.
Anil Dash:
Cloudtop apps are delivered as native code on nearly every supported platform, from desktop computers to smart phones, with an interface that scales appropriately.

While the app may have a web interface, that's largely a convenience and is not usually the primary way in which you interact with the app.
Oh, and let's not forget RIM's acquisition of QNX.


OpenID is a nightmare:
We already have the ability to sign up with username/password - but we're going to make that the *only* way to register for our site from now on.


Apps On!

New Post-it notes by 3M for mobile dev:

(Although I find the image of hipster mobile developers scribbling on them while sipping their lattes deplorable.)


It's bad

They looked in my iPhone's address book.

... it's not like it could be anyone's "business model" to use that data. But now, as far as I know, some unknown startup in California has all my data.
This is bad and ugly on two levels: first, that a company would slurp your private data without asking; second, that your computer lets it do this.


there is hope

the use of location-based services is actually declining in America, from 5% of the online population in May to 4% last month


trotsky on HN:
If facebook can really deliver a rock solid web mail client, I think they will really be a company to watch in the rest of 1996 and 1997.


Dear Google

If you read this - please let me turn off that instant preview thingy.

When I look at a web page, I like to massage the text by clicking around a lot on the page. (It's a subconscious thing...) Now, this brings up preview images.

While we're at it: what's the star icon next to each result for?



(via copyranter)

Windows Phone 7

I can't believe I'm saying this, but Microsoft did something interesting, and maybe even great, with the design of WP7:

I like this typographical approach, it seems great for small screens. And it's a welcome change from Apple's infantile eye candy.


Cloudtop Apps

Anil Dash is certainly onto something with Cloudtop Apps:
Cloudtop apps are delivered as native code on nearly every supported platform, from desktop computers to smart phones, with an interface that scales appropriately.

While the app may have a web interface, that's largely a convenience and is not usually the primary way in which you interact with the app.
Given the arcane techniques required to build interactive web apps, and the puny results, I can certainly see the appeal of writing a bunch of native apps instead.

Support costs should be lower, it's probably easier to charge for native apps than web apps, and heck, even development costs may actually be lower.


Umair Haque firing on all cylinders

101 Let's take a sec to clear up a few misconceptions about my perspective.

Five Reasons I Wouldn't Have Invested in Zynga Selling virtual goods is interesting, right? Wrong. It’s just about as interesting as selling physical “product” – an industrial age revenue stream in disguise

MyGengo and the Power of Markets, Networks, and Communities if you want to be disruptive, here’s the single strategy that will take you the furthest. Pick a zombified, moribund industry, and use a market, network, or community to disrupt it, by altering the structure and intensity of search, monitoring, and transaction costs.

21st Century Capitalism vs FoxMartWorld Like I sometimes say: want fries with that Ponzi zombieconomy?


I ♥ William Gibson

Now, in Zero History, Bigend’s world brushes up against another 21st century growth industry: the private military. And what’s all the fuss about? Pants.

Whole World Wide Web

Brewster Kahle, 2010:
It's amazing to think that the whole Web collection, which is about 2PB compressed and from 4PB to 5PB uncompressed, can live in a 20-foot-by-8-foot-by-8-foot shipping container, which, from our standpoint, is a computer.
Brin and Page, 1998:
If we assume that Moore's law holds for the future, we need only 10 more doublings, or 15 years to reach our goal of indexing everything everyone in the US has written for a year for a price that a small company could afford.
(Unfortunately, that's after 2012, so there's not much point.)



Dirk Hohndel:
Yes, it took a while for the Internet to drive AOL into irrelevance. And similarly, it will take time for the mass of the customers to realize just how Apple is taking advantage of them. And there will continue to be some fanboyz.

When it all shakes out

Dave Winer writes:
LinkedIn is for business contacts. Facebook is for connecting with classmates and friends from days gone by. Twitter is for news. What is Foursquare for? And then what is Facebook's checkin service for? I mean, when it all shakes out. It can be hard to forsee.
I find it always interesting that intelligent people like Dave care so much about current incumbents/silos in the social networking game.

For me it's self-evident that sooner than later control of social connections will be where it belongs - with the people.

For me, all these evil silos are just an artefact of a still illiquid market.


It's called MapReduce

Not Map Reduce. Not Map/Reduce. Not map-reduce.

Is that so hard?


deep conceptual hierarchies

By evoking the need for deep conceptual hierarchies, the automatic computer confronts us with a radically new intellectual challenge that has no precedent in our history.E.W. Dijkstra


The gay science of wikis

In The sad evolution of wikis, apenwarr voices some interesting points wrt wikis.

Regarding Wikipedia vs Ward's Wiki, and painting with the broadest of brushes, I'd say that Ward's Wiki is a wonderful practical joke or hypermedia art project, whereas Wikipedia is a project to create an encyclopedia that only incidentally uses Wiki technology – how many Wikipedia users know how to edit, let alone create, a page? 1%? 1‰? Put differently: Wikipedia has little place in a discussion of wikis in general, it's simply one successful application of Wiki technology.

I think wikis have one important feature: they put naming front and center; the rest (including "everybody can edit everything") is up for horse-trading. And that's where apenwarr's question is interesting:

How do you create a vibrant community, but allow for private topics and discussion, but allow for public topics and discussion, and allow me to work for more than one company at a time with multiple private discussions, and have my WikiWords always end up pointing where they're supposed to?

Having your WikiWords always end up pointing where they're supposed to is of course a general AI problem. But I think there's some scope for principled approaches to naming in Wiki tech. More later, have to hack.


Tim Bray recounts:
“You don’t get it. The central relationship between Oracle and its customers is a business relationship, between an Oracle business expert and a customer business leader. The issues that come up in their conversations are business issues.

“The concerns of developers are just not material at the level of that conversation; in fact, they’re apt to be dangerous distractions. ‘Developer mindshare’... what’s that, and why would Oracle care?”
Also: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the New Axis of Evil (Oracle)


Wave is Dead

Given that I've called Wave's doom from day one, I feel I have the right to comment once more on this silly undertaking.

First, even Wave's start was problematic. Google used the Wave announcement to suck the air out of an event Microsoft was holding on the same day, which was at best childish behavior, and personally I consider it unfair business practice.

Then, conceptually, Wave was a complete dud. Wave didn't offer even one interesting concept – seeing each others' keypresses is not a concept. That so many people got their knickers in such a twist over this shows just how banal and superficial the software world is, and why some of our best minds leave it in disgust to sell beer.

Technically, Wave was even more flawed. It threw out everything we've learned over the past decades in building internet apps, and replaced it with an ill-specified, unimplementable set of protocols that sent pieces of an extended form (!) of XML around, statefully and non-idempotently. Web-nativeness was an afterthought, and offline use wasn't even a consideration. That anyone took this crap seriously (hello Novell) is another sign of the shallowness that hampers progress in our field.

Every cloud has a silver lining. If there's one good thing about Wave it's that it showed that people long for new approaches to computing. Wave was like a Rorschach test, in which everybody saw what they wanted to see. In the end there was not much to see, and what was there was hideous. But still Wave showed that there's a possibility of introducing new concepts and having them adopted. If only someone found an interesting concept.

Long live the internet!


Does it get uncooler?

First Facebook didn't want anyone else to have the word "book" in the name of his or her online community and now it doesn't want anyone to have the word "face" either.
Thankfully, people acting this way are building castles on sand.
There is a small but crucial group of people that specifically want Unix. These people are the "hackers" and should not be discounted. Almost every good feature in computer operating systems today, including most features in DOS, Windows, and Windows/NT, came from the mind of one hacker or another. Typically, the work was not commissioned by a company. It was done as a research project and then productized. Without these people, we make no forward progress. These are the sort of people that made NetBSD run all of those different applications. This sort of talent, energy, and enthusiasm can not be bought. — The Sourceware Operating System Proposal


Paul Graham on trends for the future

Paul Graham's talk at the Business of Software, 2009:

Here are some rough notes I took:

Bet On:


People just don't build shiny metal things anymore.


``Yes you can still bet on software.'' Biotech too, suspicious of cleantech, government may stop funding.

Efficient Markets

``This is a big one.'' (Example: Airbnb, efficient market for accommodation.)


``You make what you measure.'' (HP)

United States

Only three risks: Bandits. Government. Invaders. ``Unless somebody is stealing the money, people will build new stuff and make money.''

Silicon Valley

``The Californian budget crisis is just two sets of politicians playing chicken.''

Small Companies

``We're getting this world that's higher resolution. Instead of bosses you have customers. More efficient. Small companies live from making money, big companies live from economies of scale.''

Economic Inequality

Moore's Law, Sort of

``Multi-core. Weird shit you'll have to do. There's a gap to be spanned, and somebody will make a lot of money spanning it.''

Things on Screens

``After dinner, there's 4 or 5 people typing into their laptops. People are not gonna start going out to local theater. Right now I have a suntan from my monitor.''

Server-based Apps

``It's gonna be complicated. Does an iPhone app count as a server-based app? Things will live on servers by default. It's not necessarily simply a web app.''

Super-good Customer Service

``It's gonna be easier for customers to switch. It's gonna be easier for people to find out if you have good service. Err on the side of super-good customer service. Your customers will increasingly design your product. The reason to do good service is selfish.''

Apparently Frivolous Stuff

``Bet on it. Facebook seems like the ultimate frivolous app.''

``Twitter is a new protocol: a nondeterministic messaging protocol. You send a message and don't know who receives it.''

Programming Languages

``Whatever the next popular language is, I would advise on using it.''

``Write your apps in lots of different languages.''

``Don't look down on scripting languages.''

Open Source

``Definitely worth betting on.''

``How many examples of companies can you find that have gone too far in the direction of open source.''

``Open source [your products] to the point where it seems you're going too far.''

``The limiting edge of open source is design. It's great for implementation, but you can't get design done that way. Software has given us a lot more scope for design. Now when I go up to my oven, it has instructions. Somebody has given those idiots designing ovens microprocessors. I would give a buy recommendation on AAPL.''

``Apple cares about the iPhone the way Google cares about search. Android is a hedge, originally against Microsoft. Who else is there? Palm? RIM? No. Mobile devices will win, and Apple will win in mobile devices.''


``It's why the iPhone wins.''

``When I was young it said "made in", today it says "designed in"''.


``It's not bogus in the way Web 2.0 was. Web 2.0 meant whatever was happening at the time. It's the computing equivalent of the switch from dial-up to always-on connection. All the existing protocols are based on this early [dial-up] model.''

``Wave is important, basically because it's the equivalent of Etherpad. If you make the convex hull around Twitter and Wave, and can think of something in there, go for it.''

Venture Funding

``They need you.''


``Founders will more and more have the upper hand. More and more founders will program. Programmers can learn to do business. You just make something people want, and charge them for it. They should have an O'Reilly book for business. It would be really short.''

Don't Bet On:

Credentials Granted by Institutions

``Admissions offices are bad. They don't check later how people they accepted or rejected did. Yet another artefact of an illiquid market.''

Business School

``Unsuited to the way things are done now. Business schools are the West Point of industrial capitalism. They trained the officer corps of that, not entrepreneurs. Great if you want to work for Procter & Gamble in 1965.''


``Elected president with middle name Hussein. I'm impressed. But the guys in the engine room are the same people.''


``With the copyright holders, it's gonna be an unbelievable fight, but they will ultimately lose. It will be so bloody, like the civil war.''

Restricted Flow of Information

``Everything's getting more liquid. Like hyperdrive.''



Facebook lol

Facebook's "global domination plan" has been here all this time & staring at us in the face- it's Facebook pages!Facebook's killer app is here. No, it's NOT places.
At a party on Sunday I asked who of the guests had a Facebook account. There was one who had one, but he said he didn't check it regularly. Others said they knew people who have one.

I guess it's time again to quote Perlis:
Because of its vitality, the computing field is always in desperate need of new cliches: Banality soothes our nerves.
And here's a nice Hugh:


F-35 helmet
"Painting's washed up. Who'll do anything better than that propeller? Tell me, can you do that?" — Marcel Duchamp, on his visit to the Paris Aviation Show, 1912

Clients are a Lose, Right?

Almost ten years ago, Paul Graham said that clients are a lose.

Web apps have two big plusses over clients:
  • As long as you stick to HTML 3.2, it will run on any computer.
  • No manual installation and updates needed.
I think the second is the biggie, while the first is driving me increasingly nuts.

Simple web apps are write once, run everywhere badly. This is extremely pronounced on mobile devices, where interaction is so limited.

And once you go to richer web apps, the development process is simply insane, although tools, such as GWT, that abstract over all the different buggy execution platforms help.

All in all, I think the fight between the web app and the native client is far from over. Personally, I'd much rather write, say, a Blackberry app than a web app next time.

There's nothing like good old GUI programming to a Smalltalk72-style WIMP API.


WikiLeaks and the Afghan War:
The image we have is of an unidentified individual or small group working to get a “shocking truth” out to the public, only the truth is not shocking — it is what was known all along in excruciating detail. Who would want to detail a truth that is already known, with access to all this documentation and the ability to transmit it unimpeded?


The Collateral Damage of "Journalism"

I've always cut "journalists" a lot of slack – it seemed to me that I couldn't criticize them, because after all they were doing something really important.

But I've changed my outlook on this issue, because I've discovered that what goes today for journalism is actually harmful.

The tipping point was when a friend of mine who's managing a lot of people said:
Employees of all races, cultures, and creeds have no problem whatsoever working and having fun together, contrary to what the press would have us believe.
And I'm not talking about the designated rags, such as the Post, I'm talking about the "respected" rags, such as the Times.

Because they're backed by big money and thus widely circulated, they reach not only the people stupid enough to pay for them, they also cause collateral damage to innocent bystanders by sheer volume: today one is somewhat surprised to not find oneself in a cultural war at work, because "journalists" are constantly hammering us with faux "news" from the war of terror (among other things), copied and pasted directly from the prop-agenda-ists' feeds.

"Journalism": Good riddance.


Apple’s App Store Director Sells His Own Fart Apps

I'm actually not surprised.

"Simulate the experience of urinating for a long time," iWiz’s app description reads in iTunes. "Convince your friends that you’ll never stop. IWiz allows you to simulate urination: faster, slower or just a trickle."

An Apple spokeswoman said Shoemaker was hired partly because of his background as a developer. ... "His experience and perspective as a developer is one of the valuable things he brings to Apple’s developer relations team."

(via fefe)

Marijuana Legalization in California, Policy Perspectives

The title is wonderful, and it's funny to watch an intelligent suit from the BLAND Corporation with teh ugly slides talk about sensimilla equivalents.

The atheistic intertubes

Atheist seems to be a common answer when netizens are asked about their religion.

For me, atheism is basically nihilism.

For me, the existence of reality itself is a wonder, and proof of a kind of meta-level.

And I think God is a good name for the meta-level.

So I think I'm an agnostic. And I hope that all the people that answer atheist mean agnostic, and just don't know the different definitions.

Because what would it mean to be atheist? We believes in nothing?

There's even an old philosophical school that defends that thesis, and simply declares atheism stupid (but I forgot its name). I feel vindicated.


That Apple magnetic power plug is one superfluous contraption

My Thinkpad has an ordinary plug, and yet it comes off whenever I trip over the cable. Which happens quite a few times.




machen wir uns stark

If you're Austrian (or not), please consider supporting machen wir uns stark, a new grassroots progressive initiative.

Wir lassen uns nicht spalten. Alle leben wir in diesem Land und alle können wir es mitgestalten. Grundrechte gelten ohne Ausnahme. Es gibt immer unterschiedliche Meinungen. Aber wir wollen vernünftig miteinander reden. Wir bauen nicht auf Sündenböcke. Wir bauen auf die Zukunft.

Anil Dash: "Defending the Indefensible"



Et tu, John Gruber?

I don't know how it happened, but John Gruber has become a sort of spokesman for the Applephiles.

Where I see the problem is that the Apple Inc. John Gruber is so in love with has nothing or very little to do with the original Apple Computer, Inc.

Apple Computer, Inc. was about freedom (if not in actual motivation, at least in words and deeds, and that's important, too, as Zizek tells us). Apple Inc. is about freedom fries.

Maybe it's just me, but Gruber seems to be apologetic about whatever Apple does. He's like their minister of propaganda. I don't like that. It's not good for Apple, and not good for his readers.

What Apple really needs is a kick in the backside. If anything, they are wasting their potential for insane greatness. Yes, they may do great stuff today, but they don't do insanely great no more. And we would need that. My blood still flows in six colors, and that's why this blog will fly the original Apple Computer, Inc. logo reversed, until Apple gets its act together again.

(Sorry, had to get this out of my system for a long time.)



Dave just coined a great new term — twitwork.

Now, I think it's great on two levels. First, it invokes the image of a federated network of microcontent feeds. Second, the image of a bunch of twits who pretend to be working, when they're actually glued to their screens polling for status updates.


The failure of general hypermedia visualization

Around 2001 I was deeply fascinated by the potential of graphs and their visualization to save the world, etc.

It seemed to me that if you just found the right layout algorithm, all our visualization problems would be solved.

A couple of months ago I read (can't remember where) a cry "No more force-directed graph visualizations please!" and I immediately thought, yes please.

Today, I found an article by hypertext maven Mark Bernstein, that includes the following screenshot:

Really, that doesn't look useful, not even a little bit.

(I'm worried that I come across as an anti-progress apologist, like John Gruber. I'm not. I really like new stuff, and think it's important to push the state of the art, but in this case, I think we have failed.)

Maybe the whole premise is flawed. Maybe hypermedia thrives on invisibility, the fact that you never know where the next link will take you.

And maybe, the desire for general graph visualization is a desire for a deus ex machina, that can never be fulfilled. Looks this way to me.


an absolution exchange

Monica Narula & Joshua Schachter:
markets are how societies feel about concrete things. what if they were about abstract things?


Google's dead angle

Google's dead angle is large and obvious: the company is only about analysis, not synthesis. Google is about taking already created information, and trying to make sense of it.

In fact, the messier the information is created and structured, the better for Google, because it is better than its competitors at making sense of it.

What this means is that Google actually has an economic and systemic disincentive against making information structuring/synthesis/creation work better.

Big + Extreme

There seems to be a certain quality ("without a name") in design today, that is only achievable through an aura of "bigness". (It's no coincidence that that's a term coined by polemic extraordinaire Rem Koolhaas.)

To make this more concrete, consider this Dubai-themed design by Wolff Olins:

This is so extreme, that if a freshman graphic designer showed this to you, you'd probably be most concerned about his mental health.

But, in the hands of a pre-established, auratized (Byung-Chul Han) context of brand (WO in this case) bigness, you can pull it off.

(I'm sorry if I'm getting too deleuze&guattari here.)

Do we, in this modern world, have to blow up our meagre ideas and concepts to Koolhaasian galactic and causality-changing proportions in order to make them heard, or even intelligible?


Paraphrasing Alan Perlis:
Think of all the psychic energy expended in seeking a fundamental distinction between "microblogging" and "macroblogging".
Fun! Just when everybody is getting started to use MapReduce, Google announces it leaves this obsolete batch processing model behind, and apparently moves to the correct interactive model.

Dear Google, I'm waiting for new paperz!


Matthew Yglesias:
Do readers think it would be possible to arrange some more condescending emails from people who’ve spent more time in China than I have pointing out that ten days on a semi-official junket can only give you a superficial understanding of a very large country? I’m actually a complete idiot, who doesn’t understand this at all. Also the underlying premise of my blog is in no way that a smart person who writes quickly can entertain and inform with non-expert commentary and aggregation on a wide array of subject.

The professional service firm: threat or menace?

The Competitive Threat of Public Clouds by Rodrigo Flores describes the pressure internal departments face to live up to the standards set by outside, public service firms:

IT operations groups are going to be increasingly evaluated against the service and customer satisfaction levels provided by public clouds. One day soon, the CFO may walk into the data center and ask, “What is the cost per hour for internal infrastructure, how do IT operations costs compare to public clouds, and which service levels do IT operations provide?” That day will happen this year.

Tom "Re-Imagine!" Peters is calling these agile and toughened departments professional service firms (PSFs), and encourages the right-out provision of standardized services not only to other internal departments, but – in the ideal, and arguably radical, case – to the outside world, too.

Of course, such opening up to external competition can lead to a real improvement in service quality – comparable with open source software. Like crowdsourcing and open source software, though, I imagine that this will also drive down the revenues achievable by (some) workers – comparable to how operating systems and compilers are today often gratis.

The professional service firm model seems somewhat unavoidable, yet I still ask myself whether its clear benefits for (internal as well as external) customers outweigh its potential drawbacks for workers. Maybe the PSF proletariat needs a new Das Kapital.


Real vs Virtual Bodies: A paradigm shift?

This looks shopped. I can tell from some of the pixels and from seeing quite a few shops in my time.

Nothing about this picture of Monica Bellucci makes sense. The face is not a face, the clothes aren't clothes, the shadows aren't shadows, and we don't even have to mention human anatomy in this context.

Of course, we always took liberties in depicting bodies, but at least before Photoshop those people actually knew something about anatomy. Painters practised drawing bones, muscles, and skin for years. Today, any agency bozo is given free reign to deform bodies whatever way his cocaine-shaky mouse-arm veers.

But, there may be some kind of paradigm shift in the works. Apparently, Britney Spears demanded that for her next campaign, both the before and after pictures be shown.

(Again, that bozo has absolutely NO SKILL whatsoever. Just look at the legs. That ain't legs, you idiot!)

So, what's going on here? Are our celebrities getting stressed out by having to live up to the images created in their image by back-office bozos?

It's interesting what hiphop powerhouse Roots Manuva does in the following video. The video contains both standard "screen-style" shots of him, but also "normal-guy" shots. I think this is a good way. After all, we want our celebrities to look "god-like", but on the other hand it's also nice to see that they're just normal people, too.

So, maybe the future is to mix shops for image-building and adoration with real pix for a measure of reality.

Our strange design decade

This is a design submitted for India's ID card by Saffron, Wally Olins' branding company.

Now, they say it has something to do with the "sign of democracy", the index finger dot, which has become a kind of fetish in the media, for example:

"Your democracy makes us hot."

The logo is arguably strange. I mean, I used to balk at the guy in class who said he could paint like Picasso (every class has that guy, right?), but in this case it's true. Anybody could do that logo.

Saffron knows that of course, and I bet it's part of the deal. But I still can't put my finger on what's going on here exactly, design-wise.

What will people learn about our fridge-nuking and shark-jumping decade of the Uh-Ohs in 50 years when they look at that logo?


The fall of Wired

When I was a teen in the 1990s, one of the biggest events each month was my pilgrimage to the only bookshop in town that sold...

Wired, back then, was about something. About this big new thing, the Internet. About democracy, change, and a whole new conception of life. About cryotechnically-insured, singularity-worshipping, life-extending Californians with toasters running Java. And pretty soon, we'd all have a modem and be like that.

Today, Wired's CD is Agent Smith, and his greatest idea seems to be to make money with downloadable multimedia CD-ROMs. How 1990s!



VoltDB looks really cool. It's an open source database that I think is based on the highly interesting H-Store research.

For "Version Next", the roadmap includes:
  • High Availability: replace failed node on the fly
Which is, I think, a great sign of how far from the commoditization of scalable data storage we still are. In almost every project, HA is planned for the next version. Only Cassandra seems to scale automatically at the moment.


Marc Canter's Persona Editor

Entertaining and inspiring talk by Marc "Partyboy" Canter, on a kind of be-all/end-all outliner to rule the social data web (Doc Searls wants the same thang). The details are somewhat foggy, and I don't know if such a totally integrated architecture will ever be possible on the web, but hey, outliners rock!


What a tweet looks like

I don't think all that stuff is actually stored in each tweet, but it's always interesting to see how stuff works behind the scenes.

Can't Touch This

It seems to be a truth universally acknowledged that multitouch is a generally better interaction concept than anything else.

I wonder why that is? I mean, nobody would claim that finger painting is generally better than painting with a brush.

Yet, every new handset seems to be critiqued upon how good it handles multitouch.

Which is a total non-issue. I love my Blackberry, and it doesn't even have single touch. And I don't think it would be much better if it had.

I also don't think the Blackberry would be better if it had a browser where text size is 2 pixels.

That's all just stupid reality distortion.


Quick note: Please stop trivializing collaboration!

If we believe our masters at the Googleplex, collaboration is about seeing each other's keypresses.

(I'm only choosing this example because it's the most extreme, and thus most clearly shows the trivialization of collaboration.)

I don't know what collaboration is really about, but I know that it's not about seeing each other's keypresses.

Take scientific collaboration. Some good scientists (like Gödel) work decades and only publish a handful of papers. These papers are their inputs to collaboration. Seeing Gödel's keypresses during all these years would be kinda boring, and probably not really helpful.

Collaboration can only work if people do a lot of great work offline. There, I said it! Collaboration is actually hard. It requires thinking, formulation, etc.

So don't trivialize it. Please.


Semiotic Engineering

This must be one of the insightfullest grafs I've read in a long time:
It views HCI as computer-mediated communication between designers and users at interaction time. The system speaks for its designers in various types of conversations specified at design time. These conversations communicate the designers' understanding of who the users are, what they know the users want or need to do, in which preferred ways, and why. The designers' message to users includes even the interactive language in which users will have to communicate back with the system in order to achieve their specific goals. So, the process is in fact one of communication about communication, or metacommunication. — Clarisse De Souza


platforms are all about loveDave

[the internet is] the only platform that works


URLs are here to stay

The death of the URL? Heck no!

As _why observed (can't find where), URLs are little pieces of hacking that have entered the mainstream.

Far beyond their intended use, scribbling them with lipstick on cocktail napkins, URLs have gone everywhere. Like on buses. And caps. Even to Texas.

I expect to see even more of them, everywhere.

(Interestingly, even ugly URLs work well, like YouTube's. People treat them as opaque most of the time, anyway.)


Social Networking is Hard

By this summer, we will (hopefully) see truly decentralized social networking. The challenges will be formidable.

Social networking introduces a surplus of sense into society, for which we are currently unprepared. Some examples:
  • What does it mean to "like" a horrible news story?
  • Do I really want to follow updates by my boss?
  • Will my boss be offended if I don't follow his updates?
  • etc ad infinitum
Basically, we're at a juncture in human communication, and we don't have answers to most of the questions raised. And we shouldn't expect to have them.

Rather, making sense of all the surplus sense produced by social networking will probably take generations.


The Coming Post-Platform Era

To understand the huge importance of Buzz, we have to look beyond the surface. If Facebook adopts the same mix of protocols as Buzz (and it looks as if they will), we'll be officially in the post-platfom era.

By this I mean, there will no longer be singular, imposing applications that capture people. Instead, the web will be a meta-platform of content flows, unencumbered by actual applications. (Example: LiveJournal/Buzz integration.)

If I am right, this will be the end of silos, and of the platform as we know it.

(One thing I don't understand yet is why Facebook would actually do that, except maybe to battle Twitter.)


Tricycles for the Mind

aslakr / CC BY 2.0
We began to feel as if we really were responsible for the successful, error-free perfect use of these machines. I don't think we are. I think we're responsible for stretching them, setting them off in new directions, and keeping fun in the house. — Alan Perlis
Steve has again shaken up the world of computing.

But the iPad is defeatism.

© Gary Larson

We can't make computers better by simply throwing stuff out.

I think this is the challenge for every self-respecting geek today:

Revive systems research.

It's certain that we can't get to the moon by piling up chairs, but it's even more certain that we can't get there with less chairs.

We shouldn't look at point solutions, but at the whole design space.

Let's not build tricycles, but bicycles for the mind.

Learning to ride a bike is not easy, but once you get the hang of it, you can ride around the world.



Tinkerer's High Noon

Oh please, there's never been a better time for tinkerers than NOW.

Today, every tinkerer can, for free:
  • Write applications that reach billions of people and thereby change society.
  • Develop applications that run on myriads of different devices, from watches to wall-sized screens.
  • Access, learn, and change the source code of real operating systems and applications that run on everything from smartphones to supercomputers.
  • Use an array of thousands of different programming languages, frameworks, APIs, and databases.
  • Access the knowledge of and get to know, personally, millions of experts in every area imaginable.
So just take the iPad for what it is, one more platform among dozens of interesting ones, and stop whining. And start tinkering.


Filling the Apple Vacuum

I think now would be a great time for a smart & nimble company to brand Apple as the computer for dummies, and produce some outstanding hardware/software combination that's targeted squarely at the digerati elite.

Unforch, the other players are even less Alan-Kay-style innovative than Apple.

The mind boggles.

(Update: Earl has a similar perspective.)



I, for one, welcome our new couch computing overlords.


Looking for the Super-Structure of Information Organization

An incomplete investigation into the be-all/end-all of information organization structures.

Successful Information Organization Structures

File Systems

Classical file systems have directories and files arranged in a tree.

Directories have dual roles: they contain files, and they provide a namespace for files.

File systems are frequently criticized, but containment and namespacing are critical features, so I don't believe they will ever go away.


The most prominent feature of wikis is the emphasis on naming and ergonomic linking, that is, links between pages can be created easily.

Some wikis provide backlinks, but for some reason these are usually not featured prominently.


Blogs put (reverse) chronology center stage, and have been hugely successful with that simple device.


Outlines, like directories, provide containment, but unlike directories, no namespacing.

Outlines are most useful for their graphical properties: collapsing stuff you don't want to see, and expanding stuff you want to see.


Databases' main features from an organizational perspective are that they usually store complex objects (tuples, documents, ...) and provide sorting by attribute and sometimes more complex queries.

Unlike the other systems, databases are usually of no use for ad-hoc work, and instead require programmers to create a user interface for the stored information.

Tagging Systems

Tagging systems associate keywords with items, and can return all items with one or more keywords.

Tagging systems can be viewed as a special case of search engines that only index terms the user has chosen for indexing, which leads to interesting social effects and good results in many cases (cf. Delicious).

Search Engines

Search engines take in a corpus of unstructured documents, and answer similarly unstructured queries, and usually employ ranking, such as PageRank.

Search engines are different from all the other systems, in that they don't require the user to organize information herself, but rather impose some organization of their own.

Typed Links

Systems that support typed links allow items to be connected arbitrarily with edges, and to follow incoming and outgoing edges from an item.

Spreadsheets (I can't believe I forgot those in the first version!)

Spreadsheets let you put data into a two-dimensional row/column form, and then filter, sort, and otherwise manipulate the data. Spreadsheets also come with formula libraries for doing a lot of different stuff.

Spreadsheets are often abused, but still a major workhorse of information organization.

Common Hybrids

Many attempts have been made to combine one or more of the above structures:

Outline + Database

Many advanced outliners let users add attributes to items, which are displayed in columns.

Wiki + Blog

"Bliki" systems are wikis that usually display a blog on their front page.

File System + Database

An example would be BeFS which indexes user-defined attributes on files.

Search Engine + Database

The goal here is to extend a search engine so that it can also answer queries for attributes of items, and interpret e.g. numeric attributes.

Wiki + Database

Wikis with database functions allow users to add attributes to pages, upon which one then can sort and filter pages.

Anything + Tagging System
Anything + Search Engine

Tagging systems and search engines can easily be added to any other structure.

Can we combine them all?

File System + Wiki + Blog + Outlines + Tags
+ Typed Links + Spreadsheet + Database + Search Engine

Let's get rid of wikis and blogs:

Wiki = File system with only one directory + Simple Linking

Blog = Database query for items, sorted by time

So, if we provide simple linking in the user interface, and keep file system and database functionality, we can drop wikis and blogs from the list.

File System + Outlines + Tags + Typed Links + Database + Spreadsheet + Search Engine

Let's get rid of outlines and tags, shall we?

Outline = Items have typed links to child items

Tagging = Items have typed links to tag items

This means, if we keep typed links, we can drop outlines and tags from the list:

While we're at it, we can also drop spreadsheets from the list, as

Spreadsheet = 2D view of items with attributes

Note that this doesn't cover every (ab)use of spreadsheets, but should do for now.

Super-Structure = File System + Typed Links + Database + Search Engine ???

To be continued...

(Yeah, I know, this isn't super-convincing just yet.)


Functional Reactive Feeds

I believe that this is how plugins on the web will work:
  1. Say you want to spell check a feed of entries.
  2. You add the spell checker service as a subscriber to your source feed.
  3. The spell checker publishes a results feed with one result entry for each source entry, correlated via the source entries' IDs.
  4. Your authoring tool subscribes to the results feed and displays the matching result entry directly below each source entry.
The display options are of course highly app-specific, and we'll want those feeds to be realtime enabled.


Google's Approach to Social for 2010:
a family of Google-supported technical standards that “are just about done”: OpenID, OAuth, OAuth WRAP, PoCo (portable contacts), Activity Streams, OpenSocial for Gadgets, OpenSocial wire protocols, PubSubHubBub, Salmon (to “let comments swim upstream”), WebFinger (see a person’s public feed of information) and the Social Graph API.
The Salmon project looks interesting, follow John Panzer's blog for updates.


Our Conceptual Dark Age of Man-Machine Interaction

Attention conservation notice: bitter rant about the sorry state of computing.
In this wonderful interview, physicist Carver Mead blasts the Copenhagen clan for their approach to quantum physics.
It's conceptual nonsense. You can calculate stuff with the theory, but the words people put around it don't make any sense. ... Once we lose the conceptual foundations, the whole thing becomes a shell game. There are very few conceptual workers left in the field.
Apple's original masterpiece, the 1984 Macintosh was a highly conceptual work.

It turned computers from beeping boxes with green-on-black screens to instruments the rest of us could use, to create art, music, graphics, etc. A complete sea change.

The classic Mac introduced a whole system of concepts in an intuitive retroactively obvious way:
  • desktop
  • pointer
  • windows
  • icons
  • containment
  • applications
  • documents
  • trash
  • ...
Unfortunately, Mac OS stopped innovating right there in 1984. (Mac OS X basically put new lipstick on an old pig.)

So, the Apple is rotten, and until they once again commit to conceptual development, this dirty old logo will hang upside down here.

(I won't even comment on the iPhone, which would be silly, except to weep a single bitter, loving tear for the Newton OS, the only significant conceptual work since 1984.)

That brings us to... Wave

The Initech references in Wave's documentation need to be taken seriously.

I have a history of criticizing Wave, but only because it is the most blatant example of conceptual nonsense to come out of the windy streets of Silicon Valley in a long time, and that's saying something.

Wave's conceptual contribution is zero. The only thing distinguishing Wave from previous systems is that you can see characters as they are typed. Yeah baby!

To end this rant on a more positive note, here are some concepts and systems that I'd like to see evolved and taken further:
  • hyperlinks and making them more accessible (e.g. hashtags)
  • wiki namespaces (the real innovation behind wikis)
  • extensible key-value metadata on everything (SuperTweets)
  • outliners
  • object-oriented drawings, like Newton did
  • web pipes
  • 2D barcodes
  • content-centric networking
  • a kind of 9P for the web
  • ... your concepts here
As Carver Mead says, Listen to the Technology.
I'm pinning my hopes on the Chinese to deliver us from Apple's 1960's design and Neolithic finger painting gridlock.

it's SMS that's the reason everything sucks on Twitter
Dave Winer
Chris Dixon: What's strategic for Google?
Here is my rough breakdown of the “layers in the stack” between humans and the money:

Human - device – OS – browser – bandwidth – websites - ads – ad tech – relationship to advertiser – $$$

At each layer, Google either wants to dominate it or commoditize it.


A quick rant on the stupid iPhone bubble

The iPhone may well be a nice computer. But that doesn't mean that every other phone is trying to be an iPhone-killer. That's just so dumb. Stop it! Already!

A quick rant on the stupid Facebook bubble

Facebook may well have 350 megausers. That doesn't mean that Facebook somehow owns the web, or even just identity on the web. Don't you get it, stupid other blogger? I'll laugh at your stupid posts, when Facebook is gone and forgotten.

‟Wolff Olins may be the punchline for many designers but, even if you don’t know it or care to admit it, they are having the last laugh.”
A designer for whom Wolff Olins is a punchline is one big oaf who's faker than plastic, a dictionary definition of the word spastic.
Thomas Lord again educates the young-uns:
The GNU vs. Sun "Tcl Wars" were almost a kind of epiphenomenon on the wider-spread, grass-roots rejection of Tcl as a language with a bright future. ...

First sign of how crazy things were, though: Were it not for that pushback, given that Sun and Netscape were negotiating to get Java in the client, we might all be using Tcl instead of Javascript in the browser! ...

"AI Winter" was thawing, but there was a lot of sloppy slush on the ground, conditions were icy, and a bitter, mindless wind still tore through the Valley.

Fortunately, that mindless wind is no longer tearing through the Valley!
a better system will come along in which demand drives supply at least as well as supply drives demand. In other words, when the “intention economy” outperforms the attention economy. Doc Searls


That which was product will become a service. That which was a service will accelerate at warp speed toward de-monetisation on the Path-to-Free. Bruce Sterling