Thursday, August 28, 2003

Tech News -
OK, so I might have posted too soon. After talking briefly about corporeal de-referencing, he goes on to kind of say that it was so 90s. That because of things like SARS and post 9/11 racial profiling that body referencing is back in. Still the previous idea is an interesting one. I think his longer term view seems to be the original point and that, as on many issues, societies tend to cycle between opposing views.
Tech News -
"Coporeal de-referencing" is how Steve Mann describes the simlarities between cyborg rights and the fight for rights by gays and minorities. Its an interesting twist on the nature of the depate when put in this context. I have always thought about racial equality or women's equality as being discussions about race not being relevant or sex not being relevant. But the way Steve Mann puts it, it is really about the body not being relevant. Racial equality means that the race of the person's body should not be a factor in societal rights such as jobs, pay, voting, etc. In his ongoing experiment with wearable computing and augmented sight, he has on numerous occasions been the victim of discrimination for looking or being different. In his view, if you follow his argument, if we as a society feel that the body should not play a role in social discrimination than the ultimate expression of this is full rights for a being that is mostly, if not entirely... a cyborg. Intersting

Thursday, July 24, 2003

Maybe I should write for the Register UK too | A Whole Lotta Nothing
Interesting posting by Matthew Haughey (of Metafilter fame) about how blogs are starting to distort Google search results. Basically, blogs and bloggers tend to do most of what Google looks for in relevant pages as part of their standard practices. This is tending to make blogs about commercial (and other) topics (eg. a PVR blog by Haughey) appear higher in search results than any of the official company sites (eg. Tivo).

Haughey has designed lots of interesting sites and has some great work to show on his site.

Wednesday, July 16, 2003

Interesting editorial about whether or not the fisaco over the inclusion of forged intelligence in Bush's State-of-the-Union address will continue to mushroom or not. I like his observation that when it comes to scandals, "Little things hook big fish: tax evasion for Al Capone, a minor stock trade for Martha Stewart, a sexual dalliance for Bill Clinton."

He also comments that Bush seems to be doing things in reverse...
-- tax cuts for the wealthy (not the poor) during a recession,
-- ramping up troop deployments after the Iraq War
-- and covering-up the intelligence scandal before it took hold.

I'm not sure he's right about the cover up. I think there have been many scandals that have started work on the cover-up before anyone knew there was a scandal. Watergate wasn't immediately public but they sure tried to hide who was behind the break-in.

Monday, July 14, 2003

Intelligence Unglued This story on the Alternet website sheds some interesting light on the whole faulty intelligence blunder in the Bush Whitehouse. It is basically covering an open memo written by a bunch of former CIA analysts. It is clearly well researched and makes it fairly clear that there were some agendas getting in the way of what seem to have been well known truths. Their main point is that it was well known by US intelligence that the document regarding Iraq trying to purchase uranium from Niger was a forgery. But the Bush Whitehouse (and specifically Cheney) used it anyway because it better made their case for war.

It reminded me of this open letter written in 2002 by Michael Moore about George W. Bush and Enron. After the collapse of Enron, Bush denied any friendship with Kenneth Lay, the CEO of Enron. What I found interesting in Moore's letter was his extremely effective use of hyperlinks. Each time he would point out a statement that Bush made about Enron or Kenneth Lay, the statement would be hyperlinked to a story in some mainstream (often in Texas!) press website that made it clear that what Bush had said was not true. (eg. if he didn't know Kenneth Lay what was Lay doing letting George Bush borrow the Enron corporate jet).

Both stories made me think of what it will be like when blogs link to broadband content. So, someone like Michael Moore will write a letter that will string together a bunch of audio or video clips that will create a half hour television show that you can watch at your own pace and pause and rewind the smoking gun moments. Or maybe the former CIA spooks will string together a bunch od declassified intelligence documents along with some real-time satellite feeds from the Middle East that show what the real situation is or was. It's going to get interesting. It will be interesting to see how conservatives and liberals use the technology differently. Maybe one side will link to all facts that bore the hell out of mainstream audiences while the other side will link to a bunch of emotionally charged but factually inaccurate clips. Oh wait, I think they do that now.

Friday, July 11, 2003

MID-TOKYO MAPS Really interesting map site with lots of cool interactivity and comparisons of Tokyo to other cites around the world. very cool.
GeoPhoenix, Interesting company offering zoomable interfaces for small-scale products like PDAs. It seems very similar to some stuff I worked on at my company about 5 years ago. We had many of the same ideas but the portable products weren't able to handle the all the necessary processing yet. I was also sent this link today for a company called TerraDigital. If you click on the TerraTouch demo you'll see that they are also creating a zoomable interface for their home jukebox software. The originator of all of this was, Professor Ben Bederson (along with a few other software engineers). Ben is now at the Universoty of Maryland. Here is a link to his section on Zoomable User Interfaces (ZUI's

Thursday, July 10, 2003

This weekend, we're heading to Tomales Bay. Its only an hour North of San Francisco but worlds away in spirit. We're going to stay at the Holly Tree Inn's Sea Star Cottage. Can't think of the last time I went to sleep with the sound of the ocean/bay nearby. Its such an amazing, relaxing experience to hear the waves as your falling a sleep... wish I could do it more often.

On Saturday, we're going kayaking on the Bay. We're renting kayaks from Blue Waters Kayaking. As long as there's isn't too much wind, the Bay is an amazing place to kayak. There are birds, seals (sometimes), an old indian camp and a slowly decaying artist colony (the buildings are decaying, the artists are all gone).

Pt. Reyes is an amazing place to hike, camp, walk the beach etc. There are so many different aspects to it. There are cattle ranches left over from before it became a National Seashore. There is a great lighthouse at the "point" of Pt. Reyes. Tomales Bay is a long, tranquil, protected bay while the surf rages on the sides facing the Pacific. Beautiful.

Monday, July 07, 2003 - Complications hit twins' surgery - Jul. 7, 2003: "Laden and Laleh Bijani"
Watching the news about the surgery to separate Laden and Laleh Bijani, the conjoined Iranian twins got me thinking about my twin nieces. It just so happens that they are being physically separated while one of them goes on a summer exchange program to Ghana.

My nieces are neither conjoined nor identical. They are fraternal twins and have quite independent personalities. But, since they are only in their teens, it might be the longest they have ever been apart from each other. Both events occurring at the same time really got me thinking about what it must be like to separate from your twin. For the Bijani Twins, the effort comes with the un-imaginable risk of losing your twin sister so that you might live. I can't imagine what it must be like... the conversations they had to have. They probably share so many thoughts and yet must each contemplate their own personal preferences while caring so deeply for the other.

My father was a twin. His (non-twin) brother used to say that when Ted got hurt that Ned (my father) would cry. I wonder what it must be like for Bijani twins right now. I hope the surgery goes well. As for my nieces, I get to see one of them in two weeks and can ask her then.
Emerging Technology: Who Loves Ya, Baby? Interesting article about Social Network Mapping by Steven Johnson. It includes work being done by Valdis Krebs, called InFlow that maps organizational relationships. It also covers some research being done by Judith Donath and her team at the MIT Media Lab called, Social Network Fragments. The article uses a reference from Kurt Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle to capture the goal of both efforts. The idea that throughout the world, there are formal organizations (called Granfalloons in Vonnegut's book) that are easy to recognize but often ineffective and informal organizations (referred to as karasses) that are difficult to discern but often highly effective. The classic example of the latter is a successful but temporary project team made up of individuals from multiple organizations.

The most interesting example from Johnson's article was Kreb's work in mapping Amazon purchasing circles. According to Johnson,
"Krebs used InFlow to analyze the network of book purchases surrounding two best-selling titles, one from the left (Michael Moore's Stupid White Men) and one from the right (Ann Coulter's Slander)." What he found was that there was almost no overlap between the people and the titles they purchased. The one exception was Bernard Lewis' "What Went Wrong" a book about the collapse of relations between the Arab World and the West. It is particularly interesting to note that the area of common interest (terrorism) is itself based on temporary "karass" organizations that come together informally to accomplish a task.

This is such an interesting area for me. It seems to be such an active area and one that is empowered by computing and the networked world. Napster, Friendster, Instant Messaging all seem to be leveraging the power of the personal netowrked computer to make visible (and harvest) what was before invisible or at least eclipsed by more dominant hiearchies.

Wednesday, July 02, 2003

An Atlas of Cyberspaces
Cool inventory of cyberspace visualizations. Its interesting to see the range of explorations from literal geographic interpretations to complete abstraction. Most seem to better at creating interesting visualizations than interfaces that can be acted on. Still, I can see some interesting possibilities for the future.

Tuesday, July 01, 2003

Mr Wong's Soup'Partments
This is what I wrote to an architect friend about Mr. Wong's Soup Apartments... "an interesting example of a vertical city that I think is quite functional. Each unit in the building has been designed by the inhabitant... a great example of participatory design. I think this is solid proof that vertical cities are a viable endeavor... and this is just one building.

You'll see that it is also mixed-use supporting residential, commercial and municipal functions. It also learned from Las Vegas (and Times Square) in its ability to use the building as a communication medium including a variety of comments about our current social condition."
Mr Wong's Soup'Partments
Really cool site... the world's tallest virtual building. Each floor is designed and submitted by people from around the world. Great details and social commentary on each floor. Mr. Wong's rules of posting are also an idiosyncratic blend of social responsibility ("no porn" "no advertising your company") and retro CG aesthetic ("no photos, only pixel art"). I think there is something to be learned here for the World Trade Center competition.

Monday, June 30, 2003

Inside the car, inside your mind

I learned a new word today… endogenous. It means, “produced or growing from within”… especially as it refers to activity within a living cell. The word, and its opposite, exogenous, was in an article about cell phones and driving. Basically making the point that endogenous thought (like letting your mind wander while you are driving) is one of the things that can cause you to react slower to what is happening on the road.

The article was reporting on a psychology study in Spain on what factors affect driver attention. They tested a number of scenarios including cell phone use. They found that although distractions obviously impair driving that many people are quite capable of dividing their attention and still driving effectively. What was interesting is that they said that in some ways, city driving is safer than country driving. In city driving, there is so much going on externally that it tends to command your attention. This makes it hard for the mind to wander and suggests to most (unfortunately, not all) of us that it’s a bad time to be on the phone. In contrast, driving on a quiet country road without other cars around is the perfect condition to encourage endogenous thinking.

I think this is so true for the creative process. It’s so hard to be creative when you’re surrounded by external stimulus and noise. About a month ago, I had a few hours on a Saturday, so I drove over to the local beach here in San Francisco. I brought a book with me. I read for a while but then I just sat and watched the waves roll in. I wasn’t really thinking about anything. But that is exactly when the new ideas started coming to mind. It started with a completely random association with what I had just been reading but then took off from there. Endogenous… it’s a little clinical, but I like the word. I’m going to try it on my wife the next time she says I wasn’t listening.

Sunday, June 29, 2003

Saw this article on Tech Central Station by Arnold Kling about the diminishing role of software in a future of wirelessly connected devices.

He uses an interesting metaphor of centrifugal and centripetal forces. Centripital forces were at work in the personal computer age where the more integration the better in terms of price, performance and reliability. In the coming era, wireless communication will create centrifugal forces that will pull hardware apart into multiple components that talk to each other as needed. He also makes the point that the focus of our interaction will move from being document focussed (the Xerox legacy) to being transaction focussed.

While I agree with the above points, he also predicts that software will become commoditized in this new hardware focussed world. This I am not so sure about. I work for a company that feels the pain of hardware commodification. I do feel that hardware will gain renewed value as it solves more of the unique needs of users in the wireless world. But, I also feel that software will not diminish in value. There are still so many problems to be solved. How do people want to interact or transact in this new world of ad-hoc device communications? How do people want to interact with each other through the devices? How will security and copyrights be managed? How does one device create an appropriate interface for the services offered by another? These are tough problems that don't even begin to address the range of solutions that could be created for the variety of users (young, old, novice, expert, bad eyesight, etc.).

The centrifugal forces seem to be already in play as evidenced by the variety of forms being explored in cell phones, PDAs and portable AV devices. But, there seems to be plenty of work ahead for both hardware and software designers.
We're looking for a house in San Francisco. My thought for the day... The bubble is about to burst.

Saturday, June 28, 2003

First post... writing from home in San Francisco. Last 2 days have been really hot. The streets were full, the bars were packed. San Francisco changes when the wind blows in from Sacramento.