March 2005 Archives

Sound familiar?

"Attention Deficit Trait" caused by the technologies of constant interruption:

Clive Thompson via Techdirt has a fascinating post on Attention Deficit Trait, a related sydrome to Attention Deficit Disorder, according to Dr. Edward Hallowell.
"It has basically the symptoms as ADD -- such as an inability to concentrate on one task at at time -- except it's context dependent.

ADT is caused by the technologies of constant interruption in the modern workplace and the modern home, such as email, instant messaging, SMSes, mobile phones, and endless meetings (or endless preplanned children's sports).

The thing that makes the two conditions different, he says, is that ADD seems to be hardwired, while ADT goes away when you're on vacation or in a relaxing, non-hyper-stimulated place."

I guess "trait" is better than "disorder", but I am weary of it being so labeled. This behavior is definitely environmental - as our tools are part of our environment - and contextual. Also, referring to them as "technologies of constant interruption" smacks of luddite old-folk speak; it just sounds negative, when it not necessarily is.

Or maybe it is. Maybe we can't get used to - and function efficiently with - constant formatted data input. I don't see why not though. I mean, we process constant raw data input (5 senses, +?). Language processing, be it aural or visual, is a hack* of our mind and thus requires more resources, but we should be able to adapt no?

I guess that's what we are doing. Well... some of us anyways... ;)

*Looking at a page of text and reading are very different. Hearing a person speak and listening are very different. I have always considered communication to be an intrusion of sorts; an insertion. Words carrying ideas inserted into my mind like hot needles... as opposed to individual experience and deduction of environment seeping in and steeping. ;)


Jim: Do you know what the best RSS reader for Windows is?
Me : ...
Me : i haven't even SEEN Windows in... gees... YEARS...
Jim: me either
Me : hehehehe
Jim: never used XP
Me : what's that?
Jim: hehe

Black tambourine

Two years ago Apple released a little snippet of code on its developer site called "Ascii Movie Player Sample". Basically you run it in the Terminal, feed it a Quicktime .mov and it plays it in ascii. Neat.

I heard that music labels are cutting back their artist promotion budgets ("because of the internet")... music video producers everywhere are gasping.

beck - black tambourine

Here's an example of how the environment shapes creativity, the market dictates fashion, the tools influence style.

(Of course this is also an example of how something can only be done once, or repeatedly only by the same "individual" before it becomes cliché. Another example of *that* is Apple's Saturated Colors iPod series of ads.)

(Beck link from Momus' Click Opera)

Employee of the month

Click opera - Employee of the month:

"People are strange when you're a stranger," sang Jim Morrison. They're even stranger when you're scrolling around a 1051x1557 pixel employee photograph on a corporate website.

Brilliantly, Momus deconstructs what otherwise would just seem a webmaster's silly oversight.

Design today

If you cannot communicate at first (or at most second) glance how I am to use this and what value I may get from doing so, then ... Ooooo look cows!

Let's expand on folksonomies

First of all, purely for background and some interesting ideas, the Wikipedia definition of "taxonomy".

Taxonomy (from Greek ταξινομία (taxinomia) from the words taxis = order and nomos = law) may refer to either a hierarchical classification of things, or the principles underlying the classification. Almost anything, animate objects, inanimate objects, places, and events, may be classified according to some taxonomic scheme.

and "folk taxonomy":

A Folk Taxonomy is a vernacular naming system, as opposed to a scientific naming system which is simply known as a Taxonomy or as a Scientific Taxonomy.

Folk Taxonomies are generated from social knowledge and are used in everyday speech. They are distinguished from scientific taxonomies that claim to be disembedded from social relations and thus objective and universal.

Anthropologists have observed that taxonomies are generally embedded in local cultural and social systems, and serve various social functions.

So, as I've said, I really think all this tagging stuff is great but will be much more interesting once we really start to do more integrating and more social stuff with them. Here's what I mean by that.

The current flat, one dimensionality of the tags-based info management tools we see today (, flickr, et al) is essentially "selfish" or "based on the individual"; the loner walking through the world ascribing his own names to the things he comes across. Sure the fact that those names are there for all to see and aggregated into intersected view (show me everything everybody marked as "funny"!) is neat, but not terribly useful for they lack context, increasingly, especially as the databases grow (and oh my are they growing).

The first thing I'd like to see are some basic true "folksonomies": taxonomies generated and maintained by folks. This of course creates a host of technological presuppositions, like personal tag management software/services and tag aggregation and dissemination. Even more tricky are the social and cultural ramifications, which we still suck at but can muddle our way through as always. ;)

Also, there are already a handful of folksonomic "tags" which are inherent to the system and/or the data in question: date & time stamps, media type, resource URI, ID3 tags (on MP3s)... any standardized-by-usage metadata really.

Key here is the understanding that nothing is forced; you either use the folksonomy or you don't, you either contribute to it or you don't. Up to you. Either way, it is very much like our transition from loose tribes to tight knit communities, with all the value - and headaches - that engenders. It is also consistent with the nature of true democracy, and social life: You have the right to not participate, but you have a duty to do so if you choose to benefit from it.


Artist: The Tragically Hip
Album: Road Apples

We wake up different, rifle through our dreams
Another placid day, ripples at the seams
Do you think I bow out cause I think you're right?
Or cause I don't wanna fight?

So tangle-minded then so becalmed
It's all so subway-grim and then it's gone
Do you think I bow out cause I think you're right?
Or cause I don't wanna fight?

We get so weary, taking fish off hooks
It's not as effortless as it may look
Do you think I bow out cause I think you're right?
Or cause I don't wanna fight?

We lay down seething, smell our pillows burn
And drift off to the place where you'd think we'd learn
Do you think I bow out cause I think you're right?
Or cause I don't wanna fight?
I said, I give

On comments

I wasn't going to say anything but just to make it clear: I have switched the default setting on this weblog for "Allow comments" to "None".

When I post something that I'd like feedback on, I'll turn comments on for that entry.

Emails are of course welcome and encouraged, and every page of this site has a handy "Contact me" link at the bottom. I'll eventually put something more "user friendly" in place, when I have time.

Why? Just because. Not all weblogs are conversations, and not everyone is interested in debating every little thing. Especially me.

Cheers and thank you for visiting.

Folk taxonomies

Fun with Hierarchical Controlled Vocabularies
Very cool, and could be very useful when everyone cools down from "OMG tags!" syndrome. Tags are great, and "folksonomies" are neat but I think, and surely others do too, we will not truly see tags shine until we combine and integrate them with other data classification, storage and retrieval systems... including oh-no-so-rigid hierarchies... and oh-my-so-soft full content indexing...

Time to dig up that data management graphing project I was beating myself about the head with last fall...

Politically correct in Quebec

(or "baladi-balado")

Ok some background. I live in Quebec, a predominantly francophone ("french speaking") province ("state") of Canada. The francophones here are ridiculously anxious about protecting "their culture" (while they love nothing more than buying american products and seeing their sons and daughters listen to american hip hop and heavay métale). Anyways, in an effort to "protect our language", some of our hard earned tax dollars are poured into an organisation called "L'Office de la Langue Française" ("The Office of the french language"). Never mind that the French, from France, laugh spuriously at us for this, and the anglophones refer to them as "The Language Police".

A-Ny-Ways. I must say I am impressed with how on the ball these bureaucrats are. They aren't sitting around on my 50% income tax and 15% sales tax! No sir-ee-bob!

Friends, I give you the official, politically correct translation for french Quebec... of PODCASTING:

Vous avez entendu parler du podcasting? Sans doute, si vous possédez déjà un baladeur iPod. L'Office québécois de la langue française vient tout juste, en cette fin d’octobre 2004, de proposer les termes, encore tout chauds, baladodiffusion et baladiffusion pour nommer en français cette nouvelle réalité.

La baladodiffusion est un mode de diffusion d'émissions de radio Internet qui permet à l’abonné aux fils d'information RSS (la version Internet du fil de presse utilisé dans le monde des médias) de télécharger automatiquement sur son ordinateur, à l'aide de logiciels spécialisés, les émissions de radio qu’il a préalablement sélectionnées, et par la suite de les transférer sur un baladeur numérique à disque dur afin de les écouter en différé.

Le terme anglais podcasting est un mot-valise qui a été formé à partir des syllabes finales des mots iPod (nom commercial d'un modèle de baladeur numérique à disque dur de la société Apple) et broadcasting. Les termes baladodiffusion et baladiffusion sont aussi des mots-valises; ils sont issus de la contraction de baladeur (en référence au iPod) et de radiodiffusion. Dans le cas de baladodiffusion, on a ajouté la lettre de transition o entre les deux formants. Ces termes ont été créés sur le modèle de radiodiffusion, télédiffusion et webdiffusion.

Sadly you need to read french to get the hilarity of this. However, as I said, this is impressive, if not for their choice of translation, but for the fact that they cranked this out back in October 2004, they actually explain what it is, complete with an analogy of RSS as being the Internet version of news feeds, and also displaying their pride in "naming in french this new reality".

Aaron suggests, and I agree, we should petition to have the word changed to "Pataticasting". This would make it truly quebecois.
("Patate" is joual/slang for potato.)

Firefox behavioral mystery solved

So, I had mentioned a while back that I was seemingly unable to get Firefox to run on my system. I had tried everything and basically given up.

Then, "miraculously", one day, it worked. Now, I haven't switched from Saf "Memory Hog from Hell" Ari, mainly for little User Experience things I've come to take for granted, not to mention my large URL autocomplete history and reeeaaams of passwords/cookies...

I found the culprit. I had been running CodeTek's excellent Virtual Desktop app for a long time. Without some sort of virtual desktop, I would surely kill myself. For some reason, at some point a few weeks/months back, I switched to "Desktop Manager". It seemed smaller and quicker. It was missing a few features which I was starting to really get annoyed at the lack of, so just now I decided to switch back to Virtual Desktop. Bam. Firefox started chocking again. "No frikkin' way" sez I.

"Yes frikkin' way" sez Google.

if you are a fan of Mozilla's Firefox browser and/or Thunderbird email client, you should know that versions 0.8-1.0 of both are incompatible with CodeTek Virtual Desktop 3.1. I've heard mixed reports about other windows managers, but it appears that Firefox works fine in many window managers other than CTVD. The problems include an inability to type text in the Firefox windows, focus on the windows, or use Firefox in any way. For quite a while CodeTek will not even reply to emails on the topic, but it appears they have had a change of heart and now say they are testing a fix and hope to release new version (3.2) by early March.

I can only hope CodeTek keeps it's promise and releases 3.2 soon so I can get back to using VirtualDesktop, which I paid for, and who's drag between screens and easy "dammit which desktop is that window in again? Oh right there it is!" features make it a lifesaver...


Why not... Here's a 30 minute mix of some stuff in my playlists.

Like Eating Glass - Bloc Party - Silent Alarm
Peach, Plum, Pear - Joanna Newsom - Walnut Whales
Destroy Rock 'N' Roll - Mylo - Destroy Rock & Roll
Search and Destroy - Iggy and the Stooges - The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou OST
Galvanize (Feat. Q-Tip) - The Chemical Brothers - Push The Button
Millionaire feat Andre 3000 - Kelis - Tasty
Tokyo - Books - The Lemon Of Pink
回復する傷 - Lily Chou Chou - 呼吸 OST

Cheers. :)


  1. RSS Enclosures is NOT in effect. I'm rolling my own RSS feed at the moment and, like, yeah right, I'm gonna go futz with that now.

  2. 128kbps MP3, to keep it smallish and dissuade piracy.

  3. I did my best to equalize volumes across tracks but hell I go from some zithery plinka plinka to Iggy Pop. Be warned. Also I think the overall playing volume may be a tad low... heh.

Thoughts on the legality of this:
Sure I'm providing full tracks here, liiightly sequenced, in poor quality settings. If you REALLY wanted to, you could convert it to AIFF, chop em out and re-export them to MP3. But that's a fair amount of work and you end up with crap, sans metadata. I figure, there are about 20-30 of you out there "listening" to this. If anything, this may incite you to seek out what you liked... and buy it. Or spark up your P2P app of choice. But that's your problem, not mine. ;)

Flavormakers we be.

Interesting concept...

Oh I really like this idea, alot, in terms of "something to do and a way of doing it".

There must be a market for outsourced skunkworks developers. You have an idea, you want a working prototype, who do you turn to?

Hrm hrm hrm.


Just came across Tagsurf. Haven't wrapped my head around it yet but having registered and logged in (the registration process is made difficult by a barely legible capcha), it looks to be very powerful.

I guess one way to describe what I *think* this is about is URL tagging + annotation + access control + Flickr style goodies + customization + filtering/custom views + RSS for everything... for "topics".

Seems brand spanking new so there isn't much in it yet. Gonna play for a few days see where it goes.

Update 1:
So I'm using it to annotate stuff I find, be it news articles, blog entries, neat stuff... URLs basically - and you all can comment ("reply") to my annotations, or trackback to them from your weblog. It's on steroids, and so much more. I can trackback to whatever it is I'm writing about (if the source accepts incoming pings), you can use it as a comment system for your own blog if you wish, or as a blog in and of itslef. You can track topics, discussions on specific topics or specific URLs, tag everything system wide or just for yourself, select a copyright license for your notes...

LOTS of features... and amazingly, with a totally spartan UI, it is still quite usable; you just have to play with it to "get it".

Ohhh... community trust meters! :)

Update 2:
Here is a Bookmarklet for easily adding stuff to Tagsurf.
Duh, they have their own Bookmarklets already done:

Wallpaper advertising

I damn near just fell off my seat. I have never seen a website's background be used for advertising before...


"Evil genius". I feel ill.

Now what?

So AOL has updated it's Terms Of Use for AIM:

Although you or the owner of the Content retain ownership of all right, title and interest in Content that you post to any AIM Product, AOL owns all right, title and interest in any compilation, collective work or other derivative work created by AOL using or incorporating this Content. In addition, by posting Content on an AIM Product, you grant AOL, its parent, affiliates, subsidiaries, assigns, agents and licensees the irrevocable, perpetual, worldwide right to reproduce, display, perform, distribute, adapt and promote this Content in any medium. You waive any right to privacy. You waive any right to inspect or approve uses of the Content or to be compensated for any such uses.

(eWeek article)

It's bad enough that so much of our communications are going though their systems as it is, now they have the balls to claim they own it.

Just what kind of derivative work can AOL produce from millions of Instant Messages a day? Why, keywords of course. How much do you think a marketing exec would pay to know that his top brand was mentioned X more times today than his competitor? Hrmm? Homeland security would love a daily report of how often someone said "bomb" or "ok, we're set" in the last hour...

It's really too bad that IM didn't develop the same infrastructure as email, where every ISP would handle the account for you, every hosting package came with a IM server built in, etc... Just like mail and www now. Can it still be done? Is it perhaps Jabber's time, now that AOL could conceivably experience a mass exodus, now that there is a plethora of IM clients available, and that even the next version of iChat will support it? Hrm. Is there a business model which could run such a service?

The King of Yet-Also

Momus gives us this fantastic essay about Michael Jackson:
Nota: This is not about your or my or anyone's morals.

One of the reasons the Michael Jackson trial is so unfortunate is that the world of Either-Or will pass judgment on a creature of Yet-Also. The world of clear, unambiguous categories will pass judgment on someone who flies Peter-Pan-like over the binaries that confine and define the rest of us.


Consider all the extraordinary ways in which Michael Jackson is Yet-Also. He's black yet also white. He's adult yet also a child. He's male yet also female. He's gay yet also straight. He has children, yet he's also never fucked their mothers. He's wearing a mask, yet he's also showing his real self. He's walking yet also sliding. He's guilty yet also innocent. He's American yet also global. He's sexual yet also sexless. He's immensely rich yet also bankrupt. He's Judy Garland yet also Andy Warhol. He's real yet also synthetic. He's crazy yet also sane, human yet also robot, from the present yet also from the future. He declares his songs heavensent, and yet he also constructs them himself. He's the luckiest man in the world yet the unluckiest. His work is play. He's bad, yet also good. He's blessed yet also cursed. He's alive, but only in theory.

Do try to read the whole thing. I'd reprint it here but am weary of such things. Go go... it's a Peter Pan story!

Why "blogging" sucks

The National Debate: Why "Blogging" Sucks

So-called "bloggers" are just "writers". I am a writer. You might think I am a bad writer, or even a terrible writer. My wife thinks I am a good writer but she may not be entirely objective. Sometimes when I write I use simplified content-management software often referred to as "blogware". I wrote a draft of this post on a legal pad. I am now typing my draft into Microsoft Word to edit my post and spell-check it. Later I will copy and paste the text into Movable Type and publish it on my web site, During this process am I also a "paperer"? or a "Worder"? If I print my Word document and fax it to Timbuktu am I a "faxer". Why then, when my writing appears on my web site, am I a "blogger". Since when does the tool I use to express my thoughts define me? To quote the always articulate Oliver Willis, "that's stupid".

Bravo. Time to wake up and get on with it.


I need information about setting up a non-profit organization in Canada. What do I need to do, who do I need to talk to?

Any and all info is much appreciated! :)
(Too busy to STFW myself just now, asking for your help!)

Just how blinding is greed?

It's incredible how every day, they seem to push the gap between the rich and the poor ever wider open...

AlterNet: Open Fire On U.S. Consumers

So what does the bill do? It makes it harder for average people to file for bankruptcy protection; it makes it easier for landlords to evict a bankrupt tenant; it endangers child support payments by giving a wider array of creditors a shot at post-bankruptcy income; it allows millionaires to shield an unlimited amount of value in homes and asset protection trusts; it makes it more difficult for small businesses to reorganize, while opening new loopholes for the Enrons of the world; it allows creditors to provide misleading information; and it does nothing to reign in lending abuses that frequently turn manageable debt into unmanageable crises. Even in failure, ordinary Americans do not get a level playing field.

And how shamelessly corporation-states are getting involved in the only most financially self-serving aspects of government...

Who Wrote Illinois SB1700??? The Quest for the Guilty Party Continues...

I've been tracking down the actual authors of SB1700 and have now received independent confirmation from several sources that this state law wasn't written by a legislator at all. It now appears that SBC lobbyists are directly responsible for the language of the law -- in other words, this law appears to have been written, word-for-word by the major telecom industry that it's supposed to regulate. If this proves to be true (and I'm still looking for confirmation on the individual names and affiliations of the law's authors), it would represent an incredibly cynical machination on the part of the telecom incumbents and any legislator who supports this bill.

(Thx Steven for the links)

No show


Some of you have asked, and just so everyone else knows: no, unfortunately I am not going to make it to Austin for SxSW this year. Just can't pull it off. No stimulating conversations, no good parties, no beef ribs and tortilla soups...

Seeing the Flickr streams is gonna hurt. :\

Forbes copy writer has odd sense of humor

From the Forbes 400 Richest in America 2004 writeup of Pierre Omidyar:

Former computer programmer launched online auctioneer Ebay in 1995. Today the world's biggest dot-com ($62 billion market capitalization), which lets consumers bid on everything from arcane Americana to Iraqi dinars.

Millions of people buying and selling worthless junk... at least Pierre spends his money to do good. ;)

VoIP FUD advertising

Ed Bilodeau found this new ad campaign by Bell Canada:

Bell has launched an ad campaign to make people believe that VoIP telephone services over cable are not reliable.

"It's a food-chain ecosystem," says I, "introduce a new species and it either eats everyone else, or tries to fuck 'em..."

Anyways, corner an animal and it'll fight to the death. Show it you have some food and you are willing to share and hey you're best friends. "Lets work together."

I just remembered something. The irony here is that Bell has been offering VoIP corporate services for at least 2 years now. Also, they spent the later part of the 90's laying fiber optic all over the greater Montreal downtown area (Plateau included), and are just sitting on it. They need a better marketing plan...

Music makers WANT to share

Creative Commons search index breakdown:

It appears that people licensing audio have chosen to offer more liberal terms than average while those licensing still and moving images have chosen less liberal terms than average.

And THAT, my friends, is VERY telling. VERY telling indeed. I'm looking at you, "the music industry".

(This also make me think out loud about the dichotomy between the aural and the visual "brainframes" and how we, as a culture spurned on by electricity, are moving from the latter to the former.)

The Choice

The intellect of man is forced to choose
perfection of the life, or of the work,
And if it take the second must refuse
A heavenly mansion, raging in the dark.

When all that story's finished, what's the news?
In luck or out the toil has left its mark:
That old perplexity an empty purse,
Or the day's vanity, the night's remorse.

- W.B. Yeats

(thnx to Mike & Josh for reminding me)

Using AJAX and a small private key to thwart comment spam

Does this make sense? It assumes your weblog system allows you to define a small, say 5 character, private encryption key, or even generates one for you. You don't need to know it really cause only the system ever uses it...

Then, you have an AJAX javascript watching your comment field. As soon as it detects keystrokes in it, say 3 or 4, it sends a behind the scenes request to the weblog server for a public key. This key would be generated on the fly using the private key aaaand... say a timestamp. The server would of course need to store the request and the key it generated at this point:

Entry ID # 00345 requested a key at 20050503202312
keygen: j3eJ7%G9U#5G7J*,
awaiting match...

Anyways, so at this point, using the AJAX and the DOM, the comment form now has a uniquely created "passkey", without which the server will not accept the comment...

Obviously this assumes the commenter has Javascript enabled but let's be honest here... it is 2005. If you've disabled JS in your web browser you're a freak 'n luddite. ;)

Hrmmm... hehehe I should've put a disclaimer saying "this was just a quick idea which made my head hurt to think about and I figured I'd just put it up there"... ;)
Thanks for the feedback all, whichever response channel you used! :)

Mike Durcak Photographs

Quick plug for my good friend Mike Durcak's photography exhibit "vernissage" this evening at Blizz.

Mike converted my apartment into a studio (and presumably a party central ;), while I was away last month, in preparation for this show. I will, of course, be there. (But come for the pics!)

Non-Disclosure Agreement

After not even hearing the words for well over 3 years, today I was faced with no less than two prospective NDA's to sign. I haven't yet.

Reading over the one I did get sent to me, I am struck by how... inhuman... it is. Essentially, the NDA says "We, Corporation X, are interested in shoving some data into your CPU and RAM, but by no means may you add this data to your memory, at least not for five years."

In other words, in exchange for the chance to make some money, I relinquish my "self" and serve as a dummy processor.

This makes me uneasy in the extreme. The cost of doing business is relinquishment of self.
I left the corporate world over this. I think I may turn down two very lucrative contracts over it as well.


Pssst.... over here...
(Sneaky buggers)

I think...

I got a machine
And I took over the world
In one weekend
I took over the world
With my machine
I did it because
I was looking for a project
And it was either
Take over the world or learn French
So I took over the world
And next weekend
I can learn French
I got a machine
And I took over the world
But nothing changed
That wouldn't be fair
steven: hahaha
bopuc: Violent Femmes "machine"
steven: you've posted that before
bopuc: prolly
steven: yes on your blog
steven: i remember
bopuc: yup
bopuc: i repeat myself
steven: fuck i have 1337 memory
bopuc: i have very little onboard memory left
steven: you need a transplant ;)
bopuc: IMplant
steven: how much ROM would be enough?
bopuc: 5-6 terabytes
steven: for what? pr0n?!?
bopuc: that would last me for a year or so...
bopuc: dude... everythign I see, everything I hear?
bopuc: indexed...
bopuc: cross referenced
steven: compress it
bopuc: hahahahaa
steven: indexes and refs are just strings of text
bopuc: u realise this is what the brain does...
steven: pics and vids and sound are your prollem
steven: and thoughts
steven: holy fuck yeah, thoughts
bopuc: language is what ties our memory together
bopuc: memory is a product of language
steven: but those ties are just tiny strings between the big files
bopuc: language creates relationships between data objects
steven: like unix links
steven: right
steven: sorry
bopuc: hence, Semantic Web.
bopuc: SemWed/RDF is all about triplets: object <->relationship <-> object
bopuc: it's a graph
bopuc: a graph of URIs
bopuc: fuck. I just understood it. jesus.
steven: glad someone did
bopuc: hahaha
steven: but each object can have several relationships to other objects, or even the same object, right?
bopuc: yup
bopuc: it's a web...
bopuc: :D
steven: like, both of these are white, and they are both round
bopuc: IT'S A WEB
steven: I HEARD YOU ;)
steven: just trying to "see what you see" :p
bopuc: the W3C is a cult...