October 2005 Archives

BBC catalogue begins development

Biddulph and Hammersley are on the case.

Screenshot 1 (Searching for "John Peel") and screenshot 2 ("John Peel's contributer page")

I think I would have dropped everything to play on this project too. Sigh. ;)

My favorite line in Biddulph's entry is:

"Nearly a million programmes are catalogued, with descriptions, contributor details and annotations drawn from a wonderfully detailed controlled vocabulary."

Ahhhh structured data.

And from Mr.Hammersley:

it’s all developed in Ruby on Rails, and has oodles of Ajax, and tags, and RDF, and FOAF, and Sparklines, and Microformats, and just about everything else we can fit in. If you’re a Semantic Web or Microformat bod who wants a particular feature, email me and I’ll see what I can do.

I am very pleased by these two entries, the fact that the BBC archive is happening aside; both guys mention traditionally defined as Semantic Web tech, like RDF and FOAF, alongside the young whippersnapper "Web 2.0" stuff like "AJAX" and... uh... what's the other... oh yeah Microformats. (heeeheheeee... I am gleeful to notice just now, no mention of "RSS" and "OPML"! Yay!!!) All done in the programming language Ruby, using one of it's web-app frameworks, Ruby on Rails. (I tried getting into 'rails but just couldn't grok the environment. "Hunh? Better to not use Apache? Hunh? I need to initialize an instance? Whaaa?" Oh well. Django, the Python equivalent seems much simpler...)

I digress... point is, I'm glad the dust is settling and we are seeing that it's all good and let's move forward just building cool stuff. Right? Right.

So, as Manuel would say: "Yes! You... Men! Work."

Short notice

Ok ok. So yeah it's my birthday. 31.
This is official notification to all of you, that I will be at Laïka (4040 St-Laurent) from 7pm onwards.

Do drop by if you are so inclined. They serve foods, café and drinks of all kinds. ;)

It snowed on my birthday

Is this uncharacteristically early? I can't remember. I was walking around at 3am again and it was snowing. "Slushing" more like. The kind of snow that melts on contact with the ground. It was quite stormy actually; a transparent snowstorm in October.

Here we goooo

Bopuc at Joi's

So like... where is everyone?
(I will write more about this later... seriously weird stuff.)


Keyword Hierarchies

(This screen cap is from a demonstration of Keyword Hierarchies - a.k.a Tag Bundles, label pools, etc - and how you can apply selected keywords to multiple images at once. It also shows a surfer in a meta-hoola-skirt, surfing a bank of photos...)

This is really interesting. I firmly believe that with each media-application Apple puts out, it is learning more and more about how large quantities of data can and need to be stored and retrievable.

The latest is Aperture. A software package "made for professional photographers." I ain't no professional photographer but I'm *this* close to running out and getting a new quad G5 PowerMac just so i can run this application!

But I digress. The data object navigation features that have me applauding can be seen demonstrated on the Aperture Quicktours screen, by clicking on the "Professional Project Management" selection.

They nail multi-facetted navigation full-on. Datestamp navigation, taxonomies, implicit labels (most system generated metadata) as well as explicit labels ("keywords" and "keyword hierarchies!!!").

The only thing missing, it seems, is relationships/triplets. But I bet that Apple will release SOME new media application in the next year that will finally include relationship definitions as well.

Immersive Web

About a week ago I went for chinese food with Michael. We hadn't seen each other in a few weeks and Mike had just returned from what seemed like a very exciting trip to Europe. He recounted parts of his trip and his recent move, and once we had finished, the carbo-coma kept us in our seats. As I poured us some more tea, I said to him: "so, I've been thinking about this thing lately... the Immersive Web."

Disclaimer: I am fully aware that there are loads of people who have been thinking about this stuff for a long time, who naturally know waaaay more than I do, etc etc. And while I've taunted Joi about his recent World of Warcraft "research", I trust implicitly that he knows what he's doing and doing it for good reasons. (No seriously. But I just had to link that PotatoChopped picture ;)

In a nutshell, what I mean by Immersive Web, is the combination of everything we know about 3D, virtual reality, networked "video games" and Open Source software projects, Open Standards, interoperability, accessibility, "self publishing", sharing and the whole kit-and-kaboodle linked with URLs.

Michael got really really excited and made it very clear that he definitely thought this was a very very important topic and one he had been thinking about for a long time. I knew he had some involvement with the 3D/games stuff through GameCode, but didn't realize it was something he held so close. Sometimes stuff goes over my head... or... in one ear and out the other... ;) I should also add that Michael's web-handle is mtl3p: "Montreal third place".

Fast forward to this afternoon: I am sitting in the conference room at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society, at the tail end of a Fellows meeting and the topic slowly shifts to "virtual worlds like Second Life and such". Some words fly out of my mouth, some hand gestures are made, some glances are thrown and all of a sudden I have volunteered Ethan and myself to write a 2 page paper on how/why Berkman should get involved in online virtual spaces, or something like that. Wahoo!

I shoot an email to Michael telling him such. Thirty minutes later he replies: "wow." "Goes fast doesn't it" I send back. A few minutes later my phone rings and it's him of course. "So, you at home? Whatcha doing?" "Dude, I'm at Berkman..."

Hehehehe. Then something funny happened, and I did something I haven't told him I did yet. Michael starts explaining why he thinks that my naming it "Immersive Web" is very very important. He is VERY excited as he is explaining this to me... so I switch my phone to speaker mode, letting Ethan listen in. ;)

Now, Michael does a really great job of explaining the socio-politcal and cultural ramifications of all this stuff and the naming, but I also needed to express an actual scenario of how I see an end product of "Immersive Web".

It came to me in two pieces; the first on the way to dinner, talking with Ethan, and the second walking back to the hotel after dinner, talking with Rebecca.

First of all, it should be relatively easy for me to upload and setup my own little "virtual place" on a server somewhere, the same way I can upload and install a weblog today. It shouldn't matter which "vendor" or "package" or "distribution" I choose, it should be able to be part of the greater community; the same way it doesn't matter, as Rebecca correctly pointed out, if I use Movable Type, WordPress, TypePad or Blogger to blog: I can still publish HTML and various RSS feeds, leave comments and have comments left for me, be aggregated and searched and most importantly, I can link and be linked to (that's what the Web *IS*).

Ethan pulled at the logic and we arrived at the question: "ok so what do we do with this?" 3D chat avatars are hold hat. Yawn, been there done that, right?

I emailed a scenario of use to Michael stating thusly:

"Let's say I want to share with you what it's like to stand at Hachiko Square in Shibuya, Tokyo. In a full featured and flexible immersive web environment, I could pull together various "media" from my personal archive and construct a very personal view/experience, pulling together perhaps a Google Earth/Map type of geo visualization, stitch in a bunch of photos I may have taken, a few other people have taken (pulled in dynamically via RSS feeds of tags from Flickr for example, and made available to me), play a recording I may have taken while there (or one someone else took and that I pulled down off the web, perhaps CC licensed?)... Imagine I could actually go and grab a premade virtual wireframe framework of that whole area, and "pin on" it my memories to share with you ... and whoever I gave the URL to it to."

(I should rewrite that to make it less redundant and to the point... it was stream of consciousness...)

Ethan pointed out : "but I can do that on a webpage now!" Yes and no. You can assemble all the bits and pieces but until you stitch them into an "environment", a situated and explorable "space", they remain just fragments, barely held together with some sort of narrative context which depends on the storyteller's story telling ability.

(Granted, very few people can create stunning 3D environments in even the simplest 3D CAD or game authoring system, but give any child a glue gun, a marker, some materials and a wall or four and watch the world he/she creates for you! Also, not every weblog is a impeccably designed masterpiece... most are straight default templates with a photo here and there...)

I also threw in:

"Two things that gave weblogs traction were: "simple" webpage making (post an entry and the webpage is "made for you") and the fact that the created "page" had a unique URI (a "permalink").

The first steps of Immersive Web is about laying the groundwork and making the infrastructure decisions which will eventually allows us "simple" "3D environment making" and giving it a URL..."

Another aspect that Michael is very keen on driving home is the fact that we have learnt over the last 10 years how to manage large scale distributed development of open source software projects. (Need I say it? Linux? Amongst hundreds of thousands of examples...) This is key since 3D virtual stuff, networking protocols, communications standards, programming etc etc etc ... all the stuff we will need to do to make something like an Immersive Web happen will require alot of work by alot of people with a lot of different skill sets.

I think it can be done.

(I am hoping to spend a good amount of time at the USC Interactive Media Department this winter. When I mentioned all this to Scott Fisher, a pioneer in the field of immersive media, his answer was immediate: "sounds good! let's do it!" Awesome. :)


Some people...

Walid Elias Kai, who has a doctorate in search engine marketing, and his wife Carol of Kalmar, Sweden, have named their son Oliver Google Kai

My black iPod nano for sale

Yup. One month old black 4Gig iPod nano. Perfect working condition, all original packaging included. Reasonable offers welcome. (To keep in mind: I paid $300.00 CND + tax, only 4 weeks ago)

I'm gonna hold out for someone local who I can meet up with and have them inspect it. Guess why? (I'm not saying it is unreasonably "seasoned", I am saying some people are sensitive to such things... ;)

Reasons for selling:

  • I have my father's hands. This thing is just too small.
  • I realized I was fooling myself thinking I'd be happy with 4 Gig of music. Must have 60! ;)

You say hello, I say goodbye...

Well, it's happened.

The American-based internet giant, AOL, wholly-owned by Time-Warner, has formed a working partnership with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to permit unlimited surveillance of the millions of AOL online members, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Commerce.

“AOL works ‘closely with the DHS’ to supply information on any AOL customer and allows agents from these entities ‘free and unfettered’ access to AOL Hq at Dulles, VA for the purpose of ‘watching over and keeping surveillance ’ on the millions of AOL customers,’ according to the report.

So that's it. As soon as I can set up a reliable Jabber server on one of my machines I am ditching all commercial IM services: AIM, ICQ, MSN, GTalk.

Bye bye.

(p.s.: rumors are flying of a Google takeover of AOL Time Warner. ”The Matrix“ indeed.)


So I caught a cold. I first felt the scratch in my throat last friday, but it went away and I thought "hrm, ok, good thing that didn't develop." Monday morning it came back and was pronounced. You know when you just *know* you are sick? When your body just isn't all systems go? I had to postpone my visit to Cambridge. Terrible timing. So much to do and can't get settled in properly to do much of it.

Now it is Thursday, and my throat is still sore. My nose is runny and I'm coughing from time to time. Ouaaaaan. :p

Yesterday evening I went out to my favorite pho place. Before going I minced a giant clove of garlic, added a dollop of chili paste, wrapped it up in cellophane and brought it with me. When my soup arrived I dropped the mixture in. Oh. Wow. Pho with a load of garlic in it is phenomenal. I still stink though. ;)

Cross-platform collaborative text editor

Just found this which will make a few people very happy:

Gobby is a free collaborative editor based on libobby, a library which provides synced document buffers. It supports multiple documents in one session and a multi-user chat. It runs on Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, Linux and other Unix-like platforms.

(Yes Michael, that means SubEthaEdit for the rest of you. ;)

Absurd development

(I'm getting tiiired of this...)

I'm looking at SynchroEdit, a development project to allow "synchronous editing for the web". Let us, for one second, forget that the web was conceived to be two-way, synchronously editable, from day one. (Hah! Tim even wrote WordWideWeb in CamelCase!!!) Looking at the architecture diagram I am struck by the sheer absurdity of it.

Why absurdity? Because a full 80% of the work SynchroEdit needs to create various JAVA and AJAX server modules and client libraries to accomplish, could be solved and done by a technology we've had for almost 10 years and use everyday. You're using part of that technology right now: HTTP 1.1. I spoke a bit about the various commands HTTP specifies recently.

HTTP PUT, combined with Access Control Lists (ACL) and a Version Control System (VCS), both technologies that have been in real-world use for years, and an existing JavaScript-based WYSIWYG library, you can achieve the same effect as SynchroEdit seeks. In fact I have seen this very system in active use.

I am further shocked by some of the names associated to SynchoEdit: The architecture diagram specifies Mozilla support only. Mozilla supports HTTP PUT. Not only is SocialText funding this but Joi himself, who sits on the Mozilla board also, as well. Did I miss a memo? Why was I not consulted? ;)

"Those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it."
That and continuously reinventing the wheel... and wheels within wheels... :p

1955, Glenn Gould remixes live, on piano

I came across an outtake track of Glenn Gould's historic 1955 Goldberg Variations recording session. On it you hear various studio chatter and joke cracking and mumbling and false starts and cursing.

Near the end of the track, Gould springs a heck of a musical gem, and political commentary by essentially "remixing" "The Star Spangled Banner" and "God Save the King" in real time on the piano.

His explanation is as interesting as the performance of it:

"I figured out that by leaving out the repeats in The Star Spangled Banner and starting your entry at the 13th bar of God Save The King, and then playing God Save The King over again and altering the harmony of the second half of The King to modulate to the supertonic region, it has the most marvelous effect. Listen to this..."

The intellectual complexity of achieving this is pretty stunning.

One of the things Gould's 1955 Goldberg variations recording is famous for is the fact that Gould mumbles and hums his way though it, and he *insisted* on leaving them in the final product. These could be interpreted as personal scribbles or what not. Or subvocalization; something we do when we need to glue several layers of complex data together.

Another sign summer is gone

When washing face and hands, I switch from turning on only the cold water tap... to turning on only the hot water tap.



Stevey sent me this a few days ago and I chuckled and thought to myself "yup, that's how I file files on my computer" and moved on.

Michal just wrote about it with some deeper pondering.

Some quick thoughts of my own:
In the physical world, I too employ a time/space/marking system. Though I have very few physical things which need to be filed or acted upon (mostly bills really), I have at any given time 3-4 piles going on my desk and on the shelf behind me. On my left; urgent, to my right; not so urgent, far right; sometime later, behind me; done. Generally these thigns stay in their envelopes and the sender's logo is my identifying mark. Sometimes I'll scribble to add a mark. ;)

But like I said, *on my computar*, well... in a nutshell: I have over the years settled on a small-set "taxonomy" which doesn't need much modifying. "Clients->Work", "Clients->Invoices", "Photos->Mine", "Music->Downloaded", etc. Then, where needed, I sort the view by date. I use Mac's color labels here and there sometimes, red for "done", blue for "keep an eye on this", green for "we are ON!", the colors' meanings dependent on context (Pics don't need to be kept tabs on right?).

Thinkign about it now though, a good combination of simple "bare essential" taxonomy/category/folder structure, using system metadata (date created, date modified) accomplishes much of this Noguchi system. "Spacial" hinting can be achieved with placing shortcuts to things in various places on your desktop or in your file system.

Hrm. Interesting.

I was worried but now I am relieved

This will sound like ass-kissing but I assure you it's not. Joi finally posted a really great entry after a long quiet period. (I know I know, research. Daijobu.)

More than that, it runs parallel to my suspicions regarding "what's next" and it is very exciting to me because what's next is what I have been dreaming of for as long as I can remember. And now, very soon, it will be possible.


Yup, I definitely need to hang out in California this winter.

A slight detour

RSS et al are merely a temporary detour, a quick outgrowth which we needed to bring us back to the Web.

Consider this: syndicated items do not have URIs for their "locations" in the feed. They always point back to the web/html version. Put philosophically, they don't exist.

I do hope XHTML 2.0 (hah! somehow ironic in current context) is resolved and pushed out and implemented properly.

(When CSS2 was released in 1998 - yes 1998 - everyone screamed and howled about how complex and unmanageable it was... Now web-designers couldn't live without it and are clamoring for CSS3 support...)

Remember: only YOU can prevent forest fires.

Yahoo acquires Upcoming.org

I'm drunk so I'll do this. Cue Star Wars "The Imperial March"
Yahoo! acquires Upcoming.org

dum dum dum dum da-dum dum da-dum...

inside joke: (Hey Mike, synchronize yer calendars! Here we go!)

The best thing about "Web 2.0"

The absolute best part is this: when Bubble 2.0 comes around and sweeps by, the whole affair will have been so thoroughly documented, annotated, tagged, conversed about, permalinked and RSS'ed... that the future Web 3.0 Blowhards will really need to actually *know* their history[1].

Good lord, I just saw this... This is getting absurd. "My" "Web2.0" "Beta". Must be a joke...

[1] From RFC 2616 (Hypertext Transfer Protocol -- HTTP/1.1):

9.5 POST
POST is designed to allow a uniform method to cover the following functions:
- Annotation of existing resources;
- Posting a message to a bulletin board, newsgroup, mailing list,
or similar group of articles (or a comment to a weblog);
- Providing a block of data, such as the result of submitting a
form, to a data-handling process;
- Extending a database through an append operation.

9.6 PUT
The PUT method requests that the enclosed entity be stored under the
supplied Request-URI. If the Request-URI refers to an already
existing resource, the enclosed entity SHOULD be considered as a
modified version of the one residing on the origin server.