September 2006 Archives


An email I just sent to some of my colleagues at GlobalVoicesOnline:

Hi gang,

In the last 36 or so hours, the site has gone down twice. In both cases, the culprits were simple, yet monumentally stupid oversights on my part (a single missed character in a copy/paste, and bungled theme folder update... so much for being a hotshot!)

Aside from technical and process procedures I should put in place and use for the kinds operations I was doing... I think the first thing I need to do is take a bit of a break.

For this weekend, I am stepping away from GVO. Unfortunately I can't completely remove myself from the computer or the network (ohhh the network the network!!), but if I can at least not think about this great and grand project which I love but which is so terribly present in my mind at all times... it might do me some good. ;)

If anything urgent comes up, of course do not hesitate to contact me! but otherwise, I bid you all a good weekend. See you on monday.



Who knew that in the half second it took me to rename a folder, WordPress would blow it's brains out? Who knew!? I shoulda, duh.

Aaron on his situation at Conflux

(catching up)

Excellent article by Aaron about his visit to the Conflux thingy in NYC 2 weeks ago.
If you're into internets OR arts OR locations stuffs... it's something good to chew on.
(A couple of "Mike"s I know 'specially)

Productive day

Somebody in my network today said:

A way to deal with bothersome emotions beyond reason is either reading about human physiology as science, or doing some very basic mundane tasks such as cleaning.

I read this after an IRC meeting, dropping my car off at the neighborhood garage (next door to my office) to fix a flat tire and diagnose some muffler noise (the exhaust manifold is still under warranty! yokataaaa! That spares me $1100!), a full laundry load, scheduling a pickup to have my living room's cream colored (supposedly) knotted wool rug thoroughly cleaned (damn you, cat) for the first time in it's existence (must be over 10 years old), moving my living room furniture and rolling up said rug (aaaaahtchoo!), vacuuming, taking out the trash AND, just now, hopefully recruiting a programmer.

And it's only 8:45pm. Time to get some work done.

What a coup

The *official* website for last week's Thai military coup d'état:
"The Council for Democratic Reform under Constitutional Monarchy"
via GVO of course, from a feed we prepped for Reuters while we were doing the Turner event... ;)

Use Case Scenarios

It is SO hard for me to write these scenarios without diving into "how I would build this." I keep going over and back over and having to edit out whispered pre-suppositions of "how."
This is where "technological determinism" is bred, in use cases written with the engineering cap on. ;)

Must deactivate the tech-brain. Tell a story dammit.


Very interesting:

The Citizendium, a "citizens' compendium of everything," will be an experimental new wiki project that combines public participation with gentle expert guidance. It will begin life as a "progressive fork" of Wikipedia. But we expect it to take on a life of its own and, perhaps, to become the flagship of a new set of responsibly-managed free knowledge projects. We will avoid calling it an "encyclopedia," because there will probably always be articles in the resource that have not been vouched for in any sense.

We believe a fork is necessary, and justified, both to allow regular people a place to work under the direction of experts, and in which personal accountability--including the use of real names--is expected. In short, we want to create a responsible community and a good global citizen.

# Registered users will be able to edit as "authors" but there will also be "editors" who have more authority because of their background as specialists in a certain field. While this is being intrinsically ruled out in Wikipedia's approach, Sanger strongly believes that the valuing of expert knowledge would attract more people from the scientific community and thus improve the overall quality.

I especially like this comment by Nathan Rasmussen on the Smartmobs article.


another silly IM convo...

a DHL delivery bounced today and looking at the tracking it left Sacramento yesterday...
i didnt order anything
maybe it's...
a brocoli pizza from Arnie!!!
Esti de Calisse de Sacramento!
seriously tho
NOBODY ships as fast as DHL... i've NEVER seen a package leave the states and hit my door in 24hrs...
and you know why?
I'll tell you why...
I know 4 people who uses them - and they're all smugglers.
you see? you SEE?!
WHO knows more about shipping shit than smugglers?!?!
pros man, pros.
A friend of mine sent illegal satellite dishes to [Xxxx]... via DHL.
I. Don't. Understand.
they are fast though
but expensive
that's cause they pay off customs guys.
there you go.
It's so crazy it just might be true.

Reuters, Ted Turner, the U.N. and GlobalVoices


At 4:00pm EST today, Reuters is hosting Ted Turner in a discussion about the future of the United Nations. Turner is, amongst other things, the largest private funder of the U.N.

The discussion is being webcast and GlobalVoices has been invited to extend the conversation. One of the ways we are doing that is by having four of our team, Rebecca MacKinnon, Georgia Popplewell, Alice Backer and Kamla Bhatt, in the room representing whoever shows up in our IRC channel. We've set up a web-irc so anyone can join in.

Please do.

GVO has won the 2006 Knight-Batten award for innovations in journalism

Big congrats to the team.

This is a pretty big deal. The Knight-Batten awards were created by combining the existing "Batten Awards for Excellence in Civic Journalism" and a new endeavor by the Knight Foundation, of James Knight Batten, founder of Knight Ridder, to promote innovative uses of new technologies for journalistic endeavors:

Seventeen years ago, James K. Batten, the respected chairman and CEO of Knight Ridder, urged journalists to adapt for the future and to "invent new ways to make the public's business rivetingly interesting -- and much more difficult to ignore."

"We need a fresh journalistic mindset rooted in our past," he said in 1989, "but shrewdly and tough-mindedly in touch with the realities awaiting us."

This bodes well since we're just getting into our stride, tech and design wise, with major new (innovative!) developments and total redesigns coming up.

Very exciting.

GVO is what I spend 80% of my time on. For us to win this award makes me feel warm inside. Thanks Ethan and Rebecca for the opportunity to be part of it, and the whole gang for all the hard work and dedication.

Work much?

This is what my "Virtual Desktop" pager looks like right now, a more or less busy average Sunday night.


That's 3 separate "jobs" open concurrently AND taking care of a task for someone who just pinged me in IM. Normally there are maybe 2 or 3 more projects open. That gets a bit much though.

This is how I work. It's how I have been doing it for 4-5 years. Sometimes, if I seem distracted...

I'm not saying it's a great thing. It has serious shortcomings and sometimes it drives me nuts. But what can I do? ;)

Over mango and chocolate crepes

I coded up a little tiny PHP method that takes any text string and returns 5 usable "html" hexadecimal colors.

It's not as artful as I'd have liked it to be, but then again my programming skills are not everything I'd like them to be either. ;)

$name_colors_array = explode("--",chunk_split(md5($name),6,"--"));

Nothing exciting. Might use it to generate little visual cues of authorship for aggregated views... somewhere.

You can get 10 three letter hex colors by changing the 6 to 3.

I only need 1 or 4 for my purposes.

Update 2:
$name_colors_array2 = str_split(md5(""),6);
is shorter. ;)

Bang bang

Not to be flippant about the Columbine-style shooting that just happened at Dawson college in Montreal, but this quote from a 19 year old student got my rant on:

"I'm only 19 and to have flashes of your life and the people that you love going by you, it should not be allowed. It was highly traumatizing."

Perhaps oddly, I am of the opinion it should be mandatory. I'd even say that if the gunman in this case had had a bit of previous real near-death experience (as opposed to mediatized death-desensitization), he wouldn't be running around killing people.

So I am just looking back into this story and am intrigued by the velocity of spread of information, and misinformation, and then the catchup.

The final report has a single 25 year old male walking into the Dawson cafeteria around 12:41pm where he opened fire. Within three minutes he was shot dead by police (Good job) and a single victim casualty (over a dozen injured).

I first heard of this sometime shortly after 1pm when Pat, sitting next to me at the bar having lunch at Laika, got an IM from someone. By this time, the gunman was already dead, but all the media was reporting that the situation was ongoing. Obviously mass pandemonium in the area, but as late as 4pm I was still hearing about 3 possible gunmen, one having committed suicide, the second having been shot and the possible third still "out there"; not to mention 6+ victim deaths...

All I'm saying is it's interesting. I've never been in quite such a situation, though I have been in "high panic" situations and I can easily see how fast and utterly communication and reliable information become scarce.

Words fall away fast.

Update 2:
The same 19 year old student quoted earlier seems to be a boundless fountain of fascinating quotes, not to mention the CBC's favorite interviewee:

"The adrenaline was rushing. It was like something from a movie. It was completely unbelievable and incredible."

The gunman, of course, had an "online journal", hosted on a goth/vampire enthusiast site (if it's not satanists, it's vampires), and, of course, referred to himself as "the angel of death." The cliché factor here is very high. This boy lived in a completely manufactured entertainment-sourced reality.

p.s.: yes the word "pandemonium" is very apt to such situations. When noise outstrips signal, the tower of Babel collapses.

p.p.s.: Umberto Eco's "Travels in Hyperreality" provides a very nice framework for media (and "reality") analysis.


If the world were 100 people.
(a flash movie based on an old internet meme)
Share what you can.

Hello, where am I?


DESCRIPTION locatr is a Series 60 Python application to display Flickr photos based on your current location (using a GPS device).

locatr will try to connect to a Bluetooth enabled GPS device and ask it
for its current location.

Then it will query Flickr for recent photos taken nearby.

Once it has a list of photos it will display them on your phone's

[X] Metaphysical graffiti. done
(Aaron, you are a god amongst geeks)

They lined up in Laval

People lined up in Laval for the opening of the new "Montreal" Apple Store.
(I didn't go. See previous entry. ;)


I had a very strange and in some ways worrisome experience early this morning.

I went out last night; a going away party for a filmmaker friend and then some chilling out at Laika. Nothing extravagant or crazy. I did have 2 or 3 more drinks than I might usually, but I went home feeling fine, even ran a Grand Prix on MarioKart.

At some point during the night, I got up to go to the washroom to pee. That done, I suddenly felt very warm, sensed the possible need to do #2 and then got intensely nauseous. I stood there for a moment, feeling out the situation. No matter how drunk, high or otherwise influenced, I pretty much always am quite aware of myself, able to reason etc.

The nausea throbbed a little and I moved closer to the bowl. (Sorry for the description... I imagine most of us have had this painful experience.)

Then I apparently lose consciousness.

The next thing I know, I am on the floor, half in the hallway, half in the washroom. All the stuff usually stocked on the toilet's tank is on the floor too and the carpets are all out of whack.

I get up slowly. I feel totally fine, better than before even, except for the throbbing in my head. Makes sense as it seems that's what I landed on. There's a gash in my forehead where I impacted, and a small bloodstain on the floor. I have a small scrape on the bridge of my nose and a bigger one on my tummy (which still burns now due to friction with my t-shirt. ;)

I throw some cold water on my face and almost cry at how good it feels. The gash is already semi-dry. How long was I out?! I wash it and pat it with some peroxide. Wash my hands. I sit down on the toilet to collect my thoughts.

I'm naked, I am cold, I am confused and now I am suddenly very aware how alone I am. And then the fear hits me. What the hell just happened? I cry for a few minutes.

I think of the only two people I would want to talk to at this moment, but both are at opposite ends of the planet from me right now. There is precious little anyone can do for me anyways.

I find one of them on IM and explain what happened. Everything's ok, I should take some time off, stress must be it, see a doctor too, you never know, maybe your heart... aack.

Bed time. I go lie down. I feel totally fine as I slowly lower myself into sleep; but cannot help wondering ... what just happened?

Earlier in the evening, before heading out, I watched Kurosawa's Ikiru. This helped nothing of course.

Speaking of shopping

This XMas video by Jer does a nice job of subtly and subconsciously communicating just how surreal consumer culture can be.

Remember, only X shopping days till Christmas!

Buy movies...

Ok here we go.

Amazon just unveiled "Amazon Unbox", their movie and TV show purchasing & download store.

Apple is rumored (damn near confirmed) to release their movie download service next week as well, however with fewer studios signed up (whatever).

Two easy consequences:
DRM will be shoved down everyone's throats and everyone will accept it because hey! I can download "24" and "CSI" and watch it like now! I don't care about my cultural rights! (and why would I for pabulum like that?!) /snark

Mad scramble to find easy solutions for piping movies from your computer to your home entertainment system. This sector has been growing steadily for years but this will probably crank it up a few notches.


Ok Go do their crazy treadmill routine live on the MTV Video Music Awards.

The first comment puts it... the way you could only expect i tto be put on the Internet...

I believe that the narrowminded and obnoxious message people need to sit back, and realize that this only made it to the MVA 2006 because of the OK Go on youtube. Realize that this is not 'performance' or 'gay' or 'is it art?' You are seeing a paradigm shift. Internet Hype made this happen. Bow before the net. It is the new God.

(Merci Patrick)


i am rather shocked by how often i need to wipe my glasses clean...

it's like, before i had glasses, i used poke myself in the eyes ALL the time.

with my greasy fingers...



I don't get it.


Even better...

"Sumaato" have developed a ridiculously slick bookmarklet that uses the Google Maps API to allow even easier Flickr geotagging. A sweet feature made better by using Google's better maps ('specially for Japan ;)

Seriously. Look at this photo of the Torii in the Bay (Miyajima), or the Hotel in Hiroshima that survived the blast, or Daibutsu, the big buddha in Kamakura. I had no idea precisely where I was when I took these photos. Now I do. (the fact that I can find them on satellite photos is a combination of good sense of orientation, memory and patience ;)

Oh and this announcement--"Nokia acquires gate5 to add robust mapping and navigation to its devices"--can't be terrible either.