October 2006 Archives

IRC logging, revisited

This afternoon I set up a "logger bot" which monitors and logs the GlobalVoices IRC channel.
About an hour ago, Karl showed me the log he tweaked for the Semantic Web Interest Group IRC channel and mentioned how he structured some of the data.

Now, let's think of IRC for a moment not as a place to chat with people, but rather as text entry point.. for whatever.

Ok not whatever, let's think of it as a task logger for small groups.

The IRC bot logs in chronological order everything entered intot he channel, timestamps it and records who "said it".

Say you have a team of people working on a project who wish to keep a log of the tasks they accomplish. Just type it!

"Fixed bug #234"
"changed the color of the links"

This is already doable, out of the box. I just need to set it up and let the team in.

But I want more.

Say our project has several departments: "design", "technology", "editorial", "management". Say also our project is really a bunch of smaller projects: "main site", "wiki", "intranet", "conference in Delhi". Or just you want to be able to tag things: "PITA", "fixed", "researched"... or, like in del.icio.us, you want "send" something to someone's attention: "for:mike", "for:karl", "for:francis".

The syntax should be stupid; in the IRC text input, for example:
# tech, aggregator | caching system is 98% done. I just added OPML flatfiles to the output

or send a task to someone:
# design, mainsite, pita, for:jer, todo | please install that gizmo plugin

I imagine it can't be hard to add the code to handle this functionality to this Perl logger bot... or any good solid Python one.

Did I say more?
I want it to pipe everything in realtime and timestamped, via whatever XML-RPC/Atom/FooAPI, preserving authors and tags, to WordPress. Why? Because WP is easy to theme and will output RSS feeds of any context you want: overall, per tag/category, per author...

I will put up the dev environment, help test and throw in... $50. Who wants to code this with me?

This setup could also be used for quick "tumblelogs" or "mumblelogs".

Ideally I'd want a Jabber bot instead but eh... if anyone's game... all the code is available, we just need to pack it up... another $50 for the Jabber version =)

Everything part II

continuation of previous post

They say there is opportunity in chaos. The chaos they speak of exists generally outside, and on the fringes of, "The System". Humanity, for better or worse, seeks always to order, structure, the chaos and benefit form it somehow, bringing it into "The System". This is how we, as a society ("The System"), move forward.

Intrinsic to this ordering, is contextualizing. It is what it is all about. Contexts are signifiers, icons, containers... parts of a system.

Find the context that you are interested in, even passionate about. Learn as much of it as you can, and never stop learning about it.

Then, go out to fringes and look at what's new in the chaos. What new elements and attributes are relevant to your contexts. Identify them and think of how they can be made useful, valuable to yourself and all around you.

The chaos is the environment. The world in it's myriad evolutions and revolutions. What new elements and bits has a shift in technology, medium, politics, economy, etc... created.

Then, just do it. But do it because it's what you must do, need to do, want to do. Everything else will come.


(rambling alert!!!)

Everything is a node.
And every node can be, at once, part of many contexts, and can also, just by being, create many contexts.
Every node has many properties.
And contexts can add and modify properties of nodes.
And every context has many properties as well.

This is what is on my mind. It is infused in everything I do and everything I am; from building multi context web aggregators, to how I view my self, society, and my place in it.

I am
I, the base node in my experience, who's core context, my self perception, which is only clear to me when I am lying quietly, alone... am.

Some examples

I do
Professional context: web specialist. This context groups me with a large number of people (globally). Some are friends, acquaintances, etc (relationship contexts), most I don't even know exist.

Where I do
I live and work in Montreal. This reduces the number of people in my professional context to a geographic context of "Montreal". (In my case this is deceptive: I am not part of the local web scene really and therefor I know very very few of my fellows here. But for arguments sake, let's ignore that.) We can further refine the geographic context with a location context: Laika. If I were more connected in teh social context of Montreal, very likely I could identify more web-workers at Laika.

Profession context: web-worker
Geographic context: Plateau, Montreal, Quebec, Canada (AND or OR)
Location context: Laika, BoLab

What I like to do:
Professional interests context: web-based communications, mobile connectedness, peripheral awareness, etc etc.
Personal interests: (some overlap... ;) Phenomena of culture, movement of society, perception and translation of environment and how that affects, feeds, informs and drives the previous two.

Who I like to do with:
Relationship contexts. Some broad ones, many specific one, and as many individual ones as individual nodes I interact with. Much overlap (node from Friends Context A is [relative of] node in Acquaintance Context Y, etc)

Time context. File created? File updated? File last accessed? File access frequency, across time. Forgetfulness, fog of time.
(Replace "File" with "Relationship", "Interest", "Location", etc... When was the last time I was in Vienna? Often had I been there? How frequently do i return? When was the last time I thought of snowboarding? Went? When was the last time I saw her? Emailed him? ... ... ...)

And so on... just imagine.

RDF (Resource Descriptive Framework) exists for the purposes of modeling the information sphere on the reality of nodes and contexts.

Wheels within wheels, the myriad creatures.


Initial reports are in: the new "Core 2 Dual" MacBook Pros are significantly cooler (temperature wise, wiseguy), quieter and faster.

Also interesting tidbit that makes sense to me: the lower RPM/higher density hard drives that ship in this batch are comparable in performance to the "smaller" yet higher RPM (thus more power drawing) previous 2.5" hard drives, due to the higher density. This explains why Fujitsu can rate their 4200RPM 200Gig 2.5" HD as having the same average seek times as their 5400RPM 100Gig 2.5" HD. Lower RPM also means less noise...

Just waiting on one more bit of information to come back to me...

Awww kick me in the lifestyle why dontcha


Crystal Method and LCD Soundsystem both produced 45 minute-ish tracks for Nike+; engineered specifically for jogging workouts, designed specifically for dumbasses like me.


Teh LCD Soundsystem track *sucks*. Oh and fuckyouverymuch, Apple "Fairplay".

Update 2
Ok, ok, it gets interesting at 28 minutes.

Well stated

Lucas Gonze puts into words what most iPod/iTunes users haven't quite become aware of yet:

why you need more music

from Wired -- The Day the Music Died:

I thought at first I had misheard him.

"... library of 90,000 songs, and iTunes can't handle it." [...] I had
no idea people were amassing collections of this size.

My own paltry iTunes library runs just shy of 500 songs -- a little
over a day and a half of music -- and that includes every selection
from Pipes of the Edinburgh Military Tattoo. Now, I spend a lot of
time listening to music, but like most people I tend to play my
favorites a lot.

Research I have seen supports that writer's number. 500 songs is about the average.

I remember times in my life where I had a strictly limited music collection, and I kept things fresh by listening at finer and finer levels of detail. Those days should be over for most of us, though. It's important for individuals to grow their collections past the "enough" marker, whether that's 50,000 songs or even just 500, because at that point you stop listening in the old way.

The new way is to treat music more like a newspaper than a book, so
that a continuous stream of fresh content is intrinsic to the media.
If you hear a good hook somewhere, the next day you should find that
hook remixed into another song. You should never again, post 20th
century, post the era when music and manufactured goods were
synonomous, think of music as something so static that 500 songs could
encompass it.

The idea that a 500 song collection makes sense is based on a
misunderstanding of the medium. Maybe you'll only have 500 songs on
hand at any one time -- that makes sense. But which songs those are
should be a constantly rotating subset of a gigantic collection which
lives out in the cloud.

Yep. I was thinking about another facet of all this just last night as I was reminded how I haven't had time in a long time to a) get new music, b) maintain my playlists and c) update my iPod. There are now enough services which could theoretically stream me new tunes constantly, but so far they all require some acrobatics, which is annoying. Last.fm's player comes closest to what I want, but there's no way to take anything with me if I want it.

(Podcasting and radio streams have too much blah blah. Shut up already. If the price for not triggering my language centers with inane claptrap is my having to take the time to manage my own music, then I guess I may have to go that way. Just saying. ;)

In any case, it isn't a terribly high priority for me at all, hence the cost/benefit barrier not being overcome. Back to 80Gig library.

Oh and nevermind the insanity of attempting to manage so much media. Between file and metadata management, it all becomes a pile very quickly. ;)


MacBookPro Made it this far. Time for a gift. I mean upgrade. Haha.

Create a culture of design

This is exactly what I hope to set up around me, for my eventual team, modulo all the emphasis on games/gaming:

pasta and vinegar � Creating a culture of design research

1. Create a space that encourages design research: “the office space we inhabit is filled to bursting with games, toys, and other play objects”
2. Build a design research library: ” retail game titles, books and graphic novels, DVDs and videotapes, magazines (we have many subscriptions), board and card games, and toys of all kinds.”
3. Attend and create events: “GameLab has attended films, exhibits, conferences, and other events connected to games, design, and popular culture / we also host our own design research affair”
4. Let them teach
5. Encourage side projects: “We encourage our staff to pursue personal projects.”
6. Create contexts for experimentation: “from time to time we create opportunities for our staff to undertake experimental, noncommercial projects as a form of design research. ”

The original full text is here: Creating a Culture of Design Research - Eric Zimmerman

It's nothing new, and makes total sense: people need to be in envirornments that stimulate.

"No to Parc Avenue renaming" petition

If you haven't already, and you agree it's a ridiculous waste of money, not to mention cultural travesty, please do sign the petition at causes.ca.


I'm sorry, I don't get it. Or rather, I'm sorta disappointed.

As Kottke says in his quote in the Wikipedia definition of Tumblelog (jees never thought I'd quote Kottke!), this just seems to me like what Weblogs were originally anyways: a place to quickly dump thoughts and stuff you found on the web, on a webpage, be it for personal or sharing purposes.

They claim they are less structured but if anything I see them as more structured. Or rather "strongly typed", as some programming languages are: you need to define content types and assign your postings to them (or I suppose there is some auto-detection built in), and not doing so will break something. Considering the stern "technological determinism" sermon I got from Lenczner when I told him file type is an inherent, important and immutable quality of a digital object ("why should I treat this piece of media differently just because of what race it is?!"), I must scratch my chin over all this.

So, I must apologize to Bosko and the audience at BarCamp Montreal for asking a question that must have seemed totally out of leftfield: Bosko was talking about tumbleblogs as digital scrapbooks and I was thinking totally on the frontend of things (my "Breaking out of the Document" post a few days ago was precisely about this, sparked by an exchange with Julian Bleeker about a finding a way to produce truly scrapbook-like presentations on the web, of gathered (tumbled?) content, be it aggregated/reblogged bits, bookmarks (URI), audio/video/photo objects etc...)... and Bosko had been talking about the REST architecture of his tumbleblog service. Woops! ;)

I'm not saying it isn't interesting, just that it isn't at all what I thought it was, and while I recognize I may be missing something, I don't see how tumbleblogs aren't just a further formalization of "weblogs."

MIT Center for Collective Intelligence


Our basic research question is: How can people and computers be connected so that—collectively—they act more intelligently than any individuals, groups, or computers have ever done before?

Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated.

Off we go


To do:

  • Shots
  • Visas
  • Figure out what the hell I am going to do in India for a week after the meetings and the Dalai Lama thing (suggestions welcome!)
  • Research availability of SIM chips for my mobile in both India and Japan (leads welcome!)
  • Research possibility of getting gaijin card and possibly rent an apartment
  • Figure out crashing possibilities for assistant Jeremy for his 2 weeks in Tokyo (I don't pay him enough to be able to afford hotels... Hell *I* can't even afford them! ;)
  • ... probably a million other little things...

So you wanna buy a computer eh?

From Revenue Canada:

If you lease computers, cellular telephones, fax machines, and other equipment, you can deduct the percentage of the lease costs that reasonably relates to earning your fishing income. You can also deduct the percentage of air-time expenses for a cellular telephone that reasonably relates to earning your fishing income.

If you buy a computer, cellular telephone, fax machine, or other such equipment, you cannot deduct the cost. You can deduct CCA and interest you paid on money you borrowed to buy this equipment that reasonably relates to earning your fishing income.

That's the Fishing Activities tax information page. It's the same in the Business and Professional guidelines, but that's only available in PDF. (Somewhere in there. ;)

And if it's an Apple yer after:

Tax advantages ("Fair Market Value Lease") The monthly lease payments may be fully deductible as an expense. Consult your financial or tax advisor.

Yup yup yup. Just waiting for CoreDuo MacBook Pros. Thanks Steven for pointing it out! You'd mentioned it before, but now I get it. ;p

Dream team

Can't really get into why, but I wish, I dream, one day, OMG would it be amazing... to be able to work on projects with Aaron Straup Cope, Michal Migurski and Maciej Ceglowski.

There is nothing we couldn't do.

(Though we might argue about *what* we should do... and *how*... hahahaha.. but it'd be a wildly entertaining, rip-roaring, enlightening and educational fight, every time, for sure. But then we would of course also have Karl Dubost with us to manage us and keep us on the path... ;)


WoW pwned Joi's island

(screen cap of Kula island in Second Life)


Ho. Ly. Hell.

This is just cool:

My question is: why is Karl surfing breakdance videos on YouTube on a Monday morning? ;)


This afternoon, Boris zipped into downtown, to return a pair of heavenly soft flannel black wide-set chalkline pinstripe slacks because, frankly, he just can't get into slacks. Even though they were a size too small, the feeling of nakedness was all a bit too much like walking around, well, naked. And besides, it made him feel like a dad. His dad, more particularly.

He also realized they were far to expensive to have been a sensible purchase for him in the first place.

Standing at the cash he decided to not only return them but instead exchange them for another pair of the much cheaper Corduroy pants, the exact model were bracing his hips at the time. When you find something you like, get two. He'd get credited for the balance.

Finding a pair on a rack placed in such a way as to indicate they were not particularly hot sellers, he got close to make sure it was indeed the same black color as the beloved pair he was wearing. At first glance they weren't but comparing side by side, they were. And to him, they seemed a deep "almost black" gray.

"Oh if you'd like we just got in some new pairs, these ones in black!" exclaims the sales girl.

"And what are these?" asks he.

"Oh those are the navy blue."

Navy blue? ... Funny, now that she'd mentioned it, here under these fluorescent lights... Though in all honesty, he would have sworn, in the light of the sun--and the light available in his apartment--these pants had seemed more a very dark shade of brown, which had always bothered him a bit.

"Here's a 32! try them on!"

"Oh my, yes... these are black." he thinks. Truly black. The light just falls into them. They are a black hole in the shape of pants, though he suspects the only thing that will be sucked into them is cat hair, duvet feathers and dust. :p

"These are nice." he says, having tried them on, "Narrow cut, softer material... more snug. I'll take 'em. Thanks."

Corduroy's etymology, corde ru roi in french, though in french corduroy is "velours côtelé" (ribbed velour), is something to do with "King's Clothes." This has always caused a cognitive dissonance for me with "the Emperor's new clothes." Sort of like how when Joe waved his hand backwards over his head last night and said "it's all water under the bridge" when he meant to say "it's all behind us."

Color work





This is a normalized, cleaned up, new color palette for GlobalVoices. I had Jeremy quickly document our (ok ok my) crazy color use on the existing site and oh man what a mess. In my mad rush to add stuff over the last year, I strayed in my color choices. I have 4 different shades of dark blue going! Ayeee!

So I grabbed our three core colors, and twiddled to get 3 shades lighter and darker for each. Because I am picky, I made sure that
a) the hex values for the colors were "clean" (003399, vs 0134e9)
b) the steps between shades were all mathematically equivalent across the hues
Notice how the orange fades into giving us a bonus deep red and light yellow. For use on alerts and other more subtle attention grabbing needs in the UI.

The process was actually quite involved; the 2 median darker shades were culled from an 8 step gradation, the 2 lighter ones, from a 7 step one. Except for the orange which required a 5 step gradation which actually gave me 7 (no idea...). The grays are a 10 step from 333 to white. (I wanted to have the four "full" grays: 333, 666, 999, CCC, between 000-black and FFF-white.)

(The hexadecimal color values here are in shorthand: 039 expands to 003399, E6 expands to E6E6E6.)

Of course we will not necessarily use all these colors, but we have them on hand if we need, say, a lighter shade of something for a rollover effect, or a darker one for a header, etc...


To dig deeper into the geekiness here... if I had followed the same process of hex number/letter shifting, the third color would be a sort of mauve. But I needed the orange. Hence the 039 -> 390 -> F60 sequence. Picking the C00 red for dark orange and the FFC pale yellow for the light orange was done by following patterns in a standard hex color map and plotting relative positions by eye... Worked out real well, me thinks!!

Internet Love

- Ping?
- Ping.

"Getting to know each other" UI design ideas

Quick thought about complex applications, especially web-apps, which have many features and functionalities and which are, of course, always a challenge, not just for the user but for the designers who need to make them usable.

First of all there is the "play with me" approach, which is very much what Flickr uses: make the easy stuff as obvious and plain as day as possible. Get people hooked on one, maybe two aspects, tops. Then as they use the thing, playing, they discover deeper levels of interactions, more possibilities.

Clever that.

Not nearly as clever, is a thought I just had. It comes from pondering the "icon vs text label" debate. Myself, I tended to be of the "make it small and unintrusive and let the user figure it out" school, which of course is not always good, especially when there is no playground in which the user can be bothered to learn in (see above, and see my tiny little comments and trackback icons).

But I also like text labels, however they tend to be so big and clunky, and frankly, parsing text is several orders of magnitude more brain processor intensive that simple image recognition (assuming recognition: i.e. seen it before, learnt already...)

And this brings me to "get to know each other."

Say you've got a complex web-app to design, with lots of functionality, some of which somewhat involved... first of all, go with the playful metaphor. Two or three key interactions, get people in and hooked. Use text labels as best you can.

Then, over time, learn what interactions a user (yes, a specific user, who has an account, and who's interactions you can track) regularly uses. At, say, the tenth use of a feature, add a little icon that signifies this interaction (or have it there from the start if you can spare the real estate). If you are adding it, pop a little note: "hey, this little icon means *this* action..."

Then, say, at the 20th interaction, yank the text label, again with a little notice: "psst, we know you know what this means... shall we unclutter the UI a bit for ya?"

Of course, give the option. A user might prefer to keep only text labels, or only icons... or both...

Just a thought.


That's how much each YouTube user was worth to Google yesterday.

$1,650,000,000 / 19,000,000 users = $86.84

Of course it is far far more complex than that. Youd on't plunk down that kind of coin just on a whim.. or do you? Let's go shopping!

Aligmatically challenged

I just cursed someone AND invented a word all at once!

Aligmatically challenged: someone who is incapable of lining stuff up.
Makes me crazy. It's gotta flow dammit! I don't care how "rough outline" or "general idea" it is!


Breaking out of the Document

An email from Julian sent me into a whirl.

If I wanted to publish scrapbook-like, and I mean really willy-nilly ad-hoc layouts... is it doable in web-standards today?

I can build a CMS that takes care of navigation, blog-style, across time stamps and various context mechanisms (categories, tags, authors etc...)...

But then what? I can give you a <div> and, following current web-tech, you are stuck with inline or block display.

There's a bunch of threads I can follow from here...

Weblog CMSs have mostly focused on making it easy to build and maintain the infrastructure of personal websites--archives and their navigation, etc--with a passing concern for clean markup in the actual content. But that's "in the div" and, again, it's fairly constrained. Even the most "into it" web designers don't bother doing custom layouts and CSS for their weblogs' content.

And there's a reason: doing even simple stuff in XHTML+CSS isn't simple. Or at least, not simple enough to warrant the time cost. The cost of benefit is too high, exactly how maintaining a personal website used to be too high a cost for the benefit (which we all know now; the benefits of weblogging I mean.)

Is there benefit in maintaining an online multi-media "scrapbook"? You bet there is. You know why? Take your weblog, and replace words with video and audio and drawing and pictures etc. (Hi Marc Canter!) Just ask any of your friends who maintain scrapbooks in their Moleskines.

As is always the case, I think we are at that intersection where a) all the technological pieces necessary are in place (web standards, aggregators, open APIs, UE), b) people have already tried to do similar things (for a while now, a bunch of people have been talking about this, in various ways and from varying angles) and c) there is evidence of a desire in the culture/society/people (scrapbook maintainers, YouTube/MySpace video sharers, rebloggers, bloggers even... Six Apart's "Vox" and Microsoft's "Wallop" are versions of this as well and both have been in development for a looong while... and all I've been doing for 2 years is building aggregators for people...)

Open ended thought... as usual a ramble... back to work.

p.s.: RDF could be the wiring. Like I told Julian:

"[This stuff is still] bare... it's like saying "we want a multimedia room in our house" and you step in after the electricians did their part [and go "hey, wtf?!"]"

"Oh Lord, thank you..."

Not really following this Foley stuff but thankfully Glenn Greenwald is.

What they are engaged in seems to be non sequitur after non sequitur, which they have been getting away with thanks to the artificially truncated memories of a media-breast-fed populace who's reporters (who report events and such) and journalists (who formulate supposedly educated opinions and analyses on events) have totally betrayed them in favor of little green pieces of plastic. (Plastic, not paper: America ceased being capitalist in the '80's; it shifted to a credit based economic system... everyone owes, everyone is an indentured slave to the system.)

Are we witnessing the further growth of a true, inclusive, fifth estate?

fifth estate
A class or group in society other than the nobility, the clergy, the middle class, and the press.

Considering the above exclusive definition, what could we call a group apart, but at once comprised of...


Phoenix If I Ever Feel Better

They say an end can be a start
Feels like I've been buried yet I'm still alive
It's like a bad day that never ends
I feel the chaos around me
A thing I don't try to deny
I'd better learn to accept that
There are things in my life that I can't control

They say love ain't nothing but a sore
I don't even know what love is
Too many tears have had to fall
Don't you know I'm so tired of it all
I have known terror dizzy spells
Finding out the secrets words won't tell
Whatever it is it can't be named
There's a part of my world that' s fading away
You know I don't want to be clever
To be brilliant or superior
True like ice, true like fire
Now I know that a breeze can blow me away
Now I know there's much more dignity
In defeat than in the brightest victory
I'm losing my balance on the tight rope
Tell me please, tell me please, tell me please...

If I ever feel better
Remind me to spend some good time with you
You can give me your number
When it's all over I'll let you know

Hang on to the good days
I can lean on my friends
They help me going through hard times
But I'm feeding the enemy
I'm in league with the foe
Blame me for what's happening
I can't try, I can't try, I can't try...
No one knows the hard times I went through
If happiness came I miss the call
The stormy days ain't over
I've tried and lost know I think that I pay the cost
Now I've watched all my castles fall
They were made of dust, after all
Someday all this mess will make me laugh
I can't wait, I can't wait, I can't wait...

If I ever feel better
Remind me to spend some good time with you
You can give me your number
When it's all over I'll let you know

It's like somebody took my place
I ain't even playing my own game
The rules have changed well I didn't know
There are things in my life I can't control
I feel the chaos around me
A thing I don't try to deny
I'd better learn to accept that
There's a part of my life that will go away
Dark is the night, cold is the ground
In the circular solitude of my heart
As one who strives a hill to climb
I am sure I'll come through I don't know how
They say an end can be a start
Feels like I've been buried yet I'm still alive
I'm losing my balance on the tight rope
Tell me please, tell me please, tell me please...


life throws you off balance, dance.

Someone, somewhere recently placed the notion in my mind that dance, amongst many things, is a voluntary throwing off balance, whose joy and pleasure is derived in playing with this state and the pursuit and evasion of which at once ... blah blah blah.

I danced tonight. You should too.

Sofas and the malaise they create

Had I known what kind of a monumentally feel bad day I would have just because I decided to get rid of this sofa today... I woulda carried it out to a beach somewhere myself and burnt it.

In 1985, when I was in 5th grade, some friends of mine very briefly got into Role Playing Games. I played once, for one afternoon. That evening I went home and "rolled a character" for myself. In the profile I created, I said I was an orphan. At some point my mother saw that and asked "do you wish you were an orphan?"

I don't play role playing games. Playing myself is enough of a challenge.

"It's going to a good home, Boris. In fact I think it's worst days are past."
Thank you sir. What you say cannot be truer.

My living room is clear.

Dance with me

This makes me love humanity.

(New album from Nouvelle Vague. Yay! Music video is a scene from Goodard movie "Bande à part")
Merci Karl!