Solestrom Swimwear has a new bikini with a built-in UV Meter so you can figure out how long before you've had too much sun. (Looks like it's just a meter — it would impress me more if it let you input how sun-sensitive you are and it gave you a countdown of how long you had left before burning.)
From their press release:
The bikini collects UV data though a smart fabric belt, and reports the UV index to the wearer with 0.01 accuracy. The electronic components are neatly built into the removable belt, and can be worn even underwater. Next in the list is a lower cost cousin, the SmartSwim™ UV Index Detector Bikini, which has UV sensitive beads that change color with the level of UV intensity. The reading gives more of a range rather than an accurate number, but for those who simply need to know if the UV is low, moderate or high, this bikini fits the bill.
(Link via Retrospectacle.)
Each year IBM Almaden hosts the New Paradigms in Using Computers workshop. This year's theme was Web 2.0, which in this case roughly meant the mix of community sites, blogs and wikis that make up the supposed "next wave" of the Net.
Below the cut are my notes on this year's meeting. They're still in rough form (and of course are just based on my own recollection and what I managed to type as I was listening), but please enjoy!
Technorati tag: npuc2005
Dr. Miller talked about ChickenFoot, a Firefox extension that makes it (somewhat) easier for non-programmers to customize web pages they come to. The idea is to let people create a bookmark for things like "my latest bank statement," or add a link on every Amazon book review page to the MIT library website's listing for the given book.
contribution is in a few functions that let you specify things like
click 'I feel lucky' button instead of having to see what that
button is called internally by the page's raw HTML code. They're now
working on a version that does full keyword spotting and highlights the
buttons as you specify them.
There's clearly a tension between web-page authors and users here, and authors might not want users modifying their webpages because it hurts their business model (like the Amazon example above), or because a customization is pounding their server (as a GreaseMonkey script did to GMail last year), or because bugs in customization get blamed on provider. To this Miller says we've been down this road before with ad blockers, frame around content and deep linking, and that content providers are fighting a losing battle here: those that fight their users will lose their users.
My favorite talk of the bunch. Ross is the founder of Socialtext, which provides enterprises with a wiki and offers hosting services. One piece ofnews is that they just announced Socialtext Open, an open-source (MPL 1.1) version of their main software that's identical to their non-big-enterprise version.
Here are a few key concepts and quotes; check out his slides for more details.
It's not about the tools, it's about the practices people develop for using the tools.
One of his case studies (DrKW Wiki, an intranet for the investment bank Dresdner Kleinwort) had three inflection points of adoption that corresponded to additional features: single-sign-on to the wiki (from the same sign-on as the rest of the intranet, I presume), WYSIWYG editing of pages so non-techies could participate, and mobile access. Traffic to the wiki was greater than the rest of the intranet in just 6 months. CIO of DrKW: "For early adapters, email-volume on related projects is down 75%; meeting times have been whacked in half."
"PDFs is where knowledge goes to die."
Open Source (and Wikipedia in particular) is kept strong by the constant threat of the "Right To Fork." At any time, anyone can copy the Wikipedia software and content and fork, and they've had to stay relevant to fight that off.
He's now working with Dan Brickland on wikiCalc. Some questions he's asking: What happens when a document is a cell and a cell is a document? And anyone can change a cell? And each one has an RSS feed? And they compute / interact with nearby cells in some way? Distributed?
Photography used to be about memory preservation, now it's about communication & connection.
People aren't generating "content." What they're doing (and motivated by) is:
Interesting statistic: about half their traffic is on their API rather than their webpage (about 10-12M API calls / day).
His main predictions (based mostly on watching his two teenagers and generally being a bright guy):
Adults see the Web as important. Teens create ugly web pages. Teens see the Web as transient — like IM. Email is only for talking to parents and teachers, and the Web is rapidly heading this way. POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service) will probably go that way too: a legacy technology for communicating with geezers who haven't made the jump.
Limits on who will publish? Depends on your definition of "publish," but probably only a few extroverts will publish globally. Most will publish things only readable by friends.
Future: ubiquitous access to the net. Free or flat fee (today: Skype to Skype is free). RSS, small chunks of text (blogging), more audio, video, IM integrated with community-ware (e.g. LJ-Jabber). All via cellphone. Desktops will be docking stations and used for offline editing.
Zero-cost publishing means the cost of failure is zero. Ready-aim-fire becomes Ready, Fire-Aim-fire-aim-fire-aim...
Who loses: Those that control the "last mile" (cable, phone land-lines).
Who wins: People with opinions (extroverts). People who are always online. Those that can deploy quickly, and update quickly. Perpetual beta. Those that collapse development and operations. Asynchronous, Open Source, VOIP. The half-life of concept to End-Of-Life is approaching 5 years.
The trouble with community-generated information: blog spam, "IP looting," and marketplace for fake reviews. Many (most?) hotel managers have someone working non-stop to plant false reviews for his hotel on the various online review sites.
RealTravel is a web service that lets people post their travel logs, tips and reviews online. The idea is to offer more trustworthy information (and fuller information) because it's tied to a full profile including pictures, maps of where someone went, travel logs, etc.
The hard part is motivating participation: why should I share my feedback & advice with strangers? Answer: Do it for your friends & family. With style (i.e. with tools to make the write-up look really professional). Add auto-generated maps, recommendations for hotels & restaurants, embedded photos, etc.
Principle of design: motivate through enlightened self-interest. Design services that reward individual behavior that has global benefit. Communicate the value proposition to people who would recognize that value.
Key Motivators (design these, and target audiences with these motivators):
Why should users do things that benefit the community? is the wrong question. Make doing the right thing low-friction. "Snap to grid," e.g. have auto-complete of all the cities in the world, snap "diving" to the main-taxonomy tag "diving & snorkeling."
At IBM's NPUC workshop yesterday, Ross Mayfield announced that his company has released an Open Source distribution of Socialtext, their flagship wiki software, under a Mozilla Public License (MPL 1.1). I wasn't all that pleased with any wikis I've tried in the past (including SocialText when I played with it over a year ago)... might be time for me to give it another try and see how it looks.
Socialtext Open can be downloaded from Sourceforge.
My friends Bill & Amy have set up a page for their Personal Aura Device, a set of sound-reactive LED poi and clothing they're designing and building for Burning Man this year. Seeing them in action is amazing — they have one controller with a microphone that wirelessly controls boards fitted with with extremely bright red, green and blue LEDs. The main music mode ties intensity of each color to a different frequency band in the audio, so base and drums beat in the blues, mid-tones in the greens and vocalists and guitar are followed by the red. It's pretty hypnotic to watch, especially when they've got two sets of poi plus costuming all pulsing in unison to the music.
Says Randall, a former electronics engineer and two-term Colorado state legislator, "The U.S. is printing money at the speed of light, and it's scary."
My friend Yonatan Zunger has posted a very cogent analysis of what's going on between Israel, Hezbollah, Syria, Lebanon and Iran right now. Well worth the read.
OK, so the whole stem-cell debate in congress mostly revolves around the fac that, as Bush put it, "...extracting the stem cell destroys the embryo, and thus destroys its potential for life,” and opponents of embryonic stem-cell research suggest scientists should focus on adult stem cells that don't have that potential. Which just makes me wonder, what happens if (or when) science advances to the point where human cloning is possible? Would adult stem cells be verboten as well? What happens when blood cells and dead skin have the "potential for life?"
OK, this is too cool. From Physics News Update (with thanks to Strata for the link):
For centuries, world travelers have known of sand dunes that issue loud sounds, sometimes of great tonal quality. In the 12th century Marco Polo heard singing sand in China and Charles Darwin described the clear sounds coming from a sand deposit up against a mountain in Chile. Now, a team of scientists has disproved the long held belief that the sound comes from vibrations of the dune as a whole and proven, through field studies and through controlled experiments in a lab, that the sounds come from the synchronized motions of the grains in avalanches of a certain size.
Today's WSJ has a story on how the FBI threatened to take away Moroccan immigrant Yassine Ouassif's green card if he didn't become an informant (behind a pay wall, sorry, a summary is here). Down at the bottom of the story is this bit:
Ms. Aklaghi [Ouassif's lawyer] says she learned more at that point about why federal authorities were so interested in him. Mr. Ouassif had been secretly recorded by an FBI informant talking to friends in a San Francisco mosque. A Homeland Security lawyer, she says, did not specify what Mr. Ouassif had said, but told her that his statements did not indicate criminal intent and were fully protected by the First Amendment. Nevertheless, his statements had landed him on the no-fly list, Ms. Aklaghi says, and led to all his subsequent travails.
So, if her information is correct, what this says is that Homeland Security is taking the position that though the First Amendment stops the government from "abridging the freedom of speech," it doesn't say anything about taking away someone's ability to board an airplane if he says something we don't like.
Homeland Security, of course, is not commenting at all, which points to the other big problem with all this nonsense: the people currently running the show are so secretive (and our congress so complicit) that it's almost impossible to find out what's actually being done in our name. Where's the transparency? Where's the freedom to be left alone when you're doing nothing wrong? This is not how the America I learned about in civics class works. We deserve better — a lot better.
Update 7/12/06: corrected spelling of Aklaghi's name.
As googling joins xeroxing as a verb listed in the OED and Merriam-Webster dictionary, former Google Director of Consumer Marketing and Brand Management Doug Edwards reflects on the legal silliness required to not lose your trademark (via Google Blogoscoped).
So how long did it take Xerox to be added to the dictionary?
Galileo is the EU's first global navigation system, and unlike the US GPS system is partially funded by private investors. Part of their business model is to sell their data, so they've added noise to the signal using a pseudo-random number sequence, with the intention of selling the "offsets" to licensed manufacturers of GPS receivers. Now researchers at Cornell have decoded that sequence, using statistical analysis of the signal. From the Cornell press release:
Afraid that cracking the code might have been copyright infringement, Psiaki's group consulted with Cornell's university counsel. "We were told that cracking the encryption of creative content, like music or a movie, is illegal, but the encryption used by a navigation signal is fair game," said Psiaki. The upshot: The Europeans cannot copyright basic data about the physical world, even if the data are coming from a satellite that they built.
The moral of the story: just because people benefit from your work doesn't mean they've agreed to pay you, and business plans don't carry the force of law.
(Thanks to Lenny for the link!)
Interesting: Livejournal has just launched a Jabber server, and are developing integrated features like posting via Jabber and of course integrated Friends and Buddy lists. And they'll be federating, so you'll be able to talk to other Jabber-enabled systems (like GMail/GTalk) without the usual mucking about in monopoly-space (you know, like you do with AIM, MSN, Yahoo! Messenger, and all the other dark-age services that still wish it was 1990).
(Thanks to Sunyata__ for the link!)
Two talks that look interesting at BayCHI this Tuesday, July 11 at 7:30 at PARC in Palo Alto:
(Thanks to Perlick for the heads up.)
A few weeks ago a coworker came to me with a conundrum: he was writing an academic paper and needed a picture of a certain kind of cloud to illustrate a point he was making. He used the Creative Commons search engine and found an image on Flickr.com that both fit his needs and was released under a license that only required that he give attribution to the photographer. Only one problem: the photographer's Flickr page didn't list his real name or contact info anywhere. Just a handle... "Cyberdude," or something like that.
If he was just using this photo to illustrate a blog entry, my coworker would probably have just said "Photo curtsey of Cyberdude" and with a link to this guy's Flickr page, but there was no way he was going to say that in a professional academic paper. He could have created a Flickr account and left a comment asking for permission and the photographer's real name, but that's the kind of effort to gain permission that Creative Commons licenses were specifically designed to avoid. No doubt the photographer didn't list any contact info to avoid spammers or stalkers, but that need conflicts with the needs specified by his license. A Catch-22.