Four short links: 5 May 2009

Spies, Community, International Success, and DNA Origami

  1. Supermap — The CIA’s venture capital arm, In-Q-Tel, is paying an undisclosed sum to California-based Geosemble Technologies to develop an intelligence version of the “geospatial data integration and layering technology” that the company developed for use by urban planners, real estate investors and market analysts. The technology combines overhead imagery, maps and heavy-duty data mining to create a map-based intelligence capability reminiscent of the Pentagon’s former Total Information Awareness program. When the project is done – and In-Q-Tel won’t say how soon that might be – CIA agents will be able to merge aerial images and electronic maps on a computer screen. Then they will be able to click on the building or other item of interest and all manner of information will pop up: who the tenants are, phone numbers, company records, links to company and organization Web sites, news reports related to the tenants or incidents at the address, property records, tax data and more. I love that Cheap Suit Susan, your local real estate agent, had the technology before the CIA. It’s like learning that Lionel Hutz has a missile defense system to stop his house being TPed.
  2. 7 Harsh Truths About Running CommunitiesAs the leader of your community, your personality sets the tone. As a result if the community behaves in ways you do not want, then you only have yourself to blame. I have seen many bloggers write about the negative comments they get on their posts. In most cases this is due to the tone they themselves strike in their writing. Although there are exceptions I believe that users will respond in the same voice you yourself set. If you are irreverent, then so will your users be. If you are rude, expect rude responses. “Social software” is an anachronism-software that doesn’t let users interact has become antisocial software. Every web creator needs to know what successful communities have in common. (via Julie Starr)
  3. Lingopal is Big in Japan (Lance Wiggs) — Turns out we are biggest in Japan. We have done no marketing there – it is all organic growth as our google ad writing and PR ability is not so good in Japanese. More anecdata for my belief that, while chance favours the prepared mind (as Louis Pasteur said), we routinely use post-hoc rationalisation to explain why it was inevitable that this or that lucky SOB hit it big.
  4. DNA Origami Seeds: Bottom-Up Methods for Molecular Self-Assembly (US News) — Winfree’s coworker at Caltech, Paul W. K. Rothemund, pioneered the seed-DNA technology that allows tiny “DNA origami” structures to self-assemble into nearly arbitrary shapes (such as a smiley face and a map of the Western Hemisphere). The researchers designed several different versions of a DNA origami rectangle, 95 by 75 nanometers, which served as the seeds for the growth of different types of ribbon-like DNA crystals. The seeds were combined in a test tube with other bits of DNA, called “tiles,” heated, and then cooled slowly. At the lower temperature, the tiles start to stick to each other and to the origami. In this way, the DNA ribbons self-assemble, but only into forms such as ribbons with particular widths and ribbons with stripe patterns prescribed by the original seed.
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