- Reform Government Surveillance — hard not to view this as a demarcation dispute. “Ruthlessly collecting every detail of online behaviour is something we do clandestinely for advertising purposes, it shouldn’t be corrupted because of your obsession over national security!”
- Brian Abelson — Data Scientist at the New York Times, blogging what he finds. He tackles questions like what makes a news app “successful” and how might we measure it. Found via this engaging interview at the quease-makingly named Content Strategist.
- StageXL — Flash-like 2D package for Dart.
- BayesDB — lets users query the probable implications of their data as easily as a SQL database lets them query the data itself. Using the built-in Bayesian Query Language (BQL), users with no statistics training can solve basic data science problems, such as detecting predictive relationships between variables, inferring missing values, simulating probable observations, and identifying statistically similar database entries. Open source.
Computing should enable us to have richer lives; it shouldn’t become life.
At a recent meeting, Tim O’Reilly, referring to the work of Tristan Harris and Joe Edelman, talked about “software of regret.” It’s a wonderfully poetic phrase that deserves exploring.
For software developers, the software of regret has some very clear meanings. There’s always software that’s written poorly and incurs too much technical debt that is never paid back. There’s the software you wrote before you knew what you were doing, but never had time to fix; the software that you wrote under an inflexible and unrealistic schedule; and those three lines of code that are an awful hack, but you couldn’t get to work any other way.
That’s not what Tim was talking about, though. The software of regret is software that you use for an hour or two, and then hate yourself for using it. Facebook? Candy Crush? Tumblr? Words with Friends? YouTube? Pick your own; they’re fun for a while, but after a couple of hours, you wonder where the evening went and wish you had done something worthwhile. It’s software that only views us as targets for marketing: as views, eyeballs, and clicks. Can we change the metrics? As Edelman says, rather than designing to maximize clicks and page views, can we design to maximize fulfillment? Could Facebook measure friendships nurtured, rather than products liked?
Computing should enable us to have richer lives; it shouldn’t become life. That’s really what the software of regret is all about: taking over your life and preventing you from engaging with a world that is ultimately a lot richer than a flat, but high-resolution, screen. It’s certainly harder to avoid writing the software of regret than it is to avoid writing spaghetti code that will make your life miserable when the bug reports start rolling in. But probably more important. Do stuff that matters.
Surveillance Demarcation, NYT Data Scientist, 2D Dart, and Bayesian Database
A movement to bring us into a more harmonious relationship with our bodymind and with technology.
“What are you tracking?” This is the conversation at Quantified Self (QS) meetups. The Quantified Self movement celebrates “self-knowledge through numbers.” In our current love affair with QS, we tend to focus on data and the mind. Technology helps manage and mediate that relationship. The body is in there somewhere, too, as a sort of “slave” to the mind and the technology.
From blood sugar to pulse, from keystrokes to time spent online, the assumption is that there’s power in numbers. We also assume that what can be measured is what matters, and if behaviors can be measured, they can be improved. The entire Quantified Self movement has grown around the belief that numbers give us an insight into our bodies that our emotions don’t have.
However, in our relationship with technology, we easily fall out of touch with our bodies. We know how many screen hours we’ve logged, but we are less likely to be able to answer the question: “How do you feel?”
In our obsession with numbers and tracking, are we moving further and further away from the wisdom of the body? Our feelings? Our senses? Most animals rely entirely on their senses and the wisdom of the body to inform their behavior. Does our focus on numbers, measuring, and tracking move us further and further away from cultivating a real connection to our “Essential Self”?
AI Book, Science Superstars, Engineering Ethics, and Crowdsourced Science
- Society of Mind — Marvin Minsky’s book now Creative-Commons licensed.
- Collaboration, Stars, and the Changing Organization of Science: Evidence from Evolutionary Biology — The concentration of research output is declining at the department level but increasing at the individual level. [...] We speculate that this may be due to changing patterns of collaboration, perhaps caused by the rising burden of knowledge and the falling cost of communication, both of which increase the returns to collaboration. Indeed, we report evidence that the propensity to collaborate is rising over time. (via Sciblogs)
- As Engineers, We Must Consider the Ethical Implications of our Work (The Guardian) — applies to coders and designers as well.
- Eyewire — a game to crowdsource the mapping of 3D structure of neurons.
R GUI, Drone Regulations, Bitcoin Stats, and Android/iOS Money Shootout
- Deducer — An R Graphical User Interface (GUI) for Everyone.
- Integration of Civil Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) in the National Airspace System (NAS) Roadmap (PDF, FAA) — first pass at regulatory framework for drones. (via Anil Dash)
- Bitcoin Stats — $21MM traded, $15MM of electricity spent mining. Goodness. (via Steve Klabnik)
- iOS vs Android Numbers (Luke Wroblewski) — roundup comparing Android to iOS in recent commerce writeups. More Android handsets, but less revenue per download/impression/etc.
Zombie Drones, Algebra Through Code, Data Toolkit, and Crowdsourcing Antibiotic Discovery
- Skyjack — drone that takes over other drones. Welcome to the Malware of Things.
- Bootstrap World — a curricular module for students ages 12-16, which teaches algebraic and geometric concepts through computer programming. (via Esther Wojicki)
- Harvest — open source BSD-licensed toolkit for building web applications for integrating, discovering, and reporting data. Designed for biomedical data first. (via Mozilla Science Lab)
- Project ILIAD — crowdsourced antibiotic discovery.