Nat Torkington

Nat has chaired the O'Reilly Open Source Convention and other O'Reilly conferences for over a decade. He ran the first web server in New Zealand, co-wrote the best-selling Perl Cookbook, and was one of the founding Radar bloggers. He lives in New Zealand and consults in the Asia-Pacific region.

Four short links: 2 January 2015

Four short links: 2 January 2015

Privacy Philosophy, Bitcoin Risks, Modelling Emotion, and Opinion Formation

  1. Google’s Philosopher — interesting take on privacy. Now that the mining and manipulation of personal information has spread to almost all aspects of life, for instance, one of the most common such questions is, “Who owns your data?” According to Floridi, it’s a misguided query. Your personal information, he argues, should be considered as much a part of you as, say, your left arm. “Anything done to your information,” he has written, “is done to you, not to your belongings.” Identity theft and invasions of privacy thus become more akin to kidnapping than stealing or trespassing. Informational privacy is “a fundamental and inalienable right,” he argues, one that can’t be overridden by concerns about national security, say, or public safety. “Any society (even a utopian one) in which no informational privacy is possible,” he has written, “is one in which no personal identity can be maintained.”
  2. S-1 for a Bitcoin Trust (SEC) — always interesting to read through the risks list to see what’s there and what’s not.
  3. Computationally Modelling Human Emotion (ACM) — our work seeks to create true synergies between computational and psychological approaches to understanding emotion. We are not satisfied simply to show our models “fit” human data but rather seek to show they are generative in the sense of producing new insights or novel predictions that can inform understanding. From this perspective, computational models are simply theories, albeit more concrete ones that afford a level of hypothesis generation and experimentation difficult to achieve through traditional theories.
  4. Opinion Formation Models on a Gradient (PLoSONE) — Many opinion formation models embedded in two-dimensional space have only one stable solution, namely complete consensus, in particular when they implement deterministic rules. In reality, however, deterministic social behavior and perfect agreement are rare – at least one small village of indomitable Gauls always holds out against the Romans. […] In this article we tackle the open question: can opinion dynamics, with or without a stochastic element, fundamentally alter percolation properties such as the clusters’ fractal dimensions or the cluster size distribution? We show that in many cases we retrieve the scaling laws of independent percolation. Moreover, we also give one example where a slight change of the dynamic rules leads to a radically different scaling behavior.
Comment
Four short links: 1 January 2015

Four short links: 1 January 2015

Wearables Killer App, Open Government Data, Gender From Name, and DVCS for Geodata

  1. Killer App for Wearables (Fortune) — While many corporations are still waiting to see what the “killer app” for wearables is, Disney invented one. The company launched the RFID-enabled MagicBands just over a year ago. Since then, they’ve given out more than 9 million of them. Disney says 75% of MagicBand users engage with the “experience”—a website called MyMagic+—before their visit to the park. Online, they can connect their wristband to a credit card, book fast passes (which let you reserve up to three rides without having to wait in line), and even order food ahead of time. […] Already, Disney says, MagicBands have led to increased spending at the park.
  2. USA Govt Depts Progress on Open Data Policy (labs.data.gov) — nice dashboard, but who will be watching it and what squeeze will they apply?
  3. globalnamedataWe have collected birth record data from the United States and the United Kingdom across a number of years for all births in the two countries and are releasing the collected and cleaned up data here. We have also generated a simple gender classifier based on incidence of gender by name.
  4. geogigan open source tool that draws inspiration from Git, but adapts its core concepts to handle distributed versioning of geospatial data.
Comment: 1
Four short links: 31 December 2014

Four short links: 31 December 2014

Feudal Employment, Untrusted Computing, Nerd Entitlement, and Paxos Explained

  1. Governance for the New Class of Worker (Matt Webb) — there is a new class of worker. They’re not inside the company – not benefiting from job security or healthcare – but their livelihoods in large part dependent on it, the transaction cost of moving to a competitor deliberately kept high. Or the worker is, without seeing any of the upside of success, taking on the risk or bearing the cost of the company’s expansion and operation.
  2. Hidden Code in Your Chipset (Slideshare) — there’s a processor that supervises your processor, and it’s astonishingly fully-featured (to the point of having privileged access to the network and being able to run Java code).
  3. On Nerd EntitlementPrivilege doesn’t mean you don’t suffer. The best part of 2014 was the tech/net feminist consciousness-raising/uprising. That’s probably the wrong label for it, but bullshit is being called that was ignored years ago. I think we’ve collectively found the next thing we fix that future generations will look back on us and wonder why it went unremarked-upon for so long.
  4. Understanding Paxos — a simple introduction, with animations, to one of the key algorithms in distributed systems.
Comment
Four short links: 30 December 2014

Four short links: 30 December 2014

DevOps Security, Bit Twiddling, Design Debates, and Chinese IP

  1. DevOoops (Slideshare) — many ways in which your devops efforts can undermine your security efforts.
  2. Matters Computational (PDF) — low-level bit-twiddling and algorithms with source code. (via Jarkko Hietaniemi)
  3. Top 5 Game Design Debates I Ignored in 2014 (Daniel Cook) — Stretch your humanity.
  4. From Gongkai to Open Source (Bunnie Huang) — The West has a “broadcast” view of IP and ownership: good ideas and innovation are credited to a clearly specified set of authors or inventors, and society pays them a royalty for their initiative and good works. China has a “network” view of IP and ownership: the far-sight necessary to create good ideas and innovations is attained by standing on the shoulders of others, and as such there is a network of people who trade these ideas as favors among each other. In a system with such a loose attitude toward IP, sharing with the network is necessary as tomorrow it could be your friend standing on your shoulders, and you’ll be looking to them for favors. This is unlike the West, where rule of law enables IP to be amassed over a long period of time, creating impenetrable monopoly positions. It’s good for the guys on top, but tough for the upstarts.
Comment
Four short links: 29 December 2014

Four short links: 29 December 2014

Open Source Submersible, Web Language, Cheap Robot Arm, and Visualisation Trends

  1. OpenROV — open source submersible, funded in 1 day on Kickstarter, now available for purchase.
  2. Ur/Web — web application language that’s functional, pure, statically typed, and strict. (via IT World)
  3. MeArm (Thingiverse) — a low cost robot arm. The meArm is designed to be light weight and inexpensive – to be the perfect introduction to robotics. Design on Thingiverse, kickstarting the controller.
  4. Eric Rodenbeck on Running a Studio (Flowing Data) — Stamen’s founder on the challenges of staying current. I hadn’t realised quite how quickly the visualisation field is changing.
Comment
Four short links: 26 December 2014

Four short links: 26 December 2014

Science Software, Better Bitmaps, Pushy Internet, and Graphical Perception

  1. How Bad Software Leads to Bad Science — 21% of scientists who write software have never received training in software development.
  2. Roaring Bitmapscompressed bitmaps which tend to outperform conventional compressed bitmaps such as WAH, EWAH or Concise. In some instances, they can be hundreds of times faster and they often offer significantly better compression.
  3. Two Eras of the Internet: From Pull to Push (Chris Dixon) — in which the consumer becomes the infinite sink for an unending and constant stream of updates, media, and social mobile local offers to swipe right on brands near you.
  4. Graphical Perception: Theory, Experimentation, and Application to the Development of Graphical Methods (PDF) — research on how well people decode visual cues. In order: Position along a common scale e.g. scatter plot; Position on identical but nonaligned scales e.g. multiple scatter plots; Length e.g. bar chart; Angle & Slope (tie) e.g. pie chart; Area e.g. bubbles; Volume, density, and color saturation (tie) e.g. heatmap; Color hue e.g. newsmap. (via Flowing Data)
Comments: 2
Four short links: 25 December 2015

Four short links: 25 December 2015

Smart Cities, Blockchain Innovation, Brain Interfaces, and Knowledge Graphs

  1. Smartest Cities Rely on Citizen Cunning and Unglamorous Technology (The Guardian) — vendors like Microsoft, IBM, Siemens, Cisco and Hitachi construct the resident of the smart city as someone without agency; merely a passive consumer of municipal services – at best, perhaps, a generator of data that can later be aggregated, mined for relevant inference, and acted upon. Should he or she attempt to practise democracy in any form that spills on to the public way, the smart city has no way of accounting for this activity other than interpreting it as an untoward disruption to the orderly flow of circulation.
  2. Second Wave of Blockchain Innovation — the economic challenges of innovating on the blockchain.
  3. Introduction to the Modern Brain-Computer Interface Design (UCSD) — The lectures were first given by Christian Kothe (SCCN/UCSD) in 2012 at University of Osnabrueck within the Cognitive Science curriculum and have now been recorded in the form of an open online course. The course includes basics of EEG, BCI, signal processing, machine learning, and also contains tutorials on using BCILAB and the lab streaming layer software.
  4. Machine Learning with Knowledge Graphs (video) — see also extra readings.
Comment
Four short links: 24 December 2014

Four short links: 24 December 2014

DRMed Objects, Eventual Consistency, Complex Systems, and Machine Learning Papers

  1. DRMed Cat Litter Box — the future is when you don’t own what you buy, and it’s illegal to make it work better. (via BoingBoing)
  2. Are We Consistent Yet? — the eventuality of consistency on different cloud platforms.
  3. How Complex Systems Fail (YouTube) — Richard Cook’s Velocity 2012 keynote.
  4. Interesting papers from NIPS 2014 — machine learning holiday reading.
Comment
Four short links: 23 December 2014

Four short links: 23 December 2014

Useful Metrics, Trouble at Mill, Drug R&D, and Disruptive Opportunities

  1. Metrics for Operational Performance — you’d be surprised how many places around your business you can meaningfully and productively track time-to-detection and time-to-resolution.
  2. Steel Mill Hacked — damage includes a blast furnace that couldn’t be shut down properly.
  3. Cerebros — drug-smuggling’s equivalent of corporate R&D. (via Regine Debatty)
  4. Ramble About Bitcoin (Matt Webb) — the meta I’m trying to figure out is: when you spot that one of these deep value chains is at the beginning of a big reconfiguration, what do you do? How do you enter it as a small business? How, as a national economy, do you help it along and make sure the transition happens healthily?
Comment
Four short links: 22 December 2014

Four short links: 22 December 2014

Manufacturers and Consumers, Time Management, Ethical Decisions, and Faux Faces

  1. Manufacturers and Consumers (Matt Webb) — manufacturers never spoke to consumers before. They spoke with distributors and retailers. But now products are connected to the Internet, manufacturers suddenly have a relationship with the consumer. And they literally don’t know what to do.
  2. Calendar Hacks (Etsy) — inspiration for your New Year’s resolution to waste less time.
  3. Making an Ethical Decision — there actually is an [web] app for that.
  4. Masks That Look Human to Computers — an artist creates masks that look like faces to face-recognition algorithms, but not necessarily to us. cf Deep Neural Networks are Easily Fooled.
Comment: 1