- The Rapture of the Nerds (Charlie Stoss, Cory Doctorow) — available for download and purchase under a CC-A-NC-ND license.
- Amazon Maps API — if there is an API layer of general use to developers, Amazon will build it. They want to be the infrastructure for the web. Tim identified “the Internet Operating System”, and Amazon figured out how to put a pricetag on every syscall.
- Hoektronics — open source 3d printer queue management. (via Daniel Suarez)
- The Machine Gaze (Will Wiles) — Converging, leapfrogging technologies evoke new emotional responses within us, responses that do not yet have names. (via James Bridle)
An interview with Fred Smith of the CDC on their open content APIs.
Health care data liquidity (the ability of data to move freely and securely through the system) is an increasingly crucial topic in the era of big data. Most conversations about data liquidity focus on patient data, but other kinds of information need to be able to move freely and securely, too. Enter several government initiatives, including efforts at agencies within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to make their content more easily available.
Fred Smith is team lead for the Interactive Media Technology Team in the Division of News and Electronic Media in the Office of the Associate Director for Communication for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta. We recently spoke by phone to discuss ways in which the CDC is working to make their information more “liquid”: easier to access, easier to repurpose, and easier to combine with other data sources.
Which data is available from the CDC APIs?
Fred Smith: In essence, what we’re doing is taking our unstructured web content and turning it into a structured database, so we can call an API into it for reuse. It’s making our content available for our partners to build into their websites or applications or whatever they’re building.
Todd Park likes to talk about “liberating data” — well, this is liberating content. What is a more high-value dataset than our own public health messaging? It incorporates not only HTML-based text, but also we’re building this to include multimedia — whether it’s podcasts, images, web badges, or other content — and have all that content be aware of other content based on category or taxonomy. So it will be easy to query, for example: “What content does the CDC have on smoking prevention?”
The industrial Internet will bring abstraction and modularity to the physical world.
The Internet has thrived on abstraction and modularity. Web services hide their complexity behind APIs and standardized protocols, and these clean interfaces make it easy to turn them into modules of larger systems that can take advantage of the most intelligent solution to each of many problems.
The Internet revolutionized the software-software interface; the industrial Internet will revolutionize the software-machine interface and, in doing so, will make machines more accessible. I’m using “access” very broadly here — interfaces will make machines accessible to innovators who aren’t necessarily experts in physical machinery, in the same way that the Google Maps API makes interactive mapping an accessible feature to developers who aren’t expert cartographers and front-end developers. And better access for people who write software means wider applications for those machines.
I’ve recently encountered a couple of widely different examples that illustrate this idea. These come from very different places — an aerospace manufacturer that has built strong linkages between airplanes and software, and an advanced enthusiast who has built new controllers for a pair of industrial robots — but they both involve the development of interfaces that make machines accessible. Read more…
Web services combine to give us our data, and help us use it.
The web service IFTTT (If this, then that) accesses popular web applications via their APIs, and lets users create new actions based on changes. For instance, actions such as “upload photos to Flickr when I add them to my Dropbox folder”, or “send me email when frost is forecast”.
I had been tempted to classify IFTTT as a merely an interesting toy for playing with social media. Granted, it’s nice that I can archive all my tweets into an Evernote note, but so what? However, IFTTT’s growth in features is showing it to be more than a bauble. The service is becoming an empowering tool that gives users more control over their own data, previously often accessible by programmers alone.
Urban Design, Vehicle Interfaces, Maldrones, and Cloud Translation
- Christchurch’s Shot at Being Innovation Central (Idealog) — Christchurch, rebuilding a destroyed CBD after earthquakes, has released plans for the new city. I hope there’s budget for architects and city developers to build visible data, sensors, etc. so the Innovation Precinct doesn’t become the Tech Ghetto.
- Torque Pro (Google Play Store) — a vehicle / car performance/diagnostics tool and scanner that uses an OBD II Bluetooth adapter to connect to your OBD2 engine management/ECU. Can lay out out your dashboards, track performance via GPS, and more. (via Steve O’Grady)
- Drone Pilots (NY Times) — at the moment, the stories are all about the technology helping our boys valiantly protecting the nation. Things will get interesting when the new technology is used against us (we just saw the possibility of this with 3D printing guns). (via Dave Pell)
- Avalon (GitHub) — A cloud based translation and localization utility for Python which combines human and machine translation. There’s also a how-to. (via Brian McConnell)
Torturing HTTP, Twitter Business, Mobile Setup, and 3D Printing Olympic Gold
- pathod — A pathological HTTP daemon for testing and torturing client software. (via Hacker News)
- A Walk Through Twitter’s Walled Garden (The Realtime Report) — nice breakdown of Twitter’s business model choice and consequences. Twitter wants you to be able to see the pictures and read the articles shared in your its Tweets, without leaving the garden. Costolo told the Los Angeles Times that “Twitter is heading in a direction where its 140-character messages are not so much the main attraction but rather the caption to other forms of content.” (You know all the traffic that Twitter’s been driving to web sites? Don’t count on it being there next year.) (via Jim Stogdill)
- My Computing Environment (Jesse Vincent) — already have a set of those gloves on order.
- How Speedo Created a Record-Breaking Swimsuit (Scientific American) — A new 3-D printer at Aqualab fabricated prototypes of the cap and goggles for testing within hours, rather than sending drawings to a manufacturer and waiting weeks or months. “In the past we couldn’t do many changes to the original design,” Santry says. “With this process, we completely revolutionized the goggle from scratch.” (via Eric Ries)
Drone Overload, Mac MySQL Tool, Better Cancer Diagnosis Through AI, and Inconstant Identifiers
- Drones Over Somalia are Hazard to Air Traffic (Washington Post) — In a recently completed report, U.N. officials describe several narrowly averted disasters in which drones crashed into a refugee camp, flew dangerously close to a fuel dump and almost collided with a large passenger plane over Mogadishu, the capital. (via Jason Leopold)
- Sequel Pro — free and open source Mac app for managing MySQL databases. It’s an update of CocoaMySQL.
- Neural Network Improves Accuracy of Least Invasive Breast Cancer Test — nice use of technology to make lives better, for which the creator won the Google Science Fair. Oh yeah, she’s 17. (via Miss Representation)
- Free Harder to Find on Amazon — so much for ASINs being permanent and unchangeable. Amazon “updated” the ASINs for a bunch of Project Gutenberg books, which means they’ve lost all the reviews, purchase history, incoming links, and other juice that would have put them at the top of searches for those titles. Incompetence, malice, greed, or a purely innocent mistake? (via Glyn Moody)
CC-Licensed Museum, Bye Bye API, Socket Server, and Free Taxpayer-Funded Research NOW!
- Wide Open Future of the Art Museum (TED) — text of an interview with curator at the Walters Art Museum about CC-licensing content: reasons for it, value to society, value to the institution. What I say in a very abbreviated form in my talk is that people go to the Louvre because they’ve seen the Mona Lisa; the reason people might not be going to an institution is because they don’t know what’s in your institution. (via Carl Malamud)
- Twitter Resiles From API-Driven Site (Twitter) — performance was the reason to return to server-assembled pages, vs their previous “client makes API calls and assembles the page itself”.
- Stripe Einhorn — language-independent shared socket manager. Einhorn makes it easy to have multiple instances of an application server listen on the same port. You can also seamlessly restart your workers without dropping any requests. Einhorn requires minimal application-level support, making it easy to use with an existing project.
- Petition the Whitehouse For Access to Taxpayer-Funded Research (Whitehouse) — We believe in the power of the Internet to foster innovation, research, and education. Requiring the published results of taxpayer-funded research to be posted on the Internet in human and machine readable form would provide access to patients and caregivers, students and their teachers, researchers, entrepreneurs, and other taxpayers who paid for the research. Expanding access would speed the research process and increase the return on our investment in scientific research. Sign this and spread the word: it’s time to end the insanity of hiding away research to protect a handful of publishers’ eighteenth century business models.
APIs may be IP, and C remains popular, even when obfuscated.
We look at the legal status of APIs and how the Oracle versus Google suit may be affecting it, along with the relative popularity of languages and the world's worst C programs.
REST Interfaces, Browser History, Crappy Textbooks, and Wireless Babies
- Designing RESTful Interfaces (Slideshare) — extremely good presentation on how to build HTTP APIs.
- Manipulating History for Fun and Profit — if you want to make websites that are AJAX-responsive but without breaking the back button or preventing links, read this.
- Why Textbooks Are So Broken (Salon) — Let’s say a publisher hires a developer for a certain low-bid fee to produce seven supplemental math books for grades 3-8. The product specs call for each student book and teacher guide to have page counts of roughly 100 pages and 80 pages, respectively. The publisher wants these seven books ready for press in five weeks—over 1,400 pages. To put this in perspective, in the not too recent past at least six months would be allotted for a project of this size. But publishers customarily shrink their deadlines to get a jump on the competition, especially in today’s math market. Unreasonable turnaround times are part of the new normal, something that almost guarantees a lack of quality right out of the gate.
- exmobaby — wireless biosensor baby pyjamas send ECG, skin temperature, and movement data via Zigbee. (via Jo Komisarczuk)