NYC’s Dollar Vans (New Yorker) — New York’s unofficial shuttles, called “dollar vans” in some neighborhoods, make up a thriving transportation system that operates where the subway and buses don’t. A somewhat invisible economy. (via Seb Chan)
Eigenmorality — caution: linear algebra and morality, two subjects that many programmers struggle with. (via Pete Warden)
Samsung Develops Emotion-Sensing Smartphone (ExtremeTech) — By analyzing how fast you type, how much the phone shakes, how often you backspace mistakes, and how many special symbols are used, the special Galaxy S II can work out whether you’re angry, surprised, happy, sad, fearful, or disgusted, with an accuracy of 67.5% From a research paper from a research group on an unannounced product. Nice idea and clever use of incidental data, though 2/3 accuracy isn’t something to write home about. Reminds me of Sandy Pentland‘s Reality Mining. (via James Governor)
The $40 Standup Desk — we’ve solved the usability of software, but hardware remains stubbornly dangerous to use. There’s a reason nobody refers to “laptops” any more (if you use them on your lap, you might as well call them “wristkillers”).
funf — an extensible sensing and data processing framework for mobile devices being developed at the MIT Media Lab [...] an open source, reusable set of functionalities, enabling the collection, uploading, and configuration of a wide range of data types. LGPL, Android.
eBook Publishing Isn’t That Easy — list of the things you have to worry about when you self-publish. This line is gold: Locating a distributor. Amazon pays me 17 bucks for a 50-dollar book. Can you say “assholes?” LuLu pays me 43 bucks, but only if you buy on their site. Do the math. Platform vendors own authors and small publishers. (via Josh Clark)
Sally — a tool for embedding strings in matrices, as used in machine learning. (via Matt Biddulph)
GNU SIP Witch Released — can be used to deploy private secure calling networks, whether stand-alone or in conjunction with existing VoIP infrastructure, for private institutions and national governments. (via Hacker News)
Chilling Story of Genius in a Land of Chronic Unemployment (TechCrunch) — fascinating story of Nigerian criminal tech entrepreneurs. He helps build them up; he listens to their problems. He makes them feel loved. He calls each an innocuous pet name, lest he accidentally type the wrong message into the wrong chat window. He asks for a little bit of money here and there, until men are sending him steady amounts from each paycheck. He says it takes exactly one month for a man to fall in love with him, and once he has a man’s heart, no woman can take it. I wonder what designers of social software can learn from these master emotional manipulators?
Metrics Everywhere — another CodeConf talk, this time explaining Yammer’s use of metrics to quantify the actual state of their operations. Nice philosophical guide to the different ways you want to measure things (gauges, counters, meters, histograms, and timers). I agree with the first half, but must say that it will always be an uphill battle to craft a panegyric that will make hearts and minds soar at the mention of “business value”. Such an ugly phrase for such an important idea. (via Bryce Roberts)
On Earthquakes in Tokyo (Bunnie Huang) — Personal earthquake alarms are quite popular in Tokyo. Just as lightning precedes thunder, these alarms give you a few seconds warning to an incoming tremor. The alarm has a distinct sound, and this leads to a kind of pavlovian conditioning. All conversation stops, and everyone just waits in a state of heightened awareness, since the alarm can’t tell you how big it is—it just tells you one is coming. You can see the fight or flight gears turning in everyone’s heads. Some people cry; some people laugh; some people start texting furiously; others just sit and wait. Information won’t provoke the same reaction in everyone: for some it’s impending doom, for others another day at the office. Data is not neutral; it requires interpretation and context.
AccentuateUs — Firefox plugin to Unicodify text (so if you type “cafe”, the software turns it into “café”). The math behind it is explained on the dataists blog. There’s an API and other interfaces, even a vim plugin.
Twitter Numbers — growing at half a million accounts a day (how many are spammers, d’ya think?), over 140M tweets sent each day.
Online vs Newspaper News (Mashable) — The Poynter Institute, a landmark of American journalism research, has determined that as of the end of 2010, more people get their news from the Internet than from newspapers — and more ad dollars went to online outlets than to newspapers, too. (via Sacha Judd)
Blue Lacuna: Lessons Learned Writing the World’s Longest Interactive Fiction (PDF) — While I felt Progue was largely a success, the extreme complexity of the character’s code made difficulties with him both intensely difficult to diagnose and repair, and failures all the more mimesis-breaking for an engaged audience. In addition, the subtle text substitutions and altered behaviors provided in many cases too opaque a window into Progue’s interior workings. From informal interviews and published reviews I gathered that players could often not tell which conversation responses might cause Progue to become more submissive, paternal, and so on. In many cases, the change was not noticeable at all, and did not successfully indicate to players that their actions had had an eect on the character. More mechanisms to let the player shape their relationship with Progue more directly might have created a stronger feeling of agency for players, and an increased ability to shape the story more to their liking. Lessons for people designing complex emotional states into their products. (via Zack Urlocker)
From Head to Hand (Slate) — I was searching for the place where someone, anyone, writes about that epiphany where you see what you have made and it is different from what you had conceived. I was searching for a description of how an object can displace a bit of the world. I was avid. I wanted someone to write a description of Homo faber, the maker of things. I wanted a story of making told without the penumbra of romanticising how hard it is, without nostalgia.
Making or Breaking Culture — I’d never thought of HR as something that requires courage, but these stories clearly illustrate that if you want to put your people first then you must do so when it would be easier to buckle. (via Richard Hulse on Twitter)
What Makes a Great Speech? (Guardian) — my quest to understand how software can be passionate, opinionated, quirky, persuasive, and generally bypass reason and shoot straight for our emotional pattern-matching apparatus means that I end up reading articles like this. (via Courtney Johnston’s Instapaper Feed as well)
Artificial Empathy (Matt Jones) — we’ve evolved to broadcast and receive emotion, to infer intelligence and intent from the weakest of signals. Now we’re starting to use those communication channels in computer interactions. Matt Jones wonders what we can learn from animals about how this will play out.
Communication Styles Make a Difference (NY Times) — Women were also more negative about the tone of the list. Whereas men tended to say that they found the “slings and arrows” that list members posted “entertaining” (as long as they weren’t directed at them), women reported that the antagonistic exchanges made them want to unsubscribe from the list. One women said it made her want to drop out of the field [...] altogether. Also interesting: neutral point-of-view penalizes anyone who cautiously phrases contributions as opinion and rewards those who boldly claim facthood.
Why Platforms Leak: The Impact of Artificial Scarcity (JP Rangaswami) — the best summary of the inevitable failure of artificial scarcity. When you make something digital and connect it to the web, it becomes available everywhere, it becomes available immediately [...] As we’ve moved from the physical world to the digital world, incumbents in many industries have sought to preserve the historical structures and ways of doing business. Which, in effect, were attempts to create and exploit artificial scarcities. When it comes to digital assets, there are four primary ways to try and create artificial scarcity. [...] All these have been attempted. All these have failed, and will continue to fail. You cannot make something that is essentially abundant artificially scarce.