New Species Found on Flickr (NPR) — Guek had noticed the insect while hiking the jungles of Malaysia, taken the photos, and then watched it fly away. I just love the idea of entomologists bringing up richly-coloured hi-res shots of insects from Flickr. Can’t figure out whether to parody as porn fetish or as if they were using movie tech (“can we enhance that?”)
Position Correcting Tools for 2D Digital Fabrication — in our approach, the user coarsely positions a frame containing the tool in an approximation of the desired path, while the device tracks the frame’s location and adjusts the position of the tool within the frame to correct the user’s positioning error in real time. Because the automatic positioning need only cover the range of the human’s positioning error, this frame can be small and inexpensive, and because the human has unlimited range, such a frame can be used to precisely position tools over an unlimited range.
3D Printed Exoskeletal Arms for Little Girl — researchers at a Delaware hospital 3D printed a durable custom device with the tiny, lightweight custom parts she needed. Good for iterations, replacements, and an astonishingly high number of “awww” moments in the video.
Figshare — allows researchers to publish all of their data in a citable, searchable and sharable manner. All data is persistently stored online under the most liberal Creative Commons licence, waiving copyright where possible. figshare was started by a frustrated Imperial College PhD student as a way to disseminate all research outputs and not just static images through traditional academic publishing. It is now supported by Digital Science, a Macmillan Publishers company.
Zombees — honey bees that have been parasitized by the Zombie Fly Apocephalus borealis. Fly-parasitized honey bees become “ZomBees” showing the “zombie-like behavior” of leaving their hives at night on “a flight of the living dead.” See also NPR interview.
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)
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)
Social Media in China (Fast Company) — fascinating interview with Tricia Wang. We often don’t think we have a lot to learn from tech companies outside of the U.S., but Twitter should look to Weibo for inspiration for what can be done. It’s like a mashup of Tumblr, Zynga, Facebook, and Twitter. It’s very picture-based, whereas Twitter is still very text-based. In Weibo, the pictures are right under each post, so you don’t have to make an extra click to view them. And people are using this in subversive ways. Whether you’re using algorithms to search text or actual people–and China has the largest cyber police force in the world—it’s much easier to censor text than images. So people are very subversive in hiding messages in pictures. These pictures are sometimes very different than what people are texting, or will often say a lot more than the actual text itself. (via Tricia Wang)
The Future of a Map is Its Information (The Atlantic) — maps are how we display data when we, the brain, wish to answer a question. Technology is rapidly expanding the questions we don’t need to look at a map to answer: directions, weather forecasts, dining …. (via Flowing Data)
Governments Don’t Have Websites, Governments Are Websites (MySociety) — the best part about MySociety’s recent funding is that Tom Steinberg is blogging more. The majority of citizens don’t have deep, all encompassing, everyday interactions with the state – at most they drop their kids at school every day, or visit the GP a few times a year. That’s as physically close as they get. To these people, interacting with government already feels somewhat like interacting with Amazon. It sends them benefits, passports, recycling bins, car tax disks from mysterious dispatch offices and it demands money and information in return. The difference is in emotional tone – the Amazon online interactions tend to be seamless, the government online interactions either painful or impossible – time to pick up the phone.
Captured America (The Atlantic) — Larry Lessig observes the tilted playing field responsible for America’s inability to govern itself: A tiny number of Americans — .26 percent — give more than $200 to a congressional campaign. .05 percent give the maximum amount to any congressional candidate. .01 percent give more than $10,000 in any election cycle. And .000063 percent — 196 Americans — have given more than 80 percent of the super-PAC money spent in the presidential elections so far.
Neocover — very clever idea: magnetic light-switch frames, from which you can suspend keys and other very-losable pocket-fillers.
Design of Checkout Forms (Luke Wroblewski) — extremely detailed, data-filled, useful guide to state of the art (and effect of) e-commerce checkout forms. In tests comparing forms with real-time feedback to those without, usability testing firm, Etre and I measured a: 22% increase in success rates; 22% decrease in errors made; 31% increase in satisfaction rating; 42% decrease in completion times.
Less is Exponentially More (Rob Pike) — wonderfully readable introduction to the philosophy of the Go programming language. What matters isn’t the ancestor relations between things but what they can do for you. That, of course, is where interfaces come into Go. But they’re part of a bigger picture, the true Go philosophy. If C++ and Java are about type hierarchies and the taxonomy of types, Go is about composition.
3D Manufacturing Business Plan — numbers for an existing business built around 3D printing. Fascinating to see the economics. The author makes the point: Based on these volumes, this product would be impossible to produce profitably by any other means.
Tale of Two Pwnies (Chromium Blog) — So, how does one get full remote code execution in Chrome? In the case of Pinkie Pie’s exploit, it took a chain of six different bugs in order to successfully break out of the Chrome sandbox. Lest you think all attacks come from mouth-breathing script kiddies, this is how the pros do it. (via Bryan O’Sullivan)
The Future is Specific (Chris Granger) — In traditional web-MVC, the code necessary to serve a single route is spread across many files in many different folders. In a normal editor this means you need to do a lot of context switching to get a sense for everything going on. Instead, this mode replaces the file picker with a route picker, as routes seem like the best logical unit for a website. There’s a revolution coming in web dev tools: we’ve had the programmer adapting to the frameworks with little but textual assistance from the IDE. I am loving this flood of creativity because it has the promise to reduce bugs and increase the speed by which we generate good code.
Makie — design a doll online, they’ll 3d-print and ship it to you. Hello, future of manufacturing, fancy seeing you in a dollhouse!
Graduates and Post-Graduates on Food Stamps (Chronicle of Higher Education) — two points for me here: the inherent evil of not paying a living wage; and the pain of market signals that particular occupations and specialisations are not as useful as once they were. I imagine it’s hard to repurpose the specific knowledge in a Masters of Medieval History to some other field, though hopefully the skills of diligent hard work, rapid acquisition of knowledge, and critical thought will apply to new jobs. Expect more of this as we replace human labour with automation. I look forward to the software startup which creates work for people outside the organisation; the ultimate “create more value than you capture”.
Book Marketing Lessons Learned (Sarah Milstein) — I really liked this honest appraisal of how Baratunde Thurston marketed his “How to be Black” book, and am doubly chuffed that it appeared on the O’Reilly Radar blog. I was fascinated by his Street Team, but knew I wanted to bring it to your attention when I read this. Start with your inner circle. I had an epiphany with Gary Vaynerchuk. I asked: “Did I ever ask you to buy my book?” He said, “Yeah, I bought it yesterday.” I talked about his book, but cash on the table — it didn’t happen. He wished he had identified everyone he knows, sending a personal note explaining: “A) buy the book; B) this means a lot to me. You owe me or I will owe you. Here’s some things you can do to help: If you have speaking opportunities, let me know. For instance, I would love to speak at schools.” Make it easy for people who want to help you. Everything else is bonus. If you haven’t already converted the inner circle, you’ve skipped a critical step. “Let the people who already love you show it” is the skill I feel like I’ve spent years working on, and still have years to go.
Sugata Mitra: Beyond The Hole in the Wall (YouTube) — great talk by the education researcher Sugata Mitra whose big kick is self-directed learning. Great stories about the deployments and effects he’s had with technology and supervision rather than teaching, but the end is a real kicker: the core skills we have are literacy, search, and belief. Of the three, the most problematic is belief: when and how do/should we turn something we’ve read into something ingrained, accepted, and built-upon? (via Tara Taylor-Jorgenson)
Interview with Bunnie Huang (Makezine) — fascinating interview with the hardware guy behind the Chumby. It’s all gold, from rapid iteration at early stages of hardware through to the need to simplify. I think one of the most gut-wrenching realizations that small companies have to make is that they aren’t Apple. Apple spends over a billion dollars a year on tooling. An injection molding tool may cost around $40k and 2-3 months to make; Apple is known to build five or six simultaneously and then scrap all but one so they can evaluate multiple design approaches. But for them, tossing $200k in tooling to save 2 months time to market is peanuts. But for a startup that raised a million bucks, it’s unthinkable. Apple also has hundreds of staff; a startup has just a few members to do everything. The precision and refinement of Apple’s products come at an enormous cost that is just out of the reach of startups.
ssh as Chrome Extension — can’t help but feel that building a secure login system on top of web browsers on top of operating systems isn’t going to be more secure than building a secure login system on top of the operating system.
The Third Industrial Revolution (The Economist) — A number of remarkable technologies are converging: clever software, novel materials, more dexterous robots, new processes (notably three-dimensional printing) and a whole range of web-based services. The factory of the past was based on cranking out zillions of identical products: Ford famously said that car-buyers could have any colour they liked, as long as it was black. But the cost of producing much smaller batches of a wider variety, with each product tailored precisely to each customer’s whims, is falling. The factory of the future will focus on mass customisation–and may look more like those weavers’ cottages than Ford’s assembly line.
Hiring Executives (Ben Horowitz) — I am going to meditate for a while on Consensus decisions about executives almost always sway the process away from strength and towards lack of weakness.
Valve’s Handbook for New Employees (PDF) — Since Valve is flat, people don’t join projects because they’re told to. Instead, you’ll decide what to work on after asking yourself the right questions (more on that later). Employees vote on projects with their feet (or desk wheels). Strong projects are ones in which people can see demonstrated value; they staff up easily. This means there are any number of internal recruiting efforts constantly under way. Reminds me of Google, and I wonder how Valve manages politics in an organic hierarchy organization. (via Andy Baio)
Facebook Numbers — On average, Facebook earned $1.21 on each of its users this last quarter. I’d love to be able to pay them $10/yr and have them work for me instead of for [insert best-fit advertiser here].
The growing role of software architects: “Architecture has become much more interesting now because it’s become more encompassing," says Neal Ford, software architect and meme wrangler at ThoughtWorks.