- StackParts — catalogue of different parts of the open source web stack, from Joshua Schachter. He’s looking for helpers.
- DIY Microsocopes — Keeling’s lowfi contraption, featured in MAKE magazine and virally spreading across science classrooms the country over, is bringing microscopes not just to eye level, but street level. Blowtorch and pipette glass makes for a Leeuwenhoek microscope.
- The Covenant — Lexis Nexis are open sourcing their Hadoop-alike. They want to dual-license, requiring contributor copyright assignment, but copyright assignment and dual-licensing have a bad rep in the open source world because companies can subsequently abandon the open source component. Bruce Perens crafted a covenant: each copyright assignment of a patch can only happen if the company agrees not to abandon the open source project for three years. This document is a good read, though, for a lot more of the thinking behind the agreement. Unfortunate name, though: The Covenant were the villains in the Halo game.
- Ben Hammersley on The Future — Moore’s Law means anything that is dismissed on the grounds of the technology-not-being-good-enough-yet is going to happen. In a fantastic talk (I linked to Ben’s notes), this sentence jumped out. I hadn’t really appreciated this before, but it is absolutely true.
ENTRIES TAGGED "future"
Web Stack Catalogue, DIY Microscopes, Open Source Covenant, and Moore's Law Redux
Traditional methods come through when connected systems fail.
A couple of months ago, I had a remarkable demonstration of the fragility of the "always on" connected mindset.
- Tilt — clever Firefox plugin that lets you view the DOM on your page in 3D. Excellent for visually understanding the structure and layout of your page. I can’t wait to see the applications of this in debugging and teaching.
- Improving Hadoop Efficiency on Graph Data — three techniques: clustering data instead of randomly partitioning across nodes; allowing different data to be replicated differently; graph-optimized storage. (via Big Data)
- Learnings from the Long View (PDF) — scenario planning lessons learned from the founder of the field. Most of the scenarios they talk about are near and dear to the O’Reilly heart: smart networks, augmented reality, synthetic biology, energy from bacteria, super macro- and micro-manufacturing. (via Rob Passarella)
Murky Future for Transparency, Browser Awesome, Future Realized, and Data Bias
- Transparency Sites to Close — the US government’s open data efforts will close in a few months as a result of the cuts in funding.
- Browser Wars, Plural (Alex Russell) — nice rundown of demos of what modern browsers are capable of.
- Brief Descriptions of Potential Home Information Services (image) — lovely 1971 piece of futurology, which you can read going “Google News, Amazon, Google Calendar, PayPal, ….” The ancients vastly over-estimated our appetite for educational material, though. There’s no education site on the scale of a Google, Amazon, eBay, etc. (via BoingBoing)
- Google’s Recipes for Recipes — I’m as astonished as anyone to find myself agreeing with Nick Carr. The whinge is basically that by promoting recipes marked up in a particular format, Google have created an environment that favours corporate recipes over small less-technical people who can post plain text recipes but wouldn’t know microformats from microfilm. The really interesting part is how the choice of drill-down categories can backfire: Take, for instance, a recent search for “cassoulet.” The top search result is a recipe from Epicurious, one of the larger and better sites. But if you refine by time, your choices are “less than 15 min,” “less than 30 min,” or “less than 60 min.” There is no option for more than 60 minutes. In truth, a classic cassoulet takes at least 4 hours to make, if not several days (the Epicurious recipe takes 4 hours and 30 minutes; yet there in the results are recipes under each of these three time classes. One from Tablespoon goes so far as to claim to take just 1 minute. (It’s made with kidney beans, canned mushrooms, and beef, so it’s not long on authenticity.) … Refining recipe search by time doesn’t result in better recipes rising to the top; rather, the new winners are recipes packaged for the American eating and cooking disorder. (via Daniel Spector)
Future Retrospective, Political Entrepreneurs, Library DRM, and In-Database Analytics
- A History of the Future in 100 Objects (Kickstarter) — blog+podcast+video+book project, to have future historians tell the story of our century in 100 objects. The BBC show that inspired it was brilliant, and I rather suspect this will be too. It’s a clever way to tell a story of the future (his hardest problem will be creating a single coherent narrative for the 21st century). What are the 100 objects that future historians will use to sum up our century? ‘Smart drugs’ that change the way we think? A fragment from suitcase nuke detonated in Shanghai? A wedding ring between a human and an AI? The world’s most expensive glass of water, returned from a private mission to an asteroid? (via RIG London weekly notes)
- Entrepreneurs Who Create Value vs Entrepreneurs Who Lock Up Value (Andy Kessler) — distinguishes between “political entrepreneurs” who leverage their political power to own something and then overcharge or tax the crap out of the rest of us to use it vs “market entrepreneurs” who recognize the price-to-value gap and jump in. Ignoring legislation, they innovate, disintermediate, compete, stay up all night coding, and offer something better and cheaper until the market starts to shift. My attention was particularly caught by for every stroke of the pen, for every piece of legislation, for every paid-off congressman, there now exists a price umbrella that overvalues what he or any political entrepreneur is doing. (via Bryce Roberts)
- Harper-Collins Caps eBook Loans — The publisher wants to sell libraries DRMed ebooks that will self-destruct after 26 loans. Public libraries have always served and continue to serve those people who can’t access information on the purchase market. Jackass moves like these prevent libraries from serving those people in the future that we hope will come soon: the future where digital is default and print is premium. That premium may well be “the tentacles of soulless bottom-dwelling coprocephalic publishers can’t digitally destroy your purchase”. It’s worth noting that O’Reilly offers DRM-free PDFs of the books they publish, including mine. Own what you buy lest it own you. (via BoingBoing and many astonished library sources)
- MAD Lib — BSD-licensed open-source library for scalable in-database analytics. It provides data-parallel implementations of mathematical, statistical and machine learning methods for structured and unstructured data. (via Ted Leung)
Are we working on the right problems?
We face a choice between a future of accelerating technological progress and an age of declining possibilities and narrowing horizons. That choice depends on the problems we choose to solve.
Programmable Watch, Flying Cars, Shakespeare's Copywrongs, and Publishing Unified
- Programmable Bluetooth Watch — OLED display, bluetooth, vibration, button, timers, and two-way Bluetooth. I’m enchanted by the possibilities of our environment talking to us through such a device. (via Tom Coates on Twitter)
- Flying Cars (XKCD) — a reminder to appreciate the future we live in, and not grizzle too hard that the ones we dreamt of in the 60s haven’t eventuated yet. (Part of my optimism riff)
- Presumed Guilty (James Boyle) — setting to rights a bizarre op-ed by Scott Turow (head of the Authors Guild) which sought to make Shakespeare sound like an argument for copyright law. The argument is so strange it is hard to know where to begin. The problem is not simply that Shakespeare flourished without copyright protection for his work. It is that he made liberal use of the work of others in his own plays in ways that would today almost certainly generate a lawsuit.
- Context First: A Unified Theory of Publishing (Vimeo) — Brian O’Leary’s talk at TOC. (via Liza Daly on Twitter)
Commandline for Story, Dystopic Predictions, Studying Failures, and Two Great Tastes
- Curveship — a new interactive fiction system that can tell the same story in many different ways. Check out the examples on the home page. Important because interactive fiction and the command-lines of our lives are inextricably intertwined.
- Egypt’s Revolution: Coming to an Economy Near You (Umair Haque) — more dystopic prediction, but this phrase rings true: The lesson: You can’t steal the future forever — and, in a hyperconnected world, you probably can’t steal as much of it for as long.
- Why Startups Fail — failure is a more instructive teacher than success, so simply studying successful startups isn’t enough. (via Hacker News)
- Computer Science and Philosophy — Oxford is offering a program studying CS and Philosophy together. the two disciplines share a broad focus on the representation of information and rational inference, embracing common interests in algorithms, cognition, intelligence, language, models, proof, and verification. Computer Scientists need to be able to reflect critically and philosophically about these, as they push forward into novel domains. Philosophers need to understand them within a world increasingly shaped by computer technology, in which a whole new range of enquiry has opened up, from the philosophy of AI, artificial life and computation, to the ethics of privacy and intellectual property, to the epistemology of computer models (e.g. of global warming). I wish every CS student had taken a course in ethics.
Microsoft and the Web, URL Library, Optimism, and NoSQL Instruction
- Dive Into 2010 (Mark Pilgrim) — Mark wrote a hugely popular guide to HTML5 which was available online and published by O’Reilly. 6% of visitors used some version of Internet Explorer. That is not a typo. The site works fine in Internet Explorer — the site practices what it preaches, and the live examples use a variety of fallbacks for legacy browsers — so this is entirely due to the subject matter. Microsoft has completely lost the web development community.
- google-url — the Google URL-parsing library, designed to be embeddable.
- Reasons to be Cheerful (Charlie Stross) — if all we ever do is gripe about ways in which the world is not perfect, we will make ourselves miserable and fail to appreciate ways in which things are getting better. Important.
- NoSQL Tapes — videos of lectures on NoSQL topics. (via Hacker News)
Data Structures, Technoptimism, China, and Web Math
- Synopsis Data Structures for Massive Data Sets (PDF) — survey of data structures that reduce the problem space when dealing with large data sets. (via Pete Warden)
- Optimism — you build what you’re thinking of. Time to figure out the optimistic future and build that. “Work as if you lived in the early days of a better nation.” –attributed to Alasdair Gray.
- Velocity China — in case you were wondering, yes: China is on our radar.