- Sleep Patterns — my friend Tom has been tracking his baby’s sleeping patterns. We learnt that over the last month or so, our 5 month old baby has never gone to sleep before 10pm. We were trying to get him to go to sleep at 7 or 8pm and this was not working at all. Now it is playtime until 10 and then he just goes to sleep with no trouble, stress or crying at around 10 or 10:30. Data captured with Baby Care android app (over 500k installs) and graphed it in Python. As a father of two, this is the best ad for the quantified self I’ve seen.
- Playspent — a web app that challenges you to balance dollars like someone on the poverty line. This makes the constraints of poverty real in the same way that Sims brings city planning to life.
- Context vs Core — transcription (albeit an imperfect one) of Geoffrey Moore’s excellent talk about separating context from core, innovation, and business. Most of what you do is context, not core, and the most frustrating thing in your life is that the context gets in the way of the core that your context. [...] If you don’t get up in the morning and say, core before context, you’ll come to the end of the day and find out that your e-mail trail beat you to death.
- Coders for Social Good (Dave Neary) — notes on the Humanitarian track at the FOSS World Forum. This is stuff that matters. There’s even open source microfinance software.
ENTRIES TAGGED "gov2.0"
Microchip Archaeology, OSM Map Library, Feedback Loops for Public Expenditure, and Mind-reading Big Data
- Digging into Technology’s Past — stories of the amazing work behind the visual 6502 project and how they reconstructed and simulated the legendary 6502 chip. To analyze and then preserve the 6502, James treated it like the site of an excavation. First, he needed to expose the actual chip by removing its packaging of essentially “billiard-ball plastic.” He eroded the casing by squirting it with very hot, concentrated sulfuric acid. After cleaning the chip with an ultrasonic cleaner—much like what’s used for dentures or contact lenses—he could see its top layer.
- Too Many Public Works Built on Rosy Scenarios (Bloomberg) — a feedback loop with real data being built to improve accuracy estimating infrastructure project costs. He would like to see better incentives — punishment for errors, rewards for accuracy — combined with a requirement that forecasts not only consider the expected characteristics of the specific project but, once that calculation is made, adjust the estimate based on an “outside view,” reflecting the cost overruns of similar projects. That way, the “unexpected” problems that happen over and over again would be taken into consideration.
Such scrutiny would, of course, make some projects look much less appealing — which is exactly what has happened in the U.K., where “reference-class forecasting” is now required. “The government stopped a number of projects dead in their tracks when they saw the forecasts,” Flyvbjerg says. “This had never happened before.”
- Neurovigil Gets Cash Injection To Read Your Mind (FastCompany) — “an anonymous American industrialist and technology visionary” put tens of millions into this company, which has hardware to gather mineable data. iBrain promises to open a huge pipeline of data with its powerful but simple brain-reading tech, which is gaining traction thanks to technological advances. But the other half of the potentailly lucrative equation is the ability to analyze the trove of data coming from iBrain. And that’s where NeuroVigil’s SPEARS algorithm enters the picture. Not only is the company simplifying collection of brain data with a device that can be relatively comfortably worn during all sorts of tasks–sleeping, driving, watching advertising–but the combination of iBrain and SPEARS multiplies the efficiency of data analysis. (via Vaughan Bell)
Kindle List, Insider Knowledge, Google News Archive Archived, and Work Week in Video
- Delivereads — genius idea, a mailing list for Kindles. Yes, if you can send email then you can be a Kindle publisher. (via Sacha Judd)
- Abnormal Returns From the Common Stock Investments of Members of the U.S. House of Representatives — We measure abnormal returns for more than 16,000 common stock transactions made by approximately 300 House delegates from 1985 to 2001. Consistent with the study of Senatorial trading activity, we find stocks purchased by Representatives also earn significant positive abnormal returns (albeit considerably smaller returns). A portfolio that mimics the purchases of House Members beats the market by 55 basis points per month (approximately 6% annually). (via Ellen Miller)
- Google News Archive Ends — hypothesizes that old material was “too hard” to make sense of, but that seems unlikely to me. More likely is that it wasn’t useful enough to their machine learning efforts. Newspapers can have their scanned/OCRed content for free now the program is being closed.
- Week Report 310 — BERG’s first (that I’ve seen) video report of the week, and it’s a cracker. No newsreel, just some really clever evocation of the mood of the place and the nature of the projects. I continue to be impressed by the BERG crew’s conscious creation of culture.
One-Click Zeroed Down Under, Piracy, One Site To Rule Them All, and English Language
- Telsta Scores Patent Win over Amazon (ZDNet) — The delegate of the Commissioner of Patents, Ed Knock, found this week that Amazon’s 1-click buy facility “lacks novelty [and] an inventive step”, making Amazon’s claim unpatentable.
- The Final Answer for What To Do To Prevent Piracy (Jeff Vogel) — His advice is to do the minimum to encourage people to pay, as Anything beyond that will inconvenience your paying customers and do little to nothing to prevent piracy.
- alpha.gov.uk — an experimental prototype of a single interface to all government services. Governments have been trying these for years. This one’s different–it’s not built by the highest bidder, it’s the result of a lean team headed by the stellar Tom Loosemore (ex-BBC). It’s prototyping the idea of using lightweight reusable syndication-friendly components (decision trees, calculators, guides, etc.) to build such a site. My suspicion, though, is that government websites are a people problem not a technology problem.
- A StackExchange for the English Language — what’s the collective noun for pedants?
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)
Data Sets, Data-driven Policy, Task Queues, and 8-Bit Browser
- DSPL: DataSet Publishing Language (Google Code) — a representation language for the data and metadata of datasets. Datasets described in this format can be processed by Google and visualized in the Google Public Data Explorer. XML metadata on CSV, geo-enabled, with linkable data. (via Michal Migurski on Delicious)
- Why is Evidence So Hard for Politicians — Ben Goldacre nails how politicians go about “evidence-based policy making”: So the Minister has cherry picked only the good findings, from only one report, while ignoring the peer-reviewed literature. Most crucially, he cherry-picks findings he likes whilst explicitly claiming that he is fairly citing the totality of the evidence from a thorough analysis. I can produce good evidence that I have a magical two-headed coin, if I simply disregard all the throws where it comes out tails.
- Celery: Distributed Task Queue — asynchronous task queue/job queue based on distributed message passing. It is focused on real-time operation, but supports scheduling as well. MIT-style licensed, written in Python, RabbitMQ is the recommended message broker. (via Joshua Schachter on Delicious)
- pixelfari — Safari hacked to look like it’s running on an 8-bit computer. This sense of playfulness with the medium is something I love about the best coders. They think “ha, wouldn’t it be funny if …” and then can make it happen.
Budget Treemap, Foo Encapsulated, Book Recommendations, Hackers and Data
- Interactive Treemap for the Budget (NY Times) — why don’t government departments produce and release these automatically? (via Flowing Data)
- Hold Conversations Not Meetings (HBR) — that sentence perfectly captures the heart of Foo Camp. (via Hacker News)
- Kiwi Foo 2011 Book Recommendations — we held a “which books are you reading, or would recommend?” session and this is the collected output.
- Hackers, Transparency, and the Zen of Failure — If hackers can’t create something with the data, they won’t do anything with it. The idea of an “army of armchair auditors” becomes a functional paradox, as the people the Government has in mind for the data apparently sit in armchairs, while the hackers sit in cafes, meet in pubs, and generally find comfy chairs far too comfy to code in. (via Public Strategist)
- Access to Knowledge in the Age of Intellectual Property (MIT Press) — with essays by knowledgeable folks such as Yochai Benkler, Larry Lessig, and Jo Walsh. Available as open access (free) ebook as well as paper. I love it that we can download these proper intellectuals’ intellectual property. (via BoingBoing)
- Be Open from Day One — advice from Karl Fogel (author of the excellent Producing Open Source Software, which O’Reilly publishes) for projects that think they may some day be open source: f you’re running a government software project and you plan to make it open source eventually, then just make it open source from the beginning. Waiting will only create more work. (via timoreilly on Twitter)
- MALLET — open source (CPL-licensed) Java-based package for statistical natural language processing, document classification, clustering, topic modeling, information extraction, and other machine learning applications to text.
Stuff That Matters, Philanthropy, Internet Protests, and Healthcare
- The New Calculus of Competition (Umair Haque) — Don’t just lower the lowest common denominator. Elevate the numerator. Make it worthier: more meaningful, enduring, significant. A strong call to work on stuff that matters.
- The Troubled History of Google.org (NY Times) — it’s hard to measure “good”, which is one reason it’s difficult to know who’s doing good in philanthropy. Couple that with a product-first measurement mindset, rather than customer-first, and it’s no wonder Google.org struggled. The reported management flapping is gravy. (via Tim O’Reilly on Twitter)
- Andrew Mason at Startup School — So the Internet came along, and the Internet should solve all the problems of organizing people and changing collective action. But the problem is, all we’ve done is we’ve taken the old world tactics that we used offline and ported online. We haven’t really changed the way we think about things. So, for example, here is a protest against the Iraq war that people held in Second Life. [laughter] I call these tactics the tactics of inconveniencing yourself, because all these things, signing a petition or going to a protest, they’re all like mini versions of lighting yourself on fire. [laughter] They’re saying, I will sacrifice a small part of my life to show you how much I care, and that just feels so futile and not very exciting to get to be part of. And the weird thing is if the tactic you’re using is inconveniencing yourself, all the Internet does is make it easier to sign petitions, so by making it easier to inconvenience yourself, you’re making your effort more and more meaningless, right. So, if it only takes one click to write a letter to your congressman, then it takes an order of magnitude more letters for them to actually care. Pay attention, would-be government influencers.
- Why is Medicine Often Not Evidence-Based (Ben Goldacre) — If we assume, fairly generously, that you’ll be 80% successful at each step in this chain – which really is pretty generous – then with 7 steps, you’ll only manage to follow the evidence in practice 21% of the time (0.8^7=0.21). Healthcare needs interaction designers, not just programmers.