"mysociety" entries

Four short links: 10 July 2012

Four short links: 10 July 2012

Assembly Crack, Political Pieces, Better Select Boxes, and Fairly Using Orphans

  1. Learn to Write 6502 Assembly Language — if retro-gaming is the gateway drug you’re using to attract kids to programming, this is the crack you wheel out after three months of getting high. Ok, this metaphor is broken on many levels. (via Hacker News)
  2. Small Political Pieces, Loosely Joined — MySociety: We believe that the wrong answer to this challenge is to just say “Well then, everyone should build their own sites from scratch.” […] Our plan is to collaborate with international friends to build a series of components that deliver quite narrow little pieces of the functionality that make up bigger websites. Common software components, perhaps interchangeable data … good things coming.
  3. Select 2a jQuery based replacement for select boxes. It supports searching, remote data sets, and infinite scrolling of results. Useful. (via Javascript Weekly)
  4. How Fair Use Can Solve Orphan Works — preprint of legal paper claiming non-profit libraries can begin to work on orphaned works under the aegis of free use. Finally, regardless of a work’s orphan status, many uses by libraries and archives will fit squarely under the umbrella of uses favored by the first fair use factor (the “purpose of the use”), and their digitization of entire works for preservation and access should often be justified under the third fair use factor (the amount used). As such, fair use represents an important, and for too long unsung, part of the solution to the orphan works problem.
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Four short links: 17 March 2010

Four short links: 17 March 2010

MySQL, MySociety, NoSQL DB, and NoSQL Conference Notes

  1. Common MySQL Queries — a useful reference.
  2. MySociety’s Next 12 Months — two new projects, FixMyTransport and “Project Fosbury”. The latter is a more general tool to help people organise their own campaigns for change.
  3. riak — scalable key-value store with JSON interface. (via joshua on Delicious)
  4. Notes from NoSQL Live Boston — full of juicy nuggets of info from the NoSQL conference.
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Rethinking Open Data

Rethinking Open Data

Lessons learned from the Open Data front lines

In the last year I’ve been involved in two open data projects, Open New Zealand and data.govt.nz. After nearly a year in the Open Data trenches, I have some advice for those starting or involved in open data projects. First, figure out what you want the world to look like and why. Second, build your project around users.

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Four short links: 14 October 2009

Four short links: 14 October 2009

Multitouch Demo, Secrets Site Secrets, Hadoop Futures, Becoming Lucky

  1. 10Gui Video — demo of a new take on multitouch, a tablet and new GUI conventions. (via titine on Twitter)
  2. Behind the Scenes at WhatDoTheyKnow — numbers and stories from the MySociety project, which provides a public place for Official Information Act requests and responses. The fact information is subject to copyright and restrictions on re-use does not exempt it from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act (though there is a closely related exemption relating to “commercial interest”). Occasionally public bodies will offer to reply to a request, but in order to deter wider dissemination of the material they will refuse to reply via WhatDoTheyKnow.com. Southampton University have released information in protected PDF documents and the House of Commons has refused to release information via WhatDoTheyKnow.com which it has said it would be prepared to send to an individual directly.
  3. The View from HadoopWorld (RedMonk) — fascinating glimpse into the Hadoop user and developer world. Hadoop can be used with a variety of languages, from Perl to Python to Ruby, but as Doug Cutting admitted today, they’re all second class citizens relative to Java. The plan, however, is for that to change. Which can’t happen soon enough, in my view. It’s not that there’s anything intrinsically wrong with Java, or its audience. The point, rather, is that there are lots and lots of dynamic language developers out there that would be far more productive working in their native tongue versus translating into Java.
  4. Be Lucky, It’s an Easy Skill to Learn (Telegraph) — this one resonated with me, as it ties into some life hacking I’ve been doing lately. And so it is with luck – unlucky people miss chance opportunities because they are too focused on looking for something else. They go to parties intent on finding their perfect partner and so miss opportunities to make good friends. They look through newspapers determined to find certain types of job advertisements and as a result miss other types of jobs. Lucky people are more relaxed and open, and therefore see what is there rather than just what they are looking for. (via Hacker News)
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Four short links: 29 June 2009

Four short links: 29 June 2009

Syadmin Wiki, Physics, National Archives, and Reinventing the British Government

  1. Server Fault — Wikipedia-like sysadmin guide, built by the Stack Overflow team, who are branching out to reach a more general IT Professional audience. (via Brady in email)
  2. Sixty Symbols — 5m videos about the symbols of physics and astronomy. Great stuff! (via Glutnix on Twitter)
  3. US National Archives launches YouTube Channel — a mixture of archives-nerd stuff (directors of Presidential Libraries talking about their favourite items) and wider-interest collections (such as Touring 1930s America).
  4. Open House in Westminster — the ever-insightful Tom Steinberg from MySociety has an article in the Independent about British plans to reinvent government. Now the talk of Westminster is all about democratic reform. By my count there are over 50 different ideas for changing the way our democracy works being touted by different pundits at the moment. […] What all these ideas, though, have in common is that they propose structural reforms that could have been achieved any time in the last 200 years.[…] My view is that these proposals are all interesting, and some may be quite critical for a better democracy. But I am also concerned that they do not see Parliament and the process of making laws as a native to the internet would. They don’t ask: “What reforms are possible that just weren’t conceivable ten years ago?”
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Four short links: 1 June 2009

Four short links: 1 June 2009

Spymaster, Arsenic, Maps, and Happiness

  1. Spymaster — a faux-spy game on Twitter: Each player becomes a master of a spy ring based upon their Twitter followers list. The more people that follow you and are playing characters in Spymaster, the more powerful your network will be. As a spymaster, you can perform tasks or attack other spymasters on Twitter. With each successful attempt, you will gain virtual currency and points that allow you to grow even stronger. I’m nervous that it’s a project of a classified ads company, but intelligent friends appear to be enjoying it, but that may just be be the jaded eye of a world-weary veteran of pyramid schemes and spamalots.
  2. Getting Arsenic Out Of Water — MIT Technology Review piece about the IBM discovery that a chemical used to pattern chips also acts as a membrane to remove arsenic. More stuff that matters. (via roterhund on Twitter)
  3. Mapumental — MySociety folks making maps useful. It’s the continuation of time travel maps, where bus, train, tram, tube, and ferry timetables are mashed with real estate prices to show you where you can live for what you can afford and how long a commute you want. A new twist is crowdsourced “how scenic is this area?” data, so you can choose other dimensions for where you might want to live. New dimensions on transportation data and travel planning.
  4. What Makes Us Happy? (The Atlantic) — the real world is a lot more complex than trivial “get happy fast!” self-help books would have you believe. This longitudinal study shows how complex happiness and misery are. Vaillant’s other main interest is the power of relationships. “It is social aptitude,” he writes, “not intellectual brilliance or parental social class, that leads to successful aging.” Warm connections are necessary—and if not found in a mother or father, they can come from siblings, uncles, friends, mentors. The men’s relationships at age 47, he found, predicted late-life adjustment better than any other variable, except defenses. Good sibling relationships seem especially powerful: 93 percent of the men who were thriving at age 65 had been close to a brother or sister when younger. In an interview in the March 2008 newsletter to the Grant Study subjects, Vaillant was asked, “What have you learned from the Grant Study men?” Vaillant’s response: “That the only thing that really matters in life are your relationships to other people.” (via timoreilly on Twitter)
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