"O’Reilly Radar Podcast" entries

Transforming the experience of sound and music

The O'Reilly Radar Podcast: Poppy Crum on sensory perception, algorithm design, and fundamental changes in music.

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In this week’s Radar Podcast, author and entrepreneur Alistair Croll, who also co-chairs our Strata + Hadoop World conference, talks music science with Poppy Crum, senior principal scientist at Dolby Laboratories and a consulting professor at Stanford.

Their wide-ranging discussion covers fundamental changes in the music industry, sensory perception and algorithm design, and what the future of music might look like.

Here are a few snippets from their conversation:

As we see transformations to the next stage of how we consume content, things that are becoming very prevalent are more and more metadata. More and more information about the sounds, information about personalization. You aren’t given the answer; you’re given information and opportunities to have a closer tie to the artist’s intent because more information about the artist’s intent can be captured so that when you actually experience the sound or the music, that information is there to dictate how it deals with your personal environment.

Today, Dolby Atmos and other technologies have transformed [how we experience sound in the cinema] quite substantially, where if I’m a mixer, I can take a sound and can mix now, say, instead of seven channels, I can mix 128 sounds, and each one of those sounds has a data stream associated with it. That data stream carries information. It’s not going to a particular set of speakers; it has x, y, z coordinates, it has information about the diffusivity of that sound. Read more…


Training in the big data ecosystem

The O'Reilly Radar Podcast: Paco Nathan and Jesse Anderson on the evolution of the data training landscape.

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350px-Philo_medievIn this week’s Radar Podcast, O’Reilly’s Ben Lorica talks to Paco Nathan, director of O’Reilly Learning, and Jesse Anderson, technical trainer and creative engineer at Confluent.

Their discussion focuses on the training landscape in the big data ecosystem, their teaching techniques and particular content they choose, and a look at some expected future trends.

Here are a few snippets from their chat:

Training vs PowerPoint slides

Anderson: “Often, when you have a startup and somebody says, ‘Well, we need some training,’ what will usually happen is one of the software developers will say, ‘OK, I’ve done some training in the past and I’ll put together some PowerPoints.’ The differences between a training thing and doing some PowerPoints, like at a meetup, is that a training actually has to have hands-on exercises. It has to have artifacts that you use right there in class. You actually need to think through, these are concepts, these are things that the person will need to be successful in that project. It really takes a lot of time and it takes some serious expertise and some experience in how to do that.”

Nathan: “Early on, you would get some committer to go out and do a meetup, maybe talk about an extension to an API or whatever they were working on directly. If there was a client firm that came up and needed training, then they’d peel off somebody. As it evolved, that really didn’t work. That kind of model doesn’t scale. The other thing too is, you really do need people who understand instructional design, who really understand how to manage a classroom. Especially when it gets to any size, it’s not just a afterthought for an engineer to handle.” Read more…

Comment: 1

Big data and the music industry: Where’s the romance?

The O'Reilly Radar Podcast: Amanda Palmer on music industry survival techniques.

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In this week’s Radar Podcast episode, author and entrepreneur Alistair Croll talks with musician and performer Amanda Palmer about the current state of the music industry and how she’s navigating her way through new platforms, crowdfunding, and an ever-increasing amount of data.

Here are a few snippets from their chat:

I’ve always approached every Internet platform and every Internet tool with the suspicion that it may not last, and that actually what’s very important is that the art and the relationships I’m building are authentic enough that even if the Internet disappeared tomorrow, or even if Facebook collapsed, or Twitter collapsed, or what have you, or all of our email went down, I’m not so reliant on the Internet itself that I couldn’t somehow piece things together.

I kind of had to come to terms with the fact that the machine still feeds what people listen to, whether it’s radio, or what gets licensed to films, or what music is playing when you walk into a shop. The ability of an artist to actually really get over that mountain, if you decide not to play the game, your hands are still pretty tied.

[Zoe Keating] was saying that an album for her is, she wants to make it all at one time and make one big statement and put it out, kind of like you would put out an opera. I’m deliberately trying to detach myself from that, and just say, ‘I wrote a song. I have this Patreon. I’m just going to put it out.’ At some point, maybe I will collect everything together so the mainstream media people of the world can have an Amanda Palmer record. But maybe that format really is dying. Read more…

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Reconciling design thinking with the craft of design doing

The O'Reilly Radar Podcast: Suzanne Pellican on the ups and downs of Intuit's journey to become a design-driven organization.

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In this week’s episode, O’Reilly’s Mary Treseler chats with Suzanne Pellican, VP and executive creative director at Intuit, about three core principles of design thinking and about Intuit’s journey to become a design-driven organization.

Pellican also will be speaking at our upcoming O’Reilly Design Conference about creating a culture based on design thinking, experimentation, and risk taking. You can find out more at the event website.

Here are a few highlights from their chat:

Design thinking is the practice of problem solving, and to me, that is based on those three core principles that I spoke about: deep customer empathy, going broad to go narrow, and rapidly experimenting with your customer. That’s the actual skill set and the tools and the mindset that you have.

Design thinking is absolutely experiential, and I think the first mistake that we made when we started rolling this out eight years ago was, if you’re going to change the way people work day to day, that’s going to take a long time. You can’t just ask people to do it and expect them to change. You have to give them ample opportunities to practice so that they can then understand it and make it their own.

Read more…

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Managing complexity in distributed systems

The O'Reilly Radar Podcast: Astrid Atkinson on optimization, and Kelsey Hightower on distributed computing.

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In this week’s episode, O’Reilly’s Mac Slocum talks to Astrid Atkinson, director of software engineering at Google, about the delicate balance of managing complexity in distributed systems and her experience working on-call rotations at Google.

Here are a few snippets from their chat:

I think it’s often really hard for organizations that are scaling quickly to find time to manage complexity in their systems. That can be really a trap, because if you’re really always just focused on the next deadline or whatever, and never planning for what you’re going to live with when you’re done, then you might never find the time.

You can only optimize what you pay attention to, and so if you can’t see what your system is doing, if you can’t see whether it’s working, it’s not working.

I used to get paged awake at two in the morning. You go from zero to Google is down. That’s a lot to wake up to.

Read more…


Designing at the intersection of disciplines

The O'Reilly Radar Podcast: Simon King on creating holistic, integrated experiences and the importance of discipline overlap.


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In this week’s Radar Podcast, I chat with Simon King, director of the Carnegie Mellon University Design Center. Harkening back to growing up on a family farm in Michigan, King talks about technology’s growing role in agriculture and the role design is playing in agriculture innovation. He also talks about his new book Understanding Industrial Design and the synergies between industrial design and interaction design. King will be speaking about industrial design at our newly launched O’Reilly Design Conference: Design the Future on January 19 to 22, 2016, in San Francisco.

Here are a few highlights from our conversation:

There’s been different eras of agriculture, and this latest one of precision agriculture or data-driven agriculture has the possibility of really changing the way people farm. I see that to some degree with people like my father and the new tools that he’s embracing slowly — things like autonomous driving tractors and some of the different data services. It’s an opportunity, I think, for new people to come into the field, and it’s going to be important.

Like most industries that are leading with technology, design trails. People are embracing the technology because it’s whole new capabilities that they never had before. Being able to do soil samples and analysis and then create nitrogen prescription maps so that you are not like wasting any chemicals — it’s such a great advancement that people are willing to fight through the fact that it’s poorly designed. We see that in medical; we see that in automotive. Any industry that reaches a certain curve where the technology has become mature, then all of a sudden the experience of using it begins to matter a lot more. I think that’s where design is going to start intersecting with agriculture really strongly and actually make it more accessible to farmers who are generally not that technically savvy.

Industrial design is such an older design discipline. Just purely from the design history standpoint, it’s something that everybody should be studying and be aware of how that discipline has evolved. It’s the underpinning of a lot of the different disciplines that design has kind of fragmented into.

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Data-driven neuroscience

The O'Reilly Radar Podcast: Bradley Voytek on data's role in neuroscience, the brain scanner, and zombie brains in STEM.


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In this week’s Radar Podcast, O’Reilly’s Mac Slocum chats with Bradley Voytek, an assistant professor of cognitive science and neuroscience at UC San Diego. Voytek talks about using data-driven approaches in his neuroscience work, the brain scanner project, and applying cognitive neuroscience to the zombie brain.

Here are a few snippets from their chat:

In the neurosciences, we’ve got something like three million peer reviewed publications to go through. When I was working on my Ph.D., I was very interested, in particular, in two brain regions. I wanted to know how these two brain regions connect, what are the inputs to them and where do they output to. In my naivety as a Ph.D. student, I had assumed there would be some sort of nice 3D visualization, where I could click on a brain region and see all of its inputs and outputs. Such a thing did not exist — still doesn’t, really. So instead, I ended up spending three or four months of my Ph.D. combing through papers written in the 1970s … and I kept thinking to myself, this is ridiculous, and this just stewed in the back of my mind for a really long time.

Sitting at home [with my wife], I said, I think I’ve figured out how to address this problem I’m working on, which is basically very simple text mining. Lets just scrape the text of these three million papers, or at least the titles and abstracts, and see what words co-occur frequently together. It was very rudimentary text mining, with the idea that if words co-occur frequently … this might give us an index of how related things are, and she challenged me to a code-off.

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Harmonizing the four factors that regulate our society

The O'Reilly Radar Podcast: Cory Doctorow on his work with the EFF, reforming the DMCA, and better IoT business models.

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In this week’s Radar Podcast, I sit down with science fiction author, activist, journalist, and blogger, Cory Doctorow. We talk about pitfalls in the Internet of Things and his work with the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), including work to reform the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) — the source of many of those IoT pitfalls. Doctorow also talks about why we should treat human beings as things that are good at sensing as opposed to things that need to be sensed.

Here are a few snippets from our conversation:

In the absence of any other confounding factors, obnoxious stuff that vendors do tends to self-correct, but there’s an important confounding factor, which is that in 1998, Congress passed the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. In order to try and contain unauthorized copying, they made it a felony to break a lock that protects access to a copyrighted work or to tell people information that they could use to break that lock.

I’m way more worried about the fact that the [DMCA] law also criminalizes disclosing information about vulnerabilities in these systems.

Lawrence Lessig, who was on our board for many years and is a great friend and fellow of Electronic Frontier Foundation, talks about how there are four factors that regulate our society. There’s code, what’s technologically possible. There is law, what’s allowed. There’s norms, what’s socially acceptable. And then there are markets, what’s profitable. In many cases, the right thing is profitable and also socially acceptable and legal and also technologically possible. Every now and again you run up against areas where one or more of those factors just aren’t in harmony.

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A little AI in lots of things: Our most promising future with tech

The O'Reilly Radar Podcast: David Rose on enchanting objects, avoiding cognitive overload, and our future relationship with tech.

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In this episode of the Radar Podcast, I chat with David Rose, an entrepreneur, MIT Media Lab instructor, and author of Enchanted Objects. We talk about which objects we should enchant, and how to avoid being overwhelmed by object communication and cognitive overload.

Rose also weighs in on the AI debate and outlines the four potential ways he sees the Internet of Things shaking out.

Here are a few snippets from our conversation:

I’ve been a fan of magic and of studying the tropes that magicians have used to control the emotional arc of a trick, for example, and I think enchantment, for me, sort of sets a high bar for designers to consider not just the mechanism of what’s happening, but also consider how people are engaged — and are people delighted? What’s their emotional reaction to whatever the new connectivity or new sensor or new display is that’s in one of these objects?

Those phenomenon of using light and pattern and texture are all pre-attentive — meaning your brain process them in parallel; it’s non-distracting; it happens in less than 250 milliseconds. That’s the design space for the best types of interactions with objects because they don’t tend to overwhelm you, and you don’t perceive them as being a cognitive load because they aren’t a cognitive load.

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Bluetooth LE has solved the 50% problem, cracking open the IoT

The O'Reilly Radar Podcast: Alasdair Allan on BLE, data from the Pluto flyby, and the future of "personal space programs."


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In this week’s O’Reilly Radar Podcast, O’Reilly’s Mac Slocum chats with Alasdair Allan, an astrophysicist and director at Babilim Light Industries. In their wide-ranging conversation, Allan talks about the data coming out of the New Horizons Pluto flyby, the future of “personal space programs,” and why Bluetooth LE (BLE) is cracking open the Internet of Things.

Here are a few highlights from their conversation:

The only thing Bluetooth LE shares with traditional Bluetooth is the name.

Bluetooth LE, now that Google Android also supports it, has solved the 50% problem. … Now that all of the smartphones in the world have Bluetooth LE, or at least the more modern ones, there is a very easy way to produce low-power devices — wearables, embedded sensors, all of that sort of stuff — that anyone can access with a smart phone.

The Internet of Things is neither about the Internet, nor really the things. I much prefer the academic term “ubiquitous computing,” but no one really seems to want to use that, which is somewhat unfortunate.

You don’t have to worry about power, and that can be a real lever to open up the wearables market in the same way the BLE was a lever to open the IoT market.

There are hardly any impact craters on the surface of Pluto, so that means that the surface itself is active. … Also, there’s these huge mountain ranges, three-and-a-half-thousand meters tall — and they’re pointy. There is no way the mountains on Pluto should be pointy.

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