- Deepflight Kickstarter — built like an aircraft, this submersible flies underwater. Saw footage of it at scifoo, looked mind-bogglingly fun. They’re kickstarting the aero(hydro?)batics test of maneuverability and reward levels include trips in it.
- WeHi.tv — explains the discoveries of scientists at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute through 3D animation. The beautiful work of Drew Berry, who also did animation for Bjork’s Biophilia music app.
- A Communications Primer — Ray and Charles Eames (“Powers of Ten”) lay out the work of Claude Shannon and Norbert Weiner and others for Mr and Ms Ordinary. (via Linda Doyle)
- Scientific Communication as Sequential Art (Bret Victor) — gloriously comprehensible rewrite (using interactive diagrams instead of math) of a classic social graph paper (Watts and Strogatz).
A clever data project shows the promise of open and freely accessible academic literature.
There is a huge debate right now about making academic literature freely accessible and moving toward open access. But what would be possible if people stopped talking about it and just dug in and got on with it?
NASA’s Astrophysics Data System (ADS), hosted by the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO), has quietly been working away since the mid-’90s. Without much, if any, fanfare amongst the other disciplines, it has moved astronomers into a world where access to the literature is just a given. It’s something they don’t have to think about all that much.
The ADS service provides access to abstracts for virtually all of the astronomical literature. But it also provides access to the full text of more than half a million papers, going right back to the start of peer-reviewed journals in the 1800s. The service has links to online data archives, along with reference and citation information for each of the papers, and it’s all searchable and downloadable.
It also makes astronomy almost uniquely well placed for interesting data mining experiments, experiments that hint at what the rest of academia could do if they followed astronomy’s lead. The fact that the discipline’s literature has been scanned, archived, indexed and catalogued, and placed behind a RESTful API makes it a treasure trove, both for hypothesis generation and sociological research.
21C Exploration, Scientific Animation, Communications Explained, and Better Scientific Papers
Map Usage, Transit Data, Mozilla Web Maker, and Print-to-Web Design
- Mobile Maps (Luke Wroblewski) — In the US, Google gets about 31 million users a month on its Maps app on iOS. On average those users spend more than 75 minutes apiece in the app each month.
- The Importance of Public Traffic Data (Anil Dash) — Bill Gates and Paul Allen’s first collaboration was a startup called Traf-O-Data, which recorded and analyzed traffic at intersections in their hometown using custom-built devices along with some smart software. Jack Dorsey’s first successful application was a platform for dispatch routing, designed to optimize the flow of cars by optimizing the flow of information. It’s easy to see these debates as being about esoteric “open data” battles with governments and big corporations. But it matters because the work we do to build our cities directly drives the work we do to build our communities online.
- Mozilla Thimble — Write and edit HTML and CSS right in your browser. Instantly preview your work. Then host and share your finished pages with a single click.
- Design of the Guardian iPad App (Mark Porter) — thoughtful analysis of the options and ideas behind the new Guardian iPad app. Unlike the iPhone and Android apps, which are built on feeds from the website, this one actually recycles the already-formatted newspaper pages. A script analyses the InDesign files from the printed paper and uses various parameters (page number, physical area and position that a story occupies, headline size, image size etc) to assign a value to the story. The content is then automatically rebuilt according to those values in a new InDesign template for the app. (via Josh Porter)
Buffett Lessons, Crypto Startup, HTTP 451, and Fixing Academic Publishing
- Warren Buffett Lessons — nice anthology of quotes, reordered into almost a narrative on different topics. (via Rowan Simpson)
- Silent Circle — Phil Zimmermann’s new startup, encrypting phone calls for iPhone and Android for $20/month. “I’m not going to apologize for the cost,” Zimmermann told CNET, adding that the final price has not been set. “This is not Facebook. Our customers are customers. They’re not products. They’re not part of the inventory.” (via CNET)
- New HTTP Code for “Legally Restricted” — it’s status code 451.
- PeerJ — changing the business model for academic publishing: instead of charging you each time you publish, we ask for a single one off payment, giving you the lifetime right to publish articles with us, and to make those articles freely available. Lifetime plans start at just $99. O’Reilly a happy investor.
Amazon Royalties Suck, Learn Electronics, Microtasks, and Finance Considered Harmful
- Amazon’s Insanely Crap Royalties (Andrew Hyde) — Amazon offers high royalty rate to you, but that’s before a grim hidden “delivery fee”. Check out Andrew’s graph of the different pay rates to the author from each medium.
- SparkFun Education — learn electronics from the good folks at SparkFun.
- TaskRabbit — connects you with friendly, reliable people right in your neighborhood who can help you get the items on your To-Do list done. Lots of people and projects sniffing around this space of outsourced small tasks, distributed to people via a web site.
- Henry Ford on Bootstrapping (Amy Hoy) — Amy has unearthed a fascinating rant by Henry Ford against speculative investment and finance. I determined absolutely that never would I join a company in which finance came before the work or in which bankers or financiers had a part. And further that, if there were no way to get started in the kind of business that I thought could be managed in the interest of the public, then I simply would not get started at all. For my own short experience, together with what I saw going on around me, was quite enough proof that business as a mere money-making game was not worth giving much thought to and was distinctly no place for a man who wanted to accomplish anything. Also it did not seem to me to be the way to make money. I have yet to have it demonstrated that it is the way. For the only foundation of real business is service.
Lagging Latency, Don't Take the Extra Cookie, Amazon's Print Plans, and Maker Schools
- Why Latency Lags Bandwidth (PDF) — across disk, memory, and networking we see bandwidth growing faster than latency comes down. This paper covers why and what we can do about it. (via Ryan Dahl)
- Michael Lewis’s Princeton Commencement Speech — a subtle variation on “work on stuff that matters” that I simply love. Commencement speeches fly around this time of the year, but this one is actually worth reading.
- The Amazon Effect (The Nation) — Readers of e-books are especially drawn to escapist and overtly commercial genres (romance, mysteries and thrillers, science fiction), and in these categories e-book sales have bulked up to as large as 60 percent. […] Amazon swiftly struck an alliance with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt to handle placing its books in physical stores. In a transparent subterfuge aimed at protecting its tax-avoidance strategies, Amazon intends to publish many of its books under a subsidiary imprint of Houghton’s called New Harvest, thus keeping alive the increasingly threadbare fiction that it has no physical presence in states where it does business online. I did not know these things. (via Jim Stogdill)
- Learn by Doing (Slate) — Dale Dougherty’s excellent call to arms to turn away from zombie-producing standardised test classes to learning by making real things. The empty campus on test day horrified me.
CC-Licensed Museum, Bye Bye API, Socket Server, and Free Taxpayer-Funded Research NOW!
- Wide Open Future of the Art Museum (TED) — text of an interview with curator at the Walters Art Museum about CC-licensing content: reasons for it, value to society, value to the institution. What I say in a very abbreviated form in my talk is that people go to the Louvre because they’ve seen the Mona Lisa; the reason people might not be going to an institution is because they don’t know what’s in your institution. (via Carl Malamud)
- Twitter Resiles From API-Driven Site (Twitter) — performance was the reason to return to server-assembled pages, vs their previous “client makes API calls and assembles the page itself”.
- Stripe Einhorn — language-independent shared socket manager. Einhorn makes it easy to have multiple instances of an application server listen on the same port. You can also seamlessly restart your workers without dropping any requests. Einhorn requires minimal application-level support, making it easy to use with an existing project.
- Petition the Whitehouse For Access to Taxpayer-Funded Research (Whitehouse) — We believe in the power of the Internet to foster innovation, research, and education. Requiring the published results of taxpayer-funded research to be posted on the Internet in human and machine readable form would provide access to patients and caregivers, students and their teachers, researchers, entrepreneurs, and other taxpayers who paid for the research. Expanding access would speed the research process and increase the return on our investment in scientific research. Sign this and spread the word: it’s time to end the insanity of hiding away research to protect a handful of publishers’ eighteenth century business models.
Old Periodicals, Learning to Code, Substituting for Newspapers, and Charty Font
- Many Old Periodicals — I’m working my way through the back issues of “Thrilling Love”. Sample story, Moonmist for Mary by Dorothy Daniels, from Feb 1950. Filing clerk Mary wins the heart of her secret coworker romance AND closes the sale AND is promised stock. It’s torn from the pages of real life, I tell ya!
- Please Don’t Learn to Code (Jeff Atwood) — my take: everyone who is a “knowledge worker” should learn to program (who of us has not seen people wasting time with something we could automate in 10 lines of code?). It’s hard to justify an adult like Bloomberg to take the time to learn to code, because he’s already powerful and can hire other people to code. For this reason, I think kids should routinely be taught computational thinking (decomposition, pattern matching, etc.) and programming as a useful application of these skills. (via Jim Stogdill)
- Fungible News — Here’s my hypothesis. Educated people over forty have come to assume that journalism, whether on television, radio, print or the web, is the most convenient way to get answers to questions like what’s on the television, what’s going on in my neighborhood, who got elected, who is making a mess of things, any new music I should hear? […] The younger the person you ask, the less likely it is you’ll find that link between wanting to know what’s going on and grabbing a paper or opening up a news website. They use Pinterest to figure out what’s fashionable and Facebook to see if there’s anything fun going on next weekend. They use Facebook just the same to figure out whether there’s anything they need to be upset about and need to protest against. (via Phil Lindsay)
- FF-Chartwell, a Graph-Making Font — brilliant! Font uses ligatures to show graphs. This is an elegant hack in so many ways, for example: copy and paste and you get the bare numbers! (via Chris Spurgeon)
Authors and publishers need to get creative with piracy. DRM isn't the answer.
Mike Hendrickson: "Adding DRM to content to deter theft … are you kidding me? Seriously, think about that. It will take a good programmer about an hour to get past most DRM, or a manual shop somewhere in the world will cut and scan the physical book and away it goes."