School District Builds Own Software — By taking a not-for-profit approach and using freely available open-source tools, Saanich officials expect to develop openStudent for under $5 million, with yearly maintenance pegged at less than $1 million. In contrast, the B.C. government says it spent $97 million over the past 10 years on the B.C. enterprise Student Information System — also known as BCeSIS — a provincewide system already slated for replacement.
Giving a Presentation From an Apple ][ — A co-worker used an iPad to give a presentation. I thought: why take a machine as powerful as an early Cray to do something as low-overhead as display slides? Why not use something with much less computing power? From this asoft_presenter was born. The code is a series of C programs that read text files and generate a large Applesoft BASIC program that actually presents the slides. (via Jim Stogdill)
AirBnB TechTalks — impressive collection of interesting talks, part of the AirBnB techtalks series.
Gawker’s Realtime Dashboard — this is not just technically and visually cool, but also food for thought about what they’re choosing to measure and report on in real time (new vs returning split, social engagement, etc.). Does that mean they hope to be able to influence those variables in real time? (via Alex Howard)
Paying for Developers is a Bad Idea (Charlie Kindel) — The companies that make the most profit are those who build virtuous platform cycles. There are no proof points in history of virtuous platform cycles being created when the platform provider incents developers to target the platform by paying them. Paying developers to target your platform is a sign of desperation. Doing so means developers have no skin in the game. A platform where developers do not have skin in the game is artificially propped up and will not succeed in the long run. A thesis illustrated with his experience at Microsoft.
Learnable Programming (Bret Victor) — deconstructs Khan Academy’s coding learning environment, and explains Victor’s take on learning to program. A good system is designed to encourage particular ways of thinking, with all features carefully and cohesively designed around that purpose. This essay will present many features! The trick is to see through them — to see the underlying design principles that they represent, and understand how these principles enable the programmer to think. (via Layton Duncan)
Clay Shirky: How The Internet Will (One Day) Transform Government (TED Talk) — There’s no democracy worth the name that doesn’t have a transparency move, but transparency is openness in only one direction, and being given a dashboard without a steering wheel has never been the core promise a democracy makes to its citizens.
R Open Sci — open source R packages that provide programmatic access to a variety of scientific data, full-text of journal articles, and repositories that provide real-time metrics of scholarly impact.
Why Obama’s JOBS Act Couldn’t Suck Worse (Rolling Stone) — get ready for an avalanche of shareholder suits ten years from now, since post-factum civil litigation will be the only real regulation of the startup market.
Socio-economic Return Of FTTH Investment in Sweden (PDF) — This preliminary study analyses the socio-economic impacts of the investment in FTTH. The goal of the study was: Is it possible to calculate how much a krona (SEK) invested in fibre will give back to society? The conclusion is that a more comprehensive statistical data and more calculations are needed to give an exact estimate. The study, however, provides an indication that 1 SEK invested over four years brings back a minimum of 1.5 SEK in five years time. The study estimates the need for investment to achieve 100% fibre penetration, identifies and quantifies a number of significant effects of fibre deployment, and then calculates the return on investment. (via Donald Clark)
impress.js (github) — MIT-licensed Prezi-like presentation tool, built using CSS3 3d transforms. I’ve never been happy with the Prezi because I fear data lock-in. This might be a way forward. (via Hacker News)
Facebook Offers Debit Cards to White Hat Hackers (CNet) — paying vulnerability bounties without handing out cash. I figure it’s the start of a loyalty program. Will Facebook learn what the hackers spent the money on? Interesting possibilities opened up here.
Green Goose — interesting startup selling consumer sensor hardware. My intuition is that we’re platforming too soon: that we need a few individual great applications of the sensors to take off, then we can worry about rationalising hardware in our house. The biggest problem seems to me that we’re talking about “sticking sensors on milk cartons” rather than solving an actual problem someone has. (“There are no sensors on my milk cartons” is not an oft-heard lament)
Implicit and Explicit Feedback — for preferences and recommendations, implicit signals (what people clicked on and actually listened to) turn out to be strongly correlated with what they would say if you asked. (via Greg Linden)
Twitter Storm (GitHub) — distributed realtime computation system, intended for realtime what Hadoop is to batch processing. Interesting because you improve most reporting and control systems when you move them closer to real-time. Eclipse-licensed open source.
Metrics Everywhere — another CodeConf talk, this time explaining Yammer’s use of metrics to quantify the actual state of their operations. Nice philosophical guide to the different ways you want to measure things (gauges, counters, meters, histograms, and timers). I agree with the first half, but must say that it will always be an uphill battle to craft a panegyric that will make hearts and minds soar at the mention of “business value”. Such an ugly phrase for such an important idea. (via Bryce Roberts)
On Earthquakes in Tokyo (Bunnie Huang) — Personal earthquake alarms are quite popular in Tokyo. Just as lightning precedes thunder, these alarms give you a few seconds warning to an incoming tremor. The alarm has a distinct sound, and this leads to a kind of pavlovian conditioning. All conversation stops, and everyone just waits in a state of heightened awareness, since the alarm can’t tell you how big it is—it just tells you one is coming. You can see the fight or flight gears turning in everyone’s heads. Some people cry; some people laugh; some people start texting furiously; others just sit and wait. Information won’t provoke the same reaction in everyone: for some it’s impending doom, for others another day at the office. Data is not neutral; it requires interpretation and context.
AccentuateUs — Firefox plugin to Unicodify text (so if you type “cafe”, the software turns it into “café”). The math behind it is explained on the dataists blog. There’s an API and other interfaces, even a vim plugin.
Who Says What to Whom on Twitter (Yahoo! Research) — we find a striking concentration of attention on Twitter—roughly 50% of tweets consumed are generated by just 20K elite users—where the media produces the most information, but celebrities are the most followed. One of the researchers is Duncan Watts of Small Worlds fame.
Saylor Foundation Free Education Initiative — notes, readings, tests, that take you through the curriculum for real university courses. Important because most online education stuff is either lectures, or course notes, but never enough for you to autodidacticise. (via Regan Mian)
Blink — A state of the art, easy to use SIP client available for Mac, Windows and Linux. SIP = open standard for voice over IP. (via Simon Phipps)
science.io — an open science community. Comment on, recommend and submit papers. Get up-to-date on a research topic. Follow a journal or an author. science.I/O is in beta and is currently focused on Computer Science.