Personal Best (New Yorker) — excellent Atul Gawande column on coaching which has me wondering how to open up different aspects of my life to improvement. Interesting to me because, behind every continuous- or self-improvement technique are the questions: “do you want to get better?” and “if so, how far will you go in pursuit of that goal?”.
CyberTracker — tool for non-profits tracking things in the real world. Used around the world for ecology, disaster recovery, even crime-fighting. Brings geospatial data capture and analytics to environmental orgs who otherwise could never afford it.
Eye-Tracking in Painting Restoration — The consequence of the different gaze pattern is that when asked to describe the content of the painting, viewers of the unreconstructed version did not realise it was a painting of an erupting volcano. The painting had lost its meaning and viewers could not view it as originally intended by Martin. (via Ed Yong)
The Era of Objects (PDF) — a collection of essays around the future of networked objects, from a Blowup event on that topic. Writings from Bruce Sterling, Julian Bleecker, and others.
HD Video Recording Glasses (Kickstarter) — as Bryce says, “wearable computing is on the rise. As the price for enabling components drops, always on connectivity in our pockets and purses increases, and access to low cost manufacturing resources and know-how rises we’ll see innovation continue to push into these most personal forms of computing.” (via Bryce Roberts)
Sketching in Food (Chris Heathcote) — a set of taste tests to demonstrate that we’ve been food hacking for a very long time. We started with two chemical coated strips – sodium benzoate, a preservative used in lots of food that a significant percentage of people can taste (interestingly in different ways, sweet, sour and bitter). Secondly was a chemical known as PTC that about 70% of people perceive as bitter, and a smaller number perceiving as really really horribly bitter. This was to show that taste is genetic, and different people perceive the same food differently. He includes pointers to sources for the materials in the taste test.
Sally — a tool for embedding strings in matrices, as used in machine learning. (via Matt Biddulph)
GNU SIP Witch Released — can be used to deploy private secure calling networks, whether stand-alone or in conjunction with existing VoIP infrastructure, for private institutions and national governments. (via Hacker News)
Chilling Story of Genius in a Land of Chronic Unemployment (TechCrunch) — fascinating story of Nigerian criminal tech entrepreneurs. He helps build them up; he listens to their problems. He makes them feel loved. He calls each an innocuous pet name, lest he accidentally type the wrong message into the wrong chat window. He asks for a little bit of money here and there, until men are sending him steady amounts from each paycheck. He says it takes exactly one month for a man to fall in love with him, and once he has a man’s heart, no woman can take it. I wonder what designers of social software can learn from these master emotional manipulators?
Return to Shenzhen Part 1 — Nate from SparkFun makes a trip to component capital of the world. It’s like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory for geeks. a special market that dealt exclusively with bulk cell phones. That’s right, you could buy a pile of cell phones. […] This market was truly amazing. It was one of most dense I’ve been to, shoulder to shoulder with very little standing room. Every device imaginable was available (checkout the pile of iPads) and people were literally negotiating a spot price minute by minute. The raw phones were sold for cash and then taken to other parts of the market for parts, resale, or recycling.
Suwappu Toys in Media (BERG London) — a concept video for a toy project. This is not primarily a technology demo, it’s a video exploration of how toys and media might converge through computer vision and augmented video. We’ve used video both as a communication tool and as a material exploration of toys, animation, augmented reality and 3D worlds.
Making or Breaking Culture — I’d never thought of HR as something that requires courage, but these stories clearly illustrate that if you want to put your people first then you must do so when it would be easier to buckle. (via Richard Hulse on Twitter)
What Makes a Great Speech? (Guardian) — my quest to understand how software can be passionate, opinionated, quirky, persuasive, and generally bypass reason and shoot straight for our emotional pattern-matching apparatus means that I end up reading articles like this. (via Courtney Johnston’s Instapaper Feed as well)
Flying Cars (XKCD) — a reminder to appreciate the future we live in, and not grizzle too hard that the ones we dreamt of in the 60s haven’t eventuated yet. (Part of my optimism riff)
Presumed Guilty (James Boyle) — setting to rights a bizarre op-ed by Scott Turow (head of the Authors Guild) which sought to make Shakespeare sound like an argument for copyright law. The argument is so strange it is hard to know where to begin. The problem is not simply that Shakespeare flourished without copyright protection for his work. It is that he made liberal use of the work of others in his own plays in ways that would today almost certainly generate a lawsuit.
Nokia Culture Will Out (Adam Greenfield) — Except that, as realized by Nokia, this is precisely what failed to happen. I experienced, in fact, neither a frisson of elegant futurism nor a blasé presentiment of everyday life at midcentury. I was given an NFC phone, and told to tap it against the item I wanted from the vending machine. This is what happened next: the vending machine teeped, and the phone teeped, and six or seven seconds later a notification popped up on its screen. It was an incoming text message, which had been sent by the vending machine at the moment I tapped my phone against it. I had to respond “Y” to this text to complete the transaction. The experience was clumsy and joyless and not in any conceivable way an improvement over pumping coins into the soda machine just the way I did quarters into Defender at the age of twelve.
Instapaper’s API — Marco Arment wanted to prevent people building their own front-ends using the API and thus removing his (advertising) revenue source. He could offer a cripped API, but people scrape to work around that. He could tithe the apps people build on top of his API, but that’s hard work to set up and run. His solution: the API only works for paying customers.
New York’s Central Nervous System is Growing — another datapoint in the sensor network Internet of Things buildout. The lump, an ultra-low power sensor, will communicate with other white lumps under parked cars all over the island, telling each other when you pulled in, how long you’ve been parked and when you rumble away. Last month, the Roosevelt Island Operating Corp. announced plans to place these sensors underneath the 30 new parking spots next to Roosevelt Island’s subway and tramway. (via BLDGBLOG)
Where Pair Programming Fails for Me — I found that in order to pair, I had to act as if I was in a continuous meeting. I had to not just listen to my pair, but appear to be listening; I had to nod in the right places, repeat back what my pair said in active listening fashion. I had to pick the right moment to interject. I tried to model my partner’s mental state in my head so I could see his viewpoint better. While I was doing this, I was trying to see the code that he was writing, and the design that he was trying to make the code fit. If there was a failing test, I was trying to figure out the test and the test framework at the same time.
The Journey (Matt Jones) — an incredible reimagining of what travel could be if we used technology subtly, playfully, and helpfully. This is beautiful and brilliant. Read the explanation of the different elements in the video, there’s a month’s worth of sparking ideas in just a few paragraphs.
Incidental Media (Jack Schulze) — beautiful playful visual demonstration of what happens when surfaces are active but do not claim our full attention. From the same BERG London work that prompted The Journey above. I don’t normally put two links to the same site in the one edition of Four Short Links, but these are both mindbuggeringly good.
1st Fans Shifts to Meetup — Brooklyn Museum’s online connection to their community moves from Facebook+Twitter to Meetup. There’s a wonderfully honest and informative explanation of why the two big social sites didn’t work for them. Great to see them sharing what they learned.
My iPad Magazine Stand (Khoi Vinh) — My opinion about iPad-based magazines is that they run counter to how people use tablets today and, unless something changes, will remain at odds with the way people will use tablets as the medium matures. They’re bloated, user-unfriendly and map to a tired pattern of mass media brands trying vainly to establish beachheads on new platforms without really understanding the platforms at all. (via Shawn Connally)
Dan Hill Keynote (video) — beautiful and thought-provoking presentation on mining, using, and presenting data in the urban environment.
The Dark Side of Entrepreneurship Continued (Pete Warden) — “work/life balance” is so trite, but I’ve been fascinated by how people deal with it since I heard Joe Kraus talk at Web 2.0 about what he was doing different at his latest startup. He replied that he was working fewer hours because he had a family, and that it was a difficult line to walk but he felt that he was managing it better because it was his second time around.
TweeQL — query language for tweets. Query languages encode use scenarios. They limit what can be done easily but those limits also permit optimizations. I note the arrival of new query languages (cf Yahoo! Pipes) for these reasons. (via raffi on Twitter)
The Internet of Things That Do What You Tell Them: Cory Doctorow passionately explains how computers are already entwined in our lives, which means laws that support lock-in are much more than inconveniences.