I've been catching up a bit this week after my recent holiday so there are quite a few links...
First, a batch around social web design...
/Message: A Social Interaction Design Primer
Some thoughts on social interaction design - "We can see this on twitter, also. Some users post to their audiences about themelves. Some, finding this weird, read first and are inclined to respond. And others get into rounds of conversation, often including their friends by @naming them in their posts."
slides from my FOWA talk on social web application design
Gavin Bell's talk from the Future of Web Apps on designing for the social web.
zengestrom.com: Social objects, power, stickiness, and love
Another great presentation on social objects - this time focusing on power, stickiness and love.
Lost Garden: The Princess Rescuing Application
Applying theories from game design to web applications.
Some environmental reading...
Current Cost Home - Current Cost
A wiki for notes and links about the Current Cost energy monitor.
DanielW’s Blog » Blog Archive » It’s getting cold: Measuring gas usage with S60 camera phone
"The plan was to have the camera of a mobile phone looking on the burner and recognize if the flame is there or not. That should work under the assumption, that the burning duration is directly related to the used gas volume.". Very innovative.
Begone denialists and crusties - Climate Change for the rest of us
A new campaign on climate change - "Sigh.It’s bloody obvious we need to do something pretty serious about climate change, but everyone campaigning on the issue seems so… hopeless."
Some media-related items...
Nice idea that uses OpenCalais to extract geographic information from programme synopses and add iPlayer programmes to a map. Nearly works.
More than just watching TV
The BBC Internet blog highlights some good design research on the ways that people find and consume TV (and radio). Nice illustrations too.
And the most interesting, harder-to-pigeonhole, connecting-the-dots, and indeed longest items last...
Where I’m actually living in augmented reality, Jefferson Airplane and what does this mean for photos. « geobloggers
This starts off with the RjDj application for the iPhone that samples your environment to create a whole new soundscape but then moves on to much more - "What I’d like, is to be able to walk along the beachfront from my childhood and be played snippets of sounds from when I was young, superimposed with old family photos, mixed in with music generated from the sounds of the waves, and my own and other peoples photos being pulled in from having been taken at the same point, but in a style I happen to like. " Loved this. Trying RjDj out now.
Edge: ECONOMIC DIS-EQUILIBRIUM By George Dyson
"Derivatives are the equivalent of splitting off (and selling) further copies of the same stick—or the "clipping" and debasing of coinage that led Isaac Newton to spend the later part of his life reforming the financial system as Master of the Mint." I thikn I almost understood this and it reminded me of Neal Stephenson's Baroque cycle.
More at http://www.delicious.com/tristanf
Thursday, October 30, 2008
I've been catching up a bit this week after my recent holiday so there are quite a few links...
Friday, October 10, 2008
I've been at the Future of Web Apps 2008 in London for the past couple of days. Video and slides should be on that site somewhere but here are some themes I picked out from the sessions I attended...
Scaling and messages
Joe Stump, Digg, and Blaine Cook (ex-Twitter) talked about languages and scaling.
- Write your app so it will scale out across boxes.
- Use queues where possible - when you get a web request which needs some processing, stick the job in a queue and respond immediately to the request. Then process the jobs queue on a dedicated machine which doesn't serve web requests. Basically, scaling things well happens in the architecture, not the language or platform.
Then, Matt Biddulph (Dopplr), talked more about messages. Again, a quick response is important to the user who submitted the request, but probably not to other users; as Matt said "Does it matter, right now, to other users?". Parts of your app will run at different speeds so run stuff in the background and use messaging between processes. He had a nice Dopplr example where for every request to the site the code creates a new message on the queue with details of the logged-in user, the requested url and the response time. Later, if he wants to monitor the system he plugs into that queue and watches what's happening - it's cheap to throw stuff out onto the queue so you might as well do it.
Open tech and the social stack
David Recordon from SixApart did a good overview of open technologies for the social web. Here's his stack...
- ID and profile - OpenID and hCard
- Discovery (what apps and services do I use) - XRDS-Simple
- Authorisation - OAuth
- Relationships and contacts - Portable Contacts and XFN
- Activities - ATOM + something more?
- Gadgets - OpenSocial
The Portable Contacts API looks interesting - it's RESTful, uses JSON and allows you to query, update and sync contacts. The Activities layer is interesting but also seems to be the least developed, we need better ways to describe and encode actions of the form: "actor/s verb social-object [context][time]". MySpace, Yahoo, Google and Plaxo are all starting to use this stack so use these standards because it makes it easier for developers to build for your platform. David mentioned pinax, which I hadn't heard of before. It's an open source social software platform based on Django, must go and check it out.
Tim Bray ripped up his talk at the last minute to talk about the recession and the forthcoming financial situation. There won't be any large capital expenditures in your company so it's good times for an agile approach, open-source and the cloud (avoiding lock-in). And for individuals - build something for yourself (it's what you know best), don't be religious about technology and publish on the web - whether it's code, writing, photos whatever - put your stuff out there. And my favourite - you don't have to be a designer or a developer. You can be both.
Finally, Gavin Starks from AMEE gave a call to arms. AMEE's aim is to aggregate all the energy data on Earth including emissions, methodologies and consumption data.
His main suggestion: Build things to save the Earth.
For your app: Use virtual servers and the cloud. Write energy efficient code - optimise and refactor it so you use less energy. Maybe the energy use of a site be one of its performance metrics? Think about "slow cook computing" - how quickly do you really need the result? And do more function, less form - how much energy do all the processor cycles for that Flash app take?
What should we build? Make things that encourage less use. Make things that encourage low-energy behaviour. Encourage smarter movement (like Dopplr). And switch if off, or get it to switch other things off.
And a triptych of self-awareness...
- Make your app self-aware of it's energy consumption
- Make your app's users self-aware of the app's energy consumption
- Make your users self-aware of their own consumption
And finally, measure and visualise all this information.
Lots of this often seemed quite orthogonal to the rest of the conference and the room had emptied out a bit before the session started, which was a shame because it was a good talk. But judging by the questions at the end the remaining audience made up for it in commitment, enthusiasm and intelligence. Let's hope it's enough.
Saturday, October 04, 2008
If you listen to BBC Radio 4 and use Twitter then you can help me with a little experiment. If you hear something interesting on Radio 4 then Twitter it, along with an appropriate hashtag (i.e. #radio4) and maybe, particularly if you are Listening Again, a lovely /programmes url. That would be great. Thank you.
(Feel free to do this for other networks as well)
Friday, October 03, 2008
Even more links, I'm on a roll...
Game Design London - October 2008
"This year the event goes outreach. The conference will feature key practitioners from other areas of the creative arts, and ‘collide’ them with practitioners from within. " I'm going. Anyone else?
Fitbit - Automatically Track Your Fitness and Sleep
"The Fitbit Tracker contains a motion sensor like the ones found in the Nintendo Wii. The Tracker senses your motion in three dimensions and converts this into useful information about your daily activities. The Tracker measures the intensity and duration of your physical activities, calories burned, steps taken, distance traveled, how long it took you to fall asleep, the number of times you woke up throughout the night and how long you were actually asleep vs just lying in bed". More in the lifestreaming, data-tracking, spime-y world but, blimey, that might be a bit too much tracking. Here's some more things that track you.
Jan Chipchase - Future PerfectFuture Social
Trends in social technology use: "...the speed of technological change will continue to increase and that for some services the lifetime will be measured in days or hours."
Nascent: Social Not Working?
Science and the social web: "Personally, I'm optimistic about the potential of the web to greatly improve the productivity – and joy – of doing science. I also think it can help to break down barriers between disciplines, and between science and the rest of society.". Sounds like progress will be hard
"Whrrl shows you not just where your friends are right now and what they're doing, but where they have been. In effect, your friends (in combination with a powerful recommendation engine) light up your map with their experiences so you can discover cool places, events and even new people that you might otherwise have missed." Nice looking attempt on the social geographical space, shame it doesn't support the UK yet.
London firm unveils new software for mobile phones that can track transport and measure carbon footprint
"Carbon Diem's inventors claim that, by using GPS to measure the speed and pattern of movement, their algorithm can identify the mode of transport being used." I've been following this because I wondered if you could do that a while ago, good to see you can, it's definitely got potential.
Meet the neighbours | Groups Near You
Using crowdsourcing to geotag local neighbourhood email lists, forums and community blogs
BLDGBLOG: Mayan Muons and Unmapped Rooms
The Maya Muon group explains "...pointing out that dense materials block more muons, Patel explains that a muon detector can actually detect rooms, spaces, and caves inside what seems to be solid:"
Thursday, October 02, 2008
I was asked to pop along to the Radio 4 interactive team meeting the other day and start a discussion around interesting things I had seen on the web - they're looking at rebuilding some of their big web sites and are looking for inspiration. These are some of my notes from the session. It's mainly internet stuff, and is actually mainly blog posts and ideas rather than sites or products...
Transcriptions and the Mechanical Turk
Waxy.org on using Amazon's Mechanical Turk to transcribe podcasts. It's something I've looked at before, there's even a company that simplifies the process, but I particularly liked this bit...
"First, I split my 35-minute audio file into seven five-minute MP3s. Why? Mechanical Turk workers are all working in parallel, so the more discrete tasks, the faster the job gets done. "
And not only could you have those segments being transcribed in parallel but you could get different workers to do multiple, redundant transcripts of the same audio and then somehow combine or select the best ones. It would be great if we could publish more transcripts for programmes on the web, particularly if they are machine-readable and searchable. Something to try sometime I think.
And discussion turned to whether we could do something like this on the Radio 4 site. Maybe some kind of marketplace with listeners requesting tasks (I mean Radio 4 website tasks like transcribing programmes, tagging up segments, adding photos...) and other listeners carrying them out to gain kudos?
News consumption and games
I like Ethan Zuckerman's blog, particularly his thoughts about xenophilia and how we could encourage people to look at things outside their usual sphere of interest, partticularly around international news. In a recent post he looks at games and game-like behaviours, suggesting...
"The holy grail in this model, as far as I’m concerned, would be a Firefox plugin that would passively watch your websurfing behavior and characterize your personal information consumption. Over the course of a week, it might let you know that you hadn’t encountered any news about Latin America, or remind you that a full 40% of the pages you read had to do with Sarah Palin. It wouldn’t neccesarily prescribe changes in your behavior, simply help you monitor your own consumption in the hopes that you might make changes. "
He moves on to PMOG...
"PMOG - the Passively Multiplayer Online Game. You play PMOG by surfing the web. A Firefox plugin keeps track of how many different sites you’ve visited and assigns you “data points” for each different site. These points serve as currency for the game - you can stash them in “crates” for other players to find, or use them to buy “mines” with which to attack other players. Basically, it turns the web into a gameboard for a multiplayer game, which you can actively participate in, or passively earn points in."
Maybe you could earn a Radio 4 badge if you download enough podcasts. And this led me on to other gaming sites such as Games With A Purpose, home of the original ESP image-describing game, Audio Puzzler where you get a set of audio fragments which you have to transcribe and then fit together, presumably resulting in transcribed or subtitled video, and Operation Sleeper Cell a new Alternate Reality Game (ARG) for Cancer Research where players can donate money to get early access to puzzles - it certainly looks like it's got puzzles that would intrigue and challenge the Radio 4 listener .
Good stuff as usual from David at DJAlchemi about recommendations...
"It doesn't have a screen so obviously it doesn't do video, but it's perfect for music nevertheless. It doesn't need a screen, because it knows better than you do what you want to hear. It has a comprehensive catalogue of all your likes and dislikes. Building on the Nike + iPod technology, it's connected to sensors in your feet and elsewhere so that it knows whether you're driving, walking, sitting, at the gym and so on. And it's single "Play me music I will like" button senses your mood based on the galvanic skin response when you press the button. Taking all these data sources into consideration, the perfect iPod computes the exact sequence of songs to fit your circumstances, with the right mix of familiar and new music."
"This is the Holy Grail that personalised media is supposed to be aiming for, but when I express it like this, most people seem to realise that it is (a) faintly ludicrous and (b) not the kind of music experience they want. They want a more organic and social relationship with music. Sometimes they want to share the same musical experience, whether at a gig or via the radio, even though that comes at the cost of losing personalisation. They're interested in what their friends are listening to. And, yes, they may have a few 'gatekeepers' (critics, DJs, bloggers), who they feel are on the same wavelength as them, and to whom they look for tips and recommendations. But the value of these is not to confirm or echo existing tastes, so much as to help them move on and broaden their musical tastes."
And the EchoNest continue to build on their API. You could build a serious music website on top of this lot - audio analysis, recommendations, similar artists, hot artists, buzz, charts...
I love text-based visualisations and Stefanie Posavec's art visualisations of On The Road are so very pretty (the picture at the top of this post represents the sentence structure in the book). That kind of stuff inspired some of my Archers visualisation work. Also "I made tea" is cute. While showing Twistori I wondered if we could create a Twitter/Twistori-like stream of all the interesting stuff coming out of Radio 4 - so today I've been experimenting with Twittering while listening...
"Questions Questions - is the washing up bowl uniquely British?" about 2 hours ago from twitterrific
"Due to rising prices companies are exploring drilling for oil in surrey and sussex." about 3 hours ago from twitterrific
"mmm...cheese on toast" about 4 hours ago from twitterrific
"I think From Our Own Correspondent may be the best show on radio" about 6 hours ago from twitterrific
(OK, so one of those might not be about Radio 4)