Thursday, December 30, 2004

Oxfam America: Asian Earthquake & Tsunami

Oxfam America: Asian Earthquake & Tsunami

I just gave* to Oxfam, and put a link in Delicious. They seem to be in the forefront of aid to the region.

If you'd like to give as well, you can do so quickly and easily online. Just click on the link below:

* a pittance. 100,000 dead, 5 million in dire straits. A fraction of a penny per person.... But these things add up.


PubSub: Testing PubSub

"Your subscription has been renamed.

It now appears in your Subscription Stack as Jon Schull's Weblog.


Thursday, December 23, 2004


Big day for me. With a lot of help from my friends I finally got Multichat working on my laptop, put up a wiki page (static image below, for posterity) in the new Lab For Social Computing describing the system , and set up a project page for the team. I really think we're on to something.


Multichat is a real-time variation on Tony Chang's Webnote (i.e., in our variant you see what people are typing as they type).

I'm running it on my personal computer, so if I'm online, please check it out. Chat me at jonschullaim, and I'll give you a URL and show you around. If I'm not online, you can get a partial feel for it from this:

The project was initially inspired by the need for a cross-platform, type-as-you-talk, multi-person chat program optimized to facilitate face to face conversations between deaf and hearing students in the classroom. (see First in Class Deafness Project at RIT).

But (thanks to the webnote foundation and to collaborator/coder Mike Axelrod) it turns out to be far more powerful than that. It will eventually work as a peer to peer system supporting conversations between any number of connected users (with or without access to the internet).

Moreover, we think we know how use it to add real time social "presence" to websites. (This variation is inspired by John Cappiello's wikalong and the mind-blowing "Just Letters" So imagine a sidebar or companion browser window that can be yoked to an arbitrary URL in the main window. "Let's meet at the New York Times website," you might say and once there you will not only be able to see what people have written before, you'll be able to see what they are talking about in real time. ("Gee, I wonder what they're chatting about at slashdot..." you wonder), and whoever is loitering on that"street corner" will be visible to you.

Multichat is coded in python on the server side and javascript
on the client side. By the time we're done we'll be doing some
interesting things with java and streaming content as well. If you'd like to play along, let me know!!! It's open source, and the whole point is to create a widely-used social software application that is incidentally a wonderful tool for Deaf<->Hearing communication.

Collaborators, co-designers, co-developers, and co-conspirators include

Adding Optional Static Typing to Python

Adding Optional Static Typing to Python: Guido van Rossum writes, "Python's parser generator is so lame, but that in turn is intentional -- it is so lame to prevent me from inventing syntax that is either hard to write a parser for or hard to disambiguate by human readers, who always come first in Python's design.)"

Human's first. What a concept.

User-Driven Software Development as Science

User-drive software development as science

I found this paragraph quite interesting as a case study (in usability rhetoric) I haven't looked at the product yet. [paragraph breaks and bolding added]

Is EasyOffice a Microsoft Office (or WordPerfect Office or StarOffice) 'clone'?

No. Although EasyOffice contains most features common to Microsoft Office, as well WordPerfect Office and StarOffice, it was designed and functions as an original, innovative product.E-Press Corp. has in place a rigorous scientific research and engineering development program. This program is partially funded by the Canadian Federal Government, and undergoes a comprehensive scientific and financial governmental audit each year.

In this research program, the 'scientific method' is followed: hypotheses are generated, data is tested, results are analyzed, and new hypotheses are then generated, and so on. What this means in the case of EasyOffice, is that a particular version of EasyOffice is created. Then experimental subjects (some with no computer experience, and others with varying amount of expertise) are asked to create a particular document, a particular spreadsheet and a particular presentation using the experimental version of EasyOffice. The steps subjects take to do so, the difficulties they have, and of course, their successes are noted. The hypotheses are then considered in light of these results, and a new set of hypotheses, essentially a new version of EasyOffice, is then generated, and the procedure repeats.

The current version of EasyOffice essentially reflects this experimental origin, rather than a 'cloning' of any particular office suite. The bimodal success rates we obtained from inexperienced versus experienced users, is reflected in the 'Easy' and the 'Advanced' modes present in most EasyOffice programs. Many features which EasyOffice has (and indeed, Microsoft Office lacks) are there because of our observations of our experimental subjects. By the same token, many features that seem to reflect a Microsoft origin, are there also, but only indirectly so, because of demand of our experimental subjects. Experienced computer users are so entrenched with the Microsoft Windows and Office paradigm, that this group will independently cause a Microsoft-like version to emerge. This group vehemently rejects new ways of doing operations, new ways of organizing functions, and so on. On the other hand, inexperienced users are more open to new ideas, and actually do much better with a non-Microsoft-like paradigm. The effect of WordPerfect Office, StarOffice, Linux, or any other operating system or office suite, is found to be negligible in our studies in influencing subjects' outcomes.

Despite the skewing of our results due to the habituation (brainwashing?) of users with the Windows and other Microsoft paradigms, we have nonetheless maintained our vision of creating an innovative, intelligent, friendly office suite. Features that look similar in Microsoft Office, and WordPerfect Office, and StarOffice, may look similar in EasyOffice, but in many cases, our features are enhanced with the properties that subjects were found to need during our experiments. For example, although our 'File Menu' has become similar to Microsoft Office (and the other office suites), our 'File Menu' is bloated into 'File1' and 'File2' menus. Our subjects, were terrified of losing data, and would perform operations that reflected this fear. The many backup systems present in our 'File' menus, for example, reflect these observations, and allow our users an easier-use experience.

As well, while like other office suites, many of our features are built upon a dumb infrastructure, we are in the process of replacing many of the dumb routines with AI routines. As our mission statement says, "...rather than being a block of iron and silicon sitting on one's desk, it will become one's friend, in every sense of the word. You will talk to it, and it will talk back to you. It will empathize with you. It will do what you ask of it", and as the AI routines become incorporated into our software, this will happen.EasyOffice is not a clone of Microsoft Office, nor is it "one more office suite on the market". We believe EasyOffice is very special because it does what you, the user, want it to do.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Harvard Gazette: Academic turns city into a social experiment

Harvard Gazette: Academic turns city into a social experiment
Fascinating article

"One of former Bogota Mayor Antanas Mockus' many inspired strategies for changing the mindset - and, eventually, the behavior - of the city's unruly inhabitants was the installation of traffic mimes on street corners. (Photo courtesy of El Tiempo)


Dare I hope that this is a straightforward, nice looking open source python editor with code folding, and no show-stopper bugs? I do dare hope.

"DrPython is a highly customizable, extensible editor/environment for developing programs written in the Python programming Language. It is implemented in wxPython.
(wxPython is a set of python bindings (and extra widgets) for wxWidgets).
It uses Scintilla for the Text Controls.

Friday, December 17, 2004

This picture turns out to be a hoax...

Urban Legends Reference Pages: Inboxer Rebellion (Does Not Compute): "

Scientists from RAND Corporation have created this model to illustrate how a 'home computer' could look in the year 2004. However the needed technology will not be economically feasible for the average home. Also the scientists readily admit that the computer will require not yet invented technology to actually work, but 50 years from now scientific progress is expected to solve these problems. With teletype interface and the Fortran language, the computer will be easy to use and only

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Google Suggest puts two people first

Google suggest
One letter queries to Google suggest bring up premiere guesses. Amazon is the top guess for "a". I tried all letters. Two people show up in the premier positions. Guess who.

Hint: one name begins with "P", the other with "T"
To see the answers, select the text from here...
Paris Hilton
Tara Reid (never heard of her!) here

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Technology Review: Portable Projectors

Technology Review: Portable Projectors
This article illustrates a dozen great ideas about a world covered with small cheap video projectors.

Build a tiny projector into each of those devices, though, and the world becomes your display. Raskar’s team has developed hardware and software that can project digital images onto whatever surface is handy—the wall, say, or a desktop—and make them look good even if the impromptu screen isn’t nice and smooth. And “once you buy into this notion that people would like to have this kind of an attachment,” he asks, “what will they do beyond just looking at those images?”

virtual scroll ring maps circular mouse motion into vertical scrolling.

Sounds like a great idea. Sounds like the iPod is casting a shadow....

Technology Review: Virtual Ring Eases Scrolling: "The virtual scroll ring maps circular finger, stylus, or mouse motion into vertical scrolling. Clockwise motion moves the scroll bar down and counterclockwise motion moves it up. Bigger circles and faster motion increase scrolling speed."

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Energy Independence by 2014?

The right way to win.:

Could we make this a successful grass roots movement? Let the Republicans choose between becoming heroes or getting left behind?

"If President Bush is looking for a legacy, I have just the one for him - a national science project that would be our generation's moon shot: a crash science initiative for alternative energy and conservation to make America energy-independent in 10 years. Imagine if every American kid, in every school, were galvanized around such a vision. "

"If President Bush made energy independence his moon shot, he would dry up revenue for terrorism; force Iran, Russia, Venezuela and Saudi Arabia to take the path of reform - which they will never do with $45-a-barrel oil - strengthen the dollar; and improve his own standing in Europe, by doing something huge to reduce global warming. He would also create a magnet to inspire young people to contribute to the war on terrorism and America's future by becoming scientists, engineers and mathematicians. "This is not just a win-win," said the Johns Hopkins foreign policy expert Michael Mandelbaum. "This is a win-win-win-win-win."

"Summoning all our energies and skills to produce a 21st-century fuel is George W. Bush's opportunity to be both Nixon to China and J.F.K. to the moon - in one move.
--Thomas Friedman

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Croquet: Alan Kay's Next Big Thing

A first look at Croquet from Maxwell Borders:
"During a meal...I got the story of how Julian [Lombardi] had met up with so many other stars that formed the Croquet constellation: Alan Kay – an ex-Xerox PARC genius who’d developed the familiar “windowing” interface (GUI); 3D games and graphics wizard David Smith; David P. Reed, father of Reed’s Law (a scaling law for groupforming network architectures); Andreas Raab, a 3D prodigy and Squeak developer; and Mark P. McCahill, the guy who coined the phrase “surfing the Net,” among other things. By all appearances, Julian had gotten mixed up with the Dream Team of computer geeks. All that was left was for me to see what they had created.

We sat down before our respective laptops – I on my PC, he on his Mac, and we began to explore the environments of Croquet together. At first, the terrain was simple. A blue sky with clouds floating overhead. In this gridlike, 3D landscape, there were objects of various sizes placed in the foreground and back, all seemingly subject to the laws of perspective.

“I designed this area to look like the Holodeck,” he said. “This lets the user know he’s at a starting place.” Julian’s avatar – a white rabbit – approached, and Julian’s voice could be heard from one of the computer’s speakers.

“Hear my voice? That’s voice-over IP.”

He took me to one of the objects in the landscape. It looked to be a floating window or picture.

“Watch this,” said Julian and a beam of light shot from his avatar to land on the picture-window, representing his interaction with it. He moved the window back and forth as if it were spinning on an invisible axis. Then, on his computer, he gave it a spin and it turned. As I got closer to the picture-window, on my computer, I could see the image being presented – pillars of some classical civilization overgrown by vines.

“Why don’t you give it a try?” said Julian.

From my PC, I clicked on the window and suddenly I controlled it. I moved it as Julian had from his machine – pushing it from the left – forward then back – and the picture-window changed proportions as I moved it. Then something quite profound happened: Julian’s avatar stopped my movement. You could see the window jump slightly as we wrestled to gain control of the thing.

“What you are seeing now is at the essence of Croquet,”"

And here's a screenshot:

The caption reads...
As a result of the game's exposure in a Croquet space, it is possible for two or more people to collaboratively use an application over the network - even though the application was not written to support online interactivity. Its network awareness is a feature imparted to the application because of its exposure within a collabrative Croquet space.

Monday, November 15, 2004

ASPN : Python Cookbook : Easy string interpolation in Python 2.4

ASPN : Python Cookbook : Easy string interpolation in Python 2.4
A great new string interpolation recipe for python by Michael Simionato.
It's the little things...

def printmsg():
opinion = "favorite"
print interp("My $opinion language is $language.")
This is the way I always wanted string interpolation to work.

Me too

Monday, November 08, 2004

Wired News: Genome Model Applied to Software

Wired News: Genome Model Applied to Software: "What does uncovering the secret language of DNA have in common with reverse-engineering Microsoft software?

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Python and Mathematics (PyCon 2004)

Python and Mathematics (PyCon 2004):
An inspiring argument that computer science is the future of math education (and python shall lead the way).
"...geekdom has become a place to channel one's nationalism, altruism and idealism, somewhat outside the scope of traditional politics.

From the standpoint of a Buckminster Fuller enthusiast such as myself, the open source movement has many of the hallmarks of what he projected as a 'design science revolution,' which would be global and focused on actual artifacts over political rhetoric."

Quidquid latine dictum sit, altum sonatur

TotallyUnrelatedQuotes - Grafitron Wiki: "Quidquid latine dictum sit, altum sonatur."
Whatever is said in Latin sounds profound.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

The New York Times > Technology> Review> Connecting Paper and Online Worlds by Cellphone Camera

The New York Times > Technology> Review>

Connecting Paper and Online Worlds by Cellphone Camera
: "On these posters are symbols the researchers call SpotCodes: concentric rings of black-and-white blocks representing ones and zeros. Focusing your camera phone on the code and then clicking any button launches a wireless service -- for example, the ability to buy a train ticket, check an airplane's departure time or download a ring tone from a store display.

The codes can be produced on any inkjet printer and can be read even by phones with low-resolution cameras."

What paradigm has no name but flies?

Sean McGrath, CTO, Propylon:
Discussing Gmail, and an emerging paradigm that doesn't seem to have a name...

"When a client connects, it effectively downloads an implementation of that model. Once in situ, further conversations between client and server can go up a notch - expressed in terms of domain specific concepts 'render the inbox will you? There's a good chap' rather than 'At X,Y render a blue box...'.

Web clients carry around a basic, low level programming language called Javascript. The real beauty of Javascript is that it is dynamic - you can blurr the distinction between code and data. You can hoist the level of abstraction you work with in your app by layering domain specific concepts on top of it in the form of functions and data structures. You can sling across data structures already teed up for use on the other end with the aid of the magic of 'eval'. You can implement complex behaviour by sending across a program to be run rather than trying to explain what you want done declaratively to the other side.

Now, in such a world - would you send XML data to and fro? Developers with a static typing programming language background might be inclined to say yes but I suspect javascriptophiles, lispers, pythoneers and rubyites are more likely to say no. Reason being, it is so much more natural to exchange lumps of code - mere text strings remember - that can be eval'ed to re-create the data structure you have in the XML.

In my opinion, there is more power in that one idea than in the whole minatory miasma of WS-GetAGrip. [webservices]

Thursday, October 28, 2004

BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Q&A : Indonesian hominid find

BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Q&A : Indonesian hominid find: "The local inhabitants of Flores talk of little people that lived in the forests and, according to legend, the 'hobbits' were still on Flores when Dutch explorers arrived a few hundred years ago. The most recent legend dates to only 100 years ago."

Monday, October 25, 2004

HCI Glossary

Imagination Cubed

Imagination Cubed

The Imagination3 demo is genuinely cool. If we chould type in real time, it would be really really useful for chatting as well.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Windows Error Messages on Billboard

from Boing Boing: :
"Windows error on giant Toronto animated billboard
Windows errors on giant public billlboards are their own cult Internet photo-genre, but this is a great example of the species: an enormous Windows error dialogue-box on the towering billboard across from Toronto's Eaton Centre. It showed up in my RSS feed of images on Flickr tagged with 'Toronto.' Link

defective yeti

defective yet, where have you been all my lifei: "America's Next Couch Potato

I'm going to make a million dollars selling mirrors to idiots and telling them they are ultra-thin flatscreen TVs that only receive reality shows about lazy people.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

links on information visualization

links on Information Visualization I gave a presentation on Information Visualization and HCI to a colleague's class on Data Mining and pulled together a set of links.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Paralysed man sends e-mail by thought

Paralysed man sends e-mail by thought:
"In June 2004, surgeons implanted a device containing 100 electrodes into the motor cortex of a 24-year-old quadriplegic. The device, called the BrainGate, was developed by the company Cyberkinetics, based in Foxborough, Massachusetts. Each electrode taps into a neuron in the patient's brain.

The BrainGate allowed the patient to control a computer or television using his mind, even when doing other things at the same time. Researchers report for example that he could control his television while talking and moving his head.

The team now plans to implant devices into four more patients."

Monday, October 18, 2004

How do I create custom sidebars in Firefox?

"How do I create custom sidebars in Firefox?

To create a custom sidebar in Firefox, bookmark the URL you want to use as a sidebar, right-click the bookmark and select 'Properties', and check 'Load this bookmark in the sidebar'."

Just Letters

Just Letters: "Instructions: drag letters :-)" Perhaps the most interesting and elegant social software I have ever seen. As art, as metaphor, as collective consciousness, as game, as challenge.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

The Trikke scooter — the latest way for people to look dumb
I couldn't have put it better myself...and yet I am now a proud owner.

trikkebe the first kid on your blog....

Hey, at least I didn't get one of these:

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

spontaneous integration

Here are some recent bookmarks worth blogging.

(I'm finding the combination of blogger, delicious, flickr and various bookmarklets to be incomparably easy to use. A half-dozen separate products, some corporate, some amateur, fitting together better than any integrated product of which I'm aware. What does that tell you?)
post-it note metaphor wiki

nothing to do with, but gonna be big: isight camera and mac becomes barcode reader and library system

Open Laszlo

WikalongExtension - Wikalong Firefox Extension
Wikalong is a FirefoxExtension that embeds a wiki in the SideBar of your browser, indexed off the url of your current page.

Interaction Design Patterns

A superb site

Home Web Design patterns GUI Design patterns MobileUI Design patterns Literature & links About me

Newspad -- The Website for Paddington, Bayswater, Hyde Park and Maida Vale

Newspad -- The Website for Paddington, Bayswater, Hyde Park and Maida Vale: "
What a beautiful design!

Paddington Development Corporation has just unveiled, or rather unrolled, a startling new pedestrian bridge which crosses an inlet from the Basin in front of the new Marks and Spencer headquarters.

It's all done by a fiendishly clever system of hydraulic rams inside the handrail. So, it can be rolled up when M&S want to bring a hospitality boat into the inlet.

The Rolling Bridge has encountered no snags unlike another high-tech artistic construction, the bouncing Hungerford Bridge on the Thames, and it seems able to take most loads with ease.

John Taplin


Monday, October 11, 2004

TextMate: The Missing Editor for OS X (think UltraEdit for Windows or as an alternative to BBEdit)

TextMate: The Missing Editor for OS X : "TextMate is The Missing Editor "

A code folding editor for python on the mac...almost. The folding doesn't work reliably for me. But its a big step in the right direcdtion.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

The New York Times > Science > What a Story Lice Can Tell

The New York Times > Science > What a Story Lice Can Tell:
"In a finding that seems bound to inspire several science fiction treatments, Dr. David Reed of the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville has reached the startling conclusion that some human lice show signs of having evolved originally on a different human species."
""I really think we are only scratching the surface...,'' Dr. Reed said."

Saturday, October 02, 2004

WikalongExtension - Wikalong Firefox Extension

WikalongExtension - Wikalong Firefox Extension:
Wikalong looks like a real Next Step on the web. I have to figure out how to setup a private wikalong server. I also want to tell Jon Udell about this AND tell him its time to fix is blogroll link to point to

I also need to remember to track a suggestion I myself made using wikalong that it be used to create a dynamic map of frequently travelled by-ways in cyberspace... That idea, and some already-underway discussion of it, is at
"Wikalong is a FirefoxExtension that embeds a wiki in the SideBar of your browser, indexed off the url of your current page. It is probably most simply described as a wiki-margin for the internet.

One general difference in the functioning of the wiki you may find is that wiki links would be external, as opposed to traditional wikis which are more internal link centric."

Friday, October 01, 2004 "Robert Wright interviews Daniel Dennett on direction in evolution"

Just one page in Robert Wright's

A wonderful website

George Bush as programming project leader

George Bush as programming project leader:
"Over a year into the project, having lost over 1,000 employees, Bush The Project Leader would just be pointing at a handful of completed tasks: 'We got rid of that old, buggy Hoo-Sane system. The company's better off without it. We're still having problems building the replacement, and a lot of programmers are burning out, because it's a bigger task than I thought, but at least we got rid of the Hoo-Sane system that I've always wanted to replace.'

The New York Times > Arts > Art & Design > Art Review | Josef and Anni Albers: A Bauhaus Couple Lived Their Less-Is-More Credo

The New York Times > Arts > Art & Design > Art Review | Josef and Anni Albers: A Bauhaus Couple Lived Their Less-Is-More Credo: "'Josef and Anni Albers: Designs for Living,' an enlightening, quietly excellent show at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum,"

I'll be in NY Nov 20...

Thursday, September 30, 2004

Fifth Foresight Conference: DNA Nanotechnology

Building Cubes (and other things) with DNA :

"A DNA Molecule with the Connectivity of a Cube. This representation of a DNA cube shows that it contains six different cyclic strands. Each nucleotide is represented by a single colored dot for the backbone and a single white dot representing the base. Note that the helix axes of the molecule have the connectivity of a cube. "

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Oh! i See...

Oh! i See...:
Too good to be true? Linux server, Windows Client

"iSee is a highly-optimised, small footprint (~ 500 KB) application suite for video-conferencing over TCP/IP networks, such as the Internet. It has advanced algorithms for rate control, optimum bandwidth utilisation, variable bit-rate compression, etc. all tuned to work across a bandwidth spectrum ranging from modem speeds (14.4 Kbps) to LAN speeds (10/100 Mbps) in both wired and wireless networks.

When compared to other similar systems, iSee provides better performance (increased video frames/second, better image quality, improved audio) when using similar hardware, software and network infrastructure.

This application is ideally suited for typical multi-party conferencing situations such as distance education (with the teacher in the central location and students in remote locations), e-governance, collaborative research, remote monitoring, etc.


Monday, September 20, 2004

Wired covers ArtBots show, publishes misleading photo

Wired News: Nothing Robotic About Robo-Art

"NEW YORK -- For 18 hours, robots invaded Harlem, but they came in peace.

The third annual ArtBots: The Robot Talent Show was held in New York City this past weekend, and showcased some of the best and most creative applications of modern robotics that make or are themselves art."

I had a good time. I swear!

UI Patterns and Techniques: Introduction

UI Patterns and Techniques

This is a terrific resource from Jennifer Tidwell.
If you're running short on ideas, or hung up on a difficult design quandary, read over these and see if any of them are applicable.
Jenifer Tidwell jtidwell @
About Patterns

Organizing the Content
Overview Plus Detail
Hub and Spoke
Extras On Demand
Step-by-Step Instructions
One-Window Drilldown
Intriguing Branches
Multi-Level Help

Getting Around
Clear Entry Points
Toplevel Navigation
Color-Coded Divisions
Animated Transition
Detail View Navigation

Organizing the Page
Visual Framework
Center Stage
Titled Sections
Card Stack
Closable Panels
Movable Pieces
Progressive Disclosure
Progressive Enabling
Property Sheet
Diagonal Balance
Liquid Layout

Getting Input From Users
Good Defaults
Forgiving Format
Input Hints
Input Prompt
Dropdown Chooser
Remembered Choices
Illustrated Choices

Showing Complex Data
Sortable Table
Alternating Row Colors
Cascading Lists
Jump to Item
New-Item Row

Commands and Actions
Multi-Level Undo
Smart Menu Items
Prominent Done
Prominent Cancel
Action Groups
Rollover Effects
Progress Indicator
Command History

Direct Manipulation

Smart Selection
One-Off Mode
Spring-Loaded Mode
Constrained Resize
Composite Selection
Simultaneous Views

Stylistic Elements

Deep Background
Few Hues, Many Values
Contrasting Font Weights
Corner Treatments
One-Pixel Lines

VisualIDs: Scenery for Data Worlds

VisualIDs: Scenery for Data Worlds:

"...the same users who misplace files on a daily basis are not nearly as lost in the real world -- we do not need a map to find our way to the kitchen or locate our workplace each day. There are familiar places where people do get lost, however. Big parking lots are one example. The problem is obvious, though it has been largely overlooked in several decades of HCI research: scenery is what is missing. In current GUIs everything looks the same, and finding a particular file is as difficult as finding your car in a big parking garage.

In this project we show that suitable scenery (distinctive appearance) can be automatically invented using computer graphics techniques. VisualIDs are a form of automatically generated scenery applied to individual data items such as files. Our experiments show significantly improved speeds in a simulated file finding task after only a few minutes of use, and with no training. "

browser prototype screenshot

visualID varieties
(1.5 meg image)

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Nonlinear History of New Media

Nonlinear History of New Media New Media from cavepaintings to bio-engineering.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Joel on Software - Things You Should Never Do, Part I

JNever rewrite from scratch (and why) : "There's a subtle reason that programmers always want to throw away the code and start over. The reason is that they think the old code is a mess. And here is the interesting observation: they are probably wrong. The reason that they think the old code is a mess is because of a cardinal, fundamental law of programming:

It's harder to read code than to write it.

This is why code reuse is so hard. This is why everybody on your team has a different function they like to use for splitting strings into arrays of strings. They write their own function because it's easier and more fun than figuring out how the old function works."

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Christopher Alexander and Software Design

"I'm probably speaking out of turn here but, you know, I've thumbed through the proceedings of this conference, for instance. Jim was kind enough to show it to me yesterday. I don't really see discussion about What, collectively, are computer scientists supposed to be doing with all these programs. How are they supposed to help the Earth? And, yet, the capacity to do that is sitting right here in this room. That is an amazing situation. You have so much power.… but that means that you also have an enormous responsibility.

Is there a chance you might take on the responsibility for influencing, shaping, and changing the environment.


What I am proposing here is something a little bit different from that. It is a view of programming as the natural genetic infrastructure of a living world which you/we are capable of creating, managing, making available, and which could then have the result that a living structure in our towns, houses, work places, cities, becomes an attainable thing. That would be remarkable. It would turn the world around, and make living structure the norm once again, throughout society, and make the world worth living in again.

This is an extraordinary vision of the future, in which computers play a fundamental role in making the world -- and above all the built structure of the world -- alive, humane, ecologically profound, and with a deep living structure. "

The Origins of Pattern Theory the Future of the Theory, And The Generation of a Living World by Christopher Alexander, October 1996


HOW TO STUDY: "How to Study:
A Brief Guide
William J. Rapaport"

Friday, September 10, 2004

Named Tuples and attrdicts

Named Tuples and attrdicts:
Daily Python-URL has a flurry on "named tuples" today.

This lead me to submit the following comment

"attrdicts, Jon Schull, 2004/09/10
In a footnote to recipe 'Method for constructing a dictionary without excessive quoting' Ganesan Rajagopal introduced the the attrdict...upon which I have become quite dependent: here it is again (in its entirety)

class attrdict(dict):
def __getattr__(self, name):
return self[name]

def __setattr__(self, name, value):
self[name] = value

data = attrdict(red=1, green=2, blue=3)
print = 4

Doesn't this do everything the named tuples (do with additional power?)

I'm sure I'll find out why this is a horse of a different color (sorting and mutability come to mind), but I do want to advertise attrdicts more widely. I've found them very useful because they let me create and referernce to dictionaries in a very readable.manner (as well as in the traditional[fashion] ) and to use the inbuilt facilities of dictionaries (such keys() values() items() etc. ).

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Emergent Applications

The last post about moregoogle (which integrates google, alexa, and amazon) was created using flickr (which sort of integrates blogger, and vice verse).

Is there a name for this wonderful emerging category of synthetic, webservice-based, value-added application?

How about "Emergent App"?

And when its also commercially brilliant and yet free (as these are)? "Emergent Product" ? "Emergent Business model"

("emergent" as in "emerging", and "emergent properties")


MoreGoogle is a brilliant idea (technically and commercially) but runs on windows only.
A Firefox extension (cross-platform) equivalent illustrated here tells the story.

The URL for carlo's Firefox extension is

moregoogle blurb:
See page preview thumbnails cool!
'Open in New Window' Button
Live product information new!
Get accurate site access statistics
Retrieve older versions of a site
Find more related web sites
It's free :-) (as in 'free beer' and 'no spyware')"

multiple takes on the singularity

" Wait a minute, Su Ang responds. Here we are, traveling in a spaceship the size of a soda can. We’ve left our bodies behind to conserve space and energy so that the laser-sail-powered Field Circus can cruise faster. Our brains have been uploaded and are now running electronically within the tiny spaceship’s nanocomputers. The pub is “here,” along with other virtual environments, so that we don’t go into shock from sensory deprivation. “And you can tell me that the idea of a fundamental change in the human condition is nonsense?”

Accelerando is the story of three generations of a dysfunctional family living through the Singularity."
-- fPopular Science | Is Science Fiction About to Go Blind?

see also Bruce Sterling in Wired on the Singularity and keep an eye on the comments to a little blurb on same in MIT Technology Review.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Joel on Software - It's Not Just Usability

Joel on Software - It's Not Just Usability: "When you're writing software that mediates between people, after you get the usability right, you have to get the social interface right. And the social interface is more important. The best UI in the world won't save software with an awkward social interface.

The best way to illustrate social interfaces is with a few examples of failures and successes."

Eyetrack III - What You Most Need to Know

Eyetrack III - What You Most Need to Know: "With a list of headlines on a homepage, we can see where people looked with eyetracking -- and again, most often it's the left sides of the headlines. People typically scan down a list of headlines, and often don't view entire headlines. If the first words engage them, they seem likely to read on. On average, a headline has less than a second of a site visitor's attention."

A heat map illustrates this....

Monday, September 06, 2004

Political Books -- Polarized Readers -- May 2004

Political Books -- Polarized Readers -- May 2004:
Valdis Krebs updates his social (book) network analysis: "Two books are linked in the network if they were purchased by the same person -- 'Customers who bought this book also bought'. "

Sunday, September 05, 2004

ArtBots: The Robot Talent Show

See you at Artbots:
My pARTners and I will be part of the ArtBots show in New York on the 17th 18th and 19th. Our piece is called "Three Blind Mice". They're not blind but they are mice and they'll be driving little saucer-shaped "motorcarts".

The show should be fun:

"It's an ArtBots Invasion in Harlem!

It's an ArtBots invasion in Harlem! The Third Annual ArtBots: The Robot Talent Show will take place on September 17, 18, & 19 from noon to 6:00pm at The Mink Building on 126th Street & Amsterdam Avenue in Harlem. Featuring the work of 20 artists and groups from seven countries, the show celebrates the strange and wonderful collision of shifty artists, disgraced engineers, high/low/no tech hackers, rogue scientists, beauty school dropouts, backyard pyros, and industrial espionage that has come to define the emerging field of robotic art. Participants include robots that sketch, carve, float, wiggle, hum, ring, grow, wander, and sing, as well a number of works the form and function of which are not yet well understood.

Read the full ArtBots 2004 Press Release.

Check out the artists and their work here!"

P.S. our piece will also be part of the Providence RI FirstWorks festival

Coral: The New York University Distribution Network

Coral: The New York University Distribution Network: "CoralCDN is a decentralized, self-organizing, peer-to-peer web-content distribution network. CoralCDN leverages the aggregate bandwidth of volunteers running the software to absorb and dissipate most of the traffic for web sites using the system. In so doing, CoralCDN replicates content in proportion to the content's popularity, regardless of the publisher's resources---in effect democratizing content publication."

Saturday, September 04, 2004

I want to include the content of in my sidebar BUT the creator of delicious requests that I not write anything that will hit every time my page is accessed. So we need a proxy server or cache of some kind.

Anyone created this kind of a service?

PostScript: Coral (described in the next post) would seem to be the perfect solution. But I'm no longer sure I want to do this.

The Python Paradox

The Python Paradox: Paul Graham writes...

"In a recent talk I said something that upset a lot of people: that you could get smarter programmers to work on a Python project than you could to work on a Java project.

I didn't mean by this that Java programmers are dumb. I meant that Python programmers are smart. It's a lot of work to learn a new programming language. And people don't learn Python because it will get them a job; they learn it because they genuinely like to program and aren't satisfied with the languages they already know.

Which makes them exactly the kind of programmers companies should want to hire. "

The Age of the Essay

Paul Graham: The Age of the Essay: "I write down things that surprise me in notebooks. I never actually get around to reading them and using what I've written, but I do tend to reproduce the same thoughts later. So the main value of notebooks may be what writing things down leaves in your head.

My RIT webpage

Jonathan Schull on One Page (April 2004):


As ever, I seek the lowest overhead, blogging system. is one possibility. This is another.