Monday, November 26, 2007

getting Physical media

Don't underestimate the power of "off-line".

While a digital photo can be whisked to the other side of the planet in an instant, a printed photo can be displayed on a wall or held in a wallet.

A pdf can be read on screen, but a book with an inscription can be passed from a long dead great great grandparent to a newborn.

Which would you rather your child have. A video (file?) of you talking to her, or a bundle of letters?

Physical has two meanings. And those meaning are intertwined.

There is also the simple matter of getting your data off the devices. I know lots of people who use their phone cameras, but few ho can do anything with those bits in there.
Remember the BBC Domesday Project from 1986. I think it was the 900 year anniversary of the Domesday Book, so the BBC created a new version for the digital age.

Unfortunately by 2002 they realised that there was hardly anything left which could read the laserdiscs that the project was stored on. So the BBC worked on a project to make a web version. The irony was that the original velum bound book was indeed still readable over 1000 years later.

Sometimes the simplest, physical solution beats the latest digital one.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Best invention in 2007

Today's Science Week question is "In your opinion what was the best invention in 2007".

I've been looking in to this, partly to see what exactly was invented in 2007. The US Patent search revealed a few things ( like this completely not work safe item), ah. No.

With 20/20 hindsight we might declare Bruce Crower's improved engine design the eventual winner. Or given the popularity of Lego as the best invention of people's childhood the LEGO® MINDSTORMS® NXT software as the best.

Given my data loss, I'm tempted to award the linkable USB hard disk as the winner, but no.

As Conor asked "How many people are going to plump for the jesusphone in their posts?" Well no. The iPhone simply has one of the best user interfaces on a touch screen created. However the phone itself , without Bluetooth, may make it illegal to use on the Irish roads (I remember that a wired earpiece is not permitted), so it looses out for legal reasons. But Nokia went one better, and offered something that should be in the next iPhone... touch feedback’ touch screen as reported by Red Ferret.

So there you go, a tiny touch that lets you know you've made a tiny touch.

take care,

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I've been ripped

Yes, someone is nicking content off my blog in order to give themselves a higher ranking (no idea why). However it seems that (no follow condom in place) copied part of my favourite invention and mobile phone privacy post thinks I am the "Cobain Music Community".

I don't even own a Nirvana t-shirt. I remember the band, which probably makes me too old to wear the t-shirt now.

So I've been copied... Does this mean I've been noticed now?

take care,

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

What I want

Well you can never be too rich or have too much data? And today's Science Week question is What invention do you want to see most in the future? I'm sure that there will be flights of fancy, but I want something very simple to make... I might even make one myself.

Oddly enough, what I want is something which could be made today. Findable data. Physically findable data.

Back when I was a kid, there was a tacky toy keyring thing which beeped when you whistled. Its one of those things which seem like a good idea but no one ever really praised it.

Nowadays we have USB memory sticks which hold most of our data.

And I've lost 2 in the past few days.

Can someone combine these two things and make a whistle and beep USB memory stick?

And if someone finds a USB stick with my CV and interesting pictures from Mash-up camp... Contact me.


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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Speed dial

What was the favourite invention from your childhood? asks Mr Mulley... and I'm going to be a little strict and look at things released during my life time...

Why lifetime and not childhood... well... I haven't grown up yet. I've grown out, and gotten older but as anyone who has seen me in Smyths will attest, I've not grown up. So I suppose my first favourite is a 1984 invention : "Transformers"
yup these

(an image blatantly stolen from Ben's World of Transformers)

What can I say, its my not so secret shame. The fact that I'm still collecting the toys shows that it' having an ongoing impact on my life.

Why? Well it's not the two toys in one. Partly I think it's the most extreme form of anthropomorphism you can get. Not only are you putting human emotions on to an inanimate object, you're making it take on humanoid characteristics too. It's also less damaging than dressing up your pet.

It also is the aspect that things aren't always as they seem. It changes the way you view the world. Twist it a little bit and... It could be a government conspiracy or (flip body around, open doors, lower head from backside, push along brass neck, unfold arms, unclench grubby little fists, detach brown envelope) incompetence on a grand scale.

However if I was going to pick a proper technoligical invention... it's this

O.K. Its actually another image stolen off Ben from this review but I'm talking about Mobile Phones

I know what you're thinking (other than "Will you're an idiot") which is everyone and their mother has one (even if it did take me three weeks to teach her to text so she could vote for that "nice boy" on "Strictly Come Dancing"), but the mobile phone has changed how people act with each other.

But what other device has caused such a social change?

Once people made exact appointments. Meet you under Eason's clock at 3pm on Friday. And at 4pm, still waiting, you felt very stood up. Now people make rough appointments, aproxi-meetings, and put in a call to the other's mobile to rearrange the meeting at the cinema directly due to traffic.

Once people used phone booths and pay phones.

I remember the "push button A" pay telephones (always press button B on a free phone to see if any change comes out. It's the old version of checking the base of the automatic cash registers in Tesco's). I remember those weird plastic bubbles next to the phones so that the caller could have privacy.
But that privacy is a long abandoned thing. I now know the intimate details of the recent gynaecological exam thanks to a mobile phone call on the bus.

And once we needed to wait for the results of a meeting or conference to be published. (Or passed notes in class) Now text updates can be shipped online while the meeting is still on (and notes are texted between schools).

It can also save your life. No hunting for a phone after an accident... now you hunt for a signal. And in large scale disaster, there have been cell broadcast SMS and tweets to help save lives.

That little handy computer in your pocket has changed the social interaction of not just a nation, but a huge chunk of the world. (It also looks a little like a Wii controller, hint, hint)

take care,
(and set it to vibrate during a solemn occasion, like a tribunal)

Now, who is going to be first to suggest "mash-ups"?

And I'll get around to updating the above photos with my own transformer shots... sorry Ben. I DO know better.

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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

In the spirit of Nicolai Ivanovich Lobachevsky

"I am never forget the day I first meet the great Lobachevsky.
In one word he told me secret of success in mathematics: Plagiarize!

Let no one else's work evade your eyes,
Remember why the good Lord made your eyes,
So don't shade your eyes,
But plagiarize, plagiarize, plagiarize...
Only be sure always to call it please, 'research'". -- Tom Lehrer (MP3)

Now then, I have no doubt that most of you think I'm talking about a little kerfulle (called copyright theft) between Daimen Mulley and Ace Internet Marketing, but not quite.

First off, Nicolai Ivanovich Lobachevsky really did exist, but there is no evidence that he plagerized. The entire Tom Lehrer was written for Danny Kaye was a joke but the above attitude exists... because it's legal!

Lobachevsky and Lehrer both work in mathematics... a hard science. And simply put, you can't copyright a fact.

Think about it. What colour is the sky on your planet? "The sky is blue" is a fact and not copyrightable. The line "well, I'm from Ireland so it's mostly overcast grey" is opinion, and so is copyrightable.

If you publish a non-fiction book, then you are stating that everything in it is fact. If someone then used the facts in your book as a basis for fiction, you shouldn't be able to sue. If its a history (or even a pseudo-history) book, then your "plot premise" is probably re-producable without you getting a penny.
However is large chunks of your text have been copied (and not text attributed from another source) then you have a stronger case.

So, if you are going to steal off someone, it is better to take the facts and then reproduce it in your own words.

What about fair use... well let me put it this way, if you take content form another site, make the entire chunk a link. If your post, article, whatever is almost entirely a link... you have breached fair use.

Unless of course you do something to turn it (or them) into a completely different work. Think Andy Warhol and his soup cans. Think any of those music mashups you can think of. Usually it forces you to listen to the sources with fresh ears.

Or think about it creatively. Take other peoples footage from across the world and edit it in to a cheap music video to make a point like Sarah McLachlan does in "World on Fire"

Or mix together 32 songs and 28 different dance routines to make something humorous (laugh-out-loud in places) like Judson Laipply does with "The Evolution Of Dance".

take care,

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The Spirit of John Philip Sousa

When the precursor to the phonograph arrived, John Philip Sousa was not a happy musician. He fretted that people would stop spending time singing the old songs and the songs of the day.

I don't know if he meant mixing them together, but he was right.
Sort of.

The law changed in such a way to make these mixes illegal. But Mashups still live...

Yup I'm going to Mashup University (and possibly Mashup Camp too). Sousa (and perhaps Larry Lessig) would be proud.

To see what I'm talking about here is Larry Lessig talk on Creativity recorded at TED in March of this year. And yes I so want to go to one of these.

Embedded video from T.E.D. Talks series

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Confide in me

According to Jyri Engeström, while wearing his anthropologist hat, all social networks are based around objects. Not necessarily a physical object, but a focus. Flikr for example, is based around photographs and locations. Networks built around people have a problem; for a while it is all about "how-has-the-most-friends" but that game stops being interesting fairly quickly. (Of course a network built around, ahem, dating has a focus, just a very different one. You might get photographs but...).

But what about a network build around a person?

I've been reading reports that Kylie Minogue (of the music charts, Neighbours and Dr. Who) is setting up her own social network called Kylie Konnect.

Now I don't know how well it will work out for anyone, but I can see the appeal.

You have a fan club where all the fans can talk to each other. Pick up the opinions of the fans and sell the music directly to them thus by-passing the record label (if you want to, this site is being run by EMI). Inspired or a silly idea. Add to the mix that it's a dot mobi, which means it might be a source of ring-tones and other gphone-ish goodness. Or use an Open Social API so that they can leverage the fans in other networks, from their own hub here.

At least that's what I think is the idea. If its just to replicate another social network, then its going to quickly have digital tumble weeds on it's site.

take care,

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Friday, November 02, 2007

When Cork does Graffitti

This is one wall at the back of the South Parish community centre where all the graffiti contests take place.

It's a winner

Thursday, November 01, 2007

which explains the healthy glow

..."the death of a star and how that throws elements out in to space, and how those elements are the same ones that you and I are made of. So we are all the children of stars."..." Or there is another less poetic romantic way of putting it, you could say we are all made of nuclear waste. Kind of depends on how you are feeling that day".

-- Lucy Hawking on Guardian Science Weekly

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