Thursday, December 16, 2010

Proposal for an open cloud delicious alternative

The news is out that Yahoo is going to close This hurts me at a deep level. I was early enough on the delicious train that I have my first name as my delicious login.

We need an open cloud. I have thoughts about what that means - peer to peer, distributed hash tables, caching, etc. And replicating delicious seems like a great project to test out the idea. Delicious links are intrinsically open, so you don't have to deal with privacy issues on the reading side.


Anyone want to work on it? Email me,

So...on to my rant.

For various reasons I didn't use it much over the last seven years. (yes, seven years). I only have a bit over 1,000 links.

But those 1,000 links are important to me. And the piece of web infrastructure which delicious provides is important.

OTOH, the social aspect of delicious became less valuable as it grew. Sadly we have not yet figured out a very effective way of filtering out the ordinary wankers which doesn't also sanitize our news of the exceptional. To be all current meme, we want tools to hide the white swans and expose the black swans as soon as even a hint of them appears.

But we don't have that. For the first little while, early 2004, Delicious did that. But it did that service because only interesting people had adopted early.

It will require someone more clever than I to solve that problem. Fortunately there are clever people out there.

But in the meantime, the basic function of allowing us to save our own links to 'Delicious' for our own research and use, and to publish for people who actually want to follow us, is useful.

Major and minor players who made, or attempted to make, their fortunes aggregating user generated content have repeatedly demonstrated a callous disregard for those users.

People put their creative effort into generating content, and then one day after being more or less responsible about providing exports and notice and all the data is gone.

Yahoo did it with GeoCities, and now with Delicious, and Google is regularly guilty.

Right now I am utterly disgusted at Google Groups. Each time I log in it seems that a new feature is being removed.

Now they are disabling 'pages and files' from Google Groups. They announced it Sept 22, and 'in Feb 2011' you will no longer be able to access this content.

How kind of them to provide such notice.

I sort of expect it of Yahoo, since they have been completely unable to keep from turning everything they touch into mush, but for Google to kill content after 5 months strikes me as deeply disturbing.

Have they run out of disk space?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Try 2: Capturing personal and shared spaces with explorable gigapixel imagery.

(This is an extension of the abstract for a proposed session in the
upcoming Personal Archiving conference, Feb 24-25, at the Internet Archive in San Francisco. This is a work in progress, which I intend to extend)

Explorable images, GigaPans, allow us to capture details of the spaces in which we live our lives in ways which are currently lost.

The world is the stage upon which we live our lives, the studio or workshop where we allow our imaginations to erupt into physical or virtual form, and the museum where we keep the artifacts which we have gathered as evidence of our existence.

(I split the post because there are numerous embedded GigaPans and I don't want them crashing my regular blog)

Friday, December 10, 2010

Capturing personal and shared spaces with explorable gigapixel imagery.

An abstract proposal for a session in the upcoming Personal Archiving conference, Feb 24-25, at the Internet Archive in San Francisco.

See this extended version of this content.

I am currently working on highlighting particularly relevant examples. For example, here
are gigapans of the Inoperable art gallery in Vienna.

The Poster For Tomorrow project had an exhibit 'The Pencil is mightier' which was in 24 locations world wide to celebrate Global Human Rights Day, December 10th 2009.  It included a display of posters by the MuseumsQuartier in Vienna, and I GigaPanned some of the posters - I wanted to go back and capture more images, but the exhibit was up for a limited time.  I guess that illustrates the importance of capturing context of transient events!

Here is how the Long Now museum looked about three years ago.

The Monochrom office is almost the perfect example of a space in continuous transition, brimming with details which can be missed by any but the closest examination.

Here are images from the exhibit "Fifty years of Italian Fashion" from December 2009 in the MuseumsQuartier in Vienna.

We seldom document the places where we work. Maybe a few photos, but most of us have few records of the places we spend so much of our time. Here is what the Global Connections Lab looked like right before we moved. This is where the Gigapan was developed, including a gigapan of gigapans - prototypes and beta units.

The abstract:

Explorable images, GigaPans, allow us to capture details of the spaces in which we live our lives in ways which are currently lost.

The world is the stage upon which we live our lives, the studio or workshop where we allow our imaginations to erupt into physical or virtual form, and the museum where we keep the artifacts which we have gathered as evidence of our existence.

And we attempt to capture that experience of space. We take pictures, we write diaries, take videos, but all of these forms lose the key context of our spaces. In many ways we live our lives the way a museum exhibit or a piece of theatre is created, viewed, and cleared away.

A well curated museum exhibit or a finely directed theatrical work create physical, emotional, and cognitive spaces where an audience is able to expand their minds, and experience reality in new ways.

But a curated exhibit or a theatrical extravaganza are transitory experiences. After an exhibit is over, or the curtain falls, there are a few artifacts left behind: a museum catalog, posters, reviews, some photographs, perhaps a web site, or a video. But ultimately the artifacts are returned to their permanent homes, the walls are repainted, the set is struck, and the space becomes again a blank canvas, an empty stage, a tablula rosa ready for the next show.

Most of these forms of archiving our experiences: of life or museumship or theatre lose the context required to make sense of the whole. A museum catalog may have images of every piece in an exhibit, but it loses the context of the full creation. And a photograph catches just the smallest bit of our experience.

Using explorable gigapixel images we can capture more detail about a space, and the context of that space. In this talk I will present a number of examples of GigaPan images used to capture more or less transient spaces, from museum and art gallery exhibits, to work spaces, and temporary events. I will also offer a suggested starting point for a conversation about developing best practices for capturing explorable images which show the context of the spaces in which we live.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Grace as an emergent property of complex systems

Grace means many things to theologically minded people. But what it means to me is the tremendous amount which has been given to me for no other reason than that I have been gifted. 'Blessed' with Grace.

We can do nothing to deserve these things, other than, imho, call them 'Grace' (or some other term) and just accept them.

There is no such thing as a free lunch, so say some folks, but that is absurd. I have all sorts of free lunches, and we all do, and we did nothing to deserve them.


This is not a matter of theology, of how various groups interpret 'Grace' but of my personal view that we get so much for free.

This is true at so many levels. How many of you paid the R&D cost of developing the language which you think in? None? Right. We get language for free. But this was not actually free, it represents an enormous amount of genius work by generations and generations of people - mostly in prehistory, but still they still deserve props.

And none of us did anything, none of us _can_ do anything, sufficient so that we can 'deserve' being able to read Shakespeare, or listen to Bach. And we sure as hell did nothing to allow us to deserve the fruits of the tortured genius of Beethoven.

But that is all old news. And as Kevin Kelly notes, 'Technology is anything created after we were born.' The stuff which is older than we are is simply accepted as being our due.

And moving up, I did nothing to deserve Gutenberg. But I did perhaps a tiny amount to 'deserve' HTTP - I was writing and evangelizing non-hypercard pre-http hypertext systems before HTTP, and everything I said was right (though mostly in truth I underestimated the true power!) but I did not actually do anything to deserve a global network of, let us be honest, effectively magic.

And yes, I understand how each element in the protocol stack works (more or less :-) and it was all created by clever people, not by magicians, but that does not change the fact that for all intents and purposes, we are living in a magical time.

I'm leaving out the deep 'magic' of our basic existence. What did you do to deserve your self awareness?

When you look deeply at things, I think all you see are free lunches piled on top of free lunches. The ability to stand on the train wrecks of giants to see just a glimpse over the fence of universal ignorance.

The world may be flat, and small, but it is still bigger and more amazing than anything we could have done to deserve the world we have.

And I choose to call this undeserved bounty 'Grace,' intentionally using strongly overloaded language from religion because it does not actually matter whether God exists, and cares about us, and gave us these undeserved gifts. Personally I believe that these moments of grace, defined more or less as benefits we do not deserve (and perhaps what you could classify, as an economist, as positive externalities) are an actual specific emergent property of complex systems.

So I posit that 'Grace,' defined as benefits we did nothing to deserve, is actually an emergent property of complex systems.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The illusion of the moment, frozen in time

Photographs are a single instant, captured. Without the context of surrounding time. We all know that.

And there are lots of examples to support this. I just went down a wikipedia data search spiral looking at some of the iconic images from my lifetime. Mostly they are sort of depressing.

But the world is big and time is long.

And this photo is, as the kids say, just covered in win! I could say we have some serious winkakke going on with this image.

There is so so much win in this photograph. First, it is a completely unmanipulated image. The shutter opened. And photos came through the lens and hit the sensor, and then the sensor closed. First Tobias walked across the 'set' carrying an ipad which was running a persistance of vision application. Then he kneeled down, and I painted him with the red light from my head lamp. And finally the three of us bent over, and I pushed the remote flash trigger, and the soft box on the right fired at its' lowest setting. The paper is against the window, and you can see, through the course of the long exposure the gobo effect of the venetian blinds and the window frame. I love that the paper is all scarred up, and taped together on the bottom, and that the lights are in the picture and the whole roll of paper with the light stands, and the cluster of cables on the right. just win win win.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Don't judge a book by it's cover. Not.

'You don't judge a book by it's cover' is a cliche.   Cliches can reflect truth, but usually they are the sign of a lazy writer, and it is almost always useful to assume the cliche is false.  In the case of people the cliche is poor advice in both the literal and metaphoric sense.

In the literal case, book covers are carefully crafted by professional book designers.  These people work very hard to create a cover which will attract the audience which the author, publisher, and designers believe will want to read that book.

And at the metaphorical level, especially with people, we all make many choices about how we are going to present ourselves.

To exclusively judge a book, or a person, by their 'cover' is short sighted.  But to ignore the cover is to intentionally ignore key elements of design and self presentation.

Or am I guilty of 'judging a book by it's cover?'

I think the real point is to not make judgments about people based on things which are not relevant.   And especially to not make pejorative judgments based on things which are outside of our ability to control.

Frank Zappa said"Everybody in this room is wearing a uniform, don't kid yourself." So should we ignore the uniforms we each choose? Or just consider that any particular uniform or presentation provides information, but that it is not all of the information?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Crazy people who are 'electro-sensitive'

The Sebastopol City Council decided, amazingly enough, not to oppose a wireless technology and voted _not_ to oppose PG&E's smart meters.

A person who I greatly respect, a person who helped me a great deal during a hard time, wrote a letter to the editor of the Sonoma West paper in which he was against the council's actions. It was titled 'Cowardly Council.'

This is a recapitulation of the previous decision in which the council voted to reject free WiFi offered by because of 'electro-sensitivity.'

Rather than remain silent, I wrote my own letter to the editor.

Read on...or simply accept that I think the opponents to WiFi are dangerous cranks.

Friday, October 1, 2010

There was a young man from Eugene, and a Golden Kleene.

The Golden Kleene
There was a young man named Kleene
Who invented a fucking machine.
Concave or convex,
It fit either sex,
And was remarkably easy to clean!

(limerick, attributed to John von Neumann)

In any event, it is also the name of the prize from Arse (not _ars_) Elektronika. And Rosie and I shockingly won a Golden Kleene.

This is cool.

But the limerick as I heard it was:

There was a young man from Eugene
Who invented a fucking machine.
Concave or convex
it could serve either sex
And play with itself in between

And I heard it attributed to my birth father, Dick Gale, from his high school or college days.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Puppy Mill of death.

My daughter bought a puppy from a horrible puppy mill, WALABS, 3363C Centralia Alpha Rd
Onalaska, WA 98570

This breeder sold my adult daughter a puppy which according to his records was underweight and failing to thrive.

The puppy died 6 days after getting home - after a horrible day of being at the Vet and my daughter spending $600 or more in vet bills.

At the end of the day Molly had to drive an hour and a half to the state vet lab in Corvalis, with her beloved dead puppy in the back seat, in order to get it tested for rabies.

This happened a week before Molly graduated from College.

But then it gets worse, this horrible breeder has now chased my daughter and her reviews off of the internet, even getting Yelp to 'filter' her review.

Here is her Yelp review, which Yelp chose to 'filter.'

Here is the Yelp page for the breeder.

This is a Labrador dog breeder who I would discourage anyone from buying a puppy from. The puppy we got there was only 5 lbs at 9 weeks of age, and died one week after I picked her up. The breeder, Jim Young, was hostile and unsympathetic of the situation even after it was apparent from talking to the vets that tried to save my puppy's life that the cause of her death was likely related to his breeding program. He did not even offer an apology, yet alone refund any of my money or offer me another puppy. Also, after posting on the forum that my puppy was sick, and that other new owners should watch out just in case, he deleted my comment, and blocked me from the forum. I received emails from other people who had gotten his puppies only to have to deal with incredibly sick dogs. The breeder is a nasty mean person to deal with, and should not be around animals yet alone breeding them. He is only one step removed from a puppy mill.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Sara Winge really is awesome

Quinn Norton writes about O'Reilly's Sara Winge.

There are a lot of people at O'Reilly who do incredible things, but Sara is very high on the short list of coolest people at O'Reilly.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Censorship and control is annoying.

I sent the following item to 'class list' for my son's class. The 'class list' is a cc of everyone's emails.

"California and the Bay Area is currently experiencing an outbreak of Whooping Cough. So far five babies in California, all under four months, have died from it.

Immunity, even for vaccinated kids, and those who have had Whooping Cough before, wears off with time. For vaccinated kids immunity is pretty much worn off by high school, perhaps before, and we have a large reservoir of unvaccinated and under vaccinated people in our school community.

The tDap/dTap vaccine against Diptheria, Pertussis (Whooping Couch), and Tetanus
and is licensed for use in adolescents ages 10 to 19."

It seemed pretty benign to me. But the teacher promptly admonished me. "Please don't use the class email list unless clearing it with me first. "

Sorry, but you don't get to control speech. You especially don't get to control speech involving actual threats to our children created by the nutcase anti-vaccination crazies in the community.

This is the teacher who told me on another instance, 'what did you expect sending your child to an anti-technology school.'

I talked with the principal today, who refused to answer the question if the school was 'anti-technology.' But did say that the school has no policy on vaccinations.

70% of the kindergarten has 'vaccination waivers' - which is a pretty clear statement that the school certainly does have a 'policy' on vaccinations, that the policy is to accept the creation of a dangerous cesspit of infection and put our children in the middle of it.

Friday, April 9, 2010

D-RATS Gigapans

I just got to go to Arizona for two days of Gigapanning Volcanos and Lava flows for this years 'D-RATS' tests.

This is NASA's 'Desert Research and Technology Studies' tests. See the wikipedia article on them.

My gigapans of the test are all tagged 'd-rats-2010' - but so are some other gigapans, so do a search for the d-rats-2010 tag sorted by date.

Brian Monteleone, a Post Doc from ASU, drove up and we spent Sunday night planning our assault, and Monday and Tuesday gigapanning.

The first day was the windiest Brian has ever experienced while doing field work. My netbook was pulled out of my hands by the wind _twice_ (once is an accident, twice just carelessness?)

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Chile a long time ago

Today is Feburary 4th, 2010. I have some dates seared into my memory. And other dates which turn out to be a little less 'seared.'

I sort of think that Feb 4th, 1980, was the date I arrived in Chile for my year's exchange with AFS. But now I am a little fuzzy on the exact date.

Memory and all. Sort of funny. But it was pretty close to Feb 4th, so 30 years ago - about.

Ten years ago I had this thought that it would be interesting to transcribe my hand written journals, on the 20th anniversary. Maybe even do it day by day - transcribe a day each day. Relive the year over a year.

But goodness, that seems, well, discursive? Distracting? Painful?

But in any event, thirty years ago I was an exchange student. And suddenly it is now.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Oakland Farmer's market says 'eat less salad'

The Oakland Farmer's Market has banned plastic bags. I wrote a comment on the Oakland Local site about this article.

But comments on other people's sites are, well, on other people's sites. And this seems important somehow.

The key is that in Europe people mostly bring their own bags. But if you don't bring your bag you can just buy a bag for about 40 cents. No moralizing. No fuss. Simple, and (and I know this is a bad word in the progressive community, but it is true) this is a 'market based response' to the issue.

OTOH, the Oakland farmer's market has decided that ideological purity means that you can not buy salad greens which are guaranteed for seven days in a plastic bag. Rather, you have to decide to eat your more fragile produce earlier in the week, and eat your robust vegetables later.

WTF? For want of a 1 cent plastic bag the Oakland Farmer's market is literally saying 'eat less salad.' You can't eat salad every day if you shop at our market because we have decided that one particular bit of the modern economy, the one penny plastic bag for salad greens, is morally evil and must be banned.

Here is the comment I posted.


I am personally disgusted by our practice of throwing out bags, and general lack of reuse, but I am a little confused here.

As near as I can read, the headline on this article should be "Oakland Farmer's Market says 'eat less salad greens'"

At least in the case of salad greens I think this article is specifically saying that a bag which costs 1 cent allows people to keep salad greens fresh so that they can be consumed over the whole week before coming back to the market to get more. And that the fact that this bag is made of plastic means you should just not eat salad during the later part of the week.

The alternatives to having fresh salad greens which are offered are, well, none. You can eat your salad greens early in the week before they spoil and eat root vegatables or something for the rest of the week.

I think this is a major 'WTF' on the part of the market. At least in the limited case of the salad greens the market is now banning (no, this is not a 'policy' it is a ban -please don't newspeak this!) the current best state of the art way of delivering salad greens to people because of a specific ideological crusade against plastic.

I just spent five weeks in Vienna and Berlin. Almost everybody there brings there own bags, but if you don't there is a nice stack of bags at the register.

They are nice bags. A bit nicer than our use-once stupid bags, and a step below our (and their) reuse many times heavy duty bags.

And the clever hack which is part of why most people bring their own bags is that they moved the store bags from the right side to the left side of the cash register.

If you want a bag you pay Euro 0.25 for it. About 40 cents plus or minus.

And with that simple move people have the incentive to bring their own bags, and the store makes money if you need a bag, and you have a gentle reminder that reusing bags is a good idea plus it will save you a real amount of money.

And there is no moral watchdog banning your actions. There is noone who is shaming you if you forget your bag.

OTOH, the Oakland Farmer's markets believe that shaming people and banning the best technology for the specific task of getting salad greens home and preserved is reasonable.

Again, WTF?

I'm going to post this comment on my blog and I welcome comment there or here. Maybe I am missing something important. But it just seems that telling people that a 1 cent bag which will let them eat salad all week is wrong is stupid of the market. And that dictating policy with bans which hurt both consumers and producers is simply stupid.