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June 08 2012

Four short links: 8 June 2012

  1. HAproxy -- high availability proxy, cf Varnish.
  2. Opera Reviews SPDY -- thoughts on the high-performance HTTP++ from a team with experience implementing their own protocols. Section 2 makes a good intro to the features of SPDY if you've not been keeping up.
  3. Jetpants -- Tumblr's automation toolkit for handling monstrously large MySQL database topologies. (via Hacker News)
  4. LeakedIn -- check if your LinkedIn password was leaked. Chris Shiflett had this site up before LinkedIn had publicly admitted the leak.

May 07 2012

Four short links: 7 May 2012

  1. Liquid Feedback -- MIT-licensed voting software from the Pirate Party. See this Spiegel Online piece about how it is used for more details. (via Tim O'Reilly)
  2. Putting Gestures Into Objects (Ars Technica) -- Disney and CMU have a system called Touché, where objects can tell whether they're being clasped, swiped, pinched, etc. and by how many fingers. (via BoingBoing)
  3. Real-time Facebook 'likes' Displayed On Brazilian Fashion Retailer's Clothes Racks (The Verge) -- each hanger has a digital counter reflecting the number of likes.
  4. Foldit Games Next Play: Crowdsourcing Better Drug Design (Nature Blogs) -- “We’ve moved beyond just determining structures in nature,” Cooper, who is based at the University of Washington’s Center for Game Science in Seattle, told Nature Medicine. “We’re able to use the game to design brand new therapeutic enzymes.” He says players are now working on the ground-up design of a protein that would act as an inhibitor of the influenza A virus, and he expects to expand the drug development uses of the game to small molecule design within the next year.

February 16 2012

Four short links: 16 February 2012

  1. The Undue Weight of Truth (Chronicle of Higher Education) -- Wikipedia has become fossilized fiction because the mechanism of self-improvement is broken.
  2. Playfic -- Andy Baio's new site that lets you write text adventures in the browser. Great introduction to programming for language-loving kids and adults.
  3. Review of Alone Together (Chris McDowall) -- I loved this review, its sentiments, and its presentation. Work on stuff that matters.
  4. Why ESRI As-Is Can't Be Part of the Open Government Movement -- data formats without broad support in open source tools are an unnecessary barrier to entry. You're effectively letting the vendor charge for your data, which is just stupid.

February 08 2012

Four short links: 8 February 2012

  1. Mavuno -- an open source, modular, scalable text mining toolkit built upon Hadoop. (Apache-licensed)
  2. Cow Clicker -- Wired profile of Cowclicker creator Ian Bogost. I was impressed by Cow Clickers [...] have turned what was intended to be a vapid experience into a source of camaraderie and creativity. People create communities around social activities, even when they are antisocial. (via BoingBoing)
  3. Unicode Has a Pile of Poo Character (BoingBoing) -- this is perfect.
  4. The Research Works Act and the Breakdown of Mutual Incomprehension (Cameron Neylon) -- an excellent summary of how researchers and publishers view each other and their place in the world.

February 06 2012

Four short links: 6 February 2012

  1. Jirafe -- open source e-commerce analytics for Magento platform.
  2. iModela -- a $1000 3D milling machine. (via BoingBoing)
  3. It's Too Late to Save The Common Web (Robert Scoble) -- paraphrased: "Four years ago, I told you all that Google and Facebook were evil. You did nothing, which is why I must now use Google and Facebook." His list of reasons that Facebook beats the Open Web gives new shallows to the phrase "vanity metrics". Yes, the open web does not go out of its way to give you an inflated sense of popularity and importance. On the other hand, the things you do put there are in your control and will stay as long as you want them to. But that's obviously not a killer feature compared to a bottle of Astroglide and an autorefreshing page showing your Klout score and the number of Google+ circles you're in.
  4. iBooks Author EULA Clarified (MacObserver) -- important to note that it doesn't say you can't use the content you've written, only that you can't sell .ibook files through anyone but Apple. Less obnoxious than the "we own all your stuff, dude" interpretation, but still a bit crap. I wonder how anticompetitive this will be seen as. Apple's vertical integration is ripe for Justice Department investigation.

February 03 2012

January 16 2012

Four short links: 16 January 2012

  1. Computational Science Stack Exchange -- q+a site for data-intensive computation-heavy science. (via Gael Varoquaux)
  2. An Open Letter to our Customers, Past and Future (Luma Labs) -- a reminder that poor patent examination hurts innovative startups working in physical goods, just as much as with digital goods.
  3. Javascript Performance (Steve Souders) -- JavaScript is typically the #1 place to look for making a website faster. Numbers and examples to show this, plus an interesting look at execution order of asynchronously loaded pages: Preserving execution order of async scripts makes the page slower. If the first async script takes a long time to download, all the other async scripts are blocked from executing, even if they download sooner.
  4. Retroshare (Sourceforge) -- GPL and LGPLed cross-platform, private and secure decentralised communication platform. It lets you to securely chat and share files with your friends and family, using a web-of-trust to authenticate peers and OpenSSL to encrypt all communication. RetroShare provides filesharing, chat, messages, forums and channels. I haven't tried it, but it's an interesting premise.

December 09 2011

Four short links: 9 December 2011

  1. Critically Making the Internet of Things (Anne Galloway) -- session notes from a conference, see also part two. Good thoughts, hastily captured. For example, this from Bruce Sterling: RFID + Superglue + Object ≠ IoT and the talk I want to see: “A study of how broken, hacked and malfunctioning digital road signs subvert the physical space of roadways.”
  2. Conquering the CHAOS of Online Community at StackExchange -- StackExchange is doing some thoughtful work analysing conversations and channeling dissent into a healthy construction to guide future productive discussion. "We taught the users that it was alright to disagree, and gave them a set of arguments they could reference without every thread degenerating into a fight."
  3. Little Big Details -- one small detail done right, every day.
  4. Ranking Live Streams of Data (LinkedIn) -- behind the "interesting discussions" report.

November 14 2011

Four short links: 14 November 2011

  1. Science Hack Day SF Videos (justin.tv) -- the demos from Science Hack Day SF. The journey of a thousand miles starts with a Hack Day.
  2. A Cross-Sectional Study of Canine Tail-Chasing and Human Responses to It, Using a Free Video-Sharing Website (PLoSone) -- Approximately one third of tail-chasing dogs showed clinical signs, including habitual (daily or "all the time") or perseverative (difficult to distract) performance of the behaviour. These signs were observed across diverse breeds. Clinical signs appeared virtually unrecognised by the video owners and commenting viewers; laughter was recorded in 55% of videos, encouragement in 43%, and the commonest viewer descriptors were that the behaviour was "funny" (46%) or "cute" (42%).
  3. RSS Died For Your Sins (Danny O'Brien) -- if you have seven thousand people following you, a good six thousand of those are going to be people you don’t particularly like. The problem, as ever, is—how do you pick out the other thousand? Especially when they keep changing? I firmly believe that one of the pressing unsolved technological problems of the modern age is getting safely away from people you don't like, without actually throttling them to death beforehand, nor somehow coming to the conclusion that they don't exist, nor ending up turning yourself into a hateful monster.
  4. Generating Text from Functional Brain Images (Frontiers in Human Neuroscience) -- We built a model of the mental semantic representation of concrete concepts from text data and learned to map aspects of such representation to patterns of activation in the corresponding brain image. Turns out that the clustering of concepts in Wikipedia is similar to how they're clustered in the brain. They found clusters in Wikipedia, mapped to the brain activity for known words, and then used that mapping to find words for new images of brain activity. (via The Economist)

June 10 2011

Four short links: 10 June 2011

  1. Advanced Computer Science Courses -- collection of online course notes/lectures for classes in advanced CS topics. (via Hacker News)
  2. UK SoundMap -- very cool crowdsourced audio landscape of the UK. (via British Library)
  3. CSS Panic -- game with no HTML, no Javascript, it's all CSS. Only works in Safari and Chrome. (via Dale Harvey)
  4. Sharing Intentions Talk -- interesting talk by Jyri Engestrom on building social mobile apps to share intentions as social objects. Gotta love these folks who can read and use Bruno Latour instead of merely reaching for the Advil as I do.

May 27 2011

Four short links: 27 May 2011

  1. flockdb (Github) -- Twitter's open source scalable fault-tolerant distributed key-value database. (via Twitter's open source projects page)
  2. How to Kill Innovation in Five Easy Steps (Tech Republic) -- point four is interesting, Rely too heavily on data and dashboards. It's good to be reminded of the contra side to the big-data-can-be-mined-for-all-truths attitudes flying around.
  3. Architecture of Open Source Applications -- CC-licensed book available through Lulu or for free download. Lots of interesting stories and design decisions to draw from. I know when I learned how Perl worked on the inside, I learned a hell of a lot that I could apply later in life and respected its creators all the more.
  4. Bullying in 140 Letters -- it's about an Australian storm in a teacup, but it made me consider the short-form medium. Short-form negativity can have the added colour/resonance of being snarky and funny. Hard to add colour to short-form positive comments, though. Much harder to be funny and positive than to be funny and negative. Have we inadvertently created a medium where, thanks to the quirks of our language and the way we communicate, it favours negativity over positivity?

May 20 2011

Four short links: 20 May 2011

  1. BitCoin Watch -- news and market analysis for this artificial currency. (If you're outside the BitCoin world wondering wtf the fuss is all about try We Use Coins for a gentle primer and then Is BitCoin a Good Idea? for the case against) (via Andy Baio)
  2. Time Capsule -- send your Flickr photos from a year ago. I love that technology helps us connect not just with other people right now, but with ourselves in the future. Compare TwitShift and Foursquare and Seven Years Ago. (via Really Interesting Group)
  3. HTTP Archive Mobile -- mobile performance data. The top 100 web pages average out at 271kb vs 401kb for their desktop incarnations, which still seems unjustifiably high to me.
  4. Skype at Conferences -- The two editors of the book were due to lead the session but were at the wrong ends of a skype three way video conference which stuttered into a dalekian half life without really quite making the breakthrough into comprehensibility. After various attempts to rewire, reconfigure and reboot, we gave up and had what turned into a good conversation among the dozen people round the table in London. Conference organizers, take note: Skype at conferences is a recipe for fail.

May 18 2011

Four short links: 18 May 2011

  1. The Future of the Library (Seth Godin) -- We need librarians more than we ever did. What we don't need are mere clerks who guard dead paper. Librarians are too important to be a dwindling voice in our culture. For the right librarian, this is the chance of a lifetime. Passionate railing against a straw man. The library profession is diverse, but huge numbers of them are grappling with the new identity of the library in a digital age. This kind of facile outside-in "get with the Internet times" message is almost laughably displaying ignorance of actual librarians, as much as "the book is dead!" displays ignorance of books and literacy. Libraries are already much more than book caves, and already see themselves as navigators to a world of knowledge for people who need that navigation help. They disproportionately serve the under-privileged, they are public spaces, they are brave and constant battlers at the front line of freedom to access information. This kind of patronising "wake up and smell the digital roses!" wank is exactly what gives technologists a bad name in other professions. Go back to your tribes of purple cows, Seth, and leave librarians to get on with helping people find, access, and use information.
  2. An Old Word for a New World (PDF) -- paper on how "innovation", which used to be pejorative, came now to be laudable. (via Evgeny Mozorov)
  3. AlchemyAPI -- free (as in beer) entity extraction API. (via Andy Baio)
  4. Referrals by LinkedIn -- the thing with social software is that outsiders can have strong visibility into the success of your software, in a way that antisocial software can't.

May 16 2011

Four short links: 16 May 2011

  1. Entering the Minority Report Era -- a survey of technology inspired by or reminiscent of Minority Report, which came out ten years ago. (via Hacker News)
  2. Sally -- a tool for embedding strings in matrices, as used in machine learning. (via Matt Biddulph)
  3. GNU SIP Witch Released -- can be used to deploy private secure calling networks, whether stand-alone or in conjunction with existing VoIP infrastructure, for private institutions and national governments. (via Hacker News)
  4. Chilling Story of Genius in a Land of Chronic Unemployment (TechCrunch) -- fascinating story of Nigerian criminal tech entrepreneurs. He helps build them up; he listens to their problems. He makes them feel loved. He calls each an innocuous pet name, lest he accidentally type the wrong message into the wrong chat window. He asks for a little bit of money here and there, until men are sending him steady amounts from each paycheck. He says it takes exactly one month for a man to fall in love with him, and once he has a man’s heart, no woman can take it. I wonder what designers of social software can learn from these master emotional manipulators?

April 27 2011

Four short links: 27 April 2011

  1. Aaargh! Physicists! --the dangers of venturing outside your area of expertise is that someone will mercilessly point out your overconfident missteps, as happens here. Unless, of course, your new field is social media, in which case there are hundreds of thousands of sycophantic circlejerkers ready to retweet, link back, and Like your misbegotten ill-conceived content-free mindless dribblings.
  2. Crowdsourcing to Improve Sales -- products sell better if their reviews have good spelling and grammar, so one retailer used MTurk to copyedit reviews and thus improve sales. (via Matt Biddulph on Delicious)
  3. Converting the Virtual Economy into Development Potential -- World Bank reports that online microwork earned $3B for poor countries in 2009, and encourages third world countries to invest in infrastructure to support this. Interestingly, the authors include both gold farming and "cherry blossoming" (clickfraud) as microwork. (via BoingBoing)
  4. Misery -- Drupal module that makes life difficult for trolls--randomly wrong redirections, slow page loads, white screens, forms that don't submit, etc. Brilliant! (via Andy Baio)

April 22 2011

Four short links: 22 April 2011

  1. Tuffy -- a GPL v3 licensed Markov Logic Network inference engine in Java and PostgreSQL that claims to be more scalable than previous tools. (via Hacker News)
  2. Behind news.me -- if you are curious to see what they are reading, if you want to see the world through their eyes, News.me is for you. Many people curate their Twitter experience to reflect their own unique set of interests. News.me offers a window into their curated view of the world, filtered for realtime social relevance via the bit-rank algorithm. A friend and I have been using Instapaper for this, and I'm keen to see how it works. It's interesting, though: the more people I "share" with, the less insight I get into any one person--it goes from being a mindmeld to ambient zeitgeist.
  3. Orbital Content -- Content shifting allows a user to take a piece of content that they’ve identified in one context and make it available in another. [...] Calling Instapaper a content shifter tells only half the story. It puts too much attention on the shifting and not enough on what needs to happen before a piece of content can be shifted. Before content can be shifted, it must be correctly identified, uprooted from its source, and tied to a user. This process, which I call “content liberation” is the common ground between Instapaper, Svpply, Readability, Zootool, and other bookmarklet apps. Content shifting, as powerful as it is, is just the beginning of what’s possible when content is liberated. I think they're optimistic about liberation retaining attribution (there needs to be compelling self-interest to retain attribution) but otherwise love this piece. (via Courtney Johnston)
  4. Rate Limiting Traffic with Varnish (Dan Singerman) -- I love that the technology which help you deliver web pages quickly also helps you deliver them not too quickly. (via John Clegg).

April 13 2011

Four short links: 13 April 2011

  1. Web Ecology Project -- Researching quantized social interaction. Most recent work was a competition to write social bots that would be followed/friended on social networks--essentially scoring 51% on the Turing test. There are privacy implications (often social network buddies see profile information that strangers can't). (via The Atlantic)
  2. We Need to Stop Google's Exploitation of Open Communities (Mikel Maron) -- much as Google's ill-fated Knol smelled like an attempt to sidestep Wikipedia, their MapMaker is directly modelled on OSM [OpenStreetMap], but with a restrictive data license, where you can not use the data as you see fit. Mikel argues passionately and pointedly about this. Also interesting: how quickly OSM's own community is turning against itself on licensing issues. Nothing else divides open communities as much as the license that makes them possible, not even big companies' dickish behaviour.
  3. A Truly Open VistA -- the Veterans Administration attempts to build an open source community (instead of simply releasing the source code). This article by RedHat's Chief Technology Strategist outlines some of challenges they're facing: obscure source and bureaucracy. The obscure source is a significant impediment: it's written in MUMPS which predates C and combines the elegance of roadkill with all the capability for abstract expression of a brick. Existing businesses aren't an impediment, though: Linux has shown that deforking (aka "contributing") makes sound business sense once the momentum of new features builds up in the commons. (via Glyn Moody)
  4. Rare Javascript Operators (Timmy Willison) -- enlightening, but reminds me of the important gulf between "can" and "should": Tilde is useful! We can use for any functions that return -1:
    // We can do
    if ( ~checkFoo ) {

    }
    (via Javascript Weekly)

March 25 2011

Four short links: 25 March 2011

  1. Bruce Sterling at SxSW (YouTube) -- call to arms for "passionate virtuosity". (via Mike Brown)
  2. Developer Support Handbook -- Pamela Fox's collected wisdom from years of doing devrel at Google.
  3. Wikipedia Beautifier -- Chrome plugin that makes Wikipedia easier on the eyes.
  4. science.io -- an open science community. Comment on, recommend and submit papers. Get up-to-date on a research topic. Follow a journal or an author. science.I/O is in beta and is currently focused on Computer Science.

March 10 2011

Four short links: 10 March 2011

  1. Everybody is Spamming Everybody Else on MTurk -- one researcher found >40% of HITs are spammy, but this author posted a Mechanical Turk HIT to supply recommendations for visitors to a non-existent French city and got responses from people expecting that every response would be paid regardless of quality.
  2. Javascript Garden -- a growing collection of documentation about the most quirky parts of the JavaScript programming language. It gives advice to avoid common mistakes, subtle bugs, as well as performance issues and bad practices that non-expert JavaScript programmers may encounter on their endeavours into the depths of the language.
  3. A 5 Minute Framework for Fostering Better Conversations in Comments Sections (Poytner) -- Whether online or offline, people act out the most when they don’t see anyone in charge. Next time you see dreck being slung in the bowels of a news story comment thread, see if you can detect whether anyone from the news organization is jumping in and setting the tone. As West put it, news organizations typically create a disconnect between the people who provide content and the people who discuss that content. This inhibits quality conversation.
  4. Full Text RSS Feed -- builds full-text feeds for sites that only offer extracts in their RSS feeds. (via Jason Ryan)

March 09 2011

Four short links: 9 March 2011

  1. R Studio -- AGPLv3-licensed IDE for R. It brings your R console, source code, plots, help, history, and workspace browser into one cohesive package. We've added some neat productivity features like a searchable endless command history, function/symbol completion, data import dialog with preview, one-click Sweave compile, and more. Source on github. Built as a web-app on Google AppEngine, from Joe Cheng who did Windows Live Writer at Microsoft. (via DeWitt Clinton)
  2. Adventures in Participatory Audience -- Nina Simon helped thirteen students produce three projects to encourage participation in museum audiences: Xavier, Stringing Connections, and Dirty Laundry. My favourite was Dirty Laundry, where people shared secrets connected to works of art. Nina's description of what she learned has some nuggets: friendly faces welcoming people in gets better response than a card with instructions, and I am still flummoxed as to what would make someone admit to an affair or bad parenting in a sterile art gallery, or the devastating one that read, "I avoid the important, difficult conversations with those I love the most." Audience participation in the real world has lessons on what works for those who would build social software.
  3. Why Generic Machine Learning Fails -- Returns for increasing data size come from two sources: (1) the importance of tails and (2) the cost of model innovation. When tails are important, or when model innovation is difficult relative to cost of data capture, then more data is the answer. [...] Machine learning is not undifferentiated heavy lifting, it’s not commoditizable like EC2, and closer to design than coding. The Netflix prize is a good example: the last 10% reduction in RMSE wasn't due to more powerful generic algorithms, but rather due to some very clever thinking about the structure of the problem; observations like "people who rate a whole slew of movies at one time tend to be rating movies they saw a long time ago" from BellKor.
  4. Anatomy of a Crushing -- Maciej Ceglowski describes how pinboard.in survived the flood of Delicious émigrées. It took several rounds of rewrites to get the simple tag cloud script right, and this made me very skittish about touching any other parts of the code over the next few days, even when the fixes were easy and obvious. The part of my brain that knew what to do no longer seemed to be connected directly to my hands.

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