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December 07 2011

Four short links: 7 December 2011

  1. Don't Be a Free User (Maciej Ceglowski) -- pay for your free services, else they'll go away.
  2. Katta -- Lucene for massive data sets in the cloud. (via Pete Warden)
  3. Old Weather -- crowdsourced transcription of old nautical journals to yield historical information for climate researchers. (via National Digital Forum)
  4. Siddhartha Mukherjee Talks About Cancer (Guardian) -- fascinating profile of the author of a "biography of cancer". Touches on the cognitive biases we're all prone to, and their damaging effects on patients. Mukherjee cites a study which found that women with breast cancer recalled eating a high-fat diet, whereas women without cancer did not. But the very same study had asked both sets of women about their diets long before any of them developed cancer, and the diet of those who now had breast cancer had been no more fatty than the rest (via Courtney Johnston)

December 06 2011

Four short links: 6 December 2011

  1. How to Dispel Your Illusions (NY Review of Books) -- Freeman Dyson writing about Daniel Kahneman's latest book. Only by understanding our cognitive illusions can we hope to transcend them.
  2. Appify-UI (github) -- Create the simplest possible Mac OS X apps. Uses HTML5 for the UI. Supports scripting with anything and everything. (via Hacker News)
  3. Translation Memory (Etsy) -- using Lucene/SOLR to help automate the translation of their UI. (via Twitter)
  4. Automatically Tagging Entities with Descriptive Phrases (PDF) -- Microsoft Research paper on automated tagging. Under the hood it uses Map/Reduce and the Microsoft Dryad framework. (via Ben Lorica)

November 25 2011

Four short links: 25 November 2011

  1. Continuous Three-Dimensional Control of a Virtual Helicopter Using a Motor Imagery Based Brain-Computer Interface (PLOSone) -- direct brain control is becoming a reality, tiny step by tiny step. Also: HELICOPTERS!
  2. Forward Secrecy for HTTPS -- Google contributed a better HTTPS cipher suite to OpenSSL, one that doesn't share keys between conversations. Yay the Goog for giving back.
  3. Ratings Systems (Quora) -- very good answer from the VP of Engineering at Netflix about the purposes and effects of different ratings and feedback systems. Full of pithy and true guidelines like: Your users have a certain mental budget they will invest in your rating system. The more work you make each decision, the fewer decisions you will get. This is true in many contexts other than rating systems as well. You can't randomly throw feedback mechanisms into your app, you must design them as deliberately and thoughtfully as the rest of your site.
  4. InstaCSS -- very simple very useful reference site. Grod like simplicity.

November 24 2011

Four short links: 24 November 2011

  1. Libraries: Where It All Went Wrong -- I was asked to provocatively help focus librarians on the opportunities offered to libraries in the Internet age. If I ask you to talk about your collections, I know that you will glow as you describe the amazing treasures you have. When you go for money for digitization projects, you talk up the incredible cultural value. ANZAC! Constitution! Treaties! Development of a nation! But then if I look at the results of those digitization projects, I find the shittiest websites on the planet. It’s like a gallery spent all its money buying art and then just stuck the paintings in supermarket bags and leaned them against the wall. CC-BY-SA licensed, available in nicely-formatted A4 and Letter versions.
  2. Green Array Chips -- 144 cores on a single chip, $20 per chip in batches of 10. From the creator of Forth, Chuck Moore. (via Hacker News)
  3. The Atlantic's Online Revenue Exceeds Print -- doesn't say how, other than "growth" (instead of the decline of print). (via Andy Baio)
  4. On the Perpetuation of Ignorance (PDF) -- ignorance about an issue leads to dependence leads to government trust leads to avoidance of information about that issue. Again I say to Gov 2.0 advocates that simply making data available doesn't generate a motivated, engaged, change-making citizenry. (via Roger Dennis)

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)

September 01 2011

Four short links: 1 September 2011

  1. A Chart Engine -- Android charting engine.
  2. The Illusion of Asymmetric Insight -- we are driven to create and form groups and then believe others are wrong just because they are others.
  3. Urban Mapping API -- add rich geographic data to web and non-web applications.
  4. Tell Us A Story, Victoria -- a university science story-telling contest.

August 15 2011

Four short links: 15 August 2011

  1. Illusion Contest -- every year they run an open contest for optical illusions. Every year new perceptual illusions are discovered, exploiting hitherto unresearched areas of our brain's functioning.
  2. Citizen Science Alliance -- the team behind GalaxyZoo, who help other researchers in need of crowdsourcing support.
  3. Ancient Lives -- crowdsourced translation and reconstruction of ancient papyri from Oxyrhyncus, already found new gospels (in which the number of the beast is 616, not 666).
  4. Favourite Number -- tell a story about your favourite number. Alex Bellos is behind it, and talked about the great stories he's collected so far. Contribute now, watch this space to learn more about the stories.

August 01 2011

Four short links: 1 August 2011

  1. The Flashed Face Effect Video -- your brain is not perfect, and it reduces faces to key details. When they flash by in the periphery of your vision, you perceive them as gross and freakish. I like to start the week by reminding myself how fallible I am. Good preparation for the rest of the week... (via BERG London)
  2. The Newsonomics of Netflix and the Digital Shift -- Netflix changed prices, tilting people toward digital and away from physical. This post argues that the same will happen in newspapers. Imagine 2020, and the always-out-there-question: Will we still have print newspapers? Well, maybe, but imagine how much they’ll cost — $3 for a local daily? — and consumers will compare that to the “cheap” tablet pricing, and decide, just as they doing now are with Netflix, which product to take and which to let go. The print world ends not with a bang, but with price increase after price increase. (via Tim O'Reilly)
  3. Phonegap -- just shipped 1.0 of an HTML5 app platform that allows you to author native applications with web technologies and get access to APIs and app stores.
  4. UnQL -- query language for document store databases, from the creators of CouchDB and SQLite. (via Francisco Reyes)

July 15 2011

July 14 2011

Four short links: 14 July 2011

  1. Digging into Technology's Past -- stories of the amazing work behind the visual 6502 project and how they reconstructed and simulated the legendary 6502 chip. To analyze and then preserve the 6502, James treated it like the site of an excavation. First, he needed to expose the actual chip by removing its packaging of essentially “billiard-ball plastic.” He eroded the casing by squirting it with very hot, concentrated sulfuric acid. After cleaning the chip with an ultrasonic cleaner—much like what’s used for dentures or contact lenses—he could see its top layer.
  2. Leaflet -- BSD-licensed lightweight Javascript library for interactive maps, using the Open Street Map.
  3. Too Many Public Works Built on Rosy Scenarios (Bloomberg) -- a feedback loop with real data being built to improve accuracy estimating infrastructure project costs. He would like to see better incentives -- punishment for errors, rewards for accuracy -- combined with a requirement that forecasts not only consider the expected characteristics of the specific project but, once that calculation is made, adjust the estimate based on an “outside view,” reflecting the cost overruns of similar projects. That way, the “unexpected” problems that happen over and over again would be taken into consideration. Such scrutiny would, of course, make some projects look much less appealing -- which is exactly what has happened in the U.K., where “reference-class forecasting” is now required. “The government stopped a number of projects dead in their tracks when they saw the forecasts,” Flyvbjerg says. “This had never happened before.”
  4. Neurovigil Gets Cash Injection To Read Your Mind (FastCompany) -- "an anonymous American industrialist and technology visionary" put tens of millions into this company, which has hardware to gather mineable data. iBrain promises to open a huge pipeline of data with its powerful but simple brain-reading tech, which is gaining traction thanks to technological advances. But the other half of the potentailly lucrative equation is the ability to analyze the trove of data coming from iBrain. And that's where NeuroVigil's SPEARS algorithm enters the picture. Not only is the company simplifying collection of brain data with a device that can be relatively comfortably worn during all sorts of tasks--sleeping, driving, watching advertising--but the combination of iBrain and SPEARS multiplies the efficiency of data analysis. (via Vaughan Bell)

July 01 2011

Four short links: 1 July 2011

  1. paper.js -- The Swiss Army Knife of Vector Graphics Scripting. MIT-licensed Javascript library that gives great demo.
  2. TileMill for Processing -- gorgeous custom maps in Processing. (via FlowingData)
  3. Research Assistant Wanted -- working with one of the authors of Mind Hacks on augmenting our existing senses with a form of "remote touch" generated by using artificial distance sensors, such as ultrasound, to stimulate tactile stimulators (vibrating pads) placed against the surface of the head.. (via Vaughn Bell)
  4. GoldenORB -- a cloud-based open source project for massive-scale graph analysis, built upon best-of-breed software from the Apache Hadoop project modeled after Google’s Pregel architecture. (via BigData)

May 10 2011

Four short links: 10 May 2011

  1. ODB to iPhone Converter -- hardware to connect to your car's onboard computer and display it on an iPhone app. (via Imran Ali)
  2. Multitasking Brains (Wired) -- interesting pair of studies: old brains have trouble recovering from distractions; hardcore multitaskers have trouble focusing. (via Stormy Peters)
  3. Social Privacy -- Danah Boyd draft paper on teens' attitudes to online privacy. Interesting take on privacy as about power: This incident does not reveal that teens don't understand privacy, but rather that they lack the agency to assert social norms and expect that others will respect them. (via Maha Shaikh)
  4. Cool but Obscure Unix Tools -- there were some new tricks for this old dog (iftop, socat). (via Andy Baio)

April 07 2011

TERRA 606: An Eyeful of Sound (flv)

An Eyeful of Sound is an animated documentary about audio-visual synaesthesia, which describes a joining together of sensations that are normally experienced separately. Synaesthetic people may experience tastes, colors, shapes, smells, or touches in tandem with almost any of their other senses.
TERRA 606: An Eyeful of Sound (flv)

An Eyeful of Sound is an animated documentary about audio-visual synaesthesia, which describes a joining together of sensations that are normally experienced separately. Synaesthetic people may experience tastes, colors, shapes, smells, or touches in tandem with almost any of their other senses.
TERRA 606: An Eyeful of Sound

An Eyeful of Sound is an animated documentary about audio-visual synaesthesia, which describes a joining together of sensations that are normally experienced separately. Synaesthetic people may experience tastes, colors, shapes, smells, or touches in tandem with almost any of their other senses.
TERRA 606: An Eyeful of Sound

An Eyeful of Sound is an animated documentary about audio-visual synaesthesia, which describes a joining together of sensations that are normally experienced separately. Synaesthetic people may experience tastes, colors, shapes, smells, or touches in tandem with almost any of their other senses.

November 03 2010

Four short links: 3 November 2010

  1. Five Google Engineering Management Mistakes -- interesting to see informed criticism, because Google's style is often presented as a winning model. TLs [Tech Leads] were still evaluated as individual contributors. Leads to poor management practices: Grabbing all the sexy work for themselves; Providing negative evaluations for team members so they look good in comparison; Not paying attention to team member needs or requests; Confrontational relationships between team members and TLs (in some dysfunctional cases).
  2. Community Escrow (Simon Phipps in Computerworld) -- interesting take on open source as a way of protecting against the interests of a vendor changing to no longer be aligned with those of the customer. The kicker: If the product was "open core" - with the key commercial features kept proprietary - it will be very hard for anyone to provide continuity. This is especially true if you are using the software as a service, because the critical know-how to make the software reliably run in the cloud is unlikely to be included in the open source project. Hear, hear. Cloud and open core are new enough that we still blow kisses every time we meet, but that honeymoon will pass and before long it'll be hostile cold stares and long contemplative silences spent gazing out the window, musing on their shortcomings.
  3. Data Story Telling (Pete Warden) -- Pete nails something I've been chewing on: in this model, a new form of media is like an infection hitting a previously unexposed population. Some people figure out how it can be used to breach the weak spots in the audience's mental 'immune system', how to persuade people to believe lies that serve the propagator's purpose. Eventually the deviation from reality becomes too obvious, people wise up to the manipulation and a certain level of immunity is propagated throughout the culture. The same is true for advertising: we're in an arms race, novelty against neuroplasticity.
  4. Whimsy (and Clothes) For Sale (NY Times) -- “We could never afford to make product in volume, so we adopted kind of like a Beanie Baby approach: we’d create small collections that supremely rabid buyers would end up buying,” Mr. Lindland said, noting that some customers own more than 20 pairs of his signature pants. “They’re a collectors’ item, oddly enough.” Small-run manufacturing embraced as a differentiating advantage, rather than as a competitive disadvantage.

September 14 2010

Four short links: 14 September 2010

  1. ASB Bank's Facebook Virtual Branch -- the world's first Facebook branch of a bank, where you can live chat with tellers. (via Vaughn Davis)
  2. SciDB -- GPLv3 NoSQL database. In addition to being multi-dimensional and offering array based scaling from megabytes to petabytes and running on tens of thousands clustered nodes, SciDB's will be write once read many, allow bulk load rather than single road insert, provide parallel computation, be designed for automatic rather than manual administration, and work with R, Matlab, IDL, C++ and Python. (that from The Register) (via jsteeleeditor on Twitter)
  3. Twitter By The Numbers (Raffi Krikorian) -- given to answer the question "what's so hard about delivering 140 characters?". They hit a peak of 3283 inbound tweets/second. Every time Lady Gaga tweets, 6.1M people have to get it. (via Alex Russell)
  4. EmoKit -- an open source driver to the $300 Emotiv EPOC EEG headset. (via BoingBoing)

August 19 2010

August 05 2010

Four short links: 5 August 2010

  1. Delicious Links Clustered and Stacked (Matt Biddulph) -- six years of his delicious links, k-means clustered by tag and graphed. The clusters are interesting, but I wonder whether Matt can identify significant life/work events by the spikes in the graph.
  2. Open Data and the Voluntary Sector (OKFN) -- Open data will give charities new ways to find and share information on the need of their beneficiaries - who needs their services most and where they are located. The sharing of information will be key to this - it’s not just about using data that the government has opened up, but also opening your own data.
  3. Cognitive and Behavioral Challenges in Responding to Climate Change -- At the deepest level, large scale environmental problems such as global warming threaten people's sense of the continuity of life - what sociologist Anthony Giddens calls ontological security. Ignoring the obvious can, however, be a lot of work. Both the reasons for and process of denial are socially organized; that is to say, both cognition and denial are socially structured. Denial is socially organized because societies develop and reinforce a whole repertoire of techniques or "tools" for ignoring disturbing problems. Fascinating paper. (via Jez)
  4. Blueprints -- provides a collection of interfaces and implementations to common, complex data structures. Blueprints contains a property graph model its implementations for TinkerGraph, Neo4j, and SAIL. Also, it contains an object document model and implementations for TinkerDoc, CouchDB, and MongoDB. In short, Blueprints provides a one stop shop for implemented interfaces to help developers create software without being tied to particular underlying data management systems.

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