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February 27 2014

October 14 2013

Four short links: 16 October 2013

  1. Scientific Data Has Become So Complex, We Have to Invent New Math to Deal With It (Jennifer Ouellette) — Yale University mathematician Ronald Coifman says that what is really needed is the big data equivalent of a Newtonian revolution, on par with the 17th century invention of calculus, which he believes is already underway.
  2. Is Google Jumping the Shark? (Seth Godin) — Public companies almost inevitably seek to grow profits faster than expected, which means beyond the organic growth that comes from doing what made them great in the first place. In order to gain that profit, it’s typical to hire people and reward them for measuring and increasing profits, even at the expense of what the company originally set out to do. Eloquent redux.
  3. textteaser — open source text summarisation algorithm.
  4. Clipping MagicInstantly create masks, cutouts, and clipping paths online.
Sponsored post

January 20 2012

Ich schreibe, also bin ich

Paragraph 1 des Urheberrechtsgesetzes lautet: „Die Urheber von Werken der Literatur, Wissenschaft und Kunst genießen für ihre Werke Schutz nach Maßgabe dieses Gesetze


September 27 2011

Pictures that propel prose

This is part of an ongoing series related to Peter Meyers' project "Breaking the Page: Transforming Books and the Reading Experience." We'll be featuring additional material in the weeks ahead. (Note: This post originally appeared on A New Kind of Book. It's republished with permission.)

What's the best way to combine text and pictures? Most designers — print or digital — try to artfully position both on the same page. Brian Selznick, author and illustrator of "The Invention of Hugo Cabret" uses a deceptively simple alternative: he devotes an entire spread (that is, two pages side by side) to each of the hundreds of illustrations in this charming and inventive story of a boy living alone in a train station. So, it's a page of text, a page of text, drawing spread, a page of text, and so on.

Now that might sound like a lousy idea, one that could easily impose a page-flipping burden on the reader as she flips between pages to see the drawings or, worse, skips right over them. You see this happen all the time in computer books (sorry, O'Reilly!). The text on one page references the figure on another. All that back and forth between this page with the prose and that page with the picture impedes understanding and futzes with any flow the reader has established.

But Selznick puts his drawings to work, doing more than just illustrating what his prose explains. In "Hugo Cabret," the art takes the storytelling baton from the text and, on its own, advances the plot. It's an elegant device.

For example, at one point, the text describes an episode in which the boy, Hugo, follows a man who's taken a notebook from him. We follow the pair leaving the train station, walking out onto the street, and the man ignoring Hugo's pleas to return his notebook. The last paragraph in this scene, which is found at the bottom of a right-hand page, reads:

"Stop clicking the street with your heels," the old man hissed through his teeth. "And don't make me say it again." He shook his head and adjusted his hat. Then, quietly, he said to himself, "I hope the snow covers everything so all the footsteps are silenced, and the whole city can be at peace."

Next comes five spreads showing the two walking through the city, with Hugo tailing the man. On the final drawing the two enter a cemetery.

illustration from Hugo Cabret showing a cemetery
In "The Invention of Hugo Cabret," the text that follows this illustration assumes the reader has taken note of the pictured graveyard. (Click to enlarge.)

The text picks up again on the next page and begins: "They soon arrived at a decrepit apartment building across from the graveyard."

See what happened there? The illustration is what first signaled the reader that the pair had entered a graveyard; when the text mentions it again ("the graveyard"), the assumption is that the reader already knows of its role in the story. By turning the visuals into part of the plot, Selznick earns his artwork more attention than a typical illustration-enhanced work of fiction. Readers, many of whom have gotten used to regarding art as "just a picture" that they can safely skip, learn that they need to pay attention to find out how the story unfolds.

So what's the digital book takeaway? While I'm not advocating a direct replica of this perfect-for-print solution, I do think it holds one especially valuable lesson. By not cramming loads of different media types onto the same page and by purposefully relegating different items onto their own pages, Selznick gains control of the "reading path": the order in which he's decided the content should be consumed.

But isn't that kind of authoritarian mandate heresy in an era of interactive, pick-your-path productions?

Not necessarily. Especially when it comes to fiction, letting the author control the reading experience is not necessarily a bad thing. By relieving the reader of any choice-making responsibilities — even as subtle as, Should I read this or that? or, Should I play this video or finish the text? — you give the audience something priceless: the ability to focus on the story.

Webcast: Digital Bookmaking Tools Roundup #2 — Back by popular demand, in a second look at Digital Bookmaking Tools, author and book futurist Pete Meyers explores the existing options for creating digital books.

Join us on Thursday, November 10, 2011, at 10 am PT
Register for this free webcast


September 13 2011

Keeping images and text in sync

This is part of an ongoing series related to Peter Meyers' project "Breaking the Page: Transforming Books and the Reading Experience." We'll be featuring additional material in the weeks ahead. (Note: This post originally appeared on A New Kind of Book. It's republished with permission.)

I've got some seriously mixed opinions about Biblion — the iPad app for browsing the New York Public Library's 1939 World's Fair archive. On the one hand, it's got few peers in rethinking how a document and photo collection can be packaged up in a fun-to-browse way. On the other hand, the whole design feels like one of my sketchbooks: overflowing with every kind of zany document design experiment that my caffeine-fueled mind can squirt out. Five minutes or so with this app and I find myself suffering from what might be called document disorientation — an unsettling sense that I don't quite know where I am, what I've read, and how much remains to explore. I don't, in short, find it a soothing or immersive reading experience.

But despite all that, I'm here to sing Team Biblion's praises (the shop behind this effort is named Potion). Included in their feature fest is one innovation that's particularly promising. It's a system for posting a handful of images above an article and then pushing to the forefront whichever picture matches the current reading point.

As the reader scrolls the prose column upward, the app enlarges whichever image matches the top few lines of text.

Launch state for lightbox layout image collection
The article in its "launch" state. Eight lines down, the text mentions Joe DiMaggio, who's pictured in the enlarged photo. (Click to enlarge.)

Further down in the article; a new image is on-stage
As the reader scrolls further down, new images are enlarged, one at a time. Here, the Babe Ruth photo matches what's discussed in the second paragraph. (Click to enlarge.)

Overall, the feature doesn't work as consistently as one might like — some articles offer this souped-up up treatment, some don't; some images get summoned exactly when you'd expect, others never get enlarged. But the thinking behind the feature succeeds, I think, because it targets a specific reader need (spotlighting the image that is currently important) while at the same time addressing a shortcoming of iPad page layout (limited real estate).

Beta620, the experimental playpen over at the New York Times, has been tackling a similar problem: how do you keep a single image visible even as a reader scrolls further down into a long article? They've come up with a feature I hope they promote to the big leagues. It's a dead simple layout tweak that keeps an image "above the fold" even as the reader scrolls down the page. Here's an article that puts this feature to use:

As the reader scrolls further down screen the art on the right stays in place.
As the reader scrolls further "down screen" the art on the right stays in place. (Click to enlarge.)

Maintaining a persistent visual in this manner is a hugely valuable reader service, especially for pieces like this essay on a Velázquez painting.

Lots of different kinds of digital books and web publications can benefit from this kind of customized, dynamic image spotlighting. I'm reading a book right now called "A History of the Illuminated Manuscript." A digital version of it would be perfect for keeping images onscreen, shuttling them off, and then re-summoning them as the reader progresses through the text. Save readers the hassle of having to flip back and forth between body text and referenced images and they'll learn better ... and want to buy more books with simple but useful enhancements like these.

Webcast: Digital Bookmaking Tools Roundup #2 — Back by popular demand, in a second look at Digital Bookmaking Tools, author and book futurist Pete Meyers explores the existing options for creating digital books.

Join us on Thursday, November 10, 2011, at 10 am PT
Register for this free webcast


August 25 2011


June 14 2011

The blurring line between speech and text

As we watch the sordid cavalcade of media gaffes — from Anthony Weiner's Twitter photos to Chrysler's "slip of the tongue" (someone tweeting on behalf of the car maker mistakenly thought they were using their personal account when they declared that Detroit was full of terrible drivers) — we are seeing a society that is coming to terms with the blurring line between text and speech. That is, the ephemeral nature of all speech is being given the permanence of text.

We will spend the next generation coming to terms with the consequences.

Our apologies - our account was compromised earlier today. We are taking steps to resolve it.less than a minute ago via web Favorite Retweet Reply

Once something is said it cannot be unsaid. True. But historically it couldn't be shared to a wider circle of listeners. Speech is not permanent. Speech gives way to time and passes into the fog of memory. Therefore the social norms governing speech are more forgiving. We are expected, allowed even, to say things we without due consideration, in close company, knowing that we will regret some portion of what we say. We are able to use the full context of a conversation (who is there, what has been said before etc.) to nuance our speech and say things that wouldn't look good when reduced to text. And yet on social networks we speechify, we talk and we are saying plenty of things we might regret. Such speech isn't meant to be a permanent record. But it is. As Meghan Garber writes in a Nieman Lab post:

As a culture... we tend to insist on categorizing our communication, drawing thick lines between words that are spoken and words that are written. So libel is, legally, a different offense than slander; the written word, we assume, carries the heft of both deliberation and proliferation and therefore a moral weight that the spoken word does not. Text, we figure, is: conclusive, in that its words are the deliberate products of discourse; inclusive, in that it is available equally to anyone who happens to read it; exclusive, in that it filters those words selectively; archival, in that it preserves information for posterity; and static, in that, once published, its words are final.

We are hurtling toward a world of total information capture where email, texting, instant message and mobile video are documenting our everyday speech and action — in effect rendering all speech as text. There will be few places to "talk" without that talk being given weight and permanence.

We are then faced with two options: Either give up the liberties that speech allows — thinking "out loud," using the context of the conversation to add meaning to a comment and so on — or become more lenient with speech that happens to become text. In the case of Weiner, his behavior is unacceptable in any context. As a society we understand his transgression and he is being punished for it. Fair enough. In the case of Chrysler, a mistake was punished through Chrysler firing both the Tweeter and the entire social media agency that person worked for. I hope in the future we are able to see the distinction and dole out our punishments accordingly. We all say things we regret. Now we all write things we regret. Perhaps as a result of this shared reality we will learn a bit more forgiveness for each other.

Joshua-Michéle Ross will discuss social media architecture at Web 2.0 Expo New York 2011, being held Oct. 10-13 in New York City.

Save 20% on registration with code WEBNY11RAD


April 21 2011

Four short links: 21 April 2011

  1. Rubular -- a way to write and test regular expressions interactively. Very cool. (via Adam Fields)
  2. gitx -- OSX ui for git. (via Marc Hedlund)
  3. Open Source Critical to Competition (Simon Phipps) -- DOJ and German Federal Cartel Office see danger for open source in Novell's patents being acquired by a consortium of Oracle, Microsoft, Apple, and EMC (fancy!) and are taking steps to ensure open source is protected.
  4. My Talk about Samuel Pepys's Diary as an Online Story (Phil Gyford) -- I love the ways Phil has stretched and repurposed the web's affects for storytelling. Listen to this talk. (via BoingBoing)

November 05 2010

Four short links: 5 November 2010

  1. S4 -- S4 is a general-purpose, distributed, scalable, partially fault-tolerant, pluggable platform that allows programmers to easily develop applications for processing continuous unbounded streams of data. Open-sourced (Apache license) by Yahoo!.
  2. RDF and Semantic Web: Can We Reach Escape Velocity? (PDF) -- spot-on presentation from the linked data advisor. It nails, clearly and in only 12 slides, why there's still resistance to linked data uptake and what should happen to change this. Amen! (via Simon St Laurent)
  3. Pew Internet Report on Location-based Services -- 10% of online Hispanics use these services - significantly more than online whites (3%) or online blacks (5%).
  4. Slate -- Python library for extracting text from PDFs easily.

August 06 2010

Four short links: 6 August 2010

  1. AWS: Forget the Revenue, Did You See the Margins? (RedMonk) -- According to UBS, Amazon Web Services gross margins for the years 2006 through 2014 are 47%, 48%, 48%, 49%, 49%, 50%, 50.5%, 51%, 53%. (these are analyst projections, so take with grain of salt, but those are some sweet margins if they're even close to accurate)
  2. Science Pipes -- an environment in which students, educators, citizens, resource managers, and scientists can create and share analyses and visualizations of biodiversity data. It is built to support inquiry-based learning, allowing analysis results and visualizations to be dynamically incorporated into web sites (e.g. blogs) for dissemination and consumption beyond itself. (via mikeloukides on Twitter)
  3. ScraperWiki Source Code -- AGPL-licensed source to the ScraperWiki, a tool for data storage, cleaning, search, visualization, and export.
  4. Doc split -- a command-line utility and Ruby library for splitting apart documents into their component parts: searchable UTF-8 plain text via OCR if necessary, page images or thumbnails in any format, PDFs, single pages, and document metadata (title, author, number of pages...)

June 17 2010

Four short links: 17 June 2010

  1. What is IBM's Watson? (NY Times) -- IBM joining the big data machine learning race, and hatching a Blue Gene system that can answer Jeopardy questions. Does good, not great, and is getting better.
  2. Google Lays Out its Mobile Strategy (InformationWeek) -- notable to me for Rechis said that Google breaks down mobile users into three behavior groups: A. "Repetitive now" B. "Bored now" C. "Urgent now", a useful way to look at it. (via Tim)
  3. BP GIS and the Mysteriously Vanishing Letter -- intrigue in the geodata world. This post makes it sound as though cleanup data is going into a box behind BP's firewall, and the folks who said "um, the government should be the depot, because it needs to know it has a guaranteed-untampered and guaranteed-able-to-access copy of this data" were fired. For more info, including on the data that is available, see the geowanking thread.
  4. Streamhacker -- a blog talking about text mining and other good things, with nltk code you can run. (via heraldxchaos on Delicious)

May 13 2010

Four short links: 13 May 2010

  1. Don't Simply Build a More Open Facebook, Build a Better One -- Most people don’t care so much about whether technology is “open” or “closed” so long as it works. (Case in point: iPhone.) Rather than starting your plans by picking which “open” standards you’ll use, start by designing a better social networking service and then determine how “open” specs will help you build that service. (via David Recordon)
  2. Internet Stats from Google -- very nice categorized factoids about internet use, technology, trends, etc. 64% of C-level executives conduct six or more searches per day to locate business information.
  3. Qualitative Methods for IS Research -- summary of qualitative methods (interviews, documents, observation data) as applied to IS. Written for academics, so you have to choke back passive voice vomit (sorry, "passive voice vomit must be choked back") but it's got lots of useful information on approaches and tools. (via johnny723 on Twitter)
  4. Social Signaling and Language Use -- turns out the stopwords like "to", "be", and "on" are the ones that indicate manager-subordinate relationships. In so many fields I see again and again that you keep data at each stage of transformation, because transforming for one use prevents others. (via terrycojones on Twitter)

April 18 2010

Textour Text Analysis Visualization

Textour text analysis visualization

an interactive data visualization of text analysis. the graphs illustrate the rules & patterns of quantitive linguistics with which text can be considered a system of words where length, position & frequency of words do not appear at random. 3 circles represent the text (dot in the middle), the sentences, the words & the letters. every single spot represents an entity connected to the parent group it belongs to. the colors correspond to every single word & are attributed to the word the first time the word appears, they also show when a word appeared for the first time & how often it was found in the whole text. users can filter words the current screenshots are based on a speech of George W. Bush announcing the war against Iraq in 1991, as it is a good example of how the words “people”, “listen”, “forces” and “saddam” are used. it also show how the application can be used to analyze the writing styles of different authors.

Reposted frompushandplay pushandplay

March 29 2010

Trois raisons de rejeter l'ACTA

Paris, 29 mars 2010 - L'une après l'autre, les fuites ont dévoilé la vérité sur les négociations de l'Accord Commercial Anti Contrefaçon (ACTA, de son acronyme anglais). Les commentaires se concentrent sur des points spécifiques et les nuances des positions des différents pays qui prennent part aux négociations. Dans ce contexte d'information partielle, La Quadrature du Net souligne les trois raisons principales de rejeter le principe même de l'ACTA: le blanchiment politique ; une approche globale qui confond différents domaines ou activités et compromet l'accès à la connaissance, à la santé et à l'innovation ; des risques réels d'atteintes aux droits fondamentaux tels que la liberté d'expression et de communication.
Ces trois points ont été documentés dans chacun des documents révélés depuis le début du processus de négociations de l'ACTA :

  • ACTA est un blanchiment de politique1 par lequel une négociation internationale est utilisée pour court-circuiter les débats démocratiques au niveau national ou européen, et faire adopter des politiques que les Parlements n'auront d'autre choix que de rejeter en bloc ou de ratifier dans leur ensemble. Le Congrès pourrait même ne pas être consulté dans le cas des États-Unis2.
  • Les promoteurs et rédacteurs de l'ACTA ont créé une salade composée de multiples catégories de titres3, d'infractions et de mesures d'exécution des droits, dans laquelle de faux produits potentiellement mortels et des organisations criminelles sont mis au même rang que des activités à but non-lucratif qui jouent un rôle dans l'accès au savoir, l'innovation, la culture et la liberté d'expression. ACTA généraliserait, de facto, une présomption d'infraction.
  • Dans les négociations, l'Union européenne cherche à introduire les pires éléments de la proposition de directive européenne relative aux sanctions criminelles en matière de protection de la propriété intellectuelle (IPRED 2, finalement abandonnée pour cause d'incertitude sur sa base légale), en particulier des sanctions pénales pour encouragement ou incitation à la contrefaçon.

Pour de plus amples informations sur ces trois points, lisez notre analyse : « Les fondamentaux de l'ACTA » 4.

« Contrairement à ce que prétendent les négociateurs et personnes en charge de l'ACTA au sein des gouvernements nationaux, nous sommes en train d'assister à une offensive directe contre la liberté d'expression et les droits fondamentaux, ainsi qu'à l'élaboration de procédures généralisant le contournement du contrôle démocratique. ACTA doit être abandonné: c'est une condition pour qu'un processus plus raisonnable de collaboration internationale en matière de lutte contre la contrefaçon puisse s'engager, », explique Philippe Aigrain, co-fondateur et conseiller stratégique de La Quadrature du Net.

  1. 1. « De même que le money laundering (blanchiment d'argent) consiste à dissimuler l'origine de fonds acquis de façon délictueuse en les recyclant dans les activités légales, le policy laundering consiste à utiliser les organisations internationales pour mettre en place des politiques que se heurtent à la résistance des institutions nationales. Adoptées comme des décisions auxquelles les Etats sont tenus de se conformer, ces politiques échappent au débat démocratique : 'Le recyclage est ainsi obtenu au prix d'un contournement du processus législatif'.» Mireille Delmas-Marty, Libertés et sûreté dans un monde dangereux, Seuil, 2010, p. 133. La citation dans la citation est de Colombe Camus, in La guerre contre le terrorisme, Editions du Félin, p. 109.
  2. 2. Voir l'article de Goldsmith et Lessig dans le Washington Post:
  3. 3. Brevets, droit d'auteur, droit des marques, etc.
  4. 4.

September 15 2009

April 03 2009

Play fullscreen
Elizabethan Music

John Dowland (1563-1626)

The First Book of Songs (1597)

XVII. "Come again"

Russell Oberlin - Countertenor

Joseph Iadone - Lute

rec ~ late 50ies


Come again, sweet love doth now invite.
Thy graces that refrain, to do me due delight.
To see, to hear, to touch, to kiss, to die,
with thee again in sweetest sympathy.

Come again, that I may cease to mourn.
Through thy unkind disdain, for now left and forlorn.
I sit, I sigh, I weep, I faint, I die,
in deadly pain and endless misery.

All the day, the sun that lends me shine,
By frowns do cause me pine, and feeds me with delay.
Her smiles, my springs, that makes, my joys, to grow,
her frowns the winters of my woe.

All the night, my sleeps are full of dreams,
My eyes are full of streams, my heart takes no delight.
To see, the fruits, and joys, that some, do find,
and mark the storms are me assigned.

Out alas, my faith is ever true.
Yet will she never rue, nor yield me any grace.
Her eyes, of fire, her heart, of flint, is made,
whom tears nor truth may once invade.

Gentle love, draw forth thy wounding dart.
Thou canst not pierce her heart, for I that do approve.
By sighs, and tears, more hot, than are, thy shafts,
did tempt while she for triumph laughs.

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