Thursday, October 28, 2004

How to insult teenagers with stately grace

So there I was, on a popular p2p filesharing app. And a crash wiped my waiting list. Frankly, I wasn't too worried as it was a bunch of people leeching Eminem bootlegs that weren't staying in my collection any longer than the time it would take me to id3 tag them for a friend.

Being the nice lady I am, I left my computer running whilst I was at work, so it could node away to its hearts' content. And I returned home to some verry sniffy IM messages from one of said Eminem leechers.

Sadly, the first part of the exchange was lost to a forced reboot. My recollection of it was something along the lines of 'Hey, where's your eminem?' 'I was downloading that album from you' 'you're an asshole for removing your files'.

So, being a good community minded soul, I sent a few lines back, saying sorry, my harddrive wasn't on, and I'd be happy to make the files available, but that I didn't appreciate being called 'asshole'. I think I'm perfectly within my rights to say this, as my profile clearly states be civil, or feel the wrath of my matronly stare,

So, here's the remainder of the IM conversation, with frankly the Best Insult Ever to throw at a teenage Eminem fan who is calling you asshole.

[southern-rock] all user that remoed files is an asshole ..... get the fuck out from this program ore i will shot you down
[mildlydiverting] Southern Rock, I'm very sorry. I would have been happy to sort out those files for you, but frankly your attitude isn't doing you any favours. I appologise that I was away from my computer at work all day, and that my system crashed
[mildlydiverting]These things happen.
[southern-rock] you will be bann from slsk.net and program .... bye asshole
[mildlydiverting] You know, one day you'll be married with kids, a mortgage and a mid ranged car. And you'll be happy.
Ka-ching.

Oh, and if you happen to encounter this chap... give him a stern stare from me?

A notebook of Every thought in your head

I've just skim read the first chapter or so of this.

It's oddly compelling. Partly because it reads exactly as it was written - JUST BLURTED OUT, and as such is hanging in some strange liminal middleground between sanity and schizoid rambling.

It's that 'Is the writer sane?' that fascinates me. He admits that his system for capturing every important thought will bring clarity, but also drive you mad. The intensity of his belief in the process of capturing all of his thoughts also seems to verge on insanity - who on earth in their right mind does try to capture their entire inner life? The obsessive and quixotic nature of the task seems to mark it as being the project of someone in the grip of a compulsion.

The other thing that... prickles about the piece is it's closeness to 'The curious incident of the dog in the night time'. The approach to writing sounds like the voice of the autistic narrator. So, is this fiction? An elaborate hoax? How did the author of 'dog' have such insight into the fractured narrative of an autistic mind? Is there a literature of insanity?

Then, of course, there's the similarity to my current working process. I've spent two months documenting my though processes around building a CMS to run websites - in notebooks (and yes, using a homebrewed annotation system), through mindmaps, on wiki pages, in links through del.icio.us... I'm externalising my thought process in the pursuit of a product. Not the best way to go about it, but the need to hold the entire scope in my head has been overwhelming.

Strangely, I've had long conversations about my need to hold perfectible mental models in my head during various theraphy sessions. So is this a manifestation of the 'mad' side of my personality? The slightly strange and intense bits that make me good with systems and classification, and absolutely terrible at tact?

Who knows. But I think I may abandon my idea for a crazy art project of capturing everything in the world in a taxonomy of my own making, using mind maps. Despite the lure of the fun of the project - and yes, that is my definition of fun - I think the damage it would do to my mental state might not be a good payoff...

More Peel goodness

Favourite John Peel quotes

Now, I never was a big listener to the Peel Sessions. Mostly because I found all the noise a bit much - not my cup of tea, indie. But I was a big fan of Home Truths.

I am much more Radio 4 than XFM, after all.

Anyway, the reason I loved Home Truths was John Peel's gently cutting good humour.

The page above is more than worth reading.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

BBC NEWS | Entertainment | Music | Obituary: John Peel

BBC NEWS | Entertainment | Music | Obituary: John Peel

I'm more upset about John Peel dying than about the death of my great Aunt.

Rock Dad is gone. This is sad. He did feel like a favourite uncle.

Monday, October 25, 2004

User Education Is Not the Answer to Security Problems (Jakob Nielsen's Alertbox)

User Education Is Not the Answer to Security Problems (Jakob Nielsen's Alertbox)

Do you think Jakob got a virus last week? Or someone went shopping on his credit card?

Certainly the most empassioned and political alertbox I've seen in a while...

Friday, October 22, 2004

Ironic Bereavement

So, on 3rd October I posted about talking to my Great Aunt, Muriel, about the family photos. The idea was to get some history and 'metadata' about the contents into a useable form before the knowledge was lost.

And I had a lovely encouraging comment from a complete stranger, too.

Guess what?

Muriel died suddenly at about 7.30pm yesterday, at the age of 97. She's the last... She was the last surviving member of that generation of my family.

How fucking ironic.

Bye Muriel. You'll be missed, and you leave many newly-born secrets in your wake.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

A word in your ear

BBC - Radio 4 - Factual Programmes - Homepage

A couple of radio 4 gems this week. Firstly, Bill Bailey on the Theremin - you can't possibly knock a show about retro electronica featuring Manny-moo.

Secondly, a biting criticism of Powerpoint. Nothing I didn't know or suspect anyway, but every manager in the world should be forced to listen to the show.

Loving the 'Fight them on the Beaches' done as a business presentation.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Slideshows as Mediaplayer Visualisations

Flickr: Forums

I'm just chock stuffed full of insane ideas at the moment.
"...a media player visualisation plugin that let me set Flickr slideshows as my visualisation. Could be fairly configurable - allowing the plugin to skip through popular tags and slideshow all the related pics, or display certain people's streams, or, or or... even one that takes a keyword from the title of the song playing and returns a tag-based slideshow for that word..."
God, I wish I could code. I'd develop some of these myself...

Human Archives

It's 2 am, and I'm having one of those frantic manic thinking fits. I should have a gin or something.

Anyway, thought the third...

Was just thinking about the metadata issues I posted about a few days ago. And the image of searching through a photolibrary brought Shooting The Past to mind.

If you haven't seen it, do so immediately. If you're working with metadata or archives of any sort, it's a salutatory lesson in 'remembering the value of human quirks'.

Hear my plea, Oh Lazyweb

Oh, great gods of the Lazyweb, thee who can code in Perl, and C++, and knoweth how to use the command line...

I'm in bookmark hell. I've got two browsers on my work machine, a roaming profile that doesn't update properly, a del.icio.us account, a computer at home with two profiles on it, two CDs with my favourites saved on them, and a backup on a harddrive somewhere; and I'm bored, bored, bored of never having my bookmarks organised properly.

Can someone write a beautiful browser plugin that allows me to...
  • Bookmark webpages with tags, like del.icio.us does
  • Treat my 'bunch of tagged links' as a time-based linkstream
  • Publish a tasty RSS file I can plug into my blog
  • Also treat my 'b.o.t.l' as a set of folders, layed out visually, so I can find stuff easily
  • Make sure that if a link in the b.o.t.l has more than one tag, it appears in more than one folder
  • ... but makes sure links are always kept up to date if I change the URL it points to
  • Allows my browsers-plural, of both MSIE and Firefox flavours, to access my b.o.t.l's and display them as if they were my bookmarks/favourites
  • Automatically adds links I bookmark/favourite-ize to the b.o.t.l's on the server, and give me the option to tag them like wot I do in del.icio.us
  • Synchronise with del.icio.us and bloglines, in a live bookmarks sort of a way.

Please. Before I go mad.

BiblioScrobbler

I'm a huge fan of AudioScrobbler - it's just the niftiest bit of kit imaginable.

It's about to go through a rocky patch tho, because they've introduced moderation based on a rather limited model...

But, anyway, I'm thinking - what would an AudioScrobbler for books do? Presumably if you type in the ISDN number (a unique ID) you could bring up author and title. And from there, you'd have a 'slowscrobbling' system that would track your reading habits over time.

Anyway, follow up how my idea does on the AudioScrobbler fora.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Paths not taken

Sigh

These are so lovely. It's beginning to really annoy me that when I see something so brilliantly creative I instantly think 'Why didn't I stick with the art?'

Well, I'm lazy, is all. But seeing enough great stuff like this might kick me into action one day.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Stop with the wanky, Nokia

Nokia - Phone Features - Nokia 7280 - Phone Models - Phones

OK, it's beautiful, and looks like the sort of mobile phone that Rachel in Bladerunner would own.

But GET WITH THE PROGRAMME, Nokia. How on earth am I going to send a text with it? Eh?

I think you'll find that's pretty key to the female target demographic you're going for. You twits.

Monday, October 04, 2004

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Venn Metatopia

Stumbled across an interesting article in this months' Wired - about the importance and difficulty of adding sufficient human readable metadata to digital photos.

A few things strike me about this. First, we're already dealing with this problem in the analogue world. My family is full of really rather good amateur photographers. I've inherited boxes and boxes of slides from aunts, grandmother and parents - and they're full of pictures about which I know no contextual information at all.

One of the projects I must do before my great aunt dies (the last of her generation in my family - currently somewhere in her high nineties, and daft as a brush, in a lovely way) I need to sit with her and do some archiving work: look at objects and photographs in her house, and preserve their stories and histories. For instance, I have an old copy of the Book of Mormon on my shelf - it belonged to my great grandmother, who nearly converted to Mormonism around the turn of the century. She was a nurse, on night duties, and used to fill her time by making the most beautiful, detailed copies of religious postcards in a huge sketchbook. Now, think of the stories behind that - and think of what will be lost from my family's oral history if no-one bothers to record this before she goes...

I sort of want to have some kind of automatic metadata generator for _people_.

Secondly... And back to the photos after that digression; the article only very tangentially mentions Flickr, which I think is a revolutionary service. Why? Because playing with their service, and the way they present 'tags' makes it very quickly clear what the benefits of tagging your pictures can be. OK, tagging is a classification system that is personal, and not based on any kind of agreed vocab... So it might not translate. But when you get a sufficient volume of people adding a few simple tags to photos, you get much more meaningful data.

Add to that tagging the ability for anyone to go and add further tags to refine the classification of a picture according to their personal system, and what you get is effectively a subjective map of the position of the picture in a semantic framework. I think this gets round a whole number of problems one sees with databases, metadata and so on - it allows everyone to sort it in their personalised way, but doesn't favour one system over another, so you get a broad spectrum of meaning around the object being classified. It's the kind of thing that would send a librarian completely potty. But here's why this doesn't matter.

The example given in the wired article, of looking for president Coolidge and some Indians, involves hunting through index cards, then walking into another room, and physically sorting through files. This is the bit that is eliminated by a digital system, and it's also the section of the work that requires absolute pinpoint accuracy - when you're doing that amount of physical labour, you maybe want to check 3 or 4 images before you get your positive 'hit'. But think about using google's image search - often based on the scantiest metadata available. You'll happily flick through four or five pages of 50 images to find the one you're after - because the work just involves clicking a mouse.

There is more room for ambiguity in digital classification systems.

The recursive nature of search - refine- search refine is closer to the way information is organised inside your head - it doesn't have a good analogue in the analog world.

Finally, the article doesn't mention the ESP game - a neat way of using bored five minutes, and people's competitive spirit - to add tags to images. Treat adding metadata as something that is of obvious use, or is a fun activity, and people will be much more inclined to do it. Couple this way of capturing the 'subjective' data with the diary synchronisation, GPS and EXIF data mentioned in the article, and that feeling of bewilderment at a box of physical objects with no context outside the life of the (mortal) creator will be a thing of the past.