Sunday, April 29, 2007

Photosynth Technology Preview

Photosynth Technology Preview

Gosh, it's come along a bit. I reccomend trying the flythrough button, too.

It's fascinating to think that tools like this will mean, in the long term, that there will be a digital 'skin' representation of the world overlying reality, like Borges' map that is as large as the country. Granted, some areas more detailed than others - you just need to look at the geographical distribution of images in flickr to understand that the future is very unevenly distributed - but it's a short leap to a fully - represented world, where GPS is no longer necessary to identify the location of a photograph, as it can just be intelligently slotted in to place through pattern matching.

Some thoughts, in no particular order

- It understands 'behind'. Poke around the artists' studio collection, particularly around the easel - you'll suddenly pop to the wall, presumably marrying up at the occluded edges in longshots...
- it seems to like manmade space much more than natural space. Perhaps the eye more easily 'fills in' in geometric spaces, and this isn't the fault of the software as much a s a preference of perception
- Might it understand Time? What would happen if you fed the system street scenes from 1930, and contemporary scenes in the same location? Could you create a forth dimension to the walkthrough?
- 80 megapixel images? BLIMEY.
- It needs a much more gestural interface; the ability to move with the mouse, and with arrow keys. The clicking feels incredibly artificial.
- Photosynth + Games + ?? = PROFIT!
- I bet it's not compatible with Google Earth. Bastards.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Yes, but what does it DO?

Jeteye Firefox Extension:
by Jeteye Technologies, Inc.
Jeteye is a unique Web-based application and service that is designed for the next generation of enterprise and consumer use of the Web. Jeteye changes how we interact with the web, in an era where communication and social computing are more...
Version — January 18, 2007"

I'm looking through firefox extensions, and found a lovely example of marketing rhetoric completely failing to sell a product in the space available.

What does it DO? Really? Can you guess from that description? Answers on a postcard.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Google Toolbar

Google Toolbar Features

I'm playing with the latest version of Google Toolbar on Firefox. I'm finding it the tiniest bit confusing - hitting the blogger icon now performs a blog search, and to get to the Blog This! Interface I have to hit the 'send to' dropdown. Wha?

I do hate it when designers change the functions and meanings of icons. It's like making the word 'milk' suddenly mean 'nagging headache' instead of, well, milk, really.

On the plus side - I now have a Google Scholar search button, a 'define:' seach button (the secret to being able to understand technical specification documents, frequently!) and some kind of magic wand. Haven't you always wanted one of those?

The interesting implications seem to be around search history. I've had google's search history feature running quietly in the background since October 05, and it has always been patchy - collecting some search queries and not others, and inconsistently remembering clicks and so on. I'm sure Ask! will be heartened to know that their sinister competitor's mad surveilance techiques (ha!) are a little flaky.

Signing in today, however, through the new toolbar, I see that much more has appeared - whole swathes of activity are back against my name. Combined with the Browser Sync addon (possibly the neatest way I have ever found of having a bunch of idle weekend smut surfing show up on your work machine... oops!), I have a pretty complete view of my browsing habits. Not quite as beautiful as those at - which makes up for an inexplicable temporary loss of my data with some very, very nice graphs, but useful, nonetheless.

How valuable is that data, though? Well, if you wanted to blackmail me, or market things to me, pretty high, I'd imagine. It's a rich source of information, and I can see how mining it will let google serve ever more efficient and targeted adverts.But the availability of so much data - about who or what is using /reading what will, I'd hope, also mean that it will become much easier to find and buy goods and services that will be appropriate for me; I'll no longer need to laboriously 'teach' amazon that I like books on feminist literary theory, and don't like Miss Teen Cosmopolitain Makeup CD Roms (A genuine Amazon reccomendation from back in the day!) and just tell it to take a discrete look at my information history and work out that I'm more In Our Time than Take a Break. From there, you could weight reviews according to how attitudinally similar I am to a reviewer, strimming out that typical 'well, whoever gave that one star was obviously a dolt' thing you get sometimes.

I'm finding it very hard to get worried about the privacy implications of this ubiquitous behavioural information - after all, adverts are only intrusive if they're shouty and irrelevant, which google generally avoids. I'm slightly more worried about my new N95 with Jaiku! enabled on it (which I won in a random draw having completed a marketing survey for them, incidentally, and wouldn't have accepted if I thought there was any funny business going on there - although I have had a couple of casual interactions with the chaps behind the site). The main thing that worried me was the real-time location updating. The days of being a bit late in to the office in order to drop in to John Lewis are over, and I'll never be able to lie about my location again.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

A Hack for Europe! (

A Hack for Europe! (

Yay! Sign up!

I really want to go to this. But I don't think my leet baking, drawing and needlework skillz count as 'making' at this point. Which means I'm an obsessive business networker. Oh.


Mr Tom C is getting a bit worried that everyone is pointing to his post about this, and that the many other organisers aren't getting due credit. I know the people doing the organising at the BBC end too, and they have indeed all been working like dogs to sort this.

So credit to all where credit is due! has all the details.

Twitter / zombieattack

Twitter / zombieattack

Twitter fiction. Sweet.

Friday, April 13, 2007

The Nohari Window - Describe mildlydiverting

The Nohari Window - Describe mildlydiverting

I can't begin to describe how funny I find an entirely negative, vicious and unpleasant personality test. Take that, self-help book publishers!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Radio 4 to co-produce feature film | Radio |

Radio 4 to co-produce feature film | Radio | "When it is broadcast, Radio 4 will have a red button service for digital TV transmission enabling viewers to see the visual material, the first time the station has shown a feature-style film to accompany spoken material."

This is very cool - and I think I might now know why my old boss was so excited about Peter Ackroyd when I last saw her.

But - uh, radio with pictures. Convergence. Or as we in the trade like to call it, telly.

It's all good. : Story : "Lifecasting - Dandelife Streams", by Kelly Abbott : Story : "Lifecasting - Dandelife Streams", by Kelly Abbott

Ross Mayfield's Weblog: LifeStreams as an attention aggregator

There's a lot of talk around at the moment about lifestreams, chronological behaviours, and new navigation and aggregation tropes. It's something to do with twitter, and jaiku, and all of these new microblogging/presence services that are getting so much attention.

I tried to comment on Jeremy Keith's site - but the sensible man has comments turned off, so I'll just hope this gets picked up by Technorati.

There's a very interesting book - The Aesthetics of Computing by David Gelernter, which covers the idea of using chronological streams to organise files in an OS, partly because it's a much more natural, human way of remembering information. This is kind of how I feel about tagging as an organisational structure; it's not elegant, or concise, but it's very useful for 'fuzzy recall' - finding things that were a bit like the other thing, that might have been about the time that you were doing that other thing there.

As search and indexing of files within systems and the web becomes more comprehensive and useful, there's little reason to keep the old directory strucure/file system metaphors visible at the consumer interface level. Lets make something that works the way people think, instead.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Horseshoes and Hand Grenades: Joel Johnson Spank Us All for Supporting Crap - Gizmodo

The other week, I went in to an Orange shop to see about upgrading my phone.

I have an old Nokia - specifically, an 8310 that I have hung on to because it was the last, small phone with the old monochrome interface. It has the least number of button presses to let me make a phonecall, or send a text message. This is good. It is elegant, and does everything I need it to (appart, maybe, from taking photos - I quite like camera phones, and it doesn't let me manage my calendar easily. Those things I'd find useful).

I also have an old nokia on an old tarrif - a very good 'price match' deal to an old One-to-one tarrif, that they rapidly withdrew for being too good value to the customer, apparently. My line rental is about £11, and I ususally pay about £22 all in for my calls and texts; I make few phonecalls. I never use WAP as I'm rarely far from the internets, and my phone breaks whenever I do try and use it.

Anyway, said phone is at the end of its natural life - not holding a charge, generally falling appart. I love it, but it's not much longer for this world. So I went in to try and get an upgrade.

The man in the Orange shop on Oxford street, just west from Oxford Circus (on the southern side of the road) was called Keith. I explained that I quite fancied upgrading to a new, shiny phone, something N73, personal organiser ish. I wondered how much that might be. When he pulled up my details on his sytem, he looked up at me, and laughed directly at my face.

I'm going to move to T Mobile, I think.

Anway, I feel about new phones pretty much the way that Joel Johnson feels:

Horseshoes and Hand Grenades: Joel Johnson Spank Us All for Supporting Crap - Gizmodo:
"You broke the site, clogging up the pipe like retarded salmon, to read the latest announcements of the most trivial jerk-off products, completely ignoring the stories about technology actually making a difference to real human beings, because you wanted a new chromed robot turd to put in your pocket to impress your friends and make you forget for just a few minutes, blood coursing as you tremblingly cut through the blister pack, that your life is utterly void of any lasting purpose.

Then you had the audacity to complain about broken phones, half-assed firmware that bricked your gear, and winner-takes-nothing arms races between the companies whose gear your bought and the hackers who had nothing better to do than try to fix it. Do you realize how ridiculous that is? Programmers with free time did more to help you get quality products than you ever did by buying the broken gear in the first place.

Stop buying this crap. Just stop it. You don't need it. Wait a year until the reviews come out and the other suckers too addicted to having the very latest and greatest buy it, put up a review, and have moved on to something else. Stop buying broken products and then shrugging your shoulders when it doesn't do what it is upposed to. Stop buying products that serve any other master than you. Use older stuff that works. Make it yourself. Only buy new stuff from companies that have proven themselves good servants of their customers in the past. Complaining online about this stuff helps, but really, just stop buying it."

Monday, April 09, 2007

Bait and Switch

Ages ago, I subscribed to a video podcast promoting Nacho Libre, the Jack Black film. Hey, I'd just got a video ipod, vodcasts were all new and shiny, and I have a kind of a thing about wrestlers (ssh!) - what's not to like?

Anyway, sorting through my iTunes library, I notice that the old podcast folder has changed name, and suddenly, I have a huge number of videos on my harddrive promoting Blades of Glory.

I can but presume that the feed has been... recycled somehow.

I'm not really liking the ethics of this move, if I'm honest. There's a qualitative difference between the two films if nothing else (Will Ferrel is not, no matter how hard he tries, Jack Black; Will Ferrel is not a lot of things, in my books). I assume some marketeer has thought this up as a way of introducing the film to a sympathetic audience - hey, they're both dumb comedies with men in spandex, right?

Wrong. Sorry, you've alienated me even further than the cheap homophobic jokes in the trailer already did.

Show some manners, marketeers. My eyeballs pay your wages; and in this case, so does my bandwith.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Make Lighthearted Comments, Descend to General Ennui

New at Pentagram: Scenes From a Blog

This ammused me greatly. Sometimes, in my more bitter and cynical moments, I think that trolling, flame wars, the whole caboodle is an inevitable outcome of giving a bunch of socially inept computer geeks access to an incredibly powerful set of tools that over significate and immortalise trivial social interactions.