Author Archives: Admin

A clear and present danger

There is a growing danger in this country. We are granting centralized authority to commerce and communication. Today, we are not killing people to silence them, instead we bestow a digital death upon them. Digital silence and censorship is death nun the less to net citizens.

It’s a scary time when you no longer can be assured to speak your mind. When what you say or do, could cost you your business and lively hood. It’s a sad time when just talking about legal action with the US could grant you in major trouble, an act popularized by 9/11 and the patriot act. Today it seems like the government is using the fear of prosecution as a means to silence us by proxy of our digital services.

We need to have a constant, open and fair exchange of ideas between the people and our government. It is the freedom of speech that allows each of us to be seen as valued and heard.

Using centralized services like att, gmail, facebook, amazon, twitter and others have come under threat. The government has made it quite obvious that it’s too easy to make threats at these large companies and have them compromise our constitutional rights. In the case of ATT the government admitted that it did so, and then gave them immunity. Think about that for a bit. They admitted to it being wrong, and then gave immunity to ATT for sharing data that would never have been allowed by our founding fathers.

It’s clear that the government is loosing respect for us and our rights. We need to be a country of responsible and free people. We need to respect each other.

We built a government of the people and for the people to avoid revolution, and when it becomes US vs THEM, we are in danger of creating disparity and violence. We must be vigilant and true to ourselves, we must weather the storm of truth and we need to face the facts every now and then. We need to accept our short comings and work together to resolve conflict. Silencing the voices of others is unjust, and it will rally the battle cries of the unheard. The freedom of speech is not about an individuals right to speak, it’s about a societies right to listen. We need to listen to those that want to be heard. I am not saying we need to agree, or to even act, but we do need to keep listening in the open as a united community.

Range and Replace

I would like to introduce you to the “Range” object in your browser. document.createRange() allows you to select a range of text ( even between elements, and it very well might be the basis for how the mouse is able to select text in a browser, or how chrome and firefox highlight search terms in the browser window.

Even though Range(s) seem to be used for visual elements, you can use them for less visual manipulation of the text in the page. I have also noticed that by using the range object, you can manipulate these objects much faster than you would otherwise through some other functions like ELEMENT.innerHTML() for instance.

I am still hacking on the RANGE object, but for now it’s promising. Later I will provide an update for a few tricks to use the RANGE object as I have had a few problems with the documentation. Firefox, and Chrome ( WebKit ) seem to work a bit differently, but for the most part are the same. Fortunately I am working on browser plugins at the moment so, I don’t have to worry about IE’s limited access to the object.

Here are a few links if you want to get started hacking on the RANGE object.

#TSA2.0 imagine you are an Evil Web Genius ( ninja, rockstar ) hacker!

If you were some evil web genius hacker type ( otherwise known as a ninja or rockstar ) how could you mashup TSA’s new scanner’s to your favorite webapis?

If you have not heard, TSA is at it again. It’s almost like they took a look at the past 20-50 years of sci-fi and said, “what don’t people want us to do?” “Oh, let’s do that.” So, they just decided to do it, even though fiction paints a bleak image of it. These days they are doing full body scans, and not the type you might see in Total Recall, where you see someones bones and maybe a weapon or two, but this time TSA seems to have contracted out to a company that seems to have their inner 12 year old boy on overdrive; and as a result TSA’s new scanners don’t just find weapons, no they snap photos of your naked body for the world to document. The technology uses a form of x-ray vision, no joke. Which has raised concerns for cancer patients and others whom care about their health.

So the question is what will TSA come up with next?

How good, bad can it get?

Maybe it’s time to have a little fun of it to raise awareness. Maybe we should create a few mashups in jest of the new procedures.

So, If you were some evil web genius hacker type ( otherwise known as a ninja or rockstar ) how could you mashup TSA’s new scanner’s to your favorite webapis? Would you cache a copy of the photo for yourself? Would you share it on Path with your 50 closest friends? ( MySpace, Facebook, Twitter? ) Would you tie it into your Gowalla or Foursquare checkins? Maybe you could use it as part of a google interview question, ” How can you determine someones BMI or weight from a ‘Naked Body Scan?”

Maybe you could track how much people eat/ gain between the holidays if you compare their departure and return flight images?

If you combine that with the data from ( which has been acquired by facebook ) you could even merge the data from an anonymous photo, and tag that with an ID, and then later use rapleaf to look up that user’s web history before they board a plane.

So if you were one of those web ninja’s what mashup would you build?

Data is a paradise?

#NUD National UnFriend Day

I have been using Jimmy Kimmel’s announcement of #NUD or National Unfriend Day as a reason to clean up my social connections.

So far I have been clearing myself off of old Meetup Groups, Google Groups, Yahoo Groups. I have also been removing old apps from my Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace apps. It’s good to to do a bit of social fall cleaning. Not only have I been removing my self from these email lists, groups and other things, but I have been unsubscribing form newsletters that I don’t read any more. It’s great. I think I now get about 20 less emails a day that were otherwise not spam, but I had no continued interest in, and it was blocking my communication with the people and topics I care about.

I recommend for you to take action and to pair down who you spend your attention on. ( in a few cases, I actually friended a few new people, when I discovered they were now married )

My blog here is no exception and I found that I have 444 subscribers, and most of them are some form of bots ( an interesting number in Asian cultures ) I would like to apologize if I am deleting a valued reader, but if you are real and have something to tell me, please tweet me @jdavid, or just re-register. ( I think there are only a handful of humans that have registered here on my blog. maybe everyone else was afraid of the bot-apocolypse, so like a good John Conner I am clearing out the junk. )

I have added a few tools to make it harder for bots to register, and to track user activity on my blog. I am hoping that I can start fresh with users that are per-capita more human.

Notes from the Future

here are a few random thoughts about the future of tech.

Next up in sever farms, arm-mobile cores with system on chip gpus. I have direct word that google and facebook are both experimenting with this tech. nVidia is well positioned to take this market in 2-5 years with tegra2/3 / tegraX, and compete with intel/ amd in the low power server space.

There is a growing walled garden api problem. this results in the need for openid and oauth to support 4th party authentication, or granting someone the ability to delegate authority for you. you could think of this like if api’s could act via proxy, representative, assistant, or agent. 4th party delegated identity will be huge, and will allow you to pay for agents that filter and aggregate socially restrictive data. google doesn’t own this, and neither will facebook. there is room for a newcomer.

gov2.0 will happen, i am calling it #agilegov, and it will be less like democracy, and more like wikiocracy/ do-ocracies. others are calling it #bigsocial

3d games, will move into the web, and the web will finally move to 3d in the next decade. there are way to many gaps in platform tools for 3d worlds.

edu2.0, better connect top educators to more students. create smaller more engaging learning tools, or microlessons, that track behavior to a learning group online. think github for edu.

anyways that’s my rant.

Opening social networks/ graphs up to Researcher Collaboration Tools, a UCSF Harvard Profiles collaboration project

For the past few months I have been consulting part time with UCSF and the department of Clinical and Translational Sciences. You might think that has something to do with my browser plugin Babelfin, but Translational Sciences really has nothing to do with language learning, but rather taking exciting patterns in other fields and translating the processes between them. In this case UCSF is focusing on how Social Media and Social Networking can be used in an academic sense for collaboration and messaging rather than games, photo sharing, or virtual resumes.

The UCSF OpenSocial project (–shindig-apps/ ) started as a Harvard project called Catalyst PROFILES ( ). Profiles (as we call it), is a simple social networking server that manages the graph relationships between colleagues, co-authors, and research interests. Profiles looks at relationships differently than Facebook, Linkedin, or event MySpace, but it’s pretty bare bones and limited in what it can do.

The innovative part comes in where UCSF thought it would be neat to extend Profiles without altering it’s code. So, Eric Meeks at UCSF bolted on an Opensocial container named Shindig to Harvard’s Profiles project which allows external apps to run on top of Profiles. This makes for an interesting mix of code, as Profiles is a Microsoft C# ASPX project, and Shindig comes in PHP and Java flavors. Eric rightly choose to implement the Java flavor of Shindig as it’s the most current.

So, this is where I come in, as, I am building the applications that run on the Shindig server accessing the Profiles social graph. In many cases it’s just like building an application that runs on Linkedin, Bebo or MySpace, however, there is no friend graph, but, there are 3 other graphs I can use, co-author, colleague, and interest graphs.

Initially we are keeping it simple, but we plan to extend Opensocial in a standard way so that other universities and research institutions can apply Opensocial to their graph servers. UCSF and Harvard are hoping that their work will make it easier to use Profiles as the graph server, but they are both very excited about creating an open platform that can develop a rich ecosystem of applications that extend their work, and are able to run on other platforms with small tweaks. In the end we want researchers to be able to better collaborate using social tools.

“Attention walls” in UX Design, for productivity in an Attention Economy?

This post is in response to Aza’s design talk on China’s Great Firewall. ( ) In brief Aza asks the question if we can better manage our attentions by controlling the speed at which interfaces and information is rendered. He uses China’s Firewall as an example, that does not explicitly block an activity but discourages it strongly by slowing down the service. And as Google points out speed is a huge factor on the internet and heavily effects user behaviour.

From now, on I’ll call this an “attention wall” or the idea of using design to not just think about how best to layout functionality but to also consider the speed at which it reacts. To actually consider using an anti pattern of slowing down UI to discourage the use of a feature.

Why would we want to set up “attention walls”? For one, when I am programing I find that I use the internet a lot for looking up how to use an API or function, but sometimes find my self getting distracted with email or other activities. Also, you might make elements like Deprecated APIs appear lower on a list of functions or slower to auto-complete. Speed in UX does not necessarily have to be something that is counted in seconds, but it could be a metric that measures the distance from the user’s current focus or attention, and in that sense an “attention wall” is just an obstacle to available information.

So how else might we use “attention walls”? Well, we might pair them with the design element of karma, or micro currencies. So if you were running a corporate IT infrastructure and you wanted to pair down rather than block outside email and social networks. You might just slow them down, unless a user… spends some karma, or social currency on that activity.

This might be carried so far as falling within David Helgason’s notion of ‘Gamification’ of the internet and culture. How we are slowing turning work into play, and play into work. Some people call this ‘serious games.’ It’s the sort of thing where you score badges and points for completing an activity. Popular social networks like gowalla and foursquare have been playing with this for a while, and the trend will probably continue.

So, how might we use this? Well, maybe corporate emails are slowed down, unless you spend a few points to send it at a priority level. This might just add enough of an attention cost to sending that short email to 30 people, that will end up distracting them and creating the habit of checking email every 5 min. If we all send fewer emails in the work place, maybe we can get to checking email the 1st five minuets of every hour, and get us into the productive pattern of not checking email, facebook, or twitter so often in the work place.

One might continue to tie the message sent into a reward system that if the email causes some sort of positive response either externally or internally that more accelerator points are awarded so that user can send more email; ie, the more responsible users get rate limited less.

So maybe as UX Designers think about color, readability, typography and the so many other things they think about, maybe today’s designers need to start thinking about setting up patterns for “attention walls” as we start to face information overload.

Rate of innovation, too high? Displacing our humanity?

If technology is moving so fast that the past and present are not predictors of future trends, that is a serious problem.

Continuity starts to fade.

Have you ever wondered why people put so much effort into saving a historic building or preserving some artifact? When I was a young technologist I would have razed it all if it meant progress could move faster, but today I am a bit wiser. In the last few years, I have been moving a lot, and have been disrupting my own personal continuity. New friends, new buildings, new places to eat, new everything. Even my family seems…. more distant, not because of distances, but in May my parents started pursuing a divorce. So, for me, nothing is the same, except a few core friends; some of which moved out here. My happiness went way up when they got here, and a small savory piece of continuity was restored for me.

So, what I have realized is that Continuity is what makes us human. And as a result we have rich pasts and experiences to draw from. We have all of recorded history to define and differentiate us. ( of only about 10,000 years ) What will humans know of us 10,000 years from now? What will be preserved? What will be our Iliad? Our Bible? A dark age in Continuity is a dark age in the human spirit. We need continuity to be more than animals.

With out Continuity we may exist in a state of perfect societal flow, and may even transcend into this singularity thing, but really what breaks down? Philosophy will fail? Reason spanning seasons will fail, and a prolonged desire to plan will fail. If you disagree with this, then why is it that the north is more productive than anywhere else in the world. Why is it that winter climates seem to evoke the need to be productive? Why do the Sweeds make the coolest lights? Necessity breads innovation.

Jared Diamond who has written Guns, Germs, and Steal, and Collapse seems to evoke the notion that having to plan for winter each year played a large role in human and human cultural development.

If technology moves so fast that planing and thinking about the future are fruitless, we are in chaos. We might even be without what we call humanity. We will be confined to the present, making decisions on instinct and gut checks rather than thoughtful discourse. We will be in a stress survival mode, which will remove us from higher thought. The poor are often challenged in this way, and study after study shows that the poor spend more money on the same activities. They spend more on food ( percentage wise ), more on transportation, etc… We should strive for the sort of wealth that allows us the pleasure to think and share.

If this erks you, it should. If you disagree, then you might need to check out the Long Now Foundation, which hopes to create a sense of continuity for us into the future.

I am beginning to think that John Nash’s work ( a beautiful mind ) is more meaningful economically at a society level, than at a company a,b,c level. I think as a society we should no longer seek maximums. “Maximums are the root of too much evil, as they lack the room to account for exceptions.” “A maximized system cannot leave room for the Black Swan, and are fragile by nature, asking to be toppled.” John Nash’s work suggests that in a competitive system one will find a more efficient use of resources going for 2nd best rather than the best. So, in the argument of sustainability, continuity, and stability; maximums undermine our ability’s by overvaluing now when compared to the past and future.

As a society we need to to create an economics that has room for “grace”.

Where are the good tech recruiters?

Having been a tech recruiter while I was in high school and being an engineering consultant I have a fairly unique point of view.

  • recruiters will tell you want you need to hear as a developer, a company who passes on you, has no interest in being blunt. however a recruiter has an interest in you interviewing well with their next client
  • being able to talk tech with folks goes miles. if you can talk to an engineer and actually understand what they are looking for, then you can be their advocate, and they will refer you
  • yes you have to hustle, and some hustle on the bottom via numbers, but, you might find other ways to source your phone list.
  • why don’t recruiting companies sponsor tech events, actually putting together great events. build relationships with speakers and attendees. like, duh,….
  • hold programing competitions, the best developers can win more than a cash prize, and even a $1-5k prize is worth it if you can place 2-5 engineers off of one competition.

anyways, that’s my $.02