Joho the BlogJune 2008 - Page 3 of 8 - Joho the Blog

June 23, 2008

Traffic regulation by paying attention

From Martin Oetting comes a link to an article in Der Spiegel (in German), which he summarizes:

A small German municipality joined a Euro project in which road signs and all types of visible regulation of the inner-city traffic are abandoned in seven towns across Europe. Instead, all drivers, cyclists and pedestrians are asked (or expected) to more consciously pay attention to everyone else and negotiate the right of way and how and where to park “on the go” – for a more fluid and less rule-driven approach to traffic.

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Long form arguments are over-rated

Stowe Boyd, responding to Nick Carr’s provocation in The Atlantic that argues that “Google is making us stupid,” anticipates some of a piece I’ve been thinking about writing for a few months: The sort of long-form argument that some say the Web is killing is vastly over-rated. It’s actually difficult to find books that are long arguments (not multiple illustrations of one point, but an argument that develops over the course of multiple chapters) that don’t go off the rails relatively quickly. And, yes, I include Immanuel Kant in this. Darwin’s Descent of Man is an exception.

I meant to get around to writing about this. I still do.

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Death by tags

From BoingBoing comes this hilarious set of Amazon reviews of $500 audio cables from Denon. Best of all, BoingBoing points to the tags people have associated with the cables.

Oh, market conversations! What claims and brands won’t you take apart?

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June 22, 2008

Babbage’s noise

I’m working on a talk for Reboot, a very fun conference in Copenhagen. Because it’s an after-dinner talk, and because it’s a bunch o’ geeks, I plan on talking in a hugely preliminary way about some of what I’ve been researching for the past few months. I’m assuming the audience’s preemptive forgiveness. Also, with luck, they’ll all be a little drunk. At the moment, my talk is called “Babbage’s Noise,” mainly because I like the way it sounds.

I’m still trying to pick a thread through the morass of material I’ve happily sunk into. The outline I’m currently sewing together — unsuccessfully, so I reserve all rights to ditch everything and talk about Cluetrain or how everything is mixed up smooshy miscellaneous if I have to — begins by talking about Charles Babbage’s intense irritation about the hurdigurdy players outside his window. Babbage is, of course, routinely pointed to as having in the 1820s invented a precursor to the modern computer, which many say got just about all the elements of the architecture right. Fascinating guy. I then want to compare his use of the term “information” with the modern formulation, which comes from Claude Shannon, but which was quickly transmogrified.

Ultimately, I want to argue that Babbage’s machines had nothing essential to do with information in the sense in which we use the term in the modern age. Babbage thought he was applying Adam Smith’s principle of the division of labor to the production of tables. My talk will spend some time on the history of tables, because I think it’s really interesting. But the main argument against reading the modern idea of information back into history is that modern information is encoded and symbolic, neither of which were true for Babbage’s machines, although I grant that it sure looks that way.

And I think I have an overly-clever way of bringing it back to the modern sense of noise. (Possible spoiler alert, depending on where the talk goes: Communication theory generalizes based on the exceptional case when communication is derailed by noise.)

I’d be more clear about this, but I don’t understand what I’m talking about. And, yes, as usual, that won’t stop me. [Tags: ]


June 21, 2008

One Web Day is a comin’

Someone asked me the other day if I still think the Web has not been hyped enough. Damn straight. This thing is bigger than all of us put together. We’ve only just begun to figure out how to take advantage of our new connectedness of ideas and people. It’s worth a little celebrating, don’t you think?

That’s what One Web Day is about. And it’s coming up on September 22, which means it’s time to start organizing something in your community.


As with Earth Day, it’s up to each community — real-world or online — to decide how to celebrate OWD, but you’re encouraged to do something that will add value to the Web. Bring the Net to some people who don’t yet have it. Post works that tell local stories or that encourage others to be creative. Support politically what you consider to be the core values of the Web. (OWD is non-partisan.)

Woohoo! The Web! Woohoo! One Web Day!

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Bronze Age orientation

I liked this video from That Mitchell and Webb Look:

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June 20, 2008

Microsoft says ODF has won

From Slashdot:

“At a Red Hat retrospective panel on the ODF vs. OOXML struggle panel, a Microsoft representative, Stuart McKee, admitted that ODF had ‘clearly won.’ The Redmond company is going to add native support of ODF 1.1 with its Office 2007 service pack 2. Its yet unpublished format ISO OOXML will not be supported before the release of the next Office generation. Whether or not OOXML ever gets published is an open question after four national bodies appealed the ISO decision.”

Of course, Open Document Format winning isn’t exactly the same as OOXML — the 6,000 page standard Microsoft pushed through ISO — losing. Slashdot commentators are right to be plenty skeptical. Still, this is a good thing since it opens a practical path to document interoperability in a public, open format. [Tags: ]


HL: The argument against print

Way back when, the magazine Movieline was one of my many guilty pleasures. (Aren’t we supposed to feel guilty about all pleasures? Oy.) It was an irreverent mag for people who felt a little bad about liking pop movies.

Apparently there weren’t enough of us, or we were the wrong demo for the advertisers, because Movieline became Hollywood Life, which was more interested in the lifestyles of the rich and boring than in teasing the people we had secret crushes on. Then Hollywood Life stopped publishing, and, frankly, I didn’t care.

Now it’s back and in my mailbox as HL, an ultra-glossy, high glamor, near-card-stock magazine that epitomizes just about everything I don’t want to see in a magazine or, frankly, on paper:

The topics are out of date. The first three one-page profiles are of the big name stars of Indiana Jones, Savage Grace, and Leatherheads, three movies that came out weeks ago, and one of which failed miserably months ago. Jeez!

It fetishizes the sorts of objects no one actually buys and few of us care about: Diamonds, obscenely expensive perfume, furniture too ugly to sit in, clothing only Jessica Alba’s prepubescent sister could fit in.

The font is tiny, and although it has serifs, it is far from angelic. The stems are so fine that it is almost illegible when it’s printed white against a dark background, which it frequently is. It’s even worse when it’s black against a blue and black background photo of a shag carpet, as it is on a two-page spread. Print is not intended to be op art.

The photography is dark ‘n’ trite, because you know that’s how us jet-setting couch potatoes like it. And when they run a full page photo of Malcolm McDowell printed on blue paper, not only is his dark jacket nothing but a black lump, they tell us who provided it for the shot. John Varvatos, call your agent. Or your lawyer.

The writing is awful. Here is the opening line of the piece on Harrison Ford: “Harrison is like … a fine wine.” And that’s proudly in all caps as the lead-in. (The ellipsis is in the original.) The big article on Cannes takes three long paragraphs of value-free blather (“sleepy fishing village,” “charmed circle,” “could hardly have imagined,” “celebrity hot spots,” “breathtaking vista,” “windswept pines”) before telling us what it’s about: Some glamorous Cannes spots you might to visit. Even then, it lacks the sort of information that might be useful to a traveler.

As you’ve guessed, HL doesn’t give a flying celluloid crap about anyone new and actually interesting. For example, a two-page spread tells us that the Halcyon Company — “one of Hollywood’s most cutting-edge and innovative entertainment groups” because, well, it hasn’t actually produced anything … be sure to tip your PR agent, boys — plans on “reinventing” sci-fi by picking up the Terminator franchise. Yes, there’s nothing more cutting-edge and innovative than picking up a franchise.

Oh, they have a “portfolio” of young Hollywood actors…whom they portray as 1940’s noir-ish stars (oddly claiming the photography is an homage to the Silent Era). In fact, overall the photos are retro as if a magazine proudly proclaiming that print isn’t dead can only prove it by looking like something you might have found in your upscale dentist’s office forty years ago.

Do you think when I mulch it, the varnish on the pages will cause my geraniums to wilt? [Tags: ]

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June 19, 2008

Microsoft the good sport

The Microsoft Internet Explorer team sent a nice cake yesterday to the Mozilla Firefox team, congratulating them on the shipping of version 3.0, as they did when Firefox 2.0 shipped. Nice. Seriously.

Here’s an idea from one of the comments that’s funny but would be unnecessarily not-nice to actually do:

I reiterate what someone said when the last cake appeared – Mozilla should send a cake back, include the recipe, and ask for advice on how to improve it. ;)

: )

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Governance discussion at Supernova

Berkman sponsored a discussion at Supernova on governance, the topic of the Publius project. Here are Ross Mayfield’s notes. Sounds like it was a terrific session, with great people on the panel and joining in from the audience. [Tags: ]

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