Joho the Blogmisc Archives - Page 2 of 91 - Joho the Blog

July 26, 2015

Angry Birds Pansies

Pansies are supposed to look like thoughtful faces, right? That’s where the word comes from. But something seems to have pissed them off.

Or maybe their DNA somehow got mingled with Ed Asner’s.

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July 8, 2015

Fewer bubbles

Yes, this site looks a little different. I took the posts out of their bubbles, changed the font to a serif version, and increased the font’s size. I also fiddled with many of the other elements, albeit in less noticeable ways.

Why? If you’re really asking that, then your design sense is as bad as mine.

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June 12, 2015

Uber’s one remaining awkward moment

Dear Uber,

You’ve managed to get over almost all of the social awkwardness of taking a cab, including wondering if the driver is taking you the long way and fretting the entire way about how much you should tip. Thanks!

The one remaining moment is when the car is approaching and you think maybe it’s that red car but you can’t tell a Honda from a Hundai and the license plate is too far away to read, and you don’t want to wave at a stranger in some car going by.

So, when your phone shows something like this (assuming that Mitch McConnell is your driver):

Normal Uber screenshot

And then the car gets closer, suppose your phone were to show something like this:

Flashing Uber alert screen

That is, it’d have a photo of your driver enlarged on some type of animated screen, with a color assigned to your driver. You’d hold the phone out toward where the car’s approaching from so the driver can see you and know that you are indeed the fare.

You’re welcome, Uber. Now how about a million dollars?

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June 3, 2015

[liveblog] Inbab Lasser-Rab on IoT

Inbab Lasser-Rab is VP of Enterprise and Internet of Things Prod Mgt at Cisco. [LIVE BLOGGING. Full of errors]

50B things will be connected withi 5 yrs and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. It will change industries and countries. IoT will be bigger than mobile.

E.g., her msartphone can turn on her water boiler, and make sure the kids have turned it out.

E.g., to protect the Great Barrier Reef, many sensors were installed. E.g., smart pillbottles record that the patient has taken the correct dosage. We’ll have many more bodily sensors.

Industry opportunities for IoP: Oil and gas, utilities, manufacturing lead in their investmets over the next three years.

What are the killer apps to make IoP go forward: Connected parking. 30% of cars on the road in a city are looking for parking. Connected waste collection. Street lighting. Barcelona is advanced in this. SF got eve nsmarter parkig. They made the spaces further away from the center cheaper to entice peole to use them.

IoP will drive STEM. Not enough girls are learninng STEM. Cisco sponsored a challenge to help address this.

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June 1, 2015

[2b2k] Russell on knowledge

Bertrand Russell on knowledge for the Encyclopedia Brittanica:

[A]t first sight it might be thought that knowledge might be defined as belief which is in agreement with the facts. The trouble is that no one knows what a belief is, no one knows what a fact is, and no one knows what sort of agreement between them would make a belief true.

But that wonderful quote is misleading if left there. In fact it introduces Russell’s careful exploration and explanation of those terms. Crucially: “We are thus driven to the view that, if a belief is to be something causally important, it must be defined as a characteristic of behaviour.”

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May 30, 2015

Reddit vs. CNN: My take

Here’s a comment I just posted to the list of questions asked CNN and Reddit asked of Bernie Sanders that I posted at Medium yesterday.


I don’t want to leave it there. I intended this comparison to be what I assume most people will take it as: a prod to consider how well a crowd can do under the right circumstances, as well as a provocative illustration of how godawful much political reporting is in this country. The Keilar interview was particularly bad but not weirdly bad, which tells us how low our expectations are at this point.

But I wouldn’t want people to assume that therefore all we need is Reddit (and sites like it). Some tweets have made the point that, for example, the redditors on the Sanders thread probably aren’t about to put their lives on the line in a war zone to bring us coverage. Nor are we seeing original reporting at Reddit of the quotidian news. Of course not. That’s not what Reddit is for. I take that as obvious, and the comments on this post indicate that the readers here do as well.

As with anything, Reddit is good at some things, not at others. The Sanders interview would not have been useful if Sanders had refused to answer the questions, or had turned all answers toward his preferred talking points. Reddit doesn’t have a good way of forcing politicians to respond, the way an expert TV interviewer can. That has a lot to do simply with the format of a TV or radio interview vs. Reddit: On TV, the candidate has nowhere to hide from the interviewer’s questions, whereas at Reddit a candidate can cherry-pick which questions to respond to. In such a case, the candidate will be exposed as an empty, frightened shell propped up by a will to power and a PR firm. It won’t be a good interview, but the candidate will at least be called on it…and far more directly than any professional journalist I’ve ever heard.

Reddit’s form has other weaknesses and virtues, of course. A huge weakness: the questions reflect the interests of the particular demographics that frequent Reddit, which is fine unless you’re trying to get a systematic overview or you don’t share those interests. That means Reddit can’t and shouldn’t be the only place a candidate gets interviewed.

On the positive side, at Reddit there’s no time/space limit on what the candidate wants to say. There’s no end of follow-up questions and analysis by the redditors in the thread that hangs off the candidate’s answers, even if the candidate chooses not to respond to those follow-ups.

Reddit and the Web are helping us to re-think some old assumptions. Relevant to this particular post, I’ll name just two. First, crowds in a proper conversational structure can do a surprisingly good job interviewing a candidate. (“Surprisingly” only if you haven’t been paying enough attention to Reddit, of course ?.) This has broader implications for our traditional culture of expertise. In a world that’s too big to know (yeah, that’s a plug), the deepest expertise now often lives in networks, not individuals.

Second, we are used to interviews being structured vertically: a series of Q’s followed by A’s that go in a first-to-last sequence. Reddit, along with much of the Web, adds horizontality, allowing for digressions driven purely by the interests of the participants. Those interests are often hugely digressive, sometimes shallow, and not infrequently hilarious. Good. That’s how we make sense of things and enjoy one another’s company. If it’s not your cup of tea, then just skip on down to the next question.

TL;DR: The Web is transforming our ideas about the nature and structure of knowledge, and Reddit should be raising our expectations about mainstream journalism.

IMO.

1 Comment »

January 27, 2015

Reality answers.

Tattered Question Reality sticker

imgur link

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December 27, 2014

Oculus Thrift

I just received Google’s Oculus Rift emulator. Given that it’s made of cardboard, it’s all kinds of awesome.

Google Cardboard is a poke in Facebook’s eyes. FB bought Oculus Rift, the virtual reality headset, for $2B. Oculus hasn’t yet shipped a product, but its prototypes are mind-melting. My wife and I tried one last year at an Israeli educational tech lab, and we literally had to have people’s hands on our shoulders so we wouldn’t get so disoriented that we’d swoon. The Lab had us on a virtual roller coaster, with the ability to turn our heads to look around. It didn’t matter that it was an early, low-resolution prototype. Swoon.

Oculus is rumored to be priced at around $350 when it ships, and they will sell tons at that price. Basically, anyone who tries one will be a customer or will wish s/he had the money to be a customer. Will it be confined to game players? Not a chance on earth.

So, in the midst of all this justifiable hype about the Oculus Rift, Google announced Cardboard: detailed plans for how to cut out and assemble a holder for your mobile phone that positions it in front of your eyes. The Cardboard software divides the screen in two and creates a parallaxed view so you think you’re seeing in 3D. It uses your mobile phone’s kinetic senses to track the movement of your head as you purview your synthetic domain.

I took a look at the plans for building the holder and gave up. For $15 I instead ordered one from Unofficial Cardboard.

When it arrived this morning, I took it out of its shipping container (made out of cardboard, of course), slipped in my HTC mobile phone, clicked on the Google Cardboard software, chose a demo, and was literally — in the virtual sense — flying over the earth in any direction I looked, watching a cartoon set in a forest that I was in, or choosing YouTube music videos by turning to look at them on a circular wall.

Obviously I’m sold on the concept. But I’m also sold on the pure cheekiness of Google’s replicating the core functionality of the Oculus Rift by using existing technology, including one made of cardboard.

(And, yeah, I’m a little proud of the headline.)

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December 13, 2014

Cézanne’s unfortunate wife

We went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art for its amazing, bottomless collection, but while we were there we visited the Madame Cézanne exhibit. It’s unsettling and, frankly, repellant.

Please note that I understand that I don’t know what I’m talking about. I’m the sort of museum-goer who likes the works that he likes. I can’t even predict what is going to touch me, much less make sense of it. Which is, I believe, more or less the opposite of how actual criticism works.

The Met has assembled twenty-four paintings and sketches by Cézanne of his wife Hortense. As compositions some are awesome (he is Cézanne after all), but as portraits they seem technically pretty bad: her face is sometimes unrecognizable from one picture to the next, even ones that were painted within a couple of years of one another.

Madame Cézanne (Hortense Fiquet, 1850–1922) in the Conservator

Hortense Fiquet in a striped skirt

But what does that matter so long as Cézanne has expressed her soul, or his feelings about her, or both? Or, in this case, neither. You stare at those portraits and ask what he loved in her. Or, for that matter, hated in her? Did he feel anything at all about her?

The exhibit’s helpful wall notes explain that in fact there seems to have been little love in their relationship, at least on his part. The NY Times review of the show musters all the sympathy it can for Hortense and is well worth reading for that.

We know little about Madame Cézanne. And we learn little more from these portraits. It is fine to say that Cézanne was interested in shape, form, and light, not personality. But the fact that he had her sit immobile for countless hours so he could paint a still life made of flesh is a problem, especially since Cézanne seems to have loved his peaches and pears more than he loved this woman.

Cézanne: Still life with apples

Here’s a little more eye-bleach for you: a quick Picasso painting of a woman who sleeping is yet more alive than Madame Cézanne as represented in her husband’s careful artistry:

Picasso's Repose

 


On the far more positive side, we also went to the Museum of Modern Art’s exhibit of Matisse’s cut-outs.

Matisse's cut-outs, at MOMA

I’ve always liked Matisse, but have never taken him too seriously because he seems incapable of conveying anything except joy — although a full range of joy, from the sensuous to the spiritual. I’m sure I’m not appreciating him fully, but not matter what, oh my, what a genius of shape and color. I didn’t want to leave.

If you can see this collection, do. So much fun.

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November 8, 2014

Italy’s Declaration of Internet Rights

An ad hoc study commission of the Italian Chamber of Deputies has published a draft “Declaration of Internet Rights” that should be cause for cheers and cheer. It’s currently open for public comment at the Civici Platform — which by itself is pretty cool.

TechPresident explains that this came about

thanks to the initiative of the presidency of the Chamber of Deputies, a dedicated Committee of experts and members of the Parliament from the Committee on Internet Rights and Duties. The bill aims to inform the debate about online civil liberties and fundamental freedoms during the Italian semester of the European Union presidency…

I like the document a lot. A lot a lot. The principles are based on a genuine understanding of the value that the Net brings and what enables the Net to bring that value. This is crucial because so often those who seek to govern the Net do so because they see it primarily as a threat to order or a challenge to their power.

The Declaration focuses on the rights of individuals, taking the implicit stance (or so I read it) that the threat to those rights comes not only from Internet malefactors and giant Internet conglomerates run amok, but also from those who seek to govern the Net. It includes as rights not only access to the Net, but access to education about how to use the Net, a point too often forgotten. (Not by Eszter Hargittai, though, who has done the seminal work in showing that Internet skills are not as easily acquired as we often assume.)

Since my larynx seizes whenever its faced with the prospect of talking about governing the Internet, I personally wish the document would be even more direct about the dangers of trying to “fix” the Internet. For example, it could recommend principles such as these to our Internet Overlords:

  • Every effort will be made to enable the governance of the Net bottom up and by the edges.

  • Controls and regulations should only be introduced when less coercive and restrictive attempts have demonstrably and repeatedly failed.

  • Controls and regulations should be created as far up the stack as possible when they are necessary. (Or is that a bad idea??).

  • The advice of engineers who are not beholden to particular constituencies or entities shall be consulted and heavily regarded. (Not sure how to state this.)

But that’s probably just me. Far more important, this draft Declaration of Internet Rights is an important reminder to the Internet’s wannabe regulators that the Net is a powerful force for human good that should be helped to flourish, not merely a negative force that needs to be restrained.

For more information, I strongly recommend the TechPresident article by Fabio Chiusi.

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