I don't know many people who would sit in the front row of a movie about Swedish ethnography and laugh their heads off. But I went to see Kitchen Stories this weekend with the Dane, and we loved every minute of it. If I ever teach an ethnography course myself, I'll have to make this film required viewing1.
This film--a surreal, gentle comedy; a relaxed buddy movie that follows many of the standard formulas--works surprisingly well. I'm pretty sure you don't have to be an ethnographer to appreciate it, although anyone with a particular interest in naturalistic studies might get a particular kick.
While I don't thnk the movie can be particularly "spoiled", I'll tuck the rest of this review under the extended section, just in case you want to see the film as naively as possible. (I will forewarn you that it's in Swedish and Norwegian, with English subtitles.)
1 I just taught a day of an Organizational Information Systems class, talking about analyzing interview data. This movie would have been more fun--and would have provided fodder for the students to discuss.
In the beginning of the movie, we learn (truthfully) that 1950's Swedish home researchers have already successfully redesigned the housewife's kitchen to be more efficient. Now, one researcher proudly announces, in the course of one year, she will no longer have to walk to the Congo in her kitchen. Thanks to their improvements, Northern Italy will suffice. Apparently, this was established through many hours of careful observation of housewives as they worked, watching their every move--from sink to table, from towel to counter--and tracking their steps.
The researcher running the project is now trying to analyze, quantitatively, the habits of single men. As such, he is sending his researchers into the field: they will sit, silently, in bachelor kitchens, atop eight-foot-high chairs. They will watch the single men, and the men will ignore them. They will live in portable trailers right outside the apartments. This is how these Swedish researchers will spend a Norwegian winter.
Now, I know a few people who have done truly heroic ethnographic work. If I understand their descriptions correctly, Cleidson De Souza sat in a cubicle with coders and developers, watching them for hours, and tracking what resources they used, and in what contexts. David Gibson spent months watching meetings, tracking every time that one person stopped speaking and another person started. And Keith Hampton sat about in a basement in Canadian suburbs for months, interviewing families about computer use and learning who was talking to whom.
These people have nothing on this project. A housewife might spend a lot of time running about her apartment; she has children to take care of and a family to feed. And so she's likely to start ignoring the researcher after a few hours, and they'll both get to work.
The same is not true of a single man in the Nowegian winter. There's not a lot to do if you're a farmer out in the country in winter. You drink coffee with a friend, and you smoke, and you wait for the thaw2.
Folke is the researcher assigned to watch Isak, one such graying farmer. Isak doesn't trust Folke: while he has volunteered for the experiment, he's not too happy with this invader in his kitchen. And so he hides himself in various ways, cooking in his bedroom, for example.
It goes nearly without saying that the two men will find a connection as the movie progresses; that the barrier of Isak's distrust and of Folke's professionalism will somehow be breached.
There are a set of, I think, imprortant lessons for the budding ethnographer:
There are also a couple of interesting reminders of cultural differences. Sweden was neutral during WWII; Norway was invaded and occupied. The Norse were less than happy about that; they blamed the Swedish for sitting by impassively. And so a Swede neutrally observing a Norwegian inside his home might rub the latter the wrong way.
While I don't expect that this situation recurs in any environments I might see, there are some parallels. Ethnographers often live in a different world than their subjects; misunderstandings are common--and a usual part of the process.3
Two thumbs up.
2 Garrison Keillor likes to talk about Norwegian Bachelor Farmers, sitting around at the Sidetrack Tap at Lake Woebegone, smoking and just occasionally talking. The silent stoicisim of Scandanvians is a major theme to this movie.
3 One of my friends, a biologist working on low-level genetic processes, was observed for a few months by an anthropologist apparently looking at how laboratories handle the notions of "sex" and "gender." While the anthropologist gave them occasional reports, the lab's consensus response was something like huh?. They didn't see, or believe, that the notion of sex was relevant to what they were doing at all.
I'm not in a position to take sides in the debate.
I guess I've been out of touch for a little bit. Now that a few more countries are under sanctions (as Iran, Sudan, and others join Cuba), we have new rules for what you can (such as publish) and can't (such as edit) do.
It seems that OFAC --the Office of Foreign Asset Control--has laid down guidelines for what can, and cannot, be done.
And Rebel Edit is publishing an online compendium of edited works. Submit your own, they suggest. Find an Iranian poem, a Cuban letter, and edit it.
I'm fascinated by this, in a worried kind of way. It hadn't occurred to me that editing, writing, publishing, and collaborating were really seperable. (In some ways, the essence of my dissertation is to cliam that most of this work is, in fact, not at all seperable, but is embedded in a socila context.)
It is absurd to imagine IEEE is "providing a service" to Iranian scientists by editing their work, but not by publishing. Is this an odd example of well-meaning beauraucratic rules gone wrong, or is it an attempt to fully isolate those scientific communities, along with the rest of the country?
It seems like a policy question that needs to be debated a little more publically.
As you know, the importation from any country and the exportation to any country of information and informational materials, whether commercial or otherwise, regardless of format or medium of transmission, are exempt from the Iranian Transactions Regulations
Nevertheless, certain activities described in your letter would fall outside of the information and informational materials exemption. The collaboration on and editing of manuscripts submitted by persons in Iran, including activities such as the reordering of paragraphs or sentences, correction of syntax, grammar, and replacement of inappropriate words by U.S. persons, prior to publication, may result in a substantively altered or enhanced product, and is therefore prohibited under ITR § 560.204 unless specifically licensed. Such activity would constitute the provision of prohibited services to Iran, regardless of the fact that such transactions are part of the U.S. Entity’s normal publishing activities. Similarly, while the U.S. Entity may select members to review Iranian manuscripts and to communicate with Iranian authors, the U.S. Entity’s selection of reviewers and its facilitation of a review by its members, wherever located, for the purpose of collaborating with Iranian authors on manuscripts resulting in substantive enhancements or alterations to the manuscript, would be prohibited.
I haven't used Unix for a while.
> /usr/bin/webalizer -c /etc/webalizer-augur.conf
does radically differnet things from this command
/usr/bin/webalizer -c /etc/webalizer-augur.conf
Especially if, say, you happen to be root at the time...
I should clarify that the effect of this, on my machine, was to zero out the program "/usr/bin/webalizer". I'm not completely sure why yet.
The city deactivated most of the pedestrian buttons long ago with the emergence of computer-controlled traffic signals, even as an unwitting public continued to push on, according to city Department of Transportation officials. More than 2,500 of the 3,250 walk buttons that still exist function essentially as mechanical placebos, city figures show. Any benefit from them is only imagined.
It seems that most of New York City's intersections are computer-controlled. They have automatic timers, and the value of allowing pedestrians to control them is vastly lower than than the value of keeping traffic smoothly. So the pedestrian lights flash on schedule, and everyone is happy.
Apparently, it's expensive to remove the buttons. So they don't.
That's not the part that bothers me. This is:
There are 750 locations where the buttons actually do work, Mr. Primeggia said. Some of them have been installed more recently, while others are holdovers from two decades ago. The working buttons are only at intersections where the walk signal will never come unless the button is pushed or a car trips the sensor, Mr. Primeggia said. He cited two examples, one at Hicks and Summitt Streets in Brooklyn and the other on Flatbush Avenue just south of the Belt Parkway exit ramp. But other working push buttons are hard to find. A random survey of more than 30 intersections in Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan found one, at Marathon Parkway and 51st Avenue in Little Neck, Queens, that worked.
There are 3250 walk buttons. 2500 of them don't do anything. 750 of them do. There is no visible difference between the sets. There is no clear way to know which one they are. And if it works, it has a 90 second delay.
Interestingly, this problem reminds me of the challenges that public health educators have with safe sex messages. "Most of the people you have sex with don't have a disease. Of the ones who do, you won't always catch it. And of the ones who catch it, you won't know for a couple weeks or months."
Irregular, delayed feedback is an interesting problem. I've heard it suggested that the elevator "door close" is often just as much a fake--or also has a long enough delay to be nearly meaningless
Any other favorite examples?
I don't end up watching TV much these days, between my dissertation work and my--well, not owning a TV. So I was startled to catch up with some of the rebranding which our various commercial sponsors are now interested in.
Quite a while ago, Starbucks started to try to brand itself as a "third place"--the evocative place for hanging out that we stay in after our work day has ended, but before we're ready to go home. Sort of a social place, to match the work and domestic aspects of our lives. This is the model of the British Pub, of course: and its what we strive for when we watch Cheers (set in a bar), or Friends (set in a large communal living room and a coffee shop). To some extent, it's even the third place featured in Seinfeld, when the group gathers at the local cafe to plan, talk, and run into strangers.
It makes sense for Starbucks to do so. They can seel a $2.50 cup of coffee, sure, but they slowly discovered that they had to sell a Starbucks lifestyle to go with it. Otherwise, you might pay $2.25 for the same cup from someone else. The Starbucks lifestyle, of course, means that you can sit down on a large comfy couch, read the Times, and meet interesting new people.
(When I first moved to Irvine, I was chatting with a friend. We met up for coffee at the local Starbucks, and he explained that this had once been his coffeeshop. But he met a girl there, and the relationship had eventually gone sour. And so he had to move to drinking at the other local coffeeshop. You know: as part of the relationship alimony settlement, she got the coffeeshop)
Update 2-28: It has been ever thus. The Economist compares today's coffeehouse to the coffeehouse of 1650.
Back to TV commercials. Denny's now seems to be advertising that they are " a good place to sit and eat." Their commercial isn't about convenience, or about being open at 3 in the morning, but about the sociability. I don't know if I buy it--is Denny's likely to hit Starbucks for a Grand Slam, by letting you buy a midafternoon burger and fries with the same enthusaism that you can get your cofeee?
Students seem to have a good knack for places that are good to sit and eat. Especially if it lets them gossip and work on homework at the same time. When I got to UCI, it had a nearby pricey coffee-shop, a pricey teashop, and a Denny's. The Denny's was almost always empty, at any hour; they closed down a few months after I got to town.
Of course, KFC is trying to convince you that they are "kitchen fresh." So we'll see where all that goes.
Someone mentioned during one of the HCIC talks that car makers often sell cars based not on gas milage, speed, efficeincy--but on the convenience of the cupholder. We heard from Nokia a long discussion of features on the cell phone company side: converting address books! transfering memory sticks! All this was pitched in terms of the out-of-the-box-user experience.
Something about that didn't ring a bell for me, though. I may just not be enough of a cell phone user, but I really don't care too much about the pain of transferring data from cell to cell. Sure, it's annoying--once every two years, for an hour and a boring half.
But the feature that I need, and that I will happily switch phones for, is a phone with a better battery life, better signal quality, and, on the outside, perhaps one that I can bring to Europe inexpensively. Really. The camera is cute, and the GPRS-to-bluetooth is fun for sending email from the airport, but that's not what I'm looking for. Indeed, I look with a bit of suspicion at the phone with the high quality ring synthesiser and the color screen: how much juice are they draining in order to flash me an animated logo at boot up?
But, I think, we've seen a change in the field. I don't see "talk time" advertised on the phone boxes and web sites in the way that it was three or four years ago. Is this because the batteries have gotten so good that we don't care-or is it because the makers have found it doesn't pay to advertise on that?
And why don't they? Is it customer demand, or is that they don't advertise on it because no one else advertises on it, and vice versa?
Perhaps we need several dimensions: There's Shininess, which are features that are slick to demo and easy to advertise. There's Smoothness, which are features that are easy for users to see, but hard to advertise ("hey, check out those cupholders!"). And then there is Strength, which are those more basic features--like actual talk time and --that are both hard to advertise and hard to see.
But these don't actually explain why we don't see advertisements with some guy chatting for six hours at a time: "The new Nokia XXXX lets you chat forever!" After all, we get the "Can you hear me now? Good!" ads, which are marketing on the range and quality of the network. But just barely: as far as I can tell, no one is counter-advertising ("no, our coverage is even better!").
I brought some of this up to Don Norman, who was at the conference. He pointed out a much simpler explanation: you don't advertise on your weakness. No one runs ads saying "Our coverage is terrible." You instead say "our color screen is REALLY vivid." And you don't advertise on it until you are ahead of the others. So if suddenly Nokia comes out with the six month battery life phone, they'll let you know. But until then, the users pretty much have their attention turned away from the weakness, and they buy another charger or two.
Back at HCIC, I saw a talk by a team at NASA Ames. They were discussing their shared whiteboard system; it's used for part of the Mars lander team. Their system is based around shared data spaces that are keyed to the author of the docment, and a set of "interested people." Also, by default, files are named by the date and time of the file.
That is: you can't necessarily easily see the name of a file. But you can find out what type it is (and what data it applies to); you can find out who did it; and you can find out what day it was created.
This is a sort of reductio of my dissertation. The interface is nothing but people and times. I'm curious to see--as the work develops--how they analyze this information and what they find about that interface. However, it seems from their first pass that the users weren't working to subvert the system: they were pretty happy with indexing by this fairly sparse data.
...sociologists have been content to leave the succession of events in time to the historians some of whom as their part of the bargain have been prepared to relinquish the structural properties of social systems of the sociologists. But this kind of separation has no natural justification with the recovery of temporality as integral to social theory: history and sociology become methodologically indistinguishable. -Giddens (1979). Central Problems in Social Theory. Quoteed in The Rhythms of Society (Young and Schuller, ed), pg. 5
Besides this notes own merits, I tend to think that this is a shot in what seems to be a greater battle, one in which the various observational social sciences find more value in crossover than in separation. My work pulls in bits of sociology, psychology, organizational behavior, and occasionally anthropology.
Am attending a talk at UCI's "Social Network Brown Bag" seminar.
Mapping Networks. George Tita, Katherine Faust.
(George gave a talk last year, if I recall correctly, on maps of social networks in Los Angeles barrios--specifically looking at how gang territory and alliances were negotiated over space. In general, he was noticing that natural barriers--like freeways and major roads--were strong demarcations of networks. Groups across these barriers were less likely to either fight or to make alliances. It occurs to me, now, that it might be interesting to look back at his data in terms of tempo--that one might look at the rhythm, or approximate frequency, of interactions in terms of distance. And look at Rick Grannis: "“The Importance of Trivial Streets: Residential Streets and Residential Segregation.” American Journal of Sociology 103: 6, 1530-1564" for a similar perspective.)
* Interested in variations in networks over space.
* Space matters (Tobler's first law?) in the development of social ties
* Festinger, Schachter, and Back; Butts; Huckfeldt and Baybeck.
George's field site is in Hollenbeck: heavily Latino, a little bit poor. Lots of gangs, a lot of gang-driven crime. And most families have been there for a long time.
In particular, they are interested in egocentric networks. Which makes me happy already.
Their data collection is ego-centric networks and the characteristics of the alters.. Thus, when they collected the set, they asked each person what the interactions of the alters were. ("Know each other? Don't know each other?") They also collected their addresses, and the addresses of the alters. (Take THAT, Orkut mappers.)
Fairly straight forward name generator from standard social surveys--plus the question "who are you cool with because you want to stay on their good side."
An interesting challenge: their inteview asks (among other things): Living With but Not Married; Spouse; Boyfriend/Girlfriend. In contrast to "children" and "parent." And, well, they've found that their interviewees seem to come up with--on the average--2 or 3 people: a girlfriend and a spouse, for example. They suspect this is probably a translation problem.
68% of alters live in Hollenbeck. You get up to 85% within a several mile radius of hollenbeck. (And you don't get any hits in Santa Monica or Beverly Hills.)
Data! They've got (initially) cool data! Social networks (that kinda look like mine) superposed over geography. Basically, using Arcview to draw networks.
* "Loca", who had moved (by about 10 blocks) about a year ago. Still refers to her old address as her neighborhood (and thinks of her gang as has community.) But interestingly, all the social support questions came up with her new neighborhood.
* There are virtually no ties between this (Mexican) community and the slightly-west bordering (Salvadoran) community.
* "Who do you avoid" is only local people (unsurprisingly)--there's no reason to avoid people who live far away.
And so that leaves them with LOTS of future work. Euclidean distance isn't necessraily as good a measure as travel time distance, for example.
Carter Butts just suggested the idea of mapping networks against "sociological gradients." It doesn't make sense to compare geography of New York city blocks against 150 feet in Ohio: instead, one can draw a gradient of population, or of "social impendance" (the cultural distinction between the Mexican and Salvadoran communities, for example). Apparently, he did some work on a similar topic for his dissertation. (This page is one of his working papers; ignore the inccorect author.) He suggests that for many networks, this sort of gradient can account for most of the internal network structure.
Social distance and space are heavily theorized, but are often not backed up with real data. Lots of the audience is very excited about seeing distance correlated--for example--"who do you fight?" After all, you don't fight people who are VERY far away--and you don't fight people who are immediately close.
Ok, this just led us to getting the idea of tying
The other day in a class, I found us throwing back and forth a lot of theory. I don't think it was intentional; we were all just trying to grapple with a phenomenon ("Why do people blog"?) and wanted to find sets of reasonable explanations.
This isn't the full list of theories that people like to use in CSCW. But it's a fair chunk of the dominant CMC (that's "Computer Mediated Communication") theories. I think it's useful (for me!) to keep around.
PeterMe asks what Big Industrial Research is for: after all, he points out, lots of innovation comes from little companies and pairs of clever people putting stuff together--while MSR brought us Clippy.
I've certainly heard a number of cynical takes on the role of research labs:
There are more optimistic flavors: that having a research lab encourages innovation in a company that is large enough to start slowing down. Or that having a research lab means that you have interesting internal presentations on the state of the art that can help drive other development.
But let's assume it's all about the product.
Peter skips over several important transitions: how does the research get motivated? how does the research get transitioned into a product?
The latter question may be what actually kills research more often than other times: Bell Labs, famous for getting smart people together to do clever things, never solved that problem; neither did Xerox PARC (inventors of the mouse, the GUI, ethernet, and more cool stuff than you can imagine).
Times are changing a little. Research is now usually forced to orient their products at the company. For example, I know that some Microsoft researchers have explained that their own time is paid for by the company out of research funds, but any developers and hardware they get need to be provided by product groups that are willing to invest.
At IBM, to the best of my knowledge, research teams get some seed money from the company, but then need to contact product groups for matching funds: $1 from a product group will be matched by another dollar from the company.
This leaves groups in a variety of positions. One team at IBM had held onto the Little Red Dot long after it stopped being research because they needed the income stream from the laptop group.
The Remail team at IBM pushed hard against the Notes group to get money and interest in Remail. They succeeded, and built a working prototype, which they passed on to dev. I believe it's scheduled to be a product in a year or two.
Other groups keep a mix of 2-year horizon and 5-year horizon researchers around, trying to balance tomorrow's software with farther-future stuff.
This seems like where research really can shine: sure, it has a lot of failures. But it can also think in ways that small-business innovators can't. Peter listed a bunch of clever tools put together by small teams and innovators--but they don't have the access to large organizations to build big things.
And I think there's room for both. We need CmdrTaco to write up Slashcode (small), and we need someone to provide a few dozen terabytes for Marc to archive and cross-reference Usenet (medium) and we need someone with chip fab plants and machine rooms to build little red dots and advanced graphic cards.
This is the story about how I worked with the people who made Clippy's rotund uncle, and how Clippy was almost--but not quite--stillborne.
(It was inspired by the next blog entry, the discussion on MSR and the general role of research).
I worked for a summer--in '97--as an intern at Microsoft. It was a geography/mapping group: they made MapPoint, and Encarta World Atlas, and similar. I was on the "Virtual Globe" project, which had been Encarta World Atlas and would change names again in future years.
Our group was a bunch of Microsoft techies, plus a manager--formerly the lead singer for a fairly prominent band, whose name escapes me right now--and an imported bunch of British gentlemen. They had been part of a buyout; Microsoft had bought their mapping software--and the company with it. But they were off working on driving maps. Different project. (There were three projects: the globe, the nation-level maps that got you the scenic routes along highways, and the city-level maps that got you to 23rd street the fast way. The latter two, of course, would eventually merge.)
My important role was to implement the find button. Not the database search code, but the find button itself. And the distance button. I think there might have been a few other buttons, but I don't recall them offhand. I also ran the weekly overnight build, prepared the weekly gold master and slept on the floor in the office a few times.
Never let it be said that interns don't do cool stuff.
1996 brought the Encarta World Atlas, which had a
We will not comment on the other small projects around us, like Microsoft Julia Child.
When I came to the group, they told me that people loved EWA, and hated Cosmo. Virtual Globe was going to feature a world without Cosmo, without the weird navigation tool, and a few other feature upgrades.
Early in the summer, if I recall, we heard the good news from the Office team. They had heard about how very cool Cosmo was, and they had the Q&A system that would sit behind it and make for a great user experience. Like magic, it would appear and help you out. While Encarta had hired one artist to give Cosmo a few dozen expressions, Office was going all out and creating lots of figures in lots of styles with lots of personalities.
We sent a delegation to Office. The delegation's basic message was "No! What, are you people crazy?"
Office was a Very Big organization. They wanted Clippy. We were a small product group.
Clippy made it.
Virtual Globe was a very good product, even without Cosmo. Office became thej software that you loved to hate. I don't think office software ever had been a stand-up comedian's routine punchline ("Now let's talk about WordPerfect. Control-Shift-F7, anyone?") before Clippy came out.
(I wrote this during HCIC, watching a speaker talk about a collaborative system.)
There's a certain ethical constraint on building collaborative and social systems that I've been thinking about for a while. This happens in MMPORGS, YASNS, MUDs and MOOs, email lists, and similar.
Researchers become very interested in building systems, and we study adoption a great deal: how many users can we get, how fast can we get them, and how many hours can we get them to use the system? Those are all good things: the CSCW paper that does wonderfully is the one where the speaker stands up and says, "It was more addictive then crack; we have the entire english-speaking world using it; and they never log off."
Unfortuantely, the next line is--all too often--"then we completed the six week study and turned it off. What a wonderful lesson we learned!"
It happened several times that I've seen recently: CHIPLACE, for example, was an online site for allowing the CHI community to meet up and chat. It was a success--and it was shut down after that year's experiment ended. Fortunately, it was adopted by someone else, who was able to put it up.
I know that danah has talked about this before, but I'm back to thinking about the responsibility of designers to their users. The server resource may be expensive, or require hand-management, or cost per user: issues that are inexpensive during an NSF- or organizationally-funded project, but a big deal after the project ends. (My officemate ran a MUD for part of his dissertation research; he seems to have a critical mass now. He's left it up--but there's a lingering question: he graduates this summer. What happens to his MUD then?)
I guess I feel that there's a new sort of reseach ethics here to consider. Just as a medical experiment can't abandon its users midway ("enjoy the withdrawal, folks!"), neither ought a social experiment. But the reverse is a problem, both in the medical and the social fields: "Yes, we had you for a year, we showed a significant improvement; we now end the experiment and wait a few years for FDA approval."
I sincerely don't know what to advocate here. Am I asking designers not to build social services? Not really. We learn a lot from them, and I build them myself--although I do tend to try to make them decentralized, if possible, so that users can hang onto them at the end if they want to.
And for studies that don't have that nice feature? It would be nice to be thinking from the beginning about a way that a user can adopt the system. Don't build it over your hyper-confidential technology; make it something that the community can--for a few hundred dollars--re-use and repurpose. Allow a volunteer user to come in as an administrator (as Jack does). Put up the server code online, or make it available to your users.
This is a wonderful advantage to being software people, rather than medical people. A doctor can't send people home with a lifetime supply of an experiemntal medicine--but porting a server to a desktop isn't too bad.
There have been a few recent notes on a new x-ray technique that, apparently, stops at the skin. They use this to get a precise trace of everything the subject is carrying or wearing. Needless to say, this sounds to me like a reality TV show.
Concerned user-advocate folks--that's me, and a bunch like me--get nervous that, well, a really good x-ray image that stops at the skin is exactly the product advertised in the back of my old Boy Scout Magazines, and we never, ever planned to use it for scientific investigations. It had something more to do with getting rid of pesky clothes.
Clever designers, then, figured out a way to blur the skin level into a more generic shape, while not losing information about the objects that are being held or carried. Pretty clever, very useful. Sounds like a win.
Apparently, from what I've been hearing, there's a surprising second-order effect in the development process: even though the blurred version is just as good for security, it LOOKS blurred, and feels, therefore, "insecure." So customers--both the people they test it on, and the agencies--are apparently asking to restore the details (no link to J*n*t or the super bowl here!) to give a more secure image.
That's why a I have cooked up, with a little help...
THE SECURITY CHANNEL.
AirSecurityCam--the hot pay-per-minute website that Airport Safety has successfully used to fund their development of ever more secure websites--is now moving to premium television.
Does this mean AirSecurityCam.gov will go down? Absolutely not! AirSecurityCam.gov will continue to operate as its continued citizen-intervention security website! You'll still be able to do the exciting work of a volunteer air transportation security person: you'll still see the nude forms of customers passing through the x-ray, and you'll still be able to save our nation from the dangers of airport-bound terrorists. When you take over an AirSecurityCam, you can still point and click your way to a safer America, for the low price of 1c per minute!
But AirSecurityCam is now coming to it's own premium cable station. Daytime, the station will feature the blurred forms that subtly suggest figures; night time, the Security Channel will move to the popular classic look.
Look for our contests, including the $50,000 prize "Spot the Gun" contest: be the first to identify the make, model, and exact carrier of one of thirty-four guns, and win!
Also, every evening from 7-9 are our special guest stars! This week, look to appearances from the stars of "Charlie's Angels 4" and "The L Word". And Wednesday is cooking night: this week, at 9 pm, we cook in x-rays with Emeril While we watch how cooking looks in low-power x-rays, he uses a portable high-power x-ray gun to sear the meat--locking in the moisture for extra taste!
Also look for our special appearance with the Lord of the Rings Special with Gollum: "What's he got in his pocketses, I wonder?"
7-10 AM: The Morning show: today in security and airport weather
10 AM-1 PM: East Coast special.
Wake up with the city that never sleeps
1-4 PM: Midwest and Mountains.
Ski-bunnies and river bums; gingham and mormons;
does deep-dish pizza pass security?
4-7 PM: West Coast.
Don't you wish they all could be California girls?
7-9 PM: Friends of the TSA.
Guest stars show off at major airports
and in our special x-ray studio
9-10 PM: World's Most Dangerous Security Episodes!
Catch the excitement!
10 PM-12 PM: Late Night! with Special Agent K.
12-3 AM: Risky Looks of the Day
3-7 AM: Up All Night--with Security Cam and International Updates
Call your local cable operator and sign up for The Security Channel.
Found while trolling around the internet...
So sit down -- and listen to me
No one wants see their product become ancient history
BEFORE you start rushing to build those interfaces
your best bet is make a set :: of simple use cases
(To cover my graph theoretic side, check out MC:NP's Algorithm of Love).
I was walkin down the street just thinkin bout maths
And like Djikstra I was walkin by the shortest path
Suddenly I was distracted from my calculator
By a girl I had spotted in my heads-up radar
I'm going to vote for everyone involved to keep their day jobs.
In the last few days, I've gotten a lot of emails about social networks. My brother, for example, just sent me a link to a New York Times article about the business aspects of networks, while a friend from the east coast sent me an article about the security aspects of networks.
I fall into neither camp.
In some sense, I feel like we've explored a lot of that space already: I played games of "who slept with whom" and "Jewish geography" long before Friendster. The computer version is cool, but not unusual to me.
Similarly, it's pretty interesting to see security analyses, but not unusual. Network analysts have been collecting data on people's networks of various sorts for years.
My own interest is in something a little more unusual. What I am asking what can knowing about my social network do for me? It's an odd question: the naive answer is "very little": I already know who my friends are, don't I?
I claim that the information is not only rich and evocative, it's meaningful, and a useful form of communication.
Networks give me a useful way of talking about stuff, and a good way of organizing data: my email archives, my file system, my buddy lists. Why should I have to manually solve contact and social organization problems when I can feed them a network, and let the applications make that information available to me appropriately?
This stance means that there are certain things that just don't really interest me. I understand that my software project--with very little tweaking--might be used by a crazed manager ("you! you should talk to Bob more!") or a thoughtful consultant.
But that's not the part of the space I think needs to be explored. There are plenty of people out there to talk to the security folks. There's fewer of us, I think, who just want to make information visible to the people who use it each day.
But as the popularity of such sites has taken off, the big question for investors in new technologies is whether social networking sites can ever make a lot of money by connecting friends of friends in mini-networks of trust, whether for dating, business or maintaining acquaintances. For many, the buzz over social networking sounds a lot like vintage Internet hyperbole from the late 1990's.
from Cory Doctorw's new book, "Eastern Standard Tribe"
"I'm a user-experience consultant. My coworkers are all paranoid about a deadline."
She rolled her eyes. "Not another one. God. Look, we go out for dinner, don't say a word about the kerb design or the waiter or the menu or the presentation, OK? OK? I'm serious."
Art solemnly crossed his heart. "Who else do you know in the biz?"
"My ex. He wouldn't or couldn’t shut up about how much everything sucked. He was right, but so what? I wanted to enjoy it, suckitude and all."
Ok, Cory's got one of the major diseases of my field down pat. But I don't actually agree with Cory's belief that user experience people are on the verge of making large quantities of money...
The HCIC conference's theme was "off the desktop," and so a lot of applications were discussed for day-to-day uses, and for ordinary people. When you deal with people, you deal with end-user programming, and so one group was presenting a scripting language for a communication system.
During their talk, someone used the phrase, "the device script meta-designer"--and then clarified it, a moment later: "the mom."
(This entry was written on a non-wired computer, during the HCIC conference.)
I just saw a talk in which the system was using a touch board that--they thought--had been modified to support several people. Unfortunately, it can only handle one touch at a time: if two users pressed at the same time, the system would kind of register a point somewhere in the middle.
Now, I've seen this before at a smartboard, and I've seen it fail before. But they see a serious disadvantage of the system as the fact that users need to derive--on their own--rules about how the board works.
The people talking about the system have built a long, complex set of alternatives: converted electronic chessboards linked to cameras; RF transmitters; etc. But this seems like an awful lot of work around a known-to-be-simple problem.
Why not use a more explicit "teaching" moment? It can be subtle--perhaps as the board starts up, it encourages users to "place a house here. good! now place a house here. good! now click here. oops, you just got two clicks. you didn't mean to do that, did you?" Heck, turn the averaging thing into a FEATURE: "if you want to click halfway in between two people, just have both press at the same time."
Now, that's not actually a feature anyone would ever use. But by training users to use it and play with it, they will be more ready to handle it when they see the failure occur. Rather than make it an implicit learning situation, why not make it explicit?
It turns out that the new system has enough odd features that they need such a teaching mode anyway. So they train users--here's how to click. Here's how to move an object. Why not allow them to learn how to not click poorly, and save yourselves the redesign? (In the new model, they can only have 15 pieces per board region and have to be aligned over orthogonal corners, due to the fact that they've built it over a chessboard.)
A year ago, I lived snow for the first time in quite a while: I had a winter internship at IBM Research/Cambridge, and enjoyed the experience of commuting to and from work in falling white stuff.
Now I'm in colorado for a conference... and Denver is having Denver-typical weather. So this image is pure self-indulgence. Readers from the rest of the country are forgiven for rolling their eyes.
I expect not to have any access to an internet-connected computer from the mountains, where this annual conference is held. Back on Sunday evening.
from "Sylvie and Bruno Concluded"
"That's another thing we've learned from your Nation," said Mein Herr, "map-making. But we've carried it much further than you. What do you consider the largest map that would be really useful?"
"About six inches to the mile."
"Only six inches!"exclaimed Mein Herr. "We very soon got to six yards to the mile. Then we tried a hundred yards to the mile. And then came the grandest idea of all! We actually made a map of the country, on the scale of a mile to the mile!"
"Have you used it much?" I enquired.
"It has never been spread out, yet," said Mein Herr: "the farmers objected: they said it would cover the whole country, and shut out the sunlight! So we now use the country itself, as its own map, and I assure you it does nearly as well.
Google put up its 2003 Zeigeist in late December, but that doesn't stop me from commenting today.
I like seeing different sorts of patterns in different contexts, and the query charts are a great example. I begin to see patterns, or at least a few detectable notions: things like anticipation, sudden events, and retrsopect.
This, for example, is a chart of the number of queries for "Carnaval". It looks like the curve leans a little left--perhaps more people were planning on Carnaval than were interested in finding information about it afterward.
In contrast, this is a chart of queries for "Congestion charge", which London instituted in early February. Note that there was aniticipation up front--and then a steady drumbeat afterward.
(The short bump rhythm is a Google constant: more people search on weekdays than weekends.)
This is strongly event-driven: there's little before or after, but a great deal of interest right AT the occasion of the Columbia disaster.
Last, this is an entirely new event: no one was searching for SARS before it hit the radar..
I've been building a social network application at the core of my dissertation. While I've had a (semi)stable version of a complete package up for a while--one that reads messages into a database and shows views of the output, it's hard to get that one going.
It takes somethng like half an hour to scrape all the headers into the database. I'm working on improving that code, but I don't expect it to get much better.
So as a preview of how things look, I've put up an application pointing to my own data. I've loosely anonymized all the names--so you can just make up the stories around them, if you like.
Check it out:
DEMO of Soylent
(Warning: 1 MB jar download, followed by a few megabytes of SQL query, followed by more information when you click on a name. Fast, it isn't.)
Let's take a moment to figure out how this image works. Remember that all this is pretty new; the interface changes frequently.
This display is a view of my email interactions with one other person. I am said to be "interacting" when I send them a message; I also think about connections, which are the people to whom I have carbon-copied a mesage.
When the UI is up, you'll see something like this four-panel view. The left side has a list of people (names encrypted); in this case, I've chosen the fifth down (Hnrvng VKXW). The top panel is scrollable, and tells me that I've exchanged 522 messages with Hnrnvng.
The second panel shows the frequency of, in order:
In the bottom panel, you can see (and click, a little bit) the three people with whom I collaborated most with Hnrvng: "Qqoxwujs", "Ncuo", and "Qcxp". The color of the tie gives a rough idea of its age: yellow is recent, red is old. That is, it's been quite a while since I connected Ncuo to Hnrvng (I co-TA'd with Ncuo when I first arrived at UCI); some time later, I worked with Qqoxwujs and Hrnvng more recently (when we collaborated on a paper with the three of us as co-authors); most recently, Qcxp was involved in some of my bureaucratic hurdles. (You'll note that Qcxp has a prominent spot at the top of the display; he has been a major figure in my work life.)
Got it? Great. Here's a screen shot of a more complex image, with a person who has been involved in several different social contexts...
I'm resolutely keeping this blog non-political. (I'll tell you what I think, if you like--at length, and loudly, if you ask.) But that's not the point.
But if you're still out there thinking that electronic voting, as currently implemented and concieved is a good idea, just ... don't.
Alameda County officials still don't know why the computer program failed on election night. In fact, they only discovered the malfunction because they could compare the paper absentee ballots the software was counting to the computer's tally. The rest of the county's voters cast electronic ballots. Nor were election workers aware at the time that their touch-screen machines were running unauthorized Diebold software in violation of California law, as a state investigation later discovered.
Electronic Voting's Hidden Perils
An analysis by the Information Security Institute suggests that voters could cast their ballots repeatedly and poll workers could tamper with the ballots -- all without detection -- on the system, which is already in place in several states.