Thursday, January 19, 2006

Nighttime Nibbles

I'm a great fan of the Blue flag scheme to indicate clean beaches and it seems that the EU is going to revised the rules for stricter criteria using scientific research to evaluate the conditions of rivers, lakes and seasides. As both a swimmer and a kayaker I'm delighted, given the states of some of our rivers.

Worldchanging has a couple of interesting postings up with the future possibility of mass producing vaccines from the tobacco plant. The kernel of the idea is to use a virus to introduce specific genes to the tobacco plant which then cause the production of plague antibodies. A tobacco plant treated this way then becomes a factory producing large quantities of the antibodies within a short timespan. The current technique discussed is even more encouraging as the researchers have found how to trigger the production of specific plague antigens. Moreover, the technique allowed the researchers to trigger the production of very specific forms of the plague antigens. Antigens are substances that stimulates an immune response which normally is the production of antibodies. The other article is back to that old chestnet of computer games for campaigning. In this case the idea of the game is to challenge players to evaluate their relationships with consumption. The game is called Disaffected! and it is a spoof on the normal working life of employees at FedEx Kinko’s, its freely available for download in both Mac and Windows versions.

The latest GOTO Media newsletter is online for all those interested in Interaction Design and the latest web rumblings. This month's edition has some nice articles and a good reading list under the article "Preparing for Web 2.0: A Software Design Reading List". On the more programmatic side of the house we have a nice blog post from the Lisp guru Bill Clementson on why Lisp is good at getting the inital commerical advantage for startups even if it is phased out when the companies are bought out by the big boys such as Yahoo or Sony.

On other news tomorrow is our workshop on Qualitative Research Methods and no I still don't have or don't know where to get a ticket for the match...

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Interesting follow ups

If you read one programming blog entry today make it "Lisp is sin" and in a very pleasant read points out why Lisp and more generally functional programming needs to be taught at undergraduate levels in Universities. Whilst I think personas make a great design tool, I'd hate on the other hand to be classified as Mort, Elvis or Einstein. For fun you should read The Apple Product Cycle.

Perhaps the perfect Coffee Machine

Amy Grahan got back to me with a link to a newer article on her concept of search releases. She pointed out that she also meant for the search releases to be applicable to journalists. Her lastest blogging has comments from the UK and at least on this side of the pond its unfortunate but most journalists still need to be drip feed press releases and I do know this from first and many second hand accounts. Her points on leveraging the medium and combining metadata, search optimised stuctures and layouts are all valid. I'll quote somebody I know on her final point about relationships between PR and journalistic people. Some years back a distinguished Irish journalist was bemoaning the fact that his brilliant young daughter had taken to working in the PR industry like a duck to water. “PR people are full of bullshit,” he told her. Her response was swift: “Dad, no matter how far down the ladder PR people are, we will always be at least one rung higher than journalists.” That was written by John Saunders in last weekends Sunday Business Post, John is about the only person I even vaguely know in PR and he's been there and good at it for quite a long while.

Random Rants

Over at the Dossing Times we have a link to a very comprehensive report on the myth of the Scandinavian social model and why the Irish model of a "active welfare state" with aspects taken from continental Europe and mixed with some Anglo-Saxon liberal economy can create the ongoing boom that we're currently experiencing. The report itself is a bit liberal with its statistical interpretation of the current prevailing economic conditions but they are hard figures if a little coloured to shown their arguement (which in fairness doesn't do justice as to why really Ireland has worked so well) so who am I to argue it missed the core driver of regional innovation by collaborating state and technical communities governed by a decentralised set of state institutions or for the interested (see Sean O'Riain's book, "The Politics of High-Tech Growth - Developmental Network States in the Global Economy"). I'm going to disagree with the lads comments on Irish people not accepting the model culturally as it simply won't be accepted within the ego centric mindset of the average Irish punter given it would mean reaching deep into their pockets to pay for the higher quality of services. I work with three Swedes and one Dane in my group with ages ranging from 25-50 and have gotten a good view of their take on Ireland, given that one can back to UL again to study and brought a friend obviously Limerick has at least as much to offer as Sweden. I think the central reason why the Scandinavian model would fail in Ireland agrees with the lads on the point of our culture but specifically with our acceptance of no or low accountability standards, benchmarking, PPARS, numerous other scandals would cause uproar in many civilised countries but here its just another day on Kildare street...

Piaras Kelly is catching on to the fact that Irish politicans are getting web savy .... hhhmmm I think the first time I implemented a Councillor's website was for the second last local elections ... Really people even Councillor's are aware of the web and ... shock horror .. the Data protection act. One comment on the blog was spot on and talks about poverty and the digital divide. Gridlinked, To Hold Infinity and many other science fantasy books show situations where technology is highly advanced but in the hands of only a few so they in one sense appear as magicians to neanderthals, I agree I'm jumping to the far end of the scale but with IBM now explicitly removing gene screening from its recruitment policies only time will tell. Don't think this is a political issue ... well tune into Changesurfer radio and hear the debates we'll be having in the future here in Ireland.

A new little piece on why we should dump the old press release and start creating search releases where the release is not targeted at journalists (unless they are specifically your audience) but for the real partners/investors/customers, etc. The idea is to design your content but also to include the related metadata and where the presentation and its structure is specifically optimised for its findability. I suppose its a logical progress of applying SEO techniques to your material to improve its dissemination to your desired audiences.

I somehow missed the fact that Tom Raftery has started a podcast series called Thought Leaders and it focuses on blogging, technology and online marketing/communication strategies from some very interesting and capable people so check it out.

The latest ACM Interactions has a nice little article on some experience with paper/low-fidelity prototyping "Interface in Form- Paper and Product Prototyping for Feedback and Fun" (check out Synder's book - Paper Prototyping for more) and a really nice look at HCI where its come from as well as where its at called "Is HCI Homeless? In Search of Inter-Disciplinary Status". On a more scary note, Yoga is back today and I've not done any astanga since ....... d'oh

Monday, January 16, 2006

More ramblings

Worldchanging has again brightened my day and gives hope that at least some people are thinking about the future of this little planet with "GridWise" which talks is yet another project seeking to combine local power generation and pricing as the new way forward in power generation / power pricing models. There is also a nice one on "Green Marketing and the '4/40 Gap' which talks about using advertising to get over the problem where 4% of consumers buy eco-products that 40% say that would buy them.

Joel has two interesting posts this week on "How to Ship Anything" and a nice reading list for those interested in software managment. Reading the first one reminds me that I still have a Zebra printer from the Tellabs fire sale .. auction that is, that I should really find a use for and well it looks like I might now....

On the more technical side we have a nice one on Mac OS X's launchd (say bye to cron and init!), the latest changes to Ruby 1.9. From the interaction design side of the house we have a very good summary on redesigning a UI for a new purpose from Boxes and Arrows and you might also want to read HTML Wireframes and Prototypes.

Finally spare a thought for many residents in New Orleans who may not be allowed to rebuild their shattered homes.

Roundup and just busy

A big quiet here on the blog front lately due to a bit of an overload with work. On the plus side I've also found the time to get a little PhD stuff done. I'm about ready with a paper for ICAD on concurrent auditory icons and in the process I've had some good fun getting back to statistics and R (R is a really sweet open source stats package). A big thanks to Ben for the stats advice as it was really helpful. The PhD is still another fair bit away but its all coming together nicely.

A nice collection of images from Nasa and its space telescopes. A new study is report that the Iraq war will cost the US over $2 trillion dollars when the long term healthcare costs for the 16,000 US soldiers are taken into account. Whilst we in Ireland are not going to have any centers for public inquiry due to over zealous government interventions into any such organisation, one can envy the US based Center for Public Integrity. After the current trends in Virtual Economies isn't reassuring to see that even the IRS are considering taxing your network gaming or at least the earnings derived from virtual trading in online multiplayer games.

Chickens, chickens, chickens .... This bird flu thing is really brewing up a news storm so in case of it hitting the shores of the Emerald Isle you might want to think about creating your own little flu pre-pack. You can keep an eye on the Avian Flu's progress on Google Earth and read more from Nature's Declan Butler on this mapping and tracking process. Or if the Avian Flu isn't scary enough how about abrupt climate change scenarios ?

Using Tk GUI library and Lisp is now possible using Ltk (click here for a nice short intro). ITConversations has a nice podcast on "What is a Sustainable Business for Data?" which has a mixed bunch of biz and open source people discussing scenarios and uses for mapping data.

A Information campaign is a "Offensive and defensive information operations that convey true, unclassified information about military operations and the information environment to external audiences." according to Lieutenant Colonel Garry J. Beavers in the Nov-Dec 05 issue of Military Review (REF - Beavers, G.J, Defining The Information Campaign, pp 80-82, Nov-Dev 2005, Military Review Journal). Two more articles of interest from the same journal are "To Create a Stable Afghanistan: Provisional Reconstruction Teams, Good Governance, and a Splash of History" and "Changing the Army for Counterinsurgency Operations", both are by serving British officers and provide a glimpse from the military mindset into the Afghani and Iraqi situations. It was that kind of weekend after watching Jarhead, which to be fair tried but failed to follow in the footsteps of Full Metal Jacket or Apocalypse Now. My comment on it would be to rent it on DVD and skip it in the cinema.

In the various, more technical journal papers we have "Improved Port Knocking with Strong Authentication" by deGraaf et al which still shows that port knocking is still a far cry from a secure mechanism even with their current additions. There was also a nice paper on "Work Domain Analysis and Ecological Interface Design for Hydropower System Monitoring and Control" which talks about work on a new interface design for a hydroelectric power plant. Hhhhmmm back to Lisp for another while and hoping to get around to some play with those Nokia tablets now that Ubuntu is working on my computer but I still prefer my OS X thank you very much!