a pick-me-up

Thursday, 26 May 2011 07:12 pm
A capella flash mobs are awesome. A friend linked to this one ("Heathrow T5") last week, and I've kept it open in a tab since then. About 80 seconds in is my favourite part, an opera singer named George Ikediashi covering "I am a Passenger" by Iggy Pop. I found this "making of" video which feels like it captures the exuberance of it, more than the polished end-product, which is, of course, a commercial.

And now that I have posted this, I can close that tab.

Back to your regularly scheduled Thursday evening!

Midnight posty

Thursday, 8 April 2010 12:18 am
My brain is going a mile a minute, which is frustrating because it's well after midnight. I'm thinking about: work, upcoming visits (from a cousin, and hopefully to Ithaca), and random this-and-that.

One theme to the random is "the web as open-source organizer of ideas"...

I know lots of people who blog ideas with the hope people will jump on them. I do, and occasionally I browse websites devoted to the topic. Halfbakery was cool, but it seems mostly moribund these days. A friend pointed me at a brand-new site hosted by Reddit called SomebodyMakeThis, which made me smile. Seeing it reminded me long ago (2003? gawd!) I had posted this page of ideas. Most of which are embarrassingly quaint. "email with tags"- sure sounds like gmail; "fuzzy GPS via cell towers"- hey, google did that too, for gmaps on my phone; "video driving directions so you know what you're looking for"- I'd rather have street view, thanks google! And in 2003 I didn't anticipate GPS devices adding 3-d views (a feature I've never particularly liked, it turns out.)

On the other hand, I would still like to have "Email-sorting software." I could appreciate a gmail-sifter to find patterns in my mail: suggesting new labels, perhaps identifying things I consistently leave in the inbox instead of filing (and for what reasons?) In the end, I don't think the sifter, itself, would come up with the best patterns on its own: this would need to generalize the patterns as rules, which you could share with others, and collectively figure out which rules are useful.
And, somehow, not build Clippy for Gmail.

My apologies if reading this has put you to sleep. There may be a conservation of awakeness at work.



Friday, 29 January 2010 10:40 pm

No, I think Billy Bob Thorton isn't a likeness. So, gang, who do I look like: Chiang Kai-Shek? Or Tony Danza?
I want 43things.com crossed with a project-management tool. Crossed with delicious.com social-tagging. A crowd-sourced life coach.

Does anything like this exist already? Is the idea insane?

[The following won't make much sense if you haven't looked at 43things. Check 'm out; I'll wait here.]

What I'm picturing:

You're prompted for a goal you're working toward. (Such as "Learn Japanese.")

Then you're prompted to supply a list of things (sub-projects) you need to do before you can complete the goal. You can type in a list, and there is a pre-populated list aggregated from other people working toward the same goal; which you can tick "Need to do this" or "Already did this" (or, "what? this has nothing to do with my goal. Bury it.")

Then you go into each of the sub-projects, and fill in what you need to do to complete that goal. Also pre-populated with other peoples' suggestions. And so on, until you've mapped out a tree of the concrete details between where you are and your goal. Ideally, the terminal nodes are either already done, or "Next Actions" you could take right now (in the right environment; more on that in a bit).

Alternatively, you can start at the beginning, making a numbered list of steps. The site can present your project in either direction- detail-first or big-picture first. The problem with a numbered list of steps is it can artificially limit the order you do some tasks- so this site has to make it easy to rearrange tasks and look at your goal in many different ways. (Some folks do this with mind maps; I'd hope this system could switch from entirely text to a visual mind map as well).

A task might also need to specify a context in which it makes sense to do it; necessary conditions that are environmental, not items you do. ("At the office", "After September 1st".) With that addition, we've built something based on "Getting Things Done". But there's the social aspect, which is lacking from GTD, and a big part of my motivation for describing this.

Projects and sub-projects could have "testimonials" from people who successfully finished them,
as 43things.com currently has - such as "I did this and it was easier than I thought. The key thing was..." "achieving this made me feel ... " and "people who are doing this are also doing ..."

I like this idea, though it doesn't go far enough. Psychology tells us if you want to achieve something difficult, you will need to break it down. And the further you go into detail, the more likely you are to succeed. I saw this when I was making phone-calls for Obama: they had us ask "do you know when you're going to vote tomorrow? Do you have a plan for how you'll get there?" and the claim was that asking these questions would improve turnout by 25%. So, yeah. Motivating a task by breaking it down into little pieces is powerful.

But I want more. Once you have a recipe for achieving a big goal, not only could it build you a map to get you there; it could also aggregate for many people. As I said previously, it could suggest sub-projects from others. Things you hadn't fully thought out yet; an intervening step you missed; or different options for doing the same thing.

With aggregation, you can browse. Find out what other goals are made possible by your goal. This is a choose-your-own-adventure for REAL LIFE things people have done. And where that eventually got them. This is a powerful motivator, I think: in addition to breaking down your project into sub-projects, it's a step-by-step story of other peoples' successes.

So. Finding patterns. One example: if you spent a bit of time checking off things you've done, it could list you some easy "new projects" characterized by few additional steps. Sure, lots of them won't appeal; but I imagine some could be inspiring surprises. And building the list of accomplishments could make you feel pretty good about things you've done and forgotten, or mentally discounted as unimportant.

Some large amount of 43things seems to involve doing something repetitive, like "go to the gym three times a week." For that, the social motivator could be a little calendar where you tick off the days you met your goal, and show a little public "43 weeks successful at goal" progress-marker. There are certainly lots of tasks that just involve bearing down and doing it; perhaps all those websites to track peoples' progress at exercise or whatever are relevant here.

A bit about how realistic this is. It's possible the aggregation would be impossible. At least there are these gotchas: how to accurately match up the same goal with slightly different text; and whether all goals with the same text are actually the same goal. Perhaps the matching is made on both the text of the goal, and what kinds of sub-goals it has- it can track and differentiate multiple goals with the same text, depending on whether aggregates of people pick certain sub-goals. (I'm thinking of "Proposal to Partner." Either you toss the sub-tasks "get on one knee" and "buy a ring" or you toss "determine full spec" and "book conference-room." Maybe that works?... At least it gives the user an amusing moment when they see the suggestions.)

[Edit to add: I forgot something important. Many steps aren't binary "did this" or "have to do this." There has to be a state of "working on this." So you can see a view of "what am I currently working on?" This isn't exactly the same as "this is a sub-project with sub-items and some are done." Maybe it's close, though. Perhaps if you ticked "I started this" and there aren't any sub-items, it could warn you after some period of time with no change, "are you sure there aren't any sub-items you need to identify?"

I also didn't mention "I am not going to do this." Which is a valid and useful thing to acknowledge about projects you changed your mind on.]

So... yeah. Can you build this for me, dearest interwebs? Thanks!

I would consider prototyping this in some web 2.0 language, coming up with a clever name, and seeing what happens, but I have enough experience with my idea-backlog to say that I'm perfectly happy if the idea is just out there for somebody to take if it sounds good to them.

I'm curious what you think, even if it's "why would anybody bother?"

road trip!

Tuesday, 10 March 2009 11:14 pm
I want to visit Panic, PA.

Then Okay, OK.

And Uncertain, TX and Why, AZ and Stop, GA.

(more confusing place names)

Ni Pena Ni Miedo

Tuesday, 20 January 2009 08:44 am
In Pinochet's Chile, a poet held and tortured in the dictator's jails named Raúl Zurita imagined "writing poems in the sky, on the faces of cliffs, in the desert."

In 1993, this poem was etched into a mountain-base: Ni Pena Ni Miedo.

No shame nor fear.

It is three kilometers long. If you zoom in on the google map in that link, you can the attention to detail. The desert has been reclaiming the field, just as the thousands of victims of Pinochet were disappeared.

But it is said that every Sunday the children of the nearest village go out with shovels and turn the dirt inside the letters to refresh them. My mind is boggled at the scale of this.

(I originally saw this on Google Sightseeing; there was more info in their links, and more also in the translation translation of his wp page here.)

Happy Inauguration Day, everyone.
Last Friday morning I responded to a Globe and Mail New Media column on Facebook being full of phonies. In the author's response he quoted me by name.

Daniel Allen wrote to say that on the same morning as he read the piece, “one friend changed his status to say he is ‘not a failure, he just looks like one most of the time,' ” prompting other friends to pile on in support. “It might be that the Internet gives us a mask to hide behind,” he noted, “but it does also give us the tools to connect in very honest ways. If we choose to.”

Gee, makes a pretty good theme, don't you think?...

On that note: blah. I'll go and try and connect in honest ways, after breakfast.
[also sent to Globe and Mail's Letters to the Editor]

Re: "Who's kidding whom? On Facebook, we're all a bunch of phonies"

Your article today that Facebook is all flash and no substance comes
on a morning when one friend changed his status to say he is "not a
failure, he just looks like one most of the time."

It's followed by seven responses along the lines of "Big love," "dude,
you're my hero", and the charming quote, "It's not much of a tail, but
I'm sort of attached to it."

Browsing my News Feed, I see one friend in Minneapolis posted photos
of newly installed solar panels on her roof, someone in Guelph has bad
writer's block, and a friend in Boston sent out a "gut shabbes, y'all."

I want to say thank you for this article which gives me another reminder
to treasure my friends for their uniquenesses, honesty, and comfortableness
with being genuine even in public. It might be that the internet gives
us a mask to hide behind, but it does also give us the tools to connect
in very honest ways. If we choose to.
da: (bit)
LJ lays off 20 some fraction of 28 employees- last day Friday, no severance.


[eta: a few corrections at http://azurelunatic.livejournal.com/6225487.html - valleywag's numbers may be incorrect, but still: the news isn't so great.]

http://hewgill.com/ljdump/ is the backup program I use, it gets all posts and comments in one go (and only re-downloads changes, if you run it multiple times). Python script, tested on linux and mac 10.4)

Sigh. What next?...

Web Wanderings

Monday, 10 November 2008 10:22 pm
da: (bit)
A few cool things I've come across recently:


http://labs.ideeinc.com/multicolr/ -- finds you flickr photos matching your colour palette. Very pretty.


For gmail users, there are some useful features available from a new "google labs" tab in gmail preferences. The two I am most happy with do simple things: move the Labels list to a column on the right-hand side; and add a Google Calendar Upcoming Events list to the left-hand side. There are other labs items, such as "canned responses" and "rotating footers".


Finally: mind maps. I've used them as an organizational tool for quite some time.

They're great for brainstorming- the more I write, the more I think of, and arranging the thoughts spatially can add important structure that makes moving forward easier as well.

Just the other day, I came across a talk and screencast by the author of "Getting Things Done." He uses mind maps often in planning "the bigger picture" - his 20,000-foot view, life-goals and 5-year plans.

Watching his talk encouraged me to go back to a task I'd abandoned a while ago, to find a software mind-mapping tool I liked. (The last time, in '06, I gave up without finding something I'd use).

Jackpot, maybe. This is web-based, and amazingly, it seems to work well in some initial testing. There's a freebie version, which would probably suit me fine, though I might spring for the academic version ($15/yr). Go, check it out, let me know what you think. :)

(no subject)

Wednesday, 5 November 2008 12:00 am
Watching Obama's acceptance speech get underway right now.

A link from 538 pointed to an old photo of Obama, which pointed to his flickr page. guy's pretty organized. He (or maybe his staff) use tags and everything. And, apparently, iPhoto.

Their website which made volunteering so easy? Designed by Chris Hughes, one of the four creators of Facebook.

Mr. Hughes and other Obama aides say that their candidate gravitates naturally toward social networking, so much so that he even filled out his own Facebook profile two years ago. Mr. Obama has pledged that if he is elected, he will hire a chief technology officer; Mr. Hughes’s face lights up at the thought.

I can't wait to see what happens next.

Heh. And Obama's kids get their dog.
da: (bit)
Google Street View has been busy.

As identified by [livejournal.com profile] gmaps_sights, Florence, Italy (that link is to the Fake David in front of Palazzo Vecchio. Hey, that looks familiar.)

(Can you find the Mormon missionaries?)

...Maybe over Christmas break I'll take a few hours, curl up with my laptop and some nice Italian wine, and go on tour.


Thursday, 16 October 2008 01:14 pm
Via [livejournal.com profile] metalana: [livejournal.com profile] strangemaps, which is quite wonderful.

I particularly note a map I've always wondered about: a US Pop vs. Soda Map.
da: (duck)
Somehow, I expect the overlap set on my friends list is... kinda large.

So pretty:

University of Manchester Library to share 14th-century royal cookbook online. Look at that pic. I can't wait for it to go live.

So scary:

[livejournal.com profile] lovely_listing (It's Lovely, I'll Take It) is "a collection of poorly chosen photos from real-estate listings". This one had me chortling out loud. Even now, after I've snuck looks at it all through the afternoon, it still makes me chuckle.
Wow. 19 photos by London photographer Jason Hawkes, shot from a helicopter with gyro-stabilized mounts...


The photographer's site is pretty spectactular.

There's a BBC video about the making of the "London at Night" series (linked on the front page) but it's limited to UK viewers- maybe somebody over there can let us know whether the video's any good!

TV Ad: Do the Test

Friday, 14 March 2008 12:54 pm
'Cause I haven't seen this on my f'list yet, and it came up over lunch today with [livejournal.com profile] chezmax : Do The Test is a clever ad.

Via [livejournal.com profile] dpolicar.

"I'll be da."

Wednesday, 12 March 2008 12:28 pm
da: (duck)
Advertising slogans? Pfaw. Movie quotes all seem to work with my user-name.

"You had me at 'da'"

"Frankly, my dear, I don't give a da."

I think there's a little person back there, choosing them.

That's what I think.


Monday, 11 February 2008 01:15 am
I just completed something that has been on my plate (and that of [livejournal.com profile] fyddlestyx) for a few years, and it feels really good.

Friends for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Concerns has long had a commitment to collect the Minutes of Quaker Meetings affirming same-sex unions.

Minutes are a primary document by which a Quaker Meeting will document their discernment of God's will, as agreed upon by the entire Meeting. Different Meetings will have different openings to God, and their Minutes will record their collective understanding at that time.

So these Marriage Minutes are living documents of this discernment. They range back from a document from Illinois in 1974, to one in Australia in 1984 and a number from the late 1980s and many more from the 1990s and on.

A few years ago, I discovered an article in Friends Journal magazine, written by a man in rural Pennsylvania, Wallace Cayard, who reported he had done a complete survey of American Quaker Meetings and whether they had a minute which affirmed same-sex marriages and commitments. He did his survey in 1997 then again in 2004. As far as I can tell this project was entirely done by this elderly man and his wife Leonora.

He sent me a typewritten copy of his report, which looked like it had been done up on an ancient Underwood. He had records for 207 Quaker Meetings. Our group had records for about 100 Meetings at that time.

I've finally gotten around to merging them together and we now have records for 228 Meetings on the web- 128 minutes and 100 names of Meetings without the text of the minutes. Just having the Meeting names for them is a great start; we can send volunteers out to get those. And if someone is googling for information, they might get what they need just from finding the name on our site.

I've got lots of other things to do, but this gives me a pretty great sense of accomplishment, even if I should really be in bed right now.

And also, it's rather touching to be editing a document that includes statements such as:

"We joyfully affirm our willingness as a Meeting to sanctify celebrations of marriage for both same and opposite gender couples. We intend to follow the good order of Friends in arriving at clearness for all couples who are led to unite under our loving care. We call upon the state to give the same legal recognition to same and opposite gender marriages."

That, from Brunswick Maine Monthly Meeting. Thank you Friends...

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