Archive for July, 2005

Semantic blogging early pilots

July 20, 2005

Haven’t got time to expand on this now but the stuff I’ve been brainstorming about with Simon Buckingham Shum and Bertrand Sereno, and linked to some of the seminal ‘duelling blog’ discussions I had with Stowe Boyd [e.g. check out this neat post from Stowe], is now starting to take shape; very exciting; best thing is to read Bertrand’s post about it and check out his current implementation screen shots. Bertrand rightly calls it ‘knowledge mapping’ rather than ‘semantic blogging’, but for us it’s all part of the same niche we’re experimenting with… woohoo!

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Early Das Keyboard comments

July 20, 2005

There was some delay getting the blank Das Keyboard I blogged about earlier… it took a while to arrive from the US, and then the ‘Q’ keycap was missing; they kindly sent the missing piece very quickly after that;

I’m using it in earnest now, and I like it ‘a lot’: but not enough to become a fanatical evangelist for it… not yet, anyway; two minor problems are (a) its ‘feel’ to me is a bit sluggish… whereas for something touted as an ‘ubergeek’ keyboard I had d expect it to be totally stunning, not just ‘OK’: speed and feel are the only things that matter in this niche. (b) you can’t be BOTH an ubergeek AND a UK user; if you inhabit a UK-centric world, where you want regular/easy access to the £ character, guess what: you lost the backslash character. No problemo: switch in the Windows Systray to English-US, and you get your backslash back, but lose your £ (and the @ and double-quotes get reversed. I’m UK/US bilingual, so don’t mind the keyboard variations, but if you’re a UK geek, you need easy access to both the £ and backslash, because you need em both a lot… oh well…

Oh, and the fact that I can’t see any labels on the keys? Who cares! I don’t need ’em, and the one or two oddball keys I’ve had to look up are now firmly implanted in my memory, so I’m a better touch typist than I was before, which is really the whole point of the exercise!

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Meeting scheduler granularity

July 11, 2005

Cyclical, writing on meeting scheduler granularity at ifreebusy.com, says:

the design principles of Meet-o-Matic… makes me question some of my assumptions about the importance of granularity in scheduling meetings.

Excellent! Always happy to trigger some assumption-questioning. Dunno whether we can cross-link our tools, but may be worth a shot….

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We are not afraid

July 11, 2005

The site: http://www.werenotafraid.com

The Flickr photo pool: http://www.flickr.com/groups/werenotafraid/pool/

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Who’s reporting G8?

July 6, 2005

The old media, that’s who — with savvy blog/videoblog teams on board, of course, but I’m disappointed by the dearth of on-site up-to-the-minute reporting from unaffiliated bloggers, with a handful of exceptions; read more in my Get Real posting on the matter.

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Live8 Music and Politics Rant

July 3, 2005

So much written, but here’s my two cents:

3 musical high points for me, among many:

1. James Brown meets Joss Stone: The night before Live8, two stellar performers involved either directly at Live8 London or heading to the Edinburgh event in a few days time did something we’ll probably never see again: 72-year-old Godfather of Soul Mr James Brown did a duet with 18-year-old Heiress of Soul Ms Joss Stone on The Jonathan Ross Show on the BBC. A joint rendition of “It’s A Man’s World” – defying anything and everything you may have thought about that song before, about old singers, young singers, black singers, white singers. Wow.

2. Sgt. Pepper: at precisely 2PM when, with zero fanfare, blasting out over the crowd you could hear the unmistakable opening 4 electric guitar notes of Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (check out the original if these opening “dee-dee-di-deeeeeeee” notes are not immediately popping into your mind)… at which point Sir Paul McCartney, backed by U2, began singing “It was 20 years ago today…” … doubly wondeful as (a) it was the 20th anniversary of Live Aid, and (b) he had never ever performed Sgt Pepper live (complete with horn section etc);

3. We’ll Be Watching You: Sting’s performance of I’ll Be Watching You, with lyrics suitably changed to We’ll Be Watching You… very moving.

And the message? The politics? At the end of the day, I think Live8 was actually a far better idea, by several orders of magnitude, than many smug and cynical critics gave it credit for. These thoughts crystallised in my mind after someone pointed me to a Wall Street Journal commentary on 1st July 2005 by Henryk M Broder entitled Deafining Goodness (that link will, sadly, disappear behind a WSJ paywall). Suffice it to say that Broder dismisses Geldof, Bono, and all Live8 participants as head-in-cloud-cuckoo-land hippies of the “fasting for peace” and “white band of idiocy” dreamer variety.

I found Broder to be smug, pompous, needlessly cynical himself, and somewhat ignorant of the Live8 raison d’etre.
For Broder to say stuff like

..Bono or Bob Geldof, who are so eager to help Africa that they don’t care where the money ends up….

means he cannot have read, listened to, or spoken to either of them.

The reality is that he (Broder) and Geldof and Bono in fact agree on most of the (alarmingly few) substantive comments that Broder made about real action that’s needed and the tragic waste of where current aid money goes, etc.

Just because there are either lazy or opportunistic attendees or performers says nothing about the longer-term objectives, let alone that this dialogue has been happening for a very long time among (yes, of course) the G8 ministers and the rock-star / publicity-seekers as well. So when Broder says

What is a little irritating about this [debt relief plan]is that the finance ministers of the G-8 countries have already decided to forgive 37 poor countries their debts, and others will follow.

it ignores the lengthy discussions undertaken by Geldof and others with Tony Blair and his team over many years that has led to the Africa Commission report, Gordon Brown’s current proposals about debt etc. Of course, it is hard to know the ‘true’ cause-and-effect sequence, but for Broder to write in such a black-and-white way (dismissing the Live8 event organizers as dozy tree-huggers who missed noticing that the G8 ministers are already true heroes in their own right) smacks of a really irritable smugness and ignorance.

I, of course, would never propose the opposite ‘black-and-white’ scenario either (for instance I’d never claim that the G8 minsiters are dozy capitalist lackeys who fail to accept that the thoughful rock stars are full of heroic vision) … but then neither would the more articulate of the rock stars, who have been engaged in such thoughtful dialogue with leading politicians over the past few years that the hardcore left dismisses Geldof as a ‘Blair mouthpiece’ and ‘sellout’!!!

Go figure! The truth is obviously somewhere in the middle, and I really haven’t got any more patience for these smug self-congratulatory know-it-alls (like Broder) than I do for the more pompous of last night’s Live8 performers (like Madonna and Robbie Williams), whose pretentious posing also rubbed me the wrong way (though such posing is undoubtedly correlated with Robbie’s ability to wow the crowds so masterfully)!! Having listened at length to Geldof and Bono, I simply wouldn’t pigeon-hole them so easily with what Broder lazily and thoughtlessly calls “The White Band of Idiocy” or “Fasting for Peace” brigade, since even a minute’s reading reveals they’ve done a heck of a lot more background research than Broder!!!!

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PPIG 05 Brighton

July 1, 2005


I’m at the Psychology of Programming Interest Group 17th Annual Meeting, as I blogged earlier. The photos (taken by John Sung and emailed to me for posting; thanks John) show a few vignettes from the gig and the Thursday night sushi dinner at Moshi Moshi in Brighton.

I’ve been way outside this community for a long time, and arrived rather smugly thinking that this would be a kind of trip down memory lane. Boy was I ever wrong.


It’s a small group (only about 25 in the room right now as I’m writing this), with an astonishingly high percentage of nice, smart, and productive people (I shouldn’t be astonished, but it’s rare to go to conferences where the percentage approaches 100%). One of the first talks I attended, by Alan Blackwell, immediately blew us away with a video clip taken from a session illustrating Live Coding in Laptop Music performance: code-hacking in real time, wherein the code (1) affects the music you’re listening to and (2) the code is displayed up on a large screen as it’s being rewritten. Check out www.toplap.org to get a sense of what these guys and gals are up to.


Lots of other neat stuff… Luke Church talking about Dasher: a continues gesture IDE; sessions on collaborative programming; nice studies from Pamela O’Shea, Deirdre Carew, Chris Exton and their colleagues at the University of Limerick in Ireland looking at professional programmers and the way they communicate with source code excerpts in their distributed group discussions; a very strong contingent from The University of Joensuu in Finland (Jorma Sajaniemi and colleagues) doing some nice work with program animation and teaching of novices based around the concept of making fully explicity the 10 different roles that variables can play; and lots more.

Have a look at the PPIG 2005 site where you can access PDF versions of the papers.

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