Archive for October, 2005

Map Chat

October 29, 2005

Another great tipoff from Tony Hirst

The screen shot shows me engaged in a real-time geolocation-aware multi-user chat; very nicely done…
check out Midnightcoders Map Chat

This example demonstrates bi-directional messaging between heterogeneous (Flash and AJAX) clients and WebORB Message Server. The server performs additional processing to geolocate chat users, injects necessary information in messages so users can plotted on the map.

Type your message in the text field below and press Enter or click Send to broadcast the message to the channel. To share your map with a user, select the user in the list and click the ‘Share Map’ button. The user has to accept map sharing and you will be notified when it happen. Once the map is shared, you pan, zoom and switch map types. All of these actions are immediately replicated with the other user.

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Dear Stowe – why the emails?

October 21, 2005

Stowe Boyd and I have been engaged in a small dialogue (that we’re both too busy to have in detail) about site-visit-mapping tools… and some of the user-interface frustrations inherent in the process.

But Stowe and I, both IM junkies and fairly proficient bloggers (Stowe much more so than me), found ourselves falling back to the least-common-denominator of, you guessed it, email… perfectly understandible in the context, i.e. it works, from anywhere/everywhere, is fast, and is ‘good enough’. Yet it still doesn’t feel right.

SO (now addressing Stowe and anyone else who cares to eavesdrop), it seems to me that we should think about how to get the duelling blogs stuff going again (see also here and especially here), and how to seamlessly bootstrap/integrate organically from quick-IM back and forth, a few emails, a little Skype, phone, FlashMeeting, a few blogs-with-comments, some blog-trackback-stuff, and then let the conversation GROW as other people hop on board and spin around a few ideas and themes; there’s a thin borderline between what I want to preserve and what I want to throw away as ephemeral; and we ought to push on that… I know that GUSH and your (Stowe’s) ‘Nerdvana‘ ideas were heading in this direction, but what happened? Have we dropped the ball, or are we just too busy? What are other people doing about this?

Yow… how can I even tag this sensibly: it covers so many topics? Well, I’ll just assume I want to find it again one day… here goes:

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Confidence based on things “not yet invented”

October 19, 2005

Yesterday we had an away-day to brainstorm about future directions of the OU’s Computing Research Centre, of which KMi is a core founding partner. The CRC is planning to become a major UK research powerhouse, and already the ‘stars are beginning to align’, as they say. Lots of good people there, and lots of synergies evident.

I was asked to provide some ‘kick-start’ remarks early on in the proceedings, and the time seemed right to provide ‘just’ commentary and analysis (i.e. with no slides), accompanied by some key audio clips. I have long been inspired by those JFK speeches in 1961 and 1962 that launched the man-on-the-moon mission, and although the speeches may be thought of by some as over-used and now over-clichéd, my hunch told me otherwise. In particular, I had decided not to use the most famous passages (e.g. “We choose to go to the moon.”) but rather the following segment, from the speech JFK gave at Rice University on September 12th 1962 (relevant URLs below) — the emphasis below is mine:

But if I were to say, my fellow citizens, that we shall send to the moon, 240,000 miles away from the control station in Houston, a giant rocket more than 300 feet tall, the length of this football field, made of new metal alloys, some of which have not yet been invented, capable of standing heat and stresses several times more than have ever been experienced, fitted together with a precision better than the finest watch, carrying all the equipment needed for propulsion, guidance, control, communications, food and survival, on an untried mission, to an unknown celestial body, and then return it safely to earth, re-entering the atmosphere at speeds of over 25,000 miles per hour, causing heat about half that of the temperature of the sun–almost as hot as it is here today–and do all this, and do it right, and do it first before this decade is out–then we must be bold.

“Have not yet been invented…” Wow! How phenomenal is that? I was a teenager at the time, and those words hit me like a bolt of lighting, and of course have stuck with me ever since. The lunar effort (indeed the post-Sputnik space race from 1957 onwards) triggered a massive investment in science, mathematics and technology in the early 60’s that led directly to the training and (I believe) correlated attitude of the generation that went on to create the Arpanet/Internet, the Mac, the PC, the iPod, Silicon Valley and… well, you can see where this is going…

Kennedy undersood the symbolic significance of getting to the moon, even if he didn’t necessarily place the science itself as top priority. I say this in light of some later information, provided by the so-called ‘Kennedy Tapes’, as described in this article from

The John F. Kennedy Library in Boston has just released a tape recording of the meeting, which took place at the White House on November 21, 1962. In the meeting, Kennedy faced off against NASA Administrator James Webb, who pushed for a broader mission for NASA.

On the tape, Webb tells Kennedy that some of the nation’s top space scientists doubt whether it is possible to send humans on a lunar voyage. “There are real unknowns about whether man can live under the weightless environment,” he says. Committing to a manned lunar landing, Webb tells the president, could leave the country vulnerable to failure. Instead, Webb insists, landing on the moon should be only part of a broad effort by NASA to understand the space environment and its effects on human beings.

Webb’s tone in confronting the nation’s chief executive is fearless. Historian John Logsdon of George Washington University says Webb “must have felt very strongly about this,” adding that there had been a running feud at NASA Headquarters about how much importance Apollo should have.

But Kennedy stands firm, telling Webb that the moon landing is NASA’s top priority. ” This is, whether we like it or not, a race. Everything we do [in space] ought to be tied into getting to the moon ahead of the Russians.”

Here are some links where you can retrieve some great video and audio clips (and, in many cases, the complete audio) from JFK speeches of the time:

JFK Library: Address at Rice University on the Nation’s Space Effort (full text, full audio in RealPlayer format)

NASA archives: JFK Rice Moon Speech (full text, plus video segments)

Rice University Archives: John F. Kennedy’s Speech at Rice(full text, plus video)

Miller Center (U Virginia) John F Kennedy Speeches (great MP3 collection)

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Earthquake activity/catastrophe

October 8, 2005

The terrible earthquake that just happend in Pakistan is prominently seen on this display of Recent World Earthquake Activity from the US Geological Service. 165 quakes on this map alone (last 7 days). Yow.

Let’s hope that the impact was not too awful [update 10th Oct: sadly the impact was terrible, as feared from the sheer magnitude and location of the quake; see numerous info/news/update sites for more…], and that progress in quake prediction offers some hope, as suggested in this 6th Oct 2005 Wired story:

Researchers in Sweden claim to have developed a new computer model for predicting earthquakes that correctly — retroactively — forecast the devastating 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami that killed 275,000 people. Using five years of seismological data from the region including records of 624 quakes, researchers from the Swedish Defense Research Agency, or FOI, studied the enormous stress created by the Indian Plate as it grinds into the Australasian Plate near the island of Sumatra.

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Open Social Software Sandpits, Ning, 411Sync, Clone-Mix-Run

October 5, 2005

Marc Canter has blogged a new open mobile SMS service: (“a way for any web service to tie into SMS and get their data sent to cell phones. OH MY GOD – you mean open source has come to mobile services?”), so check out 411Sync.

On another loosely-related note, Tony Hirst has alerted me to the just-out-the-door Ning, which Stowe Boyd, Marc Canter, and numerous others are blogging about like crazy.

With Ning…You Can Create
For any City => Your own take on Craigslist®
For any Passion => Your own take on Match®
For any Interest => Your own take on Zagat®
For any Event => Your own take on FlickrTM
For any School => Your own take on FacebookTM
For any Topic => Your own take on del.icio.usTM
For any Mammal => Your own take on Hot or Not®
Sign up. Build new social apps. Use new social apps.

Every app is open source, and their mantra is ‘clone -> mix -> run’:

One of the unique things about the app you were just visiting is the ability for others to view the source code running it — and any running app — on the Ning Playground. You can use this ability to View Source for inspiration in you own apps or, better yet, to simply create your own copy of this app. Your new, cloned app works the same as the original. Only now you can set it up for any location, interest, topic, or language you’d like.

Great idea: this philosophy, after all, is what made the web grow so explosively, with developers of all abilities engaged in a feeding frenzy based on what they saw from other sites: cloning, mixing, and running their own. The entry bar is a little higher with PHP (the lingua franca for Ning apps) than it was for HTML, but that doesn’t matter; if the philosophy pans out, we’re going to see some interesting apps coming out of this.

I like to think of this approach, that they call a ‘playground’ as an ‘Open Social Software Sandpit’.

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