A Good Imagination and a Pile of Junk

March 19, 2003

(no title)

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — MikeWilson @ 5:17 pm

iMi Free Weblogs. This is an interesting free service site which lets you create your own weblog, journal, image gallery, or plain old website. [CogWorks News]

Well it’s certainly a pretty site. I’m interested to see what kind of blog standards support it’s got (xmlrpc api? rss?) It’s kinda suspiciously “touchy-feely” looking. I wonder … yeah. Sections 6 & 7 of the Terms of Service are pretty uh… “sweeping”.

Dungeon Crawl

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — MikeWilson @ 5:16 pm

Linley’s Dungeon Crawl. From the site:

Linley’s Dungeon Crawl is a free and portable roguelike molded in the tradition of the early greats of the genre: Rogue, Hack, and Moria. The player guides a single character deep into a subterranean complex to retrieve the Orb of Zot, fending off many horrible and hideous creatures along the way. Once retrieved, the player must return both character and Orb safely to the surface world. Easier said than done, but fun all the same.

[CogWorks News]

I haven’t had too much of a chance to play around with this yet (read: can’t get it to build on OS-X.) But I’ll get back to it once I build the win32 or linux versions.

I really miss Roguelikes. nethack has just gotten out of hand. Moria has been my fave for a while. Angband isn’t bad either. The cute little nethack jokes are just wonderful, but it’s truly impossible to win without cheating (and damn near impossible to win WITH cheating.) So I’m looking forward to Dungeon Crawl.

Nothing to do with the French!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — MikeWilson @ 5:13 pm

shaggy time. Song Parody of the year! [Adam Curry: Adam Curry's Weblog]

Not for children

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Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — MikeWilson @ 5:09 pm

New Social Network Mapping Tools. New Social Network Mapping tools from SmartMobs..

And now, let’s browse through the excellent suggestions in no particular order. [Please note that I intentionally removed all e-mail addresses.]

  • Raffi Krikorian urged me to take a look at a quick hack he put together a year ago called email constellations. “This project aims to be a free, flexible, and easily modifiable visualization tool that allows a user to intuitively understand their online social group structure.”
  • Stefano Mazzocchi sent me a pointer to his Apache Agora visualizing social networks. There, you can see a data cloud “generated by processing three months of e-mail traffic on three Apache development mail lists.” [A bit of caution: you might have to stop and restart your browser after using it.]
  • Jonathon N. Cummings alerted me about the NetVis Module which allows a dynamic visualization of social networks. “The NetVis Module is a free open source web-based tool designed to simulate, analyze, and visualize social networks using data from csv files, online surveys, and geographically dispersed work teams.”
  • Rev. wRy mentioned EtherApe, a graphical network monitor for Unix.
  • J. Maxwell Legg wrote about his freeware inGridX tool. “inGridX started life as a repertory grid creative free software offer to Kellian decision support consultants who make inferences about meanings by looking at the spin derived from a grid of elements and constructs. inGridX uses Principle Component Analysis as the basis to materially implicate a grid’s digital effects.
  • The NameBase people pointed me to their Proximity Search tool which “generates social network diagrams of the ruling class.”
  • Steve Wolff asked me to check his Surf3D Pro tool. This is a freeware program which promises to reduce “search time by over 80% in comparison to what it normally takes you to click through and evaluate search engine results.” It has specific agents for Google Usenet groups, eBay auctions, Yahoo! Boards and others.
  • Arthur Embleton and Gustavo Muslera both recommended KartOO visual meta search engine. It is similar to the TouchGraph GoogleBrowser, but it doesn’t require Java and uses FlashPlayer to draw interactive maps. Dazzling!
  • Finally, a reader named xynopsis talked about another kind of tools, the Visual Thesaurus. This web tool is not about social mapping, but it shows graphical connections between words. In this previous column, “The Visual Thesaurus: What Does it Show About Thanksgiving?,” I already explored this very funny tool.

[Smart Mobs]

[Ross Mayfield's Weblog]


Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — MikeWilson @ 5:08 pm

Irondeveloper. Heh RPG development meets “Iron Shef”

From the site:

The best way to describe Iron Developer is something like a high school swimming competition meets a creative writing competition. The event centers around a battle between several game developers. After seeing their “theme” ingredient, they have 1 hour to whip up a new role-playing game setting that utilizes the theme ingredient. A group of four judges review the settings and offer their commentary on them before a vote is cast. The swim meet aspect of the show comes from the commentators that discuss the competitors and the settings being made during the hour. There are usually three or four commentators watching the event, but there’s also a sidelines reporter, interviewing the Developers in the Design Stadium.

[CogWorks News]

Nice! Now this is what I call extreme programming! Nice to see programming competitions. It’s just too easy to do create “something that works”. Not that this is a bad thing in itself, but it does tend to encourage laziness in programming.

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Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — MikeWilson @ 5:06 pm

Open Standards Efforts - status report #3.

Back in January - I started writing about “how cool it would be” to have some open standards that moved our world beyond linking.  In other words a grass roots, ad hoc semantic web.  The idea was that with some new kinds of “micro-content” and some open source servers to act like “semantic DNS” servers and a bunch of hosted, shared, open databases - our industry could establish shared reviews, identities, topics, conversations and media.

I have been spending allot of time since then, talking to people - finding out what’s going out there - including lots of stuff completely compatible with my ideas!  In fact Phil Pearson released the Internet Topic Exchange - the day after my birthday - so I’ve always considered it a gesture of kismet.  Talk about coincidence! And last Friday - Seb Paquet posted an excellent essay on “structured blogging” - which more or less puts into words - everything I’ve been saying about open reviews standards.

So here’s a status report - as of March 16th, 2003 - going over all the important stuff I’ve found about, relevant efforts, some successes and a  whole lot of schmoozing…


Nic Nyholm of Ascio and I have been theorizing as to what it would take to establish an OpenIdentity.org for linking various identity systems together.  As of today, I have talked about these ideas to Adrian Scott at Ryze, Doc, Joi, Scoble, Mitch, Paolo, Dave Sifry, Eric/Bryan/Andre (of SourceID), Mark Graham of iVillageRoss and Pete (of SocialText), Jason, Chris,  Karsten, Lisa, Kevin, and a bunch of other people too!

Here’s how it would work:

Wherever your name appears in any identity system listing, little word-icons would appear, surrounding your name - pointing to the OTHER identity systems you were a member of.  For existing members of these systems, this serves as a shortcut - while for non-existing members, it serves as a way of introducing them to the capabilities and features of these new systems - they might be familar with.

FOAF Icon  FOAF ButtonTechnically an open identity system would work as a sort of DNS, acting as both a hub and gateway into particular APIs while connecting to other compatible systems via other hubs.  FOAF could easily be enhanced to support this concept.  That would leverage all the folks who’ve supported FOAF up until now.  All sorts of cool things could be done with this open standard.

Joi’s going to help us make sure it’s got all the right PETs (privacy enabling technologies) embedded in this standard, if end-users wish to have that sort fo secruity.  And we’ll also make sure we bake in SourceID into the system, to enable all sorts of business oriented transactions and relationships.

So think of this standard as the MetaPeopleAPIs.

Internet Topic Exchange

Meanwhile Phil Pearson’s ITE is doing great, with Joi’s Emergent Democracy channel and a pretty vibrant Social Software channel as well.  One interesting sidenote is that bunch of espanol channels are formed (Estoy apesadumbrado, pero mi español no es muy bueno.)  Matt Mower is also doing some great stuff with LiveTopics and some cool new stuff with Paolo, as well.

Having some sort of anchorNode based upon topics would be cool, which we all could use to ricochet new kinds of interaction, collaboration and micro-content. Whether it is knowledge management, topic maps or new ontologies, this is definitely a hot area and it all leads to a MetaTopicAPIs spec.  All sorts of cool things could be done with this open standard.

Open Media

I’ve spent most of MY time pitching the concept of an Open Media standard.  The current pitch entails three pieces of open source technology, which would be pitched differently to three sets of constituents.

1. First we need a nice wrapper “object model” to enable inter-changeable media from all sorts of sources, locations, tools and systems. Imagine being able to select OPEN and have the entire Internet Archives at your disposal. OR every piece of media in the Creative Commons.

2. We’ll then need an open source redirect server (or whole bunch of them - implemented on top of different platforms - all supporting the same protocol MetaMediaAPIs), to act as a DNS for all media.  In the object model mentioned above - one key field would have a ‘redirect’ pointer in it, pointing to a giant, standardized redirect database.  This DNS-like database would provide a wide range of tool, client or service interfaces to access compatible media (wherever that media resides) - via a uniform protocol.  This takes the world beyond http - into a “namespace” perfect for the semantic web.

3.  Finally we’d then create a wide range of jukebox and album user interface software - which would be implemented in Java, Javascript, Flash, Laszlo, Dreamfactory, Curl, QT, wxWindows or any other  user interface system.  These interfaces would talk to the giant databases of media and offer up an amazing on-line collection of audio, video and photos - we ALL can use!  Needless to say these interfaces also support the standard media object model, which will bring standardized meta-data to media.

A. The mainstream media folks are not necessarily going to like this - at first.  They won’t see anything in it for themselves, and it directly attacks the current LOCK-IN, proprietary format mentality - that they’ve lived on since their inception.  Trust - I know all about this strategy - I helped create one!

So the tools folks (Macromedia, Adobe, Avid, Discreet), the streaming platforms (Microsoft, Real, Quicktime), the download services (Pressplay, Musicnet, Rhapsody, MovieLink, iFilm), the storage facilities (Ofoto, Shutterfly, Fotki) and the consumer hardware vendors (Sony, Matsushita, Phillips, Samsung, etc.) all will be asked to support this format.  But they won’t though. At first - at least.

B. It’ll be the “personal publishing” platforms (blogging and journaling tools) that will most benefit from this open media. 

All of a sudden huge libraries of BLOGART will be unleashed into the blogosphere - everything from border and frame themes, to company and meme logos, to background scenes and nature shots to famous people, places and things to advertising trends, and fashion do’s and don’ts - and needless to say, a wide range of iconography of every shape and form.  And fully animated versions of almost everything in .swf format.

None of today’s blogging tools feature real asset management systems, jukeboxes or photo albums.  By providing them with free source code and interfaces and huge libraries of built-in content to propogate those interfaces - let me tell you, it’s gonna be VISUALIZATION time in the old town, 2 night!

C. But of course, the greatest beneficiary of these new open media technologies - will be US!  The new kind of tool vendors - the folks who are pushing the envelope and can imagine 100 new things to do with these new open standards - will love this stuff the most.  That’s what we’re doing at Broadband Mechanics - grooving on the idea of what we can do.

So these are the MetaMediaAPIs.  Which will CERTAINLY lead to all sorts of cool things.

Multimedia Conversations

The folks at SocialText and Joi put on some cool ‘happenings’ utilizing some new code that Pete Kaminski wrote.  It’s going to evolve into something even better which could certainly be considered a new form of conversation.  I myself am captivated with the notion of multimedia conversations - and I’ve also participated in extended discussions of IM based conversations, combining with media and tele-conferencing.

So there’s no lack of activity in this area.  We plan on FINALLY releasing our first product within a few weeks, so I’m heads down in this area right now!

In fact - since this was the first standard I fantasized about - I can say I’ve probably done the least amount of work here.  God bless Joi, Scott and Pete - ’cause lots of awareness is rising here.  Let’s hope they call their stuff the MetaConversationAPIs.


Shared reviews

Which brings us up to last Thursday, March 13th, when Seb posts his incredible treatise on the importance of feedback and notion of going beyond topics.  It seems to me that we should draft Seb to be the CEO of all these dot .orgs, and make sure all this work gets done right.  Me and Joi will make sure that all the schmoozing and partying cements the relationships necessary and there are plenty of nerds out there to write the code.

In case you all don’t know what I’m talking about - just go read Seb’s pitch and then come back here…….

OK - so here’s what’s missing from Seb’s pitch:

Seb left out some key attributes you’d want to collect with music reviews (like style of music, band, or other musical meta-data), while he should, at the same time realize that restaurant reviews need to support ethnic cuisine categorization, indoor decor photos, service quality ratings or proximity info.  We have to make sure that we capture enough meta-data with these reviews to do cool “semantic” things.  And call everything the MetaReviewsAPIs.something or other.

I’d also like to see more implementation details - as to what particular architecture Seb would use to implement these “shared databases”.  But besides that - Seb really hits it out of the park!

So now I can go asleep and wake up and keep going towards these ideals.  Tomorrow I get to learn all about XPertWeb, Longhorn and what Apple is up to.  Lord knows I’m sick and tired of figuring out REST vs SOAP.

Original Links

Status Report #1
Status Report #2
Open Standards
Intro to Open Standards
Free Media Management
Shared Databases of Reviews
State of the Art of Narrowcasting
What are Multimedia Conversations
Multimedia Conversations #1
Multimedia Conversations #2

[Marc's Voice]


Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — MikeWilson @ 5:05 pm


Thanks to Wil Wheaton I’m now a worshipper of TROGDOR!!

Damn you Mr Wheaton.

[life - listed chronologically]

TROGDOR. my new obsession! (and you thought it was just trashing the french… feh.) :-p

(no title)

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — MikeWilson @ 5:03 pm

Knowledge Sharing Software. Rafe Needleman writes about “designing tools that extract knowledge from individual employees and make it available to the rest of the corporation”. He mentions OpenCola, Kubi Software and Tacit. More on Tacit’s ActiveNet: This product builds profiles of users based on the e-mail they send (it does not store the e-mails), and then allows other users to find co-workers who are knowledgeable in particular fields. But it doesn’t force the connection, because, as CEO David Gilmour says, “What I know depends on who’s asking.” So the system allows the person with expertise to decide if a contact will be made:… [E M E R G I C . o r g]

(no title)

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — MikeWilson @ 5:03 pm

MMORPG Vault. Here’s a cool site about MMORPG’s. I thought about giving you a description, but hey the site owners went through all this trouble to describe themselves, so here ya go:

So, you want to know more about us, eh? Well, in a nutshell, we’re just some average gamers who love MMORPGs (Massivly Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Games) and decided to make a site dedicated to them. The main reason this site was created, is because there is a lack of sites that are dedicated to these games, that list the free ones with full reviews, ratings, and opinions by average gamers. (Also because the lead webmaster, Uhgii, was just bored one day and decided he wanted to make another website.) Hence, MVault was born.

[CogWorks News]

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Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — MikeWilson @ 5:01 pm

XML too hard for programmers & Word Processing is too hard for me.

Tim Bray, a guy who apparently had something to do with the development of XML, recently said that XML is too hard for programmers. (apparently it was a controversial statement).  I don’t know XML so I can’t speak to that issue.  But I do know word processors.  I’ve worked with Word and Wordperfect, and I’m comfortable with computers.  So I can relate to Tim’s statement in this way:  It’s getting too hard for me to use word processors to do anything useful. 

Maybe it’s me.  All I want to do is type words on a page.  Really, that’s it

And maybe that’s why I struggle with word processors.  The modern day word processor is now like an F-18 fighter plane.  You can fire seven missiles at once, and climb straight up, or pull 7 Gs in a hard banking turn.   Of course, the F-18 can do all that too.  But the F-18 can’t “reveal codes” like Wordperfect can.  And show me how the F-18 handles style sheets. 

You laugh.   But, in fact, the analogy to military fighters is not that far off.  Think of the training needed to learn to fly an F-18, much of which is possible only through the development of realistic flight simulators.  I think it would help greatly if the word processing manufacturers would come up with a simulator that we pale-skinned desk-jockeys can practice with before we have to attempt anything difficult like, say, creating a one line cover letter.

I wouldn’t need all that much training.  I just want to put words on paper, and sometimes delete them, or perhaps move them around. 

Well, on that front, I’ve discovered lately that I can use text editing programs, like WordPad or Notepad, to accomplish my meager objectives.  Indeed, using these simple programs has taught me that the high-performance capabilities of the word processing programs I have at my disposal are actually a hindrance. 

The only thing that is really useful in modern word processors is the ability to create footnotes.  And God knows we are all better off now that we can footnote everything.   Lawyers are especially enamored of this capability.  In fact, I have a suggestion for wordprocessing manufacturers: if you want to attract more lawyers see if you can get the next version to make footnotes for footnotes.

And maybe a built-in first person shooter game would be nice too.

[Ernie the Attorney]

(no title)

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — MikeWilson @ 5:01 pm


I just spent an hour looking for this document: Common HTTP Implementation Problems. I post it here to be able to find it back the next time. With Google I rarely have to search longer than a minute, so I was terribly frustrated I couldn’t find it. I even started wondering if I just only dreamt it. It turned out my memory of the document was simply too vague. Maybe if I link to it with my own keywords, the next time it might be ranked a little higher in Google: Content Management URI design.

[Sjoerd Visscher's weblog]

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Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — MikeWilson @ 5:00 pm

Why Services?.

Consider a function that’s common to most e-commerce applications:
the calculation of sales tax or VAT. The traditional approach to integrating
sales-tax calculations into an application is to license a software package,
and subscribe to updates to an associated database or tax-rate table.
A number of tax-calculation software vendors offer easy-to-integrate modules
for a variety of programming languages, and they distribute updates to
their sales-tax databases via CD-ROM or make them available for download
over the Internet.

Sales taxes have a nasty habit of changing, which means you may need
multiple versions of the database (and, perhaps, the code) running at
the moment such changes take effect. And given the number of countries,
provinces, states, counties, cities, and special districts with the authority
to levy such taxes, these changes occur frequently. Consider what happens
when not just the rates, but also the calculation algorithms change–then
it’s not just the data that must be updated, but the software as

Dealing with sales tax is most likely not one of your company’s
core business activities. You’d love to solve the problem just once,
and let someone else worry about keeping that solution up to date. You’d
probably like to receive sales-tax calculation as a service, just as you’d
rather pay someone else to clean your office bathrooms.

Traditional Application Architecture

The figure below illustrates the architectural implications of an e-commerce
application that uses a traditional solution for sales-tax calculation
combined with a similar one for calculating shipping costs.

In this example, the vendors of tax- and shipping-rate information provide
both algorithms (code libraries) and data. The tax data is delivered on
CD-ROM, while the shipping-rate data is downloaded periodically over the
Internet. Consider this application architecture in terms of its life
cycle. There are three distinct phases, separated by time:

Build time. A developer builds the application by using a linker
or linkage editor to combine the application module and the library routines
that support tax- and shipping-rate calculations. The result is an integrated
application, with the tax- and shipping-rate logic built in, but not the
data. (With some programming languages, modules are combined at runtime
using class loaders–but since the relationships are still determined
at build time, the effect is the same for the purposes of this discussion.)

Configuration time. On a regular or as-needed basis, the tax-
and shipping-rate vendors deliver updates to their respective data. These
updates are then copied into local databases by operations personnel.
Updates might occur weekly or monthly–certainly more frequently than
re-builds of the application.

Runtime. At runtime, the application calls the linked-in rate-calculation
algorithms, which in turn query the local databases and return their results.

We could have merged the data with the application at build time, but
that would require that that we re-build the entire application every
time a simple tax- or shipping-rate change occurs. By delaying the data-update
process to the configuration phase, we’ve made the application less
brittle, or better able to cope with change. This concept of postponing
the reference to volatile data–or at least merging it as late as possible
in the application life cycle–is an example of the concept of delayed

Applications as Services

In the example shown in the earlier figure, the shipping-rate information
is obtained via electronic transfer in batch mode, perhaps using FTP.
Suppose, instead, that the tax- and shipping-rate data were available
over the Internet in real time. And suppose that through the use of web
services, the algorithms that computed the tax and shipping rates ran
at the sites of their respective vendors rather than at the application’s
site. The results would then look like figure below.

As compared to the traditional architecture, one based on services has
two distinct characteristics. First, the algorithms and data are no longer
parts of the application’s local infrastructure, but are located
off-site instead. The second and more subtle distinction is that integration
of changes to the tax- and shipping-rate portion of the application have
been deferred until run time–the last possible stage. In fact, this e-commerce
application is now immune to–even ignorant of–any changes in the rate
algorithms or data. There will never be any new code modules or database
updates to worry about. The service-oriented architecture has future-proofed
the application.

[Excerpt from Loosely Coupled: The Missing Pieces of Web Services] [Blogarithms]

Anguish Languish

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — MikeWilson @ 4:13 pm

“Crashes! A larders warts sunned lack itch udder!”. (”Gracious! A lot of words sound like each … [Memepool]

Check out Anguish Languash. It’s really trippy.

Giving weasels a bad name

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — MikeWilson @ 3:20 pm

THE FRENCH are starting to feel left out…. [Instapundit.com]

Oh fuck the french. No really. Not my most intellectually rich post of all time, I grant you. NOW they’re backpedaling?

A frenchman and an Englishman are wandering in the desert, on their last breaths, their skin peeling, their throats parched. They come upon the lamp. (what do you mean WHAT lamp?) Realizing that it could only be one lamp they rush for it and start rubbing furiously. The genie wafts out and materializes, wrapped in a towel and hair net with a toothbrush, wet and covered with suds.

“Jesus again? This had better not be a Saddam/Bush/Chirac joke. I’ve done three dozen of them so far this morning and I’m gettin’ a little pissed here.”

The frenchman and Englishman look at each other confused, not being aware of the existence of the world outside the context of the joke as the genie is.

“Ok boys, you’ve got the lamp, here’s the deal. Listen closely, our menu selection has changed: You each get a wish. The power of the third wish I’m reserving to send you both the hell home and out of my desert once you’re done so I can finish my damned shower. What’ll it be?”

The men stumble through their heads, the frenchman bounding up and down “Me first, me first!”

“Yeah, ok. Doesn’t look like he’s ready yet anyway. Must actually be thinking about his. Whatcha want?”

“I want you to build a wall around France. I want it to be 20 miles high and impregnable so it will keep out everyone.”

“And keep you all in right?”

“Why of course!”

“Sure sounds like a good idea to me.” the genie adds. “It’s done. Nobody in or out with the one exception of sending you back to paris which I shall do presently.”

The genie snapped his fingers and the frenchman disappeared.

“Ok, talk to me. What about you?”

“So, let me get this straight.” The Englishman begins. “Pretty much no matter what I wish for, you’re gonna send me home afterwards?”

“Yep. Call it a gift. For both of us.”

“So tell me a bit more about this wall…”

“Well you heard him. It’s 20 miles tall, happens to be about 5 miles thick. Steel reinforced concrete. Nothing’s getting in or out of it. It goes all the way around france. Of course, it’s completely closed so the Germans aren’t going around it this time either. But that’s a different joke. Come on, soap is drying on me, what’s the wish?”

“Fill it with water.”

The last thing the Englishman heard as he rushed through the extra-dimensional tunnel back to London was the howling laughter of the genie as he added “I was gonna do that anyway.”

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