Thursday, July 31, 2008

Artistic Web Visualization of Electronic Debris



Web visualization for understanding connections, influence and search have all been discussed on this blog at one time or another.

Visualization tools include the idea of what virtual communities look like, can give an overview of data from an aggregate perspective and sometimes just look really cool.

WIRED magazine ran an article a few months ago that someone recently passed on to me via a link. In it the feature discusses and shows the efforts of individuals who are create web visualizations of SPAM and harnessing the power of many hands to create works of art.

The pieces may be interactive, real-time measures of blog posts about "feelings" or a collection of contributions of thousands of net micro-workers. The graphics are cool and the video interview informative.

It can be found here.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

South Sound Technology Conference 2008



UPDATED AGENDA: FROM November 19th, 2008

Save the date:

On November 21st, on the University of Washington, Tacoma campus, we will be holding the South Sound Technology Conference for 2008. The format will be similar to last years with the following structure:

Introductions

Keynote Address

Panel One

Break

Technology Overview

Panel Two

Break out to a self organizing birds of a feather


If you are planning on joining us for the day and are interested in a particular topic then you may want to start discussions with others by taking advantage of the birds of a feather format. If you have enough folks that you don't think one of our five local coffee establishments can't handle the conversation, let me know and I will try to accommodate.

The umbrella topic this year will be "Innovation and Technology".

If you want a guiding principle:

If we all did the things we are capable of doing we would literally astound ourselves.

Thomas Edison (called the "archetype for every high-tech entrepreneur." by Peter Drucker)


The conference will once again have Congressman Adam Smith and Congressman Norm Dicks as the honorary co-chairs. The program is being built and more information will be coming in the next month or so, including location on campus, times and speakers.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

A Juxtaposition of Tech Transfer and Non Tech Farm and Food


So I missed the Chalk Off this Friday. I wasn’t even able to stop by and that is too bad given the great work that was done this week.

However I did get a very clear juxtaposition of no tech and tech talk in the space of a week.

First, on the no tech front I accompanying one of my daughters on a goodwill mission trip to set up a food bank and distribute goods to families in need. Sponsored by Agape, this entailed walking a neighborhood to collect food and clothing (following a flyer distribution that announced that a canvassing would occur), stationing outside several grocery shopping centers to ask for food donations, a day of work farming, and the setting up of the bank for distribution.

Along with this came several organized sessions for the middle and high school kids who were participating, one of which included shopping for food. They were given family scenarios and a days wage for the work they did on the farm and needed to purchase, cook and feed themselves based on the money they earned.

A enjoyed the farming day. But it was hard work and I wouldn’t want my lively hood to depend on it. The family whose organic farm we were helping on were very nice, informative and gave me a chance to use some of my rusty Spanish.

We sleep on the floor and had one shower at the YMCA during this time. The kids were great. Their attitudes were unfailingly positive and for the most part were a joy to be around. I was very proud of them and of my daughter in particular.

I don’t like being disturbed by that knock on the door and I am not comfortable with the solicitations outside storefronts (whether they be girl scout cookies, bell ringing Santas or other donations). This made being on the other end of it even tougher.

In the end, it gives me greater appreciation for the desire to do good that these folks have, and the hard work that they put in.

After that, it was back to work, which meant attending a conference in Seattle put on the Executive Summit Series in Technology Transfer: Crossing the Valley of Death, “the vast desert filled with the carcasses of great innovations that became literally cash-starved before reaching the oasis of commercial viability.”

They keep the numbers attending to a manageable size, and for two days we listen and talk about how to advance industries and the economy through focused collaboration.

As the ESS team explains, “Technology, policy, economics, trade and the environment are all major factors impacting our business and personal lives. Understanding these forces and practical business applications around them leads to better decisions for organizations and industries in all sectors of the economy. ”

Dr. John Parmentola, Director of Research and Laboratory Management, U.S. Army Research Labs was very clear about the difficulties of working with the military in an entrepreneurial start up fashion, but was also succinct and helpful in offering ways in which to make it more feasible.

Mr. Brad Buswell, Deputy Undersecretary, Department of Homeland Security, Science and Technology Directorate was interesting and helpful in pointing out where the pitfalls of technology transfer to working product in the first responder sector were and what conditions were necessary for success. He also provided a high technology needs list and operational requirements information.

Others in attendance were also engaging and refreshingly straightforward about what worked and didn’t work based on the nature of the federal and political infrastructures that they were dealing within.

Peter Erickson, the CEO of Executive Summit and the co-producer of the series Mike Provance, will be constructing a white paper out of the discussions. When completed I will provide a link to it from this entry.

Overall a real swing in the conversation from Monday to Friday. Sometimes it is good to stretch the body, but also the mindset, in order to stay limber.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Singing the Praises of Dr.Horrible



I have been a Joss Whedon fan for a long time. I was a faithful viewer of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. I also enjoyed the episodes of Firefly that I saw as well as the movie made for the theaters. Buffy had a great run and it was nominated fourteen times for an Emmy, of which it won two in the categories of “Outstanding Make Up for a Series” and “Outstanding Musical Composition for a Series (Christophe Beck)”. It should have won more.

In a difficult category for a drama/horror/humor show to win in, Joss was nominated for “Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series” for “Hush”, which used very little dialog and provided some nightmare fodder (for me at least).

But one of my favorites to this day was nominated again in “Outstanding Musical….” ( I have deliberately used the dotdotdot) called “Once More With Feeling”. They episodes songs were written by Joss and the episode of the show itself still has a strong following. A demon causes all the characters to break into song to express their feelings and the whole show is done as a musical. As a bit of trivia, Joss wanted to do the episode earlier but it was pushed to a later season and in its place “Hush” aired.

I loved that stuff.

And now I get more of it in the form of “Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog”. Showcased in the form of an evil scientist’s (Neil Patrick Harris) video blog, a lovelorn villain trys to gain entry into a prestigious evil league, and must prove himself by demonstrating his prowess through a crime. In his way is Captain Hammer (Nathan Fillian “a corporate tool”) and the woman he loves (Felicia Day). This is done with humor and drama, but most importantly song.

That this is being presented as a web series in limited episodes makes it all the more interesting to me and I look forward to reading how it succeeds in this format. Given the length of the episodes, it could have easily been a one hour television show, or part of an anthology series. I am glad they are swimming in Internet waters.

The dialog is funny, the video blog format gives way to more traditional storytelling both on the scenes of the heist and in the Laundromat. The singing is great and the three lead actors are excellent in their roles, the supporting characters that show up really lend well to the humor.

Presented in three episodes, the first two are available for viewing now. The third is scheduled for July 19th.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Never To Old to Blog



Thanks to an email by Stephen, our Senior Computer Specialist at the Institute of Technology and the man who keeps the labs humming, I read of the passing of the world’s oldest known blogger. I will write about Olive in a moment.

A long while back, when I worked at Microsoft on Word for Windows, I made a template using WordBasic that would allow for you to make a journal entry and save. The entry would automate a date and time stamp and then append it to a document in reverse chronological order. Sort of an offline blog. Whoohooo!!

I kept it up for a few months and still have the print out. As journals go, it is OK. Some of the entries are embarrassing (like early attempts at fiction writing, the soul searching I did was forced and uninteresting) and yet other entries are intriguing to me, as they remind me of feelings and events I have let fade a bit.

What I like about blogging is that there is some pressure to write about something. Even the trivial is presented in topic format and most often has a point. Over time, though public and editable, a record of an individual’s life, thoughts and experiences is collected.

One frequent blogger I know, who has been at it since 1998, received a birthday gift once where his wife printed out several years’ worth of his posts and presented them as a book. To me, that is a very cool, tangible way of flipping through a person’s history.

And that is what I think is so valuable about Olive’s blog. She was one hundred and eight years old when she passed away. Born in 1899, she shared tales of growing up in the early 20th century and shared her thoughts on modern life. Her entries recounted memories which including two world wars and the Great Depression.

She had only been blogging since early 2007 and there are only seventy or so entries.

Part of the reason I blog is journaling. To paraphrase a wish Stephen passed along with the note, I hope I am still blogging (in some form or another) when I am 108.

More about Olive here and here.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Come Fold in the Expanse of Tollefson Plaza

As I mentioned over on my FeedTacoma blog, this Wednesday I am going to take a stroll over to Tollefson Plaza, set up a table to fold on, and practice a little origami. There has been a lot of discourse on how empty the place is, both in blogs and the paper, and I had promised myself earlier that I would fill my small square of it this Summer.

I am hoping that anyone interested will stop by and grab a sheet of paper or two and join in. I will bring some of my favorite books for instruction, a few of my favorite models to show and lots of paper.

The place is so quiet during lunch that I may not see another soul out there, but I will have my kids stop by and keep me company and hope you might bring yours along as well.

First we will do a very simple but fun model which can be used as a candy dish or a photo frame. I will test everyone's prowess by putting a few pieces of candy in their completed model. If the candy stays there, SUCCESS!!!

Plus, it will provide a little energy to try the next model or two. My daughter Madeline, who is 8, will teach whoever would like to fold it if they stop by after we are done with it. I will likely enlist my 12 year old daughter to show how to fold a crane. However, people can make whatever they wish.

This Fall I will be putting together some informational origami displays. They will feature specialized areas of origami, such as ornamental flower arrangements and my favorite origami artists and be showcased at the University of Washington, Tacoma's library.

Ultimately I am hoping for a pretty impressive display of cranes, and will no doubt do a thousand crane piece. Feel free to contribute a crane or two. I folded well over a thousand in the last two years, but I keep using them for different projects.

Anyway, 11:30am in Tollefson. Hope it isn't windy.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Having a Lively Conversation



Yesterday Google introduced its graphical 3-D chat room “Lively”. A product of Google Labs, the virtual world tool was introduced through a blog posting off of the site. With it, you can select a cartoon like avatar, enter any of a number of different rooms and find another avatar to have a conversation with.

The download was easy for me. The avatar selection was not. Not that I had any difficulty selecting from those available. Most were anime like women, so I went with an avatar which struck me as an amalgam of several male anime characters.

However I was never able to see myself. I found others with the same problem of the never ending “joining room” message. A workaround was suggested, which I will give a try, but for now I wanted to get a post up on it today. I’ll say more or update once I get it working.

I checked out a few of the rooms and they were very fun. The Superhero Headquarters, the Winter land and the Robot Sushi were all very atmospheric. Along with the confines of the three dimensional room you find yourself in, audio accompaniment, whether the guitar in the Western room or the cracking of ice in the Winter room add to the experience. There appear to be many others and the site gives you the opportunity to create your own.

My misgiving here is the number of couple of rooms labeled as sex and porn rooms that were posted under the “Popular Rooms” page. No adult themed graphics mind you, but the text accompaniment made explicit the conversations to be had when entering this world. Given the open nature of the site, they need to figure out a way to manage this or face the anger of more than a few parents.

Moving around the rooms took some getting used to, but once I had the general idea I could get around. If you need help with any of the site or software, there has been a Lively Group established on Google Groups.

It is in Beta now and looks to be getting a workout. Overall, the site appears to be a fun launch of virtual world chatting. Here is a write up by the New York Times.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Virtual Free Speech and the Subpoena

The Freedom Forum is a Washington, D.C. based, nonpartisan foundation dedicated to free press, free speech and free spirit for all people. Their focus is on three priorities: the Newseum, the First Amendment and newsroom diversity. The graphic is from freedomforum.com site.

One thing I repeat often is that there is no such thing as true privacy online. If it isn’t data you are providing voluntarily, it is data being collected on you through other channels. Sometimes they are to help the user experience, sometimes they are tracking to sell you more effectively and sometimes they are in pursuit of becoming the greatest aggregator of data oN THE PLANET!!!!!

Sorry, carried away.

Anyway, the most frequent flow of private information comes from you voluntarily. This is from your flickr, MySpace, Facebook, Blogger, Tagged, Linkedin, Tagged, Twitter, Konnects, YouTube account. As I am sure you have all of those.

Pictures, opinions and important dates such as birthdays and anniversaries are collected over time.

Off course the warning has always been against someone using search engines, hacking tools or acquired passwords to get all the goods.

Just keep in mind that all it really takes is one subpoena. For an overview on this and the current news cycle regarding Google having to turn over data files on YouTube usage, the New York Times has a good piece.

By the way, not everything you say and do online will stay there, whether you want it to or not. As the pressure grows on online communities to avoid lawsuits, violations and continue to expand to the general public, the restrictions on what you can and do say will increase and the enforcement may simply come in standard policies.

Like a tagger who wants to make his mark on a community wall, someone may immediately paint over it (delete it). Yay!! (my opinion)

Like the dissenter who wishes to expose oppression, he/she can be silenced (account deleted). Boo!! (my opinion)

The free speech debate is going to heat up and based on community preference it will find its middle ground.

For a good opinion piece on free speech and online community Yahoo news carried this.

Heck, while you are at it, check out www.freedomforum.org.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

The Calm Before the Tall Ships Storm

Literally before the storm. Quite the thunder and lightning last night and this morning.

I took my family down along the Thea Foss Waterway yesterday hoping to catch a glimpse of a Tall Ship docked, as I saw in some photos from Jamie Chase (nice photos Jamie).

Of course I should have remembered they all arrive ceremonially en masse today.

And therefore we just had a quiet walk at the end of a day.










But it was still fun to walk along and check out all the booths being set up, ready to sell food, goods and tattoos.

The waterway itself is full of boats, which is a nice juxtaposition of the empty beer garden and band stand being set up.

I don't know when the last time I saw the marina this full.







Of course, then a real storm rolled in. Hopefully things will calm down by mid day.

These photos are a bit blurry in some cases, but the light was fading fast and I took them with my phone.

I am certain there will be photos of crowds to follow.