Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Most Trafficked Blog Posts 2008

It has been another year of posts for me here at Living and Working in a Virtual World. The number I have posted has dropped a bit for this year, down from 117 posts in 2007 to a total of 101 posts for 2008. I have been pretty busy though, including classes at night, the South Sound Technology Conference and several shows not to mention the four kids. I will try to reverse the trend in the coming year.

This blog focuses on the question, "How do internet systems, the world wide web, online social networks, databases and client server technologies serve relationships and the arts?". However, like last year, some of the most popular posts came from totally different subject matter. Total number of visits doubled, which would be a trend I would like to keep on track.

Of course, the earlier posts have the advantage in the most trafficked post contest, but given that two posts were from 2007, I figure any late but popular posts for 2008 have a chance next year.

Aside from the home page, the ranking order of posts is as follows.

1) Some Origami Notes

and

2) Origami Lesson Plan for Kids

Yes, in a site about virtual things, folding paper was the most interesting topic to the public at large and the two top posts were origami related. So much so that I have continued to post on the topic and created its own label to search on. I also attempted a separate blog for origami, but I don't post frequently enough and the last thing I need to do is maintain yet another blog. I've also seen some of my photos, such as the compound origami roses and dahlias show up elsewhere.

3) Tom Tom vs. Mapquest Printout
In an attempt to be humorous, I wrote about my adventure using Mapquest and Tom Tom to get to a meeting in Bremerton. The blog post was picked up by a couple of GPS user group members and the article was linked to from the different news groups. I still see them trickling in.

4) South Sound Technology Conference 2008
Hurray! Interest in the conference drove traffic to the site. I promise that next years conference will have more coverage and advance notice and information. It is already taking shape for next year and could have a couple of very interesting additions.

5) Robot Fish and Carpet Cleaning
This is an interesting one, as it was a popular destination post based some what on the images in the post. Multiple visits from Korea drove the number up, so I am not sure it would have come in as high otherwise. I have subsequently purchased a iRobot Roomba as detailed in two posts prior to this one.

6) An Epic Predictions about Newpapers
The current conditions of the newspaper industry and the local interest in the Tribune drove traffic to this post. Lots of FeedTacoma referrals as well. The Tribune and Mark Briggs have been popular blog post topics in the past as well.

7) Do the Fair Comparison
One of my favorites, this is not only the second post from 2007 on this years countdown, but the same post was also in the top ten last year. There are plenty of posts about "Doing the Puyallup" that come each year, but I believe mine is the only one that provides all the lyrics to the song "Do the Puyallup".

8)Personally Identifiable Information (PII) Guidelines
Proposed by Lew McMurran, VP, Government and External Affairs of the WTIA, it didn't hurt that I made it a class assignment to read and comment on these proposed guidelines.

9)Hotel Murano Featured in CNN Money
A short post simply pointing to another, and yet interest in the hotel and a FeedTacoma link drove folks through.

10)When Bloggers are Neighbors: Guest Blogger Erik Handberg
This was a great post with some good comments that followed. Erik had spoke to my class and then approached me with the idea of a guest blogger. It was a good idea. I don't know why I haven't done it again, as it turned out nicely.

I hope that you all have a great new year. See you in 2009.

Monday, December 29, 2008

The "Great Aussie Firewall" Debate


In Jurassic Park, there is an attempt to keep the dinosaurs from breeding by creating only female of the species. However, the female dinosaurs produce offspring through parthenogenesis, for as Doctor Malcolm states, “Nature finds a way."

So does the Internet. There will be many attempts to control and filter the Web and the Internet, but I doubt that there will ever be a successful project that controls distribution of files and media. It is constantly evolving and there are many different ways in which transactions and transfers can occur.

That doesn't mean that there won't be any attempts.

According to Wikipedia, "Internet censorship in the People's Republic of China is conducted under a wide variety of laws and administrative regulations.... The apparatus of the PRC's Internet repression is considered more extensive and more advanced than in any other country in the world....Amnesty International notes that China “has the largest recorded number of imprisoned journalists and cyber-dissidents in the world.”

Another example includes conversations I had with young men and women who were visiting as part of the "Dubai Future Leaders" program. Among them were a few bloggers who talked a bit about what it was like to blog in the United Arab Emirates. They did not encounter difficulties themselves, but they mentioned that blogger friends from other restrictive countries faced imprisonment for dissenting viewpoints.

But the uproar today and over the last week has been over Australia's plans to implement the "Great Aussie Firewall". In an (I believe) admirable attempt to curtail exploitative web sites and practices such as child pornography and criminally instructive sites advocating drugs and ultra violence, the filter is promising to make Australia one of the strictest Internet regulators among democratic countries.. Admirable or not, it may not be technologically feasible to do so, and therefore a waste of crime fighting funds.

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy states, "This is not an argument about free speech," in an e-mail to The Associated Press. "We have laws about the sort of material that is acceptable across all mediums and the Internet is no different. Currently, some material is banned and we are simply seeking to use technology to ensure those bans are working."

Douglas Schweitzer puts the counterpoint nicely on his Computerworld blog,

You can’t fault them for trying to make the Internet a safer place to traverse, but they’ll have to fine-tune their methods. Filtering peer-to-peer networks would seem promising, but blocking key words is still unreliable. ...Democracies are struggling with Internet filters across the globe, but in many countries filtering is voluntary. Until they can improve their method, Australia’s going to have a hard time "selling" this proposed firewall.

Technology is a tool and not as stand alone solution. We have laws and organizations that maintain and uphold them in the real world, and though they are unable to halt criminal activity, they are societies means by which we keep criminal activity in check. Will that be the same in cyberspace? And if we do build out new laws and organizations to maintain and uphold the online laws, how will they stratify.

If an online community is inherently global, will those laws eventually need to be as well?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

I Bought My First Robot - Finally


I have looked longingly at robots for some time now, knowing that they likely wouldn't be allowed in the house. However, I finally bought one for myself as an upcoming birthday present. I was doing some online Christmas shopping and one of those banner ads that targets your personal psyche got to me. It was a sale that knocked 20% off the already low price to a model that was being replaced by a newer version.

Nothing overly complex or sophisticated mind you. No "Danger, Will Robinson." with arms flailing about. Not yet.

It was simply a Roomba. The Roomba "cleans routinely so you don't have to. With the touch of a button, Roomba automatically vacuums carpets and hard floors on its own!"

Sweet.

It is from iRobot! Not the nine science fiction short story collection by Isaac Asimov, but by the $249 million public company that employs more than 400 of the robot industry’s top professionals.

From their website:

iRobot was founded in 1990 when Massachusetts Institute of Technology roboticists Colin Angle and Helen Greiner teamed up with their professor Dr. Rodney Brooks with the vision of making practical robots a reality.

They are a profitable company coming off of a strong third quarter.

Of course, this is just a first step for me. Who knows, some day I may have a use for one of their Government or Industrial robots. Not to mention keeping an eye on some of the robots coming out of Japan. Baby steps though. Metaphorically, not literally.

Likely the next bot will be a Scooba, or the iRobot ConnectR (the virtual visiting robot). Of course, that all depends on how the Roomba works out for me. After excitedly ordering one for myself and getting confirmation of the order, I received this email...

"Thank you for shopping at iRobot.com. We have received your order number #############.

This order includes backordered item(s) that are unavailable
for immediate shipment. If you ordered other items they will ship as scheduled."


Oh well, in a few weeks maybe.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

One Crane Wing Down But Much to Do


This is an updated photo with the cranes now attached.

I laid out one of the crane wings last night. There are over 200 cranes in place but when completed there are going to be approximately 300 cranes per wing, with the neck, head, tail and back taking on the 400 or so left over to make 1,000. The picture is from my phone so not much detail, but the wing is over five feet across which will mean approximately an eleven foot wingspan.

However, I am not sure about the support yet to hold it's shape. I have the ceiling tile wire on the underside, but that has to be moved to the top, as I would prefer not to see it from the bottom. But that means I will have difficulty attaching the cranes to the wire frame. This is intended to be hung from a high ceiling in the UWT library, so care in lifting and setting will be necessary.

Most importantly, it still does not have the rigidity I wanted, which means there will need to be more support wires to attach when it is hung. I will be gluing overlapping wings together which helps, but also means one mistake could cost me time in crane replacement.



You should be able to see the outline of the wing from the positioning of the black cranes.

If anyone has additional ideas let me know. Thanks to Pete and Judy for earlier help.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

"You've Got Mail" Morphs to "You've Got a Court Order"

The private/public settings on your Facebook account may see quite a few flipped switches from public to private in the near future. In Australia, the courts have given permission for people to be served via e-mail and text messages when it was not possible to serve them in person. Of course the Associated Press picked this up, and now there are about 500 articles on it via Google news. I on the other hand learned about it from Erik Hanberg who continues to be a great source for me.

Some of the headlines:

"Lawsuits sent via Facebook" Courier Mail
"Facebook first as lawyers use site to track debt-dodgers" Independent
"Court's use of Facebook to serve documents a world first" Daily Telegraph

and a favorite of mine

"You've been poked - now you're homeless." Times Online, UK

That one just strikes me as unseemly.

Of course the couple who have been dodging the front doorbell and not answering the phone thereby thwarting attempts to serve still haven't been served. Why? Because they heard about the ruling that Facebook could be used and removed their profiles from public view.

The lawyers in the case are still OK with this because they say it further proves that they have tried all means necessary to contact the couple.

Of course reporters for the AP had no trouble finding the couple in default at home in order to obtain quotes in their report.

What it does seem to say in a nutshell is that physical mail is no longer considered the only reliable, secure and private medium for communication.

A Facebook spokesman spun this nugget out of it as well as described in Rod McGuirk's report:

"The ruling is also an interesting indication of the increasing role that Facebook is playing in people's lives," Schnitt added. The company said it believed this was the first time it has been used to serve a foreclosure notice.

So, if this holds for Facebook, how about MySpace or Konnects or LinkedIn? For that matter, how about our hyperlocal communities like FeedTacoma or Exit133? What if you are a citizen blogger for the Tribune and you are served through the comments section? I would imagine it depends on the communication infrastructure associated with the service, as it is mostly social networks that allow for the private communication between members.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Presentations and Some Book Recommendations

Another quarter came to an end last Friday and it was a busy week with finals and grading. However I wanted to mention to the students, who were an excellent bunch, that I enjoyed their presentations. Some were a bit shy, some appeared to have done the minimum, but most of them seemed interested in and eager to share what they had read and reported on.

Among the books that the groups shared in reading I wanted to recommend as well.

"World Without Secrets: Business, Crime, and Privacy in the Age of Ubiquitous Computing." by Richard Hunter. Written in 2002 it still reads well and describes the impact that emerging technologies have on our lives. Two groups ended up covering this book, but no one ran out of things to talk about.

"Burn Rate: How I Survived the Gold Rush Years on the Internet" by Michael Wolff. I have always liked this book because it captures the craziness of the Dot.com bust pretty well, and many of the places he goes and people he talks to were familiar to me. I wouldn't have been surprised to have been in the same room as him on occasion. Michael does not come off as a very nice person in this book, but he is the author so more power to him.

"Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution" by Howard Rheingold. I am a big fan of Howard and enjoyed reading "The Virtual Community" in the 90's. This presentation accounted for quite a bit of interaction from the students, which is also high praise.

I am not going to mention all the presentations but these books struck my interest in passing on.

Their was another book that a presentation was done on. "Against the Machine: Being Human in the Age of the Social Mob" by Lee Seigal. However it does not come recommended. The students on this team were all great and did well in class. They also did not have much to say for Lee and his ideas. His arguments are incredibly anti-Web and Social Networks without providing much of substance to back up his opinions. He comes across on subject of the Internet like Anne Coulter does on the subject of Democrats, so he may be amusing to some.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Phantom Tollbooth and the Mathemagician

Starting the weekend of January 10th and running for two weeks with shows on Saturday and Sunday, the Tacoma Children's Theater will be presenting Norton Juster's "The Phantom Tollbooth". There are also two weekday shows that have been arranged especially for school children.

Rehearsals have just started, and I will be playing the Mathemagician, ruler of Digitopolis. The book for the show does an excellent job of keeping much of what makes the children's book so wonderful. Lots of word play and a lesson that is engaging for children and adults.

This is one of my all time favorite books, so I was thrilled and grateful when I was cast in the show. I have a paperback copy from when I was a kid, and bought hard back copies for all four of mine. I read it to each of them before they could read themselves, and the older ones encountered it again in school.

A boy, Milo, arrives in the Land of Wisdom through the tollbooth, and finds it in disarray. The two Kings, brothers and rulers of the cities of “Dictionopolis” and “Digitopolis” have argued their whole lives as to whether words or numbers were more important. When the princesses “Rhyme” and “Reason” were asked to decide the question, the answer was unsatifactory to either brother and the two are banished from the kingdom, and are now being held prisoner beyond the Mountains of Ignorance.

Realizing their error, they wish Milo well as he goes forth to rescue them aided by a trusty time-keeping dog who goes tick, and whose name is Tock. The journey is treacherous and the two meet many demons along the way, such as the Trivium and the Senses Taker.

I am looking forward to wearing my robe of numbers with my Number Two pencil as a staff and singing "Subtraction Stew". I will no doubt post pictures when they are available. Could the upcoming show and the recent gains in Math reported for U.S. students be mere coincidence. I think not.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Voices in Wartime: A Social Network



Not long ago I went up to Seattle to listen to a panel discussion of torture and its effects on the individuals who have endured it, as well as its consequences for the nation that allows it to take place. Though the trip up was part of a class I have been taking, I did ask someone along to the event. Though sympathetic, she did not want to attend because it would be too hard for her to listen to the stories being told. In fact, they were heartbreaking and upsetting.

But there are times when stories have to be told, no matter how difficult to hear. At times they are heartbreaking, but they can also be life affirming, uplifting and even therapeutic for the storyteller and well as for the audience. Such is the case with a new social network site being launched this week by Voices In Wartime.

Andrew Himes came by the same class mentioned above here at the UWT and talked about the new project just recently launched with the addition of a social network component.

The mission and vision of the site are as follows.

Mission
Voices helps people understand the roots of war and violence by hearing the voices of witnesses and helps communities take compassionate action.


Vision
Acknowledging that conflict is inevitable, we envision a world in which nations, communities, and individuals move beyond polarization and destruction, instead viewing conflict as an opportunity to create understanding, empathy and positive change. Through education, the arts, and self-expression, Voices aims to transform how we respond to, engage in, and recover from conflict. By working directly with instructors and students we strive to model pedagogical methods and social processes that challenge and enrich the arts, humanities and social science curricula.

If you are interested you can check them out at http://voiceseducation.org/