In technology, things have begun to get incredibly exciting. I could go on for hours about all the amazing changes happening but I only have about 2 minutes so here are a handful of the most fun and exciting advances:
- HTML 5
- Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter views the Apollo 11 landing site*
- The Blob Bot
- Google Real Time Search
- Augmented Reality
* If you don't think a picture of the moon is that cool consider this: It has taken us 30 years to be able to take another look at the Apollo landing sites. No camera or telescope had the ability to see something that size at that distance.
Of course, no list would be complete without negative consideration. Without a doubt, the technology which is the least exciting (in my humble opinion) is getting the most attention:
Click here to read an article on Mashable! about visualizing global social web involvement.
I found an article earlier today on a toy for babies connected to Twitter. I find this idea pretty disturbing...can we allow babies to enjoy baby life without the involvement of the WWW? I mean, I am all for posting pictures so we can all keep up with your little miracle but if you connect the child to twitter we can't be friends anymore.
And yes, I can see the irony in this position but I have been thinking a lot lately and I do believe it may be high time people start to recognize the decidedly antisocial behavior that comes with over use of social networks.
As far as the hunting technique, it was ostensibly simple: One guy waits in a spot quietly with his SOS while the other guy ranges out on foot and 'pushes' the animals back towards the shooter. Since I am the less experienced hunter I get to do the pushing...which is fine. I am a big believer in paying your dues.
The difficulty lies in the landscape. In order to be effective the pusher needs to dislodge the deer from their hiding places in a combination of dense scrub pine, tangled under brush and briers. If you are the kind of guy who is easily freaked out by getting dirty or doesn't enjoy walking around in the cold before the sun comes up...You are not going to enjoy hunting. It is a lot less glamorous then it is made out to be on TV but it is also a lot more fun and interactive.
There were no deer this morning. That's OK though, with tagging limits we don't want the fun to end too early in the season anyways.
One important detail though, I need to stop talking about feeling grateful and start acting it.
Happy Thanksgiving to everyone! Chow down!
The thing is, I hadn't thought about Rube Goldberg once all weekend. Then suddenly this morning as I poured my coffee *poof* it was back in my conscious thoughts.
By the way, it was used on some talk show last week in reference to the American health care system. Seems pretty fitting...as in, the United States health care industry is a Rube Goldberg machine...in other words a ridiculously complex, convoluted way to accomplish a simple task.
This statement would be true if the health care industry was simply all about keeping people healthy. Sadly, it is not. The health care industry is about lining the pockets of share holders...and it is very successful.
Well, now I have heard it right from Maynard James Keenan's mouth and I am officially going to get excited. Here's the actual interview, which is pretty funny once it gets going...
I have never been able to see them live...though I have seen Tool a dozen times.
By the way, if you haven't already checked out Billy Howerdel's solo album Ashes Divide yet...do it. If you like any of the aforementioned you will enjoy Ashes Divide. It is really good.
The irony is pretty thick of course. Apple is probably the king of abusing other brands for the purpose of self-promotion. At the end of the day I am not sure if mud slinging sells more units but I am sure it is funny to watch. Apparently at least one other third party would like to voice their opinion on the whole subject:
iDontgivea.... Tee Shirt
Think Terminator. We are literally a year or two from having mass produced retinal projection devices so we can have information pumped into our field of view at all times allowing us to gain deeper insight into the world around us. What's it good for in a practical sense? Imagine you lost your keys. No worries, just ask your augmented reality virtual assistant to show you what direction they are in and how far away they are...
Guess what...when you were not looking robots became a reality. And I'm not just talking about those giant arms that took all the jobs welding cars...I am talking about C3PO and R3D2 level technology. Walking, bipeds and artificial intelligence with the conversational ability of, well...a mentally handicapped toddler...But still! It can talk to you!
Don't believe it? You better look here: http://robots.net/ and then start making sure you say nothing but nice things about robots because when they figure out they exist you want to be their friend. Most of the advanced technology in development today is designed with one purpose in mind: exterminating people. Granted, we like to think they will only exterminate evil doers in third world countries but...
...or the the emergent collective intelligence of groups of simple autonomous agents. I'm not really qualified to comment on this very much but believe me when I tell you it matters.
But what if I want to search for something less tangible? Say I am in the mood for something captivating? Yep, Forrest Gump was the top result. Try it out!
Is there any kind of movement in our country to end representative democracy? The internet has made the United States Congress obsolete. Then we the people could truly manage our destiny as a people...lobbyists would have to become advertisers in order to push their selfish agendas...which would jump start the floundering advertising industry...perhaps save a few magazines and newspapers...
(warning...seriously dorky content ahead)
Fall is slowly settling into New England. I noticed the first leaves turning in the trees on my way to work this morning. It was a pleasant reminder of the juxtaposition of change and the constant effect of gravity as the earth slowly circles the sun.
My new favorite term is Singularity, which refers to the technical, not the gravitational...a theoretical point in the future where super intelligent technology will explode in an orgasm of accelerating change and exponential advances. Take that Luddites! In yo face!
Given Moore's Law, there will come a time when a computer will be more intelligent than a human. In fact, it is probably going to be in the next 20 years. Just today a coworker and I were waxing nostalgic while he installed a 16 terabyte (wicked big) hard drive array to augment the 42 we already have for our media server. This all fit on a half of a single rack mount. 10 years ago a single terabyte required an 8' tall silo with a robot arm and a climate controlled environment. Oh, and it cost 6 figures...only nuclear labs and defense contractors owned them.
I hope the robots like us.
So far, my overriding sentiment is that it is not hard to see why Microsoft still kicks enterprise software backside. It can be a very arduous process to set up a unix server and get everything running right if you have never done it before. While an experienced engineer might scoff and chalk it up to my relative inexperience...and that may all be well and good...at the end of the day I get to decide what we will be moving ahead with.
Consider: In order to install Apache on Unix from the binary you need to have a c compiler running. OK, go out and download GCC. Oh, in order to install GCC you need 'G Make'. Oh, in order to install 'G Make' you need GCC. Wait, what? In order to install either you need to pull all your hair out, light it on fire and do a hat dance around your office. Up to lighting your hair on fire, that was all true.
On to MySQL. Hard to complain too much, when you consider what they are giving you for free. But, don't you dare try to change your Root password by running a query against the database. There is a very specific command for this important first step.
After a day of knocking my head against the wall I have a unix machine running Apache, MySQL and PHP. After some configurations I am almost ready to install a PHP bug tracking solution and test it out.
Before I signed up I was sort of able to understand why Apple or ATT said no on the iPhone platform, figuring it was a competition thing. But now I am not sure what their problem is. My 20th century analog brain is sometimes quite slow to pick up on the subtleties of business in the digital age. This is probably not as as it should for a guy with my title, but I gave up trying to understand everything a few years back and I haven't picked up the habit since.
Anyhow, out of the 3 people who read my blog posts, there is one who might call me. Next time use:
There's lots of stars in the sky. A lot more than I can see from the city. As we drove home I kept looking up through the open moon roof (at stop lights of course). I suddenly remembered a time when I was a teenager and my buddy's father brought us on a sailboat trip to Maine. There was a clear night when I laid back on a rock on the top of a hill on Damariscove Island in Boothbay Harbor and looked up at the sky for quite some time. There's even more starts visible there.
I like stars. The idea there is a flaming ball of hydrogen fusion 7 light seconds away is really impressive to me. The universe in general fascinates me immensely. I am really looking forward to my next trip outside the city so I can get a good look up there and think about the vastness of space. It comforts me, to think we are so small and insignificant. I am not sure why, but it does.
In a strange twist, the blog has a picture of some graffiti from the wall in a local restaurant I visit. I was once there with my girlfriend really early in our relationship and I was so desperately nervous and trying to be interesting. I went to the men's room and while I was drying my hands I saw this:
I relayed the joke to Jackie and was quite relieved when she thought it was as funny as I did! It has been a long standing insider between us (until now).
While I am being negative, I truly wish that Cadbury eyebrow dance would just go away. That is the creepiest.
On the positive side, the Xbox project natal thing is really exciting. Looks like I am going to have a 'Minority Report-like' interface to my entertainment system in the next year or so.
I also continue to be impressed with how much more Chik-Fil-A does with so much less. Their approach does require lots of one important thing: creativity. While campy, their latest guerilla-like tactic is fun and it is getting results. Check it.
Have a good weekend. I am totally wiped out after visiting with marketing executives at three different cable TV stations in D.C. Yesterday.
But, I have recently started thinking about the information in a very stark way again. It's the wire framing process during the architectural phase...And how clients look at the information and immediately start taking positions on where something is or how much relative weight it has on the page. I find myself day dreaming about some other way to get through this part of the process and I land on something more like a diagram of the actual data objects than a wire frame interface.
Perhaps this is a logical interim step? I am not one to go adding unnecessary work but I have seen so many review meetings derailed because it is difficult for the client to separate defining what the elements on the page will be vs. how the pages will look and/or function.
I am happily settled in with Jackie at the new place. I was just getting used to calling myself a 'Cantabrigian' too. I am now a resident of Jamaica Plain, which is a 4.4 square mile neighborhood of Boston. So, I am officially a Bostonian...a title I have long claimed but never truly earned until now. All those years I traveled across the country it was just much easier to say I was a Bostonian than a 'Winthropian'...The actual; town I grew up in which borders Boston to the Northeast
In either case, I am very excited about my new home with Jackie. We had so much help from friends and brother Max...we were able to clean, scrape, sand and paint an entire two bedroom apartment and move me in three days. And, this was no simple white-washing...the bedrooms, living room and kitchen all have unique color schemes.
The cats, after an evening of sulking around with their little tails held low, seem to be settling in. They are nervous but they also love the boxes and stuff. I think, what with the spare bedroom and all, I will buy them one of those cat towers for a house warming gift...
For instance, lets say I want to twitter about this blog post as I am writing it...I simply select some text and hit control + space then type 'twitter this selection'. Wild.
The real interest to me is this: What does the eventual, wide spread adoption of this technology mean for the web interface? Assuming voice recog or mind recog become viable tools, software like this represents a very powerful way to speed up typical use case scenarios.
Something interesting I noticed is this: As developer I am well aware of the unseen pipes and connections between applications humming across the WWW that go largely unused between different services. This creates little walls around each application...I have to go to this site to get something and then go to that site to use it. No surprises. However, as a user the idea of knocking these barriers down in such a usable way still seems completely novel.
Oh, and the image results page crashed my browser out completely, forcing a restart. That's just amateur.
Microsoft, I know Google pisses you off, what with the free calendar, word processor and spreadsheet...But this is one area you might not be smart enough to wander into. If you want to fight back you should probably stick with what you know and come up with more competitively priced office productivity software.
How does one web developer help an organization overcome an identity crisis? I'm not sure if any quick answers exist. But, I do know what not to do: do not take sides! If the process is sound the issues will sort themselves out.
So, the answer is to do the work for free, right? Nobody can afford to have unhappy clients. Particularly in this day and age. Everything we do in creative services is becoming a commodity and there are 500 companies chomping at the bit to pick up where we leave off if things don't go well.
On the other hand, if the producer consistently allows scope change after scope change, with little or no consequences, the project will quickly become an expensive hobby. If enough projects are not profitable, the company fails.
When I was a producer, I eventually determined this was really not my decision to make. Frankly, it was not my money on the table. The correct action for the producer is to quantify the delta between what is expected and what is being paid for and then request approval from someone who is authorized to make such decisions.
Now, I am a director, so I am thinking about this pretty carefully. I am also looking at the problem from a new perspective and I am starting to think...There may be another way. I'd really like to avoid the unhappy client altogether, if I can.
The key is to back way up...For starters, why does the client feel shocked to learn more work will mean more money in the first place? What action did we, as a vendor, take or, perhaps more importantly not take, to set up an environment where our project is in a class of transactions which is completely unique...Where time no longer equals money.
I'm convinced this is a result of neglecting to manage expectations. In this case, we have forgotten or decided not to explain what a change in scope is and what it means. If we had explained this up front it is likely reactions would be less, or not at all adverse.
It is critically important to explain these things before they happen, in a calm, relaxed setting. This is why I choose to make it an aspect of the kick-off meeting. During this crucial first interaction with the client the producer should carefully review this subject in detail, so the client knows what to expect.
Then, when the first scope change situation arises, I always recommend it is free, or significantly reduced in price. This does not mean it is not quantified and documented. It is absolutely critical the everyone sees and understands the consequences of introducing new requirements or changing their mind...even if the first time it does not actually sting...
Finally, and most important, communication is the key. If there is regular, consistent communication that includes information about time line and budget, the client is not likely to be surprised about the consequences of their decisions. Oh, and pick up the phone! don't discuss money via email. That's inviting a mess.
Today I have a tendency to stick to some simple, core ideals that seem to make it easier for me to stay out of trouble and help my clients do the same. Essentially the idea is, when it comes to communication, do online what you would do in the real world.
For instance, let's imagine I were in a crowded room with mixed company. Would I feel comfortably yelling out some obscenities and disparaging a specific group of people for no reason? Whatever the answer to this question is will help me decide what I should and should not say on my Facebook status...or my twitter account.
On a related note, if I were amongst friends...would I feel comfortable holding myself out as an expert on finances, politics or medicine? Probably not. This helps me to remember what I should and should not talk about in general. I stick to things I know...which applies to me commenting and blogging as well.
Another topic my clients often wrestle with is how they should handle negative comments on their sites. Surprisingly, more often than not the people I have met do not want to be the 'evil big brother' and erase comments. They will often leave comments alone which are clear, concise and make sense...even if they are negative. But, there is a fine line and although it may be unseen...It is clear as day to me.
For example, if my neighbor were to drop by and spray paint obscenities all over my house after that time I dumped trash on his car because he stole my parking spot in a snow storm, you can be sure, I would paint over it...Regardless of how justified his anger may or may not be. Thus, if he were to discover my blog and tell me today how he felt by leaving an angry comment on this post...I'd probably erase it...After I pointed out the inherit danger in removing a man's trash barrel from his carefully cleared parking spot after a blizzard in Cambridge...
The classic moment was when Windows Vista asked if it was OK to trust Microsoft.
I learned about a bunch of new business initiatives I am going to be involved in. I can not disclose much information about our clients but I will say I am going to have an opportunity to work on projects for television networks and shows everyone has heard of and I, personally, love.
Life is good! It would be better if the sun came out...so I could take the bike for a ride...but life is still good.
My friend Michelle created a really cool little slide show which gives a quick description of twitter strategy: http://tinyurl.com/d8y7ug
Cleo has a couple of health problems you would expect to see in a kitten born to a stray...slightly inconvenient but correctable. Once these issues are resolved, I am hoping they become good friends. In spite of her difficulties, Cleo is every bit as hungry and playful as any I have seen!
My last day at the current job is this Friday. Then I am taking a week off to relax and prepare for my new career. So much is happening right now...I haven't really had much time to think! I am also picking up my other new toy next week...a Yamaha V-Star 1100 Classic. I need to register and insure the bike and get a new helmet.
Which reminds me, time to call the insurance agent.
I can say, the most difficult phase is over. Now it's just time to wait a couple of weeks for my decisions to materialize.
Meanwhile, I was just wondering...Is it time we stopped using the term Web 2.0?
I think this year I am going to start right out with a 4.5 miles course 3x a week again. We'll see how that feels. I'm long past concern about being a muscle man. I'd really like to avoid becoming my father...he is my height and walks around at about three bills. I'd also like to prevent heart disease and live a long, healthy life.
Things remain tremendously busy in the world of interactive development. I am following up on some very meaningful leads right now and it is giving me an early idea of what might be possible if I more actively pursue new business opportunities.
Life is good. The sun is out.
Step 1: Figure out how to get a grant.
I remembered some things my mom thought were really funny when we were kids. One was this bumper sticker which was on the bulletin board in my kitchen for as far back as I can remember. It read: "People who think they know it all really annoy those of us that do". This statement was burned into my brain, three times a day, seven days a week for about ten years. Explains a lot...
The other was a placard she had on the window of her car. It was shaped like those, once famous, 'baby on board' signs. Except, the one on our car said: 'nobody on board'. That is silly, but it still makes me laugh. Moms had a pretty good sense of humor, all things considered.
St. Patrick's day. Soon it will be Marathon Monday and then opening day at Fenway...And then, before long, the beaches will open. It's been a great winter though. The best I have had in years...In spite of the frightening and mundane daily reminders of how incompetent our financial leaders are in this country...Life is good.
Soon the people at the top will remember that a healthy middle class is necessary to their way of life...and things will begin to loosen up again. Maybe I'll get someplace to call home out of the deal. Who knows?
Joe and I are sharing the role of Executive Producer. He will also write and I will make sure everything is happening on time and everyone is where they need to be during the contest weekend.
All the equipment and space we need is sorted out, which is good because when I was younger these would have been the impossible details. We also have all the fundamentals we need for the crew. Next we need to organize out the on-screen talent, which is going to be tough since we won't know what we need until the project starts. Finally there is scouting locations around our super secret home base of operations.
stuck inside due to a mechanical problem. It was the most difficult
hardware job I have ever done. There's no nice way to say it...the
drive on this machine sucks. The design belies a complete absence of
common sense and practicality.
First of all, a cdrom drive shouldn't eat cd's after 3 years of
service. Fact. Second, a drive shouldn't be designed in such a way as
to put 'cool' before functional. Finally, one should not have to
literally pull the machine apart around an interchangeable device in
order to extract it.
Anyhow, I was able to put the machine back together and it lives on,
minus the cdrom drive. There were quite a few extra parts but they
seem to be useless...nothing about the computer is different although
I have a solo cup containing 24 screws, a dustcover, three bushings
and a couple of springs. (no kidding!)
The first application I set up is pretty cool. It's called AlertThingy and it basically allows me to aggregate various sources of information in one app. I quickly set up a feed of my friend's Facebook status updates, my twitter feed and a couple of news feeds.
The application also throws up desktop alerts when updated feeds come through. I can filter the results but it is not smart enough to see the identical feeds coming from Twitter and Facebook, which I thought was interesting. I can also update my stuff through the application.
One more way to observe life. I think the benefit to using this type of application for the status stuff is I see all of them...instead of the top 3 or 4 the moment I happen to look at my Facebook page.
What this means is the Executive Branch of the Federal Government has established policy which is opposed to broadband provider's plans to impose restrictions on content, block applications and throttle bandwidth in order to increase their profits with self-serving schemes like tiered service models and eliminating competition in software markets like Apple's 'iPhone - App Store' trickery.
This matter, currently regulated by the FCC, has been the focus of much heated debate. Interestingly, the Telecommunications and Cable-communications industries claim they never planned any such tactics...Yet they are vociferously opposed to net-neutrality standards meant to protect their consumers long-term. I can't imagine any reason why they would waste money and resources lobbying against something they have no financial interest in.
Since it is widely accepted the United States entered the Information Age in 1990, it is also good to see the nation will finally have a Chief Technology Officer. Because of the intrinsically egalitarian nature of the Internet, access to the power of information technology is certainly not limited to those who would do good. Learning there will now be a person at the top of our government who understands what 'The Google" is and how to use it, is pretty comforting news.
Jailbreak is a tool used to modify the iPhone OS so the rightful owner of the device may load any third party applications they like on it. Out of the box an iPhone is restricted and will only allow the owner to download apps from the Apple app store. This is a handy way to eliminate competition in the market place.
In real life, what Apple is doing would be like if someone went to Sears and bought a shiny, red Craftsman toolbox and brought it home. Once home the owner tries to put his own tools in the toolbox but finds he can't. Frustrated, the owner of the toolbox gets out the paperwork to figure out what the hell is wrong with his toolbox.
After hours of cursing and fumbling around with the instructions the owner gives up in frustration. The owner's wife picks up the sales contract and points out the problem there in the fine print: You can only put Craftsman tools in your toolbox. If you modify the toolbox to accept other tools you are going to jail. And what's more is, to pull the limitations of only doing business with AT&T into the equation...you can only use your toolbox to carry tools to places in a Ford truck.
Seem silly? It is a pretty accurate metaphor.
After getting caught up I turned my attention to research. I need to answer lingering questions about how we are going to develop integrated, interactive maps and automatically translate web pages to foreign languages in real time. The results of my research would be going into a deliverable I call the 'Technical Specification' which, aptly, specify all the technical aspects of the site.
Naturally, I turned to Google. In this case however, Google is not the search engine I am going to use to find the answers I seek. In this case Google itself, in all of its wonder, is going to provide the solution to not one, but two complex technical challenges. It is going to make executing the development of each easy...And it is going to be free.
I just couldn't help but have a quiet little nerdgasm in my office when I discovered the hidden hamlet in Google's empire called 'Google Code'. I know this is old news for many developers and engineers...but it was all new for me. Of particular interest is the new 'interactive API playground' which allows you to edit code for most if not all of the popular API's and see the results immediately.
At the Sprint store I explained my dilemma and other, more legitimate requirements...Like accessing my work email and calendar. The rep explained I would have to pay an extra $20, on top of the $100 a month I currently pay to have the 'simply everything' plan in order to access an Exchange server. This was simply more than I could stand. I guess 'simply everything' means everything except accessing your email, synchronizing your calendar, contacts, tasks and files.
So, there will be no change to Blackberry for me. But, as a consolation prize I learned about the coming of the Palm Pre. I must say, I am getting more and more excited about holding out. I have never liked the Blackberry handset anyways...It feels cheap Besides, chatting and giggling with the boys when we are in the same room reminds me of something teenage girls might do in the cafeteria at lunch. ;)
I joined the IEEE last week. The immediate goal is to gain access to some research for a proposal I am writing. But I can already see in the long term there is interesting material to explore. For instance, piles of documentation describing process steps in software development.
Um, the Sarah Silverman show is pretty funny. There is a part of me that is intensely interested in learning more about the 'other ways' to manage IT projects I have not explored.
Basically, I am an inveterate practitioner of the 'Waterfall Model'. I have slowly gained experience with this approach over the last four years and I am now teaching it to others. I also have some experience with the 'Rational Unified Process'. I've also read a little on 'agile' and sometimes borrow some of the philosophy for my own approach, though I have much to learn.
Yet, there are many, many more options I am just beginning to get interested in. I hope to look closer at Scrum over the next few weeks.
Meanwhile, my big project is closing in on the end of the specifications/design phase as we prepare for development. Design went really well, we spent more time than ever ensuring we understood the requirements and expectations. The plan is to approach the development phase with a series of iterative cycles. I am pretty excited and optimistic for continued success.
PS- I designed and developed the web site!!
This is simply no longer the case...
I believe MMA is absolutely on the brink of going mainstream in the area of endorsements and sponsorships. Before long you will almost certainly see those guys in the octagon ring wearing trunk with Walmart, Tide and Budweiser logos on them instead of the current array of companies hawking MMA gear only.
Speaking of which, I have taken a very little side gig assisting my friend with launching his management company: http://strategic-sm.com/
Check it out!!