Archive for September, 2003

Announcing the launch of WorldKit

Announcing the launch of WorldKit

WorldKit :: Easy Web Geovisualization

WorldKit is an easy to use and highly flexible mapping application for the Web. It’s a Flash based app, configured entirely by XML and requires no programming or extra software. It’s in the style of World as a Blog, with many customizable design elements.

If you have any sort of geographic information .. such as environmental data, weblog, site visitors, travel diary, photo albums, news .. on worldwide or local scale, check out worldKit.


halfway to redesign

halfway to redesign

If you’re reading this in RSS, click through to check out the halway to new site design.

Click the banner to restart the animation. I have a few more ideas, when I have another free night to play.


worldwide information nervous system

Erik Benson on when a group becomes an individual

Ever think about the transportation of information in our world? Do societies have structures in place similar to the nervous system in our body?

With 9/11, how long did it take for 5% of the nation to know about it? How long before 50%? How long before 90%? 99%? 99.9%? How does that pattern compare with the information’s travel into the rest of the world.

it feels dehumanizing to think of people as information receptors and transmitters… but I also strongly believe that some force is making us organize ourselves to behave that way. Is it an evil force or a good force or a neutral force, and can we control it?

Erik has a long muse on the nature of information infrastructure, envokes biological metaphors for societal processes, ponders the purpose behind it, and worries over the fate of the individual.

Biological metaphors are effective tools in studying in complex systems, biology straddling several levels of complexity, and clearly demonstrating core concepts of stability,chaos,evolution,novelty,ecology,adaption,strategy. Information, detached from physical context, is extremely novel (though information is perhaps core to existential universal structure, in 2nd law entropic heatinformation sense) and thus, even though biology has evolved ever awe-inspiring means of propogation and preservation, we are just barely aware of the bizarre, convulted, complex systematics of ideas.

Yes, the global nervous infrastructure is real and emerging. Emerging just at the time of eminent environmental and social crisis. New methods of personally publishing, weblogs, are staged to significantly alter the topology of information transfer. Yes, World as a Blog was a crude attempt to model these new flows.

Erik’s introduction of quantitative measurement in media studies is right on. Besides simple awareness, and threshhold met distribution, is study of effect, understanding, and opinion. The force of individual/orgs voices in distributing information, the spin and selection of facts, the particular turns of phrase.

I was often shocked to see how some akward phrase from the Bush Administration was quickly highlighted by commentators, repeated and repeated in the media, until this phrase became situational reality. Is it possibly to quantify these effects? It would be of such great use to semi-automate, track and visualize not just information but perception. How exactly did 2/3 of Americans come to believe Saddam Hussein was involved in 9/11? What threshhold of voices and political threat forced Bush to come out to dispell that claim?

In this space, there’s personal overlap between my present and future courses. The tools I’ll study in Evolutionary and Adaptive Systems will have definite application in studying the nature of the Information Nervous System. And hopefully will result in tools for greater individual understanding. I’m deluged by the volume from my aggregator. Computationally understanding patterns, visualized in aggregator, identification of novelty and idea flow, are very much needed.


SBC Yahoo Laszlo Experience

SBC Yahoo Laszlo Experience

SBC Yahoo, a My Yahoo partner site, is using the Laszlo presentation server. Great news for Laszlo, and great job by the My Yahoo team. It look-feels sweet, and is a true useful rich internet app. Looking forward to seeing these features for all users.

Yahoo is doing lots of cool, experimental stuff, in smaller scale launches. Enterprise My Yahoo gets a Blog search tool, Yahoo Blogs in Korea, Yahoo News RSS feeds. Bits and pieces of the new Web, slowly and surely coming together.


from thought to thought

Eden Project is astounding

Less commented on, is the extremely pleasant architecture of the support facilities, the ticketing hall and dining rooms. Airy, light, light wood. The hushed, civilized hive feeling reminds me of Sweden, and I do miss the calm fresh public face of Scandanavia.

Strange how one place can have such widely divergent cultures, seperated by a 1000 years. Vikings had monks and maidens screaming throughout Europe. Nowadays, the Nordic countries are beacons of post-industrial socialization, introspective and peaceful. I suppose there are two Societal solutions to the extreme environmental conditions of the North — you go bezerker, or you add Christianity. Like any ecosystem, multiple strategies can be successful … and here we see a strategic evolution.

From San Francisco, I miss Sutro Tower and the Tuesday Air Raid Siren.

Everyone is born into the world, they look around, and see the things that have been left behind from past generations. See, here’s St. Paul’s Cathedral, what are all you going to do with that? How about this Coral Reef? Are you ever surprised how we carry on?


Weather as a Blog

New to the World as a Blog familyWeather as a Blog real time satellite weather map, plus worldwide weblogging.

Thanks go to xplanet.


Feed: Scheme, and Stop-Gap solution

Feed: Scheme, and Stop-Gap solution

The discussion of the feed: scheme for Easy RSS Subscribing has been happening here and here. Feed urls would look like feed: .It turns out to be quite easy, in Windows at least, to set up an Aggregator as the handler of a URL scheme .. it’s just one Registry Entry.

This method will call the specified executable, with any arguments, including the URL that kicked the whole thing off. Now, this is where updates would be needed to aggregation software, and what led me to find a stop-gap solution.

  • The application should only run in one instance.
  • Subscriptions need to be accepted as command-line arguments.
  • The url needs to be parsed for HTTP retrieval (ie parse off “feed:”)

I’ve been using SharpReader lately, and it already complies with the first two conditions, but of course not the third.

In pondering the problem, I found that builtin windows applications rely on an intermediary to parse the url. For instance, telnet.exe is invoked by telnet:// — via something called url.dll, which parses the url and passes just the host on the command line. That seemed promising, but naturally url.dll wasn’t extensible.

Was there any other intermediary installed that could do this? I wanted to avoid having to install any more software. Well there’s Internet Explorer and javascript!

IE will open a url passed on its command line, and javascript: is a valid url. I wrote some javascript to parse the url, and request the “one-click subscription” link for SharpReader. It worked! And as an added bonus, to adapt the registry entry for another aggregator, only requires a small modification to the javascript. Here’s the registry entry. I was going to reproduce it here, but it just looks ugly, so please go check it out on the link, and import into your registry if you want to experiment.

The only problem with this method, is that a new IE window is launched. The code on the end is a trick to close that window automatically. It would be great to launch IE with no window at all .. any ideas or suggestions?


World as a Blog is nearly vertical

The sunlight curve on World as a Blog is nearly vertical. September 23rd is the equinox. On the day, everyone around the world will have exactly 12 hours of sunlight (and 12 hours moonlight) to blog by.


Some comment on RSS Feed Subscription

I’ve posted a couple comments on RSS Feed Subscription, and aggregation “politics” in general, to the aggregators list.

parallel world discussion on the same issues has been happening on
these weblogs..

They are hashing out the details of using “feed:”, and wondering how
to build momentum.

There are many unsolved and half-solved problems in aggregation
software. And at least there’s no one place to find the consensus, or
pros and cons on each issue. Examples..

: auto-discovery formats
: methods for publishing blogrolls and subscription lists, and
interchanging them among aggregation tools
: aggregation subscription methods
: methods of passing “read articles” among multiple aggregators

: rpc api’s for aggregators
: update frequency, and methods of update notification
: authentication
: standards for handling weblog comment aggregation

and many many more.

These issues definitely deserve there own space, not as a subset of
the Atom Wiki. Is a Wiki appropriate? Will people take part? Is there
someone to step in and devote time to herding the cats :)?


BirdBlog and Generic Metadata Tools

Wetlands, marshes, swamps, coastal estuaries are a consistenly and heavily modified landscape. Historically regarded as an economic wasteland, the site of huge programs of earth modifcation whenever possible, and seemingly impossible. Say the entire country of Holland, or San Francisco Bay, filled in to half the area of its 1850s extent. Only recently has science, and somewhat slower policy, understood the ecological importance of wetlands: they rank with coral reefs and rain frorest in net energetic productivity, are home to a high number of species, and play an important role in filtering contaminants from the environment.

This summer we visited many wetlands, on the look out for bird life. And some other drier places, also with birds. I’ve put them altogether, in a geocoded weblog. Viewable as a weblog and a map.

Each observation is geocoded, using the Radio Userland Location Tool. I can easily see other appropriate metadata — time of observation (rather than post), weather conditions, species observed, landscape conditions. Adding the location metadata to Radio’s weblog posting, and rss generation, was straightforward, and easily made generic — could see a generalized, configurable metadata tool. Integrate pinging of some central service, and you’d have distributed environmental modelling on the cheap!


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