Sunday, June 02, 2002
My Blog, My Outboard Brain
by Cory Doctorow
"As a committed infovore, I need to eat roughly six times my weight in information every day or my brain starts to starve and atrophy. I gather information from many sources: print, radio, television, conversation, the Web, RSS feeds, email, chance, and serendipity. I used to bookmark this stuff, but I just ended up with a million bookmarks that I never revisited and could never find anything in.
Theoretically, you can annotate your bookmarks, entering free-form reminders to yourself so that you can remember why you bookmarked this page or that one. I don't know about you, but I never actually got around to doing this -- it's one of those get-to-it-later eat-your-vegetables best-practice housekeeping tasks like defragging your hard drive or squeegeeing your windshield that you know you should do but never get around to.
Until I started blogging. Blogging gave my knowledge-grazing direction and reward. Writing a blog entry about a useful and/or interesting subject forces me to extract the salient features of the link into a two- or three-sentence elevator pitch to my readers, whose decision to follow a link is predicated on my ability to convey its interestingness to them. This exercise fixes the subjects in my head the same way that taking notes at a lecture does, putting them in reliable and easily-accessible mental registers....
Being deprived of my blog right now would be akin to suffering extensive brain-damage. Huge swaths of acquired knowledge would simply vanish. Just as my TiVo frees me from having to watch boring television by watching it for me, my blog frees me up from having to remember the minutae of my life, storing it for me in handy and contextual form."
I find that Cory's reasons for blogging echo my own, and that I am reaping the same benefits. It's the opening up and sharing that makes it possible, whereas before I would send a link to a few select people. It also gives me the opportunity to explore my thoughts and ideas more fully, having to flesh them out into actual concepts I have to articulate. It's helped me connect the dots in my own mind, and luckily it's all centrally stored on my blog.
Hopefully I'll be able to impart this vision and explain the advantages to my colleagues when I start implementing Radio for internal KM.
MEMS the Word: Why Your Next Computer Display Might Be an Empty Box
"Flat panel LCDs are the rage today, but that's not what I am talking about. I am talking about yet another type of display that promises to have a big impact on computers, televisions, and just about anywhere else you can imagine watching a moving picture -- even at the movies. These displays are based on MEMS -- Micro Electrical Mechanical Systems -- tiny machines. They may well reprsent the first big success for the emerging nanotechnology industry....
MEMS are computer chips that perform mechanical and sometimes chemical functions. Today, they mainly function as the heart of optical data and telephone switches, sending billions of photons each down the correct piece of optical fiber toward its destination. MEMS in a computer display would control a scanning mirror less than one square millimeter in area. This microscanner is designed to move in both horizontal and vertical directions so a single beam of light can be steered to project a complete video image.
MEMs displays can use the same chip for a display of almost any size. All that matters is how bright the light source. Put a MEMS chip in your mobile phone and scan a low power beam straight into your eye, not even bothering with a screen. In this case, your retina is the screen, and the display can easily match the video quality of a big screen TV. Scan a different signal into each eye, and you have 3-D. MEMS retinal displays in use today have such high color saturation that they are capable of displaying colors never before seen on a computer of television screen.
Use a more powerful light source like a laser, and the same MEMS chip can sit at the back of a television box, shining a high resolution image against a translucent screen.... Put the screen on the wall and that MEMS chip becomes a video projector.
But wait, there's more! Send the light the other way by using the MEMS chip to scan a scene and reflect it against a photoreceptor. Now the scanning engine can power a scanner or a camera. It can even become the basis of artificial sight -- bionic eyes.
I am not making this up....
The Microsoft of the MEMS display business is Microvision, from Bothell, Washington. Microvison, which has almost 200 patents on MEMs and retinal displays, was founded years ago to exploit work in this area done at the University of Washington. Microvision makes those expensive military displays, but they have said with a straight corporate face that the eventual target price for their MEMS-based scanning engine is $40." [The Pulpit, via Slashdot]
This could be one more step on the road to ubiquitous computing. Besides making librarians more mobile within the library, it could also be combined with an always-on, high-speed wireless connection and a wearable computer to make librarians truly mobile anywhere in the community - job fairs, school visits, senior centers, etc.
Of course, the reverse side is that when these types of gadgets become mainstream someday, the library should already have shifted to meet the information needs of patrons who can access its services electronically from anywhere.
And that's not even counting all of the ways I'd be drooling over this type of technology as a consumer!
NEC Demonstrates Japanese/English Communications Software for PDAs
"On May 30, NEC announced the trial service of Japanese/English communications software for PDAs (personal digital assistants) that simultaneously translates and reads aloud verbally-inputted Japanese and English phrases from either language to the other....
This PDA-targeted software utilizes the functions of the “Tabitsu” communications software originally developed for PCs, which includes translating and reading-out verbally-inputted Japanese and English phrases. The software covers a wide variety of travel-related situations such as checking into a hotel and ordering food at restaurants, allowing travelers to use the PDA as a communications tool abroad." [DigiTimes, via Slashdot]
A second generation version of something like this could be handy at the reference desk.
Talk Isn't So Cheap Anymore
"The discounting binge, designed to lure new customers to the battered industry, began last fall with offers of free long-distance services by the biggest carriers.
Earlier this year, the ante was raised when AT&T, Verizon Wireless and others began giving away massive amounts of minutes, even during peak weekday calling times. But with the weak economy, the number of new subscribers during the first three months of the year actually went down compared with a year ago. To stem losses, the companies have begun effectively raising rates....
The best advice remains to haggle. If your contract is up, carriers are often still willing to negotiate over free minutes, free phones and discounted plans.
Chariya Milindawad, 27, of Chicago just renewed her Voice-stream contract for a year and wound up getting more minutes for the same price she was paying before, $70 a month. 'If they had increased the price, I would totally be on the Internet shopping around,' Milindawad said." [Chicago Sun-Times]
This is totally wrong-headed, as evidenced by plummeting sales figures in the music industry. Raising prices is NOT the way to entice new customers, or keep existing ones. At a time when carriers should be getting as many folks as possible on the bandwagon in preparation for 3G-like services, they're going to drive away their potential user base.
In addition, their biggest hope for the future is the Net Gens - kids that grow up with wireless services as part of their everyday lives. If the mobile phone industry is beginning to understand this, why are the carriers throwing up roadbloacks to widespread adoption by this important market? This makes no sense.
"Life-size foosball with real people. The Level in Brighton will play host to a giant inflatable pitch to raise thousands of pounds for charity. They are looking for teams of five to take part in human table football which involves attaching people to poles and moving them from side to side in the formation of the popular table game." [Brighton & Hove, via Loebrich.org, via jenett.radio]
More on Social Networks
"I cleaned up blogrollfinder.py a bit and ran it again, this time just looking one level deep: sites that are listed on blogrolls of people who are on my blogroll. This answers the question,
Who are the people that you're reading reading that you're not reading? The answer is enlightening:
There is an incredibly strong contingent of library-related weblogs that I am apparently related to by blogroll and didn't even know it. My mother would be proud; she was a librarian for many years. Guess it's in my blood.
Update: On further inspection, it seems there was a bug in the script which counted everything on Jenny Levine's blogroll twice. Still, it is interesting that she acts as a sort of window into a new, tightly interlinked community. Dedicated readers may recall that Google originally recommended her to me through a list of 'related' links. Wild." [dive into mark]
This is just one of many interesting experiments Mark has been posting during the last 24 hours, so be sure to check out the rest. RSS fever has been infecting many a great post this weekend!
Let's Forget the Whole 'Blog thing - I Just Want My NAGG
"...I realize that I'm now addicted to my News Aggregator (which I call my 'NAGG'). Even if I decided never to post another blog entry I would never give up my NAGG. I am subscribed to 88 news sources currently, and let me tell you brother it's not enough. From the mundane to the sublime. I get NFL news, and news on the Saints -- so I always know about their trades and acquisitions (and I know before I get home and watch the local sports on TV). I get a pretty good selection of offbeat news and what I miss (which is a lot), other bloggers seem to catch pretty well (Boing Boing is a great resource for this and other things). And of course, I get a lot of legal news. But the amazing thing is how little I now rely on traditional news sources for breaking news.
It's really funny now when people ask me 'say did you hear that...' And I say 'yeah, I blogged about that two days ago.' The other day I had another small epiphany. I followed the Ken Layne pointer to a New Yorker article by Seymour Hersh and posted a short thing about the FBI's mishandling of intelligence information before 9/11. I thought it was strange that an article from the New Yorker was available online, but I was in a hurry to post and get back to something else. Two days later I was in my friend Greg's office and he had a copy of the New Yorker sitting on his desk. I asked if it was the latest copy and he said it was so I picked it up and looked to see if the Hersh article was in there (it was, which surprised me a little bit because I didn't think that the New Yorker would post such fresh content online). I mentioned to him that the Hersh article was a good read, thinking it was ironic that usually he sends me his New Yorkers after he is done with them, with yellow post it notes marking the worthy articles, and here I am (a non-subscriber) telling him what is worth reading in his freshly delivered copy. As I was leaving he asked if I how I knew about the article, and I said....well you know what I said." [Ernie the Attorney]