Multi-D: Background reading and links to projects building systems to visualise multi-dimensional data (including a link to the Xerox PARC Magic Lens page).
Inventing the Lisa Interface: "The paper included screen shots that pre-dates the legendary visits to Parc by Steve and other people from Apple. No doubt the Parc visits provided inspiration but its was not "standard myth that Apple lifted the user interface of the Lisa and Mac in whole from the Star"."
The Movable Filter as a User Interface Tool: "Magic Lens filters are a new user interface tool that combine an arbitrarily-shaped region with an operator that changes the view of objects viewed through that region. These tools can be interactively positioned over on-screen applications much as a magnifying glass is moved over a newspaper." Funky. Sounds a bit like the zoomable interface, but generalised. Hm, and different views of a single object type: sounds a bit like tabs, but different (at work one of the main metaphors in the code is different views on the same data set). Quite different. Mmm.
Designing a concept mapping system user interface: "Concept maps are diagrams composed of nodes and links, that are used to graphically represent information. [...] Links are also used to represent data; however, they have an additional characteristic: they relate data representations (which may be nodes or other links)." It's pushing all my buttons already.
Some thoughts which grew too long for a post here: The sameness of interfaces. Comments welcome.
Number 99! What is a droll? is up today at Upsideclown, penned by Victor: "Humour works on the basis of reversal, so let's have The Three Billy Goats Gruff eating a hapless and disfigured creature under a fairytale bridge. Let's have it in live action - none of this animation lark."
Upsideclown is one year old today. So... well, we're doing two things.
First, we're having a party to celebrate the year and the 100th article (which is on Monday, by the way). It's a week on Friday, come along.
Second: We're starting a sister site and we're on the hunt for writers. Interested? Upsideclone will be kind of like Upsideclown, but more whimsical, by anybody who wants to write, y'know, freer, open-er. Yeah. Well, it's not terribly easy to describe. But we'd like to, well, expand the team, bring more people on board, have fun. Etc. Blah. Submission policy's on the page. Come on come on come on come on come on. Come on. And then come and have a chat in the Upsideclone forums, and we'll convince you. With pointy sticks.
If you ever need to find where someone famous is buried (or one of 2.5 million non-famous people), then Find A Grave is for you. I'm not quite sure why this is a good idea, but I'm kind of glad there's somebody doing it. Freaks.
When you've had enough of the Euro Hi-NRG, cheesy trance and all the rest, try Philosomatika for all your streaming mp3 needs. "100% Goa and Psychedelic Trance". Good grief. Incredible.
(And if you do want the cheesy up-for-it stuff, check out the trance stream at Digitally Imported. Hands in the air!)
Today at the revolutionary Upsideclown: "I stand atop a newly vacated plinth, the two hundred year-old general stares stonily up from the ground. I will look out from here again later and see the same crowd wetly glistening orange from the burning arcades, pushing themselves into the water cannon. These are my troops now, general."
Bringing justice to the world, freeing us from the reign of the corporations and global capitalism. I'm Fighting the Good Fight.
...which, incidentally, is clown #98, which means in only another two it's issue 100 (oh, and our year anniversary is tomorrow). So, are you coming to the party?
(Oh, and, since it seems to be public information day: You can get essays by email. Subscription information is at the bottom of the Upsideclown page.)
The OpenDoc User Experience. You know, this sounds just like documents in Microsoft Office, but with an almost completely open architecture. Nothing ever changes.
Cyc, the largest expert system ever to be built, is to have a small subset released to the public in the form of OpenCyc -- an embeddable, developmental version of the knowledge base. Cyc works by associations and assertation; philosophers input fundamental truths and the system requests clarifications about ambiguities. It's all pretty vague, and the article in the LA Times, Birth of a Thinking Machine, doesn't clear much up, but what it does say is extremely interesting.
The Slashdot thread contains some interesting comments about the computer race from the 1980s that never happened: "CYC is one of the few survivors of the "A.I." speculative bubble of the mid-1980s. Though this bubble was not as large as the recent InterNet bubble, there was a lot of hype. The US computer industry feared it would lose the "A.I. war" against Japan's "Fifth Generation Project". This project was going to build an intelligent supercomputer using expert systems. It was almost a complete bust." Hey, I remember that! Weren't the Japanese going to hook together a million artificial neurons in a ten year project and then just, um, switch it on and see what happened?
Imagine if, as a man, your pubic hairs were so long they'd catch and snag in the plug grate when you used a urinal. That would be bad. I'd buy some scissors, if I were you.
Thursday at Upsideclown: "First, the buildings. All that do not have rounded roofs will be levelled to the ground. Flat tops, pointy tops, crennellated tops - all shall go. Do not worry, we shall make new buildings in their place to do the same jobs, You shall not lose your builders and bakers and candlestick makers, only not to have them for a short while. Rounded roofs make landing easier on our pods, slowing the momentum."
George found these leaflets, see, and we've just re-elected this government, and, well... All Your Elections are Belong to Us. Go read.
Oh, and: This is clown number 97. Only three episodes to go until the big one! And then the party -- are you coming along?
The Duck-Billed Platypus makes noise ranging from "a growl of a puppy to the noise of a broody hen". But nowhere on the www can I find a sound file of this. I have asked here before for help. I have asked on mailing lists. I have spent literally hours on search engines, as have friends, and friends of friends. I'm getting desperate, so here's my plea:
Please hunt for me. Look. Go to the zoo and record one if you can. Spread this message. Do you have a weblog? Copy and paste this message onto yours, asking your readers to help. Are you on a mailing list? Send this request to all your friends. Do you have a newspaper column? Use your exposure to repeat this request. Ask friends of friends. Ask zoologists. Place adverts in the newspaper. Anything, it doesn't matter. (Don't forget, when doing this, to mention it's me wanting the sound, otherwise how will people know who to send it to?) But please help me to find the sound of a platypus. This is terribly, terribly important.
Compare things using the power of search engines: compare-stuff.com. Automatically fires off requests to dig up words with comparison terms. Kind of funky. Kind of gimmicky. Kind of useful? I doubt it. But worth a play.
Newsportal is a web-based newsgroup client (it talks nntp) written in php. It's primitive (compared to conventional forum software), but it's new, it supports threading, and it's built on nntp.
Monday at Upsideclown: "What passwords you use and when you use each one provide a more curious insight, as passwords are chosen as something that no-one else knows about you. These are generally the very first things I look at when I read a story, before even the confirmed real name. Yours were picture-perfect, were the sparkle that first alerted me to you."
Staggering Upsideclown from James today, stemming from a conversation we had about privacy on the net in the pub the other lunchtime. Excellent article. You really must read There's No Such Thing As A Coincidence.
In related news: Subscription info for article mailouts are at the bottom of the Upsideclown page. And, come along to the centenary celebrations, see Upsidecrown for more.
Photos from London Zoo. I took about a hundred photos that day - oh the joys of a digital camera - and I'm convinced this is the path to better pictures: throw away 80% of what you take (or more). I've not tweaked the colour of any of these (apart from the gorilla/boy one), but for some reason they're really vivid anyway. Maybe a combination of not using a flash and the really bad light that day meant that everything had to be exposed for longer and become more saturated? I don't know enough about photography really. Anyway, I'm particularly pleased with the iguana, the close-up blue fish, and of course of the penguins. Penguins rock.
You know, a year ago yesterday I announced the launch of Upsideclown. We'll have been going a whole year on June 26th. We'll publish our one hundredth article on July 2nd. How about that? So, we're having a party, a Readers Party, on Friday July 6th. Well, I say party, really I mean upstairs in a pub called The Crown in central London. But it'll be a party, I'm sure, when the seven clowns and you, dear Reader, are there.
Naturally, we have a website to tell more. And just as naturally, given the subject matter and name of the pub, it's called Upsidecrown. Come along?
If someone could find me a sound file of a platypus barking, I would be most grateful. Please pass this message along.
Neil brings us today's Upsideclown: "I have worshipped at other churches: swayed, apostate, in the thrall of electro-ambience as fervent loners and geeky clusters lurk in shadowy corners". Neil finds religion in The Sound of Music -- as ever with Neil, it's spot on, just right.
(If you'd like articles by email, you can find out how at the bottom of the Upsideclown page. You know you want to.)
The House of Commons is just the Oxford Union writ large, complete with pedantic argument based on what was said rather than what was meant, and shallow posturing. Too fucking right. The society at Oxford University is the breeding ground for a style of debate that values above all else preventing the opponent saying anything. How are you supposed to reach correct conclusions when bullshit wins over intelligence every time? It's a bloody mess. So says George Monbiot in the Guardian (essentially anyway, he uses a few more words), and I agree: Break the whip.
He even suggests a few remedies: make it illegal for the party to influence the way an MP votes; full state funding of political parties; complete electoral reform -- and more. Spot on.
Upsideclown for Monday: "But even in this first stanza there is a sense of foreboding. S'agrippent demonstrates the tight hold on love in their close grip on the balloon's string, but also introduces the claustrophobia of a relationship (ne t'agrippe pas tant à moi - don't be so clingy). There is also the ambiguity of tu es sur? - not only 'are you sure?', but 'are you reliable, safe, trustworthy?' - and while the synaesthetic presence of the partner reassures the lover, the reader remains unconvinced."
Jamie's gone all literary in today's Upsideclown: "If it's in French, it must be deep". Oh, and a small amount of it is in fact in French. And I was assured pretty bloody good French too, when it was translated for me (you don't need to know what it says, but it does add considerably).
Don't forget that Upsideclown is also fresh to your inbox every Monday and Thursday -- send the word subscribe in the email body to firstname.lastname@example.org to sign up.
A General Election is a peculiar event. From individuals voting, to party votes in constituencies, to a single member per constituency, to parties in the House of Commons, to a single party winning, to the party forming a government, to the Cabinet, to the Prime Minister: it's a startling bottom-up process. At each stage we merge data. Consider a map of the votes, it's grainy, stochastic, incredibly detailed. And then we decrease the resolution, throw away information. The map is less detailed, larger blocks of colour. An election is a form of lossy compression, a many-to-one transformation, a bubble-up process. It's the only social system I can think of that exhibits this. Other group activities are more of a transfer of authority to some other individual, a sideways delegation. But in this election case, the choice of the repository of authority is implicit in the transfer. And so it's special.
Of course, the main thing about the UK Government Cabinet reshuffle is that the three most powerful politicians in the country (Blair, Brown, Blunkett) are collectively only 50% sighted. Eye am sure there's a joke here, but I just can't see it. And after making that comment, is it better to try and be funny, or just let it go? My, what a terrible double blind. My sense of [aqueous] humor is all but gone. Oh god, could these puns be any cornea? Etc.
Great Northern Publishing do short run book publishing. Judging by their guide they like to stick their oar in a bit, but one to remember.
Fresh today at Upsideclown: "So this is the point where I wake up and do what I have done every day since the day she left. Since she died, more accurately."
Dan's on Dispassionate Leave.
Oh, and here's another thing: Upsideclown articles are now being sent out by email. To subscribe, send an email to email@example.com with the word "subscribe" in the email body.
The sole reason I don't buy tshirts on the www is that I don't know what size I am.
Update, before another leap at ftrain.com. Beautiful prose. Incredible last line. I love last lines like that. Give me more.
The oddest message I've ever read, from Prudence Pillsbury: "My late father, Pastor Pillsbury, used to say the very same thing, Brother Hardwick [...] Even after he lost both legs to diabetes, he would ask me and my brothers (as even without either leg, daddy still weighed 325 pounds) to wheel him up to the local "Jim-Bob's all-you-can-eat Barbeque Buffet" so he could sit and "make as many demons homeless as possible" as he always put it, devouring slab after slab of baby back ribs."
This in reply to Vegetarians are Satanic, which also triggered the email with the most alarming subject line in the world: "Sounds like Paul is describing homosexual Catholic priests and their "fish on Friday" nonsense! Praise!"
Actually, I'm more or less completely terrified by all the messages on Brother Harry's Bible Study. They either consist of complete pisstakes, or alarming quotes from the Bible ("Does your garment tag say, "50% linen, 50% wool"? If so, I hope its appropriate clothing for extreme heat" - from Leviticus 19:19. This sparks an entire thread of messages asking whether a polyester mix would be better).
Still, you can't fault the man's credentials: "he holds the record for filling the most number of souls with the Holy Spirit while inducing the most convulsions in a single sermon".
I seem to have developed this stupid habit of keeping my mouth open while I soap my face in the shower. At least my oesophagus is clean, but the lather tastes terrible, and how did this even start? In related news, I had dreams but I can't remember them and don't think they were scary; I replaced the bulb in the bathroom.
Fascinating article on The Future Of The File System, wandering through file storage and associative linking [via CamWorld]. Interesting ideas about looking at your email mailboxes as divided in folders "threads", "from", "date", etc. And a good point that there really shouldn't be folders at all, just virtual groupings -- although I'm sure this wouldn't be any harder to use than the current hierarchic system, objectively, the momentum and experience people have in using an already pretty obtuse system might preclude switching.
I've wanted to do this for a while: browse MP3s, or email, or a MySQL database as easily as a dedicated MP3 player, or email or database client, but as part of the file system. Why should that be so hard, and why aren't OS designers making the effort? The fact that people are having to design these alternative browsing systems and that they can't rely on the filesystem indicates to me that the current OS is reaching the end of its life.
Lunchtime conversations today included "What would be your first edict if you were King?" One answer: An enormous canapy over the entire country, a few hundred metres up, with a one-to-one map printing on its inside, so you could look up and figure out where you wanted to go, or maybe even carry a mirror so you wouldn't strain your neck. This answer with a nod to How to Travel with a Salmon. Also, the banning of sand. The supplementary question "What single thing could you do to most increase general happiness?" yielded Tom B's idea of a reverse lottery, in which a millionnaire pays the cash, and a million people get a quid each.
I also learned that the Panopticon prison has actually been built in Cuba, which strikes me as rather like actually locking a cat in a box with poison, strapping somebody to a wall in a cave so they can only see shadows of the real world, or (again Tom B) cutting down trees in a forest and frantically running away before they fall. But that's Castro for you.
I love this kind of shit. Miracles of the Next Fifty Years is a Popular Mechanics reprint from February 1950 about the world of the year 2000 (have you noticed it's never just '2000' but always 'the yeeeeeear 2000', spoken in a deep and American voice?). [via everywhere.]
Aimed at teenagers, Your Turn explains how society (laws, government, procedures) works, and how to get involved and make things better. Excellent. Things like this need much more publicity. (And bits of it are really funny. Try the Chaos game - linked on the front page - and switch off traffic regulations when the little chap is halfway across the road. Mwahaha.)
Point 1: I had scary dreams about swordfights with goblins all night. Maybe not goblins, maybe just little men, but there were swords and blood and stabbing and it hurt quite a bit. Point 2: I'm scared of the dark, and barely being able to see without my glasses only makes it worse. Point 3: The lightbulb's gone in the bathroom.
Upshot: I showered this morning filled with abject terror. Not a great way to start the day.
"At weekends I am the Supersoaker. With my twenty-foot garden hose I pursue male celebrities and demand retribution. Please find attached a summary of my progress thus far:"
Monday's Upsideclown brings us a tale of watery revenge (I'm sure you can get arresting for hobbies like this). Presenting Victor's Burk Pakamak.
Phorum homepage: php web forum software. Version 3 seems okay but doesn't support user registration. Version 4 is still in alpha.
Eleven members of the royal family, including the king and queen, massacred by the monarch's son, the hier to the throne, with a submachinegun, who is now on life support in a critical condition thus complicating the succession. Good grief, this is Neppalling.
Tired. Lots to say, not feeling terribly articulate. Feeling a bit stuck in a rut with ideas. A bit painted into a corner at work. Need to move around a bit. What to do? Need more time in the day. Need to wake up a bit. Quiet around here isn't it? Post holiday blues perhaps. Blah blah blah. Nonsense. Hm. Hm. Anyone want to write for an Upsideclown-like 'site?