All posts made in Feb. 2003:

I asked a while back 'What Is Ergodic Literature'. Rogue Semiotics has the answer, and gives examples: "'Ergodic' is being used here to mean literature where 'nontrivial effort is required to allow the reader to traverse the text'. In other words, literature where the reader is either encouraged or forced to actively participate in the progress of the text. In The Unfortunates, famously, the 'novel' is a sheaf of 32 sections in a box. The reader is instructed to shuffle them into any order desired before reading".

Heavily linked and informative interview with Benjamin Fry, maker of beautiful genetic code visualisations (among other things) [via HyDeSign].

Swarm Intelligence: An Interview with Eric Bonabeau. On his learning how ants use pheromones: "Listening to this story was an epiphany, not only because I finally understood how ants were able to so efficiently raid my sandwich during these distressing picnics of my childhood, but also because I saw a powerful computing metaphor. Indeed, by discovering the shortest path to a food source, the ants collectively solve an optimization problem using emergent computation" [via cityofsound]. Nothing revolutionary, but good origin story. See also: How swarm intelligence helped Air Liquide.

Two words:

  • Valorization: "Act or process of attempting to give an arbitrary market value or price to a commodity by governmental interference, as by maintaining a purchasing fund, making loans to producers to enable them to hold their products, etc".
  • Retronym: "A word or phrase created because an existing term that was once used alone needs to be distinguished from a term referring to a new development, as acoustic guitar in contrast to electric guitar or analog watch in contrast to digital watch" [thanks Andrew].

Words as memebullets. Somebody who understands an idea well enough to collapse it into a word which will open up in a similar way in your own head. That's okay for the above words. But some words aren't tightly clustered concepts. They're smeared out over your entire worldview. That is, as Andrew said [in conversation] last night, it isn't enough just to hear and understand the words "paradigm shift". You have the idea first, you notice a commonality, you identify something, and then when you hear the word it fits into a pre-existing gap. Then you really understand it.

This would close the scripting loop on Mac OS X and give the kind of apps people are trying to build right now a decent foundation. Traditional applications can accept commands; they should allow apps to hook into their events too. Paul Mison: Mac OS X needs an AppleEvents pubsubhub.

The Washington Post on [tech] Innovations that Reinvent the Wheel points to ActiveWords, a Windows user interface addition. You can type words from anywhere (so no menus) and these words are commands to "launch programs, jump to websites, send email, substitute text, and more".

Sounds like a cross between LaunchBar for Mac OS X and Jef Raskin's 'Command' key from The Humane Interface: "to invoke a command you press and hold a Command key, and while holding it type the command. The command appears in transparent text as you type". Commands are universal, and primarily used for basic interface tasks (copying, swapping characters). In Raskin's The Humane Interface, I believe commands were intended to be sold in sets by vendors, and activated not only be typing but selecting too (and hitting Command).

Interestingly, Raskin's ideas are based on the idea that keystrokes are quicker than the mouse. Bruce Tognazzini contends that the mouse is faster overall because while deciding which command to type is a high-level cognitive task, using the mouse is a low-level, boring, task, during which the user can think about other things. A tiny productivity gain, each time.

The complete Usenet traffic in 1992 comprised 343,945,617 words (that's about 940,000 words daily). Sort by use to get the top 1000 words on Usenet. Frequency for each word is also given. (And, yes, it's roughly a power-law distribution. About 2.2, except for the high ranks where it breaks down.)


I'm looking for comparisons, different media types. Books, the www, spoken.

Domo-kun meets Donnie Darko, and: Domo Darko [via the b3ta newsletter]. Just lovely.

Chris Morris: The Movie [via LinkMachineGo]. Celebrities, gunpoint, Jill Dando, Serbian gunman. Bow down.

The Gaming Situation by Markku Eskelinen. A long investigation into what games are... "we'll use the theories of Espen Aarseth, Roger Caillois, Warren Motte and David Parlett in particular. They form a filter through which the possibly heuristic findings and borrowings from various neighbouring disciplines and predatory theory formations are viewed, tested, modified and transformed. While discussing articulation, materiality, functionality, typology and orientation, among other things, we are confronting the bare essentials of the gaming situation: the manipulation or the configuration of temporal, spatial, causal and functional relations and properties in different registers". (There's Aarseth again.)

Also. Some fantastic narrative versus story versus interaction parts, good classifications, and pulling a lot of theories together. Thought provoking portion on conventions. Highly recommended.

What is Ergodic Literature? From Cybertext: Perspectives on Ergodic Literature by Espen J Aarseth (1997) "During the cybertextual process, the user will have effectuated a semiotic sequence, and this selective movement is a work of physical construction that the various concepts of "reading" do not account for. This phenomenon I call ergodic, using a term appropriated from physics that derives from the Greek words ergon and hodos, meaning "work" and "path." In ergodic literature, nontrivial effort is required to allow the reader to traverse the text. If ergodic literature is to make sense as a concept, there must also be nonergodic literature, where the effort to traverse the text is trivial, with no extranoematic responsibilities placed on the reader except (for example) eye movement and the periodic or arbitrary turning of pages".

See also these links on computer gaming and protocols of improvision; there's a hint that ergodic gaming crosses literature/cybertext/play? Investigating.

The conflict of two forms of social privacy on the net: Accidental Privacy Spills: Musings on Privacy, Democracy, and the Internet [via anil's daily links]. Choice quote: "The problem isn't just that the Internet is leaky; the Internet makes everything leaky". Short comments, many people versus in-depth commentary, few people.

Another quote:

"Now this is a real problem. Laurie Garrett's writing to her friends is the sort of thing democracies like to encourage. Journalism, analysis, deliberative discourse, you know. MetaFilter's discussion, as fueled by the Internet distribution of her writing, is also the sort of thing democracies like to encourage. Citizen involvement, intermediate institutions, deliberative discourse, you know. But her democracy and their democracy seem to have some trouble playing nice. Such trouble isn't the sort of thing that squares very well with our ideas about how democracy ought to work.

"If you like, you can read this whole brouhaha as a culture clash. On the one hand, you have Laurie Garrett and her circle of close friends, who apparently exchange long and factual letters by email and discuss the prevailing mood among world leaders. On the other hand, you have MetaFilter, in which bloggers and netizens from around the world offer rapid-fire commentary and snide remarks in response to a steady procession of links. Both seem an awful lot like communities involved in worthwhile civic engagement. But when you look at how they address each other, it's obvious that neither regards the other as a serious participant in the democratic exercise".

This rich mine of Heuristic Games links really needs to be explored more (by me). From there, A Chronology of Game Theory.

A Chat with Bill Gates. Fantastic article on the combinatory technologies with which Microsoft are experimenting. And what's more, experimenting in the commerical arena. Having the confidence to put clever - but really, really expensive - ideas in the public space without utterly focus-grouping them to death first is something that's really valuable... and the first convincing upside of a Microsoft hegemony that I've seen. This quote in particular says they're thinking about the right things instead of the isn't-technology-cool things: "The effect of 'glanceability' is very important with these watches".

How Google+Blogger can become Go_Ogle, the www's premier Semantic Web online dating service [thanks zool]. Um.

Intriguing browser-based RSS aggregator, NewsMonster [via Ben Hammersley], making full use of its centralised nature: "NewsMonster is backed by a Semantic Web enabled RDF database which allows us to preserve the semantic relationship within documents. This allows NewsMonster to act as an agent on your behalf and help you barter goods and services online. Want to sell your used guitar? No problem. Just create a new advertisement and publish it on your blog". (Hang on, I recognise that used guitar example.) A reputation system and shared ratings are also included.

Some style guides online (comments, as usual, in the link tooltip):

Some style guides available as books:

I'm specifically trying to find newspaper style guides online, but not having much luck (non-UK English ones would be good).

And the real reason Google bought Pyra/Blogger? Consider:

  • Google realise that a lot of web-savvy and smart people are webloggers, and started weblogs early.
  • Google want to make more money.

Google have bought Pyra in order to obtain the entire Blogger archive, which they're going to feed into OpenCyc to create a composite artificial intelligence, the best, the ultimate the www has to offer. And then they're going to ask it for business models.

Okay, concept. Neurolinguistic programming says that your worldview is holistic, which is fair enough. A metaphor is likely to be pervasive across how you act, which (I'd say) is why cause-and-effect models from nature are so seductive. They make sense at a deep level in our world view. Anyway. NLP as applied to sales techniques says that you can pick up verbal and non-verbal cues to deduce aspects of a person's world view, and then deliberately mirror that. They'll vibe with you nicely, and you make the sale.

So a key (or at least popular) point from NLP is that people are either visual, aural or tactile. You can pick this up - and mirror it back to them - in a number of ways:

  • Visual people say "I see what you mean" and look straight ahead when they're thinking hard, regarding what you say.
  • Aural people say "I hear what you're saying" and look to the side when they're in thought.
  • Tactile people look down when thinking and say things like "that feels right".

There's a lot more about how to pick up these signals and words.

Concept 2. People in 1930s photographs looked different. Not just clothes, but expression, big ears, Roman nose. In contrast, the young beautiful people now are snub noses and tiny-faced.

There's not a difference in the distribution of face-types, it's just that the fashion of beauty changes and so different people, as they're growing up, are being told they look great. They have more experiences of head turning, people trying to get into their pants. And so on. And so forth. The kind of experiences that make you think that your appearance is valuable, in fate. The kind of experiences that give you confidence, push up your public profile, cause you to push to the front of crowds, get in front of cameras -- be more visible for your era, in other words.

My point. What if the same is true for modes of thinking? Maybe the 1980s were really visual, the 1720s extremely tactile. These things must go in waves, in fashions: people are educated by bright people; bright people have a mode of thinking; the brightest people learn from their peers... who think like themselves.

Example. Roman and italic type started to be used together in the same line at the same time black notes began to accompany white notes on the piano, both products of the same Baroque mindset. Another example of cross-metaphors: Typography recedes onto the page. It's subtle, you don't notice the form, so it has to look comfortable. In the old days, fonts were round and squat, like the women. It's beauty again! Voluptuous, ideal women, pleasing the eye. Reflected in the archetype of the type of the time. In the 1920s, fonts like flappers. In the 1980s, tall, slim, spindly. Heroin chic?

This isn't idle speculation, this is testable.

Consider haircuts. Haircuts also have fashions. But haircuts also have perspectives. Some haircuts look great from the front, some from the side, some from the top.

We have to look at two things. Look at the literature. See how people are talking in any given era -- are they visual, aural or tactile people? Then look at the haircuts. If I'm right then the most common haircut of the time should look best from whatever perspective is dominant from an NLP perspective. That is, in an era dominated by the aural thought type, people's hair should look best from the side.

There's a thesis in this, I just know it.

An update to last week's prisoner switcheroo puzzle: the solution has been posted, and to be honest I'm disappointed. No virtual circuits, no discontinuous packet switching. Just an inefficient count, not the elegance I was looking for.

Kevin Marks on Power Laws and Blogs [via Joho]. And from that:

  1. Weblog links do follow a power law
  2. This saturates less quickly than other media, due to low barriers to entry
  3. Therefore the many lightly linked weblogs outnumber the few heavily linked ones

Graphs and conclusions. Wonderful.

Vannevar Bush's classic essay As We May Think explains the memex, forerunner of the www yet fundamentally different. dive into mark has extracted the important passages.

What is stigmergy? "Self-Organization in social insects often requires interactions among insects: such interactions can be direct or indirect. Direct interactions are the "obvious" interactions: antennation, trophallaxis (food or liquid exchange), mandibular contact, visual contact, chemical contact (the odor of nearby nestmates), etc. Indirect interactions are more subtle: two individuals interact indirectly when one of then modifies the environment and the other responds to the new environment at a later time. Such an interaction is an example of stigmergy" [via intertwingly]. Ah. Non-telic, non-deliberate, many-to-many communication that encodes its own history, mediated by the environment. I like.

Google buys Pyra. Rolling notes in this month's notes folder. Ah, and this is it, this is so it: Google are building the Memex (fifth point down).

The 16th rule of BlogNomic is you don't talk about BlogNomic. Given the game is leaking quite seriously into players' weblogs, the rule that "they should not specifically announce that a given post was made for the purposes of BlogNomic" should make things very interesting. Major motive obfuscation.

The Stop the War Coalition march, today in London... Find pictures on the BBC's travel-congestion webcams. Some screenshots mirrored here: one, two, three, four.

Big Music's Broken Record and RIAA Statistics Don't Add Up to Piracy, two articles saying basically the same thing: that while CD sales have fallen, this is more to do with above-inflation price rises, and a larger drop in releases. (A while ago I asked whether music sales had really fallen. I don't believe piracy is a problem. The industry could easily create a system with value-added so people would want to pay. Leave it to the market - including piracy - and we'll get there sooner.)

Collected Tears of the Weeping Nivbed, the work of Justin Cherry, is beautiful art. A coherent world. Pictures, animations and music. One pick isn't enough, really, so work your way through the entire Cg Gallery. Really.

Two steps.

  • Visit Perversion Tracker: Apparently Useless Software. Marvel at the cleverly satirical fake software reviews. Chuckle at the absurd smiley creator app ($12); the nickle, dime and quarter tracking app ($3). Funny-for-a-moment fictional utilities.
  • Slowly, slowly realise. Jesus god these apps are real.

[via Crazy Apple Rumors Site.]

The computational cost of any activity can be measured in instructions processed. In the early days, when the model was central mainframes and dumb terminals, whatever you did had a very low local cost and high remote cost (but not very remote, because the mainframe wouldn't be very far away). Next, microcomputers: Computation on the desktop. Whatever you do is processed locally. Now, when I hit a website, there's a certain cost locally, but there's computation at every switch and router and on the webserver itself. (I'm only talking about direct cause computation here, so the instruction processed to create the website in the first place, or even the chips themselves, don't count.)

I'd like to see a graph of: Computation power consumed per person per second, how that's changed over the years, and where that computation occurs (on an axis from local to very remote). (And incidentally, the metaphors are hard here. Is computation consumed? Spent? If it's not used, you can't save it up. Maybe a better graph would be percentage of total computational capacity of the globe. I wonder what percentage of the maximum one consumes in reading this sentence?)

Joho's Car Talk Puzzler. Prisoners, a room with two levers, sending signals. It's a really hard puzzle, fun to think about.

I can't solve it. I devised a fairly efficient system based on using one lever to signify the position of the other carried meaning, and then treating the sequence of prisoners into the switch room like a circuit. Each prisoner could generate a signal (up or down), consume a signal, or retransmit. The job of over half of the prisoners was to generate a single down signal, and retransmit all others. All but one of the rest would consume a certain number (say, 4) down signals, and then generate an up one. All others must be retransmitted. The last prisoner knows that when they've received the correct number of up signals, all prisoners have visited the room. Blah blah blah.

But, the switches are in a random position on the (random) date of the first visit! So it doesn't work. And my half-solution is hardly elegant -- not right for a puzzle answer. Alas, this is a problem with all proposed utopias. Too much top-down control, and no way to get there from here. (Incidentally, Es suggested the prisoners rush the warden and feed him to the alligators for being such a pompous arse.)

Dan Hon's article Inflection Point asks: What if we didn't have to save documents? What if all versions were always kept?

Firstly, the barriers between documents disappear. There's no point starting a new document if you can just edit one that is mostly what you want and email that off. So files come to represent activities, each a tree of connected documents that are variously printed, emailed, considered.

This is the meat of Dan's article -- how would the UI change in this case? I'm an fan of the division of metadata into pay-for and free varieties. Word frequencies, date of creation, these are metadata that occur as a by-product of the task at hand (writing). On the other hand, file name and location have to be added, if you want to find your document again. If these could be added for free, if documents were so easy to discover even without explicitly naming them -- what other pieces of metadata could be demanded from the operator to make their life easier down the road? And this in itself creates UI change: if the similarity of documents is valuable, then it has to be easier to mutate a document for a new version that to create one afresh.

Which is the real point. Given this endlessly mutable document, how to tell when there's a useful revision and not an in-progress one? Example. When I use my paper notepad at work, if I'm four or five pages on from a set of notes I want to add to, I'll still start a new page, and rewrite what I need to from my old notes. Putting the lid on a document, archiving it, this serves some kind of purpose. And when it comes to computers which don't by necessity have to follow any metaphor at all, it's important to break the symmetry and place these purposeful things in... As ugly and unaesthetic different documents, opening and saving are, maybe not having infinite undo (in this paradigm) serves some kind of conceptual purpose?

But really this is about making computers more like the human aspects [putting a lid on something, for example, but not emulating loss] of the RL environment. Instead of binary save/open there's a less digital approach. Or to put it another way, clots in the Lifestreams; points of inflection on the activity curve where the document creator has paused to print, email, consider, consult, spellcheck. What Dan's talking about is softening the computer interface to take the best psychological parts of the utter mess that is my work desk, perversely good filing system that it is, and add it to what we know computers are good at. So hopefully not continuing the query versus hierarchy dichotomy, but taking a synthesis of it. There's an angle here, I think, an interesting one for thinking about UI.

"At the simplest level a game designer needs to ask himself, 'how many different decisions am I offering to my players at any time?' In other words, how many different options make up the decision set which a player is faced with at any one time? The answer to that question affects the complexity of its game and also its playability". Designing Strategy: Decision Sets [via As Above] covers decision trees in games, and how to prune them back at the design stage to not overwhelm the gamer.

Conversational User Interfaces have been occupying me again recently. One problem specifically, which is how to design and model them. This is hard because a conversation (with an IM bot, for example) isn't a series of stateless request/response pairs, not if you're designing according to Grice's Cooperative Principle: "Participants assume that a speaker is being cooperative, and thus they make conversational implicatures about what is said". What this means is that the bot must make maximum use of all that the user [interviewer?] has said, or at least make conversationally clear what's understood and not.

So, the tree of possible answers grows massively at every question. How to model/design this? Various plans, two of which can be seen (together with the indescribably ugly code itself) in this month's notes folder. A couple of early ideas: hoping only recent steps in the conversation would be important for a maximally cooperative answer; hoping that the tree would fold into major channels, conversational watercourses. The metaphor I'm happiest with is that the internal state of the bot is representated by a position (which may be discrete or smeared) in a dataspace. The conversation is represented by the trail of this cursor. An answer by the bot is an expression of this location on the map; how exactly it's expressed is governed by how the trail is shaped, how the current position was approached. The code is terrible, the CUI almost as bad -- but it's a framework to operate in, which is better than the last iteration.

Biosemiotics: Towards a New Synthesis in Biology [via a sylloge comment]. "The semiotisation of nature as a trend in 20th century life science is discussed. The reasons for this trend is analysed and it is claimed that semiosis is an emergent property in our universe appearing with the first life forms nearly 4 billion years ago. From this tender beginning semiotic freedom has increased throughout organic evolution, and it is suggested that this fact holds the key to an eventual bridging of the gap between history in the sense of thermodynamic irreversibility and history in the sense of human culture. A unification of biology, a true 'modern synthesis', should base its understanding of evolution on a semiotic theroy of life". Now I've no idea what biosemiotics is but it sounds awesome, and worthy of investigation based on its name alone. Furthermore a rich metaphor mine, I'd hazard.

The New BFS (Brendan File System) [via Play with the Machine], filesystem postulation: "File systems need to change. Current file systems are horribly out-of-touch with the realities of what users need to effectively find, organize, and modify their vast quantities of files. [...] Not a single proposal I've read has ever started by considering the most important motivator of good file system design: how will the user interact with it?"

Buy insects and mites for scientific research, from the Central Science Laboratory [via family of breath].

Konfabulator [via RAILhead design] is the coolest Mac OS X app I've seen in a long while. It's a manager for those tiny desktop widgets that everyone uses - calendar, battery monitor, weather - and these downloadable widgets look beautiful. Full use of the OS X transparency and shading. The app itself is polished to the extreme. Drag and drop installation, and the first time you run it it explains what it does and how to use it. All apps should be this easy.

And here's the kicker. Konfabulator is fully open to developers -- and widgets look trivial to write. Each is an XML document that says what images go where, and what to do when there's an event (mouse click, mouse over, etc). It's all in Javascript, which makes things really easy, especially because you can also fire off AppleScript, shell commands and make connections over the www. One of the guys behind it is Arlo Rose, who was also partially behind Kaleidoscope on Mac Classic, the skinning engine that had an enormous community developing themes. He obviously wants to do the same here. And I can really see it happening. Tiny, lightweight widgets that look gorgeous and do powerful things.

Documentation is in the Widget Workshop (and it's comprehensive), or you can Show Package Contents of any widget to read the source. Their journal also gives you an idea about what the developers are thinking. This is very definitely one to watch.

My rolling list of recently browsed, Interconnected Mini Links (which you'll have seen if you're in the minority visiting the website with its default skin, rather than reading by email or feed), is now mini-archived. Also available as RSS.

Extremely cool (and extensive) Dictionary of Victorian London [via AnthroBlog]. (Would be cooler still if it worked in browsers other than Internet Explorer.)

A couple of articles looking at the way we program.

  • Coding from Scratch [via email from Matt Jones], in which Jaron Lanier makes the good point that programming languages can't handle variance, and if nature worked like this there'd be trouble. A scale problem: a single byte difference can have enormous consequences. The reason for this, he says, is that language design follows the metaphor of the telegraph. Passing variables to a subroutine is imitating the wire. And so he talks about phenotropic, pattern-recognition, computing as an alternative paradigm. Emit and collect?
  • They Write the Right Stuff [via ext|circ] is about how to write bug-free software in the current paradigm, in this case for the space shuttle. 420,000 lines of code with one error. The commercial equivalent bug rate would lead to 5,000 errors. How do they do it? Detailed design, many levels of testing and proofreading, and a culture unlike the commercial world: no pulling all-nighters, no sending out for pizza.

Two approaches to the same problem.

A list of XML Alternatives [via More Like This]. My problems with XML are twofold (although I'm happy to use it). Firstly, it's difficult to write programmatically or otherwise. Secondly, the path of least resistance is often wrong.

At least in the UK, on the back of most food packaging is a tiny helpline phone number. About a year ago I called up a few to find out what they did. There's something intriguing about customer care lines.

  • Rowntree's Fruit Pastilles
    Friendly. The sort of questions they get asked are: how much fat do pastilles contain? Are they vegetarian? (They aren't kosher.)
  • Sainsbury's jam
    Wouldn't tell me anything. When asked what sort of questions they get asked, became paranoid. "Who are you? Where are you calling from?" I was just interested, I said, in what sort of questions they get asked. "Who are you? We can't tell you that. It's a secret."
  • Flora
    Similar to Sainsbury's. Contents of questions to care line is secret. Happily sent me large amount of margarine propaganda.
  • Polos
    Very friendly. Bloke who answered customer care line based in a portacabin on the factory floor, near the Polo making machine. Asked to describe it, he said it was a like a six barrel machine gun, shooting mints. Loud.
  • Some premium marmalade company, jar obtained from Sainsbury's
    Customer care line number resolves to office secretary who obviously doesn't get these calls often. Refuses to believe my "what sort of questions to do you get" question is a real question. Demands to know my true purpose. Embarrassingly, I make up that I love marmalade and I'd love to know where to get more. "Tescos," she says, "or any supermarket," even more confused. Trying to get out of this hole, I claim I can't find it in supermarkets and I'd like to buy it direct. She takes my address, and later sends me their product list.
  • Tate & Lyle
    I ask how sugar is made. Customer care put me through to a sugar factory. I ask how sugar is made. Factory put me through to the technical department. I ask how sugar is made. Technical department put me through to a sugar engineer. I ask how sugar is made. Sugar engineer asks me how much time I've got. I ask for the overview. Lovely sugar engineer spends nearly quarter of an hour talking me through the growing, shipping, refinement and chemical processes. My favourite.

(This writeup prompted by a discussion in email where it turns out someone else used to phone Lucozade. It's not uncommon. My flatmate calls PizzaHut to thank them after we've had a particularly tasty pizza delivered.)

There's at least one startlingly good subeditor at the BBC. The page for A Strain on the System, on Radio 4 tonight, gives the subject of the second programme as "...the scientific and bureaucratic lessons learned in the 2001 Foot and Mouth epidemic". (note that last word). But on the (much more temporary) What's On listings, this has become: "In the second of three programmes assessing our preparedness in the face of national crises, Sue Broom investigates the lessons learned from the 2001 Foot and Mouth epizootic". Epizootic! What a word! gives the definition as "Of the nature of a disease which attacks many animals at the same time; -- corresponding to epidemic diseases among men".

That there are people who notice things like this and correct them, I am very happy. That is one person I would not like to play Scrabble against. Epizootic! Ha.

Okay, this is really cool: Clicks (a coin-operated project) runs on your computer, and "provides an ambient connection to other people's desktops by collecting and distributing desktop mouseclicks. Once collected, clicks are sent to a central server and each connected client is assigned a unique tone which is played in a physical location (currently installed at MLE), creating an ambient sound installation as an indicator of computer activity and use on a global scale". Would be cooler if the sounds played on my computer too.

Andrew has some good dreams: "My previous dreams had occurred in a non-dimensional universe. They had occupied zero time and zero space. They contained no physical presence and nothing actually happened. Instead, they were flooded with fundamentally important concepts I couldn't understand and which can't be expressed through any existing paradigm. They were intangible and impossible to describe physically. And yet, paradoxically, later in the night, after I rolled over and changed sides, the second dream was a perfect optical isomer of the first".

Oh, and. Dan hunted a fox in the snow. He makes me laugh. If I stop, he'll break my fingers.

A tetrachromat is a person who distinguishes four primary colours, not three. There have been reports of tetrachromats, mostly women. But there's a claim that the human is a blocked tetrachromat -- that is we all have the physical ability in the eye to distinguish four independent colours, but the wavelengths of one of them are absorbed by the physical stuff in the eye before it gets to the cones at the back [via Captain Cursor].

Tom Armitage on learning how to do cryptic crosswords (scroll down to the January 30th entry, Little prince and queen playfully flirt? (9)).

Turn The Page lyrics by The Streets. Too many good lines to pull any single one out. Review of the album, Original Pirate Material.

The Distribution of Variable-length Phatic Interjectives on the World Wide Web. Abstract: "If one uses a commercial internet search engine to search for increasingly long versions of variable-length interjectives on the web (e.g. 'whee', 'wheee', wheeee', etc.), the number of pages found containing these longer words falls off as a power law. The exponents for the length frequency distributions of different interjectives are not the same, although they may cluster around a few exponents. Surprisingly, the exponents are much larger than the -1 predicted by Zipf's Law. We believe that the restricted domain of variable-length phatic interjectives is an interesting subset of English that can provide an alternative simple model system of word length distributions" [via muxway].

This first bit is Matt Jones, in email: "'News' story as wiki - the world in wiki now, with connected rolling blogs by reporters and reading linked to the story node which show you the historical view as it builds".

The problem being, the world as wiki would be so large we'd have storage problems, problems over how to find things, problems about what's important in the long and short terms. Abstraction problems, data model problems. You might as well use thing-itself to represent the thing! It would be easier. You'd end up with a second Earth, a model of the Earth, that we could look at and examine, and a whole army of bloggers, journalists, etc, to filter the news/information etc stored on the WikiEarth.

But then with versioning and so on and so forth, the WikiEarth would be regenerated at every second, duplicated and recorded, so there'd be a chain of planets stretching outwards from the Sun, firstly the real Earth, then WikiEarth, then WikiEarth2, WikiEarth3, WikiEarth4, all representing the state of the planet at version-snapshot time periods into the past.

And on the latest planet would live the wiki gardeners, attempting to make some kind of sense out of this infinite chain of historical earths, but they themselves would be reflected in history and would stare at themselves, an infinite recursion.

So we'd need an ur-wiki to collapse this, a single planet on which all of history and all of space is represented at every single point, where the latest version snapshot overwrites all others but at the same time includes them, where every change is itself an encoding of the global memory. Where the density of ghosts doesn't obscure the now, but can be filtered by the current snapshot and self-corrected by re-evaluation of history, at every time; where the ur-wiki is also the map of the ur-wiki (there would be several such maps, as many as there could be), is also the map of the ur-wiki map, is also the map of the map of the map of the ur-wiki -- this ur{ur-wiki} all in a single planet, at a single, constantly updating now. Heated by the sun, I think, with grass, and blue sky with clouds, and cities, and in those cities, people living.

As long as we're talking about Network Solutions' claim that them paying compensation will herald the end of the internet, how about this: their parent company Verisign have broken the domain name system. What does this mean? Every domain with non-ASCII characters points to the same IP address, whether it's registered or not. At this IP address is a website that points you to a plugin specifically for Windows IE. So: this breaks knowing whether a domain exists or not so your application can give you an error message; anything on the internet on an international domain which isn't www will fail in bizarre ways (so if you make a typo, email clients will be trying to connect to the wrong machine, RSS aggregators will get 404s, ssh sessions will get connection refused -- instead of the appropriate, and consistent, "no address associated with hostname" error); you won't be able to trust DNS to give you an honest answer. There's more in this Slashdot thread. Messing with these deep levels of abstraction is really stupid. These are foundations that everything else uses, and it's pretty fundamental behaviour that's being altered, and in a non-trivial way. Unbelievable. Verisign, Network Solutions: they have to go.

...and I get back in, and four hours ago the shuttle Columbia didn't make re-entry. Awful. Terrible. News hubs: Scripting News; ext|circ. Already there's quite-frankly mind-blowing radar footage, photos of debris, first-hand accounts of what it looked like, the noise; a mailing list post from an expert, a comment from someone who's seen the telemetry data... all filtered and amplified, so I get back in, sit down, check my mail, RSS feeds, and find out: four hours ago the shuttle Columbia didn't make re-entry.

There was a kid in my class at primary school who spent a year in America with his family and during that time, in 1986, two weeks after Challenger, we listened to an audio tape he sent us of what it was like in his school, at that time. Actually I don't remember what he said, the words, but I do remember the disaster feeling a whole lot more real than it had merely seeing it on the news. Like this. And. The space program is a metaphor, so tightly bound with how [America/the West] thinks of itself, so modern and representative and obvious - tangible, graspable in a way that biotech or dotcom just isn't - that what happened today means so much more than just what happened. A hook. A shared phenomenon. A mutually understood and common exhilaration becoming-- something else. And so on. And so on. Sigh.

I'm going to Wireless Cultures at the Tate Modern today: "Since the invention of radio, artists have used the radio spectrum as a medium for creative intervention and experimentation. In the past year, wireless internet connectivity, using the radio band, has speeded up the emergence of new mobile social networks in cities all over Europe and the United States. Driven by a Brechtian ideal to 'mobilise the user and redraft him/her as a producer', small grass roots groups are connecting neighbourhoods together in local area internet networks. How can these spark new areas of creative practice and what precedents were set by the radio pioneers? This half-day seminar explores the use of wireless communication in artistic and social contexts, through presentations by radio pioneer, Tetsuo Kogawa, cultural theorist Micz Flor, artist and filmmaker Pete Gomes, and Simon Worthington of Mute magazine".