May 31, 2002

The Onion: "I may not

The Onion: "I may not have the broadcast range of a big station, but I compress a whole lot of rebellion into a six-block radius... I'm going to bring The Man to his knees, one song at a time". (Myself, I'm shoutcasting Bad Brains and Chumbawamba over 802.11b - if you're within about 50 yards, tune in!)

What is NeoCore? ..."In order

What is NeoCore? ..."In order to update just a single XML data element, ... updates XML data in place using simple, small commands".

May 30, 2002

Here's another. Dear Parent/Guardian,We would

Here's another. Dear Parent/Guardian,

We would like your help with a school Science project.
Your child recently took part in a lesson on washing detergents... the teacher demonstrated how a tablet can remove a stain.
An important part of the project is to assist your child in completing a Home Washing Chart. The purpose of the Chart is to help your child learn more about collecting evidence and handling data... factors such as: ... the washing detergent used - powder, liquid, tablet, product; the temperature of the washes.
(signed) Dr W F Dennison, University of Newcastle.

P.S. There is even a sample of Ariel for you to try at home in your wash. Just drop it in your drawer!

On the reverse of this leaflet, the "home experiment instructions": cleaning tomato sauce off a fabric. After point 5 ("Observe what happens to the stain..."), is point 5b or something: "Imagine what Ariel can do in a washing machine".

This leaflet is part of the "Pupil Homework Kit" - supplied by Procter & Gamble to the school - which also includes a form to record your family's washing behaviour. "Supporting education", but also collecting data ("all data will be given complete anonymity", of course) which goes to P&G. I honestly doubt they have much interest in the data; much more in having parents and children experience their brand in the context of homework.

It's not quite as nasty as Nike. At least the kids don't spend hundreds of pounds on Ariel - yet. But I have a couple of questions for Dr. Dennison:

  • Did the University of Newcastle sponsor this? Or were you paid by P&G?
  • What's being done with the data? Are there scientific studies? Will the results be published?
  • What do the schools get from this? Why not encourage the kids to actually learn something about making soap?
  • As head of the department of education at the university, don't you have any concerns about the encroachment of "brand experience" into the curriculum?

So, tomorrow I'll expect his call.
Dr Bill Dennison
Head of Department
Department of Education
University of Newcastle upon Tyne
Newcastle upon Tyne

Email: W.F.Dennison@ncl.ac.uk
Tel: +44 (0) 191 222 8692

May 29, 2002

What is mnet?

What is mnet?

David Reed has been talking

David Reed has been talking about Open Spectrum for a while. This includes presentations and discussions with the FCC - lots of really deep material on how to make the capacity of wireless networks scale (increasing linearly) with the number of stations.

Bob Frankston chimes in on the FCC, spectrum, and open connectivity - "something went strangely right" with the Internet. "With connectivity anyone can create telephone connections. Anyone can create television with nothing but a PC, an imaging chip and a connection. That's it. Period. Game over."

To this I'll only add one observation: we're talking about microwave (gigahertz) spectrum, where range is effectively close to line-of-sight. Omnidirectional microwaves don't travel far, because they're absorbed by pretty much any material in the way (trees, people, even water vapour). This is dramatically different from megahertz RF, which shows very long-distance propragation (by surface wave, but also including reflection from the ionosphere). Of course, you can still create long-distance microwave links, but the really interesting area is very low power, locally-oriented networks.

The UK equivalent of the FCC is the Radiocommunications Agency. Here's an introduction to their work.

A quick scifi teaser. There's a background radiation in the universe. Common wisdom says this is leftover from the Big Bang. What if it's actually the cosmic industry standard for community networking, and we just haven't hooked up yet?

May 24, 2002

A sneak preview of the

A sneak preview of the Groove Tour is live! (this is the project which has kept me up at night for the past while). Click here to begin. Let me know what you think.

May 23, 2002

At last I got my

At last I got my DNS more-fixed. So now I can ping weblogs.com. And a bunch of people on the West Coast can see this. Next, I gotta check the RSS feeds (thanks, Clive).

May 21, 2002

Car for sale...!

Car for sale...!

Junkbot Undercover: Junkbot is back

Junkbot Undercover: Junkbot is back for a whole new adventure.

New Architect: "Wisdom from the

New Architect: "Wisdom from the Industry". Wide-ranging, lots of interesting stuff. (Thanks, commonme). Which led me to this ("Project URL: Unavailable", unfortunately).

While recovering my machine (everything's

While recovering my machine (everything's OK except for my VPN connection, which still doesn't work even after a reinstall), I stumbled on some archaeology: a demo diskette for the retail system I built in the late 80s. Fun!

May 20, 2002

Wow, things are busy. To

Wow, things are busy. To add to my general woes I had a really bad machine crash yesterday afternoon (on my gateway machine, which is worse). Still, I suppose it's nice to have too much work!

Sad I missed ETCON - that sounds like a great event. The photos are fun, too; I don't get out much, and every time I see WiFi'd-up hordes I get a weird "this is an inflection point" feeling.

Meanwhile, some advertising. "The Connection Age: Gaining Competitive Advantage By Establishing Tighter Connections Within and Beyond Company Boundaries". This webcast is a Groove promo piece, and - I have to say, even though they're paying me - it's really superb. Check out Ray's session, if you do nothing else this week.

May 13, 2002



I'm currently reading Stewart Brand's

I'm currently reading Stewart Brand's "How Buildings Learn". Now that Alexander's "pattern language" meme has become broadly and deeply embedded in the software development community, it's a good time to look at Brand's arguments from the perspective of software platforms and applications. How does your software adapt to real world uses, once it's delivered? What are good and bad examples of "high road" and "low road" livable software, and the tensions between software and its environment? Looking at a full user experience, with all the software layers from kernel up, how should this influence the way we design?

Kartoo (via BoingBoing, who didn't

Kartoo (via BoingBoing, who didn't like it much) - a search engine with curvy Flash-driven UI. I found this interesting enough to play with for a few minutes, and found some frustrations: the colour-coded associations aren't clear, there's no obvious way to "drill down" other than adding or excluding search terms, and the results are basically sparser than a Google result page. But search engines still fail the Hugh egosurf test: can they disambiguate my name? (I won't link to him, if he doesn't link to me....). Here, Kartoo fails badly; it draws links where none should exist.

May 01, 2002

A great interview with Howard

A great interview with Howard Rheingold.

Doug Engelbart in 1963, in his paper on augmented human intellect, he was talking about a system that consisted of humans using methodology, language, artifact and training. Human interface is only part of the artifact part of this. There's the language and methodology and the training. You don't go out and buy that when you buy a box. How is that going to be delivered?