Awasu » 2006 » March
Saturday 11th March 2006 4:05 AM [General]

A useful primer to Integer overflows/underflows

1 bottle of beer on the wall, 1 bottle of beer, you take 1 down, pass it around, 0 bottles of beer on the wall.

0 bottles of beer on the wall, 0 bottles of beer, you take 1 down, pass it around, 4294967295 bottles of beer on the wall.

Apologies if you don't get it but it really is very funny. Just be glad you're not so much of a geek that you get it :-)

Friday 10th March 2006 9:50 AM [Awasu News]

The first 2.2.1 alpha release (what's this?) is now available here.

One of the advantages of writing your own feed reader is that you get to add the features that you want yourself :-). Of course, the 23.5x7 workload is one of the downsides but that's another post for another day :cry:.

I do a lot of my feed-reading on a laptop. I just let Awasu run overnight and pull down all the feeds so that in the morning, I can just sling my laptop into my bag and catch up on my feeds during the course of the day. This release adds some really cool features for those of you who use Awasu like this.

Offline feed items let you configure channels to automatically download the linked-to feed items so that they can clicked through to and read even when you're not connected to the Internet.

Offline images are similar: Awasu can now be configured to download images embedded in feed content and show them even when you're offline. No more broken images! :cool:

The other big addition is support for Atom 1.0. Some loose ends still need to be taken care of (well, this is an alpha) but many of the outstanding issues have already been taken care of and will be available in the next release.

Don't forget to check the list of known issues at the bottom of the release notes and have fun!

Monday 6th March 2006 5:11 PM [General]

OK, enough with the knowledge management posts already :-). Important as it may all be for Awasu (The Innovative Semantic Web Browser :cool:), I'm tech enough that even I get bored with it all sometimes :roll:

So let's get back to geekdom and talk about something cool, like science fiction :jig:

Now, this may be old news for y'all over in the U.S. but things can sometimes take a while to reach us folks out here in the hinterlands and this is no exception. I'd heard some people raving about a T.V series called Firefly, rabidly enough to pique my interest to the point where I decided to check it out.

And I was just gob-smacked. This is just fantastic stuff. It's a long time since I've really watched much television but this blew me away. I've usually got something playing somewhere for background noise while I'm banging away on the computer but for this, I was making time to sit down and really watch it properly :o. It only took a few episodes to get sucked into it and become completely absorbed in the Serenity landscape.

It was a toss-up whether I started with the TV series or the movie first and I'm very glad I left the movie to last. While the movie gives a lot of the background story, the T.V. series sets the tone of everything and most importantly, the relationships between the characters. The movie felt a little rushed sometimes as you could see Joss Whedon obviously trying to cram in all the stuff that he had originally wanted to let trickle out over the course of several seasons, and it was shocking to see how hard he slammed the door on the possibility of resurrecting the series on another network (at least, in its present form) :cry:

Nevertheless, it was wonderful to watch. I never really got into Buffy nor Angel (also Whedon's creations), despite the encouragement of more than a few friends, since they always struck me as being targeted towards (ahem) a younger audience but I'm curious enough now to give them another look.

I can also finally get started on the 4th season of 24 that's been sitting on top of my TV, unwatched, for the past few weeks because I was too caught up in Firefly.

Now that's saying something... :-)

Monday 6th March 2006 5:17 AM [General]

Apologies to those of you who use RSS to read about other peoples' cats but Earl Mardle has an interesting post on information architecture as scaffold that I think is worth commenting on.

Mostly because I think he's wrong :-)

And that, my friends is what information does; it provides the scaffold that bridges the gap between people. A bridge that we call a conversation. And once you have built the bridge, you can take away the scaffold and it doesn't make any difference, the conversation can continue because it no longer has any need for the information on which it was built, it has its own information; a history of itself, on which to draw and whenever the relationship is invoked, it uses any old bits of information lying around to propagate itself.

Maybe it's just the technical architect in me but this doesn't sound quite right. Ultimately, information is only useful in what it lets you do. No information results in the inability to decide (intelligently) what to do next. Saying that the conversation can continue even after you remove the information just seems odd. The conversation is the information.

If you're looking for scaffolding, it's the network. It's the relationships we create and build with people whose opinions and thoughts we value, via the conversation. And even if the network fails, it doesn't matter because the relationships still exist; we just create new connections via a different channel. So if Ton lost all his posts, no it wouldn't really matter because, as he says, the relationships are still in place and the information can therefore be reconstructed.

All that business process IP? All those templates and legacy documents and previous sales pitches and so on? Surely the business can't run without that?

This is what I call the McDonalds question: how do you get low-skilled, inexperienced trainees to consistently produce hamburgers and fries to an acceptable level of quality? Process. And it's the same thing in a corporate environment: how do you get people, who generally don't really give a toss about what they're doing, to write proposals and reports and all the other guff to an acceptable level? Document templates and guidelines.

Corporate KM and other such initiatives are our typically short-sighted attempt to find technical solutions to what is actually a people problem. There are plenty of people selling solutions and processes and methodologies to "fix" the information management issues that exist within companies because it's an easier problem to tackle than the real underlying issue: how do you get people to actually give a damn about what they're doing?

Friday 3rd March 2006 3:18 PM [General]

We've had some minor Internet connectivity problems over the past 24 hours and were offline for a while :cry: but once I got back online, I was deluged with a veritable surge of really thought-provoking stuff to read.

This one I just had to write about:

The plan is simple: extend Wikipedia to allow users to add machine-readable content, export the earth’s knowledge to RDF, enable powerful queries against it, re-use it in external applications, and save the world in the process.

Now, if you're not familiar with what Wikipedia or RDF are, you may not realize the enormous implications of this (and especially for programs like Awasu :-)).

Wikipedia is a massive online encyclopedia maintained and managed by anyone and everyone on the planet and while it has its problems, it's truly an amazing work in progress, gathering and recording our global collective knowledge.

And RDF is a type of XML specifically designed for managing knowledge although to be honest, that doesn't really matter. The important thing is that it's XML i.e. something that computers can understand.

Put these things together and what do you get? A means for information to get shoveled into the Wikipedia other than by humans manually editing a page. And a way of getting it out other than going to a web page.

Just imagine an enormous army of computers around the globe, running 24x7 shunting information between each other and into and out of the Wikipedia (or any other similar repository). One of the major hurdles computer intelligence has always faced has been building a base of accumulated knowledge, from the things that you and I just take as being blindingly obvious but a computer has to be "taught" (e.g. humans have two legs, you can't eat a colour, elephants don't yodel) and up. This could go a long way to helping with this.

But now add blogjects (PDF) (objects that blog) to the mix. It's a silly name and on the surface a silly idea but it's actually quite deep.

The most peculiar characteristic of Blogjects is that they participate in the exchange of ideas. Blogjects don’t just publish, they circulate conversations. ... A Blogject can start a conversation with something as simple as an aggregation of levels of pollutants in groundwater. If this conversation is maintained and made consequential through hourly RSS feeds and visualizations of that same routine data, this Blogject is going to get some trackback.

Lots and lots of ordinary objects, talking to each other. And we're not talking about your toaster talking to your fridge, no sir, it's your car talking to traffic monitoring stations to get details about the road ahead, or sensors in your lawn talking to the local weather channel.

Bleeker goes on to describe some characteristics of blogjects:

  • Blogjects track and trace where they are and where they’ve been;
  • Blogjects have self-contained (embedded) histories of their encounters and experiences
  • Blogjects always have some form of agency — they can foment action and participate; they have an assertive voice within the social web.

… Agency is perhaps the most provocative aspect of the Blogject feature set. Agency is about having an ability to foment action, to be decisive and articulate, to foment action.

Now, I've always held that a large component of intelligence is the ability to draw on past experiences to decide what to do next (his first two points), but his third point is particularly interesting.

Agency sounds awfully like Awasu's channel hooks :-). You know, those things that you attach to channels that can "monitor the information as it comes in, analyze it and respond to it" :-). Awasu fits in so nicely into all of this, hooking into the transport system for information, watching what's going on and using it to decide what to do next.

I've already been scolded today for neglecting the PR side of Awasu so I really need to haul my butt into gear and start positioning Awasu as a browser for the Semantic Web. I could write much more about this but I'm already insanely late for another engagement so just talk amongst yourselves for the moment until I can get back onto this.

This is going to be huge.