June 30, 2003
Playing relate-a-zon. A beginners guide

The highly addictive game relate-a-zon can seem unplayable on first attempt at a really hard problem. A little experience in relation space gives some valuable pointers on how to play an effective game of relate-a-zon.

  1. Relation space is not symmetric. There are plenty of one way routes in relation space. This happens because popular products are often purchased in addition to unpopular products but not vice versa. Bestsellers are formidable attractors, and once you're caught in a top hits attractor it can be difficult to escape.
  2. Immersion is an attractor. A good rule of thumb is that there are more paths from less immersive material to more immersive material than the opposite. That is, boring textbooks have more links to novels than vice versa. Novels have more links to records than vice versa. Records have more links to DVD's than vice versa.
  3. Different media are isolated from each other. In general records are related to records, DVD's to DVD's, books to books. Be careful when changing into another type of media than the one you need to end in.
  4. Diversity is better for less immersive product. DVD's have horrible diversity, because demand is highly polarized. Records are a little better. Fiction better yet and non-fiction books the best.
  5. Use cross-media products to escape a fiction vortex. A good tip if caught in the wrong media type is to use a top-hit like Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings to change into the right media type and then escape from there staying within that media type. Finding your way to the top hits is easy.
  6. Move sideways. Generally speaking stay away from 'top' recommendations. They either stay near the product you're on or (even worse) pull you toward the great immersion attractor.
  7. Don't despair. Some games just take 100 moves.
Posted by Claus at 07:10 PM
June 29, 2003
The Chinese Room proves nothing

Executive summary: The argument of David Weinberger at the start of a lengthy discussion on matter and consciousness (Joho the Blog: Why matter matters) is completely false. In fact I can't believe I didn't figure this out immediately, but sometimes you need to rephrase in your own terms to properly understand an argument.

For details, read on.

I have gone back and forth in my estimation of Searle's chinese room argument and Weinbergers concise version of it. I have now come full circle and turn back to my original position: The argument is completely false, and holds no merit.

That this is so is best understood by writing the argument down in concise notation.
The position Weinberger attacks is the position that if we can establish a 1-1 mapping (at sufficient level of detail) of a system R' to a conscious system R (in short, if R' can be said to be a simulation of R) then R' too is conscious. In mathematical notation:
If there exists a mapping c (an interpretation as simulation) of R' to R and R is conscious, then R' is conscious.
We call this the 'strong AI position'

Weinberger counters that this cannot be the case since we can construct another mapping n from R' to R that is not viewable as simulation.
Weinberger concludes that we have proved at the same time that R' is conscious and that it is non-conscious and thus that the strong AI position is meaningless. His claim is obviously false. Weinberger is confusing the contrary opposite with the logical opposite. The existence of a meaningless mapping is not the logical negative of the original claim. That would be non-existence of any simulating mapping.

Weinberger further says that consciousness of a physical object cannot be a matter of our interpretation of that object as conscious. This is obviously true, but fortunately the strong AI position is completely consistent with this position, as should be evident from the discussion above. The existence of the mapping from R' to R does not change R' in any way, and nobody is saying that it does. The difference of opinion is not on this question, but rather on whether consciousness is an observable quality of R'. The strong AI position is that it is: The simulating mapping constitutes observation of consciousness. Weinbergers position on the matter is not apparent from his argument. From his comments in the discussion and various other posts it would appear that he does admit that consciousness could be observable.

Posted by Claus at 08:50 PM
Groundbreaking news in the middle eastern peace process

There may be a real truce after all:

Hamas and Islamic Jihad announced Sunday that they are suspending attacks against Israel for three months, a leader of the group said. But there was still no announcement by Yasser Arafat's Fatah party, with wrangling still going on over the final wording of the truce statement.

Let's suppose the announcement is for real, and that the militant palestinian opposition to Israel is as organized as the Israelis say they believe it is.
While it takes just one man with a bomb to break the truce, this announcement could be a true test on the resolve of Ariel Sharon's government to follow up the good intentions from the Bush, Sharon, Abbas meeting a month ago.

Some news from tomorrow about this and other developments in the middle east.

Posted by Claus at 06:51 PM
Hvorn?r kommer der et nyt spil, Just?

Jeg kunne godt t?nke mig en ny opgave p? relate-a-zon.

Posted by Claus at 06:00 PM
Fighting corporate protocol 'lock-in'

Some old news (a month or so):
The hideous practice of publishing 'open' standards while asserting commercial ownership of ideas included in the standard has been adressed over the last couple of years by the W3C. That effort has been completed with the announcement of a royalty-free patent policy.

The effect of the patent policy is that all who participate in developing a W3C Recommendation must agree to license patents that block interoperability on a royalty-free basis

That's only half of what corporations interested in a standards organization Stamp of Approval should do, but on the other hand, if maintaining property of the specs can thwart other vendors effort to 'embrace and extend' (that's 'engulf and emasculate' in non-vendor speak) standards then fine by me.

Posted by Claus at 05:34 PM
Internet Pundit Fantasy Camp

You all remember the T-shirt:
I just went to Internet Pundit Fantasy Camp and all I got were these three lousy comments.

Posted by Claus at 01:48 PM
Are you hip to the hype cycle ?

The Gartner Group has thought up the simultaneously serious and hilarious notion of the hype cycle as in : .NET Magazine - Navigate the Web Services Hype Cycle

Much funnier than Wired Magazines memewatch and tired/wired/expired lists or any of the old-school 'in/out' lists popular in the 80s.

Posted by Claus at 01:41 PM
More Xtreme Missedopportunity Lament

Loosely Coupled is no happier about the state of XML than I am

We need more than pointers to schemas, we need catalogues of schemas, explaining which ones work where and which ones are up-and-coming. We need online documentation, with helpful tips from early adopters, like PHP's online manual. And we need use cases, lots of use cases, so we can 'view source' and see how others have done it.

The other thing we need is approachable tools, and we need them now. Simple, reliable, adaptable tools for reading and writing valid XML, and which allow us to add or delete our own schema elements, so we can start playing around with all those killer-app capabilities of semantically tagged content.

Posted by Claus at 01:36 PM
The real and the formal

I've lost my copy of The mathematical experience, but I recently refound my favourite quote from that book, by J. Dieudonne on the realiy of mathematics

On foundations we believe in the reality of mathematics, but of course when philosophers attack us with their paradoxes we rush to hide behind formalism and say : "Mathematics is just a combination of meaningless symbols", and then we bring out Chapters 1 and 2 on set theory. Finally we are left in peace to go back to our mathematics and do it as we have always done, with the feeling each mathematician has that he is working with something real. This sensation is probably an illusion, but it is very convenient.That is Bourbaki's attitude towards foundations

Reference and context here.

Posted by Claus at 01:25 PM
(Not really a) New Kind of Science - The Show of the Book

David Weinberger is attending and commenting on Stephen Wolfram's Wolfram lovefest accompanying the Wolfram love-book that posed as a tome of scientific discovery.
As previously reported it is not a good book, but at least Wolfram is serious about it, conference and all. Credit is due for that if not for the discoveries.

I can only imagine the conference proceedings. All speakers paying homage to the good Saint Stephen of the Rehashed Scientific Discovery.

Posted by Claus at 12:55 PM
Life is locally decreasing entropy

Tim Bray comments on Wiki's.

The weird thing about the Wiki work is that successive refactorings appear to produce coherent structure out of chaos via the sum of a lot of independent collective action. Which feels like it ought somehow to be a violation of the Second Law of Thermodynamics

This seem to as good a definition as anything of what life, and consciousness is all about: Living systems are local entropy reversers. Phrase adopted.

UPDATE: Silly me. This was of course already an appropriated phrase. Even in the semi-mainstream literature. Which of course I knew (sort of) but I just liked the fortuituos connection of this fact with my recent posting rampage on consciousness (check the last 4-5 days worth of posts)

Posted by Claus at 12:48 PM
June 28, 2003
XML, RSS, XHTML (and perl :-( )

Sam Ruby and others (a collection of people on Sam Ruby's blogroll. Following intertwingly will get you there) are doing interesting things in fixing and empowering RSS feeds. Most notable accomplishment: True xhtml support for posts.
Not many will have noticed that many XML parsers (notable microsoft's) think my feed is broken because I live in a city called København in my native language. That of course is immediately fixed by mod'ing the feed to emit the new funky RSS with xhtml, so that I can have properly defined Latin-1 entities.

I think that alone is a good enough reason to score a point for Sam Ruby and careful, well done XML use instead of just colloquial XML ('stuff in tags'). When I look at XML capable open source tools, the XML handling is always terrible. Parsers routinely require certain namespace prefixes to be used for certain elements they are interested in, instead of locating and processing the name space declarations and prefixes in use in the current document. They never validate and the layering is always bad. The information model of the data presented in XML is rarely made explicit. Data is picked from raw XML with great bluntness instead.

And finally as a perl hacker I must admit I find the profusion of simple, but incomplete tools available on CPAN to handle XML confusing and limiting. It would be great with a perl-like complete accepted standard of tools doing ALL the xml core features: raw xml, schemas, namespaces, xpath, xslt's etc.

(more notes on the battle for RSS)
(Ruby's community initiative for a shared standard)
(Perl and XML API's overview)

Posted by Claus at 03:10 PM
Death by celebration

My colleagues (in the gun-estranged society of Denmark where no one owns weapons) were in disbelief when I told them about deadly 4th of july accidents caused by firing guns into the air.
In America of course they have to actually legislate about it:

In crowded cities, however, the probability rises dramatically, and people get killed quite often by stray bullets. Most major cities have laws in place to try to keep people from shooting guns into the air in celebration

Further notes, with numbers

Posted by Claus at 02:01 PM
June 27, 2003
Searle and consciousness

UPDATE: Weinberger's and Searle's arguments are simply, and trivially false. Read the final word (I hope) on the matter.

After a lengthy discussion on Searle's chinese room argument on David Weinbergers weblog I think I finally understand what the Searleists are getting at, even if I don't think they are making their case against strong AI.
The discussion is rather involved, but my summary of it goes like this:
Weinberger argues that the common position that we will have built intelligent, conscious machines if we can build a simulation of an actual conscious intelligence is wrong, since the simulation relies on our interpretation of it (as something symbolically equal to a conscious being) to be understood as conscious.
UPDATE: Here Weinberger confuses contrary opposite with logical opposite. Read the final word on the matter.

There's a point there, even if one might argue that interpretation is all we can do - inasmuch as language about 'stuff' is always an interpretation of said stuff.
The important thing to notice is however that Weinberger (and Searle) are actually not saying anything about the consciousness of the physical system performing the simulation, but are only dismissing the argument that it is conscious by virtue of being a simulation of a conscious system.
In short, the objection made to strong AI is what Lakatos calls 'local' - an objection to part of an argument in defense of a thesis, not 'global' - an objection to the proposed thesis itself. I think this is an important objection to the chinese room argument, and I don't recall having seen it before - but then again I am not that well read on the issue.
UPDATE: As mentioned, I think the objection is just plain wrong.

While I am not sure where this leaves us with respect to reasoning about consciousness at all, maintaining the position that consciousness can only be understood as a quality of something real (insert longish blurb on intensionality here) does provide a good explanation of some of the conundrums proposed by the mind as pattern explanation.
For example it offers an immediate answer to question of whether a copied consciousness is the same consciousness as the original. It is not - since it is not the same real object anymore.
UPDATE: The point on the reality of consciousness is well made, but not in opposition to claims made by strong AI.

The Weinberger log entry has good links to Kurzweils website on the matter (pun intended).
And I grudgingly have to admit I didn't get Weinbergers point in previous posts.
UPDATE: And then to understanding them and being fooled by them. Not my proudest moment.

Posted by Claus at 09:49 PM
June 26, 2003
More RAM in the kitchen

Once again I've managed to find a little extra RAM - this should help push the kitchen even further. I have been having some concerns over the memory intensity of mod_perl since I want to use Mason a lot more on classy dk.With some memory tuning of the system and and the extra bit I found, I am now able to maintain basic service completely without the use of swap space, which obviously helps performance a great deal.

Posted by Claus at 11:24 PM
Listening to Google

The interpretation of Google as cultural phenomenon - even soap opera - takes on stronger form on kuro5hin.org's story on 'Google Update Esmeralda'.

The article is written in a an informal talkative style and the author anthropomorphizes Google versions (named like hurricanes) and different parts of Google's software as well:

To add to the mysteriousness, Freshbot began to act a little more like the Deepcrawler. Traditionally, Freshbot came from a different IP range and added pages to the index immediately as opposed to once a month like Deepbot did.

It's interesting to contrast this treatment of Google versions, and Google's crawlers as soulful natural creatures with the way we (or I at least) treat our personal software. While the same infusion of soul applies, we are at all times aware of being using only a copy of something. Insignificant on it's own. It is just a form. The Googlebots on the other hand have a subjective nature. They have identity after all, and location.

Posted by Claus at 10:01 PM
Post humanity my foot

Oh, and another thing about this whole post human future debate and a future with no need for us: The human brain is remarkable and highly complex, engineerable or not. I fully subscribe to Steve Mann's point of view, as expressed in his notion of humanistic intelligence:
Rather than trying to emulate human intelligence, HI recognizes that the human brain is perhaps the best neural network of its kind, and that there are many new signal processing applications, within the domain of personal technologies, that can make use of this excellent but often overlooked processor.
I've quoted this before but it is worthwhile repeating again.

If the David Weinberger's and the Steve Talbott's of the world will bear with Mann's nerdy reference to the brain as a processor (and yes, I know that this is exactly what you think is a problem), what he is actually saying is that technology and science will rely on our selves and our minds if for no other reason, then because it is the practical thing to do.

In short, the future very much needs us, and it will belong to us.

Posted by Claus at 03:28 AM
Good science, bad science

Steve Talbott and I agree that science radically challenges and changes our understanding of who we are and what it means to be a human being. Talbott thinks this is a bad thing whereas I think it is a good thing.
I also think however that Talbott defeats his own argument, in an otherwise brilliant debunking of Bill McKibbon's 'Enough' that can be found in
NetFuture #144.

McKibbon is worried that we should lose ourselves completely through genetic alteration. Talbott rightfully challenges this idea: "No one can, in absolute terms, rob someone else of meaning."

And he is right of course: No amount of genetic alteration will undo the fact that even the genetically altered human being will be a self, and experience as a self. It is not robbed of meaning.
So what then does science in fact do to humanity? It clearly does not rob us of introspection. It liberates our understanding of self from any binding it might have had to arbitrary facts of the flesh such as 'we can only run 35 km/h - and only for a short while'. As far as I am concerned that purifies our spirit. It doesn't debase it.

The notion that once upon a time there was some 'ur'-people, living in a golden age, and being essentially and purely human is one of the really old chestnuts of (political) philosophy and it is almost implied by Talbott's reasoning. Talbott makes repeated reference to meaning and purity of human spirit that once was ours but now is lost:
He adopts from McKibbons book the idea that The automobile wrenched us loose from local community; television isolated us from our immediate neighbors; divorce as a mass phenomenon cast a shadow of uncertainty over every family; and the natural world itself has been arbitrarily re-shaped according to our habits and appetites, so that it no longer offers us "a doorway into a deeper world".

But there has never been a golden age. The car less (preindustrial) society kept masses of peasants unfree and poor, since industrialization was not feasible when transportation was slow and difficult and expensive and thus did not offer as many jobs in the factories and the cities. Televison taught me English, so that I could understand Talbott's and McKibbon's reasoning. The divorce free society kept women all over the world bound to their homes, unfree and entirely at the mercy of their husbands, relying solely on his income for stability. I do grant that medicine has deprived us of some of the profound insights of the past, such as the fact that pneumonia and tuberculosis kills you with almost absolute certainty.

Posted by Claus at 03:15 AM
June 25, 2003
Upgraded log

I've upgraded my log to MT 2.64 to enable trackbacks. Now I just need to rework my templates to use the feature. The trackback bookmarklet is nice!

Posted by Claus at 10:39 PM
Optimism or positivism?

In continuation of the strong AI discussion David Weinberger talks aboutSimulated Life - and relates that to the man/machine discussion.

While I completely understand and agree with the hesitation in just accepting that the future doesn't need us, I think it is important for the discussion to distinguish between scientific optimism and scientific positivism.
Personally I am a scientific optimist. What that means is simply that I believe science works, and will continue to work. Science (and its illegitimate offspring, technology) is a vibrant and essential part of the way we understand our world. Understanding is an unconditional good thing. Application of an understanding on the other hand is not always a good thing.

In contrast to this blue eyed - but in my mind thoroughly undangerous - world view, positivism is an 'everything is science' scientific idealism that is as scary as it is ridiculous.
I think Weinberger and the people he agree with are confusing these two ways of thinking a great deal.
The debate has a 'First wave of the third culture' feel to it, if that means anything to anybody: I am referring to the slew of anti-reductionist books that came out in the late 80s and early 90s. Based on concepts such as 'emergent layers of explanation' (the cell, the body, society), chaos, and quantum mechanics all of these titles posited the impossibility of scientific explanation of various phenomena.
While it is true of the underlying scientific theories that they tell us that the world is not a gigantic 6 dimensional pool table, infinitely predictable through all time, what they did not produce is an end to scientific progress. The new theories are not the end of models. They are in fact the start of new and improved models. If the world is probabilistic, then our model of it - and simulations of that model - must be formulated probabilistically. If the cell cannot be explained through reference to lower layers of theory, lets start of life simulation by creating an efficient simulation of cells.

Steve Talbotts newsletter is archived here.

Posted by Claus at 10:36 PM
Urtecigar vender fostre

Er uden tvivl den m?rkeligste overskrift jeg har set l?nge i Internetavisen Jyllands-Posten - K?benhavn
- Og så har urte-cigar teknikken ovenik?bet det fantastiske navn 'moxibustion'. Det lyder som en aprilsnar uden for s?sonen....

Posted by Claus at 12:12 PM
Bodies and consciousness

On rereading the argument as presented in 'Small Pieces Loosely Joined', we find some evidence as to what Weinberger dislikes about the idea of 'patterns as consciousness' is that it does not account for our interaction with the real world: "Thinking, and thus knowledge, requires not only a brain but also a world and a body". But is anybody really saying otherwise? Surely nobody is imagining that the Kurzweil simulator does not receive input from the external world, or produce output into that world. In fact the way in which it relates input to output is exactly what we use to gauge its intelligence. It is part of the experimental setup.
And of course this input and output means the machine is not an identical performative copy of Kurzweil. Its camera eyes view the world from a different position for instance, but we should be able to reason about consciousness of this machine regardless.
In fact this observation provides us with the next attack on 'The Chinese Room'. It is the entire system claims of consciousness and/or intelligence is being made about, including the mapping to the external world. So Searle's conclusion that the Searle genie in the bottle does not know Chinese even if the Chinese room as a whole is capable of chinese translation can be true without anything having been said about strong AI.

Posted by Claus at 09:24 AM
More JOHO consciousness talk

UPDATE of UPDATE: I finally took my head out of the bucket it has been resting in for the last 4-5 days and figured out why Weinbergers argument is completely false. Read the final word on the matter.

David Weinberger is posting heavily against strong AI. I completely disagree with every point he makes, but a discussion is not forthcoming. I tried posting a couple of comments, but I either failed to make my case or just didn't put my opinion in a suitably scholarly fashion to be taken seriously. My vanity prefers the latter interpretation.
Last disagreement is on Why matter matters. Weinberger is tapping into some of the classic thought examples of philosophy and this time he offers 'formal proof' that consciousness cannot be a matter merely of patterns. But his M&M's example is no formal proof, it is a party trick.
While he successfully makes the case that pure pattern does not matter - a pattern is meaningless if the pattern is not specified with an interpretation, he does not succeed in relating that necessity to any quality of the conscious other or non-conscious other.
Weinberger is left with some kind of essentialism. There is something (and we can't really say what) that makes a person a person. It is impossible to observe (in any meaningful sense of the word) another consciousness understanding anything. When I say 'any meaningful sense' I mean 'in any way that can be defined making reference only to direct physical observation' (to the extent that this is at all possible, cf. earlier remarks).
Well, no he isn't left with essentialism, see further notes on the issue. I maintain that the Searle argument eliminates our ability to reason about the consciousness of anything. Update of Update I: It doesn't even do that it is just false. the final word on the matter.

Weinberger counters that what he is doing is taking his own consciousness as indisputable - not that of anything externally observed - but that does not get us anywhere with the chinese room, since the inability to observe consciousness remains the essential thing. The really interesting thing to do once we have the perfect brain simulator running is to refit it to run as a brain imaging device instead, and have it, not simulate a brain but rather faithfully and dynamically display the exact neuronal state of a real brain. Since Weinberger is ready to grant us the possibility of construction, he will allow that the machine will have the same state whether or not we let its own internal algorithms guide its progress or we simply set each simulated neuron through high definition recording to the state of the neuron it is an image of.
What does the chinese room argument about the brain imager/simulator then say about the synchronized real brain?
Nothing at all. See further notes.

The whole thing is a throwback to one of the least readable passages from 'Small Pieces Loosely Joined'. Weinberger dismisses every counterargument to Searle's famous chinese room argument by (to my mind) blandly restating the argument. It does not improve with repetition.
Actually it does improve somewhat (but not enough) with repetition. See further notes.
UPDATE of UPDATE III. It only improves if you let yourself be confused by the way it is stated. Read the final word on the matter.

Weinbergers example would have been a lot more interesting, if he had suggested an example system that really resembles a conscious system in the way we are able to observe it. Lets suppose the patterns (emanating from a conscious phenomenon or a non conscious phenomenon) that we observe is actually a couple of well-edited highly updated weblogs. What Weinberger would say is that his argument merely says that we cannot seriously consider calling the weblogs themselves conscious. So far so good. By extension of the argument Weinberger would have to maintain that we are unable from observation of the weblogs to make any judgment about the consciousness of the writers behind them. We are merely assigning meaning to essentially arbitrary configurations of pixels. This presumably would also hold if we could watch live footage of the writers, while they write. We would still be watching a simulation of the writers, so the same interpretive act that goes into the M&M's example is still in place. By what magic does that distance disappear if we were in the room with both writers present, one a cyborg, terminator style machine with human flesh and one true flesh and blood?
If it helps, we can take the example even further by imagining the cyborg being based on 'grown silicon' and having learned what is uses as a writer in a regular school alongside real human beings. Let's take it even further by assuming that the machine is a hardware based simulation at the cellular level, each cell simulated by a nano-machine. In my opinion Weinberger would have to maintain that we are still just interpreting, I don't see the room in his argument for inserting a distinction between the pure software simulation and this almost 1-1 physical simulation.

I on the other hand maintain, that the question of whether or not we can in fact construct such a machine is the real question of interest. The pure question on the possibilty of the machine and the how of building it is gigantic. The question of what role such a machine would play in society is equally baffling.

I maintain the final point of this entry, even in light of further notes. But the further notes are an important caveat wrt the understanding of constructed consciousness.
UPDATE of UPDATE IV: No change to Weinbergers example could resuce the flawed logic. Read the final word on the matter.

'Pattern does not matter' means that if you do not bind the pattern to a particular interpretation you can prove that you cannot compute from the pattern one unique reasonable interpretation ina given world.
(For pattern substitute 'language' and for world substitute 'model' - The example and the observation about the possiblity of reinterpretation is by Hilary Putnam, from 'Reason, Truth, and History' )

Posted by Claus at 12:00 AM
June 24, 2003
Morals in politics

George Lakoff on "Metaphor, Morality, and Politics". Subtitled
Why Conservatives Have Left Liberals In the Dust the piece sets out to explain the morals of American politics from an abstract metaphorical basis. Fascinating stuff.

Link via Doc Searls' weblog.

Posted by Claus at 02:50 AM

David Weinberger comments on The Searle vs. the world of AI controversy.
The discussion is over whether the term 'conscious' (often interpreted as 'intelligent' a word about as well defined as 'living') will ever be applicable to a machine. Searle's view is (simplified) that since we can symbolically reduce any accomplishment of the machine to a mechanical procedure, we can never call the machine intelligent.
This remains the intellectual pyrrhic victory of all time, as I have previously argued. Searly says absolutely nothing about the possible observable capabilities of machines. He merely says that regardless of machine capability he will never accept that capability as a victory for AI.
So suppose all AI researches conceded victory to Searle. They could then continue their work as if nothing had happened. Their arguments for funding would have lost no power. It is still as interesting to construct machines capable of performing the complext tasks only human beings can perform today. And as a bonus they would avoid forever a lot of interesting ethical dilemmas.

Posted by Claus at 01:48 AM
Design Patterns for Perl

The O'Reilly network is starting a series on Perl Design Patterns

...many of the problems the GoF is trying to solve are better solved in Perl-specific ways, using techniques not open to Java developers or those C developers who insist on using only objects.
That is so true. In particular doing the structural patterns (and associated behavioral ones) in pure GoF style is completely wrong when a dynamic language with open class implementations is available.
I remember reading about double dispatch problems and realizing that contrived calls through two class hierarchies are irrelevant due to perl's dynamic inheritance model: There is no static type, so methods are dispatched to the dynamic type of an object even if that type was unknown to the calling context.
If you need more control use Conway's multimethods.

Posted by Claus at 12:11 AM
June 23, 2003
Rushkoff revisited

Scott Heiferman talked about it at Reboot 6, and I just spent the worthwhile hour it takes to revisit Douglas Rushkoff's mindblowing talk at Reboot 4.
Rushkoff should spend some time with The hypercomplex society, because his intro on our current renaissance is so well-described in this wonderful book. The ad hoc nature of our reality, the 'many scales' fractal nature of reality and the reinvention of perspective is all covered better than I have seen it covered elsewhere (well maybe, except in Rushkoff's talk - but that is too short to include the powerful reasoning in Qvortrups book.)

Posted by Claus at 11:32 PM
If you ever wanted a reason to switch....

Apple just released the baddest Power Mac G5 - the first major 64 bit desktop system around. You can but a truly absurd dual processor system with up to 8GB of RAM if you have some data rich number crunching to do or if you just suffer from speclust.
All that, and it runs GNU tools a a beatiful graphical front... The day when I buy my first mac is getting closer.

Posted by Claus at 11:22 PM
June 22, 2003
The sacking of Sacramento

According to Salon (and stories like this makes me agree) republicans are evil: Gray Davis and the vast right-wing conspiracy

The effort to recall California's Democratic governor shows again that the GOP will stop at nothing to win more power.

Posted by Claus at 07:36 PM
The search for Emanuel Goldstein

While failing to produce any evidence of Weapons of Mass Destruction (leaving the Iraqi invasion exposed as pure power politics, so pure in fact that the arab world will likely keep screaming 'imperialism') the American military continues it's hunt for Saddam.

a convoy of vehicles struck last week by US forces following 'firm' information that the former Iraqi leader and members of his family were travelling in the Western Desert near Syria
While a live uncaptured Saddam poses a strong risk as martyr material, I suppose it is unlikely that he has survived as an actual political or military threat.

As for myself, I am still undecided on the recent war. Saddam will not be missed, but it is uncomforting to be living again in a world where geopolitics also means large scale unilateral invasions of foreign countries.
Combine with the stifling of human rights even in the western world in the name of anti-terrorism. There's a newfound innocence that has been lost again, and a freedom that needs to be regained.

Posted by Claus at 07:01 PM
November 2004 is getting closer

As we're ramping up for presidential elections, and Bush is fumbling the ball in Iraq and in economics Doc Searls located WatchBlog: 2004 Election News, Opinion and Commentary - the novelty is that three blogs are maintained on one page, one for the democrats, one for the republicans and one for 'third way' dissenters.

Posted by Claus at 12:50 AM
June 21, 2003
Hvorfor ikke to redaktioner?

Henrik F?hns melder sig i koret af kritikere af DR bestyrelsens plan om igen at splitte nyhedsredaktionerne i DR.
Hvad er problemet? På hvilken måde g?r mangfoldighed ondt? Der er såvidt jeg har l?st ikke udstukket et forbud mod initiativer på tv?rs af redaktionerne.
Vi kan allesammen se hvem der står bag initiativet, og der kan ligge censur ved besparelse, eller personlige antipatier bag. Som initiativet står er der jo bare intet at komme efter hvis kritikken skal handle om at man fors?ger at påvirke redaktionernes daglige stillingtagen.

Posted by Claus at 07:01 PM
And on the same vibe - Antiterrorism bills

Dan Gillmor on US anti-terrorism bills. And once again, cowed European politicians were quick to follow. I'm scanning for the news story from yesterday on danish legislation requiring ISP's to register and store one year of connection records for their customers for later anti-terrorism review.
This is a problem in itself, but we probably heard less about it than we could have because it makes it prohibitively expensive to grow 'cottage networks' in local neighbourhoods, which of course is good news for the big ISPs.

Posted by Claus at 04:04 PM
Backgrounders on European Copyright Law

On of the things Cory Doctorow pointed out at Reboot was the sad evolution of copyright law into more and more restrictive policies undermining individual freedem. Campaign for Digital Rights is a British advocacy group fighting the European Union Copyright Directive. Important reading.

Posted by Claus at 03:41 PM

Watching Trekkies about Star Trek fans. We encounter the Bourguignon familiy.

  • Dad presents the family
  • First the son
  • Then the wife
  • Then the daughter

Good old family values.
As Denise Crosby is introduced to Mr Bourguignon's trek-themed dental practice ("Welcome to Starbase Dental" is the std greeting. Staff wear federation uniforms) we see her ambivalent confronted with fandom for the first time in the film.

Posted by Claus at 02:03 PM
Services disruption

Loosely coupled mentions an interview with to a KP VC on disruption in software. The claim 'startups have the advantage'. Somebody's been reading their 'Innovator's Dilemma'. While it is true that the upstart can successfully feed off much smaller revenue streams than a big company there's an important caveat wrt. web services. A technology is only disruptive if the incumbents don't get it. Sofar i haven't seen any signinficant reason to think that the BigCo's are any less tuned to web services than startups are.

Posted by Claus at 12:09 AM
June 20, 2003
Reboot report

UPDATE II: Hans 'Rytme' Hurvig (Not the guy you can see at rytme.dk) asked that I correct his nickname from 'Silk' to 'Rytme'.

UPDATE: Seemed to forget my Jason Fried notes in the first run (thanks for the reminder Benjamin).

We'll do this faux bloggish, with entries in chronological not reverse chronological order. I'll highlight key themes of the day (key point: Who did Mygdal trash in his intro or outro to talk)
Also - inspired by Jason Fried I'll try to relate my impressions to easily understood standard references.

Cory Doctorow

Slammed by Mygdal in intro: Microsoft. (It slipped out and he then regretted it and half apologized saying they have a lot of nice people...)

Interesting talk on personal freedom, copyright legislation and the crippling of society by said legislation. Some scary examples of rights related decisionmaking are given. Best one: As reported by Doctorow, Nokia cell-phone batteries are built with strong crypto so Nokia can detect that the battery is true Nokia. If not, the phone is programmed to drain it as fast as possible. Is this true? The story didn't pop out on Google.

Aside from a call to action against new insane copyright legislation (more on this later, because the legislation is truly outrageous) the key pitch is to shift the rights management to something similar to the licensing format used for radio: You pay a standard license fee regardless of the content you put out. Fees are then colleced by a copyright agency and distributed to rights owners according to distributions either reported or statistically measured.
The current mess is either unmanageable (at best) or allows rights holders to curb invention in internet use of copyrighted material (at worst)
Outrageousness of copyright legislation: 100% Franz Kafka
Unasked question: Are we talking milk-quotas (EU-style) for music on the internet?
Slammed by Mygdal in outro:Audiences at past Reboots. Heavy sermonising on doing good things.

Ben Hammersley

A pedestrian partially amusing, partially annoying, at no point eye opening intro to RDF. Maybe to cover the intense boredom of his material, Hammersley piles on plenty of antics (pictures of dog, wild hairdo). Overstates immediate benefits of RDF. Says "There are already lots of vocabularies". That is not a good thing (as I discussed with Hans 'Rytme' Hurvig) If everybody's doing RDF vocabularies they will not mean anything. Furthermore - the value of producing the RDF can be hard to see. If it is not produced accidentally by tools we use anyway, it will not be produced. This touches on Shirky's Listening to Napster that Tim O'Reilly will later mention. Superficiality: 80% Jellyfish.

Scott Heiferman

Slammed by Mygdal during intro: Heiferman himself (!!! What a great way to make a speaker feel comfortable and welcome. Incidentally Heiferman tells us that he was attacked yesterday while walking around Copenhagen, so he's used to unprovoked aggresion at this point.) Heiferman has built the company meetup.com and this is basically a product plug. But it is a nice non-aggresive product. Basically meatspace newsgroups - or as one of the arrangers later said: An openspaces web platform. Unasked question: How many of meetup's 350000 subscribers are Pakistanis looking to hook up with Sarah Jessica Parker. Slammed by Mygdal during outro:Danish companies on the web.

Meg Hourihan

A "Wouldn't it be nice" talk on blogs and blog collaboration tools and blog universe tools. Wants to build a Firefly for blogs. Current version does not beat Technorati or Blogstreet. Ingenuity of product pitch: 80% alltheweb Slammed by Mygdal during outro:: Content Management Systems.

Dan Gillmor

Really professional presentation on newsmedia vs blogs. The talk is a collection of anecdotes, but with points made for each of them. Stories as varied as blogs covering 911, the gulf war (incidentally, what the hell is wrong with these people - 'the camera choice for the embedded journalist'), the shuttle crash, and koreas most recent election. Grandfatherliness Maybe 80% Ian Holm, but no more than 10%-20% Richard Attenborough. Unasked question:Is the network sufficiently public a space for accountability. Don't we need a center for that?

Marc Canter

A madman. Sings Handel, and goes overboard in so many other ways. Has a new concept for open standards and web based communityware. Sounds like:
  • Standardized open document formats. Documents reside on the net.
  • A consistent set of browser based editors for this material.
  • Services driven off the data created.
Demos an outliner - but Winer is already the web outline king, so why bother? Loudness: 70% Orson Welles Unasked question:Why simple webapps? Why no rich clients? Has Microsoft really shafted us all to such a degree that new rich clients are no longer an option? Data can easily reside on the web while being edited with good responsive rich clients. Slammed by Mygdal during outro. No one. Canter slams Macromedia during talk.

Jason Fried

Nice enough presentation on sensible (web)interface design. Mostly standard fare, and most of the material available in print on the website. Top moment a particularly bad Terms of Service blurb which seems to be missing from the official contingency design 'hall of shame'. It was fortunately picked up by Cory Doctorow for you to see. Slammed by Mygdal during outro: No one, but Fried found time to slam programmers. I hate it when they do that, it is such an easy excuse. Arguments of the type "If only my kind of people were doing the real work everything would be better" are almost always wrong and show ignorance and disrespect of skillsets other than one's own. That goes for programmers blaming designers, designers blaming programmers, and either of the above blaming the business people buying the systems.

Tim O'Reilly

Talks on the open source paradigm shift. Calls it something else, but basic analysis is that the post PC revolution is moving to open source and that the move is taking place in server space: The Amazon, Google, etc. dataenriched services are all built on the LAMP platform. Lots of interesting stories, like the creation of UUNet from open source roots. But the talk is good enough that I listend and didn't take any notes. A lot of what he says resonates with an awful lot of blog posts I've read lately and I think I'll put down a summary of that instead over the weekend. The real deal:100%

Summary: Very stimulating, even with the sermonizing. Most important thing remains Doctorows assertion that the copyright wars are just getting started, and that Europe - in contrast to what I believed - have every intention of matching (even exceeding) the insane American legislation. It seems like it is time to do something.

Posted by Claus at 11:44 PM
June 19, 2003
Mmmmm Beer!

Tim Bray suggests that search engine users are about as intelligent as Homer Simpson. One word, maybe two word queries. They do not want anything else (which is why 37 signals miss the point). This would appear to also attack my xpath directory search plan but I maintain the idea with a slight iteration: People don't want to construct queries, xpath, natural language or otherwise. But they would probably appreciate a gestural search interface. That is, having said beer they might query for something more specific that is beer related - or they might follow a link and then search some more. This gestural activity suggests complex queries - and might suggest xpath.
Of course that is exactly Bray's point - and it is also the point of my software pragmatics rant. Developers spend their entire day constructing complex requests, and it hurts too damn much. Modern developemnt technique focues exactly on a conversational, gestural mode of construction that it much less painful - preferably without sacrificing precision or clarity.

Hang on, isn't the 37 signals interface gestural also? Not really. It puts up too many choices and the choices are too complicated to evaluate at a glance. That's like context unaware code completion which is just painful.

Oh, and also amen.

Posted by Claus at 01:51 AM
June 18, 2003

Fantastisk produktid? fra Just: En cykelpumpefinder i VB.
Faktisk opfandt Brian Eno cykelpumpe- (og inspirations-) finderen for lang tid siden. Få det f?rste af mange gode råd og ideer med det samme. Tag bare to.

Posted by Claus at 11:17 PM
Af, om og med Frank Esmann

I morgen udkommer Hillary Clintons erindringer på dansk - lynoversat af Frank Esmann. På s?ndag kan man se et interview mellem Clinton, og samme Frank Esmann på DR2. Det lyder vist lige lovligt smart for den gamle dampradio. Eller er det kun handymen der bliver fyret for at bruge TV som reklamemedium?

Posted by Claus at 10:59 PM
Dont use three letter email adresses

The mainframe era custom of giving employees three or four letter identifiers and using these as email adresses is vulnerable to dictionary attacks. It is also unpersonal.

At our company a simple relay filtering setup cuts more than half of all attempted email traffic. In off hours the number is much higher. Spam is not free in any sense of the word, the cost is just firmly with the recipient not the sender.

Posted by Claus at 02:53 AM
FUD working

SAP has also joined the ERP lovefest

Bill McDermott, CEO and president of SAP Americas, said advertisements run last week in the Financial Times and other publications were designed to woo J.D. Edwards and PeopleSoft customers grappling with uncertainty about those companies' directions

Posted by Claus at 02:09 AM
June 17, 2003
The sacking of Rome (and Washington?)

The only nice thing there seems to be to say about prime minister Berlusconi is that he's only in it for the money. It could have been world domination. But still, his reign in italy constitutes the most rabid abuse of power for personal gain in memory. The recent accelerated legislation providing immunity is just one more sad piece of evidence.

What is most interesting about Berlusconi is the brazenness with which he flaunts his power. Open (commercial) censorship. Changes to the criminal justice system.
Compared to that the redistribution from poor to rich in America (through extreme tax reforms) and the strong ties between the republican party providing the government funds and industry providing the election capital in America seems to be under much better control: American politics is about government power and state security, and not personal gain, even if the spoils of war are harvested with great energy. And presidents don't always get reelected.

By the way, you may enjoy the profound insight of the Leader Of The Free World on his father's famous 'lip sync' accident: I think the mistake was to say, `read my lips' ... and then raise the taxes.. Deep, deep stuff.

Posted by Claus at 11:36 PM
Who's suing who

The Oracle, PeopleSoft, J.D. Edwards love triangle is heating up. It is interesting that J.D. Edwards is able to bring a lawsuit forward at all. They are (not yet) owned by PeopleSoft and Oracle has made no bid for them, so the legal relationship between Oracle and J.D. Edwards is formally accidental, even if everybody seems to smell a rat.

The notion that actions of A against B makes A liable for harm done to C opens up a wonderful, huge gray area to interpretation. Suppose a creditor of Your Essential Supplier puts the squeeze on YES so they can't deliver to you. Could you then sue the creditor for claiming his payment?

Posted by Claus at 12:44 AM
Data modeling is not important

How many people in the world know the date The World Trade Center was attacked and collapsed? It is probably not an exaggeration to say billions of people. If we think of society as a data processing device that constitutes an enormous redundancy. This enormous redundancy applies to all human knowledge. The most prized information is not the rarest or most exotic, but rather the most common and most known information.
Within a single brain it is an open question on the other hand what the processing/memory ratio really is.

In data modeling texts (the entity-relationship kind) the ideal of information is the coherent, global data model and models emphasize qualities such as consistency and lack of redundancy. The knowledge engineering approach to the semantic web adheres to the same ideals. Much work goes into establishing semantic validation and proof systems.
I think that for practical applications, this approach is wrong. We should expect this model to break completely down and expect the web to start replicating the redundancy of human knowledge.
This, inspired by some slides on RDF and the ongoing RDF debate. I think it is completely wrong to expect the publication of RDF by everybody to matter at all. The notions built on top of RDF involving provability and consistency verification also seem to me unlikely to matter until some later time. The hope that deduction will suddenly work directly off RDF seems entirely unbelivable to me.
Indexing of RDF on the other hand could be useful on limited vocabularies published with very specific purposes. But RDF should be thought of as nothing more than a technology for distributed publication of hierarchical content. That is, RDF should only be seen as construction a tree of information in the same way XML documents do, with the only important extension being that the RDF tree of information can be distributed. The notion of proof should be condensed down to not much more than XPATH like matching of the information tree. BUT by indexing RDF, i.e. actually caching particularly valuable instances of the virtual documents RDF enables this kind of search could be made efficient.

What does data modeling is not important mean then? Only that the usefulness of the data will be built dynamically by indexers, and the indexers will just extract the information they can and handle the consistent presentation of data on their own. And also that all information on the network will be present with a great deal of redundance, cached for every purpose for which it is useful.

Posted by Claus at 12:17 AM
June 14, 2003

From The Invisible Computer - CHAPTER 1 by Donald Norman:

Time, or rather the lack of it, I was starting to learn, is one of the greatest barriers to quality. In software it is the only barrier. The cost of invention - other than salaries - can be negligible. And I have a sneaking suspicion that a software company with the ability to supply product exactly on time could take on quite significant costs if they could just always promise the required time of delivery. If you could always throw money at design problems to guarantee delivery people would.

Well, there is that other little problem of figuring out what and why to build something. Don Norman thinks software people suck at it.
I think the attacks on the general purpose machine are overblown. If you're an information worker you can do very well with one universal information device. One single tool, just like your desk was really one integrated tool before you got the machine.

Posted by Claus at 02:49 PM
More obnoxius back button tampering

The magazine Baseline has the positively most annoying subscription signup page I have seen. If you try to leavy without having signed up - they flash you a pop-up instead with an 'are you sure you want to surf? This will only take 5 minutes!' message.
Are they teaching department store sales people to block the exits for non-buying visitors now? When should we expect telemarketers to call back if you hang up on them?

This link via Python owns us.

Posted by Claus at 02:35 PM
Prudent or Gutless ?

SCO brings forward - with great energy admittedly - claims on Linux source being under SCO copyright. The reaction from Gartner Group: "Hold off Linux purchase". Meanwhile all observers agree that they will have a hard time proving any wrongdoing in court. When they actually produce evidence of wrongdoing, which they haven't yet.
Oracle makes a hostile bid for PeopleSoft . Meanwhile everybody agrees the offer is too low and that it was mainly put forward to disturb PeopleSoft's acquisition of JD Edwards. The media reaction : "Postpone your ERP purchase".

Is it really that easy to destory the profits of a company? Are the media companies and analysts prudently worried or gutlessly agitated?

Posted by Claus at 02:25 PM
June 13, 2003

Just - inventor of the sadly dormant relate-a-zon game - would like this Java app: TouchGraph AmazonBrowser V1.01:
The TouchGraph AmazonBrowser allows one to examine the graph of similar items at Amazon.com - and in a beatiful Java Applet graph at that.

Posted by Claus at 10:19 PM
Not every idea deserves the name invention. Not every reflection the name analysis

The web is infested with hyperbole. The dotcom bubble of course wa shyperbole through and through; nothing but me-too companies and ridiculous 'bleednig-edge' e-business portals, platforms and technologies. But just because we're in a downturn that doesn't mean the hyperbole is gone. In particular the celebritybloggers have gone in to much too high a gear when it comes to evaluating the quality of blog journalism and the depth of blogging technology. It's as if the act of publishing on the web turn nice ideas into Deep Intellectual Property.
A case in point: Blog Post Analysis. The simple insight: Most blogs display multiple unrelated posts on their main page (that is sorta the concept), so we have to extract individual posts from RSS permalinks or through some kind of parsing heuristic. Nice idea. It is even well executed. What is annoying about this simple concept and the simple tools built to support it is that this is then turned into Blog Post Analysis (tm probably pending) aka 'BPA technology'. Give us a break would you?
The auto RSS maker is wery nicely done but 'BPA Technology'?

To check how well done the script was I wrote a simple version myself using perl's standard toolkit for the job:
Classy's nonfunctional three hour Blog Post Analyser. Source of said analyzer.. Some text gets lost and there are plenty of other kinks.
It does reasonably well on my own log. A previous version did much better on Doc Searls' weblog than the current one. Somewhere along the way my heuristic for associating text with links went haywire.

The next thing to do about this is to break it up: First write one or two parses that condense webpages into very simplified xml markup, which only preserves the tree structure of the original page.
This should then be processed, not by a perl script but an XSL transform.

The direct opposite of this overstating of results and ideas may be found in the world of mathematics that I was trained in. Here, the goal is to present much, saying very little so results are more likely to be understated than overstated (At least work by good mathematicians).

Posted by Claus at 10:16 PM
Digital privacy report

I haven't read it yet, but Joi Ito's Privacy Report is a comprehensive survey on legislation and technology related to privacy issues in the industrialized world.

The compiled report will show us the latest status of privacy situation and Privacy Enhancing Technologies in international community in the beginning of year 2003

Posted by Claus at 02:32 AM
Lad min back knap v?re i fred!

Just synes vi skal hj?lpe en fyr med at vinde en pr?mie for Veromodas website. Det er vistnok for lyden - men jeg hader sites der fucker med min 'back' knap og min Alt-tab antimus back tasteakkord.

Posted by Claus at 01:41 AM
Killed higher up

Developer macho sentiment: There is an informal mountaineering rule that you never help incompetents up a mountain to killed higher up, only down, to get out alive. Wannabe SOAP developers should be told to work through Bruce's TIJ book, TCP Illustrated, RFC2516, Hunter's Servlets, Box and Skonnard on XML and then maybe write a first web service

I believe that writing (even code) is expression so wannebe's should spend less time wanna'ing and then a little more being. But other than that I wholeheartedly endorse the sentiment that knowing what you're doing is your own responsibility. If you fail you're to blame too. People who don't care about their knowledge should never be trusted with important work.

Posted by Claus at 12:35 AM
June 12, 2003
Context search before language search

Google works so well because if you can think of something to say, the odds are good (well, OK at least) that somebody has thought about saying the same thing in the same way before. Add a good relevancy engine and you're rocking.
Then people start complaining. 'I wrote film, and the page I was looking for talked about movies instead. What a stupid search engine', and so the dream of natural language search is born. In reality it is not the ability to frame the questions in natural language that is so sought after, but rather the listeners ability to extract a broad meaning from the question instead of a stupid text match.
Dave Winer had an idea about search through an open directory of directories, i.e. a general search of anything remotely resembling a catogorization of knowledge.
I sort of had that idea myself a while back (before reading Dave, honest!)

Now from another perspective comes Jon Udell's idea of XPath everywhere. By cleaning up our writing and using XPath we suddenly have a powerful search functionality on our hands.

Now combine the two: Suppose we had a directory of directories/ontologies. Suppose that this directory was XPath searchable. On this data, XPath does exactly what I claim we would really want natural language search to do: Search world models in a form sufficiently close to language to be useful.

The complexity of the search and of the ontology storage must be adressed of course (clearly generating any possible ontology consistent with a given set of documents (based on word occurence) is unlikely to be feasible).

Some more related Udell thinking on this matter.

And then of course the main reason to push forward

Posted by Claus at 11:55 PM
Get out of corporate IT now

Loosely coupled thinks business software practices should start looking for another way to make money. With standardised, rich service offerings available to companies - offered by SOA's (which are rehashed webservice based ASP's) business analysts will be able to do most of the aggregation work to combine services by themselves.

Some slides presenting SOA architectures. My favourite quote: Code doesn't travel. Amen to that. All good successful standards are based on located service and portable data (email, html, - even tcp/ip itself). (Bad news: Slides are in PowerPoint. Urgh. What happened to platform independence?)

Posted by Claus at 11:33 PM
Deep thought on computer languages

Abstract and interesting essay on languages and also indirectly the why of languages. What makes a particular language worthwhile and lasting.
The remarks on descendants of languages and Java as a dead end is right on the money (and no, C# is not a java descendant - if it is anything it is Delphi with C syntax). Nobody's going to want to bring Java philosophy along to their next language. The libraries are downright hideous, and all the interesting stuff is done better elsewhere.

This link also discovered through the marvelous Ongoing.

There's an important learning experience here, which is that as dull as mainstream programming environments may seem, they are actually undergoing a massive change inspired by features of the classic dynamic languages (i.e. lisp) with reflection and genericity as the key things.

Posted by Claus at 11:28 PM
June 11, 2003
How to begin

A remarkably stupid slashdot thread have people answering the question "How's a 10 year old supposed to get into programming" with absurd suggestions like 'use Linux' and 'GNU's scheme implementation is free'. It is also logically sophisticated in ways that would completely defy the point of the exercise.
The best suggestions would be the simplest of the scripting languages. Either the free ones - e.g. Python, or just Javascript or VBScript as embedded in browser and MS office. Python has the advantage of a simplistic 'IDE' right in the basic package, complete with an 'immediate' mode. An invaluable tool when learning to write software.

The most important thing is that the act of expression should yield a good payoff. While it is true that the easy of writing drawing programs on old home computers was appealing to beginners, one should not forget that the console is not really that appealing. In that respect there's better payoffs available today through easy access to some of the many multimedia resources on a standard windows machine with easy to use COM interfaces.

Language acquisition start with simple exercises in using the language essentially for 'pointing': How do I reference things I know in the language. A beginners language has to allow for that. That's where a good 'immediate' environment becomes essential. A good first exercise would be playing a sound or something like automated browsing, i.e. essentially just pushing interface buttons by programming. That is easily powerful enough to feed the desire to 'do more'.

What IS missing is a simplified wrapper for all the mediaresources on a computer to some interfaces with 'universal' names. So it shouldn't be 'Windows Media Player' just Sound and not Internet Explorer, just Browser. With simplified COM wrappers for common resources and an automation capable scripting language Windows cannot be beat as a beginners platform. It is quite simply easier to use.

Posted by Claus at 08:14 PM
Jeg har sat frygtelige ting i bev?gelse

Den gruopv?kkende afsl?ring af den retstavningens mysterier, navnlig de blodige detaljer omkring engelske låneord var måske for voldsom en afsl?ring. Ihvertfald har den lagt mindst ?t liv i ruiner.

Eller også er det de frygtelige ting der bev?ger mig. If?lge Morten kan man aldrig v?re helt sikker.

Posted by Claus at 02:26 PM
One should always keep an eye on the competition

The dullest blog in the world

Posted by Claus at 10:10 AM
Kognition? Ikke i Danmark

Den stadig tiltagende cross-over disciplin kognitionsforskning - et t?ttere og t?tter forbundet krydsfelt mellem beregningsteori, l?gevidenskab, psykologi, filosofi og sprogvidenskab er ikke s?rligt sammenh?ngende d?kket i Danmark.
Man kan finde milj?er for datalingvistik (tilsyneladende klassisk (pr? Chomsky) og 'nyklassisk' (Chomsky-stil) lingvistik) og også filosofisk baseret kognitionsteori med en vis kontakt til l?gevidenskab, ligesom det er neuroinformatik, ligesom der givetvis er milj?er for neurale netv?rk i fysikverdenen (det hed engang CONNECT, men er underligt forsvundet fra www), og også i robotik. De mange initiativer virker bare ikke sammenbundet af et f?lles projekt, ligesom man tilsyneladende er på egen hånd hvis man er interesseret i at studere de mange elementer at kognitionsteori i sammenh?ng.
Til sammenligning kan man hurtigt lokalisere en svensk oversigt over institutioner der besk?ftiger sig med kognitionsforskning i alle dens varianter.

Det virker som en kapitalbr?ler ikke at skabe sammenh?ng indenfor dette brede felt netop hvor beregningsmodeller er blevet så tilg?ngelige at man kan håbe på noget egentlig fremskridt, og det virker som en endnu st?rkere br?ler at de mange initiativer ikke krydser deres viden, eller i det mindste anerkender at der er viden i dem også.

Hvis jeg tager fuldst?ndig fejl, så post nogen links. De var ikke nemme at samle fra andre steder.

Blandt de ting man kunne håbe på var: En krydsdisciplin?r sammenh?ng mellem f.eks. kognitiv semiotik som bedrevet i Århus og elementer af datalingvistik (og her er man velkommen til at dåne af r?dsel over min dybe naivitet) - på den ene side er det interessant at fastholde betydning som beregning i en konkret repr?sentation hvis man kan, og på den anden er det n?dvendigt at have et element af betydning med i modelleringen af naturlige sprog.
Uden sammenh?ng til disse initiativer er der på DTU statistisk baseret textmining. Beregning, også sofistikeret beregning som den bedst laves af ingeni?rer og fysikere, vil indgå i en samlende model.

Andre oplagte krydsfelter er studier i autonomi og selvregulering baseret på den neurale selvregulering formidlet i hjernen i sammen?ng med robotik.
Den form for forskning bedrives tilsyneladende i Lund, som funktionelle studier af beregningsmodeller i kontekstl?ring og kontekstskift.

Posted by Claus at 12:19 AM
June 10, 2003
The persistence of human endeavour

What is really remarkable about human beings is their will and desire to circumvent even the biggest obstacles to do something - in fact anything worthwhile: Mark Pilgrim recounts a work experience:

At the same job, several of my co-workers were blind. They did the same job I did - relaying calls for the deaf - but they were blind.
Now that's an obstacle to conquer all right!

Posted by Claus at 09:37 PM
Surf automation

Bookmarklets are extra browser features (in JavaScript) that you can store as bookmarks on your personal toolbar, andJesse's Bookmarklets Site has tons of them.

Posted by Claus at 09:29 PM

I morgensporten på TV2 opfylder f?lgende gang bonder?vsnonsens nyhedskriterierne: For landskampen mod Luxembourg er en reporter udsendt og konstaterer ringe interesse for kampen (hvor sp?ndende er det altid at tabe?). Studiev?rten stiller forundret sp?rgsmålet: 'Siger de slet ikke noget om vores sejr over Norge?'.
Hvorfor skulle de? Hvis de bruger samme nyhedskriterier som Nyt fra Andedammen i Odense, så er regnm?ngden i går i Luxembourg og lottotallene langt vigtigere end noget som helst der er foregået uden for landets gr?nser.
Med sportsnyhederne i front er TV2 godt igang med at gennemf?re en 'Norskificering' af den danske offentlighed (og DR er godt i h?lene på dem). Det vil sige en total isolation fra såvel virkelighed som udland, fulgt op an en absurd konstruktion af 'Sm?rhullet Danmark' som det dejligste sted på jorden, landet hvor man ved bedre og lever bedre; velforsynet med campingvogne, sommerhuse og elv?rkt?j.

I l?rdags så jeg på Vesterbrogade en norsk fodboldturist if?rt en T-shirt med teksten : 'Norge - Pride of Europe'. Jeg tror sprogforvirringen (og forvekslingsmuligheden med indarbejdede homo-slogans) kan tilskrives provinsialiteten i budskabet. Norge har med stor succes meldt sig ud af Europa og er meget langt fra at v?re en stolthed for andre end nordm?nd. Hvordan skulle det kunne lade sig g?re - når nu nordm?ndene har så travlt med at g?re sig betydningsl?se i resten af verden.

Posted by Claus at 11:47 AM
June 09, 2003
A Sign of The Times

I have noticed a rather interesting sign of the times: On old portable macs (powerbooks) the Apple logo on the cover faced so that it was right side up, when you had your mac in front of you - ready to go to work,but with screen still not lifted. In short the Apple logo was there to communicate with you: This is a Mac you're about to use.
On newer iBooks the apple has been reversed so that it is right side up when the screen is open. The iBook user of course cannot see the apple when the sceen is in that position, so the logo is now clearly there to communicate to onlookers. In short the communication is now a combination of user vanity (part of owning a stylish white keyboard iBook is having everybody know you have it) and then very importantly: The Mac owner as Mac advertiser. The latter should not be underestimated. The commercial pressure on you - even from products you have bought and paid for - is mounting daily. Buying Windows today is like buying a Microsoft ad-serving platform. Other products are no better as illustrated by the Apple logo.
It is becoming more and more common for corporations to assume full commercial ownership of your relation with them. If they want to market to you, they assume they can. They assume your address is now owned by them for marketing use. And certainly any information you exchange with them is commercially available to them. More and more products come with bundled advertising. In the least obnoxious cases this is presented as 'product information' from the vendor you have a relation with. In worse cases, it is direct advertising from a third party.

Related to this is annoying 'upsale' on every contact with e.g. your phone company or your bank. The notion that every employer is a sales person, is probably considered good aggresive management, but good personal service it is not. As every Amazon.com user will know there's a fine line between good customer service ('related' links) and obnoxious advertising (off category sales pitches and 'page you made' suggestions for top selling products remotely related to your search. Nobody likes to feel like a cash cow.

Posted by Claus at 02:28 AM
Brilliant aspect article

Onjava has a brilliant article on aspect oriented programming. Well' actually it's the comments at the end that are brilliant. An intelligent reader discusses the concept of AOP and its practical usefulness at great length with one of the authors. Much of interest is said. One of the things is a discussion along the lines of "is OOP not a better match for describing the real world?". I have a strong opinion on that issue. The answer to the question is 'Absolutely Not'. Approx 20 minutes into your first course in object oriented design, you get to the problem of multiple inheritance, and the text will present you with something like the 'salary example' ("part time teachers" are both "part time employees" and "teachers", in either case they are "people" and have a "name", so which is it? The example is contrived, but text book examples usually are). Some kind of fix is proposed (outlawing multiple inheritance, using only interfaces) but the fixes rarely address the real problem, which is that in either case you are constructing nothing but a theory about the world you are modeling.
Using interfaces may look like the answer, but isn't really - at least not in strongly types, statically typed languages like C++ or Java. Claiming some property of a real world object is inherently dynamic. That dynamic aspect of language is poorly captured by most OO languages. You end up constructing actual objects with the desired properties and implementing some kind of reference to your original objects. This is worse than useless. Your model now contains synthetic objects with a rather abstract correspondence to your problem domain. Do this enough times and your code becomes a nightmare.
All kinds of bad design come from this need to construct objects mirroring the original model objects to add new typing, like the dreaded 'class hierarchy replication' (where you have your main model class essentially replicated in an other class hierarchy to add your jnew feature in a typedependent way)

Any technology that allows me to introduce the new look on old classes dynamically by actual reinterpretation of the original class instead of introducing additional classes is most welcome, and that is what (at least JBOSS) AOP looks like doing.

Posted by Claus at 02:14 AM
June 08, 2003
Ideal work music

Classical shoutcast radio from Hartford, Connecticut.

I find I generally work better with either classical music, or 'downbeat', that is modern, jazz-housy mellow beats. In any case - instrumental.
Of course music is required to drown out the annoying sound from the PC.

Posted by Claus at 11:59 PM
VoIP, WiFi => WiVo

Dan Gillmor informs us that IP telephony is big in japan - the Early Adopter Country:

Soundbite: "...she uses an Internet telephone, as do her parents. And so do more than 2 million other people in Japan."

So VoIP is finally eleminating old phone service (which will hopefully end up producing a better dialing interface than phone numbers), and WiFi is set to stun everyone between right now and the next year or so. If Nikolaj has anything to say on the matter WiFi will be a transparently available commodity in urban centers Real Soon Now. Then we just need a WiFone and mobile phone companies will start to look like a bad idea. In particular the outrageous pricing schedule for data traffic on GPRS networks will look like a very bad idea. Talk about blowing momentum.

And of course the really scary thing is that I am sooo late in reporting this story. In places that get it (US metropolitan areas) it is already there.

Posted by Claus at 11:11 PM
Firedoblet ADSL

St?rkt nok: TDC firedobler hastigheden på ADSL. Vel er jeg en stor tiltaler for at når det kommer til hardwareydelser g?lder det at 'more is more', men alligevel. Der skal vist v?re mere end en bruger på den linie f?r det er strengt n?dvendigt med den hastighed. Jeg tror faktisk ikke jeg vil opleve hurtigere enkeltmandsbrug med den hastighed. Efterhånden er det mere sideberegningstid i dårlige browsere man venter på.

Posted by Claus at 12:47 PM
June 06, 2003
When place matters

Online shopping is nice, for objects that you can easily assess on the web. Even if you have to order abroad and accept longish, expensive delivery options. I found this very nice notebook wallet via somebody's blog. It's small and contains paper - in short: I want one. I am always annoyed at having to carry a jacket or other optional clothing if I want to keep a pen about. From the color selection it is clearly marketed to women, but that is not a problem. Black is available. I found it particularly annoying that the shop couldn't figure out how to tell me what shipping would be on a page before I gave them my credit card info. That almost asking international customers to shop elsewhere.
Sometimes place matters, but this shouldn't have to be one of them.

Posted by Claus at 10:12 PM
Criticism I thought was gone

Strangely (if you're a hobbyist Redmond basher like me), the Microsoft sponsored magazine Slate has teeth: In "The Return of Class War - Bush and the new tyranny of the rich." by Michael Kinsley, Bush's recent tex reform is criticized quite sharply. And of course the recent complete sellout on media diversity did turn a lot of heads.
Then there's the failure to find WoMD's in Irag, and the still soft economy. Bush's power as president could be waning.

Posted by Claus at 09:23 PM
eBay - the procurement disruptor

Now that every week does not bring 100 new b2b e-business portals anymore, InformationWeek as an interesting story on Oregon's use of eBay to sell governmet surplus property.
That's an e-business disruption happening right there. It might just be the case that for many transactions the infrastructure that is eBay is enough even for offering complicated portfolios of merchandize.
It is an interesting example of low-end general use consumer functionality being quite sufficient for high-end specialized use. We might soon say our final goodbyes to specialized portals.

Posted by Claus at 04:48 PM
June 04, 2003
Like I said, I'm just reading it all

I have Ongoing ongoing and I'm presently at an essay On Hating SQL

Soundbite: In theory, I like SQL a lot. In practice it revolts me, and I'm not sure why.

For my money it is because the stuff I think of as static declarative matter becomes dynamic (all the selecting and inserting and updating) and all the dynamic stuff I want to do with data is either completely hideous to do or I have to do it in some syntax with all the beauty of QBasic.
As far as I'm concerned, for SQL to be pretty I should be able to present all the relations (including the ones I need on the fly and don't allow for in the native schema) as declarative matter, and then these relations should be malleable in the way one has come to expect from modern languages with high quality generic datacontainers.

Then there's the problem of transactions and of persistence. It is a shame that these two features of data that are totally unrelated to schema modeling are integrated in the same package. You would really like your modern procedural, dynamic, OO language with functional language features and the expressiveness of Lisp to offer transactionality of updates unrelated to the relational model and you would like the lifetime of data to be unrelated to both.

Much talk is made of the Object/Relational impedance mismatch, but I think that is a bad description of the problem. The impedance mismatch is between the entire set of 'data server' language and services and the data and services of the rest of your programming system. It means you have to abuse the dataserver language for tasks your application host language is better suited for in order to get the other qualities also. You end up persisting objects to relational stores to have transactional copies of them.
Simple rediscoveries like object prevalence prove the point. That people need to 'discover' persistence and journaling filesystems (which is what the prevalence model is) prove how damaging the SQL based confusion of transactionality, persistence and relationality is.

Oh, and it doesn't help that SQL idiom requires you to SHOUT ALL THE TIME.

Posted by Claus at 02:05 AM
I think I'll just sit down and read this entire site

Tim Bray's ongoing is providing tons of inspiration to me. I just found a brilliant observation on software writing : Writing the Hard Line of Code. Amen to that. This is exactly what happens 9 out of 10 times. Of course the reason one does this kind of thing is that last 1 of of 10 cases, where the flow gets you and that is sufficient for wonderful things to happen.

If - like me - you have an excessively verbal inner life, the same kind of thing happens in 'plain old writing'.
You're arrested by something and get the feeling there's a decent point to be made, and you sort of know what it is, but it is tied in with too much internalized knowledge to get onto paper in the next hour or so - my usual limit for stretches of continuous good prose.
So you start to express some of these internal prerequisites hoping the flow will get you to that point you were looking to make. And you then often find that the point either does not carry as well as you hoped, or you just don't get to it - caught up in all the marshalling.
The 'verbal inner life' thing comes into play because, in this mode of thinking you're always adding story threads to a dense forest of other threads. Nothing is just an observation.
Thank god we have blogging and hypertext to deliver us from this mess of setting up your stories...

Posted by Claus at 01:53 AM
June 03, 2003
Not prototypes - 'Tracer bullets'

Joel on Software - Friday, May 16, 2003 comments that software prototypes are almost never worth the effort. This has to be part of developer 'folk knowledge' by now.
Even worse, when prototypes succeed they run the risk of being used in production systems with all the consequences this has of the prototype solution not being properly architected to fit into a full production deliverable.

I think The Pragmatic Programmer does an admirable job in laying out the Good Rules.
Do blackboard or paper prototyping. When building incomplete software use a 'Tracer bullets' approach. Tracer bullets are developed by sticking to the full architecture but keeping all elements not required to display functionality 'constant', e.g. letting functions return constant values instead of actually computing anything, etc.

Posted by Claus at 11:40 AM
Richard Chamberlain reveals worlds worst kept secret

Richard Chamberlain comes out of the closet. Who didn't know he was gay?

Posted by Claus at 10:44 AM
Scalable CSS

Previously I've received complaints that the fonts used on classy.dk were too small to read. Not being a certified pixelf**ker I thought this was simply a consequence of using CSS. Now I know it is a consequence of using Internet Explorer. Try Mozilla Firebird, which is mozilla without a lot of the gunk. And it scales writing on classy.dk nicely.

Posted by Claus at 04:17 AM
Republicans in the house

Let's see:

  • Winning at any cost. Check
  • Rehire Dad's people. Check
  • Alienating Europe through excessive superpowering. Check
  • Jeopardize personal freedom in the name of freedom. Check
  • Sell off national media to staunch republican supporters. Check

Posted by Claus at 03:16 AM
Subscription counters and precious URL's

Tim Bray thinks out loud about counting RSS subscribers. Subscribers are hard to count for the same reason regular web users are and if the solution is to include no use of cookies it's harder still. Bray ends up using a scheme where you have to subcribe actively - by submitting an identity token (he uses a hash of your email address).
That this comes out from Bray's point of view as less intrusive than cookies is beyond me. I use Spamhole religiously when asked for an email address. The important step here is that the friction of the signup will make the URL for the RSS feed (or other HTTP headers as suggested) precious to you, so that you will keep using the very same one. And if friction is high enough you will even make sure to transfer the URL to other machines as required.
I've been intrigued for a long time about the notion of precious URLs. Good permalinks are precious. Google cache links to vanished pages are precious.
I think precious URLs would form a great way to introduce micro-economy to online publishing.
The easy way to think about them is Bray's way: If advertising is supposed to matter to the RSS publishers, then subscriber counts must be measurable and precious URLs is the way to go there.
But one can easily imagine a client side version of precious URLs also. It would rely on a new enriched client. When loading up a website the client would negotiate in the background the licensing terms for the site through site metadata. After negotiating terms the site would then publish to your personalized precious URL's - e.g. by proxying the precious content through the licensing client. The licensing client would implement strict observance of URL expiration time, ensuring that your money is not wasted by continued reloading. Client side, you may stipulate how much money you're willing to spend in a given amount of time, how much without being asked, and how much at a specific site.
While the interaction is designed to provide transactional security, the individual load occurs in the background and is not viewed as an economic transaction. The model is 'metered surfing' You're simply charged a bulk amount per month, and conversely the website does not enter into a transaction with you, but is reimbursed for number of served pages.

It's just another micropayment scheme - but I think the importance of introducing a kind of friction sufficiently harmless that we can accept it happening in the background is important.
The New York Times costs approx 1$. One would expect to surf the website for some fraction of that per day, which means that a particular page should cost no more than a penny or two.

I don't know of anyone using micropayments as minute as that on a regular basis, but mayby iTunes will change that. If permanent ownership of a song is only 1$ surely you would expect to be able to buy other media for that kind of money also.

While we're touching on the subject of giving out emailadresses: I couldn't be bothered to keep giving out the same address. Sometimes the disinformation of changing address is even intentional.
Ironically Spamhole has changed their website so that the friction of creating a spamhole has gone up a lot. You now have to sit around and wait for confirmation emails with confusing validation instructions. That is not just bad. It is unusable.

Posted by Claus at 03:10 AM
Google's not dead - it does not even smell funny.

Just references yet another story predicting Google doom, because of blogs. Supposedly the link structure of blogging is destroying the importance of blogging. I don't know. I still find what I'm looking for just fine, thank you. And forthermore, I think it is important to note that almost all legitimate observations on blog's in the rankings are examples of vanity surfing. Scanning for your own name is likely to bring a lot of polluting links to your weblog.

On the other hand, I just spent hours finding out who Robert Scoble is - only to learn that he's just a blogger turned microsoft flack. Being a blogger, page after page of links to his name are blogrefs. Unfortunately his new job shows and he's proudly plugging just about everything with an enthusiasm fitting for his job. Very low grade. Can be avoided without loss of insight.

Posted by Claus at 01:37 AM
June 01, 2003
Ward Cunningham on the sad state of everyday web life

Ward Cunnigham in an article on perl.com explains why he invented the concept of a wiki:

Back in 1994, the Web was a pretty wonderful place, with lots of people putting up stuff just because they thought someone else would find it interesting or useful. Wiki preserves that feeling in a place that has become too much of a shopping mall

Amen to that. The graphics/content ratio of the web is too high as is the commercial/noncommercial ratio.

Wiki's are being used for quite wonderful things - from the hard to navigate original pattern repository - with material of very variable quality, to the surprisingly serious Wikipedia a free (as in freedom) online encyclopedia wikied together by voluntary submissions (no less than 130094 at present in the english edition - many partial translations are also being worked on). In fields where geeks are good resources the material is of very high quality - often surpassing the material in some of the other encyclopedias I consult on a regular basis. In fields where an editorial stance is required, e.g. politics, it is less so. But even that is an interesting departure from standard encyclopedias - clearly in an open editable medium you will have competing factions fighting over the meaning of politically charged terms.
Wikipedia has augmented the wikiprocess with a dispute resulution process to settle such issues. Pages in dispute carefully display a notice that they are.

Posted by Claus at 06:25 PM
...I'm idling now...

...but you wouldn't think that you could go anyplace nasty be doing a Google Search for 'amzn_id sponsored link'

Note the nice pun in the trademark phrase Enhanced by Google.

Posted by Claus at 02:41 PM
Apropos 'tool compatible data'

As mentioned, standards come about because somebody decides to adopt a practice found elsewhere to make their own informaton 'tool compatible'. Case in point, Jakob's Law of the Internet User Experience

Users spend most of their time on other sites. This means that users prefer your site to work the same way as all the other sites they already know.

I found the quote as part of a nice collection of theories of the week. Good idea, wide range of knowledge presented, well executed. Nice clean website.

Like the logo.

Posted by Claus at 02:28 PM
Pay and ye shall Find

I realize it might be useful to some people but the FindTutorials - Searching the Internet - Tools & Techniques Course is quite simply a course in intelligent websurfing.
That's like taking a course to learn how to watch television.

Posted by Claus at 01:48 PM