Now blogging at diego's weblog. See you over there!

little poor AOL

AOL is lobbying to be exempted from restrictions placed on it back when it merged with Time Warner regarding Instant Messaging. It'll probably win: Michael Powell, currently FCC chairman, wrote on AOL's support when the initial decision was handed in (talk about good friends on the inside). AOL meanwhile is allowed to keep repeating ridiculous statements like "interoperability is not possible" when there are programs like Trillian that (somehow, probably through dark magic) connect not just to AIM, but to MSN and Yahoo too.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on May 27, 2003 at 11:24 PM

the standard Kilogram is... losing weight

According to this New York Times article:

The kilogram is defined by a platinum-iridium cylinder, cast in England in 1889. No one knows why it is shedding weight, at least in comparison with other reference weights, but the change has spurred an international search for a more stable definition.


The kilogram is the only one of the seven base units of measurement that still retain its 19th-century definition. Over the years, scientists have redefined units like the meter (first based on the earth's circumference) and the second (conceived as a fraction of a day). The meter is now the distance light travels in one-299,792,458th of a second, and a second is the time it takes for a cesium atom to vibrate 9,192,631,770 times. Each can be measured with remarkable precision, and, equally important, can be reproduced anywhere.


The kilogram was conceived to be the mass of a liter of water, but accurately measuring a liter of water proved to be very difficult. Instead, an English goldsmith was hired to make a platinum-iridium cylinder that would be used to define the kilogram.


To update the kilogram, Germany is working with scientists from countries including Australia, Italy and Japan to produce a perfectly round one-kilogram silicon crystal. The idea is that by knowing exactly what atoms are in the crystal, how far apart they are and the size of the ball, the number of atoms in the ball can be calculated. That number then becomes the definition of a kilogram.


An intriguing characteristic of this smooth ball is that there is no way to tell whether it is spinning or at rest. Only if a grain of dust lands on the surface is there something for the eye to track.

Categories: science
Posted by diego on May 27, 2003 at 11:12 PM


I found this really cool site today: DigitalIDWorld (one of the main contributors is Eric unless I'm mistaken). It has a ton of interesting articles/posting on digital identity stuff, such as this one, discussing Bill Gates' comments on the subject.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on May 27, 2003 at 2:38 PM

gibson on media and technology

If you have a few minutes check out this incredibly good speech by William Gibson to the Directors Guild of America. Quote:

What we call “media” were originally called “mass media”. technologies allowing the replication of passive experience. As a novelist, I work in the oldest mass medium, the printed word. The book has been largely unchanged for centuries. Working in language expressed as a system of marks on a surface, I can induce extremely complex experiences, but only in an audience elaborately educated to experience this. This platform still possesses certain inherent advantages. I can, for instance, render interiority of character with an ease and specificity denied to a screenwriter. But my audience must be literate, must know what prose fiction is and understand how one accesses it. This requires a complexly cultural education, and a certain socio-economic basis. Not everyone is afforded the luxury of such an education.

But I remember being taken to my first film, either a Disney animation or a Disney nature documentary (I can’t recall which I saw first) and being overwhelmed by the steep yet almost instantaneous learning curve: in that hour, I learned to watch film. Was taught, in effect, by the film itself. I was years away from being able to read my first novel, and would need a lot of pedagogy, to do that. But film itself taught me, in the dark, to view it. I remember it as a sort of violence done to me, as full of terror as it was of delight. But when I emerged from that theater, I knew how to watch film.

What had happened to me was historically the result of an immensely complex technological evolution, encompassing optics, mechanics, photography, audio recording, and much else. Whatever film it was that I first watched, other people around the world were also watching, having approximately the same experience in terms of sensory input. And that film no doubt survives today, in Disney’s back-catalog, as an experience that can still be accessed.


Much of history has been, often to an unrecognized degree, technologically driven. From the extinction of North America’s mega-fauna to the current geopolitical significance of the Middle East, technology has driven change. (That’s spear-hunting technology for the mega-fauna and the internal-combustion engine for the Middle East, by the way.) Very seldom do nations legislate the emergence of new technologies.

The Internet, an unprecedented driver of change, was a complete accident, and that seems more often the way of things. The Internet is the result of the unlikely marriage of a DARPA project and the nascent industry of desktop computing. Had nations better understood the potential of the Internet, I suspect they might well have strangled it in its cradle. Emergent technology is, by its very nature, out of control, and leads to unpredictable outcomes.

As indeed does the emergent realm of the digital. I prefer to view this not as the advent of some new and extraordinary weirdness, but as part of the ongoing manifestation of some very ancient and extraordinary weirdness: our gradual spinning of a sort of extended prosthetic mass nervous-system, out of some urge that was present around the cooking-fires of our earliest human ancestors.

He makes a point near the end that I (surprinsingly) disagree with:
I imagine that one of the things our great-grandchildren will find quaintest about us is how we had all these different, function-specific devices. Their fridges will remind them of appointments and the trunks of their cars will, if need be, keep the groceries from thawing. The environment itself will be smart, rather than various function-specific nodes scattered through it. Genuinely ubiquitous computing spreads like warm Vaseline. Genuinely evolved interfaces are transparent, so transparent as to be invisible.
I don't think we are entering into an era of less function-specific devices. Rather, we are entering an era of even more "specificity", but with greater interoperability. What is on the fridge's door that reminds you of an appointment doesn't come built in with the fridge, it's a PDA-fridge-magnet (let's ignore the problems of magnetic fields on electronics for a minute). And you can take it off and carry it around. Or put it in the car, and it always stays sync-ed with your main data store, which is a black box hidden somewhere, subwoofer-style.

Function-specific, transparent, pervasive, energy-efficient, data-aware, people-aware, context-aware, portable (if possible), fully interoperable. That's, IMO, where things are going.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on May 27, 2003 at 1:01 PM

it's the people, stupid

Clay Shirky on Social Structure in Social Software. Really interesting discussion. Quote:

Group rules like Robert's Rules of Order protect groups from falling into these patterns and thus protect the group from itself. Clay gives an example of BBS systems in the 1970's that started out as "open access" and "freedom of speech" were "overrun" by teenage boys who wanted to talk about bathroom jokes, sex, etc. The group didn't have enough structure to fend off these "attacks" on the group. This was a social issue, not a technological issue. "An attack from within is the pattern that matters."
If 'social software' is to be anything except a buzzword, we'll need to create tools that let the group "defend" against these kinds of "attacks" on its social structure. And easily, not by requiring the user to press Ctrl+Alt+W+X+F1 while standing on one foot and looking west. Spam is the same kind of threat to e-mail (except that email is a world-wide, decentralized social network).

And speaking of spam. The amount of spam I've been getting these past week or so has been astonishing, which has led me to give even more thought to good spam filtering in clevercactus. I'm getting something like 150 messages a day. Okay, maybe half of those are worms (that new "" worm that I started seeing about a week ago). Since I'm not the only one, there must be something else going on... some kind of quarterly release of new spam lists or something to these lowlifes (or is that "lowlives"?) that have nothing better to do than destroy our ability to work by hijacking our communication channels for idiotic offers for viagra and such crap. Scott had good entry on the subject last month. And make no mistake, as with social software, this is not a technology problem, it's a people problem. Or a people "feature," depending on your viewpoint. :)

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on May 27, 2003 at 12:56 PM

cc mailing lists

The clevercactus mailing lists are back! (In reality they never "left" :) but access to the subscription page was disabled after the transition of the site from spaces to cactus. Still more things to come on the site...)

Categories: clevercactus
Posted by diego on May 27, 2003 at 12:26 PM

bloggers meeting in dublin

Karlin organized an Irish bloggers meeting:

anyone in Ireland who blogs, any bloggers from elsewhere who happen to be around, and anyone who is interested in blogging but doesn't do it yet is welcome to join an informal (can you say, 'pub'?) gathering this coming Tuesday, June 3rd. We will meet from 8pm upstairs in the Library Bar in the Central Hotel on Exchequer Street (yes, you know it, the hotel just up from the Sth. Georges Street arcade, as you turn off down Exchequer Street).

Come earlier rather than later -- try not to do that Irish thing of arriving half an hour before closing time! And please pass the word.

'Pass the word' in this case could also be called 'spread the link' :).

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on May 27, 2003 at 10:19 AM

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