Colossus …in Lego.
In a piece for Medium commissioned by Matter, Jon Norris describes a little-known aspect of the UK’s information technology history:
Gender equality is still a major issue in the technology industry, but 50 years ago one British company was blazing trails.
Scott points out a really big problem with the current state of the “internet of things”: everyone is inventing their own proprietary walled-garden infrastructure instead of getting together to collaborate on standards.
The single biggest fallacy I want to blow up is this utopian idea that there is this SINGLE thing called ‘The Cloud’. Each company today reinvents their own cloud. The Cloud as a concept is dead and has been for years: we are living within a stormy sky of cranky clouds, all trying to pretend the others don’t exist.
A history lesson from Vint Cerf. I can’t help but picture him as The Architect in The Matrix Reloaded.
When Tim Berners-Lee invented and released the World Wide Web (WWW) design in late 1991, he found an open and receptive internet in operation onto which the WWW could be placed. The WWW design, like the design of the internet, was very open and encouraged a growing cadre of self-taught webmasters to develop content and applications.
A design fiction video depicting technology that helps and hinders in equal measure.
A beautiful piece by James on the history of light as a material for communication …and its political overtones in today’s world.
What is light when it is information rather than illumination? What is it when it is not perceived by the human eye? Deep beneath the streets and oceans, what is illuminated by the machines, and how are we changed by this illumination?
A lovely description by Paul Ford of the Hypertext Transfer Protocol.
That simple handshake is the firmament upon which we have built trillion-dollar cathedrals and bazaars, the base upon which we construct other protocols and networks.
A lovely piece of writing from Richard on the nature of the web.
Sorta sci-fi from Adam.
Consider this a shooting script for one of those concept videos so beloved of the big technology vendors.
Charles Arthur analyses the data from Google’s woeful history of shutting down its services.
So if you want to know when Google Keep, opened for business on 21 March 2013, will probably shut - again, assuming Google decides it’s just not working - then, the mean suggests the answer is: 18 March 2017. That’s about long enough for you to cram lots of information that you might rely on into it; and also long enough for Google to discover that, well, people aren’t using it to the extent that it hoped.
A truly fascinating and well-written article on how changes are afoot in the worlds of psychology, economics, and just about any other field that has performed tests on American participants and extrapolated the results into universal traits.
Given the data, they concluded that social scientists could not possibly have picked a worse population from which to draw broad generalizations. Researchers had been doing the equivalent of studying penguins while believing that they were learning insights applicable to all birds.
Science Fiction Film as Design Scenario Exercise for Psychological Habitability: Production Designs 1955-2009
A white paper that looks to sci-fi films as potential prototypes for habitats for humans in space, with an emphasis on dealing with the psychological issues involved.
I remember a talk and discussion at SxSW a few years back about trying to improve the efficiency of trade networks by making them more web-like: there are ships full of empty cargo containers, simply because companies insist on using the container with their logo on it. I really, really like the idea of applying the principles of packet-switching to physical networks.
But here’s the hard part:
The technology is not a problem. We could do it all in 10 years. It’s the business models and the mental models in people’s minds.
Now this looks like my kind of event:
A new micro-conference on science, technology, communication and fiction, organised by the Arthur C. Clarke Award.
A cute and fun way to put together a colour palette.
What Dan said.
A great new site from Jenn and Yesenia: celebrating and supporting female speakers in technology.
I, for one, welcome our slime mould overlords.
The slime mould is being used to explore biological-inspired design, emergence theory, unconventional computing and robot controllers, much of which borders on the world of science fiction.
Gorgeous colour-processed images from NASA probes. I could stare at the fountains of Enceladus all day.
Lauren talks about The Shining Girls and the tools she uses to write with.
Brilliant little magnetic cuddly nucleobases from Jun. You get all four bases to combine to your heart’s content: cytosine, guanine, adenine, thymine — take that, Pokémon.
Now this is what I call tech reporting.
The women leave the stage, wet computer in hand, and a new man takes the stage. He plays a schmaltzy video where Portuguese children teach adults to use Windows 8 accompanied by a hyperloud xylophone soundtrack that slices through my hangover like cheesewire though lukewarm gouda.
I like this idea of slow journalism: taking seven years to tell a story.
The Fermi paradox as applied to tapeworms.
‘Sfunny; just yesterday I was revisiting this classic tapeworm tale on Fray.
This is a superb talk by Mark Lynas who once spearheaded the anti-GM movement, and who has now completely changed his stance on genetically-modified crops. Why? Science.
You are more likely to get hit by an asteroid than to get hurt by GM food. More to the point, people have died from choosing organic, but no-one has died from eating GM.
I am giddy with excitement at the prospect of a new Shane Carruth film:
A man and woman are drawn together, entangled in the life cycle of an ageless organism.
The fascinating story of how a dream team of geeks helped Obama to victory. Personally, I think it’s all about the facial hair. I mean, how could they lose with Trammell’s beard to guide them?
Man, I just love Scott Jenson.
Our brains have collectively gone startup-crazy, seeing the world through stock option colored glasses, assuming that if there is no money, there is clearly no value. This is madness. I’m so desperately worried that the internet will turn out to be a happy accident.
Turning his focus on “the internet of things” he makes the very good point that what we need isn’t one company or one proprietary service; we need an ecosystem of open standards that will enable companies to build services.
We all have to appreciate how we need a deep, open solution to solve this problem. If we don’t understand, demand even, that hardware devices need to be just as discoverable an open as web servers are today, we’ll never see the internet of things come to pass.
Some great thoughts from Mike Davies about the strengths of the web, prompted by some of the more extreme comments made by James Pearce at Full Frontal last week.
I should point out that James was being deliberately provocative in order to foment thought and discussion and, judging from this blog post, he succeeded.
The Web’s independence from the hardware and software platform people use is a feature. It’s better than cross-platform frameworks which are constantly criticised for not producing exact native-feeling apps on the multitude of platforms they run on. The Web is above that pettiness.
I know how Brad feels. I find it hard to muster any enthusiasm for any specific new device these days. But that’s okay. It’s more important to step back and see the trends and directions instead of getting caught up in the specifics of this particular phone or that particular tablet.
My remedy for device fatigue has been to take a step back and let my eyes go unfocused. Much like a Magic Eye, I can then see the hidden pictures behind the stippled noise that is the device landscape. This remedy helps me cope, gets me to stop caring about things that don’t really matter, and gets me to care about the broader trends the Magic Eye unveils.
There is an elephant in the Microsoft store.
Interaction dissolving into the environment.
A lovely piece from Joanne on storytelling, identity and the internet.
I like this skewering of the cult of so-called-neuroscience; the self-help book equivalent of eye-tracking.
The cloud is not only a lie, it’s a lie that everyone pretends to understand.
When asked what “the cloud” is, a majority responded it’s either an actual cloud (specifically a “fluffy white thing”), the sky or something related to the weather (29 percent).
3D printing an exoskeleton for a child with arthrogryposis — technology can be so fricking awesome!
A good recap of the recent online/offline/does-it-really-matter discussion …although it does lend a bit too much credence to the pronouncements of that king of trolls, Nicholas Carr.
HP “On That Cloud Thing That Everyone Else Is Talking About” | The Onion - America’s Finest News Source | Onion News Network
Pitch-perfect parody from The Onion:
HP announced they’re making a new push into cloud computing and that they totally know what that is.
In related news, I’ve ordered my “the cloud is a lie” T-shirt from James.
Vannevar Bush’s original 1945 motherlode of hypertext.
Vernor Vinge’s original 1993 motherlode of the singularity.
There is a there there after all.
The backlash against the backlash against connectivity.
I, for one, welcome our Manufactured Normalcy Field overlords.
Aaron should definitely skyblog more often if this is the result.
I could listen to Vint Cerf all day.
I think that it’s perfectly reasonable to have packets raining down from satellites, IP packets just literally raining down from satellites and being picked up by hundreds, if not millions, of receivers at the same time.
A fascinating insight into the psychological implications of animated progress indicators.
An introduction to the important work of digital archivists:
Much like the family member that collects, organizes, and identifies old family photos to preserve one’s heritage, digital archivists seek to do the same for all mankind.
Chris Anderson interviews Mark Andreessen.
A really nice site dedicated entirely to making the web a better place for the colourblind.
This is very, very good. It gets a little unhinged towards the end but Jonathan Harris’s initial comparisons of software with medicine are spot-on.
A great step-by-step tutorial from Brad on developing a responsive site with a Content First mindset.
This is a beautifully heartfelt post from Timoni:
Every day, I feel things because of the internet, and that’s amazing. Humans have been using abstracted communication for thousands of years, but it’s never been so instantaneous, never so capable of bringing folks of completely different backgrounds together in conversation. This is a huge step. Good job us.
The Jig Is Up: Time to Get Past Facebook and Invent a New Future - Alexis Madrigal - Technology - The Atlantic
An excellent longish-zoom article by Alexis Madrigal with an eerily accurate summation of the current state of the web. Although I think that a lack of any fundamentally new paradigms could be seen as a sign of stabilisation as much as stagnation.
Yes! Charles Stross speaks the unspeakable: that advertising is fundamentally “wrong”.
He’s right, y’know.
Bruce Sterling writes about the New Aesthetic in an article that’s half manifesto and half critique.
Grab a cup of tea or hit your “read it later” bookmarklet of choice for this one—it’s a lengthy but worthwhile read.
A cautionary tale from Stuart. We, the makers of modern technology, are letting people down. Badly.
We’re in this to help users, remember: not just the ones who think as we do, but the ones who rely on us to build things for them because they don’t know what they’re doing. If your response is honestly “well, he should have spent more on a phone to get something better”, then I’m exceedingly disillusioned by you.
Earth Station: The Afterlife of Technology at the End of the World - Alexis Madrigal - Technology - The Atlantic
The wonderful story of an odd place:
The Jamesburg Earth Station is a massive satellite receiver in a remote valley in California. It played a central role in satellite communications for three decades, but had been forgotten until the current owner put it up for sale, promoting it as a great place to spend the apocalypse.
Samantha put together this handy one-page site to explain Style Tiles as part of her South by Southwest presentation.
It turns out that Big Bird is a god-defying instantiation of Moorcock’s Eternal Champion. Magnificent!
Big Bird and Snuffy go with him to stand in the Hall of Two Truths at the gate to the afterlife. The gigantic foam balls on these guys! Sure, Elmo loves you, but when’s the last time Elmo held anyone’s hand on the threshold of eternal night?
Re-examining Von Neumann probes, reconciling their apparent scarcity with the Fermi paradox.
Here’s a challenge for the new year: use each month as an opportunity to try out a new web technology.
Set yourself small, achievable projects to work on and use 12412.org as a support group. We will all help to motivate each other and join in to offer help where we can.
An interactive timeline where we, the wise crowd, can add our predictions (although the timeline for the past, showing important technological breakthroughs, is bizarrely missing Cooke and Wheatsone’s telegraph).
Ariel is interviewed by Seth Shostak. Science! Science! Science!
A superb piece of writing from Jeffrey, scorching the screen with righteous anger. THIS. IS. IMPORTANT!
SOPA approaches the piracy problem with a broad brush, lights that brush on fire, and soaks the whole internet in gasoline.
With magnetic hydrogen bonds!
This post from Maciej might initially seem negative but read it through to the end: there’s a very powerful positive message.
A thoughtful piece from Matt on the changes in cultural transmission that we should be embracing instead of bemoaning.
A rallying cry from Neal Stephenson for Getting Big Stuff Done.
This is quite beautiful. An interactive piece that allows you to dig through the ruins of Geocities like an archeologist.
Such wanton destruction! I’ll never forgive those twunts at Yahoo.
A great speech by Ben Hammersley that ties together multiple strands of life in the 21st century.
Craig has written down his dConstruct talk, the one that completely polarised opinion. Personally, I loved it.
Some interesting questions (and one or two answers) about how responsive design affects publishing on the web.
Having just seen Anna Debenham’s superb but scary presentation at Update about the shocking state of UK schools, this is a timely piece of journalism.
A wonderful reminder by Kevin Kelly of the amazing interconnected world we live in, thanks to network effects.
Those lovely BERG chaps profiled in the New York Times.
This is a thoroughly enjoyable, frustratingly addictive two-player game for the iPad.
Facebook will destroy your children’s brains | by Martin Robbins @mjrobbins | Science | guardian.co.uk
A pitch-perfect parody of people that peeve.
A great reminder from Bruce that we need to remember to use cutting-edge web technology responsibly.
Wonderful musings from Matt on meeting the emerging machine intelligence halfway.
This is your one-stop shop for envelope-pushing in the browser:
A nice summation of the open science movement, courtesy of Bobbie.
when you have to concede that someone has made a good counterargument, but they’re being a jerk about it.
I have to remember this one.
Another great post from Susan. Not only are we making unwarranted assumptions about what the mythical mobile user wants, we’re basing those assumptions on the worst possible user base: ourselves.
Hexadecimal colours and their corresponding dictionary definitions. Cute.
A very useful tip for creating cohesive colour palettes.
A blog devoted to sifting through the gems in the Geocities torrent. This is digital archeology.
A look at our inbuilt confirmation biases.
The Riegers are like emissaries from Planet Smart and we mere mortals are fortunate that they take the time to give us great articles like this.
A brave and probably unpopular stance; could it be that the fundamental technological bedrock of the internet needs to change to avoid the seemingly-inevitable rise of walled gardens?
Here’s a gem from the past: a thoroughly fascinating and gripping interview with Paul Baran by Stewart Brand. It’s thrilling stuff—I got goosebumps.
Don Norman bemoans the seemingly-inevitable direction that the internet is taking; from an open system of exchange to a closed, controlled broadcast channel. I share his fear.
A tour of the Global Seed Bank in Svalbard.
Space stasis: What the strange persistence of rockets can teach us about innovation. - By Neal Stephenson - Slate Magazine
An excellent historical overview of rocketry by Neal Stephenson.
Past predictions of the future.
French schoolchildren are given technological tools that are less than thirty years old and asked to describe what they do.
A speech given by Isaac Asimov on the future of humanity in space.
Implications of Molecular Nanotechnology Technical Performance Parameters on Previously Defined Space System Architectures.
This paper, delivered at the 1995 Foresight Conference on Molecular Nanotechnology (sponsored by Apple Computers) shows the practical applications of diamondoid and fullerene materials not just in constructing a space elevator, but in the subsequent construction of orbital colonies
There’s still plenty of room at the bottom.
Foresight Institute’s mission is to ensure the beneficial implementation of nanotechnology.
A space elevator, for example.
The dream of SSI is of a humanity free of the constraints of the Earth. In expanding outward into space, we can not only help to preserve our present biosphere, we can also seed other independent biospheres elsewhere, ensuring the continued survival of life despite any kind of planetary disaster.