Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Why I'm Giving Up on IMs

Instant Messengers (IMs) are wonderful software products... I've been on ICQ, MSN, AIM, and a number of other incarnations since elementary school, forced to use them at various companies and organizations, and still have a few accounts. However, I'm deciding to bring it all to an end... At least temporarily, though we'll see how it goes.

The idea behind technology is convenience, and passive information is wonderful -- I can log into Twitter, Google Reader, Blogspot, e-mail, and Facebook whenever I want. Furthermore, these services are passive -- I am not interrupted when working if I am logged into any of them (at least with my current settings). IMs are different. They run in the background and people can contact me whenever I'm on, whenever they want. This has become far from convenient, as I try to memorize theorems or write essays.

So it's time to say goodbye to the instant messenger. If you need me, you can still find me on G-mail, Twitter, Facebook, and of course, this blog.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Inspiration #12: Remix Culture

Thru You is a website with seven songs and videos that were created by clipping numerous YouTube videos. This is one of the most impressive art / new media project I've come across, and it's really worth watching and listening to. Video 8 provides an overview of how this was done.

(I also really like the website design!)

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Inspiration #11: Wearable Computing

While it still has a far way to go, some of the ideas focusing on wearable computing are really, really cool. This TED Talk is a perfect example of some of the potential, and I'm excited to see what will be available in the coming year.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Inspiration #10: Tokyo! (The Movie)

This is an absolutely awesome trailer, and I can't wait to see the movie on DVD in a few months. Aside from being very original (it seems!) and set in one of my favourite cities in the world, the text in the trailer makes me extremely happy: "Do we shape cities? Or do cities shape us?"

Any movie that focuses on Tokyo, seems to be absurdly creative, and makes me think of Jane Jacobs is a total win.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Inspiration #9: Economist Technology Quarterly

This week's Economist is a wonderful issue, containing their Technology Quarterly. I always make sure to read these quarterlies, as it's always a good reminder of what's happening in business technology, and what trends seem to be grabbing the imaginations of business types. I also read Seed's "Universe in 2009" (science predictions / trends), but feel that the Tech Quarterly has some really concrete ideas about what's to come.

Though I say everyone should read both!

There are three articles that really spoke to me, and I think everyone in computing should read. First, Model Behaviour, which looks at how mathematical modeling can be used in predicting how crowds will react to situations like fires or earthquakes. Very cool, especially because the mathematical technologies they're using are very different from the "classical" modeling paradigm. This might make little difference to end-users, but to myself, this is a huge change and one that really makes me happy -- humans are not continuous functions akin to liquids, but rather discrete agents with limited worldviews and seemingly random tendencies. Thank you, Massive Software!

Additionally, a review of some cool computer vision applications is given in Machines That Can See. If you've ever worked in a fast food chain, let me know how you feel about the idea of a computer analyzing whether you smile enough. I'm a bit skeptical.

And the final article is one about Brewster Kahle. Again, a wonderful overview of the entrepreneur and activist. Anyone with an interest in the Internet should check it out, if they haven't heard of him before.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Inspiration #7: Seed Magazine

The latest issue of Seed Magazine has a sign on the front: "Science can fix this." Furthermore, the magazine's tag line is "Science is culture."

When I was visiting San Francisco, one of my friends said that my views on global problems, the supposed energy crisis, and other major challenges is that of a "technologist". The more I think about it, the more I think he's right. The world, humanity, and our existence is complex, and science helps us understand who we are, and why we are here. Science is beautiful, and as technology becomes more ubiquitous and pervasive, science affects our daily lives in a larger and more significant way. Science is culture, and just maybe, science can fix this.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Inspiration #6: Imperfect Corporations

mashable recently posted two great articles, exploring the imperfections of Google and Facebook. To be fair, there's much more to the stories than that, but together, they serve to remind readers that while such massive companies have already created products that essentially serve a majority of users (well, this is certainly true in North America), they are not perfect. There's a number of ways that one can still get an edge on them.

Inpsiring? Certainly -- startups, have a chance! And what a complement to Inspiration #5!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Inspiration #5: Agile Development and Hackathons

I was reading about Cloudspace's agile development model for software and it got me really excited. It reminds me of hackathons I've heard about in Toronto, New York City, and elsewhere. The idea of agile development, code sprints, hackathons, and related topics is focused on producing results (i.e. prototypes or software tools) within a short period, such as 24 hours or a week.

Why is this inspiring? Two reasons. First, the idea of "hacking" is very cool. I'm not talking about breaking into computers or computer security, which is what the media often focus on, but rather groups of people interested in technology and trying new things with it. Being with a core group of people for a day or two, solidly working and programming to develop a new product or service, is pretty exciting.

Furthermore, developing those new products and services in such a short period of time is a testament to how far technology has come. It's exciting to see how fast new ideas can be developed into actual products, and it makes me curious about what's to come.

Note: click on image for credits.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Inspiration #4: Man on Wire

Sometimes, audacity and ambition go hand-in-hand.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Inspiration #3: Microsoft's Vision for 2019

This video was recently posted on some of the social media sites I visit...

<a href="http://video.msn.com/?mkt=en-GB&playlist=videoByUuids:uuids:a517b260-bb6b-48b9-87ac-8e2743a28ec5&showPlaylist=true&from=shared" target="_new" title="Future Vision Montage">Video: Future Vision Montage</a>

According to another blogger, this was presented by Stephen Elop at the Wharton Business Technology Conference.

... and what a vision! A lot of the technology being envisioned isn't that creative, and some of it is downright cliche, but I will admit that it's beautiful and exciting to see how things might change. A great set of concepts to think about for a day.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Inspiration #2: New Media and International Development

I had a wonderful meeting the other day with a number of Oxford friends, where we spent time discussing our interests in new media (blogs, journalism, the Internet, etc.) and international development and politics. The meeting was, above all, refreshing -- it served to remind us why we do the work we do, and what it means to us. Some of us were meeting each other for the first time, and presenting our work and explaining why we're passionate about it was extremely important.

Sometimes, as we work extremely hard on a specific detail of a major project, the reasons for the passion we have become lost. Taking a few hours once in a while to explain to someone why you care so much about a certain topic is often useful, and (as I saw today!) can increase your productivity.

... the meeting was also timely, as on Friday night, I ran into a very interesting development on Wikileaks.

Whether or not you agree with Wikileaks posting sensitive information online, what is interesting about this is that a military document was decrypted, posted online, and is now being discussed around the web. This is a testament to the power of the Internet nowadays, and where it will lead (politically, socially, etc.) over the next several years is definitely exciting.