May 22, 2007

pics from the maker faire 2007


I took some fun pictures wandering around the Maker Faire with Scott last weekend. Makers = ubigeeks plus knitting circles plus sideshow carnies plus ecowarriors plus heavy metal machinists plus friend artistes, apparently. Very trippy, with lots of 21st century homespun charm.

Posted by Gene at 11:21 PM | TrackBack

February 9, 2007

don't go away mad...

...just go away:

The Receda Cube has been found!

"Darley, an amateur archaeologist, found the Cube buried in Wakerley Great Wood, a historic ancient woodland 110 miles north of London. He spent three days digging trenches in the woods before he spotted the Cube in wet clay. Darley could hardly believe that he beat over 50,000 other people to the prize."

Clay Shirky, Henry Jenkins & Beth Coleman three-way celebrity deathmatch in Second Life! Be sure to parse the backstory carefully, it's multi-threaded and densely textured. Hey, wouldn't it be fun if this discussion were captured in Second Life, played out on a theatrical stage by little Mummenschanz-style avatar puppets of Henry, Clay and Beth, while a nearby billboard tallied up the Resident count in giant 7-segment font? I'm just saying.

LIFT07: Five Ways to Follow the Conference From Home, in case you're stuck in Lodi or something.

Posted by Gene at 3:05 PM | TrackBack

February 7, 2007

the internets are my ninja weapon

I'm a trained geek, but my technology still overwhelms me on occasion. When this happens, the Internets are my ninja weapon. Today I needed to edit a Word document, but a bunch of the fields were password-locked by some long-lost author. Fortunately Google knew that I would need to see Microsoft Word Protection Bypass. I had never hex-edited a Word doc before, but Google knew where I could download several tools for this, such as the simple and elegant HexEdit. Elapsed time: < 10 minutes.

Another trivial example. After the crash, I got my laptop rebuilt but it was still throwing a tantrum because of a missing driver on an unknown piece of hardware. The only clue I had was this cryptic string in Device Manager, "ACPI\WEC0518". Mostly out of desperation I searched on this string, which brought me to the exact forum post where someone else had the same problem solved. W00tsky! Elapsed time: < 10 minutes.

I'm pretty certain I would never have sorted either of these problems on my own. How I ever survived without the Internets is a mystery to me. Thanks to everyone out there making all that great UGC, you've truly made my life better!

Posted by Gene at 6:10 PM | TrackBack

January 23, 2007

TILT: the battle to save pinball


Posted by Gene at 10:20 PM | TrackBack

September 11, 2006

remembering 9/11

I don't think any Americans could ever forget where they were when they heard the news about the attacks on the World Trade Center, 5 years ago today. We were at home, getting ready for school and work as usual, until we saw what was happening on TV and time just sort of stopped. Watching some of the saturation coverage last night, the replays and the families stories and the where-are-they-nows, I was surprised at how haunting and immediate it felt, and how completely I was emotionally transported back to that morning in 2001.

There are many remembrance sites that one can find on the web, including the White House's Remembering 9/11. It's a thoughtful and respectful site, but sadly I had a very hard time reading it without cynicism given everything this White House has done in the name of the so-called war on terror.

I thought this annotated map/mashup of lower Manhattan was interesting, as it presents georeferenced photographs and quotes from people that were in New York on that morning (click on the blue and red markers to see images and quotes). The geek factor is a bit weird for this subject matter, but I think the map-based presentation adds something powerful and touching to the stories. These were people who were there, and that's a difference that makes a difference.

Posted by Gene at 5:57 PM | TrackBack

ce n'est pas art


Flickr informs me that this funny little thing I found in Paris is one of Banksy's interventions. Of course there's a pool for "this is not a photo opportunity" pictures. I took this from the plaza above Palais de Chaillot; just for grins, here's the geotagged photo on flickr, and here's a better view of the location on Gmaps.

Posted by Gene at 10:30 AM | TrackBack

September 8, 2006

in search of HP Way 2.0

Thank you John Furrier and Robert Scoble for noting that HP has long had a great culture and tradition of innovation, and 150,000 dedicated employees who are just as perplexed and disgusted about the BoD scandal as anyone. I really appreciated your comments, and they helped crystallize an idea for me: what HP needs now is the HP Way 2.0.

The HP Way 1.0 is not dead, but it is certainly under constant siege these days. Here's a good balanced article on the HP Way from the local Palo Alto Weekly dated April 10, 2002, when we were in the middle of the Compaq merger proxy fight (now that was a horrible period at HP). Looking back, I would say that both Carly Fiorina and Walter Hewlett were right about the merger. Consolidation for scale turned out to be a correct strategy for winning in the increasingly cutthroat PC and x86 server businesses, and HP has done very well in those areas. However, the cost of being a leader in PCs is increased exposure to an unforgiving, slow growth, low margin business that in turn demands a ruthlessly lean and efficient operating model. Perpetual understaffing, tight budgets, burnout working conditions, and layoffs all seem to come with that territory. It is a lot harder to maintain innovation, trust, and respect for individuals in that environment, and so these cornerstones of the HP Way have been slowly chipped away.

In addition to the Compaq team, HP has also brought in a lot of new exec talent from places like Dell, WalMart, and EDS. Guess what, they didn't have the HP Way in those places. So it's no big surprise that they aren't playing the game by the old rules. They are trying to change the game entirely. You can certainly debate whether their strategies are correct, but in the meantime, chip, chip chip at the old ways of doing things. In many ways, HP Way 1.0 is no longer relevant to the reality of our industry.

HP has been on a roll this year with improved revenue, profit, and stock price. There are a lot of reasons to be hopeful that the new cost structure and operating model will enable more investment in innovation and contribution to customers, which will in turn lead to exciting new products and renewed employee passion, which in turn will turbocharge the business. This kind of 'virtuous circle' is what the leaders of HP have been trying to achieve for the last 7 years, and if we can pull it off then maybe we will see the rise of HP Way 2.0. You know, sometimes it takes a crisis to precipitate a catharsis -- and maybe our current board crisis can be turned into a vehicle for purposeful renewal of the HP culture and our presence in the world. It would be hard and painful thing to do, and it would take incredible leadership from Mark Hurd and his team and from every person in HP, but I could see it, I really could.

Am I crazy? Inspired? Deluded? Maybe, but I think it's a great question: What would a truly great HP look like, that would be deserving of the term HP Way 2.0?

Posted by Gene at 11:00 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 18, 2006

thoughts in passing

Nice to see my employer having continued good results, especially in light of the string of bad news elsewhere.

Frankly, it's also nice to see Carly Fiorina getting some recognition for her role in transforming HP and setting it on a more aggressive and forward-looking strategy.

"Carly did a lot of the shaking up, which was necessary to get the hidebound organization liquefied again -- and that left the field open for Mark Hurd to reorganize. The ironic postscript here is that Carly deserves far more credit than she got," Kay said. "The idea that the organization needed to be shaken up and be less technology-centric and more customer-centric turned out to be spot on."

Carly was an ambitious, energizing leader and a relentless competitor who knew what she wanted and wasn't afraid to go for it. Unfortunately, she also ended up radically polarizing HP and its shareholders -- anyone that had a neutral opinion of her clearly wasn't paying attention. If there's one phrase that sums up her tenure at HP, it has to be "be careful what you wish for".

And say what you will, but dopey stuff like this would never have happened on Carly's watch.

[As always, things I post here are my personal views and not those of my employer]

Posted by Gene at 8:38 AM | TrackBack

July 24, 2006

a few notes from NPUC 2006

Just came back from the NPUC 2006 workshop in IBM Almaden (NPUC = new paradigms 4 using computers). Well I left early, so I missed the venerable Sam Ruby talking about teens but I did get to see Rob Miller almost demo Chickenfoot, Ross Mayfield evangelizing sharepoint, er, I mean wikis, and Stewart Butterfield being wonderfully himself. Also, plenty of old friends and colleagues and some pretty good celebrigeek-watching. Maybe some will show up here.

Anyway, a few takeaways:

1. Chickenfoot is neat ("Chickenfoot is a tool that puts a programming environment in Firefox so you can write scripts to manipulate web pages and automate web browsing"). Rob Miller and his group at MIT CSAIL received the best paper award at UIST 2005, for "Automation and Customization of Rendered Web Pages", describing this work. Oh and it has a blog called...wait for it...Chickenfeed. Cuuuute ;-)

2. Ross Mayfield mentioned a few things worth following up on. Benkler's Wealth of Networks and his Coase's Penguin paper, which I've had on my list for awhile. Wikicalc (Ross asks "What happens when a document is a [spreadsheet] cell and a cell is a document? What if each cell has an RSS feed, and with a bit of imagination you have a global collaborative spreadsheet?"). Miki (a mobile device wiki platform -- is this similar to the tiddlywiki I keep on my USB drive?) And oh by the way Socialtext launched an open source version today.

Apropos enterprise adoption of wikis, Ken(?), a person from Socialtext in the audience, suggested that when people ask you for information, you just tell them "It's in the wiki". His view is that is enough to get people's feet wet. Well this is a longer conversation, but I've tried that and in my experience that's a necessary step, but far from sufficient.

Ross QOTD: "pdf: where knowledge goes to die." Bet the Adobe crowd loved that.

3. I guess there is no 3. Wait, yes there is. Stewart gave a typically humorous and rambling talk about flickr, fun but you've seen it before. Then he nailed three good theses to the door:

* Make things massively multiplayer. Flickr is massively multiplayer photo sharing.
* Create an ecosystem, not a distribution channel.
* Media objects are a locus for interaction, rather than things which are passively "consumed".

Square that circle
and smoke it.

4. Maybe someone else has some further insights?

Update 2006-08-16: Presentation material from several of the talks is now available on IBM's NPUC site.

Posted by Gene at 3:14 PM | Comments (1)

July 7, 2006

of oceans and amphibians

From the worrywart file, and perhaps relevant to my earlier post on the world's most pressing problem, come these two articles in the SF Chron: Greenhouse gas turning oceans acidic, and Extinction crisis for amphibians: Frogs, toads and other species dying off. So if significant links in the oceanic and terrestrial food chains break, that's not good, right?

How much change in the global ecosystem, and how fast, is too much change, too fast? How well-damped is the system, and is there a point when it swings into instability?

Posted by Gene at 2:15 PM

so this is a sabbatical

OK, I'm officially on sabbatical for the next 2 months. I wonder what I will do.

Posted by Gene at 2:05 PM | Comments (2)

June 30, 2006

tom tomorrow's nsa posters on ebay


Tom Tomorrow is one of my favorite cartoonists, and he's uncovered some rare posters of his work from 1995. He's selling a couple of them on eBay, auctions here and here ending July 10th. Fair warning, if you're bidding on these, you're bidding against me!

Posted by Gene at 1:03 PM

June 21, 2006

dude, you're getting a third degree burn!


Fig 1. The exploding Dell laptop

Wow, this is even better than that Xeon-roasted thing.

Posted by Gene at 4:34 PM

June 20, 2006

are you a search size queen?


Fig 1. big search

The ads are big too, baby.

Posted by Gene at 3:14 PM

June 8, 2006

HP sponsors a Sun conference, heh!

Sun held a data center conference in Australia a few months ago, and when they put out the call for sponsors, HP was there to help. Apparently HP sponsored a cocktail event and stocked the venue with custom napkins.


Fig 1. Sun Microsystems, powered by HP

UPDATE: Two weeks later, Valleywag gets the scoop. Guys, if I had it before you, that's pretty lame ;-)

Posted by Gene at 8:52 AM

June 7, 2006

this is your fredshouse on websites-as-graphs


Fig 1: The Websites As Graphs view of

Cool project by Sala, the person who did the netfamous paintings of numbers. It's built with the excellent tools Processing, Traer Physics, and HTMLParser. You can look at the source; it would be fun to mod this code to crawl an entire site rather than just the top page.

Posted by Gene at 3:16 PM

April 8, 2006

insight machine: rightweb

Another reference for the insight machine for US politics: RightWeb

Right Web, a program of the International Relations Center founded in late 2003, explores the many ties that link the main players, organizations, corporate supporters, foundations, educational institutions, and government representatives to each other in what we described as a new architecture of power. Right Web primarily focuses on the influence of this architecture of power on the direction of foreign, military, and homeland security policies. Most of the organizations and individuals profiles are now associated with the Republican Party, but this "architecture of power" crosses party lines as does the Right Web program, which also profiles such right-center organizations as the Democratic Leadership Council and leading liberal hawks.

For an overview of this architecture of power, see The Right's Architecture of Power.

Posted by Gene at 5:30 AM | Comments (1)

March 27, 2006

craving ubu

On my wish list: a West Coast distributor for Ubu Ale. Deep red, hoppy, delicious, and only available in the heart of the Adirondack Mountains. Beermapping knows where. Well pretty close anyway; it's at the southern end of Mirror Lake, even if Gmaps thinks it's at the north end. If you go, don't be fooled ;-) And you'll be in good company...

"He wanted us to send some beer," said Ericson. "I had an address. I needed to send the beer to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave."

Now *that* was a president.

Posted by Gene at 11:23 PM