For several years I’ve enjoyed reading Jeff Harrow’s reports from the frontier of high tech. He was sort of a proto-blogger from way back, an amateur journalist who turned into the real thing and consistently digs up good stuff. First he was at Digital writing something called The Rapidly Changing Face of Computing. He stayed there as Digital got acquired by Compaq. Then Compaq decided that paying him to write a tech column wasn’t a good investment and nudged him out the door. By that time his loyal following was such that he decided to strike out on his own. His current vehicle is the Harrow Technology Report, which he publishes fortnightly. I have no idea how he’s doing financially, but the good stuff is flowing once again.
His May 13th edition (The Ever-Full Beer Stein) has a great example of what he does really well: he converses with his readers, and publishes what he learns. In this case, he first asked readers to tell him about a funny-looking doohickey he’d seen on high tension power lines. What people sent back was fascinating, and a nice illustration of what makes the web so cool. As he wrote: “As I expected, our community of Harrow Technology Report readers represents an incredible wealth of knowledge about almost anything technical, and clearly, many of you enjoy sharing your knowledge with others. Answers started streaming in within minutes of publication, and although there’s only enough room to share a fraction of the responses, these few samples will provide the surprising (to me) answer to this mystery.” Go there and learn about the mysterious doohickey.
I’m the ninth Paracelsus on Google today (at least I was at 4:30 this afternoon). That puts me in the All-Internet Paracelsus Top Ten and in solid contention for the championship this season.
It’s about time: finally the maps at maps.yahoo.com use anti-aliasing for the text. Check out this comparison of the Yahoo map of the White House, which uses anti-aliased text, vs. the MapQuest map of the White House, which does not. It makes a big difference in the total amount of meaningful data that you can load onto an image. Something I don’t understand is who’s doing the graphical heavy-lifting… both Yahoo and MapQuest list Navigation Technologies as their partner on the actual image. Maybe Yahoo is just paying more. Anybody out there know?
The latest MATLAB Programming Contest is under way. And what makes this contest interesting? The fact that you can steal the code from whoever is in first place, modify it, and make it yours. Fit together a model of a molecule in the shortest time, and win the adulation of the MATLAB-speaking peoples of the world.
Here’s a good story about Christophe Bruno, a poet who used Google as his publisher. He bought five bucks worth of Google AdWords and used them to display his handiwork, thereby winning thousands of unsuspecting readers for his bizarre dada-esque miniatures. It was a good hack while it lasted, but Google got wise and shut him down. Read about it here: net art : adwords happening. How much is one poem’s reading worth? How much is your name worth? Google knows the answer. Here’s one of Christophe’s poem cum advertisements (there are several other ruder ones on his site).
From the Sneak Peek department: Although she says it doesn’t officially launch till Thursday, you can still take an early look at Mary C’s Science Fair blog over at blogspot.com. Not much there just yet, but there’s a nifty mini-interview (original blog content! Imagine!) with Jeremy Drake of Harvard talking about stars made of exotic kinds of matter. If the theory is correct, there are reasonable and consistent ways (using the appropriately-named strange quarks) to pack matter into a smaller bundle than we’re used to dealing with. Or, as Drake says, “normal matter is not the most naturally relaxed state of matter.” Are we all just time bombs waiting for the right trigger to implode down to half our current size? It reminds me of the Kurt Vonnegut book Cat’s Cradle in which ice-nine represents a solid low energy form of water. Drop a single ice-nine crystal in the ocean and the whole thing will freeze in a single whoosh. A fate best avoided.
By the way, Mary C also has good taste in books (and good taste in blogs… which is to say she likes mine). So go look.
Bio-blogical analogies are in the air: This article by Jon Udell on the O’Reilly Network, Blogspace Under the Microscope, pursues a biological metaphor for how networks of blogs can join together to form larger entities in the same way that single-celled organisms can join together to form multi-cellular organisms. It’s a little bit of a stretch, but it’s got the right idea. Soon after I read that article, I came across a piece by Steven Johnson on Salon, in which Johnson compares a blog with a neuron (actually, he’s drawing on the image originally published by James Wolcott at Business 2.0). I find this blog-as-neuron image apt and very appealing: there are interesting parallels between the cell and the blog. Neuronal dendrites correspond to the inbound links that a blogger regularly reads, whereas axons are the outbound links to other bloggers that read and respond to his posts. Sure enough, blogs form themselves into constantly evolving networks that pass messages from here to there. It’s a good meme… pass it on.