June 2, 2006

Bulk view

Life on the A-list

Somewhere along the way, I managed to end up as the hottest blogger
within IBM, with over a thousand hits. I usually hover around third or
fourth on the list of the daily top blogs. This is the first time I’ve
ended up first, and that by a margin of around three hundred hits.

Some people at IBM have been gently teasing me about my A-list status.
Stephen’s one to talk: his blog post is currently the most-commented
entry. Pranam made sure I blogged about his cool visualization and
joked about how that resulted in such a jump in his hits. Mark isn’t
quite sure if my being a top blogger internally is a good thing or a
bad thing, considering how little I’ve written for research. (Meep.)

I procrastinate by learning and writing. Now if only we could figure
out how to translate that into research or business… ;)

Life on the A-list is cool, though. Because I read pretty much
everything on the internal blogosphere anyway, I like being able to
highlight cool entries and encourage people to leave comments. I
wanted to help IBMers discover related blogs, so I added an ultracool
Flash tag discovery thingy from another IBMer who actually spent some
time fixing a few problems that came up when I tried it on my blog.
And of course I love getting to meet people through my blog and
getting feedback on my thoughts…

When I post about social computing on my internal blog, though, I’m
basically preaching to the choir. No, not even that. I end up
preaching to other evangelists. ;) I need to figure out how to extend
beyond that. I owe my sponsors tangible results. That might be a good
place to start.

What can I do to give back to IBM and do some research? Must think…

On Technorati:

Random Japanese sentence: 私は彼女におもちゃの猫を買ってあげましたが、彼女はそれに満足しませんでした。 I bought her a toy cat, but she wasn’t happy with it. Watashi wa kanojo ni omocha no neko o katte agemashita ga, kanojo wa sore ni manzoku shimasen deshita.

On the way home after a late night

I’m starving and my hands are a little bit weak. I’ve had nothing but
hot chocolate since lunch, too pressed for time to even raid the
vending machines near the cafeteria. The data I needed for my paper
only came in today, and with deadlines for both the CASCON paper and
my article on social bookmarking for the lab newspaper, today was…
well… challenging. =)

It didn’t help that I spent most of the morning puttering about the
blogosphere, welcoming people in and updating my blog. I knew I was
supposed to work on the social bookmarking article and I had bits and
pieces of what I wanted to say, but I couldn’t quite sit down and do
it. On Monday, I think I’ll get that out of the way before I even
start catching up with the blogosphere.

Yes, yes, way too much hacking. Along the way, I’d installed a few
more extensions for my browser, including one that made it easier for
me to paste some boilerplate into textareas (good for blog newbie
tutorials). I wanted to chat with other IBM student bloggers at lunch,
so I wrote a quick and dirty Ruby script that generated an OPML file
given a set of e-mail addresses so that I could import that OPML file
into my blog reader. I turned up only three bloggers, though: me,
Pranam, and Kevin. Oh well. We’ll get there eventually…

Even the fresh data I received distracted me. I couldn’t wait to slice
and dice it in interesting ways! It was a good thing that Mark
scheduled a 3:00 phone call in order to check up on me. (Yay fantastic
research supervisor!) He reminded me about the CASCON deadline, but
also reassured me that it was doable and that he was around to help. =)

David also called me up to talk about some complications in the data
set. We figured out how to deal with some missing data, and I think
the workaround we came up with was okay. Then I went back to 1panicking.
Fortunately my editor moved the deadline for my social bookmarking
article to Monday so I could concentrate on my research.

So all I had to do was code the visualizations. I felt myself
performing a bit more sluggishly than I’m comfortable with – too
little sleep, not enough food – but I slogged through it anyway.
Fortunately I knew enough Ruby to squish the data into a form I could
easily work with, and I had learned enough about the Prefuse
visualization library to add filters to the dataset, allowing me to
get snapshots of the data. Yay.

So that worked out. My timing was perfect, too. I dumped screeshots
into (gasp) a Microsoft Word document, blogged a couple of interesting
things on my internal blog, and ran to catch the bus. I waited around
five minutes for the bus – ompletely anxious, of course, as those
buses run only once an hour!

So now I’m on a bus – the second on this trip – a little bit weak – I
really should always bring emergency food in my backpack – but I’ll be

The coding was almost fun, even, playing around with Ruby for text
processing and Java for visualization…

On Technorati: ,

Random Japanese sentence: この種の猫にはしっぽがない。 The tail is absent in this type of cat.


I discovered to my chagrin this morning that the Compaq iPaq no longer
retains a charge, perhaps because its internal battery has gone kaput.
That’s what I get for leaving it dormant for almost a year. Like this
stubborn girl who occasionally just Wants to Stay in Bed, Darn It!,
the iPaq will grudgingly work if you keep it supplied with power, and
it’ll go back to sleep immediately after.

In retrospect, I should’ve paid more attention to the flashing orange
LED as I copied my (very few) phone contacts into the PDA using
Bluetooth. =) I had too much fun categorizing contacts and thinking
how cool it would be to be able to broadcast a text message to, say,
all of the Graduate House people for an impromptu barbecue, or give
you a filtered list of all the people I know who are into both AJAX
and Ruby, etc. I rather enjoyed filling in my calendar for the next
few weeks. I even played around with transferring some of the images
from my phone to the PDA, where I could view them with Internet

Oh well. =)

The good thing about that, though, is that it’s made me realize that
the commute is not really hopeless, and that my Fujitsu Lifebook P1110
laptop is more portable than I give it credit for. I can usually snag
a seat on the train, even during rush hour, and my laptop’s small
enough that it can fit on my lap without requiring any elbow space.
Glare is not a big problem. Even if it were, I could just switch to
speech synthesis and use headphones. (See, I _knew_ there was a reason
why I was into wearable computing in college!)

I don’t mind batching my mail and my blog entries. I’ve gotten quite
used to it, and it gives me time to think (and cancel stuff!). I also
don’t really mind looking phone numbers up on my laptop and keying
them into my phone to dial. I don’t do that too often, anyway. Most of
the time, I get in touch with people through e-mail.

One of the coolest things about my computer, though, is that it can
start conversations. I don’t think the Fujitsu Lifebook P1110 is sold
here, which is probably why it always draws comments. It’s cute! It’s
small! It’s different! (Take _that_, all you “Think Different” Mac
geeks! ;) ) Sure, it’s scuffed and held together with masking tape
(had some complications during open-heart disk-replacement surgery),
but that just gives the computer more character.

Besides, people smile when they see the sticker reading, “The geek
shall inherit the earth.” I think I need aother sticker reading
“emacs” just to drive home the point. I hope that means vi geeks will
still talk to me, though. ;) What I need, really, is something that’ll
allow me to indicate my changing interests. A tagcloud. An updateable
tagcloud, preferably. Not that I have much back-of-laptop real estate
left. There, I’ve made Stowe’s sticker
vertical instead of horizontal, which will give me more sticker space
to play with. Maybe I should add sticker paper so that peeling off and
resticking stickers is easier, or maybe I should just let stickers
accrete in layers to give people a better reflection of reality…

Oooh! Magnetic poetry for laptops using stickers and sticker paper!
That might be fun to try out. Or maybe I could add a little plastic
sleeve and have a “Thought for the Day” index card / Post-it. It would
be nice to have an index card holder for this, anyway. That sound like
a job for duct tape…

Battery life’s holding up, too. The commute is an hour and a half
long, which fits quite well. I might want to get a new extended
battery so that I can go back to advertised battery life (my current
one drains in 2 hours or so instead of the 8-10 promised, waah!), but that’s
not a particularly high priority right now because the cafe I most
like to work in is clueful enough to not only allow geeks to plug in,
but also to provide power bars so that we don’t have to fight over
outlets. ;)

A better battery would be handy for conferences, though, as I take
_way_ too many notes. It’s fun!

You know what would be really, really cool? A wireless chording
one-handed keyboard – like the Twiddler, but Bluetooth, but not one of
those homebrew Bluetooth hacks that might fall apart in my backpack.
Or a wireless mouse/remote so that I could control ebooks while my
laptop is in my backpack. I had this totally sweet deal going with my
Twiddler before, because I could just leave my laptop in my backpack
and control the speech synthesis output from outside.

I should try out the Vaio again to see if that’ll be a bit more
portable. That one was designed to be used while walking around, so it
might be an interesting experience.

Okay, I should stop writing about gadgets… <laugh> I don’t
have a pressing need for anything extra at the moment, and I’m still
learning to make the most of what I have. =)

On Technorati: ,

Random Japanese sentence: テーブルに猫の足跡が付いている。 There are footprints of a cat on the table.

Social Tech Brewing

Last night’s Social Tech Brewing social was lots of fun.
(Notice how lazy I getabout linking? ;) )

  • Phillip Smith arrived shortly after I did. He told me about CopyCamp, a copyright and art get-together on September 28, 29, 30. All sorts of luminaries! Lawrence Lessig, Cory Doctorow, Michael Geist… Awesome lineup. I totally have to be there and blog it.
  • Jason Doucette came next. Phillip asked him if he was into podcasting, and it turned out that Jason podcasts for the Toronto Vegetarian Association, which is at 17 Baldwin St. I should take a look at that. Phillip is vegetarian, and I’m a semi-vegetarian-wannabe. (I want to learn how to cook vegetarian food!) TVA’s attendance has been dropping off, but their podcasts attract attention from people from other cities. Their podcasts are generally 20 minutes long.
  • Phillip Smith knows about a progressive podcast host / aggregator which might be interested in the vegetarian podcasts. Other interesting links: http://veganlunchbox.blogspot.com , http://www.veganporn.com ,
  • Liam O’Doherty of avoid.net came too. He mentioned the Personal Propaganda Kit (T-shirts, stickers, etc) tie-in with avoid.net. He’s partnering up with OCAD people to produce that, I think.
  • Phillip recommended a few books: Ingenuity Gap, The Upside of Down.
  • We also chatted about ideas for a Toronto wiki, something to collect information about Toronto. Interestingly, Rob Hyndman owns the domain. Good model – Davis wiki. (Hey, Himy would be a great fit for a project like that. He’d fill it with so many interesting stories!)
  • Colin McGregor mentioned a group called Serial Diners. They’re making their way through a phonebook of restaurants, and currently at K.
  • Judy Chicago is with Women’s Space.
  • Gabe Sawhney’s into the memory project and T.Ode.
  • Jonathan found Social Tech Brewing through upcoming.org, as did Jason and Gabriel. So did I, for that matter.
  • Introductions: Tempted to have “Hello, my URL is…” nametags. Reprogrammable nametags also sound interesting, as suggested by Colin.
  • Jonathan’s involved with Habitat for Humanity, which is somewhat interested in moving to open source.
  • Introductions protocol idea: three words / tagline, name. Putting the description before the name makes it easier for people to hear interesting things and pay extra attention.
  • Social Tech Brewing modeled on501c tech clubs, nonprofits.
  • New network: Mobile Mondays.
  • Jane attended DrupalCamp and is with DigitalEve, which is based in Lawrence West
  • Chatted about Linux Caffe and social spaces. Seattle has free wireless in cafes, even to the point of having tables for two with outlets. People addicted. Some cafes turn off internet during weekends…
  • Net neutrality
  • Gabe mentioned that Dory of Wireless Toronto and a few other people are working on “Turn off the internet day”.
  • Jonathan’s into $100 laptop, too. Pays attention to news.
  • Chatted about gender segregation in bars, funny anecdote from Judy: “Don’t be scared.”
  • Phillip described freegeek, an open non-profit computer part reclamation thing that’s now self-funding. Break computers apart into components for melting into gold, assemble computers from working parts, keep one.
  • Toronto Hydro goings-on


On Technorati:

Random Japanese sentence: 私は犬の方が猫より好きです。なぜなら、前者の方が後者より忠実ですから。 I like dogs better than cats, because the former are more faithful than the latter.

It’s alive! Reviving my iPaq

I’ve decided to experiment with carrying an electronic device around
again. Several people have reported seeing Moleskines coexist with
PDAs, so I want to see if the two will play nicely together for me. ;)
This is a Compaq-era iPaq (but not the research lab iPaq they sent me
before; I miss that). Nostalgia alert!

I am once again impressed by Microsoft Transcriber, which understands
my script/chickenscratches. Totally awesome.

I might use this to keep track of my calendar. If I can figure out how
to get data out of it easily with my Linux laptop, then I might be
able to use it to compose blog entries. At the very least, I can use
it to read ebooks. Oh, and maybe I should grab a CF, reflash the Ipaq
with Linux, and put Ruby and Python on the thing… And… >laugh>

(Hey, you know, this would be perfect as a ping-tracker!)

On Technorati: , ,

Random Japanese sentence: その猫は私のそばで寝るのが好きだ。 The cat likes to sleep beside me.

Tagging blog posts

At some point I really should write my own tag indexing thing. =) That
way, it’ll be easy to find out, say, all of the stuff tagged

Random Japanese sentence: かれの時ならぬ発言は秘密をもらしたばかりでなく、平和運動の計画をも、くつがえしてしまった。 His untimely statement has not only let the cat out of the bag but also upset the apple cart for the peace move.

Blackberry goodness

Sandy read my post on networking and saw my note about Blackberry, that addictive little e-mail-anywhere device. I keep itching to connect with people or otherwise _do_ something during the downtime when I walk from place to place or while I’m waiting in line. Sales people swear by their Blackberries because they’re hardly ever
at a desk. (Ooh, let me go ping one of the people I know in sales to
ask if he’s on a Blackberry…)

When I think of it, though, I don’t actually spend that much time away
from the internet, just the time in transit. I sometimes bring my
laptop out and type e-mail anyway, although it’s not quite as
convenient. I guess that’s one of the reasons why I occasionally
daydream about having a Blackberry or a similar portable device.

Is that really the right step for me, though?

Maybe I should be spending that time soaking up the scenery and
working on becoming comfortable enough to strike up conversations with
random strangers. Mike Fletcher told me about one of his friends who
carries around a bag of gifts and just gives stuff to random
strangers, meeting tons of awesome people along the way.

Maybe I should look up and connect with people. It’s going to be
tough, but Toronto’s a pretty safe place to do this. I won’t have to
worry too much about giving people the wrong impression, I hope.

I’ll just have to be better at managing my time and pinging people
more often so that I can keep in touch. =)

I’ll put aside time this weekend to ping maybe one of the evangelists
you wonderful, wonderful readers (friends!) have suggested and ask how
he or she keeps in touch with people. If I talk to lots of evangelists
and they love the Blackberry, then I’ll either make room for it in my
budget or figure out how I can earn extra to make it cost-effective…

On Technorati: ,

Random Japanese sentence: 悲しいことに私の猫はどこかへいってしまった。 To my sorrow, my cat has gone somewhere.