Curiouser and curiouser!

 30 September 2004

12:07:46 AM     : Don't answer this.

[29/09/2004@23:59] Matt Mower: Wow 3 posts on Tuesday, 3 posts on Wednesday, and already one for today.  Looks like I am back in the saddle of my blog.
[29/09/2004@23:59] Lilia Efimova: :)
[30/09/2004@00:01] Matt Mower: I've also gone back resubscribing to a bunch of blogs
[30/09/2004@00:01] Matt Mower: i've remembered that, if you aren't listening, you aren't part of the conversation
[30/09/2004@00:01] Matt Mower: another lesson I had to learn over...
[30/09/2004@00:02] Matt Mower: The years go by, why don't I get any smarter? ;-)
[30/09/2004@00:02] Lilia Efimova: you could blog it - it sounds very "bloggish" :)

12:00:34 AM     : Watching the flow of things

I just remembered something I wanted to do before my camera got stolen;  I had been trying to justify spending the money on the AC adaptor so I could do some time-lapse photography.  One of my ideas was to setup in the office and take pictures at 5 minute intervals across a day to see the ebb & flow of my work.  But you could do all sorts of things.  Wish I still had that camera.

 29 September 2004

11:32:53 PM     : PHP & IIS.

If anyone can recommend a good page that helps you to get PHP running under IIS (6 I think, the one in Win2K) I'd be very grateful.

10:58:52 PM     : Meaning, leadership & vision

Good managers are meaning makers. Last December I posted about Michael Kroth, Ph.D. and Patricia Boverie, Ph.D. and their Ideas for Leading with Passion. Now here's an interview with Kroth. I love what he has to say on management and meaning. Kroth: Good leaders are... [The Occupational Adventure (sm)]

Lilia put me on to Curts blog this morning during a discussion about finding passion in our work.  Even if our terminology is different I love Kroths definition of a manager (for me the difference between leaders and managers is: Managers do things right.  Leaders do the right thing.)

But my real point is that it the idea of the manager as meaning maker really rings true with, and expands, my thinking about this. And especially having read from Frankl (yes I know i'm fast becoming a Frankl bore) about the role and importance of meaning in our lives.

I had thought that the role of a leader was principally to create a vision that helped people to find meaning in the goal to be achieved.  If the vision was powerful enough then you would put up with whatever came your way.  This is how I think startups work.

But Kroths view lends a new dimension.  Being a leader is also about knowing the people around you and tailoring the vision so that it actively engages with what is meaningful for them.

You can see why this doesn't happen very often.  I've not come across that many people who can articulate their own vision much less understand what is meaningful to the people that work for them.  People like that are exceptional.  When you find one you should think twice about letting them go.  I do often.

10:25:38 PM     : What fresh madness is this?

Okay this may be a slightly crazy thing to do in my situation but I wanted to do it, so I did.

I just signed up for a post graduate conversion course in Psychology. Part time this is going to take me 3 years to complete but, at the end, I should (a) know a lot more about psychology than I do now, (b) have lots more options about what I do with the rest of my life, and (c) have had a lot of fun.

Having fun, I have learned recently, canot be taken for granted.

My interest in psychology, like a good casserole, has been a while in the making. I've been coming at it from different angles over several years but it never occurred to me, until now, to make a study of it. What tipped me over the edge was reading Viktor Frankls masterpiece Mans Search for Meaning.

I enroll on Friday and the first lecture is on Monday. I'm a little scared but really looking forward to it. Of course I have no idea how I'm going to survive from here onwards but what the hell:

Put on a good show and fate will smile upon you!

 28 September 2004

10:20:45 PM     : Eels away

I've just finished reading Wolfgang Hirschfields The Secret Diary of a U-Boat.  This is a remarkable book both because of it's content and because it is unusual.  Keeping such a diary was a court-martial offence so not many did.  Hirschfield being a telegraphist had the advantage of being able to hide his in the signal logs.

Hirschfield seems very honest in his approach to reporting submarine warfare as experienced by those in the boats.  Imagine Das Boot only more so. He details several war patrols U-109 under her captains Fischer and later 'AJAX' Bleichrodt  His position gave him unusual access to the workings of the boat and how decisions were made.  He is also very perceptive about the men around him.

It makes for a fascinating story.

10:03:38 PM     : Hey! Hey! The gangs all here!

[Weblog On]. It's been more than a year since I have posted items here regularly. Things happened, priorities changed, and life just generally got in the way. There is an ebb and flow to life. The major components rarely change, but their relative position often does. Such is the case with weblogging.

...

The initial purpose of this site was to serve as a platform for experimentation, examination, and learning. Hence, the tagline. I focused on other things for a while, but it feels good to begin the journey back.
[b.cognosco]


As another of the newly returned dead (Zombie Blogger?) I am happy to be able say: Welcome back twf!

9:50:26 PM     : Interests may go up as well as down

I wrote yesterday that I was thinking about ways of modelling interests over time. Today Julian gave me a great suggestion: That I should look at modelling interests as stocks, as he put it:

Is there some king of stocks and flows model that would work here?

Model a given topic as a "stock".

Time spent thinking about the topic, effort expended on it etc. etc. drive the input "flow"

You could have a time-based outflow, perhaps with an exponential to model some kind of half life.

Probably the behaviour this doesn't easily model is when a new set of interests completely and suddenly displace the old - this might lead you more to chaos / complexity and thinking of interests as peaks (or troughs) on a fitness surface...
Excellent ideas. Thank you Julian!

10:21:53 AM     : Helping mayflies on the web

Time in blogging: catching a moment to write.

There is at least one nice effect of not being able to blog a conference: bits and pieces start to merge revealing underlying themes, turning reporting into reflecting.

This time it's about time. Somehow different things get together: BlogWalk discussion on time to reflect and to write, AOIR session on time and responsiveness, Jill's talk about time as one dimention of distributed narratives, time of not being able to blog, time to process blog post piling up in my news aggregator...

I guess I'll do a couple of posts. This one is about time in writing a weblog.

Alex Halavais on not blogging (and go there to read the rest and to see new t-shirt of Professor Walker :)

During one of the sessions on the last day of the conference, Nancy Baym, president of AIR, suggested that someone was going to set up a web page with postings related to the conference. This followed her request at one of the keynotes that people write up their notes and post them to the AIR-L list. I noted that Lilia had already set up a Topic Exchange channel to collect bloggers' thoughts. At the end of the conference, I ran into Nancy again at Falmer Station. She noted that most of the posts so far were just complaining about the lack of access. "Don't worry," I said, "when people get back to somewhere with access they'll post." As I watched her cross over to the other platform, I thought: what a stupid thing to say.

When people get back to wherever they are going, chances are good that their minds will have switched gears and they will have more current things to post about. I am sitting on notes not only about AIR (which I will post since they are required reading for a class Iím teaching), but on notes from a conference on Informatics a week earlier. Blogging, as a practice, tends for many people to be off the cuff, and the values of timeliness that apply to journalists everywhere apply even moreso to bloggers; we operate on a 30 minute news cycle. I think it's fair to assume that under those conditions, most people won't post-post the conference.

Thinking about my own experiences I guess Alex is right: time is crucial. Being able to blog real-time (even almost real-time: no wifi, but connection during breaks) changes my motivation to write, adding a flavour of instant gratification of "serving the world" with current news that makes me writing a bit more, a bit better and investing in finishing posts.

It's different when I can't post. I still make notes, but do not spend time making them into something more or less finished, they pile up, I hope to work them out later, but it doesn't happen often. I guess there are two reasons:

  • Lack of discipline. When "instant gratification" is not there it's about discipline (which is not my strongest point :).
  • It's also about making an effort of delaying new things that come and wait for your attention. Like now, I feel like finishing and posting my notes from AOIR, but there are other things to do, so I'll be lucky if I manage to write an overview of most important things (fingers crossed: if it doesn't happen within next few days the time is lost).

There is another aspect of being able to blog. For me blogging is as much about releasing my own brain from ideas by articulating them as about reporting interesting news to others. I blog bits and pieces of ideas to get rid of them on the path to what I want to do in the moment.

For example, now I really want to work on a paper on personal KM, but I have all these ideas about time, weblog research and corporate blogging on the way. I don't want to lose them and I can't switch to something else when they are still on my mental radar (so much that I woke up with ideas for blog posts :), so I'm blogging instead of working on the paper. In this case blogging is pretty much similar to filing things into 43 folders so they get out of your way :)

[Mathemagenic]

I'm sitting on notes, which I promised to publish, from two Gurteen Knowledge conferences.

I hate to say it but the reason I haven't published them is that they've never made it high enough priority on my priority list.  There has always seemed to be something more important until they got buried and forgotten (until now).  Priority management & time management have long been issues for me.  The 43 Folders link was useful in reminding me that I have David Allens useful book and can go back to it at any time.

I often think that what I need is an assistant.  Someone who can can share the burden of tasks which I think are important but not urgent (what Coveys calls Quadrant 2).  I can't afford an assistant though.

Here's a silly idea:  We could all offer to volunteer a blogger friend one hour a week of our time to do important tasks that they can't get around to.

 27 September 2004

10:54:58 PM     : Models of interest

I'm trying to come up with a mathematic model that allows me to expresses interests, their strengths, and how they change over time. My original thinking was simply to model what is current as most interesting and anything prior to that as less interesting on some scale. But I started asking myself questions about how interests are shaped and changed.

If I've been talking about nothing but, say, XML Topic Maps for a year and then I spend a week talking about my recent vacation to Hawaii. Well probably XTM is still the more important topic. So the model has to encompass ideas like continuity of interest.  In the more realistic world where we talk about different things at once and leave and come back to topics as our interests wax and wane, well lets just say I don't have a clear shape for this in my head yet.

5:03:40 PM     : Half way between a SAX and a DOM

Ian E. Gorman has released GXParse 1.5, a free (LGPL) Java library that sits on top of a SAX parser and provides semi-random access to the XML document.. Ian E. Gorman has released GXParse 1.5, a free (LGPL) Java library that sits on top of a SAX parser and provides semi-random access to the XML document. The documentation isn't very clear, but as near as I can tell, it buffers various constructs like elements until their end is seen, rather than dumping pieces on you immediately like SAX does. This release completes namespace support is complete, eases exception handling, and adds a few operators to CurrentElement. [Cafe con Leche XML News and Resources]

This looks like a really useful library for XML parsing.  Quite often I envisage potentially big data sources which rules out DOM tree construction and then, as I am buried in SAX, begin to regret that 4GB of memory is not the default these days.  GXParse could be a very useful half way house and I may have need of something like it soon.

9:02:53 AM     : Aging gracefully

I'm looking for algorithms that will model the aging of data.  I'd be really grateful if anyone could help me out with some pointers to existing algorithms and such.

What I am trying to do is come up with a good system for weighting information such that more recent information is considered more relevant than older information.  But I want it to degrade nicely and I want it to be flexible since I think I'll have to tinker a lot.

I'm playing with simple logarithmic functions but not convinced.  Has anyone trodden here recently?     

12:21:19 AM     : More than genius

Something that has not been far from my CD player in a month or more is Mozarts Piano Sonatas played by Alfred Brendel. Prior to that I must have had the CD for nearly a year and never played it -- what a fool I was.

I listen to it and find myself wondering how you can create something so intricate and so beautiful but I really can't fathom it. Unlike so many things where I think that I might, with enough time & patience, learn the knack of it I just can't imagine ever being able to create something this magical.

I'm still not sure how I feel about that.

Oh well, time for bed and let Alfred do his stuff.

 26 September 2004

4:13:30 PM     : Rattling around London, or

If Lilia ever says to you "Lets go for short walk" then run for your life! You have been warned :-)

It's been a lot of fun wandering hither and thither through the streets of London.  I'd forgotten what an amazing city it can be.  Some of the highlights were lots of good conversation. Some tablet envy. Rehearsals at St. Martin in the Field. Quiche. Unexpectedly Tate Modern. More conversation. Tree lights.  Puddings. Bridges. Even more conversation.

Fellow conspirators were: Alex, Lloyd, Suw, and Lee.

 25 September 2004

11:04:01 AM     : I'm drooling

Drools is an open source Java rules engine (implementing an object oriented interface to the Rete algorithm).  It uses a mechanism known as forward chaining to evaluate a situation and fire actions under certain conditions.  Conditions and actions can be written in a variety of languages including interpreted Java, native Java, Python, and Groovy.

Here is an example (from the 1 minute tutorial) of a DRL (the XML syntax for writing rulesets) rule using interpreted Java:

<rule-set name="cheese rules"
xmlns="http://drools.org/rules"
xmlns:java="http://drools.org/semantics/java">


<rule name="Bob Likes Cheese">
<parameter identifier="bob">
<java:class>org.drools.examples.simple.Bob</java:class>
</parameter>
<java:condition>bob.likesCheese() == true</java:condition>
<java:consequence>
System.out.println( "Bob likes cheese." );
</java:consequence>
</rule>

</rule-set>
This evaluates all instances of the Bob class in the engines working memory and fires the consequence when the condition likesCheese() is true.

I have a few uses in mind for this already.

 24 September 2004

4:50:28 PM     : The man who mistook a president for a billboard

Audio of today's Bush press conference, with comments by yours truly. This is a format I want to play with, I first heard Rush Limbaugh do it, artfully, with a speech by John Kerry. [Scripting News]

I don't think Dave really needed his commentary.  You just need to listen to Bush.  I wish more voters in America would actually listen to what he says. The man is the billboard of his own buffoonery.

4:16:50 PM     : More power to your java elbow

David A. Hall has posted Generic Algorithms for Java 0.6, a free-as-in-speech (LGPL) collection of generic algorithms not included in the Java class library.. David A. Hall has posted Generic Algorithms for Java 0.6, a free-as-in-speech (LGPL) collection of generic algorithms not included in the Java class library. According to the web page, [Cafe au Lait Java News and Resources]

This looks very useful and I like the functor based approach.

3:32:02 PM     : Happy Birthday Stowe

Birthday greetings go out to Stowe.  I hope you have a great day man!  Here's a little something for ya.


 23 September 2004

4:20:16 PM     : Getting the blogroll links out of Technorati

Something that bugs me every time I use Technorati is the way the listings get clogged up with blogroll links. I wouldn't mind so much but they're usually the same links over and over again.

What i'd like is for those links to be displayed separately. I have in mind some kind of reverse blogroll box down the right hand side with the remaining entries listed pretty much as they are now.

I'm not sure what the best answer is to flagging blogroll links but a simple answer that occurs to me is to use a common CSS class name for example _linkdescriptor_blogroll. Any harvester which extracts a link with this class would know it's a blogroll link and could treat it differently.

I'd lead the way but I chopped my blogroll in the great purge. Maybe I should bring it back to try and bootstrap the idea. I could swap it for the calendar...

Update: In conversation Phil rebutted me saying it would be easier for Technorati to change their code to detect blogroll links than updating millions of weblogs. I guess he's right although I think the problem of reliably detecting a blogroll link may not be as simple as it sounds.

I also think there is a knowledge ownership perspective. As the blog holder I am the best person to decide how to mark up my information and links. And, by doing so, other applications than technorati can benefit (without having to duplicate Technorati's tricky heuristics for detecting every variation of a blogroll).

Although my way might be slower, I still think it could solve 80% of the problem in 6 months or so.

11:43:36 AM     : What's your handle?

Mine is 1030.72/mmower. I'm looking into something called the Handle System which is like PURLs on steroids. I'm also getting interested in OpenURL.

11:36:52 AM     : Starting to pull the threads of RDF

So i'm trying to puzzle out RDF.  I've read most of Practical RDF which has has given me a leg up on the basics (as well as making me realise how much I don't like looking at RDF/XML).  I'm also trying to grok RDQL .  My goal here is to understand enough to start to figure out OWL, it's significance and it's applications.  Already though i'm having flash backs to a conversation with David Weinberger where he said he was of the opinion that most people would be too lazy to add simple topic metadata to posts... the idea that people are going to invest the time in complex, structured, information... well i'm a little skeptical.  Hopefully it will become clear to me with time.

10:39:43 AM     : Harvesting PDFs in Java

Mark Stephens has released JPedal 2.25, a pure Java library for extracting content from PDF files and rasterizing them.. Mark Stephens has released JPedal 2.25, a pure Java library for extracting content from PDF files and rasterizing them. Text fragments are extracted as XML elements with font and location information. Images are extracted in both their raw formats and their clipped and scaled formats as TIFF, PNG, or JPEG files. According to Stephens, "version 2.25 adds a number of significant features, the most major being support for outlines and thumbnails of the screens and ability to highlight text onscreen....This is a major release which also includes a large number well of fixes and substantial speed improvements. JPedal is published under the GPL. [Cafe au Lait Java News and Resources]

JPedal sounds very useful.  Especially so if you use Lucene.

 22 September 2004

4:14:15 PM     : Blogtimization

I've spent some time today optimizing this page down to around 27kb, I think that's maybe 20-25% of the original size.  All I had to do was throw pretty much everything out.  I'm pretty happy with how long it takes to load now.  Still trying to work out whether the calendar really adds any value...

10:16:20 AM     : Understanding Erasure

New Main-Class. A cool jar-file hack [java.net Daily Update]

Among other things there is a link to an interesting Bruce Eckel post about parameterized types and the implications of erasure in JDK5.  Eckel has also interviewed C# architect Anders Hejlsberg on this subject and his comments (on page 2) about Java's implementation are well worth reading before throwing <T>'s around in your code.

9:38:47 AM     : Good ol Uncle Sugar or "Wealth, culture and history do not insulate a people from foolishness"

And to its everlasting shame, American "capitalism" has almost always been willing to sell itself for a government handout, a government contract, a government subsidy, a loan guarantee. (That's the American System!) It will continue to do so, because too many businessmen would rather have, as part of what George F. Will (in one of his more lucid moments) aptly said, "socialized risk and privatized profits." Why actually work for something when Uncle Sugar is willing to tax and borrow to boost the bottom line? [Charles H. Featherstone]

Charles Featherstone muses on the Somalia civil war and some possible lessons about American (and I think British) societies given our current path.

 20 September 2004

4:32:16 PM     : All your plumbing belongs to us

Pandia: "Your site may be banned because someone else has copied it!" [Scripting News]

What disturbed me in reading this was Googles apparent lack of response to questions about this problem.  Of course, they're not obliged to answer such questions if they don't want to.  But it highlights a mismatch in my mind:  Google feels like part of the infrastructure and I'm used to the infrastructure being responsible to us, the users (where our governments haven't sold it out from under us).

3:03:54 PM     : Audblog killed the radio star

Oy I had a server meltdown. I have it mostly put back together now. Time for a walk, with Adam's latest Daily Source Code on my iPod. He says he's got his content studio all working, the scoop is on the MP3. [Scripting News]

First time i've ever listened to Adam Curry.  Interesting show -- he more or less held my attention even through the talk about patch cables and latency.  I guess good audio blogging is going to be more or less indistinguishable from internet talk radio.  No surprise then that it helps to be a pro with the right kind of gear.  Can't see myself ever doing this.

 15 September 2004

1:34:10 AM     : Flippers. Definitely flippers.

Evolving a Language. What features should be added to the Java language for Dolphin (7.0)? [java.net Daily Update]

At the moment I am balancing between two uneven stools as I try and get up to speed with C# and .NET. Linguistically C# and Java are more or less peas in a pod (especially if you throw out the unmanaged C# stuff). I find C# code a bit ugly to look at with it's lower case string and VariablesLikeThis but I can cope. Oh and, compared to IntelliJ IDEA, Visual Studio .NET is unutterably crap. Again, I can cope.

Whilst they are similar to Java, C# and .NET have (and are adding) some cool stuff that I think Java should copy. Learning about C# delegates and events was the first time I thought that I had gained something that I wouldn't want to give up. And in .NET 2 there are partial classes that I have mentioned before. My XDoclet experiences made me a believer in code generation and partial classes should make supporting that development approach much simpler.

I'm not sure about operator overloading.  Although being able to + matrix objects (rather than .multiply()ing them) is syntactically I have doubts that it makes it through the 80/20 rule and it has downsides like the necessity of provide ways around potential overloading of the == operator.  I can live without it.

Off hand if I could have two new language features of my choice it would be Lisp style Multimethods (with method combination thrown in) and a sanctioned approach to Design By Contact.

1:14:41 AM     : Keeping it Virtual

I needed to run Windows 2003 server today and I don't have any spare hardware so I decided to try out Virtual PC which seems pretty much a carbon copy of VMWare.  I've had good experiences of VMWare so I groaned a little when Virtual PC started complaining about being unable to install network devices and, of course, the Microsoft help on the topic didn't seem relevant.

Nevertheless it worked fine (even the networking) and Windows 2003 installed without a hitch.  Surprisingly, given my laptop is only a 1.6GHz P4, it runs pretty quickly.  TCP/IP seems to work (the virtual windows gets it's own IP address via DHCP) although Microsoft Networking is being temperamental and won't let me browse.  However it's very easy to share the host disk into the virtual machine as if it were a network device so sharing files is still simple.

All in all it looks and feels just like you're connecting to the machine with Remote Desktop which isn't bad at all.

 14 September 2004

1:10:42 AM     : He who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how

Since I'm posting I'll mention that I recently finished Viktor Frankls book Mans Search for Meaning.  It's a very powerful book and I'm still reflecting upon what I read.  I found it a hard book because it's message is not easy for me to accept even though, intellectually, I think I accept it.

For those not familiar with him Frankl was a Jewish psychiatrist who survived 3 years in Nazi concentration camps but lost father, mother, wife & brother.  Instead of being crushed by the experience he tried to understand it and then build upon it to create a new form of therapy which he called Logotherapy.

Mans Search for Meaning comes in two parts.  The first describes the experiences of camp life and is as grim as one would expect even though Frankl is at pains not to dramatize.  The second is a very brief, but very interesting, introduction to Logotherapy.

I intend to read this one again soon.

12:46:57 AM     : Seafood disconnect

Went for dinner in town this evening arranged by Marc Canter. I didn't really know what the evening was about so, I guess, my bad for not paying attention. It felt odd to listen to everyone but not feel connected. A pleasure to meet Lisa & Mimi.