Showing posts with label Ideas. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ideas. Show all posts

Friday, January 18, 2013

Self Valeting Cars

Imagine a car that can go find it's own parking spot, and return when you call it on your phone.

It could come get you if you need a ride, and are stuck at the office.

Imagine if ZIP cars could do this!

The future is cool again!

Monday, January 14, 2013

A Critique of modern discourse

A Metafilter story got me to writing about the problems with modern discourse as seen on the Internet. I thought I would spend some time refining and extending those thoughts here. By no means is this the definitive word on what's wrong with the internet, but I hope that a cogent summary might help fix things.

Time Pressure

1. First post phenomenon - On a site such as /., comments are sorted by default in the order they are received  This means that the first post gets the most feedback, and sets the tone for the rest of discussion. This results in a bunch of hasty, emotional, not well considered crap that then has to be moderated around in order to extract value.

2. 15 Minutes of fame. - Any post gets attention, and then gets pushed under by the oncoming store of other stories in 15 minutes, maybe a bit more if you're evil like Carmen Ortiz... but only a bit more. This means that any effort you do put into something isn't going to pay off much.

Text is Messy

3. Comments on a message board are usually undifferentiated text, sometimes with a bit of formatting. There is no easy way to tell visually what the meaning is without forcing oneself to read it all, and then start to draw out conclusions about structure, agreement/disagreement, etc.

Moderation is a kludge

4. Most moderation systems are a layer of code designed to filter out crap, and help extract some value from an otherwise overwhelming amount of undiluted text. Like spam filters, there are behaviors and techniques that get used to route around them.

  The most common form of moderation system is to have a ranking system (like/dislike), which turns commenting into a popularity contest. The funniest or most vocal viewpoints drown out everything else.

5. Popularity contests are 1 dimensional - There are lots of reasons someone might want to flag a post (which isn't quite granular enough for me, but you have to start somewhere)... agreeing with a post as "having value" is the standard here in the blue, but elsewhere it's a direct measure of the groupthink agreement. (/.  for example)

Wouldn't it be better to have multiple dimensions of ratings? Factual/wrong, Conservative/Liberal, Cheap/Expensive, True/Lie, etc.?  They wouldn't have to be the same set of things either, but it would be easier to code for lets say Funny, True, Insightful as separate (orthogonal) dimensions.

6. The missing half of Facebook - Facebook doesn't allow the inclusion of negative votes, so it's actually only 1/2 dimensional.

Anonymous people are assholes
7. Anonymity allows people to say things they'd not say in person. Remember the Id in Forbidden Planet?

So, how can we help fix it?
There are a number of strategies to be used to help fix this.

Use your blog more
The first is to blog more, and comment less. If you find yourself writing something in a comment that seems to be really insightful, make a more refined blog post out of it (linking back to the discussion for context). Blog posts are better than comments on someone else's site for a number of reasons:

  • You own the post, and can tweak it later if necessary. This times into and builds your reputation internet-wide, instead of in on little corner of it, subject to whim.
  • The post can be found later, as a stand-alone piece to be referenced, and can be more self-contained.
  • Time pressure is less because blog posts can stay "popular" for years. A few hits per month done a few dozen times means you're always getting feedback and links.
  • If you've already written about a particular view, link back to it, and perhaps tweak it a bit with improvements.
Build a better commenting system
Someone (me?) needs to come up with a better commenting/moderation system, that allows the multiple dimensional rating that I discussed above. It would be nice to discover visually how the arguments are inter-related about a given topic, to allow one to focus ones time better, and improve signal/(signal+noise) ratio.

Review your comments periodically
It would be good if we all where to re-read the things we've written with some distance of time, and get a better sense of ourselves. This can help us to all be better writers and readers.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Refinement #1 - Download Agent

My earlier post gave my first iteration of an idea... here is a refinement of it

The user should be able to install and/or choose a service to be their download agent. This agent would, regardless of location, have certain information the user might be willing to trade for downloads, and would handle the actual process of handing off data and doing the downloads.

The use of OpenID to authenticate things, and a VRMish way of treating the users data as the property of the user, would be one of the key functionalities to make this better than the current system of download managers installed by the vendor.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

A User provided dowload service standard?

I have an idea, which I'll attempt to express in enough words to get the point across, hopefully to someone who can actually implement it.

The idea is simple... a shopping cart/download list service, with some optional social networking tools.

We often need to download some items from the internet, and sometimes later refer to them. When you deal with multiple computers, you often find yourself having to move files around, and/or re-download them multiple times for various installs, patches, etc.

What if we could do the equivalent of a shopping cart functionality, which is provided/provisioned by the USER. This would have some advantages to trade for added complexity:
  • All downloads would get tracked in one place, per user, instead of per PC
  • All downloads would happen across very high speed links (assuming a hosted service)
  • Virus scanning could be built in
  • Tagging and other forms of metadata could be added
  • Source metadata could be automatically saved
  • Registration data could be supplied via OpenID, or some other means, instead of filling out the same lead data over and over.
  • Lower friction providing lead data might increase the quantity and quality provided to the site allowing downloads
  • Rating and other social networking features could be added as well.
I'm sure that it's non-trivial to set this type of thing up... and a standard needs to be in place, with a canonical example. Who is interested in taking this ball forward?

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Big Problems

This is a list I've been working on... of problems which are big, and most people consider unsolveable... and I believe CAN be solved:

  • Secure OS
  • Sync
  • Mesh Internet (related: Throttling, Price Tiers, Metering)
  • DNS Security
  • SMTP
  • Spoofing/Authentication (possibly related: Context)
  • Freedom/Censorship
  • HTML/Markup
Now.. this list is pretty uninteligble as it sits, without the context and description of each of the problems, the attempted solutions to date, and a proposed new way of solving them... which will follow along in a series of blog posts... at least one per topic.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

3 Tipping Points

Here are three big tipping points which determine much about the way we use the internet.
  1. Secure operating systems
  2. Mesh networking
  3. Distributed content systems / sync gets solved
Fixing these may take 20 years... but I believe they can all be solved.

Secure Operating Systems

There is a big hole in the way we currently approach computer security. The user has no way to limit the actions of a program. They are forced to trust completely that each and every byte of code does no harm. To get around this hole, layers of firewalls, virus scanners, and support personell are thrown on top of the big hole in the side of the Titanic, with similar results.

You'll know you've got a secure OS when you can run ANY program, without fear. You'll be able to throw away your virus scanner... and the technicians will stop blaming the user for clicking on the wrong button.

Until this gets fixed, the insecurity of the ends, and the need to use maintenance staff as a bandaid will be used to justify filtering, censoring, and increasingly intrusive regulation of the internet.

Mesh networking

The internet is a very brittle tree, with few main branches, which is only reliable because of the heroic efforts of the staff of the various entities who work around problems. It's a bailing wire and duct tape affair, on a massive scale. It doesn't have to be this way.

It's possible to expand the address space, auto-assign addresses to everyone, and just get on with it... doing away with fixed IP addresses, etc. The woman who invented the protocol that makes all of our switches just work together has said so.

If we change the nature of the internet so that it actually can route around problems by itself, with the need for obscure and hard to configure protocols, it can get an order of magnitude faster, and reach into smaller crevases.

Adding wireless nodes into the mesh would make the final transition to a truely shared resource possible, with everyone chipping in to make things faster, every time they turn on their gear.

Distributed Content Systems / Sync gets solved

I'm a commuter, and have extensive experience with the woes of having multiple computers. You're always being forced to sync things, and resolve conflicts. You never seem to have the right stuff on the machine in front of you.

The promise of always on connectivity seems appealing, but doesn't actually solve the real problem, synchronization. In a single person, multiple machine environment, it's possible to us manual sync processes, with sufficient discipline... but any deviation will result in lost work.

When you scale sync problems up to groups, even a perfect file sync system (everyone sharing the same files on a server) has problems. The next problem is one of granularity of changes.

Google Wave solves this problem, by breaking up any set of changes into discreet chunks which can be broadcast and synchronized for any given number of users, across organizational bounds. There is a lot of code to be written to build upon this solution, but it will be worth it.


I've presented what I think are the 3 tipping points for the future. All of them require major changes to the code we use in order to be implemented, most of them bordering on "boil the ocean" level... but the costs will be worth it, in each case.

Thank you for your time and attention.

Monday, January 17, 2005

My first EgoVector

The latest ripple in blog-o-sphere is that of metadata, meta-tags, and FolkSonomy. The question falling out of things is what "tags" would you give to describe your own beliefs and orientations to others.

I'm a Mapper, so I read a ton of things, and they all sit in background processes, getting mulled about. Tonight a personal email (about encryption to "protect" HD video between own pieces of equipment and the monitor) stirred up a pretty strong set of emotions, so I listened to those emotions, and as a result I think I've found my first "tag". It's something I feel strongly about, and have been sorting out my feelings about for a long time.

I'm a LimitedCopyright, (like Lawrence Lessig) which is in the middle ground between PermanentCopyright, and InfoAnarchist. I believe that the founding fathers idea of a time-limited government enforced monopoly was a reasonable trade for a larger and enriched public domain.

So, there it is... my first IdentiTag (ewww... don't quite like that word, the hunt for a neologism commences)....

Some searching of Google finds that EgoVector is a better attempt at a Neologism for me, as well as better describing the concept.

A definition, to get the ball rolling:

EgoVector - The distillation of all of the thoughts and feelings of a single person, into a concretely specific tag (preferably a unique one - neologisms best) that can be referenced by all other participants in the FolkSonomy.

A good EgoVector serves to let the person involved (Ego) tell others how they are oriented about an issue. (direction -- Vector) If chosen well, there can even be a bit of Lakoff's "Framing" implied. A well chosen EgoVector will help you find others of a like mind on the issue.

Other EgoVectors for me might include:

PackRat, BrilliantImpatient, AuthorityIssues, FrustratedPerfectionist, etc...

But I'm defintely a LimitedCopyright !

Thanks to Doc Searls, Jeff Jarvis, David Galbraith, Wikipedia and many others for the shoulders to stand on for this entry.

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