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November 29, 2003

I write computer programs all day

A T-shirt, at best

[via Danny]

November 19, 2003

Design Classic: the flossbox

Glacial Erratics

Manipulations seeking, I thought, the fundamental form of the toothbrush. The ideal. The perfect tooth cleaning device. I sought these things not because I wanted perfect cleanliness but because I admire the union of form and function (and you should too!).

Speaking of teeth. The OralB flossbox is a design classic precisely because of its manipulation of plastic. The flossbox was moulded as a single piece of plastic and the thickness of the plastic was carefully engineered to allow folding into three dimensions and clip closing, similar to a flatpacked cardboard box. This allowed factory workers to assemble a flossbox using only four parts - the cutter, the floss, the label and the plastic case. It was designed by Dieter Rams (of Braun fame).

November 15, 2003

Safari.oreilly.com needs RDF

When you remove a book from your shelf in Safari, you are asked for confirmation in a popup. The popup contains this comment (elided here):

  2003/11/15 12:51:09
  (guidin)D39381F5-E91A-42E9-B6-52-C6-FE-11-4B-84-78
  (guidout)D39381F5-E91A-42E9-B6-52-C6-FE-11-4B-84-78
  (ip)194.125.184.222
  (host)safari.oreilly.com
  (portal)oreilly 
  (productLine)itbooks
  (ref)http://safari.oreilly.com/JVXSL.asp?x=1&mode=MyBookshelf[...]
  (base)?x=1&mode=removeBook&sortKey=title&sortOrder=asc&view=[...] 
  (xmlid)0-596-00377-3
  (key)3081[...]
  (xsl)0ms
  (lib)234ms
    log:0ms
     [...]
  (xml)250ms
    log:15ms
    [...]
  (xsl)94ms
  (ent)0ms
  (buf)0ms
  (gct)0ms
  (tot)594ms

this isn't surprising. Jon Udell had a lot to do with Safari, and his (incredibly, out of print) book talked a lot about roundtripping contextual information between clients and servers.

On the other hand, if this isn't a opportunity to use RDF triples, I don't know what is.

November 07, 2003

The RDF shooting match

RDF is so inexpressive as to be useless.

Therefore, people have sought the magic phraseology to pretend to remain in the RDF world while sneaking out of it. - Drew McDermott

November 05, 2003

TheirGoogle III: reverse engineering the Google site

And now, there's these:

http://www.google.com/bsd [Patrick Rahmoune]
http://www.google.com/mac [Filippo Diotalevi]

Reverse engineering the Google site - a fun game for all the web.

[the strokes: reptilia]

Are ontologies irrelevant?

I know someone who once used two different Pantone colors on an architectural object in order to make it look as if it was one color. This was done to keep a client happy. The client had asked for a particular Pantone color, which my friend had used - but the light was such the client saw two colours and hence complained the object was two colors (yet it was one, and according to Pantone, the right one). To remedy this required covering to object with two other Pantone colors.

Despite the ambiguity, the client got the desired colour in the end.

Anyone that's ever had to match paint to a color chart or get a website just so across browsers has experienced something like this. Anyone who's ever looked at a Constable or a Cezanne and thought they saw the world has experienced this. So much for Pantone, CSS, or linseed oil.

In the same way Pantone can't protect you from sunlight, using unique names (URIs) is not going to stop ontologies breaking into smithereens against the world that is the case for web software. The history of AI in the 1970s and the history of mathematical logic in the 20th Century offers compelling evidence that proper names and denotational semantics are not sufficient for the semantic web, and we'd do well to get over it.

Nor, does it matters whether two RDF agents are talking about the same thing. Philosophically it matters, but this won't get us any running software - computationally it's verging on the irrelevant to agonize what a URI points at. What matters is whether two or more URIs are interchangeable in a given set of graphs. RDF alone can't provide solutions to that problem, it only allows for the definition of the graphs and expression of the recognized functions on those graphs.

One good way to deal with this in order to get some running code out is with probabilities or statistical techniques which are fed the RDF graphs and allowed to compute whether the URIs line up. Hybrid reasoners have been popular in AI and robotics for over a decade. Failing coding with probabilities, just make a neat hack that is coherent for a given domain - this will be almost always be as good if not better than the current ocean of code will jokingly call business logic.

TheirGoogle II

But there is this:

http://www.google.com/linux

[ob'd by Ryan Campbell]

[sheryl crow: soak up the sun]

November 04, 2003

TheirGoogle

there's this:

http://www.google.com/microsoft.html

but not these:

http://www.google.com/oracle.html
http://www.google.com/ibm.html
http://www.google.com/sun.html
http://www.google.com/sap.html
http://www.google.com/intel.html
http://www.google.com/cisco.html

and outrageously, not these:

http://www.google.com/java.html
http://www.google.com/python.html
http://www.google.com/dehora.html
http://www.google.com/propylon.html

;)

November 01, 2003

XP: discipline is not enough

XP works if you are disciplined AND have a supportive environment. If you don't have a supportive environment, discipline isn't enough. If you do have a supportive environment, you still need some discipline.
You can say XP is successful if you want to do another project using XP. In a non-supportive environment, you might, with a lot of discipline, be able to ship on time, have few bugs, etc., but end up feeling like you don't want to do it again. You could just descend in mediocrity like everyone else and still get the same paycheck as everyone else. - Keith Ray