All entries for Tuesday 15 March 2005

March 15, 2005

Creating applications without software (or at least code!)

Adam Gross –

  • how do you develop an application that's going to be used as a platform?
  • How you develop an application is totally dependent upon the technology in use at the time.
  • Moores law means that stack sizes increase exponentially
  • The desire for more abstraction is what drives the increasing stack size
  • compare and contrast: procedural language dev: c/c++—>vm langs (java/.net)—>scripting langs vs. declarative: html – does less, but does it well, and has a much lower cost of entry
  • how will we spend the next helping of moores law?

– more abstraction

– more separation of definition and deployment of the app

– more utility computing (this won't come without changing the development model – grid won't work)

  • what will it look like?

– new stack

– declaritive app dev with some scripting

– focussed on specific app types

  • Where's utility computing really happening now? Google / Ebay / Amazon etc – big providers with wide APIs. Sforce APIs are 20% of alesforce's web requests. 40% of ebay listings. This is real web services, happening now.
  • next step – on demand app dev – inject your own business rules into an app. provider.
  • is an example of an app/service where end users configure more-or-less the whole application through a GUI. If your application is some kind of CRM-ish thing then salesforce can be customized to host it regardless of your particular data.

Tangible Computing

Writing about web page

Mat Jones / Chris Heathcote – nokia

  • Ubiquitous computing is here
  • But the interfaces can't support the interactions we need to have with our computing devices
  • WIMP affordances aren't good enough

We need to play to our strengths: what have we got?

  • we are situated
  • we are embodied
  • we have opposable thumbs
  • we can touch

  • Interfaces should have a real effect; real is tangible
  • Dance Dance revolution is the cutting edge of tangible computing
  • Principles: Cognitive economy (don't allow people to do the wrong thing); social legibility (If I see you do it, I can copy you) – extelligence (c.f. the design of everyday thing)
  • Use attention wisely – glanceability: important information isn't in a window, it bubbles up. Direct combination – choose the objects and let the system infer the appropriate actions
  • Tangible tiredness – tangible computing is more physical.
  • what's out there now? Tablet computers, musical instruments like audiopad and jazz mutant; smart furnitured – drift table, sensitive objects (microphones on a flat surface can 'know' where you tap; cameras – digital pens, eyetoy, augmented reality; passive information display – make information more available; smart objects – barcodes / ids everywhere, haptics / force feedback everywhere.

Ambient devices - pre-attention cognition - process information without having to think about it

  • NFC - Near Field Communications – touch technology
  • Touch phone to computer – phone knows to sync itself
  • NFC reader/writer hardware – tags – have small amounts of info in them


Touched a phone to a tag (on an ID badge), it flashed & read the info of the tag. Tag is about the size of a 50p piece. But this is nothing new – just like the card readers on our doors. Once the phone has picked the tag data up though it could transfer it to another phone just by touching it. Tags can be written to as well as read from.

  • cool new output devices – dotdotdot for phone displays, palmorb, airport express
  • need programmability – more apis, more I/O

Day 2 keynotes

Session 1

Rael Dornfest – O'Reilly

  • The etech focus is "small things loosely coupled"
  • enabling the trend for 'mass amaturization" and the DIY-IT ethos – commoditisation of hardware and of knowledge via the lazyweb
  • Remxing vs. hacking: Remixing is more conversational
    h2. remix the….
  • web – view source, find out how it works, make it better
  • music – rip/mix/burn
  • TV - tivo
  • Network – prevalent wifi
  • movies – Bittorrent, netfix, videoOnDemand
  • data – webscraping —>xml apis —>emerging standards
  • text – does blogging remix journalism?
  • syndication – rss/atom
  • Bookshelf – project guttenburg , amazon search-in-book, etc.
  • IT - lots and lots of specialists. Hacks become frameworks become foundations
The reasonable man adapts himself to the conditions that surround him… The unreasonable man adapts surrounding conditions to himself… All progress depends on the unreasonable man.

George Bernard Shaw

Tim O'Reilly – Internet application design patterns

  • Architect your system to be used as a component of a larger system – at any scale
  • Release early and often, be greedy for feedback
  • Perpetual Beta – keep releasing new stuff continually Instrumenent your application so that you know how people are
    using your new features

  • Users add value to shared data. Use the 'network effect by default' principle – make participation the default. aggregating user data as a side effect of using the system. c.f. flickr: the defaults are always 'public'
  • exploit the long tail – look for a niche that was formerly too small to exploit
  • think about software above the level of a single device; design apps. from the ground up to be multi-platform.
  • Social networking: Atchitect your application to share the social fabric underlying your app. rather than inventing/constructing a new one.
  • Think about packet size: What's the smallest chunk of data/transaction that defines your application? Build your business model to make your living from the smallest atomic unit.

Stewart Butterfield Flickr

Flikr is built on it's own APIs
An open AIP helps with

  • trust
  • utility
  • discipline
  • credibility
  • creativity
  • community
    -and causes problems with
  • scalability
  • ops problems
  • other peoples bugs
  • privacy
  • copyright
  • support costs
  • business risks

_note to self: FlikrFox firefox extension looks interesting.

Brendon Eich Mozilla

– some stuff about mozilla extension schemes. The most interesting bit was the suggeting that there will soon be a XULRunner executable that just takes an arbitrary jar file of XUL and chrome and runs it – firefox and thunderbird could be two such jar files.

Danny Hillits Applied minds

Applied minds do cross-discipline stuff with hardware and software. He showed some pretty cool demos of walking robots, and a map-visualisation table which displayed a map on its surface that you could manipulate with your hands. An even more jaw-dropping version 2 used a table with a mouldable surface that changed it's shape to the profile of the map i.e. it raised up where the mountains were and dropped down into the valleys

Jeff Bezos Amazon

Jeff was demoing A9's new vertical search capability: They've set up an XML format by which a search engine can describe it's interface, and an RSS extension( 3 new fields: result count, results per page, current page) for search engines to return results in RSS. search engines which do this can be plugged into A9 by end users. Should put a bit of cat amongst the RDN pigeons.

Session 2:

Rick Rashid MS Research – Unconventional Inventions and cross-discipline serendipity

  • A TB can store every conversation in your life, or a picture a minute for your life, or a year's video
  • sensecam – 'black box' for a human being. fisheye camera and audio recorder. Smart image stabilisation to optimise when to take photos. Uses sensors to detect environment changes (light levels, movement) to trigger photos. Potential use for memory-loss patients, for reflective practice, or even for tourism – V2 sensecam devices ( smaller, lighter better) in mfg now
  • Surface computing – short-throw projection + computer vision allows you to use any surface as an interface.
  • Touchlight – projects 3d onto holographic film & uses a pair of cameras to capture interaction to allow manipulate objects
  • Using the same techniques that have been used for imunobiology to try and attack spamming – then applying the same principles back to HIV vaccine research

Garry Flake Yahoo Research

  • Y!Q – a search tool – on-the-fly search results. Floats a popup window with results over the top , applying the context from the originating page (e.g. read an article about sports, search for tickets, get results for the game you were reading about)
  • working on machine learinging, collective intelligence, scientific computing, text mining
  • Yahoo research – less product-oriented ( is basically betas)
  • Tech Buzz game : Aggregation over population weighted by performance – an adaptive voting mechanism that rewards good performance with more votes.
  • Joint R&D project between yahoo and O'Reilly. Alpha-geeks can make predictions on emerging tech. trends, driven by search volumes

Peter Norvig Google labs

  • Google: gone from indexing information in Web pages to -> video – >books ->desktops. Interaction with user is getting more and more sophisticated
  • google suggest was done by 1 engineer in his spare time.
  • google maps – almost client-side quality in a web browser
  • google personalized search
  • google sets – enter search terms and construct a set including all the terms

George Dyson

[a fascinating historical interlude about von Neumann and the origins of the first computer]

Kevin Keely AT&T labs

  • New sorts of spam: Spit (over internet telephony); text spam; spim (over instant messaging, skype spam…)
  • Patching isn't working well
  • AT&T is the transport network of choice for hackers because of it's reliability :-) This has incentivized AT&T to do something about the volume of crap on it's networks. As of later on this year they're intending to clean up their networks at the edge, to the point where they won't have a corporate firewall anymore.

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