Try Ruby Programming

Apart from the occasional JavaScript tinkering I have basically not touched programing since the ancient days of Lingo and Hypertalk. I have wanted to play around a little with Ruby on Rails but have been put off by not knowing Ruby, but I have a strong feeling this little online Ruby tutorial might change my mind. This is web based training at its best, a really simple integration of a terminal in a web page with interactive instructions, smart, clean and effective!

The multi dimensional weblog

In the coming years, more flexible content structures and more machine readable content will change blogs into fully-fledged online extensions of our identities.

Read the article...

Making better multilingual forums and communities

Multilingual comunities

More and more people are multilingual but multilingual sites rarely or never take this into account and instead offer you a binary choice of language. One of the rare exceptions is Google that will allow you to pick multiple accepted languages to your queries. Some sites that could really exploit multilingual users are forums and community sites. Lets say that when you join a forum you can pick multiple languages instead of one. This means that you will see what is going on in multiple parts of the site, but not only that, the people that have multiple languages can act as bridges between the linguistic communities essentially fuzzing out the fixed languages borders.

Update: Talking with JP the other evening we came upon a great example where this would make huge sense. In Belgium there is a hugely popular dating site called Rendez-vous that has three language section, French, Dutch and English but the English section has completely failed to reach critical mass. If they had a system where you could belong to multiple language sections I'm sure the english section would also reach critical mass in no time.

The Trojan Macs

For mac aficionados there is something more important than Christmas and that is Macworld San Francisco in January. The rumor mills are running rampant on predictions for this macworld with intel iBooks topping the list of predictions but I am wishing for some other things from Apple. What I would call the trojan macs.

The first is what I would call the Mac mini TV, this would be a modified version on the mini specially designed to fit under the large plasma and LCD HD television sets that all the people have been buying themselves for Christmas. Compared to the current mini it should have an added TV tuner card and much bigger hard disk, it should still be as silent as the mini but it would not need to be as small as the current mini. Of course it will also require a PVR capable version of Front Row. It should be mainly marketed as a PVR with a mac under the hood

The second machine I would like to see apple release, I even hesitate to call a mac, would be a hybrid of an ibook and the Nokia 770. Think of it as a ibook with the keyboard replaced by a touch screen and a added infrared port. It should be marketed primarily as a kind of ebook/web reader/itunes controler but again in reality there is a mac under the hood.

The nice thing with both these machines are that they are not primarily macs and therefore can be marketed more like appliances negating a lot of the windows arguments nor will they require all the third party software to be ported to Intel on day one. But they will both put OSX in the hands of a lot of people, expanding the OSX user base in a trojan way.

No Functional Spec

Jason Freid of 37Signals explains why we should not write functional specifications and instead concentrate on building the interface.

Don't write a functional specifications document. Why? Well, there's nothing functional about a functional specifications document.

Functional specifications documents lead to an illusion of agreement. A bunch of people agreeing on paragraphs of text is not real agreement. Everyone is reading the same thing, but they're often thinking something different. This inevitably comes out in the future when it's too late.

This rings so true! The only way we can be sure we are talking about the same thing is if all the players are looking at the user experience though interface mock-ups.


Kottke is connecting the dots on all the activity around the web and what he is coming up with kind of WebOS. The basic idea is that desktop webservers will morph into the next desktop application platform supplanting to a certain extent the traditional operating system and applications. On the one hand it makes a lot of sense because of the added performance and the freedom from from a web connection, but on the other hand internet connections are becoming universal and mobile and even though maintaining local web applications gives you OS independence it still requires you to keep them updated. I'm skeptical but it is still worth reading because of its review of all the things happening around the web.

500 usd in eur

Finally google has added a currency converter to it’s already great conversion calculator. Just plug in the amount followed by the three letter currency code followed by "in" followed by the three letter code of the currency you want to convert to. Examples: "300 eur in usd" or "5000 sek in hkd" or you can even use symbols "2500 € in £".

OpenTech 2005 Afterthoughts

Me at OpenTech

Danny O’Brian’s presentation on fame and the internet was fantastic and funny. It touched many interesting aspects of fame, privacy and relationship grooming. I would have liked to hear more on micro fame and maybe exploring the advantages of internet extended persona. As a side note I loved his use of quicksilver as substitute for PowerPoint.

Ted Nelson’s presentation was both a highlight and a bit of a let down. He has been a hero of mine since I saw BBC’s Hyperland in the early 90s but here there were two problems in his presentation. He did not show a compelling user experience for his translit project which made it very difficult to grasp and frankly he sounded biter about the web.

Paul Mutton Social network graphs were super cool. Sebastien Noel from Space Hijackers presented their next project MMS Charles Clarke a project to track Charles Clark the british interior ministers every move through a network of volunteers with camera phones.

There was a session about starting some kind of UK based Electronic Frontier Foundation to fight for digital rights. This is seems rather odd to me as the industry lobby now operate on a european level. Even a european organization seems strange as the battle ground is increasingly global and with things like the mickey mouse copyright extension act starting it’s life in Europe and then the Americans harmonizing on a European decisions I think one global organization with local chapters makes much more sense. I think EFF is the bast placed to step up to the plate.

Open Tech 2005

I'm off to London and Open Tech 2005. There seems to be lots of interesting speakers but not enough time alloted to them.


Xavier just showed me Yubnub a kind of command line for the web, It allows you to do all kinds of searches and commands from a single field.

Of course the first thing i needed to do was to find a way to integrate it into the moucho excelente OS X App Quicksilver

Lots of Daily Show Clips

If you’re a Daily Show fan check out this comedy central index page with over 600 clips of pure Daily nirvana. and if you are not yet a fan its a great intro to one of the best things to hit TV in a long time. Also, Lisa Rein has put up a NPR interview with Stephen Colbert from the show.

iTunes as a messaging system

Xavier sent me a link to a wonderful little story about iTunes being used as a to messaging system between strangers

I waited. I listened to selections from her library: Low, Manual. And then the sound skipped. I flipped to iTunes. Her library title had changed: try_the_new_dalek.

A conversation began, conducted solely by library title, and it continued for the next couple of hours.

Not only is itunes an extension of identity but its now also becoming a communication medium

Xavier on Rails

Xavier structures some thoughts on ruby on rails the web-development framework that is getting all the buzz lately. His enthusiasm for it almost makes me want to program.

Skype and Languages

John Barlow writes about getting Skype calls from chinese girls to practice english. This is once again one of those things where the internet changes everything, with telephones this would have been completely out of the question.

There is probably even a good web business brokering these contacts, it can be done on many levels:

  • People that are willing to exchange practice, for example an English speaker that wants to learn French could hook up with a french speaker wanting the reverse.
  • People that are willing to pay for private lessons and amateur or professional teachers.
  • People that are want to pay for private lessons and teachers amateur or profesional.

I still think Skype needs to be very careful about phone bots and spam creeping into the system.

License to Sit

licence to sit There are many kinds of art but I have not seen good political art in a long time until this "Licence to Sit".

Here is the Internet Chair with magnetic stripe card reader and spikes that retract when a seating license is downloaded from a license server in response to input from the card reader incoroprated into the chair.

If you are following the insipid growth of service locked devices and digital rights management this piece is much scarier than funny.

Trackback Sucks

better trackback page design

Trackback is a system used by some weblog tools to automatically alert one weblog of a related post in another, the idea is great and would allow weblogs to act a little like a distributed discussion group.

The problem it is never used in its intended way and now it does more damage than good. Take this post by Barlow post as an example, It’s a great post about his first hand experience with post 9/11 airport security and the legal system, but then come the trackbacks, just a long series of "look cool post", "Barlow has a great post", "you must read this" etc... Even if there is one trackback that does contain something interesting it is so buried in the noise that nobody will see it. Much worse however is that the much more informative comments are buried after trackbacks and look very similar to the trackbacks. My guess people that are not familiar with weblogs and even some that are will never even get to the comments, they’ll just scratch their head at the trackbacks and move on to other things.

It would be very easy to solve this with design. First thing would be to move the trackbacks under the comment and design them differently, personally I would just leave the post title and the name of the referring weblog out.

OK I'm back!

Still settling into blogging again and trying to get comfortable with this new version of This time I am experimenting with strongly typed posts. Instead of have on one post format fits all I am working with some types of posts, there will be:

  • Raw Links Will be lumps of links without much comment, Last time around I noticed that I often refrain from posting a link since I don’t have much to add to it. So this time I will collect them and publish them in lumps, some will be lumped together in logical groups and others will just be published like remainder links.
  • Reviews Self explanatory except that they will have a some kind of scrape-able XML that will allow other parties to do interesting stuff with it. Only problem is have yet to find a elegant format for these. More on this in a later post
  • Audio Following on the popularity of podcasting I thought it might be a good idea to start a meta podcast. Having no talent as a DJ (I know because I used to be one) I thought I would link to other peoples media files. I’ll explain more about this also in later posts

Of course there will still be "normal" posts and probably there will be more special formats to follow. Jason Kottke has been doing similar stuff for some time. I have three objectives with this experiment

  • Making the data generated by a a weblog more usable by the comunity. Sites like daypop and others are already doing very interesting trend analysis by just looking at links on sites, but if we started to publish more semantically there would be many more interesting things that could be done
  • Push icogs further, and make my site more flexible in its design
  • And I still foolishly want to learn how to write