A couple of quick things. A colleague of mine here at the BBC, Dan Dixon (along with Igor and Dharmesh) has put together a very clear presentation [powerpoint, 127k] of some of the state of the art and issues around ‘reputation’ systems. He’s kindly let me post it here, both in the hope that others will find it useful, and that we’ll get some constructive criticism and suggestions.

Dan also points out this great primer on the area of reputation, from Kuro5hin.

Architectural theorist on the success of the suboptimal

Phillip Tabor was one of the highlights of Doors7 for me. His tract: “a space for half-formed thoughts” sounds like it could be describing the ‘blogosphere’, or at a lower-level – the internet’s ‘principle of equal suckitude’ [copyleft Cory Doctorow], or Richard Gabriel’s worse-is-better

[my emboldening]

“four attributes of a simulated ‘space for half-formed thoughts’:

1: Its metaphor is spatial, but its spatial character is not limited by the constraints of real space and physics

2: It contains flowing patterns that reflect incoming data about the world. But we don’t just see these patterns: we sense them as sounds and vibrations; we feel them as wind in hair, taste on tongue, tension in muscles

3: Informational patterns are manifested in varying densities of this smoky space; and

4: We can sharpen the outlines of things, make them harder and clearer. But we’d only do so when we feel our ideas are ready to coalesce

Vagueness is sometimes a virtue, and clarity is sometimes a vice.

“The space for half-formed thoughts” is intriguing, and merits returning to and attempting to concretise it if only for the perversity of trying to do so… It could maybe yield MattW’s ‘the next thing’; indeed it may itself be the ‘next thing’.

» Doors7: Flow: Phillip Tabor: “A space for half-formed thoughts”

Usability = Abusability?

Tom Coates talks about using an inverse-learning curve (or learning-cliff-with-an-overhang) to defeat spammers and other abusers of internet systems:

“Essentially what many systems online need – the systems that are prone to abuse that is – are graphs of ‘difficulty of use’ that are exponential – start almost flat and then escalate heavily afterwards.”

Cf. with notions of “seamful design” for beautiful executions of this concept? Any existing examples?

What’s next? Wasps?

Matt Webb is on holiday, but his outboard brain is not. There he’s sneak-previewing what he thinks is going to be his next big topic of enquiry: the sufficiently-broad “what’s next”

On which note, this piece from a recent New Scientist on who might be next at the top of the food chain caught my eye:

“As smart colonies of super-insects evolve rapidly, the once mighty mammals are driven by competitive onslaught to near extinction. Within a few million years these super-coordinated colonies achieve a tactile and chemical language with a syntax and grammar. Their computational networks discover mathematical complexities far beyond the point reached by humans. Space travel is for amateurs; quantum computing opens the portals to galactic exploration. Think about that next time you swat a wasp.”

» An alien intelligence [may require registration?]

Dumb ideas from amsterdam, #2, in a continuing series

This comes in email from Dan Hill and the fine team of people at BBCi Music:

J.G. Ballads – Various Artists

“Drive” – The Cars (Concete Island)
“Always Crashing In The Same Car” – David Bowie (Crash)
“Airport” – The Motors (The Unlimited Dream Company)
“Crawling From The Wreckage” – Dave Edmunds (Concrete Island)
“They Shoot Horses Don’t They” – Racing Cars (Crash)
“Under My Wheels” – Alice Cooper (Crash)
“Cocaine” – JJ Cale (Cocaine Nights)
“Human Fly” – Sonovac (The Sound Sweep)
“I Believe I Can Fly” – R Kelly (The Unlimited Dream Company)
“High Rise” – Hawkwind (High Rise)
“Inner Space/Outer Space” – Flanger (“Which Way To Inner Space?” for New Worlds magazine)
“On The Beach” – Neil Young (The Drowned World)
“Turning Japanese” – Vapors (Empire Of The Sun)
“Atrocity Exhibition” – Joy Division (The Atrocity Exhibition)
“Walking on The Moon” – Police (The Man Who Walked On The Moon)
“Octopuses Garden” – The Beatles (The Drowned World)
“The Urban Spaceman” – Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band (The Impossible Man (featuring the line ‘and here’s the twist, I don’t exist’)

“California Uber Alles” – Dead Kennedys (Why I want to fuck Ronald Reagan, short story)
“Independence Day” – Comsat Angels (The Comsat Angels, short story)
“China Girl” – David Bowie (Empire Of The Sun)
“Nobody To Love” – 13th Floor Elevators (High Rise)
“Crash” – The Primitives (Crash)
“To All the Women That I’ve Known” – Willie Nelson/Julio Iglesias (The Kindness Of Women)

[couldn’t remember your contribution at the time (except 13th floor elevators, due to ‘environmental conditions’ when we thought of the idea – apologies – any more to add?]

Additions/suggestions below please!


A possibly-dumb-but-intriguing thought that occured to me, Otwell and Hill while in Amsterdam:

could you use The Sims for:
a) persona driven design?
b) testing/simulating social software design?

Just as Intel and MacDonalds have paid for product-placement in The Sims Online, if the tools where available to designers to originate meaningful simualtions of their concepts, then wouldn’t it also make an incredible product testing and proving ground?

Auntie’s facelift

Well done to the team who worked on the new design for the homepage.

front cover of net magazineGo there… click on News or Sport then click back to the homepage. Try doing that a few times… Notice the background colour of box which you clicked the link from gets a few shades different?

It’s all coded so that whatever you click most gets reinforced over time, making it easier to find what you always want. A gentle, reactive form of personalisation that doesn’t take away any choices. Nice.

A lot of that code was by a clever young man called Paul Hammond. Paul’s a client-side coder, who worked in a massively-integrated way with Gideon, Julie and Caroline (the design team who you can see hilariously styled as a Matrix-style hit squad to the left) to realise this new design. Along with Annabelle who worked on the content/editorial, Andrew who is the picture editor and Steve who was the IA for the project (nifty new sensible categories box! yay!) it was a truly multidiscplinary user-experience design team which made it happen.

Great stuff and just a taste what’s to come.


The Anti-Doors

More on Doors soon. To people who’ve asked me how it was, I’ve simply replied so far: “usefully annoying”.

Here’s a snippet of the sort of voice and opinion that was notable by it’s absence, which skewers the root of my annoyance with the whole event exactly:

“Funny, isn’t it, how generations of international bureaucrats and guilty middle-class students have campaigned for decades against global poverty and oppression — but it takes the spread of technology, and a bit of free-market hustling, to really have an impact.”

» saving the world