The Joy of Data

Via infosthetics,

It was only a matter of time before the mind-changing talk of Hans Rosling would find its way to the television medium. A reincarnation of this talk will be part of "The Joy of Stats", a new television documentary that soon will appear at BBC. This documentary will explore various forms of data gathering and statistical analysis, such as a new application that mashes police department data with the city’s street map to show what crime is being reported street by street, house by house, in near real-time; and Google’s current efforts at the machine translation project

From what I seen of the programme, it should be called the joy of data not stats.

mydreamscape presentated at social media cafe manchester

Chi-chi Ekweozor (@realfreshtv) has written up my scramble thoughts and presentation about mydreamscape.org up on her blog.

I am amazed at how much detail she got down in the session, its a perfect account of what was said and by who. Her hand must have been going into over drive!

A couple of people ask great questions about privacy and how easy the network will be to spam.

The points raised range from deciding to keep users anonymous to encourage people to share their dreams in detail to wondering how to stop the spammer that ‘keeps dreaming about ‘Coca-cola’ or Justin Bieber(!)

Adrian Slatcher (@adrianslatcher on Twitter) from Manchester Digital Development Agency (MDDA), added some fine observations about dreams being non-linear.

Some people make associations in dreams based on colour, so called ‘colour dreams’. There are also ‘anxiety’ dreams. There is a very strong metaphysical element to dreams.

Adrian went on to add that this ‘crowd-sourced’ emotional categorisation of dreams: ‘anxiety = red’, ‘peace = green’ etc lends itself to making such a social network a very useful psychoanalysis tool.

She also detailed a great conversation we had afterwards with Josh (@technicalfault) about a killer mobile app for mydreamscape

In a conversation with Ian and Social Media Cafe co-organiser Josh (@technicalfault) after his talk, we discussed what I think is the killer application for such a project: a mobile phone app that combines access with the social network with a dream diary linked to the phone’s alarm clock.

As soon as you wake up, you are prompted to record your dream into a ‘What did you dream today?’ interface rather like Twitter’s early ‘What are you doing?’ question.

Different media types could be introduced later on so people would eventually make voice or video recordings of their dreams. That would rock.

I love the idea of asking the question, “what did you dream today?” or even “what did you dream last night?” Its a very catchy punchline and sums up the project nicely. The Flickr of dreams say one thing but “what did you dream today?” says something very different.

The point keeps coming up, why not make a facebook application? And finally I had a reply

People have suggested Ian should implement the idea as a Facebook app. He’s not particularly keen on this, preferring the Flickr model as “Flickr never exposes private stuff.”

Facebook’s EULA makes mydreamscape unworkable or at least cuts right into the users privicy which would make trusting the system almost impossible. Flickr have a good model as they never expose users private data and never will. Hence “the flickr of dreams” tag line.

I’ve presented at barcampmanchester3 and now at Social Media cafe manchester and each time I’ve had a positive response, but raised many more questions. Some of those question have been useful but none have been no this is a terriable idea. In actually fact I’ve picked up a few people who really want to get involved along the way. Each person has offered some advice and some more passion into the general idea. I think my next step is to do a map for the idea (a masssive A0 sheet of endless paper with information about the idea and details which I currently have in tomboynotes). I can then publish the map and make it even easier for people to develop the idea themsleves. Its also handy to have everything on one sheet, so I can put everything in context. This presentation isn’t really explaining the idea very well and does a bit of deservice to the underlying idea. I really hope to change for something better soon. But for now it explains the concept enough…

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Data Availablity?

So i read Myspace have joined the Dataportability group, but then I spotted via Techmeme that they were also launching Data availability? There seems to be little detail about the whole thing now, but it looks closely related to the Data Portability effort.

Anyway, here's part of the alleged leaked press release.

Data Availability is about enriching existing Internet destinations with social functionality and valuable pre-existing user generated content and data. By empowering users with the ability to dynamically share, those destinations will create deeper levels of social engagement and new functionality throughout their site. As the online home to 117 million users worldwide, this groundbreaking initiative enables the larger Web to leverage the highly engaged and passionate MySpace global community.

To ease implementation for participating sites, the MySpace Data Availability initiative uses OAUTH and Restful APIs as its core technology underpinnings. MySpace is using open standards in an effort to embrace the open source community and allow the implementation to be as non-proprietary as possible. Today’s announcement is the first step of MySpace’s larger data portability initiatives coming down the pipeline. MySpace is officially joining the Data Portability Project demonstrating our continued commitment to openness and open standards.

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Kevin Rose talks about Data Portability on Diggnation

So it started off about the facebook applications on any site and their global javascript library. But before long Kevin Rose is informing Alex about the advantages of this move for Facebook and some of its users. Kevin then points out that its disadvantage is for the users because its still tied to Facebook. He briefly mentions OpenSocial then starts talking about DataPortability. During the following 3-4 mins Alex challenges Kevin about Digg.com and its Dataportanility stance and to be Kevin admits he's all for dataportability in Digg.com. This is obviously very fitting looking forward to the announcement a while back that Digg joins the Dataportability group.

For someone whose one of the founders of the Dataportability group, I've been quite quiet about it. Don't get me wrong I'm lurking a lot and I already have my fingers in certain dataportability pies. You may have seen some data portability videos around, well I'm glad to say I have completed mine and I'm just trying to edit mine with Kdenlive and Pitivi but not having much luck. It seems Kdenlive doesn't like my Sanyo's Mpeg4 audio format. So I need to convert them first into something else using VLC. Pitivi is strange and does weird things to the video, which means it won't play in much including the great VLC.

Big thanks to Kevin Rose for allowing me the permission to clip this video and put it up on Blip.TV. Originally not only was I having problems with encoding but Blip kept removing my video because I was breaching Revision3's Copyright. So after a brief email to Kevin directly, he replied yes but he would have liked to have seen the video first. I told him if he doesn't like it I will take it down.

There is also now a Geekdinner about Data Portability in London. If your interested in this subject and in the area of London on Wednesday 27th Feb, come along for a good debate about the whole project and subject.

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Data Portability Video


DataPortability – Connect, Control, Share, Remix from Smashcut Media on Vimeo.


CREDITS:
Written, designed and edited by Michael Pick, smashcut-media.com

Music – “Bongo Avenger” – Eric & Ryan Kilkenny: CC Attrib. Non Commercial

Hands photo: Scol22 – Stock.xchng

Additional images: istockphoto

Animated Flourishes: Andrew Kramer

So I was impressed with the production value of the video but felt it needed more snap. Chris asked what I meant by “snap?” But I think you will know what I mean and agree, it certainly needs more snappyness. Not that I'm slagging it off, actually its really good and well worth sending around to people who don't know or understand the whole data portability movement.

I've also finally put in a Xtech 2008 proposal for Data Portability at long last. Here is my short description.

Data portability is in a way one of the greatest freedoms users and developers can have. Portability of data underpins the web of data, apis and the ability to move data to other services, platforms and devices. It is silo busting and is deeply weaved into the debate over social platforms, identity and mobile data. In this talk, I will explore the problems, solutions and gamut of policy decisions

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Facebook, Google And Plaxo Join The DataPortability Workgroup

Dataportability

Forget Open social, this is huge! This a huge win for interoperability, portability and fair use. Chris told me a while ago but promised to say nothing till now. It also shows how much influence characters like scoble have, but I'm sure these companies were looking at Data portability long before scobles account got suspended.

After publishing an invitation to Facebook to join the DataPortability Working Group January 4, we never thought that Facebook would accept it. Today changes everything you’ve ever thought about social-networking data and lock-in before, because today Facebook, Google and Plaxo have joined the DataPortability Workgroup.

Google and Plaxo joining are a positive, however given that both have previously joined together for platforms such as OpenSocial it’s not that significant, but Facebook is another matter. On January 4 Michael sort of defended Facebook’s stance against Plaxo pulling data from Facebook on the grounds that “Facebook also has a very good reason for protecting email addresses – user privacy.” Today, by joining the DataPortability Working Group Facebook is embracing open standards and open access, and that is a huge fundamental change from its previous stance on being locked in to closed standards.

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Scoble calls for dataportability

Thanks Tom for the heads up… Straight from Scoble. A very good reason for dataportability. You should be able to export your data even when your account is disabled.

Facebook disabled my account

If you are trying to contact me on Facebook, please don’t. My account has been “disabled” for breaking Facebook’s Terms of Use. I was running a script that got them to keep me from accessing my account. I’m appealing. I’ll tell you what I was doing as soon as I talk with the developers who built what I was using and as soon as I talk with Facebook’s support (I sent an email in reply to the one below, but haven’t heard back yet).

I run this stuff so you don’t have to. 🙂

UPDATE: Rodney Rumford, who runs the FaceReviews Blog about Facebook says that all traces of me have been already removed from Facebook too.

UPDATE2: Tonight I learned about DataPortability.org and signed my name to that effort.

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I bricked my windows mobile phone

Mobile data?

Mobile laptop data has always been a pain, in my mind it started when the phone companies started making those PCMCIA adapters where you could stick in a GSM/GPRS card. Before that you use to have to dialup via the infrared port or a serial cable. The GSM/GPRS cards would allow you to put in a sim card into the PC card and dialup on your laptop from anywhere. Then Vodafone came out with a 3G data card, others followed suit adding Wireless and even HSDPA (3.5g) to the mix.

But there was a few problems. Each card came with some propitery software, the card themselves were expensive and the data plans attached only suitable for business users. In America on the otherhand all you could get all you can eat data plans based on that weird standard called EVDO for a reasonable rate. Because of this Laptop makers started adding EVDO and other Mobile data options, which made the PC cards a little less important. But the huge break through (in the UK) came when Tmobile (to there credit) dropped there data plan to a all you can eat model. Vodafone and Orange followed soon afterwards. 3 the mobile operator in the UK started offering a cheap usb dongle to there users of mobile data. 10 pounds buys you the dongle and the data for a month. Well I thought this was a good idea and I know a few people are tempted with the offer but I think I found better.

Ok enough history – I bricked my new phone, no not actually killed it so it no long works but more like bricked it so it operates as a wireless modem. I was doing this over bluetooth at the start but for some reason while using the windows mobile internet sharing option the phone wants to be in bluetooth discovery mode too. This quickly kills the battery, so I started plugging it in over USB. Because the phone also charges over USB too, it might as well be like the USB dongle. My Data plan currently is 5 pounds for weekend and evening unlimited data (unlimited meaning 1gig fair use data a month). Orange offer for another 3 pounds a all day everyday option but limited to 30meg a month. This doesn't work for me, as I'm usually around a wireless or wired connection during the daytime. Anyway the point is that mobile laptop data is become cheap and easy. If I can get a windows mobile phone to talk to a linux laptop, then anyone running windows or mac must be able to get theres up and running in minutes. But like before the data rates are better that ever. HSDPA (3.5g) is also pretty impressive, I was getting 400k down and 200k up in a starbucks in central Bristol. I expect in London I might get even more. This makes it a serious contender to the rip off wireless hotspots you find in some hotels and cafes up and down the country. Now if only the mobile operators would sort out international roaming data charges!

Ah I forgot to mention one thing.The bricked nature also comes from WMstorage, which basiclly turns your phone into a mass storage device or usb memory stick. Because I can't use activesync on linux this has been perfect for dragging files back and forth. However its never been reliable till now. So my phone sits there as a mini flashdrive and bluetooth modem but can still receive calls and texts if needed. Next step really is to pass some of that functionality on to my laptop instead.

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Openness in data formats

Me and Tantek

Tantek wrote this thought provoking entry about data formats and openness. Which I can't help but kind of agree on and disagree on. So first his entry.

  1. ASCII is dependable. Project Gutenberg insists on publishing their e-books as plain ASCII text as Mark Pilgrim noted, and their reasons are solid.
  2. Compatible XHTML is now also dependable. In the 15+ years since its public introduction, I believe that HTML has established itself sufficiently prominently worldwide that I feel quite comfortable declaring that HTML will be accepted to be as reliable as ASCII in coming years. In particular, authoring what I like to call Compatible XHTML, that is, valid XHTML 1.0 strict that conforms to Appendix C, is IMHO the way to author HTML that will have longevity as good as ASCII. Note that files in most file systems have no sense of “MIME-type”, thus the winged-mythological-creatures-on-the-head-of-a-pin style arguments about text/html vs. application/xhtml+xml that are often used to discredit either HTML or XHTML (or both) are irrelevant for the most common case of keeping archives of files in file systems.
  3. Plain old XML (POX) formats in the long run are no better than proprietary binary formats. XML, both in technology and as a “technical culture” is too biased towards Tower of Babel outcomes. I've spoken on this many times, but in short, the culture surrounding XML, especially the unquestioned faith in namespaces and misplaced assumed requirement thereof, leads to (has already lead to) Tower of Babel style interoperability failures. As this is a cultural bias (whether intentional or not) built into the very foundations of XML, I don't think it can be saved. There may be a few XML formats that survive and converge sufficiently to be dependable (maybe RSS, maybe Atom), but for now XHTML is IMHO the only longerm reliable XML format, and that has more to do with it being based on HTML than it being XML.
  4. Formats that are smaller (e.g. define fewer terms) tend to be more reliable.
  5. Formats that are simpler (e.g. define fewer restrictions/rules for publishers) tend to be more reliable.
  6. Formats that are more compatible with existing reliable formats tend to be more reliable, e.g. HTML worked well with existing systems that supported “plain text” (AKA ASCII)
  7. Formats that are easier to use, i.e. publish, and more immediately useful, rapidly become widely adopted, and thus become reliable as a breadth of software and services catches up with a breadth of published data in those formats.

The microformats principles were based on these observations. Now this doesn't mean I think microformats will replace existing reliable formats. Not at all. For example, I feel quite confident storing files in the following formats:

  • ASCII / “plain text” / .txt / (UTF8 only if necessary)
  • mbox
  • X)HTML
  • JPEG
  • PNG
  • WAV
  • MP3
  • MPEG

So my take on Tantek's thoughts.

Plain old XML (POX) formats in the long run are no better than proprietary binary formats. See I take issue with this, I understand what Tantek is getting at but I would say plain xml without a schema isn't leaning towards the Tower of Babel. And like Tantek already mentioned RSS and ATOM are pretty close to the non-tower of babel direction. I would also add FOAF and OPML to the list. I would love for SVG to also be included in this but alas its not. Formats that are smaller (e.g. define fewer terms) tend to be more reliable. Good point, hence why things should be broken down like how XHTML and SVG got Modularization.

My list of formats are slightly different too.

  • XHTML (Unicode)
  • XML (Unicode)
  • JPEG
  • PNG
  • MPEG3 audio
  • MPEG4 video
  • WAVE
  • SVG

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Its all about Yahoo, again?

The one to look out for is certainly Yahoo. This week they released there UI library into the public domain under a BSD licence and then showed off there design patterns which I sent around to our designers for consideration. I also got the chance to read through Tom Coates fantastic presentation at the Carson workshops future of web apps summit and to top everything off. Yahoo is now hiring semantic web developers? Yahoo is once again on a roll. No wonder why Tom Coates moved. Oh by the way, don't forget to check out Simons notes which are great when flicking through the pdf presentation offline.

Forgot to mention Jeremy Zawodny has taken the main points and broke it down into something which can be translated for product managers. Yahoo are certainly on a run!

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Do you EVDO? No not on this side of the world

If I hear someone say EVDO again, I'm going to scream. I don't know any other country in the world which uses this 2.5g mobile data connetion? Except maybe Canada? Oh and Latin America? don't think so, but maybe someone could confirm this. I'm very sure its not used anywhere else including Russia, Eastern Europe, Africa, Middle East, Australia, Japan, New Zealand, Eastern Asia or the Asia Pacific area. it seems to have been made by American mobile carrier to allow them to offer mobile internet type solutions without paying the stupid prices of 3G licences. Ok, Fair enough but now theres a split between the smartphones coming out (IMHO).

Theres a whole range which support GPRS, EDGE and UMTS (3G) which all seem to work together nicely. You can even go from one country to another with these phones and it works. Believe it or not I was able to get GPRS out of my SPV E200 when I last went to the midwest of America in 2004 thanks to Tmobile and AT&T. Then you got the rouge phones which only support EVDO. This would be fine but the rouge ones tend to be the Microsoft PocketPC or Windows Mobile 2005 devices. The type of device I've been looking forward to having one day soon. Thanks EVDO carriers for this split. Thank you very much. I can't really blame Microsoft because America is a bigger market when it comes to Mobile Data it would seem. I'm not only pointing the finger at American Carriers like Cingular but also much closer to home like my own which is Orange. If Orange would provide a more American like data tariff of 20 pounds for 100meg of Mobile data a month we may start to see more mobile data use and that would in turn attract Microsoft and others.

It must be killing Orange and other mobile operators over here that they paid such stupid prices for 3G and its actually better and quicker technology that EVDO but the customers are not using it much. They quote huge take ups of 3G phones but how many of those people actually regularly use 3G and how much data do they transfer? I bet the percentage of data per person is very low. And you can't be suprised when most operators are charging about 1 pound per meg if you don't buy in advance with a bundle. (This post could/should simply be about this really.) I do care that I can't get a 3G phone which runs Windows mobile 2005 in a smaller size than my ipaq. But also mobile data costs in the UK and Europe is stupidly priced and I would have thought in 2006 we would be moving away from these crazy prices. I mean can you blame me for waiting for a phone which supports Wifi? Roll on the Nokia N80 soon please Nokia.

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Compromised passwords and your idenity online

So I just recently downloaded the Skype 2.0 beta which supports Video chat. And deceided to go try it out, but oh no… I cant login. Whats going on I started to wonder, its not like I got the wrong username and password because I've been using Keepass for quite some time now, plus Skype saves the password if you want it to anyway. So i'm wondering what the hecks going on. 1min of searching later I find Skype Passwords Compromised?

So generally if you registered for share.skype.com then your at risk. Well thats me, after my little dabble with there developers area. Now I cant access my skype address and because I moved house and changed broadband account I cant actually retrieve my changed password. So in other words, the user cubicgarden on skype is not going to be me anytime soon. Yeah I'm pretty bitter about it all.

Something simular happened with my old cubicgarden Bloglines account a while ago and let me tell you about the frustrating emails I sent trying to prove I was the user of that account. It was insane to say the least. If Skype like Bloglines dont accept that as the registered owner of cubicgarden.com I would choose cubicgarden as a username then I'm once again stuck. There has got be a better way to do Identity online? Talking of which Dick Hardt (Sxip identity) talk at web 2.0 is interesting to say the least. I really see the need for something like sxip, as relying on your email or even a url for a id is sucky to say the least. Geez even using a hash in a FOAF file would be better than email and a url.

Can I also just say, this is another example of company's leaking your online identity. Privicy and security online, well what do you make of that improbulus?

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