The starfish and the spider on catalysts and firestarters?

ocean colour scene #3

I have been reading (listening to) the starfish and the spider for the last few days when walking. I never heard of it till I heard one of the interviews on the after on podcast. It feels like the Catherial and the Bazaar for the internet age, ever so relevant.

Something really got me thinking… The idea that The Catalysts sound very similar to The Firestarters?

The book identifies a set of people the authors call “catalysts”, who tend to be skilled at creating decentralized organizations. The authors list several abilities and behaviors (called “The Catalyst’s Tools”) that “catalysts” have in common, including:

  1. Genuine interest in others.
  2. Numerous loose connections, rather than a small number of close connections.
  3. Skill at social mapping.
  4. Desire to help everyone they meet.
  5. The ability to help people help themselves by listening and understanding, rather than giving advice (“Meet people where they are”).
  6. Emotional intelligence.
  7. Trust in others and in the decentralized network.
  8. Inspiration (to others).
  9. Tolerance for ambiguity.
  10. A hands-off approach. Catalysts do not interfere with, or try to control the behavior of the contributing members of the decentralized organization.
  11. Ability to let go. After building up a decentralized organization, catalysts move on, rather than trying to take control.

This book has some similarities to books like The Tipping Point, by Malcolm Gladwell, as both identify certain sets of people who are important to change in a society or an organization, and try to define the attributes that people belonging to these sets have in common.

I think the Firestarters is next on my list, as I’m keen to see if there is cross overs or should I tweak my title to catalyst?

Is Medium doing what WordPress dreamed about?

Always wondered if WordPress is missing out to Medium.

Medium is becoming the preferred social platform for thoughtful commentary, provocative essays, and blockbuster enterprise journalism from independent and commercial publishers seeking to instigate meaningful conversations on topics of substance, interest, and import. Here, these conversations push thinking forward where it matters and drive real impact in the world.

Distributed conversations is something I thought WordPress was up to a long while ago. Its certainly easier when you own the platform and can make sweeping changes. Have a look at the way twitter closed off API access to 3rd party apps and services because they wanted to monetize there (literately) platform.

Its what makes me suspect of sinking time and my own thoughts into platforms like Medium and Slack. Yes they can do things which others can’t do currently…

…But I remember platforms like Medium and Slack are not open (even with the XMPP and IRC gateways) and there is a very bad side to this. Chris Messina tweeted recently about a new wordpress move in the middle of the slack fall out

Unfortunately I can’t install Calypso as its OSX only at the moment but its open and theres a hope someone will create a Linux client or even a Chrome/Firefox app?

Maybe WordPress will ultimately show Medium how to do distributed conversations, but in a open way, after all.

As for Slack… I’m still not sure, but I am using it via XMPP instead.

What do neural networks dream?

Neural net dreams
Neural net “dreams”— generated purely from random noise, using a network trained on places by MIT Computer Science and AI Laboratory.

James at work pointed me in the direction of Google’s neural network project.

Artificial Neural Networks have spurred remarkable recent progress in image classification and speech recognition. But even though these are very useful tools based on well-known mathematical methods, we actually understand surprisingly little of why certain models work and others don’t. So let’s take a look at some simple techniques for peeking inside these networks.

We train an artificial neural network by showing it millions of training examples and gradually adjusting the network parameters until it gives the classifications we want. The network typically consists of 10-30 stacked layers of artificial neurons. Each image is fed into the input layer, which then talks to the next layer, until eventually the “output” layer is reached. The network’s “answer” comes from this final output layer.

The results are right out of a trippy dream or a hallucination.

Inceptionism: Google goes deeper into Neural Networks

Redecentralize this…


Adewale once said  (I wouldn’t be surprised if he gives me a kick next time he sees me, but I think this quote sums up so much. And its only the start of the smart things he thinks and talks about)

People’s enthusiasm for federated decentralised $WHATEVER seems inversely proportional to the practicality of their plan for achieving it

However a share I recently was tagged on to revealed Jon Udells post and a giant list of projects trying to solve the problem decentralised social networking.

Going under the notion of the Alternative Internet, there are some quite interesting projects including…

Ampify is an open source, decentralised, social platform. It is intended as a successor to the Open Web and as a replacement for closed platforms like iOS and Facebook by providing a web application framework to create social apps on top of a secure, decentralised core.

ClearSkies is a peer-to-peer file sync program. It is inspired by BitTorrent Sync, but has an open and fully-documented protocol. ClearSkies is a sync program similar to DropBox, The protocol is layered in such a way that other applications can take advantage of it for purposes other than file sync.

Movim is a decentralized open source social network based on XMPP.

Peerm Anonymous P2P inside browsers, no installation, encrypted and secure. The browsers are talking the Tor protocol extended to P2P and are connecting to the nodes using WebSockets, multi-sources and streaming are supported.

Trovebox community edition. Wrote about this many times but didn’t know there was a community edition too.

Twister is a secure and fully-decentralized P2P microblogging platform based on concepts and code from Bitcoin and Libtorrent (as described in this whitepaper). Self described as “a stream server that does most of what people really want from a social network”. It’s a social stream with support for federated comunication.

trsst looks and feels like twitter but encrypted and anonymized and decentralized and only you hold the keys.

Plenty of cool projects but very little traction unfortunately, however theres quite a few which can be used to connect to the centralised networks. Looking at the list, I’m left wondering if Diaspora*, Wave and  Tent has gone through the trough of disillusion and might be coming out the other end? A while ago I thought WordPress was going to make moves in this area of decentralised social networking.

The web of playful things

WIYB with Moleskine from Ka Tat Chan in Hongkong

If your like me, you may look at something like ioT and wonder what on earth does that stand for? Internet of Things…

From a far it looks like one of those buzz terms like Ajax and Web 2.0 became. Heck you might even find some crappy videos trying to explain what it is from a view.

If you break it down Internet of Things is simply networked physical things or simply NT? So we already know everything will have a IPv6 address in the next decade or so and frankly this is the very start of it. I quite like Dundee’s Jon Rogers (@ileddigital) physical apps and of course the physical apps store.

I’m very sure that networked things will be the next massive growth economy. You won’t be able to buy a thing without it being able to network in some way or another.

Here’s some justification…

  1. The other day I was trying to convince someone that IoT or networked things was going to be the next fronter for developers. I did a bad job trying to explain why she should consider it (although to be fair it was very late in the day for such a dramatic change, I admitted). Although very familiar with makerfaire and the maker audience, I was making the point that its not about that. The languages developers are using will power a good part of the networked things. Yes that means your TV, radio, speakers, pen (dare I say it) Fridge will one day have Python bindings or a RESTful API (hopefully not JSON). Programmers and developers once enjoyed the fact the computer was under their control. Now the real world is up for grabs!
  2. Yesterday I was listening to Tech News Today and heard a discussion about Yammer’s CEO forecasting the end of silicon valley. Although I don’t think he’s right and what he was saying did sound like crap, there is certainly a shift towards more hardware innovation. The presenters pick up on this in this 5min discussion which I clipped and put on Soundcloud.
    This is one of the points I’ll be making in the my Perceptive Media talk at Canvas Conf in September
  3. Manchester’s digital scene has for the longest time lived in the shadow of London’s digital scene but something a rumbling and I personally feel the impact of things like Madlab, Fablab, DIYBio, etc, etc… will kickstart companies and startups which hack reality rather than whats on screen. Networked things will be a big part of this. BBC R&D also will be a part of this and we’re already in talks around our unique iot event called playful iot futures… Hope to have much more to say about it soon…

Bit Torrent, as the middle man?

Tape it off the internet

All I can really say is these guys observations of TV are pretty damn sharp…

Interesting story about how Channel 4 in the UK are pushing for more secondary new media rights from their independent programme producers. I've talked about this for ages, but essentially it can't be beyond the wit of programme producers to hire an ad sales team, and go direct to their audience. They are currently missing out on a large slice of the revenue pie, this would enable them to get some of that. In these early days, call it an online exclusive, create a buzz, sell it to a 'traditional' tv network later. You know when your time is up when you get called 'traditional', huh?

The BBC also gets the retouch treatment, which could become a viable solution for the BBC when geoip finally falls apart. Matt's original screenshot and the new updated screenshot.

Theres no douht we need to deliver to the rest of the world and subscription, advertising, drm and geoip are not the solution. Well to be fair advertising works up to a certain point (i'm sure google will be exploring this more in the future).Geoip works for less-savy internet downloaders, but as we know obfuscation (as in security through obfuscation) is a bad idea and its really a problem waiting to happen when you least expect it.

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