Love of the Self or Data sexuality?

Gary Wolf at Quantified Self 2011

When I read this article about the new breed of urban datasexuals I instantly thought maybe heck I might be one of them…?

The datasexual looks a lot like you and me, but what’s different is their preoccupation with personal data. They are relentlessly digital, they obsessively record everything about their personal lives, and they think that data is sexy. In fact, the bigger the data, the sexier it becomes. Their lives – from a data perspective, at least – are perfectly groomed.

Oh crap that sounds just like me… I find it very difficult to maintain things on paper and much prefer them in data because I can manage them much better. I assumed it was a dyslexia thing to be honest (it might still be).

The origin of the datasexual in all likelihood started with the humble infographic, which is a highly stylized and well-designed way to talk about all the data out there on Web. The infographic trend was followed by the data visualization trend, which made it even cooler to display data in innovative new ways. These data visualization tools eventually gave us cultural artifacts like Nicholas Felton’s annual Feltron Reports, which made the obsessive recording of everyday activities seem cool. From there, it was only a small evolutionary step to the whole quantified self (QS) movement, which promises “self knowledge through numbers.” QS proponents obsessively track every single bit of data about themselves throughout the day. The QS movement eventually led us to the embrace of data by consumer-facing companies Nike, who found a way for urban datasexuals to flaunt their obsessive data-grooming to the rest of us in a way that’s stylish and mod.

For me it stems back to my ideas of the information behind the graphics.

When I was in college, I got into XML because I loved the idea of creating graphics which are self describing and can alter depending on the data there based on.  Hence my love of Scalable Vector Graphics (w3c’s SVG specification). I was also a major pusher of SVG at the BBC for graphics and informational graphics but at the time browser technology was way behind.

Maybe this also reflects why my love of the idea of online dating via numbers, maths, science also really intrigues me so deeply?

The link up between the Quantified Self, personal data and sharing is so tight and also asks many questions. Questions which the early adopters and hackers are answering for themselves right now.

I remember my previous manager Miles Metcalfe, talking about the intangible of the semantic web… Somethings can not be quantified, at least in the ways were going about it right now. I would agree but we’ll have a good old go trying to do so. And from doing so we’ll have lots of fun, its when it stops becoming fun is the problem…

I’ll say it now… Data is Sexy no two ways about it… but the term data sexual does worry me a little along with quite a few of the commenters. Its Data Love but under the understanding that not everything can be defined or captured yet.


After the debate on Techgrumps 60 yesterday (listen to the last 10mins to understand) with Tom Morris who compares Data sexuality to something else which is certainly not pretty or nice. But the point is taken, what has this got to do with sexuality? Spicing it up with sexuality just confuses the whole thing and maybe makes those who love data into something their not. Data love is much better as a overall idea.

Using Inkscape for presentations

For ages now I have been seeking a better way to do certain presentations. I tend to spend a lot of time in Inkscape mapping out ideas but I don’t really want to put slides on different layers.

I bought a copy of dan roam’s the back of a napkin a while ago and I’ve been influenced by the idea of using white boards, mood boards, etc to explain ideas. The problem is that once you put the effort in to putting down the idea on to the canvas, you then have to re-adapt it to a presentation with Open Office. Its why I kind of like the idea of the unlimited canvas.

Prezi was talked about and overused to death a while ago, now you hardly see it. I blogged about it a while ago and decided that there must be a better more open way to do the same.

I have been thinking maybe some enterprising group of people could take the SVG specification and build a tool which generates these exact same presentations. So first up you can use scripts on every element including the viewpoint attribute. There seems to be a load of things you can do with the Canvas coordinate system. SVG 1.1 has the ability to embed certain multimedia but SVG Foreign Object could be used to place a browser or a complete video within a SVG.

You could imagine a specially made tool which worked like Prezi but wouldn’t need to be propitery and locked in. They could even create and sell a player and editor backed with its online space, so the business model isn’t totally shattered. Even if a rival tried to create the same, OpenPrezi as I’m coining it would be first to the market and have a wealth of knowledge of what works and what doesn’t. Even a track record might go down well. So in my mind, there’s no way I will be using Prezi till its a lot more open. I’m sure even I could with a bit of time construct something using the SVG methods I mentioned. I’m not questioning the method or even the concept, it actually reminds me of mood boards. Its the implementation which winds me up.

Well my questions have been answered by some enterprising group of people.

Jessyink is the answer…

JessyInk, an open-source extension to the open-source SVG editor InkScape.

Perfect, so once I’ve created my master piece, its hopefully going to take a few more moments to turn it into something presentable. I’m not the only person to realise the power of this setup. Prezi vs JessyInk

The first time I heard about Prezi, I started looking for a possible equivalent in SVG, and I discovered that JessyInk was a pretty good candidate: it combines a Javascript library that deals with enabling simple navigation through a SVG document according to some conventions, with an extension to the fantastic InkScape SVG editor to make it possible to integrate effects, transitions and views from the editor itself.

But it wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I got confirmation that JessyInk now provides the tools needed to build Prezi-like effects, and so, when I was invited to talk on “W3C and the Social Web” at the 10th anniversary of the W3C Italian office I decided to give it a try to build my presentation.

The resulting “slides” were OK, but they clearly remain much more “slide-based” than what I would have done with Prezi.

A big reason for that is that JessyInk still uses slide as the basic unit for its operations – slides are based on Inkscape layers across which you can have transitions. This doesn’t encourage working on a completely 2D-based presentation, even though it allows fairly easily to zoom in and out in a particular slide.

So it looks like JessyInk might have a bright future in front of it. The presentations are not quite as free flowing as Prezi, but to be fair its a good compromise. Open source comes up with the goods, and what a true test of the power of Open source! Fantastic, where do I start!

Microsoft Joins W3C’s Scalable Vector Graphics Effort

Brendan sent me this one last week, shocking news that Microsoft are joining the SVG working group. To be honest I never thought it would ever happen but hell has somewhat frozen over.

“Microsoft is joining the World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C’s) Scalable Vector Graphics Working Group. The company announced its aim of improving future versions of the W3C’s scalable vector graphics (SVG) recommendation, currently at version 1.1. The nonprofit W3C’s SVG recommendation is a document that describes two-dimensional graphics processing using XML. The technology can be used for Web graphics, animation and user interfaces…

Lately, Microsoft has been leaning more toward standards compliance with its browser, especially with IE 8, which still lacks native SVG support. In particular, Microsoft contributed test cases to the W3C’s working group on cascading style sheets as it developed IE 8. In a statement, Microsoft suggested it plans to do more such work with the W3C: ‘Making the Web easier for developers continues to be important and we will continue to contribute to development of HTML5, along with other popular Web standards; and we bring a unique value—the rigor of modern software engineering to the process.

I am getting a little worried about SVG, as a lot of people are pushing not just Flash but VML and Canvas in front of SVG. Its incredible how little people know about SVG and vector graphics full stop.

SVG support in IE 7.2?

Don't know how I missed this in my aggregator but…

Microsoft publicly stated IE will have core engine support for SVG in IE7.x (most likely 7.2)

Honestly, I like to think this will happen, but I got a feeling there will be a clause. Something like support for SVG only works when using a XAML wrapper. Or you will need to enable it in the preferences somewhere.

But then worst that what I just wrote, it seems Microsofts Chris Wilson is stating that the above claim is bogus.

Actually, I did not state that IE7.X will have SVG support. I did say that I think SVG is gaining momentum as part of the interoperable web standards platform, and as such I expect we will add support for it in the future.

As for “IE7.2″ – I have not heard anyone inside or outside Microsoft say that, certainly not me. It’s a myth.

On the positive side, if Microsoft did some how suprise us all with SVG support, they would be joining the 2D vector graphics party. Firefox had SVG support ages ago now, Opera 9 just launched with even better SVG support and Safari Dev, Konqueror, Seamonkey, Camino and Amaya all have different levels of support for SVG.

Comments [Comments]
Trackbacks [0]

Inkscape is simply great software

Inkscape logo

I would just love to say, I upgraded my inkscape the other day because I needed to do something using vectors. In my younger days I would instantly use Adobe Illustrator but I really don't feel the need to any more. Inkscape 4.3 is as stable as a brick house (honestly never crashed ever, like previous versions) and although not quite working quite like illustrator. I'm really getting into the way it works now. I also felt so happy about Inkscape, that I decided to add my core but simple illustration to the openclipart project. You can see the whole thing here, till they move it. I provided the object under a public domain licence, so anyone can do what they like to it. I was tempted to do a whole range for XML, XSD, CSS, etc. But thought I'd leave it for now. But maybe one day soon I'll do it. It feel so good to beable to do this with opensource software.

You can't help but feel the tables are turning and there will be enough openclipart and applications like Inkscape to do everything in a opensource environment. Oh whoops, of course there already is. But these new crop like Inkscape, Firefox, Thunderbird, VLC, Koffice, Scribus, Openoffice, Gimp, etc really are getting the basics right and win market and mindshare. The google code thing has got me thinking that actually its time I started working with SVG a lot more like I use to. I mean there are people who can see it now and its growing as more browsers come out supporting SVG. Expect to see more inline SVG on this blog as time goes on. I dropped a SVG in this page just for testing purposes. Hey and what a great name for software? Inkscape. What more can I say, oh did I say how great the connector tool is? OMNIGrapple? Don't need it, I got Inkscape thank you very much.

The new Connector tool was used for a preliminary design of these flowcharts, when it was critical to keep items connected all the time while looking for the best layout. The flowchart lines were then edited with the Node tool.Diagrammers everywhere will find this tool invaluable. Connectors stay attached and automatically route to avoid marked objects as the drawing is updated. After the layout work is finished, connectors can be adjusted with the node tool.

Comments [Comments]
Trackbacks [0]

Google Using SVG

A few days ago Google released a series of statistics on the way in which HTML (and a few other things, such as HTTP and scripting) is used in the wild, wild Web. As in any good statistics report they have accompanying graphical charts. The interesting aspect in this instance is that those charts are available only in SVG.

You will need a recent version of either Firefox, Opera, an SVG-enabled Safari build or Konqueror to see them, apparently due to minor markup issues that prevent IE and/or ASV from working. It certainly is interesting to see a major web site such as Google use SVG for live Web content. SVG support moving away from plugins and into browsers does appear to have the effect of helping it edge its way into the mainstream.

I thought about this the other day when looking through the fantastic series of Google Statistics. Good to see SVG used by a huge company like Google. I mean it makes sense to put the graphs in SVG format, but its a calculated risk on Googles part. And looks to have paid off, because I've not seen many people make a fuss about not seeing the graphs. Actually looking around the web svg is really starting to become a reality for general web use. It reminds me to check out the Canvas element and HTML 5 which were both mentioned at the last geekdinner with Dave Shea.

Comments [Comments]
Trackbacks [0]

Firefox 1.5 now out but with limited SVG support

Firefox 1.5 released

Firefox 1.5 is released, hooray! And its the same as Firefox 1.5 RC3 which I've been using for a while now, hooray again… But not with full support for SVG 1.1 Full, Tiny or Basic profiles. This is a crying shame but still marks another step forward for SVG on the desktop. The full version which supports SVG is still in development and should be available in Firefox 3 according to SVG news. At least SVG is doing much better in the mobile space, almost 100 phones and counting.

If you want to see whats possible with Firefox 1.5 and SVG, do check out the Canvas painter demos which are poping up everywhere. Vladimir has a link to the best ones.

Comments [Comments]
Trackbacks [0]

The opening keynote from SVG Open

Taken from Kurt Cagle's presentation at SVG Open 2005The Future of SVG and the Web

I think a few of us (okay, maybe all of us) wish that this process was going faster, but its worth putting things into perspective. Two years ago, I had to explain to most programmers I worked with what SVG was. A year ago, I had to explain to most non-programmers I worked with what SVG was. Today, companies are hiring SVG developers, SVG is on our phones, is moving into our browsers, is appearing in embedded display systems on our trains and planes. This did not happen in a vacuum. It occurred because you took the message of SVG, of open standards, into your workplace, into your schools, into your government offices.

And thats the only the start. Kurt later runs through different points which he feels add to the changing landscape of the net. One of the key points I feel is his one about the rise of domain experts and platform independence.

Rise of Domain Experts, Not Programmers. XGUI based systems separate the abstract representation of applications from their implementation, which means that increasingly (likely using tools) specialized programmers will be replaced by domain expert non-programmers. This is already happening in fields like GIS. GUIs for designing such XGUI applications will similarly look more like flash editing tools or web layout tools with a few “access points” into scripting exceptions than they will complex IDEs. This doesn't make programmers obsolete, but it does increasingly push them into a component developer role.

Data/Platform/Language Independence. XML is increasingly abstracting the form of data access, turning complex and arcane queries (and updates) against LDAP servers, SQL databases, web services, mail services and so forth away from dissonant technologies and towards common XML ones. XML based XGUIs abstract the underlying platform interfaces and turn them increasingly into XML-oriented virtual machines that can degrade gracefully in the face of more limited capabilities, and makes such religious issues as Java vs. C++ vs. C# vs. flavor of the month language irrelevant – you use what works on the system to implement the abstraction. This doesn't eliminate the need for software – you still need to have those component implementations, and many of them may be extraordinarily complex and specialized in the back end, but it goes a long way toward eliminating the need for re-engineering the 90% of actions that we still do using the web now, from gaming to e-commerce to communication.

I have to say this is key! XSLT is so powerful once your able to get everything down to a XML level. Proprietary ways are moving aside while bridge applications are being used to open the data into XML. I actually remember when I first started using Cocoon and my fear was that there would not be enough XML sources to really make use of its ability. Boy was I wrong. I'm seeing lots of new web API's built on a RESTful interface, Bridge Apps for IM, email, newsgroups and even operating system information stored and generated in XML. SVG adoption has indeed been slow but its growing and it will be just another common place namespace.

Its well worth reading the whole of Kurts entry yourself, I actually found it quite moving….

Comments [Comments]
Trackbacks [0]