Monthly Archives: April 2002

Reyner Banham was and is one of my heroes. Why? Why should you care? What the hell does he have to do with what we do?

Well, here’s a snippet from the publishers blurb about a new book on his work and theories:

“Trained in mechanical engineering and art history, he was convinced that technology was making society not only more exciting but more democratic.”

This is going to get bought as soon as possible…

» The MIT Press – Reyner Banham:
Historian of the Immediate Future by Nigel Whiteley

Tim O’Reilly’s says in his “Inventing the future” article [found via Mattw, Dan] is that:

“So often, signs of the future are all around us, but it isn’t until much later that most of the world realizes their significance. Meanwhile, the innovators who are busy inventing that future live in a world of their own. They see and act on premises not yet apparent to others. In the computer industry, these are the folks I affectionately call “the alpha geeks,” the hackers who have such mastery of their tools that they “roll their own” when existing products don’t give them what they need.

The alpha geeks are often a few years ahead of their time. They see the potential in existing technology, and push the envelope to get a little (or a lot) more out of it than its original creators intended. They are comfortable with new tools, and good at combining them to get unexpected results.”

The same sort of phenomenon is reported back from the front by those who study teens and young people’s use of media and technology.

Apple’s “Rip, Burn, Mix” refrain resonates with this attitude to media. We’ve talked about it’s technological equivalent, “Wombling” here before too.

We’re about to see the first generation of kids who entered secondary education when the Web broke (’95) leave college and enter the workplace. Won’t be too long before Homo Technophobis is in decline, and rapidly being replaced with Homo Infovorous (sorry for lousy latin).

Many jokes at the Baltimore ASIS conference about our generation and below “harnessing A.D.D.”… Been thinking about that since I read some William Gibson over the new year..

Will we as a profession/community of practice have to switch gears from “don’t make me think!” to “get the hell out of the way!”.

How do we do that? What will the design challenges be? Is it even likely to be a problem? What the hell am I talking about? Nurse Rached? Is that you?

» Tim O’Reilly “Inventing The Future”
» Interview with Tim O’Reilly by Steve Gilmour expanding on this article which includes this nice snippet:

“The hackers are already treating the Internet as this global data resource and they’re building Web services however they have to,” O’Reilly said. If a Web services interface is not available, they’ll use good old-fashioned screen-scraping. “They’ll download the page, figure out what data they want, and throw away the rest … sort of unauthorized, brute-force Web services.”

It’s what Tim likes to call the architecture of unintended consequences. “The original Internet made it possible for people to build independent services without knowing each other, without having to enter into a contract,” O’Reilly recalled.”

The Financial Times have aggregated their weekly Tuesday supplement “Creative Business” at a sensible URL at last.

It can be found at

It’s usually pretty focussed around the marketing industry and media ownership but alongside all that good general “landscape” stuff is the odd snippet about digital/interactive/network stuff that is revealing, e.g. this report on how next-generation mobile operators are trying to figure out how to charge people for forwarding multimedia messages around the “edge” of the network, to avoid a napsteresque fileswapping-free-lunch festival on 3g phones.

» Financial Times: Creative Business

My favourite piece of brand design at the moment happens to be for the BBC. Our new channel, BBC4 has channel branding by Lambie-Nairn that generates itself “live” using I assume some graphics algorithms that convert the announcers speech to form, colour and animation.

They are absolutely captivating.

BBC Four ident still

Saw Golan Levin‘s work at Voice02 which I’m sure must have been an influence for the designers at Lambie-Nairn. We hear so much from brand strategists and gurus that the nature of brand needs to be baked into everything a company produces, like DNA. Generating visual identity from dynamics encoded within an brand-algorithm seems to be the logical next step…

David Byrne’s “The New Sins” was shown by Dave Eggers at Voice02 and also poster-sized versions of the layouts were dotted around Circular Quay in Sydney Harbour over the new year.

This from Rick Poynor’s review of the tome in the current issue of “Eye” Magazine.

“Byrne has made astute use of graphic design, but that doesn’t stop him consigning designers, along with website managers and relief workers, to the upper levels of hell. ‘Their crime? Hubris. Their punishment? Equality. Everyone looks cool, fashionable and absolutely identical – well-dressed, handsome and completely boring. Everything is perfect and unbearable.”

» Eye Magazine: Rick Poynor reviews David Byrne’s “The New Sins”

Two snippets from a long and excellent interview on Salon with Meir “Manny” Lehman about his work into the evolution of software.

“As I like to say, software evolution is the fruit fly of artificial systems evolution,” Lehman says. “The things we learn here we can reapply to other studies: weapon systems evolution, growth of cities, that sort of thing.”

That Lehman conspicuously leaves out biological systems is just one reason why his profile has slipped over the last decade. At a time when lay authors and fellow researchers feel comfortable invoking the name of Charles Darwin when discussing software technology, Lehman holds back. “The gap between biological evolution and artificial systems evolution is just too enormous to expect to link the two,” he says.


“Whenever I talk, people start off with blank faces,” Lehman admits. “They say, ‘But you haven’t told us anything we didn’t already know.’ To that I say, there’s nothing to be ashamed of in coming up with the obvious, especially when nobody else is coming up with it.”

Heh heh heh.

» : A unified theory of software evolution: By Sam Williams

Further investigation needed. Definately.

“Teoma’s underlying technology is an extension of the HITS algorithm developed by researchers at IBM several years ago. In a nutshell, the search engine goes beyond traditional keyword and text analysis and seeks out “hubs” and “authorities” related to your query terms — a “social network” of related content that forms a “community” about the topic.

The cool thing about Teoma is that its community-seeking behavior is both query-specific, and happens in real time. “Whenever you type in a query, we’re actually looking for the communities after you type the query,” said Paul Gardi, Teoma’s Vice President of Search. “We’re using a method called dynamic rank, because there’s a lot of information you can learn about that page by its friends.”

Teoma’s approach differs from Google’s, which uses a similar, but more static ranking system. It’s also unlike the approach taken by Northern Light and other engines that classify web pages based on pre-defined categories.

“We’re going into the communities, finding the link structure of the community using text structure as well,” said Gardi.”



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