Making more morlocks

Andy Hertzfeld on Chandler:

“We have a commitment to lowering the bar for scripting by using a graphical front-end for scripting. The hard part of programming has traditionally been keeping the universe of possibilities in their head, but programming is actually pretty constrained. We want to have a graphic front-end to the script so that users don’t have to keep in their head all the vocabulary, all the verbs. (Audience interruption: Like Frox? A: Yeah, like Frox, which was a project I worked on a long time ago. I actually think of it more like Hypercard. It’s a shame that the state of the art is now 15 years old.) Users should be able to basically select things from menus to write scripts, instead of having to be a programmer.”

This is great. Downloaded Squeak and was taken-aback to see a shrinkwrapped copy of Hypercard at the Apple store last week… Correct me if I’m wrong, but here’s little or no “consumer”-friendly programming applications or langauages being offered, let alone pushed these days?

How can we work to drop the barriers to being a builder? Alan Kay referenced Seymour Papert in his talk and came up with this great line:

“point of view is worth 80 IQ points”

…in relation to idea that it’s far easier to learn how the world works by building models of it.

Mentioned the idea of B-Logo before, perhaps it’s time to think harder about it.

After all the BBC sponsored the development of a programming language once before…

“Over-strength, over-regulated and over here”

Two from the <a href=”;Financial Times’ Creative Business section

John Howkins on intellectual property:

“There’s a dual problem. At the beginning of the creative process we want to scavenge without hindrance, picking up ideas from everywhere and re-working them. We want the public domain to be vast and to have the imagination’s equivalent of the ramblers’ right to roam. Then, as we shape our ideas, we want to claim them as our own and sell and license them to whoever will buy.”

FT Creative Business: Balancing right and reason: John Howkins

Howkins mentions an event on May 21st discussing such things, with anarchists and revolutionaries such as Lord Bell, Alan Yentob, and The Rt Hon Lord Heseltine CH. Expect fireworks!

Secondly, Patrick Barwise of the London Business School on PVRs, and the structural change wrought by technology on the media which has been discounted post-bubble:

“The first PVRs were launched in the US in 1999 by TiVo and ReplayTV, two Silicon Valley start-ups. The initial response was a lot of media hype, excitement among the digerati and some hysteria in the TV advertising world. Then the dotcom bubble burst, only about 17 people bought PVRs and everyone lost interest.

But there are three key facts about PVRs which mean the respite is only temporary.

First, once someone has lived with a PVR for more than a few days, they never go back to live TV and a VCR as their only means of time-shifting. This degree of commitment suggests PVRs will be hugely successful once more consumers understand the benefits’ essentially being able to watch what you want, when you want ? which are relevant to anyone with a TV, not just technology freaks.

Second, those who have adopted PVRs use them a lot. Estimates vary, but some studies suggest that as much as 70 per cent of their viewing is off the PVR rather than live. By contrast, in VCR households, only 1 per cent of viewing is time-shifted because it takes so much effort. And where someone watches a time-shifted programme, they tend to skip the commercials. Again, estimates vary but, typically, someone watching off the PVR skipsĀ half the commercials, usually more.

Third, PVRs are increasingly being incorporated into cable and satellite set-top boxes and marketed by platform owners such as EchoStar in the US and Canal Plus in France. US penetration is already close to 2 per cent and is forecast to reach 30 per cent within five years. With heavyweight marketing, word-of-mouth and, perhaps, lower prices, the market is poised for take-off.

There seems to be a received wisdom on the faliure of Tivo in the UK and by extension the PVR as a class of device which predominates at the moment amongst the Tristrams* of broadcasting. “Ding-dong, the timeshifting witch is dead”. Media planners are not so sanguine. The structural change of the last five years has been masked by the bust and the market data, but not the studies of actual use by actual people as is shown above.

Mike Tyson saved my arse

At EtCon. Editing the slides for the talk that James and I are going to give this afternoon about the use of ethonography to drive a social software project, the backlight on the screen of my powerbook suddenly gave out.

The tech support, at the conference saved my life. The gave me an old monitor for the night to connect as an external screen so I could continue working. The hero of the hour gave me his business card. Looked at it this morning, and his name is Mike Tyson.


Hydra as telepresence tool

At Etcon. Three tracks of talks (I was watching Tom Coates: more later). Via Wifi/Rendevous, was able to use Hydra to see who is taking notes of other talks in other rooms.

There are a couple of other pieces of software available to have a social discussion online while in the conference spaces (confab, intro, and an IRC channel to name a few) but the unintended consquences of Hydra in a wifi’d-conference situation compared to them is that you can tell who’s actually listening to the person on stage – and their level of investment in listening/annotating, rather than who’s talking, snarking and joking with each other (not to say this is a bad thing.)

Stephen Johnson wrote about how a parallel wifi-world can suck the laughter out of the real-world discussion. I’m starting to think that a “too-parallel”/non-real-world meshed communications environment can suck too much of the attention out of a room too. I’ve only used Confab, so I can’t talk about the experience of using Intro, and it is enmeshed with the real-world, but it’s bound tightly to the hotel map, to the geography of the space, rather than to the subject-matter of what’s being discussed in the space.

The Hydra model points to an “augmented-reality” conference experience, where the task-oriented nature of the tool keeps those it gathers together immersed in the real-world.

Diff, pt2

Last night attended the Social Software BOF, where talk of the philosophy, implications, social-science, human-centred side of the field or practice was dismissed in favour of the “meat”: protocols, standards, technology.

The rage has subsided, kinda. Alan Kay’s humane, humanist view of innovation and technological exploration has cheered me up no-end.

Clay is about to speak on the subject of “a group being it’s own worst enemy”… in the meantime here’s Will Davies on the trivial problem of human nature and societal implications of social-software which, as I’ve now been informed by last night, needs no attention by those working on emerging technologies.

A sweeping generalisation, but it seems the discussion in the field in the UK seems to be much more driven by the social sciences and concerns of human(e) and inclusive design; even by the technologists.