Archive for the ‘technology’ Category

The eroding of our accents due to technology

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

Now I’m the most positive future of tech person around so I decided to do an Andrew Keen type post about some odd things I’ve noticed. Accents are important. Identity, even if a construct, readily uses accents. It tells people where I’m from or it can be used to hide where I’m from. The old joke about going home to top-up the accent is like many jokes, based on reality. You can trust, let down your guard, get turned on, get scared, get aggressive with someone from an accent alone. So what if modern technology forces us to speak in a certain way?

Already we have kids with American and British twangs because of Disney shows and Ben Ten. But they’ll move back into the localised accents over time. Maybe. Hopefully maybe. Now in fairness they’ve been saying that about kids accents ever since One and Two channel land first imported TV shows and to a little degree the words we used and the sounds they make has changed because of this. Language and accents evolve too and naturally so. Stan Carey is the person for all of this and more.

However, with the increase in interactions in verbal ways with technology, what will become of our accents and the way we structure sentences? Today we have to change the way we interact and how we intonate what we say to keep the machine happy. Smooth down a Scottish accent to keep your iPhone happy. Talk like a mid-Atlantic DJ for Siri to figure out that we’re directing them to phone Mam.

Listen to how Siri is pretty condescending to James. It suggests you’re the fool here James, not it.

Everyone is going to have a smart mobile device in the next 5 years and the amount of non-touchscreen interactions is going to increase drastically. So human to machine verbal interactions are going to explode. We have all seen the video of the baby trying to swipe pages on a magazine. What with a world of human to computer chatting?

I got thinking about this piece you’re reading when watching (don’t laugh) Pound Shop Wars when a machine tells operators in a giant stock warehouse to go collect items. They interact with the big machine in the sky and they end up talking in their sleep in the language the machine accepts. The machine does not learn, it does not adapt, you turn for it. The machine sounds like a tape recorder being fast forwarded. It’s far from the computer in Her.


Irony that they then subtitled the workers.

Reminds me of the droids in Star Wars (the shit one):

We have a bit to go however when the same machines have no idea what they themselves are saying:

Interesting few years ahead of us with this. And again with everyone in the world having a mobile companion, it will impact the whole world.

Now if each phone was a mullti-million dollar device… Scary scary scary

Remember when a hard drive from IBM was the size of a room? The above is maybe 10 to 15 years away. Will our language hold to then? I wonder will France, cos it has to be France, put a ban on the Siris of the world?

Ready. Roger Roger.

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A natural high from building/making/writing

Thursday, January 16th, 2014

Without quoting the whole thing:

I wonder how many of you will read this piece in one sitting – it’s only 844 words long.

You’re fucking swimming in everyone else’s moments, likes, and tweets and during these moments of consumption you are coming to believe that their brief interestingness to others makes it somehow relevant to you and worth your time.

The high from making something, even if it’s a blog post is such a reward. Nice 2014 call to arms around creativity.

What Would Google Do … with robots

Monday, January 6th, 2014

So the world or a tiny subset of the world that has the time to be interested in things about robots, had multiple double takes when Google bought Boston Dynamics, the military robot maker. It turns out that Google has been very busy buying robotics companies, not just Boston Dynamics.

Google has always been about using algorithms to replace humans or at least automating tasks. via Forbes:

A little more specifically, the New York Times has noted, Page has “argued that technology should be deployed wherever possible to free humans from drudgery and repetitive tasks.”

What work do humans in Google do right now? What cerebral and physical tasks can be replaced?

Book Scanning
All these books published and printed and not a single digital copy. Libraries of books that could be scanned in and shared with humanity. Of what Google scans in, they need operators of scanning machines since books are not uniform in size and texture. You can spot hands in some of the scans like this blog talks about.

GoogleBookScanFingers

A standard machine could never do this but a robot could. And Google book scanners are not classed as real Google employees it seems. Just waiting for robot replacements.

Data Centre Work
While Google data centres are mostly about servers and don’t need humans, they still need humans and humans need to be catered for in data centres. Google data centres run hot, higher temperatures mean less money and energy spent on cooling. Google data centres are efficient enough and they have staff in shorts and t-shirts in there because they run warm. Humans are probably a bottle-neck in custom made data centres.

Aisles are made for humans to fit in so they can swap out failing equipment. Bottle neck. Google spent $1.9 billion buying the old New York Port Authority which just happens to be a location for the best fibre connections in America. Kevin Slavin in his TED talk about algorithms talked about Skyscrapers in New York being gutted to house data centres. Imagine how inefficient one of these would be because of the shape and because of catering for humans. If Google made skyscraper data centres like Japanese automated car parks though:

Fires need oxygen to keep going, as do humans. Eliminating oxygen in data centres is a good way to stop fires spreading but you can’t have humans then. Robots are cool though, right? One wonders can you have oxygen free data centres?

Mapping and live traffic reports
Obvious section this. Mapping seems obvious since Google already has cars and trikes going around the place (and even people with backpacks). Google already does driverless cars. So drones. And low and behold the FAA now are allowing trials of pilotless drones. No more traffic helicopters thanks to Google traffic drones. Helicopter pilots are very expensive and not that common, many are ex-military because you need so many thousands of flying hours to fly commercial.

Google Infrastructure
Google needs data centres all around the world. As developing countries boot up and become more web connected, more data centres will need to be deployed. Remember the idea of Google dropping shipping containers that were data centres to spots that needed them?

As the wildest and most far flung parts of the world become flattened and connected, they’ll need data centres. They’ll also need infrastructure for those data centres. Why not use drones, driverless vehicles and robots to build them out and to connect them? On that, reliability is important too so having drones guard your electricity supply and repair it is also important. Humans do this today:

Or this:

Don’t forget underwater cable repair too!

Hardware Manufacturing
Remember that Google is now a hardware company as well. They own Motorola and all the hardware parts of that. They seem to be making a loss year after year with it but making the hardware section more efficient with robots could be something good. If they were to take their expertise at making processes more efficient then their hardware factories and partner factories could in theory pump out high quality smartphones like the Moto X and newer versions of Google Glass that don’t cost over €1500 a pair.

RobotDroid – What if
Despite working on mobile possibly longer than Apple, Google were way behind with their mobile initiative and are still playing catch up with Apple on this. The idea of making an operating system open source (to a degree) and free to use has made Android the number one Internet operating system out there and more Android phones than Apple phones are being sold. Apple phones still seem to be used more and for higher value purposes.

So maybe this time when robots and drones will eventually become mainstream, Google wants to be out the gap first and have the momentum and be the main platform for building robots on? All those robots and drones with sensors that feed into Google services. All that information. Apple are always good at coming into a market late and taking the higher end of said market and then going lower into it but Apple may not be the dominant force in the robot world, they’re still a consumer company. Probably going to be a while before consumers use robots.

This is a Google robot:

Maybe too far
Airdrops of 3d printers for what, I don’t know. News robots in war zones. instructional robots. Google Robot Dog Tracks. Remember too that Google has often given away IP and knowledge if it makes the world more efficient which helps Google be more efficient. They bought Urchin, turned it into Google Analytics and gave it away for free. So there could be something in that too.

Lastly, Robots are just fucking cool, Google can afford to play with expensive but fun things.

Link without fear – Copyright in Ireland in a Digital Age

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013

The main report from the Copyright Review Committee has been released. Read the full PDF of it here.

The whole thing is worth a few reads. Well done to Patricia McGovern, Eoin O’Dell and Steve Hedley for writing something readable by practitioners and the general public too. Irish copyright Law hasn’t moved with the times but this report moves it into the 21st century and will ensure it is a little bit future proofed.

Lots of good recommendations but the main ones for me are:

  • Linking is ok.
  • Photos: Nicking and modifying them (including Metadata) is bad
  • DRM: DRM is fine but shitty DRM is not fine and a user has a right to not be hampered
  • Marshalling should be allowed to some degree.
  • Orphaned Works are being recognised.
  • Fair Use will come to pass.
  • Data mining is fine too.
  • Recognition of the multiple media devices every person/family has.

Linking
Says they:

Interconnectedness by linking is at the very heart of the internet. However, links simply convey that something exists; but they do not, by themselves, publish, reproduce or communicate its content.

The group recommends that it should not be an infringement of copyright to reproduce a very small snippet of the linked work reasonably adjacent to the link. Snippet = no more than either 160 characters or 2.5% of the work, subject to a cap of 40 words.

However if you link to something that infringes copyright and you do this knowingly then you can be seen as an infringer. Exceptions for education will already apply and here too for news/media types who are doing reporting and point out bad behaviour.

If a news site wishes to expose sites that stream pirated films or music, it would be unworkable if it could not say where those sites are, and the “public interest exception” would allow the news site to do so without fear of infringing
copyright.

(My reading of this is as a news org you can basically make yourself a directory of pirate movies/software?)

Photos
More protection for photographers. Encouragement of using metadata and someone that messed with the metadata is seen as an infringer.

we recommend not only that copyright protection be extended to metadata, but also that its removal should amount to an infringement of copyright

DRM
They have nothing against DRM however if it’s shitty DRM, they are forgiving of someone that breaks it to be able to do what they have a right to do with it (Listen on other devices, different device etc.)

we also recommend that users should have an effective remedy where the technological protection measures prevent a user from performing an exception permitted by the legislation

Orphaned Works
When you don’t know who owns a work and you want to repurpose it or remix it or use swathes of it. Up to now you had to find the person who owned the rights, if you didn’t then you had to hold off doing anything. Limbo. Instead now:

Any person seeking to make use of an orphan work, where the rightsowner genuinely cannot be identified or located, will have to seek a licence from the Agency subject to a fee to be paid to the Agency to be paid on to any rightsowner who is subsequently identified or located.

Marshalling
Marshalling is: indexing, syndication, aggregation, and curation of online content. For me this covers sites that aggregate news or basically rewrite copy from news sites like the Irish Times/Indo. You can in essence now reproduce 160 characters or 40 or words less. This may spell some trouble for some organisations.

Caricature, Parody, Pastiche, and Satire
All allowed. Game on.

Data Mining is go.

very significant social benefits stand to be gained from content-mining, and in particular to be gained from a copyright exemption in favour of content-mining for non-commercial research.

Fair Use
I like this :

On the advantages and disadvantages of fair use, there was a great deal of anecdote, but not much by way of determinative evidence.

Media in your timeline – The GIF Economy

Monday, July 29th, 2013

Media Producers, you need to up your multimedia game.

It’s amazing to see the GIF have a resurgence in the past few years, with the past 18 months especially interesting.

Some media producers are adapting and adopting it, most have no clue of the value of short multimedia content.

Twitter’s Vine video app, where you create six second videos uses the GI format. I notice that GMail is now supporting GIFs in emails. When I get emails now from General Assembly, their images can be animated:
General Assembly email

This multimedia piece on the Silk Road via train from the New York Times is beautiful, useful and it’s going to be very hard for the likes of the Huffington Post or BuzzFeed to rip that off. Note the use of large images, a subtle background and 15 second video/gifs to share information. Look at the way the photos have a line going to the map that moves as you scroll. Wow.

Timelines:
And why GIFs and short videos now? Tumblr is certainly a reason, this talk from SXSW suggests so. Them, IMGur and Reddit were the driving forces and I guess it became apparent that even a short GIF is dense with information. It’s all in the game yo or all about the uninterrupted timeline yo. Our lives are revolving around timelines. The Twitter timeline/feed, the Facebook timeline.

We spend more time in the timeline and less time elsewhere. This journey through constant hits of information seems to mean we don’t want to be pulled away from it for too long. Continuous partial attention. Not sure how well researched the six second video length from Vine is but it works very well. Short enough to not distract me from the work of scrolling down, long enough to add a lot of rich context that conditions me to know this format is worth looking at again.

Richer data please
When time is precious, we want richer data. As in the education/learning industry, text can work to pass on information but sights, sounds and text allows us to learn faster as we can process more data. Text is good, text with images is better, text, images and sound is better again. Video is better than images alone. Vine shows this and now Instagram video. We all know changing the angle in a photo can change the message entirely because we only have so much context. A very short video is immensely better than a photo of the same thing.

Vines are 6 seconds, Instagrams are 15 seconds. Vines auto-play and loop. Instagram videos are rumoured to auto-play in Facebook timelines soon and oh, how funny, Facebook will be unveiling a new 15 second video ad format that auto-plays in a timeline. Slide 12 and slide 18 from Mary Meeker’s state of the net slidedeck shows the surge in video consumption and production. Vine is doing well too.

Consider how much text is needed to explain this 5 second video?

Tying shoes

So videos are best? Well, maybe not. We don’t have the time for long videos if the game is shorty snappy bursts of information. It’s suggested that your marketing or otherwise video needs to be short to maintain attention. I think Twitter and Facebook has distorted this and pushed this way down. Quick, rich data please. Vine is being used a lot now.

We’ve moved from text and a few photos to videos, away from videos to infographics, to short videos and GIFs. People might be really put off a timeline in Facebook or Twitter that looks like Lings Cars but 1 billion dollar Tumblr shows that certain demographics don’t mind it too much.

Hopefully more media outlets will embrace these new formats from infographics (becoming a bit too abused) to Vines/Instavideos to GIFs. I’m not a sports fan but now and then read sports news, I’ve spent time marveling at great goals displayed as GIFs on Backpage Football as I want the money shot as quickly as possible so I can go back to things that might interest me more. Finally, the best thing about GIFs is I don’t need flash, I don’t (yet) see shitty overlay ads on them, I don’t have issues with plugins crashing or chugging along videos not fully loading.

Backpage Football

Via la GIF.

I found the following two pieces after writing this that are worth checking out. One from Kathleen Sweeney and one from The New Yorker.

Figure 1 – Crowd sourcing medical knowledge

Tuesday, June 18th, 2013

Came across an iPhone app (US Store only) for Doctors to share (with consent) patient ailment pics called Figure 1.

Take a pic, share it, get feedback. You find some very gorey things, like brains at an autopsy, severed fingers etc. Or this one:
Figure1Pic1

Or when Doctors share the shoddy work of other Doctors, you may get worried:
Figure1Pic2

Fun times.

What is porn site juggernaut Manwin doing in Ireland?

Sunday, May 26th, 2013

To save you from reading the whole post: They make mobile apps. Apps to download porn, gambling apps and viral video viewing apps.

Today the Indo had a piece on porn company Manwin and their Irish setup. The Irish Times also did this story a few months back.

The bit that interested me was them not saying what they do here:

Manwin refused to comment in detail on what it does here or to discuss whether it had located here in part for tax purposes.

“Manwin is a private company and accordingly, matters pertaining to its operations are treated in the same manner,” the spokesperson said.

If you did some LinkedIn searches however, you’d find a number of people who work for Manwin.

This is their CEO for Ireland.

Now there’s a games company in Dublin called Super Hippo Studios that never mentions they’re owned by Manwin on their site. But some of the Super Hippo Studios staffers confirm the Manwin link on their LinkedIn profiles:

Staff1Manwin

and:
QALeadManwin

A search of the CRO and we find out…
Super Hippo Studios Registered Office:
1St Floor
Riverview House
21/23 City Quay
Dublin 2
Ireland

Which is the same registered address as Manwin Ireland.

And Super Hippo acknowledge on GameDevelopers.ie who their owner is but point out that they don’t do anything around porn:

Game Developers Ireland Manwin

Anyway, Super Hippo (who we now know is owned by Manwin) tweeted about some of their games.

One is a Trivia game. On iTunes the publisher is registered as another company, yet again – Mirmay Limited.

TriviaPics

and a lookup of them on Duedil tell us…

Registered Office:
1st Floor
Riverview House
21/23 City Quay
Dublin 2
Ireland

Same address for the Manwin companies and Super Hippo, this is just a firm that does all of these registrations but, still, all using the same company to reg.

And some of their other “apps” include this one that hints at it being used to download video content from “tubes” sites and to hide away the content then: “The app allows you to easily download media from free tubes and other media sites to your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch. ”

Tubes, hmm. And going back to Manwin wikipedia page: “Manwin is the owner of many major pornographic web 2.0 websites including YouPorn, Pornhub, Tube8, XTube, ExtremeTube

Apple is very anti-porn so one can’t say directly on an ITunes listing that an app is for porn as it might be banned. This app was only recently updated: May 20, 2013.

And so a further twist, another of the games made by Mirmay/Super Hippo/Manwin is called Video Bash.

The app and website mentions Clayden Holding Ltd, owned by the owner of Manwin, though they say registered in Cyprus but a record I found said that company was dissolved in Cyprus. Here is the Canadian listing.

And finally, a gambling game made by them, Golden Slots Casino.

Fairly convoluted structure.

Indistinguishable from magic

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013

Think it, and the iPhone probably can do it. Using the gyro in an iPhone to make the phone turn by itself when standing. Video and below that the video of what it sees:

Ones to watch in 2013

Tuesday, January 1st, 2013

Here are my 2012 Ones to Watch.

Play and read, if you want, this is from the film Holy Motors:

2012 was European Year of Older People telling younger people to cop themselves on, or something like that.

2013 is going to be the year of the younger person. Well, this list is certainly suggesting this. Oh yes, the new phrase is “younger person” as marketing people have redefined youth to be anyone 35 and younger. Technology has enabled ubiquitous communications, we’ve heard this for a decade now but in 2012 we really saw/heard the voice of younger people push the older (mostly male) grey haired “authorities” to the side. 2012 saw dealmaking in music for Soak, a wee teenager from Derry and a deal for The Strypes, the youngfellas from Cavan and they have a good few years before school ends. Another Irish “Stripe” is the Collison-fueled payments startup in San Francisco that already seems to be David to Paypal’s Goliath.

Technology has made geography easier, we can work from home when home can be a boat on a different continent. So many people not at home for Christmas checked into home with Skype and Facetime video calls. Technology allows time-shifting so we can watch TV and consume media whenever we want. While I watched The Late Late Toy Show live from a laptop in Cardigan, Wales, many in America just watched it on Saturday morning (their time) thanks to RTÉ player. Technology can break down class barriers and allow anyone to play with the big boys if they have talent.

Technology now is making age less of an issue, whether it’s older people logging on to Facebook encouraging their grandkids to give cheek to parents and playing good cop to their bad cop, or younger people taking part in events and building companies. Online has broken down the ringfences around demographics. Now 70 year olds can talk about crocheting with 18 year olds on the other side of the planet or turn up to tweet ups. I’m biased and bearish on this of course but the inter-democratic and inter-generational data that’s being exchanged enriches our society. 20 year olds are hanging with 50 year olds and they’re learning from each other. I love how Zuckerberg has absolute control of his public company thanks to older experienced people (and not yes-men) giving his advice. More of this.

Yet 2012 saw vulnerable people, many of them teens not have their voice heard or have someone let them know it’s ok to tell people if they’re feeling vulnerable. In this world of inter-connectedness and oversharing (personally think this is bullshit), people still meet barriers to check in with those that could be of help. There are still obstacles but things are getting better, the more we communicate. Anyway, shutting up and getting to the list:

Vincent Lyons and Ian Connolly
Them and Enda Crowley (who appeared before in this area) have been running Dubstarts in Dublin bringing tech people and tech companies together. Vincent is around 23 and Ian is 20 (awww). Networking events are crucial for any startup ecosystem to grow and flourish. Agenda fueled networking events won’t get the fun people, the creative people, the people who can make an impact. Dubstarts meets these criteria and helps companies hire in Dublin which for tech is a very aggressive hiring location.

Lyra Mckee
Lyra is 22 and properly causing a fuss in Northern Ireland with her tenacious, dogged, investigative journalism. When your supporters are pressured to shun you, you’re winning. Lyra is winning. What I like too is Lyra is blogging and tweeting as she goes, warts and all about her experiences. Won’t get that on a journalism course…

Conor Clinch
Conor has a lovely eye for detail. Thus why his photography skills are sought by many agencies and why he is now flying all over the shop to attend fashion shows. He built on his reputation in 2012 and I have a feeling that 2013 is going to be more of the same, except more. Impressive as it stands, even more so for the guy that’s only 17 a few days.

James Eggers
Sure didn’t James win a Web Award and before that a few Young Scientist Awards? James builds things and builds them well. BetterExaminations.ie is a lovely site that makes it much easier for students to find exam papers and the marking schemes for them. James likes to work with tech around big data, the current over-abused tech term by Government, like cloud before it but the actual applications for this are vastly important and it’s good to see people working on it. James and real-coders of his kind that can code at a professional level from a young age will impact on Ireland, whether the education system supports them or not. The Collisons below are such an example.

Marie Duffy
Now I’m biased as I’m on the board of Spunout and Marie was previously on the board and now works there. She’s a great communicator, has done wonders since she took over as Editor for Spunout and is creating a valued resource on all things young people related for Spunout. She was also in the States later in 2011 representing Irish people and hearing Bill Clinton and Kofi Annan talk away. Marie has always has strong interests in mental health issues for younger people and as Spunout comes out of their shell again after being in a cocoon for so long, her influence and work will make a great impact. Marie is 28.

The Collisons, all of them.
Again. Sure it’s not a list without them. All three this time. Patrick and John are about to flip the world of online payments upside down and deservedly featured on that Forbes under 30 list. What they do in Stripe is very real and is impacting on the world daily. Now we have Tommy (also mentioned before) finishing school and maybe heading to the States for college next year. Oh and at 18 has already self-published two books. They’re not over-achievers in my view, they’re just expanding out to use 100% of their talents.

Stephanie Francis
Actually Steph already announced she was leaving X Communications earlier in December. This post was in draft since November and she was on the list, I swear! Steph organises Crafthouse, worked in the talented X-Comms and did trojan work on the Book of Kells app. I expect her influence will be a very positive one for the Engine Yard team in 2013.

Token older person: Sean Blanchfield
He’s not old or really that older but compared to the quite young people on the list, he possibly could be classed as that. Seán has been supporting people and events including Dubstarts in the background for the past few years, being a very positive influence without seeking the attention and glory for it. There are lots of reasons why Dublin very much is a tech startup hub now and Seán is one.

Token older person and annual listee: Pat Phelan
See what I said for SB above. Pat is up to something, I can feel it in my bones. Plus he always makes this list and not adding him is bad luck. So what will Pat bring us in 2013?

Non-tech people:
Jack O’Keeffe and the other Young Chef’s. Coming to running a kitchen near you.

How Buildings Learn – Complete series online

Sunday, July 15th, 2012

Stewart Brand put his whole series online, for free and encourages people to remix it. Wiki page about it. Amazon book link.

Music by Brian Eno.

The series was based on my 1994 book, HOW BUILDINGS LEARN: What Happens After They’re Built. The book is still selling well and is used as a text in some college courses. Most of the 27 reviews on Amazon treat it as a book about system and software design, which tells me that architects are not as alert as computer people. But I knew that; that’s part of why I wrote the book.

Anybody is welcome to use anything from this series in any way they like. Please don’t bug me with requests for permission. Hack away. Do credit the BBC, who put considerable time and talent into the project.