Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Biological subroutines

Mindhacks coins in this post the name 'biological subroutines' referring to the opportunities in which software apps use humans to do tasks that would be too hard for computers to do. This crescent trend is limited to temporal timelines as computers will learn how to do things that today are "too hard" for them today sooner or later, such as to read captchas.
I love this name!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Kiva.org, Loans that change lives

"Kiva lets you connect with and loan money to unique small businesses in the developing world. By choosing a business on Kiva.org, you can "sponsor a business" and help the world's working poor make great strides towards economic independence. Throughout the course of the loan (usually 6-12 months), you can receive email journal updates from the business you've sponsored. As loans are repaid, you get your loan money back."

This was very exciting to see!
What a great idea, implementation and outcome for this website that is already changing the lives of many entrepreneurs in the developing world. They seem to have a network of physical partners established in the countries where it operates that legitimizes borrowers personally which is a key part of what they do.

Collective tagging for corportate apps


I was catching up with a lag on my feeds read when I found on TechCrunch a review on Wesabe that caught my eye.

They seem to have a little feature that might make a whole difference to the end user: "when enough users tag a specific merchant, that tag is automatically added as a suggestion to your transaction.". Any user that ever had to tag transactions would recognize immediately this feature and beg to have it.

Wesabe is totally commited to web and also has nice innovative features as far as security saving sensitive information locally:
"Unlike other services, we do NOT ask you to enter your bank or credit card passwords into our web site. Instead, we offer a unique feature — a software program that runs on your computer and keeps your passwords safe, encrypted on your local drive."

It looks like the web 2.0 is slowly but surely transcending the hyped public web applications and reaching the corporate applications world in a very useful way.

Ironic: Google reader has no search

Isn't that ironic? I get very frustrated because I know I read something on one of my Google Reader feeds but can't remember which one, so naturally I look for the search tool, but it doesn't exist!

I'm probably one of the few users that forgets where I read something :|

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Vista: Oops I did it again!


After laughing at my co-worker Daniel for months on his Vista's related sufferings: Man, I told you! Ha! That's vista! There you go! ha! ...

Now, it's my turn, I knew it! I knew it!! but still couldn't help it but ended up getting my new Sony notebook with Vista and voila! It even laughs at myself telling me: "Take a deep breath, so and so is not working". My Outlook 2007 is still not responding since I started the computer early this morning, I can't believe it, I can't kill the b...!! End Task, end process, close app, shutdown ... I didn't try a hammer yet, but nothing seems to work. It drives me crazy.

I'll say on my defense that I didn't have much of a choice because of GeneXus and Visual Studio (didn't feel comfortable enough on remote desktopp-ing these two and wanted one unique op sys) and in Vista's defense that it has a lot nice little tools. Especially one diagnostic tool that seems to realize the problem I'm having is because it can't handle to come back from sleep in relation with my verizon modem and it suggests that I call Microsoft to get a fix (not to download a fix, to call a phone number to get a fix, haven't done it yet). Otherwise I might need to switch my Verizon subscription to Cingular which is built-in.

Technology's evolutionary hacking: outsourcing


During the last couple days I've been participating of a metaphysical discussion, and as a result I ended up rounding up couple thoughts on evolution that I had going for a while.

One of them is about the life hacking breakthrough of technology compared with biological life which is: outsourcing! Outsourcing of what? mainly energy management and reproduction. By outsourcing energy management, technology doesn't have to worry about the whole thing of finding what to eat, eating it, digesting it, producing energy out of the eaten thing and eliminating waste. By outsourcing reproduction, machines don't need to worry about finding/attracting mates, mating, actual reproduction, they just need to worry about being replaceable both as parts and as a total. What about breathing? we could say that system is kind of still in place in terms of consuming electricity non-stop, they need electricity as we need air. What about thinking? That's an interesting one, a lot to discuss here, probably need to come back to this one ;) Inmune system and other body related functions outsourcing? not sure on this one ... antivirus already exist for computers ...

Of course outsourcing has a major setback, when you outsource your dependability on others increases dramatically. This anyway is a characteristic of biological life itself, the more specialized the specie is the longer the baby will be totally dependent on its parents, so this characteristic would kind of a tendency in nature too.

Part of my theory is that in most evolutive paths there's a great likelihood that evolution will sooner or later find this hacking way of outsourcing and become technology in symbiosis with biological life.
Other discussions to follow are regarding the independence degree technology might be able to achieve from biological life. (singularity point, etc.)

What's the obvious advantage of outsourcing? Save energy, let the specialists outside take care of problems, reuse of solutions, all the ones we know from IS and IT outsourcing. But, in a deeper level, comparing with biological life, the incredible advantage of outsourcing is to be able to concentrate on thought. A computer is just a brain with memory and I/O devices (perceptions/communications). It's the Cartesian dream, I think therefore I exist.

Most of this thoughts were motivated by Kevin Kelly's question: what does technology want? One of the greatest questions of this time to be asked.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Let's party ... the left brain is sleepy

In my own experience there seems to be a great creativity potential that can be tapped by diminishing the power of the right brain.
There is a whole evolutionary "theory" about it by the holder of the current sleepiness record (although like Ed noted, the guy seemed to be going to sleep most of the time of the experiment).

Without buying too much into this theory, my modest experimentation totally confirms two things:
1. I do have bursts of creative thought as soon as I deprive myself of a little bit of sleep (and I do enjoy those a lot!, can't deny healthy natural highs like this ;)
2. The full potential of the brain can be mostly accomplished by suppressing processes instead of creating new ones. This is a confirmation of Marvin Minsky's theory of the mind which I deeply admire. More on this to come on future post as I advance on his latest book about emotions.

General consensus on what the two brains are about:

Left Brain
Logical
Sequential
Rational
Analytical
Objective
Looks at parts
Rigth Brain
Random
Intuitive
Holistic
Synthesizing
Subjective
Looks at wholes

The parts vs. wholes thing reminds me of a story my friend Skooby told me about a book he read describing an experiment that made evident how different occidental and oriental perceptions on a same experience are. Maybe the explanation on this could be that orientals are more right brained and occidentals are more left brained ...

Update: Also it's said that music connects both hemispheres ... I like to believe this is true.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Autosave in blogger


Don't you love this feature?


This is to me the kind of thing that adds to the desktop feeling in a web environment.
It detects when changes were made and enables/disables the save button at the same time that it autosaves every few minutes.
Way to go!

Should I include the typical comment on: How could GeneXus include such a feature? :)

Freebase and the Relational Web

Image from www.mediateletipos.netWhen thinking about the evolution of the web some time ago I came to call the current era of the web the "Relational Web".
Recently we have seen a series of interesting mashup tools arise with Yahoo Pipes, Microsoft Popfly and Google Mashup Editor.
All these mashup tools allow you to connect web sources providing new interfaces to them. Then, in a way the web itself becomes a huge relational database, or does it?
Here's where Metaweb with their product Freebase comes in brilliantly into the picture to provide the Relational Web with it's formal unique centralized Relational Web Database. Now, we have a complete picture of the Relational Web, as we start mashing up all this web sources together there will be an increased need of storing things on a centralized web way. At least, we need to consider this as a possible evolutionary path that makes a lot of sense. I love the way things are always like on two sides of a coin: centralized vs. distributed (and good luck to you when tossing it out). As not always things are black or white ... it looks like the Relational Web + it's Relational Web Database might provide the best of both worlds.
So, with all this said, I was surprised that there seem to be no easy way to build mashups on top of Freebase, although maybe it's just my ignorance about them having an RSS and in believing the only way to access Freebase would be their APIs. I'll pose the question to Robert @ Metaweb and hopefully we'll get an update on this.

Creating and patenting life from scratch

Ethically and technologically polemic as it can be, artificial life is already being patented.
Particularly I was reading a post from MIT Technology Review talking about the Craig Venter team trying to build their own bug from scratch getting to a minimally sufficient set of genes that would provide the platform for micro-organisms with diverse functions.
These bio-nano-robots might drastically change medical and pharmaceutical industries among others. Something to keep on the watch ...

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Off-line buzz

There's a lot of buzz generated after the releases of Google Gears and Adobe Integrated Runtime (AIR). This brings up thoughts on the so common pendulum effect operating in broad levels of life and evolution. Particularly in the computing sphere there are subjects like centralized versus distributed, web versus desktop, etc. that keep going back and forth at different heights of the spiral, meaning evolved versions of one or the other keep coming back.
My take on the off-line buzz and the desktop comeback is that the conclusion is wrong. Off-line is great and is going to be a very important step on evolution as far as allowing mobile computer systems to move across networks without any awareness of the disconnection as well as to handle connectivity intermissions but not to replace in any way the web. As an improvement to the web experience off-line apps are a must, as a replacement of the web experience I don't see it happening with the exception of a few applications.
To believe that the desktop apps will come back sounds to me similar to thinking that there will be a come back of public phone cabins and land lines because cell phones sometime run out of battery ...
Users need connectivity, if they're not "online" something is wrong and they can't work/use the computer in a healthy way. No "off-line" transparency will give users the online feeling. So, for a small period of time, if I'm not online maybe I don't even realize and I keep going happily through my computer usage, but as soon as I start trying to interact or I don't get the amount of emails/contacts I'm used to, the whole off-line experience will be quickly evident and the discomfort will be there. It's almost as subtle as a psychologically effect.
Anyway, connectedness is the way the world is going, technology will push connectivity and it'll be more and more exceptional the instants when we're off-line. Handling the off-line instants is a great feature but won't bring back desktop apps to where they were, in my humble opinion.