Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Spam on the world wild web

Can you imagine how the world would be if there would exist no type of personal identification? I guess people would be out there committing all sort of crimes and there would be no way to know who they are and no way to prevent them to keep doing it, etc. I might sound a little apocalyptic but I really could not imagine such a world and certainly would not like to live in a world like that.

I wonder if the internet is just in such early stages that we still not reached the point to see the need of officially issued identifications. In a sense this traceability issue goes against the very nature of the web and what made it what it is, I'm not denying that, but my thinking is that when the net starts being a bigger and more crucial part of our lives not requiring a net identity will be similar to not having one on the "real" world, something most of us can't even imagine.

Spam is an issue today, but probably is one of the net issues that could be easier to control. GMail for instance does a great job cleaning inboxes from spam in a very efficient way in a very web 2.0 way by having users report spam and improving their filters based on those reports. This is one argument towards keeping the net free and anonymous, but there is so much scam out there and it's possibilities are growing and almost endless.

As radical as it seems, I really wonder if some years from now the net would go to a identification schema or hybrid with different levels of authorizations where people can have their own settings as to what authorization level they allow/disallow for different net activities. In this way I could decide I will not accept emails from anybody that does not have a national identification issued, etc.

I'm not saying I like it ... just that I think this is the way it'll go ...

Organizing remote teams with Basecamp

This week we started using Basecamp as a tool to organize different distributed project teams.
I like the fact that it's web. I kind of miss the MS Project utilities and structured views, but at the same time like this approach that goes more with the lay-back philosophy and methodology we have on my current projects.
The functionalities we hired are messages (half way between a blog and a forum), to-do lists, milestones, writeboards (collaborative documents), file sharing and resources time sheets.
I wonder how much adoption it'll have among us. Even if I haven't yet spent enough time on it I can see its potential to help us organize our remote teams.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Silhouette Optical Illusion

This is a good one. The silhouette seems to switch directions in what seems to be almost a random way and you can have two people watching it and seeing it go in clockwise and counter-clockwise at the same time.

Why the fascination with optical illusions? They give you this glimpse of the hole rabbit, they remind us of the relativity of perceptions.

Saturday, July 28, 2007


They say one picture is worth a thousand words ... we can add one video is worth a million of them. It was very shocking to see the questions right out from the people. These were not just questions posted by the anchor, these were real persons with real lives and real problems. I only got to see the last part of the debate on TV and I could see online the questions I cared more for in a much faster way than the sequential TV show.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Is reading declining? Should we care?

When I hear all this thing about kids reading less despite of Harry Potter and stuff I wonder one more time about why is it relevant? To me the answer is that it's relevant only because we did not figure out a way to use technology adequately to teach today's kids. Does anybody worry because we're not writing and drawing in the cave's walls anymore? What I'm trying to say is that the world changed and education is still the same and we're worrying about the wrong thing. We should not worry about kids reading more or less but we should concentrate in changing the education system so we can use the potential of all the tools and technology we have around and we figure out how to best use video and computers to support education. If kids love to watch TV, ok, let's see how to make TV a teaching tool. Let's change TV and make it work for us instead of against us.

Sometimes I think in a way that might seem a little too radical now, but I think that maybe reading/writing is a temporary evolutionary trait that will even disappear with time. Maybe when we can search in videos (by sound, by shapes, compare forms, etc) as we can in text and drawings today and we can see videos directly in our brains and transfer videos to one another instead of text, text as such looses the place it has today. I wonder if we loose too much abstraction when we go from text to video ... there should be a way not too ...

Exhausting vacations

Like every year in July we get the visits of my brother, sister and nephew for Nicole's birthday (this year she turned 7 on 7/7/7). We had tons of fun, this year we did the traditional stuff which is: camping by Los Angeles coast (Malibu coast to be more exact, I can never remember to get those national park reservations early enough), the typical Santa Monica, San Diego and La Jolla beach days, 4th of July fireworks (those things keep getting better and better), and the traditional Disneyland (this year Nicole got a "Disney's Citizen" pin ... although I have to admit the reason why was that with her ADD added to mine she ended up lost, pretty scary experience).

The first addition this year that we totally loved was a trip to a lake in the dessert (Laughlin, NV). We were supposed to take Ed's boat but in the end we just went without it as when we took the van to have some transmission cooling done they announced they poked into our radiator in the last minute. The weather in the dessert was 128F which brought memories of our worst cold days in Chicago's winter but opposite obviously. We were running from the hotel to the pool as the air was in my little one's words hot hot (hay calor caliente in spanish).

The second new thing we did this year was the Wild Rivers water park where we had a total blast. I was a little shy of the water in the beginning, I remember my sister suggested "hey, come on, let's be a kid again", but I swear after couple of the rides I was all for it. Sooo much fun! Too bad it seems like they'll close this park this Sept as it was one of the best things in Southern California. We'll have to check some alternatives next year (Knotts, Legoland).

Of course the best of all is when the kids are passed out in the car and you can finally relax ;)

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Zero-Sum and Non-Zero-Sum Games

I was very fascinated by these definitions coming from the game theory. The name zero-sum games was given to games where for one player to win the other player needs to loose just as much, making then the total for the game 0 (1 -1 = 0). In opposition a non-zero-sum game is a game where the resources are not limited and players can develop cooperation or synergy in order to get to win-win situations.

It looks like most of us were raised to learn and enjoy zero-sum games. There are games as soccer that have actually a little bit of the two depending on which level you look at the game as if you think one team versus the other there is the zero-sum game but then if you look inside any one team you can see a non-zero-sum game going on, even if it's only in a tribal sense (my tribe I help, the opposite tribe I destroy).

Once you look at it at the light of the game theory it seems almost trivial to decide that non-zero-sum games are so much positive and desirable. How could a 0 outcome be good for anybody in the end? I read that in fact they seem to be the games that exist in nature (such as economics and life itself) where the resources are not constant as opposed to human artificial games being the zero-sum ones. I'm not too sure about this, I tend to think that zero-sum games are played all the time in nature, are part of evolution such as the strongest animal getting the food or mate competing fiercely for it and leaving a winner and looser in its way. One argument in this direction is that per wikipedia: "In 1944 John von Neumann and Oskar Morgenstern proved that any zero-sum game involving n players is in fact a generalized form of a zero-sum game for two players, and that any non-zero-sum game for n players can be reduced to a zero-sum game for n + 1 players; the (n + 1) player representing the global profit or loss. This suggests that the zero-sum game for two players forms the essential core of mathematical game theory."

It's noticeable how today's education is trying and tending to get kids involved in non-zero-sum games much more that it did in my school days, which is a good thing.

In my way of reading more about this theory I came across HipBone games, increasing interest of economics and its relation to everything (such as Nash equilibrium principle) and the novel by Herman Hesse "The glass bead game" that is one more addition to my list of pendent books ...