Tuesday, December 9, 2008

sync my Google Calendar with iCal

I have been looking for a free solution to sync my Google Calendar
with iCal
for a while, and I finally found it. A tool is now
available from Google

"Is having calendar information online, on the desktop, and on a
mobile phone too much to ask? Google apparently doesn't think so
anymore, as the company has quietly enabled sync for Google Calendar,
complete with instructions on how to plug into Apple's iCal.

Thanks to the flexible wonders of WebDAV, or more specifically,
CalDAV, Leopard users can now plug their Google Calendar account
(including those run on Google Apps) into iCal via this simple set of
instructions straight from the Big G's Help Center. Setup involves
plugging a few settings into iCal's Accounts preference pane, after
which the initial sync should happen in a matter of minutes. After
that, any changes made on either end should sync almost instantly.... "

Friday, October 31, 2008

From Cool Science Dept: Mimicking Gecko Feet

From AAAS Science Roundup:

"The ability of gecko lizards to scurry up walls and cling to ceilings by their toes has fascinated scientists for decades. The creatures owe this remarkable ability to microscopic branched elastic hairs on their feet that are able to induce atomic-scale attractive forces to strongly grip surfaces. In a Report in the 10 Oct 2008 Science, Qu et al. reported on the latest attempt to mimic this impressive adhesive effect. The team showed that a disordered array of vertically aligned carbon nanotubes -- consisting of a straight body segment with curly entangled tops -- can achieve macroscopic adhesive forces almost 10 times that of a gecko foot. A strong shear adhesive force, forged when the tangled portions of the nanotubes become aligned when pressed onto a surface, allows for a strong grip of vertical surfaces without slipping, while a much lower normal adhesive force enable easy removal and reattachment. In addition to the ability to stick objects to walls, the material could have many technological applications, including connecting electronic devices and substituting for conventional adhesives in the dry vacuum of space."

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Is it really a myth in "the myth of the paperless office"?

Turns out that the myth might not have been a myth after all! Since 2001, American office workers have been reducing their paper usage. The Economist has a great article on this.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Monday, October 13, 2008

Sake as food

From the TrueSake newsletter, comes this interesting bit:

"the genesis of sake (nihonshu or wine of Japan) was not a crystal clear liquid that is best served chilled in fancy bar glasses. ... Like most all things sake can be traced back to ancient China, as this is where rice has its "ground zero."

Farming was a communal occupation, and rice was the most communal of bonds. It was a food source - so valued that at one time it was even traded as a currency. But more importantly rice brought people together. It brought folks together to chew and spit! Yes, the earliest recorded history of sake spoke about a form of brew that was created by chewing rice and spitting the gob into a wooden bucket - "kuchikami no sake" or "chewed in the mouth sake."

Those glorious farmers somehow realized that if they chewed the rice and spat it out into wooden tubs or buckets that the enzymes in their mouths would break the long-chain starch molecules into a glucose, and then this glucose would sit in the bucket for about a week and allow airborne yeasts to propagate and ferment the glucose into wonderful alcohol.

Bingo! A meal and a party in one! And that is indeed what happened. Villages used religious occasions to get groups together to chew and spit en mass to create a large batch of saliva sake - my words not theirs. ...

Then and thankfully some smart and perhaps germaphobic farmer said "I am sick of drinking Yoshi's spit," and suggested that he would prefer the ricey spit of a virgin. And so began the next phase of sake in its oldest form - Bijinshu or "beautiful girl sake" that basically was a virginal masterpiece.

Yes, the village virgins would all gather and chew rice as a team descended from the gods.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

My Review of Yakima Big Powderhound Ski Mount - 6 pair

Originally submitted at REI

Carry up to six pairs of skis or four snowboards on your Yakima® roof rack with this nicely designed, easy-to-use Big Powderhound mount.

Installation not too bad; good quality

By Ed Chi from Palo Alto, CA on 10/12/2008


4out of 5

Gift: No

Pros: Stable, Durable, Easy to Use

Describe Yourself: Casual/ Recreational

Having installed Thule before on our Honda CRV with custom mount adapter, I didn't think the Yakima installation is too bad. This time around, we had to get the Yakima, because Thule did not make a 4 board solution for the Xterra. The universal mount is a little more complicated than the Thule Big Mouth clamp, but that's because Yakima really cared about this being secure. The installation procedure causes the screws to be covered, so that it cannot be easily unmounted. The installation probably took about 30min, but 15min was spent reading the instructions and figuring out how it would work.


Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Where does our taxes go [in the US]?

Ever wonder how the US gov't spend our tax money? Here is a great representation that tells you what happens to it:

Apparently, we spend a huge amount of the military and national security, like 68% of 1182 Billion dollars or 799 Billion. We should all think about what Eisenhower about the power of the military industrial complex.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Two is not better than One

Apparently, two handed turtles have a hard time deciding which way to rotate if they become overturned in water. See the description of Two-Headed Yellow Belly Slider here!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Music Mashups

This is a real mashup. The mashup is a real speaker that is embedded inside of a violin, so that the player can perform a duet of live and pre-recorded music. Cool!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Friday, September 5, 2008

in the 'hmm' dept for psychology...

From the AAAS Science Mailer:

PSYCHOLOGY: Social Preferences

Gilbert Chin

The quotidian activity of playing cards (or kibitzing) can just as well be regarded as a self-sustaining institution within which individuals behave according to a shared set of incentives. As such, their behaviors become susceptible to game theoretic analysis, where strategies are formulated on the basis of estimated payouts, even those as intangible as a reputation for selfishness.

Yamagishi et al. have adopted this framework in analyzing the motivations for choices made by Japanese and Americans in a simple task. When offered a single colored pen from a group of five pens as a token payment for filling out a survey, Hokkaido students were less likely than Wolverines (Michigan students) to take a particular pen if it were the only one of that color available--that is, they would avoid reducing the scope of choice for subsequent people and thus, by incurring the cost of passing up the uniquely colored pen, not run the risk of making a negative impression on others. In contrast, a cultural psychological assessment would explain this outcome as revealing the preference (higher valuation) that East Asians place on conformity as opposed to the affinity of Westerners for individualism. When the choice task was expanded to include situations where the student was told explicitly that he was the first or the last of the five students to receive pens, the East-West difference disappeared; both Japanese and Americans were less likely to take the uniquely colored if they were the first and more likely (equally so) if they were the last to choose.-- GJC

Psychol. Sci. 19, 578 (2008).

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Love this "Folder" for your laptop

This is a cheeky product, but it's definitely cute. Working on UI at PARC, the historical reference is hard to miss: "The whole "folder" metaphor was first developed by Xerox Parc for its ground-breaking Star desktop system. Those folders were designed to mimic the real-life paper-and-manilla-folders offices use to file paperwork. "

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Why iPhone will not do well in Japan, at least initially...

Having just come back from Japan:

When the iPhone 3G finally came out, I didn't think it would do so well in Japan for a wide variety of reasons. I haven't heard any statistics about how it is doing, but there are a number of things the iPhone will have to address for the Japanese market:

- First, a lot of mobile phone use in Japan is while riding the train. iPhone, on the other hand, needs two handed input. It's impossible to use the iPhone while riding the train, unless you happen to have a seat.

- The iphone doesn't support the very important QR code, which is used to scan for more information. By scanning the QR code in a magazine, users don't have to type in URL, and can simply get a hyperlink to the required info. This can be fixed quickly, and someone is probably already writing the app.

- The iPhone doesn't support the wide practice of using emoticons to indicate a person's emotions. But this can be fixed easily, assuming Apple is paying attention.

- There are a number of hardware design issues. There is no IR port for easy contact information exchange, no FeliCa electronic wallet for paying for train tickets and conv. stores, and there are no holes for hanging trinkets, especially for the ladies. Worst of all, the iPhone has much worse battery life than a standard Japanese mobile phone.

On the other hand, the iPhone has piqued people's interest in Japan. What it has going for it:

- Great screen, and awesome web browser. This is so far ahead of other handsets, and is the one thing that gets people really interested.

- Applications. The app store is bringing out a bunch of great games and utilities that people will find interesting. This makes the mobile phone into a true platform, which has not been done very well in Japan so far.

Check out these links for more info:



Wednesday, August 20, 2008


"The purpose of architecture is to shelter and enhance man's life on earth and to fulfill his belief in the nobility of his existence." — Eero Saarinen

Monday, August 18, 2008

猪, 男人, 女人

I received this from my brother he found somewhere online:

猪=吃飯+ 睡覺,

男人=吃飯+ 睡覺+挣錢
豬=吃飯+ 睡覺

女人=吃飯+ 睡覺+花錢。
豬=吃飯+ 睡覺。


Sunday, August 17, 2008

Using Google to check on the true age of China's gymnastics competitors

So, there has been a great deal of controversy about the true age of the Chinese female competitors in the Olympic games. Apparently, the younger the competitors, the more likely their center of gravity is advantageous in the competition. The development during puberty changes their body shape and this makes a huge difference.

I had the thought of using search engines to check on the likely age of these competitors. I first found their Chinese names, and then searched for their name with the years to see which is more likely to be their true birth year. Here are the results:

For 何可欣 (He Kexin), 1994 gives 4000 results, while 1993 gives only 2730 results.

For 江钰源 (Jiang Yuyuan), 1992 gives 11500 results, while 1991 gives only 5220 results.

It seems quite clear that while the Chinese NGO can change the passports of the competitors, they can't change the documents that are already on the web. In fact, browsing through the web documents written before this past year, there is plenty of evidence that it was broadly known the true age of these competitors. For the IOC to not investigate this problem, it seems they're damaging their own authority.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

A new description of the progress in the science of understanding visual perception

This article describes visual perception as an issue around the management of limited resource of visual attention that a person has. It is now somewhat understood in the field that visual perception is both a bottom-up as well as a top-down processing process.

Chernoff faces for baseball statistics

This is one of the most terrible ideas I have seen, and unfortunately described by a publication I usually enjoy, NYTimes. This article describes the use of Chernoff faces for looking at baseball statistics. This doesn't work, in my opinion, because humans have a real reactions to depictions of faces. Instead of looking at real correlations, the depictions only confuse the interpretation of the real useful statistics.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

WebGuild: Online Shoppers To eTailers: I Want My Web 2.0

As this article suggests, shopping websites will now have no choice but embrace Web2.0:
WebGuild: Online Shoppers To eTailers: I Want My Web 2.0

Friday, May 30, 2008

h-Index is a new citation impact measure

Recently, in information science, perhaps due to the proliferation of easy to use biblio-tools, there is a renewed interest in understanding and measuring the impact of research publications and authors.

I learned from Dannyfest and Don Norman that there is a new tool appropriately called Publish or Perish. It is available for free-download for both Windows and Linux. Alternatively, you might use the web version of a different tool instead called QuadSearch. Publish or Perish calculates a bunch of citation impact analysis metrics, and one of them is a metric called h-index, which has gotten considerable interest lately in information science.

It is also sometimes referred to as the Hirsch Index or Hirsch number.

A scientist has index h if h of his/her Np papers have at least h citations each, and the other (Np-h) papers have no more than h citations each. So, as an example, I used the tool to calculate my h-index, and found that I have a h-index of about 19, which means that I have 19 papers that have at least 19 citations, and I have no other papers with more than 19 citations.

For comparison, Stu and Danny have h-indexes in the high 30s (39 and 36 respectively). Johan, Peter, Jock Mackinlay have in the low 30s (33, 31, 30 respectively). Victoria Bellotti, Mark Stefik are around low 20s (24, 23 respectively). You may be interested in downloading the tool and trying it out to "measure" yourself and your friends. :) Maybe it will inspire you to do greater and more impactful research! Or maybe it will just boost or deflate your ego! Use with caution!

Hirsch suggests that, for physicists, a value for h of about 10-12 might be a useful guideline for tenure decisions at major research universities. A value of about 18 could mean a full professorship, 15–20 could mean a fellowship in the American Physical Society, and 45 or higher could mean membership in the United States National Academy of Sciences. Clearly, the numbers needs to be adjusted for computer science related fields, due to the different nature of our publications (more conference papers, etc.)

PS: BTW, you should take care in choosing the fields on the left hand side, so you avoid picking up bad citations. This is one of the best tools I have seen (even better than the SCI [Science Citation Impact] one, because it appears to be more comprehensive.)

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Microsoft Live Mesh syncs folders and files

A central concept in computing these days is syncing between the myriad of devices and storage locations that a user might own. The reason why this is a good idea is because users want to get away from the problem of having to keep track of where data lives. They simply want the information that they need to be available at their fingertips. I have been using Foldershare for a number of years, which was acquired by Microsoft. Now based on the same technology, Microsoft have released a new service called Live Mesh, which syncs not just folders and files, but also applications. These types of services are also being developed by startups in the valley, including SugarSync, which I beta'ed, and also Dropbox.

Of these, only Foldershare and SugarSync currently support the Mac.

I believe this is an important step forward for end-users, as this relieves them from having to worry about where the data is located, and they can simply rely on the background services to make the data available. This is the concept of content-based computing and networking, which Van Jacobson here at PARC has talked about.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Service excellence can be defined as what a business chooses not to do well

Harvard Business Review (Apr 2008 issue) had a great article on service design: pick a niche, make sure your system doesn't
just scratch an itch, and then serve that market by optimizing for that niche. I think there is a lot of interesting lessons in here about service design. The article agues that in service design you must pay attention to four elements, and they're often driven by the idea that "Service excellence can be defined as what a business chooses not to do well."

(1) the focus on offering. The offering here is to find out what customers want out of their service experience. If customers want longer store hours, you may be able to offer them out by trading off a higher cost to the products. It cites Walmart as an example, where they traded sales help for cheaper prices.

(2) the focus on the funding mechanism. The focus here is on understand who is going to pay for the service. For example, it uses Progressive insurance as an example, that they send vans to assess the damage on the accident scene. This turns out to reduce their fraud rate as well, and that's how they pay for the improved customer service experience.

(3) employee management system. Having your employees be of a certain type might mean you have to trade off on other attributes. For example, Commerce Bank focuses on having a great teller experience, so they don't select for the smartest straight-A students, but instead selects for people with great attitudes.

(4) customer management system. The key here is to design a way to modify customer behavior. Discounts and late fees is one way (instrumental) to modify behavior; Another is to use normative means such as reputation, shame, and pride to motivate customers to do the right thing. It cites Zipcar, the car-sharing service, as an example here.

The sidebar on how incumbents in a business react to more focused entrant firms was really educational, as it reflects well with how big companies sometimes react to threats to its current lines of business.

Hadoop at the heart of Yahoo Search

Hadoop running in production on the Yahoo! Search Webmap

"The Webmap build starts with every Web page crawled by Yahoo! and produces a database of all known Web pages and sites on the internet and a vast array of data about every page and site. This derived data feeds the Machine Learned Ranking algorithms at the heart of Yahoo! Search. Some Webmap size data:
- Number of links between pages in the index: roughly 1 trillion links
- Size of output: over 300 TB, compressed!
- Number of cores used to run a single Map-Reduce job: over 10,000
- Raw disk used in the production cluster: over 5 Petabytes"

Doug Cutting used to work at PARC, and we have been using Hadoop heavily in our research as well.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Early work on Social Bookmarking

I just dug out this early work on social bookmarking and social indexing:

Wittenburg, K., D. Das, L. Stead, and W. Hill (1995) Group Asynchronous
Browsing on the World Wide Web. In Proceedings of Fourth International
World Wide Web Conference, Boston, MA., December 11-14, 1995, pp. 51-62.

key points:

- The obvious move for providing access to personal or general subject-oriented indices is to manually or automatically collect them into a database and then provide query or browse capabilities over this database.

- we have created a server that collects and merges bookmark/hotlist files of participating users and then can serve (subsets) of these merged bookmark files to either standard HTML client browsers or to a client built with the multiscale visualization tool Pad++.

- we have included one general purpose subject guide in our initial experiments as well, namely, Yahoo [18], whose role we will subsequently explain. Such a database combined with a World Wide Web server, which we call a Group Asynchronous Browsing (GAB) server, can then provide access to a merged subject tree structure in various ways. This collection of tools is intended to address the issue of how to utilize the browsing activities of others to discover resources, some of which themselves may be guides to further World Wide Web resources.

- The essential point to note with respect to information discovery is that, starting from some particular resource, new resources that have a good chance of being similar to it may be discovered by navigating "up" to any of the subject headings that include this starting resource and then navigating "down" from those subject headings to other, potentially unknown, resources.

- One of our goals then is to explore World Wide Web services that might be based on such merged subject trees.

Teresa by Sergio Endrigo

Was in Vernazza in Italy and was introduced to this beautiful song by a restaurant owner.


quando ti ho datto quella rosa [When I have given that rose to you]
rosa rossa, [Red rose]
mi hai detto
prima de te io non ho amato mai.
[You have said to me
Before you I have not never loved]

quando ti ho datto il primo bacio
sulla bocca,
[When I have given the first kiss to you
On the mouth]
mi hai detto
adesso cosa penserai di me.
[You have said to me
Now what you will think about me]

non sono mica nato ieri
[At all they are not been born yesterday.]
per te non sono stato il primo
nemmeno l'ultimo
[for you they have not been first the not even last one.]
lo sai, lo so.
[you know, I know it.]

di te non penso proprio niente,
proprio niente,
mi basta,
[Of you not task just nothing
Just nothing
Me enough]

restare un poco accanto a te, a te
[To remain beside you, to you]
amare come sai tu non sa nessuna
[To love like you know no one else.]
non devo perdonarti niente
[I have no regrets]
mi basta quello che mi dai
[For me that's enough]

Teresa, Teresa

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

managing your PDF of research papers

Do you have dozens of PDF files from your favorite scientific articles scattered on your harddrive? Do you also try to desperately organize them by renaming and archiving them in folders? But like the piles of printed articles on your desk, you can't keep up with all the new papers you download, and despite all your efforts it has become impossible to find that one article.

I was just told about this awesome program called Papers for the Mac. It manages your research papers on your computer in a way that you will not believe. It makes so many tasks like searching and organizing your citations and PDFs of research papers extremely easy.

Papers contains everything you need to get your favorite articles in your personal library. Importing PDFs that you already downloaded before is easy, you match them using your favorite online article repository like PubMed, Google Scholar, Web of Science, etc. and all the metadata is automatically added.

It won the Apple Design Award. It's simply amazing. Check it out.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Live Blogging Chris Anderson's talk at PARC Forum

Today Chris Anderson (of the Long Tail book fame and Wired) is giving a talk at PARC. Here are my live notes:

being away from the medium carried a cost.
- can't be too tall or too short

long tail distribution
- outcome of network effects, preferential effects
- word of mouth, tend to amplify

distribution channel limits
- most effective use of the channel - example: blockbuster
- only a small # of entities pass thru that filter

But the internet has an infinite shelf-space.
- [what about limited attention?]
- first time, we actually have data that can measure what people really want. Since consumers can choose instead of the middlemen / distributors choosing for us.

3 rules of long tail
- if you can lower cost of distribution, you can offer more stuff / variety.
- more variety means the ability to satisfy more minority taste, and address more granular markets
- “vanishing point of relevance away from me.”
- there is a lot of room at the bottom and all of the most interesting things come from the most unexpected places.

The new growth market
- rhapsody
total inventory: 4.5m tracks, walmart 55k tracks
- netflix
90k dvd, blockbuster 3k
- amazon
5m books, 100k barnes and noble

total sales
- rhapsody, netflix, amazon, have sales of 45%, 25%, 30% respectively not in the traditional market

A market for diversity out there

long tail ablation division
1997 budweiser
2007 products micro-brew,
- shift in our culture toward more discriminating tastes
- more affluent - more discriminating

one size fits all to one size fits me

just in time sales - bar codes - shipping in smaller units
- more variety but no more inventory costs
- more information technology, allowed them to figure out where to stock glutton-free beer “redbridge”

5 mistakes
- it's the end of blockbuster. No, It's just the end of the monopoly.
- you can make money in the long tail. people create things other than for money.
- long tail is full of crap. (sturgeon's law) absolutely true. but it doesn't matter
production quality is not the point; people care about relevance more than quality.
- say's law: the hits are becoming more important than ever.
- surrounded by curves that have long-tails [sourceforge example] log-log scale plot
something special about the power law
you have a test everytime you plot
[long known]

Joe kraus - the focus has been on dozens of milliion markets, now millions of dozens

next book: free
- we don't have good economic theory about free
- king gillete, invented the cross-subsidy model for razors
- king of free!

the future, circa 1954
- it is not too much to expect that our children will enjoy electrical energy in their homes too cheap to meter.
- trojan nuclear plant, portland, oregon.
- thought experiment: too cheap to meter is right.

how to waste transistors
- c:\> command line
- alan kay, xerox parc, we should waste by drawing icons, GUI, democratize PCs
- honeywell kitchen computer, recipe card management
- make technology cheaper, more ubiq., easier to use
- all you can eat web hosting, yahoo! webhosting, feb 6, 2008.

IT establishment has not internalized the notion of “free”.

Waste bandwidth
- stuck in broadcast mode
- lonelygirl15, everyone loves raymond, only reason why this happened is because there is no standard on YouTube.
- surprising things are going to emerge.

for the first time in history, complexity is free
- econ 101: in a competitive market, price falls to the marginal cost

storage price (per GB)
- 2002, yahoo $30 year for 25MB
- 2004 offers 1GB for free
- 2007 offers unlimited free
webmail is done.

“round down” - if the unitary cost of something is approaching zero, treat it as zero and sell something else.
- how are you going to compete with free?

a taxonomy of 'free':
- cross-subsidy (razors)
- ad-supported (media)
- “freemium” (upselling; old model: give away 1% to sell 99%; new model: give away 99% to sell 1%)
- “digital economics” (underlying cost of manufacturing and distributioin dropped near zero)
- “labor exchange” (consumers create something of value in exchange for free goods or services, GOOG-411 train their algorithm on voice recognition)
[our MT work, Luis von Ahn]
- gift economy (wikipedia)
understanding it here is a big deal of the last decade

Every abundance create is a scarcity of attention and reputation
- attention, traffic, ads
- reputation, links pageranks, traffic to ads
- attention economies

redefine the business you're in:
- Prince - free inside - prince's new album in the Daily Mail
- RyanAir - flew for 5 euros - make money from cargo, ads, car rental, sandwiches, gambling (like free drinks in las vegas)
- second life - being in the game is free - land in it is not

business model
scarcity - ROI model
abundance - we'll figure it out

scarcity - everything is forbidden unless it is premitted
abundance - everything is permitted unless it is forbidden

social model
scarcity - paternalism (we know what is best)
abundance - egalitarianism

decision process
- scarcity - top down
- abundance - bottom-up

Management style
- scarcity - command and control
- abundance - out of control

Q: environment? disposable culture?

Monday, March 24, 2008

Blind 5yr-old genius pianist

She can play pieces after just hearing them once.... Amazing.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Augmented Social Cognition


Add to any service

handmade vegetable musical instruments

Friday, February 29, 2008

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Nice Review of MacBook Air

There is a nice review of MacBook Air over at cnn.com:

"And while the MacBook Air's specs are inferior to those found on the cheaper MacBook, they compare more favorably when you look at other ultraportables, where a price premium is always exacted. For instance, both the Sony VAIO TZ150 and Toshiba Portege R500 cost hundreds more than the MacBook Air and feature slower CPUs and half the RAM as the Air."

A bit later:

While most hardware vendors offer a choice of mobile broadband options, Apple continues to offer none, which is disappointing for a system so clearly meant for life away from home and office.


One of the biggest drawbacks of the MacBook Air is the lack of a user-replaceable battery. While most laptops will be obsolete before their batteries wear out, we are sensitive to the desire to occasionally carry an extra battery for extended field use.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Top 5 Research Challenges for Information Visualization

Georges Grinstein at UMass just asked me what the top 5 research challenges are for the field of information visualization. I thought I'd blog my response here that I wrote up in 15min:


About 5-6 years ago I wrote up an article that was going to be published in a software engineering magazine about challenges in Visualization, and then they pulled the special theme after I submitted it. I wonder where that article is now....

In any case, briefly here is my updated list off the top of my head (in no particular order):

- Integration with data sources: This remains to be one of the major challenges that never seems to go away. It's just too damn hard most of the time to transform the data into a format that visualization tools can understand.

- Integration of interactivity with analytic algorithms: Most of the time visualization is still run with command lines in batch mode. it's still too hard to ask the 'what-if' questions. This was what my visualization spreadsheet system was trying to solve.

- Working together with social analysis of data sets: Most of the time visualization exists in a context where the data is being analyzed or consumed in a social setting. It's not create a pretty picture and then stop and done. It exists in a social setting where there is a lot of different annotations by different people and different ideas being tried. Think ManyEyes here or Data360....

- Perceptually or cognitively too hard to understand: Much of visualization is designed not for the masses, but rather for the specialist. A challenge is to design visualizations that can be easily consumed or laypeople can be easily trained to use. Think about treemap being used on SmartMoney.com. How many have really learned to look at it? That's a crucial question to study.

- Design Research: I call this one the "Beyond-Tufte problem". How do we get beyond having geeks and gurus tell us how to design visualizations? We need a rigorous HCI design research approach to visualization that encompasses ethnographic studies, user-need analysis, iterative design, and real evaluations beyond cute lab confirmation studies.


Sunday, February 3, 2008

Will the MS/Yahoo deal work?

NYTimes had a great article on the potential implications of the Yahoo/MS deal. Moreover, it suggests that MS move are indicative of market forces that it is responding to, and these market forces in Silicon Valley forces technology developers to look way beyond the battle for search engine dominance.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

US Gov't funding on basic research

Lots of concern about the basic research funding in the US, especially because it has become a political issue that is being kicked around by both the congress and the president.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Digital detective: Photo clues lead to camera's owner

Getting into a cab in NYC, someone finds a camera, and then devotes time to finding the rightful owner....


Move over iPhone. Here is a real phone that multitasks

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Salon: Where is the real bottom in the market?

One must wonder why the rest of the world have reacted the way it did about the latest financial crisis. Salon had an interesting analysis:

"In reality, the crisis is both a credit crunch and the bursting of the housing bubble. ...

As a practical matter, our only real hope for avoiding a deep recession or worse depends on loans and investments from abroad -- some major U.S. financial firms have already gotten key cash infusions from foreign governments buying stakes in them -- combined with export earnings as the dollar continues to weaken. But this is something no politician wants to admit, especially in an election year. So we're going to go through weeks of posturing about stimulus packages of one sort or another, and then see enacted the big fat bonanza of a temporary tax break that will likely have little effect. That, perhaps along with a few more rate cuts by the Fed. The presidential candidates will be asked what should be done about the worsening economy, and they'll give vague answers. None will likely admit the truth: We're going to need the rest of the world to bail us out."

Wired: How Email Brings You Closer to the Guy in the Next Cubicle

"email's real value isn't in communicating with Kuala Lumpur but with Betsy in the next cubicle. The most productive workers have the densest intracompany email web.

This shouldn't surprise us. Email makes it quicker and easier to reach your colleagues — you don't have to interrupt them, and messages are easy to process. But email doesn't stop you from wanting facetime, too. Just the opposite: By enabling us to maintain productive business relationships with more people, it encourages more face-to-face contact. "

NYT: high levels of mercury in Tuna found in sushi restaurants in NYC

Given that most sushi places probably get their tuna from similar sources --- the ocean --- I'm a little worried:

``No one should eat a meal of tuna with mercury levels like those
found in the restaurant samples more than about once every three
weeks," said Dr. Michael Gochfeld, professor of environmental and
occupational medicine at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in
Piscataway, N.J.''


Sunday, January 20, 2008

Onion: cutting school costs by not teaching past tense

This is simply quality journalism at its best!

Underfunded Schools Forced To Cut Past Tense From Language Programs
NOVEMBER 30, 2007 | ISSUE 43•48

WASHINGTON—Faced with ongoing budget crises, underfunded schools nationwide are increasingly left with no option but to cut the past tense—a grammatical construction traditionally used to relate all actions, and states that have transpired at an earlier point in time—from their standard English and language arts programs.

A part of American school curricula for more than 200 years, the past tense was deemed by school administrators to be too expensive to keep in primary and secondary education.


Saturday, January 19, 2008

Social Sensemaking involved in figuring out latest Apple announcement of MB Air

I think it is really cool that people on the Web are collaboratively figuring out puzzles, like the potential of an announcement of a new Apple product.

"Unlike past years, when rumors abounded with little confirmation, the Macintosh rumor community this time put together pieces of the mysterious laptop puzzle from clues left around the Web -- and may have even tricked Apple into showing its cards a bit early."

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Good uses of information visualization

Anyone knows my past research will know me as a researcher in information visualization, but the reality is that there has been very few good information visualization techniques that really work. One of those is the SmartMoney Map of the Market visualization app that looks at the performance of the stock market, and gives you at a glance the performance of different sectors of the market.

NYTimes is one of the few news outlets that really does a good job with their graphics, and recently the director of their graphics dept. gave a keynote address at the Infovis2007 conference, and I found many of their visualizations to be very interesting and informative. One of these visualizations is the words and speeches visualization they created on President Bush's addresses.

Monday, January 14, 2008

don't name your kid "Sam Adams"

Another five-year-old on the no-fly list: meet Sam Adams - Boing Boing

Ted Adams -- the publisher of IDW comics -- named his little
son "Sam Adams," a good, solid patriotic name. It's also a name
on the TSA's no-fly list, and the five-year-old has spent his
young life being harassed by airport security goons who think
he's a terrorist.


Subject: This wouldn't have happened if they'd named him Thomas Paine

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

How bad could school be?

Mexican boy glues self to bed to avoid school
Mon Jan 7, 5:23 PM ET
MONTERREY, Mexico (AFP) - A 10-year-old Mexican boy glued his hand to his bed to avoid going back to school after the Christmas break, authorities said Monday.

"I thought if I was glued to the bed, they couldn't make me go to school," the boy, Diego, told AFP. "I didn't want to go, the holidays were so much fun."

"I remembered my mom had bought a very strong glue," he said of the industrial strength shoe glue he used to stick his hand to the bed's metal headboard, where he stayed stuck for two hours.

His mother Sandra Palacios was unable to free him and called paramedics and police to help. Diego watched cartoons while they worked to unglue him, eventually using a spray to dissolve the chemical adhesive.

"I don't know why this happened. He is a very good boy," said his mother.

Diego eventually made it school a few hours late.

Monday, January 7, 2008

I hosted Guy Kawasaki at PARC

He actually took a picture of desk and used it as an example of a typical PARC researcher's desk. I can assure you that I'm the only one with that funky keyboard around here.

The snow storm in Tahoe created these images. Doesn't that look awesome!

The stock market is going sideways. Is everyone doing something about it?

See this quote:

the strategist has been advising investors to lighten up on small-cap U.S. stocks, emerging markets, value-oriented strategies, and energy and commodity plays. His forecast for a global corporate earnings slowdown steers him to shares of large, dividend-paying companies with steady earnings, plenty of cash and a multinational footprint.

Merrill's sector picks include: Large-cap U.S. growth stocks, including established technology companies and leading exporters; developed European markets, and defensive sectors such as consumer staples and health care that can also deliver solid results. You can find these types of stocks in low-cost mutual-funds like Vanguard Primecap Core (VPCCX or the exchange-traded iShares Russell 1000 Growth Index (IWF).

"The economy is slowing and there's a premium for growth and earnings," says Jim Swanson, chief investment strategist at mutual-fund giant MFS Investment Management. "The market is saying maybe value isn't the best way to invest now. Companies with growth metrics are starting to do better; I think that trend can continue for two or three years."