Archives for June 2007

Ambient Findability by Peter Morville

What a book! I have barely covered the preface and the first chapter and am already smitten.

There are two kinds of technical books

  1. Ones that give precise directions to accomplish a certain task, the scope is narrowly defined and immediate outcome is emphasized
  2. Ones that describe the thought process more than practical steps. These are invariably abstract, cover a wider tract of ideas and have implications that are far reaching

This book belongs to the first variety. The tone is set in the preface when the author asks, “How did you get here…how did you find this book?”, and goes on to probe the process by which one could pick this single book amongst millions others. And how would one classify this book, the author asks that you don’t do any such thing but instead exhorts you to read it first, for “aboutness lies in the eyes of the beholder”. And I say what an insight!

I think its a characteristic of all great work that it tends towards philosophy. Not an algorithm to move from point A to point B but ruminates on the journey from A to B and leaves nothing as being insignificant in the course of its intellectual sweep.

And I leave you with a quote at the start of the first chapter..

At the seashore, between the land of atoms
and the sea of bits, we are now facing the
challenge of reconciling our dual citizenship
in the physical and digital worlds
.

Hiroshi Ishii

MIT Media Lab

Blackberry AddIn for Visual Studio…where art thou?

An interesting day. Got myself registered with Twitter, enabled IM integration via GoogleTalk application on Blackberry. All nice and dandy. Was especially impressed with the clean registration process of my GTalk account with Twitter. Remembering a old link I had seen on serverside.net wanted to get the Blackberry addin for Visual Studio.

The idea was to have a BB client that could act as an additional endpoint to the existing content authoring product I work on. And thus started the quest across the forest of links. Either am completely lost or totally blind just could not get to the download link. Or has it not been released as yet? Do not know but all I see is this page on the Blackberry site. All Google gave me was press releases, articles about the press releases and links to articles about the press releases and so on…

Moonlight in 21 days

What can be done in 21 days you ask? Well, how about Silverlight implemented on the Mono platform? Read this blog post to get a sense of what can be accomplished with the right set of people and of course Miguel heading it all….

Multiple identities

Alan wonders whether one person can be two things in this post. My take would be a resounding yes, with a few caveats attached. But how the world defines expertise and judges the person is quite another thing. The capitalist viewpoint of the world places emphasis on generating value using the skill of the person. Hence I believe the need to specialize, because more thinly spread one’s attention correspondingly lesser value is delivered or at least that’s how the conventional understanding goes.

This single minded attention goes deep but does not take into account the intangibles that go into producing a beautiful or perfect piece of work.  Who would have known that Alexander‘s book on buildings would inspire computer architects to identify, classify and disseminate design patterns? Or that Pythogoras dabbling in music would uncover the laws of harmonics?

Focus demands the exclusion of everything else and therein is the rub, who knows what factors would have contributed to a better outcome.

My experience is this: Every detour I have taken, and continue to take, enriches me in ways that I cannot put a milestone flag on! Nothing seems to go waste in the cosmic economy of things.

Looked at in another way it seems that the more different my interests are the deeper I have to go in to find a corresponding resonance in me and it almost always boils down to universals, like the sense of proportion and perfection. And universals invariably help across domains.

WF Scalability

Very good link that discusses scalability of WF and a memory leak scenario.
Scalability and Farming

 Memory Leak

For later reference.

Development methodologies!

At last a set of development methodologies that strike a chord with me, discovered via PierG’s blog.

Just to whet your appetite here is a sample:

  • Asshole Driven development (ADD)
  • Cognitive Dissonance development (CDD)
  • Cover Your Ass Engineering (CYAE)

Priceless I would say and extremely honest!

Content Relevance

Serendipity! I had been mulling about the notion of contextual relevance just yesterday in search results and I stumble upon this blog entry from James. Please make it a point to read that blog entry, what was a problem in my mind is clearly and way more technically better articulated than I could manage!

Group Dynamics

Landed at an essay on group dynamic via Richard Monson Haefel’s blog. Have run through it very quickly and find it intriguing enough to make a note. Will summarize it in a later post.

Do not know if its a coincidence or what, but have been stumbling upon topics that arise in the interaction of groups a lot. Undercover Economist, have got to it belatedly but its been fascinating so far.

Language parallels

Have been reading Guns, germs and steel by Jared Diamond, a highly fascinating book that explores a variety of themes on evolution. One of the topics was the evolution of written language. Diamond identifies three strategies that humans have taken to evolve written forms of language i) Alphabet, the form most of us are familiar with ii) Logograms, a single sign representing a whole word like Chinese and iii) Syllabaries, a single sign stands for a syllable. Apart from the seeming validity of his propositions what struck me was the parallels in how programming languages have evolved.

The first strategy is perhaps the most popular paradigm followed by most programming languages, if one can look at the keywords of any language as constituting the alphabets. The ancient egyptian hieroglyphs are no archaic languages, they are just a different set of symbols like perhaps that used by the Chinese today.

What is amazing is that the process by which an idea or thought is communicated in written form seems similar for all languages, whether intended to communicate with machines or humans. The componentization and encoding of thought seems an universal skill that is deeply embedded in humans. And of course we always make our machines in our own image!

Maybe its a perception thing but after going through Diamond’s book am inclined to view UML and other diagramming notations in a new light, or should I say a clearer light. Each language has a character that makes it suitable for a particular task – Ancient greek or sanskrit for epic poetry, UML swim lanes for parallel processes and so on. Instead of discrete islands of written forms of human and machine languages I now see an entire continuum of techniques to transcribe thought into communication.