Updates from July, 2010 Toggle Comment Threads

  • Urban 01:17 on 19 Jul. 2010 Permalink  

    Komunikacijsko preobilje 

    Moja objava za Obelisk Blog o komunikacijskem preobilju:

    Do you Yahoo? Skype me! Search, don’t sort. There’s an app for that. These slogans have become so pervasive you might not even notice them anymore. Every one of them is connected with a service or a product you might use for day-to-day communications. And every day there seems to be more of them.

    It wasn’t always like this. A mere hundred years ago people used to communicate face to face — in person. The telephone had already been invented, but far from commonplace. That’s practically unimaginable today, and a hundred years is not that much in the grand scheme of things.

    Yet there’s no stopping progress. Ray Kurzweil and others have analyzed the ever increasing pace of technological change and termed it The law of accelerating returns1. We stand on the shoulders of giants and have access to everything they have learned, invented and created; our successors will stand on our shoulders, and so on. In a sense, it’s giants all the way down.

    Accelerating change (source: Wikipedia)

    As the inevitable has happened and the cost of developing a communication system — a thing that once required decades and billions of dollars — has plummeted down to nearly zero, we are suddenly overwhelmed. We are experimenting and trying to find out what works. Facebook, Twitter and Skype are just the tip of the iceberg. Look at what’s below the surface: List of social networking websites and a List of instant messaging protocols/networks on Wikipedia.

    The actual problem lies in the Metcalfe’s law: the value of any network is proportional to the square of its users. So the larger the network, the more value it will provide to you. If all your friends use Skype, you literally must use Skype too, or you will be missing out on all the cool discussions that happen there. If you’re stranded alone on a dying communication channel, you’d better switch to something more modern, or you won’t have anyone to talk to. The conclusion of all this is: your friends choose your communication channels, not you. And the collective brain rarely chooses exactly what you want.

    Regardless of the availability of thousands of communication channels, even a single channel like e-mail can become a problem: getting thousands of messages a day requires immense discipline and some mad filtering skills to separate the wheat from the chaff. Many people have devised clever schemes for dealing with it, such as practicing information diet by checking email twice a day only2.

    Now multiply the plain-and-simple e-mail overload by fifty and get what awaits every single one of us in a matter of years. We can hardly imagine life without a mobile phone and texting, without e-mail, instant messaging and Facebook, and in the years to come, we won’t be able to imagine our lives without some uber-smart communication helper, which will unify all the channels and apply to them some smart filtering and prioritizing.

    And if here at Obelisk we can help make just one small step in that direction, we will consider our mission a success.

    1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Accelerating_change []
    2. as popularized by Tim Ferriss in the 4-hour Workweek []
  • Urban 18:21 on 9 Jul. 2010 Permalink  

    Pasovna širina interakcije 

    This post originally appeared on the blog of our start-up Obelisk on July 9, 2010

    There’s a serious problem we all face, but barely have a name for it. It becomes painfully obvious when we chat using IM. You’ve been there: typing as fast as you can, even tolerating all the typos you make1 to get the point across. Nevertheless, your thoughts are always one step ahead of your fingers.

    In such situations I tend to pick up the phone and call the person, and we have everything sorted out in 5 minutes, without hassle. Real-time voice communication is obviously superior to real-time written communication. We might claim it has much greater bandwidth, and it does: both in technical terms, where more network bandwidth is actually required to transmit the voice than to transmit a series of ASCII characters, as well as in terms of our perception: it carries much more information (is the speaker alert, sleepy, annoyed?).

    Sometimes voice is not enough and we need to communicate using visual material. It’s all too well known that a picture is worth a thousand words, but it becomes painfully obvious, when you try to discuss a complex technical drawing with a person who doesn’t have it, over the phone. Sheer number of words necessary to describe what in the picture goes where can require dozens of minutes, yet the understanding could be gained in a blink of an eye. Visual bandwidth of our perception is yet greater than our audio bandwidth.

    As the digital world becomes bigger and bigger, encompassing all the information humans have ever produced, digital representations of all our friends and even entire virtual worlds (like Second Life or MPK20), our interaction with it has not changed in years.

    Since 1948, when one of the first keyboards was used2, not much has changed in our interaction with computers. To be fair, we can’t forget the introduction of a computer mouse in 1981 and later touch-enabled screens to basically emulate the mouse and interact more directly with pixels on the screen.

    It’s really a shame that the majority of the things we do in our digital worlds are performed by pressing complex combinations of buttons — actions which yield only a handful of bytes of information and are as low-bandwidth as they get. In the real life, we move things, manipulate them with our hands; and we see the results immediately — in real-time, if you will.

    This is a problem in itself, limiting the information flow between digital and physical world, as well as presenting a steep and long learning curve for someone who hasn’t learned the Ctrl-C Ctrl-V vocabulary yet.

    We’ve put a man on the moon. There has to be a better way.

    And there is. It’s tangible user interfaces. A research field gaining more and more interest. Just take a look at what the guys at MIT Media Lab are doing with it in the video below.

    Here at Obelisk, we are trying hard to solve what we believe are increasingly important problems with communication overload by throwing at them some of the hottest technologies behind tangible user interfaces today.


    1. in the name of science, of course:http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,511177,00.html []
    2. http://inventors.about.com/od/computerperipherals/a/computer_keyboa.htm []
  • Urban 18:16 on 7 Mar. 2010 Permalink  


    Brskam po sveže digitaliziranem arhivu revije Popular Science1 na Google Books in sem opazil, da se oglasi ob strani prilagajajo na vsebino strani: ko listaš po reviji, se oglasi osvežujejo (glej sliko: pravi oglas iz leta 1988 je na temo avtomobilskega radar detektorja, na levi pa so Googlovi oglasi za radarje).

    Fascinantno, če pomislimo, da je treba po digitalizaciji vse knjige spustiti čez OCR, najbolj trdovratne besede pa ponuditi ljudem, da jih razpoznajo v okviru projekta ReCaptcha2.


    Oglasi pa pomenijo, da lahko Google dejansko služi s tujimi knjigami in revijami.

    In branje knjig na zaslonu bo kmalu korak bližje branju knjig na papirju. Kljub začetnemu nenavdušenju (tudi mojemu) in šalam na račun iPada, češ da gre samo za povečan iPhone, postaja vse bolj jasno, da bo to “game changer” za surfanje in branje knjig na kavču.

    Poglejte recimo Wiredov prototip e-revije, ki se ga lahko nalepi na vsak tablet, in pa inovativne elemente uporabniškega vmesnika na iPadu (“izgleda kot pregledovalnik, deluje kot urejevalnik”, ipd.)

    Idealen par za tako tablico bo aplikacija v stilu Google Books: digitalizirane knjige in obsežni arhivi revij, po katerih bomo lahko listali brez laptopa v naročju. Komaj čakam.

    Naslednja stvar, ki jo pričakujem je pa tale. Že danes lahko vse knjige, ki jih imamo, preko ISBN vnesemo v svojo Google Books knjižno polico. In potem recimo iščemo po njih. To je silno uporabno, če vemo, da neko zadevo imamo, ne vemo pa točno v kateri knjigi ali na kateri strani. Trenutno iskanje omogoča samo prikaz izseka strani, kjer se nahaja zadetek. Če pa bi zadeve dobro prepojili z reklamami (à la Hulu), bi kar naenkrat dobili dostop do večine svetovnih knjig. Največja knjižnica na svetu na domačem kavču. It’s closer than you think.

    1. 137 letnikov revije, http://www.popsci.com/archives []
    2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Recaptcha, Google jih je prevzel septembra lani []
    • Roman 18:10 on 9 Mar. 2010 Permalink

      Si me spomnil kako hudo je stare sci revije brat. 🙂
      Na racun res neskoncnih arhivov knjig sem pripravljen zamenjat obcutek papirja v rokah. Verjetno se bo pa tud to hitro simuliralo 🙂
      Ze dolgo nisem tvojega bloga gledal. cool …

  • Urban 23:53 on 4 Jul. 2009 Permalink  

    Google je “DNS za content” 

    DNS je telefonski imenik interneta in omogoča preslikavo domene na IP naslov. Zaradi DNS-a je spletna stran lahko dosegljiva na istem naslovu (domeni) ne glede na spremembe IP naslova dejanskega strežnika. Če se IP naslov spremeni, je potrebno le popraviti vnos v DNS-u. Podobno, kot če spremenimo telefonsko številko in zahtevamo spremembo v telefonskem imeniku. DNS tako zagotavlja imunost na spremembe IP naslovov.

    Kaj pa, če se spremeni domena? Če naslov neke strani shranimo kot bookmark, kasneje pa se vrnemo in stara domena ne obstaja več? Analogija bi bila, da si spremenimo ime in nas ljudje v telefonskem imeniku ne morejo več najti. To se na spletu pogosto dogaja in sprašujem se, koliko od mojih bookmarkov na delicious.com še kaže na prave strani.

    Pravkar sem z Googlom našel novo lokacijo ene takšne preimenovane strani — z iskanjem po njeni vsebini. Ali so domene sploh še pomembne, če lahko stran z iskanjem po vsebini najdemo prej, kot lahko najdemo svoj bookmark (ali celo prej, kot če bi naslov natipkali po spominu)?

    Če je vsebina sama tista nespremenljiva esenca strani (torej to, kar naj bi bil že njen URI), potem Google zagotavlja imunost na spremembe domen (oz. neke vrste DNS za vsebino), ta blog post pa se bo dalo najti z iskanjem za “nespremenljiva esenca strani” dokler bo obstajal kjerkoli na netu.

  • Urban 16:55 on 4 Apr. 2009 Permalink  

    Prihodnost naših podatkov 

    Uporabljam kar precej online storitev za organizacijo in shranjevanje podatkov (tj. povezav, teksta, slik, posnetkov, pošte, feedov, ipd.); na hitro sem naštel >15 dokaj pomembnih, kar bi znalo predstavljati problem. Z vsako storitvijo, ki jo dodam, se poveča količina odločanja (kam naj nek podatek shranim, t.i. Paradoks izbire), ter čas iskanja (kam točno sem podatek shranil).

    Vedno bolj pa postaja pomemben tale problem1: komu naj zaupam. Vem, da Google bere mojo pošto in mi na podlagi tega servira oglase. Vem da lahko to počne kdorkoli, ker se nikjer zares ne poglabljam v pogoje uporabe storitve. Toda komu naj zaupam, da bo naslednje leto sploh še obstajal? Celo vsemogočni Google je z ustavitvijo razvoja storitve Google Notebook (kjer sem imel par 100 zapiskov) pokazal, da se na koncu ravna samo po številkah (duh).


    K sreči so ponudili eksport v Google Documents, priložnost pa so zavohali tudi drugi in pri Evernote so takoj ponudili importer2.

    In tudi če pustimo recesijo in propadajoče startupe ob strani, ne moremo mimo človeške neumnosti. Pravkar sem prebral, da je spletni servis ma.gnolia zaradi napake na disku izgubil vse podatke. Za backup pa žal še niso slišali.


    Njihov founder na posnetku hehetaje razloži, da so se iz tega naučili, da je treba imeti dober backup. Good for them. Cenjenim uporabnikom pa ponujajo, da si svoje zaznamke poskusijo rešiti iz cache-a ali kakšnea RSS feeda.

    Podobna zgodba se je (napol) zgodila tudi pri nas: email.si, čeprav trenutno operativen, je bil dolgo časa nedosegljiv.


    Kam in kako naj torej shranimo podatke, da bomo do njih lahko dostopali tudi jutri (tj., če ukinejo storitev, če podjetje propade, če nam zaprejo račun zaradi kršitve pogojev ali če nam kdo ukrade in spremeni geslo)?

    Še najdlje bi prišli z diverzifikacijo, s tem da ne zaupamo nobeni posamezni storitvi. Tu manjka dober sistem, vendar je veliko mogoče storiti že sedaj. Pošto z večine online mail ponudnikov lahko potegnemo k sebi; enako velja za dokumente, bookmarke in druge zadeve online porekla. Marsikatera storitev si lahko vzame za zgled Google Documents, ki omogoča, da vse dokumente prenesemo k sebi v enem samem zipu. Večino fotografij in posnetkov pa tako ustvarimo offline in jih že imamo pri sebi.

    Naslednji korak je backup; vsaj na prenosni disk, optimalno pa še na kakšno bolj zanesljivo napravo ali — v oblak. Pojavlja se cel kup storage storitev (večina bazira na Amazon S3, recimo ZumoDrive3, DropBox4 ), ki brez problema služijo kot backup. Mogoče celo ni neumno, da se pri vsem tem izognemo posredniku (tj. startupu, ki bo jutri propadel zaradi boljše alternative).

    Zključna misel: oblaku očitno lahko zaupamo le, če je naš; in čeprav se zdi, da bi le neumnež edino kopijo (včasih celo vitalnih) podatkov zaupal brezplačni in nepreverjeni storitvi, nas je tej skušnjavi podlegla že večina.. in samo čas bo pokazal ali smo res neumneži.

    1. tale post o url shortenerjih mi je dal misliti []
    2. to in dejstvo, da imajo odličnega klienta za iPhone ter tudi importer za OneNote, so tudi razlogi, da sem jim dal še eno priložnost. Zaenkrat nisem razočaran []
    3. Na voljo tudi klient za iPhone []
    4. dejansko zelo uporabna rešitev, ker dela samo “sync”, kar pomeni da podatki nikoli niso samo online, temveč vsaj še na eni lokaciji []
    • Roman 19:56 on 4 Apr. 2009 Permalink

      En primer kolega ki je zelo nezaupljiv do kakersnegakoli oblaka. Vitalne podatke si je shranjeval na CD/DVD in imel dve kopiji na razlicnih lokacijah. Ni se mu obneslo:).
      Porodilo se mi je eno vprasanja. Ali smo ze kdaj vlekli kake podatke iz JG kaset? Je nas backup OK? Verjetno je.

    • Urban 15:26 on 5 Apr. 2009 Permalink

      Mislim da smo ze.. bomo pa zdej tud tanovega pretestiral 🙂

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