Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Some advice to Twitter

Yesterday Twitter reported on earnings and the stock went down in after market trading where the explanation I read was that investors were concerned with user growth, as it was beneath market expectations.

I'm not surprised.

I really like Twitter and LOVE recent advances, like being able to embed tweets into posts which I've used, and the new profile. If you wish to see mine, you can check:

And I like to tweet, and checking now for this post I see I have 4237 tweets. But tweeting is providing content, and I think Twitter fails to understand how hard that can be so I'll talk about YouTube with advice for Twitter.

Can you imagine if YouTube behaved like Twitter? Then it wouldn't count views much, only people putting up videos! Do you have videos on YouTube?

I actually do. They're more like test videos and checking for this post, I have 61 views. But at least I can check to see how many views I have! I cannot tell you how many people have viewed my tweets as Twitter doesn't tell me.

Can you imagine if YouTube behaved that way? Then we wouldn't know the most viewed videos on YouTube!!!

If they behaved like Twitter we would know the most shared videos, as sharing is equivalent to re-tweeting.

Quite simply Twitter doesn't appreciate the content value of tweets and still behaves as if they're mostly throw-away communications between two individuals versus being rich content in their own right.

The inability to see the true value of tweets and to give respect to tweet viewers as well as producers is I think the biggest current problem that is restricting the company.

If YouTube behaved like Twitter it would appear to have a growth problem as well, as its user numbers would be pathetic with lots of people signed up versus the number posting videos.

So, my advice to Twitter is to accept users who do not tweet but view tweets as being valuable to the company just like YouTube accepts people who post no videos!

And I believe more people will sign up for Twitter if they don't feel like they are pressured to tweet.

It can be demoralizing I'm sure to look at very few followers or very few tweets and feel like you just don't belong.

I'm not sure how Twitter can make those folks feel welcome even if they're not tweeting into the thousands, but I suggest they think of a way.

And please give analytics information for those people who DO love to tweet, so people can see which tweets are doing great beyond just re-tweets or favorites. Views are passive. Re-tweets and favorites are active behaviors.

Most viewers are not going to engage in an active behavior with tweets beyond looking at one, just like most people don't engage actively with videos on YouTube beyond looking at them, yet YouTube tells us views anyway.

Thanks Twitter for doing a great job, and my advice is just my opinion which I like to throw out there.

Talk is a lot easier than helping hundreds of millions of people communicate around the world! So I will note that my thinking is mine and may not represent the best path. Others may agree or disagree.

It's just so much fun to throw ideas out there.

James Harris

Monday, April 28, 2014

In data identification?

Had an idea yesterday about sites adding a user's identifying identification onto a photo that is sent back to that user, and began to wonder this morning if it's a new idea--which I doubt--and also to consider how it can be done with just about any data.

The reality when you use the web is that your computing device sends a request for data to some server somewhere. That server if it honors that request sends you the requested information back. It conceivably could add information identifying you into that information, if it had it, within the data it sends back to you!

Like with my original photo idea, your user ID if you were known to the site could be imprinted on the photo, either visibly, or near visible, or invisible as a watermark. That would only matter if you shared as it could let people trace back sharing to the source, if it were copyrighted material.

One cool thing is that there are no privacy issues, as it's the user's own identification being sent back to them. If data isn't being encrypted, then that probably isn't a problem as if they requested the data via an unencrypted stream then they already sent that exact same type data. So you're just reflecting back, removing privacy concerns. If they share later then they broke their own privacy, not you.

Of course one might argue that people could simply remove the data before sharing.

Yup, if they knew how!

If everybody did it differently, then it would be difficult for some app to be built that could remove every way it might be done, and for most users, sites could have a reasonable expectation that they could trace back illegal sharing rather accurately, with a narrow group of superusers at the fringe with whom there would be a constant war to figure out ways to imprint they couldn't find.

But that's just what I'm thinking this morning after an idea yesterday which occurred to me while I started thinking about the subject wondering how you might keep up with who is sharing your photos.

I have these kinds of ideas ALL the time. I don't necessarily take them too seriously, but will just toss them up, as kind of a brainstorming exercise.

If not new, ok. If is new, why? It's so simple!

Idea is free.

Hmmm...have decided to call it: in-Data Dynamic Identification. Or IDDI for short.

James Harris

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Why not imprint ID on photos?

The issue of photos being shared without attribution is one where I think I can put up a free idea which makes a lot of sense to me: why not when a person views a photo automatically imprint ID information on it?

So like if I go to a website and view a photo, what it displays automatically includes say my user ID on that site or my IP address, which is MY info so no privacy issues!

If I choose to share that photo then I end up giving that information away on my own, so it could be an option for sites where they don't want people to share and tell them.

So it shouldn't be automatic like if you want people to share or don't care who is the source of a photo.

The info could be a watermark, or something that doesn't even have to be visible.

Just an idea I thought I'd throw out there.

James Harris

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Google Translate feature on blog

To help readers who do not speak English or who would like to read in a different language other than English the blog has the Google Translate feature which is just above the posts. To use it, simply select your preferred language in the drop-down box.

I like this feature because I have a lot of readers coming from lots of different countries but only speak English fluently.

Would appreciate any comments on how it is working for you! (Or not.)

Oh yeah, for those curious about why that feature should help, checking Google Analytics now, it shows me that people from 23 countries have visited in the last 30 days.

James Harris

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Why not a Java sandbox?

One of those things I've finally admitted to myself is some frustrations with how Java is being handled, especially with regard to the negative news on security. And I'm going to go out of my area with a suggestion about a sandbox, but it lets me discuss some issues related to my own open source project Class Viewer so I'll go for it.

Security is of course a big deal and I think finding ways to make it easy for developers is a great approach, where I don't think it's easy right now with Java and mostly I ignore the issue.

So my Class Viewer can't be run as an applet now because I haven't bothered with security certificates, and I've been paranoid that eventually they might block it from calling applications where now it calls the browser and can call a text editor, as well as open files where it looks for its own xml configuration file and Java files.

There is no interest from the app in calling anything else, so I'm like, why can't there be a sandbox where applications like mine can operate without security being an issue because they're isolated from anything dangerous on the device?

And a Java sandbox could have things like pictures, music and video, where access is open, but an app can't go wandering off into other things like system files.

As vague as that may sound it might be as simple as having an application tell the JVM that it is in a sandbox so that it has clearance, and then only being allowed access to files in certain folders, with system file folders always excluded.

Or I guess, as like I said, it's not really in my area. But it seems to me that in a security conscious world, Java should make it easy for any developer to handle security.

Currently I've not done a lot with much of the structure in Java for meta-information around the build either, so my app doesn't tell you things like build information in the meta. I'm debating adding that info but it seems like useless work for the developer that the compiler could do, like with: javac -build

Then the compiler could add the next build number and make that entire freaking set of info that doesn't interest me most of the time. Oh yeah, and if I DO decide to do more with security, how do I get a certificate for Class Viewer anyway?

And should I think better about a certain company I will not name with the hard task of managing Java?

I really want success with one of the most valuable intellectual items out there as the Java language just keeps amazing me for what it can do. But I now cringe every time I read someone knocking it, where lately it's been about security.

I want that opening for haters against the language closed. And I don't see myself thinking better about a certain company until that's done.

James Harris

Friday, April 18, 2014

On ESA video outreach and Kilimanjaro

Was really impressed with how well embedding a video from +European Space Agency, ESA worked in a recent post about an important satellite launch where I relished the opportunity to focus on what I thought was a very newsworthy topic.

And I'd like to mention that and also say I really think it's a great thing when space agencies work on outreach and do things like show us a lot of video from their efforts, as why not?

And they can put up some really cool things. So here's a post talking about that and also I want to put up one more video which is from their "Earth From Space" series. Why? Why not? I think that a little sharing can go a long way:

Monday, April 14, 2014

Web digesting television

As someone who predicted a BOS--Browser Operating System--as the next phase years ago I feel good about trends moving in a direction I long suspected. And with Chromecast making waves where I guess from its name it is related to Chrome OS which is a BOS, I think it worth talking about television and what I think is its place in our modern web ruled world.

I actually put up my thoughts on the subject years ago in a tweet:

Back then I didn't capitalize as much.

Noting these trend predictions is not bragging as it helps to figure out what's going on, and why.

And that is a BIG DEAL as money eventually moves as people figure out what they want now, which can make or break companies.

My view is that television will remain in our web centric world but people will use their "televisions" as web portals where, yeah, they'll also watch TV on them.

And I think that's really cool.

The rise of streaming devices is a necessary phase in the evolution of the web, which is still young, still growing and maturing, and needs to gobble up certain things and digest them in order to help that growth process.

I'll also say I'm a bit disappointed that Chrome OS is really the only main thing out there I know of with a BOS while Mozilla has efforts, but they don't seem to be moving as well at this point.

I think a BOS is just a natural thing with a web-centric world, and wonder why it's taking so much time for the concept to really grow wings. But then again that's the reality of a world full of ideas, and besides I may be wrong regardless of what things look like today. In time I'm certain it will be clear.

James Harris

Thursday, April 10, 2014

But what is science?

As important as science is--it's hard to imagine life without the great things, like computers that science has brung--it's worth asking: what is it?

And I came across a simple sentence years ago with an answer that encapsulates it completely:

Science is the art of prediction.

Whenever you flip a light switch, oddly enough, you're doing science. You know the light will come on, and it's not magic or mystical. And usually, you're right! But sometimes it doesn't come on, and you can work out the reasons: light bulb out maybe, or you didn't pay the power bill, or storms have cut power, etc.

And I can encapsulate everything scientific within that paradigm of prediction, as medical science can predictably set broken bones. Rockets can predictably put satellites into orbit. Computer scientists can predictably, well, are there actually computer scientists?

With the easy definition above--which you may doubt--we can answer that question: to the extent that computer scientists engage in research that leads to predictability they are scientists.

There is no science without prediction.

Our ancestors were not just silly to call on the gods or spirits or whatever for things they needed. They really needed those things, like fire, or good weather for their crops. And could die, and often did die when those things weren't available.

They were willing to try anything to get what they needed, but could not reliably get those things regardless. The gods were maybe not into being as reliably servile as a light switch.

In contrast we have lots of important areas where things are remarkably predictable, and even do ok in areas where they are not. Like we have weather scientists who are pretty good at predicting, though not perfect, and now we can easily transition into where scientific research gets really interesting.

Scientists around the globe work quite simply to extend the arena of prediction.

So yes, you do science when you flip a light switch--whether you realize it or not--but at the upper limits of scientific discovery, scientists are trying to get repeatability--prediction that works--with far more complex things.

Let's consider how big that is, like if they succeed in certain areas, we can have, say, predictable power from fusion reactors. Or predictable treatments for all types of cancer.

Or we can predict our weather and climate better given large inputs of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

Still doubting the utility of that simple sentence claiming science is the art of prediction?

Well then consider what you can now say is beyond science, like, can you predict anything about God?

What about when we die? Science can predictably tell you what happens to a human body, but where is prediction when it comes to other concepts, like what predictions could be tested about a soul?

If you cannot present a testable predictive framework it is NOT scientifically manageable.

But what does art have to do with it then?

Well, remarkably enough it is not completely clear how we manage to do well when we do well at figuring things out well enough to predict things like how electricity will flow, which allows us to have light on demand.

Consider, back during the Roman Empire, steam was known, over 2000 years ago was the Antikythera mechanism, an early analog computer made out of gears. What if? What if Romans had built steam engines? Why didn't they? What if people of the time had continued to build ever more complex computers? Why didn't they?

And in mathematics Archimedes was doing calculus, long before Newton or Leibniz were even born.

The simple explanation for the need for "art" when talking about science is that we're not really sure how it is we know what we know, or why we know it, when we know it!

Political science can help you predict political trends or even who is likely to win a political election, but it cannot predict if a particular person will be a great leader or not.

You can survey art students all you wish, but who of them, if any, will produce a work of art on the level of the Mona Lisa?

You can consider this idea that science is the art of prediction with hefty skepticism and try to see what efficacy it has in your life. I see it as a functional way to look at science which can tell you when people are doing science, and when they are not. It can also help you understand the limits of science.

And best of all, it can elevate the wonder about art in our world.

Art is something beyond science. Science can study art. You can probe the Mona Lisa. Consider how it was made. Puzzle out who was portrayed.

But can you really truly explain that painting or any great masterpiece?

I suggest to you that science will never explain art because art is bigger than science, and in fact encapsulates it. Which is an opinion, and a prediction!

So yes, it is science, or as I like to say: meta-science.

Isn't knowledge fun?

My opinions are my own, but you can search on: "science is the art of prediction"

The web makes it easy to look over the history of that phrase. It also lets you look easily at how others talk about what science is.

As for my qualifications for making this post, I need none. It's my blog. But it might be helpful to note I at least have an undergraduate degree in physics, having a B.Sc., which is a Bachelor of Science, from +Vanderbilt University. That means I have a little training in the subject, though the experts in the field tend to have doctorates so I'm not claiming expertise.

Enjoy the search. Find out more about what is predictable in your life, and why.

Science can tell you.

James Harris

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Article talks price for some of video game success

Given some of the topics on my mind lately I was fascinated by an article from the +The New Yorker with the following provocative title:


I've read it and my take on it is that the article has some very articulate developers who describe the kind of issues that you may not usually consider ahead of success--or what most people call success.

And I think it's kind of a weird thing that you can have so much fun doing something that lots of people don't necessarily understand, where it'd be nice to be successful, but then again that success starts wrecking that fun.

My own view is that it's best to worry about success long before you get it, and if you never get it--I'm not successful by world standards--then you're still ok. The preparation doesn't involve what you might think.

Friday, April 04, 2014

Through rain, sleet or snow

Was happy to come across postings recently from the +European Space Agency, ESA about the launch of the Sentinal 1-a satellite, part of the Copernicus Project.

And with worries about the climate often in the news I think it's great that there will finally be satellites that can look through weather--rain, sleet, snow or whatever--to see our planet, with total coverage.

It's the kind of project that deserves a lot of attention and praise. I thank Europeans for taking the lead in this way.

So cool.

And I know about it because of the web as I haven't seen much in the news here in the United States.

Which is so odd. Consider this quote from a Guardian article about it:

...the first satellite of its multibillion-euro Copernicus Earth observation project that will supply valuable images in the event of natural disasters or even a plane crash.

Wish the system were in place now. And with certain news dominating news channels here you'd think that our media would have noticed.

Our news media in the United States needs to think beyond just saturation coverage for ratings and also cover the big picture including the systems that can help in the future. Oh well.

But hey, I can bring news too in this modern web age! May those who have been lost be found. And this project will help in the future.

Here's a YouTube video playlist which starts with the cool launch yesterday.