Saturday, May 24, 2014

Global idea movement

Back in 2004 when I was considering doing an open source project I had many vague notions about why it would be a good idea, but now more than a decade later I can cheerfully say that my reason now for wild support is global idea movement. As I noted in my post on the 10 year anniversary of my project, it has been downloaded from over 150 countries, and could I have done that with a moneyed project?

Can you imagine trying to market a paid product in over 150 countries?

I guess Google and Facebook are learning. But even for them their base products are free: Google search, and well, Facebook.

And oddly enough Facebook came out the same month as my little app, and more power to them! I don't envy that Zuckerberg guy. But my ideas are in probably about as many countries as his.

I'll take that, thank you very much.

When it comes down to it, a few people can build a mega corporation that can handle all the issues of global marketing, production, development and sales, but many, many, many  more people can watch in awe as their open source project gets downloaded from all over the world.

So intriguingly, take the money out of it, and ideas can move--globally.

That's one of the greatest gifts of our modern web.

But then again, with the money involved they can as well. It kind of makes you wonder.

So it's kind of an interesting thing we can see in our time, which I think is remarkable--as in worth remarking upon.

And where better to remark than on my own blog where ideas rule?

But one does wonder...

Regardless I feel I can confidently say from my own experience that if you want to most easily have people all over the globe using something you developed then open source is clearly a way. For a paid product I'm sure you have a much bigger hill to climb.

James Harris

Friday, May 09, 2014

More on ESA radar satellite

Am still intrigued by the Copernicus project and so here is a link to a news story from the +European Space Agency, ESA  where having a radar satellite has made a difference:

Copernicus Sentinel-1 aids response to Namibia flood

It seems interesting to me that such satellites haven't already been in widespread use before. Oh yeah, so the point of a radar satellite is that it can penetrate through clouds making it all-weather.

Europe is pioneering a system, and I have to wonder why my country doesn't already have something like that in use for the world.

But that just goes to show you: no one country or group of countries will provide all the solutions necessary for our world.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

My view on problem space and innovation

My personal philosophy on development is that the problem space is the most important thing. And the problem space has to do with: what exactly is the purpose of this application, why must it exist?

The way I think that works usually is you code something for the initial problem space, which fulfills a need, and you watch users with the thing, which can help you to better formulate the outlines of the problem space, which can push you to add features or refine the application.

And that can lead to rapid development, with lots of iterations as you approach a better and better solution to a problem space that gets ever more defined.

Or you can just solve the problem space.

For instance, my open source application Class Viewer has very few iterations, almost no innovation, and hasn't really changed very much in over 10 years!

But as far as I am concerned it solves a particular problem space, which is how to get class information quickly, about public methods, fields, constructors and get to Javadocs.

Turns out I needed that problem space solved and had been frustrated years ago with trying to do those same things by other means.

The biggest innovation from the original product has been also letting you open a Java file in a text editor.

What's interesting to me is how the simple concept of a problem space can explain when you will see a lot of iterations and innovations versus when you should not. But I think there can be a problem if someone feels they MUST have a lot of iterations just because.

Now generally you will NOT solve the problem space with a particular application but only approximate a solution with ever greater accuracy. For instance, smartphones today are vastly different from the original cellphones.

The problem space of: what should this mobile computing thing do for users?--is evolving, growing, expanding and ever changing.

It's hard to imagine when it might be completely solved!

The Java language itself operates in the problem space of: how do you best tell a computing device what to do?

And another area is the social app problem space which can probably never be completely solved and we're seeing lots of applications out there trying to solve various pieces of it and flesh out the problem space, and I use quite a few of them: Blogger, Google+, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, among others.

But that's not a surprise: being human is kind of complicated and connecting with other humans is VERY complicated. It's a wonder they're getting by with as little innovation as they're doing so far.

And that is my philosophy on how the problem space helps you understand when innovation is necessary, which also lets me explain why my own application gets away with so little.

Solving a major problem space is something very few developers will ever experience.

But if you DO solve a problem space you will look with amazement at an application which is just what it needs to be. Such a thing I suspect is like a unicorn for most of the development world, as in they have never seen it and presume it's just some mythical beastie which can not exist in the real world.

James Harris

Some disclosures May 2014

At this time I have no paid endorsements. Items I talk about on this blog including products are simply things that interest me, and I'm not getting paid anything in return for mentioning them.

If that were to change I would disclose which it turns out is what you're supposed to do if I'm correctly interpreting guidelines from the Federal Trade Commission, FTC for short, in this area. To get to those yourself you can find links in a press release from the FTC:

Federal Trade Commission Press Release

And I think it is a way to see an example of how government regulation is important.

It makes a difference whether or not something you're reading on a blog is really just someone's uncompensated opinion or if they're getting paid in some way which can influence that opinion.

Smart regulation is where the government plays an important role in protecting consumers in ways that make sense.

There are blog posts mostly from a ways back when I talked products as I had a concept for the blog at that time where it might move in a product review direction. Now I'm not interested in that path. There was no compensation for those posts. Just idle ideas I was trying as I experimented on directions for this blog.

Also there are posts in support of Chrome OS and things related to it, but that's because I consider it to be what I call a BOS, which stands for Browser Operating System. And it turns out I introduced that concept on this blog back in May 2008. I have no idea if Google is listening to me on this subject, and definitely am not getting anything from them to discuss it! If I did I'd gleefully disclose as that would also be bragging rights.

And I have my own concepts for doing endorsements if I ever do them, as I have none now, which I encapsulated into a post talking about what I called a limited endorser.

James Harris

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Great on mobile

All of my blogs including this one have mobile templates so give you a solid experience on mobile devices.

So you can conveniently read this blog, anywhere, any time.

For most of you getting to it from your mobile device should be easy!

Search on: Beyond Mundane

Saturday, May 03, 2014

Problem solving and copyright

The idea that perfect digital copying removed the ability to effectively protect information from copying has fascinated me for years as I wonder who came up with this notion. It just never made sense to me that the two things went together and my suspicion has always been that some people simply want it to be true.

Of course I could be wrong. But I have a little problem solving exercise to toss into the mix.

My recent idea I call IDDI for In-Data Dynamic Identification can easily be used in a scenario that I think is compelling.

So imagine an IDDI system is in place when you download a photo or a movie. If you know of it, you may even see imprinted on the photo identifying information about YOU which the server dynamically added when you requested the photo (but not necessarily as it may be invisible). So that photo is in that way unique to you. Someone else at the same webpage downloading the same photo would have one with IDDI about THAT person instead.

If you just keep it for yourself, no worries. But let's say you share and you're a BIG sharer. That photo zips around the world, but is copyrighted. The copyright owner eventually notices and imprinted on the photo is your identifying information which leads directly back to YOU.

Yup, now that identifying information leads back to you and maybe even tells them the day and hour when you downloaded that photo. No denial possible.

Now, let's say you try to remove it. If you miss ANYTHING when prosecutors come to get you, they can show attempts to remove that IDDI as prima facie evidence of intent to commit a crime.

Even knowing that is possible could greatly limit the possibility that a regular person would even try to share that photo or movie, as the same scenario can apply to a movie.

How many people do you think will still routinely share copyrighted material without the owner's permssion with that scenario hanging over their heads?

Now then, if you thought problem solving could not find a way to limit digital copying because digital allows perfect copying I think IDDI can be a warning to you. I also have another idea I call DMESE which can also be used to let people make personal copies which inhibits illegal sharing by self-encrypting the copy.

To me these are nice ideas in that they don't negatively impact end users like myself which would not necessarily give an unfair advantage to some major corporation or government.

And if people want you copying then that would be ok, but it could be the creative person's choice once again, where if you violated that trust and tried to share anyway technology could tell that tale.

Oh yeah, so why would some people push the idea that perfect digital copies removed the ability to inhibit illegal copying?

My guess is that the idea was sexy to them. There isn't any logical reason to connect the two things, but for someone who wishes it to be true logic may not matter. And how many people out there are smart enough to question them?

James Harris

Friday, May 02, 2014

Update on DMESE

My recent idea about the server sending identifying information back in requested data has me thinking about one of my ideas I put out years ago that I designated--Digital Media Equipment Self-Encryption, or DMESE for short.

The idea originated first on this blog January 9, 2007, and the backstory is I had watched a coworker with fascination as he discussed sharing copied movies with other co-workers as if it was the most natural thing.

And I'm thinking, how could you stop casual piracy by ordinary people? This guy was just some office worker, no real tech skills.

After a while I came up with: why not have the guy's computing device encrypt copies of movies and allow copying. The encrypted copies would be worthless to anyone else and only play on his machine as it was DOING the encryption which is the self-encryption part. So his machine could read its own copies, but no one else without a key.

I actually started calling it DMESE on one of my other blogs on May 26, 2007.

Back then I had this vague idea that maybe if I threw this idea out there someone might pick it up. But I was naive about how ideas propagate and maybe too mystical about the web.

However, something like it DID maybe emerge as a product involving copying encrypted to a hard drive and was out there for a bit only to be squashed by the MPAA.

Over the years I had a few rants on the subject, which I think was just me being naive. I've learned a lot more about how hard it is to get ideas forward, even when given away. And rants don't help. I've decided to leave the posts linked to above as they were. That helps me as well to see how I feel about some of those comments today.

Now over 7 years later I really don't think about the idea much.

The story does make the point though that it's not enough to just come up with an idea and  toss it out there. Turns out that there is usually a LOT of real hard work involved to go from idea to some working product, as well as a lot of luck.

If you're not interested in putting in that hard work then expectations should be low, and mine now are. But it doesn't mean I can't just toss something up on my blog! That part is just clean fun.

My functional perspective though on DMESE remains: the idea was to find a way to let people make copies of movies they purchase.

If it actually worked well and were implemented, maybe it could have saved the movie industry a little money. But then again, who knows? (And who cares.) It's just one idea in a world of them.

James Harris

Thursday, May 01, 2014

My ideas perspective

Years go I was waiting on a Muni bus while living in San Francisco, and when it came it was full to the gills is the expression. But right behind it--schedule was massively wacky and screwed up that day--was another bus which was mostly empty. I got on the second bus.

And I thought to myself: what if there were weight sensors on the bus, which could tell when a bus was very full and tweet out that it was and maybe even tell you the next bus was nearly empty?

Now then that was years ago and if I wanted to push that idea I might find some people with skills to figure out a product. We could have pursued patents, and then started looking for funding and maybe investors. Over time we might have approached municipalities with our system, and tried to convince them to try it.

And I had no freaking interest in doing any of those things! I was just some guy with some idle thoughts while riding along on the bus.

But should I just toss the idea then? My answer is, no.

Instead I tweeted it, and maybe could find that tweet. I was typing that sentence and then did just that:

Wow this embedding tweets is powerful, glad Twitter gave the capability as I wasn't sure myself when that happened.

Now then, what if someone else took my idea and ran with it and made a massive company from it, what would I get? Appropriately, no money, as it's a free idea and what really have I done compared to the massive effort necessary to actually implement such a system? Nothing. So no money from someone who does do that massive work IS appropriate. Besides I like to give away free ideas.

So what do I get out of it?

Well, consider someday I'm in San Francisco waiting on a bus, and I'm checking my Twitter and the bus tweets.

Let's call it--the 10 am Muni #108.

And 10 am Muni #108 says: Bus is full, but followed by 10:15 am Muni #108 which is half empty. Thank you for riding Muni!

I would get at least a momentary twinge of pleasure and look around wondering if anybody knew I had that idea years ago. But more importantly, I'd wait for the next bus and calmly watch as the 10 am came and went.

I have a functional perspective.

Besides, putting ideas out in this way also gives the possibility that then people just might get curious to come see where that idea was put out publicly, and if it traveled the world I might have people from all over the world come to this blog post to see that idea put out there.

And that attention could have value.

So there, possibly a better explanation for why I just throw up so many ideas on my blogs! If I were pursuing any one of some of them then I could be knee-deep into all kinds of things that don't interest me, like talking with lawyers.

The web has I think shifted the dynamics of ideas where people like me, can see an advantage in putting out an idea versus sitting on it, or trying to actually implement it.

That dynamic intrigues me.

James Harris