Category think

Geo tagging and search

Interesting snap shot of data. I took 2 photos and posted them on flickr. Photo's are both of pretty much the same thing. I tagged both of them switzerland, which is the location for both but one of them I geo-tagged with lat/long details. The other one i didnt. 4 days later and the one that is geotagged has 61 views and the one that is not has 1 view (which incidentally was me). People seem to be searching flickr for lat/lon a lot more than I expected. I just added the lat/long to the other one to see what happens.

The attention game / how long it takes to drop into the vortex

I am intrigued about how long it takes for a piece of media to get sucked into the vortex of net attention. I found an old photo i took that is amusing — Boris Becker was sitting in front of me on a flight to london back in 2003. The photo is only interesting re; what he was reading.

Machinima, Halo, Google Earth and what film could look like by 2010

Machinima is starting to get more and more interesting as a media form.    See this wonderful intereview with Malcolm Maclaren — a walk in the park with punks impresario.    Or this commmentary on net neutrality — or this parody of the bouncing ball / Sony commercial.    Now take a look at the preview of Halo 3 — and then play around with Google Earth and sketch up for a bit.    The lines between what we know of as media, content, mapping and gaming are going to get completely blurred.

Geotagging photo’s

Thought I would try to geotag some pictures — results are here.   Its crazy that the device I am using to track GPS has a camera on it but doesnt geotag the photo’s itself.  Have to do it manually, post lat/lon into Flickr as tags.     Hassle aside the process of posting location and mapping it to personal media is fascinating — Google buying Sketchup makes a lot of sense.    Communities of interest will start posting and tracking location and it will transform the travel and local search business.    Wiki of geotagging.  Navteq’s business is going to change.    Thanks to Charles Grillo and Yuan helping me sort through the kinks of getting this working.

Sharing that OPML

I am playing around with Dave Winer’s OPML sharing platform and loving it. You can see my OPML file listed or more interestingly you can see other people who have subscriptions like mine (you have to log in to see the match vs. mine, would like an option for this to be public). Its great for feed discovery since people have a reason to use real names, and others can discover them (if you have tried finding friends on you will know why this matters).

Finding or doing something like this has been a personal lazy web project for a while. For a while I would ask people I knew to share OPML’s with me. I tried to manage each persons OPML in a separate folder. Newsgators and Netnewswire did a marginal job of making this data accessible. The folders were present but there was no automatic updating of the OPML (so they were locked in a point in time), there was no easy way to compare my RSS feeds to my friends and there was no attention navigation option (like NetNewsWire has started offering) to give me a sense of whats important to the people whose feeds I am reading (finally, maybe all the attention chatter can be put to use for end users). I ended up having to do a lot of pruning and integration myself, getting rid of the folders, taking other OPML files and grabbing a handful of interesting feeds and leaving it at that.

Winer’s OPML sharing platform open the world up for much richer and more interesting options. Sharing is easy, as is navigation. Its fun to browse through users feeds. I find it a lot more compelling than a lot of the feed search engines out there. Matching the data with identity is the difference. Also interesting to see how little mainstream data is present in the OPML files. Dave’s own list (user ID#3) is one of the few exceptions — I suspect that given all the work he has done re: RSS he is over indexed on tracking media sites for RSS feeds.

Very interested to see how this evolves. This feels to me just like did at the start. All of the gentle ways that Josh introduced happenstance into navigating tags I hope Dave will offer to navigate feeds. And I want to be able to match this with my reader so I can navigate not only the meta data but the actual articles. Likewise I wish I could plug my podcast feed list into this (the one that is trapped, happily so, but still trapped, in iTunes). And I hope that search navigation options really open up. I hope people will be able to build off this, would be wonderful if it became a platform. There are less than 2500 people sharing files as of now, going to be fascinating to see how it evolves as the dataset grows. OPML is another building block for wiring the flow of lateral data on the web. Finding ways to share and mix OPML files is part of the next stage of evolution of RSS.


First a disclaimer should an Italian read this. I know pesto comes from Genoa, and no self respecting Italian would order or expect pesto to be good anywhere but in Genoa. But I am not Italian and I am loving the pesto here in the north, albeit it is hard to find.

There are a mix of options for pesto but the ingredients are pretty simple — start with basil and and olive oil, then maybe add cheese, pine nuts, and garlic. Given the simplicity of ingredients the differences are pretty amazing. I am not that into how to make food — but I am fascinated that you can get such different results from so few ingredients.

The best I have had here is at Al Valuu, a small restaurant outside of Tremezzo (see our trek there). They make it with just basil and oil (3 nuts on top, for decoration). The basil comes from the garden outside of the restaurant, thats the first trick they will explain to you, the second is that they crush it by hand with a pestle and mortar. Therein basil and olive oil somehow turns into something magical. You have to do it by hand they explained to me. Above is the owner — vegatables in hand (note, for his soup, not his pesto).
I have found a couple of other places who do great pesto — some with garlic, some with pine nuts, some with parmesan but nothing comes close to the simple basil and oil solution from Al Valuu. There really aren’t standards here re: how to do something — each family, each place has its own way and its up to you to figure out what’s good for you. I love standards, but in this case I am loving a lack of standards.

GPS tracking, where I am

I am having fun with GPS tracking and posting to the web — tracked a run I went on tonight. Software from Charles Grillio’s (here is his site), he has been great in helping me customize the software for the device. Thank you.
Its a strange feeling to go out and then see where you have been tracked, minute by minute on the web.

To see tracking click here (note / opt for satellite image, I am still off the google grid, just).

Sky in Europe

This register piece is worth a read on Sky’s realtive position in europe — the presumption that sky will dominate multichannel video in europe is held by pretty much everyone here.   Surprising given the progress of IPTV — and the fact that many IPTV providers are figuring out that a me too service isn’t what IPTV is going to be about.   Just like cable differentiated itself from broadcast, IPTV is going to have to differentiate itself from satellite and cable.

A new ball game?

Cringley piece on Apple’s boot camp is worth a read. I think he overrates the importance of the OS — its yesteryears battle. And he under rates the importance of tightly coupled experiences for Apple and the Job’s team. I don’t believe Job’s is interested in having OSX run on OEM PC’s. Apple advantage today is a tightly coupled, CE like experience.

What technology I am using at home in Italy

A couple of friends have asked about what technology we have setup here in Italy. A summary with commentary below.

Connectivity wise we are using ADSL. Cheap, fast european ADSL. We see speeds of 3-6Mbps with very few drop off’s and little maintence. Our provider is Telecom Italia, we have the Alice service. I would have liked to have tried Fastweb but outside of Milan Fastweb is essentially an ADSL reseller — the FTTH offering is in the Milan metro area. Price wise ADSL has several tiers — the lowest is approx. $25 (with promotions etc.) and the highest includes wifi router and voip and is around $38/mnth after promotions. These prices are in line with France, UK and Belgium. Interestingly upload speeds seem to be as much of a selling point as download speeds.  Finally, to share some of this bandwidth goodness I am testing a Fon access point — not a lot of data on it as yet, will post some commentary when I know more.

Telephony wise we have setup a mix of wireless and VoIP options. For calls within Italy we use our cell phones or the home pots line. For cell phones we are using our US phones with Italian prepaid SIM cards. SIM provider is TIM. Coverage is pretty good but not as good as I expected (europeans often complain about US cell service, saying it soo much better here). In buildings, particularly old Italian ones with thick walls, you have no service. Voice service is pricey – driving much of the the text/data usuage. Data usuage is very interesting. SMS is threaded in a manner that I havent seen in the US. And there are many features that on the SIM card that pre load on to the cell phone interface. Most of them are TIM promotional features — local information search for taxi service, or a voice based search/information service (both of which get loaded into your phone book). There are group chat services, some content and entertainment and also payment services. Payfor me lets you pay or SMS funds to another user — either by entering a phone number or by sending an SMS. The phones take full advantage of the simplicity of a text based interface — I have seen far fewer attempts to push usuage into a browser / graphical experience. Likely one reason why next generation/3g adoption has been slow. On the subject of 3g I havent yet tried the wireless VoIP offering from 3 Italia, will post when I do.

Fixed line VoIP wise we have both Vonage and Skype setup. I brought over our Vonage/Cisco ATA box and it was up and running on the network within minutes. It works fabulously well. Offers us a local (917) number for people calling from the US. Almost no issues with quality or drop off. Amusingly our vonage 917 number must have gotton scrapped recently we have started getting telemarketing calls — after 3 years of vonage usuage in the US with no telemarketing calls and now we are getting calls here in Italy from US vendors (consider that these calls are orginating from call centers outside the US, thinking that they are dialing a US resident, an instance of how strange telephony is becoming now that switching is decoupled from location). Most of our usage on vonage is back and forth to the US. Skype is great for calls elsewhere and multiparty conference calls. I got a Linksys cordless skype phone that works fabulously well. Full access to the address book etc. Drop off and quality of Skype calls is good but not great — big difference between quality of Vonage vs. Skype. Note Alice does offer VoIP as part of its ADSL package. As you might expect its not heavily promoted and the main selling point seems to be personal phone lines — it comes with 5 lines / phone numbers. I havent tried this service.

Video wise we arent watching much italian TV. We are using Sling and a couple of IP video services. Sling works surprisingly well. Its an amazing and strange experience to be sitting here in Italy navigating our Tivo box in NY. Its facinating the degree to which I associate interfaces with place — getting on the Tivo from here makes me feel physically like I am in NY — as I said before, its weird. Quality is fairly good, it works great for talking head stuff (jon stewart etc.), less good for drama but its pretty much only the Soprano’s that we watch drama wise. Note we dont watch much TV in the US, and we watch even less here. But I was surprised by how well Sling does work. The quality bottle neck is mostly because of the upload limit on our broadband connection in the US (the stream we recieve is on average 250-300k). That said if we wanted to watch sports, or any fast moving image — the sling experience wouldnt be great.

Outside of Sling I have tried pretty much all the movie download services. Performance is mixed but lack of quality films has been pretty consistent accross services. This is changing (given recent collapses of the DVD and online window) — and now the quality and price of the services are going to compete head on with p2/ bittorrent alternatives. Vongo / iTunes are the best US services I have found. Do note that most of these services are blocked to non US IP numbers so they only work when connected via a VPN. Italian IPTV is starting to blossom. There are services available via the PC and there are services available to the TV. The PC based service is mostly pay per view — there are prepaid card options that are blended with telephony offerings. The TV based service retails as a complete package for $60/mnth — this includes ADSL, telephony services and a basic TV line up. While I havent tried the service it doesnt seem as advanced as Illiad’s offering in France.

I am also watching a fair amount of short/chunky video from youtube, rocketboom and its kin, but thats a whole other subject.

Scraping data and API’s

Scrapperwas wondering how easy it would be to build a generic approach to opening up API’s on web sites who didnt formally publish them and then last night I saw this post about scrAPI’s. Great stuff — would like to be able to cut and paste data sources and mix them together myself. I find myself doing manually today too often (eg: the other night I was cutting and pasting rotten tomatoes reviews vs. a movie database). So many mashup’s today and based on geo location data — its like my one year old who has six or seven words, most everything is at some point “hot”. Latitude and longitude are just the easiest and first data source to be mined — things are going to get a lot more interesting as the data sources become increasingly diverse. I am interested in Thor Muller’s coming posts on the business and legal issues regarding scpAPIng.

What you believe?

We went to lunch yesterday to this small island called Isola Comacina. The island is tiny and has one restaurant on it and a lot of history behind it. The restaurant is run by Benvenuto Puricelli — dressed in a traditional outfit with a stripped woolen ski hat he serves lunch to his guests. There is no menu — you sit down and there from then onwards there is a steady stream of food and drink, always the same menu, everyday that its open, for every year, since 1949.

As Benvenuto will explain (and at the end of every-meal he does) the islands story stretches back to the times when the lake was part of the fjords. There is a rich history including saints, wars, attempts to re-create eden and finally curses. For in 1127 an anonymous poet cursed the island. Shortly thereafter (1196) the Island was sacked. Sacked by the city of Como — castle destroyed, churches burnt, inhabitants killed. Between 1196 and 1948 not a lot of people lived on the island. The curse — that anyone who lived on the island or visited it would die — held sway. The island passed hands to hands — from 1919 to 1927 the Island was owned by Belgium (note the whole island is less than half a mile long). Then in 1948 a proposal was made to open an Inn on the Island — when the two people involved in the proposal met swift and untimely deaths it was assumed the curse was with the island forever. Right around then that another poet showed up. Francis Dale suggested that an exorcism was needed, specifically an exorcism by fire. So every meal that Benvenuto prepares concludes with the exorcism. During the exorcism he retells the story of the island, while preparing a flaming mix of coffee, brandy and sugar in a large urn. You have to experience it to believe it. There is more history of the island here (see picture of Benvenuto), and here.

One of the things that struck me about the lunch was the depth of Benvenuto’s belief. So much so that its embedded in his actions. Benvenuto believes that in order to keep the curse at bay, to keep the restaurant and his life, he needs to perform this ritual. What are the beliefs and rituals I follow everyday and question them no more than Benvenuto does? These beliefs are a form of unconscious selection — and they make up part of the fabric of how we live our lives.

The web and web pages have from the outset been constructed using metaphors from print and other media types. There are layers and layers of beliefs embeded in how the web is constructed. I sometimes think of web sites as vertical, branded contructs. Yet the verticality is mostly a product of these metaphors. Data is starting to move laterally accross vertical sites — creating facinating new applications and services. I remember back in October of 1994 reading an article in wired titled “the second phase of the revolution has begun”. I remember having sweaty palms thinking now the web was featured in Wired it would be at most a year or two before the web would settle into a steady and predictable pattern. Here I am 12 years later and the web is still constructing and reconstucting itself — the innovation that is occuring today on the edge of the web is as interesting as ever. And gradually the beliefs we have about the medium are becoming supplanted by its intrinsic properties.

(the view from Comacina)