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28 Aug 14:54

On the need for empathy and kindness in academia

by Raul Pacheco-Vega

Due to personal problems (my parents have been ill for more than 6 weeks), I have been unable to participate in any of the international conferences of the social sciences’ disciplines I follow more closely (anthropology, geography, sociology and the upcoming political science one, the American Political Science Association, APSA 2014 meeting). However, I follow the Twitter streams with great interest, because I gain new insights on different methods, new theories, concepts and approaches to scholarship.

I recently followed the American Sociological Association (#ASA14) Twitter stream, and I have to admit that while I learned a lot, I was also flabbergasted at the amount of vitriol I saw a few academics spew at their colleagues. Even more disheartening, these criticisms were aimed at their colleagues’ personal traits rather than their scholarly pursuits. To be perfectly honest, I found this incredibly sad, particularly in a discipline focused on the study of social behavior, and sociality. The amount of snark I saw on the Twitter stream of #ASA14 prompted me to tweet the following, which apparently resonated with many, many fellow scholars.

Fellow academics: when in doubt, choose to be kind. More feedback, less bag-punching. Give others the empathy you demand for yourself.

— Dr Raul Pacheco-Vega (@raulpacheco) August 24, 2014

Sometimes, I fear that academics forget that underneath that strong armour of scholarly insights, we are only humans. Personally, I’m neither afraid of criticism nor a wallflower. I was trained by one of the toughest scientists I’ve ever known, and I was educated under the tradition of direct criticism, sometimes punchy and incisive and not even couched in kind and gentle commentary. I take punches, online and offline. But that doesn’t mean that I approve of criticism that is vitriolic. I’m well aware that our job as academics is to challenge positions, criticize and (in doing so), making recommendations and advancing knowledge. But we don’t need to do so by spewing vitriol on other academics.

I sincerely hope that attendees at academic conferences, workshops and seminars never forget that they, too, will at some point demand kindness and gentle criticism. I would just hope that by then, they will also have given the empathy they demand.

28 Aug 20:04

How would you like it if …

by pricetags

Bike lane

Via Taras Grescoe and @spacing.

28 Aug 19:50

Department of Irony: Pruitt-Igoe Revisited

by pricetags

St. Louis will likely now be known for two great social failures in American urban history.  Ferguson, of course.  And nine miles to the southeast and a half-century ago, the Pruitt-Igoe housing project (map here).

As described in a CityLab article:

… a set of 33 massive 11-story apartment buildings set on 57 acres of open space, was a classic urban renewal solution: razing an old neighborhood and starting over.

Completed in 1956 and designed by Minoru Yamasaki, author of the World Trade Center in New York City, Pruitt-Igoe was a bad version of Le Corbusier’s Ville Radieuse and his Unite d’Habitation apartment complex in Marseille. The superblock structures had no amenities and soon turned into warehouses of fear and crime and despair; the project was famously blown up in 1972, a symbol of bad planning.

Oh yes, famously blown-up, on live television, and ultimately set to the music of Philip Glass in Koyaanisqatsi (2:09-5:01):




The connection between Pruitt-Igoe and Ferguson?

The African-American families fleeing Pruitt-Igoe sought housing in St. Louis County to the north, in unincorporated towns like Spanish Lake—and Ferguson. Other predominantly white suburbs blocked the construction of multifamily housing. So the ring of suburbs outside the city of St. Louis all followed their own paths, making up the famously fragmented metropolitan region.

The city itself struggled with post-industrial decline and a population-loss spiral of well over a half-million people, and racial divisions were etched into the physical landscape.

In “A Failed Public-Housing Project Could Be a Key to St. Louis’ Future,” Anthony Flint describes the latest phase in Pruitt-Igoe’s troubled history:

The rubble-strewn forest is almost exactly at the center of 1,500 acres set for residential, commercial, and office space, plus a school and 50 acres of parks and trails. The lynchpin of it all would be to get the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency—the high-tech eyes and ears of the Defense Department—to relocate to where the towers of Pruitt-Igoe once stood.

Truly, you could not make this up.

28 Aug 19:21

Ferguson: A Dangerous Phase in the Suburban Experiment

by pricetags
PT has often featured Charles Marohn, the founder of Strong Towns and critic of the ‘suburban experiment.’   Here are his thoughts on the deeper meaning to be derived from events in Ferguson, Missouri. 
Excerpts from “Stroad Nation” - Strong Towns, August 25, 2014


What I see with Ferguson is a suburb deep into the decline phase of the Suburban Ponzi Scheme. The housing styles suggest predominantly 1950’s and 1960’s development. We’re past the first cycle of new (low debt and low taxes), through the second cycle of stagnation (holding on with debt and slowly increasing taxes) and now into predictable decline. There isn’t the community wealth to fix all this stuff — and there never was — so it is all slowly falling apart. …

Decline isn’t a result of poverty. The converse is actually true: poverty is the result of decline. Once you understand that decline is baked into the process of building auto-oriented places, the poverty aspect of it becomes fairly predictable. The streets, the sidewalks, the houses and even the appliances were all built in the same time window. They all are going to go bad at roughly the same time. Because there is a delay of decades between when things are new and when they need to be fixed, maintaining stuff is not part of the initial financial equation. Cities are unprepared to fix things — the tax base just isn’t there — and so, to keep it all going, they try to get more easy growth while they take on lots of debt.

In 2013, Ferguson paid nearly $800,000 just in interest on its debt. By comparison, the city budgeted $25,000 for sidewalk repairs, $60,000 for replacing police handguns and $125,000 for updating their police cars. And, like I pointed out last week, Ferguson does what all other cities do and counts their infrastructure and other long-term obligations as assets, not only ignoring the future costs but actually pretending that the more infrastructure they build with borrowed money, the wealthier they become. …

Ferguson isn’t all decline, however. They have the now infamous QuikTrip and all the other stroad development types that thrive on places in decline. Multiple car lots – some abandoned – strips malls, drive through restaurants, a Dollar Store and then you have a quarter million dollars of infrastructure supporting these storage sheds. This is an investment that employs nobody, creates little value and doesn’t even use the sewer/water/sidewalk that has been built there at enormous public cost. …

One of the saddest buildings is the Ferguson Market and Liquor Store. Look at it. Understand that there is something close to $300,000 in public infrastructure adjacent to that site. That’s a huge public investment and an enormous ongoing commitment that the taxpayers of this community must shoulder. What do they get for it? There is all this waste of asphalt for a drive-through ATM. Then look at the fence on the right side, as if it is so offensive that one would seek to walk from the market to the McDonalds. And speaking of walking, that $25,000 being spent on sidewalks is obviously not being spent here. How about $50 for a shade tree? …



When places like this hit the decline phase – which they inevitably do – they become absolutely despotic. This type of development doesn’t create wealth; it destroys it. The illusion of prosperity that it had early on fades away and we are left with places that can’t be maintained and a concentration of impoverished people poorly suited to live with such isolation. …

This stroad nation we have built is also not well equipped for the transportation needs once a place goes into decline. Despite being relatively poor in comparison to state averages, 86% of employed people in Ferguson drove to work in a car by themselves, an incredibly expensive ante to be in the workforce. Only 3% used public transit while 9% carpooled. That leaves less than 2% able to use the most affordable option available: biking and walking.

If you live in Ferguson, you are essentially forced to drive for your employment and your daily needs. That is the way the city was designed. There was no thought given to the notion that people there might not always be prosperous, that they might desire to – or have an urgent need to – get around without an automobile. When you look through the city’s planning documents, you see that walking/biking infrastructure still primarily means recreation, not transportation, despite the obvious desperate need for options.

We’re entering a really dangerous phase of this Suburban Experiment. While we once believed that the path to prosperity was the “American Dream”, a house in the suburbs and an ownership society (FDR saw this as a social equity issue as did GWB), it is now evident that this approach creates poverty. It not only creates it, it locks it into place in a self-reinforcing cycle. …

We’ve bought ourselves some time with our extraordinary monetary policy – given the baby boomers a chance to sell their suburban homes and get some of their retirement savings back – but I don’t see us being able to keep this thing propped up a whole lot longer. Maybe we can – I’ve been surprised thus far, after all – but I suspect that more and more places will hit the decline phase of this experiment in the coming years and not get the bailout they are hoping for. The money just isn’t there. …

While I’m not trying to over-simplify the dynamics of all that has happened in Ferguson, it’s obvious that our platform for building places is creating dynamics primed for social upheaval. Our auto-oriented development pattern is a huge financial experiment with massive social, cultural and political ramifications. It is time to start building strong towns.


Full article here.  And a contrasting opinion from Robert Steuteville: “Ferguson’s potential” in Better Cities & Towns.

28 Aug 14:51

Orderly Processions are Over


Hierarchy likes order. Networks manage complexity.
Hierarchy walks in an orderly procession. Networks hustle.
Hierarchy wants projects to go from a through to z. Networks experiment across the alphabet.
Hierarchy wants a clean status. Networks solve for problems & mess.
Hierarchy reinforces status. Networks value results
Hierarchy manages stocks. Networks manage flows.
Hierarchy likes secrets. Networks share.
Hierarchy approves, authorises and allocates. Networks learn, enable and do
You can wait for your spot in the orderly procession. However the orderly procession might never reach you or might pass you by blind to your talents to walk in lockstep.

Join the network of doers instead.

28 Aug 14:03

"It’s dubious and dangerous, Drucker is saying, to take what’s measurable for what’s important. But..."

“It’s dubious and dangerous, Drucker is saying, to take what’s measurable for what’s important. But he’s also saying something much more radical, even subversive: Some things that can be measured shouldn’t be.”

- "Taking Measurement’s Measure" - Nick Carr (via shoutsandmumbles)
28 Aug 17:30

Everything Is Bloated

by Matt Mullenweg
28 Aug 21:07

fuckyeahmovieposters: Star Wars: Episode VII by Sahin...


Star Wars: Episode VII by Sahin Düzgün

This would be a pretty amazing poster. (Complete with J.J. lens-flare.)

28 Aug 16:09

Apple announces September 9th media event, says ‘Wish we could say more’

by Daniel Bader

Apple has confirmed the rumoured media event scheduled to take place on September 9th. It will take place at the Flint Center in Cupertino, California, which is where Apple first unveiled the Mac.

At the event, Apple is expected to announce two new iPhones, a 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch version, and its first wearable. The invitation, which is more subdued than previous placards, concedes, “Wish we could say more.”

With just over a week to go before the big day, it won’t be long now until we know what Apple has been up to for the past year. Earlier this summer, Eddy Cue, Apple’s head of Internet services and software, claimed that this year’s product lineup would be the finest he’d ever seen in his 25 years at the company.


28 Aug 13:23

same, A Fast And Stress-free Way To Express And Socialize, Is Reaching Bored, Young Chinese

by Rita Liao

same is a newly emerged Chinese social app that claims to have nearly 200,000 registered users, most of whom are students, female or below 28. “Many young people feel void, bored and want to be listened to in today’s stressed and speedy world.” same told TechNode in an interview. Divided into Channel to build communities and Chat for networking, same sets out to provide users with an outlet to express and find mutual feelings with each other – hence the name “same“. It intentionally makes the app easy enough so that users can pick it up quickly.

list of channels

browse and explore channels

The startup claims to be an original homegrown social network, defying lazy stereotypes of Copy2China. A same engineer recently revealed same‘s  “high rate of return” on Zhihu, China’s Quora equivalence. The secret behind the sticky user base, he suggests, is gamifying the app. Gamification is manifested by the variety of channel types such as text, image, music, movie, voting, “punch-the-clock”, and the fact that anyone can set up their own channel with a designated rule/theme.

Douban is one of the few “truly original” Chinese social networks that has stood the test of time and gained much success. It remains to be seen whether same can be the next one.

Redefine Anonymous Apps

On same, people shroud the social identities they so meticulously weave on Weibo and WeChat. Registration requires only one’s email and username. There are ostensibly mundane channels like “insomnia”, “show me your shoes” that strike a chord, and more obscure and personal ones that accommodate only several users and even just the channel host her/himself.

On that score, same is a space for whatever human affections that need to be vented out – sounds a lot like standard anonymous apps isn’t it? A groundbreaking rule on same, though, is that users can send private messages but can’t friend each other. The reason is simple: if I don’t want others’ news feeds to flood my homepage, I simply don’t have to on same.

Because users “have no friends”, they spend much time mulling the channels. Private chats only start when one is intrigued by a thread and approach the author. As such, same‘s anonymous networking is more based on genuine interest and feelings than outright hookup intentions that frequent standard anonymous apps.

Some compare same to Douban, for Doubaners can create interest-based groups and PM each other as well. But one hour on Douban simply won’t get you too far into a conversation whereas you can blend in same quickly because its user-generated content (UGC) tend to be more universal and often shallower. same‘s streamlined, mobile-oriented design further makes information flow fast and fluidly.

The “Boring” App

Both same’s employees and users jokingly label the app as “boring social networking.” We’ve written about similarly “boring” products such as the danmu movie theater and the app Jiecao Collection that young Chinese are keen on. What they have in common is that all ask for very little learning time, are anonymous-based so people can be real (as opposed to self-promotional), and often intend to lighten one up.

This explains the popularity of same‘s “punch-the-clock” channels where people can punch in when they get up in the morning and go to bed at night.

Other morning bird users' "punch-card" record. When you hit "punch card", the channel plays a song for you

See others’ record of wake-up time. same even shuffle a song for you when you punch in.

Sticker is another feature on same that can either be seen as boring or ingenious. It allows users to make stickers from their own selected images, add captions and audio recording. Sticker’s popularity on same may come as no surprise since we’ve witnessed the craze for Line stickers and an upcoming Emoji-only app, from the UK – all making ways for people to communicate something ineffable.

a sticker with audio recording and texts that are automatically created by speech recognition

a sticker with audio recording and caption that is automatically created with speech recognition


same, based in Shanghai, is a team of around ten with rich design experience and led by two co-founders coming from the advertising industry. The result is same‘s beautiful interface with details that make users smile. The startup suggests that design is one major reason for its popularity.

It’s in non-anonymous apps’ interests to have all our messages, snapshots, purchase history etc. linked to a single and genuine identity, for that’s the way to make a fortune from targeted advertising. same, like other anonymous apps, will have a more difficult time monetizing, but the co-founders are holding off plans to monetize and will focus on user acquisition for now. That said, the app does sometimes show display ads on the top.

same is launching a group chat feature soon, improving its voice chat and the recommendation algorithm.

27 Aug 07:18

Twitter Favorites: [nealjennings] @kirklapointe that doesn't make sense at all. Especially since the ScienceWorld one has been there since last year. Do you even live here?

Neal Jennings @nealjennings
@kirklapointe that doesn't make sense at all. Especially since the ScienceWorld one has been there since last year. Do you even live here?
28 Aug 06:55

This graphic shows everywhere journalists have been killed since 2004

mkalus shared this story .

When James Foley was executed last week by the Islamic State, he became the 32nd journalist killed in 2014, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists

CPJ has been documenting every work-related death of a media member since 1992. We've used CPJ's data to create the graphic below, which provides information about the journalists killed around the world in the last decade.

CPJ defines journalists as "people who cover news or comment on public affairs through any media — including in print, in photographs, on radio, on television, and online." That includes staff journalists, freelancers, stringers, bloggers, and citizen journalists.

The numbers we've used total the cases CPJ defines as "motive confirmed," meaning the death is directly related to the individual's work as a journalist:

"We consider a case 'confirmed' only if we are reasonably certain that a journalist was murdered in direct reprisal for his or her work; was killed in crossfire during combat situations; or was killed while carrying out a dangerous assignment such as coverage of a street protest. We do not include journalists who are killed in accidents such as car or plane crashes."

In all, 619 journalists have been killed since 2004.

Interestingly, while the killing of James Foley has prompted media debates about the dangers of freelance journalists traveling to foreign conflicts, the vast majority of journalists killed in the last decade were local staff reporters.

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28 Aug 07:29

Twitter, algorithms, and digital dystopias

by Doug Belshaw


My apologies for the long post. I’m channeling my inner Mark Twain when I say I didn’t have time to write a shorter one.

I woke up this morning to a couple of great links shared by John Johnston on Twitter. Don’t Be a Platform Pawn by Alan Levine led me to Frank Chimero’s From the Porch to the Street and then onto a post about The Evaporative Cooling Effect which, in turn, cites this paper.  The other link, Waffle on Social Media took me to a post called Community Services which led to What’s a Twitter Timeline?

What did we used to do before Twitter?

The first time I came across John would have been in the 2004-5 academic year, I reckon, when I started blogging. This was a pre-Twitter time, a time when Facebook and YouTube had only just been invented. We used RSS readers like Bloglines, and Technorati (then a blog search engine) a was a big deal. Back in those days it was easier to sort the signal from the noise as I could literally follow everyone’s blog that I wanted to read. As you would expect, this number grew exponentially over the years and, by the time Google Reader shut down, the number of unread articles I was faced with numbered in their thousands. This, I believe, is what Clay Shirky calls filter failure.

So, although I know of people (like Stephen Downes) who are notable exceptions, we collectively swapped our RSS readers for easier-to-manage, and less guilt-inducing social streams such as those provided by Facebook, Twitter, and (later) Google+. These services made it more acceptable not to keep up – and provided a way, in the form of Like, Favourites, and +1′s, for the most popular content to bubble to the surface.

I’m not being facetious when I say that Twitter had a helping hand in me landing my last three jobs. In particular, the 2009 interview where I mobilised my followers to show the panel how powerful the network can be remains my all-time favourite example. But Twitter has changed since I joined it in 2007.

How we are now

What’s so problematic about all of this, of course, is that whereas we used to be in charge of our own reading habits, we’ve outsourced that to algorithms. That means software with shareholders is dictating our information environment. I have to admit that sometimes this works really well. For example, although I’d prefer greater transparency around the algorithm that powers Zite, it consistently surfaces things that I care about and otherwise would have missed. Other times, and especially in the light of Twitter’s changes to the way favourites are used, it makes me more wary about using the service. And don’t even get me started on Facebook.

I’m at the point where I have a love/hate relationship with Twitter. It’s so useful for me in terms of keeping my finger on the pulse of the sectors I’m involved in. However, especially at this time of year, I can become overwhelmed and I can’t see the (human) wood for the (technological) trees. Frank Chimero pretty much nailed it:

This may be overstating or overthinking the situation. Twitter is just a website. Yet, I can point to many opportunities, jobs, and (most importantly) friendships that sprung from it. Some married friends met on Twitter. It’s tempting to give an importance to the service for those of us who joined early and were able to reap these benefits, but that doesn’t mean Twitter needs to stick around forever. It matters. Or mattered. To me, I’m unsure which just yet.

How we might be in the future

During the height of the Web 2.0 boom, there were a plethora of services vying for attention and users. People jumped between these based on a small pieces, loosely joined approach. The thing that tied everything together 10 years ago was your domain name, which was your identity on the web. Nowadays, even I link to people’s Twitter accounts rather than their domains when I’m blogging about them.

It’s all very well saying that other social networks will come along to take their place, but will they? Really? In an age of megacorps? I’m skeptical. So perhaps we need a different approach. Something like Known, perhaps, or a service we can own and install ourselves that allows us to personalise our online experience rather than monetise it for shareholders. It’s heartening to see that the publication of The Circle by Dave Eggers seems to have made us question the sprint towards a digital dystopia.

As a parent, the mindset that goes with social networking concerns me. One thing I notice every year when emerging from my yearly (and grandly-named) Belshaw Black Ops period is how shallow my thinking is when I’m doing so in tweet-length morsels. It’s easy to think that I’m ‘doing it wrong’ and that I should use different services, but  what I think we need is a different approach. Perhaps I should be advocating POSSE, as championed by the Indie Web Camp folks. This stands for Publish (on your) Own Site, Syndicate Elsewhere. However, it seems a touch reactionary rather than future-facing. People don’t comment on blogs like they used to, so I’d miss out on a boatload of interaction with people from around the world.


Twitter is a company listed on the stock exchange. So is Facebook. And Google. Pinterest will be soon. In fact, every successful social space is, or is likely to end up being a monolithic corporation. As such, they need to provide shareholder value which, given the web’s current dominant revenue model, is predicated on raising advertising dollars. Raising the kind of money they need depends upon user growth, not necessarily upon serving existing users. After all, if they’ve provided the space where all your friends and contacts hang out, you’re kind of locked in.

OK, that’s enough. I’ll end this overly-long post with a quotation from Jesper, the author of Community Services:

Social media has come to symbolize, for me, the tyranny of having to appear relevant, visible and clean to everyone else, the inability to define my own boundaries and the uncertainty about what’s going to happen tomorrow to the fundamental structure of this tool that I’m using – all the while someone either makes money off of me or adds to the looming amorphousness trying to stay afloat.

You don’t have to share these fears, but that’s why I’m writing this on hosting space I pay for myself on a domain I own myself. Not because I relish absolute control over every bit. Not because of personal branding. Not because I am a huge nerd (I am a huge nerd because I write these kinds of articles and quote Douglas Adams in them). I do it because it’s the worst alternative, except for all the others.

Image CC BY-SA Jennie

28 Aug 06:30

We Don't Like Outsiders

by Richard Millington

Be very careful about being the outsider.

It's almost impossible to build a community from a group of people if you're not one of them.

It's harder to tell a group of people what to do if you're the outsider. 

They don't know you. They don't trust you. 

The CHIP process is designed to overcome this for new communities. You become one of the group before you try to build a community among that group. 

If you're taking over an existing community, take a LOT of time to get to know a large number of members before imposing your will. 

Be one of the group before you lead the group. 

On October 29th to 30th, the world's top 250 community professionals are going to SPRINT in San Francisco. Will you be one of them?

28 Aug 03:47

The Technology Behind Hyperlapse

by Federico Viticci

Very early on in the development process of Hyperlapse, we decided that we wanted an interactive slider for selecting the level of time lapse. We wanted to provide instant feedback that encouraged experimentation and felt effortless, even when complex calculations were being performed under the hood.

This is a technical, but highly fascinating look at the technology Instagram used in Hyperlapse. Not as advanced as Microsoft's research, but impressive for a mobile device.

∞ Read this on MacStories

27 Aug 17:00

The Technology behind Hyperlapse from Instagram

Yesterday we released Hyperlapse from Instagram—a new app that lets you capture and share moving time lapse videos. Time lapse photography is a technique in which frames are played back at a much faster rate than that at which they’re captured. This allows you to experience a sunset in 15 seconds or see fog roll over hills like a stream of water flowing over rocks. Time lapses are mesmerizing to watch because they reveal patterns and motions in our daily lives that are otherwise invisible.

Hyperlapses are a special kind of time lapse where the camera is also moving. Capturing hyperlapses has traditionally been a laborious process that involves meticulous planning, a variety of camera mounts and professional video editing software. With Hyperlapse, our goal was to simplify this process. We landed on a single record button and a post-capture screen where you select the playback rate. To achieve fluid camera motion we incorporated a video stabilization algorithm called Cinema (which is already used in Video on Instagram) into Hyperlapse.

In this post, we’ll describe our stabilization algorithm and the engineering challenges that we encountered while trying to distill the complex process of moving time lapse photography into a simple and interactive user interface.

Cinema Stabilization

Video stabilization is instrumental in capturing beautiful fluid videos. In the movie industry, this is achieved by having the camera operator wear a harness that separates the motion of the camera from the motion of the operator’s body. Since we can’t expect Instagrammers to wear a body harness to capture the world’s moments, we instead developed Cinema, which uses the phone’s built-in gyroscope to measure and remove unwanted hand shake.

The diagram below shows the pipeline of the Cinema stabilization algorithm. We feed gyroscope samples and frames into the stabilizer and obtain a new set of camera orientations as output. These camera orientations correspond to a smooth “synthetic” camera motion with all the unwanted kinks and bumps removed.

These orientations are then fed into our video filtering pipeline shown below. Each input frame is then changed by the IGStabilizationFilter according to the desired synthetic camera orientation.

The video below shows how the Cinema algorithm changes the frames to counteract camera shake. The region inside the white outline is the visible area in the output video. Notice that the edges of the warped frames never cross the white outline. That’s because our stabilization algorithm computes the smoothest camera motion possible while also ensuring that a frame is never changed such that regions outside the frame become visible in the final video. Notice also that this means that we need to crop or zoom in in order to have a buffer around the visible area. This buffer allows us to move the frame to counteract handshake without introducing empty regions into the output video. More on this later.

The orientations are computed offline, while the stabilization filter is applied on the fly at 30 fps during video playback. We incorporated the filtering pipeline, called FilterKit, from Instagram, where we use it for all photo and video processing. FilterKit is built on top of OpenGL and is optimized for real-time performance. Most notably, FilterKit is the engine that drives our recently launched creative tools.

Hyperlapse Stabilization

In Hyperlapse, you can drag a slider to select the time lapse level after you’ve recorded a video. A time lapse level of 6x corresponds to picking every 6th frame in the input video and playing those frames back at 30 fps. The result is a video that is 6 times faster than the original.

We modified the Cinema algorithm to compute orientations only for the frames we keep. This means that the empty region constraint is only enforced for those frames. As a result, we are able to output a smooth camera motion even when the unstabilized input video becomes increasingly shaky at higher time lapse amounts. See the video below for an illustration.

Adaptive Zoom

As previously noted we need to zoom in to give ourselves room to counteract handshake without introducing empty regions into the output video (i.e. regions outside the input frame for which there is no pixel data). All digital video stabilization algorithms trade resolution for stability. However, Cinema picks the zoom intelligently based on the amount of shake in the recorded video. See the videos below for an illustration.

The video on the left has only a small amount of handshake because it was captured while standing still. In this case, we only zoom in slightly because we do not need a lot of room to counteract the small amount of camera shake. The video on the right was captured while walking. As a result, the camera is a lot more shaky. We zoom in more to give ourselves enough room to smooth out even the larger bumps. Since zooming in reduces the field of view, there is a tradeoff between effective resolution and the smoothness of the camera motion. Our adaptive zoom algorithm is fine-tuned to minimize camera shake while maximizing the effective resolution on a per-video basis. Since motion, such as a slow pan, becomes more rapid at higher time lapse levels (i.e. 12x), we compute the optimal zoom at each speedup factor.

Putting It All Together

“The first 90 percent of the code accounts for the first 90 percent of the development time. The remaining 10 percent of the code accounts for the other 90 percent of the development time.” –Tom Cargill, Bell Labs

Very early on in the development process of Hyperlapse, we decided that we wanted an interactive slider for selecting the level of time lapse. We wanted to provide instant feedback that encouraged experimentation and felt effortless, even when complex calculations were being performed under the hood. Every time you move the slider, we perform the following operations:

  1. We request frames from the decoder at the new playback rate
  2. We simultaneously kick off the Cinema stabilizer on a background thread to compute a new optimal zoom and a new set of orientations for the new zoom and time lapse amount.
  3. We continue to play the video while we wait for new stabilization data to come in. We use the orientations we computed at the previous time lapse amount along with spherical interpolation to output orientations for the frames we’re going to display.
  4. Once the new orientations come in from the stabilizer, we atomically swap them out with the old set of orientations.

We perform the above steps every time you scrub the slider without interrupting video playback or stalling the UI. The end result is an app that feels light and responsive. We can’t wait to see the creativity that Hyperlapse unlocks for our community now that you can capture a hyperlapse with the tap of a button.

By Alex Karpenko

27 Aug 19:53

A better runtime for component-based web applications

by Dries

I have an idea but currently don't have the time or resources to work on it. So I'm sharing the idea here, hoping we can at least discuss it, and maybe someone will even feel inspired to take it on.

The idea is based on two predictions. First, I'm convinced that the future of web sites or web applications is component-based platforms (e.g. Drupal modules, WordPress plugins, etc). Second, I believe that the best way to deploy and use web sites or web applications is through a SaaS hosting environment (e.g., DrupalGardens, SalesForce's platform, DemandWare's SaaS platform, etc). Specifically, I believe that in the big picture on-premise software is a "transitional state". It may take another 15 years, but on-premise software will become the exception rather than the standard. Combined, these two predictions present a future where we have component-based platforms running in SaaS environments.

To get the idea, imagine a, SquareSpace, Wix or DrupalGardens where you can install every module/plugin available, including your own custom modules/plugins, instead of being limited to those modules/plugins manually approved by their vendors. This is a big deal because one of the biggest challenges with running web sites or web applications is that almost every user wants to extend or customize the application beyond what is provided out of the box.

Web applications have to be (1) manageable, (2) extensible, (3) customizable and (4) robust. The problem is that we don't have a programming language or an execution runtime that is able to meet all four of these requirements in the context of building and running dynamic component-based applications.

Neither PHP, JavaScript, Ruby, Go or Java allow us to build truly robust applications as the runtimes don't provide proper resource isolation. Often all the components (i.e. Drupal modules, WordPress plugins) run in the same memory space. In the Java world you have Enterprise Java Beans or OSGi which add some level of isolation and management, but it still doesn't provide full component-level isolation or component-level fault containment. As a result, it is required that one component pretty much trusts the other components installed on the system. This means that usually one malfunctioning component can corrupt the other component's data or functional logic, or that one component can harm the performance of the entire platform. In other words, you have to review, certify and test components before installing them on your platform. As a result, most SaaS vendors won't let you install untrusted or custom components.

What we really need here is an execution runtime that allows you to install untrusted components and guarantee application robustness at the same time. Such technology would be a total game-changer as we could build unlimited customizable SaaS platforms that leverage the power of community innovation. You'd be able to install any Drupal module on DrupalGardens, any plugin on or custom code on Squarespace or Wix. It would fundamentally disrupt the entire industry and would help us achieve the assembled web dream.

I've been giving this some thought, and what I think we need is the ability to handle each HTTP request in a micro-kernel-like environment where each software component (i.e. Drupal module, WordPress plugin) runs in its own isolated process or environment and communicates with the other components through a form of inter-process communication (i.e. think remote procedure calls or web service calls). It is a lot harder to implement than it sounds as the inter-process communication could add huge overhead (e.g. we might need fast or clever ways to safely share data between isolated components without having to copy or transfer a lot of data around). Alternatively, virtualization technology like Docker might help us move in this direction as well. Their goal of a lightweight container is a step towards micro-services but it is likely to have more communication overhead. In both scenarios, Drupal would look a lot like a collection of micro web services (Drupal 10 anyone?).

Once we have such a runtime, we can implement and enforce governance and security policies for each component (e.g. limit its memory usage, limit its I/O, security permission, but also control access to the underlying platform like the database). We'd have real component-based isolation along with platform-level governance: (1) manageable, (2) extensible, (3) customizable and (4) robust.

Food for thought and discussion?

27 Aug 14:24

24 Rules for Becoming an Adult Prodigy

by djcoyle

growing-trees-hiChild prodigies get a lot of attention because they seem magical. But do you know who’s even more impressive?

Adult prodigies.

I’m talking about people in their thirties, forties, and beyond — people who are miles past any of the “learning windows” for talent, and who yet succeed in building fantastically high-performing skill sets.

People like Dr. Mary Hobson, who took up Russian at 56, and became a prize-winning translator. Or Gary Marcus, a neuroscientist who took up guitar at the age of 38 and taught himself to rock, or pool player Michael Reddick, or Dan McLaughlin, a 31-year-old who took up golf for the first time four years ago and now plays to an outstanding 3.3 handicap (and who also keeps track of his practice hours — 4,530 and counting, if you wanted to know).

We tend to explain adult prodigies with the same magical thinking as we use to explain child prodigies: they’re special. They always possessed hidden talents.  

However, some new science is shedding light on the real reasons adults are able to successfully learn new skills, and exploding some myths in the process.  You should check out this article from New Scientist if you want to go deeper. Or read Marcus’s book Guitar Zero, or How We Learn, by Benedict Carey (out next week).

The takeaway to all this is that adult prodigies succeed because they’re able to work past two fundamental barriers: 1) the wall of belief that they can’t do it; and 2) the grid of adult routines that keep them from spending time working intensively to improve skills. In other words, it’s not so much about your “natural talents,” as it is about your mindset and your habits. From the New Scientist piece:

“A child’s sole occupation is learning to speak and move around,” says Ed Cooke, a cognitive scientist who has won many memory contests. “If an adult had that kind of time to spend on attentive learning, I’d be very disappointed if they didn’t do a good job.”

With all that in mind, I thought I’d try to fill in a gap by offering a few basic rules on how to apply these ideas to regular life.


Rule 1. Pick a skill you were always fascinated by — one that you’ve already spent lots of time thinking about and admiring. Because all those hours is not just a sign of motivation; it’s also your head start to high-quality practice. You’ve already built some good circuitry, so use it.

Rule 2. Don’t pick something completely insane. Trying to become the next Steve Jobs or Peyton Manning probably doesn’t make sense for most adults. Focus on ambitious, reachable skills that make sense for you, and will add to your life.

Rule 3. Write down a big-picture plan. It doesn’t need to be too elaborate; it needs to contain some targets and strategies. Most important: figure out a daily routine, see if it’s working, then adapt it as you go along.

Rule 4: Don’t be so freaking conscientious about your plan. One of the traits that makes kids such good learners is their inherent looseness in approach; that is,  they don’t get hung up on doing everything 100-percent perfectly every single time. They do the opposite: they try bits and pieces, and if something doesn’t work, they try something else. They’re experimenters, innovators, entrepreneurs of the brain. Do likewise.

Rule 5. Keep it quiet early on. The quickest way to kill motivation is to tell Facebook that you’re developing a new talent — because that creates high expectations, which are the ultimate motivational buzzkill.

Rule 6. Be secretly and irrationally arrogant. Fear is what keeps people from learning new things, and getting rid of that fear however you choose is a good idea. So be cocky, gutsy, and willing to go to the edges of your ability even if (especially if) that means you sometimes look a little foolish. In other words, channel your inner Kobe Bryant.

Rule 6. Practice every day, in short bursts.

Rule 7: Long bursts too.

Rule 8: Also, medium bursts. Dream all you want, but frequent, intensive, high-quality practice is the path forward.

Rule 8: Interleave your practice, which is a fancy word for switching it up a lot. For example, if you want to improve your toss on your tennis serve, don’t just toss 50 balls in a row. Instead, toss 5 while focusing on one element of the move. Then do something else for 5 minutes. Then come back to the toss — this time focusing on a different element. Then go do something else, and so on. Interleaving forces your brain to make connections, and learn faster.

Rule 9: Find the best teacher you can afford. One of the advantages of being an adult is that, unlike a kid, you can choose your own  teacher. This is not a small thing. Find someone you like, and who maybe scares you a little (that is often a good sign).

Rule 10: Seek a training group. No matter what skill you’re trying to build, you are more motivated when you are part of a tribe working toward a goal.

Rule 11: Every once in a while, ignore your training group and stay home. The downside of training with people is that you tend to overlook problem areas that you really need to fix — and some things can only be solved alone.

Rule 12. Set aside a space to practice. This doesn’t need to be fancy — in fact, the less fancy the better. But it needs to exist and be convenient, and preferably located in your home, because you’ll use it more often.

Rule 13.  Get good tools. If you’re learning guitar, get a quality one. If you’re doing something on a computer, don’t buy one from Radio Shack.

Rule 14: Keep your tools handy, not stored away in some closet. When they’re around, you tend to pick them up more often.

Rule 15. Be opportunistic. Use the little quiet spots in your day to work in some spontaneous practice. A good five minutes can have a huge impact.

Rule 16. Keep a notebook, and track what works and what doesn’t. The notebook is your map: it keeps track of the stuff you forget, the goals you want to track, and (most crucially) the progress you make.

Rule 17. Steal from other people. Even if you’ve picked a wildly obscure talent to develop, there are thousands of other people out there who are doing exactly the same thing as you are, right now. They’re solving the same problems, finding possible solutions. Seek them out (on YouTube, for starters) and go to school on them.

Rule 18. Teach someone else. You might think you know how to perform a skill. But trying to accurately, concisely explain how that skill works to someone else? That’s a deeper level of understanding entirely.

Rule 19. Keep expectations moderately low.

Rule 20: Keep hopes moderately high.

Rule 21.  In your self talk, use “You” and not “I.” Research shows that self-talk is significantly more effective when you use the second person.

Rule 22. Practice early in the day. This is when your brain is fresh, and when you’ll make the most progress. Not coincidentally, this is also when there are the fewest interruptions.

Rule 23. Seek to become a world-class napper. This is a skill you likely already possess — and improving it can ratchet up your learning speed.

Rule 24. Plan on showing off, once you get good enough. Even the patron saint of adult prodigies, the painter Grandma Moses, wasn’t discovered until she got brave and started selling her artwork in local galleries. There’s nothing like an upcoming event or performance to direct your work and create a sense of energy. And besides, you earned it.

Two last questions: 1) Are there any stories/ideas you want to share about adult learning? 2) What other rules belong on this list? I’d love to hear what you have to say.


27 Aug 23:28

By 1905 A Third Of American Households Possessed A Camera

by A Photo Editor

Professional photographers were repelled by the weird, ungainly, often out-of-focus shots that amateurs produced. “Photography as a fad is well nigh on its last legs,” prayed the art photographer Alfred Stieglitz. Other pundits bemoaned “Kodak fiends,” camera obsessives who carried their device everywhere and were apparently so constantly taking pictures that they would space out and miss their trains.

via The Invention of the “Snapshot” Changed the Way We Viewed the World | Smithsonian.

27 Aug 18:19

The Future Programming Manifesto

by Jonathan Edwards

It’s time to reformulate the principles guiding my work.

[Revised definition of complexity in response to misunderstandings]

Inessential complexity is the root of all evil

Most of the problems of software arise because it is too complicated for humans to handle. We believe that much of this complexity is unnecessary and indeed self-inflicted. We seek to radically simplify software and programming.

Complexity is the total learning curve

We should measure complexity as the cumulative cognitive effort to learn a technology from novice all the way to expert. One simple surrogate measure is the size of the documentation. This approach conflicts with the common tendency to consider only the efficiency of experts. Expert efficiency is hopelessly confounded by training and selection biases, and often justifies making it harder to become an expert. We are skeptical of “expressive power” and “terseness”, which are often code words for making things more mathematical and abstract. Abstraction is a two-edged sword.

Our institutions, culture, and psychology all foster complexity

  • Maintaining compatibility increases complexity.
  • Technical debt increases complexity.
  • Most R&D is incremental: it adds features and tools and layers. Simplification requires that we throw things away.
  • Computer Science rejects simplification as a result because it is subjective.
  • The Curse of Knowledge: experts are blind to the complexity they have laboriously mastered.
  • Rewarding programmers for their ability to handle complexity selects for those who love it.
  • Our gold-rush economy encourages greed and haste.

To make progress we must rebel against these vested interests and bad habits. There will be strong resistance.

Think outside the box

Much complexity arises from how we have partitioned software into boxes: OS, PL, DB, UI, networking; and likewise how we have partitioned software development: edit, version, build, test, deploy. We should go back to the beginning and rethink everything in order to unify and simplify. To do this we must unlearn to program, a very hard thing to do.

Programming for the people

Revolutions start in the slums. Most new software platforms were initially dismissed by the experts as toys. We should work for end-users disenfranchised by lack of programming expertise. We should concentrate on their modest but ubiquitous needs rather than the high-end specialized problems addressed by most R&D. We should take inspiration from end-user tools like spreadsheets and HyperCard. We should avoid the trap of designing for ourselves. We believe that in the long run expert programmers also stand to greatly benefit from radical simplification, but to get there we must start small.

Simplicity first; performance last

Performance is often the first excuse for rejecting new ideas. We even do it to ourselves. We must break our own habit of designing for performance: it is seductively objective and quantifiable whereas the most important design issues are messily subjective and qualitative. After all, performance optimization is one thing we have mastered. Build compelling simplicity and performance will come.

Disciplined design evaluation

Computer Science has decided that, being a Science, it must rigorously evaluate results with empirical experiments or mathematical proofs. We are not doing Science. We are doing Design: using experience and judgement to make complex tradeoffs in order to satisfy qualitative human needs. Yet we still need a disciplined way to evaluate progress. Perhaps we can learn from the methodologies of other fields like Architecture and Industrial Design. This is a meta-problem we must address.

27 Aug 14:30

Programming with Managed Time

by Jonathan Edwards

Final version of the paper is up, and an essay with embedded videos is here. Sean graciously invited me to coauthor but the ideas are really his – I just helped spin them.

We think there is great promise in abstracting away from the computer model of time. There is a large design space that is still largely unexplored. I will be presenting my own new approach for the first time in public at the FPW workshop at Strange Loop. We are hoping to excite other researchers to take up this challenge and develop their own approaches. Come talk with us at SPLASH or drop us a line.

27 Aug 22:54

Arbutus Corridor: The Middle-Ground Option

by pricetags

In all the attention to the dispute between the City and the CPR, so far only Peter Ladner has been one of the few to highlight a study done not that long ago which may, as his recent Business in Vancouver column says, be a “Middle-of-road way to right Arbutus corridor right-of-way ruckus”.

Amazingly, there is a middle-ground plan that has been all but forgotten. In 2005, CP hired the highly respected outgoing sustainability director of the city, Mark Holland, and pledged to live with whatever he and a group of blue-chip planners, sustainability experts and neighbours came up with. The city, then as now, refused to participate. (At the time – I was on council – the city was rightfully preoccupied with the Olympic Village and Canada Line.)

Holland remembers that it was the community partners, representing every neighbourhood association along the route, who came up with the idea of combining the city’s low-value adjacent roads and rights-of-way with CP’s low-value transportation corridor to create a high-value, vibrant, mixed-use plan.

“Our plan had a two-way rail line, a bike lane, community gardens, linear parks, an aboriginal interpretive centre in Marpole and 12 development nodes with three-storey mixed residential and retail,” Holland recalled. “The net value in 2005, after costing out public amenities [excludingrail service], was between $200 million and $300 million. Every community association signed off on it.”

At the time, CP wanted $150 million. Now they’re said to be asking $100 million.

The plan still exists.

Yes it does.  And it’s downloadable from this site:

Arbutus Lands

27 Aug 00:00

Unimaginative naysaying in tech discussions

It’s the early days of man, a chilly day, and Alice and Bob are attempting to start a fire by rubbing sticks together. It’s a struggle, on account of some freezing rain earlier in the day that’s left the sticks damp. Suddenly, there is a brilliant flash of light, and a mysterious portal opens up next to Alice and Bob. A Stranger steps through carrying a blowtorch.

The Stranger explains he is from the Future and has come to speed along Alice and Bob’s technological evolution. He demonstrates use of the blowtorch and has a roaring fire going within a minute or two. He explains how the torch works by burning a substance called butane.

Bob’s immediate response: “Look Stranger, I don’t know who you are, but I don’t like your elitist tone, and I’m going to keep starting my fires by rubbing sticks together. If I start using your so-called ‘blowtorch’, it’s going to be a real problem finding ‘butane’ fuel for it.”

New technologies can be vast improvements along one axis (starting fires efficiently), while simultaneously generating new fun problems to solve along another axis (obtaining butane). Being optimistic and willing to solve these fun problems is how progress is made. Unimaginative naysaying like Bob focuses entirely on perceived negatives of new technology, taking the current state of the world as a given.

Time and time again in discussions of technology, I see unimaginative naysaying:

  • “You know, isn’t it kind of archaic that we’re storing programs as text files and running compilers in batch mode like it’s still the punch card era? I think we could do better than that.” Response: “Text is KING. I’m not giving up Vim / Eclipse, and plus look at all the great tooling, like Git, that can be written in a language agnostic way! Plus, Smalltalk tried this, like 20 years ago, and it never took off.”
  • “You know, if we don’t have rampant side effects, it’s easier to compose programs by sticking together smaller pieces. That seems like a good idea.” Response: “But I need fast, mutable data structures in like 2% of my code, therefore this justifies sprinkling side effects willy nilly throughout! Be pragmatic! The Real World™ has mutation!!! Also, databases.”
  • “Static typing seems to help me catch mistakes while I’m writing the program. That seems useful, we should do more of that.” Response: “Oh gawd, you sound like one of those brainwashed J2EE developers. Sorry, I’m not writing ArrayList<String> myList = new ArrayList<String>();. Dynamic typing, DHH, and Agile FTW!!1!”

Developing new technology means being open to seeing potential, and working to achieve it. Don’t be that guy!

And in closing:

The person who says it cannot be done should not interrupt the person doing it.

– Chinese Proverb

By the way, I will not be at all surprised when some commenter shows up to pick apart my analogy or one of my ha ha only serious examples.

27 Aug 21:07

27 Aug 21:56

What I did on my San Francisco vacation

by pricetags

I drank coffee.

Directed by a friendly barista to the “best coffee in SF,” we found ourselves a few blocks South of Market on 7th – not a neighbourhood I would have explored a few years ago – to what looked like an old stable, tucked between a tech firm in a garage and a nightclub in distress. 

This is Sightglass on 7th – map here.





The coffee: expensive, smooth and specialized.  Think Revolver in Gastown. 

Sightglass (2)


The scene: so San Francisco c. 2014. 

If the clientele, having arrived on foot or bike, is not engaged with a small screen, they are talking about what happens (or could happen) on small screens



Beyond the barista bar, the coffee is piled up in bags and bins, being roasted and ground, packaged and labelled, treated as though it were fine wine, which in a way is what it is. 




27 Aug 20:43

What Is a Card?

by Federico Viticci

Khoi Vinh has a great introduction to software cards for presentation and rich content:

Even as the notion of cards as the next big software interaction paradigm continues to gain momentum, it hasn’t gotten much easier to explain to the uninitiated what, exactly, a card is. When asked this question, I find it hard not to ramble on at great length, and even harder to avoid using technical jargon, which usually produces diminishing returns in conversations with “normal people.”

Make sure to check out his Pinterest board for screenshots of card UIs and see what they actually look like.

While I don't rely on many card-based apps or web services, I do believe that Twitter cards are largely underrated and ignored by people who use third-party Twitter clients, which can't display cards.

In my limited experience, setting up a MailChimp card for our MacStories Weekly newsletter doubled our number of subscribers thanks to its design and ease of use. With Twitter Cards, the link I shared appeared as a card inside Twitter timelines with an interactive signup form to subscribe with one click.

That's a powerful idea, potentially applicable to hundreds of web services and publishers that are sharing content on Twitter. I'm definitely planning to explore cards more for MacStories.

∞ Read this on MacStories

27 Aug 20:04

Quote: Simply Astonishing

by pricetags

Michael Den Tandt: “Harper cements northern legacy despite glaring policy omissions”

… the words climate change were not uttered a single time over the span of six days, by the prime minister or any of his ministers, that I am aware of. At this late juncture, with the Arctic so central to their plans, that is simply astonishing.

- The Vancouver Sun – 27 Aug 2014

27 Aug 10:14

How fast will WebRTC go mainstream? And will it be "beyond the browser"?

by Dean Bubley
I've come across two interesting things this morning:

1) Snapchat apparently now has 100m monthly users and is valued at $10bn
2) I heard an ad for a free conference calling service on the radio

Oh, and thirdly, I saw a TV ad for Amazon Kindle the other day, featuring its Mayday live-help service.

Common theme? WebRTC, but not in generic "video calls in your browser" style, nor for greenfield "standalone" communications, but to add a feature to an existing product.

Mobile-messaging "OTT" player SnapChat acquired platform provider AddLive earlier this year, which it now uses as the basis for its integral video-chat service. While Snapchat's main service is "ephemeral messages" which disappear after viewing, it also now allows existing contacts to chat in realtime, while the camera button is held down. It's not used by everyone, but is interesting in that it's "WebRTC as a feature" and also in that it's not a traditional "person A calls person B for X minutes" model. And of course, SnapChat runs as a native app on smartphones, NOT as a site accessed via the browser.

Amazon Mayday has long been discussed as a clever and expertly-integrated use of WebRTC video/screen-sharing for customer service and support. It is overlaid on an existing SIP-based voice contact centre platform. It does one-way video only, so again not a "call". And it's launched with a dedicated button, not as a browser/website action on the Kindle Fire.

And then (owned by Iotum), which has an established audioconferencing bridge service using ordinary circuit dial-in. It's offering WebRTC (via the browser) but in audio-only mode at present. Again, it's putting WebRTC into an existing service platform and business model.

Now it's true to say that all of these services are leading in their respective fields. Not all of their competitors or peers have gone down the same path yet. But nevertheless, they demonstrate that WebRTC:

1) Is indeed commercially-viable, and in the "real world"
2) Is not just browser-based, but also in mobile apps
3) Is not just about "calls"
4) Is not just about video
5) Works on iOS irrespective of Apple's support in Safari
6) Has a device-support level well above the 1bn level and an active user-base that will likely be >10m people by the end of the year
7) Spans both consumer and enterprise domains (and telecoms if you include, Tuenti & Skyway)

If I compare this to the situation a year ago, the change is staggering. It's very easy to miss the overall change in tone and relevance, when you're close to the coalface. Yet these examples - including run-of-the-mill radio and TV ads, and articles in mainstream business publications - are an indicator of what is to come.

Those of you that have read this blog for a while will know that it's quite rare for me to be more enthusiastic than "the market" about a technology. Normally I'm the one criticising hype and deluded expectation. Yet I'd still say that WebRTC is an unusual example of something that is underhyped. It feels quite strange for me to be an advocate rather than a cynic.

I'm putting the final touches to my new report, which forecasts WebRTC trends out over the next 3-5 years. It is due out next week. If you email me & confirm a pre-order, I'll offer a discount before launch if you mention this blog post. Details from information AT disruptive-analysis DOT com
27 Aug 19:27

Two Nexus smartphones could be released in 2014

by Evan Selleck
The Nexus X, or Nexus S, or Nexus 6 depending on the week, has been rumored for quite some time, and the reports swirling around its supposed spec sheet or other assorted features are not calming down as we inch closer to an expected launch later this year. Now, a new report suggests we should have more to look forward than originally thought. Continue reading →
27 Aug 18:34

Kobo announces new waterproof Aura H20 ereader for $179

by Jane McEntegart

Kobo last night hosted an end of summer pool party promising guests a peek at what’s to come for the Kobo brand. Sure enough, the company unveiled its newest piece of hardware, an ereader that can survive a dunk in the bath or even a dive into a swimming pool. The unveiling of the device came as no surprise, considering rumors of an IP67-rated Kobo first broke cover last month. Still, it was nice to get a look at in the flesh.


Dubbed the Aura H20, the device is based on the Aura ereader and packs a 265 dpi 6.8-inch E Ink display, a 1 GHz processor, 4 GB of onboard storage (expandable to 32 GB) and a battery that lasts two months. Most importantly, the Aura H20 is waterproof for up to 30 minutes in one meter of water thanks to an IP67 certification. It’s also dust resistant so you can take it to the beach.

We got a chance to take the waterproofing for a test drive last night. One thing we noticed was the pop-up that the Aura H20 throws up once the reader enters water. When the device detects water on the display, it displays a notification that prompts the user to dry the Aura H20. Pretty much every Kobo we saw last night was constantly displaying this pop up because the devices were always in water. Hitting “OK” sometimes dismissed the message, but other times, the device refused to go back to reading mode until it was wiped down.

The Kobo Aura H20 boasts 24 font sizes and 10 different fonts. You can also customize your reading experience by adjusting font sharpness and weight setting. Kobo says the Auro H20 is slightly thinner and lighter than the Aura HD, though it retains that angled backing we saw with the Aura HD. The H20 will be available in black only when it launches on October 1, and retail pricing is set at $179.99 CAD.