Shared posts

19 Jul 04:13

#WhatsTheLink branded visuals from Translink, via last...

by illustratedvancouver

#WhatsTheLink branded visuals from Translink, via last month’s blog post. The hashtag is also featured at

I really like the fact that the ‘superhero motif’ was used prominently in this campaign, an idea I have also toyed with in the past. Even if superheroes occasionally show their Achilles’ heel, it is a most appropriate message!

19 Jul 05:57

A quick update on ‘The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies’

by Doug Belshaw
The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies

It’s been three weeks since v1.0 of my ebook, The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies went on sale. 300+ people invested in the book as part of the OpenBeta process and, up to this morning, 121 people have downloaded it via Gumroad (the e-commerce platform).

Last week I met up with former colleague Zak Mensah, now of Bristol Museums at the E-Learning Development on a Shoestring event. He’s quite the ebook guru, and gave me some great tips on how to convert the PDF into ePUB and Kindle formats. I’ll be working on that when I get back from my summer holidays – so from mid-August onwards.

I can’t tell you how much I’ve enjoyed the process of working iteratively and openly on both my thesis (accessed 215,124 times as of this morning) and this ebook. Although important, digital literacies is a bit of a niche subject, so I’m delighted by the interest both have generated.

If you haven’t had a chance to purchase the book yet, the code ‘gimme10′ should still work for a while. Also, I’ve had people contact me about using The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies on a student course, with a MOOC, or with their staff for professional development. If you’re also interested in these kinds of options, do get in touch (

Thanks to everyone who’s invested in the book so far. I very much appreciate your support and feedback – and look forward to seeing the wiki being used increasingly from next academic year onwards!

17 Jul 02:27

Twitter Favorites: [maxfenton] I’m way more upset about Airbnb’s smug anti-union ads on the subway platform.

Max Fenton ✰ @maxfenton
I’m way more upset about Airbnb’s smug anti-union ads on the subway platform.
17 Jul 15:22

Twitter Favorites: [debcha] Doubt, data journalism, satellite mapping, and statistics: this @mattwaite piece is worth the time.

Deb Chachra @debcha
Doubt, data journalism, satellite mapping, and statistics: this @mattwaite piece is worth the time.…
17 Jul 16:02

Twitter Favorites: [irondavy] Answer to "What was it like to be a programmer without the Internet?"

David Cole @irondavy
Answer to "What was it like to be a programmer without the Internet?"
18 Jul 00:51

Vision park candidate Trish Kelly drops out after online mini-tempest re her sex-positive masturbation video

by Frances Bula

So Trish Kelly, the woman who got the most votes for Vision park-board candidate in the recent nomination, just issued a statement via Vision saying she is dropping out of the race because of a video she made is being “sensationalized.” This is all very weird — Vision vetters knew all about this video before Trish’s nomination went ahead, because Trish had told them all about it. And the online sensationalization was barely a trickle, compared to some media storms I’ve seen in my day, young fella. The party and Trish must have known someone would pick up on this. So why the change of heart (aka chickening out)?

Is this the election where a couple of Twitter remarks are going to be enough to derail candidates? Or one where Vision is going to going into major damage control over even the hint of danger? All quite odd, though I’m sure opponents are thrilled that VV has been wounded so earlier in the game.

This news seems to be causing a lot of angst in certain quarters, judging from early reaction, with people especially angry at the blogger who highlighted the video’s existence.

Here’s the Vision/Trish statement, plus some Twitter reaction

We regret to announce the withdrawal of Trish Kelly as a Park Board candidate for Vision Vancouver in the upcoming election.

“After 25 years of serving my community, I put my name forward as a Park Board nominee to move my life as a community activist fighting for social justice issues, to claiming a seat at the decision-making table. Unfortunately, my work in theatre and as a sex-positive activist is being sensationalized – and will clearly continue to be – distracting from my efforts in the community and in the election campaign,” said Trish Kelly.

Kelly ran a strong nomination campaign, engaging new communities and first time voters in the political process, in an effort to raise awareness of issues facing Vancouver.

“We commend Trish Kelly for the campaign she ran and the people she involved,” stated Maria Dobrinskaya, Co-Chair of Vision Vancouver.  “Trish was upfront about her feminist body of work, and we honour her willingness to put the significant issues that we face as a city ahead of her personal and professional ambitions as a candidate.”

“I have never hidden from this work. I hold no shame nor regret for the work I have produced,” continued Kelly. “I have dedicated, and will continue to dedicate, much of my life to contributing to my community, to having difficult conversations, and to making myself vulnerable in order to make space for others.”

“Trish and the communities she represents will continue to be valued members of Vision Vancouver and we will work to ensure they are engaged moving forward,” concluded Paul Nixey, Co-Chair of Vision Vancouver.

The twittersphere

Top / All

Very creeped out by the way @trishkellyc was treated in the blogosphere. That wasn’t right at all.

  1. Followed by MetroVanAlliance and 27 others

  2. People · View all
    1. Trish Kelly @trishkellyc

      Followed by Rob Wynen and 45 others

  3. Followed by Mike Magee and 43 others

    @VisionVancouver lost a great candidate in @trishkellyc. Who am I supposed to vote for now?”  Good takeby @charenton_

  4. Followed by Gavin Dew and 8 others

    An open letter to Trish Kelly, former Vision Vancouver candidate 

  5. Trish Kelly quits as Vision Vancouver park candidate to halt distractions over her sex-positive activism 

  6. Sad to see Trish Kelly dropping out of the YVR election. Art- and sex-related work shouldn’t prevent anyone from seeking public office.

  7. Retweeted by Ian Bailey

    .@VisionVancouver @ParkBoard candidate Trish Kelly dropping out due to her work in theatre & as a “sex-positive activist.” #vanpoli

  8. Followed by Stewart Muir and 108 others

    .@VisionVancouver park board candidate Trish Kelly drops out due to online sex-positive videos and writing

17 Jul 22:37

Visualize your website’s color scheme with Grunt Palettable.

by Brian Vaughn

Palettable is a Grunt plugin that reads a set of pre-processed stylesheets (SASS, SCSS, or Stylus) and gathers all color variables. These variables are then formatted as an HTML color palette illustrating each color. Palletable also generates a color theme including complimentary color suggestions for states like mouse-hover and click.

Assuming your project contains 3 stylesheets with the following color values:


Palettable’s default settings will generate the following color palette:


Where did Palettable come from?

I got the idea to create Palettable while working on the Recurly admin interface. My team was in the process of redesigning a section of the application and cleaning up a lot of the old stylesheets along the way. Naturally there was a lot of communication between the developers and designers working on the project. I wanted a better way keep the designs and the final web interface in-sync.

I had a rough idea of what I wanted in mind but I couldn’t find anything like it in the Npm or Bower registries - so I decided to create it myself.

Why use Palettable?

A shared palette can be useful in a couple of ways. For starters, if your website is created by separate teams of designers and developers a reference palette can help facilitate clearer communication between the two. Rather than talking about “that shade of red used on the delete buttons” or “the medium purple used on the side bar” you can refer to colors by the names they are declared with inside of the project stylesheets.

Seeing all of your project’s colors gathered up and displayed in an orderly fashion can also help you spot faux-duplicates. Unless your stylesheets are more rigorously organized than most- your project will likely end up with some accidental near-neighbors (ex. #E52B31, #E2252B). This obviously isn’t the end of the world but redundant variables like this may increase the difficultly of implementing design changes.

Lastly the color theme suggestions offer a good starting point for states like mouse-over, click/active, disabled, etc. Both SASS and Stylus provide useful functions for color transformation. If you like the color theme generated by Palettable- just use the same formulas in your project!

How does it work?

The easiest way to use Palettable is to install it with a package manager like NPM or Bower. Then plug it into your Gruntfile as follows:


You are now ready to generate a color palette for your project:


Palettable’s default settings might work for you but if not there are a variety of ways to customize the plugin:

  • If you’re not happy with the format of the HTML generated by the plugin you can override its templates using templateLayoutPath and templateSwatchPath.
  • If you don’t like the color scheme it recommends you can replace it by overriding hoverColorFunction, tintColorFunction, and/or shadeColorFunction.
  • You can even override the order of colors within the generated palette by supplying a custom colorSortFunction.

To override any of these default settings just add a configuration block. For example:


The Palettable documentation has a complete list of configuration options and examples.

But what about..

Thanks to Recurly I’m able to share Palettable as an open-source project (MIT license) so you are free to use it however you like. If you have suggestions for how to improve the library please let me know! I’d love to hear from you either here or on the Github project page.

If you’d like to learn more about developer opportunities at an open-source friendly company, I encourage you to check out our careers page.

The post Visualize your website’s color scheme with Grunt Palettable. appeared first on The Recurly Blog.

17 Jul 14:07

Case Study - How CrisisNET is Shaping the Future of Reporting

by SHansen

Timely, relevant, and accurate information is a powerful ally for news organizations reporting on natural disasters or humanitarian conflicts. However, gathering that data can be quite the challenge. CrisisNET, an Ushahidi initiative, is solving this problem for journalists, data scientists, and developers with a platform that provides easy access to critical information.

CrisisNET partners with AlchemyAPI to pull in data from thousands of data sources, from individual Facebook posts to UNHCR refugee updates to Ushahidi deployments. The multi-source data is first normalized into a common structure and then enhanced with relevant metadata (e.g. language, reverse geo-coding, and keywords). In minutes, this data can be made available to users through multiple API endpoints.

Imagine you want to understand the content of photos being posted about the current Iraq conflict. Specifically, you want images containing reported members from the Islamic extremist group, ISIS. Can you name the hundreds of data sources sharing information on Iraq and find the related images? If not, that means you’ll have to spend days scouring the internet for sources, scanning each one, looking for relevant photos (excluding advertisements or propaganda), and tagging each image by hand. That is a lot of work.

As the CrisisNET team shares in this case study, they leverage AlchemyAPI’s image recognition technology to dig deeper into the data stream. With AlchemyAPI, CrisisNET understands the complex content of images, extracts ISIS-related photos, and identifies images of people. By using this technology to filter the data collected, CrisisNET was able to quickly document the current situation and share the timeline below in the “Faces of ISIS” blog post.

Faces of ISIS
CrisisNET recently published a social media timeline that shares relevant stories on the Iraq crisis. They used AlchemyVision to extract and tag photos from multiple sources.

While unstructured data analysis and natural language understanding are often used by enterprises who want to learn about their customers, instances also exist in which these services are used to benefit society as a whole. “By removing barriers to accessing and analyzing unstructured information, we are hoping to impassion people who otherwise might not get involved and help drive local and global changes,” shares Jonathan Morgan, Co-founder and Technical Director at CrisisNET.

Learn more:

18 Jul 02:17

My Top Tools 2014

by Stephen Downes
I haven't updated my list for Jane Hart's overall review for some time now, but it's worth a revisit. This post is prompted by Harold Jarche's.

10. Word. This could actually be any of three word processing tools - I use NoteTab for quick notes, and Padre for programming. But this year has been a year of documents, and that means Word.

9. Winamp. This is my main audio tool. I use it to listen to music and podcasts and I use it to send content to ed Radio. I'm been experimenting with a task scheduler that automatically programs my rdio station. Still a work in progress and one of these things I still don't have time for.

8. Flickr. I criticize the photo hosting site and judging by the reversion to the old-style interface I think I was not along. I pay them money and they store my photos online and display them. It's still a good deal.

7. Facebook. Though I am loathe to admit it, I have used Facebook a lot more recently to keep in touch with family and community. Why? That's where they are. Notably, they're mostly not on Twitter or LinkedIn (some professional communities are on these sites but the wider impact is minimal).

6. Blogger. I don't know why I write a blog separately from my website. But I do, and Blogger is where I prefer to do it.

5. Audacity. I record and post every one of my talks. Audaciity (with LAME) is the tool I use to do this.

4. gRSShopper. This is my own blogging software - other people would insert WordPress here, probably. It hasn't played as big a role this year because my job has changed.

3. PowerPoint. Nothing really does the same work for me as a multimedia presentation tool. I do a lot of my original thinking while creating PowerPoint slides and of course it's an important part of my presentation routine.

2. Feedly. This is my RSS reader. I spend a lot of time here - for each item that appears in OLDaily I read something like a hundred posts. I'm in the middle of a large scale reorganization of my feed sources. There's so much out there, I think people don't realize this.

1. Outlook. Can you believe it? I have in the past referred to it as the worst software ever written. It is much improved. More significantly, Thunderbird has not kept pace. I use Outlook for email and calendaring. Both of these are critical for me today. The Thunderbird-Google Calendar alternative simply doesn't work.

24 Jun 03:31

My Favorite Floppy of All Time

by Anil

After at least 15 years of debating whether I should spend money on this, I recently took the plunge and acquired one of my most-desired Prince collectibles.

Added to my collection: 3.5" floppy given to press when Prince changed his name. Contains a font w/ one symbol in it.

— Anil Dash (@anildash) June 23, 2014

Part of the reason I decided to actually acquire this disk was that I'd revisited Parker Higgins' great post about how Prince's signature glyph might have been represented in Unicode if it were able. Even better, once I'd shared the photo I'd taken of the disk, Paisley Park's then-head designer Steven Parke, and Chank Diesel, the Minneapolis type designer whose typefaces would later become stalwarts of Prince's packaging design, both jumped into the thread.

I was pretty surprised to see just how much interest there was in this artifact, but it was a great opportunity to bring out some of the fascinating, innovative work that Prince was doing two decades ago, and to note how fun, funny, and resonant it remains to this day.

For those asking, Prince font floppy is just a fun artifact; contents were on his CD-ROM & Compuserve 20 years ago.

— Anil Dash (@anildash) June 23, 2014
18 Jul 03:37

We often dream of vigs; or, how Apple became Microsoft

by Scott Rosenberg

offtrack betting

In his great little one-man show, Feisty Old Jew, my old friend Charlie Varon makes copious use of the word “vigorish” or “vig” — a Yiddish word so outlandishly pungent that half the audience regularly assumes he made it up. (He actually polls the house, impromptu, each night.)

Me, I knew it was a real word. I knew that it refers to the percentage of a bet a bookie takes for himself — or, more broadly, any commission on a transaction. I knew this because “vig” had cropped up in a prominent way in the annals of the ’90s Internet boom. When I first heard it then, I couldn’t quite shake the suspicion that the man who had used it, Nathan Myhrvold of Microsoft, must have made it up, so I looked it up.

At Microsoft in the ’90s, Myhrvold was known for writing voluminous in-house memos dedicated to crystal-balling the tech future. In a much-circulated 1993 memo titled “Roadkill on the Information Highway” (RTF file) he introduced the term “vigorish” to readers. But he really put it to work in a 1994 followup — a memo that tried to make up for the previous one’s inexplicable failure to account for, or even mention, the Internet, which was not the form Myhrvold or most everyone else at Microsoft had expected the “information highway” to take.

One of the reasons the Internet took Microsoft and so much of the tech industry by surprise was that its government-and-university roots and its open-computing culture made it seem like a singularly inhospitable place to do business. Microsoft was halfway through building its own Microsoft Network as a competitor to Compuserve, Prodigy, and AOL when the Web browser known first as Mosaic and then as Netscape started getting popular in 1994. Sure, the Internet was opening up to commerce thanks to recent regulatory changes; but why would you want to set up shop there?

As Ken Auletta wrote in a May 12, 1997 profile of Myhrvold for the New Yorker:

It also infuriated Myhrvold and Microsoft that the Internet was free. They saw it as a flower-child culture that disdained profits and copyrights — and Microsoft… “Nobody gets a vig on content on the Internet today,” [Myhrvold] wrote. “The question is whether this will remain true.”

We all know what happened after that: Microsoft gathered its forces and smote Netscape, preserving at least another decade of massive profits and sparking a federal antitrust suit. Meanwhile, the Internet became a pretty good place for at least some people to make a lot of money.

I revisit this tale of yore partly because the word “vigorish” is just such a treasure (as is Charlie’s show — go see it if you get the chance!), and partly for two more substantive reasons: It puts today’s news of Microsoft layoffs in perspective, and it reminds us of how heavily today’s Web business depends on “vigs.”

Sic transit gloria Microsoft

Today Microsoft announced roughly 18,000 layoffs. That’s a lot of jobs to vanish, even if more than half of them are from the company’s recent acquisition of Nokia’s phone business.

Microsoft isn’t going away; heck, IBM is still around and making plenty of money. But Microsoft isn’t exactly leading the industry the way it did when Myhrvold was writing those memos (these days, he’s busy buying up patents and publishing $600 cookbooks). It has been displaced as thoroughly as it displaced its mainframe and mini-computer predecessors.

Myhrvold’s dream of Microsoft interposing itself as the Internet’s middleman, taking a vig from every transaction, never came true, thank goodness. Microsoft already took another kind of vig from us in the form of Windows and Office licenses and upgrades, but those are less and less central to our work lives, and almost irrelevant to our casual/personal digital lives.

It was hard to imagine such an outcome in the late ’90s. It is similarly hard today to imagine a relatively near-term scenario in which any of Google, Facebook, or Apple have faded into near-irrelevance in shaping the future. Rest assured: it will happen.

Today, you can’t click without tripping on a vig

The Web remains relatively vig-free today: if you set up shop there, you need to pay for hosting, but there aren’t a lot of people squeezing a percentage from you. (There are credit-card transaction fees, but they exist offline as well.)

But as we move into the world of mobile and apps, in which private vendors maintain tighter holds on app and content distribution, we’re suddenly back in the land of the vigorish. Apple’s app store takes a big fat cut, as do most other app stores. Ditto for content marketplaces like the iTunes store and the Kindle store. Apple makes sure to get a cut of in-app purchases, too. As Mike Cane wrote in a 2011 post, the day Apple’s app store started insisting on its cut of in-app purchases was “the day Apple became Nathan Myhrvold.”

These are obvious vigs — but there are other kinds. Facebook and Twitter both take a slice of us, too, not from our transactions but from our social lives and our attention. Think of this as an emotional vigorish.

The “disintermediation” so many predicted back when Myhrvold dreamed of vigs was real enough. But today we are facing a new infestation of middlemen, in previously not-intermediated realms like finding a parking space or booking a restaurant reservation.

If you don’t like that — I don’t — it can be a frustrating moment in digital time. But hold tight: This sort of market advantage is usually fleeting.

It’s not that some competitor will come along and beat the app store at its own game. Instead, our needs and habits will change, and just as we find that we can get along OK without Microsoft Office, we will wake up one day and realize that we haven’t spent anything at an app store in ages.

17 Jul 21:49

Where systems and worlds collide you’ll find politics

by Mitch Ratcliffe

Over at Doc Searls’ excellent VRM list, there is a discussion about “governance.” Some like the word, others hate it — the concept is naturally troubling for engineers who generally ignore abstractions. But this is an inevitable crossroads for any large-scale systems development. It’s the Technologist’s Bane: We still have to do society, there’s no building successful systems that will ignore social priorities. That’s what we are arguing about here – the “governance” of the Net, the organization, the partnership all need at every level to be negotiable within a reasonable range in order for transactions to have novel outcomes not reinforcing of previous models.

Government served this function, as the setting for negotiation and enforcer of rights, but we’ve hit the limit of governmental flexibility and responsiveness – thank you, Congress – when crossing the national-transnational boundaries that the Net naturally crosses with impunity. Here, where people’s lives are shaped and reshaped by the system, we cannot shrug off the hard problems because of a distaste for politics, allocating them to the future, so we can “figure them out later.”

This is where trust meets the road, where the cogs have to be aligned, where our initial agreements will be born. Right here is where VRM must say “the battle of all against all” is over and a new alternative exists that can be understood easily and intuitively by all while producing novel socio-economic outcomes.

While working with Dee Hock’s Chaordic Alliance, which worked to establish organizational models that could be adapted, and adopted to specific needs, I repeatedly saw the governance argument derail implementation of a new organizational model. Concerns parochial often won out, preventing organizations from changing too drastically, undercutting the Chaordic model that emphasized self-organization and shared governance to ensure ongoing transparency for NEW members in relation to the founding members. Without the inflow of new members, there is no growth and the system will become moribund.

Rather than reject governance, we need to find a new respect for the nuance of social interaction involved in negotiation and decision-making so that systems can be engineered on standards that include sufficient flexibility for a wide range of experimentation within the model. Instead, people tend to either reject governance or monopolize governance by making the process opaque. Then the system becomes either an ongoing battlefield that quickly destroys the value of the system or it results in a hegemony by the early participants, who know how the system “really works,” which is just another way of saying we’ve found a way to facilitate bald political power in a new environment and you, new people, are on the outside.

This will be the hardest mountain for VRM or any variation on these ideas to overcome. It killed the Chaordic Commons. Tom’s call for analysis and reflection on the existing system and the proposed new system is the only viable next step. Some parts of the old models will still be valuable, represented here by the concepts of private property and fungible value, the ability to engineer a transactional environment in order to profit from facilitating the transactions, among others.

It’s time for experimentation and pragmatic debate.

18 Jul 06:30

I Created That

by Richard Millington

It's hard to see most established communities vanishing overnight.

This is because communities (the authentic, genuine, communities) are such a big part of who we are.

We take great joy and validation from participating in the community. In many cases, it's our conduit for identification. We know more about ourselves through our community interaction.

To walk away from a community would mean leaving behind a huge part of our identity.

But that only happens if it is an authentic, real, community.

It only happens when the community was stitched together over many years. It only happens when the community begins with a handful of members who knew the founder. The community grows slowly and steadily. Newcomers are carefully socialized. Culture is refined and occasionally pruned to reflect the tastes of members. 

Communities shouldn't begin overnight and they shouldn't die overnight. They take a lot of time. They take years, not months, of careful dedication. 

Most of you know this. You're in this for the long-haul. You're not here for the quick win. You're here to create something that provides huge benefits to members for years.

You want to point to something, many years from now, and say "I created that!"

Slow, steady, progress. Not big splashes.

18 Jul 09:03

This week in lifelogging: the futuristic home

by Priscilla Choo

Magic in the mundane

Just a few a weeks ago, we at Narrative discussed how a typical day at work might look like 5 to 10 years from now in This week in lifelogging: the futuristic workplace. Yet, we all know that home is where the heart is. So today, we will be discussing matters of the heart in what might look like home in years to come. The video you see above shows how one man, Mr. David Rose, sees a future where we can all live like wizards. ‘Enchanted objects’, as he calls it, are ordinary things that have the same function as before, except now they can talk and are connected. In other words, they are simply ordinary things with extraordinary capabilities. Besides using the Narrative Clip that we absolutely love, Rose also sees a futuristic home adorned with various ‘enchanted objects’ like smart cutlery that monitor our eating habits, a table fitted with Google Earth so we can explore and talk about the world with our children, as well as smart umbrellas that are connected to weather forecasts to remind you to bring them out when it is about to rain. Perhaps the beauty in all of this lies in technology helping us with the mundane aspects so that we can free up time to be better family members or simply more human at home. What will you want in your futuristic home?

Read more: Putting Magic in the Mundane

Video credited to The New York Times

Handmade “Google Glass” by the little ones

And if you foresee your futuristic home to be buzzing with activities because your little ones are programming prodigies who love hacking every ordinary thing to become an enchanted object, you’re probably not alone. The parents of 13-year-old Clay Haight are just soaking in what their child has created – the most adorable Google Glass yet. Even though what the tech giant created in its latest piece of wearable tech has been highly contentious, what Clay created is seen as both cute and cool. With whatever money he saved, Clay managed to purchase an Arduino Microboard, a battery and a 3D printer to print the glass frame. These items, together with his passion for gadgets and instructions from hobbyist site Make: magazine, allowed Clay to create his version of the Google Glass that allows him to run around the house and tell his parents the temperature just for fun. Now we all wonder if Google is just waiting for Clay to grow up, in order to welcome him with open arms into the company.

Read more: DIY “Google Glass” and Holidays go hi-tech: Google Glass and other cutting-edge travel gadgets

Image credited to Make:

Focus for the whole family

Or if all that flurry of activities from your little ones is causing you to lose focus at the full spectrum of household activities that you have to get done, Melon could just be the solution for knowing whether you could beat that productivity loss with some country music that you enjoy. Melon is an activity tracker for your brain that teaches you about cognitive performance. It tracks several mental states including focus, relaxation and meditation, and then wireless communicates with your smart phone to help you understand how you feel and teaches you how to improve. The basic idea of Melon stems from how the things around us affect our mental states, both positively and negatively. By understanding that data better, one can then train his/her brain to attain their desired mental state.

Read more: Meet Melon: The quantified self headband to help calm your brain and get you focused again

Image credited to Melon

A collective narrative

In the video above, you would find what is created by the Human smartphone app makers as they draw maps of urban movement happening around the world. From walking to running routes, as well as cycling and driving routes, the visualisation of these collective personal data is not just aesthetically beautiful, but have also been able to garner insights on a larger scale, which could be used for better urban planning. Besides generating these visualisations, the information was also used to rank the cities in order of what their top mode of transport was. Amsterdam topped the list for cycling, while Washington topped it for walking and Berlin for running. According to Eric Boam from The Guardian, “When we aggregate the right data and tell our stories collectively, they become a powerful social narrative. Under the right scenarios, they can even act as an agent of change in the world.” According to him, this has already happened in 2009 when two data researchers told a story powerful enough for New York City to shelve their re-zoning plans, using real-time data collected by the smartphones of workers in a specific district. Perhaps we are the agents of the change that we want to see, beginning from our own homes. What do you think?

Read more: Telling stories about ourselves through big data and wearable technology and Inside The Bizarre, Data-Driven World Of Lifeloggers

Video credited to Human

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18 Jul 12:00

Inner Vision for the weekend of July 18, 2014

by Gregory Han

Artist, Sue Webster, at home in London – The Selby

There’s a plentitude of sites (including our own) recommending and rating just about everything made by mankind. But as important as “what to buy” is knowing what’s possible using the products you’ve purchased. Inner Vision is a weekly digest connecting the dots between great everyday objects and the culture and techniques behind living well with them.

Supermoon image by Robin Ohia, CC2.0

Supermoon image by Robin Ohia, CC2.0

Put the “Super” In “Supermoon”
On August 10th the moon will be 221,765 miles from Earth. Just in case you didn’t realize it, that’s a bit closer than usual, warranting the designation of a “supermoon” (aka s perigee-syzygy). Lexy Savvides of CNET shares tips for optimizing your photo gear for the lunar event for results deserving a “super” extolment.

Size Matters…When Picking a Grill
The ‘king of chefs and chef of kings,’ Auguste Escoffier once opined, “A grill is the remote starting-point, the very genesis of our art…” Start off with the right grill for summer picnic season.

It’s the Non-Productive Activities That Matter
Without a plan or thought combating mental fatigue is like applying a bandage over a large, oozing wound of compounding exhaustion. Writer Jonathan Milligan breaks up his day into 90 minute “focus sessions”,  practicing “real” breaks of non-productivity. The results: a richer life with a boost in overall output.

McWay Falls

Spend a moment enjoying the sight of natural beauty like McWay Falls in Big Sur – even just on a computer screen – and impulsive tendencies have been recorded to drop. Photo: Gregory Han

Self Control Can Come Naturally
A bag of cookies eaten in a sitting. Going on an online spending spree. Blurting out an inappropriate remark in the heat of the moment. They’re all loss of self control. The cure: apparently looking at natural environments – even virtual images of nature – reduces impulsive decision-making significantly.

Hope vs. Hype: Are Supplements Useful or Useless?
“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” That annual $32 billion supplements industry figure reveals many of us are instead seeking help in a pill form when it comes to health, fitness, and for men….[shhhhh]….virility. You’d really be better off investing in a blender or juicer, begin exercising regularly, and keeping weight off the midsection for testosterone-boosting effects.

Before You Convince Yourself You Need the New iPhone
This isn’t about guilt, but real people. The Human Cost of Electronics, a short documentary spotlighting the lives of those making our electronic devices in China, reminds we’re all too willing to convince ourselves what we”want” is what we really “need”, especially at the cost of faceless workers overseas.

Coming Clean About Washing Machines
9,188. 5,803. 2,902. You can probably guess which one is the standard vs. Energy Saver vs. TopTen rated washing machine for water efficiency. With drought squeezing availability all over the country down to the very last drop, when considering a new washing machine, be sure to factor in efficiency as advised by the NRDC.


Andrea Nguyen’s The Banh Mi Handbook: Recipes for Crazy-Delicious Vietnamese Sandwiches offers 50 recipes for constructing bánh mì at home.

French Baking+Vietnamese Fermentation=Crazy Delicious 
The bánh mì is a beautiful amalgamation of pungent Vietnamese flavors hiding in wait inside the baked remnants of colonial era French occupation: the crisp+pillowy embrace of baguette giving way to an acidic crunch of julienned daikon and carrots curtaining slivers of garlicky pork, slabs of head cheese, spreadable pork liver pâté, or even the saline-metallic of canned sardines. Throw in some cucumber slices, a horse kick of jalapeños, sprigs of cilantro, a paintbrush stroke of mayo, and you’ve got the best sandwich this side of a po’ boy…except funkier and a lot healthier.

Your Smartphone Photos Suck
Frankly speaking, most photos posted online haven’t markedly improved compared to snapshots shot on disposable cameras decades ago. Dan Rubin, the editor-at-large of Photographic Journal, is just the man to show and share a selection of photo apps and tips to improve your snapshots in two swipes and a tap.

The Darker, Deadly Side of Landscaping
Few know the otherwise affable Los Angeles suburb of Larchmont Village is ground zero of various potential deadly dangers growing openly in yards all over. Obscura Society LA joins forces with horticulturalist Kelley Remington for a most curious tour of 25-30 common trees and shrubs revealing their varying toxicity.

Got an interesting story, link, resource, or how-to you think we should check out for consideration for our next issue of Inner Vision? Drop us a line with the subject “Inner Vision” and we’ll take a look!

18 Jul 12:53

Another Year Gone By

by Gail Mooney

When I was a kid, my year would begin and end around the school calendar – essentially September to June. Summertime was a delightful escape CoupleBicycleNZfrom the rituals of academia with lots of time to sleep late and do other things – or simply just do nothing.

I’ve been out of school a long time, but my annual calendar still seems to revolve around the “academic” year, with summers still spent relaxing and playing. As I enter into yet another year on this planet as my birthday approaches next week, I realize just how important it is to take time to simply relax and play. As a creative being, it is not only important to “play“– it is critical.

As I look back on the many years that have ticked by, I am profoundly grateful for the many blessings and people in my life who have made it a life well lived. My memory fails me at times but what I do consistently recall are all the little moments of laughter and levity. I have not amassed a fortune, but I have been very comfortable and never left wanting. But I realize that I have had a rich life indeed and the best times have always included experiences near and far with people who have entered into my life – sometimes for a moment – sometimes for the long haul.

I suppose you could say that my spirit has never aged and it is still as playful as it has always been. When I’m at my most creative, my spirit is shining through. It’s not hampered by self-doubts, fear or uncertainty. My spirit is forever curious and is always exploring. Rather than being fearful of what’s around the next corner, I am excited at the prospects of opening myself up to new ideas, places and people. It’s all those experiences and relationships that make up a life worth living.

So, as I face the start of another year, I look back at the smiles and laughs as well as the tears that I have encountered on my journey and I wouldn’t trade them for anything.



Filed under: Inspirational, Personal Stories, Photography, Story telling, Travel, Video, Women Tagged: birthdays, Creativity, exploration, freedom, Gail Mooney,, ideas, Kelly/Mooney Photography, Photography, playing, still photography
17 Jul 13:07

Firefox OS Ecosystem Shows Strong Momentum and Expands Across New Devices, Markets and Categories

by Mozilla
Firefox OS has unlocked the mobile ecosystem and is quickly expanding across a broad range of devices and product categories in Europe, Latin America and Asia Pacific. Just one year after the first devices were launched, Firefox OS is now … Continue reading
18 Jul 15:32

Elop Continues His Losing Strategy: It's Time For Him To Go

In Stephen Elop’s breezy and somewhat callous email to former Nokia staffers at Microsoft (‘Hello there’ is a poor start to firing 12,500 people), he showed that he’s continuing the losing play of fighting against Android+Samsung (and hundreds of other Asian-based competitors with Windows+Nokia. Of course, Elop might be a bit blasé since he’s fired 50,000 since taking the job as CEO of Nokia.

Elop wrote in that memo, 

In the near term, we plan to drive Windows Phone volume by targeting the more affordable smartphone segments, which are the fastest growing segments of the market, with Lumia.

Om Malik is merciless in a recent post, pointing out that this strategy has been failing since Elop — that lunkhead — wrote the 'burning platform memo' three years ago, and pushed Nokia to drop its own Symbian OS and MeeGo activities, and adopt Windows.

Nadella’s strategy is more nuanced. He wants Windows phones to be the leader in dual use: when users need business and personal capabilities on the same phone. You don’t hear that nuance in Elop’s memo.

I bet that Elop will soon be out, and Nadella will put one of his more trusted and less tarnished executives in place.

18 Jul 15:35

"I was a little bit surprised that the report didn’t spend much time tackling the hardest issue,..."

I was a little bit surprised that the report didn’t spend much time tackling the hardest issue, which is why do they need to have so much revenue? It’s because their cost structure is made for print. When you look at how much revenue comes from print and the scale of their operation because of print, the challenge that they’re facing moving forward is how do they move into a post-print world….

It just seems like if you’re reading a secret internal report for The New York Times, the things that people would be stressed about, isn’t that, oh, the website’s not good enough, or they haven’t moved fast enough with this feature or that feature, but more like how do we deal with this very different cost structure of our future business, compared to our past business.

- Finally getting to Felix Salmon’s really great Medium interview with Jonah Peretti. This point about the NYT innovation report was absolutely my reaction. That said, the problem is that the cost structure is both the most vital thing to address, and at the same time the one thing that never truly will.  (via markcoatney)
18 Jul 18:20

Soundwave for iOS and Android adds music messaging, teams with popular streaming services like Rdio, Deezer and Spotify

by Daniel Bader

Soundwave is an interesting little tool that lets music lovers share what they’re listening to. Unlike Rdio, which silos all users into a single service, Soundwave takes cues from’s ancient Scrobbling platform, consolidating listened tracks from a variety of online services like Soundcloud, YouTube, Deezer, Rdio, Spotify and others.

It was part discovery network, part social network. Now, with Soundwave 2.0, it’s also a chat platform. The app now wants to be the layer between private music sharing chat rooms, making it incredibly easy for its user base to listen to practically any full, in full, across disparate services.

The idea is that, by plugging in to a number of streaming music APIs in a single front-end UI, Soundwave can overcome the traditional barriers to music sharing. Typically, if I share an Rdio link but my friend does not subscribe to it, he can only hear a 30-second snippet of the song.

With Soundwave 2.0, the app does all of the work: just begin a chat, search for a song and share it with a friend or a group of them, and based on which services they have signed up for, Soundwave pushes the full track to them.

While Soundwave has yet to take off in the mainstream, and likely won’t become a default chat app for many people, its music-matching wizardtry has the potential to be integrated into other chat apps — you can imagine Kik, BBM or Facebook offering something like this in the future.

The full list of supported music services includes YouTube, Spotify, Soundcloud, Pandora, Rdio, 8tracks and Deezer. Hopefully Google Play Music will be added in the future.

18 Jul 18:37

Weeknote 29/2014

by Doug Belshaw

This week I’ve been:

Next week is the first week of the rest of my family’s summer holidays. It’s also my last week at work before heading off on my holidays: a roadtrip with them around Europe!

Image CC BY-NC Wolfman-K

18 Jul 18:28

How I (sorta) stopped worrying and (kinda) learned to love the selfie

by Sarah Wanenchak


Today’s makeup selfie (Urban Decay’s Electric Palette).

I had no idea the upcoming ABC sitcom Selfie was going to be a thing (this fall if you for some reason care) until I saw an ad spot for it while half watching the World Cup or something. Very suddenly I was more than half watching, and within a few seconds I was tweeting angrily.

I mean. Read the premise (courtesy of Wikipedia).

Using a premise similar to Pygmalion and My Fair Lady, the series will follow the life of Eliza Dooley (a modern day version of Eliza Doolittle), a woman obsessed with becoming famous through the use of social media platforms (including the use of Instagram and taking selfies), until she realizes that she needs to actually find people that she can be friends with physically instead of “friend” them online. This prompts Eliza to hire Henry Higenbottam (a modern day version of Henry Higgins), a marketing self-image guru who is left with the task of rebranding Eliza’s image in the hopes to show her that there is more to life out there than just playing Candy Crush Saga with an iPhone and connecting with a Facebook page.

As one of my Twitter friends put it, “The problem with Pygmalion is that Eliza just liked herself too much, said no GBS fan ever.”

No, but seriously, though. My anger had a lot more than just to do with general knee-jerk Feminist Rage. That was, of course, part of it, and part of it was also the tired, irritating, silly stuff in there about anything done via social media as less real (is this really a thing we’re still doing?). But a more significant part of it was also related to some emotional work I’ve been doing recently that’s left me feeling intensely vulnerable and has been much more difficult than I expected.

I’m doing selfies.

Mostly on Twitter, mostly of makeup. I recently got majorly into eyeshadow (I will stop LJing at some point, promise) and at first it just seemed like a fun way to record my experiments with it, but soon I was doing it a fair amount. So yeah, so what? Lots of people do. It’s in the dictionary in an official capacity, for crying out loud.

The thing is that it hurts. It makes me want to cringe every time I hit send, an awful moment where I feel like I’m betraying something. I’m doing a wrong thing. A lot of it is probably personal neurosis, but I don’t think anywhere near all, and anyway, don’t all our neuroses have social contexts? Don’t they all come from somewhere?

I was familiar with the fraughtness of the selfie. Most of us should be by now. Selfies are great, selfies are awful, selfies are feminist, selfies aren’t feminist at all and are in fact tools of the patriarchy, selfies are things stupid attention whores (I use that term here very, very mindfully) do because they have no self-esteem and need people to tell them they’re pretty. Duckface. Duckface duckface duckface.

Intellectual familiarity does not prepare you for something like this.

The discourse around selfies is fraught because selfies are complex locations within which gender and mental wellbeing and the attention economy and the politics of self-presentation and a hundred other things all collide into a tangled mess of a thing. Selfies are fraught because almost everything of which a selfie is conceptually and culturally comprised is controversial.


But what I see in almost everything being said about selfies is that it seems impossible to not, in one way or another, feel bad for taking them. Whichever way I turn, there’s conflict.

The idea of selfies as something that vapid, appearance-obsessed women (always women, even if non-binary people like me are doing it, even if men are) do is especially toxic, I think. Witness the Selfie premise above. There’s also the now-infamous piece in Jezebel by Erin Gloria Ryan that characterizes selfies as “a cry for help”. She’s ostensibly writing in the service of feminism, and it’s not that she doesn’t make some good points, but the form in which she does ends up being pretty shaming, in a way that Ryan herself appears to feel intensely.

Nor is the proliferation of selfies into a generation of women who are old enough to know better a promising development; it’s a nightmare. The picture that accompanies my byline on this very website is a selfie. I’ve posted selfies to Facebook, and Twitter. I always feel bad about it; it always takes several tries to not look stupid, and even now, I kind of hate all of them. “Hey guys, I’m by myself!” my selfie says, “Can you please somehow indicate that other humans are out there so that I do not collapse into my own loneliness????? LOLOLOL” Please, god, no.

I know that feel. The thing is, I can’t escape the powerful suspicion that I feel that way only because I’ve been made to.

Not that selfies and what they do, when we’re talking about gender, aren’t problematic. Focus on appearance for the sake of affirmation is not necessarily a good thing, no, and when it’s a thing embedded in society organized along patriarchal lines, of course it’s profoundly troubling. But for me, then, there’s the feeling of I’m making myself look desperate and stupid and self-absorbed. I shouldn’t enjoy it when people say nice things about how I look. Bad feminist. Bad.

I should note that Ryan would probably disagree that what I post is a “pure selfie”, given that I’m usually showing off my makeup skills. But I think that’s hair-splitting of a pretty unhelpful kind. It’s still my face. I still want people to say nice things.

At the last Theorizing the Web we had an entire panel devoted to selfies, and Anne Burns noted many of the ways in which this kind of discussion is harmful in her paper “Disciplining the Duckface: Online Photographic Regulation as a form of Social Control”:

Regulating the selfie is a means for regulating the selfie-subject, where both are conceived of as being innately problematic and requiring control. As addressed in this study, notions of ‘too many selfies’ and the labeling of young women’s self-presentations as narcissistic, seek to limit both what, and how, women are encouraged to photograph. Such discussions impact upon notions of privacy and identity negotiation, but serve primarily to mark and marginalize certain groups. Therefore, through the limitations imposed on a certain type of creative practice, subjects’ behavior and participation within the public sphere is curtailed.

For Ryan, it’s (mostly sort of) okay to take a picture of you wearing a hat and post it to Instagram. Take a picture of just your face and you’re in trouble.

But as Jenny Davis has noted, the duckface itself is a kind of control over the form and presentation of the bodies we gender female:

[O]ne performs the Duckface by sucking in the cheeks and pushing out the lips. This makes the lips appear fuller, the cheekbones more prominent, and the eyes wider. It can also minimize asymmetry when taken from the correct angle. In short, this expressive configuration contorts the face in line with standards of feminine beauty.

So again, it’s not that there’s nothing troubling or problematic going on here. It’s not that the context of the selfie isn’t indicative of harm. It’s that for someone who isn’t cisgender male who wants to take a selfie, who wants to post a selfie, and who dares to want to hear nice things in response, there is literally no way to win. There’s no way to not feel at least kind of bad.

Guys. I just want to post pictures of myself wearing makeup on Twitter. It should not be this hard.

I want to emphasize that I realize how obvious these points must be to just about everyone who’s likely to read this. They are obvious. But these things are wound up in visceral, embodied emotion, and it’s easy to forget that when primarily what you’re doing with them is engaging in academic debate. It’s one thing to write and talk about a selfie; it’s another thing to post them and deal with the resulting emotional fallout. It’s another thing to take all the stuff you’ve read in blog posts and essays and papers about selfies and identity, and face the way they really do smash painfully together in your head when you’re announcing to your Twitter followers, as I did a couple of weeks ago, that for a few days you’re going to post a daily makeup selfie.

So why not just stop?

Because I don’t think this is fair, to put it bluntly, for all the reasons Burns describes. This is regulating the self and presentation of the self in ways that legitimize some things and delegitimize others. It reifies the idea that some kinds of selfies are okay and others are beyond the pale, that some kinds of selfie-subjects are acceptable and others are simply not. That, among other things, No True Feminist would ever do it. That enjoying attention is wrong, false, inauthentic, and vain in a way we almost exclusively ascribe to women.

We should examine where a desire for positive, appearance-based attention comes from. But can I please not feel ashamed for having that desire at all? I’m not saying that anyone has directly and intentionally made me feel that way, but that this is exactly why that discourse is harmful, and I understand that now in a deep way I didn’t before.

So what I’m doing about it is I’m posting selfies. Aggressively, like I’m making a point to myself, because I am. I’m trying to enjoy the positive comments as much as I can. I’m thinking about this a lot. And someday, maybe, someone will be like “hey, you look awesome today,” and I’ll be able to just smile, type “thanks :D”, hit tweet, and get on with my goddamn day.

LOOK AT MY FACE on Twitter – @dynamicsymmetry

18 Jul 17:45

Tomorrow, When The War Began

A surprisingly good movie, the Australian Tomorrow, When The War Began takes on John Marsden’s intriguing dystopian YA novel. It’s an Australian Red Dawn: I rather like some aspects of John Milius’s original movie, but this is a far better story in every way. I’d not heard of Marsden, despite my affection for The Hunger Games and Divergent.

In the US, fantasies about invading hordes are not uncommon, but they’re held by unthinking far-right people who are also crazy. The last time the US worried about a foreign invasion was 1814, unless you’re inclined to count July 3, 1863. Either way, no one was that worried. But I do know Australians – educated, professional, liberal-minded Australians – who do worry about the real possibility of invasion in the medium-term future. And from the perspective of Australia, 1942 was an uncomfortably near-run thing.

Where Red Dawn tends merely to be jingo, Tomorrow, When The War Began lets its characters think and feel. It’s got a pacifist. It does load the dice against her, but it doesn’t cheat. As is often the case in Australian adventure films, the gender politics are smart and seemingly effortless.

Tomorrow, When The War Began
18 Jul 19:32

Amazon launches ‘Kindle Unlimited’ subscription service for customers in USA

by Jane McEntegart

Amazon on Friday launched a new type of subscription service for Kindle users that allows unlimited access to a library of 600,000 e-books and audiobooks for just $10 per month.

Dubbed Kindle Unlimited, the service was first spotted by Kboards user MJAWare earlier this week. Though Amazon didn’t comment on the leak, which came via an official Amazon video, it looked like it was pretty close to launch. Now, just a couple of days after news broke, Amazon has made things official.

Users signing up for Kindle Unlimited will have access to 600,000 Kindle books on Kindle, iOS, Android, Windows Phone, BlackBerry, PC, Mac, and Windows 8 as well as over 2,000 audiobooks from Audible. The first month of Kindle Unlimited is free, and users will also get a three-month Audible membership with access to more than 150,000 Audible titles.

As suspected, this service is U.S.-only, which shouldn’t come as a surprise given Amazon has never been great at bringing new services across the border. We tried to sign up but were turned away with the same ‘U.S.-only’ line we’ve grown weary of hearing from Amazon.  We had been hoping that Amazon would offer details of an international launch once Amazon Unlimited was officially announced, but the company has offered nothing beyond, “Please visit us again when [Kindle Unlimited] is available in your country.”

Until then, Amazon.

18 Jul 17:23

Egyptian sumo wrestler bests a grand champion. Twice. While fasting for Ramadan.

by Ethan

My regular readers know that I’m a fan of sumo, and am especially interested in the globalization of the sport. The top three rikishi (wrestlers) in Japanese sumo are from Mongolia, and top ranks of the sport have recently featured competitors from Bulgaria, Georgia, Russia, Estonia and Brazil. On the one hand, this is helping a distinctly Japanese tradition gain global audiences, which is a great thing for the quality of the sport. On the other hand, the globalization is in part due to waning interest in the sport by Japanese youth (few of whom are excited about living the highly-regimented life of the sumo wrestler), and globalization may be contributing to waning interest in Japan, as it has been many years since a Japanese rikishi was the top competitor in the sport. (If this topic is interesting to you, you might enjoy a ten minute talk I gave on the subject to Microsoft Research in January 2013, available as video or as my notes.

This is the first week of the Nagoya basho, one of six two-week tournaments that are the heart of the Japanese sumo season, and much of the big news is about a foreign competitor who has recently joined the sport. Abdelrahman Shalan, who competes in sumo as Osunaarashi (which translates as “the great sandstorm”), is a 138kg, 22-year old Egyptian, who is the first Arab, the first African and the first Muslim to compete at the top level of sumo. Osunaarashi came to Japan in August 2011 to compete, and has moved through the ranks very quickly, competing for less than two years at the lower levels of the sport before joining the highest level of competition (maegashira) this past November.

Osunaarashi defeats Harumafuji!

This week, he’s making headlines not for his origins, but for his performance. Yesterday and today, Osunaarashi scored back to back kinboshi, victories of a lower ranked wrestler over a yokozuna, or grand champion. In other words, yesterday and today, Osunaarashi fought the very best guys in the sport and won. It’s worth mentioning that these two matches were the first time Osunaarashi had ever faced yokozuna, which makes the achievement even more impressive.


Kinboshi are relatively rare in sumo. The term means “gold star”, and it refers to the fact that sumo victories and losses are traditionally tallied with white stars for wins and black stars for losses. A gold star signifies a particularly important win. These victories are so rare because yokozuna don’t lose very often – Hakuho, the most senior yokozuna, finishes most tournaments 13-2, 14-1 or a perfect 15-0… and those few losses are usually to other yokozuna or other high-ranked wrestlers (ozeki, komusubi, sekiwake). For an “ordinary” rikishi (i.e., a guy who’s competing in the top league, but hasn’t yet earned a particular rank) to beat a yokozuna is a significant enough achievement that fans usually respond by grabbing the cushions they are sitting on and throwing them into the air. The rikishi is rewarded with a modest, but significant, raise in pay, and the lists of rikishi who have accomplished kinboshi are relatively short and filled with sumo superstars. (Only 9 active competitors have 2 or more kinboshi.)

If you weren’t impressed by the fact that Osunaarashi beat yokozuna the first two times he faced them, leading the Japanese press to call him a “giant killer”, consider this: the man is fasting for Ramadan. Obviously, eating is an important part of sumo – one of the reasons rikishi live and train in communal houses is so they can follow a regimen of eating, sleeping and training that allows them to gain and maintain weight. But sumo training is demanding martial arts training, and in the summer in Japan, wrestlers gulp down water as they train to stay hydrated and cool. During Ramadan, Osunaarashi neither eats nor drinks during the day – in a Japanese-language interview, the head of his sumo “stable”, Otake Oyakata, explains that he hoses Osunaarashi down during workouts to keep him cool when he cannot drink water. Last year, >commentators were concerned that Osunaarashi would not be able to compete for a full 15 days while fasting – the big man went 10-5, and I’ve yet to see a news story this year that even mentions his observance.


I have enormous respect for Osunaarashi, who not only is showing himself as a magnificent athlete, but is introducing the Japanese public to the dedication, intensity and beauty of the Muslim faith. Sumo wrestlers are not just competitors, but celebrities and cultural figures. Osunaarashi is emerging as an ambassador for the Muslim world, appearing as a guest lecturer in university classes and on TV to talk about differences and similarities between Japan and Egypt, between Islam and Shintoism.

I also have great admiration for Otake Oyakata, who has broken some of the traditions of sumo to make it possible for Osunaarashi to compete. Life in the sumo beya is highly ritualized – simply giving Osunaarashi time to pray five times a day is a break from sumo routines. Rikishi eat a rich, pork-heavy stew called chankonabe to pack on weight – the Otake stable now offers a fish-based chankonabe to Osunaarashi so he can gain weight while eating halal. These sound like minor changes, but they’re a big deal for a sport that is deeply rooted in Japanese tradition and extremely slow to change. (Rikishi appear in public wearing kimono and sandals, never in western street clothes, for example.)

My friend Hiromi Onishi, a senior executive with Asahi Shinbum, and I have been bonding over our fondness for Osunaarashi and trading links about him. Hiromi theorizes that Osunaarashi’s popularity in Japan tracks the nation’s engagement with different parts of the world. In the 1980s, Hawaiian sumo wrestlers came to dominate the sport, just as Japanese tourists were beginning to travel to those destinations. As Mongolians came into the sport in the early 2000s and eastern Europeans in the later 2000s, Japan has been increasingly globalized and engaging in trade and travel to these parts of the world. Now, as Japanese hotels learn to provide halal options for Muslim travelers and show other signs of connection to the Muslim world, Osunaarashi emerges as an ambassador.

For those of you meaning to start watching sumo, it’s great to have someone to support. If you’re an African, an Arab, a Muslim, or any other kind of human being, please join me in supporting Osunaarashi. With two kinboshi, he’s likely to win the Outstanding Performance prize in this tournament, and if he keeps his winning ways up, perhaps he can defeat Hakuho as well and take down all three yokozuna. Inshallah!

Thoughtful Quora post from Sed Chapman on the history of foreign rikishi and Japan’s reactions to Osunaarashi.

Kintamayama posts footage of bashos with English title cards – an amazing resource for the sumo fan outside Japan.

17 Jul 21:22

Who needs a laptop when you can game on a smartphone?

by Jeb Brilliant

When selecting the best 2014 smartphones for gaming there are a number of decisions that you will need to make. The first is the kind of games you intend to play. If you are looking for the kind of gaming experience that you get on a gaming console, then you are going to need the best smartphone that money can buy, but if you play popular games such as Candy Crush or you play online casino games at, then you can easily get by with a much cheaper model.

You also need to select your operating system. The choices are Apple iOS as used in the iPhone, Google Android, or Microsoft Windows. If it is iOS then your choice is between the iPhone 4/5S or other iPhones. While Windows can be useful if you already have an Xbox One so that you can use a phone such as the Nokia Lumia 1520 as a second screen for your console, generally the operating system is lacking when compared to the other options.

There is a large range of high end Android smartphones. For instance the Samsung Galaxy S5, the HTC One M8, and the Sony Xperia Z2 are all excellent choices. To find the best one for you, you will need to compare their specifications carefully as well as checking out the best deals.

If your gaming needs are more basic and you don’t want to pay those kind of prices, then you can certainly get by with low end Android smartphones such as the various budget lines from ZTE and Huawei.

Although they are relatively cheap, you still get a lot of phone for your money. For instance the ZTE Blade 5 has a 480 x 800 pixel resolution screen, a 5-megapixel camera, a microSD card slot, all for under £100 and the Sony Xperia M costs just £180.

18 Jul 19:38

The Image Of Things To Come: Airbus Folding Airplane Seats

This is only slightly worse that the Ryan Air proposal for standing-only sections.

Oliver Wainwright, Airbus’s folding saddle seat could be the cattle-class future for cheap flights

If you thought low-cost air travel couldn’t get any more bleak, then Airbus has a treat in store for you. The aeroplane manufacturer has now filed a patent for the what looks like a human battery-farm, but is in fact the future of budget flights: racks upon racks of folding saddle-seats for even more passengers to be jammed onto aeroplanes, packed in knee-to-rump.

While some airlines have already removed their folding tray tables and squeezed leg-room down to brutal knee-capping levels, Airbus have gone one step further, doing away with the idea of proper seating altogether. In their ultra-economy vision, seating aisles will instead take the form of long horizontal poles, from which bicycle-like saddles and small back and arm rests will pivot out, on to which humans will be placed, skewered together like table-football players.

“The design of the seats has to be optimised so that they present the smallest possible bulk,” says Airbus, explaining that the saddle-style seat has been developed “in order to reduce the distance needed to accommodate the legs of passengers between two rows of seating devices.”

The result, according to the patent diagram, is what looks like a line of people doing a sit-down conga, perching on each other’s knees. There barely a whisker of airspace between their limbs, let alone anywhere to place their over-priced soggy sandwiches. And you can forget about having a nap, unless your neighbour has a particularly forgiving shoulder.

Here’s the RyanAir ‘vertical seating’:

18 Jul 20:36

Quick thoughts from Kenya

by msurman

Going anywhere in Africa always energizes me. It surprises me. Challenges my assumptions. Gives me new ideas. And makes me smile. The week I just spent in Nairobi did all these things.

Airtel top up agenda in Nairobi

The main goal of my trip was to talk to people about the local content and simple appmaking work Mozilla is doing. I spent an evening talking with Mozilla community members, a day and a bit with people at Equity Bank and a bunch of time with people from iHub. Here are three of the many thoughts I had while reflecting on the flight home:

Microbusiness is our biggest opportunity for AppMaker

I talked to ALOT of people about the idea of non-techie smartphone users being able to make their own apps.

My main question was: who would want to make their own app rather than just use Facebook? Most of the good answers had to with someone running a very small business. A person selling juice to office workers who wastes alot of travel time taking orders. An up and coming musician who wants a way to pre-sell tickets to loyal fans using mobile money. A chicken farmer outside Nairobi who is always on the phone with the hotels she sells to (pic below, met her and her husband while on a trip with Equity Bank folks). The common thread: simple to make and remix apps could be very useful to very small real world businesses that would benefit from better communications, record keeping and transaction processing via mobile phone.


Our main priority with AppMaker (or whatever we call it) right now is to get a first cut at on-device authoring out there. In the background, we also really need to be pushing on use cases like these — and the kind of app templates that would enable them. Some people at the iHub in Nairobi have offered to help with prototyping template apps specific to Kenya over the next few months, which will help with figuring this out.

Even online is offline in much of Africa

As I was reminded at MozFest East Africa, even online is offline in much of Africa (and many other parts of the world). In the city, the cost of data for high bandwidth applications like media streaming — or running a Webmaker workshop — is expensive. And, outside the city, huge areas have connections that are spotty or non-existent.


It was great to meet the BRCK people who are building products to address issues like this. Specifically: BRCK is a ruggedized wifi router with a SIM card, useful I/O ports and local storage. Brainstorming with Juliana and Erik from iHub, it quickly became clear that it could be useful for things like Webmaker workshops in places where connectivity is expensive, slow or even non-existent. If you popped a Raspberry Pi on the side, you might even be able create a working version of Webmaker tools like Thimble and Appmaker that people could use locally — with published web pages and apps trickling back or syncing once the BRCK had a connection. The Kenyan Mozillians I talked to were very excited about this idea. Worth exploring.

People buy brands

During a dinner with local Mozillians, a question was raised: ‘what will it take for Firefox OS to succeed in Kenya?’ A debate ensued. “Price,” said one person, “you can’t get a $30 smartphone like the one Mozilla is going to sell.” “Yes you can!”, said another. “But those are China phones,” said someone else. “People want real phones backed by a real brand. If people believe Firefox phones are authentic, they will buy them.”


Essentially, they were talking about the tension between brand / authenticity / price in commodity markets like smartphones. The contention was: young Kenyan’s are aspiring to move up in the world. An affordable phone backed by a global brand like Mozilla stands for this. Of course, we know this. But it’s a good reminder from the people who care most about Mozilla (our community, pic below of Mozillians from Kenya) that the Firefox brand really needs to shine through on our devices and in the product experience as we roll out phones in more parts of the world.

Mozillians from Nairobi

I’ve got alot more than this rumbling around in my head, of course. My week in Uganda and Kenya really has my mind spinning. In a good way. It’s all a good reminder that the diverse perspectives of our community and our partners are one of our greatest strengths. As an organization, we need to tap into that even more than we already do. I truly believe that the big brain that is the Mozilla Community will be a key factor in winning the next round in our efforts to stand up for the web.

Filed under: mozilla, webmakers
18 Jul 23:00

“Boston Roadster for sale”

by antbikemike

BR Demo Bike

  • Refurbished frame set
  • New powder coat
  • 56cm seat tube
  • All new components
  • Handbuilt wheels
  • Alfine 8 speed IHG
  • Schmidt dyno hub
  • Brooks B17
  • VO fenders
  • B&M lights
  • SOMA rack
  • $1,950.00

18 Jul 21:33

Five things on Friday #81

by James Whatley

Things of note for the week ending July 18th, 2014


- OakOak street art, via Web Urbanist

1. Drone Photography
The results of the first annual Dronestagram Photo Competition came in this past week and, of course, they are all pretty stunning. The image below, by Dronestagram contributor, ‘Capungaero‘, took first prize but the others are well worth a look too.


2. ‘I don’t recognise the British Image of the EU’
My general guidelines for creating Five Things on Friday every week tend to fit around a couple of rules. One of those rules is ‘Never share anything you’ve seen posted 2-3 times elsewhere’.

I’m breaking that this week because I really think you should all watch this video of Finnish Prime Minister, Alex Stubb, talking to Channel 4 News about Britain and the way it approaches its own internal EU debate.

Alexander Stubb Channel 4

I may make no secret of my love of all things Finland (the people, the produce, the cities, the festivals) and it seems that love now extends to the Prime Minister too.

Engaging, charismatic, and articulate, Alexander Stubb is definitely worth six minutes of your time.

3. Sex Lives of the Humanitarians

When you introduce yourself at a party as a former humanitarian, people expect that your field experiences were shaped by witnessing suffering, violence and displacement. What they don’t expect to hear is that your day-to-day management challenges also included arguments over what time your colleagues could watch porn in the common room, and negotiating how staff could get to and from a brothel. Yet it is often a reality of the job and it is time we talked about it.

After that opening paragraph, I wanted to read more. You might too.

4. Snapchat in The FT
This past week, ephemeral media platform and darling of all brands who want to get at ‘the yoof’, Snapchat, starting experimenting with ‘geofilters’. That is, filters for its self-destructing images that only appear when the user is in a certain locale. Said place could be a city (eg: Malibu) or a big sprawling metropolis of a living, breathing brand (step up, Disneyland).

FT Snapchat

The Financial Times asked me what I thought of this development – so I told them. Basically, talking about what this means for brands and of course, does this mean that Snapchat might have a business model? Maybe.

You don’t need to pay to read it [but you do need an account] and it’s actually quite a good read. Worth your time if only for finally getting around to setting up that FT account you’ll know you’ll appreciate in future.

5. The best comic redesign of the week
A bunch of stuff got announced in comic book land this week. Everyone is talking either about either Captain America now being black or how a woman is about to become THOR. Big whoop.

Screw those people, the coolest thing that happened in comic book land was the epic redesign of Batgirl.

Batgirl Stanley Lau

So. Good.

Details, and more, over at Comics Alliance.


Bonuses (all podcast related):

Whenever I try to talk to people about podcasts I get one of two responses. The first one is ‘Yeah, what do you listen to? I’m really into [insert awesome podcast name]‘, which is fine. The second response is this ‘Yeah, I’m not really a podcast person’, which, to be frank, is a pile of crap. You’re an idiot. Go and download a podcast app and just start listening to stuff. My friend Stefan has a pretty comprehensive list of good stuff that he listens to. That’s not a bad place to start.

Y’know where else is also not a bad place to start?

The following bonus items.