Monthly Archives: January 2004


Apparently there’s a recognised stage that children go through during the development of their language skills in which they start to experiment with syntax and grammar. Basically they make up their own words based on the grammar rules that they’ve absorbed.
Ethan came up with a good one recently: “funnin”, meaning “having fun”, e.g:

“Where did you go today Ethan?”
“Went funnin in the park”

Imagine my surprise when I discovered that it’s actually in the Urban slang Dictionary. So now I’m waiting for:

“What are you doing Ethan?”
“I’m having a crazy ass time with nanny!”

It’s amazing how kids just absorb words. I came home the other day, and Debs told me that Ethan has been riding around on his Thomas the Tank Engine scoot-along, pretending to go shopping for “tek-noh-low-gee”. That’s m’boy!

Searching Small Worlds

Interesting “small world” article in New Scientist this week (“Know Thy Neighbour”, January 17 2004, Mark Buchanan), this time discussing how people and information can be located within a small world network.
The essay discusses Milgram’s famous experiment in which he asked people to attempt to route a letter, via their contacts, to a given person. Most of the letters got their within a small number of hops and apparently the strategy that most people, quite naturally, adopted was along the lines of “Mr X (the end-point) works in the financial sector, who else do I know that works in that sector…”. In essence people were comparing their contacts with what they know about the end point, categorising them into groups.
Groups are therefore an important feature of small world networks that are “searchable”. Classifying nodes in this way allows your local knowledge of the network (your contacts) to help manipulate it. In the case of the Milgram experiment, that manipulation was to use people to route letters, however the New Scientist article suggests that the similar techniques could be used to benefit internet search engines.

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Share Your OPML (maybe)

I’ve had half an eye on the Share Your OPML as another possible source of FOAF data. I’ve been having scraping and converting various data sources to help faciliate interesting applications where possible. For instance this week I published some converted Freshmeat data, and in the past I’ve done various OPML conversions, e.g. for BloggerCon.

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Bray and Locke

Tim Bray’s Two Laws of Explanation are good reading. I’ve tried to ascribe to these myself wherever possible, and especially in my writing.
Of course these aren’t new formulations, as they’re really a modern version of John Locke’s tabula rasa concept. See for example Some Thoughts Concerning Education:

One of the aspects of this philosophical view was the concept of people being born as “tabula rasa”: a blank sheet, which was gradually filled in by experience. This may explain why Locke considered education an important activity that deserved careful consideration: education meant helping to fill that blank with knowledge and morals. Which in turn meant that the educator ought to take care to further such knowledge and morals, as would be useful both for the pupil himself and for the community as a whole.

Hailstones and the Barry Tornado

We had a cracking storm this afternoon the sky went dark, thunder, lightning, the full monty. It didn’t last that long, but shortly afterwards I heard some bangs and thuds from outside as it started to hail. Hard.

What you can see here fell in the space of a couple of minutes — the time it took
me to pick up the camera and go to the back door. I didn’t dare venture outside as the hailstones were the size of pennies; literally:

I think I’d have had a very sore head if I’d have gone outside. The noise from the old plastic roofing we’ve got on our out-house was deafening, I thought it was going to come down around my ears.
The storm didn’t last long though, and there were no further incidents throughout the rest of the afternoon. I was just catching up with the news (I’ve had my head in my laptop writing all day) when I learned there was a tornado spotted on the Bristol channel this afternoon. Seems it was seen around 1.30pm. The date on my pictures was 1.53pm, so I’m guessing the dark skies, thunder and lightning must have roughly coincided with the tornado with the hail following shortly thereafter.

Lazy Photo Annotation

I was taken to task by my mother over Xmas. She’d been browsing my website during her lunch hour and had neglected to find any new photos, and precious few of her latest grandchild.
After setting aside thoughts that I’d slipped into an issue of The Onion I realised she was right, and that those dozens and dozens of images I’ve taken with my spangly new digital camera really ought to be published somewhere.
But I don’t want to do it half-heartedly, I want to publish as much metadata as possible along with the images themselves. There’s lots of fun to be had with co-depiction and rdf annotation.
But I’m essentially a lazy person so want a really, really simple way to publish and annotate the photos. So far I’ve been able to think of two, each with it’s own merits.

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FOAF challenges

Some interesting discussion has been triggered by Jon Udell’s comments on FOAF. I agree with Edd and Dan that FOAF is about more than social networking and have said as much here on several occasions. Personally I see two problems with FOAF neither of them big.

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This is 6am

Isn’t it always the way that no matter how early you get into work, there’s always one bright-eyed smug git who’s there before you, eyeing their watch and pulling the universal facial expression of “call THIS early? I’ve been in for hours mate?!”.
Well it’s 6am in the morning and I’m in work. Not the usual state of affairs, I’m here to do shepherd in an application release. But today it was Murphy who got in before us, as the development machine holding the release scripts is down. Nice eh? Thank god for back-ups.
Doesn’t bode well for the rest of the day though. Think I’m going to find a cupboard to hide in.
Anyway, hello from 6am. It’s dark.


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