Navigation from peripheral vision

The problem with navigation applications during the act of navigation is that there is way too much information at hand. Once I start a navigation app, the two questions I have in mind are “When do I need to turn, and in what direction will it be?” I am under the assumption that most navigation occurs in the context of a city, while driving or biking — distractions are unsafe and unwelcome.

On a long drive, I pondered up a hands-free way to navigate without looking at a screen or listening to a nagging voice. Here’s my attempt to answer this question in the form of a smartphone app:

The app sits just inside your peripheral vision, and its sole purpose is to kick into gear when your next turn approaches with highly visible indicators. For example, if a right turn approaches, the app’s screen:
* fades from a neutral color to yellow, as if to say slow down
* a HUGE arrow facing in the direction of your turn slides down from the top. When the vertex of the arrow reaches the bottom of your screen, make the turn.

The idea is that you can navigate to a location without ever looking at a device after the initial destination’s input — the information about the next turn is fed to the user without any effort. Less time with your head down, fewer deaths on the road, and sharper focus on what lay ahead.

Try looking off to the side, and hit the ‘Right Turn Approaching’ button below:

Tuesday: A big day for Genetically Modified Food

Update: California disappointed me. Prop 37 did not pass.

I’ve been diving into the history of Genetically Modified foods lately. I find the difference between attitudes in Europe and those in the U.S. really striking (Yep, we’re an easy-going bunch of eaters in comparison). Here’s a snippet from an article titled Europe angers US with strict GM labeling posted in Nature Biotechnology in 2003 right when Europe began establishing its import bans on Genetically Modified Organisms:

…the new regime—agreed to in late November 2002 after lengthy negotiations between ministers of individual member states—extends labeling to end-products such as sugars and oils even when GM ingredients cannot be detected in them because they are physically and chemically identical to products derived from non-GM crops. Even meat suppliers who feed their animals with transgenic grain will have to GM-label their products.
Food items will be exempted only if they were derived from crop material of which less than 0.9% was genetically modified. Comprehensive tracing of GM corn shipments will be essential to verify this. The effect will be that North American manufacturers will soon find their corn- or soy-based foodstuffs—virtually all of which are GM-derived—tagged with what the National Grain and Feed Association (Washington, DC) has likened to a “skull and crossbones on the packet.”

The CFR put out a great report in April of 2001 with a great introduction to the rampant skepticism of GMOs in Europe. Paints us Yankees as corn-dog scarfing ne’er-do-wells. To remedy this, Californians will vote Tuesday whether Genetically Modified food must be labelled in the state — a right Europeans have enjoyed for a decade. Also within the bill are restrictions on use of the word ‘Natural’, ‘Naturally made’, ‘naturally grown’ and ‘all natural.’

It’s amazing that entire aisles of our supermarkets cannot be fed even to the swine of Europe.

The Corn Aisle

On a related note, I recommend watching the film (or even just the trailer) of Genetic Roulette and reading Michael Specter’s take in the New Yorker. I agree with the idea that seeds are at the root of the issue, but I have a huge amount of faith in the growing popularity of organic seed libraries sprouting all over America.


Go humans!

Felix Baumgartner’s freefall from near-space makes me wish we had a real manned mission planned — the world is INTO IT, judging by the millions tuned in. Maybe Red Bull would sponsor it?

Bitcoin and Morality

Bitcoin — a currency by most measures — is consistently framed as ‘amoral.’ Let’s think about why currencies are not compatible with morality.

An unethical or amoral use for a unit of exchange says nothing about the unit, and everything about the user. Those who don’t understand Bitcoin seem to think its uses make it good or bad. Cash, silver, gold, diamonds & bitcoins: These are units of value that can be used to purchase things no matter how the larger society perceives them.

The fact that you can buy drugs, guns, and assasinations, with Bitcoins is indisputable. Bitcoin was not built for the narrow purpose to purchase ‘illicit’ things. Teddy bears, maple syrup and beef jerky are all for sale. It was built to be a secure network of exchange, secured by the computing power of its participants. Sure, Bitcoin’s creator endowed its very DNA with an offhanded critique of our current banking system, but Bitcoin is at its core lacking an ethical or moral position.

I can’t blame Gawker headlines for this persistent problem when it comes to the common man’s perception of Bitcoin. The currency is scary once you get know it. Let me introduce you to a world using Bitcoin:

Transactions can be anonymous (1). Sending money from neighbor to neighbor or Alaska to Istanbul is instantaneous and free (2). Money can be stored with a memorized passphrase, or stored on paper in a vault (3). Only complete disconnection from the Internet can stop a transaction from occurring or disrupt the network (4).

This seems pretty liberating to say the least. But of course, with all disruptive technologies, one can forsee problems.

Can you see why I want Bitcoin to be understood correctly, free of moral relativism? It is a unique unit of value built for the Internet age which has been derided since the beginning. Placing a moral judgement upon what is essentially an open source algorithm is like calling a tomato evil. Learn more about Bitcoin here.

“What is true for you is true for you, and what is true for me is true for me.” – Protagoras


  1. There are numerous mixing services.
  2. The double spend problem is real, but difficult to perform (read more). After 6 confirmations (usually after a few minutes) a transaction of coins from point to point can be reasonably trusted. See the comments for more discussion on this. A technical explanation.
  3. See Brainwallet. Pick a long, memorable phrase, and use that to generate a private and public key (this is printable).
  4.  The nodes, miners, and clients spread across the world make Bitcoin the largest distributed computing project ever. Ever.

Donations appreciated. Find me @danielmorgan.

Toast to Technology

Obama was in town, and had a nice meal with

•John Doerr, Partner, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers

• Carol Bartz, President and CEO, Yahoo Inc.

• John Chambers, Chairman and CEO, Cisco Systems Inc.

• Marissa Mayer, Google VP

•Dick Costolo, CEO, Twitter Inc.

• Larry Ellison, Co-Founder and CEO, Oracle Corp.

• Reed Hastings, CEO, Netflix Inc.

•John Hennessy, President, Stanford University

•Steve Jobs, Chairman and CEO, Apple Inc.

• Art Levinson, Chairman and former CEO, Genentech Inc.

•Eric Schmidt, Chairman and CEO, Google Inc.

•Steve Westly, Managing Partner and Founder, The Westly Group

•Mark Zuckerberg, Founder and CEO, Facebook Inc.

Beethoven and Miles Davis as extreme limits for media capacity

From the FAQ for Bandcamp (a music-selling platform):

What’s the maximum upload size?
It’s 290MB, or more precisely, 305,088,054 bytes (that’s 297,937.6 kibibytes or 290.95 mebibytes to you, Lieutenant Commander La Forge). Never you mind that though. The important thing is that it’s the exact size of “Inamorata and Narration by Conrad Roberts” from side 4 of Miles Davis’ Live-Evil (assuming we’re talking 16/44.1, which we always are). If you have something to say that’s longer/larger than that, you are a jam band and we cannot be a party to the dissemination of your output (j/k jam bands, we love you too — but please take a quick hacky-sack break at 26:29).
Reminds me of the maximum length of a CD (74 minutes), which has to do with Beethoven’s 9th:
An audio compact disc (CD) holds up to 74 minutes, 33 seconds of sound, just enough for a complete mono recording of Ludwig von Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony (‘Alle Menschen werden Brüder’) at probably the slowest pace it has ever been played, during the Bayreuther Festspiele in 1951 and conducted by Wilhelm Furtwängler. [via the IEEE Information Theory Newsletter, Dec 2007]
I guess the lesson here is that it’s good to stay away from arbitrary limits when working with disruptive technology!

Is there a peak to user-generated content? Wikipedia contributions are on the decline in an age of decline

The ecosystem of Wikipedia, and probably other wikis in the Wikimedia group, appear to be suffering from an over-vigilant team of editors who are increasingly quick to revert changes from less-active contributors. The newness and community-driven aspect of Wikipedia is suffering, in tandem with a decrease in fresh registrations. Let’s not be rash here, but the research presented below (by Ed Chi and colleagues at the Palo Alto Research Center) points out a freaky decline in distributed knowledge-creation—a decline that we just don’t need in this age of, well, decline.

Jim Giles in New Scientist writes:

“Occasional” editors, those who make just a single edit a month, have 25 per cent of their changes erased, or reverted, by other editors, a proportion that in 2003 was 10 per cent. The revert rate for editors who make between two and nine changes a month grew from 5 to 15 per cent over the same period.”This is evidence of growing resistance from the Wikipedia community to new content,” say the Palo Alto team. Chi told New Scientist that the changes could harm Wikipedia in the longer term by deterring new editors from taking part and so reducing the number of people available to spot and correct the vandalism that constantly threatens the encyclopaedia. “Over time the quality may degrade,” he warns.

Chi thinks that Wikipedia now includes so much information that some editors have turned from creating new articles to improving existing ones, resulting in more disputes about edits. Such disputes are not a level playing field because established editors sometimes draw on extensive knowledge of Wikipedia’s guidelines to overwhelm opposition in a practice dubbed “wikilawyering”.

via: New Scientist



I started for a number of reasons

  • I find it disturbing when people unwittingly carve out a huge chunk of their day to interact on a small screen, whether it be for text messaging, web browsing, or for playing games. This is a lo-fi behavior in a hi-fi world. We can do better than this.
  • We often communicate with people geographically close to us at great volumes through small devices, though we can more genuinely, accurately, and more humanely communicate face to face.
  • Cellphones, especially those with the internet enabled, drown out what should be a natural process of questioning one’s surroundings. When a Google search can answer most questions, what’s the point of being mindfully engaged with the world around you?
  • We must consider our ability to be mindful, attentive, and engaged in an age of ubiquitous technology.
  • I believe these questions can be asked most powerfully through images and photography. There will, however, be infrequent pull quotes from relevant articles such as this:

An acquaintance of mine has a teenage daughter. Like most teens in this century she spends her day texting her friends, abbreviating her life into 140 character hints, flinging these haikus out to an invisible clan of mutual texters. It’s an always-on job, this endless encapsulation of the moment. During dinner, while walking, on the toilet, lounging in bed, or in any state of wakefulness, to chat is to live. Like all teens, my friend’s daughter tested the limits of her parents’ restrictions. For some infraction or another, they grounded her. And to reinforce the seriousness of her misconduct, they took away her mobile phone. Immediately the girl became physically sick. Faint, nauseous, and so ill she couldn’t get out of bed. It was if her parents had amputated a limb. And in a way they had. Our creations are now inseparable from us. Our identity with technology runs deep, to our core. via Kevin Kelly @ technium

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Army opens Mil internet access to Flickr, Facebook, Twitter, Delicious, Vimeo

Picture 1
Photo by tcmhitchhiker

Today was the day that Army bases were ordered to stop blocking social media sites. No Youtube, yes Vimeo. No Myspace, yes Facebook. Seems arbitrary, but those are the sites I prefer anyway, so I would be happy were I in the mil.

It’s interesting what remains banned… The list includes:

(a) YouTube,

(b) 1.FM,

(c) Pandora,

(d) Photobucket,

(e) MySpace,

(f) Live365,

(g) hi5,

(h) Metacafe,

(i) MTV,

(j) BlackPlanet,

(k) StupidVideos,

(l) Filecabi,http://www.

Check out the official order below…

Continue reading “Army opens Mil internet access to Flickr, Facebook, Twitter, Delicious, Vimeo”

Post to Friendfeed, Twitter, and the “realtime web” in 3 seconds flat from your WordPress blog [tutorial]

To make a realtime WordPress (self hosted) blog:

Two plugins and one checkbox on Friendfeed:

1) Get Wp-sup. SUP is the protocol that updates Friendfeed, kindly developed by Friendfeed. It’s an instantaneous ping the moment a post goes up (one second) INFO: Check out this FAQ page, where you can also test the manual update of SUP. Also see the Google Code page.

2) Media RSS makes sure your images are in enclosure tags so Friendfeed can wrap its pretty head around them. If you have three mp3 files in your post, they will show up. First image is slapped in there too. For an example see this MONEYDICK mp3+image post translated to Friendfeed style.

3) Notify twitter when your blog is updated by checking the “Post my FriendFeed entries on Twitter by default” to the “Advanced Twitter Settings” page. Now the instantaneousness of Friendfeed hits twitter.Three seconds to twitter reference of your blog post. See below:
3.1) Extra sauce: Show Friendfeed comments on your blog with “Friendfeed Comments.”

Become an Enabler (of the realtime web)

RSS doesn’t need to change, it just needs some patching.

There’s crazy talk coming out of Mr. Gillmor about RSS dying, as though there’s something wrong with it. There’s nothing wrong with it. It will continue to be the protocol for those who read blogs. Steve Gillmor’s sensationalist post (replete with Beatles photos) didn’t make much of a point against RSS except that he doesn’t like non-fulltext feeds (and he has a lot of “Friends” on Twitter). But his major complaint with RSS is that it’s not realtime:

…realtime has swept past the field as though the rest were sleep-walking. Realtime is the time for artists, for interpreting the stream and sending deeply nuanced signals with humor, music, respect for the dialogue but none for the chattering of the false debates of the cable networks. (via)

I defer to Dave Winer who developed RSS for a response:

…RSS is as dead as HTTP and SMTP, which is to say it’s alive and kicking. These protocols get widely implemented, are so deeply ingrained in the infrastructure they become part of the fabric of the Internet. They don’t die, they don’t rest in piece. They become the foundation for everything that follows. via:#

But RSS does have limitations. If you’re a content creator, you use an RSS or ATOM feed. Because users don’t know when you’ve posted content, you offer Email subscriptions, or you post your content on Twitter with Twitterfeed. Twitterfeed updates every 30 minutes… hardly the ‘realtime’ web.There’s really no faster way than to integrate with Friendfeed or a WordPress Twitter plugin like “Tweetsuite.”

So what’s the fastest way… I’m talking 2 seconds… to get your content posted on Twitter/Friendfeed and in front of the eyeballs of whoever gives a damn?

The Future

When Twitter Search gets it’s makeover, perhaps the clunkiness of RSS, (when paired with Friendfeed) will truly create a functional real-time web. We don’t yet have the search figured out for ‘now’ but it’s happening slowly.

Friendfeeders–who are now getting used to the realtime nature of content, don’t always play nice with Twitterers. Users like Robert Scoble have forsaken Twitter for the dynamic true realtime conversational nature of Friendfeed: Imagine commenting on a twitter post as naturally as commenting on a blog post!  Content creators like scoble in the realtime web must help lead the charge for content creators to post their content on Twitter+Friendfeed as it happens. Only with SUP + RSS + Twitter + PersonRank-enabled Twitter search will we have an Internet where realtime happens.

An unsubstantiated rumor of Twitter’s power:

Jayaram told of being in the Twitter offices in San Francisco on March 30, when the Twitter engineers noticed that the word “earthquake” had suddenly started trending up. They didn’t know where the earthquake was. Several seconds later, their building started to shake. The earthquake had been in Morgan Hill, 60 miles south of San Francisco, and the tweets about the shaker reached the office faster than the seismic waves themselves. (via)

Note: this post will appear immediately after I post it for my twitter/friendfeed followers, but will be lost and forgotten, even if I schedule it for the Pacific Time lunch break.