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“Got kitesurfing on the mind, mixed with some search & classification tech, and a dab of political ranting”

Archive for May, 2005

“In the world of course racing, now add kites” – Sail Magazine

Posted by direwolff on May 20, 2005

Sail Magazine picked up the story on the most recent kitesurfing course race at St. Francis Yacht Club…

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Course Racing Kites
By Kimball Livingston

As far as we know, the first course racing for kites, anywhere, is taking place this year on the San Francisco cityfront. For years now kites have been a familiar, colorful feature in the waters off Crissy Field, which is located just inside the Golden Gate and right in the mouth of the wind funnel. The kite sailors do their going-fast bit, and they do their flying through the air bit, and for some of them this is everything they know about sailing. Others, though, grew up in the sailing world, from dinghies to keelboats to windsurfers to kites, and a few of those people are also members of St. Francis Yacht Club, next door to Crissy Field.
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read the full article at: sailmag.com/kiteracing/

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Posted in Kitesurfing & Extreme Sports | Leave a Comment »

Clay Shirky on categorization, links and tags

Posted by direwolff on May 19, 2005

Thought the following was a great piece to place in contrast to my previous post. Clay Shirky is a man that I have met and have great respect for, and like to read regularly. His piece is thought provoking and provides a worthwhile perspective to consider in all of these discussions.

Here’s an excerpt and the link to the full post below…
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Ontology is Overrated: Categories, Links, and Tags

This piece is based on two talks I gave in the spring of 2005 — one at the O’Reilly ETech conference in March, entitled “Ontology Is Overrated”, and one at the IMCExpo in April entitled “Folksonomies & Tags: The rise of user-developed classification.” The written version is a heavily edited concatenation of those two talks.

Today I want to talk about categorization, and I want to convince you that a lot of what we think we know about categorization is wrong. In particular, I want to convince you that many of the ways we’re attempting to apply categorization to the electronic world are actually a bad fit, because we’ve adopted habits of mind that are left over from earlier strategies.

I also want to convince you that what we’re seeing when we see the Web is actually a radical break with previous categorization strategies, rather than an extension of them. The second part of the talk is more speculative, because it is often the case that old systems get broken before people know what’s going to take their place. (Anyone watching the music industry can see this at work today.) That’s what I think is happening with categorization.

What I think is coming instead are much more organic ways of organizing information than our current categorization schemes allow, based on two units — the link, which can point to anything, and the tag, which is a way of attaching labels to links. The strategy of tagging — free-form labeling, without regard to categorical constraints — seems like a recipe for disaster, but as the Web has shown us, you can extract a surprising amount of value from big messy data sets.

shirky.com/writings/ont…verrated.html

Posted in Online Community, search & categorization, Technology | Leave a Comment »

Current contextualization and tags suck!

Posted by direwolff on May 18, 2005

It’s not usually good to take too strong of a position on any topic, but the more I see what’s termed contextual advertising on the Web and the more I hear about the virtues of tags on general unstructured content, the more I see their failures in accomplishing their stated goals.

Let me soften this comment a bit by saying that these technologies do well on easy contextualization, or what I’d prefer to call word matching. For example, type in “kitesurfing” into the Google search engine and all of the AdWords ads that appear on the right column will use that word or be about kitesurfing. Pretty good one might say. Actually, these are excellent results because they’re all matching the one word selected to the one word paid for by the advertiser and the match is perfect.

Now go to a site that’s using AdSense, effectively the same technology, but now where some intelligence has to be applied to truly understand the content and context, and you’ll quickly find that the service doesn’t live up to the hype. It misinterprets or misses the essence of the context and content and simply tries to match on relevant key words in the text. Since there’s only one or two words to match on the ad side, it’s not likely that the hits will be very good.

Now tags are a different story. These are human generated, and any one can place any tag on any piece of content and have it appear in del.icio.us as a relevant bookmark. Or using a service like Flickr (pictures) or Consummating (dating), any one can tag (basically creating attributes of the content) their own content and place it for the world to access. Obvious problems here are; (1) that not all people will abide by the same rules for how they determine tag relevance, (2) there’s no normalization or ontology for the tags, so someone tagging an item with “bicycle” will not have this referenced to someone tagging an item with “bike”, (3) spamming tags is easy, simply take any message you want to spam and place every known tag to mankind ;-) As well, should any one determine a way to normalizing tagging, the challenge in reconciling all of the bad tags will not be a consistent exercise given that each person applied a different methodology for tagging their content.

I once heard an excellent analogy to this context and relevance issue. When looking for a song, knowing a note from that song won’t help you find it, you need to provide the melody. Similarly, finding context and relevance isn’t done by one word being matched, but rather by understanding the various meanings of several words, sentences or paragraphs.

All this to say, that so far all contextualization solutions are trying to take the easy way out and their use is marginal at best. This isn’t to say that Google’s AdSense program isn’t making bucket fulls of money, but it’s pure hype and with the low conversion rates they’re getting, further worsened by the amount of click-fraud being propogated, there’s not much difference between their so-called contextual ads and sheer chance of a relevant word match.

Progress still needs to be made here and already I’m seeing some technologies that are promising, but be careful not to be caught in the hype of context, ’cause today’s stuff is still far far from reaching that nirvana. In the words of “Chuck D” from Public Enemy, “Don’t believe the hype!”.

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“When you grow up on a farm in Georgia, your first girlfriend is a mule.” – Georgia born anti choice activist Neil Horsley

Posted by direwolff on May 16, 2005

This post is funny, scary and sad all at the same time.

The following is excerpted from Salon article which you can find at:

www.salon.com/politics/wa…m/index.html

Salon offers a free subscription here. Once you get to the War Room page, scroll down to the 8th one to read the continuation of…

Hideous Kinkies

Perhaps it was the slick way that Fox News stalwart Bill O’Reilly escaped his sex-capade embarrassment (loofahs, falafels… let’ s not relive it here) untarnished that has produced a veritable — should we say ejaculation? No we should not — explosion of distressing information about the sexual predelictions of some of the right wing’s biggest dicks.

A report last week on the blog News Hounds led us to a May 6 exchange between anti-abortion activist Neal Horsley and Alan Colmes on Colmes’ FOX News radio show. In the interview, Horsley, a vocally religious proponent of posting names of abortion doctors on the Web so that anti-abortion extremists will know how to find them, admitted to having engaged in bestiality.
Doh!

Posted in Public Policy | Leave a Comment »

Kitesurfing in the Delta

Posted by direwolff on May 15, 2005

Finally, the season is upon us. I awoke yesterday to see SF engulfed in morning fog, while also being aware that the previous day, the Central Valley of California had hit 90 degrees. In kiteboarder terms, that spells thermal winds in the Delta, and Sherman Island is the place to be.

After dilly-dallying for a few hours after waking, I finally got my butt in the car and made it to Sherman Island out by Rio Vista, by 11:30am. I had already missed the dawn patrol riding, and got there just in time for the midday lull. However, yesterday that meant winds blowing in 15 to 20 mph which is perfect conditions for a 13 meter kite. That exhilirating feeling of being one with the water and wind, with the tide swells that force little jumps, was amazing. After each reach, you could set-up for the perfect launch, where I was easily reaching heights of 10 to 25 feet. These brought a certain freedom from the ties that bind us, from gravity, from all things terrestrial. It's so hard to put these feelings into meaningful words because the experience is so "in the moment". It's a feeling that I'd love for every one to experience as it changes your perspectives on what's possible. Nothing makes you feel so alive than soaring through the air in 20 mph wind.

Earlier in the morning, my buddy Ken that I met while in Costa Rica, called to see where I was riding. He had never been to Sherman Island so I convinced him to go for it. We met there. It only took him two reaches to get that wide grin that all kitesurfers get when passing each other in perfect conditions, that "you're the only person who can understand what I'm going through right now" grin. He had one those zombie-like born-again Christian smiles affixed to his face the rest of the afternoon.

I spent nearly 1.5 hr riding with a hurt foot, but couldn't help throwing the big air tricks any way. No pain, no glory, as they say.
Took an hour break between sessions, then went back out for another hour. But the pain at this point had me dead to rights within the first 15 mins of the 2nd session. Still I felt a need to "man-up" (though as my girlfriend keeps proving to me when we go road biking, "womening-up" means leaving "man-up" in the dust ;-), and ride through the pain, as days like this one are not to be taken for granted. Managed to keep riding for another hour. Ended the sessions having landed at least half of all my tricks, which put one of those stupid drug induced glazed looks on my face, though the only drug I had consumed was the one provided by Mother Nature's elements. All I can say is that an endorfin buzz is pretty powerful and pretty good :-) Guess it goes with being a kitesurfing addict :-)

Posted in Kitesurfing & Extreme Sports | 1 Comment »

Schneier On Security – REAL ID Law…arrrgggghhh!!!

Posted by direwolff on May 15, 2005

Bruce Schneier is regarded as the father of modern day cryptography and a security expert. He writes very insightful material in a manner that most laypeople can understand. More importantly, he’s usually right about the security and privacy issues he discusses.

The following is from his blog which you can read at www.schneier.com/blog .

His blog post from 5/9/05 outraged me sufficiently to decide to do my small part in bringing attention to this issue. Read on…
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REAL ID

The United States is getting a national ID card. The REAL ID Act (text of the bill and the Congressional Research Services analysis (www.eff.org/Activism/realid/analysis.pdf ) of the bill) establishes uniform standards for state driver’s licenses, effectively creating a national ID card. It’s a bad idea, and is going to make us all less safe. It’s also very expensive. And it’s all happening without any serious debate in Congress.

I’ve already written about national IDs(www.schneier.com/crypto-gram-0404.html#1 ). I’ve written about the fallacies (www.schneier.com/crypto-gram-0402.html#6 ) of identification as a security tool. I’m not going to repeat myself here, and I urge everyone who is interested to read those two essays (and even this (www.schneier.com/crypto-gram-0112.html#1 ) older essay). A national ID is a lousy security trade-off, and everyone needs to understand why.

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You can read the rest of this essay at: www.schneier.com/blog/arch…al_id.html

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“The Famous” popped The Cherry…

Posted by direwolff on May 13, 2005

…tonight!!!

(Above picture kidnapped from The Famous tribe photo album at thefamous.tribe.net/ )

Over the past years I've kept my interest in the smaller bands down to a couple that I'm comfortable with and have been following for some time. Specifically, Red Meat and Plain High Drifters (PHDs), both of which feature a dear friend as lead singer, Smelley Kelly.

After joining Tribe, I found out one of our development gurus sidelined in an alt. country band and after downloading some songs from their web site, I decided I needed to see them. Of course, since making that decision something has conflicted with every gig date they've had for the past 3 months. It's crazy. Either Red Meat or the PHDs always seemed to have coinciding dates to those of The Famous.

Well, finally, tonight was my lucky break. Not a conflict in sight, and even managed to get my good buddy, Therm, to whom I've been talking up The Famous, to join me for the gig. The show rocked!!! These guys had awesome energy, an excellent diversity of song styles so as to keep the groove changing, and their sound had that rockabilly feel which took me back to my late highschool days. It felt like they should be called the The Famous Cats or something :-) Victor Barclay's guitar presence jammed every aspect of The Cherry Bar, and Laurence's vocals had a tone some times reminiscent of the Black Crowe's lead singer, and at other times just wildly unique in a good way. He sang with a seeming reckless abandon that made you want to get up there and rock out with him. A funny incident right at the start of one of their songs where their bass player just dropped his guitar and made a b-line for the bathroom…I guess when you gotta go, you gotta go, and screw that shit about the "show must go on" ;-) Fortunately, the boys were prepared with some fast and furious reparte until the bassist returned.

The band had total stage presence, and you couldn't keep your eyes off of them. They closed with a real crowd pleaser, a countrified rockabilly jamming version of Prince's "Purple Rain", which you couldn't help but love.

Well, it looks like I found another band to get into…just what I needed ;-)

Posted in Just Fun | Leave a Comment »

Moby on being vegan

Posted by direwolff on May 11, 2005

The picture below is from his show on Fri night.

Thought it was cool that the SF Gate carried a story today on Moby being a vegan for the past 16 years right after having seen him at the Warfield recently. Figured it was worth putting a link here to the full story: sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi

It's great to hear his perspectives on it, and his kinship to the Bay area. It's also cool to read about how he's acting out on his beliefs here by investing in ways of getting the word out and making it enjoyable to explore being vegan (can you say yummy chocolate cake?). Anyway, if you have a few minutes it's worth reading the article linked to above.

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Privacy erosion efforts continue…

Posted by direwolff on May 9, 2005

Where is all of this privacy erosion heading we ask? Well the following link provides one scenario that as you listen to it doesn't seem so completely unlikely, but is pretty scary to say the least. Check out: http://www.aclu.org/pizza/

It does make you wonder why so many people are so adamant about taking away all of our civil liberties.

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Moby ROCKED the Warfield – 5/6/05

Posted by direwolff on May 7, 2005


Yes, it's absolutely true, the guy is every bit the musical genius that he is made out to be. He played a solid two and a half hours and touched on everything from ballads, to techno, to disco, to a 30 second speed metal session, to many of his best known tunes. He even did an unrehearsed Doors tune from a conversation he and his band were having on the bus, and it sounded awesome.

He dedicated a couple of songs to San Francisco's tolerance of people's sexual orientation. He also went on to explained how scary the rest of the country, between the coasts (CA & NY), is getting these days with the religious right's intolerance. He also dedicated one of his techno songs to San Francisco's late 80s/early 90s underground raves and dance scene which was tops in the country. He also ended the show with an inspirational Euro-techno composition which had been inspired by a 7:00am dance scene with the sun rising with thousands of people dancing to techno.

Suffice it to say, Moby was at home in San Francisco and had the crowd in the palm of his hand.

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