Spimes, Blogjects, And Other Buzzwords: A Primer

Spime is a pretty stupid sounding word (like most neologisms), but it describes an increasingly important concept – they are objects that can be digitally tracked through their entire life-cycle. There’s a little more to them than that, because the man that coined the term, Bruce Sterling, is a big techno-hippy, and felt the need to include ideas about their manufacturing process and some notions about recycling in there too. I’m reasonably sure that given time and usage, that part will fall away (and to be honest, since I am also a big techno-hippy, I’ll be sad about that) and we’ll be left with the specifically useful definition, of an object that generates a data cloud than can then be accessed by other objects.

To make the example more concrete, I’ll quote from the Wikipedia entry for spime – in a near future spimeworld, where your house has a Star Trek style voice activated computer, and all your possession are spimes, instead of spending a fruitless twenty minutes searching for your shoes in the morning, you will simply be able to say “Where are my shoes?” out loud and Majel Barrett will respond “Your shoes are under the bed”, because your household computer will be able to track the datacloud generated by your shoes and your bed, and combine it with in house mapping systems to work out their proximity. (Or, if you’re me, you’ll have ripped the Majel Barrett bit of the code out with claw hammers, and replaced it with something with a decent and attractive accent. Possibly something Scottish. But I digress…)

Which brings us to blogjects. Another word that practically clunks whenever it’s used, a blogject is exactly what you’d think: an object that blogs. An object that publishes data about itself to the web at intervals, without the intervention of a human. One might make the case, for instance, that I have turned my hi-fi into a blogject, because I have a set-up that produces a weekly top-ten type chart of music I’m listening to. It’s not strictly accurate, because it’s not the hi-fi itself that’s doing the playing, recording and publishing – I play all my music via iTunes on a PC, going out through the hi-fi, and it’s the PC doing the publishing, which is then interpreted by several intvening services and scripts. But it’s an example of what the future of things might look like.

And where it all gets really exciting/frightening is that almost everything you do will be generating data like this. Me, as much as it creeps me out a little, I think overall it has the potential to be interesting at least.

It’s part of the reason I run ala.sda.ir. Yes, it’s convenient for others (I hope), but it’s also a chance for me to slowly adjust to where I see the web going, the idea that people will continuously generate personal data, that will be available from central “personal portals”. At the moment, I’m choosing to provide it of my own free will, but there’ll come a point where it’s generated my my spimes automatically. For example, if my camera had a built in GPS device (and believe me, I’d love it if it did), all the photos on my photoblog could be geotagged, and (were I to publish enough photos) someone might be able to build up a reasonable picture of where I’ve been on a given day. That is, of course, if my weekly calendar were not enough – although what I’d quite like is something that would compare before-and-after the fact, so I could track how many of the things I book, I wind up doing, and then provide data about which of my friends I wind up cancelling plans with most often, or who I haven’t seen in a while, and so on…

My point is, that the systems I’ve build to do all this proto-spime stuff are slowly coming together, and becoming more accessible to everyone, and we need to start thinking about how we want to manage our privacy in this strange Doctrow-esque future. At the moment, my calendar will allow me to block stuff from public view, and several of my datafeeds allow me to toggle what turns up on the portal. We need to be sure we give users control over what data they expose to the general public.

Which leads in to another topic, identity management, that I’ll come back to another time.

This entry was originally published at my workblog.

Note to Self

The much-beloved last.fm expose a “top albums” feed (here) that provides amazon URLs to images. It doesn’t change enough to be worth tying directly in to my weekly “top ten” list on ala.sda.ir but it might be a useful data source, to then build a personal weekly top ten albums.

I’m thinking about this because I’ve conculded that tracks doesn’t work well enough to be interesting, since I tend to listen to new albums two or three times in a row per day for several days on the trot, so for example, last weeks top 10 was entirely made up of Dresen Dolls, despite the fact the an album chart would have been a more comprehensive sampler of my listening habits.

(Edit: Damn. Their “top tracks” feed doesn’t carry album data, so matching the two isn’t currently feasibly. Although I note they’ve got a weekly top albums feed on their web services pages, although it doesn’t currently hold data…)

This entry was originally published at my workblog.

Alternate Home…

I’ve been aware for the last while that the number of non-web-related links on this site is creeping up, which is fine, except that I really want to keep this site for stuff I deal with in my professional capacity – web programming, and the art and science of communicating via the web, and the way that impacts our modern social culture, and design in general.

To which end, I have set up http://www.dead-air.org, which is where I’m going to start dumping the stuff about food and drink, politics, photography, on-line gaming, and any other random crap that interests me. (There’ll probably bit a little crossover in the gaming area, because I think it has something to say about the way humans use social technologies, but we’ll see how that shakes out over time.) So, if you find yourself wondering why I’m only talking about/linking to webdev/design stuff on this site from here on in, that’s why. Stop by the new place (WordPress powered, so available via RSS) is you want the other stuff as well.

And of course, both sites will be available through http://ala.sda.ir, my personal portal site.

This entry was originally published at my workblog.


Where you can find me on-line this year:

alasdair.biz – my workblog. New media, technology, and general digital culture shit, plus the odd link I just think is funny. Updated most weekdays. LJ feed available at als_workblog. RSS feed at http://www.alasdair.biz/feed.
black-ink.org – short fictions. Only updated a few times a year, when I can’t get a thought to sod off without writing it down. Every so often, I promised myself I’ll do more, but I never seem to. Once I get the LJ feed reconnected, it’ll be at black_ink_feed. RSS feed at http://www.black-ink.org/feed.
alasdair.livejournal.com – personal life, hobbies, random crap, social interaction. RSS feed at http://alasdair.livejournal.com/data/rss.

Electricana – my main photoblog. An image or two most weeks, assuming I’ve had time to take the camera somewhere. RSS feed at http://electricana.livejournal.com/data/rss.
Flickr – the flickr account I use to hold images/power the photoblog. It gets a few more photos, if I’ve put a set up, and generally has a bit more organisation, but lacks the commentary/decent comments functionality of the LJ version. RSS feed at http://www.flickr.com/services/feeds/photos_public.gne?id=19821795@N00&format=rss_200.
Electricana.org – my portfolio site. Cherry picked images (and not many of them) from my photoblog, the ones I really feel represent the best of my photo work. RSS feed at http://www.electricana.org/index.php?x=rss.

last.fm – my last.fm account. Just in case anyone cares what I’ve been listening to lately.
upcoming.org – (some of) my social diary. Things I am (thinking of) doing. Gigs, shows, general stuff.

I’m in the process of building one website that’ll bring a lot of this together in one place, although I can’t think of a good domain name at the moment. Anyone got any suggestions?

This entry was originally published at my workblog.

Personal productivity

I’m slowly trying to teach myself to be organised and productive. To those of you who have seen the state of my room, and are now laughing like drains, I can only say a) I said slowly, b) that’s mostly personal detritus, and c) it’s on my to-do list, it’d just not a very high priority.

However, I’ve just turned up 43 Folders, which might be useful.

Following on from this: Workhappy merits looking at later, as does the blog Technology and the Social, I’ve been meaning to link kottke.org up for a bit, despite the fact that you’re all reading it already, and I should spend a bit of time with Lifehacker, and or a purely personal basis I want to take time to read DIY photography on the cheap.

But first, I should probably tidy my room.

This entry was originally published at my workblog.

Communication and Conviction

I’ve been thinking a lot about soap boxes, and getting one’s message across, and basically how people can tell others the things they care about and generally get heard. And then I read Desolation Jones #3, and it got me to thinking. This essay is very much only a start, but I wanted to just set down where my head is at with regard to what I do all day right now, in the hope of building on it. It’s a bit scattershot, but it’s there to clarify a few things for me. Next time, I’ll try and get stuck into techniques for on-line discourse, or something…

This entry was originally published at my workblog.

Tools and Design

So I stumbled across Garrett Dimmon’s point making prank the other day, and it’s got me thinking about the way I present myself on the web.

The two sites I’ve put on-line most recently are this one, and my photography portfolio, and for both, I’ve just grabbed an out-of-the-box tool, and stuck with minor modifications to the default template. I do intend to make them into something fully custom at some point, but it’s not high on my priority list.

Given that I’m a professional web developer one might suggest that this doesn’t present the best image of my technical skills.

Or, of course, one might say that I see no need to spend weeks re-inventing the wheel, and that I know I’m not a professional designer, so if I can get something that looks good for now, that’s enough. Surely, if there’s an art to what I do, it’s in knowing how to communicate well for the minimum time investment. Just a thought…

This entry was originally published at my workblog.