Just installed a fresh copy of WordPress, found a clean and simple template, wondering if this time I’m going to keep blogging for real.
Just installed a fresh copy of WordPress, found a clean and simple template, wondering if this time I’m going to keep blogging for real.
Steve Jobs has had a huge impact on the whole world by influencing the life on millions. These are some of the moments I remember.
My parents’ company was an early Apple dealer, the first Apple ][ entered our home in 1979. I immediately started playing with it. I remember playing Breakout with paddles.
One or two years later (I must have been 10), my dad taught me some Basic programming. I remember writing a simple program which played a 4 frames animation of a stick-man playing basketball.
In the early 1984 the first Macintosh arrived. We unboxed it in our living room. And there was MacPaint. Life has never been the same: I didn’t need to write code anymore!
Not much later, a Mac in my bedroom was connected to an early modem. An acoustic coupler. I called a friend on the other side of Gorizia and we chatted in a terminal window.
In 1989 I incorporated my company: a tiny advertising and design agency. All because I loved using those tools.
It was going to MacWorld in San Francisco with my dad, in the late ’80, that I first met Dave Winer and Marc Canter who would later have huge influence on my work.
In those same years I met my wife when I was hired to teach her how to use Quark Xpress.
It was a time when Apple was almost a faith. There were constant endless discussions with everybody about why the Mac was better.
And then for some time the Mac was not cool. Many moved to Windows. Quite stubbornly I didn’t. (Steve was not at Apple at the time).
Actually we also had a NeXT Color Station in our office. We mostly used it to render 3D animations with RenderMan, back when Pixar was in the software business.
In order to put the NeXT on the same network with our Mac Quadra, I had to first figure out TCP/IP networking.
Then Steve got back to Apple, and Thinking Different started to be cool again.
I picked up the guitar again after many years and started studying music thanks to Garage Band.
There has been a Mac next to me for most of my life.
A couple of weeks ago my iPhone stopped vibrating, so yesterday I sent it in for replacement (no Apple Geniuses in this part of the world).
I could easily drop my SIM card in some other old phone lying around the house, but making and receiving calls is the feature I’m less interested into, so I thought I’ll just sit tight and wait for a new iPhone 3GS to arrive in a couple of days.
After about 24 hours I can tell you how that it feels just like Superman exposed to kryptonite: I have lost my super powers.
This is what having the whole web in your pocket is: superpower. Or super-senses if you like.
Anyway, the grater awareness offered by knowing all the time exactly where you are, what’s on the other side of that building, what your friends are doing on the other side of the planet, and having access to more or less any information you might ever dream of, could have been the perfect subject for comic books not that many years ago.
Since I have plenty of time on my hands, I’ll start thinking about my superhero costume.
While Steve Gillmor is declaring RSS dead, buried by the emergence of the real time web, I was thinking about the course of events as far as content authoring and fruition are concerned.
At the very beginning there was WWW, an application designed to author and browse web pages, all in one. But right after that, browsers evolved leaving behind the authoring part, which became the domain of a whole bunch of “professional” applications, separating content authoring from content creation in different tools.
Later, at the beginning of blogging, Radio UserLand would bring together again content authoring and reading: you would use Radio to write on your own blog, and you would use Radio built in browser to read what other people would publish on their sites, using RSS.
But then, again, authoring and reading tools separated these tasks: WordPress, Movable Type, Blogger etc. are authoring tools, while Google Reader, NetNewsWire, Bloglines, etc. are just readers.
Also if they do provide some degree of openness, Twitter, Facebook and most other SN we see today have brought again together the authoring and reading features, within the same applications.
While having the two features united makes a lot of sense to bootstrap a service, it looks like so far they ended up being separated by vertical specialized application. I guess we are going to see this split happen again soon.
PS: I do think that the news of RSS death might be exaggerated. Maybe some users don’t have time to bath in river of news anymore because they are too busy juggling real time applications, but most of these funky quick apps are still based on solid RSS pipes.
I don’t have the precise date, but almost exactly 20 years ago I founded my company.
I turned 38 last week, and you have to be 18 to incorporate a company in Italy. 20 years ago I was already doing some small graphic and advertising jobs, and I could not wait to be able to have my own business.
Back then the name of the company was StudioIdea, we changed the name to Evectors in 1999 or 2000. The company has gone trough many different phases, but it’s always in the same business: help companies to communicate using computers.
I’m still having a lot of fun!
Since my mom started getting old 35mm slides scanned, all kinds of curious reminescences are bubbling up.
Yes, I do understand that yesterday post was a little cryptic. ;-)
At evectors we are working on a new component of the PagesPlus architecture designed to manage entities and relationship.
It all started by observing the flexibility of PagesPlus, which allows us to manage flows of content using different layers of tagging and plain queries to our aggregator and render the results on pages or widgets trough a templating mechanism.
Since most of the sites we design these days are built not only around content but also other types of elements (users, groups, products, companies, etc.), we started trying to figure out a model as simple as the aggregator to manage other types of data.
So, we invented the Entity-Relationship model (only to discover that somebody had already invented it much earlier) and we started building an engine which could manage in the most neutral way entities, relationship between entities and tags and make them available to our WYSIWYG page layout tools.
With this component (which we call Erm) we can define an entity and tag it as “user” and then define a relationship and tag it as “friend of”. But we can also create entities tagged “brand”, “company”, “product”, “group”, ect. or relationships tagged “fan of”, employee of”, “owner of”, “belongs to”, etc, allowing us to define a lot of different sentences. Different types of entity can be linked to additional attributes, hosted either in our own databases or on some external service reachable trough an API, making the whole environment very scalable.
While developing these new components, we are also building a couple of real sites for real clients using this new approach (this is helping us keeping everything real and provides some very serious deadlines).
Yesterday’s video was displaying the tool which allows to create a query to the Entity Relationship Management engine (i.e.: find 10 entities of type user which have a relationship with this brand, sort them alphabetically and display their names and avatars) and render the result on a page.
We have just turned on a new feature on PagesPlus, which I think will make a big difference in our future. The new entity-relationship engine offers huge flexibility for social media projects.
Further details will follow shortly, meanwhile thanks to the whole team at evectors!
From the logo I see today on FriendFeed, I guess they just introduced localized versions of their UI. For the Italian and the Turkish markets.
I don’t care much, usually I don’t like localized versions, but the move totally makes sense: FF is quite popular in Italy, and from what I hear social networks are very popular in Turkey.
But while most social networking tool support multi-language UIs, what they are missing is support for multi-language users.
It’s what happens to everybody who speaks English and a other languages, and has friends speaking exclusively only one of those languages.
I ended up trying to write most of my stuff in English, because my friends on-line are a pretty mixed group. But I do realize that sometime I publish stuff in Italian, and while most people can live with it, I know that somebody is slightly annoyed by this.
I don’t think that figuring out a language of an item is very difficult these days, but I’m still waiting to see a social network that does this well, allowing users to receive only items in languages they can understand, if they want to.
As far as I am concerned: I’m happy to see some French, or German or any other language, crossing my feeds from time to time.
Last Thursday one of our servers, hosted with an ISP in the Bay Area, suddenly disappeared from the Internet.
Last week we opened a new site based on PagesPlus: BlogLiguria.
The site is run by the staff of Il Secolo XIX, one of the most important Italian local newspapers very pupular in Genoa and the Liguria region. They are using our aggregator with a slightly different twist, letting anybody subscribe to the service and republishing automatically all subscribers’ posts, mixing them with content generated by the editorial staff and content gathered from public sources.
A new PagesPlus feature which was introduced with this project is geotagging support: the aggregator is now able to decode the most used standards for geographical data tagging of contents, consequently next to the traditional “river of news” and “tag cloud” navigation, you can also browse the aggregator using a map.
Today I installed again PhotoShop on my MacBook Air (painfully going trough a reactivation process on the phone since I had forgotten deactivating it on the old MacBook).
Our plum tree is the most optimistic tree of the garden: as soon as it starts getting a bit warmer, it explodes in a storm of blossom. Every morning we get this stunning view from our windows.
Then one day the Bora start blowing and all flowers fly away. It’s spring.
Next Saturday I’ll wake up in San Francisco.
This morning I followed this fantastic document by Dave, and in less than 30 minutes I had my virtual server up and running in Amazon’s cloud.
For the last year I have been quite comfortable with my MacBook Pro + MacBook Air set-up. I would basically take the thin Air on the road and move the heavier Pro only when it was really needed. I tried to do my best to keep the Air “light” in every sense: running everything in a browser (no Office, no PhotoShop, no additional apps) and bought a very little bag for it (no big backpack and no external drives, adapters, headphones and other stuff). It has been a huge relief for my back and it works pretty well while on the road.
A couple of weeks ago, at the office we needed an additional MacBook Pro quickly, and I decided to give up mine: after all I thought I could live just with the Air.
I was wrong.
The MacBook Air is the perfect second computer: it’s light, thin, beautiful, but it hasn’t enough power to run modern (albeit bloated) applications. Even watching a video with a flash-based player, with only one browser open, after a while becomes too much for the little machine. 2Gb of Ram should be plenty, but today it means running Skype, a browser… and maybe another app before running out of memory, and since the HD is quite small and slow, on this machine you really want to avoid swapping at all costs. And I haven’t even tried to install PhotoShop.
Well… I guess it’s time to start thinking about my next “unibody” MacBook Pro :-)
A few years ago many of us declared email bankruptcy, we all had in-boxes full of all types of crap and it was almost impossible to find the few useful messages in the sea of spam.
Progressively we moved our communication to other channels: blogs, twitter, facebook, various IM clients, other social networks, where we thought we could manage our communication better.
In the last few weeks I have missed a whole bunch of important messages which arrived on these channels: as a Skype chat (but I was away from my desk and didn’t notice it for a few days), as a Twitter direct message (I don’t check them very often) as a message on Facebook (I check those even less).
Meanwhile, my mailbox has started working again. With several layer of spam protection (before reaching me any email message has to go trough Spam Assassin, Greylist, Gmail filters Mail.app spam filters) most of the stuff I get in my mailbox is actually interesting, directed to me, and something I can manage pretty well with the tools I have (MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, more Macs at home, iPhone, etc).
Curiously this morning Loïc is declaring Twitter bankrupcy.
PS: of course, as soon as I posted this, gmail died.
I’ve been playing a little with iPhoto 09 Faces feature. It took almost 3 hours for my home dual processor G5 to go trough 15000 pictures and find all faces, but then it only took it a few minutes to learn how I look like and find me in several hundred pictures.
I don’t know how algorithms used in iPhoto compare to the ones used by security systems to track people in surveillance feeds. If they are somehow similar, we are kinda safe: while iPhoto did find a lot of matches, it’s probably less than 10% of the actual number of pictures with my face in them. It will probably improve in time by leveraging a larger number of models, but it still require quite a few human work.
What the software is very good at doing is recognizing that some groups of pixels are actually human faces. I lile the way iPhoto comes up with facewalls of faces, all cropped at the same size.
Hard not to wonder when Google will start running this type of code on their picture search site. With just a little “mechanical turk” contribution the precision will be stunning, and we will have to kiss another piece of our privacy goodbye.
But when it comes to our office connectivity, some time ago we decided to go for quantity over quality: at more or less the same price we could have had a super-safe 2mbps DSL connection, backed up on ISDN lines and with “serious” Cisco router, or a very fast 10mbps ADSL+ line, with a cheap leased router (the type that feels cheap and empty when you hold it, probably only because Cisco puts some useless iron as ballast in their boxes). We went for the fast line and we have been very happy with it for the last six months.
Until last week, when the little cheap router decided to forget its configuration and die. The ISP first blamed the DSL line, then (after waiting for 24 hours the visit of a Telecom Italia guy who said that the line was fine) offered to send us another router… in a few days.
Luckily we had a spare cheap router in the office which we plugged in to keep us afloat, we kept having problems, the router would restart every few minutes, making our life miserable.
So we borrowed another router from a local shop, a cool Linksys box, and I wasted 3 hours trying to set it up with the help of our ISP. No way. It would simply not work with our configuration (we have a bunch of IP addresses to host some dev servers).
Somebody suggested that the cheap self-restarting router could have had a heating issue, so last night I found some longer Ethernet cables and moved the router outside the server room window.
When this morning on the radio I heard that the temperature in Gorizia had fallen to -3C°, I thought that the little router should have been perfectly happy and pretty cool. But as soon as we started making IP traffic this morning, the line started dropping again.
Finally we borrowed yet another router, this time a Netgear, and in only 10 minutes we were up and running again.
No traces of the new router from the ISP yet.
I’m reading Neal Stephenson’s latest book, Anathem. I like Stephenson: Snowcrash and Diamon Age are classics and Cryptonomicon is one of my favourite novels ever. Things started to get a bit complicated with the Baroque Cicle, and Anathem is even more… uh… intense.
Stephenson’s novels have a strange effect on the way I think. It’s not strictly related to the stories (actually in the first 140 pages of Anathem are more about setting the stage then telling a story), but they way arguments are treated is triggering all sorts of lateral thinking, in particular related to software architecture design. Don’t ask me why… it just happens. If you are developing software, you should give it a try.
Also the name of our company is related to a Stephenson’s book: I read a few times the term “vectors” (I think it was in Cryptonomicon) and back then every company had a “e-” in their name, hence: evectors.
Anathem is set in a different world, with a different history, different traditions and its own dictionary. Everything is different, yet everything sounds very familiar.
One of my favourite terms from “the dictionary, 4th edition, A.R. 3000“, is:
Bulshytt: (1) In Fluccish of the late Praxic Age and early
Reconstitution, a derogatory term for false speech in general, esp.
knowing and deliberate falsehood or obfuscation. (2) In Orth, a more
technical and clinical term denoting speech (typically but not
necessarily commercial or political) that employs euphemism, convenient
vagueness, numbing repetition, and other such rhetorical subterfuges
to create the impression that something has been said. (3) According to
the Knights of Saunt Halikaarn, a radical order of the 2nd Millennium
A.R., all speech and writings of the ancient Sphenics; the Mystagogues
of the Old Mathic Age; Praxic Age commercial and political
institutions; and, since the Reconstitution, anyone they deemed to have
been infected by Procian thinking. Their frequent and loud use of this
word to interrupt lectures, dialogs, private conversations, etc.,
exacerbated the divide between Procian and Halikaarnian orders that
characterized the mathic world in the years leading up to the Third
Sack. Shortly before the Third Sack, all of the Knights of Saunt
Halikaarn were Thrown Back, so little more is known about them (their
frequent appearance in Sæcular entertainments results from confusion
between them and the Incanters).
When I go back and look at my blog back in 2004, for instance, it looks a whole lot like Twitter. Short item with a link.
It’s true for me as well, looking at my first posts, most of them were one sentence, pretty much what we do today with twitter. Back then posts had no titles and were organized by days.
This was what Radio UserLand was offering, this was the way Dave was blogging, and we were all following. Now, almost 7 years later, I spent the last 2 weeks in the Bay Area meeting old friends, some of the smartest people I know, and maybe not surprisingly quite a few of them were Radio users in those early days.
While it is true that microblogging has found other tools and spaces, I am realizing that I’m missing a space for longer posts, that take a little more thinking (but that require more time to write). Even if I am not been writing on this blog for a while, I still compose posts all the time in my mind, so I guess the time is right to try to get back to blogging.
Thanks to one of the 25 nicest people of the web ;->
We are just back from a 2 weeks trip to San Francisco. The reason for this trip was exploring the possibilities of developing a business in the US around our aggregation/publishing product, PagesPlus.
We met old and new friends, agencies, potential clients and investors, and the feedback was very positive, even better than I was expecting.
It sounds like the mix of tag-based RSS aggregating and WYSIWYG page editing is very interesting for publishers and media companies (these are our core business in Italy) but also for PR firms, web agencies, social media projects and as a platform for behind the firewall applications.
I’m very happy to start this new adventure in the software business with great partners and friends, I’m already planning my next trip to California and we owe tons of demos to a lot of people we met. Stay tuned.
For the last 10 months at Evectors we have been working on a new application which we are calling PagesPlus.
It’s not strictly a content management system: most of the content is not authored within our application, it’s more a content presentation system, or if you like a tool to manage content flows in an editorial environment.
The core of PagesPlus is an aggregator which can digest any form of RSS/Atom and uses tags to organize everything it aggregates (it’s loosely based on the concept that, together with Matt Mower, we developed for our K-Collector application back in 2002). The aggregator supports tag schemas, meaning not only that, for example, it can tell the difference between a topic-tag and a category-tag, but also that you can create your own schemas to address special needs.
If the aggregator manages the back-end, a WYSIWYG application allows you to manage the front end. We are using again the metaphor of “plus” buttons: you click on a plus button to add content in a specific area of the page, you choose what type of element you want to add, and seconds later the page is updated.
Just to give an idea of what it can do, using PagesPlus in the last months we have have developed these sites:
Using PagesPlus to create site with very strict specifications has been a very useful exercise, forcing us to eat our own dog food and putting us in the shoes of designers, editors, writers, publishers.
I must say I’m very happy with the results. Not only we have been able to put together a killer team, but we also ended up having a very good product (whith an even more impressive list of features on our roadmap).
The plan is to release the application with some open source license (still trying to figure out which one to pick) and let a thousand flowers bloom.
Hoping to have a little more time available in the next few weeks, I’m planning to post here the description of how the system works, maybe a few screencasts to show how the real thing works. Meanwhile, if you have any questions, feel free to comment below or to ping me.
Once again I have to renew my subscription to the Apple Developer program.
Once again I’m very annoyed from the fact that the same service, provided by the same company with the same personnel, costs $499 in the US, and €499 in Europe. At today’s exchange, €499 = $782.88.
So, once again, I will delay the renewal as much as possible.
I’m at the airport, too early as usual, on my way back from Reboot10.
It’s almost trite, but it’s worth repeating: Reboot is fantastic experience. It’s not only the great talks (unfortunately some work related issues forced me to sit in a corner of the public spaces if not in my hotel room for quite some time and I have lost some very interesting ones), most of all it’s the people.
This conference attracts a crowd with an incredible percentage of very, very smart people. It’s exciting and humbling, a great experience. It’s definitely the best event of the year.
The list of interesting people I met is just too long to report (I would forget too many names), and the best part is that it’s not only the usual suspects, I have met for the first time a whole bunch of persons that I’m really looking forward to meet again.
Thanks everybody for these extraordinary days.
Reeplay.it is a company I have been working with for a while, we presented the concept last year at Le Web 3.0, and finally last week we opened to the general public: now everybody can subscribe and use it.
Here’s a short introductory video:
The basic idea is simple: bookmark your favorite videos and play them back on any device. We’ll take care of storing, transcoding, distributing, sharing, etc.
There’s a ton of additional features in the pipeline, but feature-wise I think we have reached critical mass: it’s useful enough to get the first users on board and start collecting feedback.
Welcome to this new blog.
All my old stuff has been saved and it continues to be available at the old urls (well… at least this is what I’m trying to do).
But from this post on I’m continuing with a new tool, a new template and hopefully some new ideas.
I wonder if there’s still anybody out there.