Good old fashioned email centric community

I Just caught an article on techcrunch. It was titled Facebook Fatigue? Visitors Level Off In the U.S.The article spoke of a coolling down of visitor traffic on facebook . Facebook, the internets big social phenomenon of 2006-2007 whose founders keep holding out from selling their internet property pending higher and higher evaluations, it seems is in trouble.It turns out Facebook is no exception to the fall in traffic once a social networking site gets too popular . As has been observed in the internet social networking ecosystem,once a website becomes mainstream and common place it either becomes a victim of its own success and fades away into nothingness or becomes so much a part of your everyday existence that its no longer exciting but very usefull. All of this begs the question, is facebook useful. Before you read any further.  I must confess I hated facebook from the get go.
 Yes! I do have a functioning presence on the medium and I do politely accept friend requests. But from the very start I found Facebook annoying, confusing and downright useless. Nothing made me want to jump onto the naysayer bandwagon more than playing a game of 20 questions every time  I visited the site. I will not repeat myself , and get right back to answering the question. Did I ever find facebook useful. Well maybe! but it definitely wasn’t worth the pain of feeling that If I click the wrong option box ..all my information gets sold to an add selling bot.  I always preferred and still prefer the “privacy” of email or the “convenience” of sharing a link to my picasa album ..over the 20 question and click-a-box-too-many  game that every facebook app made me go through everytime I wanted to be social.

Visiting  facebook convinced me that these games are only played by people who are used to jostling with crowds at the local club ( akin to  answering all those questions, responding to pokes and writings on my wall) or having their clique that they keep in touch with constantly. Fortunately for me ( my point of view) I never needed that level of interaction and so facebook was never for me, and so for me it was useless!Facebook made me realize how warm a personal email can be over a writing on someones wall.  Thank you facebook for making me realize how valuable and indeed immensely social the email centric communities I participate in are. I have gotten more value from checking and respondint to my email since I realized this fact.  Facebook made me love my gmail account and yes .

In case you have feelings about write on my facebook wall..because chances are I will never read it

Apple breaks its Java silence

Apple finally said something about Java in leopard..Its upto 10% faster, has a lot of under the hood improvements and 64 bit support . Way to go apple. I had remarked about how apples silence on staying up with the Joneses on java support was the only thing making me rethink my switch to the mac . But its announcements like these that convince me I did make the right choice after all.

My Vote for Java6 on leopard-13949712720901FOROSX

As a lot of you may know. Leopard does not include Java 6. While Apple going slow on Java comes as no surprise , Apples slowness on this front has prompted at least James Gosling to abandon the Apple Mac as a Java development platform.

I came across this internet campaign to cast a vote for Java 6 on leopard.

So here goes.. I feel that apple should continue to support Java fully  and in a timely manner. What better way to get developers onto their preferred cocoa frameworks than making sure they use macs to do all their other non cocoa development.  So apple please add back Java to the develop on leopard pages and hire all the engineers required to get Java 6 on the mac  in a timely manner. I am 13949712720901FOROSX

Leopard looks amazing

I have just been watching the leopard movies on the Apple leopard site. Leopard , apples update to its opearting system (OS) looks simply amazing!

I had recently been to an Apple leopard developer preview session. Amongst the things that the Apple folks spent a lot of time talking about, was two powerful APIs inside of tiger and leopard, namely core image and core animation. These allow programs written for the mac to harness stunning 2D graphics and animation to vastly improve the usablitlity experience.

Other than for the obvious benefits of usability concepts like drag and drop , there is no denying that dynamically watching folders re-order themselves etc does help my brain cue in to the functionality of UIs better than if it boringly just happened. Frameworks like core animation allow interfaces in leopard to animate just about everything. I can really see myself getting de-addicted from the shell given these improvements . In short , I think I can summarize leopard to be “core animation” and “core image” in hyperdrive.

I only hope they fixed how long it takes for spotlight to find anything on my almost 90% full 250 GB disk and improved performance of iphoto. Regardless, I never thought I would buy leopard since I was already happy with tiger..but those slick movies have me sold! I cant wait for my pre-ordered copy to arrive. Alternate desktops and time machine i come!

Mediawiki export from Openoffice 2.3

I heard on the Java Possee podcast– that the new release of Open Office , version 2.3 will support output to mediawiki markup. As someone who helps keep the bioscreencastwiki updated this is a godsend to ease user adoption of wikis.

Of course assuming that users first start using the amazingly featured and free openoffice suite first  :-).

Why I dont like Facebook

Allright ..treat this as a post designed to elicit comments or its just me venting

Why I dont do Facebook by me

Firstly : The adds ! They are bloody annoying: I dont know why the adds on facebook annoy me more than the adds on Youtube . But they DO.My first few logins were greeted with jarring adds with models in various stages of undress! I am no prude but thats very intrusive , esp when you are at work . I also dont believe in addblock as a strategy. I believe adds do contribute some value to knowing whats out there and pay for many sites to stay alive. Its my way of giving back..clicking on an add every once in a while if it catches my attention.I also think their adds make my already cluttered page look more cluttered. In my defence I have rarely found wordpress pages with adds annoying

Secondly: The countless apps ..I get it ..the apps are what makes Facebook what it is. But I would prefer the uncluttered look. Fewer apps on a profile seem more focussed. Or maybe thats the idea a profile with several apps is the nature of the game! Also installing the apps involve playing a game of 20 questions , maybe the questions can be reduced to 1 or two

Third: The wall! ..A great way to get others to contribute “content” to my profile.

Fourth: I said it above..but the 20 questions and several clicks to do anything ! Even my bank seems less intimidating

And once more the adds!. I will have to turn on addblock and create a special firefox profile .. just to get on facebook. And the only reason I would still get on Facebook is because all my friends are on Facebook and I am trying not to be the grumpy one in the bunch.

Is Apple killing Java in favor of Objective C

I have very often expressed my frustration at how far behind Apple is, in bringing out a mac version of Java 6. The deveoper preview is stuck , with the last beta dated at Sept 2006.  Along these lines, apple stopped updating the Quicktime for Java API for the last many releases, with  new functionality only available from the objective-c  library .

Recently at the Oreilly Ignite II event, one of the speakers who had developed an amazing visualization centric Java environment expressed his frustration at how apple seems to have gone back on its pro-Java image. Why they would want to do that is beyond me, the novice coder. I am seriously considering my next machine to be a gentoo linux only machine. That way I can just use the SDKs from Sun or even the several openjava ebuilds.

It just seems like the community ( like the Linux community) will always safeguard the end users interests more than any company and its associated hype machine. This lack of dynamic support from Apple for the newest stuff from the Sun stable is probably the only thing making me regret buying a Mac.

Maybe scoble was right-human annotated search and curated data

Deepak at bbgm and Simon Brocklehurst pointed me to the uproar that scobles post a few months back caused. In his post Robert scoble  said search engines like Mahalo  and not google are the future of the internet . I am beginning to agree with some of what he said.

I want to explain myself with the following example. I have been reading up a lot on two subjects , one is ffmpeg the open source video and audio library and the other is on “mouse kappa light chain” sequences. In my own search for information on these specialized topics I have probbaly used google only about 20% of the time . The remaining 80% of the time I spent on reading the ffmpeg archives offered up by gmane the open source mailing list search project and my own search within my archived gmail label “ffmpeg”compiled from mailings in the ffmpeg-user newsgroup. Similarly for the mouse infoseek I spent almost no time on google , but instead trolled around the pubmed and ebi databases for all my relevant information.

The 20% google time was spent aggregating my information on google notebook besides doing quick searches on people or paper titles once I found a relevant source to find related content on the web.

All of this had me thinking that say the ffmpeg lead developers or community were to start a specialized manually annotated search repository . I would almost never turn to google for any of that domain information. The same holds true for the mouse sequence search !.

So the bottom line..I can start to see why manually annotated and curated search starts to be a big deal…because we all know that we rarely go beyond the first page for a google search result. The human expert just makes sure that the first page of any search is most likely to be relevant matter what pagerank it has.

Ignite Boston – Tweaking, mixing competition and collaboration

As you probably saw from my post on processing, ignite-boston II was a blast. I was there talking about opening up science and The talks at this Ignite were really interesting .

I especially liked the one by Ned Gulley from Mathworks who spoke of “Tweaking” a wiki-like matlab based programming contest. Tweaking is a great concept that effectively mixes collaboration with competition. In traditional code-jams and programing contests groups usually work in relative isolation to submit their best code for any given task which is then ranked at the very end and a winning group declared. In Tweaking all user entries are publicly displayed throughout the week that the contest runs. All entrants can modify and adapt each others code to move up the ladder. As each tweaked entry is submitted a secret test routine dynamically ranks the entry and it moves in the ranking. In Tweaking even single tweaks which result in a leap in functionality can move an entrant up the rankings and this opens up a whole trajectory for code improvement for all participants.To mix the wiki like collaborative element with code competitions seems to be a great way to enrich the coding experience for everyone.

Ned spoke of a series of projects , including one on SARS phylogeny and a lattice model protein folding simulation which tingled my structural biology neurons. Neds paper on tweaking talks about how tweaking is not only a fun learning experience for all participants, but also an interesting study into the nature of collaboration and the interplay of motivation , reward , collaboration and competition. If only all science projects worked like Tweaking.

Image Credit: Mathworks Tweaking protein folding competition

Ned blogs at the Starchamber, a blog whose Resident buzzwords are : synthetic biology, ambient displays, swarm robotics, wise crowds.

Processing and Visualizing Data

I first heard of processing , from a post on Natures Nacent blog in which Euan Addie talked of how terrible visualization tools in the bio-space are.

I heard Ben Frys talk at the Ignite Boston event where he introduced processing to the audience and also gave a breathtaking demo ( despite the contrast issues that the venue had) of the app. Especially amazing was his visualization of the HapMap data ( including one that was featured on Nature Magazines cover).

Ben is writing a book for oreilly called Visualizing data ( available through Oreilly rough cut) . I plan to start playing with processing and definitely recommend checking this space for the video link to his talk which should soon be up.

Image: The Processing book written by Casey Reas and Ben Fry

Processing website