Monday, July 30, 2007

Someone at Channel 10 likes Amon Tobin

Amon Tobin's music isn't very immediate/accessible, so I was pleasantly surprised to hear several of his tracks used during the finale of the Australian version of Big Brother tonight tonight: The Killer's Vanilla and At the End of the Day from his latest album, The Foley Room, and Natureland off Supermodified. They used them as background music in several of the video clips they showed.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Nice line from Scott Adams - "The trick is to..."

A nice line from Scott Adams' blog:

The trick is to think of your ego as your goofy best friend who lends moral support but doesn’t know shit.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

A missed chance

David Stenhouse looks back on a missed chance:

"When you’ve read as many books as I have, you know instinctively when something is going to be a hit. You mark my words. We won’t hear of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone ever again."

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Video of impressive statistics visualisation - Hans Rosling using Trandalyzer

If you want to make sense of statistics for people, this is how you do it, as shown in this very interesting and impressive video.

In it, Hans Rosling uses UN statistics to demonstrate that many common beliefs about the modern-day world, such as on the nature of the divide between first and third-world countries, are wrong.

But more than the content (and whether you would agree with it or not), what it's about is how he presents it. The software he uses, Trendalyzer, seems pretty impressive. I don't mean from a technical standpoint -- though no doubt it is -- but from what it is able to do. This is futuristic software, like science-fiction films try to portray.

Graphs are animated to show how the data changes over the years, highlighting the trends. They're morphed to show a different, but related perspective. Details are drilled down into, for example to go from showing data for a particular country to data for its consitutent states. It's all interactive, and it leads to a very impressive flow: one perspective raises certain questions, so he modifies the view to try and get insight into them.

What I think is important about this kind of software is that it allows you to really demonstrate points, directly from the data -- very much showing rather than telling.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Effective analogy for showing what prosopagnosia is like

[Update: the linked page can now be accessed here]

Prosopagnosia is 'face-blindness' - the inability to recognize other humans by their faces. This page is a very effective description of what it's like, written by a sufferer.

They say good writing shows rather than tells, and that's what that pages does, using a very effective analogy -- to show you what it's like to have prosopagnosia.

If individuals were rocks, then it's like having to remember the characteristics of each rock, and try to realise when you come across this rock again, from your memories. The page uses photos of different rocks so you can see for yourself the sorts of difficulties involved.

There's a lot of complications you probably wouldn't think of, which the page demonstrates well. E.g. when someone gets a haircut - as demonstrated by the rock being obscured by a bit of foliage.

RunBot - robot that can walk with a natural, realistic-seeming gait

RunBot is a walking robot with a natural, flexible gait (BBC story; info). It can deal with uneven terrain, and changes changes like uphill or downhill slopes.

I think they've got the right approach. Like with Steve Grand's work, and Jeff Hawkin's HTMs, it uses a hierarchical means of control, where each level has a certain level of autonomy, and there's constant updating of the structures based on the environmental input.

RunBot has been co-operatively developed by european scientists

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Some presentation-skills lessons from Job's iPhone talk

[Update: the article can now be found here]

Giving good presentations - five lessons drawn from Steve Job's iPhone presentation. The lessons the article goes into are: Build Tension, Stick to One Theme Per Slide, Add Pizzazz to Your Delivery, Practice, Be Honest and Show Enthusiasm.