Nat Torkington

Nat has chaired the O'Reilly Open Source Convention and other O'Reilly conferences for over a decade. He ran the first web server in New Zealand, co-wrote the best-selling Perl Cookbook, and was one of the founding Radar bloggers. He lives in New Zealand and consults in the Asia-Pacific region.

Four short links: 13 August 2009

Four short links: 13 August 2009

  1. Under the Hood of App Inventor for Android — regular readers know I’m a big fan of visual programming language Scratch, and apparently Google are too. They’ve got twelve university classes testing App Inventor for Android, a visual connect-the-bits programming environment for Android. University classes probably because one of the co-creators is Hal Abelson, coauthor of the definitive programming textbook. Also found online: the PR-type announcement, a Professor using it, and @AppInv (nothing juicy on Twitter–it looks like might be a channel for tech support for the students). (via Hacker News)
  2. Google Web Optimizer Case Study (Four Hour Work Week) — GWO manages A/B tests for you, with a lot of statistical analysis. It’s a fascinating read to see how these should be done. Every equation may halve the readership of a book, but every table of numbers and relevancy analysis doubles the value of a post like this. (via Hacker News)
  3. Opening Up The BBC’s Natural History Archive — the BBC are releasing programme segments and a whole lot of metadata around their programming. Audio and video segmented, tagged with DBpedia terms, and aggregated into a URI structure based on natural history concepts: species, habitats, adaptations, etc. Gorgeous!
  4. Yahoo! Term Extraction API to CloseInternally, both services
    share a backend data source that is closing down, so the publicly-facing YDN
    services will be closing as well.
    I think it’s the most significant casualty of Y! outsourcing search to MSFT, as this API was used by a lot of projects. (via Simon Willison)
Comment: 1 |
Four short links: 11 August 2009

Four short links: 11 August 2009

  1. The Slowing Growth of Wikipedia and More Details of Changing Editor Resistance — researchers at PARC analysed Wikipedia and found the number of new articles and number of new editors have flattened off, and more edits from first-time contributors are being reverted. This is a writeup in their blog, with the numbers and charts. It’s interesting that coverage in New Scientist talked about “quality”, but none of the metrics PARC studied are actually quality. Wikipedia launched a strategic review which aims to tackle this and many other issues. (via ACM TechNews)
  2. The Information Architecture of Social Experience Design: Five Principles, Five Anti-Patterns and 96 Patterns (in Three Buckets) — teaser for upcoming O’Reilly book with some really good stuff. Balzac once wrote, “The secret of great wealth with no obvious source is some forgotten crime, forgotten because it was done neatly,” and many successful social sites today founded themselves on an original sin, perhaps a spammy viral invitation model or unapproved abuse of new users’ address books. Some companies never lived down the taint and other seems to have passed some unspoken statute of limitations. (via BoingBoing)
  3. Skulpt — entirely in-browser implementation of Python. (via Andy Baio)
  4. Why Can’t Local Government and Open Source Be Friends? — the Birmingham example is one of many. Government procurement and tendering processes are often fishing expeditions, which biases responses in favour of commercial software companies making mad margins such that they can respond to RFPs that are really RFIs, etc. It’s an issue everywhere in the world because it happens at local, not just central, level.
Comments Off |

Software Engineering Folklore Survey

I love this. Two university researchers are asking real world coders how they code. They want to learn whether the theory taught in software design courses is actually used in the real world. They've built a short (20-question) survey that takes less than ten minutes to complete, and will open source the data once it's all in. I've sent in…

Comments: 4 |

OSCON in 37 Minutes

The wonderful Gregg Pollack, of Rails Envy fame, wandered the halls and speaker room at OSCON with his video camera. He asked a pile of speakers to summarize their talks in 30 seconds or less, and has compiled the results into “OSCON in 37 Minutes”. It’s well worth watching even if you were at the conference—as anyone who’s attended knows,…

Comments Off |

NYT and Sun on Concurrency

Two interesting stories on concurrency came past my browser this morning: NYTimes on Microsoft's concurrency efforts and Allan Packer from Sun on open source databases. The NYT piece is about Microsoft's efforts to produce multicore programming tools, which include hiring a bunch of supercomputing veterans. “Industry has basically thrown a Hail Mary,” said David Patterson, a pioneering computer scientist at…

Comment: 1 |

Google Highly Open Participation Contest

I’m at the OSDC open source conference in Australia. Leslie Hawthorn from Google just announced the Highly Open Participation Contest. It’s like Summer of Code for high-school students, with smaller tasks that can be more than code. As this is the first year, they’re going to work with projects whose mentoring really stood out in the Summer of Code—projects like…

Comments: 2 |

The Faint Signals of Concurrency

We've been looking at the world of concurrent programming lately. You might have seen Tim's posts on Erlang and Haskell, or my post on alternative systems to threading. Here, in a nutshell, is why we're interested in this stuff and what we see. CPUs aren't really getting faster. The CPUs in your brand new machine are the same speed they…

Comments: 18 |

Metaprogramming in Ruby and Java

Metaprogramming is modifying your programming language to make it fit your problem domain. Lisp started it, Perl's source filters did something along those lines, but Ruby's got it in spades (caution: Why The Lucky Stiff content behind that last link). In the last few weeks I've been pounding through Ruby like Rush Limbaugh through an Everest of Viagra, and I…

Comments: 4 |

Intel OS X Boxes to Dual Boot Windows XP

Apple yesterday announced "Boot Camp", a system that lets you dual boot Windows XP and OS X on the Intel-based Macs. It's software to make the partitioning and installation easy. "Dual booting" is, for those of you who haven't struggled with your own Linux boxes, when you install both operating systems on a single hard disk and decide each time…

Comment: 1 |

Yahoo! Open Sources UIs and Design Patterns

Kudos to Yahoo!, who today released two pieces of goodness into the commons. The first is their UI library, and the second is their Design Patterns Library. The UI Library is a collection of DHTML/Ajax/Javascript (pick your favourite term) controls and widgets. The Design Patterns Library is "intended to provide Web designers prescriptive guidance to help solve common design problems…

Comments: 32 |