Oxygen doesn't grow on trees.

I was looking for a special little something to give my wife on our 1st anniversary, and a friend suggested I’d get someone on fiverr to sing her song.

I really liked the idea, and it even took less than 24 hours. Thank you Mou Trego from Cook Islands for singing us a happy anniversary song with your ukulele at the beach!

The payment to fiverr is done via PayPal today. I think it’s very important that they start supporting Bitcoin. It would lower commissions significantly, and allow people who don’t have access to the banking system to participate as service providers as well.

I love love love the Google+ automatic photo combiner and GIF maker (GIF or JIF?). It even managed to automatically tag this photo with #BlackCat.

However, when I tell people about it, they say “but who the hell uses Google+?“.
I say, let them stay where they are, for now. There are awesome people on Google+, my feed there is much more interesting, and I feel like I’m using the word Awesome too much already.


Read the rest of this entry »

Mt. Gox today announced that “a couple of months ago [they] took a big step and bought a full page ad for Bitcoin right in the middle of the G8 Research Group’s official magazine”. The ad shows a caricature of foreign diplomats, wearing their national currency symbol instead of a head, sitting at a table and discussing important issues. Abruptly, a new member, Bitcoin, opens the door and walks inside. A QR code (made of little coins, see below) leads to a special landing page explaining the benefits of Bitcoin (and Mt. Gox).

The 2013 G8 Conference is kicking into gear from today, and global leaders are discussing economic issues that affect us all. To get the message out, a couple of months ago we took a big step and bought a full page ad for Bitcoin right in the middle of the G8 Research Group’s official magazine with a link to a special landing page.

Download the full publication here (we’re on page 8).

We want to convey a bold message as global opinion on Bitcoin is very diverse. Especially for G8 members it’s important to highlight what’s really important for Bitcoin to change the world:

Bitcoin has the potential to bring together global citizens by enabling worldwide commerce with low costs and ease of entry for all social strata. Rather than dilute, Bitcoin enhances.

Mt. Gox is looking forward to a positive outcome from the G8, and to being a part of the dialogue going forward.

Notice how the QR code is made of little coins…

(It does not decode easily from a high-res file. I assume that when it’s scanned with a smartphone camera from a magazine it works better)

(click to decode an edited version of the QR code that turned the coins into solid circles)

Today I wanted to write a new software module, and considered using Linked Lists. To my surprise, while searching for Software Patents (which is common practice before writing a new module), I realized I have to either give up using such lists (and go over the existing code base to make sure no else does), or start paying royalties to LSI Logic.

“Congratulations are in order to Ming-Jen Wang of LSI Logic Corporation who, in patent #10260471 (filed Sep 26, 2002 and granted Apr 11, 2006) managed to invent the linked list. From the abstract, “A computerized list is provided with auxiliary pointers for traversing the list in different sequences. One or more auxiliary pointers enable a fast, sequential traversal of the list with a minimum of computational time. Such lists may be used in any application where lists may be reordered for various purposes.” Good-bye doubly linked list. We should also give praise to the extensive patent review performed by Cochran Freund & Young LLP.” (Slashdot)

Dr. Aubrey de Grey (Aubrey David Nicholas Jasper de Grey to be exact, age 50) came to Israel for the first time to take part in the 8th European Congress of Biogerontology (fallback link) organized this year by Ben Gurion University of the Negev.

Utopia, the Tel-Aviv International Festival for Science Fiction, Imagination and the Future, organized an informal lecture and Q&A session with de Grey in Tel Aviv, to which I had the privilege to join.

The first part of the lecture was dedicated to a short description of de Grey’s research on regenerative and preventative medicine to thwart the aging process (his work at the SENS Research Foundation). The rest of the lecture was based on questions from the crowd about radical life extension.

Good news, everyone! One day in the future, we will may be allowed to drink and smoke, and go to McDonald’s! de Grey claims that the damage from these unhealthy activities, “a lifestyle that departs from what your mother told you to do…“, is the same damage our bodies accumulate anyway, just by breathing and eating, only faster. This means that we’ll have to get the same preventative treatments and “tune-ups” more often, or more thoroughly.

However… de Grey emphasizes: “Don’t do it yet! We don’t have these therapies yet. I don’ t know how soon we’re going to have them – I think there’s a 50/50 chance of getting them in the next 20-25 years, but at least 10% chance of not having them for 100 years.” It’s kind of hard to predict technological progress. (0:39:25)

One interesting question was “aren’t you trying to fight entropy?”, to which de Grey answered that all of life, all of the living world, is already fighting entropy very successfully just by being alive for as long as it is. Being alive requires exporting entropy – transferring entropy to the environment, all the time. We are trying to improve the comprehensiveness of that process of exporting of entropy. At the moment, there are certain parts of the process of metabolism where entropy is created and is retained in the body, and that is exactly the accumulation of damage. (0:50:50)

Purple Shirt“, that was me, asked a “great question”. Basically, I asked if it’s true that the pharmaceutical industry only develops treatments to diseases, rather than cures, because that’s how they make their money. de Grey rephrased my question to “Won’t the medical industry be opposed to these therapies because they will stop people from getting sick, and the industry makes its money out of sick people?” (0:36:00)

Oded Carmeli wrote an interesting article on Time Out Tel-Aviv (pp. 112-116).

Following the recent news regarding leaked documents that uncovered the US PRISM surveillance programProf. Ken Homa of Georgetown University wrote in a blog post:

NetTrax: You can run, but you can’t hide …

Been reading a book called Big Data, Big Analytics

Given the flap over the Feds grabbing phone and Internet info, this caught my eye.

Book quotes a guy named Niv Singer, Chief Technology Officer at tracx, a social media intelligence software provider.

Niv says:

“It can sometimes be a real challenge to unify social profiles for a single user who may be using different names or handles on each of their social networks …

… so we’ve built an algorithm that combs through key factors including content of posts, and location, among others, to provide a very robust identity unification.”

Singer explained that they are combining social check-in data from Facebook, Foursquare, and similar social sites and applications over maps to show information … down to the street level where conversations are happening.

English translation: You can run, but you can’t hide …they’ll find you.

Hi Ken!

Let me start by saying how honored I am to be mentioned in your writings, and happy to know that my contribution to the book was thought provoking. I am Niv Singer, “the guy” you quoted in your post above.

Conrad Gessner, a Swiss scientist, described how the modern world overwhelmed people with data and that this overabundance was both “confusing and harmful” to the mind. However, Gessner, who lived in the 16th century, warned about the dangers unleashed by the printing press. If we look back at history, every new technology – the printing press, the radio, the television, the internet, and now Social Media and specifically Facebook – seems scary at first.

It’s very important to make a distinction between public information and private information. Tracx only collects public information, and we give utmost respect to privacy. For instance, content you share on public platforms such as Twitter is collected. From Facebook, we only collect posts marked as “Public”. We never ever collect, or even have access to, emails, chats, closed forums, etc.

Identity unification is indeed a challenge, and we developed quite a sophisticated algorithm at tracx in order to do so. The first generation of listening platforms enabled the analysis of content that mentions specific keywords. What we do at tracx is to construct entire conversations, even if only some of the related posts or comments are relevant to what our clients are trying to analyze, to provide context. In order to do so, and give a more accurate picture of the persons involved, our algorithms try to figure out whether certain users from different social networks are, in fact, the same person.

The identity unification algorithms only rely on signals from publicly available information. For instance, if your Foursquare check-in is also posted to your Twitter or Facebook timelines, we can make an educated guess that all three users actually belong to the same person.

From my experience, people with a strong presence in social networks, have accounts in many different services, and these accounts are usually linked together (you can check out my Gravatar and Google+ Profiles to see how I meticulously listed all the different accounts I have).

Tracx, as well as other platforms, help companies provide better customer care – by having a representative get back to someone who complained. We help cable companies, for example, select the best shows by listening to conversations about them. We help policy makers make informed decisions, again, by listening. I believe we, the people, gained a lot of power in the past few years, and our voice is now heard. We help the organizations to listen.

“Nobody thought it was a good idea. And I distinctly remember my colleague Evan Williams saying, ‘Well, neither is ice cream. Should we ban ice cream and all joy or can we have something that’s just fun? What’s wrong with that?’”

Biz Stone, co-founder and Creative Director of Twitter (via)

Small Wonder

Everything was a little bit more correct, politically, a few years ago…

Jamie and Reggie experiment with cigarettes
Small Wonder S02E01, 13 Sep. 1986

Read the rest of this entry »

I’m hearing of more and more people starting up new businesses with cool, innovative ideas. Spring season in the Start-up Nation is coming.

The differences from the years 2000 and 2008, I think, are:

  1. Crowdfunding (Kickstarter, Headstart)
  2. Affordable IT Infrastructure (AWSGoogle)
  3. Affordable and idiot-proof (read: hackable by software engineers) hardware platforms (Raspberry Pi, Arduino) and sensors (Oculus Rift)
  4. Affordable Manufacturing (3D Printing, CNCPCB)
  5. New, disruptive, open-source software and hardware technologies (Bitcoin, DIY 3D Printing, Flying Machines)

Don’t let the Waze deal fool or blind you – most chances are: you will fail.
But you might just be one of the lucky ones. Starting up is less riskier than ever before. If you’re committing to be the Pig, and you have a solid business model, I say go for it!

PRO TIP: Put your ego aside, and build a team of superstars who complement each other, a team of people who know one another’s strengths and weaknesses.

To iterate is human; to recurse divine.

– L. Peter Deutsch, the creator of Ghostscript

Check out The Recursive Group on Facebook while you’re at it (a group for people who are members of the group).