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Book Review: Practical Internet Groupware

Practical Internet Groupware
by Jon Udell

In his book "Practical Internet Groupware", former BYTE magazine editor Jon Udell layout an architecture that links human minds into collaborative relationships. Base on his actual experience in building BYTE's intranet as well as the magazine's public online services, he gave his insight on the powerful use of Internet.

Among the many IT books I have read, this book stand out as sublime, even avant-garde. Got a question? Search the Internet, send a follow up email to folks you have never met. That's something many of us have probably done without much thinking. Yet Jon would step back and reflect on the dynamic that had happened. An ad-hoc workgroup was formed between him and several person on one particular task. The collaboration was unbounded by time, geography or corporate affiliation. He strived to grasp the subtle interactions and to facilitate this flow of information on the Internet.

People are lazy and do not like to learn or adapt to complex rules impose by computer systems. On the other hand simple rules and clever UI tweak can often make interactions spontaneous and effective. Use an appropriate subject for a message is one good example. The author discussed one of the oldest groupware on the Internet, the Usenet newsgroups. He termed it conferencing and explained why it is a better channel for some kind of interactions compare to email. Many of us who get caught in lengthy email debate would be delighted to know there are more effective way to conduct this kind of discussion. Indeed a seamless integration of web, email, newsgroup and a searchable document database are the components that make a formidable groupware application.

Unlike most IT books, he did not focus on any single platform, computer language or a technology. Whether it is a tool from Microsoft or its competitors, a freeware or a commercial product, he would use it if he see fits. Throughout the book are short, unglamorous, but nevertheless working code samples. Given I read this 6 years after its 1999 publishing date, many of the code or specific technologies are already considered obsoleted. Yet the insight that stem from these early system are just as relevant today. Think just what is the core component of web 2.0 technology? User participation!

Perhaps nothing reveal more about this book than its front cover. The 'practical' in the 'Practical Internet Groupware' means everything is derived from actual experience and real code rather than a theoretical discussion. Yet it is in small print while the 'Internet Groupware' is emphasize in the banner. That's because the code and the actual systems are just starting points that spawn the exploration of threads that link people into collaborative relationship. This is an immensely powerful Internet application we have yet to master.

2006.02.26 [, ] - comments

 

Book Review: Free Agent Nation

Free Agent Nation
by Daniel Pink

So I have worked with a number of people we called contractors. I used to think this is just a different kind of job. They do it because it pays more or just because they are not able to land a full time job. But for author Daniel Pink, being free agent is really a lot more than a different kind of job.

In this book, he has portrayed the free agent movement as a profound social transformation. Fueled by corporate downsizing and the availability of affordable means of production due to new technologies, more and more choose to work for themselves rather than working for big organizations. It is a return to the social structure before the Industrial Revolutions.

The book has covered many practicalities of being free agents. It discusses the more flexible working schedule, different ways of networking, all the infrastructure one can use to compensate for the support of offices and then going down to the mundane issues like health insurance and tax code.

Knowing the practicalities help you gain confidence to tackle the new challenges. But the best of this book is to discover what it 'means' to be self-employed. To work for yourself is to be accountable and to be authentic. Often money is not the primary subject. Freedom to define one's goal, such as how to balance between work and family, can be more important consideration. Ultimately taking on these new responsibilities would empower individuals and to drive toward self-actualization.

2006.02.19 [, ] - comments

 

Grokking SVG

I was researching on generating charts for web pages. Given the great experience in building HTML application, I would like something similarly light weight and text based without the overhead of a binary library like libpng.

Once I started looking, the answer is obvious. It is Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG)! Paul Prescod gave his optimistic view and in his article SVG: A Sure Bet on why SVG would sweep the hodgepodge of proprietary graphics formats in existence. The wikipedia's entry on SVG has a good background and a rundown on many things SVG. My Opera browser supports SVG natively and so is Firefox 1.5. There is free open source editor like InkScape available. Hard to believe it is not used by everyone already! (Insert your favorite IE bash here).

Anyway this really opens a new front for me. I'm excited for the possibility to enhance data presentation with graphics.

2006.02.19 [, ] - comments

 

Mobile User Interface

I have recently commented that a bar code scanning phone can be a great user interface to click an offline hyperlink. Given mobile phones' ubiquity, many people see it as the new computation device that might even supplant personal computer. But an open issue remains, how can we input and output efficiently on such small device? The tiny display and the digit keypad still leave much to be desired. Below is several ideas I have come across over the years.

Voice Interface

Rather than using a keyboard, just talk to your phone and have it talk back! Having worked on interactive voice response systems and speech recognition technology like VoiceXML myself, we know that users hate voice menu. Speech recognition suppose to improve its usability. But is it good enough?

Rapid Serial Visual Presentation

Would you like to read an article with a cellphone? How about a book? If you think this is too much to fit in a tiny display you may be interested in a technique called Rapid Serial Visual Presentation. The words are flashed rapidly on the screen one at a time. It best to see it in action in this video demo from BuddyBuzz. For the impatient, the real action starts around 2:50 into the video.

Offline Hyperlink

This is the idea I have drawn out in the Searchblog's comment. An URL is encoded as bar code. It can be printed and displayed in any location. One can point a cellphone equipped with a bar code scanner to it and have the web page fetched on the phone. The entire experience should be intuitive and seamless. Another commenter has pointed out that a similar technology caller paperclick is already available form NeoMedia, possibly by the way of pattern recognition of images taken from a camera phone.

Miniature Laser Projectors

R2-D2 has one. A projector would be great for showing details not possible on a small display. This Miniature Laser Projectors from Light Blue Optics is touted to be made for cell phones and PDAs. At 3.78 cubic inches with power consumption of 1.4W it certainly has a lot of potential, if not ready for the smallest of smallest cellphone yet.

E Ink

Flexible paper thin roll up display like this one from Philips or these from E.INK? It would be really cool to use your cellphone to connect to Google map and have it displayed on a sheet the size of a map!

2006.02.18 [, ] - comments

 

Baby Arrived

Our baby, Theodore Tat Chee Tung 董達之, has arrived on Feburary 1st! His name Tat Chee means make achievement.

2006.02.14 [] - comments

 

past articles »

 

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Slashdot News for nerds, stuff that matters

 

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GNU Emacs 24.4 Released Today (2014-10-20T22:26:00Z)

 

More Eye Candy Coming To Windows 10 (2014-10-20T21:47:00Z)

 

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TechPsychic Tech Rumors and Invented News

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SF Gate

 

Bay Area News (7 Jan 2012)

 

City Insider (11 Feb 2012)

 

Crime Scene (13 Feb 2012)

 

C.W Newius Column (10 Jan 2012)

 

C.W. Nevius Blog (11 Feb 2012)

 

Education News (10 Jan 2012)

 

KALW (11 Feb 2012)

 

Matier and Ross Blog (11 Feb 2012)

 

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Yahoo CEO to address taxes, deals during earnings call (20 Oct 2014)

 

Why does Silicon Valley exist? (19 Oct 2014)

 

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Obama announces plan to tighten debit card security (19 Oct 2014)

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Asia Times Online

 

North Korea in grip of leadership tension (Fri 17 Oct 2014 11:00:00 GMT)

 

ROVING BACK TO THE FUTURE (Fri 17 Oct 2014 11:00:00 GMT)

 

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The missing context for IS's rise (Fri 17 Oct 2014 11:00:00 GMT)

 

China deals blow to Australia coal (Fri 17 Oct 2014 11:00:00 GMT)

 

REUVEN BRENNER The boom-and-bust Fed's rental society (Fri 17 Oct 2014 11:00:00 GMT)

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