Saturday, December 30, 2006

Where were you all this time when I needed you?

Quite some time ago a colleague of mine asked me:"Are there any tools to easily label documents with multiple values, like some sort of drag and drop kind of thing, me not having to think of directories and structures?" Typically making gestures like he was actually moulding it with his hands, like he uses to do when he talks about tools. When I answered there weren't any yet, he looked quite disappointed. So, here we are December 2006 with Tag2Find offering me a Beta test version. I installed it like a child opening a Christmas present, full of desire. After having tried it for some days my general conclusion is: These guys are on the right track, but they must push the idea to the full envelope of its potential. Meaning:

adding tags works quite well, the usability could be improved, but can wait a bit, the first big thing to improve is the usability of searching and navigating after having added the tags.
I'm envisaging some sort of semi-transparent desktop feature showing the tag cloud, maybe in a sidebar or as a web part on a portal. Not having to start Explorer to get to files, but directly starting from the desktop. The next step could be dragging and dropping files on the clouds on the desktop to tag files.
Think with the end-user in mind, the type of user with the desktop loaded with files seemingly without structure, these are the masses you should be aiming at, I'd say.
For more advanced users it would add value if the tags were visible in Explorer, mash up Explorer with Tag2Find. The development of the tool will definitely stay on my radar. Cheers Marc Stein and colleagues from Linz (Austria)!

Friday, December 29, 2006

Quaero: full stop

Quaero, the french/german R&D collaboration came to an end even before results were visible for public. Both countries' spokesmen stated that goals conflicted and further collaboration was not useful any more. Next to conflicts between goals, there were also technological difficulties. The idea was to build a web search engine for multimedia. Probably the idea will come to an implementation as many other research projects are taking place, e.g. Multimatch as well as commercial projects. The German partners of Quaero will commence by a project called Theseus. The French will also proceed so they say. A Thomson (France) spokeswoman said:

"The two projects were never one."
Jim Egan wrote on diplomatic traffic:
Quaero is an outgrowth of the “1791 Drill Regulations” mentality Napoleon tried to eradicate. Amazingly, this multimedia vacuum cleaner still cannot organize and index what little it lifts from the cultural carpet. In contrast, Blinkx (“the world’s largest video search engine”) trumpets that it now has over 6 million hours of searchable TV and viral video content. Competitors such as the long-toothed T. rexes MSN, Yahoo and Google, plus aspiring adolescents and Accoona, are no doubt thankful the distracted French government expensively sired such a transparent, predictable and beatable foe. Designed to fight the last war, Quaero will not become a step-change and thus ensures U.S. internet search hegemony for years to come. Unless, that is, France’s elected leader finds inspiration and creatively disrupts the nature and cadence of competitive EU digital initiatives. To begin with, President Chirac should correct an out-of-step viewpoint revealed at an Elysée Palace speech last January. There he stated “Tomorrow, that which is not available online runs the risk of being invisible to the world.” Unfortunately, this is already the case for what exists online. Despite years of effort, search engines reach only 2% of the internet’s vast, growing and largely unexplored data jungle.
Peter Sayer published on Techworld:
Jean-Louis Beffa, chairman of the executive board of the French Agency for Industrial Innovation (AII), said the consortium ran into a problem with technology, and must now reshape the project. The French company leading the Quaero project, Thomson, wanted to concentrate on managing multimedia resources, while the leading German partner, Empolis, is focused on knowledge management, said Robert Havas, director of AII.
Furthermore Havas said:
Although France and Germany failed to agree on a focus for their work on search technologies, "co-operation between France and Germany is working well" in other research areas.
Thanks for sharing that thought with us Robert, that's really comforting.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

No comment


iPOD hifi hi-end

Having an iPOD is quite common these days, many people walk 'round with these Apple music players. Not too many have hi-end hifi iPODs. This one I found absolutely looks the business!

Smart Tool

Sharpening knives is not a trivial craft, it takes a lot of experience to do it right. This tool makes a knivesman out of every mediocre sharpener.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Not too bad to be working in the UK

The North Lakes Hotel in Penrith, Cumbria offers Thwaites Smooth Beer, a nice ale from the North of England. After a hard days work, the best refreshment ever.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Essence: Designing with the user in mind

I cannot write it down more clearly than 37signals did it for me: About 37signals

We’re a privately-held Chicago-based company committed to building the best web-based software products possible with the least number of features necessary. Our products do less than the competition — intentionally. We’ve been in business since 1999 and love what we do.
Execution is everything
We believe most software is too complex. Too many features, too many buttons, too much confusion. We build easy to use web-based products with elegant interfaces and thoughtful features. We’re focused on executing on the basics beautifully.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Fine dining: the Fisherman

I enjoyed a fine diner with friends in this restaurant located near Eindhoven, The Netherlands. If you are a connaisseur of fine fish food in a classic French style this place is worth a detour. Restaurant The Fisherman Kruisstraat 23 5502 JA Veldhoven Tel: +31 (0)402545838

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Wayfinding and Navigation

Me being interested in information visualisation, navigation and information architecture I'm lucky to be gifted with an eye for design details. I've seen websites changing their heading font (h1, h2, etc.) from Arial, to Verdana to Tahoma. For readability reasons mainly, sometimes following the pack. Reading the book Information Architecture for Designers by Peter Van Dijck loaded with examples/pictures of good and bad signs and what can be learned from them, I came up with the idea to have a look at the font used on road signs. These fonts have been carefully designed with readability and clearness as a major objective. Maybe the font used for headings would be better if we used the interstate font family?

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Shameless family promotion: My brother

On December 8, Professor René Castelein will receive a prize from the French Cotrel Spinal Research Foundation for his scientific research on idiopathic scoliosis.This deformity of the spine occurs in children during puberty. Castelein is head of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at the University Medical Center (UMC) Utrecht. The prize is a research grant of 25,000 euro and is part of the Cotrel Foundation’s program to stimulate new types of treatment for idiopathic scoliosis. Castelein will receive the prize also on behalf of researcher Jan Willem Kouwenhoven and the whole of his research group. Idiopathic scoliosis is a severe spinal curvature that occurs in children during growth spurts for which the cause is unknown. In general, this disorder occurs in healthy children, more often in girls, who develop an unhealthy curvature of the spine during their adolescent growth spurt within a short space of time. This can lead, not only to back problems, but also to problems in the heart and lungs. The curves in the spinal column nearly always take on the same characteristic form, direction and rotation. From the group that Castelein studied, it was clear that healthy people also have the same kind of rotation but to a much lesser degree. This is why the deformity has a similar shape in all patients. Ultimately, the research will lead to treatment of the scoliosis in an early stage of the deformity. It is possible that the degree to which current radical treatment is performed can be reduced. The treatment now used involves a child wearing a corset during the growth years or undergoing extensive surgery to the spinal column whereby the spine is fixed in position to titanium rods with bolts and screws. The prize will be presented in the Palais de l’Institut Francais in Paris where a representative of the Dutch Embassy will be present.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Swivel: a YouTube for Data

Swivel will soon offer a kind of functionality that will revolutionize the usage of data on websites. The kind of data comparison they offer in a 'YouTube'-fashion is currently only possible using portal tools with elaborate integration technology combined with business intelligence tooling to be able to compare data and derive conclusions. I can't wait to try it! TechCrunch announced it today:

Swivel co-founders Dmitry Dimov and Brian Mulloy start off by describing their company as “YouTube for Data.” That’s a good start for someone trying to understand it, because the site allows users to upload data - any data - and display it to other users visually. The number of page views your website generates. Or a stock price over time. Weather data. Commodity prices. The number of Bald Eagles in Washington state. Whatever. Uploaded data can be rated, commented and bookmarked by other users, helping to sort the interesting (and accurate) wheat from the chaff. And graphs of data can be embedded into websites. So it is in fact a bit like a YouTube for Data.
But then the real fun begins. You and other users can then compare that data to other data sets to find possible correlation (or lack thereof). Compare gas prices to presidential approval ratings or UFO sightings to iPod sales. Track your page views against weather reports in Silicon Valley. See if something interesting occurs. And better yet, Swivel will be automatically comparing your data to other data sets in the background, suggesting possible correlations to you that you may never have noticed.
Swivel is putting significant computing power behind the scenes to run the data analysis. “We use farms of powerful computers and algorithms at the Swivel data centers to transform a lonely grid of numbers and letters into hundreds - sometimes thousands - of graphs that can be explored and compared with any other public data in Swivel.”
Not all data will be public. The companies business model is to provide the service for free for public data, and charge a fee for data that is kept private. Private data can still be compared by the owner to public data sets. Look for Swivel to launch later this week after a year of quiet development. The company is based in San Francisco and is part of Minor Ventures.

MIT's Lecture Browser, a spoken language system

Try it yourself, it's a prototype, be gentle.