Thursday, 1 May 2008

Emergencies, people and medias

A study that will appear in tomorrow's New Scientist magazine found that social media sites, blogs, and instant messaging services were better at connecting people and providing warnings during emergencies than traditional sources of such information, according to the Telegraph. Dr. Leysia Palen, an Assistant Professor of Computer Science at the University of Colorado, led a research team that studied uses of social media during last fall's wildfires in California and last spring's shootings at Virginia Tech for the report.

During the wildfires, the team found that people were using Twitter to spread updates about where the fires were to friends and family, and Google maps mashups were hacked together to keep people informed of new fires and schools and businesses that were closed. This information was was being disseminated far more quickly than via official governmental channels, according to the report.

Source: article from

Open-Source, Multitouch Display

"Engineers are building inexpensive, tabletop, touch-screen displays and sharing the instructions online."

An article from Technology Review:
Open-Source, Multitouch Display

Projects like these illustrate two important trends in technology, says Tim O'Reilly, founder of O'Reilly Media, the publishing company whose Make and Craft magazines put on the Maker Faire. First, the falling cost of hardware enables people to play with high technology without taking a large financial risk. Second, people are forming online communities, such as and, to share their ideas, solve problems, and start collaborative projects.

Traditionally, O'Reilly says, the open-source community has focused on software, but in recent years, there's been a push to share more information about hardware. "What we're seeing is, hackers are engaging in the world of things in the way that they used to in the world of software," he says. And the more people are able to contribute to building and improving technology, the more chance there is for innovation.

Thursday, 17 May 2007

User Created Content is Key for 3D worlds

"Counter Strike", still the most played FPS today, was develop as a "half-life" video game mod by two college students...

This demonstrate the incredible value and creativity that amateurs can produce if they are given the right tools (often called a SDK "Software Development Kit" which come with some games).

Not surprising that "Valve Software's Doug Lombardi has stated his strong belief that user created content is a very important part of games in the near future"

See the slashdot news and article.

I would add that in the 3D world it goes now far beyond videogames.
"Second Life" popularity come in good part of the objects the users can create (and even sell). Also Google Earth and Sketchup enable individuals to easily become 3D architects who then add a new "dimension" to Google Earth (see 3D Warehouse).

Thursday, 1 March 2007

Open Access to research

Internet law professor Michael Geist takes a look at a fundamental shift in the way research journals become available to the public

" Last month five leading European research institutions launched a petition that called on the European Commission to establish a new policy that would require all government-funded research to be made available to the public shortly after publication. [...]

Read more of this very interesting article on the BBC website.

EDIT: Slashdot has also now a news about it:

Several readers wrote in with news of the momentum gathering behind free access to government-funded research. A petition "to create a freely available virtual scientific library available to the entire globe" garnered more than 20,000 signatures, including several Nobel prize winners and 750 education, research, and cultural organizations from around the world. The European Commission responded by committing more than $100 million towards support for open access journals and for the building of infrastructure needed to house institutional repositories able to store the millions of academic articles written each year.

Monday, 12 February 2007

News agency and citizen journalism

AP partners with citizen journalism site

The Associated Press has partnered with a citizen journalism site,, to integrate user-generated content into the wires. AP bureaus will work with NowPublic communities in selected locations on ways to enhance regional news coverage, and national AP news desks also may tap the network in breaking news situations where citizen contributors may capture critical information and images.

More informations here (

(The Associated Press, or AP, is an American news agency, the world's largest such organization.)

Also, "CNN to boost citizen journalism initiative"

Monday, 5 February 2007

Amateurs brain power to the rescue

This post is about the disappearance at sea and search of James Gray (a computer scientist who received the Turing Award in 1998)

From the wikipedia article:

After a short solo sailing trip to the Farallon Islands near San Francisco to scatter his mother's ashes, his 40-foot yacht was reported missing on Sunday, January 28, 2007. The Coast Guard searched for four days using a C-130 plane, helicopter and patrol boats but found no sign of the vessel.

On February 1, 2007, the DigitalGlobe satellite did a scan of the area, generating thousands of images.The images were posted to Amazon Mechanical Turk in order to distribute the work of searching through them, in hopes of spotting his boat. View the HITs for more details.

What I find interesting here is the use of amateurs and web users to scan through huge amounts of pictures.

It's well known the computer can't match the brain for shapes recognition. I find the initiative of this "HIT" (Human Intelligence Task) very interesting since you don't need to be a professional to actually contribute to an important research task.

The HIT page for the search of James Gray (unfortunately the search area was partly clouded)

The HIT of Amazon (mechanical turk) Home page with others projects: and a wikipedia article about it.

EDIT 8 Feb 07:

The Blog Smart Mobs has now an interesting article on the subject.

Collective intelligence and satellite technology in the search for Jim Gray

"Flickr User Becomes Pro for Microsoft"

Flickr user Hamad Darwish is one of a small group of flickr users who were approached by Microsoft for either use of their photos or commissioned to to create new images for the desktop backgrounds that are included in the new Windows Vista operating system.

This is an interesting example of the line blurring between professional photographers and amateurs/enthusiasts. Hamad, whose photos are indeed lovely, is not a pro nor does he intend to become one. Photo sharing sites like flickr make visible the photographs of amateurs in an unprecedented way. It is no longer only professionals whose work is exposed to photo buyers.

Read more of this story here:
Flickr User Becomes Pro for Microsoft