tecznotes

Michal Migurski's notebook, listening post, and soapbox. Subscribe to this blog. Check out the rest of my site as well.

Sep 30, 2005 12:44pm

corpse bride

I love reading sentences like this in articles about movies:

For Corpse Bride, data wrangler/computer programmer Martin Pengelly-Phillips wrote a utility in Python computer language to convert the XML data into a flattened reel. The shots get validated for naming and length, and checked against the list of known shots in the editorial database in FileMaker Pro. In Python, a series of AppleScripts are created to update the editorial database with the most recent cut.

Sep 20, 2005 12:02pm

72hours tagged navigation

I'm putting together some emergency kits for when the big earthquake hits and FEMA takes a week to get north of Fremont. I noticed that San Francisco's 72 Hours site has a really interesting tagged navigation concept.

The site plan is broken up along two major axes: task-centered overviews across the top (Make a Plan, Build a Kit), and topic-centered details below. Each task page (shown here) is tagged with the topics it touches, for example Build a Kit highlights the Pets, Food, Water, First Aid and others. This gives a helpful, quick point of entry into the first-level goals that need to be accomplished and uses active verbs to do so.

These quick entry points are augmented by details within each topic page, which provide extra information not covered by the quick-start pages.

The whole sites uses guessable, crawlable URL's, e.g. "pets.html". There's no side navigation bar, and it's beautifully focused on the goal. Even site name serves as a helpful reminder of the amount of time you should be prepared to live on your own, and frames all the advice within.

Sep 14, 2005 11:33am

bureaucracy = death?

I just sent this to Seth Godin, in response to Bureaucracy = Death:

An interesting counterpoint comes from Bruce Schneier, regarding the security lessons of Katrina: "Redundancy, and to a lesser extent, inefficiency, are good for security. Efficiency is brittle. Redundancy results in less-brittle systems, and provides defense in depth. We need multiple organizations with overlapping capabilities, all helping in their own way..." (Security Lessons of the Response to Hurricane Katrina).

I've been thinking a lot about bureaucratic efficiency in Katrina's wake, and about the different kinds of organizational efficiency. The Grover Norquist / Newt Gingrich calls against government bloat seemed to be well-intentioned, but it's clear from the Department of Homeland Security that the current Admin is looking for top-down efficiency, initiated by fiat and ruthlessly optimized. This seems to have resulted in the kind of brittleness that Bruce talks about, and was predicted by people familiar with distributed networks of any kind.

What would happen if there were a CNO at FEMA? He'd probably be somebody's fuckwit college roommate appointed from the GOP fundraising talent pool, that's what. Brittle.

I've been thinking that a better sort of efficiency is bottom-up, the kind of deep competence practiced by educated, informed people doing their jobs well. You still have a bureaucracy, but with a culture of basic competence that encourages and promotes efficiency at the lowest levels of the ladder. Turns out this is a lot harder to implement, because the solution starts at the K-12 level and moves from there. Progress is measured in decades, not political terms. If there is any lesson from computer science that I wish society could understand, it's this small-pieces-loosely joined design philosophy that makes the Internet work and Unix a stable operating system.

Sep 12, 2005 5:30pm

goodbye, flickr

I decided to delete my Flickr account today. I hadn't uploaded an image in a month or two, and my only exposure to the site was through various RSS feeds. It felt strangely satisfying to hit the big delete button without backing up or otherwise saving photos.

Sep 8, 2005 4:20pm

coast to coast

I'd like to see Maciej's paintings animated through the production process, but instead I will look at the front pages of the San Francisco Chronicle and The New York Times:

Coast To Coast.

Sep 5, 2005 12:28pm

two things before I bail

1. I understand podcasting now

Still haven't successfully listened to a single talkie-podcast, except for one Adam Bosworth talk from IT Conversations where he referred to "this chart" at point and I threw up my hands & turned it off.

But Ryan pointed out DnB Sets, which offers a podcast of drum & bass and breaks sets, most an hour or more in length. This is a really great way to get music! iTunes handles all the details, and every morning I get two or three hours of fresh music to listen to and throw away when I'm done.

2. WTF happened to George Bush?

I'm not a fan of the President, but I thought his general reaction to 2001-09-11 was pretty admirable. Within a day he was front & center acting like he was in control, and imparting a general sense of getting-shit-done. Guiliani helped, too. I understand about photo-ops and PR, but putting on appearances is important.

This week, we have a mealy-mouthed dingbat flying around in his little airplane, listing how many buckets of ice are going to be sent to NOLA and staging absurdist theatrical on-camera "briefings" with the head of FEMA to reiterate the obvious. We know the situation is heart-rendingly fucked - get into that helicopter behind you and go do something about it!

Observe:

"I can see my house from here!"

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