Friday Aug 01, 2008

Web Smarts -- Using Time

Imagine how much easier it will be if my wife and I, who share calendars on Google, can use some kind of service that would  propose a few flights for our family to some desired destination at some free cross section of our time—the move from Internet calendars and other identity-rich measures (whether of the Google, Yahoo or other variety) to integration with already existing web services we all use (for everything from travel and budget planning to various other purchases, projects and plans) should be a relatively trivial matter.  

Another scenario—I'm looking for a house. My calendar is on the web. Some service can arrange house seeing expeditions for me and reserve time on my calendar.

This does not seem to be a tremendously difficult mathematical problem, and it doesn't involve much AI.

So, why don't we have these types of services yet. Lack of proper integration?

This type of integration simply allows to deploy other dimensions of search and constraint satisfaction technology—any search or technology that reduces transaction costs and brings real convenience to us. There is not really much else to it!

Tuesday Jan 30, 2007

Falling for Flickr

Masjid Imam Reza



Gonbad-e Haruniyeh

First, I hit the limit on the number of albums and then the limit on the number of photographs that can be posted on Flickr's free service.

So, now, I'm afraid I've fallen for the paid Flickr PRO service, and got myself a jUploader. Now, I'm busy uploading photographs starting from 2003, a year or so after I bought my first decent digital camera.

For months, I resisted the upgrade from free to paid Flickr service. I planned to roll out a content server of my own but never found the time to do it or the right ISP for it where I could simply manage a piece of hardware housed someplace. (Fulup Ar Foll tells me such a service is readily available in France.) If I could host my own service, I would no longer have to depend on or pay Flickr anything for the service it offers. My main goal is to have the photos on some file system accessible by some HTTP server that can dish it out. This is not much to set up but just as I said, I've not found an ISP that provides a nice service where I can "own" the use of a piece of dedicated hardware, with unlimited download albeit on a fixed network bandwidth and some file backup service already provided. This way I can install and configure software as I wish and I don't have to store the hardware in my own home.

So, yes, I finally signed up for a 1-year subscription to Flickr PRO and have started posting all these photographs that have been sitting in iPhoto library of an iMac at home. About 3 more years of photos are waiting to be posted.

Some of these photos are from years ago. 

Here, I have linked-in two photos from the batch I just uploaded from 2003.

The details for the first photo, taken in the Astan-e Qods-e Razavi in Mashhad, Iran, can be found here

I remember, when I took this photograph in the open courtyard, a mildly-spoken sermon was being delivered in a very simple Persian on how parents should care for their children. My wife, for whom Persian was a 3rd (or 4th?) language, still remembers easily following the Persian.

The second photo captures the main wall of Gonbad-e Haruniyeh, a 14th century mausoleum, about whose origins there are many theories. The mausoleum is on the Tus-Mashhad road. I rememer finding it amazing how much cooler the inside of this 700-year-old building was when compared to the climate just outdoors. (Yes, the high ceilings and the design for air circulation has something to do with it. There might also be some underground water or spring.)

Monday Jan 08, 2007

Library as Service

My library is different from yours because we like different books. We have accumulated whatever book we like as a person, whether one or thousands of volumes.

A community library serves a similar function. They usually have book committees and patrons who order books and preserve them for others to read. 

So is it with independent bookstores. They have to be selective. They do not have the square footage of large bookstore chains which amass large number of books, including the recently published. There is very little filtering. The goal in the large bookstore is to sell, to provide objects of consumption. The goal is not to collect.

The library, on the other hand, has traditionally collected. That has been its primary objective, not the provision of service or objects of consumption.

A good library is a place where you find things you would not expect to find in a local chain bookstore.  Once the library reduces its activity to a lending service for what is current, it is no longer a library in the traditional sense. However, can any community library be more than just a lending service? Community libraries in the U.S. rarely have enough space to collect and preserve books for the long term. In the digital age and in an age where text is produced at a dizzying rate, how can any library serve its traditional function without an adequate infusion of resources and funds?

Within the five miles of my home there are a few community libraries. Other than their children's section, they can hardly afford the space to create and preserve a significant collection for the older population. However, without such preparation, the community members -- whether child or older -- can rearely experience the full breadth of the function a library serves.

A recent story in The Washington Post reminds us of the problems of the community library and where this wonderful insitution may be heading ("Hello Grisham--So Long Hemingway," WP, January 2, 2007, page A01).

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