Add this SMTP server to your contact list?

Instant messenger has proven relatively immune to the scourge of spam that affects email today. Tagging messages from those on your buddy list, you can implement a system similar (in theory) to SPF, prioritizing mail from your buddies.

For an extra layer of authentication, write a plugin for the instant messenger that communicates "i've sent you message-id foo", to confirm that the email is indeed from a known contact. At this point anything with a From: address that matches a contact, but a Message-ID: for which no notification was received, is automatically trapped as questionable and held for review (unless, at some point, the Message-ID: is received from the sender in question).

Straining pollution from the air

Recently Volvo began installing on some of its cars an air filter behind the front intake grill that cleans the air of more pollution than the vehicle itself emits. They've begun to sell models with this feature built-in; a fleet of mobile air cleaners will descend upon the world, cleaning it of smog -- in theory.

Installing these filters on each vehicle in the city bus fleet seems a logical step forward from this; my rusty grasp of airflow says 5280 cubic feet an hour of air is about 140 cubic feet per second -- presuming the air intake is a foot square. Given six hours averaging 5 miles an hour, the bus will sweep 15,840 cubic miles of air.

Data on the density of air particulates would be a valuable proof to this experiment; sampling the air repeatedly over a number of weeks before and after the filters are installed provides a way to show the decreasing air pollution at high-traffic areas such as the downtown bus station or the Franklin corridor.

One result of the experiments would be a partial map of the pollution index at a much finer granularity than is easily available; arguing that a bus station's air is cleaner due to the lack of cars and trucks might benefit public transportation and ecological concerns.

Neighborhoods with especially high levels of pollutants would be identified, with a solution available to the residents: installing a cleaning filter in their air conditioner would improve, slowly, the quality of the air they breathe each night.

RSS feeds of doctorate theses

In my subscriptions today I found a link to a Purdue University M.S. thesis. I'd like to see many more of these, because they're all interesting to someone.

One way to do this would be with an RSS subscription consisting of theses submitted to the public by those seeking advancement in education would be a wonderful reading list, especially in NetNewsWire; I can leave it subscribed for 9 months of the year while it's silent, set their feed to only let me check once every so often (supporting 304 Not Modified) — and now those in college find people listening, and discussing, things that they publish. It's so much more accessible than the usual publication route; blogging is cheaper, for each individual carryiing part of the burden, and in exchange we all hear each other's voices, and say our mind.

That's true intellectual freedom, in a way; with the advent of hosting services like TypePad, LiveJournal, AOL Journal and several smaller ones, combined with a safe public terminal, you can achieve true anonymity — something the Internet sees rarely these days. Find an ISP run by a friend, as most will happily anonymize your traffic logs to remove all trace of your passage.

Update: Thanks to #joiito for a link to, an online collection of theses from many sources.

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Radio iChat: Advertising shows over the 'net

Hydra has spawned some interesting discussion since Emerging Tech; Steve Gillmor highlights a really good quote below:

I fully expect Hydra style note-taking to become the norm at technical conferences amongst Mac owning participants. For a single company sending multiple developers, it allows the participants to much more quickly digest and build upon the conference content in a forum. For individuals or those folks that simply play well with others, it allows the individual to gain knowledge from a group of people that likely have very different backgrounds. [via Clay Shirky]
Now if we can get Apple to open up Rendezvous across the Net.�

There's one problem with what he suggests, though: Rendezvous wasn't designed to function fully over more than a single network. One of the core pieces of Rendezvous, "service discovery", doesn't carry beyond a given machine's local network.

This is probably good, for things like iTunes shares and my powerbook's web server: I really don't want everyone on the 'net digging through my stuff.

On the other hand, I wouldn't mind being able to present those same services to a select few people — and interestingly enough, all those people are in my iChat buddy list.

Thus, I propose extending iChat to become a conduit to specific people, as I approve them; then those specific people receive service "broadcasts", when I start a service (like Hydra). It's like Aimster, only in a highly generic form: any existing Rendezvous service would work over it. Now I can open a chat with a coworker, approve them for service discovery, share the source code via Hydra, turn on my iSight, and we have instant remote collaboration.

As an added benefit, now everyone on my iChat buddy list has the potential to be a music broadcaster. By publicly sharing access to discover a specific service, they can publish radio content to any of their friends — and I think that has far more value than any use of Rendezvous I've ever seen.

Combining videoconferencing with radio distribution, artists can give and receive instant, live feedback on their songs, answer questions, talk about other things they like, whatever. Lines of communication that didn't exist a year ago suddenly become available.

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Integrating blogs and DMOZ

The k-collector project is working on integrating topical directories with individual MovableType posts, in an RSS 2.0 feed. DMOZ currently publishes the category list (as RDF), so it'd be possible to assign DMOZ categories to posts on my blog, using DMOZ as a topic cloud.

Over time, I'd assign multiple DMOZ categories to the posts, and then publish the posts in a DMOZ-like tree structure somewhere on my blog (recursive tree-surfing html-producing plugin, I suppose). Eventually all my posts would be heavily weighted with categories, and the linking would be good. "See the other 4 URLs in this category at DMOZ", for instance.

Building mappings between one category and another for the major portals would provide the ability to speak everyone's category structure; then you add automatic feedback routines, and you've got content that publishes itself to the indexers for review. End-to-end Internet publishing, with the categorical depth of Usenet.

I'd like to hear comments on this one; if I'm dumb, say the word :) I'll be happy to listen, and respond.

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Geostumbling regional activism communities

People On Page: YASNS...

...or Yet Another Social Networking Service. PeopleOnPage is a browser plug-in co-browsing app, which supports two views of other people in the system: Dating, and World. (Gotta love two-category taxonomies...) And they seem to be following the Liz Lawley dictum -- "Its the faces, stupid!" -- by providing a user-created POPCard with a photo.


Add geographical services, and suddenly you have a live, roaming network of people who's cell phones are searching their local peer-to-peer network for compatible people.

Then you let someone watch your web browser, when you don't mind, and they can decide if they want to talk to you; it's like "hey, what are you reading?", Internet-style.

If all the personals people publish their client databases, minus an email address and location, plus a pgp public key. When you encounter someone nearby, you encrypt a greeting to their public key, sign it with your private key, and negotiate that you're you. They do the same, using the central registry for verification, and you've got basic identity verification.

Add a per-URL site filter, so that they can see when I surf sites that I deem appropriate for advertising: things that are on this list of organizations might be a good start; This would be another. There's a trend, here; I'm choosing how people see me, and they can interpret as they wish.

The web browser proxy software required to do this has been implemented as well, in POE; combined with a new link on the history page, Surf this site publicly. Stir in a Java app installed on my phone, reporting my location every two minutes to my website.

The killer app potential of this is that you can now show people an activism community's traffic, online, live. By tracking each person's individual comments on an issue (through their freely-provided and pre-configured blog), activism becomes a tangible, visible thing. It becomes something that people can see their effect on.

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Slashdot your representative

The p2p networks are considering a possible move agianst the RIAA in response to this by using recently enacted anti-spam laws."

One advantage of not being totally decentralized is that you have influence, legally. Now the Internet community can actively use the laws it's helped pass. There needs to be more of this kind of thing; it just takes a few more votes. Participate!

I propose a modification to Slashdot, such that users who have logged in and provided a name, address, and 9-digit zip code (in the united states) or a 6-digit post code (in the united kingdom) are shown a new link with articles: Contact your representative.

Now the Slashdot effect serves to enable millions of hits a day with the chance to vote. The last figure I remember was hearing was 30,000 unique visitors a day; imagine if ten percent of them each send one fax to their representative. Suddenly they're hearing the voices of three thousand Slashdot users, clearly, once a day.

Now do it more often. For every article. And support the United Kingom efforts, too. Other countries, too; perhaps a distributed network of Slashdot users with modems.

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Tablet programming

Forever jotting things down on paper napkins, it did not surprise me that Chris went for a pen-based PC. But his use of it is very interesting, namely that he finds it especially useful for mind-mapping during discussions. Chris uses the Windows Journal application to sketch the maps directly in digital ink, whereas the Mindjet software enables actual maps to be constructed that can be operated on and manipulated in many powerful ways (most of which I have yet to utilise except for the ability to transfer tasks to and from Outlook).

The hardware and software platforms for flowchart programming, provided in a nice, $4,000 bundle (if you can get a tablet, they seem to be rather popular). Rock on. I wonder how well it converts the drawings into structures, and if I can dangle VBA off of each structure. With VBA I can call Perl, I think, and then autobuild the VBA and the Perl through the VBA. The evil is complete.

However, they don't have support for Visio, and they don't have support for Macintosh. Oops. But it's a very nice dream, especially for the Windows folk out there. (And if one comes my way, I'd be thrilled to use review it :) This is a tablet's killer application.

In the meantime, there's always the option of doing it in POE.

Opinionated linking: Adding opinion metadata to hyperlinks

No, I'm not putting in a link to Orlowski's piece. You can get there through Jonathan. I don't want to reward Orlowski by pushing him up the blog rank. (This is why we need Kevin Marks'"vote" attribute that lets us specify that although we're linking to something, we don't like it.)
Stating disagreement could be done via several methods; I think a combination of two of these methods is the best route, and I'll state that route below. Following the policy of "practice what you preach", I'll be implementing these gradually here as well.

Two notes. First, I'm not focusing on disagreement; being able to say "i+agree" and "i+disagree" is the goal. Second, non-opinionated links should be interpreted as indicating interest, without opinion; if desired, we can explicitly state "neutrality".

Here's a link to the article in question, with the disagreement indicated in the URI and CSS.

Non-standard "opinion" attribute for A tags
<a href="..." opinion="negative">

This allows us to mark any link with an opinion; using a limited set of keywords ("negative", "positive"), we can indicate our opinion of a given link.

This method has critical flaws: "opinion" is not a valid (X)HTML attribute, ranking systems (like Daypop) discard the attribute, and the "opinion" is not presented to the either the user or the linked-to site (more on this below) -- they have to dig into HTTP referrers and into the HTML source to find out the opinions of a given link.

CSS "opinion" classes for A tags
A.negative { color: red; }
<a href="..." class="negative">

This allows us to mark any link with an opinion; using a set of keywords defined in CSS ("negative", "positive"), we can indicate our opinion of a given link.

This method resolves one of the above flaws -- the visibility of the opinion to the person clicking the link. Using CSS, we can indicate positive links with a blue solid underline, negative links with a red dashed underline, neutral links with a black solid underline. Whatever.

Unfortunately, it doesn't solve any of the previously listed problems of the "opinion" attribute; it's still not indexed by engines, and the linked-to site has to do context discovery.

Locations that aren't in the page
<a href="...#opinion=positive">
<a href="...#opinion=negative?...&...">

This allows us to mark any link that doesn't already have a #location defined with an opinion.

There's a couple disadvantages: the opinion won't show up in the server logs, and the user might not see the opinion in the address bar. One strong advantage comes to mind, though; I'm reasonably certain Google's rankings treat in-page links as distinct weights, given the advent of single-page blogger archives.

Extra CGI parameters
<a href="...?opinion=positive">
<a href="...?...&opinion=negative">

This allows us to mark any link with an opinion; using a CGI parameter, we can indicate our opinion of the link.

This method resolves one of the above flaws -- the visibility of the opinion to the linked-to site. Properly configured, they can break down the statistics of incoming links by opinion -- and perhaps The Register would understand more clearly that Orlowski isn't popular -- to the contrary, he's reviled. That he's on Daypop because we're angry with him, not because what he writes is well-liked.

A note about ranking engines is in order. I presume herein that ranking engines will not strip the CGI parameters from the link, as doing so might break perfectly valid links that require other parameters. As almost every link I've seen has no CGI parameters, I don't have much real-world data to evidence this one way or the other, but if the popularity of this idea rises enough, perhaps they'll be influenced!

Putting it all together
<a href="...?i+disagree" class="positive">

Combining the CSS method with the CGI parameter method, we can implement a solution for opinionated linking, in a form that evidences the opinion of the link to Daypop, the person clicking the link, and the linked-to site. The CGI parameter serves to distinguish the link from other links to the same page, with differing opinions. As an opinionated link passes from blog to blog, its index on ranking sites such as Technorati will rise independent from the same link with a different opinion (or none at all).

Supporting XHTML: my:opinion
<a class="positive" ... xmlns:my="http://semantic.web/link/opinions" my:opinion="positive" >

torstens provided a nice way to add XHTML support to this; a namespace for opinion. I've integrated it into the master example up top, and I recommend its use highly in conjunction with the CSS and CGI query.

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Weather feed

I'm going to be traveling soon, so I'd like to watch to long-term weather report for the areas I'll be visiting. This should be done via an RSS feed, and I prefer's service.

Sample output is available at this site; the 10-day forecast near the end of the page is what I desire most.

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