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    Tip: Be with People who Love what You Love

    This morning, I attended another of Jeff Pulver’s Social Media Breakfasts.

    Every time I go, I end up risking a parking ticket. The metered spots are invariably for 2 hours, and 10AM comes almost instantaneously. I can’t tear myself away to go mind the meter; been lucky, so far.

    At these events, I’m continuously engaged with friends new and old; like-minded people who love ideas like I do, and who can bat them around like tennis pros.

    If you’re like me, you find this kind of intense interaction to be exhilarating and stimulating.

    This is what we want to facilitate at SocialDevCamp East — a thoughtful conversation about new ideas and how to realize them. We want to discuss the future in an informed way, synthesizing the lessons of the past with today’s emerging trends. We want to include economics, psychology, and design in this discussion. And iPhone and Rails and Twitter.

    Anyway, if this sounds like a conversation you want to have, we guarantee that SocialDevCamp is going to be a blast, and that the day (and the party afterwards) will be a blur. A good blur; a blur you can leverage in the form of new ideas, relationships, and opportunities.

    We want to thank our two newest sponsors: AwayFind.com and WebConnection.com. Also thanks to David Kirkpatrick, Senior Technology Editor at Fortune magazine, for attending.

    Looking forward to seeing you and your ideas in Baltimore on May 10th!

    Sincerely,
    Dave, Ann, Keith, and Jennifer

    The Mashup Is Dead

    Today I want to rant about a few things I hate. They include:

    • The Word “Mashup”
    • Proclamations of the form: “A Thing is Dead; Long Live that Thing”
    • People Who Insist on Continuing to Use the Word Mashup
    • The Term “Web 2.0″

    I know it’s heresy. Mashups and Web 2.0 are what’s hot, right? I myself am considered to be a “mashup creator” working with Web 2.0 concepts.

    But that era is behind us. The term “Mashup” made sense when coders were actually lifting data from places it was hard to lift from and putting it into contexts that were hard to access. This, my friends, is no longer the state of affairs on the Internet.

    Today, we are working with a world of data that wants to be free and is published via countless, well documented API’s. In the cases where API’s are still not available (or whorishly published in hopes of becoming universally adopted), advanced tools and protocols are available to automate what used to be hard.

    We must remember that the word “mashup” hails back to music, originally; a talented music editor might string together pieces of previously recorded music to create something new. This was an artform in itself, and implied a kind of subversion. A repurposing of content, often done without the permission or knowledge of the original creator.

    Well, the days of this kind of thing on the Internet are, thanks to everybody’s efforts to open things up, largely over. In a world where open source software is widely accepted, where it makes sense for companies like Facebook, Google, Yahoo, Twitter, Amazon (and gee, every other damn company out there) to publish API’s that encourage their data to be woven into the fabric of the net, there is no need for the coy sense of subversion that comes from the word “Mashup.”

    What we’ve got now, folks, is DATA! Great flowing rivers of it! Software that helps us use it! Ruby on Rails, Asterisk, MySQL, PGSQL, Apache, Freeswitch, Flex! Where it’s not open source, it’s at least free! Everything has an API and the things that don’t are falling away.

    The next person that says to me with a straight face that they “make mashups” is going to get sucker-punched. The word has lost its meaning, so let’s move on.

    That said, explaining to a layperson what it is we “creative coders” do, sometimes you, well, have to resort to saying, “I make mashups.” But do us all a favor, try to explain what that really means today. Let’s move to a world where we can think about data, about tools (which is really just code-as-data), and imagining what we can do with it all.

    Mashup was a good word for perhaps 2003-2007, but it implies limitations and barriers that simply no longer exist. We can do better.

    What would YOU call the innovations that are possible with all the data and tools we have today?

    MoMA NY Selects Twittervision & Flickrvision

    Yesterday, I received final confirmation that the Museum of Modern Art in New York has selected my mash-ups twittervision.com and flickrvision.com for its 2008 exhibition Design and the Elastic Mind.

    I’m certainly very flattered to be included and have never considered myself to be an artist. I didn’t seek out MoMA on this. I am just very, very happy to have an opportunity to participate in a small way in the ongoing dialog about what technology means for humanity. Crap. Now I sound like an artist.

    Incidentally, this means that twittervision.com and flickrvision.com are the first ever Ruby On Rails apps to be included in a major art exhibition. I already told DHH.

    Anyway, at RailsConf Europe a few weeks ago, Dave Thomas’ keynote speech emphasized the role of software designers as artists. He said, “treat your projects as though they are artworks, and sign your name to them.” Or pretty close to it. I think this is incredibly valuable advice for software designers today.

    We’re past the days of using machines as amplifiers of our physical efforts. It’s not enough to jam more features into code just so we can eliminate one more position on the assembly line. We’re at a point where the machines can help amplify our imaginations.

    Today, creativity and imagination (what some folks are calling the right brain) are becoming the key drivers of software and design. With imagination, we can see around the corners of today’s most pressing challenges. While technical skill is certainly valuable, if it’s applied to the wrong problems, it’s wasted effort.

    Creativity, imagination, and artistry help us identify the areas where we should put our efforts. They help us see things in new ways.

    Everywhere I turn (perhaps partly because I am a Rubyist), I hear discussions of Domain Specific Languages, and of framing our problems in the right grammars.

    This is hugely valuable because the creative part of our brain thinks in terms of semantics, grammars, and symbols. If we can’t get the words right, our imaginations can’t engage.

    Everything stays stuck in the left side of our brains when we have to jump through hoops to please some particular language or development environment.

    I hope you all will come out to see Design and the Elastic Mind when it opens at NYC MoMA, Feb 24 – May 12 2008. I’m not sure how we’re going to present the sites but we’re going to see if we can get some partners and sponsors involved to do something really beautiful.

    And again, thanks to MoMA for the selection. And here’s to creativity, imagination, and artistry as the next big thing in software design!