Archive for December, 2011


December 16, 2011

From the blog that gave you the edible iPod and social computing for puddings, I now present… iPoetry. Following on from a mid-winter poetry reading by authors from Salt Publishing’s Modern Voices series earlier this week, I thought I’d round off the year with a poem by Manchester-based poet and fellow techie Adrian Slatcher, which he has kindly given me permission to reproduce. As you can see there is a strong hint of something Internet-related and it seems a fitting note on which to end the blogging year. This could be the unofficial anthem of the newly emerging Web Science agenda, which seeks to understand what we have created and where it is taking us, and of which I suspect we’ll be hearing a great deal in 2012.

A Colossal Machine

Rewinding our histories can’t play the tape,
For that requires a colossal machine,
That has long gone out of production,
Or has yet to be made. In part, it’s myth,
Yet we subscribe to it, our site feed
Syndicating the latest news, as if a thing
Can be dripfed to us through words.

The manual alone would be extensible,
Using a language shared by half the world’s tribes,
Competing to contribute to a shared goal.
The ultimate prize for the next life;
Our essence read, stored, accidentally erased,
Whilst the tests go on in private.
In my room I murmur a prayer.

Adrian has also done some interesting things with technology to link readings to user responses, but as this is only available on his iPhone I haven’t got a link to post. However, there is a video of Adrian reading Colossal at his website and if you are in the Manchester area today then he is appearing at the Whitworth Art Gallery this evening.

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a peaceful New Year.


If hungry Then pizza

December 12, 2011

For some time I’ve been thinking about a device that silently measures my growing hunger pangs and, when they reach a pre-defined threshold, automatically orders a hot veggie pizza from our local delivery shop. Pizza would be on the office doorstep just as my brain is deciding it’s time for lunch.

This of course is part of the vision for the Internet of Things. Perhaps not the pizza scenario per se, but the idea that ordinary, every day appliances and gadgets will be hooked up to the Internet and start communicating with each other. So far, one of the obstacles has been how to connect devices with software services, which in turn communicate with other devices.

Thanks to a heads-up from a friend I’ve been playing with one possible solution. If This Then That (or ‘IfTTT’, pronounced as ‘lift’ without the ‘l’) is a website that allows the user to build Web service ‘recipes’ in which online tasks are triggered by actions. So, for example, I’ve just created a recipe that will send me an e-mail when the weather forecast starts to warn of rain. Other examples include an SMS alert when someone uploads a photo to Facebook that has been tagged with your name.

The data that initiate these triggers and actions come from ‘channels’ and at the moment these are the usual Web 2.0 suspects – Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, weather services etc. So far it’s fairly basic stuff but hopefully you can see the potential. The number of channels could be expanded to include the kind of Internet-enabled devices that would re-categorise the Internet of Things from pipe dream to killer app. We could have fridges co-ordinating electricity consumption with kettles, or even responding to an external service that triggers switch on/switch off actions in response to the load on the National Grid. Indeed, another website, Pachube, already provides some of the software infrastructure to do aspects of this.

Surely this is a marvellous time to be one of those cubicle jockeys who toil away for Internet start-ups? Any day now that age-old techie conditional statement will be automated:

IF hungry THEN order pizza ELSE carry on programming.