Monthly Archives: August 2009

Blog Hiatus/Not Here

Hey — I’ll be incommunicado for the next week or so, will be at Foo Camp, then Burning Man, then on the road to Boston.  I expect to be reconnected around September 8th.  Until then, you might enjoy jwz’s blog instead.


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On Starting Businesses

When asked the question, “why do women start fewer high tech startups than men?” some people have responded that women are “less interested in risk-taking” (perhaps genetically — usually the phrase “predisposed” is used, then).

An excellent observation from a person successfully running their own lucrative business[1]:

I think there’s a fallacy that those who start their own businesses or work on their own are somehow born with an “entrepreneurial spirit” that the regular workaday employees just don’t have that. They aren’t “risk-takers”, they aren’t self-motivated, and they just can’t manage themselves.

Why do we get so wrapped up in the idea that business-makers are risk-takers?  And then ardently exclaim that women don’t have this quality?

This strikes me as a double-whammy of cultural self-hinderance — setting businesspeople in a class apart, and women in particular in the class-that’s-not-it.  Why do we set ourselves up that way?  Why even spread the idea?


[1] via Leo Babauta at Zen Habits

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Persuasive Technology

Wow, this is really cool —

“Kendra Markle[1], bio:  I build tools for healthy behavior change using persuasive technology. I believe new mobile health tools will produce better health outcomes for big health issues, such as managing chronic conditions. Plus they’ll be more fun than traditional treatments and very cost effective at scale.”

I am now thinking about persuasive technology.  This is a fabulous idea, and an excellent class of technologies to think about.

For example, I researched and built a robotic shirt to sense spinal position and help people have healthier postures & decrease back pain, by providing tactile feedback to retrain muscle memory.  And, I already frequently build little things to help myself, into my life (low-tech example: leaving keys by the door).  Until now, I hadn’t seen that project as part of the larger class of persuasive techonologies, which I think is a wonderfully suggestive and inspiring term.


[1] Reference,, creating computer-assisted therapy

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Interesting Questions to Ask 2

I found this compelling and intriguing set of questions via Ethan Zuckerman’s blog:

  • If you had the opportunity to do so, what problems would you solve with a $5 million dollar budget?
  • What about $50 million dollars?
  • And $500 million?

It’s a fun way to get a handle on the scale of various problems, and also a fun way to sort out which problems you’d work on, given proper resources.  

I’m still thinking about what my answers are.  Will post them here!

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The Coolest Open Source Hardware Projects In The Land

The coolest open source hardware project I’ve seen to date is the TuxPhone + Open Cell Phone Project.

The Tux Phone is a GSM cell phone you can build from parts, originally developed by Surj Patel. Apparently he got into a Hulk-like Rage one day in 2005 and, fed up with the state of available cell phones, decided to make an open source hardware cell phone! It’s not sexy or tiny, but you can build it yourself.  And that means that if it doesn’t do what you want, you get to make it better!

The Open Cell Phone project is the other half of the project, and provides a Free operating system.  I’m not sure if the TuxPhone project is still alive today, unfortunately, but I think it’s pretty awesome!

I also just found out about the Open Cores and Open Graphics (as in graphics cards and drivers) projects, which are both way cool as well.

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Interesting Questions

If you were giving a TED talk, what would you give your talk about?

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Designing the UI for a Firefox Extension

Has anyone ever sent you a link to a big directory of photos? “Hi, I took 9,000 pictures on my recent trip. They’re each 5MB, and there might be a good one of you in there somewhere. Check it out!!!”

You click on the name of an image. Then you click back to the directory. Click. Back. This process is hella inconvenient! But I’ve done it often enough that I think I deserves a Special Tool, something Better. So I wrote a Firefox Extension! It auto-increments the URL of a photo (DSC_0001.JPG => DSC_0002.JPG) with just a click, so you can effectively just scroll through a huge pile of images very quickly and efficiently.

That’s all jolly good, and was kind of fun to make, until I started trying to figure out how to change the UI from what I’d made just-for-testing-it-out, to something that anyone else could use. I’m actually kind of stumped trying to figure out what sort of controls this should have, so I’m polling for your thoughts: How should I arrange things (buttons? clicks? icons? arrows?) that would make sense for this?

If you just want to try it out, you can see what I have so far:


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