The thoughts of a web 2.0 research fellow on all things in the technological sphere that capture his interest.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Go out and buy a K8055!

Before yesterday I had no idea what a K8055 was, but it turns out it is exactly what I've always wanted, and after pressing buttons and lighting up various LEDs for the past half-hour I am convinced everyone should have one!

Basically the K8055 provides a method of sending and receiving digital and analogue inputs and outputs from a computer.

The pleasure of the K8055 is that it is so easy to use (especially in comparison with the previously discussed USB thermometer that I'm Twittering). Not only does it come with the required drivers and a demo program, but the source code for the demo program is provided in a number of languages.

Now I need to decide on what I want to input or output.

Currently I'm thinking either a bulb that brightens and dims according to the mood of Wolverhampton (using a sentiment analysis of Twitter), or maybe just a big "ARGGHHH!!!" button that I can hit every time I get annoyed. But with a host of switches and sensors available (e.g., infrared & motion detectors) the possibilities are seemingly endless, so any other suggests are welcome.

Labels: ,

posted by David at | 1 Comments Links to this post

Thursday, 15 October 2009

The Web of Objects: @MyColdRoom

With the web and the real world becoming increasingly intertwined, I found myself wandering about how easy it would be for an appallingly bad programmer like myself to start automatically sending information from the real world to the web. This was the start of one of the most pointless feeds on Twitter: @MyColdRoom.

@MyColdRoom is a Twitter stream of the temperature in my home 'office', automatically generated when my desktop is turned on.

I started with a USB thermometer because:
1) USB thermometers are cheap (£10-£15).
2) USB thermometers come with software to write to text files.
3) My flat is generally bloody freezing and I wanted to know how freezing.
Unfortunately the software that came with TEMPerNTC was useless: 'device error'. Luckily [as always] there was someone out there who had created the appropriate library, and even a simple Visual Basic app. A dozen or so lines of appalling code later (and a shortcut in the right folder) and the application is posting to Twitter whenever the computer is turned on and every time the temperature changes by more than half a degree.

As was quickly noted, it is a rather pointless stream; beyond my mother there are very few people who care about the temperature in my office. However the interest in a web of objects has little to do with single streams in isolation, but with the patterns that emerge from multiple streams, and with information being shared between objects.

It's amazing how simple it is to set up an automatic Twitter stream from the real world. It'll be interesting to see who goes the furthest in automating the most mundane of events from around their home.

Labels: , ,

posted by David at | 2 Comments Links to this post

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Why I Hate Google: My Ranking has Improved

Over the last couple of months there has been a bit of a slow down in traffic to this site. Not particularly surprising as I have been posting far less frequently. Then, yesterday, my web traffic shot up: three times as many visitors as I've been having the last few weeks.

The reason? Seemingly a slight change in Google's algorithm in my favour. The site has gained no new links, there are no new posts worthy of note, Google have just changed the significance of one of their many ranking attributes and it has changed in my favour.

This can be seen most clearly when taking traffic from one of Google's sites in isolation:

It doesn't matter for this blog. Its purpose is not to make money, just provide a place for some of the random thoughts that creep into my mind.

There are, however, many business that rely primarily on search engines driving traffic to their web sites, and such huge variations in traffic can only cause difficulties. Whilst social media is changing how many of us find information, search engines are still very powerful, and Google is too powerful.

Labels: , ,

posted by David at | 0 Comments Links to this post

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Twittering Your Work

As a general rule I always send an update to Twitter whenever I write a blog post or a piece of my work is published online. After all, like most bloggers, a couple of dozen extra visitors can be a significant proportion of my daily traffic. However equally important is the fact that URL shorteners like can provide useful information about the impact of my work.

This was emphasised today when I sent an update about my latest online article: Web 2.0 fails to excite today's researchers. I was surprised to find that it was actually already the subject of a number of tweets (admittedly a couple of them were automated).
However without twittering about the article myself I would never have found some of the comments about the piece: with only 140 characters article titles are often ignored or abbreviated, whilst the use of URL shorteners means that few comments will be identifiable through Yahoo's Site Explorer (which has an uncertain future anyway).

So if you want to know what people are saying about your work on Twitter, you really need to talk about your work on Twitter...or at least create the links.

Labels: ,

posted by David at | 0 Comments Links to this post