Monday, November 30, 2009

Open Source Culture: Video Mashups

Why open source?
The most compelling reason is to paraphrase Newton - to see farther by standing on the shoulders of giants.
In software development, this means that I can, for example, use django to publish a content rich website, instead of writing my own web publishing software.
This sort of example though is not very powerful, after all you could make a similar claim about microsoft word.
The additional power comes from the release of the code behind the application.
1) From a pedogogical standpoint, I can look at successful and well architected open source projects and improve my own coding abilities
2) From a practical standpoint, if I think that I can improve say the data aggregation feature in django then I can contribute to the django source code (rather than wait for the team to get around to implementing this feature)

The economic model for open source software is consulting, if I am a large contributor to django then I can go out and assist people in implementing their django implementations. Write the software for free and charge on the maintenance fees so to speak.

Open source software is very compelling as a model to emulate probably because
1) I can use software that other people make and realize my software vision
2) Perhaps I dont have the time to build an entire software package myself, but I can still contribute to an open source product and thus satisfy my desire to be part of this creative/technical/whatever process

Now writers, filmmakers, artists, etc look to the open source and are interested in emulating some of these aspects
Say I want to use the music of miles davis as the soundtrack to an animation, or clips from taxi driver in a movie, or if i want to make an animation staring mickey mouse, or I want to use parts of a the fan man in my own novel about the east village (Walter Benjamin for example kept notebooks composed entirely of quotations from other books)
Why open source culture?
The pedogogical nature is apparent.
I want to make an animated movie but I want to using an existing character, or I want to learn how to edit rather than shoot, so I want to use some existing clips to make into a movie.
However from a creative standpoint - perhaps I want to respond to a particular work by using that particular work, or an aspect of that work (think of all art that uses mass market appropriation like Warhol's brillo boxes, or Richard Prince)

But what does it mean to open source a cultural artifact and how can you use a these cultural atoms to create a work of originality? What are the atoms of cultural that we need to isolate in order to talk about open source culture.
I'll first talk about filmmaking, since I have made some movies.

The building blocks of film is the footage, the assets. In an animation, you could also imagine the assets being a character as well as all the photoshop layers of different character parts that can be animated seperately.

However the building blocks of film is also the score, the dialogue, the script, and the editing timeline.

There is a difference between releasing all the assets in a 'hard day's night', and the wav file of the song 'a hard day's night'. In the case of audio - I can go in and cancel out certain notes and frequencies. I apply certain filters and actually turn the song into an entirely new song. With a clip of a hard day's night - I am in many ways bound to the baked clip unless I want to insert a green screened character or use another compositing technique (for example forrest gump meeting past presidents, or the old coke commercials combining living performers with deceased performers). Now, it is possible that I could take all the clips of say, 'The Shinning' and turn it into a romantic comedy, however I am stuck with the framing, the acting, the lighting, the cinematography of the original movie. It will always look like 'The Shinning' more than my remix 'Winter in the Old Hotel'. A video mashup looks much different from a musical mash up. A musical mashup can still be considered a song, most video mashups dont resemble a narrative.

Another building block of film is the editing timeline. This is an interesting aspect of filmmaking that people dont really look into when considering open source culture, but is another aspect that could be shared. The cutting, the pacing, and the types of cuts will be different for Hitchcock's Rope compared to Lucas' Star Wars. In addition to open sourcing assets, filmmakers could open source editing timelines. In final cut pro, for example, you can export your timeline as an xml document. The clips are referenced as filenames that can be replaced by any other clip. So I can upload the cutting of a film for other people to use in their own films.

Further to build on open source software collaboration is the notion of version control.
In an open source software I different people can build on different version of the same software, diverge for a time, and then recombine into a master version. There is a lineage to open source software. I can see the same thing taking place with open source culture, placing culture within a context, an artistic lineage.

I am going to explore this a bit more in a series of studies providing the editing framework for classic movies - stay tuned!
Also - please contribute comments, criticisms, and suggestions.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Lost in programming translation

So today I am starting to follow up on some work that has piled up this week...

first up rapidsms on the malawi server. This has been a big issue because we switch ISPs, then I was unable to log on, then it seemed to be an issue with verizon fios (rather than malawi ISP), and now I am actually able to log in from my verizon fios - although we just lost internet.

also up is rapidsms clean up & easy install (setup tools)

For this integration testing I will probably use the
Cruise Control tool developed or adjusted by Jez
Humble. An example with some rapidsms forks is here

Seeing that this is a ruby tool has made me feel even worse about myself not using ruby, but really I dont have all the time in the world to develop on every platform known to man, and I have heard that ruby websites have some performance issues (thats just what I hear). So does python, but not as bad as ruby. Perl is best (really c is the best or assembler)- but it encourages idiosyncratic code. I sort of like to think of all these different programming languages as evolutions of natural language. For example perl (or perhaps assembler) is like egyptian heirogylphics - you need a specialized class of people (scribes) to read and write this language. Then eventually we get coptic (egyptian written in greek), and everyone can read and write it - it is like ruby - but perhaps you lose something in this.

Another analogy - different chinese transcriptions. There are different ways of connecting chinese sounds with the roman alphabet:for example Wade–Giles and Pinyin. Each system captures certain features of chinese, but neglects others, what you get in ease of use in using either system you loose in precision (of using the actual chinese)

Translation is hard

I also succumbed and picked up a git oreilly book. I am sick of scowering the web everytime I something unexpected happens during a merge, or push, or pull and I think I just need to cuddle up with a git book and a hot toddie. My current method of using git is rather sloppy and I would like to be sure and do everything the correct way as I start integrating the rapidsms apps/core etc.. More on version control another day.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Online Friendship

Should everyone be friends online?

One of my favorite talks at the IDF conference last week at the New School was Sean Cubitt's talk on the immateriality of labor panel. He mentioned friendship in relation to Aristotle's Nichomachean Ethics (how there are different types of friendships -his example was between the artist and the patron). He contrasted this with friendship in online communities - where friendship is now commodified and 'has a history.' It becomes more akin to joining a guild or a society than becoming 'friends'. This online friendship is not Aristotle's friendship. But what is it?

First what is Aristotle's notion of friendship? (Book 4 Nichomachean Ethics).
Well the idea is, what good it is to have happiness and success if you have no friends to lavish gifts on, or friends to celebrate you. If you are unhappy friends give you support, if you are airing in your ethical conduct friends will shame you into acting correctly. Friendship is what binds you to society at large. It sort of presiages the panopticon. So how is this different from online friendship?

The main difference is transparency. Online friendship is not really the friendship between two people, but is more of a specticle - it is mediated friendship This is what we are really talking about. It is the impression of friendship and the acts of friendship in an open space so other 'friends' can see that you are friends with other people. This sort of relationship is mistakenly called friendships. Really it is more like social status. Now there is another measure to which people can be judged. With regards to money, position, and popularity.

As I get older I find Aristotle more and more interesting. This probably means that I am becoming more and more boring.
In any case, there are two points in Aristotle's Ethics that I think are applicable to the online community space.
1) Friendship - there are different kinds of friendships - not everyone can be friends in the same way,
2) Gifting - not everyone can bestow gifts (or rather not everyone ought to bestow gifts)

The gifting idea is more radical in a way - namely that the virtue of a gifter is in the size of the gift relative to his capacity to give it. So is it ethical for a journeyman programmer to 'gift' his code in an open source project. Or is it perhaps incorrect to think about open source as a gift economy. Rather the journeyman is paying his dues - in a guild type system - building up capital. Is open source programing really a gift economy. Am I giving a gift when I send someone a cow on facebook, or am I giving a gift when I share my photos? Am I giving a gift - or am I accruing social capital? What sort of transaction is this?

I used to like to say that Morgan Stanley (where I worked) operated on a gift economy. I would need something from the market data team and they would give it to me, even though they dont report to me, because I would give them a mexican interest rate model (for example). A gift though really is not something that should operate in an economy, but rather should be an end in itself, or rather for the glorification of the gift giver.

I suppose capitalism turns everything into a transaction. I dont know if this is good or bad - but it makes it difficult to produce heros in the classical greek sense.

This obviously needs to be fleshed out a bit - but it has already languished a week in my drafts folder so better blogged than nothing

Singularity Song

I finally was able to get pd-extended to run without crashing and so revisit the singularity song. I think that PD is the way to go other than csound, because with pd it is easier to play around with a composition. I am not sure what frequency I want my sine wave to be in. Tonight I was able to record some voice samples and play them in PD while applying various frequency modulations to them.

I used the B09.sampler.loop.smooth patch to get started and now how to figure out what all the objects are actually doing so I can do this myself.

The work flow for this song will be as follows:
1) Record individual words for sine wave lyric parts
2) figure out what phasor, cos, hip and *441 do - yes it has been that long since I've used PD
3) record gospel/spiritual section. This will probably be manipulated in an audio editing program rather can garage band. My plan is to adjust pitch and tambre and perhaps add some instruments.
4) Finally I will probably add some instrumentation or maybe just beats.

I really have to say that in testing out this song, I really think PD will be helpful not just as a performance tool but as a compositional tool - similar to the use of the piano as a compositional tool. Interactive music applications are not just for performance but for composition (real-time versus batch - csound is batch)
Can I write a script to play PD - probably using pymedia or osc. That is probably the ticket. PD is the instrument, the script, or program, is the score.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Notebook Regained (not really)

Last week, I tried to cram too much detriteous into my japanese school kid backpack - and my little black notebook fell out. I have tried to develop a zen detachment towards all things - atman/nahman - so this only urked me slightly. However, it led me to consider why I keep a notebook at all. I have kept a notebook rather consistently since graduating from college. I started out with these little spiral bound books, moved to composition books, moved to blue leatherette bound books, used some moleskins (which I seem to have an endless supply of since I people get this for me for my birthday - ps just get me nintendo ds games), some muji notebooks, and now have a large supply of free notebooks from conferences and training sessions, as well as personalized notebooks with my maiden name and Morgan Stanley (my old sugar daddy).

I keep the notebooks in a drawer and in a shelf above my desk, between mass market paperbacks about intergalactic social experiments, and anachronistic digital culture books. I rarely if ever look at these notebooks. These notebooks dont really contain anything terribly deep or legible - I cant spell and my writing looks like ancient Akkadian. So why do I keep my notebooks? I think I keep notebooks so that I can better remember what I write - or so that I can at least go through the process of differentiating somewhat thoughtful thoughts from the endless stream of bunk running through my head.

I further reconsidered journaling (or notebooking) when I read Dave Hickey's article
(I love Air Guitar) on Susan Sontag's redacted notebooks. He posits that Susan Sontag did not actually want her notebooks to be published. I forget why he said she kept notebooks in the first place - and I would go back and reference the on line article, but it is inaccessable unless you have a harper's subscription. I just read Paul V's paper bound copy.

Where am I now? My old notebook lost, my older notebooks potentially used with out a use and might as well be lost. Should I just stop journalling??? No... What I think I will now do is perhaps every now and again review my notes and post journal greatest hits to the blog. That way I can at least review what I attempted to remember and differentiate from my stream of consciousness. My new notebook is a spiral book reporters notebook that Paul gave me after I shamed him - saying that he actually did not use these notebooks (apparently he does).

Greatest Journal Hits Sunday November 14:
a list of things to do: guitar, kf, rapidsms & paper, actionscript for lian, iphone game thing, draw somthing (13bit 1-6), found Foucault Archaeology of Knowledge.
future list of things to do: get novel working on github, iPhone app a week, rack space, where did i put that singularity song i wrote?? it is in the back of a book but which book?
Thoughts o Moby Dick of Code: What is it about obesssion? Obsession with the code as a representation of the world, obession with endless refactoring? Who is obsessed? Be sure to include long boring passages (except to you) on different programming languages, paradigms, and operating systems, and the uses of whale blubber.

"Call me Ishmael??" What is this - he is an outsider?? he is illigit??
What should my protagonist be called?? What are the names of some of my favorite protagonists? Scout, Horse Badortes, Hmm How bout some favorite books? Red and the Black (Julian), Madame Bouvary (Charles/Emma), Man without Qualities (what was his name? Hans Castorp? No that was Magic Mountain (not a fan of Thomas Mann - hate to say it) Tin drum?? Ok Sci Fi? Canopus in Argus, The foundation (Elijah/Jezzibel). Ok that is it

My handle is Je33ibe1. Git novel
(Jezebel was Ahab's wife)

Friday, November 13, 2009

Internet as playground

Otto and I met Cindy Jeffers this morning and preceeded to the Internet as Playground conference at the new school. Basically it is about labor practices and the internet.

Most basic points are

- we are all exploited because companies mine our internet activities for profit making ventures. But are we being exploited??? Google provides me with blogger, a free tool, in turn, use blogger to post content and links that google can then use again to improve search, sell ads, or take over the world.

- virtual / reality - is virtual labor real?? what happens when people bring up the epistemological status of knowledge gained from the internet? If this knowledge is questionable, then how about digital work - is that questionable too? We need new standards of virtual truth - a socrates of virtual logic to combat virtual sophistry - an aristotle to outline the logical rules of virtual rhetoric.

-what are the economics of open source ?

other thoughts....

everything you do online is a commodity for some company ... companies that use this data are creating data derivatives

I am really enjoying the conference -and the twitter shadow conference.
I am playing the backchannel twitter game and totally want to game the system by tweeting my words. I think you can totally game this game.

Time to go to a talk on immaterial labor.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Safety Dance

13Bit may be embarking on yet another documentary - about yet an other forgotten artist. This one is Margie Beales - an improv artist in Manhattan's Tribeca. At first, Paul and I were skeptical about making another documentary like Lumia. But this will not be another lumia - hopefully more fast cheap and out of control. Once we met margie - we were sold. A 73 year old former improv dancer - with no formal improv training - is a true new york personality and a fantastic individual. Her personality is truly compelling. We started watching some of her dance videos from 30 years ago and just fell in love with the idea of a documentary or her, or on ny avant garde dance - or something like that.

I know nothing about dance. In fact, growing up I sort of despised dance as a pansy activity. However, I take Kung Fu, and many of the best Kung Fu students are dancers. So - I am gaining respect for dance. I have especially developed incredible respect for the ability of dancers to remember dance steps - Kung Fu steps are difficult enough to remember.

In order to learn about dance, I am immersing myself in dance literature, dance documentaries, and actual dances. Paul and I will also be speaking to dancers and choreographers. The research phase of a documentary is always a lot of fun. You learn about a new subject area as you grope around for the story.

I just finished The Art of Making Dances by Doris Humphrey and am about to embark on bios on Isadora Duncan and Ruth St Denis and Anna Halprin. But first - I am going to get a background history by reading Ballet and Modern Dance. Over the weekend I read Twyla Tharp's book on creativity. Normally, I shy away from books on the creative process - because really they all say the same thing. But I was curious about the creative process of a choreographer - and I do like her box method of organizing projects. I may try it - it sort of reminds me of the folders in 'getting things done'.

The sustainability doc is going well - we will start logging the footage probably next week - and are planning a field trip down the colorado river in the spring. We hope to be finished by the beginning of summer. The doc will probably be about water usage and water rights with the damming of the colorado and the subsequent poisoning of down river farms in mexico as a focal point. We will also probably discuss the different ways of looking at sustainability (where the footprint metrics come in)

We are almost done with a first cut of lakshmi - except for the motown act dream sequence - which we have rewritten to be a rap by Tia! our resident muse and robot lover. We plan to start sending Lakshmi out to festivals in January. We think it is a great counterpoint to the super slick wall street II.

Anyway - tonight Lian and I have our first opera of the season - House of the Dead - perhaps there will be some dancing

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Overwhelmed Overcame

I was a bit overwhelmed the last few days

I was at capacity and then my little puppy started limping- this sort of put me over capacity, made me angry, and in turn made me exceedingly grumpy and short tempered- which in turn led to more self-loathing and a vicious feedback loop.

Well - so what do you do when you are overwhelmed??? For me there are a few options

1) sleep, read, bury head in the sand. In general this is not a very desirable solution because you dont improve your state but in fact become more overwhelmed as things pile up - (duh!). Also not only that but your escape will be invaded by thoughts of all the things that you are not doing - making your sleep, reading,etc much less useful which brings me to step 2

2) stop multitasking -
for better or for worse I am a multitasking monster - I know most people are anti - multi tasking these are my thoughts on the matter
- you should do everything with utmost mindfullness and focus - most of the time - this actually leads to less stress and more productivity because
HOWEVER if you are learning something or trying to absorb something - i think total mindfulness and focus sometimes hurt me - I need to lull myself into a relaxed state where my unconscious is absorbing information, rather than my conscious self forcing me to focus. I suppose that during a state of mindfulness you should not be thinking about mindfulness and so maybe my multitasking paradoxically make me mindful. I dont know. What I like to think of is context switching and computer processes. A computer has many process running at a particular time - monitoring programs, internet connectivity (just to name a two). These tasks are not running at the same force, but if an event triggers a task, such as incoming email triggering your email application - then your email application will come to the fore. This is how I feel I multitask. There are a number of tasks going on in the background of my mind- many of which I am not (or try not) to be consciously aware of - unless something forces me to put that task in the forefront of my mind.

Multitasking it seems also aids my memory. For example, I generally program to lectures, podcasts and talk radio - not music. Programming for me a mindless activity. I know what I want to do before I start and then I let my unconscious take over and write the software. By simultaneously writing software and listening to talk radio - a strange phenomena occurs. I am able to recall code that I wrote while listening to certain bits of talk. It is a very visual sensation for me - like the code chuncks are lodged in a piece of text. I still remember some trade reconciliation code I wrote about 5 years ago that became lodged in a teri gross piece on Jane Fonda's autobiography 'my life'.

It is sort of like a memory palace I unconsciousnessly stick bits of code in audio recordings. My memory palace is talk radio..

But when I am overwhelmed, I need to stop multitasking - multitasking has the strange habit of making it seem like you have more to do - rather than help you do more in less time - so I stop trying to do it all at once .

3) I Make a list and a schedule. A list itemizes what I need to do - a schedule makes time for everything i need to do. This two acts externalize some of my feelings of stress that accompanies being overwhelmed. Slowly as you cross things off your list or proceed with your schedule you feel physical release. Being overwhelmed is a physical state as much as a mental state.

4) Include your daily habits in your schedule. I always include some music practice time into my schedule (either guitar keyboard or drums) although it is not actually helping you get anything done and feel less overwhelmed - it will make you feel happy and like a human being. other things I try and schedule for are workouts (a run or kung fu) and general inspiration time. In the morning - I always like to pick out some weird book I have and mull it over during coffee. Today I looked at Kites by David Pelham - about kite construction and the history of kites. I am not building a kite - and i rarely think about kites - that is why it is so much fun to pick up a book like this and skim it over coffee.

Note on the dog -
(I took him to the vet and he is on some meds. the limp is improving and hopefully he wont need surgury - phew)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

RapidSMS Docs Running Again

So, last night I finally fixed the rapidsms cron job - which had been offline for about 4 days -every since I updated the software that generates the documentation.

For the RapidSMS documentation we are using sphinx. If you google sphinx, you will come across a text search engine - this is not what we are using.

Why Sphinx?

Well, Django uses sphinx and RapidSMS is inspired by Django - so we decided to use Sphinx for RapidSMS. Sphinx is more like a documentation system than a documentation generator. It is quiet intensive to actually create the documentation. You need to write the tutorials and explicitly set the packages you want to generate documentation for. The autodoc generation from python packages is actually handled by a sphinx reference to docstrings.

So why use sphinx?? You have to learn a next markup (or markdown rather) syntax, and you need to type most the documentation anyway. Why not just use a wiki, or a blog, django, or latex :)

This is a good question?
There is something nice about the linking feature in sphinx - But I am not completely sold.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Early Evening with Otto and Lian

Lian is reading my last blog post and asking - when did you write this?? Was I up??

I have to say, too much of my time has been spent trying to manage my option trading - which took a big hit due to fslr tanking, and me not understanding how Interactive Brokers allocates margin requirements. I am still in the green, but it is a dim green, as opposed to last weeks neon green. Anyway this has taken up too much time from my other projects (like my yoga breathing iphone app inspired by a conversation I had last week with Jessica H.) Nov options expire next week at which point I am going to take a week off from the markets. I am only going to trade the last 2 weeks of expiry.

I am almost done reading 'The Temptation to Exist' and that is good because I just picked up Paul Farmer's Infections and Inequalities. The Temptation to Exist - I like Ciorian because he melancholic and world weary - like me - and so whenever he writes something I cannot help but say 'so true'. The one thing about Ciorian that I suppose mars many late 19th early 20th century thinkers is their confluence of metaphysics with race.

Today we talk about biology as destiny or not making biology destiny. For example, if I am a woman I should not be relegated to certain roles, or denied access to areas of work and study.
Back then it seems, race was destiny. So for example, the Jew (disclosure I was born to a jewish family) is ascribed all these sorts of pathologies or ways of being in the world on account of him being Jewish, a dessert nomad, members of a legislative religion, etc.

Ciorian spends a few essays discussing the modern world in relation to the Jew - this is sort of like discussing 'the noble savage' and it is sort of unfortunate that his thought has focused on such irrelevant bunk. Is this sort of inquiry really useful for philosophy, or is it some sort of observable art, a pseudo science - anthropology. And is it best engaged by an outsider (gentile in this case) or insider (jew) or both? What is the purpose of such a discourse? The most interesting thing is that this topic was worthy of serious philosophical discussion. I wonder what topics today will suffer the same fate of irrelevance?

But Ciorian, he makes thought provoking pronoucements. Thoughts like: poetry exists on the fringes of society and only an established culture can create a prose literature. I think this is worth exploring. Prose literature is about rules, methods, codified learnings, poetry is about ecstacy and unmmediated expression. Prose is mediated. High culture is mediated, high culture is anything an actual thing itself. It is an aggregate of acceptable culture - it does not exist without someone (a critic perhaps) creating it and labeling it.

Anyway I digress - I have to go fix the permissions on my rapidsms-documentation cron job - apparently it has been failing since I updated sphinx (the documentation system)

Monday, November 2, 2009

Late night with Otto and Lian

At the moment I am trying to spec out some next steps for rapidsms. I am focusing on a rapidSMS turn key solution - a one step process to install rapidsms (a sms gateway and web interface). What exactly should be installed by this one step process?

I keep using the dreaded W term - wizard. There are lots of wizard haters out there. To you wizard haters - please email me or leave comments - I have forgotten all the anti-wizard arguments.

Why a wizard??? With a wizard a non-programmers can customize a piece of software. I am thinking that perhaps we need a rapidSMS wizard for a rapidSMS easy install. That way users can specify what functionality they would like their rapidSMS deployment to have. The next question is, what in RapidSMS should be available for customization?

Some of the things I think that we need to work out is a way to specify SMS request and response. What messages map to what responses and is there a response flow. This is similar to the web application flow of many early app servers - like apache cocoon. Do people still use this? In the end, RapidSMS should have different modules that you can install for different purposes, an eHealth module, eCrisis, eBusiness... etc. I suppose FrontlineSMS does this with Frontline::Medic. I am not sure how intervention free we can make these modules, but ideally most of the business logic will be developed by engaging in field projects like the Malawi project this summer.

It would be nice to have a forms editor in rapidSMS so you can edit your SMS flow AND then it would be nice to have a HTML flow editor. Does this exist? Is there a GUI where you can edit the flow of your web application. I know this exists for mashups.

Ok now thinking about GUI editors. After the wizard process, where you specify what functionality you want, then you should get a list of sms keywords you need to implement. This means that we need to probably standardize the keyword functionality in rapidSMS. This can probably be implemented via the excellent keyword class that Adam (or Evan) wrote.
With your list of sms keywords you create a sort of flow chart or something similar to patch based programs like max/msp. You link the keywords with certain responses.

Finally, there should be a simple way to set up web reports, and email alerts....

Oooph - I just ran out of steam. I am really shot. I was at Kung Fu for about 4 hours and I cant turn my neck. Tomorrow I will blog more if I can turn my neck again.

My final thought - rapidsms apps need to have annotation to specify what parameters will be defined by wizards. I think this is the first time I have ever found a use for annotation in programming.