General

links for 2009-04-27

The Changing Landscape of Patents

The Atlantic website is presenting a fascinating interactive timeline of the rise and fall of US patent application per capita.

Covering the period 1975 to 2002, the Flash-based animation shows cities where the volume of patents moved up or down as the engines of innovation — universities, industry, high tech companies — waxed and waned.

blog_patent_map

Atlantic’s Patent Map

As I watched the animation progress towards 2002, I was struck by two things:

  • All locations experienced a “bloom” of patents during 1995-1998, the period when the Internet also expanded
  • Patent filings shifted westward as California, Oregon, Washington, Texas and Colorado developed high technology centers

The animation also lets you display data for a single city and compare rates between two cities. I found it interesting that my hometown of Lawrence, Kansas, a small town of 80,000, had more than three times the patents per capital as my current haunt, the Tampa metropolitan area which has 2.7 million inhabitants. I attribute the difference to the concerted effort by Lawrence’s University of Kansas to acquire patents for medical, biogenetic and engineering innovations.

The widget also is a great example of how a formerly all-print publication, using its website, can expand its content in ways not possible on paper.

Credits: Based on Google Maps, design by Charles Szymanski, imagery by TerraMetrics. And thanks to my wife, Judi Jetson, for sending me the link.

Using Flock as Blog Post Assistant

I’m testing Flock, the “social” browser based on the Filefox core, as a blogging assistant. I had tried it before, but could never get the browser-to-blog interface to work.

This week, on a whim, I was toying with the “post to blog” feature of Delicio.us – the one that automatically posts your most recent bookmarks to your blog. Nothing happened until I googled the problem and found this helpful post in the WordPress.org forum:

Configuration of xmlrpc.php?rsd in self hosted blog

Try this solution, since it seems to echo similar situations. First,
download the file .htaccess from your blog’s root directory and copy
it. (Odds are it will be blank, 0 bytes, but be sure.)

Next, in the copy, insert the following lines:

<Files xmlrpc.php>

SecFilterInheritance Off

</Files>

Finally, upload the new .htaccess back to the blog’s root directory, then try your procedure again. That should clear it up.

Bruce — Harper Blue

I edited .htaccess, uploaded and it worked for the first time ever. I should have thought of this myself, actually, web professional that I am. But I didn’t. Score another victory for the collective brain of the web.

At any rate, this post was edited and posted using the blogging editor in Flock.

Blogged with the Flock Browser

Tags: , ,

oEmbed Will Simplify Cross-pollination of Content

Recently, I presented a workshop to aspiring and established musicians on “Enhancing Your Exposure on the Web: The Electronic Press Kit”. Part of my advice was to use the free bandwidth of other sites to host images, audio and video clips by embedding media on their own sites.

Someone asked what I meant by “embedding”. I quickly demostrated how, using a YouTube video. But in showing the example, I suddenly realized that while it seemed simple to me, embedding media in a web page is actually a fairly complex task to someone who makes music, not HTML pages.

A small but prominent group of websites, lead by Pownce.com, has developed oEmbed, a formal standard that lets consumers of media ask providers of media how best to embed that media. (Thanks to Adam Howell at Vitamin News for the notice.)

The REST-based protocol allows consumbers such as this blog to send an oEmbed request to a provider such as Flickr and receive a return data structure listing author’s name and url, thumnail information, and the data such as size and url required to create an or tag.

Here’s an example, using an oEmbed request to Flickr:

URL scheme:
   http://*.flickr.com/*
API endpoint:
   http://www.flickr.com/services/oembed/
Example:
   http://flickr.com/services/oembed?url=http%3A//flickr.com/photos/bees/2362225867/

One problem with the implementation jumped out out me: Even among the small number of providers in the initial announcement, there was no consistency of the provider endpoint URL. Some were “http://website.com/oembed” while others were “http://website.com/services/oembed” or “http://website.com/api/oembed”. This means that plugins, widgets and libraries must contain code specific to each provider.

It’s also interesting that, in the initial specification at least, there is no mention of copyright or license. This would seem to be an oversight.

The specification is a truly valuable step forward toward the Semantic Web envisioned by the pioneers such as Tim Berners-Lee.

For more information on oEmbed, visit the website at oembed.com. The authors and originators of the specification are:

  • Cal Henderson (cal [at] iamcal.com)
  • Mike Malone (mike [at] pownce.com)
  • Leah Culver (leah [at] pownce.com)
  • Richard Crowley (r [at] rcrowley.org)

Nomadic Programming

Matthew Bass, on his blog MatthewBass.com, talks about being a being a nomadic programmer.

“Recently, I’ve started doing what I’ve termed ‘nomadic programming.’ Namely, spending the day roaming between various wi-fi hotspots instead of working from home. This has worked really well for me. So well, in fact, that I think the concept needs to start spreading.”

“Cafe programming” is an idea that has occupied my mind lately. I’ve even thought about getting a group of Tampa techies together to experiment with co-working.

Jim McKay

In 1972, I watched with horror and, I admit, some dark fascination, as ABC sports anchor Jim McKay described the capture, holding and ultimate death of 11 Israeli athletes and coaches.

It was my first exposure to the concept of political terrorism. I was, of cource, familiar with civil disobedience as a tool of revolution, and history is replete with horrible wars and acts of savagery performed in the name of nationalism.

But this incident was different.

A tiny group of individuals, willing to die for a cause, and willing to kill on behalf of it, captured the stage of world attention through the hijacking of a media event. McKay stayed on the air for 16 hours as he and I and much of America watched hooded terrorists conducting shouted negotiations from the concrete balconies of the Olympic Village, an image that seemed to me both inane and horrific. Without the ski masks to tell criminal from hostage, and the occasional glimpse of weapons, the scene could have been from a vacation album.

There was no mistaking the horror, however, of the night time scene at the Munich airport. Television cameras only captured a dim outline of a plane and the bus carrying terrorists and hostages to it. You couldn’t see anything but blurs.

Jim McKay finally gave us the news we all feared, but all expected. “They’re all gone,” he said in that tired, sad voice I will never forget as we all learned that a military attempt to overcome the terrorists and free the hostages went wrong and all 11 of the Isralis had died.

Our world changed in front of us that day because of what was mostly accidental coverage.

Bad people learned that with training, willingness to die, and some luck, they could gain more support or hate for their cause in one day than a lifetime of unwitnessed, random acts could accomplish. The events of September 11 in the United States are the direct offspring of those hooded terrorists pushing young athletes to the edge of that balcony in Munich.

The impact media has had on our lives also changed that day. We now live in a world, forshadowed by this event, where cameras are everywhere and live video of private and hugely public events are easily broadcast on the Internet. Where in 1972, coverage of a speech by an America presidential candidate was limited to three networks and a handful of press photographers holding their motorized Nikons over their heads, Barack Obama’s every public appearance is captured by hundreds of camera phones uploading live to Qik or Flickr.

McKay and all of us made history that day.