My Favourite Book

Accelerando is (so far) my all time favourite book. Recently I came across a piece by Warren Ellis in which he reviews the society and technology in the book to see how this parallel future can speak to the hear and now.

Like Warren Ellis I tend to re-read Accelerando on a semi yearly basis. Its a complicated book made up of three parts each containing three short stories that were written over a five year period. Personally I tend to focus on the first three 'chapters' which make up Part 1: Slow Takeoff.

Accelerando's central protagonists are the Macx clan, the story follows three generations of the Macx clan with Part 1 focusing on Manfred Macx; a venture altruist. As a venture altruist Manfred basically spends his time:

coming up with whacky but workable ideas and giving them to people who will make fortunes with them. He does this for free, gratis.

As a consequence of this he is free from the "tyranny of cash; money is a symptom of poverty, after all". But how, how does he do this? Manfred lives in a perpetual state of near future shock, into which he could drop any second and burn out.

..he has to assimilate more than a megabyte of text and several gigs of AV content every day just to stay current. - Accelerando

My RSS feed, Tech News produces approximately 300 items per day that I scan through, my podcast lists 11 feeds adding up to about 380 min of audio (I never really go into video podcasts…). I haven't been through the trouble of measuring that in megabytes, but I'm not sure that a useful indicator anyway, basically, its a lot of info.

He's ignoring the instant messenger boxes, enjoying some low-bandwidth, high-sensation time with his beer and the pigeons

Written pre-twitter, I imagine this is the equivalent to the rest of us, mostly ignoring the constant stream of tweets or [insert social network of choice here], only dipping our toe in when we have time, or more likely when bored.

He speed reads a new pop-philosophy tome while he brushes his teeth, then blogs his web throughput to a public annotation server; he’s still too enervated to finish his pre-breakfast routine by posting a morning rant on his storyboard site.

As Warren Ellis points out:

The point is crucial. If we’re not doing something with the information we’re taking in, then we’re just pigs at the media trough.

Manfred isn't just sucking in the information, he's curating it, making connections and feeding that back into the world. This reminds me of Curation is Creation by Colin Wright, curating content is a form of creation in itself. Putting this information out there is one of the things which has lead to his (initially unbelievably) good reputation.

Luckily his publicly traded reputation is strictly technical.

I was very interested to read Wired's piece on Document-Coin a kind of virtual currency based on reputation. Its nothing close to Cory Doctorow's Whuffie factor, but I think its interesting that (despite a few mishaps12) people are thinking about Reputation as a form of currency. This was also very interesting, if a little worrying, how would you score someones reputation anyway?

At the beginning I said the book is set in a parallel future. Much of the technology in the book seems to be just ahead of ours today. Manfred's own glasses are a more advanced take on Google Glass with some extra horsepower thanks to a distributed set of supercomputers, his pet Aineko is a significant improvement on Sony's Aibo which is sadly no longer in development, in the bar at De Wildemann's Manfred uses what sounds like an updated form of NFC to lookup and exchange vCard information and the list goes on.

Lying on a bench seat staring up at bridges, he's got it together enough to file for a couple of new patents, write a diary rant, and digestify chunks of the permanent floating slashdot party for his public site. Fragments of his weblog go to a private subscriber list – the people, corporates, collectives, and bots he currently favors.

To me this speaks to a more advanced use of something like Google+ Circles, in which you can, in a very granular sense choose who to share what with, rather than simply people being either in or out of the loop.

His PDA discreetly swaps digital fingerprints, confirming that the hand belongs to Bob Franklin

This is interesting, given all the buzz at the moment around making encryption available to the uninitiated, the simple and automatic exchange of 'digital fingerprints' could be likened to swapping encryption keys. Not only can you confirm this person is who they say (via the web of trust) but you can also now communicate securely with them in the future.

Manfred pauses for a moment, triggering agents to go hunt down arrest statistics, police relations, information on corpus juris, Dutch animal-cruelty laws.

After an unpleasant sight greets him at his door, Manfred fires up his network and sends out search agents to gather information. I wish I could do this sort of thing, rather than spending hours trawling the web for something just set up a bot to do it for me. Of course there are all sorts of write your own bot scripts out there, but agin this just seems more sophisticated and integrated.

Finally we see glimpses of things which have already come to pass:

Sometime today he'll have to spare time to hunt the feral T-shirt in Amsterdam's markets, or find a Renfield and send it forth to buy clothing.

Task Rabbit is a great example of the ability to 'outsource' stuff from our daily lives, exactly as proposed in the book.

This is just a quick look at Part 1, but I'd thoroughly recommend picking up a copy (or downloading it) and checking out the rest. For me the first three chapters are the best but I think thats just because they feel so close, I feel like we are on the cusp of this potential reality and with all the cool tech, how could I resist?

RSS Consolidation

I’ve been working on my already crazy RSS addiction to try and de-dupe and streamline the reading process. I’ve turned to Yahoo Pipes to try and get this jumble together.

  • Blogs
    This is a selection of Blogs that I follow, generally these are written by people rather than organisations.
  • Tech News
    This is by far the biggest, pulling in feeds from a variety of sources including Wired (UK), The Verge, Reddit, Slashdot etc. Currently there are 26 different sources.
  • Lifestyle
    Leftover feeds kind of end up here. This includes feeds from T3 magazine, GQ, LifeEdited and Apartment Therapy.

Thats it for now but this in very much a work in progress. Ideally I’d like to improve the de-duplication as it currently only worked if the feed titles are exactly the same, really I’d like to block out stuff that is 80% similar. Unfortunately I have no idea how to do that right now! Oh, and I haven’t even started on my ’Travel’ blogs yet…

Coffee, Coffee, Coffee

coffee

I love coffee, I really do. It provides me with that pick me up I need to get through the morning commute, it provides the focs I need when working from home. The coffee shops of the UK have provided me with some great places to work (and some not so great) where I can hunker down and get work done without all the distractions of home (TV anyone?).

Coffee shop coffee (Starbucks or their brethren) is bulk produced conveyor belt coffee. Not that I have anything against that, I'm not a coffee snob and I think a lot of baristas do a damn good job of providing good coffee in that rushed environment.

But I know almost nothing about coffee, I do not understand the ins and outs of good coffee sourcing, roasting, grinding or brewing. I've tried, with a great little grinder and my fantastic AeroPress but I sometimes get a great cup, sometimes a terrible one, with almost no apparent difference in the method. Its time to do something about this.

After a little research I've found a UK roaster who'll put together a starter pack for me and has pointed me in the direction of Coffee101 where I'll start getting my head around all things coffee. Wish me luck.....

My Everyday Carry

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After seeing this post over on Lifehacker I've been enspired to revisit my Everyday Carry.

After putting this together I realised I'd left out my excellent Brita water filter and my KeepCup.

Add OpenDyslexic font to a Kindle

Font I've just successfully installed the Open Dyslexic font onto my Kindle following this straightforward guide. One area I had a problem was getting both sets of font files (OTF and TTF). Dafont seems to only have the OTF files but you can obtain both from Github. Just click the "Download the latest bleeding edge version" link and unzip the file, from here you can copy both the OTF and TTF files onto your Kindle. Lastly you need to remember to reboot the device properly as described in the guide, it did not work for me when I simply switched the Kindle off and on again. Links: OpenDyslexic.org