Second Life is bobbins

I haven’t really used Second Life that much, and I don’t really intend to, but there seems to have been a real-life conference the other day which ran in parallel to one in Second Life and it made me leave a comment on someone’s writeup, which I thought I’d repost here, because what’s a weblog for if not making you look stupid?

I’m pretty cynical of SL in general (let alone in education) and the claims that Linden make, but as a tool for easily creating 3D objects in a virtual world with a global population it really is unparalleled. At XTech, Matt Biddulph gave a demo of how you can use real-life input to control items in SL. From what I understand, it should work the other way around too, giving a global audience the ability to affect say, something on your desk by ringing your doorbell in SL. Anything that gives that kind of opportunity is worthy of investigation at least.

Making a lifestream useful

A few months ago I slated Jeremy’s lifestream, because it’s a single point-per-person summary of activity – and in particular my own activity which I already know all about.

So, having spoken to Jeremy briefly at XTech, and assuming that I don’t have a proper digital lifestyle (or digital connections) aggreator, what can we do to make the lifestream interesting?

First of all we can start archiving your activities. A monthly archive as an Atom file will do to start with. You can then plug that in to any other Atom-supporting tool to get some visualisations of your data such as getting a timeline by plugging it into Simile Timeline using My Timelines.

Secondly we can index this for searching using Lucene or one of the many langauge ports like PyLucene or Ferret for Ruby so that you can search for items across time in a single location.

Thirdly we can provide a simple bit of PHP which glues files together from a set time period so we can get back an Atom file for a group of particular months or years.

Finally we can use the stored lifestream as an index for a scraper which can provide a local version of the full content of your activities. For example some people worry that Flickr has all their data – well, use this to monitor your Flickr and blog postings and pull them down and store them locally (or back them up to another location).

I might see if I can hack on some of this this week.

XTech 2007, some highlighted notes

  • Joost is based on standards all the way and the application forms a single DOM
  • Henri’s HTML5 conformance checker generated some excitable debate about the inclusion of a normative (or even informative, if I remember properly) in the Atom spec
  • The W3C are crazy
  • Arduino are about to sell a whole mountain of kit thanks to Matt Biddulph
  • Alf Eaton is very tall
  • There are more Welsh speakers in the world than Klingon, but only just (thanks Ralph and Suw for helping us clear that one up)

More to come, I’m sure.

Firefox location bar doesn’t work under Ubuntu

Some of the shortcut keys for Firefox on Ubuntu are different to those on Windows. The most pertinent one for me is that the <backspace> key as a shortcut for clicking the “Back” button has been disabled. This is easily fixed in about:config by changing the value of browser.backspace_action to 0.

The most annoying however is the one which appears to have no fix, and for which I haven’t yet found a Bugzilla or Launchpad entry. In fact I’m not even sure which one it belongs to.

CTRL+SHIFT+arrow doesn’t select chunks of text in the Firefox location bar. It just selects all of it. I’m very used to chopping and changing URLs by hitting ALT+D followed by some keyboard selection goodness. No more apparently. Want to take off the “/blog” from a URL? That’s ALT+D and backspace five times. Hope you can count really quickly because sometimes my fingers move much faster than the location bar updates.

Working processes

What we’re trying to do at work:

  • test-driven development
  • pair programming
  • implementation docs on the wiki
  • code coverage stats (with cobertura) regularly generated via…
  • continuous integration (at the moment with CruiseControl, soon to move to Bamboo)
  • rapid software iterations (we suck at this right now)
  • totally transparent group activity

I think we’re doing quite well on these things, but I wonder if it looks different from the outside?