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Thursday, November 29, 2007

Long tail business model dangers 

Read/Write Web
You can make money on the long tail but not in the long tail. The precise point of Anderson's argument is that it is a collective of the long tail amounts to substantial dollars because the volume is there. The retail/advertising game is a game based on volume. You make money on a lot of traffic to a single popular site or the sum of smaller amounts of traffic to many less popular sites.

Topics: Web2.0 | Economics


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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

What would you ask Tim Berners-Lee? 

Mine
RDF seems to be so general that it can be considered for any application. The flip side of this argument is that for any specific application, it is the least powerful solution. That lack of power expresses itself as a more complex representation than is necessary for a specific solution, and an extremely weak inference capability, compared to an application specific model using a representation designed to work with it.

A perfect example is RSS 1.0 versus Atom for blog publishing. The dream of being able to dump anything into an RDF bucket and do any meaningful work seems kind of naive.

It is actually the constraints and simplicity that give a language it power (Think Domain Specific Languages)

Topics: /RDF | Web2.0


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Thursday, November 22, 2007

Bioclocks work by controlling chromosome coiling 

Carl Johnson
In recent years, scientists have discovered that biological clocks help organize a dizzying array of biochemical processes in the body. Despite a number of hypotheses, exactly how the microscopic pacemakers in every cell in the body exert such a widespread influence has remained a mystery. < p/> Now, a new study provides direct evidence that biological clocks can influence the activity of a large number of different genes in an ingenious fashion, simply by causing chromosomes to coil more tightly during the day and to relax at night.

. . .

Johnson’s team, which consisted of Senior Lecturer Mark A Woelfle, Assistant Research Professor Yao Xu and graduate student Ximing Qin, performed the study with cyanobacteria (blue-green algae), the simplest organism known to possess a biological clock. The chromosomes in cyanobacteria are organized in circular molecules of DNA. In their relaxed state, they form a single loop. But, within the cell, they are usually “supercoiled” into a series of small helical loops. There are even two families of special enzymes, called gyrases and topoisomerases, whose function is coiling and uncoiling DNA.

. . .

Some cyanobacteria use their biological clocks to control two basic processes. During the day, they use photosynthesis to turn sunlight into chemical energy. During the night, they remove nitrogen from the atmosphere and incorporate it into a chemical compound that they can use to make proteins. < p/> According to the Johnson lab’s “oscilloid model,” the genes that are involved in photosynthesis should be located in regions of the chromosome that are “turned on” by the tighter coiling in the DNA during the day and “turned off” during the night when the DNA is more relaxed. By the same token, the genes that are involved in nitrogen fixation should be located in regions of the chromosome that are “turned off” during the day when the DNA is tightly coiled and “turned on” during the night when it is more relaxed.

Topics: DNA | information | time


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Monday, November 05, 2007

Programming, creativity and constraints 

discipline and punish
The real problem, I think, is that the timeless, traditional understanding of programming is pretty much completely backwards. Everybody is taught that programming is a kind of writing where the goal is to use a special "language" to tell a computer what to do. From the beginning we are led to believe in this idealistic notion that programming is just a matter of developing clearly defined solutions to clearly defined problems in the form of homework questions.

But what if it's not? What if, in fact, the complete opposite were true and the real goal of programming is to tell a computer what not to do?

Rather than seeing programming as a kind of creative endeavor in which the programmer is thought to express a "solution" what if the real goal of programming is to simplify problems so much that a computer can understand them.

In practice these two models -- the "programmer as a solution creator" versus "the programmer as a problem simplifier" -- would not be that different. But occasionally which model is adopted will have major consequences on a project. (Ironically, solution creators tend to produce hopelessly overcomplicated problems while problem simplifiers tend to produce slightly less useful solutions.)

. . .

Programming languages, compilers, reliable networking protocols, ACID, unit testing, modularization, encapsulation, loose coupling, and yes, abstractions, -- all these fancy tools and principles a programmer must rely on are hacks -- kludges, really -- needed to reduce the number of ways in which his program can fail catastrophically.

Topics: Programming | Design

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