"Real Artists Ship"

Colin Johnson’s blog

Archive for June, 2011

Spam, Spam, Eggs and Spam

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011

Fascinating coffee menu. Why is “coffee with milk” 50% more expensive than white coffee? And what on earth is “coffee (normal) in this context?

Weird Menu

Stranger Danger

Monday, June 20th, 2011

It seems that there is a pattern with various forms of computer-mediated communication that for the first few years of the existence of a technology, it is acceptable for people to communicate/link with “strangers” that they do not know in other ways, but that this fades off over time.

For example, when the web was new, I remember people emailing me fairly casually about things that they had seen on my web-page, or else just to point out that they had the same name as me! This is different from mailing a focused question, more a kind of “hi, how are you?” sort of email. A similar thing was true for Facebook in the early days. Now, these things would seem weird, if not spammy or stalkerish.

I wonder if the same thing will happen with Twitter? Will it eventually seem strange to follow someone on Twitter who you don’t know face-to-face (celebrities and other public figures excluded)? I already feel weird about this with people who are in an intermediate zone between knowing and not knowing – let’s say someone that I met at conferences a couple of times over the last few years. How will this change, or is the one-way following on Twitter sufficiently different to the mutual-friending of Facebook?

Product Idea (1)

Sunday, June 12th, 2011

An alarm clock that wakes you up with a rant about how much more you could have got done if only you have woken up an hour ago.

If I were Queen for the Day (1)

Thursday, June 9th, 2011

When I succeed Lord Sugar on The Apprentice, the tasks are going to begin at 9:30 in the evening, none of this “be at Covent Garden by 6am” malarkey.

Job Titles (1)

Friday, June 3rd, 2011

Two real job titles from English Universities:

“Senior Deputy Vice Chancellor”

“Assistant to the Vice Chancellor’s Executive Assistant”

A Found Poem?

Friday, June 3rd, 2011

(my “recents” list on the dictionary app)

corn pone

Parameter-free Heuristics?

Friday, June 3rd, 2011

One argument that is sometimes made in papers about heuristic search algorithms is that an algorithm is good because it required very few parameters to be adjusted by the user. The argument is that such algorithms are better because they are easier to use—the user doesn’t require expertise in the use of the algorithm to make effective use of it by choosing parameters well.

This is all very well—but, it could be argued that all such algorithms are doing is substituting explicit parameters for tacit parameters that are part of the structure of the algorithm design. As a result, the user is forced to just work with what is there and has no scope to change the algorithm at all; as such, it isn’t really any better than a parameterised algorithm with the parameters fixed.

Perhaps the solution to this is the well-known approach of parameterised algorithms with adaptive parameter search as part of the optimization process. With modern hardware, this is not to hard. I wonder, though, if there is scope for extending this by taking a more sophisticated approach to the parameter optimization by taking ideas from control theory.