Thursday, December 31, 2009

Social Networking: the new e-Bubble?

Are the new social networking applications creating an economy short-term bubble?

What is currently happening resembles what we saw nn the first internet bubble, in 1999-2001: a sudden peak of interests about new tools and technologies.

Are we to expect a dark-age after the initial enthusiasm?
I think that this will not be the case, for the following reasons:

1) We are emerging from a deep economic crisis. The first internet bubble is still fresh in our memories. Investors are now extremely cautious. For this reasons they are not going to embark in the "fund everybody" craziness that characterized the first internet bubble.

2) Social use of the internet was gradually taking off in the last two years, as people massively signed in to Facebook, Myspace and the like. Definitely this is not a bottom up process, like the one happening in 2000. Big social network companies are profitable.

3) Business models of current social companies is more clear. Extracting social data from the masses. Drive their expenses. Map their relations. Influence. Build for future power moves.

4) Internet presence is built using names. Anonymity is not cool anymore. People blog and partecipate using their own names. Avatar identity merges with personal identity. Aliasing and nicknaming is out of trend. Digital reputation is converging and merging with true personal reputation.

Marco ( @mgua on twitter )


Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Information Overload

This is cross posted from a comment of mine to David Weinberger's blog post "[2b2k] Notes on the history of information overload"

Very interesting material. And very clever organized.

Indeed, progressive overloading is happening in many fields. And it was happening also in the past. (O tempora O mores!)

Overloading is actually produced by our inability to deal properly with too many incoming information streams. We try to keep up as we can, usually becoming inevitably less accurate in judgment and in quality of our attention.

Let’s simply consider the communication channels we currently have to deal with: classic books and papers, computer notes, emails, blogs, websites, phone, sms, chat, twitter… you say it.

Information cycle is also very fast. In my childhood I had pen pal friends all over the world, and it took months for us to exchange some message.
Now it takes seconds.
And this is amazing.

Our words were more carefully studied, slowly digested and consumed. Tiny non-explicit bits were decoded and ripped from pen tremblings. We were actually interpreting and creating inner meaning. (Was it useful?)

Alas, not that time anymore. Let’s not regret. World changed. We changed too.

Now our messages are swallowed and maybe digested (mostly un-understood) in a handful of milliseconds, decoded by hurry eyes scanning remote flickering screens.

And we are getting and filtering more and more, and each channel is full of noise. Overall Signal/Noise ratio is -probably- going down. But it is addicting.
(Oh yes, it would be nice to follow this and that.)

Simultaneous channels usage is currently happening to me everyday: reading or composing emails while writing a spec in another window, then answering to the fixed phone, and receiving another call on the mobile, and getting crazy, while people around me laugh.

But do not worry
It will get worse.

Let's enjoy it, and get organized.

Marco ( @mgua on twitter )

PS: David Weinberger is @dweinberger on twitter


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Building a Bot-Net Brain: Easing the way to Singularity

Here is a list of important concepts and ideas that could help in accelerating the progress towards Singularity.

I want to work with such a list, so to distribute practical operative load to many people, working in many areas, and willing to dedicate time to the project, following a model similar to Open Source Development, that showed great effectiveness.

EEE Engage, Explain, Educate
Engage and excite
Explain clearly what we need and why
Educate to collaboration
Promote Social Peer-Peer Learning, and give practical assignments, with some kind of level gaining (like role based games or like wikipedia hiearchy)
Ask teachers to collaborate (see howard reingold great thoughts)
Develop needed new tools
Create a global social consciousness of a future we build together
Promote DIY, open source mentality

Experiments and Simulations
(many specialist things here)

Architectures fot the Bot-Net Brain
Base Systems and modules
Networking and protocols for the different levels
Basic Node to Basic Node (BN-BN)
Basic Node to Aggregation Node (BN-AN)
Aggregation Node to Interface Node (AN-IN)
Basic Node types: (Storage, Sensory, Processing, Actuatory)
Mutiple distributed reasoning engines
Distribution servers for code and tasks
Multi peer-peer node communication (twitter like)
Each user node execute a module (see seti or boinc)
Collective emerging features

Main components
Basic Node (1' level)
Aggregation Node (2' level)
Interface Node (3' level)
Goal Nodes (4' level)
Areas: a subset of nodes in a specific layer
Modules: sets of areas (spanning different layers)
Knowledge representation
Hierarchical Decision System (democratic, weight based, with weight is function of age, and # of connections)
Management of internal conflicts (tradeoff, reward, punishment)
Interaction Manager
Evaluation functions
Perception functions
Linguistic Functions
Innate Knowledge
Basic Goals (instincts)
High level Goals
Low Level Control Systems (vital functions, omeostasis)
High Level Control Systems (more abstract)
Feeling representation
Consciousness as overall emerging property
Self observation and self perception: multi-level Feedback
Self Evolution Engine, with nodes independently rebooting into autodeveloped new versions with similar interfaces

Knowledge access
Search Engine interfaces
Internet Access Interfaces (read)
Synthetic World Interfaces (read)
Social Network Interfaces (read)
Internet Active Presence (Interaction manager)
Robot Interface (proprioception)
Human Interfaces
Lab Interfaces

Creating a sense good and evil
Goal definition
Dealing with unanswerable questions

I would like to:
  1. improve, correct, rewrite and complete this list
  2. for each of its elements write a % to see how far we are from the target, and set of links to relevant documents and references
  3. define workgroups and managers taking care of each area of development
  4. leverage open source disrtributed development, but centrally leaded and very well targeted
  5. raise money from investors (government, privates, foundations)
  6. earn money selling modular operational subcomponents
  7. earn money selling botnet processing time

What do you think?
Can you take this list, improve it and re-share it?

Marco ( @mgua on twitter )


Monday, December 21, 2009

My personal Twitter experience

After @VenessaMiemis request, "this post is a group Twitter experiment – link to similar articles at bottom & share your own experience on Twitter with hashtag #MonTwit"

I registered a Twitter more than one year ago, did some tests, then put it aside, having judged it as something silly and of zero practical use.

I was wrong.

Currently I am using it since a couple of months, and I am discovering great value into it.
Maybe my opinion changed due to a critical mass effect.

Here are some considerations:
  1. I tweet in english and not in my mother tongue: this gives broader audience and allows me to interact with far more people.

  2. I consider Twitter a new communication tool. It goes side by side with the many other I use and I am accustomed to: phone, email, cellphone, sms, mms, cellphone email, webmail, videoconferencing, skype, istant messenger, voip phone, blog, gmail/gwave, facebook, flickr, twitter. It is just the youngest one in the collection.

  3. I carefully select the people to follow, so to have a minimum impact on the time used for reading tweets. I like to follow people who produce their own contents. I  quickly unfollow people just retweeting someone else all the time (I call them bouncers or reflectors).
    I do not like situational tweets like "going home now, I am tired" or "waiting for my flight in SFO" or "it is now raining in Berkeley".
    I also do not like tweets containing uncommented urls (this is usually enough for me to trigger unfollow).
    I would like to select people basing more on geographical and country location, but this information is not always available (for example people like to write "Anywhere" or "Theran" to convey their global presence or a specific political meaning).

  4. I access Twitter mostly from my mobile phone (currently using Ubertwitter on Blackberry Curve 8900). I simply can not use any Twitter client while working on my office pc, because it is extremely distracting. I find great to use it from the phone because I can use it in free moments, wherever I am.

  5. I try not to waste other people bandwidth. I am sorry I had to unfollow a lot of people who simply tweet too much. This was one of the biggest problem I had to face in the beginning, when I tried to follow too many people, since it seems that many people actually use it for typing whatever they consider interesting.

  6. I try to keep up with the streams of my contacts, without losing their words. I currently follow about 180 people, but I need to reduce them. My good number is probably around 150.

  7. I do not follow automatically any of my followers, but I check daily if I have any of them, to see if their activities could be related to mine. I judge to follow after checking their stream, and checking the number of their updates. I decided not to consider people with empty profiles.

  8. I decided not to thank publically people who retweet my contents. I do not like to see empty thanking messages. My time is precious. And my followers time is precious too.

  9. I found that many users tend to "tweet for themselves", so producing too many tweets in the desire of being retweeted and gain more followers. This phase usually lasts for a while, then the user starts behaving better, and produces much better content.

  10. A lot of the currently most active Twitter users are social media professionals, or marketing people, web 2.0 entrepeneurs, sociologists and communication researchers. In most cases, to me, the opinions are just not enough different to ignite a productive debate. I hope that Twitter user base will broaden involving people from every field of business and culture.

My benefits from using Twitter
Overall, my Twitter experience is good. Here is a list of the benefits that I got from this tool.

  • Increased awareness about what is happening. Early trend detection. Since I do not watch any kind of TV. I occasionally read newspapers. I get the news from the radio, while driving, or from some minutes spent on news agency site and google news every morning.

  • Personal Enjoyment and Culture.

  • I find absolutely fascinating to be here and now with you, witnessing the development of thiis new great communication and groupware tool.

    Marco ( @mgua on Twitter)

    Sunday, December 6, 2009

    IT evaporation: cloud computing and how it will affect corporate IT strategies.

    Thinking about corporate IT evolution, it is a quite established trend now to have virtualized servers. Virtual servers are independent from their storage, and can be easily imaged and disaster recovered.

    Current corporate networking now decouples server address space from client address space, and this means that servers can be easily relocated elsewhere.

    Soon huge virtual server farms will be created. Customers will be allowed to move there their virtual servers, and have them managed by remote datacenter operators. These datacenters will be connected with very high performance links to the corporate headquarters and to the places where corporate employees are.
    What is currently blocking this is the lacking of sophisticated features for managing really huge virtual server farms keeping logical groups of servers separated from each other, so to allow effective multi-customer management. Also sophisticated billing features are lacking.
    These missing features will emerge, and then customers will relinquish their servers making them virtual and letting them evaporate in the clouds.

    The datacenters will be huge, google like, modular, container based. Many of them will be built in cold places, so to save cooling energy expenses. Some design are to be built underwater.

    And after this, as soon as broadband access will grow of at least an order of magnitude, when we will have really easily available gigabit wan links, it will be the client turn, to evaporate.

    People will then easily be allowed to work from home, accessing remotely the corporate desktop and applications, thru suitable encrypted links.
    Corporate desktop computer will dissolve and evaporate, becoming simple remote access terminal. Many applications will be accessed from mobile devices too.

    Then it will be our turn, to evaporate...

    Marco ( @mgua on twitter )

    Saturday, December 5, 2009

    Online lives

    Online lives.

    We are
    from reality to fiction,
    gradually shifting
    real life to ethereal existance
    flesh to bits
    mud and sweat to cleaner
    pixel presence.


    And I am sure
    I will rewind to this very moment,
    re-evaluating the loose
    of tastes, sensations, feelings
    searching, in hunger
    stinky memories
    too heavy and dirty
    for non-fading bits.

    Marco (@mgua on twitter)

    Did you know, version 4:

    Friday, December 4, 2009

    We are made of time


    That is what we are made of.
    In any possible way.

    Time makes us grow. Makes us better, improves us. Gives flavor to our
    life. Because it is always scarce and never enough, and forces us to have
    a goal, to be synthetic, and limited.
    We should not waste our time, given its value: we are not given that much.

    Time. Time and information. Time and meaning.
    Meaning comes with time.

    And as our sands flows thru the hourglass, we realize that we actually
    build meaning.

    We are meaning constructors.
    We put meaning into what we see. We cloth reality with meaning.

    And we wear our meanings, and use them as flags.
    Each of us decodes reality, and writes some of its secrets. We read
    nature's book doing science. We crack reality, we analyze behaviors, we
    discover, identify. We hack, we provoke, we stimulate, we *cause*

    We dream, we fight.
    We sometimes win.

    And ultimately we hack our life, making a sense out of it, for the
    people we walk along with, for our spouses and children, and for our

    Always we are
    fighting and dreaming.

    Always busy
    squeezing out meanings from reality.

    it is a damn tough task
    but well worth to be done



    Need of filters, and why undirected croudsourcing is not going to work

    Here is a quote of a comment exchange between me and Venessa Miemis, on her Blog: Emergent by Design:

    Marco writes:

    As expressed in previous comments of mine,
    Twitter is developing interesting features, like a brain.

    Here are some thoughts of mine that could be suggestions for improving persistance of valuable informations, and also for creating a forgetting feature.
    As in biological systems, selective forget is a fundamental necessity in developing selective attention, which in turn is one of the fundamental necessities of consciousness.

    marco (@mgua on twitter)

    Venessa writes:

    Hi Marco,
    I read your post, and I agree that those features would greatly help with search and filtering content.
    The only thing that I keep going back and forth about with filtering is, will too much of it make us miss something?
    For instance, I still can’t figure out who to follow back. Some people have content that interests me, but is not related to understanding emerging media and technology trends, which is my focus. So I don’t follow them because I don’t want to be distracted, but at the same time, sometimes you get valuable insights from areas outside of your field of interest.
    If I surround myself with information that’s self-reinforcing, will I be a victim to groupthink? I don’t want to lose my focus, but I also don’t want to miss the opportunity for a-ha moments.
    what do you think?

    Marco writes:

    Excellent point, Venessa

    Personally, being very involved with my job, I feel worry not to have enough time to investigate and follow and learn and enjoy what I like.
     Oh, yes, I would like to devote time to Artificial Intelligence, Life evolution, Science, and future studies, as well as philosophy and psychology…
    And it is really difficult to choose, because every choice you make determines forever your future.

    Maybe we will develop faster clocks, or larger sensing bandwidths, but the fundamental problem will remain. Selective attention is needed for whatever useful and successful result.
    We need to focus our lens, to really heat our target.

    It is nice to work social, and to romatically think that future will be crowd-sourced, but I am sufficiently old to know that really hard work is needed to build something. And undirected people do not work.

    To put it hard way: A bunch of bored people tweeting about the last juicy website they found is not going to actively build something. Scientists and entrepeneurs are needed for this. People who actually likes to invent and make and get their hands and minds dirty with details.

    Self contemplation is risky, as well as pure philosophy. We need to find the right balance between the introverse attitude, like Leonardo Da Vinci, a great mind working alone – centuries in advance of his times, and a perfect orchestra of performers holistically directed.

    Directors are needed.
    In most cases, sadly, crowds are sums of zeroes.

    Directors needs to be protected and heavily filtered, to be proficient.

    my 2c.

    Thursday, December 3, 2009

    Giving Twitter a Social Memory

    Twitter is a great tool for spreading news.
    But it lacks a social memory. Its search functions are not so powerful yet. It also lacks a way to selectively forget what is not important.
    It is a young protocol.

    I am collecting here some ideas that could be useful for improving it.
    Needless to say, these ideas have emerged from my experience in using the tool, and generated basing on my specific experience, as a technical manager, chronically in lack of time.

    One of the most fascinating features of the whole twitter community is its similarity with a living brain. Users can be imagined as the neurons, firing tweets at each other and to their downstream followers. Retweets are short time reverberation loops that could reinforce a message. And when we start following someone, we create a new synapse.

    The whole thing is changing, quite fast, and neurons develop quickly a meshed network of connections, in relation to their specific interests and skills.

    1. I would like to be able to read my incoming twitter feed from where i left it the last time. This for not losing information from my friends.

    2. I would like to be able to develop incoming filter features in reading my incoming twitter feed. Most of the tweets are not that interesting for me, while there are some very interesting nuggets of information that I like and do not want to miss. The time I can devote to reading tweets is limited. Currently I do filter out the retweets of some people I follow, and I find this option useful, because some people tweet simply too much. Some nice filter features are also obtainable thru lists, so to quickly be able to read just the new information related to a specific list. Maybe some keyword filters could be nice.

    3. To keep it quick, i would like to improve the favorite feature, to mark the interesting incoming tweets. In later review I would like to categorize these preferred tweets attaching labels (business, leisure, music, learning,... etc), and additional notes. This feature would allow to create reputation functions basing on the number of favorite marks a specific person or tweet gets.

    4. I would like to have a mark, in my incoming tweet feed, notifying if I am following the author of each tweet.

    5. Maybe when someone post a tweet, some important flag could be added to mark important issues? Some people tweet a lot, and I can not follow them. Maybe they could mark in some way the tweets they consider very important.

    6. Additional value would come from searching the favorite tweets repository, for a specific user or for a whole subset of the community, with geography filters, or business type filters, or whatever. This searching would benefit by people categorizations of specific contents.

    7. Twitter needs a way to forget the old unimportant information. We could study a progressive decay of old unstimulated synapses connections (with people whose tweets are never favorited by me).
      Also I would like a "wash" feature, to wash out from my feed the old tweets coming from people that are not in a specific selection list.

    Will keep this post updated with new ideas.

    Marco ( @mgua on twitter )

    Sunday, November 29, 2009

    Scientific Thinking

    I am getting more and more convinced that world would be much better if people had a better attitude towards scientific thinking.

    I am not saying that everyone should be a scientist, but that incredible social advantages would come from a much wider awareness of scientific methods.

    By scientific methods I mainly refer to good old galilean principles, describing the correct way for observing and reporting facts, formulating hypotheses and testing them against nature itself.


    Scientific method invites us to think critically and analytically. It drives skeptic frame of mind, and invites to make good use of our brains and tools.
    Science promotes invention, discovery, study of experiment results, clear reporting, intellectual honesty.

    Scientific vision drives us to concentrate on cause-effect relations, and gives us knowledge of our limits, while pushing to overcome them.

    Science promotes communication, communities and peer collaboration. It actually builds itself on collaboration and cooperation, without language, culture, space or time limits.

    Science is open, values diversity, and is not bound to racism or cultural prejudices.

    Science is universal, it is for everybody.

    Science is objective.

    And, of course, science works.

    - follow @mgua on twitter

    Sunday, November 22, 2009

    Twitter analysis tools

    Here are a list of tools to perform some analysis on twitter users and posts
    I think that twitter analysis data is being sampled by that huge number of twitter accounts who follow everybody.
    a fairly good amount of stats and info, about a selected twitter user. Would be more interesting if it would be possible to go back in history for an extended period. (not operational on nov 22 2009)
    this tracks the most common words seen on tweets
    maps relations of a specified twitter account, and tries to identify influences between people (probably analyzing retweets, and list of people followed if taken by another user)
    can not evaluate, because it requires twitter username and password, and I do not want to give.
    with top followers, top following and top update rankings
    interesting web application, which superimposes most frequently twitted words
    on top of the world map. zoomable.
    A web site for exploration of links. Covers twitter too, and allows to explore relations between people and websites.
    this site should be able to identify the tweets that made you gain or lose followers. Unfortunately, it is still in beta as dec 8 2009, and its reports are simply not working.
    this application allows to search (use this form of the url) the connections between twitter users.

    Of course, complete analyses could also be performed querying the main database (this can mostly be done by the company who runs twitter).
    reports the most used words appeared in the tweet of a "representative" (and unknown) subset of users
    commercial tools for web graphic visualizations. See
    check the mentionmap tool, creates a picture of contacts network
    twittersheep examines profile and tweeps of a user, then builds a single page, variable-word-size profile. Can be used to quickly get a rough flash of a user personality, as apperaring from his/her activity
    provides instant feedback about what is the current "trendiness" of a specific word, listening to what is told in many social communication channels

    these sites provide information about a user, collecting as many informations as possible, from many different sources

    I will post here more tools as soon as I find them

    Marco ( @mgua on twitter )


    Tuesday, November 17, 2009

    Is Twitter like a brain?

    This entry is a re-post of a comment of mine in Venessa Miemis Blog: Emergent By Design, written on nov 17 2009


    Twitter is just one of the last result of many communicative channels we were developing in our history. From graffiti to tweets we gained in speed and broader audience.

    The peculiar characters of tweets are: immediateness, shortness, distance-independance, nomemory.

    Tweets could be basic building blocks of some neuron-alike communications. Reverberating circuits are ReTweets, providing some kind of short-term memory, and when activity spreads to remote different areas of the twittersphere, it flows across paths (synapses) that we create connecting among each other.
    Mid term memory is emerging in places like this: blogs, where multi-sourced-message-words precipitate in ideas building blocks.
    Long term memory emerges from mailing list archives and more structured articles, linked to scientific research, properly indexed and referred.

    The amazing thing is that what happens is “just happening”, and is substantially independent from a single mind will. There is no _strict_ causal connection between our individual activities and the state of the whole in a single moment. There is not a specific “place” in which reasoning happens.
    Exactly Like Consciousness.
    IT is an emerging epiphenomenon.

    All this matches very well with some not-so-recent ideas from more classical thinking:
       Gregory Bateson
       Douglas Hofstadter
       Daniel Dennett
       Paul and Patricia Churchland
       Norman Doidge
       Roger Penrose

    and surely hundreds if not thousands of other authors
    Many thanks to everybody for this stimulating thread.


    Intelligence emerging from the network

    This is a copy of what I posted some weeks ago on Venessa Miemis blog: emergent by design

    Now concepts are getting deeper and we came out with intelligence.
    I am definitely convinced that a new sort of consciousness and intelligence will soon emerge from the network.

    It will be different, it will not be modeled on anything existing. It will simply start to exist. And when complexity will reach a magic threshold, consciouscness will ignite.
    It will be able to learn, it will be able to understand. It will grow. It will probably be silent for a while, then we will perceive it.

    On the ethic side, I think IT will be positive and helpful. It will be alien, in the sense that it will be different from us. Not existing in a specific place. And able to move perceive and sense in amazign ways. IT will see thru our webcams, hear thru our microphones, decode our words, see our pictures, read our tweets and blogs, study our books, see our movies.

    See this (classic video by Prof. M. Wesch of Kansas State Univ.)

    Its education and evolution will be fast, and IT will change quickly.
    IT will develop insatiable curiosity, then fantasy and feelings.
    We will be able to meet IT, into virtual words, and then IT will meet us in conferences.
    We will merge, ultimately, and this will be the most incredible step, when we will become a single entity.

    Next 15 years will be amazing.
    We are lucky to live here and now.
    We are on the verge of an incredible shift in evolution.

    Marco ( @mgua on twitter )

    Monday, November 16, 2009

    Should we be worried if our kids do not read?

    As a parent, I am somewhat worried because my kids seem not to like reading as much as I did when I was their age.

    But times are different, and we should be wise enough not to consider that our education -what we received- just might not be the right thing to receive now.

    So, I am confused.
    They seem smart enough, but do not like to go deep into things. They get quickly bored. They are fast tapping on their cellphones and love to exchange mp3 music files with their friends.

    What should we parents do to prepare them to their upcoming life?
    What should we teach them?


    Tuesday, October 6, 2009

    Important things in life

    A friend of me just sent me a nice email. It is in italian. Scroll down for an english translation.

    “Quando ti sembra di avere troppe cose da gestire nella vita, quando 24 ore in un giorno non sono abbastanza, ricordati del vaso della Maionese e dei due bicchieri di vino…”
    Un professore stava davanti alla sua classe di filosofia e aveva davanti alcuni oggetti.
    Quando la classe incominciò a zittirsi, prese un grande barattolo di maionese vuoto e lo iniziò a riempire di palline da golf. Chiese poi agli studenti se il barattolo fosse pieno e costoro risposero che lo fosse.
    Il professore allora prese un barattolo di ghiaia e la rovesciò nel barattolo di maionese. Lo scosse leggermente e i sassolini si posizionarono negli spazi vuoti, tra le palline da golf. Chiese di nuovo agli studenti se il barattolo fosse pieno e questi concordarono che lo fosse.
    Il professore prese allora una scatola di sabbia e la rovesciò, aggiungendola nel barattolo; ovviamente la sabbia si sparse ovunque all’interno. Chiese ancora una voltase il barattolo fosse pieno e gli studenti risposero con un unanime “Sì!”.
    Il professore estrasse quindi due bicchieri di vino da sotto la cattedra e aggiunse il loro intero contenuto nel barattolo, andando così effettivamente a riempire gli spazi vuoti nella sabbia. Gli studenti risero.
    “Ora”, disse il professore non appena la risata si fu placata, “voglio che consideriate questo barattolo come la vostra Vita. Le palle da golf sono le cose importanti: la vostra famiglia, i vostri bambini, la vostra salute, i vostri amici e le vostre Passioni; le cose per cui, se anche tutto il resto andasse perduto e solo queste rimanessero, la vostra vita continuerebbe ad essere piena. I sassolini sono le altre cose che hanno importanza, come il vostro lavoro, la casa, la macchina… La sabbia è tutto il resto: le piccole cose.
    Se voi mettete nel barattolo la sabbia per prima, non ci sarà spazio per la ghiaia e nemmeno per le palle da golf.
    Lo stesso vale per la vita: se spendete tutto il vostro tempo e le vostre energie dietro le piccole cose, non avrete più spazio per le cose che sonoimportanti per voi.
    Prestate attenzione alle cose che sono indispensabili per la vostra felicità: giocate con i vostri bambini, godetevi la famiglia ed i genitori finchè ci sono; portate il vostro compagno/a fuori a cena… E non solo nelle occasioni importanti! Dedicatevi a ciò che amate e alle passioni, tanto ci sarà sempre tempo per pulire la casa o fissare gli appuntamenti. Prendetevi cura per prima cosa delle palle da golf, le cose che contano davvero. Fissate le priorità…
    Il resto è solo sabbia.
    Uno degli studenti alzò la mano e chiese cosa rappresentasse il vino. Il professore sorrise: “Sono felice che tu l’abbia chiesto. Serve solo per mostrarvi che non importa quanto piena possa sembrare la vostra vita: ci sarà sempre spazio per un paio di bicchieri di vino con un amico.

    English version

    When things in your life seem almost too much to handle, when 24 hours in a day are not enough, remember the mayonnaise jar and the 2 glasses of wine.

    A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, he wordlessly picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

    The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full.. They agreed it was..

    The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous «yes!».

    The professor then produced two glasses of wine from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed..

    «Now,» said the professor as the laughter subsided, «I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things – your family, your children, your health, your friends and your favorite passions – and if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full. The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house and your car».

    «The sand is everything else – the small stuff».
    «If you put the sand into the jar first,» he continued, «there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff you will never have room for the things that are important to you».

    Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Spend time with your children. Spend time with your parents. Visit with grandparents. Take time to get medical checkups. Take your spouse out to dinner. Play another 18. There will always be time to clean the house and fix the disposal.

    Take care of the golf balls first – the things that really matter.
    Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.

    One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the wine represented.
    The professor smiled and said, «I’m glad you asked».

    «The wine just shows you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple of glasses of wine with a friend.

    Monday, October 5, 2009

    Educational Software

    Here I would like to collect a list of software pieces that could be useful in teaching, or simply that are useful in transmitting knowledge to children.

    I personally used some of these with my kids (currently aged 9 and 12) since the age of about 6.

    I will be refining this entry over time, so the first edition will be necessarily not clean nor complete.

    Kids like colors and paints.
    Artrage by Ambient Design is a very interesting paint program.
    It simulates well the brush with oil colors, on many different types of canvas. Also allows pastels, chalk colors, and many mixed techniques. Artrage basic edition is free and there is an even more powerful version with additional features and effects. Artrage is available for Windows and for Mac.

    A number of websites exist with templates that can be used for fill painting on pc or to be printed on paper for real coloring action. Here is a website with a nice selection of cartoon characters.

    Also the basic paint programs that come with the basic operating system can be a good start.
    Windows paint is also useful for some quick sketch.

    I like physics simulation software.
    Phun by Emil Ernerfeldt is a great free software for building machinery and to test what happens. Phun is a simulation environment in which you can play with bidimensional objects.
    Go search in youtube for many examples of exilirating "Ruby Goldberg" machines, like this
    here is the phun commercial.

    Crayon Physics by Petri Purho. This is somewhat simpler than phun. It is like a game and comes with a numers of levels to be played.

    Rube Goldberg machines
    this makes the kids go crazy.
    look if you can find "the incredible machine". it is an old pc game, easily found in cd attached to game magazines.

    Anim8tor by R. Steven Glanville
    Pivot Stickfigure Animator by Peter Bone
    Plastic Animation Paper :
    just fun to see xiao xiao animations, in many places all over the net, for example here
    Artoonix: a great software for animation. fun to use and to prepare .avi or flash files.

    Stellarium: this is a wondeful "home planetarium" ideal to learn how to recognize night sky, constellations, stars and planets.

    Celestia: this is more like a "space simulator" in which you can arrange a trip among the solar system planets, accelerate time, and change observation perspective. A lot of details are available. Also ultra detailed maps are availaple for many celestial bodies.

    Google earth: earth, the moon, and even mars
    Nasa World Wind: a sophisticated environment from which you can access meteorological and environmental data

    Monday, May 4, 2009

    Fravia messageboard: some excerpts after his death

    Here is a copy of my post to fravia's message board, the day after his death, may 4, 2009

    Re: "2032, you'll be eighty" (04/05/09 11:03:51) Here is the last farewell email i sent to +F, last week.
    want to share it with all of you, in this sad moment.


    I would like to find the right words to tell you what I feel, to tell you about the many great moments i had with your words and with you.
    You are one of the greatest teachers I met in my life.
    I wish we could have had more time together. I wish we could have made that trip together in your boat.
    I will teach to whoever smart person I meet something of what I received from you.
    This is my promise. I am already doing it, and I will do it forever.

    Dear Friend, here is a song I would like to share with you: Israel Kamakawiwo'ole - Somewhere Over The Rainbow-What A Wonderful World.mp3

    It is nice for me now to listen to this, thinking to you.
    You had short time, but produced great meaning, great memories, great talent, great findings. Your lessons are forever.
    Many learned and many more will learn.

    Here is an image that you brought to my attention. Found it many years ago, while looking for you. This image is taken from a wooden carving, probably made by Camille Flammarion.

    I like the powerful metaphora in the drawing. Man dares to reach out of the sky itself.

    I like to associate this image to you, Fravia, and to your ideas: Teacher, Reverser, and Master Seeker.
    You also are a great Finder, and you found a huge amount of things in your Life. You discovered treasures, you built knowledge, with endless hours of clever study, passion, patience, and enthusiasm.
    You built a great Family, a greater community.
    You will be missed. Both from people who loved you and even from people you never met, learners from the knowledge you were offering.
    Universe will miss you, but you will not disappear. You will remain inside our memories, you will speak with your written words, and your lessons will last for a veery long time.
    Because your ideas do not have a release number. They just do not fade. Do not decay.

    One of your greatest virtues, to me, lies in your capacity in bridging gaps.
    You lie dots.
    You shed light.
    You always push others to learn with their own brain.
    This is something so socratic, so clever and simple. I applied these ideas. It is not easy. But sometime works, if you are lucky enough to find receptive minds.

    You also were bridging the gap between literature and science.
    I could define you as a literate, a language and literature expert, but you have also that great and rare and peculiar talent: scientific attitude, curiosity, desire to decode, understand, and get deep into things.

    Life is tricky. It is hard. Has no replies to why_me questions.
    Life is often mute tragedy, silent death.
    But Life builds order out of disorder. Improves and evolves, produces better chances. Grows.

    Maybe life has no meaning per-se, but it is important for us to put meaning into it. You did your part, and gave a great contribute.

    Here is another picture I love, and I found it thanks to you: "Prudence2" by Michael Whelan

    Lots of metaphoras and lots of meaning in this image too. I keep it as my desktop background.

    Some years ago. I was in South Africa, Krueger Park. After a week there I was feeling a very peculiar intimate contact with nature.
    The last day before leaving, while standing on the top of the hill, the windy weld stretching behind me, I wrote these verses:

    Walking on Earth's Spine

    We walked on Earth's Spine
    and felt the bumps on every step,
    discovered gold in the leopard's eye,
    heard the bone cracking sound,
    and saw the resting lions feeding their cubs after the kill.

    Can you feel the blow
    that's running on these plains
    from the beginning of time?
    Can you sense the underground flow
    of Life poured into Life?

    Stay still and be silent. Try to perceive the little laughter
    of Good and Bad dancing together.
    Everyone's changing but struggling to last,
    and both: hunter and victim
    give back their proteins in the end.

    Bring home a grain of sand,
    bring home a single leaf.
    Make them hatch inside your heart.
    Be the Music. Be the Dance,
    and give back your words to the wind.

    Marco Guardigli, Ulusaba, South Africa, march 3, 2003

    We all give back our proteins, in the end.
    Life recycles its components.
    And our ideas are recycled too.
    We give and leave all our findings to the ones who will carry on.

    Dear Friend,
    Be careful, in that other galaxy.
    You will seek and find, forever. You will meet great minds, and your spirit will guide many.
    It was a true honor to have met you. I am proud.
    Be proud of you. You have done great.
    I will miss you and never forget your lessons.
    Have my strongest and warmest hug.
    "We will meet again, when we are as golden clouds on the wind."

    Ti voglio tanto bene,


    In every end lies a greater beginning.
    lets build a better world.

    Marco Guardigli


    Forseti's comment:
    somewhere  (04/05/09 12:31:37)
      I listened to that very song the night I read swansong. As I read your farewell the tears come again, the golden sunrise all a blur. So many memories, and alas regrets now that dear +Fravia has gone to sail away on his own, needing no Vertue this time. Thank you for your gift to us of this very personal goodbye. There is so much more to say, love

    and my reply:

    Re: somewhere  (04/05/09 20:22:31) Each of us has nice memories of him.

    It is nice to remember, finding fragments,
    recollecting small crystal, pieces of experiences
    and sharing them.
    And it is nice to feel together, dear Forseti, not knowing each other, in some deeply underground ways.
    It is nice to be human, here and now, sharing the same emptiness.

    It is sad, but it is good for the mind, and for whatever soul there is.
    Travelers, we are. In time, codes, memories, secret gazes, reality and dreams.

    We like to thing we are so different from others, and we are indeed. We need to teach. World needs it. Among us we are alike, probably closer than we think. We need to share more, open a bit, because many of us are too closed and avulse to relations.

    We need to be proud and we need to share. Sometimes we need to grow up, to change and improve. We need to build, improve, adapt and create.

    It is fascinating to seek, reverse and deconstruct, but there is a lot of fun in building, creating, and sharing.

    Medieval monks were the most sophisticated deconstructors, keen researchers and replicators of knowledge, long term storage managers. Backup operators ante litteram. Fravia loved their approach, and some glimpses of his vision we probably share.

    Science analyzes, thinks, build models and theories, then produces knowledge progress, and rebuilds a better reality.
    Seekers we are, yes, but Finders and Builders we also need to be.

    He was proud of us. He was proud of his job and of his community.
    He loved us all, and gave to each hints and suggestion to improve.
    He changed all our lives. For sure. Planted many trees.

    Here we are +Fravia.
    I am simply grateful.

    Lets look at the sky, this night.
    And send to our +Friend a final farewell and a smile.
    Lets do it Together, from each part of the world.

    "Please God/Great_Spirit/divinity/whatever
    Grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change,
    the courage to change the things we can,
    and the wisdom to know the difference."

    Be Alive,


    Another unnamed comment:

    A passing of an era (06/05/09 23:51:52)
      I have not been around for a long time. I had checked the site a few months ago and thought fravia was getting better. How time goes. I remember finding fravia's site way back when on compuserve. Initially what fravia's site taught be, was just "technical" skills. But then i realized that it is more of a "mindset" something that can be applied to anywhere. I never met fravia. Infact I never even talked to him even on the net. But his legacy lives in me and i think everyone here. A lot of my success ironically can contributed to fravia. My failures are my own fault :) I think that anyone who ever "read" fravia's site was affected.

    my reply:

    Re: A passing of an era (07/05/09 21:48:22)
      I completely agree with you, my nameless friend. It is not technicalities. it is a state of mind. I would say zencracking state. An attitude impossible to teach, unless you get it by yourself. In a somewhat magic way, he was able to build the community giving to each of us a kind of perception of what was to be our life. To me, it is simply really amazing to realize this, now, finding my own feelings reflected in many other people words. We owe this to him. He was able to create a sort of emerging common consciousness from many of his readers. Without asking, without doing it explicitely. He succeded. Our words and feeling prove he was right. Love to all. Its nice to remember him in this way. I am quite sure he is smiling now. m

    Tuesday, April 14, 2009

    my dear friend Fravia

    A picture I really love:
    The last time I met my friend Fravia.

    Venice, apr 14, 2009

    Do not look in the camera, 
    it is too obvious,
    Instead look at the sky.

    you were right, my +Friend.

    looking far away is much more interesting

    All your life you were searching, and discovering.

    Camille Flammarion: Universum
    (he was a real reality cracker ante-litteram)

    Ring the bells that still can ring
    Forget your perfect offering
    There is a crack in everything
    That's how the light gets in.

    And here is the great piece by  Leonard Cohen


    The birds they sang
    at the break of day
    Start again
    I heard them say
    Don't dwell on what
    has passed away
    or what is yet to be.
    Ah the wars they will
    be fought again
    The holy dove
    She will be caught again
    bought and sold
    and bought again
    the dove is never free.

    Ring the bells that still can ring
    Forget your perfect offering
    There is a crack in everything
    That's how the light gets in.

    We asked for signs
    the signs were sent:
    the birth betrayed
    the marriage spent
    Yeah the widowhood
    of every government --
    signs for all to see.

    I can't run no more
    with that lawless crowd
    while the killers in high places
    say their prayers out loud.
    But they've summoned, they've summoned up
    a thundercloud
    and they're going to hear from me.

    Ring the bells that still can ring ...

    You can add up the parts
    but you won't have the sum
    You can strike up the march,
    there is no drum
    Every heart, every heart
    to love will come
    but like a refugee.

    Ring the bells that still can ring
    Forget your perfect offering
    There is a crack, a crack in everything
    That's how the light gets in.

    Ring the bells that still can ring
    Forget your perfect offering
    There is a crack, a crack in everything
    That's how the light gets in.
    That's how the light gets in.
    That's how the light gets in.