Stuff that doesn't matter

On toilets

Friday, 27 April 2012 | fun fact | comments

From Bill Bryson's "At Home":

Perhaps no word in English has undergone more transformations in its lifetime than toilet. Originally, in about 1540 it was a kind of cloth, a diminuitive form of toile, a word still used to describe a type of linen. Then it became a cloth for dressing tables. Then it became the items on the dressing table (whence toiletries). Then it became the dressing table itself, then the act of dressing, then the act of receiving visitors while dressing, then the dressing room itself, then any kind of private rom near a bedroom, then a room used lavatorially, and finally the lavatory itself. Which explains why 'toilet water' in English can describe something you would gladly daub on your face or, simultanously, 'water in the toilet'.


Wednesday, 25 April 2012 | Private, sick | comments

You learn a new word every day. Today's word is Sinusitis (Nasennebenhöhlenentzündung), and I can relate to it first-hand right now.

Head Ache, Overpressured (nearly) exploding head, Slight Fever, tooth ache (outch!), cramp in my jaw are not nice to have. And so I am bound to bed, while Oliver Alexy is giving a seminar on Open Source at our chair. This sucks. I so wanted to see and talk to him...

Brusoni Seminar on Uetliberg

Friday, 20 April 2012 | ETH | comments

Today, I participate in a seminar organised by Stefano Brusoni, in which several high profile innovation researchers present work in progress and discuss it. In a way, it is like our Brown bag seminar series, but with 10 of them in one go, rather than spread out over the year. This is going to be an exhausting day. The list of people is really incredible and it is nice to meet people like Francesco Rullani, Lars Frederiksen, Marc Gruber, and Keld Laursen.vv

On another note, the location is the Zurich "Hausberg", the Uetliberg. It is a really beautiful place, and basically living on the opposite site of Zurich means I have been there way too little over the last few years.

Hier ging es den Berg mit Schlitten hoch

© sharky-san


Saturday, 17 March 2012 | Johanna | comments

Letzten Donnerstag waren wir (d.h. zuerst nur Almut mit den Kindern) im Kinderspital um Johanna zu röntgen. Anscheinend kann man sehen, ob das Knochenwachstum irgendwie gestört ist.

Das Ganze ist dann in ein 3 Studen Marathon ausgeartet, bei dem Johanna ein Stück Haut entnommen wurde um sie auf Bindegewebeschwäche zu testen. Anscheinend ist das Kinderspital in Zürich spezialisiert darauf, und eine Expertin sagte, dass potentiell das Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (engl. Wikipedia) Typ 7 passen würde, da es oft zusammen mit Klumpfüssen auftritt. Mal schauen was bei rauskommt. Wie auch immer, es wäre gut wenn sie nachts schlafen anstatt schreien würde... has been acquired by Twitter

Tuesday, 13 March 2012 | M&A, ETH | comments

I discovered posterous some time ago and use it for some purposes ( and, mainly because of its simple post-by-email interface. (I am still not sure how they deal with authentication, and there is no way to use gpg signatures either, but I digress).

Posterous has now been acquired by Twitter and the announcement post is followed by a long series of both "likes" and critical questions. No doubt that it is good for twitter to get new developers that have a proven track record of producing nice software. But is it also good for posterous the platform? It is not the only contender in the field ( and tech acquisitions are often followed by a swift shutdown of the service in question. Examples of this are for example gizmo5, and etherpad being bought by Google.

It is not exactly reassuring to read in the announcement:

We’ll give users ample notice if we make any changes to the service. For users who would like to back up their content or move to another service, we’ll share clear instructions for doing so in the coming weeks.

sigh, that's what you get when you go for free services, isn't it? "If you are not paying for it, you're not the customer; you're the product being sold."(--Andrew Lewis)

The next bubble

Wednesday, 25 January 2012 | search engine, google | comments

The next bubble will not be real-estate, or tech startups and we actually aready live in it. It is The Filter Bubble (book written by Eli Pariser).

It means that your search results are personalized and customized according to your habits, friends, and taste. It also means that two persons searching the same term can receive very different results. Google started doing that in 2009, and up to now, I have never really cared a lot about this (as most people will have). However, they introduced ever more services since then that all collect your data. Notably they know your location via your Android phone, and your friends via Google+, as well as their posts and locations. They know your appointments via Google calendar, and your contacts via your address book. They know every search term ever entered, and the links clicked from the result pages.

Today I opened the Google Homepage and the previously bare page was cluttered with advertizements to install their Google Chrome webbrowser, to search Google+ and whatnot. Combined with their current privacy policy update which clarifies that:

Our new Privacy Policy makes clear that, if you’re signed in, we may combine information you've provided from one service with information from other services. In short, we’ll treat you as a single user across all our products, which will mean a simpler, more intuitive Google experience.

this leads to a very dangerous mix. Why am I sceptical about improved search vvresults? See for instance, Eli Pariser's TED talk here.

Google gives you search results that you and your friends will like, e.g. the blogs they read, the links they click, etc. This leads to an even higher degree of selective exposure than we usually have. In effect it means a compartmentalization of the Internet in areas where you feel warm, cozy, and comfortable, being shielded from things that differ from your opinion, or are likely to appall you. Is this always a good thing? It facilitates group-think and prevents you from being challenged by different world views.

Do I like relevant search results? Obviously yes! Am I concerned about living in a filter bubble? Yes, I am...