emotisys revived

Opening view of emotisys. everything looks so clean – until you use it…

In the last couple of days, I dusted emotisys [de] off and it is mostly working again.
I still need to work on some issues (such as remembering your name it is asking for in the very beginning) but it made me quite happy already.

Feel free to give it a try if you speak some German – unfortunately, it’s probably hard to understand otherwise.

This is quite remarkable since it was basically under wraps and in maintenance for lots of years. Luckily, I now found the time to take care of it. With AI on the rise, I feel it is still a relevant experiment. Also see Jan Korsanke’s talk on trust and AI recently as an IXDS PreWorkTalk in Munich!

I was a little anxious looking at the code I wrote years ago. It is quite tedious (//documentation, anyone?) and often embarras

sing (I had hardly an idea of object orientation). Also have in mind that jQuery was not released when I started, and XMLHttpRequests were not widely known as ajax.
Some parts are also quite complex and that they started working again feels like a small surprise – as if a rusty machine gets going again. Yeah!

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emotisys on asteroids!

 

Recently, I moved my entire online household to a new infrastructure and a new provider. I felt I was reaching the limits of my old one, e.g. in terms of mailbox size, and–what was more important to me– functionality like server side mail filtering and security features like ssh/sftp access. During my most recent research project (part of SASER) I learnt quite a bit about server security and -attacks, which gave me decent motivation. Then again, I didn’t want to maintain nor pay for a full blown server. And I wanted to keep “my stuff”, such as emails, under German privacy law and with a trustworthy provider. Quite a shopping list. I’m very confident that I’ve found the perfect match for me: uberspace.de

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Here are some reasons:

Human

When I visited their website for the first time, I was immediately struck by the colloquial but informative language they used. You never feel like being in a tech shop although you get every technical detail explained if you want. They managed to find an informal tone, the right length of explanations, the right examples where you need it, and to sprinkle subtle humor on top. I read half of their instructions even before I signed up, just because it was an easy read! This is a very rare thing if you look into most of your manuals. And you can just write them and get help very quickly in the same supportive tone. Since it’s the “technical staff” writing the texts, you get a feeling for their attitude. Being accessible and personal contributes to trust.

Experts

If you want to manage private data online, it’s not enough for the service provider to have good intentions: their competencies must allow them to run state-of-the-art technology in a way that keeps your data safe. As the thorough documentation shows and also the team portraits tell you, the people behind uberspace know what they are doing. They also tell you (better: everyone)  about the limits of their service and that they are not without fail–s.th. that I find an important part of “expertise”. Of course, no service is without fail (due to humans and software) but most of them will give you a false sense of security and hide the details in fine print. Credible expertise is a basis for trust.

Transparent

When you look at the most popular/best marketed webhosters, their offers are full of superlatives but also *-links to the fine print. What looked like a great offer will become actually quite pricy 6 months later. uberspace make it very clear what you get and what you can’t. They tell you about their technology, their services, and their calculation (!). Actually, you can decide yourself how much you want to pay but with their transparent calculation they give you a good understanding of what will be fair. And since they obviously treat you fair, you are inclined to do so in exchange.

They will explain how they made all of these choices. Along the way, you’ll learn quite a bit about webhosting, including how secure your data can be. They also have terms of service, although they are called house rules. Again, they are not in dry and “exact” judicial language but lay out situations that require, e.g. interventions by uberspace staff and explain what will happen.

You get the impression that they have a reason for everything they do–if they don’t, they won’t do it. Best example is the personal data required to start an uberspace: zero. There is no reason for them to record it, they don’t need to contact you, they don’t need your bank account (if you don’t pay by yourself, they’ll simply close your webspace. Fair deal). Not recording not essential data is obviously very simple, noone needs to tick any privacy statements, and it’s just good practice of privacy. Data they don’t store can’t be misused, get stolen, or required to be handed over by law. Clear business models, clear dos and don’ts, clear data policy: transparancy builds trust as little else.

Challenging and Encouraging

In short, uberspace is for autonomous users. People who already know or want to learn about web hosting technology, want to take a look behind the scenes, so that they are in control of their scripts and data. uberspace do a great deal to help you with that, including a more or less subtle push towards the command line interface. This again is a sign that uberspace take their users serious: web technology isn’t Lego but you can learn it, too. The more you understand, the more you are in control.

 

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Scanning for Buddies

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A public version of my home grown “buddyscanner” is now available! It is a visualisation tool that I built in order to analyse communication log files of my group of test persons. This data can be usually found as a part of your phonebill or it can be extracted out of email archives.

You can give it a try right away: Start the buddyscanner

Of course, the visualisation is not too meaningful until you use your own data. But with this anonymized version you can get an impression of how it looks and works. (If you would like to have a private visualisation (where private means your data and a safe, password protected place) just let me know: blog [at] emotisys.net)

The visualisation can be rearranged to reflect different aspects of the data. It offers items that can be found in the raw data directly (such as the overall duration of communication), as well as computed values like reciprocity. The final value (from the perspective of my thesis), relevance, is available, too. Relevance is similiar to a kind of “rank” or “importance” of that person as it is seen by the machine. Although I’m using rather simple scoring methods, the results were quite meaningful to my test persons, already.

Some additional explanations:

  • In order to rearrange the diagram you need to click into the select boxes at the end of each axis. There is a third box available that is used for the “third” dimension, which is mapped onto the size of each square.
  • Hovering over a data point will load a flyout window with a more fine grained diagram. To keep it opened, you can click onto the according square.
  • In the flyout, a bar for each call/mail is displayed at the day of the year when it took place. The height is related to the duration/size of the event. Light blue means it occured during (usual) work times, dark blue is for the evening and medium for the weekends.
  • You can make some remarks for other users in the comments field if you like to.
  • If you want to keep track of some points across differnt sortings, you can highlight them with the button at the bottom of the flyout.

If you want to see more, express your doubts or have some remarks, don’t hesitate to make a statement below!

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fighting bugs in mobile processing

For the further development of our Social Display prototype we were in need for a transceiver, a display and some computing power. All of this can be found nicly bundled into a state-of-the-art mobile phone. I had heard of a mobile version of processing and after a quick view (when I found a cool example-code for some bluetooth-tricks by Francis Li), we decided to give it a try.

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