Need more time for work? Sleep less!

Interestingly there is a whole armada of things keeping us under pressure: you got to be more productive, faster, better organized, and so on. The computer has not only enhanced our productivity: ubiquitous computing also means there will be no excuse to be unproductive (except when you »deserved« a break)?

There are already many people working almost round the hour – from early morning when they wake up to late night when they fall asleep. For those there is now »aid« available:

Glen Rhodes explains how to reduce the daily amount of sleep needed to 4.5 hours:

Typically, I sleep 3 hours a night, and nap for 90 minutes in the evening. That’s a total of 4.5 hours, and I am always alert, always awake and always feel rested and refreshed.

Update: There is a Wikipedia page about »polyphasic sleep«.

Hooray! I’d like to quote Alex Albrecht from »We live in desperate times, Dude!«.

Return from Hamburg

I am in the train back to Cologne. I am thinking about, what I was seeing and hearing the last two days at the Campus Innovation conference. The conference theme was trying to bring educatiors and administration closer together in context of e-Education. Talking about the different sessions would make this a very long post. I’ll skip that. I just want to state that I got the impression that politicians and university administrators try to turn higher education in some kind of electronic commerce. »Education = content delivery«? No wonder faculty and university administrators are like oil and water: you need to steadily stirr them to keep them together.

Yesterday I had dinner with Marco Kalz from FU Hagen and three other people. They were attending another conference in Hamburg. They were “Wiki people” giving presentations of how to use Wikis in e-Learning. One guy was from Switzerland (I didn’t get his name right first). We were debating the issues of structuring content in Wikis over some beers when I said I know a brilliant example of structured content for almost 10 years and he should have a look at that: Biblionetz by Beat Döbeli. He started to laugh and Marco said: »Oliver, you’re just talking to him!!«.

Even while I was the idiot here, it was kind of a nice way to meet someone.

(BTW the other two were Helmut Leitner and Anja Ebersbach)

CS site up

I seems I am making a slow move to Plone. I just replaced a static Manila-driven homepage of me with a Plone site.

After working on a Plone skin for a client it seems creating a design for Plone has become less of an obstacle. The main problem I have is lack of time: there are many details to touch when doing a “real” new Plone skin. So it currently is running the default skin. It’s kind of ugly but still works better than what most people run as homepage in the computer science department (BTW Tom Lazar seems to do amazing work with Plone).


YES! My DSL connection was just upgraded to 6MBit/s downstream. It’s amazing that these speeds are available for consumers for affordable flat rates.

I remember a comment made by Derrick De Kerckhove in the final panel of a 4th doors of perception conference about »Speed« in 1996:

No body is complaining about the television being too slow. But everbody is complaining about the Internet being too slow. And why is that?? Because the Internet definitely is too slow!

Good old days!

How long does it take for a weblog to become inactive?

Several weeks now without any update here. Why? Well, too many reasons to list here. I was too busy on the one hand – on the other hand I did not want to blog just to remain »active«. I know I ignored one the »post early, post often« rule for running a successful blog. I was still posting here there in some of the seminar weblogs I maintain and I am still reading RSS feeds. So I wasn’t dropping out of blogging at all.

Another reason is that I want my personal blog become more a commentary blog with more thinking going into the content – not so much a filtering blog which just collects cool links. That I am doing with – so no need to do it here… (BTW: if you are using you have to see the direc.tor!)

Finally there are so many threads to follow currently, that I need some time to think about them. That’s probably one of the privileges as professor: there is a lot of noise around you all the time. This is rewarding – but also stressing.

Fighting wiki spam

I lost the wiki on this site due to hackers. I didn’t have a recent backup so I am trying to recover as much as possible from Google cache. The wiki wasn’t a wiki anymore anyway: i needed to close it for public editing due to spam bots.

The best solution I have seen for fighting this kind of automated spam is a small Turing test. Ingo Hinterding has good experiences with it and it seems to protect is comments quite well. It may also be easier to implement that captchas. Here is a german article about the issue. It contains a quote by Stephan Mosel:

Open wikis are so 2004!

Well, I’d add that closed wikis aren’t anything beyond 2004 as well. The open editing of wiki pages is a key for success of wiki sites. I don’t want to contact the site maintainer or subscribe to an account when coming across a wiki page that I feel needs some refinement.

Blogging strategy reconsidered

I really like this weblog of Clark MacLeod from Taiwan (he is very much into sound and interaction design). In addition to common blog post keywords. He categorizes his posts in three domains: work, life and play. I think this is a good way to separate social roles and personal motivation in blog posts. I just need to come to a conclusion about this. It would be very easy to add with Tinderbox.

New Gmail invitations

Google has upgraded the invitations in Gmail. I now have 50 invitations left. And it appears to be the standard for all users. If you want one please comment here (click on the date above). I won’t send an invitation if you don’t state your real name and your personal website.

Update: Comments closed. No more invitations. Most people didn’t state a personal website. Sorry.

After the game is before the game

So the semester is almost over. I end with a much bigger base of new slides from recent lectures that will probably make the future lecturing task much easier. I had never the chance to use a former presentation 1:1 for a new one: there is always a need for update and improvement – but at least as long as there is improvement I think lights are green!

So the I’ll embrace a motto from a german soccer coach: »After the game is before the game!« – So what’s next in teaching?

First of all I am looking back over five years of teaching with more than one new seminar concept per semester. Almost any seminar could be repeated with new participants without loosing actuality. On the contrary, being able to build upon prior work seems to be an invitation on its own to do so. I think it will strengthen the research focus and also provide another level of certainty to me and to the students.

Secondly I still have a number of topics “in store” that could be adressed or haven’t yet been extended beyond the initial sketch for a seminar.

Weblogging and teaching – status

I have written about my experiences with weblogs as a tool for teaching. Still most of what I said still remains valid thinking – even though I didn’t invest enough energy to move onward from that stage. I am still empowered by the positive feedback. I always opposed forcing students to blog. Now I see weblogs gaining popularity here and so I hope the overall trend may eventually become stronger and maybe students are going to pick it up even without me introducing them to weblogging. I don’t know – but I think this way around it’s much better. Until then I use the seminar weblogs as publishing channels. Even without much student activity it seems to be the weblogs are a simple way to filter the web and provide essential resources to students. But with around 25 active weblogs I am reaching a limit somehow. So there needs to be some thinking on my behalf how to re-use all those news items published. We need some sort of aggregator similar to what kCollector of eVectors ist doing.

Destructive Wiki spam

I had my wiki locked for anonymous editing to get rid of spammers. Only one or two pages were editable because I wanted people to be able to work on them. I was hoping that spammers would turn down if they can’t find an editable page ad hoc. Not so.

In “return” they did not only spam the open pages – they also replaced and thus deleted the original content (they used to append stuff to existing content). In addition they also started to add new pages below the editable page (which seems to work if the original page is writable).

Luckily I was able to repair the damage, but I wonder how all these Wikis out there surive.

Tsunamis at Wikipedia

This Wikipedia page is very interesting: While the tsunami wave of the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake was by far the deadliest ever recorded it was by far not the highest: that was recorded 1958 in Alaska and was created by a land slide inside a small fjord (LItuya Bay) causing a wave to reach high as 500 meters (1500 ft).

Underwater landslides appear to be a source of much bigger tsunamis than earthquakes. The Wikipedia page about a possible future tsunami:

In 2001, scientists predicted that a future eruption of the unstable Cumbre Vieja volcano in La Palma (an island of the Canary Islands) could cause a supergiant undersea landslide. Later research showed that the threat was less than had originally been theorized. The next volcanic eruption is expected in the second half of the 21st century, but it is not necessarily the eruption that causes an immediate landslide. In the worst case scenario, the western half of the island (weighing perhaps 500 billion tonnes) would catastrophically slide into the ocean. Such a landslide could cause a 100 m megatsunami to devastate the coast of northwest Africa, with a 10-25 m tsunami reaching the east coast of North America 7-8 hours later causing massive coastal devastation and the deaths of perhaps millions of people, threatening Miami, suburbs of New York, and parts of Boston, and all coastal cities in between.

The scientists have different opinions about the probability of this catastrophe.


After getting comment spam for a while I found my wiki pages were spammed as well: someone added hundreds of links obiously to tune the page rank algorithm of google. There does not seem to be an easy way to deal with this issue. So I needed to disable open wiki editing (which equals not having a wiki at all).


Not only comments and wiki got spammed on several sites – also the referrer pages were full of it.

Dave Winer is trying to deal with the referrer spamming by re-checking the origin. Then Jan Storms suggests a filtering and a blacklist tool. Userland reacted quickly by adding two event hooks for comments and referrers, so that anti-spam tools can be activated in the right moment.


It has been quite silent here the last month. I was very busy and blogging had to be suspended for a while. This will change soon – there have been a lot of things going on. Here’s what is up next:

1. Election in US: a very bad decision to re-elect Bush. But it seems Bush is not the problem, but the symptom: I think the religious subtext of the Bush approval is really a challenge and it will be a problem for the next two decades.

2. HIVE University Server project: I am working with some people on a web service based Intranet framework for universities. Yes, we are re-inventing the wheel, because all the wheels I have seen so far are not round enough. It will be open source and there will be SVN access to the development. IT will also be based on Python (Twisted for the Backend and Zope for the Frontend) – and it will define a number of APIs for different modules that make up the system.

3. Online lectures: I am planning to produce online versions of a number of lectures. There are many non-technical issues with this I need to resolve before this can happen. The lectures should be linked to a Wiki space – so there is a lot of content that I need to create.

4. Departmental site redesign: We will do a redesign if our department site. It will be updated to a new corporate design and it is lacking the sophistication I’d like to see there.

Back from Frankfurt

The “Future of computing” presentation at the Museum for Communication went well although only few people appeared (among them was Jochen Robes from who happened to read about it here). Jochen suggested I should have advertised the event more on my weblog, but I assume this wouldn’t have made much of a difference.

I will have to add some background links to the Wiki space later.