Nikola Tesla And What Could Have Been

 children, education, invention, nikola tesla, Random  Comments Off on Nikola Tesla And What Could Have Been
Jun 022012

Nikola TeslaI began reading Margaret Cheney’s biography, Tesla: Man Out Of Time, this week and after only completing five chapters I am deeply saddened by how he was treated and cheated time and time again. I somehow feel a bit guilty for the behavior of my country. Maybe I would feel this way if I saw such change in how we operate today, but what I see now seems so similar to the cutthroat tactics described at the dawn of our Industrial Revolution.

If an inventor like Tesla emerged today with a mind on fire with ideas that could change the world, how would they be treated? My take…? This new inventor’s ideas would be treated as resources to extract and profit whereas the vessel carrying them would be thought of as a necessary nuisance to deal with.

How can we truly change our future from one of profit thirsty greed, to one of innovation hungry contribution? To a world in which progressing people’s lives is valued much higher than increasing one’s wealth. Are we raising today’s children to become tomorrow’s problem solvers or are we instead training them to work the existing system? What do we want most from the education we all speak of as one of the most important things we can give to our children? Is it success? What if instead we focused on teaching our children to solve new problems from within themselves? Teaching them to solve problems that have already been solved in the form of testing can only keep them in line with some subjective standard. Does anyone honestly think that tomorrow’s problems will follow the same answer key used to grade today’s tests?

Nikola Tesla did study. He had an astounding amount of discipline within himself to achieve. A major difference though is that he worked to achieve that which no one else had ever even imagined. That is the kind of discipline I want for my own children. Yes, study what has been done and gain understanding of that which interests you. Don’t stop at passing a test on it though. Don’t stop at all. Surpass what has already been achieved and also continue to learn knew ways to do them with even less effort.

When Tesla was unable to gain capital for his own ideas, he worked at improving others’. Progress was the game he was in and I cannot think of anyone who played it better. Each set back was transformed into a new opportunity. Some of his improvements to Thomas Edison’s designs were even awarded patents.

If you agree with me that teaching our children to solve problems from within themselves is more valuable that training them how to solve problems they expect to see on a test, how best do you think this may be achieved? Well look at that… I’ve got myself an opportunity here don’t I?


[image credit wikipedia]

A Standard For Describing An Item’s Author In RSS

 content ingestion, RSS, Technology  Comments Off on A Standard For Describing An Item’s Author In RSS
Jun 012012

The Problem

I’m currently working on a content ingestion system for Gravity‘s personalization and analytics systems. We already have in place a powerful and flexible article extraction library in place that we open sourced as Goose, which does a great job at identifying just the article text and optionally even its primary image. The problem is that all of the meta data for an article is not easily extracted from all sites the way we can algorithmically find which text is the article itself and which image is the best candidate to represent the article. Goose provides the mechanism to facilitate such extractions, but it is based on the DOM structure used by each publisher for their posts.

Enter RSS

Which brings me (and probably a lot of you) to RSS. Not only does RSS specify an article’s content, it even specifies a lot of that rich meta data we need. I thought I recalled RSS provided author meta data as well as image meta data, but when I got to work on exploring RSS as either a replacement of or in addition to Goose, I was a little surprised to find this wasn’t exactly the case. As described in the RSS Advisory Board’s Best Practices Profile, there is in fact an `author` element, however, it is specifically intended for the email address of the author and nothing else (although you can append a parenthesized name as well), and there isn’t an `image` element within each item at all.

RSS Specification version 2.NoMore

Since RSS has been frozen since March 30, 2009, all extensions to RSS are to be done, as the RSS Advisory Board states: “Subsequent work should happen in modules, using namespaces, and in completely new syndication formats, with new names.” Well I agree that all basic elements are well defined and therefor no longer require periodic updates, but it is very disappointing to me that after over 2 days of research, I have not found a single work that describes even as much author meta data that Atom 1.0 provides.

What I’m Looking For

To be clear, the elements I am looking to be additionally defined for any rss->channel->item should be encapsulated within some named author element. Since rss->channel->item->author is already defined, for the purpose of clarity I will use a fictitious XML Namespace (xmlns:profile=”http://somedomain.tld/rss/2.0/modules/profile”) for new elements:

<profile:name>Robbie Coleman</profile:name>

Update (6/1/2012):

A couple people pointed out (correctly) in the comments that atom’s author element provides [some of] what I need, but there is no place for an avatar uri within Atom 1.0, so I’m still short of the full solution.

Another point I would like to better state is that I’m looking for these additional fields to be present within other sites’ RSS so that I may consume it in a standard way. There are some sites that provide everything I’m looking for, but each of them have done it in their own way which makes my implementation for consuming it rather janky. ;)

I now leave this up for discussion, which actually began on twitter here: