What I’ve been up to

The project that I’ve been working on since the beginning of 2015 just made its public debut.


We’re calling Ozlo a Personal AI — a software agent that has learned a lot (for the moment we’re focusing on food and restaurants) by “reading” the web. You can interact with Ozlo initially through a chat interface that we’ve exposed in an iPhone App. By conversing with Ozlo, he learns more about you and your preferences, enabling him to provide answers to your questions that get better the more you talk with him.

I’m excited about Ozlo for a number reasons. The technology underpinning the product is, frankly, vast, impressive, and ambitious. But more importantly, I’m really enthusiastic about the new kinds of interactions that systems like Ozlo portend: ubiquitous access to bite-sized bits of information tailored to me, available when and where I need it, through a variety of different channels: mobile phone, in-car systems, Smart TV, etc.

For my part, I’ve been working on the Natural Language Generation component, the part of the system that allows Ozlo to construct the things he says to users. Doing this work has rekindled my love of linguistics and grammar, and brought back fond memories of Dick Yasi’s 7th grade English Grammar class. Who knew that sentence diagramming would play such a significant role in my day-to-day life nearly 40 years later?

If you’re interested in taking Ozlo for a spin, you should know that we’re letting people in gradually to ensure that everyone has a good experience. You can sign up here. Contact me directly if you’d like a VIP code to accelerate your access.



Geeking out!

Having wrapped up my previous gig as VP of Engineering at UniversityNow earlier this month, I’ve been spending my free time over the past couple of weeks geeking out a bit, something I haven’t done with any real intensity in ages.

First up has been moving this here blog to EC2. I made heavy use of this writeup – extremely helpful.

I’ve been toying with moving my mail server to EC2 using node.js-backed Haraka. I’ve got the configuration working as I’d like, but I’m still negotiating with Amazon over the parts that they need to do to encourage other mail hosts (I’m looking at you, Yahoo mail) to believe that my server is a legitimate source of email and not a spambot. It’s unclear whether this will be successful, but it’s been educational nonetheless.

I also got myself a new laptop and have been happily hacking away on that too. I dumped my personal vim configuration in favor of the Janus distribution and am still working my way back to proficiency with the new key bindings: “Thumb-tied and twisted, just a vim-bound misfit, I”

I’m also planning to set up a bootcamp/VirtualBox instance so I can run the occasional Windows program, like IE.

Nathalie is puzzled at what all the fuss is about, but I can begin to feel the power flowing again, which is nice. Better, stronger, faster.


Big Day for my Small Company

My company, Foxmarks, was featured today in the Wall Street Journal in a column by Walt Mossberg, who covers personal technology for the Journal. The column, “Synchronizing Your Bookmarks on All Your PCs,” has some nice things to say about what we do, calling our Foxmarks

a clever, well-done product that can help users of multiple computers and multiple browsers to keep their Web lives in order.

Foxmarks has grown up on the web as a grass-roots product with lots of fans (especially amongst the digerati), but this is the first time we’ve received such substantial exposure in the national non-tech media. Check it out!

Political Analogies

I’m looking for additional options to round out the following:
George W. Bush is to Albania as…

  1. Jerry Lewis is to France
  2. David Hasselhoff is to Germany
  3. … ?

Feel free to submit your ideas for evaluation in the comments.

Boston’s Brad Delp: 1951-2007

I just learned that Brad Delp, vocalist for the band Boston, died in his home yesterday at age 55.

Though I was only 9 years old when Boston’s eponymous album was released, I would still count that band in the top contributors to my musical coming of age, Aerosmith and The Beatles being the other two. It’s no great surprise to learn that Delp considered The Beatles to be one of his top influences, and had in fact been fronting an apparently popular Beatles tribute band called Beatlejuice since the mid-90′s.

It’s been such a long time,
I think I should be goin’.
‘Cause time doesn’t wait for me,
It keeps on rollin’.


Understanding Iraq

Joe Costello recently pointed me to this article. If you — like me — have been scratching your head for four years over why the US invaded Iraq, I think this essay provides a good framework for understanding. It’s an interesting read.

Free shipping on amazon.com

I like shopping on amazon — they’ve got a great selection and they’re super-reliable. But I am suspicious at how often my checkout tally comes out just below $25, which is the point at which their free shipping kicks in.

Fear not! There’s a site that can help you find items on Amazon that cost just those few pennies you need to bump your order over the limit. I’ve used this a few times before, and it works fine. I do feel guilty about tossing out the bit of garbage that I have to buy to qualify for free shipping, but what’s a guy to do? If there were some way of having them add a dollar to my order that they would then give to a charitable cause, I’d be all over that. Alas, they don’t appear to be that enlightened yet.

It’s alive!

Spurred on by Bob’s having blog-tagged me, I decided to dust off this WordPress installation and take it for a spin. That involved upgrading to the latest version of WordPress and, in the spirit of the New Year, grabbing a new theme, Ocadia. What do you think? The little swirly icon in the theme makes me think of both Tolkien and the Artist FKaP. It’s probably some unforgivably offensive curse in a druid language, and now I’m going to have a bunch of angry trolls swinging axes around.

The internets can be a dangerous place.

Apropos of nothing, I leave you with this important lesson in history. Warning: this is not work safe.

Anybody home?

Percy Cabello has posted an interview with Mitch Kapor over at Mozilla Links, in which Mitch talks about Foxmarks, a project that he and I have been collaborating on. There’s a nod in that interview to this blog, which as you can see has been fairly dormant for months. So I thought I’d take this opportunity to post back in here, mostly so it doesn’t look so cob-webbed.

And maybe I’ll start posting rants here again, much like I did back in the day (i.e., this summer). But I wouldn’t hold my breath. Not that you would, of course. Just a figure of speech. If you want to read more about Foxmarks, we’re blogging it here.

Cringeley on Web 2.0

Robert X. Cringeley writes about Web 2.0, focusing on the ideas of metacontent, distributed authorship, and aggregation. Too bad he doesn’t mention microformats, especially when he refers to
“the Tower of Babel effect in which every metadata tagger can use his or her own tagging system, none of which are necessarily readable by the others”, exactly the sort of problem that Micoformats aim to solve.