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The Longest Now

Everyblock: how do we make this everybuilding?
Sunday May 29th 2011, 4:16 pm
Filed under: %a la mod,chain-gang,metrics

Projects like EveryBlock have a noble goal – to have information about every block in a city for cities around the world, to let you follow information relevant to where you live and work.  But they tend to stall at the level of a few thousand new entries about a city each day — far less than even the collective newsrooms in a city process.  And they don’t have many ways for individuals to contribute information about where they live, or to distribute the task of seeking out new govenment data and posting / tagging it where appropriate.

How do we make things like this real?  How do we identify the hundred or so large ongoing tasks for a city – from posting its laws and regulations and codes, to sharing any information about its public works, to sharing updates from residents about the state of its infrastructur, to crimes and concerns, to social events and new business openings, to apartments for rent and neighborhood committee meetings?


Google to cancel its translate API, citing ‘extensive abuse’
Saturday May 28th 2011, 10:19 pm
Filed under: chain-gang,international,Not so popular,null,wikipedia

Google’s APIs Product Manager Adam Feldman announced on Thursday they will cancel the Google translate API by December, without replacing it, and that all use of it will be throttled until then.  Any reusers or libraries relying on the translate API to programmatically provide a better multilingual experience will have to switch over to another translation service.  (Some simple services will still be available to users, such as, but APIs will not be available to developers of other sites, libraries, or services.)

Update: As of June 3, Google says that in response to the outcry, they plan to make a paid version of the translate API available. No details yet on what that will look like.

Ouch.  This is a sudden shift, both from their strong earlier support for this API (I was personally encouraged to use it for applications by colleagues at Google), and from their standing policy of supporting deprecated services for up to 3 years.   What could have spooked them?  Why the rush? As of today, the Translate API page reads:

The Google Translate API has been officially deprecated as of May 26, 2011. Due to the substantial economic burden caused by extensive abuse, the number of requests you may make per day will be limited and the API will be shut off completely on December 1, 2011.

Most disappointing to me is the way this announcement was released: buried in a blog post full of minor “Spring Cleaning” updates to a dozen other APIs.  Most of the other deprecated APIs were replaced by reasonable equivalents or alternatives, and were being maintained indefinitely with limits on the rate of requests per user.  None of them is being cancelled within six months, and none of them are half as widely used!

I hope that this obfuscation was an unintentional oversight.  There have been 170 irate replies to that post so far, almost all about the Translate API cancellation.  But it has been three days already without any significant update from Feldman or any mention of the change on the Google Translate blog.  Google’s response to a ZDNet inquiry was that they have no further information to provide on why they made this decision.


My brilliant brother: Chilean architecture at its finest
Saturday May 14th 2011, 11:40 pm
Filed under: Glory, glory, glory,international

My brother Sebastián Gray Avins, architect and essayist, have a lovely new website up for their architecture firm, Bresciani Gray Arquitectos.  Now you can see their recent projects, from municipal buildings to the Chilean display at the Venice Biennales.  They include both images and floorplans in most cases.  I should find out if they have high-resolution images up to complement the overviews.

One of my favorites is Librería Ulises — a bookstore with the glory and scope of a library.  What I wouldn’t give to have such a store in my city!  You can also see it in the upper-left of the gallery below.  And I learned a few things from their design of the new Psychology building at the  Pontifical University of Chile. Props to the architects – browse some of their work if you need a break from the everyday.


BGA project gallery


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