links for 2010-02-20

  • Interesting conference in NYC Feb 24-26

    "Where is America today with respect to the limits on our access to information, limits on what we can keep confidential and what the government and other institutions can keep secret? How can the public gain access to information and how do we decide what information is a citizen’s right to know? What information endangers individuals’ or the country’s wellbeing and safety? Are the ever-increasing number of technological innovations fundamentally transforming what we can know and what we cannot? What can remain confidential and what cannot? On the one hand, technology has aided access to information and knowledge to broader and broader communities, thus eroding limits, while on the other hand, technologies are increasingly used by governments, businesses, and other social institutions to monitor and interfere with what we can know and cannot know and what is private and what is not."

  • “Openness” is becoming incorporated into the bureaucratic machinery of government. While executive branch agencies remain constrained by security restrictions, resource limits and other considerations, these rule-driven organizations are being given some new rules to follow.

    But the actual contours of the new thrust towards openness — its scope, its content, its urgency — depend significantly on the quality of feedback and support that the initiative receives from the interested public.

    Agencies need specific, achievable, actionable suggestions for how to meet their new openness obligations. Each agency’s openness webpage (linked here) invites readers to “share your ideas” on how to proceed. There has never been a better time for concerned citizens to help shape the government transparency agenda. (Actually, there has never been a “government transparency agenda” before.)

  • "Four major issues around Apple’s current product line that I believe are stifling the industry, consumer choice and pricing. Instead of just giving a simple solution to the problem, I thought long and hard about the opportunities for Apple to be less controlling and more open. For example, if the iPhone was available on more carriers, Apple would sell many, many more units, which would inevitably lead to people switching from Windows desktops to Macs (which is what happened with the iPod).

    "Bottom line: Of all the companies in the United States that could possibly be considered for anti-trust action, Apple is the lead candidate. The US Government, however, seems to be obsessed with Microsoft for legacy reasons and Google for privacy reasons.

    "The truth is, Google has absolutely no lock-in, collusion or choice issues like Apple’s, and the Internet taught Microsoft long ago that open is better than closed."

  • An eloquent defense of online newbies who make seemingly stupid mistakes. Worth reading and remembering.
  • "If you think back to 2002, the big news was Friendster. For many of us, it was the first time we'd joined a social network and we went wild adding friends. Then, in 2003, Myspace came along and we slowly started adding these same friends on Myspace until one day the virtual cobwebs became too much and we left Friendster altogether. And then came Facebook and we did it again.

    "Let's face it – if we can avoid it, we'd rather not do this again and that's precisely what Facebook wants. Facebook has already become the dominant platform for social networking, but as it expands its business in other directions, we will begin to see it pull users away from other businesses too. This partnership is not only about preventing that, but further solidifying Facebook's place as our one, true login."

  • "I know that there is a period of time where apps need to reign. But I for one am betting that the future is “the mobile web” not the “the mobile app.” There will always be some apps that have reasons to be native on devices but I am betting that serious innovation will happen on mobile browsers and that the future will so most apps folded into the cloud. We’ve already seen it once in the PC era. It’s the best thing for our health. We can build for one primary browser (like we do for Firefox on the desktop today) and then figure out how to get the rest working with whatever Microsoft builds.

    "It will be 3-5 years before this transition takes place. Much money will be gained and lost in this period. And somebody will win in the transition. Wise companies will plan for this “great porting” to take place. Unfortunately it won’t be in the next 3 years so we have to live through this temporary era."

  • "The alliance integrates Facebook Chat into AIM, AOL's instant messaging platform, and its new Lifestream feature. Lifestream already provides many of the same updates and social features that Google is now introducing with Google Buzz, said Brad Garlinghouse, a former Yahoo executive who now leads AOL operations in Silicon Valley. AIM is the first major instant messaging service to integrate with Facebook's new interface."
  • Story about Patch.com that mentions Oakland Local

    "Are there enough talented writers and reporters to staff all of the local sites Patch.com has in mind? If not, then the company will quickly have to come to grips with the wildly varying quality levels that “citizen journalism” can produce (each Patch site has a single professional journalist who works with volunteer and freelance staff). Some feel that whatever happens with AOL and its expansion, it can’t help but be good for business.

  • AP bungles technology again.

    "Here’s how it works now: The four nonprofits load their work into a web delivery platform called AP Exchange, which includes massive amounts of material produced by AP and its members. Editors around the country can find stories in Exchange by searching the database by keyword. Exchange users will have the option of routinely displaying the nonprofit journalism in their news searches. Nonprofit stories are also available in a section of the site called “Marketplace,” where an editor can click through to the nonprofit section to see what’s there.

    "However, there’s no alert system to notify editors when something new has been added. Nonprofits’ stories are not distributed over the AP’s main wire services, as a major AP investigation would."

  • Mobile phones are used for advocacy. Nearly half of mobile users (49%) go online to advocate compared to only 41% of traditional users. In fact, they (67%) are 1.4 times more likely than traditional users (47%) to activate support. Mobile phones offer users the chance to immediately respond to breaking news, whether it is a new piece of legislation or even the latest ongoing development of a corporation or politician under siege.

    "Ruder Finn's Mobile Intent Index is the first study of its kind to examine the underlying motivations or reasons – intents – people have for using their mobile phones. The representative and Census-balanced online study of 500 American adults 18 years of age and older who "use their mobile device to go online or to access the Internet" was conducted in November 2009 by RF Insights among respondents who belong to Western Wats' large consumer panel, Opinion Outpost. The margin of error is +/- 4.4% (95th confidence interval)."

  • Really slick interactive graphic representation on important new research about how Americans use their mobile phones.
  • "A good manf folks out there still spend more time offline than on. For these people, screen time is spent doing business-related activities at the office (+ occasional jaunts to YouTube and Facebook) followed by briefer after-hours web surfing that includes catching up with friends on Facebook, reading personal email, downloading music/media, streaming videos and/or playing games. But online sessions must be interspersed with other real world activities like cooking dinner. That's why it's no surprise to find that the rise of the mobile phone corresponds with the rise in Facebook's (and other social networking sites) numbers. It has become a do-anywhere activity that captures people's attention whenever they have free time instead of an activity that requires people make time for it.

    "Developers and designers will now have to take this into consideration. Either they make their applications accessible & simple enough for least common denominator – or risk losing to competitors."

  • Apparently, social media services like Facebook and YouTube are using this service, and similar offerings, to automatically find music copyright violations in content posted to their site. This is probably what happened when Facebook recently deleted a video from a friend that I'd posted which included a short music clip. I can understand Facebook not wanting RIAA breating down its neck, but this just gets really damn petty.
  • "Once it became known that Lightfoot had not in fact gone to his eternal reward, plenty of people spent the next several hours doing another thing that people love to do on Twitter: blame Twitter for spreading a fake news report. But as Peter Kafka correctly points out, Twitter didn’t kill Gordon Lightfoot — traditional media did. It appeared to start with a prank phone call (remember the telephone?) to the management company representing Lightfoot’s close friend and fellow musical legend Ronnie Hawkins, from someone pretending to be Lightfoot’s grandson.

    "Hawkins then started calling people to let them know, who in turn alerted Canwest News Service, which called Hawkins to confirm the news and then published a brief news item that got picked up by a number of the chain’s newspapers. That report was then spread by reporters on Twitter, including Canwest political reporter David Akin, who later wrote a blog post about the role he played in the story."

  • "A little-explored aspect of black history is the presence of gay and lesbian African-Americans. For example, George Washington Carver has a story right out of high school history books. Born into slavery, Carver went on to graduate from high school, earn a master’s degree, and revive sustainable farming in the South. He invented peanut butter. Unfortunately, most history books continue to forget that Carver was gay.

    "Nonviolent activist Bayard Rustin organized the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. The History of Black Economic Empowerment is this year’s Black History Month theme. Before the 1963 march, Rustin championed the Freedom Rides, in which blacks and whites rode buses into the South to test and challenge the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to desegregate public transportation. Rustin also happened to be gay. In his later years, he spoke openly about LGBT rights. Rustin died in 1987, the dream of equality not yet fulfilled, but inching closer."

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