Joho the BlogDecember 2007 - Page 3 of 7 - Joho the Blog

December 20, 2007

Ten worst telco moments

Tim Karr recounts the top ten bad telco moments this year. It’s good to be reminded of just how naughty they’ve been. And perhaps increasingly desperate?

[Tags: telcos net_neutrality tim_karr ]


Tis the season to be jolly apparently

Baseline is running is list of favorite, funny tech spoof videos. Some are funny. Some just blow stuff up. And at least one does both.

[Tags: humor ]

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Dopplr enters the radar screen

Dopplr went live while I was traveling last week, and I’m just now getting around to noting the fact.

Dopplr does something simple: It tells you which of your friends are going to be in the places you’re going to. And it does it quite simply, even though specifying places is actually quite a daunting task: Did you mean Paris in France, Texas or the other dozens of places on earth that share that name? The Dopplr UI makes entering this info just about as painless as possible.

Or course, my good feelings about Dopplr, where I was a beta user, are abetted by the fact that the people doing Dopplr are among the people I like and respect the most on the Web.

BTW, here’s a moderately funny video parody of Dopplr from Mahalo.

[Tags: dopplr travel dan_gillmor everything_is_miscellaneous ]


December 19, 2007

A dozen great videos, and marketing that works

Mitch Joel of Twist Marketing asked twelve marketing types (I’m one) to suggest one great video from this past year. The result is a terrific collection, most of which I hadn’t seen yet. I didn’t mean to go through them all, but from Ze Frank to some cool optical illusions, well, it was like eating Fritos, except some of the Fritos happened to be thought provoking and occasionally moving.

[Tags: videos mitch_joel ]


Beth Noveck on WikiGov

Writes Beth in an excellent article in Democracy Journal:

Now, however, new technology may be changing the relationship between democracy and expertise, affording an opportunity to improve competence by making good information available for better governance.

She argues against relying on professionals to make good political decisions for us, and goes into some depth on the Patent Office’s Peer-to-Patent project, which she designed. (Thanks to Howard Rheingold for the link.)

[Tags: democracy beth_noveck wiki edemocracy everything_is_miscellaneous ]

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OLPC arrives

My One Laptop Per Child computer arrived overnight, as if delivered by elves. As Drew Barrymore would say, “Magical!”

Other than saying that it’s the cutest thing since otters began holding hands, I feel incompetent to review it. I’ve only used it for a couple of hours, and it’s very different from the usual computers. I can say that it does some things incredibly easily, like take photos. On the other hand, I’m lacking the mental model for doing some more complex things, like downloading an ebook from the Web and reading it offline on the laptop.

But this was not a computer designed for me, so I’m going to give it time to shape my expectations. So far, though, it’s just so cute and cuddly that I want to feed it kibble and take it out for a walk four times a day.

[Anthropological note: The OLPC laptop serves the social function as puppies: When strangers see you with one, they just have to stop you, stroke it, and say “Awwww.”]

[Tags: olpc xo laptops linux ]


December 18, 2007

Berkman lunch talk: Victoria Stodden on Internet and democracy

Victoria Stodden from Stanford Law is giving a Berkman lunch talk on the Internet and democracy. [As always, I’m paraphrasing, getting things wrong, omitting important issues, etc. You can always hear the whole thing at Media Berkman.]

She’s an idealistic empiricist. Her course was changed by Danny Hillis who told her that if she really wants to make a difference, she should create tools.

She points to three possible relationships between the Net and democracy:

1. Net as disseminator that increases the flow of info. The Net can help make us more autonomous in determing opinions, and can provide better info. But, who are the gatekeepers? And do we end up more polarized than before? (She cites Fishkin as an alternative to Sunstein’s view on this.)

2. Net as tool for implementing group decision-making processes and opinion formation. Estonia votes on line. The 2002 S. Korean elections were affected by activities organized online. Danny Hillis has a “Collective Reasoning Tool.” Local communities might lose out, however, as we move to topically-based groups; this might cause geographically-clustered racial groups to lose influence.

3. The Net can educate about democratic possibilities. But governments can block this if they fear it.

She raises some ideas that could be explored empirically: Map the pervasiveness of Net use and how it’s used; a map of the “attention backbone” with an eye toward the extent of polarization; differing regulatory structures; and the correlations among these aspects.

Now she switches topics and talks about a Computational Sciences Research License she’s working on. A new license is needed because people want to be able to release massive amounts of research, and not just the final results. The research might include code and media. Creative Commons doesn’t want people to put code under its licenses. [Very Everything Is Miscellaneous, if I may be allowed to reduce the entire world to my terms.] Her license would require attribution, but not much all, and would use CC for the media and maybe GPL for the code.

Q: [melanie] Yesterday Science Commons released an Open Data Protocol.
A: That’s exciting.

Q: [oliver] Is it time to rethink what “authoring a paper” means? Is there data authoring, for example?
A: I’m not with this questioning the norms. But if, according to the license, I use your data, I attribute it.
Q: But just citing the data doesn’t seem enough.
A: The scientists understand how valuable and hard data collection is and just want the attribution.
Q: If I were the scientist who did the data collection and aggregation, I’d like more than just a simple citation. Maybe we need some type of super citation. If the paper author had called the scientist, the scientist would probably be listed as a collaborator…
A: Authorship and citation varies from field to field.

Q: [oliver] I liked your conceptual model, but I’m still looking for a model about how it works. Is it a type of neuronet or what? You’re an economist, so what’s your model?
A: Ideally you’d like to have repeated instances, but that can be hard with social sciences. So I think we should start with the case studies. I’m not sure one model is going to work.

Q: [ethanz] The case studies end up being enormously controversial. You actually hit 3-4 topics that were big controversies around the Center. E.g., there’s controversy over whether in 2002 in Korea the Internet had anything to do with it. We’ve been trying to get beyond anecdote to data. Very hard. How do anecdotes like these turn into testable, statistical rigorous research? We’ve been struggling with this. And, by the way, there are only 16 anecdotes in this field. [laughter]
A: I am worried about the amount of data out there. N Korea isn’t going to turn over a lot of data.

Q: [me] It sounds like we’re waiting for history to happen. How do we do data collection and analysis when history hasn’t happened yet?
A: Yes, that’s the problem.

Q: A question about the taxonomy. Why did you pull education out of dissemination?
A: It’s all arguable. You can’t have democracy if people don’t know what it is, so I gave education its own area.

Q: [wendy] How do you attach rights to what copyright law doesn’t cover, such as the collection of data?
A: We treat the data as copyrighted.
Q: Well, in programs the functions aren’t copyrightable, and the data collection isn’t either.
A: The license doesn’t cover the data itself. The license intends to require attribution for the data but doesn’t protect the data otherwise.

Q: [oliver] Maybe you could make a cooperative…
A: You’re thinking of the neuroscience example.

Q: [terry] How can we do better, looking forward. We often know that a critical political event is about to happen. Is there some way we could enhance prospectively our data gathering capability so that after the fact we’d be better able to assess the relative effects of various factors, including the role of the Internet? Second, there’s been a lot fairly fundamental work in statistics, breaking away from old models of controlling for variables that distort your understanding of the impact of a variable on an outcome, and new techniques for isolating the impact of one variable. Do any of these new techniques of addressing Ethan’s speculation that cellphones are 10x more important than the Internet?
A: Maybe there are comparative studies we could do. Some of those new statistical techniques might be helpful. But there are probably going to be so many confounding factors…
Q: [ethanz] When we work from anecdotes, we’re working from extraordinary cases. When Suharto falls because of mobile phones (supposedly) there are lots of other dictators who didn’t fall even though there were plenty of mobile phones around. So I think there’s something to Terry’s comment. We’re not going to be able to get all the data we need. But if we were to say that Ghana’s ’08 election is going to be interesting, we could think about what data we wanted to collect. And we could collect similar data in surrounding countries.
A: Maybe collect data from random countries and see if we can anticipate hotspots.

Q: [jz] We’re hoping to ferret out which countries filter what and when. We would love to release this to the world. But some of us are reluctant because we’d just be giving playlists for one country to discover what sites it’s missed. How might we share it with the world and make it difficult to be useful for bad purposes?
A: Not really. How can we release data and make sure it’s not used by bad people. But maybe there wouldn’t be a race to the bottom of filtering.

Q: [rob] The independent variables are so co-linear that you’d need monster data sets to analyze them. The problem isn’t just statistical. The theories that link the individuals to mass movements are weak. To put it all together, you’d need both. [Tags: berkman democracy victoria_stodden ]


Internet censorship overview

Nart Villeneuve has an excellent round-up article on the state of Internet censorship. It’s part of the latest issue of Index on Censorship for Free Expression, in which I also have an article; unfortunately the issue is, ironically, behind the pay wall.

[Tags: censorship nart_villeneuve ]

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Bjork-Shiley Convexo-Concave limerick competition

This month’s limerick competition held by the Annals of Improbabl Research asks us to write a limerick illustrating the nature of the following report:

Discrimination in Vitro Between the Acoustic Emissions fromBjork-Shiley Convexo-Concave Valves With and Without a Broken Minor Strut,” Medical and Biological Engineering and Computing,D. K. Walker and L. N. Scotten, vol. 29, no. 5, September 1991, pp. 457-64. <>

I don’t have the slightest idea what that’s about, but it hasn’t stopped me from composing a limerick to explain it:

When Bjork blew her valves in a huff,
Shiley had absorbed surely enough.
He emitted a wave:
“I’m convexo-concave,
“So kindly stop strutting your stuff.”

Any sense it makes is purely coincidental — Holy crap! It sounds smutty! Totally unintentional! (Yeah, sure, Dr. Freud) — but you have to admit that it rhymes. [Tags: ]


15 Firefox tips

Preston Gralla at Computerworld lists 15 Firefox hacks. Some are pretty geeky, but others are simply must-knows. [Tags: ]


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