FEATURED STORY

Four short links: 27 November 2014

Four short links: 27 November 2014

Scalable Infrastructure, Lens Tech, Javascript Frameworks, and Morality Valley

  1. Stumbleupon’s Big Data Architecture Using Open Source Software (PDF) — not just the list of tools but the functions they implement. Useful!
  2. Innovega — making a contact lens with a tiny bump that acts as a microscope for content shown in glasses. That description, and this link via MIT Technology Review)
  3. How to Pick a Front-End Framework — not unreasonable opinions, largely useful.
  4. [Silicon Valley] Bedevilled by Moral Issues (NYT, registerwall) — given that Silicon Valley tends to copy and paste the mantra, “we’re making the world a better place,” it seem reasonable to expect that tech companies would hold themselves to a higher ethical standard.
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Privacy is a concept, not a regime

In this O'Reilly Radar Podcast: Dr. Gilad Rosner talks about data privacy, and Alasdair Allan chats about the broken IoT.

Editor’s note: you can subscribe to the O’Reilly Radar Podcast through iTunes, SoundCloud, or directly through our podcast’s RSS feed.

In this podcast episode, I catch up with Dr. Gilad Rosner, a visiting researcher at the Horizon Digital Economy Research Institute in England. Rosner focuses on privacy, digital identity, and public policy, and is launching an Internet of Things Privacy Forum. We talk about personal data privacy in the age of the Internet of Things (IoT), privacy as a social characteristic, an emerging design ethos for technologists, and whether or not we actually own our personal data. Rosner characterizes personal data privacy as a social construct and addresses the notion that privacy is dead:

“Firstly, it’s important to recognize the idea that privacy is not a regime to control information. Privacy is a much larger concept than that. Regimes to control information are ways that we as a society preserve privacy, but privacy itself emerges from social needs and from individual human needs. The idea that privacy is dead comes from the vulnerability that people are feeling because they can see that it’s very difficult to maintain walls between their informational spheres, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t countercurrents to that, and it doesn’t mean that there aren’t ways, as we go forward, to improve privacy preservation in the electronic spaces that we continue to move into.”

As we move more and more into these electronic spaces and the Internet of Things becomes democratized, our notions of privacy are shifting on a cultural level beyond anything we’ve experienced as a society before. Read more…

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Bitcoin and blockchain use cases won’t be sexy, but will be essential

Tim Swanson on the blockchain's potential and what the future of crypto-coins might bring.

bitcoin_Antana_Flickr

Researcher and author Tim Swanson originally built bitcoin mining equipment in China a couple of years ago, but as he explained in a recent interview, he’s moved beyond the trading aspects of bitcoin and now focuses on research and use cases. Swanson, who also works in business development at Melotic, a digital asset exchange, expressed some skepticism about the future of bitcoin as a currency and noted that the greatest potential in the technology lies in the blockchain:

“I’m fairly skeptical that what [bitcoin] can and will do is probably either overstated or overhyped. I think most of the actual use cases, especially with blockchains in general, will be very mundane and will be related to proof of existence, so things like notary services.

“If anyone’s looking for a particular use case, I’d probably talk about one called CAT, Consolidated Audit Trail. It’s related to the SEC requiring traders to put together a way to find out when trades take place. On any given day, there’s about 48 billion trades that take place under their purview, and putting together a system for this, they want to make it centralized. Maybe you can use blockchains in some kind of decentralized fashion for this, but the idea — it’s not a very sexy, headline-getting use case — but it’s something that’s particularly needed to ensure their transparency within the trading aspect of these different financial instruments globally.”

Swanson will host a free webcast — The Continued Existence of Bitcoin, Altcoins, Appcoins, and Commodity Coins — on Tuesday, December 2, to talk about the various coins being created and the legal and technical challenges facing the developer community. Read more…

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Designing a brand story is not optional

Brand storytelling is your unique chance to be persuasive and make the case for your product.

Editor’s note: this is an excerpt from our recent book Lean Branding ; it is part of a free curated collection of chapters from the O’Reilly Design library. Download a free copy of the Experience Design ebook here.

Throughout this chapter, we will look at the six essential parts of a lean brand story: positioning, promise, personas, personality, product, and pricing.

I’ve never met someone who did not aspire to be something more. Even Homer Simpson, with his absolute lack of will and ultimate disregard for the future, at times aspired to be a better husband, a fitter couch potato, a less miserable son to his old man. I’ve heard 5-year-olds state with absolute certainty that they will be president. Someone is sweating his head off right now at some ridiculously expensive gym because he aspires to be fitter. As you read this, someone is pulling an all-nighter studying to earn class valedictorian status — or maybe even reading this book to up her brand game (in which case, I highly appreciate it!). I’m pretty sure someone is daydreaming to the sound of Bruno Mars’s “Billionaire.” Someone (perhaps you) aspires to build a successful product that customers open their wallets and hearts for. If that is indeed you, please hold on to this thought: aspirations.

Behind every great brand is a promise that fulfills its customers’ aspirations. We are in the business of taking customers from A to B, where A is who they are today and B is who they want to be tomorrow. Consider the products you love — sports attire, note-taking apps, electronic devices, chocolate ice cream, this book — and how they’ve made you feel closer to whom you want to be.

Read more…

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Copyrightability of Java APIs revisited

Google has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review the CAFC’s ruling that Oracle's Java APIs are copyrightable.

Editor’s note: this is a forthcoming article for the March 2015 issue of Communications of the ACM (CACM); it is published here with permission.

For more than 20 years, the prevailing view has been that application program interfaces (APIs) are unprotectable elements of copyrighted computer programs. Under this view, programmers are free to reimplement other firms’ APIs in independently written code. Competition and innovation in the software industry has thrived amazingly well in part because of rulings upholding this understanding.

Challenging this view is the Court of Appeals of the Federal Circuit (CAFC) May 2014 decision in Oracle v. Google. The CAFC held that the “structure, sequence, and organization” (SSO) of Oracle’s Java APIs that Google reimplemented in its Android software are protectable expression under copyright law. It reversed a lower court ruling that the Java APIs were not copyrightable.

Google has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review the CAFC’s ruling. Several amicus curiae (friend of the court) briefs have been filed in support of this effort. Hewlett-Packard, Red Hat, and Yahoo! (PDF) are among these amici (as am I and 77 computer scientists).

The Supreme Court may take the case because the CAFC’s decision is in conflict with other appellate court rulings that exclude APIs from copyright protection.

This article will explain the Oracle and Google theories about the copyrightability of Java APIs and the precedents on which each relies. The stakes in this case could not be higher. Read more…

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Interaction and industrial design team up to serve the IoT

Martin Charlier on design teams, responsibility, and service.

Industrial designers and interaction designers are joining forces to create the best services for Internet of Things (IoT). I sat down with Martin Charlier, a design strategist with a unique distinction of having both interaction and industrial design experience to talk about how the IoT is changing the design landscape, including team dynamics, responsible design, and value-driven design. Charlier is the co-author of the forthcoming Designing Connected Products and a contributor to Designing for Emerging Technologies. For a free download of sample chapters from Designing Connected Products click here.

Team dynamics

Charlier discusses the key ingredients for teams working on a product together and how to achieve a unified vision:

“I think every field needs to know a little bit about others, just a basic understanding of the other side. In some of the most interesting projects I’ve seen, the team was made up of somebody with an industrial design background, somebody doing more technology and somebody doing more interaction and user experience.

“The key, though, to some of the projects I’ve seen was that they started to work together as one team before splitting up into their respective domain areas so that there was a joined vision. I think that’s the most important thing: to come up with a joined vision. I think that’s where interaction design and industrial design, for example, need to think of either sides of the coin.”

Read more…

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