Librarybox 2.0 — fork of PirateBox for the TP-Link MR 3020, customized for educational, library, and other needs. Wifi hotspot with free and anonymous file sharing. v2 adds mesh networking and more. (via BoingBoing)
Chicago PD’s Using Big Data to Justify Racial Profiling (Cory Doctorow) — The CPD refuses to share the names of the people on its secret watchlist, nor will it disclose the algorithm that put it there. [...] Asserting that you’re doing science but you can’t explain how you’re doing it is a nonsense on its face. Spot on.
Cloudwash (BERG) — very good mockup of how and why your washing machine might be connected to the net and bound to your mobile phone. No face on it, though. They’re losing their touch.
What’s Left of Nokia to Bet on Internet of Things (MIT Technology Review) — With the devices division gone, the Advanced Technologies business will cut licensing deals and perform advanced R&D with partners, with around 600 people around the globe, mainly in Silicon Valley and Finland. Hopefully will not devolve into being a patent troll. [...] “We are now talking about the idea of a programmable world. [...] If you believe in such a vision, as I do, then a lot of our technological assets will help in the future evolution of this world: global connectivity, our expertise in radio connectivity, materials, imaging and sensing technologies.”
Amazon’s Product Development Technique — the product manager should keep iterating on the press release until they’ve come up with benefits that actually sound like benefits. Iterating on a press release is a lot less expensive than iterating on the product itself (and quicker!). (via Fast Company)
Lamps (BERG London) — design notes from a project Google did with BERG a year ago. I treat these like backstory in a novel or film: you see a little bit, but the author has imagined a complex history and world that you only see the consequences of. Similarly, BERG spend a long time making complex stories behind the simple objects and interactions they design.
How AH Evaluates CEOs (Ben Horowitz) — my experience backs this up 150% percent. Filed under “stuff I wish I’d known a decade ago”.
China Wants to Buy Facebook (Forbes) — Beijing approached a fund that buys stock from former Facebook employees to see if it could assemble a stake large enough “to matter.” This has implications for Facebook entering China. Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg is reportedly “wary about the compromises Facebook would have to make to do business there.” If she loses her argument with Zuckerberg and Facebook enters China, the company will eventually be subject to demands to censor its sites, those both inside and outside China. That’s apparently why the Chinese want to own a big stake in Facebook. They are, in short, looking for control in the long run. No other explanation is consistent with the Party’s other media and “educational” initiatives. Again the world’s most desirable emerging market is fraught for those who would enter it.
Cisco Helping China Build Surveillance (WSJ, subscription probably needed) — Western companies including Cisco Systems Inc. are poised to help build an ambitious new surveillance project in China—a citywide network of as many as 500,000 cameras that officials say will prevent crime but that human-rights advocates warn could target political dissent. Check out the mealy-mouthed weasel from HP: “We take them at their word as to the usage.” He added, “It’s not my job to really understand what they’re going to use it for. Our job is to respond to the bid that they’ve made.” (a) buyers don’t bid, vendors bid; (b) you’re a piss-poor vendor if you don’t understand what the client hopes to achieve; (c) really, maintaining plausible denial is the best way to preserve your brand’s integrity? Hewlett and Packard are turning in their graves, the heat given off from which could be detected by sensors, routed through Cisco boxes and displayed on HP terminals.
US Claims .net and .com In Their Jurisdiction — The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) wants to take down web sites that use the .com and .net top level domains (TLD) regardless of whether their servers are based in the US. Not only do DNS interventions like this not stop the copying, they’re the thin end of the political wedge into yet another piece of critical Internet infrastructure. Who woke up this morning and thought, “I want a copyright rentacop to decide which websites I can see”? The generative power of the Internet is eroded with every misguided meddling such as this.
SVK Launches — BERG London finally launch their excellent comic. “Comic?” you ask. Noted science future awesome Warren Ellis wrote it, and it features some clever augmented reality hardware. I have one, and I am happy. You can be too, for only ten pounds plus shipping.
Spark — Hadoop-alike in Scala. Spark was initially developed for two applications where keeping data in memory helps: iterative algorithms, which are common in machine learning, and interactive data mining. In both cases, Spark can outperform Hadoop by 30x. However, you can use Spark’s convenient API to for general data processing too. (via Hilary Mason)
Bagel — an implementation of the Pregel graph processing framework on Spark. (via Oliver Grisel)
Week 315 (Matt Webb) — read this entire post. It will make you smarter. The company’s decisions aren’t actually the shareholders’ decisions. A company has a culture which is not the simple sum of the opinions of the people in it. A CEO can never be said to perform an action in the way that a human body can be said to perform an action, like picking an apple. A company is a weird, complex thing, and rather than attempt (uselessly) to reduce it to people within it, it makes more sense – to me – to approach it as an alien being and attempt to understand its biology and momentums only with reference to itself. Having done that, we can then use metaphors to attempt to explain its behaviour: we can say that it follows profit, or it takes an innovative step, or that it is middle-aged, or that it treats the environment badly, or that it takes risks. None of these statements is literally true, but they can be useful to have in mind when attempting to negotiate with these bizarre, massive creatures. If anyone wonders why I link heavily to BERG’s work, it’s because they have some incredibly thoughtful and creative people who are focused and productive, and it’s Webb’s laser-like genius that makes it possible. They’re doing a lot of subtle new things and it’s a delight and privilege to watch them grow and reflect.
Delivereads — genius idea, a mailing list for Kindles. Yes, if you can send email then you can be a Kindle publisher. (via Sacha Judd)
Abnormal Returns From the Common Stock Investments of Members of the U.S. House of Representatives — We measure abnormal returns for more than 16,000 common stock transactions made by approximately 300 House delegates from 1985 to 2001. Consistent with the study of Senatorial trading activity, we find stocks purchased by Representatives also earn significant positive abnormal returns (albeit considerably smaller returns). A portfolio that mimics the purchases of House Members beats the market by 55 basis points per month (approximately 6% annually). (via Ellen Miller)
Google News Archive Ends — hypothesizes that old material was “too hard” to make sense of, but that seems unlikely to me. More likely is that it wasn’t useful enough to their machine learning efforts. Newspapers can have their scanned/OCRed content for free now the program is being closed.
Week Report 310 — BERG’s first (that I’ve seen) video report of the week, and it’s a cracker. No newsreel, just some really clever evocation of the mood of the place and the nature of the projects. I continue to be impressed by the BERG crew’s conscious creation of culture.
How Facebook Ships Code — all engineers go through 4 to 6 week “Boot Camp” training where they learn the Facebook system by fixing bugs and listening to lectures given by more senior/tenured engineers. estimate 10% of each boot camp’s trainee class don’t make it and are counseled out of the organization. Reminded me of Zappos paying people to leave. (via Hacker News)
EU Funds Scala — it’s a research project at a university, and just got a big pile of funding from the EU.
Asleep and Awake (BERG London) — It’s glowing rectangles all the way down: those backlit screens that suck your attention. Matt J described it nicely a few years ago: the iPhone is a beautiful, seductive but jealous mistress that craves your attention, and enslaves you to its jaw-dropping gorgeousness at the expense of the world around you. Reminded me of Jesse Robbins’s great line, “mobile is the opposite of mindful”.
New NexusOne Radio Firmware — a glimpse of the world that’s sprung up sharing the latest goodies between countries, carriers, and developers. For everyone for whose products the street has found a new use, the challenge is to harness this energy, enthusiasm, knowledge, and devotion. In terms of cognitive surplus, this far exceeds the 1 LOLCAT minimum standard unit. (via YuweiWang on Twitter)
Tips on Buying Design — We don’t work on projects that aren’t essential to the client’s business. The further a project gets from a client’s core concerns the more likely it will be run on subjectivity and whims, or be starved of the internal attention and resources it needs to succeed. The same applies to hiring a design team. Work with someone who’s excited to be working with you. You’ll get better work. (via moleitau on Twitter)
Is the Sky Falling on the Content Industries? — research paper covering the history of “X will kill Y” from the content industries. Switching channels to the video industry, by the late 1950’s and the 1960’s, the television industry was threatened by another bogeyman that was going to destroy television. The existing business model was providing television for free; the threat was cable television. Note the irony here. The argument was not that paid content can’t compete with free, the argument is free content can’t compete with paid. If we don’t shut down the cable television industry, no one will bother to produce new television shows, and there won’t be anything to go on cable. This is an argument that made it all the way to the United States Supreme Court in the Fortnightly case and led to a decision that brought us within two votes of shutting down the cable television industry. (via lawgeeknz on Twitter)
People are Walking Architecture — presentation by Matt Jones of BERG, taking a new lens to this AR/ubicomp/whatever-it-is-today world. “[Mobile phones are] a whole toy box full of playful, inventive strategies for exploring cities ….”
Lexicalist — insight into geographic and age distribution of language use, based on Twitter data. (via Language Log)
Advanced Visualization Techniques — nice overview of some non-standard visualization techniques. Short shameful confession: I love polar dendrograms with a passion. These techniques are to visualizers as algorithms and data structures to programmers: each is used in specific circumstances and compromises some things to gain in others. (via Flowing Data)
iPad Usability Report (Nielsen-Norman Group) — 93-page report based on user studies. The iPad etched-screen aesthetic does look good. No visual distractions or nerdy buttons. The penalty for this beauty is the re-emergence of a usability problem we haven’t seen since the mid-1990s: Users don’t know where they can click. For the last 15 years of Web usability research, the main problems have been that users don’t know where to go or which option to choose — not that they don’t even know which options exist. With iPad UIs, we’re back to this square one. (via Andrew Savikas)