"gov2.0" entries

Four short links: 10 April 2012

Four short links: 10 April 2012

Instagram's Architecture, New ssh, Android Economics, and Design Principles

  1. The Instagram Architecture (High Scalability) — great summary of the Instagram team’s post about the technology that runs Instagram. Lots of Python goodness in here.
  2. Mosh — ssh that lets you roam and stay connected. UTF-8 native.
  3. Android Economics — working back from Google’s declared valuation of Android royalties to figure out how much they have and how it’s growing. Error bars for Africa here, but can’t argue with the conclusion: Whereas Android generates $1.70/device/year and thus an Android device with a two year life generates about $3.5 to Google over its life, Apple obtained $576.3 for each iOS device it sold in 2011.
  4. UK Govt Digital Service’s Design Principles — if only everything in government followed Principle 1: Start with Needs (User Needs not Government Needs).
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Four short links: 22 November 2011

Four short links: 22 November 2011

Facebook Encircles the Web, Async UIs, SimRedistricting, and Questioning the Flipped School

  1. Facebook is Gaslighting the Web (Anil Dash) — interesting to see the way in which Facebook is attempting to embrace and extend the web, as opposed to AOL’s doomed attempt to set itself up in competition and opposition to the web. As Molly’s piece eloquently explains, what Facebook is calling “frictionless” sharing is actually placing an extremely high barrier to the sharing of links to sites on the web.
  2. Asynchronous UIsinterfaces should be completely non-blocking. Interactions should be resolved instantly; there should be no loading messages or spinners. Requests to the server should be decoupled from the interface.
  3. Public Mapping Project — lets citizens draw up their own redistricting, and in doing so get a sense for the power that redistricting boards wield over the political representation of the state. I’m big on interaction being how you get a deep understanding of alternative and consequences, rather than reading or seeing which at best is a surface process. (via BoingBoing)
  4. Flip the Flipped School — makes the very good point that lectures aren’t the be-all-and-end-all of teaching, and questions Khan Academy’s usefulness for subjects where interpretation and nuance are all-important.
Comments: 4
Four short links: 11 November 2011

Four short links: 11 November 2011

Technocracy's Blind Spot, Progressive Enhancement, Libraries and ebooks, and Library Fablab

  1. Nudge Policies Are Another Name for Coercion (New Scientist) — This points to the key problem with “nudge” style paternalism: presuming that technocrats understand what ordinary people want better than the people themselves. There is no reason to think technocrats know better, especially since Thaler and Sunstein offer no means for ordinary people to comment on, let alone correct, the technocrats’ prescriptions. This leaves the technocrats with no systematic way of detecting their own errors, correcting them, or learning from them. And technocracy is bound to blunder, especially when it is not democratically accountable. Take heed, all you Gov 2.0 wouldbe-hackers. (via BoingBoing)
  2. Country Selector — turns a dropdown into an autocomplete field where available. Very nice! (via Chris Shiflett)
  3. Ebook Users Wanted — Pew Internet & American Life project looking at ebooks, looking for people who use ebooks and tablet readers in libraries.
  4. The Public Library, Complete Reimagined (KQED) — the Fayetteville public library is putting in a fab lab. [L]ibraries aren’t just about books. They are about free access to information and to technology — and not just to reading books or using computers, but actually building and making things. (via BoingBoing)
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Four short links: 6 October 2011

Four short links: 6 October 2011

Quantified Baby, Poverty Simulation, Context vs Core, and Social Good

  1. Sleep Patterns — my friend Tom has been tracking his baby’s sleeping patterns. We learnt that over the last month or so, our 5 month old baby has never gone to sleep before 10pm. We were trying to get him to go to sleep at 7 or 8pm and this was not working at all. Now it is playtime until 10 and then he just goes to sleep with no trouble, stress or crying at around 10 or 10:30. Data captured with Baby Care android app (over 500k installs) and graphed it in Python. As a father of two, this is the best ad for the quantified self I’ve seen.
  2. Playspent — a web app that challenges you to balance dollars like someone on the poverty line. This makes the constraints of poverty real in the same way that Sims brings city planning to life.
  3. Context vs Core — transcription (albeit an imperfect one) of Geoffrey Moore’s excellent talk about separating context from core, innovation, and business. Most of what you do is context, not core, and the most frustrating thing in your life is that the context gets in the way of the core that your context. […] If you don’t get up in the morning and say, core before context, you’ll come to the end of the day and find out that your e-mail trail beat you to death.
  4. Coders for Social Good (Dave Neary) — notes on the Humanitarian track at the FOSS World Forum. This is stuff that matters. There’s even open source microfinance software.
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Four short links: 14 July 2011

Four short links: 14 July 2011

Microchip Archaeology, OSM Map Library, Feedback Loops for Public Expenditure, and Mind-reading Big Data

  1. Digging into Technology’s Past — stories of the amazing work behind the visual 6502 project and how they reconstructed and simulated the legendary 6502 chip. To analyze and then preserve the 6502, James treated it like the site of an excavation. First, he needed to expose the actual chip by removing its packaging of essentially “billiard-ball plastic.” He eroded the casing by squirting it with very hot, concentrated sulfuric acid. After cleaning the chip with an ultrasonic cleaner—much like what’s used for dentures or contact lenses—he could see its top layer.
  2. Leaflet — BSD-licensed lightweight Javascript library for interactive maps, using the Open Street Map.
  3. Too Many Public Works Built on Rosy Scenarios (Bloomberg) — a feedback loop with real data being built to improve accuracy estimating infrastructure project costs. He would like to see better incentives — punishment for errors, rewards for accuracy — combined with a requirement that forecasts not only consider the expected characteristics of the specific project but, once that calculation is made, adjust the estimate based on an “outside view,” reflecting the cost overruns of similar projects. That way, the “unexpected” problems that happen over and over again would be taken into consideration.
    Such scrutiny would, of course, make some projects look much less appealing — which is exactly what has happened in the U.K., where “reference-class forecasting” is now required. “The government stopped a number of projects dead in their tracks when they saw the forecasts,” Flyvbjerg says. “This had never happened before.”
  4. Neurovigil Gets Cash Injection To Read Your Mind (FastCompany) — “an anonymous American industrialist and technology visionary” put tens of millions into this company, which has hardware to gather mineable data. iBrain promises to open a huge pipeline of data with its powerful but simple brain-reading tech, which is gaining traction thanks to technological advances. But the other half of the potentailly lucrative equation is the ability to analyze the trove of data coming from iBrain. And that’s where NeuroVigil’s SPEARS algorithm enters the picture. Not only is the company simplifying collection of brain data with a device that can be relatively comfortably worn during all sorts of tasks–sleeping, driving, watching advertising–but the combination of iBrain and SPEARS multiplies the efficiency of data analysis. (via Vaughan Bell)
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Four short links: 24 May 2011

Four short links: 24 May 2011

Kindle List, Insider Knowledge, Google News Archive Archived, and Work Week in Video

  1. Delivereads — genius idea, a mailing list for Kindles. Yes, if you can send email then you can be a Kindle publisher. (via Sacha Judd)
  2. Abnormal Returns From the Common Stock Investments of Members of the U.S. House of RepresentativesWe 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)
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
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Four short links: 12 May 2011

Four short links: 12 May 2011

One-Click Zeroed Down Under, Piracy, One Site To Rule Them All, and English Language

  1. Telsta Scores Patent Win over Amazon (ZDNet) — The delegate of the Commissioner of Patents, Ed Knock, found this week that Amazon’s 1-click buy facility “lacks novelty [and] an inventive step”, making Amazon’s claim unpatentable.
  2. The Final Answer for What To Do To Prevent Piracy (Jeff Vogel) — His advice is to do the minimum to encourage people to pay, as Anything beyond that will inconvenience your paying customers and do little to nothing to prevent piracy.
  3. alpha.gov.uk — an experimental prototype of a single interface to all government services. Governments have been trying these for years. This one’s different–it’s not built by the highest bidder, it’s the result of a lean team headed by the stellar Tom Loosemore (ex-BBC). It’s prototyping the idea of using lightweight reusable syndication-friendly components (decision trees, calculators, guides, etc.) to build such a site. My suspicion, though, is that government websites are a people problem not a technology problem.
  4. A StackExchange for the English Language — what’s the collective noun for pedants?
Comment: 1
Four short links: 1 April 2011

Four short links: 1 April 2011

Murky Future for Transparency, Browser Awesome, Future Realized, and Data Bias

  1. Transparency Sites to Close — the US government’s open data efforts will close in a few months as a result of the cuts in funding.
  2. Browser Wars, Plural (Alex Russell) — nice rundown of demos of what modern browsers are capable of.
  3. Brief Descriptions of Potential Home Information Services (image) — lovely 1971 piece of futurology, which you can read going “Google News, Amazon, Google Calendar, PayPal, ….” The ancients vastly over-estimated our appetite for educational material, though. There’s no education site on the scale of a Google, Amazon, eBay, etc. (via BoingBoing)
  4. Google’s Recipes for Recipes — I’m as astonished as anyone to find myself agreeing with Nick Carr. The whinge is basically that by promoting recipes marked up in a particular format, Google have created an environment that favours corporate recipes over small less-technical people who can post plain text recipes but wouldn’t know microformats from microfilm. The really interesting part is how the choice of drill-down categories can backfire: Take, for instance, a recent search for “cassoulet.” The top search result is a recipe from Epicurious, one of the larger and better sites. But if you refine by time, your choices are “less than 15 min,” “less than 30 min,” or “less than 60 min.” There is no option for more than 60 minutes. In truth, a classic cassoulet takes at least 4 hours to make, if not several days (the Epicurious recipe takes 4 hours and 30 minutes; yet there in the results are recipes under each of these three time classes. One from Tablespoon goes so far as to claim to take just 1 minute. (It’s made with kidney beans, canned mushrooms, and beef, so it’s not long on authenticity.) … Refining recipe search by time doesn’t result in better recipes rising to the top; rather, the new winners are recipes packaged for the American eating and cooking disorder. (via Daniel Spector)
Comments: 4
Four short links: 18 February 2011

Four short links: 18 February 2011

Data Sets, Data-driven Policy, Task Queues, and 8-Bit Browser

  1. DSPL: DataSet Publishing Language (Google Code) — a representation language for the data and metadata of datasets. Datasets described in this format can be processed by Google and visualized in the Google Public Data Explorer. XML metadata on CSV, geo-enabled, with linkable data. (via Michal Migurski on Delicious)
  2. Why is Evidence So Hard for Politicians — Ben Goldacre nails how politicians go about “evidence-based policy making”: So the Minister has cherry picked only the good findings, from only one report, while ignoring the peer-reviewed literature. Most crucially, he cherry-picks findings he likes whilst explicitly claiming that he is fairly citing the totality of the evidence from a thorough analysis. I can produce good evidence that I have a magical two-headed coin, if I simply disregard all the throws where it comes out tails.
  3. Celery: Distributed Task Queueasynchronous task queue/job queue based on distributed message passing. It is focused on real-time operation, but supports scheduling as well. MIT-style licensed, written in Python, RabbitMQ is the recommended message broker. (via Joshua Schachter on Delicious)
  4. pixelfari — Safari hacked to look like it’s running on an 8-bit computer. This sense of playfulness with the medium is something I love about the best coders. They think “ha, wouldn’t it be funny if …” and then can make it happen.
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Four short links: 16 February 2011

Four short links: 16 February 2011

Budget Treemap, Foo Encapsulated, Book Recommendations, Hackers and Data

  1. Interactive Treemap for the Budget (NY Times) — why don’t government departments produce and release these automatically? (via Flowing Data)
  2. Hold Conversations Not Meetings (HBR) — that sentence perfectly captures the heart of Foo Camp. (via Hacker News)
  3. Kiwi Foo 2011 Book Recommendations — we held a “which books are you reading, or would recommend?” session and this is the collected output.
  4. Hackers, Transparency, and the Zen of Failure If hackers can’t create something with the data, they won’t do anything with it. The idea of an “army of armchair auditors” becomes a functional paradox, as the people the Government has in mind for the data apparently sit in armchairs, while the hackers sit in cafes, meet in pubs, and generally find comfy chairs far too comfy to code in. (via Public Strategist)
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