- Poor Economics — this is possibly the best thing I will read all year, an insightful (and research-backed) book digging into the economics of poverty. Read the lecture slides online, they’ll give you a very clear taste of what the book’s about. Love that the website is so very complementary to the book, and 100% aligned with the ambition to convince and spread the word. Kindle-purchasable, too. Sample boggle (one of many): children of children born during the Chinese famine are smaller, and children who were in utero during Ramadan earn less as adults.
- The Web Is Shrinking (All Things D) — graph that makes Facebook look massively important and the rest of the web look insignificant. It doesn’t take into account the nature of the interaction (shopping? research? chat?), and depends heavily on the comScore visits metric being a reliable proxy for “use”. I’d expect to see other neutral measures of “use” decreasing (e.g., searches for “school holidays”) if overall web use were decreasing, yet they don’t seem to be. Nonetheless, Facebook has become the new millennium’s AOL: keywords, grandparents, and a zealous devotion to advertising. At least Facebook doesn’t send me #&#^%*ing CDs.
- Orphan Works Project (University of Michigan) — library will digitize orphaned works for researchers. Lovely to see someone breaking the paralysis that orphaned works induce. (via BoingBoing)
- log.io — node.js system for real-time log monitoring in your browser. (via Vasudev Ram)
Poor Economics, Shrinking Web, Orphans Put to Work, Realtime Log Monitoring
Internet Access Rights, Statistical Peace, Vintage Jobs, and Errata Etymology
- Right to Access the Internet — a survey of different countries’ rights to access to access the Internet.
- Peace Through Statistics — three ex-Yugoslavian statisticians nominated for Nobel Peace Prize. In war-torn and impoverished countries, statistics provides a welcome arena in which science runs independent of ethnicity and religion. With so few resources, many countries are graduating few, if any, PhDs in statistical sciences. These statisticians collaboratively began a campaign to collect together the basics underlying statistics and statistics education, with the hope of increasing access to statistical ideas, knowledge and training around the world.
- Vintage Steve Jobs (YouTube) — he’s launching the “Think Different” campaign, but it’s a great reminder of what a powerful speaker he is and a look at how he thinks about marketing.
- Anatomy of a Fake Quotation (The Atlantic) — deconstructing how the words of a 24 year old English teacher in Japan sped around the world, attributed to Martin Luther King.
National Facebook Relations, Personality Design, Lessons Learned, and Khan Academy
- The Inside Story of How Facebook Responded to Tunisian Hacks (The Atlantic) — After more than ten days of intensive investigation and study, Facebook’s security team realized something very, very bad was going on. The country’s Internet service providers were running a malicious piece of code that was recording users’ login information when they went to sites like Facebook. By January 5, it was clear that an entire country’s worth of passwords were in the process of being stolen right in the midst of the greatest political upheaval in two decades. Sullivan and his team decided they needed a country-level solution — and fast. […] Sullivan’s team decided to take an apolitical approach to the problem. This was simply a hack that required a technical response. “At its core, from our standpoint, it’s a security issue around passwords and making sure that we protect the integrity of passwords and accounts,” he said. “It was very much a black and white security issue and less of a political issue.” cf Google and China. National politics of snoopiness vs corporate ethic of not being evil aren’t directly compatible, and the solution here only works because (let’s face it) Tunisia is not a rising economic force. If you’re selling ads in China, you don’t get to pretend that the Great Firewall of China is a security issue.
- Emoticomp — what happens if you subtly imbue objects with personalities? Obviously it could be incredibly annoying (cue Douglas Adams’s Sirius Cybernetics Corporation) but there’s potential here to add depth to devices. We are, after all, customized over hundreds of thousands of years to read and interact with the emotional objects known as people. (via Matt Jones)
- My Mistakes (Slideshare) — Perry Evans (Mapquest, Jabber, Local Matters, Closely) gave a presentation on what he’s learned from his failures. I bought into the strategy of growth via acquisition. In most cases, this is an excuse for not fixing your current business.
- The Autodidact and the Khan Academy (Chris Lehmann) — […] it seems to me to be one more moment when people who should know better are, essentially, saying, “See! We don’t need teachers anymore!” As if every student could learn from a pre-packaged delivery model of content. It doesn’t work that way. I like the Khan Academy but, as Chris says, it’s not a replacement for education for most kids.
PM Plugs Tech, Science Bloggers, History Repeats, Beautiful Math
- British Prime Minister’s Speech — a huge amount of the speech is given to digital issues, including the funding and founding of an “Institute for Web Science” headed by Sir Tim Berners-Lee. (via Rchards on Twitter)
- Periodic Table of Science Bloggers — a great way to explore the universe of science blogging. (via sciblogs)
- For All The Tea in China — a tale of industrial espionage from the 1800s. The man behind the theft was Robert Fortune, a Scottish-born botanist who donned mandarin garb, shaved the top of his head and attached a long braid as part of a disguise that allowed him to pass as Chinese so he could go to areas of the country that were off-limits to foreigners. He forged a token and stole IP, in some ways it’s like the reverse of the Google-China breakin. (via danjite on Twitter)
- Nature by Numbers — relating numbers, geometry, and nature. Beautiful and educational. (via BoingBoing)
Multitouch Demo, Secrets Site Secrets, Hadoop Futures, Becoming Lucky
- 10Gui Video — demo of a new take on multitouch, a tablet and new GUI conventions. (via titine on Twitter)
- Behind the Scenes at WhatDoTheyKnow — numbers and stories from the MySociety project, which provides a public place for Official Information Act requests and responses. The fact information is subject to copyright and restrictions on re-use does not exempt it from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act (though there is a closely related exemption relating to “commercial interest”). Occasionally public bodies will offer to reply to a request, but in order to deter wider dissemination of the material they will refuse to reply via WhatDoTheyKnow.com. Southampton University have released information in protected PDF documents and the House of Commons has refused to release information via WhatDoTheyKnow.com which it has said it would be prepared to send to an individual directly.
- The View from HadoopWorld (RedMonk) — fascinating glimpse into the Hadoop user and developer world. Hadoop can be used with a variety of languages, from Perl to Python to Ruby, but as Doug Cutting admitted today, they’re all second class citizens relative to Java. The plan, however, is for that to change. Which can’t happen soon enough, in my view. It’s not that there’s anything intrinsically wrong with Java, or its audience. The point, rather, is that there are lots and lots of dynamic language developers out there that would be far more productive working in their native tongue versus translating into Java.
- Be Lucky, It’s an Easy Skill to Learn (Telegraph) — this one resonated with me, as it ties into some life hacking I’ve been doing lately. And so it is with luck – unlucky people miss chance opportunities because they are too focused on looking for something else. They go to parties intent on finding their perfect partner and so miss opportunities to make good friends. They look through newspapers determined to find certain types of job advertisements and as a result miss other types of jobs. Lucky people are more relaxed and open, and therefore see what is there rather than just what they are looking for. (via Hacker News)
Objectivity Be Gone, Public Screens, Lobbying Patterns, DIY Africa
- The End of Objectivity, Web2.0 Version — Our behaviour as journalists is now measurable. And measurability gives the lie to the pretence that journalists behave like scientists, impartially observing the petri dish of society. (via Pia Waugh)
- Screens in Context — ideas for the video screens spring up in place of billboards. Whilst the advertising industry has one of the longest histories of trying to understand interaction, it’s a very different set of tools that digitalness brings; ones that designers at the coal face of web and mobile encounter every day. Everything can be considered in context, be timely, reactive, and data-driven. I’m going to try to outline some dimensions to think about, with some incredibly quick, simple, off the cuff dumb ideas […] The technology to achieve some of these may be over and above what is possible now, but the biggest step – installing powered, networked computers in the real world – is already being taken by advertising media companies.
- Interactive Network Map of Lobbying Patterns Around Key Senators in Health Care Reform — fascinating visualization of political activity, via timoreilly on Twitter)
- The Doers Club — How DIY design gave a teenager from Malawi electricity, and can help transform Africa.
There's a long tradition in the UK of direct democracy, with citizens
petitioning the Prime Minister themselves. Typically, thousands of
signatures are collected on paper and then delivered directly to the
Prime Minister's home at No. 10
Downing Street in London. The petitioners arrive at No. 10 and
hand the signatures through the open front door.
But the British government has made great strides to bring many
aspects of government relations into the electronic age. Through the
non-profit MySociety.org the
government has created web sites for
citizens to interact with local and central government offices. One such web site is the No. 10 Downing Street petitions page.
China, databases, storage, and git:
- China’s Complicated Internet Culture (Ethan Zuckerman) — summary of Rebecca McKinnon’s talk at the Berkman Internet Center. Democracy is complex and hard to transition to, online democracy doubly so. Rebecca questions the widespread but unjustified belief that the Great Firewall of China is all that separates Chinese citizens from the empowered liberty of the West, and lays out the tangled state of affairs in China’s political Internet. Despite the rise of web video, “no one has managed to organized an opposition party on the web,” Rebecca points out. “There’s no Lech Walenza, no religious movement – Falun Gong has been squished pretty thoroughly.” (via cshirky’s delicious stream)
- Drop ACID and Think About Data — Bob Ippolito‘s talk from PyCon about the things you can do easily when you foresake the promises of ACID. More in the ongoing reinvention of databases for the needs of modern web systems. (via cesther’s Twitter stream)
- The Pogoplug — The Pogoplug connects your external hard drive to the Internet so you can easily share and access your files from anywhere. We’re accumulating terabytes of storage at home, where it’s very useful to all the computers in the home. This offers an easy way for non-technical civilians to make these drives useful outside the home as well. There are many possibilities for Interesting Things in the massive storage we’re accumulating. (via joshua’s delicious stream)
- Gitorious — open source (AGPLv3) clone of github. (via edd’s delicious stream)
Happy Monday! Kid coding and web-powered political transparency form the artisanal wholewheat organic bread slices around a sandwich filling of meaty (or tofuy) web travel APIs and blogly angst:
- Art and Code — conference on programming environments for “artists, young people, and the rest of us”. Alice! Hackety Hack! Scratch! Processing! And more! March 7-9 at CMU. Want! (I’ve written before about my ongoing experiences teaching kids to program)
- TripIt API — clever, they’re building a single point where hotels, airlines, travel agents, mobile apps, etc. can access your integrated booking (use case: flight delayed, which hotel and mobile car rentals learn and react to by not assuming you’ve bailed on them) (disclaimer: OATV has invested in TripIt).
- Organically Grown Audiences (Danny O’Brien) — good point from Danny that I’ve been thinking about for a while: maintaining an audience is hard work, and the audience isn’t necessarily comprised of people you’d choose to hang out with. Perhaps the answer is to grow the audience slowly, but I’m not convinced. I’d say that unreciprocated intimacy from your audience is a sign that you’re doing things wrong, but it’s how fame works: the things people say to people in the public eye, on and off the web, are astonishingly presumptuous and familiar. Then again perhaps I should retreat back to the British Isles from which my frosty social distance comes and tend my tweed elbow patch farm until I die from bad teeth, bad beer, or a surfeit of Benny Hill.
- Promoting Open Government (Economist) — state and central governments are making expenditure public, in varyingly useful ways. Links to Missouri Accountability Portal and ReadTheStimulus.org (the former as well-designed, the latter as crowd-sourcing).