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March 04 2013

Four short links: 4 March 2013

  1. Life Inside the Aaron Swartz Investigationdo hard things and risk failure. What else are we on this earth for?
  2. crossfilter — open source (Apache 2) JavaScript library for exploring large multivariate datasets in the browser. Crossfilter supports extremely fast (<30ms) interaction with coordinated views, even with datasets containing a million or more records.
  3. Steve Mann: My Augmediated Life (IEEE) — Until recently, most people tended to regard me and my work with mild curiosity and bemusement. Nobody really thought much about what this technology might mean for society at large. But increasingly, smartphone owners are using various sorts of augmented-reality apps. And just about all mobile-phone users have helped to make video and audio recording capabilities pervasive. Our laws and culture haven’t even caught up with that. Imagine if hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, of people had video cameras constantly poised on their heads. If that happens, my experiences should take on new relevance.
  4. The Google Glass Feature No-One Is Talking AboutThe most important Google Glass experience is not the user experience – it’s the experience of everyone else. The experience of being a citizen, in public, is about to change.

February 13 2013

January 28 2013

Four short links: 28 January 2013

  1. Aaron’s Army — powerful words from Carl Malamud. Aaron was part of an army of citizens that believes democracy only works when the citizenry are informed, when we know about our rights—and our obligations. An army that believes we must make justice and knowledge available to all—not just the well born or those that have grabbed the reigns of power—so that we may govern ourselves more wisely.
  2. Vaurien the Chaos TCP Monkeya project at Netflix to enhance the infrastructure tolerance. The Chaos Monkey will randomly shut down some servers or block some network connections, and the system is supposed to survive to these events. It’s a way to verify the high availability and tolerance of the system. (via Pete Warden)
  3. Foto Forensics — tool which uses image processing algorithms to help you identify doctoring in images. The creator’s deconstruction of Victoria’s Secret catalogue model photos is impressive. (via Nelson Minar)
  4. All Trials Registered — Ben Goldacre steps up his campaign to ensure trial data is reported and used accurately. I’m astonished that there are people who would withhold data, obfuscate results, or opt out of the system entirely, let alone that those people would vigorously assert that they are, in fact, professional scientists.

January 25 2013

Aaron was one of us

I sat last night at Aaron Swartz’s memorial in San Francisco, among the very people who built the Internet, the web, the culture of young entrepreneurialism and Web 2.0 startups. Among the pioneers of Creative Commons, Electronic Frontier Foundation, open source software and those fighting to keep the public domain public.

Aaron was one of them.

It was a family reunion, under dreadful circumstances nobody would have wished for.

In his life Aaron had worked and learned among the thoughtful leaders who built the web we now benefit from today. He worked with the W3C, when the web was still “1.0,” and then in the social web and the hotbed of innovation and startup culture at Y Combinator.

Aaron’s passion for providing access to knowledge drove the most recent years of his life, from the campaign against SOPA to the liberation of public court records from PACER. And of course the downloading of journal articles, leading to the events that has brought his death so much into the public eye. Yet as Carl Malamud passionately insisted last night, Aaron was not a lone actor, but part of a peaceful army of reformers.

A young man who had accomplished more in his time than many of us will in our full allotment, Aaron truly inspired. Not just in the causes that dominate the headlines around his death, but in all his involvement with our world, no matter who we are. Web standards, open source, startups and copyright activism.

Aaron wasn’t a distant celebrity, or a saint. Aaron was one of us, and we can learn from that.

We can learn from his death, but there is even more to learn from his life, and from the lives of the host of pioneers, leaders, thinkers and geeks who have so eloquently paid tribute to him. Every day we have a choice about our actions, and have opportunity to contribute rather than withhold.

Are we generous with our knowledge, are we liberal with our creations? Is our involvement in our business, technical or social communities helping others, or more oriented to our own enrichment?

These are the questions I’m asking myself today.

Some of the things we can do seem small — being patient and helpful to others, considering how we license our content and where we choose to publish, contributing to open source, being aware of issues of freedom — but these are things we can build on.

We have lost one of us, but we have it in our reach to grow and encourage many more, and to be a better version of ourselves.

January 18 2013

We’re releasing the files for O’Reilly’s Open Government book

I’ve read many eloquent eulogies from people who knew Aaron Swartz better than I did, but he was also a Foo and contributor to Open Government. So, we’re doing our part at O’Reilly Media to honor Aaron by posting the Open Government book files for free for anyone to download, read and share.

The files are posted on the O’Reilly Media GitHub account as PDF, Mobi, and EPUB files for now. There is a movement on the Internet (#PDFtribute) to memorialize Aaron by posting research and other material for the world to access, and we’re glad to be able to do this.

You can find the book here: github.com/oreillymedia/open_government

Daniel Lathrop, my co-editor on Open Government, says “I think this is an important way to remember Aaron and everything he has done for the world.” We at O’Reilly echo Daniel’s sentiment.

September 17 2012

Four short links: 17 September 2012

  1. Aaron Swartz Defense Fund — American computer systems are under attack every day of the week from foreign governments, and the idiot prosecutor is wasting resources doubling down on this vindictive nonsense.
  2. Baghdad Community Hackerspace Workshops (Kickstarter) — Makerspace in Baghdad, built by people who know how to do this stuff in that country. (via BoingBoing)
  3. Teaching Web Development in AfricaI used the resources that Pamela Fox helpfully compiled at teaching-materials.org to mentor twelve students who all built their own websites, such as websites for their karate club, fashion club, and traditional dance troupe. One student made a website to teach others about the hardware components of computers, and another website discussing the merits of a common currency in the East African Community. The two most advanced students began programming their own computer game to help others practice touch typing, and it allows players to compete across the network with WebSockets.
  4. Transient Faces (Jeff Howard) — only displaying the unchanging parts of a scene, effectively removing people using computer vision. Disconcerting and elegant. (via Greg Borenstein)
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