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January 31 2013

Four short links: 31 January 2013

  1. Courier Prime — tweaked Courier “for screenplays” (!). (via BoingBoing)
  2. The Dead Grandmother/Exam Syndrome and the Potential Downfall Of American Society (PDF) — education is dangerous to female extended family members. As can be seen in Table 1, when no exam is imminent the family death rate per 100 students (FDR) is low and is not related to the student’s grade in the class. The effect of an upcoming exam is unambiguous. The mean FDR jumps from 0.054 with no exam, to 0.574 with a mid-term, and to 1.042 with a final, representing increases of 10 fold and 19 fold respectively. (via Hacker News)
  3. Internet: 2012 in Numbers — lots of surprising numbers, with sources. Three that caught my eye: 42.1% – Internet penetration in China; 2.7 billion – Number of likes on Facebook every day; 59% – Share of global mobile data traffic that was video.
  4. 2013: The Year Ahead in Mobile (Business Insider) — Mobile is already 1/7 of global Internet traffic and growing its share quickly [...] on pace to top 25% by year end. Interesting prediction that rich people already have devices, so everyone’s working on low-cost units so they can sell to new customers in “growth markets” aka developing world.
  5. January 23 2013

    Four short links: 23 January 2013

    1. These Glasses Thwart Facial Recognition Software (Slate) — good idea, but don’t forget to put a stone in your shoe to thwart gait recognition too.
    2. opsec for Hackers (Slideshare) — how boring and unexciting most of not getting caught is.
    3. DHS Warns Password Cracker Targeting Industrial Networks (Nextgov) — Security consultants recently concluded that there are about 7,200 Internet-facing critical infrastructure devices, many of which use default passwords. Wake me when you stop boggling. Welcome to the Internet of Insecure Things (it’s basically the Internet we already have, but Borat can pwn your hydro dam and your fridge is telling Chinese milspec hackers when you midnight snack).
    4. The Evolution of Steve Mann’s Apparatus (Beta Knowledge) — wearable computing went from “makes you look like a robot who will never get laid” to “looks like sunglasses and promiscuity is an option”.

    December 26 2012

    Four short links: 26 December 2012

    1. Arduino IR Remote Control — control your Arduino project via your TV’s remote control. (via Arduino)
    2. holler — WTFPL-licensed Javascript library for real-time in-app notifications via the commandline (uses node). (via Javascript Weekly)
    3. First Tweets — numbers of “first tweet from my new {X}” giving indications of the popularity of each. Not good for Surface, alas.
    4. It’s Clear Verizon is Blocking Google Wallet Anti-Competitively — Verizon blocked Google’s mobile payments app until Verizon’s own was available. One irony of course is that in conjunction with Verizon, Google worked to gut meaningful network neutrality rules that would have prevented this very thing from happening on wireless networks.

    December 10 2012

    Four short links: 10 December 2012

    1. RE2: A Principled Approach to Regular Expressions — a regular expression engine without backtracking, so without the potential for exponential pathological runtimes.
    2. Mobile is Entertainment (Luke Wroblewski) — 79% of mobile app time is spent on fun, even as desktop web use is declining.
    3. Five UX Research Pitfalls (Elaine Wherry) — I live this every day: Sometimes someone will propose an idea that doesn’t seem to make sense. While your initial reaction may be to be defensive or to point out the flaws in the proposed A/B study, you should consider that your buddy is responding to something outside your view and that you don’t have all of the data.
    4. Building a Keyboard: Part 1 (Jesse Vincent) — and Part 2 and general musings on the topic of keyboards. Jesse built his own. Yeah, he’s that badass.

    November 13 2012

    Four short links: 13 November 2012

    1. 3D Printing Photobooth Opening in Japan (io9) — A technician at the lab will scan your body (much like with early photography, you’ll need to be able to hold a certain pose for 15 minutes) and print out an impressively realistic 3D photo that captures not only your features, but also the basic textures of your clothing and hair. (via Julie Starr)
    2. Feynman Flowers — crowdsourcing analysis of STM imagery for nanoscale physics research. (via OKFN)
    3. Mobile Trends — Android on exponential growth vs iOS’s linear growth, and many more data-driven observations. Apple has a mobile product at every $50 price point between $0 and $850.
    4. The Definitive Guide to Forms-Based Website Authentication (Stack Overflow) — exactly what the title says.

    November 08 2012

    Square Wallet, the Apple Store, and Uber: Software Above the Level of a Single Device

    Back in 2003, Dave Stutz, in his parting letter to Microsoft, wrote a prescient line about the future of technology: “Useful software written above the level of the single device will command high margins for a long time to come. Stop looking over your shoulder and invent something!” Software above the level of a single device! That line stuck with me, and has been a foundation of my thinking and writing ever since, helping to shape both The Open Source Paradigm Shift and What is Web 2.0?

    But this line has never seemed more prescient than today, in the new wave of software that blends mobile devices in the hands of more than one person, big data back ends, and a profound re-imagination of services, business processes, and interfaces. Yesterday’s announcement that 7,000 Starbucks locations now accept Square Wallet drives home just how much technology is changing the game for business. It isn’t just the web, big data, or even mobile, it’s the combination of them all into new systems of interaction between companies and their customers.

    If you’ve never experienced the magic of walking into a coffee shop, having the cashier glance down at their iPad-based Square Register to verify your face and payment credentials already provided by your phone’s automatic check-in, and buying your coffee simply by confirming your name, you haven’t yet tasted the future.

    Square Wallet and Square Register aren’t just mobile applications, they are a profound rethinking of the entire business process of buying something at a retail location. They combine not just one but two mobile applications, a cloud-based data backend with payment information, identity, and perhaps even your purchase preferences at a merchant you frequent, location-based check-in, and more, all woven into a seamless experience. Software above the level of a single device. Retail will never be the same again.

    The Apple Store has got a lot of the same magic. Gone is the cash register. Clerks instead wander the store, offering advice, and, when you’re ready to buy, they hand you your product, and offer to email you your receipt. Your name and credit card are already on file. You and the sales clerk are already part of the system. Software above the level of a single device.

    Or consider Uber. You look on your phone. The nearest car is three minutes away. You choose the car and driver you want – perhaps based on proximity, but perhaps on the basis of user ratings of the driver. When the driver is outside, you receive a text message. When you arrive at your destination, you simply thank the driver and step out. Payment information is already on file. Software above the level of a single device. Magic.

    This is only the beginning of a great rewiring of every aspect of business processes and interactions. The web was never just about content, but always about building the infrastructure for a kind of internet operating system. The first apps on that operating system were thinly upgraded versions of what went before, but the true native apps are starting to arrive. Software above the level of a single device. Magic.

    November 02 2012

    Charging up: Networking resources and recovery after Hurricane Sandy

    Even though the direct danger from Hurricane Sandy has passed, lower Manhattan and many parts of Connecticut and New Jersey remain a disaster zone, with millions of people still without power, reduced access to food and gas, and widespread damage from flooding. As of yesterday, according to reports from Wall Street Journal, thousands of residents remain in high-rise buildings with no water, power or heat.

    E-government services are in heavy demand, from registering for disaster aid to finding resources, like those offered by the Office of the New York City Advocate. People who need to find shelter can use the Red Cross shelter app. FEMA has set up a dedicated landing page for Hurricane Sandy and a direct means to apply for disaster assistance:

    Public officials have embraced social media during the disaster as never before, sharing information about where to find help.

    No power and diminished wireless capacity, however, mean that the Internet is not accessible in many homes. In the post below, learn more on what you can do on the ground to help and how you can contribute online.

    For those who have lost power, using Twitter offline to stay connected to those updates is useful — along with using weather radios.

    That said, for those that can get connected on mobile devices, there are digital resources emerging, from a crowdsourced Sandy coworking map in NYC to an OpenTrip Planner app for navigating affected transit options. This Google Maps mashup shows where to find food, shelter and charging stations in Hoboken, New Jersey.

    In these conditions, mobile devices are even more crucial connectors to friends, family, services, resources and information. With that shift, government websites must be more mobile-friendly and offer ways to get information through text messaging.

    Widespread power outages also mean that sharing the means to keep devices charged is now an act of community and charity.

    Ways to to help with Sandy relief

    A decade ago, if there was a disaster, you could donate money and blood. In 2012, you can also donate your time and skills. New York Times blogger Jeremy Zillar has compiled a list of hurricane recovery and disaster recovery resources. The conditions on the ground also mean that finding ways to physically help matter.

    WNYC has a list of volunteer options around NYC. The Occupy Wall Street movement has shifted to “Occupy Sandy,” focusing on getting volunteers to help pick up and deliver food in neighborhoods around New York City. As Nick Judd reported for TechPresident, this “people-powered recovery” is volunteering to process incoming offers of help and requests for aid.

    They’re working with Recovers.org, a new civic startup, which has now registered some 5,000 volunteers from around the New York City area. Recovers is pooling resources and supplies with community centers and churches to help in the following communities:

    If you want to help but are far away from directly volunteering in New York, Connecticut or New Jersey, there are several efforts underway to volunteer online, including hackathons around the world tomorrow. Just as open government data feeds critical infrastructure during disasters, it is also integral to recovery and relief. To make that data matter to affected populations, however, the data must be put to use. That’s where the following efforts come in.

    “There are a number of ways tech people can help right now,” commented Gisli Olafsson, Emergency Response Director at NetHope, reached via email. “The digital volunteer communities are coordinating many of those efforts over a Skype chat group that we established few days before Sandy arrived. I asked them for input and here are their suggestions:

    1. Sign up and participate in the crisis camps that are being organized this weekend at Geeks Without Borders and Sandy Crisis Camp.
    2. Help create visualizations and fill in the map gaps. Here is a link to all the maps we know about so far. Help people find out what map to look at for x,y,z.
    3. View damage photos to help rate damage assessments at Sandy OpenStreetMap. There are over 2000 images to identify and so far over 1000 helpers.”

    Currently, there are Crisis Camps scheduled for Boston, Portland, Washington (DC), Galway (Ireland), San Francisco, Seattle, Auckland (NZ) and Denver, at RubyCon.

    “If you are in any of those cities, please go the Sandy CrisisCamp blog post and sign up for the EventBrite for the CrisisCamp you want to attend in person or virtually,” writes Chad Catacchio (@chadcat), Crisis Commons communication lead.

    “If you want to start a camp in your city this weekend, we are still open to the idea, but time is running short (it might be better to aim for next week),” he wrote.

    UPDATE: New York-based nonprofit DataKind tweeted that they’re trying to rally the NY Tech community to pitch in real life on Saturday and linked to a new Facebook group. New York’s tech volunteers have already been at work helping city residents over the last 24 hours, with the New York Tech Meetup organizing hurricane recovery efforts.

    People with technical skills in the New York area who want to help can volunteer online here and check out the NY Tech responds blog.

    As Hurricane Sandy approached, hackers built tools to understand the storm. Now that it’s passed, “Hurricane Hackers” are working on projects to help with the recovery. The crisis camp in Boston will be hosted at the MIT Media Lab by Hurricane Hackers this weekend.

    Sandy Crisis Camps already have several projects in the works. “We have been asked by FEMA to build and maintain a damage assessment map for the entire state of Rhode Island,” writes Catacchio. He continues:

    “We will also be assisting in monitoring social media and other channels and directing reports to FEMA there. We’ll be building the map using ArcGIS and will be needing a wide range of skill sets from developers to communications to mapping. Before the weekend, we could certainly use some help from ArcGIS folks in getting the map ready for reporting, so if that is of interest, please email Pascal Schuback at pascal@crisiscommons.org. Secondly, there has been an ask by NYU and the consortium of colleges in NYC to help them determine hotel capacity/vacancy as well as gas stations that are open and serving fuel. If other official requests for aid come in, we will let the community know. Right now, we DO anticipate more official requests, and again, if you are working with the official response/recovery and need tech support assistance, please let us know: email either Pascal or David Black at david@crisiscommons.org. We are looking to have a productive weekend of tackling real needs to help the helpers on the ground serving those affected by this terrible storm.”

    Related:

    October 31 2012

    NYC’s PLAN to alert citizens to danger during Hurricane Sandy

    Starting at around 8:36 PM ET last night, as Hurricane Sandy began to flood the streets of lower Manhattan, many New Yorkers began to receive an unexpected message: a text alert on their mobile phones that strongly urged them to seek shelter. It showed up on iPhones:

    …and upon Android devices:

    While the message was clear enough, the way that these messages ended up on the screens may not have been clear to recipients or observers. And still other New Yorkers were left wondering why emergency alerts weren’t on their phones.

    Here’s the explanation: the emergency alerts that went out last night came from New York’s Personal Localized Alerting Network, the “PLAN” the Big Apple launched in late 2011.

    NYC chief digital officer Rachel Haot confirmed that the messages New Yorkers received last night were the result of a public-private partnership between the Federal Communications Commission, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the New York City Office of Emergency Management (OEM), the CTIA and wireless carriers.

    While the alerts may look quite similar to text messages, the messages themselves run in parallel, enabling them to get through txt traffic congestion. NYC’s PLAN is the local version of the Commercial Mobile Alert System (CMAS) that has been rolling out nation-wide over the last year.

    “This new technology could make a tremendous difference during
    disasters like the recent tornadoes in Alabama where minutes – or even seconds – of extra warning could make the difference between life and death,” said FCC chairman Julius Genachowski, speaking last May in New York City. “And we saw the difference alerting systems can make in Japan, where they have an earthquake early warning system that issued alerts that saved lives.”

    NYC was the first city to have it up and running, last December, and less than a year later, the alerts showed up where and when they mattered.

    The first such message I saw shared by a New Yorker actually came on October 28th, when the chief digital officer of the Columbia Journalism School, Sree Sreenivasan, tweeted about receiving the alert:

    He tweeted out the second alert he received, on the night of the 29th, as well:

    These PLAN alerts go out to everyone in a targeted geographic area with enabled mobile devices, enabling emergency management officials at the state and local level to get an alert to the right people at the right time. And in an emergency like a hurricane, earthquake or fire, connecting affected residents to critical information at the right time and place are essential.

    While the government texting him gave national security writer Marc Ambinder some qualms about privacy, the way the data is handled looks much less disconcerting than, say, needing to opt-out of sharing location data or wireless wiretapping.

    PLAN alerts are free and automatic, unlike opt-in messages from Notify NYC or signing up for email alerts from OEM.

    Not all New Yorkers received an emergency alert during Sandy because not all mobile devices have the necessary hardware installed or have updated relevant software. In May 2011, new iPhones and Android devices already had the chip. (Most older phones, not so much.)

    These alerts don’t go out for minor issues, either: the system is only used by authorized state, local or national officials during public safety emergencies. They send the alert to CMAS, it’s authenticated, and then the system pushes it out to all enabled devices in a geographic area.

    Consumers receive only three types of messages: alerts issued by the President, Amber Alerts, and alerts involving “imminent threats to safety or life.” The last category covers the ones that went out about Hurricane Sandy in NYC last night.

    According to the FCC, participating mobile carriers can allow their subscribers to block all but Presidential alerts, although it may be a little complicated to navigate a website or call center to do so. By 2014, every mobile phone sold in the United States must be CMAS-capable. (You can learn more about CMAS in this PDF). Whether such mobile phones should be subsidized for the poor is a larger question that will be left to the next administration.

    As more consumers replace their devices in the years ahead, more people around the United States will also be able to receive these messages, benefiting from a public-private partnership that actually worked to deliver on improved public safety.

    At least one New Yorker got the message and listened to it:

    “If ‘act’ means stay put, then why yes I did,” tweeted Noreen Whysel, operations manager Information Architecture Institute. “It was enough to convince my husband from going out….”

    Here’s hoping New York City doesn’t have use this PLAN to tell her and others about impending disaster again soon.

    October 26 2012

    Four short links: 26 October 2012

    1. BootMetro (github) — website templates with a Metro (Windows 8) look. (via Hacker News)
    2. Kenya’s Treasury to tax M-Pesa — 10% tax on mobile money-transfer systems. M-Pesa is the largest mobile money transfer service provider in Kenya, with more than 14 million subscribers. [...] It is estimated that M-Pesa reports some 2 million transactions per day. [...] the value of money transferred through mobile platforms jumped by 41 per cent in the first six months of 2012. Neer mind fighting you, you know you’re winning when they tax you! (via Evgeny Mozorov)
    3. Digital Divide and Fibre RolloutAs the group of non-users gets smaller, they are likely to become more seriously disadvantaged. The NBN – and high-speed broadband more generally – will drive a wave of new applications across most areas of life, transforming Australia’s service economy in fundamental ways. Those who are not connected in 2015 may be fewer, but they will be missing out on far more – in education, health, government, commerce, communication and entertainment. The costs will also fall on service providers forced to keep supplying expensive physical and face-to-face services to this declining number of people. This will be particularly significant in remote communities, where health consultations and evacuations by flying doctors, nurses and allied health professionals could potentially be reduced through e-health diagnostics, and where Centrelink still regularly sends teams out to communities. As gov2 expands and services move online, connectivity disadvantages are compounded. (via Ellen Strickland)
    4. Smart Body Smart World (Forrester) — take note of these two consequences of Internet of Things and Quantified Self: Verticals fuse: “Health and wellness” is not its own silo, but is connected to our finances, our shopping habits, our relationships. As bodies get connected, everyone is in the body business. Retail disperses: All retailers become computing retailers, and computing-specific retailers like Best Buy go the way of Blockbuster. You wouldn’t buy a smart toothbrush at a specialty CE store; you’d be more likely to buy it in the channel that solves the rest of your hygiene needs. (via Internet of Things)

    October 24 2012

    Four short links: 24 October 2012

    1. Restoration of Defocused and Blurry Images — impressive demos, and open source (GPLv3) code. All those blurred faces and documents no longer seem so safe.
    2. Peter Molyneux Profile in Wired — worth reading for: (a) Molyneux’s contribution to the genre; (b) the inspiration he drew from his satirical Twitter mirror (@PeterMolydeux) is lovely, and (c) the game jams to build the fake Molyneux games, where satire becomes reality. (via Andy Baio)
    3. Trusted Computing for Industrial Control Systems — Kaspersky reveals plans for an open source O/S for industrial control systems, so reactors and power stations and traffic systems aren’t vulnerable to StuxNet-type attacks. (via Jim Stogdill)
    4. Android Virtual Machines — faster emulation for testing than the traditional simulators.

    October 18 2012

    Four short links: 18 October 2012

    1. Let’s Pool Our Medical Data (TED) — John Wilbanks (of Science Commons fame) gives a strong talk for creating an open, massive, mine-able database of data about health and genomics from many sources. Money quote: Facebook would never make a change to something as important as an advertising with a sample size as small as a Phase 3 clinical trial.
    2. Verizon Sells App Use, Browsing Habits, Location (CNet) — Verizon Wireless has begun selling information about its customers’ geographical locations, app usage, and Web browsing activities, a move that raises privacy questions and could brush up against federal wiretapping law. To Verizon, even when you do pay for it, you’re still the product. Carriers: they’re like graverobbing organ harvesters but without the strict ethical standards.
    3. IBM Watson About to Launch in Medicine (Fast Company) — This fall, after six months of teaching their treatment guidelines to Watson, the doctors at Sloan-Kettering will begin testing the IBM machine on real patients. [...] On the screen, a colorful globe spins. In a few seconds, Watson offers three possible courses of chemotherapy, charted as bars with varying levels of confidence–one choice above 90% and two above 80%. “Watson doesn’t give you the answer,” Kris says. “It gives you a range of answers.” Then it’s up to [the doctor] to make the call. (via Reddit)
    4. Robot Kills Weeds With 98% AccuracyDuring tests, this automated system gathered over a million images as it moved through the fields. Its Computer Vision System was able to detect and segment individual plants – even those that were touching each other – with 98% accuracy.

    October 17 2012

    Four short links: 17 October 2012

    1. Beyond Goods and Services: The Unmeasured Rise of the Data-Driven Economy — excellent points about data as neither good nor service, and how data use goes unmeasured by economists and thus doesn’t influence policy. According to statistics from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, real consumption of ‘internet access’ has been falling since the second quarter of 2011. In other words, according to official U.S. government figures, consumer access to the Internet—including mobile—has been a drag on economic growth for the past year and a half. (via Mike Loukides)
    2. How Crooks Turn Even Crappy Hacked PCs Into Money (Brian Krebs) — show to your corporate IT overlords, or your parents, to explain why you want them to get rid of the Windows XP machines. (via BoingBoing)
    3. Open Data Structures — an open content textbook (Java and C++ editions; CC-BY licensed) on data structures. (via Hacker News)
    4. Mobiforge — test what gets sent back to mobile browsers. This site sends the HTTP headers that a mobile browser would. cf yesterday’s Responsivator. (via Ronan Cremin)

    October 15 2012

    Four short links: 15 October 2012

    1. Cheap Thermocam — cheap thermal imaging camera, takes about a minute to capture an image. (via IEEE Spectrum)
    2. Observations on What’s Getting Downvoted (Ars Technica) — fascinating piece of social work, showing how the community polices (or reacts to) trolls. (via Hacker News)
    3. Dark Social (The Atlantic) — Just look at that graph. On the one hand, you have all the social networks that you know. They’re about 43.5 percent of our social traffic. On the other, you have this previously unmeasured darknet that’s delivering 56.5 percent of people to individual stories. This is not a niche phenomenon! It’s more than 2.5x Facebook’s impact on the site.
    4. A Tethered WorldAll students, across all 56 represented countries, are doing generally the same few things. Facebook and Twitter, above all else, are the predominant tools for all information use among the participants. The predominance of these few tools are creating a homogenizing influence around the world.

    October 03 2012

    The missing ingredient from hyperwired debates: the feedback loop

    PodiumPodiumWhat a difference a season makes. A few months after widespread online frustration with a tape-delayed Summer Olympics, the 2012 Presidential debates will feature the most online livestreams and wired, up-to-the-second digital coverage in history.

    Given the pace of technological change, it’s inevitable that each election season will bring with it new “firsts,” as candidates and campaigns set precedents by trying new approaches and platforms. This election has been no different: the Romney and Obama campaigns have been experimenting with mobile applications, social media, live online video and big data all year.

    Tonight, one of the biggest moments in the presidential campaign to date is upon us and there are several new digital precedents to acknowledge.

    The biggest tech news is that YouTube, in a partnership with ABC, will stream the debates online for the first time. The stream will be on YouTube’s politics channel, and it will be embeddable.

    With more and more livestreamed sports events, concerts and now debates available online, tuning in to what’s happening no longer means passively “watching TV.” The number of other ways people can tune in online in 2012 has skyrocketed, as you can see in GigaOm’s post listing debate livestreams or Mashable’s ways to watch the debates online.

    This year, in fact, the biggest challenge people will have will not be finding an online alternative to broadcast or cable news but deciding which one to watch.

    If you’re low on bandwidth or have a mobile device, NPR will stream the audio from the debate online and to its mobile apps. If you’re a Spanish speaker, Univision will stream the debates on YouTube with real-time translation.

    The New York Times, Politico and Wall Street Journal are both livestreaming the debates at their websites or through their apps, further eroding the line between broadcast, print and online media.

    While the PBS News Hour and CSPAN’s debate hub are good options, my preference is for the Sunlight Foundation’s award-winning Sunlight Live liveblog.

    There are a couple of other notable firsts. The Huffington Post will deploy its HuffPost Live platform for the first time, pulling more viewers directly into participatory coverage online.

    For those looking for a more… animated approach, the Guardian and Tumblr will ‘live GIF’ the presidential debates.

    Microsoft is livestreaming the debates through the XBox, giving gamers an opportunity to weigh in on what they see through their Xboxes. They’ll be polled through the Xbox console during the debate, which will provide more real-time data from a youthful demographic that, according StrategyOne, still has many voters who are not firmly committed.

    Social politics

    The political news cycle has long since moved from the morning papers and the nightly news to real-time coverage of events. In past years, the post-debate spin by campaigns and pundits shaped public opinion. This year, direct access to online video and to the reaction of friends, family, colleagues and media through the social web means that the spin will begin as soon as any quip, policy position or rebuttal is delivered in the debate.

    Beyond real-time commentary, social media will provide useful data for the campaigns to analyze. While there won’t be a “do over,” seeing what resonated directly with the public will help the campaigns tune their messages for the next debates.

    Tonight, when I go on Al Jazeera’s special debate night coverage at The Stream, I’ll be looking at a number of factors. I expect the #DenverDebate and #debates hashtags to be moving too fast to follow, so I’ll be looking at which tweets are being amplified and what we can see on Twitter’s new #debates page, what images are popping online, which links are popular, how Facebook and Google+ are reacting, and what people are searching for on Google.com.

    This is quite likely to be the most social political event ever, surpassing either of the 2012 political conventions or the State of the Union address. When I watch online, I’ll be looking for what resonated with the public, not just what the campaigns are saying — although that will factor into my analysis. The @mittromney account tweets 1-2 times a day. Will they tweet more? Will @barackobama’s 19 million followers be engaged? How much and how often will they update Facebook, and to what effect?

    Will they live tweet open statements with links to policies? Will they link to rebuttals or fact checks in the media? Will they push people to go register or comment or share? Will they echo applause lines or attack lines? In a larger sense, will the campaigns act social, themselves? Will they reshare the people’s posts about them on social platforms or keep broadcasting?

    We’ll know answers to all of these questions in a few hours.

    Fact-checking in real-time

    Continuing a trend from the primary season, real-time fact-checking will play a role in the debate. The difference in this historic moment is it will be the pace of it and the number of players.

    As Nick Judd highlighted at techPresident, the campaign response is going to be all about mobile. Both campaigns will be trying their hands at fact checking, using new adaptive microsites at barackobama.com/debate and debates.mittromney.com, dedicated Twitter accounts at @TruthTeam2012 and and @RomneyResponse, and an associated subdomain and Tumblr.

    Given the skin that campaigns have in the game, however, undecided or wavering voters are better off going with the Fourth Estate versions. Wired media organizations, like the newspapers streaming the debates I’ve listed above, will be using liveblogs and leveraging their digital readership to help fact check.

    Notably, NPR senior social strategist Andy Carvin will be applying the same approach to fact checking during the debate as he has to covering the changes in the Middle East. To participate, follow @acarvin and use the #factcheck hashtag beginning at 8:30 ET.

    It’s unclear whether debate moderator Jim Lehrer will tap into the fact-checking efforts online to push back on the candidates during the event. Then again, the wisdom of the crowds may be balanced by one man’s perspective. Given that he’s serving in that capacity for the 12th time, Lehrer possesses substantial experience of his own to draw upon in making his own decisions about when to press, challenge or revisit issues.

    The rise of networked polities

    In a larger sense, all of this interactivity falls fall short of the promise of networked politics in the Internet age. In the age of the Internet, television debates look antiquated.

    When it comes to how much the people are directly involved with the presidential debates of 2012, as Micah Sifry argued earlier this week, little has changed from 2008:

    “Google is going to offer some kind of interactive audience dial gadget for YouTube users, which could allow for real-time audience feedback — except it’s already clear none of that feedback is going to get anywhere near the actual debate itself. As best as I can tell, what the CPD [Commission on Presidential Debates] is doing is little more than what they did four years ago, except back then they partnered with Myspace on a site called MyDebates.org that featured video streaming, on-demand playback and archival material. Oh, but this time the partner sites will include a dynamic counter showing how many people have ‘shared their voice’.”

    While everyone who has access to the Internet will be able to use multiple screens to watch, read and participate in the conversation around the debates, the public isn’t going to be directly involved in the debate. That’s a missed opportunity that won’t be revisited until the 2016 campaign.

    By then, it will be an even more wired political landscape. While many politicians are still delegating the direct use of social media use to staffers, in late 2012 it ill behooves any office to be seen as technically backward and stay off them entirely.

    In the years ahead, open government advocates will push politicians to use the Internet to explain their votes, not just broadcast political attacks or campaign events. After all, the United States is a constitutional republic. Executives and Congressmen are obligated to listen to the people they represent. The existing ecosystem of social media platforms may give politicians new tools to interact directly with their constituents but they’re still relatively crude.

    Yes, the next generation of social media data analytics will give politicians a dashboard of what their constituents think about their positions. It’s the next generation of polling. In the years to come, however, I’m optimistic that we’re going to see much better use of the Internet to hold politicians accountable for their campaign positions and subsequent votes.

    Early experiments in creating an “OKCupid for elections” will evolve. Expect sophisticated choice engines that use social and legislative data to tell voters not only whether candidates share their positions but whether they actually voted or acted upon them. Over time, opposition candidates will be able to use that accumulated data in their campaign platforms and during debates. If a member of Congress or President doesn’t follow through with the wishes of the people, he or she will have to explain why. That will be a debate worth having.

    September 28 2012

    Four short links: 28 September 2012

    1. Mobile Content StrategyMobile is a catalyst that can help you make your content tighter without loss of clarity or information. If you make your content work well on mobile, it will work everywhere. Excellent presentation, one I want to thump on every decision-maker’s desk and say “THIS!”.
    2. Math at Google (PDF) — presentation showing the different types of math used to build Google. Good as overview, and as way to motivate highschool and college kids to do their math homework. “See, it really is useful! Really!” (via Ben Lorica)
    3. Tizen 2.0 Alpha Released — Tizen is the Linux Foundation’s mobile Linux kernel, device drivers, middleware subsystems, and Web APIs. (via The Linux Foundation)
    4. Explaining WebMaker Crisply (Mark Surman) — if you’ve wondered wtf Mozilla is up to, this is excellent. Mozilla has big priorities right now: the web on the desktop; the web on mobile; and web literacy.

    September 27 2012

    Four short links: 27 September 2012

    1. Paying for Developers is a Bad Idea (Charlie Kindel) — The companies that make the most profit are those who build virtuous platform cycles. There are no proof points in history of virtuous platform cycles being created when the platform provider incents developers to target the platform by paying them. Paying developers to target your platform is a sign of desperation. Doing so means developers have no skin in the game. A platform where developers do not have skin in the game is artificially propped up and will not succeed in the long run. A thesis illustrated with his experience at Microsoft.
    2. Learnable Programming (Bret Victor) — deconstructs Khan Academy’s coding learning environment, and explains Victor’s take on learning to program. A good system is designed to encourage particular ways of thinking, with all features carefully and cohesively designed around that purpose. This essay will present many features! The trick is to see through them — to see the underlying design principles that they represent, and understand how these principles enable the programmer to think. (via Layton Duncan)
    3. Tablet as External Display for Android Smartphones — new app, in beta, letting you remote-control via a tablet. (via Tab Times)
    4. Clay Shirky: How The Internet Will (One Day) Transform Government (TED Talk) — There’s no democracy worth the name that doesn’t have a transparency move, but transparency is openness in only one direction, and being given a dashboard without a steering wheel has never been the core promise a democracy makes to its citizens.

    September 17 2012

    Mobile developers, integration, and discovery are what count now

    The iPhone 5 may or may not be the most beautiful handheld device, but it barely matters anymore. Competitors have rendered its beauty and craftsmanship irrelevant. Amazon has received the message and responded with its latest set of tablets, and Google has responded with the Motorola Droids and the Nexus 7. These devices now have sufficient quality in their materials, specs, and base operating systems so that they can make any consumer happy. So if hardware is a toss up, where will the next battles be fought?

    The answer: developers, integration, and discovery.

    First, the very best developers will build apps that tap key trends: improved camera quality is making real-world text and face recognition more possible, geofencing data stores are making proximity–based apps more possible, and despite Steve Jobs’ assertion that God gave us 10 styli, there’s clearly a host of applications that are benefiting from pressure-sensitivity and pens. The level to which Apple and Google embrace these new technologies and extend the current state of the art in voice and gesture recognition will factor heavily into the quality and emergence of new applications. In addition, the extent to which Apple and Google can expose these new technologies — like NFC or always-on Glass cameras in Google’s case — will provide an advantage to developers.

    Second, since many new applications will undoubtedly emerge for both Android and iOS at the same time, the way that the device and its applications fit into the users’ life will matter most. And it’s in this arena that Google is starting to respond with some of Apple’s own medicine. According to stats shared during Apple’s iPhone 5 announcement, the company has 435 million iTunes accounts and those users have downloaded 20 billion songs. Tim Cook acknowledged how powerful this integration is, saying “what sets us so far ahead of the competition … is how [apps, iCloud, and devices] work together.”

    The alternatives Google has for managing a rich, high-quality media collection are lousy. But on the flip side, the number of people I know who are leaving their iPads at home in favor of their Nexus 7 tablets is remarkable. They’re switching because they use Gmail, Google Calendar, Maps and other Google services. The integration of these applications is deep and seamless in Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean) — just like media is seamlessly integrated on Apple. Google’s offering isn’t directly better than Apple’s. Rather, it’s a step beyond because the Google services started in the cloud, not on the desktop, and the services are critical to your daily life.

    Developers, therefore, can profit from this integration by deeply integrating with native services from Google and Apple. And while the XCode/iOS development environment is easier and more accessible to developers than the current Android environment, the services available to developers are far more limited. Google has an edge here, and developers are smart enough that they’ll push through the limitations of the Android SDK.

    Third, it’s downright impossible to discover great new apps. Amazon realized long ago that if they were going to have a massive bookstore, they needed to make discovery work, so they built the personalization and community teams, delivering innovative recommendations and a great reviews system. Neither Google nor Apple has these tools yet. In fact, one VC commented to me that until you are featured on the App Store, your downloads will be very few. And even Amazon hasn’t solved the casual browsing problem particularly well. While “Listmania!” lists were an attempt to create a curated list of things you might like, they can’t begin to approach the experience of going to an independent, well-curated bookstore.

    The third battle, therefore, is for discovery. It’s not about the devices, the OS, or even the apps themselves. And I would argue that it’s not about search, either, though a great search experience is part of the solution. A great discovery experience will require great curators, high-quality inventory, and painless trial. Apple leads in this space today, if only because of its higher quality inventory that is at least partially a result of a more homogenous platform. But there’s tremendous room for growth, as startups like Xyologic and others take on the challenge.

    It’s a great time to be mobile. We have access to beautiful devices with near “classic Leica” quality, and we have increasingly integrated experiences across our maps, email, calendar, and contacts. But the next major changes won’t come in our devices: they’ll come from developers building apps that make your device even more useful, and you’ll discover these apps in new ways.

    September 03 2012

    Four short links: 3 September 2012

    1. The Seductive Allure of Edu-Tech Reform (Chris Lehmann) — While it may be seductive to think that rooms of children on computers, each following some computerized instruction at their pace, monitored by school aides, with a handful of teachers around when things get particularly tough is a solution to both the educational and fiscal crisis we find ourselves, we need to understand that it’s fools gold we would be chasing.
    2. human.io — write microapps, tasks for people to do. This is a simple way to allow a publisher to turn a passive audience into a mobile army of participants. This allows publishers to easily create missions and activities to get people involved more directly than just reading stuff on a screen. If Twitter is HTML, then Human.io is CGI. (via Joshua Schachter)
    3. Why Contracts Have UPPER CASE PARAGRAPHS — fascinating! (via Anil Dash)
    4. Designing Meetings to Work (Luke Wroblewski) — notes from Kevin Hoffman’s talk. Doing something is better than seeing something, which is better than hearing something. THIS.

    August 15 2012

    Android evolves and so must you

    Christopher Neugebauer (@chrisjrn) is an Android and Python developer at Secret Lab and conference coordinator of PyCon Australia.

    Key points from our full discussion include:

    • Great features from Jellybean are available for older OSes. [Discussed at the 2:32 mark]
    • Android devices vary greatly in size and shape – design with this in mind [Discussed at the 4:35 mark]
    • Developers need earlier access to new versions of the OS [Discussed at the 5:32 mark]

    You can view the entire interview in the following video.

    Related:

    August 13 2012

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