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October 01 2013

September 14 2013

*La lente construction d'une nouvelle culture politique au Brésil* entretien de Raúl Zibechi avec…

La lente construction d’une nouvelle culture politique au Brésil

entretien de Raúl Zibechi avec Paíque Duques Lima

http://www.lavoiedujaguar.net/La-lente-construction-d-une

Passé les mobilisations les plus massives au Brésil, il apparaît nécessaire de s’interroger sur les racines de la culture politique horizontale et autonome qui a surgi dans les rues mais qui a mûri au feu lent de la résistance quotidienne, sous l’impulsion d’une nouvelle génération d’activistes sociaux. Le meilleur moyen de comprendre, c’est de dialoguer avec eux.

Les grandes manifestations de juin semblent avoir eu pour précédent les petits mouvements locaux qui ont créé les conditions subjectives et structurelles appropriées, comme les Comités populaires de la Coupe du monde. As-tu la même vision des choses ?

Pendant toute la période du gouvernement Lula, mais déjà avant, il y a eu des mouvements alternatifs et des luttes plus ou moins importantes qui ont créé une nouvelle culture de la lutte, sans lien avec la droite ni avec les organisations traditionnelles de gauche. Avec les mobilisations contre la mondialisation, vers l’an 2000, est née une culture de l’action directe dans une grande partie de la jeunesse urbaine : les radios libres, le CMI (Centre des médias indépendants), les groupes de jeunes des partis politiques en lutte et rupture avec leurs propres partis politiques, et, en général, les jeunes qui rejettent les structures traditionnelles comme les syndicats et les bureaucraties estudiantines. (...)

#Brésil #mouvement #social #culture #politique

August 29 2013

Science Podcast - social learning of bird migration, stretchable and transparent ionic conductors, fecal transplants, and more (30 August 2013)

Thomas Mueller untangles the genetic and social learning aspect of bird migration, Zhigang Suo discusses new uses for improved stretchable and transparent ionic conductors; Jop de Vrieze talks about the promise of poop.

August 26 2013

Le protagoniste le plus scandaleux de la privatisation des services sociaux berlinois accusé d'abus…

Le protagoniste le plus scandaleux de la privatisation des services sociaux berlinois accusé d’abus de biens sociaux
http://www.tagesspiegel.de/images/harald-ehlert/1402362/3-format1.jpg
Ex-Chef der Berliner Treberhilfe Harald Ehlert vor Gericht
http://www.tagesspiegel.de/berlin/polizei-justiz/prozessauftakt-in-berlin-harald-ehlert-vor-gericht/8691902.html

Harald Ehlert muss sich ab Montag vor einem Berliner Gericht verantworten. Ihm werden mehrere Straftaten zur Last gelegt, unter anderem soll er Ex-Chef der Berliner Treberhilfe sich einen Sportwagen als Dienstauto geleistet haben.

On aime bien les histoires scandaleuse. Pourtant il y a peu de scandales vraiment intéressants et les arrière plans des rares histoires significatives sont généralement occultés. Aujourd’hui Der Tagesspiegel ne mentionne pas que « Maserati-Harry » est l’incarnation idéale de l’entrepreneur moderne et socialement engagé d’après l’ Agenda 2010 de l’ancien chancelier Schroeder et du challengeur Steinbrück .

Avant sa chute Ehlert était jeune entrepreneur brillant, chef du prestataire de services sociaux Treberhilfe , membre du SPD-Schöneberg, député au parlement de Berlin, bref un personnage qu’on respectait pour ses compétences et son succès. Avec lui on croyait pouvoir réaliser une politique d’austérité visant à se débarasser des dettes municipales tout en améliorant la qualité des prestations sociales par leur privatisation.
http://www.morgenpost.de/img/ipad_berlin/crop100874372/9760699048-ci3x2l-h307/1104-treberhilfe-BM-Berlin-Berlin.jpg
Le principe était simple : La plus grande partie des frais du fonctionnement des services sociaux étant des salaires la ville n’embauche plus de personnel mais achète des prestations auprès d’entreprises spécialisées. Par leur statut « d’intérêt général » leur interdisant le versement des bénéfices
à ses propriétaires, ces entreprises garantissent à la ville le prix le moins cher. Si pour une raison ou une autre la ville ne prolonge pas le contrat avec un prestataire, celui-ci peut licencier ses employés du jour au lendemain contrairement aux employés de la ville qui sont protégés par les conventions collectives du BAT historique et du TV-L.

Alors tout ce petit monde de socialo-gôche était content et dégustait joyeusement les petits fours offerts lors de l’énième réception d’inauguration d’un centre d’acceuil pour jeunes SDF par le Treberhilfe de Harry Ehlert. On appréciait le personnage baroque avec sa Maserati et son look de parrain sicilien.
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/d/d1/Kienbaum_Consultants_International_Logo.svg/500px-Kienbaum_Consultants_International_Logo.svg.png
L’histoire du succès de Maserati-Harry touchait brusquement à sa fin après la présentation d’une étude de rentabilité établié sur commande de Harry Ehlert par la société Kienbaum, une de plus importantes « consulting firms » d’Allemage. Le concern construit par Harry Ehlert autour de la Treberhilfe était effectivement l’entreprise la plus moderne et la plus rentable sur le marché berlinois. Kienbaum avait même inventé un nouveau terme technique pour mesurer l’efficacité d’une action sociale. C’était l’heure du « social profit ». Il désigne la différence entre la somme des frais causés par une personne en difficultés à la société sans intervention sociale et la somme de ces frais après avoir profité des aides ayant contribué à son redressement. Si la différence est positive, il s’agit d’un social profit que la société ou l’état et le prestataire social peuvent se partager.
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/7/76/Berlin_schoeneberg_belziger_26.10.2012_11-53-22_ShiftN.jpg/773px-Berlin_schoeneberg_belziger_26.10.2012_11-53-22_ShiftN.jpg
Les fonctionnaires des vielles associations caritatives étaient choquées par ce modèle d’affaire mettant en danger leur propre existence. Ils avaient établi des structures kafkaesques inefficaces et chères alimentés à la fois par la Kirchensteuer spécifique à l’état ouest-allemand, par des dons charitables et par les sommes versées par l’état dans le cadre du remboursement de frais de fonctionnement pour des activités précises comme l’enseignement scolaire ou l’hébergement de jeunes filles tombées.

Les plus grands organismes de ce type sont la Croix Rouge, l’ Arbeiterwohlfahrt proche du SPD, le Diakonisches Werk crée par l’église d’état protestante et la Caritas de l’église catholique. Ces molochs sociaux à l’age canonique se trouvaient tout d’un coup en position de défense par rapport à une start-up social-démocrate d’inspiration anglo-saxonne qui avait réussi à s’emparer de la plus grosse part du marché SDF berlinois.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/88/Rathaus_Schoeneberg.JPG

Le 12 février 2010 la présentation « social profit » tournait mal. Harry Ehlert avait invité tous les PDGs concurrents dans la plus grande et plus belle salle de l’ancienne mairie de Berlin. Ces anciens assistants sociaux, les curés et comptables n’étaient pas encore arrivés dans la mairie que déjà ils étaient mécontents parce que les Mercedes et BMW des petits patrons de la Treberhilfe bloquaient le parking devant la mairie. Il fallait se garer plus loin et marcher un peu.

Après la présentation des chiffres « social profit » par les spécialistes Kienbaum Harry Ehlert , qui avait déjà bien bu, montait sur le podium. Dans son élan il s’adressait directement aux responsables dans le public pour annoncer lesquelles de leurs activités il allait reprendre dans les mois à venir. Il était évident que son entreprise était plus efficace et qu’il fallait soutenir le gouvernement de Berlin dans ses efforts pour assainir les finances municipales.
http://www.derwesten.de/img/incoming/origs3424625/0489246168-w656-h240-bF3F3F3-st/27542288-543x199.jpg
Avec cette déclaration de guerre Harry Ehlert avait signé son arrêt de mort professionnelle. Peu de temps après la presse conservatrice commencait à publier les histoires autour de Maserati-Harry qui s’enrichissait au dépens des pauves SDF. Ehlert avait négligé d’agir comme un vrai parrain et de faire éliminer ses adversaires préalablement par des alliés dans leurs rangs.

Voici la fin de l’histoire telle quelle est racontée par Wikipedia :

Am 30. November 2011 wurde das operative Geschäft der Treberhilfe vom evangelischen Diakonieverein Berlin Zehlendorf für 0 Euro übernommen und in die GmbH Neue Treberhilfe überführt. Die Immobilien der Firma gingen in die Insolvenzmasse ein.

Le procès de Hans-Harald Ebert n’est qu’un épilogue qui nous apprendra quel pourcentage de sa fortune les vrais parrains du social concèderont à celui qui est tombé parmi les parias.

On peut se renseigner sur quelques éléments de l’histoire sur les pages Wikipedia en allemand :
http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harald_Ehlert
http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treberhilfe_Berlin

#allemagne #berlin #social #privatisation

August 16 2013

Une série d'articles décrit les méthodes des entreprises allemandes pour combattre la constitution…

Une série d’articles décrit les méthodes des entreprises allemandes pour combattre la constitution de comités d’entreprise.

Wildwest in der Provinz (neues-deutschland.de)
http://www.neues-deutschland.de/artikel/828522.wildwest-in-der-provinz.html
http://www.neues-deutschland.de/img/o/78471.jpg

Geschlossene patriarchische Systeme

In den USA hat die Dienstleistung der »Gewerkschaftsvermeidung« und »Gegenorganisierung« eine lange Tradition, die bis zur Gründung der Pinkerton Agentur im Jahre 1850 zurück reicht. Seit Beginn der Präsidentschaft Ronald Reagans hat die US-amerikanische Union-Busting-Industrie eine neue Blüte erfahren. Etwa ab dem Jahr 2000 wanderte das amerikanische Know-how verstärkt nach Deutschland und wurde an hiesige Bedingungen angepasst.

Es gibt diverse Risikosituationen, in denen es heute äußerst brisant sein kann, einen gewerkschaftlich orientierten Betriebsrat zu gründen, der aktiv Verbesserungen für Beschäftigte anstrebt.

#syndicalisme #social #allemagne #union_busting

August 12 2013

Science Policy Podcast - Eric Miska (12 August 2013)

Science's Nisha Giridharan interviews Eric Miska about the idea that RNA can be transferred between organisms and function in communication and environmental sensing.

July 16 2013

En Angleterre, les étrangers tirent leur épingle du jeu

En #Angleterre, les étrangers tirent leur épingle du jeu
http://fr.myeurop.info/2013/07/16/en-angleterre-les-trangers-tirent-leur-pingle-du-jeu-11581

http://cdn3.myeurop.info/sites/default/files/imagecache/article_thumbnail/media/images/benetton.jpg

Ludovic Clerima

La réussite semble sourire aux #immigrés en Angleterre. Selon un récent rapport statistique, ils réussissent mieux dans leurs études et bénéficient d’un meilleur emploi à l’arrivée. Les plus qualifiés sont les Américains, les Indiens et les Nigérians.

Voilà une étude qui va faire du mal aux (...)

#Société #Social #Europe #Royaume-Uni #Diplômes #immigration #migrant #travaille

February 15 2013

Science Podcast - Do Scientists Need Social Media? - AAAS Meeting [Feb 15, 2013]

From the AAAS meeting in Boston: Christie Wilcox offers some suggestions for how a strong social media presence may help further scientists' careers.

January 17 2013

Science Podcast - Innovative imaging, protecting genomic anonymity, oxytocin hype, and more (18 Jan 2013)

Listen to stories on innovative imaging, anonymous genomes, the promise and perils of oxytocin, and more.

October 25 2012

Science Podcast - The Twitter vote, our climbing ancestors, science and the U.S. elections, and more (26 October 2012)

How political propaganda sneaks in through social media’s back door; what an ancient shoulder blade can tell us about human evolution; the scientific challenges for the next U.S. president; and more.

April 04 2012

Privacy, contexts and Girls Around Me

Last weekend, I read two excellent articles on the problems that privacy presents in a mobile, digital age. The Atlantic presented a summary of Helen Nissenbaum's thoughts on privacy and social norms: When we discuss the use of online privacy, we too often forget the social context in which data exists, even when we're talking about social media. And Amit Runchal posted a TechCrunch article about the Girls Around Me fiasco, "Creating Victims and Blaming Them," where he points out that the victims of a service like Girls Around Me shouldn't be blamed for not understanding the arcane privacy settings of services like Facebook:

"But ... the women signed up to be a part of this when they signed up to be on Facebook. No. What they signed up for was to be on Facebook. Our identities change depending on our context, no matter what permissions we have given to the Big Blue Eye. Denying us the right to this creates victims who then get blamed for it. 'Well ... you shouldn't have been on Facebook if you didn't want to...' No. Please recognize them as a person. Please recognize what that means.

Runchal's powerful "no" underscores the problem: People sign up with Facebook and Foursquare (which quickly blocked Girls Around Me's access to their API) to communicate with friends, to play games, to find former classmates, and so on. They don't sign up to have their data sold to the highest bidder. And while Facebook and Foursquare have a legitimate right to run a profitable business, their users have a legitimate right to be treated with some respect, and it's hard to construe hundreds of inscrutable privacy settings as "respect." Even if you understand the settings, it's next to impossible to block apps that you don't even know about. Perhaps the only way to protect yourself is a complete retreat into privacy, which defeats the purpose of Facebook.

Runchal's article demonstrates the principles for which Nissenbaum is arguing. Privacy and data don't exist in the abstract. Privacy and data always exist in social contexts, and problems occur when data is taken out of that context. Users give data to Facebook all the time; that's normal, and the service couldn't exist without that happening. Hundreds of millions of people use and enjoy Facebook, so the company is clearly doing a lot of things right. However, handing that same data to another application rips it out of context: Facebook data on its own might be fine, Facebook data crossed with location data from Foursquare is getting fishy (almost any use of location data quickly becomes "fishy"), and that combination published via an app that's designed to encourage stalking has crossed the line. Nissenbaum has articulated the general principle; Runchal has provided an excellent case study.

In a similar vein, Tim O'Reilly has argued that we should regulate the use of data, and expect data collectors to obey cultural norms about reasonable and unreasonable uses of data. A doctor could share your medical history with researchers, but not with an insurance company that might use it to cancel your policy. That's the only way to get the medical progress that comes from sharing data without the chilling side effect of making medical care inaccessible to anyone who actually needs it. Tim has defended Facebook for being willing to push the limits of privacy because that's the only way to find out what the new norms should be and what benefits we can derive from new applications. That's fair enough, and in this case (as I already pointed out), Foursquare was quick to yank API access.

It's useful to imagine the same software with a slightly different configuration. Girls Around Me has undeniably crossed a line. But what if, instead of finding women, the app was Hackers Around Me? That might be borderline creepy, but most people could live with it, and it might even lead to some wonderful impromptu hackathons. EMTs Around Me could save lives. I doubt that you'd need to change a single line of code to implement either of these apps, just some search strings. The problem isn't the software itself, nor is it the victims, but what happens when you move data from one context into another. Moving data about EMTs into context where EMTs are needed is socially acceptable; moving data into a context that facilitates stalking isn't acceptable, and shouldn't be.

The Atlantic's article about Nissenbaum ends with some pessimism about our ability to define social norms surrounding privacy: "It's quite difficult to figure out what the norms for a given situation might be." And that's true. We don't yet know what cultural norms for privacy are, let alone how to regulate for them, or how regulations should evolve as technology evolves and cultural norms change. Locking in our present norms through some badly thought out regulation strikes me as a recipe for disaster. I care much more about the TSA's scanners at an airport than about Google photographing my house for Street View, but I'd be ecstatically surprised to see legislation that reflected my priorities. The New York Times reports that cell phone tracking is routinely used by local law enforcement agencies, with little or no court oversight; and in the current climate, I'd be surprised to see privacy regulation that challenges the widespread use and abuse of surveillance by the police.

But this isn't the time to throw up our hands. It isn't as if we're completely lacking in clue. With that in mind, I'll give Amit Runchal the last word:

"The line is this: When you begin speaking for another person without their permission, you are doing something wrong. When you create another identity for them without their permission, you are doing something wrong. When you make people feel victimized who previously did not feel that way, you are doing something wrong."

Those are words I can live by.

Related:

February 28 2012

The privacy arc

A while ago, I wrote a short post on the meaninglessness of frictionless sharing. Since then, I've had a few additional thoughts on what frictionless sharing is trying to accomplish (aside from pure and simple marketing), and what we should be trying to build.

The article about Target targeting pregnant women with advertisements caught my attention, not particularly because of Target's practice, but because it gives us a useful way of looking at the history of privacy. What Target did isn't at all surprising. Target's data systems noticed that some women were suddenly buying extra large handbags (for holding diapers), over-the-counter medicines that could be used to fight morning sickness, and skin creams to hide stretch marks. The store concluded that these women were probably pregnant and targeted them with ads featuring products for pregnant women. (If you believe the rather self-serving story about how one girl's father called the store furious about what these ads were implying, then called back the next day to apologize, you're less skeptical than I am.)

It's not surprising that this makes the news, but I asked myself what's really new here. And my answer is, "not much." Think back to the first half of the 20th century. A girl walks into the local pharmacy and buys bicarb for an upset stomach. The pharmacist notes that this girl has never bought anything like this before and also notes that she's looking a bit thicker. He has also seen the girl at the lunch counter and knows she has an iron stomach. He puts two and two together, makes a mental note, and knows what to recommend the next time she's in. And soon after the pharmacist knew it, you can bet that everyone knew it; people never needed the Internet to form networks. I would gladly bet that this story played itself out thousands of times.

What's interesting is what happened in the years that intervened between the '50s and the present. The small town culture (which may never have really existed) in which everyone knew everything about everyone disappeared as we moved into suburbs, where nobody knew anything about anyone. And that's really where our notions of "privacy" arose. The local pharmacies started disappearing, to be replaced by big chains like CVS and Walgreens. As Douden's and Jolly's disappeared from local culture, so did the local pharmacist who knew and remembered who you were and what you bought, and who was able to put two and two together without the help of a Hadoop cluster. Around 60-70 years ago, we didn't really have any privacy; Scott McNealy's infamous statement that "you have zero privacy anyway ... get over it" would have been meaningless. We grew attached to our privacy in the intervening half-century, as the demands of industry created population concentrations that broke the bonds (wanted or not) attaching us to our local neighbors. In the past, we "heard it through the grapevine," but by the time the Internet was invented, that grapevine had been uprooted.

I am the last person to claim that the '50s were some sort of paradise when all was right in America and the world. In many ways, the '50s were a sick and deformed conformist culture. But the '80s were no party either. I was in grad school at the time, and all the non-students I knew (mostly engineers in Silicon Valley) were bemoaning the lack of "community." They lived in anonymous apartment complexes in insipid suburbs; they were tired of the people they worked with; there was no good way to make friends, no good way to be social. The big social story of the '80s and '90s was the decline of "social" and the continued rise of suburban cocooning in detached houses. In this environment, the rise of Facebook and Foursquare (and MySpace, and Friendster, and Orkut and others) was inevitable. Given the boredom of mid-'80s apartment complex existence, software developers did what came naturally and invented a software solution.

We have to look at automated sharing of the music we listen to, the books we read, and the restaurants we visit in light of that arc. As anyone who is interested in books or records knows, the first thing you used to do when you visited someone's house was look at their bookshelves or their stack of records (or CDs). You might lend me a book or a record that I was interested in, moving a step up the ladder from acquaintance to intimacy. That still works, but at O'Reilly's recent TOC conference, it was clear that even publishers understand that the age of print is coming to the end. SOPA and PIPA have more to do with the entertainment industry realizing that CDs and DVDs have come to an end than they have to do with so-called piracy. Print books will survive as fetishized items, as will vinyl LPs: expensive coffee-table books for display, a few high-priced show editions, but nothing as interesting as what you'd find on my bookcase. That inevitable shift signals a profound change for the social nature of reading and listening. While looking through someone's bookshelves is fine, it's not socially acceptable to look through their iPods and Kindles.

In this context, it's surely correct to put a kinder interpretation on automated "frictionless sharing" of your songs and book purchases on Facebook. Yes, if someone is giving you a service for free, you're not the customer — you're the product. It's reasonable to be unhappy that your likes and dislikes are being bought and sold like pork bellies on the Chicago Merc. But there is an oddly pathetic humanity behind automated sharing: It's a clumsy and intrusive attempt to solve a very real human problem with technology. After all, that's what technologists do. Asking a software developer not to write software when faced with an obvious problem is like asking a fish not to swim. As I said, that's how we got Facebook in the first place.

Automated, frictionless sharing is certainly not a solution. As I've often observed, human problems are almost always solved by human solutions, very rarely by technical solutions. We have to ask ourselves what the real solution is, given that we've negotiated an arc from immersion in a social community (with all that entails) to helplessly private insularity to immersion in a virtual world that lacks privacy, but that also lacks human contact. It may be that dating sites are so consistently popular because they are the only online services that require human contact to work.

So how do we think about a solution? Privacy, data, and our social nature are inevitably entangled — always have been and always will be. How do we build satisfying human connections back into our lives without the superficiality and invasiveness of automated sharing? We've given up privacy without gaining the benefits of increased openness, which are tied up with social interaction. Back in the '80s, I couldn't look at your bookshelves unless you invited me to your party. That's real friction. Now, I can see your data, but even if you send me a personal email with your playlist, there's no party. And that's the challenge: bring real human connection back to our sanitized technology. The world isn't just about Facebook and Twitter, or even Google+. It's about making connections and having real parties with real food and real people. Gregory Brown, founder of Mendicant University, and one of the authors I've worked with, is having a party this Spring for "people with interesting ideas." I sure hope I'm invited because that's the only way out.

Photo: Soda fountain by LandVike, on Flickr

Related:

December 05 2011

The end of social

Listened to listMuch as I'm tempted to talk about Facebook privacy, I'm going to resist. Plenty has been written about Facebook and privacy, Facebook and "forced" sharing, Facebook and sharing by default, Facebook this and Facebook that. And I'm sure much more will be written about it.

Tim O'Reilly has been supportive of Facebook. The company has frequently been clumsy, but it's also been willing to push the limits of privacy in ways that might be potentially creative and in ways that might potentially create more value for us than we give up.

But none of the many reactions to Facebook get to the core of the problem, which isn't privacy at all. The real problem becomes visible when you look at it from the other direction. What effect does massive sharing have on the recipients? Let me ask the question in another way. Maybe I care if you see all the music I listen to; maybe I don't. Maybe I'm embarrassed if you find out that I mostly listen to dignified classical music but occasionally go slumming with Beyonce; maybe I'm not. But turn that around: while I might be interested in what you listen to, I have hundreds of Facebook friends; do I really care to be informed about what everyone is listening to? Do I really care to keep up with everything that they're reading? A little bit of information (cool, I didn't know that Bert Bates is a Dead Head) is interesting, but a deluge is The Big Snore.

The other day, I read a perceptive article, "In Defense of Friction," arguing that "automated trust systems undermine trust by incentivizing cooperation because of the fear of punishment rather than actual trust." That's a profound point. If we rely on computational systems for a trust framework, we actually lose our instincts and capacity for personal trust; even more, we cease to care about it. And there's a big difference between trusting someone and relying on a system that says they're trustworthy.

Taking this a couple of steps further, the article points out that, to many people, Facebook's "frictionless" sharing doesn't enhance sharing; it makes sharing meaningless. Let's go back to music: It is meaningful if I tell you that I really like the avant-garde music by Olivier Messiaen. It's also meaningful to confess that I sometimes relax by listening to Pink Floyd. But if this kind of communication is replaced by a constant pipeline of what's queued up in Spotify, it all becomes meaningless. There's no "sharing" at all. Frictionless sharing isn't better sharing; it's the absence of sharing. There's something about the friction, the need to work, the one-on-one contact, that makes the sharing real, not just some cyber phenomenon. If you want to tell me what you listen to, I care. But if it's just a feed in some social application that's constantly updated without your volition, why do I care? It's just another form of spam, particularly if I'm also receiving thousands of updates every day from hundreds of other friends.

So, what we're seeing isn't the expansion of our social network; it's the shrinking of what and who we care about. My Facebook feed is full of what friends are listening to, what friends are reading, etc. And frankly, I don't give a damn. I would care if they told me personally; I'd even care if they used a medium as semi-personal as Twitter. The effort required to tweet tells me that someone thought it was important. And I do care about that. I will care much less if Spotify and Rdio integrate with Twitter. I already don't care about the blizzard of automated tweets from FourSquare.

Automated sharing is giving Facebook a treasure-trove of data, regardless of whether anyone cares. And Facebook will certainly find ways to monetize that data. But the bigger question is whether, by making sharing the default, we are looking at the end of social networks altogether. If a song is shared on Facebook and nobody listens to it, does it make a sound?

Related:

October 25 2011

August 05 2011

Top Stories: August 1-5, 2011

Here's a look at the top stories published across O'Reilly sites this week.


Missing maps and the fragility of digital information
During a long drive through sparse terrain, Tim O'Reilly had a remarkable demonstration of the fragility of the "always on" connected mindset.
Google Plus defines an era of disruption at a moment's notice
When an entrant quickly yields considerable power in an existing market, and elicits potential for rapid innovation, this is what Jonathan Reichental calls the "G+ effect."
Science hacks chip away at the old barriers to entry
How can opening access to scientific data, equipment and lab space spur innovation? BioCurious' Eri Gentry and Ariel Waldman from Spacehack.org share a few ideas.
How online bookstores should get social
What if you could take the social aspects of brick-and-mortar bookstores and blend them with the convenience of online sales? Joe Wikert explains how an online social layer would benefit everyone involved in the publishing chain.
Data and the human-machine connection
Managing data and extracting meaning require new approaches, new education, and even a new language. Opera Solutions CEO Arnab Gupta discusses each of these areas.





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August 03 2011

How online bookstores should get social

This post originally appeared on Joe Wikert's Publishing 2020 Blog ("Should Online Bookstores Go Social?"). It's republished with permission.


As I walked through a local brick-and-mortar bookstore the other day I overheard this exchange:

Customer #1: This is why I don't always buy online. I love holding and flipping through books.

Customer #2: Me too, but I really like spending time in the store and seeing if I can get any good recommendations while I'm wandering around.

That's so true. Shopping in person can have a social element to it, but shopping online is always a solitary experience. To be fair, I don't make a habit of bothering other customers in the bookstore but there have been times when I've asked their opinion, particularly if I overhear them saying something I'm interested in or if I see them picking up a book I'm considering. Then there are the in-store clerks: I've gotten valuable pointers from store personnel countless times.

What's the analog to that in the online bookstore? There isn't one. Sure you can read through product reviews but that's not the same as talking realtime with other customers or a clerk.

Online bookstores have gotten along just fine despite this brick-and-mortar advantage, of course. But if online stores enable this functionality would it lead to an even richer shopping experience? I think so.

Goodreads screen
By tapping fellow shoppers and staff for recommendations, online bookstores could supplement their search, purchasing and personalization tools.

Let's say you're searching your preferred .com for books about one of my favorite topics, the New York Yankees. Wouldn't it be cool if part of the screen listed other shoppers currently browsing the online store who have a history of buying books about the Yankees? They'd appear in a frame just like you see with instant messaging apps and you could initiate a quick chat with any of them about a book you're considering.

Before you privacy advocates get too wound up I'd like to point out that this service is something you'd have to opt into. If you prefer to shop without chatting with anyone you'd simply leave this service disabled. But if you're interested in talking to others with common interests and would love to get their recommendations this service is for you.

The service would automatically include your purchase history, excluding items you may not want to make public or just showing topics/areas of interest, not specific titles. Think of it like an overlay of your Goodreads shelf with a chat service, built right into the online bookstore.

As a consumer I'd love to have access to something like this. As a publisher I'd get even more use out of it. You could do real, live customer research anytime you want to (assuming the right customers are currently logged in).

Forget about the customers for a moment though and let's think about the in-store clerk. Wouldn't it be cool if there were virtual in-store clerks available to chat with, ready to make a recommendation or answer your questions? You might figure it makes no sense for an online bookstore to add to staff just to have a bunch of subject matter experts online for customer inquiries. I agree, but this is where the brick-and-mortar stores could use it to their advantage ...

Think about B&N, for example. There are hundreds of stores open from about 9AM ET till about 10PM PT each day. That's 16 hours each day and every store has one or more in-store clerks on the job at any given time. Connect the in-store computers to this service so that the NY clerk who manages the sports section and loves baseball gets notified when I have a general question about Yankees books. The clerk steps over to the computer and joins me in a chat session. The in-store employee now adds value to the online bookstore experience as well.

I'm just scratching the surface on this idea. How about making it more compelling with badges and credits earned for answering customer questions? Better yet, how about including an affiliate program so that if my recommendation results in a purchase I get a cut of the transaction?

Then there's the ebook side of this. How about letting me send you an excerpt from a book I'm recommending? If it's a better sample than the one the publisher made available it only increases the likelihood of generating a sale. And if it doesn't, the retailer should be capturing all this information and using it to follow-up with that customer to nudge them again on that book (or other related books).

I'm convinced social will play a crucial role in the future of search in general and I also see a terrific opportunity for it to add to the online book buying experience. How about you? Would you be interested in something like this if your favorite online bookseller implemented it?

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May 16 2011

The future of technology and its impact on work

Here's a 40-minute presentation and interview I gave at the Center for Technology, Entertainment, and Media (CTEM) at the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University. The video covers a range of subjects including demographics and technology trends that will emerge over the next 5-10 years and what will be required to succeed in the workplace of the future.

January 03 2011

2011 Watchlist: 6 themes to track

Now's the time of year for everyone to write about the trends they see in the coming year. I've resisted that in the past, but this year I'll make an exception. We'll see if it becomes a tradition. Here's my quick list of six themes to watch in 2011:

The Hadoop family

Big data is no secret, and it grew so big in 2010 it can hardly count as a "trend" for 2011. Hadoop grew up with big data, and big data grew up with Hadoop. But what I've seen recently is the flowering of the Hadoop platform. It's not just a single tool, it's an ecosystem of tools that interoperate -- and the total is more than the sum of its parts. Watch HBase, Pig, Hive, Mahout, Flume, ZooKeeper, and the rest of the elephantine family in the coming year.

Real time data

Websites may not be "real time" in a rigorous sense, but they certainly aren't static, and they've gone beyond the decade-old notion of "dynamic," in which the same set of inputs produced the same outputs. Sites like Twitter and Facebook change with time; users want to find out what's happening now (or some reasonably relaxed version of now). Most of the tools we have for working with big datasets are batch-oriented, like Hadoop. One of the most exciting announcements of 2010 was the brief glimpse of Google's Percolator, which enables streaming computation on Google-sized datasets. While Percolator is a proprietary product and will probably remain so, I would be willing to bet that there will be an open source tool performing the same function within the next year. Watch for it.


Strata: Making Data Work, being held Feb. 1-3, 2011 in Santa Clara, Calif., will focus on the business and practice of data. The conference will provide three days of training, breakout sessions, and plenary discussions -- along with an Executive Summit, a Sponsor Pavilion, and other events showcasing the new data ecosystem.

Save 30% off registration with the code STR11RAD



The rise of the GPU


Our ability to create data is outstripping our ability to compute with it. For a number of years, a subculture of data scientists have been using high-performance graphics cards as computational tools, whether or not they need graphics. The computational capabilities that are used for rendering graphics are equally useful for general vector computing. That trend is quickly becoming mainstream, as more and more industries find that they need the ability to process large amounts of data in real time ("real" real time, not web time): finance, biotech, robotics, almost anything that requires real-time results from large amounts of data.

Amazon's decision to provide GPU-enabled EC2 instances ("Cluster GPU Instances") validates the GPU trend. You won't get the processing power you need at a price you want just by enabling traditional multicore CPUs. You need the dedicated computational units that GPUs provide.

The return of P2P

P2P has been rumbling in the background ever since Napster appeared. Recently, the rumblings have been getting louder. Many factors are coming together to drive a search for a new architectural model: the inability of our current provider paradigm to supply the kind of network we'll need in the next decade, frustration with Facebook's "Oops, we made a mistake" privacy policies, and even WikiLeaks. Whether we're talking about Bob Frankston's Ambient Connectivity, the architecture of Diaspora, Tor onion routing, or even rebuilding the Internet's client services from the ground up on a peer-to-peer basis, the themes are the same: centralization of servers and network infrastructure are single points of control and single points of failure. And the solution is almost always some form of peer-to-peer architecture. The Internet routes around damage -- and in the coming years, we'll see the Internet repair itself. The time for P2P has finally come.

Everything is even more social

2010 was certainly been the year of Facebook. But I think that's just the beginning of the social story, rather than the end. I don't think the Internet will ossify into a Facebook-dominated world. Rather, I think we'll see social features incorporated into everything: corporate sites, ecommerce sites, mobile apps, music, and books. Although Apple's Ping is lame, and social music sites (such as MOG) are hardly new, Ping points the way: the incorporation of social features into new kinds of products.

The meaning of privacy

Any number of events this year have made it clear that we need to think seriously about what privacy means. We can't agree with the people who say "There's no such thing as privacy, get over it." At the same time, insisting on privacy in stupidly rigid ways will paralyze the Internet and make it difficult, if not impossible, to explore new areas -- including healthcare, government, sharing, and community. As Tim O'Reilly has said, what's needed isn't legislation, but a social consensus on what should and should not be done with data: how much privacy is reasonably needed, and what forms of privacy we can do without. We're now in a position where solving those problems is not only possible, but necessary. I don't expect much progress toward a solution in the next year, but I do expect to see the meaning of "privacy" discussed seriously.

A few more things

What? No mobile? No HTML5? No JavaScript? Yes, they're certainly going to grow, but I see them as 2010's news. You don't get any points for predicting "Mobile is going to be big in 2011." Duh. I might hazard a guess that HTML5 will become an equal partner to native apps on mobile platforms -- there's a good chance of that, but I'm not convinced that will happen. I am convinced that JavaScript is the language to watch; in the last few years, it has ceased to be a glue language for HTML and come into its own. Node.js is just what was needed to catapult it from a bit player into a starring role.



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December 31 2010

Four short links: 31 December 2010

  1. The Joy of Stats -- Hans Rosling's BBC documentary on statistics, available to watch online.
  2. Best Tech Writing of 2010 -- I need a mass "add these to Instapaper" button. (via Hacker News)
  3. Google Shared Spaces: Why We Made It (Pamela Fox) -- came out of what people were trying to do with Google Wave.
  4. The Great Delicious Exodus -- traffic graph as experienced by pinboard.

December 12 2010

Strata Gems: The emerging marketplace for social data

We're publishing a new Strata Gem each day all the way through to December 24. Yesterday's Gem: Let it snow.

Strata 2011If you want to analyze social media data in significant volumes, it can be inconvenient and costly to aggregate it yourself. Aggregator and reseller Gnip is at the forefront of the growing marketplace for social data. As well as providing a unified API to aggregated public data from social web sites, Gnip are the first authorized reseller for the entirety of Twitter's public output.

Who uses this Twitter data, and for what? The ultimate end users of most aggregated social data are corporations. The data is used either for brand management and monitoring purposes, or as part of workflow systems that help them address customer issues online. However, the raw feeds themselves are most often provided to suppliers of social monitoring systems, not the end user.

Right now, you can't just install a "Twitter sink" and point the Twitter firehose into it. Gnip's licensees are mostly vendors of social CRM systems. According to Gnip's estimate there are over 500 social monitoring products available in the US alone, but the bigger market is in integration with existing CRMs. Rather than using separate systems, it makes more sense to introduce social media data into the existing CRM investments of large enterprises.

By reselling their public data, Twitter is the first social service to monetize its raw data in this way. Over the course of the next twelve months this trend is likely to accelerate. With that acceleration, we'll also see attendant issues over public awareness of the ultimate destination of their social media scribblings. Writing something in public for your friends is one thing, but people may be surprised to know their every utterance is being carefully watched by their favorite brands.

Gnip's CEO Jud Valeski will be participating in the Strata panel What's Mine is Yours: the Ethics of Big Data Ownership.

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