MoST

June 10th, 2015

The story of The Last Museum:

I am not at my ranch, nor my Beijing office, nor the lesser office in Brooklyn, but here, back home, in the Old Valley. In a few minutes we'll pull off the highway and into what used to be Pruneridge Shopping Center. I can see the Jobs statue out the window of this car, rising up from the center of the Apple ring.

Pruneridge has gone the way of all physical stores. In its place stands a massive set of overlapping, complex, structurally-interlinked steel polyhedra that required sixty-thousand hours of continuous computer time to model. Ten billion microscopic mirrors catch the light and reflect it in various soothing patterns. There is one mirror per living human on this earth.

This is MoST, the Museum of Social Transformation. It is mine, but soon it will belong to the world.

I will tell you how I got here. […]

[Via Extenuating Circumstances]

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If we had a solution, we wouldn't be bothering you with all these damn clues.

January 8th, 2015

18. Did we use the word "content" without quotes? We feel so dirty.

New Clues, from two of the authors of the original Cluetrain Manifesto. A mix of idealism, naiveté, and the odd CheapShot™. All in all, a hell of a lot of fun to read.1

  1. Even if it makes me feel old to realise that it's been almost sixteen years since the original.

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How do we build an Internet we're not ashamed of?

May 29th, 2014

Having finally got round to reading the transcript of Maciej Cegłowski's Beyond Tellerrand 2014 Conference Talk , I can but report that – as usual – he talked a lot of sense:

One reason there's a backlash against Google glasses is that they try to bring the online rules into the offline world. Suddenly, anything can be recorded, and there's the expectation (if the product succeeds) that everything will be recorded. The product is called 'glass' instead of 'glasses' because Google imagines a world where every flat surface behaves by the online rules. [The day after this talk, it was revealed Google is seeking patents on showing ads on your thermostat, refrigerator, etc.]

Well, people hate the online rules!

Google's answer is, wake up, grandpa, this is the new normal. But all they're doing is trying to port a bug in the Internet over to the real world, and calling it progress.

You can dress up a bug and call it a feature. You can also put dog crap in the freezer and call it ice cream. But people can taste the difference.

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Hiding from Big Data

April 28th, 2014

How One Woman Hid Her Pregnancy From Big Data:

"My story is about big data, but from the bottom up," she said. "From a very personal perspective of what it takes to avoid being collected, being tracked and being placed into databases."

[Via Extenuating Circumstances]

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CloudWash

February 27th, 2014

My first instinct upon reading about BERG's Cloudwash prototype was to scoff at the idea of an internet-connected washing machine.

Cloudwash is a prototype washing machine. We created Cloudwash to explore how connectivity will change the appliances in our homes… and to figure out what new features will be possible.

I'm still not persuaded that the ability to schedule and reschedule washing jobs remotely is going to be on the feature list when next I'm looking to buy a washing machine. However, I'll concede that more localised uses of connectivity – like the ability to receive an alert via the net when a cycle is about to end and I'm going to need to go and unload the machine – would be worth having.1

I did like BERG's approach of putting as much of the intelligence as possible in the app you run on your connected device, where it's easy to update and enhance the functionality on offer without finding that your washing machine only has ROM version 1.3.234 and you need version 1.4.112 or better to allow you to store more than 3 favourite job configurations. It's perfectly logical, but you can bet that as manufacturers start doing internet-enabled production models we'll see all sorts of flashy touchscreen interfaces using a custom OS (which will probably be a heavily-customised Android or Linux variant under the skin) that will be scrapped or revised within six months.2

[Via Waxy.org/links]

  1. That last feature should really have occurred to me: I use Prowl to have my Mac send me Growl notifications about all sorts of things.
  2. See, for an example of this sort of thinking, Samsung's decision to ditch the Android OS they used in the first generation of Galaxy Gear smartwatches within six months of their launch in favour of their own OS.

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Dropbox arbitration

February 26th, 2014

Turns out that the latest change to Dropbox's Terms of Service merits a second look:

If you're a Dropbox user, you probably got an email in the last few days about an update to their TOS that basically puts all disputes into arbitration rather than litigation.

If you're like me, you probably glossed over this update because gah, legalese.

Allow me to summarize what it means when a company wants to handle all disputes in arbitration […]

Basically, if you'd prefer not to have Dropbox choose who gets to decide whether they did something wrong, you have a limited amount of time to opt out of their new TOS. You may think this is no big deal but it's still good to be aware of your options,1 especially when they're time-limited.

Kudos to Tiffany Bridge and Khoi Vinh for bringing this to their readers' attention.

[Via Subtraction.com]

  1. So what happens if most people opt out? Perhaps Dropbox conclude that their users don't like losing the option to take legal action against the company and learn a lesson from that. Alternatively, they decide they'd be much happier dealing with users who are willing to forego the option of litigation if there's a dispute and bring the clause back in the next TOS revision, only this time without the option of opting-out. At which point Dropbox users have a decision to make.

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Refusing to be 'useful'

January 5th, 2014

I can't remember where I found a link to this, but the Columbia Journalism Review's profile of my favourite internet sceptic, Evgeny vs. the internet Is well worth a read:

Evgeny Morozov wants to convince us that digital technology can't save the world, and he's willing to burn every bridge from Cambridge to Silicon Valley to do it.

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Did he say 'Uninterrupted Spasm State' or 'Uninterrupted Spam State'?

September 26th, 2013

Nicholas Carr's latest entry in his Realtime Chronicles predicts where technology will lead us once we're enmeshed in the Internet of Things:

People are forever buttonholing me on the street and saying, "Nick, what comes after realtime?" It's a good question, and I happen to know the answer: Ambient Reality. Ambient Reality is the ultimate disruption, as it alters the actual fabric of the universe. We begin living in the prenow. Things happen before they happen. "Between the desire / And the spasm," wrote T. S. Eliot, "Falls the Shadow." In Ambient Reality, the Shadow goes away. Spasm precedes desire. In fact, it's all spasm. We enter what I call Uninterrupted Spasm State, or USS.

[…]

In Ambient Reality, there is no such thing as "a shopper." Indeed, the concept of "shopping" becomes anachronistic. Goods are delivered before the urge to buy them manifests itself in the conscious mind. Demand is ambient, as are pricing comparisons. They become streams in the cloud. […]

Of course, this assumes that you have enough income to be worth providing goods and services to even before you even realise you might want them or even need them. Those with less impressive credit scores will find themselves on call 24/7, bidding every day in the hopes of landing an opportunity to spend a morning delivering the sandwiches and umbrellas to their betters.

[Zero Hours link via MetaFilter]

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Weird is good

September 20th, 2013

Dammit, another book to add to the reading list. On the face of it, Clive Thompson's Smarter Than You Think: How Technology Is Changing Our Minds for the Better seems to capture somethng about the way I use tools like Evernote and Pinboard as an outboard brain. Here's an excerpt:

Is the Internet ruining our ability to remember facts? If you've ever lunged for your smartphone during a bar argument ("one-hit father of twerking pop star" – Billy Ray Cyrus!), then you've no doubt felt the nagging fear that your in-brain memory is slowly draining away. As even more fiendishly powerful search tools emerge – from IBM's Jeopardy!-playing Watson to the "predictive search" of Google Now – these worries are, let's face it, only going to grow.

So what's going on? Each time we reach for the mouse pad when we space out on the ingredients for a Tom Collins or the capital of Arkansas, are we losing the power to retain knowledge?

The short answer is: No. Machines aren't ruining our memory.

The longer answer: It's much, much weirder than that! […]

[Via Sidelights]

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Sleepwalking the UK into Censorship

July 29th, 2013

One for readers in the UK: the Open Rights Group invites you to sign their petition telling David Cameron to Stop Sleepwalking the UK into Censorship.

Dear David Cameron,

Everyone agrees that we should try to protect children from harmful content. But asking everyone to sleepwalk into censorship does more harm than good.

Filters won't stop children seeing adult content and risks giving parents a false sense of security. It will stop people finding advice on sexual health, sexuality and relationships. This isn't just about pornography. Filters will block any site deemed unsuitable for under 18s.

Please drop these plans immediately.

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