David Carr’s sad story

Nytimes hq

Scripting News:

The end of David Carr’s current column in the NY Times is, I think, meant to outrage us. Reporters are being asked to deliver papers. I’m trying to think of what the analog would be in programming. We have to do a lot of menial tasks. Without a pulpit like Carr’s on which to tell our tale of woe. But I agree. Having a professional reporter deliver papers is ridiculous.

[snip -ed]

Summary: You have to let more of the world in. Or eventually the world will invent what you have with a different name. That’s always been the option. The Times should have fully made the transition to the web by now. The biggest part of that transition is allowing more voices to speak directly through your platform.

[I think what Dave has is still true (he’s said this before many times, he’s just not being heard (yet?). But I also think that David Carr missed something that he wrote about at the top of the column.

When the Forces of Media Disruption Hit Home – NYTimes.com:

I read on Friday that the price of taxi medallions in New York City had fallen about 17 percent, a drop created by competition from ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft. The impact is remarkable because neither company possesses big capital assets, or a huge number of employees. Instead, they put a new user interface over cars and drivers already on the road. In the same way, Airbnb has remade the rental markets, not by buying properties, but simply by surfacing available units on the web to people in need.

What he ignored is that there is a new interface for journalists too. It’s called blogging. And while the Times could potentially lose exclusive access to those people, no one else has to. And in fact, the Times doesn’t have to either if they do what Dave suggests. The Times no longer needs to have “big capital assets, or a huge number of employees” or at least as much or as many. They could take advantage of the new interface for journalism to rebuild their business.

I don’t mean to belittle the pain the people involved in these changes have to go through. Many probably liked the way things were, and worked hard to do their part and make it the success it was. But nothing lasts forever, and the old model is going away.]

20 years of blogging

20 years of blogging:

Every day I try to do some development work on my projects, but I see the end coming, not too far away. I don’t think I’ll be digging any great new holes in the future, but I do want to wrap up all the stuff I’ve started. That’s what the last few years have been about. I want to have great open publishing tools, that don’t require you to give everything you have to a billionaire in the hopes of getting a little attention.

[It does all come to end, and in technology it is harder to sustain a legacy I think. If you build a great building, it could easily be standing hundreds of years later. Software rarely lasts for 10 of years, although some stuff does. I have no problem with that. What I did/do is mostly work for hire. I love doing it, and it’s been kind to me, but most of programming I’ve done is already long gone from an executable standpoint. Some of it lives on as lessons applied to current work, and some of it lives on in the work of people I’ve taught. So when Dave says “Maybe it won’t go anywhere. Maybe it’ll all be swept aside, forgotten, along with so many other dreams of so many other people who thought they could make a difference.” I hear him, but I feel like all the folks who learned something about software from using his stuff, or writing their own software in his, or simply taking ideas and running with them in their own direction… that’s what makes a lasting difference. There is no way to sweep that aside. It just is.]

The Internet With A Human Face

The Internet With A Human Face:

Public and private surveillance are in a curious symbiosis with each other.

A few weeks ago, the sociologist Janet Vertesi gave a talk about her efforts to keep Facebook from learning she was pregnant. Pregnant women have to buy all kinds of things for the baby, so they are ten times more valuable to Facebook’s advertisers.

At one point, Vertesi’s husband bought a number of Amazon gift cards with cash, and the large purchase triggered a police warning. This fits a pattern where privacy-seeking behavior has become grounds for suspicion. Try to avoid the corporate tracking system, and you catch the attention of the police instead.

As a wise man once said, if you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.

But there are also dangerous scenarios that don’t involve government at all, and that we don’t talk enough about.

I’ll use Facebook as my example. To make the argument stronger, let’s assume that everyone currently at Facebook is committed to user privacy and doing their utmost to protect the data they’ve collected.

What happens if Facebook goes out of business, like so many of the social networks that came before it? Or if Facebook gets acquired by a credit agency? How about if it gets acquired by Rupert Murdoch, or taken private by a hedge fund?

What happens to all that data?

[Great piece. Beautifully expresses so many of my worries about the current trend in technology.]

Anti-Net-Neutrality “Fast Lanes” Are Bullshit

Anti-Net-Neutrality “Fast Lanes” Are Bullshit:

Be honest.

This is not building anything new — it’s discriminating and restricting what we already have.

This is not making anything faster — it’s allowing ISPs to selectively slow down traffic that they don’t strategically or financially benefit from, and only permit traffic from their partners to run at the speeds that everything runs at today.

It’s ostensibly the FCC’s job to see through this bullshit language and do what’s right for the country and the people, but only the fool who believed that ISPs are trying to build something beneficial here would believe that the FCC gives a damn about what’s best for American citizens.

And 52.9% of us were that fool for believing in another big, empty political marketing campaign.

[Our government is so biased.]

Haunted Empire review – great title, shame about the contents

Haunted Empire review – great title, shame about the contents | Technology | theguardian.com:

I found the bizarre attribution of meaning to events which didn’t seem to have meaning more and more intrusive. I also found it incongruous to have an American journalist from the WSJ offering her own interpretations; I thought it was an article of faith in that trade to get someone else to express your opinions – just choose carefully so they’re the ones you wanted to express anyway. But hardly any experts are quoted in the whole book; a pity, as they could have provided a narrative framework.

More to the point, didn’t any of Kane’s 200 interviewees or her time on the WSJ team reporting on Apple uncover anything about the tension inside the company about the iPhone 5? It simultaneously changed the screen size and dumped the 30-pin connector it had used since 2003, replacing it with a thinner 8-pin one that was incompatible with hundreds of millions of third-party boom boxes. For third-party developers, it meant rewriting their apps just to fit the iPhone 5 screen, which was longer but not wider. For makers of music players, it meant redesigns and inventory headaches. Would Steve Jobs have done that? Post-Jobs Apple did, with the same lack of compunction with which Jobs used to hand out mandates. Does that mean it’s haunted by the spirit of Jobs (would he had done it)? Or not?

[Clearly… not a fan.]

Surveillance by Algorithm

Surveillance by Algorithm:

Indeed, ever since Snowden provided reporters with a trove of top secret documents, we’ve been subjected to all sorts of NSA word games. And the word “collect” has a very special definition, according to the Department of Defense (DoD). A 1982 procedures manual (pdf; page 15) says: “information shall be considered as ‘collected’ only when it has been received for use by an employee of a DoD intelligence component in the course of his official duties.” And “data acquired by electronic means is ‘collected’ only when it has been processed into intelligible form.”

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper likened the NSA’s accumulation of data to a library. All those books are stored on the shelves, but very few are actually read. “So the task for us in the interest of preserving security and preserving civil liberties and privacy,” says Clapper, “is to be as precise as we possibly can be when we go in that library and look for the books that we need to open up and actually read.” Only when an individual book is read does it count as “collection,” in government parlance.

So, think of that friend of yours who has thousands of books in his house. According to the NSA, he’s not actually “collecting” books. He’s doing something else with them, and the only books he can claim to have “collected” are the ones he’s actually read.

This is why Clapper claims — to this day — that he didn’t lie in a Senate hearing when he replied “no” to this question: “Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?”

If the NSA collects — I’m using the everyday definition of the word here — all of the contents of everyone’s e-mail, it doesn’t count it as being collected in NSA terms until someone reads it. And if it collects — I’m sorry, but that’s really the correct word — everyone’s phone records or location information and stores it in an enormous database, that doesn’t count as being collected — NSA definition — until someone looks at it. If the agency uses computers to search those emails for keywords, or correlates that location information for relationships between people, it doesn’t count as collection, either. Only when those computers spit out a particular person has the data — in NSA terms — actually been collected.

[How broken is a system that allows people to hide behind lies of omission rather than demanding common use, or explain their definition. Sad.]

pCell and Why its a Bigger Deal than Anyone Realizes

How Steve Perlman’s “Revolutionary” Wireless Technology Works – and Why its a Bigger Deal than Anyone Realizes:

My brain almost exploded when I realized this. While 5G is a big leap in performance from existing 4G technology, it doesn’t provide any fundamentally new capabilities to us. Wireless power, though would be a total game-changer. What would the implications be?

  • Consumer electronics that never need to be plugged in again – phones, tablets, laptops, televisions could all be powered wirelessly in the home and office.
  • With transmission towers spaced every kilometer along major highways, electric cars would not need massive, expensive batteries. Everyone could afford a Tesla, and the demand for oil would drop.
  • With transmitters on a few rooftops in a city, you could have drones and quadcopters delivering groceries and mail, again without heavy batteries that limit their flying time.
  • You could build an electrical grid that’s a wireless mesh network, especially in developing countries, and have excess power from solar panels beamed to other locations which need it.

There are probably a slew of other ideas that I haven’t even considered – readers, please comment below!

[A potentially amazing new technology, even if all it allows is streaming of 4k programming. If Verizon wants to get involved in wireless over fiber (don’t be fooled, they serve different needs) let’s see them roll out some of this in an aggressive game changing way.]