On Monday, the Boston Marathon was bombed. On Monday night I was feeling blessed and thankful to not know anyone directly affected by the bombs. But on Tuesday morning I woke up to an email from my colleague Chris Peterson at the MIT Center for Civic Media. Chris's family are friends with the family who lost their son Martin in the attack. He sent us photos of he and his brothers playing with their children and the reality was all too close. It is devastating. This family will have a long road of healing in front of them that most of us cannot even begin to imagine.
My friends at MIT and I have spent the past couple of days helping Chris build a site to raise money for the Richard family. We are coordinating with St Marks Area Main Street, a non-profit community organization based in Dorchester, MA, where the family lives. The site is made with the support of the family and their spokesperson. 100% of funds raised goes to the family. Please give what you can. It's the very least we can do to come together in solidarity with these innocent people and help them to rebuild their lives in the wake of senseless violence. In the photo on the site Martin is holding a sign he made in school that says "Peace". Let us spread that peace.
Bruce Schneier's terrific Atlantic essay on the Boston Marathon bombings is a must-read. As he points out, the terrorists win only if we let this sort of thing scare us. By being empathic toward the victims and indomitable and fearless toward the criminals, we can create a climate where politicians can get away with telling us the truth -- there's no such thing as perfect security -- instead of politically expedient lies that lead to an out-of-control security state that takes away our freedoms, diverts our education, unemployment and health money to security theater, and leaves us no safer.
How well this attack succeeds depends much less on what happened in Boston than by our reactions in the coming weeks and months. Terrorism isn't primarily a crime against people or property. It's a crime against our minds, using the deaths of innocents and destruction of property as accomplices. When we react from fear, when we change our laws and policies to make our country less open, the terrorists succeed, even if their attacks fail. But when we refuse to be terrorized, when we're indomitable in the face of terror, the terrorists fail, even if their attacks succeed.
Don't glorify the terrorists and their actions by calling this part of a "war on terror." Wars involve two legitimate sides. There's only one legitimate side here; those on the other are criminals. They should be found, arrested, and punished. But we need to be vigilant not to weaken the very freedoms and liberties that make this country great, meanwhile, just because we're scared.
Empathize, but refuse to be terrorized. Instead, be indomitable -- and support leaders who are as well. That's how to defeat terrorists.
If you're looking for loved ones in Boston and can't get through to them, try Google's Person Finder, a service designed to help produce good information in the wake of disasters (it's also one of Google's free/open source software projects, with code here for you to examine and/or improve). There's a good Reddit thread on it here.
Update: Thanks for the stickers!
Yo, Boston! I'm doing an appearance tonight at Harvard Books, and as luck would have it, I spilled a cup of coffee on my laptop this morning and killed it. Luckily, the twitters leapt into action and let me know that the Micro Center in Cambridge was well-equipped (and by the way, holy smokes, why the hell didn't anyone tell me how smoking awesome Micro Center is? Like Fry's where all the staff are amazingly smart and helpful, boo-yah!).
So now I've got a brand-spanking new ThinkPad X230 with my old hard-drive in it (for the record, turns out you can yank an Ubuntu 12.10 drive out of a ThinkPad X220 and put it in an X230 and it Just Works). There's only one thing it lacks: STICKERS.
I have been a laptop stickerer for a decade and more, but my precious supply of stickers is all the way in London and I have four more cities to go on the tour before I'll get back to them.
Which is where you come in. If you're coming to the event in Cambridge tonight, bring me your small stickers and I'll decorate the machine with 'em on my way to New Mexico and post a photo tomorrow. But I emphasize: small stickers -- otherwise you just don't get enough of 'em on the machine.
See you tonight!
(Photo: Bruce Sterling)
jere7my sez, "I pointed my camera out my dining room window for 30 hours of Nemo in Boston, from the start of precipitation on Friday to the end of Saturday's cleanup, and condensed it all down to a minute. Enjoy this wintry timelapse! That's me waving at the camera for a few frames around 0:33."
Katherine sez, "Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer will be performing a GALA PARTY on Friday, December 21st, 2012 (aka MAYAN DOOMSDAY) to benefit the restoration of Torrent Engine 18, a Boston firehouse turned flexible art gallery/theatre. On the official Last Day on Earth, the gala will offer decadent music, mystery readings, and ritual burlesque, plus fresh-fruit-infused libations by Booze Ã‰poque in a grand ballroom (a secret Boston location revealed only to ticket-holders). Gala guest spots are only available through Torrent Engine 18's Kickstarter, which ends November 30th at 9pm."
Sam from MIT sez, "This 2-day conference at MIT brings together 50 leading thinkers about innovation in the media and marketing industries. Issues tackled include the importance of listening to their audiences and putting yourself in their shoes; the politics and ethics of curation in a spreadable media world; the move from "participatory culture" to "political participation," curing "the shiny new object syndrome" of putting the hype of new platforms over storytelling strategy, and rethinking copyright for today's world. The conference also includes particular looks into the futures of video gaming, the futures of public media, and the futures of storytelling in sports. Speakers include T Bone Burnett, Henry Jenkins, Maria Popova, Grant McCracken, Jason Falls, Valve Software's Yanis Varoufakis, PBS FRONTLINE's Andrew Golis, Google Creative Lab Director Ben Malbon, Xbox co-founder Ed Fries, AT&T AdWorks Lab Director David Polinchock, the creators of 30 Mosques in 30 Days, and USC Annenberg Inno vation Lab Director Jon Taplin. Also, there's a pre-conference event Thursday evening, Nov. 8, on 'New Media in West Africa,' moderated by mobile entertainment founder Ralph Simon and featuring the Harvard Berkman Center's Colin Maclay, artist Derrick Ashong, and iROKOtv's Fadzi Makanda."
Gmoke sez, "The city of Cambridge, Mass has teamed up with MIT to produce a Solar Tool that allows people to type an address into a website and get a detailed account of that roof's solar electric potential. This is probably the most detailed service now existing and every building in Cambridge is covered. You can learn how much of your roof sees enough sun for a PV installation, how large that PV installation can be, how much it will cost, how high your Federal and state tax rebate will be, how much electricity it will produce in a year, and how much carbon it will displace."
Tomorrow morning, Charlie Stross and I kick off our tour for Rapture of the Nerds tour, with stops in Lexington, KY; Brooklyn, NY: Brookline, MA; and Rochester, NY. Be there or be left behind!
Ted Kaczynski updated his own entry in the Harvard alumni directory, just in time for his class's 50th reunion:
While many of his classmates sent in lengthy updates on their lives for the 2 ½-inch-thick “red book,” the entry for “Theodore John Kaczynski” only contains nine lines.
The listing says his occupation is “Prisoner,” and his home address is “No. 04475-046, US Penitentiary—Max, P.O. Box 8500, Florence, CO 8126-8500.”
Under the awards section, the listing says, “Eight life sentences, issued by the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California, 1998.”
Unabomber Ted Kaczynski lists self as ‘prisoner’ in Harvard alumni directory (Thanks, Fipi Lele!)
How Harvard Book Store combines the best of digital bookselling with the best of physical bookselling
Phil Johnson writes in Forbes about the unlikely (and quite wonderful) success of the Harvard Book Store, an absolutely terrific independent bookstore that was bought by Jeff Mayersohn, a high-tech entrepreneur who was determined to exploit the advantages of a great physical location along with print-on-demand, instant gratification.
Essentially, Jeff installed a printing press to close the inventory gap with Amazon. The Espresso Book Machine sits in the middle of Harvard Book Store like a hi-tech visitor to an earlier era. A compact digital press, it can print nearly five million titles including Google Books that are in the public domain, as well as out of print titles. We’re talking beautiful, perfect bound paperbacks indistinguishable from books produced by major publishing houses. The Espresso Book Machine can be also used for custom publishing, a growing source of revenue, and customers can order books in the store and on-line.
You can walk into the store, request an out-of-print, or hard-to-find title, and a bookseller can print that book for you in approximately four minutes. Ben Franklin would be impressed.
But you don’t even have to go into the store to get a book. If you live in Cambridge and neighboring communities, you can order online and get any book delivered the same day by an eco-friendly Metroped “pedal-truck,” or a bicycle, as I like to call them. Beat that Amazon.
Marketers know that success comes from a complex formula, and Jeff’s strategy includes many moving parts. Harvard Book Store pays fanatical attention to customer service with an unrivaled staff of passionate and educated booksellers. They have spent years building a local brand. They bring people together with over 300 public events a year. They’re exceptional retailers with a frequent buyer program. They understand technology, and you can expect them to continually adapt.
I was so impressed by Harvard Book Store -- especially the shelves they'd dedicated to rare and odd treasures from the unplumbably vast Google public domain repository as a sample of the kind of thing you could have made to order in minutes.
A reader writes, "Boston PD subpoenas Twitter for info on users tweeting about Occupy Boston; they say it relates to a 'criminal investigation'. Also notice their ignorance when asking for account info on tags such as '#occupyboston'. Smart cookies over there."
Note that they're also looking for IP addresses for Guido Fawkes, a well-known, right-leaning British blogger (real name Paul Staines) who -- as far as I know -- has nothing to do with Boston (let alone Occupy Boston). My guess is that they've somehow mistaken Guido Fawkes for some kind of superdistributor of Guy Fawkes masks or similar (the historical Guy Fawkes did adopt the name Guido while fighting in Spain in the the 16th cen), which is to say that they're not just on a fishing expedition, they're on a fishing expedition that's grounded in profound ignorance.
And yup, they don't know the difference between a hashtag and an account.
Quinn Norton continues her excellent coverage of Occupy sites for Wired, sending back dispatches from Occupy Boston, which has refused to budge and has established a sophisticated alternative city-within-a-city, assisted by hackers from MIT:
Wiley mans the Logistics tent, a shade structure with shelves of organized, masking-tape-and-marker-labeled supplies, sitting next to piles of as yet unsorted donations. It’s incredibly busy. While we talk, he still handles requests, giving out batteries to members of the Safety crew, socks to old homeless men, and telling people where to go to find food, blankets, and other people in the Occupy.
“This is something to commit to,” he says. He takes a break and gives me the tour, pointing out different people in the community, tells me who they are and what they do for Occupy Boston. The community gives them something to care about, he explains. “That’s what a lot of this is. We’re rediscovering our self respect.”
Occupy Boston is cacophonous day and night, dense and messy with enthusiastic humanity. Volunteers feed a thousand people a day.
The camp has a library, media tent, clothing tent, a place to make art and protest signs, and a sacred tent littered with the holy texts and statues of many faiths.
It has a dozen or so events per day, managed by its 57 working groups, who do everything from taking care of animal safety and planning direct actions to documenting and improving pedal powered generators — a favorite of their MIT contingent.
(Image: Quinn Norton/Wired.com)
Carsten Turner writes in, with a call for entries for the 2012 Boston Science Fiction Film Festival, running Feb. 10-20 in Somerville, MA.
"Film-makers can submit projects to withoutabox. Winners will selected for Best Feature and Best Short. This year, two new categories have been established, too Steampunk Feature & Short. Each winning entry will get THE GORT, an exclusively designed sculpture, plus the normal swag associated with the festival. ... The fest culminates with the annual 24 hour film marathon, affectionately called The ʻThon. The venue is only two Red Line (MBTA) stops from Harvard and is within walking distance of Tufts University."
Submission fees start at $35.00 for shorts and $50 for features, and you have until January 30th to get yours in. More info is at the official web site.
Quinn Norton continues her excellent Wired coverage of the Occupy movement around America, reporting today from Boston, where a court has ruled that the tent-city at Dewey Park is a form of "protected symbolic expression." But in order to capitalize on this, Boston's Occupiers have to swear an oath to abide by the ultimate decision of the court, and to join as a plaintiff the ongoing lawsuit for the right to stay in the park.
But herein lies the rub for Occupy Boston – it’s not an official group, so can’t be listed on the lawsuit. Judge McIntyre instructed the Occupy to appoint official mediators, who have been working with the city through mediation since, and to have members of the group sign on to obey whatever final order she issues.
Those who sign, but don’t abide by the final order, risk a daily fine on top of any charge the city might bring if they move to evict.
Not all of Occupy Boston, which counts its population at 230-250 people, supports the suit.
At this Sunday’s General Assembly, which lasted for four hours, many expressed ambivalence and downright hostility to the idea. A few argued that having some people sign and some not would divide the moment. Others posited that engaging with the system would cost them in moral authority and public support.
(Photo: Quinn Norton/Wired)