Everyone who comes after will never understand

Infographic: Hierarchy of Digital Distractions

The Hierarchy Of Digital Distractions: levels of digital activity, visualized. (by David McCandless, via Scott Beale) Read the rest

City of San Francisco promises to "open its data" with DataSF.org

San Franscisco Mayor Gavin Newsom today announced the beta launch of DataSF.org, a website designed as a clearinghouse for the City of San Francisco's public data. TechCrunch has this launch statement from the mayor. Here's a snip:
The new web site will provide a clearinghouse of structured, raw and machine-readable government data to the public in an easily downloadable format. For example, there will be updated crime incident data from the police department and restaurant inspection data from the Department of Public Health. The initial phase of the web site includes more than 100 datasets, from a range of city departments, including Police, Public Works, and the Municipal Transportation Agency.

We imagine creative developers taking apartment listings and city crime data and mashing it up to help renters find their next home or an iPhone application that shows restaurant ratings based on health code violations.

And here's a related item on a Gov 2.0, an O'Reilly/Techweb event/website devoted to topics of government IT.

It's a great idea, but I'm not clear on how much of this is a PR stunt, and how much is actually more open access than citizens had before the site launched. Perhaps those who've examined the actual data being offered can weigh in, in the BB comments.

I live in Los Angeles, and I hope the powers-that-be down here are watching. I'd love to see our city open data to more public access, and scrutiny. For instance, the LAPD crime maps website is great in concept, but poorly executed (not to mention the horrible data omissions). Read the rest

Twitpocalypse: "Open Source Twitter" proposed as antidote to Twitter's DDOS vulnerability

Twitter and Facebook were paralyzed this past week by DDOS (distributed denial of service) attacks. As I understand it, those attacks are still ongoing. In this Wired Epicenter blog post by Eliot Van Buskirk, open source advocates propose that the only real solution to this vulnerability is to engage in another DDOS: "distributed delivery of service." As Bittorent is to filesharing, the thinking goes, so would an open microblogging network be to 140-character thought-blips.

“The total failure of Twitter during the DDoS attacks highlights the fact that, with Twitter, we're relying on a single service for mass communication of this type,” said open microblogging supporter and Ektron CTO Bill Cava. “Most everyone understands it's ridiculous to expect one service to provide email support to the world. The same is true for micro messaging. The reality is, it can’t and won’t continue this way for too much longer.”

The OpenMicroBlogging standard already exists -- it’s just that Twitter’s not playing along, possibly because it could lose market share if the open standard succeeds before it manages to monetize its service. One platform that adheres to the Open MicroBlogging (OMB) standard is Laconi.ca, an open-source Twitter-style network launched by Status.net on July 2 of last year (others include OpenMicroBlogger and Google’s Jaiku).

Laconi.ca, which seems to have gained more traction than the other two OMB platforms, forms the backbone of Identi.ca — an open-source Twitter clone with features Twitter lacks (image uploading, trackbacks, native video playback, OpenID) that lets you post updates to its own network as well as Twitter and Facebook. Read the rest

Warren Ellis: "The future is small."

In this month's Wired UK, Warren Ellis waxes apocalyptopoetic about tiny transportation systems as a thing of future beauty:
Designing a transport hub for the loading and traffic flow of pharma capsules built to deliver drugs directly into the heart of cancer tumours, using carbon fullerenes and working on the nanoscale, where communication between building and vehicle will have to be conducted via coded protein transfer because you’re below the limit at which radio waves can be transmitted or received.

I’d call it an intron depot, after the book by Masamune Shirow. But an intron, science assures me, is a chunk of DNA within a gene that doesn’t code into protein, so maybe that wouldn’t fit so well. But that could well be a real problem to solve – design me an intron depot so I can manage the traffic flow of nanoscopic drug delivery cars. I’m trying to imagine the nature of the computing required to oversee artificial traffic within the human body, when we can’t yet control traffic in Birmingham.

I almost wish the scene would be like the Combined Miniature Deterrent Forces in the 60s film Fantastic Voyage. America’s finest scientists and soldiers being driven around a weird, vast Brutalist underground base in electric golf carts, working to reduce submarines to microscopic size in great disco-floored scientific halls. But that’s a problem of the future: the future isn’t big any more. The future’s small.

"The future isn't big anymore. The future is small" (wired.co.uk, via @warrenellis) Read the rest

Rushkoff: "Google's War On The PC"

Doug Rushkoff is bullish on Google's plans to launch a Chrome OS (I blogged the news here on Boing Boing last night).

Snip from his essay today in The Daily Beast:

In a sense, Google is just bringing computing back to the way it was supposed to be. When Steve Jobs toured Xerox PARC and saw computers running the first operating system that used windows and a mouse, he assumed he was looking at a new way to work a personal computer. He brought the concept back to Cupertino and created the Mac, then Bill Gates followed suit, and the rest is history.

What Jobs didn't happen to notice was that the computer operating system he witnessed and copied wasn't meant as a way to organize the software and data on a single machine--it was actually a way for computers on a network to share resources. Not only files, but the software to work with them. The computers themselves were to be just dummies--terminals from which to run software and access files that were stored on someone else's expensive computer.

Instead, our operating systems have moved away from sharing and towards ownership. We buy a big powerful machine and do everything on it ourselves. This suits software and hardware companies just fine: they create new, bloated programs that require more disk space and processing power. We buy bigger, faster computers, which then require more complex operating systems, and so on. (It's as if the car companies and asphalt industry worked together, building roads that required new kinds of cars, and then cars that required new kinds of roads.)

Google's War On The PC (Daily Beast)

Rushkoff is also the author of the recently-released book Life, Inc. Read the rest

Google announces Chrome Operating System, open-source Windows competitor

Nine months after having launched the Chrome web browser, Google just now announced the Google Chrome Operating System, "an attempt to re-think what operating systems should be." Google plans to offer the OS for use on a wide array of devices in about a year. Snip from the official Google Blog:
Google Chrome OS is an open source, lightweight operating system that will initially be targeted at netbooks. Later this year we will open-source its code, and netbooks running Google Chrome OS will be available for consumers in the second half of 2010. Because we're already talking to partners about the project, and we'll soon be working with the open source community, we wanted to share our vision now so everyone understands what we are trying to achieve.

Speed, simplicity and security are the key aspects of Google Chrome OS. We're designing the OS to be fast and lightweight, to start up and get you onto the web in a few seconds. The user interface is minimal to stay out of your way, and most of the user experience takes place on the web. And as we did for the Google Chrome browser, we are going back to the basics and completely redesigning the underlying security architecture of the OS so that users don't have to deal with viruses, malware and security updates. It should just work.

Introducing the Google Chrome OS Read the rest

Social media in times of political crisis: six "lessons learned"

In the New York Times, this thoughtful piece by Noam Cohen on the links between online communication tools and political crises -- namely, the ongoing turmoil in Iran:
# Tweets Are Generally Banal, but Watch Out

"The qualities that make Twitter seem inane and half-baked are what makes it so powerful," says Jonathan Zittrain, a Harvard law professor who is an expert on the Internet. That is, tweets by their nature seem trivial, with little that is original or menacing. Even Twitter accounts seen as promoting the protest movement in Iran are largely a series of links to photographs hosted on other sites or brief updates on strategy. Each update may not be important. Collectively, however, the tweets can create a personality or environment that reflects the emotions of the moment and helps drive opinion.

# Buyer Beware

Nothing on Twitter has been verified. While users can learn from experience to trust a certain Twitter account, it is still a matter of trust. And just as Twitter has helped get out first-hand reports from Tehran, it has also spread inaccurate information, perhaps even disinformation. An article published by the Web site True/Slant highlighted some of the biggest errors on Twitter that were quickly repeated and amplified by bloggers: that three million protested in Tehran last weekend (more like a few hundred thousand); that the opposition candidate Mir Hussein Moussavi was under house arrest (he was being watched); that the president of the election monitoring committee declared the election invalid last Saturday (not so).

Read the rest

Rushkoff on Apple fanboy rage at Steve Jobs for having the audacity to have had a liver transplant

"Life, Inc." author and former BB guestblogger Doug Rushkoff has a piece up on Daily Beast about the fanboy fallout over recent news of Steve Jobs' liver transplant:
Feel better Steve, but what about me? I mean, I know cancer surgery is no picnic, but what does the possibility that you'll reject your new liver mean for my Apple share price? Or my iTunes collection? Should I be converting it all to MP3? I just got a friggin' iPhone - what if you leave us before my five-year contract with AT&T ends? I made a commitment...How about you?

Sorry, but that's the emotional current underlying nearly all of the coverage I'm seeing about the Apple founder's just-revealed liver transplant operation in Tennessee for his metastasized neuroendocrine tumor. It's not what I expected from the Apple community, but perhaps it does serve as the most accurate expression of where the once-renegade personal-computer company has ended up.

To buy an Apple product is to bet on the longevity of the closed system to which we've committed ourselves. And that system is embodied--through marketing as much as talent--by Steve Jobs.

"He said all he needed was a little rest!" one commenter on the Fortune magazine Web site complained. "This is bullshit." On Bloomberg, all the talk is about share price, Apple's chronically cryptic and delayed press releases on Jobs' health, and whether this deputy Tim Cook is capable of taking the helm. Such "me-first" sensibilities don't fit with the highly humanized, creative individuals celebrated in Apple's early commercials--but rather the cultish consumers and shareholders that those commercials, and the products, actually succeeded in generating.

Read the rest

Rushkoff on "The Great Facebook Land Grab of Aught-Nine"

At one minute past midnight Eastern Time this Saturday, Facebook users will be permitted to claim a unique user name, which may well spark a virtual vanity landgrab the likes of which we've never seen. Author and former BB guestblogger Douglas Rushkoff says this is the moment when Facebook becomes obsolete.

This is more than 200 million users, already engaged, simultaneously scrambling in the greatest territory dash since the Oklahoma Territory's land run of 1889, albeit with fewer shotgun injuries.

But Facebook's new page-naming scheme actually brings up other memories for me, ones that hold bigger stakes for the company itself. It reminds me of the moment that AOL, formerly a completely closed network with its own content, allowed its users onto the greater Internet for the first time. Internet USENET boards were filled with what we called "newbies" wandering around and asking anyone they could find how to download pornography. Formerly high-level conversations were quickly brought down to the lowest common denominator as a huge population of people uninitiated in basic Internet etiquette flooded the networks faster than we could educate them.

The impact was far worse for AOL. By opening itself to the greater Internet, AOL revealed itself as something of a wading pool. A mini-Internet. Once people could use AOL as a portal to the true, unadulterated, global net, the company was reduced to an ISP. AOL became series of phone numbers you dial to get online, and little more. Steve Case knew his moment was over, and used his inflated stock price to purchase some real assets like Time Warner.

Read the rest

Astronaut Reaches Mt. Everest Summit (BB Video Update)

(Download MP4 / Watch on YouTube)

UPDATE: Astronaut Scott Parazynski, the astronaut whose climb we followed in yesterday's episode of Boing Boing Video with Miles O'Brien, has reached the summit of Mt. Everest! Read more about their trumphant ascent here, including the GPS devices they're using to track and publish the effort. He tried this last year, but was injured when he was very, very close to reaching the summit -- so this success, a year later, is all the more sweet. Congrats, Scott!

Previously: BB Video - Diving into Space: Miles O'Brien in NASA's Neutral ... Boing Boing Video: Welcome, Miles O'Brien! - Boing Boing BB Video - Miles O'Brien Reports: An Astronaut Climbs Everest ... Read the rest

BB Video: "Ninja Assassin" - John Gaeta on Hybrid Entertainment Merging Film and Games.

Nathan Wolfe, "Hunting for the Next Killer Virus" - TED video

From the TED archive, a new video:
Virus hunter Nathan Wolfe is outwitting the next pandemic by staying two steps ahead: discovering new, deadly viruses where they first emerge -- passing from animals to humans among poor subsistence hunters in Africa -- before they claim millions of lives.

Armed with blood samples, high-tech tools and a small army of fieldworkers, Nathan Wolfe hopes to re-invent pandemic control -- and reveal hidden secrets of the planet's dominant lifeform: the virus.

TED Talks: Nathan Wolfe (thanks, Jason Wishnow) Read the rest

"If You Don't Trust People You Know, It's Over."

On an NYU aid and development studies blog, this video of NYU Professor Leonard Wantchekon talking about a cultural challenge to development in the country where he grew up, Benin. As regular BB readers are probably sick of me mentioning in blog posts by now, I spent the last few weeks traveling and shooting video in that West African country.

So, in this clip from "What Would the Poor Say: Debates in Aid Evaluation," a recent conference held by NYU's Development Research Institute, Wantchekon talks about the lack of interpersonal trust within a community as a major challenge to economic development.

Communities in Benin where he has seen this phenomenon manifest most, he says, are the same communities where the highest amount of slave exportation took place from the 1600s to the 1900s -- villages and towns in the southern part of the country, where the huge slave ports once stood, and where massive numbers of (basically) war captives were sold into bondage. Wantchekon documents all of this in a research paper he co-authored with Nathan Nunn.

I realize the point in this video is to help aid workers think about how to quantify, define, and deal with this factor in development programs in Africa. But as I watched, I kept thinking about what this means in my own personal community back here in the US (and around the internet). How I and my friends and colleagues are, in many ways, really "banking" on that trust with each other to come up with creative ways to survive the economic crisis. Read the rest

Re-Engineering Fundamentalism

Guest blogger Paul Spinrad is not unacquainted with the grape. 

After our distant ancestors developed language, everyone could benefit from the experiences of others. But the bandwidth of speech is so low compared to one's own senses that it required huge compression and decompression at each end of the communication. This process of describing and interpreting was enabled by detailed world models that everyone carried in their heads.

Because these world models vary from person to person, the codec is lossy, and misunderstandings are inevitable. But the imprecision also makes words more timeless and intimate. If the impressions that some words convey to you resonate with you, it's because they are literally built out of the way you view the world.

Words can also lie, but along with interpreting words, we automatically assess the trustworthiness of their source. We can learn not to believe everything we hear, or to distrust certain people, and we can also set the Bible trust level to 100. No such counterpart exists for visual communication-- cameras, television, and Photoshop haven't been around long enough.

That's all background, and here's my point: It seems to me that every so often, the dominant political and cultural machine grows so large and incestuous that it loses its connection to people and makes them feel powerless and irrelevant. When this happens, in the West anyway, there's inevitably a revolution of words, of back-to-basics and idealism, against the image-conscious, superficial, wealth-obsessed Babylon. Because it's based on words, people can place their trust in it fully and spread it, and it will continue to make sense over time. Read the rest

Bruce Sterling: Funeral for Analog TV (video)

Above: Funeral for Analog TV, starring the lovely and talented Bruce Sterling. "The service took place at the Berkeley Art Museum Tuesday, February 17, at 7:00 PM." More:

Audiences joined author Bruce Sterling, technology pundit Paul Saffo, and other special guests on the UC Berkeley campus to mourn the loss of our long time acquaintance, the Analog Television Signal. Born in the 1920's in San Francisco, the signal has been an integral part of all our lives, bringing us news of the rich, the famous, the politicians, the wars, the Apollo landings, the thrills of victory, and the agonies of defeat. While Analog Television has not been a good friend to us all, it has been important to each and every one of us. Analog Television is survived by its wife Digital Television, and its second cousin Internet Television.

Visitors brought their Analog TV for display and recycling. We stacked the first 40 in memoriam to our life long friend and the remainder were responsibly recycled. At the ceremony Paul Saffo spelled out the sordid history of the Analog TV Signal's life, the group Author & Punisher performed the funeral dirge, and author Bruce Sterling delivered the eulogy (above) just before the analog signal winked out for the last time and the frequency wasteland was invaded by pirate TV artists. It's rare that the entire nation gets a specific date on which one major medium dies and is replaced by another. This event was a scholarly and artistic reflection on the passing of one of the dominant mediums and cultural influences of the late 20th century.

Read the rest

BB Video: How's Your News? Comedy/News by Disabled People, Produced by South Park's Matt + Trey.

Flash video embed above, click "full" icon inside the player to view it large. You can download the MP4 here. Our YouTube channel is here, you can subscribe to our daily video podcast on iTunes here. And here are the archives for Boing Boing Video.

About a year ago, Boing Boing's video production crew was having our weekly content pitch meeting and my colleague Jolon brought up a video project he'd been following called "How's Your News." It was a news program in which the presenters are people with physical and mental disabilities. Some have Downs Syndrome, others cerebral palsy, and so on.

We didn't get around to producing a BB feature, but then just this past weekend, I met with Matt Stone and learned that he and fellow South Park creator Trey Parker are producing a version of How's Your News as a new MTV series. It debuts this Sunday, February 8.

He kindly offered to allow us to take a sneak peek at the first few episodes, and cut together an exclusive preview. That is today's episode of Boing Boing Video.

Matt explained that he and Trey are mostly hands-off with regard to the creative and editorial process on the MTV series, they're more like "godfathers" on the television project. HYN creator and director Arthur Bradford and the correspondents are pretty much in charge. It sounds like MTV has handled the project admirably, too.

When I first saw the internet version, I remember first feeling a little guilty or awkward for laughing at people with disabilities on-screen. Read the rest

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