March 2013 Articles

“If the data’s available, shouldn’t we be able to have it?”

That’s the argument I take away from BuzzFeed’s latest post on “How Google And Bing Maps Control What You Can See”. In a way, they’re right. If Google or Microsoft’s satellite or aerial imagery providers remove, blur or otherwise obscure their photos of the ground before licensing them, we — the public — aren’t seeing the whole picture.

The second argument BuzzFeed’s John Herrman makes is that accepting blurred imagery or choosing not to display the highest resolution imagery available is an act of omission and “the purest form of censorship”. My challenge is that omission in of itself is not censorship and rather that censorship is the practice of omission.

On a similar line of thinking, The Atlantic’s Jathan Sandowski takes a stab at why privacy matters, interpreting in part an essay by Georgetown University law professor Julie E. Cohen for a forthcoming article for the Harvard Law Review titled “What Privacy is For”.

“…since life and contexts are always changing, privacy cannot be reductively conceived as one specific type of thing. It is better understood as an important buffer that gives us space to develop an identity that is somewhat separate from the surveillance, judgment, and values of our society and culture. Privacy is crucial for helping us manage all of these pressures — pressures that shape the type of person we are — and for ‘creating spaces for play and the work of self-[development].’ Cohen argues that this self-development allows us to discover what type of society we want and what we should do to get there, both factors that are key to living a fulfilled life.”

Aaron Swartz was a highly accomplished computer programmer and activist who was a member of the team that published the RSS 1.0 specification, contributed to the architecture of Creative Commons, and through his startup Infogami became involved with Reddit; among many other accomplishments. At age 26, this past January, he committed suicide in his apartment in Brooklyn.

Aaron was being investigated by federal prosecutors Steve Heymann and Scott Garland “for the alleged crime of downloading too many JSTOR articles too quickly.” Many friends and family believe the prodigy was pushed to suicide by this more than two year investigation designed by supervising U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz to “send a message”. The investigation was closed after his death.

Quinn Norton, a journalist who was — for four years — romantically involved with Aaron writes at length about her feelings and the role she played in the investigation against Aaron:

“Once your life is inside a federal investigation, there is no space outside of it. The only private thing is your thoughts, and even they don’t feel safe anymore. Every word you speak or write can be used, manipulated, or played like a card against your future and the future of those you love. There are no neutral parties, no sources of unimpeachable wisdom and trust.…”

Start here:

The vagaries of Apple (AAPL) stock.

“Following the lead of a 33-year-old investment advisor named Andy Zaky who had written that Apple was going to $750 by January and to $1,000 within a year, Smith [an out of work ad agency creative director surviving on his stock portfolio of Apple shares] converted most of his Apple common stock — more than he should have — into high-risk Apple call options. When those options expired in the third week of January with Apple trading below $500, they were worth exactly zero. Smith had lost roughly $400,000 and all his Apple shares.

“A lot of people lost a lot of money when Apple went into the extended downward slide that just entered its sixth month. And there were plenty of other experts saying all along that the stock was undervalued and ready to bounce.…”

This is the story of the rise and fall of Andy Zaky who’s investment advice on Apple after many correct predictions had finally turned sour.

“The life bitstream will raise new and important issues. Should it be socially acceptable, for example, to record a private conversation with a friend? How will anyone be sure they’re not being recorded, in public or private? … Corporations, police, even friends with ‘life recorders’ will capture the actions and utterances of everyone in sight, whether they like it or not.”

A time traveler from the future looks back on the release of Google Glass:

“…It was simply deemed unacceptable to wear them persistently. And in fact users reported to having been socially pressured to use them quite a lot as they had previously used their phones. Pulling them out as needed. Which utterly defeated the purpose. On some level — that’s what broke Google Glass. It wasn’t what it was supposed to be. It wasn’t persistent. It was more cumbersome and socially uncomfortable than the previous paradigm.”

“Today is International Women’s Day, a day set aside to celebrate women and their economic, political, and social achievements around the world. It is also a time to focus on places and situations where women’s rights, equality, health, and safety still have a long way to go. Collected [at the linked page] are images of women around the world — powerful and poor, young and old — on International Women’s Day.”

“If you think an apostrophe was one of the 12 disciples of Jesus, you will never work for me. If you think a semicolon is a regular colon with an identity crisis, I will not hire you. If you scatter commas into a sentence with all the discrimination of a shotgun, you might make it to the foyer before we politely escort you from the building.…

“…grammar is relevant for all companies. Yes, language is constantly changing, but that doesn’t make grammar unimportant. Good grammar is credibility, especially on the internet. In blog posts, on Facebook statuses, in e-mails, and on company websites, your words are all you have. They are a projection of you in your physical absence. And, for better or worse, people judge you if you can’t tell the difference between their, there, and they’re.”

See Also: “Good Grammar Should Be Everyone’s Business” written by Brad Hoover for the Harvard Business Review.

“Let’s assert that you’ve become very good at your job.…You know how to anticipate financial needs, or how to manufacture products more efficiently because you love what you do, you do it often and you are rewarded to do it well. You have deep knowledge about your chosen area of specialty and you can demonstrate expertise. Then along comes an innovation need.

“If the innovation need is really just continuous improvement or slight improvements to existing products, you are in luck, because that work simply requires that you extend your existing deep body of knowledge. If, on the other hand, you need radical or disruptive innovation, your existing body of knowledge, your scope and frameworks, even your tools and insights may become barriers to innovation rather than accelerators. That’s because true innovation is about discovery, learning and analysis rather than building on past knowledge and success.…”

“…I guess, deep down, I do enjoy the labyrinthine-ness of the web. I complain about feeling behind. About not knowing the best ways to do something. But I’ve never really been someone who expects — or wants — to conquer each minute of the day, to be some kind of marvel of productivity. That’s not me at all. Yet the ever-present buzz in the air — of technologies, of chatter — makes me think otherwise.”

“I used to think time was the most limited resource. It’s so limited that you can’t even save it for later. Every day you spend more time, and tomorrow you have less than you had yesterday. You can’t make more, and you can’t really buy more, so it’s limited and fleeting and those are the rules.

“But there’s something even more limited than time. It’s your attention. Attention is a subset of time, therefore it’s more limited. How you spend your attention is more important than how you spend your time.…”

“The vast majority of the world’s books, music, films, television and art, you will never see. It’s just numbers.…

“You used to have a limited number of reasonably practical choices presented to you, based on what bookstores carried, what your local newspaper reviewed, or what you heard on the radio, or what was taught in college by a particular English department. There was a huge amount of selection that took place above the consumer level. (And here, I don’t mean “consumer” in the crass sense of consumerism, but in the sense of one who devours, as you do a book or a film you love.)

“Now, everything gets dropped into our laps, and there are really only two responses if you want to feel like you’re well-read, or well-versed in music, or whatever the case may be: culling and surrender.…”

An incredible long-form article focusing on how a government institution, in this case the United States Navy, is looking to future and how to best prepare for the changing world ahead.

“The Navy has set five ambitious goals to reduce energy consumption, decrease reliance on foreign oil, and significantly increase the use of alternative energy.…

“You can’t live off the land at sea, which is why the Navy has always looked far into the future to fuel its supply lines; the job description of admirals requires them to assess risk and solve intractable problems that stymie the rest of us. Peak oil, foreign oil, greenhouse emissions, climate change? Just another bunch of enemies.…

“It goes beyond supply lines. Rising sea levels lapping at naval bases? A melting and increasingly militarized Arctic? The Navy is tackling problems that freeze Congress solid. What it learns, what it implements, and how it adapts and innovates will drive market changes that could alter the course of the world.”

Well worth the read.

“A mother tongue spoken by millions of Americans still gets no respect.”

“Why the physical form of smartphones and the unreliable operation of cellular networks has made hanging up the telephone impossible.”

Not only does Adam cover some thoughts on “Google Reader’s demise”, but he also touches on interesting larger ideas of tools versus platforms (Google Reader was a tool), publishers versus distributors and indirectly their relationship to content creators.

“We’re not losing a single RSS reader; we’re losing what many developers had considered a building block upon which they could construct elegant software.…

“Introducing Twitter into the previous discussion offers a nice segue into another topic raised by Google Reader’s closing, that of tools versus platforms. Twitter became popular in large part because of its open API, which enabled developers to create all sorts of Twitter clients and Web services based on Twitter data. But the company has been limiting what is possible, largely because Twitter’s business model relies on selling ads, and it can guarantee display only if Twitter controls the user experience. In essence, Twitter moved from being a tool to being a platform…”

“…decades of research on achievement suggests that successful people reach their goals not simply because of who they are, but more often because of what they do.”

More Than Half of America’s Rivers Are Very Polluted

“A new report by the Environmental Protection Agency found that the majority of rivers and streams in this country can’t support healthy aquatic life and the trend is going in the wrong direction. The report labels 55 percent of the nation’s water ways as being in ‘poor’ condition and another 23 percent as just ‘fair.’ Only 21 percent of rivers are considered ‘good’ and ‘healthy biological communities.’ Even worse, the number of rivers and streams that qualify as ‘good’ went down seven percent between 2004 and 2009.”

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The Great Georgia-Tennessee Border War of 2013

“Historians, take note: On this day, which is not a day in 1732, a boundary dispute between two Southern states took a turn for the wet. In a two-page resolution passed overwhelmingly by the state senate, Georgia declared that it, not its neighbor to the north, controls part of the Tennessee River at Nickajack. Georgia doesn’t want Nickajack. It wants that water.”

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