Preparing the Ghost: An Essay Concerning the Giant Squid and Its First Photographer, by Matthew Gavin Frank.
As usual, you can also use this squid post to talk about the security stories in the news that I haven't covered.
Keep track of Berkman-related news and conversations by subscribing to this page using your RSS feed reader. This aggregation of blogs relating to the Berkman Center does not necessarily represent the views of the Berkman Center or Harvard University but is provided as a convenient starting point for those who wish to explore the people and projects in Berkman's orbit. As this is a global exercise, times are in UTC.
The list of blogs being aggregated here can be found at the bottom of this page.
Preparing the Ghost: An Essay Concerning the Giant Squid and Its First Photographer, by Matthew Gavin Frank.
As usual, you can also use this squid post to talk about the security stories in the news that I haven't covered.
A 200-pound dead giant squid was found near the coast of Matagorda, Texas. This is only the third giant squid ever found in the Gulf of Mexico.
As usual, you can also use this squid post to talk about the security stories in the news that I haven't covered.
I have spent the last few months traveling around the country to visit everyday Americans in their homes, shadow them at their jobs, and attend their houses of worship, in order to discern what motivates them to do things that are civic. (Findings to be released at the end of this year!)
In over 100 in-depth conversations with people in New York, San Francisco, Atlanta, Phoenix, Chicago, and Boston, I have asked participants the same question:
Can you tell me the last time you had an interaction with government?
This question stumps people. They often pause for a considerable think, and find themselves at a loss to come up with any examples.
For those who do, invariably, the answer returns: “does _____ count?”
Do the police count? Do parking tickets count? Does my health insurance count?
In essence, people are asking if they have correctly identified what government is. These are people who took public transportation earlier that day to get to work, or whose kids are completing third grade.
While the answers to other questions surface a variety of complicated trends about Americans’ relationship with civic duty – as one might expect from a country as colorful and many-minded as the United States – the responses to this one question are unitary. I find this astounding.
It would seem that Americans do not confidently know how to recognize our government in our daily lives. Out of the many services, experiences, exchanges, pressures, and opportunities we encounter in the course of a day, we cannot pick out the ones that stem from government authority and resources.
It is possible that this is a problem of the counterfactual – in other words, that so much of the business of government is preventing many small disasters that, when effectively averted, go unrecognized (think: ensuring food standards in your favorite takeout joint down the street).
Another possibility is that people – as much market actors as they are civic actors – see and value the consumer services or products they acquire when they pay for them, an event that happens multiple times per day (in the grocery store, at the movies, in the hair salon). We also “pay” for government services and experiences, but we do it in a lump sum, usually once per year, in a very painful experience wrought with the anxiety of “will I get a return or will I owe money?” The experience is not so much about gain of critical services for society, but rather about loss of hard-earned income. We are not regularly reminded that we have invested in a larger system.
These are merely initial hypotheses, however.
In my tenure as a Fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society this year, I want to answer three questions:
My bias is that government is valuable - and that things we cannot see, we cannot value. I literally want to make government visible, but I know I need some data about how to best pursue this goal.
My thinking right now is that a solid investigation of this topic might involve three activities:
If this project is successful, we will have collected some useful answers to this conundrum, and begun to transform the public mindset about how embedded government is within our everyday lives. I am most personally invested in the American context, but I could envision the findings being relevant for governments globally.
Now, I am issuing a Request for Collaborators!
Perhaps you ….
….have been mulling over the same observation and want to discuss it;
… lead an organization with an institutional interest in supporting this kind of applied research and problem-solving;
… are a master storyteller looking to help unpack and explain this phenomenon; or
… are an everyday American who wants to let me shadow your daily experiences.
If so, please contact me as follows — and thanks!
email@example.com || @katekrontiris
I’m at a Shorenstein lunch talk where Hendrik Hertzberg of the New Yorker is talking about the difficulty of electing a government with the infrastructure we have. The place is packed. HH was one of the very first Shorenstein fellows. When he was here he was covering the 1988 presidential campaign. (I’m sitting immediately behind him, so I will be able to report in detail on the expressiveness of the back of his head.)
NOTE: Live-blogging. Getting things wrong. Missing points. Omitting key information. Introducing artificial choppiness. Over-emphasizing small matters. Paraphrasing badly. Not running a spellpchecker. Mangling other people’s ideas and words. You are warned, people.
He says that we keep thinking that if we could just elect the right president, everything would be fine. We have a cult of presidents. But the problem is in the Constitution. “The machine that elects the president is a machine for disappointment.” You get elected by announcing ideals, not by saying that you’re going to have to engage in a series of ghastly compromises. “So much is due to the Framers, who were a the cutting edge in their day.” He points out that when the Constitution was being framed, framing it was illegal, for we already had the Articles of Confederation that said any changes required a unanimous vote by the thirteen colonies. “We should try to be like them and think boldly about our system,” rather than merely worshipping them.
HH reads some selections from the Framers. First, a letter from G. Washington stating that the Constitution is imperfect but was the best that could be agreed upon; he put his hopes in the process of amendment.
HH says we should be wary of the Federalist Papers. “They were op-eds written to sell a particular compromise.” They’re high-minded and don’t reflect what really happened. E.g., Madison and Hamilton hated each state getting the same number of senators. Hamilton wrote that letting a minority rule would lead to gridlock, compromise, and near anarchy…our current situation, says HH.
We are still told the Electoral College exists to to protect the interests of the smaller sates and prevent mob rule. “The truth is that it was adopted in order to protect slavery.” Madison, perhaps half-seriously, suggested that the lower house be elected by vote and that the upper house should be elected with the three-fifths rule. The lower would represent the interests of the citizens and the upper would represent the slave states’ interests, because that was the real distinction. “The Electoral College system was born in sin.”
In 1968, we almost got a Constitutional amendment to get rid of the Electoral College, but it was fillibustered by Sam Ervin.
The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact will change this. (The idea for making this into an interstate compact came from a Stanford computer science prof., John Koza.) The Constitution instructs the states to come up with electors who then vote for the state in the presidential election. The states that support the NPVIC say their electors will vote for whoever wins the national popular vote. It goes into effect when the compacting states add up to 270 votes, which would guarantee that the election goes to the winner of the popular vote. This does not require changing the Constitution. And it’s 60% of the way to happening: 11 states + DC. (Mass. has adopted it.) All eleven states are blue states, but there’s Republican support, although their platform came out against it. New Gingrich is a recent convert. Fred Thompson. Many others.
This reform would be an enormous move toward civic health, HH says. No more battleground states. No more spectator states. It would affect how campaign money is spent, although not how it is raised; it would have to be spent all around the country. It would boost turnout by increasing turnout in the spectator states.
Q: How does this compact ensure the electors keep their promise?
A: It’d be a state law. And it says states cannot withdraw from during the campaign period.
HH continues. We have a controlled experiment: There are a lot of things wrong with Obama, but we’re not going to get anyone much better. This has made apparent the weaknesses in the system. Our dysfunction is the result of people responding to rewards and punishments built into the system. NPVIC is the “gettable reform.” We could get this one by 2016, although 2020 is more likely. “I’m all for campaign reform, but the Supreme Court stands in the way.”
HH says that NPVIC is a mom-and-pop outfit. He’s hopeful because the state electors have a reason to vote for this, because right now “no one returns their calls.” The focus now is on getting a first red state. If you’re interested in donating money, HH suggests you give to FairVote.
Q: How might this change the geographic location of campaigns? Will this lead to an urban/rural divide? Will Dems campaign more in the North and Reps in the South, thus polarizing us more?
A: That ignores that only 10-15% lives in big cities. [The Census figures are somewhat hard to parse on this. source.] And it would be cost-effective to buy ads in the poorer and less dense parts of the country. “Every single vote is equally worth going after” in this scenario.
Q: Would this shift parties to nominating people more in the mainstream? And what about third parties?
A: The two-party system is essential to a winner-take-all system likes ours. (I’m also in favor of the instant runoff voting reform.) NPVIC gives its votes to the winner of a plurality.
Q: Why isn’t this being talked about more?
A: It’s weirdly hard to grasp. And it can be demagogued against: “So you think you’re smarter than the Framers??” The media will pay more attention once the count gets close to 270.
Q: Even in states that have passed it, nobody knows about it. It looks like a move among political elites.
A: You’re right that nobody knows about it. But people of all parties do favor electing the president by popular vote. The outcome reflects the wishes of the majority of Americans. But, yes, NPVIC is a Rube Goldberg contraption.
Q: Have the Tea Party stars — Limbaugh, Beck, etc. — staked out positions?
A: It may have come up for a few minutes, but it hasn’t become a fixture.
Q: The question will be which party is losing more Electoral College votes.
A: Because of 2000, the sense is the Democrats throw away more. In 2004 if 30K votes had shifted in Ohio, Kerry would have won the election while losing the popular vote. [There is a rapid debate about which party throws away more votes. Couldn’t capture it.
Q: Has there been a non-partisan anaysis of this proposal? And why doesn’t the NPVIC campaign have more educational outreach?
A: There has not been much non-partisan analysis, although there’s some. And many governors are directly elected, so I don’t see how much more we need to learn about this. Plus, when you have a quiet, calm conversation with state legislators, they often tend to like it.
Q: Do you worry that linking this movement to others might break apart the coalition?
A: They’re only linked in my mind. “If I had my way, I would translate the German constitution into English and be done with it,” HH says. Americans wrote it. “If the Framers were around now, they’d write that constitution.” “I hope that once this reform kicks in, people will think more about imitating the Framers rather than worshipping them.”
Q: How is political coverage these days?
A: Political coverage tends to ignore the ways in which the hydraulics limit and affect politicians. And since by definition the US Constitution is perfect (we assume), when things go wrong, it must be because of bad people. It’s still basically a morality tale about Good and Bad. You still hear “If only Obama were more like LBJ: get in their and get stuff done” and it drives me nuts. LBJ did that, but he had a huge majority in the House and Senate. When he lost that, he got nothing done. Or, Tom Friedman pushing for a centrist third party, ignoring the fact that we already a centrist party: The Democrats — ignoring that this would make the right the governing party.
Q: Any major figures backing it?
A: Clinton and Obama are quietly for it, but announcing that would kill it. Pres. Carter also supports it, but tying this up with particular personalities would be extremely risky.
Q: Effect on primaries?
A: It wouldn’t affect that directly. They’d want a candidate who can do well in the entire country, not just in the swing states. It would likely cause people to look at the nominating system.
A device called Cyborg Unplugged can be configured to prevent any Wi-Fi connection:
Oliver notes on the product's website that its so-called "All Out Mode" -- which prevents surveillance devices from connecting to any Wi-Fi network in the area -- is likely illegal, and he advises against its use. Nevertheless, we can imagine activists slipping these little devices into public areas and wreaking a bit of havoc.
A six-member team comprised of
ringers representatives from the Cyberlaw Clinic (including Clinical Instructor Vivek Krishnamurthy, Clinical Fellow Andy Sellars, and Harvard Law School LLM student Viviana Ruiz Martinez), joined by friends from the Berkman Center and beyond (including Berkman Fellows Malavika Jayaram and Peter Hirtle and Jay Stanley from the ACLU) came in first place in last night’s EFF Cyberlaw Pub Trivia event at the Harvard Law School Pub. EFF’s Deputy General Counsel Kurt Opsahl served as emcee for the east coast installment of the trivia night, which EFF usually hosts in its hometown of San Francisco. Big thanks to EFF and especially to Kurt, along with HLS students Naomi Gilens and Kendra Albert, for their help in putting on the event and to all who turned out for this memorable evening!
[Summary: technical standards play a role in both interoperability, and in target-setting for policy.]
I’ve been doing lots of thinking about standardisation recently, particularly as part of work on the Open Contracting Data Standard (feedback invited on the latest draft release…), and thanks to the opportunity to work with Samuel Goëta on a paper around data standards (hopefully out some time next year).
One of the themes I’ve been seeking to explore is how standards play both a technical and a political role, and how standards processes (at least at the level of content standards) can sensitively engage with this. Below is a repost of my earlier contribution to a GitHub thread discussing some of this in the context of Open Contracting.
In Open Contracting I believe we’re dealing with two different senses of ‘standard’, and two purposes which we need to keep in balance. Namely:
To unpack these a bit:
(Note: the arguments below are predominantly theoretical, and so some of the edge cases considered may not come up at all in practice in the Open Contracting Data Standard, but considering them is a useful exercise to test the intuitions and principles directing our action.)
We’re interested in interoperability in two directions: vertical (can a single dataset be used by other actors and tools in a value-chain of re-use), and horizontal (can two datasets from different publishers be easily analysed alongside one another).
Where data is already published, then the goal should be to achieve the largest possible set of data publishers who can richly represent their data in the standard, and of data users who can draw on data in the standard to meet their needs. This supports the idea that for any element in the standard where (a) data already exists; and (b) use cases already exist; we should be looking for reference implementations to test that data can be rendered in the standard, and that users (or tools they create) can read, analyse and use that data effectively.
However, it is important that in this we look at both both horizontal and vertical interoperability in making this judgement. E.g. there could be a country as the sole publisher of a field that is used by 5 different users in their country. This should clearly not be a required field in a standard, but articulating how it is standardised is useful to this community of users (one way to accommodate such cases may be in extensions, although the judgement on whether or not to move something to an extension might come down to whether it is likely that other publishers could be providing this data in future).
In many cases, underlying data from different sources is not perfectly interoperable, or there is a mismatch between the requirements of users, and the requirements of data holders. In these cases, the way a standard is designed affects the distribution of labour between publishers and users with respect to rendering data interoperable. For example, a use case might involve ‘Identifying which different government agencies, each publishing data independently, have contracts with a particular firm’. In this case, a standard could require all publishers, who may store different identifiers in their systems, to map these to a common identifier, or a standard could allow publishers to use whatever identifier they hold, leaving the costs of reconciling these on the user. Making things interoperable then involves can involve then a process of negotiation, and this process may play out differently in different places at different times, leaving certain elements of a standard less stable than others. The concept of ‘designing for the tussle’ (PDF) may be relevant here, thinking about how we can modularise stable (or ‘neutral’) and unstable elements of a standard (this is what the proposed Organisation ID standard does, but having a common way to represent identifiers, but separating this off from the choice of identifier itself, and then allowing for the emergence of a set of third-party tools and validation routines to help manage the tussle).
In seeking to maximise the set of publishers and users interoperable through the standard we need to be critically aware of both short-term and long-term interoperability, as organisations modify their practices in order to be able to publish to, or draw upon, a common standard. We need to balance out a ‘Lowest Common Denominator’ (LCD) of ‘Minimum Viable Product’ (MVP) approach that means that the majority of publishers can achieve substantial coverage of the standard, with a richer standard that supports the greatest chance of different producer and consumer groups being able to exchange data through the standard.
(Initial attempt to sketch distinction between maximising set of common fields across publisher and users, and maximising set of publishers and users)
Open Contracting is a political process. The Open Contracting Partnership have articulated a set of Global Principles which set out the sorts of information about contracting that governments and other parties should disclose, and they are working to secure government sign-up to these principles. In policy circles, a standard is often seen as a form of measure, qualitative or quantitative, against which process towards some policy goal is measured. Some targets might be based on ‘best practice’, others are based on ‘stretch goals’: things which perhaps no-one is yet doing particularly well, but which a community of actors agree are worth aiming for. A standard, whether specified in terms of indicators and measures, or in terms of fields and formats, provides a means of agreeing what meeting the target will look like.
The Open Contracting Principles call for a lot of things which no governments appear to yet be publishing in machine-readable forms. In many cases we’ve not touched the standardisation of these right now (e.g. “Risk assessments, including environmental and social impact assessments”) recognising that standards for these will either exist in different domains that can be linked or embedded into our standard, or, recognising that interoperability of such information is hard to achieve and ultimately what is needed for most use cases may be legal text or plain language documents, rather than structured data. However, there may be cases where something is a strong candidate for standardisation, having both the potential to be published (i.e. this is something which evidence suggests governments either do, or could, capture in their existing information systems), and for which clearly articulated use cases exist. In these cases a proposed field-level standard can act as an important target for those seeking to provide this data to move towards. It also acts to challenge unwarranted ‘first mover advantage’ where the first person to publish, even if publishing less than an idea target would require, gets to set the standard, and instead makes the ‘target’ subject to community discussion.
Clearly any ‘aspirational’ elements of a standard should not predominate or make up the majority of a standard if it seeks to effectively support interoperability, but in standards that play a part in policy and political processes (as, in practice, all standards do to some extent (c.f. Lessig).
There are a number of ways we might respond to a recognition of the dual role that standardisation plays in Open Contracting.
One approach, suggested in the early technical scoping is to identify different sets of users, or ‘purposes’ for the standard, and for each of these to identify the kinds of fields (subset of the data) these purposes require. As Jeni Tennison’s work on the scoping describes “…each purpose can have a status (eg proposed vs implemented) and … purposes are only marked as implemented when there are implementations that use the given subset of data for the specified purpose”.
If their are neither purposes requiring a field, nor datasets providing a field, then it would not be suitable for inclusion in a standard. And if a purpose either went unimplemented for a long period, or required a field that no supplier could publish, then careful evaluation would be needed of whether to remove that purpose (or remove that field from the purpose) against which elements of the standard could be evaluated for relevance to remain in the model.
Purposes could also be used to validate datasets, identifying how many datasets are fit for which purpose.
We could maintain a distinction in how the standard is described between fields and elements which are ‘stable’ (and thus very unlikely to change), ‘ordinary’ elements (which may have reference implementations, but could change if there was some majority interest amongst those governing a standard in seeing changes), and ‘target’ elements, which may lack any reference implementations, but which are considered useful to help publishers moving towards implementing a political commitment to publish.
Q: Could we build this information into the schema meta-data somehow?
We might need to have quite a long time horizon for keeping target elements provisionally in the standard, and to only remove them if there is agreement that no-one is likely to publish to them. However, being able to represent them visually as distinct in the schema, and clearly documenting the distinction may be valuable.
Some ‘target’ elements may best belong in extensions, with some process for merging extensions into the core standard if they are widely enough adopted.
The IATI Team run a dashboard which tracks use of particular fields in the data. Doing similar for Open Contracting would be valuable, and it may even be useful to feed such information into the display of the schema or documentation (or at least to make it easy for publishers and users to look up who is implementing a given property)
Another approach IATI uses for ‘target elements’ is to ask publishers to prepare ‘Implementation Schedules‘ which outline which fields they expect to be able to publish by when. This allows an indication of whether there is political will to reach some of the ‘stretch targets’ that might be involved in a standard, and holds out the potential to convene together to define and refine target standardisations those who are most likely to publish that data in the near to medium term.
What theoretical writing on standardisation could I be drawing on here?
What experience from other standards could we be drawing upon in Open Contracting and in other standard processes?
I am informally launching my weekly hands-on mobile security clinic today at Berkman, around 4:30pm, in the Fellows conference room at 23 Everett.
While some might say a mobile phone is only secure once its been microwaved, smashed by a hammer, and buried in concrete, the truth is, most of us can’t escape the shiny, buzzing tracking device in our pocket.
What I can offer are some, free, practical solutions, that can go along way in reducing the likelihood that what you do on your mobile will get hoovered up into an never expiring log somewhere, or plastered across 4chan. Whether you want to encrypt your calls, messages or photos, ensure sensitive personal or project information is not leaking to any app that asks for it, or deal with more advanced concerns related to surveillance or proprietary app ecosystems, I am happy to go there, and find a solution, if it exists.
If you want a small idea of some of the solutions I can offer, visit this link: https://guardianproject.info/howto/
In return, I get to hear your stories and challenges, as well as aspirations for what a brighter, more secure mobile computing future might be. Like I said, this is a weekly effort, and these types of interactions are a key part of my work as a Fellow here this year.
Tuesday, September 16, 2014 at 12:30 pm
Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University
23 Everett Street, Second Floor, Cambridge, MA 02138
Introduced by Bruce Schneier
In 2012, U.S. drone strikes occurred most often in which nation?
If you don’t know, don’t feel too bad. You’re not alone. You could just admit it and join the 27 percent of Americans who report that they haven’t a clue. Or you could guess, give the wrong answer, and join the 60 percent of Americans who just plain get it wrong. Many people know this answer first-hand, but they tend not to be Americans, and for them the answer has a non-trivial significance.
A large majority (65 percent) of Americans claimed that they had heard a lot about the U.S. drone program in 2013. This is a significant increase from the year before. But what they’d heard hadn’t furnished the answer to this most basic question about the purpose and nature of targeted killings. This makes sense, since the media often focuses on what is most important to its readers: namely, themselves. This is why the death of Americans in targeted killings dominated early discussion of drone warfare, why the mere prospect of domestic surveillance has taken center stage in the drone debate, and why commercial uses of drones has gained more attention in 2014.
So what should the media cover when it comes to drones and military robotics? What is worth reporting? And what responsibility do journalists have to focus in on the most pressing moral and legal questions when it comes to drone technologies? At what point should reportage blend into legal commentary and moral argumentation? What are the dangers associated with this sort of public discourse?
John Kaag is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of
Massachusetts Lowell and Director of the Doctoral Program in Global
Studies. He recently co-authored Drone Warfare (Polity, 2014) with Sarah Kreps, and is author of A Wilderness of Books: A Study of American Philosophy (forthcoming with Farrar, Straus and Giroux in 2015).
It looks so far like Mint (a Linux distribution) is working on my 2006 MacBook — one of them old white plastic models. I wiped out the entire disk, so there’s no Mac left except what Apple burned into the hardware. As far as I can tell, everything is working, from audio, to trackpad, to wifi.
Here’s how I did it: I tried everything.
Unfortunately, I can’t quite remember what worked, except that I used Mac Linux USB Loader to create the USB stick from which I booted the Mac into Linux. I also used Iso 2 USB EFI Booter to get the Mac to boot into Linux, although I’m not sure I actually needed that since I wasn’t going for a dual boot.
But I do know that the thing that put me over the top were some commands listed in a comment on a page about how to manually install a bootloader. I was there because after I eventually got Linux installed, it still wouldn’t boot. The article on that page was helpful but I was stilling getting the weird-ass “canonical cow” error message when trying to install grub (the standard Linux bootloader) — you’ll know that error message when you see it. But the commands in the comment at the end by Zigilin got it working:
instead of running grub-install, run cmd below:
mount –bind /proc /mnt/proc
mount –bind /dev /mnt/dev
mount –bind /sys /mnt/sys
(Replace the # in sd# with the letter of the partition you installed the Linux into. Better: read the article.)
After you get it working, you might want to check this post about how to add some finishing touches.
Thank you, kind Internet strangers!
how EXCITING is a giant giant-book signing?
you judge. here’s a video of one…
yesterday a bunch of crazy people gathered in upstate new york to organize-sign the FINAL FRONTIER of the kickstarter: we’re finallllllllly getting “the bed song” books out the door; they have been in the making for TWO years and look pretty goddamn amazing. and are about to get put in the mail to the 100+ people who ordered them. just in time for christmas…2014. but whatever. 2013 sucked anyway. SURPRISE!!!
the books contain huge, beautiful bed-song-related photographs by kyle cassidy, which were never (and never shall be) posted to the internet, but some of which hung at the kickstarter art parties the summer before “theatre is evil” came out. neil wrote a special (really beautiful and personal) essay for it…and goddamn it’s a beautiful object. it weighs 15 pounds and comes in a wooden box. i hope those 100+ people who have been waiting for two years to get it think the wait was worth it.
thanks to the amazing designer andrew nelson from down in the valley designs for making THIS THING BEAUTIFUL; to neil, kyle cassiday, and trillian stars for coming up; SuperKate, eric sussman, neil’s friend laura, lee barron, and augusta ogden for HELPING MAKE THIS DAY NOT SUCK.
kyle posted a whole blog about it HERE and put this video up so fast.
how he does it, i do not know. the man is a media ninja.
maybe his secret is that he still uses livejournal?
anyway: read the whole story.
This post is part of the STEM Story Project series.
Your plants are eavesdropping.
When University of Washington researcher David Rhoades discovered that plants could communicate with each other, he was laughed out of science. But now, decades later, science is reconsidering.
In our very first STEM Story Project 2.0 piece this year, producers Peter Frick-Wright and Robbie Carver chronicle Rhoades’ controversial work and its legacy:
“Our fascination with this story has a lot to do with language and its difficulty in bridging the gap between what plants actually do and what our psyches impose on them,” says Carver. The producers set out to investigate what it means to say that plants decide, hear, or talk. “We’d love our listeners to wrestle with what it means that plants have a form of communication all their own.”
David Rhoades’ discovery about plant communication came on the heels of the release of a book called The Secret Life of Plants (1973) by Christopher Bird and Peter Tompkins. The book claimed plants were sentient, emotional creatures with the ability to communicate telepathically with humans. Unfortunately, although the book was a huge bestseller, Rhoades’ academic work was criticized, grant funding disappeared, and he eventually left science.
Today, however, Rhoades’ experiments have been replicated, and his theories confirmed. Scientists have found evidence that plants not only communicate with each other but can also acknowledge kin, respond to sound waves, and share resources through networks of underground fungi.
For example, researchers at Ben-Gurion University found that pea plants exposed to drought emitted chemicals from their roots that caused nearby, non-exposed plants to defend themselves against the same conditions. In another fascinating experiment, Ted Farmer of the University of Lausanne set out to prove that electrical signals also come into play when it comes to plant communication. His research team place microelectrodes on plant leaves of the Arabidopsis thaliana plant and allowed Egyptian cotton leafworms to chow down on them. They noticed that voltage changes in the tissue occurred within seconds, radiating from the damaged sites outward.
Carver notes, “We had no idea, when starting this story, that plants could do some of the things they do, and it completely changed the way we look at this part of the ecological world.”
Open your ears and your mind to a radio story about the “father of the field” of plant communications.
Los sellos de caucho (o goma) sirven normalmente para estampar unas palabras o imágenes encima de una superficie como podría ser el papel. Se usan mucho en temas de administración, para poder etiquetar documentos conforme están validados, enviados o pagados.
Sus primeros usos se remontan a la antigua Mesopotamia y al Antiguo Egipto. Antes se usaban mucho como medida personalizada para signar correspondencia o dar autenticidad a documentos.
Hoy en día la técnica ha mejorado mucho y hay un sinfín de técnicas y variedades tanto en sellos como en tintas. Por ejemplo, podemos encontrar tintas invisibles, tintas fluorescentes (por ejemplo, los sellos que ponen en las discotecas para poder salir del local y volver a entrar después), tintas aptas para la piel, para la ropa (para marcar por ejemplo la ropa de nuestros hijos cuando van a la escuela) o incluso tintas aptas para consumo humano que se pueden usar para marcar alimentos.
Además de todo esto, parece que cada vez se toma más conciencia del medio ambiente, cosa que pocas veces se ha hecho en la historia de la impresión.
Por ejemplo, en la web de Ecología verde comentan algunas técnicas para poder combinar el estampado con el medio ambiente.
Para mantener un sello de caucho en buenas condiciones, también es importante cuidarlo para que dure lo máximo posible. Una de las cosas que debemos hacer periódicamente es limpiar la goma de estampado, ya que del uso la tinta se va quedando pegada y luego cada vez es más difícil sacarla. Para limpiarla se tiene que buscar el material adecuado, ya que a veces se usa alcohol sin pensar en los efectos secundarios y a la larga es mala solución: el alcohol limpia rápido, pero dependiendo del material es mejor otros líquidos. También el depósito de tinta debe ser cambiado o recargado de forma periódica.
Hay personas que se fabrican sus propios sellos de caucho: basta con comprar el material en una tienda especializada e ir rascando con una gubia para poder darle la forma que queramos.
Follow the Berkman Centaur! This event is part of a series of kick-off activities for the 2014-2015 academic year. If you are student, faculty member, fellow, interested member of the public, or lover of LOLcats, we welcome you to join us at one or more of these gatherings.
Monday, September 15, 2014 at 7:00PM
Wasserstein Hall, Pub (1st Floor), Harvard Law School (Map)
RSVP required for those attending in person via the form below (space is very limited, so please RSVP today)
Free and Open to the Public
Refreshments will be served; Cash bar available
Please join us for a special edition of the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Cyberlaw Pub Trivia Night -- held in collaboration with the Berkman Center for Internet & Society as part of our 2014-2014 orientation activities -- which will bring together legal geeks, students, EFF board members, faculty, and others who are interested to join us for an evening of cyberlaw pub trivia. Trivia questions have been carefully constructed by EFF's crack team of technology law experts, focusing on the obscure, fascinating and trivial aspects of privacy, free speech, and intellectual property law.
A Note on RSVPs: If you plan to come with a team (6 people per team), please encourage your teammates to RSVP as soon as possible, as we will close registration when we hit capacity. In order to allow as many people as possible to participate, teams with less than 6 people may have individuals without a team added to them on the day of. Individuals: Don't have a team? No problem, we will help bring together cool and competitive teams.
Recently, there has been concerted effort to focus all potential regulation on data use, completely ignoring data collection. Microsoft's Craig Mundie argues this. So does the PCAST report. And the World Economic Forum. This is lobbying effort by US business. My guess is that the companies are much more worried about collection restrictions than use restrictions. They believe that they can slowly change use restrictions once they have the data, but that it's harder to change collection restrictions and get the data in the first place.
We need to regulate collection as well as use. In a new essay, Chris Hoofnagle explains why.
When Kissinger was in the White House, he had to call Reagan, whom he despised. This was during the 1973 Yom Kippur War. In the course of the conversation he said that the Egyptians were claiming to be shooting down an absurd number of Israeli planes. Everyone knew they were lying, but the White House wasn’t sure how to counter the propaganda.
Ronald Reagan immediately said, “Well, Henry, announce that the US will replace every downed Israeli plane, one for one.”
Yes, Ronald Reagan had a brilliant idea.
Tomorrow: You won’t believe what Sarah Palin told the Dalai Lama that changed his life forever.
Aza Raskin describes a new phishing attack: taking over a background tab on a browser to trick people into entering in their login credentials. Clever.
EDITED TO ADD (9/12): This is not a new attack. The link above is from 2010. Here's another article from 2010.
Apple is including some sort of automatic credit card payment system with the iPhone 6. It's using some security feature of the phone and system to negotiate a cheaper transaction fee.
Basically, there are two kinds of credit card transactions: card-present, and card-not-present. The former is cheaper because there's less risk of fraud. The article says that Apple has negotiated the card-present rate for its iPhone payment system, even though the card is not present. Presumably, this is because of some other security features that reduce the risk of fraud.
Not a lot of detail here, but interesting nonetheless.
At USENIX Security this year, there were two papers studying the security of password managers:
It's interesting work, especially because it looks at security problems in something that is supposed to improve security.
I've long recommended a password manager to solve the very real problem that any password that can be easily remembered is vulnerable to a dictionary attack. The world got a visceral reminder of this earlier this week, when hackers posted iCloud photos from celebrity accounts. The attack didn't exploit a flaw in iCloud; the attack exploited weak passwords.
Security is often a trade-off with convenience, and most password managers automatically fill in passwords on browser pages. This turns out to be a difficult thing to do securely, and opens up password managers to attack.
My own password manager, Password Safe, wasn't mentioned in either of these papers. I specifically designed it not to automatically fill. I specifically designed it to be a standalone application. The fast way to transfer a password from Password Safe to a browser page is by using the operating system's cut and paste commands.
I still recommend using a password manager, simply because it allows you to choose longer and stronger passwords. And for the few passwords you should remember, my scheme for generating them is here.
EDITED TO ADD (9/12): The second paper was updated to include PasswordSafe. And this 2012 paper on password managers does include PasswordSafe.
Join us for the launch of the Andover Institute on October 17, 2014!
Originally posted on Andover Institute:
Please join us to celebrate the official launch of the Andover Institute on Friday, October 17, 2014. The program will feature an incredible line-up of speakers, including academy leaders, external guests, Andover faculty members, current students, and alumni. We are delighted to have Erin Driver-Linn, the Director of the Harvard Initiative for Learning and Teaching (HILT) as our keynote speaker.
Focusing on the Andover Institute’s vision and plans for the future, the program will include roundtable conversations highlighting the connection points between the Institute and our forthcoming Strategic Plan as well as moderated discussions with Institute fellows, participating students, external experts and key partners. We will examine the role of new collaborations and partnerships in advancing the goals of the Institute and deepening our learning and potential impact.
The program will conclude with a lively, interactive reception from 5:30-7:00…
View original 744 more words
The Shorenstein Center is part of the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. The rest of the Center’s name — “On Media, Politics, and Public Policy” — tells more about its focus. Generally, its fellows are journalists or other media folk who are taking a semester to work on some topic in a community of colleagues.
To my surprise, I’m going to spend the spring there. I’m thrilled.
I lied. I’m *\\*THRILLED*//*.
The Shorenstein Center is an amazing place. It is a residential program so that a community will develop, so I expect to learn a tremendous amount and in general to be over-stimulated.
The topic I’ll be working on has to do with the effect of open data platforms on journalism. There are a few angles to this, but I’m particularly interested in ways open platforms may be shaping our expectations for how news should be made accessible and delivered. But I’ll tell you more about this once I understand more.
I’ll have some other news about a part-time teaching engagement in this Spring, but I think I’d better make sure it’s ok with the school to say so.
I also probably should point out that as of last week I left the Harvard Library Innovation Lab. I’ll get around to explaining that eventually.
tour is on sale NOW – 10 am local time in the east of America! run run run and get tickets, a lot of these venues are small and intimate !!!! Denver chicago and west coast n stuff – in a minute.
I’m not sure yet *exactly* what the nights are going to consist of but I know there will be piano, ukulele, book reading, awesome guests and….probably other weird shit. I have a few songs related to the book I know I want to play…and maybe I’ll do a new eighties cover every night. or crowdsource some kazoo players so my tour can be highly controversial. for reals…I’m excited. it’s been a while since I hit the road. I miss you all.
note that some of these shows are FREE and in bookstores !! (see: Barnes and Noble in NYC). a lot of people have asked about whether I will double-sign books if they show up at any of these events with a pre-signed copy. yes. I will do that thing.
boston!! the free porter square midnight signing is ALSO NEILS BIRTHDAY. lets make it memorable. jason Webley is coming. we are getting food trucks, I think! it’ll be a blast. I’m still thinking we will meet in Harvard and parade to porter around 11 or so … will announce here and follow the twitter and get ready to bundle up.
tour dates- ticket links can be found at HERE:
10 – boston, porter square books
11 – boston, royale :: special guests – neil gaiman and jason webley
12 – washington, dc, sixth & i synagogue :: special guest – thomas dolby
13 – philadelphia, first unitarian church :: special guest – kyle cassidy
14 – nyc, barnes & noble union square :: special guest – brandon stanton
15 – chicago, thalia hall :: special guest – peter sagal
16 – minneapolis, cedar cultural center
18 – seattle, town hall
19 – portland, or, wonder ballroom
20 – san francisco, jcc
21 – berkeley, freight & salvage
22 – los angeles, first unitarian church
23 – denver, tattered cover book store
24 – austin, book people
25 – toronto, ont, lee’s palace
and THE SIGNED COPIES are still available for pre-order at:
WikiLeaks has organized the trove of documents about corporations aiding government surveillance around the world. It's worth wandering around through all this material.
EDITED TO ADD (9/12): I made a mistake. WikiLeaksdidn't do the organizing; Silk did.
Follow the Berkman Centaur! This event is part of a series of kickoff activities for the 2014-2015 academic year. If you are a student, faculty member, fellow, interested member of the public, or lover of LOLcats, we welcome you to join us at one or more of these gatherings.
Thursday, September 11, 2014 at 5:30 pm
Location Gutman Area 3 @ Harvard Graduate School of Education
Refreshments will be served
Please join the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University for the launch of the Digital Problem-Solving Initiative (DPSI), one of the many initiatives and projects at the Center focused on education and digital technologies. DPSI is an innovative and collaborative project that brings together a diverse group of learners (students, faculty, fellows, and staff) to work on projects to address challenges and opportunities across the university. DPSI offers participants a novel opportunity to engage with research, design, and policy relating to the digital world.
We are accepting applications from Harvard students for participation in DPSI until September 6 - click here to find out more. You do not need to be a Harvard student or a DPSI participant to attend this event.
Speakers will include Dean Martha Minow, Professor Urs Gasser, Professor Tom Eisenmann, and HarvardX Research Fellow/Berkman affiliate Justin Reich.
GoDaddy CEO Blake Irving
GoDaddy CEO Blake Irving
Upcoming Events / Digital Media
September 10, 2014
Other Events of Note
Local, national, international, and online events that may be of interest to the Berkman community:
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Connect & get involved: Jobs, internships, and more
See our events calendar if you're curious about future luncheons, discussions, lectures, and conferences not listed in this email. Our events are free and open to the public, unless otherwise noted.
The Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University was founded to explore cyberspace, share in its study, and help pioneer its development. For more information, visit http://cyber.law.harvard.edu.
Friends and colleagues – Our research team (headed up by me and Nicole Ellison) is engaged in a cool Gates Foundation-funded project to help support college readiness for students who otherwise wouldn’t go to college. This same Gates program funded the development of 19 apps/services/websites to more efficiently help students navigate the college application and transition process (as well as succeed in college when they are there).
We need your help
We are looking for a middle school that would be interested in collaborating on one of our projects. We will be testing a game app to see how well it helps middle schoolers learn about the college-going process. Students would use the app for about 6 weeks and we’d evaluate their college-going knowledge before and after the app intervention. This is a great way to supplement existing middle school programs, plus you’d be helping us learn more about what works with educational apps.
If you are an administrator at a middle school and are interested, please email me directly by clicking here. If you know of someone who might be interested, please forward this along to her or him.
“Bono, U2’s lead singer, alluded to the deal himself at Apple’s event. After the band performed, he and Mr. Cook playfully negotiated over how the album could be released through iTunes “in five seconds.” Mr. Cook said it could if the album was given away free.
‘But first you would have to pay for it,’ Bono said, ‘because we’re not going in for the free music around here.’
Mr. Oseary, who took over management of the band less than a year ago, stressed in a phone interview after the event that the music still had value even though it was being given away.” – via the NY times
lots of people have asked my thoughts about U2′s deal with apple. if you missed the news: anybody with iTunes was delivered the new U2 record for (surprise!) free, and anybody who buys the new line of apple products will get a copy.
this is The Thing. this is always The Thing.
there is no U2 versus me versus anybody here – all it does is keep underlining the same question over and over and over again. THE MONEY and the SUPPORT has to come from somewhere. there is no such thing as truly free.
i was lucky enough to meet bono at TED. we had a nice beer together. he’d wanted to meet me. i felt honored. i love U2, they were one of my early bands (even though my sister mostly usurped them). we went to a bar and got guinnesses. it’s weird, being around someone that famous. it made me scared to be any more famous than i already am. every person in the room always wants to be next to you. that would be a hard job to always have.
we talked a lot about these sorts of things. he didn’t get why i was encouraging the idea of digital music being free.
i was like: dude, i’m me. you’re in U2. you’ve been able to make tons of money for decades on physical sales. i haven’t, ever. i didn’t have anything to lose.
robert smith (another hero) once said something similar. that digital was destroying their lives and livelihoods. well…YEAH. The Cure’s CDs sales have probably been steadily nosediving for years. and they have retirement to think about. where will the money come from? they were expecting things to stay the same, and sadly, they haven’t.
these guys have had their system smashed, fucked, broken, with no obvious solution to repair it. i never had any expectations….because we never made tons of money records. the dolls got one giant advance from our first label, and that was it. most of our money came from merch (which included, by the way, records we sold at gigs for $15, for which the label would charge us $10), ticket sales, and creative ways of getting our fans to help and support us. that was it. it was the ecosystem in which we were raised.
now we’re all trying to figure out what to do, how to make money, how much we can trust the public to care about our art and help us find a system that works so that we can get paid for making music for people.
trent reznor got off a label, tried a bunch of shit, and went back on.
even thom yorke has come out and said he somewhat regrets the pay-what-you-want thing radiohead did because it harmed the ecosystem.
some artists will be able to get apple to pay them a ton of money so they can make content, some artists will try to go to their fans, with eyes clenched shut, praying that the goodwill of having given away free content will ignite their crowd’s generosity, some will strike deals with labels and other companies who can give them capital and share their revenue, some will borrow money from their parents, some will plaster their faces on any commercial service possible and collect money from coke, pepsi and exxon to make sure their music provides them a paycheck.
we try shit. we like it. we don’t like it. we change. we try new things.
RADIOHEAD; U2; KATY PERRY; METALLICA; BEYONCÉ; AMANDA PALMER; NINE INCH NAILS; AND YES, GENE SIMMONS; CAN ALL DO WHATEVER WE WANT.
THIS IS WHY WE WANTED TO BE ARTISTS IN THE FIRST PLACE. WE DONT LIKE BEING TOLD WHAT TO DO.
so before you go making fun of U2, or katy perry, or NIN, or prince, or anybody, for the delivery system they are using….before you judge, consider. who’s got it 100% right? what’s the perfect system? clue: there isn’t one. not even a little.
there’s a million paths for a million artists.
if i’ve said it once i’ve said it a gazillion times, and come to think of it, i actually deleted this section out of the book, goddammit. but i’ll say it here: let the artist decide…..only the artist knows what works for the artist and what the artist can live with.
and if you’ve got a problem with it, as with this net neutrality thing, use your voice.
instead of trashing the artists you don’t agree with, sue that energy support the artists you love. there’s only so much time and energy and money and we’re all going to die anyway.
p.s. again, the link to the times‘ piece.
Follow the Berkman Centaur! This event is part of a series of kickoff activities for the 2014-2015 academic year. If you are student, faculty member, fellow, interested member of the public, or lover of LOLcats, we welcome you to join us at one or more of these gatherings.
Wednesday, September 10, 2014 from 4:30-6:30PM
Wasserstein Hall, Milstein East Rooms (2nd Floor), Harvard Law School (Map)
Free and Open to the Public
Refreshments will be served
Select Berkman projects will be present with information about their projects' current activities. Staff working with each of these projects are eager to share information about the big research questions they are considering, meet potential future collaborators, and solicit ideas. In addition to the project tabling, there will be space and opportunity to connect with other Berkman community members and open house participants. You may come for any portion of time during this session.
Today’s the day. The day you help save the internet from being ruined.
(Long story short: The FCC is about to make a critical decision as to whether or not internet service providers have to treat all traffic equally. If they choose wrong, then the internet where anyone could start a website for any reason at all, the internet that’s been so momentous, funny, weird, and surprising—that internet could cease to exist. Here’s your chance to preserve a beautiful thing.)
Websites are loading slowly today to show what a future without net neutrality looks like. But perhaps a targeted slowdown is in order
In a not-so-distant future, American internet service providers like Comcast, Time Warner Cable, AT&T and Verizon could if the Federal Communications Commissions allows pick and choose what you can see on the internet and how fast you can see it. In fact, Netflix is already paying tolls to Verizon and Comcast to keep them from deliberately slowing down your movie streams, and Tom Wheeler, the former cable and wireless industry lobbyist turned FCC chair, has said he thinks thats only right and proper.
You can count on much more ISP interference with your choices and mine unless we have net neutrality. And to reinforce that point, several large websites and a host of smaller ones are attempting to cover the web on Wednesday with icons showing a Loading ... message as part of a symbolic Internet Slowdown.Continue reading...
I’m at a Shorenstein Center brownbag talk. Robin Sproul is talking about journalism in the changing media landscape. She’s been Washington Bureau Chief of ABC News for 20 years, and now is VP of Public Affairs for that network. (Her last name rhymes with “owl,” by the way.)
NOTE: Live-blogging. Getting things wrong. Missing points. Omitting key information. Introducing artificial choppiness. Over-emphasizing small matters. Paraphrasing badly. Not running a spellpchecker. Mangling other people’s ideas and words. You are warned, people.
This is an “incredibly exciting time,” Robin begins. The pace has been fast and is only getting faster. E.g., David Plouffe says that Obama’s digital infrastructure from 2008 didn’t apply in 2012, and the 2012 infrastructure won’t apply in 2016.
A few years ago, news media were worried about how to reach you wherever you are. Now it’s how to reach you in a way that makes you want to pay attention. “How do we get inside your brain, through the firehose, in a way that will break through everything you’re exposed to?” We’re all adapting to getting more and smaller bites. “Digital natives swerve differently than the older generation, from one topic to another.”
In this social media world, “each of us is a news reporter.” Half of people on social networks repost news videos, and one in ten post news videos they’ve recorded themselves.
David Carr: “If the Vietnam War brought war into our living rooms,” now “it’s at our fingertips.” But we see the world through narrow straws. We’re not going back from that, but we need to get better at curating them and making sure they’re accurate and contextualized.
On the positive side: “I was so moved by a Ferguson coverage: how a community of color, in this case, could tell their own story” and connect with people around the country, in real-time. “The people of that community were ahead of the cables.” Sure, some of the info was wrong, but we could watch people bearing witness to history. Also, the Ray Rice video has stimulated conversations on domestic violence around the country. How do you tap into these discussions? Sort them? Curate them? “A lot of it comes down to curation.”
People are not coming into ABCnews.com directly. “They’re coming in through side doors.” “And the big stories we do compete with the animal stories, the recipes,” etc. “We see a place like Buzzfeed” that now has 200 employees. They’ve hired someone from The Guardian, they’ve been reporting from the ground in Liberia. Yahoo’s hired Katie Couric. Vice. Michael Isikoff. Reddit’s AMAs. Fusion has just hired Tim Pool from Vice Media. “All of these things are competing in a rapidly shifting universe.”
ABC is creating partnerships, e.g., with Facebook for identifying what’s trending which is then discussed on their Sunday morning show. [See Ethan Zuckerman's recent post on why Twitter is a better news source than Facebook. Also, John McDermott's Why Facebook is for ice buckets, Twitter is for Ferguson. Both suggest that ABC maybe should rethink its source for what's trending.] ABC uses various software platforms to evaluate video coming in of breaking news. “We need help, so we’re partnering.” ABC now has a social desk. “During a big story, we activate a team…and they are in a deep deep dive of social media,” vetting it for accuracy and providing context. “Six in ten of Americans watch videos on line and half of those watch news videos. This is a big growth area.” But, she adds ruefully, it’s “not a big revenue growth area.”
So, ABC is tapping into social media, but is wary of those who have their own aims. E.g., Whitehouse.gov does reports that look like news reports but are not. The photos the White House hands out never show a yawning, exhausted, or weeping president. “I joke with the press secretary that we’re one step away from North Korea.” We’re heading toward each candidate having their own network, in effect, a closed circle.
Q: You’ve describe the fragmentation in the supply of news. But how about the demand? “Are you getting a sense of your audience?” What circulates? What sticks? What sets the agenda? etc.
A: We do a lot of audience research. Our mainstream TV shows attract an aging audience. No matter what we do, they’re not bringing in a new audience. Pretty much the older the audience, the more they like hard news. We’ve changed the pace of the Sunday shows. We think people want a broader lens from us. “We’re not as focused on horse race politics, or what John McCain thinks of every single issue. We’re open to new voices.”
Q: The future of health reporting? I’m disappointed with what I see. E.g., there’s little regard to the optics of how we’re treating Ebola, particular with regard to the physicians getting treated back in the US.
A: Dr. Richard Besser, who ran the CDC, is at ABC and has reported from Africa. But it’s hit or miss. We did cover the white doctors getting the serum, but it’s hard to find in the firehose.
Q: How do you balance quality news with short attention spans?
A: For the Sunday shows we’ve tried to maintain a balance.
Q: Does ABC try to maintain its own pace, or go with the new pace? If the latter, how do you maintain quality?
A: We used to make a ton of money producing the news and could afford to go anywhere. Now we have the same number of hours of news on TV, but the audiences are shrinking and we’re trying to grow. It’s not as deep. It’s broader. We will want to find you…but you have to be willing to be found.
Q: How do you think about the segmentation of your news audience? And what are the differences in what you provide them?
A: We know which of our shows skew older (Sunday shows), or more female (Good Morning America), etc. We don’t want to leave any segment behind. We want our White House reporter to go into depth, but he also has to tweet all day, does a Yahoo show, does radio, accompanies Nancy Pelosi on a fast-walk, etc.
Q: Some of your audiences matter from a business point of view. But historically ABC has tried to supply news to policy makers etc. The 11 year old kids may give you large numbers, but…
A: When we sit in our morning editorial mornings we never say that we will do a story because the 18-24 year olds are interested. The need to know, what we think is important, drives decisions. We used to be programming for “people like us” who want the news. Then we started getting thousands of “nutjob” emails. [I'm doing a bad job paraphrasing here. Sorry] Sam Donaldson was shocked. “This digital age has made us much more aware of all those different audiences.” We’re in more contact with our audience now. E.g., when the media were accused of pulling their punches in the run-up to the Iraq War, we’d get pushback saying we’re anti-American. Before, we didn’t get these waves.
Q: A fast-walk with Nancy Pelosi, really?
A: [laughs] It got a lot of hits.
Q: Can you elaborate on your audience polling? And do people not watch negative stories?
A: A Harvard prof told me last night that s/he doesn’t like watching the news any more because it’s just so depressing. But that’s a fact of life. Anyway, it used to be that the posted comments were very negative, and sometimes from really crazy people. We learned to put that into perspective. Now Twitter provides instant feedback. We’re slammed whatever we do. So we try to come up with a mix. For World News Tonight, people with different backgrounds talk about the stories, how they play off the story before it, etc. Recenty we’ve been criticized for doing too much “news you can use”, how to live your life, etc. We want to give people news that isn’t always just terrible. There’s a lot of negative stuff that we’re exposed to now. [Again, sorry for the choppiness. My fault.]
Q: TV has always had the challenge of the limited time for news. With digital, how are you linking the on-screen reporting with the in-depth online stories, given the cutbacks? How do you avoid answering every tweet? [Not sure I got that right.]
A: We have a mix of products.
Q: What is the number one barrier to investigative journalism? How have new media changed that balance?
A: There are investigative reporting non-profits springing up all the time. There’s an appetite from the user for it. All of the major news orgs still have units doing it. But what is the business model? How much money do you apportion to each vertical in your news division? It’s driven by the appetite for it, how much money you have, what you’re taking it away from. Investigative is a growth industry.
Q: I was a spokesperson for Healthcare.gov and was interested in your comments about this Administration being more closed to the media.
A: They are more closed than prior admins. There’s always a message. When the President went out the other day to talk, no other admin members were allowed to talk with the media. I think it’s a response to how many inquiries are coming and how out of control info is, and how hard it is to respond to inaccuracies that pop up. The Obama administration has clamped down a little more because of that.
Q: You can think of Vice in Liberia as an example of boutique reporting: they do that one story. But ABC News has to cover everything. Do you see a viable future for us?
A: As we go further down this path and it becomes more overwhelming, there are some brands that stand for something. Curation is what we do well. Cyclically, people will go back to these brands.
Q: In the last couple of years, there’s a trend away from narrative to Gestalt. They were called news stories because they had a plot. Recent news events like Ferguson or Gaza were more like just random things. Very little story.
A: Twitter is a tool, a platform. It’s not really driving stories. Maybe it’s the nature of the stories. It’ll be interesting to see how social media are used by the candidates in the 2016 campaign.
Q: Why splitting the nightly news anchor from …
A: Traditionally the evening news anchor has been the chief anchor for the network. George Stephanopoulos anchors GMA, which makes most of the money. So no one wanted to move him to the evening news. And the evening news has become a little less relevant to our network. There’s been a diminishment in the stature of the evening news anchor. And it plays to GS’s strengths.
the Berkman Centaur! This event is part of a series of kick-off activities for the 2014-2015 academic year.
If you are student, faculty member, fellow, interested member of the
public, or lover of LOLcats, we welcome you to join us at one or more of
Tuesday, September 9, 2014 at 12:30 pm
Wasserstein Hall, Milstein West B Room (2nd Floor)
Harvard Law School (Map)
Event at capacity. Please join the webcast below at 12:30 pm.
Learn more about the Berkman Center for Internet & Society -- and its network of researchers, activists, faculty, students, technologists, entrepreneurs, artists, policy makers, lawyers, and more -- in an interactive conversation lead by Faculty Chair Jonathan Zittrain. If you’re curious about connecting with our research, our community, or our events, or are just generally interested in digital technologies and their impact on society, please join us at our first Tuesday lunch of the academic year on September 9th on the Harvard Law School campus.
To find more information about this year’s Berkman Center community, visit: http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/newsroom/2014_2015_community. Connect with the Berkman community, and others at Harvard University and in the area on a variety of topic areas, by adding your information to Hei.
Written by @Willow Brugh, with feedback and general awesomeness from John Willbanks, Sam Klein, and Michael Stone. Additional props to Adrienne and Sands for edits, and to Fin and Matt for kicking my butt into delivery.
In loving memory of my crypto-loving, open-access enthusiast, and occasionally suicidal friends. We will build more open worlds with our corpses. I just wish you would have held off for more unavoidable causes.
Early this year, yet another friend of mine up and died. There was of course a mess of things that had to be figured out. It wasn’t just the traditional things of cleaning out her house (I wasn’t around for that part) or figuring out the funeral (Viking in variety). It was new and interesting technical and moral turmoil of getting into her hard drive, questions of “should we even?”- her prolific music and authoring contributions rivaled by her extreme privacy. It was seeking the edges of her far-flung pockets of internet community to notify them personally, racing the deluge of social media notifications, not wanting them to find out about her the same way I found out about my grandmother – before the familial phone tree had reached me, a peripheral friend calling me based on a facebook post from my sister. A morbid seismic wave.
While I don’t have any control over how others plan for (or don’t) their demise, I have a say over my own. I can show my care for people dear to me my own compulsive, facilitating way by being sure they find each other as they find out, and in making sure information and knowledge I have to offer continues to be released under open access, even if I’m not there to do it. From doing humanitarian and disaster response (and just a general “awareness of the abyss,” as my mother used to tell my vast and angry younger self), I have had to face the looming possibility of my own death head-on. The networked reality that brought those strange new questions and moral quandaries for my friends’ deaths can instead be used to carry forward care and knowledge. This is a sort of guide for the bits of postmortem planning the internet and most lawyers have missed. It’s not complete – I’ve run into some interesting blocks and quirks, around which I’m eager to collaborate with others.
This post is less about things like wills (what happens to material possessions, who doles it out, and the like) and living wills (if you want to be kept on life support etc) – although I’ve added the templates I used to the wiki associated with this post as it includes digital artifacts and more awareness of gendered pronouns than other bits of the internet. This write-up focuses on specific aspects for Open Access and encryption enthusiasts. Brace yourselves for a morbid entry. Know I’m peachy keen, and being an adult about things, not in danger of harming myself or others. If you are in danger of harming yourself, please say as such directly, and get help, rather than indirectly through things like estate planning. It should be possible to speak about death without fear – that’s what I’m doing here. I hope you can hear it (and act) from a similar place.
I’ve divided components up into documents, accounts, notifications, and people. Documents are centralized with accounts, which are propagated via notifications to people, as triggered by a notification from a person. This means I only have to worry about keeping something up to date in one place — a change to a will or to a website password simply happens in the place of storage, without needing to notify everyone involved. As people become close to me, or exhibit destructive behavior, they can be added or removed from the notification pool. The notification mechanism is the one thing that has to remain consistent in this set up.
Executing wills can be a complicated thing, and there are additional snafus and hoops to jump through in granting digital rights postmortem, especially as most courts lack basic understanding of our home The Internet. I’ve thus set up both mechanisms to get access to passwords outside a court of law as well as making that access legitimate through bequeathing to individuals in my will.
I devise, bequeath, and give my technology to my [[relationship]], [[name]]. If [[name]] is unable or unwilling to accept, I bequeath the technology to my [[relationship]], [[second name]].
I devise, bequeath, and give my online profiles and digital assets, as primarily found in 1Password, to my [[relationship]], [[name]]. If [[name]] is unable or unwilling to accept, I bequeath my online profiles and digital assets, as found in 1Password to my [[relationship]], [[second name]].
I’ve taken moderate pains to ensure my online accounts are relatively secure, and so the issue of access when I’m not typing in the password is an interesting one. I like this writeup from Cory about the tension of secured privacy and passing things on after death. I’ve riffed on it accordingly, splitting the password for decrypting my 1Password in two, and giving each half to two people. These four folk don’t know who the others are, and they honestly have no reason to talk to each other, except in case of my death.
The encrypted aggregated passwords file is stored in a place accessible remotely. It auto-updates when I change things on my end, so I don’t have to think about keeping it up to date. 1Password can store encrypted notes, in which I included instructions (also found in templates) and reminders of each of the tasks I’ve requested of people.
But how will people know the time to act in that capacity has come, and how will they find each other? A mailing list, of course!
I’ve set up a mailing list for people who simply need to know (like my childhood friend who lives on a small farm on the Oregon coast and has no connection to my parts of the internet) as well as those who have agreed to take on certain responsibilities at the time of my death or incapacitation. These responsibilities include things like letting the hacker and maker space folk know, or telling the academics with whom I have ongoing projects, or getting into my stuff and taking care of the *ahem* sensitive material before we go into open access mode (there are things my mother has a right not to know). There’s a set of people tasked with tending to the online accounts. The ideal is a closed notice of death to people I’m close to, before it hits the rest of the internet. This eases the burden on any one person, while also providing a support network.
I sent each of these people a request for involvement, and then (if they agree to be on the list) instructions on how to use mailing lists in general and this one specifically. Then I set up an auto-responder to a mail posted to the list with instructions on what first steps are, and reminders of how to access information. In a continuing trend, templates for each of these things can be found in the template section of the wiki.
This is essentially setting up a control system for information dispensation and action upon my demise. Control systems are delicate – single points of failure (like that mailing list not working) or weakest links (unclear directions for action) have to be considered and accounted for. As the point of this exercise is to 1) ease burdens on my loved ones and 2) ensure open access intentions carry through past death, the two main issue I worry about in my set up is people getting falsely spooked and subsequently either a) leaking passwords / freaking out the internet or b) becoming jaded and inactive. As an example, a family member who had not been fully informed as to how the system set-up works posted to my mortality-based-mailing list early on with a “hey how does this work?” which could have cascaded a call to action followed by damage control and head-petting. Thankfully only three people were on it at this early stage. To mitigate this and things like it, a part of the auto-response template to a post to the email list is a “can you trust the message that triggered this?” prompt.
In infosec, considering what could go wrong in life as well as to the structures built to respond to those incidents would be called a “threat model.” What are anticipated complications, where do those come from, and what can be done to mitigate? My system is set up, as my dear friend Michael pointed out, as “more Murphy, less Mallory.” Meaning it’s anticipating death and issues with the deployment (accidental or otherwise) of the postmortem setup as occurring by accident, not malice. I’m not worrying about someone intentionally cracking my password vault (or setting up a spoof one for me to load passwords into). Some people do need to worry about these things, and it should be a part of their consideration when setting up a system which takes care of their digital assets postmortem. Of course there’s space on the wiki to document those cases and resulting structures as well.
Using this model, I’ve compared unintended consequences (mid to low probability false alarm and associated cognitive load in damage control; a vanishingly small likelihood of a scenario in which people I love and trust are secretly horrible people who seek out the other password holders who also end up being horrible and sneaky, and together they unlock all my passwords, and the falsehoods they post on social media are actually believed by people (thanks, anxiety-brain, for that worst-case-scenario!)) with non-action (the amazing set of people I am honored to have in my life have emotional and chaotic things to deal with which I could have avoided for them; work I find worthwhile but unpolished is not released into the world for others to make use of) and decided the how to act (or not). I’ve then built in mitigation and fall-backs into the structure of this control system. Here’s one example:
I have a reminder set up to email The List once a year, as a test. Do all the mechanisms still work? Do people know where to find files, and can they gain access? If you’re prone to changing the password on your vault, this is a good time to be sure your halves-holders have the newest version. It’s also a good time to get assurance that people want to be on the list, and are willing to perform their tasks – do they respond to a yearly message? If not, you might not want to include them on the eventually dire actuality.
If this so far has been within tolerable morbidity and dedication to loved ones, Open Access, and encryption, let’s push that just a bit further. I want to donate my body to science. Always have. (Imagine a wake involving everyone toasting “to science!”). But as with everything I do, I want whatever I have a hand in (ha!) to be Open Access.
Why is this so important? While I don’t think I’ll be a special snowflake for medical research (although visiting the far-flung reaches of the globe might embed some interesting things into my biology worth digging out and putting under high-powered microscopes), it’s possible that, if enough people sign up for this, someone involved will be a Henrietta Lacks. As it’s almost statistically impossible that any one of us would be that profitable to an organization, it’s likely to be a risk worth taking on the receiving organization’s end. But it’s a downstream obligation that, especially if it becomes common practice, opens up the benefits of medical research to a much wider part of the population (and external to the capitalistic models to which we’re subservient).
This downstream obligation could get tricky because I won’t have authority to uphold the obligations. I’ll be dead. So I made sure to give someone else that authority in my living will and will via power of attorney. Ideally, the organization receiving the cadaver will voluntarily comply – especially likely if the org is federally funded, because they’ll be under the federal open access mandate. Combining these two things manifests as WILLING my body, as the body becomes an object after death, and attaching obligations accordingly.
Using this template, I’ve started contacting places to see how amicable they are to Open Access of medical research, and to edx-style recording of medical practice in regards to the cadaver I’d be bequeathing them. The full list of cadaver-using medical organizations in the US can be found here, with the overview of willingness to work with the open access obligation here. If you hear back from one, please update the wiki or send an email. Similarly, please contribute additional country listings. Because it is vital that the accepting organization get the cadaver within a very short timeline, geographic proximity is a priority.
“We don’t release any reports.”
“We never record anything having to do with bodies.” x 3
So the search continues… and I’m hoping for help in finding places that are willing to accept cadavers under these conditions. I’m also assuming that if enough interest is shown, pressure to accept the obligations in exchange for an influx of research material will encourage more programs to be flexible.
Please remember, my dear geek friends – understanding the theory of this is NOT the same as ACTUALLY doing it. OSC sets up mechanisms for granting digital rights, for passing on passwords, for slow-release information, and for open access to information possible from your death. Seeing the importance and care of fulfilling these steps means doing it. I’ve removed every possible barrier I can to showing care for loved ones, and commitments to causes even postmortem. All it takes is a little premortem planning.
You can help me, and this initiative, be more complete by contributing in the following ways:
So far as I can tell, we’re in uncharted territory. I’m sure to have missed things in places, the language isn’t completely clear, and there must be interesting legal loopholes for Open Access donation obligations as well as for profiteers to be considered. Let’s make it better, together. Comment here or (preferably) edit the wiki.
Will organizations take cadavers with these obligations? Add to the list of possible organizations or update that same list with their level of willing compliance. We’ve made templates (surprising no one) – to be used and improved!
Be a part of open source cadavers by pledging to donate your body or by donating money to OSC. Donations will be used first cover hosting and registration costs for 10 years, then split halvsies between those maintaining it and continuing hosting and registration, all to be tracked on the wiki.
They're openly mocking our profiling.
But in several telephone conversations with a Reuters reporter over the past few months, Islamic State fighters had indicated that their leader, Iraqi Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, had several surprises in store for the West.
They hinted that attacks on American interests or even U.S. soil were possible through sleeper cells in Europe and the United States.
"The West are idiots and fools. They think we are waiting for them to give us visas to go and attack them or that we will attack with our beards or even Islamic outfits," said one.
"They think they can distinguish us these days they are fools and more than that they don't know we can play their game in intelligence. They infiltrated us with those who pretend to be Muslims and we have also penetrated them with those who look like them."
Easy to say, harder to live. But right on.
Applications for the Harvard University-wide Digital Problem-Solving Initiative are currently live and will remain open through Tuesday, September 9th at 11:59 pm. DPSI brings together a diverse group of learners (including students, faculty, fellows, and staff) to work on real-world projects that address problems and opportunities across the University. Participants have the opportunity to enhance and cultivate competency in various digital literacies as teams engage with research, design, and policy work relating to the Harvard community. Students will work with (and be mentored by) Harvard faculty, fellows, and staff in collaborative teams that will build and shape the increasingly digital environment in which we live, learn, work, and create.
Over the course of the fall semester, DPSI teams will work on projects based in and around the Harvard community, using design thinking and other forms of creative problem solving to produce concrete solutions. Clinical Professor Chris Bavitz of the Cyberlaw Clinic will lead a team looking at issues related to accessibility in online education. Other 2014 DPSI projects will address big data analysis in the context of HarvardX; enhancing access to data on sexual assault; application of technology and design principles to the management of farmers markets; and development of interactive documentaries. In the spring, DPSI will host a number of speakers, skill-based workshops, and hackathons, all of which will culminate in a DPSI fair.
Sign up, and join this unique interdisciplinary community dedicated to multi-directional mentorship and learning and enhancing digital literacy across a wide variety of fields!
so, i’m finally ready to do The Great Push and ask you guys to order this book, for reals.
the publisher is grand central, a branch of Hachette. you may have heard that amazon and hachette are engaged in a super-power-battle.
if you haven’t read about it, you can read about it HERE (john scalzi article), but i actually recommend you simply watch this educational video from stephen colbert:
what does it all mean??
well, it means that you can’t pre-order my new book on amazon.
this is sad…people like amazon and use amazon, including me. i like buying books there. it is easy. also, i find new things.
some authors (who have sales they can compare, i don’t, not yet), have found that their books sales have plummeted since amazon stopped making their books easily available.
i am now one of those authors, and the timing is a little miserable, isn’t it.
but i have one thing Dan Brown does not have.
i have YOU. you people. HI. I NEED YOU.
i know i always say this…but this is a fucking Moment, so i’m going to say it loud:
PLEASE PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, PRE-ORDER THE BOOK, AND TELL PEOPLE ABOUT IT.
the first week of sales are the most important: it sends a message to the booksellers of the world that people are interested in the book.
and pre-sales of the book count towards the first week of sales.
and THIS means i really, really, really need your help to spread the word about the book and pre-order it from an independent (or any other) bookshop.
i SIGNED a limited number of copies of the books…
i really want to know who gets them.
…in any case, THEY are available for pre-order NOW until they’re gone from my favorite neighborhood bookstore in cambridge, mass:
order it from them HERE (that’s the special link for the signed copies).
and HERE is a list of stores who are going to be carrying it in the US, unsigned!!!
you can also use INDIEBOUND to find an indie bookstore near you (ones with book-books and e-books and audiobooks and surely other such types of books i am forgetting)!!! (and since people often ask, indiebound is in the UK now too, but i can’t attest to how helpful that version will be). i do know about the following places outside of the US, though:
or if you happen to be waltzing around your local shop, ASK FOR IT!!!!!
if you own a bookshop: please ORDER IT!!!!!!
if *y’all* want to know what else you can do to help promote the book in your school, at your office, online, or WHEREVER…well…i know you motherfuckers are inventive and surely will help on your own some, but also: please follow the blog, twitter, facebook, instagram, tumblr, email list…just…be on my socials, and i’ll throw the bat-signal up when i have some flyers, banners, tools, and other-such images for you to run with as you see fit.
the day the book drops, i’m embarking on a MUSICAL BOOK TOUR. i’ll be playing music (piano and ukulele) at all these shows, taking questions, signing books (which WILL be available to purchase there), reading from the book, crying…you know, the usual. there are no opening acts, but surprises may happen. well, no, they will (as i know some of them already). i’m really looking forward to this tour. it’s the first time i’ve gone out on the road truly alone – just me on a stage. please buy tickets in advance – the venues are on the small side, and BRING & TELL FRIENDS.
i’m also going to be presenting a speciallll conversation/interview guest in each venue…not every city is confirmed, but they’re going to be unique and they’re going to be awesome.
so far, we have:
• chicago: PETER SAGAL (my hero), the host of NPR’s “wait wait don’t tell me”
• DC: THOMAS DOLBY, the amazing musician and TED-friend
• boston: NEIL GAIMAN and JASON WEBLEY and maybe more
• philly: KYLE CASSIDY
• NYC: BRANDON STANTON (humans of new york)
…and with that, i am excited to finally announce…
AN EVENING WITH AMANDA PALMER: THE ART OF ASKING BOOK TOUR
Nov. 10 – CAMBRIDGE, MA Porter Square Books
25 White Street – Cambridge, MA 02140
TIME TBA | ALL AGES | FREE
MORE INFO HERE, SOON
SPECIAL MIDNIGHT BOOK-DROP MOMENT RELEASE PARKING LOT PARTY AT PORTER SQUARE BOOKS!
there will be HOT CIDER PROVIDED since it’ll probably be fucking cold. (BRING A FLASK FOR SPIKING. I DIDN’T TELL YOU THAT.)
with special guests Neil Gaiman (it’s his birthday!) and Jason Webley (it’s not his birthday but he’ll have an accordion!). the event will start around 11:30 but we are likely going to meet earlier in harvard square and parade over together, so follow the twitter!!
Nov. 12 – WASHINGTON, DC – Sixth & I Synagogue
w/ special guest THOMAS DOLBY
600 I St. NW – Washington DC 20001
TIME TBA | ALL AGES | $15-$22.50
TICKETS & INFO
ON SALE: Friday, September 12 @ 10am EST
Nov. 13 – PHILADELPHIA, PA – First Unitarian Sanctuary
w/ special guest KYLE CASSIDY
2125 Chestnut Street – Philadelphia PA 19106
8pm | ALL AGES | $20
TICKETS & INFO
ON SALE: Friday, September 12 @ 10am EST
Nov. 16 – MINNEAPOLIS, MN – Cedar Cultural Center
416 Cedar Avenue S. – Minneapolis, MN 55454
TIME TBA | ALL AGES | $ TBA
TICKETS & INFO
ON SALE: Friday, September 12 @ 10am CDT
Nov. 18 – SEATTLE, WA – Town Hall
1119 Eighth Ave. – Seattle, WA 98101
7:30pm | ALL AGES
TICKETS & INFO
ON SALE: Thursday, September 11 @ 10am PST
Nov. 19 – PORTLAND, OR – Wonder Ballroom
128 N.E. Russell Street – Portland OR 97212
TIME TBA | ALL AGES | $15-$18
TICKETS & INFO
ON SALE: Friday, September 12 @ 10am local PST
Nov. 20 – SAN FRANCISCO, CA – Jewish Community Center of SF
3200 California Street – San Francisco, CA 94118
7pm | ALL AGES | $25-$35
TICKETS & INFO
ON SALE NOW!!!!!
Nov. 21 – BERKLEY, CA – Freight & Salvage
2020 Addison Street – Berkeley CA 94704
TIME TBA | ALL AGES | $20-$22
TICKETS & INFO
ON SALE: Friday, September 12 @ 10am PST
Nov. 22 – LOS ANGELES, CA – First Unitarian Church
2936 W. 8th Street – Los Angeles, CA 90005
ALL AGES | $18-$23
TICKETS & INFO
ON SALE: Friday, September 12 @ 10am PST
Nov. 23 – DENVER, CO – Tattered Cover Book Store
2526 East Colfax Avenue – Denver, CO 80206
2pm | ALL AGES | FREE
Nov. 24 – AUSTIN, TX – Book People
603 North Lamar – Austin, TX 78703
7pm | ALL AGES | FREE
Nov. 25 – TORONTO, ONT – Lee’s Palace
529 Bloor Street West – Toronto ON M5S 1Y5 CANADA
AGES 19+ | $18
TICKETS & INFO
ON SALE: Friday, September 12 @ 10am EST
i also read the audiobook. i know it’s up for pre-order at a few of the places i listed above, but i also know that it’s not up at all of ‘em. i’ll let you guys know when it’s out in the wild (on publication date, everywhere).
again, please do consider sharing this info. and getting tikets early.
please note: i’m cross-posting this blog to facebook and will read both sets of comments. please use the blog if you’re able to so facebook doesn’t eat the world.
i love this article by jeremy vandehey about “mobile cleansing”. i nodded my head throughout. again: it’s all about balance. it’s been bothering my for years – the to-check-or-not-to-check question, and while i’ve trumpeted and lauded the internet for bringing us all together…i’ve also watched a lot of human moments, relationships, and connections.
about two or three years ago i started feeling like a hypocrite, so i began to try and make some pro-active changes. one is that i leave my phone on silent at all times. when i sit down for a meal or a hang with anyone, i turn the phone onto airplane mode so i’m not tempted to catch up. i try not the cheat when going to the bathroom. i know the twitchy feeling.
neil and i made a pact to keep our phones out of the bed/bedroom, and poetically enough, when it worked, it worked beautifully. when we got too busy and/or our relationship started to hit rocky patches, the phones would travel back into bed with us. excuses like “but i’m just using it for the alarm” would devolve into “let me just check the phone for emergencies…” at which point you start asking yourself:
what’s an actual…emergency?
if an “emergency” is making sure the flight tomorrow is on time, or that your assistant got that package off to the publisher, or that someone answered a twitter DM about that potential interview…
well…those aren’t “emergencies”. that’s actually what we used to call “work”. it’s the shit you’re not supposed to do in bed when you’re supposed to be connecting with the person you’re with.
and emergency is a friend on a deathbed, a suicide watch, or like jeremy says in the article, a pregnant wife about to drop a baby. that’s a reason to take the phone to bed and leave it on.
there’s a section in my book that touches on this, when i’m visiting with a Sick Anthony and need to refresh my phone every two minutes because my kickstarter was about to hit the million dollar mark.
i’ve watched my time with him, too, devolve because of our phones. it used to be that we would go on walks and give each other undivided attention. now we’re both sucked into the distraction. he goes to check the phone, i go to check the phone.
neil and i have occasionally spent entire cab rides not talking to each other because we’re so busy talking to The World.
it’s hard. we all struggle with this shit, nowadays. it takes work. but it pays off, if you can manage to make agreements, with the one thing we seem to be chasing. real connection.
and all that.
(via nikki volpicelli, thanks gal)
p.s. i’m sending book tour dates to my mailing list tomorrow and those on there will get first crack at tickets. sign up at http://bit.ly/AFPemail
Uncommon.cc (a lovely little corner of the internet) sends out prompts to get the growing community to share stories. I was particularly inspired by this one: "What's your favorite room, past or present?" and so I'd thought I'd post my response here for posterity. In part, it's a nod to all the incoming college students descending upon Boston and Cambridge this week.
As a freshman at Harvard I lived in the T.S. Eliot room, 42 Apley Court. At the time, it was the only freshmen dorm located outside Harvard yard, so Apley was already set apart by distance, its regal lion door knockers, and its walk-in closets. But even among gilded splendor, the T.S. Eliot room stood out. A special plaque outside our door memorialized the poet who spent his youth as a philosophy concentrator there (presumably accompanied by a servant, as was standard in the Gold Coast dorms of that era). In my tenure, I shared the space with two other roommates. The tub in the marble bathroom was a luxury among dorms, and though the fireplace had long been closed off for safety, the mantle added a certain charm and gravitas to the room. In the winter, the old radiators clanged and clacked with dry heat. I couldn't help but picture Thomas Sterns Eliot, hunched over his desk, listening to the same rhythmic beats, looking out over the same fourth-floor view.
As lovely as it was, my ties to the room didn't really develop until I took a spring semester course with Peter Sacks covering T.S. Eliot's entire oeuvre from Prufrock to the Four Quartets. Carefully parsing each line for Eliot's rich allusions to the canon was a fitting initiation into the department that would become my home base for the next four years. Reading from my crimson futon, pausing to gaze out the window between the wrought iron scrolls, I felt as though I was really occupying the space I shared with the great poet through his words and his room.
You may not have noticed, but recently the Huffington Post has been the poster child for lack of journalistic integrity. The actual details may appear to be small to many people, but not to me. HuffPo has made a sloppy journalistic error, publishing a historically inaccurate story, and on a claim many experts have proven wrong. The organization does not seem willing to retract it. I will never trust this source again.
This post will get into the details in a moment, but this is a blog about digital economics, so let’s review the relevant economics. Let’s start with the economics of trust. Trust does not arise out of nowhere. Readers learn to trust a source of information. Said another way, trust arises because a new source invests in accuracy and quality. It is one of the greatest assets of a news source.
Trust is an unusual asset. It possesses an asymmetric property. It takes many little acts to build up its value, and very few bad acts to destroy it. Once lost it is also hard to regain.
As online news sources grabbed the attention of readers there has been concern about the loss of the type of quality reporting found in traditional news outlets. That is why many commentators have wondered whether online news sources like HuffPo could recreate the reputations of traditional newspapers and new magazines, who invested so heavily in journalists with deep knowledge about their topic. So went the adage: A high quality journalist could sniff out a lie or incomplete claim. A high quality reporter would defend the reputation of the news source. Readers trusted those organizations as a result of those investments.
That is also why journalistic integrity receives so much attention by managers in traditional newspapers. There are good reasons why newspapers react severely to ethical lapses and violations, such as plagiarism. Once trust is lost in a reporter, why would a reader trust that organization again? Why would a news organization put its trust further at risk by retaining that reporter? The asymmetries of trust motivate pretty harsh penalties.
So the concern went something like this: online news sources get much of their content for free or for very little money. That could be a problem because these sources do not have the resources to invest in quality reporting. How will they behave when quality suffers? Will readers punish them for lower quality material?
That is what gets us back to HuffPo’s behavior. Its reputation is on the line, but it is not acting as if it recognizes that it has lost my trust and the trust of several other readers. This behavior suggests it has not invested in quality, which aligns with the fears just expressed.
Now for the detail: HuffPo published a multipart history of email that is historically inaccurate. Yes, you read correctly. More specifically, a few of the details are correct, but those are placed next to some misleading facts, and these are embedded in a certifiably very misleading historical narrative. The whole account cannot be trusted.
The account comes from one guy, Shiva Ayyadurai, who did some great programming as a teenager. He claims to have invented electronic mail in 1978 when he was fourteen. He might have done some clever programming, but electronic mail already existed by the time he did his thing. Independent invention happens all the time in technological history, and Shiva is but another example, except for one thing. He had his ideas a little later than others, and the other ideas ended up being more influential on subsequent developments. Shiva can proudly join the long list of geeky teenagers who had some great technical skills at a young age, did some cool stuff, and basically had little impact on anybody else.
Except that Shiva won’t let it go. This looks like nothing more than Shiva’s ego getting in the way of an unbiased view.
Look, it is extremely well established that the email systems in use today descended from a set of inventors who built on each other’s inventions. They did their work prior to 1978. For example, it is well documented that the “@” in every email first showed up in 1971. Ray Tomlinson invented that. Others thought it was a good idea, and built on top of the @. We all have been doing it ever since. Moreover, this is not ancient history. Tomlinson has even written about his experiences, and lots of people know him. This is easy to confirm.
Though Ayyadurai’s shenanigans were exposed a few years ago, he persists. In the HuffPo piece yet again he pushes the story in which his inventions played a central place in the history of electronic mail. This time he has a slick infographic telling his version of things, and he managed to get others to act as shills for his story. He also now accuses others of fostering a conspiracy against his views in order to protect their place in history and deny him his. As if. “A teenager invented electronic mail” might be a great headline, and it might sound like a great romantic tale, but this guy is delusional.
One teenager invented the fundamental insights that we all use today? No, no, and many times no. This is just wrong.
BTW, I have met some of these inventors, and interviewed some of them too (for a book I am writing), and, frankly, the true inventors deserve all the credit they can get. This guy, Ayyadurai, deserves credit for clever at a young age, and nothing more.
Look, if you do not believe me, then read the experts. Many careful historians have spent considerable time exposing the falsehoods in this lie. If you are curious, read this by Tom Haigh, a respected and established computer industry historian, or this and this and this by Mike Masnick, who writes the techdirt blog about various events in tech (such as Huffington Post). These two lay out the issues in a pretty clear way, and from different angles, so they cover the territory thoroughly.
Look at the dates of those posts. These falsehoods were exposed two years ago, and are online. This is not news. Because these two have done the hard work, it takes approximately fifteen to twenty minutes to figure out what happened here.
And that is where we are today. HuffPo published the BS about this guy, authored by a few shills. According to Masnick, who makes it his business to do this sort of thing, HuffPo has been informed of their error. Yet, HuffPo has done nothing to disavow their story.
If I had to guess, there simply is nobody at HuffPo with enough time or energy to check on the accuracy of a story. The staff probably has moved on to other things, and don’t want to be bothered with a little historical article. That is the thing about quality; it is costly to keep it up everywhere, even on articles few readers really care about.
At the end of the day, Huffington Post published another story, one among many, and on a topic – the history of electronic mail. Does HuffPo lose very much from publishing one historically inaccurate story? No, not really, only a few of us know the truth, and only a few of us are sufficiently disgusted and angry. HuffPo’s reputation will take a hit with only a few readers.
But I will never trust them again. They have lost my trust completely. It will be very difficult to earn back.
You probably guessed how this post would end, so here it is: I suggest that you should not trust HuffPo ever again. Maybe if enough people react to this stupidity, HuffPo will invest in some journalistic integrity. Or maybe they will just lose readers a little bit at a time on hundreds or thousands of stories, each with little issues, and die a slow death from their own carelessness. Maybe.
Post script: Sometime after this was written Huffington Post took down the offending material. That raises an interesting question about whether I should trust them again. On the one hand, I totally respect them for acting. Let’s give them credit. On the other hand, those posts have been up for several weeks. I admit that it will be hard to lose this sense of skepticism. You can make up your own mind. SG