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Sign the letter!

Maybe this is one more of the futile petitions that we send around and to each other, but the goal rings true to me:

"It is critical that our policymakers turn their attention to our
deteriorating financial health which, if not addressed responsibly and
quickly, will cause severe economic hardship for our nation and its
citizens, especially the young and future generations." (from "Letter to Candidates")

Read the whole thing here, and if you like, sign it!

Ambient Awareness: on being ‘digitally’ close

A good article in the New York Times Magazine about the so-called 'ambient awareness' phenomenon:

"Social scientists have a name for this sort of incessant online contact. They call it “ambient awareness.” It is, they say, very much like being physically near someone and picking up on his mood through the little things he does — body language, sighs, stray comments — out of the corner of your eye. Facebook is no longer alone in offering this sort of interaction online." (from New York Times: I am So Totally, Digitally Close to You")

The article talks about the Facebook Friend Feed and how it originally was rejected by the users, but soon became the key to a burst of growth of Facebook. Twitter is also explored in detail. This is a good introductory article on the Twitter phenomenon.

Beware of Freeconomics

The quote below is from this post from ReadWriteWeb

While we are certainly seeing more and more examples of products being given away for free, it is not necessarily a good thing. There are different aspects and faces of free. The Flickr free, which Fred Wilson calls freemium, is the model where the basic version is free and the premium one costs money.This model is very different from the GMail model where the entire product, with full features, is completely free. The downside of freeconomics is a monopolistic market, with barriers to entry, and little incentive to innovate. In addition the middle-man and transactional complexities are the other side effects of this new economic trend.

(Read the whole thing : Beware of Freeconomics)

It is of course on a topic that I've written a lot about, so I won't comment on it further, just that I agree 🙂

Originally posted on Mar 03, 2008. Reprinted courtesy of ReRuns plug-in.

Where can I find non-shrill political coverage?

I read the New York Times, and magazines like The Atlantic and The New Yorker, and web sites like Salon. Each of these, IMO are relatively thoughtful and interesting and a good way to keep up with what's going on. And I tend to agree with them often. I guess my liberal bias matches their liberal bias.

I feel like I am not hearing 'the other side'.

What are the counterparts to for example The Atlantic or Salon for the right? Whatever commentary I come across that leans more conservative tends to be shrill, partisan and impossible to take seriously. I've been looking at the Wall Street Journal's political coverage which qualifies.

But can someone point me to the conservative equivalent of The Atlantic or New Yorker or Salon?

So it’s true: Google is releasing a new browser to compete with IE and FireFox

(updated at 12:08pm Sept 2)

"In a posting on a company site Monday, Google indicated that a version of the software, called Chrome, would be available for download on Tuesday. It said the software is designed to make it faster to browse the Web and easier to run applications without downloading software to a computer. The product will be offered on an open-source basis, meaning others can modify the software code." (from The Wall Street Journal)

Also see Silicon Valley Insider for interesting commentary:

"If you're thinking about "Chrome" as just another web browser, you're missing the larger point. Chrome will no doubt function just fine as a browser, giving you yet another icon choice to add to your browser collection alongside IE, Firefox, and Safari. It will also likely include some whizbang new features that force Microsoft and Mozilla to immediately retool their own offerings. But that's almost beside the point." (from Silicon Valley Insider)

TSA and photo IDs

An interesting article from Bruce Schneier about why he believes that TSA requirement of photo IDs is a waste of time:

"The problem is that it is unverified passenger names that get checked against the no-fly list. At security checkpoints, the TSA just matches IDs to whatever is printed on the boarding passes. The airline checks boarding passes against tickets when people board the plane. But because no one checks ticketed names against IDs, the security breaks down." (from Los Angeles Times)

Particularly interesting is that he has specific instructions in the article on how "anyone on the no-fly list can easily fly whenever he wants". I remember a couple of years ago some guy got into heap trouble with the FBI for posting a little web hack for doing just what Schneier gives instructions for. I wonder whether Schneier will get a call from them? Nah, he's too well known!

Cloud Computing case studies

I've written about some of the considerations that go into the choice between physical infrastructure and new SAAS services such as Amazon's S3 and EC2. I also covered why the fact that you are comfortable relying on a hosting provider for rack mounted servers (so called ping & power) doesn't mean necessarily that you would come to the same conclusion about SAAS services.

Here's what the Wall Street Journal had to say about that tradeoff a little while ago:

"Today was a bad day for a new computing model that could one day be the norm. Amazon’s S3 service –which companies can use to rent data storage on Amazon’s tech gear — crashed this morning, knocking many small businesses offline and highlighting one of the model’s drawbacks: You’re putting your operations in somebody else’s hands." (from Is Amazon’s Small Crash a Giant Crash for Cloud Computing?)

In researching these three posts, I came across this which reminded me that this wasn't the first time this happened, I guess not surprisingly:

"Cautionary tale indeed. It’s the other side of the wonderful world of mashups and web 2.0 and web services and all that jazz. If I build my product on the back of your service, then the quality of what I deliver depends on your carrying through on your promises. Not a very strong position to be in." (from A cautionary utility computing tale - or the dark side of Mashups)

Originally posted on Feb 20, 2008. Reprinted courtesy of ReRuns plug-in.

Two examples of great Web 2.0 by USA government

Who said "your TSA don 't dance and your USPTO don't rock and roll?" (One free copy of BlogBridge for all of you who get the reference without using Wikipedia)

Here are two cool examples. First up, the TSA (Transportation Security Administration) now has a blog that seems to be much more than a bunch of pre- digested PR drivel, but instead posts from actual people with actual knowledge about TSA and their mission.

From their blurb:

"This blog is sponsored by the Transportation Security Administration to facilitate an ongoing dialogue on innovations in security, technology and the checkpoint screening process." (from The Evolution of Security)

By the way, a plea: please name your blogs in a way that it doesn't take a Sherlock Holmes to figure out what it is. How about calling it the TSA Blog? Duh.

But it is quite interesting, for example, from a few days ago:

"Saturday morning, a Transportation Security Officer working the x-ray machine saw two razor blades in what appeared to be a book in someone's carry-on bag. During the bag check, the razor blades were found inside the pages of a Bible, and bag belonged to… a priest. Can't make this stuff up." (from Saturday Morning, Strange But True…")

This blog and the way it is being written is a Very Good Idea. I just hope that the politicians don't grab hold of it and turn it into another propaganda portal.

So that was the dance part, here's the rock and roll.

The USPTO (United States Patent and Trademark Office) has created a very cool site to allow peer input about patents that are being sought. From their blurb:

"Peer-to-Patent opens the patent examination process to public participation for the first time. Become part of this historic pilot program. Help the USPTO find the information relevant to assessing the claims of pending patent applications. Become a community reviewer and improve the quality of patents."

So this is kind of a social network to assist the patent office in filtering out bad patents more effectively, something that they have failed to do often and have been heavily criticized for.

The cool thing is that they seem to have thought this through quite well. Particularly the way peer input is used or not used as part of the patent review process seems to protect against competitors trying to somehow manipulate the process. And the site is attractive, sensible in its design, incorporates video and tutorials etc. A thoroughly modern effort. And a valuable service. Kudos!

Originally posted on Feb 28, 2008. Reprinted courtesy of ReRuns plug-in.