Monthly Archives: November 2013

American gun use is out of control. Shouldn’t the world intervene?

To absorb the scale of the mayhem, it’s worth trying to guess the death toll of all the wars in American history since the War of Independence began in 1775, and follow that by estimating the number killed by firearms in the US since the day that Robert F. Kennedy was shot in 1968 by a .22 Iver-Johnson handgun, wielded by Sirhan Sirhan. The figures from Congressional Research Service, plus recent statistics from icasualties.org, tell us that from the first casualties in the battle of Lexington to recent operations in Afghanistan, the toll is 1,171,177. By contrast, the number killed by firearms, including suicides, since 1968, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and the FBI, is 1,384,171.

That 212,994 more Americans lost their lives from firearms in the last 45 years than in all wars involving the US is a staggering fact, particularly when you place it in the context of the safety-conscious, “secondary smoke” obsessions that characterise so much of American life.

The Guardian calls for international intervention in US to stop irrational gun laws. I wonder, how would the American gun owners react to foreign forces trying to take away their arms?

Connecting

The 18 minute "Connecting" documentary is an exploration of the future of Interaction Design and User Experience from some of the industry’s thought leaders. As the role of software is catapulting forward, Interaction Design is seen to be not only increasing in importance dramatically, but also expected to play a leading role in shaping the coming "Internet of things." Ultimately, when the digital and physical worlds become one, humans along with technology are potentially on the path to becoming a "super organism" capable of influencing and enabling a broad spectrum of new behaviors in the world.

more on vimeo.com.

One of these videos where design experts throw in catchy one-liners about the interconnected digital world, in seemingly random order that is supposed to convey a coherent narrative. It would yet another video of its kind if not for the fact how incredibly creepy this vision sounds just few months later, in the age of massive, shameless surveillance, where the cloud is not the symbol of inevitable progress, but of harvesting your privacy.

On Encrypted Video and the Open Web

No one likes DRM as a user, wherever it crops up. It is worth thinking, though, about what it is we do not like about existing DRM-based systems, and how we could possibly build a system which will be a more open, fairer one than the actual systems which we see today. If we, the programmers who design and build Web systems, are going to consider something which could be very onerous in many ways, what can we ask in return?

more on w3.org.

Tim Berners-Lee explains why W3C started the work on a DRM standard for the web.

Why people shouldn’t love you for who you are.

The irony of this is that we seem to be more sensitive to the opinions of people who don’t even know us. People aggressively monitor and manage their social reputations online, but bristle at the tiniest piece of feedback from those closest to them.

Nothing particularly new is being said here, but the article can save as a good reminder of how to respond to criticism from people who know us well.

Free exchange: Nomencracy

As late as 2011 aristocratic surnames appear among the ranks of lawyers, considered for this purpose a high-status position, at a frequency almost six times that of their occurrence in the population as a whole. Mr Clark reckons that even in famously mobile Sweden, some 70-80% of a family’s social status is transmitted from generation to generation across a span of centuries. Other economists use similar techniques to reveal comparable immobility in societies from 19th-century Spain to post-Qing-dynasty China. Inherited advantage is detectable for a very long time.

more on economist.com.

What surnames can tell about social mobility. Or the lack of it.

The Cult of Design Dictatorship

My answer is that yes, a product must have some kind of vision, and at the end of the day someone’s got to implement it, regardless of their talent. But humble designers recognize complaints and the needs of their users. Design dictators ignore them, because the dictators are by definition always right.

more on alexcabal.com.

Another article echoing the “You are not Steve Jobs” mantra.

Transcript of secret meeting between Julian Assange and Google CEO Eric Schmidt

On the 23 of June, 2011 a secret five hour meeting took place between WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange, who was under house arrest in rural UK at the time and Google CEO Eric Schmidt.

Also in attendance was Jared Cohen, a former Secretary of State advisor to Hillary Clinton, Scott Malcomson, Director of Speechwriting for Ambassador Susan Rice at the US State Department and current Communications Director of the International Crisis Group, and Lisa Shields, Vice President of the Council on Foreign Relations.

more on wikileaks.org.

A 3.5 hour conversation between Julian Assange and Eric Schmidt, about journalism, Wiki Leaks, access to information and politics. Truly fascinating interview that’s really a long monologue by Assange, rarely interrupted with questions. It turns out that there’s much more to this man than one might have concluded from sensational news reports. Assange explains in detail his views with really astonishing coherence and knowledge that ranges from low-level technical details of internet communication to large views on world politics.

The audio recording has some annoying noises in the background, but is very clear.

Mythbusting India’s Mars Mission

he successful launch of India’s Mars Orbiter Mission is a major step forward for an advancing Asian space power. The global space community has applauded the flight, which will help the world to better understand the red planet.

more on marsdaily.com.

My favorite fact about this mission is that it cost 0.7 of “Gravity” production budget.

In Praise of Idleness By Bertrand Russell

We keep a large percentage of the working population idle, because we can dispense with their labor by making the others overwork. When all these methods prove inadequate, we have a war: we cause a number of people to manufacture high explosives, and a number of others to explode them, as if we were children who had just discovered fireworks. By a combination of all these devices we manage, though with difficulty, to keep alive the notion that a great deal of severe manual work must be the lot of the average man.

more on zpub.com.

Wonderful essay about our broken work ethic, that prohibits humanity from fully benefiting from the technological progress, and is at the core worsening social problems. Russell demonstrated slightly (but only slightly) too optimistic view of Soviet Russia, but other than this, his essay is as valid now as it was in the time of its conception.

A hitchhiker’s guide to the HTML5 + EME maze

All of that, however, doesn’t mean that EME (the interface) can’t be implemented in open source: EME, together with the ClearKey CDM that’s part of the specification, should be implementable in Open Source software, without royalty, just fine. It just doesn’t provide the protection that rights holders are after; the real deployment of EME is as an interface toward proprietary CDMs that are implemented in closed source software, and partially in hardware.

Explanation of core concepts in the recent debate about DRM standardization efforts at W3C.