Lock Or Peephole

Privacy
So is that keyhole in privacy for a lock and key or as an exhibitionistic peephole?



The New York Times had an excellent article on this yesteday, called “We Want Privacy, but Can’t Stop Sharing.”



We are compelled to share online to demonstrate that we are:



– Important

– Interesting

– Credible

– Competent

– Thoughtful

– Trustworthy



The problem is when you inappropriately overshare online, you may leave youself little to properly disclose in building real-world intimate relationships in a normal give and take of “opening and closing boundaries.”



Moreover, being like a lab rat or in a house of glass walls for all to watch indiscriminantly can leave us with feelings of “low self-esteem, depression, and anxiety.”



Being under observation–even when it is voluntary–implies being open to judgement and this can drain us of our ability to be ourselves, creative, and take calculated risks.



We don’t want to become too busy brushing our hair back and smiling for the camera and making everything (artificially) look like made for reality TV (e.g. Kardashian) perfection. 



The key to privacy is to disclose what needs to be shared, put a lock on what’s personal, and not arbitrarily leave the peephole eyes wide open. 😉

(Source Photo: here with attribution to g4ll4is)

Data Like Clouds

Cloud Security
So data is like clouds…



Clouds want to be free roaming the wild blue skies similar to how data wants to be searchable, accessible, useful, and so on. 



But with data, like clouds, when it rains it pours–and when data blows about with the windstorm and is compromised in terms of security or privacy, then we not only come away wet but very uncomfortable and unhappy. 



Then, as we actually end up putting our data in the great computing clouds of the likes of Amazon, iCloud, HP, and more, the data is just within arm’s reach of the nearest smartphone, tablet, or desktop computer. 



But just as we aspire to reach to the clouds–and get to our data–other less scrupled (cyber criminals, terrorists, and nation states)–seek to grab some of those oh so soft, white cloud data too.



While you may want to lock your data cloud in a highly secure double vault, unfortunately, you won’t be able to still get to it quickly and easily…it’s a trade-off between security and accessibility. 



And leaving the doors wide open doesn’t work either, because then no one even needs an (encryption) key to get in. 



So that’s our dilemma–open data, but secured storage–white, soft, beautiful clouds wisping overhead, but not raining data on our organizational and personal parades. 😉



(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Touch Free, Just Use Your Head

Israel Innovation News is reporting a very simple but cool new technology for the disabled.

It enables them to “read, play games, search the web, and make calls without the need for touch.”

Sesame Reader, from the Google App Store, “tracks your face and allows you to turn [eReader] pages with the movement of your head.”

You can also dial a number or type of a keyboard by using movement of the head to control the cursor movement and by hovering over a button to “click it.”

This helps people to function in a digital world, when otherwise they couldn’t.

Hence, the name Sesame from Ali Baba’s magic phrase “Open Sesame.”

Now people can read, write, and interact with others online–even when they don’t have use of their limbs because of neurological, muscular, and other structural defect, or if they simply want hands-free use.

Touchscreens, keyboards, and keypads are now accessible to anyone with the simple turn of the head–up, down, left, and right is all all it takes to navigate, touchless. 😉

When Technology Fails, People Can Succeed

Sun_trolley

We were really happy to find the Sun Trolley in Ft. Lauderdale.

For 50 cents a person, you can ride between the beautiful beaches and downtown Las Olas Street where there are wonderful art stores, cafes, museums, and shopping. 

One day, riding the bus though, there was a technology failure that really made we think about the relationship between man and machine. 

On the bus, there was a elderly couple with a teenage girl and a young boy, who was in a wheelchair.

Driving along the beach (and hotels), the couple indicated to the driver that they wanted to get off (these buses don’t stop at pre-assigned stops, but rather wherever people say they want to get on or off). 

The bus pulls over and the driver gets up and goes to the back of the bus, and he starts trying to work the device that make the bus wheelchair accessible.

But despite the driver trying to get the device to work, nothing happens.

The women and girl had already left the bus and where standing on the sidewalk waiting. The other people on the bus were waiting to get to their destination as well. And the man and the boy in the wheelchair seemed both embarrassed at the scene, but also worried how they were going to get this heavy wheelchair off the bus. 

The driver pulls out some metal pole contraption and is trying to free the wheelchair accessibility device on the stairs–again, over and over–but still can’t get the device to work. 

I thought about this poor family, but also about how dependent we are on technology and when it doesn’t work–very often we are not sure what to do, because we just assume it will (like it always does, or is supposed to). 

When I saw that the driver was not going to be successful with getting the device to work, I got up and said to the man–can I help you (i.e. to help him with the wheelchair and boy).

Not sure how this elderly man and I would do it, I was glad when another man came forward and offered to help as well.

Between the three of us, we carried the boy and wheelchair down the stairs and off the bus, being careful that the boy was safe and comfortable. 

I was glad that we were able to help this family, but also continued to think that technology never will really be a substitute for people, because technology is not only developed, operated and maintained by people, but also that technology invariably can fail, and people must step up when it does. 

Technology is great when it works, but it is never failproof, so we had better be prepared for those days when systems go down and we must carry on. 😉

Federal Register On Steroids

Now, here is a new way of looking at the information from GovPulse, a site developed to “make such documents as the Federal Register searchable, more accessible and easier to digest…to encourage every citizen to become more involved in the workings of their government and make their voice heard.”  The site is built from open source.
You’ll see that there is a lot more information readily available, organized in multiple ways, and really quite user-centric; some examples:
1) Number of Entries for the Day: The number of entries for the day are listed right at the top.
2) Calendar for Selecting Day of Interest:  Next to the number of entries for the day, you can click on the calendar icon and get an instant 3 months of dates to choose from or enter another date of interest and be instantly take to there.
3) Statistics for the Day: The right sidebar displays the locations mentioned on a map and the types of entries and reporting agencies in pie charts.
4) Department Entries are Prominently Displayed: Both the number of entries for each department are identified as well as identifying their type and length along with an abstract for the entry. Each Department’s entries can easily be expanded or collapses by clicking on the arrow next to the department’s name.
5) Entries are Enabled for Action: By clicking on an entry, there are options to share it via social media to Twitter, Facebook, Digg, and Reddit to let others know about it and there is also a listing of your senators and representatives and their contact information to speak up on the issues.
Additional helpful features on the homepage–immediate access to areas that are last chance to act or what’s new, such as:
1) Comments closing in the next 7 days
2) Comments opened in the last 7 days
3) Rules taking effect in the next 7 days 
4) Rules proposed in the last 7 days 
Moreover,  you have another map with bubbles showing mentioned locations or you can enter your own location and get all the entries subdivided by 10, 15, 20 miles and so on up to 50 miles away.
Another feature called Departmental Pulse, show a trend line of number of entries per department over the last year or 5 years.
At the top of the page, you can quickly navigate to entries in the Federal Register by agency, topic, location, date published, or do a general search. 
There are other cool features such as when you look at entries by department, you can see number of entries, places mentioned, and a bubble map that tells you popular topics for this department.
Overall, I think GovPulse deserves a big thumbs up in terms of functionality and usability and helping people get involved in government by being able to access information in easier and simpler ways.
The obvious question is why does it take 3 outsiders “with a passion for building web applications” to do this?
While I can’t definitively answer that, certainly there are benefits to coming in with fresh eyes, being true subject matter experts, and not bound by the “bureaucracy” that is endemic in so many large institutions.
This is not say that there are not many talented people in government–because there certainly are–but sometimes it just takes a few guys in a garage to change the world as we know it.

Federal_register Govpulse

The Internet: A Right and a Responsibility

Poverty_computer

Good Online is reporting (10 June 2011) that the “U.N. Declares Internet Access a Human Right.”

 

According to the U.N. report, “The Internet has become a key means by which individuals exercise their right to freedom of expression.”

 

But as Good points out, this is not just a “third-world concern,” since even in America those without high-speed access cannot adequately perform certain functions “and that surely this affects their ability to get informed, educated, and employed.”

 

The U.N. is pushing for more protections for people to “assert themselves freely online,” but Good proposes that Internet access means more than just freedom of expression, but also the right to more public Wi-Fi access, better access to technology in libraries and I would assume in schools as well. 

 

Interestingly enough, just on Thursday, Mayor Bloomberg of NYC and AT&T Chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson announced that as part of NYC’s “Road Map for the Digital City,” they were launching a five-year initiative for free Wi-Fi service at 20 NYC parks—this is seen as a “critical developmental tool” for children, families, and communities.

 

The Internet stands alone as a technology that is now a “human right.”  Radios, televisions, and telephones—none of these have that status.  Yes, we have freedom of speech, but the technologies that enable them are not seen as a human right. 

 

Similarly, access to the printing press (i.e. the technology for printing) itself is not a human right—rather, freedom of press (i.e. expression through print) is. 

 

Do we not communicate and express ourselves over radio, TV, telephone, and other technologies as we do over the Internet? Do we not get information from them and through them?  Do we not reach out with them to others both nationally and globally as we do over Net? 

 

The answer to all of these is of course, we do.

 

So what is distinct about the Internet that the mere access to it is declared a human right?

 

I believe it is the fact that the Internet is the first technology whose very access enables the protection of all the other human rights, since it empowers EVERYONE to hear and speak from and to the masses about what is going in—whether in the tumultuous streets of the Arab Spring to the darkest prisons silencing political dissent.   

 

While radio and television, in their time, were important in getting information and entertainment, but they were essentially unidirectional modes of communication and these can be manipulated by the powers that be. Similarly, the telephone while important to bridging communications over vast distances was for the most part constrained between two or at most a few individuals conversing.  And publishing was limited to the realm of the professionals with printing presses.

 

In contrast, the Internet enables each person to become their own TV producer (think YouTube), radio announcer (think iTunes), telephone operator (think Skype) or publisher (think websites, blogs, wikis, etc.).

 

The Internet has put tremendous power into the hands of every individual.  This is now a declared right.  With that right, there is a tremendous responsibility to share information and collaborate with others for the benefit of all.

 

Of course, as a powerful tool of expression, the Internet can also be used malevolently to express hatred, racism, bigotry, etc. and to malign other people, their thoughts or opinions.  Of course, it can also be used to steal, spy, hack, and otherwise disrupt normal civilization.

 

So we also all have the responsibility to behave appropriately, fairly, and with dignity to each other on the Internet. 

 

While I applaud the U.N. for declaring the Internet a human right, I would like to see this expanded to include both a right and responsibility—this to me would be more balanced and beneficial to building not only access, but also giving and tolerance.


(Photo Source: WorldVisionReport.org)

>Information-Free Is Invaluable

>

Tree-of-knowledge

At first I admit it, I didn’t really get Google; I mean what is this G-o-o-g-l-e and the shtick about “doing search”?

But the writing was on the wall all along with their incredible mission statement of: “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”

So search is the just the beginning of a long list of now amazingly valuable Google properties and services (now valued with a market capitalization of almost $169 Billion):

– Search (Google Search, Google Search Appliance, Google Desktop)
– Cloud Computing (Google Apps Engine, Google Storage for Developers, Chrome Notebooks)
– Advertising Technology (Adwords, AdSense, DoubleClick)
– Website Analytics (Google Analytics)
– Operating Systems (Chrome OS, Android, Honeycomb)
– Web Browser (Google Chrome)
– Productivity Software (Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Apps Suite)
– Social Computing (Google Wave, Google Talk, Orkut, Buzz)
– News Aggregator (Google News, Google Reader)
– Translation (Google Translate)
– Telecommunication (Google Voice)
– Clean Energy (Google Energy)
– Geospatial (Google Maps, Google Earth)
– Video (YouTube)
– Photos (Picassa)
– Electronic Books (Google Books)
– Blogs (Blogger)

What Google seems to intuitively get is that their free powerful web services creates invaluable consumer market share and mind share–like a honey pot. Once the consumer comes on board–like good little bees, they are ripe for companies to reach out to via advertising for all and every sort of product and service under the sun. And according to 1998 revenue breakdown, as much as 99% of Google’s revenue is associated with advertising!

Google is brilliant and successful for a number of reasons:

1) Google is consumer-oriented and knows how to attract the crowd with free services, and they let others (the advertisers) concern themselves with monetizing them.
2) Google is incredibly innovative and provides the breath and depth of technology services (from cloud to productivity to search to video) that consumers need and that are easy for them to use.
3) Google is information rich, but they share this broadly and freely with everyone. While some have complained about the privacy implications of this information bounty; so far, Google seems to have managed to maintain a healthy balance of information privacy and publicity.
4) Google values their people, as their “owners manual” reads: “our employees…are everything. We will reward them and treat them well.” And to help retain their talent, Google just gave their employees a 10% raise in January.
5) Google wants to be a force for good–their creed is “Don’t be evil.” They state in their manual: “We believe strongly that in the long term, we will be better served- as shareholders and in all other ways–by a company that does good things for the world, even if we forgo some short-term gains.”

Do not underestimate Google–as the Wall Street Journal, 23-24 April, 2011 summarizes today, they are not a conventional company.

At the end of the day, if Google is successful in their business of making information universally accessible and useful, then we are talking about making an invaluable difference in the lives of humanity–where information builds on itself, and knowledge–like the Tree of Knowledge in the Book of Genesis–is alive and constantly growing for all to benefit from in our Garden of Eden, we call Earth.

(Source Picture: Honeybird)