A Seeing Eye

This video from NOVA is an amazing display of the surveillance capabilities we have at our disposal.

ARGUS-IS Stands for Automated Real-Time Ground Ubiquitous Surveillance Imaging System.

Like a “Persistent Stare,” ARGUS provides continuous monitoring and tracking over a entire city, but also it has the ability to simply click on an area (or multilple areas–up to 65 at a time) to zoom in and see cars, people, and even in detail what individuals are wearing or see them even waving their arms!

Created by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), ARGUS uses 368 imaging chips and provides a streaming video of 1.8 gigapixels (that is 1.8 billion pixels) of resolution and attaches to the belly of a unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) drone.

ARGUS captures 1 million terabytes of a data a day, which is 5,000 hours of high-definition footage that can be stored and returned to as needed for searching events or people.

The Atlantic (1 February 2013) points out how using this over an American city could on one hand, be an amazing law enforcement tool for catching criminals, but on the other hand raise serious privacy concerns like when used by government to collect data on individuals or by corporations to market and sell to consumers.

What is amazing to me is not just the bird’s eye view that this technology provides from the skies above, but that like little ants, we are all part of the mosaic of life on Earth. We all play a part in the theater of the loving, the funny, the witty, and sometimes the insane.

My Oma used to say in German that G-d see everything, but now people are seeing virtually everything…our actions for good or for shame are visible, archived, and searchable. 😉

Challenging The Dunbar 150

Kids

Today, Facebook announced it’s new search tool called Graph Search for locating information on people, places, interests, photos, music, restaurants, and more. 

Graph Search is still in beta, so you have to sign up in Facebook to get on the waiting list to use it. 

But Facebook is throwing down the gauntlet to Google by using natural language queries to search by just asking the question in plain language like: “my friends that like Rocky” and up comes those smart ladies and gents. 

But Graph Search is not just a challenge to Google, but to other social media tools and recommendation engines like Yelp and Foursquare, and even LinkedIn, which is now widely used for corporate recruiting. 

Graph Search uses the Bing search engine and it’s secret sauce according to CNN is that is culls information from over 1 billion Facebook accounts, 24 billion photos, and 1 trillion connections–so there is an enormous and growing database to pull from. 

So while the average Facebook user has about 190 connections, some people have as many as 5,000 and like the now antiquated business card file or Rolodex, all the people in your social network can provide important opportunities to learn and share. And while in the aggregate six degrees of separation, none of us are too far removed from everyone else anyway, we can still only Graph Search people and content in our network.

Interestingly enough, while Facebook rolls out Graph Search to try to capitalize on its treasure trove personal data and seemingly infinite connections, Bloomberg BusinessWeek (10 January 2013) ran an article called “The Dunbar Number” about how the human brain can only handle up to “150 meaningful relationships.”

Whether hunter-gather clans, military units, corporate divisions, or an individual’s network of family, friends, and colleagues–our brain “has limits” and 150 is it when it comes to substantial real world or virtual relationships–our brains have to process all the facets involved in social interactions from working together against outside “predators” to guarding against “bullies and cheats” from within the network. 

According to Dunbar, digital technologies like the Internet and social media, while enabling people to grow their virtual Rolodex, does not really increase our social relationships in the real meaning of the word. 

So with Graph Search, while you can mine your network for great talent, interesting places to visit, or restaurants to eat at, you are still fundamentally interacting with your core 150 when it comes to sharing the joys and challenges of everyday life. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Autocomplete: Do Zombies (What)?

The autocomplete feature in search engines can tell us a lot about what people are thinking and asking about.

According to the New York Times (21 November 2012) “sites like Google and Bing are showing the precise questions that are most frequently asked.”

Autocomplete suggests the rest of your search term based on the most popular things that others have asked for, so it speeds up your search selection by anticipating what you are looking for and by reducing spelling errors in your search terms.


Another advantage to seeing popular searches is to understand what the larger population is thinking about and looking for–this gives us insight into culture, norms, values, and issues of the time.

I did a simple google search of “do zombies” and as you can see the most popular searches are about whether zombies: poop, exist, sleep, “really exist,” and have brains. 

Even more disappointing than people asking whether zombies really exist is that the #1 search on zombies is about whether they poop–what does that say about our lagging educational system?

I would at least have imagined that the preppers–those infatuated with the end of the world and with preparation for survival–would at least be searching for terms like:

Do zombies…

pose a real threat to human survival?

have (certain) vulnerabilities?

ever die?

have feelings?

have children?

beat vampires (or vice versa)?

I suppose autocomplete is good at crowdsourcing search terms of what others are thinking about, but it is only as good as those doing the ultimate searching–our collection intelligence at work. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

From Adventure Photography to Lifelogging

Felix Baumgartner jumped from a helium-filled balloon lifted space capsule, one week ago today, to set a skydiving record from 24 miles up and reaching the speed of 834 miles per hour.

On Felix’s helmet was a GoPro video camera to capture this memorable event.

GoPro is the leader in wearable, waterproof, shockproof videocameras and has an especially strong market in action and extreme sports.

Their newest helmet-mounted camera is the HD HERO3 (available 17 October 2012), and it continues the significant trend to ever smaller, lighter, and more powerful cameras technology.

I like this video they put out showing the high resolution and exciting video taken while doing activities from surfing to mountain climbing, deep sea diving, flying, kayaking, and more.

I have a feeling that these cameras are going to make a leap from capturing adventure photography to being used for lifelogging and lifejournaling–where people capture major life events on a wearable camera, and in some extreme cases–they try to capture virtually their whole life!

As someone who has blogged now, thank G-d, for 5 1/4 years, I greatly value the ability to capture important events, share, and potentially influence–and lifelogging with discrete, wearable camera technology can take this even further. 

Of course, with this technology, we need the ability to search, discover, and access the truly memorable moment–those that are meaningful to you and can have a deep and lasting impact on others–and let’s face it, despite the rise of Reality TV, most of life is not quite a Kardashian moment. 😉

It sort of reminds me of the Wendy’s commercial, where the old lady asks from a fictitious competitor, “where’s the beef?” With lifelogging, blogging, or other capture and sharing technologies, the beef had better be there (people’s time is valuable)!

There are billions of people to reach–capture, reflect, share…in writing and with pictures–then truly, “The pen is mightier than the sword.”

I’ll Take The Stairs

Elevator_outage

Woke up this morning to the elevator being out of service–again (and this was the sign that was up)!

Thank G-d our automobiles and airplanes aren’t as unreliable (generally).

Anyway, I didn’t mind walking a little more, and I got a chuckle out of this sign.

Of course, less funny this morning was news of Microsoft’s $6.2 billion! dollar writedown on their Internet division.

For a long time, Microsoft has been waiting for the elevator to pick them up and take them to virtual heaven, but instead everyday they try to buy (e.g. aQuantive for $6.3 billion all cash in 2007) their way there, and they end up in a place a lot hotter and nastier.

Microsoft can still make a comeback, but it’s past time for them to unleash their creative juices again.

What type of name is Bing (bing-bong) for a search engine, anyway? 😉

It’s Not iStuff, It’s Your iFuture

Kids_learning_computers

There is an editorial in the Wall Street Journal (11 May 2012) called “Make It a Summer Without iStuff.”

It is written by David Gelernter, Professor of Computer Science at the prestigious Yale University and I was much dismayed to read it.

With all due respect, Gelernter makes the case–and a poor one at that–for keeping kids away from technology.

He calls technology devices and the Internet, “the perfect anti-concentration weapon…turning a child’s life into a comedy of interruptions.”

Gelernter states pejoratively that the “whole point of modern iToys…is not doing anything except turning into a click vegetable.”

Moreover, Gelernter goes too far treating technology and the Internet as a waste of time, toys, and even as dangerous vices–“like liquor, fast cars, and sleeping pills“–that must be kept away from children.

Further, Gelernter indiscriminately calls en masse “children with computers…little digital Henry VIIIs,” throwing temper tantrums when their problems cannot be solved by technology.

While I agree with Gelernter that at the extreme, technology can be used to as a escape from real, everyday life–such as for people who make their primary interaction with others through social networking or for those who sit virtually round-the-clock playing video games.

And when technology is treated as a surrogate for real life experiences and problem solving, rather than a robust tool for us to live fuller lives, then it becomes an enabler for a much diminished, faux life and possibly even a pure addiction.

However, Gelernter misses the best that technology has to offer our children–in terms of working smarter in everything we do.

No longer is education a matter of memorizing textbooks and spitting back facts on exams in a purely academic fashion, but now being smart is knowing where to find answers quickly–how to search, access, and analyze information and apply it to real world problems.

Information technology and communications are enablers for us do more with less–and kids growing up as computer natives provide the best chance for all of us to innovate and stay competitive globally.

Rather then helping our nation bridge the digital divide and increase access to the latest technologies and advance our children’s familiarity with all things science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), Gelernter wants to throw us back in time to the per-digital age.

With the ever rapid pace with which technology is evolving, Gelernter’s abolishing technology for children needlessly sets them back in their technology prowess and acumen, while others around the world are pressing aggressively ahead.

Gelernter may want his kids to be computer illiterate, but I want mine to be computer proficient.

iStuff are not toys, they are not inherently dangerous vices, and they are not a waste of our children’s time, they are their future–if we only teach and encourage them to use the technology well, balanced, and for the good.

(Source Photo: here with attribution to “Extra Ketchup,” Michael Surran)

The Internet Lives

While the Internet, with all its information, is constantly changing with updates and new information, what is great to know is that it is being preserved and archived, so present and future generations can “travel back” and see what it looked liked at earlier points in time and have access to the wealth of information contained in it.
This is what the Internet Archive does–this non-profit organization functions as the Library of the Internet. It is building a “permanent access for researchers, historians, scholars, people with disabilities, and the general public to historical collections that exist in digital format.”

In the Internet Archive you will find “texts, audio, moving images, and software as well as archived web pages” going back to 1996 until today.

I tested the Archive’s Wayback Machine with my site The Total CIO and was able to see how it looked like back on October 24, 2010.

It is wonderful to see our digital records being preserved by the Internet Archive, just like our paper records are preserved in archives such as The Library of Congress, which is considered “the world’s most comprehensive record of human creativity and knowledge”), The National Archives, which preserves government and historical records, and The National Security Archive, a research institute and library at The George Washington University that “collects and publishes declassified documents through the Freedom of Information Act…[on] topics pertaining to national security, foreign, intelligence, and economic policies of the United States.”

The Internet Archive is located in San Francisco (and my understanding is that there is a backup site in Egypt).

The Internet Archive is created using spider programs that crawl the publicly available pages of the Internet and then copy and store data, which is indexed 3 dimensionally to allow browsing over multiple periods of times.

The Archive now contains roughly 2 petabytes of information, and is growing by 20 terabytes per month. According to The Archive, the data is stored on hundreds (by my count it should be about 2,000) of slightly modified x86 machines running on Linux O/S with each storing approximately a terabyte of data.

According to the FAQs, it does take some time for web pages to show up–somewhere between 6 months and 2 years, because of the process to index and transfer to long-term storage, and hopefully the process will get faster, but in my opinion, having an organized collection and archiving of the Internet is well worth the wait.

Ultimately, the Internet Archive may someday be (or be part of) the Time Capsule of human knowledge and experience that helps us survive human or natural disaster by providing the means to reconstitute the human race itself.

(Source Photo: here)

Google+ And A History of Social Media

Ten_commandments

Bloomberg Business (25-31 July 2011) tells in biblical terms the history of social media leading up to the recent release of Google+:

 

In the beginning, there was Friendster; which captivated the web’ites before it was smitten by slow servers and exiled to the Far East. And then a man called Hoffman begat LinkedIn, saying “This name shall comfort professionals who want to post their resumes online,” and Wall Street did idolize it. And then Myspace lived for two thousand and five hundred days and worshipped flashy ads and was subsumed by News Corp., which the L-rd hath cursed. And Facebook emerged from the land of Harvard and forsook the flashy ads for smaller ones and welcomes vast multitudes of the peoples of the world. And it was good.”

 

With the “genesis” of Google+, there is now a new contender in virtual land with a way to share posts, pictures, videos, etc. with limited groups–or circles of friends–and an advance in privacy features has been made.

 

According to the article, even Mark Zuckerberg and some 60 other Facebook employees have signed up for Google+.

 

With all this confusion brewing in social media land, one wonders exactly why Randi Zuckerberg (Mark’s sister) recently headed for the exits–a better offer from Google? 🙂

 

Google+ has many nice features, especially in terms of integration with everything else Google.  On one hand, this is a plus in terms of potential simplicity and user-centricity, but on the other hand it can be more than a little obtrusive and scary as it can \link and share everything from from your profile, contacts, pictures (Picasa), videos (YouTube), voice calls (Google Voice), geolocation (Google Maps), Internet searches, and more.

 

Google owns a lot of Internet properties and this enables them to bundle solutions for the end-user.  The question to me is will something as basic as Circles for grouping friends really help keep what’s private, private. 

 

It seems like we are putting a lot of information eggs in the Google basket, and while they seem to have been a force for good so far, we need to ensure that remains the case and that our privacy is held sacred.

 

(Source Photo, With All Due Respect To G-d: here)

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