24 Jan

Kickstarter – Standing Up To The Experts by Orlando Wood

In a small room in Austin, Texas, a group of fifteen people are single-handedly deciding what is taught to the next generation of American children. The highly politicized fifteen-member Texas State Board of Education is currently going through the once-in-a-decade process of rewriting the teaching and textbook standards for its nearly 5 million schoolchildren. And when it comes to textbooks, what happens in Texas affects the whole nation.

Texas is the nation’s largest textbook market. Unlike other states, that allow their districts to pick and choose what books they buy, Texas buys them centrally – making Texas unbelievably influential on the standards that Textbook publishers use as a basis for their textbooks. Over the last 10 years, the textbook from this board found its way in upwards of 65% of American classrooms.

Over the course of the current review, the board has been focusing on infusing the school curriculum with broader conservative and religious themes. In Science, there has been an insistence on questioning the theory of evolution. And during the review of the history standards, the more conservative members have attempted to define the United States as a Christian nation goverened by Christian principles , and emphasize "American Exceptionalism," the notion that America is special and destined to lead the world.

Simply put, our goal is to shed light on this important issue and the key players in this process — we will explain their goals, explore the scope of their influence, and delve into the personal motivations behind their actions. We’ve been invited into their homes and have held intimate interviews with each of the members of the board and key decision makers and campaigners close to the issue.

via Kickstarter – Standing Up To The Experts by Orlando Wood. They’ve already reached their goal and then some but this looks like an awesome project.

24 Jan

Speckyboy Design Magazine – Beginner’s Study Guide to HTML5 Microformats

For years the web has been a static development block for housing information. It hasn’t been up until recently that micro-format designs have been released into the semantic web. These allow developers to contextually describe page elements for better representation of what the information holds.

Most of the tips below are useful for those still building their introduction into HTML microformats. Some are more common than others but the concept of contextual-based attributes isn’t a difficult one to grasp. Basic knowledge of HTML is all that’s required to work with microformats.

via Speckyboy Design Magazine – Beginner’s Study Guide to HTML5 Microformats. Microformats are one of those cool ideas that never seem to really take off, no matter how useful they would be.

24 Jan

Alexander Limi – Mythbusting: Why Firefox 4 won’t score 100 on Acid3

Every once in a while — especially around the time of an upcoming new release — people argue that Firefox isn’t standards compliant, since it doesn’t score 100 on this test, but has been scoring 97 for quite a while, and will probably never implement what’s required to reach a score of 100.

via Alexander Limi – Mythbusting: Why Firefox 4 won’t score 100 on Acid3. Interesting stuff, though admittedly this is inside baseball stuff even for me.

24 Jan

NYTimes.com – Bush White House Broke Elections Law, Report Says

The Bush White House, particularly before the 2006 midterm elections, routinely violated a federal law that prohibits use of federal tax dollars to pay for political activities by creating a “political boiler room” that coordinated Republican campaign activities nationwide, a report issued Monday by an independent federal agency concludes.

The report by the Office of Special Counsel finds that the Bush administration’s Office of Political Affairs — overseen by Karl Rove — served almost as an extension of the Republican National Committee, developing a “target list” of Congressional races, organizing dozens of briefings for political appointees to press them to work for party candidates, and sending cabinet officials out to help these campaigns.

via NYTimes.com – Bush White House Broke Elections Law, Report Says. Wonder if Karl Rove is going to get asked on Fox News how this happened and what happens if charges are actually filed against him or the person who made the decisions to do this?

24 Jan

The Invisible – How the iPhone mail app decides when to show you new mail

That is, if you are less than three messages down into your inbox, you’ll be returned to the top when you get a new email. Any more than this and you’ll stay where you are. Send yourself an email and try it.

This is serious attention to detail. It’s not something people will show off to each other on the bus, or something that you can put on an advert or trumpet on a feature list. It just makes the app a bit quieter and a bit more well behaved. The addition of this extra detail has made the app less visible than if the detail wasn’t there. Lovely.

via The Invisible – How the iPhone mail app decides when to show you new mail. Do you even need to know that this was done by Apple to know only Apple cares that much to work on this?

24 Jan

Cosmic Variance – Scientists Aren’t Always Complete Idiots

Nobody is harder on scientific theories than scientists are. That’s what we do. You don’t become a successful scientist by licking the metaphorical boots of Einstein or Darwin or Newton; you hit the jackpot by pushing them off their pedestals. Every one of us would love to discover that all of our best theories are wrong, either by doing an astonishing experiment or coming up with an unexpectedly clever theory. The reason why we have the right to put some degree of confidence in well-established models is that such a model must have survived decades of impolite prodding and skeptical critiques by hundreds of experts.

via Cosmic Variance – Scientists Aren’t Always Complete Idiots. Something that I notice that non-scientists seem to make as an assumption about scientists is that it’s this static idea, ideas are rarely challenged and the big shots are always right and never assumed to be wrong. In a conversation with a friend, who’s getting her Master’s in Mathematics, one of the professors at the university is working on disproving her doctoral thesis. This is one of the greatest things about science it never assumes itself to be 100% accurate or correct. However that doesn’t mean that there isn’t consensus on issues that given the current knowledge the current theory is correct and valid simply because it’s always open to be attacked or disproven.

24 Jan

The Atlantic – The Inside Story of How Facebook Responded to Tunisian Hacks

After more than ten days of intensive investigation and study, Facebook’s security team realized something very, very bad was going on. The country’s Internet service providers were running a malicious piece of code that was recording users’ login information when they went to sites like Facebook.

By January 5, it was clear that an entire country’s worth of passwords were in the process of being stolen right in the midst of the greatest political upheaval in two decades. Sullivan and his team decided they needed a country-level solution — and fast.

Though Sullivan said Facebook has encountered a wide variety of security problems and been involved in various political situations, they’d never seen anything like what was happening in Tunisia.
“We’ve had to deal with ISPs in the past who have tried to filter or block our site,” Sullivan said. “In this case, we were confronted by ISPs that were doing something unprecedented in that they were being very active in their attempts to intercept user information.”

If you need a parable for the potential and pitfalls of a social-media enabled revolution, this is it: the very tool that people are using for their activism becomes the very means by which their identities could be compromised. When the details are filled in on the abstractions of Clay Shirky and Evgeny Morozov’s work on the promise (former) and danger (latter) of Internet activism, the ground truth seems to be that both had their visions play out simultaneously.

The Atlantic – The Inside Story of How Facebook Responded to Tunisian Hacks. I’m not sure what’s more shocking, that a country wide keylogger was in use, or that Facebook took these actions to defend their users and freedom of speech.

22 Jan

Chris Jean – Git Submodules: Adding, Using, Removing, Updating

I’ve spent a little more than a month working with Git now. I can honestly say that while there are many things that I like about Git, there are just as many things that I personally find to be a pain in the butt.

Submodules specifically have managed to be a thorn in my side on many occasions. While the concept of submodules is simple, figuring out how to actually work with them can be a chore. I say “figuring out” because not everything about working with submodules is well documented. I’ll cover two of the more difficult things to figure out: removing and updating submodules from your repository.

via Chris Jean – Git Submodules: Adding, Using, Removing, Updating. Git submodules is an incredibly cool feature, it’s a great solution to including code from other projects in your project.

22 Jan

Rands In Repose – Managing Nerds

In front of you is The Problem. While I don’t know what The Problem is, I do know that you have a bright team of talented nerds working for you, and I know that you don’t have a clue how to tackle The Problem: you need the nerds and you don’t know where to start. The Problem is unique in that your normal leadership moves aren’t going to work. You can already predict the collective nerd reaction and it’s the opposite of what you need to happen.

Rather than attacking this Problem directly, let’s turn it around and explore the inner workings of your nerd’s mental landscape for inspired next steps.

via Rands In Repose – Managing Nerds. How does one go about managing nerds.