19 Jan

TED.com – Defend our freedom to share (or why SOPA is a bad idea)

What does a bill like PIPA/SOPA mean to our shareable world? At the TED offices, Clay Shirky delivers a proper manifesto — a call to defend our freedom to create, discuss, link and share, rather than passively consume.

via TED.com – Defend our freedom to share (or why SOPA is a bad idea). Clay Shirky delivers a clear and cogent history and explanation of PIPA/SOPA, walking through both the intent and what the ramifications of the bill and how it changes the entire legal system under which websites operate. Shirky also makes the very real point that even if PIPA and SOPA are killed (as appears increasingly likely) a bill similar to them will be back.

11 Jan

Gigantt Blog – The GitHub Job Interview

That’s why I’m advocating the GitHub job interview. Open-Source projects are a fantastic way to collaborate with people you don’t know too well. And GitHub in particular, with its ease of forking and pull-requests is just the best (and biggest) platform for open-source collaboration.

Here’s what you do. You come up with a cool idea of an open-source project. This becomes your company’s development sandbox. Candidates are asked to then contribute to the project in some way. You want to see them code? Ask them to develop a module. You want to see them tackle a bug? Ask them to choose one from the bug-list. This works for every aspect of development work. You can design features together. You can gauge their communication skills. You can see how well they handle reviews. You can ask them to document their work and see how well they can write. But above all, you’re not taking advantage of anyone, and true developers probably won’t mind investing time into an open-source effort. 

Choose your GitHub project wisely. It should be something relatively fun. It ought to use the same technology stack your company uses. And it should be relatively simple to grasp, because the point is not to be investing too much time training people you’re not yet hiring.

via Gigantt Blog – The GitHub Job Interview. This sounds like a really solid way to do a job interview.

05 Jan

The Contactually Blog – E-mail is the Universal Platform

We believe that e-mail is the universal communication medium. It is the best way to reach anyone, anywhere, for whatever reason. Your e-mail account stores the greatest knowledge repository outside of your brain – who you’re talking to, about what, when. Regardless of the communication medium you may use primarily in an individual relationship, any meaningful communication touches your inbox at some point.

via The Contactually Blog – E-mail is the Universal Platform. I don’t put much stock in stories that say e-mail is dead for precisely this reason. It’s hard to replace e-mail with another tool that has so many advantages.

10 Nov

American Civil Liberties Union – It Was Close, But We Won: Viva Net Neutrality!

Today in the Senate there was a major win for freedom of speech and the Internet. In a largely partisan vote Senate Democrats defeated a resolution introduced by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) which would have overturned the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) open Internet rules that are set to go into effect this month.

Though the FCC’s rules are not great, they do offer some protections for net neutrality on the wired Internet and overturning them would have been a huge setback for free speech on the web. During debate on the Senate floor yesterday supporters of the resolution railed against government regulation while opponents defended the rules saying they were necessary to maintain the openness and innovation that has allowed the Internet to thrive.

via American Civil Liberties Union – It Was Close, But We Won: Viva Net Neutrality!. Yeah for Net Neutrality, boo for my State Senator being the one who introduced this resolution.

05 Oct

NYTimes.com – Bank of America Explains Web Site Problems

After nearly a week of interruptions and slowdowns that made its Web site inaccessible at times, Bank of America said Wednesday the problems stemmed from a combination of heavy traffic along with the rollout of a new computer system.

With nearly 30 million online banking customers and the nation’s busiest bank Web site, the failures spurred consumer anger, with account holders in some cases unable to pay bills electronically or check their balances.

“Our priority is delivering the speed and functionality our customers expect,” said David Owen, senior vice president and head of online and mobile banking for Bank of America. “We take this very seriously, and this has been very disappointing in terms of not meeting those expectations this week.”

While the site seemed to be functioning normally by Wednesday evening, Mr. Owen was not declaring victory. “We’re taking this day by day,” he said.

The problems first cropped up on Friday, a day after the bank, the nation’s largest, announced it would impose a new $5 a month charge for some debit cardholders. But Mr. Owen insisted the problems were not caused by hackers unhappy with the new fee or by efforts to flood the site with traffic as a protest, a strategy called a denial-of-service attack.

via NYTimes.com – Bank of America Explains Web Site Problems. Bank of America, we weren’t hacked instead we are just incompetent.

03 Oct

FeeFighters – FeeFighters Loses BBB Accreditation Over Investigative Blog Post

Ouch. It looks like if you say anything that the BBB deems “aversely affects (their) public image” you’re out. Not much of a fair system.

Since launching that investigative post, we’ve had a lot of resonance with other small businesses who had similar concerns about the BBB. Heed this warning: it seems that any critique of the BBB will result in losing accreditation. For many small businesses, this would be terrible news, as consumers still see the BBB as an moral organization acting with their interests in mind.

via FeeFighters – FeeFighters Loses BBB Accreditation Over Investigative Blog Post. I’ve always felt the Better Business Bureau was a little scammy, nice to know they can’t take criticism as well.

30 Sep

ZDNet – AVOS’ Delicious Disaster: Lessons from a Complete Failure

They changed the site dramatically and gave users no warning to make a contingency plan, then launched the new version with a laundry list of broken tools and an astonishing scroll of things they’re “working on.”

Most people are reporting that the plugins are either broken or not compatible – including the most recent versions made by AVOS. The accrued bookmarks and tags are all still tucked away on Delicious’ site, but can’t be accessed by the plugin at all.

On launch day, the amount of people timing out while trying to log in was sadly impressive. As I write this, I get a 502 when checking the delicious.com link.

The RSS feeds were broken, the password reset was broken, browser extensions are still broken, tag bundles are gone (users put a lot of work into these), search by date is gone and search returns are not chronological, users are now unable to edit their tags…

The functionality of the site is gone. I have to wonder, did anyone at AVOS actually use Delicious?

via ZDNet – AVOS’ Delicious Disaster: Lessons from a Complete Failure. The second (maybe even third) great migration from Delicious is in effect only this time since exporting is broken, people are even more upset.

20 Sep

Online Video News – Netflix’s DVD business: Does Qwikster have a future?

Netflix announced in a blog post Sunday evening that its DVD-by-mail operations would soon be rebranded “Qwikster,” and that the service would be separated from the streaming service that the company has been pushing for the last several years. Doing so clearly grants some independence to the unit, and will help it to operate without dealing with fast-growing streaming business. But it also raises questions about the future viability of a standalone DVD-by-mail operation.

Netflix isn’t completely abandoning the new DVD business — at least, not yet. After all, Qwikster will have the same characteristic red envelope and the same legacy infrastructure and library supporting it. However, it seems clear that Netflix is creating a wall between the two businesses as a way to smartly manage its profits and losses, and to help Wall Street better value the separate operations.

via Online Video News – Netflix’s DVD business: Does Qwikster have a future?. Most people have complained primarly about the price increase Netflix brought about with splitting up it’s DVD and Streaming plans. That’s a side issue, licensing fees for streaming have most likely increased as the popularity and catalog of streamed movies increased.

The thing that bothers me about this decision is it makes a worse experience for those customers who straddle the line (using both the DVD and Streaming plans). All of sudden we have multiple queues, websites, rating systems, etc. One side aspect of this is who gets the core of the team that works on predicting what movie you’ll like after ranking this other movie (Netflix’s real golden goose). Will my rankings on one site generate better results? It also begins to sound like Netflix is planning to sell off it’s DVD side of the business. Never outside the realm of possible options but now it feels like it could happen in the next 6 months and Netflix couldn’t be bothered otherwise.

How long until Qwikster becomes just another forgotten piece of internet real estate?

16 Sep

Ars Technica – Newzbin2 builds block-averting measures into its software

Usenet index Newzbin2 claims to have built software that will defeat court-ordered ISP blocking tactics and allow users to access it as normal.

Following complaints from content companies back in July 2011, BT was forced to implement its child-porn blocking software to stop customers from accessing the website, which aggregates links to copyrighted content. At the time there were fears from charities that by using this technology to combat copyright infringement, it would divert more attention to making it easy to circumvent these blocks.

Those fears turn out to have been justified—it took coders less than two months to defeat the ban. Newzbin Client 1.0.0.127 has been released, which evades BT’s Cleanfeed technology by creating an encrypted session between the client and the Newzbin2 site. It also lets the user access the site through the TOR anonymity network, adding an extra layer of encryption.

via Ars Technica – Newzbin2 builds block-averting measures into its software. Every time someone tries to prevent information from being reached on the Internet someone else finds a way around it.

11 Sep

Fraser Speirs – A Supercomputer in Every Backpack

My youngest daughter, Beth, started school last week. She’s four and a half and has never known a world in which the iPhone did not exist. She has never known a world in which 24×7 connectivity to the Internet was an impossible sci-fi dream. I suppose her starting school led me to reflect on what her school life will be like.

Consider the basic timeline: Beth won’t leave school until the summer of 2025. Assuming we still have universities by then, she’ll be be launched into the world waving her degree from the University of Hyderabad in the summer of 2029.

The question is simple: is there any plausible non-apocalyptic scenario in which technology is less prevalent, less widely distributed and less embedded in our culture in 2029 than it is in 2011? I simply can’t imagine one.

The GSMA predict that there will be 50,000,000,000 connected devices on the planet by the year 2025. Think about that: by the time Beth leaves school, there will be something like seven Internet-connected devices on the planet for every person.

To paraphrase William Gibson, ubiquitous computing is here – it’s just not built into the furniture. We don’t have smart floors or LCD walls, sensor grids in the ceilings or the Internet on our fridge. We are almost all, however, carrying a pocket device that connects at some level to the network. The flood of smartphones only increases their capabilities.

We are already at a point where the ratio of professionals to computers is 1:2. A laptop and a smartphone are standard equipment in our society. With the advent of the tablet, we may be moving towards or beyond three computers per person.

The fact of the matter, though, is that this ubiquity of computing devices is not reflected in most schools.

via Fraser Speirs – A Supercomputer in Every Backpack. Same problem I’ve been thinking about for a long time, our education system is built for the jobs of the past not the jobs of the future.