A little over a year ago I joined Facebook as a Product Manager. I work with the Pages, Location, and Events teams. After a decade of being the founder of three different companies, this has been a year of change for me. Along the way I’ve piled up a supply of stories (and lessons learned) I somehow feel compelled to document — but the reality is I'm crap at journaling. I just need to start where the story is fresh and close at hand.
Today that means it's easiest to talk about Gowalla, a startup at least a handful of you are familiar with. We built a few amazing things. We also had our fair share of disappointments. Of course, you might surmise that our disappointments ended up outnumbering our amazing things. I won't argue with that. It's part of the game we play in Startup Land, fighting against the gravity that's always working to pull our ideas brutally back to the ground.
I would like to believe that these stories aren't just applicable to startup life, but to product creation in general. But since I'm no longer running my own company, I've gotta believe that, right?
In the first weeks of 2000 the founders of Napster were in their office above a bank in San Mateo, California, considering dizzying numbers. Figures scrawled on a whiteboard told how many people around the world had installed their file-sharing application and were using it to download music from each other's computers. As recounted inDownloaded – a documentary soon to premiere at the SXSW film festival, telling the story of a piece of software that came and went and whipped up a new digital music industry in its slip – Napster had 20 million users at the time. Some way from San Mateo, in suburban London I had just become one myself ...
... I was part of the web-straddling generation. The internet, when it came in our teens, was welcome, exciting and fathomable, but it changed things briskly and sometimes bewilderingly. Music was something you bought after protracted debate with friends in the aisles of Our Price, and then, suddenly, songs were accessible from home. They didn't cost anything. We were wilfully blinkered, probably, on the exact details of this last point.
App.net, the project that emerged from founder Dalton Caldwell’s desire to build a social platform that wasn’t driven by advertising, is adding its first free option today.
Given Caldwell’s emphasis on creating a product that people are actually willing to pay for, this might seem like a step backwards, or one of those infamous startup “pivots.” However, Caldwell told me that this actually isn’t a change of plans, and to back that up he pointed to his initial blog post announcing the project back in July. The post didn’t explicitly say that that there are going to be both paid and free tiers, but the two positive examples of non-advertising companies that Caldwell cited are Dropbox and particularly GitHub, which both offer free services and then charge for additional features.
As for why he’s launching the free tier now, Caldwell said that he wanted to be careful about growth.
The short version is that a sender must pay to send mail, while a recipient can set the price. Of course, this notion provokes angst: What happens to poor but worthy people? What about friends? Won’t it be confusingly complex? The answer is twofold. First, the recipient can decide what to charge, and set different prices (or no price at all) for different people or categories, and can even forgive the charges retroactively. Second, there will be services to handle it all for you. The basic service sets a single price, but higher-end services offer (and charge for) as much complexity as anyone could want. Or, if you want to avoid making a lot of decisions, you could select from a set of defaults. (And if you eschew commercializing your time, you could give the money to a charity.)
But the main question is why anyone should pay to send e-mail when they can do so for free. Isn’t it unfair to cut off access?
In the end, people are paying to get someone’s attention. You can go on sending free e-mail, but if you want to get the attention of certain busy people, you pay. Isn’t that more democratic than having to join a club or undergo an interview with their assistant to meet them?
With no way to serve us an actual steak, the Food Network rebranded itself in desperate search of sizzle. The hyperactive appetite of television — for youth, for spark, for drama more genetically modified than a tomato in December — is far more demanding than any mere gastronome. And so the TV part of the equation began to outweigh the food. Legit cooks like Mario Batali and Michael Chiarello also went out the door. The rise of the hubris-devouring succubus that is The Next Food Network Star — and the long-term cheap replacement labor it provided — meant that their expertise was expendable, easily sacrificed on the altar of accessibility. Cooking isn't all that difficult, but cooking well absolutely is. And so the second generation of Food Network shows focused on making everything as easy as humanly possible, an interchangeable cavalcade of shortcuts and time-savers and "healthy alternatives," an endless slate of chipper idiots demonstrating idiotproof ways to successfully make sandwiches. The rest of the schedule was given over to a series of increasingly ludicrous competitions: The honorable Japanese Iron Chef begat a tarnished American version. Cupcake Battles escalated into Halloween Wars. Newer shows promised to reveal — and humiliate — the Worst Cooks in America. There's the even more execrable Rachael vs. Guy Celebrity Cook-Off,which revels in subhuman incompetence.
The angst and ire of teenagers is finding new, sometimes dangerous expression online—precipitating threats, fights, and a scourge of harrassment that parents and schools feel powerless to stop. The inside story of how experts at Facebook, computer scientists at MIT, and even members of the hacker collective Anonymous are hunting for solutions to an increasingly tricky problem.
But I walked away convinced that this wasn’t just one of Google’s weird flights of fancy. The more I used Glass the more it made sense to me; the more I wanted it. If the team had told me I could sign up to have my current glasses augmented with Glass technology, I would have put pen to paper (and money in their hands) right then and there. And it’s that kind of stuff that will make the difference between this being a niche device for geeks and a product that everyone wants to experience.
After a few hours with Glass, I’ve decided that the question is no longer ‘if,’ but ‘when?’
The MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America), chiefly known as the beneficent agency responsible for rating films and fighting film piracy, has never exactly been popular among filmmakers, film critics, filmgoers, or, basically anyone who enjoys film. Its rating system has been criticized as inconsistent, reactionary, pedantic, secretive, and irrelevant. Roger Ebert, among others, has repeatedly attacked the association’s tendency of “sidestepping ethical judgments by falling back on the technicalities of its guidelines.”
We will not debate the merit or accuracy of the MPAA’s ratings today. Instead, we will let them stand alone in their utterly insane and idiotic glory.
Since the early 90s, the gravely pious agency has not only determined a film’s rating (R, PG-13, G, etc.), but provided a short explanation of what caused it to earn its particular assignation. These MPAA descriptions are unintentionally funny for a variety of reasons. For starters, there is an almost schizophrenic discrepancy amongst them, as the MPAA seemingly never quite decided whether they wanted to make their descriptions of adult content exactingly specific or more broadly generalized. As a result, they sound kind of ridiculous doing either: they are funny when they are excessively detailed (i.e., 1995’s The Skateboard Kid II is “Rated PG for brief mild language and an adolescent punch in the nose”) and they are funny when they are cryptically vague (2010’s At Jesus’ Side is “Rated PG for some menace”).
Four Canadian film students were assigned a project: Create a YouTube hoax video that gets 100,000 views. They got nearly 42 million instead. Here’s the definitive behind-the-meme look at how — and why — their homework snowballed into one of the most popular and rapidly spread videos ever.
A feature film that includes explicit scenes of gay male sex has been banned by the Classification Board. I Want Your Love, written and directed by young American filmmaker Travis Mathews, was due to screen at queer film festivals around Australia.
Mathews recently collaborated with actor James Franco onInterior: Leather Bar, an official selection at Sundance this year. It was a re-engagement with the controversial 1980 Hollywood movie Cruising, which starred Al Pacino.
Festival films are granted exemptions from the classification process. Festivals provide synopses of the works they are screening; the board can then ask to see individual films.
Melbourne Queer Film Festival director Lisa Daniel says that in her 15 years at the festival, I Want Your Love is the first film that has been refused an exemption. It has been seen in many festivals around the world, and its distributors have told her this is the first time it has been banned. Mathews is a well-known filmmaker, and the decision is an embarrassment for Australia, she says.
Once upon a time -- March 29, 1989, to be exact -- a 22-year-old aspiring actress named Eileen Bowman thought that all her dreams were about to come true. She was very wrong.
By all accounts, a global debut on ABC's telecast of the 61st Academy Awards should have been an auspicious launching pad. Instead, playing Snow White alongsideRob Lowe in a musical debacle, she instantly found a place in Oscar infamy.
The original Die Hard was based on a 1979 novel by Roderick Thorp. He'd seen The Towering Inferno, and then the story came to him in a dream: German terrorists, led by one Anton "Little Tony" Gruber, seize the L.A. headquarters of the Klaxon Oil Corporation and run afoul of retired New York cop Joe Leland, whose daughter is among the hostages. The novel was called Nothing Lasts Forever; the persistence of theDie Hard franchise suggests an alternative viewpoint. "How can the same shit happen to the same guy twice?" wondered Bruce Willis's Detective John McClane, way back in 1990'sDie Hard 2: Die Harder. If only he'd known.
Tumblr actually became huge because it is the anti-blog. What is the No. 1 reason that people quit blogging? Because they can’t find and develop an audience. This has been true of every blogging platform ever made. Conversely, blogs that do find an audience tend to keep adding that type of content. This simple philosophy boils down to the equation: Mo’ pageviews = mo’ pages.
But Tumblr does not conform to this calculus, and the reason is that a large percentage of Tumblr users actually don’t WANT an audience. They do not want to be found, except by a few close friends who they explicitly share one of their tumblogs with. Therefore Tumblr’s notoriously weak search functionality is A-OK with most of its user base.
Tumblr provides its users with the oldest privacy-control strategy on the Internet: security through obscurity and multiple pseudonymity. Its users prefer a coarse-grained scheme they can easily understand over a sophisticated fine-grained privacy control — such as Facebook provides — that requires a lot of time and patience. To quote Sweet Brown, Ain’t nobody got time for that.
Tumblr proves that the issue is less about public vs. private and more about whether you are findable and identifiable by people who actually know you in real life.
Netflix’s “House of Cards” made TV history, simply by being referred to as a TV show. The Kevin Spacey political drama has catapulted binge-watching from a TV junkie’s obsession to a major form of normal TV consuming. Traditional TV critics were forced to cover this show differently. The Six Stages of “House of Cards” Griefreplaced the weekly episodic review. After all the hoopla around the midnight, entire season launch, was House of Cards actually a success? Netflix says yes, but isn’t revealing the numbers. Social TV on the other hand paints a very clear picture.
The first independent film to gross more than $200 million, Pulp Fiction was a shot of adrenaline to Hollywood’s heart, reviving John Travolta’s career, making stars of Samuel L. Jackson and Uma Thurman, and turning Bob and Harvey Weinstein into giants. How did Quentin Tarantino, a high-school dropout and former video-store clerk, change the face of modern cinema? Mark Seal takes the director, his producers, and his cast back in time, to 1993.
Joseph Hall, an abused and neglected 10-year-old, was convicted last month of murdering his father, a neo-Nazi leader. His sentencing is scheduled for this week — but who do you punish when a child becomes a cold-blooded killer?
I hit the pause button roughly one-third of the way through the first episode of “House of Cards,” the political drama premiering on Netflix Feb. 1. By doing so, I created what is known in the world of Big Data as an “event” — a discrete action that could be logged, recorded and analyzed. Every single day, Netflix, by far the largest provider of commercial streaming video programming in the United States, registers hundreds of millions of such events. As a consequence, the company knows more about our viewing habits than many of us realize. Netflix doesn’t know merely what we’re watching, but when, where and with what kind of device we’re watching. It keeps a record of every time we pause the action — or rewind, or fast-forward — and how many of us abandon a show entirely after watching for a few minutes.
Netflix might not know exactly why I personally hit the pause button — I was checking on my sick son, home from school with the flu — but if enough people pause or rewind or fast-forward at the same place during the same show, the data crunchers can start to make some inferences. Perhaps the action slowed down too much to hold viewer interest — bored now! — or maybe the plot became too convoluted. Or maybe that sex scene was just so hot it had to be watched again. If enough of us never end up restarting the show after taking a break, the inference could be even stronger: maybe the show just sucked.
The cinematic success of Les Miserables will herald the rejuvenation of musical theatre as quickly as it was written off in the first place. And all the times before that.
Many will argue there hasn’t been a good musical written since Les Mispremiered on the West End in 1985. Or none better, at least. But the imminent death of the form is always greatly exaggerated.
That the two creative (and increasingly uneconomical) hubs of musical theatre — New York and London — are entirely geared towards family tourist dollars, with endless revivals, jukebox shows and more bankable movie adaptations, has been the case for some time. Now it seems we’re at the end of an era, waiting patiently for someone to come along and reinvent the musical.
Years later, after Andre Thomas had been convicted of killing his estranged wife, his 4-year-old son and her 13-month-old daughter in the most bizarre case in Grayson County history, after he had received a death sentence and been told that it would be imposed at the appropriate future time, after he had been dispatched to Texas' death row to wait his turn with the other condemned men and women, the prosecutors were still talking about "the eyeball issue."
And the most-read link I tweeted this weekend was:
The Sweetheart is 147 years old. But not all of its cute little sayings have enjoyed quite the same sesquicentennial longevity. The folks from NECCO, the confectionery company that sells 4 million pounds of their traditional heart-shaped candies in the 6 weeks before Valentine's Day, sent me the full list of their most notable retired sayings.
OH YOU KID
MY, SUCH EYES
TELL ME HOW
YOU ARE LATE
YOU ARE GAY
This year's batch includes: UR HOT, TEXT ME, and LOML [that's: Love of My Life].
Amazingly, NECCO told me that they once toyed with a saying like PUCKER UP. But the industrial machine had a habit of printing Ps that looked a little to much like Fs. So, yeah. That was one Sweetheart that didn't make it to market.
Quentin Tarantino and violence go together like elderberry wine and arsenic—they’re made for each other. He’s certainly not the first director to kill off a few characters, and his movies aren’t slasher flicks, where violence is the entire point. Nevertheless, the ratio of body count to body of work is certainly impressive. So, just for fun, let’s appreciate the sheer numerical accomplishment of Tarantino’s mass cinematic bloodbath: in eight films, 560 people die on-screen.
Something about cyclists seems to provoke fury in other road users. If you doubt this, try a search for the word "cyclist" on Twitter. As I write this one of the latest tweets is this: "Had enough of cyclists today! Just wanna ram them with my car." This kind of sentiment would get people locked up if directed against an ethic minority or religion, but it seems to be fair game, in many people's minds, when directed against cyclists. Why all the rage?
I've got a theory, of course. It's not because cyclists are annoying. It isn't even because we have a selective memory for that one stand-out annoying cyclist over the hundreds of boring, non-annoying ones (although that probably is a factor). No, my theory is that motorists hate cyclists because they think they offend the moral order.
Pope Benedict XVI stunned the world today by announcing his resignation from the papacy, effective Feb. 28. He will be the first pope to step down since Gregory XII in 1415. His resignation raises several questions that the Explainer will endeavor to answer—even though the near-unprecedented nature of Benedict’s decision means that in several cases, we’ll just have to wait and see.
For the first time, the Navy SEAL who killed Osama bin Laden tells his story — speaking not just about the raid and the three shots that changed history, but about the personal aftermath for himself and his family. And the startling failure of the United States government to help its most experienced and skilled warriors carry on with their lives.
Can you go to college on your computer? Some say yes, and others respond with a resounding no. But one thing is for sure: there is a boatload of public money to be vacuumed off an overcrowded, underfunded educational establishment desperate for at least the appearance of a quick fix.
Enter Udacity, the foremost provider of Massively Open Online Courses, or MOOCs. Does what's above look like college to you? Or rather, is this how college should look now?
House of Cards stars Kevin Spacey, and is a remake of a British TV show of the same name — a look at the seedy underside of politics and the people who work in it. So far, critics have been praising the show, which debuted on Netflix on 1 February.
Because it's a Netflix production, the video-on-demand service is both the creator and distribution platform. It's allowed the company to do some interesting things, such as release the entire run of the first 13 episodes all in one go.
But it does create a conundrum for Australians (and anyone else outside of the US, Canada, Latin America, the UK, Sweden, Finland and Norway): when do we get to see this apparent masterpiece?
The grainy CCTV footage of toddler James Bulger being led away to his death by two older boys has been seared into the memory of all who saw it. Now, 20 years after the two-year-old's murder, Jane Cornwell returns to Liverpool to see how some of those affected – not to mention the reputation of an already much-maligned city – have fared.
When the Ben and Jerry's ice cream company kills a flavor, it's treated with respect — including a burial in the company's "Flavor Graveyard."
"I think we've got the best, and the not-best, up here," Sean Greenwood, Ben and Jerry's Grand Poobah of Publicity, says from the cemetery in Waterbury, Vt.
"Flavors like Wild Maine Blueberry. It's been decades since we made this flavor, but we used to have the trucks back up here with truckloads of blueberries," he says, "and everyone would pitch in and unload the blueberries, and make it while the blueberries were fresh."
Fitness companies are increasingly getting into the music business. The move comes with the waning impact of traditional radio on the music-buying public, and the rise of boutique exercise classes, particularly yoga, Zumba and indoor cycling.
Fitness entrepreneurs say they are investing hours in training instructors to create compelling playlists that will help generate loyal student followings—and online buzz. Music labels are pitching their emerging talent to instructors and cutting deals with fitness chains. And exercise businesses are trying to cut licensing deals with music companies in order to package and sell workout songs in much the same way that film and television executives do with soundtracks.
Just in case you still haven’t read your December issue of Urology, here’s the best piece of advice you’ll get today: Don’t drink and shave your pubes. You’re welcome.
A new study from the University of California-San Diego reveals that “Emergency room visits due to pubic hair grooming mishaps,” including oh my God no no noooo“lacerations,” increased fivefold between 2002 and 2010, sending an impressive 11,704 pube-scapers to the E.R. The culprits? Scissors and hot wax did some of the damage, but plain-old non-electric-razors accounted for the lion’s share, at 83 percent. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be under my desk, rocking slowly back and forth and crying as I think about this.
The study also revealed that below-the-belt grooming isn’t just for adult ladies anymore – men accounted for 43.3 percent of the injuries, and almost 30 percent of them were girls under the age of 18. To avoid becoming yet another harrowing grooming gone bad statistic, the researchers advise hair removal aficionados to “Pay attention to where you’re placing that razor. Invest in a non-slip bath mat. And don’t shave while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.” Yeah, don’t do that. For the love of God don’t do that.
And the most-read link I tweeted over the weekend was:
Never before has the pressure to perform on high-stakes tests been so intense or meant so much for a child’s academic future. As more school districts strive for accountability, standardized tests have proliferated. The pressure to do well on achievement tests for college is filtering its way down to lower grades, so that even third graders feel as if they are on trial. Students get the message that class work isn’t what counts, and that the standardized exam is the truer measure. Sure, you did your homework and wrote a great history report — but this test is going to find out how smart you really are. Critics argue that all this test-taking is churning out sleep-deprived, overworked, miserable children.
But some children actually do better under competitive, stressful circumstances. Why can Jacob thrive under pressure, while it undoes Noah? And how should that difference inform the way we think about high-stakes testing? An emerging field of research — and a pioneering study from Taiwan — has begun to offer some clues. Like any kind of human behavior, our response to competitive pressure is derived from a complex set of factors — how we were raised, our skills and experience, the hormones that we marinated in as fetuses. There is also a genetic component: One particular gene, referred to as the COMT gene, could to a large degree explain why one child is more prone to be a worrier, while another may be unflappable, or in the memorable phrasing of David Goldman, a geneticist at the National Institutes of Health, more of a warrior.
Understanding their propensity to become stressed and how to deal with it can help children compete. Stress turns out to be far more complicated than we’ve assumed, and far more under our control than we imagine.
Don’t let the name fool you. Coca-Cola’s (KO) Simply Orange juice is anything but pick, squeeze, and pour. That cold glass of 100 percent liquid sunshine on the breakfast table is the product of a sophisticated industrial juice complex. Satellite imagery, complicated data algorithms, even a juice pipeline are all part of the recipe. “You take Mother Nature and standardize it,” says Jim Horrisberger, director of procurement at Coke’s huge Auburndale (Fla.) juice packaging plant. “Mother Nature doesn’t like to be standardized.”
Earlier today I had what I like to think of as my own Rosa Parks moment on a Sydney bus travelling through the inner-west from Marrickville to Stanmore.
It culminated in a woman, in the presence of her two school-aged kids, calling me a "black c***". She told me to go back to my "own country", and threatened to drag me off the bus as she raised her fist to my face.
The entire encounter lasted about 15 minutes, and is one of the most confronting instances of abuse I have experienced recently.
I am absolutely sure this episode isn't unique or even rare.
The coin of the realm in today’s techno-visual culture is the GIF, a file that supports brief animations repeating endlessly. GIFs had a moment of particular resonance last summer, when extraordinary displays of athleticism from the Olympics were converted from full video into short loops, recurring endlessly, devoid of meaning aside from the aesthetic. Then came the presidential election, with its loops of the candidates at their most ill-at-ease; and after the Academy Awards, reaction shots of every unsuccessful nominee will probably appear. For its power to reveal through repetition, the GIF has became a medium unto itself. The Oxford English Dictionary named “GIF” the 2012 word of the year.
This is the legacy of Edward Muybridge, an English-born, late nineteenth-century photography pioneer famous for his study of a horse in motion. You’ve probably seen it at some point: a jerky film of the animal running. Muybridge devised the image to help settle the question of whether the four feet of a horse ever rise off the ground at the same time while trotting. (They do.) He went on to document all manner of motion, ending his career with often openly sexual nudes. Trotting horses and black-and-white bodies may seem far from the varied nature of contemporary photography and film. But moving images stripped of narrative context—a medium Muybridge mastered more than a century ago—are the visual currency of the moment. Muybridge broke down motion in order to help his contemporaries understand it; today we break down motion to understand a little more about the ephemeral details of life.
There is one place that isn’t filled to the brim with pornography: the App Store. Apple’s policies for what is and isn’t allowed into its app marketplace have created a nanny state of software, where anything resembling pornography is banned and anything that could even show pornography, like a Web browser, is slapped with a 17+ rating and has to display an “[App name here] contains age-restricted material” warning. You know, for the children.
But how much of a difference does adding an “age-restricted material” warning make to someone who is, say, 16? Clicking or tapping on “OK” no matter what a modal window says and lying about your age are two of the first things you learn when you start using technology. A whole bunch of early teens and even pre-teens can install the app no matter how many warnings Apple puts in front of their eyeballs. The only difference is that Apple gets to say that it’s doing everything it can to create a family-friendly experience — and can point at other operating systems as ignoring those values.
Karen Gregory is an adjuct professor at CUNY, and the syllabus for her introduction to labor studies course includes a section on what being an adjunct means, means, exactly. Her full explanation is below, but to start, here’s a fact from Inside Higher Ed: If an adjunct teaches four courses per semester, they will make “$21,600 annually, compared to starting tenure-track salaries that average $66,000, according to data from the American Association of University Professors.” Highlights from Gregory’s syllabus:
• “CUNY presently employs 6,541 full-time faculty, counselors, and librarians. Despite record breaking enrollment, that is 4,512 fewer of such positions that it provided in 1972.”
• “Adjuncts are not regular members of the faculty; we are paid an hourly rate for time spent in the classroom. We are not paid to advise students, grade papers, or prepare materials or lectures for class. We are paid for one office hour per week for all of the classes we teach. We are not paid to communicate with students outside of class or write letters of recommendation. Out of dedication to our students, adjuncts regularly perform such tasks, but it is essentially volunteer labor.”
• “To ensure that we remain conscious of the adjunctification of CUNY, we ask that you do not call us ‘Professor.’ We are hired as adjunct lecturers and it is important that you remember that. You deserve to be taught by properly compensated professors whose full attention is to teaching and scholarship.”
Want to send a letter to Talkeetna, Alaska, from New York? It will cost you fifty dollars by UPS. Grabenhorst or Lipscomb can do it for less than two quarters: the same as the cost of getting a letter from Gold Hill to Shady Cove, Oregon, twenty miles up the road. It's how the postal service works: The many short-distance deliveries down the block or across the city pay for the longer ones across the country. From the moment Benjamin Franklin was appointed the first postmaster general in 1775, the purpose of the post office has always been to bind the nation together. It was a way of unifying thirteen disparate colonies so that the abolitionist in Philadelphia had access to the same information and newspapers as the slaveholder in Augusta, Georgia.
Today the postal service has a network that stretches across America: 461 distribution centers, 32,000 post offices, and 213,000 vehicles, the largest civilian fleet in the world. Trucks carrying mail log 1.2 billion miles a year. The postal service handles almost half of the entire planet's mail. It can physically connect any American to any other American in 3.7 million square miles of territory in a few days, often overnight: a vast lattice of veins and arteries and capillaries designed to circulate the American lifeblood of commerce and information and human contact.
The comedy team of Monty Python–which gave the world five years of BBC television as well as five movies–is reuniting for a new film. Their newest creation will be a science fiction film. The Pythons will be playing aliens who grant wishes to humans, just to see what happens.
Well, not all Pythons. Eric Idle has yet to climb aboard this crazy train, and Graham Chapman died in 1989. But John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, and Michael Palin are all in, as is Terry Jones, who will be directing.
Robin Williams will be joining them in a role as a talking dog. That’s right: Robin Williams and Monty Python.
Sifting through these updates, it seems that, in spite of the state of free speech in their countries, many of these authoritarian leaders possess relatively uncensored social media personas — more so than American politicians with armies of staffers to work online documentation.
A decade-plus of anthropological fieldwork among hackers and like-minded geeks has led me to the firm conviction that these people are building one of the most vibrant civil liberties movements we’ve ever seen. It is a culture committed to freeing information, insisting on privacy, and fighting censorship, which in turn propels wide-ranging political activity. In the last year alone, hackers have been behind some of the most powerful political currents out there.
Medications like Adderall can markedly improve the lives of children and others with the disorder. But the tunnel-like focus the medicines provide has led growing numbers of teenagers and young adults to fake symptoms to obtain steady prescriptions for highly addictive medications that carry serious psychological dangers. These efforts are facilitated by a segment of doctors who skip established diagnostic procedures, renew prescriptions reflexively and spend too little time with patients to accurately monitor side effects.
When Time magazine selected the British artist Banksy—graffiti master, painter, activist, filmmaker and all-purpose provocateur—for its list of the world’s 100 most influential people in 2010, he found himself in the company of Barack Obama, Steve Jobs and Lady Gaga. He supplied a picture of himself with a paper bag (recyclable, naturally) over his head. Most of his fans don’t really want to know who he is (and have loudly protested Fleet Street attempts to unmask him). But they do want to follow his upward trajectory from the outlaw spraying—or, as the argot has it, “bombing”—walls in Bristol, England, during the 1990s to the artist whose work commands hundreds of thousands of dollars in the auction houses of Britain and America. Today, he has bombed cities from Vienna to San Francisco, Barcelona to Paris and Detroit. And he has moved from graffiti on gritty urban walls to paint on canvas, conceptual sculpture and even film, with the guileful documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop, which was nominated for an Academy Award.
Pest Control, the tongue-in-cheek-titled organization set up by the artist to authenticate the real Banksy artwork, also protects him from prying outsiders. Hiding behind a paper bag, or, more commonly, e-mail, Banksy relentlessly controls his own narrative. His last face-to-face interview took place in 2003.
While he may shelter behind a concealed identity, he advocates a direct connection between an artist and his constituency. “There’s a whole new audience out there, and it’s never been easier to sell [one’s art],” Banksy has maintained. “You don’t have to go to college, drag ’round a portfolio, mail off transparencies to snooty galleries or sleep with someone powerful, all you need now is a few ideas and a broadband connection. This is the first time the essentially bourgeois world of art has belonged to the people. We need to make it count.”
When Vine launched last week, a new format for looped media was born. While visual loops have been in existence for centuries, they have arguably enjoyed special attention over the last hundred years. In this essay I want to consider the purpose and power of the loop. I also intend to propose that the reign of the loop is greatly empowered by digital media, and that today loops have enriched culture while offering new perspectives on the nature of reality.
Australia’s two most recent Attorneys-General distinguished themselves during their tenure by demonstrating a complete lack of understanding of the dynamics of the modern Internet; seeking to monitor, control and contain it at all costs. Now they’ve both announced plans to quit politics. Will our next chief lawmaker do any better?
Over the past two weeks I have been on holiday, so there haven't been any Daily Twitter Links blog posts. However, I have still been tweeting. These are some of the other things I've been tweeting about over the past few weeks:
This evening I fly to Europe for a much-needed holiday. While I am sure that I won't be able to stop myself from occasionally tweeting links, I will not be posting any Daily Twitter Links until I return to Brisbane on Sunday 4 February 2013.
These are some of the other things I've been tweeting about this weekend:
Ordinarily I don’t discuss legal issues relating to fictional settings that are dramatically different from the real world in terms of their legal system. Thus, Star Wars, Star Trek, Tolkien’s Middle Earth, etc. are usually off-limits because we can’t meaningfully apply real-world law to them. But the contract featured in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was just too good a topic to pass up, especially since you can buy a high-quality replica of it that is over 5 feet long unfolded.
First, it seems fairly clear (to me, anyway) that Tolkien wrote the Shire (where hobbits live) as a close analog to pastoral England, with its similar legal and political structures. For example, the Shire has amayor and sheriffs, and there is a system of inheritance similar to the common law. The common law fundamentals of contract law have not changed significantly since the time that the Shire is meant to evoke, so it makes sense that the contract would be broadly similar to a modern contract (and likewise that we could apply modern contract law to it).
For seven seasons, 30 Rock has shown that a sitcom about the entertainment industry isn't all inside baseball. It's truly absurd in a way that workplace comedies on network TV rarely are, with running jokes about werewolf bar mitzvahs and a cast of freaks that make it all that more humanizing. Tina Fey's TV magnum opus has seen its ups and downs plot-wise, but one thing that has stayed consistent – and perhaps even improved – are one-liners so distractingly funny, they steal scenes. In honor of 30 Rock's series finale on January 31st (and our new cover story), we reveal the show's 20 best one-liners.
This is what happened to graphic designer Karena Colquhoun – and she's not alone in feeling robbed.
A story last week about the duping of a Newcastle artist's photo, without permission, onto thousands of T-shirts to be sold at menswear giant Lowes, prompted emails from dozens of angry artists with similar stories.
They reported having their images stolen from the internet without their permission and placed, sometimes with small modifications, on T-shirts, websites, cigarette cases, stickers, phone covers, posters promoting nightclubs, CD album covers and even hardcover books.
But fighting copyright infringements was fraught with difficulty, they said: offenders often pleaded ignorance, refused to compensate them and wouldn't pull the infringing content.
They said those that were contrite offered very little compensation – unless sued.
Here is what we know about Manti Te'o: He is an exceptional football player. He's a projected first-round NFL pick. He finished second in the Heisman voting, and he won a haul of other trophies: the Walter Camp, the Chuck Bednarik, the Butkus, the Bronko Nagurski. In each of his three seasons as a full-time starter, he racked up at least 100 tackles.
We also know that Te'o is a devout Mormon. When asked why he picked Notre Dame over Southern California, the school he had supported while growing up in Hawaii, he said he prayed on it. "Faith," he told ESPN, "is believing in something that you most likely can't see, but you believe to be true. You feel in your heart, and in your soul, that it's true, but you still take that leap."
We know, further, that Te'o adores his family. Te'o's father said that Manti had revered his grandfather, who died in January 2012, since the day he was born. He ran his sister's post-graduation luau. And he loved his late maternal grandmother, Annette Santiago. (Here's her obituary.)
But that's where the definite ends. From here, the rest of Te'o's public story begins to grade into fantasy, in the tradition of so much of Notre Dame's mythmaking and with the help of a compliant press.
Assembling a timeline of the Kekua-Te'o relationship is difficult. As Te'o's celebrity swelled, so did the pile of inspirational stories about his triumph over loss. Each ensuing story seemed to add yet another wrinkle to the narrative, and details ran athwart one another.
For years now, Facebook watchers have wondered when the company would unleash the potential of its underpowered search bar. (Nobody has feared this day more than Google, which suddenly faces a competitor able to index tons of data that Google’s own search engine can’t access.) They have also wondered how a Facebook search product might work. Now we know. Graph Search is fundamentally different from web search. Instead of a Google-like effort to help users find answers from a stitched-together corpus of all the world’s information, Facebook is helping them tap its vast, monolithic database to make better use of their “social graph,” the term Zuckerberg uses to describe the network of one’s relationships with friends, acquaintances, favorite celebrities, and preferred brands.
IT is for Americans and their elected representatives to determine the right response to President Obama’s proposals on gun control. I wouldn’t presume to lecture Americans on the subject. I can, however, describe what I, as prime minister of Australia, did to curb gun violence following a horrific massacre 17 years ago in the hope that it will contribute constructively to the debate in the United States.
And the most-read link I tweeted yesterday and today was:
Women in their 20s these days are lucky to get a last-minute text to tag along. Raised in the age of so-called “hookup culture,” millennials — who are reaching an age where they are starting to think about settling down — are subverting the rules of courtship.
Instead of dinner-and-a-movie, which seems as obsolete as a rotary phone, they rendezvous over phone texts, Facebook posts, instant messages and other “non-dates” that are leaving a generation confused about how to land a boyfriend or girlfriend.
“The new date is ‘hanging out,’ ” said Denise Hewett, 24, an associate television producer in Manhattan, who is currently developing a show about this frustrating new romantic landscape. As one male friend recently told her: “I don’t like to take girls out. I like to have them join in on what I’m doing — going to an event, a concert.”
In fifty years, if not much sooner, half of the roughly 4,500 colleges and universities now operating in the United States will have ceased to exist. The technology driving this change is already at work, and nothing can stop it. The future looks like this: Access to college-level education will be free for everyone; the residential college campus will become largely obsolete; tens of thousands of professors will lose their jobs; the bachelor’s degree will become increasingly irrelevant; and ten years from now Harvard will enroll ten million students.
Defenders of the prosecution seem to think that anyone charged with a felony must somehow deserve punishment. That idea can only be sustained without actual exposure to the legal system. Yes, most of the time prosecutors do chase actual wrongdoers, but today our criminal laws are so expansive that most people of any vigor and spirit can be found to violate them in some way. Basically, under American law, anyone interesting is a felon. The prosecutors, not the law, decide who deserves punishment.
Today, prosecutors feel they have license to treat leakers of information like crime lords or terrorists. In an age when our frontiers are digital, the criminal system threatens something intangible but incredibly valuable. It threatens youthful vigor, difference in outlook, the freedom to break some rules and not be condemned or ruined for the rest of your life. Swartz was a passionate eccentric who could have been one of the great innovators and creators of our future. Now we will never know.
I can't stop thinking about the iPad Mini. I really, really want to, but I can't. Every time I use my iPhone for something, I wish the screen was twice the size. I think the smartphone might be doomed. A one-hand tablet and a smart watch would be so much better.
The smartphone, specifically the 3.5-inch touchscreen phone, was the form factor that changed everything. But now that we're used to touch and voice interfaces and mobile software, we're getting more demanding. We want easy access to the Web and our apps all the time, wherever we are.
Apple was right to halt work on the iPad to finish the iPhone first. We needed to start small to learn to use touch software and hardware. It worked; the rate of smartphone adoption was astronomical, and the rate of tablet adoption has been even faster. We get it now. The mobile applications we use most — messaging, reading, navigation, gaming — can be even better on a larger screen.
The 10-inch tablet was necessary to show that some people don't need a mouse-and-keyboard interface for anything. But tablets of that size are not really mobile devices. They're too heavy to be used one-handed, too big for reading in portrait view, ridiculous for photography, and so on. Full size tablets taught us to use tablet apps, but they were still an incremental step.
JOURNALISTS may be restricted from live tweeting or blogging from inside courtrooms in NSW under proposed laws banning the use of smartphones and other devices to ''transmit information that forms part of the proceedings of a court''.
A bill before the NSW Parliament, introduced by the Attorney-General, Greg Smith, makes tweeting, blogging or publishing to a website proceedings from within a courtroom an offence punishable by a fine of up to $2200 and a year in jail.
While the bill empowers judicial officers to make exceptions, Mr Smith has thrown open for public discussion the question of whether media should be exempted.
In a recent study, a team of researchers from the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication and several other institutions employed a survey of 1,183 Americans to get at the negative consequences of vituperative online comments for the public understanding of science. Participants were asked to read a blog post containing a balanced discussion of the risks and benefits of nanotechnology (which is already all around us and supports a$91 billion US industry). The text of the post was the same for all participants, but the tone of the comments varied. Sometimes, they were "civil"—e.g., no name calling or flaming. But sometimes they were more like this: "If you don’t see the benefits of using nanotechnology in these products, you're an idiot."
Driving home during the holidays, I found myself trapped in the permanent traffic jam on I-95 near Bridgeport, Conn. In the back seat, my son was screaming. All around, drivers had the menaced, lifeless expressions that people get when they see cars lined up to the horizon. It was enough to make me wish for congestion pricing — a tax paid by drivers to enter crowded areas at peak times. After all, it costs drivers about $16 to enter central London during working hours. A few years ago, it nearly caught on in New York. And on that drive home, I would have happily paid whatever it cost to persuade some other drivers that it wasn’t worth it for them to be on the road.
Instead, we all suffered. Each car added an uncharged burden to every other person. In fact, everyone on the road was doing all sorts of harm to society without paying the cost. I drove about 150 miles that day and emitted, according to E.P.A. data, about 140 pounds of carbon dioxide. My very presence also increased (albeit infinitesimally) the likelihood of a traffic accident, further dependence on foreign oil and the proliferation of urban sprawl. According to an influential study by the I.M.F. economist Ian Parry, my hours on the road cost society around $10. Add up all the cars in all the traffic jams across the country, and it’s clear that drivers are costing hundreds of billions of dollars a year that we don’t pay for.
This is how economists think, anyway. And that’s why a majority of them support some form of Pigovian tax, named after Alfred Pigou, the early-20th-century British economist.
The past year hasn’t been kind to the Church of Scientology. Katie Holmes divorced Tom Cruise. A Vanity Fair cover story that revealed the Scientology-run “audition” process to be Cruise’s wife included an interview with one of Cruise’s original candidates who was forced, she claims, to scrub toilets with a toothbrush as punishment. Meanwhile, Scientologist John Travolta was hit with several lawsuits (albeit unrelated to the Church) that spawned endless Internet speculation. Behind those sensational headlines, details of an organization whose secrecy long has been guarded began to seep out with detractors using the Internet to expose the Church’s sacred documents and allege wrongdoing. Now, Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Lawrence Wright, who profiled ex-Scientologist Paul Haggis for The New Yorker in 2011, delves fullon into the history and inner workings of the Church of Scientology in his book Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief.
Lindsay Lohan moves through the Chateau Marmont as if she owns the place, but in a debtor-prison kind of way. She’ll soon owe the hotel $46,000. Heads turn subtly as she slinks toward a table to meet a young producer and an old director. The actress’s mother, Dina Lohan, sits at the next table. Mom sweeps blond hair behind her ear and tries to eavesdrop. A few tables away, a distinguished-looking middle-aged man patiently waits for the actress. He has a stack of presents for her.
These are some of the other things I've been tweeting about today:
This blog speaks freely about law, politics and the internet. While the focus is on Australia, developments in other nations around the world are considered as well.
The title of this blog is inspired by the Opinion of the US Supreme Court in Board of Education v Barnette 319 US 624 (1943):
"But freedom to differ is not limited to things that do not matter much. That would be a mere shadow of freedom. The test of its substance is the right to differ as to things that touch the heart of the existing order."