If Not Muni Networks, Then What?

The case against allowing states to ban municipal broadband.

[F]or under-served communities, watching gigabit speeds reach places such as Austin, Tex. — an area already flowing over with tech business — is a little like watching the circus train pass through town but never stop.

Terrific blog by my colleague Carol Wilson.

If Not Muni Networks, Then What?.

Mike Elgan: The Last Social Blogging Guide You Will Ever Need

Mike Elgan shares essential advice.

Mike and I have a fundamental disagreement on how to use blogging and social media. He blogs on a third-party platform he does not control, Google+. I did this myself until recently, but in April I started blogging here. I want to build something long-term, and I don’t have faith Google+ is around for the long term.

I have not abandoned social media. Far from it. I use Google+ and other social media for publicity and discussion. I check social media a couple of times a day.

Publicity is a bit of a dirty word, because people do spammy things for publicity. But all I’m talking about here is using social to notify people that I’ve got a new blog post up, when I have their permission to do so. Every single one of these people is someone who has implicitly asked to be informed by virtue of having followed me on social media.

Don’t want to be informed about my updates? Unfollow me. I won’t mind — not even if we’re coworkers, friends, or even family. With one exception, none of my family follows me closely on social. And that’s OK. Being active on social media is like being an avid model railroader — a perfectly lovely hobby but not everybody who stops by the house should be dragged into the basement every time they visit to watch the electric train set go round and round.

Julie does follow me closely but I try to remember to remind her a couple of times a year that she doesn’t need to feel obligated to do so by virtue of our being married. It wasn’t in the vows.

But I digress.

The essential part of Mike’s advice is sound: Use social blogging to let people know what you’re doing, what you think, and what you feel. Social blogging is not for denouncing people who disagree with your politics, or for sharing things other people created.

Mike is a purist on the sharing — he often shares other people’s content but he always has his own take on it. I’m a bit more lax; I’ll share other people’s content if I think it’s noteworthy. But really I’m more and more coming to think that sharing personal experience, thoughts, and feelings is the best way to blog.

As for politics: Five or 10 years ago I was more active sharing about politics, because I felt like Someone Should Speak Out. Now, plenty of people are Speaking Out. It’s all gotten to be noise. I’m reminded of a friend who is a very religious Christian. Christians have an obligation to witness their faith to convert others. My friend said the televangelists had so poisoned that well that speaking directly about Christianity just drives people away. Instead, he lets it be known he is a Christian and witnesses by example of living his own life.

Similarly, people denouncing other people’s politics has gotten to be an annoying noise. Mostly I don’t say anything nowadays. If I feel strongly about something — like just this morning — I speak out. Mostly I just shut up. Did some state Senator I’ve never heard of in a state I’ve never visited say something stupid and offensive? Happens every week. Price of republican democracy — you end up electing a certain percentage of idiots. And maybe the guy isn’t really an idiot anyway — everybody puts their foot in their mouth now and again.

More often, when I talk about politics, it’s about the game. When I say I think Hillary Clinton is a shoo-in for the Presidency in 2016, it’s not because I support her or oppose her. It’s just how I assess the race. (By the way, that’s something I would have said a few months ago but not now.)

The biggest mistake you can make on blogging and social media is trying to rack up numbers for the sake of racking them up. 100 valuable followers is better than 1,000 disengaged ones. And anybody who buys followers ought to have their credit cards taken away from them because they have demonstrated a complete inability to spend money intelligently.

The Last Social Blogging Guide You Will Ever Need.

By the way, did you see what I did here? Rather than just sharing a link to Mike’s article, I shared my own thoughts about it too.

The hypocrisy of criticizing Israel

”NATO bombed 5,000 civilians in Kosovo just because it was insulted; 27,000 Iraqi civilians were bombed during the American invasion because they posed a danger to the US; there is not a country in the world that can talk to us about morality.”

— Knesset Member Yisrael Hasson

Via ‘If European Countries Fail To Protect Their Jews, The State of Israel Will’, which notes the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe, including crowds marching and shouting, “Death to Jews.”

The death of Palestinian civilians is horrifying and I’m not going to make excuses for it. But this is what war is. It’s not Rambo jumping out of a swamp or John Wayne striding out of the jungle. It’s children being killed by bombs. It’s what happens when America goes to war, when Russia does, when Ukrainians do, in Syria and Libya. It’s all the same thing.

Fage or Chobani?

Me: Chobani.  I can’t taste a difference and the two-container packaging for Fage is just too precious and annoying. I just want to eat yogurt. I don’t want to assemble it.

You?

Why you don’t remember much that happened before you were seven years old

Small children do form memories, but they go through a phenomenon called “childhood amnesia” when they’re older. The reason is a complicated mix of biology, psychology, and culture.

I’m the youngest by far of five children. My mother was 35 when she conceived me in 1951, so chagrined by this chronological indiscretion that she tried to hide the pregnancy from her sister. My mortified oldest brother didn’t want to tell his high-school friends that a new baby was on the way, but it was a small town. Word spread.

My mother’s age and my late arrival in the family felt burdensome to me too, especially when I started school in 1957 and met my classmates’ mothers. They were still having babies! Still piling their children into cars and heading off to picnics at the river or hikes into the lava-capped, wild flower-rampant plateau outside town. They still had to mediate hair-pulling and toy-snatching. But by the time I started first grade, my siblings were gone, the oldest three to college and the youngest to a residential school four hours away, and we went from a very noisy household to a very quiet one.

My family has told me stories about those years before everything changed. How my oldest brother nicknamed me ‘Ubangi’ because my hair grew in tight fat curls close to my head. How my other brother liked to ambush me around corners with a toy crocodile because it never failed to make me shriek in terror. How my oldest sister carried me around like a kangaroo with her joey. But I can offer very few stories of my own from those early years.

Where do children’s earliest memories go?

My family lived in Brooklyn from when I was 1 or 2 years old until I was eight years old. I have vivid memories of the last two or so years of that time. They were formative years for me. I remember it happily, with friends on the same block within walking distance, and adults looking out for everybody. It was very different from suburban Long Island, where I spent the remainder of my childhood, all my teen years, and the first couple of years of my adulthood.

My brothers, a few years younger than me, don’t remember living in Brooklyn at all.

Facial recognition and other imaging AI will tear new holes in privacy

These advances have huge implications for our privacy, since we now document our lives with so many pictures. Facebook alone already has over 200 billion photos. So far this hasn’t had a massive impact on privacy because there’s been no good way to search and analyze those pictures, but advances in image recognition are changing all that. It’s now possible to not only reliably spot you in photos, but also tell what you’re doing. Creating an algorithm to spot common objects, whether they’re bikes or bongs, is now so easy. Imagine all your photos being processed into a data profile for advertisers or law enforcement, showing how much you party, who you’re with, and which demonstrations you attended.

You might think this is science fiction, but the mayor of Peoria managed to justify a raid on the apartment of a critic by citing a Twitter photo appearing to depict cocaine. Police departments across the country monitor YouTube videos that gang members upload of themselves threatening rivals and posing with guns. Right now, this is done manually, but it could be taken much further with easy-to-use object recognition software.

All of us have become used to uploading photos and videos safe in the knowledge that we have privacy through obscurity, but as data-mining images becomes easy, they could come back to haunt us.

Advances in Artificial Intelligence Will Let Software Extract Personal Data from Our Online Photos

Even if you delete your Facebook account, or never had one, Facebook can still find out a lot about you.

Twitter looks to get value from drive-bys

There’s a confusing mismatch between headline and content on this story. But if I’m reading it right, Twitter is looking to figure out how to get value from the legions of people who see Twitter without logging in.

“[E]ven if a person is not a regular user of Twitter, they likely have seen a tweet scroll on a news channel or embedded in an online story.

It’s this type of reach that makes Twitter so appealing, though its prospects for advertising are tougher to crack.

Second Life tried to offer a similar value proposition. “In-world” concerts could only be seen by a couple of dozen people, but then the musician could post the concert video to YouTube for a wide audience. Obviously, this value didn’t drive Second Life into meteoric growth but (1) That doesn’t mean it’s a bad strategy and (2) Second Life is still standing — rumors of its failure have been greatly exaggerated.

Hard-learned business lessons from an iPhone/iPad app developer

” … paid-up-front app sales are not a sustainable way to make money on the App Store.”

A Candid Look at Unread's First Year

Jared Sinclair worked hard on the Unread RSS reader, got high-profile positive reviews, and yet his take-home pay for the first year was a mere $1,750/mo.

I think there are lessons here for indie-published writers as well.

My self-published short fiction flopped spectacularly from a sales perspective. I think it was because I failed to market them. I’ll know better next time, and spend a significant amount of time writing blog posts and lining up reviews before I publish.

An archivist argues for archiving software, with a shout-out to George R.R. Martin

Researchers in April recovered Earthrise images from a 1966 Lunar Orbiter, after nearly 50 years in dormant tape storage.

Two days later, Carnegie Mellon researchers identified and retrieved graphics created by Andy Warhol on an Amiga 1000 PC in 1985. The “group forensically imaged floppy diskettes at the Andy Warhol Museum. After some elaborate intermediary steps, including reverse engineering the proprietary format in which the files were originally created and stored, the previously unseen images were released to the public.”

Archivists often talk about the need for preserving old applications, so that old documents can be read. But Matthew Kirschenbaum goes further, saying the software should be preserved for its own sake.

Software__It’s_a_Thing_—_Medium

Consider the case of George R.R. Martin and WordStar. A month after the Earthrise/Warhol recoveries, Martin told Conan O’Brien that he writes on WordStar on MS-DOS using a machine that isn’t connected to the Internet.

Martin dubbed this his “secret weapon” and suggested the lack of distraction (and isolation from the threat of computer viruses, which he apparently regards as more rapacious than any dragon’s fire) accounts for his long-running productivity.

WordStar has an honorable history:

Writers who cut their teeth on it include names as diverse as Michael Chabon, Ralph Ellison, William F. Buckley, and Anne Rice (who also equipped her vampire Lestat with the software when it came time for him to write his own eldritch memoirs). WordStar was justifiably advertised as early as 1978 as a What You See Is What You Get word processor, a marketing claim that would be echoed by Microsoft when Word was launched in 1983. WordStar’s real virtues, though, are not captured by its feature list alone. As Ralph Ellison scholar Adam Bradley observes in his work on Ellison’s use of the program, “WordStar’s interface is modelled on the longhand method of composition rather than on the typewriter.” A power user like Ellison or George R.R. Martin who has internalized the keyboard commands would navigate and edit a document as seamlessly as picking up a pencil to mark any part of the page.

And yet people branded Martin as a Luddite on social media.

Kirschenbaum writes that it’s “fascinating” that people view WordStar 4.0 as a key to its user’s personality — in this case, Martin’s.

The software, in other words, becomes an indexical measure of the famous author, the old-school command-line intricacy of its interface somehow in keeping with Martin’s quirky public image, part paternalistic grandfather and part Dr. Who character. We know, that is most of us of a certain age remember, just enough about WordStar to make Martin’s mention of it compelling and captivating.

Software, It’s a Thing

Minnie has decided a leash is mighty delicious

We watch TV and read on the sofa in the evenings, and Minnie joins us, either lying between us or on the floor. It’s all very domestic and cozy.

She loves to work on an antler or Nylabone, or shred a big knot of rope (they call it a “monkeyfist” — great name).

Minnie has got a hell of a set of jaws on her. I often watch the muscles of her jaws when she works. She could shred a Sherman tank.


Krypto1st“. Via Wikipedia.

One of the things she loves to chew on is the end of her leash. We keep her leashed in the living room to limit her ability to chase after the cats or otherwise get into mischief. We keep a leash attached to the big, heavy coffee table. And she chewed through that leash. It took her a while, but she finally finished the job on Friday. So we dug out one of our other leashes, one that none of us likes for walking her, and we attached that to the coffee table.

That leash proved pretty puny. She made it through that in less than a night.

Sunday I made an emergency Petco run, and bought her another leash. This was a big-ass sturdy thing that looked like you could use it to restrain an angry rhino. Minnie managed to get halfway through that in a single night.

I ordered another leash from Amazon. It’s basically a 6′ length of steel cable with a hook on one end and a handle on the other. It’s due to arrive Wednesday. I hope the current leash hangs on until then. And that Minnie isn’t, in fact, Superdog and able to chew through a steel cable.

Fortunately, Minnie has not gone to work on the main leash I use to walk her. The only time I use that leash is when we’re out and about. She mostly keeps her teeth off that — although she does have the occasional bad habit of trying to play tug-of-war with it, which we discourage.

Confessions of a ghostwriter

Not that kind of ghost

Often, battles over the money pale into insignificance next to the titanic clash of egos involved in taking on another’s voice and character.Some ghosts, who generally speak on conditions of anonymity, report that the subject they approach with utter dread is the fragile personality with pretensions to authorship.

Who, after all, is not vulnerable to the tug of amour-propre? The ghost, who starts out as a hybrid of therapist, muse and friend, enters a psychological minefield. Accordingly, the ghost is advised never to forget that, at the end of the day, he or she ranks somewhere between a valet and a cleaner.

I recall, some years ago, a female pop star attending a book trade prize-giving for which her ghosted bestselling memoir had been shortlisted. Before this honour, she boasted she hadn’t even opened, still less actually read, the book that bore her name. When she duly won, she left her ghost at the table and graciously collected her prize, all smiles, modesty and gratitude, the model author. When she returned to her publisher’s table, the woman who had actually written the book reached out, instinctively, to touch the trophy. Bad move. The star snatched it back, clouting her ghost across the cheek to remind her who was boss. When you pay the piper, you call the tune.

Bestselling ghostwriter reveals the secret world of the author for hire

Notwithstanding the preceding anecdote, ghostwriting sounds like a great gig.

The Max Planck Institute has a working holodeck

It’s a big room fitted with sensors. The user wears a head-mounted display which projects a virtual reality image. Sensors in the room tracks the user’s location in 3D space, while showing the user a realtime image of a virtual-reality landscape that the user can move through.

The simulation uses a kind of trompe-l’œil trick to make the space seem larger than the room itself. (You might say the holodeck is bigger on the inside, if you want to mix your Star Trek with Doctor Who.) The simulation might show a street with a very slight curve in it, imperceptible to the user, who thinks he’s walking in a very long straight line.

Via New World Notes — thanks, James!