Could texting help literacy?

 Writing Skills
[Via xkcd:]

texting

He makes an interesting point. With so many people communicating with each other by the written language perhaps higher levels of literacy ill arise.

Because to be a part of the society arising from technology, you have to be able to communicate using words. And communication by words is the most powerful way to communicate.

Sure. there will be a lot of crap. But Sturgeon’s Law predicts that. I guess we shall see.

Trying out Flickr’s new embed feature

French Creek

Flickr now lets you grab some HTML to embed the photos really quickly. This is nice and you can see attribution by hovering above the photo.

So ATT wants to know the porn sites its users are watching in order to provide targeted ads, all while charging outrageous prices for access?

 NewImageby araleius

AT&T wants to treat customers like lab rats; it’s yet another invasion of online privacy
[Via MacDailyNews]

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“What’s one piece of your privacy worth? About a dollar a day, suggests telecom giant AT&T,” Dan Gillmor writes for The Guardian. “The company’s latest internet service offering in Austin, Texas comes in two flavors. The company might as well call them the ‘some privacy’ and ‘no privacy’ services. The cheaper version gives customers a discount in return for being targeted more intrusively than ever by user-specific advertising.”

Gillmor writes, “Let me explain: the company’s Austin experiment is a test to see what a specific market will bear in highly specific conditions. AT&T is offering some Austin neighborhoods its ‘U-verse with GigaPower’ product, which comes in $99 per month “standard” and $70 per month ‘premier’ editions, the latter requiring an agreement to let AT&T ‘use your individual web browsing information, like the search terms you enter and the web pages you visit, to tailor ads and offers to your interests.’”

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What a horrible idea. And the prices are just way out of line. In Japan it is about $34 for these speeds. People in Hong Kong can already get gigabit internet for less than $26 a month! Yet ATT wants to charge $100 if you want any privacy.

That is for 1000 megabits a second. The average in the US is about 5 megabits a second. It is insane.  especially the “elt us see what you are doing so we can make more money off of it” approach. I wonder if ATT would prohibit anyone using aanonymizers such or Tor network?

At least ATT is trying to rip us off with faster internet access. Cable companies are not even doing that much.


Perhaps by making learning easier, Apple leads the way

appleby Stephen A. Wolfe

[Crossposted at SpreadingScience}

The diffusion of iPhones as a learning process
[Via asymco]

All theoretical and empirical diffusion studies agree that an innovation diffuses along a S-shaped trajectory. Indeed, the S-shaped pattern of diffusion appears to be a basic anthropologic phenomenon.

This observation dates as far back as 1895 when the French sociologist Gabriel Tarde first described the process of social change by an imitative “group-think” mechanism and a S-shaped pattern.[1] In 1983 Everett Rogers, developed a more complete four stage model of the innovation decision process consisting of: (1) knowledge, (2) persuasion, (3) decision and implementation, and (4) confirmation.

Consequently, Rogers divided the population of potential adopters according to their adoption date and categorized them in terms of their standard deviation from the mean adoption date. He presented extensive empirical evidence to suggest a symmetric bell shaped curve for the distribution of adopters over time. This curve matches in shape the first derivative of the logistic growth and substitution curve as shown below. Screen Shot 2013-11-06 at 11-6-1.51.57 PM

In the graph above I applied the Rogers adopter characterization to the data we have on the adoption of smartphones in 

[More]

This is a very useful analysis of the way smartphones are diffusing throughout the US. I’ve written about the diffusion of innovation throughout a community many times and it is nice to see that smartphones are following the same curve.

Now, this post makes the point that the speed of adoption entails a learning stage. There have been 5 stages postulated in the personal adoption of something new: Awareness, Interest, Evaluation, Trial and Adoption.

Where someone falls along the adoption curve depends on how fast one moves through each stage. Innovators move very rapidly. The middle takes more time. In fact, they usually get stuck at the evaluation stage. They wait the thought leaders in the early adopter group to help them change.

Notice that the adoption of an innovation is slow until about 16% have made the shift. Then you see explosive and rapid growth, once the early adopters are on board.

So the faster the early adopters can evaluate and learn about the innovation, the faster it will spread. Perhaps by Apple making it easy to learn, especially for the thought leaders , allowed it to rapidly spread throughout a community. 

Other phone makers, whose platform was not as easy to evaluate and learn, suffer from churn as the evaluation process becomes muddy and undirected.

By making the evaluation process easier, Apple makes it more likely that the necessary thought leaders will convince the rest of the community to shift. and see explosive growth.

This explains why the smartphone took off so fast once Apple released the iPhone and why everyone else copied them. The same thing happened with the iPad, while Microsoft had no luck with its tablets for years.

The key step to rapid adoption is not just cool technology. It must be made very easy for the critical early adopters to evaluate. That is Apple’s real innovation.


#CrowdGrant Fully Funded!! “Consider the Facts” meets its goal with a day to spare

Happy face 042

It is true that the last days of a crowdfunding effort are the most amazing. Today has been awesome for Consider the Facts.

We can still take on funding so if you have not yet done so, please.do. Because this is now a successful project. With the help of many.

 I am so excited. Now the real work begins.

Snowden got access to secrets using just what I was afraid up – no security means no internet

nuclear bonbby Imahinasyon Photography

Sysadmin security fail: NSA finds Snowden hijacked officials’ logins
[Via Ars Technica]

The National Security Agency (NSA) is the font of information security wisdom for the US defense and intelligence communities. But apparently, the NSA’s own network security is so weak that a single administrator was able to hijack the credentials of a number of NSA employees with high-level security clearances and use them to download data from the agency’s internal networks. That administrator was Edward Snowden.

Under Department of Defense (DOD) Directive 8500.2, the director of the NSA, Gen. Keith Alexander, is tasked with approving all the cryptographic hardware and software used by the DOD. The NSA also provides “information assurance” and information system security engineering services to DOD branches and agencies. And along with the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the NSA maintains the master guide for DOD information security systems: the Information Assurance Technical Framework (IATF).

But in what appears to be a case of “do as I say, not as I do,” the NSA’s internal IT security schemes allowed Snowden, a contractor sysadmin, to pull off a classic insider attack on the agency. An investigation by NBC found that Snowden had used the digital identities of several upper-level NSA officials to log into NSAnet, the agency’s intranet—giving him access to data far beyond the needs of a lowly system administrator.

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My last post discussed how the internet would be broken if the NSA could any decrypt online communications. One of the things I said this would allow is the gathering of passwords and the ability to ‘look’ like someone else in order to access anything on the Web.Without leaving a trace.

Looks like that is exactly what Snowden did. He broke people’s passwords and then just went where he wanted to to get information. Any of it. Anywhere.

This paragraph is one of the most firghtening I have ever read:

In order to pull this off without raising alarms, Snowden would have needed access to the full credentials of the users whose identities he borrowed. He would have needed to somehow either gain access to the public key infrastructure (PKI) keys found in their user authentication or he would have needed to override multi-factor authentication to gain access to the systems. He also would have needed to avoid detection by audit logs in making those changes (or delete the record of changes after the fact). He managed to do all of these things, download the content, and get it past the NSA’s physical security.

He did to the NSA what the NSA might be able to do to any of us. Gain access to important information by pretending to be us, because they cracked security, and then do whatever, all without leaving a trace.


7 lessons for managing groups in the exponential economy learned from the elections

[Crossposted at SpreadingScience]

monster waveby Jeff Rowley Big Wave Surfer

How Team Obama’s tech efficiency left Romney IT in dust
[Via Ars Technica]

Despite running a campaign with about twice the money and twice the staff of Governor Mitt Romney’s presidential bid, President Barack Obama’s campaign under-spent Romney’s on IT products and services by $14.5 million, putting the money instead into building an internal tech team. Based on an Ars analysis of Federal Election Commission filings, the Obama campaign, all-inclusive, spent $9.3 million on technology services and consulting and under $2 million on internal technology-related payroll.

The bottom line is that the Obama campaign’s emphasis on people over capital and use of open-source tools to develop and operate its sophisticated cloud-based infrastructure ended up actually saving the campaign money. As Scott VanDenPlas, lead DevOps for Obama for America put it in an e-mail interview with Ars, “A lesson which we took to heart from 2008 [was that] operational efficiency is an enormous strategic advantage.”

The Romney campaign spent $23.6 million on outside technology services—most of it on outside “digital media” consulting and data management. It outsourced most of its basic IT operations, while the Obama campaign did the opposite—buying hardware and software licenses, and hiring its own IT department. Just how much emphasis the Obama campaign put on IT is demonstrated by the fact that the campaign’s most highly paid staff member was its CIO, Michael Slaby, with an annualized salary of about $130,000.

[More]

Failures can be as important as successes in an exponential economy. A useful failure can inform more than some successes. The lower barriers that an exponential economy produces means that failure only presents short term costs that can be rapidly dealt with by longer term successes.

That is, a failure does not necessarily doom an effort, if that failure can be rapidly leveraged to get to success. If you wipe out, but learn from it, then when the next wave comes along, you’ll stay on top of it.

In an exponential economy, there is always another wave to successfully surf.

If, that is, the organization can understand how to manage and utilize the advantages that an exponential economy produces. Here are 7 points to consider.

Interestingly, the Obama campaign hired its IT people internally and used external infrastructure. The Romney campaign hired its IT people externally but created internal infrastructure. That seems to have made a big difference.

The Obama group attracted people interested in  a start-up environment that was also a short-term commitment – it would all be over the day after the election. Romney contracted with data consultants and such in organizations that would live on afterwards.

To one, the election was a one-shot attempt at success while for the others it was just one more notch in their consulting gun.

The former really seemed to attract a disrupter mentality much more, one who really liked finding ways around the limitations that were placed in their way, rather than a type that could just find billable hours.

“Campaigns are serious tests of your creativity and foresight,” VanDenPlas explained. “They are unpredictable, agile, and short—an 18 month, $1 billion, essentially disposable organization. Hackers can thrive in an environment like that, to a point where I’m not sure anyone else really can. Everything is over far too quickly to get boring.”

1) Hire the right type of employees. Do not hire doers when disruptors are needed. And vice versa.

Using Amazon Web Services, instead of building their own servers, allowed the Obama for America group to pay for just the amount of server space they needed, when they needed it. They could expand into servers in different regions of the US in order to reduce loads and latency. Romney had everything route to one location, which crashed.

2) Leverage the exponential economy for services and infrastructure. Better to be smart rather than perfect. Better to seek adaptability over control.

Obama for America put their money into people, not into hardware. They spent twice as much money as Romney but also had twice the staff. They actually underspent Romney on IT services and hardware.

This is what the exponential economy does  – the cost for things becomes cheaper. A smart organization puts the savings into people, which cannot be easily replaced by digital processes.

By finding the right people and paying them for being the right people, Obama for America produced over 200 apps in an 18 month period, using just about every Open Source approach that is around.

3) Use the savings from the exponential economy to pay for the best people, not for the cheapest. 

And they used their community for help:

The human factor in monitoring is huge. There are countless incidents where (OFA User Support Director) Brady Kriss notified us of pending problems derived from community help tickets.”

Romney’s group kept ORCA a secret  – such a secret that no one wants to claim they even worked on it – and did only small amounts of testing  before it was needed. They completely lost the advantage of having crowds to help perfect the apps.

Crowd feedback is important. Lots of testing and resilience is needed to create large numbers of solid apps. The fundraising segment, for example,  was “a multi-region, geolocated, three facility processor capable of a per second transaction count sufficiently high enough that we failed to be able to reach it in load testing. It could also operate if every other dependent service had failed, including its own database and every vendor.”

This complexity can only be reached after actual testing by users.

4) Get your products into the actual hands of actual people as soon as possible. They are best able to find problems.

Redundancy and adaptability go hand in hand. For example, the Obama crew created an app whose only job was to take ‘snaphots’ of the Obama for America website. If a server failed, and the site could no longer dynamically create web pages, the static ‘pictures’ could be used in the interim.

Or, more amazingly, they dealt with Hurricane Sandy, which had severe impacts with people using East Coast server farms, by replicating a complete and functional copy of their whole infrastructure on West Coast servers in 24 hours!

5) Use the benefits of the exponential economy to create resilient and redundant systems. If the price has dropped 5-fold, then you can build two systems and still save money.

The Obama campaign spent over $1 million hosting the website  that was accessible to the world. It gave a quarter of that to Amazon for hosting its own internally developed IT.

Romney’s campaign gave a single IT consulting company over $17 million  and another $16.6 million to another,  Obama for America spent $3.6 million on IT consulting to 36 different  companies.

The Innovator’s Dilemma describes how a $50,000 contract to a small group can produce much more focussed work and innovative solutions than even a $500,000 contract to a large group. They care about it more because it matters more to their bottom line.

6) Spread the work around. It is more likely to produce successful solutions than one big contract. It certainly can cost less.

And finally, 

“This is the difference,” VanDenPlas said, “between a well run professional machine and a gaggle of amateurs, posing in true Rumsfeldian fashion, who ‘don’t know what they don’t know.’ I would be shocked if such a chasm exists next cycle between the parties—these aren’t mistakes to be repeated if you want to do things like win elections.”

Because of the lower barriers to entry, and the rapidity by which successful processes can disseminate throughout society, everyone catches up quickly. You cannot expect that coming up with something first will provide much of a long term advantage.

The way to stay ahead is to have the right mixture of people cranking the DIKW cycle as fast as possible. As long as your organization can move that cycle faster and smarter than others, you will stay on top of the wave.

7)  Continuing rapid cycle development is crucial. Any advantage to accrues to disruptive innovators rapidly disappears, as others follow the path to success.

It is impossible to successfully ride every wave of change. But, creating and managing for the exponential economy can produce an organization scores well when the monster waves arrive.

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