Friday, December 20, 2013

Acceleration, Money and Identity

Today's somewhat random move. Had a couple of interesting political / philosophical conversations over the last week or so. So Hilan and I decided we'd resurrect the OPTIMAES blog as venue for them.

First post here.

We'll see how this goes. Not really planning to get back into OPTIMAES at the moment ... but who knows what next year will bring. (Certainly not me.)

RSA's $10 Million Dollar Deal With NSA

NSA paid RSA $10 million to distribute broken security software!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Crazy, Sexy, Cool

Fascinating aesthetic choices (visual, musical) on this online GIF art show.

New aesthetic?

Edward Snowden to Brazil

Edward Snowden's open letter to Brazil :
Six months ago, I stepped out from the shadows of the United States Government's National Security Agency to stand in front of a journalist's camera. I shared with the world evidence proving some governments are building a world-wide surveillance system to secretly track how we live, who we talk to, and what we say. I went in front of that camera with open eyes, knowing that the decision would cost me family and my home, and would risk my life. I was motivated by a belief that the citizens of the world deserve to understand the system in which they live.

My greatest fear was that no one would listen to my warning. Never have I been so glad to have been so wrong. The reaction in certain countries has been particularly inspiring to me, and Brazil is certainly one of those.

At the NSA, I witnessed with growing alarm the surveillance of whole populations without any suspicion of wrongdoing, and it threatens to become the greatest human rights challenge of our time. The NSA and other spying agencies tell us that for our own "safety"—for Dilma's "safety," for Petrobras' "safety"—they have revoked our right to privacy and broken into our lives. And they did it without asking the public in any country, even their own.

Today, if you carry a cell phone in Sao Paolo, the NSA can and does keep track of your location: they do this 5 billion times a day to people around the world. When someone in Florianopolis visits a website, the NSA keeps a record of when it happened and what you did there. If a mother in Porto Alegre calls her son to wish him luck on his university exam, NSA can keep that call log for five years or more. They even keep track of who is having an affair or looking at pornography, in case they need to damage their target's reputation.

American Senators tell us that Brazil should not worry, because this is not "surveillance," it's "data collection." They say it is done to keep you safe. They’re wrong. There is a huge difference between legal programs, legitimate spying, legitimate law enforcement — where individuals are targeted based on a reasonable, individualized suspicion — and these programs of dragnet mass surveillance that put entire populations under an all-seeing eye and save copies forever. These programs were never about terrorism: they're about economic spying, social control, and diplomatic manipulation. They're about power.

Many Brazilian senators agree, and have asked for my assistance with their investigations of suspected crimes against Brazilian citizens. I have expressed my willingness to assist wherever appropriate and lawful, but unfortunately the United States government has worked very hard to limit my ability to do so -- going so far as to force down the Presidential Plane of Evo Morales to prevent me from traveling to Latin America! Until a country grants permanent political asylum, the US government will continue to interfere with my ability to speak.

Six months ago, I revealed that the NSA wanted to listen to the whole world. Now, the whole world is listening back, and speaking out, too. And the NSA doesn't like what it's hearing. The culture of indiscriminate worldwide surveillance, exposed to public debates and real investigations on every continent, is collapsing. Only three weeks ago, Brazil led the United Nations Human Rights Committee to recognize for the first time in history that privacy does not stop where the digital network starts, and that the mass surveillance of innocents is a violation of human rights.

The tide has turned, and we can finally see a future where we can enjoy security without sacrificing our privacy. Our rights cannot be limited by a secret organization, and American officials should never decide the freedoms of Brazilian citizens. Even the defenders of mass surveillance, those who may not be persuaded that our surveillance technologies have dangerously outpaced democratic controls, now agree that in democracies, surveillance of the public must be debated by the public.

My act of conscience began with a statement: "I don't want to live in a world where everything that I say, everything I do, everyone I talk to, every expression of creativity or love or friendship is recorded. That's not something I'm willing to support, it's not something I'm willing to build, and it's not something I'm willing to live under."

Days later, I was told my government had made me stateless and wanted to imprison me. The price for my speech was my passport, but I would pay it again: I will not be the one to ignore criminality for the sake of political comfort. I would rather be without a state than without a voice.

If Brazil hears only one thing from me, let it be this: when all of us band together against injustices and in defense of privacy and basic human rights, we can defend ourselves from even the most powerful systems.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Mind Traffic Geometry

I've finally taken the plunge and moved Smart Disorganized, my geek blog, off Blogger and onto a WordPress on my own server. The new URL is (naturally it's moving in with Project ThoughtStorms.)

It's all part of the constant refactoring of my online-life.

Amazon's Quadcopters : Short Comment

I'm not as sceptical as some people about Amazon's quadcopter delivery system.

Although it's certainly still in the stage of playfulness and hype, Amazon are very smart, very ambitious and very good at turning advanced technology into viable services. The thing to remember is that quadcopters can be combined with delivery trucks, so that a truck can go to an area, launch 10 or so quadcopters to take packages the last half-mile and then move on. I bet there are some serious fuel savings there. And over such short distances, not a huge risk of air-piracy.

Monday, December 09, 2013


Westheimer's Discovery:
        A couple of months in the laboratory can
        frequently save a couple of hours in the library.

DJ Oleiro

One of the things that's been taking up a lot of my time recently is being involved in an art exhibition at the University of Brasilia with some other friends / artists.

This was a second edition of the Object Oriented exhibition we originally ran in Kentish Town in 2011. I showed a development of my Pot Jockey piece (now translated into Portuguese as "DJ Oleira", literally "DJ Potter"). The principle is the same, to turn a MIDI DJ Controller into a tool for making round objects. But I've updated the software to allow hollow centres (ie. cups, bowls, vases), and moved from the "stack of cylinders" model to a mesh of angled faces that can approximate a curved surface.

I have a lot more documentation to do on this over the next few days - including making the latest code public - but at least I managed to get a reasonable video this time :

Monday, November 04, 2013

European Courage and Action?

Glenn Greenwald :
If the German and French governments – and the German and French people – are so pleased to learn of how their privacy is being systematically assaulted by a foreign power over which they exert no influence, shouldn't they be offering asylum to the person who exposed it all, rather than ignoring or rejecting his pleas to have his basic political rights protected, and thus leaving him vulnerable to being imprisoned for decades by the US government? Aside from the treaty obligations these nations have to protect the basic political rights of human beings from persecution, how can they simultaneously express outrage over these exposed invasions while turning their back on the person who risked his liberty and even life to bring them to light?

Real-time 3D Printed Board Game

Aza Raskin's modest proposal :
You start with no pieces and as the game opens, you build lots of weak little ships. Their physical size means they don’t take much material and print quickly. That fire power buys you enough time to invest in building stronger big ships. These might take upwards of 15 minutes to build, but choose carefully, you’ll be blocking your production queue. With your 3D printer behind a sheet of cardboard, your opponent knows that you are are building, and for how long you’ve been building, but not what you are building. The whirr of your stepper motors give tantalizing hints of your strategy. Of course, you’ll be able to cancel production mid-way for an incomplete downgraded/vulnerable piece, like the partially constructed Death Star.

Update : Check out Shapeways Game Section for context.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Ultima Viagem (Last Trip) - Corpo Baletroacústico - Goiânia em Cena 2013

Here's a performance that was recorded on Friday. Of the Corpo Baletroacústico at an "integrated performance" seminar in Goiania. You don't see me but I'm playing one of the computers in the orchestra : the one that's making a kind of wooshing sound in the background of the second movement, and slightly more harmonic chords at the beginning of the third, with a few stabs of noise later on.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

BSBLOrk at Dead Night

We've been doing some death-related activities in Senhoritas Cafe in Brasilia recently.

Here's the laptop orchestra playing a couple of months ago :

Meanwhile, here's some "reporting from Hell" played at a more recent event.

Falling From The Sky

My new link-blog: Yelling At Strangers From The Sky is out of action. It seems that Trex, the server behind Fargo, has serious problems.

I'm still dropping links into this outline, because the principle of having microblogging under my control is a good one. But I'll have to find a way to render the output from this blog.

Hint : It may have something to do with GeekWeaver :-)

Hint 2 : Solutions that involve me hacking something together sometimes ... take ... time ...

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

How Useful is NSA's Dragnet?

Yochai Benkler :
After the Westgate Mall attack in Nairobi, few would argue that al-Shabaab is not a terrorist organization. But al-Shabaab is involved in a local war, and is not invested in attacking the US homeland. The indictment against Moalin explicitly stated that al-Shabaab's enemies were the present Somali government and "its Ethiopian and African Union supporters". Perhaps, it makes sense for prosecutors to pursue Somali Americans for doing essentially what some Irish Americans did to help the IRA; perhaps not. But this single successful prosecution, under a vague criminal statute, which stopped a few thousand dollars from reaching one side in a local conflict in the Horn of Africa, is the sole success story for the NSA bulk domestic surveillance program.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Read Nick Cohen on the Abuse at Yarl's Wood

Nick Cohen :

If you want a picture of where Conservatives of all stripes are taking Britain, picture this.

A Roma woman, "Tanja", whose family arrived in Britain illegally, is in a room of the Yarl's Wood immigration removal centre, a block of bland modern buildings in the Bedfordshire countryside surrounded with barbed wire.

According to Tanja's account, a male guard locks the door. He pulls out his earpiece, perhaps to make sure he is not disturbed, and after some initial touching, he pushes his penis in her face. He laughs when he ejaculates in her mouth – so confident is he that he can escape punishment. As Mark Townsend reports in today's Observer, her allegations are not exceptional. One officer is alleged to have had sexual contact with four women. And there may be others we know nothing about.

Put yourself in Tanja's shoes and you will understand why something like this might happen. Take an isolated young woman, locked up in a detention centre, run for the British state by Serco, a private company that has built its profits by taking over public services. The corporate guards confine her and can punish her. One starts thrusting himself on her. What does she do? She could think that she has to go along with him or he'll put her on the next plane out. Or she could believe that if she does what she is told she will be in a relationship with an Englishman and that somehow this "affair" (if that is not too romantic a word) will allow her to stay in the country.

Either way, you might imagine that all targets of sexual predators agree on one point: they fear that, if they complain, deportation will follow. They may not be wholly deluded. Tanja was apparently targeted by three of Serco's creeps. A UK Border Agency investigation found that the three officers behaved unprofessionally in having sexual contact with Tanja. Police are examining a complaint that some of it was non-consensual.

The increasingly privatised criminal justice system has an interest in covering up mistreatment. I don't want to join the Pavlovian chants of "public good/private bad". The public sector is more than capable of hiding its vices, as the police and National Health Service demonstrate with dispiriting regularity. But although a scandal can destroy careers of individual public servants, it will not destroy the institution they serve. Whatever happens, the Metropolitan Police will still police London.

By contrast, scandal poses an existential threat to private corporations. If the complaints grow too loud, they can lose a contract. If they lose too many, they will go out of business.

Optimistic promoters of privatisation believe that the threat of bankruptcy is a market discipline that forces firms to meet higher standards than the sluggish public sector can attain. They have not grasped that the parasitic version of state capitalism Britain has developed is just as likely to regard secrecy as an essential self-defence mechanism. The officers at Yarl's Wood were not driven by market forces to offer a better service.

As for our leaders, can you imagine David Cameron, Theresa May or Chris Grayling giving thunderous speeches on the need to uphold decent standards in publicly funded institutions? Instead of announcing that they are willing to protect the vulnerable, they thunder that legal aid for poor claimants is a swindle that allows fat cat lawyers to get rich at the taxpayers' expense. Instead of ordering inquiries, they manipulate the law to stop the judiciary reviewing abuses of power by the likes of detention centre guards.

Chris Grayling, to take an asinine example, claimed last week that the courts have been taken over by left-wing agitators. Among their number our ignorant justice secretary includes the shire Tories who oppose HS2 and admirers of the Plantagenets who want a public consultation on where to bury the remains of Richard III, as if a nostalgic affection for the House of York were a leftwing cause.

We would not have published a word about Yarl's Wood were it not for the heroic efforts of Harriet Wistrich, the best feminist lawyer I know. But she will not be able to carry on bringing cases like these to the public's attention for much longer.

The legal aid cuts are not directed against fat cat lawyers, who continue to make their fortunes in the City, but against solicitors such as her, who do well if they make £40,000 a year. More seriously, they are directed against their clients.

As of this year, poor litigants, who could once take cases to court about their employment, their children's education, personal injury, clinical negligence, debt and housing no longer can. On matters of vital interest to them – and to wider society – they are beyond the rule of law.

The denial of access to justice falls with particularly severity on the state's detainees. The government will soon remove legal aid from prisoners who claim that their captors have mistreated them. As for the immigrant women, they will fail a new residency test and be denied access to justice too.

Wise politicians understand that the further they climb up the hierarchy, the less they know about the behaviour of public servants. They welcome challenges, not least because they warn them about the failures of the bureaucracy they are meant to control.

Coalition ministers, by contrast, abhor scrutiny. They don't want to know and don't want you to know either. They are using the Leveson report to limit press scrutiny and restrictions on litigation and expenditure to limit judicial scrutiny. They get away with it because the authoritarian left cheers them on when they attack freedom of the press and the authoritarian right cheers them on when they attack equality before the law.

No one is going to punish ministers. There are few votes in defending legal aid and none in defending public money going to that most despised group: illegal immigrants awaiting deportation. Even Observer readers may not want to hear about them and would much prefer to see a piece on Miley Cyrus. If so, don't worry. By this time next year, the sources for stories like ours on the women of Yarl's Wood will have disappeared. It will be as if they don't exist.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Smart Watches

The Guardian has a piece on developments in the Smart Watch world.

Personally I think people have Smart Watches the wrong way around. They think that watches are going to be an extra screen for mobile phones.

To me, the biggest problem with the device swarm, particularly Ubuntu's idea that your phone becomes your main computer, but portable, is that it's just so damned easy to lose it.

To me, the obvious move is to use the watch as the main processor / storage for a mobile computer (how often do you lose your watch?) and use a tablet as a dumb input / output device.

(I guess there are battery problems though.)

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Chris Hedges on the Bradley Manning Verdict

Chris Hedges :
FORT MEADE, Md.—The swift and brutal verdict read out by Army Col. Judge Denise Lind in sentencing Pfc. Bradley Manning to 35 years in prison means we have become a nation run by gangsters. It signals the inversion of our moral and legal order, the death of an independent media, and the open and flagrant misuse of the law to prevent any oversight or investigation of official abuses of power, including war crimes. The passivity of most of the nation’s citizens—the most spied upon, monitored and controlled population in human history—to the judicial lynching of Manning means they will be next. There are no institutional mechanisms left to halt the shredding of our most fundamental civil liberties, including habeas corpus and due process, or to prevent pre-emptive war, the assassination of U.S. citizens by the government and the complete obliteration of privacy.

Wednesday’s sentencing marks one of the most important watersheds in U.S. history. It marks the day when the state formally declared that all who name and expose its crimes will become political prisoners or be forced, like Edward Snowden, and perhaps Glenn Greenwald, to spend the rest of their lives in exile. It marks the day when the country dropped all pretense of democracy, obliterated checks and balances under the separation of powers and rejected the rule of law. It marks the removal of the mask of democracy, already a fiction, and its replacement with the ugly, naked visage of corporate totalitarianism. State power is to be, from now on, unchecked, unfettered and unregulated. And those who do not accept unlimited state power, always the road to tyranny, will be ruthlessly persecuted. On Wednesday we became vassals. As I watched the burly guards hustle Manning out of a military courtroom at Fort Meade after the two-minute sentencing, as I listened to half a dozen of his supporters shout to him, “We’ll keep fighting for you, Bradley! You’re our hero!” I realized that our nation has become a vast penal colony.

If we actually had a functioning judicial system and an independent press, Manning would have been a witness for the prosecution against the war criminals he helped expose. He would not have been headed, bound and shackled, to the military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. His testimony would have ensured that those who waged illegal war, tortured, lied to the public, monitored our electronic communications and ordered the gunning down of unarmed civilians in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen were sent to Fort Leavenworth’s cells. If we had a functioning judiciary the hundreds of rapes and murders Manning made public would be investigated. The officials and generals who lied to us when they said they did not keep a record of civilian dead would be held to account for the 109,032 “violent deaths” in Iraq, including those of 66,081 civilians. The pilots in the “Collateral Murder” video, which showed the helicopter attack on unarmed civilians in Baghdad that left nine dead, including two Reuters journalists, would be court-martialed.

The message that Manning’s sentence, the longest in U.S. history for the leaking of classified information to the press, sends to the rest of the world is disturbing. It says to the mothers and fathers who have lost children in drone strikes and air attacks, to the families grieving over innocent relatives killed by U.S. forces, that their suffering means nothing to us. It says we will continue to murder and to wage imperial wars that consume hundreds of thousands of civilian lives with no accountability. And it says that as a country we despise those within our midst who have the moral courage to make such crimes public.

There are strict rules now in our American penal colony. If we remain supine, if we permit ourselves to be passively stripped of all political power and voice, if we refuse to resist as we are incrementally reduced to poverty and the natural world is senselessly exploited and destroyed by corporate oligarchs, we will have the dubious freedom to wander among the ruins of the empire, to be diverted by tawdry spectacles and to consume the crass products marketed to us. But if we speak up, if we name what is being done to us and done in our name to others, we will become, like Manning, Julian Assange and Snowden, prey for the vast security and surveillance apparatus. And we will, if we effectively resist, go to prison or be forced to flee.

Manning from the start was subjected to a kangaroo trial. His lawyers were never permitted to mount a credible defense. They were left only to beg for mercy. Under the military code of conduct and international law, the soldier had a moral and legal obligation to report the war crimes he witnessed. But this argument was ruled off-limits. The troves of documents that Manning transmitted to WikiLeaks in February 2010—known as the Iraq and Afghanistan “War Logs”—which exposed numerous war crimes and instances of government dishonesty, were barred from being presented. And it was accepted in the courtroom, without any evidence, that Manning’s release of the documents had harmed U.S. security and endangered U.S. citizens. A realistic defense was not possible. It never is in any state show trial.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Daniele di Martino / Devendra Banhart - Mi Negrita

Beautiful remix by Daniele di Martino of Devendra Banhart - Mi Negrita.

Very nice.

Friday, August 09, 2013

RIP Elaine Morgan

I'm a big fan of Elaine Morgan. And I'm inclined to buy the Aquatic Ape Hypothesis from her.

I know that there are some questionable elements, but I've never been able to understand why the speculations and holes it contains are any worse than equivalently speculative "just-so" stories and holes in the mainstream Savannah theories or which Evolutionary Psychology is riddled with. No-one has highly accurate data about what was going on then, particularly not about behaviour, and everyone is filling in the blanks with the conjectures that seem most plausible to them. None of the arguments I've seen against AAH, seem definitive enough to justify the sneering that critics seem to delight in.

Reading the obituaries, I found my way to a terrible article in The Guardian.
She insisted that the savannah hypothesis failed because it couldn't account for the survival of females. Abandoned by the hunters out tracking game, fending for herself and her children, a female alone on the plains would inevitably become dinner herself.

Morgan absolutely DID NOT say that Tarzanist evolutionary theory was flawed because it ignored the plight of the poor female ape, unable to defend herself from the big lions while the strong male defenders were out hunting. This is a travesty of her point; an absolutely witless reading of the argument. Yes, she talked about the problem facing the human-ancestor on the savannah. And yes, she used the female pronoun. But NOT to imply that this was only about the female. Because she was deliberately using the female pronoun to talk about proto-humans in general to challenge the use of the male as the generic.

Surely someone at The Guardian should have picked this up.

In fact, the whole point of the article, to damn Morgan with faint praise (even if she was wrong scientifically she's interesting as an example of the challenges of feminist science), is flawed. AAH may or may not be right. But it's a perfectly strong and valid contender for being right. Much of the carping against it is based purely on its "form" (ie. coming from an outsider).

Morgan is no different from the lionised pop-science writers of today like Malcolm Gladwell, James Gleick or Nassim Nicholas Taleb who also push their own idiosyncratic scientific understandings to tell compelling stories that help illuminate our understanding of the world. Of course such stories sometimes simplify. Of course they assert ideas that may be under dispute as certainties. But that's fine. Such stories are still our best popular understanding of the topic.

Feminism, in Elaine Morgan, is NOT scientifically problematic. And her "pop" is no more problematic than it is for dozens of important thinkers today.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Cory Doctorow On Sterling

Corry Doctorow pushes back on Sterling's assertion that digital civil-rights activists were simply naive or ineffectual in the face of US government spying.

He's right, though I think he's taking it all rather literally, when Sterling clearly wants to just be a bit acerbicly humerous and cynical about this world / story. (Which is understandable since Sterling has been reporting and hanging out in this world for 30 years.) But maybe Doctorow is right to remind us that and we shouldn't let ourselves fall into that state.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

GeekWeaver Lives!

A story over on SmartDisorganized about the return of GeekWeaver and why my software is like Cthulhu.

Bradley Manning Verdict

Julian Assange :
Today Bradley Manning, a whistleblower, was convicted by a military court at Fort Meade of 19 offences for supplying the press with information, including five counts of ’espionage’. He now faces a maximum sentence of 136 years.

The ’aiding the enemy’ charge has fallen away. It was only included, it seems, to make calling journalism ’espionage’ seem reasonable. It is not.

Bradley Manning’s alleged disclosures have exposed war crimes, sparked revolutions, and induced democratic reform. He is the quintessential whistleblower.

This is the first ever espionage conviction against a whistleblower. It is a dangerous precedent and an example of national security extremism. It is a short sighted judgment that can not be tolerated and must be reversed. It can never be that conveying true information to the public is ’espionage’.

President Obama has initiated more espionage proceedings against whistleblowers and publishers than all previous presidents combined.

In 2008 presidential candidate Barack Obama ran on a platform that praised whistleblowing as an act of courage and patriotism. That platform has been comprehensively betrayed. His campaign document described whistleblowers as watchdogs when government abuses its authority. It was removed from the internet last week.

Throughout the proceedings there has been a conspicuous absence: the absence of any victim. The prosecution did not present evidence that - or even claim that - a single person came to harm as a result of Bradley Manning’s disclosures. The government never claimed Mr. Manning was working for a foreign power.

The only ’victim’ was the US government’s wounded pride, but the abuse of this fine young man was never the way to restore it. Rather, the abuse of Bradley Manning has left the world with a sense of disgust at how low the Obama administration has fallen. It is not a sign of strength, but of weakness.

The judge has allowed the prosecution to substantially alter the charges after both the defense and the prosecution had rested their cases, permitted the prosecution 141 witnesses and extensive secret testimony. The government kept Bradley Manning in a cage, stripped him naked and isolated him in order to crack him, an act formally condemned by the United Nations Special Rapporteur for torture. This was never a fair trial.

The Obama administration has been chipping away democratic freedoms in the United States. With today’s verdict, Obama has hacked off much more. The administration is intent on deterring and silencing whistleblowers, intent on weakening freedom of the press.

The US first amendment states that "Congress shall make no law... abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press". What part of ’no’ does Barack Obama fail to comprehend?

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Friday, July 26, 2013

My First Fiverr Gig

Things that interest me : Quora, Fiverr, RSS, scripting, micromarkets ...

What if you put them together? My first Fiverr gig!


Well, first I wrote a quick script to extract my recent Quora answers as part of taking back control of my online writing. Then I offered it to Quorans, but realized that, for some, the technical aspects would be too difficult for them to download and use. How else might those people engage my hack?

At the same time I'm thinking a lot about micromarkets, the future of work (both my personal future and more general questions about how it's going to be organized), about where RSS and feeds are going in the post-Google-Reader / Fargo age.

It seemed like a fun experiment to do.

BTW : Thanks to my mother for the great flower picture I used to advertise this gig. Originally I posted a screenshot of the text of some Quora answers and them reformatted in a new page. But Fiverr obviously thought that was too boring and rejected the gig until I changed it. A beautiful, but irrelevant, flower seems to be more to their taste.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Edward Snowden's Statement

Edward Snowden :
Hello. My name is Ed Snowden. A little over one month ago, I had family, a home in paradise, and I lived in great comfort. I also had the capability without any warrant to search for, seize, and read your communications. Anyone’s communications at any time. That is the power to change people’s fates.

It is also a serious violation of the law. The 4th and 5th Amendments to the Constitution of my country, Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and numerous statutes and treaties forbid such systems of massive, pervasive surveillance. While the US Constitution marks these programs as illegal, my government argues that secret court rulings, which the world is not permitted to see, somehow legitimize an illegal affair. These rulings simply corrupt the most basic notion of justice – that it must be seen to be done. The immoral cannot be made moral through the use of secret law.

I believe in the principle declared at Nuremberg in 1945: "Individuals have international duties which transcend the national obligations of obedience. Therefore individual citizens have the duty to violate domestic laws to prevent crimes against peace and humanity from occurring."

Accordingly, I did what I believed right and began a campaign to correct this wrongdoing. I did not seek to enrich myself. I did not seek to sell US secrets. I did not partner with any foreign government to guarantee my safety. Instead, I took what I knew to the public, so what affects all of us can be discussed by all of us in the light of day, and I asked the world for justice.

That moral decision to tell the public about spying that affects all of us has been costly, but it was the right thing to do and I have no regrets.

Since that time, the government and intelligence services of the United States of America have attempted to make an example of me, a warning to all others who might speak out as I have. I have been made stateless and hounded for my act of political expression. The United States Government has placed me on no-fly lists. It demanded Hong Kong return me outside of the framework of its laws, in direct violation of the principle of non-refoulement – the Law of Nations. It has threatened with sanctions countries who would stand up for my human rights and the UN asylum system. It has even taken the unprecedented step of ordering military allies to ground a Latin American president’s plane in search for a political refugee. These dangerous escalations represent a threat not just to the dignity of Latin America, but to the basic rights shared by every person, every nation, to live free from persecution, and to seek and enjoy asylum.

Yet even in the face of this historically disproportionate aggression, countries around the world have offered support and asylum. These nations, including Russia, Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua, and Ecuador have my gratitude and respect for being the first to stand against human rights violations carried out by the powerful rather than the powerless. By refusing to compromise their principles in the face of intimidation, they have earned the respect of the world. It is my intention to travel to each of these countries to extend my personal thanks to their people and leaders.

I announce today my formal acceptance of all offers of support or asylum I have been extended and all others that may be offered in the future. With, for example, the grant of asylum provided by Venezuela’s President Maduro, my asylee status is now formal, and no state has a basis by which to limit or interfere with my right to enjoy that asylum. As we have seen, however, some governments in Western European and North American states have demonstrated a willingness to act outside the law, and this behavior persists today. This unlawful threat makes it impossible for me to travel to Latin America and enjoy the asylum granted there in accordance with our shared rights.

This willingness by powerful states to act extra-legally represents a threat to all of us, and must not be allowed to succeed. Accordingly, I ask for your assistance in requesting guarantees of safe passage from the relevant nations in securing my travel to Latin America, as well as requesting asylum in Russia until such time as these states accede to law and my legal travel is permitted. I will be submitting my request to Russia today, and hope it will be accepted favorably.

If you have any questions, I will answer what I can.

Thank you.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Yelling At Strangers In The Gutter

Notice I have the feed from Yelling At Strangers (my linkblog) now included in the gutter on the right of this blog.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Vinay on Snowden etc.

Vinay has a good overview of where we are now :

I don’t know what happens next. Snowden has shone a lot of light into a very, very dark corner, but there are vastly worse corners which are still in darkness.

There are three main factions of response to the new reality in which we operate. They are

Germany pushes back using international law against US intrusion into its sovereignty. The US likewise.

Civil Libertarians push back within the court system in America and the UK asking for answers, real oversight, and civil rights.

Cipherpunks now push end-to-end encryption of all messages as a basic civic duty by which we attempt to protect each-other from the State gone wrong.

The hardest part of all of this is going to be keeping all of these groups cooperating and moving in the right direction. The Germans, of course, want data retention and the right to spy on their own citizens, as most EU countries do. They will be quite unhappy with the cipherpunks. The civil libertarians are quite distrusting of encryption as an end-run around the legal system, a technical implementation of a civil right that could be over-turned by superior technology: a worthy argument, but let them change the law to comply with the Constitution then complain about crypto. Finally, the non-state wing of the cipherpunks view international and national action as a distraction: the system cannot be fixed, the guilty cannot be punished, and the only available approach is to remove the power of the State to do what we do not wish it to: a digital insurrection.

The desperate need right now is for orientation to the new reality that Snowden’s actions have exposed. The old map of superpower alliances may be toast, with China, the EU and Russia allied against the US in at least basic security concerns. The black-clad paranoids of the hackerspaces are now fully vindicated, and preparing GPG and OTR for mass adoption is now an urgent step. Finally, the ACLU & co are now, without a doubt, completely vindicated – but can they actually close with their targets, or will they be intimidated and fobbed off by corrupt courts?

It is all to play for, but discard your old map and do the analysis from scratch. There is much more going on than the old models predicted. Gods help all of us as we reorient and reintegrate, and take action to survive.

Disorientation is normal. Go about your day, citizen!

Yelling At Strangers From The Sky

In an attempt to wean myself off the big YASNS / cloud providers, I have a new link-blog on the super-cool Tumblr Fargo outliner  : Yelling At Strangers From The Sky

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

RIP Doug Engelbart

Update: Dave Winer (indirectly) reminds us that Engelbart's watchword was "bootstrapping", that is incremental / piecemeal development.
Bootstrap is an ancient computer science term. When you turn on a computer it bootstraps, or "boots." First it loads the most ancient bit of code, probably written in the 1970s. It runs a program written in the 80s, which in turn launches a program written in the 90s. Each of the levels loads only for the purpose of loading the next bit of history. Doug Engelbart was the first to use the term in the context of this piece, as far as I know. All engineers bootstrap all the time. To understand bootstrapping is to understand software, imho. It's the process that matters, not the bits, or system requirements.

Today "lean" and "agile" are the hyped terms, but Engelbart was on the case here too.

Update 2:
But this would also be a corner-turn for the VC industry, because, as it's now structured, they funnel tens or hundreds of millions of dollars through a relatively small number of companies. However an opportunistic VC would have an incubator (call it something else if you want) that flows much smaller amounts of money to the bright eyes, without much fuss and not many strings attached, while we figure out how to get a few backplane companies going.

Did Dave just invent Y-Combinator?

Evo Morales Plane Stopped In The Search For Snowden

VIENNA (Reuters) - Bolivia accused Austria of "kidnapping" its president, Evo Morales, on Wednesday after authorities searched his plane during a stop-over in Vienna on suspicion he was taking fugitive U.S. intelligence analyst Edward Snowden to Latin America.

A senior Bolivian diplomat said the Austrians had acted at the bidding of the United States, which has been trying to get its hands on Snowden since he revealed details of its secret surveillance programs last month.

"We're talking about the president on an official trip after an official summit being kidnapped," Bolivia's ambassador to the United Nations, Sacha Llorenti Soliz, told reporters in Geneva.

The Bolivian plane, which was taking Morales home from an energy conference in Moscow, was stranded at Vienna airport for several hours after Portugal and France refused to allow it to fly through their airspace.

The search found that Snowden was not onboard and the plane eventually left Vienna about noon on Wednesday.

The 30-year-old Snowden is believed to be still in the transit area of a Moscow airport, where he has been trying since June 23 to find a country that will offer him refuge from prosecution in the United States on espionage charges.

Flying 3D Printer

It's a gratuitous stunt, but it's nice someone tried it.

Nice Delta RepRap

Friday, June 28, 2013

Gestural Sound Toolkit

Tim from the London Music Hackspace is working on a gestural music controlled toolkit and has a survey up about what people want from it. Here's my comment :
I'm interested in how to go beyond basic mapping of body movements to sounds. The examples of which I've seen so far, tend to be either very simple and give little control (arm up makes the note go up etc) or are so hard to understand and repeat that they're more or less aleatory.

I'm interested in how to combine gestures with some kind of "virtual world", by which I mean less a 3D visualization than a space full of virtual "objects" which have their own autonomous, music-making behaviours and which the user can invoke in some way ... eg. by "touching" them or "moving" them.

Vaporwave / Distroid

Pair of great articles from Adam Harper on Vaporwave and Distroid.

Frankly, I don't think music theorizing has been as fun as this for a while. And I've been listening to quite a lot of Vaporwave recently (along with some really nice beats from the Low End Theory scene in LA :


Bonus. This is interesting too.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Fiverr (Again)

I can't get over Fiverr.

Even when it's full of this stuff it feels incredibly significant to me. Perhaps as significant as Kickstarter. For what used to be known as "pocket money prices" you can hire people from all over the world to do silly (or not so silly) things for you. This is an economy where an extrovert kid can participate on equal (absurd) footing with an extrovert pensioner. It's YouTube retrofitted as an personalized attention economy. A service which unleashes new waves of extraordinary, perverse, comical creativity.

Two more things that are fascinating.

1) Lots of gigs offered by people in the US and UK. Unlike many cheap online markets it's not just for rich Westerners to buy the services of people from the developing world. $5 is a magic price that seems to motivate those from the developed economies as much as anyone else. Maybe it says something about the state of the US / European economies too.

2) At the same time, the number of people from developing countries participating in the silly stuff. Subcontinental Asians are not simply acting as your rather serious PA or cheap Drupal developer. They are figuring out how to exploit every angle and aspect of their culture and (perhaps) enjoying themselves.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Microsoft Patented Wiretapping?


Microsoft has a patent for injecting snooping software into Voice Over IP (eg. Skype)?

Paranoid Question

Here's a paranoid question which I hope we won't have to be worrying about in the future.

You can find various articles / suggestions telling you how to get around NSA etc. eavesdropping. Here's one.

I posted something similar (with better suggestions) a couple of days ago.

So how soon before the governments start trying to make it illegal to tell people how to avoid being surveilled?

There is, after all, a precedent : the DMCA made it illegal to circumvent copyright protection mechanisms. And SOPA allows corporations and the government to punish sites that link to information that helps you pirate. Why shouldn't they push for similar legislation to deny people knowledge of how to circumvent snooping?

The Quiet War In Tech

The war is over what information you and I get, and what information they get. As we get less, they get more. As we lose control, they gain it.

In this war, the governments have more in common than they have differences.

The Chinese probably could destroy our banking system, and we could probably destroy theirs, but they don't want that, and our government doesn't either. They're really on the same side.

What they want is to keep order, I really believe that. The order that keeps the rich rich, and more or less ignores the challenges we all face in keeping our species alive on this planet. I understand the sentiment. There's so much to comprehend, if you want to have any kind of quality of life, you have to compartmentalize. If you look at preserving order, you can't pay attention to climate change.


It's all tech, top to bottom. The banking system is tech. The military is tech. And in that context, it's not surprising that our, the people's, information access systems are really weak compared to the ones the governments have. That's no accident.

Our tools have been getting more precarious, thanks to bugs introduced by the browser vendors (if they're not deliberate, they're incredibly incompetent, your choice). And Google captured almost all the tech of RSS, only to shut it down. Just as things show some sign of coming back to life, now Facebook sounds like they'd like to have their turn at pwning the open public news flow. Please, if you make a feed, and you read this, keep making the feed as-is, no matter what Facebook asks you to do to it. By now it should be obvious that the big tech companies are not our friends. They're more like the government than they are like you and me. Maybe not their fault, maybe they didn't see it coming, but I doubt they'd deny that they're there now.

Chris Hedges on Bradley Manning / Edward Snowden

Chris Hedges
The military trial of Bradley Manning is a judicial lynching. The government has effectively muzzled the defense team. The Army private first class is not permitted to argue that he had a moral and legal obligation under international law to make public the war crimes he uncovered. The documents that detail the crimes, torture and killing Manning revealed, because they are classified, have been barred from discussion in court, effectively removing the fundamental issue of war crimes from the trial. Manning is forbidden by the court to challenge the government’s unverified assertion that he harmed national security. Lead defense attorney David E. Coombs said during pretrial proceedings that the judge’s refusal to permit information on the lack of actual damage from the leaks would “eliminate a viable defense, and cut defense off at the knees.” And this is what has happened.

Manning is also barred from presenting to the court his motives for giving the website WikiLeaks hundreds of thousands of classified diplomatic cables, war logs from Afghanistan and Iraq, and videos. The issues of his motives and potentially harming national security can be raised only at the time of sentencing, but by then it will be too late.

The draconian trial restrictions, familiar to many Muslim Americans tried in the so-called war on terror, presage a future of show trials and blind obedience. Our email and phone records, it is now confirmed, are swept up and stored in perpetuity on government computers. Those who attempt to disclose government crimes can be easily traced and prosecuted under the Espionage Act. Whistle-blowers have no privacy and no legal protection. This is why Edward Snowden—a former CIA technical assistant who worked for a defense contractor with ties to the National Security Agency and who leaked to Glenn Greenwald at The Guardian the information about the National Security Council’s top-secret program to collect Americans’ cellphone metadata, e-mail and other personal data—has fled the United States. The First Amendment is dead. There is no legal mechanism left to challenge the crimes of the power elite. We are bound and shackled. And those individuals who dare to resist face the prospect, if they remain in the country, of joining Manning in prison, perhaps the last refuge for the honest and the brave.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Snowden in Hong Kong

Another interesting thought :
Patricia Ho, a lawyer at Daly & Associates, which specializes in refugee cases and international public law, told GlobalPost that in December Hong Kong courts ruled the government could not send people home if they would face cruel and unusual punishment.
"The reason I think this is relevant," said Ho, "is because if you look at the case of Bradley Manning, during his detention period, he was found to have suffered cruel and degrading treatment. It was found by the UN special rapporteur on torture," she said.
"I would imagine given the similarity in the cases that Snowden could easily say, 'Well, I fear that the same would happen to me,' and use that as a basis to claim protection in Hong Kong. If he does that I would say his chances of protection would be fair."

Hadoop and the NSA

Interesting take.

How the power of the gift-economy of free-software makes the surveillance state possible.

V for Vinegar

Salad Uprising does a good job keeping the rest of the world informed about the current Brazilian protests.

Opt Out Of PRISM

Friday, June 14, 2013

Public Interest

Apparently the UK government has told airlines that Edward Snowden will be banned from the UK.

BBC security correspondent Gordon Corera said the Home Office does have the power block people's entry to the UK in certain circumstances, such as if it believes it is in the public interest to do so.
What, the fuck, "public interest" is being served here?

There is no public interest. Edward Snowden is zero threat to the UK public. This is nothing but a vindictive desire to put pressure on him and restrict his ability to move around the world. This is the height of pettiness  and random abuse of power by those who are now nakedly using their role in the state to advance their agenda of locking-in total unchallenged and unchallengable control for themselves (and their peers in other countries).

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Search as Medium

My artistic co-conspirator, Aharon Amir, and I are pitching to write a chapter for a book about search culture. We want to talk about a few of the art works we've done around search such as Narcissus.

During the brainstorm, Aharon has asked if we can write our proposal (and maybe even the chapter) in public. So here's my first draft.

Narcissus is an artistic group who address and respond to issues of search. We have stated that our materials are "visibility" and "invisibility". And we consider that search itself is the medium within which one is transformed into or traded against the other. Search has become so fundamental because the internet has brought about an exponential increase in the production and availability of information and artistic output in the last 20 years. We are now in a situation where few of the pre-internet institutions are able to continue their business as usual. That goes for art galleries and publishers, of course, but it is also true of such diverse "media" as the information architecture of city signage on the one hand and the salon on the other.

While the proliferation of internet enabled art and knowledge challenges existing institutions, their purported successors : the search-engines, social networks and other commercial / technical inventions must also face artistic and political interrogation.

In our article we will describe several works by Narcissus or member artists. Our initial project, the Narcissus Search Engine dialogues with one of the strongest trends of recent years : the positive feedback mechanisms whereby success in attaining visibility is further rewarded. (Google PageRank, Twitter "follow" recommendations.)

Narcissus subverts this convention by pushing popular search results into a netherworld of the mathematical "imaginary" and confronting searchers with results that have been rejected by previous searchers. This system both raises the theoretical issues (Why should popularity be rewarded? Why should we assume that my search is like yours? What are the political consequences of building so many "winner-takes-all" systems?) while offering a practical tool to find neglected and obscure knowledge. It stimulates further questions that we will address : how does "search" with a system designed to highlight the obscure differ from attempts to harness serendipity? What is the difference between wanting to search and wanting to find?

Further development with the Narcissus engine intends to address the issue of "centralization" of such search engines and their databases. Political questions which are graphically illustrated by the current NSA scandal and the arrival of Google Glass. We look at distributed / P2P search ( as a response.

Another application of Narcissus is within our proposed ShadowSpot urban interventions which bring our concerns to location-based information architecture. In ShadowSpot, participants are asked to bring visibility to shadow / neglected parts of a space (gallery, city) with anonymous stickers and mobile photography. Images are uploaded to a version of Narcissus which will again juggle the visibility of such places.

We will finally touch on other works by individual members of Narcissus such as in-public re/search practice. How much is search a private knowledge-gathering activity vs. a public / collective one? Another knowledge intervention is the practice of asking locals in a community directions to places which are, in fact, the other side of the world. This action adds "misrecognition" to the varieties of in/visibility that are the Narcissus material.

Heavy Handed

BBC uncritically reports that the police were searching for weapons. Seems that would-be protestors had paint!!!!
StopG8 :
People present in the Beak Street building report that the police used tasers, chemical sprays, and dogs, and hit unarmed people with shields and fists as they held their hands in the air or covered their heads. We are currently gathering witness statements and will release soon a detailed account of the attacks and injuries. We know that at least two people received serious head injuries, and many more were beaten. We are still waiting on reports from at least 30 people who were arrested.

“I could hear tasers going non stop for at least a minute,” said one witness, “I never heard anything like it in my life.”

A StopG8 spokesperson commented: “The police claim that they raided Beak Street because they suspected there were weapons on the building. In fact the only weapons were the police tasers, batons, shields, chemicals, fists and dogs.”
"Suspecting weapons" is a pretty easy thing to do.

Saturday, June 08, 2013


Why should it ever be illegal for a company to admit that the government has requested data from it? Maybe whose data it is could be classified. But what justification can there possibly be for making the existence of a request or type of request illegal?

Does the government have the legal ability to oblige people to lie? (As tech leaders seem to be doing when they pretend this isn't happening.)

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Google+ Comments

G+ comments are nice. But are they worth it?

I've just noticed that it's still possible to use blogger with a personal domain. As part of my project to reclaim my independence from the mega-corps of the internet I'm tempted. But I'll lose both the existing G+ comments and this integration.

Is it worth it?

What do you think?

Answer by G+ comments .. for now ;-/

Saturday, May 18, 2013


Mashable :
iRobot recently announced that it will outfit Brazil with 30 PackBot robots, units similar to those that have been deployed in Afghanistan, Iraq and inside Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power plant. Each PackBot is camera-equipped and remotely controlled to allow operators to examine suspicious objects and explore threatening environments.
The robots will work in tandem with thousands of soldiers who will be patrolling the 12 host cities in Brazil. The $7.2 million in contracts include maintenance, spares and associated equipment.
Each PackBot 510 unit typically costs around $100,000 to $200,000.
Brazilian police will also be donning some high-tech gear. Officers will sport facial-recognition camera glasses that claim to capture 400 facial images per second, then archive each face in a database that stores up to 13 million faces.
In their attempt to make “one of the most protected sports events in history,” Brazil invested $900 million to boost its security forces for the 2014 World Cup. Besides purchasing surveillance equipment and helicopters, the country reportedly acquired four Israeli-made drones to provide additional security at the FIFA Confederation next month.
Yeah. I'm sure Brazil (with massive inequality and paranoid rich people) will lead the world in cyber-security. :-(

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

RIP Ray Harryhausen

Gates of Dawn

Windows has spontaneously imploded for me, leaving me unable to use FL Studio or other music software I'm used to. So, I'm taking the opportunity to get to grips with Pure Data.

The problem is, I've always found the UI of PD fairly fiddly and off-putting. I don't want to have to think about laying everything out in 2D space when all I'm really interested in is the flow relationship between objects. Also, I've never ... ahem ... quite worked out how to do reusable components. It looks laborious to me.

Theoretically, I'm much more attracted to the SuperCollider approach of writing code. But that has some quirks. Also PD seems to be running in more interesting places (eg. as an engine in Android and iPad apps) than SuperCollider.

Because of this I decided to look into the text representation of PD patches. It's very low level, but easy to understand. So I had a quick go at creating a Python library to generate it.

The first (after a day or so of work) draft is now up on GitHub.

Already, I'm pretty excited about this. It works the way I want to think about synthesis. Objects are connected by function composition. Here, for example, is how you take any signal and turn it into a feed to FM synthesis.

def fm(sig,id=1) :
    return sin(sigadd(


Every time you call functions like "phasor" and "slider" you get new instances of the objects, added to the patch. So this is actually a declarative description of the relations between objects. It's partly inspired by my playing with signals in Elm-Lang. Though there's nothing similarly clever happening here, it's just producing a text-file.

Sliders controls are layed out automatically. Once again, it's very crude and lacking. But enough to make a small workable instrument.

Anyway, as I continue to explore Pure Data I'll do it by adding to this library. Will keep you posted with updates and some musical examples soon.

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Decluttering, Platform Wars

Various changes going on at the moment. I'm working on some new things. And I've started to feel the need for a new online identity. And to try to find some collaborators with similar interests to join me in this next project. That's something I'm going to talk about more, very soon.

But I can't keep opening up new fronts. There's a balancing / decluttering that's needed too.

I just shut my Facebook account. That was for other reasons, but it's also going to clear some space and time. And it's pushed me towards thinking about further changes.

Therefore I've decided that I'm going to close Platform Wars.

Permanently. Unless I can hand it over to someone else within the next week. It's possibly my most popular blog. But I've basically finished with it. I have nothing more interesting to say on the matter. I'm done with fantasizing about running other people's companies. It's time to worry about running my own virtual career.

Saturday, May 04, 2013

Shut Your Facebook

So, I officially shut my Facebook account.

It seems I can reactivate it at any time, just by logging in. And I can keep the option that anyone sends me a message or invite I get an email. So it's not clear exactly how much I'm "gone". (Would be interesting to hear from someone else if they still see me and my posts. What my "absence" looks like.)

But I am (kind of) out of there.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Google Glass and Segway

Story about Google Glass looking geeky.

My comment :
Why do so many people misunderstand the Segway? Segway didn't fail because it looked dorky or was too rational. It failed because it solved the wrong problem : people don't use cars to avoid walking, they use them to a) stay dry, b) carry their junk around, c) feel safe on the streets and public transport. Segway solves none of these problems.

Is Hungary Turning Fascist?

Bloody hell!

This isn't good at all. Sign the petition.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Google+ Comment Integration

So Google have integrated G+ comments with Blogger comments.

This is something I've been wanting for a while. Closer connection between my blog and G+ is valuable in so many ways.

OTOH, I can see how dangerous this road is. G+ is going to eat my blogs. Very conveniently, I'm sure.  I'll value every step of the way. But will I find, in a year or two that there won't really BE blogs here at all? Just my profile on G+. As much of a Walled River as Facebook? (Big question ... will there be an RSS feed from it?)

I'm troubled by how much I'm dependent on Google. I can walk away from Amazon and Facebook if I want. If I need to I can leave LinkedIn and Twitter. But everything I do (and have done) is deeply intertwingled  with Google.

Of course, at least I have my home page. My own address on the web that I control. An essential for the contemporary cybercitizen. I even have several WordPress blogs, but they're specialised things. My 3 real blogs : Composing, Smart Disorganized, Platform Wars are all very much Google properties.

Again I turn my mind to whether I should do something about this?


Local outfit Criolina repped on Generation Bass.

Update : listening to their free album. Good stuff.

BTW : DJ Oops (who's behind this) once remixed one of my remixes of 2 Finos e um Grave. To be fair he saved it from a couple of weaknesses. A fine touch with the compressor managed to beef the bass up to a considerably more respectable level than my feeble effort. OTOH he lost a certain poly-rhythmic chaos to the rap that I considered a feature rather than bug.

US Government Obsessed With Housing Prices?

Facebook Export

So after a couple of hours, Facebook sent me a link to a zip file that contains a rather nice plain html facsimile of my Facebook profile page. Contains the few pictures I uploaded and comments on them. A list of my FB friends' names (and a couple of email addresses where they were available) and the not-very-interesting archive of all the private messages I've sent and received. (Most of which are just co-ordination).

I'd say they did a good job of this. It's probably even possible (theoretically or someone may have already written the script) to import this into another YASN.

What's missing, of course, and the major value (from my perspective) of what I put into Facebook, is the huge amount of writing and discussion I've had in comments on other people's threads and in particular in various groups (including secret groups).

I knew I wasn't going to get this. And think there's a good rationale for it. But it's kind of sad too. 

Looking to what else I can recover and how.

Super Monetization

Very interesting video of Jaron Lanier promoting the idea of a fully monetarised web (all information should be charged for) as a reinvigoration of an economy that works for the middle / professional class.

My notes on ThoughtStorms.

ps : Music heralds, as always.

Facebook Export

So, I've found that Facebook do have an option to export some of your data (including pics).

Let's see how it does.

Monday, April 29, 2013

International Workshop on Document Changes

This is striking. The first international workshop on document changes. You can see that this is actually a big issue. Probably some very interesting work going on there.

Exit Planet Facebook

So, this is the last straw. I'm leaving Facebook.

I've been too caught up, not so much talking to real-life friends (which FB is useful for keeping track of) but having discussions with various interesting online people and groups.

This is ludicrous. Most of these conversations could be had anywhere. We used to have them on blogs and wikis. Or on Tribe. Or Slashdot.

We don't need to give this power to Zuckerberg and Facebook. We shouldn't have let our social AND intellectual lives get enclosed like this.

I've been saying this for a long time, of course. But this time ... I mean it. I've logged out of FB. I haven't deleted the account yet because I want to make sure the message I sent to all my FB friends doesn't disappear too. But I'm gone.

There's also a deeper problem, which I may have mentioned before. I think Facebook has essentially reinvented TV. It's an absolutely lousy medium for thoughtful discussion. Long comments are truncated to a couple of lines. Your actual content is squashed into a narrow column between acres of adverts / chat and infrastructure and is unceremoniously flowed off the page as quickly as possible. Facebook's design is ruthlessly optimised not to let you talk and listen but to keep you titillated with NEW items. Little hits of stimulation (an easily shared new image / meme;  status from a DIFFERENT friend you hadn't thought about in the last 10 minutes.) etc. All your emotional / personal connection to people is harnessed to keep you fixated on an overwhelming flux and your response to little more than automatic "likes" and "forwards".

The patterns of Facebook interaction are as disinforming and dis-empowering as the mindless channel hopping that TV promoted.

Marshall Mcluhan was right: the shape of a medium swamps its actual content. It's time to say no this perverse refinement of the flow internet and look for something that enables productive networking, thought and discussion.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Hackney Goes Global

Bruce Sterling on the highlights of SXSW :
Even a neighborhood from London: Hackney. I was super-impressed by that: Hackney. Hackney! That is unheard-of global ambition by a district of a town. It’s like South Austin had it’s own presence at the London Olympics.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

BBC Admits Misleading Video

Sometimes it's a slog to try to get the country's leading public service broadcaster to actually, you know, do a bit of public service by correctly educating people.

Three cheers for Conrad Jones for going through it.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Cowardice of Iraq Hawks

Gawker nails it :
Cowardice defined the public debate leading up to the Iraq War. How is it that millions upon millions of ordinary citizens around the world could plainly see that the case for war was a farce, yet our nation's most respected pundits, with their inside access, could not? Even then, you did not have to be a genius to see that Iraq's connection to 9/11 was tenuous at best. And you did not have to be an insider to know that a war would kill and maim and destroy the lives of millions of people. And you did not have to be a great philosopher to draw the conclusion that it was a bad idea. The fact that pundit class supported the war en masse is not evidence of some great and sophisticated trickery on the part of the White House. It is evidence of cowardice. Liberal politicians and thinkers—the very set of people who were supposed to form the opposition to such rash violent imperial crusades—talked themselves into supporting the war because it was popular. It is that simple. They allowed themselves to be taken for a ride, because that ride was more comfortable for them than facing the loud backlash of post 9/11 war machine, which had captured public support—with the help of the very pundits and journalists and politicians who were supposed to be providing the counterbalance to it.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Deeper Meaning of Cyprus

Worth a read

This is good too.

Ash Ashaninka

Bloody hell! This guy, Ash, was at our house last week. Very gentle, soft-spoken indigenous activist.

Today it seems like he was arrested in Rio as the police are clearing people out of Aldeia Maracanã. 

This is basically a museum of the indigenous people in Rio de Janiero. The local government have decided they want to repurpose it as a museum of sport before the Olympics. The indigenous are occupying it, protesting that the government is destroying their tradition and heritage. There are plenty of other sites suitable for a sport / Olympic museum. But, as usual, there are moneyed interests who want a prime piece of real-estate and this is an excuse to get their hands on it.

  You can see a short documentary about the museum here.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

We're Idiots

I mean, how stupid are we, really?

We are sprinting to put in place a network of autonomous, self-feeding, all-seeing drones that are too small and manoeuvrable to avoid, outrun or fight. One of two things will happen : we'll lose control of them (Skynet scenario) or the state will retain control of them (Big Brother scenario). There isn't a third option.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Hipster Olympics

Wow! Just found a Korean hip-hop mp3 on an old disk. Something I downloaded from the internet about 10 years ago.

File is called "psy_halloween.mp3". I therefore totally demand my Hipster Olympic Gold Medal in the "I liked them before they were famous" event.

Monday, March 04, 2013

The Oil Shale Bubble

You really should read this. Connects the dots between the financial impropriety and ecologically disastrous energy policies.

Wall Street culture—not to mention the entire suite of economic expectations that guides the behavior of governments, businesses, and most individuals in today’s America—assumes that the close-to-zero return on investment that’s become standard in the last few years is a temporary anomaly, and that a good investment ought to bring in what used to be considered a good annual return: 4%, 6%, 8%, or more. What only a few thinkers on the fringes have grasped is that such returns are only normal in a growing economy, and we no longer have a growing economy.

Sustained economic growth, of the kind that went on from the beginning of the industrial revolution around 1700 to the peak of conventional oil production around 2005, is a rare anomaly in human history. It became a dominant historical force over the last three centuries because cheap abundant energy from fossil fuels could be brought into the economy at an ever-increasing rate, and it stopped because geological limits to fossil fuel extraction put further increases in energy consumption permanently out of reach. Now that fossil fuels are neither cheap nor abundant, and the quest for new energy sources vast and concentrated enough to replace them has repeatedly drawn a blank, we face several centuries of sustained economic contraction—which means that what until recently counted as the groundrules of economics have just been turned on their head.

You will not find many people on Wall Street capable of grasping this. The burden of an outdated but emotionally compelling economic orthodoxy, to say nothing of a corporate and class culture that accords economic growth the sort of unquestioned aura of goodness other cultures assign to their gods, make the end of growth and the coming of permanent economic decline unthinkable to the financial industry, or for that matter to the millions of people in the industrial world who rely on investments to pay their bills. There’s a strong temptation to assume that those 8% per annum returns must still be out there, and when something shows up that appears to embody that hope, plenty of people are willing to rush into it and leave the hard questions for later. Equally, of course, the gap thus opened between expectations and reality quickly becomes a happy hunting ground for scoundrels of every stripe.