“I never dreamed they could profit from my husband’s death,” Jane Sims told the Houston Chronicle after Wal-Mart collected $64,000 on her spouse, who worked 11 years at a Texas distribution center until his 1998 fatal heart attack. Sims is part of a lawsuit charging that Wal-Mart took out some 350,000 similar policies, then wrote off premium costs as a tax-deductible business expense.This perhaps explains why Wal-Mart seems to hire so many senior citizens and retirees. [A longer article is in the INDYpendent. Or Google's set of stories.] [via Kelly]
In this dream My husband and I are computer repair and sales people. We get a phone call from a customer who bought a computer from us but is having problems with it. SO i agree to meet him and help sort the problem out....I'm not a fan of dream interpretations--bizarre imagery is interesting for its own sake, though.
[via a c|net story, among other places]
At some point last summer, the White House changed the robots.txt files in White House websites to include most of the directories with "Iraq" in them to the robots.txt file, meaning that search engines would no longer list pages from White House websites if the pages contained the word "Iraq". As the DNC's blog ("Kicking Ass") describes it,
Why would the White House do this? Those pages are still public, and the White House search engine itself does index those pages, so users can still get to them.
It's easy enough to understand the reasoning if you look at past White House actions. Earlier this year, the White House revised pages on its website claiming that "combat" was over in Iraq, changing them to say "major combat."
One of the reasons some alert readers noticed the change — and were able to prove it — was that Google had archived the pages before the change occurred. Now that all of the White House pages about Iraq are no longer archived by Google, such historical revisionism will be harder to catch.
Seth Finkelstein's Infothought blog offers a more detailed and wide-ranging analysis, including extensive links, comparisons, and ongoing discussion (including what Dan Gilmor describes as the Occam's Razor" explanation).
[via Dan Gillmor's eJournal]
I was laughing out loud when I forwarded this along to Mercury News Business Editor Vindu Goel. He wrote back, "Costumed people dancing in the streets of a city that just had the Exotic Erotic Ball and is going to have a peace protest this weekend -- and Oki actually thinks it'll get noticed?" (He also observed that San Francisco isn't exactly the hotbed of technology, though there are undoubtedly some "hot beds" (note spelling in press release) in the city.)But by the end of the article, he realizes his complicity (Palmolive? You're soaking in it):
Still, I'll bet that the local TV stations will cover this stunt.Bingo. That's the gift of postmodernist culture. There's no such thing as bad press, because mindshare influences brand recognition.
Question: Does this posting count as coverage, too?
7% of email users report that they have ordered a product or service that was offered in an unsolicited email, although not all of this is pure “spam.” 33% of email users have clicked on a link in unsolicited email to get more information.... 32% consider unsolicited commercial email to be spam, even if it came from a sender with whom they’ve “already done business.”
In a grotesque, totally po-mo spin on reality talent shows like "American Idol," Russian prison officials organized a contest in which prisoners sing their way out of jail. Six convicts pleased judges enough to awin pardons.Link to story. Anyone who provides BoingBoing with links to MP3s of winning (or, heck, losing) tunes wins a reduced life sentence. UPDATE: An anonymous BoingBoing reader points us to MP3 files from prison singer Vladimir Volzhsky. Link to Russian page,
Vladimir Volzhsky sang his own song, White Nights of the Perm Prison Camp. He has already released two albums.
The prisoners sang to 1,100 guests, most of whom were prison and police officials.
Technically, the six to be freed will be released because their parole is due, not just because of the competition. The 17 losers received a television and a small cash prize.
Link to English.
[via Boing Boing]
After dinner Friday the kid wanted to do a jigsaw puzzle and I thought that we might as well have a musical backdrop for our quality time. I felt in a rock & roll mode and my hand fell on the White Album. Eventually Revolution #9 came along, and all these decades later, you know, it holds up pretty well. Anyhow, the kid with furrowed brow was trying to figure out which way a piece of Thomas the Tank Engine would fit, and I was making helpful suggestions when I noticed that in his little munchkin voice he was intoning “Number nine... Number nine... Number nine...” Now that’s Quality Time.
Coincidentally, yesterday afternoon I could hear my daughter attempting to work her way through a new song on her guitar upstairs, in her room above my office. I was struggling to place the song, which sounded familiar. She came downstairs and asked me to help her figure out some slide notation in the tab, and realized she was learning Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here" (which I have to point out is a song that I think of as from my generation, but actually came out when I was about ten).
Cartography seems to have some parallels with HCI, and its modern twist, interaction design. Both disciplines are interested in how information is disseminated, passed, parsed and used, and this book takes a cognitive approach to understanding. It doesn't stop at when the information is understood, but is interested in how that information will be used, for what purpose, and under what conditions (and then taking that learning and changing the design accordingly).The problem of usefulness has plagued computing as a human activity for its entire history. Users are frequently constructed as inefficient components of an otherwise smoothly running program. Delays and unused gestures are seen as waste, something to be overcome. The system only runs well when the users understands instantaneously, without thought. The interface, like the map, is seen as a necessary embarrassment, an admission that there's dirt within the system, impurity.
But what if maps are not representations but contexts for stories to play out? Not so much in the sense of Brenda Laurel's notion of "computers as theater", but in postmodernist, "happening" sort of way.
There's something odd and fascinating about this: RapidEyeMovement, a website that hosts dream journals (and allows other visitors to add their interpretations).
In this dream My husband and I are computer repair and sales people. We get a phone call from a customer who bought a computer from us but is having problems with it. SO i agree to meet him and help sort the problem out....
The “to-do” screen, for example, could be a context, with e-mail mixed in with related task items. So if you’re planning a party, Chandler might put a calendar with key dates on it (when to pick up a cake, say), the invitation form, RSVPs, a task list, and even a budget on-screen at once. When a guest’s e-mail request for veggie hors d’oeuvres arrives, arranging for them would automatically be added to your to-do list. Contexts will mean Chandler can reorganize the screen every time the user shifts between projects, as if she were replacing her desk with a new one. That’s a far cry from today’s software, which forces people to dig through applications and file folders to find things, and to print them out if they want to see everything in one place. And while Chandler will offer preset contexts, Kapor expects other open-source programmers to build them, too. If someone develops a better way to run spreadsheet analyses, a user can simply pull out existing contexts and replace them. (Try that with Outlook.)Sounds great on paper--I'm hoping it works as well.
Now Reading: William T. Vollman, Argall:
A book of North American Landscapes, V.3.and Ellen Lupton (Ed.) Skin.
Now Listening: Drive-By Truckers: Decoration Day and Afrikaa BamaataWhat's the Name of this Nation? Zulu!
Now Watching: Led Zeppelin, How the West Was Won (DVD).
An Austrian firm is developing a giant video-conferencing system that will be deployed in public spaces in London and Vienna next year, allowing people in the two cities to meet and talk eye-to-eye. Standing in front of the 10-foot-high, cylindrical TV screen is like looking directly into the heart of a foreign city, its inventors say.
In the TemplateMaster case, purchasers are prevented from letting anyone aside from the purchaser use the tool.
"...the purpose of the TemplateMaster is to clone itself. Therefore we are verifying your honesty that only you will use the tool and you will not be passing it around to others to use for free. It is exactly the same as the 'shrink wrap' agreement that comes with almost all computer software. Please help us fight 'tool piracy'." [full agreement at Stots online]Note that the agreement articulates "honesty" in a very bizarre and interesting way:
The way things used to work was that people used tools to make, among other things, new tools. It's not like they grew new tools on trees. So when my wife and I hired a local carpenter last year to build a porch on our house, he started by building a whole range of jigs and frames and sawhorses to use in the construction. And what did he use to build them? Tools, including other jigs and frames and sawhorses.
Now I'm worried that I'm going to be sued as the construction equivalent of his ISP or something.
Officials at the Ottawa Airport have flown into damage control after a visitor noticed that large display maps in the new terminal have redrawn the United States, putting Atlanta in Alabama and Washington, D.C., next to North Carolina.Oddly, in my experiences, Canadians seem to know the US much better than the US knows Canada. That's either due to the fact that many Canadians I deal with are in the midst of the Green Card process, or because the airport hired a particularly lame company to do the maps. Or both. [via The Map Room]
But savor what actually exists: a sensuous spectacle to be relished and explored. Someone who never buys a ticket can discover hidden terraces 70 feet in the air, or lean against the thin steel panels that frame the travertine stairway that sweeps upward from the corner of Grand Avenue and First Street. Disney Hall offers triumphant proof that architecture can thrive as an interactive part of the larger culture around it -- not merely an object of contemplation.From a completely utilitarian standpoint--a rudimentary usability position--the work of Gehry and other contemporary architects is massively stupid. But from a usefulness perspective, one that values the ability of situations and technologies to challenge people, to help them learn things about themselves and the world around them--this makes a lot of sense.
The key question, of course, is this: How does one apply the things learned in deconstructive and postmodernist architecture to other fields?
As Pentagram's Robert Brunner argued last week at the HITS (Humans/Interaction/Technology/Strategy conference in Chicago: "It doesn't matter if something is usable. What matters is that it is useful. Even better if it is desirable." To break the deadlock in user-interface and product design, we need radical innovations. We could start by going beyond the text- and list-based interface of Google, and should be debating what could be learned from Grokker's information visualisation-driven product.I've long thought that the most interesting and useful computer experiences emerged from breakdowns. This is true of education in general: one doesn't learn important things if they're transparent. One learns when theories and concepts collide, and when realities smack them upside the head. The most unusable technologies are frequently the most useful. Usability models, though, tend to conceive of breakdown--even visibility--as a bad thing, to be avoided. Sure, we can't survive if everything breaks down completely. But if things aren't stress facturing, if the system doesn't crash occasionally, you're not pushing hard enough.
The Online Journalism Review (OJR) has an in-depth interview with Krishna Bharat, the creator of Google News. (Here's a photo of the Google News team with the Webby Award they won.)
Bharat says, in the interview,
There are no press releases on the browsable pages or news pages. We have a higher editorial responsibility on those because we're telling you where you should look. On the news pages, we do not intend to use press releases. We would never do anything to compromise the objectivity of the product. We don't even show advertising … we do this because we think it's useful. Making a press release available as part of the search results gives the full facts that were available to the reporter when they wrote it.
I want this to be a force for a democracy. I want us to be an honest broker, and I want newspapers featured on our site to get traffic from us. … There's never been a more controversial time on the planet. I think it's great to be a news source at this point because there's so much hunger for news. You see a lot more diversity in the news coverage on our site than on others. I think the diversity is a mirror to the diversity of opinion there is worldwide. One of the things that makes us objective is we show all points of view. Even if you disagree with one, we give you both -- the majority and the minority point of view. The ones you don't agree with are education. It's nice to know what the other side is thinking. You'll see left-leaning ones as much as much as you see right-leaning ones. Frankly, the software doesn't know the difference between left and right, which is good.
[via Google Weblog]
Though no formal policy exists, teachers there generally apply the same rules that they have for computers: no exchange of information between devices, and no personal e-mail or chatting unless it's part of a class exercise.They've got it all wrong: Educational and work structures--social life in general--are changing. Systems are fragmenting, dispersing, and recombining. The development of ubiquitous communication networks provides a whole new model for our culture(s). If we fail to respond to those changes in positive ways, we're toast.
When East Dubuque does consider a PDA policy, Ambrosia said he'll want to ban the combination cell phone-PDA models.
"It shouldn't be so easy to have all these other functions at their fingertips," he said. "It's hard enough to keep a young teenager on task."
Face it: Schools and workplaces can't control the devices by banning them. Educational and working structures need to take advantage of these changes. More importantly, they have to recognize that old forms of learning and working--long, sustained, concentration on a single topic to the exclusion of all else--no longer function effectively.
Current models of learning and working are broken. There's no reason to defend them from disruptive technologies. In fact, those technologies are the new learning and work structures and processes.
Singer-songwriter Elliot Smith, 34, was found dead Tuesday by his girlfriend in the Los Angeles apartment they shared. He apparently stabbed himself in the chest.Not to me morbid, but Smith never struck me as a violent-suicide type, more a pills or a running-car-closed-garage-door or just-fade-into-the-void type. Stabbing himself in the chest? No.
The terrorists arrive that awful Sept. 11 morning, and the nation spends the past two years trying to cope. The government investigates shadowy places where it never previously stuck its nose, and the civil libertarians shudder. Is Big Brother getting too snoopy? A 12-year-old kid at Boys' Latin researches a paper on the Bay Bridge, and suddenly the FBI's Joint Terrorist Task Force shows up in the headmaster's office.[via Blogdex]
Early on during the conference, Whit Diffie hacked his nTAG badge to send a sleep command to any nTAG badge in range, effectively deactivating them. As word spread of the hack, people sought him out to sleep their hated badges. Others were pissed that he was turning off their badges without permission; someone asked at the end of the conference if sending a sleep command constituted an attack (When Sleep Attacks!).At next year's conference, attendees will be required to download nTag patches overnight and reboot each morning.
Yes, Google inline definitions. Nice. (Also try: define:mandelbrot set)Or maybe define:"search engine".
Last week at UbiComp 2003, a ubiquitous computing conference in Seattle, many engineers confronted the damage their technology might cause to personal privacy. "The more awareness you have in the system," said one engineer who asked not to be named, "the less privacy you're going to have. That's the trade-off.""Asked not to be named"? How ironic. Luckily, his IntelliBadge™ would allow us to track them down if we needed to....
Jim Garrison writes to report the launch of a project that uses my three favorite things (THINGS): free software, Creative Commons licenses, and RDF. Gnomoradio.org will "create an online network where artists can promote and share their music freely and willingly." As its announcement explains, it is built on gpl'd software, and gives artists the ability to generate "an Internet address (a URL) that will point to information about the song, a machine-readable license, a method of verifying the downloaded song, a link to the artist's web site, and information about purchasing any available recordings of the song." More discussion.
Let free compete with controlled, and let's see who wins.
[via Lessig Blog]
She reported an experiment in which people were shown an advert suggesting that children who visited Disneyland had the opportunity to shake hands with Bugs Bunny. Later, many of those who had seen the advert "remembered" meeting Bugs on childhood visits to the theme park, a feat that would have been impossible, given that the cartoon is a Warner Brothers character.Or more directly,
Earlier this year, other American psychologists announced research findings to the American Association for the Advancement of Science, showing the ease with which false memories can be implanted in people's minds. In a test by the cognitive psychologist Kathryn Braun-LaTour, a colleague of Zaltman's, participants were served an unpleasant-tasting orange drink spiked with salt and vinegar. They were then shown adverts suggesting the drink was refreshing. Sure enough, many of the participants later reported that they had found the drink refreshing.In a case of wild understatement, Loftus commented, "This brings forth ethical considerations. Is it OK for marketers to knowingly manipulate consumers' pasts?" [Via Blackbelt Jones Work]
The invention of the movies was transformative for architecture, paralleling and informing the invention of the idea of space. A medium that allows the continuous depiction of space, the movies goaded architecture into a new sense of flow, creating an idea of the palpability--the physics--of the space. Space was no longer just a byproduct of the order of events. Animated, the rush of space could be expected to have an effect on the material conditions through which it passed. Film was able, for the first time, to capture the blur of speed much the way we--slow to process our own environment--perceive it. Interest in such distortion through attenuation has something of a history, originating in our ability to cross landscapes at increasing speeds--the view from the train or the car.
(Michael Sorkin, "Frozen Light", p. 28. Architecture + Process: Gehry Talks>)Architecture, along with music and film, seem to have done a much better job at responding to--and influencing--cultural and technical changes over the last decade than writing has been. Perhaps writing, at least as the term is currently articulated, is by definition antithetical to twenty-first-century culture. That's not to say that there aren't forms of writing that are more attuned to the shapes and trajectories of contemporary life--blogs maybe, or billboards or instant messaging--but only that those forms of writing aren't yet considered "real" writing by most people.
"There are many different RSS readers out there, and the choices are growing every day. For this roundup we picked some of the top new choices and even found one for the Pocket PC. FeedDemon - Full featured RSS reader with lots of bells and whistles. The Cadillac of RSS readers right now. Aggreg8 - Mozilla add-on that provides a simple interface and basic RSS functionality. NewsGator - Unique RSS reader that functions as an add-on to Microsoft Outlook. Blends in nicely with the Outlook interface. Feedreader - Basic RSS reader that gets the job done without a lot of bells and whistles. PocketFeed - Basic reader for Pocket PCs. Still at an early stage of development but we found it usable and quite cool. SharpReader - SharpReader requires Microsoft's .NET framework. It provides basic reader functionality and features. Nothing to rave about but quite functional." (Marc Erickson) [Lockergnome Bytes]
So imagine this: An employee works for a software company. He discovers a problem with the software, tries to warn the company, but it does nothing. He quits, and then sends email to all the customers of the company, informing them of the security problem with the software. The flood of emails brings the email server down for a bit, but that admittedly does not cause significant damage. Nonetheless, the employee is criminally prosecuted for causing an "impairment to the integrity" of a computer system (by revealing its flaws) which resulted in more than $5,000 in damage (because now it was known to be flawed).The story has a happy ending. Sort of. An appeals court judge vacated the earlier ruling (although the ex-ex-con served 16 months).
The employee is found guilty. He is sentenced and serves (yes, he actually serves) 16 months in a federal prison.
Technically, though, I'm assuming the employee was found guilty due to having signed a nondisclosure agreement while he still worked at the company (and which was probably still in effect when he sent the email). It's not clear to me where the line is between revealing trade secrets and whistle-blowing; at the very least, it's not as clear as Lessig's claim that, "it can't be 'damage' to tell the truth about some company's software--however ugly that truth might be." In fact, there are enormous numbers of "ugly" things that should be protected, to some extent. Privacy for example. Back doors to software. Credit card numbers, when stored in a database or file. And, yes, sometimes trade secrets (real ones, that is, not the overly broad type frequently claimed by companies just to bully people around, like Diebold's attempts to shut down criticism of its voting machines [eff link]).
So while Lessig's nameless employee may have been on the side of justice and right here, we need to be careful about making this a banner case. Maybe it's more complicated than it's been portrayed. (I'll admit here that I've only read Lessig's entry on this, not the PDF of the decision that he links to.)
Tim: Which button do I press to make the blocks explode? EGM: Sorry, they don't explode. Becky: This is boring. Maybe if it had characters and stuff and different levels, it would be OK. If things blew up or something or—And from a review of Pong, which I remember playing at a friend's house when I was about six:
John: In this thing? [Points to the Pong game console] Tim: I would never pay to play something like this. John: I'd sooner jump up and down on one foot. By the way, is this supposed to be tennis or Ping-Pong? Becky: Ping-Pong. Gordon: It doesn't even go over the net. It goes through it. I don't even think that thing in the middle is a net. Tim: My line is so beating the heck out of your stupid line. Fear my pink line. You have no chance. I am the undisputed lord of virtual tennis. [Misses ball] Whoops. John: Tim, how could you miss that? It was going like 1 m.p.h. Sheldon: Hey, why does it say Sears on the controller? EGM: Sears sold it for Atari. Andrew: Isn't Sears, like, a clothing company? Becky: Sears makes everything. Actually, I've never been in there.A few weeks ago, I realized that "Classic Rock" stations were now playing songs that were released when I was in high school.
Designing web-based enterprise software involves creating complex artifacts like architecture wireframes, object models, screen flows, and clickable prototypes in order to articulate aspects of the online experience for product stakeholders. But what does “craft” mean for interaction designers?Gajendar discusses, among other things, the connections between interface elements such as icon design (normally considered very low level) and overall site purpose and usability (normally considered very high level). And on the way, there are some interesting insights about the rebirth of craft in contemporary technology design.
All of which harkens back to Frank Lloyd Wright's admonition that "form follows function" was not a "horse first, then cart" argument, but more along the lines of "yin/yang"--the micro and the macro are intimately related. The meaning of the small is articulated partially by its context, and contexts' meanings are articulated partially in the micro items they contain. To alter one is to alter the other.
negative impact on children that view the movie" for the bulldozer maker and its line of toys.But given that IP law generally protects criticism, it seems like Caterpillar's suit becomes self-contradictory.
[On] November 8, 2003, your EMusic subscription will convert into EMusic Basic. Under EMusic Basic, you will be billed $9.99 per month for access to the service with no minimum monthly commitment, but you will be limited to no more than 40 downloads during your monthly billing cycle.Yeah, that's a good deal. It's cheaper than iTunes Store, but it's not at all what I bought in for. What I liked about eMusic was the space I had to try things out, to download a couple of songs -- or even a few albums -- and see if I liked them. I think my "hit" ratio was about 33%. On one hand, that seems low--but only if you're paying per track. And if you think about it, that's what the music industry--especially alternative labels--should be encouraging: people need to get out of their comfort zones, listen to some new artists. And it's not like my $10 a month is the only money going into the music industry. In the last month alone, in addition to my eMusic $10, I've bought $100 worth of CDs and $60 worth of music DVDs. (This is the point where I find out if my wife Kelly is reading my weblog. Wait--I mentioned them in my weblog, so they're business tax deductions!) Per-song payment obviously discourages this sort of experimental listening. Instead, it seems, we're going back to the old model, where the Brittany Spears and U2s and Shania Twains dominate the sonic landscape. So, like Dan Gilmore (and I'm guessing many, many others), I'm saying so long to eMusic.
"This is good news (ok, not for Halderman but for the law). SunnComm says it is suing Alex Halderman (Ed Felten's student) because he posted a paper pointing out the weaknesses in SunnComm's copy-protection software. I'm sure there will be a world of legal support to help Halderman establish what should be an obvious point: tell the truth is not yet a crime, and (fortunately for most professors) writing even wrong papers is not either.
"UPDATE: Oh well. Looks like SunnComm has come to its senses. No lawsuit after all."
Wired Magazine reports on a new kind of ISP: an "invisible" hosting service, based in the former Soviet Union, which uses a network of compromised machines and some redirection-fu to make it very hard to determine where a web-server actually lives. The service is reportedly marketed to spammers as an untraceable base-of-operations. I'm pretty skeptical about the untraceability of these systems -- I suspect that rather, they are resistant to some tools, not resistant to others, and not hard to write new tools to uncover. Still, it's juicy, lurid reading.[ via boing-boing, channeling Wired ]Another site hosted by the Polish group offers free credit consultations. Traceroutes to the site, removeform.com, also provided ever-changing results, ranging from a computer connected to a DSL line in Israel to another provided by EarthLink. However, the title of the site's home page consistently read "Yahoo Web Hosting," suggesting it was actually located on a server run by the Internet giant.
According to Tubul, his group controls 450,000 "Trojaned" systems, most of them home computers running Windows with high-speed connections. The hacked systems contain special software developed by the Polish group that routes traffic between Internet users and customers' websites through thousands of the hijacked computers. The numerous intermediary systems confound tools such as traceroute, effectively laundering the true location of the website. To utilize the service, customers simply configure their sites to use any of several domain-name system servers controlled by the Polish group, Tubul said.
SunnComm claims its product facilitates "a verifiable and commendable level of security," but in tests on a newly-released album, I find that the protections may have no effect on a large fraction of deployed PCs, and that most users who would be affected can bypass the system entirely by holding the shift key every time they insert the CD. I explain that MediaMax interferes with audio copying by installing a device driver the first time software from the CD is executed, but I show that this provides only minimal protection because the driver can easily be disabled. I also examine the digital rights management system used to control access to a set of encrypted, compressed audio files distributed on the CD. Although restrictions on these files are more relaxed than in prior copy protected discs, they still prohibit many uses permitted by the law. I conclude that MediaMax and similar copy-prevention systems are irreparably flawed but predict that record companies will find success with more customer-friendly alternatives for reducing infringement.A BusinessWire report contains more info about SunComm's proposed lawsuit. SunComm initially alleges that Halderman's report contains misleading and incorrect information that damaged SunComm's market value--if true, this seems actionable. However, the real thrust of SunComm's legislation centers on a second claim:
[...] SunnComm believes that Halderman has violated the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) by disclosing unpublished MediaMax management files placed on a user's computer after user approval is granted. Once the file is found and deleted according to the instructions given in the Princeton grad student's report, the MediaMax copy management system can be bypassed resulting in the copyright protected music being converted or misappropriated for potentially unauthorized and/or illegal use. SunnComm intends to refer this possible felony to authorities having jurisdiction over these matters because: 1. The author admits that he disabled the driver in order to make an unprotected copy of the disc's contents, and 2. SunnComm believes that the author's report was "disseminated in a manner which facilitates infringement" in violation of the DMCA or other applicable law.In short, SunComm is using the DMCA in exactly the way that the EFF and many people warned it would be used: to prevent important research that could help consumers and other companies judge claims of security. Consider it from this angle: SunComm was planning on marketing the software as an effective copy protection scheme. Halderman showed that claim was wildy unaccurate. SunComm responds not by thanking Halderman or, at the very least, apologizing to shareholders and potential customers. Instead, they use the DMCA to shut him down and to discourage anyone from seriously investigating industry claims to security. An interesting aside: Suppose a company hired Halderman to assess the validity of the security contained in various copyright protection schemes. Would Halderman's research then fall uder the realm of caveat emptor--buyer beware--or would SunComm then be able to sue the other company and Halderman if they published their findings. My guess is that the DMCA trumps such research and responsible social activities.
This new, "light" version of the home page will only be shown to those users who are not already registered on eBay. Registered users should still see the previous design. If you are registered with eBay, you can sign in here to get the registered user version of the home page. The objective of this new home page is to educate new users on how eBay works. Our customer research indicated that many new users needed additional information about eBay and consequently, we tested several different designs over the past year to learn what would be the most compelling to this audience. Our final design, a version dedicated to education content, performed the best in helping new users to get started and use eBay.I'm of mixed opinions about this. I like the simplification of the new default page--less clutter and a task orientation are useful. And allowing registered users to use the old interface make sense--they've already developed a cognitive framework for dealing with the amounts of information contained on old-style pages. At the same time, the new task orientation does push PayPal as the only option for payment. (PayPal is an eBay company--this information is made obvious on the main screen.) Users will discover after they register that other methods are allowed (ranging from direct credit card through money order, etc.). eBay's contention, I expect, would be that PayPal is the preferred option and the easiest method for paying. And maybe that's their right--it is, after all, their site. But I've not been happy with my experiences with PayPal (which include denying that my bank account info was valid, even though I was taking it directly from my bank statement--probably an issue with my bank, but not something I was ever able to resolve in order to transfer money into PayPal).
The best thing on television is crap. If God is speaking through Billy Graham, then God is a blockhead.
Saving Private Lynch From Misinformation.Given the fact that much of the news surrounding the original event was itself staged and filtered, won't this be sort of like make a movie of a movie?
John Fasano (screenwriter of such classics as Darkness Falls, Megiddo: The Omega Code 2, and Another 48 Hours) offers a very interesting caveat regarding his in-production film about the icon apparent (or not) of Operation Iraqi Freedom. This begs the question: With a public undoubtedly waiting for this made-for-TV movie to know "what really happened to Jessica" and such a blurred line between truth and propaganda, is this responsible movie-making? Many Americans turn to Hollywood for their history lessons, so I have to wonder...
However, information obtained by Wired News at a training session for Alameda County poll workers indicates that security lapses in the use of the equipment and poor worker training could expose the election to serious tampering. Voting-machine experts say the lapses could allow a poll worker or an outsider to change votes in machines without being detected. And because other problems inherent in the software won’t be fixed before the recall, experts say sophisticated intruders can intercept and change vote tallies as officials transmit themNo word on whether these issues were fixed prior to yesterday's vote, but it seems unlikely. Furthermore, these are the sorts of issues that have plagued this technology from the start. Computers aren't magic.
pointed to this AP story on George Bush's news consumption habits: Bush said he insulates himself from the "opinions" that seep into news coverage by getting his news from his own aides. He said he scans headlines, but rarely reads news stories. "I appreciate people's opinions, but I'm more interested in news," the president said. "And the best way to get the news is from objective sources, and the most objective sources I have are people on my staff who tell me what's happening in the world."I guess you can do this if you make all the news.
The most plausible example in the world of true schizophrenic, as opposed to merely eccentric or fantastic architecture, would have to be the Junker House in Lemgo, Germany. Its creator, Karl Junker (1850–1912), was a highly trained architect, whose entire career and only building was this house. The explanation for this peculiar state of affairs was the onset of a chronic schizophrenic illness when Junker was in his mid thirties, schizophrenia which found concrete expression in the architect’s personal environment. The house represents a true gesamtkunstwerk which includes, not only the architectural environment (largely the interior of the house), but also all of the furniture, murals and panel paintings, sculpture and carved reliefs. Every aspect of the artist’s living space gave expression to his internal reality. Only outside of an asylum, could such a complete life work be created. Junker was never hospitalized.Oddly, the house itself represents schizophrenia at the micro-level rather than at the middle- or macro-levels. For example, the rooms appear to be structured and arranged normally in relation to each other, and rough shape of the house overall is that of a typical house. It is only within certain rooms that schiziphrenic tendencies emerge. In other words, Junker was a postmodernist operating within the confines of a modernist framework. Contrast this to Frank Gehry's work, for example, which approaches schizophrenia and postmodernism at the macro level as well as micro, involving both the visual aspects of a room (or a building) as well as movement through space, from room to room. Gehry's Westin Bonaventure, for example, was famous for (among other things) causing confusion for people who attempted to move about (or even enter) the building. A friend whose high school prom was hosted at the Bonventure told me about seeing his date, one floor up and across the atrium on a balcony, waving to him, but being unable to navigate his way to her location. (Which, in any hotel besides the Westin Bonaventure, would indicate a date trying to ditch you. Which is, perhaps, a good description of postmodernism.) None of this is to say that Junker didn't have schizophrenia, or that Gehry did (both of which are more or less false statements), only that Junker's schizophrenia was built in modernist times, while Gehry's was built during postmodernist.
Google's new terms of service for its AdSense service includes item 17,
Except as required by law, You may not, without Google's prior written consent, issue any press release or make any public statement about the subject matter of this Agreement or use or display any Google logo or trademark in any manner (except as otherwise provided to You by Google as part of an Ad Unit).Russell Beattie reads this to mean users are signing away their rights to prohibit criticism of Google once they've agreed to the AdSense license. (Technically (from a linguistic and grammatical perspective, anyway) it seems that the prohibition regards the subject matter of the agreement (which is a list of terms of service) rather than the service itself (which is free).)
Most of the comments posted to Beattie's site criticize Beattie for complaining about a free service. They have a point, but it misses the larger issue of why Google would try to sneak restrictions on the first amendment in by a backdoor such as this. Or what the point of the restriction is, given Google's usually progressive and user-community-oriented philosophy. I'm reminded of NPR's boneheaded restriction on deep linking last year, which they eventually rescinded; another case where NPR were within their rights--they were providing a free service to the community, but were restricting free speech in a way that seemed contrary to their overall ethos.
Your Web application is very hard to use, oh and it’s ugly too. Yes, I know the back-end code is wonderfully functional, and I understand that you feel that is the important part, but does it really matter if nobody can use the damn thing?Usability--and the ultimate success--of a product rely heavily on the match between what the user wants to do and how the system lets (or doesn't let) them do it.
We've all suffered through innumerable clunky interfaces, confusing menu options, inconsistent or nonexistent navigation schemes, and accusatory status messages. And in many cases, we've taken the time and effort to sort out the hazy logic of the interface, used trial and error to complete a task, or spent time working with tech support to figure out what was going on.
But here's the big question: If the goal of the site or program is to help the user do something, why doesn't the design of the site or program start with the user as the foundation of design? Is that too complicated? Are programmers and website designers just too arrogant? Are conventional models of usability limited or flawed? Asterisk* points to this article by Gerry McGovern, "Your Website is for Your Customer, Not You." Not to point fingers or diminish what is a very good argument, McGovern's site raises the issue of how complex audiences and goals are: The design of his site is very densely crowded with information, some of which relates to the ostensible goal of dispensing wisdom about site design--but a significant chunk of information on the main page is designed to convince readers to become clients--testimonials on McGovern's work from clients, links to, among other things,
For example, although there were early government reports that contained misinformation--and those reports were frequently passed on uncritically by many media sources--most conservative and government sources have corrected those misconceptions publicly on numerous (and sustained) occasions. And even nearly a quarter of people who rely on "liberal" sources (PBS and NPR--which are still relatively mainstream) continue to hold misconceptions about the justifications for war.
What causes this? Are U.S. citizens in general so predisposed to want revenge for 9/11 that they're merely interested in finding a scapegoat? Are they listening to media reports and consciously discounting them, based on some gut-level instinct that they understand the global political situation better than a variety of media? Are people just stupid?
On NPR just before the invasion of Baghdad, a reporter interviewed a soldier who proclaimed his eagerness to "get some payback for 9/11." When the reporter commented that, as far as the knew, no Saudi Arabians were involved in the 9/11 attacks," the soldier didn't argue the point. He merely said, "I don't know--all that stuff is over my head. I'm just gonna' get some payback."
The biggest criticism I hear is, 'Nicholas, you're not crazy enough -- the lab should be nuttier'," he told a corporate audience on a visit to Dublin-based Media Lab Europe, or MLE,says Nicholas Negroponte in a Wired interview. The problem, it seems to me, is the MIT funding structure, which is largely tied to corporate funding and government contracts. On one hand, this money gives the Media Lab the resources to do some dramatically ambitious work, farther out on the edge that many companies can be today. On the other hand, those very resources tie the Media Lab to issues like ROI and technology transfer. In effect, the Media Lab has become a cheaper version of the now-waning corporate R&D divisions.
So while Negroponte describes the Media Lab as a "demilitarized zone" and "on the lunatic fringe", they're probably not out there as far as they could be, due to limitations in their business model.
Such has become the function of academia in many places--a cheaper version of an R&D Department for many companies. Academics work for peanuts--indeed, almost free, grateful for funds to purchase equipment and hire research assistants. So as corporations limit funding for internal R&D, the funneling of resources to academic sites and think tanks has had the effect of reeling innovation back in, adding heavy tendential force to the need for ROI and time to market. The boundaries and location of the "lunatic fringe" depend on where you're standing and how the weather is on that particular day.
[via Wired News]
Enrique Mallen, at Texas A&M, hosts The On-Line Picasso Project. Nearly 7,000 images, timeslines, bio, and more. Very cool.
Most loathsome of all is the fiendish spam hard-burned into DVDs, which forces one to suffer through the commercials gratefully evaded by videotape fast-forwards. The Content Scrambling System copy protection scheme doesn’t work, and the payoff for pirating DVDs is massive, because unlike tapes, digital data don’t degrade with reproduction. So DVDs have the downside of piracy and organized crime, without the upside of free, simple distribution. Someday they will stand starkly revealed for what they really are: collateral damage to consumers in the entertainment industry’s miserable, endless war of attrition with digital media.
ellenf contributes this review of User Interface Design for Programmers. "Aimed at programmers who don't know much about user interface design and think it is something to fear, Joel Spolsky provides a great primer, with some entertaining and informative examples of good and bad design implementations, including some of the thought process behind the decisions. Spolsky feels that programmers fear design because they consider it a creative process rather than a logical one; he shows that the basic principles of good user interface design are logical and not based on some mysterious, indefinable magic."But as someone points out in discussion at Slashdot, one of the problems is that programmers often think they are good at interface design.
What the hell is wrong with Apple that they still give a damn about design and packaging and feel?to which he provides his own answer,
Oh right like you even care.Sarcasm aside, Morford has a good point: Apple takes a lot of flack for spending time on design and packaging and "feel" (whatever that is). Their products are more expensive. Their niche market means that some good Windows software is never released on the Mac, or isn't upgraded as quickly as its Windows counterpart. There's something to be said, though, for paying serious attention to design. "Form follows function," as Frank Lloyd Wright (and others) have said. Or to put it more strongly, as Wright did later--there is not a cause and effect system where forms are caused only by functions. Instead, "[f]orm and function should be one." Good design is not simply an aesthetic issue, or a matter of making the computer look pretty. In some cases, good design is the deciding factor between success and failure. Good design encourages use; good design makes work (and play) more enjoyable. (See also, Don Norman's forthcoming Emotional Design: Why We Love or Hate Everyday Things.)