Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category
WordPress cannot accept embedded links: when I try to insert a link, the post is erased. I’ve tried on Chrome and on Firefox. But WordPress is free, so I can’t complain too much.
In the meantime, I’ll just put the links in the post.
Apparently so-called “revenge porn” often uses images obtained by hacking a stranger’s computer. Read this amazing account by Charlotte Laws at xojane.com of how one woman took effective action by changing her life to focus on the slimy attacks on her daughter:
I felt like Will Smith in “Enemy of the State.”
I was being hunted, harassed and stalked by criminals with technological expertise. I had been thrust into an unexpected war. I felt exposed, vulnerable and alone on the front line. I had awoken a hideous network of villains and saboteurs, who were in pursuit of me, hoping to ruin my life. I had received creepy emails, backlash on Twitter and three death threats. My computer had been bombarded with viruses, and a technician had advised me to buy all new equipment because the malware was tough to remove.
“Also, be leery of unusual cars or vans in the neighborhood,” the tech added.
“Why?” I asked.
“If someone wants to break into your computer network, he will need to be close to your house. That is, unless he has advanced skills. Then, he could gain access from anywhere.”
I hurried home from the hardware store with my all-important purchase: heavy-duty padlocks. I knew I had to secure the gates at my residence, so that an intruder or a team of intruders could not access my backyard and possibly my home.
I pulled into my driveway and scanned the street, glad that the suspicious white car with the young, male driver was no longer present. It had been there on the previous evening, according to my daughter, Kayla. She’d seen it when she returned from work, and she had monitored it for several hours until it disappeared. She did not report the incident to me until the next day.
“Mom, why was there a guy in a white car, watching our house last night?”
Because she had no knowledge of the “be leery of unusual cars or vans” warning by the computer technician, I could not accuse her of paranoia.
I affixed padlocks to the gates, and the phone rang. It was like a gun. It had become a powerful way to threaten and to terrorize me. It was one of my enemy’s weapons. I reluctantly picked up the receiver.
“We know where you live,” a muffled male voice spoke. “Your life will be ruined.” He hung up.
A caller that morning had told me I would be raped, tortured and killed. I glanced out the front window. The night had once looked innocent and peaceful, but suddenly it seemed ominous and dangerous. Then I logged onto my computer to see whether the Twitter backlash against me had ceased. It had not. But there was an odd message on my feed, which read, “Please follow me. I need to direct message you.”
I did as I was instructed, and the interaction resulted in a bizarre phone call. Just as “Enemy of the State” protagonist Will Smith got aid from Gene Hackman — an off-the-grid, former government agent — I was being offered assistance.
“Don’t worry. We’re going to protect you. We’re computer experts,” were the first words uttered by a man nicknamed “Jack,” who claimed to be an operative with the underground group, Anonymous.
I knew little about the famous, decentralized network of activists and hacktivists, who are sometimes called “freedom fighters” or digital Robin Hoods, so I conducted Google searches during our half-hour phone conversation.
“Jack” instructed me on how to protect my computer network and explained in detail how he and a buddy planned to electronically go after the man who had been threatening me and who had been urging his devotees to follow suit. He then uttered the name of the person who has become the most well-known online face of revenge porn: a man named Hunter Moore. . .
Read the whole thing. It’s fascinating and she does indeed make progress.
And here’s another woman’s story, including her campaign to stop the harassment and change the laws.
Very interesting article in the Atlantic by Don Peck:
In 2003, thanks to Michael Lewis and his best seller Moneyball, the general manager of the Oakland A’s, Billy Beane, became a star. The previous year, Beane had turned his back on his scouts and had instead entrusted player-acquisition decisions to mathematical models developed by a young, Harvard-trained statistical wizard on his staff. What happened next has become baseball lore. The A’s, a small-market team with a paltry budget, ripped off the longest winning streak in American League history and rolled up 103 wins for the season. Only the mighty Yankees, who had spent three times as much on player salaries, won as many games. The team’s success, in turn, launched a revolution. In the years that followed, team after team began to use detailed predictive models to assess players’ potential and monetary value, and the early adopters, by and large, gained a measurable competitive edge over their more hidebound peers.
That’s the story as most of us know it. But it is incomplete. What would seem at first glance to be nothing but a memorable tale about baseball may turn out to be the opening chapter of a much larger story about jobs. Predictive statistical analysis, harnessed to big data, appears poised to alter the way millions of people are hired and assessed.
Yes, unavoidably, big data. As a piece of business jargon, and even more so as an invocation of coming disruption, the term has quickly grown tiresome. But there is no denying the vast increase in the range and depth of information that’s routinely captured about how we behave, and the new kinds of analysis that this enables. By one estimate, more than 98 percent of the world’s information is now stored digitally, and the volume of that data has quadrupled since 2007. Ordinary people at work and at home generate much of this data, by sending e-mails, browsing the Internet, using social media, working on crowd-sourced projects, and more—and in doing so they have unwittingly helped launch a grand new societal project. “We are in the midst of a great infrastructure project that in some ways rivals those of the past, from Roman aqueducts to the Enlightenment’s Encyclopédie,” write Viktor Mayer-Schönberger and Kenneth Cukier in their recent book, Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think. “The project is datafication. Like those other infrastructural advances, it will bring about fundamental changes to society.”
Some of the changes are well known, and already upon us. Algorithms that predict stock-price movements have transformed Wall Street. Algorithms that chomp through our Web histories have transformed marketing. Until quite recently, however, few people seemed to believe this data-driven approach might apply broadly to the labor market.
But it now does. According to John Hausknecht, a professor at Cornell’s school of industrial and labor relations, in recent years the economy has witnessed a “huge surge in demand for workforce-analytics roles.” Hausknecht’s own program is rapidly revising its curriculum to keep pace. You can now find dedicated analytics teams in the human-resources departments of not only huge corporations such as Google, HP, Intel, General Motors, and Procter & Gamble, to name just a few, but also companies like McKee Foods, the Tennessee-based maker of Little Debbie snack cakes. Even Billy Beane is getting into the game. Last year he appeared at a large conference for corporate HR executives in Austin, Texas, where he reportedly stole the show with a talk titled “The Moneyball Approach to Talent Management.” Ever since, that headline, with minor modifications, has been plastered all over the HR trade press.
The application of predictive analytics to people’s careers—an emerging field sometimes called “people analytics”—is enormously challenging, not to mention ethically fraught. And it can’t help but feel a little creepy. It requires the creation of a vastly larger box score of human performance than one would ever encounter in the sports pages, or that has ever been dreamed up before. To some degree, the endeavor touches on the deepest of human mysteries: how we grow, whether we flourish, what we become. Most companies are just beginning to explore the possibilities. But make no mistake: during the next five to 10 years, new models will be created, and new experiments run, on a very large scale. Will this be a good development or a bad one—for the economy, for the shapes of our careers, for our spirit and self-worth? Earlier this year, I decided to find out.
Ever since we’ve had companies, we’ve had managers trying to figure out which people are best suited to working for them. The techniques have varied considerably. Near the turn of the 20th century, one manufacturer in Philadelphia made hiring decisions by having its foremen stand in front of the factory and toss apples into the surrounding scrum of job-seekers. Those quick enough to catch the apples and strong enough to keep them were put to work.
In those same times, a different (and less bloody) Darwinian process governed the selection of executives. Whole industries were being consolidated by rising giants like U.S. Steel, DuPont, and GM. Weak competitors were simply steamrolled, but the stronger ones were bought up, and their founders typically were offered high-level jobs within the behemoth. The approach worked pretty well. As Peter Cappelli, a professor at the Wharton School, has written, “Nothing in the science of prediction and selection beats observing actual performance in an equivalent role.”
By the end of World War II, however, American corporations were facing severe talent shortages. Their senior executives were growing old, and a dearth of hiring from the Depression through the war had resulted in a shortfall of able, well-trained managers. Finding people who had the potential to rise quickly through the ranks became an overriding preoccupation of American businesses. They began to devise a formal hiring-and-management system based in part on new studies of human behavior, and in part on military techniques developed during both world wars, when huge mobilization efforts and mass casualties created the need to get the right people into the right roles as efficiently as possible. By the 1950s, it was not unusual for companies to spend days with young applicants for professional jobs, conducting a battery of tests, all with an eye toward corner-office potential. “P&G picks its executive crop right out of college,” BusinessWeek noted in 1950, in the unmistakable patter of an age besotted with technocratic possibility. IQ tests, math tests, vocabulary tests, professional-aptitude tests, vocational-interest questionnaires, Rorschach tests, a host of other personality assessments, and even medical exams (who, after all, would want to hire a man who might die before the company’s investment in him was fully realized?)—all were used regularly by large companies in their quest to make the right hire.
The process didn’t end when somebody started work, either. . .
My grandmother used a wood stove to heat her house, and as a boy I enjoyed making the fire, poking sticks into the flames, and so on. But woodstoves now are high-tech, as described in the NY Times by Matthew Wald:
Only blocks away, the Energy Department manages the search for quarks and NASA scours the heavens for Earth-like planets. But inside a big white tent on the National Mall, the focus is on something simpler: oak, ash and elm, and how to make them heat a house with as little pollution as possible.
It is not rocket science, but the 12 teams that are competing to solve the problem are finding ways to get twice as much heat out of a log of firewood. The effort preserves woodlands, reduces the labor and expense for the mostly low-income people who use wood, and cleans the air.
The stoves on display here, in a tent with a dozen chimneys incongruously poking through the roof, use combinations of computer controls, catalytic converters and sophisticated gas-flow modeling.
“It’s a combination of low tech and high tech,” said James B. Meigs, one of the judges. “It’s a humble area that doesn’t get enough attention.”
Late Tuesday, the judges announced a winner, based on efficiency, cleanliness, consumer appeal and price: an entry by Woodstock Soapstone, of Woodstock, Vt., which builds stoves that are not only clean and efficient, but are intended to be eye-catching, too. The company was awarded $25,000, but the bragging rights are probably worth more, said John Ackerly, president of the Alliance for Green Heat. His group ran the competition, which was sponsored by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, the federal departments of Energy and Agriculture, Popular Mechanics magazine and others.
Mr. Ackerly, citing census data, said wood was the primary source of heat for about 2.3 million American households, largely in rural areas.
Wood stoves typically deliver only 40 to 50 percent of the energy potential of the wood in the space they are supposed to heat. Some of the models in the competition deliver more than 90 percent and make the smoke cleaner. In wood stoves, cleanliness and efficiency turn out to be the same thing.
“If you can see it, if you can smell it, that’s energy that isn’t heating your house,” said another judge, Philip K. Hopke, a professor at Clarkson University and the director of the Institute for a Sustainable Environment there. Parts of the smoke that can be smelled or seen are particles and gases that failed to burn, Professor Hopke said.
The stoves are mostly cast iron or steel, and some are covered in enamel or soapstone. They look like low-tech devices, but in the tent they have been hooked up to digital meters that count their output of carbon monoxide and fine particles, which, like the particles from coal plants, cause respiratory problems. In places with many stove-equipped houses and unfavorable topography, the particles can build up to high concentrations.
A successful stove produces a white ash, made up of minerals like silica, calcium and magnesium, and not much else, because all the wood has been burned. Managing the combustion for efficiency and cleanliness — a problem recognized for hundreds of years — means providing just enough air for thorough burning, but not too much because the more air that enters, the more heat leaves the room as exhaust. Some stoves use oxygen sensors, like the ones in cars, to adjust a fan or valve to keep the balance right. . .
Here’s a Popular Mechanics article about one of the entries, which sounds quite intriguing.
Brian Fung writes in the Washington Post:
Ten years ago, the word “smartphone” didn’t exist. By necessity, neither did the word “dumbphone.”
In a decade, we might talk about all of our appliances in similar ways. From ovens to garage doors to insulin pumps to vehicles, many of our devices are going to be connected to the Internet in the same sense that our phones are now. Certain such products are already on the market; one company, SmartThings, sells devices that help consumers control their lights and locks while they’re not at home, for example. Eventually, these items will be able to respond to signals from one another independent of human input. Your bathroom scale might tell your refrigerator that you’re overweight, and your fridge might start recommending healthier recipes.
That could be great, but it also vastly expands the universe of things that could go wrong, particularly when it comes to privacy. This might seem obvious, until you consider that many of the businesses that make these devices have never really needed to worry about securing their products before. Take dishwashers. At heart, they’re very simple machines. But a hacked dishwasher might start running on overdrive, going through multiple cycles, wasting gallons of water and costing you extra and possibly flooding your house. Although the folks who make dishwashers may be fantastic engineers, or even great computer programmers, it doesn’t necessarily imply they’re equipped to protect Internet users from the outset.
“It’s not just that the consumers don’t understand the technology,” said Jeff Hagins, co-founder of SmartThings, at a Federal Trade Commission workshop Tuesday. “It’s also that the people building it don’t understand it.” Hagins added, hypothetically: “Just because I know how to write PHP doesn’t mean I understand these vulnerabilities at all.”
The same holds true for the auto industry, where many companies have begun to experiment with new technologies that let cars communicate with one another. Tadayoshi Kohno is a researcher at the University of Washington who’s spent a lot of time deliberately hacking into cars to test their vulnerabilities.
“Very often we see sectors of the broader industry that are not computer science experts starting to integrate computers into their systems and then start to integrate networks into those systems,” said Kohno. “Because they don’t have experience being attacked by real attackers, like Microsoft and so on, their level of security awareness … appears to be dated.”
Hacking is just an extreme case. Short of that, . .
Drones are mere technology, so that other nations can easily enough create their own drone fleets. Iran already has a Predator equivalent, as Juan Cole points out at Informed Comment:
It was foreseeable that when the United States began deploying drones wherever it likes, its rivals would also develop that capability. In fact, you wonder if sending the drones around doesn’t create an opportunity for others to capture them and reverse-engineer them. Iran captured a US Predator drone last winter and claimed to have gotten data from it.Instead of being cautious and prudent about a technology that could harm US citizens, the US government has rushed to deploy drones in several countries with which the US is not at war.
So now Iran has announced a new “Fotros” drone in the same class with the Predator, with a 1200-mile range (2000 km). You wonder how the US will feel if Iran deploys it in nearby countries of the Middle East, just as Washington itself has done.
BBC Monitoring paraphrases Iran’s Tasnmim News Agency from the Persian on Nov. 18, 2013 regarding Iran’s new long-distance drone:
My North Carolina friend Mr. Beetner passes along this interesting article. Video is from the article.
The Rolls Razor was very popular in its day (the 30s, 40s, and 50s): a permanent blade that could be honed and stropped, the hone and strop being part of the case. The sharpening system required no skill: you just ran the blade back and forth. They are still in use by some, with the source now being eBay and the like. (If you prowl eBay, beware of cracked hones and rotted strops.)
But today we have a product that uses modern technology:
The razor is shown secured in the sharpening system, housed within the unit. You can find more information at the BornSharp site, and there’s an Indiegogo campaign to raise enough capital to begin production. Indeed, scroll down at the Indiegogo page and you get an excellent tour of the entire system, both the razor and the sharpening mechanism and procedure.
The price point ($370) is high for a razor, but of course that includes a lifetime supply of blades (one blade, but you can sharpen it indefinitely). And the gadget appeal is very high: this is the razor that Flash Gordon might use.
Comcast contributed heavily to defeat the Seattle mayor who was going to bring inexpensive broadband to Seattle. (Comcast saw it as competition, which may have forced them to improve their broadband service (improvements cut into profits) and may even drop their prices (really cuts into profits). But Colorado is proceeding on a course similar to what Seattle was attempting, as reported in the Washington Post by Brain Fung:
In 2009, Vince Jordan was one of a handful of Coloradans hoping to flip the switch on a next-generation fiber optic network in his area. Longmont’s 17-mile loop of fiber would have been capable of connecting Jordan to the Web at speeds 100 times faster than the national average. The city owned the cables already. All it needed was approval from the city’s voters.
But Jordan, the broadband manager for Longmont’s public electric utility, failed to anticipate one thing: The cable companies.
“We got creamed,” he says. “We lost by 12 [percentage points] in that vote.”
On that election night four years ago, they were caught flat-footed. The cable industry had poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into thwarting its prospective government-owned challenger at the polls. It dwarfed the advocates’ expenditures, which that year amounted to all of $95.
That history made last night’s election results particularly sweet for the city’s municipal fiber advocates. Longmont residents approved a $45.3 million bond issuance that will go toward funding a city-wide fiber network. But recent political fights haven’t always had a happy ending for advocates of municipal broadband projects.
A nationwide campaign
Cable incumbents have been fighting to defeat municipal fiber proposals all over the country. We recently reported that cable groups invested money to defeat Seattle mayor Mike McGinn, a municipal fiber supporter. (For the record, Sena Fitzmaurice, a Comcast spokesperson, denied Tuesday that the company’s political contributions had any connection with McGinn’s broadband policies. She says Comcast has contributed consistently to the Seattle Broadband Communications Coalition of Washington over the past five years.) In early returns Tuesday, McGinn was trailing challenger Ed Murray, 56-44.
But the battle of Seattle is far from the only time advocates of new broadband initiatives have crossed swords with incumbent cable companies. Across the United States, cable lobbyists have helped erect legal barriers to stifle competition from public utilities. Industry groups have repeatedly filed lawsuits to block city attempts to roll out fiber service. And they have also opposed public referendums to allow cities to build their own networks.
Longmont, Colo., was merely one such battleground. In North St. Paul, Minn., a 2009 ballot measure to let muni fiber move forward was defeated by a resounding 34-point margin. Opposition to the fledgling network, PolarNet, was led by the Minnesota Cable Communications Association. In the weeks leading up to the vote, it and other opposition groups spent some $40,000 campaigning against the measure. MCCA alone contributed more than $15,000 to the effort over the same period.
Part of the organization’s message was that despite consumer confusion about the options for commercial Internet, the local market for broadband was actually very competitive — people just didn’t know it.
“So many things have happened since then,” says Michael Martin, MCCA’s treasurer. “The state has developed a mapping system that shows all the providers in an area so people can go to an objective source and identify the competitors that are available to them. That wasn’t available at the time. A lot of what people knew about what was available came mainly through word of mouth. It was anecdotal.”
Whatever workarounds may have been built since the push for PolarNet, the fiber optic cables it was supposed to light up with traffic remain dark today. Paul Ammerman, North St. Paul’s economic development director, seemed resigned to the cable industry’s will.
“We’re trying to figure out if it’s worth the effort,” he says. “Certainly we’ve got a lot of capacity that’s not being used. On the horizon there’s always the next breakthrough that might do it. Some say maybe the last mile is not fiber; maybe it’s wireless. But that gets beyond the current technology.”
In Chattanooga, one of the few places where municipal fiber has managed to gain traction, the state cable association filed a lawsuit in 2007 alleging that the local public utility, EPB, would be breaking the law if it allowed its electricity division to cross-subsidize its fiber optic service. When a judge threw out the case the following year, Comcast filed its own suit. That too was dismissed — and once more on appeal in 2009.
Big Cable’s big stand
Still, Longmont may offer the most vivid example of cable industry groups trying to hobble a public broadband provider. Colorado is . . .
It’s perfectly clear that these companies have zero interest in the common good and are primarily interested in extracting as much money as possible while delivering as little service as they can, and that means keeping broadband at the lowest speed they can get away with. (You may recall the sudden and startling advances in phone service once the AT&T monopoly was ended.)
This country is more and more a hunting ground for predatory companies unrestrained now by government, thanks in large measure to the (well-funded) GOP.
Tim Johnson of McClatchy reports:
U.S. drone attacks in places like Pakistan and Yemen have gathered a lot of attention. Less so is the explosion of drone usage in Latin America.
The issue of drones came up last Friday before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and one of the speakers was Santiago Canton, an Argentine lawyer who was the commission’s former executive secretary and now is director at the RFK Partners for Human Rights, a Washington advocacy group.
Canton said 14 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean now deploy drones or have already purchased them. Others have hosted U.S. drones.
“The Argentinean army has developed its own drone technology for aerial surveillance. Brazil is the country of Latin America that has the highest number of drones, both produced nationally and purchased outside the country,” Canton said.
“Bolivia has just purchased drones for its air force, and it has signed an agreement with Brazil to have Brazilian drones identify coca-producing areas. Chile has sophisticated drones and they’ve bought Iranian ones for their borders and for surveillance throughout their country.
“In addition to joint exercises with the United States, Colombians have manufactured and purchased (drones) and used their own technologies. They use them for their borders, operations against the FARC and also for intelligence gathering.
“The Ecuadorean army has purchased them and is using its own technology to develop them and use them on its border with Colombia.
“Mexican Federal Police are using drones in security operations and anti-drug-trafficking. Mexico City uses them for demonstrations. Panama uses them to monitor drug trafficking. The Peruvian army uses drones for the Apurimac area where the Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path guerrillas) operate.
The Uruguayan army also has a drone program while Trinidad and Tobago has plans to acquire drones for drug trafficking monitoring, he said. Belize has used drones mainly for conservation purposes, and Costa Rica uses them for volcanic studies.
“El Salvador apparently has purchased drones from Israel, and U.S. drones have been used in The Bahamas, Colombia, Jamaica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Haiti, Panama, Aruba and Curacao,” Canton said.
In most cases, drone usage is under military control with no civilian oversight. With the exception of Brazil, Canada and the United States, there are no regulations for domestic use of drones, Canton said.
“We see the chilling effect that this can have on societies … When people want to have public demonstrations, drones can have a chilling effect and can intimidate people from doing this.”
So even as the United States debates its drone policy, the issue is percolating South of the Border.
Soon increasingly active in the US.
The core driver: Some corporations stand to make a lot of money if they can sell a lot of drones, so the chance to make money means that these companies will lobby Congress, contribute to campaign funds, write legislation, stimulate grass-roots support where their factories are located, and basically do whatever it takes to drive up sales. And they will generally succeed in getting laws passed to promote their sales. Everyone is rewarded: the company, the Representatives and Senators, the people who have jobs as a result. This is how we got private prisons, and subsequently mandatory minimum sentences, and three-strikes laws: filling the prisons.
This is exactly why Eisenhower warned quite bluntly against the military-industrial-Congressional complex. (He was convinced to remove the last, but it was in there originally.) You see the process repeatedly, and so we know this is highly likely, just as the spread of SWAT teams.
I bet a lot of drone makers really hope to keep the War on Drugs churning along, requiring ever more equipment and manpower. Lots of money to be made in drugs: selling them or waging war on them.
UPDATE: Drone use in Latin America constitutes the out-of-town tryouts before hitting Broadway.
Fascinating, even to a non-gamer like me. This Washington Post article by Andrea Peterson describes the goals and development methodology of the Valve Steam Machine.
The problems discussed in the previous post were still latent back in 1988, when a cub reporter at the Washington Post was assigned to write a piece about this thing they call an “internet.” Worth reading for those of a certain age.
The key is that habits of thought—psychological responses and triggers that are routinized (checking text messages and quickly sending replies)—shape one’s personality: behaviors (including responses) become a part of the person. This can, of course, be excellent or horrifying, depending on the habits. A habit of judicious consideration of available evidence leads to one sort of person, the habit of leaping in without a thought or care to another.
In the NY Times Andrew Reiner looks at the habits of mind and patterns of behavior that follow from some of our new communications media:
IT WAS the only time I have ever allowed college students to have their cellphones out during class, in their hands no less.
“I want you to send a text to a friend,” I told students in my course, “The Search for Intimacy in the Age of Facebook.” “It has to be a text that shares your true feelings about something this friend has done or said that upset you but that you never said anything about. And you can’t spend a lot of time agonizing over the wording. Say what you mean and hit ‘send.’ ”
Their eyes bugged wider than when we had talked about hookups. “I’m really hating you right now,” one student murmured, half-jokingly, her eyes locked in the oncoming headlights.
This dilating of my students’ apertures, I’ve come to believe, is exactly what they need both in and outside the classroom if they are going to have the kind of success and fulfillment they desire. That’s because the parts of their lives that truly matter to many of them during college — high marks and solid “A” social lives — are undermined by a widespread, constricting social anxiety that comes, paradoxically, from two of their greatest pleasures: texting and social media. A small but growing body of evidence suggests that excessive social media use can lead to an unhealthy fixation on how one is perceived and an obsessive competitiveness. Perhaps not surprisingly, this angsting can also lead to an unhealthy quest for perfection, a social perfection, which breeds an aperture-narrowing conformity.
I got my first glimpse of this at Towson University, where I teach. When I entered the classroom for the first time, I was baffled by glaring contradictions. Students arrived to class early yet they sat still, avoided eye contact and rarely took part in discussions. (If and when they finally spoke up, it usually came on the heels of another student’s comment, and they invariably prefaced their remarks by saying, “First of all, I agree with what you just said,” even if they contradicted their classmate in the next breath.) They handed in assignments (on time) that were formatted with the kind of attention to detail and design you might find in a shareholders prospectus. Yet the ideas darted in so many directions like dragonflies, never penetrating the surface.
I implored students to dig deeper, to mine the complexity and creativity of their ideas; they responded with fancy fonts and grammar check. Frustrated and looking for answers, I took the direct approach and asked students to journal about their risk-taking reticence. A few brave souls confessed to fearing classmates’ judgment for saying or writing something “stupid” or, worse, something that “set them apart.”
I remembered quiet classrooms from my college days, but this was different. Their avoidant silence ultimately hurt their grades and was part of the reason I developed the intimacy course.
More than another literature or creative writing course, these students needed a guide to the twisted subterranean landscape beneath their plugged-in social lives. Texting seemed like the logical place to drop our first pin. . .
Very interesting after-action report, looking at contributing factors to HealthCare.gov’s abortive launch. Amy Goldstein and Julian Eisperin report in the Washington Post:
In May 2010, two months after the Affordable Care Act squeaked through Congress, President Obama’s top economic aides were getting worried. Larry Summers, director of the White House’s National Economic Council, and Peter Orszag, head of the Office of Management and Budget, had just received a pointed four-page memo from a trusted outside health adviser. It warned that no one in the administration was “up to the task” of overseeing the construction of an insurance exchange and other intricacies of translating the 2,000-page statute into reality.
Summers, Orszag and their staffs agreed. For weeks that spring, a tug of war played out inside the White House, according to five people familiar with the episode. On one side, members of the economic team and Obama health-care adviser Zeke Emanuel lobbied for the president to appoint an outside health reform “czar” with expertise in business, insurance and technology. On the other, the president’s top health aides — who had shepherded the legislation through its tortuous path on Capitol Hill and knew its every detail — argued that they could handle the job.
In the end, the economic team never had a chance: The president had already made up his mind, according to a White House official who spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to be candid. Obama wanted his health policy team — led by Nancy-Ann DeParle, director of the White House Office of Health Reform — to be in charge of the law’s arduous implementation. Since the day the bill became law, the official said, the president believed that “if you were to design a person in the lab to implement health care, it would be Nancy-Ann.”
Three and a half years later, such insularity — in that decision and others that would follow — has emerged as a central factor in the disastrous rollout of the new federal health insurance marketplace, casting doubt on the administration’s capacity to carry out such a complex undertaking.
“They were running the biggest start-up in the world, and they didn’t have anyone who had run a start-up, or even run a business,” said David Cutler, a Harvard professor and health adviser to Obama’s 2008 campaign, who was not the individual who provided the memo to The Washington Post but confirmed he was the author. “It’s very hard to think of a situation where the people best at getting legislation passed are best at implementing it. They are a different set of skills.”
The White House’s leadership of the immense project — building new health insurance marketplaces for an estimated 24 million Americans without coverage — is one of several key reasons that the president’s signature domestic policy achievement has become a self-inflicted injury for the administration.
Based on interviews with more than two dozen current and former administration officials and outsiders who worked alongside them, the project was hampered by the White House’s political sensitivity to Republican hatred of the law — sensitivity so intense that the president’s aides ordered that some work be slowed down or remain secret for fear of feeding the opposition. Inside the Department of Health and Human Services’ Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, the main agency responsible for the exchanges, there was no single administrator whose full-time job was to manage the project. Republicans also made clear they would block funding, while some outside IT companies that were hired to build the Web site, HealthCare.gov, performed poorly. . .
This topic interests me because I’ve worked on quite a few software projects, some of which did have launch problems, though no so severe as HealthCare.gov (which is probably more complex than the systems on which I worked).
Fascinating video, via Open Culture, which comments on it here.
It’s actually operational—not sign-up, I think, but health-plan comparisons. Read about it here.
As would we all. Andrea Peterson has a good interview with the mayor in The Switch at the Washington Post. The mayor wants good and affordable broadband in his city, and Comcast is determined to see defeated, however much it costs. The reason is simple: Comcast is motivated by increasing their profits and the role of government is primarily to maintain and improve the general welfare with the idea that this benefits us all.
Twenty-five years ago — Nov 3, 1988 — the Internet suddenly discovered why security is important. Tim Lee has an excellent article looking back at that first big crash and what happened afterwards. A good read.
On November 3, 1988, 25 years ago this Sunday, people woke up to find the Internet had changed forever. The night before, someone had released a malevolent computer program on the fledgling computer network. By morning, thousands of computers had become clogged with numerous copies of a computer “worm,” a program that spread from computer to computer much like a biological infection.
It took days of effort by hundreds of systems administrators to clean up the mess, and the Internet community spent weeks analyzing what had happened and how to make sure it didn’t happen again. A graduate student named Robert Morris was unmasked as the culprit behind the worm. A brilliant loner, he seemed to be motivated more by intellectual curiosity than malice. That didn’t save him from becoming one of the first people prosecuted and convicted under an anti-hacking statute that Congress had passed a few years earlier.
But the most significant effect of the worm was how it permanently changed the culture of the Internet. Before Morris unleashed his worm, the Internet was like a small town where people thought little of leaving their doors unlocked. Internet security was seen as a mostly theoretical problem, and software vendors treated security flaws as a low priority.
The Morris Worm destroyed that complacency. It forced software vendors to take security flaws in their products seriously. It invigorated the field of computer security, creating a demand for such experts in both academia and industry. Today, the Internet is infested with malware that works a lot like the software Morris set out to build a quarter-century ago. And the community of Internet security professionals who fight these infections can trace the roots of their profession back to the events of November 1988.
Morris has gone on to a brilliant career as an entrepreneur, computer scientist, and investor. And the man who prosecuted him, Mark Rasch, now says that he would support pardoning him.
Wednesday: A late night phone call
Andrew Sudduth was best known as a world-class rower. In 1984, he was part of an American team that won a silver medal in that summer’s Olympic games. But he was also a talented computer hacker. In the fall of 1988, he worked on the technical staff of Harvard University’s Aiken Computational Laboratory.
Sudduth had gotten to know Robert Morris while Morris was an undergraduate at Harvard. Morris had graduated from Harvard and began graduate studies at Cornell University in fall 1988. Around 11 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 2, Sudduth was talking with Paul Graham, another Aiken Lab staffer and a friend of Morris, when Morris called. (The account that follows is drawn from Sudduth’s testimony to a Cornell commission. Sudduth died in 2006, and Graham declined to be interviewed for this story.)
Graham answered the phone. After the call, . . .
This is high-handed and heavy-handed to boot. I suppose we have Citizens United and the Roberts Supreme Court to thank for this.