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22 Oct 10:04

WebRTC Delamination: shifting vendor roles, and recent moves from Ericsson, Temasys, Cisco, Tokbox & Mozilla

by Dean Bubley
One of the major themes I address in my current research on voice and video / WebRTC trends is one I call "delamination". It's the opposite of vertical integration - the carving out of thin, narrow layers of services or products, in areas where companies have particular skill, focus or market reach.

It might be provision of a particular bit of client-side software, an effective hosted TURN server, an "enabler" of some kind, a particular security or authentication element, an especially-scalable virtualised network function, testing or analytical product, and so forth.

In a design-led approach to communications, this means that developers have both "raw ingredients" to create their own "recipes", as well as broad array of partly-prepared and pre-processed garnishes and side-dishes.

To continue the food analogy, if you really like salads, you can:

  • Plant & grow your own lettuces & make your own salad
  • Plant your lettuces but pay someone else to cultivate them
  • Buy lettuces from a farmer at the farm
  • Buy lettuces transported to a local market
  • Buy lettuces from your supermarket
  • Buy lettuce leaves from your supermarket
  • Buy chopped & prepared salad from your supermarket
  • Buy salad in a restaurant
  • Share someone else's salad
  • Watch someone else eating salad on YouTube
  • Subscribe to the Salad Channel
A similar approach is now applying to WebRTC (and to voice/video capabilities more generally). Developers - and these include intermediate developers like in-house groups at vendors and telcos - have a whole array of choices. They can build applications and services from scratch, use commercial or open-source software elements, host software internally or in the cloud - or use a third-party platform, and so on.

(This is one of the reasons it's so hard to answer the question "what's the $ market size for WebRTC?" - you can define it at any level you like, and there's potential for rampant double-counting if you include the whole value chain).

Now all this is nice in theory... but is it actually happening, and at "industrial scale"?

A few recent developments suggest that it is, indeed happening in a very meaningful sense:

  • Platform provider Temasys has announced a commercial version of its WebRTC plug-ins for IE and Safari browsers, with extra "enterprise-grade" support, intended for major software developers wanting to do full-scale deployments to business users.
  • Mozilla is working with WebRTC platform provider Tokbox to embed communications capabilities directly into the browser as "Firefox Hello". Its platform has hundreds of millions of users.
  • Cisco has open-sourced its H.264 implementation for use in WebRTC applications, and it too has been adopted in Firefox.
  • Ericsson has open-sourced its Bowser browser and OpenWebRTC client framework. This is really important both in terms of "big company delamination", and because it involves a rare step outside the telco/IMS domain for Ericsson with WebRTC. (Differentiating it from rivals ALU, Huawei & Nokia Networks, from which I've only heard about IMS use-cases for WebRTC)
  • Apparently, Ericsson's OpenWebRTC also uses Cisco H.264 (thanks Victor!)
[Disclosures - many companies quoted here are Disruptive Analysis clients for research and/or advisory work]

There are plenty of other examples too, but I'm highlighting these to illustrate that the concept is now becoming mainstream, and not just by small developers but also accepted and perpetuated by major players. This is likely to further accelerate market development - and also highlights the need for telcos and enterprise vendors to occasionally swallow their pride and use 3rd-party software or services where it makes sense. Only the very largest and most aggressive companies will be able to develop everything in-house, without using at least one other provider's platform. And for telcos, a vendor IMS box is not, on its own, a complete platform.
22 Oct 12:47

What I’m doing at #MozFest 2014

by Doug Belshaw

It’s the Mozilla Festival this weekend. If you’re going and it’s your first time, then you might find my 10 survival tips for MozFest useful.

I’m co-leading three sessions this year. I’ll update this post when I know when and where they all are! (Done!) Here’s an overview of what to expect in each session.

Prototypes and Pathways for Web Literacy

Saturday, 2-3pm TBC, Track: Build and Teach the Web

Learning pathways are either prescriptive or descriptive sequences of learning experiences. These often have a particular goal in mind.

This session will involve the creation of a privacy badge pathway. We will draw on the Web Literacy Map, Open Badges, Webmaker personas, and a document created by a Badge Alliance working group. By the end of the session we should have completed pathways to share, built to work in a particular context.


What we’ll be doing:

  • Sharing our experiences of high-quality learning pathways
  • Thinking through privacy from the point of view of one of eight Webmaker personas
  • Exploring the badges created by the Badge Alliance working group on Digital & Web Literacies
  • Creating a learning pathway based on the above contexts and badges

I’m looking forward to seeing what people come up with in this session. Preparing for it has involved much cutting out of colourful hexagons… ;-)

Learning Analytics for good in the age of Big Data

Saturday, 3-4pm, Track: Science and the Web

According to the current Wikipedia definition, “Learning analytics is the measurement, collection and reporting of data about learners and their contexts, for purposes of understanding and optimising learning and the environments in which it occurs.” In other words, using data to improve learning outcomes. At the moment, this is often done without the consent of users, so we want to build a better, more open, way to do it.


What we’ll be doing:

  • Identifying the challenges and opportunities in this space
  • Making connections between one another
  • Building a shared list of questions

It’s early days for this, but there’s potential to form a working group as an output of this session.

Toward v2 of Mozilla’s Web Literacy Map

Saturday, 4-5pm TBC, Track: Build and Teach the Web

At the end of August we started the ball rolling for v2.0 of the Web Literacy Map. It’s not that there’s lots wrong with v1.1, it’s just that there’s ways we could improve it. Plus, we’ve committed to update it as the web evolves.

We began by interviewing stakeholders. This informed a community survey (still active – and now available in more languages). We’ve also just begun a series of community calls that will end in December. This session will give us extra data to help inform development the Web Literacy Map.


What we’ll be doing:

  • Answering any questions people may already have
  • Spotting any gaps in v1.1 of the Web Literacy Map
  • Grouping competencies (existing and new) in various ways
  • Discussing what should be in/out of scope for v2.0

This will be an interesting session to lead, so I’m glad I’ve got such experienced co-facilitators. There’s likely to be both people well-versed in the Web Literacy Map as well as those coming to it for the first time.

Are you coming to MozFest? Please do come and say hello – or even better, come to one of the above sessions!

23 Oct 06:16

Microsoft – Trojan Horse

by windsorr


RFM AvatarSmall






Apps for Android signal a real change in strategy.

  • Microsoft Garage is a skunkworks inside Microsoft known for being a geeky haven, and it has just released three free apps for Android.
  • These apps are free and feature no internal purchases meaning that there is no direct means by which these apps can be monetised.
  • I suspect that I am seeing the beginning of a strategy to push the Microsoft ecosystem across every platform, extending its reach way beyond the devices that it makes in house.
  • Three apps have been launched:
    • 1) Torque. This is an Android Wear application that removes the need to say “OK Google” to activate the voice recognition.
    • Instead users twist their wrists towards them in order to activate the voice function.
    • This raises the possibility of the voice recognition being activated by accident, but I would hope that this has been extensively tested prior to release.
    • Critically, the app returns search results from Bing rather than Google.  
    • 2) Next Lock Screen. This is an app that is aimed at professionals with Android devices.
    • The idea here is to place the most relevant and important information on the lock screen with direct links to the relevant functions.
    • For example if is there is a call to be made on the calendar, this information with the number will be displayed on the lock screen and the user can directly from there.
    • This app will clearly work best with productivity applications, which again shows signs of pushing the Microsoft Digital Work ecosystem onto Android devices.
    • 3) Journeys & Notes. This is location based blogging app that allows the user to log a journey and share it with other users.
    • This is essentially a specialised social networking application whose success will very much depend on how good it is and how many users can be enticed to log their journeys on it.
  • The question is why would Microsoft waste its time and money on developing for Android?
  • The idea here is to draw users into the Windows ecosystem.
  • If users begin to realise that Bing is not as bad as everyone thinks and they begin putting that together with Skype, Here, Minecraft and XBox, they will be spending more of their Digital Lives with Microsoft.
  • At some point there is a chance that they might decide to switch to a Windows product if it can deliver these services in an easier, more fun and useful way.
  • At the moment this is a big ask as these assets remain disparate services randomly scattered throughout the Microsoft empire and they don’t really know anything about each other.
  • They need to be integrated to be more aware of each other such that a better quality service that is more coherent and useful to the user is offered.
  • Furthermore, if Microsoft ever decides to go down the monetisation by advertising route, this will be essential to achieve decent monetisation.
  • I think that more and more of Microsoft’s ecosystem will be made available for both Android and iOS over time making the Microsoft ecosystem available to everyone who wants it even if they don’t have a Microsoft device.
  • This is yet another sign of how much Microsoft is changing.
  • The old “Windows, Windows, Windows” mantra is gone to be replaced with a strategy of making the services so good that users turn up of their own accord.
  • This is the right strategy but now it all comes down to execution which is somewhere where Microsoft has struggled to date.
  • I am hopeful that Nadella will now turn his attention to making it al happen.
  • Microsoft remains, along with Google and Apple, one of my top choices for investing in the mobile ecosystem at the moment.
24 Oct 20:37

So Swift Then: Fun With Mangled Names Continued

by Simon Lewis
Continuing where we left off in last week’s thrilling installment, that is, with the encoding of function parameters in mangled function names. While the return type of a function is necessarily a type and nothing but a type, Swift function parameters come in a variety of different flavours. Some of these flavours affact how a […]
24 Oct 19:38

On Changes, Ubuntu, "Magic Spells", and Real Power

by randall

In a previous blog post, I hinted at a recent happy development in my life/career that I would like to share with you today...

Many of you know me from my involvement in building local communities that are passionate about Ubuntu. I've been at this for nearly 7 years now as a volunteer and it's something I'm very passionate about. (Note: Friends and family sometimes use different adjectives.)

Over this time, I've had the privilege to meet and to work with many brilliant people in Vancouver BC, the community-at-large and also in the part of the community that is Canonical. (Yes, it's all community.) I've met rock stars, both literally and figuratively. They've encouraged and inspired me and finally opportunity knocked, and I answered.

I am happy to announce that I am Ubuntu's newest Community Manager.

My focus (at least initially) will be growing a large and thriving community around the architecture that powers the world's fastest computers. Think really big iron. Think Watson. Think chess. But more than that, think solving real-world problems the fastest way possible, with Power!

Ubuntu already has the beginnings of a great story on Power. I am tremendously excited about the potential of the "magic" that is Ubuntu with Juju and MaaS to launch solutions on Power hardware nearly effortlessly. I'm here to help the community that wants to change the world make that happen.

Click me: Push the button to see Power!Click me: Push the button to see Power!

Please join me. If you're a Power advocate, developer, architect, systems administrator, researcher, or anyone who's just interested in Ubuntu on Power, please send me a note and introduce yourself. Let's work together!

randall AT ubuntu DOT com


Note: I'm not replacing Jono Bacon, As many of you know, he's moved on to solve some world problems that are "not just software" and Dave Planella and team are filling those big shoes.

image by Thom Watson
and modified by me.

24 Oct 23:09

The NPA transportation plan: counterflow lanes on major arterials, more buses, an “affordable” subway

by Frances Bula

I’m a few days late with this, I know. Getting kind of hectic out there.

Anyway, the NPA’s Kirk LaPointe presented the party’s plan on transportation, which was mainly more buses, an “affordable” subway built within five years (or at least aim for that), and something a lot of reporters were intrigued by — counterflow lanes on major commuter routes in Vancouver. My Globe story on it is here.

It was a bit of an odd one. You wouldn’t think it would have appeal for a lot of Vancouver residents, since the counterflow lanes would likely be most appreciated by commuters coming from the east (Burnaby/Coquitlam/North Van), north (West and North Van) and south (Richmond, Surrey, Delta).

Anyway, at least it was a new idea, so we all jumped on it.

After deadline, I got a callback from a couple of people I respect on transportation issues who gave me their assessment of the idea.

One was Dave Rudberg, the city’s former head of engineering under mayor Philip Owen and city manager Judy Rogers. He’s the calmest guy I know and a very straight shooter.

Dave said the city has looked from time to time at counterflow lanes and concluded that they’re not that practical.

In his words: “You’d have to search far and wide to find applications that would work. I wouldn’t dismiss the idea but the application is fairly limited.”

Counterflow lanes really only work in places where you have a bottleneck and where all traffic flow surges in one direction. So the Lions’ Gate Bridge and the Massey tunnel, which have them now, are ideal. Dave said that a lot of the major streets in Vancouver have heavy two-way traffic at rush hour. So putting in a counterflow lane for traffic flowing in one direction would just back up the people going the other direction.

As well, engineers have found that there’s reasonable good flow on the major streets. (I know those of you stuck on Cambie Street going north or south between the bridge and 25th, for example, might not feel that way, but it’s all relative.) The major clogs are around the bridgeheads. So there could be some kind of system for pooling cars that are waiting to get on. But that’s not a counterflow lane.

Another issue, Dave pointed out, is that it takes a fair amount of expensive infrastructure (overhead lights, removal of left-hand turn bays, concrete dividers) or labour (people moving cones around) to create counterflow lanes. On the city’s already complicated streets, “the logistics would be fairly difficult.”

UBC professor Robert Lindsay, an economist who specializes in transportation modelling, said that unless a street has multiple lanes on each side, a counterflow lane would take away too much capacity. He also said the need for suburban-commuter lanes in Vancouver diminishes a little more every year. Commuting trips account for a smaller and smaller percentage of the city’s overall trips.

So that’s the word from the experts.




24 Oct 22:04

What’s up with SUMO – 24 October

by Michał

…a bit delayed, but still on time! Here’s the latest and greatest from SUMO, for your reading and watching pleasure.

New arrivals to SUMO – welcome!

Latest SUMO Community meeting video

Our latest meeting was an hour-long training/Q&A session about Firefox Hello. Watch the video to learn more:

If you want to comment on the video or ask questions regarding the training, please do so in this forum thread. You can find the notes and questions asked and answered here.

Also, please remember that you’re always invited to contribute topics to our Monday meetings! To do so, please start a thread in the SUMO Community Discussions section of the forum, so all members of the community are able to learn about it and participate.

Forum 2.0: Keep the Feedback Coming!

We are still looking for your feedback on the forum redesign. Thanks to all those who already took a look at the new filters and left their comments in the forum thread. There’s a new version available as a preview here and you can let the SUMO devs know what you think on this bug.

Thunderbird Summit Update

Roland attended the Thunderbird Summit and brought back a slew of updates. The most important outcome of the summit is the election of the Thunderbird Council, consisting of seven members. You can read more about the Summit on this wiki page.

Shout-out time: Locasprinters in Paris get the FxOS KB to 100%!

Last weekend, the dedicated and determined localizers in France met in Paris for a Locasprint (it means “let’s localize everything we can!” in French, really!). They worked hard on a variety of things, including the Firefox OS KB, with amazing results. You can read more about the Locasprint (part deux) in this blog post, and I’ll just drop this screenshot here. Congrats and merci beaucoup!

In the meantime, the Mozilla Bangladesh community is not letting go and pushing for a 100% Bengali KB. Go, Bangladesh L10ns!

Regular Mobile Meetings

Starting this month, the mobile meeting is taking place on the last Wednesday of each month, at 10:00 PST (18:00 GMT). For the weekly Firefox OS and Firefox for Android updates, keep following the Community Meetings on Mondays.

On a final note – don’t forget that MozFest 2014 is taking place this weekend in London! Not in London? Not a problem – you can still participate remotely. SUMO will be delivering a session on localizing Webmaker support tomorrow. Here’s a snapshot from the place itself:


More news coming your way next week – have a great weekend!

25 Oct 09:22

Embracing Open: Anil Dash

by John A. Oswald
Image Credit: Anil Dash

Embracing Open is a series that celebrates the voices that make the world more open. Join them by using #EmbraceOpen on Twitter and Facebook.

Anil Dash is cofounder of ThinkUp, an app that makes our social networks more fun. Dash has been blogging at since 1999. He’s also the only person quoted in Chris Anderson’s “The Long Tail” and in Toure’s Prince biography “I Would Die 4 U”, which sums him up pretty well. Here, Dash  riffs on openness with The Open Standard.

What does “open” mean to you?

Earlier in my career, I used to think “open” was about formats or protocols or standards – technical specifications. But over time, I’ve come to understand that open is about culture itself, about opportunity and inclusion and the structures of who has power and who gets access to institutions. So to me, “open” is about everyone having the chance to be their best selves.

Why is the pursuit of openness important?

We have a moral obligation to make society, and the web, more open, because it’s the only way to give everyone a fair shot. It’s good for the world. But it’s also more fun! When we let everybody come in and share their ideas and remix each others’ work, everybody ends up a lot happier.

You’ve called on librarians to help lead the way in the fight for a more transparent, public web. Explain.

Well, first: Everyone loves librarians! But I specifically think that any group of people that is thinking about how to empower people with information, how to preserve ideas and works for the future, how to teach others to discover resources for themselves — they’re the ones we ought to be listening to.

Where do you see the philosophy of open systems in five years? 10?

I’m hoping there’s continued evolution toward seeing “open” as being about far more than just technology or standards. If we can understand the civic obligations that underpin the rationale for things like open source, open culture, and open standards, then we can make a lot more progress.

How did you first become a champion of openness?

I think it came from my experience in seeing the opportunities given to my family as immigrants. Participating in an open culture, even one that still has so many problems still left to solve, showed me how people’s lives can be improved when there’s a spirit of openness available to them. It makes you feel like you can do more and be more.

Will we see you at MozFest?

I love MozFest, though sadly I can’t attend this year. The magic of MozFest comes when two random strangers run into each other at the event, maybe in the hallway, and discover that someone else in the world shares their same passion for the same obscure thing that they thought perhaps no one else in the world cared about. Those two people will go off and make something great together.


25 Oct 02:58

Ten Reasons to be a Bike Commuter

by Joe Goodwill

There are so many good reasons to commute by bike, it’s a wonder that everyone isn’t doing it! Here are my Top Ten reasons to be a bike commuter – including losing weight, getting fitter, becoming less stressed, saving money and – of course – saving the planet!

  1. Bike Commuters at Stadium-Average Joe CyclistTo lose weight and build lean muscle. Ok, so we all know that regular exercise will help us to build lean muscle and lose fat. But how hard is it to get to the gym every day? How about twice a day, every day? Unless you have the dedication of a young Schwarzenegger, that’s pretty much impossible … (trust me, I’ve tried and failed, many times).

BUT if you commute by bike, you automatically get two workouts per day. If you weigh 150 pounds, and you spend 1.5 hours a day cycling, you should burn approximately an extra 600 calories per day … which is 156,000 calories per year, which should equal losing 45 pounds – without eating less! (Figure out how many calories you could burn here.) And here’s a post on Mrs. Average Joe Cyclist’s very successful weight loss with cycling.

Plus, you keep burning more calories even once you get off your bike!

“Even after cycling for 30 minutes you could be burning a higher amount of total calories for a few hours after you stop,” says Mark Simpson of Loughborough University.

Research shows that integrating intervals of increased effort into your cycling can increase the rate of fat burning more than three-fold. Personally, I find it hard to intentionally do fast or intense-effort intervals. However, the reality of cycle commuting is that you will naturally do some harder intervals – for example, as you race to get to a light before it changes, or as you climb hills.

  1. Commuters on Union Street-Bike Lane-2-Average Joe CyclistTo get healthier. The regular exercise you will get from cycle commuting is the best thing you could do for both physical and mental health. It protects against the major causes of death, including cardiovascular disease, obesity, cancer, and high blood pressure. Purdue University researchers showed that regular cycling can reduce your risk of a heart attack by up to 50%. Exercise also may be more effective than drugs for fighting depression. Research shows that middle-aged people who bike to work usually have a fitness level of a person ten years younger.

The health benefits are so great that cycling is apparently TWENTY TIMES less dangerous than not cycling!

Cycling also protects you from minor ailments: a study at the University of Nottingham found that transit riders were six times more likely to develop acute respiratory infections. Another study found all kinds of fun things in passenger vehicles, including E. coli, salmonella, and campylobacter (a bacteria that caused food poisoning)!

  1. To save the planet for our kids and grandkids. Say you commute five miles a day, and you switch from a car to a bike for just one month: you will have saved the earth from an astonishing one pound of hydrocarbons, six pounds of carbon monoxide, and half a pound of nitrogen oxides. And if you commute even further – well, you do the math. Even so, it’s easy to think, “Well, just one person is not going to make a real difference.”

Bikes and cars compete for road space at Main and Union Vancouver - average Joe CyclistWhen my youngest daughter was ten she said to me, “I know it won’t save the planet or anything, but I would just feel better about myself if I became a vegetarian.” (And yes, a very proud moment for me!) She’s 14 now and STILL a vegetarian. And she’s right – she won’t be able to save the planet on her own.

But I know she feels a whole lot better because she is at least HELPING to save the world. And after four years, she has actually made some kind of real impact on all the industries that rely primarily on mass-producing animals in inhumane ways for human consumption.

In the same way, each individual contribution to reducing pollution and global warming is significant, especially if it is regular and long term. After all, that was exactly how we polluted the planet in the first place – most people just did a little bit of harm, every day for a long time, and together, we really messed it up!

Bike commuters VancouverAnd hey, did you know that human beings on a bike get the equivalent of around 2,924 miles to the gallon! (This has to do with the kind of fuel we consume; plus the fact that we weigh about six times what bikes weight, but cars weigh about twenty times what we weigh.)

  1. To be a good role model for kids. In 1969, 48% of kids in North America cycled or walked to school; by 2012, that was down to an all-time low of 13%. At the same time, obesity and diabetes among kids has soared … there’s just got to be a connection. So get on a bike, and help to save the children too.
  2. To put yourself in a good mood in the morning. No matter how bad I feel when I drag myself out of bed on Monday morning, by the time I’ve been on my bike for 20 minutes I’m usually singing from the sheer joy of living. It’s the endorphin rush that does it – by the time I get to work I’m in an upbeat mood that usually lasts for a good few hours (and then I get back on my bike!).

bikes in vancouverResearch shows that exercise can combat depression at least as effectively as (probably harmful) medications.

Also, it’s a scientific fact that the more time we spend in the sunshine, the better we feel. Biking to work makes sure you spend some time outdoors, every day. The light inside is about 300 lux, while the light outside, even on an overcast day, is over 1,000 lux.

All this light boosts your levels of the feel-good hormone, serotonin.

“Exercising outside exposes you to daylight,” explains Professor Jim Horne from Loughborough University’s Sleep Research Centre. “This helps get your circadian rhythm back in sync and rids your body of cortisol, the stress hormone that can prevent deep, regenerative sleep.”

  1. To de-stress on your way home. When I leave work, I am often completely wound up with stress. If I drive home, I sit in traffic that is often moving slower than the bikes whizzing past me, getting more and more stressed. But when I bike home, I can actually feel the stress falling off me and getting left behind in the dust (or puddles). By the time I get home, I’m relaxed and refreshed, and ready to enjoy the evening.No wonder that research at Stanford University has shown that as little as 20 minutes of cycling a day is very effective for people with insomnia – helping them get to sleep in half the time, and stay asleep for about an hour longer.
  2. Dunsmuir Street cyclistsTo get a chance to think. I have some of my most original thoughts while I’m biking; I suspect it has to do with all the blood circulation.

“[Commuting by bicycle is] an absolutely essential part of my day. It’s mind-clearing, invigorating.” James L. Jones, former US Supreme Allied Commander Europe, now Barack Obama’s national security advisor.

Albert Einstein, speaking about the theory of relativity, said: “I thought of that while riding my bike.”

  1. To save money. Biking is WAY cheaper than driving a car, and usually much cheaper than transit too. The Sierra Club calculates that a bike is 30 times cheaper to maintain than a car. And that’s without even thinking about the difference in price tag!
Cyclist moving fast

On your bike you can commute so fast that you look like a blur! Cyclist commuters often travel faster than cars because they are not stuck in traffic jams.

It costs just $308 per year to keep bikes in shape – nearly 30 times less than cars, according to the Sierra Club: “If American drivers were to make just one four-mile round trip each week with a bicycle instead of a car, they would save nearly 2 billion gallons of gas. At $4 per gallon, total savings would be $7.3 billion a year.” (Business Insider)

  1. To help make cycling safer for everyone. Research very clearly shows that the more people cycle in a region, the safer it is. This has to do with increased visibility and increased driver awareness – and eventually, better infrastructure. If you cycle, they will build it (eventually)!

“It’s a virtuous cycle,” says Dr Julie Hatfield, an injury expert from UNSW. “The likelihood that an individual cyclist will be struck by a motorist falls with increasing rate of bicycling in a community. And the safer cycling is perceived to be, the more people are prepared to cycle.”

Bike to work week

 10. So that you can register for a Bike to Work Week! If you start biking during a bike to work week, you have the support of numerous volunteer stations along the way, and free mechanical help. And if you register and log your rides, you have the chance to win great prizes every day. The upcoming Vancouver Bike to Work Week, organized by HUB, offers a prize of a bike every day from Monday to Friday.

Hurry – Bike to Work Week starts on Monday 27th October!

To conclude, I just have to quote the bicycle salesman in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969):

“Meet the future; the future mode of transportation for this weary Western world. Now I’m not gonna make a lot of extravagant claims for this little machine. Sure, it’ll change your whole life for the better, but that’s all.”

I’m sure there are many more good reasons to commute by bike – let me know what yours are!


The post Ten Reasons to be a Bike Commuter appeared first on Average Joe Cyclist.

25 Oct 10:43

Yosemite's Visual Design

Khoi Vinh:

My biggest complaint, personally, is that this fresh coat of paint does a poor job on visual contrast. Interface elements are often so light in color and/or so close to one another in color that they “bleed” into each other all the time. The effect is a blown-out look, as if a novice photographer stepped up the exposure on her camera well beyond advisability. In previous versions of OS X, it was common to use dark, sometimes hard edges to help delineate where one piece of UI ends and another one begins. Apple’s designers have seemingly restricted themselves from employing that very basic technique throughout Yosemite, or at least have sought to dial back its use significantly.

Some UI elements, particularly windows, feel washed out and vague. The problem is particularly egregious on non-retina displays, but it also exists on retina displays. Yosemite needs a lot more contrast in some areas.

In other areas, there’s too much contrast. One problem I have is that it is difficult to see where the focus is, since there’s so much saturated blue in the UI. Look at this screenshot, with all of its competing blue areas. Where’s the focus?

It’s in the search field, but there’s a lot of blue to go through until you find the one you’re looking for.

While not perfect by a long shot, the difference between a normal UI element and an active one was more obvious in earlier versions of OS X.


I do want to push back a bit on one particular bit of criticism: the translucency. I’ve seen a number of people complain about Yosemite’s inconsistent application of translucency. You see through some windows sometimes, but not always, and some windows behind other windows are not taken into account when drawing the translucent areas.

I think these complaints are missing the point.

This is not about the physics of light. It’s not about how windows are stacked. It’s not even really about translucency. This is about personalization.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Apple is running an ad showing how people personalize their Macs.

Personalization is important. All the way back to early Macs, Apple allowed users to personalize their computers. Here’s a screenshot of System 7’s Color control panel that allowed you to change the color of your windows.

Yep, changing the color of your windows was a thing Apple allowed you to do back then. Meanwhile, today’s Mac don’t allow you to customize a whole lot of their user interface. You can change the desktop background, but that’s about it. And changing the desktop background is uniquely pointless, since you’re always covering it up with windows. You never actually see it!

Apple’s translucency fixes that. This is not about seeing through your windows. This is about personalizing your computer. Yosemite’s translucency allows you to see a bit of the color of your desktop background, for the first time giving the desktop background an actual point.

Here’s a screenshot from Apple’s website that shows how translucency allows the calendar app to take on a bit of the color from the desktop:

This is not there so you can see what’s behind the window. This is there so the calendar looks like your calendar, not just like any calendar. You like red? Cool, use a red desktop background, and your Mac’s user interface takes on a red hue.

All in all, this feels a bit like what happened to Windows 8, but on a smaller scale. It’s a step in the right direction, but it has lots of poorly executed, poorly thought through details. Still, between the two, it’s hard to deny that Windows 8 is the more daring, more interesting take on what a modern desktop operating system should be.

Yosemite’s Finder is still the same basic Finder Apple shipped in the first Mac. The world has changed around the Mac, but the Mac has remained the same.

Perhaps now that Apple has rethought the visual design of OS X, it’s time to also rethink its functionality on a more basic level.

If you require a short url to link to this article, please use


If you liked this, you'll love my book. It's called Designed for Use: Create Usable Interfaces for Applications and the Web. In it, I cover the whole design process, from user research and sketching to usability tests and A/B testing. But I don't just explain techniques, I also talk about concepts like discoverability, when and how to use animations, what we can learn from video games, and much more.

You can find out more about it (and order it directly, printed or as a DRM-free ebook) on the Pragmatic Programmers website. It's been translated to Chinese and Japanese.

25 Oct 10:31

Of Freedom, Citizenship and Empire – Mark Surman

by Anthony Duignan-Cabrera
Image Credit: The Open Standard

A  community activist and technology executive of 20-plus years, Mark Surman currently serves as the Executive Director of the Mozilla Foundation. The following is a transcript of Mark’s opening keynote address at the 2014 Mozilla Festival, taking place October 25 and 26 at Ravensbourne College campus in London.

It really is exciting to see this global grassroots movement grow up so quickly around teaching people what they can do with the web. One reason I’ve put so much of my own time into this movement is that it’s practical and useful to real humans: focussed on fun, learning, know-how.

But, even if subtly, it’s also quite political. It’s focused on giving people the independence and agency that come with understanding how technology works in an era where technology is everything. It’s focused on freedom.

This is what I want to talk about today: the subtle politics of the web. Specifically, I want to talk about three themes:

I want to talk about freedom. I want to talk about control. And I want to talk about citizenship – about how we all need to think of ourselves and those around us as citizens of the web.

As the web grows to over five billion people in the next 10 years how many of these people will feel like citizens?

But first, I want you to close your eyes and imagine. Imagine the first time you used a computer. Imagine the first time you went online. What did it make you feel? What did you do with that feeling?

I see a lot of smiling faces in the audience. I’m smiling too. My first computer was a TRS80 Model I.

I bought it with money I’d saved from my paper route. When you turned it on, you just got a command prompt and you could write programs in BASIC right there.  I wrote a little program that looped, “Mark is cool” across the screen over and over. I kept writing different versions of that program for weeks.

What did that make me feel? I felt that I had control over that machine; I could make it do things — I could express myself. As I kid who grew up in the golden age of 1970s television that feeling was powerful.  I could use the machine to express myself instead of having the machine express itself to me.

Freedom and Independence

The feelings that were sparked by that computer gave me a sense of independence and freedom. They nurtured a sense of agency. And, frankly, those feelings are the seeds of who I am today as a person. I often ask this ‘your first computer’ question over dinner. As I meet Mozillians in different countries around the world they tell me about the simple programs they wrote, the games they played, the knowledge they discovered. The friends they made in far away places. The poem they wrote and honed with love. As they tell me these things, they are almost always smiling.

I suspect we all had experiences with computers and the internet that opened up new worlds and new possibilities. And that in some sense filled us with the spirit of independence, agency and freedom; that made us value these things and – at least for me – that turned these things into my values, into the things I stand for.

This feeling — and these values — are a big part of what I mean when I talk about being a citizen of the web and I believe all of us in this room are very much citizens of the web.

But I have a big question: As the web grows to over five billion people in the next 10 years how many of these people will feel like citizens? How will they feel this sense of freedom, independence and agency? I believe that all of them should. I believe we all should be — we all deserve to be — citizens of the web. But I increasingly fear that this will not be the case. Why? Because that feeling of freedom and independence that I first felt increasingly feels in tension with a feeling of control – and being controlled.

I’ve always thought of the Internet as a massive public square filled with commerce and conversation and creativity, a place that belongs to all of us, where we are all citizens. But more and more the internet feels like a shopping mall: A place to shop. A place where we meet our friends, a watering hole. A place that has many of the same attributes as a public square but is not truly public. Someone owns it.

The places I spend my time online – my Android phone, WhatsApp, Facebook – are exactly like a shopping mall. They feel public and open, but they are not. Like a shopping mall, the person, or company, that owns these places sets the rules. Facebook controls the kinds of things I can post and how they look. The Play store decides who can sell – and what I can buy. WhatsApp decides what platforms I can use, or not use, if want to talk to my friends.

The owners of the mall control what is possible, and what is not. As individuals we’re not the citizens of these places. We’re customers and we’re not in control.

Maybe more importantly, the shopping mall also influences what people think is possible, especially if that is the only place you shop and meet your friends. If my whole life is in Play store apps, I probably don’t know I could make a web page; if all my conversations and friends are in WhatsApp, I don’t know there are other ways to communicate.

For me, this question of imagination and literacy is another place we see the tension between freedom and control. I want everyone to know what is possible on the internet; I want to spark their imaginations and set them free. The big platforms do not – instead they build imaginary walls.

The third place I feel this tension between freedom and control is at a global level – especially in emerging markets. It struck me recently that the places which were once the subjects of the great European empires are also the places where we will see the greatest internet growth in the next 10 years.  And these places we call emerging markets and the developing world are the places where the economic empires of the digital age are most powerful today.

Consider this: In North America, Android has about 68% of smartphone market share. In Asia and Africa, Android has 90% market share – give or take a few points by country. Android is becoming the Windows 98 of the developing world, the monopoly and the control point; the arbitrator of what is possible.

Also consider that Facebook and WhatsApp together control 80% of the messaging market and are owned by one company. It’s not that near monopoly market share that scares me most, it’s the nature of the mindshare that Facebook and WhatsApp have in most of the emerging markets.

“What’s the Internet?”

My friend, Laura de Reynal, just came back from doing Webmaker research in Bangladesh, she asked many of the people she talked to – new smartphone users – whether they use their phone to go on the internet. They often asked back: “What’s the internet? I don’t know what the internet is. I just use my phone for Facebook and WhatsApp.”

Across the developing world Facebook not only controls what’s possible for it’s users it controls what is imaginable.It’s not the Facebooks and Googles of the world that concern me, per se. I use their products and in many cases, I love them. I also believe they have done good in the world. But what worries me is that like the European powers in the 18th and 19th centuries they’re becoming monopolies of power; they are becoming empires exerting immense control over how people experience the web and over what the web – and our society – will become in the future.

I believe that each and every one of the five billion people who will be online 10 years from now should be a full citizen of the web. I also believe that the growing empires of the digital age stand in the way of this. The likely consequences of these empires are many: The ultimate loss of control – and loss of diversity – in how we each connect and communicate; the inability of entrepreneurs in emerging economies to get their ideas off the ground as global companies have already monopolized the markets they live. The stunted growth of digital economies in much of Asia, Africa and Latin America, with the huge chunks of internet profits flowing back to a few companies in California and China. The further expansion of the surveillance society, with ad networks and governments using the oligopoly of social platforms to track our every move.

We are on a trajectory that is headed towards all these things – or they are already happening. This is not the internet that I want for me or my children and it is not the internet I want billions of people to experience when they first come online. I want them to experience the same kind freedom, independence and agency I did.

For that to happen, we will need to seriously shake the foundations of these empires.

If I’m honest we don’t know how we do that yet. At least, I personally do not have the master plan. But I do believe we know how to start and, I am steeled by the fact that we have done this before. Mozilla has stared down empires in the past – and won. We got people to participate.  We built software that both delights and empowers. We taught people that they have choice and agency. Build, teach and empower: that was our formula. It helped us shake the foundations of Microsoft’s empire and shift and shape the trajectory of the web.

If we want to do this again, if we want to face of the internet empires of today – be they companies or countries – we need to start to build something; we need to start teaching others. We all need to participate.

These are our first steps. Most of you have already taken this step. That is exactly what MozFest is about and I don’t say that lightly or metaphorically. We have people here at MozFest working on mobile, working on web literacy, working on the internet of things. We have people trying to figure out ways to build independence and agency into all aspects of internet life.

There are people here developing software that will make it possible for anyone with a phone to make an app; trying to figure out how we create an explosion of local content – and local language content – on smartphones as a way to build independence and agency into a smartphone world increasingly dominated by monoculture.

We have people all over the building, inventing and honing ways to teach people what’s possible with the web, teaching people how to code, to create and connect and help more people become citizens of the web. We have people here hacking away on the internet of things, trying to find a way towards a world of connected devices that are understood and controlled by everyday people and not controlled by the hands of empires.

You can join in, you can help. That is what MozFest is about. Look around: We are a motley crew. We are coders, journalists, designers, artists, hackers, teachers and scientists. We all do different things everyday but we are here and bonded by a common goal: To put the web on a trajectory that is more about freedom than about control and where we are all citizens. I desperately want to meet this goal and I believe we can just as we did when they launched Firefox 10 year ago.

Many of those people and thousands more who worked beside them are still a part of Mozilla today and, as we look into the future you are those people; we are those people. We are the people who are rolling up our sleeves, who are building things, who are teaching others.

We are the people who will shake the foundations of empires and invite 5 billion people to be citizens of the web.

Let’s get started.

25 Oct 10:39


by Rui Carmo
This is an update to an item originally published on Friday, May 11th 2012.

R is a free software environment for statistical computing and graphics that I’ve recently started using.

I wholeheartedly recommend the the awesome RStudio if you want to get to grips with it, and looking into RHadoop if you want to hook up with your Hadoop cluster.


Date Link Notes
Oct 25 CausalImpact An R package for Bayesian inference.
Nov 28 Extrafont Use external fonts in charts
Nov 25 Slidify A very nice way to present data from R projects.
May 18 Rpy A set of Python bindings

Tao of Mac Icon "R" was written by Rui Carmo for The Tao of Mac and was originally posted on Friday, May 11th 2012. Except as noted, it's ©2014 Rui Carmo and licensed for reuse under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.

As usual, please consider donating towards hosting and bandwidth costs.

25 Oct 13:23

The Plight of the Open-Source Artist

by Kevin Zawacki
How meta — an open-license photo of an artist. Credit: Flickr/Pedro Ribeiro Simões

LONDON — Paolo, a computer engineer, films “Star Trek” parodies with his friends. The group of amateur filmmakers has a looming worry: someone, somewhere will accuse them of using the “Star Trek” brand without proper authorization. Gavin is musician willing to share his songs with fans, gratis — but he doesn’t want his work turning up in a commercial.

Such is the plight of the open-source artist, creative-types eager to share their work but befuddled by the murky realm of Internet copyright, fair use and plagiarism.

It was an issue explored by Paolo, Gavin and others at the 2014 Mozilla Festival’s “Portrait of a Creative Commons Artist,” a Saturday, Oct. 25 session named with a certain James Joyce text in mind. (Apropos: might Joyce take issue with the session title?)

Many copyright laws weren’t penned with the Internet in mind, and new legislation is having difficulty keeping pace

Many copyright laws weren’t penned with the Internet in mind, and new legislation is having difficulty keeping pace. The result is a world where even artists keen to share their work encounter complexity and confusion. For example: at what point during the remixing process does art become something entirely new? And how might an aging artist bequeath his digital portfolio?

Participants Saturday discussed tools that might help the open-source artist keep oriented: an official digital timestamp and byline to thwart plagiarism, maybe, or a web scraper that alerts an artist whenever their work is reproduced or remixed.

(With innovation comes more complexity, though. Should that web scraper come to be, would it violate the privacy of the user consuming the art?)

Some relevant tools already exist. Google Alerts can track when and where text reappears, and services like Creative Commons allow artists to share their work along with specific stipulations. Creative Commons is also developing new means to aid the open-source artist, according to Jane Park, a project manager with the nonprofit and the moderator of Saturday’s session.

Creative Commons is launching the Free Culture Trust, a project that will handle artists’ copyrights by championing free licensing, upholding attribution requirements, and more.

“It is… a way for living artists to ‘opt out’ of restrictive copyright easily, and not have to deal with the hassle of policing their copyrights,” the trust’s website reads.

The trust hopes to bring order to a realm still chaotic. But as new technology flourishes, the world of intellectual property grows more complex.


25 Oct 13:47

Open Badges at the Mozilla Festival

Open Badges at the Mozilla Festival:
As part of Mozilla’s mission to promote openness and opportunity on the web, MozFest invites you to nurture the spark of an idea through hands-on sessions and interactive workshops while in the company of extraordinary technologists and creators.

Sunny, Carla and Jade are hanging out in London this weekend with the wonderful folks from Digital Me, as well as representatives from Think Big, iDEA Award, Makewaves, Badge Europe and more!

Follow @mozillafestival and #MozFest on Twitter to see what’s been going on. If you aren’t in London and want to participate remotely, check out

25 Oct 14:09

Badger Beats: The Week In Review [63]

We hope everyone’s having a great weekend - whether you’re at home or enjoying the revelry of MozFest!

Here’s a quick run-down of the week:

  • On Monday, James Willis presented in a live session of the Open Badges MOOC - a summary is available here;

  • Academic Partnerships (UNESCO) released a Guide to Quality in Non-Traditional Online Higher Education, which explored the challenges facing badge value;

  • The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency recently released open-source gamification software to GitHub, issuing open badges as user rewards;
  • Michelle Weise wrote a piece on “the real revolution in online education,” with a focus on competency-based learning. Dive into the discussion in the comments section! Here’s a couple of lines from the post that makes us think badges:

"Data is confirming what we already know: recruiting is an imprecise activity, and degrees don’t communicate much about a candidate’s potential and fit. Employers need to know what a student knows and can do.

  • Check out the Canadian Digital Badges Initiative (CDBI), exploring how badges can be used on a broad scale in training, training tracking and certification / accreditation in Canada;
  • There’s another new badging community forming in Europe, whose aim is to create and Open Badge for Nordic adult educators - learn more on their blog;

  • And of course - MozFest! The Open Knowledge Foundation blog has a great feature on one of the new tracks for 2014, Community Building, and there’s plenty of action happening on all the tracks. Go to  to find out how to participate remotely.

Enjoy your weekend, everyone! See you all on Monday….

.@carlacasilli talks research in @OpenBadges Come check out the #badgelab at #mozfest so much badge talk!!!

— Sunny Lee (@soletelee) October 25, 2014
25 Oct 14:56

Soon, the Internet of Things Will Read Your Mind

by Kevin Zawacki
Is it time to outsource clairvoyance to computers? Credit: Flickr/Eli Christman

LONDON — The Internet has been unforgiving to more than a handful of professions: travel agents, print journalists and booksellers, to name a few, have watched their industries wobble, shrink, and in some cases, fail spectacularly.

The latest vocation to feel the Internet’s squeeze might also be the most unexpected: mind reader

Now, the latest vocation to feel the Internet’s squeeze might also be the most unexpected: mind reader.

At the University of Bristol in southern England, academics have introduced a Magicians in Residence program to transplant the wisdom, tricks and savvy of a magician into apps and electronic devices.

One magician in residence, Stuart Nolan, is drawing on the deep knowledge of subconscious muscle movements that mentalists capitalize on to simulate clairvoyance. Nolan says it’s a skill honed by the Victorian mind readers of the 19th century; if a subject thinks about boxing, his arms may twitch just so. To the trained eye, that twitch is perceptible.

“It’s a very difficult skill to master,” Nolan told The Open Standard.

Nolan’s session at the 2014 Mozilla Festival — “The Mindreading Web,” on Saturday, Oct. 25 — explored how computers can learn to read these “ideomotor” responses, too. This idea was the catalyst for Nolan’s Ideobird, a handheld parakeet figure that can tap into those muscle movements.

“I’ve stopped performing with Ideobird because it steals the show,” Nolan said.

Reading subtle movements is similar to advanced technology like FMRI scanners, which are able to pick up on the brain’s activity. As these technologies are perfected and become consumer-facing, magicians may find themselves out of work, Nolan said.

“[One day] I’ll say, ‘I can read your mind,’” Nolan noted. “And people will respond, ‘I’ve already downloaded an app that can do that.”

Nolan says now is the time for these skills to leave the realm of the performer and enter the technology space. We might program our phone to recognize only our own ideomotor movements, he said, a defense far more secure than passwords and fingerprints.

To Nolan, the worlds of magic and technology were never far apart.

“Ouija boards were the first network devices,” he said, noting the spooky parlor games allowed two disparate parties — the player and the spirits — to commune. (It’s worth noting Nolan doesn’t believe in a spirit world; instead, he believes subconscious ideomotor movements are at work during Ouija play.)

Nolan’s philosophy jibes with a dictum by one of science’s most revered minds: British writer, inventor and knight Arthur Clarke. Clarke put it simply: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”


24 Oct 09:18

Big Data: It’s The Analysis, Stupid!

by Jake Savin

We took the verticals that FounderDating Network Cofounder members (those members who have indicated that they are interested in finding cofounders) selected as markets they are interested in started a company in and compared the last six months with the same six months one year ago…

- via Founder Dating

It comes as little surprise to me that the verticals that seem to remain pretty stable include commerce, small business, advertising, cloud services, and enterprise. To my mind, this is reflective of how our economy intersects with technology in a fairly general sense. Of course mobile is still big, and I believe most investment in mobile is driven by commerce (including advertising) and business needs, with cloud services serving a supporting role. It is interesting though that mobile startup investment seems to be reaching a plateau rather than growing or declining.

It’s also no surprise to me that the wearable and smart home verticals are on the rise, given the buzz around “Internet of Things”, health-data scenarios, and clean energy over the last few years. Interest in these verticals has existed for a long time, but investment is happening now for two reasons: maturing new technologies are finally enabling them, and our social norms are changing. It of course remains to be seen whether there will be a bubble in either wearables or smart home startups, but for the moment there’s a scramble to deliver new products and services in both spaces, and there’s a lot of room for growth over the next few years.

The consumer electronics rise is probably related in part to wearables and smart home, though it’s interesting to contemplate what might be happening if some portion of that rise is independent. (I’m not going to do that here though.)

To me, the most interesting stand-out in the Founder Dating verticals report is an apparent decline in interest doing startups in the data & analytics space.

Is Big Data investment waning?

I see more and more job listings these days, in all sorts of technology disciplines that call for “a passion for big data” or “proven ability to analyze data for customer insights”. In part at least [big] data analytics seems to be getting absorbed into the broader technology toolbox—that more an more “Big Data” is seen as a core competency, or from another point of view just another part of the “cost of doing business.”

Simultaneously, the idea of Big Data driving markets in-and-of itself seems to be dwindling. And I think this is a good thing.

Data by itself is just data even if it’s Big

I’ve felt for a few years now that there’s been an over-emphasis on data for its own sake, at least the way it’s been marketed so far: More data, more types of data, more sources of data, more users contributing data, etc.

BigData_2267x1146_whiteThere’s certainly been a huge rise in data warehousing and reporting capability across the many industries touched by high-tech. And many companies have made at times extravagant claims about how Big Data will revolutionize all aspects of your business (technology or otherwise).

It’s true that we can now store, search, and retrieve information with a capacity and speed that was unimaginable even two or three years ago. But for the most part, availability and cost-effectiveness of data collection and reporting by itself has not (so far) revolutionized our lives or our businesses, except in a few niches—web search and social networks being two of the most visible.

It’s the analysis, stupid!

Take Facebook and Twitter in the social space, Google in search, or 23andMe in the consumer DNA analysis space. For at least these verticals there’s also been a correspondingly large investment in data analysis—probably in nearly all cases a much larger investment.

We need to understand that good data analysis requires a lot of creativity, long-term investment in tools and algorithms, and an iterative development process—all of which is far from free. The data by itself is just bits on a disk somewhere.

Access to vast amounts of data has indeed been a fantastic aid that has driven broad, albeit often incremental improvements in decision making, product design, and operational efficiency. More rarely it’s enabled completely new product spaces, though without a real data analysis component, most of the new markets that have opened up have been related to data warehousing. The mere availability of lots of data has not so far been a panacea. And it may never be.

It’s certainly true that we take for granted today that we have comprehensive map data at our fingertips.

Ultimately though, the most interesting Big Data scenarios require that we aggregate and correlate vast data-sets in ways that ask specifically designed questions, and which report results that can be interpreted as effective, meaningful, actionable answers to those questions. (Remember Douglas Adams’ 42?)

And so far asking the right questions is still nearly completely in the domain of human beings.

25 Oct 19:32

"In San Francisco, a group sprang up to battle Bell and its numbering scheme. The Anti-Digit Dialing..."

“In San Francisco, a group sprang up to battle Bell and its numbering scheme. The Anti-Digit Dialing League—consisting of thousands of members at its height, including the semanticist S.I. Hayakawa*—decried Bell’s version of digital transition. The all-digit dialing system was evidence of “the cult of technology,” the League argued, not to mention that cult’s “creeping numeralism.” To make its point, the group published its own pamphlet—one that was aptly, if vaguely, titled Phones Are for People. “So far,” it noted, “17 million of the nation’s 77-million phones have lost their letters in favor of numbers. The time to reverse the trend is NOW.””

- Our Numbered Days: The Evolution of the Area Code (via gregcohn)
25 Oct 19:40

fred-wilson: this is stock market volatility vs google searches...


this is stock market volatility vs google searches on ebola

my friend stephen sent this to me

25 Oct 19:41

latimes: The evolution of California’s drought.

25 Oct 19:59

emergentfutures: People think CEO pay is out of control. The...


People think CEO pay is out of control. The truth is much worse than they know.

What’s interesting here is how much space people put between their estimates. Clearly, everyone expects some hefty inequality, albeit to varying degrees. However, the really surprising finding comes in when you compare these numbers to what CEOs do make (that is, CEOs of S&P 500 companies, as compiled by AFL-CIO). Below are 16 countries’ results:

Full Story: Vox

25 Oct 20:02

newyorker: Jon Michaud on a classic science-fiction novel’s...


Jon Michaud on a classic science-fiction novel’s lasting influence:

“ ‘A Canticle for Leibowitz’ was one of the first novels to escape from the science-fiction ghetto and become a staple of high-school reading lists. Its legacy can be seen in the works of Gene Wolfe, Margaret Atwood, and many other speculative-fiction authors who came after him, as well as in the current flood of end-of-the-world novels, TV shows, and movies.”

24 Oct 19:53

Community Forum: “Commercial Drive for Everyone” – Nov 3

by pricetags

From Streets For Everyone - a community organization that advocates for the transformation of our streets into safe, inclusive, economically thriving and socially vibrant public spaces.




The goal of the Streets For Everyone Commercial Drive Campaign is to build community support among a diverse group of stakeholders, such as residents and business owners, so that Commercial Drive’s design can be updated as soon as possible so that it is safe and accessible to all users.

Vancouver Courier article about the proposal here.  Website here.


commercial - 2

24 Oct 20:39

The Fundamental Rule of Traffic

by pricetags

This really shouldn’t be necessary to post (certainly not to most readers of PT), but apparently it’s needed when those running for office in Vancouver don’t get that trying to reduce congestion by increasing the efficiency of the road network – whether through widening or counterflow lanes – isn’t going to work: 


The “fundamental rule” of traffic: building new roads just makes people drive more


This article from Vox begins with a stunning revelation.  Well, it would be if it wasn’t so consistent with the ‘fundamental rule.’


Orbitz Names LAX As Busiest Airport For 2011 Thanksgiving Travel

After years spent widening the interstate 405 freeway in Los Angeles, travel times are slightly slower than before.


Decades of traffic data across the United States shows that adding new road capacity doesn’t actually improve congestion. The latest example of this is the widening of Los Angeles’ I-405 freeway, which was completed in May after five years of construction and a cost of over $1 billion. “The data shows that traffic is moving slightly slower now on 405 than before the widening,” says Matthew Turner, a Brown University economist. …

He and University of Pennsylvania economist Gilles Duranton call this the “fundamental rule” of road congestion: adding road capacity just increases the total number of miles traveled by all vehicles. …

In an influential 2011 paper, they looked at the total capacity of highways in each metropolitan area in the US and compared it with the total number of vehicle miles traveled.

They found a one-to-one correlation: the more highway capacity a metro area had, the more miles its vehicles traveled on them. A 10 percent increase in capacity, for instance, meant a 10 percent increase in vehicle miles, on average. But that, on its own, wasn’t conclusive. “This could just be telling you that urban planners are smart, and are building roads in places that people want to use them,” Turner says.

So, to try to isolate the effect of building roads, the economists then compared changes in highway capacity between 1983 and 2003 to the changes in vehicle miles traveled. “Again, we saw a direct one-to-one correlation across all cities,” Turner says. This correlation also held up when the economists compared roads within cities: added road capacity consistently led to more driving. Still, even this wasn’t conclusive. It could, after all, simply be a function of planners making good decisions — perfectly anticipating unmet driving demand.

As a final step, then, the economists tried to isolate a few different sets of roads that were planned with no regard to current driving patterns — newly built roads that were part of the original 1947 interstate highway plan (which was based on 1940s population levels, not 80s and 90s), and those that followed 19th century railroad rights-of-way, or 18th and 19th century routes taken by explorers. “We saw exactly the same effect here too,” Turner says.This finding has since been replicated with Japanese and British data. It doesn’t seem to be an effect of optimized planning. Again and again, more roads lead to more driving — with no reduction in congestion.
Added capacity


However, if your goal is reducing traffic congestion, this research shows that adding road capacity won’t do it. But there is a way: congestion pricing.

More here.


Now that would be a discussion worth having in an election campaign.  As far as I know, no party has put it on their platform.

24 Oct 21:44

Climate Change: The Gorilla arrives on a rising tide

by pricetags

Two years ago, almost to the day, I wrote a piece titled Frankenstorms and Gorillas:

Denialism’s job is to convince the public that there is too much doubt to justify action, that the science itself is corrupted, that it’s all a plot to transfer wealth, that it’s part of the political and culture wars.  And it’s worked.

The problem is that extreme weather events and trends (droughts, floods, ice melts ) are consistent with the predictions of climate change and generate unease in the population.  The denialist’s job is then to  persuade the public to ignore that which, if immediate and local, is increasingly difficult to ignore.

It’s rather like living with a large gorilla.  So long as it remains passive, even as it grows, we can live with it.  But when it stomps around and upsets the furniture, and looks to be getting ever more hungry, then advice to ignore it is futile.  The denialists must either make the gorilla go away or acknowledge its presence.

So long as there are extreme weather events, the onus of proof is not on the science; it’s on the denialists.  The latter must explain why such events don’t matter (i.e. ignore the gorilla), provide assurance that they won’t get worse (i.e. ignore the gorilla’s appetite) or accept that we have a gorilla problem.


What I didn’t predict then was that denialism’s vulnerability was not the big, violent event (the gorilla), but the one that seeps in from below:

As she planned her run for the Florida House of Representatives this year, Kristin Jacobs told her team that she wanted her campaign to address the effects of climate change.  … few issues were more critical to residents of southeast Florida than street flooding at high tide — even on some sunny days — and ocean water seeping into their drinking water.

Voters have answered yes so far, handing Krtistin Jacobs a victory in the Democratic primary in August with more than 76 percent of the vote. Opinion polls suggest she will cruise to victory in November.

CLIMATE-web1-master675The results were “shocking,” said Steven J. Vancore, a pollster and political consultant advising Ms. Jacobs. …

 … in communities across the country where the effects are lapping at the doorsteps of residents, pragmatism often trumps politics, and candidates as well as elected officials across the political spectrum are embracing the issue.

Some local Republican officials in Florida and elsewhere say they can no longer follow the lead of state and national party leaders like Senator Marco Rubio and Gov. Rick Scott, who have publicly questioned whether human activity has had an effect on climate change. (Though both have recently taken a more vague, “I’m not a scientist,” stance.)

… in the Florida Keys, George Neugent, a Republican county commissioner, said that while people may disagree about what to do about climate change, the effects of flooding and hurricanes are less ambiguous. “Clearly rising tides are going to affect us,” he said.

More here in the New York Times: Pragmatism on Climate Change Trumps Politics at Local Level Across U.S.

24 Oct 21:15

Rogers apologizes for day one Note 4 activation problems

by Daniel Bader

Rogers is experiencing issues upgrading existing customers to the newly-released Samsung Galaxy Note 4. Over the past few hours, we’ve received dozens of frustrated Twitter messages and emails from customers attempting to upgrade to the Note 4 only to be told that the device has not been added to the system.

A Rogers representative told us, “We apologize to any of our customers who are unable to get their Samsung Galaxy Note 4 today. We’re experiencing technical issues processing hardware upgrades for the Note 4 and will have this resolved by tomorrow – the issue doesn’t affect new customers.”

There is no indication if Rogers will be compensating those customers who had pre-ordered the device as they expected to have it in their hands today.

25 Oct 17:21

Deezer buys Stitcher to sneak into burgeoning in-car streaming market

by Daniel Bader

Streaming music provider Deezer has purchased Stitcher, a web- and mobile-based radio and podcast service, for an undisclosed sum.

Stitcher is one of most popular places for North Americans to listen to live radio and podcast programming, with roughly a million active users listening to 35,000 shows. While the company has found minor success in the mobile space, it’s likely that Deezer is looking to sneak into the in-car streaming market with Stitcher, which has forged relationships with Ford, GM, Mazda, BMW and Jaguar, as well as Apple’s CarPlay and Google’s Android Auto.

Deezer has operated in Canada since 2012, but recently shut down its dedicated support and sales team, shifting everything to its US office.

Integration between Deezer and Stitcher will begin next year, but for the moment both will continue to operate independently.

24 Oct 22:34

ideasandtime: NFL DataViz. in progress. Red=Games blown in the...


NFL DataViz. in progress. Red=Games blown in the 4th Blue=Comeback wins in the 4th. Trying to visualize the emotional duress endured by each city’s fanbase. Is it as hard to be a Brown’s fan as we think?

25 Oct 10:38

Sundar Pichai is the new product ‘czar’ at Google

by Rajesh Pandey
Google’s CEO, Larry Page, has done a major revamp of the internal structure of the company’s management and has transferred the leadership of most of the core products of the company to Sundar Pichai. Continue reading →
25 Oct 17:24

Anti-spam and E2E crypto

by Matt Mullenweg