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26 Apr 09:01

Potential Privacy Issue with Lightroom CC/6 and People Keywords

by Jeffrey Friedl

Lightroom CC/6 has been out for a few days, and in working with Lightroom's new Face Tagging feature, I've run across something that could be a privacy issue for some folks.

Keywords in Lightroom have an “Include on Export” option; if it's disabled, the keyword is not (supposed to be) included in exported copies of photos. This is useful for workflow-related keywords that you use merely to help manage your catalog, or for keywords you'd rather not expose to the public.

The problem I've discovered in Lightroom CC/6 is that the “Include on Export” option is ignored if it's a “Person” keyword (one used with the new Face Tagging feature).

For example, imagine tagging photos from an office party and giving your boss the snarky name “My Jerk of a Boss”. Of course, you'd not want to expose that in copies you uploaded or shared with others, so you'd think you were safe by disabling “Include on Export” like this:

Lightroom's Publish/Export dialog includes a standard section on what metadata to include in the exported copies:

The “Remove Person Info” option is new in Lightroom CC/6, and it seems that it (and it alone) controls whether “Person” keywords are included in export. If this remove option is not turned on, all Person keywords are exported even if their “Include on Export” option has been explicitly disabled.

In the “My Jerk of a Boss” example, you might have wanted other People keywords to be included, so not turned on the “Remove Person Info” option, thinking that the lack of “Include on Export” would keep “My Jerk of a Boss” out of the images you share. I assume that's how it's supposed to work, but it doesn't.

I don't suppose that this bug (if that's what it is) will actually affect very many people, but if it does, it could be a doozy.

I've reported it to Adobe. I'll update this post with new info as it becomes available.

In related news, I've figured out how to bring the Face-Tagging feature to my Facebook plugin. For example, after having used Lightroom's Face Tagging feature to identify faces of friends in the photos from the 100km bike ride I recently wrote about, all the tagging in the exported copies at Facebook was automatic via the beta version of my plugin. It was nice not to have to walk through every copy at Facebook and tag people.

So that's something to look forward to. It was while working on this that I discovered the potential privacy issue.

24 Apr 14:42

Deals: Our favorite Bluetooth FM Transmitter, the Mpow Streambot Y, is down to $32 with a code (from $37)

by J.D. Levite

Best Deals: Our favorite Bluetooth FM Transmitter, the Mpow Streambot Y, is down to $32 with code CCS23JGY (from $37). [Amazon]

24 Apr 16:07

Mark Surman on Open Eduction and the Open Internet

by Stephen Downes

Article and photo by Stephen Downes

This is a summary of Mozilla CEO Mark Surman's talk at Open Education Global in Banff April 24 (today). It is a paraphrase with lots of direct quotation, but shouldn't be taken as word-for word literal. All errors are my own.

We need to help 5 billion people over the next 5-10 years become web literate.

Three quotes from great Canadian thinkers: "We are trying to do today's job with yesterday's tools and yesterday's concepts." "We drive into the future looking only into our rearview mirror."
- classrooms are organized around how monks talked.

The experience of living in a small town as the only punk rock kid shaped me. And we lived in the media culture hegemony, and also we lived in a time of very conservative politics with a daily fear of nuclear war. What punk rock showed me was that we could play a role in shaping the world we want. And I was a photocopier kid - a big part of punk culture was cutting things up and remixing them. Records, guitars, and a scene: this idea of our media, our ability to produce it, and a community. It's an ethos very different from the television world we grew up in.

The last 40 years has been technology that lets us reshape our world. When I got a tape recorder that I could record on, that was radical. These technologies and freedom inspire me. And I couldn't but help myself when the modem came along. And when Mosaic came out in 1994, I said that's what I want to work on.

Second Canadian: Harold Innis. "The Roman Empire and the city states were essentially products of writing." They could issue edicts and laws. How do we build the world we're trying to build? There's a connection between power and words, power and communication, and what we're trying to do is shift that, and make communication more open.

Mozilla: it says in our incorporation documents: "we exist to guard the open nature of the internet." Best job I ever had. That's what drove m to work on the Cape Town declaration. We said it can't just be OERs, it can't just be open content, it has to be learning, it has to be participation.

So I would argue that we have a common ethos around that idea. And I see Mozilla as being the David that can take on the Goliath with those ideas. And so we have won a number of battles, we have a lot to celebrate. Firefox itself is a big victory - we went from 98% Internet Explorer domination, and Microsoft was determining where the internet was heading. Firefox was a huge victory in shifting that. That was 10 years ago, we haven't won much lately. Reference to Sunday New York Times advertisement for Firefox 1.0 (I contributed to that: SD)

There is a shift, even in mainstream, toward seeing publishers as expensive and in the way. By contrast we have organizations like Lumen, David Wiley's company, getting traction and VC money. Similarly you've heard lots over the last few days, more and more public money has gone into ensuring that learning resources are open. For example, $2 billion for OERs in colleges.

Those victories don't just limit themselves to this room. We have those dollars to people who aren't having this conference explicitly. Eg. local tax grant in Missoula. We have people around the world coming to OERs and open learning, and doing real stuff. We see a bias toward action. Lots of victories, lots to be proud of.

We have won many battles... but we are losing the war.

We are losing the battle for openness, the open web, and in transforming education. These - Pearson - are the kind of people are going to win. They may shift from selling textbooks to capturing analytics and selling data, but they're still winning. Mozilla isn't anti-business but we're against oligopolies. I'm more afraid that this is going to be Pearson - 'Classroom'. As much as I use Google every day, it's increasingly a company that controls vast parts of the internet. India - Google is effectively a monopoly with Android in smart phones. But unlike Windows and IE, they control the OS, they control the money, they're taking over the carrier layer - this is a monopolist with an intent to take complete vertical control over our internet lives. That is losing the war.

How many think Uber is the good guy? We don't think of them as relevant, but it is likely the next big monopolists. Their goal and intent is to become the monopolist in the area of physical motion - to know everything about us, everything about the movers. That is then cloaked ina positive aspect of creating a new type of work.

"Millions of Facebook users don't even know they're using the internet." People don't even know what they're using. They don't really know what the affordances are in any of the most basic ways the way we know. There's a massive gap between the general purpose computers we have in our pockets and what people think they have.

We're seeing the growth of the empires that will shape humanity with a new set of values for probably the next few hundred years. The centre of that empire is pretty limited - it comes from Palo Alto, it comes from Silicon Valley. It's not that diverse a place. Its not the kind of empire I want to see. I don't want to see empire.

Fork in the road.

Do we want 'the next Steve Jobs' or do we want Edward Snowden. Do we want creativity and freedom, or control and a lack of agency. Are we going to choose openness, or are we going to choose the Matrix.

William Gibson, third (sort of) Canadian: "The future is here, it's just not evenly distributed." The future I have committed to is a future where everyone has the know-how to be internet citizens in full. That's where we want to go - how do we win the war?

Most of the people in the room used Mosaic, most were online before 2000 - the internet soon will be 5 billion people - that's where the battle for open will play out).

Three things we are doing:

First, web literacy. The challenge we have is to help 5 billion know how to wield that general purpose in computer in their pocket. We try to put it into Firefox, we try to put it into everything we ddo (cf Doug Belshaw's competency map). Participation, using the open web, is a bit part of this.

Second, we need to commit to learning and not just to open educational resources. That's what I took from my early work in Shuttleworth to what I'm doing now. The language we use to talk about our approach to pedagogy is: learn by making, make stuff that matters (that's a key idea OER brings to the table, we can work on real material that is stuff we need), do it together (social for us has to be a part of a radical open pedagogy).

Third, think of ourselves as bigger than just those of us around a single table, bigger than just this room - think of ourselves as people who want to take this open road (you are invited to Mozfest in November).

A movement, a different approach to learning (web literacy), can help us go down the open road if we do it ambitiously enough.

We've been doing this at Mozilla. Eg., the Maker Parties. We've had teach-ins,. to have people teach digital literacy to those around them. And this year we want to rally people to move litreracy on a massive scale - we don't know how to do that. Mozilla Academy? We will put whatever resources to bear on this, and help people do this. There are 300 organizations that make the Maker Parties happen - we want to do this together, get on the ball, and move it a lot faster.

This is important. We are at a Gutenberg moment. We are at an early phase in internet technology. What gets written today will determine the future.


Q. I'm struck by the fact that there are many Davids. How do you unite the Davids.

A. You have common cause though you have many approaches. 'Open' has been the rallying cry. But in that rallying we have become inward focused. The concept of 'open' isn't something that will get into the water necessarily. The key is to think practically, do things that will help people, rather than be evangelical. That may be a rallying point, but still around our ideas.

Q. Net neutrality - where the telcos are trying to determine what speed you will have and more. Steve Jobs was a master at creating beautiful golden cages. You cannot have OER and openness within a closed hardware environment.

A. Another hour-long talk. In general, in building this movement for openness, Mozilla very public takes a much more pragmatic approach on whether everything has to be free. Of course we all know all of the pieces we wish were there, they're not even not there is an way even open-advocates can live in an all-open world. Eg. should we be implementing the DRM standard in HTML 5. Of course we're against that. But if we don't implement it and the other three browsers do, then millions of our users won't be able to watch videos.

Which road do we choose, in order to remain relevant, and still keep a principled stance? Hardware and net neutrality are very important in that. Hardware is the biggest vector for network surveillance (I should have added Sczchen to the core of the new empire, on the hardware level). And it's a big question about how companies like Facebook play into net neutrality - Facebook is marketing itself in India as the free internet, don't bother with the rest of it.

Q. I can't help but think about Aaron Schwarz. Will civil disobedience become an appropriate response?

A. It already is. We don't hope what happened to Aaron will happen to others. But people like Anonymous - it's a tricky think to know what appropriate civil disobedience is. There may be reaal criminals in there. We don't all have the same agenda. Tricky questions.

Q. Would the internet be different if we had women making it?

A. Yes. And we need more of that. Mitchell Baker is a champion for women in technology and as leaders. But we're still very male-biased. We do need to have gender as an issue as we build, we're not as aggressive as we want to be yet, but it has to be a part of what we think.

Q. The web literacy is the closest thing to what I mentioned yesterday as digital citizenship. Who are the right people to engage on this?

A. We are thee stakeholders to first engage. Many great conversations here, eg., talking with Cable (Green) about getting a course on web literacy. And Cathy saying one way to do it is immersion. This is a good group of people to try to get some of those approaches into the mainstream.

There's a lit of other stakeholders we think about. The right part of business, for example, even some of the goliaths - eg., the phone companies, who have a set of interests counter to the core Silicon Valley values. Eg. they want people to make and consume local content.

Q. It's very common for us to conflate the web with the internet. To what degree is Mozilla interested in non-web parts of the internet.

A. As an activist, conflating the web with the internet is now a problem in my view. We think of the web as the human interaction layer, at least for now. The rest of the web isn't really usable by people. But increasingly not. We contrast the web with what's happening on the smart phone right now - the web is open, iOS and Android are much more bundled and controlled. But we have to pick our battled.

Q. Read-write-communicate has me thinking about openness - are you making the same pitch to other segments of the internet? Is it the same pitch?

A. he answer is, I'm about to. I'm trying to figure out a crisper pitch. This is spring training. I'm taking this to Quartz, and giving them the same pitch. The same in OE Africa in may. To see who we can bring along with us.

Q. I don't like your metaphor with the word 'battle' and the word 'war'. Cf. Hal Plotkin. He was entertaining us and also warning us with an example from the U.S. establishing a so-called 'free university' which failed because people became too militant.

A. Many people don't like those metaphors. I think we're too passive. Let's see if we can find a middle.

Q. Facebook is bringing free 'mobile internet' to people which is Facebook(+Google+Wikipedia)-only - internet.org

A. They're kind of BS. But they will be influential BS. Even at the board level, we talk about, do we play with internet.org or not? I've been into these sorts of discussions for years - the old Internet Advisory Council in Canada. It's companies saying "we will solve the problem of access." It's an exceptionally simplistic view. People will get access. The market will take care of access anyway. They want to be seen as on the forefront of solving that problem, and to capture customers while they're at it, with monopolistic strategies. But if we help internet.org where half the peopel only have Facebook, that's a bad outcome.
24 Apr 15:02

A New Beginning

A New Beginning:
I am happy and honored to announce that I am joining Digital Clarity Group as a Principal Analyst.

Major changes, and a new beginning.

Also, as you may have noticed, I have shifted my writing from Tumblr – which I think may be doomed, anyway – to Medium. Again, if you liked my writing here you might want to give Medium a chance.

24 Apr 03:20

Firehose versus Flamethrower

by jwz
24 Apr 18:44

Welcome to the Apple Watch era

by Daniel Bader

For a long time there were smartphones, but they weren’t very good. Blocky and slow, with insipid user interfaces, their ‘smart’ness was predicated on the notion of utility, of ostensibly adding value by taking the onus away from a computer.

When the iPhone debuted in 2007, it helped people understand the benefit of a differentiated, touch-optimized experience, not just a smaller computer screen in your pocket. The App Store expanded that to include single-purpose utilities that existed outside of a web browser. Soon, notifications became a unidirectional currency, a way for apps and services to communicate with people unidirectionally, giving them the option to decide how to interact.

Over time, the primary theme for notification awareness has become context: using cellular, Bluetooth, WiFi or GPS, the phone knows where you are and, often, what you’re doing.

Wearables are good at knowing what you’re doing because you affix them to your body. Google’s Android Wear platform benefited greatly from Google Now’s context-aware information graph, which learns where you are and what you do. Google Now knows you’re waiting at a streetcar stop, or how long it will take to walk to work. It knows that you would prefer to read this article because you read something like it last night. It turns notifications into a service.

For the Watch, Apple’s app-based approach still employs context, but the company plans to turn its smaller wearable into a canvas for apps, with a notable difference: glances. At any time, you can swipe up to reveal up to 20 pieces of rich information, from the weather to recent sports scores to the best restaurants nearby. Glances don’t work particular well today because they rely on the tortoise-slow connection between the Watch and an iPhone, but think ahead to two or three years from now, when new Bluetooth and WiFi standards, along with faster processors and improved software, propel Glances from feature to platform.

Wearables, and smartwatches in particular, have existed for some time, but in the Apple Watch era it will be impossible to ignore them. People will continue asking, “Is that an Apple Watch?” as they have at me for the past six months, but starting today people will began to say yes.

And, like Google said of the Watch months ago, its existence is good for the entire industry, just as Android itself got a boost from iPhone’s proliferation.

So settle in, because whether you like or loath the Apple Watch, it’s set to change the mobile industry forever.

24 Apr 09:26

Web Navigation Transitions

by Chris Lord

Wow, so it’s been over a year since I last blogged. Lots has happened in that time, but I suppose that’s a subject for another post. I’d like to write a bit about something I’ve been working on for the last week or so. You may have seen Google’s proposal for navigation transitions, and if not, I suggest reading the spec and watching the demonstration. This is something that I’ve thought about for a while previously, but never put into words. After reading Google’s proposal, I fear that it’s quite complex both to implement and to author, so this pushed me both to document my idea, and to implement a proof-of-concept.

I think Google’s proposal is based on Android’s Activity Transitions, and due to Android UI’s very different display model, I don’t think this maps well to the web. Just my opinion though, and I’d be interested in hearing peoples’ thoughts. What follows is my alternative proposal. If you like, you can just jump straight to a demo, or view the source. Note that the demo currently only works in Gecko-based browsers – this is mostly because I suck, but also because other browsers have slightly inscrutable behaviour when it comes to adding stylesheets to a document. This is likely fixable, patches are most welcome.


 Navigation Transitions specification proposal

Abstract

An API will be suggested that will allow transitions to be performed between page navigations, requiring only CSS. It is intended for the API to be flexible enough to allow for animations on different pages to be performed in synchronisation, and for particular transition state to be selected on without it being necessary to interject with JavaScript.

Proposed API

Navigation transitions will be specified within a specialised stylesheet. These stylesheets will be included in the document as new link rel types. Transitions can be specified for entering and exiting the document. When the document is ready to transition, these stylesheets will be applied for the specified duration, after which they will stop applying.

Example syntax:

<link rel="transition-enter" duration="0.25s" href="URI" />
<link rel="transition-exit" duration="0.25s" href="URI" />

When navigating to a new page, the current page’s ‘transition-exit‘ stylesheet will be referenced, and the new page’s ‘transition-enter‘ stylesheet will be referenced.

When navigation is operating in a backwards direction, by the user pressing the back button in browser chrome, or when initiated from JavaScript via manipulation of the location or history objects, animations will be run in reverse. That is, the current page’s ‘transition-enter‘ stylesheet will be referenced, and animations will run in reverse, and the old page’s ‘transition-exit‘ stylesheet will be referenced, and those animations also run in reverse.

[Update]

Anne van Kesteren suggests that forcing this to be a separate stylesheet and putting the duration information in the tag is not desirable, and that it would be nicer to expose this as a media query, with the duration information available in an @-rule. Something like this:

@viewport {
  navigate-away-duration: 500ms;
}

@media (navigate-away) {
  ...
}

I think this would indeed be nicer, though I think the exact naming might need some work.

Transitioning

When a navigation is initiated, the old page will stay at its current position and the new page will be overlaid over the old page, but hidden. Once the new page has finished loading it will be unhidden, the old page’s ‘transition-exit‘ stylesheet will be applied and the new page’s ‘transition-enter’ stylesheet will be applied, for the specified durations of each stylesheet.

When navigating backwards, the CSS animations timeline will be reversed. This will have the effect of modifying the meaning of animation-direction like so:

Forwards          | Backwards
--------------------------------------
normal            | reverse
reverse           | normal
alternate         | alternate-reverse
alternate-reverse | alternate

and this will also alter the start time of the animation, depending on the declared total duration of the transition. For example, if a navigation stylesheet is declared to last 0.5s and an animation has a duration of 0.25s, when navigating backwards, that animation will effectively have an animation-delay of 0.25s and run in reverse. Similarly, if it already had an animation-delay of 0.1s, the animation-delay going backwards would become 0.15s, to reflect the time when the animation would have ended.

Layer ordering will also be reversed when navigating backwards, that is, the page being navigated from will appear on top of the page being navigated backwards to.

Signals

When a transition starts, a ‘navigation-transition-startNavigationTransitionEvent will be fired on the destination page. When this event is fired, the document will have had the applicable stylesheet applied and it will be visible, but will not yet have been painted on the screen since the stylesheet was applied. When the navigation transition duration is met, a ‘navigation-transition-end‘ will be fired on the destination page. These signals can be used, amongst other things, to tidy up state and to initialise state. They can also be used to modify the DOM before the transition begins, allowing for customising the transition based on request data.

JavaScript execution could potentially cause a navigation transition to run indefinitely, it is left to the user agent’s general purpose JavaScript hang detection to mitigate this circumstance.

Considerations and limitations

Navigation transitions will not be applied if the new page does not finish loading within 1.5 seconds of its first paint. This can be mitigated by pre-loading documents, or by the use of service workers.

Stylesheet application duration will be timed from the first render after the stylesheets are applied. This should either synchronise exactly with CSS animation/transition timing, or it should be longer, but it should never be shorter.

Authors should be aware that using transitions will temporarily increase the memory footprint of their application during transitions. This can be mitigated by clear separation of UI and data, and/or by using JavaScript to manipulate the document and state when navigating to avoid keeping unused resources alive.

Navigation transitions will only be applied if both the navigating document has an exit transition and the target document has an enter transition. Similarly, when navigating backwards, the navigating document must have an enter transition and the target document must have an exit transition. Both documents must be on the same origin, or transitions will not apply. The exception to these rules is the first document load of the navigator. In this case, the enter transition will apply if all prior considerations are met.

Default transitions

It is possible for the user agent to specify default transitions, so that navigation within a particular origin will always include navigation transitions unless they are explicitly disabled by that origin. This can be done by specifying navigation transition stylesheets with no href attribute, or that have an empty href attribute.

Note that specifying default transitions in all situations may not be desirable due to the differing loading characteristics of pages on the web at large.

It is suggested that default transition stylesheets may be specified by extending the iframe element with custom ‘default-transition-enter‘ and ‘default-transition-exit‘ attributes.

Examples

Simple slide between two pages:

[page-1.html]

<head>
  <link rel="transition-exit" duration="0.25s" href="page-1-exit.css" />
  <style>
    body {
      border: 0;
      height: 100%;
    }

    #bg {
      width: 100%;
      height: 100%;
      background-color: red;
    }
  </style>
</head>
<body>
  <div id="bg" onclick="window.location='page-2.html'"></div>
</body>

[page-1-exit.css]

#bg {
  animation-name: slide-left;
  animation-duration: 0.25s;
}

@keyframes slide-left {
  from {}
  to { transform: translateX(-100%); }
}

[page-2.html]

<head>
  <link rel="transition-enter" duration="0.25s" href="page-2-enter.css" />
  <style>
    body {
      border: 0;
      height: 100%;
    }

    #bg {
      width: 100%;
      height: 100%;
      background-color: green;
    }
  </style>
</head>
<body>
  <div id="bg" onclick="history.back()"></div>
</body>

[page-2-enter.css]

#bg {
  animation-name: slide-from-left;
  animation-duration: 0.25s;
}

@keyframes slide-from-left {
  from { transform: translateX(100%) }
  to {}
}


I believe that this proposal is easier to understand and use for simpler transitions than Google’s, however it becomes harder to express animations where one element is transitioning to a new position/size in a new page, and it’s also impossible to interleave contents between the two pages (as the pages will always draw separately, in the predefined order). I don’t believe this last limitation is a big issue, however, and I don’t think the cognitive load required to craft such a transition is considerably higher. In fact, you can see it demonstrated by visiting this link in a Gecko-based browser (recommended viewing in responsive design mode Ctrl+Shift+m).

I would love to hear peoples’ thoughts on this. Am I actually just totally wrong, and Google’s proposal is superior? Are there huge limitations in this proposal that I’ve not considered? Are there security implications I’ve not considered? It’s highly likely that parts of all of these are true and I’d love to hear why. You can view the source for the examples in your browser’s developer tools, but if you’d like a way to check it out more easily and suggest changes, you can also view the git source repository.

23 Apr 05:12

Twitter Favorites: [counti8] Idea for @Amtrak_Cascades - a designated 'dark car' with minimal floor lighting only during evening trains, so we can see out the window.

Karen Quinn Fung @counti8
Idea for @Amtrak_Cascades - a designated 'dark car' with minimal floor lighting only during evening trains, so we can see out the window.
23 Apr 16:50

Twitter Favorites: [Oyster] “That's the thing about books. They let you travel without moving your feet.” ― Jhumpa Lahiri #WorldBookDay https://t.co/g0rhOIT9YA

Oyster @Oyster
“That's the thing about books. They let you travel without moving your feet.” ― Jhumpa Lahiri #WorldBookDay instagram.com/p/10wSvlGBOR
24 Apr 21:56

‘Hours, the Apple Watch, and Turning an App Into a Business’

by Federico Viticci

Jeremy Olson on making Hours free and shifting their focus on turning a “simple app” into a business:

How do you break into business and the enterprise? We like Slack’s bottom-up approach. Start by making the best solution for individuals, who in turn advocate adoption for their team, who in turn evangelize to other teams…and up the chain it goes. If startups can make this strategy work in the Enterprise, as Slack has, then they can focus on creating a great experience for the end-user instead of a bloated feature list to pass a corporate approval checklist.

Hours is an excellent time tracker. I'm curious to see if this strategy will work out for them, and if other developers are tweaking their plans to follow a similar route.

See also: Dan Counsell's advice from last year.

∞ Read this on MacStories

25 Apr 00:22

I would have hired Doug Engelbart

I've heard it said, and thought myself, that of course I wouldn't have hired a 50-something developer when I was running my 20-something startup.

But then I just realized that if Doug Engelbart had wanted to work for Living Videotext or UserLand I would have hired him in an instant. Can you imagine. To have the guy who pioneered the technology we were commercializing around to mentor me and my developers? I would have jumped at the opportunity.

So the answer is, it depends. If it was a random employee type who hadn't done much with his or her career, I probably wouldn't have been very interested. But if it was someone who had created the foundation we were working on, that would have been different.

Guy Kawasaki: "Good people hire people better than themselves."

24 Apr 19:31

How Apple Advertises New Products: The Prestige

by Rex Hammock

Last September 4, I wrote a Hammock Idea Email called, “Learn the Secret to Apple’s Product Launch Magic.”

It referred to the movie, The Prestige, and broke down how Apple would be introducing what we now know is the Apple Watch into the three parts of a magic trick, as described by the film’s character played by Michael Caine: (1) The Pledge, (2) The Turn and (3) The Prestige.

In it, I wrote that Apple always ends the launch of a new product with the same “prestige.”

“While the audience is focused on how the new iProduct will measure their health vitals, control their home’s thermostat, locate their lost dog, and alert their flying car to come pick them up, abracadabra, Apple will do what most marketers (and their CEOs) find impossible to do: Apple will stop saying anything about the new products being better. Instead, they’ll pull a rabbit out of the hat and produce owners of those new products who have become new versions of themselves. They are slimmer, more productive, more connected with their grandchildren, more creative.”

Today, now that the Apple Watch is on the wrists of the first wave of purchasers, Apple has dropped all the technical mumbo-jumbo and has switched its millions in advertising into full-on prestige mode:

24 Apr 00:00

ASU and edX, Further Thoughts


Matt Reed, Inside Higher Ed, Apr 26, 2015


The  big news this week is that Arizona Statue University will in effect  replace first year studies with MOOCs (that's probably an overstatement, but it will do for now). This article draws out some implications and major underlying issues (these are all quoted from the article):

  • Prior learning assessment -- the mechanism by which credit is granted -- is not covered by financial aid.
  • there’ s nothing stopping someone now from taking a MOOC in a “ gen ed” area and then taking a CLEP exam to get credit.
  • ASU took a nasty funding cut from the state, and responded by growing its reach (contrast with LSU, which is attempting to survive though massive cuts)
  • the edX partnership allows ASU to move failures off-book, thereby keeping its success rates high.
  • many of us in higher ed think of it as an ecosystem. ASU may have decided that it’ s actually a Hobbesian war of each against all
  • the partnership is a desperate attempt to provide something resembling a business model for MOOCs.

In my view, higher education institutions should consider themselves lucky that the MOOCs provided by EdX are replacing first year. There will not be much talk of expanding the model, and the failure rate will we high, Had something like the Connectivist MOOCs and the cooperative approach taken hold, the damage to traditional institutions would have been much greater, as students would have propelled each other to success in spite of, not because of, the institution.

 

[Link] [Comment]
24 Apr 00:00

Accreditation Under Fire


Bernard Fryshman, Inside Higher Ed, Apr 26, 2015


I can't say I exactly agree with the arguments outlined in this article, but it's important to read and understand this defense of the Byzantine system that is the college accreditation process. Bernard Fryshman offers a spirited argument. "There is wide recognition that relying on these proposed quantitative measures has weakened accreditation, with collateral damage. Thus, colleges that were focused on a financial bottom line rather than on student learning found it easy to produce numbers that satisfied quantitative guidelines, but said little or nothing about the learning taking place." There are two presumptions, of course: first, that the numbers are indeed proxies, and second, that the current process of peer review actually does ensure that learning takes place.

[Link] [Comment]
24 Apr 00:00

To Get More Students Through College, Give Them Fewer Choices

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Anya Kamenetz, NPR Ed, Apr 26, 2015


Anya Kamanetz reviews a new book that makes an old argument. Drawing on the 'paradox of choice', it is argues that college students should be required to select majors and choose from a more limited set of options. Just as people given fewer choices of jam are more likely to buy jam, it is suggested, people given fewer choices in college are more likely to finish college. It's a seductive argument, because it's always tempting to trade freedom for efficiency. But over and above making the trains run on time, what is there to recommend this approach? If the investment in college weren't so risky for students, maybe it wouldn't matter that they got out rather than continue through a less ideal program. The book is Redesigning America's Community Colleges and the authors, three Columbia University education researchers (who no doubt were not streamed when they made their education choices).

[Link] [Comment]
24 Apr 22:26

Deconstructing Television: Delivery, content, and Policy

The business “Television” as we know it is very much tied to the accidental properties of 1930’s vintage technology. We need to rethink very part of the technology and the industry.
25 Apr 11:29

Alternative Routes to Academic Publishing?!

by Tony Hirst

Flippantly…..

  1. Get in a ghost writer to write your publications for you; inspired the old practice of taking first authorship on work done by your research assistant/postgrad etc etc…
  2. Use your influence – tell your research assistant/postgrad/unpublished colleague that you’ll add your name to their publication and your chums in the peer review pool will let it through;
  3. Comment on everything anyone sends you or tells you – where possible, make changes inline to any document that anyone sends you (rather than commenting in the margins) – and make it so difficult to to disentangle what you’ve added that they’re forced to give you an author credit. Alternatively, where possible, make structural changes to the organisation of a paper early on so that other authors think you’ve contributed more than you have… Reinforce these by commenting on “the paper you’re writing with X” to every one else so they think it actually is a joint paper;
  4. Give your work away because you’re too lazy to write it up – start a mentoring or academic writing scheme, write half baked, unfinished articles and get unpublished academics or academics playing variants of the games above to finish them off for you.
  5. Identify someone who has lot of started but not quite finished papers and offer to help them bring them to completion in exchange for an authorship credit.

Note that some of the options may be complementary and allow two people to exploit each other…


25 Apr 17:45

The seven most interesting things in that huge Gawker-BuzzFeed interview

by Mathew

If by some bizarre twist of fate you have a life that doesn’t revolve around new-media entities like BuzzFeed and their impact on journalism and advertising and content in general, then this probably won’t interest you. But for anyone who does pay attention to such things, the idea of an interview between Gawker and BuzzFeed editor Ben Smith and founder Jonah Peretti about the site’s deletion of posts involving advertisers is like a candle flame to a moth — in other words, pretty irresistible.

The actual facts being referred to in the interview — that is, the posts that were deleted and BuzzFeed’s justification for why it did this, as well as editor-in-chief Ben Smith’s admission that he made a mistake — has been written about quite a bit (including a post by me). The interview post, however, is so gigantic and disjointed and rambling that I found it hard to follow, so I tried to pull some of the really interesting parts out.

The interview was triggered by the deletion of two posts, both of which were removed by Smith in what he later admitted was a breach of the site’s standards guide. Those deletions and the attention they drew in turn convinced the site to review all of the posts that had been deleted in the past. At the beginning of the interview, Peretti and Smith talk about why some earlier posts were deleted, including the hundreds that Gawker writer Keenan Trotter wrote about last year:

Jonah: This was a period where we didn’t have a deletion policy. If you were an editor and you wrote something and then you thought later, oh, this is kind of dumb and I was to delete it, you could delete the post.

Ben: And that was fine. And there’s not huge numbers of them, but there’s a fair number of those, there were posts that were dup—

Jonah: Duplicates, or errors, or text tests, or stuff like that.

Which is church and which is state?

According to BuzzFeed, the Dove post and the Monopoly post were deleted because they were “hot takes” and the site is trying to cut down on those, not because they involved an advertiser. But Smith admits that there were a couple of posts that were deleted that did cross the boundaries between editorial and advertising in an unpleasant way, both of which involved Pepsi and were written by Samir Mezrahi. And the discussion of this decision-making process is interesting. One post was a humorous take on what might be under Pharrell Williams’ hat:

Ben: It was actually a great post. There were many hilarious things under his hat, including doge. And Samir had taken the GIF of doge coming out from under Pharrell’s hat. Or, I’m not even sure if he’d seen it. But I got a complaint from the creative side that editors were taking their stuff and remixing it and not crediting their post or Pepsi. It was a confusing situation. Not—it was just a confusing situation. And I said to him, hey, we’re working, our creative team—which at this point is across the hall—is working with Pepsi on this social stuff, so don’t take their stuff, don’t use it in an editorial context. Church and state.

Jonah: One of the concerns is the impression that an editor was posting positive things about a brand because they were an advertiser. And that’s something I think, you know, as we grow, I don’t have much experience with church and state stuff. But as we grow, you start thinking, ok, if someone really loves pumpkin-spice lattes and they write a whole post about it and then it turns out that Starbucks is an advertiser, does that create the impression that they were influencing editorial, even though they had no idea that someone was an advertiser, and so there was—

8692674197_87dc05ba0c_b

The second post by Mezrahi was a critical one about accounts you should unfollow on Twitter, and that included Pepsi. What is most fascinating about this whole situation is that — as Smith points out — when Mezrahi posted about the soft-drink company, the Twitter account for Pepsi was actually being operated by his BuzzFeed colleagues across the hall. In other words, staffers from the advertising and marketing part of BuzzFeed, the part that operates like a digital ad agency, were in charge of the account that he was criticizing and/or praising. And this is what Smith and Peretti seemed most concerned about — that this would look bad.

Ben: It depends how you look. But when the priest wants to reach over—I’m sorry, I’m [unintelligible], block that metaphor. When church, when edit, what is our rule about edit playing in our advertising? Not in advertising in general, not around advertisers, but specifically with advertising being created across the hall by people at our company. And this is something I had never in my life considered, but seemed actually like a thing that we should absolutely not do. So we deleted the post, which at the time was what we did with posts that were inappropriate.

Keenan: What was the problem? Say more about what the problem was.

Ben: That you had an editor who was engaging specifically with things that were created—specifically with stuff that our creative team was working on, twice that week, with the same project.

Keenan: What’s wrong with that, exactly? What do you mean by “engaging”? It was clearly critical of it.

Ben: Well, no, the first one he was promoting. The second one, he was critical but—maybe the post is lost, but there was other celebratory stuff in there. He was just, like, touching it, you know? He was writing about advertising that was created by BuzzFeed that he knew, or that I believed, that was…

Ben: It’s obviously an appearance issue. It’s something that I feel really strongly about, it’s in our standards, you’ve probably seen it. There’s an exception to that, which is news. If there’s an ad on BuzzFeed, if there’s an ad—you know, if The New York Times carries an open letter, and it’s news, New York Times reporters will write about it as news. But the bar is at least as high, and probably a little higher, I think, just for—because, what are you doing? It seems really obvious to me.

dsc_5899

The downside of having an internal ad agency

A lot of critical reaction to the interview has made BuzzFeed out to be some kind of horrible monster for having an internal ad agency that designs or crafts content for brands like Pepsi — and even in some cases runs their Twitter account during certain events — and for having a policy that supposedly prevents BuzzFeed from writing about advertisers. But that’s not really what Smith is saying at all. The policy appears to be not to write either positively or negatively about specific advertisements that either appear on BuzzFeed and/or are created by BuzzFeed’s in-house staff, because it might create the appearance of a conflict of interest:

Ben: So basically, in our standards, it says, “Please do not write positively about advertising that appears on BuzzFeed. Please do not do ad criticism about ads that appear on BuzzFeed. If it’s newsworthy that’s an exception to this rule.” That feels appropriate to me. Well, I don’t know, do you guys do that? Have you ever written about, like, this is a gorgeous banner?

Keenan: I just don’t see what the problem is with criticizing advertisements on BuzzFeed.

Ben: I don’t think in principle it is [a problem], I think anybody who doesn’t work for BuzzFeed should do it. But I don’t want our editors engaging in either criticism or, what we do much more, celebrations, of advertisements that are on BuzzFeed that are created by our creative team.

Keenan: But what is the scope of “advertisements”? Does that mean the brand, or—?

Ben: No, it does not mean the brand, it means specific campaigns, it means, they were creating content for this Twitter feed that he was talking about, that week, at the Super Bowl, where he was talking about the Super Bowl. It’s narrow. It does mean the company, it does not mean, hey there’s an ad on another site from an advertiser.

An important principle, flawed execution

DSC_5696 (Case Conflict)

What’s interesting to me about this whole debate is that BuzzFeed and Smith are arguably on the side of the angels in this one — at least in the sense of the journalistic ethics around advertising. Yes, they have an in-house ad agency that creates content, but my sense is that they want to maintain as firm a wall between advertising and editorial as possible, which is theoretically what journalistic ethicists would want them to do. And yet they are being criticized for doing so (and admittedly, the way the deletion of posts was handled was flawed, as Smith has admitted).

Ben: To me, it’s just like, you want readers to know that edit and advertising are separate things and that they don’t touch each other. And if that’s reporters, as happened twice in a week, if that is reporters promoting advertising, if that’s reporters criticizing it, no thank you. There’s an infinite number of things to write about, it just feel like, whether you celebrate it or criticize it, you just winding up blurring a line that readers are always struggling to understand in the best of times.

Ben: I think this specific question of advertising that is created by our advertising team is actually a really weird—a strange, marginal case, and a very small one, and one that I had never in my life thought about before, but that once we thought about, and I talked about with my team, we had a long conversation, internal and external, about standards. Starting with this post, we wound up thinking, that is a very strange little case, and it’s one that makes us—I would be very—here’s the real thing, I would be very uncomfortable with a post that was, this ad that I saw on BuzzFeed moved me to tears and I think it’s the most brilliant thing in the world. That would be a very strange thing, don‘t you think, or no? Do you think I should publish that?

There’s no question that having ad agency staff creating content for brands in the same building as the editorial staff writing what’s supposed to be journalism can cause problems. In at least one case, according to Smith, someone moved from creating advertising — where they worked on the Microsoft account — over to the editorial side, where they started writing about the company. The software giant complained, and Smith said at first he rejected their complaint, but then he thought more about it and decided that this shouldn’t occur. And that feels like another case where the site tried extra hard to make the division between editorial and advertising even clearer.

Jonah: He was working on their business, doing work for Microsoft, and then switched to edit and started…

Ben: And started writing about Microsoft. And they complained. And inititally I was like, I don’t care if you complain. And then they said, well wait, this guy was making ads for us last week. And that felt to me, OK, that’s a really legitimate, strange situation. So we’re going to make a rule that in the very unusual cases—there’s one woman now, she’s a designer who crossed from advertising into editorial—we’re going to have a six-month cooling off period where you can’t write about ads. So that was the other one.

So what’s the bottom line here — is BuzzFeed some kind of evil empire bent on distorting or perverting journalism? I don’t think so. If anything, it seems to have bent over backwards to try and appear as ethical as possible, to maintain a line between editorial and advertising, or church and state as the old metaphor goes. Is it confusing to have a single company both creating ads or doing social marketing for brands and also doing journalism? Sure. And I get the feeling that Smith and Peretti are both trying to figure out how that works exactly. But at least they are being public about it.

25 Apr 18:51

Apple Watch First Reactions

by Rui Carmo
Click on the image to zoom in

This seems like the most balanced overview yet.


24 Apr 16:53

Three mothers transform a photographer’s prejudices

by Ryan Fritzsche

Before embarking on her series Balancing Acts, photographer Lucy Gray had little respect for ballet as a career. “My perception of ballerinas, as a feminist, was that they were starving themselves for their job, that they were doing what they did for a man that was telling them what to do, that they didn’t want to grow up,” she says. “But,” she adds, “as a photographer, your job is to hunt down your prejudices and get rid of them.”

Lucy, a former writer for Elle magazine, had always admired working mothers — her own mother worked while raising her and her four siblings. She was looking for an opportunity to photograph a series about their struggles and triumphs when, in 2000, she was at the grocery store with her 3-year-old son and met a striking woman with a newborn. “We met this extraordinary-looking woman who was carrying her child,” she recalls. “She looked sort of ghostly because she was so pale and so thin. But she was extremely beautiful.”

When Lucy found out the woman was Katita Waldo, a prima ballerina at the prestigious San Francisco Ballet, she instantly knew she wanted to photograph her. Katita introduced her to two other ballerinas who had just become mothers, Tina LeBlanc and Kristin Long, and she began photographing their careers and personal lives for what ultimately became the Balancing Acts series. Little did she know that the project would end up spanning 15 years.

Balancing Acts: Three Prima Ballerinas Becoming Mothers

Lucy’s negative perception of ballerinas began to unravel as she encountered the high stakes of their decisions to have children. Since most ballerinas choose a career in dance by age 11 and begin dancing professionally shortly thereafter, they have little opportunity to develop other job skills. With the physical demands of both dance and childbirth, professional ballerinas who decide to have children are taking a major risk if their bodies are unable to quickly recover after birth — their livelihood is on the line. This risk, coupled with the demanding and stressful nature of professional dance, means it is both rare and quite brave for ballerinas to have children.

Balancing Acts: Three Prima Ballerinas Becoming Mothers

The three ballerinas in Balancing Acts were at the top of their field when they chose to get pregnant, and motherhood was not easy. One battled crippling stage fright, another’s marriage fell apart. Each faced not only the stresses common to motherhood, but also the constant pressure to prove themselves in the highly competitive world of dance. Past achievements were no guarantee of getting cast in upcoming shows, so long hours of practice and attempting to capture and hold the attention of the ballet’s artistic director were a constant feature of their lives. Yet, instead of faltering, they succeeded. “After they had children, they all got to be better dancers, which was the biggest surprise for me,” she says.

Balancing Acts: Three Prima Ballerinas Becoming Mothers

Lucy’s front row seat to the challenges, joys, and triumphs of the three mothers transformed her view of ballerinas and ballet. “I really admire them. I really believe in what they’ve done,” she says. “They taught me so much about ballet. I think it’s a great career now; I never would have imagined that!”

Lucy compiled their stories and her photographs in her first book, Balancing Acts: Three Prima Ballerinas Becoming Mothers, published in 2015 by Princeton Architectural Press. “I wanted to make an appropriate tribute to them,” she says. “It’s the gift I could give them, which they deserve.”

Having had her own preconceptions upended in the process of creating Balancing Acts, Lucy hopes readers of the book will take away that “being a working mother, having a job, can make you a better mother; and being a mother can make you better at your occupation.”

“But,” she adds, “I also hope people take away the pleasure, the joy in these women’s experience.”

Photos from Balancing Acts: Three Prima Ballerinas Becoming Mothers by Lucy Gray, published by Princeton Architectural Press, 2015.

Visit Lucy’s Photostream to view more of her work.

Previous episode: Celebrity Portraits Have a Surprising Twist

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23 Apr 00:00

Google wants you to download your web search history

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Jon Fingas, Engadget, Apr 26, 2015


On the one hand, it's cool that Google will allow me to download my search history. On the other hand, it's creepy that Google has my entire search history.

[Link] [Comment]
23 Apr 22:12

Thoughts on migrating to a secure Web

by David Baron

Brad Hill asked what I and other candidates in the TAG election think of Tim Berners-Lee's article Web Security - "HTTPS Everywhere" harmful. The question seems worth answering, and I don't think an answer fits within a tweet. So this is what I think, even though I feel the topic is a bit outside my area of expertise:

  • The current path of switching content on the Web to being accessed through secure connections generally involves making the content available via http URLs also available via https URLs, redirecting http URLs to https ones, and (hopefully, although not all that frequently in reality) using HSTS to ensure that the user's future attempts to access HTTP resources get converted to HTTPS without any insecure connection being made. This is a bit hacky, and hasn't solved the problem of the initial insecure connection, but it mostly works, and doesn't degrade the security of anything we have today (e.g., bookmarks or links to https URLs).

  • It's not clear to me what the problem that Tim is trying to solve is. I think some of it is concern over the semantic Web (e.g., his concern over the “identity of the resource”), although there may be other concerns there that I don't understand. I'd tend to prioritize the interests of the browseable Web (with users counted in the billions) and other uses of the Web that are widespread, over those of the semantic Web.

  • There are good reasons for the partitioning that browsers do between http and https:

    • Some of the partitioning prevents attacks directly (for example, sending a cookie that should be sent only to an https site to its http equivalent could allow an active attacker to steal the information in that cookie). Likewise for many other attacks involving the same-origin policy, where http and https are considered different origins.
    • Some of it (e.g., identifying https pages that load resources over http as insecure) is intended to prevent large classes of mistakes that would otherwise be widespread and drastically reduce the security of the Web. Circa 2000, a common Web developer complaint about browser security UI was that a site couldn't be considered secure if an image was loaded over HTTP. This might have been fine if the image was the company logo (and the attack under consideration was avoiding theft of money or credentials rather than avoiding monitoring), but isn't fine if the image is a graph of a bank account balance or if the image's URL has authentication information in it. (On the other hand, if it were a script rather than an image, an active attacker could compromise the entire page if the script could be loaded without authentication.) I think a similar rationale applies for not having mechanisms to do authentication without encryption (even though there are many cases where that would be fine).

    It's not clear to me how Tim's proposal of making http secure would address these issues (and keep everything else working at the same time). For example, is a secure-http page same-origin with insecure-http on the same host, or with https, or neither? They may well be solvable, but I don't see how to solve them off the top of my head, and I think they'd need to be solved before actually pursuing this approach.

  • One problem that I think is worth solving is that HTTPS as a user-presentable prefix has largely failed. Banks tell their customers to go to links like "bofa.com/activate" or "wellsfargo.com/activate". (The first one doesn't even work if the user adds "https://". I guess there's a chance that the experience of existing users could be fixed with HSTS, but that's not the case today.) They do this for a good reason; each additional character (especially the strange characters) is going to reduce the chance the user succeeds at the task.

    It's possible Tim's proposal might help solve this, although it's not clear to me how it could do so with an active man-in-the-middle attacker. (It could help against passive attackers, as could browsers trying https before trying http.) In the long term, maybe the Web will get to a point where typing such URLs tries https and doesn't try http, but I think we're a long way away from a browser being able to do that without losing a large percentage of its users.

I think I basically understand the current approach of migrating to secure connections by migrating to https, which seems to be working, although slowly. I'm hopeful that Let's Encrypt will help speed this up. It's possible that the approach Tim is suggesting could lead to a faster migration to secure connections on the Web, although I don't see enough in Tim's article to evaluate its security and feasibility.

23 Apr 23:36

My year on Reps Council

by Emma

It’s been one year! An incredible year of learning, leading and helping evolve the Mozilla Reps program as a council member. As my term ends I want to share my experiences with those considering this same path, but also as a way to lend to the greater narrative of Reps as a leadership platform.

I could write easily write 12 posts to cover the experience –  but  I thought this might be more helpful:

The 7 things I know for sure

(after 12 months on Reps Council)

1. Mozilla Reps Council Is a Journey of Learning and Inspiration

I assumed, when I first started council, that my workload would  consist of mostly administrative tasks (although to be truthful there is a lot of that). I also assumed I would effortlessly lean on my existing leadership skills to ‘help out’ where needed.  It turns out, I had a lot to learn and improve on – here are some of the new and sharpened skills I am emerging with:

  • Problem solving
  • Conflict Resolution/ Crisis Management
  • Communication
  • Strategy
  • Transparency
  • Project Planning
  • Task Management
  • Writing
  • Respecting Work-Life Balance
  • Debating Respectfully
  • Public Speaking
  • Facilitation
  • The art of saying ‘no’/when to step back
  • The art of ‘not dropping balls’ or knowing which balls will bounce back, and which will break
  • Being brave (aka talking to leadership and with nagging imposter syndrome)
  • Empathy
  • Planning for Diversity
  • Outreach
  • Teaching
  • Mentorship

2. 2015 is a (super) important year for Reps

Nurtured by the loving hands of 5 previous Reps councils, a strong mentorship structure and over 400 Reps and thousands of community members the Mozilla Reps program has come to an important milestone as a recognized body of leadership across Mozilla.  The  clearly articulated vision of Reps as a ‘launch pad for leadership’ has pushed us to be more  strategic in our goals.  And we are.  The next council together with mentors will be critical in executing these goals.

3. The voice of community is valued, and Mozilla is listening

In the past few months, we’ve worked with Mitchell Baker, Chris Beard, Mark Surman and David Slater, Mary-Ellen and others on everything from conflict resolution, to VP interview and on-boarding processes. Reps Council is on the Mozilla leadership page. The Mozilla Reps call has been attended by Firefox and Brand teams in need of feedback.  It’s not a coincidence, and it’s not casual – your voice matters.  Reps as leaders have the ear of the entire organization, because Reps are the voice of their extended community.

2015-04-23_1942

 

I encourage Rep Mentors with loud minds – to run for council this year.

4. Mozilla Reps is  ever-evolving

View post on imgur.com

When I joined Reps Council, I had a lot of ideas about what would would ‘fix’.  And I laugh at myself now – ‘fixing’ is something we do to flaws, to errors and mistakes – but the Reps program is not an immovable force  – it’s a living organism, it’s alive with people, their ideas, inventions and actions.  How we evolve, while aligning with the needs of project goals, is a bit like changing the tire on a moving car .   If you are considering a run for council, it might help to envision ways you can evolve, improve and grow the program as it shifts, and in response to community vision for their own participation goals.

 5. Changing minds is hard / Outreach matters

I can’t write a list like this without acknowledging a my personal challenge of recognizing and trying to change ‘perception problems’.  It was strange to move from what had been a fairly easy transition between community, Rep and mentor to Reps council where almost suddenly –  I was regarded as part of a bureaucratic structure. I didn’t see or feel that from my fellow council members, and it’s been important to me that we change that perception through outreach.

Perceptions of our extended community have also been challenging – the idea that Reps is somehow isolated or a special  contributor group is contrary to the leadership platform we are really building.

Slowly we are changing minds, slowly outreach is making a difference – I am happy and optimistic about this.

 6.  Diversity Matters  Reps is an incredibly diverse community with diverse representation in many areas including age, geography and experience. Few other communities can compare .  But,  like much of the technology world we struggle with the representation of women in our council, and mentorship base.  To be truly reflective of our community, and our world – to have the benefit of all perspectives we need to encourage women leaders.  As I leave council, my hope is that we will continue to prioritize women in leadership roles.

7. Our community rocks  Brilliant, creative, energetic, passionate, motivated, friends and second family.  The heart of what we do, lies here.

To the Reps community, mentors, the Reps team, Mozilla leadership and community I thank you for this incredible opportunity to contribute and to grow.  I plan to pay it forward.

2015-04-23_1946

Feature Image Credit:  Fay Tandog

 

 

24 Apr 09:57

Lazy Regular Expressions – Splitting Out Collapsed Columns

by Tony Hirst

Via a tweet, and then an email, to myself and fellow OpenRefine evengelist, Owen Stephens (if you haven’t already done so, check out Owen’s wonderful OpenRefine tutorial), Dom Fripp got in touch with a data cleaning issue he was having to contend with: a reporting system that threw out a data report in which one of the columns contained a set of collapsed columns from another report. So something rather like this:

TitleoffirstresearchprojectPeriod: 31/01/04 → 31/01/07Number of participants: 1Awarded date: 22 Aug 2003Budget Account Ref: AB1234Funding organisation: BBSRCTotal award: £123,456Principal Investigator: Goode, Johnny B.Project: Funded Project › Research project

The question was – could this be fixed using OpenRefine, with the compounded data elements split out from the single cell into separate columns of their own?

The fields that appeared in this combined column were variable, (not all of them appeared in each row) but always in the same order. So for example, a total collapsed record might look like:

Funding organisation: BBSRCFunder project reference: AA/1234567/8Total award:

The full list of possible collapsed columns was: Title, School/Department, Period, Number of participants, Awarded Date, Budget Account Ref, Funding Organisation, Funder Project Reference, Total award, Reference code, Principal Investigator, Project

The pattern Appeared to be Column Name: value exept for the Title where there was no colon.

On occasion, a row would contain an exceptional item that did not conform to the pattern:

ROGUE CODE

One way to split out the columns is to use a regular expression. We can parse a column using the “Add column based on this column” action:

regex1

If all the columns always appeared in the same order, we could write something like the following GREL regular expression to match each column and it’s associated value:

value.match(/(Title.*)(Period.*)(Number of participants:.*)(Awarded date.*)(Budget Account Ref:.*)(Funding organisation.*)(Total award.*)(Principal Investigator:.*)(Project:.*)/)

regex2

To cope with optional elements that don’t appear in our sample (for example, (School\/Department.*)), we need to make each group optional by qualifying it with a ?.

value.match(/(Title.*)?(School\/Department.*)?(Period.*)?(Number of participants:.*)?(Awarded date.*)?(Budget Account Ref:.*)?(Funding organisation.*)?(Funder project reference.+?)?(Total award.*)?(Principal Investigator:.*)?(Project:.*)?/)

regex2a

However, as the above example shows, using the greedy .* operator means we match everything in the first group. So instead, we need to use a lazy evaluation to match items within a group: .+?

value.match(/(Title.+?)?(School\/Department.+?)?(Period.+?)?(Number of participants:.+?)?(Awarded date.+?)?(Budget Account Ref:.+?)?(Funding organisation.+?)?(Funder project reference.+?)?(Total award.+?)?(Principal Investigator:.+?)?(Project:.+?)?/)

regex3

So far so good – but how do we cope with cells that do not start with one of our recognised patterns? This time we need to look for not the expected first pattern in our list:

value.match(/((?!(?:Title)).*)?(Title.+?)?(School\/Department.+?)?(Period.+?)?(Number of participants:.+?)?(Awarded date.+?)?(Budget Account Ref:.+?)?(Funding organisation.+?)?(Funder project reference.+?)?(Total award.+?)?(Principal Investigator:.+?)?(Project:.+?)?/)

regex4

Having matched groups, how do we split the relevant items into news columns. One way is to introduce a column separator character sequence (such as ::) that we can split on:

forEach(value.match(/((?!(?:Title)).*?)?(Title.+?)?(School\/Department.+?)?(Period.+?)?(Number of participants:.+?)?(Awarded date.+?)?(Budget Account Ref:.+?)?(Funding organisation.+?)?(Funder project reference.+?)?(Total award.+?)?(Principal Investigator:.+?)?(Project:.+?)?/),v,if(v == null," ",v)).join('::')

regex5a

This generates rows of the form:

regex6

We can now split these cells into several columns:

regex7

We use the :: sequence as the separator:

regex8

Once split, the columns should be regularly arranged. For “rogue” items, they should appear in the first new column – any values appearing in the column might be used to help us identify any further tweaks required to our regular expression.

regex9

We now need to do a little more cleaning. For example, tidying up column names:

regex10

And then cleaning down each new column to remove the column heading.

regex11

As a general pattern, use the column name and an optional colon (NOTE: expression should be :? rather than :+):

regex12

To reuse this pattern of operations on future datasets, we can export a description of the transformations applied. Future datasets can then be loaded in to OpenRefine, the operation history pasted in, and the same steps applied. (The following screenshot does not show the operation defined for renaming the new columns or cleaning down them.)

regex13

As ever, writing up this post took as long as working out the recipe…

PS Hmmm, I wonder… One way of generalising this further might be to try to match the columns in any order…? Not sure my regexp foo is up to that just at the moment. Any offers?!;-)


24 Apr 10:21

An exciting week for Open Badges

by Doug Belshaw

Earlier this week, IMS Global announced “an initiative to establish Digital Badges as common currency for K-20 and corporate education.” By ‘digital badges’, the post makes clear, they mean Open Badges. Along with the W3C work around OpenCreds and new platforms popping up everywhere it’s exciting times!

You’d be forgiven for needing some definition of terms here. Erin Knight’s post on the significance of the IMS Global announcement is also helpful.

  • Open Badges Infrastructure (OBI)- a method to issue, exchange, and display metadata-infused digital credentials based on open technologies and platforms.
  • IMS Global – the leading international educational technology standards body.
  • K-20 – kindergarten through to graduate degree (in other words, the totality of formal education)
  • OpenCreds - a W3C initiative to standardise the exchange and storage of digital credentials. Open Badges is being fast-tracked as an example of this.
  • W3C – the World Wide Web Consortium, the international standards body for the web.

The recent explosion of interest in badges is fascinating. Back in 2011 the rhetoric of the nascent Open Badges community was around badges replacing university degrees. This hasn’t happened – much as MOOCs haven’t replaced university courses. Instead of either/or it’s and/and/and. This is the way innovation works.

The initial grant-funding for badges was mainly in the US and has largely come to an end. What we’re seeing now is real organic growth. We’re in the situation where incumbents realise the power of badges. Either through fear of losing market share or through a genuine desire to innovate, they’re working on ways to use badges to support their offer.

We’ll see a lot of interesting work over the next couple of years. There will be some high-value, nuanced, learner-centric badge pathways that come out of this. On the other hand, there may be some organisations that go out of existence. I’m currently working with City & Guilds, an 800-pound gorilla in the world of apprenticeships and work-based learning. They’re exploring badges – as is every awarding and credentialing body I can think of.

Whatever happens, it’s not only a time of disruption to the market, but a time of huge opportunity to learners. Never before have we had an globally-interoperable way of credentialing knowledge, skills, and behaviours that removes the need for traditional gatekeepers.

If you’re interested in getting started with Open Badges, you might be interested in:

Do get in touch if I can help!


* BadgeCub is an extremely straightforward but experimental service that should probably just be used for testing. The ‘assertions’ will disappear after a while so it’s not a long-term solution!

24 Apr 10:48

Not ready for prime time

by russell davies

I've been reading a lot of opinions about the Apple Watch. How it's just the version 1.0, how it can't do basic things yet, how people should just wait until they get it right, how it's pointless anyway, you can get already get a cheaper time-telling thing and strap it to your wrist. 

I think they're right. And it's an approach that's stood me in good stead.

I, for instance, have been thinking about adopting television for a while now, but on looking at the available options I don't think it's ready yet. I've discovered that some of the screens, if the sun's shining on them, are a bit hard to see, many of them require you to wave some sort of 'remote control' at them in order to determine what pictures and sounds come out - no basic AI capabilities at all! - and many of the 'programmes' shown on television aren't of particular interest to me. That's just a content problem, but it's one they should have solved before rolling it out to a mass market.

So thanks, television, but no thanks. I don't think you're ready for prime time.

Cars too, have been touted as a possible transportation innovation I should be adoptifying but I'm not convinced that they've ironed out all the basic bugs. Many cars, for instance, demand a whole separate room attached to your house for overnight storage, most of them require regular feeding with 'fuel' and the manufacturers have clearly not found the right form-factor yet. There are very few cars big enough to accommodate the transportation needs of even a modest business or church-group and a similarly small number can be kept conveniently in a handbag or backpack. WTF!?

Cars, nice idea, but I don't think you're ready for prime time.

I've also seen a lot of people suggesting something called sarcasm as a great way of writing blog posts but I have to say, I'm not sure.

 

24 Apr 11:16

Emptied reservoirs in California

by Nathan Yau

Dried up reservoirs

Winter is over and it's shorts weather these days in California. This is good for relaxing outdoor lunches but not so good for the drought. It's sad to drive down the state and see a bunch of barren farm land. Victor Powell shows this shift in water supply through reservoir data from the California Department of Water Resources.

Each dot represents a reservoir, and the outer circle around each dot is reservoir's capacity. A time series chart appears when you select a reservoir so you can see the percentage of fill on a monthly basis. However, instead of showing the full time series with a single line, a line is drawn for each year so that (1) you can see seasonality and (2) overall fill percentage dropping.

Tags: drought

23 Apr 15:00

Cordova Street – unit block, south side

by ChangingCity

 

Unit block Cordova

We’ve see a number of these buildings (or their store fronts) in several recent posts. The building to the left is 36 West Cordova, and today it’s part of the Army and Navy store, but it started life as the Hayes & McIntosh block – a butchers store founded around 1889. The entire staff and the delivery horses from the company feature in this 1893 image. Next door were a series of buildings that were undoubtedly built very quickly after the fire (probably by 1887, when 56 Cordova was home to the Central Hotel) The hotel was run in 1887 by Thomas Quann, and he continued to run it through to 1892 when the number was switched to 42 Cordova. We know it’s still this building because Hayes and McIntosh are shown in the street directory being located next door, although in 1892 he was listed as Thomas Quamm. His census entry identifies him as Quann, born in New Brunswick and aged 46 in 1891 with his Irish wife, Mary, and his children, 18 year old twins, William and Mamie, and John Henry who was 16, all of whom had been born in the US. There were at least 25 lodgers, showing that the Central had a significant number of longer term residents, most of whom seem to be working in construction trades, or as miners. They were a mixture of Irish, English, American with one from Wales, two from Quebec and two from Scotland. By 1896 the owners were listed as Quann brothers, with Thomas joined by WH and JH – presumably his sons William (Billy) and John (Jack) who had now taken over running the hotel. They went on to build the Rainier Hotel in 1905 on the site of their wooden Balmoral Hotel (which started life in 1886 as the Burrard House, run by John Burrard) as well as running the Rose Theatre, the Maple Leaf theatre, and at one point also the St Francis Hotel.

In 1898 Powers and Farron had taken over running the hotel – James Farron who lived on Melville Street and Thomas Powers who lived at the hotel. They only stayed a year or two; in 1900 Newland and Farron were listed, and in 1901 Arthur Newland on his own. Arthur was English, aged 44, living with his Australian wife, Teresa, (who was 30), and they had just 3 lodgers. A year later the premises were empty, and in 1902 it became the Electric Theatre. This was Canada’s first permanent cinema – before this they were travelling shows run by people like the Electric’s founder, John Schuberg. The Electric cost 10c to get in – and seats were free. There was an usher to see that Ladies got the most Desirable Seats. Schuberg sold the Electric and moved to Winnipeg in 1903.

In 1909 the site was developed with a new hotel, the Hotel Manitoba, run initially by the Quann brothers (although Jack Quann died in 1911, and Billy Quann a year later.. It retained this name until 1953, when it became the Hildon Hotel, the name it still operates under today (as single room occupancy accommodation these days). The ‘official’ heritage statement says it was designed by W T Whiteway. We cannot find a single reference to substantiate that attribution. The design, using white glazed bricks is much more reminiscent of Parr and Fee, who used the material extensively on hotel buildings at this time, especially on Granville Street. There are two building permits for Parr and Fee for this address, both in 1909. The first was in April, for Evans, Coleman & Evans, Ltd who commissioned $25,000 of alterations to the William Block. Two months later another $7,000 permit for the same address, with the same architects for further alterations was approved. Both projects were built by Baynes & Horie. The expenditure suggests something substantial in the way of alteration, but perhaps there’s a part of the structure that pre-dates the 1909 construction.

Today there’s a 25 foot wide gap in the street that had a modest 2-storey building that in this image is occupied by R V Winch who sold fruit and meat, having moved from further east on the block when his previous premises were redeveloped for the Dunn-Miller block. This would suggest the building he is in was built in 1888, but we haven’t successfully pinned down a develop or architect –  it’s possible that Mr. Winch developed it himself.

Further down the street are two buildings that we think date back to 1899 – one developed by F A Boehlofsky and designed by Allan McCartney, and the second right on the edge of the picture that we think is R V Winch’s investment designed by Thomas Hooper. Today the Hildon Hotel – built as the Hotel Manitoba is here; built in 1909 – we think by Evans, Coleman and Evans (Percy Evans George Coleman and Ernest Evans) who had extensive merchant interests from docks to steamships with side interests in property (including two hotels on Cordova Street). Beyond is a 2012 residential building designed by Henriquez Partners for Westbank.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives Bu P552


23 Apr 17:56

The Dangers of Fracking

by Stephen Rees

And come to that the dangers of commenting on press articles on line. Recently I posted something using Disqus: it was in response to an article in a Squamish newspaper about the proposed LNG plant. Oddly, nothing in the article, or in the response to that time spoke to the source of the gas. That will come from an expansion of fracking – the practice of releasing hydrocarbons from “tight formations” which has been expanded very rapidly in North America in recent years. The process creates fractures in the oil and gas bearing rocks by injecting water and mix of chemicals under high pressure.

To be clear, I oppose any expansion of fossil fuel use. There is only one way that we are going to be able to slow down our current headlong rush to global catastrophe and that is to Leave It In The Ground. Most of the reserves of oil, gas and coil must not be extracted and burned. Fortunately, the alternative renewable resources are both economically and environmentally attractive – and are getting cheaper. There is much more employment potential in renewables too, so the previously perceived “choice” between the environment or the economy is now a false dichotomy.

Expansion of LNG export terminals in BC seems increasingly unlikely based on any realistic analysis of the finances but Christy Clark has yet to concede this, and is perfectly capable of continuing to increase the public subsidy of this folly. We are actually paying foreign corporations to exploit this resource, which would otherwise be unmarketable. So if the GHG use of fossil fuels is not persuasive enough, the record of fracking needs to be examined. There are two points I made – the first is that methane is released by fracking in a manner which makes it difficult to capture – or even measure. Since methane is a far more powerful greenhouse gas than CO2 that is cause for caution in itself. But there is also the effect of putting injecting water into the ground. Poisoning wells is the least of it (though the youtube videos of setting kitchen faucets alight seem entertaining). We live in a seismically unstable region. There will be a huge earthquake out underneath the ocean, probably south of Haida Gwai. (I wrote that last sentence on April 23 at 10:45. This morning there was an M6.2 in exactly that location but without a tsunami.) With huge a tsunami and lots of damage. But there is plenty of risk of on shore activity too: it will be smaller but also destructive in nature.

Now of course as soon as my post appeared the on line trolls leapt on it. At least some of them are going to be in the pay of the gas drillers or the proponents of LNG expansion. They are spending a fortune on PR efforts around pipeline and terminal expansion – and no contrary opinions must be allowed to go unchallenged. A Google search for “fracking in bc” turns up nearly a million hits.

I want to draw your attention to Oklahoma. There have been a lot of earthquakes recently in Oklahoma, and the spin doctors have been doing their best to deflect responsibility away from fracking. The state government seemed to have been persuaded. Up until now. The state is now admitting that fracking causes the earthquakes. There is also more coverage of the wider impact from the New York Times.

If you do not want to admit that global warming is a problem that is caused by burning fossil fuels, then I think you are unreachable by reason or argument. But then that process of proof by belief in a political doctrine appears to have taken hold with the Conservative faithful here as it has in the US. You can probably also cheerfully ignore the impact of poisoning the water supply: after all it is unlikely to affect us here and we have been seemingly unconcerned about the state of the water on reserves – especially those impacted by the tar sands. But the risk of increasing earthquakes ought to be something you take seriously here. Even though our present government seems to be quite content to leave schools in Vancouver vulnerable to the inevitable.

POSTSCRIPT Bloomberg is now forecasting that Half of U.S. Fracking Companies Will Be Dead or Sold This Year


Filed under: energy, Environment, greenhouse gas reduction Tagged: earthquakes, fracking
23 Apr 19:28

Youtube has finally destroyed their RSS feeds

by jwz
mkalus shared this story from jwz:
Yeah, my feeds all died. I have no interest in "signing in", there's a reason I use RSS. So thanks for nothing Google. Keep breaking the Internet in the desperate hope to force people into your walled garden known as G+.

A few days ago they turned off the v2 API in favor of v3, but v3 has no mechanism to get an RSS feed (or any other kind of listing) of a Youtube user's uploaded videos without authenticating first.

Because RSS feeds are not a thing that you should want.

Youtube: every day, making everything worse, in every way.

I don't know if anyone but me is using my youtubefeed program, but if you are, and you had Youtube users in your feeds list, you'll need to upgrade, and cope with the horrible fact that it now has a dependency on youtube-api.pl. (You'll need the latest version of that, as well as of youtubedown.)

But using youtube-api.pl at all means that first you have to jump through a bunch of hideous hoops to generate authentication keys and session IDs, pretty much ensuring that it's far too much of a pain in the ass for anyone to actually use it. Are you using it? Let me know.

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