Shared posts

28 May 17:40

Announcing: aWEAR Conference: Wearables and Learning

by gsiemens

Over the past year, I’ve been whining about how wearable technologies will have a bigger impact on how we learn, communicate, and function as a society than mobile devices have had to date. Fitness trackers, smart clothing, VR, heart rate monitors, and other devices hold promising potential in helping understand our learning and our health. They also hold potential for misuse (I don’t know the details behind this, but the connection between affective states with nudges for product purchases is troubling).

Over the past six months, we’ve been working on pulling together a conference to evaluate, highlight, explore, and engage with prominent trends in wearable technologies in the educational process. The aWEAR conference will be held Nov 14-15 at Stanford. The call for participation is now open. Short abstracts, 500 words, are due by July 31, 2016. We are soliciting conceptual, technological, research, and implementation papers. If you have questions or are interested in sponsoring or supporting the conference, please send me an email

From the site:

The rapid development of mobile phones has contributed to increasingly personal engagement with our technology. Building on the success of mobile, wearables (watches, smart clothing, clinical-grade bands, fitness trackers, VR) are the next generation of technologies offering not only new communication opportunities, but more importantly, new ways to understand ourselves, our health, our learning, and personal and organizational knowledge development.

Wearables hold promise to greatly improve personal learning and the performance of teams and collaborative knowledge building through advanced data collection. For example, predictive models and learner profiles currently use log and clickstream data. Wearables capture a range of physiological and contextual data that can increase the sophistication of those models and improve learner self-awareness, regulation, and performance.

When combined with existing data such as social media and learning management systems, sophisticated awareness of individual and collaborative activity can be obtained. Wearables are developing quickly, including hardware such as fitness trackers, clothing, earbuds, contact lens and software, notably for integration of data sets and analysis.

The 2016 aWEAR conference is the first international wearables in learning and education conference. It will be held at Stanford University and provide researchers and attendees with an overview of how these tools are being developed, deployed, and researched. Attendees will have opportunities to engage with different wearable technologies, explore various data collection practices, and evaluate case studies where wearables have been deployed.

28 May 20:54

Why I gave myself an unraise

by Eric Karjaluoto

Folks tend to think that a raise will solve their problems. Unfortunately, human nature gets in the way.

The problem with getting more, is that your expectations shift. Sure, you intend to put those newfound dollars directly into savings. Before you do, though, why not enjoy a celebratory dinner? Oh, right, and one of the kids needs a new bike—might as well take care of that. You know—the old washer/dryer combo is pretty beat. We’ll have to replace it sooner or later…

Two weeks after the good news, you’re back where you started. Actually, you’re worse off. You might be in a higher tax bracket—meaning your raise isn’t quite as substantial as it first seemed. Worse than that, you’ve adapted to this new income. This means that the notion of making any less feels risky. This leaves you even more beholden to those who pay you.

I’ve met many people who hate their jobs/lives, but earn too much money to make a change. These folks often put their hopes into retirement. They reason that by socking away cash now, they can reap the rewards later. This logic isn’t flawed; however, human nature gets in the way (again). When you hate your job, you justify unnecessary purchases because, “you deserve it.”

Most agree that time is more valuable than money. (Think about it this way: How much money would you give up, at the end of your life, for a few extra days/weeks?) In the moment, though, money is hard to pass up. So, I ask you to take pause, so fear/greed doesn’t win. Instead of asking for a raise, I want you to trade some money—right now—for more time.

I believe in this approach so much that I’m doing the same. For the past six months, I’ve bugged @shelkie (my business partner) about taking a pay hit. My reasoning: By cutting our pay, we buy more time to work on Officehours. I think this little project of ours is good, and deserves more of our attention. Meanwhile, every client project we take on slows our startup’s progress.

Last week, he agreed. So, my next paycheck will be 30% skinnier than the one I deposited, yesterday. This makes me very happy. It means that I’m choosing my life over some money that didn’t make that big a difference to me. This means more time for my kids, exercise, and relaxation—not-to-mention side-projects.

It also means less. Less pressure to take on jobs I don’t feel like doing. Less anxiety about not getting everything done. Less time on the phone, or in soul-sucking meetings. (I also look forward to seeing smaller tax bills.)

What will an unraise cost you? Probably not that much. Just like a raise, you’ll adapt to an unraise faster than you think. You’ll go out for one fewer restaurant dinner a week. You’ll opt for the less expensive bottle of wine. Or, you might buy fewer consumer goods (or just buy them on Craigslist).

The most important thing you get with an unraise, is opportunity. If every moment of your day is spoken for, you’re left with scant time to imagine, daydream, and tinker. This is no small concession—these are the activities that make your work engaging. Plus, the ideas that lead you to success are often found on a run, hike, or when you’re in the shower. Want more of those? Give yourself an unraise.

26 May 21:56

Twitter Favorites: [Pinboard] Dante didn’t mention it, but I’m sure there’s a circle of hell for people who use anchor tags and query params in URLs as a tracking tool

Pinboard @Pinboard
Dante didn’t mention it, but I’m sure there’s a circle of hell for people who use anchor tags and query params in URLs as a tracking tool
28 May 23:07

Twitter Favorites: [Stv] Just like mailing lists, there are some Twitter users I want to see every tweet, some I just want a "best of". Algorithmic-by-user feature?

Steve @Stv
Just like mailing lists, there are some Twitter users I want to see every tweet, some I just want a "best of". Algorithmic-by-user feature?
28 May 06:17

Train operator to stop conductors from clipping tickets so that they don't hurt their wrists

by arbroath (
mkalus shared this story from Nothing To Do With Arbroath.

A local train operator says it is stopping staff from clipping tickets for fear that it's hurting their wrists.

Abellio Greater Anglia has decided to take the step in order to protect train conductors who can see as many as 600 passengers on a single journey.

From now on, conductors will us other techniques such as putting a red cross on tickets with marker pens. Greater Anglia said that they were reacting to requests from staff. 

A Greater Anglia spokesperson said: "In response to requests from our front line colleagues, we are phasing out the use of clippers and will be using alternative methods of marking checked tickets."
28 May 06:35

Clone a Raspberry Pi To A Smaller SD-Card And Make Incremental Backups

by Martin

A few days ago the Raspberry Pi Foundation announced a couple of cool new features for their desktop UI, one of them being the ability to clone a running Raspberry Pi system to a smaller SD card. The only condition for using a smaller SD-card is that it is big enough to hold all files stored on the original one. In other words only files are copied and empty blocks are never touched. Intrigued I did some background research on how this works as I see a couple of usage scenarios for me if I can replicate this from the command line.

I’m not sure which code they are using but I found this “rpi-clone” shell script on Github by “billw2” that does exactly what I want. It achieves this by only cloning the 50 MB boot partition block by block with the “dd” command while using the rsync file synchronization command for the system partition which occupies the rest of the SD-card. The script can also be used to incrementally copy only files to the backup SD-card that have changed since the last backup. Once rpi-clone is done the backup SD-card is ready to run. Perfect!

28 May 08:14

365 days

by Volker Weber

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Without a goal you cannot score. One year ago I started wearing the Apple Watch and I challenged myself to reach my exercise goals every single day. 600 cals Move, 30 minutes Exercise, 12 hours Stand.

Today I scored. 365 days reaching my move goal, and a longest streak of reaching that goal of the same 365 days. I did not break the chain. Not when I broke three fingers on my right hand, not when I had an infection, not when I had blisters, not a single day.

I did not start a year ago. It was 25 months ago that I set out to solve this problem:

At first I looked at daily steps. I challenged myself to reach 7 million steps in a year. Why 7? I wanted to double the 3.5 million that @MicSpehr scored the prior year. And in contrast to me, he is a sporty guy. I was a couch potato.

Then I looked at the bigger picture. I still don't do sports. But I avoid being lazy. I don't have an e-bike, I don't have a Roomba, I clean the floor every day, I go shopping every single day, to the other end of town. When I am lazy I don't walk. I take the bicycle instead. In those 25 months I have walked about five times the distance I have driven my car and my scooter. Combined.

Once you formed the habit, you don't really need a tracker. That is why fitness bands quickly end up in a drawer. You know what you are doing - or not doing. But they keep a score. And without a score, how can you reach your goal?

Apple Watch has proven to be my perfect tracker. I still wear it every single day, for its notifications, for answering phone calls, for telling the time. And for keeping me from breaking the chain. I reached my 7 million steps goal last year and my 365 days move goal this year. What now? Easy: #dontbreakthechain

If you haven't decided yet: a year from now you will wish you started today. If I can do it, you can do it.

27 May 23:53

What is the Role of Mozilla’s Executive Chair?

by Jane Finette

What does the Executive Chair do at Mozilla? This question comes up frequently in conversations with people inside and outside of Mozilla. I want to answer that question and clearly define my role at Mozilla. The role of Executive Chair is unique and entails many different responsibilities. In particular at Mozilla, the Executive Chair is something more than the well understood role of “Chairman of the Board.” Because Mozilla is a very different sort of organization, the role of Executive Chair can be highly customized and personal. It is not generally an operational role although I may initiate and oversee some programs and initiatives.   

In this post I’ll outline the major areas I’m focused on. In subsequent posts I’ll go into more detail.

#1. Chair the Board

This portion of my role is similar to the more traditional Chair role. At Mozilla in this capacity I work on mission focus, governance, development and operation of the Board and the selection, support and evaluation of the most senior executives. In our case these are Mark Surman, Executive Director of Mozilla Foundation and Chris Beard, CEO of Mozilla Corporation. Less traditionally, this portion of my role  includes an ongoing activity I call “weaving all aspects of Mozilla into a whole.”  Mozilla is an organizationally complex mixture of communities, legal entities and programs.  Unifying this into “one Mozilla” is important.

#2. Represent Mozilla and our mission to Mozillians and the world

This is our version of the general “public spokesperson” role. In this part of my role, I speak at conferences, events and to the media to communicate Mozilla’s message. The goal of this portion of my role is to grow our influence and educate the world on issues that are important to us. This role is particularly important as we transform the company and the products we create, and as we refocus on entirely new challenges to the Open Web, interoperability, privacy and security.

#3. Reform the ways in which Mozilla values are reflected in our culture, management and leadership

This is the core of the work that is intensely customized for Mozilla. It is an area where Mozilla looks to me for leadership, and for which I have a unique vision. Mozilla’s core DNA is a mix of the open source/free software movement and the open architecture of the Internet. We were born as a radically open, radically participatory organization, unbound to traditional corporate structure. We played a role in bringing the “open” movement into mainstream consciousness. How does and how can this DNA manifest itself today? How do we better integrate this DNA into our current size?  Needless to say I work hand-in-hand with Chris Beard and Mark Surman in these areas.

#4. Strategically advise Mozilla’s technology and product direction

I’ve played this role for just over 20 years now, working closely with Mozilla’s technologists, individual contributors and leadership. I help us take new directions that might be difficult to chart. And in this role I can take risks that may make us uncomfortable in the shorter term but yield us great value over the longer term. By helping to point us towards the cutting edge of our technology, I reinforce the importance of change and adaptation in how we express our values.

#5. Help Mozilla ideas expand into new contexts

I’ve been working with Mark Surman on this topic since he joined us. We’ve expanded our mission and programs into digital literacy and education, journalism, science, women and technology and now the Mozilla Leadership Network. I have also championed Mozilla’s expanded efforts in public policy. I continue to look at how we can do more (and am always open to suggestions).

So these are the different parts of my role. Hopefully it provides you with a framework for understanding what I do and how I see myself interacting with Mozilla. I’m planning to write a series of posts describing the work underway in these areas. Please send comments or feedback or questions to “office of the chair mailing list.” And thanks for your interest in Mozilla.

28 May 00:00

The collapse of the press and the rise of anti-social media put democracy in peril


Iain Martin, CapX, May 29, 2016

In this, "the final weekly newsletter from Iain Martin, Editor of CapX,"  the blame for the fall of media is laid squarely at the feet of social media, criticizing "those ostensibly up-market titles that opted for a friendly approach, cosying up to Facebook, pumping out more and more free rubbish," and of course, lamenting that "the tech giants blend inherent anti-conservatism, liberal elitism and hatred of regulation." 

My first visit to the UK was in 1976, long before the web and social media. I asked for a newspaper at my hotel room door. "Which newspaper?" I was asked. Well I would like world news, I replied. "How about News of the World?" Perfect! I said. Imagine my surprise to see a scandal rag complete with pinup girls the next morning.  Yes, the press may have outed the occasional politician, as Martin notes, but it has been an abject failure otherwise, completely ineffective in response to real world problems: environment, the concentration of wealth, militarization and corporate corruption.

Democracy was in peril long before the internet. We who turn to social media do so because there is no free press, and indeed, has  never been in our lifetimes. It certainly did not exist in my childhood, and the press of the present day slavishly prints whatever its well-heeled employers demand.

[Link] [Comment]
28 May 16:00

The man who inspired Google’s Project Ara pens critical blog post

by Rose Behar

Dave Hakkens, the man behind the explosively popular 2013 concept video that contributed to Google’s decision to try their hand at manufacturing modular devices, recently published a blog post titled “Rethink project Ara.”

Hakkens’ “Phonebloks” project is intent on inspiring manufacturers to contribute to the smartphone of the future, one in which defective elements can easily be swapped out to extend the lifespan of a device and reduce waste. While he’s pleased to see action on Project Ara, he’s unsure about the general direction the project seems to be taking.

In particular, Hakkens singles out the fact that the Ara frame Google showed at its recent I/O 2016 conference contains the full functionality of a smartphone, with the modules designed to be more accessory than necessity.

“It means your phone still gets obsolete after a while,” he says in his blog post, “What if your screen breaks? Well you still need to replace the entire phone. And after a couple of years it gets slow and you need to replace your entire skeleton.” 

In addition, he notes that Google owning Project Ara makes it far more of a closed development ecosystem than optimal.

“It isn’t truly open. Everything happens under the umbrella of Google. They are in charge, they make the rules. They can decided to suddenly change the connectors, or design. Making all previous modules you have obsolete.”

He also speaks to the issue of competing proprietary modules, which is antithetical to the Phonebloks ideal.

“A system like this makes other companies want to compete instead of collaborate. They will build their own modular phone, want to create their own ecosystem with their own sizes and connectors. Making modules not compatible with each other anymore,” writes Hakkens.

His advice?

“If Google truly wants to make a phone for the entire world, they should collaborate with others and make an open standard owned by the industry. Not one company.”

Related reading: After countless delays, Google’s modular Project Ara smartphone is coming out next year

28 May 14:56

Thiel and Gawker

Elizabeth Spiers decides to stick her neck out for Gawker, the hard-to-like publisher wrestling with Peter Thiel, the gazillionaire apparently pissed off by coverage about him. [All emphasis mine.]

Elizabeth Spiers, On Peter Thiel and Gawker

[…] You have to admire Thiel’s sheer and apparently unending determination to make Denton and Gawker pay for coverage he didn’t like — it’s Olympic level grudge-holding. But the retribution is incredibly disproportionate in a way that seems almost unhinged. It would be hard to argue that Thiel was materially damaged by Gawker’s coverage in the way that he’s now trying to damage Gawker. His personal finances haven’t been destroyed and even the most egregious things Gawker has written haven’t put literally everyone who works for Thiel out of a job. (What did Lifehacker ever do to Peter Thiel?)

Even if Thiel wants to argue that Owen Thomas’s 2007 notorious “Peter Thiel is Totally Gay, People” post had a cataclysmically negative emotional toll for him, trying to destroy the entire business via abuse of the U.S. legal system still seems so epic in its vindictiveness that I couldn’t help but wonder whether this kind of asymmetrical reaction is just part and parcel of what you can expect in Thiel’s orbit generally, if you choose to do business with him.


It seems unreasonable to me. But then I’m not the kind of person who shows up with a gun when what the enemy really deserves is a good solid wedgie.

I’m struck by the fact that Thiel’s been an obvious screwball for a long time, and some of the oddest things he’s said haven’t reemerged in this contretemps. Thiel wrote a ‘personal statement’ for the Cato Institute where he wrote, 

I no longer believe that freedom and democracy are compatible.

He also suggests that woman’s suffrage was a bad thing:

Since 1920, the vast increase in welfare beneficiaries and the extension of the franchise to women—two constituencies that are notoriously tough for libertarians—have rendered the notion of ‘capitalist democracy’ into an oxymoron.

If you’re interested in that thread, see Jacob Weisberg’s What’s Wrong With Silicon Valley Libertarianism? , and my Peter Thiel, Techno-Utopian and  Beware Peter Thiel.

But this mindset not limited to Thiel. He’s just the most unabashedly aggressive member of the techno-utopian lunatic fringe. Here’s ex-Facebooker and angel Chamath Palihapitiya being interviewed by Jason Calcanis in 2013:

Palihapitiya: The government, they’re completely useless.

Calacanis: The government got shut down today and the stock market went up 1 percent.

Palihapitiya: We’re in this really interesting shift. The center of power is here, make no mistake. I think we’ve known it now for probably four or five years.

it’s becoming excruciatingly, obviously clear to everyone else that where value is created is no longer in New York, it’s no longer in Washington, it’s no longer in LA. It’s in San Francisco and the Bay Area. And when you look at sort of, like, how markets react to things like that, and when there’s no reaction, it should be taken as a very subtle signal that the power dynamics have changed. Because markets value meaningful events, markets discount meaningless events. And so the functional value of the government is effectively discounted to zero …

Companies are transcending power now. We are becoming the eminent vehicles for change and influence, and capital structures that matter. If companies shut down, the stock market would collapse. If the government shuts down, nothing happens and we all move on, because it just doesn’t matter. Stasis in the government is actually good for all of us. It means they can neither do anything semi-useful nor anything really stupid.

So why not highjack the courts for a personal vendetta? What’s to stop you, if you’re a billionaire with an ax to grind? 

28 May 09:24

Dropbox gets all up in your kernel with Project Infinite. Cue uproar

by Rui Carmo

I’m surprised anyone thought this was a good idea. The concept is compelling, but the potential for disaster and trouble with upgrades nullifies most of the benefits, so I hope the feature is strictly opt-in.

28 May 00:00

Here's how artificial intelligence could solve the biggest problem in education


Rafi Letzter, Tech Insider, May 29, 2016

I confess, I read this item because I wondered what the author considered "the biggest problem in education." Here's what it is: "of the  hordes of students that  sign up for massive open online  classes (MOOCs),  an average of less than 7% finish." Well, education has its problems, but I think this is far from the biggest of them. It's like saying that the biggest problem in music is that people just listen to one song instead of a whole album. Maybe the biggest problem in education is something else - something like, say, engineers and developers designing teaching  systems based on their shallow and folk-psychological  knowledge of learning and education. P.S. I can't even begin to list all the things that are wrong with the image accompanying this article.

[Link] [Comment]
28 May 20:13

The Windows Phone story: From hope to dusty abandonware

by Volker Weber


We stroll down Memory Lane and weep for what might have been

Great piece from Andrew Orlowski for The Register. Windows Phone 7 really was a fresh breath of air. Every subsequent restart with WP 8, WP 8.1 and now W10 Mobile has compromised the experience.

For all Satya Nadella’s praise of "experiences" – it’s one of his favourite words – the Windows user "experience" on both PC and mobile has become awful.

Complexity kills.

More >

28 May 21:07


by pricetags

By Pete McMartin in the Vancouver Sun:

(Peter) Fassbender, through the media, and without the mayors’ prior knowledge, announced the provincial government’s “commitment” to fund $246 million worth of improvements to TransLink over the next three years. All the mayors would have to do to fund their share of the plan, Fassbender said, would be to raise property taxes — a suggestion they had previously refused to consider — and levy development cost charges on developers who benefitted from increased density around transit stations.

The timing of the announcement, the apparent generosity of the $246-million commitment and the fact that a provincial government minister was making the announcement by himself while the mayors were nowhere in sight seemed designed to suggest that the provincial government was being proactive on transit while the mayors were being obstructive and uncooperative.

What the public didn’t know was that it was the mayors who originally suggested raising property taxes, and that it was they who suggested it to Fassbender. After last year’s disastrous referendum, which saw the mayors’ $7.5-billion, 10-year transit plan rejected by the public in an overwhelming No vote, a select group from the mayors’ council held a series of private meetings with the provincial government in hopes of salvaging something from the wreckage. Their suggestion to raise property taxes, which they had been previously refused to do, was a concession to the province to break the policy impasse. Several mayors I talked to felt Fassbender saw the opportunity to play politics, instead.

“This,” wrote Port Coquitlam Mayor Greg Moore in an email to me, “was a betrayal of the Mayors’ Council.”

Full column here.

27 May 21:07

Communities Of Practice And Communities of Experts

by Richard Millington

In a simpler world, we would create communities of top experts to collaborate with one another to advance their expertise to the cutting edge of their field.

If you’ve tried this, you know this only works if the community is exclusively for the top experts. It has to feel private, special, and a reward for their perceived level of expertise. That usually means a really small group which only benefits the experts, not the hosts.

This works as much on the fear of missing out as it does on a true belief to advance the field.

Experts are hard to reach (unless they consider you a true peer), hard to captivate, and hard to solicit regular contributions from. Experts often see fellow experts as rivals for a limited share of attention. They’re more likely to argue from a defensive position on the minutia of what one another has proposed. Worse yet, when a bigger opportunity appears for them to share their expertise, they tend to vanish.

The idea of creating a communities of experts is alluring, but in most cases impossible to create. You can waste a lot of time, money, and effort trying.

Far better to create a community of practice. Find a group of people who truly enjoy the topic, who truly want to help each other, and are doing the work every single day. Forget the experts and influencers. Unite a group of people who don’t know the answers, but will scour the web for one another looking for the answers.

Good questions trump good answers by a long way. Dull questions solicit dull responses. Good questions drive engagement and activity. You don’t need more experts, you need more people with good questions. People get more value from a committed group of equals, people enjoy participating more in a group of equals, and it’s far easier to build these communities.

Let the experts stop by if they want, but don’t focus on them.

Given the choice between trying to recruit people who know the answer or trying to recruit people who would love to find the answer, go with the latter…every single time.

27 May 21:25

Verso Tweets Break Windows

by Reverend

This is cross-posted on the CUNY Academic Commons News blog as part of the Citation Needed series I am writing there.

Thanks to a retweet from Tressie McMillan Cottom (one of the best academic wranglers of the blue bird), I got transported back to my days as a Ph.D. student at the CUNY Grad Center.

Verso Books (which has a very impressive Twitter presence, by the way) had the editors of Policing the Planet share their top 5 books about the broken windows theory of crime. I was intrigued and followed the link—nothing competes with a 90s cover of Time magazine for clickbait—and was struck by the first book on the list:

The late Neil Smith‘s The New Urban Frontier: Gentrification and the Revanchist City topped the list! That may have been the most formative book I read during grad school, and if I was smarter I would have taken the work I did with Smith on using 80s and 90s films to analyze the popular representation of gentrification pop culture and turned it into a dissertation. My official focus was on Early American impulses towards Imperialism, but my heart was always stuck in 80s. In fact, long after I dropped out of the CUNY Ph.D. program in English I published my paper on the topic on my vanity press of a blog: “Of Punks, Pimps, and CHUDs: Gentrification in NYC as told by 1980s Film.” I’m still sentimental about that one, and one of these days I need to return to it and replace some of the YouTube clips from the various films they so inconveniently took down.

Not only was it cool to a book near and dear to my heart inform current scholarship and resistance around policing the city. I was also struck by how effectively Verso uses Twitter not only to promote their books, but also share some great related titles. For example, the other four books that inspired the editors of Policing the Planet were (drumroll please)….

This is a solid list for anyone interested in a critical analysis of the history of policing, and I was struck how Verso made it interesting, accessible, and memorable. As I blog for the CUNY Academic Commons I find myself thinking about how this works. Is there a space where folks are promoting the various scholarship happening at the Grad Center? I mean Neil Smith has a rich history at the Grad Center, and Verso reminded me of that, what is the Academic Commons doing to regularly highlight the scholarship coming out of CUNY’s think tank?

27 May 22:48

Nexus Devices Could be Getting Unlimited Original Quality Storage from Google Photos

by Evan Selleck
Last year right around this time, Google officially announced Photos, a brand new, cloud-based storage option for photos and videos. Continue reading →
27 May 23:00

Limited-time Rogers offer gives out an extra 3GB for new tablet activations

by Rose Behar

For Rogers customers who’ve been considering adding a tablet to their account, this might be a good time to do so. Currently, the carrier is offering a bonus 3GB of data for subscribers who activate select tablets with Easy Pay installments on a Share Everything plan.

To take advantage of this offer, subscribers must be on a Share Everything plan. Adding a tablet on Easy Pay to their plan will add $10 per month for the line, plus the monthly installment cost, which ranges from $10 for the LG G Pad III 8.0 to $37.50 per month for the iPad Pro.

The 3GB will then be added to the current allotment of data that the subscriber has on their Share Everything plan.

Additionally, Rogers is sweetening the pot with a two year subscription to Texture, an app that provides a library of over 150 magazines.

Related reading: Rogers, Bell and Telus are ramping up testing 5G network technology 

28 May 00:03

Twitter for iPhone Gets Extended 3D Touch Support with Peek & Pop

by Federico Viticci

With an update released earlier today on the App Store, Twitter has extended integration with 3D Touch in their iPhone app (previously limited to quick actions on the Home screen) to peek and pop previews in the timeline and other sections of the app.

With the latest version of Twitter for iPhone, you'll be able to press on tweets, links, pictures, and profiles to bring up a 3D Touch preview of the content. By swiping a peek upwards, you'll also gain access to shortcuts to either share via direct message and iOS extensions or, in the case of profiles, mute, block, and report a user.

Twitter's extended 3D Touch support isn't as advanced as Tweetbot – for instance, peek and pop previews don't seem to work in the Notifications tab – but it's a step forward regardless.

You can get the latest version of Twitter for iPhone from the App Store.

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27 May 17:00

Microsoft’s Panos Panay talks about the death and rebirth of the Surface

by Patrick O'Rourke

Microsoft’s initial launch of the Surface was nothing short of a complete disaster for the company.

The first two tablet/laptop hybrid devices the Seattle, Washington-based tech giant released, the Surface RT and Surface Pro, failed to impress and were the butt of jokes in the tech industry when they launched in 2012.

While the original Surface Pro was viewed by some as an admirable attempt at creating a viable 2-in-1 laptop/tablet hybrid at the time, it was held back by Windows 8, its small 10.6-inch display size, ineffective keyless type cover and a variety of minor hardware issues.


Pre-production demo Surface Book and Surface builds on a table in Microsoft’s Redmond, Washington headquarters.

The Surface RT on the other hand, sold so poorly that Microsoft was forced to take a $900 million “inventory adjustment” hit for the device, as well as its parts and accessories, back in July of 2013. Windows RT’s limitations didn’t connect with consumers, and neither did the Surface RT and its underwhelming Tegra ARM processor.

In a refreshingly candid discussion, Panos Panay, corporate vice president of devices and the head of Surface at Microsoft, admits the original Surface didn’t pan out as he hoped, despite his lofty ambitions for one of the company’s first cracks at designing its own hardware.

The moment news broke internally regarding Microsoft’s $900 million USD write-down of the RT, Panay says he remembers exactly what he was wearing, where he was standing, and who he was standing next to. According to him, it’s a time during his tenure as the Surface’s lead that he looks back at with a sense of fond nostalgia, but also pain.


Microsoft’s Rachael Bell talks about designing the Surface Pro’s Signature Type Cover (made from Alcantara).

“It was a tragedy that I’ll never forget. It’s just ingrained, but it’s also a blessing. There’s something to that moment. It’s probably the most humbling thing this team has ever gone through,” said Panos Panay during an interview with MobileSyrup at Microsoft’s Surface development facility in Redmond, Washington. “I think it was needed and not necessarily unexpected. It was all about learning during that time.”

Immediately after Microsoft released the news to press the next day, following what he calls “weeks of sleepless nights,” Panay says he faced his team, the same group of individuals he spent months creating the Surface RT with. In Panay’s mind, this was a pivotal moment for the brand, emphasizing to his team how important the Surface is to the future of Microsoft and that the brand will continue despite this set back.

“You have a choice, stop rolling and get off the ship. Or keep your head down and believe in what we’re doing and lets go kick some ass,” said Panay. “They didn’t skip a beat. What they did do was learn. What they did feel was humility. They didn’t feel great, but you know what, they didn’t give up,” said Panay, discussing his team’s initial reaction to the Surface RT write-off.


Microsoft’s distinguished scientist of applied sciences Steven Bathiche talks about testing the Surface Book and Surface Pro 4’s display technology.

“We knew what Surface Pro 3 was going to be when we were developing Surface Pro. That said, you can’t always get to the third generation with your first iteration,” said Panay, emphasizing that his team always had an ultimate goal in mind for the device.

Even with the early hiccups, Panay and his team still believed in what they were trying to accomplish with the Surface. They stayed the course with the hybrid device line, eventually landing on the Surface Pro 3, arguably the first Surface that accomplishes the line’s original laptop replacement vision.

Recent sales of Microsoft’s Surface line prove Panay’s and Microsoft’s decision to continue pushing forward with the Surface, was the correct course of action. In its most recent earnings report, Microsoft says Surface sales are up year-over-year, with the Surface Book and the Surface Pro 4 driving record Surface revenues in Q3, yielding the second $1 billion quarter in a row for the company and a 61% year over year increase to $1.1 billion.


A quick look at the Windows Hello’s early development.

“We’ve had a lot of momentum over the last several quarters since we’ve launched Pro 4 and Book. We’ve had two billion dollar quarters in a row. We had our biggest quarter ever with Surface and we’ve seen 60 percent year over year growth,” said Panay “We’ve even seen competitors come in and challenge our concept, which I think is both flattering and challenging,” added Panay, referring to Apple’s iPad Pro laptop/tablet hybrid line, a device hindered by Apple’s current split operating system approach to devices, focusing on both iOS and OS X. Microsoft has, however, learned significantly from Apple’s approach to linking software and hardware on an integral level.

“We don’t want that seam between the hardware and the software. It needs to go away. We don’t want that barrier. I think historically you can feel the barrier between the device and its software and that’s changing. There’s really no such thing as a device and there’s really no such thing as software. They’re now just products,” said Panay.

Panay originally worked on mice and keyboards at Microsoft, but is now responsible for all of the company’s in-house developed devices, including the Surface Book, Microsoft Band 2, HoloLens and even the often-rumoured Surface Phone, if the last great hope for Windows 10 Mobile hasn’t been axed in the Microsoft’s recent cuts to the division (it likely has).


A look at the ceiling of what Microsoft says is the quietest room in the world.

Panay believes that 2016’s expensive, high-end Surface Book, a device that actually initially began life as a standard laptop, is the result of everything he and his team learned during the development of earlier Surface devices.

“We started with just a laptop and were like ‘no way, no way, this is a Surface man.’ They’re looking at me [the team] like, ‘no we will not do this.’ They’d say, ‘Panay, if you put the product in the top the product gets too heavy, it’s impossible to get the weight tradeoffs,” said Panay, discussing the Surface team’s initial hesitation at creating a 2-in-1 designed to be more laptop-like than the Pro. “You can see all this come together in Book. It’s almost like a third-generation product in its first generation, as opposed to what Pro became with Pro 3, which is three generations in.”

Microsoft’s Surface development facility, a large unassuming building located in the company campus, is focused on iteration. Panay explains his team works through various versions and designs at a rapid pace thanks to a 24 hour development cycle linked to the company’s overseas factory production facilities.


A Microsoft banner in front of the company’s Redmond, Washington head office.

“If we find a problem overseas, we can work on it in the morning here. By the time we fix it we can send the data and its on the line and the product is enhanced for it over night. I think this is something that’s unique to what we do here for Surface,” said Panay.

Taking a shot at Apple’s recent adoption of USB Type-C, Panay also says that his team chose not to adopt the new port format with the Surface Pro 4 or Surface Book because he feels USB Type-C, at least in right now, “isn’t fair.” He feels that despite the technology’s strengths, it hasn’t reached the point of consumer penetration where it should be included in a laptop.

Panay also says that the Surface line’s intent is to compete directly with Apple.


One of the many 3D printers at Microsoft’s Surface headquarters.

“Let me be clear. Our intent is to compete in the very premium market… We look at Apple as a key competitor to the Surface product line and that’s how we think about the product line. We want to give our customers more options in the premium space,” said Panay.

While the Surface initially seemed like an oddball device, a very Microsoft creation that was neither a competent computer, or a usable laptop, it’s evolved into a viable, premium computing product, a substantial portion of Microsoft’s business.

“We are investing more now than we ever have in the Surface business”

28 May 00:42

27May2016 Vancouver X100T oocjpeg added as a favorite.

by tristan29photography
tristan29photography added this as a favorite.

27May2016 Vancouver X100T oocjpeg

27 May 13:35

A Call for a Temporary Moratorium on The DAO

by Dino Mark and Vlad Zamfir and Emin Gün Sirer

The DAO is an exciting new construct: an investment vehicle governed by a program, directed by investors' votes, to seek out and fund proposals. Implemented as a smart contract on the Ethereum blockchain, The DAO has raised 11.5 million Ether, valued at $150 million at the time of writing. This is the largest crowd-funding event in history. The DAO now controls 16% of the total supply of Ether. It is arguably the most visible project in the Ethereum ecosystem.

We just released the first draft of a research paper that analyzed The DAO and its voting mechanism. This paper identifies problems with The DAO's mechanism design that incentivize investors to behave strategically; that is, at odds with truthful voting on their preferences. We then outline potential attacks against The DAO made possible by these behaviors.

In particular, we have identified seven causes for concern that can cause DAO participants to engage in strategic behaviors. Some of these behaviors can cause honest DAO investors to have their investments hijacked or committed to proposals against their interest and intent.

These concerns motivate a moratorium on funding proposals to prevent losses due to poor mechanism design. A moratorium would give The DAO time to make critical security upgrades. We encourage the community to adopt a moratorium until The DAO can be updated.

For expediency, we skip the background on The DAO and its mechanisms and jump right into the attacks. A primer on The DAO's operation can be found in the full paper.

Attacks and Concerns

The central point of the DAO is to enable token holders to vote on proposals. Every proposal has a clear present cost, specified in the proposal itself. It returns value to the shareholders either through an expected profit denominated in ether and paid back to The DAO, or through the implicit appreciation of the The Dao Tokens (TDTs). As with every investment, proposals to the DAO have a probability of success that depends on the nature of the venture and its business plan. For instance, a proposal may ask for 1000 Ether to make 1000 T-Shirts, and may estimate that they will sell them for 1.5 Ether each, to yield a total profit of 500 Ether over a few months, and thus estimate they will return 1500 Ether to The DAO. It is expected that vigorous debate and discussion during the voting phase will enable each voter to independently estimate the chances of success, and thus, the expected value (EV).

Good mechanism design dictates that the overall organization be constructed such that rational actors vote truthfully in accordance with their estimates of the expected value of each proposal. For the wisdom of the crowd to manifest itself, we would like a TDT holder to vote YES for a proposal that they believe has positive expected value (+EV), and NO for a proposal they believe has a negative expected value (-EV); alternatively, they may abstain if their vote is not going to change the outcome. We now describe why the current implementation of The DAO fails to uphold this principle.

  • The Affirmative Bias, and the Disincentive to Vote No

The current DAO has a strong positive bias to vote YES on proposals and to suppress NO votes as a side-effect of the way in which it restricts users’ range of options following the casting of a vote. Specifically, the current DAO restricts the ability of a token holder to split from the DAO once they have voted on a proposal until the outcome of the vote is determined. Thus, a voter who believes a proposal has negative expected value is in a quandary: they can split from The DAO immediately without taking any risk, or else they can vote NO and hope that the proposal fails to be funded. A NO vote is therefore inherently risky for an investor who perceives the proposal to be -EV, in a way that voting YES is not for a +EV voter. As a consequence, The DAO voting is likely to exhibit a bias: YES votes will arrive throughout the voting period, while a strategic token holder will want to cast their NO vote only when they have some assurance of success. Because strategic NO voters will cast their votes only after gaining information on others’ negative perception of the same proposal, the voting process itself will not yield uniform information about the token holders’ preferences over time. Preferences of the positive voters will be visible early on, but the negative sentiment will be suppressed during the voting process -- a problematic outcome for a crowd-funding organization based on measuring the sentiment of the crowd through votes.

  • The Stalking Attack

Splitting from The DAO (the only viable method of extracting one’s Ether holdings from the main DAO contract) is currently open to a “stalking attack.” Recall that a user who splits from The DAO initiates a new DAO contract in which they are the sole investor and curator. The intent is that a user can extract his funds by whitelisting a proposal to pay himself the entire contents of this sub-contract, voting on it with 100% support, and then extracting the funds by executing the approved proposal. However, recall that the split and the resulting sub-contract creation takes place on a public blockchain. Consequently, an attacker can pursue a targeted individual into such sub-contracts. Since a splitting user is the new curator of the nascent sub-contract, a stalker cannot actually steal funds; the stalkee can refuse to whitelist proposals by the stalker (though note that, due to potential for confusion and human error, the expected outcome from such attacks is still positive). If the stalker commits funds that correspond to 53% or more of the sub-contract, he can effectively block the stalkee from withdrawing their funds out of the contract back into ether. Subsequent attempts by the victim to split from the sub-contract (to create a sub-sub-contract) can be followed recursively, effectively trapping the victim’s funds and prohibiting conversion back to ether. The attacker places no funds at risk, because she can split from the child-DAO at any time before the depth limit is reached. This creates the possibility for ransom and blackmail. While some remedies have been suggested for preventing and counterattacking during a stalker attack, they require unusual technical sophistication and diligence on behalf of the token holders.

  • The Ambush Attack

In an ambush, a large investor takes advantage of the bias for DAO users to avoid voting NO by adding a large percent of YES votes at the last minute to fund a self-serving proposal. Recall that under the current DAO structure, a rational actor who believes a proposal is -EV is likely to refrain from voting, since doing so would restrict his ability to split his funds in the case that the proposal succeeds. This is especially true when the investor observes that sufficiently many NO votes already exist to reject the proposal. Consequently, even proposals that provide absurdly low returns to The DAO may garner NO votes that are barely sufficient to defeat them.

This kind of behavior opens the door to potential attack: A sufficiently large voting bloc can take advantage of this reticence by voting YES at the last possible moment to fund the proposal. Such attacks are very difficult to detect and defend against because they leave little to no time for The DAO token holders to withdraw their funds. Among the current DAO investors, there is already a whale who invested 888,888 Ether. This investor currently commands 7.7% of all outstanding votes in The DAO. For a proposal that requires only a 20% quorum, this investor already has 77% of the required YES votes to pass the proposal, and just needs to conspire with 2.3%+1 of the token holders, in return for paying the conspirators out from the stolen funds.

  • The Token-Value Attack

In a token-value attack, a large investor stands to benefit by driving TDTs lower in value, either to profit from such price motion directly (e.g. via shorts or put options), or to purchase TDTs back in the open market in order to acquire a larger share of The DAO. A Token-Value attack is most successful if the attacker can (i) incentivize a large portion of token holders not to split, but instead sell their TDT directly on exchanges, and (ii) incentivize a large portion of the public not to purchase TDT on exchanges. An attacker can achieve (i) by implementing the stalker attack on anyone who splits and then making that attack public on social media. Worse, since the existence of the stalker attack is now well-known, the attacker need not attack any real entity, but can instead create fictitious entities who post stories of being stalked in order to sow panic among The DAO investors.

An attacker can achieve (ii) by creating a self-serving proposal widely understood to be -EV, waiting for the 6th day before voting ends, and then voting YES on it with a large block of votes. This action has the effect of discouraging rational market actors from buying TDT tokens because (a) if the attacker's proposal succeeds they will lose their money, and (b) they don’t have enough time to buy TDTs on an exchange and convert them back into Ether before the attacker's proposal ends, thus eliminating any chance of risk-free arbitrage profits. The combined result of (i) and (ii) means that there will be net selling pressure on TDT, leading to lower prices. The attacker can then buy up cheap TDT on exchanges for a risk free profit, because she is the only TDT buyer who has no risk if the attacking proposal actually manages to pass.

  • The extraBalance Attack

The extraBalance Attack is one in which an attacker tries to scare token holders into splitting from The DAO so that book value of TDT increases. The book value of TDT increases through splits because token holders who split can not recover any extraBalance, so the extraBalance becomes a larger percentage of the total balance, thus increasing the book value of the TDT. Currently the extraBalance is 203,257.65 Ether, which means the book value of TDT should be 1.02. If the Attacker can scare away half the token holders, the TDT will increase in value to 1.04. If the Attacker can scare away ~95% of the token holders, the book value of the remaining TDT will be roughly 2.00. In this attack, the attacking whale would do the opposite of the token-value attack by creating a self-serving proposal with a negative return and then immediately voting YES on it with a large voting block of TDT, thus scaring all the token holders, and then giving them 14 days until the end of the voting period so that they have more than enough time to safely split. In this scenario, splitting will be risk free (assuming that it is not coupled with a stalking attack), since voting NO could result in losses if the attackers end up having enough YES votes.

  • The Split Majority Takeover Attack

Even though the DAO white paper specifically identifies the majority takeover attack and introduces the concept of curators to deter it, it is not clear that the deterrence mechanism is sufficient. Recall that in the majority takeover attack outlined in the DAO whitepaper, a large voting bloc, of size 53% or more, votes to award 100% of the funds to a proposal that benefits solely that bloc. Curators are expected to detect such instances by tracking identities of the beneficiaries. Yet it is not clear how a curator can detect such an attack if the voting bloc, made up of a cartel of multiple entities, proposes not just a single proposal for 100% of the funds, but multiple different proposals. The constituents of the voting bloc can achieve their goal of emptying out the fund piecemeal. Fundamentally, this attack is indistinguishable “on the wire” from a number of investment opportunities that seem appealing to a majority. The key distinguishing factor here is the conflict of interest: the direct beneficiaries of the proposals are also token holders of The DAO.

  • The Concurrent Tie-Down Attack

The structure of The DAO can create undesirable dynamics in the presence of concurrent proposals. In particular, recall that a TDT holder who votes YES on a proposal is blocked from splitting or transferring until the end of the voting period on that proposal. This provides an attack amplification vector, where an attacker collects votes on a proposal with a long voting period, in effect trapping the voters' shares in The DAO. She can then issue an attacking proposal with a much shorter voting period. The attack, if successful, is guaranteed to impact the funds from the voters who were trapped. Trapped voters are forced to take active measures to defend their investments.

  • Independence Assumption

A critical implicit assumption in the discussion so far was that the proposals are independent. That is, their chances of success, and their returns, are not interlinked or dependent on each other. It is quite possible for simultaneous proposals to The DAO to be synergistic, or even antagonistic; for instance, a cluster of competing projects in the same space may affect each others’ chances of success and thus, collective returns. Similarly, cooperating projects, if funded together, might create sufficient excitement to yield excess returns; evidence from social science indicates that social processes are driven by non-linear systems.

Yet the nature of voting on proposals in The DAO provide no way for investors to express complex, dependent preferences. For instance, an investor cannot indicate a conditional preference (e.g. “vote YES on this proposal if this other proposal is not funded or also funded”). In general, the construction of market mechanisms to elicit such preferences, and appropriate programmatic APIs for expressing them, requires a more detailed and nuanced contract. This does not constitute an attack vector, but it does indicate that we might see strategic voting behavior even in the absence of any ill will by participants.

Potential Fixes

The preceding attacks have been discussed among a group of peers over the last 24 hours. Two potential fixes have emerged as uncontroversial.

Post-vote grace period: One potential mechanism that deters some of the attacks outlined above is to implement a post-vote grace period during which a proposal is accepted but not yet funded. This would provide token holders with a period of time during which they can withdraw their investment in case they perceive the outcome of the vote to decrease the value of the fund.

Instant Withdrawals: Offering instant and direct withdrawals of Ether to regular addresses would definitively eliminate the Stalker attack and weaken the Token-Value attack. Many token holders currently seem to believe that they can withdraw from The DAO at any time. Guaranteeing that this can happen, without having to resort to complex defense mechanisms, would be a prudent next step.

Logistics of a Moratorium

The central take-away from our partial analysis and discussion is that it would be prudent to call for a temporary moratorium on whitelisting proposals so that reasonable measures can be taken to improve the mechanisms of The DAO. Therefore, we call on the curators to put such a moratorium in effect.

There are two alternatives to a curator-imposed moratorium. One is to ask The DAO token holders to place a self-imposed moratorium by voting down every proposal with overwhelming majority. Due to the flaws involving negative votes outlined in this paper, it would be a mistake to depend on this mechanism to protect against attacks targeting the same mechanism. The second alternative is to ask the DAO token holders to opt-in to the security measures by holding a vote for a new curator set who will implement a moratorium. We believe that The DAO’s default behavior should favor security. Since no one knows the percentage of non-voting, non-active token holders, the threshold required for curator changes may be too high for the voting process to meet. For these reasons, we believe that the safest course of action would be for the curators impose a moratorium, and allow the DAO token holders opt-out if they disagree by means of a curator change vote.


The preceding concerns motivate a moratorium on proposals to prevent losses due to poor mechanism design. A moratorium would give The DAO time to make critical security upgrades. We encourage the community to adopt a moratorium until The DAO can be updated.

27 May 19:45

Django, Pipeline, and Gulp

by Paul McLanahan

Bedrock, the code behind, is a very large Django project. It is mostly large due to the volume and diversity of independent pages it serves. These pages come with a surprising amount of static media (css, js, images, fonts, etc.). So, any system that we use to deal with said media should be efficient in order to keep our development servers fast.

We like django-pipeline for managing our static media in production. It does a great job of bundling, minifying, and compressing our css and js. When using it in a development environment however, it does not scale well. The issue is that it does not watch for changes to your files, so all it can do is copy them all from their source to the static directory on every page load. For a reasonable number of files this is probably fine, but as I said ours is not that. This is exasperated in slow I/O environments like Docker on a non-linux system (like OSX). We’ve not been able to setup an acceptable Docker-based local dev environment yet because it can literally take several minutes to render the home page.

Due to all of the issues noted above we’ve been looking for other ways of handling static media. We’ve considered a few times to move to a completely nodejs based system that would be completely independent of the Django side, and may still do that some day, but the problem has always been scope and impact. Again because the project is so large, making sweeping changes that affect workflow and all static files can both take a lot of time and be very disruptive when they land. So for a long time we figured we were stuck. But recently a conversation started in IRC about being able to just disable django-pipeline’s copying of files. If we could do that we could use gulp-watch to much more quickly and efficiently manage these files while being edited and still get the benefits of django-pipline for production. It turned out that someone else already had this idea and mostly we just needed to upgrade django-pipeline.

After that it was a simple matter of adding a task to our Gulpfile:

gulp.task('media:watch', function () {
    return gulp.src('./media/**/*')
        .pipe(watch('./media/**/*', {
            'verbose': true

But it was still a bit odd now having to have two shells open, one for the gulp task and another for the Django dev server. So we did a little more gulp magic and now have a single command to start up both the file watching and the Django server that combines the output of both in a single terminal.

gulp.task('serve:backend', function () {
    var devServerPort = process.env.PORT || 8000;
    process.env.PYTHONUNBUFFERED = 1;
    spawn('python', ['', 'runserver', '' + devServerPort], {
        stdio: 'inherit'

gulp.task('default', function() {

You can see the full gulpfile.js in our repo on Github if you’d like. It’s a simple but very effective change and has made a very noticeable improvement in the speed of the local development server. And now we hope that we can finally complete and recommend Docker as the default setup for local development on bedrock.

28 May 04:43

CDC Director: Drug-Resistant Superbug Means “Medicine Cabinet Is Empty”

by Chris Morran
mkalus shared this story from Consumerist.

You know that scene in action movies where the hero has fired every bullet, thrown every piece of throwable furniture, set off every explosive, but still the bad guy lurches forward? At that point, there’s nothing left for the hero to do but run and pray. After the recent discovery in the U.S. of a bacteria that is resistant to a vital last-resort antibiotic, some scientists believe we’re inching dangerously close to that run-and-pray moment in the world of medicine.

“We risk being in a post-antibiotic world,” Dr. Tom Frieden, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told reporters yesterday after military researchers confirmed the first-known U.S. instance of the MCR-1 gene, which provides antibiotic resistance to colistin, a drug of last resort. “That wouldn’t just be urinary tract infections or pneumonia — that could be for the 600,000 patients a year who need cancer treatment.”

Added Dr. Frieden, “The medicine cabinet is empty for some patients.”

For decades, doctors have treated multi-drug resistant bacteria with a class of antibiotics known as carbapenems. But the more you use a drug, the more the pathogens adapt to survive, so now there are carbapenem-resistant bacteria (CRE). Colistin, a potent antibiotic that had long been shelved because of its potential for kidney damage, has come back into use in recent years as a last-resort treatment for CRE infections.

While the bacteria found this month in the Pennsylvania woman is resistant to colistin and many other antibiotics, it is sensitive to carbapenems. However, now that the MCR-1 gene is stateside, some are very concerned that we’ll inevitably see bacteria that are resistant to both CRE and colistin.

“We are one step away from CRE strains that cannot be treated with antibiotics,” Dr. Lance Price, a researcher at George Washington University, tells the NY Times. “We now have all the pieces in place for it to be untreatable.”

Dr. Beth Bell of the CDC likens this fully resistant superbug to a nearly completed puzzle.

“You need lots of different pieces to get a result that is resistant to everything,” she explains to the Times. “This is the last piece of that puzzle, unfortunately, in the United States. We have that genetic element that would allow for bacteria that are resistant to every antibiotic.”

Bloomberg News today looks at the death of a child in India whose infection could not be treated by colistin.

“That is a warning to us that maybe we’re already losing this drug,” a hospital official tells Bloomberg. “If we lose colistin, we have nothing. It’s an extreme, extreme worry for us.”

Not every doctor is beating the doom-and-gloom drum about this discovery.

University of Pennsylvania hospital infectious disease specialist Neil Fishman tells that the news is “not a death star, but a very strong warning that we really do have to be careful with antibiotics and use them optimally.”

While across town, Temple University Hospital specialist Tom Fekete cautions that he’s “not giving up the ship,” and notes that people have been declaring a “post-antibiotic world” for 20 years.

Earlier this month, the Pew Charitable Trusts released a report showing that now new types of antibiotics have been discovered in more than 30 years, raising the concern that resistance — in the absence of new drugs — could wipe out the utility of the ones we’ve been using since the golden ages of antibiotics research in the mid-Twentieth Century.

“This is definitely alarming,” said Pew’s David Hyun about yesterday’s announcement. “The fact that we found it in the United States confirms our suspicions and adds urgency to actions we need to work on antibiotic stewardship and surveillance for this type of resistance.”

The discovery of the MCR-1 gene in the U.S. has resulted in renewed calls for improved antibiotic oversight, particularly in farm animals, who consume the overwhelming majority of antibiotics in the country, primarily for the non-therapeutic purpose of growth-promotion.

“I have been sounding the alarm for years, and now, what we’ve been dreading has happened,” said Congresswoman Louise Slaughter of New York, who also happens to be a trained microbiologist. “We have an antibiotic-resistant superbug that can’t be killed by any known drug. We need swift, aggressive, global action to stop this in its tracks—now.”

27 May 19:32

Independent Retail and the Death of the Mall

by pricetags

From the Portland Mercury:


Scotto di Carlo and her husband Michael are local economy experts and the founders of Supportland—a network of independent restaurants and retailers that employ a shared points system (sort of like a universal punch card) that provides an incentive for supporting local businesses.

“Retail is changing rapidly and the sort of discount shopper that [might have gone to the mall] is just going online,” says Scotto di Carlo. “The reason people engage with retailers now isn’t just because they want a product, it’s because they want to engage with a sense of place and their community.”

In its nascence, online shopping was an augmentation of brick-and-mortar retail—but now it’s the norm, placing malls like Lloyd Center in the unfortunate blind spot between independent boutiques and more upscale shopping centers.

In April, the Wall Street Journal reported that a variety of prominent chains are slowly withdrawing from weaker malls—and it isn’t hard to imagine Lloyd Center making that list.

“We’re kind of in this transitional period, but I think that the market footprint of big box stores and malls is going to be vacated at a higher and higher level as we approach this new equilibrium between online retail and [independent retail],” says Scotto di Carlo. “I don’t know if the old investors have given up completely, but I really don’t see how the target market is still going to be there for Lloyd Center.”

Scotto di Carlo also suggests that smaller businesses generally steer clear of spaces like the Lloyd Center, because they violate the values of independent retail by design.

“What malls did is they said, ‘Let’s zero out sense of place and let’s build a wall around our environment,’ and that was attractive initially to customers, but nowadays people are really yearning for a sense of place.”

27 May 18:38

Brilliance Is Better Than Magic, Because You Get To Learn It

by Eugene Wallingford

Brent Simmons has recently suggested that Swift would be better if it were more dynamic. Some readers have interpreted his comments as an unwillingness to learn new things. In Oldie Complains About the Old Old Ways, Simmons explains that new things don't bother him; he simply hopes that we don't lose access to what we learned in the previous generation of improvements. The entry is short and worth reading in its entirety, but the last sentence of this particular paragraph deserves to be etched in stone:

It seemed like magic, then. I later came to understand how it worked, and then it just seemed like brilliance. (Brilliance is better than magic, because you get to learn it.)

This gets to close to the heart of why I love being a computer scientist.

So many of the computer programs I use every day seem like magic. This might seem odd coming from a computer scientist, who has learned how to program and who knows many of the principles that make complex software possible. Yet that complexity takes many forms, and even a familiar program can seem like magic when I'm not thinking about the details under its hood.

As a computer scientist, I get to study the techniques that make these programs work. Sometimes, I even get to look inside the new program I am using, to see the algorithms and data structures that bring to life the experience that feels like magic.

Looking under the hood reminds me that it's not really magic. It isn't always brilliance either, though. Sometimes, it's a very cool idea I've never seen or thought about before. Other times, it's merely a bunch of regular ideas, competently executed, woven together in a way that give an illusion of magic. Regular ideas, competently executed, have their own kind of beauty.

After I study a program, I know the ideas and techniques that make it work. I can use them to make my own programs.

This fall, I will again teach a course in compiler construction. I will tell a group of juniors and seniors, in complete honesty, that every time I compile and execute a program, the compiler feels like magic to me. But I know it's not. By the end of the semester, they will know what I mean; it won't feel like magic to them any more, either. They will have learned how their compilers work. And that is even better than the magic, which will never go away completely.

After the course, they will be able to use the ideas and techniques they learn to write their own programs. Those programs will probably feel like magic to the people who use them, too.

27 May 16:20

five-minute geocoder for openaddresses

The OpenAddresses project recently crossed 250 million worldwide address points with the addition of countrywide data for Australia. Data from OA is used by Mapbox, Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, and my company, Mapzen.

Now, you can use OpenAddresses in a high-quality geocoder yourself. “Geocoding” is the process of transforming input text, such as an address, or a name of a place to a geographic location on the earth's surface. Every time you search for a destination on your phone, you’re geocoding. Mapzen’s Search service uses an open source server we call Pelias, and if you’re using the popular Ubuntu Linux operating system, you can get it set up and serving addresses in just a few minutes.

Start with a clean server running a current version of Ubuntu LTS (long-term support); either 14.04 or 16.04 will work. Amazon has readymade Ubuntu images available on EC2, or a local copy running under Virtualbox will do for testing. Both the address import process and the Elasticsearch index are hungry for lots of memory, so pick a server with 4-8GB of memory to prevent failures.

Next, install the Pelias software using instructions from OpenAddresses:

# Tell Ubuntu where to find packages:
add-apt-repository ppa:openaddresses/geocoder -y
wget -qO - | apt-key add -
echo "deb stable main" | tee -a /etc/apt/sources.list.d/elasticsearch-1.7.list

# Install Pelias and dependencies:
apt-get update && apt-get install pelias

This installs the Pelias geocoder, the OpenAddresses importer, a simple web-based map search interface, and the underlying Elasticsearch index.

After installation, you will need to import data. Visit and pick a processed zip file to download. Start small with a city like Berkeley, CA to test the process. Download and unzip it in the directory `/var/tmp/openaddresses` where Pelias expects to find CSV files, then run `pelias-openaddresses-import` to index the data.

# Get a sample file of address data:
cd /var/tmp/openaddresses
curl -OL
apt-get install unzip && unzip

# Index the addresses:

That’s it!

Pelias includes many neat features out of the box, such as reverse geocoding and autocomplete. Read the docs on Github.

The Mapzen Search service includes some additional features that aren’t yet covered here. For example, to include administrative areas like cities or states in searches, it’s necessary to do an admin lookup while importing, and to include data from Who’s On First. I’m also interested to learn more about tuning Elasticsearch for smaller-sized servers with less system RAM. It should be possible to run a geocoder with 1-2GB of memory, and Elasticsearch may require adjustments to make this possible.

Links to more information about geocoding with OpenAddresses:

Comments (2)
27 May 08:02

Hack Education Weekly News

Education Politics

Officials from 11 states are suing the Obama Administration over the guidance it recently issued regarding transgender bathroom policies and civil rights law. The states: Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, Maine, Wisconsin, and Arizona. More via The New York Times.

The Department of Education has released its newly proposed guidelines for school accountability. The changes are due to the replacement of one education acronym (NCLB) with another (ESSA). More via Politico.

“Dean Dad” Matt Reed responds to Senator Alexander’s proposal to limit student loans.

North Carolina Republicans Take Aim at State’s Historically Black and Native American Colleges” by Michael Meranze.

Via The Times Higher Education: “Which universities would lose out from Brexit?”

The Left’s drive to push conservatives out of education reform” by The Fordham Institute’s Robert Pondiscio. And a response from Marilyn Anderson Rhames: “An Open Letter to White Conservative Education Reformers.”

Texas can breathe a sigh of relief – and really, considering Texas’ role in textbooks, everyone can – after Mary Lou Bruner lost her bid for a seat on the Texas State Board of Education. Among Bruner’s beliefs: “President Barack Obama is a gay prostitute, climate change is a hoax concocted by Karl Marx and that Obama’s health care overhaul was an orchestrated plot to wipe 200 million people from the U.S. population. She also wrote that the flood from the biblical story of Noah’s Ark is what destroyed the dinosaurs, not a meteor as ‘concocted’ by atheists.” But yes please, Fordham Institute. Tell us more about the dangers of Black Lives Matter activists getting involved in education politics.

Thanks Obama: The Future of American Sex-Ed May Not Include Abstinence-Only Funding.”

Via the AP: “A complaint filed Tuesday with Texas education officials accuses a charter-school network of abusing a visa program to import large numbers of Turkish teachers and violating state and federal laws by paying them more than American teachers. The complaint also asserts that the network, Harmony Public Schools, skirts competitive bidding rules to award contracts to Turkish vendors.”

Via the Detroit Free Press: “Another corruption case has surfaced for the troubled Detroit Public Schools, this one involving a former grants administrator who is charged with pocketing nearly $1.3 million that was supposed to be used for tutoring services for kids.”

More on privacy legislation in the “privacy” section below.

Presidential Campaign Politics

Investor Mark Cuban said he’d happily be the running mate for Clinton or Trump.

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Donald Trump and Higher Ed.”

Since he’s no longer running for President, Jeb Bush says he is retaking the reigns of his education organization Foundation for Excellence in Education.

Education in the Courts

I was recently informed that my pointing out the relationships between politics, tech investors, and their investment portfolio constitutes an “ad hominem” attack. But you’re full of fallacy yourself if you think that’s going to stop me from making critiques about this industry. Good grief. And while this isn’t directly related to education, it’s one of the most important stories from the tech industry this week (one that certainly could have major implications on my ability to do my research and writing): that is, Paypal co-founder Peter Thiel apparently bankrolled the recent libel lawsuit that Hulk Hogan won against Gawker, using his vast wealth to – he hoped – put the publication out of business. More via The New York Times here and here and here and here. Here’s media reporter Mathew Ingram’s take (and there are lots of takes out there. My god. The takes). In addition to funding this lawsuit, Thiel sits on the board of Facebook, which itself is playing a huge role in the “future of news.” Thiel also a Trump supporter and will be a delegate at the upcoming Republican convention. (And Trump, for his part, also wants to make it easier to sue journalists for libel.) For those keeping score at home, here are Peter Thiel’s ed-tech investments (in addition to his “I’ll pay you to drop out of college” fellowship program, of course): Clever, Lore, Thinkful, Declara, and SoFi. He’s a partner at Founders Fund, which has invested in Knewton, AltSchool, Uversity, ResearchGate, If You Can, Upstart, Declara, and Affirm. But that’s all ad hominem and is irrelevant to the future of education. You wish.

Via Boing Boing: “JJ Abrams urges Paramount to drop its lawsuit over fan Star Trek movie.” The lawsuit in question involves Paramount’s claim that the Klingon language is copyrightable.

And speaking of copyrighting a language of a warlike people, the Oracle v Google case had its closing arguments this week. On Thursday, the judge gave Google the victory, ruling that the company’s use of the Java API fell under fair use provisions.

Not sure if this should go in the “politics” or “legal” or “HR” section, but I’ll stick it here. “California’s teacher tenure battle is reignited by Vergara appeal and a new bill,” The LA Times reports.

Testing, Testing…

Common Core testing group wages aggressive campaign against critics on social media,” according to The Washington Post’s Valerie Strauss.

ACT said Monday that students with disabilities who apply for accommodations on the college entrance exam ‘will soon benefit from a new system that will simplify and speed up the application process,’” Politico reports.

Via The US News & World Report: “The View From a Testing Giant.” (That giant: Pearson, of course.)

Online Education (The Once and Future “MOOC”)

MOOCs for credit! FutureLearn announced that two UK universities – the University of Leeds and the Open University – will offer MOOCs that will be accepted for college credit. “In the Leeds offering, for example, each course certificate will cost £59 and there are five taught courses; the sixth assessment course, which leads to 10 credits, is priced at £250 – making a total cost of £545 – which will also cover access to online library content,” The Guardian reports. (It’ll be interesting to see if this offering is any more popular or any more successful than similar attempts in the US.)

Phil Hill in The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Distance Ed’s Second Act.”

Coding Bootcamps (and The Once and Future “For-Profit Higher Ed”)

Elsewhere in for-profit higher ed: “Veterans Groups Seek a Crackdown on Deceptive Colleges,” The New York Times reports.

Not for profit but still a scam, part 1: Via Inside Higher Ed: “A Sting and a Sham College” – on Homeland Security’s fake school, the University of Northern New Jersey, as well as other (real?) schools charged with financial aid and visa fraud.

Not for profit but still a scam, part 2: Speaking of fraud, Buzzfeed's Molly Hensley-Clancy writes about the visa mill Northwestern Polytechnic University.

Meanwhile on Campus

Title IX: Tracking Sexual Assault Investigations.”

Drinking milk at school while black: Student arrested for larceny over 65-cent milk and racism.”

Where Does the Regional State University Go From Here?” That is, how do small public universities continue to serve their local populations in the face of dwindling state support?

Via The New York Times: “Halal Guys to Donate $30,000 to LaGuardia Community College.”

Well, this was off campus, not on-: “California lake trashed, University of Oregon students suspected.” Go Ducks.

Also off campus, not on-: “Unemployed Detroit Residents Are Trapped by a Digital Divide.”

Via NPR: “Bethune-Cookman Students Still Reeling From A Year That Saw 13 Shooting Victims.”

Via The New York Times: “Group Urging Free Tuition at Harvard Fails to Win Seats on Board.”

Accreditation and Certification

From IMS Global: “Competency-Based Education and Extended Transcripts: IMS Global Learning Consortium Enabling Better Digital Credentialing.”

Making” for credit.

For more on MOOCs for credit, see the “MOOCs” section above.

Go, School Sports Team!

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Baylor University has moved to fire its head football coach, Art Briles, according to a statement from the Texas institution. In addition, Baylor said that Kenneth W. Starr, the university’s president, would be removed but would retain the more-ceremonial role of chancellor. Finally, the athletic director, Ian McCaw, has been ‘sanctioned and placed on probation.’” This all comes after scrutiny into how the university handled sexual assaults involving its football team members. More on this story via Inside Higher Ed.

From the HR Department

“Maria Harper-Marinick’s appointment as chancellor of Maricopa Community Colleges on May 4 has been called historic because she is the first female and first Latina higher-education chancellor in Arizona,” The Chronicle of Higher Education reports.

DeVry University has a new CEO: Lisa Wardell.

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Nontenure-Track Faculty at Ithaca College Forms a Union.” And “Adjuncts Vote to Unionize at Saint Louis U.”

Also via The Chronicle: “Faculty Strike Begins at Green River Community College.”

Via The Guardian: “UK university lecturers strike over pay.”

Meanwhile: “Professor Angelina Jolie Pitt.”

“Employees at community colleges may be the most affected by the Obama administration’s new rules for overtime pay, especially as the sector continues to see dwindling resources from their states,” says Inside Higher Ed.

Venture capitalist #hottake: “Think Students Are Unhappy With Higher Education? Try Employers.”

For updates on the latest firings at Baylor, see the “sports” section above.

Commencement and Awards

Congratulations, Class of 2016, from The New Yorker:

In other graduation headlines: “Chancellor Is Criticized for Cellphone Use During Commencement.” High school valedictorian blocked from participating in his own graduation because he has a goatee.

Upgrades and Downgrades

Gates Foundation CEO Admits Underestimating Common-Core Challenges.”

Curriculet Closes Shop,” Edsurge reports. The Common Core aligned reading software maker had raised $1.8 million.

Who’s keeping track of how many times The New York Times has gotten into (and gotten out of) the education business?

LEGO Products Are Becoming More Violent.”

Trends to watch: Chinese investment in ed-tech. Elsewhere, The Wall Street Journal on education in China: “One Chinese Entrepreneur’s Prescription for More Innovation: Less Schooling.”

Trends to watch: investors’ interest in English language learning (software). e.g. “Supporting English Language Learners with Next-Gen Tools.”

Trends to watch: the demise of journalism. See also: Peter Thiel versus the First Amendment in the “courts” section above.

OpenStax has been striking a lot of vendor deals recently, no? This week: “OpenStax Partners with panOpen to Expand OER Access.”

Via Ars Technica: “Queen’s Brian May unveils Owl VR: His Victorian take on Google Cardboard.” Admitting that a lot of this VR hype is actually just a repackaging of the ol' stereoscope makes a ton of sense, to be honest.

Via Quartz: “Even Apple is acknowledging that the ‘iPads in education’ fad is coming to an end.” It’s a nice headline, but nowhere in the story does Apple acknowledge this.

Via Bloomberg Technology: “How Thync, Startup Behind Brain-Zapping Gadget, Almost Died.”

Via EdWeek’s Market Brief: “Understanding Ed-Tech Product Pricing, for Educators and Entrepreneurs.”

Via the BBC: “Microsoft accused of Windows 10 upgrade ‘nasty trick’.”

Via Campus Technology: “Moodle Intros Full Support for Competency-Based Ed.”

The “craziest” black market in Russia, according to Slate at least, is for dissertations.

Funding and Acquisitions (The Business of Ed-Tech)

Skillshare has raised $12 million in a Series B round of funding. Investors include Amasia, Omidyar Network, Union Square Ventures, and Spark Capital. Described by its founder as a "marketplace of 'bite-sized, self-paced courses for creators,'" Skillshare has raised $22.75 million total.

Accelerate Learning has raised $10 million from Owl Ventures. Its Crunchbase description is great: “TX-based edtech company.” So you can see why investors were so eager.

“Investors Put $2.3M in Bloomz, a School Communication App That Can Satiate Helicopter Parents,” Edsurge reports. Investors include 8VC, ffVenture Capital, Founder’s Co-op, CorrelationVC, Wisemont Capital, and Acequia Capital. The company has raised previous rounds of venture capital, but neither the names of those investors nor the amounts have been disclosed.

Via Inside Higher Ed: “Becker Professional Education, a subsidiary of DeVry Education Group, this week announced it is buying the Association of Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialists for $330 million.” In other DeVry news, see the HR section above.

VIF International Education has acquired Participate Learning. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The Monster at the End of Ed-Tech (via The New Yorker): “Inside the Venture-Capital Arm of ‘Sesame Street.’

Data, Privacy, and Surveillance

Digital Redlining, Access, and Privacy” by Chris Gilliard and Hugh Culik.

WaPo on “data walls”: “This ed-reform trend is supposed to motivate students. Instead, it shames them.”

Via ProPublica: “There’s software used across the country to predict future criminals. And it’s biased against blacks.” I’m sure predictive modeling and algorithms in education are totally bias-free tho. Just like education itself. (More details on ProPublica’s research.)

Via Edsurge: “Edtech’s Next Significant Impact: Health and Wellness.” So that should be fun for the future of data and privacy.

Via The Washington Post: “Terrorist or pedophile? This start-up says it can out secrets by analyzing faces.”

Google aims to kill passwords by the end of this year,” says The Guardian. The notion of biometrics instead of passwords is a terrible idea, and let’s hope it never comes to Google Apps for Education where schools will love it (at the expense of student and staff privacy, of course).

Via El Paso Inc: “In mid-April, computer hackers had five days’ access to the personal data of a reported 51 El Paso Independent School District employees and were able to redirect their April 15 paychecks.”

Via The Kansas City Star: “Rockhurst University is sued over data breach in phishing scam.”

From the NASBE: “Trends in Student Data Privacy Bills in 2016.”

Data and “Research”

Misunderstanding Medicated Kids” by Malcolm Harris.

Key Tensions in the Field of Learning Analytics” by Bodong Chen.

Via Medical Daily: “Media Multitasking Is Linked To Poor Academic Abilities And Impulsive Behavior In Children.”

Via The Hechinger Report: “More than five years after adopting Common Core, Kentucky’s black-white achievement gap is widening.”

’Tis the season for publishing books on “grit.” Via NPR: “Teaching The Intangibles: How To Ingrain ‘Grit’ In Students.”

Via Vox: “Do white people want merit-based admissions policies? Depends on who their competition is.”

Speaking of Vox, this list of “smart facts about intelligence” does not include the fact that Vox explainers are the worst.

Phil Hill has data on schools (in the US and Canada) that move from one LMS to another (or stick with their current vendor, as the case may be).

Blackboard’s Online Learning Trend Report” by Blackboard. A screenshot (accompanied by a lack of taking any responsibility for these problems):

Only 16% Of Teachers Say Their Schools’ Tech Integration Deserves An ‘A’” makes for a great headline in a publication called BusinessSolutions, don’t you think?

Higher ed enrollments decline. Again,” Bryan Alexander observes, drawing on National Student Clearinghouse Research Center data.

Via The Salt Lake Tribune: “Utah charter schools move millions of public dollars to the coffers of a few private companies.”

You know how you can tell that blockchain people are the most innovative ever? They don’t even write white-papers, man. They write rainbow papers. Whoa. That’s so intense. (Elsewhere in blockchain-related research: “Blockchain Startup Investment Bounces Back,” says CB Insights, despite ongoing legal issues… but when has that ever stopped venture capital, am I right?)

Icon credits: The Noun Project

27 May 21:00

The Math on Affordability

by pricetags

From Crosscut:


Seattle’s diehard “urbanists” can be remarkably single-minded in their advocacy for new and denser housing, but they aren’t necessarily wrong. In fact, according to some recent number crunching on San Francisco’s rental market, they’re essentially correct on what it’ll take to bring the city’s skyrocketing rents back down to earth.

The Washington Post recently highlighted an analysis of San Francisco’s rental market by Eric Fisher, a computer programmer with a laudable dedication to data-digging. Fisher combed through roughly 70 years of rent prices in San Francisco, cross-referencing them with the city’s economic history and policy changes to create a mathematical model for predicting rent hikes.

Adjusting for inflation, Fisher found that San Francisco’s rents have consistently risen about 2.5 percent a year, with only a few slight deviations. This, despite a period of population decline, the introduction of rent control in the late ‘70s, and a few tech booms and busts.

The basic conclusion of Fisher’s analysis is that it’s extremely hard to bring rents down in a prosperous city. Only two things can really accomplish it: more housing units, or fewer jobs — particularly high-paying ones. That’s it.

Fisher graph

One Twitter user summarized the study succinctly: “We can have Prosperity, Preservation or Affordability, but we can only pick 2.”