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27 Feb 21:30

Mozilla Acquires Pocket

by John Voorhees

Mozilla Corporation announced today that it has acquired read-it-later service Pocket. Saving stripped down, ad-free versions of articles from the web for reading later has been around for a long time. Pocket and Instapaper were two of the first and have shared a similar trajectory. Both started out as web services that evolved into apps. Most recently, both have been sold to larger companies.

Instapaper was sold by developer Marco Arment to Betaworks in 2013 and then to Pinterest in 2016. Today, Pocket took a similar path by being acquired by Mozilla, maker of the Firefox web browser.

Pocket says that it:

will continue on as a wholly-owned, independent subsidiary of Mozilla Corporation. We’ll be staying in our office, and our name will still be on the wall. Our team isn’t changing and our existing roadmap has been reinforced and is clearer than ever. In fact, we have a few major updates up our sleeves that we are really excited to get into your hands in the coming months.

For its part, Mozilla says:

Pocket will join Mozilla’s product portfolio as a new product line alongside the Firefox web browsers with a focus on promoting the discovery and accessibility of high quality web content.

The evolution of read-it-later services is interesting. If the acquisitions of these services by bigger corporations is an indication of anything, it’s that they are features more than standalone products. As Casey Newton of The Verge highlights, Pocket’s recommendation engine is likely what interests Mozilla, which has launched what it dubs its ‘Context Graph’ initiative that uses browser activity to enhance web discovery. What that means for Pocket’s long-term viability as a standalone app and service remains to be seen, but for now, it remains a separate product.

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27 Feb 20:36

Popularity Is Addictive

by Richard Millington

The secret to popularity is making people feel good around you.

The simplest way to make people feel good around you is telling people what they want to hear.

You can do this unintentionally. You might see a positive news story about the field and share it. This gets more likes than your analytical piece so you share more positive news stories and less new insights.

Then you stumble upon a simpler shortcut. You notice praise gets a good response. You can tell people how great they are, how awesome they’re going to be, and they are the future of your field. Cue applause.

The danger is now your filter for what you bring into the community is what you guess others want to hear instead of what they need to hear.

Watch out for it. If you find yourself only sharing positive news and debating the naysayers you might be an inadvertent popularity chaser.

There is value in feeling good about ourselves, but it’s fleeting value. The real value of a community comes from identifying and overcoming our sector’s biggest challenges together. This is what leaves a sustainable legacy and creates real value for everyone.

27 Feb 20:35

Lenovo Connect

by Volker Weber

Lenovo stellt zum MWC eine ganze Reihe von Geräten vor: MiiX 320,Yoga 720 und 520, Tab 4 Serie. Spannend dabei:

All diesen Geräten ist gemein, dass sie dem Nutzer uneingeschränkte, echte Mobilität ermöglichen, zum Bespiel mit der tollen Option einer nahezu flächendeckenden LTE-Verbindung. Lenovo kündigt dafür die nächste Stufe von Lenovo Connect an, inklusive Unterstützung für umprogrammierbare e-SIMs. Die e-SIM ermöglicht es Nutzern, auf ausgewählten Windows, LTE-fähigen Geräten von den besten lokal verfügbaren Preisen für mobiles Internet zu profitieren, sowohl daheim als auch unterwegs im Roaming-Modus, ohne, dass die SIM-Karte gewechselt werden muss. ... Lenovo Connect e-SIM macht es einfach, sich überall auf der Welt mit dem Internet zu verbinden – das Wechseln von SIM-Karten gehört damit der Vergangenheit an. Lenovo Connect ermöglicht Nutzern eine nahtlose Verbindung und lokales Kostenmanagement, auch wenn sie unterwegs sind, indem sie von den Angeboten lokaler Telco-Anbietern profitieren können. Nutzer können das Datenvolumen zwischen Geräten hin und her schieben, wenn diese Lenovo Connect-fähig sind.

Da werde ich nochmal nachfragen müssen.

27 Feb 20:35

by Volker Weber

Data Selfie is a browser extension that tracks you while you are on Facebook to show you your own data traces and reveal how machine learning algorithms use your data to gain insights about your personality.The tool explores our relationship to the online data we leave behind as a result of media consumption and social networks - the information you share consciously and unconsciously.

IBM mischt kräftig mit bei diesem Projekt. Es zeigt sehr schön, was Maschinen über den Menschen herausfinden können. Nun ist IBM ja nicht daran interessiert, Dir zu zeigen, was mit Deinen Daten passiert, sondern will seinen Kunden die Intelligenz von Watson demonstrieren.

Dieses Ding ist absolute Pflichtlektüre für jemanden, der sich mit Datenschutz und dem Einsatz solcher Tools im Unternehmen auseinandersetzt. Speziell im Umgang mit den eigenen Mitarbeitern.

More >

27 Feb 20:35

Nokia 3, 5, and 6: Things To Know About Nokia’s Comeback Devices

by Rajesh Pandey
Nokia, the Finnish company that once dominated the smartphone market with its Symbian phones before being acquired by Microsoft and fading into oblivion, is back. HMD Global, a Finnish company comprising of veteran Nokia executives and staff, purchased the rights from Nokia to manufacture and sell phones under its brand name. Continue reading →
27 Feb 20:35

Sheriffing @ Mozilla – Sheriffing a Community Task!

by cbook
i was recently asked if volunteers can help with Sheriffing!
And the answer is very simple: Of course you can and you are very welcome! 
As every part of Mozilla, volunteers are very important. Our team is mixed of Full-Time Employees and Volunteers.
What is needed to join as Community Sheriff:
I think basically there are 3 things you need to have to participate as Community Sheriff:
-> Communication Skills and Teamwork – Sheriffing means a lot of communication – communication with the other sheriff Teams, developers and teams like Taskcluster and Release Engineering. 
-> Background Knowledge how Bugzilla works (commenting in bugs, resolving bugs and setting flags etc)
-> Ability to see context & relationships between failures (like the relation of a set of failures to a checkin) to identify the changeset that causes the regression.
All our tools are public accessible and you don’t need any specific access rights to get started.
Our main tool is Treeherder ( and the first task a Community Sheriff could do is to watch Treeherder and star failures.
We have described this task here
That would help us a lot!
When you are curious how a day in Sheriffing looks then maybe can help 🙂
Please let us know when you are interested in becoming a Sheriff! You can find us on in the #sheriffs channel!
27 Feb 20:35

The Travel Press is Reporting the 'Trump Slump,' a Devastating Drop in Tourism to the United States

mkalus shared this story .

Experts across the travel industry are warning that masses of tourists are being scared away from visiting the United States, and the loss of tourism jobs could be devastating.


Though they may differ as to the wisdom of the move, the travel press and most travel experts are of one mind: They are currently drawing attention to an unintended consequence of the Trump-led efforts to stop many Muslims from coming to the U.S., pointing to a sharp drop in foreign tourism to our nation that imperils jobs and touristic income. 

It’s known as the “Trump Slump.” And I know of no reputable travel publication to deny it.

Thus, the prestigious Travel Weekly magazine (as close to an “official” travel publication as they come) has set the decline in foreign tourism at 6.8%. And the fall-off is not limited to Muslim travelers, but also extends to all incoming foreign tourists. Apparently, an attack on one group of tourists is regarded as an assault on all.

As far as travel by distinct religious groups, flight passengers from the seven Muslim-majority nations named by Trump were down by 80% in the last week of January and first week of February, according to Forward Keys, a well-known firm of travel statisticians. On the web, flight searches for trips heading to the U.S. out of all international locations was recently down by 17%. 

A drop of that magnitude, if continued, would reduce the value of foreign travel within the U.S. by billions of dollars. And the number of jobs supported by foreign tourists and their expenditures in the United States—and thus lost—would easily exceed hundreds of thousands of workers in hotels, restaurants, transportation, stores, tour operations, travel agencies, and the like.  

While, earlier in the year, the Administration had boasted of saving 800 jobs in the Carrier Corporation, the drop-off in employment resulting from the travel ban would eclipse that figure. 

According to the Global Business Travel Association, in only a single week following announcement of the ban against certain foreign tourists, the activity of business travel declined by nearly $185 million. 

Other observers, including local tourist offices, have reached similar conclusions. In referring to New York City’s $60 billion tourist industry alone, the head of the city’s tourist effort complained that his agency’s effort to portray the United States as a welcoming destination to foreign citizens “was all in jeopardy.” Several other tourist officials have made like statements. 

As you can see, there is plenty of evidence for a negative conclusion.  

27 Feb 20:34

"If I read an article today telling me that processed grains are harmful, there will be three..."

If I read an article today telling me that processed grains are harmful, there will be three articles telling me tomorrow that they’re fine, and then another article telling me why all of the previous articles were wrong. By now, I don’t even care anymore. I don’t trust any of them. The abundance of contradicting information scrambles my brain and makes me just want to go play Mario Kart for an hour.

And not only do I check out mentally, but I become cynical and jaded as well. Fuck nutrition articles. What do they know anyway? They’re all probably just trying to make a quick buck.

This has become our response to seemingly everything.

The problem is when this level of distrust is turned on a people’s own political system, that political system will corrode itself.

Democracy relies on trust. Rule of law requires trust. If we lose our trust in our institutions, then those institutions will either crumble or turn cancerous.

But the internet lines up incentives in such a way that it makes it profitable to breed distrust.

So, we’re fucked.


Mark Mason, Everything is Fucked and I’m Pretty Sure It’s the Internet’s Fault

We’re defaulting to tribalism, as trust fails across the board.

27 Feb 20:34

mapsontheweb:The genetic map of Europe. No one wants to sleep...


The genetic map of Europe.

No one wants to sleep with the Finns.

27 Feb 20:34

Can Ottawa Do Innovation?


Alex Usher, Higher Education Strategy Associates, Feb 28, 2017

This post discusses a National Post article which asserts that Canada has failed at innovation for 100 years and questions whether Trudeau can fix that (presumably via financial transfers to industry, which was the previous government's strategy). I question the original assertion that Canada is not innovative. Alex Usher says Canada copies U.S. innovations, but in fact, the opposite is the case; American companies are more likely to copy Canadian innovations. The measures cited are mostly based on private sector spending (on R& D, on software). We've seen that giving the private sector more money won't actually increased their R& D spending. Innovation simply doesn't happen in branch plants.

In Canada most innovation is created by new companies and based on homegrown R& D from the ground up, and these are usually spin-offs from public sector investment like government and universities. Usher suggests that the locus of innovation should be the provinces, and not the federal government. But innovation is currently based both in the provinces (for universities) and the federal government (through military, through federal science, and through procurement). Of these, only federal science could be relocated to the provinces, but only four provinces have the resources to sustain them, which would actually create more, not less, centralization.

[Link] [Comment]
27 Feb 20:34

EdX To Retire Foundational 6.002x Platform


Dhawal Shah, Class Central, Feb 28, 2017

I guess the students who built it have all graduated. We used it for the Personal Learning MOOC. It had some nice features but it definitely did not promote interaction, creativity or discussion. The platform did support limited embedding, which enabled (as described in this article) an interactive circuit diagram tool and a textbook to be embedded.

[Link] [Comment]
27 Feb 20:34

What the P10 launch in Canada means for Huawei

by Igor Bonifacic

Later this year, Huawei will release the P10 and P10 Plus in Canada. For the first time in the Chinese company’s history, major Canadian carriers — in this case, Bell, Rogers and Videotron — will carry one of its flagship mobile devices.

As I find out in my interview with Huawei Canada’s Scott Bradley and Ron Cihocki, done ahead of the P10’s announcement at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, it’s a milestone the company has been working toward for several years.

“We worked very hard over the last year-and-a-half on a plan that would see us effectively to market,” says Bradley, vice-president of corporate affairs at Huawei Canada, over the phone. The company had two major obstacles to climb before it could bring one of its flagship devices to Canada, according to him and his colleague.

The first, and simpler of the two, was technological. In the past, the Kirin chipset family did not meet North American regulatory requirements for Enhanced 911 Phase 2 compliance. The CRTC mandates that all mobile phones sold by Canadian carriers must support the technology, which allows 9-1-1 operators to pinpoint the location of a caller. Huawei resolved this issue with the launch of the Honor 8 last June, which includes the company’s Kirin 950 chipset.

To that effect, Cihocki says the company has invested significant research and development resources over the past several years to support to make this year’s P10 launch possible.

Huawei P10 smartphone

The second challenge, which has been the more significant of the two, has been one of brand recognition. In contrast to the company’s U.S. division, the Canadian side of Huawei’s business has managed to craft a brand narrative that means something to consumers here.

“Canada is one of the few markets where we put more money in than we take out in revenue,” says Bradley, referring to the company’s various investments in 5G technology development across the country. And while neither he nor Cihocki believes Huawei’s investment in 5G will have a major effect on P10 sales, it is something positive the company has going for it into the Canadian launch of the P10.

More relevant is Huawei’s relationship with Canadian carriers. Compared to their counterparts in the U.S. and elsewhere, Canadian carriers and consumers have always been more receptive to the Chinese company. That fact was most apparent during the launch of the Nexus 6P.

All three national Canadian carriers, as well Videotron and Freedom Mobile, the artist formerly known as Wind Mobile, sold Google’s 2015 flagship smartphone directly through their retail channels. In contrast, none of the major American carriers sold the device directly to their subscribers. This fact, understandably, led to the Nexus 6P’s excellent sales performance in Canada.

Huawei P10 Dazzling Blue and Greenery

According to Bradley and Cihocki, of the 170 markets in which the Nexus 6P was available, Canada was its third best in terms of sales performance, and the fact that Nexus 6P did so well here that is a major reason why Huawei has decided to bring the P10 to Canada. It’s also the success against which the P10 will be measured.

In our interview with Huawei, the company wouldn’t share target sales numbers. However, both Bradley and Cihocki said they hope the P10 sells “better than the Nexus 6P.”

However, if the P10 underperforms, it won’t be the last Huawei device to come to Canada.

“We’re committed to the Canadian market,” say the two executives. “Obviously, if the P10 doesn’t do well we’ll stand back and look, but we’ve never been more excited and confident in the brand in Canada. We have a three-year plan, and we’re investing heavily in Canada.”

The post What the P10 launch in Canada means for Huawei appeared first on MobileSyrup.

27 Feb 20:33

Ein Produkt, zwei Qualitäten: Im Osten ist weniger Fleisch drin

mkalus shared this story from - Die Nachrichten der ARD.

Weniger Fleisch in der Wurst, weniger Kakao in der Schokolade, weniger Eiweiß in Milchprodukten: Lebensmittelkonzerne liefern ihre Markenprodukte in deutlich schlechterer Qualität nach Osteuropa als auf die heimischen Märkte. Das haben aktuelle Labortests ergeben.

Von Stefan Heinlein, ARD-Studio Prag

Ladislav ist wütend. Den Wocheneinkauf für die Familie hat er soeben hinter sich gebracht. Viele slowakische Erzeugnisse liegen in seinem Einkaufswagen, aber auch Markenprodukte internationaler Lebensmittelkonzerne. Seit er weiß, dass die Qualität dieser Waren deutlich schlechter ist als in westlichen Supermärkten, ist er bitter enttäuscht: "Die halten uns doch zum Narren und wollen nur an uns verdienen. Sind wir denn die Müllhalde Europas? Ich fühle mich wirklich wie ein EU-Bürger zweiter Klasse."

Seit wenigen Tagen haben es die slowakischen Bürger schwarz auf weiß. Das Landwirtschaftsministerium veröffentlichte die Ergebnisse einer umfangreichen Testreihe. 22 bekannte internationale Markenprodukte wurden mit den gleichnamigen Waren in der Slowakei verglichen. Weniger Fleisch in der Wurst - dafür mehr Fett und Flüssigkeit. In Milchprodukten weniger Eiweiß, in der Schokolade weniger Kakao stattdessen überall mehr Farb- , Süß- und Konservierungsstoffe.

Ministerpräsident wütend

Ein Skandal, so Ministerpräsident Robert Fico: "Es ist nicht zu tolerieren, dass internationale Konzerne in die osteuropäischen Länder Waren liefern, die qualitativ deutlich schlechter sind als die gleichnamigen Produkte, die in den westeuropäischen Regalen liegen", sagte er.

Robert Fico, Ministerpräsident der Slowakei bei der Ankunft zum letzten EU-Gipfel 2015 in Brüssel.

Robert Fico, Ministerpräsident der Slowakei, kritisiert die schlechte Qualität der importierten Waren.

Eine Haltung, die auch vom slowakischen Verbraucherschutzverband unterstützt wird. Längst sei die Lebensmittelqualität auch für die meisten Kunden in Ost- und Mitteleuropa wichtiger als der Preis. Die Konzerne treiben bewusst ein falsches Spiel, sagte Verbandschef Milos Lauko. "Die meisten Lebensmittel und Markenprodukte sind in den westlichen Ländern wegen der stärkeren Konkurrenz sogar billiger als bei uns. Das Argument, die Qualität werde wegen der niedrigeren Preise reduziert, ist also falsch."

Forderung nach EU-Sondergipfel

Der Markenskandal sorgt in der Slowakei für fette Schlagzeilen. Regierungschef Fico will deshalb jetzt gemeinsam mit seinen Amtskollegen aus Tschechien, Ungarn und Polen auf einem Sondergipfel den Druck auf Brüssel erhöhen. "Wir werden von der EU-Kommission verlangen, umgehend diese Praktiken zu verbieten. Unsere Bürger dürfen nicht länger erniedrigt werden", forderte Fico. Es sei seine Pflicht, die Interessen seiner Bürger kompromisslos zu verteidigen. "Es darf keine EU-Bürger erster und zweiter Klasse geben."

Der Verbraucherschutzverband gibt dem geplanten Vorstoß allerdings bereits vorab kaum Chancen auf Erfolg. In der Vergangenheit seien ähnliche Initiativen in Brüssel meist rasch versandet. Der einzig wirksame Weg für Veränderungen sei ein wachsender Druck der Kunden auf die Hersteller. Auf Dauer werde sich das Verbraucherbewusstsein in den jungen Marktwirtschaften in Ost- und Mitteleuropa ähnlich stark entwickeln wie heute bereits im Westen.

Ihre Meinung -

27 Feb 20:33

OPPO Brings 5X Precision Optical Zoom Technology To Smartphone Cameras

by Rajesh Pandey
OPPO today at MWC unveiled its latest mobile camera technology breakthrough: 5X Precision Optical Zoom. As the name suggests, OPPO has managed to develop a camera module that offers 5x optical zoom on a phone. Continue reading →
27 Feb 20:33

Eating Dirt

by Michael Thomsen

One day in 1978, chef Michel Bras went for a run and thought it would be a nice to re-create the countryside around him on a plate, as an edible miniature. He had lived all his life in Laguiole, a small village of around 1,200 in southern France, where cattle the color of golden retrievers graze in the hills between farmhouses and 15th century abbeys. The region is one of France’s least densely populated, with an average of three human inhabitants per square kilometer. The fields, however, are overrun with life, sustaining more than 600 kinds of edible plants and vegetables.

Bras, then 32, had grown up working in the kitchen of Lou Muzac, the small hotel restaurant his mother and father ran, serving simple but rich country food — sausages, beefsteaks, trout, potatoes mashed with the dank and nutty local cheese. Instead of escaping to the city to refine his skills, he found his place in the vastness of the landscape.

On his run that day, in the full bloom of summer, the grasses swaying in the warm breeze, tree limbs drooping with fruit, bursts of color in all direction, Bras felt something left unsaid by the roasted meats and fattened potatoes he’d learned to cook under his mother’s tutelage. “It was beautiful, it was rich, it was marvelous,” he told the New York Times in 2009. “I decided to try to translate the fields.”

The result was Gargouillou, a dish whimsically described as a salad, in which some 50 or 60 vegetables (depending on what’s in season) are presented on a plate as isolated morsels that present the illusion of a unified whole. Leaves and flowers are spread like moths pinned to a corkboard, while thinly sliced pumpkin, broccoli stem, fennel, and haricot pods crowd the plate’s white space like organ samples in a medical-school anatomy lesson. The colors are effusive, with an after-rain glow; the reds and greens and yellows are bound together with a parsimonious sprinkling of crumbled hazelnuts, or unhulled sesame seeds, or coarsely ground mustard seed, meant to stand in for soil, adding grit to the minerality of the plant matter.

Diners paid to enter an exquisitely desolate emotional context in which they could feel there was nothing left to eat but the landscape

The dish would become one of Bras’s early signatures, helping Lou Muzac win two Michelin stars and transforming the distant village restaurant into a gastronomical landmark. It’s also widely credited with having begun the modern interest in simulated dirt, a modern delicacy sprung from the desire to make the inedible into a high-art staple.

Bras’s invention contained a delicate hint of regression, a faux-violation of one of the simplest rules of the kitchen: cleaned ingredients on clean surfaces. Diners paid to feel the luxury of being beyond such small concessions, to enter an exquisitely desolate emotional context in which they could feel there was nothing left to eat but the landscape.

Cuisine is not just about flavors and preparations, but a way of balancing them on the edge of wastefulness. There is no way to live on the few hundred calories of a salad that takes a full day to prepare. But sustenance is not the point: The sensual pleasures depend on being seen as fleeting and unsustainable. Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, in his 19th century text on gastronomy, The Physiology of Taste, described this affective melancholy as central to the power of cuisine. The pleasure of the table, he argued, “mingles with all other pleasures, and remains at last to console us for their departure.” Food is both the joyful connective tissue through which one’s senses are unified, and the last remaining constant as those senses slowly degrade over the course of a lifetime. The gritty addition of faux-dirt to Bras’s landscape of vegetal convolutions were meant to evoke not delight but a distant ache of scarcity and hardship, fusing a bucolic melancholy with the meticulous fixations of a modern technician.

Soon a number of chefs were following Bras’s lead, making dirt a gastronomical trope. In the mid-2000s, one of the early signature dishes at René Redzepi’s Noma, in Copenhagen, was Radishes in Soil, a small flower pot filled with a brown-black pseudo-earth topped by three whole radishes treated with an herb emulsion. Another Noma dish, Vegetable Field With Malt Soil and Herbs, takes seasonal baby vegetables, chops them in half, and stands them upright in a layer of Redzepi’s black soil mixture spread across a flat stone. Before it closed, Paul Liebrandt’s Corton, in New York City, offered a vegetable appetizer of individually prepared leaves, herbs, and thinly sliced vegetables over an edible dirt made from black bread crumbs and powdered tomato. David Kinch of Manresa, in Los Gatos, California, makes his dirt from roasted chicory root and dried potatoes. Both Dominique Crenn, of Atelier Crenn, and Daniel Patterson, of Coi, have prepared edible-dirt-based dishes as contestants on Iron Chef America.

Chef Heston Blumenthal of England’s The Fat Duck created his own edible dirt for a BBC series, making not just a single dish but an enormous rectangular garden filled with two different kinds of soil: a topsoil of dried and chopped black olives mixed with grape nuts and pumpkin seeds, and a pasty gray under loam of bread, anchovies, and chopped herbs. Arranged throughout were new potatoes covered in a hard shell of keratin, a compound used to coat pills, which gave them the color and hard texture of small stones. The dish was garnished with edible insects: fried crickets and worms filled with a savory tomato puree.

The final, and perhaps inevitable, escalation emerged in Japan, where pretending to eat dirt gave way to literally doing it. Toshio Tanabe’s Tokyo restaurant Ne Quittez Pas serves a six-course tasting menu with actual dirt in every dish. There’s an amuse bouche of soil and potato starch soup, a risotto flavored with soil, a truffle-stuffed potato ball coated with a thin layer of dirt, and a sweet dirt sorbet for dessert. Tanabe first became acquainted with the taste after deciding to cook with unwashed vegetables and decided to try dirt as a main ingredient in 2005, when he was appearing on a Japanese cooking show and was eager to startle his in-studio diners. Tanabe then developed his own methods for preparing dirt, first by baking it to kill bacteria, than boiling it for 30 minutes to create a broth for use in sauces and jellies. The dirt soup is strained through a cheesecloth to filter out sand and small bits of stone or pebble.

If eating dirt seems unthinkable, it is because of how easy it is to imagine

“It’s very hard to put into words,” Tanabe said of the flavor of dirt, in an interview with Modern Farmer in 2013. “Many people immediately use the word earthy to describe it, but that’s because of their image of soil.”

The absence of language sufficient to accurately describe dirt as a food is part of what drew Tanabe to it. In his way, Tanabe was inverting the logic of nourishment, treating it not as a gesture of fortifying a self in its independence and apparent autonomy but as a means of re-entangling a body with the world. “Man didn’t create the sea or the soil,” he later told the Daily Mail. “They’re simply all part of nature, and in a sense they are alive in their own right. What I’m trying to do is reflect that feeling in food.”

If eating dirt seems unthinkable, it is because of how easy it is to imagine. The practice can be found throughout human history, a reminder of how unstable our idea of food has always been. Food is a taken-for-granted concept that changes radically depending on time, place, and population.

During a year spent in Venezuela in 1799, German naturalist Alexander von Humboldt observed some locals who ate large quantities of dirt and stockpiled dried clay balls as a food source. During the same period in the American South, many slaves ate clay, a practice believed to have been brought over from Africa and which many plantation owners suspected made their slaves indolent. The practice of clay eating has continued, though somewhat furtively, with small bags of kaolin, a white clay that was once the active ingredient in the anti-diarrhea medication Kaopectate and is still sold in some convenience stores and gas stations. On the Tanzanian island of Pemba, pregnant women eat an average of 25 grams of dirt a day, while expectant mothers in Botswana prize dirt from termite mounds. And in Kyrgyzstan, a relatively advanced spectrum of flavor for clays has emerged, separating the desirable (oily, fatty) from the undesirable (salty, sour).

Explanations abound for this enduring phenomenon. On the one hand, it can be seen as a healthy natural instinct to seek out nutritive matter in environments or circumstances where food is scarce. Pregnant women are drawn to dirt, it’s hypothesized, because it can contain calcium, magnesium, zinc, copper, or iron. In other areas, it’s a prudent kind of culinary self-defense, as with Andes Indians who have learned to turn the otherwise toxic Andes potato into a food source by dipping it in mud, blocking the toxins from being absorbed in the digestive tract. In Haiti, the practice of making sun-baked cookies from a mixture of dirt, water, salt, and (if available) butter is used to stave off hunger. In Georgia, some locals used kaolin clay as a hangover cure.

And then there are those who eat dirt for the simple pleasure of its taste and texture. Ruth Anne T. Joiner of Georgia told ABC News that good dirt “has a fresh, natural-feeling taste, like the rain or something.” When ideal, its texture is smooth, “like a piece of candy,” which can create a powerful craving. An anonymous woman, cited in Gerald N. Callahan’s Lousy Sex: Creating Self in an Infectious World, reported eating between 15 and 16 pounds of dirt a week, something she claimed to do primarily “for the great taste and the way it melts in my mouth. Dare I say that it’s even better than sex (and believe me I have a great sex life).” In a 2012 episode of My Strange Addiction, a compulsive dirt eater said, “I like the feeling of it. It’s cold and wet, it is like finding a buried treasure to me … It just tastes enriching and fulfilling.”

Beginning in the 19th century, these sorts of responses had already been safely shuttled outside the limits of normal human behavior and grouped under the pathological umbrella of pica, an eating disorder broadly defined as the consumption of “nonnutritive foods.” In 2000, a pica workshop organized by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, a public health agency overseen by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, further refined the diagnostic criteria for soil pica to anything over 500 milligrams of dirt or clay in a day, the equivalent of a tenth of a teaspoon. Further supporting the idea of dirt-eating as dysfunction, some researchers and physicians warn that dirt can carry infectious bacteria and spores, cause ulcers or tissue ruptures in the digestive tract because of its abrasive quality, or block the absorption of nutrients and potentially lead to anemia, not to mention grind down one’s teeth and cause potential cracks.

Yet the way dirt eating addresses our vulnerabilities may be what gives the practice its power. Nearly half of children between 18 months and 36 months attempt to ingest non-food, and more or less every child uses their mouth as a primary organ for palpating the world, gnawing and biting to absorb textural and dimensional information before gaining coordinated control of hands and fingers. Immunologist Mary Ruebush has argued a similar process of curiosity and experimentation is at work on the microscopic level as well. In her book Why Dirt Is Good, Ruebush argues, “What a child is doing when he puts things in his mouth is allowing his immune response to explore his environment. Not only does this allow for ‘practice’ of immune responses, which will be necessary for protection, but it also plays a critical role in teaching the immature immune response what is best ignored.”

Along the spectrum of good taste and the lack of it, dirt presents the uncanny illusion of common ground in the middle, while offering something emotionally raw to the well-fed to help them pass the time

In a 2003 study of dirt eating published in the CDC’s Emerging Infectious Diseases journal, Gerald N. Callahan described the habit of part of the long co-dependency between human life and bacteria, a kind of evolutionary “waltz”: “Bacteria outnumber, outweigh, out-travel, and outevolve us. That bacteria cause so many human diseases is not astounding. It is astounding that so few bacteria cause human disease … Billions of years of confrontation rather than luck were likely our benefactor. Through those confrontations and those eons, nearly all of us learned to coexist peacefully. Neither humans nor microorganisms benefit from fully destroying the other.”

In transforming cooking from a staple to an art, cuisine has exploited the microbial, claimed its positive consequences as proof of the virtues of the fine dining classes. At the same time, hunger itself has been pathologized, studied as a medical mystery that threatens to undermine one’s mental fitness and the moral clarity that depends on it. An experiment from the University of Minnesota in 1950 sought to investigate the long-term effects of malnutrition by reducing by half the caloric intake of 36 subjects, all men, for six months. Every participant developed eating disorders after completing the experiment; one fell into a deep depression after having his diet restored to pre-experiment levels and cut off three of his fingers.

Along the spectrum of good taste and the lack of it, dirt presents the uncanny illusion of common ground in the middle, providing the hungry a compulsive and sensual experience while offering something emotionally raw to the well-fed to help them pass the time. The evolutionary arc of gastronomy has begun to trace a path away from the chimerical simulations of new flavor in unknown syntheses, and toward becoming a simulation of food, something that the predilection for eating dirt proves isn’t limited by class or culture. We all take pleasure in fakes and mimicries, both for how they act on our bodies and for how our bodies rise to fill in the gaps left between the simulation and the thing itself. The unconscious joy of fraudulence is in its dependence on us as participants; accepting the deceptive confusion is the price we pay to maintain the illusion that our tastes, feelings, or reactions are somehow central.

As the notion of cuisine developed, food was seen more as a medium to connect our bodies to the landscapes they inhabited, something that had meaning only so long as it could point toward something outside itself. The oenophile’s fixation on terroir — a superstitious practice of tracing the character and quality of soil a grape has been grown in through to the wine made from it — companies like Taste of Place have organized soil tastings. Participants are guided through a tasting menu of fresh vegetables paired with aromatic tinctures made from the soil each particular vegetable was grown in. This is supposed to enhance one’s attentiveness not just to flavor profiles but to biological dependences not immediately obvious to the palate. One consumes the illusion of ecological symbiosis, as if humans had wriggled our way out of our own ecosystems at some point in the recent past, as if the idea of living in pursuit of conceptual clarity had liberated us from having to bother with the mulch of inconclusive intermediaries.

Behind Bras’s visionary complications of simple country food was an instinct for trash, both as an expression of humble country-folk austerity (“We ate in order to not starve, so my approach toward the product is mostly to avoid waste,” he has said) and as a high-wire act of gastronomic alchemy. Asked in 2011 what his favorite foods are, Bras listed a few ingredients often viewed as nonfood: “I love the broccoli stem that most people throw away,” he said, and he included the seeds from an apple core, for their phenomenal “palette of expression” and because “that’s the first thing you find in the garbage.”

There is more than metaphysics in this. Beneath all forms of culinary invention and scrounging through the filth beneath our feet is another superstition about real hunger — not the irritable inconvenience that sours moods in the afternoon or even the gathering weakness that turns our brains into thickening concrete, but something bad and beastly. Following Brillat-Savarin’s hint, the gastronomic rediscovery of dirt is a prelapsarian shudder of the diner’s imagination, an acknowledgement that the pursuit of authenticity always points toward a desire for ego-loss. In dirt and trash, the burdensome permanence of identity — class, career, sex, opinion — can be imagined as insubstantial, composed of constituent substances that can be decomposed back into nothing other than matter.

In the rediscovery of soil itself, culinary art has begun to point back to the earth not as “earthy” flavor or even a simulation of nourishment in the affective warmth of beurre blancs and beer-fattened loins, but for its symbolic link to the soil’s microbial richness. Nutritional fantasies of living well or long by virtue of eating and optimally absorbing whatever ingredients are on trend — fantasies of separating from and surpassing one’s environment — have been redirected toward eating imitations of a sense of dependency.

We begin to consume ourselves, not as continuously improving, perfectible beings but as constituents in a larger ecosystem and hosts of an ultimately unknowable inner ecosystem that we access only indirectly, as a matter of faith. Trading a calibrated diet of mixed vitamins and portion-controlled meals for a mouthful of dirt isn’t a deviation from the modern injunction to master one’s body but a desire to feel from the inside out how flexible and dynamic its systems can be, something that was gradually lost in the rush toward optimization. When we take nootropic supplements or gorge on broccoli sprouts and salted garlic in the belief that they can ward away the treasonous specters of cancer or heart disease, it’s not just because we’ve been told it will help but because waiting for the uncertain fruits of self-improvement to appear has the flavor of helplessness, which becomes a delicacy in its own right.

Coded into gastronomical technologies and the magical transformations that evolution has performed on the human digestive tract is an inherent danger: a subtle but precarious detachment from the matter that surrounds us. Beneath the new experiments to produce edible matter from tree bark or processed human excrement is a narrowing dread that these aren’t just utopian gambits. Haute cuisine once valued detached identities and individualism over the shared affective response to simple, straightforward ingredients. Now it wants to cultivate the reaction we have to those direct flavors not in shared social experience but in the inaccessible reaches of our biome: a microscopic response and adaptation, a body reminding its mind that it is still alive, as the landscape inside dreams of swallowing the landscape without.

27 Feb 20:33

New Nokia Phones

by Rui Carmo

I’m so glad Nokia is back in the game, and doing vanilla Android devices with what looks like pretty good build quality – even the new 3310 looks nice.

27 Feb 20:33

Demystifying Serverless

by Rui Carmo

I don’t write that often on LinkedIn, but it seems like a more long-lasting medium than Medium itself (ha!) for current industry topics, and the authoring experience is decent enough.

Will probably keep doing it for short overviews and opinion pieces.

27 Feb 20:32

Quick thoughts on MWC from afar

by Dean Bubley
I'm not in Barcelona this week.

I stopped going to MWC a few years ago, when the hassle and costs involved started outweighing the benefits. One year I had 400 requests for meetings, and it took me a solid 2 weeks of email just to sort my diary. No more - I prefer smaller events, which have the added benefit of fewer "messages" being hammered into my skull by stressed marketing execs and their PR/AR minders.

But I am watching from afar, scanning Twitter and a few webcasts for nuggets of insight, from the comfort of my sofa, bed or local artisan coffee place.

A couple of quick observations so far:
  • The most intriguing announcement is the Cisco/Ericsson blending of VoLTE and Cisco's Spark collaboration and messaging app (link). Although the PR is carrier-focused and around selling UCaaS, I suspect the real story is yet to come. Both companies also have close relationships with Apple and IBM. And I suspect that a future enterprise-centric solution could combine private (or virtual-private) mobile networks, optimised iPhone/iPad experience, maybe eSIM, Siri, Watson integration and more. Let's see if there's any different messaging, or more detail, at Enterprise Connect next month, the big UC/UCaaS shindig in Orlando. I'll be there, unlike MWC, as it gets the signal/noise ratio right. [Sidenote: if anyone at Ericsson or Cisco is now thinking "hmm, sounds interesting.... why haven't we thought of that?" then get in touch with me!]
  • Nokia's reinvention continues. On its analyst/press webcast yesterday, it made a big deal about verticals and enterprise-related activities too. Utilities, transport, public sector and "webscale" companies were namechecked, including (again) private cellular either standalone or in partnership with classical MNOs. It also highlighted optical and IP networks (which came with the ALU acquisition) which was an interesting choice for a mobile event. Props to CEO Rajeev Suri for using "Webscale" instead of the pejorative "OTT": much more mature and inclusive language. 
  • There's an awful of of 5G-washing going on, unsurprisingly, with plenty of references to its supposedly world-changing abilities. Governments and policymakers have all swallowed the 5G spin, without realising it's mostly just a pitch for more spectrum. Yet the GSMA head Mats Granryd talked in his keynote about 1.1 billion users in 2025. Given half of those (or more) are likely to be smartphones, that suggests that maybe 500m, at most, will be 5G IoT devices. Which, depending on your preferred overhyped forecast number, implies about 1-4% of the total IoT universe in 2025 - hardly the most indispensable enabler of the overall automated society of the future, nor an indicator that a spectrum monoculture policy is desirable. Doesn't suggest billions in new value from network-slicing capabilities, either. In a nutshell, 5G is important, but it's not the gamechanger many assert. Use the hashtag #5Gwash to call people out on it.
  • The most-discussed new handset is HMD Global's new take on the classic Nokia 3310. As well as its retro looks, it sports a month-long battery, the Snake game, and a whole two (count 'em!) generations of cellular technology. That's right, it's a good-ole 2G GSM, calls+SMS device. Plus, it comes in a dual-SIM version. That's proper plastic SIMs, naturally, not this newfangled eSIM stuff. Sounds like a great backup device for 2-factor authentication when your main phone breaks or gets stolen.  
  • GSMA published an eBook on "Messaging as a Platform" (link), tying its MaaP vision to RCS. There's a lot of generic stuff about chatbots, AI and "conversational commerce" in there, without explaining how it relates to a useless messaging service which isn't even a successful product, nor has any form of unifed API. Unless, as I suspect, it's aimed at making MNOs the distribution channel for Google's chat interface, Assistant and voice-recognition tools. Maybe there's a Google API / PaaS play to look forward to?  As I wrote last week, operators should ignore RCS and So-Called Advanced Messaging (yes, I like the acronym) and do more-relevant things instead. The same applies to contact-centre and multi-channel vendors: there are plenty of more-urgent things to look at. The GSMA's continued use of a Twitter SnapChat avatar points to the fact that platform status is earned not just imposed.
  • The "official" announcement that Deutsche Telekom's immmr VoIP/messaging spin-off is using GenBand's Kandy cPaaS is interesting (link), although it was talked about informally last year at TADSummit (link). Looks like it's Internet/WebRTC-based and very much a good example of "post-IMS" mobile communications, with iOS and Android apps as well as browser access. No RCS nonsense visible, although I can imagine that DT's network-fundamentalist wing might have something to say about in future.
More MWC de-spinning if I get a chance over the next couple of days.
27 Feb 20:32

Great for Focused Self-Editing: Ulysses’ Live Preview

by Rebekka
mkalus shared this story from Ulysses Blog.

Before actually publishing a text as ebook or on your own blog, or mailing it around as PDF or DOCX file, you will want to properly proofread it. Time for a focused self-editing session with Ulysses’ live preview!

You can toggle preview via the eye icon in Ulysses’ Quick Export panel, or, even faster, using the shortcut ⌘⇧P (command-shift-P).

The preview will automatically display the last chosen format for export. You can switch to another exporter or change the export settings in the center top of the preview window.

Ulysses’ preview is a live preview, i.e. refreshes automatically with every change you make. Try displaying editor window and preview window next to each other in full screen Split View — that way, you can observe directly how your changes affect the outcome.

You can of course adapt the size of the preview with the familiar shortcuts ⌘+ and ⌘-, or via the menu item “View” › “Zoom”.

If you’re happy with what you see, you can find all available export actions for the chosen format (save, open in other applications, share) on the right of the preview toolbar. Enjoy focused proofreading!

27 Feb 20:32

More people crossing the U.S. border into Canada illegally - BC

mkalus shared this story from Comments on: More people crossing the U.S. border into Canada illegally.

It was a busy weekend of people trying to cross the U.S. and Canada border illegally.

On Saturday morning Mounties detained two Turkish nationals near the Peace Arch border crossing in South Surrey.

On Sunday a family of four was spotted being taken into custody close to the same area. Residents near the border say they’ve noticed an increase in illegal crossings in the past two months.

“They’re escaping what I guess they feel is not safe down there so they’re coming up here for refuge,” said border resident Troy Tompkins.

Another resident said they now see people crossing the border illegally every day.

“I feel sorry for them,” said resident Wendy Christy. “I don’t know what they can do other than try what they’re doing.”

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

27 Feb 20:31

New public transit routes will connect Vancouver to Squamish, Whistler, Pemberton

mkalus shared this story from Comments on: New public transit routes will connect Vancouver to Squamish, Whistler, Pemberton.

You could soon be taking a public transit bus from Metro Vancouver to Squamish, Whistler and Pemberton.

BC Transit is looking at the possibility of connecting Vancouver and the Sea-to-Sky corridor with public transit service. The areas are currently only connected by private bus companies and seasonal float plane routes.

The inter-regional transit network is part of BC Transit’s Sea-to-Sky Transit Future Plan project which also hopes to improve transportation within the Squamish, Whistler and Pemberton communities. Routes are currently only available between Whistler and Pemberton.

The plan makes clear that introducing weekday service between Metro Vancouver and Squamish is a high priority, considering the high traffic volume between the two regions and the number of Squamish residents who commute into the city for work each day. Its goal is to have this completed by 2020.

The initial service would include weekday peak hour trips between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. and 6 p.m.

That service, along with the introduction of mid-day or evening transit between Pemberton and Whistler and further study into the region’s transit needs, is expected to cost roughly $800,000.

Just the service between Metro Vancouver and Squamish is estimated to bring in $121,200 in annual revenue with three buses dedicated to the route serving 40,400 passengers a year. It could cost $626,600, shared between the regions and BC Transit.

The proposal plans to increase weekday service and add weekend service between Squamish and Metro Vancouver by 2025. It will also begin routes between Squamish and Whistler (which previously operated between 2005 and 2011), meaning passengers can travel between Vancouver, Squamish, Whistler and Pemberton entirely on transit.

BC Transit also proposes that by 2025:

  • Weekday service will add additional trips between 9 a.m and 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. and 10 p.m.
  • Weekend service is introduced with four round trips per day, operating every two hours

sea-to-sky transit future plan

While there are no estimates on how long the bus route would take to travel between the communities, the typical drive from downtown Vancouver to Squamish is roughly one hour. It takes about another 45 minutes to get to Whistler and just over two hours to get to Pemberton. There is no indication how much a ride between any of the communities would cost but the plans suggest a zone-based system similar to TransLink’s Metro Vancouver structure.

“It’s time for action. The province is committed to the Sea-to-Sky as the next logical step for regional transit in the province… but the governance structure and funding formula is going to be a challenge to reach an agreement on,” Jordan Sturdy, MLA for West Vancouver-Sea-to-Sky, said about the project.

The Sea-to-Sky region is home to nearly 40,000 people and its population has increased 86 per cent in the last 25 years. Census data from 2016 shows the population of Squamish increased over 13 per cent between 2011 and 2016, while Whistler grew by over 20 per cent and Pemberton grew by almost 6 per cent. The whole region expected to continue growing by 2.2 to 2.6 per cent each year until 2031, partly due to staggering home prices in Metro Vancouver that are pushing more people farther away from the city.

Elements like growing tourism and more jobs in the region means that thousands of people visit the Sea-to-Sky corridor every day. Seasonal swells in Whistler’s population can grow to up to 45,000 people on a holiday weekend, for instance, and the resort town records 2.7 million tourists each year.

New tourist attractions like the Sea-to-Sky Gondola in Squamish – which just counted its one millionth visitor – are also helping to push the region onto the map. In 2015, the New York Times named Squamish as one of the 52 places to go in 2015 because of the city’s access to one of the West Coast’s best wilderness playgrounds.

BC Transit will be hosting six public consultations in early March on the proposed Sea-to-Sky transit changes. The consultations will include conversations about where bus stops should be located, routing, schedules and fares.

A previous survey of over 2,700 people, mostly from Squamish and Whistler, found 43 per cent of respondents preferred Vancouver’s Waterfront Station as the most desirable pick-up and drop-off location in Metro Vancouver. Garibaldi Village and downtown Squamish were the most preferred in Squamish. The Village was the top pick in Whistler and downtown Pemberton was the most preferred stop in the Pemberton area.

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

27 Feb 20:31

CN Rail, District of West Vancouver, and One Walkway/Bikeway

by Sandy James Planner


Its one of those stories that just won’t go away-why do the railways in major cities behave in such an unfriendly  manner? As reported in Business in Vancouver  Jane Seyd in the Northshore News has written about CN Rail undertaking a lawsuit  asking for millions of dollars a year in rent to CN Rail from the District of West Vancouver..

“On Feb. 17, CN Acquisition, an arm of the railway company, filed a lawsuit in B.C. Supreme Court against the municipality, stating that the rail company had cancelled the district’s lease. The suit asks for an injunction preventing the District of West Vancouver from trespassing on the land.The lawsuit also seeks damages for the district’s use of the land and for overdue rental payments.

The municipality has fired back with an application filed with the Canadian Transportation Agency, a quasi-judicial federal agency that oversees railway operations. In that, the district has asked for an order allowing the municipality continued use of the Seawalk over the CN right-of-way, “which has been used by the residents of West Vancouver for the past 50 years” and which “forms an integral part of the system of pedestrian walkways in place in West Vancouver.”

So it seems that there has been no lease or rental payments for two decades and that CN had wanted the District to pony up for a payment for that recreational walking corridor. It also seemed appropriate to CN Rail for the District of West Vancouver with a population of 42,000 to pay an annual rent of 3.7 million dollars. Since the offer from the District was $12,500 you could say the two parties are far apart in the negotiating.

It appears that since 1913 West Vancouver allowed rail corridors on their land as long as there were public crossings. The question is whether the very popular Seawalk, which was also in the lands acquired by CN Rail when they took over BC Rail in 2004 is a “crossing” or -well, something they can get some good revenue from.


27 Feb 20:31

Walking with complexity frameworks

by Chris Corrigan

Last weekend I took a ramble across Bowen Island, where I live, with a friend and colleague, Annemarie Travers.  Annemarie and I have been teaching the Leadership 2020 program for a number of years now and we both love walking: she on the long pilgrimages of the Camino and Shikoku and me in the mountains of southern British Columbia.  We are also both interested in managing in complexity.

Saturday we set out to find a trail I had partially walked before – the Mid Island Trail on Bowen Island. I knew of parts of this trail but I didn’t where the trail head was on it’s east end, hidden as it is off a maze of private roads and driveways. Working on  a tip from another friend, we set out to find it, easily located it and made our way on the trail that comes and goes between being a broad, gravel lined multiuse trail, and sometimes a mere whisper of a path through salal and ferns. It mostly follows old logging road beds, as do many trails on Bowen, now thick within second growth forest. It is irregularly marked, and it travels through country that is criss-crossed with other trails, private land, and deer paths.  It is easy to get lost.

Over the course of the morning as we rambled, we were acutely aware of moving between two states described in the Cynefin framework. At times our walking and trail finding was Complicated (and Obvious) and otehr times it was Complex. thankfully we never experienced Chaos on the trail.  I have experienced chaos while hiking and it isn’t pretty, involving as it does helicopters, first responders and extended stays in hospital.

As we walked we reflected from time to time on these strategies and here’s what we observed.


  • trail is obviously the mid island trail. Our blue dot lines up with it on Google Maps. Sometimes signs and markers on the trail confirm this.
  • our minds were not on walking but rather conversation, or looking for the occaisional view, or watching ravens and eagles.
  • while this is simple walking to do, it can lead quickly to chaos with a misstep or a branch flung into the face of the person behind you. Chaos is never far away if you become completely complacent.


  • Trail finding is a technical exercise, helped by expertise. Finding the trail head for example was helped by the knowledge shared by a friend about what landmark to look for.
  • There were times when I knew we were not on the trail, even though we were on SOME kind of trail because I had travelled sections of the trail before.
  • Maps were insanely useful, as were other trail guides. Technical expertise including precise directions and times between points is very helpful.
  • Tracking expertise helps to distinguish between a deer path and a walking trail.  When the trails grows faint or takes an unexpected turn, well honed instinct and physical evidence (broken branches, prints, bike tracks or even erosion patterns) help make a good decision.
  • Awareness is on the path, and walking is intentional, lapsing occasionally into conversation about other things when trail walking becomes an obvious activity.


  • Is this the trail? Where are we? Sometimes we took a wrong turn and the map doesn’t help. There is no cell phone coverage in some parts of the island and we have to bushwack without digital technology to help us.
  • Probe, sense, respond. Literally. Test out hypotheses that seem coherent with our overall direction of travel (“The trail should be up there; I think it skirts the lake over there; This seems like an old logging road”) Take a guess on where the trail should be and head in that direction. Poke the ground with your poles to be sure it’s safe. Keep looking around and discerning what’s working.
  • Attractors and boundaries are critical here. Don’t go for more than a couple of minutes without stopping to check the hypothesis.
  • You know it’s a well known trail that you are looking for. If it becomes a dangerous slog along a cliff face, you are probably not on it. Such boundary conditions help you to be safe to fail. Ignoring these boundary conditions with hubris can get you killed in the mountains, and have gotten novice hikers even on our small island into rescue situations.
  • Diverse perspective help here as do people’s different tolerances for failure. Trail finding is as much about conversation between each other as it is about the context. We are sensemaking about known unknowns, given the basic attractors and boundaries of looking for a well-defined, well-used trail that runs roughly SE-NW, travels at a relatively low contour and that checks in on some known points. Those boundary conditions helps us manage in places where the current trail is gone.


  • We didn’t experience chaos, but if we had, we would have put ourselves in the hands of first responders and let them impose much more rigid boundary conditions to ensure our safety. In chaos, the activity changes from walking to safety, first aid or rescue. New conditions come into play. This is never a condition that you want to experience in any kind of wilderness, even in the apparently genteel and close environs of Bowen Island, where a twisted ankle or knee in the deep bush can make for a very technical rescue. Whenever I go out for a ramble, even on my small home island, I take an iPhone battery charger, a very basic first aid and survival kit (matches, flashlight, garbage bags), and at least one layer of clothes more than I need.

You might think that a hiking with a complexity geek would ruin a walk in the woods, but I invite you to draw correlations between your own pastimes and the organizational or community challenges you face. I firmly believe that each of us is a lot more able to deal with complexity than we might think, and drawing on experiences from other parts of life, using a framework like Cynefin to make sense and port those experiences to other contexts can be a very useful reflective exercise.

27 Feb 20:31

The Remarkable Bass Reeves

by TodayIFoundOut
mkalus shared this story from TodayIFoundOut's YouTube Videos.

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While historians posit that the Wild West was nowhere near as wild as Hollywood would have you believe, it was a place where certain lawmen forged reputations as legendary heroes in their pursuit of outlaws. (Although in some cases, such as Wyatt Earp, the lawmen were little better than some of the criminals, see: Wyatt Earp – The Great American… Villain?) As for “The Indomitable Marshal” Bass Reeves, he was a former slave turned Deputy Marshal who captured some 3000 outlaws in his long and storied career.

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27 Feb 20:31

BitFury's Smallest-First Mining Is Bad For Bitcoin

by Emin Gün Sirer
Crazy hunter

He shot a lot of cucumbers when most normal people shoot one deer.

Bitcoin's mempool has reached unprecedented levels recently. We had about $1B stuck in transactions waiting to be confirmed, and the number of waiting transactions broke an all time record at 70,000. Amidst all this, we had BitFury come in and mine a number of blocks using a non-standard "smallest transactions first" strategy. I want to quickly explain why this is actually bad for Bitcoin.

If all the miners did this, it would lead to lower throughput overall, a less predictable network and a net initial increase in fees followed by everyone paying only the lowest possible fee, destroying the fee market and the ability to tell apart useful transactions from spam.

Quixotically, BitFury got praise for what they did, which either shows that most people are innumerate or that they can't look ahead -- actions have no consequences, they live in the here and now, like goldfish, with nary a care. That's why they get excited when they hear "it's time for game theory." Well, it's pretty much never time for game theory. But it is time to think critically about the effect of a miner picking transactions in a different order.

This kind of deviation creates terrible incentives, the chief among which is (1) to break large transactions up into small pieces, and (2) to attach the most minimal fee or no fee at all. In turn, this makes the inputs into the system, the transactions, take up precious additional space and actually increases the overall demand for blockspace.

And breaking up the correspondance between fees/byte versus confirmation time wreaks havoc on wallets' ability to predict wait times, and thus their ability to attach meaningful fees. It completely kills the "fee market" that we all heard so much about.

There have been only two arguments in favor of mining smallest transactions first:

  • "We have a transaction backlog. There are lots of transactions. Let's clear out as many of the transactions as possible."
  • "The same strategy is proven and working even in the queue at the Apple Store. They ask you and if you have a simple question, they will give you priority, decreasing the queue length." This quote was provided to me by Alex Petrov of BitFury over Twitter DM.

Let's see why these two arguments fall apart under scrutiny. I didn't have much time to write this blog post, so its coverage will jump between these two arguments chaotically, which is quite fitting given the topic.

Smallest First vs. Most Needy First

The shift in BitFury's behavior comes down to a switch from "largest fees per byte first" strategy to "smallest first".

This switch makes sense only if what you care about are superficial metrics, and then, only if you have a tiny time horizon and are not concerned with the big picture.

Scheduling Theory and Bitcoin

The core of the second argument is based on a simple result from scheduling theory, which says that shortest-job-first is the optimal strategy if what you care about is to minimize completion time, that is, time from submission of a transaction to its appearance in a block.

The reasoning for this is simple: assume there are transactions A, B and C. Suppose A is 1MB large while B and C are 500KB each. Mining A first, then B and C together yields a collective wait time of 1 (for A) + 2 (for B) + 2 (for C) = 5 block-times for 3 users, or 5/3 blocks per transaction submitter. Mining B and C first, followed by A, yields a collective wait time of 1 (for B) + 1 (for C) + 2 (for A) = 4 block-times for 3 users, or 4/3. The latter is clearly shorter than the former. If we apply this logic iteratively, we'll find that it makes the most sense for the miners to prioritize small transactions first, and mine transactions in sorted order, from smallest to largest.

So Alex's logic seems, superficially, to make sense: if we are given a fixed set of transactions in a batch at the beginning of time, if the users submitting them are honest and not trying to game the system, and our goal is solely to minimize user wait time in a world where every transaction has a user waiting for it to clear and all users are equally important, then picking the small transactions first is a good strategy. That's why you see people at well-run airports, banks, and customs lines pull the people who need little time to service out of the line, and serve first. Anyone with a valid passport and simple itinerary knows the pain of getting stuck behind that guy who is missing paperwork, was born on the Marshall Islands just as it was changing hands, whose parents are Liberland natives -- he is going to take a while, and more people would feel better if he stood aside and let the line clear up. This is also why, at the Apple Store, they ask you if your transaction is short and easy, and expedite you if it is: they don't want you to get stuck behind the problem person who has a complicated transaction involving 2 returns, 3 gift cards under slightly different names, and the involvement of an Apple Genius. Shortest-Job-First is a provably optimal strategy, for serving a static batch of inflexible, unchanging requests.

But the logic fails because the premise is not correct. Smallest-first is a terrible, short-sighted strategy when applied to Bitcoin.

Bitcoin transactions are flexible. A large transaction can easily be turned into multiple small transactions, that, together, take up more space than the original transaction. Mining small transactions first provides an incentive to wallets to break up their transactions into such smaller pieces. But many small transactions that accomplish the same task as a single big transaction actually consume more space than the single big transaction. So, in aggregate, they reduce the system's economic throughput. They are a wasteful way to use our precious block space.

Bitcoin transactions are also not equally important. The main metric we have for telling apart the important transactions from worthless spam is the fee they carry: important transactions carry more in fees. Processing the transactions that are unimportant first will reduce the wait time for transactions whose users do not mind waiting, while making the people with time-limited transactions suffer longer. It's a strategy purely for optics, aiming to lower numbers of waiting transactions, not maximize the actual good that the system is doing or serve the people who have signaled their need for service.

Finally, Bitcoin users want predictability. Those people in favor of a fee market especially require predictability: if the market is being cleared in a haphazard, random order, then the wallets will have no feedback on whether their fees are high, low, or just right. Chaos isn't a good strategy when you want to develop a feedback loop.

Fundamental Problem

Overall, smallest first is a fundamentally bad idea because it breaks the connection with the fee paid and the resources consumed. Recall that the block space is the limited resource here, and the fees paid are our way of gating that access, of measuring who needs it most. Hence, the default metric to sort transactions by is satoshis per byte -- this ensures that the transactions that do the most economic good get prioritized first.

Switching to small-transactions-first enables BitFury to post this tweet and collect kudos from the community for entirely the wrong reasons.

First, the system should not be processing low importance transactions over more important ones. Maximizing economic good requires going after the most economically useful transactions first, and our only proxy for "economically most useful" is to sort by largest-fees-per-byte-first.

Second, one miner sweeping up the smallest, lower-fee transactions doesn't really do any good for the system. Someone still has to mine the larger transactions. Those outstanding large transactions still need to be cleared. A temporary, short term increase in the transaction rate for one miner doesn't achieve anything in the longer term. It's like a teenager cleaning up her desk and sorting her socks, really quickly -- it's a nice but ultimately pointless gesture, her tasks aren't done until the entire room is cleaned up, and the sum total of tasks still takes the same amount of time. She left the hard work to others.

Third, this policy provides an incentive to wallets to break up their transactions, to issue many smaller transactions in lieu of a single large one. That would lead to more wasted space overall, and a net decrease in throughput. A miner that did this in a predictable fashion would be damaging to the network.

Fourth, prioritizing small transactions can mislead or confuse the fee estimators built into wallets. I don't have the time to examine the various fee estimators today, but I believe the default fee estimator has built into it the assumption that miners will maximize their profits and perform largest-fees-per-byte-first, and uses the fee distribution in the mempool to pick its own fees. In this case, seeing high fee transactions sit around and not get mined will cause the users to actually bid even higher fees, actually leading to an added expense for users until the wallets adapt. Now, this is not the only way to estimate the fees (in fact, it is notoriously difficult to estimate the fees) . There may be fee estimators out there that instead base their decisions on the fees found in mined blocks. In that case, they will issue transactions with low fees, which will lead to stuck transactions and a bad user experience.

Finally, once the wallets adapt to smallest-first mining, their best strategy will be to attach the lowest possible fee to every transaction. The mempool then becomes a Hail Mary zone, where people toss their transactions cut up into small little chunks, and hope that the miners will sweep through their precious transfers just by sheer happenstance. The fee market will collapse, and we can no longer have a rational market, because the miners will not be behaving rationally, putting up the space in the blocks up for auction. Imagine a web search service, where you pay solely a fixed fee to place your ads, and the ads are included based on chance. This is not a winning strategy for anyone. Just ask Yahoo.

I'm Doing Work In An Irrational Order to Reduce My Workload

Alex Petrov of BitFury has also expressed concern that, when transactions sit around in the mempool and expire, they get resubmitted, causing the miners to have to re-validate them. This is tantamount to saying that, because you are overloaded by your boss asking you to do the same N things over and over again, you'll do them in an irrational order. Once again, Alex may be pointing to something that might need fixing, but the fix is almost certainly not smallest-first. Adding more resources, parallelizing validation, maintaining a 1 bit validation cache even when transactions are evicted, etc are all effective techniques for avoiding repeated work.

Are There Better Ways To Reduce The Mempool?

One simple way to reduce the mempool backlog is to make the blocks larger, either through a blocksize increase or through the more complex Segwit patch. That will reduce fees, to boot, in return for increasing the space, bandwidth and CPU consumption of Bitcoin. Given how cheap and plentiful storage and CPU are, and how much bandwidth increased just last year alone, adopting some kind of a blocksize increase is the thing to do.

Thanks, but no thanks

Overall, smallest-first is, at best, a strange strategy. It most certainly does not accomplish what we all need: more useful economic activity recorded quickly on the blockchain.

Luckily, it's also a losing strategy: at the moment, a miner mining smallest-first will earn around 5% lower in BTC terms than what it would have been had they gone for mining largest-fees-per-byte-first. Let's hope that this dampens their behavior and counteracts the damage they inflict on Bitcoin through increased delays on important transactions, perverse incentives, worse utilization of the blockchain space and potentially increased fees.

Aviv Zohar said it best when he quipped "[smallest-first] will raise the revenue of other miners and eventually push irrational ones out of the market."

27 Feb 20:31

Mozilla Acquires Pocket

by Denelle Dixon-Thayer

We are excited to announce that the Mozilla Corporation has completed the acquisition of Read It Later, Inc. the developers of Pocket.

Mozilla is growing, experimenting more, and doubling down on our mission to keep the internet healthy, as a global public resource that’s open and accessible to all. As our first strategic acquisition, Pocket contributes to our strategy by growing our mobile presence and providing people everywhere with powerful tools to discover and access high quality web content, on their terms, independent of platform or content silo.

Pocket will join Mozilla’s product portfolio as a new product line alongside the Firefox web browsers with a focus on promoting the discovery and accessibility of high quality web content. (Here’s a link to their blog post on the acquisition).  Pocket’s core team and technology will also accelerate Mozilla’s broader Context Graph initiative.

Pocket Application on Android, Desktop and iPhone

“We believe that the discovery and accessibility of high quality web content is key to keeping the internet healthy by fighting against the rising tide of centralization and walled gardens. Pocket provides people with the tools they need to engage with and share content on their own terms, independent of hardware platform or content silo, for a safer, more empowered and independent online experience.” – Chris Beard, Mozilla CEO

Pocket brings to Mozilla a successful human-powered content recommendation system with 10 million unique monthly active users on iOS, Android and the Web, and with more than 3 billion pieces of content saved to date.

In working closely with Pocket over the last year around the integration within Firefox, we developed a shared vision and belief in the opportunity to do more together that has led to Pocket joining Mozilla today.

“We’ve really enjoyed partnering with Mozilla over the past year. We look forward to working more closely together to support the ongoing growth of Pocket and to create great new products that people love in support of our shared mission.” – Nate Weiner, Pocket CEO

As a result of this strategic acquisition, Pocket will become a wholly owned subsidiary of Mozilla Corporation and will become part of the Mozilla open source project.

About Mozilla: Mozilla has been a pioneer and advocate for the open web for more than 15 years. We promote open standards that enable innovation and advance the Web as a platform for all. Today, hundreds of millions of people worldwide use Mozilla Firefox to experience the Web on computers, tablets and mobile devices. For more information, visit

About Pocket: Pocket, made by Read It Later, Inc., is the world’s leading save-for-later service. It currently has more than 10 million active monthly registered users and is integrated into hundreds of leading apps including Flipboard and Twitter. Pocket helps people save interesting articles, videos and more from the web for later enjoyment. Once saved to Pocket, content is visible on any device — phone, tablet or computer, online or off. Pocket is available for major devices and platforms including Firefox, Google Chrome, Safari, iOS, Android and Windows. For more information, visit

Download Pocket visuals:

The post Mozilla Acquires Pocket appeared first on The Mozilla Blog.

27 Feb 20:28

How I Took 40 years to Become a Cyclist

by Average Joe Cyclist

Pedal car 750 x420It took me 40 years to move from “I love riding bikes” to “I am a cyclist.” Hard to believe, I know. Looking back, I guess it was because I made so many mistakes along the way. I'm a slow learner - let me tell you about it! I learned to ride a bike the hard way - not so much riding as crashing. I had a lot of setbacks along the way. Finally, I learned the keys to making cycling safe, easy and fun - and somewhere along the way, I became a cyclist!

The post How I Took 40 years to Become a Cyclist appeared first on Average Joe Cyclist.

27 Feb 20:28

More Canadian schools are finding ways to use smartphones for education

by Jessica Vomiero

Rather than telling students to put their smartphones away in the classroom, there’s new evidence supporting teachers who incorporate them.

According to a recently released research paper, educators are split on how to deal with the growing presence of technology in the classroom. However, all agree that it can be problematic if students are allowed to devote more time to their screens than to their studies, says the Canadian Press in a recent story.

The study cited states that school boards that embrace technology often see more success versus those that ban devices all together. The Toronto District School Board for example, which is also Canada’s largest school board, recently reversed a four-year ban on smartphones. The board now lets teachers dictate what works best in their classrooms.

A board in Quebec on the other hand has gone as far as distributing tablets to students in Grade 5 while upholding a permissive smartphone policy.

According to the 4,000 high school students surveyed, almost 80 percent of them own a cellphone of some sort. Of these respondents, 88.4 percent reported that cellphones were either banned in class or in school entirely.

Thierry Karsenti, Canada Research Chair on Technologies in Education and professor at the University of Montreal states that schools with more lenient policies towards cellphones get better results and went on to educate students about when it is appropriate to use their mobile devices.

Source: The Canadian Press

The post More Canadian schools are finding ways to use smartphones for education appeared first on MobileSyrup.

27 Feb 20:28

Twitter Favorites: [edenthecat] Please stop seeing being "just friends" as the worst possible outcome. Friends are the most important.

eden rohatensky @edenthecat
Please stop seeing being "just friends" as the worst possible outcome. Friends are the most important.
27 Feb 06:18

Barrier to prevent collisions on notorious stretch of Sea to Sky Hwy

mkalus shared this story from Vancouver Sun:
1. The Sun needs a copy editor, considering all the weird "typos" in this article. 2. 800K for some lame concrete barriers? What BC Liberal "donor" got that sweet deal? 3. Considering that the Sea-to-sky is tolled and "owned" by a private company, why is the tax payer paying that bill?

Crews check over a smashed vehicle, which jumped the landscaped road divider and crashed into on oncoming truck just north of Lions Bay. The media is being replaced with a standard freeway concrete barrier to prevent such crossover accidents. Mark van Manen / PNG

A concrete barrier will replace the landscaped median on the Sea to Sky Highway through Lions Bay in an effort to prevent crossover collisions on the notorious roadway.

The B.C. government will spend $800,000 to replace 1.4 kilometres of median between Lions Bay Avenue and Brunswick Beach Road after considering comments from the community.

“Once installed, the concrete median barrier will improve safety on this busy stretch of Highway 99 by preventing head-on collisions and other crossover accidents,” according to a Ministry of Transportation statement on Saturday.

An average of 19,000 vehicle trips are made each day on the highway through Lions Bay, a number that has grown 24 percent over the last five years. 

Lions Bay mayor Karl Buhr called the median replacement “the right thing to do,” adding “we still need drivers to be aware … despite looking like one, the Sea to Sky at Lions Bay is not actually freeway.”

About two thurds of Lions Bay’s volunteer fire department’s call-out hours are spent on collisions on the highway, said the mayor. “We still need people to slow down and drive to the road conditions.”

In May, the highway was closed in both directions when a vehicle crossed the median and collided with another, critically injuring one person. A few days later another crash involving a motorcycle put two people in hospital. A head-on collision also closed the highway in July, as four people were taken to hospital.

In 2013, two UBC students were killed in a collision while on their way to Whistler for the weekend.

The ministry also said it will work with Lions Bay to find ways to improve the management of accidents and to speed up re-opening the highway.

An additional $20,000 will be spent on a landscaping plan for the community, which will include removing and replating the trees and shrubs from the current median.