Archive | October 8, 2012

A GitHub for legislation?

Before I was writing about governments using open data and today I found another interesting way to look at information technology influencing governments. It’s the TED talk of Clay Shirky.

Clay Shirky talks a lot about the usefulness of networks and especially in this speech about how this can influence non-technological aspects in life. He looked into the effect of innovations in media like the telegraph, television and printing press and concludes that, even all of these inventions were projected to help achieving world peace,

the more ideas there are in circulation, the more ideas there are for any individual to disagree with. More media always means more arguing.

To deal with this arguing, Shirky mentions GitHub, the service based on Linux’ open-source concept to easily work together on codes and merge changes that are made simultaneously by different programmers. Among many other features, it contains complex models of how different parts of the software are related to each other.

The most interesting is that Shirky compares these models with the complex models of legislation, that are also interrelated and show similar patterns. Thus can be argued: “Why is the law system not open source where citizens can adjust law propositions and, through a similar program as GitHub, these changes can be tracked and merged?” This could help legislation development and increase democracy.

I’m not sure whether this would be the invention that can actually promise world peace. Wouldn’t it lead to a longer process of developing laws as everyone wants to participate? How would it work in letting people to agree on legislation if persons with all different statements are allowed to change it and change it back whenever someone else deletes their part? When does the government put hold on it? Either way, I like the way Shirky thinks about this, I would say it definitely opens doors to features in improving democracy. Also the way he links IT to non-IT processes is particularly interesting.

Apple begins shipping its Lightning to 30-pin adapter at the speed of… freight

With the release of the iPhone 5 and new iPods, Apple introduces the Lightning connector – smaller and faster than the old 30 pin connector. Still using a dock and other devices made for the 30 pin connector? No problem, Apple has come up with an adapter to fix this! But perhaps it would be convenient if you could actually get this..

“iPhone users with a flotilla of 30-pin devices, desperate to restore connectivity with their newest handset’s natty connector, can rest easy. Cupertino has contacted several Australians who pre-ordered the 30-pin to Lightning adapter to tell them they can expect the first units to arrive tomorrow. The Stateside store is still promising a generic “October” launch, but it can’t be too far away if the Antipodeans are getting theirs.” – source

For the Netherlands it seems to take at least as long to get here. A case of really bad planning at Apple, or is there perhaps a reason why it takes Apple so long to provide users with this adapter? And how long will it take other manufacturers to come up with the same adapter or for eBay sellers to sell a copy for less than €30? I’m afraid it won’t take that long… But I see no reason for Apple to delay the shipping for this adapter on purpose.

What do you think? Is it a case of bad planning or does Apple have a reasoning behind this delay?

Massive Open Online Courses and learning motivation

“Self-study, self-exploration, self-empowerment — these are the virtues of a great education.” (S. Shocken)

This is an interesting video revealing the eagerness of mankind to learn. According to Shocken, there is a hard core of people who want to keep on learning, not for grades etc. but because they feel satisfied if dey do so.

This theory is being tested by the Massive Open Online Courses when Shocken and his team explained online in detail how to build a computer step by step.

The crowd embraced the material and saw this as an opportunity to learn.
Shocken emphasizes that there is a grade culture nowadays and that we are obsessed with grading because we are obsessed with data.

He quotes:

“Grading takes away all the fun from failing.”

So, what do you think? Is grading restraining us to go beyond an A+ thereby not facilitating self-learning? Do we just give the maximum to get an A+ or because of we are so keen on learning?

I think this can lead to an interesting discussion…

Google’s new Privacy Policy in breach with EU law

Today in the IS lectures we have talked a lot about Google, including their privacy policy. However, the extent to which Google exploits users’ data is still somewhat vague, especially the rules and regulations regarding their privacy policy is still not entirely clear for all users.

In the IS lectures and presentations it was explained that the business model of Google is the selling of targeted and customized advertisement based on individual user behavior. In other words, the entire business model of Google depends on collecting browsing information from its users in order to advance the effectiveness of personalized advertisement.

Google stated in January of 2012 that it was going to simplify its privacy rules and regulations by consolidating the 60 privacy policies into a single one, and hence it would appear as a positive change. Despite several EU data commission warnings, Google has implemented the new privacy policy on 1 March 2012, before this new privacy policy Google used to collect data separately from each service which Google offers to its user. This meant a search on, for example, YouTube, would not affect the results or advertising a user would encounter on another Google site such as their Gmail. However, when Google implemented its new privacy policy which unified Google Search, YouTube, Blogger, Gmail, Google+ and others at midnight on 1 March it faced widespread criticism. The reason for this widespread criticism was because the new agreement does not provide the users with the option to opt out unless the users decide they want to completely stop using Google’s services. The new privacy policy of Google is in breach with the EU Law which states that companies such as Google, Facebook and Yahoo would have to ask their users for permission to store and sell their data to other businesses, such as advertisers, which is the primary source of income for all of these companies.

In other words, first of all Google does not ask permission to the users to store and sell their data, but it completely leaves the customer no choice by eliminating the option to opting out. Of course logging out of Google’s services will reduce the amount of data stored by them, but Google still stores anonymous data about the web activity of the user. So the only choice the user is provided with if it does not want Google to save and sell their data is to simply stop using all the services of Google.

The EU might require Google to undo the controversial changes in the new privacy policy, Google continuous to be investigated by the EU antitrust authorities. If the EU determines that Google is in breach with the EU Law it could fine the company up to 10% of its global annual turnover, resulting in a $3–$4 billion (€2.3–€3.1 billion) fine.

In my opinion this endangers the position and brand image of Google as a user friendly service provider, since it seems like Google is putting advertiser’s interest before the user privacy.


Another meaning of Connecting People

Nokia might be struggling with getting its smartphone back business up to speed, but its slogan Connecting People might have never been more relevant and more powerful. And what is behind this slogan Connecting People might have a considerably bigger impact on competition in the connected devices (i.e. smartphones and tablets) industry than any product line of smartphones produced by Nokia.

To start with, Nokia has by far the best digital mapping capabilities. Nokia not only powers up Bing, but also Google Maps. Since around 2005 Nokia has been investing heavily in mapping data and related technologies that are now essential part of any handheld device. It is hard to imagine a smartphone without Maps application, and the widely publicized flip of Apple with its new maps release just highlights the importance of it.  Indeed, Nokia is unmatched not only by its mobile competitors but also by navigation companies such as Garmin or TomTom.

In addition, Nokia has an incredibly strong patent portfolio around GSM, 3G, 4G and LTE. Actually, Nokia holds some of the critical patents enabling these connecting platforms. And both telecom companies and smartphone manufacturers are paying Nokia considerable amounts of cash for licensing of these patents. It is estimated that Nokia makes 5 to 7 $ from every iPhone made on patent deals.

With its smartphone division bringing further losses to Nokia, this patents portfolio might be a golden egg in the eastern basket. And it might make Nokia an extremely attractive acquisition in the market in upcoming years. Indeed, considering the weakness of Nokia’s income sheets and the strength of its Intangibles, Nokia might be eyed soon by its cash rich competitors.

Indeed, with a market cap of $10 bil, Nokia does not seem too expensive (in particular comparing it to Apple’s $100 bil cash pile). And it is not unlikely to see it shrinking further.

So maybe not any time soon, but it might possible to see the fight over Nokia as a new frontier in the patent war (in addition to extensive patenting, court rooms and cross-licensing deals) between its rich competitors, such as Apple, Samsung, Google or even Amazon.

More about Google +


Google +

There is not much that catches your attention on Internet. However, interesting or funny ideas are exceptions as they entertain you, and you actually want to go the extra step and share them with your friends.

Recently I watched this very silly “Google + song” about girl who had no clue why would she ever need another social network platform if she already had her facebook account. As the song continued, she explored many benefits of using Google plus and how pleasant it is to group the people in circles. I did not sign up right a way, but it was a piece of information that did not leave my mind so easily. Today I signed up for Google +.

Google + song: http://www.youtubecom/watch?v=nGugj1ym594

Why Google +?

It was not only the song that encouraged me to take such an action. With more then 600 people as my facebook friends I have feeling than there are way more acquaintances than actual friends. Furthermore, similar to many of you, I have very different people as my friends (e.g. my mum’s colleagues, my boyfriends little brother, my high school teacher and so on).  However, I rarely customize my settings for audiences when I post any comments or pictures. The problem is that, while some of the comments are very relevant and funny for your group of friends in your “special context”, they might be completely inappropriate for other people. For this reason, Google + is a very decent alternative as it allows to easily communicate with the intended groups.

For those who do not know yet, Google + is a social network that allows users to sort their contacts in circles according to their role in one’s life. For instance, you can create a circle for your family, friends, acquaintances and people you want to follow. Instead of communicating to all, you can effectively communicate to pre-defined groups. Google + was launched in June 28, 2011*. In September 2012 it had 400 million registered users from whom 100 million were active on monthly bases.*

The cool features of Google +:


It is hard to say if Google + has a potential to replace facebook any time soon. However, it has some really nice features:

  • “Circles”(allows to group your friends),
  • “Hangouts”(allows to have a video chat with up to ten people),
  • “Google + Creative Kit” (online photo editor)
  • “Google + events” (allows to create events, invite people, but also encourages to upload all the pictures within the event group)
  • “Google + local” (gives recommendations for local places to visit, based on Google maps rating system)

Thus it has basically all the facebook features and a bit more. Furthermore, Google + is easy to use as it offers short tutorial videos for all the main features. This makes adaption process very easy. As mentioned at the very beginning, Google + has some silly yet funny videos that could reach large audiences and encourage more people to sign up, serving as the main marketing tool.

There are few more reasons to join Google +. For instance, the facebook does not always work that well. For a while my facebook pictures disappeared and my messages were “trembling” on the screen. Although I used help function to contact people in charge, I never got a response. Indeed, it is a big social network. However, therefore it is less responsive and unable to provide a customized experience. Furthermore, already now facebook has collected so much information about me, that I would find it safer to store the remaining somewhere else. Finally, facebook has been around for a while. It is just interesting to try something new and funny and a bit less mainstream, especially as a BIM student, who is supposed to follow the new trends.

Disappointing factors of Google + :

However, I was slightly disappointed by visually unappealing layout of Google + network – the graphical elements are very basic and the sense of style could be better (although this is a subjective matter). For instance, inspirational quotes suggested to me by Google + were having simply white background while the inspirational or entertainment sites on facebook create amazing photos and quotes every day. So far this is my major drawback not to switch to Google +. It keeps me dazzled why, if it is so apparent that people like interesting quotes on beautiful backgrounds (Pinterest, Mr. Goodlife), companies do not take advantage of creating visually more enriching websites – the sort of new virtual realities.