Gruber on EFF

The incisive, insightful John Gruber on the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s manifesto:

The piece is supposed to be a criticism of Apple’s platform design and policies, but really, what they’re doing is criticizing users for enjoying it.

On “Crystal Prisons”, Rights, and the Reality of Competing Values

A couple of days ago, the Electronic Frontier Foundation released a manifesto on the future of computing, claiming that companies that offer closed computing systems (like Apple and Microsoft) are violating mobile user’s fundamental rights.  I use the term rights here because they use it at the end of the piece in the section “toward a bill of rights for mobile computer owners” and employ phrases like “deprived of liberty.”  The basic thrust of the argument is that all computing devices should be open, meaning that users should be able to add or modify the software and hardware in any way they see fit.  The piece is not long, and is worthwhile reading.

It has generated some pretty thoughtful critical responses within the Apple-using blogosphere.  I won’t go so far as Peter Cohen at the Loop and title this post “The EFF can suck it“, but I do think the EFF’s material is both poorly framed and poorly argued. As is probably the case with all manifestos, they ignore a host of reasonable principles and perspectives in order to try to motivate the masses.


Park Like A Jerk?: Social Media for the Insensitive City

Ok. So the name is pretty rude. But the concept is pretty interesting.

Introducing Parking Douche, an app for the Android (GOOG) and iPhone (AAPL) which allows users to take photos of offending parkers’ license plates and detail the make and model of the vehicle. From there, the information is sent to a database where a digital mockup of the vehicle is made and featured in banner advertising on the web — but only those in the vicinity of the bad parking job will see the ad, offering a more localized attack.

There are some crazy and problematic bits to the ad model involved, and, for now, it is only available in Russia. But the idea of using the crowd to exert pressure on people to think about the effect of their actions on others is intriguing. (The article by Mike Schuster, Park Like A Jerk? This App Will Shame You Into Submission, is worth a look.)


Senators Abandon National Priorities for Personal Ones

From TechCruch:

Today, Senators Charles Schumer and Bob Casey are expected to announce a plan they have to re-impose the taxes on Saverin, part of a bigger scheme to go after expatriates who give up citizenship in order to avoid taxes. On top of that, they want to make it official that people who do avoid paying their taxes by renouncing citizenship are unable from ever re-entering the country again.

So, let me make sure I’m getting this straight.  Eduardo Severin was born in Brazil and lived there for the first 16 years of his life. He has lived in Singapore for the past few years.  He created Facebook with Zukerberg, and with the impending IPO, is about to owe about $67 million in taxes.  So he renounced his US citizenship to avoid paying the taxes. And now he needs his own law.


So, Ethics Isn’t The Only Thing Lacking

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a bit about the lack of structures to establish professional ethics within the programming industry.  In a great post about everyone learning to code Jeff Atwood at Coding Horror, I tracked back to a post from a couple of years ago where he bemoaned the poor skill sets of man people who apply for coding jobs.

Three years later, I’m still wondering: why do people who can’t write a simple program even entertain the idea they can get jobs as working programmers? Clearly, some of them must be succeeding. Which means our industry-wide interviewing standards for programmers are woefully inadequate, and that’s a disgrace. It’s degrading to every working programmer.

Yikes.  If the software engineering profession can’t even ensure basic technical competency in members of the in the field, is there any hope for getting some sort of basic ethical practices in there?

Users Aren’t Always the Best Judges of Risk

As is the case with lots of categories of news, little in the mainstream tech journalism follows the really important stories. More often, coverage focuses on new product announcements and sensationalism. One important topic, however, does appear frequently in mainstream tech news, namely privacy. There is broad awareness that our new digital lifestyle brings with it a host of potential problems in keeping ourselves at our information secure. Poor management of privacy and information use by some of the industry’s biggest players (like Google), recent congressional debates on the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) and Facebook’s impending IPO have kept these issues in the limelight.

But, of course, there will always be people who push back against prevailing winds.  Reflecting on some Talks that he recently attended, Steve Wildstrom suggests that the over-arching angle in the effort to deal (updated) with privacy is misplaced.


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