TEDx in Somalia

From PhysOrg:

Somalia’s war-ravaged capital Mogadishu will host Thursday its first ever TED talks as part of efforts to showcase improvements in development, business and security, organisers said.

Cool.  I love technology, but by no means am I on the “tech will save the world” bandwagon.  That being said, the health of any community—be it a neighborhood, a city, or a nation—depends upon the strength of the social ties that bind it together and make possible the various kinds of exchange we need in order to live.  These ties are both informal (like friendships) and structural (like stable banking and waste removal).  Things like TEDx can go a long way both in building up social ties and letting people know that institutions are returning.

Innovation and Failing the Customer

One of the key problems with innovating is that you frequently run into problems that were totally unforeseen. That’s why engineering practice—driven my robust professional ethics commitments—require that systems be tested and reevaluated both during the creation phase and after deployment in order to catch problems as they arise. This process drives companies to do physical product recalls and software updates. Innovation requires thoughtful consideration of possibilities, good and bad. It also requires a boatload of humility, because you will make mistakes.

Failing to account adequately for unforeseen consequences is one thing. Failing to account for known negative consequences is something altogether different.


Seriously? Transparency Isn’t Our Strong Suit

From Canadian copyright expert Michael Geist:

[United States Trade Representative] Ambassador Ron Kirk has responded to a letter signed by dozens of legal academics (I signed on) expressing concern with the lack of transparency associated with the Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations. Kirk says he is “strongly offended by the assertion that our process has been non-transparent and lacked public participation.”

Ah, you have to love the rhetoric. A couple of years ago, President Obama refused to make public the ACTA antipiracy legislation that he was working out with European countries, citing national security interests. People found out about it only through leaks. The SOPA/PIPA legislation made it to the floors of the House and Senate without the public knowing about it. When people found out, the only possible way to do “public commment” was a massive online campaign, including taking sites like Wikipedia dark in protest. The CISPA legislation was passed by the house last month in a rush before anyone had a chance to contact their representatives. On the face of it, these seem to support the plain sense meanings of both “non-transparent” and “lacking in public participation”.


Violating Your Own Ethical Standards

In another followup to a post about the absence of professional ethics in startups and blogging, Casey Johnson at Ars Technica has written a great piece about Marius Milner, the Google engineer who “collected personal data from WiFi networks, including e-mail addresses and passwords, with the company’s Street View cars between May 2007 and May 2010.”  According to the FCC, Milner’s actions were legal.  But, of course, lots of immoral things are legal.

What’s interesting here is that parts of what Milner did clearly violated the ethical standards that were developing among the “wardriving” community he was a part of.  Wardrivers drive around with wi-fi tools and computers trying to find open wi-fi networks that can be used to connect to the internet.  The location of open networks that wardrivers find are then shared so that people can use them.


Paying (for) Attention

This past week, three stories about advertising caught my eye.

1) Ad Age ran a story on an Innerscope Research study for Time Warner about media device use during non-working hours. Setting aside all of the questionable aspects of the report and study (using the thoroughly debunked category of “digital natives,” referring to people as consumers, and the reliability of a study with a sample size of 30), the study confirmed what we already know from experience: younger people tend to switch between media devices more than older people: 30 times per hour vs. 17. I can’t stop changing the channel on the one device (tv); kids change channels between devices. The big takeaway was that you have to advertise in creative and emotionally engaging ways if you want to be noticed.

2) Yet it may not be as simple as all that. VatorNews reported on a Nielson survey of “28,000 online consumers in 56 countries throughout Asia Pacific, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, Africa and North America.”


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