Why do we have an IMG element? [dive into mark]

Submitted by Jon on Fri, 11/06/2009 - 20:02

An interesting insight into the development of HTML

Liquid Smoke - What is It? - Slashfood

Submitted by Jon on Fri, 11/06/2009 - 20:00

Surprising information on the non scariness of liquid smoke

Scary charts of the cost of healthcare in the USA

The potential for mobile technology to impact development has been researched and reported on in areas ranging from job matching services to financial inclusion. More and more development agencies are adopting mobile communications in their programmes in innovative ways. However, there is a lack of research on how mobile technology is being used to monitor and evaluate programs in the field.

Monitoring and evaluation, often abbreviated as M&E, is a popular topic among both academics and practitioners. While evaluation of programs can serve a number of purposes, including accountability to donors or transparency of use of resources, I am focusing here on M&E which is aimed at organizational learning that can be used to improve program implementation.

Beth Kanter responds to Seth Godin on nonprofit use of social media

Seeking Delhi's 'phantom squirter'

Submitted by Jon on Wed, 09/16/2009 - 07:46

Reporter attempts to discover the story behind a classic Delhi scam

Imagine you want to move out of your apartment. When you ask your landlord about the terms of your previous lease, he says that you are free to leave at any time; however, you cannot take all of your things with you - not your photos, your keepsakes, or your clothing. If you're like most people, a restriction like this may cause you to rethink moving altogether. Not only is this a bad situation for you as the tenant, but it's also detrimental to the housing industry as a whole, which no longer has incentive to build better apartments at all.

Gender, ZIP code, and birth date feel anonymous, but Prof. Sweeney was able to identify Governor Weld through them for two reasons. First, each of these facts about an individual (or other kinds of facts we might not usually think of as identifying) independently narrows down the population, so much so that the combination of (gender, ZIP code, birthdate) was unique for about 87% of the U.S. population. If you live in the United States, there's an 87% chance that you don't share all three of these attributes with any other U.S. resident.

"I'd love to link to these shows now, but I can't. They were never posted online or offered as podcasts. I tried posting them on my personal website, and was instructed to take them down by CBC management. I was told I was violating their copyright. Every now and then I'll get an email from a teacher or listener requesting an episode of The Contrarians, and I have to explain that I'd be breaking the law to send one.

Let's put aside my personal frustration at having my work locked away. The real question here is, since CBC content is funded by the public, shouldn't the public own it? Or at least have access to it? Actually, the CBC archives are just the tip of the iceberg: the overwhelming majority of stuff made for Canadians with Canadians' money is inaccessible to Canadians. "

A South African information technology company on Wednesday proved it was faster for them to transmit data with a carrier pigeon than to send it using Telkom , the country's leading internet service provider. The 11-month-old pigeon, Winston, took one hour and eight minutes to fly the 80 km (50 miles) from Unlimited IT's offices near Pietermaritzburg to the coastal city of Durban with a data card was strapped to his leg. Including downloading, the transfer took two hours, six minutes and 57 seconds -- the time it took for only four percent of the data to be transferred using a Telkom line.

"Professor Robert Jensen tests the economic impact of introducing mobile phones to three different fishing market regions in India. The results? As information is shared more freely among fishers (and perhaps even consumers) less fish go unsold as the fishers select the markets that have the most demand and more willing buyers get the fish they want." Via AshokaTech

Ethan Zuckerman with notes on Iranian social media

Damning comparison of 2005 recommendations to 1938 development policies in African countries - more of the same, because clearly it's been working so well.

World Bank's PSDBlog: "Could Shirky be describing the long-awaited for Third Way that would make peace between the socialists and capitalists? Count me among the skeptics. While Flickr, Twitter, Facebook, Wikipedia, and the rest of the gamut of social media tools have opened new avenues for organizing collaboration, I don't see them replacing the market as the place where the exchange of most goods and services takes place."

Ashoka Tech on the importance of computer literacy at the NGO / Organization level

Nokia quietly lay their cards on the table and entered the ‘international development’ arena. The launch of Nokia Life Tools - initially a suite of education and agriculture-based tools aimed at the Indian market - was a significant step forward for the handset maker, which had for some time been positioning itself not just as a manufacturer, but also as something of a services provider. Early signs of any shift would have come as little surprise to those who know the history of the company. Nokia are masters of re-invention

"Probably one of my favorite discussions of this trip was entered into after the Uganda Linux User Group (LUG) meeting here in Kampala. It was about whether we should be providing internet protocol (IP) services first, rather than SMS. If cost is the single most important factor for any mobile service aimed at ordinary Africans, then what will it take to move the ball from the SMS court to the IP court? This isn’t just for non-profits to consider, but everyday businesses as well"

Open Source Twitter versions to combat DDoS attacks? I think a peer-to-peer twitter system would be the more likely solution.

The % change is scary; but the absolute numbers aren't as bad: Military now takes 8% of all durable goods, up from 3% in 2000.

Glad to see we're all grown-ups here. And people wonder why I take "Search Engine Optimization" with a large hunk of salt? Kay Bailey's website calls Gov. Perry names.

Mashable reported Nielsen's latest Twitter numbers with the headline Stats Confirm It: Teens Don't Tweet. This gained traction on Twitter turning into the trending topic "teens don't tweet" which was primarily kept in play all day yesterday with teens responding to the TT by saying "I'm a teen" or the equivalent of "you're all idiots... what am I, mashed potatoes?" ... We have a methodology and interpretation problem. As Fred Stutzman has pointed out, there are reasons to question Nielsen's methodology and, thus, their findings. Furthermore, the way that they present the data is misleading. If we were to assume an even distribution of Twitter use over the entire U.S. population, it would be completely normal to expect that 16% of Twitter users are young adults. So, really, what Nielsen is saying is, "Everyone expects social media to be used primarily by the young but OMG OMG OMG old farts are just as likely to be using Twitter as young folks! Like OMG."

"The authors find that Bolivian firms that are located close to a tax office are more likely to formalize. This finding is further evidence that initial registration costs and/or lack of information affect firms’ decisions to formalize.

The really important contribution of the authors, however, is their estimate of the effect of formalization on profits. They say: "The marginal firm who is only informal because of lack of information stands to almost double profits by registering. This estimate is robust to a number of controls for possible threats to our identification strategy, and suggests big gains to formalizing.""

"I sat down and sent out a few emails--filling friends in on my visit to the Fiji Water bottling plant, forwarding a story about foreign journalists being kicked off the island. Then my connection died. "It will just be a few minutes," one of the clerks said.
Moments later, a pair of police officers walked in. They headed for a woman at another terminal; I turned to my screen to compose a note about how cops were even showing up in the Internet cafés. Then I saw them coming toward me. "We're going to take you in for questioning about the emails you've been writing," they said."

Coin-tosses aren't fair - Boing Boing

Submitted by Jon on Wed, 08/26/2009 - 09:14

Bruce Schneier on the bias of coin tossing -- 51% if tossed and caught; up to 80% if spun

"I imagine a retail sector for cultural products that's organized around the attention span: not around "books" or "music" but around short stories and pop songs in one aisle, poems and arias in the other. In the long store: 5,000 piece jigsaw puzzles, big novels, beer brewing equipment, DVDs of The Wire. Clerks could suggest and build attentional menus. We would develop attentional connoisseurship: the right pairings of the short and long. We would understand, and promote, attentional health."

Twitter data on #IranElection

Secure mobile communications are key for the next step in mobile use for development

Patrick has an excellent guide on How To Communicate Securely in Repressive Environments. He keeps it up to date based on his studies and input from readers, and will provide a more detailed guide on request (my guess is that not all requests will be handled equally). If you're a Farsi speaker, please translate it and email me, I will post it (or maybe Patrick will want to post it next to the original)."

"A growing number of Iranian mobile phone consumers are boycotting Nokia after the release of reports that the mobile phone maker participated in "collaborations" with the Iranian government: "

"The Anti Counterfeiting Trade Agreement [ed: a secret, non-UN treaty that rich countries are cooking up that will criminalize copyright infringement, sending non-commercial file-sharers to prison; authorize border guards to search your hard-drive and personal electronics for copyright infringements; and require governments to give media giants the power to decide who should and shouldn't have Internet access, without having to prove anything in a court of law] has been making its way in secret for some time, a coalition of consumer groups have now demanded that the text of the directive be made public. "

Monsanto's roundup herbicide not innocuous (surprised?) Too bad many GMOs are engineered to be integrated with it...

automated bots for stock trading

"US Patent Number 5,894,079, belonging Colorado's Larry Proctor, has been struck down. Proctor brought home some yellow beans from a Mexican market and filed for a patent on them in the 1990s, neglecting to tell the USPTO that the beans had been a dietary staple in latinamerica for over a century."

"Here's writer, futurist and all-round dude Karl Schroeder's talk from this year's O'Reilly Open Source Con: "The Rewilding: A Metaphor." In his inimitable style, Karl first describes a semi-human future in which things as abstract as "nature" and "politics" participate directly in the economy and in online discussions, then connects this to open source and open government. It's a hell of a mind-bender, as only Karl can manage. Bravo! "

Hilariously inaccurate content control from the AP #DRMFAIL

Mobile Growth

Submitted by Jon on Tue, 07/28/2009 - 11:05

According to The World Bank Group: between 2000 and 2007 internet subscribers in low-income countries grew from 0.1 to 0.8 (per 100 people), but mobile cellular subscriptions grew from 0.3 to 21.5 (per 100 people).

Open Development as Freedom

Submitted by Jon on Tue, 07/28/2009 - 11:04

Notes from USAID's Global Development Commons blog on Obama's visit to Africa and the Open Dev Camp

UAE BlackBerry update bursting with spyware

Submitted by Jon on Thu, 07/16/2009 - 21:02

An update pushed out to BlackBerry users on the Etisalat network in the United Arab Emirates appears to contain remotely-triggered spyware that allows the interception of messages and emails, as well as crippling battery life.

Sent out as a WAP Push message, the update installs a Java file that one curious customer decided to take a closer look at, only to discover an application intended to intercept both email and text messages, sending a copy to an Etisalat server without the user being aware of anything beyond a slightly excessive battery drain.

Bill Easterly weighs in on randomized controlled trials for development projects. I have mixed feelings - on one hand, we need this research to begin to reveal honest, data-driven best practices in development. On the other hand, is it ethical to deny something you think will help? I think that it's more dangerous to package something that's uncertain as a foolproof development strategy (which is our current practice)

Institute for the Future on reputation economies and their role online, presented as a "future artifact" of a statement of one's contributions online. Is this a future role of civic engagement? Volunteering? Do the folks over at The Extraordinaries have the right idea for micro-volunteering?

Jean Anleu, arrested as part of the Guatemalan protests ( ) has been cleared and freed

When the current crisis is over, the reputation of American-style capitalism will have taken a beating—not least because of the gap between what Washington practices and what it preaches. Disillusioned developing nations may well turn their backs on the free market, warns Nobel laureate Joseph E. Stiglitz, posing new threats to global stability and U.S. security.

Lawyers in this year's two highest-profile file-sharing cases have joined forces, and they plan to file a class-action lawsuit against the recording industry later this summer to claw back the "$100+ million" that the RIAA "stole."

"An engineer from Nokia's UK research labs says that the company is developing technology that can harvest ambient electromagnetic radiation to keep a cellphone going. The researcher says that his group is working towards a prototype that could harvest up to 50 milliwatts of power--enough to slowly recharge a phone that is switched off. He says current prototypes can harvest 3 to 5 milliwatts. It will require a wideband receiver capable of capturing signals from between 500 megahertz and 10 gigahertz--a range that encompasses many different radio communication signals. Other researchers have developed devices that can harvest more modest power from select frequencies. A team from Intel previously developed a compact sensor capable of drawing 6 microwatts from a 1.0-megawatt TV antenna 4.1 kilometers away."

This reminds us of the web 2.0 Achilles Heel - the "cloud" still represents a single point of failure. Contrast with email, where almost everyone runs their own email server, we don't all log in to one website for our email. There are challenges this approach introduces (spam, phishing), but many more benefits

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