Jon's blog

Nica Tech Writeup: The importance of local

Submitted by Jon on Tue, 09/19/2006 - 18:39

Sometimes, knowing the local context is not only important, but a stark requirement. Scratch that - always. In Managua, Nicaragua, this is point is driven home by the simple task of getting to where you're going. A victim of earthquakes and politics, Managua is generally without reliable street signs, or addresses, but unlike, say, Bangkok, where mapping is a futile attempt in capturing the ephemeral, Managua simply doesn't have the structure to support creating a normal map.


Directions in Managua

So the population has adapted. Addresses in Managua are complex formulas of local history, community, and direction. Cab drivers have a defined territory, and cross-town trips will result in your driver finding a "local" to help with the last few blocks. The cardinal directions are "Al Lago" - towards the lake, or North of the city - Up (East), Down (West) and to the mountains - Southish. Then you specify the neighborhood, and then you go to landmarks. Of course, back to the earthquake problem - those landmarks may not be there anymore.

This particular recipe for an address is in the M. Lezcano neighborhood, and then from where the People's Bank used to be, 2 blocks towards the lake, and a 1/2 block east. They get even crazier - hairy handed women and broken down cars are called out in this NPR interview.

I digress, however.

Morality of Development

Submitted by Jon on Tue, 09/19/2006 - 18:17

Development, like politics, is a metaphorical room where you're amazed at just how many elephants can fit simultaneously, and yet be ignored. These elehpants are conjured through some central, unanswered questions. A former Bank employee friend of mine has a fine one, for example - ask any Bank defender how the incentive structure for determining loan recipient validity and reliability works when the loan agent is encouraged to issue loans, and the recipient doesn't have the option to default without serious global consequences.

Technology and the University

Submitted by Jon on Mon, 09/18/2006 - 22:48

More tangentially related tech info, my former employers, The University of Texas' Office of Technology Commercialization are hosting their next big conference to feature commercializable UT research. Last years had tech ranging from backpack-totatble HIV/AIDS field testing units to creepily-good evolutionarily-learning AI .

The Economics of Free

Submitted by Jon on Mon, 09/18/2006 - 22:46

While not strictly dev/ICT related, this blog is tracking the economic implications of Open Source, (focusing on the university software development context). Interesting stuff.

Technology and personal networks

Submitted by Jon on Fri, 09/01/2006 - 12:08

Esperanza En Accion

Submitted by Jon on Wed, 08/09/2006 - 09:29

I'm on the technology committee of the Esperanza En Accion board, and as part of this, and in fulfilling a long-standing promise to EeA's director, I'm off to Managua, Nicaragua to help out with their computer systems, networks, IT planning, and also to see Nicaragua.

Net Neutrality

Submitted by Jon on Sat, 08/05/2006 - 15:53

Dan Kaminsky is working on a software testing tool to check to see if your ISP is giving equal quality to all your traffic, or if they are favoring certain types of traffic (VOIP over web pages, or throttling all bittorrent traffic to a crawl) or preferring certain sites (AOL over Google, based on who's paid more).

Blogreement

Submitted by Jon on Sat, 08/05/2006 - 15:43

Steven Johnson has a nice quick list of topics we can move beyond when discussing blogs:

1. Mainstream, top-down, professional journalism will continue to play a vital role in covering news events, and in shaping our interpretation of those events, as it should.
...
5. Blogs -- like all modes of contemporary media -- are not historically unique; they draw upon and resemble a number of past traditions and forms, depending on their focus.

I guess this helps me narrow down my paper topics :)

IPR and ... plants?

Submitted by Jon on Sat, 08/05/2006 - 15:19

Brazil is registering list of plant names to fight pharma companies from trademarking the names when using compounds extracted from these plants.
India also has been fighting "biopiracy".

This is a reminder that intellectual property restrictions extend beyond IT and media issues, into important topics such as affordable medicines when it intersects with pharmaceuticals.

"Launch At" ?

Submitted by Jon on Wed, 07/12/2006 - 11:27

Techsoup has a good interview with the Chief Connectivity Officer, Michael Bletsas, of OLPC. Unfortunately, it does nothing to quell my concerns about their deployment strategy. Once I get comments back from my paper exploring the OLPC project from a diffusion theory standpoint, I'll post at least the abstract online, but until then, Bletsas condenses my main point of contention into one paragraph: