Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Overheard: Internet Exhaustion

Overheard at a coffeeshop recently:

The Internet is totally exhausting. It doesn't make any sense, you're just sitting there.
Sitting can be tiring, as we're not designed to do it for that long (we do much better moving around, and we are great at walking, even if we are using heavily-modified fish fins).

But yes, emotional work can be tiring.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Researcher-Client Privilege

I was reading Gang Leader for a Day by Suhdir Venkatesh, which is riveting (although he constantly comes off as unbelievably naive, you don't get a good sense of the years passing, and all the fuss over how dealing drugs is a business that runs like any other seems foolish, business is business).

But, some sentences from page 186 bothered me:
There was no such thing as "researcher-client confidentiality," akin to the privilege conferred upon lawyers, doctors, or priests.... While some states offer so-called shield laws that allow journalists to protect their confidential sources, no such protection exists for academic researchers.
And I ask, why not?
Lawyers have a JD, academics (usually) have a PhD. Physicians have an MD, we who are also doctors (but not physicians) have a PhD. D, D, D! Physicians try to cure the woes of individuals and also groups of individuals, we PhDs, especially social scientists, try to heal the woes of society as well. Like journalists, we may need to investigate and study the unsavory or illegal.

Jon Stewart and Chatroulette

Yes, chatroulette's fifteen minutes of fame are over, but I was revisiting Jon Stewart's excellent piece on the fad (NSFW) and realized I should post about it.

The piece is notable because of its portrayal of much of the news media and their reaction to Internet things (note: "their" not "its" for news media since it is people, not a thing, I know it's incorrect grammatically but I don't like doing that, it's people). It also nails how people behave on the Internet as well (specifically, that some people like to behave badly and nakedly).

But it's also pretty funny since Stewart comments how most of the people he runs into are other reporters, doing a piece on chatroulette. It reminded me of academics and Second Life. There was a joke that, with all of the academics running around in Second Life interviewing people, they were only interviewing other academics...

Monday, May 17, 2010

Facebook and (In-Group vs. Facebook).

There is always Internet indignation when the people at Facebook change up Facebook's privacy settings, and rightfully so. Farhad Manjoo has a nice writeup over at Slate. (And I just noticed, not to be outdone, there's one at Salon too, written by Mary Elizabeth Williams. And a good, longer article at TidBITs by Rich Mogull that includes thoughts on what to do about it all. As an aside, is that an awesome name or what?) And I meant to include this piece by danah boyd.

He's right that we've seen this before, but I'd add that this is a case of in-group versus out-group, where Facebook users feel they are being taken advantage of by an external agent, the people who run Facebook. It's a community issue.

People on Facebook are parts of various communities. The people who run Facebook are not a part of the majority of those communities, but seek to profit from them. Granted the people at Facebook have bills to pay for the servers and such, but there are limits. When external agents or communities seek to benefit from another community, that community (i.e., its members) feel attacked and threatened (to some extent). They react, defending their community from outsiders. We've seen this play out online before. In Second Life, there are always people who complain about "the Lindens" and how they are ruining Second Life. In EverQuest II, players complain if their favorite character type is weakened.

Facebook communities (of friends, families, different groups) make content on Facebook. They do this with posts, likes, photos, and groups. This community material is just that, community material -- it is made by and belongs to the community. When another community (the people who run Facebook) come in and use that material, or give it to others (in the digital way, they allow others to see it), this is something we instinctively react against.

As long as the people at Facebook feel they are making profit and not losing users, nothing will change. If they can increase profits, they will. Users may object, and the people at Facebook may be terrible at interfaces (or may be good at intentionally making bad interfaces so most information becomes public and they can profit from it), but until people vote with their feet or stop posting information (and perhaps actively delete it), I don't see that anything will change.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The iPhone and Multitasking

One often-mentioned criticism of the iPhone, despite how the device and the information infrastructure in which it exists forced all the primary mobile carriers and manufacturers to produce and support touch-phones that are handheld computers/communication devices, is how it does not multitask.

I think it does multitask, though.

I have not read any official Apple specs about the iPhone and how it does not multitask, but I have never seen anyone say that it does, or that the critics are wrong. But if you have one, you can try this (and there are probably some other things you could do to get a similar thing to happen).

If you are in the photo app, you can choose to send a photo via text or email. If you choose email, the iPhone's email header with the to: and cc: and subject: fields comes up, you can auto-fill the to: field just like in email--basically it looks like you are in the email app and are sending an email with a photo in it, because you are. (I am not sure to what extent, though. It may just be "creating" an email, so it may not check for new mail.)

When you hit "send", you are taken back to the photo in the photo app. If the iPhone had no multitasking, your email would stop sending at this point. But it doesn't. It is being sent, from email, while you are in the photo app. It is multitasking.

If, when you hit send and then are taken back to the photo app, you switch over to the email app, you will see the "send" progress bar and see that it is making progress, but that it had started before you opened up email. Speed varies depending on the network, of course (wifi, 3G, reception, etc.).

There may be some reason this is not referred to as multitasking, but, to me it seems that it is indeed multitasking. I am in one app (the photo app) while another one is working in the background (the email app).

(See also my Reviewers are Pointless post about how it is easy to switch between apps on the iPhone where you don't have the screen real estate to see more than one app running in any large way anyway--sure you could fill your screen with ten status bars, but I don't see the point to that--so although it is not multitasking in this example, it is usually like suspending an app that you may not be doing anything with anyway, although there are some apps you might want running.)

EDIT: I asked a knowledgeable person about it, and he said that multitasking works but only for Apple applications. So, yes, but not for your app, so some people feel the answer is no. But yes. Irrelevant now, but I would have preferred accurate information in the first place.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

People and Change (Time) Part 2

Connecting with my earlier post on how many people in Detroit resisted accepting the standardization of time (and the move away from standard time), we see the same thing with the change from the Julian calendar (named after Julius Caesar) to the Gregorian calendar which we use currently.

From Paul Strathern's The Medici, Godfathers of the Renaissance, pp. 360-361:

By the turn of the seventeenth century the Renaissance was beginning to make itself felt in a range of increasingly disparate fields. The times were changing, even in the most literal sense: when it was noticed that the seasons were beginning to drift away from their customary positions in the ancient calendar, Pope Gregory VIII abandoned the ancient Julian calendar dating from Julius Caesar in 46 BC, and in 1582 introduced a new Gregorian calendar, at a stroke advancing the date by ten days. Yet many remained highly suspicious of such transformations, and as the new calendar was introduced over the years throughout Europe, it provoked riots, with indignant mobs demanding back the ten days that had been robbed from their lives.
Riots! Wow.

Apple vs. Adobe

Great writeup about Steve Jobs' explanation of why he doesn't like Adobe's Flash over at TidBITS.

One point I found surprising, since no one else I have seen mentioned it, is how there is no Flash for any other mobile phone platform. Wow.
Despite the focus on the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad, Flash isn't widely available on any other mobile platform. Nokia includes Flash 9.4 on its N900, which is not a phone, but no Android, Windows Mobile, BlackBerry, webOS, or Symbian phone handles Flash content. (There is a Flash Light player that works on many basic phones, but which requires Flash content that has been designed and optimized for Flash Light. The Flash Light site appears to be have been last updated in 2008.)
Annoying how people object to the lack of Flash on the iPhone and iPad but neglect to mention that.