Archive for October, 2009

The White House switch to open source: Tim O’Reilly’s thoughts

27 Oct
Over the weekend, the White House new media team announced (via AP) that now runs on the open source content management system Drupal. Tim O'Reilly puts this news into context:
drupal.jpg This move is obviously a big win for open source. As John Scott of Open Source for America (a group advocating open source adoption by government, to which I am an advisor) noted in an email to me: "This is great news not only for the use of open source software, but the validation of the open source development model. The White House's adoption of community-based software provides a great example for the rest of the government to follow."

John is right. While open source is already widespread throughout the government, its adoption by the White House will almost certainly give permission for much wider uptake. Particularly telling are the reasons that the White House made the switch

Thoughts on the switch to Drupal []


Infographic: Left vs Right

21 Oct

Clark Kent told us about this "thought-provoking, artful schematic that explains the differences in basic political philosophy between progressives and conservatives."

It was created by David McCandless and Stefanie Posavec, and appears in The Visual Miscellaneum, which comes out on November 10.

I'm looking forward to the book. Below are some of the other infographics that are in it:

20th Century Death: What's Killed the Most? • 22 Stories • 30 Years Makes a Difference Alternative Medicine • Amphibian Extinction Rates • Articles of War: Most Edited Wikipedia Pages • Bee Limit Warning • Behind Every Great Man • Being Defensive • Better than Bacon • The Billion Dollar-o-Gram • Body by Insurance Value • The Book of You: Your Complete DNA • Books Everyone Should Read • Calories In, Calories Out • Carbon Aware The Carbon Dioxide Cycle • Celebrity Causes • Chatterboxes • Cocktails • Colors and Culture Cosmetic Ingredients • Creation Myths • The Creationism-Evolutionism Spectrum • Daily Diets • Dance Genreology • Dangers of Death • Enneagram • Fast Internet • Feeding Frenzy: the Organic Food Market • Food Coloring: Unpleasant Health Effects • The Future of Energy • The Future of Our Future • Global Media Scare Stories • The Global Warming Skeptics vs. the Scientific Consensus • Good News • Google Insights • The Great Firewall of China • Immortality • In 25 Words or Less • The "In" Colors • The "Interesting" Colors International Number Ones • Internet Virals • Kyoto Targets • Left vs. Right • Looking for Love Online • Low Resolution • Mainstream-o-Meter • Making the Book • Man's Humanity to Man • The Media Jungle • Microbes Most Dangerous • The Middle East • Moral Matrix Most Common Avatar Names • Most Popular Boys' Names • Most Popular Girls' Names Most Profitable Stories of All Time • Most Successful Rock Bands • Nature vs. Nurture The One Machine: Map of the Internet • Painkillers • Personal Computer Evolution Peter's Projection • Postmodernism • Red vs. Blue • Rising Sea Levels • Rock Genreology Salad Dressings • Selling Your Soul • Sex Education • Snake Oil? • Some Things You Can't Avoid • Stages of You • Stock Check: Nonrenewable Resources • Taste Buds • Things That'll Give You Cancer • Three's a Magic Number • Time-Travel Plots in TV and Film • Tons of Carbon • Types of Coffee • Types of Facial Hair • Types of Information Visualization Vacation Time by Country • Varieties of Romantic Relationships • Vintage Years • Virtual Kingdoms • Water Towers • We Broke Up Because ... • What Are the Chances?: Survival Rates • What Is Consciousness? • When Condiments Go Bad • Which Fish Are Okay to Eat? Who Clever Are You? • Who Owns the Top 100 Websites? • Who Reads the Most? • Who Runs the World? • Who Really Runs the World? • World Religions • X Is the New Black

Infographic: Left vs Right


Essential plot twists for writers

20 Oct

Ape Lad sez, "Dresden Codak, a very funny webcomic, has this handy chart of '42 Essential Third-Act Twists' for writers."

42 Essential 3rd Act Twists (Thanks, Ape Lad!)


Meet the 42 lucky people who got to see the secret copyright treaty

14 Oct

The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement is a proposed copyright treaty that contains provisions that criminalize non-commercial file-sharing; require net-wide wiretapping for copyright infringement and border-searches of hard-drives and other devices; and disconnection from the Internet for people accused of violating copyright. The actual text of these provisions is a secret, though, as the treaty is being negotiated away from the UN, behind closed doors; the Obama administration denied a Freedom of Information Act request for it on the grounds that it is a matter of "national security."

The NGO Knowledge Ecology International pressed the US Trade Rep on this, and received a reply stating that 42 DC insiders -- including some reps from activist groups -- have been shown the treaty, after signing a vow promising to treat it as classified. KEI has researched the 42 people and their bios and corporate affiliations. Sherwin Siy of Public Knowledge describes his experiences with the secret treaty:

Our first exposure to any text was on fairly short notice. We were allowed to view a draft of one proposed section as we sat in a room at USTR with some of its negotiators and counsel. We were not allowed to take any copies of the text with us when we left the meeting about an hour later.We were urged to keep any notes we took secure, and not to discuss the substance of what we saw unless USTR confirmed that the other party had also seen the text. The meeting proceeded with USTR discussing each point of the text in turn as we viewed it for the first time and compared the text to existing statutes, trade agreements, and treaties.

We were invited to set up additional meetings or call USTR to confirm our recollections if we wanted to verify what we remembered from the meeting, as we were not allowed to photograph, scan, or (presumably) transcribe the documents. We were told that some edits might be made in the near future to account for various concerns.

A meeting a few weeks later convened a range of people who had been cleared to see the text, and functioned as a roundtable, at this meeting, a slightly altered version was shown, which in some areas was slightly better, in some slightly worse, but without some of the most troubling aspects resolved.

White House shares the ACTA Internet text with 42 Washington insiders, under non disclosure agreements


YouTube Reaches One Billion Views Per Day

09 Oct

youtube_billionWhen your website first reaches a million visitors, it’s a great milestone. However, one billion views per day can only be attained by the selected few, and YouTube is now one of them.

According to the official blog, YouTube is serving “well over a billion views a day”. That’s at least 11,574 views per second, 694,444 views per minute, and 41,666,667 views per hour. Imagine the web server farm that can withstand that much traffic, and then remember that YouTube is just one of Google’s many properties.

As we wrote earlier this week, YouTube still may not be making enough money to justify the 1.65 billion dollars Google has paid for it, but it definitely makes it up when it comes to visitors.

To celebrate the occasion, YouTube has a special logo today, accompanied with the text “1 billion views per day”. Yes, they’re bragging, but one has to admit they have a lot to brag about.

Reviews: Google, YouTube

Tags: billion views, Google, youtube


Barack Obama Wins Nobel Peace Prize, Twitter Goes Crazy

09 Oct

If you’re wondering why half of the Twitter trends are currently related to US president Barack Obama, news broke recently that he has been awarded a Nobel Peace Prize.

The official site of the Nobel Foundation is dying under the sudden surge of traffic, but the list of the Nobel Peace Prize laureates has already been updated, as you can see in the screenshot below.

This is a somewhat surprising move by the Nobel Committee, since Barack Obama simply hasn’t had enough time as president to do all that he had set out to accomplish. Still, Thorbjorn Jagland, the chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, claims that the prize was awarded based on Obama’s work so far. “We are not awarding the prize for what may happen in the future but for what he has done in the previous year. We would hope this will enhance what he is trying to do,” he said.

Twitter is currently overwhelmed with tweets related to the event, and is at times unresponsive, but it’s still holding on. Dozens of topics related to the award and Obama are currently extremely popular on Tweetmeme. If Twitter manages to go through this eventful day (NASA’s LCROSS project, as well as Miley Cyrus quitting Twitter are also popular topics) without a meltdown, it’ll be quite an accomplishment for the service that’s so often troubled with downtime.


Reviews: Tweetmeme, Twitter

Tags: Nobel, obama, twitter


Wondermark’s Genre Fiction Generator

06 Oct

Wondermark's wonderful Genre Fiction Generator

(Thanks, David!)


Olympic Committee Member to Chicago bid team: US Customs is “harrowing experience”

02 Oct
Chicago may have lost its Olympic bid due to the insane fingerprints-and-photos regime at the US border: the Chicago bid team was questioned by an IOC member who called the US border "a rather harrowing experience." I've actually found the O'Hare border procedure pretty painless, but God help the foreigner who lands in Texas. At DFW, I was told by a border guard that I wasn't allowed to listen to headphones in the (two-hour-long) line; at Houston, we once stood in line for three hours just to change planes between Honduras and the UK.
Among the toughest questions posed to the Chicago bid team this week in Copenhagen was one that raised the issue of what kind of welcome foreigners would get from airport officials when they arrived in this country to attend the Games. Syed Shahid Ali, an I.O.C. member from Pakistan, in the question-and-answer session following Chicago's official presentation, pointed out that entering the United States can be "a rather harrowing experience..."

"It's clear the United States still has a lot of work to do to restore its place as a premier travel destination," Roger Dow, U.S. Travel's president, said in the statement released today. "When IOC members are commenting to our President that foreign visitors find traveling to the United States a 'pretty harrowing experience,' we need to take seriously the challenge of reforming our entry process to ensure there is a welcome mat to our friends around the world, even as we ensure a secure system."

Chicago's Loss: Is Passport Control to Blame?