“links” Category

FISC’s Secret Law

Regardless of the specific form of the federal government’s spying, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court’s structure is worrying:

The surveillance court is a different world of secret case law, non-adversarial proceedings, and rulings written by individual judges who rarely meet as a panel.

Judges generally confer only with government lawyers, and out of public view. Yet the judges have the power to interpret the Constitution and set long-lasting and far-reaching precedent on matters involving Americans’ rights to privacy and due process under the Fourth Amendment. And this fast-growing body of law is almost entirely out of view of legal scholars and the public. Most Americans do not have access to the judiciary’s full interpretation of the Constitution on matters of surveillance, search and seizure when it comes to snooping for terrorist plots — and are limited in their ability to challenge it.

Their decisions impact U.S. citizens heavily, yet we have no way to know what their decisions are, nor to challenge the programs their rulings enable. And we have allowed it to happen.

June 22nd, 2013

Mighty Deals (Sponsor)

Thanks to the people at Mighty Deals for sponsoring this week’s RSS feed.


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That’s where MightyDeals.com comes in. We negotiate promotional deals with suppliers and often manage to agree up to 97% off regular pricing.

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So if you’re looking for great deals, or just want to stay in touch with the latest fonts, applications, themes and resources, visit MightyDeals.com or sign up for our newsletter today.

Sponsorship by The Syndicate.

June 18th, 2013

“Fertile Ground”

I haven’t posted anything this week both because I was in San Francisco until Wednesday evening and because iOS 7 has taken me a while to wrap my head around, but Marco Arment wrote what I think is one of the more interesting pieces about the update:

One of my favorite patterns in our industry is when the old and established are wiped out by disruption, irrelevance, or changing fashions. Like a forest fire, clearing out the old is very destructive and shouldn’t be taken lightly. But what’s left behind is a clean slate and immense opportunity.

I don’t think we’ve ever had such an opportunity en masse on iOS. After what we saw of iOS 7 yesterday, I believe this fall, we’ll get our chance.

He’s absolutely right. iOS 7 is so different—both aesthetically and functionally—that nearly all applications will need substantial updates. Applications that go un-changed will feel old and wrong in an even more dramatic way than applications that weren’t updated for retina displays. As a result, there’s going to be an App Store clearing.

But more importantly, this is an opportunity for new entrants into almost every category because it is so different. Application makers have a chance to re-think not only how they look, but what they do, and how they do it. The design concepts Apple introduced are in their infancy, and I think we all are going to help define them with the applications we build.

While talking with people at WWDC, I found myself starting to think that iOS 7 is early days in much the same way the iPhone was when the App Store was released. We have the chance to define the interfaces for the next five years. That’s incredibly exciting.

June 14th, 2013

X WordPress Theme (Sponsor)

Thanks to the folks at Themeco for sponsoring this week’s RSS feed.


Themeco is proud to launch X, a first of its kind WordPress theme built in conjunction with leading business and marketing experts. To celebrate our release, we wanted to share a really powerful SEO technique that you can implement today.

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Sponsorship by The Syndicate.

June 14th, 2013

Education, Technology, Passivity

Partly in response to my piece on the philosophy of Google Glass, Alan Jacobs wrote this:

But if awakening students from those slumbers has always been the task of the true educator, that task is all the more difficult in a time of technologies of knowledge, or “knowledge,” that asymptotically approach omnipresence. Google Glass, along with a whole range of similar technologies, enforces the very passivity which truly liberal education is concerned to defeat.

That’s absolutely right. Just as “the truth is in the cloud” for web services that sync data, I think we’re setting the stage for the web turning into some sort of ostensibly-neutral source of true knowledge. When we have immediate, unfettered access to the web’s information, it begins to take on a feeling of absolute truth, even for things that are inherently opinion or taste.

In 2010, I argued that this idea of “openness” that Facebook (and to some extent, Google) have pushed so much for—that we will all be better off if we share more of our lives and identity with the public—undermines public and private as separate spheres, and therefore also the space for people to form their own beliefs and identity. As the public sphere encroaches and overruns the private sphere, it is necessarily harder to experiment with new tastes, opinions and beliefs, and to settle on certain ones, because the entire process is more transparent for observation and judgment.

These things—devices like Google Glass, which give us immediate access to the web, and social networks, which push us to share more and more of ourselves with the public—are intertwined. The result could be, or already is, a greater emphasis on “Well, everyone else thinks…” and less on “Well, I believe this to be true because…”. And that should be profoundly worrying.

June 6th, 2013

Radium (Sponsor)

Thanks to Radium for sponsoring this week’s RSS feed.


Radium is a new way to listen to internet radio. It sits in your menu bar and stays out of your way. And it just works.

With its clean user interface and album cover display, you’re always just a click away from beautiful sounds. Add your favorite tracks to the wish list and check them out later on the iTunes Store. Take the sounds with you using Radium’s built-in AirPlay streaming support. It’s all there.

With the proliferation of services like Spotify and Pandora, why choose Radium? Because with Radium, you don’t have to build up playlists, constantly answer questions about your music preferences, or navigate a cumbersome user interface. Radium is all about the sounds. And these sounds come from over 6000 free stations, maintained and curated by real people like you.

Available for $10 on the Mac App Store. Check it out.

Sponsorship by The Syndicate.

June 3rd, 2013

“Free”

Dr. Drang on “free”:

First, you have to recognize that you’ve been “the product” your entire life. So were your parents and so were your grandparents. Television and radio, newspapers and magazines—they all sell your attention to their primary customers: advertisers. Even things you “pay for” sell you off to advertisers because you really don’t pay for them—you only cover part of the costs. Despite this obvious and longstanding fact of life, while everyone bitches about commercials, no one says TV networks are insidious or underhanded because they run ads.1 I’ve never heard of anyone boycotting Mad Men because they don’t want to be a product sold by AMC.

June 3rd, 2013

The U.S. Health Care System Needs Price Signals

Peter Suderman:

This is the real problem with health care pricing in the U.S.: not the lack of sufficiently aggressive price controls, but the lack of meaningful price signals.

June 3rd, 2013

Creating Machine Avatars For All

Dmitry Itskov wants to unlock us from the prisons of our physical bodies and upload “us”—the sum of our brain’s connections that create “us”—into affordable machine bodies. He believes this will free us to live better, more meaningful lives:

Mr. Itskov says he will invest at least part of his fortune in such ventures, but his primary goal with 2045 is not to become richer. In fact, the more you know about Mr. Itskov, the less he seems like a businessman and the more he seems like the world’s most ambitious utopian. He maintains that his avatars would not just end world hunger — because a machine needs maintenance but not food — but that they would also usher in a more peaceful and spiritual age, when people could stop worrying about the petty anxieties of day-to-day living.

“We need to show that we’re actually here to save lives,” he said. “To help the disabled, to cure diseases, to create technology that will allow us in the future to answer some existential questions. Like what is the brain, what is life, what is consciousness and, finally, what is the universe?”

As seems to happen, this is perfectly timed with my piece on Google Glass last week.

Perhaps I’m just cynical, but this story seems very much like a microcosm for much of technology, and especially Google Glass. There’s a very nice veneer on top of Itskov’s avatar idea, a veneer that says it’s to help people and to solve real problems like curing diseases (because our bodies will no longer be organic) and ending hunger (because the only sustenance we will require is electricity and maintenance), and to free people of the “petty anxieties” of day-to-day life like providing a living for you and your family. As a result, humanity will be free to tackle much larger issues.

I say it’s a veneer because whether Itskov’s vision has any chance at being realized or not (it certainly doesn’t in the relatively near future), his solution to these “problems” solves them by eliminating much of what makes us “human” in the first place. Who we are as individuals is not merely defined by the connections in our brains, but also by how we experience the physical world and interact with it, and our struggle to survive and improve our lot. Even if you can successfully map a person’s brain and re-create the individual within a computer as a result, they inherently won’t be the same person, or feel the same way, by nature of their new body. Sudden immortality, coupled with no need to ever seek food and survive, could play havoc with a brain evolutionarily-designed to focus primarily on it.

In other words, the “solution” may destroy what’s worth saving in the first place: humanity.

June 3rd, 2013

“Dueling philosophies” for Wearable Tech

While comparing Google Glass to a (theoretical) Apple-made watch, Ken Segall makes this observation:

Second, there’s the company’s love of humanity. That is, Apple has never created technology for technology’s sake. It creates technology that strikes a chord with human beings.

I’d restate that in a different way: Apple seeks to make technology that makes us better as humans, rather than try to change what we are. The Mac, iLife, the iPod, iPhone and iPad all fit this very well. None of them try to redefine what it means to be human.

Google Glass, as a technology, begins to do exactly that. It’s a first stab at providing an immediate connection between the web and our brains, and it does so by overlaying an interface on our most important sensory input. There’s no meaning in “it gets technology out of the way,” as Google is wont to say, because Glass is intended to always be in the way, to become a part of us in a much more literal way than smartphones have.

That’s not only unappealing to me, but I think the idea—that we will be better off if we literally integrate the web into ourselves and therefore very fundamentally change the human experience—disturbing.

May 31st, 2013

Utilitarianism

Utilitarianism, as explained to an alien.

(Via Greg Mankiw.)

May 31st, 2013

“Obama’s Artful Anguish”

Ross Douthat:

I am not particularly nostalgic for the Bush era either. But Obama’s Reinhold Niebuhr act comes with potential costs of its own. While the last president exuded a cowboyish certainty, this president is constantly examining his conscience in public — but if their policies are basically the same, the latter is no less of a performance. And there are ways in which it may be a more fundamentally dishonest one, because it perpetually promises harmonies that can’t be achieved and policy shifts that won’t actually be delivered.

May 28th, 2013

Jamelle Bouie’s “Star Trek: Into Darkness” Complaints

Jamelle Bouie wasn’t satisfied with Star Trek: Into Darkness:

These aren’t as disjointed as they look, and they all point to my main problem with Into Darkness: I don’t mind that Abrams and Lindelof wanted to remake “Space Seed” and Wrath. What I mind is that it was half-assed, with hardly any thought given to the characters. The first movie could get away with what it was—a long sequence of action set-pieces strung together by a threadbare plot. But this needed to have an actual core, and Abrams couldn’t deliver.

Jamelle is dead-on. My biggest misgiving with J.J. Abrams’s style of filmmaking is that he likes to create the facade of substance in his films without much at all underneath. It’s a science fiction wrapper for little more than adventure blockbusters.

May 28th, 2013

Fracture. Photos printed on glass. (Sponsor)

Thanks to the people behind Fracture for sponsoring this week’s RSS feed. This looks pretty cool. Give it a look.


Fracture prints your photo in vivid color directly on glass. It’s picture, frame & mount, all in one.

It’s a modern, elegant and affordable way to print and display your favorite memories. Your print comes with everything you need to display your photo, right in the durable packaging.

Fractures come in a variety of sizes and prices, starting at just $12, with free shipping on orders of $100 or more.

Fracture prints make great Father’s Day gifts and are the perfect way to fill up empty walls in your new home or apartment. Check it out.

Sponsorship by The Syndicate.

May 28th, 2013

Sell a Clean Home, Not a Vacuum

Chase Oliver:

If you’re selling a vacuum, don’t start by pitching its bells and whistles. Instead, sell a clean home. It’s the reason people look to buy a vacuum in the first place. Once you’ve established that you understand — or better yet, sympathize with — your customers’ needs it becomes easier to justify each feature by tracing it back to the product’s intent.

Yes, yes, yes.

I love that phrase—”sell a clean home, not a vacuum.” I might steal it to explain Design for Purpose.

(Via Marcelo Somers.)

May 24th, 2013