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Friday, August 17

Debating the "Cult of the Amateur"

The Barnes and Noble Debate - "Cult of the Amateur"

Andrew Keen, the author of "The Cult of the Amateur" debates his ideas that the Internet is killing culture and the media with (from left) Nicholas Carr, Keith Teare, Andrew Keen, Steve Gillmor, moderated by Dan Farber (ZDNet Editor). Runs 30 minutes. June 19 at Campbell's Barnes and Noble bookstore (near San Jose).

Excellent debate. Some hyperbole, especially from Steve Gillmor [Sgt Pepper as disruptive as Web 2.0?] and some scary notions from Nicholas Carr. A lot breaks down crossing the Atlantic too, which isn't commented on. Everyone's nice to Andrew.

Part 2:

"I should have defined amateur more clearly."

"How's it feel to be a node?"

> Referencing earlier talk · Media literacy in a media saturated world
“The world is not binary,” Dan Gillmor said. “It’s nuanced and complicated, and we are failing to deal with that in this conversation. No one is arguing that traditional media reaches absolute perfection or arguing that new media is perfect….We are engaged in finding our way in a difficult period of de-evolution of the old journalism business model and the rise of a new one.”

He went to say, “Whether we can make it through this very messy period with great journalism is a question, but I think we can. It will include things we directly pay for and indirectly pay for with advertising, and individuals and collectives at the edge of network will create value.” <

> Referencing · Chris Anderson (Long Tail): Why Free is the Best Online Policy
An idea Anderson proposed that will no doubt cause controversy among reading purists is the idea of putting ads in books. Such a book could be free or very low cost, and a copy of the same book without ads would be more expensive. <

Part 3:

"When something old goes away, that's more than just a 'transition'"

"You want to go back to the C16th where we need rich families to pay us, so this [broke musician] guy has to be employed by Steve Jobs?"

"Amateur radio was the original blogosphere."

Bizarre, rambling, possibly crystal-induced audience question answered by "I think that's a really good question" from Andrew. You can tell he's on the PR trail.

"I just don't know what to say to you people."

So said the author of the report which provided the excuse for Australian PM John Howard to take-over Aboriginal communities.

Health worker Pat Anderson (right), co-authored the Little Children are Sacred report about child abuse.

"What the Prime Minister (John Howard) and federal Indigenous Affairs Minister (Mal) Brough have done is just a further form of abuse," Ms Anderson told a gathering of peak physicians convened in Sydney to address Aboriginal health.

"What we have is a prime minister and his ministers who don't have a heart.

"Their approach isn't going to nurture any kind of development ... nothing."

Speaking via telephone hook-up from Canberra, Ms Anderson, an Aboriginal health worker, said the Government's emergency interventions had left her "depressed and disheartened".

"I just don't know what to say to you people."

Ms Anderson's report, co-authored with Rex Wild QC, was used by the government to justify its dramatic intervention, but the authors say none of their 97 recommendations have been addressed.

First Google Health Screenshots

From Phillip Lenssen

Google Health, codename “Weaver”, is Google’s planned health information storage program. Google’s Vice President of Engineering Adam Bosworth lobbies for the program for quite a while now. Adam said the current US health care system is challenged when it comes to “supporting caregivers and communicating between different medical organizations.” Adam went on to say that people “need the medical information that is out there and available to be organized and made accessible to all ... Health information should be easier to access and organize, especially in ways that make it as simple as possible to find the information that is most relevant to a specific patient’s needs.” Adam adds that this – making information accessible – happens to be along Google’s mission.

The New York Times today writes that “about 20 percent of the [US] patient population have computerized records – rather than paper ones – and the Bush administration has pushed the health care industry to speed up the switch to electronic formats. But these records still tend to be controlled by doctors, hospitals or insurers. A patient moves to another state, for example, but the record usually stays.” But, the NYT continues, initiatives like the one by Google “would give much more control to individuals, a trend many health experts see as inevitable.” A prototype of Google Health has now been shown “to health professionals and advisers,” the NYT reports.

To find out just what you might be able to see in a future Google Health service, take a look at these screenshots from Google’s prototype which have been sent in here. As prototypes go, certain approaches of the program may change, and the specific interface may or may not be kept like this in a final release. “We’ll make mistakes and it will be a long-range march,” the NYT quotes Adam Bosworth.

+ imagine social networking plugged into this ...

Hmm. How's the 'Google Heath Service' going to mesh with the National Health Service (NHS)?! Badly, methinks ...

Nicholas Carr posted last year about Google's five 'products', Health is the first sign of the fifth:

So boil it all down, and here is my best guess at what the five Google products will be and how they'll be branded:

  • Google Search ("Google" goes back to meaning just search: for all information types, on all devices, personalized)
  • AdMarket (a unified market place for buyers and sellers, spanning web text, web video, web banners, print, radio, TV)
  • YouTube (YouTube expands from video to become the common interface for all media sharing)
  • YouTools (what Apps for Your Domain morphs into, with different tool sets for businesses, families, universities, and hospitals)
  • YouFile (a personal information management service, covering health data, finances, etc.)

World eGov survey · UK 5th

Equatorial Guinea eGov bests France, Japan, Italy and former colonists Spain.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University], July 24, 2007 — Asian countries continue to dominate international e-government ratings, taking three of the top four spots in a global e-government study undertaken by researchers at Brown University. South Korea earned the top rank, followed by Singapore, Taiwan, the United States, Great Britain and Canada. The study shows that 28 percent of government agencies around the world are offering online services, about the same as in 2006.

Global e-Government: 198 Countries Ranked

Rankings from 1 to 50

   RANK    COUNTRY                RATING

1. (1) South Korea 74.9 (60.3)
2. (3) Singapore 54.0 (47.5)
3. (2) Taiwan 51.1 (49.8)
4. (4) United States 49.4 (47.4)
5. (6) Great Britain 44.3 (42.6)
6. (5) Canada 44.1 (43.5)
7. (48) Portugal 43.8 (31.3)
8. (12) Australia 43.5 (39.9)
8. (27) Turkey 43.5 (33.7)
10. (8) Germany 42.9 (41.5)
11. (7) Ireland 42.4 (41.9)
12. (16) Switzerland 42.3 (36.9)
13. (38) Brazil 41.1 (32.1)
14. (11) Dominica 41.0 (40.0)
15. (65) Bahrain 40.3 (29.6)
16. (40) Equator. Guinea 40.0 (32.0)
16. (32) Liechtenstein 40.0 (33.0)
18. (133) Andorra 39.0 (24.0)
19. (14) New Zealand 38.4 (37.6)
20. (35) Italy 38.0 (32.9)
21. (10) Spain 37.7 (40.6)
22. (20) Hong Kong 37.5 (35.4)
23. (19) Finland 37.3 (35.6)
24. (30) Vatican 37.0 (33.5)
25. (36) Malaysia 36.9 (32.7)
        RANK   COUNTRY                RATING

26. (15) Netherlands 36.8 (37.4)
27. (46) Czech Rep. 36.7 (31.7)
28. (106) Brunei 36.5 (26.8)
29. (84) Cyprus (Rep.) 36.4 (28.3)
30. (40) Liberia 36.0 (24.0)
30. (56) Austria 36.0 (30.6)
30. (17) Azerbaijan 36.0 (36.0)
30. (143) Sierra Leone 36.0 (24.0)
30. (39) Bhutan 36.0 (32.0)
30. (175) Costa Rica 36.0 (20.0)
30. (73) Eritrea 36.0 (29.0)
30. (166) Ethiopia 36.0 (22.0)
30. (137) Gabon 36.0 (24.0)
30. (17) North Korea 36.0 (36.0)
40. (9) Japan 35.9 (41.5)
41. (28) Malta 35.8 (33.6)
42. (23) France 35.6 (34.7)
42. (24) Qatar 35.6 (34.5)
44. (67) Israel 35.5 (29.4)
45. (88) Croatia 35.0 (28.0)
46. (51) Iceland 34.6 (31.1)
47. (77) India 34.2 (28.7)
48. (54) Peru 34.0 (30.8)
48. (150) Zambia 34.0 (23.5)
50. (68) Mexico 33.9 (29.3)

According to Wikipedia, the PM website is the closest to a Japanese national government portal.

Common services include voter registration, visa application, passport application/renewal, job listings and online application, and requests for statistical reports.

Online tax filing was very prevalent, and was found on the Belgian Portal Site, the Pakistani Customs site, the Philippine Portal, and the French Economic Ministry.

Many departments offer online complaint forms. For example, the Malaysian Portal site has links to many of these forms. The Netherlands has a dedicated site for their Ombudsman, which accepts online complaint submissions. The New Zealand Department of Internal Affairs lets you complain about the presence of “objectionable material”. Several Philippine sites, such as the Portal page, Armed Forces, and Public Works have complaint forms. The South African Public Protector has an online complaint form.

Applying for and renewing licenses and permits is another common area where services are offered. The Mauritius Portal lets you apply for work permits and learner’s licenses and the New Zealand Economic Development website lets you renew an electrical workers or radio license. Many departments allow you to apply for government jobs online, including the New Zealand Portal.

Many sites allow you to order publications, including the Slovenia Tourism Board, South African Department of Environment & Tourism, Australian Portal site, Slovakia Industrial Property site, and the Swiss Intellectual Property Institute.

Several sites allow users to apply for grants online, including the New Zealand portal and U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Various websites allow for electronic document filing. The New Zealand portal lets you file various corporate documents (including annual returns). The Slovakia Industrial Property uses a digital signature system to enable its e-filling of documents. The Swiss Intellectual Property Institute offers the ability to file trademark applications through “e-Trademark” The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has the EDGAR Service, which allows for the online filing of 116 different forms.

Several sites are unique in their attempt to encourage electronic government.

The Swiss Intellectual Property Institute offers the “e-Trademark” service to help file trademark applications, and the fees for electronic filing are less than those for submitting paper copies. The Slovakia Industrial Property also offers online filing of documents for reduced fees online.

Several countries offered unique online services. The Republic of Congo offers a means to send SMS text messages from its site, for a fee. The New Zealand Portal and Conservation site allow online booking of huts and campsites in national parks. The Australian Toilet Map found at the National Continence Management Strategy lets you browse and pinpoint public toilets throughout Australia and see toilets along a planned route. Visitors can suggest additions to the toilet database.

Uluru .. There are 5 nearby toilets:

The Philippine Portal offers a link to an online betting site for basketball games run by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation. The Luxembourg Education Ministry has a link to its mySchool Portal where students can take online classes and tests and receive help with homework.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Administration allows users to search the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System database for case studies of injuries to people by consumer products. Mexico’s Ministry of the Economy site has an online “conversation forum” available to visitors where you can have an instant message conversation with agency officials.

Colombia’s Ministry of Education allows users to elect to erase all cookies placed on their hard drive periodically as they log in with their username and password. Guatemala’s Ministry of Agriculture site has a page embedded in their government web page that shows albums documenting the programs they put on and their service projects.

NUEVO - Fotos Proyectos

Turkey’s Portal has webcams of streets and squares all around the country on a live feed via the internet. Peru’s Portal site has an interactive online video that shows a mouse clicking on different things and what each click would accomplish plus a tutorial showing how to navigate pages while a voiceover explains the different services.

Ecuador’s President site has a website with videos and an entire user profile for the President of the country. Czech Republic’s Portal site has a new “Did you know?” fact at the top of each page. The page contains a unique “conversation bubble” theme that allows for links to interesting services and a “quick review” that gives current time and date, weather, and exchange information at a glance.

India’s Department of Commerce site holds regular online chat sessions, with pre-designated topics either a few times a week or daily for one hour. They broadcast the topics and their schedule on a scrolling banner at the top of the webpage for every visitor to see.

OnLine Chat Date : 20 Nov 2006

On 'Special Economic Zones Policy' on every working day between 17.00 - 18.00 Hrs | "Regional Trade Agreements (RTAs)" on Monday, Tuesday between 11 AM and 12 Noon | "WTO(Doha Round of Negotiations)" on Thursday, Friday between 11 AM and 12 Noon

One feature that has slowed the development of online services has been an inability to use credit cards and digital signatures on financial transactions. On commercial sites, it is becoming a more common practice to offer goods and services online for purchase through the use of credit cards.

However, of the government websites analyzed, only 5 percent accept credit cards and 1 percent allowed digital signatures for financial transactions, similar to last year.

For our test, we used the Priority Level One standard and evaluated each government agency regarding whether it complies with the W3C guidelines. Sites are judged to be either in compliance or not in compliance based on the results of this test. According to our Bobby [sic] analysis, 23 percent of government websites are accessible to the disabled, the same as last year.

Disability Access
2004 2005 2006 2007
14% 19% 23% 23%

The most basic means to ensure accessibility is to maintain compliance with WWC standards. However, there now exist other ways to aid accessibility. Many sites how allow users to change the size on the text, to accommodate those with poor eyesight. Other pages have applications that will read the entire page to the user. The most extreme example of this trend can be seen on the Swedish Government Portal (, which not only will read to page to you, but lets you
customize the text size, spacing, and coloring. Advances in technology have made these types of aids possible, and government website should begin implementing them In order to improve electronic government, the report suggests that governments take several steps to reach their full potential in terms of accessibility and effectiveness. The ultimate goal of e-government is to provide citizens with services, information, and interactive features. To this end, sites need to be well-designed, easy to navigate, and accessible to a wide variety of users.

The researchers suggest the following steps be undertaken:
  • standardize templates with consistent navigation;
  • have accessibility aids;
  • list when pages are updated;
  • organize pages by user type;
  • create “most popular” lists;
  • have an online services menu;
  • have interactive technical assistance;
  • make it interesting!
  • avoid commercial advertising;
  • fix faulty links;
  • improve language accessibility;
  • do not sell domain names; and
  • have a secure and stable server.

    The Great Flood of London

    How London survives the Greenland Meltdown, 2024-2046. Music by Bellowhead and Beethoven. Drawings and animation by Ellen Page.

    Slightly wacky and a 'lil anti-Ken, but gorgeously done and timely what with the disaster movie and everything ...

    Thursday, August 16

    EU asking How Safe is ‘Social Networking’?

    Press Release
    16 August 2007

    How Safe is ‘Social Networking’?

    Myspace, Twitter, Facebook – Social Networking is the web success story of the new century. The statistics are mind-bending – Myspace claimed its 100 Millionth user in August 2006. But a recent ENISA workshop put the question - “how safe are social networks?”

    According to the experts, there is a lot to be concerned about; from specialised social networking worms spreading through Myspace profiles to identity theft, extortion, spear-phishing and even recruitment of terrorists – social networking has it all. But the biggest threat is to personal privacy.

    “Thousands of young people are revealing the most intimate details of their personal lives for everyone to see,” says Alain Esterle, Head of ENISA’s Technical Department. “Social Networking sites create a sense of being among friends – but often a potential employer might be interested in the fact that you were arrested or which drugs you took yesterday. Added to this, new technologies like online face recognition and Internet archives make it very difficult to hide or remove such information once it is posted online.”

    This sense of intimacy has been exploited by advertisers with fake profiles selling goods, by child predators infiltrating networks with false profiles and even terrorist organisations to find recruits from a particular social group. So called cyber-bullying campaigns to intimidate school pupils or even teachers via social networking sites have received a lot of attention. Josie Fraser from the UK’s Childnet explained that many students do not report the bullying which occurs, because they feel their teachers do not understand Social Networking technologies.

    But the news is not all bad.

    “We do not allow our users to reveal contact information such as zip codes – users who do so will be banned” says Lien Louwagie from Netlog, a Belgian Social Networking site with 25 million users. “Netlog places abuse-reporting buttons on almost every item – we take these issues very seriously”. “Careful use of moderation tools can help a lot” adds Maz Nadjm of Rareface, a London based social networking company. And according to Alessandro Acquisti of Carnegie Mellon University, “Awareness is key”. His study of Facebook found that users were more careful after answering a survey about privacy on Facebook than beforehand. “The very fact of answering questions about their privacy made them more cautious”.

    ENISA will be publishing a position paper on Social Networking in October 2007. “The aim is to benefit both users and providers of social media by encouraging a safer environment on Social Networking sites” says Andrea Pirotti, ENISA’s Executive Director.

    For further background info see
    or contact Giles Hogben, ENISA Expert,

    or Ulf Bergström, Press and Communications Officer,
    ENISA, Mob:


    The EU is constantly barracked on supposed luddite attitudes to the Web but this sounds like them doing their job in raising the Risks + contemplating practical ways of dealing them.

    Wednesday, August 15

    Yahoo bests Google for once

    Interesting. From ClickZ:

    Yahoo rates higher in terms of customer satisfaction than Google. That's according to the annual e-business report released by ForeSee Results and the University of Michigan's American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI).

    The e-business sector experienced a 1.7 percent dip to an overall score of 75.2 on ACSI's 100 point scale. The e-business category includes search engines, portals, news, and information sites.

    Google's score sunk from 81 last year to 78 in 2007; a 3.7 percent decrease. In the same period, Yahoo raised its score from 76 to 79, up 6.8 percent.

    "While Google does a great job in search, which is what they do, but [consumers] are seeing Google the same as three years ago," said Larry Freed, president and CEO of ForeSee Results.

    Freed said Google's word-of-mouth marketing earned the search engine success in search, but hasn't effectively promoted applications like Gmail, Google Docs & Spreadsheets, and Google Earth. "It might be time to step back and grow the market share in these applications."

    Searching for satisfaction

    Google's basic, utilitarian design -- the hallmark of its appeal in the past -- has become stale and in need of a refresh, analysts suggest ... Web users choose search engines more by habit than anything else, and the Googling habit is well-ingrained. And advertisers make ad buys based on traffic and results, not customer satisfaction, making these results little more than a feather in the also-rans' caps.

    And so, the Macaca turns ..

    From Wikipedia

    Macaca is a pejorative epithet used by francophone colonialists in Central Africa's Belgian Congo for the native population. It may be derived from the name of the genus comprising macaque monkeys. The word macaque has also been used as a racial slur. The macaque's genus name, Macaca, is a latinization of the Bantu (Kongo) ma-kako,[3] meaning "monkey".
    Allen points to Webb aide, Sidarth, referring to him as "Macaca."
    Allen points to Webb aide, Sidarth, referring to him as "Macaca."[18]

    In the 2006 Senate election in Virginia the Republican Senator George Allen lost, in part, because of a video showing him directing the Macaca slur at an opposition campaign worker, S.R. Sidarth, whose ancestors came from India.

    TechPresident reports that:

    Videos of Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani making gaffes have been circulating to potentially damaging effect. Romney's video, in which he seems to equate volunteer military service with working for his campaign, was shot (actually, it's just audio) at a campaign stop in Iowa [it's an official video]. In Giuliani's video, in which he compares himself to the 9/11 rescue workers ("I'm one of them"), Giuliani is speaking at press conference. But while the George Allen/Macaca video captured an unguarded Allen speaking off the cuff at a fundraiser, these captured candidates speaking on the record, directly to cameras.
    So they wonder if the moment's hitting when candidates should justly have a 'Fear of Macaca?'
    The macaca video hit because someone happened to shoot it and upload it, and others took notice and it began to spread virally. In these cases, however, it didn't take a tracker to spot the videos and promote them; instead, an online, distributed network is efficiently spreading them upward making them into a bigger and bigger issue.
    This is about the size of the network compared to just last year and also the ease of connecting, with search improvements and online video visibility etc.

    In my town a clip caught on a mobile phone of a local Councilor caught off-guard is doing the rounds - a local campaign has been slowly developing video as documentary evidence so it's as one with that - and much being made of it by the opposition.

    It's not going to spread upwards like Romney's but the implications are possibly serious and only going to get more so for all elected officials. And probably some unelected ones too.

    Romney video

    Guiliani video

    Monday, August 13

    Wow - Demo of stunning multi-touch intuitive screen

    Hat tip to John Caswell.

    Han is a research scientist for NYU's Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences. Here, he demonstrates - for the first time publicly - his intuitive, "interface-free," touch-driven computer screen, which can be manipulated intuitively with the fingertips, and responds to varying levels of pressure

    Here's the "demo, which drew spontaneous applause and audible gasps from the audience, begins with a simple lava lamp, then turns into a virtual photo-editing tabletop, where Han flicks photos across the screen as if they were paper snapshots" when the technology was first unveiled a year ago, from TED:

    Here's another one via John about an amazing visualisation space with digital walls that become ceilings.

    Found it interesting that the technology described as "a bit different from Powerpoint" actually ends in text based slides (for Nike apparently). According to John Sweller, a researcher from the University of New South Wales.

    "It is effective to speak to a diagram, because it presents information in a different form. But it is not effective to speak the same words that are written, because it is putting too much load on the mind and decreases your ability to understand what is being presented."

    "PowerPoint presentations can backfire if the information on the screen is the same as that which is verbalized because the audience's attention will be split between the two,"