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Does Being Seriously Depressed Make You a Better Leader? - Forbes

Does Being Seriously Depressed Make You a Better Leader? - Forbes | Semantic Gnosis Web |
Yes, when times get tough. Even being mentally ill can help. That’s according to Nassir Ghaemi, a Tufts University psychiatry professor, in an article in The Wall Street Journal adapted from his new book, A First-Rate Madness: Uncovering the Links Between Leadership and Mental Illness. He says mentally healthy people make fine leaders when times are good and the challenges are easy, but “in times of crisis and tumult, those who are mentally abnormal, even ill, become the greatest leaders. We might call this the Inverse Law of Sanity.”

He points out that the perfectly competent and sane Neville Chamberlain, prime minister of England, couldn’t handle the approach of World War II, and had to relinquish leadership to the manic-depressive and sometimes suicidal Winston Churchill. Abraham Lincoln, Mohandas Gandhi, and Martin Luther King, Jr., also showed signs of serious mental instability and were greater leaders than any normal people could have been, Ghaemi says. Likewise in business: “The sanest of CEOs may be just right during prosperous times, allowing the past to predict the future. But during a period of change, a different kind of leader—quirky, odd, even mentally ill—is more likely to see business opportunities

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Innovation under Austerity - Transcript - Software Freedom Law Center

Innovation under Austerity - Transcript - Software Freedom Law Center | Semantic Gnosis Web |
The Software Freedom Law Center provides legal representation and other law related services to protect and advance Free and Open Source Software.
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Ad Taks

Ad Taks | Semantic Gnosis Web |
Ad Taks is Held van ZTRDG. Heeft de Chaamse Pel weer op de kaart gezet. Letterlijk en figuurlijk. Hobbypluimveehouder Taks las zo’n tien jaar geleden dat dit Brabantse kippenras bijna was uitgestorven en kwam in actie. Lees meer op
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I Remember You - Short Film

I Remember You - Short Film | Semantic Gnosis Web |
Thank you so very much for taking a few minutes from your day to review this offering. I have been developing this project for almost 3 years and have reached a point where it is time to take this ne…
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Internet of Things devices lack fundamental security, study finds - ZDNet

Internet of Things devices lack fundamental security, study finds - ZDNet | Semantic Gnosis Web |
UPDATED. What do you find when you test the security of today's IoT devices? Vulnerabilities which could allow for robbery, theft or even stalking.
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Paul McCartney, John Mayer headline Rock Hall induction show

Paul McCartney, John Mayer headline Rock Hall induction show | Semantic Gnosis Web |
Ringo Star will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame next month with a little help from a key friend: Paul McCartney.

Via Mary E. Berens-Oney
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TY Mary ;-)

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Scooped by Jan Bergmans! Put the fun back into computing. Use Linux, BSD. Put the fun back into computing. Use Linux, BSD. | Semantic Gnosis Web |
News and feature lists of Linux and BSD distributions.
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Daisuke Suzuki has announced the release of Vine Linux 6.3, an updated version of the project's general-purpose Japanese Linux distribution (and one of the world's oldest one, with beginnings dating back to 1999) featuring GNOME 2.32 as the default desktop environment: "Vine Linux 6.3 (Malartic-Lagraviere). Vine Linux 6.3 has following features (highlights): update the software collection; update Linux kernel to 3.4.106 (latest LTS kernel 3.4.y); bundle newer software - Firefox 33.0, Thunderbird 24.0, Sylpheed 3.4.2, LibreOffice 4.3.5, OpenSSL 1.0.1; stability improvement; improvements of look and feel; newer hardware support; new user-friendly tools. Since this is not a commercial version (Vine Linux CR), non-free applications and fonts are not included on the CD/DVD. Instead of proprietary ATOX X/Wnn7/Wnn8/VJE Japanese inputs and Ricoh/Dynacomware fonts, this FTP edition contains Anthy and free TrueType fonts." Here is the brief release announcement (in Japanese), with further information provided in the release notes (in English). Download the installation DVD image from here: Vine63-DVD-x86_64.iso (2,027MB, SHA1, pkglist).2015-02-25NEW • Distribution Release: KaOS 2015.02

Anke Boersma has announced the release of KaOS 2015.02, a brand-new version of the project's rolling-release Linux distribution featuring the Plasma 5 desktop: "KaOS is very proud to announce the availability of the February release of a new stable ISO image. This release brings the end of KDE 4 as the default Desktop Environment for KaOS. Almost ten months ago work started to fully migrate to Frameworks 5, Plasma 5-based distribution and with the release of Plasma 5.2.1 this migration is now deemed ready to bring a better user experience then KDE 4. From the unset of this migration there was never a plan to mix the two environments. What you will see on this ISO is a pure Plasma 5-based environment. As many might have noted KDE Applications 14.12 did not contain more then a handful of Plasma 5 applications. Just about all applications that users have become used to seeing in a KDE 4 version are available as a Plasma 5 port. A few are not ready yet, and those will be missing from the KaOS repositories until their ports are ready for daily use." Here is the full release announcement with screenshots. Download: KaOS-2015.02-x86_64.iso (1,398MB, MD5, pkglist).2015-02-24NEW • Distribution Release: Tails 1.3

Tails 1.3, a new version of the live distribution designed for anonymous Internet browsing via the Tor network, is out. Among the new features is the inclusion of Electrum, a lightweight Bitcoin client: "Tails, The Amnesic Incognito Live System, version 1.3, is out. This release fixes numerous security issues and all users must upgrade as soon as possible. New features: Electrum is an easy-to-use Bitcoin wallet, you can use the Bitcoin client persistence feature to store your Electrum configuration and wallet; the Tor Browser has additional operating system and data security, this security restricts reads and writes to a limited number of folders; the obfs4 pluggable transport is now available to connect to Tor bridges, pluggable transports transform the Tor traffic between the client and the bridge to help disguise Tor traffic from censors; Keyringer lets you manage and share secrets using OpenPGP and Git from the command line." Read the rest of the release announcement for further details. Download: tails-i386-1.3.iso (910MB, torrent, pkglist).2015-02-24NEW • Development Release: RISC OS Open RC14

Steve Revill has announced the availability of a new version of RISC OS Open, a special edition of RISC OS designed for the Raspberry Pi single-board computer. RISC OS is an operating system designed specifically to run on the ARM chipset; it is not based on UNIX, Linux or any other existing system. From the release announcement: "Today marks the availability of the very latest beta release candidate for the popular Raspberry Pi educational platform. This ROM now includes support for the Mark 2 Model B Raspberry Pi hardware, using the newer BCM2836 system on chip and a total of 1 GB of RAM. The model A, B, and B+ are still supported too. This follow-up to the earlier RC12 is in fact RC14 and includes the following headline changes in addition to the Mark 2 Model B support: the kernel now understands and can render sprites with alpha levels of transparency, and hence the desktop can use these facilities too; the kernel now supports a much wider array of pixel buffer formats for the screen including 4k and 64k...." See also the brief release notes. Download (MD5) the compressed SD card image from here: (99.9MB).
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The BNLYFilm Daily

The BNLYFilm Daily | Semantic Gnosis Web |
The BNLYFilm Daily, by BNLYFilm: updated automatically with a curated selection of articles, blog posts, videos and photos.
Jan Bergmans's insight: - Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg doubled down Wednesday on her belief that Citizens United was the worst decision made by the current U.S. Supreme Court, saying it is the the first decisio...

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Is data privacy just a dream? - CNET

Is data privacy just a dream? - CNET | Semantic Gnosis Web |
Data Privacy Day brings reflection on our security sins, but it's hard to find a perfect protector of data. Even Blackphone's extra-encrypted Slient Text app was found with a security flaw.
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Data Privacy Day brings reflection on our security sins, but it's hard to find a perfect protector of data. Even Blackphone's extra-encrypted Slient Text app was found with a security flaw.

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Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2015 - The BNLYFilm Daily

Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2015 - The BNLYFilm Daily | Semantic Gnosis Web |
The BNLYFilm Daily, by BNLYFilm - Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2015: updated automatically with a curated selection of articles, blog posts, videos and photos.
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Subscribe to updates Subscribe BNLYFilm Videos Crazy Plastic Ball PRANK!! Shared by
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Why the modern world is bad for your brain

Why the modern world is bad for your brain | Semantic Gnosis Web |
Thirty years ago, travel agents made our airline and rail reservations, salespeople helped us find what we were looking for in shops, and professional typists or secretaries helped busy people with their correspondence. Now we do most of those things ourselves. We are doing the jobs of 10 different people while still trying to keep up with our lives, our children and parents, our friends, our careers, our hobbies, and our favourite TV shows.

Our smartphones have become Swiss army knife–like appliances that include a dictionary, calculator, web browser, email, Game Boy, appointment calendar, voice recorder, guitar tuner, weather forecaster, GPS, texter, tweeter, Facebook updater, and flashlight. They’re more powerful and do more things than the most advanced computer at IBM corporate headquarters 30 years ago. And we use them all the time, part of a 21st-century mania for cramming everything we do into every single spare moment of downtime. We text while we’re walking across the street, catch up on email while standing in a queue – and while having lunch with friends, we surreptitiously check to see what our other friends are doing. At the kitchen counter, cosy and secure in our domicile, we write our shopping lists on smartphones while we are listening to that wonderfully informative podcast on urban beekeeping.

But there’s a fly in the ointment. Although we think we’re doing several things at once, multitasking, this is a powerful and diabolical illusion. Earl Miller, a neuroscientist at MIT and one of the world experts on divided attention, says that our brains are “not wired to multitask well… When people think they’re multitasking, they’re actually just switching from one task to another very rapidly. And every time they do, there’s a cognitive cost in doing so.” So we’re not actually keeping a lot of balls in the air like an expert juggler; we’re more like a bad amateur plate spinner, frantically switching from one task to another, ignoring the one that is not right in front of us but worried it will come crashing down any minute. Even though we think we’re getting a lot done, ironically, multitasking makes us demonstrably less efficient.

Multitasking has been found to increase the production of the stress hormone cortisol as well as the fight-or-flight hormone adrenaline, which can overstimulate your brain and cause mental fog or scrambled thinking. Multitasking creates a dopamine-addiction feedback loop, effectively rewarding the brain for losing focus and for constantly searching for external stimulation. To make matters worse, the prefrontal cortex has a novelty bias, meaning that its attention can be easily hijacked by something new – the proverbial shiny objects we use to entice infants, puppies, and kittens. The irony here for those of us who are trying to focus amid competing activities is clear: the very brain region we need to rely on for staying on task is easily distracted. We answer the phone, look up something on the internet, check our email, send an SMS, and each of these things tweaks the novelty- seeking, reward-seeking centres of the brain, causing a burst of endogenous opioids (no wonder it feels so good!), all to the detriment of our staying on task. It is the ultimate empty-caloried brain candy. Instead of reaping the big rewards that come from sustained, focused effort, we instead reap empty rewards from completing a thousand little sugar-coated tasks.

In the old days, if the phone rang and we were busy, we either didn’t answer or we turned the ringer off. When all phones were wired to a wall, there was no expectation of being able to reach us at all times – one might have gone out for a walk or been between places – and so if someone couldn’t reach you (or you didn’t feel like being reached), it was considered normal. Now more people have mobile phones than have toilets. This has created an implicit expectation that you should be able to reach someone when it is convenient for you, regardless of whether it is convenient for them. This expectation is so ingrained that people in meetings routinely answer their mobile phones to say, “I’m sorry, I can’t talk now, I’m in a meeting.” Just a decade or two ago, those same people would have let a landline on their desk go unanswered during a meeting, so different were the expectations for reachability.

Just having the opportunity to multitask is detrimental to cognitive performance. Glenn Wilson, former visiting professor of psychology at Gresham College, London, calls it info-mania. His research found that being in a situation where you are trying to concentrate on a task, and an email is sitting unread in your inbox, can reduce your effective IQ by 10 points. And although people ascribe many benefits to marijuana, including enhanced creativity and reduced pain and stress, it is well documented that its chief ingredient, cannabinol, activates dedicated cannabinol receptors in the brain and interferes profoundly with memory and with our ability to concentrate on several things at once. Wilson showed that the cognitive losses from multitasking are even greater than the cognitive losses from pot‑smoking.

Russ Poldrack, a neuroscientist at Stanford, found that learning information while multitasking causes the new information to go to the wrong part of the brain. If students study and watch TV at the same time, for example, the information from their schoolwork goes into the striatum, a region specialised for storing new procedures and skills, not facts and ideas. Without the distraction of TV, the information goes into the hippocampus, where it is organised and categorised in a variety of ways, making it easier to retrieve. MIT’s Earl Miller adds, “People can’t do [multitasking] very well, and when they say they can, they’re deluding themselves.” And it turns out the brain is very good at this deluding business.
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‘Asking the brain to shift attention from one activity to another causes the prefrontal cortex and striatum to burn up oxygenated glucose, the same fuel they need to stay on task.’ Photograph: Alamy

Then there are the metabolic costs that I wrote about earlier. Asking the brain to shift attention from one activity to another causes the prefrontal cortex and striatum to burn up oxygenated glucose, the same fuel they need to stay on task. And the kind of rapid, continual shifting we do with multitasking causes the brain to burn through fuel so quickly that we feel exhausted and disoriented after even a short time. We’ve literally depleted the nutrients in our brain. This leads to compromises in both cognitive and physical performance. Among other things, repeated task switching leads to anxiety, which raises levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the brain, which in turn can lead to aggressive and impulsive behaviour. By contrast, staying on task is controlled by the anterior cingulate and the striatum, and once we engage the central executive mode, staying in that state uses less energy than multitasking and actually reduces the brain’s need for glucose.

To make matters worse, lots of multitasking requires decision-making: Do I answer this text message or ignore it? How do I respond to this? How do I file this email? Do I continue what I’m working on now or take a break? It turns out that decision-making is also very hard on your neural resources and that little decisions appear to take up as much energy as big ones. One of the first things we lose is impulse control. This rapidly spirals into a depleted state in which, after making lots of insignificant decisions, we can end up making truly bad decisions about something important. Why would anyone want to add to their daily weight of information processing by trying to multitask?

In discussing information overload with Fortune 500 leaders, top scientists, writers, students, and small business owners, email comes up again and again as a problem. It’s not a philosophical objection to email itself, it’s the mind-numbing number of emails that come in. When the 10-year-old son of my neuroscience colleague Jeff Mogil (head of the Pain Genetics lab at McGill University) was asked what his father does for a living, he responded, “He answers emails.” Jeff admitted after some thought that it’s not so far from the truth. Workers in government, the arts, and industry report that the sheer volume of email they receive is overwhelming, taking a huge bite out of their day. We feel obliged to answer our emails, but it seems impossible to do so and get anything else done.

Before email, if you wanted to write to someone, you had to invest some effort in it. You’d sit down with pen and paper, or at a typewriter, and carefully compose a message. There wasn’t anything about the medium that lent itself to dashing off quick notes without giving them much thought, partly because of the ritual involved, and the time it took to write a note, find and address an envelope, add postage, and take the letter to a mailbox. Because the very act of writing a note or letter to someone took this many steps, and was spread out over time, we didn’t go to the trouble unless we had something important to say. Because of email’s immediacy, most of us give little thought to typing up any little thing that pops in our heads and hitting the send button. And email doesn’t cost anything.

Sure, there’s the money you paid for your computer and your internet connection, but there is no incremental cost to sending one more email. Compare this with paper letters. Each one incurred the price of the envelope and the postage stamp, and although this doesn’t represent a lot of money, these were in limited supply – if you ran out of them, you’d have to make a special trip to the stationery store and the post office to buy more, so you didn’t use them frivolously. The sheer ease of sending emails has led to a change in manners, a tendency to be less polite about what we ask of others. Many professionals tell a similar story. One said, “A large proportion of emails I receive are from people I barely know asking me to do something for them that is outside what would normally be considered the scope of my work or my relationship with them. Email somehow apparently makes it OK to ask for things they would never ask by phone, in person, or in snail mail.”

There are also important differences between snail mail and email on the receiving end. In the old days, the only mail we got came once a day, which effectively created a cordoned-off section of your day to collect it from the mailbox and sort it. Most importantly, because it took a few days to arrive, there was no expectation that you would act on it immediately. If you were engaged in another activity, you’d simply let the mail sit in the box outside or on your desk until you were ready to deal with it. Now email arrives continuously, and most emails demand some sort of action: Click on this link to see a video of a baby panda, or answer this query from a co-worker, or make plans for lunch with a friend, or delete this email as spam. All this activity gives us a sense that we’re getting things done – and in some cases we are. But we are sacrificing efficiency and deep concentration when we interrupt our priority activities with email.

Until recently, each of the many different modes of communication we used signalled its relevance, importance, and intent. If a loved one communicated with you via a poem or a song, even before the message was apparent, you had a reason to assume something about the nature of the content and its emotional value. If that same loved one communicated instead via a summons, delivered by an officer of the court, you would have expected a different message before even reading the document. Similarly, phone calls were typically used to transact different business from that of telegrams or business letters. The medium was a clue to the message. All of that has changed with email, and this is one of its overlooked disadvantages – because it is used for everything. In the old days, you might sort all of your postal mail into two piles, roughly corresponding to personal letters and bills. If you were a corporate manager with a busy schedule, you might similarly sort your telephone messages for callbacks. But emails are used for all of life’s messages. We compulsively check our email in part because we don’t know whether the next message will be for leisure/amusement, an overdue bill, a “to do”, a query… something you can do now, later, something life-changing, something irrelevant.

This uncertainty wreaks havoc with our rapid perceptual categorisation system, causes stress, and leads to decision overload. Every email requires a decision! Do I respond to it? If so, now or later? How important is it? What will be the social, economic, or job-related consequences if I don’t answer, or if I don’t answer right now?
'Because it is limited in characters, texting discourages thoughtful discussion or any level of detail, and its addictive problems are compounded by its hyper-immediacy.'
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‘Because it is limited in characters, texting discourages thoughtful discussion or any level of detail, and its addictive problems are compounded by its hyper-immediacy.’ Photograph: Alamy

Now of course email is approaching obsolescence as a communicative medium. Most people under the age of 30 think of email as an outdated mode of communication used only by “old people”. In its place they text, and some still post to Facebook. They attach documents, photos, videos, and links to their text messages and Facebook posts the way people over 30 do with email. Many people under 20 now see Facebook as a medium for the older generation.

For them, texting has become the primary mode of communication. It offers privacy that you don’t get with phone calls, and immediacy you don’t get with email. Crisis hotlines have begun accepting calls from at-risk youth via texting and it allows them two big advantages: they can deal with more than one person at a time, and they can pass the conversation on to an expert, if needed, without interrupting the conversation.

But texting suffers from most of the problems of email and then some. Because it is limited in characters, it discourages thoughtful discussion or any level of detail. And the addictive problems are compounded by texting’s hyperimmediacy. Emails take some time to work their way through the internet and they require that you take the step of explicitly opening them. Text messages magically appear on the screen of your phone and demand immediate attention from you. Add to that the social expectation that an unanswered text feels insulting to the sender, and you’ve got a recipe for addiction: you receive a text, and that activates your novelty centres. You respond and feel rewarded for having completed a task (even though that task was entirely unknown to you 15 seconds earlier). Each of those delivers a shot of dopamine as your limbic system cries out “More! More! Give me more!”

In a famous experiment, my McGill colleagues Peter Milner and James Olds, both neuroscientists, placed a small electrode in the brains of rats, in a small structure of the limbic system called the nucleus accumbens. This structure regulates dopamine production and is the region that “lights up” when gamblers win a bet, drug addicts take cocaine, or people have orgasms – Olds and Milner called it the pleasure centre. A lever in the cage allowed the rats to send a small electrical signal directly to their nucleus accumbens. Do you think they liked it? Boy how they did! They liked it so much that they did nothing else. They forgot all about eating and sleeping. Long after they were hungry, they ignored tasty food if they had a chance to press that little chrome bar; they even ignored the opportunity for sex. The rats just pressed the lever over and over again, until they died of starvation and exhaustion. Does that remind you of anything? A 30-year-old man died in Guangzhou (China) after playing video games continuously for three days. Another man died in Daegu (Korea) after playing video games almost continuously for 50 hours, stopped only by his going into cardiac arrest.

Each time we dispatch an email in one way or another, we feel a sense of accomplishment, and our brain gets a dollop of reward hormones telling us we accomplished something. Each time we check a Twitter feed or Facebook update, we encounter something novel and feel more connected socially (in a kind of weird, impersonal cyber way) and get another dollop of reward hormones. But remember, it is the dumb, novelty-seeking portion of the brain driving the limbic system that induces this feeling of pleasure, not the planning, scheduling, higher-level thought centres in the prefrontal cortex. Make no mistake: email-, Facebook- and Twitter-checking constitute a neural addiction.

© Daniel J. Levitin. Extracted from The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload, published by Viking (£20). Click here to buy it for £16.
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A Lesson From Terrorism: Violence and Grayness in Our Life

A Lesson From Terrorism: Violence and Grayness in Our Life | Semantic Gnosis Web |
We look at the current rise in terrorism and don't connect it with past events. By ignoring what happened in the past we risk not stopping it in the future.
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A Lesson from Terrorism: Violence and The Grayness of LifeStan GoldbergJanuary 16, 2015Grieving and Recovery, Thoughts of the DayTHOUGHT OF THE DAY. Each day’s new violence makes people want to retreat into a 1950’s bomb shelter, or buy a home in a gated and guarded community, or hide in a shack in a remote part of the woods.Of course, we need to buy a gun—preferably an AK47 or Bazooka—and ready ourselves to blast any intruder who dares step onto our property, no less cross the threshold of our castle. And as a backup strategy, we’ll do what we have always been doing.The Stupidity of Repeating Our HistoryThat formula—repeating our history—is something that endlessly brings about cycles of violence, suppression, and revenge. It’s a way of functioning that led to the 30 year war between the Hatfields and McCoys.Why is it that our approach to combating violence hasn’t gone beyond the strategy of two illiterate families living in the hills of West Virginia and Kentucky more than 150 years ago? The answer may be that it’s ingrained in our daily living patterns.Terrorism: A Gray WorldWe believe we live in a black and white world where “good” stands against “evil,” “right” can always be distinguished from “wrong” as in John Wayne movies, and where what I believe makes more sense than what you believe.It’s a prescription for an endless cycle of conflict. Someone experiences an injustice and then acts in a brutal way. Their actions are met with force and the cycle continues until one group is incapacitated or killed—as in World War I, when men were sacrificed until few were left to die.A Lesson for Our Daily Lives: The Difference Between Understanding and AcceptanceI see the neglect of history in my counseling where a significant event is treated as if it was immaculately conceived in a vacuum. Adult children who only want the best for an aging parent don’t understand their parent’s anger when treated as a child. Grade school teachers who haven’t changed the content of their course in twenty years, react to the boredom of students by requiring detention. Husbands who emotionally haven’t been available to their wives for years can’t forgive their wife’s infidelity.Understanding the history of an event doesn’t make it acceptable, but it does provide guidelines for how to stop the cycle. For example, while forcefully going after the terrorists in Europe, discussions are beginning that examine not only what generated the atrocities, but also what can be done to stop the cycle. While vowing to imprison or kill the current terrorists, some European leaders are also proposing ways of integrating Moslem communities while respecting their uniqueness.We have been lucky so far in the United States. But I have no doubt our time of anguish will come. And then we’ll be faced with the same choices as the Europeans: Mindlessly scream vengeance as the neo-Nazi party in Germany and our own Ted Cruz does, or protect our citizens as responsible leaders are doing in Europe while searching for ways of interrupting the cycle. 
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The Cathedral of Computation

The Cathedral of Computation | Semantic Gnosis Web |
We’re not living in an algorithmic culture so much as a computational theocracy.
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  Daniel Schwen/ Bogost

Algorithms are everywhere, supposedly. We are living in an “algorithmic culture,” to use the author and communication scholar Ted Striphas’s name for it. Google’s search algorithms determine how we access information. Facebook’s News Feed algorithms determine how we socialize. Netflix’s and Amazon’s collaborative filtering algorithms choose products and media for us. You hear it everywhere. “Google announced a change to its algorithm,” a journalist reports. “We live in a world run by algorithms,” a TED talk exhorts. “Algorithms rule the world,” a news report threatens. Another upgrades rule to dominion: “The 10 Algorithms that Dominate Our World.”

Science and technology have become so pervasive and distorted, they have turned into a new type of theology.

Here’s an exercise: The next time you see someone talking about algorithms, replace the term with “God” and ask yourself if the sense changes any. Our supposedly algorithmic culture is not a material phenomenon so much as a devotional one, a supplication made to the computers we have allowed to replace gods in our minds, even as we simultaneously claim that science has made us impervious to religion.

It’s part of a larger trend. The scientific revolution was meant to challenge tradition and faith, particularly a faith in religious superstition. But today, Enlightenment ideas like reason and science are beginning to flip into their opposites. Science and technology have become so pervasive and distorted, they have turned into a new type of theology.

The worship of the algorithm is hardly the only example of the theological reversal of the Enlightenment—for another sign, just look at the surfeit of nonfiction books promising insights into “The Science of…” anything, from laughter to marijuana. But algorithms hold a special station in the new technological temple because computers have become our favorite idols.

In fact, our purported efforts to enlighten ourselves about algorithms’ role in our culture sometimes offer an unexpected view into our zealous devotion to them. The media scholar Lev Manovich had this to say about “The Algorithms of Our Lives”:

Software has become a universal language, the interface to our imagination and the world. What electricity and the combustion engine were to the early 20th century, software is to the early 21st century. I think of it as a layer that permeates contemporary societies.

This is a common account of algorithmic culture, that software is a fundamental, primary structure of contemporary society. And like any well-delivered sermon, it seems convincing at first. Until we think a little harder about the historical references Manovich invokes, such as electricity and the engine, and how selectively those specimens characterize a prior era. Yes, they were important, but is it fair to call them paramount and exceptional?

It turns out that we have a long history of explaining the present via the output of industry. These rationalizations are always grounded in familiarity, and thus they feel convincing. But mostly they are metaphors. Here’s Nicholas Carr’s take on metaphorizing progress in terms of contemporary technology, from the 2008 Atlantic cover story that he expanded into his bestselling book The Shallows:

The process of adapting to new intellectual technologies is reflected in the changing metaphors we use to explain ourselves to ourselves. When the mechanical clock arrived, people began thinking of their brains as operating “like clockwork.” Today, in the age of software, we have come to think of them as operating “like computers.”

Carr’s point is that there’s a gap between the world and the metaphors through which we describe that world. We can see how erroneous or incomplete or just plain metaphorical these metaphors are when we look at them in retrospect.

Take the machine. In his book Images of Organization, Gareth Morgan describes the way businesses are seen in terms of different metaphors, among them the organization as machine, an idea that forms the basis for Taylorism.

Gareth Morgan's metaphors of organization (Venkatesh Rao/Ribbonfarm)

We can find similar examples in computing. For Larry Lessig, the accidental homophony between “code” as the text of a computer program and “code” as the text of statutory law becomes the fulcrum on which his argument that code is an instrument of social control balances.

Each generation, we reset a belief that we’ve reached the end of this chain of metaphors, even though history always proves us wrong precisely because there’s always another technology or trend offering a fresh metaphor. Indeed, an exceptionalism that favors the present is one of the ways that science has become theology.

In fact, Carr fails to heed his own lesson about the temporariness of these metaphors. Just after having warned us that we tend to render current trends into contingent metaphorical explanations, he offers a similar sort of definitive conclusion:

Today, in the age of software, we have come to think of them as operating “like computers.” But the changes, neuroscience tells us, go much deeper than metaphor. Thanks to our brain’s plasticity, the adaptation occurs also at a biological level.

As with the machinic and computational metaphors that he critiques, Carr settles on another seemingly transparent, truth-yielding one. The real firmament is neurological, and computers are fitzing with our minds, a fact provable by brain science. And actually, software and neuroscience enjoy a metaphorical collaboration thanks to artificial intelligence’s idea that computing describes or mimics the brain. Computing-as-thought reaches the rank of religious fervor when we choose to believe, as some do, that we can simulate cognition through computation and achieve the singularity.

* * *

The metaphor of mechanical automation has always been misleading anyway, with or without the computation. Take manufacturing. We assume that the goods we buy from Walmart, safely ensconced in their blister packs, are magically stamped out by unfeeling, silent machines (robots—those original automata—themselves run by the tinier, immaterial robots we call algorithms).

But the automation metaphor breaks down once you bother to look at how even the simplest products are really produced. The photographer Michael Wolf’s images of Chinese factory workers and the toys they fabricate show that finishing consumer goods to completion requires intricate, repetitive human effort.

Michael Wolf Photography

Eyelashes must be glued onto dolls’ eyelids. Mickey Mouse heads must be shellacked. Rubber ducky eyes must be painted white. The same sort of manual work is required to create more complex goods too. Like your iPhone—you know, the one that’s designed in California but “assembled in China.” Even though injection-molding machines and other automated devices help produce all the crap we buy, the metaphor of the factory-as-automated machine obscures the fact that manufacturing isn’t as machinic nor as automated as we think it is.

The algorithmic metaphor is just a special version of the machine metaphor, one specifying a particular kind of machine (the computer) and a particular way of operating it (via a step-by-step procedure for calculation). And when left unseen, we are able to invent a transcendental ideal for the algorithm. The canonical algorithm is not just a model sequence but a concise and efficient one. In its ideological, mythic incarnation, the ideal algorithm is thought to be some flawless little trifle of lithe computer code, processing data into tapestry like a robotic silkworm. A perfect flower, elegant and pristine, simple and singular. A thing you can hold in your palm and caress. A beautiful thing. A divine one.

But just as the machine metaphor gives us a distorted view of automated manufacture as prime mover, so the algorithmic metaphor gives us a distorted, theological view of computational action.

Like metaphors, algorithms are simplifications, or distortions. They are caricatures.

“The Google search algorithm” names something with an initial coherence that quickly scurries away once you really look for it. Googling isn’t a matter of invoking a programmatic subroutine—not on its own, anyway. Google is a monstrosity. It’s a confluence of physical, virtual, computational, and non-computational stuffs—electricity, data centers, servers, air conditioners, security guards, financial markets—just like the rubber ducky is a confluence of vinyl plastic, injection molding, the hands and labor of Chinese workers, the diesel fuel of ships and trains and trucks, the steel of shipping containers.

Once you start looking at them closely, every algorithm betrays the myth of unitary simplicity and computational purity. You may remember the Netflix Prize, a million dollar competition to build a better collaborative filtering algorithm for film recommendations. In 2009, the company closed the book on the prize, adding a faux-machined “completed” stamp to its website.

But as it turns out, that method didn’t really improve Netflix’s performance very much. The company ended up downplaying the ratings and instead using something different to manage viewer preferences: very specific genres like “Emotional Hindi-Language Movies for Hopeless Romantics.” Netflix calls them “altgenres.”

An example of a Netflix altgenre in action (tumblr/Genres of Netflix)

While researching an in-depth analysis of altgenres published a year ago at The Atlantic, Alexis Madrigal scraped the Netflix site, downloading all 76,000+ micro-genres using not an algorithm but a hackneyed, long-running screen-scraping apparatus. After acquiring the data, Madrigal and I organized and analyzed it (by hand), and I built a generator that allowed our readers to fashion their own altgenres based on different grammars (like “Deep Sea Forbidden Love Mockumentaries” or “Coming-of-Age Violent Westerns Set in Europe About Cats”).

Netflix VP Todd Yellin explained to Madrigal why the process of generating altgenres is no less manual than our own process of reverse engineering them. Netflix trains people to watch films, and those viewers laboriously tag the films with lots of metadata, including ratings of factors like sexually suggestive content or plot closure. These tailored altgenres are then presented to Netflix customers based on their prior viewing habits.

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Secret US cybersecurity report: encryption vital to protect private data

Secret US cybersecurity report: encryption vital to protect private data | Semantic Gnosis Web |
Newly uncovered Snowden document contrasts with British PM’s vow to crack down on encrypted messaging after Paris attacks
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A secret US cybersecurity report warned that government and private computers were being left vulnerable to online attacks from Russia, China and criminal gangs because encryption technologies were not being implemented fast enough.

The advice, in a newly uncovered five-year forecast written in 2009, contrasts with the pledge made by David Cameron this week to crack down on encryption use by technology companies.

David Cameron pledges anti-terror law for internet after Paris attacks Read more

In the wake of the Paris terror attacks, the prime minister said there should be no “safe spaces for terrorists to communicate” or that British authorites could not access.

Cameron, who landed in the US on Thursday night, is expected to urge Barack Obama to apply more pressure to tech giants, such as Apple, Google and Facebook, which have been expanding encrypted messaging for their millions of users since the revelations of mass NSA surveillance by the whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Cameron said the companies “need to work with us. They need also to demonstrate, which they do, that they have a social responsibility to fight the battle against terrorism. We shouldn’t allow safe spaces for terrorists to communicate. That’s a huge challenge but that’s certainly the right principle”.

But the document from the US National Intelligence Council, which reports directly to the US director of national intelligence, made clear that encryption was the “best defence” for computer users to protect private data.

Part of the cache given to the Guardian by Snowden was published in 2009 and gives a five-year forecast on the “global cyber threat to the US information infrastructure”. It covers communications, commercial and financial networks, and government and critical infrastructure systems. It was shared with GCHQ and made available to the agency’s staff through its intranet.


One of the biggest issues in protecting businesses and citizens from espionage, sabotage and crime – hacking attacks are estimated to cost the global economy up to $400bn a year – was a clear imbalance between the development of offensive versus defensive capabilities, “due to the slower than expected adoption … of encryption and other technologies”, it said.

An unclassified table accompanying the report states that encryption is the “[b]est defense to protect data”, especially if made particularly strong through “multi-factor authentication” – similar to two-step verification used by Google and others for email – or biometrics. These measures remain all but impossible to crack, even for GCHQ and the NSA.

The report warned: “Almost all current and potential adversaries – nations, criminal groups, terrorists, and individual hackers – now have the capability to exploit, and in some cases attack, unclassified access-controlled US and allied information systems.”

It further noted that the “scale of detected compromises indicates organisations should assume that any controlled but unclassified networks of intelligence, operational or commercial value directly accessible from the internet are already potentially compromised by foreign adversaries”.

The primary adversaries included Russia, whose “robust” operations teams had “proven access and tradecraft”, it said. By 2009, China was “the most active foreign sponsor of computer network intrusion activity discovered against US networks”, but lacked the sophistication or range of capabilities of Russia. “Cyber criminals” were another of the major threats, having “capabilities significantly beyond those of all but a few nation states”.

The report had some cause for optimism, especially in the light of Google and other US tech giants having in the months prior greatly increased their use of encryption efforts. “We assess with high confidence that security best practices applied to target networks would prevent the vast majority of intrusions,” it concluded.

Official UK government security advice still recommends encryption among a range of other tools for effective network and information defence. However, end-to-end encryption – which means only the two people communicating with each other, and not the company carrying the message, can decode it – is problematic for intelligence agencies as it makes even warranted collection much more difficult.

The latest versions of Apple and Google’s mobile operating systems are encrypted by default, while other popular messaging services, such as WhatsApp and Snapchat, also use encryption. This has prompted calls for action against such strong encryption from ministers and officials. Speaking on Monday, Cameron asked: “In our country, do we want to allow a means of communication between people which we cannot read?”

The previous week, a day after the attack on the Charlie Hebdo office in Paris, the MI5 chief, Andrew Parker, called for new powers and warned that new technologies were making it harder to track extremists.

In November, the head of GCHQ, Robert Hannigan, said US social media giants had become the “networks of choice” for terrorists. Chris Soghoian, principal senior policy analyst at the American Civil Liberties Union, said attempts by the British government to force US companies to weaken encryption faced many hurdles.

“The trouble is these services are already being used by hundreds of millions of people. I guess you could try to force tech companies to be less secure but then they would be less secure against attacks for anyone,” he said.

GCHQ and the NSA are responsible for cybersecurity in the UK and US respectively. This includes working with technology companies to audit software and hardware for use by governments and critical infrastructure sectors.

Such audits uncover numerous vulnerabilities which are then shared privately with technology companies to fix issues that could otherwise have caused serious damage to users and networks. However, both agencies also have intelligence-gathering responsibilities under which they exploit vulnerabilities in technology to monitor targets. As a result of these dual missions, they are faced with weighing up whether to exploit or fix a vulnerability when a product is used both by targets and innocent users.

Revealed: how US and UK spy agencies defeat internet privacy and security Read more

The Guardian, New York Times and ProPublica have previously reported the intelligence agencies’ broad efforts to undermine encryption and exploit rather than reveal vulnerabilities. This prompted Obama’s NSA review panel to warn that the agency’s conflicting missions caused problems, and so recommend that its cyber-security responsibilities be removed to prevent future issues.

Another newly discovered document shows GCHQ acting in a similarly conflicted manner, despite the agencies’ private acknowledgement that encryption is an essential part of protecting citizens against cyber-attacks.

The 2008 memo was addressed to the then foreign secretary, David Miliband, and classified with one of the UK’s very highest restrictive markings: “TOP SECRET STRAP 2 EYES ONLY”. It is unclear why such a document was posted to the agency’s intranet, which is available to all agency staff, NSA workers, and even outside contractors.

The memo requested a renewal of the legal warrant allowing GCHQ to “modify” commercial software in violation of licensing agreements. The document cites examples of software the agency had hacked, including commonly used software to run web forums, and website administration tools. Such software are widely used by companies and individuals around the world.

The document also said the agency had developed “capability against Cisco routers”, which would “allow us to re-route selected traffic across international links towards GCHQ’s passive collection systems”.

GCHQ had also been working to “exploit” the anti-virus software Kaspersky, the document said. The report contained no information on the nature of the vulnerabilities found by the agency.

Security experts regularly say that keeping software up to date and being aware of vulnerabilities is vital for businesses to protect themselves and their customers from being hacked. Failing to fix vulnerabilities leaves open the risk that other governments or criminal hackers will find the same security gaps and exploit them to damage systems or steal data, raising questions about whether GCHQ and the NSA neglected their duty to protect internet systems in their quest for more intelligence.

A GCHQ spokesman said: “It is long-standing policy that we do not comment on intelligence matters. Furthermore, all of GCHQ’s work is carried out in accordance with a strict legal and policy framework, which ensures that our activities are authorised, necessary and proportionate, and that there is rigorous oversight, including from the secretary of state, the interception and intelligence services commissioners and the parliamentary intelligence and security committee.“All our operational processes rigorously support this position. In addition, the UK’s interception regime is entirely compatible with the European convention on human rights.”

Michael Beckerman, president and CEO of the Internet Association, a lobby group that represents Facebook, Google, Reddit, Twitter, Yahoo and other tech companies, said: “Just as governments have a duty to protect to the public from threats, internet services have a duty to our users to ensure the security and privacy of their data. That’s why internet services have been increasing encryption security.”

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Facebook is BREACHING your SEXUAL privacy, warn Belgian data cops

Facebook is BREACHING your SEXUAL privacy, warn Belgian data cops | Semantic Gnosis Web |
Free content ad network could face EC court proceedings
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Belgium’s privacy watchdog has slammed Facebook for its tracking of users and non-users, saying it is in breach of EU law.

The Commission de Protection de la Vie Privée (CPVP) said it was staggered by the fashion in which Facebook tramples users’ rights and tracks them across the web whether they want it or not.

The Belgian data cops claimed:

Facebook violates European and Belgian legislation on privacy. It is in a unique position and can easily connect the browsing habits of its users to their real identity, their interactions on social networks and sensitive data such as medical information, preferences religious, sexual and political ...

The CPVP cannot impose fines directly on the web giant but it has demanded more information about how it monitors users, what information it collects and how it uses cookies.

In the meantime the privacy Commission advised people to use "do not track" services like Ghostery, Blur and Disconnect to protect themselves from Facebook’s data slurping. It said it had forwarded its findings to the national prosecutor’s office and that a criminal case could be in the offing.

One of the biggest concerns raised in a report drawn up for the Commission by the University of Leuven and iMinds is Facebook’s ability to profile non-users simply through their interaction with those who are signed up to the office time-waster.

The Belgian regulator is just one of the first to hit back hard against Facebook’s (relatively) new privacy policy which came into force earlier this year. The Dutch and German data protection agencies are also investigating Facebook as well as the pan-European Article 29 data protection group.

The huge cheap-ads platform denies any wrongdoing and a spokeswoman said on Friday that it was compliant with EU law under the Irish interpretation as it has its headquarters in Dublin. CPVP has refuted this claim.

Europe’s current data protection law is a directive meaning that is was written into national law differently in the different EU countries. A planned data protection regulation, which is currently being negotiated, would be applied the same throughout the EU removing this battle of jurisdictions. ®

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Zak Rogoff's blog | Defective by Design

Zak Rogoff's blog | Defective by Design | Semantic Gnosis Web |
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Zak Rogoff's blogThe worst thing about DRM is that, most of the time, everything seems to work

Submitted by Zak Rogoff on May 6, 2015 - 9:23am

This post is by Kat Walsh, a lawyer with extensive background in the free culture movement, who recently joined the Free Software Foundation's board of directors. The post was written for the 2015 International Day Against DRM.

Everyone knows how to recognize cartoon villains. They twirl their mustaches as they kick puppies, delivering speeches about world domination for personal gain, and often let their arrogance lead to their undoing. People recognize this kind of evil immediately and rise up in protest, banding together to resist. In the real world, most evils are much harder to see coming: they look reasonable at first, perhaps taking just a little bit from many people to get to some unexpected end. Once the effect is widespread enough that most people notice, you have a systemic problem that's hard to get rid of. The evil that's easy to identify is easy to fight. The one that initially looks like something good can betray you, and that's why when we recognize it, we need to speak out against it.

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Jailbreaking Is Not A Crime

Jailbreaking Is Not A Crime | Semantic Gnosis Web |
Millions of people jailbreak the phones and tablets they own, in order to run the software they want on their own terms. Whether it's to cut out annoying bloatware, install the latest security fixes, change the home screen, or just to use it in a way the manufacturer hasn't considered, jailbreaking is an important part of how we interact with our devices. But the Copyright Office and Librarian of Congress could cast its future into jeopardy in just a few short months.
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Companies that want to lock down our devices argue that, because the firmware running on your phone or tablet is copyrighted, jailbreaking your device to run a modified version runs afoul of laws meant to prop up DRM. But there's a safety valve: the Librarian of Congress can make exemptions to those laws through a complicated rulemaking process. So every three years, groups like EFF have to make the case for specific carve-outs, like jailbreaking phones and tablets.

We've gotten jailbreaking exemptions in the past, but there's no guarantee of success this year. That's where you come in: lend your voice to our submission, and we can tell the Librarian of Congress that thousands of regular users want to preserve their rights as device owners. Join us in making it clear: jailbreaking is not a crime.

April 16, 2015
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7 Hacks to Get More Shares on Social Media - AudienceBloom

7 Hacks to Get More Shares on Social Media - AudienceBloom | Semantic Gnosis Web |

Getting your content and posts shared accomplishes many goals simultaneously. First, getting shared is an indication that you’re producing compelling content, giving you a positive feedback loop.


Second, when your content is shared, more, newer people are able to see your content, which leads to greater following numbers and greater traffic.


Finally, getting shared often is a social signal that tells Google you are an authoritative brand, which helps your site rank higher in search results.


Obviously, getting lots of shares is the key to establishing a great social media presence, but it’s not always easy. Try using these seven hacks to get more shares from your social posts....

Via Jeff Domansky
Dean Ryan G. Martin's curator insight, April 2, 7:12 AM

Excellent white-hat techniques Bravo! 

John Norman's curator insight, April 3, 12:05 AM

Like the mouse on the treadmill you have to learning to survive and getting your brand awareness means learning the tools of the trade. Social Media is where its at. Enjoy these 7 hacks.

Winners Education's curator insight, April 3, 5:58 AM

Making your social media strategy even more successful.

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Alex Adair - Make Me Feel Better (Don Diablo & CID Remix) [Official Music Video]

Alex Adair - Make Me Feel Better (Don Diablo & CID Remix) is OUT NOW! Grab your copy on Beatport HERE: Subscribe to Spinnin' TV now : As the...

Via Mary E. Berens-Oney
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It’s Time To Rethink Our Smart Things

It’s Time To Rethink Our Smart Things | Semantic Gnosis Web |
There was a section so common in big name CES tech presentations that it was almost comical. After announcing some widget or the other, a cheerful CEO would..
Jan Bergmans's insight:

Furthermore, much of the data these IoT devices collect is unaccounted for yet required for device operation. One TechDirt reader noted that his LG “smart” TV turned dumb when he refused to allow it to listen to him.

of the TV’s network based programs:Iplayer, Skype, 3D etc.As of the 7th May following a software update to our less than two year old LG TV. I was confronted with a message asking me to read and agree with a couple of important new documents. So like a good little citizen I read and agreed with the first doc regarding use of said TV. but having read the Privacy Doc I was not best pleased with the companies assumption that I would simply agree to their sharing all our intimate viewing details (plus what ever else they can see)with all and sundry.Since I agreed not to hack into installed software (as if I Could)We cannot get around the block.

I think the company must be in breach of contract since the smart functions are no longer available. Surely in the uk at least you should not be able to change the goal posts at will. Any one sorted this problem yet??

I do not trust connected devices but I also don’t fear them. Many companies will do the right thing when called out – Samsung backed out of an Orwellian clause in their smart TVs – but the danger of security flaws grows with a system’s complexity. What happens when someone is able to activate my PS4’s camera remotely? What happens when my Wii U starts listening to my kids? What happens when someone is able to hack more complex, higher-quality IP cameras just like they did the cheaper ones? I’m more afraid of error than outright malice.


Maybe it’s time for our devices to be dumber. Until there is an open security standard for health data, for example, maybe it’s not the best idea to strap a device to your child overnight. Until Belkin or Samsung or Withings can show that it can’t be hacked through published source code and an independent audit, maybe I shouldn’t buy their products. I know I won’t follow my own advice and I know I’ll be burned. That’s why CE manufacturers aren’t worried about this. It’s not a problem until it is. Then it’s a huge problem.

I’m fine with smart devices. But I know that as each one of these devices is connected to my Wi-Fi network or my cellphone I add an attack vector to a very private place – my home and my body. By all means lets run headlong into the future but let’s open things up so the future is more Clarke than Orwell.

Featured Image: Bryce Durbin

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Op-Ed: Ross Ulbricht got a fair trial (but not a fair investigation)

Op-Ed: Ross Ulbricht got a fair trial (but not a fair investigation) | Semantic Gnosis Web |
Did Ulbricht’s lawyer believe the defendant, or did he cynically want to keep getting paid?
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Law & Disorder / Civilization & Discontents Op-Ed: Ross Ulbricht got a fair trial (but not a fair investigation)Did Ulbricht’s lawyer believe the defendant, or did he cynically want to keep getting paid?

by Nicholas Weaver Feb 4 2015, 12:03am +0100

72Aurich Lawson / ThinkstockNicholas Weaver is a staff researcher at the International Computer Science Institute. This post originally appeared on Medium.

As I write this, the trial of Ross Ulbricht, the alleged “Dread Pirate Roberts” behind Silk Road, is just winding down. The last minute defense experts, having been blocked from testifying, have already resulted in yet more cries that Ulbricht’s trial is unfair and stacked against the defendant. Having carefully watched the case from the moment of Ulbricht’s arrest (and with the PACER bills to prove it), such cries are unfounded. Ulbricht received a fair trial. The investigation, and the quality of Joshua Dratel, Ulbricht’s well compensated and well regarded lawyer, on the other hand…

The arrest of Ross Ulbricht got its start when the FBI somehow discovered the real location of the Silk Road server in Iceland. They asked their friends in Iceland to look into this, and the Icelandic authorities created a copy of the server. With the server image in hand, everything else fell into place. They were able to identify Ulbricht through a plethora of links from the server, ranging from a bit of code in a question to StackOverflow posted in early 2013 to ssh access to the administration interface. Using this information, the investigators obtained more search warrants and an eventual arrest warrant, leading up to the moment when the FBI tackled Ulbricht in the Library with the Laptop Forensics Toolkit. Once they seized the laptop, they found a gold mine. For Ross Ubricht apparently committed one of the cardinal sins of drug dealing…

He kept notes on a criminal fucking conspiracy.

Yet how the FBI discovered the server in the first place remained a mystery: it was presented as effectively a gift from God. And when the FBI finally had to reveal this mystery, they didn’t. To put it politely, the FBI response was inconsistent with reality. Others have been more blunt, calling it “lying” and “gibberish.” And it is the FBI’s own evidence, provided to the defense, that shows that the FBI effectively lied in the court filing detailing server discovery.

Every shred of evidence except for two “hey, I found this site” posts derives solely from the server seizure. Now apparently an IRS investigator had found these two posts before the server was discovered, but these posts wouldn’t sustain a search warrant of Ulbricht’s gmail account, let alone an arrest warrant for Ulbricht. So if the defense could get the blatantly illegal search of the server tossed, the defendant could walk away.

So why is Ross Ulbricht still on trial and rapidly heading toward an almost certain “guilty” verdict and a few decades' worth of mandatory minimum sentences? Because Ulbricht’s lawyer either believed a transparently bullshit story from the defendant about how Ulbricht was framed, Ulbricht was a recalcitrant defendant, or Dratel cynically wanted to keep getting paid…

One of the foundations of US jurisprudence is “standing”: if you don’t have an interest in something, you have no say in court. In 4th amendment case law, this requires that the defendant declare a legal interest in the item searched. For example, if the police conduct a blatantly illegal search of my car, but the only thing they find is evidence concerning someone else’s criminal activity, that someone else has to declare a privacy interest in my property. So in order for Ross Ulbricht (rather than the “Dread Pirate Roberts”) to contest the server seizure, he’d have to file a declaration stating “The Silk Road server seized in Iceland was mine.” Without such a declaration, the court can’t even consider whether the seizure was legal.

Such a declaration is not an admission of guilt: it can only be used by the prosecution if the defendant testifies. So as long as Ulbricht doesn’t testify, the jury never learns that Ulbricht admits to controlling the server. Mysteriously, the defense never claimed the server, even after a 12th hour, handwritten “Are you sure about this dude” opportunity from the judge. The defense refused, so the judge denied the motion to suppress.

So why these mysterious tactics? The first possibility is that Dratel believed his client. If so, you’d want to preserve his ability to testify. Yet the defense had the server and laptop for months, complete with both the infamous diary and Ulbricht’s admitted stash of Bitcoins. It was a simple matter for me, with just public information and a couple hours of coding, to trace 20% of Ulbricht’s stash as coming directly from Silk Road. It turns out that the wallet.dat files were able to trace many more. To my mind, a defense attorney simply believing a client’s falsifiable statements, without at least checking, seems incompetent.

So the defense should have known that putting Ulbricht on the stand would be absolute suicide: the prosecution would start with “So why were you holding the Dread Pirate’s Bitcoins?” and the day would get worse from there.

The second, and most likely, possibility was that Ulbricht was simply a difficult client. Every lawyer can tell stories of clients who, after receiving sound advice, simply refuse to listen.

The final, and cynical option is that Dratel simply wants to keep getting paid. Ulbricht’s defense is largely funded by donations. Although Roger Ver initially contributed a substantial amount, most subsequent donations have been relatively small. Although a declaration couldn’t be used in court, it would have convicted Ulbricht in the court of public opinion. How many would give money to Ulbricht’s defense if Ulbricht admitted he was the Dread Pirate Roberts?

But in any case, the moment the judge wrote that “Defendant has, however, brought what he must certainly understand is a fatally deficient motion to suppress,” the good ship Revenge was sunk. And this is the point where the defense turned to farce.

The defense, in its opening, presented two theories, that Ulbricht was framed and that the Bitcoins were legitimate. Yet the defense can’t just simply say “my client was framed.” The defense must be able to provide evidence to this effect. Otherwise, this becomes the Chewbacca defense, as any defendant could say “I Wuz Framed” and walk away.

So at that moment, the defense implied that they had some evidence to back these statements and also gave the prosecution a road map for the remainder of the case.

The prosecution responded by dropping so much evidence as to make the rubble bounce, evidence which was already disclosed to the defense. Rather than just introduce a chat with “Variety Jones” where the Dread Pirate mentions heading into the jungle, then introduces Ulbricht’s Facebook post about his Thai vacation. Rather than just introduce the defendant’s laptop, the prosecution introduced a USB backup from the defendant’s apartment, apparently made two weeks earlier. And don’t forget the scrap of paper with both Silk Road’s rating system and the phone number of Ulbricht’s intended date.

The only 11th hour surprise to the defense involved tracking the Bitcoins. Apparently nobody realized that Bitcoins were trivial to trace. After the defense’s opening, the prosecution scrambled to analyze the wallet.dat files, not only discovering a huge amount of Bitcoins directly from Silk Road to Ulbricht (apparently Ulbricht’s wallets were also the Silk Road “cold” storage) but even sourcing the “hitman” payments as coming from Ulbricht’s wallet!

Now the courts generally frown on 11th hour surprise evidence, having a natural dislike for trial by ambush. Unfortunately for the defense, they invited this ambush in their opening statements.

The materials that underlie the analysis were produced long ago. Based upon the opening statement and based upon one of the theories of the defense, which is that the defendant was a bitcoin trader and that any bitcoins in his possession were from bitcoin trading, it was reasonable to expect that you yourself had done such an analysis and, therefore, that you had some intention of presenting something that would have shown the opposite. In any event, you’ve opened the door to it, and we’re going to proceed. And the fact that the government adjusted and was able to do so is not something that is particularly problematic or unusual. So that’s my ruling on that. -Judge Forrest

So what was the defense to do? Pound the table. And pound it they did.

The defense tried a frankly ridiculous “Karpeles-did it” approach, which was shot down by the judge the next day. Then the defense tried to elicit strange testimony from prosecution witnesses about insanely remote possibilities. The judge was having none of this. If the defense wants to introduce alternate suspects and alternate theories, rather than just triple-hearsay, they would need their own evidence and their own witnesses.

So in a final move, the defense attempted a bit of “trial by ambush,” disclosing two expert witnesses at well beyond the last minute with no details as to the expertise or opinions offered.

Of course, Dratel had to go with the ambush approach: these witnesses could only support the defense’s theories if the prosecution wasn’t prepared. Any Bitcoin expert unwilling to commit perjury would have to acknowledge that direct wallet to wallet transactions are traceable, that Ulbricht’s “legitimate” trading these Bitcoins would require unimaginably good returns, that Ulbricht’s “mining” these Bitcoins is impossible unless he had a room full of nonexistent computers, and that anyone willingly keeping several million in Bitcoin in Silk Road as a “bank” would have been a delusional idiot.

Similarly, if I had to pick a New York-area expert to testify for the prosecution about the ridiculousness of the mysterious hacker who somehow managed to both plant evidence two weeks before, maintain persistent access, and yet leave no trace in the syslog or other logs, I’d select Steve Bellovin. In short, if the defense properly notified the prosecution, these experts would become tools of the prosecution: one last bounce in the rubble.

But of course, trial by ambush is frowned upon. The judge was particularly scathing, including a full page that basically translates to “this is case law saying you need to get your shit done on time” and such quotes as:

Lacking are any expected opinions, lacking are the bases for such opinions. Lacking is any description of analysis or methodology. Lacking also is any indication that Antonopolous has any expertise in the areas in which he seeks to testify. His resume lists that he has worked as a consultant in crypto-currencies and published unnamed “articles” in that area (not a single publication of the alleged group of “200” is listed, let alone information sufficient to assess the seriousness or depth of such articles). Of course, not all consultants are experts.


If defense counsel truly planned his trial strategy around his ability to bend the rules and examine witnesses outside of the scope of their direct, then he should have had a “Plan B” that included complying with the rules. Defense counsel took a calculated risk.

In short, there is only one person responsible for the Defense not having their experts: the defense attorney Joshua Dratel.

And with that scathing order, the case pretty much ended. The defense has offered only a few character witnesses and no concrete evidence of the mysterious elves which planted not only the journal on Ulbricht’s computer, but also the mountains of remaining evidence.

Ulbricht received a fair trial. The judge was hard on the defense, but that is largely due to how the defense acted and their strange tactical decisions. The defense threw away the case in October and then proceeded with farce for the trial.

When all you can do is pound the table, judges sometimes get mad and ask you to stop.

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13 Inspiring Ways to Bring Out the Best In Yourself

13 Inspiring Ways to Bring Out the Best In Yourself | Semantic Gnosis Web |
Everyone has an awesome side hidden away somewhere. Need help in getting it out? Here are 13 ways you can bring out the best version of yourself!

Via Mary E. Berens-Oney
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Taming Big Data with Smart Contexts -

Taming Big Data with Smart Contexts - | Semantic Gnosis Web |

Taming Big Data with Smart Contexts

“There’s a big data revolution” says Harvard Professor Gary King. And I agree. However, as Professor King explains, it’s not only the amount of information that is revolutionizing the digital world but the “what” we can do with it that could really make a change for the better.

For the last few months, we have been mulling over the same question at what can we do with all the data we have? After putting things into perspective, one thing became clear to us: that whatever we do, the data needs to be given back to the users.

Here’s a peek at some of the things we are working on to break through the noise and make good use of all the data we collect.

Smart contexts

We have a rich data landscape which has grown exponentially since 2010, when we founded to help people cut through the noise of their Twitter timeline.

Our position as forerunners in the content curation world has seen our service grow to a point where we now process over 300 million social posts a day. We surface articles, photos and videos of interest from 144 million websites and blogs, bringing meaningful content to millions of readers everyday. The amount of social data around the content we generate puts us in a great position to do exciting new things.


“We are good at collecting data. Now it’s all about making sense out of it.”

But where does one start to figure out what to do? Hacking right in was our way! We had a lot of fun over the past months doing just that – hacking into our data landscape, looking at it from all kinds of angles and asking ourselves new questions.

We’ve been investigating the connections between people, what they read, what they share and who they share it with. We sifted through millions of articles and the corresponding social signals to uncover how to best track the interests and behaviors of our users, their communities, and how they change over time. Getting these key insights about what our users are doing or interested in at any given point gives us valuable knowledge to customize our future services.
“Context makes the service unique for each user; it makes it personal, efficient and successful.”

It’s all about contextual awareness. The main outcome of our work has been to translate these insights into actionable queries and algorithms on our data platform.

Give data back to our users

Social data is a valuable currency to marketers and online advertisers who can use it to sell products and it is tempting to simply turn this data over to them. However, we know there’s so much more we can do with it.

Our whole team agrees that our data “intelligence” should be reserved for our users and be used to provide additional value to them. We have a mission to continue investing in contextual data analysis to find and develop new real life applications to give all this “smart” content back. Although, we don’t have all the answers just yet, we do have a clear vision and are full of energy for the long road ahead.

We believe it’s now crucial to invite our users to tell us exactly how they would like their data to work for them. We want curious, passionate and energetic people to join us Backstage at to meet the team, join the data debate and have their say on how future products could take shape. You can join the Backstage community here.

Taste of the future.

As a very first step, we will soon be unveiling what we think is a neat little app.

The idea behind the app is to make life simpler for our users, allowing them to make use of our data in a way that will bring instant benefit. A Beta version will be available on iPhone and only English at first. We’re releasing it in Beta to give our users an opportunity to have a say in how the next versions will take shape.

To wrap up, I can say, these last few months have brought us great insights into the value of our data at and we are really excited about the possibilities ahead. We’re looking forward to hearing what our community thinks about our path towards making data useful and how their needs will dictate our next steps to cut through the noise. With smart data and smart people, the future for content looks really bright.

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Proof That Consciousness Creates Reality: Welcome To The Matrix

Proof That Consciousness Creates Reality: Welcome To The Matrix | Semantic Gnosis Web |
By Steven Bancarz| Does consciousness create the material world?  Before we answer this question, it's important to first go into what the material world is actually composed of at a fundamental level.  "Reality" is not simply made of tiny physical pieces, like a bunch of marbles

Via Jean-Philippe BOCQUENET, Official AndreasCY
Jan Bergmans's insight:

We interact with a world of physical objects, but this is only due to the way our brains translate sensory data.  At the smallest and most fundamental scales of nature, the idea of “physical reality” is non-existent.  From the Nobel Prize winning father of quantum mechanics Neils Bohr, “Everything we call real is made of things that cannot be regarded as real.  In quantum mechanics hasn’t profoundly shocked you yet, you don’t understand it well enough.” When you touch your hands together, it is really just empty space touching more empty space, with the slightest ingredient of energetic spin of these minuscule particles.  The constituents of matter have absolutely no physical structure.

This is important to understand, because if we think of the world of quantum physics as being a world of bowling balls and and marbles, then the idea of consciousness creating reality doesn’t really make sense.  But understanding that reality is a cosmic concoction of non-localized energy and empty space, it becomes clear that our thoughts and the signals they register in the brain also have these same properties at their smallest level.  Our thoughts are also an activity of the universe, and all activities take place within the same quantum realm prior to manifesting in physical reality.

Consciousness is one of the hard problems in science.  There is no way to explain how something as material as chemical and physical processes can give rise to something as immaterial as experience.  There is no reason why subjective experience exists at all, or how sentience evolved.  Nature would operate just as well without subjectivity, and when we actually try to scientifically investigate the origin and physics of consciousness, we get hints that maybe consciousness and reality are not as separate as material science would have us think.

Here are some principles in quantum mechanics, taken from the book “The Self-Aware Universe” written by former professor of theoretical physics for 30 years at the University of Oregon, Dr. Amit Gozwami:

1) Wave-Function

A quantum object (such as an electron) can be at more than one place at the same time. It can be measured as a wave smeared out in space, and can be located at several different points across this wave. This is called the wave property.

2) Discontinuity

A quantum object ceases to exist here and simultaneously appears in existence over there without have EVER traveled the intervening space. This is known as the quantum jump.  It essentially teleports.

3) Action-At-A-Distance

A manifestation of one quantum object, cause by our observations, simultaneously influences its correlated twin object, no matter how far apart they are. Fire an electron and a proton off of an atom. Whatever happens to the electron, the exact same or exact opposite will happen to the proton. This is called quantum-action-at-a-distance.  Einstein called this “spooky” action at a distance.

4) The Observer Effect

A quantum object cannot be said to manifest in ordinary space-time reality until we observe it as a particle.  The quantum object exists indefinitely as a non-local wave until it is being observed directly. Consciousness literally collapses the wave-function of a particle.

This last point is interesting, because it implies that without a conscious observer present to collapse this wave, it would remain physically un-manifested in a state of potentiality .  Observation not only disturbs what has to be measured, it produces the effect.  This was verified in what is known as the double-slit experiment, where the presence of a conscious observer changed the behaviour of an electron from a wave state to a particle state.  This is known as the “observer effect” and completely shakes what we assume to be true about the physical world.  Here is an easy to understand cartoon rendition of the experiment:



The findings of this experiment were published in the peer-reviewed journal Nature, in which the scientists summarized saying “The introduction of a which- path (welcher Weg) detector for determining the actual path taken by the particle inevitably involved coupling the particle to a measuring environment, which in turn results in dephasing (suppression of interference).”  That’s quite a mouthful, but it basically means that the measurement system used to detect the activity of the particle effected the behaviour of that particle.

As scientist Dr. Dean Radin said in a paper replicating the double-slit experiment, “We compel the electron to assume a definite position. We ourselves produce the results of the measurement.”  Now, a common response to this is “It’s not us who is measuring the electron, it’s the machine that is doing the observation”.  A machine is simply an extension of our consciousness.  This is like saying “It’s not me who is observing the boat way across the lake, it is the binoculars”. The machine does not itself observe anything any more than a computer that interprets sound waves can “listen” to a song.

This has led some scientists to speculate that without consciousness, the universe would exist indeterminately as a sea of quantum potentiality.  In other words, physical reality cannot first exist without subjectivity.  Without consciousness, there is no physical matter.  This is known as the Participatory Anthropic Principle, and was first proposed by physicist Dr. John Wheeler.  Essentially, any possible universe that we can imagine that does not have conscious observers in it can be ruled out immediately.   Consciousness is therefore the ground of being and must have existed prior to the physical universe.  Consciousness literally creates the physical world.

These findings provide huge implications regarding how we can understand our interconnectedness with the external world.  “We create our reality” is used to refer to the fact that our thoughts create the perspective we have of the world, but we now have a more concrete and literal understanding of this phrase.  We actually give rise to the physical universe with our subjectivity.

“I  regard consciousness as fundamental. I regard matter as derivative from consciousness. We cannot get behind consciousness. Everything that we talk about, everything that we regard as existing, postulates consciousness.” – Max Planck, Nobel Prize winning originator of quantum theory, as quoted in The Observer (25 January 1931).

Quantum physics and consciousness:



About the author: My name is Steve Bancarz, and I am the Creator of Spirit Science and Metaphysics.  Thanks for taking the time to read this article! If you would like to subscribe to my newsletter, you can do so here:

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The Dark Side of the App Store

The Dark Side of the App Store | Semantic Gnosis Web |
Roy Pessis explains why we should continue fighting for an open app store and not accept Apple and Google's app regime as ironclad.
Jan Bergmans's insight:

Something great happened on July 10, 2008. The Apple App Store was born. Only six years down the road more than 60 billion apps were downloaded through the platform, making it one of the largest stores in history.

As Apple & Google are about to launch their app stores for the largest untapped screen in our homes, it’s worth pausing for a moment to address its dark side and understand the magnitude of its impact on our lives.

Is Apple the Supreme Court of our digital lives?

According to Nielsen, 89% of our time on media is spent via the use of apps. While apps occupy an enormous part of our digital lives, we remain indifferent to the fact that such an integral part of our online experience is entirely controlled by two companies: Apple and Google. Two companies decide what we do online, where we spend our time and who will be able to provide us with our sought-after content.

In their guidelines Apple states that the company “will reject Apps for any content or behavior that we believe is over the line. What line, you ask? Well, as a Supreme Court Justice once said, ‘I’ll know it when I see it’. And we think that you will also know it when you cross it.”

Where exactly is this line and which behaviors, according to Apple, are relegated to a place across it? Where will the line be in five years? As it currently seems, Apple has claimed a seat on the Supreme Court of our digital lives.

Both the Apple and the Google app stores control the flow of information. With every passing day, they tighten their grip over the content and delivery of our information. While this reality might seem harmless to many at the moment, in a few years time this could become a real threat over our freedom of speech and our freedom to create.

And it’s already happening: Consider the example of a company named Tawkon which created an app that tells you when your phone is emitting high radiation so users can stay safe. Apple rejected this app. When Tawkon founders asked Steve Jobs for an explanation, he simply replied “no interest.” Why would Apple block something that is good for us? I have a gut feeling that with the low cellular coverage in the US 4–5 years ago, Steve didn’t want his customers to stop using the phone because technically it is always emitting high radiation! This app could potentially harm the carriers that have lucrative partnerships with Apple.

Another interesting example is the blocking of bitcoin wallet apps, a policy which was only recently changed. Too late for bitcoin. The average user would much prefer using ApplePay. Blocking bitcoin wallets halts the spread of usage while Apple is building their ApplePay strategy, allowing them an unfair advantage. The ecosystem survives and we are trapped.

Again and again, Apple rejects apps not on the basis of malicious activity, but on the basis of pure capital gain.

We are willingly giving Apple and Google full control over our digital lives

The app stores are fun, endless, constantly updating and truly quite amazing. I love discovering new apps every Thursday when the Featured list is updated. The best part about it is the ease with which the app store works in enabling users to discover, purchase and install new apps. Just place your thumb on the screen and it’s already on its way.

Apple and Google have focused their strategies on creating a population of habitual app-store users. After all, no matter what you need, “there’s an app for that!” Getting us hooked on this experience is exactly what they want because with each purchase we make from their store, they extract an astounding 30% commission.

A 30 percent commission is an outrage (speak now or forever hold your peace)

At the beginning of this post, I mentioned that 60 billion apps have been downloaded until today (and that’s just on iOS). While a high percentage of them are free apps, this is nevertheless a huge market from which to reap 30% commission.

Of course, Apple and Google only aim to enlarge this market and their share within it. In fact, they would much rather prefer we stop using the Web and only use apps. They get their 30%, further tighten their grip over our digital freedom, and in return we get ease. What many don’t realize is that this ease we are so used to can also be available in an open format that is not so heavily controlled by our digital overlords.

The TV is Changing

Some day in the near future, Apple will hold an event announcing the opening of AppleTV to developers. Probably they will bring some developers on stage to talk about how amazing it is to port their successful iPhone games and apps on to the big screen. They will praise Apple and try to convince fellow developers that this is the next big thing that they all should be working on. And it probably is—when push comes to shove, we are talking about the last un-stored screen. While it is a huge opportunity for developers, we must keep our eyes open for Apple’s long term strategy behind the app store.

Apple is poised to control the TV. I hope that the new AppleTV will have a fully functioning browser so we can still enjoy the Web freely and to the fullest. Unfortunately, I am not so optimistic. After all, it did take Apple four years to make a decent browser for the iPhone. You can probably guess why.

The Web should be free and accessible for everyone.

Unlike the app-stores of our digital overlords, the Web does not filter or restrain our content. No single entity controls what goes online and what does not. Anyone can take a computer, plug it to the wall, and define it as a server. Without a court order, no one can take that away from you.

It goes without saying that Apple and Google should be transparent regarding their policy for refusing apps. While it is well within these companies’ right to seek maximum profit without the need to ascribe to any higher moral ground, it is important to remember that we as consumers also have the right and power to choose. We should continue fighting for an open app store and not accept their app regime as ironclad.

In March, James Robinson wrote “2013 was the first year that Americans spent more time online on mobile devices than on computers, and as mobile devices become our primary point of interaction, the online experience will gradually become synonymous with being inside an app. It’s just like the Internet, but reimagined as a branded experience and with new, less democratic power structures, like Apple, Google and Facebook ruling the information roost like the Chevron, Exxon and BP of the world wide web.”

An open app store based on the Web could be the cure for that.

For more about the end of the Internet read my previous article

This is how Google is Killing the Web

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Linus Torvalds responds to Ars about diversity, niceness in open source

Linus Torvalds responds to Ars about diversity, niceness in open source | Semantic Gnosis Web |
Acknowledges diversity factors, says "we're different in so many other ways."
Jan Bergmans's insight:

On Thursday, Linux legend Linus Torvalds sent a lengthy statement to Ars Technica responding to statements he made in Auckland, New Zealand earlier that day about diversity and "niceness" in the open source sector.

"What I wanted to say [at the keynote]—and clearly must have done very badly—is that one of the great things about open source is exactly the fact that different people are so different," Torvalds wrote via e-mail. "I think people sometimes look at it as being just 'programmers,' which is not true. It's about all the people who are more oriented toward commercial things, too. It's about all those people who are interested in legal issues—and the social ones, too!"

Torvalds spoke to what he thought was a larger concept of "diversity" than what has been mentioned a lot in recent stories on the topic, including economic disparity, language, and culture (even between neighboring European countries). "There's a lot of talk about gender and sexual preferences and race, but we're different in so many other ways, too," he wrote.

"'Open source' as a term and as a movement hasn't been about 'you have to be a believer,'" Torvalds added. "It's not a religion. It's not an 'us vs them' thing. We've been able to work with all those 'evil commercial interests' and companies who also do proprietary software. And I think that was one of the things that the Linux community (and others—don't get me wrong, it's not unique to us) did and does well."

Torvalds also talked about progress since the GPL vs. BSD "flame wars" from the '80s and early '90s, saying that the open source movement brought more technology and less "ideology" to the sector. "Which is not to say that a lot of people aren't around because they believe it's the 'ethical' thing to do (I do myself too)," Torvalds added, "but you don't have to believe that, and you can just do it because it's the most fun, or the most efficient way to do technology development."

“This ‘you have to be nice’ seems very popular in the US”

He then sent a second e-mail to Ars about the topic of "niceness" that came up during the keynote. He said that his return to his Auckland hotel was delayed by "like three hours" because of hallway conversations about this very topic.

"I don't know where you happen to be based, but this 'you have to be nice' seems to be very popular in the US," Torvalds continued, calling the concept an "ideology."

"The same way we have developers and marketing people and legal people who speak different languages, I think we can have some developers who are used to—and prefer—a more confrontational style, and still also have people who don't," he wrote.

He lambasted the "brainstorming" model of having a criticism-free bubble to bounce ideas off of. "Maybe it works for some people, but I happen to simply not believe in it," he said. "I'd rather be really confrontational, and bad ideas should be [taken] down aggressively. Even good ideas need to be vigorously defended."

"Maybe it's just because I like arguing," Torvalds added. "I'm just not a huge believer in politeness and sensitivity being preferable over bluntly letting people know your feelings. But I also understand that other people are driven away by cursing and crass language when it all gets a bit too carried away." To that point, Torvalds said that the open source movement might simply need more "people who are good at mediating," as opposed to asking developers to calm their own tone or attitude.

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Go Canada: Now ILLEGAL to auto-update software without 'consent'

Go Canada: Now ILLEGAL to auto-update software without 'consent' | Semantic Gnosis Web |
The revised rules are targeting nuisances and worse such as adware on PCs and rogue apps on smartphones. False or misleading representations of products or services are also prohibited under the new regulations.

Canadians are encouraged to report suspected violations of Canada's anti-spam laws to the Spam Reporting Centre. Meanwhile the CRTC (Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission) is collaborating with Industry Canada to run sessions across the country designed to help businesses understand and prepare for the new rules.

The CRTC is the lead agency is enforcing the new rules and investigating compliance and (where necessary) levying fines against firms that fail to comply with the new rules. As such, it's fulfilling the type of role assigned to the FTC in the US and the ICO in the UK. ®

Sponsored: Security management 2.0
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