By Martyn Warwick
Republished with permission from TelecomTV One . Martyn Warwick is board director, Telecom TV
Biased? FCC calls location-based tracking a “boon to the economy” even as it sets up forum to debate the issue
In the US, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is to hold a day-long “public education forum” to “study the risks and benefits” of location-based services and the tracking of smartphone users. Yes, a whole day. We are not worthy – obviously.
Yes, there’s to be a full eight hours of waffle (minus coffee breaks and lunch of course) with half the day given over to Apple, Google and their ilk during which time they can bring their expensive heavy guns to bear and tell the world how great location tracking is and how misguided are those who oppose it.
“Consumer advocates” have also been invited to the June 28 event but critics say the day is likely to be hi-jacked by vested interests favouring tracking technologies and will be little more than a platform from which wireless carriers and technology companies will trumpet the benefits of location tracking whilst deriding the arguments of those who oppose such intrusions into personal liberty.
The FCC has finally be forced to do something – minimal though it may be – because of growing consumer concern and unrest following the revelation last month that iPhones routinely collect and transmit location data – even when a user turns off the tracking software. This secretly and illicitly collected data, Apple acknowledges, is then held for up to a year. It also transpires that Google’s Android-based mobile handsets also do something remarkably similar.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) which is exhibiting rather more concern for the privacy rights of smartphones users than is the FCC, is also involved in the forum and has said that not only does it intent to write a report on location-bsed tracking and services but will also press the FCC Chairman, Julius Genachowski, to regulate on the issue – something which the FCC should be doing off its own bat in any case.
In a what might best be described as a reluctant and biased statement, the FCC says, “Over the last few years, location-based services have become an important part of the mobile market and a boon to the economy.” Says who – apart from Apple and Google that is?
The statement continues, “Commercial location-based services include applications that help consumers find the lowest-priced product nearby or the nearest restaurant… But recent reports have raised concerns about the location-based information that is gathered when consumers use mobile devices.”
The June event will be the third time Apple has been called to give testimony on the issue and, who knows, maybe this time will prove to be lucky for exploited iPhone users. I would’t bet on it though. After all there’s a ton of money to be made from selling location data to advertisers and consumer privacy comes way, way down the list after a consideration like that.
Topics to be (briefly) aired at the forum include: “How location-based services work, their benefits and risks and information parents should know about location tracking of children using mobile devices.”
Elsewhere, an anonymous FCC apparatchik says, “While the use of location data has spurred innovation, the FCC’s National Broadband Plan recognizes that consumer apprehension about privacy can also act as a barrier to the adoption and utilization of broadband and mobile devices”.
This has got “whitewash” written all over it.
By Shawn Lawrence Otto
Reprinted with permission from online community newspaper MinnPost, Minnesota, USA
Fifth and last article in a five-part science/travel series
Padova, Italy — I have been posting from Italy all week, where I have been talking with leading European science journalists about science debates. Most of the world’s great challenges now revolve around science policy issues, yet we are paralyzed on many of them because of politics. Science debates bring policymakers together with science and the public, highlighting key issues and helping to break logjams.
Today I am on a train from Venice via Milan to Turin, where I’ll catch a flight home. The way runs through the lush green Veneto plain, fed by the Po River. This area is full of historical significance, like the Rotunda that Jefferson copied for Montecello, or Verona of “Romeo and Juliet” fame. But I am stopping to see Padova, the oldest city in northern Italy and birthplace of the Enlightenment.
A half mile south of the train station I find the crumbling ruins of a Roman amphitheater with a chapel built in its park-like center. Enrico Scrovegni bought the site in 1300 and built the chapel to save the soul of his dead father, Riginaldo, a loan shark that Dante conscribed to the seventh circle of hell in his bestseller “The Inferno.” For insurance, Scrovegni hired the Florentine painter Giotto to do the chapel frescoes and — wow. Giotto’s inspired work blew everyone away. The frescoes are considered the birth of modern painting and culture, and the great Renaissance painters all stood on Giotto’s shoulders.
Seeds of freedom
The seeds of another kind of rebirth had already been planted a few blocks further south and some80 years earlier. Feeling their way out of the thick fog of medieval superstition and dark-age religious dominance, a group of law students and professors from Bologna got together in Padova in 1222, seeking more academic freedom.
They started the world’s second university, the Palazzo Bo, or Ox Palace, in an old hotel of the same name. Over time, the Ox Palace became the center of free thought in Europe, with professors encouraging liberal explorations of ideas amid the conservative religious thought of the rest of Europe. Its motto was, and is, “Padova freedom is Universal freedom.”
In 1678, the school graduated the first woman to receive a university diploma: Elena Lucrezia Cornaro Piscopia, who earned the Doctor of Philosophy.
Entering the university I am struck by coats of arms from 700 years of famous graduates and rectors, painted or sculpted on the walls of the grand entrance and wrapping up and around the two-story courtyard.
Upstairs on the East is the Sala dei Quaranta, an expansive, Hogwarts-style dining and lecture hall whose rich paneled walls are lined with hundreds more coats of arms and paintings that look like they may come to life at any moment. It is one of the world’s great collections of heraldry.
Copernicus spent time here, but the real glory days came later. In 1594, the world’s first medical theater opened here, an oval with six steep railed tiers where 200 students of art and science could lean over as they watched a human cadaver secretly dissected by candlelight. If church officials came knocking, the table could be flipped, dumping the body through a hole in the floor for swift removal to the canal, replacing it with an animal.
Walking where Galileo walked
For me, though, the biggest thrill and the reason I came was to walk where the university’s most famous teacher walked, and to touch the wooden handrail of the raised podium where his hand also fell. Galileo Galilei, one of the founding scientists of the Enlightenment, taught at Padova from 1592 to 1610. The podium was built by his students so the SRO crowds that packed the Sala dei Quaranta could hear and see him speak, and begin to see the light of knowledge, instead of, to quote John Locke, “but faith or opinion.”
Since those early days, science has proven to be our most reliable method for creating knowledge. But new knowledge means we must refine our ethics and morality, and that is always political. It certainly was in 16th century Padova, where science was risky and anti-authoritarian indeed.
This aspect is lost on many modern scientists, who seek to disavow association with science’s political dimensions, and, as a result have ceded some measure of public definition of reality back to ideologues.
Galileo simply spoke about his observations through a better telescope that could show the planets more clearly. Shadows on Jupiter, he told students, confirm what Copernicus had already postulated: the earth revolves around the sun, and not the other way around. You can look for yourself, he told church officials. But they refused to look through his telescope.
Like many scientists, Galileo underestimated politics, and didn’t realize that the simple statement of an observable fact is a political act. It either affirms or denies the current power structure.
Consider this quote from Galileo’s 1633 indictment by the Roman Catholic Church, at the time the seat of world power:
1. The proposition that the sun is in the center of the world and immovable from its place is absurd, philosophically false, and formally heretical; because it is expressly contrary to Holy Scriptures.
2. The proposition that the earth is not the center of the world, nor immovable, but that it moves, and also with a diurnal action, is also absurd, philosophically false, and, theologically considered, at least erroneous in faith.
Therefore…, invoking the most holy name of our Lord Jesus Christ and of His Most Glorious Mother Mary, We pronounce this Our final sentence: We pronounce, judge, and declare, that you, the said Galileo…have rendered yourself vehemently suspected by this Holy Office of heresy, that is, of having believed and held the doctrine (which is false and contrary to the Holy and Divine Scriptures) that the sun is the center of the world, and that it does not move from east to west, and that the earth does move, and is not the center of the world; also, that an opinion can be held and supported as probable, after it has been declared and finally decreed contrary to the Holy Scripture.
Why did the church go to such great lengths to discredit this solitary man? For the same reason we fight political battles today over issues like climate change, and right-wing US senators seek to discredit scientists like Michael Mann, whose similarly iconic “hockey stick graph” charts the rise in average global temperatures.
Science sides with observation and measurement, not vested interests. Failing to acknowledge science’s inherently political nature leaves both science and America vulnerable to attack by anti-science thinking from both the right and left—thinking which has come to dominate American politics in the early 21st century—and leads to political rigidity and paralysis.
Modern-day call to defend science
Science has proved to be more powerful and beneficial to humans than anything previously developed. It has built up knowledge that has doubled our life spans, multiplied the productivity of our farms by more than 35 times, freed untold millions from manual farm labor and a life that was, in the words of 15th century writer Thomas Hobbes, “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short,” a “war of every man against every man.” It has given us tremendous insights into our place in the cosmos, into the inner workings of our own bodies, and into our capacity as human beings to exercise our highest aspirations of love, hope, creativity, curiosity, compassion, humility, courage and charity.
This good has come from the scientific process of questioning assumptions about the universe, dreaming up experiments that test those questions and, based on observations, incrementally building knowledge about nature that is independent of beliefs. A scientifically testable claim can be shown to be either probably true, or to be false, whether the claim is made by a king or a president, a pope, a congressman, or a common citizen. Because of this, science is anti-authoritarian, and a great equalizer of political power.
I came to Italy to talk about science and politics, but as I leave Padova, I am struck by how each generation from Galileo’s to my own must defend science, democracy and freedom of thought, as a moral imperative.
In that regard, we could learn from the courage of those early Italians.
Shawn Lawrence Otto is co-founder and CEO of sciencedebate.org. He wrote the screenplay for the Oscar-nominated movie “House of Sand and Fog” and won the Alfred P Sloan Foundation’s award for best science screenplay for “Hubble.” He also wrote the screenplay for the upcoming film “Dreams of a Dying Heart.” He lives in Minnesota, USA.
—and summer on the Adriatic
By Shawn Lawrence Otto
Reprinted with permission from online community newspaper MinnPost, Minnesota, USA
Fourth in a five-part science/travel series
Venice, Italy — In Italy, when crowds get excited they sing in unison. I’m in Venice, the New Orleans of Europe, but here the flooding is planned. It’s night during the World Cup and several shops have turned televisions out to the squares, where folding chairs have been set up and local bars make rounds to the singing, cheering, klaxon-blasting soccer fans. I wander the streets, taking it in.
It is hard to describe Venice’s special charm. The city and its surrounding islands are built on sandbars and pilings driven into the Adriatic, their scores of crisscrossing canals serviced by a crazy array of water taxis, gondolas and vaporetti — the public bus boats. Its car-less stone streets weave haphazardly around and through buildings that typically date back to the early 1000s, when Marco Polo returned to the city after 24 years of adventures in the Orient. They are filled with art, museums, fresh fish and vegetable markets, trattoria, ancient churches, and parties — soccer and otherwise.
It is no wonder Venice has always attracted the world’s great creative thinkers.
From rack and pinion to jpg
I’m here to meet with Alex Gerber, a Berlin communication scientist who came down to connect while I’m in Italy.
Alex is head of communications for Fraunhofer, the German research giant who brought you the jpg, mp3s and h.264 video, among many other innovations. He is also managing partner at Innocomm, a company that specializes in taking discoveries in scientific papers and doing applied research to find ways to bring them to market. In German it’s called Kommercializacion, but it’s about much more than making a buck. It’s about what could be called knowledge engineering, filling a key gap between research and engineering.
In Leonardo da Vinci’s time, this sort of application was the goal of science experiments. Since I wear hats of both art and science myself, today I checked out a Venetian exhibition of the Tuscan’s engineering drawings made real, showing his early prototypes for rack and pinion, the bicycle, the gearshift, the submarine, the hang glider, and the differential gear, among many others.
Revolutionizing online debate
One of Alex’s team’s projects that attracted my attention is called Debate 2.0. It is inspired by Science Debate 2008, a science policy debate I organized between Barack Obama and John McCain. Alex’s team wondered if they could apply some of the concepts we used to a new online form of debate and discussion.
The result is Debate 2.0. It hopes to revolutionize online discussion and knowledge modeling, for example, in this publication.
Let’s say this story was especially controversial, and there were thousands of comments. That’s a great discussion, but the article would be a victim of its own success, since very few people are going to read past the first couple dozen comments, which often are posted by people most opposed to whatever the article may be proposing, and those who argue with them.
So all the rest are lost in a sort of knowledge eddy created by applying a linear format — time-stamped comment postings — to a nonlinear situation — crowd responses to an article.
In the online world of interactivity, a newspaper is like a reporter standing on a soapbox in a crowded Venetian market square and shouting out. What if we could apply a more nonlinear approach, like we did in Science Debate when we invited signers to submit questions to the candidates for president, and incorporated all their ideas into the discussion?
Alex’s team’s innovation is a system that organizes comments not linearly but graphically. In the future, you may see comments in newspapers organized from a bird’s eye view first into pros and cons, and then substreams of arguments that you can zoom into and navigate through with the click of a mouse instead of scrolling linearly. The process delivers much more meaning much more quickly because it delivers knowledge in context — Debate 2.0.
Holding back effects of climate change
Alex and I rent a boat and motor through the back canals away from the tourists, then head out into the bay. Venice is surrounded by dozens of islands, and we first go to see the new island the Italians are building to battle the effects of climate change. It’s one of dozens of massive geoengineering projects worldwide.
By Shawn Lawrence Otto
Reprinted with permission from online community newspaper MinnPost, Minnesota, USA
Third in a five-part science/travel series
Torino, Italy and Geneva, Switzerland — The thing about Italy is that it teaches you to go with the flow. Those who cannot are naturally selected out of the population by early heart attacks, emigration or some other process of elimination. Italians who are left are the only ones who can survive their own system. You always hear them saying things like “No problem” and No worries”. Today is an example of why that Zen-Italian attitude is important.
The Porto Nuovo train station is a grand dame located near the center of Torino. We walk there from our hotel, about 20 blocks through winding streets with flagstone sidewalks. We arrive at the station in plenty of time and look up to see that our train to Milan — where we were to make our connection to Venice — has been cancelled. There is a strike in Milan and the train station there is closed.
We wait in line for the customer service window, where the attendant says my prepaid ticket is worthless. I need to go to a ticket window and get a refund. But this being Friday, the busiest travel day in Italy, they are all closed. The only alternative is to use self-service machines to purchase another ticket going through Bologna. Then, when I get to Venice, I can go to a ticket window and ask for a refund.
I go to the ticket machine lines, and when I get to the front there are not enough tickets left on the train for our party. I book the next available train, which will take us through two other cities and get us in about 8:40 [20:40] in the evening. Not ideal, but hey, it’s Italy. I go ahead and make the reservation, which, being rush hour, is more than double the price.
But then, just to be sure, I check again. This time the same parameters yield a one-stop route that costs only one and a half times as much. Back to customer service. I have time. Eventually I get the second set of tickets marked cancelled. I will have to get a refund on those later as well. At the machines I buy the third set at the lower price and more advantageous route.
So here I sit, next to a man who has never heard of deodorant, waiting for six hours to pass and writing the post I promised about the Large Hadron Collider at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (Cern) near Geneva.
Dominique Bertola is the bouncing, gregarious head of visitor information at Cern, and he is a natural born teacher. He has the rare ability among scientists to take the complicated and make it simple and interesting.
This talent is often looked down upon in the scientific community in a sort of naive snobbery. Astronomer Carl Sagan, perhaps the greatest science communicator ever, had a show called “Cosmos” that was seen by an estimated 600 million people around the world. But Sagan was rejected by his peers for admission to the National Academy of Sciences. This division is part of what I am trying to overcome as I globe trot promoting science debates.
Dominique brims with enthusiasm as he shows me the massive equipment.
The Large Hadron Collider is Cern’s new machine for trying to make some discoveries about the underlying nature of the universe. It is located in a donut-shaped tunnel 100 meters or roughly 35 stories below ground. The donut is huge — a whopping 27 kilometers (16.8 miles) in circumference, running under Switzerland and France. It’s filled not with cream, but with vacuum tubes, superconducting busbars, and electromagnets that make up the core of the particle accelerator.
By Shawn Lawrence Otto
Reprinted with permission from MinnPost, a Minnesota USA online community newspaper.
Second in a five-part science/travel series.
Geneva, Switzerland — In Italy they like to eat late. Most people don’t even head out to the restaurants until about 9. And in Torino there are many of them, mostly spilling out onto the sidewalks. In the old town center, an area of winding streets and tall brick and stone buildings, it’s sometimes hard to tell what is restaurant and what is street – tables are placed out onto the pavement and cars wind between them. They seem to all merge into an outdoor party full of a pleasing mix of wood smoke from the grills, fresh and delicious seafood, Fiat exhaust and wine.
Which explains why this morning came especially early. We had to be at the old Fiat plant, now a huge shopping, hotel, and conference complex, at 6:45 a.m. to catch a bus to Cern — the European Organization for Nuclear Research. The Fiat plant is about a two mile walk from the hotel. It was still that sort of liquid cool before what you could just tell was going to be a hot summer morning.
We ducked into a patisseria along the way and grabbed a cappuccino and some pastries — and let me tell you, you have not lived until you’ve had a china cup full of Italian cappuccino and a still-warm pastry at 6:15 in the morning. You can’t get anything to go here — in fact Torino is the capital of the global Slow Food movement — a pastiche of aligned ideas and practices from extremely fresh, high quality local foods to a certain attitude about life that rejects fast, cheap and unmindful. But the service is quick nevertheless. This morning, we were in, out and happy in less than five minutes. Add that we got to drink and eat on china near the open door, not out of a paper cup and a wax bag, and you have to love it.
Crossing the Alps to Cern
The Cern trip is one of the last activities at ESOF — the Euroscience Open Forum. I am here to talk about U.S. science policy and politics, and how we organized Science Debate 2008 between Barack Obama and John McCain. Several European countries have since copied the initiative, hoping to elevate science in the national dialog and in the minds of elected officials. At least in the case of Barack Obama, it worked.
We’re taking a coach bus over and through the Italian, French and Swiss Alps to Geneva, Switzerland. Cern is famous to moviegoers as the home of the Large Hadron Collider, the most complex scientific instrument on the planet. In the movie “Angels and Demons” it was the source of the anti-matter the bad guys stole to try to end the world. In reality, you encounter antimatter all the time, but in subatomic particles that are almost immediately destroyed as they contact matter.
By Shawn Lawrence Otto
Reprinted with permission from MinnPost, a Minnesota USA online community newsaper, first in a 5-part travel/science series
Torino, Italy — I am posting from the Euroscience Open Forum in Torino, Italy. Torino is a beautiful older city of about 1 million nestled along the Po River in northern Italy at the foot of the Alps. It was, for a brief spell in the late 1800s, the capital of Italy. It is full of grand palaces and manors hundreds of years old, but the building getting the most use this week is the huge old Fiat plant, now known as the Lingotto Conference Center, the venue for ESOF.
The reason I’m here is to talk about U.S. Science policy and world politics. I got here the other day, sans luggage, and had to go straight from the airport into a press conference, then out to dinner with my hosts, a bunch of science journalists from around Europe. After some amazing food and wine under the stars by violin and scooter engine, I chose to walk the four miles back to the hotel.
As I did, I stumbled upon an outdoor exhibition of “green porn” in the old town square. Apparently this was part of the Science in the City program and had been billed as a movie about animals mating but turned out to be a bunch of old scientists on a stage talking about sexual and asexual reproduction. This may be the worst example of a scientist’s idea of how to sex up science to make it interesting to lay people.
Still there were about two hundred people sitting in chairs in the square, but I think it was a bit of a bait and switch. I can’t possibly guess what these Italians thought of when they heard “green porn” but for me it definitely wasn’t old scientists.
Science poised to transform lives
The larger issue of elevating science in the public dialog is a big part of why I’m here. In fact, I gave a presentation about it at Euroscience, headlining a panel on science debates. There have been several science debates in various European countries now, generally in the context of parliamentary or national elections, all patterned on a science debate I helped organize in 2008 between Barack Obama and John McCain. The other panelists in the latest session included Hajo Neubert, president of the European Union of Science Journalists’ Associations, as well as science debate organizers from Germany, Italy and the UK.
The idea behind ScienceDebate is simple. Most of the world’s major political issues revolve around science policy, from energy and climate change to ocean health, biodiversity loss, global economic competitiveness, and dozens of others. At the same time, the number of scientists around the world is expanding rapidly, all connected by the internet. This is causing an explosion of new knowledge that will utterly transform our lives over the coming few decades. Topics that are barely on the public radar now, like genomics, nanotechnology, and geoengineering have the potential to become the political lightening rods of tomorrow.
ESOF itself is only four years old, and already rivals the powerful American Association for the Advancement of Science’s annual meeting in its breathtaking size and scope.
Lag in science reporting
At the same time, there is a crisis in science reporting. As budgets are slashed, editors and publishers, most of whom were English majors, wrongly assume the public shares their disinterest in science, and it’s one of the first things to go. MinnPost is one of the few outlets left in the United States that has a science section — at the very time when we need more reporting on these science issues, not less.
My presentation recounted the story of how we started Science Debate as a small group of six committed individuals. It eventually became the largest political initiative in the history of science, supported by most of the U.S. science enterprise and making nearly a billion media impressions.
It was basically an effort to elevate science in America’s national dialog, something that had faded over the last two generations as scientists withdrew from public discourse, culminating in the Bush years, widely regarded by scientists as the most anti-science administration in U.S. history.
By 2008, the top five TV news anchors asked the then-candidates for president 2,975 questions in 171 separate interviews. Just six mentioned the words “global warming” or “climate change,” arguably the most important policy debate facing the country. To put that in perspective, three questions were about UFOs. Obviously, science needs to reengage with the public — but probably in a more sophisticated way than sexing it up and calling it “green porn.” The fact is that when science is made relevant to people, they are deeply interested.
In Europe, they take a different approach, seeking to elevate society in the dialog of science. What research should we be doing? Where should we be putting our resources? The people should have a say. This is an idea that some scientists will likely find heretical, even dangerous.
But both approaches build on something nearly everyone agrees on: Science is always political. Any time we refine our knowledge, that has implications for our morals and ethics, forcing us to refine them too. And that means politics. In a century when science dominates every aspect of life and can give the power to save or destroy the planet, scientists need to be a more vocal part of the political discussion.
Shawn Lawrence Otto is co-founder and CEO of ScienceDebate2008.com. He wrote the screenplay for the Oscar-nominated movie “House of Sand and Fog” and won the Alfred P Sloan Foundation’s award for best science screenplay for “Hubble.” He also wrote the screenplay for the upcoming film “Dreams of a Dying Heart.” He lives in Minnesota.
By Martyn Warwick, editor in chief, Telecom TV
Republished with permission from Telecom TV
The New York Times, aka the “Gray Lady” of 8th Avenue, one of a select few US “newspapers of record” has promoted itself to the top spot on the pedestal of press pedantry by prohibiting journalists from referring to to Twitter messages as “tweets”. Martyn Warwick reports.
I have been in America for the past couple of weeks so there’ll be a few quirky US-centric stories from me over the next few days. And I celebrate my return to Blighty’s shores by beginning with this one.
One of the great strengths of the English language is its mutability: many new words are coined and come into common usage every year both in speech and in print and eventually some of them even make it to that ultimate arbiter of the language, the Oxford English Dictionary.
However, there are those who refuse easily to accept such changes and The Times of London newspaper has a long tradition of defending the use of archaic English terminology long after the rest of the population routinely uses new (and therefore suspect) new words.
However, on this occasion the Thunderer has been outdone by its transAtlantic cousin. The New York Times employs Mr. Phillip Corbett as its “Standards Editor” and that gentleman has circulated a message to writing staff (this time apparently via the strange new medium of the electronic dissemination of written communications over the invisible ether rather than on parchment) informing them that Twitter messages may not be referred to as “tweets” – even though that is what everyone else on Earth calls them.
It seems it’s that “common” bit that so exercises Mr. Corbett. He writes “outside of ornithological contexts, ‘tweet’ has not yet achieved the status of standard English. And standard English is what we should use in news articles.”
He goes on, “Except for special effect, we try to avoid colloquialisms, neologisms and jargon. And ‘tweet’ - as a noun or a verb, referring to messages on Twitter – is all three.
Yet it has appeared 18 times in articles in the past month, in a range of sections.”
I say! Great Scott! What is the world coming to? Thinking-up and using new words like that without permission or the sanction of committee? It’ll have to stop. Standards, you know, standards.
However, there is some good news for hacks paid by the word. Corbett will permit the use of “deft” alternatives such as ” a Twitter message” or “a message posted on Twitter”. What’s that rattling noise? Why, it’s Mr. Pitman getting up to V3 in his grave. “Rotate”.
But, please note, it’s not that the standard’s editor has his head completely in the sand. Mr. Corbett does accept that “new technology terms sprout and spread faster than ever. And we don’t want to seem paleolithic. But we favor established usage and ordinary words over the latest jargon or buzzwords.”
He adds, “It doesn’t help that the word [tweet] itself seems so inherently silly” but does accept that “Someday, ‘tweet’ may be as common as ‘e-mail.” Gotta love that hyphenated “e-mail”, so that we all understand its shorthand for electronic mail – lest we forget. Perish the thought.
It’s good to see that even in this time of unprecedented crisis for newspapers and as the industry struggles to remain relevant in the age of instant electronic communications, that someone will keep the flag flying even as the ship goes down.
The New York Times has been in continual publication since 1851. Peter Mark Roget, who compiled his Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases rather earlier, in 1805, defines the good old word “twit” variously as “travesty”, “farce”, “ridicule” and “hold in derision”. If the cap fits…… or, perhaps, in the special case of the New York Times, it it should be if the snood, capuchon, glengarry, topee, toque, peruke, beaver, cowl or wimple fits. I’ll leave it to you to make your own deft – or daft – choice.
by Peter Gaechter
Voting has never been easier. I always thought it was cool to wake up on the Sunday morning of voting day, and go on down to the voting place, which in my case was the local gymnasium. When I moved across the border to France, things changed. As one of the many Swiss abroad, I could only vote by mail.
Now there’s another option. For the first time, the Swiss abroad who are registered to vote in Geneva may vote by internet. There is really nothing to it. Once you go to the secure server, you’re asked to key in the 16 digit voting card number (the voting card is the one you usually put your date of birth on and sign), then you vote, you confirm, and it’s done. It really is that simple. This is a demonstration of how it works, in English.
In addition to all the Swiss abroad, residents of 11 communes (Anières, Bernex, Chêne-Bourg, Collonge-Bellerive, Cologny, Grand-Saconnex, Onex, Perly-Certoux, Plan les Ouates, Thônex and Vandoeuvres) can vote electronically. The vote is limited to 20 percent of the electorate because there are two federal issues on the ballot, which need to be approved by both a majority of the popular vote and by a majority of the cantons.
The federal council limits the vote to 20 percent of the canton’s electorate by means of the 1978 law on political rights, as amended for electronic voting.
This post appeared on brandingthroughpeople. Author Ago Cluytens has previously shared posts from his marketing blog with GenevaLunch.com
Recently, I went to buy a mobile phone, and came out of the store with a computer, printer and MP-3 player. Now, those of you that know me can confirm I’m usually a level-headed guy who doesn’t throw money out the window. So what happened ?
I recently became interested by the new Apple iPhone 3GS, because it contains a number of functions that I can see myself use on a daily basis; I was especially interested by the recently included video camera, which means I can now use it for a new project I’m working on. After lurking in the shadows for a while, I decided to go to the Apple Store to check it out. And there, it happened. Not only did I buy an iPhone, but I also sprung for a brand new Macbook Pro and a printer !
I decided to analyse what happened, and here’s what came out: Apple provides you with a brand experience that is more guaranteed to make you buy than the average carpet salesman in a Moroccan soukh …
Peter Gaechter lives in France, near Geneva
By Peter Gaechter
The other day I received an email with an attachment. The subject line said it was the poster of the Madrid Book Fair and it shows a woman being embraced by a wall of words. The poster comes with a poem ascribed to Pablo Neruda, the Chilean poet and Nobel Prize winner.
Don’t ask me to take something at face value, especially when it comes attached to a mail. I decided to test the new, improved Google search engine that the company announced on 12 May at their searchology symposium to determine what was what about the poster and the poem. I was looking for a translation and the origins of the poster.
Try switching to Spanish and see what happens
On the Google page, I switched my preferences to Spanish, typed in “Pablo Neruda afiche”, the Spanish for poster, and hit return. In the blue results bar at the top left, you now have a “Show options” panel. If you click on that, the page reorganizes and you get further options: you can have results organized by time (past 24 hours, past week, past year), which is useful if you’re looking for news stories, by relevance or by date. Among the options for standard results, is one, “images from page”.
Since I was looking for an image, I tried this and restricted the time frame to the past week, hoping that my attachment would be returned. I got 61 results that linked Neruda with poster in some way, and the actual images of posters were returned as well. None of them were the poster I was looking for, however.
So I tried another of the new options, one Google is quite pleased about. It’s the aptly named wonder wheel. Once you click on that, the results are pushed to the right side of the screen and in the centre is a blue circle with the search criterion in the middle of it.
To put it through its paces, I typed in Swat, as in the conflict region in Pakistan. The blue circle is surrounded by related terms, each connected by a line. This is Google’s attempt at relational search management, I guess you’d call it. The search engine doesn’t know what I want with “Swat”, and until I type in “Swat, Pakistan” it assumes I’m interested in the game. Once it sees that my interest is in Pakistan, the related options it offers me are military operations, curfew and Rehman Malik (the interior minister).
Google is trying to read its customers “intent”
Google says that it is attempting to understand its customers better, and to understand their intent. “The real goal is that we have many users and we have to solve their problems. What is user intent, what do they need and get it to them,” says Udi Manber, vice president of engineering at Google.
The results on the right side of the page reflect my choice of options on the wonder wheel. The great thing for someone who easily gets sidetracked by following links willy-nilly is that the wonder wheel keeps track of your original blue circle so that you can hop right back to it. Neat feature.
Back to my search. I repeated the exercise to find a translation of the poem on the poster. It turns out that the poem is not by Neruda. It’s by a young man who lives in the Basque country in Spain. But he’s probably not too distressed to have a poem of his confused with one by Neruda. It hasn’t been translated yet.
It also turns out that the poster isn’t from the Madrid Book Fair, either. I sent them an email and asked.
Background: ZDNet Blog