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Month: December 2005

Not DC, Not Confidential – and not vapid

Craig Murray – Damning documentary evidence unveiled. Dissident bloggers in coordinated expos� of UK government lies over torture.

How interesting. In the week that Vicky’s reading the vapid, preening tosh that passes for insight in DC Confidential (think Vanity Fair meets Wonkette with no trace of irony or appreciation of breach of confidence) here we have a principled stand by another former civil servant, exposing the (alleged!) lies and hypocrisy of the British (New Labour) Government in respect of the use of information gathered under torture.

Whatever the view on Iraq and Britain’s involvement, on terrorism and the changes to our laws and customs, all democrats must hold dear the fundamental principles that underpin our world view. Without conviction that simple maxims are true (eg torture bad; free speech good etc) then the high-fallutin comments about the ‘British way of life’ and ‘fighting for our freedoms’ are without foundation. If relativism is our creed (torture ok if done by nice white males in the cause of freedom; free speech ok provided it’s trotting out the comfortable orthodoxies) then people should at least be honest that this is what they mean.

Craig Murray has ‘gone public’ with his allegations and, in addition to appearances on the Today programme, Craig’s looking to harness the network effect of commentators in the Blogosphere. It’ll be interesting to see whether a vast quantity of TrackBacks will be enought to protect him from the govmint’s lawyers.

I for one hope that the governement will spend some time answering the substantive allegations. We’ll see.

DIY RFID human implants

:: Mikey Sklar :: Electric Clothing ::

Dear oh dear. Longwhiles after Kevin Warwick (was that the dear prof’s name?) used public funds to turn himself into a cyborg, I thought that we were past this. It’s so post-post-modern that it’s exhausting. Quoth Mikey:

DIY RFID human implants are on the rise. I have found over sixteen instances of midnight engineers implanting RFID tags in their hands. The general excuse is for automation purposes. Examples such as unlocking a computer screen saver or opening doors that have been outfitted with electric deadbolts. In my own case the idea of implanting technology that I have researched and spec’d out was very appealing. The fact that it can actually do something useful is quite secondary. The most rewarding part of this project was learning about RFID at a much deeper level.

At a much deeper level? Perlease.

I just don’t understand why one wouldn’t just have the RFID in a watch, ring or dorky bracelet.

Maybe that’s because I’m not “a third generation geek

First generation. Aspiring.

“Microwaving Barbie is not exactly pathological”

spiked-life | Column | Reservoir Dolls?

Punchy and fun commentary by Jenny Bristow on a new piece of ‘research’ about girls, their Barbies and what they do with them.

It’s a fun read, with some good sideswipes and people turning the obvious or the inane into portentious conclusions.

Jenny concludes:

There were simply lots of kids, with lots of kids’ imaginations, playing games for which there was no justification or hidden agenda. Another trite-but-true maxim: ‘children say the funniest things’ – including such things as ‘I’ll tear your head off, Barbie bitch’. I can’t imagine that much has changed since then – except, perhaps, that there are more Barbies about, and They Deserve to Die.

That they do.

“Newton Museum” – collection sold on eBay Curator of the Newton Museum sells collection on eBay

This brought a small lump to my throat, and a big “yip” to obsessives the world over.

I was a totaly ‘newton nut’ and desired one so, so badly that my heart both ached and skipped just thinking of them. This was when a Psion 3a was the height of ‘puterised diarising (gorblessit – still the best pocket pc, imho). Leaving aside the poor battery life, handwriting recognition etc etc, it was a PDA for the soul.

I know I bore to death on this topic since Doug a while ago bought me a Messagepad 110 off eBay and I thrill to what ‘could have been’ every time I fire it up (mainly just after Vicky’s told me to bin it or use it, and I wax sentimental about it once more…).

To see then NewtonMuseum up for sale elicits mixed emotions: sadness that it’s “closing” and a massive kick from scanning the whole collection – as if Aladdin’s Cave were catalogued and ready for distribution. Six large packing crates, apparently. Yum.

I love this guy’s obsession and I’m glad there are people like him who’ve made the effort to “curate” a collection. Then again, the “Call of Clearance” (to get rid of stuff and free up room for the kids and to breath) is also something I understand. Thankfully, this auction will be a record until eBay does a spring clean. Here’s to another obsessive with deep pockets laying down some cash!

iASBO: hoodie for your iPod


This (as usual, wholly pointless) iPod “hoodie cover” was featured on Gizmodo, where they seem to have missed the particular ASBO humour in the UK at the moment.

Try out the ASBO game on the site: it’s not that good, but I’m always impressed that people have bothered to put these things together when I’m lazy and just say ‘wouldn’t it be of momentary amusement if…’. Gorblessem.

Amazonian Mechanical Turk: the Matrix meets modern day Labour Exchange!

Amazon Mechanical Turk – Welcome

Just caught up with this and have barely stopped chuckling. What a stupendous idea! This is what happens when you gather lots and lots of great people together under one organisational roof, but don’t tell them simply to beaver away at one single mission. It’s clear that Amazon wishes to become the Merchant General of the web, but this takes a massive additional step, to become the Labour Exchange for the planet!

At play here is the disaggregation of labour “units” from “career” down to “job” down to “project” down to “days” and now down to “HIT” or “Human Intelligence Task”. Surely this is the apotheosis of the freelance, global, web-linked Knowledge Worker?

or, or any other number of project exchanges, this is more akin to a ticket-based support/help-desk system in that the items offered for HIT activity are so granluar.

There are the usual refinements one would expect from an Amazon service: the notion of embeding the requests into a request ‘language’ (nice – could be the start of a universal project/task request language…), a sensible approach to qualification (a munge of history, scoring, peer review and reputation).

I’m going to keep an eye on this since it could have a major impact on the way people consider the provision of information services. For example, Business Link for London, where I’m a non-exec director, provides information, diagnosis and brokerage services to London’s enterprise community – linking their needs to support growth with accredited providers of support. The “Turk” approach could certainly inform the way we look at this real world service conceptually, as well as providing a paradigm for the provision of granular or ‘just in time’ support – ie moving beyond the day rate or the formal, larger-scale project.

Days like this I just love the web.

Delicious gets flickr’d: enters the Yahoo! fold

Macworld: News: Yahoo buys social bookmarking firm

Just as I was wondering how delicious, one of my favourite web services, could remain independent, along comes this announcement.

On the basis that all you need to know about people in the web age is what they write (blog) and what they bookmark (delicious) I can understand Yahoo’s interest.

When added to Flickr, Yahoo’s all of a sudden acquired a purpose in life: shared categorisation and linking of “stuff” online: images, blogs, content.

In addition to the explicit, didactic taxonomy of “the search engine” there’s now a social, emergent aspect too.

Most importantly, Yahoo has acquired millions of contributors, editors and exponents.

While I’m sad to see Delicious gobbled up by BigCo (even if that’s A Good Thing for the founders) it’ll help “keep Google honest”, and that must also be A Good Thing.

There’s an interesting article here on Business 2.0 too.

Line56: Multichannel Retail Multichannel Retail

Here’s an easy-read article on Line56 talking about the attractions on multichannel retail (see how right Argos get it most of the time: impressive). While it mainly states the obvious I thought that the conclusions on the platform front were striking. They ring true, are clearly presented and give food for thought. Using as website as a veneer is not sustainable.

If you think your first-generation e-commerce platform is sufficient for multichannel, consider Garf’s list of the shortcomings of older systems:

* “Current systems are difficult, if not impossible, for business users to tailor merchandising content, manage promotional campaigns, and access customer information.”

* “Cumbersome integration with other platforms–Retailers find it slow and expensive to integrate current applications with their own software and services from third parties. This lack of integration also means there is limited visibility into real-time data.”

* “Customized and inflexible code that is difficult to maintain–Adding additional functionality is not easy and increases the difficulty of maintaining software doing more than it was designed to do. The resultant new development and maintenance is expensive.”

* “An inability to synchronize e-commerce with other retail processes–With its laser-like focus on the Internet, these platforms are not designed to work with other business rules and processes, forcing companies to attempt to manually create consistent policies and practices.”

Tesco’s call to immediate incest


Seen on the, erm, in-tree-ging via some forwarded mail.

There’s nothing you can teach those Tesco boys when it comes to getting your attention with in-store promotions! 🙂