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There are two very disturbing bills making their way through Congress: Protect IP Act (PIPA - S.968) and Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA – H.R.3261). These bills are coated in rhetoric that I find disgusting since at their core they are online censorship bills. It’s incredible to me that Congress would take seriously anything that censors the Internet and the American public but in the last few weeks PIPA and SOPA have burst forth with incredibly momentum, largely being underwritten by large media companies and their lobbyists.
A number of organizations in support of free speech and a free and open Internet have recently come out in opposition to these bills. They include EFF, Free Software Foundation, Public Knowledge, Demand Progress, Fight For the Future, Participatory Politics Foundation, and Creative Commons who have organized American Censorship Day tomorrow (11/16/11).
If you run a website or have a blog, go to the American Censorship site to see how you can participate on 11/16/11.
In addition to being censorship bills, these are anti-entrepreneurship bills. They are a classic example of industry incumbents trying to use the law to stifle disruptive innovation, or at least innovation that they view as disruptive to their established business. To date, the Internet has been an incredible force for entrepreneurship and positive change throughout the world (did anyone notice what recently happened in Egypt?) It’s beyond comprehension why some people in Congress would want to slow this down in any way.
While you can try to understand the bills, this short video does a phenomenal job of summarizing their potential impact along with second order effects (intended or unintended).
I’m furious about this, as are many of my friends, including Fred Wilson who wrote today about how these bills undermine The Architecture of the Internet. But we are aware, as are many others, that simply being mad doesn’t solve anything. Join us and speak out loudly against censorship – right now! If you have a blog or website, please take part in American Censorship Day - the instructions are on their website which – so far – hasn’t been censored.
As 2011 kicks off, I think we are in for a ton of innovative software and Internet stuff this year. Yeah, some of it will be “just like everything else but different.” However, of the areas we invest heavily in – human computer interaction – has an incredible amount of activity going on. I’ll be at CES in Las Vegas this week so I expect to have a dose of nerd-eye-candy (e.g. the latest TV sets) along with a bunch of cool / amazing / clever / intriguing new HCI things.
I expect CES will be a classic case of “a mile wide and an inch deep.” If you want to go really deep with HCI, consider joining me at the Blur Conference in Orlando on 2/22 and 2/23 especially if any of the following topics appeal to you.
- markerless motion capture
- phone controlled robotic gaming devices
- augmented reality apps
- alternative input mechanisms
- neuro-physiological measurements
- all kinds of Kinect hacks
- 3D/digital sculptures
- social robotics
- multi-touch interfaces
- speech recognition
- human instrumentation
- natural user interfaces
I’ve accepted the reality that the computers are going to take over during my lifetime. I just want to help be involved in writing some of the code to hedge my bets. Register now to come join me in my quest.
Last night I printed, signed, scanned, and emailed two signature pages. As is my custom of not keeping anything around, I tore up and tossed the sig pages and then deleted the files. This morning I woke up to an email saying “We didn’t get your signature pages. Can you please send them.” I just went through the same print, sign, scan, and email process again.
This is so profoundly stupid. I sent a note yesterday afternoon in reply to the email thread asking if I was all set to go that said “I’m all set to go.” A bunch of lawyers were on the email thread (mine and the company’s.) We are wiring the money today. Now they have some pretty scanned sig pages also.
There has got to be a better way. Over the last decade, there have been lots of “electronic signature” companies pop up. None have seemed to take root in the corporate world. In the past year, I sold a house and bought a house. In both cases, there was some goofy online thing that I signed with my mouse (my signature looked like a messy “X”) for the offers (to make / accept) but I still had to go to the title company and sit and sign 37 documents to close. Every time I go to the grocery store I swipe my credit card through a little electronic checkout machine and when it’s time to sign, I put a big “X” on the sig line.
When I think about the number of places my actual signature is at this point, it’s a pretty useless mark. But for some reason it’s still important in the legal closing process. This now seems more like a tradition, instead of a useful thing.
While I’m not interested in funding something in this arena (it’s outside our focus), it seems like there’s finally an opportunity to solve for this, at least in the corporate world. I’m not talking about biometrics or retina scanning – just a valid electronic signature that becomes a standard. Maybe someday. Wouldn’t it be cool if they lawyers took this on and tried to solve it?
Like most of the blogosphere, I’ve been trying to use Flipboard since its extraordinarily well executed (or well hyped – I can’t tell yet) announcement. But, like almost everyone I know, I can’t get it to authenticate Twitter or Facebook. Two days ago I entered in my email address to reserve my place in line. Today, at 9:55 AM AKDT I got an email titled “Your Flipboard is Ready to Customize” that said:
Hi there. We’re now ready for you to set up your Facebook and Twitter accounts on Flipboard. Try it out and let us know what you think. And thanks again for your patience and enthusiasm.
I went to connect up my Twitter and Facebook accounts. Nope – doesn’t work. At 10:34 AM AKDT I got an email titled “Apology, and Flipboard Confirmation”
We just sent you an email telling you that we were ready for you to set up your Facebook and Twitter accounts. We are sorry to say that our email system sent the wrong email. We were actually trying to send you an email confirming your place in line for you to setup your Facebook and Twitter sections.
You will receive another email when your reservation is ready. We are working around the clock to get you your invite and will send you your official invite soon.
Thanks again for your patience and support.
Tonight’s book is The New Polymath by Vinnie Mirchandani. Actually, it’s the book I read the last two nights as it was too much to get down in one night. I’ve been promising Vinnie that I’d read his book ever since he sent me the galleys a few months ago. I tossed the PDF up on my Kindle which, when I got around to it, was unreadable because of the tiny font and the way the Kindle scaled the PDF to fit the page. I promptly went on to another book and never read it.
Vinnie was patient with me and was willing to keep talking to me and provide some advice on a completely unrelated topic. When the book came out I hopped on Amazon and plopped down whatever they charged me for the Kindle version. And I’m glad I did, not just because I like Vinnie and his writing, but because it’s an excellent book.
The New Polymath was an excellent tour de force of innovation. Vinnie served up example after example after example in an interesting and relevant framework that kept things moving, unlike a lot of business books where you hit page 79 and just stall. In this case, whenever an example started to peak, it was time for the next one. Last night, I stopped and went to bed when I was about halfway through and considered letting the book sit for a few days but tonight when I finished dinner I sat down and finished it off.
The only chapter I found too long and uninteresting was the one on BP, but I couldn’t figure out if that was because of what’s currently going on with BP or if it was just too much by the time I got to it. But, like a reference on someone where the inevitable “does the person have any weaknesses you are aware of” question arises, I get to point to the BP example and say “ok – that one wasn’t my favorite, but it was minor compared to all the great stuff in this book.”
It was kind of fun to see lots of friends and colleagues as examples. This was an unexpected surprise as I hadn’t previewed the book in advance and had never talked to Vinnie about it. Like any good polymath, Vinnie covered a lot of different ground. While there was a tech / IT / Internet focus, there was plenty of cleantech, energy, bio, and broad business (non-tech) examples. And there were a couple that were deliciously surprising and unexpected.
Vinnie gave me a copy of a book to give away to one of you, demonstrating his command of social media marketing. I’ve decided to run a competition – the best haiku with the word “polymath” in gets the book. Leave your haiku in the comments (make sure you use a valid email address so I can email you if you win.) Show me what you’ve got.
Update: A few folks emailed me that they couldn’t find the Kindle Version of The New Polymath. For some reason it’s not linked to the hardback edition.