Archive for the ‘interesting’ Category

Serious games

June 23, 2008

I saw a Washington Post article about an emerging trend of serious games.  It mentions a very interesting initiative called “Games for change“, which describes itself in the following way:

Games for Change (G4C) provides support, visibility and shared resources to individuals and organizations using digital games for social change. We provide special assistance to foundations and non-profits entering the field. Today, G4C acts as a national hub to help organizations network and develop videogame projects beyond their traditional expertise. Our members represent hundreds of organizations and include partners in the games industry, academia, nonprofits, local and state governments, foundations, the UN and artists.

They have a rather interesting website with many examples of serious games and it also seems that there is quite a vibrant community surrounding these issues.  They have a section of youth produced games, which currently has only one game and i could not really see how it was youth produced (but maybe i am missing something).  Nevertheless, the concept is interesting.

It also reminded that it’s been a while since wanted to post a note about (already not so) new project by Impact Games (creators of Peace Maker).  It’s called “Play the news” and it is kind of a dream league, but for news.  I’ve been following this project since its beta and i find it as an interesting approach to keep people interested in the world’s matters.  My only “worry” is that it seems (based on the discussions on the site) that at least the current pool of participants consists primarily of people who are already curious and knowledgeable about the world affairs.  It would be interesting to see how this idea flies among the youths, who are being blamed to become more disengaged, apathetic, and more.

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Politics, popularity, and personalization

June 22, 2008

I already said that i love DC. Another reason to love it, are the many opportunities offered by this city.

A week ago or so, i participated in a debate/discussion about “new” media and political campaigns hosted by Google and National Journal and titled “The First 21-st Century Campaign“. Being hosted by Google, the event attracted some very interesting people and was held in a format of discussion rather than a traditional (academic) presentation-style lectures. Unfortunately, i wasn’t smart enough to bring a camera even though the event was absolutely open and the organizers even encouraged people capturing it in any possible way. Another unfortunate thing was that i couldn’t stay for the entire event and in fact stayed only for the first panel (out of three).

Ad of the Google\'s June Symposium

Fortunately, though, the first panel was very thought provoking.  Nothing super controversial or innovative has been said, but it was great to hear thet the industry people are concerned with the same issues that academics are.  Actually, i think the panel would benefit from a visionary academic person who could bring the entire discussion under a comprehensive (dare I say, macro) umbrella.

The first panel, moderated by Judy Woodruff of PBS, hosted Mark Halperin (“Time” – as a representative of the old media), Katherine Ham (Townhall.com, even though she announced she has a new job now), James Kotecki (Politico – he and Katherine were the representatives of “new” media), Phil Singer (Clinton campaign), and Kevin Madden (Mitt Romney campaign _ he and Singer were the political practitioners on the panel).

Most of the discussion focused on the tensions between the “old” and the “new” media.  In my view it started pretty awkward with Kotecki’s remark that he doesn’t see himself as a journalist and was (i got a sense that he was implying that he still is) making his video just to feel popular.  It was particularly stonning because one of the main points of the discussion was credibility of the “new” media as a journalistic practice.  Kotecki himself was making claims for being credible, which (together with some of the other comments, such as those made by Singer) got me thinking whether or not the 2.0 culture equates credibility to popularity.  If so, i find that idea pretty disturbing.  One the one hand, i can buy into the idea of wisdom of crowds (that’s the term i think), but, on the other hand, i cannot buy into dismissal of expertise that seems to be attached to it (at least in the current discussion).

Another interesting point came from the campaign people and it was primarily about the use they make of information.  For Madden, the “new” media were all about speed and precision of the media message.  Even though they never got talking explicitly about how they use microtargeting (even though i raised that questions), it was constantly implied in the examples they provided.  Building of the idea of popularity, it was now also the ability of precise targeting of the message.  I would describe that as an ability of talking about “popularities” rather than a single popularity.  To a a degree that appeared as a distinction between the “old” and the “new” media as well.  I found the latter rather interesting – the basic concepts mass (popularity) did not change, but progressed and evolved (into popularities), but the substance became implicitly even less important.  In other words, there is no substantive change in the policy or in the ideas, but the package is more personalized.

As the discussion evolved, it became more interesting and sophisticated.  To one degree or another, the panelists touched upon many relevant points.  This highlight was, I think, when Singer or Halperin, noticed that the mere division between the “old” and the “new” was artificial.  Ham also was very sharp when talking about the relations between the “old” and the “new” media (even though she was clearly advocating for the legitimacy of the latter).  I found this particularly interesting, because usually you hear a very deterministically-dichotomous discourse where the “new” is presented as separate and mostly superior to the “old”.  Even though Judy Woodruff finished the panel with some techno-utopian remarks (mostly as a tribute to the host), it did spoil the overall flavor of complexity.

On the practical level i came out of this symposium with two titles for potential books.  Not that i plan on writing those this summer, but… If i were to write a book with critical analysis of the modern Western society, particularly focusing on the youth, i would title it “The popularity generation.”  Maybe there is such a book already and maybe it will become the label of generation Y with all the reality shows and a myriad of televised competitions (for popularity of course :).  The other book would be about this campaign, or about contemporary politics in a broader sense.  That one i would title “The politics of personalization.”

Finally, kind of getting back to one of my first points, i think the symposium would really benefit from an academic input.  Maybe even more broadly, i think this industry could learn as much from the academia as the academia is learning from it.  At the end of the day, all the points raised by the panelists are being discussed and studied, and bringing those inputs would enrich the discussion and probably take it into the next level.

You can read a short post following the event on Google’s blog or you can actually watch the entire thing on C-Span (and enjoy me asking some questions :).

Dieing newspapers?

June 20, 2008

It seems to be a commonly shared believe these days that the traditional newspaper is dieing. However, it seems that it is not true everywhere. According to this Financial Express article, newspaper sales in India have increased by 11.2% in 2007 and by 35.51% in the last five years. More, counter-commonly-shared-wisdom cited in the article regards the advertising market for printed news. Although, the article suggests that in the last year the newspaper advertising revenues in India witnessed a decline of 1.42%, in the last five years they grew by 64.8%.

I know very little (or should i say “nothing”) about the Indian newspaper market, but i wonder if our understanding of Western media markets is completely adaptable to the developing world and/or to significantly different cultural settings?

Of course, one could suspect that the body that produced that statistics is biased. It is the World Association of Newspapers (WAN), which obviously has its own interests. For example they cite a rise of 2.57% in paid-for newspaper circulation world-wide in 2007 (9.39% worldwide), which sounds really contrary to what we usually hear in media. Nevertheless, i think it is an interesting and thought provoking information.

What do you think?

Energy

June 16, 2008

I read an interesting post on TechBlorge and decided to share it. Following is an image of a table comparing energy consumption of various gadgets many of us are using. So, if you wonder how much your wireless router or the speakers of your computer cost you annually, this comparison provides a perspective.

Energy consumption by home gadgets

The image is taken from here and you may want read more on it here. Interesting….

Wiki-Britanica

June 11, 2008

Well, sometimes it is really nice being right :)

Erik shared with me the following news item about Britannica launching a wiki-based version of their website. I actually blogged about very similar idea about a year and a half ago. Now we will have to wait and see whether or not they will do it well.

Chase scam

June 8, 2008

I noticed that my CFCU scam post is receiving a lot of traffic. So, when i got another “nice” scam message, i decided to post it here too as a service to the community.

This time the message came supposedly from Chase:

Dear Customer

Due to concerns, for the safety and integrity of your Chase.com account we have issued this warning message.

It has come to our attention that your Chase.com account information needs to be updated as part of our continuing commitment to protect your account and to reduce the instance of fraud on our website. If you could please take 5-10 minutes out of your online experience and update your personal records you will not run into any future problems with the online service.

Once you have updated your account records your account service will not be interrupted and will continue as normal.

To update your account records click on the following link:

http://update.chase.com/

JP Morgan Chase Bank © 2008 Chase Bank. Member FDIC.

Thank You.

Now, if you look at the code, the link actually leads to: http://www.0011race.com/images/chase.html. If you delete everything after the .com, you will see a website that seems to be in Korean.  It looks like a gambling website, but i don’t really know (if you read the language, please feel free to leave a comment telling what the orignal website is about).

Here, i have to give kudos to FireFox (FF). When i went to this page, i received a warning message telling that this is a scam and even its purpose:

FF warning message for Chase scam

So, one more reason to use FF. I was really impressed.

If you disregard this message, you will see a web page that resembles the Chase website with one weird (and i think not very smart) behavior – every single link at the website would bring you back to the same page.

Chase Scam screen 1

Unless, of course, you enter some random characters for the User ID and the Password.  In that case, you will receive the following page:

Chase Scam screen 2

This one is actually rather funny. They are asking you for a bunch of things such as your email password and your social security number. That should be a clear red flag for anyone, even the least experienced user! Similarly to the CFCU scam, they are smart about requesting a certain type and a certain number of characters in the various fields. However, unlike the CFCU folks, they are not clever with resuming it in an “elegant” way. They keep on telling you that the credit card number you’ve entered is wrong. Probably this is an attempt to collect a number of credit card numbers counting on a person trying a different card each time. But at the same time, i think this kind of behavior would alert anyone.

To summarize, it is a scam, and not the most elegant one. If you got that email and this post helped you in clarifying your doubts, i am glad.

Ubiquity

June 4, 2008

No place to hide!

I just read this post from Tech.Blorge about “Polar Rose” – software that combines social bookmarking with face recognition. The company claims that they developed a software capable of recognizing faces based on the visual elements (and not text or meta-data) and they rely on their users to create a database of recognized pictures to train the program. So, tomorrow, when you upload yet another image of yourself to FaceBook and your friends tag it with Polar Rose, you will be leaving another, rather deep, footprint in the digital world.

Both spooky and amazing at the same time.

Technologies that help

June 2, 2008

It’s been a while since i read this article (HE) about two young Israeli entrepreneurs who participated in developing GPS software that would be friendly for the visually impaired people. If you ever used a GPS, you would know that many (most?) of them are capable of providing voice directions. However, it is not good enough if you cannot see properly. The program that they developed makes more use of voice. For example when you select destinations or want to find out where you are at the moment and what is there in your surroundings. One interesting feature of the program is its adjustment for the use of public transportation – it will tell you what bus stop you are at and when you should get off. The main downside of the program at the moment is its price.

Recently I also read this news update about a free email service, RoboBraille, that translates text into audio or Braille. According to this article, it takes the program “can return a simple text in Braille in under a minute while taking as long as 10 hours to provide an audio recording of a book”, which i think is still very impressive (provided that the final quality of the output is good). They report to work on about 500 documents a day and have translated a quarter million texts so far. My only unanswered question here is how a visually impaired, probably blind person is supposed to send that email. That would probably require some more expansive hardware and software, which still maintains a barrier.

Even though I still have some questions, I am really excited when the information technology is used to solve real, substantial problems. If you have more examples, please share!

Net-neutrality through legislation?

May 19, 2008

Now, this looks like an attempt to deal with questions of net-neutrality through legislation. John Conyers (D-MI) and Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) are trying to promote a new bill aimed at making it “unlawful for any broadband network provider … to block, to impair, to discriminate against, or to interfere with the ability of any person to use a broadband network service”. Apparently it is already second attempt to assure net-neutrality through legislation and it will be interesting to see how things evolve. Interestingly, there was practically no mention of this in the mainstream media…

Optimisitic numbers

May 16, 2008

Even though I didn’t make it to Telecom Africa, I couldn’t escape the African motive. Recently, I came across some optimistic numbers about adoption of ICT in the region. The ITU report, cited here, suggests that (a) there is currently more technology in Africa and (b) it is more evenly spread across the continent (the more interesting observation in my view). At the same time, it suggests that people in Africa find mobile more useful, compared to the internet, which is not surprising provided the price of internet access (the cite states a figure of $50 and that is a lot!). In fact, the mobile market is showing impressive growth in other developing countries, which makes it supposedly an interesting aim for foreign investors.

I wonder though, what is the impact of adoption of these technologies on the lives of people? Do they make their lives easier? Happier? More prosperous? How do they use it? How different these ways are from what we are used for? What business and technological innovation is taking place in this process?

Quite fascinating…