David Davis stands up for his principles

Whatever you think of the 42 day detention period, the actions of David Davis should earn your respect.

We are lucky we are to live in a society where we have the freedom to challenge our government and to have open discussions of our views. There are too many places in the world where it is not possible to do this without fear of being “silenced”. When you consider how difficult it is to overthrow an oppressive regime once it has established itself, it’s amazing that we have the political structures that we have today.

I’m not suggesting that our government is an oppressive regime or is attempting to create one. They are taking decisions that they believe are in our best interest. I am pleased however that someone such as David Davis will take a stand to challenge these decisions and perhaps make us stop to really consider the issues at hand rather than fall pray to a moral panic. Who knows who might take power in future and take advantage of the incremental steps that may make it more difficult for an individual to stand up and challenge what they believe to be wrong.  In today’s terror fuelled political arena, it’s too easy to say yes to terror related legislation without thinking of the consequences to our own freedom.

Understanding the histogram

Ever wondered what the histogram in your camera or your photo editing software is and how it might help you to improve your digital photos? This week in photography had an excellent screencast recently describing the histogram and how you can use it to recover a poor exposure. There’s a lot more to learn, but it’s a really good start in only 7 minutes.

Coincidence? Synchronicity? Mapped path?

I’ve just seen Amy Tan’s talk about creativity on Ted today. She spoke about many aspects of creativity including the many coincidental events she has while she gets on a thread for a book. She also looked at what we would call superstition from the perspective of the people who hold the superstition. It’s an interesting talk and worth watching.

I began to think about events that I could consider to be these types of coincidence or path markers. From the times when a film I haven’t seen for a very long time comes into my thoughts and then appears on TV a day or so later to the times when I have thought about a business idea and then several companies launch with a similar theme.

Earlier today I read an article about magical thinking in Psychology today (linked via 43 folders). The article looks at how we attach meaning to objects and events, such as John Lennon’s piano or the lucky ritual some people have and how that may affect our outlook on life. Was this coincidental or is it one of those path markers?

For a while I have been thinking about a form of community writing. A collaborative site that would allow people to create elements of stories or build full stories. Others could also write elements and take the story in another direction. Readers could assemble favourite chapters into a path and share this with others. Yet another social medium, but one that I hoped would allow creation and participation from a broader section. If you don’t feel you want to write a whole book, then put down an idea and let someone else turn it into something. I had played around with writing a bit of code to do this, but it ended up as another background task. In the last few weeks I have found a few sites via Emily Chang’s Ehub such as Paragraphr and Storymash.

So what goes on with these types of events? Is it that there are some queues around that lots of people pick up on at the same time? Is there some kind of hive mind process going on? As the Psychology Today paper describes, there are many possibilities and beliefs, and it’s not easy to prove or completely disprove any one of them. Even a cargo cult science may be based on a reality that just can’t be explained with current terms (see also Richard Feynmans original speech).

From my point of view, I get the message that I should either do something about any new ideas I get or publish them so that other may take them forward.

Photography on the right side of the brain

If you use the viewfinder (not LCD) in your camera to compose your pictures, which eye do you use and will that affect how creative, logical or abstract your photography is?

I thought of that question while I was listening to Dr Alice Gaby talking about how the left eye connects to the right brain hemisphere and the right eye to the left hemisphere. Given that the left brain is the logical side and the right brain is the spatial, pattern matching side, how would this affect image composition.

On further investigation, I realised that the eye-brain wiring is not quite as straightforward. David Hubel describes how the left half of the retina of each eye is wired to the left brain, and the right to the right brain. As light is reversed by the eye lens, the right side of the field of view ends up in the left brain and the left side of the field of view in the right brain. So the question would then be is there a noticeable effect on image composition in the two halves of the field of view? Would we find that what we consider to be a pleasing photo is no longer so if it were reversed? Maybe this is subjective, depending on which eye is dominant in the photographer and the viewer.

I also came across an interesting article about facial symmetry. It starts with the description of an experiment: -

“About ten years ago, I saw an interesting exercise in which a college psychology professor had taken photographs of her students, made copies that were flipped left to right, and then had them cut in half vertically. She reassembled the images using the two similar sides of the face.”

then goes on to give the “how it works”.

Whilst you read this, consider where this text is in your visual field. According to an article on Science Daily, the speed you are able to read may also be affected by the position of the text in your field of view and whether your have a left or right dominant eye.

The workings of the human body never cease to amaze me. Maybe adding tags on Flickr (right-eye, left-eye) could build some working data for an experiment.

BT advertising system abuses trust

The idea that BT are happy to consider the Phorm advertising system is amazing. To introduce a system that will monitor your activity AND act on that activity to deliver adverts to you and that you have to opt out rather than opt in is just ludicrous. It seems that BT are abusing their privileged position in carrying your data. Any other business that has an opportunity to collect your data must gain your consent to use it for anything other than delivering the service you requested from them. Why are BT able to do this? This is the kind of idea that comes up in sessions around building new ISP services and being more than a “pipe” provider, but gets shot down on the basis of overstepping the mark on privacy. I know this as I have been in that kind of meeting in the past. You need to think about ideas, but drop the bad ones.

If BT were to introduce a service that monitored all your phone calls for keywords then shared these trends with advertising partners there would be an outcry. What if they introduced this kind of service on the HomeHub Voice Over IP phone. You call Pizza Palace and they’ll relay the information to Super Pizza who can then put a discount leaflet for your favourite Pizza through your door or maybe even just re-route the call to save the printing! Sound scary? Well it’s not far away from some ideas that are raised in “service improvement” meetings.

Looking at the technical side, they suggest that you can switch it off by opting out. But you have to have a cookie on your system so they can see you’ve opted out. When you’re out you’re out 100%, the system doesn’t look at your traffic. But hold on, if it has to check a cookie then it has to look at something to check that. So it’s still looking at your traffic. That doesn’t sound like 100% to me. They also suggest that you can block cookies from webwise.net to stop the service. So something tries to set a cookie and gets blocked. Again, that doesn’t sound like being out 100%. That system still has logs. Everything I have seen about this service has too many contradictions and rings too many alarm bells. Ben Laurie has a good technical write up and considers what they look at, the risks of attack on the service and that any IP based opt out would have to be on a household not an individual.

In principle, there is nothing wrong with running targeted advertising. I don’t like it personally, but many people would love that. As I have said in the past, people would be happy with all sorts of different services as long as what they are getting (or trading) for cheaper service is clear. BT are calling for clarity on speeds, so lets have clarity on the whole service.

BT, you hold a position of trust. Please don’t abuse it.

On the inside of a stroke

Wow. I just watched the TED video of Jill Bolte Taylor’s talk. It’s absolutely incredible. After she describes her background in brain research, she describes her experience as she progressed through a stroke. It’s scary and fascinating and may make you do a Scoble.

The way she describes the right brain state of connected energy and the lack of that jabbering logic telling you to make sense of everything sounds like the state Buddhist Monks have been trying to attain for so long. Just this morning coincidentally I was reading a part in Matthew Polly’s American Shaolin where he describes how he felt that kind of experience for just a few moments. He was practising the Kungfu and describes it as a form of moving meditation but wasn’t able to return to that state again.

Jill mentions that we can choose which side of the brain we allow to control us. I’d love to know how. I highly recommend watching the video of Jill (and reading Matt’s book).

Zuckerberg Lacey interview over hyped

I just watched the Mark Zuckerberg interview at AllFacebook, and I thought overall, Sarah Lacey was handling the interview quite well. There were awkward moments like the “how we met” stories and other fawning exchanges, but maybe that’s just her style for trying to get people relaxed.

Sarah asked some very good questions and put him on the spot a number of times. She’s not a tenacious interviewer like BBC’s Jeremy Paxman or John Humphrys but I don’t think this was intended to be that kind of interview anyway.

I think Mark was talking to the crowd too much and it had the effect of making Sarah look bored, looking around instead of engaging her subject. That’s just a style thing and the nature of these kind of interviews.

She handled the heckling reasonably well, and was up against an unnecessarily angry mob. I don’t know what the vibe in the room was like, but the few hecklers probably pushed the overall mood and the Twitter back channel aggravated the problem.

I find the potential for mob rule within on-line communities quite concerning. Once a group takes control it’s not easy for individuals to fight back. More on that in a future post.