Visualizing data is like photography

Visualizing data is like photography. Instead of starting with a blank canvas, you manipulate the lens used to present the data from a certain angle.

[…] After a few minutes of rendering, the new plot appeared, and I was a bit taken aback by what I saw. The blob had turned into a surprisingly detailed map of the world. Not only were continents visible, certain international borders were apparent as well. What really struck me, though, was knowing that the lines didn’t represent coasts or rivers or political borders, but real human relationships. Each line might represent a friendship made while travelling, a family member abroad, or an old college friend pulled away by the various forces of life.

(via Visualizing Friendships – facebook.com)

It would be interesting to see if this data could show communities like the PLoS One map of Great Britain. As it stands, it’s very pretty, but I can’t see much more than areas of high Facebook use…

(via Flowing Data)

Most common passwords in the Gawker database

This is a Wordle showing the 80 most common passwords from the cracked Gawker database. There are 2090 passwords containing the word ‘password‘ (132 clever people used ‘passw0rd‘). Next is ‘lifehack‘, appearing 680 times and then ‘qwerty‘ at 663.

I haven’t really explored this a great deal, but I saw many numerical passwords that were clearly birthdates and loads of names and short dictionary words. Basically, everything you’re not supposed to use as a password.

[Check the updates at the bottom of this post for more info]

Continue reading

Google’s reading age tool

Google have recently added the option to filter your search results by reading level. This could be a great feature for teachers. The virtualeconomics blog has turned this tool onto UK newspaper websites, with some interesting results:

No big surprises that the Sun, Mirror and News of the World sit together at the bottom of the list, or that they’re joined there by the commuter freebie Metro; nor that the FT contains almost no “basic” language pages and the most “advanced”. But the middle of the table is more interesting, with the Guardian scoring much the same reading age as the Daily Mail, and the Independent sitting at the top of the qualities isn’t necessarily what I’d have guessed.

via Google’s reading age tool – comparing UK newspapers – virtualeconomics.co.uk

Continue reading

Do filesystems have a future?

The iPhone OS completely removes the concept of a “file.” It promotes apps to being the primary level of user interaction, and it stores related things inside databases that are content-specific. When you pick up your iPhone and want to view photos, you open the Photos app, which connects to the photos database and shows you all of your photos. When you want to listen to music, you open the iPod app, which connects to the music database. Everything on the iPhone is task-centric, not file-centric. The “file” part of completing tasks is completely insulated from the user.

via The Death of Files – dustincurtis.com

Not exactly true. Many apps on the iPhone like to keep the data to themselves. Apps like Layers can export to the camera roll, but if you want the layered file to use elsewhere you’ll have to email yourself a PSD. Also RjDj, like most apps, will let you share creations to the internet, but not with other apps.

I’ve been able to edit movies using multiple apps without leaving the phone, but it means exporting footage to the camera roll a few times and the quality suffers as a result.

The lack of a filesystem is the single greatest limitation to the usefulness of iOS.

Hopefully someone will think up a system that offers the best of both worlds. I’d love a Dropbox space that my phone could just dump data into, allowing apps to create standards for sharing the information they need.

The Honest Privacy Policy Act

The following has been reproduced in full from an article in IT World By Dan Tynan: The first truly honest privacy policy – itworld.com.

I’ve got a better solution. Instead of a welter of new laws or regulations, how about just one: The Honest Privacy Policy Act. The HPPA would require every company to post a simple, direct, and brutally honest policy detailing what really happens to your data.

To help this proposal along I’ve come up with one of my own – and it’s 5,085 words shorter than Facebook’s. Here’s what a real privacy policy might look like:

“At COMPANY _______ we value your privacy a great deal. Almost as much as we value the ability to take the data you give us and slice, dice, julienne, mash, puree and serve it to our business partners, which may include third-party advertising networks, data brokers, networks of affiliate sites, parent companies, subsidiaries, and other entities, none of which we’ll bother to list here because they can change from week to week and, besides, we know you’re not really paying attention.

We’ll also share all of this information with the government. We’re just suckers for guys with crew cuts carrying subpoenas.

Remember, when you visit our Web site, our Web site is also visiting you. And we’ve brought a dozen or more friends with us, depending on how many ad networks and third-party data services we use. We’re not going to tell which ones, though you could probably figure this out by carefully watching the different URLs that flash across the bottom of your browser as each page loads or when you mouse over various bits. It’s not like you’ve got better things to do.

Each of these sites may leave behind a little gift known as a cookie — a text file filled with inscrutable gibberish that allows various computers around the globe to identify you, including your preferences, browser settings, which parts of the site you visited, which ads you clicked on, and whether you actually purchased something.

Those same cookies may let our advertising and data broker partners track you across every other site you visit, then dump all of your information into a huge database attached to a unique ID number, which they may sell ad infinitum without ever notifying you or asking for permission.

Also: We collect your IP address, which might change every time you log on but probably doesn’t. At the very least, your IP address tells us the name of your ISP and the city where you live; with a legal court order, it can also give us your name and billing address (see guys with crew cuts and subpoenas, above).

Besides your IP, we record some specifics about your operating system and browser. Amazingly, this information (known as your user agent string) can be enough to narrow you down to one of a few hundred people on the Webbernets, all by its lonesome. Isn’t technology wonderful?

The data we collect is strictly anonymous, unless you’ve been kind enough to give us your name, email address, or other identifying information. And even if you have been that kind, we promise we won’t sell that information to anyone else, unless of course our impossibly obtuse privacy policy says otherwise and/or we change our minds tomorrow. 

We store this information an indefinite amount of time for reasons even we don’t fully understand. And when we do eventually get around to deleting it, you can bet it’s still kicking around on some network backup drives in somebody’s closet. So once we have it, there’s really no getting it back. Hell, we can’t even find our keys half the time — how do you expect us to keep track of this stuff?

Not to worry, though, because we use the very bestest security measures to protect your data against hackers and identity thieves, though no one has actually ever bothered to verify this. You’ll pretty much just have to take our word for it.

So just to recap: Your information is extremely valuable to us. Our business model would totally collapse without it. No IPO, no stock options; all those 80-hour weeks and bupkis to show for it. So we’ll do our very best to use it in as many potentially profitable ways as we can conjure, over and over, while attempting to convince you there’s nothing to worry about.

(Hey, Did somebody hold a gun to your head and force you to visit this site? No, they did not. Did you run into a pay wall on the home page demanding your Visa number? No, you did not. You think we just give all this stuff away because we’re nice guys?  Bet you also think every roomful of manure has a pony buried inside.)

This privacy policy may change at any time. In fact, it’s changed three times since we first started typing this. Good luck figuring out how, because we’re sure as hell not going to tell you. But then, you probably stopped reading after paragraph three.”

I am hereby open sourcing this privacy policy. Feel free to use it on your own sites or suggest it to any that seem deserving (but I’d appreciate a credit and a link, if you’re so inclined).

(via Hacker News)

Vimeo present their terms in a nicely human-readable format. This should be standard practice.

Redrawing the map of Great Britain from a network of human interactions

In other words, these maps show how the borders of countries and counties could be redrawn if they were to reflect communities rather than governmental regions.

The geography of talk in Great Britain

The geography of talk in Great Britain. This figure shows the strongest 80% of links, as measured by total talk time, between areas within Britain. The opacity of each link is proportional to the total call time between two areas and the different colours represent regions identified using network modularity optimisation analysis.

The core regions of Britain

The core regions of Britain. By combining the output from several modularity optimization methods we obtain the results shown in this figure. The thick black boundary lines show the official Government Office Regions partitioning together with Scotland and Wales. The black background spots show Britain’s towns and cities, some of which are highlighted with a label.

via Redrawing the Map of Great Britain from a Network of Human Interactions – plosone.org (CC BY 2.5)

Continue reading

Transformers: Dark Of The Moon

After the disastrously overbloated Transformers 2, it looks like director Bay might make good on his promise to get back to a decent story with this third, and possibly final, robotic smash-up.

This new trailer gifts Transformers 3 with a context and a basic plot, cleverly tying real history in with a story about, yuhuh, big, giant robots.

via Transformers 3 trailer online – totalfilm.com

As much as I really do like this trailer, I strongly suspect that this will be nothing more than a pre-titles teaser into a film that will be just as dumb as the first two films. In fact, there’s a clanger in this trailer that will jump out to anyone who knows anything about the Moon.

Edited 2010.12.14: The original YouTube embed I used got taken down.

Update 2012.01.07: Nailed it! In fact, the movie was a greater abomination than even I thought it would be.

Google Zeitgeist 2010

Google Zeitgeist 2010 — Global trends: Fastest rising

Above — Global trends: Fastest rising / Below — Facebook vs Twitter.

Google Zeitgeist 2010 — Facebook vs. Twitter

It’s the Google Zeitgeist time of year again, here to demonstrate to me that I have no idea who is famous these days or what real people do online. Facebook just makes it into the top 10 fastest rising search terms, though if you compare it to Twitter, it is much more popular in sheer volume. In fact, it’s much bigger than anything else here.

Amusingly, ‘chatroulette’ tops the list in almost every region, with ‘ipad’ and ‘iphone 4’ always up there too.

Google Zeitgeist 2010: Global / UK

Continue reading

A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace

Quote

by John Perry Barlow <barlow@eff.org>

Governments of the Industrial World, you weary giants of flesh and steel, I come from Cyberspace, the new home of Mind. On behalf of the future, I ask you of the past to leave us alone. You are not welcome among us. You have no sovereignty where we gather.

We have no elected government, nor are we likely to have one, so I address you with no greater authority than that with which liberty itself always speaks. I declare the global social space we are building to be naturally independent of the tyrannies you seek to impose on us. You have no moral right to rule us nor do you possess any methods of enforcement we have true reason to fear.

Governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed. You have neither solicited nor received ours. We did not invite you. You do not know us, nor do you know our world. Cyberspace does not lie within your borders. Do not think that you can build it, as though it were a public construction project. You cannot. It is an act of nature and it grows itself through our collective actions.

You have not engaged in our great and gathering conversation, nor did you create the wealth of our marketplaces. You do not know our culture, our ethics, or the unwritten codes that already provide our society more order than could be obtained by any of your impositions.

You claim there are problems among us that you need to solve. You use this claim as an excuse to invade our precincts. Many of these problems don’t exist. Where there are real conflicts, where there are wrongs, we will identify them and address them by our means. We are forming our own Social Contract . This governance will arise according to the conditions of our world, not yours. Our world is different.

Cyberspace consists of transactions, relationships, and thought itself, arrayed like a standing wave in the web of our communications. Ours is a world that is both everywhere and nowhere, but it is not where bodies live.

We are creating a world that all may enter without privilege or prejudice accorded by race, economic power, military force, or station of birth.

We are creating a world where anyone, anywhere may express his or her beliefs, no matter how singular, without fear of being coerced into silence or conformity.

Your legal concepts of property, expression, identity, movement, and context do not apply to us. They are all based on matter, and there is no matter here.

Our identities have no bodies, so, unlike you, we cannot obtain order by physical coercion. We believe that from ethics, enlightened self-interest, and the commonweal, our governance will emerge . Our identities may be distributed across many of your jurisdictions. The only law that all our constituent cultures would generally recognize is the Golden Rule. We hope we will be able to build our particular solutions on that basis. But we cannot accept the solutions you are attempting to impose.

In the United States, you have today created a law, the Telecommunications Reform Act, which repudiates your own Constitution and insults the dreams of Jefferson, Washington, Mill, Madison, DeToqueville, and Brandeis. These dreams must now be born anew in us.

You are terrified of your own children, since they are natives in a world where you will always be immigrants. Because you fear them, you entrust your bureaucracies with the parental responsibilities you are too cowardly to confront yourselves. In our world, all the sentiments and expressions of humanity, from the debasing to the angelic, are parts of a seamless whole, the global conversation of bits. We cannot separate the air that chokes from the air upon which wings beat.

In China, Germany, France, Russia, Singapore, Italy and the United States, you are trying to ward off the virus of liberty by erecting guard posts at the frontiers of Cyberspace. These may keep out the contagion for a small time, but they will not work in a world that will soon be blanketed in bit-bearing media.

Your increasingly obsolete information industries would perpetuate themselves by proposing laws, in America and elsewhere, that claim to own speech itself throughout the world. These laws would declare ideas to be another industrial product, no more noble than pig iron. In our world, whatever the human mind may create can be reproduced and distributed infinitely at no cost. The global conveyance of thought no longer requires your factories to accomplish.

These increasingly hostile and colonial measures place us in the same position as those previous lovers of freedom and self-determination who had to reject the authorities of distant, uninformed powers. We must declare our virtual selves immune to your sovereignty, even as we continue to consent to your rule over our bodies. We will spread ourselves across the Planet so that no one can arrest our thoughts.

We will create a civilization of the Mind in Cyberspace. May it be more humane and fair than the world your governments have made before.

Davos, Switzerland

February 8, 1996

Continue reading

DynCorp: Pimping little boys to stoned Afghan cops

In fairness to those who want to shut down WikiLeaks, I certainly wish I hadn’t learned this!

Another international conflict, another horrific taxpayer-funded sex scandal for DynCorp, the private security contractor tasked with training the Afghan police.
via WikiLeaks: Texas Company Helped Pimp Little Boys To Stoned Afghan Cops – blogs.houstonpress.com
Continue reading

Pope Benedictus XVI, Pontifex Maximus and P2P Pirate

The Pope was one of 774,651 people caught by the insecurity outfit Avast’s sweep of illegal use of its software.

[…] Since Avast is dealing with the Vatican, Steckler did say that there had already been “some conversions” to the legitimate PC version.

(via The Vatican is a software pirate – theinquirer.net)

Too funny. And more proof (though no more is needed for the Catholic church) that the religious are no more moral or ethical than anyone else.

(via @glynmoody)

Impure: Visual programming language for making infographics

Impure is a visual programming language aimed to gather, process and visualize information. With impure is possible to obtain information from very different sources; from user owned data to diverse feeds in internet, including social media data, real time or historical financial information, images, news, search queries and many more. Impure is a tool to be in touch with data around internet, to deeply understand it. Within a modular logic interface you can quickly link information to operators, controls and visualization methods, bringing all the power of the comprehension of information and knowledge to the not programmers that want to work with information in a professional way.

via impure.com

Continue reading

There is hopeful symbolism in the fact that flags do not wave in a vacuum

The title of this post is a quote from Arthur C Clarke, whose predictions may have often missed the mark, but his opinions on politics, religion and where we should be headed are always spot on:

‘Today, of course, it seems ludicrous that we could have imagined giant space-stations, orbiting Hilton hotels, and expeditions to Jupiter as early as 2001 …’

He says now, ‘I was there when Spiro Agnew said to Walter Cronkite, immediately after the Apollo 11 launch, that we must go on to Mars. In the event Agnew was lucky not to go to jail! Everybody was very euphoric at the launch. But it fell apart very quickly thanks to Vietnam, Watergate.

via An Interview with Arthur C. Clarke, by Stephen Baxter – clarkeaward.com
Continue reading

Gross National Happiness

Every day, millions of people share how they feel with the people who matter the most in their lives through status updates on Facebook. These updates are tiny windows into how people are doing. They’re brief, to the point and descriptive of what’s going on this week, today or right now.

Grouped together, these updates are indicative of how we are collectively feeling. Measuring how well-off, happy or satisfied with life the citizens of a nation are is part of the Gross National Happiness movement. When people in their status updates use more positive words — or fewer negative words — then that day as a whole is counted as happier than usual. […]

(via Gross National Happiness – apps.facebook.com)

Continue reading

Interactive magazines

REQUIRES iOS 4.2 – you will need a broadband connection to download the issue.
NEW! A revolutionary multimedia magazine built specially for your iPad – packed with international culture, entertainment, design, business and travel. And nuclear weapons. Oh, and Jeff Bridges.

(via Project – By Virgin Digital Publishing Limited – itunes.apple.com)

Project is the latest iPad magazine application (mag app?) after Wired’s effort and before Rupert Murdoch’s iPad newspaper (pad paper?), The Daily.

Continue reading