Over the past month or two, since the Edward Snowden leaks surfaced, there have been a number of articles and stories written about both privacy and the security services. However, particularly in the UK, there has been something of a collective shrug and not as much outcry as I believe there should have been. Yet I haven't written anything about it so far, which makes me part of the problem as much as anyone else.
I still don't have a good handle on what I think we should be doing in response, but consider this a first stab at helping to correct my silence on the issue.
This is more of a marshalling of an assortment of the articles that I've wanted to write a response to, hopefully grouped into something approaching a sensible number of ways to frame things.
Firstly, there's the should the state be gathering this much data on its citizens? side of things:
Then there's the what can I do as a concerned citizen to make my life more private and secure (from everyone, not just big brother). I've lost some of the links I'd have put in here, as this blog post has been too long in gestation. However, contributing to the Open Rights Group, and particularly their Privacy Not Prism campaign is a good start. And not particularly security-focused, but Redecentralize.org is looking to highlight people working on ways to break the centralisation of the Internet - and thus its increasing single points of failure.
Finally, what us technologists should be doing in how we approach building the services people use:
Yesterday I gave a talk to some of the final year Computer Games Technology students at Liverpool John Moores University. I'll post the slides up later next month (after I've reused them for a talk for some Mathematics and Information System second years ;-)
In the meantime, here are the links to some of the stuff I talked about...
For more about the Internet of Things, my company blog would be a good start, particularly my slides from CodePool 13 or alternatively check out Enchanted Objects: the Internet of Things for Humans, written by my co-author, on the blog for our book.
Lifehacker has a good round up of possible RSS readers so you can keep tabs on all sorts of blogs and websites.
Russell Davies wrote an excellent blog post a few years back on how to be interesting. Worth reading.
Get a github account. Use it.
It makes me feel a bit sad reading posts like this from Dan Catt and this one from Aaron Cope (that Dan links to), and on some level a shame that they have to be written at all. However, I'm also thankful that they are writing these posts. And that they are exploring better ways forward that don't place our faith in external silos of content.
I never really got into Flickr - there was much I liked about it, but entrusting all my photos to some other hosting system was too great a barrier for me to use it properly. Not that I built anything useful for myself to use in its place, that's still an annoying when-I-get-round-to-it task.
Had I known more about the philosophy and approach of Aaron and Dan in the early days of Flickr, I think I'd have been a happy adopter. Particularly if I'd known about Parallel Flickr.
The optimist in me hopes we can learn from these experiences and build better, less brittle systems in the future. The Indieweb movement seems to be a move in this direction too.
Just over a year ago I was over in New York - mostly to attend the Open Hardware Summit and New York Maker Faire, but I had a few days to explore and do some writing. The hotel I stayed in was only a couple of blocks from the start of the High Line park, so I often wound up on there for a morning coffee and some writing until the battery gave out on my laptop. Then I'd have the rest of the day to head off and do something else.
My morning walk along the river in the autumn sunshine today was very reminiscent of similar strolls in New York, which reminded me that I'd still not published the notes on the High Line that I scribbled down in my Moleskine on the first day I walked along it. I'm remedying that here, with minimal editing - just to help the flow a little.
It you want to see what the High Line is like, Treehugger has a nice slideshow of the first section, from back when it opened.
It's really busy. And there are lots of film crews on it too [mostly filming news or documentary pieces, but I also encountered an episode of CSI:New York being filmed one day].
I've just read Jane Jacobs on parks and how they need a purpose. Don't think it would work at night but is definitely popular enough on a Sept mid-weekday morning [and borne out over the rest of my visits over my stay - always lots of people around on it].
I'm not sure you'd use it for short journeys but if travelling further then maybe it does work as a kind of pedestrian expressway.
Tricky to work out why I like this but not the "streets in the sky" of 1960s Britain. Maybe it's the fact that it's threaded through the existing city rather than replacing it? Maybe it's the design - it's a very designed space in some ways - the echoes of tracks in the concrete (and in places still left in place), the benches coming up from the track, or built on little bogies on the old tracks. But at the same time the design is muted - the materials chosen are rusting or the woods fading: chosen for the patina they'll acquire over time rather than to look best at installation.
It also has a lot of staff and volunteers - will those running costs prove to be its downfall?
I love the views you get for, unsurprisingly, the same reason that I like arriving in cities by train. You get a feel for the true city, with all the warts and neglected corners that you see because most buildings are busy presenting their best side to the street while the (ex)railway sneaks round the back. There are signs of this changing with the High Line though, presumably because the passing traffic is more obvious, more personal - or actually, just slower moving. Advertising to trains only works with big bold advertising - pedestrians can appreciate more nuanced and subtle approaches and there were many more examples than the one pictured here.