Lies, Damn Lies and My Vital Statistics

The BBC report that a giant database of people's personal details could be created at Whitehall under government plans aimed at improving public services.

I'm finding it hard to summon up any enthusiasm for such a project; read on...

Last year the Department of Constitutional Affairs (DCA) claimed relaxing rules on data-sharing would help tackle ID fraud and would also identify those "in need".

But Shadow Constitutional Affairs Secretary Oliver Heald said: "Step by step, the government is logging details of every man, woman and child in 'Big Brother' computers."

Shadow Home Secretary David Davis said: "The chances of it actually solving crimes is pretty small.

"The chances of it costing over £20bn is very high. It will be a white elephant."

Information Commissioner Richard Thomas, who is charged with ensuring the state does not collect too much information about citizens, has also been critical of data-sharing and already expressed concern at the Citizens' Information Project.

That is a plan by the Office for National Statistics to create a population database for use by public services.

"There are reasons why we need to promote better information," Mr Thomas said, "but whether the right answer is to create a database should be questioned."

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How much information?

I ought to have been reading Alex Barnett's blog before now. He's not just an Englishman in the Court of King Bill - but an ex-Middlesex cricketer as well. And since Radley keeps sending people that way... (cf Jamie Dalrymple, Andy Strauss)

I love this time of year. It gives me a chance to get through some of books I've been been meaning to read and some podcasts I've been eager to listen to.

One of these books is The Social Life of Information, originally published at the end of the last dotcom boom by two PARC researchers, John Seely Brown and Paul Duguid.

The gist of the book argues:

"that the gap between digerati hype and end-user gloom is largely due to the "tunnel vision" that information-driven technologies breed. We've become so focused on where we think we ought to be that we often fail to see where we're really going.

We need to look beyond our obsession with information and individuals to include the critical social networks of which these are always a part.

The Social Life of Information shows how a better understanding of the contribution that communities, organizations, and institutions make to learning, working, and innovating can lead to the richest possible use of technology in our work and everyday lives."

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Think "Selfish" to deliver value for others

I found this across at thanks to David over at

I'm going to call this idea the " Lesson".

This is the lesson that personal value precedes network value: that selfish use comes before shared use. We're seeing it more and more everyday in services like, Flickr, and is an interesting aspect of networked applications. Even though we're definitely benefitting from the value of networked software, we're still not doing so unless the software is valuable to us on a personal level first.

And I wonder, how will [insert service of choice] fare in light of this? What personal value are people getting out of it? Is it enough to make the service successful?

I'm sure that the “ Lesson” applies in all sorts of environments - but it seems particular pertinent in the introspective world of Education. The reason so many of the VLEs etc have failed to take off is that they have focussed on the benefit to the student - which sounds great but won't actually get implemented unless teachers can see the improvement in their lives...

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.Reboot7: Nokia, Christian Lindholm "Transformer"

.Reboot7: Nokia, Christian Lindholm

"Transformer" style phone design coupled with "good enough" multi-media (video camera, etc) linked to pervasive broad-band will lead to a huge rise in LifeBlogging (Life as a reported story).

Data, Metadata, Superdata, tagging, etc will pull everything together.

And as the available data heads towards infinity, the interface heads towards zero (cf: Google)

[Posted with hblogger 2.0]

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.Reboot7: Social Tools. Dina Mehta

.Reboot7: Social Tools. Dina Mehta ("Conversations with Dina")

Tools enable us to forget that physical and cultural Boundaries exist.

People pick up tools that meet their social needs.

Small Things Loosely Joined can be built into a OneStopShop.

See these tools as the "jazz" of the ICT world...

Use Blogging as an opportunity to data mine...

Consider the Tsunami of 26 Dec 2004; Nature spoke and showed us how indignificant we are.

But, using ICT, there was Rapid adaptation to chaotic conditions. Real voices talking in real time...

No crisis will now be managed without weblogs, IM, wikis, VoIP

IanNote: Using ICT tools as decentralized self-organizing co-ordination systems.

One final thought: Internet penetration in India is really low; perhaps 5%.... Err, that's approximately 30 Million...

[Posted with hblogger 2.0]

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.Reboot7: Wikipedia, Jimbo Wales. This

.Reboot7: Wikipedia, Jimbo Wales.

This talk might best be titled "The Politics of Wikipedia"

* Wikipedia
* Wiktionary - new API soon
* Wikibooks - provides context
* Wikisource - public documents
* Wikiquote
* Wikimedia Commons
* Wikinews

Contrast Wikipedia with

Wikipedia is NOT an emergent phenomena (well, not much); it isn't really quasi-Darwinian.

It works because it has an interested community behind it...

Emergent models need reputation mechanisms. Users are not (that) significant. But in the Community model the Users are important.

Wikipedia doesn't follow the 80:20 model: it is much tighter than that.

50% of all edits are done by 524 people. 75% by 1500 people.

"Rules" are implemented at a human level rather than in coding.

Free, attributed, linked distribution of all content drives users back to

Is the whole thing run on Anarchy?

Well, Democracy may not work because minorities tend to suffer. Consensus is a better route forward. The Wikipedia "aristocracy" will help people reach a consensus. The whole thing is then held together by some sort of Monarch/Visitor/Benign Dictator. This matters most when the basic aims of the organisation

Neutral point of view. NPOV. A social concept of co-operation which avoids philosophical issues.

Wikipedia runs on LAMP. Wikipedia uses, promotes and publishes OpenSource

How does it scale:
* AutoAnalysis: Writing/Stats
* Policy: Mediation, Arbitration
* Attitude: Respect/Love Users

The future:
* Tag/Category management.
* API development
* A reduction in the Tech hurdle
* OffLine Publication (3rdWorld)

[Posted with hblogger 2.0]

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Tabloids beat libraries for the facts that matter

Libraries need to reinvent themselves apparently...

Much of the British public goes to the source it trusts least - tabloid newspapers - for its most crucial everyday information on politics and society, according to a study. This is because the sources the public trusts most, notably public libraries, are closed when it most needs them. The study follows official figures showing that only a tiny number of libraries and other archives are open as long as shops.


The Sheffield research team, led by Professor Bob Usherwood, says libraries and archives "need to ensure their services develop and extend to ensure they keep their place in the nation's hearts and minds". Yesterday the former Waterstone's bookshop chief Tim Coates, a leading independent analyst and critic of the library service, said that despite improvements, yearly figures released on Friday showed "there are still only 62 libraries out of 4,800 open more than 60 hours a week - which is the normal opening period of most shops".

In March, a severely critical Commons select committee report urged libraries to "seriously address opening hours by, for example, opening in the evenings and on Sundays".

Mr Coates said the figures, from the independent accountancy body Cipfa, the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy, also demonstrated that - in the five years since the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) was set up to oversee the service - public borrowing of library books had fallen from 420m to 320m.

Link: Guardian Unlimited Books | News | Tabloids beat libraries for the facts that matter.

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Why Libraries won't matter...

This exchange happened in March 2004 and I meant to post then... Like my previous posting, it has been sat in Draft ever since...

The text is from Will Richardson who pushes out some excellent stuff on the educational uses of weblogs. The subsequent comment is from The Shifted Librarian

From Weblogg-ed News

Morning at RSS-Blog-Furl High School

"English teacher Tom McHale sets down his cup of coffee and boots up the computer at his classroom desk.

Its 6:50 in the morning. After logging in, he opens up his personal page on the school Intrablog. There, he does a quick scan of the New York Times front page headlines and clicks through one of the links to read a story about war reporting that he thinks his student journalists might be interested in.

With a quick click, Tom uses the 'Furl it' button on his toolbar, adds a bit of annotation to the form that comes up, and saves it in his Furl journalism folder which archives the page and automatically sends the link and his note to display on his journalism class portal for students to read when they log in.

Next, he scans a compiled list of summaries that link to work his students submitted to their Weblogs the night before.

With one particularly well done response, he clicks through to the students personal site and adds a positive comment to the assignment post. He also 'Furls' that site, putting it in the Best Practices folder which will send it to the class homepage as well for students to read and discuss, and to a separate Weblog page he created to keep track of all of the best examples of student work. Its 7:00...." 

From The Shifted Librarian

Check out the full text of this amazing post by Will Richardson. In it, he pulls together the beginning threads of integrating blogs, RSS, and social bookmarking in an educational setting. It's a great vision, one that I fully believe will eventually happen in one integrated app.

However - and this is a big however - the only time the library shows up in Will's post is when the teacher unsubscribes from the library's feed!

There's no mention of a topical feeds from the library, use of library databases to support research or assignments, no collaborative collection of web-based resources managed by the library, or any other daily interaction with the library and its resources.

It's actually pretty sad when you think about it, but unfortunately, it will be accurate if librarians don't start understanding, using, and providing information to these types of tools.

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Finding Friends With Google

I tried to post this last June (2004); apparently it has been sat in Draft status ever since... Ah well. Better late than never. And a neat trick.

One way to trace your old friends is to enter their name into Google. But unless they are web-savvy and talkative enough to have their own homepage, you won't find much of them online.

Another, better way of getting in touch with out-of-sight friends is to put their name on your web site, and to let it be indexed by the Googlebot.

Now even those who don't have their own web page sooner or later sit in front of Google and enter their own name. (Ego-browsing is one of the most common types of search.) And when they do enter their name, your page pops up in the result list.

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Google Maps - from: New York to: San Francisco

I loved these instructions from Google Maps when I asked for a route from New York to San Francisco

  • ...
  • 23. Bear right onto the I-80 W ramp to Council Bluffs/Omaha - go 1,045 mi
  • 24. Take the I-215 exit 130 to Las Vegas/Reno/S.L.C. Int'l Airport - go 0.8 mi
  • ...

What a wonderful example of:

  • The sheer size of the United States
  • The amazing granularity of data we now have at our fingertips...

The satellite images are seriously cool as well. Interesting to note the pixelation of Congress buildings if you zoom in on Washington DC.

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