Replied to Portability and Interoperability (Stratechery by Ben Thompson)

To be very clear, I’m pretty excited about Facebook’s announcement. Data portability is absolutely consumer friendly, and I’m glad that Facebook is making it easy to move photos and videos that have been lost to time to applications that are better suited for long-term storage.

At the same time, we shouldn’t kid ourselves that this has any sort of impact on competition. It is interoperability that cuts to the core of these companies’ moats, and to the extent regulators see it worthwhile to act, interoperability should be the priority.

Ben, this reminds me of Kin Lane’s argument that interoperability is a myth.
Liked Readers are the Future of the Social Web by Jacky Alciné (

With things like Monocle, Together and Indigenous, I’m thinking we can get there. There’s things I’d like to see that I’m working on bundling into my own take on a social reader (codename Brother Eye for now):

  • I’d like to see from my reader who’ve interacted with a particular post. Bonus points if it’s sorted by people who I have marked a particular relationship with.
  • The ability to surface recommendable content and also explain why it was shown without marketing jargon is also a big add.
  • Having humane design principles built in is a must.

This is just a short list of things I’d want to see in said readers. I’ll add more as time goes on.

Replied to The garden in the mind – Austin Kleon (Austin Kleon)

Liberty Hyde Bailey’s thoughts on gardening and how they relate to creative work.

I love this quote Austin.

I know poets who do not write poetry, artists who do not paint, architects who do not build. I know gardeners who do not garden.

It makes me wonder about teachers who do not teach and the importance of first and foremost caring.

Liked ‘Civilization’ and Strategy Games’ Progress Delusion (Vice)

Unsurprisingly, strategy games tend to only engage with complexity when it can be converted into a military or economic trait, the rest is treated as irrelevant or merely aesthetic. The tendency, when looking at different populations, is to fixate on familiarities, either because something appears similar or because something supposedly essential is missing. Much of anthropology up until the midpoint of the last century could be crassly summarized in the question “how come all these people don’t have a State?”

Replied to The ebook revolution that didn’t happen by Bill BennettBill Bennett (

If ebooks were priced appropriately, they’d sell, it’s that simple. Almost everyone carries a device which could act as an ebook reader. They could do better.

I understand the argument against eBooks Bill, that we remember more when we read in print and that the experience is better. However, the hidden benefit to eBooks is in regards to accessibility. I often ‘listen‘ to Kindle eBooks using the accessibility functions on an old iPhone or using Google Books on my Android phone.

In regards to publishing, I think that Verso Books has it right when they often offer substantial savings for eBooks as well as free eBooks for physical purchases. They also allow users full access to the text to load to whatever platform they choose.

This all reminds me of Craig Mod’s piece arguing that the future book is here, it just wasn’t what we expected.

Bookmarked History’s Largest Mining Operation Is About to Begin (The Atlantic)

It’s underwater—and the consequences are unimaginable.

In light of work by the International Seabed Authority, the United Nations group put in charge of mitigating damage on the seafloor by mining, Wil Hylton takes a dive into the depths of the ocean to uncover some of the remaining mysteries. For some, the geothermal vents and polymetallic nodules offer the future in regards to life after fossil fuels.

Deepwater plains are also home to the polymetallic nodules that explorers first discovered a century and a half ago. Mineral companies believe that nodules will be easier to mine than other seabed deposits. To remove the metal from a hydrothermal vent or an underwater mountain, they will have to shatter rock in a manner similar to land-based extraction. Nodules are isolated chunks of rocks on the seabed that typically range from the size of a golf ball to that of a grapefruit, so they can be lifted from the sediment with relative ease. Nodules also contain a distinct combination of minerals. While vents and ridges are flecked with precious metal, such as silver and gold, the primary metals in nodules are copper, manganese, nickel, and cobalt—crucial materials in modern batteries.

However, there are many concerned about environmental impact of such actions.

At full capacity, these companies expect to dredge thousands of square miles a year. Their collection vehicles will creep across the bottom in systematic rows, scraping through the top five inches of the ocean floor. Ships above will draw thousands of pounds of sediment through a hose to the surface, remove the metallic objects, known as polymetallic nodules, and then flush the rest back into the water. Some of that slurry will contain toxins such as mercury and lead, which could poison the surrounding ocean for hundreds of miles. The rest will drift in the current until it settles in nearby ecosystems. An early study by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences predicted that each mining ship will release about 2 million cubic feet of discharge every day, enough to fill a freight train that is 16 miles long. The authors called this “a conservative estimate,” since other projections had been three times as high. By any measure, they concluded, “a very large area will be blanketed by sediment to such an extent that many animals will not be able to cope with the impact and whole communities will be severely affected by the loss of individuals and species.”

One of the biggest issues is that there is so much of ocean that still remains unexplored and unknown. In particular, the hadel zone, the area of the ocean beyond 20,000 feet.

That environment is composed of 33 trenches and 13 shallower formations called troughs. Its total geographic area is about two-thirds the size of Australia. It is the least examined ecosystem of its size on Earth.

This is something Timothy Shank has spent his life working on.

Building a vehicle to function at 36,000 feet, under 2 million pounds of pressure per square foot, is a task of interstellar-type engineering. It’s a good deal more rigorous than, say, bolting together a rover to skitter across Mars. Picture the schematic of an iPhone case that can be smashed with a sledgehammer more or less constantly, from every angle at once, without a trace of damage, and you’re in the ballpark—or just consider the fact that more people have walked on the moon than have reached the bottom of the Mariana Trench, the deepest place on Earth.

One of the biggest problems is that the only people to have even entered the hadal zone are “the most committed multimillionaire, Hollywood celebrity, or special military program, and only in isolated dives to specific locations that reveal little about the rest of the hadal environment.”

Victor Vescoco, one of those multimillionaires, returned with news that rubbish had already beaten us to the bottom.

After his expedition to the trenches, Victor Vescovo returned with the news that garbage had beaten him there. He found a plastic bag at the bottom of one trench, a beverage can in another, and when he reached the deepest point in the Mariana, he watched an object with a large S on the side float past his window. Trash of all sorts is collecting in the hadal—Spam tins, Budweiser cans, rubber gloves, even a mannequin head.

In regards to other opportunities offered by the ocean, Craig Venter, a man who has made his money from genome research, has found a world of complex microbials.

Venter pointed out that ocean microbes produce radically different compounds from those on land. “There are more than a million microbes per milliliter of seawater,” he said, “so the chance of finding new antibiotics in the marine environment is high.” McCarthy agreed. “The next great drug may be hidden somewhere deep in the water,” he said. “We need to get to the deep-sea organisms, because they’re making compounds that we’ve never seen before. We may find drugs that could be used to treat gout, or rheumatoid arthritis, or all kinds of other conditions.”

In the end, with so much still unknown, the impact is impossible to truly measure

The harms of burning fossil fuels and the impact of land-based mining are beyond dispute, but the cost of plundering the ocean is impossible to know.

As a note, financial support for this extended piece was provided by the 11th Hour Project of the Schmidt Family Foundation.

For a different perspective on the ocean, check-out this infographic and web toy. Also, read Ben Taub’s feature on Victor Vescovo’s journey to become the first person to visit the deepest points in every ocean.

Bookmarked The sad state of personal data and infrastructure | Mildly entertainingᵝ (
Jestem Króliczkie unpacks the challenges associated with keeping a record of your personal data and digital traces. His solution is data mirror app, “that merely runs in background on client side and continuously/regularly sucks in and synchronizes backend data to the latest state.” One of the problems is that the ‘average’ user are not often not motivated enough to make such requests.

This reminds me Kin Lane’s discussion of personal API from a few years ago and Tom Woodward’s attempt at a dashboard. I also wonder where data mirroring fits within Cory Doctorow’s discussions if adversarial interoperability. Although Kin Lane warns that interoperability is a myth.

Sadly, my current method is manual til it hurts. And it hurts.

Liked API Evangelist | The Instructure LMS Data Points (API Evangelist)

This isn’t about shaming Instructure and it’s shareholders. This is about pointing out that we do not have any policies in place to prevent the exploitation of our schools and the students they serve. There is no approach to business or technology that will prevent the exploitation of student data. There is only a need to establish and strengthen federal and state policies that protect the privacy of students and their data, and minimizing the damage any platform can cause–no matter who owns it.

Liked Screens in the Classroom: Tool or Temptation? (

“If you are finding your students are being distracted on their cellphones or on laptops, you have to ask yourself: What am I doing in my teaching that is not engaging?” she said. “How can I give them opportunities to participate so they don’t feel the need to disappear down the rabbit hole?”

Replied to 2019 REPORT CARD for Australia’s national efforts in education (EduResearch Matters)

The data is clear. Australia seems to be coasting. If she invests more effort and resources she could improve her outcomes immeasurably. Compared to many of her cohort she is not paying enough attention to the things that would make a difference – a good public school in every suburb, resources based on real need, and equity among all schools.

Next year Australia needs to try a lot harder to base her policies on evidence that promotes equity. She needs to do this with some urgency or she will keep slipping behind. Australia is very capable of achieving much more, but only if she puts her mind to it and makes equity a priority.

David, so often it feels that we talk about numbers and dollars in isolation. I really liked your point about considering the increase of funding alongside the change in the population.

Australia’s Federal education ministers claim that Australia’s spending on education has never been higher and that expenditure has increased 25% or $10 billion since 2010. This ignores the fact that our student population has dramatically increased requiring spending on new schools, school infrastructures and of course more teachers. $8 billion of the extra funding (or 80 per cent) went to a mix of “everyday” items: rising student numbers, wage increases, and the ongoing costs of increased investments in government school buildings. Student numbers grew by 9 per cent, so the real increase per student was 14 per cent. Educating these extra students cost just under $4 billion, or two-fifths of the overall increase.

Bookmarked How ‘dark patterns’ influence travel bookings (

If you’ve wondered whether there were actually 30 people trying to book the same flight as you, you’re not alone. As Chris Baraniuk finds, the numbers may not be all they seem.

Chris Baraniuk reports on the dark patterns prevelent online. This takes me back to Mike Monteiro’s book Ruined by Design.
Liked Further Defining Digital Literacies: The Ethics of Information Creation by Kevin’s Meandering Mind | Author | dogtrax (

Do learners share information in ways that consider all sources?
Do learners consider the contributors and authenticity of all sources?
Do learners practice the safe and legal use of technology?
Do learners create products that are both informative and ethical?
Do learners avoid accessing another computer’s system, software, or data files without permission?
Do learners engage in discursive practices in online social systems with others without deliberately or inadvertently demeaning individuals and/or groups?
Do learners attend to the acceptable use policies of organizations and institutions?
Do learners attend to the terms of service and/or terms of use of digital software and tools?
Do learners read, review, and understand the terms of service/use that they agree to as they utilize these tools?
Do learners respect the intellectual property of others and only utilize materials they are licensed to access, remix, and/or share?
Do learners respect and follow the copyright information and appropriate licenses given to digital content as they work online?

Liked Opinion | Twelve Million Phones, One Dataset, Zero Privacy (

What we learned from the spy in your pocket.

Stuart Thompson and Charlie Warzel dig into the location data scrapped by apps and smartphones. To explain the systemic surveillance that we are all a part of, they unpack a single data source from a location data company.

The data reviewed by Times Opinion didn’t come from a telecom or giant tech company, nor did it come from a governmental surveillance operation. It originated from a location data company, one of dozens quietly collecting precise movements using software slipped onto mobile phone apps. You’ve probably never heard of most of the companies — and yet to anyone who has access to this data, your life is an open book. They can see the places you go every moment of the day, whom you meet with or spend the night with, where you pray, whether you visit a methadone clinic, a psychiatrist’s office or a massage parlor.

This information is often used in cc combination with other data points to create a shadow profile.

As revealing as our searches of Washington were, we were relying on just one slice of data, sourced from one company, focused on one city, covering less than one year. Location data companies collect orders of magnitude more information every day than the totality of what Times Opinion received.

Until governments step in to curb such practices, we need to be a little more paranoid , as Kara Swisher suggests. While John Naughton wonders how the west is any different to China?

It throws an interesting light on western concerns about China. The main difference between there and the US, it seems, is that in China it’s the state that does the surveillance, whereas in the US it’s the corporate sector that conducts it – with the tacit connivance of a state that declines to control it. So maybe those of us in glass houses ought not to throw so many stones.

Another example such supports Naughton’s point is presented by the Washington Post which reported on how some colleges have taken to using smartphones to track student movements.

Bookmarked The Stories We Were Told about Education Technology (2019) (Hack Education)

What I have noticed in 2019 from my perch of not-paying-full-attention would probably include these broad trends and narratives: the tangled business prospects of the ed-tech acronym market (the LMS, the OPM, the MOOC); the heightened (and inequitable) surveillance of students (and staff), increasingly justified as preventing school shootings; the fomentation of fears about the surveillance of Chinese tech companies and the Chinese government, rather than a recognition that American companies — and surely the US education system itself — has long perpetuated its own surveillance practices; and the last gasp of the (white, male) ed-tech/ed-reform evangelism, whose adherents seem quite angry that their bland hype machine is no longer uncritically lauded by a world that is becoming increasingly concerned about the biases and dangers of digital technologies.

Audrey Watters continues her tradition of summarising the year that was in regards to educational technology. Although Watters no longer conducts her deep dives into the various trends, she still comes back to the same issue that comes up time and time again, technology’s tendency to forget.

Writing the Hack Education end-of-year series has always reminded me of how very short our memories seem to be. By December, we’ve forgotten what happened in January or June. And we’ve certainly forgotten what happened a year ago, two years ago, a decade ago. Or at least, that’s one way I can rationalize how someone like Chris Whittle can get such a glowing profile in The Washington Post this year for his latest entrepreneurial endeavor.

Bookmarked Twitter (
Arvind Narayanan responds to research which finds that YouTube is actually de-radicalising. He raises concern with the methodology.

He explains that we neither have the tools and vocabulary to make sense of such complexities.

The greatest challenge is the reality that YouTube and the algorithm are one and the same.

Bookmarked Kids’ YouTube as we know it is over. Good. (Vox)

On January 1, YouTube videos for kids will look much different. But will it be better?

With the policy changes to YouTube requiring creators to classify if content is for children, Rebecca Jennings dives into the world of YouTube for children.

Throughout its history, YouTube has stubbornly maintained that it’s a site aimed at users 13 and over, freeing the platform from obtaining parental consent to track user data. Yet the FTC’s investigation found that Google had been touting YouTube’s popularity with children to toy brands like Mattel and Hasbro in order to sell ads, including the assertion that YouTube is the No. 1 website regularly visited by kids.

The FTC’s fine is arguably a pittance of what Google owes. Though it may be a record-breaking fine for the organization, as Recode’s Peter Kafka explains, $170 million is basically “a rounding error” in YouTube’s profit, which could reach around $20 billion this year. Two of the FTC’s five commissioners voted against the settlement, with one arguing the fine should have been in the billions.

One of the biggest concerns is that much of this content is driven by algorithms, rather than the recommendations of educational specialists.

Maybe, though, the problem isn’t that the YouTube algorithm serves up stupid or bad videos to kids, but that an algorithm is in charge of what kids are watching at all. Toddlers are always going to click on the video with the brightest, most bonkers thumbnail with words they might recognize. Moving kids’ content to separate streaming apps — made specifically for children, with fewer commercials, more gatekeepers in charge of quality control, and fair, clear payment structures — seems like a change for good.

Alexis Madrigal (‘Raised by YouTube‘) and James Bridle (‘The nightmare videos of children’s YouTube — and what’s wrong with the internet today‘) also unpack some of the issues associated with YouTube.

Liked It’s Time to Get Personal by Laura KalbagLaura Kalbag (

Big Tech has given us a load of social platforms, and the content we’ve shared on those platforms has made them valuable. These platforms are designed to make it easy and convenient to share our thoughts and feelings. And they don’t cost us any money. The social nature of the platforms also make us feel validated. One button press for a like, a love, a star, a share, and we feel appreciated and connected. And it’s all for free. Except it isn’t.

Bookmarked Letter to the Editor: Historians Critique The 1619 Project, and We Respond (

Five historians wrote to us with their reservations. Our editor in chief replies.

The debates over ‘the facts’ associated with the 1619 project reminds me the History Wars in Australia.