phiffer.org

Dan Phiffer Dan Phiffer builds websites, makes art, and teaches in NYC

The first day of Twitter

If you used Twitter today, you’ve probably heard it’s the social network’s 10th birthday. I used their API to recreate what Twitter’s first day looked like, by plugging in a sequence of ID numbers starting at number 20.

I’m curious what happened to those first 19 tweets, and some other subsequent missing ID numbers (e.g., 24, 27, 28). Were they deleted? If so, why? Also notable: missing tweet ID 105 returns “Sorry, you are not authorized to see this status.” instead of the usual “No status found with that ID.”

And then it was day two.

Couchsurfing steals photosspeedbird.wordpress.com

Consider these happy users of couchsurfing.com, the old school zero-cost precursor to Airbnb.

Aww, they watched Thai soap operas together!
Aww, they watched Thai soap operas together!

From Adam Greenfield:

A few years ago, I would have had to wonder whether these images did in fact represent happy Couchsurfers; now, of course, we have Google Image Search. It only took me a few seconds’ clicking around to confirm what I had suspected — or actually, something even more troubling.

It’s not merely that are these not at all images of actual Couchsurfers; in itself, that might readily enough be forgiven. It’s that the images appear to have been downloaded, altered and used in a commercial context without their creators’ knowledge or consent — in one case, in fact, in direct contravention of the (very generous) terms of the license under which they were offered. Here, let’s take a look:

– The image labeled “Jason” is one of photographer David Weir’s 100 Strangers, originally labeled with a copyright notice;

– “Dang” is a crop of commercial photographer Anthony Mongiello’s headshot of actor Stanley Wong

This is not a huge deal, of course, but I’ve had my photos used this way, and it does irk me a bit. And I got curious, so I searched for the background image of Venice, Italy (why didn’t they use Bangkok?), and it looks like a legit stock photo.

I also contacted each of the photographers mentioned in Adam’s post, just to confirm that their work hadn’t been licensed from them somehow. So far I’ve heard back from Anthony Mongiello, and he was surprised to learn his photo was being used this way. It’s probably safe to assume the other “user” portraits are also stolen.

I was going to add a “see also” link at the bottom here, to Khoi Vinh and Matt Jacobs’s rights-cleared collection of user photos, but interestingly they’ve discontinued it:

We built Facebox in 2013 to make life easier for UI designers who needed quick access to high quality, royalty-free images of real people. In the time since, it’s been a blast to see Facebox photos show up all over the Internet.

Out of respect for our models, who were very generous with their likenesses, we’ve decided to discontinue sales of Facebox, before they get overexposed.

Perhaps the classless move by the Couchsurfing designers has been balanced out just a bit from Khoi and Matt’s thoughtful gesture.

Link

Top 25 News Photos of 2015www.theatlantic.com

From Alan Taylor’s In Focus, this year’s top news photos.

A wounded Syrian girl stands in a makeshift hospital in the rebel-held area of Douma, east of Syria’s capital of Damascus, following shelling and air raids by Syrian government forces on August 22, 2015. At least 20 civilians were killed, and another 200 wounded or trapped in Douma, a monitoring group said, just six days after regime airstrikes killed more than 100 people and sparked international condemnation of one of the bloodiest government attacks in Syria's war. (Abd Doumany / AFP / Getty)
A wounded Syrian girl stands in a makeshift hospital in the rebel-held area of Douma, east of Syria’s capital of Damascus, following shelling and air raids by Syrian government forces on August 22, 2015. At least 20 civilians were killed, and another 200 wounded or trapped in Douma, a monitoring group said, just six days after regime airstrikes killed more than 100 people and sparked international condemnation of one of the bloodiest government attacks in Syria’s war. (Abd Doumany / AFP / Getty)

See also the three part 2014 year in photos: part 1, part 2, part 3.

Link via Jason Kottke

Three weeks, 2,000 lives lostwww.nytimes.com

From Nicholas Kristof’s op-ed in the New York Times:

For three weeks American politicians have been fulminating about the peril posed by Syrian refugees, even though in the last dozen years no refugee in America has killed a single person in a terror attack.

In the same three weeks as this hysteria about refugees, guns have claimed 2,000 lives in America. The terror attacks in San Bernardino, Calif., and at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs were the most dramatic, but there’s an unrelenting average of 92 gun deaths every day in America, including suicides, murders and accidents.

See also: Friday’s front-page editorial, “End the Gun Epidemic in America,” the first since 1920. Also: The Guardian’s visualization of mass shootings.

Link

How to look at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiativemedium.com

Anil Dash wrote a very coherent critique of Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan’s initiative to use their wealth for good.

I do believe that Mark and Priscilla want to have a meaningful positive impact on the world, and I am unapologetically enthusiastic about the fact they’re articulating that vision in a way that will lead others. I am also grievously concerned about the greatest threat to those intentions: The culture of Silicon Valley. Many of the loudest, most prominent voices within the tech industry, people who have Zuckerberg’s ear, are already thoughtlessly describing smart critique of the Initiative as “hating”, absurdly dismissing legitimate concerns as jealousy.

Here’s the truth: No matter how good their intentions, the net result of most such efforts has typically been neutral at best, and can sometimes be deeply destructive. The most valuable path may well be to simply invest this enormous pool of resources in the people and institutions that are already doing this work (including, yes, public institutions funded by tax dollars) and trust that they know their domains better than someone who’s already got a pretty demanding day job.

As Anil said on Twitter, “the best thing they could do is listen to critics.”

See also: Zuckerberg: give your stocks to Facebook users, and from NY Times Dealbook, How Mark Zuckerberg’s Altruism Helps Himself

Link

Yesterday’s unprinted edition of The Hinduwww.thehindu.com

Unprinted front page of the December 2, 2015 issue of The Hindu
Unprinted front page of the December 2, 2015 issue of The Hindu

Yesterday, for the first time in 137 years of operation, while world leaders meet in Paris for COP21, The Hindu did not go to print because of heavy flooding.

Consequent to the heavy rain, print editions of The Hindu dated December 2, 2015, in Chennai, Vellore, Puducherry and Tirupati have been cancelled after taking into consideration the safety of those in the distribution network.

The Indian daily newspaper, with a circulation just above that of the New York Times, did not print yesterday’s Chennai edition, but uploaded PDFs from the issue to their website.

Link via Democracy Now

Zuckerberg: give your stocks to Facebook usersamericamagazine.org

You may have heard Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, has promised to donate 99% of his stock in the company “to charity.” (It’s unclear what “charity” means precisely at this point, but one might want to look in the direction of Newark.)

Here is an interesting suggestion from Nathan Schneider, published today in America Magazine:

First, the stock could go back to the Facebook users who made it valuable in the first place. As I have noted here before, Facebook’s business model depends on gathering, mining and selling the personal information that its users post on the platform. That includes our networks of relationships, our photos, our worries, our milestones, our passions and our preferences. It’s barely understood what exactly Facebook knows about us and how, except that it’s a lot. This is part of what has made Mr. Zuckerberg so controversial, and rightly so; early on, he referred to his users as “dumb” (followed by a word even more insulting) for trusting him with such data. What if, rather than papering over that controversy, he could resolve it at the root?

Consider what it would mean if a substantial portion of Facebook stock were held in a trust that acts on behalf of the platform’s users. (This is a model I’m borrowing from the employee-owned John Lewis Partnership in the United Kingdom, explained in Marjorie Kelly’s extraordinary book Owning Our Future.) Users could then vote on what positions the trust should hold at shareholder meetings, and it could distribute dividends based on the stock’s value back to users, or reinvest them by buying more ownership in the company. The trust, therefore, would have a dual incentive: to protect user interests and privacy in Facebook’s business model, and to ensure that the company remains solvent.

The other suggestion, to sell the stocks and distribute the proceeds to every person alive, is also noteworthy, effectively saying: “Do you really know better what to do with all that money than the collective wisdom of everyone on Earth combined?”

Link via Caroline

Helpful talk tips!posts.postlight.com

Paul Ford recently shared some of his speaking tips on the Postlight blog.

I’m finding that it’s very important to just get up there and talk a little bit, make some dumb jokes, let people get used to you existing. A lot of times I talk about the status of the talk (“this is a new talk and I’ll be glad to hear what you think”).

I’m noticing that this style of presenting is very adaptable; when you’re in a small room you can turn it into a conversation and bring in the audience; when you’re speaking to hundreds of people, and engagement is not possible, you can just keep plowing ahead but it’s still like you’re just having a fun chat instead of holding forth. You can even do a kind of professorial “Oh! Right!” as if the deck was surprising you, and both you and the audience were just seeing this information for the first time together and you were merely riffing.

I highly recommend that you try to find some way to go see Paul give a talk.

Link

Photos of Fukushimawww.podniesinski.pl

From Arkadiusz Podniesiński’s photo essay of the Fukushima disaster:

While I am in Futaba I am accompanied by a married couple, Mitsuru and Kikuyo Tani (aged 74 and 71), who show me the house from which they were evacuated. They visit it regularly but due to the regulations they can do this a maximum of once a month, and only for a few hours at a time. They take advantage of these opportunities even though they gave up hope of returning permanently a long time ago. They check to see if the roof is leaking and whether the windows have been damaged by the wind or wild animals. If necessary they make some minor repairs. Their main reason for returning however is sentimental and the attachment they feel to this place. A yearning for the place in which they have their origins and spent their entire lives.

Kikuyo Tani in front of the entrance to her house.
Kikuyo Tani in front of the entrance to her house.
The sign reads “nuclear energy is the energy of a bright future.” Another one is too real: “local nuclear energy guarantees a lively future.”
The sign reads “nuclear energy is the energy of a bright future.” Another one is too real: “local nuclear energy guarantees a lively future.”
Site where vehicles have been dumped. Aerial photograph.
Site where vehicles have been dumped. Aerial photograph.

Link

Canada 150canada.pch.gc.ca

In 2017 Canada will celebrate 150 years since its confederation. The Canadian government commissioned type designer Raymond Larabie to adapt Mesmerize into an official national typeface.

The typeface includes all Latin characters and accents, common Cyrillic characters, and syllabic and diacritical elements contained in Canada’s Aboriginal languages. The typeface is provided in two weights: light and regular.

Canada is home to [over 60 aboriginal languages](http://www12.statcan.gc.ca/census-recensement/2011/as-sa/98-314-x/98-314-x2011003_3-eng.cfm)
Canada is home to over 60 aboriginal languages

Oddly, if you want to use the official font you must apply for permission.

See also: Clearview, the federally-approved highway typeface

Link

The Great Big Adam Curtis Binge-Watchwww.listmuse.com

A comprehensive list of all of Adam Curtis’s documentaries, conveniently linked in one long list. There are a few I didn’t realize I hadn’t seen. I’ve heard that some of the videos include advertising breaks, so you may want to seek out alternate versions for those ones.

See also: that time I called into WFMU and asked Adam Curtis if he thought his use of imagery was manipulative (around 50 minutes in)

Link via Kevin Slavin

On Encryption and Terroristsnadim.computer

Nadim Kobeissi, maker of Crypto.cat and Minilock:

The premise driving the people writing encryption software is not exactly that we’re giving people new rights or taking some away: it’s the hope that we can enforce existing rights using algorithms that guarantee your ability to free speech, to a reasonable expectation of privacy in your daily life. When you make a credit card payment or log into Facebook, you’re using the same fundamental encryption that, in another continent, an activist could be using to organize a protest against a failed regime.

In a way, we’re implementing a fundamental technological advancement not dissimilar from the invention of cars or airplanes. Ford and Toyota build automobiles so that the entire world can have access to faster transportation and a better quality of life. If a terrorist is suspected of using a Toyota as a car bomb, it’s not reasonable to expect Toyota to start screening who it sells cars to, or to stop selling cars altogether.

Link via Matthias Bruggmann

Christina Xu’s setupusesthis.com

I don’t usually follow this sort of equipment connoisseurism, but I enjoyed reading about ethnographer Christina Xu’s international phone setup.

Having two phones went out of style in China a few years ago because most phones for the Chinese market can use (at least) 2 SIM cards simultaneously, but no such luck the Galaxy S6 I got in the US. There’s no way I’m giving up my T-Mobile SIM card, either: my plan comes with unlimited free data while roaming internationally, and while it’s not terribly fast, it’s a real lifesaver in China. You see, the Great Firewall is designed to limit access to information for locals, not foreigners, so it doesn’t even bother blocking mobile data if you’re roaming. This means that—wonder of wonders!!—I have slow but steady, constant access to Instagram, Twitter, and all of the Google services I use regularly.

But at the same time, having a local Chinese number is indispensable, not least because many local mobile and web services require one for verification purposes. And the Great Firewall goes in both directions: Chinese apps run incredibly slowly outside of it. My solution was to get a second phone in China that I could use just for phone calls and Chinese apps, and I ended up with the Oppo, a low-end Android smartphone designed for the Chinese and Indian market.

Link

Untitled (social media, variable dimensions). 2015.twitter.com

I’ve collected some images that were circulating on Mlkshk recently, based on a Tweet by Brett O’Connor.

twitter.com/negatendo/status/628611950168117248

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CUDMfDlUsAIHQKf.jpg (474×127)

CUDMfDlUsAIHQKf.jpg (474×127)

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