Senator Franken, finally

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Nice: Court Backs Franken in Senate Race; Coleman Concedes

Franken has always seemed like a very intelligent and honest person, which the US Senate could definitely use more of.  Let’s hope he stays that way while in office.

Is anonymity on the web harmful?

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Ran across this old article on Reddit: Internet Anonymity: A Right of the Past? It’s referencing a draft document for a new Internet protocol that would (attempt to) remove anonymity.  Basically, anything you do on the net would be traceable back to you.  The article is old, the draft protocol has likely been shelved, and would almost certainly never be deployed.  The Reddit comments have some interesting info.

Some implications of this are interesting.  I can’t deny that I often think the anonymity of the web is harmful to our society.  Any trip to a message board or forum online should suffice to prove this.  People act like complete idiots.

Unfortunately, removal of anonymity has too many potential bad effects, like the ability for governments to watch what you’re doing.  That’s not impossible for them to do right now, although it’s very expensive.  It would get much easier with a protocol like this.

Perhaps the solution for my concerns is self-regulation.  Any reputable site/service could require authentication at sign-up.  Maybe people would act less idiotic in online games and big sites like Reddit, Digg, Myspace.  There would need to be some restriction or penalty for authenticates sites linking to anonymous ones.

This would ultimately lead to 2 separate webs, one that’s anonymous and one that’s not, but I don’t know if that would be a bad thing.

Failed States 2009

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Interesting interactive map and data for the Failed States Index 2009.

Some of the info is startling.  Life expectancy in Zimbabwe is less than 46 years.  The literacy rate in Chad is only 26%, compared to 91% in Zimbabwe.

The site is worth checking out.

My Communication Decision Tree

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I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how much of a pain modern communication has become.  Weren’t electronic forms of communication supposed to make our lives easier and better?  That may have been true 10 years ago, when our choices for messaging were limited to email and maybe one IM client, but it sure doesn’t feel that way to me anymore.

I try to keep my communication as simple as possible, which right now boils down to email, IM and phone, chosen in roughly that order depending on circumstances.  The frustration is that I need to keep a list of ways to contact each person in my head.  The list is basically: how can I best contact this person at a given time of day and day of week?  Many people can’t access personal email at work, so work email is the only option.  Some people are on IM while at work but not otherwise, and vice versa.  Other people love texting.  Some have adopted Facebook for all communication.  A smaller bunch are only contactable at night with online game messaging like Steam or in WoW.

I won’t even count the many other streams like Twitter and MySpace since I avoid them.

The image below is an attempt to encode my thought process when contacting someone into a decision tree.  (Click to enlarge)  I glossed over some of the complexities like “Am I at a computer, on my iPhone, driving, etc?”

My Communication Decision Tree

My Communication Decision Tree

I think a smartphone makes it more difficult to find a good answer because I want everything to be the same whether I’m at my desktop at home, work laptop, or iPhone.  I’ve tried to come up with a product idea that would solve this, but none so far.  I want to click on a persons name and have it figure out how to route the message.

If I only messaged when at a computer then a partial solution might be found with some of the newer multi-IM clients that also support social sites and email.  When you get to using multiple devices it seems a hosted service is required.  A service that managed your global inbox, so all IM, email, texts, Facebook messages, etc, is interesting but starts to blur the line of when to show you as truly “away” for IM, which defeats a lot of the purpose.

North American auto makers really can have it both ways

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Ok, this goes past the previous record of insanity set when the auto companies were nationalized.  We’ve bought the companies and, in effect, artificially propped them up because they couldn’t function in a normal market by themselves.

Shouldn’t that be enough?  Apparently not.  The US government is now giving consumers cash to purchase new vehicles in an attempt to stimulate sales.

Sales were low and the companies ran out of money, so we gave them billions of dollars to keep going.  Now they’re getting artificially generated and inflated sales to help keep them going.

First, an incentive isn’t a bad idea by itself, but when added to this existing bailout it seems assinine.  I would have much rather seen a larger consumer incentive rather than giving billions in free bailout money (coupled with forced restructuring).

Second, after the bailout, which likely means the comapnies won’t actually shrink as far as they really should given market conditions, and now artificially inflating sales, we are left with a massive company in a bubble again.  It doesn’t need to react to the market, it can continue it’s old ways, just scaled down a bit.

Phantom Energy: tracking waste

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I posted an article over at YouSustain: In Depth: Phantom Energy

The point was to track how much energy gets wasted from our devices/appliances around the house.  A few of the results were surprising and I learned of a few devices that had a lower-power mode than what seemed obvious with the off button.

Let me know of any comments or questions.

The GM black hole for money continues

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Todays events relating to GM are overall positive, I guess.  But wow, going into bankruptcy requires another $30B?  It seems we’ve just transferred the losses from the investors to the taxpayers, which is a bit infuriating.

It seemed obvious 8 months ago, when all the bailouts started, that GM would end up in bankruptcy no matter how much money they were given.  Their problem wasn’t a shortage of cash, it was a broken business model.

The one bright point is this means the Chevy Volt should definitely see production.  I think it’s the most impressive concept in electric vehicles to date.  Pure electrics are still plagued by short range (which is great for in-city commuting, but not as a primary vehicle).  The Volt is driven entirely by the electric motors, but it also has a small gas-powered engine that can kick in when the batteries are drained to run an alternator for electricity.  If it weren’t a GM it would be high on my list, although actually if it gets really great reviews it would still be worth consideration.