You're doing yourself a disservice if you're not following him or checking out this site.
First, I am opening up DADAPIXEL, a personal blog where I'll share my thoughts on design, advertising, marketing, tech, and anything else I can think of that doesn't belong on AP and that needs more visual elements than Google+ affords me.
Second, and even more exciting, I'm finally showing Geode to the world. This is the project I've been working on for probably a year now.
While I don't have as much news to share about Geode as I'd like, I want to share the design with everyone while I seek a foundry to help me get it to other designers.
It's early for both of these projects, and I'm really excited to see where they go.
PS Thanks to for listening to my ramblings about Dadapixel for the past couple of weeks.
Or: I'd Like to Sell You the Moon
Spoilers if you're woefully behind on Game of Thrones, but there's a moment in season 2 of the show, Lord Varys is speaking to Tyrion Lannister on the nature of power. He asks the half-man who a sellsword would obey, a king, a priest, or a rich man, if each bid him kill the other two. The riddle has no answer, however. The point isn't the answer, the point is the problem. There is no way to resolve the question of who truly has the power when all parties involved disagree on who has the power.
"Power resides where men believe it resides," Lord Varys concludes.
Property ownership stems from a similar concept. Aside from our own bodies, there's nearly nothing we truly "own" outside of a more-or-less universally acknowledged social contract. So far, science hasn't created a way for one person to take control over another person's body, but everything else—your clothes, your car, your home, your various toys—can be removed from your possession if someone can find a way to engineer, through the shared social contract, that it belongs to them instead of you. You can be taxed, fined, penalized, charged, or sued for your property. The contract is elaborate and full of loopholes.
Yet, it's better than the alternative. If not for this social construct, anyone who walks inside your home and takes your TV becomes its owner, purely by virtue of having it. We don't like it when some rule or law says we owe someone something of ours, but we much prefer it to an anarchic law of pure possession.
There's just one little niggle with this contract of ours: it was never designed to account for information. Historically speaking, the idea of even owning information is relatively new. The earliest copyright laws—which granted the creator of a work exclusive rights to duplication and distribution of said work—first appeared in the early 18th century. It would still be hundreds of years, however, before the concept of "data" as we understand it even began to develop.
The internet revolution happened incredibly quickly, as historical events go. In a single generation, the average person has gone from having no computer of any kind in their home to having a device capable of observing and recording video, audio, location, and motion in their pockets. Devices that can communicate with nearly any of the other devices that are also recording information. Oh, and collectively, we have the ability to store that data in ways never thought possible.
Between copyright and privacy laws, we've gotten ourselves tricked into believing that there's such a thing as data ownership. If the government starts pulling your GPS records without a warrant, they get in trouble because that's a form of privacy invasion. If you post a photo online and someone takes it, crops out your watermark, and posts it on their website, they've violated copyright.
If someone follows you around and writes down every place you visit, but does nothing with this information, they have broken no laws. There is no legal concept that states you are sole proprietor and owner of the information regarding your life and that the mere collection of this information is a violation.
While you might be able to argue that a human being in this example would be guilty of some kind of stalking law, that technicality is irrelevant. You carry dozens if not hundreds of "people" around in your pocket. Google, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter, and all of the many, many apps you have installed on your phone can gather far more information than a stalker following you around could, and they can do so almost invisibly.
There's almost no end to the types of data that can be collected about you. Forget the really private things like financial statements or emails and messages. The places you go, the number of steps you take, which apps you use, when you talk to people, what time you use your device. Nearly every action you take can be a data point to analyze and understand how people behave.
Analyzing that data is incredibly lucrative, too. Not for you, of course. Unless you're working for one of these companies, you probably don't have the means to analyze your data in any meaningful way. Partially because it's cumbersome for you to collect your own data, and partially because your data is useless without data from hundreds, thousands, or even millions of other people. However, Google can use "your" data to do all kinds of amazing things.
If I enter the phrase "ren and stimpy k" into Google, the search engine will suggest that the word I'm about to type may be "kowalski", "kilted yaksman", or "kitty litter". All of these seemingly random words are meaningful, specific, and relevant. How? How in the ridiculous hell could Google know that the letter "k" is meant to indicate "kowalski", much less "kilted yaksman"?
Data. Someone else's, actually. These results aren't my personal history. They belong to someone else. At some point in the past, some person who isn't me put those terms into the search engine. By recording this data and analyzing it, Google is able to improve my search experience.
This is exciting, but it's also terrifying. It will be uncomfortable to hear, but it's necessary in the modern world to accept a simple truth: you are incapable of preventing all possible data tracking. Cameras, satellites, and software virtually everywhere ensure that, no matter how much technology you eschew, someone can get some data off of you. Your local store tracks your purchases. Your cell carrier tracks your calls. Your area's law enforcement tracks the roads and intersections you drive down every day. Unless you plan to move to the mountains and hide from humanity, some piece of data that describes you will be tracked.
It's tempting, knowing this, to at least regain some kind of control. Someone's going to track it, but at least it's mine, right? This GPS data describes where I have been, so it must be mine.
Do you know who owns the Moon? Well, that depends on who you ask (1). A number of people and organizations have claimed to own the Moon in part or in full for hundreds of years. Yes, hundreds. Even before a single human being had ever set foot on it, there were those who claimed to own it. Thus far, none of these claims are recognized by any government or authority. While there is an international Outer Space Treaty, ratified by all the major space-faring nations, that says no country can claim territorial sovereignty of celestial bodies, the much less popular Moon Treaty (yes these are real things) states that no private individual or organization can own extraterrestrial real estate. No major space-faring nation has ratified the agreement. Officially, there is no authority or government that either recognizes or forbids ownership of the moon.
At the moment, ownership of data is only slightly less enigmatic. As stated earlier, your rights can be infringed if your privacy is invaded or if your intellectual property is illegally duplicated. However, legally, you have no more of a claim to "ownership" over your data than Google does. Legally speaking, you'll have exactly the same difficulty proving you own the rights to your heart rate data as you will in proving that you own land on the moon.
This might not always be the case. Individual nations and international organizations are attempting to establishing rules governing who can collect what data and what they're allowed to do with it(2). However, the issue is more complex than simply establishing that you own any data that describes your life. In fact, if it were suddenly the case that all governments and corporations are only allowed to collect data about you if you specifically authorize it, life will get a lot more complicated. We already experience complications that arise from giving content creators exclusive rights to distribution of their media (does having the TV on in the background of a home video count as violating copyright? This is a real question some lawyers have had to answer). Imagine extending that same complication to anything that anyone is able to measure regarding your life. Suddenly, you'd have to sign a legal release every time you swipe your credit card or walk through a store equipped with security cameras.
The question of who owns your data is not an easy one to solve. It becomes particularly problematic because you create data (whether or not it gets recorded) every time you leave your house. The number of steps you take, whether you look ahead or at the ground, what types of clothes you wear, and any number of decisions you make in view of other people are all potential data points (psychological researchers sometimes make use of this information by observing the behavior of people's behavior in public, which would be classified as data collection by any definition).
However, there's one thing that is absolutely clear: you are not the "owner" of your data purely by virtue of being associated with it. The effects of a data tracking culture on privacy is a legal issue that will evolve over the next few decades, to be sure. There are legitimate claims to be made that corporations and governments abuse your data. There may even be legitimate reasons to be upset because a company is profiting from "your" data. That still won't change this one fundamental truth.
You don't "own" data just because it's about you.
Comcast announced a deal that would see the company acquiring 100% of Time Warner Cable. If you've ever been on the internet in the United States, you probably know that both of these companies are pretty horrible. While Comcast manages to provide marginally better service than most (I, for example, work from home with good speeds, but see frequent, brief interrupts in service), both it and TWC are widely known for being godawful.
Now, this sort of deal has to go through regulatory approval and, despite what we would think about the obviously crappy nature of giving Comcast this much power, it might actually have a chance of going through (lest we forget the insane Comcast/NBC Universal deal). However, one key quote of the CEO's statements on an earning call stand out. The context for this quote is in defense of the merger:
"Comcast and Time Warner Cable do not compete in a single zip code in America"
Yes. That is the problem, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts. The reason we all fear Comcast gaining too much power is because in most places in the country, there are no alternatives. The way that landline internet in the United States is structured makes it difficult for more than one company to service a neighborhood.
Conventional wisdom has assumed that this has to be the case. However, China—of all places—has made it policy that any new homes built after April 1, 2013 are required to have open access last-mile fiber(1). This means that if an ISP wants to service a neighborhood, it doesn't have to run its own lines to each and every home. The individual houses come with their own, open-access lines that any provider can reach.
This type of set up does not occur in the United States because ISPs largely own the last mile. If Comcast serves one house and AT&T wants to service that same home, AT&T needs to run its own lines. In some cases, this does occur because the various providers have run phone and television lines over the years. However, not only has the previous existing infrastructure that's been re-purposed for internet access held back the adoption of faster last-mile solutions like fiber optic connections, it also means that internet provider competition is limited by decades of construction and policy.
Now, none of this suddenly becomes a new problem just because Comcast merges with Time Warner Cable. Nor does it go away if the merger fails (which it still might, though it's not hopeful). However, it would give Comcast control of more than 30 million unique subscribers. The company will grow without providing any new service or better pricing to end users, nor will it need to in order to maintain most of them.
This is particularly problematic because Comcast is not just an ISP. It also provides streaming video services, cable channels, a broadcast network and even a movie studio. The leverage that a single company exerts over communication in the United States is substantial, which raises not just competitive concerns for the internet sector, but antitrust concerns across multiple industries.
The argument that's being made by Comcast here (and will inevitably be echoed ad nauseum while the regulatory debate proceeds) is that because TWC and Comcast don't compete in any of the same markets, it should be of no consequence if they merge.
However, exactly the opposite is true: the fact that they don't compete is precisely the reason that the merger would be a bad idea. Removing Time Warner from the playing field means there's one less company that could try to compete. Comcast and TWC don't serve any of the same markets, which means that each other's audience is 100% untapped if they chose to make an aggressive move.
What about other ISPs, though? Just because Comcast and TWC don't compete with each other doesn't mean that others can't compete with the new conglomerate. Well, that's where things get nuttier. According to an analyst at Morningstar(2), Comcast and TWC reach a combined 84 million homes, which accounts for 70% of American households (note: this is potential customers, not actual subscriber numbers). This is a number that virtually no other ISP can compete with. AT&T, the next runner-up, reaches 50 million homes, or about 41.5% of American households. The de facto monopoly created by the last mile problem already prevents most ISPs from entering a new market. This merger would be the only real exception to that rule and all it does is add more potential customers to the pool for the company that is already the largest ISP in the country and will only further it's lead with the deal.
One might make the argument that as it stands now, Comcast and TWC won't ever try to move into each other's territory anyway, but as long as they're separate companies, the possibility still exists. If Comcast and TWC merge, not only does the possibility for competition between the two largest cable providers disappear overnight, but they'll form the largest ISP de facto monopoly in the United States, as well as owning over 70% of the potential market, far exceeding any other competitor by a wide margin. This would make it very difficult (if not impossible) for any newcomers to compete if they so chose.
While very little has actually happened on this front, Google has provided a model of what disruption might look like. The company has built out hugely competitive services in under-served markets. The company's original plan was to allow open access to its last mile line, which would make it possible for other companies to come in and offer service to individual homes, though it's unclear of Google is continuing with that same plan.
Regardless of what Google does (which, as exciting as it is, is still relatively minor at the moment), it's important to not throw away any competitive advantage simply because things don't look good now. In the wireless space, T-Mobile has shown the kind of pressure that a smaller company can place on larger providers given the opportunity. If Comcast merges with TWC, it wouldn't suddenly become impossible for other ISPs to compete, but it would make it a hell of a lot harder. Which is saying something.
Today, my Moto X broke. Screen shattered and the display got trashed. It was super sad. Immediately I started worrying because I didn't want to spend hundreds of dollars to replace my phone, plus I really liked my customized hardware. I went to AT&T to see what my options were.
At the AT&T store, I spent roughly 60% of my time getting pitched for various AT&T services. Would I like U-Verse? "No, thank you." How about AT&T Next? You qualify for this incredible rip-off! "Um, no, just want to know about an insurance replacement. Since, you know, my phone is shattered. You can see it right there." You sure you don't want to hear about how much better U-Verse is than Comcast? "You saw that my phone is shattered right?"
Finally I got the information I needed: it would be a $200 deductible to replace my Moto X. $200. For reference, the Moto X is currently on sale for $329. The insurance I was paying for barely saved me much and didn't seem to account for cheaper smartphones like mine. Oh, and I could buy a Moto G in the interim if I was that desperate.
Wait, didn't T-Mobile say they would pay my ETF? Maybe I could get a better phone for my $200 out of pocket right now.
I went down to a T-Mobile store, hesitant but hopeful. I knew that the ETF replacement plan would require me to trade in an old phone and buy a new one. Surely they wouldn't take my cracked, broken Moto X. Even if they did, I'd probably have to pay a down payment up front. Oh, and they don't sell a Moto X in the first place.
As it turns out, T-Mobile did take my busted Moto X as payment. Because I turned in a piece of hardware that was entirely useless to me, T-Mobile agreed to pay my $350 ETF. I probably wouldn't have been able to get that much if I sold my Moto X before I broke it.
Then there's the matter of buying a phone. I was required to finance a phone through T-Mobile if I wanted to qualify for that ETF reimbursement. The Nexus 5 looked neat. And hey, no down payment! I really want a replacement Moto X, but in its absence, this will do. And even with the monthly device payments, I'll still come out paying less for T-Mobile service. I got my new phone home, but I was't quite satisfied. I wanted that Moto X.
Then I realized I'm an idiot.
I called up T-Mobile. "Hey, so I know I'm required to finance a phone through you guys to qualify for the ETF reimbursement, but...if I sold that phone, paid it off, and then bought a different phone off contract, I would still qualify, right?"
So I'll use a Nexus 5 for a few days until my Moto X arrives. Once it comes in, I'll sell my Nexus 5, pay off my device payment plan on T-Mobile, and use my customized Moto X that I bought on sale (and which I can finance directly through Motorola if I so choose). I'll be free to leave T-Mobile whenever I want and I'll have everything back to the way it was before I broke my phone.
To sum up: I fucked up, I shattered my hardware and T-Mobile not only took it, but paid me $350 in exchange for cheaper service. Oh, and I'm consistently pulling down 10-15 Mbps in my area.
Granted, Atlanta is a test bed for all the carriers and your mileage may vary. But thanks to T-Mobile, I just got kick ass service and reduced my expenses without getting punished for fucking up my phone.
10/10 would shatter again.
Not to mention, that new look. Whenever Hera shows up on Android, it looks like it's going to bring a new style to Android. We previously saw a glimpse into this new UI when of Geek.com showed us what a future version of Gmail will look like here: http://www.geek.com/android/google-is-testing-an-army-of-new-features-for-gmail-1589767/
Android updates have been boring since Ice Cream Sandwich. Jelly Bean brought us Google Now and that was cool, but just about everything else was under the hood or minor tweaks. Thankfully, it looks like Google's not done bringing the hits.
Spoilers, okay? Tons of 'em. Like a metric fuck ton of spoilers for not only Guardians of the Galaxy, but the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe are coming your way so, if you want to avoid those, just watch the trailer a hundred times and ignore my words. If you're as jazzed as I am about the MCU, though, go ahead.
This is the first trailer we've seen for Guardians of the Galaxy. If you know what to pay attention to, it confirms a lot not just about the plot for this movie, but the direction that the rest of the MCU is going to take over the next few years. First, a little review:
At the end of the Avengers, we see The Other (the faceless being who liaises with Loki on behalf of the more sinister evil) appealing to his master. Speaking in reference to their failed battle against the alleged "meager might of earth", he says "To challenge them is to court death." At this, his master turns and smiles, and comic book nerds everywhere learn his identity:
Thanos of Titan.
At that point, nothing was confirmed, but we could speculate. By far, one of Thanos' most well-known stories is the Infinity Gauntlet. In this story, Thanos collects six Infinity Gems: the Time, Space, Soul, Reality, Power, and Mind gems. These six gems combine to give Thanos complete mastery over the entire universe. The titan then uses this power to woo his beloved: Mistress Death. To win the affection of the physical (and apparently female) embodiment of death, Thanos snaps his fingers and blinks half of the universe's life out of existence. Needless to say, this threat calls on a force much greater than just the Avengers to combat. Why does this story matter when all we got in the Avengers was a cheeky grin? Because Marvel has been building towards this plot line since the first Captain America.
Oh, and Guardians of the Galaxy is about to play a big role in telling that story.
The Tesseract featured heavily in both Captain America and the Avengers as an item of untold power, but nothing particularly special beyond that. After all, as Thor showed us, there are plenty of objects with immense power in the Marvel universe.
However, Thor: The Dark World features yet another object with unspeakable destructive ability. The Aether. The Dark Elf Christopher Eccleston attempts to use the Aether to plunge the nine realms into darkness. His plan is obviously thwarted as evidenced by the fact that your lights still work and our heroes collect the Aether for safekeeping.
In the post-credits scene for Thor: The Dark World, we get a metric ton of bombshells dropped on us at once. Sif and Volstagg bring the Aether to space Liberace (otherwise known as The Collector). When asked why they brought it to him, Volstagg replies that "The Tesseract is already in Asgard. It is not wise to keep two Infinity Stones so close together." The Collector agrees and accepts the responsibility of safekeeping. As the heroes leave, he says, "One down. Five to go."
In this one scene, we confirm a few very important details:
1.) The Tesseract is an Infinity Stone (Kevin Feige has separately confirmed that, specifically, it is the Space Stone).
2.) The Aether is the second Infinity Stone (separately confirmed to be the Power Stone).
3.) The Collector will play some role in bringing the six together.
Whether The Collector is actually a villain that will try to use the six stones is unclear (short version: this would be a rather large departure from his character in the comics). However, he does have certain gifts of foresight and whatever his motives are, it's easy to assume that he knows what's coming for the Infinity Stones.
He also appears in Guardians of the Galaxy. You can see him in the trailer below at 1:59.
If we knew nothing else about the overall plot of the MCU/Guardians of the Galaxy, this would be enough reason to be excited. Fortunately, we are not so limited.
What follows are spoilers for Guardians of the Galaxy. Everything up until this point can be be gleaned either from previous movies or the inevitable follow up searches. From here on out, however, you're in serious spoiler territory.
In the beginning of the trailer, we see Peter Jason Quill (aka Starlord) getting all Raiders of the Lost Ark with a grey orb. According to the official movie description, this orb has the potential to destroy the galaxy. Two villains, Ronan the Accuser and Nebula are pursuing the Guardians to steal the orb.
That orb is the third Infinity Stone.
It's unclear exactly which Infinity Stone it is (only Time, Soul, Reality, and Mind remain), however it has been independently confirmed in interviews that a third Infinity Stone will make an appearance.
Furthermore, Nebula, one of the two villains in pursuit of the orb, is (allegedly) the granddaughter of Thanos. You remember him from earlier, right? Big guy, cheeky grin, wants to bone Death? Yes, it's his (possible) granddaughter that's chasing down one (or more! Does she know The Collector has the Aether?) of the Infinity Stones.
The plot to the Guardians of the Galaxy movie probably won't involve Thanos taking over the entire universe. It might not even really touch on the broader Infinity plot at all. And lest you get over excited, the next Avengers movie already has a big-name villain (in case the title Avengers: Age of Ultron didn't give it away), and we've only seen three Infinity Stones anyway, so the likelihood of these connections being a central plot point to the Guardians movie is hovering somewhere between zero and none percent.
However, this is also the most direct connection we've seen yet to the one plot that's been tying all of the MCU movies together so far. Right now, the assumption is that Thanos may appear in Avengers 3, but even that's not a given. How long this plot gets drawn out is unclear. What is clear is that Marvel is taking its dear sweet time in building a truly epic plot for one of the most ambitious comic book stories ever put on film. And the Guardians of the Galaxy is going to be a huge part of that. Possibly more than any of the previous Marvel movies.
If you're wondering why this got made instead of the dozen other standalone films we all want to see, that's why.
Link is SFW (minus, you know, the words "bukkake" plastered everywhere). Seriously, though. As a fan of games like Cards Against Humanity, I want to see this thing get made. Who wants to come to my house and play a card game inspired by Japanese group sex acts?
- LifehackerWriter, 2013 - present
- Android PoliceEditor, 2012 - 2013
- What CultureContributor, 2012 - 2013
- Launch TickerEditor, 2012 - 2013
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