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Leonard Lin
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Whoa, this is new. I have spam in my GDocs somehow?!? Should I be concerned?
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Yahoo! has posted their statement on PRISM.  Like everything else officially published, it uses to very specific verbiage to not say what it means. Feel free to attach the appropriate dystopian literary reference yourself.
Today, Yahoo's General Counsel posted a carefully worded denial regarding the company's alleged participation in the NSA PRISM program. To the casual observer, it might seem like a categorical denial. I do not believe that Ya...
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Doesn't the second part of this statement negate (or at least, renders meaningless) the first part? This may be the clearest they can say, but that... also does not inspire confidence.
 
From +David Drummond, Chief Legal Officer: We cannot say this more clearly—the government does not have access to Google servers—not directly, or via a back door, or a so-called drop box. Nor have we received blanket orders of the kind being discussed in the media. It is quite wrong to insinuate otherwise. We provide user data to governments only in accordance with the law. Our legal team reviews each and every request, and frequently pushes back when requests are overly broad or don’t follow the correct process. And we have taken the lead in being as transparent as possible about government requests for user information.
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The only statement I find out of place is: "We provide user data to governments only in accordance with the law." Everything else sounds like a flat out denial of Snowden's claims. The problem is, the facts suggest that Snowden's claims are real.
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This post and conversation is much more satisfying and humanizing than Page's "personal" post.  It's possible that tech companies have been more complicit than they've made admitted to, however, from a technical perspective, the much simpler/more obvious route to direct access is the use of root certs and "direct access" to all traffic via the backbone - the name of the program and the slides themselves (discussing routing, home-field advantage, etc) practically say as much. The timelines in the slides can just as easily be when classifiers or specific analysis tools have been deployed or deployments along different ISPs. This also makes much more sense given the NSA's historical modus operandi (Echelon, Stellar Wind) and the rollout of the Utah Data Center.

One thing that's somewhat disappointing (not really surprising) reading some of the early forum discussions, is how blase some people, even those that should know better, are.  Do you really need Michael Fucking Arrington to spell it out for you? http://uncrunched.com/2013/06/06/triangulating-on-truth-the-totalitarian-state/

The world goes on, but anyone who accepts this without sadness, regret, and resistance is a fool.
 
I have a tremendous number of thoughts about the various revelations about the NSA's domestic espionage programs revealed this week. But first and foremost, I wanted to share this message from +Larry Page and our Chief Legal Officer +David Drummond. Google had no involvement in the PRISM program and the first we heard of it was when Greenwald's article hit the press.

I'm not sure what the details of this PRISM program are, but I can tell you that the only way in which Google reveals information about users are when we receive lawful, specific orders about individuals -- things like search warrants. And we continue to stand firm against any attempts to do so broadly or without genuine, individualized suspicion, and publicize the results as much as possible in our Transparency Report. Having seen much of the internals of how we do this, I can tell you that it is a point of pride, both for the company and for many of us, personally, that we stand up to governments that demand people's information. 

I can also tell you that the suggestion that PRISM involved anything happening directly inside our datacenters surprised me a great deal; owing to the nature of my work at Google over the past decade, it would have been challenging -- not impossible, but definitely a major surprise -- if something like this could have been done without my ever hearing of it. And I can categorically state that nothing resembling the mass surveillance of individuals by governments within our systems has ever crossed my plate.

If it had, even if I couldn't talk about it, in all likelihood I would no longer be working at Google: the fact that we do stand up for individual users' privacy and protection, for their right to have a personal life which is not ever shared with other people without their consent, even when governments come knocking at our door with guns, is one of the two most important reasons that I am at this company: the other being a chance to build systems which fundamentally change and improve the lives of billions of people by turning the abstract power of computing into something which amplifies and expands their individual, mental life.

Whatever the NSA was doing involving the mass harvesting of information, it did not involve being on the inside of Google. And I, personally, am by now disgusted with their conduct: the national security apparatus has convinced itself and the rest of the government that the only way it can do its job is to know everything about everyone. That's not how you protect a country. We didn't fight the Cold War just so we could rebuild the Stasi ourselves.
Dear Google users— You may be aware of press reports alleging that Internet companies have joined a secret U.S. government program called PRISM to give the National Security Agency direct access to our servers. As Google’s CE...
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UPDATE: apparently PRISM is most definitely describing information collected "directly" from these companies.  There are separate "Upstream" projects that tap into trunk/backbone lines.  More information via http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/08/nsa-prism-server-collection-facebook-google
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Well that's a pretty slick new layout.

* Posting box disappears when the page is reflowed but seems to save what you were typing)
* Would be nice if privately shared/publicly shared items were more clearly delineated...
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ah, just tried "?" and that worked.
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I read through most of Morozov's piece until it became increasingly obvious that 1) it was heavy on aspersions and sophistry but very light on substance and 2) it wasn't going to end anytime soon (I skimmed the rest).  While there's value in critiquing/discussing the implications of how linguistic and conceptual frameworks are applied in tech, the never-ending character assassination (composed from many wild, twisted, and unsubstantiated claims, and a surprising and seemingly endless amount of vitriol) was just too much and completely overshadowed everything else.

Rather than making any attempt to engender discourse or do, well, anything productive, instead it's just a very verbose, academic version of poo-flinging.

This writeup does a much better job discussing Morozov and the market niche he seems to have carved out. (Yes, I'm purposefully framing his pursuits within an economic framework, because at an intellectual level, I'm rather disgusted and that's the best way I can express my disdain. It's also probably one of the more rational explanations for why someone like Morozov spends such considerable effort doing what he does. The less charitable view might be that he's just a total douchebag.)
 
Evgeny Morozov clearly revels in his role as troll to the 'neterati. It is a similar business model to that used by Andrew Keen and others: wind people up with exaggerated ad hominem attacks, occupy a naysaying niche so that you are guaranteed to get press as the other side of every discussion, and thereby sell more books. But what I find more annoying is that he seems to think he is the only person in the tech field with a background in international affairs, or critical thinking skills. This means he gets away with a lot, because he gives the impression of being knowledgeable, even if he never actually poses alternative ideas to those he critiques so combatively. When I saw him speak at SXSW a couple of years ago, I remember being surprised to see people nodding sagely at his stories of the dark side of sharing technologies, whilst thinking "and what do we do about it?" - but his is a sneer, not a constructive 'critical voice' in these debates. 

Like the proverbial stopped clock, he will of course be right from time to time, and goodness knows some of those he pokes fun at give him some great material to work with; but his hatchet job on Tim O'Reilly really stands out for its intellectual dishonesty and sheer malevolence:

"No one has done more to turn important debates about technology—debates that used to be about rights, ethics, and politics—into kumbaya celebrations of the entrepreneurial spirit while making it seem as if the language of economics was, in fact, the only reasonable way to talk about the subject."

On the surface, this is no different to the views of others who understand the language of C20th politics, but see all non-state actors and social or political theory as nothing more than a product of private sector economics. But, of course, he does not share what his framework of rights, ethics and politics actually is, or what it has to offer that Tim and other 'makers' do not.

Tim, we learn, has exploited the open source movement in pursuit of his heartless Randian ideas and love of money:

"So what did matter about open source? Not “freedom”—at least not in Stallman’s sense of the word. O’Reilly cared for only one type of freedom: the freedom of developers to distribute software on whatever terms they fancied. This was the freedom of the producer, the Randian entrepreneur, who must be left to innovate, undisturbed by laws and ethics."

But worse than this, he is abusing the English language to further this hidden agenda:

"O’Reilly deploys Korzybski in much the same way that the advertising industry deploys the latest findings in neuroscience: the goal is not to increase awareness, but to manipulate. If general semanticists aimed to reveal the underlying emptiness of many concepts that pollute the public debate, O’Reilly is applying some of Korzybski’s language insights to practice some pollution of his own."

"In a move worthy of Frank Luntz, O’Reilly meme-engineers a nice euphemism—“meme-engineering”—to describe what has previously been known as “propaganda.”

"Seen through the prism of meme-engineering, O’Reilly’s activities look far more sinister."

Tim O'Reilly: a scheming propagandist dedicated to sidelining debate about political rights and freedoms in pursuit of his Randian goals. Really?!?

"Few words in the English language pack as much ambiguity and sexiness as “open" …  “Open” allowed O’Reilly to build the largest possible tent for the movement. The language of economics was less alienating than Stallman’s language of ethics; “openness” was the kind of multipurpose term that allowed one to look political while advancing an agenda that had very little to do with politics."

I find this obsession with the dark side of openness rather curious given Morozov's background. He cut his teeth as New Media Director for Transitions Online, which exists to promote free and open media in the former eastern bloc, and is one of the organisations that emerged from the US government's anti-Soviet propaganda operation centred around Radio Free Europe. TOL was  partly funded by George Soros' Open Society Institute, which is committed to Karl Popper's (and Soros') ideas about the need for Open Societies and the development of civil society capacity to protect individual freedom. Morozov was also later a board member of the Open Society Foundation's information programme that funds such projects elsewhere. So although Morozov has supported open societies and understands the importance of non-state / civil society freedoms, he opposes anybody who is trying to pursue the very same goals through entrepreneurial activity (those who he claims use the language of economics, not ethics). Ideas that Morozov mocks, such as open data, Tim's 'architecture of participation' and also the application of these ideas to 'open government' are absolutely the kinds of thing I believe Popper and Soros had in mind when arguing so passionately for the importance of civil society. Perhaps, like others who have come from the NGO industry, Morozov feels more comfortable with the idea that private companies are and should be amoral, whilst grant-funded elites and state actors own morality and ethics. I have to say, I don't see that working out very well in Britain, Belarus, Bulgaria or Brussels. On the contrary, I welcome any attempt to create a confluence of interests between economic progress and the creation of social value, and I think this is precisely where I think Tim O'Reilly is coming from.

Attending some of the early Emerging Technology events, or even the later Web 2.0 events that O'Reilly helped create, I got the impression he was trying to make the creation of shared or social value the focus of competitive advantage for companies and investors trying to exploit new internet technologies, which is smart and useful. Does Tim 'create more value than he consumes?' Absolutely. Does he believe in working on things that matter (more than money)? Yes, I think he probably does. Has he made mistakes along the way? Of course.

What about Morozov? There is nothing wrong with simply being a critic, rather than synthesising and sharing new ideas as Tim tries to do, but I suspect he has jumped the shark by engaging in such an unreasonable attack on somebody who is patently not a bad or dangerous figure. I suspect he knows this, which is why he gets his defence in first at the foot of the article in rather snidely explaining why O'Reilly was not even interviewed for the piece:

"I don’t believe in interviewing spin doctors: the interviewer learns nothing new while the interviewee gets an extraordinary opportunity to spin the story even before it’s published."
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For those following along, Tim writes a long rebuttal http://io9.com/i-didnt-really-take-it-personally-in-fact-i-was-rath-468664655 to a post that illustrates why Morozov's writing is so pernicious - it has verisimilitude and is able to sway/short-circuit the thinking those that should know better (whether by appeal towards pithiness, intellectualism, contrarianism, or a simple lack of fact-checking) that is bad-faith and does a disservice to the very ideals that those who are in favor of social justice should be supporting (or at least, researching and thinking more deeply about).

Simply put, Morozov seems happy to make the world a worse place to satisfy his own desires. The irony isn't lost on me that he does so using the very modus operandi that he rails against.
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Leonard Lin

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But seriously, fuck those guys.
 
The packet capture shown in these new NSA slides shows internal database replication traffic for the anti-hacking system I worked on for over two years. Specifically, it shows a database recording a user login as part of this system:

http://googleblog.blogspot.ch/2013/02/an-update-on-our-war-against-account.html

Recently +Brandon Downey, a colleague of mine on the Google security team, said (after the usual disclaimers about being personal opinions and not speaking for the firm which I repeat here) - "fuck these guys":

https://plus.google.com/108799184931623330498/posts/SfYy8xbDWGG

I now join him in issuing a giant Fuck You to the people who made these slides. I am not American, I am a Brit, but it's no different - GCHQ turns out to be even worse than the NSA.

We designed this system to keep criminals out. There's no ambiguity here. The warrant system with skeptical judges, paths for appeal, and rules of evidence was built from centuries of hard won experience. When it works, it represents as good a balance as we've got between the need to restrain the state and the need to keep crime in check. Bypassing that system is illegal for a good reason.

Unfortunately we live in a world where all too often, laws are for the little people. Nobody at GCHQ or the NSA will ever stand before a judge and answer for this industrial-scale subversion of the judicial process. In the absence of working law enforcement,  we therefore do what internet engineers have always done - build more secure software. The traffic shown in the slides below is now all encrypted and the work the NSA/GCHQ staff did on understanding it, ruined.

Thank you Edward Snowden. For me personally, this is the most interesting revelation all summer.
New documents reveal exactly how the Post was able to determine that the NSA was peeking inside the Google and Yahoo's cloud network.
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+Yonatan Zunger while I appreciated what you wrote earlier, this new slide the Guardian published seems to directly contradict what you described. A correction/clarification would be appreciated (but perhaps, not forthcoming). /via http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/08/nsa-prism-server-collection-facebook-google
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It looks a lot like what Snowden's been talking about. 1) Hacking into the "backbone," and 2) Direct access to Big Internet servers.
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I'll just leave this as a running post on various G+ thoughts:

* Profile nav: so you can get to your profile by mousing to the left shelf or by clicking your profile icon in the top right and then view profile or by clicking on a profile icon in a stream - I think the oddity there is the 2-part interaction in the top right. Seems like if you click by the arrow or if you mouse over, do the dropdown, but if you click squarely (or on the left side) of the profile pic, shouldn't it take you straight to your profile?

* Your profile doesn't show comments you've made (there's also no way to filter types in your stream - or any stream for that matter). Right now, to track your interactions, you need to dig through your notifications.

* There's no way to pin things (say like this post) but that's more a "I wish I had a pony" thing that probably isn't so generally useful, but It did occur to me since the new views, including the Profile is much more card-centric. (other types of cards might be to list posts you've recently interacted w/, or your posts that have been recently interacted w/)

* Editing, not that it needs to support full markdown (I notice bolding works), but stars to bulletpoints seems like that'd be nice.

* Keyboard: "l" to load new posts doesn't seem to work (having an equivalent to Twitter's "." that loads new and brings you to the top might be nice.  There's also no 'c' (create new post) shortcut?

* Keyboard nav: j/k are nice, but suffers from the same issue that Twitter's keyboard nav does - namely that it doesn't work well when mixed w/ non-keyboard interaction. As far as I can tell there's no way to use the mouse or otherwise directly pick a selection, so once you've scrolled, keyboard nav is useless.  In almost all cases, it seems like once selection is off viewport, j/k should resume from the last/first item in the viewport.

* No matter how big your screen or how long your post, the editing textarea is this teeny tiny thing in the middle.


See also:

Reflow, Scrolling comments:
https://plus.google.com/u/0/109417313079764396285/posts/e9XhKwah2Co

G+ as an island:
https://plus.google.com/107429578742599355954/posts/dZMd9zme6nx

Keyboard commands:
https://plus.google.com/u/0/107429578742599355954/posts/FJo6V5NB5D6

---
+ 2 WEEKS IN

Per usual, after checking on the redesign I haven't really returned.

* There was a brief time where the notifications were useful, but there was a +1 and I clicked and it had indeed returned to the anti-notification pattern: https://plus.google.com/u/0/107429578742599355954/posts/9w3CAUgLkSU - this is pretty much never the case for Twitter and FB

* There's more interesting content being surfaced when I come back, but there's no reason for me to (return) - I post long-form writing to my blog (and surprisingly, more and more to HackPad), photos to Flickr (which get IFTTT'd to FB), Tweets - without cross-posting there's never any reason to engage in conversations w/ a presumably different audience. I dunno. G+ is certainly a more content-oriented experience than FB, but what's the appeal? For people that are too old to use Tumblr?

* I (like the rest of the Internet) watch a lot of YouTube vids. Interestingly, G+ doesn't interact/surface/do anything really w/ this. Feels like there's a big opportunity being missed re attention/interest graphs, but then again, GReader is being shuttered, so maybe that's just a global blind-spot.

* G+ is sometimes pitched as a social layer for Google services (that's aiming pretty low ceding the entire Internet to FB) but it doesn't even feel like it does that much.

Sure I'll return to post about G+ on the next big update.
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An interesting little piece, but the answer is deeper I think. The people engaged in G+ are those that are heavily invested (Googlers for example) with content flowing through Google services (certain photographers, Android users, etc).

But G+ is pretty hermetically sealed and downright antagonistic for people that are already interacting elsewhere (most people?).  There are some (wrong) arguments for so grossly limiting cross-social interaction, but the fact that I can't easily share/bring in items already going to my Flickr, Twitter, blog, etc just completely short-circuits the engagement ramp.

It's bizarre, almost Soviet, in how G+ pretends that large parts of the Internet doesn't exist.  "Of course you will only engage online via GOOG products."

I think until Google figures this out, FB doesn't even really have to worry about G+ - they're not even competing. (and G+ will pretty much remain "the place where I write about G+")

#googleplus   #google  
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Discussion w/ a few more interesting points here: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5720259

(As usual, by and large I think most of the HN posts miss the crux of it - see that whole thread on Analytics - but there are some common themes there that are pretty valid.)

Also a sidenote, one of the UX bits that bothered me was the lack of visual indicators for privacy - I submitted some UX feedback already about that (how "Shared privately" and "Shared publicly" are the same) - this could easily be fixed by some subtle header coloring or some other shared convention.

This struck me again since I had to click my Profile page to find/add a comment to my own post, I was also taken aback/bothered a bit by how my Location listed "Lived in 'town I don't consider public/general knowledge about me'" on my profile - the recent profile redesign seemed to expose info that I had probably entered at some point but didn't consider public!?  Problems:

* It took a bunch of clicks to find where to edit this (you can inline edit your name and photo but not that other information)
* Once I looked at that, it was showing a bunch of non-dated cities listed - it's just an unordered list, and the only way to change it presumably is by clicking current in order?
* Once I looked at that list, it was indeed marked private/'only you" - so having had some visual marker of that (padlock, yellow mark or something) would have been useful -- even when you are on "View profile as: Yourself" the visual diff/context of what you are sharing publicly/privately is super important.
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awesome.
 
With deference to the genius of David Bowie, here's Space Oddity, recorded on Station. A last glimpse of the World. Space Oddity
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Trying to wrap my head around the Chromebook Pixel that has a high-end price ($1300-1450 between a MBA and rMBP) with mid-end processing (DC i5 w/ HD4000 gfx) and eh battery life (5hrs) that doesn't support any of the things that you would want more power from: gaming, local development, content creation.

I bought an ARM Chromebook to test out, but ChromeOS proved to not be useful for me (I need at least local vim, git, Python, media processing libs) even running in dev mode (thanks for that "dev mode" click-through every time I boot up, btw). Chrubuntu is barely usable (those trackpad drivers!) and Chrome is pretty unpleasant (vs an iPad even) due to the washed out screen and general sluggishness.

The Pixel addresses the web browsing, but obviously not any of the other issues and raises that new issue of being able to get much more functional and equally (better, actually) designed hardware at the same price-point.

I'm sure that the Pixel will be enjoyable enough for Googlers to carry around though, which may be reason enough for its production.
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I don't get it either.  We have the Samsung Chromebooks at home and they're great.  We also have a MacBook Air, which is also great.  Can't see why someone would choose the Pixel when the other two products exist.
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Sched.org
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Reducing event management headaches and improving the attendee experience

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