When my grandfather passed away, he left me his watch. And while I treasure it, I never wear it. I haven't worn a watch since I started carrying a cell phone over a decade ago. And I really don't have an inclination to start wearing one today. But these rumors of an Apple watch have me think it's not a matter of if, but when I'll start wearing one again.
I am not going to start wearing a watch because I am an Apple loyalist, even though I am one. And while I appreciate the value that another screen holds to output data, this doesn't captivate me. What interests me is input.
I don't want to wear a watch as a watch, but as a remote, as an input device. Kevin Fox argued that a watch would be a natural fit for Siri to take commands. He suggested it could very well include a compass and accelerometer for maps. But what other sensors could fit into a wrist band? Light sensor? Of course. A gyroscope? Temperature, ambient and body? Your pulse? Air quality? NFC?
During an episode of the Critical Path, Horace Dediu argued that advances in computing occur because of innovations in input methods. At the time, I think he was mostly considering voice commands and Siri. But an iOS-based watch might bring wearable devices to the mass market. It might take the market that FitBit is in but with deep device integration, no deep ecosystem integration, and measure so much more and for so many more people. A watch could also serve as a suitable remote for the coming “phablet” iPhones that people might prefer to keep in a bag while on the go.
The Tom Cruise/Minority Report thing we always laugh about relied on big exhausting gestures. What if a wrist-band could capture much more discrete and less tiring movements? I'm no futurist, but imagine if you could hold your phone in one hand and generate input with the other hand with small motions or subtle typing like flexing of your fingers. What if you could conduct Siri by drumming your fingers against a table top?
A watch is a path toward wearable computing and the quantified self. No wonder Nike recently announced that it has no plans to release its FuelBand app for Android. If Nike isn't already partnering with Apple to make an early app, they're deep enough in this direction to understand it's value and likelihood: they're going to be busy remaking and making apps for this new addition to the iOS ecosystem.
Of course, an iOS watch as wearable computing device will be pitted squarely against Google Glass. Google Glass sounds expensive in terms of monetary ($1,500) and social costs (it's too in your face and too in the face of your acquaintances). But an iOS accessory, might be less expensive. What's the word for disrupting a product that hasn't launched yet?
But look at me, increasing my own enthusiasm as I write. I shouldn't get ahead of reality. Like the iPod, iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV before it, an iOS watch will probably debut with a high price and then come down over time. The price will signal that's it's not a device for everyone yet. It might not be a device for me yet. But I suspect in the future, we will all be wearing more not fewer computing devices, and Jonathan Ive will probably design at least some of the ones I wear.
My heart goes out to the victims of violence. Without self-delusion, I'm no good at writing about tragedies like last week's horrific shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. I'm tempted to hide within a comforting post about the much more gentle evil that is the new Instagram TOS.
So I'm grateful to Jason Kottke, andothers who haven't lost the thread. Kottke in particular. While he has expressed a bit of weariness at times over the last few years, he has been giving a master class in blogging since Friday.
We need to keep talking about Newtown and gun safety more generally if we hope to affect issue evolution through an energized electorate. It's not enough that we were shocked. Collectively, we have to study what we know, go out and research new things, share our findings, and discuss what we've learned. Kottke is reminding us how blogging can foster a conversation like that, cutting through the din of other people's social media platforms with depth focussed on a vital arc.
In a recent interview with the Journalist's Resource blog, Harvard political scientist Gary King responded to a question about “data journalism as 'social science on deadline'” with an answer that just blew me away, so hopefully no one at Harvard will get angry with me for posting King's full remarks:
I think ultimately there is no line between journalists and social scientists. Nor is it true that journalists are less sophisticated than social scientists. And it is not true that social scientists totally understand whatever method they should know in order to access some new dataset. What matters in the end is that whatever conclusions you draw have the appropriate uncertainty attached to them. That’s the most important thing.
The worst phrase ever invented is “That’s not an exact science.” That is a sentence that makes no sense. The whole point of science is that you’re making inferences about things that we’re not really sure of. So the only relevant thing to express is the appropriate level of uncertainty with our inferences.
Sometimes we have a shorter deadline. That’s true in journalism and in social science as well. No matter what, in the end there’s always some data we don’t have. In the end, there’s always some uncertainty about the conclusion that we’re going to draw. And the more interesting, the more innovative, the more cutting edge the subject is we’re analyzing, the more uncertainty we’re going to have. And that’s just the breaks.
And so what makes us — I would say scientists; journalists maybe don’t like to call themselves scientists, but I’m happy to — all doing the right thing is expressing the appropriate degree of uncertainty with respect to our conclusions. So I don’t see any difference between journalists and social scientists. I see the same continuum within journalism and within social science.
King is encouraging scholars and journalists to use his Dataverse project as a way share and archive the data that they've collected. If we agree with King that there really is “no line between journalists and social scientists” why would we continue to accept different cultures of evidence sharing and replication in academic and journalistic publications? Will we forever be expected to just take a journalist's word for their claims? Good data journalism, like a good academic article, should probably include a link to the dataset and replication code.
Quick Update It strikes me that a lot of people don't know what to call Horace Dediu at Asymco, but after posting this, I think we should call him a data journalist following the sorts of best practices (including data sharing) laid out by Gary King. I'm sure we might be able to think of a few other journalist/blogger/analyst types playing by the rules as well, but I wonder if they are mostly bloggers like Dediu.
Like many people, I've become pretty successful at ignoring the concerns over media products sold with DRM. But after John Gruber linked to a blog post detailing DRM mistakes (or abuse) by Martin Bekkelund I shot off a few tweets and reblogs. Meaning that I went back to successfully ignoring DRM concerns really quickly.
Contacting Amazon is a great idea. Boycotting digital goods is probably a non-starter for many people already. And certainly, market forces haven't provided consumers with rights when they buy ebooks like they have in the market for music. It could be years before Congress, the courts, or the FTC clarifies or grants consumers some meaningful digital property rights.
However, as consumers we can at least voice our unease with the status quo by reaching out to Amazon. We should tell Amazon and other companies that violate the property rights of their customers or reveal the potential to do so that we don't think that's okay. That our uncertainty about the future accessibility of these products might not be altogether preventing us from making purchases, but it might be discouraging the number we make.
I know that tens – and probably even tens of thousands – of support requests made to Amazon will not launch a consumer movement to bestow us with new digital rights. But maybe by expressing ourselves we'll encourage Amazon to be more clear about their policies. Perhaps we can encourage the companies who seek to disrupt Amazon and other ebook sellers to exclude DRM from their nascent business models.
Inspired by Dan Wineman, here is the suport request I sent Amazon:
Hello to Jeff Bezos and Amazon,
I am a happy Amazon customer and I particularly enjoy buying digital goods including Kindle ebooks. When I buy music from Amazon it is in the form of an MP3, but when I buy Kindle ebooks, there is DRM software which allows Amazon to lock me out of my purchases for arbitrary or perhaps mistaken reasons (besides the fact there probably are no good reasons to punish someone by locking them out of past sales). This issue came into focus due to events detailed in a recent blog post by Martin Bekkelund, linked here: http://www.bekkelund.net/2012/10/22/outlawed-by-amazon-drm/
This Amazon-DRM story makes me reconsider making future Kindle purchases. What assurances can Amazon give me and other customers that at some future time period they won’t steal our purchases without warning, due process, an opportunity for appeal, or even any coherent explanation? What assurances can Amazon give me that the company won't suffer future financial or technical difficulties that lock me and other customers out of our ebooks as well as the marginalia we may have added to them?
I hope that Amazon will consider addressing these and related concerns involving DRM.
Please consider sending your own suport request to Amazon and the other companies from whom you purchase media with DRM.
UPDATED 10/28/2012 I woke up to find that Amazon has responded to my help request:
Account status should not affect any customer's ability to access their library. If any customer has trouble accessing their content, he or she should contact customer service for help.
Thank you for your interest in Kindle.
I sure would like to believe that email, and checking it with Martin Bekkelund, it seems his friend has access to her Amazon account once more. However, Bekkelund seems to think that it was the pressure from his blog post that encouraged Amazon to do the right thing and not their regular business practices. Of course, the problem with DRM is that there's very little a consumer can do to verify Amazon's (or any other vendor's) actual policies and their is virtually no way that Amazon can credibly commit to good behavior in the future. Going forward, we are either going to have to become comfortable with the idea that DRM-protected goods are ultimately rentals of an unspecified length or we must work toward a mechanism of third-party dispute resolution for consumers facing abusive practices.
Forty percent of Sasha Issenberg's Milwaukee black voters have never existed.
I'm not being fair, but in a recent post for Slate, Sasha Issenberg begins by dramatically claiming that, “Sixty percent of Milwaukee's black voters have disappeared” and goes on to detail how that could be a concern for Democrats this November.
Matt, the blogger at Milwaukee, pointed out that Issenberg's numbers don't make sense. While Matt is sensitive to the difficulties involved with turnout drives in Milwaukee's low-income African-American neighborhoods, he checked out the math. Using data from the League of Young Voters and analysis from the New Organizing Institute, Issenberg reports that “160,000 African-American voters in Milwaukee were no longer reachable at their last documented address – representing 41 percent of the city's 2008 electorate.” But Matt points out that there aren't 160,000 black voters who were able to go missing citing a City of Milwaukee report which lists that there the voting age African-American population is 154,335.
Since Matt is a semi-anonymous blogger who responds to my suggestions to improve his graphs and answer my data analysis requests, I trust him implicitly – at least over Sasha Issenberg who I've only been following on Twitter for a week, since I read that great New York Times blog post. Still, I wanted to check it all out. I mean fact-checking is 2012's Clap Your Hands Say Yeah.
American Fact Finder using the 2010 Census lists 161,053 for the 18 and over Black or African-American alone or in combination with one or more races population group in Milwaukee.
Hmmmm. The existence of 161,053 people at least makes it possible to lose 160,000 people, but it's still pretty unlikely that Democratic allied groups can only locate 1,053 black people. Tom Barrett didn't do that poorly this summer. At first, I thought Issenberg or his sources conflated Milwaukee the city with Milwaukee County. But Milwaukee County only has 173,862 black people of voting age, so probably not.
Back to the Issenberg article:
Starting in April, they spent eight weeks knocking on 120,882 doors across 208 of Milwaukee's 317 wards to raise awareness of the gubernatorial recall election scheduled for June. The doors had one thing in common: the voter file said they were all home to a registered voter whom a commercial data vendor had flagged as likely to be African-American.
120,882 doors? American Fact Finder only lists 88,217 black households in Milwaukee (city) and 94,661 black households in Milwaukee County using the 2010 Census data.
I don't know how unnamed commercial data vendor built their list of doors to knock on, but I hope the League of Young Voters didn't pay by the address because the 2010 Census makes clear that around 27% of those addresses aren't going to contain an African-American household.
Having a good number of old addresses to check might be useful for a rigorous turnout drive, but it's probably not a good idea to use the entire list for an estimate of a group's population size when we have the Census data. Issenberg reports the League of Young Voters found “31 percent of their targets.” Perhaps we can do a better job figuring out how many “missing voters” that there might be in Milwaukee with respect to this list?
31 percent of 120,882 doors on the list is 37,473. Since there were 88,217 black households in Milwaukee (let's stick with the 2010 city data to make our job easier), the League of Young Voters probably found more like 42% of all the black households in the city. Missing address for 58% percent of African-American households is close enough to 60% for Issenberg's 3/5 claim in the title and lede to pass a fact check. At least my fact check. It's the implications of that number which fall apart a bit.
So how many black voters are “missing” from Milwaukee?
The League of Young Voters is missing addresses for 58% of African-American households, so assuming that a “missing” household and a “confirmed” household are the same size (1.8 people), they are missing addresses for 58% of the African-American voting age population which, using the 2010 Census data, would be about 93,000 people. Using the household total we can say that this number could be as small as around 50,000 and as large as 124,000, but as Mat pointed out there aren't 160,000 missing address.
Assuming that there are only 93,000 “missing” African-American voters amounts to the Democrats having a particularly hard time targeting a little over 33% of the 2008 city electorate as opposed to the claimed 41%. For 41% of the entire electorate to be missing, each missing African-American household would have to be made up of much less than 1.8 people which is certainly possible. But more to the point, CNN's 2008 exit polls found 91% of blacks voted for Obama which means Democratic turnout efforts are without addresses for at least 40% of their former voters (and presumably there are also white, hispanic, and other voters who have moved without notifying the DNC as well whom we have not tried to count). I'm sure that's a number which creates a plenty big hurdle for Democratic efforts.
But I'm curious how big a deal it is to not have this many addresses. Are the African-American residents of Milwaukee so much harder to pin down than those in Detroit, Philadelphia, Richmond, and Miami? What percentage of African-American voter addresses did the 2004 and 2008 get out the vote efforts begin with? Also, do missing African-American addresses really matter for actual door-knocking campaigns given how predictably located African-American voters are in Milwaukee as a result of the incredibly high rates of racial segregation in housing?
Anyways, I'm still really looking forward to Sasha Issenberg's new book – which is coming out this week – but I hope he has been a little more careful with the details than in this blog post at Slate.
You've done it again. I love you when you send me Kashi crackers and Amy's canned soups. I love you when you sell me mp3s and Kindle books. I love the way AWS cradles my Dropbox. This Glacier thing sounds cool. And for all that is holy Amazon Prime is the best thing ever. But today I'm breaking up with you for 10 minutes.
Just because someone that you employ can make a red and blue heat map of the United States based on book purchases from your website doesn't mean you should let them. That's not some big data you're crunching, that's bad data analysis.
The magic in public opinion polling is the random sample. Unless you're YouGov/Polimetrix in which case the magic is Doug Rivers. The people who've purchased books over the past 30 days aren't even a random sample of your own customers let alone the country's eligible voters.
Your Election Heat Map does in fact “provide one way to follow the changing political conversation across the country during this election season,” but with a junk chart that re-inforces overly simplistic notions of political polarization based on your own encoding choices and measures nothing of substance what so ever. And thanks for updating this map every day.
Twitter's API changes have garnered quiteabitofattention, which reflects both the service's large and still growing importance in our lives, but also how poorly the announcement was written in that curious dialect of California-M.B.A. It is becoming cliche, but the announcements of changes from social media companies are labeled as disingenuous before they are posted. And perhaps for good reason. But our cynicism might mask understanding.
As many have pointed out, the quadrant diagram, presented in the announcement by Michael Sippey as a model of the “Twitter ecosystem,” seemed designed to shoehorn third-party Twitter clients into a little ghetto for future elimination. Assuming an eventual forced sunset for third-party clients as the thinly-veiled agenda behind the quadrants in the first place, I'm sure many critics don't want to take this little graphic for anything other than comic value – of which it has plenty. But let's assume that this diagram maps how at least some people inside of Twitter view their business.
Critics are wrong to think that most of what is interesting in Twitter is happening – or will happen – in this upper left quadrant. And while I have loved the succession of Twitteriffic and Tweetie and Twitteriffic again and now Tweetboot along with everyone else, the lower right quadrant of “consumer-analytics” holds a lot of promise, and it's another area where Twitter has seemingly done very little of it's own development.
To my ears, consumer-analytics sounds like California-M.B.A. speak for cool hunting. Even though John Gruber uncorked a bit of great prose calling out Twitter's hero of the lower right quadrant, Klout, as “utter vainglorious masturbatory nonsense,” what measures of tweets and of Twitter users would be more appealing to regular folks than tools for discovering cool people to follow, links to interesting articles around the web (longreads!), and yes even the occasional stupid video of a cute cat.
I'm not sure why a service like Klout that identifies highly regarded individuals, presumably as a way to discover new people to follow, gets an O.K. and Favstar.fm, which seems to do the same thing for highly regarded tweets, gets pushed out of analytics and into the dreaded third-party clients bin. Tapbots et al. seem determinedto produce future wonders as $3 apps, but I'm more excited about websites like Jason Kottke's Stellar and services that help me track down good stuff to read – not from the amorphous universe of Twitter, but from people I already think can find me good stuff.
Both Stellar and Instapaper both leverage Twitter to simply make recommendations out of our friends faves. There's probably still a lot of low-hanging fruit to be found hanging on the branches of our weak ties, faves waiting to be plucked from the best tweets uncovered by our friends. And I have no doubt that algorithms will be the future, but when I've tried apps like Zite in the past, I've always been disappointed. That's why I think of Flipboard as a discover tool and not a Twitter client. I love the way it strips out all of the status posts from a Twitter list, allowing a quick search the pre-fetched snippets of shared links. Try it with the list of 450+ political scientists that I've slowly been assembling since Twitter introduced the list feature. It's like panning for gold.
So much of human endeavor can be reduced to filtering through huge piles of information to find brilliant little nuggets. The Netflix Prize. The Olympics. Elections. The Oscars. Markets. Academia's peer-review publishing system is really just a gigantic analog recommendation engine. And an expensive one at that. Sure we've had Slashdot and Reddit and recommendation engines for a while, but they've always been for self-selected outsiders, standing on the banks of the river. Instead Twitter feels like the rushing flow of the realtime web itself. It's heady stuff, but more on that later. Right now, let's take that lower right quadrant, “consumer-analytics,” and let's start calling that finding good stuff. And then let's go find more good stuff and try to make some of our own good stuff to offer up along the way.
Some days the media can't but help but eat its own tail. Today we have some journalistic commentary considering why there is so much coverage of campaign gaffes.
Michael Calderone and Sam Stein reporting for The Huffington Post on the “media obsession” with campaign gaffes, argue that incessant coverage has encouraged candidates to conduct boring and scripted campaigns. Maybe tomorrow we'll have commentary on why there is so much navel gazing into the political gaffe reporting.
Personally, as a political news junkie, I slurp down these gaffes and revel when the rival of my favored candidate blunders. And who doesn't enjoy a good send up on Saturday Night Live or The Daily Show? The candidates and their campaign mangers of course.
Steve Schmidt, formerly John McCain's chief campaign strategist, explains how the media's taste for political gaffes affects campaigns:
“The accessibility that John McCain was famous for over the course of an eight-year period went from being a huge asset in 2000 to enormous liability in 2008,” Schmidt recalled. “The conclusion everyone came to was that it was absolutely impossible to deliver a message to the American people when you handed a microphone over to the audience – with 1 out of 3 questioners who were crazy – or, two, being surrounded by a bunch of very young reporters on the campaign plane who … were interested in asking a question to elicit the most embarrassing answer.”
Calderone and Stein suggest that campaign reporters are motivated to cover gaffes because they reveal the inner truth of a candidate, but it turns out that if these gaffes are inner truths, not many people are moved by them.
[T]he relevant question is whether ads (or speeches or commentary) that exploit gaffes are more persuasive than the material Republicans would otherwise have used. How much will it matter if a Romney ad quotes the “doing fine” statement or, say, criticizes the stimulus or healthcare reform instead?
[T]he biggest reason that gaffes are perpetually hyped by the media in the absence of evidence that they matter to voters–is that, despite all the cutbacks in journalism, too many reporters are chasing too few stories at this point in the presidential campaign.
I don't think he's quite right though. It's not just a supply-side problem. It's a demand-side problem too. The problem arises since most voters aren't news junkies like me – and political news is produced for people like me and not all voters. Sure, everyone likes a horserace, but some of us like to live at the proverbial track. James Hamilton has argued that the news media operations try to capture marginal viewers, listeners, and readers. For much of the duration of the campaign, the marginal viewer might very well be someone like me. CNN is trying to keep me from flipping to MLB Network.
News organizations aren't aiming at people who merely want to figure out who to vote for in November. They couldn't pay their bills that way. Given the polarization of U.S. politics today, figuring out who to vote for doesn't take all that long. Regular voters just don't need to follow that much of the news to sort things out before they're handed a ballot.
Not me. I'll watch. I'll watch a supercut of gaffes. I'll watch video of a blunder and then the bloviating pundits arguing about what it all means for the better part of an hour afterwards. But most people aren't like me. They don't follow the RSS feeds of multiple newspapers. They don't follow pundits on Twitter. They don't wake up to cable news, they're off watching the olympics or maybe having fun clicking cows on Facebook.
Both journalism and democracy are safe. Journalists aren't wasting their time covering gaffes, they're serving their best customers – customers like me. And gaffe coverage isn't breaking our democracy because most voters aren't affected by it. Maybe you think it would be great if the press covered the minutiae of campaign platforms, but I'd wager that even fewer people would tune in for policy proposals than horserace campaign coverage. Ezra Klein is just one man – a television host he might make, but an entire TV audience he does not.
Meanwhile, I'll be on Twitter – guilt-free – enjoying the flow of campaign snark between my fellow political news junkies.
But now it's time to turn our fruit fly attention spans to OS X 10.9. The big cats are gone some have said. Others (like Siracusa) just hope they will be. Yet, Apple has committed to an annual release schedule of OS X and names of some kind will be needed.
Perhaps you think the ocelot is too small or too cartoonish to stand in line after the regal Lions. Perhaps.
But perhaps you haven't considered that their exists a ready-made theme song from Phish – waiting to accompany the release:
Where have you gone?
Morning is over
and noon slouches on.
There are lyrics that imply an improved Siri:
Where are you now?
You never listen to me anyhow.
And the song includes lyrics which evoke social media:
Don’t be the only one left on the block
Come hide in the herd
and float with the flock.
Not to mention social gaming:
Where have you gone?
(Won’t you come out to play?).
Apple has used U2 as well as countless chanteuses for their ad campaigns. I think it's time for a band with a meaningful tie to technology and the Internet. It's time for Apple to wrap itself in some good old fashioned hippy-nerd rock.