m tofias

political scientist

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Lower Right

Twitter’s API changes have garnered quite a bit of attention, 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...

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More than a third of the people I follow are on @AppDotNet already. I’m impressed.

– Marco Arment

Maybe this thing is really going to work?

So, anyways: fingers-crossed.

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Gaffe Rigged Campaigns

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...

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Mountain Lion has poked its head over the horizon and we’ve all read the latest John Siracusa magnum opus.


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.

And that’s where ocelot crawls in.

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:

Ocelot! Ocelot!
Where have you gone?
Morning is over
and noon slouches on.

There are lyrics that imply an improved Siri:

Ocelot! Ocelot!
Where are you now?
You never listen to me anyhow.

And the song includes lyrics which evoke social media:


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Hate the Player, Not the Game (Local Food Edition)

John Quiggin at Crooked Timber argues that “tribalism generally trumps ideological consistency,” using the case of free marketeers and environmentalists – who have both adopted policy positions that are at odds with their presumed larger goals.

I’m one of those jerks who takes photos of food and spends time cooking nice meals. However, I just want to eat really good food. Then I want it to be healthy. Then I will worry about if it is nice to the environment or artisanal or what not. If local means fresher and tastier, I am all for it. And I’ve had great experiences purchasing produce at farmers’ markets in Wisconsin and with a CSA-like home delivery service (Braise in Milwaukee). But, rote localism just seems absurd in most of the United States. Often, I can’t help myself from asking certain aggressive activists if they only consume local political science.

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Podcasts seem like one of those small (dare I say disruptive?) ideas clearly aimed at the gut of the big media distribution companies, but their influence so far has been pretty slight.

But today the podcast might be approaching its big moment – Apple has released a podcast app for iOS. The app is slick, but it seems to be missing features that podcast fans rely on (such as playlists) and the UI is a bit janky (at least on an iPhone 4) so it probably won’t devastate any great iOS apps. But it’s more attention for a medium that has yet to take off. The podcasts tab wasn’t hurting anyone in the Music app so breaking it out must be Apple attempting to generate a little more attention to audio and video programs distributed as podcasts (and maybe preparing for a ramped up Apple TV).

Podcasts have a techy, and now somewhat dated sounding name, but they are just a delivery mechanism for any...

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A Long Polycentric Journey

I learned early, however, that individuals facing [collective action problems and tragedies of the commons] do not always need an external authority to extract them from their tragedy. When they have arenas in which they can engage with one another, can learn to trust one another, can draw on sources of reliable data, can ensure monitoring of their decisions, can create new instrumentalities, and can adapt over time, they are frequently, though by no means always, able to extract themselves from these challenging dilemmas.

– Elinor Ostrom (1933–2012)

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Hotel Apple (Such a Lovely Place)

John Gruber links to an EFF blog post which calls iOS a crystal prison. He does a nice job cracking open their argument so I don’t have to, go read him. I just want to offer up that for people using iOS or OS X or Android or Windows or whatever, the surest way to avoid being caged is to be dillgent. Take some care to be sure that the data you care about most, the data you create, be it writings or images or code isn’t locked in a proprietary format.

And probably like many if not nearly all others, my iOS devices are in fact filled with text files, PDFs, jpgs, mp3s, vCards, iCalendars, and the like. In particular, text files based on Gruber’s own Markdown format seem to be flourishing on iOS, OS X, and the Web. Markdown even powers this blog. iOS users sync their various data at least as well with Google and Microsoft services and Dropbox as they do with Apple’s iCloud. RSS and Twitter...

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A Web Which Won’t Be World Wide

I don’t think the Web is dead. And I am not sure it is going to die. But if it’s going to die, it might die at the hands of the URL scheme. Which is sort of interesting, because URL schemes are the way we link apps together, but in the future they might become the way we unlink from the Web.

I was marveling at the latest update to Drafts, the iPhone quick text entry app. Even more apps have been added to the list Drafts can send snippets of text. Some day soon (if it hasn’t happened already), publishers are going to realize that they can shoot readers from one of their silos to another and skip the web browser, even an in-app embedded web browser. From Time Magazine zoom right into Sports Illustrated without an extra click. Without passing Go.

Recently, Tim Bray wrote about browsers versus apps and suggested in part, “If you want to be featured in a phone’s electronic storefront, and...

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Barriers to Entry

And then there were two.

Mr. Troniano said part of the problem is that voters who want to see alternatives are generally not political activists, which means they aren’t used to working through what can be a convoluted political system. He said there’s also a psychological barrier: Voters want to support someone they think can actually win — which generally means turning to the options available from the two major parties.

It isn’t a psychological barrier. It’s a strategic calculation. And it’s one that voters (and perhaps more importantly talented and ambitious politicians) are going to make again and again.

Seth Masket collected some Americans Elect epitaphs. Brendan Nyhan has an ongoing project to keep tabs on third party hype. Me? I’ve been working on a boxer/briefs/boxer-brief joke about third parties for a while, but I think like Americans Elect, it’s not going to happen anytime...

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