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Title card for "Algorithms and the Filter Bubble"On Monday 7 April, I delivered an updated version of my guest lecture to media students at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS), “Algorithms and the Filter Bubble”. And here it is.

What’s is about? It’s about what we now call — this year at least — “big data” and how that’s changing how the media works, just like it’s changing every other part of society.

I cruise through what all this data is, where it’s coming from, who’s collecting it and where it’s going; what advertisers and media companies and others can do with this data; and some speculation about how this might unfold in the future.

There’s links to all the references over the fold, and you can follow along with the slides (PDF). The recording picks up immediately after I was introduced by the course coordinator, Dr Belinda Middleweek. A transcript may or may not follow at some point in the future.

Some people mentioned that last time it was difficult to follow some of the slides, as the PDF file didn’t show how the builds happened, so I may add a video slideshow version at some point too.

The audience was primarily first and second year students at the beginning of their media studies degrees.

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[If a transcript ever becomes available, this is where it will appear.]

What was left out at the end

I didn’t keep a close enough eye on the time, which is most unprofessional of me, so I had to drop a couple of things at the end of the lecture. So what did we miss?

My planned closing was to speculate a little more about the implications of all this technology — essentially the material covered in references 26 through 30 below.

When advertisers and newsmakers know all about you, including where you are and what you’re interested in, and when robots become so good that they’re able to tailor news and advertising precisely for your interests and current state of mind — what does that mean for political persuasion, and other kinds of persuasion?

Watch the videos of the robots from the US Naval Research Laboratory responding to everyday human speech. Consider Apple founder Steve Job’s comment that the iTunes Store gives you “freedom from pornography”. Consider than in a world of filter bubbles, some news outlets with a political agenda might want to give you “freedom from confusing thoughts”. After all, Apple has already blocked from their App Store an app that provided information on US military drone strikes.

Just where might this go? As I told the media students at the start of the lecture, they are the ones who will be creating this future for themselves and their descendants, not those of us in the second half of our lives.

Licensing and Re-Use

This work is made available under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA license. This presentation may be re-used for non-commercial purposes within the terms of the Creative Commons license. The non-commercial and share-alike conditions are required to adhere to the licensing of the imagery used. Please contact me if you require an alternative version. As a minimum, attribution should read: “Source: Stilgherrian.” Online versions must link the word Stilgherrian to the website at stilgherrian.com.

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Heartbleed logoNothing has appeared here since Weekly Wrap 200 last Sunday — including the update to my guest lecture at UTS from Monday — because my work schedule has been dominated by the Heartbleed internet security bug.

There’s a lot that’ll appear here in the coming three days, and not just the UTS lecture. There’s radio spots that I did with ABC 720 Perth, ABC 783 Alice Springs, 1395 FIVEaa Adelaide, ABC Radio’s The World Today, and ABC 702 Sydney, for starters, plus links to the stories I’ve written on Heartbleed — one for Crikey and four for ZDNet Australia — although clever possums will know that they’re already listed on the media page.

In the background, I’ve also been sketching out ideas for a Pozible crowdfunding campaign or two, continuing from the one I did last year, to resurrect Corrupted Nerds and The 9pm Edict. Stay tuned.

I guess I shouldn’t whinge about Heartbleed killing my schedule. Some people have to do the really hard programming and systems administration work to clean up the mess, not just write and talk about it, and the extra work is heartbleeding revenue straight into my pocket.

The first edition of the 5at5 email letter, which I announced yesterday, was posted earlier this evening — slightly late thanks to some annoyances with TinyLetter, which I’ll tell you about another time. You can read it here, subscribe here, or even look at a local archive copy.

03 February 2014 by Stilgherrian | No comments

Screenshot of 5at5 website: click to go thereI come across a lot of fascinating stuff in the course of my alleged media work. It’s stuff worth sharing more widely. Back in December, I decided that I’d start sending out a daily email linking to the best. That email launches tomorrow, Monday 3 February.

It’s called 5at5, and it’ll bring you five items every weekday at around 5pm Sydney time.

They’ll be connected to [my] interests in some way — the politics of the internet and how technology is changing power relationships at every level of society, security and surveillance, military technology and history, language, journalism and human nature. And more.

I was amused to see Alexis Madrigal, technology editor at The Atlantic, launch his own daily email recently, 5 Intriguing Things. Five is the magic number, it seems.

I’ve chosen to use the same platform at Madrigal, TinyLetter, which is a subsidiary of email marketing platform MailChimp. Why? Mostly because it’s free. TinyLetter is limited to 3000 subscribers, but I’ll worry about that when it happens.

So now you’re going to click through to subscribe, right? Good puppy. Smart puppy.

I’m claiming that January presented clear signs that I’m reversing the decline of revenue that I’d been suffering, thanks to depression and arsehattery — something that I’ve become very aware of in recent months.

If you don’t like these personal reflections that I write from time to time, then stop reading now. Read this instead.

I started this planning process at the end of 2012, because I’d noticed that until then I hadn’t actually been planning my media work, let alone taking the next step of having some kind of strategy.

I’d just plodded along doing much the same thing every week. If an income stream died, I did no real work to replace it. When new work was offered, I generally took it on unless the idea was clearly daft.

You can see what happened in my newly-updated “media objects” chart, which counts how many things I did for each masthead, regardless of complexity or income.

Chart of media objects produced by Stilgherrian since 2011

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It’ll take a few more days to catch up on the blog posts here, so if you want the latest dose of my wisdom you should of course be following my Twitter stream. Or not. You get to decide.

22 January 2014 by Stilgherrian | No comments

Cover art for Corrupted Nerds episode 8: click for podcast pageI’ve just posted the first full-length podcast of material recorded on my Melbourne trip, this one being a chat with Dr Vanessa Teague about electronic voting.

Now I’ve always thought that the whole idea of electronic voting is a bit dodgy. You get a little bit of convenience, sure, but you get a whole lot more attack surface for the bad guys to hit — especially if you open up that whole can of worms of internet voting — and you make it almost impossible for anyone but a specialist digital forensics team to confirm that everything was legitimate.

I was willing to have my mind changed, but in fact the opposite happened. I now think more than ever that electronic voting opens up all manner of avenues for attack that would never have been possible before, with little benefit for most people. And it’d cost a squillion.

“There isn’t a secure solution for voting over the internet. There isn’t a good way of authenticating voters, that is, making sure that the person at the other end of the connection is the eligible voter they say they are. There isn’t an easy, usable way of helping voters to make sure that the vote they send is the vote they wanted, even if their PC is infected with malware or administered by somebody who wants to vote differently,” Teague said.

“And although there are some techniques for providing evidence that encrypted votes have been properly decrypted and tallied, it’s hard to scale those techniques to large Australian elections.”

As I said in September, give me my trusty pencil of democracy.

This was also my first podcast with a specific commercial sponsor.

Corrupted Nerds is available via iTunes and now SoundCloud.

Cover art for Corrupted Nerds: Conversations episode 7: click for podcast pageToday I posted the first of three podcasts that will emerge from my coverage of the Breakpoint and Ruxcon conferences in Melbourne recently.

I managed to catch Greens Senator Scott Ludlam for a few minutes in between his session on the Ruxcon panel and whatever his next function was, and we spoke about the new attorney-general Senator George Brandis’ appointment of a former ASIO director-general as his chief of staff.

By the time I added the introduction and theme music and the like, all of those format elements ended up being longer than the interview itself, so I decided to add my own opinion. That means it’s a bit different from how Corrupted Nerds: Conversations normally works, but I’m hoping it’s interesting nonetheless.

In the next few days there’ll be two further, full-length podcasts. One is about electronic voting and why voting on the internet is a bad idea. The other covers how people have been discovering all sorts of things about North Korea using free and commercially-available satellite imagery to do their own intelligence work. Stay tuned.

Corrupted Nerds is available via iTunes and now SoundCloud.

Digitally manipulated image of Eugene Kaspersky: click for podcastI’m headed to Canberra this week to hear Eugene Kaspersky, chief executive officer and chairman of Kaspersky Lab, speak at the National Press Club on Thursday 7 November.

It’ll be an interesting event.

When I last spoke with Kaspersky in May — you can listen to that conversation now, because it became the first episode of the Corrupted Nerds: Conversations podcast — it was before Edward Snowden’s revelations began. Before “all of the cybers” changed from being something of interest only to a few specialist technology and national security writers into front page news around the world.

Actually, I’ll embed it here so you don’t even have to click through.

I suspect that the kinds of questions asked by the insular and largely Canberra-bound press gallery journalists will be as revealing of the state of play as the words of the Russian information security star himself — and he knows how to work the media.

Kaspersky is speaking at the NPC at lunchtime on Thursday, immediately after which I’ll be reporting on it for ZDNet Australia. But I’ll be in Canberra from early Wednesday afternoon through until Friday afternoon, so if you want or need to catch up, do let me know.

Disclosure: I am travelling to Canberra as the guest of Kaspersky Lab.

[Photo: Eugene Kaspersky speaking at CeBIT Australia 2012. Original photo by CeBIT Australia, used under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC-BY) license. Digital manipulation by Stilgherrian.]

ABC logoWhen I first decided to try Pozible, the crowdfunding site, to fund last week’s trip to Melbourne, I didn’t think it was particularly special, but other did — including ABC Radio National’s Media Report.

On Wednesday last week, presenter Richard Aedy recorded an interview with me, and almost all of it made its way into Thursday evening’s program.

When Stilgherrian wanted to head interstate to cover two hacking conference but didn’t have the budget, he made his first foray into crowdfunding his journalism. So how did he go and what has he learnt? And can this be applied to other less high profile freelancers in Australia?

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The audio is ©2013 Australian Broadcasting Corporation, and this is just a copy of the audio that’s posted on the program website.

The material being produced as a result of this crowdfunding is gradually being published at Corrupted Nerds.

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