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Amazon Isn't Killing Writing, the Market Is

matbury eBook sales have pretty much plateaued at 15% (192 comments)

AFAIK, eBook sales went up to around 15% and stayed there. Does anyone have any more up to date info? Of course Amazon reports that its sales overtook physical books but that's the business they're in and it isn't representative of sales overall.

I love gadgets and totally get the potential for eReaders and eBooks, however, my experiences with them have been so poor (buying, reading, trying to find passages to cite, dealing with DRM, etc.) that I only buy physical books now. Even with academic papers, I'd rather print them out (I don't own a printer so I have to go to the print shop down the road) so I can comfortably and conveniently annotate and highlight texts. Yes, it's technically possible to do it on an eReader but it just isn't practical enough to be productive.

eReaders and eBooks will have to get a whole lot better to compete with physical books.

about a week ago
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Dealing With 'Advertising Pollution'

matbury Why stop at criticising advertising on the web? (394 comments)

Advertising, whether it's on TV, in magazines, the web, on billboards in public places or anywhere else is offensive to everyone. The idea is to create demand for things we don't need by making us feel bad about not having it. The whole advertising industry's main purpose is to make us feel bad.

Banksy put it best, and Gavin Aung Than did a good job of illustrating it: http://zenpencils.com/comic/15...

about a week ago
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Rand Paul and Silicon Valley's Shifting Political Climate

matbury Re:Silicon Valley is officially old (533 comments)

Re: versus "government, please steal that guy's money and give it to me" -- Germany doesn't seem to have a problem with that, neither do Finland, Sweden, Denmark, or Norway. They have universal healthcare, equitable education (everyone gets excellent education), excellent infrastructure, coordinated, rational public transport, low poverty, low crime, higher standard of living, etc. These countries have rates of taxation at around 50%.

Socialism in this form is a bit like participating in "groupon" -- People collectivise to research and find the best price for the services they want/need so that it costs less for everyone. Paying for services by tax is much, much cheaper than end users paying on a "per use" basis or buying deliberately overly complicated "plans" that they aren't able to understand because the right information isn't readily available to them (or available at all). Think about US health insurance plans... do you understand those?

Libertarianism/Objectivism are no more than pseudonyms for reinstating medieval, feudal, undemocratic, unmeritocratic, inequitable systems of government where the super-rich rule over impoverished masses and wealth is inherited, not earned (the vast majority of wealth in the USA is inherited -- remember that the Facebook and Google CEOs went to the incredibly expensive "ivy league" schools and universities). The USA's shocking child poverty, wealth inequality, preventable deaths (poor diet, obesity, and lack of adequate healthcare -- The food industry barons are making billions out of making people sick with nobody willing to stop them), and educational outcomes statistics are testament to that. The shocking thing is that the USA isn't a 3rd world country, it's the richest country in the world and its ruling elites choose to cultivate a culture like that, calling it "the free market." Is that how you want to live?

about two weeks ago
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Blueprints For Taming the Climate Crisis

matbury Re:Pro-status quo propaganda (389 comments)

Solar and wind power aren't the fossil fuel industries areas of expertise and they have significant disadvantages if they choose to switch over. They'd simply be out competed by the already existing renewable energy industry. Plus the fact that they're inherently conservative and don't want to change the way they do anything. Remember this is the industry that's famous for buying up innovative, potentially society-changing patents and secretly shelving them to keep them away from anyone who might want to exploit them.

about two weeks ago
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Does Google Have Too Much Influence Over K-12 CS Education?

matbury Re:Betteridge wins again (66 comments)

Re: "It seems difficult to me to develop intellectual and cognitive capacities absent the opportunity to practice and thus develop and hone those abilities." -- They have the content of the books they read, the experiences they have, their relationships with each other (in unstructured time, group tasks, and projects) and their teachers (when they provide direct instruction, mentoring, feedback, and instructional scaffolding). School is just as "real" an environment as a factory, lab, or an office.

about two weeks ago
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Bot Tweets Anonymous Wikipedia Edits From Capitol Hill

matbury Re:External Firms (95 comments)

That's easy enough to do: create an account on Wikipedia.org and "watch" those pages.

about two weeks ago
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Does Google Have Too Much Influence Over K-12 CS Education?

matbury Re:Betteridge wins again (66 comments)

Re: "Is not one of the primary purposes of schooling to produce talent for the job market?" -- This is a common misunderstanding of the difference between education and training. Here's an illustration: Imagine your 9 year-old daughter comes home from school and tells you she'd been doing sex education. You'd probably think it's a good idea - everyone needs to know about that stuff. Now imagine she came home from school and told you she'd being doing sex training? How would you react?

To put it explicitly, K-12 education's and, to a great extent, higher education's main purpose is to develop learners' intellectual and cognitive capacities, i.e. literacy skills (which directly correlate with success in professional and academic life), numeracy, analytical and critical skills, and deductive, inductive, and abductive reasoning, and social and organisational skills so they can work collaboratively as parts of teams.

Training is short-term, shallow learning of remembering, understanding, and applying rules, procedures, and formulae. It's superficial, easily forgotten, and often goes out of date rapidly. Spending time on training in K-12 education is time, money, and resources down the drain. In higher education, if they're training for an immediate, specific vocation, which includes some kind of apprenticeship system, e.g. medical practitioners, architects, engineers, and counsellors, again, time spent on training is time, money, and resources down the drain.

People who understand education see the political and media rhetoric for what it is. It's dismaying to hear normally intelligent, insightful people repeat it.

about three weeks ago
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Blueprints For Taming the Climate Crisis

matbury Pro-status quo propaganda (389 comments)

Mmm... if I were working for the fossil fuel industry and energy companies I'd want to maintain the status quo as it is for as long as possible. In fact, I'd be bound to by corporate law. What's a good way to do that?

How about blueprints of grand plans; wildly expensive and disruptive civil engineering projects that not only require political cooperation and central planning on a national scale, but also international cooperation and investment, and giving up a certain degree of national autonomy "for the greater good", in order for international and transnational planning to be feasible. Also include ideas that have already been exposed by the scientific community as practically unworkable such as carbon capture and storage. Ignore the fact that China is investing more in renewable energy than the USA in total expenditure and Germany and other EU countries are investing way more per capita. Ignore the fact that other countries are investing heavily in fast, efficient mass-transportation systems, raising energy efficiency requirements of new buildings, retrofitting govt. buildings and providing grants for homes and businesses to retrofit theirs. And ignore the fact that decentralised networks of energy production in homes and communities are already contributing substantial proportions of energy back to national grids (e.g. Germany generated 75% of its power for a day and electricity prices went into negative figures. 50% of that energy was generated by home and property owners). Then announce your plan to the world saying, "This is the best way to do it."

We've been seeing this kind of nonsense from pro-status quo organisations (often shell companies set up by big oil and coal to fund non-profits) for decades already. This is nothing new.

about three weeks ago
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When Beliefs and Facts Collide

matbury Re:Not surprising. (725 comments)

Re: "And you and I are among them. The kind of massive economic shift needed to materially reduce the use of fossil fuels will seriously undermine your standard of living, as will the war with China necessary to stop them from burning coal." -- I disagree. The USA is currently in a better than usual position to start investing in its energy needs for the future.

We're rapidly approaching "peak oil" (some say we've already passed it) and so it's only going to get more expensive and environmentally damaging to extract and process in the immediate future. This means that while the US economy remains heavily dependent on oil and gas, it's going to get more and more expensive to run and eventually production and service costs will reach an unprofitable tipping point and the economy will likely crash. Expect to see more attempts to grab/control more countries' natural resources in an attempt to mitigate this... in other words, a lot more military conflict and political unheaval in the world (some also say that this is already happening).

At the other end of the spectrum, Germany has relatively few empirical interests around the world (they import most of their energy and until recently relied on nuclear power) and its economy is mostly based on exporting its engineering, design, and management expertise, so any savings they can make in energy sourcing will boost their economy quickly and substantially. They're leading the EU in investing in switching over to renewable energy sources, creating Europ-wide electric rail local, national, and international mass-transportation systems, developing more efficient, lower emissions housing and businesses, legislating and funding for its widespread deployment, and developing the expertise to do this for other countries too.

The US is getting left behind in this respect. If the US invests in switching over its energy production to modern, renewable sources and efficient more effective infrastructure, it'll not only have a more secure future in the geopolitical and global economic sense, but govt. funded infrastructure projects like this were partly what brought the US out of the great depression in the 1930s (FDR's new deal). The US infrastructure is in dire need of an overhaul right now and, because of the recession, it'd be relatively cheap to do it (Remember those optimistic Obama speeches and rhetoric about switching over bankrupt car manufacturing companies to infrastructure projects? What ever happened to that?).

Meanwhile, China, India, Brazil, etc. are also investing substantially in renewable energy sources and technologies and infrastructure. Nothern European countries make substantial savings in domestic and business energy consumption through higher efficiency, e.g. better insulation, more efficient heating and lighting systems, better re-use and recycling, which necessitates efficient and effective central planning. To a great extent, doing this in the US would mean accepting that they're no longer a nation of "pioneer settlers" in a land of infinite space and resources (the US changed from major exporter to major importer decades ago) and that they need to consolidate and collectivise their infrastructure. Good luck with that in the current US political and ideological climate though.
 

about three weeks ago
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Does Google Have Too Much Influence Over K-12 CS Education?

matbury Re:Betteridge wins again (66 comments)

I don't work for M$, Google, or Apple but I do work in education. I have to agree with russotto about the Gates Foundation's activities in K-12 and higher education. They pay $30,000 to any academic who publishes papers and articles that are supportive of the Common Core. If this doesn't set off alarm bells about conflicts of interest and corrupting academic practice on a big scale, what kind of alarm bells are you waiting for? Up until he was named and shamed for it, he was also a major donor to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A... - They make Dr. Evil look like a lefty bleeding heart liberal). One of ALEC's core beliefs is in privatising everything, including education and they're doing everything they can to undermine and weaken public education so that corporations have a chance at competing with it.

BTW, Google is now a donor to ALEC. I very much doubt they're getting involved in education to give themselves warm fuzzy altruistic feelings or for any higher purpose. They're currently on a campaign to capture IT services in higher education, taking over email, docs, online storage, etc., AKA "the cloud", and giving them unfettered access to everyone's educational records and web use histories, reliably tied to their identities. They've already been successfully sued in California for spying on students after they said they wouldn't.

Former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education, Diane Ravitch, is a historian of education, an educational policy analyst, and a research professor at New York University's Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development. She's highly critical of many of the current corporate campaigns in education has some interesting things to say about the Common Core: http://dianeravitch.net/

about three weeks ago
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Use of Encryption Foiled the Cops a Record 9 Times In 2013

matbury Re:ItsATrap (115 comments)

No, it's a trap when Apple, Google, M$, et al tell users that their IM clients and email are secure, even though they have the encryption keys and readily hand them over to authorities without a warrant.

AFAIK, nobody has a way of breaking end-to-end encryption without compromising one of the surveillance victims' computers or somehow getting hold of the encryption keys.

about three weeks ago
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The New 501(c)(3) and the Future of Open Source In the US

matbury Re:Executive Branch (228 comments)

Like any tax authority anywhere in the world, the first thing that the industrialist and "owning" classes do is to minimise their own liabilities and obstruct auditing and regulation (off-shoring, tax havens, and shell companies being examples). The next thing is to increase the liabilities of any emerging competitors and possible competitors, i.e. everyone who isn't already a huge corporation and that they can't buy to add to their portfolios (FOSS means no IP portfolios to add by acquisition as Oracle found out). The ruling elites rely heavily on controlling tax legislation for their own benefit and to ensure as little competition as possible in any way they can; increasing liabilities, increasing the complexity of the tax system and tax laws, increasing the costs of ensuring compliance with tax laws (easy and cheap to a huge corporation, difficult and expensive for small organisations), etc. It really doesn't matter which administration is in office, the process will always be more or less the same: regulatory and administrative capture. The best way we have so far of preventing regulatory and administrative capture is transparent participatory democracy. The current adminsitration in the USA appears to be decidedly anti-transparent participatory democracy. I doubt the next administration, whoever gets in, will be any different. Goodbye democracy, it was nice while it lasted.

about a month ago
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Happy Software Developers Solve Problems Better

matbury Re:True of any job. (121 comments)

Not true of any job but very true of jobs where analytical and critical thinking are necessary/important. Also a major factor in learning outcomes in education. Unless we accept that software developers are a separate and distinct species to homo sapiens, we've had conclusive science on this issue for decades, e.g. Stephen Krashen published his findings and formed the Affective Filter hypothesis for second language acquisition back in 1982: http://sdkrashen.com/content/b...

How many MBAs and HR degrees include affective factors on their programmes? My guess is they don't know, don't want to know. It just doesn't fit in with mainstream capitalist values.

about a month ago
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Eric Schmidt and Entourage Pay a Call On Cuba

matbury The point of the article? (190 comments)

Is the article about an American visiting Cuba or about a multi-billionaire promoting expanding the internet in countries that spend significant amounts of their GDP spying on their own citizens?
 
  Is Schmidt basically telling Cuba, North Korea, et al that he can cut their local spying costs by getting everyone to "speak their mind" online and then recording every word to be used for disrupting opponents and intimidating effective political activists in the same way that the NSA and FBI do? I can see the North Korean and Burmese regime being even less subtle than the CIA in this respect: Rendition and torture en masse at bargain basement prices. What despotic dictator could refuse such a generous offer?

about a month ago
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Robert McMillen: What Everyone Gets Wrong In the Debate Over Net Neutrality

matbury Re:Everybody is wrong... (270 comments)

Everybody? That means that Robert McMillen is wrong too, doesn't it? The argument is simple, no analogies necessary: If we do away with net neutrality, the internet gets turned into shit by the biggest, most powerful corporations. It'll end up like TV... mediocre and ordinary.

about a month ago
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The Bursting Social Media Advertising Bubble

matbury Re:Tuning it out? (254 comments)

Yep, opinion polls will reveal people's opinions of the question at the time it was asked, nothing more. The respondees' opinions might be consistent, they might be ephemeral, there's no way to know. That's one problem with opinion polls, the other is that advertising and PR work on emotional levels and are highly manipulative, shamelessly "pushing people's buttons" to generate reactions. It's something that most people don't like admitting to being susceptible to so they lie about it and/or are in denial.

You'd have to construct carefully controlled studies and carefully observe people's behaviour after ad messages on SN services to see what reactions they actually provoke. When you have that data, then you can make arguments about how effective or not it is. With all those billions being thrown around you'd think someone would want to find out. Or is it a case of the buyers of ads being the most susceptible to clever PR and marketing? People in sales departments aren't particularly famous for being the most evidence based, level headed, and rational beings.

about a month ago
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Emails Show Feds Asking Florida Cops To Deceive Judges About Surveillance Tech

matbury Re:Signal (251 comments)

The simplest solution is to leave your phone at home if you go anywhere near a protest, demonstration, rally, or any kind of democratic participation. If you really need to communicate with people, get a burner and dump it after the event.

I think that's what activitists and anyone with mischievous intent would do. So they won't get caught/identified so easily but anyone else who doesn't come prepared in this way will.

Of course, if the suspect was a CEO, politician, banker, etc. they'd have nothing to worry about. The cops would just pass them over as beyond suspicion. As long as perjury only convicts minorities, the poor, and those engaged in democratic participation, nobody in a position of authority cares.

about a month ago
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Google: Indie Musicians Must Join Streaming Service Or Be Removed

matbury Re:Ummm (364 comments)

Yep, they're evil. No doubt in my mind. If anyone still has any doubts, I recommend looking at where Google spends its money, rather than listening to their PR and marketing departments, PR agencies (They hire A LOT of those), and generally spineless, fawning, sycophantic, advertising dependent mass media. The following list of recipients of substantial amounts of Google's money reads like a who's who of evil in the USA. Quoting from sourcewatch.org:

"Support for Conservative Groups

Google funds "politically-engaged trade associations and other tax-exempt groups" and "a number of independent third-party organizations whose federally-focused work intersects in some way with technology and Internet policy" that include:

        American Action Forum

        American Conservative Union

        American Enterprise Institute

        American Legislative Exchange Council

        Federalist Society

        Mercatus Center

        Heritage Foundation

        National Taxpayers Union

        Texas Public Policy Foundation

        U.S. Chamber of Commerce

        U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

        Washington Legal Foundation

Support for Conservative Politicians

In 2012 and 2013, Google Washington hosted fundraisers exclusively for conservative Republican U.S. Senators: John Barrasso, John Thune, Rand Paul, and James Inhofe."

Source: http://www.sourcewatch.org/ind...

about a month ago
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Turing Test Passed

matbury An easier way to detect true AI (432 comments)

Computers can win at the Turing test with a little clever programming and misdirection, i.e. not answering questions that computers can't answer and instead distracting the questioner with a "satisfactory" response. The kinds of tricks that PR, marketing, and politicians are great at and are formulaic in their simplicity to achieve.

I wonder if the panel of academics ever thought of asking a few Winograd Schema questions? http://www.cs.nyu.edu/davise/p... Failure to answer these is failure to present basic human intelligence. The key to this approach is that it relies on pragmatic meaning, i.e. what we mean/intend to say, rather than on linguistic (lexical and semantic) interpretation, i.e. what we actually say. AFAIK, even the most advanced and powerful computers are far from achieving this and we still don't really know how we do it either.

about a month and a half ago

Submissions

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Google Moves Right By Funding ALEC & Heritage Action

matbury matbury writes  |  about 8 months ago

matbury (3458347) writes "According to Jessica Devereux at The Real News Network...

"Corporate-funded American Legislative Exchange Council, or what it is more commonly known as, ALEC, is holding a conference celebrating its 40th anniversary through December 6. But the guest list may be running a little thin this year, as ALEC is losing some corporate friends. But it's also gaining some new ones, like Google. Google has been funding right-wing groups like Heritage Action and ALEC, which is known for drafting some draconian laws in education and right-to-work policies which undermine collective bargaining."

Whatever happened to "Don't be evil?""

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