Consequences of Free Speech

“The tech companies should stop censoring users that they politically disagree with or governments should regulate them as public utilities,” Torba’s spokesman Utsav Sanduja said. Last year, Sanduja and Torba founded Gab.ai, an alternative social network for free speech advocates. “Imagine if a private corporation owned all the highways and they decided to close them down whenever they feel like it — that is what it’s like. You cannot deny people a fundamental staple of the Internet.”

The Washington Post: In Silicon Valley, the right sounds a surprising battle cry: Regulate tech giants

It’s more like you claiming that you should be able to take the public highway (the Internet) to a privately owned restaurant, where you spew racist and misogynist bile, and the restaurant staff and other patrons just have to accept your presence and cannot kick you out.

The article goes on to conflate the liberal preference for legally enforced net neutrality (anyone can drive on the highway, but the restaurants along the way can make their own rules) with the desire of these morons to legally prevent private social, payment, and infrastructure networks from kicking people off for using their platforms to espouse hate (the above scenario).

The most hilarious outcome of all this would be if conservatives finally decided to abandon their preference for not using federal government power to break up monopolies, all because some Neo-Nazis got kicked off twitter.

Solving Important Problems

…when I look at what the tech industry is spending its energy on, I see them working on helping rich people find taxis more easily, selling ads more effectively, or building sexting apps. It bothers me that I might be stuck in an ivory tower, solving abstract computing technology problems that enable the tech industry to make money off silly products for the 1%, rather than solving important problems for people that need help.

William Chan: Back to SF After the U.S. Digital Service

Everyone needs an agent!

Imagine an intelligent software agent that can analyze your music library, using song ratings and volume (# of songs/albums, not dB) to determine your musical tastes (genres, artists, composers). Your agent could then monitor when favorite artists will be performing in your area (pulling ZIP information from your address book), or when a favorite composer’s work will be performed by a local ensemble, optionally checking for conflicts using your calendar.

After confirming that you are indeed interested in attending an event, the agent would then create a tentative calendar event with details like online ticketing address, location (which could link to driving directions/maps, optionally transferred to your car via a wireless connection), and the names of anyone you have invited to this event.

Eventually, an intelligent entertainment agent could notify you of movies, plays, and gallery/museum showings as well as musical events. The needed movie data could be gathered from several sources:

  • Personal Video Recorders: Tivo, MythTV, ReplayTV, etc.
  • Netflix queues
  • Rental records from major renters: Blockbuster, Hollywood Video.
  • Intelligent DVD players (currently [as far as I know] a figment of my imagination): connect to IMDB, allow you to store ratings.

The best source would be that which allows for the most meta-data; probably P/DVRs, which can store information downloaded from online guides such as the IMDB and/or manually input. Aside from Netflix, I don’t know if there are APIs for accessing rental store records.

The agent would analyze actors, directors, genre, year, view count, and personal ratings to determine your cinematic tastes (or lack thereof :-). If you have highly rated all of Cameron Crowe’s films and seen them several times, the agent would know that you may be interested in his upcoming film.

Theater performances and visual arts exhibitions are more difficult – where do you enter your “ratings” for these events? Weblogs are one potential repository for this sort of information – write an entry about a play or exhibit you saw and assign it an out-of-five star rating. Categorization and keywords could also serve as organizational metrics to be used by your personal entertainment agent.

Current problems:
  • City guide sites (AOL Digital City, Citysearch) provide event information, but I don’t think they have open APIs for non-browser user agents. Also, personally bookmarked pages could serve as sites for your agent to check – this would require the below…
  • Scheduling information for events is generally not available in a standardized format. I believe the iCal standard (possibly the reformulation in XML) could serve as such.

I imagine this fits under the rubric of the “Semantic Web,” in which intelligent software uses networked data sources and personal information to perform tasks for you.