Reflecting on 2010 – in Dublin, Ireland

Reflecting on 2101 – real challenges for Ireland, some interesting technologies, the need for creative genius

Dublin by night
Image via Wikipedia

It’s been a pretty frightening year on the economic front, here in Dublin, Ireland.  Finally, despite all the protestations of the Government the EU and IMF rode into town.  A deal has been done – premised on significant growth it might be doable…if the growth does not materialise – then eventually some debt will have to be written off.

On the technology front – for me personally the smartphone wins out (currently favouring the Android platform): greater access and availability wherever you are (wherever I am).  Seems to me the Cloud has matured into something that is not going away – in fact that looks like it will win out.  I think the objections will be addressed and moved aside. On the semantic web front – lots of activity from various providers of tools/ solutions using semantic technology. Disappointing, given the presence of DERI in Ireland, that we do not see more publicity/ traction within our own smart economy.  And we trail other countries dismally on initiatives to push publication of data (using linked open data standards)  by government departments.

Snow in the suburbs
A whole new world

The last few weeks have been challenging on the weather front – in particular on the East Coast.  It would have to be said that our local government/admin/ transport has failed miserably and consistently in addressing the weather challenges.  To see major roads not being cleared each night is pretty depressing – be it shortage of money to pay the overtime, trucks to clear the snow/slush,salt to treat the roads or poor planning/management and execution.  But there is a real cost – most likely including loss of life – because of this repeated failure.

Katie Taylor, Graeme McDowell, Tipperary hurlers, U23 cross country runners and many more – great memories and inspiration in a difficult year and looking forward to challenging years.

There was my short break with my wife in Budapest – what a marvellous city and such hospitable people.  But then we had the fun courtesy of Volcanic Ash – our four day trip home was quite luxurious by comparison with the hardship experienced by others.

Best book I read was the 10th anniversary edition of The Cluetrain Manifesto.  Also often found myself returning to ideas from The Power of Pull.

And Wikileaks has caught the imagination as the year closes out.  I was not very positively disposed to Mr Assange when this began – but the overreaction from certain quarters is not doing much to reinforce my doubts.  I think we all need to reflect a little on this. Some of the ideas referenced by Clay Shirky in Here Comes Everybody and by Don Tapscott in Macrwikinomics are playing out in front of us.

All in all looking forward to the break – a chance to enjoy some of the best things in Ireland – company, craic, ceol, food, literature, scenery, catching up with the visiting diaspora…and time to do some dreaming.  Because we all need to use our imaginations and our creativity in order to ensure that we do beat our targets next year – be that winning a major, winning a football championship, keeping a job, hiring a new employee, starting a new business, teaching a student, helping someone.

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Another voice for semantics

semantics have a key role to play in facilitating conversations on the internet

The Cluetrain Manifesto
Image by Gauravonomics via Flickr

Just been reading the 10th Anniversary edition of The Cluetrain Manifesto.  In his Chapter ‘but how does it taste?’ Rick Levine focuses on the changes in Participation – through blogging, social networks and participation in ecommerce sites (customer reviews etc).  However he references the walls between his Linkedin, Facebook and Phone universes.  I like his demand: ‘We need to be more fanatical in our elimination of conversational friction’.

This very much speaks to the Cluetrain Manifesto – that the Internet is all about conversations.  And effectively Levine is making the point that semantics has a role to play in facilitating this.


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Sustainable water strategies

Diageo’s approach to achieving water sustainability

Listened in on a fascinating presentation this week: Achieving Sustainable Water Strategies: Diageo Case Study by Roberta Barbieri, Global Environmental Project Manager at Diageo – courtesy of the 2degreesnetwork.

Interesting way to break down the problem – look at sustainability under sourcing, production, distribution and packaging.

As an example of use of water, in the talk Roberta referenced some research showing that it takes 160L of water from barley in the field to finished goods out the door to make a bottle of Tusker beer.

As a group Diageo has established water efficiency targets – against which it reports each year.  They are seeking 30% water efficiency gains between 2007 and 2015 – across the full network of Diageo plants.  In addition they are seeking to reduce water waste by 50% in all plants located in water stressed zones.

Roberta outlined some excellent examples of recent plants – Cameronbridge in Scotland and St Croix, US Virgin Islands – seeking to eliminate water waste,

Interesting to see how a global company looks at the water crisis facing all of us – and attempts to tackle this through a water sustainability strategy.

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smart phones – privacy being undermined (or ignored)

Privacy is being ignored in the smartphone world

Disturbing report from Wall Street Journal explaining what private data is being passed when you are using various applications on either your Apple or Android phone.  not particularly encouraging wrt either platform.

As an example: ‘…TextPlus 4, a popular iPhone app for text messaging. It sent the phone’s unique ID number to eight ad companies and the phone’s zip code, along with the user’s age and gender, to two of them.’

And remember: ‘”The great thing about mobile is you can’t clear a UDID like you can a cookie,” says Meghan O’Holleran of Traffic Marketplace, an Internet ad network that is expanding into mobile apps. “That’s how we track everything.”‘

Brings Google back into the whole debate about privacy:

‘Google was the biggest data recipient in the tests. Its AdMob, AdSense, Analytics and DoubleClick units collectively heard from 38 of the 101 apps. Google, whose ad units operate on both iPhones and Android phones, says it doesn’t mix data received by these units.

Google’s main mobile-ad network is AdMob, which it bought this year for $750 million. AdMob lets advertisers target phone users by location, type of device and “demographic data,” including gender or age group.’

All in all seems that for now we are relying on self regulation – where both Apple and Google appear to be conflicted by their interests.

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How we, the public, can help with linked open data

Promote, persuade, reward open data initiatives by government

Tom Steinberg
Image by pdcawley via Flickr

Excellent piece by Tom Steinberg pointing out what we the potential consumers of data can do to encourage government to provide the data.  One of his key messages actually covers off the wikileaks type risks – that when we do see any government body about to release anything which may undermine privacy we should draw it to their attention.

Have some concerns that some of what I have seen in Ireland on this subject is effectively encouraging government departments to release data so that we can ‘bash’ them.  This is completely pointless.

I think the real point is that there are masses of potentially useful data – which cannot be exploited while buried in archives or in pdf files.  We have not even begun to imagine the value of some of this data – when cross linked, correlated with all sorts of other data.

Thanks for taking the time to put the piece together, Tom.

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Privacy of email in US

Henceforth government agencies will require a warrant to gain access to private email.

Interesting and significant decision in US yesterday – henceforth a warrant will be required by the government in seeking access to personal email accounts.  Previously government was accessing email on basis of a subpoena.  Read the details.

Good initiative on privacy

Know who is tracking what about you

Big Brother (David Graham) speaking to his aud...
Image via Wikipedia

There are any number of companies out there tracking your presence on the web – gathering information for the purposes of targeting you to purchase product.  Good to see an initiative emerging from some of those most proficient in tracking your online activities – to let you see what they are tracking and let you opt out.

George Orwell’s 1984 vision of Big Brother and surveillance is well and truly with us – whether through companies tracking our online presence or people constantly photographing/ videoing us and sharing it on the web.  The complaints about Google and Facebook are well documented.  The concerns about security of healthcare records, the potential risks of cloud computing…we will see more and more of this in the press.

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More Google debate – this time re fairness of search

Fairness of Google results questioned by a Microsoft sub

EU January 2007 Search European Union for more...
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So now it seems the EU will investigate the fairness of Google search results. And the complainant is a subsidiary of Microsoft.

This is not the first time that the EU has involved itself with dominant players – ask Microsoft themselves.

The stakes are high.  Google has entered the language – ‘to google’ something being the action of searching for relevant information re something using the Google site.  Any suggestion that Google, enjoying its dominant position in the search marketplace, would use its own search engine to provide results in a biased way (thereby impacting its competitors negatively), would not sit well with the EU.  It is important for the public and the EU that this is cleared up in a satisfactory manner for everyone.

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