Mild science, tech news, stories, reviews, opinion, maps and humor

28 May 2010

Open Data Standards

My response to Rhiza Labs CEO Josh Knauer:  On open government data, Tim Berners-Lee is almost right
I just watched the Gov 2.0 Expo video (May 27, 2010 in London, UK) featuring Tim Berners-Lee advocating government data standards, and your response [Rhiza Labs' Mr. Josh Knauer, see link to site above] that followed. I am a working practitioner of data standardization and transparency in data policy, and wanted to express my agreement with your commentary.

Tim Berners-Lee: Inventor of the World Wide Web (USA Today Lifeline Biographies)Mr. Tim Berners-Lee is a dynamic speaker. As the founder of Hyper-text Markup Language and plausibly the entire World Wide Web, he justifiably has the respect of all. However, his premise that linking to URL’s as the most effective mean of building a framework for data naming consistency reduces to glibness.

I worked as a Data Governance manager for two managed care programs, one federal, the other Medicare-funded at the state level. You are correct: uniform identifiers are the solution, and UUID’s (universal uniform identifiers, that are not language-specific) would be best. In the context of my healthcare related work, I would add the following data classifications used by CMS (Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Dept of Health and Human Services) to the other United States government-related data standards you cited:
  • HCPCS, ICD-9 and CPT (maintained by Ingenix) for medical coding 
  • National Drug Codes (from the FDA) for pharmaceuticals
  • the taxonomy of 11-byte alphanumeric codes for medical specialties 
Open Government: Collaboration, Transparency, and Participation in PracticeNote that the medical and pharmaceutical codes are usable with OR without electronic health records, which isn't possible with Tim Berners-Lee's advocacy of URL based standards. Remember that not everything is electronic or internet linked. Not yet.

URL’s are not robust. Links often break in 10 years, let alone 1000 years, and are far too vulnerable.

Tim Berner-Lee’s appeal for standardization, and ability to hold the attention of an audience that is never excited about data policy is certainly helpful. (Who is excited about the subject, other than those who do it, and those who suffer from the lack of it?) I hope that the spirit of his message is what is acted upon, rather than being used as a starting point for implementation.

26 May 2010

A little more about PageRank

This page is intended as an overview only, briefly describing Google Toolbar features. A few quick facts about toolbar item PageRank:
- PageRank values are between 1 and 10.
- The little white slab on the tool bar is more green and less white as the ranking gets closer to 10, highest importance ranking.
- Any page not indexed by Google web analytics is not ranked. Note that this page with the topic "PageRank" is not ranked! Some Google Help pages are PageRanked, others are not.

in reference to: PageRank : Master advanced features - Toolbar Help (view on Google Sidewiki)

18 May 2010

Facebook, Google and Privacy [CARTOON]

Internet identity disclosure cautionary cartoon
I thought that the purple-hued face peering through the wall looked like Mark Zuckerberg.

Are Facebook users adequately aware of the status of their private or personally identifying information? Probably not.


The Evolution of Privacy on Facebook is a recent analysis  by IBM Research scientist Matt McKeon.  (He did this as a personal project, not as part of work for his employer, IBM).

Matt's analysis was thorough and revealing. It is summarized by a series of charts depicting user growth and information sharing on Facebook, at multiple points in time: 2005, 2007, 2009 and early 2010.

Static 2005
Earliest "snapshot" of Facebook user privacy 2005

Matt's article has all six charts in chronological, as well as a complete explanation of his methodology, including data collection details. It demonstrates very clearly the dramatic increase in level of exposure of private data for Facebook users.

Privacy status 2010
Personal data and privacy status as of April 2010
Please note that these charts are part of a work-in-progress and may be updated at any time. They are reproduced here* with specific permission from Matt McKeon but are not Creative Commons licensed and may not be further reproduced except under the limited usage terms on Matt's website.

No privacy on Facebook nor trailer park
This real-life image via fffound is well-matched with the conclusions one may draw after reviewing  Matt's analytic work.

Facebook Addiction: The Life & Times of Social Networking AddictsAlso have a look at these eyebrow-raising product offering inspired by Facebook that I noticed on Amazon. (I am not endorsing them, nor encouraging anyone to purchase anything; I included them for amusement purposes only).
The Church of Facebook: How the Hyperconnected Are Redefining Community

Keep in mind that this is a small sampling of Facebook-related books from Amazon.com. Much more is available.  I admit, I chose the most sensational-sounding of the bunch.




Ellie K's inquiry about re-use permission in Disqus comments.

08 May 2010

The Evolution of Privacy on Facebook

The Evolution of Privacy on Facebook is a recently released work by IBM Research scientist Matt McKeon. His analysis provides a series of charts depicting user growth and information sharing on Facebook, at multiple points in time: 2005, 2007, 2009 and early 2010.

Static 2005
Earliest "snapshot" of Facebook user privacy 2005

Matt's article has all six charts in chronological order, as well as a complete explanation of his methodology. He included data collection details. 

The overall message is the dramatic increase in the level of public exposure of Facebook users' private data over time.

Privacy status 2010
Personal data and privacy status as of April 2010
Please note that these charts are part of a work-in-progress and may be updated at any time. They are reproduced here* with specific permission from Matt McKeon but are not Creative Commons licensed and may not be further reproduced except under the limited usage terms on Matt's website.

No privacy on Facebook nor trailer park
This real-life image via fffound is well-suited to the conclusions one may draw after considering  Matt's analytic work.






Ellie K's inquiry about re-use permission in Disqus comments.

07 May 2010

Arizona Immigration Law

As you can see in the sidebar, my Annex is located in Arizona. I am part of the majority of the people of the State of Arizona in favor of our recently passed immigration law.

I am also a Jewish woman, and know the difference between the Nazi modus operandi of World War II versus the intent of Arizona Senate Bill 1070. Apparently, the current general manager of the Phoenix Suns, our local NBA basketball team, does not know the difference. Yesterday, he compared Arizona law to Nazi Germany. It bothered me, a lot.

Today, I was pleased to read this succinct description via a now-moribund website about our immigration law, AZ SB 1070:
...[SB 1070], according to constitutional lawyers, mimics federal immigration. All it does is give local authorities the same enforcement ability afforded to federal law enforcement.
Also,
Did you know that every non-citizen in the US has been required to carry 'proof of status' documents since Congress passed the Alien Registration Act in 1940?
And finally,
... an Arizona State University constitutional law professor who helped to draft this Arizona bill states that law enforcement officers "may not consider race, color or national origin" in making any stops* or determining any aliens' immigration status. That is in the bill...
Why has there been such a backlash in the national media? Perhaps it is because residents of other states do not have personal exposure to the impact of illegal immigration on their economy in a myriad of ways. Our current governor is Republican. There was support amongst non-Republicans too; approximately 70% were in favor of the bill.

AZ SB 1070 is merely a state-level mirror of already existing federal law, which is applicable in most instances, nationwide.

* Yes, I acknowledge that it would be difficult for police to avoid using appearance (as the basis for probable cause) in initiating an immigration document request.

Google Guide Tutorial

For a good interactive Google tutorial, see http://www.googleguide.com/. Google Guide is neither owned nor affiliated with Google. The tutorial is offered in English, German, Danish and Hebrew, and is also available as a free pdf download.


Interactive online Google tutorial and references - Google Guide

06 May 2010

Microwave Cooking For One

Here's a follow-up to sfweekly.com's SFoodie story feature "Microwave Cooking for One". In early April, 2010 Pic of the Day - San Francisco Restaurants and Dining, SFoodie wrote
Let's make one thing clear: there's nothing wrong with eating alone. We do it all the time, not just out of necessity but because sometimes it's nice to enjoy a meal in solitude. As for microwave cooking, well, sometimes you're in a hurry...

But we wouldn't go so far as Marie T. Smith and cook what might be steak in a microwave. And while we're sure Marie is probably actually a very happy lady, we're going to have to blame the photographer for producing such a pained portrait. Is there someone standing off to the side with a gun, demanding that Marie hover over that microwave produced buffet of pastel-colored food?
SFoodie's caption for this image seemed apt, "The Saddest Cookbook Ever: Microwaving For One".

It was even more poignant when Marie T. Smith's daughter, Theresa, responded half-way throught the 47-count reader comment thread, describing her mother at the time of the book's publication in 1984. Marie Smith knew how it could be living alone, and felt that a single, divorced or widowed person deserved to eat as well as someone with a family. She had noticed the increasing numbers of single-person households in the early 1980's, according to her daughter. Marie addressed these concerns by offering free cooking classes for women who were trying to acclimate to such changes. Some were recent widows, others were homemakers entering the workforce after divorce, others were transitioning out of shelters to life on their own. Marie held many such cooking classes in her own home, and free-of-charge.

Marie T. Smith passed away in 1987. However, her daughter thanked the
publishers of SFoodie, and the commenters too, for the publicity. Apparently "Microwave Cooking for One" cookbook remains in print, generating revenue 24 years later! Sales picked up after the SFoodie article, said Theresa.

There are some amazing YouTube.com videos of Marie demonstrating how to cook a sunny-side up egg, cheeseburgers and more, in a microwave oven. microwavecooking on YouTube has four videos. All are segments from a Lakeland, FL network-news affiliate, most were on-air in 1986,

After my disasterous video embedding attempt of at Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) video, topic was Social Network Dataflows, I'm a bit gunshy about posting them. My apologies for that: I have no idea why the audio volume was up at 100%, nor why a PARC research presentation had an all-musical soundtrack....?

Instead, I recommend a visit to YouTube, to the microwavecooking channel, where many microwave cooking demo's featuring Marie T. Smith are still available.
See sfweekly for entire twitter thread.

02 May 2010

Capturing the Zeitgeist

The Social Collider has arrived. I haven't heard news of any updates, although it was introduced about a year ago.

The Social Collider is a Google Chrome experiment. Its functional design objective is to reveal cross-connections between conversations on the Twitter platform. The actual intent of the application is quite a bit more interesting. As data is collected and accrues, the application's designers hope to uncover multiple layers of person-place-location-event relationships which can be fully comprehended best when viewed with the additional perspective of time history.

This description is an excerpt from the Social Collider website:
One can search for usernames or topics, which are tracked through time and visualized much like the way a particle collider draws pictures of subatomic matter. Posts that didn't resonate with anyone just connect to the next item in the stream. The ones that did, however, spin off and horizontally link to users or topics who relate to them, either directly or in terms of their content.
The Social Collider acts as a metaphorical instrument which can be used to make visible how memes get created and how they propagate. Ideally, it might catch the Zeitgeist at work.
Output is on display in a London museum, although primarily as a work of art.

I was curious if I could catch the Zeitgeist at work, so I tried entering a query with search term "facebook". That was probably unwise to do, for a web application. Windows 7 abended and I was forced to reboot my PC.