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Mozilla has just released its first report on the state of the Internet. The browser maker has an opt-in feedback engine from which it can capture data about how people use browsers, and it’s making that data available to the world.

Along with some more obvious metrics, such as browser use, the research also covers what time of day people start work, how many browser tabs they have open, and personalization. It’s an example of how user instrumentation and lifetracking can happen in strange places.

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By way of the BBC, here’s a look at a device that can help nonverbal autistic children communicate. With powerful, portable computers, applications like this are much more accessible and portable to a wider audience.

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Physically visualizing your data

petitinvention

Today, we digitize everything, be it software, documents, music, art or movies. To the computer, it’s all bits (1’s and 0’s) but to us, not all bits are created equal.

Here’s a design concept for a USB stick that borrows a concept from drive-space software like WinDirStat or Disk Inventory X, and  shows how much data is stored, and what type it is, by illuminating lights of different colours – maybe pink for music, blue for data, green for images. Which could be pretty handy. More info here.

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Here’s another idea in a similar vein – The flashbag inflates to increase its size when it’s full, and deflates when it’s empty – a visual reminder to clear those files off.

Are we seeing the tip of the iceberg for a new way of thinking about our digital possessions?

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Hulu has announced plans to run per-month, subscription-based television, according to the L.A. Times.

Talk about missing the point. New media is exciting because it’s two-way, not merely because the data travels over Internet links instead of traditional cable broadcast. An advertiser would much rather promote products to engaged, targeted audiences. Yet the piece says,

“Hulu is under pressure from its owners to collect a subscription fee to both bolster revenue and train viewers to pay for online access to professionally produced content.”

Why not ask viewers whether they have an important life milestone (graduation, birth, car purchase, marriage) coming up? Advertisers would like it more, because they’d find their target audience. And I’m betting viewers would like it more, because they’d see ads they cared about. Best of all, the broadcaster could charge more.

Sounds like a win for everyone, right? Unfortunately, thinking of online video as just TV without the cable does everyone a disservice, and leads to more one-size-fits-all programming and mass-market sponsorship.

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Which emits more CO2 - the Icelandic Volcano or the planes it stopped from flying?As more and more data is scrutinized in public, there is a growing trend towards creating visualizations that are easier to digest than the raw numbers.

Here’s a topical infographic pulling together the effects of mankind and Mother Nature on our atmosphere. You can see that the Icelandic volcano eruption’s effects are cancelled out by the planes that have been grounded because of the ash cloud, and in fact we are witnessing a net reduction in CO2 pollution this week. More details here.

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Welcome to posthumanity

From http://www.flickr.com/photos/jdm1979uk/3607288494

We’re all getting an upgrade, whether we like it or not.

In a few years, every moment of our lives will be recorded, analyzed, and shared. We’ll take the sum of human knowledge for granted. We’ll wear tiny computers masquerading as fashion accessories. The merging of humans and technology is unavoidable, and the end result will be a new species able to hack its own cognition and edit its own biology.

This new species—call it Human 2.0—is the most important subject of the century. But it’s still hiding in academia and science fiction. We hope to change that. Read more »

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From Cube Of M’s posterous:

Google Wave logo on Flickr

It was not always like this. There was a time just a few months ago when I did not have Google Wave. I think of that time with horror – because that epoch was marked with conflicts, total chaos, money was being lost every day, fights were happening between me and my collaborators. Google wave came in, and within a couple of weeks, a heavenly peace had descended on my business.

Read the full article.

Comments like those above are rare. The most common observations I’ve heard about the product were “I didn’t really get it” or “I’m underwhelmed.” But for specific uses, Google Wave – a sort of E-mail 2.0 – can be incredibly useful. Read more »

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When I first visited the virtual world Second Life it was an underwhelming experience – vast empty spaces, lots of grey polygons while things loaded, and awkward controls.

But it seems things have come a long way since then, as this video shows. This is Blue Galaxy, a beautiful virtual island inside Second Life that is reminiscent of the planet Pandora from the Avatar movie. Maybe it’s time for another visit? (but make sure you have some beefy graphics hardware!)

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It’s common practice today to think that the solution to every problem is to be found in technology. This video is a concept video from the 2009 Challenge your World competition reminding us to not to fall into the trap of that kind of thinking.
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The secret to Farmville’s popularity is neither gameplay nor aesthetics. Farmville is popular because in entangles users in a web of social obligations. When users log into Facebook, they are reminded that their neighbors have sent them gifts, posted bonuses on their walls, and helped with each others’ farms. In turn, they are obligated to return the courtesies. As the French sociologist Marcel Mauss tells us, gifts are never free: they bind the giver and receiver in a loop of reciprocity. It is rude to refuse a gift, and ruder still to not return the kindness.[11] We play Farmville, then, because we are trying to be good to one another. We play Farmville because we are polite, cultivated people.

This article looks at Farmville, analyzing some of the game’s dynamics and mechanics. It’s a frightening fact that this is the most popular game in the world, but that rather than encouraging creativity or experimentation, the game’s mechanics prey on social obligations, causing players to organize their regular lives around in-game events such as harvesting schedules.

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