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If you’re wondering about the reach of Twitter (clocking in at over 3 million users now) consider the tragedy that’s happening right now in Mumbai. Apparently the police (and perhaps the attackers) are not only aware of Twitter — it’s also part of the problem.  The Indian government is asking that the #mumbai hashtag be shut down.

What’s more, with Twitter being an excellent medium for short messages but lacking the space for details, Internet users are now repurposing Wikipedia to maintain a frequently edited page.

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There’s such a thing as TOO open

From the Register, by way of Broadsight, it seems that Google has patched an issue with Android that interpreted text you type as commands. So you can type “reboot” and reboot the phone.

Really? Really?

I mean, I’ve heard Android is supposed to be an open platform. But if the tale is true — and there isn’t some kind of double-backflip configuration knob you have to fiddle with to make this work — it’s a big deal.

Consumer electronics don’t like to be open. Openness breeds complexity. The iPhone is criticized for being closed, but it’s usable (despite this post to the contrary) in part because it’s locked down. The button-bar iPhone resembles nothing so much as the old Compuserve menu. It took us years to move from consumer adoption of buttons to comfort with the open web.

If you let humans play with the guts of things, they tend to break in new and creative ways. Social engineering is the new hacking; now that many operating systems are patched and scanned, hackers exploit human weaknesses to send drive-by malware links to Facebook users. (Good thing the bad guys are after Warcraft passwords, then.)

But back to Android. Apple locks it down; Google opens it up. One approach delivers a seamless experience, the other so much flexibility you can hurt yourself. Apple assumes people will use its devices on a busy New York subway, jostling for handholds and bouncing in purses. Google assumes people will hack together scripts and plug-ins, finding new ways to use tag clouds and APIs. Apple partners with monopoly-scale carriers; Google lobbies for free spectrum.

The two philosophies couldn’t be more different. It’ll be fascinating to see whether integration trumps flexibility, or vice-versa.

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My favorite thing on the Internets today (aside from Stallman’s tinfoil-hat rant about cloud computing being evil, which I’ll get to later) is this video of the Mythbusters crew researching sobering-up techniques.

When you’re done laughing, think about the first part of that. A member of the media (admittedly, a pretty irreverent one,) showed a roomful of people the illegal content on his hard drive. And they cracked up.

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Human 2.0 is the Next Big Thing

We’re about to upgrade the human race. It’s more than a technology shift, it’s a cultural one. And it’s perhaps the first step on the singularity. This is most of what I’ve been thinking about lately. We’re sliding into it day by day, without noticing. I firmly believe it is the most significant change the human race faces, and it’s going to drive a tremendous amount of business and fuel wide-ranging ethical discussions. Most of the other technologies we cover here and elsewhere are simply building blocks for Human 2.0.

This is the first of many posts on the subject, and it sounds a bit muddy. Hopefully we can clarify that in the coming months. But if you’re willing to wade through some still-addled thinking, read on.

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Matthew Ingram at the Globe and Mail takes Wired to task over a recent article that implies Big Search will save the world and change the way we solve problems. I think Matthew’s right, and that the way we can now mine vast amounts of data isn’t a substitute for science — merely an accelerant.

I think this for two reasons. First, Google can’t solve the problems with machines; and second, correlation is not causality.

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Some people are born beautiful.  Others become beautiful. The rest visit cosmetic surgeons as they wage a holy war against Father Time and their own genetic limitations.  And when those people eventually choose the wrong surgeon, they’re disfigured for life, turned into freakish mutants who are a strange and distracting parody of beauty.

That’s what’s happening now with mobile phones.

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Polish

I’ve been thinking about polish a lot lately. I started overusing the word as part of my standard investor pitch but lately I’ve found myself thinking about it much more broadly.

Let’s start with a little about me. I’m a geek. I love geeky things. I’m unnaturally comfortable with a UNIX command line prompt and seeing the numbers “20 45″ still make me think “this is the start of an IP header”. To this day, my wife would like it if I could remember trash day and free() the neurons associated with 6502 assembler and the Apple II memory map. You would think that pretty GUIs and end user experience aren’t top of mind issues for me.

But they are. They have been for a long time. I was fortunate enough to land a job as a tech in a medical billing outfit straight out of highschool where I was exposed to very smart people (doctors and nurses) who didn’t give a rat’s ass about electronic medical records, EDI, and managing billing systems that could integrate to electronic billing for insurance providers. They in turn threw my attitute into whack — their primary goal was taking care of patients and as far as they were concerned, the technology would have to come to them on their terms.

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Why You Still Need a DJ

If you look around the Internet, you’ll find all kinds of software that claim they can make you an instant-DJ. All you have to is toss the songs into a digital blender and it’ll take care of doing all the hard work of synchronizing the beats. Some of them are automated enough to even take care of picking songs out of your collection and gluing them together. Really, they are true DJ’s in a box.

So why do we still have DJs? Why do clubs announce that some big name DJ is coming to town? Really, a computer can do this all automatically and save everyone the trouble! Hasn’t Google taught us the power of algorithms?

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