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Africa Is Big

Africa is larger than China, the USA, Western Europe, India, Argentina, and the British Isles… combined!

Source: White African Via Strange Maps Via Scarlett Lion Via Chris Blattman Via Lane Kenworthy Via Jeff Weintraub Via Norman Geras Via @Joburg

How To Solve The Housing Problem

Simply print them.

University of Southern California engineer Behrokh Khoshnevis and colleagues are developing a 3D printer for houses.

Source: Printable Housing (Via BoingBoing)

Education Meets Social Media - School of Everything

The School of Everything is a site that connects people who want to learn with people who want to teach.

It is one of those fantastic ideas that seems so obvious in retrospect that it’s hard to believe that nobody’s actually done it before.

You can get more details at the source.

Source: School of Everything: eBay for knowledge (Via BoingBoing)

Experimental Media

I like blogging, because it’s still so experimental. Internationally, they might be talking about traditional blogging, but in South Africa we probably don’t even have a thousand serious bloggers.

New media is so new here that we’re still experimenting with “traditional” new media. I want wilder experiments.

Take podcasts for example. Nic Haralambous has tried to make regular podcasts, but so far it has always failed. His conclusion is that regular podcasting doesn’t work, but doing it for special occasions does.

I think he misses the point. It didn’t work because the network infrastructure isn’t there to support it.

Take a hard look at average South Africans. They probably don’t even own a computer, much less have internet access. They might have a radio, or a TV if they’re lucky. About 10% of the most privileged South Africans have dial-up access. A very privileged 1% has broadband.

How do you make podcasting work in such an environment? I would mix up traditional and new media technologies.

It would be cool if radio stations put their shows online as podcasts. It would be even better if they would broadcast locally sourced podcasts. I want radio stations to produce blog posts, and have IRC chat rooms where you can interact with them in real time. Integrate them with wireless cellphone communities.

I don’t want to stop there. There’s all kind of technology mashups that I’d like to see.

I’d like to see video moved through unconventional channels. Do some video logging. Record Second Life events. Do video reports on local geek events or news.

Give DVDs away with newspapers. Distribute the results though the Johannesburg Area Wireless User’s Group. Put it on DVDs in video stores. Give it away at LAN parties, and 27Dinners. Put it on the sharing networks at universities. Make it available on freedom toasters.

As for getting technology in the homes of the average South African, the SABC wants to go all digital, so why not integrate decoders into OLPC style laptops? Broadcast useful educational info in digital format. Give it an hard drive so it can save the interesting bits. Sell simple plug & play wireless networking components so the boxes can be upgraded to plug into a neighborhood network, or the wider Internet. Get the post office to start selling email boxes.

My point is that although our internet infrastructure is deficient, there are other ways to move the data. I want to see people obliterating the digital divide while playing.

Big Business Wants To Dictate Your Morality

It’s not enough getting morality from religion, philosophy, peer pressure and law. Now business also wants to take the moral high ground.

Random House contractually requires young adult writers to behave. Cory Doctorow points out that they didn’t ask him to sign such a contract for Little Brother. This is probably because they realize just how badly he would react to that. Little Brother is, after all, the story of a fight for freedom.

Then there’s the case of Audacia Ray, who is basically a sexologist blogger. Citibank just told her that her money isn’t welcome any more, because she work in “Adult Business”. The slippery bastards tried to get her to keep her personal money in the bank, just not any of the money related to her business.

Who defines “Adult Business”? The bank does of course.

What really makes me suspicious is the abrupt manner in which her paid for blog Naked City was dropped by the Village Voice. Anyone want to take bets on who the Village Voice uses as a bank?

Why Are We Still Paying For SMS?

Twitter is ending SMS support in the UK, because it’s costing them too much.

This got me thinking. Most cellphones these days have internet connectivity. The data cost of an SMS is negligible. (You want to do the math? Think R 2.00 / 1,048,576 bytes * 200 chars). Yes, I know about IM, but it’s still very visibly bolted on. SMS is integrated with the phone book and interface. No install necessary.

So why isn’t SMS using TCP/IP yet? Why are we still paying up to 85c per SMS?

MIT Students Silenced About Subway Vulnerabilities

A restraining order was issued against three MIT students who were to make a presentation at Defcon. They were about to reveal security vulnerabilities that they discovered in the Massachusetts train fare system.

The EFF is appealing the decision on the grounds that the restraining order is a violation of the student’s free speech rights.

Ironically, the MBTA released a security report that reveals more than the presentation would have.

Frankly, I think this is worse than Diebold’s use of the DMCA to keep researchers from revealing vulnerabilities in their voting machines. (Diebold eventually lost their case.)

In the case of these students, they were effectively censored first, and now they have to sue to get their right to freedom of speech back. That’s the wrong way round, isn’t it?

UPDATE: The gag order was lifted. For Great Justice!

23 Free Social Media eBooks

I believe in open content, but I’d settle for open access until the collective consciousness catches up. This is why I love searching the net for free textbooks and ebooks.

I’ve found a couple of classics like the Cluetrain Manifesto, and New Rules for the New Economy, and by now everybody knows about Quirk’s eMarketing Textbook. I’ve also found about five free culture ebooks.

Chris Brogan however, has somehow managed to find 20 free social media ebooks, and I didn’t know about any of them. I’m a little bit jealous. (Thanks to Stii for twittering it.)

And of course, if you know of any other ebooks I’d be interested in, lemme know.

Pirating Is OK, But Plagiarism Is Truly Evil

Danny O’Brien made the point that copying isn’t such a big deal any more, but that plagiarism is almost universally condemned.

One reason for this could be the environment that originated the open content ethos. In an academic environment, using someone else’s work to support your own conclusions is encouraged, but using it without attribution could get you expelled. There’s even a saying: “Attribution is the difference between plagiarism and research“.

However, I believe a more likely reason is that reputation is becoming vital to information producers. As I have said before:

There is a difference between selling information as a good, and selling the production of information. It’s the difference between getting paid to produce information, or getting paid to copy existing information. It turns out that the latter method is economically inefficient.

If you’re getting paid to do work like produce information goods (like the DJ friend mentioned in the article), then your reputation becomes your most valuable asset. If someone plagiarizes your work, then they gain reputation that should have gone to you. This means less potential work for you.

This could be the start of a true reputation economy.

You Should Host Your Own Exocortex

I remember a time when it was widely believed that Internet shopping would never happen, because people were too afraid that their credit card details will be stolen. People were paranoid about their personal data.

Yet today we put our personal details on Facebook, our creative work on Blogger and send our most intimate messages through Gmail. Some of us are even starting to keep our documents on Google Docs, and our diaries on Google Calendar.

People look at me strangely when I tell them I’m waiting for Twitter to decentralize. Microblogging is blogging in miniature. There’s no technical reason why people shouldn’t host their own microblogs, just like they host their own blogs.

Project like Open Social imply that Facebook type websites could also fully decentralize. Facebook is popular because they insist that you use real names. If you had a central directory linking real names to websites, then the social networking aspect of FB could also be fully decentralized and self-hosted.

What about Gmail, Google Docs and Google Calendar? They could be replaced by webtop systems like EyeOS,, or DesktopTwo.

These systems form your exocortex. If it exists in corporate owned and corporate-centralized form, why should you bother with user-centralizing and hosting it yourself?

Ignore for a moment all the the privacy issues surrounding Facebook, YouTube and even Google. Ignore also how fragmented your digital identity currently is.

What will you do if Google accidentally locks you out of your account? Can this really happen? It already has.

When you give your personal data to any company, and expect them to do the right thing, you’re looking for trouble. It’s your responsibility to safeguard your data. The only way you can do that is by hosting your own exocortex. It’s not paranoia if they really are out to get you.