Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Stuff I'm reading on my "vacation"

My wife asks me: what are you going to do on your vacation? Well, there's a computer here, and it's quiet, and (for a week at least) I don't have any projects underway at work, so I guess maybe I'll just read...

  • At the Annual Computer Security Applications Conference (ACSAC) 2012, Ross Anderson gives a talk on the (approximate) 10 year anniversary of the birth of "Security Economics".
    After sabbatical visits to Berkeley in 2001–2 to work with Hal Varian, we organised the first Workshop on the Economics of Information Security in June 2002. Since then the field has grown to encompass arguments over open versus proprietary systems, the econometrics of online crime, the behavioural economics of security and much else. It has started to have a significant impact on policy, with security-economics studies of cybercrime and infrastructure vulnerability being adopted as policy in the EU, while security economics PhDs have got influential jobs in the White House and elsewhere.
  • Jean-Louis Gassee (remember him?) completely eviscerates Meg Whitman in this point-by-point deconstruction: Whitman: One Write-Off Too Far
    Walk in with a frown; blame your predecessor; slash projects, budgets, people; lower expectations, loudly; and write off assets.
  • Julian Sanchez and Ed Felten have been having a fascinating debate about both the technical and social considerations of GMail privacy. Sanchez kicked off the discussion with this Ars Technica article: Op-ed—A plea to Google: Protect our e-mail privacy. Felten observed that there were significant technical hurdles: End-to-End Encrypted GMail? Not So Easy. And Sanchez continued the discussion with some additional thoughts: Encrypting Google: A Quick Reply to Ed Felten.

    As both Felten and Sanchez agree, the key issue here is probably not technical, but economic, as the reason that Google provides free email is that they deliver ads based on the content of your email. Sanchez:

    As for content ads, well, that’s the million dollar question—and as Vint Cerf has candidly acknowledged, a primary reason Google hasn’t already done this. [...] It’s up to Google’s accountants to figure out how that all nets out, but these considerations seem like a good prima facie reason to at least run the numbers if they haven’t done it recently.
  • The always interesting Moxie Marlinspike takes a detour from his typical ruminations on security to offer an essay about value: The Worst.
    Partisans of the best will probably never end up accidentally riding a freight train 1000 miles in the wrong direction, or making a new life-long friend while panhandling after losing everything in Transnistria, or surreptitiously living under a desk in an office long after their internship has run out — simply because optimizing for the best probably does not leave enough room for those mistakes.
  • A brilliant article in the December issue of Vanity Fair about the re-modeling of the New York Public Library: Firestorm on Fifth Avenue
    The idea that the New York Public Library should not welcome everyone, scholars and casual readers alike, enrages Tony Marx, given how much he has focused his career on making established institutions more open to minorities. It hardly pleases the trustees, either, who have believed consistently in a vision of the library as a progressive institution. In fact, it is something of a paradox that so far as the Central Library Plan is concerned, the blue-blooded trustees represent what might be considered a more progressive view than do the writers and scholars.
  • Going back to the grand old days of the Amiga 1000, Daniel Cook remembers the work on a game that never was: Game Post Mortem: Hard Vacuum --Mining a 12-year old game design for innovative game mechanics, and talks about the distinctions that can be drawn between the essence of a game, and the execution of a game, and how that should inform the work of game designers:
    Pick up and play an ancient copy of a game that fathered a genre. The further back you can go, the better. Clear your mind of all expectations and knowledge of what the genre evolved into. That cool thing that Half Life did with conversations. Forget it.

    Now reinvent the genre. What are the core primitive concepts and where can you take them that would result in addictive player experiences? You have the opportunity to reinvent an entire decade of evolutionary game design in your head. Chances are you will spawn a few original ideas.

  • Lawyers around the world, rejoice: Intellectual Ventures is about to send a whole lot more work your way.
    Under the terms of the deal, Kodak will be paid $525 million by a consortium led by Intellectual Ventures and the RPX Corporation. The two companies plan to pay for part of the sale by licensing the intellectual property to 12 other companies.
  • Wendy Nathers offers some thoughts on the diversity issues that resulted in the cancellation of the British Ruby Conference in a nice essay: Sure, I'll be your unicorn
    if we want to hack our brains, we have to be conscious about it, and put some effort into changing our subconscious expectations of the way things ought to be.
  • Andy Baio reflects on the recent XOXO conference: The Unified Theory of XOXO. Baio's article is a mother lode of innovative and controversial ways to rejuvenate technical conferences, full of great bits like:
    Panels are the best way to make four interesting people boring. They're hard to prepare for, too much pressure to be interesting on the spot, and usually end up a meandering and unfocused conversation touching on a handful of topics. I hate them. Even with a strong moderator, I'd universally rather hear four short solo talks from each person than a four-person conversation. Why? Because preparing a solo talk forces the speaker to think carefully about what they want to say, conveying their message and meaning in a concise way.
    Wired Magazine agrees, noting that:
    XOXO also felt, to me at least, like a defining moment for people who express themselves creatively and independently online, as well as for those who aspire to help them, a moment when that community became aware of itself as a growing, sustainable cultural force, and a moment when it embraced the fact that, unlike in the early days of the web and of the internet, it is now pointedly distinct from the boomtown mentality that seems to characterize so many on the global computer network.
  • And, lest you think that there isn't enough to learn, Werner Vogels does us all a favor and collects up this year's Back-to-Basics reading list on his blog. Can't wait for next year, Werner!

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