Aereo decision thoughts

The U. S. Supreme Court today ruled against Aereo in its fight with broadcasters over retransmission fees.

Justice Stephen Breyer, writing for a 6-3 majority, likened Aereo's service to a cable system, which is a public performance.

You may read the decision here. As I don't claim to be a legal scholar, my summary comes from Richard Wolf's USA Today article linked above. (Is Law & Order creator Dick Wolf doing freelance legal writing now?)

"Aereo is, for all practical purposes, identical to a cable system," Breyer said. "Both use their own equipment. Both receive broadcast television programs, many of which are copyrighted. Both enable subscribers to watch those programs virtually as they are being broadcast."          

I wonder how something can be a public performance if each person has their own antenna. If you have cable, one could argue each person has their own set-top box. In that case, I suppose the reasoning is that it all goes over the same wires.

I don't want to spend too much time pondering the individual arguments though. The decision has already been rendered and it could be a while before the Court takes up a case on this type of technology again.

Far more interesting to me is the potential opportunity this opens up for competitors. The reason Aereo lost was that the antennas that enabled you to sign in and watch TV on your computer, set top box or mobile device were stored outside the home. There's no reason (admittedly more expensive) competing options like Slingbox and TiVo can't say, "We hook up directly to your TV antenna and provide the same watch anywhere functionality legally."

This is a bit of a blow because Aereo was definitely the cheapest option, but I wouldn't be surprised to see one of its in-home competitors offer a deal in the coming days to fill the void.

Google security change breaks system for me (and a lot of others)

I installed a solid-state hard drive in my computer this weekend and lightning fast boot and application startup times mostly make up for any pain caused by having to reinstall my operating system and programs.

That being said, I wouldn't be writing this if there weren't a few hiccups. While I could write about my continual frustration with the way iTunes handles migration (I had issues despite taking every Apple recommended precaution), I feel like that's been written about 100 times and I'm not going to beat a dead horse.

It started after I installed Dragon NaturallySpeaking. One of the big features that prompted me to go to Nuance's 12th version of its speech recognition software was the promise of a browser extension which would enable the program to work better with Gmail's web interface. This is one less time I have to transfer text from a special dictation box into the text box on the web. It just works directly on the compose window.

I'm not going to claim it works perfectly. When I load a page with Flash, the extension crashes 60 percent of the time. This freezes the browser until a prompt comes up asking you to kill the process. I don't blame Nuance. Flash has a reputation for not playing nicely with anything, but this technical limitation makes YouTube an absolute nonstarter.

I reinstalled NaturallySpeaking and booted Chrome expecting it to ask me to enable the extension. (I've been through this process before. I know just enough about computers to end up breaking my own operating system a couple times.) Nothing. Curious, I open up Internet Explorer which immediately installs the extension. I return to Chrome which now has a message saying another program installed the extension, and because this was possibly without my knowledge, the extension has been disabled. Undeterred, I find the extension file in Dragon's program directory on my own and drag it over, thereby installing it myself. Chrome says the extension has been disabled because it is not from the Chrome Web Store. Now I'm a little peeved, but I decide to Google it.

That's when I came across this blog post from The Next Web. Google has decided to stop allowing third parties to install their own extensions on Windows because hackers have found a way to exploit systems through Chrome extensions installed outside the store.

While Google's intentions in this area are noble and I agree with the basic rationale behind the decision, there are a couple problems with the execution in this scenario. First, I wasn't notified and had to find out about the change through my own research. Although the switch was flipped on this change in late May, there was never any message explaining the policy. It would be easy to imagine a scenario where Google could have disabled the extensions, but offered a checkbox for users to keep using third-party extensions that they needed. This is a concept already implemented in Android.

There are also plenty of perfectly valid reasons why you might not want your extension in the Chrome Store. In this particular case, I view it as perfectly reasonable for Nuance to want to install the extension directly alongside its software. Because NaturallySpeaking is required for the extension to work, listing it alongside other extensions in the store could cause confusion for Chrome users who might be familiar with the NaturallySpeaking brand and technology, but think that it's a standalone application. You don't want your product badmouthed when they find that it doesn't work without the software.

I guess I will have to hope Nuance puts its extension in the Web Store or that Google changes its policy. I know I'm not the only one with a third-party extension affected by this issue. Google had several options in order to deal with this situation, but limiting consumer choice shouldn't have been one of them.

A note on the TweetDeck hack from one of the hacked

The initial tweet

The initial tweet

TweetDeck, a popular service which lets people separate out their Twitter stream to follow certain people and hashtag topics, has been hacked today, allowing unintended retweets to be posted on user streams.

In a quick response, Twitter said that its users should logout of the service and log back in so that a fix can be applied.

Numerous users, myself included, noticed the fix hadn't worked and unwanted tweets were still getting through.

This is all causing quite the hubbub amongst media outlets which frequently use TweetDeck to manage multiple accounts. From the amount of complaining I'm seeing, you would think this was #journogeddon.

Twitter took the service down and later said they verified their fix. Things seem to be working right now.

I guess I'm here to calm heads. The good news is based on the very nature of the tweets this looks like a simple script hack that didn't compromise passwords.

I'm as guilty as anyone, but I do find it interesting how much we are compromised when one service has a minor hiccup for under an hour. These are definitely problems of the first world variety, but perhaps we should develop backup plans.

TrueCrypt ending support? A possible alternative

Is this the end of the line for TrueCrypt?

Is this the end of the line for TrueCrypt?

The developers of TrueCrypt, open source encryption software capable of encrypting whole hard drives have posted a message on their site as of yesterday saying that the software is no longer supported and urging migration to other tools.

TrueCrypt is used by many people to strongly encrypt their data. This is useful in many fields including journalism for those working on sensitive stories. I've played around with the tool myself in case I should ever need to use it.

Theories as to the abrupt announcement vary, ranging from something being found in the well-publicized crowd funded security audit to questions of whether the site was hacked to security researcher Steve Gibson's assertion that the developers may just be tired.

Until someone knows what's actually going on, it's probably not constructive to comment on rampant speculation, but I can point you to an alternative.

I don't have the technical expertise to evaluate the security of any given encryption platform, but Steve Gibson recently stated on his Security Now! podcast that AxCrypt was a "perfect, clean, simple encryption tool."

I can say that I have used this in the past and in many ways, AxCrypt is easier to deal with than its TrueCrypt counterpart. After installation, the user gets a new AxCrypt entry in their right click context menu that allows them to encrypt files. Clicking the encrypt button, a user is prompted to enter a passphrase. The next time they open the file, they must put in the passphrase before gaining access. The encryption puts the file in a different format. This means if you encrypt a Word document, the document will no longer be accessible through the open menu in Word. You must open the file and input the passphrase from the folder the file was saved in.

Unlike TrueCrypt, AxCrypt doesn't offer full disk encryption, opting instead to encrypt files and folders you specifically select. Those looking for full disk encryption on Windows are pointed by the TrueCrypt website to Microsoft's BitLocker. Unfortunately, however, this is only available on the Ultimate and Enterprise editions of Windows 7 and Windows 8 Professional and above. Mac users can turn on FileVault. If you need encryption, I would recommend doing this because AxCrypt doesn't appear to have a Mac version. It's also free and saves you from having to find another solution.

For those looking for a deeper analysis of the TrueCrypt situation itself and the many possible theories, I would point you to this Forbes article.

As autonomous cars come closer, ethical issues

Google unveiled the second generation of its self driving car Tuesday night, interestingly taking a step toward cutting out the middleman and building the actual car this time.

The announcement, made at the opening night of the Code Conference hosted by Re/code editor's Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher, featured a car with no steering wheel that looks like a Volkswagen Beetle with the added touch of a face on the front that seems to personify the car.

Google's car only reaches 25 mph at this point and seems to be more of a proof of concept. Further along is Google's attempt to place the technology inside existing car models.

In a couple of videos featuring Lexus SUVs, the company demonstrated that it's system now makes appropriate lane change decisions based on road construction and can detect a bicyclist's hand signal.

I preface this next observation with the realization that my lack of real-world driving experience means I could be totally off base here. One odd portion of the safety video showed the car stopping at a railroad crossing. The arm was not down, but the car stops. The narrator explained that the car stops and waits for other traffic to clear the tracks. The crossing was clearly wide enough for at least two cars because you could see them passing on the left. If cars can pass you, traffic might not clear on the track for quite a while. If the aim here is to prevent train collision it would be better in my mind to either see or get the signal that the arm is down.

The cars still have a little ways to go before the public will be getting their hands on these. Google concedes that at this point the car does not do well in rain or snow. This is no easy challenge.

I covered the Intelligent Ground Vehicle Competition  each June for three years at Oakland University. The international competition, partially funded by the Department of Defense and some local military contractors, had teams design and build robots which could handle a variety of tasks. Among these, the robot had to be able to learn and navigate its way around an obstacle course autonomously. There were varying approaches, but they commonly involved combinations of cameras, lasers and GPS.

I spoke with OU's team as they prepared their entry, "Replicant," for a run on the final day of competition. They had been having one of their most successful showings so far, but they were concerned with rainy conditions. The team members explained to me that the laser guidance system they were using could reflect off the raindrops causing improper navigation.

In addition to the remaining technical challenges, there are also legal and ethical concerns to be dealt with. If everyone had an autonomous car, the roads would undoubtedly be safer. It takes human error out of the equation. The reality, however, is a little more messy.

Not everyone is going to rush out and buy one of these things the instant they are legal. This mix with cars being driven by humans creates its own set of variables. Setting aside insurance issues of who is responsible in the event of a collision, there are going to be basic philosophical questions the programmers of the car's software will have to answer. Adrianne Jeffries of The Verge wrote a post on efforts to teach robots ethical decision-making skills.

Suppose that a human driver pulls out into oncoming traffic. Our hypothetical autonomous car does not have time to stop, but it can steer in such a way as to control the direction of the impact. If the Google car has one passenger and the car it is about to collide with has five, should it kill the driver to save the family or protect the owner at all cost?

If the programming team opted for consequentialist theory, the best thing to do would be to kill the driver and save the family as it does less harm. However, if we were in control of the car contemplating our impending end, how many of us can say what we might do in that moment? I wonder openly how many would sign a license agreement (there would have to be one) that said your car could sacrifice you for the greater good. That's a tough provision to swallow, no matter how rational.

There are hurdles, but it's certainly interesting to watch this unfold.

Source: The Verge

A case for Google Glass

Video from Google

Much of life is focused on images. We share photos and video with our friends on social networks. We print pictures on books and calendars to pass around the family at holiday gatherings, snapshots of our fathers at age 6 or 7 standing in front of a rocking horse. Our own memories work this way (or at least mine). I'll see a fleeting image of sitting in my grandma's kitchen at age 3 before I will ever remember what I said or did in the recollection.

These photographs are slices in time that may only be captured in a single moment. What if there had been no camera when Michael Jordan jumped from the free throw line, sticking his tongue out just before slamming the ball through the hoop? Suppose an Associated Press photographer wasn't present when the flag was raised at Iwo Jima? These images probably don't exist, or at the very least they are different from the iconic ones we've come to appreciate.

We've now reached an age where everyone has a camera. You don't have to be Joe Rosenthal (Iwo Jima) or Walter Iooss Jr. (Michael Jordan-The shot from the sideline is probably the basis for the Air Jordan logo created later on, but for my money, the photo from the baseline of Jordan facing the camera as he's about to dunk is better.) There's something democratizing about a world in which anyone can capture a moment.

It's against this backdrop that I begin to wonder why even the staunchest supporters of Google Glass wonder about its viability as a consumer product. Photographers are always saying the best camera is the one you have with you. This is why I would argue that we see just as many great pictures from point-and-shoot cameras as we do from expensive DSLRs.

Critics of Google Glass wonder why you wouldn't just use your phone or a Go Pro. Early Glass adopter and general gadget enthusiast Robert Scoble acknowledged privacy concerns last week in a Facebook post  stating that wearing Glass could feel "freaky."

Before I counter the first point of the above criticism, I feel the need to lay my cards on the table. I do own a camera (a 12 megapixel point-and-shoot; nothing fancy but it gets the job done). I can also take photos with my phone. The problem in my particular case is that they have to be attached to a mount that sits atop my chair. I very rarely use this because when I'm done taking photos, the mount must be unscrewed in order to move to a desk to work. I'm aware of this is not a problem most people deal with. I will admit to being a fan of any technology that makes my problems, however niche, easier to deal with.

However, imagine this scenario. Your child has just begun to take their first steps. Let's just say for the sake of argument that those first unsteady steps probably last for a maximum of about five seconds. How many of us could whip our phone out, start the camera app and hit record before the child stumbled and fell again? By contrast, we can say "take a picture" or "take a video" in a second. A wink (this also tells the device to take a picture) would take even less time.

I acknowledge obvious potential privacy issues. You have a camera on your face at all times. People feel like they can be constantly recorded and they are naturally somewhat leery. Privacy has been an issue since the invention of the Kodak camera.

I would argue that these issues are not rooted in any particular technology. New developments might bring these ethical dilemmas to the forefront, but ultimately these are problems we already have a code for. Among these basic principles of respect:

·         Don't record anyone without their permission (in several states, including Michigan, this is the law).

·         When out with someone, it's bad form to be constantly staring at a screen of any kind in the middle of a conversation.

I'm going to add a third point specifically for Glass. Become an ambassador. By this, I don't mean you have to extol the virtues of the product and encourage everyone to go run out and buy one. What you should do is take an active role in explaining how the technology works and why you are using it. In this way, you can make those around you feel more comfortable. I often do something similar with interview subjects in explaining why I record interviews on my computer.

I'm not saying Glass is a perfect product. I realize right now Google is pitching this as a beta for hardcore enthusiast developers, so $1,500 would probably not be a retail price tag. That being said, right now it's basically a camera with a few other functions. They need to upgrade the camera to at least 12 megapixels and come in at a price of not more than $500. I'm not telling Google anything it doesn't already know, but most people will probably have to add some sort of prescription so the cost of the frame cannot be too high. The battery life is also not great.

Glass has a few improvements to make before I think it can be a viable consumer product. Nevertheless, we should not dismiss such a technology because of concerns that can be handled with proper education and respect for boundaries.

Is sharing always caring?

A friend of mine sent me the above video the other night. After watching the video, I felt compelled to share it. It has the effect of bringing a smile to your face, might remind you of the beauty of the human race and just generally make you happy.

It wasn't until after I shared the post on Facebook with our collective connections that it dawned on me I may have broken a social contract. Should I have shared this? I realized this depended in large part on how the other person viewed this interaction. Was this supposed to be a fleeting exchange between friends, something to be broadcast to the public at large or somewhere in between?

I will save you the suspense. I consulted with my friend before writing this and they were fine with the fact that I shared. They even provided their own thoughts on sharing culture which I will discuss briefly a little later in this post.

In order to avoid saying "my friend" for the rest of this post, I will refer to them from now on by the gender-neutral name Sam.

Sam has been trying to rehabilitate my taste in music for several years. Although s/he  has never been able to cure me of my Taylor Swift fandom, I must say Sam's taste in music is impeccable. Whenever I receive a new music video, there's a 95 percent chance that $.99 will be debited for purchase from Amazon within six minutes. S/he always seems to find something off the beaten path that isn't receiving radio play but definitely should be.

Maybe it was because the song was not available for purchase (my first impulse for any good music), maybe it struck me as something different than you normally hear, or maybe because the emotional message of the song tugged at my heartstrings. Whatever the reason, I chose to share this particular song on Facebook, something I don't normally do.

I suppose I had a couple of different options at this point. I could have just posted the video and talked about how great it was, how it made me feel the innate goodness of the human spirit. After all, Sam did not make the video, but instead just shared it with me. There is no real obligation to give him/her credit for the find. I could have discovered it on my own on YouTube.

The other side of this argument is that it's sometimes nice to credit the original source. Maybe it's my journalistic training, but you source everything you do. I think as humans, there's something that feels very good about being recognized for the work you do and gems you dig up. Maybe journalism analogies aren't directly applicable to every situation, but I can tell you I would much rather have something attributed to my reporting or my media outlet rather than have someone say "reports" when I know they are using something that could have only come from me.

On the other hand, the argument can be made that perhaps journalists (or anyone remotely in the public eye) are an edge case. My phone number and e-mail are easily accessible in a number of places on the Internet because I have chosen to put them there. I can also be reached via a number of social networking profiles. It's a hazard of the profession that your hours don't necessarily end when you leave the office. I don't mind this because you get to tell the stories associated with people and issues from any number of angles. I have also been asked to share my perspective in some columns on disability related issues around Oakland University in the past. This was a great experience and I feel it's sometimes important to get your opinion across on these issues, especially when it comes from a point of view sometimes innocently overlooked. If in the process of reading that column you learn a little bit about me as a person, I don't mind trading a little bit of my privacy for awareness.

Still, most people are a lot more private than this and we wouldn't consider them a recluse. Every once in a while, I get someone that doesn't want to be interviewed. More often than not, you will not find someone's personal email or cell phone number on the web. It's not necessary that your average person tell you what he did at work today, let alone put his name on it.

Another factor is the issue that what may be appropriate and received a certain way in one situation might be received totally differently in another situation with a different audience. I think of Pitch Perfect as a relatively upbeat movie I watch with my little sister. When we watched with my grandmother today, I suddenly became aware of how much they actually pushed the line in that movie. Her reaction was, "How can you watch this crap?" I realized that maybe the line is different for everybody. My Facebook is intentionally tame, but if I were to post something that would potentially offend someone that might hire me, I wouldn't want to put the friend that shared it with me privately in the same boat.

When I told Sam I was planning to write this, s/he said this is just the way our generation shares culture. We see something we think is cool or that touches us emotionally and we pass it on.

I don't think there's any right answer. It's just something to ponder as we tweet, share and post in this social media age.

(Also, I'm apparently out of touch because Tom Fletcher's band McFly has been around since 2003 and recorded numerous albums.)

Oakland University email gate 2014

All hell broke loose at Oakland University sometime around 8:45 p.m. How it happened, we may never know. (Sure, we may hear something within 24 hours, but that might as well be a lifetime on the Internet.)

It started innocently enough. Someone sent out a survey for their Rhetoric 160 class. From then on, chaos reigned.

Most people that have dealt with email for any length of time knows the perils of the "Reply All" button. It's cemented in your head the first time you accidentally send an email to the larger thread for whom the message was not necessarily intended.

Apparently someone at OU missed the message. For the second time in my undergraduate career, someone has decided, intentionally or otherwise, to take part in a reply all social experiment.

Most will be annoyed by this, but the first instinct of some to tell people to stop responding will do no good. It just encourages those that take some sort of pleasure in blowing up a perfectly sanitary inbox into an experiment in chaos theory.

Rather than panic, I say we take this opportunity to institute rules of order for our little email community. Let's call ourselves "E-Campus" for the sake of argument. Here's what I propose:

  • Every email must begin with a picture of Greg Kampe. This will serve as a symbol sort of like the conch shell from Lord of the Flies. If the picture is there, you can talk.
  • To continue with the basketball theme, this next policy is the "Travis Bader rule." Each email must consist of at least three coherent, preferably related, sentences. This will keep people from sending things like "I like turtles." We are in college people. Let's bring up the level of discussion.
  • Just because you like chain emails doesn't mean everyone else does. They are banned.

We may not like this whole listserv email thing, but as long as we have it, we may as well enjoy insightful discussion.

Threes: a charming and addictive number puzzle game


Rarely does an app move me to blog. Even more rarely is that app a game. Ladies and gentlemen, the day has come.

I suppose I should add some context here before I get started. I don't play that many games, on my phone or otherwise. I don't have the reflexes for even the timing-based destruction of later levels of Angry Birds. It is extremely infrequent that I find a game that I like and that I can play. However, there is a game that has consumed several of my idle moments this weekend. I've been playing so much I figured I better share.

Threes, a game that I suppose is best described as Tetris with numbers, is simple enough. Ones are combined with twos to become threes. After that, each number only adds with its twin and you have to line them up. (The above GIF should help you visualize things.) The next tile is shown above the 4 x 4 grid so you can plan your moves. When the grid fills and there are no more possible combinations, the game is over.

A few really smart design decisions keep this from being just another Tetris clone. Starting when your numbers add to 24, each new number you unlock gets a charming little bio card. It's subtle, but it's a nice motivational device. The tiles are made to look like living beings and make charming little beeps and boops to complement a nice musical score. That being said, you'll probably turn this off relatively quickly and listen to music on your phone.

The reason I really like this game is that it shines from an accessibility standpoint. The game is completely untimed. Tiles only drop in after you've made your previous move. I still make a move I didn't mean to occasionally, but I chalk that up to clumsy fingers. It's an excellent game for anyone that wants a stress-free, reflex free puzzler. I especially can't recommend it highly enough for those in the disabled community. This game completely levels the playing field.

If I had to give this game one criticism, it seems to drain the battery on my iPhone 4S relatively quickly. This is true even in the game's battery conserving mode. I may be overstating the problem because as I stated before, I don't play that many games. I don't really have a point of comparison. However, there are no physics or high-speed graphical flourishes that should cause the battery to drain this quickly. Maybe someone can let me know if I'm off base.

The minor quibble above notwithstanding, this is an excellent little puzzler. The universal app for both iPhone and iPad (sorry Android folks, not yet) is available in the App Store at 33 percent off, $1.99, for a limited time. My Game Center tag is ffalcon2009 and my high score is 2,481. I have little doubt that will be easy for someone to beat.

I'm looking through you

candid camera Today I begin a series of posts where song titles will serve as the inspiration. Today's song is "I'm Looking Through You" from The Beatles 1965 Rubber Soul album.

In the wake of yesterday's revelation in the Guardian that a blanket order was issued in April to obtain the phone records of all customers of Verizon's Business Network Services division, I definitely won't be using my Verizon cell phone to conduct interviews with potential government whistleblowers anytime soon.

Seriously though, I think it is time to come to grips as a society with the fact that we are constantly being surveilled, sometimes through actions of our own volition.

It is not my intention for this post to serve as an area for the discussion of whether these government actions are either politically, morally or legally justified. I will leave those decisions with the reader. We live in complicated times.

Rather, I think this is a good time to bring up this topic in light of several recent revelations in technology.

There has been much talk recently over potential privacy concerns about Google's hands-free Glass project.

For those unfamiliar, the Glass project is Google's attempt to create a heads up display atop faux eyewear. The project is still in beta form and will almost certainly be adapted to work with regular prescription lenses when the product goes commercial sometime next year.

Among the features of the product are the ability to take pictures and video. This has caused privacy concerns and Congress is debating legislative action on the issue.

However, at this point Glass requires you to give an audible cue to take a picture or start a video.

Google isn't even the first company to do this. There is a product on the market called Pivothead that does the same thing without an audible cue.

It also wouldn't take much for someone to surreptitiously record anyone with a cell phone camera.

It doesn't stop with cameras. On the Internet, advertisers are following us around.

I've noticed over the past few days that products I've searched on Amazon are finding their way into advertisements on other sites. I recently bought a product based on a Facebook advertisement. Facebook knowing what I like may be convenient, but I also couldn't help but feel it was a tad creepy.

The Internet enables us to consume and produce more information and media than ever. I can't help but feel that maybe some of the actions that have made the news lately on the part of the government are indicative of a society trying to reconcile old laws with the rapidly changing world. With great power comes great responsibility.

In the meantime, "Smile, you're on Candid Camera."

The iPhone experiment


A couple weeks ago, I accidentally blew away my entire computer. It wasn't my brightest moment, but thank goodness for online backup.

I was able to restore (most) of my data. The one thing I haven't been able to get working correctly since my reinstall is my word prediction program. Ordinarily, I don't use this very much as I normally rely on the speech recognition installed on my computer.

Its absence has caused one problem, however. When I'm listening to music and just talking to my friends, I prefer my earphones to my headset for audio quality. Without my word prediction program, I've been forced to resort to other means to listen to music and talk to my friends.

In the course of the past few days, I've discovered the dictation on the iPhone is good enough for Facebook conversations. However, my friends know me well enough to know that occasionally funny things are going to come up in the transcription.

Today, I'm taking things to the next level.

Over the next week (permanently if it works) I will be writing blog posts entirely from my iPhone. I will dictate, post as a draft and do any necessary minor editing on the computer before publishing.

My goal is to see just how long it takes me to write. If this goes well, I'm one step closer to really being able to file from the field. This device is capable of pictures, video and taking dictation.


Nothing worth learning is without a challenge. I anticipate several with this endeavor.

  1. There is no vocabulary training interface for the iPhone. This is one area where Dragon NaturallySpeaking on my laptop has Apple beat. I foresee having to hand type a lot of names.
  2. Anyone who has used the built-in dictation engine on the iPhone for even something as simple as a text message knows that it does some funky things with capitalization if you try to edit mid sentence.
  3. It has trouble with homonyms.

That said, I really wanted to give this a shot and see if it will work in an emergency situation. I want to be able to turn things around quicker than ever for The Oakland Post and future employers.

The preceding was dictated entirely on my iPhone.

Egyptian revolution shows power of social media

Wael Ghonim, a Google executive, used Facebook and Twitter to help lead a revolution in Egypt that led to the resignation of Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak. In an interview on NPR's Fresh Air, Ghonim said he was inspired by the uprising in Tunisia. He was further enraged by police forces' treatment of Khaled Said, a man beaten to death (WARNING: GRAPHIC FOOTAGE) for criticism of government corruption, his family and friends said.

Ghonim started a Facebook page in response titled "We Are All Khaled Said." He encouraged followers to make signs with the slogan as a way of getting people engaged in the movement.

Ghonim was eventually kidnapped and detained by Egyptian authorities for 11 days, but thanks to activism on Facebook and Twitter the movement was able to continue in his absence.

He resists taking too much credit for the campaign because in his eyes all he did was open lines of communication. In an interview with Harry Smith of "60 Minutes," Ghonim said:

Our revolution is like Wikipedia, okay? Everyone is contributing content, [but] you don't know the names of the people contributing the content. This is exactly what happened. Revolution 2.0 in Egypt was exactly the same. Everyone contributing small pieces, bits and pieces. We drew this whole picture of a revolution. And no one is the hero in that picture.

While certainly not on the scale of the Arab spring, I can personally attest to the communicative power of social media, particularly Twitter.

One seemingly innocuous tweet turned into a pretty big scoop for then Oakland Post Managing Content Editor Nichole Seguin and I.

So the @oaklandu residence hall showrooms have been converted into actual rooms. Clearly, this is a sign that we need more residence halls.

This person requested that they be left out of any eventual story because of their position as an RA in the housing department.  I've chosen to leave the name undisclosed here as well.

After following up, that tweet eventually became this Oakland Post cover story.

It wasn't the Egyptian revolution, but it did prove the power of social media as an important communication platform.

Facebook IPO Filing

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg would like you to confirm his friend request.  Okay, not really.  What he does want is your money. Facebook recently announced its intention to go public.  This should have no effect on users of the site.  There is no reason Facebook wouldn't continue to innovate at the frenetic pace it always has, infuriating some by changing its user interface every other second.

Investors however, should be and are watching closely.

Facebook is just a new player in a growing world of public tech startups. Groupon, a startup that offers users discounts on things like restaurants and show tickets, has yet to turn a profit.  Facebook is turning a profit, but I wonder how long that can continue.

I know companies like Facebook and Google make their revenue off of ads.  Yet, this almost doesn't pass the sniff test.

Sure, Facebook's ads are highly targeted by virtue of how much users share on the service.  At the same time however, the ads are so small on the right side of the page that it's hard to believe companies are paying that much for them.

Perhaps the best thing to do is wait and see.  Things have worked out okay for Google so far.