TED Talk: The currency of the new economy is trust

How would you describe my reputation in three words? My judgment, knowledge, and behaviors in various situations?

Back in the 1990s, the beauty of the Internet was we could disappear and be whomever we wanted. Wherever we went, almost no one knew who we were. Then web sites started providing accounts to sites and tracking who we were. Then web sites started sharing who we were. Now our reputation is going to follow us around on the Internet?

I guess it already does. I got my current job by doing something similar to the StackOverflow example used in the video. Helping others solve problems with the product developed into people trusting me. Measuring trust though. No existing rating system really works as well as I think it should.

I really dislike the ratings on most web sites because I do not really trust them. Authors don pseudonyms. Publishers make fake accounts. So I prefer something like Goodreads where people I actually know are the raters and whether or not to trust the rater is an easier task. Books that changed other people’s life? Meh. Restaurant I love? Other people find meh.

Guess I should go figure out how to trust the raters so eventually people can trust me trusting them.

If the video below does not work, then try The currency of the new economy is trust.

TED: Stanley McChrystal: Listen, learn … then lead

His conclusion near the end is something I listen for when people talk about where they work. I have been fortunate to either have an immediate supervisor or another higher up the ladder who demonstrated trust in me and the decisions I made. When it was present, it made me happy to be there and willing to stay. Earning it is hard for both parties.

A leader is not good because they are right. They are good because they learn and trust…. If you are a leader, then the people you have counted on will help you up. If you are a leader, then the people who count on you need you on your feet.

His description at the beginning of a Ranger “jump” out of an air plane amused me. (If he thinks the Army and Air Force teach you waiting, he should try working with programmers and analysts.)

Competitive Edge

Found a Backupify blog on controlling employee access to social media odd. Preventing employees from discussing work on social media may help, but really you need to operate like the Manhattan Project. Sequester them in a town you build in the middle of nowhere, go through all of their correspondence paper or electronic, and control who they can physically see. People are going to talk about what they do.

Really, the issue is a business whose survival relies totally on secrets is one blabbermouth away from total destruction. The secrets are the problem not the employees. When owners and managers get to the point they cannot trust employees, the employees need to leave and take all their knowledge with them.

Trusting Social Networks

Sunday at brunch we had an interesting conversation about Facebook.

Establishing the appropriate privacy levels to the various constituents see appropriate material is hard. So hard it takes a long pages of text and screenshots to just paint a picture of what to review for the top 10 Facebook privacy settings.

We were discussing how to make the Facebook world we touched more private. How to keep those we supervise or those who supervise us at bay once accepted into our social circle. Few of us only post things our grandmothers would find acceptable, so how do we ensure grandma will never see that picture? This meant banning grandma from seeing the Wall or photo albums or tagged photos.

I had heard we would soon be able to change the privacy levels of individual posts.  This privacy granularity comes at a price according to the New York Times:

By default, all your messages on Facebook will soon be naked visible to the world. The company is starting by rolling out the feature to people who had already set their profiles as public, but it will come to everyone soon.

People like walled gardens. Taking a term from Seth Godin, interacting with just the handpicked few forms a tribe.

If sunlight is the best disinfectant, then social networking on Facebook will die should it be exposed to the world (or too hard to remain private). The most common criticism of blogging is the whole world is in your business. People like the faux-protection of participating online where Google cannot archive it for posterity. This is why Facebook experienced such explosive growth.

Hopefully users will be able to deal with keeping everything as private as they like. Otherwise, we’ll be looking for another walled garden. Maybe I’ll even end up back on my private Twitter account?

Stalking Students

On the BLKBRD-L email list is a discussion about proving students are cheating. Any time the topic comes up, someone says a human in a room is the only way to be sure. Naturally, someone else responds with the latest and greatest technology to detect cheating.

In this case, Acxiom offers identity verification:

By matching a student’s directory information (name, address, phone) to our database, we match the student to our database. The student then must answer questions to verify their identity, which may include name, address and date of birth.

The institution never releases directory information so there are no Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) violations.

However, to complete the course work the student is forced to hand over the information to Acxiom, an unknown and potentially untrusted party. Why should students trust Acxiom when institutions cannot be trusted?

Due to the decentralized nature of IT departments, higher education leads all industries in numbers data breach events. Acxiom’s verification capabilities were designed so that student and instructor privacy is a critical feature of our solution. Institutions never receive the data Acxiom uses in this process. They are simply made aware of the pass/fail rates.

In other words, high education institutions cannot be trusted to handle this information. No reason was provided as to why Acxiom can be better trusted. Guess the people reading this would never check to see whether Acxiom has also had data breaches.

This Electronic Freedom Foundation response to Acxiom’s claims their method is more secure was interesting:

True facts about your life are, by definition, pre-compromised. If the bio question is about something already in the consumer file, arguably the best kind of question is about something that is highly unlikely to be in one’s consumer file and even useless commercially–like my pet’s name.

Answering these kinds of questions feels like more of violation of than a preservation of privacy.

Feedback Loops

Remakes don’t scare me. Some are good. Some are bad. 

The thing to remember is, “Its just a movie.” The world won’t end over a poor movie. There’s always another one in a few weeks to either like or hate. If it stands up to the test of time, then you’ll buy the Blue-ray and next three formats over the next 30 years. If not, then just ignore it ever existed… Much like I’ve done with Superman III, Superman IV, Star Trek The Final Frontier, and hundreds of other movies.

Getting worked up over change? Not worth it.

Quibblers would have kept “Star Trek” more like its old self. Quibblers inhibit revolution. Quibblers would deny the basic law of forward motion in pop culture:

If you love something, they will remake it.

But if you really love it, you will set it free, and let them.

The Trouble With Quibbles

Film makers should keep in mind, the types of people involved in  fads: connectors, mavens, salesperson. Fans are mavens. People are going to trust the opinion of these fans. So if the fans’ concerns are just a few quibbles but still an endorsement, then the general public will flock to the movie. If these quibbles amount to wide rejection of the movie by the existing fans, then the general public will mostly stay away from it.

Quibbles are not really the issue. Endorsements are. 

I think you missed that there is a life-cycle to most such endeavors, and feedback is very useful at specific times, and disruptive (in a bad way) at others.

So, the problem with “fan feedback” non-stop is that they tend to fall into a mob mentality, off being “trolls” about any innovation. But, that said, remember that early forms of the Batman movie with the Heath L Joker was shown to fans (at a Comic Con) to get feedback on the style and whether too over the top. The feedback was used to find the balance and deal with the nature of the ending. Fans were given leaks and teasers (semi-trailers) along the way as well, but the mob rule was not allowed not hound the people making it.

That said, what makes a movie work or not is very different from what made its source material work. The reason the Spiderman movies worked for a large audience who knew nothing about the comics had a lot to do with the simpler nature of the comics. Batman has always been more complex in the psychology of its heroes and villains, as much by what does not happen as what does. Watchman is trickier given its narrative model and how much it connected with its time (Cold War, etc).

— PaulK
The Downside of Feedback

Design by committee sucks. So fans should not take over the process. However, total rejection of fan criticisms probably will result in rejection by the fans and slow sales.

Recovering Pictures

William borrowed my camera to go on his honeymoon. He also lost the photos with a poorly timed crash & drive reformat. So he wants to borrow the card and recover the data. Thankfully I have not used the camera since he returned it despite thinking I should.

Luckily I ran across A Computer Repair Utility Kit You Can Run From a Thumb Drive

I didn’t like the setup of Photorec as it runs through the command line. Navigating the tree was confusing at best. It did recover 1,166 photos / 3.62GB for me.

Not trusting a single method, I also tried Recuva. That worked a little better. It reported 1,395 files found. However, 177 were unrecoverable. Getting 1,218 pictures / 3.78GB back was 52 / 160MB better than Photorec. Though many of the “recovered” pictures just say: Invalid Image. Maybe they really are Raw?

While trying to use Restoration, it crashed the first time. Not sure why. It was fine the next time, though it only found 4 photos.

Filename: Photorec doesn’t restore files with anything like the original name. Recuva and Restoration do.

Meta Data: OSes and image editors know about the EXIF data in pictures. All the Photorec pictures have date taken. Most of the Recuva pictures do. Guess I could see if only 52 pictures are missing the EXIF? That might explain why Photorec lost some of them.

All in all, it was an fun experiment. I am not curious how these stack up against of the proprietary software? Why pay $40 when these are better?

The Digital Switch

The Long Tail claims consumers, given more options, will reflect their widely varied interests. Physical stores cannot fill all of the demand, so bytes stored on disk are the fastest, cheapest method for getting stuff to consumers. We see a mostly example of this shift in the shift to digital music.

Vinyl records were the first physical music media form I used. Later, cassette tapes (1980s) and compact disc (1990s) achieved dominance. In 2001, I started the transition to digital music. There were some stumbles along the way because of technology changes and trusting vendors saying Digital Rights Management is good for consumers. At present, I only listen to digital music when using my own collection.

Digital video seems more complicated. Web sites streaming and on-demand television have the potential to fit the Long Tail model where consumers have access to insanely varied content when they want it. DVRs neither fix the when (just shift the airing to another time) or the insanely varied content. Movie rental distributors like Blockbuster and Netflix are moving toward distributing digital movies and TV shows in setups similar to on-demand. Nothing has even come close to winning.

Digital books may yet get some traction. Computers screens cause eye strain. Laptops don’t feel like a book. PDAs, Blackberrys, and other handhelds with small screens require a ton of scrolling. A recent solution to this is “epaper” which doesn’t constantly refresh. The Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook, and Sony Reader are the biggest players. (The Long Tail is not available for the Kindle but is for the Reader. WTH?)

Remaining issues for me:

  1. Ownership is dying.
    • I really like the idea of playing music on my iPod or from CDs. I play DVDs on my computer because I can’t play my DVR stuff in a hotel. So streaming and on-demand only solutions bother me as long-term solutions. If it is easy for distributors to store it because it is just bytes, then it is easy for me to do so as well.
    • I have books from 20 years ago I can still read. Technology changes too much to depend on something I buy today working tomorrow. So maybe “renting” is a way better approach for digital media?
  2. The black markets for music and movies prove consumers want everything any time. Companies must embrace consumer demand and make it easier for consumers or suffer. I think companies changing to accommodate consumer demand is the only reason the music companies have survived. Litigation cannot solve it.
  3. Hardware investment gets expensive every few years.

My solution? Wait and see.

Most Wired Teacher

“Who is the most wired teacher at your college?” (A Wired Way to Rate Professors—and to Connect Teachers)

Although the university runs workshops on how to use Blackboard, many professors are reluctant, or too busy, to sit through training sessions. Most would prefer to ask a colleague down the hall for help, said Mr. Fritz.

Professional support is too intimidating, cold, careless. Support fixes the problems of others who created problems for themselves:

  • choices made in software to use
  • configuration choices
  • mistakes logic in processing

The concept of identifying the professors who most use the system is a good one. We already track the amount of activity per college or university in the University System of Georgia. The amount of data (think hundreds of millions of rows across several several tables)  would make singling out the professors a very long running query. Doesn’t mean it is a bad idea. Just don’t think it is something we would do with Vista 3. We probably could with Vista 8 which uses a clean database.

I’d like to see two numbers:

  1. Number of actions by the professor
  2. Number of actions by the all classes the professor teaches

Ah, well, there are lots of other reports which need to be done. Many more important than this one. 

Some questions from the article: “Will colleges begin to use technology to help them measure teaching? And should they?” At present, to create such reports, IT staff with database reporting or web server skills are needed. Alternatively, additonal applications like Blackboard Outcomes System can provide the data. The real problem is the reliability and validity of the data. Can it really be trusted to make important decisions like which programs or employees are effective.

Division Issue in YAPB

Problem PHP in Yet Another Photoblog causes “Warning: Division by zero in exifReader.inc on line 859” (the problem line is in bold):


  // More complicated way of expressing exposure time, so only use
  // this value if we don’t already have it from somewhere else.
  if ($this->ImageInfo[TAG_EXPOSURETIME] == 0){
    $sp = $this->ConvertAnyFormat($ValuePtr, $Format);
    // Temporary Workaround for divizion by zero problem
      if (!empty($sp[0])) {
        $this->ImageInfo[TAG_SHUTTERSPEED] = (1/exp($sp[0]*log(2)));
      } else {
        $this->ImageInfo[TAG_SHUTTERSPEED] = 0;


Looks like YAPB is attempting to create a value if one doesn’t exist for TAG_EXPOSURETIME by inventing a new value. In my problem picture, the exposure time is 0.003 seconds which != 0. So why is the ($this->ImageInfo[TAG_EXPOSURETIME] == 0) condition evaluated as true? 

Interestingly, just prior to this is some code dealing with TAG_EXPOSURETIME which seems to be affecting this. Changing the 0.5 to 0.0005 (less than my current value removes the problem.

  // Simplest way of expressing exposure time, so I trust it most.
  // (overwrite previously computd value if there is one)
  $tmp = $this->ConvertAnyFormat($ValuePtr, $Format);
  $this->ImageInfo[‘h’][“exposureTime”] = sprintf(“%6.4f s (%d/%d)”,(double)$tmp[0],$tmp[1][0],$tmp[1][1]);
  if ($tmp[0] <= 0.5){
    $this->ImageInfo[‘h’][“exposureTime”] .= sprintf(” (1/%d)”,(int)(0.5 + 1/$tmp[0]));


With this conditional, the exposure time is “0.003 s (1/400) (1/400)” without “0.003 s (1/400)”. Didn’t see a reason to have it twice, so I’ve dropped it.

Also, I figure it would be better to call ImageInfo[‘h’][“exposureTime”] instead of ImageInfo[TAG_EXPOSURETIME]. With this change, it seems to have resolved the issue for me.