Consumer DNA databases, like FamilyTreeDNA and GEDmatch, have opened up new avenues for law enforcement investigators to identify people suspected of committing serious crimes. But the new technique raises privacy concerns.
Guest Host: Jennifer Golbeck
Twitter gets a makeover to look more like Facebook. A White House report says Internet companies shouldn’t snoop on their own users to send them targeted ads. And documentary filmmakers uncover a long-rumored cache of unopened Atari games, which were apparently buried in a landfill for 30 years. The Computer Guys and Gal are here to discuss the latest in the tech world.
- John Gilroy WAMU Computer Guy; Director for Business Development for BLT Global Ventures
- Allison Druin WAMU Computer Gal; Chief Futurist at the University of Maryland Division of Research; Co-Director of the Future of Information Alliance, University of Maryland
- Bill Harlow WAMU Computer Guy; and Hardware & Software Technician for MACs & PCs at Mid-Atlantic Consulting, Inc.
Apps Of The Month
Chi Bingo is an app that aims to increase social activity at conferences. The idea is simple: Before the conference, enter nine names of people with whom you want to interact. Then the race is on to get “selfies” with each of them before the week ends. Once you’re done you can share your 9×9 grid with others! Researchers at the FIT Lab in Swansea University developed the app, in honor of the late Gary Marsden, an HCI mobile researcher.
For “jet setters” like Kojo and Allison, there’s a new app called Gate Guru
Make video games with a pencil and paper using Pixel Press. Draw your level designs on graph paper and scan them into your iPad to make them come to life. Pixel Press Floors allows you to make platformer video games (think Super Mario Bros).
MS. JEN GOLBECKFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," connecting your neighborhood with the world. I'm Jen Golbeck from the University of Maryland, sitting in for Kojo. And, since it's the first Tuesday of the month, it's "The Computer Guys and Gal." We have John Gilroy, WAMU computer guy and Director for Business Development for BT Global Ventures.
MR. JOHN GILROYBLT, but that's fine.
GOLBECKWhat did I say?
GILROYNo, not important.
MS. ALLISON DRUINIt's a bacon sandwich or something.
GILROYBacon, lettuce and tomato, sure.
GOLBECKAllison Druin, WAMU computer gal and Chief Futurist at the University of Maryland, Division of Research, Co-Director of the Future of Information Alliance at the University of Maryland. Glad to see you here.
DRUINGood to see you, Jen.
GOLBECKAnd Bill Harlow, WAMU computer guy and Hardware and Software Technician for MACs and PCs at Mid-Atlantic Consulting, Inc. Nice to have you, Bill.
MR. BILL HARLOWThank you.
GOLBECKOK. Let's get started. The White House released a long awaited report last week on big data and privacy that seems to shift the focus away from the NSA spying on unsuspecting Americans and onto tech companies spying on their own customers for commercial purposes. The report recommends a variety of measures, from updating federal privacy laws to reflect the realities of data collection to making sure data isn't used to discriminate unfairly against Americans and non-US citizens. What's your biggest concern about how your data's used?
GOLBECKAnd what role do you think the federal government should play, beefing up privacy rules on collecting and using our data? You can join us by calling 1-800-433-8850 or emailing us at email@example.com. Bill, you first. The report tackles what are called learning algorithms that are widely used to predict what we'll buy and where we'll eat, but can also be used to draw incorrect conclusions about people in ways that can lead to unfair discrimination against them. How do learning algorithms work and what's the danger?
HARLOWActually, I'm gonna pass this to Allison, cause I think she is well versed. And actually, I wanted to point out a flaw in that statement, potentially.
DRUINAll right. So, I don't even like the term "learning algorithm." OK? Because it suggests that woo hoo, there are eyeballs learning about you kind of thing. Or, are people learning, or is the algorithm learning? It's totally a bizarre statement. So, first of all, yeah, we can infer information from what people do. And I'm sitting across from somebody that actually knows more about this than I do.
GOLBECKThis is my job, but I'm not a guest today.
DRUINBut you're not a guest today, so I'm just gonna -- I'm gonna channel Jen. Anyway, yeah, it's creepy, horrible, but, you know, people can guess that, you know, what I'm gonna eat for lunch based on what I bought in the last 27 days in a row. But, you know, here's the bottom line, is that I would have taken this White House report a lot more seriously if they also included government's obligations, OK? What they did was they totally focused on industry obligations, which are important, but they should have said, oh yeah, and we also buy in.
DRUINAnd we also believe in transparency and we also want to figure out how we're not overstepping our bounds in figuring this out, too. So...
GILROYIn my world, no one talks about it. This was a non-interest. Nothing was going on in my world. I don't know -- you know, I know people at the White House. I know people at the EOP, is what they call it. And in the world of commercial, big data folks and big data companies, this was a non-story. How's that?
DRUINOh, it was definitely not a non-story. Are you kidding? This is like such a major story. Are you a dunce?
GOLBECKWas it a story for you, Bill?
HARLOWYeah, absolutely. But I think you made a great point about that. Yeah, the government definitely needs to buy in on this. I do think that what they're bringing up is valid. They mention things like the way the license agreements work, and the way that we're all kind of just signing up for that. And, you know, what does that imply? But I suppose the only nice thing about really locking this down, in one sense, is that if the NSA is getting a lot of their data from corporations, and maybe that sort of limits what's available to them.
DRUINBut this is about power. This is about personal privacy. This is about discrimination. There's so many things going on here. I cannot believe the whole world's not shaken right now.
GILROYEric Schmidt was on the board that put together this statement. I mean, he's the big dog at Google. I mean, what's he doing? This is the fox in with the hens.
GOLBECKLet's talk about Google, John. The reported dress data belonging to students and Google said recently that it stopped scanning Gmail accounts used by more than 30 million students, teachers and administrators, and its free Google apps for education service. Because students sued Google for violating wire tap laws. The bottom line, should companies whose services we use be allowed to monitor our online behavior for their own commercial gain?
GILROYWell, what I think is that the impetus for change is not gonna come from the folks at the EOP in the White House. It's gonna come from people like the students getting mad and saying, OK, we're not gonna use Gmail. I have a .edu Gmail account. I think a lot of people in this room have those, and I fully realize what they're doing. And I'm careful about it. And I think if you get mad enough to want to change, you'll change, and I think it's an end user movement more than a movement from the top.
DRUINI don't know about that, because here's the thing. Data collection is all around us. People are collecting data every moment that we breathe, practically. OK? Between, you know, the video cameras and what we put online and so on, it's the question of what -- for what purpose, OK? And if it's only for end quotes, only for educational purpose, the question is how do you define educational purpose? Can you say, yes, this is gonna help kids learn better? Well, will it help kids learn better if I know that there's a kid with, you know, that's abusing alcohol, and I can tell this by something I'm collecting and so on.
DRUINMaybe yes and maybe that infringes. And I think there's so much gray area here. That's a problem.
GOLBECKAre you concerned with privacy and surveillance and how your data's being used? Call us at 1-800-433-8850. Allison, you're just back from the Computer Human Interaction Conference in Toronto, which we call CHI, which is why I can't say the full name. I was there, too. A bathroom hoax at the conference prompted a lively debate about privacy. Tell us about the hoax and what it revealed about how upset or blasé people are about invasions of their privacy.
DRUINWell, when 3,000 people got to this convention center in Toronto, in the morning, what they found was, in the bathrooms, a statement that said, behavior at these toilets is being recorded for analysis. Access your live data at quantifiedtoilets.com. And you would expect people to be outraged and shocked, and oh my goodness, I can't pee here. You know, that whole nine yards, all right? And what was starting to happen was this slow rumble of Twitter -- in the Twitter stream, where literally, sorry, stream, terrible.
DRUINWhere people were saying, yeah, go figure. Uh-huh. Yeah. That's expected, and so on. It turned out it was a hoax, OK?
GOLBECKBut let's throw in the kind of data -- so, you could go to this website and it had kind of this list scrolling by with sexually transmitted disease status, pregnancy, blood alcohol and smell.
GOLBECKThey had a smell feature.
DRUINBut the smell thing was a dead giveaway, because, you know, it's pretty hard to detect smell, the quantity of smell. So, I mean, the idea was that by quantifying all of these things at your output, you would be able to tell -- we're losing John in the corner. You would be able to tell various things about what was going on at the conference. So, you could tell who had too many beers the night before and so on. Well, it turned out that this was actually a hoax. But it was actually not just an end quotes hoax.
DRUINWhat this was was this was an experiment by people. There were five academics and a researcher at Nokia. And they actually were in a workshop the day before, and they talked about, you know, how do you make things that can make people think? And think critically about situations. And so they really thought through this as a design exercise. And they thought, whoo, this would be fun. Well, they had no idea that this would not only ripple through the conference, but because the Twitter feed was so insane that it moved its way to the popular press.
DRUINIn fact, actually, our own Jen Golbeck sitting here, in for Kojo, actually wrote a piece for the Atlantic Monthly online. And this went on to Wired. And so it was something that said a lot of people need to listen. And it was like, oh my goodness, this is the same thing as the White House report. Are we looking at toilets? Are we looking at our children's learning? I mean, it's the same thing.
GOLBECKSo, let's take a call. We have Steven in Baltimore, Maryland. Steven, you're on the air. Go ahead.
STEVENHi. I'm a lot more concerned about private industry gathering my information than the government. When I go to CVS or the supermarket and they ask me at the checkout register to get the discounted price -- well, not the discounted price, but the sale price, whatever price they call it. I have to give them my information. They always promise these coupons and these fantastic savings. I never get that stuff. I don't get anything in the mail. I don't get anything. And when you ask them, what are you doing with my information?
STEVENOf course, the clerk is kind of clueless, but I've even asked the manager. What are you doing with my information? They have no idea.
GOLBECKSo, my favorite story on this topic, Steven, is about Target, but I'm not the guest. So, I want one of my guests to tell the Target story, if they know it. Bill?
HARLOWAre you talking specifically about the data breach, or?
GOLBECKSo, we'll get to that later on.
GILROYAre you talking about the pregnancy at home?
GILROYRight. Right. Well, the story is, and this is a classic story, Steven, is that marketers tell us all the time...
GOLBECKAnd Forbes Magazine wrote an article about this.
GILROYRight. Right. Right. So, a father, much like John Gilroy, got a package at home, for, I think, for diapers or something.
GOLBECKCoupons for diapers.
GILROYAnd he went back to the store, he pounded on the table and he wanted to know why you send me this stuff, and it turns out that they were monitoring his daughter's purchases, and it turns out that she was, in fact, with child.
GOLBECKThey hadn't her parents, and she was like 15.
GILROYYeah. And it just shows the stuff they're collecting, and so, Steven, you know, you don't have to give them that discount card. You don't have to give them the discount card at Panera or Starbucks or anywhere. It's up to you. It's your choice. And I think this is what's important. You can choose not to or to participate in these programs. And it's a wonderful story for collecting data. And I can't see why he'd be more afraid of commercial companies collecting it than the government. I'm afraid of both.
GOLBECKSpeaking of data collection, we have a tweet from Raymond, who says, any thoughts about Four Squares move to split their business model after they nabbed more than five billion check ins?
DRUINWell, Four Square is a force to be reckoned with. And, you know, I don't play Four Square because, to me, it's a little creepy. I don't want people knowing all that much. I mean, I do tweet incessantly and I am on Facebook, but it's only when I choose. And I start to think, well, if I'm playing games, too, about where I am and what I'm thinking about, it's a little much.
HARLOWYeah, there's a lot of information we're willing to volunteer, just because it's fun. You know, never mind getting discounts or being required to sign up for something, or in some cases, buried in the terms of service that, well just by, you know, logging in, you now agree to all this stuff being shared. So, I guess, the stuff you can volunteer, you have to think about that. Just be active in what you're doing. In your case, Four Square and decide, OK, do I really want people to know where I'm checking in? Or, in the case of Facebook, do I want people to know that I'm liking all these places?
HARLOWOr saying, I'm here. Now I'm here. Now I'm here. Cause that's data being gathered, and in aggregate, that can definitely mean something.
GILROYYou know, I -- when I work with companies in social media, I say pick one. You can't do everything. Maybe you can do Twitter. Maybe you can do LinkedIn. Or maybe you can do, maybe Pinterest or something. It all depends on what you're marketing persona is. But, you gotta pick one, and I'm not picking Four Square. I'm picking LinkedIn. So, I don't know what the businesses out there are doing. But I'm sure there's businesses that benefit from Four Square, so I can't...
GOLBECKWhen I was playing Four Square, I was mayor of three different pot bellies all at the same time. Tells you a lot about…
DRUINWhat you like to eat.
GOLBECKMy lunch preferences. Yes, they don't even ask me at the one in Silver Spring. They just fake it. Bill, yesterday, the CEO of Target resigned in response to the retailers big data breach, which you just mentioned. At the same time, the White House report recommends establishing a national data brace of security breaches at private companies. Do you think we'll see a new concerted effort to protect our data from thieves?
HARLOWI think we absolutely should. Part of the problem is that they take their sweet time letting their customers know, right? I mean, there are a lot of things where I'll read news reports of various breaches first. I'll go ahead and I'll take action, and I might not hear from said affected company for a week. And that's terrible. I mean, especially -- let's face it. Everybody who goes and gives an online account. The vast majority, they have some bad habits. Probably simple passwords, probably recycled passwords. And if that one breach is big enough, and that password is exposed, that can affect you in areas of your life you're not even aware of.
DRUINWell, it's also about transparency. I mean, at the University of Maryland, we had a large data breach. And, you know, thankfully, our university came out really fast and said, hey, is what's going on, and let us know. Now sometimes, when you give people too much information, guess what people do. Panic. Oh my gosh. What are we gonna do? So, and that's the -- that's what you have to balance, is the panic on, you know, where they're gonna shut down the bank, because everyone's panicking.
DRUINThey take their money out. Versus, you know, being too opaque and then people don't know what their rights are.
HARLOWWell, a run on the bank is bad, but a run on updating your passwords, probably not so bad.
DRUINNot so bad. Not so bad.
GOLBECKOK, so let's leave privacy at that, for now. We'll come back to it. We're gonna take a short break and we'll continue our conversation then. Stay tuned.
GOLBECKA new battle's brewing over net neutrality. The idea that all internet content is treated the same by the service providers that deliver it to your computer or tablet. In January, an appeals court threw out existing FCC rules, saying the agency didn't have the authority to tell service providers what to do. Now, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has hinted that new rules will allow content providers to pay for preferential treatment and equal access advocates are furious. What do you want to see in new net neutrality rules? And should companies be allowed to pay to stream their data through the internet version of toll lanes?
GOLBECKGive us a call at 1-800-433-8850 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Bill, the proposed new rules will be unveiled to the public May 15th, but what do we know about the direction their likely to take?
HARLOWWell, the big sticking point is exactly what you said earlier. Tolls. The idea that you can have companies paying ISPs like Comcast for premium access. Faster speeds. Insuring that their traffic is flowing as efficiently as possible. And what comes up a lot is Netflix, just because there have been recent peering deals that they've had to sign with Comcast. And I think just recently with Verizon.
GOLBECKI don't wanna wait for "House of Cards."
HARLOWExactly. And the idea that Verizon, which, I have Verizon Fios, and they advertise blazing fast speeds, and for the most part, it is. But, I noticed that, you know, wow, this Netflix stream coming in over this really fast pipe, every now and then, it gets super slow. Why is that? And now I'm wondering, is it these peering deals? And there's more to net neutrality than Netflix, but it's the one that you can bring up, because everybody is aware of Netflix speeds. And HD versus SD. And it's kind of scary, because you've got these ISPs, who, they really do control the last mile.
HARLOWSo, I'm not saying that there aren't technological reasons for handling these deals, but at the same time, I think Netflix is right when they say it's about access to customers. When Comcast may have exclusive rights in several areas to provide internet access to those people, it's a problem.
GILROYYou know, when my friend Al Gore invented the internet, he didn't want it to be a toll road. He wanted it to be an interstate. And I think that's where we're looking. We're looking at toll roads here. And I don't like me a toll road. I like the interstates. You know, when Eisenhower did it, he did it right. It's free, you run around, and I don't like this whole idea of throttling. And maybe it's a game of throttling and not throttling and raising the price.
DRUINBut the question is, who's being disadvantaged? OK? Is it the small companies that can't pay the...
HARLOWIt could. It could be.
DRUINExtra, the extra fees, in which case, then they can't compete with the big guys. Or is it the fees that will be passed on to the customers, that then we'll say, wait a second.
HARLOWWell, it's not an or statement. It's an and statement.
DRUINWell, that's exactly right. So, what's going on here is double disenfranchised people -- customers and users. And that's a problem. And here's my prediction. There will be internet protest. Just as there was for the Stop Online Privacy, SOPA, and Protect IP Act, PIPA, where people were redirecting content and shutting down things and blocking out and making black backgrounds. And three million people emailing Congress. I guarantee there will be people protesting.
GOLBECKI'm gonna hold you to that prediction.
GOLBECKJohn, defenders of equal treatment for all content say the only solution is for the FCC to reclassify broadband as a so-called common carrier service, and then regulate it like it does the traditional telephone companies. How would that work?
GILROYOh my goodness.
DRUINThe big sigh.
GILROYIt's, it's getting into areas that we don't know what's gonna happen next. When I -- when you said the word Korea earlier, I kept flashing of 5G, and South Korea's a place that's, you know, doing good things with 5G. I mean, the internet's changing so quickly and fast, no one really knows. You know, I'm a big believer in just keeping it open and not worrying about any involvement from the federal government. I think they're just gonna figure out on their own. I don't know what's gonna happen. I'm not gonna make any statement. I think on May 15th is when the common parade is gonna start. Is that right, Allison?
DRUINWell, yeah. May 15, they're saying that the FCC is gonna respond and come out with their, you know, thoughts about it. And they're talking about commercially reasonable traffic management. The question is, what is reasonable?
HARLOWWell, I will say this. From a consumer standpoint, I bet a lot of people who pay for their monthly broadband probably just operate on the assumption that it sort of acts like a common carrier and that there aren't these potentials for tolls. And that the data's gonna just come down as fast as possible. So, if the proposal goes through and if the people can pay for preferential treatments, speed, priority, then I think you're right. There would be some backlash, possibly protests.
GOLBECKSo, do you think we're gonna see a really different internet experience if these rules, that we've kind of seen hinted at, are actually put in place?
DRUINI think what's gonna happen if, OK, if these rules stay, OK, and I'm not sure that these rules will stay. I think that it will be an easing in.
DRUINBut what these companies are gonna try and do is probably trying sort of, in stealth mode, change things.
HARLOWUntil we don't notice. Yeah.
DRUINUntil we don't notice and realize, you know, a year or two later, oh wait a second, we think it's normal for...
HARLOWYeah, we get used to it.
GOLBECKSo let's take a call. We have Ben from Berryville, Virginia. Ben, where is Berryville?
BENBerryville is just outside of Winchester.
GOLBECKWhere is Winchester?
GILROYIt's in the valley.
DRUINIn the valley.
GILROYIt's in the valley.
GOLBECKAnd this is part of your question, right?
BENYeah, it's the Potomac River. Leesburg is on the other side of the Potomac, kind of across from Montgomery County, north of D.C.
GOLBECKYou're kind of out there?
BENYeah, yeah. I mean, it's a rural community. And, you know, Comcast tells me they're gonna -- I have the privilege of putting internet in my house for 30,000 dollars.
BENAnd, yeah, exactly. And I can't even get DSL, because Verizon doesn't feel the need to have DSL service to my neighborhood. And yet, when my phone line breaks, that I don't use, they have to come out and fix it for free from -- because of federal regulations. I have to have phone service. Top of the line phone service. I mean, I don't understand why we don't realize that true, high speed, uncapped, low latency internet is the next public utility. And I don't understand why it's not treating it as such.
GOLBECKSo, Computer Guys and Gal, what are your thoughts on this?
HARLOWWell, I agree. I would love to see that more than anything. There are so many areas of the country that are still underserved. And it's terrible. I mean, we operate, in this day and age, on the assumption that everybody has fast internet. I mean, I know I do. I just assume. And the reality is a lot of people don’t, and they can't take it for granted the same way I can.
DRUINA public utility. I think those are the key words there. That internet should be a public utility is absolutely true. Every time I travel, I realize and I value so much what I have when I'm not traveling. Oh my goodness. Suddenly, you know, 30,000 people are all trying to tweet at the same time, and I can't even find a message from my nine-year-old that's trying to get a hold of me about her hockey uniform. You know? I mean, so it's really, really valuable to who we are and I don't think people realize it until things either are hard to get or they're taken away.
GOLBECKBen, thanks very much for your call. Let's shift focus a little bit. Twitter is in the news for the redesign of its user profiles and the slow down in a number of users signing up for the social media service. One article in the Atlantic even asked whether Twitter's entering its twilight. Do you like Twitter's new look? Do you use Twitter as often as you used to? Send us a tweet to @kojoshow. So, this question's for all of you, but John, we can start with you.
GOLBECKHow did Twitter redesign its user profiles to, frankly, look more like a Facebook page?
GILROYYeah, they just altered slightly, and -- I mean, there's what? 198 million people with mobile devices that tweet every month. I mean, there's 250 million. I don't think Twitter's going anywhere. I don't know what the article has to say about it or not. What they did is they try to make it, I guess, more similar to Facebook. They saw Facebook having a one broad image and a smaller image on the left hand side, and the same thing. And I changed my Twitter account, in fact. My Twitter handle's @raygilray, and a picture Allison took of me, in the studio here, that's my picture, @raygilray.
GILROYSo, you can take a look at that silly picture, if you'd like. It's a little bit more user friendly, and I think it's trying to gear itself more towards a business audience, is what I think it's doing, in some of the different changes that it has.
DRUINYou know, the thing about -- I was going back and forth and looking at this. And I realized, OK, what Twitter doesn't have down the side? Ads. OK?
HARLOWThey're doing the stream instead.
DRUINYeah. And what's on the left side now in Facebook? Asking these benign questions. What books have you read? What do you -- and I like don't want to answer these questions. I just want to get to what I want to get to. So, Facebook is a lot more in your face. And so even though it may start -- Twitter and Facebook may start to look a little bit alike, I truly believe that there is a very different feel to them, because of the -- I don't know, of the privacy considerations that one company has versus another. And you have to think about that.
DRUINAnd yeah, so they start looking alike. Who cares?
HARLOWAnd people still use them very, very differently, too.
DRUINOh extremely. Yeah.
HARLOWI know I do, for sure. I barely touch Facebook. And the other thing too, that's interesting to me, at least, I don't know if it's how most people use Twitter, is I don't really use their web app. I don't use the Twitter.com. I use tweetbot on my Mac and on my iPhone and my iPad. There are other popular third party pieces of software, as well, that are Twitter clients. But those are kind of going away, because Twitter is really locking down what people can and can't do for their apps and who even has access to make those apps now.
HARLOWSo, for me, it doesn't really affect me yet, but with time, I might be forced to use the web version, and maybe I'll care more about it.
DRUINYou know, but the thing is, OK, you know, I read that article about is Twitter in the twilight kind of thing. I think Twitter's just growing up. I think it's not just the wild west anymore. I don't think it's, you know, I don't even think it's a teenager. I mean, look, I was at a conference...
HARLOWSo, it could be settling down.
DRUINIt could be settling down.
HARLOWFound a nice user base.
DRUINBut, you know, people with half a million Twitter followers are beginning their keynote speeches. Margaret Atwood is example. She actually -- she began her keynote speech by welcoming her Twitter followers, OK? I mean, that's like, that's bringing the virtual into the physical and the physical into virtual. It matters, and it's real.
GOLBECKSo, tweets that seem more action, they get more favorites or retweets, they're gonna appear in larger type in the new design so they're easier to find. And now you can pin tweets and filter tweets. Bill, do you think these new features are gonna change the way we use Twitter? Or have we changed already?
HARLOWWe're slowly adapting, but I think these could change it, just because -- especially if you become more active on Twitter. It gets really noisy, so anything you can do to filter things, to make lists, to mute people so you can -- the stealth unfollow, if you will. These are all gonna be things that people are gonna do just to manage the data in a way that makes sense to them, I think.
GOLBECKI'm excited about the stealth unfollow. The new mute button, so when people go to a conference like Allison, and they're tweeting 50 times a day, and I'm not there, I can just turn you off for a week.
HARLOWFor people like me, I'm just paranoid. I bet everybody's stealth unfollowing me. I have no friends online.
GILROYThere's a guy named Dan Zurella. He calls himself a data scientist. He's written books and there are chapters in the books on how to tweet. He talks about the grammar of a tweet.
HARLOWThere's grammar in tweets?
GILROYAnd maybe there is a maturation here, where people are looking at it. In fact, there was webinar last week where 30,000 participated. They had someone from Twitter on. They talked about the changes and why they made the changes. And I think it is maturing. And I think it's a lot of value. In fact, I got, this morning, a direct message on Twitter. It wasn't a telephone, it wasn't a text. It wasn't an email. It was a direct message, cause it reached me faster.
GOLBECKI'm definitely one of those people. When they can't get me any other way, they send me a direct message.
DRUINOh, it's so true.
GOLBECKDespite varied design and the fact that Twitter added users in the last quarter, its users are less active than they once were. And on Wall Street, Twitter's investors are worried that it's not adding users fast enough. The piece that we mentioned in the Atlantic says Twitter's place in internet culture is changing. What are your assessments of the site?
DRUINYou know, I don't -- here's the thing. There are so many people on there, that are trying it out, that yeah, sure.
HARLOWThe growth has to slow at some point.
DRUINIt's gotta slow down at some point. So, yeah, and I think it does take people a while to feel comfortable jumping in. And so what I always tell people is, you know what, when you jump in, just say you're gonna tweet once a day. OK? You don't need to tweet a thousand times or anything else. You don't need to hashtag. You don't need to do all this other stuff. Just tweet once a day about something that matters to you. And then you can slowly watch what other people are doing and you can get excited about it.
GOLBECKSo, we have a couple tweets on this topic.
GOLBECKOne says, I start my day with Twitter, get my news there too. I trust Twitter and I don't trust Facebook. And one more that says, I love Twitter. Swift brevity encourages succinct expression. I hate Facebook. All caps. Hate. I don't want new Facebook style stuff in my Twitter.
GILROYThat sounds like an English major from the University of Maryland.
HARLOWI would just say that I -- hate's a strong word, but I'm not really a fan of Facebook or Twitter, but I use the services, and I trust a lot of the people I follow. How's that?
GOLBECKThat, that's fair. So, before we move on to our next topic, we have got a couple calls. Let's start with Ray in Gaithersburg. Ray, you're on the air. Go ahead.
RAYHow's it going, guys? I just had a quick question. What do you guys think about Project Loon from Google. I don't know if you guys are familiar.
GOLBECKThey have the balloons going up and they're gonna have balloons over the country, supplying internet to everyone in the US and in the world. Right?
DRUINYou know, I say any way you can get internet to people -- you know what? Even if it seems loony, ha ha -- I tell you, I had to do that. I really did. You know, let's just do it. Let's try it.
GILROYWell, this goes back to Bill's initial point about everyone getting internet service, you know?
GILROYGoogle's got enough money to play around with all kinds of different things. And I've studied all kinds of Google analytics and Google ad words, but who knows what's gonna happen?
HARLOWI'm just imagining cable companies with dart guns though, just targeting them as they fly over.
DRUINOh no. It's a drone.
GILROYWe're hiring marksmen here at Cox Cable.
DRUINGo for it.
GOLBECKSo, we have maybe a counter-argument from Bill in Rockville, Maryland. Bill, go ahead.
BILLHi guys. Your last caller in who commented that it cost 30,000 dollars for him to extend internet, high speed internet out to his house in a rural area. If we start treating high speed internet as a public utility, then all of our rates are gonna paid the same and I will end up, as will everyone else, paying that 30,000 dollars to extend high speed internet out to areas of a rural nature. That's acceptable for things like telephone, where you need to call the police and fire department. But I don't have the benefit of living in a rural environment. Trees, et cetera, but I do have the benefit of living in an urban environment. Cheaper utilities. At least, the internet should stay that way.
GOLBECKSo, Bill doesn't want to pay for rural Virginia's internet access.
HARLOWI'll chip in.
DRUINYeah, I'm sorry. I'm a social Democrat. What I can tell you is that actually, I would pay a little bit more for other people. I do have a house in the Brookshires and, you know, we've had to do a lot of modification to try and get internet in there, but it's well worth it. But I do feel like I see a lot of people suffering. And I would gladly pay more, if I can.
GOLBECKSo, let's move on to product updates. In the world of technology, there are always new products coming online, and existing products making changes. So let's look at a few of these from Blackberry, pulling out of T Mobile to new ways to buy and use wearable tech. Listeners, do you have a Blackberry with a T Mobile plan? Have you checked out the new Amazon wearable technology store front page? Give us a call at 1-800-433-8850 or send an email to email@example.com.
GOLBECKJohn, Blackberry's CEO is apparently angry about T Mobile, with their ad encouraging people to trade in their Blackberry for an iPhone. So, he's told T Mobile they can't sell Blackberry phones anymore. Where does this dispute stand? What does it mean for current Blackberry users and does anyone care that they can't buy a Blackberry?
HARLOWI'm gonna take a nap, actually. That's how much I care.
GILROYI think this is like a guy polishing the rails on the Titanic. He's up there in Canada and he's worried about his hockey team. Maybe visiting Allison in Toronto and it's a sinking ship. I mean, there's lots and lots of people that -- well, I don't want to say bad things about Blackberry, but I'll say bad things about Blackberry. There's a lot of people in town that have Blackberries in their pockets they don't use.
GILROYI mean, it's just, you know, there are some reasons in the federal government why Blackberry was approved in certain DOD applications, and I'm not gonna get in any more trouble. I'm gonna shut up about Blackberry, but I think it's a sinking ship, and I would run from Blackberry. Run as fast as you can.
HARLOWYeah. I don't think it affects T Mobile. What they're saying, literally, is we can't sell these things. Please come in and buy the stuff we can sell.
DRUINWell look, T Mobile started off the little, you know, hissy fit that was going on there. Because T Mobile, you know...
HARLOWBut they've got a business to run, too.
DRUINYeah, they basically said to Blackberry customers, want to upgrade to iPhone? And then that set off this, like, firestorm. And, you know, look, it's all about personalities here. But T-Mobile is -- it seems like it's trying to make good in saying, look, if you're a Blackberry customer, we will -- you know, we will support older users.
GOLBECKOK. So we're going to take a break. You're listening to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show." And I'm Jen Golbeck sitting in for Kojo. We'll continue our conversation with the Computer Guys and a Gal (sic) in a moment. Stay with us.
GOLBECKWelcome back. I'm Jen Golbeck from the University of Maryland sitting in for Kojo Nnamdi and trying to control the Computer Guys and Gal in the studio.
GOLBECKIf you'd like to join us, you can call 1-800-433-8850. We have a lot of emails and some more calls about access to Internet and broadband. But we're going to put those aside and continue a few more questions about product updates. And then we'll come back. So if you're on the phone, hang on. We'll get to you.
GOLBECKAllison, at the Human-Computer Interaction Conference last week in Toronto, we saw a number of new products, like 3-D printers that print in soft materials rather than hard plastic, and new uses for existing products, like employing Google Glass for people with Parkinson's. How do these work?
DRUINOK. Quickly, well, 3-D soft printing -- normally you can make a design from a -- on the computer and then send it to a 3-D printer. And it's hard, and it's plastic. Well, researchers at Carnegie Mellon University and Disney Research actually developed a 3-D printing technique that they can use felt and yarn and so on. And so they can make, you know, stuffed animals. And they can make hardware embedded in soft materials, and...
HARLOWLike clothing, for example.
DRUINExactly. Exactly. This is actually to me it feels a lot like some of the automated knitting machines and things like that that are already on the market. It just goes one step further. In terms of smart -- in terms of the Google Glass and Parkinson's users, Parkinson's users -- Parkinson's disease -- people that have Parkinson's disease -- let's try that again -- actually have tremors and stiffness and confusion.
DRUINAnd, to be honest with you, a lot of us have this, but they have it to a greater extent. And researchers in England actually tried out these Google Glass technologies with Parkinson's users to see if they might be able to use these in everyday activities in the home and in public and actually be able to use more voice input and more visual reminders and more gesture that's a little bit easier because, believe it or not, when you start to have tremors, that cell phone isn't working.
DRUINAnd they did see people really responding to it well. So it's a wonderful way of thinking about, how do we change our technology so that they're not just what we always expect, but can be wearable and easy?
HARLOWI think the big breakthrough is 3-D printers making 3-D printers. This is Skynet.
GILROYThis is a big breakthrough that I've seen the last -- and it'll take over the whole world.
GOLBECKSo, John, if we're talking about wearing things, Amazon clearly thinks wearable technology is an untapped market. The giant online retailer has opened a Web storefront just for wearable gadgets, like fitness bands and wearable cameras. Is demand really that high?
GILROYI was at an event last week, and one of the people in the board of directors from the CEA was there. He had a Galaxy phone on his wrist that was multi -- all different colors on it, and you could read your email on the small half-inch band wrist because it would expand and contract. And I'm just amazed. Now, I'm not a big believer in wearable computers, like some people in this room. I'm not a fashionista like Allison. But I think...
DRUINYou just wish.
GILROYBut I think there's something to be said for people getting interested in this and maybe making it more -- I know in the medical world, there are medical devices that people can wear that can actually monitor certain events that can help a doctor maybe give better care. In the world of healthcare IT, the idea is to improve outcome and reduce cost. Well, I think the wearables are doing it. Maybe the Parkinson's people, this is -- I know there's people who are diabetics and under care. And I think people who are getting elderly that may have...
DRUINNot like you, John.
GILROYNot like me. But I think this is where the breakthrough's going to be, not for fashion, but I think for medical healthcare. And that's why I think what Amazon is doing is being the first one with this website. But I think it's just -- it's going to be used for a whole lot more than just making a fashion statement.
GOLBECKSo John mentioned the smart watch. Allison, talk about the new duet system that offers a way for a smart watch and a Smartphone to smartly interact.
DRUINWell, this is an interesting concept. Take two different technology devices, your cell phone and your watch, and now you actually have a larger span of things to do because if -- the phone knows about the smart watch. So it's not just you have to actually look at everything that would be on your phone on your watch.
DRUINWhat it's doing is that you could actually zoom in with your watch and also have your phone. Or you could -- it has more ways for security. So you have to have the cell phone and the watch, and you turn it a certain way. And then it knows about both. So it's an interesting expansion on wearables and mobile tech.
HARLOWI think it's really smart. A lot of these devices, like the smart watches, like the Galaxy Gear, they're -- I mean, that's just they wanted to be a first mover. It's not a very good product in my opinion. As far as wearables go, I think the only ones that are really popular probably are the fitness bands or the fitness clips, like the one I have.
GOLBECKI'm wearing one also.
HARLOWOh, a Fitbit?
HARLOWYeah. I love mine a lot. But that's one of the few wearables where I went -- I decided and chose to wear an additional thing. I think a lot of the market's going to be in finding ways to augment things we already want to wear, like earbuds or glasses or phones or watches.
GILROYI know a doctor who wears a Nike FuelBand. And I was talking to him one day. And I said, well, guess what, doctor? You know, on Friday, Nike just stopped supporting it. So this is the problem with the wearables is that everyone's trying to catch the lightning and the -- and trying to figure out what's the iPhone? And the FuelBand wasn't it. And maybe the Fitbit's it. Maybe it's going to change. That's the problem with these wearables. Everyone's trying to bet on who's going to win. And no one really knows. And I thought the FuelBand was a great product.
DRUINBut it's not about just one wearable. It's about how your technologies actually can...
HARLOWRight. Do they talk to your other technology?
DRUIN...can talk to each other in some sense or can work together to actually expand it. Because you don't want to do everything with your Fitbit. You don't want to do everything with your watch. You want to be able to have these things interact and have the ability to do more things with less.
HARLOWAnd in the case of the Fitbit, you just want it to be something you'll never forget, that's always with you, and that kind of just disappears.
GOLBECKMy greatest fear with these devices is losing the data. So I actually wrote a program to download all my Fitbit data into a Google spreadsheet. So just in case anything ever happens to Fitbit, I will know how many steps I've taken.
HARLOWThat's really smart. And you can send -- I'll also give you my email, so you can send me a copy of that app.
GOLBECKYeah. I'd be happy to. So, Bill, you flagged one of the stranger tech stories of the month, the discovery...
GOLBECK...of a bunch of unsold Atari games buried in a landfill for 30 years and recently unearthed by documentary filmmakers. Tell us what they found.
HARLOWWell, they found what turned out to be true. There were in fact Atari cartridges from the Atari 2600 -- it's from way back in '83 -- that were buried in...
GILROYBefore I was born, you know.
HARLOWOh, right. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
HARLOWBuried in a landfill. And I -- you know, we were pretty sure they were there. That's not really the story. The story I think is just that the whole story behind the crash was fascinating. I mean, Atari was the big juggernaut. They owned the industry. They flooded the market. Everybody was trying to cash in, which to me sounds a lot like iPhone games now, except without, you know, the waste.
HARLOWAnd -- but it literally caused a game recession for, like, two years until Nintendo finally jumped back into the fold and was able to kind of revitalize the industry and actually lock down some tight quality controls. So that, I think, is the big story. It's just a reminder of what can happen when people see a gold rush and they just jump in without really thinking.
GOLBECKSo they have to, like, crowdsource a team of people to blow on the cartridges to get them to work again.
HARLOWOh, I think we're beyond that. These things were crushed under concrete, too. I'm not sure any of these are actually playable at this point.
GOLBECKOh, that's too bad.
DRUINOh, that's too bad. Yeah. But it's like a time capsule from way back when.
HARLOWTime capsule of greed.
DRUINAll right. OK. That's a point.
GOLBECKAll right. So we have a lot of callers and emailers who want to come back to this issue of Internet access for all and whether or not they want to pay for it. I'm going to read you a couple emails, and then we'll take a call or two. And I'll let you all comment. From Deb in Takoma Park, she said, "The FCC needs to remember it works for all the people, not just the ones who own the major media companies. Preferential treatment is inherently unfair."
GOLBECKWe have an email from Tom in Arlington, who says -- John -- "The Eisenhower Interstate Highway example is a bad one in connection with the net neutrality debate."
GILROYOh, come on.
GOLBECK"The federal government paid for the construction of the interstate highway system. Who is paying for the construction of high speed broadband networks across the country? Not the government. Verizon, AT&T invested $32 billion into their networks alone. Can you imagine Congress appropriating that amount of money?" So...
GILROYThere's a gentleman who lives in McLean by the name of Vince Cerf. And he has a wine cellar...
DRUINActually, he doesn't live in McLean anymore. He lives in London.
GILROY...and when he lived in McLean, he had a wine cellar with every one of his wine bottles had an IP address on it, wirelessly connected to his Smartphone. Anyway, he was the one at DARPA that put together this whole Internet thing, and so you can't tell me that didn't have any impact. The government was there at the start of the Internet. Come on now, Mr. Arlington.
GOLBECKLet's take a call from Lisa. Lisa, I'm going to mispronounce the town that you're in because my Virginia geography is poor.
LISAOK. Well, Purcellville is in Loudoun County which is the county closer in than Clarke County where (word?) was.
LISAMy husband (word?) to D.C. every day. OK. The ship has sailed on whether people can live urban or more rural. If you want to get to your bank account, if you want to have your children access stuff through school, if you want to access health information, you need high speed Internet. So it doesn't matter anymore where you live. If you don't want everyone on the roads in bad weather, you have to be able to telework. Everyone needs high speed Internet.
LISAThe incentivization of it has to change. We can't let Verizon and AT&T decide that, well, there's only 50 houses in your community, therefore it doesn't pay for us to spend $30,000 to bring the Internet to the 30 of you or the 50 of you. The whole paradigm has to shift about the fact that, wake up, it is now the Internet is just like highways in that no one gets their food unless you have trucks on the highways. No one gets their essential information unless we have the equivalent of high speed Internet.
GOLBECKAll right. Well, Lisa, let me read this email from Steve who says, "I thought the attraction of moving into the hills was to get away from it all. If you're only interested in fast Internet, move someplace that has fast Internet." Bill, did you want to comment?
HARLOWI just agree with the caller, which is that the world expects everybody to have Internet. That's the way it works now.
GILROYLisa -- is Lisa still there?
GOLBECKLisa is not still there. OK.
DRUINAnyway, but, you know, I agree with Lisa. And I just feel like, you know what, there's just -- everyone has to make choices. And sometimes you can't afford to live in the big cities. And sometimes your job isn't where the big cities are. And that -- you shouldn't be penalized because you can't afford where you're going.
GOLBECKJonathan in Alexandria, do you want to comment on this?
JONATHANHi. Hey. How you doing?
JONATHANActually, I'm -- I find -- or at least I think of myself as a really in-depth tech nerd. And the whole Internet thing has been bugging me out the most because I watch another show -- it's called "Tek Syndicate." And lately we've been going over -- I don't run it, but I watch it a lot. But they have been going over a lot of stuff. One of the things about it is that in 1996, Congress signed a bill called the Telecommunications Law or Telecommunication Act, 1996, that gave Internet companies money to build faster Internet.
JONATHANBut they haven't done a thing about it. They actually reduced -- they've cut jobs. They cut 500,000 jobs between all the Internet companies. They've used that money for advertising and filling their own pockets. And then they turn around. They charge people extra money, where schools coming in, and they're starting up this Internet stuff. And then it's going 10 times there...
GOLBECKWell, Jonathan, let me get the panel's comment on this. So Jonathan's arguing, well, the government kind of does pay for it.
HARLOWI've heard this, too. I don't know honestly if the funds that were appropriated for this were used for other means. But, yeah, there was an obligation. For whatever reason, a lot of the ISPs were able to backtrack on some of that, and I just don't know the details of why that was.
DRUINThe bottom line is transparency. These ISPs have been terrible about telling us what is and what isn't. And, honestly, they may very well have done what they said they were going to do, but the problem is they're really bad at telling people about it.
GILROYSounds like a conspiracy theory to me. I don't know much about this. I'm going to back off from this statement.
GOLBECKAll right. So we have a lot more callers, but I would like to move on to App of the Month. John, your favorite app this month is one to use at the airport. What does Gate Guru do?
GILROYI have a friend who went to Detroit over the weekend to go golfing. And he went to go to his gate, and he was moved five or six times. Well, if you have this little app called Gate Guru, you'll find out what your gate changes are, and you can find other things, like if there's a Starbucks near. So I think, for jetsetters and wealthy people like Allison who are jetting off to Toronto and who knows where, it's a great little app for you.
DRUINI'm ready. I'm ready.
GOLBECKSo it'll tell me if there's a Potbelly in my terminal.
GOLBECKAllison, your app of the month is one designed to make people at conferences a little more sociable. It's called Chi, C-H-I, Bingo which I did not play Chi in Toronto.
DRUIN'Cause you're so antisocial, Jen.
GOLBECKI am very -- I just hid in my hotel room.
GOLBECKBut you played. So tell us about Chi Bingo and also how it can apply in other conferences.
DRUINYeah. It was actually created by the Fit Lab in Swansea University, U.K. And essentially, you pick nine people's names, people you want to talk to, and you put it in your bingo grid. And then you go around taking selfies with them.
GOLBECKOh, that's why they were all the selfies.
DRUINThat's why it was all the selfies. And it was so simple and so great. It actually made the conference...
HARLOWEverybody should rip this idea off. It's a great idea.
DRUINIt's a totally great idea. Go looking for it. It's free. Chi Bingo is actually in honor of the late Gary Marsden who is an HCI mobile researcher who really believed in the sociability of mobile technologies.
GOLBECKAnd you can actually apply this outside conferences, too, right? Like...
GOLBECK...there's so many faculty at the University of Maryland who -- I've been there since 2001 and haven't met, and I could put them on my list and, like, go around to different departments and take selfies.
GOLBECKI love it. Bill, tell us about the new app called Pixel Press that lets you design a video game level that you can then play and share.
HARLOWYeah. It's really cool. It's called Pixel Press Floors. I guess there will be other packages coming out down the line. And you go to the website. You download this PDF, and you print it out. And it basically has a grid and registration marks on it. You then -- using their key, you draw in the elements you want in this level. You scan it with your iPad. You photograph it with the iPad, and it turns that into a playable level. It's a really fun way to design offline and then watch it come to life. It's almost like magic.
GOLBECKOK. We have about 30 seconds left. And so I want to fit in one more question. And, John, I'll throw this at you, but you have 30 seconds.
GILROYI can handle it.
GOLBECKOK. "When we thought it was safe to scan barcodes with our phone or search for free Wi-Fi, we found out that these can let in computer worms. How do we avoid yet another digital menace?"
GILROYBy staying tuned to the Computer Guys and Gal every month 'cause it's changing so quickly, no one knows anymore. Last month, we talked about safety in Android phones. You have to keep up with what's going on because there's researchers right now from England who are talking about these earworms getting into phones. And that's a quick answer, but tune in next month.
GOLBECKOK. Thanks for the quick answer.
GOLBECKJohn Gilroy is WAMU computer guy, director for business development at BLT Global Ventures. Thanks, John.
GOLBECKAllison, WAMU computer gal, chief futurist at the University of Maryland Division of Research, co-director of the Future of Information Alliance at the University of Maryland. Allison, good to have you.
GOLBECKAnd Bill Harlow, WAMU computer guy, a hardware and software technician for Macs & PCs at Mid-Atlantic Consulting. Thanks for being here.
HARLOWAnd thank you, too.
GOLBECKI'm Jen Golbeck sitting in on "The Kojo Nnamdi Show." Thanks for listening.
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