Judge dismisses Google lawsuit

February 19, 2009

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Hello everyone, it’s Reading Week break here at Emily Carr, so I have been taking some time off from my blog and been relaxing a bit – although relaxing probably isn’t the best way to describe yesterday as I went to CrossFit and got my ass and abs kicked by the workout! But here is an interesting read about Google Streets that I thought you guys would like to check out…
– FlashAddict

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By Maggie Shiels
Technology reporter, BBC News, Silicon Valley

Street View car, PA

Google’s Street View has been criticised on several occasions

A legal claim by a Pittsburgh couple that Google’s Street View feature violated their privacy has been thrown out by a federal judge.

Christine and Aaron Boring sued the search giant after photos of their home appeared on the free mapping program.

The couple accused Google of privacy violation, negligence, trespassing and unjust enrichment.

In her ruling, Judge Amy Reynolds Hay said the Borings “failed to state a claim under any count”.

“We are pleased the judge agreed the suit was without merit,” said Google in a statement to the BBC.

Street View displays street level, 360-degree photographs of areas taken by specially equipped Google vehicles.

Failure

The photographs at the centre of the lawsuit, launched last year, were taken at the foot of Mr and Mrs Boring’s driveway and shows their house, a pool area and detached garage. Signs marked the road as private.

The suit alleged that Google’s Street View had caused Mr and Mrs Boring “mental suffering” and diluted the value of their home.

Google conference

Google removed the offending pictures after the lawsuit was filed

“While it is easy to imagine that many whose property appears on Google’s virtual maps resent the privacy implications, it is hard to believe that any – other than the most exquisitely sensitive – would suffer shame or humiliation,” Judge Amy Reynolds Hay of US District Court for Western Pennsylvania wrote in her 12-page decision.

The judge also suggested that the Borings’ lawsuit made it possible for more people than ever to view the picture of their home.

“The Borings do not dispute that they have allowed the relevant images to remain on Google Street View, despite the availability of a procedure for having them removed from view,” wrote Judge Reynolds Hay.

“Furthermore, they have failed to bar others’ access to the images by eliminating their address from the pleadings, or by filing this action under seal,” she said.

The publicity has actually perpetuated dissemination of the Borings’ name and location, and resulted in frequent re-publication of the Street View images, the judge concluded.

“The plaintiffs’ failure to take readily available steps to protect their own privacy and mitigate their alleged pain suggests to the Court that the intrusion and that their suffering were less severe than they contend,” wrote Judge Reynolds Hay.

The Borings had sought $25,000 (£17,700) in damages.

‘Removal tools’

Google said the company respects individual privacy and provides ways for that privacy to be maintained.

“We blur identifiable faces and licence plates in Street View and we offer easy-to-use removal tools so users can decided for themselves whether or not they want a given image to appear.

Street View

Photos of real world locations are tied to maps

“It is unfortunate the parties involved decided to pursue litigation instead of making use of these tools,” said Google in its statement.

Privacy concerns following the launch of Street View in 2007 prompted Google to start blurring faces of people caught in the photographs.

The company had argued earlier in response to the lawsuit that “today’s satellite-image technology means that even in today’s desert complete privacy does not exist.”

“Privacy claims are not easy to prove,” said Marc Rotenberg of the Electronic Privacy Information Centre.

“One of the challenges is showing what’s the damage, what’s the harm. But Google is more at risk here because there is always the possibility someone might prevail in one of these cases, so I don’t think the issue is resolved in terms of Google.”

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/7898407.stm


Corrupted Blood brought about the end of the World…of Warcraft

February 10, 2009

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I never realized the extent of how far this affected players around the world – Here is how things spread like wildfire in the game and why doctors and scientists used it as a model for studying how real-life diseases can spread in a major urban environment – BBC News even covered it…see below!
– FlashAddict

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Corrupted Blood was a virtual plague that infected characters in the computer game World of Warcraft, spreading rapidly from character to character. Its resemblance to real-life disease epidemics drew international attention.

Corrupted Blood Plague taking place in Ironforge

The “epidemic” began on September 13, 2005 when Blizzard Entertainment, the developer of World of Warcraft, introduced a new instance dungeon called Zul’Gurub into the game as part of patch 1.7. Inside was a boss named Hakkar the Soulflayer, alluded to as the “blood god”. Players who fought Hakkar were affected by his debuff (a spell which has a negative effect over a fixed period of time). The debuff, in this case, was Corrupted Blood, a spell that caused 263–337 points of damage (compared to the average health of 2500–5000 for a character of the highest level, and with those at the mid-levels having about 1500) every two seconds to the afflicted character. The affliction was passed on to any characters standing too close to an infected character. While the curse would kill most lower-level characters in a matter of seconds, higher-level characters could keep themselves alive (via healing spells, having high stamina, or other means) long enough to spread the disease around the immense landscape inside the game. Death caused by the debuff did not cause any durability penalty, unlike most other causes of death in the game. The disease would eventually go away as time passed or when the infected character died.

The only way that a player was able to bring the disease outside of Zul’Gurub was by allowing a pet to get the debuff, dismissing the pet in less than five seconds, then summoning it in a populated area. (When dismissed, the pet retains the debuff and the timer of the debuff is paused.) This debuff transmission technique was first seen with the “living bomb” debuff from Baron Geddon in Molten Core. The plague was spread by players’ pets that contracted the disease and also by malicious players known as “griefers”, who found ways to bring the digital virus into heavily inhabited areas.

After a few days, Corrupted Blood had become World of Warcraft‘s version of the Black Death, rendering entire cities uninhabitable and causing players to avoid large clusters of others, and in many cases, causing players to avoid major cities altogether.

Due to the curse’s peculiar behavior—it was never meant to leave Zul’Gurub—the ability to infect pets and NPCs was a side effect unconsidered by the developers. The intended behavior involves the final boss fight with Hakkar. Every so often, Hakkar will cast this debuff on a random player, effectively forcing players to be spread apart, or in the case of melee classes, to move away from Hakkar before spreading it to the other melee classes. Blizzard Entertainment tried several times to fix the problem, including imposing a quarantine on certain places. This “plague” was eventually “cured” by restarting the servers, and changing the mechanics of the Hakkar encounter to eliminate the spreading of the effect from character to character. Hakkar still has an ability called Corrupted Blood, but it now takes the form of a red bolt launched at a random player fighting the boss. The player and those nearby take damage, and receive a heavy damage over time, but the effect no longer spreads further.

Due to the large scale outbreak of the “plague” (some servers had half of their characters infected), it drew wide attention from the media.

In March 2007, Ran D Balicer, an epidemiologist physician at the Ben-Gurion University in Israel, published an article in the Journal Epidemiology describing the similarities between this outbreak and the recent SARS and avian influenza outbreaks. Dr Balicer suggested role-playing games could serve as an advanced platform for modeling the dissemination of infectious diseases. In a follow-up article in the journal Science, the game Second Life was suggested as another possible platform for these studies.

In August 2007, Nina Fefferman, a Tufts University assistant research professor of public health and family medicine, called for research on this incident, citing the resemblances with biological plagues. Some scientists want to study how people would react to environmental pathogens, by using the virtual counterpart as a point of reference. Subsequently she co-authored a paper in the journal “Lancet Infectious Diseases” discussing the epidemiological and disease modeling implications of the outbreak, along with Eric Lofgren, a University of North Carolina graduate student.

In addition, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention requested statistics on this event for research on epidemics, but it is unknown if they followed through with their request after learning that it was just caused by a bug.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corrupted_blood

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Deadly plague hits Warcraft world

By Mark Ward
Technology Correspondent, BBC News website

Artwork for World of Warcraft, Blizzard

Players get the chance to be heroes in World of Warcraft

A deadly virtual plague has broken out in the online game World of Warcraft.

Although limited to only a few of the game’s servers the numbers of characters that have fallen victim is thought to be in the thousands.

Originally it was thought that the deadly digital disease was the result of a programming bug in a location only recently added to the Warcraft game.

However, it now appears that players kicked off the plague and then kept it spreading after the first outbreak.

Since its launch in November 2004, World of Warcraft (Wow) has become the most widely played massively multiplayer online (MMO) game in the world.

Its creator, Blizzard, claims that now more than four million people are regular players.

Last rites

Wow is an online game that gives players the chance to adventure in the fantasy world of Azeroth that is populated by the usual mixture of humans, elves, orcs and other fantastic beasts.

As players explore the world, the characters they control become more powerful as they complete quests, kill monsters and find magical items and artefacts that boost abilities.

Artwork for World of Warcraft, Blizzard

The Warcraft world is a familiar fantasy setting

To give these powerful characters more of a challenge, Blizzard regularly introduces new places to explore in the online world.

In the last week, it added the Zul’Gurub dungeon which gave players a chance to confront and kill the fearsome Hakkar – the god of Blood.

In his death throes Hakkar hits foes with a “corrupted blood” infection that can instantly kill weaker characters.

The infection was only supposed to affect those in the immediate vicinity of Hakkar’s corpse but some players found a way to transfer it to other areas of the game by infecting an in-game virtual pet with it.

This pet was then unleashed in the orc capital city of Ogrimmar and proved hugely effective as the Corrupted Blood plague spread from player to player.

Although computer controlled characters did not contract the plague, they are said to have acted as “carriers” and infected player-controlled characters they encountered.

Body count

The first server, or “realm” as Blizzard calls them, affected by the plague was Archimonde; but it is known to have spread to at least two others.

The spread of the disease could have been limited by the fact that Hakkar is difficult to kill, so some realms may not yet have got round to killing him and unleashing his parting shot.

Artwork for World of Warcraft, Blizzard

In World of Warcraft players can be orcs, humans or other fantastic creatures

The digital disease instantly killed lower level characters and did not take much longer to kill even powerful characters.

Many online discussion sites were buzzing with reports from the disaster zones with some describing seeing “hundreds” of bodies lying in the virtual streets of the online towns and cities.

“The debate amongst players now is if it really was intentional although due to the effects of the problem it seems unlikely,” Paul Younger, an editor on the unofficial worldofwar.net site, told the BBC News website.

“It’s giving players something to talk about and could possibly be considered the first proper ‘world event'”, he said.

Luckily the death of a character in World of Warcraft is not final so all those killed were soon resurrected.

Blizzard tried to control the plague by staging rolling re-starts of all the servers supporting the Warcraft realms and applying quick fixes.

However, there are reports that this has not solved all the problems and that isolated pockets of plague are breaking out again.

The “Corrupted Blood” plague is not the first virtual disease to break out in game worlds. In May 2000 many players of The Sims were outraged when their game characters died because of an infection contracted from a dirty virtual guinea pig.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/4272418.stm


Future outcomes for the Personal Journeys project…

February 10, 2009

Hello everyone,

I wanted to take this opportunity to once again thank you all for participating in the Personal Journeys art project. The stories that I received from have been heartwarming, inspiring and tragic at the same time. For those of you who have not submitted their stories yet, there is still time to send it in as I am now in the process of compiling the information together. Furthermore, if anyone in the group has reservations about me publishing their names in the final piece, please let me know and I will post your story as anonymous.

To that end, the final piece will be presented to the public a month from now and will be displayed in a blog that I am creating, but I do not see that as the end of this process. My mind is simply on fire with ideas about how to push the envelope of this project further and further. We here at Emily Carr and the entire city for that matter on the verge of a once in a lifetime opportunity because one year from now, the eyes of the entire world will be focused on Vancouver for 16 straight days when the 2010 Winter Olympics begin.

What if we went to the Vancouver Olympic Committee and setup within the athlete’s village to record and document the Personal Journeys that each athlete had to go through in order to make it here to Vancouver. What a wonderful gift that would be to share not only within the village, but to the world as a whole.

Here are some other future project avenues that could be explored:

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>>> To be done for the in-class presentation <<<

1a. Create a blog to document, list and display incoming Journey stories along with the associated graphical line plots – to be then presented to the class and to outside viewers who are invited to participate virtually.

1b. Enlarge and print a few selected Journey stories and graphical line plots and put them on display for the class when the project is presented and possibly the school gallery at the annual student exhibition in the spring.

>>> Pitched the idea to several Emily Carr administration and faculty last week – waiting for results and will followup <<<

2a. Actively seek Emily Carr participation from an administrative level to fund, market or otherwise advance the project to greater reception and accessibility.

2b. Form a team of 3 to 4 dedicated Emily Carr students to go on a road trip to recreate select Journeys in order to document them and in the process request school administration to setup a self-directed co-op program so participating students can get school credits. Outside corporate sponsors in the region could be located to help fund the endeavour and the project scope can be expanded to create a documentary film, book, website or other type of media device.

2c. This team of students would interview the original Journey authors and document the sights, encounters, people, places and otherwise meaningful moments along the Journey. In addition, this team of student artists would cover a wide range of talents and disciplines in order to provide a greater canvas to document the process and scope of the Journeys (ie: Photographer, Videographer, Musician, Writer, Digital Artist…) Each member would add their own unique flavour to the project and allow for inspiration from the Journey itself to drive their own personal art and life experience gained as a result.

2d. Select Journey stories and graphical line plots can be enlarged, printed and put on display in major art galleries, providing greater exposure to the original and subsequent documentary projects. Journey authors could be invited to give guest lectures on their respective Journeys and input kiosks could be installed in galleries to allow viewers to enter their own Journeys and graphical line plots into the database as well, after being inspired from reading of the Journeys of others.

>>> Future possibilities down the road <<<

3a. Pitch the Google Journeys idea directly to Google themselves – seeing as though they have a tremendous budget to work from and http://maps.google.com/  only provides a singular and not immediately meaningful attachment to the graphical line segment produced by the mapping software (ie: it creates a graphical representation of a Trip, not a Journey and certainly not one that is easily linked to others) – whereas if both Google and we as artists could create an immense database of Collective Journeys for people to read through and visualize graphically and tied into other similarly meaningful Journeys.

3b. Google Journeys could become a living and breathing Artwork existing purely on a virtual level and being on display to people around the world 24/7 while constantly being added to and upgraded. Participants would continue to add their own Journeys to the existing project whole and the graphical line would get bigger and bigger. Visual representation of the immense Collective of Journeys could be displayed in real-time as either 2d or 3d display.

3c. Visitors to the Google Journeys website could browse through the database to look up individual Journeys or run searches based on input parameters. As mentioned above, the tree branch analogy is a fitting one, seeing as how jagged and random the waypoints turn the graphical line plot every which way. Individual or select group Journeys could display as being colour coded and then zoomed in on in the 3d display of the Great Tree Branch, where the viewer could then click on and then bring up the author’s individual Journey story.

3d. Similar to a blog setup, visitors could then leave comments for the Journey’s original author and a global dialog could be achieved along with new friendships and greater understanding for one another. Authors and visitors alike could formulate new Journey plans amongst themselves – Shared databases between Google Journeys and Google Video could be extrapolated and linked in order to provide video responses to individual Journeys – the project could become viral in its outcome and scope.

3e. The inherent search engine and search results would provide local companies, hotels, and travel services to be immediately directed to those particular areas covered in the Journey display, allowing ease of use in planning not just a regular trip, but a Journey of your own.

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There you go – these are the thoughts racing through my mind on how to expand this project further so let me know what you think of these options and let’s see how far we can push this because the sky is limit!

Sincerely,

John DeVeaux


Edward Burtynsky: An Uneasy Beauty – Photographs of Western Canada

February 8, 2009

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I went to view the exhibition yesterday and the images were incredible – take the time to go out to Surrey and check out Burtynsky’s work.
– FlashAddict

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Nickel Tailings No. 34, Sudbury, Ontario 1996

Nickel Tailings No. 34, Sudbury, Ontario 1996

Nickel Tailings No. 35, Sudbury, Ontario 1996

Nickel Tailings No. 35, Sudbury, Ontario 1996

Surrey Art Gallery
p. 604.501.5566
f.  604.501.5581
or email


13750 – 88 Avenue, 1 block east of King George Hwy.
in Bear Creek Park

Surrey, BC Canada V3W 3L

Exhibition reception: January 24, 2 – 4pm
Film Screening: February 1, 2:30pm
Artist Talk: February 12, 7pm

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Considered one of Canada’s most important living photographers, Edward Burtynsky creates photographs that are “reflecting pools of our time,” dramatically recording the impact of industrial progress and human development. This exhibition features large format photographs, many never previously exhibited in British Columbia. They show both the vast wilderness and impressive landscapes of western Canada, and the monumental scale of the resource Industries that underlie the Canadian economy.

Presented by Vancouver 2010 Cultural Olympiad.

http://www.surrey.ca/Living+in+Surrey/Arts/Surrey+Art+Gallery/Exhibitions/Exhibitions+-+Current.htm

http://www.edwardburtynsky.com/

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MANUFACTURED LANDSCAPES is a feature length documentary on the world and work of renowned artist Edward Burtynsky. Burtynsky makes large-scale photographs of ‘manufactured landscapes’ – quarries, recycling yards, factories, mines, dams. He photographs civilization’s materials and debris, but in a way people describe as “stunning” or “beautiful,” and so raises all kinds of questions about ethics and aesthetics without trying to easily answer them.

The film follows Burtynsky to China as he travels the country photographing the evidence and effects of that country’s massive industrial revolution. Sites such as the Three Gorges Dam, which is bigger by 50% than any other dam in the world and displaced over a million people, factory floors over a kilometre long, and the breathtaking scale of Shanghai’s urban renewal are subjects for his lens and our motion picture camera.

Shot in Super-16mm film, Manufactured Landscapes extends the narrative streams of Burtynsky’s photographs, allowing us to meditate on our profound impact on the planet and witness both the epicentres of industrial endeavour and the dumping grounds of its waste. What makes the photographs so powerful is his refusal in them to be didactic. We are all implicated here, they tell us: there are no easy answers. The film continues this approach of presenting complexity, without trying to reach simplistic judgements or reductive resolutions. In the process, it tries to shift our consciousness about the world and the way we live in it.

2006, Canada, 90 mins.

http://www.mongrelmedia.com/films/ManufacturedLandscapes.html


Hit-and-run accident kills two pedestrians

February 8, 2009

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Sadly, this is a little close to home for me and my fellow Emily Carr classmates – this could have been anyone of us here on Granville Island…
– FlashAddict

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18-year-old driver is in police custody

Mary Frances Hill, Vancouver Sun

Published: Sunday, February 08, 2009

VANCOUVER – Two people are dead after being thrown several metres when a hit-and-run driver struck them near the entrance to Granville Island Saturday night.

Vancouver police spokeswoman Jana McGuinness said at about 11:53 p.m. Saturday, a man and woman, 31 and 25 years old respectively, were walking westbound across Granville Street on Fourth Avenue when they were hit by an 18-year-old driver of a black Buick SUV.

The couple was thrown “several metres” and died at the scene, she said. Immediately after impact, the driver ran out of his vehicle, and ran northbound – down the hill from Fourth Avenue and into the Granville Island area – toward False Creek.

Fatal crash
Fatal crash

He dove into the water but police dogs tracked him down and he was taken into custody, where he remained Sunday. Speed and alcohol were likely factors in the crash, said McGuinness.

Two female passengers, aged 14 and 16, were in the vehicle at the time of the incident, and stayed at the scene. They were interviewed as well, McGuiness said.

Investigators said the couple was behaving as they should – crossing at a lit sign permitting them to cross the street, said McGuiness.

Though they have the driver in custody and the investigation is going well, police are still looking for witnesses to help reconstruct the crime.

“We are appealing for any help in piecing what led to this. Somebody may have seen something at the time, or five minutes before, when the vehicle was driving along West Fourth,” said McGuiness. The incident comes on the heels of a recent crime flurry, including the machinegun shooting of alleged Bacon brother associate Kevin LeClair at Langley mall Friday afternoon, and two knifing incidents that took place on Granville and Burrard Streets over the weekend. These incidents occurring within days of each other, may be stoking the public’s anxiety, she said.

“The perception may be that crime is piling up. Right now we have a lot of things happening right after another.

“It’s shaking peoples’ sense of security, but we have to keep some perspective. We are making arrests.”

Anyone with more information on the hit-and-run is asked to contact the VPD Collision Investigation Unit at 604-717-3012.

http://www.globaltv.com/globaltv/bc/story.html?id=1267133


Air India 182 – Trailer

February 7, 2009

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This is one of the films we were asked to review and possibly write an essay on for my Reading Media Culture course at Emily Carr. I viewed it on Wednesday afternoon and almost wept in the library while watching some of the most profound scenes. Please take the time to learn more about this tragedy as it provides a commentary for ALL Canadians to reflect on…
– FlashAddict

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On June 22, 1985, Air India 182 left Montreal, bound for New Delhi. Four hours after takeoff, a bomb ripped through the baggage compartment, killing all 329 people on board. It was the most deadly act of air terrorism in history before 9/11. The film counts down the final weeks and hours before Air India 182 disappeared off Irish radar screens and we sleepwalked into the era of international terrorism.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air_India_182


Tom Waits is The Man…

February 5, 2009

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Tom doing what Tom does – absolutely priceless…
– FlashAddict

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http://www.tomwaits.com


Facebook turns 5 — but can it survive?

February 4, 2009

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Interesting to read when, where and how Facebook came about in the first place…
– FlashAddict

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By Simon Hooper
CNN

(CNN) — A Web site started by a student as a way of staying in touch with friends celebrated its fifth birthday Wednesday as a billion-dollar business and a global phenomenon.

Around 15 million users update their statuses on Facebook daily.

Around 15 million users update their statuses on Facebook daily.

Mark Zuckerberg was 19 when he launched Facebook from a Harvard dorm in 2004. Within 24 hours, more than 1,000 of his Harvard classmates had signed up for the social-networking site and one month later half of those on campus had a profile.

Five years on, the Web site claims more than 150 million users worldwide while Zuckerberg, now 24, was named the youngest billionaire on the planet — with an estimated fortune of $1.5 billion — last year by Forbes magazine.

Writing in Time on Zuckerberg’s inclusion in the magazine’s 2008 list of the most influential 100 people in the world, Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist, said Zuckerberg had created “a social network that not only reflects your life but maybe expands it.”

Along with sites such as MySpace and Bebo, Facebook has also been credited with bringing social networking into the mainstream, with politicians, businesses and celebrities jumping on the bandwagon.

According to Facebook figures, around 15 million users update their statuses daily. More than 850 million photos are added to the site each month while the average user has 120 friends.

Meanwhile, Web sites such as Facebook were widely credited with helping Barack Obama secure victory in last year’s U.S. presidential election by helping him connect via the Internet with younger, previously disengaged voters.

In a blog published Wednesday to mark Facebook’s birthday, Zuckerberg said the site offered a way of making the world more open and giving people a voice to “express ideas and initiate change.”

“The culture of the Internet has also changed pretty dramatically over the past five years. Before, most people wouldn’t consider sharing their real identities online,” Zuckerberg said. “But Facebook has offered a safe and trusted environment for people to interact online, which has made millions of people comfortable expressing more about themselves.”

In a new Facebook first, the Web site featured at last week’s World Economic Forum in Davos with users contributing to live discussions and polls that were flashed onto big screens during sessions with world leaders.

Speaking to CNN, Randi Zuckerberg, Mark Zuckerberg’s sister, said politicians and businesses were looking to Facebook as “a place for insight and to get a real time pulse.”

Yet questions still remain about the finances behind Facebook’s remarkable expansion. The company has attracted more than $200 million in investment from venture capitalists while in 2006 it rejected a reputed $1 billion bid from Yahoo!

In 2007 Microsoft paid $250 million for a 1.6 percent share, a figure that gave Facebook a total projected value of some $15 billion.

But with the global financial crisis hitting Web advertising — Facebook’s core revenue stream — those sort of figures now appear to belong to a bygone age.

“What Facebook isn’t yet is a slam-dunk success,” said Adam Lashinsky of Fortune magazine last month. “It is selling advertising, it is bringing in revenue but it’s not wildly profitable even if it is profitable at all.

“There is no question that it has entered the zeitgeist but that doesn’t mean that it has progressed beyond the stage of being cool or viral or exciting to being a mega-business success the way that Google, Microsoft or even its arch-competitor MySpace is.”

Yet in an industry prone to short term fads and rapid evolution, Mark Zuckerberg said Wednesday he remained committed to making sure that Facebook remained as relevant in the future.

“Building and moving quickly for five years hasn’t been easy, and we aren’t finished,” he said. “The challenge motivates us to keep innovating and pushing technical boundaries to produce better ways to share information.”

http://www.cnn.com/2009/TECH/02/04/facebook.anniversary/index.html


Google turns map tool into people tracker

February 4, 2009

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It will be very interesting to see how things will unfold with this new technology and what implications it may have on personal rights and freedoms…
– FlashAddict

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With an upgrade to its mobile maps, Google Inc. hopes to prove it can track people on the go as effectively as it searches for information on the internet.

The new software to be released Wednesday will enable people with mobile phones and other wireless devices to automatically share their whereabouts with family and friends.

The feature, dubbed “Latitude,” expands upon a tool introduced in 2007 to allow mobile phone users to check their own location on a Google map with the press of a button.

“This adds a social flavour to Google maps and makes it more fun,” said Steve Lee, a Google product manager.

It could also raise privacy concerns, but Google is doing its best to avoid a backlash by requiring each user to manually turn on the tracking software and making it easy to turn off or limit access to the service.

Google also is promising not to retain any information about its users’ movements. Only the last location picked up by the tracking service will be stored on Google’s computers, Lee said.

The software plots a user’s location — marked by a personal picture on Google’s map — by relying on cellphone towers, global positioning systems or a Wi-Fi connection to deduce their location. The system can follow people’s travels in Canada, the United States and 25 other countries.

It’s left up to each user to decide who can monitor their location.

Also in the Loopt

The social mapping approach is similar to a service already offered by Loopt Inc., a three-year-old company near Google’s Mountain View headquarters.

Loopt’s service already is compatible with more than 100 types of mobile phones.

To start out, Google Latitude will work on Research In Motion Ltd.’s Blackberry and devices running on Symbian software or Microsoft Corp.’s Windows Mobile. It will also operate on some T-1 Mobile phones running on Google’s Android software and eventually will work on Apple Inc.’s iPhone and iTouch.

To widen the software’s appeal, Google is offering a version that can be installed on personal computers as well.

The PC access is designed for people who don’t have a mobile phone but still may want to keep tabs on their children or someone else special, Lee said. People using the PC version can also be watched if they are connected to the internet through Wi-Fi.

Google can plot a person’s location within a few yards if it’s using GPS or might be off by several miles if it’s relying on transmission from cellphone towers. People who don’t want to be precise about their whereabouts can choose to display just the city instead of a specific neighbourhood.

There are no current plans to sell any advertising alongside Google’s tracking service, although analysts believe knowing a person’s location eventually will unleash new marketing opportunities.

Google has been investing heavily in the mobile market during the past two years in an attempt to make its services more useful to people when they’re away from their office or home computers.

http://www.cbc.ca/technology/story/2009/02/04/google-latitude.html


B.C. premier Gordon Campbell to change no-deficit law for budget

February 3, 2009

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Very eloquent speech by Gordon Campbell about the reality of the current financial situation in British Columbia and around the world…
– FlashAddict

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By Stephen Hui
Presenting today’s (February 2) economic update with Finance Minister Colin Hansen, Premier Gordon Campbell found himself trying to explain why his government plans two years of deficits.

While Campbell said he is opposed to deficits, he argued they are necessitated by the “seismic shift in the world’s economies”.

Indeed, the premier hates deficits so much that his Liberal government made them illegal in 2001.

Section 2 (“Prohibition against deficit budgets”) of the Balanced Budget and Ministerial Accountability Act states: “The main estimates for a fiscal year must not contain a forecast of a deficit for that fiscal year.”

So, to make its next two budgets legal, Campbell’s government will have to amend its own legislation.

The B.C. Economic Forecast Council has forecast zero economic growth in 2009 and a 2.8-percent expansion of real GDP in 2010.

Here’s a transcript of Campbell’s remarks on his government’s economic update:

This is a very difficult day.

Colin has laid out the picture.

Over the last few weeks the slides haven’t been getting any better.

I’d like to thank Colin, all our deputies and all the officials in finance for the exceptional work they have done in the last weeks.

As you probably all know the general framework for the budget is normally finalized by mid December. That was not possible this year, if we wanted to present a credible budget document in February.

Everything has been changing. Over the last few weeks we have been forced to confront the most difficult decisions I have ever personally faced in two decades of public life.

I have been pretty clear. I abhor deficits.

But the changes have come too fast and too big for me to honestly tell you we can credibly present a balanced budget on February 17th without doing significant harm to critical health services and essential education services.

I know what I have said. I know the clips and I am sure we will all be reminded of them in the days ahead. I wrestled with this decision for many sleepless nights.

I know I will have supporters who counted on me and on us who will be disappointed, some may be angry.

But I hope they will understand that in these unprecedented times we must ALL take action that reaches beyond ideology to protect the services that are essential in the short term, so we are stronger in the long term.

I don’t believe in deficits. I have consistently railed against them for my two decades in public life.

My colleagues in our caucus dislike deficits as much as me. But we are facing a situation we couldn’t plan for. We haven’t experienced anything like it before in scope, speed, scale, suddenness and synchronicity.

It has been a stark reminder that no one can escape the global forces at play.

There’s been a seismic shift in the world’s economies.

It was just a couple of weeks ago that it became clear, that without massive reductions in planned health and education budgets that a credible balanced budget was not achievable.

I meant it when I said, as I have in so many ways, “when anyone talks about a deficit, they’re talking about turning their back on the next generation and sending our problems forward to them.”

That’s true, especially if you allow deficits to build, year after year, as empty debt, with nothing to show for it.

That is why we worked so hard in B.C. to pay down our operating debt.

Through prudent fiscal management and some very tough decisions, we’ve cut that operating debt by 47 per cent from its peak. We’ve reduced it by $7.4 billion over the last five years. But there’s still another $8.3 billion to go, in addition to whatever gets added back in the next two years.

However, today we face reduced economic growth and a precipitous collapse in projected revenues that has thrown all our earlier budget plans out the window.

Maybe we should have seen it coming.

In December our forecast council was forecasting a 0.6 per cent economic growth for ‘09. By January, that had fallen to zero.

It is very difficult to finalize a credible budget when so many parts are moving so fast. To give you an idea, previously the most dramatic shift the senior finance staff had seen was $100 million in one week. This year they saw a shift of $300 million in one day.

Today the jury’s out on whether our growth will be flat or whether we are already living with the “R” word. However, if we want to build confidence, we have to plan for some bad news and work tirelessly to create some good news.

We are determined to present to the public our best assessment of what we face and how we plan to deal with it.

I meant it in the fall when I said, “We don’t need to run deficits” and that we would not run a deficit in this province. I didn’t think we did or would.

Those comments were made in anticipation of the budget that we were actively planning to deliver on February 17. Since then, our revenue expectations have been repeatedly revised and new expenditure pressures have emerged.

The balanced budget we were planning even in December included a provision for reasonable forecast allowance that would have provided the confidence necessary to make it credible.

And here’s the really hard part. The truth is – we could STILL deliver a balanced budget that would comply with our legislation.

But to do that, we would have to cut hundreds of millions out of planned budget increases for health care and education.

We would have to table a budget with absolutely no margin for error and no room to manage in the event our forecasts are wrong.

It would be a budget that hurts more than it helps while aggravating our current economic predicament. In short, it would be a budget that satisfied the law, but that undermined public confidence and our province’s fiscal credibility.

One of the worst things that ever happened to British Columbia’s reputation was the NDP “fudge-it budgets.”

The only thing worse than a deficit budget is a duplicitous budget. That is why we introduced truth in budgeting legislation and Generally Accepted Accounting Principles. No matter how politically tough it may be to table a deficit budget, the heart of any budget’s credibility is its commitment to telling the truth.

As viscerally challenging as this decision is, I believe people expect their government to be honest and transparent about the challenges at hand – that they don’t want us clinging to ideology or dogma at the expense of the public interest.

This is a tough decision and people will judge us for it.

We will be recalling the Legislature on noon Monday, February 9, a day earlier than planned.

We will take that full week, and through that weekend if necessary, to debate the legislative changes necessary to ensure that the budget we table is legally compliant.

Those amendments will effectively suspend the current balanced budget requirement for the next two years.

They will require the budget to be balanced in 2011/12 and thereafter.

They will also require that every penny of future operating surplus is first applied to eliminating the direct operating debt.

The Speech from the Throne will be delivered on Monday, February 16, and the budget will be presented as legally required, the next day.

It will be a budget that protects and increases funding for health and education, consistent with the 2008 budget.

It will be a budget that includes immediate, time-limited investments to support job creation and to help build confidence in these turbulent times.

And I hope everyone hears this: it will NOT be a budget that abandons our obligations to future generations.

Just because we have been forced to present a deficit budget that may be unavoidable for the next two years, does not mean that we will not also manage down spending during that time.

On the contrary, we WILL.

You will see significant reductions in every area of discretionary spending – in travel, advertising, administration, service contracts, grants and contributions and some government programs.

In short, discretionary spending will be kept to a minimum.

A new restrictive spending regime will be put in place. We will do everything we can to protect core services.

We have created a fund out of savings to mitigate impacts on individuals and to make smart decisions to ensure we have critical staff available for key programs. We have also made a purposeful effort to ensure that it is not just the lower ranks of staff that manage through change. The senior executive ranks will be reduced by 20 per cent to contribute to this overall belt-tightening.

This will be the toughest budget we have ever faced.

There is far less room for cost savings in our budgets today than there was seven years ago.

British Columbians have been fantastic in helping us to manage those pressures in their interests.

We will not return to the days of runaway spending, high taxes and endless deficits.

We will not abandon our abiding commitment to fiscal discipline.

This is not about changing priorities. It’s about protecting them.

We will demonstrate the depth of that conviction.

To the extent there is new stimulus spending, it will be focused and limited to the next two or three years.

Every effort will be made to minimize the structural deficit.

That will be evident on February 17.

I regret that we are faced today with this situation.

But I want to assure everyone that we will not only get through this difficult period; we will emerge stronger than ever.

The relative strength of our economy and our strong fiscal position will allow us to do just that.

There is no place better positioned to successfully get through this than British Columbia.

We will use this period to embark on a building program for our province that will create jobs in every region of the province.

We will lay that out in more detail in the days ahead.

Tough as it is today for so many, our fastest route forward is to build stability and confidence in our future. That is what our budget will be all about.

http://www.straight.com/article-199550/bc-premier-gordon-campbell-change-nodeficit-law-budget