Updates on the Internet and its social and public policy implications, useful websites, political/cultural musings and more from a UK-based academic, internet consultant and journalist

Archive for the 'Mobile phone and PDA' Category | back to home

22 January 2014

I’m as excited as anyone about the potential for organizations and governments to use the ever-increasing amounts of data we’re ’sharing’ (I prefer the less value-laden ‘giving off’) because of our love of smartphones and the like. So I enjoyed this presentation by Tom Raftery about “mining social media for good”.

(Slideshare ‘deck’ here)

And I am sure his heart is in the right place, but as I read through the transcript of his talk a few of his ‘good’ cases started to seem a little less cheering.

Waze, which was recently bought by Google, is a GPS application, which is great, but it’s a community one as well. So you go in and you join it and you publish where you are, you plot routes.

If there are accidents on route, or if there are police checkpoints on route, or speed cameras, or hazards, you can click to publish those as well.

Hm – avoid accidents and hazards sure – but speed cameras are there for a reason, and I can see why giving everyone forewarning of police checkpoints might not be such a hot idea either.

In law enforcement social media is huge, it’s absolutely huge. A lot of the police forces now are actively mining Facebook and Twitter for different things. Like some of them are doing it for gang structures, using people’s social graph to determine gang structures. They also do it for alibis. All my tweets are geo-stamped, or almost all, I turned it off this morning because I was running out of battery, but almost all my tweets are geo-stamped. So that’s a nice alibi for me if I am not doing anything wrong.

But similarly, it’s a way for authorities to know where you were if there is an issue that you might be involved in, or not.

To be fair Tom does note that this is “more of a dodgy use” than the others. And what about this?

A couple of years ago Nestlé got Greenpeace. They were sourcing palm oil for making their confectionery from unsustainable sources, from — Sinar Mas was the name of the company and they were deforesting Indonesia to make the palm oil.

So Greenpeace put up a very effective viral video campaign to highlight this [...] Nestlé put in place a Digital Acceleration Team who monitor very closely now mentions of Nestlé online and as a result of that this year, for the first time ever, Nestlé are in the top ten companies in the world in the Reputation Institute’s Repute Track Metric.

Are we talking about a company actually changing its behaviour here or one using their financial power to drown out dissent?

You should definitely check out this talk and transcript and if we’re going to have all this data flowing around about us it does seem sensible to use some of it for good ends – there are certainly many worthy ideas outlined in it. But if even a presentation about the good uses of social media data mining contains stuff that is alarming, maybe we should be asking the question more loudly whether the potential harms outweigh these admitted goods?

12 December 2012

Picture from Jeremy Selwyn via The Evening Standard

I set out last night on a five-mile cycle journey to meet a friend which turned into an hour and a half odyssey thanks to freezing fog but also technological dependency. It was late in the day so my Galaxy Nexus was already low on charge but I thought had enough to use to navigate. Intermittent use of the GPS was enough to make it go flat but not enough to help me to navigate successfully. I then realised without my phone I didn’t even have a map. I would have called my friend to tell him I was running late but of course my phone didn’t work and because “everyone has mobiles these days” the few remaining phone booths on my journey didn’t work. For a moment I thought of working out my laptop from my bag and Skyping my friend but, of course, my mobile broadband is dependent on (you guessed it) my phone.

Fortunately, I did manage to get to him in time to see Argo together (very good) but our dinner was extremely brief (sorry John!). On the upside cycling around the back streets of Hampstead in the fog was extremely atmospheric. I’d show you some pictures but I don’t carry a camera any more because I have one always with me… in my phone!

19 March 2010

Realtime UK train timetables have been around for a while but I have long wished the same were available for buses. Turns out that it has been for a while – Traveline NextBuses either gives you the next scheduled time or the next estimated time of arrival for buses near you across much of the UK. Excellent!

17 December 2009

If you get a lot of email (and who doesn’t?) may I suggest my book, Dealing with Email? It was recently re-released in epub ebook form and for the Kindle via Amazon US (you can preview pages from it from Amazon’s page.

For the academics among you, how about a copy of Digital Storytelling, Mediatized Stories: Self-representations in New Media (also previewable on Amazon) featuring a chapter by yours truly about MySpace users? The paperbook is $30 – cheap for an academic work…

Due to recent breakages and having an income after years of studenthood I find myself looking for a bunch of consumer electronics goods at once and I’m coming to realise that:

1) Even in this most-covered commercial area, there are annoying information gaps (products that are UK/European models are much less often-reviewed than US ones).
2) Being able to find reviews of any individual product is no substitute for buyer’s guides that would help you sift through dozens of similar products by your own criteria.

So can you help me find the following?

  • A cheap (sub-£150) digital camera that is good in low-light conditions (ie shoots well indoors without a flash)
  • An inexpensive 22″ TV with reasonable speakers and (if possible) support for high resolution connection to a PC for use as a monitor (am currently considering the John Lewis 22″ or the LG22H2000)
  • A cheap mobile phone with decent calendar/organizer function (ie an up-to-date version of what Palm used to sell as an organizer alone) – preferably with keyboard – am currently considering the INQ Chat or the LG GW520 – should be on three because of their Skype support and cheap internet.

Other suggestions?

16 March 2009

Thanks to BBC iPlayer and the increasing number of podcasts available my ability to download interesting stuff is finally outpacing the time available to consume it. My iPod now contains about 48 hours of audio and video material – a mix of (free classic) audiobooks, current affairs and history programs and a number of academic-related feeds, notably Thinking Allowed, Radio Berkman and of course the LSE’s own podcast of its lectures. Unfortunately, in attempting to update the podcasts blogroll on the right I seem to have broken it instead. You can see all of the individual podcasts I subscribe to as they broadcast in reverse chronological order here.

9 December 2008


I just heard about the nabaztag (Armenian for rabbit – hello Leslie!) via Jeremy Hunsinger and though I am not quite sure what it does I am sure I would like to get a “digital pet” like this one one of these days. OK it’s a lot of money for what would probably end up being a glorified alarm clock but smart appliances intrigue me.

The Chumby (below) is more capable and flexible but also somewhat more expensive (and less cute). It’s not distributed here either, it seems.

A Chumby

28 November 2008

Just one good reason to learn to love the European Union:

BBC NEWS | Technology | Europe backs mobile roaming cap.

The rules put a retail price cap of 11 euro cents (9p) on texts sent while roaming – a substantial cut on the European average of 29 euro cents (24p). The ministers backed a cap of 1 euro per megabyte (83p) on the price of downloading data – though this applies only to the charges operators levy on each other.

23 November 2008

Evernote doesn’t work nearly as well offline as I had hoped – am sticking with it for the moment out of sheer cussedness but it’s less convenient than my old solution. The iPod Touch update that adds podcast downloading wirelessly which I was also looking forward to doesn’t let you automatically add new podcasts you are subscribed to – it only lets you subscribe to new ones or add podcasts manually (and then only if you already have at least one file downloaded for that podcast). The Touch doesn’t have a built in password protection option for files – how dumb is that? (I’m trying out SplashID Lite as a data store for starters). And the new S2 Skypephone which I am thinking of getting as a cheaper alternative to the Nokia 6220 is all very well but as far as I can tell there’s still no way to sync it with one’s address book using my Mac’s iSync (and my memory of the PC syncing software available with the original Skypephone is that it was dire).

*sigh.

15 November 2008

Evernote, which has had a lot of good press for its note taking/todo application, has finally added offline reading to its feature list for the iPhone and iPod Touch… kind of. It’s feature rich enough that I have switched to using it over the previous work-around I found (using the address book as a todo list) but I’m hoping they’ll upgrade the app more soon.

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