AR glasses coming from Google

Google glasses (or maybe we should all ’em Google Goggles) will be an interesting AR advance, more science friction happening now, if they do happen. Preview (aka rumor) at 9to5Google.

These glasses, we heard, have a front-facing camera used to gather information and could aid in augmented reality apps. It will also take pictures. The spied prototype has a flash —perhaps for help at night, or maybe it is just a way to take better photos. The camera is extremely small and likely only a few megapixels.

EFF-Austin revives meeting series

EFF-Austin has been quietly working along presenting occasional events (like the recent Texas Government 2.0 Camp), operating its email list, and publishing occasional blog posts,  but we’ve had a growing sense of a need to ramp up our activities. We can see major threats to the distributed, decentralized Internet and the expectation of a “freedom to connect,” and there are all sorts of interesting conversations and movements emerging that are relevant to EFF-Austin’s stated mission: “EFF-Austin advocates establishment and protection of digital rights and defense of the wealth of digital information, innovation, and technology. We promote the right of all citizens to communicate and share information without unreasonable constraint. We also advocate the fundamental right to explore, tinker, create, and innovate along the frontier of emerging technologies.”

A first important step in our ramping up: we’re restarting our monthly meeting series, coordinated by our new board member, Anna Kozminski. The first of the new series of meetings is June 1 at the Flying Saucer at the Triangle – information and (free) registration here. Open Source software developer Tom Brown, who among other things maintains oscurrency for the Austin Time Exchange and founded Superborrownet, Inc., will talk about his experience attending Internet Identity Workshop 12, and about the Identity Commons movement in general. Come to the meeting, express your support for EFF-Austin’s mission, volunteer to be part of our future going forward.

(Note that EFF-Austin is an independent nonprofit formed originally as a potential chapter of the national Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). When EFF decided not to have chapters, we went our own way as an influential organization focused on cyber liberties and more, such as digital culture and arts.)

This is a busy week

I’ve been interacting with this year’s SXSW schedule, noticing how much programming there is, and how many speakers I don’t know, which is actually pretty great. In the world of social media, we’ve learned how many more great voices there are in the world than we can ever hope to track, so many more of them given the opportunity to reach some kind of following or audience as the barriers to publishing fall away. So much of my information life lately has been exploring to find the various pockets of compelling intelligence within the crowd. SXSW Interactive facilitates that by creating a way to crowdsource the schedule – actual attendees vote on panel suggestions. There’s down sides, if course – people game the system, and you get panels and presentations on compelling subjects by presenters that are inexperienced, or were smarter in their proposal than in their delivery. But overall it’s a great thing, and of course there’s also quite a bit happening on the periphery of the event.

Where am I speaking?

Tuesday night, actually not part of SXSW but a good lead-in, EFF-Austin and Plutopia Productions are sponsoring an event – a panel on the twentieth anniversary of the Secret Service raid at Steve Jackson Games, part of the “hacker crackdown.” I’ll be moderating a panel featuring Steve, Bruce Sterling, and attorney Pete Kennedy (who argued the case). The event, at Independence Brewing, is sold out, but we’ll hopefully be streaming, or at least have video online after the fact.

The day before SXSW starts, March 11, I’ll be giving a talk at “Sharing, Exchanging, Social Health,” an event that takes advantage of the presence in town of many participatory medicine/social health advocates, and gives them a place to hang out. It’s an unconference seeded with a few programmed talks.

With my Plutopia Productions colleagues, I’ll be introducing Plutopia 2010 on Monday the 15th. Gates open at 7pm at the Mexican American Cultural Center. Plutopia is a defining SXSW Interactive event, this year focusing on “The Science of Music,” and featuring Bruce Sterling, DJ Spooky, DJ Strangevibe, Black Pig Liberation Front, Xiao He. The schedule is here. We’ll also have the Edible Austin Food Fest featuring local food and distillers.

Tuesday, David Armistead has asked me to join his core conversation at SXSW Interactive, “Can Social Media Save Business So Business Can Save the Planet?” Here’s a description:

In the era of GM-like businesses, now just past, opaque layers of hierarchy were used to control the flow of information to create an effective coordination of action. But new communications and information technology, including the new social media, now drop the costs of coordination so low business has to adopt them to stay competitive. Except – these technologies drastically flatten the organization and flood everything with radical new transparency, and many firms resist these kinds of changes.

John Motloch from Ball State University will also join us. Should be a lively and worldchanging discussion.

Finally, at the end of the day Tuesday, I’m introducing Bruce Sterling’s talk. I don’t think either one of us has any idea what we’re going to say at this point, but Bruce’s talk is always a highlight of the event.

Personal health records: the data’s not in (really)

A PHR (Personal Health Records) system like Google Health supposedly “puts you in charge of your health information,” but where do you start? ePatient Dave, decided to take the plunge and move his considerable (after bouts with cancer) health data to Google’s system. His hospital was already supporting easy upload of patient records to Google Health, a matter of specifying options and clicking a button at the patient portal.

The result? “…it transmitted everything I’ve ever had. With almost no dates attached.” So you couldn’t tell, for instance, that the diagnosis of anxiety was related to chemotherapy-induced nausea: “… the ‘anxiety’ diagnosis was when I was puking my guts out during my cancer treatment. I got medicated for that, justified by the intelligent observation (diagnosis) that I was anxious. But you wouldn’t know that from looking at this.”

Where there was supposed to be “more info” about conditions listed, the information wasn’t particularly robust, and some conditions were listed that Dave never had.

I’ve been discussing this with the docs in the back room here, and they quickly figured out what was going on before I confirmed it: the system transmitted insurance billing codes to Google Health, not doctors’ diagnoses. And as those in the know are well aware, in our system today, insurance billing codes bear no resemblance to reality.

All this raises the question, and the point of Dave’s post: do you know what’s in your medical records? Is it accurate information? If some physician down the line was reading it, would (s)he make an accurate assessment of your history?

Think about THAT. I mean, some EMR pontificators are saying “Online data in the hospital won’t do any good at the scene of a car crash.” Well, GOOD: you think I’d want the EMTs to think I have an aneurysm, anxiety, migraines and brain mets?? Yet if I hadn’t punched that button, I never would have known my data in the system was erroneous.

Dave realized that the records transmitted to Google Health were in some cases erroneous, and overall incomplete.

So I went back and looked at the boxes I’d checked for what data to send, and son of a gun, there were only three boxes: diagnoses, medications, and allergies. So I went back and looked at the boxes I’d checked for what data to send, and son of a gun, there were only three boxes: diagnoses, medications, and allergies. Nothing about lab data, nothing about vital signs.

Dave goes on to make a rather long and magnificent post, which you should read (here’s the link again). The bottom line is that patients need working, interoperable data, and patients should be accessing and reviewing, and there should be methods for correcting factual inaccuracies.

We’re saying this having heard that most hospitals aren’t storing data digitally, anyway. This is new territory and we know we have to go there. Salient points:

  • Get the records online
  • Make sure they’re accurate
  • Have interoperable data standards and a way to show a complete and accurate history for any patient
  • Have clarity about who can change and who can annotate records

That’s just a first few thoughts – much more to consider. If you’re interested in this subject, read regularly.

Gary Chapman at Texas Community Media Unworkshop: Obama’s Open Government Initiatives

At the Texas Community Media Unworkshop last Saturday, I posted several notes to Twitter from a talk by Gary Chapman of the 21st Century Project at the LBJ School of Public Affairs. By popular demand, here’s those notes, with some additional material…

Kevin Martin from FCC was at UT [last] week. He said Democratic members of the FCC had been trying to increase minority ownership of broadcasting, but his philosophy had been instead to expand the space and the opportunities. Gary had previously had concerns about Martin, but found himself agreeing with much he had to say. Martin is considering how to increse the availability of broadband as well as the bandwidth, something the Obama administration also wants. (See my previous post about white spaces.) Gary also heard Martin propose free national public broadband.

The LBJ School is working with Obama transition team. There’ll be a White House CTO. has info about transition.

The Federal government has already put spending data online and has created APIs, ways for programmers to access and use for that data, which anyone can also download. Obama drove legislation to do this – transparency in government is a top priority for the new administration.

OMB watch has created a site,, using that data.

Data about the Federal budget is also online, but not in an accessible way – as pdf documents. The LBJ School has prposed working on a transparent onine budget similar to the spending data, and is working with the Obama transition team on the concept. This should open a new era of transparency and accountability. People will be able to monitor what’s happening at all levels of government. The most compelling applications will tie the spending data to the budget for analysis… connecting the dots for real transparency.

The LBJ School is also seeking funds for a lab to create tools for bloggers, activists, etc. Get programming talent to build new tools. For instance, the want to take a wiki model of collaborative space and flip that into specfic applications for collaboration and for doing processing online. Gary mentioned as a similar tool Wikicalc, Dan Bricklin’s collaborative spreadsheet absorbed by SocialText. Another exampnle: Google is creating APIs for its spreadsheet.

The next phase of public media will blur boundaries between government and citizens using online tools, Gary says. We’ll see a transition from e-government, which is merely transactional (renew your driver’s license online) to i-government, or information based government. Government shouldn’t just build PR web sites, it should be guarantor of data quality for access by tool builders. This is the next phase of democracy, and the ext stage in the fight against corruption. We won’t need to file freedom of information access requests, because the information will already be online and accessible.

This is all high on the Obama transition team’s agenda. They’ve been working on this for months already. Obama is also reestablishing status of science – planning to bringing on a science advisor.

$9 billion citizen journalism hit

At CNN’s, a “citizen journalist” calling himself “Johntw” posted a report that Steve Jobs had been rushed to the ER following a heart attack. Word spread to and beyond Digg, across Twitter. Apple stock dropped quickly, a $9 billion loss based on the rumor. Though iReport posts aren’t vetted, the CNN association probably lent credibility to the report. [Link]

The Jobs incident was the second time in a week that mainstream media organizations have been embarrassed by their online citizen journalism arms – sparking debate about the accuracy of reports from these Web sites and showing how it takes only a few minutes for a scurrilous rumor, placed on a site without sufficient editorial checks, to inflict damage.

So what’s the cure? A dozen years ago Bob Anderson and I were talking about the emerging new media ecology and the question of information authority in that context. We figured media literacy should be taught alongside reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic. Support critical thinking, not censorship or authoritarian structures for distributing information.

Education isn’t always enough, sometimes you really do need moderators, hopefully with a light touch. The SFGate story linked above says how sexually explicit photos were posted at CBS’mobile phone application site, after which CBS promised “to redouble its efforts to police content.” A moderator had quickly removed the photos. Some might argue that photos should be screened before they’re posted, and some sites would do it that way, but that’s a daunting task, especially where you may have thousands of posts, and it’s not in the spirit of the many-to-many mediasphere. CNN does have moderators for iReport, but they’re not checking facts… “mostly, it is the job of iReport users themselves to weed out erroneous or inappropriate material.” That’s the social media way – the “vetting” is crowdsourced, and the reader must read critically, never assuming that the “news source” is correct. I would argue that’s always been the case, even with the best journalists. I’ve never been close to a news story that wasn’t wrong in some of the particulars, at least from my perspective. And that’s part of the problem – perspectives and interpretations differ. That’s why I left journalism behind – when I was in journalism school, it seemed pretty clear that it would be hard to tell the truth. Only a few gonzo journalists, a la Hunter Thompson, realized they, and their biases, had to be transparent within the reporting…