Ad-Tracking is fine, but I want to pay to not have it

It’s no secret that we are being tracked by our phones and that people

have a sick amount of data on our whereabouts and our habits and everything else we like to keep private in our lives. Interestingly, it’s not just the govt. tracking us. We all know (and for some reason are ok with) that companies are doing the same thing.

I read this article about ad tracking and, frankly its kind of scary to me. I mean, I totally knew this was possible and I frequently say that I am happy to trade some privacy for some convenience but the amount of power these companies and techniques have is out of control.

Personally I feel that the FTC needs to step in and start trying to limit some of this but where would they even begin.

I know what you’re saying : If you don’t like it than don’t use your phone, get rid of all the apps.

But that’s kind of dumb isn’t it? There is so many cool apps and so much cool functionality that I get from using my phone. What can I do though? It seems that in this world I have no other option but to give myself in to the ad tracking.

There is another option and I wish that I could do it. Paid apps. For games we seem to have this cool economy where you can play for free (and submit to ads and tracking, etc) or you can spend some amount of money to get the app ad-free. Why is this not an option for the apps I use as well? Why is this not an option for my phones location services and how they are sent over the browser that’s built in?

I would totally pay for un-tracked and un-ad supported versions of Instagram and Facebook and Twitter and Uber and my browser. I would gladly pay extra for amazon not to share my  purchases and for google not to share my data.

Yes I know it’s anonymous but the way it’s done they know everything about me but my name. They know that person X123 bought all this stuff and went all these places and did all these things. How hard would it be for someone like the govt. or some interested party to have the company that has the super profile of X123 to add a name to that profile?

Let me pay for my apps. I’m tired of this ‘free’ technology economy we have. You should be as well! I can’t be the only one who feels this way. Am I?

The Toynbee Tiles

50acec6764a2d.preview-620The other day I was walking through the city with some people from out of town and while crossing the street I made them look down at a Toynbee Tile. Of course, they had no idea what it was so I started to tell them the story. But it’s a story that needs details and references and such so I decided to make a post about it here instead.

While you are reading this post I’d like you to click this link and listen to its soundtrack. This is a track called The Toynbee Suite by an artist named Lushlife. lushlife-620x417The story of this track deserves its own post but I’ll give you some info. First of all there is Lushlife. Lushlife is a (mostly) rap musician from Philly named Raj Haldar. He is crazy talented and very well known in the music circles. Here is his soundcloud. There is GOLD there.

So the Toynbee Suite was recorded and mixed over a weekend for a documentary/educational group called Shaking Through. I am always amazed and impressed by the Shaking Through episodes and this one is one of the best since it is so complex and long. I support Weathervane Music who are the producers of Shaking Through and after checking them out I bet you will too!

Ok, so back to Toynbee Tiles. What can I add to the wiki page or the great website about them? I can tell you this about them. I have always noticed them and been fascinated by them and I would often point them out to people (who mostly didn’t care) until I was talking to someone about them and they told me a friend of theirs was making a documentary about them. I was super psyched to hear this and immediately dropped some dollars onto the kickstarter for it. That became the film : Resurrect Dead.

Resurrect-Dead-1Jon Foy, Colin Smith and Steve Weinik did a great job with the film and I was super happy to meet and hang out with them at the Philly premiere. This was after they won an award at Sundance for it. I was super happy to have helped them in my tiny way, make it happen.

So next time you are walking the streets of Philly, keep looking down and you may see something cool!

The Next Big Idea : a data clearinghouse

(note : I touched on this idea a few years ago, nothing has really changed since then)

Idea : A data clearinghouse with public/open APIs. This would be the bridge between people like you and me and our ‘home’ data warehousing needs and the public at large.

Example 1: Billers, Banks, anyone who may send you a statement or bill : Instead of paper bills mailed to your home, they could use the standard API on the ‘outside’ of the clearinghouse to send you data about your bank account transactions, credit card bills, etc. On your side you can choose what to do with that data : feed it into your home version of quicken, file it away as a PDF in dropbox, do nothing, etc.

Example 2: Electronic Media you may buy (books, music, movies) can be delivered in a standard way through the clearinghouse to the storage back end of your choice : dropbox, your home NAS, itunes, etc. No more worrying about where your music is and what device can play it. All media players can support the standard API and they are in. Presto.

Example 3: Sharing data with friends and families : you choose the sharing rules, access, etc with your own API scheme and they do the same on their end but the public side of the clearinghouse uses a standard API to transfer the data and meta data.

The possibilities are endless and anyone could start this project and have it turn into something huge. If someone wants to start a company with me I’m in.

Google Fi. A cell service where you can’t send a text

Ok Google.

I’m pissed off. I have been a fan of yours for a really long time now. I’ve been an early adopter of all your products (even the ones that are gone now). Whenever someone talks about their love for Apple I make fun of them and tell them how the Goog has been doing better tech for way longer. I’m always on your side.

So of course when I saw that Google Fi was available I signed up as fast as I could and I dropped $600 on a new handset as you required. Every time someone asks me about the phone or what service I have, I’ve gone into a 5 minute ad for the service. Because for the most part it’s been pretty awesome. But this morning that’s all changed. I hate Fi and if I could get my money back I would. But I’ve been told that’s not possible. So I’m going to just complain publicly and hopefully dissuade people from switching over to you. Hell, I’m even considering moving to an iPhone!

So what happened?

It wasn’t until about the middle of the day last Sunday that I finally realized that there was something seriously wrong with SMS messaging for me. Up until that point, everything was working perfectly for me. But all of a sudden nobody was receiving SMS messages from me. I could see theirs, and from my perspective I was sending them to them. But they weren’t getting them. That is, unless they were on T-mobile.

I tried from hangouts on my computer. Same thing. I later figured out that MMS worked fine however so the problem was that SMS messages were not being delivered once they made it to Fi. Mind you, it looks on my phone that the text is sent. There is no error message or anything.

So I chatted up your support crew on Sunday.

After a bunch of back and forth I was told that there was an outage on your side of things and that it would be fixed between 24-72 hours. I was initially upset because if you knew there was an outage, I should have been notified. This is pretty common practice for service oriented companies. But I wasn’t. And I still haven’t been notified about what was/is going on.

So I waited 72 hours which was last night and guess what? Still no ability for me to text. I’m sure you can imagine how much of an inconvenience this is. I mean, our whole society is based on text messages these days and to not be able to send one from your phone (or your computer) is just debilitating.

I contacted support again and spent a very long time with them. Here is a summary of what occurred (though I’d love for you to find a transcript of the chat so you can see for yourself).

  1. There was no acknowledgement of an outage this time.
  2. The rep was convinced it was an issue with my phone. Even though I was clear that the issue would happen on hangouts on my computer even with the phone off
  3. The rep made me remove all the non primary google accounts I had linked on my phone
  4. The rep made me remove hangouts from my phone
  5. The rep made me sign out of hangouts on my computer .. all of this so that we can get a message to come up on Messenger (the approved google SMS app on my phone)
  6. Once I had followed all of the reps steps I still could not get a text to work and so he then decided I needed a new SIM.

So here I sit, with a google phone on a google service that cannot deliver a simple SMS text message. And now I wait for a SIM card that I know won’t fix the issue. And then what?

I have always had faith that you knew what you were doing but after the experience I had yesterday I’m not so sure. This is clearly an issue on your end of things but your rep wouldn’t acknowledge it. I asked for a refund of the phone and was flat out told that that wasn’t going to happen. I was told that Fi was ‘basically a beta service’ and that the risk was all on me for signing up. Really? Ok, well if that’s the case then don’t bill me for this month since I can’t use your service. Treat me, one of your best advertisers just a little bit better. Make me feel like trusting your company was the right move. Don’t say to me : Well you made the mistake of going all in with us. Sorry.

 

Ugh. I’m super pissed still.

 

When the SIM comes in a few (textless) days from now I’m sure I’ll be writing again. Until then, know that I will never recommend Fi to anyone again.

 

My 3 favorite living artists

I love art. If you asked me who my favorite living artist was I would not be able to accurately answer since there is so much great art and artists. But there that I know of come close. They are Chuck Connely, Tom Sachs, and Mauizio Cattelan. Each of them has a story.

When I first started loving art and really taking notice of it I was in High School. I was totally into the pop art movement. Warhol, Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein and of course Keith Haring (who was my hero in the mid to late 80’s).

One experience from that time that comes to mind is this time that I was watching a movie called New York Stories. It wasn’t well received but I loved it anyway. It was made up of three short films and the one I was most affected by was directed by Martin Scorsese and called Life Lessons. new-york-stories-1989-06-gIt was about a famous artist who is stuck and can’t paint and is also in love with his assistant. She, it turns out, is just using him to work her way up in the art world and she constantly fucks with him by dating other people. But it turns out that his passion and jealousy ends up driving his painting. What was incredible to me was the art in the film and the way it showed these close ups of the process of painting. In addition was the work itself. It was amazing to me! I loved it so much and it always stuck with me. It was one of the moments that convinced me to start collecting art more seriously.

Flash forward about 20 years and I’m watching a film on HBO called “The Art of Failure” about an artist originally from Philadelphia named Chuck Connely.

I had never heard of Chuck but this film made me fall in love with his work instantly. As I was watching it I couldn’t help but remember Life Lessons and the artist in that movie. Connely seemed so similar. I soon learned that Connely was not only the inspiration for the film, but was the artist that did all the paintings and the close up shots!

Connely is probably my favorite living painter. His work is simply gorgeous and there is so much soul in it. Chuck’s work is special because he’s talented beyond belief and he’s clearly putting so much emotion into his work. He is also an outsider and hates the art world. He once created this alter ego named Frank Scaboda and painted totally different work (some of it is simply incredible) and tried to get it into galleries in NYC.

I ended up a few years later in a gallery and I saw what I thought was his work on the wall and I went to the owner of the gallery and asked about it and they said “No, that’s not Chuck, that’s his assistants work though!”. Chuck still lives in Philly and it’s always been a goal of mine to go find him and buy one of his paintings. I’m certain I will own one at one point. Some day soon maybe I will go out on a trek to find the guy.

c057Tom Sachs is this artist that is perhaps one of the coolest people I know. I have a friend who is an insane collector of art and art books. He has a collection that is valued in the tens of thousands and has hundreds of art books lining his walls. But anyway, I was at his house one day and he showed me this book called ‘Space Program’ about this artist who had painstakingly created not a scale model, but a full scale real Lunar Module along with space suits and a mission control and then he re-enacted the moon landing in this gallery in LA. I was instantly hooked.

I went home and researched and found a video of the event. It was incredible! I remember feeling so sad that I missed it when it happened and that I’d never see the Lunar Module again. Like genuinely sad about it. Like I’d missed something that was made for me. But I started following his work anyway and became obsessed.

Tom is a maker. He has a certain aesthetic that is kind of incredible to witness. He is organized. He is about function over form. He is about getting his point across and not getting caught up in beauty. But yet, his work is beautiful to me still. Every single thing he has ever made that I have seen I have loved.

Waffle Bike. By Tom Sachs from Tom Sachs on Vimeo.

I can’t say that about any other artist. But Sachs speaks to me in some weird way. Maybe he speaks to the kid in me that wanted to make spaceships out of cardboard boxes but always gave up before I even tried. I don’t know. And there are details to his work that are just obsessive and insane and perfect.

For example, for Space Program, every single object has a serial number engraved into it and it’s cataloged in a book. This comes from his obsession with NASA and how they do that for all of their objects. It spoke to me because I think before I ever knew he existed I had a chance to spend a night on an aircraft carrier at sea and I was amazed that everything on that glorious machine had a serial number. Everything was labeled. Everything had a part number. It blew me away at how the virtually unlimited budget of the govt. was able to organize things down to the tiniest detail. The control, the design, the forethought was glorious. Tom totally did the same thing in his studio.

A few years ago in 2011 I went up to New York to see a show of his called Work. It was going to be my first chance to actually see some work of his in person. I went up and met up with a friend and on the night before we came up with a plan to see a show at the Guggenheim and also one at the New Museam by Carsten Holler that was getting rave reviews. We started with Holler.

I had incredible optimism about the Holler show. It had a slide, a nude bath, and all kinds of other exciting ideas. The title of the show was Experience.

NM_Benoit_Pailley_Carsten_Holler_03001And I was psyched. We did the whole thing and walked out a couple of hours later and I looked at Sara (my friend) and said “If the point of that show was to make me hate everything and be angry when I left, then it was completely successful”. To this day I think that actually was the point. For example, there was a room filled with stuff that was lit by strobe lights. And when you got out of that one you entered into another room with alternating red and blue lights and noise. It was like torture to walk through this show. I was shaken to the core.

But a few blocks away I was able to finally see Tom Sachs. And it was just so perfect. It was great to finally see the work of someone that I was just loving for a few years up to this point. One of the highlights was a wooden Hassleblad camera 16a8c7498e2c6ab7d86d26976387904f

 

 

 

 

 

 

And of course the James Brown stereo system. 2011-12-17_17-18-37_575

 

 

 

 

 

Next 2011-12-17_17-43-00_540 we found our way to the Guggenheim to see a show called ‘All’. It was a retrospective of work by an artist I’d never heard of called Maurtzio Cattalan who I’d never heard of. After the Holler show I wasn’t expecting much and we almost didn’t go but we did.

 

 

 

 

 

 

FLW-SGM-0003_GUGGENHEIM_MUSEUM__BIRDS_EYE_VIEW_OF_THE_CENTRAL_ATRIUM

The Guggenheim is a cool museum that at its center there is a huge multi floor atrium with an enormous circular ramp that works its way up a hundred or so feet to the top of the museum. This show was built to hang from the roof of the atrium all the way down to the floor. When I arrived, the first thing I saw was a stuffed horse hanging above me.p1000032

 

 

 

 

My initial thought was that I was going to see a bunch of taxidermied animals but as I had worked my way up and around the ramp leading up I came across something I’d seen before. It was the pope after being hit by a meteorite, something that I’d seen a photo of (and loved) a few years back.

Maurizio-Cattelan-All-14

I was shocked that I’d known this artist all along. I’d just never known his name.

 

I can’t even begin to tell you how amazing it was to work my way up and see more and more insanely incredible physical works in front of me.

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At one point we came to a story about the artist written on the wall that described how he was doing a show in a gallery down the street from a fellow artist and instead of doing anything original, he simply copied (in perfect detail) the entire show of the other artist. Cattalan, it seems, is more of an artistic prankster. In another story that I love he was a featured artist at this great biennial show in Italy and he was given a warehouse space to work with. People came from around the world to see this show and when they got there they found a dark and empty warehouse with a spot light all the way in the back. Once they made their way to the spotlight they could see it was illuminating on the floor a tiny sculpture of an ant – giving them the finger. In another show he had all of these taxidermied pigeons installed in the rafters above all the other artists’ work with, of course, the pigeon shit all down the walls. Much like Connely, it seems that Cattalan isn’t a fan of the art world.

‘All’ was one of the best shows I’d ever seen. It was simply incredible and I spent hours there looking at each piece. I was instantly in love. Sadly, he has retired and is making no more work but what he has made is more than enough.

As a side story I started watching the amazing Netflix series called “Chefs Table” and in the first episode they profiled this incredible Italian chef and as I was watching it I fell in love with his sensibility as well. I felt very much this man was the food world’s equivalent of Cattalan. Sure enough about ½ way into the episode we see that he was inspired directly by Cattalan and his first encounter with him was at the pigeon biennial I mentioned above.

One more thing I’d like to add. I finally got to not only see the Tom Sachs Lunar Module. IMG_20120602_135341 I got to go into it as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

He ended up doing a show called “Mars” which not only brought back many of the Space Program stuff, but also added more. In all I spent 3 days there practically living at that show.

IMG_20120531_202815 IMG_20120602_133745 IMG_20120531_202543

At the time I was sort of a Tom Sachs groupie stalker. He seemed to be ok with it.

IMG_20120602_132212

 

Some App Ideas

Feel Free to make these.. I am just an idea man.

Thought #1) In my favorite car service app (Uber) one of the best features is that when you order a car, it shows you a map and the car on the map as it weaves its way through the city to your location. There’s even an ETA.

Now, imagine that you had a similar app but for you and whoever else wants to know where you are. Lets call it : AlmostThere. You have a party or a dinner and your friends all link into the location and you get this map of all of them as they are heading to you. No longer do you wonder “where is Dave?”, “should we order? or wait?”, etc.

Thought #2) How many times did you want to show someone a photo from your phone but you are worried they may see something else on your phone or another photo in your gallery that you don’t want them to? There should be an app where you can set up a temporary viewing port on your friends phone and you can choose photos/videos to show them by just checking on them on your phone.

Thought #3) This one is pretty huge and it’s more an idea/vision than an app. So lets go back to Uber and think about how UberX works. UberX allows almost anyone with a car to be a taxi driver but on their own schedule. You sign up with Uber and they verify that your car is acceptable and that you have insurance, etc. and then whenever you want to work (say you have an evening or a free hour) you just sign in and it determines your location and assigns you a nearby fare to take somewhere. You drive the person and drop them off and Uber credits you some amount to your account and you either sign off or take another fare. It’s kind of a new way to think about labor. From your perspective you work when you want to work. From Ubers, they have a pool of people available that they manage. It’s up to them to incentivize drivers to log in and work (by varying fare prices, etc).

Now imagine that model extended out somewhat. Imagine the number of unskilled jobs that could be distributed in this way : delivery services (groceries, packages, pizza), simple clerical tasks, ticket takers at events, messenger jobs, farm laborer jobs, etc. Imagine that there is an app or an ecosystem of somekind where jobs are super temporary and the labor pool is flexible.

Lets take pizza delivery for example. There are 100 or so pizza places in Philadelphia. Maybe even more. All of them have at least one driver on staff and they have to manage that resource : what are their hours? taxes, insurance, etc. What if all the pizza shops were offered an uber like app where they just press a button and a driver shows up to deliver an order for them and they pay some variable fee for that service. The app can up the delivery charge for heavy volume days and lower the charge for slow days, etc. All the labor overhead is managed by the app (who gets to do it in aggregate).

This will happen, and it will happen sooner than we think.

For The Win

ftw-US-cover-largeSo I’m currently reading “For The Win” by Corey Doctorow.

I got it on my kindle and started reading it the other day and one chapter was really awesome.

Because he is amazing and believes in freedom, Corey Doctorow releases all of his books under Creative Commons so you can download them, excerpt them, change them, do whatever with them. You can find his books and stuff at his website.

So, instead of telling you about the chapter I’m able to just let you read it yourself. So click the link below to get the excerpt and see if you agree with me. And if you do, don’t be a cheapskate and buy the book. I just ordered the Hardcopy to put in my library!

forTheWin-excerpt

The Imitation Game

Saw The Imitation Game today as part of my yearly pilgrimage to see all the Oscar Nominees. Here’s some quick thoughts about the movie…

First of all, almost nobody can do wrong by me by brining the story of Alan Turing to the world. He is one of the true hero’s in my book. Here is the man who pretty much single-handedly won WW2 for us and kickstarted the computer sciences. The sad part of his story was that he had to keep his work secret even by the time he died so to him, nobody knew what he did. The sadder part is that he killed himself, most likely because he was shameful over the fact that his homosexuality was exposed.

So, I’m super happy that a story highlighting Alan Turing was told, and also happy that was done very well by Benedict Cumberbatch. But what I’m not happy with was the many historical inaccuracies in the movie. As well as the many strange plot devices. For example, at one point Turing in the movie is being held up from working on things by his commander at the base so he writes a letter to his commander who is Winston Churchill and even though we know nothing of the contents of the letter, in the next scene Turing is now in charge. I mean, what the hell just happened? Why is this plausible? It’s not, it’s a plot device and it’s dumb. And it has no place in a movie up for best picture.

So what other things didn’t I like? For one, there was an incredible obvious use of exposition. In one case we see a scene explaining the Enigma device that is painfully stupid and implausible but then, not 10 seconds later we hear in an overdub voice the entire explanation rehashed. Why?

And for a movie about a technical subject like codebreaking there is little or no technical things happening at all.

I also didn’t like the ‘disney’ moments. There is one cliche scene where Turing is about to be fired and his machine (the bombe, although never mentioned by name in the film) destroyed. In the last second, just as things seem to be about to go to a point of no return, one of his co-workers (who the movie spent so much time showing us that he didn’t like Turing since turing was gruff, but all of a sudden decided out of the blue that Turing was indeed right!) comes out from nowhere and says “If you fire Turing, you will have to deal with me leaving!” and then another says “and I as well!”. It was a scene you’ve seen in a dozen films before. What makes it worse is that this never even came close to happening in real life. The real story is completely different. In short, he was never about to be fired and his team always liked him.

Bleh. This was a shitty movie. I’m sorry. The only reason it got nominated was that the Weinsteins produced it and you know they know how to lobby the academy.

Whiplash Review

Ugh. How was this movie nominated for best picture? I found it entertaining but I also found a lot of faults with it. I don’t know the director well so I don’t know if he/she has directed before but I’m going to guess that they never directed a feature before. There were a few things that a good director wouldn’t have let happen. For example, the usage of extras was really poorly done. I cite for you the pizza shop scene where I got majorly distracted by the extras for two reasons : First was that they were all overacting and being obvious but secondly was the aperture/focal length which really kept much of the background action in focus where it really shouldn’t have. Another directory thing that I found annoying was that even though I was supposed to feel like this school in the movie was in NYC it felt like a completely different city. I would venture a guess it wasn’t even shot in New York. If it was, then he somehow made it look like another city entirely.

Then of course was the fact that the protagonist was not consistent in his tone and personality. At first we are led to believe that he’s a nerdy/shy/introverted kid but then about a third of a way into the movie he’s at dinner with some family friends and he’s all of a sudden bold and outgoing and brave. And then he later changes into someone who is just insanely motivated to succeed. Not even being in a car accident and having his car flipped over will stop him from performing. Believable? Um, no. And at said performance he is covered in blood and cuts and yet nobody, not one person questions it.

And then there is the teacher dude. He actually had a consistent personality but what school would allow someone to go unchallenged and unsupervised to the point where he is slapping students and throwing chairs at them? Not one student in the history of this teachers tenure complained to anyone? And then we are to just accept that he puts 3 students up for 5 hours of abuse with no breaks and nobody complains or steps in?

I guess overall the movie to me felt completely unbelievable and that really bugged me a lot. For a first time director/feature, ok. But to have it nominated for best picture and best screenplay? Uh. No.