76% Organic

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The back does explain that it’s 76% organic petite sirah, and 24% non-organic grapes. I just thought it was a pretty funny thing to put on the front label, and wonder which consumers are going to be more likely to buy it, knowing that it’s 76% organic.

Poker Faced?

poker-cheat.jpgIn “An Unstoppable Force Meets…” Haseeb writes about “we have just witnessed a monumental event in the history of online poker – the entrance of Isildur into our world of online poker.” Huh? Really? The post is jargon packed, and I’m not a poker player, but apparently this Isildur character has slaughtered all the best online players in the world by being “hyperaggro:”

About a week later I was sitting at tables without any action when Isildur showed up at one of my 25/50 NL tables. I was bored and willing to play anything, so when he offered to play 6 tables (although usually I max out at 4), I decided to take him up on his offer and play a serious NLHE HU match for the first time in a long while. As the match progressed, all of what I’d heard about him being hyperaggro and barrelly checked out, but as I watched the lines he took to bluff, valuebet, and the way he reacted to my betting patterns, he seemed uncannily perceptive. Nevertheless, within the first hour or so I had won about 30k and was feeling pretty confident. He sat out on all of the tables and I assumed that the match was over and was about to check out. But about a minute later he said “brb,” and so I decided to wait for him and continue the match.

One idea, seems obvious to me, is that Isildur is collaborating with the servers to know what everyone’s cards are. Maybe the server operators are involved, maybe not.

Either way, the post is an entertaining read.

Untitled photo by allfangs and elbows

Happy Banned Books Week!

banned-books.jpgQuoting Michael Zimmer:

[Yesterday was] the start of Banned Books Week 2009, the 28th annual celebration of the freedom to choose what we read, as well as the freedom to select from a full array of possibilities.

Hundreds of books are challenged in schools and libraries in the United States each year. Here’s a great map of challenges from 2007-2009, although I’m sure it under-represents the nature of the problem, as most challenges are never reported. (Note the West Bend library controversy is marked on the map.)

According to the American Library Association, there were 513 challenges reported to the Office of Intellectual Freedom in 2008.

I’m somewhat surprised by how many bluenoses dots there are in the northeast. Does anyone know of a good tutorial that would help me to re-map the data against population?

Make the Smart Choice: Ignore This Label

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He said the criteria used by the Smart Choices™ Program™ were seriously flawed, allowing less healthy products, like sweet cereals and heavily salted packaged meals, to win its seal of approval. “It’s a blatant failure of this system and it makes it, I’m afraid, not credible,” Mr. Willett said.

[...]
Eileen T. Kennedy, president of the Smart Choices™ board and the dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, said the program’s criteria were based on government dietary guidelines and widely accepted nutritional standards.

She said the program was also influenced by research into consumer behavior. That research showed that, while shoppers wanted more information, they did not want to hear negative messages or feel their choices were being dictated to them.
“The checkmark means the food item is a ‘better for you’ product, as opposed to having an x on it saying ‘Don’t eat this,’ ” Dr. Kennedy said. “Consumers are smart enough to deduce that if it doesn’t have the checkmark, by implication it’s not a ‘better for you’ product. They want to have a choice. They don’t want to be told ‘You must do this.’ ” (“For Your Health, Froot Loops™“)

Yes, every single one of these is a better choice than a petri dish full of salmonella. Guaranteed, or your money back.

I’ve added ™ marks where I think the New York Times™ should have included them.

Via JWZ.

We Live In Public, The Movie

One of the best ways to upset someone who cares about privacy is to trot out the “nothing to hide, nothing to worry about” line. It upsets me on two levels. First because it’s so very wrong, and second, because it’s hard to refute in a short quip.

I think what I like most about “We Live In Public” is how it shows how well that nothing to hide idea screws with people’s lives. The movie is the story of Josh Harris and some bizzare experiments he ran, including putting 100 people under constant surveillance and interrogation in “Quiet,” a bunker under New York City with free flowing drugs. After that screwed a lot of people up, Josh and his girlfriend decided to “live in public” on the web. Roughly quoting “after a fight, we’d both run to see who the people watching thought had won it.” In many ways, it was unpleasant to watch, in the way any view of dystopia is.

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The movie was one of my favorite parts of the Privacy Enhancing Technologies Symposium, and not just because it was the end and I got to kick back with a beer while we watched. It was my favorite because we talk a lot about privacy in very technical ways: what it means, how to protect it. We talk less about the why or the communication of it. The movie was pretty impactful for a lot of us. One of the best, and perhaps most post-modern was having a Skype conversation with the director, Ondi Timoner, after the screening. (Another member of the household stopped by, said hi, and covered the camera. And sorry about the butt-in-camera, Ondi, we had the beer near the laptop running Skype.)

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In the future, we’re inspired to have more art at the conference, and I’d encourage all of you to see We Live in Public. It’s currently in limited engagements [Updated with links]:

8/28 – IFC Center, NYC
9/4 – Brattle, Cambridge
9/25 – NuArt, Los Angles
10/2 – Roxie – San Fransisco, CA
10/9 – Alamo Draft House – Austin, TX
10/16 – Music Box – Chicago
11/13 – Landmark Varsity – Seattle

You can also follow @onditimoner on Twitter, read the blog about the movie, or get in touch with her by Skype..no, just kidding. I think she deserves some privacy.

Television, Explained

So I’m not sure if Michael Pollan’s “Out of the Kitchen, Onto the Couch” is supposed to be a movie review, but it’s definitely worth reading if you think about what you eat. I really like this line:

The historical drift of cooking programs — from a genuine interest in producing food yourself to the spectacle of merely consuming it — surely owes a lot to the decline of cooking in our culture, but it also has something to do with the gravitational field that eventually overtakes anything in television’s orbit. It’s no accident that Julia Child appeared on public television — or educational television, as it used to be called. On a commercial network, a program that actually inspired viewers to get off the couch and spend an hour cooking a meal would be a commercial disaster, for it would mean they were turning off the television to do something else.

Explains a lot, doesn’t it?

Anyway, enjoy the blog, and please comment!

Off to the Moscone Center

Every year around this time, thousands of people converge on the Moscone Center in San Francisco for RSA. I had never given much thought to who Moscone was–some local politician I figured.


I first heard about Harvey Milk in the context of the Dead Kennedys cover of I Fought The Law:

The law don’t mean shit if you’ve got the right friends
That’s how this country’s run
Twinkies are the best friend I’ve ever had
I fought the law
And I won


I blew George and Harvey’s brains out with my six-gun
I fought the law and I won

I learned about Harvey Milk, but didn’t really remember George. I learned who he was from Milk, the movie.

When you hear someone talking about the absolute catastrophe that getting hacked might be, put it in context of human life. Most hacking incidents are annoying, some have real financial impact, and some few have the potential to do real and irreparable harm.

So as we go to the Moscone Center, remember the murders committed by an authorized entrant into city hall. When you hear someone talking about the absolute catastrophe that getting hacked might be, put it in context, and remember George Moscone and Harvey Milk.

Double-take Department, Madoff Division

The Daily Beast has a fascinating article that is a tell-all from a Madoff employee. I blinked as I read:

The employee learned the salaries of his colleagues when he secretly obtained a document listing them. “A senior computer programmer would make $350,000, where in most comparable firms they would be getting $200,000 to $250,000….”

Senior programmers getting a quarter-mil in “comparable firms”? Comparable in what way? Other multi-billion Ponzi schemes that stole from rich suckers and charities alike? Is this another thing to be angry at AIG for? (Cue rimshot.)

I know it’s a tell-all, but tell more, tell more. Another intriguing morsel can be found in:

The employee was part of a trading group, which was able to break a security code that he says led them to a site that was supposed to be seen only by the Madoff family. It showed the profits and losses of the legitimate businesses.

The group broke the code? The person broke the code? And do tell more. Perhaps the author, Lucinda Franks, has some more details for us. Or maybe she’s saving them for a second Pulitzer.

Understanding Users

Paul Graham has a great article in “Startups in 13 Sentences:”

Having gotten it down to 13 sentences, I asked myself which I’d choose if I could only keep one.

Understand your users. That’s the key. The essential task in a startup is to create wealth; the dimension of wealth you have most control over is how much you improve users’ lives; and the hardest part of that is knowing what to make for them. Once you know what to make, it’s mere effort to make it, and most decent hackers are capable of that.

Then in “Geeks and Anti-Geeks,” Adam Barr writes:

You notice this if you listen to the chatter before a meeting. Half the time people are talking about World of Warcraft; those are the geeks. The other half they are talking about pinot noir; those are the anti-geeks. In either case, the group then proceeds to discuss a pattern-based approach to refactoring your C# class design in order to increase cohesion and leverage mock objects to achieve high code coverage while minimizing your unit test execution time.

The reason this matters is because Microsoft has recently been pushing engineers to realize that they are not the customer, the customers are not geeks, and therefore engineers can’t design properly for our customers. What I think happens, however, is that the anti-geeks hear this and think, “They’re not talking about me; I know that those beer-swilling geeks don’t understand the customer, but I’m a cultured sort, not a geek–I’m just like our customers!” And so they go out and design software for themselves…and of course they mess it up…because our customers may not spend their spare time playing Dungeons & Dragons, but neither do they spend it tramping across the Burgess Shale.

So I don’t disagree with Mr. Barr, but I do want to expand a little. The fundamental job of the program manager is to understand the market, come up with a solution that will delight the customer, sell that vision to the team, create and drive the product to shipping to those customers. The market only matters in understanding if a product is worth building, and in helping to shape our understanding of the customer by understanding their economic context.

I don’t think I’m anything like most of my customers. Those customers are first and foremost, 35,000 or so software engineers inside of Microsoft, second, security experts helping them or reviewing their work, and third, software engineers at other vendors who build on our platform. I’m most like the second set, but they’re a distant second, and (as several of them will tell you) I have a tendency to reject their first attempt at getting a feature out of hand, because our previous tools were so expert-centric.

More importantly, I don’t need to be like our customers to delight them. I am nothing like a professional chef, but I am frequently delighted by them. What I need to do is actively listen to those customers, and fairly and effectively advocate for their attitudes and words to my team.

As I was working on this Joel Spolsky posted “How to be a program manager,” which covers some similar ideas.