Open source apps for agile project teams

A really interesting post about open source apps, most of which I’ve never come across!

In this list, there are no project management apps, no checklists, and no integrations with GitHub. Just simple ways to organize your thoughts and promote team communication.

Will be exploring with interest.

Source: opensource.com

Robo-advisors are coming for your job (and that’s OK)

Algorithms and artificial intelligence are an increasingly-normal part of our everyday lives, notes this article, so the next step is in the workplace:

Each one of us is becoming increasingly more comfortable being advised by robots for everything from what movie to watch to where to put our retirement. Given the groundwork that has been laid for artificial intelligence in companies, it’s only a matter of time before the $60 billion consulting industry in the U.S. is going to be disrupted by robotic advisors.

I remember years ago being told that by 2020 it would be normal to have an algorithm on your team. It sounded fanciful at the time, but now we just take it for granted:

Robo-advisors have the potential to deliver a broader array of advice and there may be a range of specialized tools in particular decision domains. These robo-advisors may be used to automate certain aspects of risk management and provide decisions that are ethical and compliant with regulation. In data-intensive fields like marketing and supply chain management, the results and decisions that robotic algorithms provide is likely to be more accurate than those made by human intuition.

I’m kind of looking forward to this becoming a reality, to be honest. Let machines do what machines are good at, and humans do what humans are good at would be my mantra.

Source: Harvard Business Review

"The opposite of manliness isn't cowardice; it's technology." (Nassim Nicholas Taleb)

Thought Shrapnel #287: My bad

The latest issue of the newsletter hit inboxes earlier today!

💥 Read

🔗 Subscribe

Reasons to be cheerful

David Byrne, a talented musician and author of one of my favourite books, has started a great new project:

I imagine, like a lot of you who look back over the past year, it seems like the world is going to Hell. I wake up in the morning, look at the paper, and go, “Oh no!” Often I’m depressed for half the day. It doesn’t matter how you voted on Brexit, the French elections or the U.S. election—many of us of all persuasions and party affiliations feel remarkably similar.

As a kind of remedy and possibly as a kind of therapy, I started collecting good news that reminded me, “Hey, there’s actually some positive stuff going on!” Almost all of these initiatives are local, they come from cities or small regions who have taken it upon themselves to try something that might offer a better alternative than what exits. Hope is often local. Change begins in communities.

The website will include material that falls into some pre-defined categories:

These bits of good news tend to fall into a few categories:

  • Education
  • Health
  • Civic Engagement
  • Science/Tech
  • Urban/Transportation
  • Energy
  • Culture

I’m looking forward to following his progress. I’d prefer an RSS feed, but you can follow along on social media or (like me) sign up by email.

Source: Reasons to be Cheerful

Attention is an arms race

Cory Doctorow writes:

There is a war for your attention, and like all adversarial scenarios, the sides develop new countermeasures and then new tactics to overcome those countermeasures.

Using a metaphor from virology, he notes that we become to immune to certain types of manipulation over time:

When a new attentional soft spot is discovered, the world can change overnight. One day, every­one you know is signal boosting, retweeting, and posting Upworthy headlines like “This video might hurt to watch. Luckily, it might also explain why,” or “Most Of These People Do The Right Thing, But The Guys At The End? I Wish I Could Yell At Them.” The style was compelling at first, then reductive and simplistic, then annoying. Now it’s ironic (at best). Some people are definitely still susceptible to “This Is The Most Inspiring Yet Depressing Yet Hilarious Yet Horrifying Yet Heartwarming Grad Speech,” but the rest of us have adapted, and these headlines bounce off of our attention like pre-penicillin bacteria being batted aside by our 21st century immune systems.

However, the thing I’m concerned about is the kind of AI-based manipulation that is forever shape-shifting. How do we become immune to a moving target?

Source: Locus magazine

Barcelona to go open source by 2019

Great news for the open source community!

The City has plans for 70% of its software budget to be invested in open source software in the coming year. The transition period, according to Francesca Bria (Commissioner of Technology and Digital Innovation at the City Council) will be completed before the mandate of the present administrators come to an end in Spring 2019.

It also looks like it could be the start of a movement:

With this move, Barcelona becomes the first municipality to join the European campaign “Public Money, Public Code“.

It is an initiative of the Free Software Foundation of Europe and comes after an open letter that advocates that software funded publicly should be free. This call has been supported by more than about 15,000 individuals and more than 100 organizations.

Source: It’s FOSS

In a dark place

Last year, I remember being amazed by how black a new substance was that’s been created by scientists. Called Vantablack, it’s like a black hole for light:

Vantablack is genuinely amazing: It’s so good at absorbing light that if you move a laser onto it, the red dot disappears.

However, it turns out that Mother Nature already had that trick up her sleeve. Birds of Paradise have a similar ability:

A typical bird feather has a central shaft called a rachis. Thin branches, or barbs, sprout from the rachis, and even thinner branches—barbules—sprout from the barbs. The whole arrangement is flat, with the rachis, barbs, and barbules all lying on the same plane. The super-black feathers of birds of paradise, meanwhile, look very different. Their barbules, instead of lying flat, curve upward. And instead of being smooth cylinders, they are studded in minuscule spikes. “It’s hard to describe,” says McCoy. “It’s like a little bottle brush or a piece of coral.”

These unique structures excel at capturing light. When light hits a normal feather, it finds a series of horizontal surfaces, and can easily bounce off. But when light hits a super-black feather, it finds a tangled mess of mostly vertical surfaces. Instead of being reflected away, it bounces repeatedly between the barbules and their spikes. With each bounce, a little more of it gets absorbed. Light loses itself within the feathers.

Incredible.

Source: The Atlantic

How to build a consensual social network

Here’s another article that was linked to from the source of a post I shared recently. The paragraph quoted here is from the section entitled ‘Consent-Oriented Architecture’:

Corporations built to maximize profits are unable to build consensual platforms. Their business model depend fundamentally on surveillance and behavioral control. To build consensual platforms require that privacy, security, and anonymity be built into the platforms as core features. The most effective way to secure consent is to ensure that all user data and control of all user interaction resides with the software running on the user’s own computer, not on any intermediary servers.

Earlier in that section, the author makes the obvious (but nevertheless alarming point) that audiences are sorted and graded as commodities to be bought and sold:

Audiences, like all commodities, are sold by measure and grade. Eggs are sold in dozens as grade A, for example. An advertisers might buy a thousand clicks from middle-aged white men who own a car and have a good credit rating.

In a previous section, the author notes that those who use social networks are subjects of an enclosed system:

The profits of the media monopolies are formed after surplus value has already been extracted. Their users are not exploited, but subjected, captured as an audience, and instrumentalized to extract surplus profits from other sectors of the ownership class.

I had to read some sections twice, but I’m glad I did. Great stuff, and very thought-provoking.

In short, to ensure Project MoodleNet is a consensual social network, we need to ensure full transparency and, if possible, that the majority of the processing of personal data is done on the user’s own device.

Source: P2P Foundation

A cryptocurrency bubble? Surely not…

There were many reports yesterday of Kodak getting into the blockchain game and their stock rising rapidly as a result. What wasn’t reported in most outlets was that they’re also offering to supply machines to mine Bitcoin:

Kodak, the once iconic camera company, is licensing its brand to Spotlite, which builds computers designed to mine bitcoin, for a new line of bitcoin-mining machines that they plan to rent to the public for thousands of dollars.

On Tuesday, at Kodak’s booth at CES, the tech industry trade show in Las Vegas this week, the company’s representatives handed out flyers to promote the arrangement and the new mining computer, dubbed the Kodak KashMiner.

Kodak and Spotlite are asking prospective customers to sign a two-year deal and pay $3,400 up front to rent the mining machines, which are used to support the bitcoin network and create new coins. As part of the agreement, Spotlite gets to keep half of all proceeds the machines generate by mining bitcoin.

Like Nokia, Kodak don’t actually make anything these days. They’re just lending their brand to what seems like a pretty shady operation, if you ask me…

Source: UK Business Insider