Relive 08 Panel

The Panel and Chair

Originally uploaded by Lady__Jane.

I was at the Open University (Walton Hall, Milton Keynes) on Thursday and Friday for Relive 08, a conference on the educational use of virtual worlds. I took part in a panel debate on the Friday morning, and here I am with Ted Castronova, Roo Reynolds, Claudia L’Amoureux and Ren Reynolds. A fun time was had by all…

Ties that bind

[As ever, you can read this on the BBC News website]

One of the throwaway remarks I sometimes make at conferences is that “Google knows you’re pregnant before you do”.

I can say this because the things you search for will change as your life changes, and search engine providers may well be able to spot the significance of these changes because they aggregate data from millions of people.

Now Google’s philanthropic arm,, has shown just what it can do with the data it gathers from us all by offering to predict where ‘flu outbreaks will take place in the USA.

It has found that “certain search terms are good indicators of flu activity”, in that they correlate well with reports from the official Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Continue reading “Ties that bind”

Grimpen Mire

A while back I wrote a column about cloud computing in which I noted that the physical location our online services still matters, and commented that:

In the real world national borders, commercial rivalries and political imperatives all come into play, turning the cloud into a miasma as heavy with menace as the fog over the Grimpen Mire that concealed the Hound of the Baskervilles in Arthur Conan Doyle’s story.

Nick Carr coined the phrase ‘miasma computing‘ in response (and I wish I’d thought of it first!), and at GikIII recently the excellent Miranda Mowbray presented ‘The Fog over the Grimpen Mire: Cloud Computing and the Law‘, which organiser Andres Guadamuz called ‘a virtuoso remix of Sherlock Holmes and cloud computing’ that was ‘both endearingly performed and absolutely spot on.’

I’m sorry I missed it, but her slides are here

Elizabeth Anscombe’s grave

Elizabeth Anscombe’s grave

Originally uploaded by BillT.

Wandering through a damp Cambridge yesterday I made my way to St Giles’ Cemetery (as was, it’s called something else now) to visit Wittgenstein’s grave, and also to call on Anscombe, buried nearby. An important philosopher in many ways, she was also Wittegenstein’s translator.

I remember her lectures from my undergraduate days.

Wired for a cause

[As ever, you can read this on the BBC News website too]

By the time you read this we may well know who is to be the next President of the United States, [indeed we do, and the result has given us hope] hanging chads, voter challenges and defective e-voting machines willing, although as I write both McCain and Obama are in the midst of their last minute campaigning.

Here in the UK media interest in the election has been intense, reflecting the fact that the outcome matters enormously to those of us without votes or influence.

Tyneside Cinema in Newcastle is planning to keep its media lounge open for election night, and some of my more politically oriented friends – the wonks rather than the geeks – have an all-night session arranged at a local pub.

Continue reading “Wired for a cause”

Is Privacy Dead?

I’m in the bar at FACT in Liverpool having just had an excellent time debating privacy with Jeffrey Rosen, Jonathan Sawday and Sonia Livingstone, expertly chaired by Philip Dodd. It’s part of Radio 3’s Free Thinking festival and will be broadcast on Monday’s Night Waves on Radio 3.

FACT is a fabulous building, and there’s  a real buzz in the atmosphere. And since there’s free wifi I’ve been Qiking:


Of course, it’s all a great breach of privacy… 🙂