Roland’s Sunday Smart Trends #205
March 9th, 2008

EU looks to limit use of radio ID tags

In late February, the European Commission issued privacy protection proposals to establish a code of conduct for companies using RFID technology, fueling a debate among privacy advocates who seek more openness and trade groups of manufacturers and retailers who want practical guidelines that will allow the developing technology to flourish. The guidelines will be open to public comment and debate through late April. They will stop short of becoming part of actual legislation, instead offering direction to members of the European Union for developing privacy protections.
Source: Doreen Carvajal, International Herald Tribune, March 2, 2008

French court says site cannot grade teachers

A French court ruled on Monday that a popular Web site can no longer let pupils name and shame their teachers. Following the example of successful U.S. sites, French entrepreneurs created in January that encouraged students to grade teachers and discuss their ability. Unions, backed by the education ministry, immediately took the site to court, saying the personal comments represented a breach of privacy and an “incitement to public disorder.” The judges backed their case and said the Web site could no longer identify any teachers by name and told the site’s owners they faced a $1,517 (1,000 euro) fine for every infraction.
Source: Reuters, March 3, 2008

Library Takes ‘Talking Books’ Digital

Judith M. Dixon, a clinical psychologist by training and a sophisticated techie by avocation, is helping to lead the Library of Congress into the digital age. Dixon, 55, who gave up university teaching 27 years ago to join the library’s National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, is a key player on a team that has been working for the better part of a decade to create a new generation of audiobooks for the library’s more than 700,000 registered blind and disabled users. The goal is to make the digital format the backbone of the library’s “talking book” program by transferring onto special digital flash drives the 60,000 titles that the library has on audiocassettes.
Source: Christopher Lee, The Washington Post, March 5, 2008 (Free registration)

Move over Galileo, it’s Science 2.0

In a provocative article in this week’s Science Magazine, the University of Maryland’s Ben Shneiderman, one of the world’s leading researchers and innovators in human-computer interaction, says it’s time for the laboratory research that has defined science for the last 400 years to make room for a revolutionary new method of scientific discovery. He calls it Science 2.0., and it combines the hypothesis based inquiry of laboratory science with the methods of social science research to understand and improve the use of new human networks made possible by today’s digital connectivity.
Source: University of Maryland news release, March 6, 2008

How to replace the editor with a computer

Dr Wu and Dr Huberman began their study last year by analysing various aspects of, such as the minute-by-minute variation of diggs for over 1,000 stories. From this they developed a mathematical model which describes how the popularity of a story decays. The core of this model is a function called a stretched exponential relaxation, which is similar to the decay curve of a radioactive material. As with radioactivity, stories have a half-life — in other words a period by which half of newly promoted stories are relegated to a nether page. In the case of’s home-page, that half-life is 69 minutes.
Source: The Economist, March 6, 2008

To be anonymous or not to be, that is the privacy question

Life was so simple before the Internet came along. […] Now, our moves, thoughts, transactions, and romantic tendencies are out on the Internet for everyone to see. You’re in a silly costume at a party in a Facebook photo when you called in sick from work. Now you are captured on Google Maps Street View climbing over a neighbor’s fence. And then there was that Web search you did with the keywords “torture” and “kittens.” Where does it stop? Should it stop? Do we even care?
Source: Elinor Mills, CNET’s Tech news blog, March 8, 2008

India Gets WiMax

A gap has long existed between India’s tech savvy and its access to broadband Internet, which some estimates peg at a mere 0.3% of the population. Now the world’s back office is getting wired–by going wireless. Tata Communications, part of the Indian Tata Group conglomerate, aims to blanket India in WiMax, a super-speedy version of wireless broadband, by March 2009. The plan will cost more than $100 million and span 115 Indian cities. The goal: to provide 20 million broadband connections by 2010, a target set by the Indian government.
Source: Elizabeth Woyke,, March 8, 2008

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