Today, Dana Milbank wrote this column about yesterday's hearing on Capitol Hill about Second Life. He had a very different perspective than I did, and I wrote this comment on his column:
As the business editor for the Second Life News Network, I also attended the hearings of the Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet, or at least I assume it was the same hearing. You can read my coverage about it at SLNN.COM
The hearing I attended addressed issues of businesses like IBM and Chevrolet using Second Life. It talked about government agencies like NOAA and NASA. It talked about non-profit groups like the American Cancer Society and the autistics.org.
Issues about consumer protection, child protection and terrorism were addressed. Since this was a hearing of the Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet issues of broadband penetration, the digital divide and net neutrality were also key.
The witnesses that I saw were not goofy characters. They included an executive from one of the most successful companies in the emerging virtual worlds market, as well as a vice president of research at IBM. Half of the witnesses had Ph.Ds.
People have suggested that if you want serious news and meaningful explorations of the issues you should read at the Washington Post. If you want goofy characters you should read the media produced by people in Second Life. Looking at this article and my article, I would like to suggest that perhaps this is backwards.
Today, I applied for a part time blogging job. It is with an interesting group and the money would certainly help. I made it through the first cut, and was asked to submit three sample blog posts to them related to their blog. I wrote the blog posts and I kind of liked them, so I thought I would post modified versions here.
In addition, I spent a couple hours on the phone talking with a researcher about technology in Gov. Dean’s 2004 Presidential bid. This discussion fed into my thoughts for the first blog post.
The Invitation to Innovate
As the 2008 U.S. Presidential campaign continues, candidates seek to learn from the experiences of Gov. Dean’s 2004 Presidential bid. They have build some powerful tools, but it seems like they are missing the most important tool, the invitation to innovate.
During the summer of 2003, I worked with a bunch of dedicated volunteers trying to help create DeanSpace, an online social networking tool aim at increasing citizen involvement in the electoral process. Campaigns today have taken some of the best ideas from DeanSpace and used them for their own campaigns, but what was most important was the feeling that many of us had of being heard, of being encouraged to participate in new ways.
Now, as Blogger in Chief, I hope to talk about many great new ideas around technology and science to make our world a better place. Yet it is the invitation to innovate that is the core idea that I bring with me.
So, let me offer this invitation to you. What are the best new ideas you have heard? What can we do to spread these innovations? Let’s innovate together.
Virtual World Accessibility
Recently, I’ve been learning a lot about accessibility issues in virtual worlds. People with disabilities can connect to places like Second Life, and be free of their wheelchairs. They can dance, go down waterslides and even fly. They get the opportunity to visit with other people that they can’t easily do in real life because of mobility issues. It is a powerful tool. That is, of course, if they can connect to Second Life in the first place.
My brother visits Second Life. So does my nephew. My mother, on the other hand is elderly. She has essential tremors and finds moving a mouse or typing on a keyboard incredibly difficult. Yet people are exploring new interfaces to facilitate using computers.
Two such tools have caught my interest recently. One is the Neural Impulse Actuator which has recently begun shipping. It monitors impulses on your forehead and can be used to control videogames or computers. Could this become an interface that would help my mother?
The other is the 3D Camera. This is a video camera that captures three-dimensional information and is being tested as a control device for virtual worlds. Raise your left arm to do one thing, raise your right arm for a different action.
Both of these tools were designed primarily for able bodied gamers, but they provide an interesting illustration of the principal of universal design, the idea that if you design things well, they can make life easier for everyone, no matter what their ability levels are.
My mother worries that as her tremors progress, she will lose more and more of her ability to communicate. I hope that accessibility tools like these will help her remain able to communicate far longer.
Right to Dry
Sometimes, the best ideas aren’t about how to take advantage of the latest technological innovations. Sometimes, the best ideas are about how to get people take make better use of tried and true technology. Right to Dry laws are a great example.
Outdoor Passive Solar Clothes Driers, commonly referred to as clotheslines have been in use for ages. However, gas and electric powered indoor clothes driers have become more and more popular over time due. According to Project Laundry List, Electric dryers use five to ten percent of residential electricity in the United States. Getting more people to use clotheslines is a simple way to help battle global warming.
Unfortunately, in many places community covenants, landlord prohibitions, and zoning laws prohibit people from using clotheslines. Project Laundry List, along with other Right to Dry activists are working hard to make it easier for people to hang out their clothes. At the same time, their efforts are raising awareness about the benefits of returning to the clothesline.
So what bright ideas do you have to use either new, or old technology to help make our world a better place?
Rabbit, Rabbit, Rabbit. It must be bunnies! April Fools. I enjoy many of the April Fool’s Pranks online, but this year, I just don’t have the energy to come up with anything interesting myself right now. We’ll see if I get some inspiration later in the day.
So far, I’ve enjoyed the YouTube prank (go to YouTube and select any of the Featured Videos). Another video I really like is the Flying penguins found by BBC programme, as reported in the British newspaper, Telegraph.
I’m also really like Virgle. Moist importantly, using Gmail Custom Time™, I can send all of my emails on April Fool’s day, whatever day it really is. Hat Tip to friends on Twitter for highlighting these pranks. Who says that Twitter isn’t a valuable source of information?
Today, I am still fighting something, perhaps a combination of allergies, a virus, too much stress, I’m not sure. I managed to do some Drupal work, playing with various modules for a Drupal 6 installation, and have a bit of work to do no that. I’ve also had several phone calls and emails concerning the house in Stamford. Things are still very much up in the air with that.
Meanwhile, the unread emails and dirty laundry continues to pile up.