I made this as a Christmas/New Year present for my friends:
SPARKD is intended to increase inputs from the social environment into newsrooms or any other nexus that seeks to sort, analyse and synthesise raw information into news. The service is premised on five key elements that we label, as a whole, “Flit”. Each element is designed to be run as a distributed service with a Web frontend:
- Launch – an uploader.
- Hatch – a transcoder & hasher (hashes identify pieces of news information within the ecosystem)
- Wire – a distributed indexing system
- BirdSeed – a seeder, allowing anyone to contribute their bandwidth to the greater good.
- Swift – specifically the developmental Swift player, which allows P2P-powered, web-embedded HTML5 video.
The system is entirely atomic. Anyone can run any part of the infrastructure, anywhere.
HOW IT WORKS
After a video is captured a user can upload it to any Hatch server to be transcoded and indexed. This can be done using a normal browser page, a Firefox add-on or an app if on a mobile device. Metadata such as author, location and tags can be entered or is collected automatically by the device.
Processing uploaded files is onerous : why not let people run their own transcoding services on their own computers/servers? It’s pretty simple: transcode the file, create a hash, and add the hash to an index (as specified by the uploader.)
After the file has been uploaded, the Hatch server will analyze the video and transcode it into the necessary formats to be ready for web streaming (WebM, Theora and H.264). A hash is created and the file is submitted to one or several indexes and seeders depending on the information supplied by the user and the Hatch server settings.
Once the transcode is completed, the Hatch server pushes the hash back to the Launch server and the end-user who can then add it to his watchlist inside the Firefox add-on or app.
The Wire collects hashes and additional metadata for video files and provides this information to end-users, seeders and any web service that utilizes the content. A list of videos can be subscribed to by any RSS service or from inside the Flit Firefox add-on.
Any user or organisation who wants to support a specific wire can download and install Birdseed, which will automatically download and seed all videos added to the Wire.
4. SPARKD — BRINGING IT ALL TOGETHER
While any of the Flit services can be run independently most of the time, a single server can provide all of the Launch, Hatch, Wire and Birdseed functionality to enable a video to be uploaded and seeded immediately. Sparkd is a web service that in addition to the bare-bone indexing and seeding service also provides a web front end and community where users can watch and discuss all the videos submitted to Sparkd. Sparkd will run as a stand-alone web service buy any content can easily be embedded on other websites and established news channels could incorporate a Sparkd channel to complement their reporting on a specific and current topic.
The Flit Firefox add-on will enable users to upload and index content straight from their web browser, either by using a public Hatch service or by transcoding and submitting their videos straight to a Wire. After a video has been submitted they can keep track on the status of the video and see how many people are streaming and sharing it.
Core benefits of this approach:
- Cost of distribution is offloaded onto the audience itself. – No central capital expenditure makes censorship and other such problems less likely.
- Atomised infrastructure allows value to be added “down the chain” in unpredictable ways. SPARKD is designed as a ‘minimum viable product’, facilitating communities in distributing media through their social graph. Both the original publiser and consequent viewers are able to mark up SPARKD videos in such a way as to create an emergent narrative trail between videos, which is readable both from within the SPARKD/flit ecosystem and within social network such as Twitter and Identica utilising the hashtag system. This allows people to identify videos in which they’re interested, but also can pull conversation, for example from the Twittersphere, into the HTML5/video playback environment.
- SPARKD videos are watched wherever they are embedded, and constantly recontextualised with this extrinsic social data, according to display motifs to be explored here. Urgent visual information can be drawn into ongoing conversation, displayed via or within social media clients, or responded to from tablet or phone devices.
A citizen in Libya captures a sensitive video on her phone which she wishes to share. She selects the level of anonymity and privacy she needs and uses the free flit app for her Android phone to upload the information anonymously to the SPARKD server. The video is transcoded, indexed and made available for streaming.
As events develop in Libya, those monitoring SPARKD, its RSS or social media outputs have seen the ‘Libya’ index appear. They now note a new anonymous video has appeared, which they are immediately able to watch as it is seeded by SPARKD. As they watch, they too become seeders of the video, and as they begin to spread it through their social graphs, so to do their connections.
Some users choose to start seeding the entire Libya index, while others support only this particular video. They can spread the film through their social networks via a shortlink, or embed it as they might a YouTube video.
The video turns out to have political importance and a State security service objects. SPARKD is compromised either by legal attacks or hacking and its entry is removed from the maintained index. However, because knowledge of the hash is all that is needed to extract the video from the P2P swarm, the anonymous video is still able to be accessed. Moreover, the indexing system used by SPARKD means that the index itself has already been replicated and recombined many times, making the attack insufficient to prevent access to the video.
The problems Sparkd solves: insufficient inputs from the grassroots / location / street-level; insufficient opportunities for users to sort this data before it hits the newsroom’
How Sparkd facilitates telling a story: with information moving so fast, often outpacing the newsroom’s capacity to keep up, it’s important to facilitate increased speed of inputs into the newsroom. Stories should be directly connected to immediate experiences and wherever possible to citizen media. The disconnect between media and citizen should be broken down. The organisation that does this will become full of win.
Who will benefit: citizen journalists will feel increasingly connected to the news gathering process, seeing their work filter into network news. Journalists will benefit by being exposed to the real concerns of local people even if those concerns are not ready for primetime.
Does your product leverage off other tools? Yes, this project is premised on exploring the groundbreaking Swift embedded, P2P streaming video protocol in conjunction with P2P Next, a partnership we’ve already established.
Why does Sparkd make sense to build from a news organization’s perspective? A newsroom needs to connect with the populace. Sparkd gives it means to do that. Being at the center of an infrastructure that improves people’s capacity to communicate with one another audiovisually, without trying to dominate or own that infrastructure, will be of immense benefit to positioning an organisation for the future of news gathering.
In the spirit of being: an ingrate, an awesome-resistant European and just plain contrary, what follows are my hopefully not un-constructive, or at least not merely rude, comments (they made me do it! It’s being marked! I even have a word limit!) on the last week of MOJO lectures.
#1 Please Could The Medium Stop Being The Message Now ?
Mr. Raskin. I am concerned that striving from the first for a better presentation of one’s idea (in order to get people agree on its value, and, presumably, resource it) skews it towards a path of least resistance / greatest acceptance which might very well warp its very essence. If you will allow me the idea of a fickle zone in which good looks and ‘polish’ are all too readily rewarded, then you may imagine the potential to ‘iterate’ not towards ‘solution’, but towards triviality. In which kind of world, I want to ask, would every solution immediately be presentable as a UI?
#2 Resist Aimless Hypervelocity!
‘Aim to finish the first–pass in a day’. It’s at least possible that applying said heuristic (don’t you love the word ‘heuristic!’ it’s like ‘iterate’! It makes us sound like scientists!) has as much chance of collapsing a vision than expanding it. (But never mind! It appeals to the breakneck velocity with which everything needs to be executed today!) Would it be utterly contrary to suggest that most valuable ideas might precisely be those that no-fucking-way could-be-prototyped-in-a-day?
(Having said that, I love this.)
#3 An ill-favoured thing Sir… but mine own.
So then, if you can’t communicate it – to an investor, your company, MOJO – never mind, find a way! Execute it with the only lunatics in the world that’ll work with you. Make it ugly! They are often wrong and that is the whole point of them! While they iterate heuristics, you will have made your imperfect thing. May it prosper.
#4 Iterate this, Buster?
Here (from 1 minute in) journalist Nick Davies, author of Flat Earth News, adroitly describes the problems with the entire enterprise of news today, and how we (that is developers of technology) are implicated in them:
Problems arising from our consolidated , streamlined, technologised ‘news’ machine:
- Most news these days comes from news agencies (Reuters, Press Association etc);
- Of the remainder, a very high proportion comes from PR sources (corporate or governmental), with a high degree of inherent bias;
- Perhaps as little as 12% of the news we read is actually generated by reporters.
- News websites run by media firms recycle 50% of their stories from the two international wire agencies, Associated Press and Reuters; those run by internet firms recycle 85% of their stories from those two.
- Compounding the problem the wires are reducing their stringers, getting their material from PR’s too! PR people now outnumber journalists.
When we think about solving a problem of this magnitude (‘news’ just doesn’t exist in the way we might imagine!), I would argue that we need to think deeply, slowly and towards a goal that can benefit the entire ecosystem. Recognising the critical nature of the infrastructure we are aiming to operate on, it seems to me okay if, at the beginning at least, we are not immediately polished, slick and presentable. It would be okay, actually, to be downright unpopular!
(British playwright) Dennis Potter is instructive, just before his death and prescient on the topic of Rupert Murdoch! Awesome!
Evidence emerging of further false-flag operations to sustain the War on Terror in Egypt, including the Sharmh-el-Sheik bombings:
Up until now, claims of terrorism have been the most effective way for Arab dictators to get sympathy and support from the US. (The Yemeni regime, which is now teetering on the edge of collapse, saw its aid double after the Christmas 2009 attempted underwear bombing.) American policy in the region has been predicated on the Faustian bargain that we overlook Arab dictators’ shoddy human rights record and continue to prop them up in exchange for stability and a hard line on Islamic terrorism. But the Egyptian State Security archives suggest that not only were the Mubaraks not delivering an end to Islamic radicalism, but the regime itself may have been the source of much of Egypt’s terrorism and sectarian strife.
… recently has Marxism been back on the agenda, placed there, ironically enough, by an ailing capitalism. ‘Capitalism in Convulsion’, a Financial Times headline read in 2008. When capitalists begin to speak of capitalism, you know the system is in dire trouble.
from Terry Eagleton’s review of How To Change The World: Marx and Marxism, by Eric Hobsbawm in London Review of Books.
The REAL Death Of The Music Industry. Now these are some instructive graphs.
The content singularity is nigh.
By now, quite few people are aware that I have converted from my usual practice of slouching around on a sofa / lying in bed / sitting at a desk / standing at the kitchen worksurface while working to walking on my ‘walking desk‘.
Simply put, the walking desk is a standard treadmill (of the type you see in gyms or standing unused in bedrooms and garages) with two tables over it, one for the keyboard (in my case a whole MacBook Air) and one for the monitor. The keyboard just above waist height (assuming you still have a waist by now) and the monitor at around head height (actually the top of the monitor is about at eye level.)
I built the desk myself from bits of used wood I retrieved from the Bristol Wood Recycling Project. I had no experience at all working with wood or building anything, really, so I imagine this would be pretty easy for anyone who does, or indeed anyone at all, since I’m peculiarly inept and particularly left-handed in such matters. My desk is fairly stable and does the job.
It’s been three weeks now since I built the desk, and other than 5 days away at IFFR Labs, I have used the desk every day. I now walk at about 1.4 MPH at a resting speed, and about 2.1 MPH at a maximum during the day. This means I am now walking between 7 and 10 miles a day, depending on how long I spend in front of the computer. (I’ve also been trying to change screens for the Kindle to read long articles and books at least a couple of hours a day.) I can say without any reservation that the walking desk is a perfectly practical way to work and I am able to carry out all essential tasks with no noticeable degradation of quality or speed.
The logic behind this radical change of working environment is pretty simple. It’s become obvious to me that I’m going to spent the majority of my life working via computers and this seems a good way of dealing with the problem of spending the majority of my day physically inactive while doing so. It seems to me that incorporating lots of walking into daily life is more sensible that trying to cram it all in to a gym session once a day (like anyone sane makes it to the gym once a day). Even if you do make it to the gym for an hour or so, you’re fighting a losing battle against the other 6-7 hours you spent immobile.
This allows me to indulge my usual behaviour of starting working as soon as I get up without guilt. I drink tea at the walking desk. I (sometimes) eat at the walking desk. I watch films at the walking desk. And when I’m done at the end of the day I am now physically tired, which, frankly, is great. It’s possible that the walking desk is the path to ultimate salvation, but then I haven’t tried Scientology.
Other than the obvious effect of gradually losing weight (though I am not measuring this in any objective fashion), I have noticed one interesting consequence of using the walking desk. You really begin to quantify time spent in front of the computer differently — both noticing how much time the internet ‘takes’ from you in its many diversions, and feeling that (since you are walking) you should maybe use that time more productively. There is a way that the machine has of ‘parcelling out’ time that stops you from floating off into an ‘oh, did four hours just pass? I really have been doing useful stuff…’ state of mind. It’s as if this is just a lot less possible when you’re walking at 2mph.
I am going to post some pictures of my walking desk soon. Here, for what it’s worth, are some guidelines I observed making the thing:
1) Of course you can and should use a second hand treadmill. I imagine the amount of energy that goes into making these things is a horror compared to the amount of use they get before being trashed. The people I bought mine from had a great laugh when they found out what I was doing with it. It cost me £100, though I could probably have got it for £80 if I was being a tightwad.
1b) And yes, you need a powered treadmill for this.
2) Make sure the treadmill you buy goes slow enough. You’re probably going to end up walking between 1.2-2.5 MPH, so you could check those kinds of speeds.
3) Check how noisy the treadmill is. Mine is quite loud. I replace it with something quieter at some point, but the manufacturers don’t post the decibels of their products, so this is going to take a bit of time.
4) I don’t suggest getting into any complicated structure-planning until you actually got your treadmill in front of you. They have bits of moulded plastic poking out here and there that could well affect your plans.
5) It’s an ideal thing to build out of bits of reclaimed wood. I used the really cool Bristol Wood Recycling Project. They gave me some useful advice on building and it cost me about £20.
6) I strongly suggest you build the desks so that they stand free above, over or around the treadmill. The treadmill will move. Personally I don’t want my desk shuddering around, and that’s what happens if you just lay a plank across it. Believe me, I tried it.
7) Make the monitor-bearing desk high enough that the top of your monitor can be about level with your eyes.
Make the computer or keyboard-bearing desk high enough that your arms rest on it comfortably.
I can’t think of anything else. If you work at home or in an office that would accept this kind of lunacy, I suggest you get to it now.
I missed this while I was watching the revolution in Egypt:
It appears that the law firm BofA was using as a part of its Wikileaks crisis response task force, Hunton and Williams, had reached out to firms asking for research and a plan against Wikileaks. HBGary Federal, along with Palantir Technologies and Berico Technologies put together their pitch. According to the emails discussing this, the firms tried to come up with a plan as to how they could somehow disrupt Wikileaks , see if there was a way to sue Wikileaks and get an injunction against releasing the data.
What comes over in the presentation below is the atrocious idiocy of the people planning the ‘disruption’, who’d already shown ineptitude in their discovery of the ‘leadership’ of Anonymous. This is the best that the Bank of America can hire to take down Wikileaks?
I was wondering how long it would take me to encounter this statement. If you like it is the bad twin of the ‘X is a Twitter Revolution’ position, which I don’t suspect advocates take to mean, “X is merely an example of Americanisation.” One day after Mubrarak stepped down was faster than I thought! Skimmed for and added to my long reading list, which gets piped to my Kindle via Instapaper, a system that is working very well for me right now.
It should not be too difficult to see – if one can think beyond the mass media hype – that the “color revolutions” and the “spontaneous revolts” that have taken place, and are now taking place in the Arab world, have not arisen from “traditional Christian and Muslim Arabs” in a revolt against Americanization and capitalist moral nihilism, as per the statement by Sobran, but rather arose among bourgeois secular youth under the long-term influence of American globalists. Whether the current revolts will be captured by Arab traditionalists and turned into a genuine liberation movement against Americanization remains to be seen.
Genuine stirrings against global Americanization referred to by Sobran constitute the major roadblock to the “new world order,” whether as regimes such as those of Iran or as grass roots phenomena such as the re-emergence of nationalism and traditionalist movements in the former Soviet bloc states, wishing to revive what American globalists consider to be anachronistic ideas, such as those of religion, ethnic identity and nationalism. Against these they postulate a counter-idealism, concentrating on the youth generation, in the same manner by which the American Establishment sought to co-opt and experiment with American youth via the “New Left” during the 1960s.
The American Establishment, or – if you prefer – what Eisenhower in his presidential “farewell” speech called the “military-industrial complex,” seeks to direct the emergence of revolutionary and reform movements throughout the world, albeit presented by media and political commentators as rebelling against America. Hence the present phenomena of “revolt” that has “spontaneously” (sic) swept North Africa, with the public being simplistically told that this is causing the fall of “pro-American dictators.” As I have previously pointed out, the “spontaneous revolts” in Egypt and Tunisia, for example, portrayed with such unrestrained enthusiasm by the Western news media, are the culmination of years of planning, training, networking, and funding “activists,” following exactly the same pattern as that seen in the “color revolutions” of the former Soviet bloc states. A far-reaching network of interlocking organizations has emerged, funded in part by the US Government, and in part by corporate sources, to foment “world revolution.”
A couple of days ago I was thinking a bit, and fuzzily about the NSA’s problem with their operating system on board the reverse-engineered EP-3E reconnaissance aircraft . The EP-3E fell out of the sky above China after colliding with a Chinese jet and the crew failed to decommission the information hardware using the approved tools — a fire-axe and hot coffee. Patterns and behaviours observed by NSA information analysts later suggested that the Chinese had reverse-engineered the EP-3E’s OS.
The whole thing had to be re-written at the cost of hundreds of millions of dollars, but meanwhile the stratagems instantiated in that operating system had now become available to the Chinese and put in play in the flow of global surveillance. (One thinks of a demon, once owned by a particular master, now replicated and put to service at the hands of his enemy.)
There are three key things that interest me I think:
(i) Any informational system is capable of being reproduced;
(ii) Such dense systems encode an enormous amount of knowledge and strategy: a way of operating on the world;
(iii) This embedded way-of-doing becomes, by virtue of its reproducability, available to other uses and other constituencies. (The expertise of the NSA is transferred to China’s military apparatus and soon put to work.)
Limewire LLC, a limited liability corporation in the United States, was was recently forced to take its P2P software Limewire, a client for the Gnutella network, offline. The case cost the litigants many millions of dollars on both sides and the Recording Industry Association of America hailed the victory as a milestone for the recording industries.
However as TorrentFreak reports, within a matter of days hackers have taken the most recent binaries for Limewire, hacked them to remove some of the more annoying features, and re-released the client as ‘Limewire Pirate Edition’. ‘After Lime Wire LLC stopped distributing its software in October 2010,’ the project’s website reads,
a horde of piratical monkeys climbed aboard the abandoned ship, mended its sails, polished its cannons and released it FREE to the community to help keep the Gnutella network alive.
LimeWire Pirate Edition is pure P2P software; it does not depend on any servers operated by Lime Wire LLC or other companies. It does not include any adware or spyware, and it cannot be remotely monitored or shut down.
The following things seem to me interesting here:
(i) The process of law is obviously not very well suited to dealing with assemblages of code like this. Because there was a company involved, the company was sued. It lost. This prevents Limewire LLC from operating Limewire for profit. However, to the extent that there was any special ingenuity emdedded in its code, it is like the NSA’s operating system openly available to other constituencies. [Has anyone tried? to issue a cease-and-desist notice to a virus.] But it’s as if the company Limewire, like the owner of a conjured demon, never really had possession of its entity: now the ‘piratical monkeys’ have it and apparently have made some quick improvements.
(ii) Two radically different modalities or spirits have been ‘in charge’ of Limewire the software in a relatively short space of time. Cf. the NSA’s problem with China. Knowledge is portable and its ownership is brittle.
(iii) Those seeking to change the social behaviours ‘emanating from’ Limewire [it 'induced' infringement] used one of the chief means available to them, the law — but Limewire’s reconstitution ensures the behaviours will continue unabated.
(iv) So it’s obvious why certain parties will want to seek control at the network level. At the juridical level and the level of code, control is lost.
Code is thus a general class of ‘post-state actant’. I should go back and read Lawrence Lessig’s book Code, which I always avoided for some reason.
In a pleasant irony, the ‘original’ Limewire’s site was recently updated to read as follows:
WE HAVE VERY RECENTLY BECOME AWARE OF APPLICATIONS ON THE INTERNET PURPORTING TO USE THE LIMEWIRE NAME, SUCH AS THE LIMEWIRE PIRATE EDITION. WE DEMAND THAT ALL PERSONS USING THE LIMEWIRE SOFTWARE, NAME, OR TRADEMARK IN ORDER TO UPLOAD OR DOWNLOAD COPYRIGHTED WORKS IN ANY MANNER CEASE AND DESIST FROM DOING SO. WE FURTHER REMIND YOU THAT THE UNAUTHORIZED UPLOADING AND DOWNLOADING OF COPYRIGHTED WORKS IS ILLEGAL.
Pirates cease-and-desisting other pirates is amusing.