PGP Encryption and why should you care?

This is a quick overview of PGP Encryption and how to use it yourself! Bulk surveillance violates everyone’s fundamental human rights, it makes free speech risky. This guide will explain what email encryption is (using a commonly known standard called PGP) and will teach you how to use a free tool called mailvelope. Remember, even if you have nothing to hide, using encryption helps protect the privacy of the people you are communicating with, and makes life difficult for bulk surveillance systems.

This video includes closed captions, click on Youtube’s closed caption option if you are hearing impaired.


Agile…or am I?

In the current span of my career, i’ve had many and varied training courses but none have blown my mind like the one I did last week with Sandy and David from Nomad8. In fact, i’ve specifically done courses on facilitation in the past and I can honestly say none have even come close to this one.

I’ve been dabbling in Agile for a wee while now, and recently brought in Agile methodology to a non-dev environment, but the chance to spend two days really thinking about what it means to be an Agile facilitator was amazing.

The other participants were from a range of much larger companies than the people I normally get to meet, and it was heartening to hear that people are much the same everywhere. The same issues that everyone has running meetings (or planning/executing a project) are normally due to personalities rather than skills or environment… and that really simple facilitation techniques (tricks even) can make a world of difference.

I won’t talk about it too much, after all, I wouldn’t want to be accused of #spoilers! If you are at all interested in Agile, all that i’ve heard about the courses at Nomad8 is good things, and now I can vouch for it personally!

The Shape of Things to Come?

About a week ago, Amber Rudd, the Home Secretary in Britain announced that Britain would accept the children that were eligible to resettle in Britain from the refugee camp in Calais, France. These are unaccompanied minors (under 18 year olds) that currently have family in Britain.

When the children started arriving, what should’ve been a joyful show of the humanity of British hospitality quickly degenerated into an ugly debate on whether these children were actually under 18. A prominent tabloid went as far as to use an app by Microsoft to “determine” the ages of the children. They concluded that most of the refugees were older than 18, with some as old as 30. Presumably, the rhetoric behind this is that you should only be compassionate to children, and a 20 year old asylum seeker doesn’t deserve your pity.

As this is a tech blog, I’d like to draw your attention to the app.

The app in question is a game, a game created by Microsoft to test their Machine Learning technology, or Cortana. Cortana, as you may know, is the equivalent of Android’s “Google Now”, or Apple’s “Siri”, and like most of the machine learning/AI stuff right now, it’s all a bit up and down. In 2016 alone, we’ve seen the disaster that was Tay and the success that is Tesla’s self driving car.

So what is this age app all about? It is called the #howoldrobot, and you can play with her yourself here. Amongst the furore of the public saying “See?!”, Microsoft, themselves, have come out to say that it is “a fun app” and “not intended to be used as a definitive assessment of age”.

This is another example of forgetting our humanity amongst new technology.

Microsoft’s Tay is a great example of this. In technological terms, it was a great success. The AI Bot was unleashed on Twitter to learn, she was sent out to see what the world was really like. She became horribly racist and sexist within 24 hours. She learnt what the world was really like. Microsoft have come out to say that this was actually a result of a coordinated attack by a subset of people. I argue that this is patently untrue, Tay was meant to be a machine learning experiment, and she did learn, what she has learnt is that there are a lot of horrible people in the world and more specifically on Twitter.

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love Twitter. I love that the 140 character limit encourages creativity (not to mention grammar/spelling atrocities), and I definitely love the fact, that through Twitter, you can converse with people quickly and instantly, regardless of social standing or geographical location. Just this week, I was introduced to audio books by a famous author, and then had the chance to converse with him casually about his book!

What we often fail to remember is that behind most social media accounts are people. The anonymity of the Internet has, in some cases, caused us to forget our humanity.

I’m only 35 years old, I still remember being excited about ‘new’ chatting and social media technology as a teenager. I remember, as a wannabe sociologist being excited about the fact that anonymity could mean that you can truly connect on a intellectual level with strangers. I felt that this was humanity’s chance to forget about racism, sexism and any other -ism you can think of. If you can’t see the person you are talking to, then unconscious biases should disappear and you are free to connect intellectually.

Instead, humanity has proven this to be a fallacy. The anonymity of the Internet merely allowed the worst of people to come out. This article from The Guardian in fact, points out that these so-called “internet trolls” are most probably those kind of people in real life interactions too. What the anonymity of the Internet has provided is a lack of accountability. If someone is horrible to someone at the supermarket, I would hope that the people around them would say something… if someone is horrible to someone on Twitter, then even if they get blocked or called out, they can merely delete their account and start again.

You’d think, after all this, that the world is doomed. We should take a nuke to the world’s servers and give up on all this interacting and new tech… but I’d like to end on a hopeful note, and remind you of the amazing story of Megan Phelps-Roper. Megan is the granddaughter of Fred Phelps who established the incendiary Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas, USA. Westboro Baptist is often in the media for being controversial and hateful… and Megan was one of its strongest cheerleaders. Through Twitter, she learnt about the other side of the story and eventually left the Church. If someone who was so entrenched in a moral message can change their mind, then perhaps there is hope for the world after all.

[Originally posted on Techblog]

The internet of people

This is a bit of a musing. Been at NZ Data Forum today. It’s been great, as someone who works in a NFP, listening to corporates always gives me insights that I can’t get in my tiny bubble.

One speaker in particular caused this musing, but it is something that has been in my mind for ages. The speaker was talking about leveraging sensor data on the busses to work out the most optimal route for *between* routes. Basically they analyze the hell out of the bus when it is on a route, but where the company loses money is getting the bus from the end of one route to the beginning of the next.. Or how to get the bus to the beginning of the route.

The company utilized all the same sensors (GPS, etc) to work out in real time that certain drivers were talking the busses to a further depot at lunch time than necessary. They were proud because in real time they could now radio the bus and stop the driver.

I asked whether they had considered the added productivity of allowing a driver to go to lunch with their friends. This had not occurred to them at all.

I bet it has. There is already talk of self driving busses. I bet this data is what they will use to justify getting the self driving busses. Self driving busses don’t have drivers with friends to go have lunch.

The world is at a weird precarious stage but it’s not anything we haven’t looked at before. I mean I would imagine that when the printing press was launched a heck of a lot of scribes got fired.

I also don’t have any kind of solution. I’m a techy… I’m super excited about new tech and also I feel sad that the world is increasingly becoming harder for the unskilled worker.

I’m trying to train my own children to have an innovative mindset, not about training for a job.

Would love your thoughts on this.

Pokémon Go and Reality

I am currently in the land of the Free. We’ve flown 14 hours to have a holiday in Washington DC and New York City with the family. It is amazing… I’ve never been in this part of the US before and it is everything popular media promised us it would be. Washington DC has amazing museums and beautiful rolling green grass. The national monuments are exactly as they appear on TV and it really is awe inspiring to be sitting in the shadow of the Washington memorial.

Or checking out Times Square.

Something has vaguely pulled at me however. It is this slight unease about the racial tension jn this country. I know that it is totally a thing everywhere, but here you can almost feel it.

For example this blog and the one it links to about the new popular game Pokemon Go. (no we have NOT been playing it… We have been actually sightseeing, also I have a Windows Phone. Go sign this if you do too)

It describes the very definition of a cultural hegemony , where the very colour of your skin precludes you from enjoying a game… One that takes you into the real world… With other people!

I have been struggling with this all week. On the one hand we have to be cautious travellers, we are visitors in a country not our own… We don’t want something horrible to happen to us, or our children. We have warned them of the bad people who may snatch them away. Of course we’ve been generic but you can see how parents in our situation might grip tighter when passing an African American instead of a white American. Which is ridiculous because statistically there is no proof. The inherent racism in that act makes me feel sick… And I feel powerless to do something more about it.

Microsoft #hololens – a non-review

So this happened (image above obviously)

I went to what seemed like a fairly exciting, if fairly normal She# event yesterday… and then three lightning talks later Rocky Heckman the business development manager from the Hololens team came up. The excitement was actually palpable!

This was the super secret hush hush first ever demo of the Hololens in Aotearoa… and what a crowd it was to!

I got the selfie (well actually it was a stock standard photo) but there wasn’t quite time for me to give it a go. The Galaxy Explorer app that Rocky showed was amazing, you can walk around the Earth and zoom in and out, and explore the Milky Way and all while not walking into things (unlike Google Cardboard, Occulus Rift etc) because the Hololens still lets you see the actual world around you.

What I think I want though, is an implantable Hololens… imagine this, it’s embedded in your eyeball, you see someone, and it comes up with the last 5 touchpoints, you’d be one of those awesome ‘people’ persons, all with a bit of tech!