I’ve been thinking a bit recently about why the world needs Firefox, and the ways in which Firefox can be sold to normal people who don’t know what open source software is and just like something which works. The challenge for Firefox, and Mozilla, lies in turning around this worrying trend:
I think what’s getting in the way of Firefox growing — or even retaining its market share — is the widespread perception that Google Chrome is “just better”. Moreover, Chrome is pre-installed on Android devices and available on iOS. With Firefox, by contrast, a potential user has to go the trouble of installing Firefox on Android, and it’s not even available on iOS (although that might change). Finally, Google has a huge ad network on which they run ads prodding you to try Chrome to speed up the web, an approach which Mozilla is unable to match.
I’m going to explore why we need browser competition, the similarities between the fight Firefox is currently engaged in and the one it fought against Internet Explorer in the 2000s, as well as how Firefox might break out of the declining (or at least not growing) user-base problem it’s currently in. Continue reading “Why the world needs Firefox more than ever”
The New York Times‘ Farhad Manjoo has an interesting piece exploring the impact of Uber’s business model on work and employment in the future:
The larger worry about on-demand jobs is not about benefits, but about a lack of agency — a future in which computers, rather than humans, determine what you do, when and for how much. The rise of Uber-like jobs is the logical culmination of an economic and tech system that holds efficiency as its paramount virtue.
“I’m glad if people like working for Uber, but those subjective feelings have got to be understood in the context of there being very few alternatives,” Dr. Reich said. “Can you imagine if this turns into a Mechanical Turk economy, where everyone is doing piecework at all odd hours, and no one knows when the next job will come, and how much it will pay? What kind of private lives can we possibly have, what kind of relationships, what kind of families?”
The on-demand economy may be better than the alternative of software automating all our work. But that isn’t necessarily much of a cause for celebration.
The on-demand economy Manjoo outlines sounds hellish.
This quote in particular resonated with me:
“After interviewing many workers in the on-demand world, Dr. Reich said he has concluded that “most would much rather have good, well-paying, regular jobs.”
Rather than allowing jobs in the twenty first century to become casualised and atomised, I think we would do well to aim for decent, well paying jobs.
One road block to this atomization of labour is labour-protection laws in the United States. The Vergeis reporting that there are a couple of class-action law suits in the United States at the moment against Uber and Lyft. The class-action suits are trying to argue that the people who drive around for these companies are actually employees, which matters because employees get access to a range of benefits (such as petrol expenses) which Uber and Lyft drivers don’t currently have. It will be interesting to see what happens with these cases!
Android is a hugely popular mobile operating system, accounting for about 80% of smartphones. I used to think that it was great to have a mobile OS that was also open source. But I’ve gradually come to realise that Android’s open source credentials leave a lot to be desired, and that Google is engaged in some pretty anti-competitive behaviour.
So I’ve been thinking recently whether using an android phone or tablet is consistent with a concern for privacy, a desire to avoid monopolistic products, and a sympathetic attitude towards open source software. The conclusion I’ve come to is no – Android is pretty evil. Continue reading “Is Android evil?”
I’ve been using Linux for a number of months now, and I thought I would write out some of my experiences so far. (I previously used Windows 7 and 8.1, so that’s what I’m comparing my experiences to.) Continue reading “Thoughts on Linux”
Uber sent me this email today (they also presumably sent it to all other people who are registered Uber users in New Zealand):
Recently, we have seen media coverage involving a police officer stopping Uber partner-drivers and removing riders, in some cases leaving them with no option but to walk home in the dark. This is unjustified and irresponsible. Uber has submitted a formal complaint to the Independent Police Conduct Authority.
These events have been based on the NZTA’s narrow interpretation of legislation created at a time when technology like Uber’s didn’t exist. Vested interests have also been spreading misinformation designed to scare riders and bully drivers to protect a small group of large and powerful taxi incumbents.
Uber partners in New Zealand are licensed, safe and provide a legal service in the best interests of riders and drivers. You can read more about the processes behind our operations here. We are proud to be creating new economic opportunities for licensed and responsible drivers, and bringing much needed competition to New Zealand.
IT’S TIME TO TELL THE GOVERNMENT WHY YOU WANT TO HAVE THE FREEDOM TO CHOOSE HOW YOU GET AROUND YOUR CITY.
CLICK the LINKS TO TWEET @CRAIGFOSSMP AND #CHOOSEUBERNZ OR EMAIL HIM DIRECTLY
Don’t let a few loud voices in the taxi industry bully their way into preventing you from choosing Uber. Whether taxi or Uber is your preference, you have the right to choose.
Craig Foss is the Minister responsible for these outdated regulations and he needs to hear the same feedback we do everyday. Things like..
“My Uber is 40% cheaper than a taxi, and cleaner, safer and more reliable.”
“I don’t pay a credit card surcharge with Uber.”
“Ubers are more reliable and pick me up faster.”
“I can rate the driver.”
“I feel safer in an Uber.”
….What Uber experience will you share?
Thank you for your continued support. We’re working hard with our partner-drivers to ensure Uber is the safest and most reliable ride in town.
A slightly different version of this post can also be found over at the fantastic NZ Commons site. Check it out if you haven’t already!
One thing which I’ve noticed recently is that New Zealand politicians are terrible at using creative commons licences to allow use of their photos. That’s a real shame, and in this post I’ll explore why it’s in politicians’ best interest to upload good quality photos of themselves and their activities using a permissive creative commons (CC) licence.
What is creative commons?
Creative commons is a way of making it easy for people to share, build upon and remix your creative works, while retaining copyright. There are all sorts of different licences, so you can use one which matches your needs. Creative commons licences can be a confusing business, but they’re not too complicated once you get the hang of them (and understand what all the different abbreviations mean!). Continue reading “politicians and openly-licensed photography”
Wikimedia Commons is a community-run website where people from around the world upload images, which can then be used freely by others (with certain restrictions depending on licences). As the name suggests, it’s run by the Wikimedia Foundation who run the behind-the-scenes-stuff at Wikipedia, and a whole host of other related websites. The Commons is the main storage location for all the images, videos, and audio recordings etc on Wikipedia.
The Commons only accepts images which have some encyclopedic/educational value and are licenced very permissively. The default licence is CC-BY-SA, which in a few words, means you’re free to share the item as long as you say who created the image, and share your item (either simply the original item or a derivative) under the same conditions.
The conditions make it pretty difficult to upload anything unless you’ve created it yourself and you give the go-ahead, or you track down creative commons licenced media somewhere else. But the somewhat restrictive conditions on what you can upload create this amazing resource for the world: for pretty much anything you can imagine, there’s a free image available free of charge. It’s like a giant stock photo database, except free. I don’t really understand why people are still buying stock photos when there are all these freely available images sitting there. All you have to do is follow the simple creative commons conditions and you’re fine.
Sometime earlier this year I started playing the smartphone augmented reality game Ingress. It’s basically a giant, global game of capture the flag where two teams fight for control of “portals” which can be anything from street art to historic buildings. The innovative aspect of the game is that it requires you to physically go out into the world and interact with these places – you have to be standing within a few metres of portals to interact with them, and hence the game gets you out of the house and walking around. Although you could play the game as an individual, you quickly come into contact with others on your team to coordinate, and in the process enter into a friendly community.
For me, one of the most interesting parts of the game is that quite a bit of it is crowdsourced. People who play the fame (“agents”) go out into the world and submit points of interest (POI) and a photo to the people who make the game, who then after a period of months either accept or reject your submission. You can also submit new photos of existing portals. So over time you gradually see the streets in the game fill up with more and more portals to interact with, and new interesting photos of monuments and buildings etc.
This crowdsourcing aspect of the game got me thinking of the potential for an Ingress-like game for reporting and interacting with real world objects in a way which actually benefits society. In other words, what would happen if you were to create a hybrid of Ingress and fix it apps which many councils around the world already offer for citizens to report on problems in their neighbourhood?
The basic idea would be that you boot up this app on your phone, and are immediately presented with a map of your surroundings – perhaps a few hundred metres in every direction. The data could be pulled from Open Street Map. As you move around, the centre of the map moves and you can see different things. On the map are a number of different POIs – nearby parks, town halls, etc. The types of POI visible could be changed depending on your preferences. The point is that you could select things on the map around your current location to submit to the app as problems (with accompanying photos). E.g. a street light might be out and in need or repair, there might be rubbish everywhere, plants may be overgrown and in need of trimming on public land, there might be grafiti etc. Once your problem has been submitted, it could appear on the map to others who are also around there. Other people could take additional photos, confirm the problem exists, add more details, or report that the problem had already been fixed or did not appear to exist at all.
The possibilities are pretty much limitless in terms of what you could do with an app like this. You could crowdsource photos of monuments, or create missions where people had to do a number of things around the city. I think it would be really good if it was game-ified such that people felt tangible progress as they “played” the game more. It would essentially gamify being a good citizen, and allow councils and governments to have the power of heaps of helpful people all over the place.
Existing apps which allow people to submit problems in the city, are a good start, but I think they could be way better. Obviously it would be a huge amount of work to put something like this together, but it’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot recently.
Uber recently launched in Wellington. It’s a service where you use an app on your phone to arrange a location for a pickup, and a driver comes and takes you to your destination. Uber intially started as a luxury car service, but eventually ended up launching UberX, which is essentially a normal taxi service except provided through their app. It’s a big and fast growing service: it’s available in 130 cities, and the company is worth around $18 billion USD.
I had my first ride (for free!) from the airport into town the other day, and apart from the driver taking a while to set off to pick us up, it was a great experience. Judging by the car and the ID pass on the dashboard, it looked like our driver used to be a taxi driver, which seems to be the case for most of the Uber drivers in Welly. I think they have about four drivers in Wellington at the moment. Continue reading “Uber arrives in Wellington”