Who do we trust with our data?

Colorful neon mail envelope notification icons across the screen.
Colorful neon mail envelope notification icons across the screen.
Photo: MirageC/Getty Images

Crises have a way of making us reexamine our convictions. Last week, in the face of a deadly virus sweeping the country, conservative Republicans in the U.S. Congress voted almost unanimously to pass the largest government spending package in American history. Senators who routinely espoused a desire for small government and balanced budgets reversed their opinion and signed off on a major spending program. This sort of dramatic change in thinking under extreme threat is common throughout history, both at the group and individual level. …


Why I gave my voice to Mycroft A.I.

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Photo: Future Publishing/Getty Images

When I was young, my parents gave me cassette tapes of old-time radio broadcasts to listen to. One of my favorites was a 1948 episode of Quiet Please. In “The Pathetic Fallacy,” an engineer named Quinn brags (in glorious ’40s tech-speak) to a pair of journalists about the giant computing machine that his organization has constructed:

The actual machine is behind those walls. Three rooms full of tubes and motors and stroboscopes and several thousand miles of wiring and some devices that are not public property yet. The machine took six years to build, and a total of eighty-one expert…


Successes and failures of open source software on your Android phone

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Photo: Pathum Danthanarayana/Unsplash

Writing in 1972 for Rolling Stone magazine, Stewart Brand described the nascent ARPANET (the computer network which would one day evolve into the modern Internet) with a mix of hope and unease that could be translated surprisingly well in the modern era. “How Net usage will evolve is uncertain,” wrote Brand.

There’s a curious mix of theoretical fascination and operational resistance around the scheme. The resistance may have something to do with reluctances about equipping a future Big Brother and his Central Computer. The fascination resides in the thorough rightness of computers as communications instruments, which implies some revolutions.

The…


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By a fluke of good luck (and a good, lengthy commute) I read more books in 2018 than in any other year previous, including, probably, college. My goal this year was to read books that deepened my understanding of technology, broadened my knowledge of history, and forced me to think about new things. With some good, old-fashioned escapism mixed in. These are the books I read in 2018, and the ways I think they helped me, or entertained me, or things that they prompted me to think about.

Weapons of Math Destruction

Cathy O’Neil


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This post was also published on Derek’s Website.

This week I finished Obduction, an original title from Cyan Worlds. Playing it highlighted for me what makes the creators of MYST and Riven stand out in the world of games developers — a rigorous dedication to worldbuilding in which almost every element of the game adds to the sense of place experienced by the player. I want to capture what I think is laudable about Cyan’s approach, because its a part of why I love their work and its a big inspiration to me as a designer.

By “worldbuilding”, I mean…


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What could be more fun than playing “The Forest” and embarking on a two hour thrill ride in a mutant-infested cave? Visualizing the gameplay transcript using an arsenal of free tools, of course. In this article I talk about the process and lessons learned of conducting sentiment analysis of a gaming session. Warning: there may be images and language in this article not suitable for children.

The Forest is a multi-player survival horror game set on a mysterious island. In the manner of LOST, a commercial flight crashes and strands the players on a mysterious forested island that is largely…


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Over the past year I’ve been fascinated with data visualization tools and how they can be wielded by peacebuilders and community leaders to communicate better. The following article is a story of how a small civic tech project ended up being a learning resource and an example of how government information can be made more accessible.

At PeaceTech Lab, my colleagues and I have partnered with organizations like Sanad for Peacebuilding to conduct PeaceTech Exchanges, technology workshops that connect peacebuilders and civil society organizations to tools that help them address the root causes of violence in their communities. …


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After several months of flattened sales I decided that I had garnered all the income I was likely to get from my game The Captain’s Log (enough for my wife and I to grab a nice dinner out, which is better than a good number of my games in the past). Now it was time to squeeze out a little more value and learn about open sourcing!

For me, making games has never been about the money. I want to learn something new, tackle a coding challenge, and test out ideas. …

Derek Caelin

Technology for Good. Senior Innovation and Data Specialist at Counterpart International. Games evangelist, civic tech advocate, dataviz enthusiast.

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