Future of Web Apps Summit — Day 1

Following are some highlights from my notes after the first day of the Future of Web Apps Summit in San Francisco. Overall, its been a great experience, with a nice synergy of speakers and useful presentations/tips. Here’s a bit o jerky to chew on:

Dick Hardt of Sxip opened with an entertaining, metaphor-filled powerpoint. In a nutshell, we all need to develop a “V1agra” app — one that enables the user to do what they otherwise are unable to do. Smart and secure, yet marketable use of identity seems to be the Sxip pitch, as the information collected in an Internet users multiple accounts and usernames help “predict future behavior based on what people have done in the past.

Next, Kevin Rose presented a little Digg history lesson, and then treated us to some apps and widgets in development (as well as some blog plug-ins that is slowly rolling out, i.e. at feedburner).

Rose touched on themes that were repeated throughout the afternoon — “keep it simple and rewarding,” “destroy the garbage.” Stamen is incubating a number of new features for Digg.

He credited the “Inside LiveJournal’s Backend” PDF as an inspiration and door opener.

That’s it for now — I’m off to an open-bar shindig hosted by the fine folks at Google especially for Summit attendees. More breakdown to come… Technorati’s Tantek Çelik was kind enough to post his entire presentation on Microformats at his Web site. Check it out.

Great photos of all speakers and the laptop-infested geek scene at flickr and also these gems at Laughing Squid.

Nancy Grace, ‘Where Were YOU?’

Last week, Nancy Grace apparently banged her fists on her desk and with a near-accusatorial tone demanded of 21-year-old Melinda Ducket, whose son went missing in late August: “Where were you? Why aren’t you telling us where you were that day?”

Hours before the pre-taped phone interview was set to air, on Sept. 8, Duckett killed herself.

Grace, known for her hyperdramatic guilt + ratings + missing blonde-haired, Caucasian female-trumps-all approach to telelitigation, practically cleared herself and her show of having any influence on Duckett’s suicide on her Monday night broadcast, and added: “Melinda committed suicide before that interview ever aired.”

The blogosphere is all over Grace for her apparent soulessness, hammering her for her guiltless “While Ms. Duckett’s death is an extremely sad development…” sidestep.

Scott Collins, L.A. Times media columnist went a step further on the Times’ Channel Islands TV Blog, where he slammed Time-Warner for giving her a soapbox:

trading every last remaining ounce of [CNN Headline News’] credibility so a former prosecutor can play judge and jury on TV — with potentially devastating results.

In my opinion, CNN Headline News lost whatever novelty it had (it still doesn’t hold a stick to any AM radio news round-up) when it’s 2 minutes of sports coverage became the megaphone for the unforgettably annoying Jerome Jurenovich But who am I to make such judgments…. I’ll leave the cross-testimonials to Nancy Grace(less).

Copyright Rules and the U.

Cory Doctorow, author/activist/Canadian extraordinaire (and a fellow this year at the Center on Public Diplomacy) dropped some fire in the pot here at USC with this editorial published in the school paper:

Universities – USC especially – are at a crossroads: Do they exist to promote scholarship, or do they exist to protect the business models of entertainment companies at any cost?

What kind of B.S. copyright hypersensitivity is caging and enraging students at other universities?

Bring Me the Head of…

Greg Palast, bestselling author and union/consumer rights advocate, is wanted by the Department of Homeland Security for exposing critical infrastructure in the filming of an unauthorized one-year-after-Katrina documentary.

The kicker is that — surprise, surprise:

the Bush Terror Terriers have kindly indicated on the Internet that this unprotected critical infrastructure can be targeted — I mean located — at 30 29? 11? N Latitude and 91 11? 39? W Longitude.

As if the president didn’t repeat himself enough last night, here’s one more reason why “The safety of America depends on the outcome of the battle in the streets of Baghdad New Orleans…”

Palast’s documentary itself apparently exposes that, while he may be a wanted man, tens of thousands are being held hostage “in this aluminum ghetto in the middle of nowhere….”

Palast is reknown not only for his excellent writing and activism, he has been in the Bush doghouse for quite a while. He previously exposed the Bush Administration for letting Exxon off easy by only charging for punitive damages as a result of the Valdez disaster. Before that, he “busted” ChoicePoint, the government’s chosen credit and ID-verification service, for voiding votes in the 2000 presidential election by falsifying criminal records of select Florida voters.

Pentagon Lies Persist Unchecked

The #8 story on Project Censored‘s list for 2007 is the revelation that the Pentagon is not compelled to comply with the 40-year-old Freedom of Information Act.

According to articles written in 2005, the Pentagon spent much of the year seeking “immunity” from FOIA requests. In November 2005, blogger Michael Petrelis did democracy a favor by submitting an FOIA request for the details of the number of FOIA requests submitted to the Pentagon between 2000 and 2005 from the top news publications. He publicized the results, which are detailed in this Raw Story column. (Bottom line: USA Today, WSJ, and NYT — all with circulations over 1 million, submitted a combined total of 36 requests of the Pentagon over the 5-year period).

In December 2005, according to the non-profit Newspaper Association of America Web site, President Bush authorized full exemption to the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA).

However, a Lexis search for “pentagon” and “foia” in the full text of all major papers (indexed by Lexis-Nexis) since January 2006 garnered a measly 9 results. Maybe this year we WILL take Project Censored’s leads?

multi-national force iraq slide from press briefingA front-page story in the Sept. 10 L.A. Times does exactly this, in Patrick J. O’Donnell’s disturbing “Why the Numbers Don’t Add Up in Iraq“:

“We typically characterize trends in ways that do not divulge raw data,” explained a military spokesman, Lt. Col. Barry Johnson.

This combination of misinformation and a lack of transparency — even at higher levels — explains exactly how Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell can report to a room of “Operation Forward Together” officials and the press that sectarian violence and deaths are DEcreasing in Iraq. And, naturally, there are no questions asked or reasons for him to qualify this statement in spite of simultaneous figures from Baghdad morgues revealing that the body count actually tripled during the month of August. (The above graphic was presented by Caldwell Sept. 6).

The Washington Post Sept. 8 headline, “ Baghdad Body Count Nearly Triples comes just a week after the Post marquee: (via AP and citing “preliminary Health Ministry figures”), “Violent Deaths in Iraq Dropped in August.”

Not till well after multiple Pentagon press releases were published nationwide as unquestionable fact, did a spokesman step up and clarify (via McClatchy) numbers in the official tabulation did NOT include the scores of civilians killed in car bombings and mortar attacks — deaths that in fact WERE most likely related to “sectarian violence.”

There are a million different ways to account for — and to count — the dead. But to categorically not count the dead?