07 Feb 2017

NOAA vs U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space, and Technology

Whether your politics fall to the right or left of centre there’s one thing we’re all sure of. We’re fighting blood sweat and tears to wrestle the sacred truth from the other so that our world might be restored to the path of peace and prosperity. Centre stage is the singular struggle that has defined life for my generation. The reality of climate change; or not.

Sock Puppets Cheering on the Destruction of Discourse

Somewhere in-between the punches and the scratches and the underhanded snatches the fight has become less about truth and more about winning, winning no matter the cost. From Stephen Colbert to Bill O’riley the narrative that we’re losing the battle for values and characters is told by both sides and every player. In the ultimate twist of irony, winning the fight for the truth has become a reason to lie, cheat, and deceive. Our online world allows paid actors and provocative trolls an ever increasing ability to form and define our shared reality by providing every ill-conceived question a chorus of sock puppets cheering on the destruction of discourse. 

A Steady Hand

It is in such times that one looks to the steady hands of the village elders and their traditional boring institutions for stoic and measured responses. A steady hand to hold back the passions of youthful folly that would lead us down false paths.

A village elder such as the esteemed members of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space, and Technology or the venerable NOAA.

So what exactly is going on between NOAA and U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space, and Technology (CSPTech)?

In response to an article by the Daily Mail, the Committee released this press statement “Former NOAA Scientist Confirms Colleagues Manipulated Climate Records”. Which consists of committee member quotes praising the source of the article, Dr John Bates, for his brave stand against the data manipulation efforts of the head of NOAA’s Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) Dr. Thomas R. Karl. 

Garbage in, Garbage out…

The centre of Dr. Bate’s complaint is that NOAA made compromises in the archival and verification process of  its climate data sets, rejecting a craftsman approach of polishing every data set before release.  NOAA opted instead to follow an iterative approach of processing the data incrementally as its software modeling improved and verifying its approach by matching it against measurements taken with newer higher quality instruments. 

The complaint centres around doing things perfect at the expense of running out of time with nothing, or doing what you can in the time you have.

Pareto Principle

Within the software and data development fields the concept of applying 20% of your initial effort to produce the broad strokes that produce 80% of your product is a well known approach to getting actionable results sooner that you further refine with time.

In the case of NOAA we are talking about actual software built to process the data sets, over time NOAA will continue to debug and tune the software model to gain greater accuracy and resolution of the data. However in our current environment the Daily Mail and Dr. Bates use the argument that we have to throw all babies out with all bath waters, that the trade off made by Dr. Thomas R. Karl amount to an outright lie. A position that the House committee members now repeat based on nothing more than a reading of the Mail’s article. 

Timing is Everything?

Dr. Bates clarified his remarks to EEnews today by saying, “The issue here is not an issue of tampering with data, but rather really of timing of a release of a paper that had not properly disclosed everything it was.”

His complaint, he said, was that NOAA did not extensively archive data set versions through intermediary steps of the process leading to the report; steps that were deemed extraneous by management because the new results were independently verifiable through external measurements, but that the omission of these steps did not in fact compromise the data or the report.

Betrayal

Basically a data wonk disagreed with management how extensively to archive the changed set of a massive data set.

This small inner conflict over process between egg heads is now seized upon by the very committee tasked to bring clarity and guidance to the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology (CSPTech) and instead Chairman Lamar Smith uses the tabloid’s report to push a manufactured controversy that further erodes the honest discourse of our scientific leaders. In a word it betrays its mission, the American people, and by extension the world.

 

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20 Dec 2012
01 Dec 2012
26 Jun 2012

Sociocracy: Good Governance

The following is an excerpt from the book, We the people: Consenting to a deeper democracy by John Buck and Sharon Villines

Creating More Perfect Organizations

One of the struggles in building effective organizations whether they are associations, businesses, or governments is finding an effective decision-making method. In democratic organizations, majority vote is the accepted standard. Majority rule, however, automatically creates a minority. This encourages factions and divisiveness rather than harmony. Majority rule encourages people to build strategic alliances and to trade favors rather than to think in terms of the best direction for the organization.

In business, decisions are generally made autocratically by the owner or manager or by a Board on behalf of investors. This can lead to poor decisions because those who execute them may not be free to express their views and critical information is thus not available in the decision-making process. As in majority vote, those who are not included in the decision making may also feel less comitted and thus will not enthusiastically support the organization. Autocratic decision-making also does not encourage leadership.

Sociocracy was developed to correct the deficiencies in both these methods. Sociocratic businesses and organizations set policy by consent and use a governance structure in which each person in the organization is appropriately engaged in making and evaluating the policies that affect their domain of responsibility. Working in self-organizing, semi-autonomous circles, they decide how they will meet the aims of their organization most effectively. This creates more effective, productive, and harmonious organizations — both businesses and associations.

1. Consent governs policy decision-making. Consent means there are no argued and paramount objections to a proposed decision.

2. Circles are the primary governance unit. Circles are semi-autonomous and self-organizing. Within their domain, they make policy decisions; set aims; delegate the functions of leading, doing, and measuring to their own members; and maintain their own memory system and program of ongoing development.

3. Circles are connected by a double-link consisting of the functional leader elected by the next higher circle, and two or more representatives elected by the circle, all of whom participate fully in both circles.

4. People are elected to functions and tasks by consent after open discussion.

Not all decisions in a sociocratic organization must be made by consent. The group can decide by consent to use majority vote for some decisions (when to hold the next meeting) or autocratic decisions for others (letting the shop supervisor assign daily tasks). But everyone must consent before another decision-making method is used and everyone must consent to the policies that determine the parameters for such decisions (who must be included in meetings and how daily tasks are defined).

Self-Organization and Governance

“To govern” means to steer. Everyone wants an organization with lots of energy but an energetic organization needs good steering so its energy is directed and not dissipated. The analogy used to describe how to design and manage a sociocratic organization is to “steer chaos.” To steer, not stifle, energy.Most of us think of chaos as a negative state, but chaos is a very powerful and energetic condition, not to be confused with random or purposeless activity. In chaos, each element is full of energy and freely pursuing its aim without restraint. Free, uninhibited energy creates good conditions for self-organization. In a sociocratic organization, each person and each cluster of persons is encouraged, even required, to self organize and to steer their energy toward their shared aims as energetically as possible. By establishing shared aims, and steering everyone toward them, the sociocratic structure uses all the available energy to move forward quickly and efficiently.

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19 Jun 2012
13 Jun 2012
12 Jun 2012

Beauitful from First Principles

What impresses us the most about some developers is the combination of power and beauty some can bring to our kitchen table. The Apple Design awards announced yesterday highlighted some great examples of this. Check out the our staff favorites. These are truly a labour of love and sweat, and the best part is they’re free… okay two are free one is ten bucks.

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22 Feb 2012

Vic Toews Response about Bill C-30

Thank you for contacting my office regarding Bill C-30, the Protecting Children from Internet Predators Act.

Canada’s laws currently do not adequately protect Canadians from online exploitation and we think there is widespread agreement that this is a problem.

We want to update our laws while striking the right balance between combating crime and protecting privacy.

Let me be very clear: the police will not be able to read emails or view web activity unless they obtain a warrant issued by a judge and we have constructed safeguards to protect the privacy of Canadians, including audits by privacy commissioners.

What’s needed most is an open discussion about how to better protect Canadians from online crime. We will therefore send this legislation directly to Parliamentary Committee for a full examination of the best ways to protect Canadians while respecting their privacy.

For your information, I have included some myths and facts below regarding Bill C-30 in its current state.

Sincerely,

Vic Toews

Member of Parliament for Provencher

Myth: Lawful Access legislation infringes on the privacy of Canadians.

Fact: Our Government puts a high priority on protecting the privacy of law-abiding Canadians. Current practices of accessing the actual content of communications with a legal authorization will not change.

Myth: Having access to basic subscriber information means that authorities can monitor personal communications and activities.

Fact: This has nothing to do with monitoring emails or web browsing.  Basic subscriber information would be limited to a customer’s name, address, telephone number, email address, Internet Protocol (IP) address, and the name of the telecommunications service provider. It absolutely does not include the content of emails, phones calls or online activities.

Myth: This legislation does not benefit average Canadians and only gives authorities more power.

Fact:  As a result of technological innovations, criminals and terrorists have found ways to hide their illegal activities. This legislation will keep Canadians safer by putting police on the same footing as those who seek to harm us.

Myth: Basic subscriber information is way beyond “phone book information”.

Fact: The basic subscriber information described in the proposed legislation is the modern day equivalent of information that is in the phone book. Individuals frequently freely share this information online and in many cases it is searchable and quite public.

Myth: Police and telecommunications service providers will now be required to maintain databases with information collected on Canadians.

Fact: This proposed legislation will not require either police or telecommunications service providers to create databases with information collected on Canadians.

Myth: “Warrantless access” to customer information will give police and government unregulated access to our personal information.

Fact: Federal legislation already allows telecommunications service providers to voluntarily release basic subscriber information to authorities without a warrant. This Bill acts as a counterbalance by adding a number of checks and balances which do not exist today, and clearly lists which basic subscriber identifiers authorities can access.

 

In response to my first email to Vic

 

As one of the numerous small business owners breaking a path for our digital economy I’m frustrated by our governments internet policy. Your statements regarding the Liberal Members comments were out of line. The course trekked by your colleagues, be it surveillance with out warrent in your Lawfull Access bill or the digital lock provisions that nullify fair use in c11 is one that puts our country on the back roads of innovation.

I plead with you Mr. Toews that what is needed in our government internet policy is education for citizens for digital work and infrastructure investment so they can do that work.  Not social engineering and pornographer fear mongering.

Old men look at the internet and see porn, young men look at the internet and see asia with better access and better labour. The problem is I don’t trust that you guys have any respect for what your playing with and how it’s going to effect the latter. You take a issue as serious as child porn to nurture real reservation about ill conceived policy and it’s repugnant to see happen. We need real discussion about how to get ahead of Germany and Asia not distractions and censorship firewalls to rival China’s.

Because let’s be clear, we all know this is just the entertainment industry using child porn to push turn key systems for piracy tracking. A small industry in our economy is scaring the shit out of grandparents to support facist policy for the purpose of stopping people from stealing lady gaga albums.

Sir, I know your not a fascist but surveillance, without due process and cause, of an entire population is a fascist policy and non too bright.

Keith Page
Owner, Digital Employer, Albertan Farmer

 

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12 Feb 2012
28 Sep 2010

We interrupt this program for an important message about foot cream.

[Retraction]

A friend over at Shaw has pointed out that this message is shown to new customer upon new activations, or when a modem is swapped. We had our modem swapped almost exactly 12 hours before this happened  b/c of about 6 weeks of  random down times.  For whatever reason some glitch in Shaw’s system didn’t present us with this advertisement until many hours later. Kudos to Paul for that info. My understanding is that we should have seen this page as the first website we went to after the swap.

Advertising is too pervasive.

While surfing online today I was presented with what I can only describe as the most appalling direct marketing I’ve seen from any company, let alone my own ISP.

Shaw has begun injecting itself into your surfing process and presenting full screen ads as you move between pages of 3rd party, unaffliated websites. Basicly while clicking from one section of 419eaters.com ( a site discussing stories of 419 scams and how to fight back ) to another section of the same site Shaw took the communication between me and this 3rd party, hijacked it by faking a DNS query response and directed me instead to a Shaw advertisement for Shaw Secure and Shaw Online. After clicking through three pages of ads I was given a link to my original destination to continue on my way.

In no uncertian terms to I consider this a violation, I hope Shaw is listening.

  • Shaw, you do not have the right to intercept communications between two parties. MAYBE if there is a security problem and MAYBE if your  serving the common good, like Google and Badware warnings. But not to tell me I can check my account online.
  • Shaw, you do not have the right to present ads as part of my interaction with a 3rd party website unless you’re compensating me or the website operator and only if one of us agrees to such an arrangement. Do I get a discount now that my Internet connection is AD supported?
  • Shaw, your have limited trust with your consumers, abuse at your own peril.

If you were on the phone with your mother and mid sentence your phone company muted your mother so your phone company can deliver you a 15 second ad how would you feel? What type of invasion is that if you didn’t agree to have an ad supported phone service?

Fortunately your phone company can’t do that, it’s regarded as a common carrier and as such it’s obligated under regulation to connect calls regardless of who the are between and to not interfer with the content of those calls.

The Internet fundamentally identical to the telephone for the communication back bone it provides in todays world companies like Shaw apparently must be regulated to prevent them from interfering in the communications of others. If their not smart enough to stop them selves from this type of invasive direct marketing in the board room then government needs to lay out rules for them to follow.

Please demand that ISP’s be regulated as common carriers, from the CRTC , the CCTS-CPRST and the Canadian Minister of Industry, Tony Clement.

Also based on the fact Shaw is probably using their DNS servers to accomplish this redirect, consider configuring your router with OpenDNS instead, it’s a free service.

[UPDATE: some proof reading and clarification]

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