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Landscape of Social Media Users

Interesting to see that Pinterest is almost as popular as Twitter (15% vs 16%), and it’s definitely a women’s social media network (5:1 women:men ratio).

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This is the position taken up by the US Government. It asserts that based on a standard cloud computing contract, your ownership rights are severely limited — basically none — once you’ve uploaded the data to a cloud storage provider. The government, with warrant in hand, may take possession of storage hardware from the cloud provider that contains your data — even though you have nothing to do with the primary subject of the warrant. And in order to get it back, you’ll have to jump through a number of judicial hoops, including having to show up in federal court in Virginia.

If the government is right, no provider can both protect itself against sudden losses (like those due to a hurricane) and also promise its customers that their property rights will be maintained when they use the service. Nor can they promise that their property might not suddenly disappear, with no reasonable way to get it back if the government comes in with a warrant. Apparently your property rights “become severely limited” if you allow someone else to host your data under standard cloud computing arrangements. This argument isn’t limited in any way to Megaupload — it would apply if the third party host was Amazon’s S3 or Google Apps or or Apple iCloud. – The Electronic Frontier Foundation

Do you know where your data is?

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It’s way overdue for the federal courts to reexamine the way software patents are being granted. Software patents no longer exist to encourage innovation. Instead, they’re overwhelmingly being used as swords — by large companies and patent trolls alike — to retard competition or to extract windfall profits. I hope this case will be the impetus for serious patent reforms. The system is, with few extraordinary exceptions, completely broken.

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Part of the reason why there are so many bad patents being granted by the USPTO is because their patent examiners are overworked. When patent examiners are overworked, they are less likely to thoroughly research prior art in determining whether or not to grant a patent. What is prior art, you wonder?

Prior art could be another patent, something in a publication, or even an implementation, like a shareware software program from 1992 that does the same thing that somebody is now claiming to have invented in 2008. It can be published anywhere in the world, in any language, in any publication, no matter how obscure, to qualify as prior art. – Joel Spolsky

David Kappos, the current Director of the USPTO who formerly worked at IBM, came to Stack Exchange and asked for some help with crowdsourcing prior art. The result is AskPatents.com, a website whose mission is to “track down and obliterate bogus patent applications.” That’s an ambitious goal, indeed.

I hope they succeed.

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Money has always been a factor in politics, but we are seeing something new in the no-holds barred flow of seven and eight figure checks, most undisclosed, into super-PACs; they fundamentally threaten to overwhelm the political process over the long run and drown out the voices of ordinary citizens. We need to start with passing the Disclose Act that is already written and been sponsored in Congress – to at least force disclosure of who is giving to who. We should also pass legislation prohibiting the bundling of campaign contributions from lobbyists. Over the longer term, I think we need to seriously consider mobilizing a constitutional amendment process to overturn Citizens United* (assuming the Supreme Court doesn’t revisit it). Even if the amendment process falls short, it can shine a spotlight of the super-PAC phenomenon and help apply pressure for change. – President Obama

(*emphasis is mine)

Ditto, Mr. President!

Side note: it’s cool to see the President of the United States answering questions on Reddit. He sure is way cooler than the other politicians.

[If you don't know what Reddit is, watch this video before you click on the link.]

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Apple was awarded $1,049,343,540 for infringement of its patents by Samsung. (That’s right, $1 billion!) According to those in the know, the jury clearly didn’t take enough time to deliberate or resolve inconsistencies in its verdict. For an example, the jury awarded Apple $2 million, then subtracted it from the final tally because it didn’t actually find any infringement. Hmmm….what?!?

The jury instructions alone took up 109 pages (pdf)!

Professor Michael Risch thinks this case will go all the way up to the US Supreme Court and [hopefully] the design patent mess will be resolved once and for all. I agree.

Relatedly, the ability to get a design patent on a user interface implies that design patent law is broken. This, to me, is the Supreme Court issue in this case. We can dicker about the “facts” of point 2, but whether you can stop all people from having square icons in rows of 4 with a dock is something that I thought we settled in Lotus v. Borland 15 years ago. I commend Apple for finding a way around basic UI law, but this type of ruling cannot stand. – Michael Risch

Now, Samsung is a big boy in this game and as such it can certainly take care of itself. But imagine if you’re a small startup looking to innovate in the same domain that Apple thinks it solely possesses the right to make products for. Receiving a cease-and-desist letter from a company that has somehow extracted a billion dollars from one of its competitors is certainly a horrifying thought — regardless of whether you are right or not.

More on the absurdity of this jury verdict: “A device with a touchscreen and few buttons was obvious” – Thom Holwerda

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If the Saving High-Tech Innovators from Egregious Legal Disputes (SHIELD) Act of 2012 passes, it’ll be a nice step forward — for once — to curb the ridiculousness that is currently happening in software patent litigation.

A new bill introduced in the House of Representatives attempts to deter frivolous patent litigation by forcing unsuccessful patent plaintiffs to cover defendants’ legal costs. Introduced by Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and co-sponsored by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), the Saving High-Tech Innovators from Egregious Legal Disputes (SHIELD) Act is limited to patents related to computer hardware and software. – Ars Technica

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First, the great news. You read it right: the FCC has ruled that Verizon must stop charging customers on its 4G LTE network the $20/mo fee for tethering, i.e., sharing the data connection with other devices. BUT, and this is a bit BUT for those of us who were grandfathered in with an unlimited data plan:

Under the terms of today’s settlement, Verizon Wireless will make a voluntary payment to the Treasury in the amount of $1.25 million, and has committed to notifying the application store operator that it no longer objects to the availability of the tethering applications to C-Block network customers” and that Verizon “revised its service offerings such that consumers on usage-based pricing plans may tether, using any application, without paying an additional fee.” – FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski

Basically, those with the unlimited data plan, including yours truly, are out of luck. We won’t be able to legally tether our data connection with other devices, at least until we renew our data plan and are forced to return to earth with a usage-based plan.

Oh well..

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google fiber rabbit

If you live in Kansas City, KS or Kansas City, MO, Google is bringing you an early Christmas present:

Up to one gigabit upload & download speed • Full channel TV lineup • 2 year contract • No data caps • Nexus 7 tablet • TV Box • Storage Box • Network Box • 1TB Google Drive • $120/mo + taxes and fees

That’s 1,000 Mbps! And TV. And Google gear. All for $120/mo. Even if you don’t like TV, you can get a gigabit connection for only $70/mo. Sign up now!

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I’m a fan of Seth Godin. He has a way with words that elucidates opaque and complex concepts in such a fashion that I often go “a ha!” when I read his articles. I “get” what he’s trying to say. Here’s another article about marketing in the modern era, aptly titled The Circles of Marketing. If you’ve read his other works, you’ll instantly recognize this. If you’re not familiar with his works, it’ll still make sense to you. (And I highly suggest you get on over to Seth’s Blog and read up on it. Oh, he’s also written a few bestsellers.)

There’s an accompanying pdf that you can print out and pin on your wall. Download it, save it, print it, use it.