Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Random mid-week thoughts

Florida seems to be moving forward with plans to have a January primary which means the entire primary schedule will be tossed up in the air.  I'm in favor of larger states gaining a more significant say in the primary process because the power granted to states which are not very representative of the US population is a flaw in our system.  However, I suspect that this is going to lead to a "date race" where every state moves to be the first -- particularly among battleground states. 

The best proposal I've seen is that we should divide the country up into 5 blocks of 10 states and then rotate the order of their primaries every election.  If the Northeast block goes first in 2012, then the Midwest could go first in 2016 and the South in 2020.

This would help ensure that everyone in our country is engaged in the primary process at least every 8-12 years.

On a related election note, this story out of is just too scary to ignore.

"Voting machines used by as many as a quarter of American voters heading to the polls in 2012 can be hacked with just $10.50 in parts and an 8th grade science education."

In what Warner describes as "probably the most relevant attack for vote tampering," the intruder would allow the voter to make his or her selections. But when the voter actually attempts to push the Vote Now button, which records the voter's final selections to the system's memory card, he says, "we will simply intercept that attempt ... change a few of the votes," and the changed votes would then be registered in the machine.

"In order to do this," Warner explains, "we blank the screen temporarily so that the voter doesn't see that there's some revoting going on prior to the final registration of the votes."

It's unlikely anyone would ever be able to implement a large scale fraud using these Man in the Middle attacks, but it is worth being aware of the risk.  There is a video at the end of the article that basically walks through how to pull off the attack.

I found this story on Facebook interesting because it echos my thoughts exactly and it was written by one of Facebook's biggest fans.  The last series of updates from Facebook is designed to improve the user experience by capturing your entire life on the screen but as I've said for sometime Facebook is simply providing too much information.

"Facebook, in short, is losing its luster as an easy place to mingle with friends online, because users have to spend so much time tailoring its filters to manage their social interactions.

To make Facebook useful for me, I am forced to undergo hours of bother, tuning settings to get the inflow of information correct. I'm not sure I have that patience."

I've argued for close to two years that there needs to be a simple, clean, easy Facebook alternative.  Something that allows you to connect with friends and do little else.  Google+ has it's supporters but I've already tuned out because I couldn't find anyone I knew using it.  I'd argue that Twitter could create an interesting Facebook alternative if they tweaked a few things.

The technology behind Facebook isn't that hard to replicate but getting 800 million users will be hard to beat. In much the same way Google crushed Yahoo (which had become an ad driven monstrosity in 1997-98) by offering a simple, clean, search box, I think a basic connection tool could upend Facebook.

If that happens, remember you heard it hear first.

Finally, just because you need a laugh....



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