Weekend news roundup

13 Feb 2012

A look through the weekend newspapers’ tech coverage, including how Ireland could have generated 13,000 additional technology jobs, the fallout over Path’s privacy debacle, how internet surfing is so yesterday and the insidious nature of social bullying.

Ireland is missing out on something big

Writing in the Sunday Independent, technology entrepreneur Chris Horn echoed a previously made point that if you think technology jobs are booming in Ireland right now, we could still have generated a whole lot more – 13,000 more – if people studied the right subjects at college over the past decade.

Horn wrote how last year was one of the best years in the history of the IDA. A record 248 new investments were won, against fierce international competition and despite our generally negative economic commentary.

“There was a 30pc increase in the number of companies investing in Ireland for the very first time, choosing this country over alternative locations. Job losses from IDA-supported companies were at their lowest in over a decade, leading to the best net jobs increase in over 10 years.

“And yet it could have been so much better.”

Horn pointed to a live interview on RTÉ’s News at One on 5 January. The CEO of the IDA, Barry O’Leary, noted that “there would have been more than 13,000 new jobs last year if there had been a greater availability in the skills arena”.

Horn said he was surprised the Government, the Opposition and the media did not focus on this critical observation.

“At a time of high unemployment, huge emigration and cancerous national disillusionment, the head of the major State agency for inward investment asserts that new jobs and employment were held back only because of the lack of available people – and yet few seemed to hear, comment or respond to his message.”

Crazy paving around privacy issues disrupts Path’s progress

The New York Times‘ Nick Bilton covered the fallout over revelations last week that social app Path uploads data from users’ iPhone address books to its servers. Bilton emphasised how dangerous this kind of information can be. Think Arab Spring.

Bilton reported how last week, Arun Thampi, a programmer in Singapore, discovered that the mobile social network Path was surreptitiously copying address book information from users’ iPhones without notifying them.

David Morin, Path’s chief executive, commented on Thampi’s blog that Path’s actions were an “industry best practice.” He then became quiet as the internet disagreed and erupted in outrage. Amid his silence, he did take the time to reply to the actress Alyssa Milano, who was one of hundreds who questioned Path’s practices. (His reply to her via Twitter contained his personal e-mail address.)

Bilton says Morin seemed unconcerned about how people could be harmed by his company’s carelessness. Consider this: Amira El Ahl, a foreign journalist covering the Middle East, said bloggers in Egypt and Tunisia are often approached online by people who are state security in disguise.

The most sought-after bounty for state officials: dissidents’ address books, to figure out who they are in cahoots with, where they live and information about their family. In some cases, this information leads to roundups and arrests.

To understand cloud, understand Dropbox

The San Jose Mercury News‘ Chris O’Brien wrote a nice story that not only explained how cloud app Dropbox works but focused on how this simple-to-use utility lies at the heart of what cloud computing is all about.

Dropbox is the most deceptively simple of services. Place a Dropbox folder on each computer or gadget you own. Drag any file into that folder. A copy of that file automatically appears on every device where you put a Dropbox folder. It’s idiot proof.

But don’t let that simplicity fool you. Dropbox also epitomises a revolutionary shift that is transforming our relationship to technology and turning the technology industry upside down: Cloud computing.

The “cloud” has been one of Silicon Valley’s biggest buzz phrases for a couple of years now. In the past year, it has moved from the talk of tech insiders into the minds of mainstream users, thanks to the launch of services like Apple’s iCloud.

We are the network

The Observer‘s John Naughton wrote an interesting article about how networked the world has become and really, no one just surfs the internet anymore, they’re always switched on.

Naughton wrote how David Weinberger has a new book out entitled Too Big to Know, in which he argues that one of the implications of a comprehensively networked society is that the nature of knowledge itself is changing.

“As knowledge becomes networked,” he writes, “the smartest person in the room isn’t the person standing at the front lecturing us, and isn’t the collective wisdom of those in the room. The smartest person in the room is the room itself: the network that joins the people and ideas in the room, and connects to those outside of it … Knowledge is becoming inextricable from – literally unthinkable without – the network that enables it.”

Has the internet become a schoolyard for bullies?

The Sunday Independent carried the views of a 16-year-old who outlined how insidious and damaging bullying can be via social media, and while online bullying in Ireland hasn’t reached the levels it has in the US or UK, it is something that needs to be watched.

“When I first went online, the level of abuse was minimal enough but certainly from third year onwards the level of bitchiness grew and grew.

“Often, the person would update their Facebook status and say something nasty. While it mightn’t mention any names, the implication was clear. Those who would see the status update would know the meaning of the bitchy comment.

“I have seen girls in my year get upset by what was written about them, though rarely would it lead to a face-to-face confrontation in the classroom or in the schoolyard.

“In my experience, it is girls who are engaged in this nasty cycle of attacking each other. Boys of our age in our circle of friends don’t do any of this, and certainly not to any of the girls.

“I have never had to get my parents involved but I know of several girls who had to delete their Facebook accounts because they were being attacked online,” the teenager wrote.

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John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years