Pragmatic idealist. Worked on Ubuntu Phone. Inkscape co-founder. Probably human.
1193 stories

Cool Beans? Far From It: Global Warming Is Helping to Wipe Out Coffee in the Wild

1 Comment
Researchers found that more than half of all species could vanish from the wild, and the implications for coffee’s survival in the era of climate change are huge.

Read the whole story
3 days ago
There has been no greater study to say Climate Change may wipe out our species.
Texas, USA
Share this story

Amphibian that buries head in sand named after Donald Trump

1 Comment
A newly discovered creature that buries its head in the sand is named Dermophis donaldtrumpi.
Read the whole story
29 days ago
A fitting tribute to The President.
Texas, USA
Share this story

The 10 most inspiring drone images of 2018

1 Comment and 2 Shares

The 10 most inspiring drone images of 2018

Thanks to camera drones, it's easier than ever to capture stunning photos from an aerial perspective. Whether through careful planning, or clever editing to create interesting art, drones can be used to push the boundaries of creativity. Here, we present the 10 drone images that inspired us most this year.

Above: Reuben Wu

This image is part of musician and artist Reuben Wu's Lux Noctis series. Taken in the Vermillion Cliffs of Arizona at night, Wu used a drone with a powerful DIY LED light attached to it to achieve a halo effect above the peaks.

He set up a digital medium format camera positioned high up from across the pinnacles. A single drone was used so he could operate the camera and flight simultaneously.

Fabien Barrau

French photo editor and photographer, Fabien Barrau, mixes photos taken with his DJI Mavic Pro and stock images to create landscapes that oscillate between reality and fantasy.

Inspired by the phenomenon of pareidolia, he creates animal faces within the elements of the landscape. Barrau spent more than 60 hours in Photoshop to realize this image of the night owl.

Martin Sanchez

What's most remarkable about this image of a group of hippos, taken in Tanzania with a Mavic 2 Pro, is that a drone is the only possible tool that can capture these animals in such close proximity, from above, without disturbing their natural habitat.

Mole Media

Danny, an Australian-based remote pilot from Mole Media, was inspired by legendary photographer Demas Rusli who created a similar image.

He used a Mavic Pro for his take on a classic, found an intersection in Penrose State Forest, shot in RAW, and used Photoshop to individually recreate the seasons and add different layers of objects and clouds. The result, a 4 seasons in 1 day illusion.

Reed Plummer

Reed Plummer happened to capture this school of salmon in perfect circular formation, no post-processing needed. The image was captured on the coast line of Wamberal Beach in New South Wales.

Marc Le Cornu

Marc Le Cornu used a DJI Phantom 4 Pro with an ISO of 100 at 1/1000 shutter speed and f/8 aperture. He wanted to catch his local ferry in full flight for ages, so after some careful timetable planning, he flew from a rocky point close to the shipping lane and managed to race out to get in position as the ferry approached.

There was only one chance to capture the perfect top down due to the speed of the ship. When he initially edited the shot in Lightroom, he thought it resembled a starship. That sparked the idea of creating the illusion of a rocket blasting into space. The final image was created in Photoshop, adding a few stars and lens flare.

Henry Do

Using a Mavic Pro Platinum, Henry Do shot a series of images using Automatic Exposure Bracketing. This process of capturing these shots starts with a horizontal scene at a straight angle, followed by repeatedly turning the lens down slightly and shooting, repeating the process until the camera is pointing down at 90 degrees.

Do uses a combination of Lightroom and Photoshop to merge these images into a portrait, splits individual images, such as day and night in this view of Barcelona, and merges them again to create this effect.

Micah Fitch

Micah Fitch perfectly captured this image of a recent Space X launch with an Inspire 2, Zenmuse X5S, and the 25mm f/1.8 Olympus lens (50mm equivalent on the X5S's M43 sensor). He took 3 shots as quickly as possible in the 4:3 aspect ratio and stacked them vertically, overlapping about 30% from shot to shot.

The goal was to also frame the Huntington Beach Pier in the foreground to add a sense of scale. Micah combined 3 RAW files using Lightroom's panorama mode, matching the exposures up. The overall intention for this image was to edit it so it would mirror what he saw with his own eyes.

Costas Spathis

Costas Spathis created this image with a Mavic Pro. The settings he used were ISO 100, shutter 320, and a f/4 aperture. The original capture was a simple line of ships located in a calm Marina in Greece.

To create this particular illusion, Spathis used a tool called Polar Coordinates in Photoshop. Much of his work is inspired by the sea and his love of symmetry.

Kristina Makeeva

Moscow-based photographer Kristina Makeeva creates magic with her images, many where she relies heavily on Photoshop to produce surreal effects.

What makes this image particularly remarkable, besides the fact that she placed one person with a yellow raincoat in the center of a fall-color-lined street for a striking, unique composition is that she used Automatic settings on her Phantom 4 with minimal editing. This image was taken in Ontario, near Toronto, Canada.

Read the whole story
31 days ago
The unique angles that drones allow photographers to grab are creating an interesting set of new techniques and styles.
Texas, USA
Share this story

data, privacy, and brand trust

1 Comment

Last week’s NYT exposé into the intimate location data collected and shared by mobile apps (including one app that tracked a user’s location more than 14,000 times a day) is the latest in a constant stream of bombshell data privacy revelations in 2018.

A recent GlobalWebIndex survey found that 72% of consumers in the US and UK are more aware of how companies collect and use their personal data than they were 12 months ago. 70% are now more concerned about online privacy.

They also found that 64% believed that sharing personal data online is beneficial to consumers and their shopping choices, yet only 49% feel in control of their personal data online.

They aptly describe the gap between those two numbers as a “Data-Driven Trust Deficit”. And I suspect that this Trust Deficit is growing.

Your Ad Ignored Here
"If marketing kept a diary, this would be it."
- Ann Handley, Chief Content Officer of MarketingProfs
Order Now

In a HBR article earlier this year, Kevin Cochrane at SAP describes the erosion of brand trust this way:

“This seemingly limitless digital economy has brought with it feelings of overexposure. No one likes to feel as if they’re being watched, yet with technology continuing to mature, we have found ourselves entrenched in a marketing machine that has become far too intimate for anyone’s liking.

“The power of digital is so great that brands have started to abuse it. And with this abuse of power has come the erosion of the trust that once existed between businesses and consumers.”

In the HBR article, Cochrane gives recommendations to marketers on how to address this, including explaining the benefits consumers will receive from sharing data, giving consumers full control over the types of data they share, and provide tools to allow customers to edit privacy settings.

Overall, if marketers want brand trust, we have to earn it through our actions. And as the old Will Rogers quote put it, “it take a lifetime to build a good reputation, but you can lose it in a minute.”

Here are a few related cartoons I’ve drawn over the years:

Targeted Advertising” December 2014

Marketing with Personal Data” May 2014

The Future of Advertising” November 2017

Brand Reputation” October 2015

Read the whole story
34 days ago
When you think about it, Santa is a privacy nightmare.
Texas, USA
Share this story

Is “revenge porn” protected free speech? Texas Court of Criminal Appeals to weigh in.

1 Comment
Photo illustration by Miguel Gutierrez Jr. / Texas Tribune

More than three years ago, a statute aimed at criminalizing “revenge porn” passed the Texas Legislature with rare bipartisan support — it passed both chambers with nary a “nay” vote and won a swift signature from the governor.

Now, the fledgling law faces an existential threat: a legal challenge alleging it violates free speech rights. A state appeals court in April ruled the law unconstitutional, writing that “it violates rights of too many third parties by restricting more speech than the [U.S.] Constitution permits.” Now, the case, set for submission Wednesday before the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, awaits final reckoning.

The vast majority of states have some kind of “revenge porn” law on the books. Signed into law in June 2015, the Texas statute makes it a class A misdemeanor to publicly post intimate photos of a partner sent with the understanding that they would remain private. Conviction can bring a fine of up to $4,000 and a sentence of up to a year in jail.

Congresswoman-elect Sylvia Garcia, the Houston Democrat who authored the bill as a state senator, defended its importance.

“The law is about a horrific practice that is about victimization, not speech,” Garcia said. “The law was crafted carefully to focus on only the worst and verifiable behavior that sexually defames its victims.”

The constitutional challenge stems from the conviction of Jordan Bartlett Jones, who was charged under the statute after sharing an intimate photograph of a woman without consent, according to court documents.

His attorney, Mark Bennett, a Houston First Amendment lawyer challenging the law on constitutional grounds, said it’s a clear violation of free speech rights.

“We engage in lots of harmful speech, and it’s constitutionally protected,” Bennett said. “If a statute restricts a real and substantial amount of protected speech, then it’s void.”

In April, the Tyler-based 12th Court of Appeals agreed with him. The state asked for that appeals court to rehear the case. After it declined, the state’s highest criminal court agreed in July to take up the matter.

After this week, the case will be fully briefed, and the high court could rule any time. A decision is expected in the next several months.

The Office of the State Prosecuting Attorney, which is defending the law, argues it should stand.

“There is no ‘core political speech’ at risk here. Common sense dictates that the conduct prohibited by the statute — violations of privacy of the most intimate kind — is not necessary or even helpful to a vibrant democracy,” said John Messinger, an attorney for the state. “The Legislature determined that ‘revenge porn’ and the like leads to emotional trauma, threats of violence, and even suicide, and it passed a law to comprehensively address this serious problem. By any standard, the statute is a constitutional act of representative democracy.”

Central to the case is the question of how skeptically courts should look at laws that limit free expression. Bennett argues that the law should be subject to “strict scrutiny” from the court — a high bar that often proves difficult for states to clear. Any restrictions on fundamental speech rights, he reasons, have to be looked at skeptically.

The state, for its part, argues the law should be considered with a lower level of “intermediate scrutiny.” Because the intimate, sometimes lewd images at issue in “revenge porn” do not constitute a “matter of public concern,” the state argues, they don’t merit as much protection as speech on pressing political questions like property taxes.

“Speech that is not essential for the marketplace of ideas to function properly is not entitled to the highest level of protection afforded by the First Amendment,” state attorneys wrote in a Nov. 12 brief.

Bennett said that argument amounts to asking the high court to undo centuries of First Amendment law. Bennett is also arguing four similar “revenge porn” cases before lower courts in Texas.

The Texas attorney general’s office also weighed in to defend the law in a May 8 brief to the 12th Court of Appeals.

Read the whole story
37 days ago
How awful of a person do you have to be that you sue to protect revenge porn?
Texas, USA
Share this story

Can public officials block users on Facebook? This Texas case could help answer that

1 Comment
Todd Wiseman / Emily Albracht for the Texas Tribune

After criticizing the Hunt County Sheriff’s Office on its Facebook page, Deanna Robinson found herself blocked from commenting or liking its posts. Nearly two years later, her free speech case against the small law enforcement agency is reaching the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.

The case could ultimately clear up what's become a muddied legal issue impacting everyone from rural elected officials around the country to the president: in the age of social media, what constitutes a public forum?

Robinson’s lawsuit against her local sheriff's office was a culmination of years of contentious run-ins with the office.

Three-and-a-half years ago, a Hunt County deputy and local police officer​​​​​ arrived at her parents’ home with representatives from Child Protective Services and an order to take custody of Robinson’s 18-month-old son. When she asked to see the order, the officers refused. That’s when things escalated. In a home surveillance video widely circulated online at the time, Robinson – eight months pregnant – can be seen cowering in the corner of her kitchen as a Hunt County deputy and a Quinlan police officer force her to the floor and handcuff her. She was charged with assaulting an officer.

Over a year later, charges against Robinson related to both interfering with a child custody order and assaulting an officer were dropped. CPS hadn’t served Robinson the order that she was accused of violating before arriving with the writ of attachment that they wouldn’t let her read. A grand jury decided that there wasn’t enough evidence to put the officers Robinson accused of assaulting her on trial.

In the backdrop of that strained history, the Hunt County Sheriff's Office blocked Robinson from commenting on the Hunt County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page last year after she criticized the office there. She filed her lawsuit in February 2017. After losing the case at a North Texas trial court, Robinson appealed to the 5th Circuit. Oral arguments will be heard Thursday morning in New Orleans. As one of the first cases of its kind to make it to an appeals court, the outcome could help set a new legal precedent for government use of social media.

For some First Amendment lawyers, Robinson’s history with the sheriff’s office is part of what makes this case fascinating. “It’s quite clear she was singled out,” said Frank Lomonte, director of the Brechner Center for Freedom of Information at the University of Florida. “If the First Amendment protects anything, it’s the quality of government services you’re receiving.”

Robinson asserts that she was blocked from commenting on or liking posts on the page after posting comments that the office disagreed with. The office created a public forum by opening up the page to citizen input, she argues, and blocking her based on viewpoint is a violation of her First Amendment rights.

The Sheriff’s office counters that the page isn’t a public forum. It says that by deleting Robinson’s posts and blocking her, they were merely enforcing Facebook’s conduct rules.

That would imply that Facebook is compelling the sheriff’s office to violate Robinson’s First Amendment rights, said Lomonte. “It betrays a lack of complete and thorough understanding of how social media works.”

He added that it also ignores how much local law enforcement agencies now rely on Facebook for basic communication with the public.

“Police agencies will refer you to their Facebook page in the way they used to refer you to press releases 20 or 30 years ago,” Lomonte said. “If you’re not permitted to see that page, you’re losing out on information.”

Robinson’s attorney, JT Morris, argued that comment threads on Facebook posts hosted by government entities are de facto public forums.

“Just like a town hall meeting in the physical world,” he said.

It’ll be up to the 5th Circuit to decide whose argument holds water. The court could decide to bump Robinson’s case back down to the trial court in Dallas, which is what she’s asking them to do. That would mean that the lower court would get a do-over, and a mandate from the 5th Circuit to look more closely at some aspect of the case.

Or, the court could agree with the trial court and dismiss the case. At that point, Robinson might appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, but there’s no guarantee that the highest court would take it on. But if there are disagreements between the 5th Circuit and 2nd Circuit court decisions, for example – or any at that level – it boosts the likelihood that the Supreme Court will be interested in ruling on the issue, according to First Amendment lawyers.

“The Supreme Court has never addressed the issue of whether government’s use of an interactive social media creates a public forum or not,” said Lyrissa Lidsky, law professor and dean of the University of Missouri School of Law. “The issue is new enough that it hasn’t worked its way through the appellate process to get a statement from a variety of appellate courts or the Supreme Court.”

Various politicians in Texas and around the country have sparked criticism for blocking people on social media. Back in 2011, then-Texas Gov. Rick Perry drew attention for blocking some journalists from his Twitter account. At the time, his spokesperson defended the practice as legal because it was Perry's personal account.

That’s a similar argument to the one President Donald Trump has made in response to a case brought against him last year by seven Twitter users for blocking them from his @realDonaldTrump account. In May, a federal judge in New York ruled that because Trump uses his account for official presidential business, his personal Twitter page qualifies as a public forum. By blocking people he disagreed with, the court said Trump was violating the First Amendment. The Trump administration appealed the case to the 2nd Circuit, and a date for oral arguments has yet to be set.

In a friend of the court brief in support of the plaintiffs in the Trump case, Electronic Frontier Foundation, a civil liberties group, called government use of social media “the rule now, not the exception” that could conceivably become the main form of citizen interaction with government. “As a result, members of the public must have a cognizable First Amendment right to receive such otherwise public communications from the government, and to participate in the forums that are created.”

Some courts have sided with government officials in such cases. In Kentucky, Drew Morgan and Mary Hargis sued Governor Matt Bevin for blocking their critical comments on his Facebook page, saying the governor was curbing free speech. The court denied the plaintiffs’ claims, arguing that neither Facebook nor Twitter qualifies as a traditional public forum “necessitating the highest level of scrutiny.”

But cases outside of Texas’ federal court jurisdiction – like the Kentucky case or the Trump Twitter case – won’t be binding in Texas courts unless they make it to the Supreme Court.

A win for Robinson could spark more legal action in Texas. After the ruling in Trump’s Twitter case, state Rep. Briscoe Cain, R-Deer Park, tweeted: “In honor of some liberal NY judge telling @realDonaldTrump he can’t block people on twitter, I will be BLOCKING a lot liberal trolls today.”

Read the whole story
44 days ago
Fascinating to see how this is going to move through the courts. If the pages are considered public forums, it seems like it would limit social media sites from implementing their own code of conducts as well. Wonder if the ad supported networks would then ban government entities or drop their rules.
Texas, USA
Share this story
Next Page of Stories