The President of the Italian Low Chamber, Blodrini, holds Google and Facebook “ethically liable” for what the users do online

According to Laura Boldrini (left wing), President of the Italian Low Chamber, Google and Facebook are ethically liable for what the users do online. Talking about the (venerable) online hoaxes phenomenon, she verbatim stated:

 They are not telcos, they have an ethical and social liability. While obviously it isn’t only their fault if hoaxes are spreading. 1

This is not the first time that Boldrini tries to extend the liability of the users to ISP, Telcos and Over the top operators and this last statement lead to think that there should be an actual agenda on this topic.

But the concept of “moral/ethic liability”  is both religious and individual, and in a democratic country where the rule of Law is supreme, is not supposed to be taken into account. On the contrary,  following a precise script, this is what we face every time that the Internet is involved: public outcry first, ethical issue next and, finally, an “ethical” regulation.

In the specific case, Boldrini’s position is wrong from whatever the side you look at it.

It is ethically dangerous because weakens the legal principle of the individual’s personal liability, thus reinforcing users’ idea that online there is no accountability.

It is legally unfeasible, because the e-commerce directive made crystal clear that ISPs cannot be forced to monitor and verify each single act of a user, and the data protection directive says, again, crystal clear, that the data protection regulation doesn’t apply to individual’s data processing (in other word: the law doesn’t work for a Facebook’s post made by a user.)

It is market’s sinking. Italy has already proven to be unable to join the digital economy race, and this regulatory approach from Boldrini is another dead weight to the Italian Telco industry.

  1. Non sono compagnie telefoniche, hanno una responsabilità morale e sociale. Anche se ovviamente non è soltanto colpa loro se si diffondono le bufale.

How Digital Technology exposed the Audiophile Fraud

Audiophile hardware… pardon, equipment, is expensive. Full stop.

It is a “given” that to enjoy “true” music you must allocate a budget that equals the purchase of a supercar otherwise, as Califano (an Italian singer) used to sing, tutto il resto è noia (everything else is spleen.) But is it actually so?

Currently I’m listening some Antonio Vivaldi’s concerts played by Yo Yo Ma, in CD – quality (44/16) FLAC format through a couple of bookshelf B&W loudspeakers connected to my old (sorry again, “vintage”) amplifier that receive the analogue signal from a thunderbolt DAC made by  Zoom Japan. Not factoring the computer, the whole setup costs well below a thousand Euros and the quality is very good.

Of course an audiophile would strongly disagree with this statement. He would surely start talking about the superiority of the brand X’s amplifier or the absolute need of a thousand Euros-per-meter loudspeaker cable to have the music flows more “liquid” and so on. And he will rebuff with a pity look in his eyes whoever says something different: ignorant can’t actually understand the “truth”, so let them listen at their Iphone’s earbuds.

To some extent this audiophile is right: expensive rigs can produce awesome results. But a simple logic shows that this statement is wrong and doesn’t match the reality of the digital music industry.

First, it is false that an 100.000 Euros music set up sounds 100 times better than a 1.000,00 Euros one. The more you get close to physical limitation of whatever equipment, the price of each improving step raises more and more and the quality result is more and more less than proportional.

Second, the majority of the music labels still sells their music in CD quality, i.e. the 1980, Red Book standard (16 bit, 44Khz) and even those CD advertised as “24bit recorded” are actually downsampled to the usual standard. With vinyl there was some sense in purchasing costly turntables to minimize the impact of the moving parts on the quality of the electrical signal to be sent the amplifier. Digital files free us from this need. Sure, there are different quality level in digital-to-analogue conversions (DAC) hardware. But a lot of what is sold right now is just “whistles-and-bells”. Spending money for a DAC able to handle 24bit/192Khz or DSD128 streams is useless because, right now, none of the big music labels are releasing high resolution versions of their catalogue, limiting to a very little niche of contents. So where is the point in spending huge monies to buy something that is of no use?

Third (or, maybe, Second, continued), high resolution files make sense only if the music to be played contains a very high dynamic range (from the lows of drums and percussion to the highs of violins and triangle), high personality musical instruments and great players. “Dirty” music like blues (think of John Lee Hooker) or rock (Jimi Hendrix jumps in) is not enhanced by  “better” mastering, as there is no improvement in overmastering a Lady Gaga tune. Furthermore, a lot of the music available on the market is a “bookshelf product”, i.e. something that has been designed to be sold in a very short timeframe, just to be replaced by the next new “version”. Can you actually tell the (musical) difference in the “artistic” production of what is currently sold as “music”? It is not a coincidence that, more and more, “artists” are known more for their eccentricity or fashion look than for their “cultural” production. This is not a rant about how better was the good ol’time music, but a precise cost-benefit analysis: no need to invest in better recorded music, if what has to be sold doesn’t worth it and – more important – if the customer base is not willingly to pay the premium price.

Conclusion: a logic approach to the sound quality that involves a look at the marketing digital strategy of the music industry and the account of the Far East sound-handling devices’ quality shows that it doesn’t make sense to waste money into “audiophile level” equipment.

What we do need is just better music.

 

Brexit, Donald Trump and the Dark Side of the Internet

The Brexit’s outcome, Donald Trump to become POTUS (President of the United States) and, before that rise of “populist” political wings, are all a consequence  (I hate to say it) of the Internet. Of course, the Internet is not the only factor, but facts show that it contributed largely to a shift of the people’s role in the political arena.

Before the Internet, haters, poorly educated and fanatics lived their life in
(a relative) isolation. They were just individual drops  or – at the very worst – a number of little, unconnected rivulets. Thank to the Internet, they all of a sudden discovered that they weren’t alone in their way to look at life and found a way to turn the rivulets into an enormous tide.

So, what present reality teaches us, is that the Internet empowered the most gullible and “weak” part of the society with an actual capability to create social, political and economic damages.

I do not intend to offend (and I’m not talking about) those who voted to leave the EU or supported the current POTUS and so on,  that did it on a rational, informed basis. That’s the core of the democracy: a dissenting opinion is not – per se – wrong. What scares me, as the late events have demonstrated, is that our destiny can be shaped by a large, irrational, anonymous digital crowd.

It would be easy, at this point, to start thinking that Russia and China aren’t that wrong
when they prevent the people from accessing the Internet. And that a serious tool should be handled with the proper care and training by untroubled people.

But, apart the unacceptable racist basis of the statement – this  would means that only a few should have had access to this resource and then that nobody would have thrown the necessary money to develop the network. So, to close the circle, we now enjoy the Internet as it is, because less culturally-structured people made it possible.

Having a tool that makes people dumber, a modern version of Nero’s panem et circenses, is great for the powers-that-be. Do spend your time in streaming, social-networking, and texting and let us do our job: we know what’s good for you.

And the paradox lies in that: to have power you need to make people weak in thinking. But such kind of people do irrational things, hence Brexit, Trump and so on, so the power you’re eagerly looking for, is lost.

Funny, isn’t it?

Smartwhatever, Cloud, Artificial Intelligence. When Marketing Tricks Lead To Dangerous Effects

If we give marketing buzzwords its proper meaning, a lot of hype disappear and things can be looked at in a less fancy while easier and pragmatic way.

So, for instance, SmartWhatever is just an electric/electronic tool with expanded (although limited) programming capability. “The Cloud” is just either an FTP or a grid/parallel computing service with dynamic resources allocation and, last but no least, Artificial Intelligence is just the attempt of enhancing the computer’s capability of performing its task in autonomy (and is not related to the creation of an actual “intelligence” since neurologist and other scientists still ignore how the brain works.)

Sure, neither calling a cloud service “enhanced FTP” nor labeling an “intelligent phone”  just “voice driven mobile” power the sales of the gimmick of the moment. Nevertheless, since words do have meaning, the recklessness of the marketing coupled with the ignorance of lawmakers and courts lead to dangerous consequences.

The legal “rhetoric” about these buzzwords is unbelievable: the legal community tries to look for “new” problems to solve (and I suspect, for new clients), and somebody, around, keeps talking about artificial intelligence “rights”.

To put it short: once again, by fault of ignorance and unscrupulousity we are exposed to  non-existent legal issues that, despite being just nothing, shall cause actual trouble.

Brexit, French GIGN and Italian GIS. Are Professional Media Committed to Truth?

One of the more often heard claims against “independent” online information is that “professional” journalist are exactly so, professional, thus giving the reader some sort of “quality assurance” about the news they deliver.

The Internet, nonetheless, has proven this assumption wrong.

Among the multitude of poorly informed articles published by “official” press, one example of this lack of care in reporting a news is a recent article by Repubblica.it about the Bataclan aftermath.

The article reports a quarrel between a group of French GIGN operatives and its commander, accused of having be withheld from intervene during the Bataclan massacre by fault of “jurisdiction” concerns.

Anais Ginori, the Italian journalist that wrote the article, at a certain point writes:

What would have happened should the GIGN were taken into play? Maybe the Gendarmerie’s elite force intervention would have allowed an early neutralization of the terrorists, by way of the high training standard often inspired to the GIS, the Carabinieri special group1

What’s wrong with that?

The sentence “by way of the high training standard often inspired to the GIS, the Carabinieri special group ” is is historically inaccurate. The GIGN has been established by the French Government on 1974, as a consequence of the 1972 Black September’s Munich Olympic Games massacre, while the Italian GIS on 1978 (several years late than the GIGN, the German GSG9, and British SAS’ Special Project Team.)

Sure, one may say that this is only a minor flaw that doesn’t affect the general value of the article: at the end of the day all of this fuss is just about a matter of wrong dates, and nothing more.

But it ain’t so.

By indirectly (and wrongly) establishing some sort of “primacy” of the Italian GIS over the French GIGN, the journalist induces into the reader a false notion. And since a casual reader is not supposed to be learned into the technicalities of – as in this case – the special forces’ maze, the result is the spreading of mistakes and the building of false assumptions.

And Brexit already showed what happens when people take decisions based on false statements.

  1. Cosa sarebbe accaduto se il Gign fosse stato mobilitato? Forse l’intervento dell’unità di élite della gendarmeria avrebbe permesso di neutralizzare prima i terroristi, dato l’elevato standard di addestramento, spesso ispirato a quello del Gis, il nucleo speciale dei carabinieri.

What “Big Brother” and “Orwellian” actually mean

A lot of people – politicians, “gurus” and “activists” use the word “Big Brother” and “Orwellian” without having read even the cover of a George Orwell’s book.

They rather want to have a look at this TED-ed short lesson, to discover what they’re actually talking about.

Apple Update’s Options. Freedom the Apple Way

Whenever Apple releases a software update, a badge like that shows on your desktop

deceivingoptionApple just gives you an alternative with two option (install now – install later), but what if you are content with your current version? No “no” button to push, no “close” cross-hair to click, no “dismiss” gesture to perform. Sure, you can ignore the message and carry on, disable the auto-update feature etc., but the point is that – at a glance – you’re not given a full list of possibility.

This is freedom, the Apple Way: do whatever you want as soon as you pick one of the option we lay down for you.

This is the “Walled Garden” strategy that sound oddly familiar to Noam Chomsky‘s prop-agenda theory…

Kirin’s Gogo Kocha and Glico’s Pocky: A Great Online Marketing Stunt

Two food&beverage Japanese giants, Kirin and Glico, just released a clever comarketing online campaign: each company designed its own package – tea and snack – so that when the boxes are kept mutually close, the portrayed characters look like kiss each other.kiringlicoOf course, there are plenty of characters so that consumers may start a collection or using it in other creative ways. But the genius strike is to release a smartphone app that by recognizing the matched characters tell the customer their love story (the App part starts at 2,10.)

Sir Clive Sinclair’s ZX Spectrum Vega Plus: Are You Ready To Go Back to Skool?

As many (now old) kids of the eighties I was part of the ZX Spectrum tribe (are you still there, Commodore folks???) and if now I do what I do for living, I have to thanks Sir Clive Sinclair‘s genius that through his glorious microcomputer showed me literally a brave new world.

Now he’s back with the ZX Spectrum Vega project: a crowdfunded project to manufacture a console with a thousand of original “old time” games.

I hope that the project will raise enough money to actually release the Vega Plus, but even if it doesn’t, offering support (as I just did) is a way to say “thank you Sir Clive!”