Body Cameras And Law Enforcement

Articles — Sean Bonner @ 11:02 am

The Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, MO has brought a number of worthwhile discussion topics to national attention – not the least of which is countering widespread public distrust of law enforcement with technology. In the above mentioned case there are several conflicting reports of what happened, and that’s just taking into account the ever changing official statements from the police department. Add in eyewitness reports and it’s possible we’ll never know exactly what happened. Many people are suggesting that if police officers were required to wear body cameras this kind of problem would disappear into thin air.

In truth the argument that compelling police to wear body cameras is the one stop simple solution to ensure accountability is laughable. We know this because we can look at direct track records. In Los Angeles the LAPD (which has been trying to overcome an unfortunate reputation the department earned very publicly in 1991 with the Rodney King beating and the Rampart scandal a few years later) are required to wear voice recorders which switch on automatically when their cruiser sirens are activated and record voice audio within a certain range of the car once the officer steps outside. The benefit here is obvious and the argument was made that this would ensure accountability. Which it would if they worked, but mysteriously the recorders stopped working and this kept happening until the department was forced to admit that theirinternal investigations showed that officers were purposefully breaking off the antennas on their recorders to disable them. Perhaps unsurprisingly the majority of the sabotaged recorders were in the Southeast division – a low income, high minority area with a long history of excessive force complaints. One can imagine mandatory body cameras might suffer similar “technical problems.”

In fact, Los Angeles has been rolling out body cameras on a trial basis already equipping officers who volunteer for the trial program with lapel cameras to compliment the ubiquitous dash cams already deployed on police cruisers everywhere. But again, these things need to be used in order to be useful – in the recent shooting of Ezell Ford, the officers were not wearing the lapel cameras and the dash cam in their car is missing.

Here’s the thing – regardless of what anyone would like to believe or would like you to believe cops are just people doing their jobs, and we know from the Stanford Prison Experiment and the Milgram Experiment that ordinary people, when put in positions of authority over other people will abuse it and can easily disassociate and justify that their position requires such actions. Officer Sunil Dutta’s recent Washington Post oped is dripping with this and there isn’t a technological solution to it. Law Enforcement should be first and foremost public servants, as long as police officers and the system that supports and enables them continues to act as if their job is authoritarian in nature and they are out on the streets to keep people in line rather than to protect them, as long as they look at people as the potential threats rather than those they are charged to look after, nothing will change and everything – including body cameras – will just be a temporary bandaid.

The Thrill Of The Hunt

I gave a new Ignite talk the other day at an icebreaker opening to a several day conference. The organizers asked for talks about the most exciting thing people had learned this year. Since I’ve been getting into vinyl jazz records recently I wrote back and asked if that might be a worthwhile talk – turned out it was and so I got to work. In thinking about these records and what drew me to them I started seeing a pattern emerge and I’m once again forced to admit that I’m a collector. I collect stuff. But this is conflicting because as the same time I really hate stuff. It piles up around and makes me feel cluttered and I want to just get rid of it all and then I do and everything is clean and nice and then I think “oh, it might be nice to put something in that space” and then it all starts all over again. But why?

It’s the thrill of the hunt. I’m not excited primarily about the stuff, I’m exciting about learning about it and tracking it down. Once it’s tracked down the thrill is gone and my attention finds itself pointing in other directions. So what is the special sauce that – for me at least – makes something thrilling and sucks me into collecting it? Once I identify a “thing” there are 4 qualities that make it irresistible.

1. LEARNABLE – The info about the thing has to be finite. That is, it can’t be continually expanding which usually means the thing has to be old and out of production. I need to be able to wrap my head around what the thing is, when it was made, for how long, what were the variations and issues involved with it’s production, how to know the early or rare stuff, etc. There has to be a complete cannon of information that I can digest. If it’s something too vast – like wine or something – then I’m instantly turned off because I know I can’t ever hope to know it all.

2. ATTAINABLE – Is it actually feasible that I could attain this thing that I’m considering collecting? This is mostly financial. I’m not going to collect Ferraris, I’m not going to collect Patek Philippe. I’m never going to even own one of those things so there’s no risk of collecting it, and thus no chance of getting infatuated with it. If the top tier collectable of this thing is in the lower 4 digits that seems much more likely to spark my interest, though upper 2 digits/lower 3 digits is much more comfortable.

3. COMPLETABLE – This is more about the thing, did they make enough of them that I can actually hope to find them? If something was produced in such limited numbers that there’s slim chance of me finding one, not to mention a bunch of them, then no chance I’ll fall into collecting it. More likely if they turn up on ebay from time to time, so not thinking about the money part, it has to actually be possible for me to find this thing. If it is, and it’s a bit of a challenge, that’s thrilling.

4. NICHE AS FUCK – This sounds hipster, like I’m saying it’s not cool if anyone else likes it, but that’s not the case. It’s more that if something is common enough that I see it when I go to everyone’s house, or if it’s produced in a “collectors edition” specifically aimed at collectors, then it’s just not exciting. If I’m really honest with myself, the fewer people who know about it the better, it’s possible to become a recognized authority on something that very few people know anything about. And before you know it, that’s infatuation.

Before I realized it the talk wasn’t so much about Jazz records as it was self psychoanalysis, but I ran with it anyway and of course I didn’t skip the jazz stuff, but out of 20 slides 13 of them were about what’s going on inside my head. After the talk lots of people came up to me saying I perfectly identified the crazy in their head too and they appreciated how much they could relate. Which was nice to hear, and so I thought I’d post those points online as well for others to find and mull over too.

2011: The year in review, in photos

Back in 2007 I had a crazy idea to skim my flickr stream and pick a few photos from each month to try and illustrate how I spent the year. I found it to be pretty cathartic and gave me a whole different impression of the year I’d just experienced. I liked it. So I did it again in 2008. And then in 2009 it was kind of “a thing” so I did it again. And then again in 2010. I really like doing this. It’s a pain in the ass, but it’s awesome to reference.

I’ve been slow getting to it this year for no good reason, I can’t believe it’s April already. Gah. I’m sorry. So here it is. The first photo I posted in 2011 was this one of Ripley and Lucky cat just waking up. I guess that’s a good way to get this moving

Waking up, sort of

Which I think must have been followed by a hike up to Runyon Canyon with the family based on my pics. I had a beard.

Bite your tongue! (more…)

On leaving Facebook

For better or worse, I consider myself a fairly principled person. That is, I’ve chosen to live my life in a way that reflects my convictions. From what I eat to how I vote to what I spend money on, I consider how those choices impact me, those around me, and the world as a whole. I consider what my actions and choices say about me as a person, and take great care to ensure I like who that person is. Ethics are important. Convictions mean something.

If you know me in person you know this to be true. It’s not about changing the world, or even changing anyone else’s mind, it’s about being comfortable with my own choices. It doesn’t make life particularly easy, but I sleep really well at night.

When it comes to the internet, I’ve always tried to have my online presence reflect my offline presence. I frequently speak out in favor of things I support, and against those I don’t. But I hadn’t considered that where that online presence was also said something about me. (more…)

Labels and definitions

Articles,Philosophy — Sean Bonner @ 12:23 pm

“You’re not punk, and I’m telling everyone.
Save your breath, I never was one.
You don’t know what I’m all about.
Like killing cops and reading Kerouac.”

A few days ago Tara wrote a post for her Forbes column called “Dear Fake Geek Girls: Please Go Away.” Now you could read that title and jump to any number of conclusions, but that would literally be judging the book by it’s cover. Which clearly a lot of people don’t have a problem doing. Since I don’t know what the venn diagram of Forbes readers vs SBDC readers looks like, I’ll give you the short version – she notes that increasingly (often for marketing purposes) there are people claiming to be “geeks” who are doing that because they think it will advance them somehow, or give them an in with a certain crowd and opines that rather that trying to be something they aren’t, people should embrace the things that they are. She’s speaking directly about girls in her article as she has a bit of a women-in-technology theme, but the same could be said dudes just as easily.

What’s interesting to me is that this isn’t a new situation. There’s a repeatable pattern here that anyone who has been paying attention to any number of subcultures can clearly see. (more…)

Why Coffee?

Articles,Coffee — Sean Bonner @ 9:06 pm

It should be no surprise to anyone who follows this blog – or any of my interactions online or off now that I think about it – that I’m a fan of coffee. But lots of people like coffee and don’t obsess over it like I do, so maybe I’m a bit obsessed with coffee. Again, not really a surprise I’m sure. But why? That’s a question that comes up quite frequently these days so I thought I’d write a little bit about it and maybe answer some of the questions and maybe help sort through some of my own feelings about it as well.

New cups

Coffee is interesting because it’s ubiquitous, yet still shrouded in mystery. It’s something everyone knows about, and at the same time most people know nothing about. I know that because for most of my life I was one of those people. Hell I’m still one of those people. But I know a little bit more than I did and that is exciting, and when I get excited about something I have a bad habit of talking about it constantly to everyone in earshot. I say it’s a bad habit because most often that constant yammering is met with replies like “OMG Sean are you still talking about [blogs/art/toys/records/minimalism/etc]?!” however when I started talking about coffee I started getting replies like “Oh awesome! I love coffee! Tell me more!!” so then I had to go find more to talk about. (more…)

Bye Steve

Articles — Sean Bonner @ 7:13 pm

My first computer was a Macintosh 512.

I say “my” because even though it was really the family computer, I was the one on it all the time. This was late 1984 and while had Apple IIe’s at my school, the Macintosh was obviously the thing to have at home. I mean, I had one, right? I had friends with random incarnations of PCs but they seemed so blah. My Mac was cool. I was 9 or 10 at the time and somehow got a subscription to Macword and I’d rip out the full page photos of Macs and put them on my wall. There was a 5-6 panel fold out cover one time that I kept for years before there were finally more push pin holes than paper on the edges and it found it’s way to the trash. This was a few years before I progressed to ripping pages out of Thrasher for the same purpose and without question is where I developed my object lust. I could stare at those beige boxes for hours imagining all the exciting banners I could great with Print Shop on that sweet monochromatic display.

Years later a college era room mate, Jon Resh, would use an almost identical Mac Plus to make a perforated paper dot matrix banner for his room that read “Someday you will die, live hard now” which without knowing it would foreshadow many of Steve Jobs later comments about remembering that you won’t be here forever, and the importance of making the most of your life – and living it for yourself and your terms. His words stuck with me then, and resonated with me often. I knew he was right, even if it was a scary thing. You can’t live your own life and be happy without believing in yourself, and I always knew that’s what Steve was trying to tell us all to do. If we just believed in ourselves, we could do anything.

I can’t even speculate how many Macintosh products I’ve owned. I can’t even speculate how much better my life has been because I had access to those products. The first Mac I ever bought myself was a Macintosh LC. I bought it shortly after moving to Gainesville for college, and lived off pepsi and sunflower seeds for months to afford it. It was totally worth it. I’d like to say it changed my world, but the truth is my world had already been unquestionably changed because of these computers. There were only 2 computer laps on the University of Florida campus that had Macs and in the many months between when I moved out of my mothers house and bought that LC, I spent more hours than I’ll ever be comfortable admitting bouncing between those two labs. Between talking to people all over the world on #IRC and the newly released mosaic browser which allowed me to see content on literally *hundreds* of pages on the world wide web, there was a lot to keep up with. Also, since I wasn’t technically a student I could only hang out in each lab for a few hours until the SysOps would notice. But I was already a diehard at that point.

I saw someone mention yesterday that everything they’ve ever created that they were proud of was made using tools Steve Jobs had a hand in making. I thought about it and there’s no question thats true for me as well. With the exception of 4 jobs I held in my early employment carrer, Dishwasher, Grocery Store stocker, video store clerk and pizza delivery guy every single thing I’ve done professionally, for my self and my own companies or for others has involved Macs heavily. Every logo I’ve ever designed has been with the help of a Mac, and the very first logo I ever made, the first logo for my record company blatantly swiped clip art that came with our family Mac.

Shortly after I moved to Los Angeles in 2001 the iPod was released. I’d just been laid off from Playboy but I didn’t give a shit, I knew this thing was going to change my world and I bought the original 5MB version the day it was released. I still have it and it was every bit as revolutionary as I knew it would be. The thing I probably heard most in 2002 was “I hope you have stock in that company because you are selling more of those iPods by constantly talking about than any ad campaign could.” I didn’t have stock, but it wasn’t about money. It was about the future.

Through all of this, Steve Jobs has been like a constant beacon of hope. I’ve always been able to count on him, and I trusted him. I never met the man and I don’t think I ever had the opportunity, but like a dear friend who you don’t always agree with, I knew he wanted the best for me and I trusted the direction he lead me in. Dropping SCSI caused me weeks of headache at the company I worked at, but I knew it was the right move. SCSI sucked and my life would be better without it, even if it hurt to walk away. Same with floppy drives and CDS. Lots of people have vision, few people have the dedication and commitment to that vision to inspire others. Steve did, and I didn’t even realize until yesterday how important he was to me.

Over the years I’ve gone from watching his keynotes on baited breath, dying to find out what he’ll announce next, to having a pretty good idea what is coming out and not needing to see it live because I trust that I’ll know about it in a few hours and it will be every bit as awesome I as assume it will be. Because for better or worse, if something isn’t awesome Apple won’t release it. Steve wouldn’t let that happen. He was dependable and even when he took his first leave from Apple for medical reasons I never suspected he wouldn’t be around tomorrow. I mean, people get sick, and sometimes those people die, but we’re talking about Steve Jobs here. Right? I couldn’t imagine a world without him.

Earlier this year when he stepped down for real, I convinced myself that he’d done what he needed to do and was going out on top. He’d started a company, survived getting kicked out of it only to come back and rescue it from sure death and turn it into one of the most successful companies ever. How do you top that? I told myself he had accomplished his goals and was ready to move on to the next thing, and even when I read his letter saying he was stepping down for medical reasons, I downplayed it.

Hearing that he died yesterday hit me so much harder than I could have imagined. I’m getting choked up writing this right now and it’s been a full day. I’ve had friends and family die and it hasn’t impacted me this much. I feel like a idiot saying that, how could this guy who I never even met mean that much to me? I really don’t know, but as I looked around my house and saw his influence in every corner, and as I read the stories from his friends and people who had interacted with him I couldn’t help, and can’t help thinking that we, all of us, lost something so much more than just one person yesterday. This isn’t some fanboy shit either, I have a pretty strong distaste for celebrity on all levels but this one person had such a huge impact in my life, for so much of my life, I’d be lying to myself if I didn’t admit how much I’m going to miss him.

Right now in my living room there is a Macintosh 512 on a pedestal. It’s not the one I had as a child, but I hunted for years to get one just like it. The model 128 that came out before it is “worth” more, but this one means more to me personally. I’ve had it displayed for years, not because it’s useful on any technological level, but because it’s inspiration of how far an idea can go when you really believe in it. How far you can go when you really believe in yourself. And how doing that today is of paramount importance.

Thank you Steve, thanks for everything.

I wouldn’t be who I am today without you.

Cobras and Badgers and Twitter, oh my!

Articles,Networks, Theory, and the Web — Sean Bonner @ 11:09 pm

There is something awesome happening on Twitter right now, but since as I write this there are under 300 people following this account I suspect you might be missing it. Allow me to shed some light. Here are the major players:

I’ll get to them in a second, first – the back story. Last month I blogged about this video:

Yes, that’s the Honey Badger video which if you haven’t seen it you really need to just stop right here and watch it. It’s lulz. I’ll wait… OK? Good. So now we all know that the Honey Badger not only doesn’t give a shit, but also enjoys eating cobras. Right, so skip ahead to last week when the Bronx Zoo announced that their Egyptian Cobra had escaped. While mildly scary, this isn’t quite the same as a Lion getting out or anything and they likely made the announcement and expected the story to just go away. They tweeted something to that effect:

But there was something about it that caught on and people on twitter started using the #bronxzoocobra and #bronxcobra hashtags to append their original and witty jokes. And actually I shouldn’t really consider @TheBronxZoo a player in this from here on out, as they have completely missed the boat on this and have no further contributions.

But some other imaginative character picked up that lead and ran with it. Enter @BronxZoosCobra. A snake out on the town.

Someone set up this account and is tweeting the tails of a snake checking out all that NYC has to offer. Seeing the sites. Visiting the spots. Spotting the celebs. This crazy cobra is having the time of it’s life. But let’s remember this snake is *supposed* to be locked up in the Bronx, but someone screwed up and it got out. Who screwed up you might ask? @BronxZooKeeper.

This account is full of the tweeted failures of the poor zoo keeper out trying to recapture the cobra. You can’t help but feel bad for the guy. But he’s clearly not cutting it as the cobra hasn’t been captured just yet. Maybe the keeper should follow the cobra on twitter to get an idea where it might go next?

With conventional approaches failing, the internet put on it’s collective thinking cap and called for the big guns. That’s right, @BronxZooHBadger – The Honey Badger.

I have to say, as a bystander watching all this unfold, this was the point this went from amusing to completely full of win. Whoever is behind the Honey Badger account is killing it. Well, attempting to kill it, if you know what I mean. Earlier today the cobra tweeted that it was on it’s way to Ellis Island and shortly there after the Honey Badger checked into The Statue Of Liberty on FourSquare. Of course that’s the wrong island, but that’s an A for effort regardless. And then… the drama!

The Honey Badger is obviously following the Cobra but thus far the Cobra seems oblivious to the Badger’s existence. Regardless, this is completely amusing to watch play out and a tiny news story has basically turned into an ARG (Alternate Reality Game). If you look at the replies to those accounts the engagement is insane and there are over 150,000 people already following the Cobra. Remember, this is a pretend account for a snake that no one even knew existed a week ago. I actually think the Honey Badger account is the funniest of the bunch, but the existence of the cobra’s account willed that into even happening. A company would kill for this kind of reaction to one of it’s brands, but that’s sort of the trick here – this is just fun, and exists only to give something to people who are interested, which is why people are interested. I love it.

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