Because it's our world too

Cultural Artifacts In an Impermanent Digital World

Posted by on Nov 9, 2011 in culture | 3 comments

A gentleman remembers an event which can only exist in his mind and in this archive in the form of a photograph of his deceased loved one

Does this scene mean as much to us as it does to him?

Oh Sweet Memories

Where do fond memories exist but in the minds of those whose shared experiences created them? How can one possibly convey the emotional value of those memories when words can only scratch the surface of the deeper feelings that remain so vividly in the minds of those for whom such mental pictures seem but only seconds old?

The above picture was used in a speech given by Jason Scott at Def Con 19 which was titled: Archive Team: A distributed Preservation of Service Attack.

Jason Scott represents an organization called the Archive Team, which he describes as a “rogue band of archivists, preservationists, and jerks dedicated to saving online and, in some cases, offline history.” Their mission is to come in and rescue sites that look like they are about to be shut down. The content is downloaded and archived so that it can later be accessed by anyone who wishes to do so. This is important because the memories embedded within the soon to be thrown away content has meaning to others and therefore should be saved and given acknowledgement as being carriers of emotionally valuable content. Scott reasons that they [the Archive Team] “duplicate stuff because otherwise the conversation ends.”

Jason gave a very entertaining and at the same time very emotionally moving speech about the conflicting definitions of value attributed to the content generated by and on digitally created user communities but hosted by economically interested corporations that give little or no thought to making a decision to close an online community once it is no longer economically profitable for them to keep it open. The fact that these communities can be and are created and destroyed so easily by the corporations that created them without any concern regarding the emotional value that the content represents to the users is concerning when one realizes just how much emotional value some people give to the memories generated in and shared by online communities.

A greater message embedded in the speech was that a digital object can be an emotionally meaningful item that has relevance to a culture and a world. Once people have a shared experience the memory of that experience becomes something that they then consider as being a part of their identity.
These things which were being deleted with little or no warning were not just out-dated websites but were rather collections of memories that had been generated by and thus valued by the people who were once a part of that community.
Scott describes these shared experiences as cultural artifacts, which are “objects that maintain memory, objects that are a part of us, have relevance to us, even after their initial use may be initially gone.”

Memories exist in the minds of those who experienced an event. Online communities consist of people who share collective memories from having shared experiences in time. Something they created, something they did together. This has actual meaning for the people who experienced them, much like the gentleman in the picture can see a memory of himself sitting with his now deceased loved one whereas someone who was not there at the time sees only the park bench and the background. But where do these experiences and memories exist but in the minds of those who experienced them? Once the community has been removed, the people are no longer able to convey to others the beauty that was once shared. Quoted from the speech: “how do we destroy lives, how do we destroy cultures? and the answer is this: disenfranchise, demean, delete.” The creators of the online content (the online users) are disenfranchised because they do not control the space in which they participate in and create memories. It is done on some company’s web server. It is owned by the company and so the users are out of luck if the company wants to change the rules or shut down completely. The old content is demeaned by others who do not share the same digital time-space and thus can not share the same memories. Once the company hosting the content no longer cares, the content is deleted and former users are no longer even given access to any form of record that their community had ever existed. Scott describes it as a case “where a company went speculatively into user-generated content and when they decided it wasn’t worth it anymore they got out of it; like getting into a library and then deciding the library business isn’t worth it and burning it down.”

Where’s my World PvP?

This next part of my writing may only be familiar to those who play World of Warcraft, but the idea can be translated into other online games, other environments shared with friends and foes. The forums are always full of nostalgic reminiscences of and yearning for the return of earlier days, when battlegrounds took days instead of minutes, and quests were puzzles to be figured out and not inconvenient way points on a quest-helper map.

A Screen capture from the World of Warcraft depicting world player versus player combat which some claim no longer takes place in game

remember this?

Newer players are unable to comprehend what it is that those people are longing for… they have no way to, for how do you archive memories of participation in an online game which is always changing in its purpose and in its goals? The temptation for newer players is to tell those people to shut up and deal with it. To adapt or get the heck out. But before you embark on a message post to belittle the person yearning for the good old days of “vanilla wow,” try and put yourself in their shoes. Remember a fond memory and then imagine how it must feel like to try and convey the joy it brought to you to those who have no way of knowing what it was like.

A screen capture from the World of Warcraft in which a survey of who is online reveals that I am the only one

Where'd you all go?

If you wish to learn more about the Archive team and maybe get involved yourself, feel free to visit their homepage at
Jason Scott left the following email address in his speech so if you have any questions or comments you would like to direct to him yourself:
As of November 8, 2011, the speech can be seen in its entirety on Youtube at the following URL

Daniel Millsap

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Embrace Life. Face Fear. Court Uncomfortable Situations.

Posted by on Jan 13, 2012 in Health | 0 comments

Embrace life. Face Fear. Court Uncomfortable Situations

Pain and Pleasure

I must admit that I prefer pleasure to pain, fun times to boring ones, and friends to foes. In my constant attempt to control my emotional state based on these preferences I found myself grasping for and trying my best to hold on to those “good” feelings and when situations in my life arose which I interpreted as not feeling “good” I grew frustrated and withdrawn.

Attempt to Control

It was a scary feeling to experience a perceived lack of control over my internal state, or mood. This created many problems in my life. I became hypersensitive to stimuli that I perceived as contributing to or taking away from my happy place. In allowing myself to go down this path I was giving up control in my life to the external environment. If I could not control the world then at least I could control my immediate environment. I could choose to stay inside my house rather than venture outside into the unknown. I was hiding, and it felt shitty. I longed for human contact and reminisced about times past and old friends. Why couldn’t the world be like that again?

Death Therapy

Then I realized that I would be dead someday. I saw myself laying in a coffin, a peaceful look on my face, and it came to me that with all the perceived uncertainty that I was hiding from there remained and will always remain that one certain event. There will come a time when I will no longer have a choice of whether or not to venture out into the big unknown world and try this or try that. And this feeling is liberating. Things, which once seemed very scary, now appear funny and inconsequential. The knowledge of impermanence in this life is comforting.


I admire successful people because they are tenacious. They are uninhibited by failure because they know that immediate consequences are not necessarily correlated with future consequences. I may be turned down today. I might be rejected, I might be ridiculed and laughed at, but so were many others who were on to something special.


I hereby declare that I am not afraid of the world. I am not afraid of the unknown, because I know that I will and must die, and this realization has set me free from the fear of pain. I would rather try and fail a million times than approach my dying breath lamenting time lost and chances wasted.

Embrace life. Face fear. Court uncomfortable situations.

Daniel Millsap

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The Art Of Living

Posted by on Dec 14, 2011 in Spirit | 0 comments

The Art Of Living

“The Way of the Samurai is found in death. When it comes to either/or, there is only the quick choice of death. It is not particularly difficult. Be determined and advance. To say that dying without reaching one’s aim is to die a dog’s death is the frivolous way of sophisticates. When pressed with the choice of life or death, it is not necessary to gain one’s aim.

We all want to live. And in large part we make our logic according to what we like. But not having attained our aim and continuing to live is cowardice. This is a thin dangerous line. To die without gaining one’s aim is a dog’s death and fanaticism. But there is no shame in this. This is the substance of the Way of the Samurai. If by setting one’s heart right every morning and evening, one is able to live as though his body were already dead, he gains freedom in the Way. His whole life will be without blame, and he will succeed in his calling.”


As you sit in your deathbed and gaze softly upwards, what thoughts will comfort you? Will you sigh a happy sigh as you dissolve into nothingness or will a longing sense of chances lost steal into your last moment, as you try to put your foot into the door that is closing before you.

Live your days with consciousness and purpose. Embrace death. Let it comfort you with its certainty. Allow it to counsel you in your daily decisions.

How trivial the risk seems when the end remains the same!

As I wake I should ask myself what choices shall I make today so that someday I can smile as I close my eyes and sigh the happy sigh of a life well-lived.

Daniel Millsap

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Frame It For Yourself

Posted by on Dec 13, 2011 in Social Intelligence | 0 comments

Frame It For Yourself

The way a question is posed can affect the answer given in response.

We recently replaced our broken printer, and I was in charge of getting the thing to work. I noticed a funny thing in the process, and would like to share with you my encounter with the Framing Effect.

Change The Frame, Change The Response

If you have ever installed a new device or new software for your computer, then you are probably familiar with the screen asking you to register your device, but who wants to go out of their way to find a company’s website and enter in all their personal information along with the device serial number when the expectation is that the information will just be used to send another 20 pounds of junk in the mail?

HP had a different solution. Instead of framing the question like this: “Would you like to take the time to visit our website, enter in your name and address along with the serial number of the printer you just purchased?” They framed it like this instead: “Click here to see what free rewards you may qualify for. *Device serial number will be automatically sent.”

You see, the question is the same in substance but when registration is no longer a chore but rather a chance to win something for free, people are more likely to not only go and register their device, but to do it in a damn hurry.

Can You See The Frame?

The next time you are asked a question, think about whether the question was worded the way it was for a specific reason. Have you ever seen a poll done on a major television channel with only two answer choices, neither of which you agree with? Do you think that, by giving such polls and reporting results, popular opinion can be misrepresented or even influenced?

Don’t Like The Frame? Then Change It

When you are asked a question, think about WHY the question was asked in the first place, and think about HOW the question was asked. Were you only given two choices, neither of which you agree with? If the question was fill-in-the blank, what answer would you give?

Assume that the person asking the question has very specific reasons for choosing the words to the question. Can you think of a reason WHY it was worded that way? What does the question-poser stand to gain? Better ratings? Support for legislation? Getting you to do something that you normally would not have done otherwise?

Act Now

It’s time to think for ourselves. The time is now. No one is going to take care of us. No one is going to do the thinking for us in a way that is in our best interest and not theirs. Are you ready to change?

Start Here

Daniel Millsap

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The Value of Trying

Posted by on Dec 12, 2011 in Health, Spirit | 0 comments

The Value of Trying

If you try, you may fail, but at least you give yourself a chance to succeed.

How often to we talk ourselves out of pursuing our goals before we even try to take the first step towards fulfilling those goals? What purpose does it serve to convince ourselves that it is better to not try at all and be sure of our chance of success when, by trying, the chance of success is unknown but the outcome is at least potentially positive?

Is it a Brain Thing?

What part of the brain assesses and values risk and reward, pain and pleasure, and what would cause someone to always overestimate the probability of failure and to undervalue the reward of success?
All I had to do was pick up the phone, dial a number, and ask a simple question. Sure, I could have dialed the wrong number or I could have received “no” for an answer but why should these mere possibilities have stopped me from at least trying? Was a 100% chance of not being told “no” more valuable than a 30% chance of getting to ride along in a Life Flight helicopter?

The importance of trying

I could have easily have put down the phone and picked up some magazine to read while I waited, but something in the back of my head called out and reminded me that I had always wanted to ride along with Life Flight. Rather than dismiss the thought as being boy’s dream, I picked up the phone and did what any successful person must do. I just did it.

and so should you.

Daniel Millsap | Life Flight Ride Along Houston Texas 2010

Watch on Youtube


Daniel Millsap

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Gamifying The Classroom – Using Gamification to improve learning

Posted by on Dec 9, 2011 in Education | 0 comments

Daniel Millsap | Gamification in the Classroom

Don't let the monster eat you!

Gamifying the classroom – using gamification to improve learning in the classroom

In 2004, I went to Beijing China to teach 1st grade English at YuYing Primary School. As a new teacher, I was thankful for my ability to adapt because nothing stayed the same for very long. Depending on the time of day or any one of a number of other variables, ensuring a smooth-running lesson required constant tweaking of the lesson plan in motion. Besides, I loved my kids and wanted them to have fun while learning.

One day, I decided to try an experiment. I wanted to see if I could use a little friendly competition to get things going and so, using materials already found in the classroom, I devised a method of teaching so that students disciplined themselves while maintaining a high level of motivation to learn. Using a combination of story telling and classroom props, here is what I did.

Download the PDF

For those of you unable to see the PDF on screen, download it directly from

Gamifying The Classroom – Using Gamification to improve learning by Daniel Millsap


After a year of hard work by my students and myself, I am happy to say that the results were spectacular. Watch Yuanna and Peter have a dialogue using the material they learned throughout the school year.


Daniel Millsap

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Carrier IQ – The Untold Story

Posted by on Dec 4, 2011 in technology news | 3 comments

Carrier IQ – The untold story

Carrier IQ video screenshot

what were you Googling again?

Somewhere sometime and for some reason

George had been waiting for this day to come for a long time. He had it all planned out, and as he sat motionless in a tree that was in a yard not his own, George suddenly wished that he was not quite so afraid of great heights and that it had not rained so much the night before, because he had almost slipped and fallen on his way up the tree. But it was worth it. Tonight, Stephanie would be home alone while her parents were out to dinner. “See you at 9 tonight honey and don’t forget to set the alarm. The password is 69347.” George smiled at the thought that people believed that their cell phone communications were private.

He could have found a way to get physical access to the girl’s cell phone, and he thought that it would have been a lot more fun that way. He could have knocked on the door pretending to be from the telephone company. “I am doing routine work in the area and oh by the way, do you or any of your family use a cell phone with our company?” he would say. And he knew that 99% of the time people would assume that he really was from the telephone company because of the fake uniform and so wouldn’t think twice before handing over every cell phone in the house. No not this time. He wanted to play it safe, and luckily for him, Stephanie’s cell phone already had just what he needed built in to the device by default so there was no need to install anything. It was already there and the average user would never find it because it was cleverly hidden. It loaded when she turned on the phone and there was no easy way to force it to quit. That is if she ever even knew it was there.

So his day had finally come. With his special device he put together one day, George was able to intercept any and all information going in or going out of Stephanie’s cell phone. He was even able to see what she was up to just by her using the device. What keys she pressed, what she typed, what web sites she visited, what her password was to her bank account, and most importantly now, the fact that her parents would be out to dinner until 9 pm and that the passcode for the home alarm was 69347. George was going to have fun tonight.

Carrier IQ – What took us so long to find it?

If you haven’t heard of Carrier IQ by now then you should find out about it. If, like me, you have only recently heard of Carrier IQ then apparently we are out of the loop because they have been around for a while. In fact, the first thing you will notice when watching their training video is that the copyright date is 2005-2007.

And what exactly is the company up to?

I did what any responsible information consumer would do and went to take a look at the Carrier IQ website myself.
When you head over to their overview page, you will see what it is exactly that Carrier IQ is selling.
What caught my eye was what they have to say about their Carrier IQ Insight Experience Manager.

Carrier IQ Insight Experience Manager

From the website itself:

IQ Insight Experience Manager

Boost Revenues with Improved Mobile Customer Experience

IQ Insight Experience Manager provides a level of visibility into true customer experience that was, previously unavailable in the mobile industry. Based on Carrier IQ’s leading Mobile Service Intelligence technology, IQ Insight Experience Manager uses data directly from the mobile phone itself to give a precise view of how users interact with both their phones and the services delivered through them, even if the phone is not communicating with the network.
With user experience increasingly viewed as the key differentiator between mobile providers, IQ Insight enables you to align your business improvements with the things customers truly value. Identify exactly how your customers interact with services and which ones they use. See which content they consume, even offline. Identify problems in service delivery, including the inability to connect to the service at all. This actionable intelligence enables you to focus on critical quality and customer satisfaction issues.

What are you doing CIQ?

Trevor Eckhart made a video (linked to at bottom) in which you can clearly see that CIQ is doing such things as:

  • Hiding itself – by not showing up in the applications list
  • Running whether or not you want it to – by not allowing you to disable or turn off the process.
  • Recording what numbers your press when calling someone
  • Recording, in plain text, the contents of your text messages
  • Recording, in plain text, the search terms you type into a search engine even when that search is done through your wireless connection and by using SSH.

What are you REALLY doing?

It is my opinion that the use of CIQ or any other similar software service has nothing to do with actual diagnostics that would be useful in improving the quality of service for device customers and has more to do with collecting data on user behavior for the benefit of marketers, advertisers, and the intelligence community.

That was 2005 but this is 2012

If this is what they could do in 2005, then imagine what is going on now in 2012. When a week is a lifetime in terms of technological progression, then we really need to watch over ourselves more closely because, it seems, no one else is doing that for us.

Also, expect to see developers jump in by making software that supposedly looks for, disables, and prevents this type of thing. But in the end, who is to say that the ones creating the “security software” won’t be the same ones who are violating our privacy now.

Somewhere sometime and for some reason

Imagine that you are at a protest somewhere and the city sends in the police to clear out the peaceful protesters. You reach for your phone to send instant messages of the news to your friends and on Twitter but they never receive the message because it was intercepted and deleted before they ever received it.

Learn More

Daniel Millsap


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Using Game Theory to Break the SOPA Code

Posted by on Dec 2, 2011 in technology news | 1 comment

Blog featured picture by Daniel Millsap

If then but so

My neighbor was known for his wild parties. I could never sleep at night with all the crashing noises outside as he and his friends threw empty beer bottles against the brick wall. I tried calling him but he told me that it was a free country and that I should screw off. I couldn’t think of a way to get through to him so one day I started polishing my sniper rifle in the window opposite his house, like I always do but this time with the shades wide open. And Ill be darned; he hasn’t thrown a party since.

How a Game Theorist Might Look at SOPA


Sometimes it’s impractical to pick up the phone and have a talk with the world about what you would like to accomplish, so sometimes it’s a lot easier to find alternative means of sending your message. Something that is strong enough to get your attention but subtle enough to convey what it is that can’t be said outright.

We (the government) would like the ability to immediately deny access to a website that, shall we say,”endangers public health” and worry about the little details like court orders etc later.

(5) RELIEF.—On application of the Attorney General following the commencement of an action under this section, the court may issue a temporary restraining order, a preliminary injunction, or an in-junction, in accordance with rule 65 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, against a registrant of a domain name used by the foreign infringing site or an owner or operator of the foreign infringing site or, in an action brought in rem under paragraph (2), against the foreign infringing site or a portion of such site, or the domain name used by such site, to cease and desist from undertaking any further activity as a foreign infringing site.

Now Before you object, let me tell you how we can make your life difficult if you choose not to cooperate with us.

(A) IN GENERAL.—To ensure compliance with orders issued pursuant to this section, the Attorney General may bring an action for injunctive relief—(i) against any entity served under paragraph (1) that knowingly and willfully fails to comply with the requirements of this subsection to compel such entity to comply with such requirements; or
(i) IN GENERAL.—A service provider (also Internet Search Engines, Payment Network Providers, Internet Advertising Services) shall take technically feasible and reason- able measures designed to prevent access by its subscribers located within the United States to the foreign infringing site (or portion thereof) that is subject to the order, including measures designed to prevent the domain name of the foreign infringing site (or portion thereof) from resolving to that domain name’s Internet Protocol address. Such actions shall be taken as expeditiously as possible, but in any case within 5 days after being served with a copy of the order, or within such time as the court may order.

But we don’t REALLY want to make your life more difficult. Look harder and you will see.

(ii) LIMITATIONS.—A service provider shall not be required- I) other than as directed under this subparagraph, to modify its network, software, systems, or facilities; and
C) DEFENSE.—A defendant in an action under subparagraph (A)(i) may establish an afirmative defense by showing that the defendant does not have the technical means to comply with this subsection without incurring an unreasonable economic burden, or that the order is not authorized by this subsection.

What do you say we forget the whole thing? But we will need a small favor from you. Do the job for us. It will be our little secret.

(a) REFUSAL OF SERVICE.—A service provider, payment network provider, Internet advertising service, advertiser, Internet search engine, domain name registry, or domain name registrar, acting in good faith and based on credible evidence, may stop providing or refuse to provide services to an Internet site that endangers thepublic health.
(b) IMMUNITY FROM LIABILITY.—An entity described in subsection (a), including its directors, officers, employees, or agents, that ceases or refuses to provide services under subsection (a) shall not be liable to any person under any Federal or State law for such action.


Things aren’t always as they appear to be, and many different readers may interpret things in their own special way. Sometimes, if we watch very carefully, we may observe the magician’s secret while he is busy trying to keep us fixated on his other hand waving about in the air.

Solutions and Recommendations

  • Read the bill for yourself.
  • Don’t rely on second and third-hand interpretations from your favorite website (or even mine!)
  • Don’t let others frame the issue for you because, before you know it, you will be looking at the issue in the way they want you to, which keeps you from seeing the real issue itself.
  • Resist the urge to constrain your interpretations to only a few possibilities. Make a list of questions as you read that strike you as odd or that connect from one area of knowledge to the next. Have you seen any similar patterns before?
  • Put yourself in the actors’ shoes. If you were in the shoes of each party, what would you do?

Supporting Documentation > Congress > Legislation > H.R. 3261: Stop Online Piracy Act

PDF version of SOPA I used for interpretation (mirror site)

Daniel Millsap

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