recent Episodes

What will we do with all this "white space"?

09/26/10 11:15 AM

There’s a vote coming up this week in Washington that will have a big impact on how you use the internet, what’s available to you, how much faster you’ll be able to get things online. On Thursday, the FCC is expected to open up unused parts of the broadcast spectrum, a lot of people call it “white space”. This is space that was positioned to be something of a buffer between television stations but such padding is proving less essential since the conversion to digital TV.

On today’s show, we talk to Glenn Fleishman from Wi-Fi Networking News and The Economist about how the spectrum works and what kind of new space we’re talking about. We also check in with Tim Wu from Columbia Law School about the companies that will look to use the space and what it all might mean for you and me as internet consumers.

Comments | Filed Under: policy government science

Can social networks help prevent the flu?

09/20/10 02:43 AM

The flu season is just around the corner. Sorry, but it’s true. Even though H1N1 isn’t creating the panic it did last year, any sensible person wants to do whatever they can to know about any outbreak and avoid it if at all possible.

Some new research may provide assistance in the effort to detect a potential epidemic before it spreads. Dr. Nicholas Christakis from Harvard University and Dr. James Fowler from the University of California at San Diego published a study last week with their findings about how the flu spreads among groups. They found that by closely tracking, well, popular people, they can see a flu coming:

The “friendship paradox,” first described in 1991, potentially offers an easy way around this. Simply put, the paradox states that, statistically, the friends of any given individual are likely more popular than the individual herself. Take a random group of people, ask each of them to name one friend, and on average the named friends will rank higher in the social web than the ones who named them.

And just as they come across gossip, trends and good ideas sooner, the people at the center of a social network are exposed to diseases earlier than those at the margins.

We talk to Christakis and Fowler about how these findings might apply to the online social networks that are so prevalent.

Also, we talk about crows who use sticks.

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The Wikipedia entry on the Iraq War in 12 handy bound volumes

09/17/10 01:02 AM

US forces in Iraq were part of a firefight in the city of Fallujah on Thursday. At least six Iraqis were killed. It was not known precisely what role the American troops were playing in the situation. Even though President Obama declared the end of combat missions, the history of the Iraq War is still being written.

And it is being written, every day, on Wikipedia. The Iraq War entry on that site is massive, thousands of edits over the years. Still, the only thing most people see is the most recent version.

James Bridle is a writer, editor, and publisher in London. He gathered together all the Wikipedia material related to the war from 2004 to 2009 and made a 12 volume set of hard bound books.

We talk to James Bridle about war, the memory of the internet, and how to make an accurate accounting on a site that’s always changing.

Also in this show, we talk to Anders Wright about Halo Reach.

Comments | Filed Under: military Web Culture manufacturing

Free public domain classical music on the way

09/16/10 06:00 AM

Soon, you’ll be given a library of classical music played by symphony orchestras for free. You can listen to it, make a movie, use it to sell stuff, whatever, it’s yours.

Why? Because this guy Aaron Dunn thought it would be a good idea.  Aaron runs an organization called Musopen, it’s dedicated to providing copyright-free music.  His plan: hire a symphony orchestra, pay them up front, release the music to everyone. He posted the project on the website Kickstarter where people can contribute to projects they want to see happen. Aaron’s goal: $11,000. So far, he’s raised more than $70,000 from both Kickstarter and outside donations that came in when people heard about it.

We talk to Aaron Dunn about where the project goes from here. We also talk to Fred Child, host of American Public Media’s Performance Today about what this means for the average music listener.

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Microsoft and political repression in Russia

09/15/10 06:00 AM

The New York Times recently reported that Russian authorities were raiding the offices of protest groups under the premise of checking for unlicensed Windows software. They’d seize computers, haul them away, attempting to silence those groups.

Microsoft has been fighting software piracy for some time. They say 41 percent of software worldwide is pirated, resulting in 750 Billion dollars of lost revenue for the software industry.

But Microsoft was quick to issue a response to these Russian raids, announcing Monday that non-governmental organizations or NGOs in Russia would be issued a blanket license, making all the software they run legal. It’s a variation of their software donation program.

Microsoft’s move raises some new questions. If a dissident group in Russia can stake a claim to free software, can a group in France or Libya or Mexico or the United States do the same? And more broadly, what kind of political position taking might Microsoft be forced to take going forward?

We talk to Sharon Pian Chan, who covers the northwest-based Microsoft for the Seattle Times. And we check in with James Lewis, Senior Fellow and Director of the Technology and Public Policy Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

We contacted Microsoft for this story. They declined to be interviewed but they pointed us to a blog post from their chief counsel outlining their position and their plans.

Plus, comedian Paul F. Tompkins joins us to talk about a new way to cheat in Angry Birds. He’s angry about it. He is not a bird.

Comments | Filed Under: law government policy business microsoft

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Future Tense becomes Marketplace Tech Report

09/17/10 06:12 PM

Hi everyone. John Moe here. Starting Monday, September 20th, Future Tense will be going by the name Marketplace Tech Report.

Producer Larissa Anderson and I have been working closely with the folks at Marketplace ever since we took over Future Tense in May. It’s worked out great. We’ve helped them, they’ve helped us, and together we’ll find more stories you’ll want to hear. Basically, we loved Marketplace so much we married them. And kind of took their name too. Is it creepy to compare two radio shows to a married couple? Sorry about that.

As part of the Marketplace portfolio of programs (along with Marketplace, Marketplace Morning Report, and Marketplace Money), Marketplace Tech Report will keep bringing you stories that explain news and trends and technology and what it all means to you. We’ll be moving to a new simpler URL:, which will go live over the weekend. We’ll be bringing our entire archive of past shows and blog posts with us but in the meantime, we’re leaving up so you can access the show archives from there as well.

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