Andy Carvin's Waste of Bandwidth

March 28, 2008

DC Cherry Blossoms Walking Tour

Filed under: Mobcasting,Video — Andy Carvin @ 3:17 pm

Today during my lunch break I streamed some live video over my N95 mobile phone from the Tidal Basin in Washington DC, home to the annual blossom of DC’s famous cherry blossom trees. The first video didn’t work so well – I had the video at such a high resolution the network crashed – but the second take worked like a charm. The video is about 16 minutes long, and features lots of cherry blossoms, some helicopters, and my disembodied voice talking about the history of cherry trees in DC. My wife Susanne and daughter Kayleigh even make a brief cameo – they were touring the cherry blossoms with my mother-in-law and I bumped into them near the FDR memorial. Enjoy! -andy

Andy on All Things Considered, Sunday, March 30

Filed under: Uncategorized — Andy Carvin @ 2:38 pm

Just wanted to give all of you a head’s up that I’ll be on All Things Considered this Sunday, March 30. Host Andrea Seabrook got a kick out of all of the Bit Torrent analogies we came up with yesterday, so she figured she might as well have me on air to talk about them. I don’t know the exact time I’ll be on air, but it’ll probably be in the middle of the show. It broadcasts in many places at 5pm ET on Sundays, so that would mean looking out for me between 5:20pm and 5:40pm ET, give or take. Check your local listings to see when it airs. If you can’t figure out when it’s airing locally, you can always check out the live stream offered by WAMU here in Washington DC, which also airs the show beginning at 5pm ET.
Thanks again to everyone who contributed analogies. When we recorded the segment I talked about several of them, but we’ll have to wait and see what gets edited in or out. -andy

March 27, 2008

In Search of the Perfect Bit Torrent Analogy

Filed under: Uncategorized — Andy Carvin @ 2:03 pm

So I was leaving NPR to grab some lunch and I bumped into a colleague as I was exiting the elevator. She grabbed me for a moment and asked me, “If you had to explain Bit Torrent to a five-year-old, what analogy would you use?”
Apparently, she’s working on a radio story about Bit Torrent, the peer-to-peer protocol created by my fellow TR35 alum Bram Cohen. Not that our target audience is made up of toddlers, but given how not all of them are necessarily tech-savvy, it makes sense to come up with an analogy that translates well to a broad audience.
Before we get to the analogies, here’s a quick technical overview of what Bit Torrent is. Like I just mentioned, it’s a protocol for enabling what’s known as peer-to-peer software, which means that rather than downloading a piece of content from a single source, your employ software that checks in with other users within a network who may have bits and pieces of what you’re looking for. So if what you wish to download is an hour-long video, the software checks for anyone that might have it. One person may have one section of the video, another person may have a second section, and so on. The software assembles the bits and pieces of the video from all the sources that have it, so eventually you download a complete copy of it for your own personal use. And because your computer is part of this file-sharing network, other users who seek out the same content can automatically download what you’ve assembled on your computer to their computers as well, share-and-share alike.
It’s not terribly complicated, but would the average NPR listener be able to follow all of that without saying, “Huh?” Maybe, but maybe not. And so I get grabbed outside of the elevator by a colleague searching for a good analogy.
As I walked back and forth to lunch, I came up with two potential analogies, both of which take place in a rural setting.


March 26, 2008

Coming This September: A New Baby!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Andy Carvin @ 8:44 pm

Coming Soon: A New Baby!, originally uploaded by andycarvin.

For those of you who have been wondering why Susanne has been getting sick so much over the last month that my mother-in-law has been staying with us to look after Kayleigh, I might as well spill the beans now. Susanne is pregnant again, due at the end of September!

This Monday was the beginning of her second trimester. That means she’s 13 weeks along. We’ve known for almost two months but haven’t advertised it too much given our history with difficult pregnancies. We were actually getting ready to shell out the bucks to begin IVF treatment when we found out she was pregnant. Talk about a pleasant surprise! Unfortunately, the surprise came with extreme morning sickness – so much so that Susanne lost over 15 pounds and had to be put on an IV and a medicine pump. The IV came out last month, and yesterday she removed the pump, so for the first time in six weeks, she’s now wireless and untethered. She’ll still have to take anti-nausea meds for a while longer, but the worst is over.

We’re absolutely thrilled to be expecting another baby, and the timing couldn’t be better, as we’re in the process of buying a house in Silver Spring. We just accepted the seller’s terms and are sending in a home inspector next week. If all goes well, we’ll close the deal on April 28. Our second baby, our first home – talk about a momentous year! :-) -andy

March 25, 2008

Live from the Salt Lick: BBQ and the Future of Mobcasting

Filed under: Video — Andy Carvin @ 10:19 am

I’m back in Austin, TX for a couple of days of NPR meetings, so last night I convinced my colleagues to make the 45-minute trek outside of the city to the Salt Lick, an old-time barbecue joint with some of the best BBQ in the area. While we waited for our table, I thought it would be a great occasion to break in my new Nokia N95 video phone. Using the streaming service, I was able to stream a live video as I toured the barbecue pit, watching cooks slapping briskets onto the fire and slathering them with their tangy sauce. (I also managed to let the video keep recording after I thought I hit the stop button, so the end of the video is kinda funny.) This video is an archive of the live event.
As far as I’m concerned, being able to stream live video from a mobile phone to the Internet is an absolute game-changer. I’m hoping I can get some of these phones into the hands of NPR colleagues so they can test them out in the field, but imagine the possibilities when everyday people can press a button on their phones and start broadcasting. I keep thinking of the Tibetan protests that took place against the Chinese government, or the Burmese monk protests last year. In both cases, there was a limited pool of video available, and much of it came up after the fact. Imagine if a protestor – or a whole group of them – were able to broadcast what was going on around them in real time?
It’s very much an extension of the mobcasting concept I advocated three years ago. Back then, I talked about using open source tools to allow protestors and citizen journalists to post audio and video to blogs and RSS feeds as events unfolded:

[W]ith the proliferation of video-enabled smartphones, it seems that it would be a natural progression to mobilize the millions of people who are buying these tools with an easy, no-nonsense way to capture socially-relevant footage and get it online in near-real time….
…A quick example: imagine a large protest at a political convention. During the protest, police overstep their authority and begin abusing protesters, sometimes brutally. A few journalists are covering the event, but not live. For the protestors and civil rights activists caught in the melee, the police abuses clearly need to be documented and publicized as quickly as possible. Rather than waiting for the handful of journalists to file a story on it, activists at the protest capture the event on their video phones — dozens of phones from dozens of angles. Thanks to the local 3G (or community wi-fi) network, the activists immediately podcast the footage on their blogs. The footage gets aggregated on a civil rights website thanks to the RSS feeds produced by the podcasters’ blogs. (Or perhaps they all podcast their footage directly to a centralized website, a la OneWorld TV but with an RSS twist.) This leads to coverage by bloggers throughout the blogosphere, which leads to coverage by the mainstream media, which leads to demands of accountability by the general public. That’s mobcasting.

Back then, though, we were limited to somewhat crude mobile podcasting tools like and, both of which are now defunct. Today, we’re seeing the deployment of new services that allow for near-real time audio and video posting, like Utterz and These services also incorporate social networking features that allow users to track each other’s content, comment on it, and cross-post it to various social media sites, like Twitter or Facebook. And now with Qik, near-real time becomes actual real-time. Rather than waiting for you to finish recording your content before posting it from your phone, Qik streams it with just a 5-10 second delay. That’s not so different than the delay you see in “live” broadcasts on TV news or radio.
In some ways, the term mobcasting is more appropriate than ever: groups of people using mobile phones in coordinated actions to cover an event without any easy way to censor them. It’s both exhilarating and intimidating at the same time. It’s just a matter of time before there’s another government crackdown, police beating incident, voter intimidation or other incident that authorities wouldn’t want the rest of us to see. But we will see it. Live. -andy

March 21, 2008

The Best Dog Toy Ever

Filed under: Uncategorized — Andy Carvin @ 1:46 pm

The guy who built the toy offers some background:

I built the ball machine because I thought my dog Jerry, might like it and that it would be something fun for me to build. So after two years of on and off work, with many safety features such as IR proximity sensors to protect Jerry and my son from the machine, I finally complete.
Far from being a replacement for me, I was always right there with him enjoying his fun. And with all the troubles that I went through to build the ball machine, I still end up throwing more balls than that the machine could count! According to the computer, he played with the machine by himself only 3 times in his life.
I recently put this video on YouTube to keep alive my earlier memories of him and (hopefully) provide some “humorous distractions” for anyone that might drop by.

I wonder what the cat equivalent of this toy would be like?
Hat tip – BPP and Andrew Sullivan

Man With Burger King Crown, Unassembled

Filed under: Uncategorized — Andy Carvin @ 9:45 am

Photographed on the Red Line, approaching New York Avenue heading into Washington DC.

March 20, 2008

Lessig Launches Change Congress: Political Reform a la Creative Commons and Wikipedia

Filed under: Media & Politics — Andy Carvin @ 2:42 pm

Change CongressToday at the National Press Club, Professor Lawrence Lessig launched the Change Congress project. Created in conjunction with Joe Trippi, the project intends to employ the strengths of the Internet to end the impact of PACs and lobbyists on congressional policymaking. What’s really fascinating about this initiative is that he’s taking the lessons learned from creating the Creative Commons copyright initiative and applying it to political reform in a way that’s never been done before.
In his speech, Lessig gave several examples of policy changes that should have taken place but didn’t because of the influence of money, such as combating global warming or limiting the recommended allotment of sugar in our diets. These are policies that should have been no-brainers, but industry influence upended the process. He noted that when the country’s forefathers talked about independence, it wasn’t just about independence from Britain, but independence from improper influence as well. In that sense, he argued, their goal of achieving independence has failed.
But Lessig thinks it’s still possible to remove this dependence between Congress and money once and for all. The Change Congress project will take a three-step approach to the issue.
First, he wants members of Congress and the public to go online and pledge their support for up to four different goals: no longer accepting money from lobbyists and PACs; banning earmarks; supporting public financing of campaigns; and achieving total transparency of how Congress works. Users will be able to do this in the same way you select a Creative Commons license for your website. Their website will have a form that lets you select which ones you support, and it’ll generate a code you can put on your own site. This code will contain metadata driven by the semantic Web – essentially, a collection of URLs, each defining which of the policy goals you support. (update, 4:20pm: when I wrote this paragraph, the site’s badge generator wasn’t up and running yet, but now that it is, it seems that the code generated for users doesn’t contain Semantic Web metadata yet. Update 4:37pm: I’m now told that Semantic Web metadata might be rolled into the badges very soon, possibly later this evening or tomorrow; a volunteer is working on the code and hopes they’ll use it. -ac)
Embedding this code into your website, whether you’re a policymaker, a candidate or a member of the public, will let them reach step number two: tracking who supports what. In the same way that search engines can pick up websites that employ different Creative Commons licenses, Change Congress will be able to pick up which sites support each of the four policy goals. They’ll then be able to map out where support is strongest and where it’s weakest. Then, they’ll deploy crowdsourcing, just like on Wikipedia, to get an army of volunteers delving into the details to see who’s just pledged support and who’s actually supporting the cause in measurable ways. This information, too, will be mapped for all to see and scrutinize.
Step number three will be to employ these tools for raising money. The public will be able to make small donations – even just five or 10 dollars – to candidates that share the same policy reform beliefs as they do. This will allow for grassroots fundraising to take place, not unlike Emily’s List or the Obama campaign. Taken all together, he describes his project as a “Silicon Valley approach” to policy reform.
Lessig admitted there will be naysayers, particularly those who feel there are other problems more important that reforming Congress and the flow of money. To them, he gave the example of the alcoholic. An alcoholic faces many problems – loss of family, employment, health, etc – but none of them can be solved until the underlying problem – dependence on alcohol – is addressed first. To Lessig, before we can solve all the major policy issues of our day, we must first eliminate Congress’ dependence on money and outside influence. Once this can be done, the real work of implementing important policy solutions can take place. Harnessing the power of the Web and its seemingly endless community of concerned citizens, he may just be on to something here. -andy

March 17, 2008

Email Scam Invokes NPR Benefactor Joan Kroc

Filed under: Uncategorized — Andy Carvin @ 9:20 am

I never thought I’d see an NPR reference in a so-called 419 fraud email scam, but apparently there’s now a fraud scheme making its way around that pretends to be “the Joan B. Kroc Foundation.” Kroc, you may recall, was the widow of McDonalds restaurant magnate Ray Kroc who left more than $200 million to National Public Radio in her will. The scam claims to be doling out cash to nonprofit groups. If you respond, they’ll end up demanding a hefty processing fee or even direct access to your bank accounts.
Here’s the text of the email:

03/15/2008 07:30 AM Please respond to
Subject: Your Grant.
Registered in England & Wales (No. 2826074) 15 High Street, London, NW8 7NG (UK) United Kingdom
Tel/Fax: +44 703 1935 095
Dear Sir/ Madam,
We wish to inform you that the above foundation has short-listed you for the grant of US$550,000.00 for your humanitarian/organizational activities; this grant is in recognition of your programmes and activities. Mrs. Kroc, who died on October 12, 2003, at age 75, left $1.91 billion to 10 organizations.She was the widow of Ray A. Kroc, the founder of the McDonald’s Corporation. Her gifts were: $1.5billion to the Salvation Army, in Alexandria, Va., to construct and endow up to 50 recreational and educational facilities across the United States and UK; $200 million to National Public Radio to support the network’s operating reserves and endowment; $60-million to Ronald McDonald House Charities to be distributed to its programs worldwide; $50 million to the University of Notre Dame to support the Joan B. Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies; $50-million to the University of San Diego to establish the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies at the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace & Justice; $20 million to San Diego Hospice and Palliative Care to support its programs and services; $10 million to the San Diego Opera to support artistic programming; $5 million to KPBS radio and television, in San Diego, to establish an endowment and operating reserve and create a capital-equipment fund; $5 million to the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of San Diegoto build a high school; and $500,000 to Mama’s Kitchen, a meal-delivery service in San Diego for people with AIDS. Before her death, Mrs. Kroc gave $5 million to the University of San Diego to endow a lecture series at the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace & Justice.You’re therefore requested to contact Kofi Daneils either by e-mail: or call: +233 245411574 for details and procedure to obtain your grant.
Ms Anne Brown
UK Foundation Secretary.
JOAN B. KROC FOUNDATION USA Office (Head Office):- 2435 California Ave. Seattle
Washington 98116 USA. Fax: +1 (413) 376-2751

Hat tip to Pat Aufderheide of the Center for Social Media for passing it along. -andy

March 14, 2008

Is that Tibet or Kathmandu?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Andy Carvin @ 1:18 pm

Is that Tibet or Kathmandu?, originally uploaded by andycarvin.

I just took this screenshot of the homepage. The caption for the photo seems to suggest it’s of monks protesting in remote parts of Tibet, but that totally looks like Bodnath Stupa in Kathmandu, Nepal.

Here’s a pic I took of Bodnath in 1996:
Bodnath Temple, Kathmandu
Is it just me or is the Washington Post photo just completely mislabeled?

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