Filter looks at the day's top technology news through snapshots and analysis of what the world's media outlets are covering. Washingtonpost.com's new Mon.-Fri. feature is penned by technology reporter Cynthia L. Webb. If a technology story breaks, a company falters or triumphs, or there's a new trend in technology, Filter wants you to know about it.
While Microsoft battles boardroom blues and those quaint European notions of how to do business, it also is pondering the results of one of the most unusual focus groups ever assembled: "The meeting attended Friday afternoon by Microsoft Corp. Group Vice President Jeff Raikes was, in some ways, like many others. A group from outside the company presented Raikes and his team of executives with a series of suggestions, including one for a new product, and promised to follow up with a formal proposal outlining how they might work together in the future," the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported. "But this was no ordinary meeting. The people making the presentation were 15 university students from around the world, brought by Microsoft to the Redmond campus for a week. Microsoft assembled the group, dubbed the Information Worker Board of the Future, to help it get a better sense for how the workplace might evolve during the next decade -- and how the company's products might need to evolve during the same time frame, as people now in their late teens and early 20s enter the professional work force."
The students came from 14 countries. One was this contrarian from Norway, who apparently got into quite a debate with Raikes: "I think the mindset that you're showing now is exactly what is the problem," Oyvind Kildal Stangnes, a 24-year-old business student told Raikes, the PI reported. "We don't need more features; we don't need more tools. We just need them to work. We just need to be able to operate them. And we need everyone to be able to do that." Here's betting that Oyvind's chutzpah gets him a few job offers from the Linux community...
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer: Microsoft Notebook: Bringing together a worldwide vision
Tell Her You Were With Me
You know, one of the best thing about cell phones is that you can lie your butt off and get away with it. Consider this example from a New York Times story that ought to ring true to everyone from white liars to bold fabricators: "Cellphones are chock-full of features like built-in cameras, personalized ring tones and text messaging. They also gave a real boost to Kenny Hall's effort to cheat on his girlfriend. Mr. Hall, a 20-year-old college student in Denver, decided in March to spend a weekend in nearby Boulder with another woman. He turned to his cellphone for help, sending out a text message to hundreds of other cellphone users in an 'alibi and excuse club,' a network of 3,400 strangers who help each other skip work, get out of dates or give a loved one the slip."
This is a big trend, the Times reported: "Cellphones are usually used to help people keep track of each other and stay in easy contact. But they are also starting to take on quite a different function -- helping users hide their whereabouts, create alibis and generally excuse their bad behavior."
Oh, and you don't have to make silly noises by contorting your tongue and your teeth into strange positions: "Phones can be equipped to play, at the press of a button, the sounds of honking horns, ambulance sirens or a dentist's drill. An employee who is actually sitting at the beach might be able to call his boss, play the blaring tones of a traffic jam, and explain why it has been impossible to get to work on time." Also check out the Times's mini-sociology study on the "us vs. them" nature of wireless phones.
The New York Times: For Liars and Loafers, Cellphones Offer an Alibi (Registration required)
The New York Times: I Want to Be Alone. Please Call Me. (Registration required)
How the ex-Nazi Got Your E-Mail Address
You might have been wondering how spammer Davis Wolfgang Hawke -- 25 and reportedly fresh out of his career as white power provocateur -- got your e-mail address so he could send you all those penile enlargement pitches. As it turns out, he's one of the people who bought the 92-million-strong America Online e-mail subscriber list from AOL software engineer Jason Smathers. Smathers, as The Washington Post reported, sold the list to a buddy for $100,000. The list then quickly wormed its way through the spammer community. And Hawke, as it turns out, might have been the quisling who ratted out Smathers to the feds, the New York Daily News reported. "Hawke's mother, Peggy Greenbaum, 58, of Medfield, Mass., said that didn't sound like her son, whom she calls Britt, his given name. He changed his name when he was 18. 'Britt would not ever tell on somebody,' she said. 'That's about the only honorable thing about him.'" Aw, mom!
New York Daily News: Spam Nazi's place on the food chain
Cindy Webb is off today. She will return on Tuesday.
Filter is designed for hard-core techies, news junkies and technology professionals alike. Have suggestions, cool links or interesting tales to share? Send your tips and feedback to cindyDOTwebbATwashingtonpost.com.