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August 19, 2007

Past performance is no indicator of future success

An oft quoted maxim in the finance industry, I think it is also a hueristic we can apply to many other circumstances.

Now, in these paranoid says, I am rather loath to write anything on the issue of terror, because I still travel quite a bit both inside Australia and around the world, and it seems that you never know what you might say when and how can get misconstrued by someone somewhere, and you end up rather constrained in your travel movements.


I can't help thinking about a number of recent incidents where folks have been detained and otherwise sanctioned for photographing buildings, and other public spaces (by the way, older readers like me will remember travellers tales, apocryphal or otherise, of those travelling to places like eastern europe, the Soviet Union, China, having their cameras confiscated, and worse, for photographing planes at airports and so on - typically these tales were told to underline the point that unlike our freedom loving countries, these states were so paranoid that they got hung up on tourist snaps.)

But where on earth could this rambling exegesis be going?

Has anyone seen photosynth? Now, as any more than casual reader knows, I am a geek, and cool technology excites me. This really is one of the coolest things I have ever seen. Fullstop. It's almost impossible to adquately describe in words, so I suggest you take a look at this video - jump to about 5.40 to go or so (that's about 40% in) and just watch this.

Basically, it can take a photoset, like say from Flickr or Photobucket, and build a 3D model by analysing these photos and working out where they were taken and stitching them all together.

So, to have a 3D model of any prominent site, all you need is a photo set like those, and a copy of photsynth. And access to a computer and the net.
You don't need to visit the location, or take photos, or even go to that country.

So like much of the 'security' (5m high walls to keep APEC attendees in, no toothpaste on aircraft, Google Maps resolution of Satellite photos of Sydney suddenly becoming lower, and the like), that is supposed to keep us safe, curtailing the photography of public spaces is so much pantomime, impacting on our peaceful enjoyment of the short time alotted to us on this planet, diverting the energy and attention of those whose job it is to protect us, in what I won't argue at all are challenging times, away from genuinely threatening and dangerous behavior.

So, wait for the calls to ban services like flickr and applications like photosynth. They can't be too far off. 'All in the name of liberty'.

In the meantime, see the future of user generated content and crowd sourcing, and be inspired.

August 19, 2007 | Permalink


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not sure if you read the freakonomics blog but they just did a post on "If I were a terrorist, I would attack by..."

It was amazing to see the responses, so many people called them irresponsible and begged them to take down the post - like terrorists don't sit there brainstorming ideas all day and just chance them online and decide to blow something up.

You should check it out, I think you'll like it.

Posted by: Cheryl | Aug 19, 2007 6:26:55 PM


I have read Freakonomics for a while, but when the went from their blog to NYTs lost touch (a few weeks back).

All I can think of is "security by obscurity" - a long since repudiated mode of ensuring secuity (still however widely used, for example, "please keep your pin secret").

This seems to me like crowd sourcing anti terrorism - get lots of people thinking of all the devious things they can come up with, and then you get lots of scenarios to imagine the feasibility of, and development strategies against, where relevant.

Some time ago I used to compete in a surf lifesaving where an aspect of the competition was emegergecy scenarios, where a team of 6 had all kinds of emergency situations thrown at them - from shark attacks to electrocutions to heart attacks to lost kids. We definitely prepared for those by thinking long and hard about all the things the judges might throw at us (and of course, which 'real life' might throw at us as well.) The more we thought of the better we did. And it was great when we had thought through what we'd do in advance a more obscure possibility.

Posted by: John Allsopp | Aug 19, 2007 7:21:59 PM

Thanks for bringing Photosynth to our attention. That looks totally awesome.

Posted by: Rosemary | Aug 19, 2007 10:58:19 PM

Thanks Rosemary,

I'm hoping to have a bit more to do with it soon - say tuned


Posted by: John Allsopp | Aug 20, 2007 9:00:35 AM

Hi John

This is the other John Allsopp in the UK, you might remember I tried to get you to give me an intern position while I was studying Internet Computing a few years back, not just because then there'd be two John Allsopps in the office, but I could see you do good work.

Great link, btw.

I've got your microformats book on order too, looking forward to that :-)

Cheers, keep up the good work, and I hope to meet up with you some day :-)


Posted by: The other John Allsopp | Aug 20, 2007 7:05:32 PM

Would be a (curious) pleasure John ;-)

look forward to it


(ps on my gmail account I started receiving email for yet aother John Allsopp - whom I got in touch with - can't remember how now.)


Posted by: John Allsopp | Aug 20, 2007 7:27:06 PM

I suspect Bruce Schneier’s articles, essays and blog would be of interest to you regarding the stupidity & in-effectiveness of current security practices/methods (both on a global scale, and computer security), and for the fundamentals behind what creates effective security.

I would’ve made real links, but it appears that your comments system doesn’t support any form of mark-up that I know of. A notification stating what’s supported (or not, as the case may be) would make comment entry more usable.

Posted by: Lee Carré | Sep 19, 2007 2:43:08 AM

Hi Lee,

sorry for the fuss in commenting - that's good old typepad for you.

That would be



Thanks for the tip


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Excellent post. It was very helpful for me. if I would not read this article then I wouldn’t learn new knowledge. I just loved this post.

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