Marriott Wants to Block Guests’ and Exhibitors’ MiFi

This article at Boing Boing about Marriott’s petition with the FCC to be able to block personal WiFi networks on its properties is also a very informative primer on how these networks work:

Marriott is fighting for its right to block personal or mobile Wi-Fi hotspots—and claims that it’s for our own good.

The hotel chain and some others have a petition before the FCC to amend or clarify the rules that cover interference for unlicensed spectrum bands. They hope to gain the right to use network-management tools to quash Wi-Fi networks on their premises that they don’t approve of. In its view, this is necessary to ensure customer security, and to protect children.

The petition, filed in August and strewn with technical mistakes, has received a number of formally filed comments from large organizations in recent weeks. If Marriott’s petition were to succeed, we’d likely see hotels that charge guests and convention centers that charge exhibitors flipping switches to shut down any Wi-Fi not operated by the venue…

The FCC reserves all rights to the regulation of wireless spectrum to itself. Even licensed owners of spectrum—such as cellular networks—aren’t allowed to employ techniques to jam other users. Rather, they pull in enforcement from the FCC, which tracks down, shuts down, fines, and even proffers criminal charges against violators.

Marriott is asking, therefore, for a unique right: the right to police spectrum privately based on property rights. As Cisco put it in its comment, “Wi-Fi operators may not ‘deputize’ themselves to police the Part 15 radio frequency environment.”…

So far, there’s no organization representing consumers, small businesses, trade-show exhibitors, or business travellers that has submitted a comment, though a couple dozen individuals have. The affected parties are these groups. The original complaint against Marriott came from a savvy business traveller who saw what was up. Should Marriott get what it wants, we’d all have to use hotel or convention Wi-Fi; portable hotspots would fail, and our cell phones’ Wi-Fi sharing would be disabled, though USB and Bluetooth tethering would continue to work.

There’s also no representation from businesses and people adjacent to hospitality operations. If a hotel is in a city, how can it possibly protect just its own network without disabling all the dozens of networks around it without whitelisting those networks—in effect, requiring neighbors to register with them.

I’ve been involved in managing and organizing trade shows and conferences for multiple organizations and I can tell you from personal experience that the hotels and convention centers charge incredibly high rates for often spotty internet connectivity for exhibitors and guests. I’ll be interested to see if one of the organizations I belong to, the ASAE, comes out against this. Its members are people who work for associations, many of which spend a significant amount of their time and budget on trade shows and whose own members would be subject of these “jamming” techniques.

20 Tactics for Paying Better Attention

While this list of “20 Ways to Win the War Against Seeing” came out of a project a professor created for a class on product design, I think all of us could benefit from trying them. Here’s a sample:

Spot something new every day
Another student, Gaïa Orain, focused her solution on a two-block walk she made every day, and that had long since become so routine she could have sleep-strolled it. So she made a conscious effort to “see something new” every day — turning this routine walk into a kind of open-ended game.

Let a stranger lead you
Thinking about strangers reminds me of Vito Acconci’s well-known “Following Piece,” performed over a period of weeks in 1969: Daily, he would pick a random person, and follow her or him around New York. This would continue until his subject entered some space Acconci could not (a residence, for instance, or a car that promptly departs). In one case, this meant sitting through a movie when the person he was following went to the cinema. The exercise could last a few minutes, or hours, depending on what the stranger happened to do. I doubt Acconci would characterize his goals as having much to do with “paying attention,” per se, but borrowing his practice would be an adventure in seeing the new.

Misuse a Tech Tool
This has been another recurring theme. One student used a chat/dating app designed for gay men to (“obsessively”) monitor the number and locations of users within 400 feet. Another used the macro filter on her digital camera to study the textures of street objects on her walks to and from school. A third started using the compass on her iPhone to orient her gaze — wherever she walked, she’d take a look toward true north, and whatever happened to be there, “introducing a degree of randomness into what I saw.”

Assuming Positive Intent

To me one of the most important things we can do as human beings is to assume positive intent from the person we’re working with or talking to. What that means is that even if you say or do something I disagree with, I assume your intention in saying or doing it was to create some kind of positive outcome. By doing this I can look at another person’s action or words and think, “Okay, why would Jane think that was the right thing to do?” even though I might think it’s completely wrong. Rather than take it as an assault or an insult, I view it as a step towards some kind of (eventually) positive outcome.

One of the most maddening things about human beings is that we tend to see everything in black or white, right or wrong, us versus them. It’s maddening because it instantly divides us and it makes us predictable and easy to manipulate. It also prevents us from solving our society’s hard problems which all live in the gray areas, the ambiguous territory between what’s obviously right or wrong, the responsibility of not me, or you, but both of us.

All of this is nothing new – people have been like this since the dawn of time – but now we get to see these tendencies on full display on a daily basis through peoples’ new forms of interaction, namely social media. Not to put too much import on Facebook or Twitter, they are simply a new way for people to express the feelings they’ve had all along, but in the past we were limited to hearing the opinions of those we actually shared a physical space with or the limited number of people who wrote for a newspaper or broadcast on radio or TV. Now we can see or hear the opinions of people we might see in person once a decade, and their friends, and those drips of sharing turn into a flood of opinions.

Unfortunately, most people either don’t have the time or the ability to formulate nuanced or well thought out positions on the issues of the day and so they default to sharing some quote or visual that represents their opinion and helps identify them as being in the pro-this camp or con-that camp. Then they get a thumbs up from those who think like them or maybe a visceral “eff you” from someone who sees things differently.

It would be easy to dismiss this as silliness, as just people spouting off on stupid platforms intended to waste time at work, but I think that would be a mistake. When you have serious social issues like the police protests going on, any medium that is potentially contributing to the division in our society should be taken seriously. So the question becomes, are our social media channels contributing to a widening divide in our country?

Short answer: maybe, but they don’t have to. Let’s return to my original statement about assuming positive intent. Take any of the things you see on Facebook – or whatever your social media platform of choice is – that you disagree with and think to yourself, “They must be saying or sharing that because they believe something good will result. What is it?” By doing that you avoid thinking, “Man, Jon’s a moron for saying that and I know that because I’m right and he’s wrong.” The moment you pass judgment is the moment you begin to close your eyes, your windows to the world, to the possibility that there’s an alternative view you may not have considered.

Of course some people don’t have positive intent. In fact there are plenty of people who would like nothing more than to take advantage of any given situation, but you can rest assured that they will reveal themselves very quickly. You have nothing to lose by assuming positive intent and then reacting accordingly if you find otherwise, but if you don’t assume positive intent then you will never have the opportunity to learn from those who think differently than you. Remember, different doesn’t have to be wrong or right, it’s just different.

So folks, please as a favor to me, when you’re getting all hot and bothered about an issue please remember to do yourself and our society a favor – assume positive intent until proven otherwise.

We Are Journalism

Lex has a post about the state of American journalism that ends thus:

Nobody’s coming to save American journalism. Some observers have finally figured that out. And we’ve seen that right here in Greensboro, where billionaire Warren Buffett, the News & Record’s new(-ish) owner who has repeatedly professed his love for newspapers, has made it abundantly clear that he has no use for newspaper people. When the Batten family decided to get their money out of the news bidness and put the N&R and the Landmark chain’s other papers up for sale, Buffett was seen as a savior. Not so much, it has turned out.

At the front lines of journalism, reporters have to report. What’s  your best story? Give THAT to your editor, then, and forget the craven or just plain silly assignments that come down from the publisher and the executive editor and the managing editor. Your bosses might have a nose for real news, but my observation of American journalism leads me to think the odds are very much against it anymore. So, you with the laptop, you with the camera, you with the microphone, you with the blog: You’re it. You are all there is. Go get better, go do better. Because it’s you or nobody.

Another way to look at it is that the Fourth Estate is being crowd sourced. Let’s get to it people.