Before I begin this post, I want to lay a little ground work to show where I am coming from. I have no degree in any *”ology” and these ramblings reflect only my own musings. I am an avid futurist and technologist, in particular, web technologies. I am a believer in its ability to change the future in major ways, largely for the good, as it has already done over and over.

You always know when things are changing because people are talking about that which is in flux. And we are talking now more than ever about technology, progress and in particular the web and how it integrating with our lives.

I found myself happy to hear of schools introducing the iPad to classrooms replacing heavy, expensive text books. More information on this can be found here at ipadinschools. I still think that this is a wonderful change, but it got me thinking about where we may be heading.

What will happen to the physical things? The books, CDs, photographs, newspapers etc. And in the process of replacing them, what is it that we risk losing?

Does a physical photograph mean more, and have more value than its digital counterpart? Does a physical book have more value than a book downloaded to your tablet? I think for the large part the answer is a resounding no, but occasionally it is a yes.

My family has boxes full of photographs and attics full of “stuff”, very few of these items have any real meaning other than to map out the past as a timeline represented as things. This can be achieved far better in the digital realm; and in my opinion, the digital realm provides more relevance and connection, particularly in a spatial/temporal sense.

But there is something to be said about having and holding something which has had time and craft put into it through purely physical interaction. A physical object can create the sense of a physical connection with the maker of the object. When I hold a scrapbook, made by my partner or hold a drawing done by my daughter, I know that they have held, touched and created this object and that means something; and I have yet to feel that “something” from their digital counterparts. So perhaps the first thing lost is the tactile properties of an actual object. Feeling and touching that shared object adds a level to the shared experience, as stated, the giver/sharer has also touched the object. Perhaps other elements lost are rarity and uniqueness. These elements add a great deal of value to an object, but in the digital realm, there is almost nothing which cannot be easily reproduced, either by copying it to many places or by replicating it through some digital tool. There is no risk of loss of something important with these digital objects. Almost all of us have some form of back up of our important information.

Of course, the information contained and shared is more important than how we choose to share it. Yet I do worry that, even though a piece of information shared is clearly important, we treat it with less reverence purely because of the sheer amount of information being shared with us at any one point in time. This may well be due to our lack of experience in dealing with this volume of information, and maybe it something we will become much better at over time.

However an interesting question and problem is raised: if we accept we are losing something, how do we create and share something of worth and value in a digital format? How can we impart and understand the time and effort expended to create that which is being shared? I’m not sure whether these questions are truly important, but they matter to me and I hope to some of you too.


If you have’t heard Mozilla identity labs has introduced a new way to login into sites called browserid. We have all become familiar with the “sign in with twitter” and “connect with Facebook” buttons on sites that enable us to have a centralised login to many of our favourite web services.

These centralised logins are very useful, but are ultimately controlled by a company. So into the breach steps Mozilla offering an openid type login service. Browserid is open source and you can choose to use mozilla as an authentication service or you can set up your own. I’m going to show you how to setup this service as a login and using Mozilla as the authenticator.

So assuming you have a login image with an Id attribute of “login” the following code should work in most modern browsers. I’m using jquery as the javascript framework.

$('document').ready(function (){


//this function is called in the above function
function gotVerifiedEmail(assertionObj){
//Ajax to a login controller
// do your thing
// something went wrong with ajax call
// something went wrong

So that’s the JavaScript part however we still need to verify the assertion with Mozilla. You can do this with JavaScript too. In the above code you would replace the call to your controller with
The following URL:

In my controller class I do the following in a grails app:

def browserIdLogin ={

def url = new URL(

def jsonResponse= JSON.parse(url.text)

Println jsonResponse


// this will output something like [audience:localhost:8080,, email:[email protected], status:okay, valid-until:1310908947530]

So you now you are dealing with an authentic user with authenic email address. Now you can do as you please. if this user already has an account you can load up their account details and set the session parameters etc or if they have no account you can send them to complete an account creation (if you need more details than the email address). After they complete this they can then sign in without needing to remember a password etc.

In php you could use the CURL library or open a socket etc or you could even just use


Anyway hope this is helpful. There is plenty of info on browserid and they also have example code.


I have been toying with some new ideas lately and trying to focus on how I can make tech and the web do more good, thats not to say it doesn’t already do good of course. So an idea that I struck upon while thinking about the power of location, socially connected networks and the saturation of smart devices, was
what is Well, as i hope the title suggests, this will be a tool to leverage the connected nature of our society in order to try and help find missing people within the bounds of your location.
I often hear that the first 24 hours of someone going missing are the most important. This smartphone app will try to leverage that.
so here is the scenario, a family are out on the beach or at a park or at a large public event when they suddenly notice one of their children has not come back from playing. They start to look around but do not find the child. The park/beach is large, they get worried and start asking people have they seen such and such and show them a picture. This is where I envisage coming in. In the simpelist way possible, a picture would be added to the app plus a brief description of clothes etc, the app would pick up location and post it to the server which in turn would post a notification to every registered device within the area. Any people with the app would recieve the notification and be able to view that someone had gone missing near them and so become more vigilant and aware, and hopefully someone would spot the child/person.
I think there are two difficult problems. The first is gaining app saturation, but this is more a marketing problem as i feel people will be open to downloading the app and and have it sit largely silent on their phone. The second problem is handling discovery. You don’t want a situation where you are sending parents/Concerned parties on wild goose chases. I envisage this problem will become easier to solve as saturation increases. A potential solution could be leveraging existing connections between people to create levels of trust. Also of course there is a group effect too; if several people report sighting the missing person in a location, the likelyhood of it being a hoax is relatively small. Also the device saturation level could be used: if there are only six devices in the area and one of them reports a sighting, then this is highly relevant. There are more things which will come to light, I’m sure. Got any thoughts on this? Please leave a comment or get in touch via @maleck13. I think its important to remember that the average person is good and is unlikely to want to cause a person extra distress by posting a false sighting.

© 2012 Craig Brookes Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha