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Cameras or Cops?

As funds from the federal Homeland Security Department flow into city coffers to pay for surveillance cameras and fusion centers where data miners working for the police can track people’s movements, one civil libertarian asks — again — if it’s worth it.

Carol Rose, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, cites reports that credit the arrest of the recent would-be Times Square bomber to vigilant citizens and traditional police work, not New York City’s network of 3,000 surveillance cameras. She argues that the story demonstrates that community-based cops, not cameras, keep us safe — without diminishing civil liberties.

However, the government is moving in the opposite direction. “While local communities are being starved for public funding, the federal Department of Homeland Security and related federal agencies are investing in a domestic surveillance model of policing rather than in traditional community-based policing,” Rose writes.

Related story: What's on Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Sorenson's bookshelf?

She points to Britain as an example. Police there have installed one camera for every 15 residents, and people are seen by an average of 300 cameras a day. However, a review of the system revealed that it has done little to reduce crime.

Getting Public Input on Technology Projects
Source: The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars

A new report states that the United States should take a cue from the Europeans and encourage nontechnical types to weigh in on the government's science and technology endeavors by using Participatory Technology Assessment (pTA).

The new-age moniker notwithstanding, the report states that 18 European technology agencies are flourishing with the help of pTA, which goes beyond expert input to take into account the views of lay people.

Richard Sclove, the report's author, said various university groups and nonprofit organizations have already proved pTA's usefulness in the United States. He is pushing for the creation of a nationwide network that will incorporate the approach.

In the past, that kind of public participation was next to impossible. But the Internet and social media have made most of those barriers disappear.

The Steve Jobs Approach to PowerPoint
Source: Bnet

Most PowerPoint presentations are boring and ineffective because "we create them not to convey crucial information but rather to help us ease our uncomfortableness with public speaking," writes Sean Silverthorne on Bnet's "The View from Harvard Business" blog.

"The key to using PowerPoint, Keynote or any other presentation technology effectively is to use it to complement your talk and drive home key points, not to serve as the main event," he adds. And he advises readers to learn from a master: Apple Computer's Steve Jobs.

Pointing readers to a video of Jobs' introduction of the iPad earlier this year, Silverthorne emphasizes his use of color, space, images and special effects in the accompanying slide presentation. And he offers a five-question filter readers can use to gauge the effectiveness of their own presentations, including asking whether you've "minimized bullet lists, distracting effects and eye charts."


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