When Free Data Ain’t Free

Wired has a smart take on an idea that sounds good at first: unlimited data usage on your phone for certain apps.

T-Mobile has announced plans that allow access to Twitter, Instagram, and others for free. (Well, included with your monthly charges.)

Virgin Mobile has plans with unlimited access to just Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest for a flat monthly fee.

But like net neutrality, this bundling/unbundling (depending on how you look at it) could stifle innovation:

In [Fred] Wilson’s comparison, zero rating makes apps more like TV by effectively turning specific services into channels. Under the Sprint deal, you get the Facebook channel, the Twitter channel, and so on. To get the full-on open internet—which we used to simply call the internet—you must pay more. For Wilson, this amounts to a kind of front-end discrimination analogous to efforts to undermine net neutrality on the back-end. Some apps or services get preferential treatment, while others are left to wither through lack of equal access.

As Wilson explains, this makes zero rating an existential threat to what he sees as a period of more egalitarian access that allowed the internet economy to flourish. “There was a brief moment in the tech market from 1995 to now where anyone could simply attach a server to the internet and be in business,” Wilson writes in response to a commenter. “That moment is coming to an end.”

Read:
Free Mobile Data Plans Are Going to Crush the Startup Economy {by marcus wohlsen; wired}.

“Green” Apps: A Contradiction in Terms

Apparently green apps {epa.gov} are a thing. They may help you find recycling locations in Chicago, set up a carpool, locate the closest farmers’ market, or allow you to calculate your carbon footprint.

But one thing these apps don’t factor into their calculations is the emissions created by people simply using said apps.

Psychology Today helpfully draws our attention to this contradiction:

For all the good intentions behind the green app explosion, there’s a big contradiction in their deployment: namely, increases in green app usage—the basis of a green mobile lifestyle—inevitably increase electricity usage. And no app can address the two main forces that sustain this contradiction: the number of consumers linked to broadband mobile and landline networks continues to grow at astounding rates; and with that growth, comes increasing dependency on conventional energy production to power mobile communication.

I don’t know why Psychology Today is picking on green apps. The vast amount of energy used by our devices to access data in the cloud has been well documented {tech pundit}:

Using a [tablet or smartphone] to watch an hour of video weekly consumes annually more electricity in the remote networks than two new refrigerators use in a year.

That’s the lead story, not green apps. We’ve witnessed an app and smartphone explosion {nielsen}—period—over the past several years. To call out green apps in particular is unfair, distracting, and irrelevant.

What a movie based on your Newsfeed would look like

This week’s edition of That Ain’t Smart, That’s Creepy is devoted to a live display of creepiness.

Washington, D.C.’s Fringe Fest is hosting e-Geaux (pronounced “ego”), a live performance using the social media data of audience members.

Created collaboratively by the Pepys Inc. team, e-Geaux (beta) is an original piece that mashes up theater, improv, and data visualization into an interactive performance experience that is guaranteed to change the way you use social media.

{via npr}