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Monday, September 16, 2013

Outburst Highlights Conundrum for Twitter

One of Twitter’s greatest values, which its investors are hoping to capitalize on soon, is as a real-time global bullhorn that lets users make their voices heard about anything under the sun.

But that open bullhorn can also become a platform for all kinds of trash talk, including racist and sexist screeds.

The latest effusion of disparaging comments came late Sunday night after the crowning of Nina Davuluri as Miss America 2014. Twitter exploded with rants about Ms. Davuluri. Ms. Davuluri, a Syracuse, N.Y., native born to Indian immigrant parents, was wrongly described as Muslim, Arab, Egyptian and blamed for terror attacks.

Typical of the kind of tweet was this one: “Congratulations Al-Qaeda. Our Miss America is one of you,” said a user with the Twitter handle Blayne_MkItRain. (The account no longer exists.)

Twitter is no stranger to this sort of commentary. Far more pointed abuse was lobbed at a woman who had campaigned in August to get Jane Austen on a British banknote. The woman, Caroline Criado-Perez, received a barrage of rape threats. It led to a petition on change.org. “Abuse on Twitter is common; sadly too common,” the petition read. “And it frequently goes ignored.”

The petition quickly gathered 140,000 signatures and pushed Twitter to announce a new way to report abusive posts: a button that allows users to flag individual tweets they find abusive.

The people who targeted Ms. Criado-Perez led Twitter’s manager for the United Kingdom, Tony Wang, to issue a personal apology on his Twitter feed. In early September, he resigned.

Twitter has long distinguished itself from other social networks for letting its users speak freely. Its chief executive, Dick Costolo, once called the service “the free speech wing of the free speech party.”

That motto has brought Twitter under occasional criticism and legal battles, and it may prove even harder to live up to after the company’s coming stock sale. Balancing its free speech principles with its need to watch its bottom line is likely to be one of Twitter’s major challenges, and how the company behaves is likely to have ramifications for other online platforms.

The issue has come into sharp focus in France, where the company agreed in July to identify several users who posted anti-Semitic comments on its service, and whom French authorities sought to prosecute for violating that country’s anti-hate laws. In this country, the Anti-Defamation League in particular has criticized Twitter for not policing hate speech on its platform.

Naturally, Ms. Davuluri took to Twitter too, but did not take on her detractors directly. “Overjoyed by the amazing response & support from so many people across the U.S.! I’m so proud to be your new #GirlNextDoor!”

Meanwhile, a Tumblr account that called itself “public shaming” compiled Twitter posts that labeled her a terrorist and a Muslim.

The #MissAmerica contretemps proved Twitter to be as effective a platform for retorts as rants. Hari Kondabulu, an Indian American comedian, wrote:

Google Buys Bump, Maker of Apps for Sharing Photos and Files

Remember 2008, when people at conferences and cocktail parties would bump their phones together to exchange digital business cards? Ever wondered what happened to that app, called Bump?

On Monday, Bump announced that it was acquired by Google.

Bump, despite raising $20 million from high-profile venture capital firms like Sequoia Capital and Andreessen Horowitz, struggled to find its footing. Google paid about $40 million for it, two people who had been briefed on the sale said. The companies did not disclose the price.

It reinvented itself several times, as a tool for exchanging business cards, then a social network, then a file-sharing service. Recently, it added a photo-sharing app called Flock. It also licensed its technology to other developers, who used it for things like exchanging money or sexual compatibility information by bumping phones.

Bump’s latest versions had a characteristic Google has been chasing: simplicity of design and function, despite complex algorithms.

Bump’s app for exchanging information gathered signals from phones and sent them to its servers, where it matched them with other phones sending similar signals. Flock uses location technology and algorithms to determine that a group of friends is taking photographs at the same place and invite each friend to contribute photos to a joint album.

The acquisition occurred just after Apple announced a wireless file-sharing tool, AirDrop, as part of the new iPhone software, and Bump’s technology could interest the Android team. Its Flock photo app seems like a natural fit with Google Plus, which has been trying to distinguish itself as a more advanced photo-sharing service.

Google declined to say what it planned to do with Bump, issuing only this statement: “The Bump team has demonstrated a strong ability to quickly build and develop products that users love, and we think they’ll be a great fit at Google.”

In a blog post, David Lieb, Bump’s co-founder and chief executive, hinted that its apps might not continue to exist in their current form at Google. “Bump and Flock will continue to work as they always have for now; stay tuned for future updates,” he wrote.

The sale could have been a way for Google to buy some experienced engineers and for Bump to figure out a future for itself.

“We strive to create experiences that feel like magic, enabled behind the scene with innovations in math, data processing, and algorithms,” Mr. Lieb wrote. “So we couldn’t be more thrilled to join Google, a company that shares our belief.”

Russia’s Foreign Minister Still Claims Chemical Attack in Syria Was ‘Fabricated’

Russia’s foreign minister continued to insist that the deadly chemical attack outside Damascus on Aug. 21 “was clearly fabricated” by rebels intent on provoking Western intervention, even as he met with his American counterpart in Geneva last weekend to hammer out a deal to take Syria’s chemical weapons out of the hands of President Bashar al-Assad’s generals.

Speaking to Russian state television on Saturday in Geneva, Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov presented the framework agreement on Syrian chemical weapons signed that day as a response not to a mass killing by the Assad government but as a way to prevent Syria’s stockpiles of poison gas from falling into the hands of jihadist rebels.

Mr. Lavrov claimed that Russian investigators had established that “militants” were behind a number of previous chemical attacks in Syria, according to a translation of his remarks published on Monday by the Moscow news agency Interfax.

Making only vague reference to “lots of evidence delivered by independent experts onsite,” including “a nun from a local convent” and unnamed “eyewitnesses and Western reporters,” the foreign minister went on to say that the Aug. 21 rocket attack with sarin gas on rebel-held areas outside Damascus had been staged. This was borne out, he said, by “European and U.S. experts, including 12 retired officers of the Pentagon and the C.I.A., who sent an open letter to President Barack Obama to explain how the case had been falsified.”

Mr. Lavrov appeared to be referring to the letter published this month by the American group Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity. While the group’s letter did suggest that “a false-flag attack” was “possible,” the former intelligence professionals presented no evidence that the gas attack had been carried out by the rebels. Instead, they, too, made only vague reference to “a growing body of evidence from numerous sources in the Middle East” making what they called “a strong circumstantial case that the Aug. 21 chemical incident was a pre-planned provocation by the Syrian opposition and its Saudi and Turkish supporters.”

This lack of specific evidence, however, did not prevent the Russian government news network RT, or Russia Today, from presenting an interview with one of the men who signed the letter, the former C.I.A. analyst Ray McGovern, under the headline, “C.I.A. Fabricated Evidence to Lure U.S. Into War With Syria.”

An interview with a former C.I.A. analyst broadcast last week on the Russian government news network RT, or Russia Today.

Late last month, Mr. Lavrov argued at a news conference that one of several “reasons to doubt the rebel narrative” was the claim “in some blogs” that video clips showing victims of poison gas “had been posted on the Internet hours before the chemical attack against the opposition forces was announced.”

As The Lede explained in a post debunking that conspiracy theory, however, that claim was made by pro-Assad bloggers who were confused about which time zone is used by YouTube to assign dates to video clips uploaded from Syria to the company’s California servers. The United Nations report published on Monday said that rockets loaded with poison gas had struck the outskirts of Damascus in the early morning on Aug. 21. Video uploaded to YouTube at any time before 10 a.m. local time in Syria that day would have been automatically assigned the date in California at that time, Aug. 20.

Daily Report: Twitter I.P.O. May Set Stage for Resurgence in Tech Offerings

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Full Text of U.N. Report on Chemical Attack in Syria

As our colleagues Rick Gladstone and Nick Cumming-Bruce report, rockets armed with the banned chemical nerve agent sarin were used in an Aug. 21 mass killing near Damascus, United Nations chemical weapons inspectors reported Monday.

Here is the complete text of the U.N. report. (Readers can click on the icon at the lower right of the document viewer to read the text in full-screen mode.)

Writing on Twitter, Peter Bouckaert of Human Rights Watch noted that details in the report on the type of rockets used in these attacks seemed to confirm key findings in the independent investigation of the attacks carried out by his organization, which noted that “these are weapon systems known and documented to be only in the possession of, and used by, Syrian government armed forces.”

Live Updates From Washington Navy Yard Shootings

A witness describes seeing a gunman at the Washington Navy Yard.

As our colleague Michael D. Shear reports, at least 10 people were shot at the Washington Navy Yard. Several people were killed. At least three people are being treated at area hospitals for gunshot wounds, including a police officer. A suspect was shot and killed at the scene and police officials said two more potential suspects have not been found.

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12:47 P.M. Obama Calls for Investigation into Navy Yard Shooting

President Obama, who had been scheduled to give a speech on the economy, called for a “seamless” investigation into the shooting to make sure whomever carried out the “cowardly act” is held responsible.

“We are confronting yet another mass shooting, and today it happened on a military installation in our nation’s capital,” he said.

Referring to the employees at the facility and the foreign experience many have had, he said: “Today they face the unimaginable violence that they would not have expected here at home”.

“Obviously we are going to be investigating, as we do so many of these shootings, sadly” and look for ways to do “everything we can to prevent them.”

12:13 P.M. D.C. Police Chief Says There May Be Two More Gunmen

Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier said that multiple people were shot and killed at the scene. She said one suspect is dead and there are “potentially” two other gunmen who have not been found.

“We have multiple victims inside who are deceased,” she said. She said a Metropolitan Police officer was among those injured. “We have one shooter we believe involved in this who is deceased,” she said. “We potentially have two other shooters that have not been located at this point.”

Chief Lanier described the other potential shooters: She said one was a white man, last seen at 8:35 a.m., wearing a tan military uniform with a beret, and carrying a handgun. She said the other potential shooter was a black male in his 50s with a “long gun” wearing an olive-drab military-style uniform. “We have no information to believe,” she said, that either of them were military personnel.

12:10 P.M. Video of a Witness Describing the Shooting
A witness describes seeing a gunman at the Washington Navy Yard. Via The Associated Press.
11:56 A.M. Navy Secretary Offers Condolences to Victims’ Families
11:50 A.M. Navy Provides Contact Info for Family Members
11:45 A.M. Three People, Including Police Officer, at Hospital

Janis M. Orlowski, chief medical officer at MedStar Washington Hospital Center, said that three people, including a Metropolitan Police officer, were being treated for gunshot wounds and were in critical condition.

Dr. Orlowski said the injured included a woman with a gunshot wound to the head, a woman who was shot in the shoulder and a man who is a Metropolitan Police officer who was shot multiple times in the legs. She said the victims were able to communicate and would survive their injuries.

“We have three individuals and we were told to expect more,” Dr. Orlowski said.

She also said she received reports of individuals who have died at the scene. “We understand that there are individuals at the scene who will not be transported because they are deceased,” she said.

11:21 A.M. Reagan Airport Resumes Flights

After the Federal Aviation Administration ordered a ground stop at Ronald Reagan National Airport from 8:30 to 10 a.m., flights have resumed but residual delays are reported.

11:16 A.M. Schools in the Area are on Lockdown

Multiple schools in the area are on lockdown.

11:11 A.M. Live Video From the Scene

Live video from the scene via WJLA-TV, the ABC News affiliate in Washington.

11:09 A.M. Family Members Can Reunite at Nationals Park
10:54 A.M. U.S. Navy Officials Confirm Fatalities in Shooting

The United States Navy confirmed several people have been injured and more than one person has died in a shooting inside the Naval Sea Systems Command Headquarters Building at the Washington Navy Yard in southeast Washington. Shots were first reported at 8:20 a.m. The most recent official release from the Navy.

An active shooter was reported inside the Naval Sea Systems Command Headquarters building (Bldg. 197) on the Washington Navy Yard at 8:20 a.m. (Eastern Time).

Emergency personnel remain on scene and a “shelter in place” order has been issued for Navy Yard personnel.

The Naval Sea Systems Command’s headquarters is the work place for about 3,000 people.

The organization is comprised of command staff, headquarters directorates, affiliated Program Executive Offices (PEOs) and numerous field activities. Together, we engineer, build, buy and maintain ships, submarines and combat systems that meet the Fleet’s current and future operational requirements.

Today’s Scuttlebot: Tracking Your E-ZPass Toll Transmitter, and Zynga’s Tale of Woe

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The iPhone 5C and the Allure of Shownership

When Apple introduced its less expensive version of the iPhone last week, many techies and tech followers â€" including me â€" groaned and poked fun at the shiny, toy-like designs. To me, the candy-colored bodies looked like a cheap marketing gimmick, a lazy throwback to iBook laptops from a decade or so ago. It seemed like too big of a diversion from the minimalistic, streamlined look that has become the norm for Apple’s current line of hardware products.

But a chance encounter with a stranger this weekend made me rethink my original position.

I walked into a sleepy Italian cafe to order takeout for lunch. After paying, I sat down to wait and pulled out my iPhone to respond to some text messages. The young cashier who rang me up watched wistfully. “I want an iPhone â€" I’m so sick of this thing,” she said, waving around a big gleaming boat of a Samsung device. “Really?,” I said, attention sharpened, going into reporter mode. She had minor complaints about the Android operating system, but mainly, she said, she just liked the way iPhones looked. I told her the new iPhones were going on sale in a few days and her eyes lit up and she nodded and said she wanted one of the color ones.

I told her that I’d been eyeing the gold one myself, even though I already had a perfectly good phone right now. She said the gold and silver ones looked nice, but that they weren’t flashy enough for her. Most people wouldn’t be able to immediately tell it was the gold one just by looking at it, she said.

“I want people to know that this is a new phone,” she said.

The interaction made me wonder if my knee-jerk reaction to the C-series phones was too hasty.

One of the iPhone’s biggest strengths has always been its branding and aura as a luxury item, a device that lends its owner an unparalleled level of cool and chic. Having the newest iPhone or iPad was an even stronger symbol of status. It is something that rival hardware makers have struggled to emulate and a reputation that could potentially be damaged with the introduction of a cheaper device, as my colleague Brian X. Chen reported last week.

But as the iPhone evolved from the third-generation 3GS model to the fourth and fifth, something interesting started to happen. It was virtually impossible to tell the devices apart. At a glance, the iPhone 4, 4S and 5 are practically identical.

Of course, that is partly because the current iteration of the iPhone is pretty good â€" and Apple doesn’t seem to see the need to improve on it very much, as Matt Buchanan over at The New Yorker wrote last week.

But perhaps Apple is starting to realize that even if they don’t need to make significant changes to their flagship phone, they still need to sate the desire of their buying base, who want to show off their phone hardware as much as they do a new pair of fall boots or a new handbag. Originally, that was the iPhone itself, then the introduction of the app store and the plethora of cool games and services you could demo to your friends. But the iPhone 5C, which is only marginally better than its predecessors, are designed to make people feel good about buying what is essentially an old phone, repackaged in colorful plastic. The psychology of the new, in other words. Because for better or worse, Apple isn’t just about ownership â€" it’s about shownership, and inspiring desire and jealousy in those around you that you’ve got the latest device.

Of course, this is just one story, just one take and one anecdote among thousands of possible anecdotes about the future of Apple and the iPhone. But its one that I will continue to mull over in the days before the next iPhone goes on sale.

A Bahraini Activist’s Message From Prison

Zainab al-Khawaja, an opposition activist in Bahrain who charted the uprising in the country on her @AngryArabiya Twitter feed until she was detained this year, has sent an audio message to her supporters from prison.

The audio recording was passed on to The Times by Ms. Khawaja’s sister, Maryam al-Khawaja, who is in exile. In it, Zainab al-Khawaja recites what she says is one of her father’s favorite poems and dedicates it to “to the brave people of Bahrain who I miss greatly, and to all freedom-loving people of the world.” Ms. Khawaja’s father, Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, is also in prison, serving a life sentence for charges of plotting to overthrow the government.

An audio message from Zainab al-Khawaja, a jailed Bahraini activist.

Speaking first in Arabic and then in English, she recites the verses: “If one day, the people desire to live, then fate will answer their calls, and the night will begin to fade away, and their chains to break and fall.”

Ms. Khawaja is serving a yearlong prison sentence for her involvement in a pro-democracy uprising that began in February 2011 and has been met with brute force by the ruling monarchy, which is dominated by Bahrain’s minority Sunni Muslim community.

With the world’s eyes trained on Syria, the steady drumbeat of repression has carried on in Bahrain, which has American and British security advisers. The monarchy in Bahrain has responded to continued demands for reform with tear gas, beatings and handcuffs. At least 87 people have died at the hands of government security forces since the uprising began, and thousands of protesters have been detained, according to the Bahrain Center for Human Rights. Reports of torture are commonplace. For their part, the protesters, who initially staged peaceful demonstrations, have become more violent as conditions on the streets deteriorated.

Ms. Khawaja, an outspoken critic of Bahrain’s monarchy on social media and on the streets, described her determination to continue protesting despite the risks in a Skype interview with The Lede in December 2011. Two weeks later, after The Times published a video report featuring Ms. Khawaja’s conversation with Nicholas Kristof, an Op-Ed columnist who visited the kingdom, she was arrested in an episode that was caught on video by opposition activists.

Video showing the arrest of Zainab al-Khawaja, an activist and blogger, in Bahrain’s capital, Manama, on Dec. 15, 2011.

She was ultimately released pending trial, but was detained again this February and has spent the last six months in prison. The charges against her range from “inciting hatred against the regime” to “insulting a public official” and will keep her behind bars until next February. The Bahrain Center for Human Rights, a rights group founded by her father, has complained about Ms. Khawaja’s conditions in prison, noting that she has been incarcerated alongside people infected with hepatitis A and B, and has not received a vaccination.

Retailers Fight Exile From Gmail In-Boxes

Retailers Fight Exile From Gmail In-Boxes

Even in an age of Twitter posts and Instagram photos, e-mail is still the way marketers reach the hearts â€" and wallets â€" of consumers. And that is why retailers are up in arms about Google’s latest tweak to Gmail.

Mary Morgan, of Arlington, Va., says she likes a new Gmail feature separating some classes of e-mail out of her primary in-box and into their own folders.

Pam Bullock, of Kettering, Ohio, says she tires of retailers’ anxiety over the change.

Over the summer, the Internet behemoth gradually introduced a new in-box with an assortment of folders for different types of messages, including a main in-box and ones for social networking alerts, e-commerce promotions, updates from businesses like banks and mailing-list messages.

For Google, it’s another moneymaking avenue (note the ads that look like e-mails that now appear at the top of the promotions folder). Also, the company says it wants to fix e-mail overload.

Yet any tiny change that the Internet giant makes has cascading effects for businesses across the Web.

“I don’t like it,” said Ada Polla, chief executive of Alchimie Forever, a skin care brand. “My guess would be that you might log on to your Gmail 20 times a day, and look at promotions once a week.”

Retailers, who have a love-hate relationship with Google, say this is the latest tussle in an increasingly contentious union. Google, they say, has effectively classified their messages as junk mail by shunting them to an in-box ghetto.

It is too early to tell exactly how Gmail users treat the new tabs, because Google is still rolling out the feature. Although retailers fear that fewer customers are clicking on their sites â€" because they didn’t read the e-mail promising 40 percent off â€" so far, there has been only a small effect. The rate at which consumers open e-commerce e-mails has declined about 1 percent since it was introduced, according to three services that manage mass e-mails â€" Yesmail Interactive, MailChimp and 3DCart.

Another change, though, might be more worrisome for e-commerce companies. While shoppers typically click on promotions within hours of receiving an e-mail on other services like Yahoo and Outlook, Gmail users are waiting more than 24 hours, 3DCart said.

That is problematic for flash-sale sites, like Gilt and MyHabit, whose business depends on drawing customers to limited-time sales.

“One of our limitations is we’re a flash site that starts our sales at noon, so that’s the primary way that we communicate with our members, through e-mail,” said Elizabeth Francis, Gilt’s chief marketing officer.

Retailers also say the changes don’t apply to every business; Google’s own marketing messages from Google Analytics and AdWords have been appearing in the primary in-box â€" belying the company’s argument that the promotions folder is vibrant.

But Alex Gawley, a Gmail product manager, said that there was “no special treatment” for Google’s own promotional e-mails, and that the algorithm was still learning how e-mails should be categorized.

“You’ll see it get more and more accurate and you’ll probably see those types of e-mails moving to the place where people expect them to be,” he said.

Companies, including Gap and Groupon, are resisting the changes by begging customers to move their messages back to the primary in-box. Gilt has been putting banners atop daily e-mails that say, “Drag and drop me into your Primary tab!” If people do that, future e-mails from the same sender will appear there. Gmail users can also turn off the sorting by changing their in-box settings.

Gilt does not know whether its campaign is working, Ms. Francis said, because Google does not disclose how customers move their e-mail around.

Retailers have little choice but to use Google, whether buying search ads or sending inventory feeds to Google’s comparison shopping service. But they complain that Google has been complicating the relationship. Last year, for instance, it began charging retailers to appear in its product search, leading some, including Amazon, to remove their listings from the service.

The change to Gmail, though, strikes at the heart of retailers’ marketing tactics. Eighty percent of marketers are investing more in e-mail this year than last, according to a study by Forrester Research and Shop.org. And with nearly half a billion users, Gmail is a major part of that strategy.

Although Google is also filtering other messages into secondary in-boxes, like sending Twitter and LinkedIn notifications to the social tab, retailers say they have the most to lose.

E-mail marketing is vital to her business, Ms. Polla said; She, too, has urged customers to move Alchimie’s e-mails back to the primary in-box.

“I worked so hard to get it, I want to make sure that I’m able to utilize it,” she said of her e-mail subscription list.

A version of this article appears in print on September 16, 2013, on page B1 of the New York edition with the headline: Retailers Fight Exile from Gmail In-Boxes.

When Tech Turns Nouns Into Verbs

We’re remaking the world so quickly that our language is breaking down.

Think about the phone you carry. You talk with people on it, but you can also open apps and transform it into a camera or chess board. As much as you talk on it, you use its Internet browser. In total daily usage, your phone is mostly pinging cellphone towers and Wi-Fi antennas, informing phone service providers, digital map makers and retailers of where you are.

Whatever this object is, it isn’t a phone in any conventional sense. And that may be a clue to a whole new way of thinking about the world around us.

The phone is a little connected computer â€" a device whose uses and meaning we continually explore and modify. It is by no means a phone in the historical sense. It is still a physical object, of course, but it is really a vehicle for one or another software-enabled experience. In an important sense, it is made to be contingent, changing with every download and update. That focus on the needs-driven experience means it behaves less like a static noun and more like an active verb.

This is becoming a commonplace across our connected world. Google’s Internet-connected Chromebook laptops are checked for possible updates to the machine every time their browsers hook into the cloud. Google has also announced more powerful apps for the Chrome browser, so normal laptops will have syncing and updates just as phones do. Tesla automobiles regularly receive software updates to improve performance, including not just things in the engine but what appears on a driver’s screen.

At home, Nest thermostats download bug fixes and upload information about how our homes are heated. Music systems from Sonos and Jawbone do something similar with music. While Jawbone makes physical products, its executives describe their business as fundamentally a software company.

Even amateurs get into the act: Since 2009 Canon Hack Development has been adding features to a SureShot camera, including not just a motion detector, but games like Tetris and Sudoku. Like “phones,” cameras have not historically been associated with being game boards.

In the near future, cameras, cars and other things will also be marketing devices, industry executives say, as their makers use the connectivity to put ads in front of us.

The ability to deeply read and reconfigure objects benefits the makers of these objects. Within a few weeks Apple will update millions of older iPhones with a new operating system, iOS 7, primed to receive a new range of Apple experiences â€" and products. Google won’t say how many Chromebooks have been sold (though numbers are probably small, this week Intel showed new models from Hewlett-Packard, Acer, Asus, and Toshiba) but knows exactly how many are in use at any time.

“We track how many people are using them on a seven-day basis,” said Caesar Sengupta, vice president of product management for Chromebooks. “It is a much more personalized computer, by having it cloud based.”

This software-vivified world also puts us in an entirely different relationship with our machines. You may own a Jawbone device, but you are licensing its software. Check the mandatory box to use it, and you agree to give Jawbone personal and usage information to “law enforcement authorities, government officials, and third parties” (whoever they are) with no sense they’ll need a warrant or will tell you about it. Many other companies have similar policies over the fate and function of your stuff.

There are other worries, including security concerns. Many of the newly enlivened devices rely on just a few operating systems, like Google’s Android or Wind River’s VxWorks. That’s great for manufacturers, but also for hackers who are interested in looking at and manipulating the data in our devices.

“It gives attackers a great economy of scale,” said Brian Foster, chief technical officer of Damballa, a company that does corporate malware detection. “Objects aren’t hacked until there’s value in doing it, and now there is a rapid increase in crimeware.”

Meanwhile, curious changes are ahead. What will it mean to live in a world where any device, even perhaps a hammer or a lamp, is potentially a two-way object, perpetually concerned with optimizing itself with me? How strange will it be to have an expectation that the things around me are always changing and looking at me?

That lamp, which is after all a kind of projector, could presumably push out the occasional logo if it senses I’m reading something. The hammer, if costs were cheap enough, could measure how hard I’m hitting something, and reach conclusions about my aging wrist. The way a phone is a map, or a camera is a game, every object is on its way to being contingent, capable of turning into something else.

If you feel an existential twitch while contemplating a world where intelligence is everywhere and no definition lasts, that’s probably good. What could be more human than wanting to be seen while not wanting to be snooped on, or wanting to connect while wanting to be autonomous? Or for that matter, living in a world where ideas about ourselves keep changing, albeit at a much, much slower pace than we are used to now.

This is another example of how the habits of technology are affecting all of our world. Already technologies like cloud computing have changed architecture, and virtualization has changed the structure of taxi and hotel businesses. Now the relationship of the network and its nodes, initially phones and now so much else, is moving across more than we can imagine.

Vaclav Havel Refused 1991 Nobel Peace Prize Nomination, Says Daw Aung San Suu Kyi

Vaclav Havel, the former Czech president whose potent critique of communist rule helped foment revolutions that brought down the Berlin Wall, never won the Nobel Peace Prize, a source of disappointment to his legion of ardent supporters who felt he deserved the prize given his outsize contribution to recent history.

On late Sunday, Mr. Havel’s legacy was further burnished when Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said at a conference in Prague that Mr. Havel had refused the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize nomination and proposed her, instead, according to Czech media reports and several people attending the conference. Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi, the Myanmar opposition leader who was jailed by the military for the better part of two decades, praised Mr. Havel for the support he had given the Burmese opposition during the period when the military junta brutally ruled the country.

She said Mr. Havel had given her the “flame of hope” during Myanmar’s darkest hours and that his writings had provided solace during long years of detention. Mr. Havel died in late 2011 at the age of 75.

The Norwegian Nobel Institute in Oslo, which oversees the Nobel Peace Prize, declined to comment Monday, saying that deliberations over nominations for the prize were confidential for 50 years after any nomination was made. Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 - while under house arrest for her peaceful struggle against the military dictatorship.

“When I received his books, I read them avidly to find out how I too could survive the years of struggle as he survived,” she said at the Forum 2000, an international conference Mr. Havel helped found. “I understood the ultimate freedom was to live in truth,” she said, alluding to Mr. Havel’s mantra. “When I was under house arrest I knew that here was a man speaking for me. He made me feel free.”

A charismatic man with a flair for self-deprecation, Mr. Havel spent five years in and out of communist prisons, endured decades of police surveillance, and had his many plays and essays suppressed. He led the Velvet Revolution that overthrew communism in Czechoslovakia in 1989 and served 14 years as president. All the while, he became a potent symbol in the West for the struggle against authoritarianism in communist Eastern and Central Europe.

Unlike Mikhail Gorbachev, and Lech Walesa of Poland, who were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their role in bringing down the Soviet Empire, Mr. Havel never won the prize - a source of regret for his legion of supporters, some of whom have lobbied for him to be awarded the prize posthumously.

Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi was in many ways a fellow traveler to Mr. Havel. A prisoner of conscience and advocate of Gandhian passive resistance, she helped found Burma’s opposition National League for Democracy in 1988. She refused the military junta’s offer of freedom in return for emigrating and was put under house arrest in 1989. Now 68, she recently indicated she would like to be president of Myanmar.

For years the organizers of Forum 2000 had left an empty chair for Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi. Those in attendance at her speech on Sunday included Norman L. Eisen, the United States ambassador to the Czech Republic; Tomas Sedlacek, Mr. Havel’s former economic adviser, and Karel Schwarzenberg, the former foreign minister, who ran Mr. Havel’s office during part of the time he was president.

Mr. Sedlacek, the former Havel adviser, said Mr. Havel had never mentioned that he had turned down the nomination.

“Nobody in the country ever knew this,” he said. “It is heartening that a woman of such high moral stature, who is herself a Nobel Peace Prize winner, recognized Havel’s role in this way.”