Guardian Activate 2011: Live coverage from New York

Nicholas Negroponte Nicholas Negroponte, founder and chairman of One Laptop Per Child Photograph: Paul Sakuma/ASSOCIATED PRESS11.30am: Adam Bly, the founder and chief executive of Seed Media Group, takes to the podium. His mission is the recognition that science can change the world, through health and energy, but also as a way of thinking.

Our pursuit is making sure there are 7 billion "scientifically-literate" people in the world, says Bly.

11.24am: "Start-up maverick development" is different than traditional development, says Shuman, because it is iterative and has a lean model.

Question Box allows people to physically ask a question to a box, then a remote human operator looks up the answer online. In Uganda, Shuman developed a call centre which answered more than 3,000 questions in just a pilot run.

Now Shuman is looking for funding partners to allow communities to run these projects themselves.

11.22am: Next we have Rose Shuman, the founder of Question Box, talking about start-up development.

About 12 years there was a "reinvention of how business is done" when companies like Google were born, but in the development world – with US Aid, and others – things stayed the same. Now, we have the "advent of development mavericks."

11.19am: People are starting to build tools with Mendeley's open API and Creative Commons license. To encourage that they offer $10,001 for the best app.

Henning cites Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the world wide web, who extolled the virtues of unlocking a vast array of knowledge sitting in scientists' computers.

11.19am: Henning's Mendeley helps researchers be more efficient. (Seriously, students, try it out – it's unbelievably useful. Like Microsoft Office crossed with existing research software. On steroids. If Office was useful.)

So far, 80m science documents have been uploaded, making Mendeley the largest research database in the world.

11.15am: About to get underway again here in New York.

Guardian Activate New York 2011 Mid-morning session at Guardian Activate New York 2011 about to get underway

Next up is the "lightning quick visionary sound bites from the brightest names on the internet". Up first: Victor Henning, the co-founder of Mendeley.

10.39am: Negroponte's one utopian wish: to take all military spending and use it all otherwise.

Fabricant: get all network operators to agree on some simple standards.

Newmark: For people to stand up for what they believe in, for as long as they live.

Lessig: To make the US a place where people can change politics, and stand up for what they believe in.

And with that, we depart for a brief break. Back in 30 minutes.

10.32am: Asked about influence of mainstream media, Craig Newmark says that Fox News still sets the agenda in US, but young people on Twitter and Facebook are finding mainstream news "increasingly irrelevant".

Newmark: "By 2020, it won't be a revolution in the media it will be a big rebalancing of power with people curating their own networks of news. That can't come soon enough."

Lessig argues that many of these people curating their own news networks don't vote. Newmark counters that once voting becomes more convenient, more people will vote.

10.25am: Question from the audience on net neutrality.

Lessig argues that in past 10 years Washington lobbyists have "completely removed" idea of unanimity around open spectrum and net neutrality. Hundreds of millions of dollars in lobbying funds has obliterated bipartisanship over the issue, he says.

10.21am: US needs to recognise that we need to "wage a war against fat cats" who unduly influence policy. It won't be politicians who wage this war, Lessig says, it will be us.

He concludes: "We have lost a democracy dependent on the people alone. The question is whether technology can activate the people to get it back".

10.19am: How can technology address this "fundamental flaw" in US democracy? "It helps show how we can join the dots, and engender root-strikers" in two ways:

1) Technology involves and engages people.

2) Technology then inspires people.

10.15am: In US congress, the influence of funders means power gets bent towards them, that then leads to a massive loss of trust among the public – 11% have confidence in our congress, said a Gallup report last year – which then disengage from politics. "And it's not just the kids," Lessig says.

He laments a "lost intention of independence" in US democracy.

10.14am: Finally, Lawrence Lessig, director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics, talking about information and democracy.

He says: "Public confidence in truth is affected by money in the wrong place. So to maintain trust, we must ensure proper dependence of government, science, whatever."

10.02am: Fabricant: the network is essentially just transmitting bits of information, but there's something bigger going on: it's shifting the dynamics of how people think about societal issues like disease.

Network is not just about pushing bits, it's about a conversation and feedback: "It's a way of transmitting behaviour." The network is the only way for feedback to exist, and that should be fundamental to what we do.

10.00am: Robert Fabricant, vice president of creative at Frog Design, says the network is getting "externalised". Talking about his experience in Zambia, where networks are also becoming "internalised" and becoming part of society: shows a woman parading her mobile phone as a sign of social status.

9.52am: Newmark describes a free press as "the immune system of a democracy". Says he'd like to create "a more hygienic" version of the free press, through fact-checking and figuring out how to get people to care about the facts. "Fact-checking is important, but we're not getting enough of it anymore."

Newmark pleads: "please stand up for what you're doing, stand up for the organisations that you believe in."

9.48am: Newmark says he's "lost patience with good intentions", and is focused on making things happen.

9.46am: Newmark helps around 100 non-profits around the world, mainly with using social media.

Six weeks ago Newmark started Craig Connects. Long term intent tis to find ways to connect everyone on planet with 10, 20 years: "I read a lot of science fiction, but I do see this thing happening."

9.44am: Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist, describes himself as the "Forrest Gump of the internet" but is under pressure to become the "Lady Gaga of the internet".

9.43am: Negroponte: Kids in Cambodia, from villages with no TV, have laptops and are still in school today as a result of that. They drop out of school because it's boring.

People ask for the proof of this project: that is when there's a school with 35% truancy and it goes to zero. "We ship 100 books in a laptop, when we send 100 into a village that means a village has 10,000 books – who had that in their childhood?" Says "paperbooks are toast", purely because you can't get them to kids around the world.

He adds: "Children do a lot more than we give them credit for, just assumption that they can't learn on their own is why education in some countries is so far behind. In Afghan, US is spending $2bn a week on the war, while spending $2m on education. For three and a half days of war, we could have every child in Afghanistan equipped with a laptop in less than a year."

9.32am: Nicholas Negroponte, founder of One Laptop per Child, asks himself one question each morning: "Is what I'm doing today that normal market forces will do? If yes, then stop doing it."

In Uruguay, every single child from five to 15 has a laptop. The most inspirational moment is when children go home and teach their parents how to read and write.

In Peru, even though not all kids have laptops, the president made an important decision to put them in remote villages – those that take two or three days to even get to. The effect of this is the opposite of economic development over the past decade: urbanisation.

One Laptop per Child has distributed 2.5m laptops around the world since its foundation.

9.27am: Rusbridger closes by hinting that the Guardian's US expansion will happen around September this year.

Emily Bell, formerly of this parish, introduces the summit's first panel: How do we create a better world though the networked world?

On stage we have: Nicholas Negroponte, the founder and chairman of One Laptop per Child; Craig Newmark, the founder of Craigslist; Robert Fabricant, the vice president of creative at Frog Design, and Lawrence Lessig, director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics.

9.15am: Alan Rusbridger, editor-in-chief of Guardian News & Media, takes to the stage. Starts by saying it's a "total accident" that the paper has fled to New York as the "claustrophobic royal nutshell" takes hold.

This summit's speakers are all digital utopians, Rusbridger says. (We'll ask Evgeny Morozov, author of the Net Delusion, later today whether he falls into that category.) "The new ecology of information is about being incredibly open."

Rusbridger's elevator pitch for the Guardian, which next months celebrates its 190th birthday? "Two words: open and mutual," he says.

9.11am: Hello and welcome to the Guardian's inaugural international Activate Summit.

For the first time, the annual jamboree featuring leading lights from the worlds of media and technology is being held in New York.

Paley Center for Media The salubrious Paley Center for Media in New York, host for the Guardian's inaugural international Activate summit

Join us as we blog live-ish from the plush Paley Center for Media, where Guardian editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger is about to take to the stage. Gracing the summit – and this liveblog – throughout the day will be:

Nicholas Negroponte, founder of the pioneering One Laptop Per Child association (both 9.15am EDT – 2pm GMT); Evgeny Morozov, author of The Net Delusion (11am EDT); Krishna Bharat, founder and head of Google News (1.10pm EDT); Katie Stanton, vice president of international strategy at Twitter (4.15pm EDT); Fred Wilson, managing partner at Twitter and Zynga investor Union Square Ventures (5.15pm EDT); Matt McAllister, director of digital strategy at Guardian Media Group (6.15pm EDT).

A full programme for the day can be found here. The hashtag for the summit is #ActivateNYC.

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That Royal Wedding: agile, fast and cloudy. And that's just the website

engagement royal wedding Prince William and Kate Middleton. We don't know which one chose Google Apps for the site hosting. Photograph: Graeme Robertson

Our first - and last? - bit of Royal Wedding arcana. We've been having a quick read of the Official Royal Wedding site (at - do you think they're planning ahead to Official Royal Wedding 2012? If so it's already been taken).

So - wedding announcement 16 November, website registered on 23 December (they work right up to at Christmas at Clarence House too).

Built by the Reading Room - which got caught in the middle of that furore over the ICO's surprisingly expensive favicon - the Official Wedding Site's terms and conditions make interesting reading, as much as anything because it shows how government (or royal) sites should be built for maximum impact at lowest cost.

Here you go: "The website was designed by Reading Room, implemented by Accenture and hosted by Google using Google Apps."

That sounds like a good example of maximum bang for buck - using Google Apps for the hosting should mean that it's robust enough if tons of people storm the site (in a positive way, obviously). Reading Room is sworn to utter silence over the building and content of the site, although we can conclude a few things about it from the setup: it must be running Python, since that's what you have to run Google Apps site in (generally).

And Margaret Manning, chief executive of Reading Room, who appeared on the Tech Weekly podcast back in March, has previously told us that the arrival of Google Apps and Amazon's S3 (outages notwithstanding) means you can mix rapid development with open source, which is a triple win: it's cheaper, it's faster and it's more robust. "Enterprises used to be nervous about agile development processes and open source, but now they are seeing the benefits," she said. "It allows very fast and efficient development - and cloud hosting for sites that may get large amounts of hits is perfect."

The wedding does offer malware authors new possibilities, security companies are warning. Here's the latest from Imperva, which conducted a rapid poll among visitors to last week's Infosecurity Europe exhibition:
• 38% of security professionals have witnessed the nuptials being used for malvertising
• 34% have seen wedding-related spam
• 20% incidents of search engine poisoning (where wedding-related results have been used to point to malicious pages).

Eset has some examples of how search engine queries can be poisoned - particularly with rogue anti-virus which pretends that your machine is rotten with malware and that what you really need to do is download something which will get rid of it. Don't - it'll only make it worse.

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How to reject an ex-lover in 50 words | Open thread

Sensitive text ... a Chinese conundrum Chinese conundrum ... There must be 50 words to rebuff an ex-lover. Photograph: Peter Parks/AFP/Getty Images

It is, perhaps, the archetypal romantic dilemma and now the subject of a school entrance exam: just how do you fend off an ex-lover with compassion in the space of a text message?

Thousands of students across the city of Shenzhen, China, were posed the conundrum in the Chinese language segment of a mock entrance exam, according to the Times. The question ran: "Xiao Jun was Xiao Hong's lover. For a variety of reasons they broke up ... If one day, a lonely Xiao Jun asked Xiao Hong whether she wanted to meet up, please write a 50-word note on behalf of the broken-hearted Xiao Hong in which she turns down Xiao Jun's advances."

The rather robotic model answer followed: "I have received your letter and, with regard your invitation, it gives me cause for hesitation. I think that our meeting could bring neither you nor myself happiness, so we had better not see each other. Thank you for your invitation."

Have you ever rejected an ex-lover? Did you do it in 50 words or fewer? Can you better this model answer?

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British firm offered spying software to Egyptian regime – documents

Egyptian security forces Egyptian security forces in action in Cairo in March. Photograph: Chris Hondros/Getty Images

A British company offered to sell a program to the Egyptian security services that experts say could infect computers, hack into web-based email and communications tools such as Skype and even take control of other groups' systems remotely, according to documents seen by the Guardian.

Two Egyptian human rights activists found the documents amid hundreds of batons and torture equipment when they broke into the headquarters of the regime's State Security Investigations service (SSI) last month.

One of the papers, in English and headed Finfisher Proposal: Commercial Offer, contained an offer dated 29 June 2010 to provide "FinSpy" software, hardware, installation and training to the SSI for €287,000 (£255,000). The name on the invoice, dated Tuesday 29 June 2010, was Gamma International UK Limited.

Other documents, written in Arabic and marked "ultimately confidential", state that after being offered a "free trial version" of Gamma's Finfisher software to test its ability to hack into email accounts, the SSI concluded it was "a high-level security system" that could get into email accounts of Hotmail, Gmail and Yahoo, as well as allowing "full control" of the computers of "targeted elements". It went on to describe the software's "success in breaking through personal accounts on Skype network, which is considered the most secure method of communication used by members of the elements of the harmful activity because it is encrypted".

The find throws a spotlight on western companies that provide software to security services and agents of oppressive regimes to spy on, censor and block the websites with which activists communicate. Last month a report by OpenNet Initiative said nine countries across the Middle East and North Africa used US and Canadian technology to impede access to online content, including sites with political, social and religious material.

Mostafa Hussein, a Cairo blogger and physician who took the documents, said they formed important evidence against the SSI's activities. "This proposal was sent to a department well known for torture, for abuse of human rights, for spying on political campaigners. This company, Gamma, should be exposed as collaborators in the crimes of trying to invade our privacy and arrest activists."

Hussein posted the documents online and passed a copy to the Guardian.

A Gamma International website called "Finfisher IT Intrusion" describes its software as allowing "remote monitoring and infection" that can provide "full access to stored information with the ability to take control of the target". It is advertised as capable of "capturing encrypted data and communications" and allowing a "government agency to remotely infect target systems".

The documents found in the SSI HQ, one dated 1 January 2011, said that the proposal from Gamma International had come via a subsidiary company, Modern Communications System. Following a "free" five-month trial, SSI described the software as like "planting a comprehensive spying system in the location where the targeted computer exists". The software could record voice and audio calls, movements through video and audio where the computer was located, and hack into all the computers in the same network.

Rick Ferguson, of internet security company Trend Micro, said: "Our position on commercial spyware is that if the monitoring is being done without the consent of the person being monitored then that would be the theft of information.

"There's certainly an ambiguity of selling that kid of technology to that type of regime. There are a lot of commercial tools to enable you to remotely monitor and manage computers but it's about how those tools are being used and whether those tools are being used covertly."

Amr Gharbeia, an activist who works at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, said the Finfisher software referred to in the proposal was "a trojan, a software you implant in someone else's device to control it and possibly get data from it. It puts you in the driver's seat so you can see someone else's email and allows also for identity fraud."

When contacted by the Guardian, Gamma International said in a statement: "Gamma International UK Limited manufactures equipment for dealing with security related threats and it supplies only to governments.

"Gamma International UK Limited has not supplied any of its Finfisher suite of products or related training etc to the Egyptian government."

Gamma said it "complies, in all its dealings, with all relevant UK legislation and regulation".

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Beyoncé sued for $100m by video game developer

Beyonce Knowles in Paris Game over ... Beyoncé Knowles faces lawsuit for pulling out of Starpower project. Photograph: Marc Piasecki/FilmMagic

An US video game developer is suing Beyoncé for more than $100m (£61m), claiming she "destroyed [its] business ... on a whim". Gate Five LLC alleges the singer "unscrupulously" scuppered plans for a game called Starpower: Beyoncé, forcing the company to sack 70 employees the week before Christmas.

According to a summons filed in New York on Tuesday (April), Beyoncé teamed up with Gate Five in June 2010, agreeing to license her image for a "lucrative joint venture". The company claims it invested $7m into the Starpower video game, which would have let players dance along with Beyoncé tunes such as Crazy in Love. But though Beyoncé "had already negotiated lavish compensation terms", the singer apparently changed her mind in mid-December, at a "crucial moment in the software's development". Gate Five's lawyers allege Beyoncé "made an extortionate demand for entirely new compensation terms". This drove away its financier, Beyoncé "pulled out", and the project collapsed.

It was, court papers declare, "a bad faith breach of contract so callous that, on what appeared to be a whim, she destroyed Gate Five's business and drove 70 people into unemployment". "The week of Christmas, she said that's it, I don't want to hear from you guys, go away," founder Grey Easley told New York magazine. Gate Five contends that even Beyoncé's father – at the time her manager – "renounced" her allegedly Scrooge-like behaviour.

Gate Five promises more unpleasant details are forthcoming, but "we'd much rather make a game than litigate", Easley said. Beyoncé has yet to respond to the allegations.

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Royal wedding street parties where you live

Where are all the royal wedding street parties going to be tomorrow? The latest data from the Local Government Association - which only covers England and Wales - shows that nearly 5,000 will be taking place across the country.

But where are they? The data shows that they are predominantly in the south: Hertfordshire will be having 298 parties, while there is only one planned in Blackpool. But if you look at the data proportionally, then Richmond upon Thames is the highest, with 45 parties per 100,000 residents.

Click on a place to find out how many parties are happening. Get the fullscreen version

This doesn't distinguish between the royalist parties and those with a more republican bent - and it doesn't cover everywhere. The data shows road closures, but where a party takes place on a cul-de-sac then you don't need permission from the council - and of course parties in parks or gardens are also not covered.

But the data is below. What can you do with it?

Road closures for parties. Click heading to sort. Download this data

Number of royal wedding road closures

• DATA: download the full spreadsheet

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Chatterbox: Thursday

Morning Everyone

Tonight is Thursday. A night I reserve for the NaN and for the Battlefield, so I will be around, using my newfound Level 50 skills to decimate the enemy.

PSN News - From Kotaku

On the company's, Patrick Seybold senior director of corporate communications writes that the PlayStation maker will be "taking steps to make our services safer and more secure than ever before."

That includes "a new system software update that will require all users to change their password once PlayStation Network is restored." Currently, PSN accounts are locked out of the system, making a change to personal information and passwords impossible.

Furthermore, Sony says it is "initiating several measures that will significantly enhance all aspects of PlayStation Network's security and your personal data, including moving our network infrastructure and data center to a new, more secure location, which is already underway."

On the safety of your personal and financial information...

The entire credit card table was encrypted and we have no evidence that credit card data was taken. The personal data table, which is a separate data set, was not encrypted, but was, of course, behind a very sophisticated security system that was breached in a malicious attack.

On the credit card details that PlayStation Network and Qriocity do and do not store...

While all credit card information stored in our systems is encrypted and there is no evidence at this time that credit card data was taken, we cannot rule out the possibility. If you have provided your credit card data through PlayStation Network or Qriocity, out of an abundance of caution we are advising you that your credit card number (excluding security code) and expiration date may have been obtained. Keep in mind, however that your credit card security code (sometimes called a CVC or CSC number) has not been obtained because we never requested it from anyone who has joined the PlayStation Network or Qriocity, and is therefore not stored anywhere in our system.

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