Out of Scope January 2010

Fantastic Facebook Facts
If you?re a sucker for stats, here are some Facebook highlights.

Amin Vahdat, a professor in Computer Science and Engineering at University of California San Diego, writes a blog called ?Idle Process.? He recently had the opportunity to host a talk by Jeff Rothschild, vice president of technology at Facebook. The presentation was called, ?High Performance at Massive Scale: Lessons Learned at Facebook.?

If you?re a sucker for stats, here are some of the highlights jotted down by Vahdat during the talk?it?s amazing stuff. Facebook is the No. 2 property on the Internet, as measured by the time users spend on the site. It runs about 30,000 servers (the bulk acting as Web servers) and gets more than 200 billion monthly page views. Facebook processes 3.9 trillion feed actions per day, stores 20 billion photos in four resolutions, handles 2 billion to 3 billion new uploaded photos every month and serves 600,000 photos every second (serving them is more difficult than storing them, it seems). It had originally provisioned photo storage for six months, but blew through available storage in 1 1/2 weeks. And that?s just the beginning.

If you want to hear the whole lecture to really get a feel for how Facebook does what it does, go to http://cns.ucsd.edu/lecturearchive09.shtml#Roth.

Take Me to Your Lawyer
Now that robots are moving into businesses and homes, there is a growing concern about robot ethics.

Had any trouble with robots lately?

According to an article on SFGate.com, while crazed robots running amok used to be the stuff of science fiction, some Stanford professors are starting to think about the possible legal implications of said crazed behavior. Robots are leaving the factories and moving into homes and businesses, explains the article, so there is going to be increasing interaction between regular people?that would be us?and smarter, increasingly mobile machines.

M. Ryan Calo, a residential fellow at the Stanford Center for Internet and Society, suggests that more contact always means more problems, and the U.S. legal system had better be prepared. ?These are devices that don?t have a pre-determined usage; they?re not toasters,? says Calo. ?There?s a growing concern now about robot ethics, but what?s missing from those discussions is pragmatic lawyers thinking about what?s going to happen in the future.?

The concern, in short, is that while these machines may not be intelligent, they are becoming more and more autonomous, so who?s going to be blamed when robot hell breaks loose? There?s no easy answer, even among the best futurist and legal minds in the country, so add this to the things you can worry about before falling asleep. Of course, one wag on the discussion board came up with the best solution so far: ?That?s simple: Robot Lawyers.? Now, if we can just tell them from the real thing.

Don?t Tell a Person, TelePresence
People will soon be able to telecommute in hotels when they?re traveling.

As you read this, are you in a ?normal? office environment?that is, did you go to work in the same building as your co-workers?or are you in your pajamas or an old sweatshirt working from your home office? If it?s the latter, you are not alone. You are telecommuting, and, according to a recent release from Tata Communications, you?ll soon be able to telecommute while you?re traveling. Huh?

Well, let me explain. Tata recently announced a partnership with Starwood Hotels that will allow it to make managed Cisco TelePresence rooms available as an option to its customers. The Tata/Starwood connection enables ?business travelers … to use Tata?s public Cisco TelePresence Suites to have an ?in-person? meeting experience? over the network.

Ergo, telecommuting while on the road is now possible. Pajamas optional.