Weekly output: Privacy-scare stories, phones on a plane, new new Twitter

I may have written way too much on Twitter lately–in particular, live-tweeting presentations by local startups at Tuesday’s DC Tech Meetup and then doing the same for a fascinating but hard-to-define play Thursday, “e-Geaux,” that was part faux product launch, part improv comedy and part shared social-media experience. But I also have these stories to my name for this week:

12/6/2011: Why You Keep Reading These Privacy-Scare Stories, CEA Tech Enthusiast (subscription required) CEA Digital Dialogue

I followed up last week’s Discovery News post on Carrier IQ by unpacking some of the factors behind this genre of tech coverage. First, ever-cheaper storage has allowed developers to get lazy with data–they no longer need to scrub unneeded bits from an app’s input to avoid running out of memory. Second, customers who may not necessarily understand the finer points of how software works–and don’t get a clear, plain-English explanation from the companies suspected of privacy breaches–often default to the scariest possible interpretation. (You can see much the same dynamic at work when people freak out over new terms-of-service documents written by lawyers for other lawyers.)

12/7/2011: Don’t Pull An Alec Baldwin Over Airplane Mode, Discovery News

This was one of those rare stories where throwing a celebrity’s name into a headline isn’t just a cheap way to catch a reader’s attention but also wholly relevant to the story. It also allowed me to write about a topic that fascinates me but doesn’t get into my coverage too often, aviation. (I’m one of those weirdos who is more interested in Channel 9’s availability on a United flight than whatever second-rate movie they’re offering.) For further reading, read this rejection of the phones-off rule from the Atlantic’s James Fallows, who is both an astute observer of technology and a licensed pilot–and then the three posts that followed with input from passengers, pilots, flight attendants and engineers.

12/9/2011: Twitter Redesigns Site, Apps. Yes, Again. Discovery News

I enjoy critiquing user interfaces, and Twitter’s latest redesign gave me an excellent opportunity to do just that. Overall, I’m happy to see far fewer mismatches of functionality between Twitter’s mobile apps and its Web site (for example, I no longer have to turn to my phone to see if any given user follows me, nor must I flip from phone to computer to see exactly who retweeted my latest exercise in compressed prose). But as I noted when I shared this on Google+, in one respect this change is a downgrade: It takes an extra click or two to report somebody for spam.

Updated 1/31/2012 with a non-paywalled CEA link.