Posted by Ellen

In the awkward but sort of proud tradition of bloggers promoting cool stuff from their friends and relations, we are pleased as punch to point you to Savvy Lessons, the new venture by Ted Stein and his partners Brad Clements and Bhagwan Khalsa.

A few years back, Ted wrote some software to help Brad and Bhagwan run their music school. By logging in online, students and teachers could schedule their lessons, track invoices, and generally deal with the business side of their musical life. On the music school website, somebody who wanted to learn, say, trombone could read about various trombone teachers around town and choose one based on musical taste, recommendations and reviews, credentials, teaching philosophy, and/or location. And somebody who wanted to teach trombone could catch the eye of potential students on that same website.
In other words, this software combines a bit of advertising, even matchmaking, with the basic business operations necessary for music teachers . . . or any other service professionals–from photographers to yoga instructors, tech support to babysitters. Currently, solo entrepreneurs or small businesses who offer services to the public cannot maintain an online presence and computerize their routine business activities without purchasing multiple software products and/or hiring a programmer.
Savvy Lessons, the first offering in the new Savvy Ware line of software, scales up Brad, Bhagwan, and Ted's music-school product for a nationwide market. Music teachers anywhere in the country can be matched to interested students nearby, using a web portal that can also manage lesson scheduling, accounting, invoicing, and other business functions.
Next will come a series of similar offerings optimized for different sorts of service businesses. Savvy Tutors, for example, will help tutors market themselves to students who need tutoring; it will also support them in their pedagogy with business-management software like that used by musicians.
Down the road, there's even a plan for Savvy Plumbers. Why not?
About that trombone teacher. Savvy Lessons offers many choices, but I think I'm inclined to go with a young Baltimorean, Corey Wallace, because his experience included a season with a touring company of The Music Man. In other words, he's one of the 76 trombones for real–definitely my kind of musician. You can hear him play, even watch a video of his solo with the Brent Birckhead Quintet, right there on Savvy Lessons.
Posted by Ellen

This month's Patriot of the Month–shown above at left, with his brothers–is none other than our own Ted Stein, as proclaimed by the Bill of Rights Defense Committee.

Ted was honored for his work with the Center for Torture Accountability, an organization he founded two years ago as "a way to shame torturers and hold them accountable at a cultural level even if our government isn't holding them legally accountable."

The critical importance of a culture of accountability became evident to Ted when he learned of efforts by torture survivors in Argentina to bring stories of torture to the attention of the public, so that even when the government failed to prosecute, everyone would know that there were torturers living among them. Stories about the torturers showed up on walls all over town, and posters made the torturers' faces well known to the public at large.

It occurred to Ted that the internet could be used for similar purposes in the United States. We have torturers in midst, men and women who as part of our government, tortured thousands, likely tens of thousands, of people in the name of the fight against terrorism. We have tortured prisoners to death in some cases. Many victims of our torture have had no personal association with terrorism; they were in the wrong place at the wrong time, or were turned in by bounty-hunters. Some of them were children. Some of the acts of torture inflicted upon them are the same as actions for which we executed Nazis after World War II.

The Center for Torture Accountability attempts to make the American public understand the horror of what the government has done in our name, by ensuring that the stories of government-sponsored torture show up front and center in internet searches. The goal is to make sure that the names of torturers, and of the people who organized the American torture regime, will be forever associated in the public sphere with the deeds they did.

Torture and torturers thrive, observes Ted, in cultures of impunity; torture stops when the culture becomes one of accountability. We may wait a long time for the government to hold its torturers to legal accountability, but in the meantime all of us can begin the hard work of changing our overall culture, so that torturers are no longer accepted as good citizens or welcomed in decent society.

Posted by Ellen

The revolutions of 2011 in the Arab world have been televised all over the planet. Here in Philadelphia, I could sit on my sofa and watch in real time as hundreds of thousands of people assembled in Tahrir Square in Cairo, people who have been shut out of political life for generations, even centuries, yet who somehow knew just where to go to alert the world to their cause, and when to go there, and what to say and how to say it

The choreography behind those demonstrations, it soon became evident, was digital: tweets and texts and emails and Facebook updates.  Is new media creating a new world order? Researchers struggled to collect the tweets and analyze them semantically, in hopes of more closely apprehending the social and intellectual underpinnings of the Arab revolutions. All that was missing was an app.

Tweets, it turns out, aren't all that easy to assemble for analysis. By design, they aren't available after seven days. To do the job properly requires software optimized for twitter mining; it has to scan the twitter universe constantly in search of tweets sent to or from certain users and/or containing certain hashtags or vocabulary; the tweets identified in this way then have to be archived in a searchable database.

Ted at Inner File Software was the twitter miner of the hour. He sat down at his machine and went to work on building the world a better twitter miner. The open-source software he designed, which runs in conjunction with Drupal, a web content management system to which Ted is a contributor, is only a couple of weeks old but has already extracted and stored more than a million tweets.

Best of all, he notes: "No digital canaries were harmed in the making of this twitter mine."

I wouldn't be much of a mother, would I, if I didn't suggest that you go on ahead and check out the company Ted is building around this fantastical new tool for twitter data mining and semantic analysis? Also, the open source twitter miner project.