Policy

Bye bye, Instagram

I deleted my Instagram account today due to their new overreaching terms of service that essentially promise to violate my copyright in any photos posted to the service.

The NY Times Bits Technology blog has a good summary of the new terms and their impact on customers, so I won't repeat the detailed analysis here, but it boils down to essentially these huge privacy red-flags:

  1. Instagram can share information about its users with outside affiliates and advertisers
  2. Instagram can use your photos in advertising and promotions without your consent
  3. If you want to opt-out, your only option is to delete your account

Thanks, I went ahead and just did that.

In terms of mobile photo-editing on my smartphone or tablet device I've long preferred using SnapSeed anyway, because it has tons more powerful and customizable features.

For more blog coverage on the new Instagram terms see Techmeme…

Electronic health records, HL7, and XML data mapping

The recent appointment of Kathleen Sebelius as Secretary for Health and Human Services yesterday marks another important step in President Obama's drive for health-care reform. As the President has stated numerous times, including during his recent Address to Joint Session of Congress, his goals for health-care reform very clearly include electronic health records:

"Our recovery plan will invest in electronic health records and new technology that will reduce errors, bring down costs, ensure privacy, and save lives."

In essence, electronic health records directly translates to the HL7 family of standards and it is, therefore, important for software developers to be able to integrate HL7 data in their applications swiftly and efficiently. No other tool makes this easier to accomplish and more affordable to do than Altova MapForce.

MapForce is a data mapping and conversion tool that now supports HL7 v2.x EDI standards as well as the new HL7 v3.x XML-based standards and allows a developer to easily map data between HL7 and various other data sources, including relational databases, XML, web services, and even plain text files from legacy systems. Specifically, MapForce makes it easy to map data from an HL7 electronic health record into an in-house relational database.

Specifically, you can now download the MapForce HL7 Installer, which is free for all licensed MapForce customers, and includes all HL7 EDI message formats in various versions so that you can pick and choose the exact transaction and message structure for electronic health records that you need to implement in your organization:

And the best thing about MapForce: once a mapping between any HL7 message and your internal data structures and/or datbases is defined visually in the intuitive user interface, MapForce will auto-generate all the necessary program code in Java or C# that implements this data mapping, so that this code can be integrated into your in-house applications with ease. By doing that, MapForce eliminates the need to write hundreds or thousands of lines of infra-structure code that would otherwise be cumbersome to write, error-prone, and a nightmare to debug.

Using MapForce to auto-generate that data integration code can result in huge cost-savings and improved efficiency, which is critical in today's tough economic environment!

In addition to HL7, MapForce does, of course, also support the ANSI X12 transactions required for HIPAA compliance, so it can be used for all aspects of electronic health-care reform.

For more information, see also this article on HL7 Data Integration on the official Altova Blog.

Inbox Zero

This is a bit off-topic and might even be old news for some, but I recently stumbled across this video of a great e-mail productivity enhancing talk titled "Inbox Zero" by Merlin Mann. For further information, see his series of blog postings on the same topic on 43folders.com.

This very closely reflects my personal policy of dealing with e-mail, with the main difference being that once I'm done processing a message, I archive my e-mail into a variety of hierarchical folders instead of just one big archive folder - primarily for easier retrieval from a mobile device.

Another productivity tip for e-mail: keep your replies short and sweet. Maybe as short as five.sentenc.es? I haven't managed to adopt that one yet...

Smoke gets in your eyes...

You know, it's really strange: it has only been a little over 6 years since we relocated from Europe to the US, and yet certain customs over here are by now totally alien to me. For example, take smoking: I cannot remember the last time that I was bothered by smoking in the US (not even in Las Vegas last week). Today I met with Alexander Schaelss, an old friend of mine, at a Kaffeehaus (i.e. cafe) and we later went to have dinner at a Beisl (i.e. local restaurant) in the first district. The amazing thing was that both in the cafe and at the restaurant people at the next table were smoking numerous cigarettes and it was totally acceptable to everybody. Never mind that I found it offensive and it impacted my enjoyment of the Einspaenner (i.e. a strong black coffee with whipped cream on top) or the Schweinsbraten (i.e. pork roast)...
I hear that in Italy that have already passed a law (similar to the US) banning smoking in public places, offices, and restaurants. I can't wait for that to happen in Austria, too!

Update: it appears that our discussion yesterday has inspired my dear friend - Alexander Schaelss is now on Twitter, too.