80 points

June 7th, 2012

How much would you like to bet that within the next five years some junior minister – be they Conservative, Liberal Democrat or Labour – will be announcing that they want to explore the possibility of introducing a 'voluntary' system modelled after the one currently being adopted by China's domestic equivalent of Twitter to deal with antisocial behaviour online:

Sina Weibo users each will now receive 80 points to begin with, and this can be boosted to a full 100 points by those who provide their official government-issued identification numbers (like Social Security numbers in the U.S.) and link to a cellphone account.

Spreading falsehoods will lead to deductions in points, among other penalties. Spreading an untruth to 100 other users will result in a deduction of two points. Spreading it to 100-1,000 other users will result in a deduction of five points, as well as a week's suspension of the account. Spreading it to more than 1,000 other users will result in a deduction of 10 points, as well as a 15-day suspension of the account.

Once the point total falls below 60, the user is flagged as "low-credit." A loss of all points will result in an account's closure.

Be sure to read the full linked article, so you can understand how slippery the concept of a 'falsehood' is.1

[Via The Null Device]

  1. For the record, I'm slightly leery of the notion of linking to a 'news source' whose most-read story at the moment is Vampire Skeletons Discovered In Bulgaria With Iron Rods Pierced Through Chests – it's like the Daily Mail's Sidebar of Shame crossed with the Huffington Post! However, the story has been doing the rounds over the last few days and it seems that the basic facts are indeed as related in the article I've linked to.

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OAuth is your future

May 14th, 2012

OAuth is your future. What a cheerful thought.

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April 26th, 2012

Text-Only Instagram serves as a sort of companion piece to yesterday's Descriptive Camera, Descriptive Friends post.

[Via jwz]

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Descriptive Camera, Descriptive Friends

April 25th, 2012

The Descriptive Camera takes what the concept of metadata about images to a new level, making use of cameras and Amazon's Mechanical Turk:

As we amass an incredible amount of photos, it becomes increasingly difficult to manage our collections. Imagine if descriptive metadata about each photo could be appended to the image on the fly – information about who is in each photo, what they're doing, and their environment could become incredibly useful in being able to search, filter, and cross-reference our photo collections. Of course, we don't yet have the technology that makes this a practical proposition, but the Descriptive Camera explores these possibilities. […]

Having said that, isn't at least some part of the Descriptive Camera's functionality being undertaken – albeit for very different reasons – by Facebook users who go round tagging one another's photos? Isn't every Facebook 'friend' potentially a stand-in in for the Mechanical Turk, busily identifying who's who in their friends' photographs?

[Via kottke.org]

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He did it!

March 4th, 2012

Tristan Louis has a confession to make:

I killed the internet.

It wasn't some thing I had planned but it was the net result of my actions. And I'm going to explain how it happened. […]

[Via James Fallows]

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Cyberflâneurs revisited

February 8th, 2012

Evgeny Morozov laments The Death of the Cyberflâneur:

THE other day, while I was rummaging through a stack of oldish articles on the future of the Internet, an obscure little essay from 1998 – published, of all places, on a Web site called Ceramics Today – caught my eye. Celebrating the rise of the "cyberflâneur," it painted a bright digital future, brimming with playfulness, intrigue and serendipity, that awaited this mysterious online type. This vision of tomorrow seemed all but inevitable at a time when "what the city and the street were to the Flâneur, the Internet and the Superhighway have become to the Cyberflâneur."

Intrigued, I set out to discover what happened to the cyberflâneur. While I quickly found other contemporaneous commentators who believed that flânerie would flourish online, the sad state of today's Internet suggests that they couldn't have been more wrong. Cyberflâneurs are few and far between, while the very practice of cyberflânerie seems at odds with the world of social media. What went wrong? And should we worry? […]

Morozov's argument is that most web users these days aren't going online to see if there's anything interesting out there today: they're shopping, or seeking out news headlines, or engaging with one another via walled gardens1 like Facebook.

He's not wrong that this is a description of how people choose to use the web, but I don't think that's necessarily a problem, any more than it's a problem that a lot of people who use public libraries will be engaging in a goal-oriented search for books that can improve their chances of passing an exam/finding a job/understanding what sort of optical aids they'll need if they want to see the Galilean moons of Jupiter, rather than browsing the New Fiction shelves for something to divert them from their daily routine. I suspect than most of the people walking the streets of late 19th century Paris weren't flâneurs, any more than most web users in 2001 wrote weblogs. The beauty of the web is that it lets us find and connect with other people who share our interests without letting that fact that 99.754% of web users aren't even slightly geeky about the same things as you and I get in our way, or theirs.

It's possible that one day Facebook's gravitational pull will cause us all to close down our vanity domains and start posting to our Facebook walls, but I'm sceptical that'll come to pass any time soon.

[Via Fimoculous.com]

  1. That's not the best metaphor, I suppose. Facebook isn't so much setting up walls as turnstiles – making it easy for information to come into Facebook from services that embrace Facebook's system of 'frictionless sharing', but hoping that their users will be so comfortable that they won't worry too much about what's going on outside.

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This is where I pee…

January 12th, 2012

Social media explained.

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Crisp v Apple Retail

November 12th, 2011

Remember when Apple made TV adverts styling themselves as opponents of Big Brother. Judging by a recent Employment Tribunal finding, that stance is inoperative:

Crisp, who worked in an Apple Store, posted derogatory statements on Facebook about Apple and its products. The posts were made on a "private" Facebook page and outside of working hours. One of his colleagues, who happened to be a Facebook "friend", saw the comments, printed the posts and passed them to the store manager. Crisp was subsequently dismissed for gross misconduct.

The employment tribunal rejected Crisp's claim for unfair dismissal. […]

Despite having "private" Facebook settings, the tribunal decided that there was nothing to prevent friends from copying and passing on Crisp's comments, so he was unable to rely on the right to privacy contained in Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (covered in the UK by the Human Rights Act 1998). He retained his right to freedom of expression under Article 10, but Apple successfully argued that it was justified and proportionate to limit this right in order to protect its commercial reputation against potentially damaging posts.

I'm not saying that the tribunal's findings are wrong in law: apparently Apple Retail's 'social media policy' emphasised that employees were forbidden from posting unfavourable opinions on the company's products on social media sites, so on the face of it the ex-employee was in breach of this policy.

My problem is threefold:

  1. With the tribunal, for apparently holding that even though the employee used Facebook's privacy controls to restrict access to his comments the fact that someone could have copied-and-pasted the text of those comments negated his right to privacy.1 By that logic, if he'd been talking to a couple of friends in a pub or in his home, the fact that one of his pals could have surreptitiously recorded his comments using their smartphone renders those comments public too. This is a terribly bad idea.
  2. With Apple Retail, for trying to gag their employees outside working hours. I don't doubt that their social media policy bans derogatory comments from employees. I just think that a) they shouldn't be trying to control what employees do when they're not at work, and b) they need to distinguish between genuinely public expressions of dissatisfaction and private letting-off of steam.
  3. With the little shit who ratted on his 'friend'2 to his Apple Store bosses.

[Via The Register, via Risks Digest Volume 26: Issue 60]

  1. I'd be more well-disposed towards the finding if they'd held that Facebook's policy of frequently expanding the boundaries of what portions of a user's content is publicly available means that a Facebook user couldn't be sure how long private postings would remain private!
  2. Yet another demonstration of how unsuited that term is to the way social networking actually works.

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Not Social. Not a Graph.

November 10th, 2011

Maciej Cegłowski's The Social Graph is Neither has been linked to far and wide, and with good reason:

There's no way to take a time-out from our social life and describe it to a computer without social consequences. At the very least, the fact that I have an exquisitely maintained and categorized contact list telegraphs the fact that I'm the kind of schlub who would spend hours gardening a contact list, instead of going out and being an awesome guy. The social graph wants to turn us back into third graders, laboriously spelling out just who is our fifth-best-friend. But there's a reason we stopped doing that kind of thing in third grade!

You might almost think that the whole scheme had been cooked up by a bunch of hyperintelligent but hopelessly socially naive people, and you would not be wrong. Asking computer nerds to design social software is a little bit like hiring a Mormon bartender. Our industry abounds in people for whom social interaction has always been more of a puzzle to be reverse-engineered than a good time to be had, and the result is these vaguely Martian protocols.

How good is this essay? Right up there with Argentina On Two Steaks A Day.

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Hero and villain

October 26th, 2011

Assange versus Zuckerberg.

[Via Ghost in the Machine]

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This Blog Post: D-

October 17th, 2011

Jotly cares about you:

Your life is exciting and worth sharing: everything with everyone! Everyone cares about everything you do. Now you can rate your entire life and share the experience.

Fortunately, this is just a spoof. Let's just hope it doesn't give anyone any bright ideas…1

[Via Subtraction.com]

  1. Who am I kidding? As you read this, there are half a dozen wannabe Zuckerbergs watching the Jotly video and hoping that their service is going to make it to market before someone else sews up the rate-everything market.

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We're all nude and available

October 15th, 2011

Evgeny Morozov finds Jeff Jarvis' latest paean to the wonders of the internet deeply flawed, and rather unserious:

Why are we so obsessed with privacy? Jarvis blames rapacious privacy advocates – "there is money to be made in privacy" – who are paid to mislead the "netizens," that amorphous elite of cosmopolitan Internet users whom Jarvis regularly volunteers to represent in Davos. On Jarvis's scale of evil, privacy advocates fall between Qaddafi's African mercenaries and greedy investment bankers. All they do is "howl, cry foul, sharpen arrows, get angry, get rankled, are incredulous, are concerned, watch, and fret." Reading Jarvis, you would think that Privacy International (full-time staff: three) is a terrifying behemoth next to Google (lobbying expenses in 2010: $5.2 million).

"Privacy should not be our only concern," Jarvis declares. "Privacy has its advocates. So must publicness." He compiles a long and somewhat tedious list of the many benefits of "publicness": "builds relationships," "disarms strangers," "enables collaboration," "unleashes the wisdom (and generosity) of the crowd," "defuses the myth of perfection," "neutralizes stigmas," "grants immortality … or at least credit," "organizes us," and even "protects us." Much of this is self-evident. Do we really need to peek inside the world of Internet commerce to grasp that anyone entering into the simplest of human relationships surrenders a modicum of privacy? But Jarvis has mastered the art of transforming the most trivial observations into empty business maxims.

Contrary to Jarvis' protestations, Morozov's review doesn't read to me as a personal attack – more a clinical, brutal dismantling of a collection of shallow cliches in support of the argument that we shouldn't worry about the way pretty much every commercial entity we deal with online seeks to hoover up as much personal information about our use of the internet as it can because the (somewhat nebulous) benefits outweigh the potential problems. So long as you respect your cultural norms, you'll be fine.

[Via The Awl]

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She'd know.

September 22nd, 2011

Best. @Reply. Ever?.

[Via @davepell]

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Evolve or die.

September 22nd, 2011

Jason Scott found a Facebook exchange that neatly encapsulates the pros and cons of the latest round of changes to the way Facebook operates.

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August 24th, 2011

My Facebook Purity Test score: 98.

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Save our social media!

August 13th, 2011

If you're in the UK, please consider signing the Open Rights Group's Save our social media! petition:

The Government is focusing on entirely the wrong problem in trying to increase their powers to ban, block or monitor people's communications. Social networks like Twitter are used for a huge array of positive purposes such as warnings of danger and organising clean up projects. Blanket surveillance measures of private communications or increased powers to mine users data would undermine people's freedom to communicate in very damaging ways, and would in no way address the problems at hand. Making laws in haste, with limited analysis and information, to deal with an exceptional problem is likely to create unbalanced laws and abuses of our rights.

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August 13th, 2011

Noted for future use:

[Context: a comment thread inspired by David Cameron's argument in favour of controlling the type of discussions taking place via social media.]

12 August 2011 4:14PM

12 August 2011 2:51PM

"If you've got nothing to hide then you have nothing to fear"

So glad to hear that, now I'd like your full name, address, date of birth, make and model of car you drive, all telephone numbers mobile and landline, name of employer, email address, annual income (gross and net), and of course I'd also like to know what your daily schedule is and what times you estimate being out of the house this weekend. Come on now, if you've nothing to hide then you've nothing to fear. Please post this information publicly, or are you up to something?

Oh and please post your internet history too, I'd like to check what sites you browse, just to make sure you aren't fapping to something nasty. By your own statement if you are reluctant to do so then you must be up to something criminal. Or you could admit your over simplistic statement was absurd.

[Via Memex 1.1]

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See something or say something

July 12th, 2011

See something or say something plots maps of major cities, showing locations from which people tweeted and locations where they posted photographs to Flickr.

Unfortunately I don't know any of the cities well enough to positively identify the locations revealed by the pictures, but a quick look at Google Maps seems to confirm that1 many of the concentrations of red dots in London mark the locations of the various royal or public parks.

I wonder what such a map would look like for Newcastle. I can guess where most of the photos would be taken (i.e. on and around the Quayside), but where would all the tweeters be hanging out?

[Via Flowing Data]

  1. As you'd expect.

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For fans of antisocial networking

June 29th, 2011

I didn't know you could disable Google Reader's social features with a single line of JavaScript:

  1. Go to Google Reader
  2. Type this JavaScript code in the address bar: javascript:antisocial('true')
  3. Google Reader will reload and you'll see a simplified interface that removes the section "People you follow" and no longer shows shared items from your friends.

[Via Tom Morris]

1 Comment »

Social Fax

June 23rd, 2011

James Shelley on social media overload:

Are we still communicating? Or are we just sending faxes?

(Rest assured that, read in context, that's a perfectly sound metaphor.)

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