Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Going Out On My Own

Neticulars has not been a big venture for me. As my posting history shows, I've gone whole months without an entry. As I move into the New Year, I've decided that 2010 will be the year that (among other things) I start taking this seriously. One of the things I've already done to make that so is that I've acquired the domain "neticulars.com" and I'll be running the blog from there from now on.

Soon, if Blogger permits, I'll be redirecting this there, although Wordpress is already setup and running on neticulars.com. So head on over. I hope to start doing some other stuff there, too. We'll see.

http://www.neticulars.com from now on.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Fighting For The Connected World

It seems like end users and service providers have had near-constant tension as mobile Internet technology has come to the forefront of the business. The iPhone launched to mega-hype and mega-anticipation, with users lined up 'round the block on launch day. Although it *does* seem like the lines are getting shorter with each new iteration. But AT&T has been putting out increasingly aggressive language relating to a 5GB monthly data traffic limitation on iPhone data plans. This limitation has been in place for some time on their USB and hardware integrated data devices. And while 5GB is no small amount of data, the simple fact is that this world is becoming increasingly expectant of data basically anywhere and everywhere people go. Likewise, Verizon Wireless has issued a statement that it is raising it's ETF (Early Termination Fee), the fee a customer must pay to break service before said customer has completed a previously agreed contract commitment, usually two years, and who purchases a so-called "advanced" device with them.

AT&T's efforts to limit data usage are nothing new, except in now applying it to iPhone users. It seems that the various apps available for the iPhone has encouraged a small but significant population to vastly exceed that 5GB limit, and that, according to AT&T, is what led to the limitation, which it (along with the other four nationwide, and most of the regional and/or virtual network operators like Cricket, US Cellular, and so on) already had in place for other devices and plans. However, I should point out that net books and other portable PC's with either integrated or add-on devices (i.e. USB and ExpressCard data cards) could just as easily outdistance this, to me, arbitrary limit, and do so even more easily than the iPhone. Increasingly, netbooks and similar laptop PC's are coming with integrated microphones, speakers, and even Web cameras, all inviting greater and more frequent mobile communications right through the PC's own Internet connection.

Sprint has been noted for already refusing to match Verizon's ETF increase. Another note is that, as "4G" Wimax service is launched in various cities, the Wimax service plan is quite explicit in announcing that this service is unlimited. It's even quite clear in pointing out that, where a device is also capable of 3G data service (via Sprint's EV-DO/Cellular network), the 3G remains with a 5GB monthly cap. In fact, Wimax just launched in my area, Chicago. I'm tempted to sign up and try it out.

I'm curious to see how long the unlimited option on Wimax will hold. There is some uncertainty among industry experts whether people will purchase that plan. Of particular note is that Wimax is basically an independent wireless service designed to be data-only, although rumors persist that Wimax phones are on the way. I'm not clear whether that refers to Sprint cell phones with an extra radio for Wimax access, or if the phones will oeprate exclusively on Wimax where available.

What is clear, however, is that cellular providers do not view their networks as capable of supporting the kind of mobile usage that netbooks and increasingly sophisticated smartphones seem to be bringing end users to expect. Unless and until such tension between service providers and service users is relieved in some fashion, I suspect the mobile data industry is headed for a period of stagnation. Users aren't likely to widely adopt what they perceive to be an unsatisfactorily limited data service, and carriers seem unwilling to engage in the kinds of network infrastructure that would be able to support such a demand. Let's not forget, either, that many communities remain in NIMBY mode when it comes to permitting carriers to carry out that infrastructure work.

In the end, it's not a simple case of blaming carriers *or* end users. Blame, even if properly assigned, isn't going to resolve this tension. So an answer is the right direction to take. Perhaps that answer lies in the extended service range of a service like Wimax. Perhaps it lies in higher bandwidth cellular options like LTE or (the virtually dead) EV-DV. Perhaps another wireless technology is waiting in the wings somewhere. Or, more likely in my opinion, users and carriers need to work together to match expectations with technologies. Because, I suspect, there is a fairly vast void between the two right now, and the carriers have found themselves on the wrong side of those expectations. Regardless if why that is so, it is in carriers' own best interests to work with customers, rather than implementing punitive policies like Verizon's new ETF (which, by the way, is drawing FCC ire).


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Flash vs Substance

I like to keep up on currents and trends in tech. I want to read up on where Information Technology is going, not going, selling, developing, and so on. But I want substance in that information. And, lately, I'm not getting it. What am I getting?

Slideshows. 5 important technologies, 15 books to read, I can't go a full business day without another email with a link to another slideshow. Another Flash slideshow. Not flashy, although I'm sure that the Web developers think otherwise. Flash. See, it appears that some genius in some editorial back room decided that, since a picture is worth 1,000 words, what do 10 pictures do for us?

As it turns out, not much at all. Using Flash to tie together some grouping of uninformative pictures with two or three sentences off to one side, that's not reporting, or journalism. It's a way to squeeze 10,000 useless words into some vapid, ADHD-induced puppet show that says nothing, informs no one, and leaves the reader with time they will never get back, and that accomplished nothing.

Ziff-Davis, CNET, and all the magazines you Borg'd into your respective organizations, what exactly is the business you're in? If it's to simply toss content out into the Internet and see what people will click on, keep on keeping on. You're there. If, instead, you're looking to be a relevant source of Information Technology insight and relevant information, someone needs to be fired in your editorial department.

I said above that I can't go one day without another vapid link to another vapid slideshow built in Flash. Actually, I lied. I've just gone a week without an email like that.

I unsubscribed to everything ZD, CNET, et al, put out. I haven't had to sit through a slide show in more than a week.


Friday, October 16, 2009

Let the Jihad Continue

I’m a Windows guy, I must admit.  I realize that Microsoft is a flawed company, and in some very big ways in certain criteria.  Likewise, Windows has some serious flaws.  But Without Microsoft, and Windows, the personal computer industry, if it survived at all, would be a two-player game, IBM and Apple.  Where would open source be now if that had held true?

Now, having said that, there’s some good reasoning behind the Crusade of Open vs Closed source.  Some of it even shows up in this editorial at Ziff-Davis.  Like when Dana Blankenhorn states:

In many open source companies, especially early stage open source companies, programmers have enormous power. Getting a project committer onto your team is a real coup for an open source company trying to monetize that project with support contracts.

Some of the best open source companies out there are led by project leaders. And some programmers do drink Jolt Cola.

But just because salesmen wear alligator shoes and some programmers wear Crocs does not mean that open source is being run by hippies. Mario Batali likes Crocs and he’s as serious a businessman as you’ll find.

OK, fair ‘nuff.  There’s some stereotyping in play among the analyst press.  But, wait, are we really going to complain about straw men when this very same editorial tries to tell us:

It costs nothing to try open source, so instead of selling you’re converting users into buyers of service.

Open source is also a big enemy of Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD), which often defined success in the 1980s. It’s hard to talk about what you might offer when everyone can see what you do offer and add to it if they want.

It costs nothing?  Wrong.  It takes time, effort, learning, training, and sometimes, as with the Vyatta open source router I’m trying to implement, it takes searching through informal user forums and waiting 24+ hours for email responses to make progress.

There’s a cost, alright.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but don’t tell me it doesn’t exist.  And try not to complain about straw men while positioning a few of your own.

And so the Jihad continues.


Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Relying on Tech to Save a Life

A story out of Iowa recounts the experience of a woman who lost her husband to a heart attack.  A sad outcome, a sad story.  I feel for her.  But…

[The woman] claims instead of going to the Cerro Gordo County Dispatch Center, the call was routed to a 911 call center in Cedar Rapids.

The lawsuit claims valuable time was lost getting Rick Poole to Mercy Medical Center-North Iowa due to the rerouting of the 911 call.

Minutes *do* matter in times like this.  Seconds, even.  So I can appreciate this woman’s situation, and her feelings.  As I understand Iowa, Cedar Rapids is about 150 miles from where her husband had his heart attack.  I don’t think this counts as a frivolous lawsuit, though I equally an unsure she deserves to win, just based on the merits of her argument.

See, I think we forget sometimes just how huge the United States really is.  We pick up this tiny piece of electronics, press a few buttons, and we are speaking with someone who may more than a thousand miles away.  And we’re used to that.

But the technology that goes into making that happen is very complex, and it’s not all a technical issue, either.  Decisions have to be made in a way that everyone agrees is a proper method for splitting this entire country up into appropriate routing zones (CSA’s and MSA’s).  Most of us now never grew up in a system where the distance over which your call was sent played a role in the cost of that call.

And in this case, another part of the problem is that it’s not just up to cell phone carriers to get this right.  The 911 centers are run by state and local authorities that have to make the necessary upgrades to participate in this kind of technology.  Was the “Cerro Gordo County Dispatch Center” configured with the necessary systems?  This might all come out as this proceeds.  IF it proceeds.  US Cellular just might choose to settle rather than fight it out in court.  And maybe that’s not unreasonable.

But maybe it *is* unreasonable that we take that kind of technology for granted like that.


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Copyright Isn’t Just About Filesharing

When I first went online as an AOL newbie, one of the first discussions I got into was about copyright.  It wasn’t a long discussion.  3, maybe 4 posts back and forth with someone.  A person had written something to one of the discussion boards on AOL, and I said I was going to steal it.  I was reminded that AOL Terms of Service at that time reserved copyright to anything posted to their boards.  Only the person who wrote the item had license to use it beyond that board.

That got my attention.  I’m no lawyer, and I couldn’t even begin to start citing all the legal precedents surrounding copyright law.  But that wakeup served as a kind of “shot across the bow” to me, made me realize that this wonderful online world of sharing information was also going to be a hotbed of controversy around the idea of “owning” ideas.

While I think the “battle” between music listeners and the recording industry, and movie watchers and the movie industry both provide clear illustrations of this, I’m much more concerned with the ownership of the written word.  Everyone’s written word.  At issue is what right you have to (potentially or actually) profit from, and retain ownership of, the ideas and opinions that you express.

Some time ago, US Copyright Law was changed such that you didn’t have to actively obtain the registered “license” known as a copyright to have copyright ownership of the materials you produce.  Here’s a link that provides some good explanation of the how’s and why’s of registration.  If copyright infringement comes to a lawsuit, that’s important information.  It affects what you do and don’t get even if you win such a suit.

But, more important, I think, is an associated concept called “Fair Use.”  This is not a clear-cut and easily defined right.  As a layman advocate for Fair Use, I generally use the US Copyright Office, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation for guidance.  Fair Use rights give us some limited rights to borrow a bit of someone else’s published work for the purposes of education, discussion, and debate.  But the right has limits.  We cannot use the entire work.  Not even if we provide full reference (ISBN number, URL/Web Link, etc).  And we have to… well… to discuss it, talk about it.  We can’t simply paste it somewhere cite the source, and that’s it.

And this is something we the users, the talkers, have to discuss.  In many ways, Web site operators with user discussion forums, they’re shielded by something called the Digitial Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA).  There’s a “Service Provider Exemption” (my term, not theirs) that protects the forum operator, as long as the operator has a policy and a system in place for dealing with copyright violations.  So the original publisher isn’t going to sue Delphi Forums, or Howardforums, or About.com.  They are going to sue you.  If it gets to that.

Fair Use isn’t a well-defined legal code.  How much of a published work can you use, for example?  From what I understand, the law is all over the place on that.  There isn’t a percent, or number of words standard for it.  Just realize that the more you cite of someone’s work, even if you give them proper credit, the closer you come to violating this.  And Web site operators who ignore this run the risk of losing that DMCA shield I mentioned above.  So it’s worth everyone’s effort to at least be familiar with Fair Use, and gain an understanding of what it clearly does, and does not, permit.


Friday, September 25, 2009

When Customers Don’t Matter

We see major media outlets in significant financial troubles these days.  And in political discussions all over the Web, you’ll hear talk of new paradigms, or political bias, or lack of journalistic integrity, or a host of other reasons given for those troubles.  Regardless of the cause(s), it seems to have become pretty clear that news sources of the past have not yet reconciled themselves to the way information flows across the Web.

One of the clear (though far from the largest) Illustrations to me is the guided search site About.com.  This site operates with a staff of designated topic experts, called Guides.  The Guide is responsible for content topical to the subject to which they’ve been designated.  They regularly update their sites, and run blogs, and basically any other on-topic content that About.com decides is consistent with their editorial philosophy.

Where we start to see cracks in the About.com operation, however, is in user interaction.  As a site that has managed to get itself listed as a search engine, users will find very few opportunities to contribute input to the site, unless the Guides themselves take on that initiative themselves.  In fact, About.com actively states that the Guides are the final arbiters of user interaction on their assigned sites and user forums.

Because About.com maintains such a hands-off approach to the activities of its Guides, the site is infested with inconsistency.  For example, the site includes user forums, and a page of Forum Guidelines, which include prohibitions against personal attacks and spam/commercial posts.  And yet, despite this posted set of rules, AND even though it includes in the registration process a step where users must agree to these rules, not everyone running the forums enforces those rules.  One of the most egregious examples is the US Liberal Politics user forum.  In that forum, user after user has pointed out repeated copyright violations, personal insults and attacks, and instead of the Guide there enforcing the published rules, one can look at thread after thread, just like this one, where the regulars who agree with her political persuasion have free reign to bypass the swear, to personally attack and insult others, and to display every vestige of hostility and hate.  Take this challenge: Sign up for a username with About.com, you’ll see an option to Register at the top of the thread page linked above.  Report the activities you see on that thread.  Within 24 hours, you will find yourself unable to access the forum, instead being redirected to the About.com generic homepage.

Now, go one step further: try reporting that, to About’s support team.  You’ll find they are nothing of the sort, because if you get any response AT ALL, it will defer to the Guide.  And Deborah White, the US Liberal Politics Guide, does not respond to questions.  Ever.  Despite a Forum Guidelines page that explicitly states:

Flames or rude / insensitive remarks will be removed.

She has NEVER removed an offensive or insulting remark.  Not once, and I’ve been a member of that site since 1999.  Nor has she ever made the least effort to explain her (lack of) actions.

This unwillingness on the part of About.com to hold its staff accountable for the unethical treatment of customers that even violates its own published policies is a clear illustration of the disconnect between the mainstream media (About.com is owned by the NY Times, and there is every reason to believe this disrespect for readers comes from that parent) and the readership it loses with every passing day.  In fact, one can browse the entire News and Issues “channel” at About.com, and you will find a wasteland of unused and inactive forums.  Primarily, in my opinion, because About.com refuses to acknowledge that the Web is not, and has not been for years now, a one-way channel.  About.com is not the least bit interested in hearing from its members.  It has posted a few weak efforts to get a user group for feedback, but it continues to ignore unethical and negligent behavior such as the above.  One former Guide, Kathy Gill, even went so far as to reveal that forum activity isn’t even a measure of a Guide’s performance.

So why bother to be a search site, About.com?  You’re not interested in the user experience, you refuse to address user complaints, and you permit unethical treatment of users by Guides, even when it violates your own published rules?

It’s no wonder that the news media are failing.  They’ve failed to see the Internet for what it is, even among efforts they’ve taken on that supposed to be central to interaction *with* the Internet.

-RØß V-

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Sometimes, the Answer Come From The Wrong Question

The September 14th issue of InformationWeek magazine, their 21st annual "InformationWeek500" issue, arrived at my home a couple of days ago, and as I got around to reading it, I came across one of their "Quicktake" news items on Page 15. Entitled "The Web Has Ears," the news article points out that:

Customers are increasingly going to the Web to air gripes and get questions
answered, rather than call a customer support center.
The story, integrated into other items at this page, then talks about offerings from Salesforce.com and from another company, RightNow (using a service from another company it acquired, HighLive). These offerings provide, as the story puts it:

making it easier for companies to track chatter about their products on social networking sites and on their own sites, and offer to help frustrated customers
But I'm finding myself troubled by this story. Don't get me wrong. If companies adopt a more proactive approach to finding and resolving customer issues, that's a good thing.


Well... to be blunt about it don't these products involve asking the WRONG questions? I mean, if customers are being driven away from your existing support model, isn't the *real* problem the support model, not the ability to sort of "chase" your customers around the Web to take in what they're saying? If you have to go "out there" to find these customers, what was it what made the customers go "out there" in the first place?

I'm really worried that businesses that turn to services like this are going to ignore the truly fundamental question that underlies the need for these services: a support system that is running these customers away. If a car is failing, do you think the answer is to enter it into the Daytona 500 auto race? Likewise, if your existing customer support system isn't meeting the needs of customers, the answer is NOT to expand its presence, but to fix the problems that drove your customers away in the first place.

I'm all in favor of companies embracing customer feedback, seeking it out. But only if those same companies actually use what they find to discover the real nature of the problems this brings to light. And I just don't see that happening. While RightNow and Salesforce may convince cellular carriers (for example) to "follow me" out to Howardforums, to CellPhoneForums, or to About.com, they also enable the very problems that send customers to third party sites to find answers and resolutions: the inability of the existing support structure to provide these resolutions.

These may be good services. But they're convincing support managers to ask the wrong questions. Extending bad support to third party sites isn't the answer that will really fix the problems that led to this customer migration in the first place.


Thursday, June 25, 2009

Bozeman, MT Returns to Reality

Ars Technica earlier this week reported on the city council meeting in Bozeman, Montana.  Normally, a relatively minor city like Bozeman wouldn’t rate an article with such a revered site.  But Bozeman managed recently to make itself quite the laughingstock of The Web when it was discovered that application for employment with the city included a background check waiver that called for login account names *and* passwords to online sites like Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and others.  The story took off across The Web, and Bozeman city officials were inundated by emails condemning the application.  Bureaucracy being what it is, nothing could be done until the next city council meeting, which took place on Monday, June 22.  As Ars Technica reports, they quickly removed this “little item” from the application process, and released a report saying, among other things:

…[I]t had suspended the practice as of Friday, June 19 and that it would update its hiring procedures within 30 days to determine a more appropriate level of screening for employees.

It’s certainly of no concern to me that city HR departments become aware of such accounts.  But they don’t need login access to see employees bad-mouthing their superiors.  Most that would use such public platforms to express their views wouldn’t take the time to make them private.  As far as I’m concerned, if you post something to your public Facebook page, Twitter account, etc, then you might as well grab a soapbox and scream it into your employer’s face.  You can and should be held accountable for public comments like that.

But, hopefully, Bozeman’s city antics in this regard can help other bureaucracies to see the idiocy of policies like this.


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Sony vs The Internet. Who Will Win?

Techie Web site Ars Technica is having a good bit of fun with some of what’ managed to come from the mouth, and pen (so to speak) of Sony Pictures CEO Michael Lynton.  According to the story recently published by Ars, SonyPics’ CEO started the ball rolling with statements at a conference that Mr Lynton could not, “see anything good having come from the Internet."

Apparently, that made for uncomfortable weather for the CEO, because Mr Lynton appears to have “clarified” his statements in a submission to the blog site Huffington Post.

Ars Technica provides a pretty good rundown of the whole affair up to now, so I shan’t copy’n paste what Ars has already done.  Instead, I want to concentrate on what Mr Lynton claims is his real point: copyright.  From his submission at HuffPo:

In March, an unfinished copy of 20th Century Fox's film X-Men Origins: Wolverine was stolen from a film lab and uploaded to the Internet, more than a month before its theatrical release. The studio investigated the crime, and efforts were made to limit its availability online. Still, it was illegally downloaded more than four million times.

That kind of wide scale theft was very much on my mind when I was on a panel the other day which opened with a question about the impact of the Internet on the entertainment business, and I responded, "I'm a guy who sees nothing good having come from the Internet. Period."

He goes on at some length about copyright and how the Internet has damaged the creative industries.  Not just his own movie business, but books, newspapers, magazines, music.  And that is where Mr Lynton misses the point.

There is a very real conundrum throughout the Internet when it comes to copyright.  I support an artist’s right to profit from his own creative work, and even Sony Pictures’ right to profit from distributing it.  But from Day One of what I’ll loosely call “The Broadband Age” of the Internet, the selfsame creative sources that Mr Lynton tries to champion have been completely and utterly out of touch with the new opportunities and challenges of this medium.  It is a medium that doesn’t abide capricious and arbitrary release dates, or permit a few large houses to control what content reaches the customer.  And old-world (read: Pre-Internet) minds are not going to be able to successfully fight off the loss of control.  They don’t understand the thirst for content out in the Internet.  These people could probably spend 10% of what they spend now, publish webisodes, and be champions of that hungry public.  Instead, they meet in secret in Scandinavia, Paris, allowing no consumer-oriented repesentatives within, and even convincing President Obama in the USA to declare the content of those meetings to be a matter of national security, and therefore protected from Freedom of Information Act inquiries.  Copyright is a national secret?  Wow.  That alone should show you the disdain that the so-called “creative” industries have for the very consumers they claim to be serving.

Remember, too, that Sony was the company to bring “rootkits” into the mainstream.  Look at how well *that* turned out.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Three Strikes and the French Are Out

It’s no secret that RIAA, MPAA, and all the other media entertainment companies utterly hate any customer that doesn’t do what they tell the customer to do.  We are all to be presumed guilty of illegal filesharing and the only thing they want from us is our money.

Now, it seems, France has decided to play right into their hands.  The BBC yesterday announced that France’s lower house has passed a “Creation and Internet” bill that would see French Internet users disconnected if they are, according to the BBC:

disconnect people caught downloading content illegally three times has been given final approval.

Ah, but there’s a catch.  There’s always a catch.  This provision in the bill, obviously backed by both the film and music industries (including French President Sarkozy’s wife, something of a noted recording artist herself), does NOT include language for determining guilt.  One need only be accused three times for this to happen.  No trial, no investigation, no due process at all.  Three accusations, and a French citizen can find their Internet access cut off.  Stories elsewhere report that the citizen can also be compelled to continue paying for this now-disabled Internet access.

I support copyright in general, and I certainly want artists to profit from the fruits of their labor.  I don’t even begrudge media companies the money they make with their (sometimes predatory) ways of getting music to market.  But when they start assuming I’m a criminal, just because I partake of music online, they’re hoisting a petard, and my wallet will NOT go there.  They will.  Hopefully, watchdog groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and DRMWatch.com will continue the fight to make sure this doesn’t come to the USA.

Then again, with Obama declaring the secret ACTA talks a matter of national security, it may already be here.


Thursday, April 30, 2009

Since When Is Copyright Law a Matter of National Security?

Some UN bigwigs sitting in Europe have been, for some time now, trying to write up a lovely little ditty about Copyright Law called "Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement." I'd love to tell you what it will do. Except I can't. See, the Bush Administration refused to release the particulars of this agreement. So, of course, Barack Obama, with all his promises of greater transparency would correct that little error, right?

Nope. Instead, they took it one step further. When a FOIA Request was recently submitted by a privacy advocate, not only did the Obama Administration refuse the request, they then proceeded to declare that the details of this copyright treaty are a national security secret.

According to CNET News:

President Obama's White House has tightened the cloak of government secrecy still further, saying in a letter this week that a discussion draft of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement and related materials are "classified in the interest of national security pursuant to Executive Order 12958."
The 1995
Executive Order 12958 allows material to be classified only if disclosure would do "damage to the national security and the original classification authority is able to identify or describe the damage."

What a very intriguing turn of events. This same document is being circulated openly to Entertainment Industry executives and lobbyists of all kinds, and it's a state secret? What, pray tell, is the damage that would be caused by revealing what's being done to subvert... excuse me... "adjust" Copyright Law? Could it be provisions that mirror the 3-strikes laws that were recently attempted in both New Zealand and France? This is lovely. All it takes is someone ACCUSING you of copyright violations 3 times, and you could lose all right to have an Internet connection at home. Just an accusation. No trial, no finding of guilt, no investigation of any kind. Just the accusation.

And that, apparently, needs to be protected as a national security secret? I really, really want to hear how Obama thinks this compares with his promises of government transparency. Because right now, all I see if toadying up with corporate bullies who love suing 90-year-old grandmas for multi-hundres-of-thousands of dollars for alleged (not even proven, just alleged) file sharing.

I can't wait to see where this is going. Or, then again, maybe I should.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Trouble with Web 2.0

It’s nice to imagine a world joined in cyber friendliness and everyone getting along.  There’s a vision there that even I like, of borders fading and of people learning to accept diversity and other lifestyles.

But the recent hullaballoo with Twitter and Facebook… especially Facebook… should teach us that The Web isn’t altruistic.  It takes resources to operate a Web presence (I’m not so sure that Web “site” is a valid term with the way these things cross boundaries, but that’s subject matter for another post).  It’s not enough to have 10,000 followers on Twitter or 1,000 friends on Facebook.  Now you’ve got them.  Now what?

That’s not an easy question to answer, is it?  Twitter’s been offered money by people wanting to be listed on its homepage.  Facebook wants to use your profile information in its ads… even if you don’t want to be part of Facebook anymore.  It’s time to find the business model that makes these presences viable, for the long haul.  Unless we’re ready for a virtual bubble to burst.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Is Government Evil? Doing This It Is!

As I make a shot at getting my voice heard, it occurs to me that technology is not an island unto itself. You cannot discuss technology without discussing the culture it can (and frequently does) create. Unfortunately, there is always a class of people left behind, that doesn't understand the new culture, and while I don't claim to be hip to that culture, I think I at least "get it" when it comes to the prevailing attitudes toward that technology and culture.

One such issue is trying to raise its ugly head. A group of genius politicians and "law enforcement" jackboot thugs has been making the rounds in Washington D.C. for some years now about the anonymity of the Internet and how hard it is to track wrongdoers online. Their "solution"? Make you keep logs of anyone and everyone who uses your WiFi.

CNET just recently ran a story on the latest efforts. Don't let the title put you at ease. See, it's NOT just ISP's these two bills will affect. From the story:

Each contains the same language: "A provider of an electronic communication service or remote computing service shall retain for a period of at least two years all records or other information pertaining to the identity of a user of a temporarily assigned network address the service assigns to that user."

Translated, the Internet Safety Act applies not just to AT&T, Comcast, Verizon, and so on--but also to the tens of millions of homes with Wi-Fi access points or wired routers that use the standard method of dynamically assigning temporary addresses. (That method is called Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol, or DHCP.)

So... Quick, tell me everyone who has ridden in your car for the last two years. Where did they get on? When? Where did they go? Remember, the bills, as quote above, would require you, under federal law, to "retain for a period of at least two years all records or other information pertaining to the identity of a user of a temporarily assigned network address the service assigns to that user."

Think about that long and hard. Think about how, if your Wireless Router is turned off, those logs just disappear. That tornado that knocks out your power lines can now turn you into a federal criminal at the same time that it wipes out your house.

Lovely, eh? And why, pray tell, are some people ready to do this? According to Republican Senator John Cornyn from Texas:
"While the Internet has generated many positive changes in the way we
communicate and do business, its limitless nature offers anonymity that has
opened the door to criminals looking to harm innocent children," U.S. Sen. John
Cornyn, a Texas Republican, said at a press conference on Thursday. "Keeping our
children safe requires cooperation on the local, state, federal, and family

See, the police need to catch bad guys. But now they want YOU to do their policework for them. AND, think about it, since these little wireless routers don't retain these logs, what do you think is next? Automatic Upload of that information, of course.

I hear Big Brother calling out. And he doesn't care about donkeys or elephants. There are politicians in BOTH parties wanting to do this.