Archive for the ‘technology’ Category

Robert Scoble and Plaxo: Data Thieves

Thursday, January 3rd, 2008

Update: And if done in the EU we’d ave you mate.

Update again:Jeremiah is now allowing people to direct questions to Plaxo via his blog. Well done to him. Let’s see how they react to probing questions

Update: Jeremiah basically gave Plaxo a free pulpit where they tried to justify their actions using a smokescreen about a “Data Trust”. Total and utter bollox. Looks like they are going to roll this out and are unrepentent.

We’re going to have a conversation with Facebook (that is starting now) and will roll this feature out.

There’s a minor, gnat on a rhino’s arse issue going on around the tech blogger and twitter communities at the moment about data and Facebook. It will not change the world or unsteady it. If you are bored by this (and you should be) I’d suggest you skip this post. If you’re hardcore tech gossip nerd, then read on.

I really do like Robert Scoble and I don’t think he is malicious or someone with criminal intent. Saying that, I do think what he did today is very wrong.

So to begin: A while back Robert Scoble friended anyone on Facebook that wanted to be his friend, like he still does on Twitter. It was the in-thing that all the coolnerd kids did for a while – Friend the Scobleizer. Grand I suppose. Trouble is that the Facebook API allows any application to access the data of people I’m connected to. It can suck down their name, date of birth and other bits and pieces but NOT email address.

But then Robert decided he’d use a new unreleased tool from Plaxo to get the data on all 5000 people connected to him AND their email addresses too. Name, location, date of birth, full contact details. Alarm bells yet? Facebook’s security through obscurity meant I had limited protection if data identity thieves wanted to get my details. But now Robert has an automated tool that took disparate information and combined them. While many are happy for their data to be scattered about the place, it is through technnology and aggregation that all these pieces which were once scattered or loose are now firmly joined. This issue is about how weak identity it, but it is also about the fact that this is simply data theft in my view and Robert Scoble, a guy I have a lot of respect for is the one with the crowbar coming into my world taking things I stored on Facebook without permission. Robert broke into Facebook to get information he was not allowed.

I gave Facebook permission to store my data, I give it to Google. They give me some lightweight guarantees that they’ll be careful with it. Plaxo and I are not friends and they have not asked to hold or transport or fondle my data. Robert gets rewarded in ways with our friendship by being able to access data but this doesn’t mean I wanted him to harvest it. I’m ok with some of this information being exported but en masse? People are talking about this being a gambit for Data Portability. That’s utter bollox. That’s a smokescreen. You can campaign for data portability without stealing. You can tell me my identity is not secure without accessing my bank account. This is not some proof of concept on how insecure Facebook is either. This was a commercial move by Plaxo. If Google did this or Microsoft they’re be war.

I’d like to know what Robert is doing with my contact data and what Plaxo is also doing it it and what they are doing with the other 4,999 names, addresses, phone numbers, dates of birth and email addresses. I really hope they destroyed it right away. I’d also like to know whether Facebook will notify authorities about my data being stolen from them and see are there better ways to protect the data I invested in them?

I agree 100% at what Nick Carr said today too. Dare to a degree too.

Dunbar revisited 147.8++

Thursday, January 3rd, 2008

I’ve written previously about the Dunbar number, a number which is apparently hardwired into our brains and creates an upper limit to the amount of people we can comfortably interact with in our lives. I’ve been thinking about this for a while now and the way we obviously structure relationships in our brain. We have so many aides now to help us store more information about a person and I suppose we don’t need to include that in whatever profile we have for those 150 people in our noggin. I’m wondering if we can increase the 147.8 towards 250 or 350 or 450 and still manage to have good relationships with them? I wonder are we doing this already anyway?

150 we can manage BUT only in communities where we all want to be that connected and are willing to work for it. Apparently Dunbar saw that groups of a large size like 150 spent 42% of their time social grooming in order to keep that group size alive but language brought that number down so there was not as much effort. Please Jesus tell me that poking and quiz spamming on Facebook is not social grooming. 🙂 Nice though that communications and sharing (in a sense) can help lessen the effort to maintain cohesion.

We don’t remember phone numbers anymore do we? Phones do that. Emails? Well email address structures are almost a standard now and the GMail contacts list helps us there too. Facebook and other social networks help too with all the fluffy details about a person: Birthday, education, stripper name etc. The world is becoming so connected too that our number of friends is probably increasing over generations so I wonder is part of our brain physically evolving too so that the number goes up? If language brought that 42% down a bit, what about social networks and technology? We can interact more efficiently now and store details of the interactions, leaving more space in that brain of ours.

Shel Israel in a recent post also was thinking about pushing this number up:

When I wrote the book outline, I estimated that the largest of these global neighborhoods would be no bigger than 150, a number I derived directly from Malcolm Gladwell’s Tipping Point–a book you should still all read. But, technology has allowed that number to get larger. Perhaps 500 “friends can actually communicate with each other. But most neighborhoods are much smaller perhaps less than 15 members.

I tried my little experiment a little while back with Facebook where I messaged everyone I was connected with and tried to have proper conversations and tailored each message to the person and what I already knew about them. It wasn’t easy at all and by the end I was just sending almost generic messages to people but they were still ok I suppose though a lot shorter than the first that I sent. I learned a little about each person too. Funnily enough though I wonder do we have to seek out news from people now with all these activity walls and blogs. I have been in this conversation (of a sort):

“Any news? ” Yeah I was in Dublin today, bought some new shoes ” “Ah yeah, read that on your twitter or was it your Facebook or I dunno, one of your outlets” “Ah yeah, Facebook, how was the play, saw your review on the blog”…

So it does look like we are pushing that number up. I’d love though to see some kind of interaction chart for all of our online lives and personas. If Tumble blogs ran stats AND also logged the way we interact with our friends, it’d be great. GMail has frequently contacts listed, iTunes and our iPod and LastFM measure what we play most, it would be good to measure all forms of communication with people and chart it. We could see then are we seriously pushing that 150 limit. So why doesn’t someone create a Dunbar app for my phone, my email, my blog, my Facebook and my feedreader? Google would buy you easily.

Wait, did Mozilla just become a data broker?

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2008

So the next data wars are about who holds all our attention data, right? Right now Google is doing their best to grab on to this data by logging everything we do via all their services but they’re also giving us our search history, helping us find what we searched for before. Not for us really but for them and when that’s pointed out they do the whole big bad wolf “the better to see you m’dear”. M’yeahright. Sure it helps their search results but it also helps them profile you so they can serve better ads. Yes, they have profiles on us and while they are truthful in that they anonymize our surfing and search data after 18 months, what about the profiles? What about giving us back THAT data?

Then there’s Facebook who too are logging all our interactions with people and profiles. What are they deriving from all of that, would they care to share? No, I doubt it.

Google call this data derived data and while they are truthful about allowing you to export some of your data and just LOVE talking about not holding “user data hostage” the information those magnificent men in their googling machines derive is not given to us and they really don’t want to give that gold away. Lots of excuses why, of course:

“It’s general Google policy to try not hold user data hostage, and we on the Reader team try our best to abide by that. In this case, exporting of attention data is a rather murky concept since there doesn’t seem to be a commonly accepted format for it.

It also depends how to define attention data. You mentioned feed rank, but that’s something that’s computed based on your usage patterns, and thus could be considered derived data, not raw attention data. From what I can tell, at its lowest level attention data is every single action that you have done in an application”

It was in a past blog post here where I said that if we controlled our activity data, we could actually make money from search engines and the likes of Microsoft HealthVault, so there’s potential there. So I was quite interested when Mozilla announced Weave, their system which will store your Firefox preferences on their servers and when you install a new Firefox on a new computer, it can go to the Mozilla servers and download all your preferences and bookmarks. Great. And…

They are building APIs to allow access to it by yourself and others. Very interesting. Lots of great privacy and sharing options means you have full and granular control of your data. They are going with the slow and safe route but you can be sure that when all the bugs and issues are ironed out, your search data and surfing data will suddenly become available to share too. All opt-in too. Read more on their thoughts here. It seems they are taking the Amazon philosophy and encouraging clients and applications to be built on their services, meaning the complexity is up to outside developers while they’ll just offer neutral data moving and storage services. Good call.

This is a massively positive step for the ideas of Attention, the Database of Intentions and Vendor Relationship Marketing. Good one Moz. Think IE8 is about to get another code rewrite?

Completely Wrong Predictions for 2008

Tuesday, January 1st, 2008

2008 is going to be the most boring year in tech ever. Everything is about iteration. Yawn yawn yawn. More iterations on touchscreens. More freer mobile devices, yet they won’t change at all much. More WiMax vapourware from Intel more strawgrabbing by Microsoft. More social networking fandangos. More people shilling social media to “enterprise” without knowing if or how it works and whether it’ll benefit a company. Invention itself though will seem stunted or neutered as the once anarchy filled web with so much variety cross-fertilises into one grey lump.

2008 will see a matching of two distinct groups, both desperate for attention. Presidential candidates in the States will join up with desperate startups and do something “innovative” for Politics 2.0. It’ll be all noise and nothing of substance. Again.

There’ll be even more privacy breaches in Ireland and more spam and more unsolicited calls and yet again the limp and lame Data Protection Commissioner will do nothing but write an end-of-year report on how great they are. Liars. Nobody will really give a damn either, until someone starts seriously abusing our data and it starts to affect more and more of us then bits will get into daily conversations and we’ll hear “Why isn’t something being done to protect are data?” replacing the urban legends about African immigrants getting free cars and petrol to drive their kids to school. For a while at least.

57million ego channels and nothing on
Videoblogging or video journalism will take off. Sky News and the BBC are doing their damnedest to make sure that happen. While Seesmic is shit (for now but I hope this changes) it’s actually boosting video blogging and encouraging a good internetworking of the Europeans and the Americans. This will continue as QIk will also contribute to this as well. Hopefully we might see a LiveTube site that gives us a Videodrome-like service that shows all the live shows on right now and who are viewing them as well as creating timelines that mix news stories and the video reactions to them.

The Irish Times will open up
While some won’t want to see the paymodel go away after defending it for years, the paywalls at the Irish Times will fall away and traffic will go up and up, making this quality paper rightly go up in rankings for all things Ireland. The Irish Times will internally consider buying or asking Kieran Murphy from IceCreamIreland to do a weekly piece for their food and lifestyle blog. Nothing might happen though.

Property investors take a gamble
With the sagging property market, the people who had fun investing and wheeling and dealing in property will miss the cut and thrust and will look elsewhere. Some clever startups might encourage some of these guys at a racemeet to invest in a few startups. Some will only invest because a formal rival has invested and once again there’s a competition. While not taking an active role in their investments (thank goodness) they will at the same time tell all and sundry about the business, generating more buzz. 15 years later EI will release a report suggesting that it might be a good idea to look at property investors and developers as potential investors in technology.

RTE will also start figuring new media out
Get ready to see a blog or two on RTE but it will be a conservative move to start with. Start seeing stupid sonsofbitches use the blog comments to vent about anything at all to do with RTE. Start seeing the comments being moderated. RTE will start allowing video replies to news items. Again, heavily moderated but it will be a welcome start. There are some keen and progressive minds in RTE so when this move happens, it would be good to see this getting welcomed and praised instead of nitpicked.

Blogging will get a mainstream regular slot
Be it RTE Online,, Newstalk or TodayFM, one of them will do a regular thing on “blog reactions” to news items. Something like what Slate does already. All it takes is a proactive blogger to get off their ass and sell the idea.

Online generated number 1 in the music charts
Using the momentum that started with the Waits for Christmas, someone will get a song to number 1 in Ireland just from hype created online. The unknown (til then) artist will be like the Ron Paul for Irish music. We Irish are good at pissing off the Brits by voting the Wolfe Tones as the best song ever and we’ll bring it all back home by getting an unknown artist to number 1 just because we can and we want to screw around with the system. Further proof that you give an Irishperson rules and they’ll work out ways to break them.

Blogging killed God, the Bible and single sources

Tuesday, December 25th, 2007

I hadn’t meant this post to go out Christmas day but it seems apt now. This is kind of a forked commentary from a blog post on how people mass-manipulate others. I’m in that webified generation that does not trust one source, that reads a story in a newspaper and figures out how this story would be presented without the bias of the paper etc., the generation that doesn’t necessarily fact-check but multi-sources facts. They are not the same thing. Many think they are.

I’m backing my 10,000 amateurs over your €10,000 a day expert
People give out about so many relying on the untrustworthy Wikipedia but I think my peers always seek out multiple sources of information on any and every topic. We’re the folks that don’t exactly trust a blogger that never links when giving opinions and our mistrust is shifting into the rest of the world too. I guess we’re all starting to second guess “experts”. I actually don’t know is mistrust a good word for this but it is a good thing. Is there anything really a 1 or a 0 in this life? Most things seems to be fuzzy. Always more than one side to a story and as we’ve become more cynical we are finding that we’re right. Newspapers damn the Internet for being amateur yet armies of amateurs are better than *most* journalists as they have the time and resources to work as a massive group to check everything out. While people have mentioned that only a tiny percentage do all the lifting on Wikipedia it doesn’t make it any less open since anyone can make a change to an article and point out to the group new facts to make their change stick. All the changes and “unchanges” are also logged and can be viewed too. As well as the IPs.

Citation Needed

And then it goes too far
The trouble is people are now using lack of links as a club to win an argument. I’m getting rather sick of link elitism going on on discussion forums and on blogs, where you are not allowed disagree or enter a comment unless you have sources for every one of your opinions. That’s total information facism and is going a step too far I think. I also see links used to make someone look wrong. “This link shows you are wrong”. Not got time to elaborate WHY, tabloid stuff really with people selectively quoting from a long articles and really it’s trying to win an argument by snowing someone under and expecting them to disprove your argument while you don’t have them expect the same. It’s the Microsoft 100 lawyers killing your case even when you are in the right technique.

Or maybe they make faith stronger
So is the new religion actually a cult of scepticism and is faith in something or someone being eroded? If we always question single sources, doesn’t that mean the Bible and God herself are going to be cynically looked at? Are they dead if they cannot be trusted? But is this not good? We should not pivot anything on one thing, should we? Perhaps but also perhaps if known “experts” actually put themselves out there not as experts but as collators of information and they are open to changing the way they present ALL data when new data comes along(after careful consideration), then really they’re not a single source but a router of information, an open knowledge resource. I think that’s what Wikipedia is. I think people should be like that too, open to amend their knowledge and ideas when presented with new information.

When I think of people that do that, I see some bloggers yes but I also see Rabbis, I don’t see priests though, not the Catholic ones this Irish boy is used to anyway. There are theolgians in the Catholic church sure but they are not accessible to the public and they are not there on a Sunday guiding the community. What we do have is guardians of knowledge, gatekeepers, obfuscators, condemners. Dictators really. Google Knol is that to me. The chosen few by Google are going to be hyped as the experts and you’ll be encouraged to trust them more than Wikipedia even though they and Google are there to make money from your clicks. With that attitude a lot of experts in their fields will be ignored simply because they don’t fit into the Google luvvie brigade. I wonder will Google Knol articles get amended as quickly by the Google priests?

When I started this post a few days ago I really didn’t think it would turn into some religious sermon on a Christmas day. How very odd. So maybe blogging is in fact a rebirth for expertise and for knowledge sharing and is getting us away from a single and sometimes very biased source for something. Happy Christmas!

Bonus link: Zack Exley’s new project.

Christmas pressie woes – Jan 5th on Radio 1

Monday, December 24th, 2007

On January 5th I’ll be on the Marian Finucane Show trying to solve issues people have with their gadgets and toys they got for Christmas and how to sort them out in regards to refunds or exchanges or where to go if they can’t get them to work. Hopefully we won’t have any Microsoft ruins Christmas stories in the batch.

If you have issues with toys and gadgets and find fixes for them, let me know.

Facebook Applications on … Bebo and others – Important for Irish businesses

Wednesday, December 12th, 2007

Via Techcrunch and Facebook Dev blog:

Google Open what?

CEO Michael Birch says that it has been developing these parallel languages for about five months and in communication with Facebook itself, which has been assisting Bebo in its efforts to essentially adopt its platform.

This is very very important for Ireland since Bebo is still the main social networking site here. I still believe Facebook is where it’s at in terms of social networks and current figures show that Facebook now stands at 190k+ users in Ireland but as of a few weeks time applications like Scrabulous can be installed on Bebo. Scrabulous has more mindshare than Facebook it seems and this comes from FB people! If you are an application developer it’s all good as Bebo is mirroring the application markup language that Facebook is using. What is probably most important is that this will allow cross-platform interaction. Play scrabulous via Facebook against your kid brother on Bebo. If you’re a business that wants to reach a large audience and saw Facebook as easier to build for, well now all that’s changed again. Now you don’t have to pay thousands to have your application approved by Bebo and accessed by their userbase. I wonder what those companies will say who paid a lot to load their applications onto Bebo?

One wonders will we see the same happen with other social networking sites? I think we will. Great move by Bebo but this is a coup for Facebook. They just open-socialed Open Social. Of course every other social network will want Facebook applications to be installed on their site and ways to interlink with Facebook’s 50Million users. Next year they’ll have 100Million on the site. I assume we’ll soon see cross-network IM, chat, gaming and VOIP and all done before Open Social.

I’m betting a tenner the werewolves and ninjas applications will be the most popular though.

Day 2 of Padbrother

Monday, December 3rd, 2007

Read this with a Geordie accent for best effect.

It’s day two of Paddy’s Valley Padbrother and many of the contestants are still asleep in the PadBrother House, while others are up and awake nursing sore heads. Alexia is in the kitchen making food for everyone. One day in and she’s already assumed the motherly role. At the same time Eoghan is already outside the Apple store, face pressed to the glass while stroking the glass and declaring his love to the iPhone.

As this is happening Conor has declared that he’s his own Island Nation and monarch of it at the same time. His grand highness Conor P plans to pounce on the Irish Ambassador on Tuesday evening and talk about setting up and embassy in Ireland so he can bring back lots of cheap goods under diplomatic immunity.

While some are having fun, others are working on their networking. Bus ticket 2.0 manufacturer CoClarity’s Ger Hartnett is busy working on his powerpoint presentation while Niall Larkin from RelevantM is practising his deathly evil and cold smile while reciting “I could tell you what the product does but then I’ll have to kill you.”

As this is happening Shane McAllister from Mobanode is standing outside every door in the Padbrother house in turn and trying to send bluetooth messages about how great his product is to the mobile phones that are in each room.

5 miles away the Touristr crew are polishing their red mustang. (not a euphemism)

More updates on the other Padbrother contestants later.

Next week I are mostly meeting

Saturday, December 1st, 2007

Facebook, Ning, Meebo, Yahoo!, Google, Microsoft, Socialtext, United Layer and MORE.

A change is going to come, I can feel it – Irish Web Industry Association?

Friday, November 30th, 2007

Paul Walsh has made a call to get something started in Ireland:

I’ve previously grumbled about the lack of support in Ireland for Web based companies. Heck, Enterprise Ireland doesn’t even have the word ‘Internet’ in the ‘Industry sector’ section of their application forms for grants etc. What does that tell you?

If you’re interested in helping me improve the ecosystem, please join me for dinner in January

There are so many things I want to say on this but I just don’t have the time right now. There’s a dinner in January to talk about this and act on this. Watch the Segala blog and do come along.

I’ve had my run-ins with Walshy in the past and people ask me why I’m friendly with him after I exchanged such strong words with him before. The reason is that the more I see him work, the more he impresses me. He doesn’t suffer fools gladly (sounds familiar) and like Fergus Burns he’s a networking machine. And again like Fergus, it’s not the Irish definition of networking which is comprised of gathering and then selfishly hoarding contacts (another blog post on this will follow), it’s all about “This is so and so, you should talk, you work in the same space and exchanging information will help you both”. Paul has made a name and a rep for himself in London and further afield because of the events he organises and he’s done a great job with BIMA and all their events.

If Paul can do the same in Ireland as he’s done in the UK then that’s a very important thing for the Web industry here. In the meantime I’d strongly recommend that Irish companies that are serious about doing business in the real world outside of incubation centres should be getting cheap Ryanair flights to London every now and then to attend many of the networking events that are on, on a regular basis. The quality of the contacts is worth the travel costs and time used up. See you in January in Dublin!