Tag Archives: socialmedia

FTC Final Privacy Report Draws a Map to Meaningful Privacy Protection in the Online World | Electronic Frontier Foundation


FTC Final Privacy Report Draws a Map to Meaningful Privacy Protection in the Online World


Earlier today, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) released its final report on digital consumer privacy issues after more than 450 companies, advocacy groups and individuals commented on the December 2010 draft report. The final report creates strong guidelines for protecting consumer privacy choices in the online world. The guidelines include supporting the Do Not Track browser header, advocating federal privacy legislation, and tackling the issue of online data brokers.



Andy Kroll: How Empires Fall (Including the American One)

AK: How do you see the history of nonviolent action since Unconquerable World was published? What were you thinking about the Tunisian uprising, the Egyptian uprising, the Occupy movement, the general global protest movement of the present moment that arose remarkably nonviolently?

JS: I was astonished. Even now, I don’t feel that I understand what the causes were. I’m not even sure it makes sense to speak of the causes.  If you point to a cause — oppression, food prices rising, cronyism, corruption, torture — these things go on for decades and nothing happens. Nobody does anything. Then in a twinkling everything changes. Twenty-three days in Egypt and Mubarak is gone.

How and why a people suddenly develops a will to change the conditions under which it’s living is, to me, one of the deep mysteries of all politics. That’s why I don’t blame myself or anyone else for not expecting or predicting the Arab Spring. How that happens may, in the end, be undiscoverable. And I think the reason for that is connected to freedom.  Such changes in opinion and will are somewhere near the root of what we mean when we talk about the exercise of freedom. Almost by definition, freedom refers to something not visibly or obviously caused by anything else. Otherwise it would be compelled, not free.

And yet there is nothing obscure — in the sense of clouded or dark — about freedom. Its exercise is perhaps the most public of all things, as well as the most powerful, as recent history shows. It’s a daylight mystery.

This is a fascinating read. But he seems to completely miss the transformative power of communication mediums, and their democratizing effect, on political revolutions and nonviolence. Twitter played a massive part in the Arab Spring and Occupy movements!

Why Google+ Doesn’t Care If You Never Come Back | TechCrunch

Maybe when it first launched, Google+ had aspirations of stealing away some of your content feed reading time from Facebook and Twitter. While it needs a lot of work, the design and features Google+ have launched are solid, and I have the utmost respect for a team doing the best it can. The problem is that it doesn’t solve a problem. Facebook owns the social graph and the relevance-sorted news feed of your friends’ activity, and Twitter owns the interest graph and the firehose of news and real-time updates.

But that was not why Google made building social functionality a priority. Nor was improving its already dominant search feature. It’d would love this engagement but it doesn’t need it. Google scrambled to build Google+ because it watched Facebook and saw users were willing to volunteer biographical data to their social network, and that data is crucial to serving accurate ads users want to click. Search keywords and algorithmic analysis of your Gmail and other content weren’t enough. It had to start the journey to identity after shortsighted years of allowing users to sign up without asking who they really were. 90 million signups is a good start.

Beyond Facebook: The Rise Of Interest-Based Social Networks via @TechCrunch

while some may pronounce that Facebook is all the social we’d ever need, users clearly haven’t gotten the memo. Instead, users are rapidly adopting new interest-based social networks such as Pinterest, Instagram, Thumb, Foodspotting, and even the very new Fitocracy. (Disclosure: BlueRun Ventures is an investor in Thumb and Foodspotting.)

The numbers tell the tale around users’ appetites for these new interest-based social networks. Pinterest, the increasingly popular virtual pinboard, crossed 10M monthly unique users in the US in January 2012, achieving 8 digits worth of monthly uniques faster than any site ever, comScore says. According to Silicon Valley uber-investor Ron Conway, Pinterest is growing like Facebook 5 years ago.

Called it!

It’s also more simple, than the author makes out: Facebook quickly aquired a somewhat sour odor with their handling of game-based updates. You could see how easily people were turned off by seeing the minutae of gamers’ online activities. “interest-based social networks” help people weed out the chaff, so the pictures I shoot of the food I love to eat/see/cook, are shared on Foodspotting, and only foodspotters – who express a similar interest to mine, by virtue of downloading and using the app – see them. I don’t post my Foodspotting pictures to Facebook anymroe, unless I think I’ve shot something that has a broad, general appeal (not very often).

Facebook on the other hand, still wants you to share all this minutae with everyone in your life. And that’s simply counter to our experience as social creatures — we select and share with people who share our interests, not spam everyone with everything.

Fb took a great leap forward by copying G+’s circles feature, but it doesn’t go nearly far enough. I use Facebook less and less these days, because the most interesting content, the stuff that really grabs my attention, isn’t showing up in Facebook any more. It’s the lowest common denominator stuff that feeds my News Feed.

And that’s a good thing. More control, more curation, more power to appeal to the right target audiences. I love my social networks — from the geeky specificity of Foodspotting, to the new popular girl Pinterest, to that old standby networker Facebook.

Pinterest not a pirate anymore, helps site owners disable pins

The acts of “pinning” and “repinning” (re-sharing a pin created by another user) have come under fire, especially in photographer circles, as tools for copyright infringement. Members can easily grab copyrighted works from photo-sharing or media sites and clip them to their boards. Pinned images often include attribution, but sources later get lost in the shuffle, and some members go on to use images on their blogs or websites. Plus, considering that Google is the second most popular source of pins, a sizable percentage images are likely misattributed.

Now, Pinterest is providing website owners a simple snippet of code, located in the updated help section of the site, to help them nip unwanted sharing in the bud.

I think a much more robust solution would be to somehow hard-code the original links / attribution into the pins, so there’s no way to accidentally strip away the source through repinning. One of the most interesting things about Pinterest is its ability to ‘curate’ material in a way that never claims its your own, but also gives some credit to the organizer of a board for their taste. If this anti-pinning technique really takes off, a huge value of the site would be squashed.

Learn to code, get a job! via @CNN

It’s time Americans begin treating computer code the way we do the alphabet or arithmetic. Code is the stuff that makes computer programs work — the list of commands that tells a word processor, a website, a video game, or an airplane navigation system what to do. That’s all software is: lines of code, written by people.

We are socializing, working, consuming, and living in a world increasingly defined by programs. Learning to code is the best way to understand what all those programs do, or even to recognize that they are there in the first place.

NYC Mayor Bloomberg recently announced his intention to learn to code.

As a “social media guy” (god, I hate that term), I’ve seen the numerous ways knowing how to code has made my job easier; not just, “hey I understand how to write a socialgraph app and code my own Facebook tab” but more like, “Wow, the system we’re using to communicate events information internally is horribly out of date, and ultimately costing us a ton of money in wasted productivity. Why aren’t we importing these events as XML and reading them into an internal, structured database so we don’t have to pass info like location and description around between 10 people?”

It’s not just that coding helps you create programs — it’s that understanding code helps you understand how to work with programs, and how to better make them work for you.

The apps, websites, socialnetworks, and phones we all use produce an incredible amount of rich, structured information. If you’re letting it simply pass you by, then you’re missing some of the biggest opportunities to understand and change the world you live in.

I’m going back to get a second undergradute degree – a BS in computer science – next semester, because one advantage of working for a highered institution is the amazing tuition discount. But even if you don’t have access to something like that, there are a ton of other options, from Lynda.com, to MIT’s recently announced program to make all its classes freely available online, to the service the CNN author mentions (make sure to clickthrough to read the original article).

What’s your take on coding? Too complicated, or high time to get involved? If Bloomberg can do it, you can do it too ;-)

Facebook is gaslighting the web. We can fix it. – Anil Dash

As Molly’s piece eloquently explains, what Facebook is calling “frictionless” sharing is actually placing an extremely high barrier to the sharing of links to sites on the web. Ordinary hyperlinks to the rest of the web are stuck in the lower reaches of a user’s news feed, competing for bottom position on a news feed whose prioritization algorithm is completely opaque. Meanwhile, sites that foolishly and shortsightedly trust all of their content to live within Facebook’s walls are privileged, at the cost of no longer controlling their presence on the web.

3. Web sites are deemed unsafe, even if Facebook monitors them

As you’ll notice below, I use Facebook comments on this site, to make it convenient for many people to comment, and to make sure I fully understand the choices they are making as a platform provider. Sometimes I get a handful of comments, but on occasion I see some very active comment threads. When a commenter left a comment on my post about Readability last week, I got a notification message in the top bar of my Facebook page to let me know. Clicking on that notification yielded this warning message:


What’s remarkable about this warning message is not merely that an ordinary, simple web content page is being presented as a danger to a user. No, it’s far worse

Please hit the jump to read this fascinating, concise post about the dangerous direction Facebook is headed.

The Rise Of Pinterest And The Shift From Search To Discovery via @TechCrunch

The current toast of the web is Pinterest, the visual pinboard for collecting and sharing content online. The “pinning” phenomena is spreading from its modest beginnings to appearing in national media outlets. There are over 2.5m monthly active Pinterest users on Facebook. A co-founder of the site has over 500,000 followers on Pinterest. Ron Conway (an investor in the site) remarked that Pinterest’s user growth rate is what Facebook’s was five years ago. Earlier in 2011, it was valued through venture financing at $40m and, most recently, just a few months later, at around $200m.

What is going on here?

Awesome medium-depth analysis of popular image bookmarking/sharing social media upstart Pinterest. Why is the site experiencing Facebook-like growth?

Well, for one, it’s awesome. I use it to catalog projects I want to undertake, colors I want to paint, images I want to print out and hang, presents I want to buy, or stylish products I love. Then I use those pins as launchpads to share other ideas with my friends. It’s like a little display case for all the things on the internet you like.

I’m still fascinated by the intense desire to Pin, though – and this article glosses over the “soothing” experience, to use one quotee’s words, of being an active Pinner. A few of my friends and I are now avid pinners; I usually pin about 100 things a week or so, give and take how interesting other things are.

The most fascinating part is how certain ideas, or memes, will become trends, and the trends themselves trigger revivals and squashings of new ideas. A popular pin may get pushed around various categories throughout a couple days, then die out – only to be rediscovered by some Board-hunting newbie, which can in turn trigger a rash of repins and responses from people who missed the trend at first. It’s quite an active, engaging ecosystem for images and ideas.

Still more fascinating, is the predominance of women and gay men on the site. Why would a site with semingly gender-agnostic functionality attract such specific kinds of people?

A friend suggested that the social networking effect – that is, the propogation of things that appeal to for example women, leads more women to join and even more women-focused material to be pinned – and while I think this is definitely a significant effect, I think there’s something deeper about psychology and gender going on here.

Do gay men and women simply enjoy organizing more? The prevalence of DIY/Organization/Home boards suggests an accordingly significant interest in the process of categorizing itself.

And this is my guess to why the reader described the process as “soothing”.

There is something very basic to the nuturing role many women and gay men take on, about filtering huge quantities of data (images) into functional groups. It’s empowering, both to yourself and to others; it’s expressive, as a curatorial artistic tendency; it’s fulfilling, in the appropriation of public images into a kind of “personal display case”; and above all, it’s a damn fun recreational activity, that fills empty moments of mine anywhere from on a cigarette break to waiting in line at the bank.

Looking at it from a reductive, evolutionary standpoint, my guess is that Pinterest triggers something very primal within us, something that hearkens back to a time when the physical world was as unorganized as our informational world is now. Combing through reams of noise, to find the single image that tickles your fancy, which then can be shared with others in your community, is not too dissimilar from wading through weeds for hours to find a single nutritious frut tree, which can be brought back to the family for sustenance.

But note, how it is quite different from hunting an animal for meat: the searching, the waiting for the right moment, the heavy and violent weapons which must be brought beforehand, the pursuit, and the kill – a process very different from gathering, which in contrast, seems very passive and observational. To use the author’s terms, the “discovery” of pinning is quote different from the “hunting” behavior of Googling something specific for a specific result.

What do you think of my psuedo-behavorial-analysis? Am I touching on something that sounds right to you too? Or is it just a fact of history that the site has seen such overwhelming response from women and gay men?

New in Google Reader: a fresh design, and Google+ sharing

Today we’re rolling out the new Reader design, and the Google+ features that we mentioned just over a week ago. Before the day’s over, all Reader users will be able to enjoy the following improvements:
  • A new look and feel that’s cleaner, faster, and nicer to look at.

  • The ability to +1 a feed item (replacing “Like”), with an option to then share it with your circles on Google+ (replacing “Share” and “Share with Note”).

Finally! This integration seems so obvious, I’m surprised G+ didn’t launch with it already in tow.

From the user’s perspective, it lowers the bar to sharing small stories, and makes switching from one app to the other more streamlined; for Google, it provides access to a slew of interesting data about readership, activity in the Reader, and desire to share with social networks, as well as valuable data about why and when people whoose G+ as their sharing mechanism. For publishers, the advantage is more subtle, but undoubtedly they would also benefit from a more integrated viewer.

3 Cheers for Reader!

Gamers Help Scientists Solve Molecular Puzzle That Could Lead To AIDS Vaccine

“Following the failure of a wide range of attempts to solve the crystal structure of M-PMV retroviral protease by molecular replacement, we challenged players of the protein folding game Foldit to produce accurate models of the protein”, the University of Washington research team said in its findings. “Remarkably, Foldit players were able to generate models of sufficient quality for successful molecular replacement and subsequent structure determination. The refined structure provides new insights for the design of antiretroviral drugs”.

In this MSNBC report, the gamers describe the way in which they were able to work together cooperatively to solve a puzzle that has confounded scientists for more than a decade. And what’s so cool is that, while some of the most important progress in the game was made by those with biomedical academic backgrounds, the majority of active players playing with FoldIt did not have this kind of scientific background. Many of them were just average gamers like you and me.

The power of the cloud! I participated in one of these collective, distributed computing networks, at the time used to help map the galaxy by giving users access to a small chunk of the large puzzle to set their computers to work on. Multiplied by a few million people, even small changes can become enormous.

Of course, this is also what makes BotNet networks so damn powerful.