Feb 15

Twitter: Verification or Validation

There’s no doubt there is a lot of harassment on Twitter. The pseudonymous nature of the open platform creates an environment where random bullying can be become the norm, especially in certain spheres. This isn’t the fault of Twitter, the reasons go far deeper into society than one platform, but it is a mirror into the worst human behaviour.

Although Twitter does not demand ‘real’ names (like Facebook), it does offer Verification, which is seen as confirmation that the person behind the account is who you may think it is. It’s for people who attract impersonators, celebrities in various fields, whether sport, entertainment or even, given the original core base of Twitter, technology.

In the last week Jason Calacanis published an article about how Verification could solve harassment overnight. He believes that by allowing people to pay a small fee for verification, you create a ‘real people’ Twitter, people who had verified their identity. Along with a little blue tick, you would then get an option to only be able to see other verified people or, stay open to all but you would have to confirm that you know the consequences:

“By selecting ‘Show me everyone’ you are going to see accounts that are anonymously published that we have no way of tracking. These accounts can include fun content like anonymous parodying of celebrities or political accounts that publish anonymously for fear of being prosecuted. However, anonymous content can also include very offensive humor, nudity, political incorrectness, graphic images, and worse. By clicking this you are agreeing to, essentially, seeing an R-rated (and sometimes X-rated) film. No judgements either way.”

Now, Nik Butler has some very good comments – this option is not available to everyone nor is it the right option.

Let us set aside the reality that identity theft, credit fraud and and poor financial security systems will inevitably cause the end subscriber of a credit card to see some level of abuse to their credit let us look at what the other implications are.

1. You don’t have a credit card if you are under the legal age to access one. We are not just talking pre teens here but teenagers who in some countries are legally old enough to vote or be in military service but cant get credit until they pass a birthday milestone.
2. You may not have a credit card if you have experienced previous financial difficulties resulting in .. bad credit. Does having Bad credit mean your words are equally likely to be bad ?
3. Not every country has the same credit and financial service as the other. Should we avoid hearing the voice of a citizen because their country is deemed a poor credit position?

Jason believes that people will sign up for this and they will turn on the ‘see verified only’ option and by doing this, it’s going to stop harassment. But there’s no explanation of why, just that people verified, harassment stops, Twitter makes money. But that’s not how people behave and just turning off who you can see does not stop it.

  • Real people bully too. It may not be as hate filled (and illegal when threatening or inciting violence) but it can be bullying and verification won’t stop this. This type of behaviour does not get the headlines, but it exists, subtly.
  • Just because you can’t see it, does not mean it does not happen. For someone like Jason, male, white, financially comfortable, he undoubtably does get trolled on Twitter, but it’s unlikely to be as vicious as that received by many other groups. For those groups, it may actually be useful to know that someone is on their way to try and kill you (or at least saying they are). You can inform the police and get out of the way. Not seeing the harassment may be better for peace of mind, but not necessarily for safety. Brianna Wu’s account of her harassment shows there is a reason to know when someone is coming to get you!

Twitter allows more flexibility than Facebook over an account. Which is why I can own 3 accounts for completely different reasons. Which is why Terence Eden can create a Choose Your Own Adventure story. That is a good thing. It’s also a weakness as banned accounts can quickly be recreated and bullying continues. Will choosing to restrict access remove that flexibility and the ability for real segmentation of use?

There is another consideration for rolling out verification wider – which is what is verification for?. William Shatner got into an interesting debate on the platform about verification, pointing out that a social media manager/reporter is not the sort of person he would expect to be verified, calling this person a ‘nobody’. His term may have been derogatory, but his meaning was clear. If verification is about making sure that the person on the account is the real celebrity/athlete/star and is subject to impersonation,s so you should only believe the verified account, then awarding it to someone for ‘being good at his job’ makes a mockery of the system.

I think that we do go down this route, we need to introduce another grouping – a validated group. To me, this is just the equivalent of Flickr Pro. Make the person a subscriber and provide them additional services for that money. You tie them to a real identity, and you should be able to have multiple accounts tied to this identity, and in return, more services are offered. The ability only to see the restricted view, or not to see ads or, in my case, not to have any of the recent improvements such as name rather than twitter handle, conversations and the continuous injection of what twitter thinks I should be seeing rather than what i want to see. I’d pay for Twitter classic! 🙂

But have no doubt, offering this will not stop the bullying and threats. That is not an easy problem to change. it requires a lot of actions across many parties to change the direction on the social media mob and pile on culture. People to stand up and challenge it. Twitter to make it easier to report and control. Law enforcement to have the will, time and money to pursue. Education to discuss. Parents to discuss. It’s not going to be easy and I think it’ll get worse before it gets better.

Dec 04

LeWeb 12: NASA and Mars

LIVEBLOGGED = there will be mistakes

Benjamin Cichy, Chief Software Engineer, NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory, Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Le Web Paris Dec 2012

Talking about Mars. For years we knew little. It could be like earth. It had seasons, polar ice caps, had winters and summers. It could have had a rainy season. It has always fascinated us. It could have looked like Earth. Was it like us, can it tell us about ourselves.

In the 1870s, that is when we started to map it. Through a telescope. There was a network of channels, these features, covering the surface. When published,d potentially a mistranslation, there were now ‘canals’ ie built objects. From this, thinking about life on mars, public got excited. Asking questions about are we alone.

But not until the space age, we finally got some focus. Across the 1960s, we started our first attempts. But the frist 12 missions failed. We did not understand the Mars secrets, how to get there. In 1965, that was the first glimpse. There were 21 images, what was remarkable, was there was NO channels, it looked far more like our moon. It did not look to be this live planet. But we still wondered, was the fly-by too fast. So we still pushed to land on Mars.

Viking programme in 70s. 2 landers – legged, to get a single point of access. It was a success. We got our first images from another planet. We saw it was dusty, barren, rocky, There was no life. And so we retreated. We did not send more. We stepped back. We looked inside now. And we learnt that life on earth could survive in far more places than we thought, We learnt all we needed was energy source, like sun, we need water and we need the building blocks. So we went back – we could still have life, hidden in the soil.

But we could not go back as before, using a lander. A different approach. So let’s have a different approach. Cushion the lander so it bounces across the platform. And let’s not just use a legged lander, let’s have e a movable robot. So Sojourne rover created in 1996. But it would be another 8 years to go back. We tried again, but in 1999 they had 2 failures.

It was 2004 before they went back. They were able to answer the second question. They found evidence that Mars was once a wet place. They saw evidence of sea. They knew they had energy and water. In 2008, the Phoenix saw there was water on Mars now – frozen water in the poles.

But what about the last ingredient. The building blocks. We had to go bigger. So we built Curiosity. It is huge. It is international. Many countries involved. It is the ultimate offroad vehicle. But we did not know how to land it, how to get it to Mars. We knew we needed a protective shell. We needed a heat shield. The biggest we had built. Then largest parachute. 15m wide, 50m long. Parachute took us to 300kph. So how to get from that to soft landing. So they came up with a ‘jetpack’. They would lower it down, under a hovering jetpack. Then cut it and fly the jetpack off.

11km above surface, we deploy the parachute, Takes us to 300kph. Then we have to decide when to cut the cord. Too late, we’ll crash, Too soon, we’ll run out of fuel. So 1km out, we cut and we fire the rockets. SLow down over 30secs. 20m above, we start the lowering. then have to get the rockets away.

So much. 76 explosions to co-ordinate. All out of touch from the earth. it’s 14 minutes to get here. there are 5m lines of codes. to control this. We had to build all the software to teach the rover to land on Mars. We also knew that only 33% of missions had landed successfully. We could not test all together…there was 1 chance to get it right. Had run millions of sims etc.

We landed (played video). We had these never before seen views of Mars…took the first self portrait. Look at the image and think of all the people who got involved. We saw evidence of flowing water in Mars. We took soil samples, investigated. It is a long mission, will take us a long time to understand it.

On the night landed, there were 1.8billion hits on the website. It speaks to something more, it is not just about the science, It is something fundamental, about ourselves. We had visitors from almost every country on earth. All looking at what we were doing.

We have a fill packet, which is sent back when nothing to say. I added names, the teams etc. And a quote from Carl Sagan. It’s not just about connected things..Rover is the most distant connected object that we have, that downloads to web. But important too to think about WHY we connect. Think about how can we flame that spirit of exploration, of curiosity. Think about that when you are building the internet of things.

Q: what is most exciting?
A: the images, Every new image goes DIRECTLY onto the web. We can inspire people to explore, to connect with us

Mar 13

SXSW: Chris Messina and Actvity Streams

LIVEBLOGGED – so pretty much as said

Google Data Liberation – most excited to be part of this team

Ingeneral, interested in generative systems and structures, rhizomatic structures, built into the fabric of how they work. Start spill with constructs that grow into the systems. Thats how it all started, hashtags etc.

As in The Future of the Internet, (Zitrain) those sort of systems, paints a picture of things we need to think about as internists. So all that I have been doing based on these generative systems, those with transparent DNA.

An activity stream – facebook newsfeed, we are going somewhere with this, a lot more interesting. In 1999, Fight Club presented us something that gives us something to think about. YOu get a picture of someone through material objects. so imagine going shopping you get an activity stream as a receipt of what you have purchased. YOu get this on paper now, so how do you get it to something that is usable. When you purchase things with cards, the bank does all the collection and analysis. Card becomes a digital identity and you have no idea what the digital life is like. We end up with a stack of receipts that you can’t get anything from. Ther is an unbalance, where those that provide the cards can get the info and make use of it and they do not give us anything back. The bank provides data (he asked for bank info) but they provided it as pdf data. The pdf is a digital version of the paper they used to send you.

Today, the newsfeed is the best activity stream there is, one of the only ones we can have. (History of Feeds) IN 1999, they took RSS and piped data form one place to another. RSS was title + link + description. this was when people were afraid of giving data away, so this was the most you could do. So go forward 5-6 years, then there was a series of battles, so in 2005, there was a new format, called Atom. Still similar, till about syndication, innovation was author, unique id and update date. So very slow to get there. now we know who wrote it and when it was published. Moving forward but not about powering social web, still based on media consumption, the syndication. So now, we take the articles, will still have the same idea. We have a news feeds, which is still a portal types thing. So even with the most advanced browser/feed you still get the news feed. We are trying to pump all these rich info throughout he formats that were designed to publish news articles. So everything looks the same, it is all RSS (etc). There are all these rich activities but the formats we have are all stuck in 1999. The social web needs to have better, richer formats to allow us to express, why, when, how.

This is the friendfeed problem. There idea was to bring them all together, to make sense of it all. It was a metalled, representative of your actual identity online. Then friendfeed got acquired by facebook, now the service has languished. it still supports services that do not exist, it does not list all the services. (So no work). Int he world of social web and startups, there are a lot of casualties. Friendfeed put a lot of effort into stuff that goes away (as would anyone). So the solution could be a universal format (to minimise effort).

So this is where activity streams format comes from.

So to start, let’s go back to the Soviets. They proposed a theory called Activity theory…a structure about making workers more productive, a system to create divisions of labour. You wool have a subject with Tools with an object to produce and outcome. Then the theory got expanded, so broaden it out to the individual operating in a community structure, with rules and roles and mediating artefacts. This allows us to think about activity streams beyond point a to be syndication. It allows us to create meaning. (Engestrom 1967)

one of things you can think of is Social Objects. Jyri took his Dad’s research and started working on social objects. You can’tt just do a social network that allows friending, you have to create these shared objects that people can gather around and have some interesting interactions. Those social objects are the pivot points for connections, which allows them to derive meaning and make sense of the connection.

You Tube – the social object is the video. Instead of a list, you can modify it, with comments, favourites etc, all this social residue provides meaning, adds value to the object, that was created once and then gets built up over time. Look at Flickr, go back to our activity theory, they have understood how the different things they have used these rules to generate interesting interaction models. Focus on the pieces, you create a vibrant community, different roles, create, comment, curation,. Flickr does a good job of expanding the roles of non-producers, the actions adds richness and dynamism to Flickr than found on other sites. Also, on rules, they have made it possible for an individual to finely tune the system, the rules. So if I were private, I can control public searches. When I get a comment from someone I don’t know, then there would be a connection as that is the only way to find. If I was public , then another set of reason for people to find them. So the way I set up attracts the activities that are meaningful.

Useful when talking abut lifestreams. Lifestreams and activity streams are not completely interchangeable. The lifestream concept came from David Gelernter. Wrote Mirror Worlds. A decade later 2000, wrote The Second COming, A Manifesto. He talked about lifestreams. He said a lifestream organises info as a mind, not a file system. He talked about the idea of hashtags, connecting elements. (HTtp://j.mp/gelernter) This is all like Donnie Darko – we have these threads that play out to past and future and we can modify, but we do not have great tools for doing so. As we start to move towards experiencing the now, the next and the next next.

As we start to produce all these digital objects, we start to snack on it. Today may feel like overload, we don’t have the tools to consume it. We are constantly compressing, microcontent goodness. You would write a book, long, you were paid on words. Then we went to articles in publication, now we do tweets. So what are we giving up? We go from a slow consume and digest, lingering on content to one where info is disposable as there is so much of it. What is interesting is the data trail that can come from these experiences.
The info can lead to a mapping of behaviour. We are scratching the surface of this, with systems about where and what we are doing in the world. Still not good systems. Being able to build a profile over time, this social data, social residue and be able to make sense of it is fascinating. We can make little of it now.

Social signifiers can be useful in training computers to serve us better; it is very valuable, and bite size chunks make it more accessible to computers. One example is a pedometer I use, that hooks to a website, so I can track the trend. You need to accrue data over time. So I can track have a slowed down, am I more lazy than my peers. Look at the Feltron annual reports. He collects all of the data over a year. and publishes. He tracks where he goes, so why can’t google maps provide this? Food consumption, how does he track it? There’s an app called Last History…looks over the Last.fm scrobbling. This is your data, so you can do something with it. It takes your habits, combines ical, iphoto, imovie etc and shows you the soundtrack of your life.

Now Tufte has been horrid by Obama, to track and visualise where our tax dollars are going. So why don’t they make it compulsory for the data to be released so we can build stuff….we’ll end up with pdfs from most of them.

The solution to data overload is more data – actually more metadata, data about data. So we need to start generating this and this is what we are doing with activity streams. We presume there is an actor, that did something and modified an object, with some output/target. Actor Verb Object Target. this model allows me to do this.

So what does the code look like? So add verb, object-type and target to the atom definition. so you have an activity stream data model. The new bits are added. You can start to substitute verbs and object types, mix and match and build more interesting experiences. Now we have a list of verbs and object types, from review of friendfeed and others. So all of this is in v0.8, moving towards 1. the idea is not to have a million verbs on day 2, but to start with something that can be added to.

We are not really inventing this, we are being inspired by the microformats process, for the expansion of the model. So ask why, do your homework, then propose the new verb/targets etc. Then iterate. Then interoperate. We want to grow this slowly so we know what we are getting into


May 13

Twitter Censors

I woke up today to find that Twitter has decided to break itself and started to censor what it shows me. Before today, when I decided to follow someone, I saw all of their public tweets, all of their replies, no matter to whom they were replying. This was a setting in the system, allowing me to see everything. However, by default, it was turned off. Given that few people never change the default, most people did not use this setting, which could be part of the reason why they never quite get it, why there is such a drop off rate. This means of finding out who is interesting, who is involved in conversations with people you follow, is one of the key features that allows you to enjoy the serendipity of finding new people.

BUt now it’s gone. Removed as an option. The Twitter blog says:

Based on usage patterns and feedback, we’ve learned most people want to see when someone they follow replies to another person they follow—it’s a good way to stay in the loop. However, receiving one-sided fragments via replies sent to folks you don’t follow in your timeline is undesirable. Today’s update removes this undesirable and confusing option.

So now they’re controlling what I can see, they’ve removed the choice. They’re censoring what I can hear. It’s the equivalent of being in a pub with a few friends and a bunch of new people and not hearing any of the conversation between everyone else. I’m not the only one who sees it this way, just search for the hashtag #fixreplies

Twitter Fix Replies (screenshot from site)

Twitter Fix Replies (screenshot from site)

Twitter, this needs to go back. I make a choice to follow people and I make a choice to follow everything they see. Don’t strip out content, just let me see it all.

Mar 14

SXSW – Is Privacy Dead

While many assert that "privacy is dead," the complex ways in which people try to control access and visibility suggest that it’s just very confused. Rather than throwing the baby out with the bath water, let’s discuss people’s understanding and experiences of privacy and find ways to 2.0-ify it.

danah boyd Researcher, Microsoft Research
Judith Donath MIT Media Laboratory
Alice Marwick PhD Candidate, New York University
Siva Vaidhyanathan Assoc Professor, University of Virginia

  • db: out panel together to discuss privacy, a group of academics to discuss..we have different definitions of privacy.   There are different cultural views. People don’t ness view in many ‘official’ terms, but look at it as a term of control, what they control. Technology has changed a lot of definitions and behaviours and expectations.
  • SV: writing book – googleisation of everything. focus on nature of transaction between us and Google.  Most only have a usage of tools – searches and email etc. You may be aware that there are some levels of control, but not obvious.  There are 2 annoying assumptions I want to explode – 1 that privacy is the notion of publicity.  Just because you put up 100 pieces on sites it does not mean we don’t care about the 101st. Just because we put up some stuff, does not mean we don’t care about privacy. The 2nd notion is that privacy is a substance that can be traded.    The idea of trading a little bit of privacy for better relevance…that assumes we can break it up into bits. Privacy is not a substance, it is not traded in little bits. It means different things in different contexts. Privacy is a bad word for what we mean.
  • AM: writing on effect of social media on social status. about the sharing of a lot of information. There is a real value in being public…eg Twitter. I’ve interviewed CEOS who would not hire if people don’t have profiles etc.  There is a social value. you have to participate to get value. there is also social support in the network. Have to recognise value, but you have to recognise that the more info you put out, there more useful it is for brands, google etc.  All this info can be aggregated, to create profiles that are valuable.  If you put info out there, you consent to have it used for any reason – I think No.  But how do you reap advantages of public publications without it being used.
  • JD: I look at data visualisation. Public space..spaces where there is some kind of common control what the expected behaviours etc. What is private..is something private to some and public to others.  Online world can collapse the different spaces, mix them up.
  • db: We have a set of properties that we take for granted offline and having to look at them online.  Scale is one thing…eg a scale of publicity we have not seen before.  Tech has changed aggregation, changed the way we can see each other.  So what are the most important
  • SV: no change is purely tech, it has impact from world economy. eg the targeting of goods and services and getting the attention.  That’s why amazon and google grab the data, for both the inperson target and the aggregate.  It goes along with an erosion of the comfort with privacy.  73-76, there was a movement in the US to protect personal info from abuse from the state, with string support from Congress. We got some strong laws – updated the credit control system.   It’s bad, but it works better than most.  Also Watergate…laws passed to prevent one bit of the gov passing info to another. Many of the laws are there today. But most of the strongest have been undermined. Now we take it for granted…we ‘ignore’ it, and are not focusing on the new interface..us and firms.  Not separate from our concern about the gov, as firms sell databases.
  • JD: we are not always aware of the data trail we leave behind, what the firms are building. If we were aware, we may choose to do things different, you need to have awareness to have the choice.  It is hard to have a historical perspective of what is considered normal.  Historically we have come from a unusual level of privacy although before that there was far less – communities were far smaller, people knew everything in the small groups.  Most things in the past have not been recorded – where you are over time, what you are doing. So we have to work out how to manage this
  • db: it gets worked out differently in different populations.  Interviewing young people about their homes, it was not private as they had no control, the internet was more private to them as they had more control, It depends where you are in the power structures
  • AM: Context is one of the key things. Every place has a social context; eg telling doctor something which goes on medical record, that’s fine in that context, but doctor should not tell her best friend. There are specific ways of dealing with information in context.   For firms, should the burden be on the individual on controlling their data or on the firms..NYT had an editorial about opt-out to opt-in (diff US to EU data view)
  • SV: personal info is a form of currency, both in aggregate and individual. If it has value, should I have some form of stake in the data?  I expect to be aware of the extent my information is being used. We have not done this.  Most people here may have been able to manage their privacy, but many won’t be able to – they’re not even aware that there are controls there.
  • JD: when Am talks about context…it highlights the lack of ephemerality of the data. something now could be there in 20yrs and will likely be seen in a different context.  For most people in the US, we are not faced witht he fact that is we say something we are in danger…in many places there is this – but there’s no guarantee that the US won’t ever be the same. There are big serious institutional privacy issues. there is also about how do you want to be seen by people in different contexts.  
  • db: information is currency not just in an economic sense but in a social sense. many here have gained status and even jobs by putting stuff out there.  We are faced with the fact the tech is converging all these contexts. So how do we deal with these contexts as a design and a norm thing
  • SV: I teach about privacy and surveillance, in different classes. Get different reactions.   Get them to read Jane Jacobs. There is a level of surveillance we invite into our lives (eg look out for the neighbour)  we engage in those transactions with each other; ie if there is no power difference, when there is a reciprocity. There’s trade.  When I trade with Amazon, Google, state, there little reciprocity, no feedback. Building in the two way can be useful. 
  • AM: there is bleeding between networks, eg LinkedIn or Facebook. Some have single contexts, others have multiple contexts, how can you manage?
  • db: Celebrities have a different level of reciprocity
  • AM: it is also the same for microcelebrity, with tech
  • JD: how do you have a society figure out what the norms are, about para-social relationships. You have millions of people trying to determine the norms, you can’t have a relationship with millions, but there are nodes the network can focus on and have a conversation around it. We are interested in people paying attention to us.  What is the cost that you are willing to pay to get the benefit of the attention.
  • SV: there’s no zero sum between privacy and publicity. We give up control when we resign that battle. We assume that someone who has a lot of FB friends, a movie star give sup the right to privacy and dignity. We should not assume that someone who engages in public should not deserve some privacy. We don’t always view people who live a public life as real people who deserve dignity and respect.  eg the Star Wars kid.
Feb 05

Google and Latitude

Google is confusing me at the moment with its execution of Latitude and its multiple versions. If I type in google.com into the address bar, it defaults to google.co.uk and gives me this for Latitude

iGoogle UK version

When I type in google.com/ig (or click on the link to m.google.com provided in the notification emails, it keeps me on the .com TLD and gives me this:

iGoogle.com Latitude

It’s obviously available…so why does it pretend it isn’t? And what’s with the changing URLs?

Feb 05

Twitter: I don’t care

This post has been sitting in draft for nearly 2 weeks now. It’s been added to and written about in different moods and moved around and pondered upon. It may not make cohesive sense but it’s time to bite the bullet and publish!!!

Obviously, the blog post title, like the cake, is a lie. I do care about Twitter, having used the service almost daily for over 2 years but sometimes you just have to let things out. Fair warning, this is just a grumpy rant – not necessarily a coherent argument – about the tool, just my feelings about it, so don’t let it put you off.

So where is this coming from? Primarily from reading lots of posts and tweets over the last few weeks that tries to define and argue about the ‘right’ way to use Twitter. Now, the common sense thing for me to do with this information is ignore it, to not care about it, but as I’m ranting about it in person at the moment, I thought I’d share it with the blog.

It started with a simple tweet exchange between me and Jeremy:

rachelclarke: sometimes, I think I’m doing Twitter all wrong. well, at least all different. Then remember I can use it how the hell I like!!!
jeremywright: @rachelclarke – shhhhhhh
rachelclarke: @jeremywright why? I want to SHOUT it. There’s NO right or wrong. I don’t have to follow you. I don’t have to say anything interesting,
jeremywright: @rachelclarke – And then it’ll be CHAOS! CHAOS I tell you!
rachelclarke: @jeremywright ahhh. understand now. I’ll go and whisper over here then :-p

Which sort of summarises my feelings about it. I look at lots of ‘experts’ and they all seem to be trying to tell me how to use Twitter, but how I, and you, use it is up to ourselves. So the first ‘I don’t care’. Which is I don’t care how you think I should use it, I’ll carry on using it the way that suits me.

Then there was another conversation over at Tris Hussey’s blog. where I came to the conclusion that not only do I dislike auto-DMs on a follow, but I dislike thankyou tweets in general. As I said in a comment, if someone thanks you after you follow them, doesn’t that mean that you have done them a favour? That they owe you something for following them. Here, the issue is that in my personal use of Twitter, I don’t look on the action of following me as a favour to me. I follow people for the benefit that I obtain from it, the ambient intimacy from friends, the chance of entertainment, the weird stalkiness bit of following the odd celebrity. So I assign the same rational to people who want to follow me. Don’t thank me for following you and don’t expect thanks back – and yes, I know how grumpy, selfish and non-altruistic this sounds but I use Twitter for me, not for ‘my community’ nor yours.

Celebrities on Twitter are interesting and provide endless entertainment – and not just because of the tweets from the celebrities. There’s at least 2 kinds of celebrity on the site, the internet famous and the real world famous. In the former category you can put people like @scobleizer, @chrisbrogan and @kevinrose. In the latter you have people like @wossy, @stephenfry and @mrskutcher (Demi Moore). But with both types, you can get an unfortunate set of fanboy behaviour, where almost every tweet is addressed to one or more of these celebrities, as people look for attention. Now, I do jollow a few of these and have answered a few of their queries but try and keep the cyberstalking to a minimum.

A few Friday night’s ago, Twitter in the UK was a source of endless entertainment as Fry and Ross discussed the service (briefly) on the TV – which led to further mentions on the BBC news and more newspaper articles. And then on Something for the Weekend and the radio and The One Show and lots of other programmes. This seemed to be a source of endless glee to many or a threat of doom and the end of the service. The odds of that happening is pretty low – and what seemed to be missing by many is that it does not matter how many people joined the service they can be completely ignored. Twitter is a permission based system, you don’t have to see anything unless you want to.

As Twitter goes through these periodic bursts of popularity and growth – and believe me, it’s now pretty mainstream in the UK – I keep being followed by people I don’t know. The odds of me following you back are pretty low at this point in time – see earlier post about why. But expectations of the ‘audience’ can be pretty high, as these tweets show:

Girlonetrack: Someone’s informed me they’ve unfollowed because I didn’t reply to their @. News: I get a LOT of @ s. Also: I have a life. Sorry about that.

gapingvoid: @1938media Somebody just sent me an a LONG email EXPLAINING why they’re unfollowing me on Twitter. Too funny…

There’s a whole bunch of people on the service now who use it to self-promote, not just celebrities who do tend to post ‘real stuff’ even if they are being followed by 10s of 1000’s, too many to interact with, but social media experts, SEO experts, sales guys etc, all jumping on a service that is hot and has proven success in increasing audience and relevance. Of course, what they forget is that for most people, they get that influence over a long period, not by joining and immediately following 2000 people.

There’s a lot of baffling behaviour out there, that can confuse, astound and amaze people who’ve been around for a while.


I go private, I still get a whole bunch of requests from a) social media idiots who appear to want to follow me because other people follow me, and b) people I don’t know who want to follow me in, presumably, a business sense, but don’t seem to have twigged that the danhon account is private for a reason – it’s about my personal life

or Cait:

A friend joined, and I noticed that his entire following list was of famous people with the exception of about 3 actual friends. Hehas a bit of a public profile, so to be honest, I looked in on what he was saying and didn’t bother following it up. The only “@” tweets in his list were replies to people he didn’t really seem to know. I haven’t seen a single message to an actual friend, about anything. And I realised that @StephenFry is the same. Isn’t that weird?

Now of course, their views are just as wrong – or right – as anyone else’s. That’s the joy about Twitter. It does not matter how you use it as long as how you use it matters to you. Join in, have fun, follow and @ and tweet about your breakfast, being stuck in a lift or how boring everyone else is. Post your affiliate links or your SEO guidelines or or your endless stream of links to blog posts or your blip lyrics or your Magpie ads or whatever else you want. I don’t care. You all have your reasons for using it as I have mine, just please don’t expect them to tally 😉

Feb 04

BT My Place

Last night, I was invited along to the launch of a new service from BT – BT MyPlace. Unfortunately, it all got called off with the weather; they’d sensibly decided that it may have been a little difficult to demo a service that would involve us wandering around outside.

BT MyPlace is a ‘pocket concierge’ system, for wifi devices. Register some of your preferences and when you are out and about – and can connect to the BT Openzone system in Westminster, you’ll be served relevant content. It’s a very local service, looking at the choices on offer, it’s focused on tourists. You don’t need to access over BTWifi though, as it seems to work perfectly well over standard connection.

To get it set up for the first time, you have to register on the site. Interestingly, I expected the confirmation to be sent to my phone, but instead it’s an email. On reflection, that’s because not all mobile wifi devices are phones, in fact, most aren’t if you consider laptops.

Next set your preferences. The UI on this site is a little raw to my eyes. The links to setting preferences are tucked away at the top, within preferences you have this weird mix of radio buttons and check boxes. My first thought was that I could only choose one type of preference, as radio buttons are used for exclusive choices.

Bt My Place (screenshot from site)

Bt My Place (screenshot from site)

At this point, I’m a little stuck. I’m going to try it out for real on the phone, but test searches were not overwhelmingly good when sitting at the desk whilst not in Westminster. I’m going to have to give it a try out in the outside world. I like the idea, it’s a good collaboration between BT and Westminster Council, I’ve just not seen it in action yet.

Apr 07

Twitter Frustrations

I’m getting really frustrated with Twitter at the moment and it has nothing to do with the service itself but to the explosion in use. Since the start of the month I’ve received 50 new followers, very few of whom I’ve followed back. Some of it, I’m sure, is because I’ve been on the service a long time and am often on the front page of the followers list due to my ‘membership number’. I’m pretty much on my limit of people I’m following, the limit of how useful the tool is. For me, it is not a broadcast tool, it’s not a popularity tool, it’s a way to connect with friends and ‘friends’ (those online acquaintances who I know virtually, or want to know or find interesting). So here’s some of the reasons I will and won’t follow you. Everyone has different reasons – which is why I don’t feel aggrieved if someone does not follow me, if I don’t fit into their reasons for use, why would they?

  • I follow you if I know you personally – and know you have a Twitter account. Recently I’ve not gone out and tried to discover accounts of everyone I know; I’ll come across them eventually
  • I follow you if I know you virtually, having had interactions online with you
  • I follow you if I’m met you and you mentioned Twitter, or your twittering about an event we’re both at. (for example, I started following a few new people after Over the Air.) I tend to review these after a while to see if we still have shared interests
  • I follow you if someone I already follow starts to refer to to you and your tweets look interesting. Again reviewed after a while
  • If you start following me, I rarely return the favour if I look at your numbers and seeing you are following 100’s or 1000’s and very few following you. You’re either promoting yourself or just started on the service and think that is the way to do it. If I don’t know you, I won’t follow.
  • However, of you start following me, it looks like you are trying to learn how to use the system and you are following connected people, then I’ll see what you have to say
  • I have blocked 2 kinds of accounts. Obvious promotion accounts for things I don’t like and people who I feel are creepy (that’s usually men who are following nothing but loads of women – they write in a certain way)
  • I won’t follow promotion accounts in general, nor politicians, etc

There’s my list, that’s the sort of thinking I go through when I look at an account. It has to fit with what I can cope with and what I am interested in. If I don’t follow you after you connect with me, it’s not necessarily you, it’s probably me 😉

Mar 16

BarCampBrighton and SL connections

Aleks Krotoski talking about the social graph.

  • [missed the start] A social psychologist, trying to examine connections
  • Pathways can be mapped across friends and people.
  • Mass friending…impact the data and how the network connects.
  • there are certain relationships and strengths of relationships. You can technological measure strength but difficult as you get to semantics.
  • Adding arrows to the graph starts adding information. You can add lots of information, but then it all gets mushy in the middle.  Fuzzy and gooey and technologiest don’t like that. Then I come into the mix and go oooh psychology.
  • So how do you measure strength…

    • I asked the social psy questions. list friends and rating of them..
  • Based study on actual connection on a virtual world, on the qualitative assessment of relationships

    • Second half of study was looking at getting behavioural shortcuts for this
    • some evidence about how interactions acorss various channels indicates trust.  ie talking in public, IM in SL, outside of SL via email.
  • Once you have all the information, all the messy stuff. I was looking at interconnected, closely related groups of people.  I’m interested in them…as they know each other. In the mess, many people, but don’t know others, they identify as something.  Look at a self-decared group to see if they are differently connected.  I did an island analysis, pulled out 4 groups of people who are extremely closely connected to each other.  There’s a lot of trust between each other.
  • The point: There are social relationships which have psychologies that can;t ey be articualted through technolgy.  There are social flocking/network effects in these spaces – people move to where their friends are.   Whatever is happening…they’re capturing a lot of data about us.
  • The data they are capturing is going to be a key discussion coming up

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Mar 16

BarcampBrighton and Cloud Computing

Jeff Barr, from Amazon, was at BarcampBrighton as part of a long European tour, talking up cloud computing.

  • apologised for going to be a little more commercial than others….but taken out the prices so it’s not a sales pitch!
  • been at Amazon for 6 years.   Saw real potential, the first catalog service.  they started sending me out to conferences, I was good at it so they made me the evangelist and that’s what we do, me and 3 others. we have a wiki that people can request us.
  • FOr the last 5 years we have been opening up the infrastructure – the product catalog, alexa and now infrastructure services. putting APIs out there, charging models around them. we try and make it really simple to get started. Sign up and away you go
  • we offer access in a number of ways. a lot of what we have had to do over the years has to do with scale, have the infrastructures.  we offer that out to developers.   The developers can focus on the innovative and creativity part..we do the hardware.
  • we rely a lot of input and feedback from developers. let me know what you like and don’t like. we write a trip report everyday to get the feedback to the company.
  • Cloud computing- emerging trend. you look to the cloud to do stuff for you. You can treat it as infinite capacity, scale on demand.  With cloud computing, what were fixed costs turn into variable costs, where you pay for what you need.  You get possibly better staff to keep it up, get economies of scale.
  • It can reduce your time to get things up and running,
  • We have 6 different services – Queue, storage, elastic compute cloud, flexible payments,
  • S3: object based storage…1b-5GB. private or public, redundant and dispersed. storage. US and Eu locations. (Ireland). EU added due to latency and data legal issues. We dynamically manage the copies of the data.   We are redundant enough. 99.99% availability goal. Can organise in buckets/ each bucket is a flat storage model. Can use it as a bit torrent seed. Complete API around it.  We have libraries for a number of different languages, that we have built or other developers.
  • Elastic Compute Cloud: (not the ZX81): use Xen, take lots of machines, slice into small components, using a indi OS. when you have an instance it is yours while you pay. you get root level, elastic capacity,. There’s a lot of apps built on top as well for you to use. you get to scale in minutes.  Up and down control. We have 3 different instance types – small, Large and XL.  You have an Amazon Machine Image – which is your’s.  You put this in S3, then roll it out to the servers you need as you scale.  Full API into the cloud, you can start machines with one call.  Used in lots of scientific research. MapReduce and Hadoop, for engineering and science calculations.   For Fortune 500 companies, often for high impact, short term projects, as a dev host.  One example is the NYT archive, When it was a closed service, they re-rendered PDF from TIFF every time. They decided to use EC2 with Hadoop to pre-render everything.  They tested it..then ran it over 24 hours over 100 instances. Far better than having to do internally.  Some one has built EC2 Firefox UI – a browser addon that allows you to control the instances

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Mar 15

BarCampBrighton – the morning so far

I decided last night to come down to BarCamp Brighton, when I saw there were some tickets made available.  A friend was travelling down so I got a lift straight to the campus and arrived just as it was kicking off.  The usual introductions were made and everyone did the traditional standup and give three tags – it seemed about 40% of the attendees had never been to a barcamp before.

My intention here is to attend stuff I know nothing about, avoiding any marketing or social media sessions.  So far, I’ve suceeded.

  • Session 1: Flash and Particles  A badly prepared session that started off poorly, with ramblings about the company website.  It got better as it went through, with some interesting details abut the maths behind the particles and how to apply them which I could have heard a lot more about if time had not run out.
  • Session 2: RDF for beginners Tom Morris gave a revised presentaiton from his original from Semantic Camp.  I enjoyed this as it was clear about how to use RDF, with some concrete examples of the code.  I’m still unsure about the why though, later Tom admitted that use cases still need to be developed.  A list of resources are available at http://icanhaz/swtutorial

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Mar 05

Mobiles at the Museum

I went to the Natural History Museum last week and came across this.


An animatronic T.Rex being filmed by a whole load of schoolchildren – like multiple mini versions of Scoble, all with their phone out, video and taking pictures. I saw very few actual cameras, they all had the phone. How many of these actually do something witht he footage, the images? Do they take it off the phone or just keep it on there to share?

For the museum, it does raise a question as their visitor guidelines ban the use of cell phones. I’m pretty sure they mean for taking calls, as there’s no restrictions on cameras. They need to update the rules.

Aug 27

Vint Cerf at the TV Festival

Vint Cerf: The Alternative McTaggert

Vint gave an alternative McTaggert speech this year. The official one was by Jeremy Paxman on Friday, discussing the future of TV and the trust situation it currently finds itself in. Vint gave a slight variation on the same speech I saw at Google earlier in the year, calling out the TV and IPTV issues. (that was not blogged, due to the change in Google rules about their tech series, but it was almost exactly the same talk)

One key trend was that consumers are more and more becoming producers which is challenging the asymmetry of the connection speeds where download is far greater then upload speeds for most consumer connections. The increase of video is huge, with Vint showing a graph of daily usage and YouTube traffic taking a major proportion as people watch more and more video. One question from the audience regarding the capacity of the web to continue to carry the increasing video traffic = he believes that there is no problem and there is plenty of spare capacity. The main issue is the last mile, as few companies are using fibre for that.

Vint touched on neutrality; his initial designs were neutral – the network does not care – it;s an end to end process, only the ends need to know what is on the net. The network needs to just pass the packets. The network is agnostic. this neutrality has been important in creating and encouraging innovation. There has never been need to ask permission. The impact of ISPs restricting the access can suffocate innovation.

He spoke for a while on digital distribution, and how streaming is not the only option. With increased storage and increased bandwidth, you can look at delivering faster than live or slower than live, moving it to storage and then watching at a time of choice. The web, with its ability to deliver packets of any kind, can be used to deliver a far richer experience, adding metadata, subtitles, advertising, interactive videos etc. Looking forward, we need to look at the treatment of IP. In an media where material is easy to copy and distribute, should we pay on copies? What are the alternatives?

The reception overall was good, a surprising addition to a TV Festival. Interestingly, at another session it was commented that people were surprised at some of the things that were mentioned.

Aug 25

Ian Clarke, Freenet, Revver and Thoof

Ian Clarke
Freenet and Revver

Founded Revver to help copyright holders get paid for their work. copyright cannot be controlled onthe web – the web is all about communication and Copyright is to prevent communications.

Revver gave an incentive to create and spread videos. Has raised 10m$ in A&B rounds of financing. Many people have or are using Revver. LG15 used it for about a year, Zefrank used. At some point another almost every well known videoblog has used it.

After I left Revver, I wanted to work on figuring out what people are interested in and then showing it to them. Not a new problem, one that anyone in the content business has to solve. Started to look at collaborative filters – eg Amazon, Netflix – based on friends recommendations and other things. One of the problems is they either work or they scale,, they typically don’t do both.

We built Daedulus to do the collaborative filter for Revver (also licenced to Reddit). When working on this, noticed that CFs have to get a lot of information before they start working well for you. So saw a gap in the market – the genesis of Thoof, which uses base info to make generalisations from the start to start with recommendations. mac vs PC, browser, geography. Also built so that you can change things on site, you can propose change that then gets voted on

New project is Thoof. Launched in June, growing 20%/week. Ideology is to let people find info about stuff they did not know they wanted as well as what they thing they want.

Freenet – is moving towards a dark network, so that you only connect to people who have freenet – friends. this can protect your usage in areas where there are problems about using such software or surfing anon.

Q: What do you say about the charge that Freenet can be abused?
A: Any tool can be abused. But the freedom of being able to communicate is more important than the potential of abuse – it’s democracy. In less democratic countries huge amounts of resources are spent on preventing communciations. We believe the benefits outweigh potential abuses.

Jun 26

iPhone Madness

Noel and co, as part of his Luck of Seven series, have filmed two Apple fans waiting outside the Apple store at 5th ave New York. They both have blogs. Greg, from Long Island, does not own a Mac nor an iPod, still want a phone and does not know if he can keep it. Dave is third in line and wants to buy two and sell one for charity. Who’s second in line then? Dave’s reasoning:

I just graduated from college, and have another week of vacation to burn before I enter the work world. I can’t think of a better way to learn about New York than hanging out with a wide cross-section of the New York population. Granted, the thought of waiting in line might not strike you as an ideal vacation, but in my travels I’ve found that the best memories come from unscripted interactions with locals.

So go meet them and ask them why..and find out who’s number 2 inline 😉

Update: and here’s why Greg has no Apple products..he’s just a ‘professional’ liner-upper, who spends his life getting on the media. Dave sounds far more interesting (wonder if he’s told his parents yet?)

Jun 20

Veoh TV

Last week I got a sneak preview of Veoh’s new service, veoh.tv, but got asked not to blog about it. The news has now broken and there’s a few detailed write ups around. Erick Schonfeld has a great overview,

VeohTV is an application that you download to your PC. It lets you watch any video, not just on Veoh, but anywhere on the Web—whether it’s on NBC.com, CNN.com, YouTube, or AskANinja.com (but not Joost, which does not show videos on its Website). It turns the hodgepodge of video on the Web into something that looks remarkably like TV by gathering all of it into a remote-controllable experience you can watch from ten feet away

Phil Butler looks at the features and contemplates the revenue drivers

Joost content is obviously excellent and the quality of broadcasts there is very stable, which illuminates one of VeohTV’s only real weaknesses – the system is dependent on the quality of sometimes less than excellent online video. This is not problematic with content from NBC or other major networks, but the user’s “hands on” filtering will determine a quality library. The ads were a major concern of mine and I found Joost to be an early leader in upscale and unobtrusive advertising. Dmitry reflected a rather perfect logic in response to this concern, in that VeohTV will be able to target ads that will be relevant to individual users and therefore inherently less obtrusive.

and Mike Arrington has a business round up.

Will it work? It certainly might. I’ll have to wait and try out the software first. But the vision is solid. This avoids the time and cost of doing licensing deals with content owners. Like Real’s new player that allows users to basically bookmark and locally store video, it assumes that video will continue to be widely distributed across the Internet. Whoever creates the best interface for the content will win users, and liquidity events.

What did I like about it?

  • The interface was intuitive, smooth to use and very close to the Tivo model. I liked it better than the Joost model.
  • Loved the way you can pull everything together into your own channels
  • From an advertisers perspective, the channels and what you can do around them offer some great opportunities, better targetting and , hopefully, a way of advertising that is not too intrusive but could be useful.
  • The search function. Cool. Very, very cool. Pulls stuff from all over and let’s you line it all up to watch.

Look out for a lot more online buzz around this once the beta starts rolling out.

Jun 19


On June 12, Flickr introduced localisation – that is local language and country versions – of their site in 7 different flavours. These were French, Germany, Italian, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish and Traditional Chinese. In what appears to be a consequence to this extension, they also ran up against local laws (or interpretation of laws) that meant users in Germany, Hong Kong, Korea and Singapore were restricted to safe search only, resulting in a storm of comment (most vocally from Germany) accusing Flickr of censorship.

And now YouTube have announced their localisation, with an extension into 9 more domains. As more than half their users are outside the US, it’s probably about time.

Today at a Google press event in Paris, Chad Hurley and Steve Chen are announcing the launch of nine new domains in Brazil, France, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Ireland, and the UK.

All of the language has been translated (and the UK/IE versions are different to the US – they’ve corrected the spelling!) and all are on new URLs. They have not touched the countries/languages that have given so much trouble for Flickr and have some interesting gaps. There also seems to be less advertising (currently) on the local sites; however, local content distribution deals have been done in these markets to add to the ‘professional’ content on the site which will be a revenue stream and I’m sure advertising will catch up.

What I can’t seem to find out is whether uploading to one version makes your video available to the other versions. The home pages are localised as to content – they are the result of an editorial decision. The browsing and listing pages are also localised, there are different in different markets. Looking at the honour listings for some of the video it looks like the US version has been set to the global resource and then each market has it’s own honour listings. Which seems to mean that whilst I can tell how a video would be doing in somewhere like the UK, I can’t easily pull out the US figures. Does this mean all the video ranking sites are going to be changing their results over the next few weeks?