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Archive for July, 2008

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July 28th, 2008

@Identi.ca The new Twitter? Not yet.

@Identi.ca The new Twitter? Not yet.

Fail WhaleIdenti.ca stormed onto the social media scene a couple of weeks ago as the open source microblogging alternative to Twitter. This happened amidst the dreaded Fail Whale continually appearing because Twitter’s servers were constantly overloaded. It seemed to be the perfect fix, and yes, many people signed up for Identi.ca. Identi.ca was exploding and everyone was Twittering about it. It’s a great idea to have a communal microblogging site developed by a community. So people started flocking to Identi.ca, if only to have a working microblogging platform.

But then, Twitter bought Summize. And a strange thing happened, Twitter started becoming a lot more useful and solved a lot of its problems with downtime. When I first looked at Twitter, I noticed right away how crippled it was by not having a search engine on the site. Summize started as a search engine that offered users an easy way to follow conversations about topics posted on Twitter, complete with RSS feeds that gave people easy access to tweets on what they were interested in. Now that Twitter has integrated search into the program, it’s even easier for users.

So, with the main reasons to switch to Identi.ca, the problems of search and downtime, gone, only open source purists will leave Twitter. Twitter still is free and has the largest community of microbloggers, who have remained dedicated even with the problems. The community behind Twitter will be the driving force in keeping also-rans, such as Identi.ca and Plurk at bay. At least until Twitter’s cash runs out. The communications giant needs to figure out how to monetize the excellent traffic it gets, which so far has been elusive. I reserved my Identi.ca name, just in case.

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July 23rd, 2008

Dear Esquire Magazine: The environment is not a gimmick

Dear Esquire Magazine: The environment is not a gimmick

Esquire magazine in the US is going to have a battery-powered display on some copies of its September issue, according to an article in The Times. The display will flash the words ‘The 21st Century Begins Now’ and will use technology similar to that used in Amazon’s Kindle e-book reader.

An un-named publishing expert quoted by The Times dismissed the idea as a gimmick, which seems like a fair cop since the flashing display will only appear on 13% of the issues distributed.

What’s most disturbing about this move is the complete disregard for the environment. Magazines are relatively easy to recycle, perhaps our least harmful luxury product. Adding in electronic components will either make it much harder to separate the rest of the materials for recycling, or will result in the collected paper stock being polluted with electronic trash.

We all know that batteries should ideally be rechargeable, and should be avoided on short life cycle items like birthday cards altogether. Esquire is a stylish magazine, with one eye on the ’21st Century Beginning Now’. I would have hoped for a cooler and more environmentally sustainable gimmick.

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July 12th, 2008

Prompt at the Apple iPhone 3G Launch in Boston

Prompt at the Apple iPhone 3G Launch in Boston

We went out to Apple’s largest store in the US (and probably the world) today and filmed people’s reactions to the most anticipated gadget of the year, Apple’s iPhone 3G.

It was a fun morning of filming and we met a lot of interesting people, from someone who waited in line since Wednesday (and didn’t get the iPhone!) to a VP of AT&T.;

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July 7th, 2008

In Viacom vs. Google, if Viacom wins, personal privacy loses

In Viacom vs. Google, if Viacom wins, personal privacy loses

The web is buzzing this week about recent developments in Viacom’s $1b lawsuit against Google for copyright infringement. Viacom alleges that many of its videos are illegally hosted on Google’s YouTube, garnering over 1.5 billion page views and taking away potential profits for the video producer. A copyright lawsuit against YouTube is nothing new, but this story took a surprising twist last week when the judge ordered Google to provide Viacom with the viewing history and IP addresses of every user.

To put it simply: this is a ridiculous and frightening precedent. Google has been asked to provide personal information on its users to a third party. If this order holds up then many future cases will cite Viacom vs. Google to gain personal data, rendering the “personal” aspect of it completely worthless. And on a more immediately startling level: Viacom can dig through the IP addresses to find out which users have watched copyrighted content and subsequently sue them.

As a pretty heavy YouTube user myself, this is pretty scary. Not because I know I’ve watched copyrighted material, but because I don’t necessarily know. As YouTube makes no distinction of content, so it’s never something I’ve thought to avoid. I just browse videos and if something interesting comes up, I’ll watch it and there has never been a warning of potentially illegal content. Viacom could pull my IP out, determine that my computer was used to watch a clip from one of its shows, and then sue me.

So please Viacom, don’t turn this into an RIAA-like suing spree, do the right thing by leaving the end users alone. Even more optimistically: hopefully this order will be overturned and our personal information remains personal.

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July 7th, 2008

Google Street View upsets privacy group.

Google Street View upsets privacy group.

Aieee! Everyone hide if you value your privacy – Google cars have reached Britain. The camera-equipped black cars have been seen on the streets of London, snapping photos for Google’s Street View project.

Google Street View lets users see photos of any street in a surveyed area. Google has been facing down protests and complaints over the photo-mapping tool as of late. The problem is that many people are unsure as to the legality of what Google is doing. The images often contains people or private property and many question if this constitutes an invasion of privacy. A couple in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania sued Google over photographs of their swimming pool, and now the organisation is under fire from UK group Privacy International.

The BBC reports that the surveillance and privacy watchdog is concerned that Street View could breach data protection laws if people’s faces are shown. Google assures people that it will use face blurring technology to preserve the identity of individuals captured in the photos. Privacy International is unconvinced that the face-blurring will work and wants Google to reveal details of the technology. If Google does not comply, Privacy International will ask the UK Information Commissioner to get involved. Google has responded by pointing out that the technology has been deployed in the US already, and it works pretty well.

Personally, sarcastic introduction aside, I don’t have a problem with Street View. From what I have seen the face blurring seems to work well enough, and so long as all photos are taken in a public space, then its fine with me.

And not everyone is concerned about privacy, as the woman in this revealing Street View image proves.

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