Friday, May 14, 2010

Facebook's deal with the Devil

I wanted to share what I thought was a very enlightening blog post by Danah Boyd on the recent ruckus around Facebook and her issues with how Facebook is handling all this.

I think she particularly nailed what's bothering me here:
I’d be a whole lot less pissed off if people had to opt-in in December. Or if they could’ve retained the right to keep their friends lists, affiliations, interests, likes, and other content as private as they had when they first opted into Facebook. Slowly disintegrating the social context without choice isn’t consent; it’s trickery.
It's clear that Facebook really really really wants to make all the content people are posting as public as possible, because they are not making money on ads.

I can just see all these marketers from Big Companies in Big Conversations with Facebook execs in closed rooms waving wads of cash at them saying "Boy do we want this content! People are telling us exactly what they like and what they care about! Just make this content available, and we will give you so much money you'll be swimming in it."

In the other room are the board members saying "so, when are you going to monetize this big thing you've got going?"

So, you take the Devil's deal, what's a little privacy, I mean, people want to be transparent anyway. Rationalize and justify, I know that path. So, hoping nobody's watching, and putting on a show of "choice" and "options", you open up the content, and the guys with the money cheer.

If it were me, and I were at Facebook, I'd have a bad taste in my mouth right now...

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Time to tie my camel to the tree

I like to not worry too much about security, and try to feel relaxed about living my life on the planet. But I also know that you need to take necessary care. As the old saying goes "trust in God, but tie your camel to the tree."

I read today in the New York Times that hackers have made 1.5 million Facebook user credentials for sale.

I also got a phone call today from someone saying they were extending my Popular Science subscription, and confirmed my address and name. Then they said if I could just give them my credit card number they could go ahead and extend my subscription.

When I refused, they were OK, but asked for my email so they could send me an email confirmation. When I refused again, they wanted to have me talk to their "manager" and I just hung up. This is the second time I've gotten a call like that. This isn't just random identity theft - this is a business. And I suspect a very profitable one.

I also was reading about online payment services, and how PayPal is targetted for attacks on a regular basis.

And I have a feeling it's only going to get worse - the hackers are on the attack, and from what I know about online sites, they try to be secure (maybe) but with dynamic client-side code and phishing and Trojan horses and worms and insider attacks and just dumb human error, the weaknesses will be found and taken advantage of, more and more and more.

I can't protect myself from all of this, but I do need to take necessary precautions. We already have a shredder and shred anything that has our personal information on it. But I've been lazy about my passwords. I've kept the same one for years; it's short, and it's everywhere. Well, that changed tonight. The key passwords have all been changed, and I'll do more as I bump into them.

Symantec has me change my password every three months. I'll be using that as a trigger for me to change all my online passwords.

I've had enough, it's time to tie my camel to the tree.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Diagrammr - very cool diagramming tool

I just want to do a shout out for a very nice diagramming tool I bumped into via a referral from my Twitter stream. lets you write simple English phrases that describe either relationships between entities/objects/concepts or interactions between them.  For each sentence, the tool creates two nodes (subject and object) and a path between them (either a relationship or an interaction).  You can easily share this, collaborate, or embed it, as below (just right-click on diagram and copy the image URL, and paste it into an img tag)

I can imagine even doing this live during a design walkthrough or presentation, to help make the learning more dynamic.

The web site doesn't say who the author is, but kudos to whoever they are, very creative and very simple.  Thanks!

Bay Area casual carpool - an experiment in market dynamics

For the last year I have been using the "casual carpool" that has evolved on its own here in the Bay Area. It costs $4.00 to cross the bridge, and $3.50 to take BART into San Francisco. The bridge is also always jammed.

However, if you have a carpool of three people, you get a special lane through the bridge tolls, and there is no charge. As a natural law of the free market, the casual carpool developed. There are agreed upon locations, and there is a line of people and a line of cars. Two people get into a car, and together you go across the bridge for no charge and faster than both BART or driving alone. Perfect!

Now CalTrans has thrown a wrench into a beautifully running machine: as of June they will be charging $2.50 for carpools to go across the bridge. Ugh. They could at least have made it $3 so it would be easy to split amongst three people.

So what happens? Do people stop doing casual carpool? If not, do riders pay, or does the driver eat the cost? Do we have competition in the lines, with people jockeying for the front of the line if they're willing to pay more to get into the car? What happens when there is a line of cars and no people? Do cars willing to take riders for no charge get precedence? Do they stick a sign out of their window saying "will take riders no charge?" Does each car have a sign on the window saying how much you have to pay to ride? What happens if one rider pays and the next rider to get in refuses to pay?

As a driver, I think I would just take whatever people are willing to pay me.

As a rider, I would pay what I feel is my fair share and also an amount to maintain good will - I value good will a lot when riding in someone's car :). So I'll probably be prepared to pay $1, regardless of what the other rider pays. I am not interested in haggling with either the driver or the other rider - this just creates unnecessary tension, which is not worth it for me in my daily commute.

How this will ultimately evolve, I'm not sure, but it will be a very interesting experiment in market forces.