Author Archives: Paul

Electoral panic

The Guardian reports that Theresa May is threatening to rip up human rights laws in order to try and gain control of the security agenda in the run-up to the general election.

Here’s the giveaway:

Despite having previously said she believed the police and security services had the resources they needed to deal with terrorism, she went on to announce details of a proposed crackdown on terrorism at a rally of Conservative activists in Slough.

Theresa May does not believe what she is saying. She is panicking about her shrinking poll lead and making up policy on the hoof.

This is how bad laws are made.

Flattr this!

Another brick in the wall

Singer Roger Waters immortalised in Brussels South station

The lead singer of the British rock group Pink Floyd will get his own mural in Brussels South station, Bruzz reports. The Liège artist Noir Artist was commissioned to make the wall painting of Waters at the Place Horta entrance.

This is where I attempt to make an obvious pun about the obvious album.

Flattr this!

Alleged rapist to be given TV show?

Julian Assange considers offer to guest host Sean Hannity radio show

Julian Assange has indicated he may guest host a US radio show from the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

The WikiLeaks founder said he was “looking into” filling in for Sean Hannity after the presenter offered him a one-off chance to host his conservative talkshow.

I have no idea whether Assange’s efforts in support of Trumps election campaign makes him a witting or unwitting tool of the Russians. But this latest story removes any vestige of doubt that he is, indeed, a tool.

Flattr this!

Crowdsourcing road safety

Ping if you care: volunteers map cycling danger spots

The Brussels-Capital Region has launched a pilot project that will allow cyclists to contribute to a map showing the danger spots on the region’s roads. Secretary of state for road safety Bianca Debaets sent out 540 volunteers this week equipped with “pingers” linked to an app that highlights dangers.

Each volunteer uses an app, connected by Bluetooth to a piece of kit attached to their handlebars like a bicycle bell. If the cyclist feels unsafe on the road at any point, they tap once on the pinger and the app records the location.

Once the information is uploaded to the database, along with any feedback the cyclist wants to give, it can be added to a map of the most dangerous places for cyclists on the region’s roads. It would then be up to the authorities to do something to remedy the situation if possible – in the case of a dangerous junction, for example, though not in the case of a vehicle parked on a cycle path.

Ping If You Care is one of those ideas that is both brilliant and really obvious now that someone else has thought of it.

Flattr this!

Quote of the Day: WannaCry about WannaCrypt?

Microsoft is externalising costs on to their customers. They are externalising the financial costs of quality assurance and testing. They are externalising the political costs of setting standards, sticking to them and enforcing them amongst developers.

Microsoft is shifting the burden of support to the end users by demanding an unrealistic level of compliance with constantly evolving standards and specifications that still move faster than developers can cope.

We not only let Microsoft get away with this, millions of people regularly savage digital laggards using social media on Microsoft’s behalf. There’s an army of True Believers out there piling up the wood, matchbooks at the ready.

Trevor Pott

Flattr this!

Stay out of the silo

Dave Winer won’t link to Facebook posts. I agree:

1. It’s impractical. I don’t know what your privacy settings are. So if I point to your post, it’s possible a lot of people might not be able to read it, and thus will bring the grief to me, not you, because they have no idea who you are or what you wrote.

Obviously, not having a Facebook account, I won’t be able to even see a post if it isn’t made public. But even if it is public, about a third of the page is covered by an annoying white box nagging me to either sign in or sign up for a Facebook account.

Even when posts are public, Facebook makes it both unpleasant and annoying to attempt to read them. In the vast majority of cases I don’t read them, I close the tab and move on. Whatever you have to say is not important enough for me want to leap through Facebook’s hoops, and it certainly isn’t significant enough for me to want to encourage anyone else to waste their time jumping through the same hoops.

2. It’s supporting their downgrading and killing the web. Your post sucks because it doesn’t contain links, styling, and you can’t enclose a podcast if you want. The more people post there, the more the web dies. I’m sorry no matter how good your idea is fuck you I won’t help you and Facebook kill the open web.

Facebook is building a silo. Data goes in and nothing comes out. This is anathema to the free flow of information that underpins the open web.

This is not accidental. Facebook forbids search engines from indexing posts on Facebook. This means that if you write something on Facebook, that post is not going to appear on Google, DuckDuckGo, Bing or any other search engine. Facebook — and only Facebook — gets to decide who will see your posts on Facebook.

3. Facebook might go out of business. I like to point to things that last. Facebook seems solid now, but they could go away or retire the service you posted on. Deprecate the links. Who knows. You might not even mind, but I do. I like my archives to last as long as possible.

Nothing lasts for ever. Facebook may look unassailable now, but so did MySpace back when MySpace was the big thing.

I don’t think Facebook is going to go bust any time soon, but there is nothing to stop them from deciding that parts of their service are either inconvenient or unprofitable and axing them. And if they do that, all of your content is gone because Facebook — and only Facebook — gets to decide how much of your data is retained.

There are plenty of open and publicly accessible platforms out there. You should use them.

Flattr this!

The middle has fallen out of British politics

This headline comes from The Economist, which accurately reflects my own view of the two main parties in the upcoming UK election:

Both Mrs May and Mr Corbyn would each in their own way step back from the ideas that have made Britain prosper — its free markets, open borders and internationalism. They would junk a political settlement that has lasted for nearly 40 years and influenced a generation of Western governments. Whether left or right prevails, the loser will be liberalism.

The paper concludes by (grudgingly) endorsing the Liberal Democrats

Backing the open, free-market centre is not just directed towards this election. We know that this year the Lib Dems are going nowhere. But the whirlwind unleashed by Brexit is unpredictable. Labour has been on the brink of breaking up since Mr Corbyn took over. If Mrs May polls badly or messes up Brexit, the Tories may split, too. Many moderate Conservative and Labour MPs could join a new liberal centre party—just as parts of the left and right have recently in France. So consider a vote for the Lib Dems as a down-payment for the future. Our hope is that they become one element of a party of the radical centre, essential for a thriving, prosperous Britain.

It’s a slim hope, but it’s about all we’re left with after this depressingly illiberal contest.

Flattr this!