Category Archives: Digital

Quote of the Day: The medium is not the message

Too often we focus on technology and forget the structures of law, ownership and power that technology operates within. Dazzled by the astonishing pace of technological advance we can easily think that information technology is itself the solution. Instead we must think about the purpose, power and politics of information technology, and not presume some in-built positive aim.

Rufus Pollock

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Facepalmbook

What could possibly go wrong?

Facebook has begun conducting a pilot where it solicits intimate photographs of women – and it will soon offer the service in the United Kingdom. Anxious exes who fear their former partner is set on revenge porn will be urged to upload photographs of themselves nude.

There are already plenty of candidates for worst idea of 2017. It’s nice to see that the Zuck doesn’t want to be left out.

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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

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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.

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Solving the wrong problem

Dave Winer thinks that podcast RSS feeds should be ghettoised.

Here’s the problem. If you put a link to the RSS feed alongside the links to iTunes and Stitcher and whatever else, you’re going to get a bunch of emails from users about how your site is broken. I know, because I’ve gotten those emails.

And here’s his answer:

Create a simple page that says “This is a link to our RSS feed. It’s used by developers and hobbyists to build their own listeners and it helps support innovation on the internet.”

This is a terrible solution, for a number of reasons.

Firstly, the suggested statement is flat-out not true. Speaking for myself, I don’t use iTunes or Stitcher. I use gPodder. If I find an interesting podcast I need an RSS feed to follow it — if you don’t give me a feed I’m not going to follow your content. It really is as simple as that.

This leads to the second problem, which is that Winer is assuming that proprietary feeds are the norm and should therefore be given preferential treatment to open standards. I’m not going to dispute the first part of this assumption but to present RSS as some curiosity that is only of interest to hobbyists is to consign it to history. If you want RSS to remain a viable standard, the RSS feed needs to be given at least the same precedence as the proprietary feeds.

As to the problem that Winer is trying to solve. How many people, really, are incapable of clicking on the correct link? A quick search across the corporate podcasts that I listen to reveals that neither the BBC nor The Guardian feel the need to make some special “your’re stupid” statement about RSS. In fact, The Guardian even manages to force a few extra clicks out of you regardless of what feed you choose.

Of course, the best approach is that taken by the Duffercast1. A single subscribe link takes you to all the feeds with no special statements about any of them, because some audiocasts have listeners who are capable of using the internet.

Footnote

  1. Disclaimer: Yes, I am a duffer

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Quote of the day: A beautiful, flexible, powerful mess

The web thrives on diversity. It’s the diversity of the web that sustains it and it’s the thing that will mean it’s still around long after all the monocultures, whether they be browsers or Facebooks or Googles, have long since vanished from the online ecosystem.

Scott Gilbertson on the value of diversity and why Firefox still matters

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