Category Archives: Musing

Remember the dark days of the Browser Wars? I remember making whole Netscape versions of pages as well as IE versions – Yeh, we did that.

Those days are behind us, but I wonder what techniques we’ll laugh at in another ten years.

Perhaps we’ll laugh at how we made native iOS apps in addition to mobile sites. Or perhaps the other way around – Facebook changed their mind twice – I seriously have no idea which direction that whole thing is going.

Perhaps we’ll laugh at our obsession with having a single site for all devices, regardless of screen size or device capabilities. It looks like we’ve got a good thing going on with adaptive design, but something has to ruin that before long.

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I wrote in January about the faculty Facebook may possess for tracking your browsing history. I made brief mention of the fact that logging out of Facebook may not prevent further tracking. It’s this last point that caused a stir this week as Nik Cubrilovic’s post got picked up by the press.

His follow-up post describes Facebook’s response, but the ‘tracking’ cookie to which I was referring has not been removed. According to Nik’s post, Facebook admit this will remain after logout to track the browser, but for ‘safety and spam purposes’.

According to this WSJ article, ‘not all of the data is logged’. That’s good.

The bottom line for me is that Facebook are so powerful that they need to be as answerable to their populous as a government. That means a certain level of transparency and being clear about their intentions. If they go back on their word, who holds them accountable? Are our laws even adequate? Should Facebook be audited, or should we just trust them?

I don’t expect I’d be too happy about having my servers audited, but I’m not Facebook. When nearly half a billion people log into your site each day to give you their data, you have a serious amount of responsibility on your shoulders.

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I was just starting to think I should shut up about Facebook for a while after my last two posts, but then I enabled the new Timeline profile and saw this:



This adds a “Health and Wellness” Life Event to your Timeline.
(Timeline is new Zuckspeak for Wall, and Wellness is American for, erm.. Health)

Why would you tell a company that sells data that you were ill? … seriously, why?

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Why I don’t think Circles is Google+’s killer social feature

I firmly believe that if any company can dethrone Facebook, that company is Google. But from what I’ve seen of Google+ so far, I can’t quite imagine a MySpace-style emigration happening just yet.

I’ve recently been asking Google+ fans to give me a good reason to use it. By far the most popular answer to my question is that it provides better privacy and filtering options.

Circles is great. It’s about as simple to use as it can be, but I don’t believe it’s anything like a game-changer.

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Picture the scene: I’m on the Tube and I see an attractive girl, so naturally I take a photograph of her without her permission or knowledge. Then when I get home I upload my photo to the public Internet for other men to look at. I also make a note of the location and time, and post that too. Can you imagine if a website facilitated and even encouraged that? There would be outrage, right? Continue reading…

People think I’m crazy for deleting my Facebook wall each day. When I’m put on the spot about this (usually after a few beers) I tend to rattle on like a deranged conspiracy theorist and generally make it much worse for myself.

One comment usually brings the issue home quite nicely though. I ask:

“How often to you mention being drunk, or being hungover on your Facebook wall?”

– the answer is invariably “often”

“What if in five years you can’t get life insurance because you’ve been profiled as a high risk for alcohol-related illness?”

Should I be paranoid?

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Twitter’s announcement disuading developers from creating Twitter Clients prompted me to read the updated terms and conditions – something I should do more often. I also found an old copy from March 1st via Google cache, so I could compare them.

There is indeed a new subsection: 1.5, but it does not explicitly forbid the development of client software. It does however indicate that they will be watching you closely if you choose to do so.

1.5.a: “Your Client must use the Twitter API as the sole source for features that are substantially similar to functionality offered by Twitter”

Somewhat ambiguous, but the important point is they can add clauses to this section whenever they like. Get it?

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* disclaimer: I have no evidence that Charlie Sheen drinks Kool Aid.

It’s no secret that the advertising industry is under pressure to invent new ways of reaching an increasingly savvy and cynical audience. It may be one step ahead of the average consumer – but not us cool Internet kids – we own this place. We trained our eyes not to look at banners, we laughed in the face of FarmVille, and now we’re hiding Groupon from our News Feeds (so last year). We win at Internet.

Sometimes though, I realise I’ve not been quite cynical enough. Like when I found out Cassette Boy was getting paid by ITV. These moments are a little reminder of how the world really works.

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