Digital Life Clippings – New Year’s News

Simon Phipps:

I’ll keep reposting these here for a while longer…

Originally posted on Meshed Insights & Knowledge:

  1. Indian government blocks programming web sites, including and Github gists – TechCrunch – As if to illustrate why it’s bad to allow anyone the power to block web sites arbitrarily, the Indian government has blocked entire slices of web infrastructure because one of their functionaries found something about ISIS somewhere on it. More on the blog.
  2. Marriott wants to block your devices so you have to pay for their wifiBoing Boing – Marriott clearly does not want anyone from the technology industry to stay at their hotels or to use them for events. Best to respect their wishes and avoid them like the plague.
  3. End-user adoption of open source is a lousy metricRRW – Open source is primarily a collaboration technique, leveraging the permission-in-advance arising from software freedom to unlock innovation in many unrelated deployers. For many reasons, enterprise end-user deployment of unmodified…

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Digital Life Clippings – Christmas Break Edition

Originally posted on Meshed Insights & Knowledge:

  1. Police called to remove pre-teens just in case they pirated Hunger Games movie with cellphonesArs Technica – Given the storyline of the movie, this is ironic. Cineworld thinks copyrights are so precious it’s worth infringing common sense and individual rights to protect them. They think paying customers are criminals until proven otherwise, even kids. Don’t let any kids you care about watch movies at a cinema with this attitude, it’s not safe.
  2. The most wasteful patent aggression strategy ever has failedArs Technica – Another skirmish in the ongoing dirty war by the legacy technology & media industry against Google bites the dust.
  3. NSA dumps incriminating documents on Christmas EveBoing Boing – Anyone who doubts the effectiveness of Freedom of Information requests should see how government agencies squirm responding to them.
  4. Inadvertent Algorithmic CrueltyMeyerWeb – Facebook’s Year In Review is a product of…

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Facebook’s Illuminating Algorithmic Cruelty

The ever-presumptive and unremittingly faux-positive peer pressure of Facebook is doing its part this Christmas to re-open wounds of hurt from 2014 for a bunch of people. Their Year In Review combines algorithmically-selected photographs and text from Facebook postings throughout the year. It was probably conceived in good faith; they clearly anticipated it would promote thankfulness. I think it will be widely regretted rather than welcomed, for the reasons Eric Meyer explains in the moving post from which my title is adapted.

Facebook's assumption of celebration

Frankly my year was not one for balloons

They could definitely have phrased the accompanying text better, not to mention omitted the randomly-selected cover photo – the equivalent Year In Photos at Google+ doesn’t trigger me in the same way, maybe for lack of text. Better, they could have thought through the subject a little more and realised plenty of people, though thankful for so many things, may prefer an algorithm not to force them back through the year. Humans are able to act with discretion, and to know when they are presumptive. Computers are unable to act with any more discretion than their programmer, and usually much less.

My own year has had much that I value, but little of it has been shared with Facebook so my own edition is largely valueless. It also thankfully omits the things that make me cry, like the memory of my mother’s passing this spring or the six months of triage following it. If you’ve chosen to share with Facebook, this is a wake-up call that you have also given them the implicit permission to make you relive memories on command.

Frankly it’s no worse than the other things you’ve given them permission to do with the intimacies you’ve shared. They are just as free with advertisers and social data miners; you just don’t have that rubbed in your face. If you dislike “Year In Review” you probably will hate the things they do with your data without telling you (even if they have secured your permission in advance through their Terms of Service).

In case you were wondering, it’s safe to ignore it; the card displayed on your profile is only visible to you, and as long as you don’t press the “Share” button that appears when you view it, no-one else will see it. You can stop the reminder showing up by clicking the arrow in the top right corner (see below) and telling Facebook not to show the post again. Pity it wasn’t just a button and a “hide this” option for those of us who don’t list Facebook among our confidantes. Algorithms can’t exercise discretion; don’t use them for things that demand it.

Is Santa to blame for the surveillance society?

Perhaps the reason we are not horrified by the surveillance society is because our parents normalised that behaviour by teaching us about Santa.

  • Santa knows if you’ve been naughty or nice
  • Santa knows where you’ve been & who you’ve been with
  • Santa is able to come into your home without apparent consequences
  • There’s even an elf on your shelf keeping an eye on you
  • This is all good because toys

Santa – Ta, NSA.

Top Clippings For December 18th

Simon Phipps:

Let me know if you like this…

Originally posted on Meshed Insights & Knowledge:

  1. Samsung shuts down ChatOnCNet – If only there was a way for their customers to uninstall their impotent self-defence against Google.
  2. EU software procurement breaches rules more than ever beforeOFE PDF – Because they really do prefer to feed what they perceive as corporate power brokers rather than work to create European value with European money.
  3. EU allocates half million euros for testing open sourceFSFE – It’s a rounding error on the budget, but at least it’s something. Let’s see who gets it.
  4. Apache finally publishes a code of conductBlog, Code – Fine work, but no really defence against those gaming the system.

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On Terrorism

Some politicians seem to act as if “terrorism” means a terrible crime committed by someone who doesn’t fit the speaker’s own racial & religious profile. Just because something induces terror in some or many people, that doesn’t make it terrorism. That diminishes the concept as well as grouping routine crime – for which society has millennia of experience and solutions – into the same bucket as a more subtle and serious phenomenon that preys on the meshed society.

Terrorism isn’t just performing a terrifying act. It’s provoking society’s immune system into attacking itself, making its defence systems attack the values and people they are supposed to be defending. Terrorism is an autoimmune disorder of democracy. You don’t fight terrorism by attacking the virus; you fight it by strengthening the immune system.


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