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Okay, yes -- complaining about how creepy Facebook can be is shooting fish in a barrel.

Still, I was taken aback by the notification I just got there. Un-asked-for, it popped up with, "You last updated your profile 2 weeks ago." Which, on the one hand, is just a statement of fact. But it's a statement loaded with connotation.

Seriously -- why is Facebook telling me this? When I have something I care to say on my Profile, I say it. I don't need reminders -- I certainly don't need automatic, non-opt-in reminders after only two weeks of profile inactivity. And mind you, this isn't saying "you haven't posted" -- I post to FB moderately often. This is saying that I haven't revealed new and updated information about myself.

There's a weird sense that FB is trying to guilt-trip me for not being sufficiently naked: that the system and the audience have the right to know everything that happens in my life, and that if a whole two weeks have gone by without updating my profile, something is clearly wrong.

Yes, it's a little thing. But it's the combination of all those little things that remind me of why I dislike and distrust Facebook...

jducoeur: (Default)

Just got the announcement of a new TOS from Twitter today. Nothing dramatically surprising, although I'm mildly annoyed that they are apparently dropping support for Do Not Track.

On the bright side, they are exposing their profile of your "interests", based on whatever data mining and tracking they are doing, including your "interests from partners", "based on your profile and activity".

I'm looking at that now, and it's one of those comforting moments of realizing that at least some of these companies haven't yet gotten so good at the psych profiling. It's almost comically inaccurate, seemingly far worse than random chance -- not only are most of them uninteresting, many of them are active dislikes. (I mean, seriously: can you see me driving a RAM 1500?) Even some of the ones that seem like they should be easy to discern from conventional data are wrong -- I think "Proximity: Giant Eagle" being checked means that they literally have no idea where I am. (Which is a bit weird, because that is not hard to figure out.)

Nor are the "Interests from Twitter" much better. Okay, yes, "Open Source" is accurate, but how they get "NBA Basketball" as an interest of mine is a pure mystery.

There's a sneaking part of me that suspects that this page is not at all what it claims to be; that it's actually starting from "this is every category we can possibly imagine", and it's trying to get me to trim it down to the non-ridiculous stuff. I think I'll take a pass on that, and let myself continue to be apparently confusing to them...

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Just came across this sobering article from a few weeks ago. Summary: LiveJournal has been sued, possibly successfully, over their ONTD group -- apparently somebody posted copyright-infringing material there, and because ONTD is vaguely official and (volunteer-)moderated, there's a strong suggestion that the traditional "safe harbor" provisions may not apply.

Suffice it to say, this is not good news. The precise details of how this falls out will determine how much (if at all) it damages the assumptions of zillions of websites, but a broad interpretation of it could be hugely damaging. One to keep an eye on...

ETA: Okay, it's worth reading the actual appellate decision, at least the summary at the top. (Much of this decision is nicely readable.) This clarifies several things:

  • First and most important, this wasn't a decision against LJ per se. Rather, it was the reversal of a summary judgement in favor of LJ. That is, the district court had simply dismissed the case on the grounds that LJ was clearly protected by the DMCA. The appellate court is essentially saying, "No, this one is kind of complicated -- let it go to trial".

  • Second, the key reason why this is muddy is that the moderation team of ONTD is apparently led by an LJ employee. ("Although users submitted Mavrix’s photographs to LiveJournal, LiveJournal posted the photographs after a team of volunteer moderators led by a LiveJournal employee reviewed and approved them.") So it's not just "the users" involved: LJ has a quasi-official presence in the group, so they might be legally liable. That's not actually surprising -- I could have told LJ that that's a legally dumb policy.

    (This is why Querki is designed to be strictly self-policing by the users, and why it's intentionally difficult (at the technical level) for company employees to mess with user Spaces: the line between "official" and "user-directed" needs to be crisp and sharp in order to enjoy solid DMCA protections.)

  • Third, ONTD isn't a normal LJ group. "In 2010, LiveJournal sought to exercise more control over ONTD so that it could generate advertising revenue from the popular community. LiveJournal hired a then active moderator, Brendan Delzer, to serve as the community’s full time “primary leader.” By hiring Delzer, LiveJournal intended to “take over” ONTD, grow the site, and run ads on it." So claiming that this group is run by "users", and therefore is protected by DMCA, is a bit disingenuous.

Overall, I'm somewhat less worried about it, having skimmed the decision. My read of this is that LJ got way too casual about DMCA, and did something strikingly stupid; Mavrix' claim that ONTD is not sufficiently independent to enjoy DMCA protection seems at least somewhat plausible on its face. The court is simply saying that, in this case, it is not obvious that LJ is covered by the DMCA.

While I do think Mavrix are kinda being assholes about it, by the spirit of the DMCA they may well have reasonable grounds for the suit. I'm not sure they're right, and I don't know how this will play out in court, but IMO the appeals court was probably correct in rejecting the summary judgement -- this one is messy, and does need to be properly litigated...

jducoeur: (Default)
Here's a fascinating exploration from Danah Boyd (one of the better thinkers about the Internet and society), about the ways in which the current tribal mess we're in can be traced to the way American culture works, and the way that media literacy programs of the past couple of decades played into some peculiarly American habits.

Not too long, and highly recommended, both to read and think about.  The upshot is that combating the "fake news" problem is probably a lot harder than most folks are thinking...

Trend lines

Nov. 9th, 2012 08:22 am
jducoeur: (Default)
On the plus side, I noticed while writing the last post that LinkedIn has a cute new feature: you can hover over any of your skills, and get a quick description of what it is, and what the year-on-year trend for that skill is. (Presumably of the number of people listing it?)

It makes interesting reading. Skills that are down (at least a bit) include Perl, Java and C#. Ones that are sharply up include Scrum, Agile Development in general and (by a solid 30%) Scala. All of which helps me feel like I am continuing to ride the waves of the industry reasonably well...
jducoeur: (Default)
The hot new feature on LinkedIn is "Endorsements". Basically, they show you a list of randomly selected people in your network, and random skills that they claim to have, and ask whether you can vouch for those skills. It's a fairly clever idea in theory.

The problem is, LinkedIn is trying to have it both ways -- to be both a professional resume site *and* a social network. And the result is that most of the endorsements (anecdotally, based on my experience) don't come from co-workers, they come from friends. Granted, I may be unusual in that I have a lot of friends online, but still -- I think 80% of the endorsements I've received are from people I've never worked with professionally.

The result, of course, is that the endorsements bear little resemblance to reality. So far, I have 2 endorsements each for Perl, Java and JavaScript, 1 for C#, and none for Scala or ActionScript. That is almost *exactly* wrong. I'm currently doing exclusively Scala, spent much of the past ten years working mainly in C# and ActionScript, haven't done Java in over a decade (aside from an abortive attempt to use it for CommYou, which convinced me that I can't stand the language any more), and have only spotty Perl experience at best. Indeed, the endorsements seem to mostly have to do with which buzzwords folks recognize -- that would help account for why I haven't gotten any for things like .NET or Multi-threading, which I actually *am* pretty expert in.

It's kind of too bad, since the high concept of endorsements is a good one. But it's a subtle reminder of why Identity is so important, and why *separating* Identities is important. Having a single LinkedIn identity that encompasses both friends and my professional career actually makes it much *less* useful in some respects, because it muddies the data so much...
jducoeur: (Default)
When Facebook started to really break out, one of the common complaints about it among LJ users was that its privacy controls were, to put it mildly, lacking. In comparison with LJ, they were laughable. At the time, that criticism was valid. But it's been improving dramatically over time, and a fair number of LJ folks have begun to make use of Facebook for their lighter-touch social network applications. (FB still largely sucks for deep conversation, but for most other purposes it's the place to go.)

So it's worth noting this article in Ars Technica last week -- Facebook privacy: a guide. It discusses the privacy controls available in FB, and how to use them, in some detail. The summary is that FB now has pretty deep privacy management, in many ways rather more powerful and granular than LJ's. They are *not* simple to use -- you have to manage custom friend lists, and the controls are scattered in a number of places -- but for the moderate-to-power user, there's a lot of fine-grained control available to you. It's not perfect yet, but they're certainly up to "good enough" for most purposes...
jducoeur: (Default)
When Facebook started to really break out, one of the common complaints about it among LJ users was that its privacy controls were, to put it mildly, lacking. In comparison with LJ, they were laughable. At the time, that criticism was valid. But it's been improving dramatically over time, and a fair number of LJ folks have begun to make use of Facebook for their lighter-touch social network applications. (FB still largely sucks for deep conversation, but for most other purposes it's the place to go.)

So it's worth noting this article in Ars Technica last week -- Facebook privacy: a guide. It discusses the privacy controls available in FB, and how to use them, in some detail. The summary is that FB now has pretty deep privacy management, in many ways rather more powerful and granular than LJ's. They are *not* simple to use -- you have to manage custom friend lists, and the controls are scattered in a number of places -- but for the moderate-to-power user, there's a lot of fine-grained control available to you. It's not perfect yet, but they're certainly up to "good enough" for most purposes...

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