Category Archives: internet

The Internet’s Voice

In a past article I talked about the issue with “Mob rule” with the internet, except I also proved, to myself certainly, that my ability to communicate needs work.

Thankfully through the BBC’s Digital Revolution project, I discovered Clay Shirky makes the point much more succinctly.

For those who want to have a go at putting a programme together, this is a must see project, and I think the outcomes might be very interesting (or at least quite humorous). It certainly illustrates the amount of work needed to put a programme together.

Back to the Internet’s voice… another rush on the site is one from Danah Boyd, who is a Social Media Researcher at Microsoft looking at young people’s take on the social media and the effect it will have in their lives. A couple of things struck me about this:

The Permanence

Pretty much everything you commit to the internet will at some point end up being copied in some form or other. Whether it’s in google’s cache or in the Internet Archive, it will be copied, unless you make sure at a technical level that it isn’t… except everyone can copy and paste and “Save As…”. In essence it will always be there and you have no idea who will see it. An interesting point is when Boyd comments on her teenage past and the blog where she wrote about “working through issues” and a humorous hope that the presenter would not read that part of the blog. This makes me wonder: Is one of the things about growing up best served by forgetfulness ? Everything can come back to haunt you and how much right do complete strangers have to trawl through your past and haunt you with it ?

The Boundaries

Another really well made point is the idea about a Teacher. A Teacher as a person enjoys the same rights as most of us with the exception that their standing in the community is different, which means that behaviour that may be appropriate for anyone of their age/peer group is suddenly not. The internet has actually increased the amount of scrutiny and not in a good way. Why is the fact that a single teacher is on a dating site a cause for concern ? Why should the pupils know about it ? Why is this attached negatively to the job, when it really has nothing to do with it ? The Internet is now a wonderful way to bully someone and argue with people who if met face to face, you’d never say a word to. Is this constructive ?

Positive Contributions

So in the face of this, what is the positive parts being brought to the table ? Well some people point to the better political participation by people (sat “in their pyjamas – Gina Bianchini, CEO Ning).

This frankly I don’t buy. To me, the internet is noise. Any real meaningful contributions are still happening in the non-virtual world. I’m reminded that in the 80s BT thought they might put the airlines out of business through video conferencing. The internet is very good, as Clay Shirky points out, at creating places for lots of people to argue about things. One example is that when Obama got into office, one of the top things that came back through his website was the need to legalize the smoking of marijuana. I think that most of people would agree that in the grand scheme of things, that really isn’t a top priority except to a small vocal and organised minority who think otherwise. What about the Iran riots ? Well frankly, what about them ? We are left with one memorable youtube video (it’s not really SFW, and you can use your favourite search engine to find it) and not much in terms of change. The “voices” on twitter seem to have come from US/UK supporters changing their location to “Iran”. 8,600 people does not a majority make in a population of around 70,000. For all the technology it has not addressed some serious issues in people feeling that they are disenfranchised about the political system. If anything Social network would in fact drive groupthink, where people would be pressurised into voting similarly to their peer group, which the balloting system is supposed to avoid.

Speaking of “peers”, what exactly is a Social Network friend ? Are they representative of “real” friends or more likely then not, acquaintances or work colleagues (there may be overlap) ? How can you represent this ? How do you make the distinctions, and make them work as they used to do ? People have their little groups, there are the “work friends”, “university friends”, etc. Each group operates mainly without the knowledge of the others, and this is how we live now. Is this simply cultural or a way of protecting ourselves from some form of emotional overload that having 200 “friends” would bring ?

So the good news. The most you will get from life will not be from the Internet, and in fact most of the “real” things will probably never go near a social network. What does go near it, will escape from any control you might think you have and be there “forever”. Which was the point behind a now infamous piece by a young banking intern. People are social and like to talk, which is why the phone has not been replaced by video conferencing. The internet allows us to do many things, but it’s still pretty dumb. You still need to talk to someone when you work, and you can’t get the computer to know your personal circumstances in times when moral or ethical, or more bluntly, compassionate aspects are in play. In theory the ability to organise small groups is no much easier, but attempting to provide democracy or social mobility is certainly not working now. A world without borders sounds great, but no-one wants to pay the bill for it.


Who is watching you twitter ?

The City have managed to do something that the rest of the Web have yet to figure out, which is get someone to point out why participating in social media isn’t really… um… social.

"Teenagers do not use Twitter," he wrote. "Most have signed up to the service, but then just leave it as they realise that they are not going to update it (mostly because texting Twitter uses up credit, and they would rather text friends with that credit). They realise that no one is viewing their profile, so their tweets are pointless."

The full article is here: Twitter is not for teens, Morgan Stanley told by 15-year-old expert | Business |

It also begs the question, what are these people going to be like as customers when they become the next set of wage-earners ? I’m glad I don’t work on a newspaper… but then I’m also worried about the “summarise” aspect. Will any kind of intellectual investment in the world around you become a thing of the past ?

Chrome OS: VNC for Dummies ?

It had to happen, Google is releasing an OS. Their target is netbooks, small low-cost (and power) computers for those wanting something a bit bigger then a smartphone and smaller then a laptop.

Is this going to change my life ? Well probably not, much like Chrome, it will end up occupying the curiosity section at the back of the shop doomed to obscurity.

The key aspect of this OS is the idea that it will get you up and on the web in seconds, as “the operating systems that browsers run on were designed in an era where there was no web” (Sundar Pichai, vice-president of product management, and Google’s engineering diector Linus Upson). We’ll leave the fact that an operating system has nothing whatsoever to do with the web.

Bear in mind that Google’s key plan is to get their grubby mitts on all your data, be it email, docs, video, contacts, whatever. Whatever is information, they want it. With it they can keep making money via AdSense/AdWords. If they know your hobbies then they’ll want you to know about people out there who can help you with them.

This has remarkably little to do with an OS and yet I feel deja-vu coming on. Remember IE4 anyone ? Or Windows 98 ? The Active Desktop ? The idea that we were always permanently connected to the ‘net ? Isn’t that a Sun marketing slogan ?

The idea isn’t new, so will it stick this time ?

The main thrust I can see from all this is that Google is building a better VNC, all your applications are in their house, and your netbook (with Chrome OS!) is just a gateway to them. But here is the question, on the eve of the launch of a service that has gathered millions of mobile numbers without notifying their “customers”, do you really want everything you have on the web, and then – in the hands of someone else ?

Even if that isn’t a primary concern to you, the other key challenges to Chrome are simply the technical ones, unless they are going to emulate Apple, they will have to support the myriad of devices and drivers out there. If they do manage this, they may then still have to persuade people to develop for them. I do wonder if we are about to see someone overreach themselves. In the commercial world, this isn’t going to make a dent. In the netbook market it’s still interesting to note the lack of impact of Linux, and the fact that XP was preferred simply because it was familiar and ran all the applications important to the users.

Where am I going with this ? Well here is the main problem, building a “new” desktop/netbook OS in this day and age is going to be a thankless and expensive task. You’ll need to cover: Hardware Support, and have Applications built for you. You’ll need testing, for all the devices that you do (or do not support). You need a user base, for whom you offer something that they either can’t get somewhere else, or that you do better. You can also produce yet another distribution of Linux, in an already fragmented market. Somewhere you’ll also need cash to build this platform and the willingness of people to invest in building for a new target platform. While Google ticks many of the boxes, it does strike me as more of an academic rather then a commercial exercise to do this. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.

New Toys

I’ve recently got myself an iPhone. It has to be said that without using the iPod touch prior to this I might not have got one.

It is probably the best gadget I’ve ever invested real time in. I’ve had a Palm which fell into disuse due to the quirky input system and the synchronization hell I had to endure to get any sense of remote working. Smartphones on the other hand have generally never appealled to me as they were either too clunky or too slow.

It does make me think though; is it that good a device or that well timed a device ? With the iPhone I care less about the network which is now a connection provider, the phone is the draw and the functionality is down to Apple/appstore providers not O2. The wifi means I get a decent network terminal, Skype means I now have a good handset on the VoIP network, google maps and GPS gives me the ability to navigate and the camera and note taking means I have a PDA. On top of this I can listen to music and watch videos on the tube.

Hardly rocket science in some respects but yet it has only come together now. With this we might begin to see the start of some new thinking about the revenue models for telcos and what it means to be a handset provider. Hopefully the market gets the kick it needs to start more innovation in both functionality and services. Which makes me wonder, have BT beaten us to it ?

There is irony here somewhere

So, via the medium I dare not name, I see someone was considering the other more profane version, and indeed the answer to that lies here.