Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Onaswarm sounds like it has potential, but it falls short for me

I read the review Onaswarm Gives FriendFeed a Run For Its Money on Mashable which I found from Louis Gray's Google Reader Shared Items (and proceeded to share myself).

I'm already a big fan of Louis Gray, even having just found his blog when reading a review of Shyftr on April 12th. Louis if you read this, I also have been a big fan of your shared items, sharing 21 items in the last week or so since I subscribed to your shared items, now at the top of my most shared items.

Ryan S shared item trends on Google Reader

I was happy to see the praise of how easy it was to sign up. I was also interested in exactly how well these location based "swarms" are progressing.

Unfortunately I ran into a problem on the first form.

Onaswarm registration process error: password is too long

That's right, there is an arbitrary limit on the size of my password, which I'm annoyed by, but I'll continue on. Also, notice there is no password confirmation box, a single typo and you will lose those users forever, because they can't access their accounts immediately.

I'm presented with a text box which says

"Enter 1 to 4 Account Names/User IDs that you use (on blogger, buzznet, delicious, digg, flickr, jaiku, lastfm, livejournal, msnspaces, myspace, picasa, pownce, soup, stumbleupon, twitter, typepad, tumblr, upcoming, wordpress, vimeo, youtube, vox) and we'll try to find your networks."
I really only "ryansv" for most sites, so I enter that and click go. The process is interesting at first, quickly finding a few sites that I use, (and some that aren't me), as well as reporting that I was not found on certain services.

The one main problem here is that it took almost a whole minute. It doesn't sound that long but when you're sitting there looking at a dimmed page with a spinner for a minute, it's unacceptable.

It also used ryansv.blogpot.com, which I don't use. I guessing it can't pick up group blogs based on the user names of the contributors. I can't edit it once it has been imported, which is frustrating. I have to delete it, and add a new Blogger "identity" duffsdevice, to trick it into finding this blog. I'm sure this could lead to problems with duplicate items just like on FriendFeed.

I signed up for the Worcester, MA swarm which by the title of it looks auto generated, but I'm glad it's there. Unfortunately I'm now the sole member of the group. I didn't see any way to casually browse for popular swarms, so I couldn't find any others to join.

I tried importing contacts from GMail, but no one was found. The only other option is a name search, which isn't too appealing to me.

So, my opinion of the site is, it's no more useful than friendfeed currently, and I repeatedly had trouble finding out where to navigate to, so I gave up and left fairly quickly. I saw the full list on the home page, but that's the only place I saw content that wasn't mine. Also, I'm not fond of the UI, it's unnecessarily sprayed with AJAX, and maybe it's the color scheme, but there's something I cant easily define which distracts me from the content constantly.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Interesting advertising coincidence... or is it?

I'm listening to my Pandora station when the song "Invincible" by Ok Go starts playing and then the ad changes. This is what came up.

Blue Cross/ Blue Shied advertisement: Because you're not actually invincible

Alice in Chains is only voted down because it was a live version. :)

Monday, April 21, 2008

Evolution of Communication

Social interactions between individuals can really be broken down into one simple thing: communication. As time has gone on, communication has evolved along side us. The simplest form of communication began with body language and other visual cues, next came spoken language. In 105 A.D. paper was invented, thus beginning the spread of written documents. In 1450 A.D. The printing press was invented making written material widely available. In 1835 A.D. the telegraph and Morse code brought about the beginning of fast long distance communication. The newspapers, telephone, phonograph, radio, and television were all new forms of communication, all of which had fierce opposition.

A quote from 1920 in regards to the radio:

"The wireless music box has no imaginable commercial value. Who would pay for a message sent to nobody in particular?"

A Western Union internal memo from 1876 says:
“This ‘telephone’ has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us.”

Lee de Forest, the inventor of the cathode ray tube, said that television:
“Theoretically, television may be feasible, but I consider it an impossibility - a development which we should waste little time dreaming about.”

All of these quotes can be found at Things People Said, along with many other interesting (and completely wrong) quotes.

As we know now, all of these technologies have increased the amount of communication in nearly every country in the world. With the introduction of ARPANET in 1969, and the World Wide Web in 1989, the amount of communication has increased again, and as these technologies continue to grow, more and more communication occurs online. Some people have raised concerns that the various forms of communication online has degraded the social interactions between individuals. If this statement was true, we would see a decline in either quality or quantity of conversations, or both.

The quantity of conversations has clearly not decreased, the number of newly enabled conversations created by the communication tools on the Internet far outweighs any loss of communication that may have previously occurred face to face. An article entitled Are We Just Jumping On The Social Media Bandwagon? appearing on SheGeeks written by guest Colin Walker states:

“The internet, and social media on it, merely allows us to extend the range of our conversations. Instead of chatting over the garden fence we are chatting across oceans; instead of meeting in pubs and bars we gather in virtual spaces.”

The harder question to answer here is if the quality of communication has decreased due to use of communication tools such as email, instant messaging, social networking websites, chat rooms, BBS, IRC, SMS, blogs, and many other technologies and systems that facilitate not only personal, but also public conversations. Quality is a subjective term, so it would be impossible for me to provide a complete argument that the quality of conversations has decreased.

It's my personal opinion, and that of many other people, that a change in how or where communication occurs does not imply a decrease in quality. I would go as far to say that the quality of communication can not be decreased. Sure, we can be annoyed when we see the large amount of sophomoric communication online, but these seemingly useless conversations should not distract you from the inherent value of nearly instant communication with nearly anyone around the world. The ability to find almost any information about nearly any topic by simply searching on the Internet more than makes up for the lack of quality in a small group of Internet users.

The prompt for this article was to "Make a point about" how "Email and other forms of electronic communications have degraded the social interactions between individuals."

Sunday, April 20, 2008

How criminals will benefit from the REAL ID legislation

Forgot to publish this post for some reason, just noticed today.

“State a point for or against the National ID System, or a facet thereof. Please include references in addition to the book.”

A national ID system is a system used by the government of the country to track the people in the country. It has generally consisted of a unique identifier, with the possibility of appearing on an ID card which would be issued by the government. These types of identification systems have lead to many concerns over privacy, since they often become used for more than they were intended to do. The United States currently uses the Social Security number, which when originally created, “the numbers would only be used by the Social Security Program.”, however as people realized the value of a system which has an unique identifier for all the citizens in the country, it's use began to spread. Currently the Social Security number is used for a large variety of things, from obtaining a job to applying for a credit card. A citizen without a Social Security number would have a enormous number of problems doing things that most people take for granted.

The current legislation for the REAL ID system in the United States would in effect create a new standard for a national ID. It does this by establishing a new set of guidelines for what states would have to include in drivers licenses or other identification cards. If a state does not meet these criteria, “the penalty is barring people without a REAL ID from flying and from entering any federal buildings, such as a courthouse, Social Security Administration office or the office of an elected federal official.” This is a huge infringement on state's rights. When did the federal government get the ability to decide how and who the state's will issue drivers licenses or other identification cards to?

Proponents of the legislation say that the REAL ID act say that it “is necessary to prevent terrorists, criminals, and illegal immigrants from successfully obtaining and using fraudulent driver's licenses.” however, there are no facts proving the legislation will do this.. Criminals currently still obtain legal documents that are supposed to be difficult to obtain, what makes it that much harder for them to obtain the new forms of identification? The average citizen is who this would really affect. If they lose or need to obtain a new ID for any reason, it would become much more difficult for them to do so. The new IDs would also be a prime target for identity thieves. They contain much more information about the citizen, and as proposed the information would be contained in a 2D bar code, or some other computer readable information on the card.

This also brings up the privacy concerns related to having all of your information in a central location. It is not unlikely that the new IDs would be used widely, since drivers licenses are already used in this way. Whenever you need to present identification, you would just have to let a computer scan this card. This allows easy tracking of nearly every aspect of ones life. The data centers containing the information associated with these cards would be under constant attack by identity thieves, since this would become the most centralized location of personal data anywhere. It's foolish to believe that having this information would not lead to abuse of the information. Whenever data is collected, it is always possible for a leak to occur even in the most secure facility, because someone the data now exists where someone (legitimately or not) can access it.

The benefits to having the REAL ID system in place are few and often misleading. The ease of having only one card to prove your identity is a trade-off with losses in both security and privacy. The increased security measures required would force a huge cost on the states to implement these features, which would undoubtedly never become completely secure. This just makes it harder for a normal citizen to obtain identification, while criminals would have access to these cards, giving them the benefits of this system, instead of stopping them. Some of the reasons given for enacting the bill are to fight terrorism and reduce identity theft, but there is no convincing evidence that the legislation would accomplish that, but it does increase the centralization of personal information, which is likely to attract abuse instead of prevent it.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Social Implications of Open Source Software

Here's the prompt for this week's paper:

“Positive or Negative social implications of open source or 'free software'.”

What is open source or 'free' software? In this analysis I'm only going to refer to open source software, or what is commonly referred to as “Free as in 'Free Speech'”. This means you have access to the source code, and are free to modify it however you wish, and even redistribute it. The other definition is often stated as “Free as in 'Free Beer'”, meaning it costs nothing. These often go hand in hand since when you have the source code and may redistribute it, nothing stops you from giving it away for free. I'm not going to discuss the economics of open source software, as I feel that it is a discussion well suited for a different place.

What are the implications of open source software? You have the ability to look into exactly what a program does and learn from it or improve it. People also tend to argue that software that is not open source is unethical. Although I am a huge supporter of open source software, I have to argue that they are wrong. An article titled The Social Implications of Free Software on FSM states:

“Above all, Free Software is an ethical choice—not one of convenience. NGOs also tend to receive, store and disseminate huge amounts of information. It helps to be able to access info (in digital format) without having to 1) break the law, and 2) spend money to purchase applications to “read” the information. Using free software enables that, as South India-based lawyer Mahesh Pai points out.”

The argument made here is a non-sequitur; the arguments for open source software is that it is free and legal, which in no way implies that proprietary software is unethical. There should be a distinction between ethical implications and economic factors. It is not unethical to charge people for a product. The point made here is that a social implication of open source software is that is it much more likely to be used in a economically challenged locale, due to the low cost of the software (which is often gratis).

There are many benefits to using open source software. Nearly all proprietary software now has an open source counterpart, and in my opinion, many of them are much better than their proprietary counterparts. (There are also some that are much worse too.) Open Source software is often much more secure than proprietary software, which is interesting due to the full source code being available for anyone who would want to see it. I have written about this topic before, if you want to read more about this, go read my previous post Security through Open Source.

Open source software is created by a community of developers who share a generally common set of beliefs. This has lead to it's own community of OSS developers and users. This community continues to grow and thrive today. The community has a great property which will lead to it's success, and that is that the more developers that work on OSS, and the more users who commit to the community, the stronger it grows. This is fostered by the idea that all the software should be available from source code, and that anyone is free to modify and redistribute it. As more people work on it, bugs will be fixed, features will be added, and the software becomes more useful to more people.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Does Blogger get the publish date wrong?

So I spent a little bit of time writing my previous rant, and then decided to see how long it would take to show up in my feeds. In Google Reader it showed up in about 3-4 minutes. Then I noticed the timestamp on it:

Received 7:32pm
Published 6:28pm

I actually hit publish around 7:28pm +/- 2 minutes, I wasn't really watching the time.

I started this post about 5 minutes ago, which was 7:34 according to my clock. Which lines up with the time according to Blogger. I found the current Blogger time by going to Settings > Formatting. The timezone format shows the current time. I want to see if this is just a timezone issue, so I'll post this in a little while. My feeling is that it is probably just an issue with Blogger, I started writing the post around 6:28pm, so it may have place that timestamp as the publish date.

Oh yeah, I still haven't seen it show up in FriendFeed.
UPDATE: I missed this in my FriendFeed due to the publish date being an hour before it should have been, my bad. It also picked up this post fairly quickly, as did Google Reader.

Actual Publish date: 7:52pm EST.

EDIT: The publish date is 7:34pm. The same time I estimated when I started this post, looks like I was right.

EDIT 2: I can't believe I missed this. You can set the post date and time in the Post Options drop down, which is by default set to the time which you started writing the post.

Blogger's Post Options Screencapture

As you can see, the date here is the time I said I originally started writing this post.

I would subscribe to any politician's blog who follows my idea.

Quick rant about politicians. I'm reading the article Administration Set to Use New Spy Program in U.S. on The Washington Post which was shared with me by Co-contributer Shane via Slashdot. I'll let you make your own decision about the article.

The article has a passage in it which made me think:

"There is no basis to suggest that this process is in any way insufficient to protect the privacy and civil liberties of Americans," Chertoff wrote to Reps. Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.) and Jane Harman (D-Calif.), chairmen of the House Homeland Security Committee and its intelligence subcommittee, respectively, in letters released yesterday.

"I think we've fully addressed anybody's concerns," Chertoff added in remarks last week to bloggers. "I think the way is now clear to stand it up and go warm on it."

I believe that what they are saying is that he said this in a conference with some bloggers. The way it is used implies he responded to all bloggers. This is wrong. I'm a blogger. If you're reading this you're a blogger. Some people dogs are bloggers. The point is everyone is a blogger. I think that politicians should be responsible for responding to everyone.

How about we make every politician write a paragraph summarizing why they are voting for every proposal they have to vote on. Let's make them bloggers too. Then they actually are talking to everyone, and they become more responsible since they actually have to show something to the general public. The only people who wouldn't want that are the politicians; but who decided they get to be in change?