Feeding the trolls

James Delingtroll

In the early days, I admit, I used to get quite upset by the horrid things trolls said about me. I mean, I’m just a blogger making a case. It’s not like I’m misusing public money in the manner of, say, a UEA “climate scientist”; it’s not like I’m a politician making bad laws or some rent-seeking landowner blighting my neighbours’ views with wind farms. But it’s OK, I’m over it now. What I’ve since learned to appreciate is that the problem with trolls is not my problem: it’s theirs. These are psychologically damaged creatures, eaten up with an awful lot of rage and sense of their own inadequacies.

via Seven types of troll: a spotter’s guide – blogs.telegraph.co.uk

This Telegraph blog post is a marvellous example of a writer complaining about internet trolls, while at the same time baiting them so hard he surely must be doing it on purpose. Even his bio (which appears right at the top of the page, before the post) is a masterwork in baiting.

James Delingpole is a writer, journalist and broadcaster who is right about everything. He is the author of numerous fantastically entertaining books including 365 Ways to Drive a Liberal Crazy, Welcome To Obamaland: I’ve Seen Your Future And It Doesn’t Work, How To Be Right, and the Coward series of WWII adventure novels. His website is www.jamesdelingpole.com.

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I don’t care about SEO

A few months ago I tweeted that we no longer needed to sell User Experience and our job was now to focus on delivering good user experiences.

These days we’ve stopped selling UX and started simply doing it.

Sure, some agencies or individuals haven’t quite reached that inflexion point yet, but I can tell you that it’s on the way. Demand is far outstripping supply, so if you’re not there yet, you soon will be. User Experience is no longer a point of difference, it’s just the way all good websites are built these days.

I don’t care about User Experience – andybudd.com

Hopefully in the very near future this shift in approach will happen for SEO too. There really shouldn’t be an SEO company or a marketplace of SEO ‘experts’. The work of SEO is half website design and development (good semantic markup, sensible layouts) and half content production (incorporating keywords, writing good titles and meta descriptions etc.). These skills should be in-house and standard practice.

Informationless graphics

A picture is worth a thousand words right? But what about a picture AND a thousand words? Whoa. You may just have an infographic on your hands.

From airline safety manuals to complex data visualizations, I have always been fascinated by infographics. A well done infographic has the power to capture one’s acute attention span and convey information that would have taken longer to simply read (oh no, not reading!). However, for every brilliantly thought out and well executed mashup of art and data, there now seems to be an influx of mundane and formulaic counterparts infesting the very internet that we hold so near and dear.

(via An Intimate Look at Infographics – thinkbrilliant.com)

The backlash against pointless infographics has begun. Let’s speed this one along…

If you type two spaces after a full stop, you’re doing it wrong. Period.

Every modern typographer agrees on the one-space rule. It’s one of the canonical rules of the profession, in the same way that waiters know that the salad fork goes to the left of the dinner fork and fashion designers know to put men’s shirt buttons on the right and women’s on the left. Every major style guide—including the Modern Language Association Style Manual and the Chicago Manual of Style—prescribes a single space after a period. (The Publications Manual of the American Psychological Association, used widely in the social sciences, allows for two spaces in draft manuscripts but recommends one space in published work.) Most ordinary people would know the one-space rule, too, if it weren’t for a quirk of history. In the middle of the last century, a now-outmoded technology—the manual typewriter—invaded the American workplace. To accommodate that machine’s shortcomings, everyone began to type wrong. And even though we no longer use typewriters, we all still type like we do. (Also see the persistence of the dreaded Caps Lock key.)

The problem with typewriters was that they used monospaced type—that is, every character occupied an equal amount of horizontal space. This bucked a long tradition of proportional typesetting, in which skinny characters (like I or 1) were given less space than fat ones (like W or M). Monospaced type gives you text that looks “loose” and uneven; there’s a lot of white space between characters and words, so it’s more difficult to spot the spaces between sentences immediately. Hence the adoption of the two-space rule—on a typewriter, an extra space after a sentence makes text easier to read. Here’s the thing, though: Monospaced fonts went out in the 1970s. First electric typewriters and then computers began to offer people ways to create text using proportional fonts. Today nearly every font on your PC is proportional. (Courier is the one major exception.) Because we’ve all switched to modern fonts, adding two spaces after a period no longer enhances readability, typographers say. It diminishes it.

(via Space Invaders – Why you should never, ever use two spaces after a period – slate.com)

Amen.

Tweaking Twain

A new edition of the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, scheduled to be published in February by NewSouth Books, substitutes the word “slave” for the “n-word” and “Indian” for “injun” throughout the book.

The publisher has been accused of censorship and altering a classic of American literature for the sake of political correctness. Early argues that this is just another case of tinkering with texts in order to create a version that best serves its audience.

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The Honest Privacy Policy Act

The following has been reproduced in full from an article in IT World By Dan Tynan: The first truly honest privacy policy – itworld.com.

I’ve got a better solution. Instead of a welter of new laws or regulations, how about just one: The Honest Privacy Policy Act. The HPPA would require every company to post a simple, direct, and brutally honest policy detailing what really happens to your data.

To help this proposal along I’ve come up with one of my own – and it’s 5,085 words shorter than Facebook’s. Here’s what a real privacy policy might look like:

“At COMPANY _______ we value your privacy a great deal. Almost as much as we value the ability to take the data you give us and slice, dice, julienne, mash, puree and serve it to our business partners, which may include third-party advertising networks, data brokers, networks of affiliate sites, parent companies, subsidiaries, and other entities, none of which we’ll bother to list here because they can change from week to week and, besides, we know you’re not really paying attention.

We’ll also share all of this information with the government. We’re just suckers for guys with crew cuts carrying subpoenas.

Remember, when you visit our Web site, our Web site is also visiting you. And we’ve brought a dozen or more friends with us, depending on how many ad networks and third-party data services we use. We’re not going to tell which ones, though you could probably figure this out by carefully watching the different URLs that flash across the bottom of your browser as each page loads or when you mouse over various bits. It’s not like you’ve got better things to do.

Each of these sites may leave behind a little gift known as a cookie — a text file filled with inscrutable gibberish that allows various computers around the globe to identify you, including your preferences, browser settings, which parts of the site you visited, which ads you clicked on, and whether you actually purchased something.

Those same cookies may let our advertising and data broker partners track you across every other site you visit, then dump all of your information into a huge database attached to a unique ID number, which they may sell ad infinitum without ever notifying you or asking for permission.

Also: We collect your IP address, which might change every time you log on but probably doesn’t. At the very least, your IP address tells us the name of your ISP and the city where you live; with a legal court order, it can also give us your name and billing address (see guys with crew cuts and subpoenas, above).

Besides your IP, we record some specifics about your operating system and browser. Amazingly, this information (known as your user agent string) can be enough to narrow you down to one of a few hundred people on the Webbernets, all by its lonesome. Isn’t technology wonderful?

The data we collect is strictly anonymous, unless you’ve been kind enough to give us your name, email address, or other identifying information. And even if you have been that kind, we promise we won’t sell that information to anyone else, unless of course our impossibly obtuse privacy policy says otherwise and/or we change our minds tomorrow. 

We store this information an indefinite amount of time for reasons even we don’t fully understand. And when we do eventually get around to deleting it, you can bet it’s still kicking around on some network backup drives in somebody’s closet. So once we have it, there’s really no getting it back. Hell, we can’t even find our keys half the time — how do you expect us to keep track of this stuff?

Not to worry, though, because we use the very bestest security measures to protect your data against hackers and identity thieves, though no one has actually ever bothered to verify this. You’ll pretty much just have to take our word for it.

So just to recap: Your information is extremely valuable to us. Our business model would totally collapse without it. No IPO, no stock options; all those 80-hour weeks and bupkis to show for it. So we’ll do our very best to use it in as many potentially profitable ways as we can conjure, over and over, while attempting to convince you there’s nothing to worry about.

(Hey, Did somebody hold a gun to your head and force you to visit this site? No, they did not. Did you run into a pay wall on the home page demanding your Visa number? No, you did not. You think we just give all this stuff away because we’re nice guys?  Bet you also think every roomful of manure has a pony buried inside.)

This privacy policy may change at any time. In fact, it’s changed three times since we first started typing this. Good luck figuring out how, because we’re sure as hell not going to tell you. But then, you probably stopped reading after paragraph three.”

I am hereby open sourcing this privacy policy. Feel free to use it on your own sites or suggest it to any that seem deserving (but I’d appreciate a credit and a link, if you’re so inclined).

(via Hacker News)

Vimeo present their terms in a nicely human-readable format. This should be standard practice.

A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace

Quote

by John Perry Barlow <barlow@eff.org>

Governments of the Industrial World, you weary giants of flesh and steel, I come from Cyberspace, the new home of Mind. On behalf of the future, I ask you of the past to leave us alone. You are not welcome among us. You have no sovereignty where we gather.

We have no elected government, nor are we likely to have one, so I address you with no greater authority than that with which liberty itself always speaks. I declare the global social space we are building to be naturally independent of the tyrannies you seek to impose on us. You have no moral right to rule us nor do you possess any methods of enforcement we have true reason to fear.

Governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed. You have neither solicited nor received ours. We did not invite you. You do not know us, nor do you know our world. Cyberspace does not lie within your borders. Do not think that you can build it, as though it were a public construction project. You cannot. It is an act of nature and it grows itself through our collective actions.

You have not engaged in our great and gathering conversation, nor did you create the wealth of our marketplaces. You do not know our culture, our ethics, or the unwritten codes that already provide our society more order than could be obtained by any of your impositions.

You claim there are problems among us that you need to solve. You use this claim as an excuse to invade our precincts. Many of these problems don’t exist. Where there are real conflicts, where there are wrongs, we will identify them and address them by our means. We are forming our own Social Contract . This governance will arise according to the conditions of our world, not yours. Our world is different.

Cyberspace consists of transactions, relationships, and thought itself, arrayed like a standing wave in the web of our communications. Ours is a world that is both everywhere and nowhere, but it is not where bodies live.

We are creating a world that all may enter without privilege or prejudice accorded by race, economic power, military force, or station of birth.

We are creating a world where anyone, anywhere may express his or her beliefs, no matter how singular, without fear of being coerced into silence or conformity.

Your legal concepts of property, expression, identity, movement, and context do not apply to us. They are all based on matter, and there is no matter here.

Our identities have no bodies, so, unlike you, we cannot obtain order by physical coercion. We believe that from ethics, enlightened self-interest, and the commonweal, our governance will emerge . Our identities may be distributed across many of your jurisdictions. The only law that all our constituent cultures would generally recognize is the Golden Rule. We hope we will be able to build our particular solutions on that basis. But we cannot accept the solutions you are attempting to impose.

In the United States, you have today created a law, the Telecommunications Reform Act, which repudiates your own Constitution and insults the dreams of Jefferson, Washington, Mill, Madison, DeToqueville, and Brandeis. These dreams must now be born anew in us.

You are terrified of your own children, since they are natives in a world where you will always be immigrants. Because you fear them, you entrust your bureaucracies with the parental responsibilities you are too cowardly to confront yourselves. In our world, all the sentiments and expressions of humanity, from the debasing to the angelic, are parts of a seamless whole, the global conversation of bits. We cannot separate the air that chokes from the air upon which wings beat.

In China, Germany, France, Russia, Singapore, Italy and the United States, you are trying to ward off the virus of liberty by erecting guard posts at the frontiers of Cyberspace. These may keep out the contagion for a small time, but they will not work in a world that will soon be blanketed in bit-bearing media.

Your increasingly obsolete information industries would perpetuate themselves by proposing laws, in America and elsewhere, that claim to own speech itself throughout the world. These laws would declare ideas to be another industrial product, no more noble than pig iron. In our world, whatever the human mind may create can be reproduced and distributed infinitely at no cost. The global conveyance of thought no longer requires your factories to accomplish.

These increasingly hostile and colonial measures place us in the same position as those previous lovers of freedom and self-determination who had to reject the authorities of distant, uninformed powers. We must declare our virtual selves immune to your sovereignty, even as we continue to consent to your rule over our bodies. We will spread ourselves across the Planet so that no one can arrest our thoughts.

We will create a civilization of the Mind in Cyberspace. May it be more humane and fair than the world your governments have made before.

Davos, Switzerland

February 8, 1996

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DynCorp: Pimping little boys to stoned Afghan cops

In fairness to those who want to shut down WikiLeaks, I certainly wish I hadn’t learned this!

Another international conflict, another horrific taxpayer-funded sex scandal for DynCorp, the private security contractor tasked with training the Afghan police.
via WikiLeaks: Texas Company Helped Pimp Little Boys To Stoned Afghan Cops – blogs.houstonpress.com
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There is hopeful symbolism in the fact that flags do not wave in a vacuum

The title of this post is a quote from Arthur C Clarke, whose predictions may have often missed the mark, but his opinions on politics, religion and where we should be headed are always spot on:

‘Today, of course, it seems ludicrous that we could have imagined giant space-stations, orbiting Hilton hotels, and expeditions to Jupiter as early as 2001 …’

He says now, ‘I was there when Spiro Agnew said to Walter Cronkite, immediately after the Apollo 11 launch, that we must go on to Mars. In the event Agnew was lucky not to go to jail! Everybody was very euphoric at the launch. But it fell apart very quickly thanks to Vietnam, Watergate.

via An Interview with Arthur C. Clarke, by Stephen Baxter – clarkeaward.com
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Bounce rate demystified

Recently, while looking at the Google analytics for this site, I noticed that my bounce rate was very high. I wasn’t very clear on what this meant, so investigated and concluded that there wasn’t much I could do about it given the type of content I post here.

So a new infographic on Kissmetrics caught my eye today: Bounce Rate Demystified.

I’m not a big fan of this current infographic craze, partly because they lock the data into a very web-unfriendly, non-interactive format, and partly because they are usually nothing more than transparent linkbait, with little or no actual informational substance.

My previous post challenged the former complaint. In this post I’ve decided to dissect the bounce rate infographic and see how good the information really is…

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27b/6 jerk is jerk

Perhaps it’s no surprise to learn that David Thorne, the guy who has a website documenting hilarious email exchanges, in which he exposes the (alleged) stupidity and ignorance of certain people he encounters, is a bit of a jerk. The first example I was aware of that went viral was the brilliant 7 legged spider drawing:

Dear Jane,

I do not have any money so am sending you this drawing I did of a spider instead. I value the drawing at $233.95 so trust that this settles the matter.

Regards, David.

Spiderdrawing

via Overdue Account – 27bslash6.com
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Welcome to the world of tomorrow…

Trying to look into the future is a grand old time, one that countless science fiction writers and visionaries have done more than a century. From Julies Verne predicting space rockets to Gene Roddenberry’s flip mobile phones to William Gibson defining cyberspace before it existed, science fiction writers have been leading the way towards technology’s future.

via Have we already caught up to science fiction? – thenextweb.com

What a dumb article. I thought The Next Web was better than this. Ignoring for a minute the two errors in that opening paragraph, what is the question exactly? Let me rephrase:

‘Are we living in the future already? Not the really distant future of course, just the near future. Because it feels like we’re really close to living in the near future if we aren’t already.’

The role of SF has never really been to predict the future anyway. It’s a genre more interested in exploring the themes of today, often by taking them to logical extremes to help us reflect. Verne didn’t predict space rockets – he imagined them. Likewise, Roddenberry didn’t invent the communicator – he devised a means of letting his characters communicate over vast distances.

I’ll leave you with Chad Catacchio’s insightful closing words:

“The future might not be now, but to me, it’s close.”

How do you like them apples?

This weekend while visiting St Fagans I decided to look upstairs in the workman’s institute for the first time – to discover a massive collection of apples on display. Seemingly this was an event organised for ‘Apple Day‘. My camera was in my hand as I’d been snapping away all day, so I naturally took a picture – only to be loudly tutted at.

It seems – according to the prominent signs I had missed – that photography was not allowed because the information on the laminated cards next to all the apples is the property of a library. Apparently a photograph would constitute a reproduction of this information, and that’s when the lawyers got involved and decided to spoil the fun for everybody.

They had quite a detailed sign explaining exactly why. I’d like to have taken a picture of it, but it was very busy and I felt quite conspicuous. I got the impression that the organisers didn’t like the situation much either, but didn’t have any real choice.

“You can’t polish a turd, but you can roll it in glitter”

Quote

[…] And commercial radio is really simple. Like many other businesses, it has products and it has customers. The audiences are not the customers, they’re the product. The customers are the advertisers.

via Myspace – now with glitter (via @Dizzyjam)

Excellent post about My_____. I’m a big fan of writers who can distil complex issues into powerful paragraphs.

Sexy CSS3 infographics: I propose a revolution!

There have been two separate trends on the web in recent months and years:

  1. Infographics are everywhere, typically in the form of long JPEGs. These are often criticised as being poor examples of information design (or just poor examples of design), but they still seem popular.
  2. Creating snazzy effects with CSS3 and HTML5. Increasing support for dropshadows, rounded corners, gradients, real fonts, rotation and all other kinds of nice visual enhancements, has resulted in masses of experimental designs. It’s even possible to create many types of fantastic (and terrible) charts and graphs, as well as icons and illustrations.

So CSS3 and infographics are a natural fit. They could be interactive, animated, hyperlinked, semantic and searchable. Besides, making big dumb JPEGs for the web just seems like a retrograde step. Why not put that effort into making a really nice page?

(How the Internet works / “Infographic”)

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The Yes Men Fix The World: Movie released on P2P to avoid legal challenge

Another brilliant example of BitTorrent being used for good and further proof that the internet makes it harder than ever for big companies and organisations to have complete control over their own message.

The Yes Men pose as corporations, governmental organizations or NGOs they believe are hypocritical or enacting harmful policies. They deliver speeches, send out press releases and set up websites to either take the organization’s policies to what The Yes Men believes are their logical conclusions, or to reverse the organization’s official position.

In theory, the latter is useful as a PR stunt because it forces the organization to step forward and reiterate its potentially unpopular or controversial stance on an issue, thus raising awareness in the public and turning up the heat.

via mashable.com

You can download “The Yes Men Fix The World” from Vodo, and find out more at theyesmen.org.

(I love the message in the footer of their site: Take what you want! We live in the Creative Commons.)

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iA’s Cosmic 140 poster – just an infogimmick?


(via informationarchitects.jp)

Apart from helping you identify the really big users, this graphic tells you absolutely nothing at a glance. It’s not even useful to identify Twitter’s most followed user – you have to glance around a bit and decode the numbers to figure that out.

And the categories are far from useful: Michael Jordan is halfway between music and sport, while Conan O’Brien is under entertainment, but has no crossover into humour at all. Bill Gates and Eric Schmidt are classified under technology, near art and design but miles away from business.

Pure gimmickry, and not even that appealing visually. Or am I missing the point?

Should you delete your Facebook account?

This May 31st is Quit Facebook Day, but I won’t be deleting my account. No, I got rid of it a few weeks ago. As much as I’d like to claim that this was entirely some kind of ethical stance, the simple truth was that I didn’t actually make much use of the service. If I had the same negative feelings about Twitter, quitting would be a much tougher decision.

Should you leave Facebook? Maybe. It’s certainly a question that a lot of people are asking. Then, if they decide to, they ask ‘so how the hell do I delete the thing?’ Enough that this has become a Google suggested result:

There’s actually a website dedicated to helping you find the elusive ‘delete’ hidden in the unnecessarily complicated settings. You can find out how well you have protected your privacy at Profile Watch. There’s also a handy bookmarklet at Reclaim Privacy that will similarly assess your profile. For a laugh, you can also read through some posts of other Facebook users, who probably think they are talking to their friends, not the entire internet: Openbook.

Are there real reasons to be worried? Well, after Facebook held a developer conference, lots of worried Google engineers left. And Google has hardly earned any privacy gold stars. And then there’s Mark Zuckerburg, the man behind the company, with a few thoughts on privacy (taken from an IM conversation when he was creating the service, then called The Facebook):

Zuck: Yeah so if you ever need info about anyone at Harvard
Zuck: Just ask. 
Zuck: I have over 4,000 emails, pictures, addresses, SNS
[Redacted Friend’s Name]: What? How’d you manage that one?
Zuck: People just submitted it. 
Zuck: I don’t know why. 
Zuck: They “trust me” 
Zuck: Dumb fucks.

Business Insider also has a fascinating expose on Zuckerburg. Decide for yourself if it holds much water, and if you think his character is likely to have improved in the last six years. 

It’s also interesting to witness how Facebook has eroded the default privacy settings over the years, from friends and family to almost completely exposing everything.

While most users may not understand/care about these issues, there are plenty who do. Enough that when a new project to create an open-source distributed social network asked for $10,000 to get started, they were overwhelmed with donations. As I write this, they have over $170,000 pledged.

So I guess Facebook just gives me the creeps.

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How to fake being social on social networks

Updating three social networks daily sounds like an easy task. But what if your goal is to update these sites a certain number of times in specific ways, but after a busy week, you realize you may have updated each site with a status update daily, but forgotten to accept friend request or respond to messages. So for this to do list item, I will define what specific updates I would like to do daily.

  1. Twitter daily actions
    • Check and respond to direct messages
    • Check and respond to Mentions
    • Send three relevant status updates daily
  2. Facebook daily actions
    • Check and respond to inbox messages
    • Update business pages
    • Happy Birthday greetings
    • Check and respond to group / page discussions
    • Send three relevant status updates

[etc, etc]

(via How to Write a Clearly Defined To Do List – kikolani.com)

… what the hell? I’ve never needed a reminder to check messages people send me. You just read them. If you are too busy, you read them when you’re done or need a bit of a break. This stuff shouldn’t be a chore. It shouldn’t be so unintuitive that you need a fucking list to remind yourself that you give a shit what your ‘friends’ are saying to you!

Oh, and please, don’t forget to ‘send three relevant status updates daily’. It hardly matters if you don’t have anything interesting to say, does it? Just knock up some drivel about how to sell your crap on Twitter without looking like you’re just trying to sell your crap.

I should probably just not read blogs like this…