Continuing a theme of the previous post: One of blogging’s key selling points is the ease by which anybody with internet access can become a broadcaster. BoingBoing is one of the loudest voices against inbound filters that censor such publication. Putting information on the net is great if you want everyone to get it, in any way, and this is what the receivers take the availability of such information to mean. Again, the media is the message. But it’s not always the correct one.
Recent cases of interest:
Facebook Changes Provoke Uproar Among Users – those users now noticing the “Me Feed” which neatly lists all of their not-explicitly-private Facebook activity to all of their contacts. Such activity may include, for example, a change of their personal status from “Dating Julia” to “Single”; cue much screaming about privacy and stalkertronics. The Slashdot thread I link to has the commenters neatly polarised between “if you’re putting it online, it’s not private” and “yeah, I realise that, but there’s a difference between it being available and explicitly fed, you know?”. While I have a lot of sympathy with the latter view, the former wins it. Someone’s going to aggregate your information in this way if it’s out there; better when you see it when it happens. There was a similar uproar in the late nineties when Deja.com – now Google Groups – indexed the whole of USENET, and you could see everyone’s complete posting trails.
However, I think such uproar’s ultimately worthwhile. What are needed are finer-grained controls for how the information we release is then made available to others. Facebook has the power to implement these in this particular case, and they’ve already made a statement that they’re thinking about it.
Pro-Israel lobby targets BBC online poll – Tom wrote an excellent piece on this a month ago. I’m kind-of in the target market, being a religious Jew who’s often received mass-forwarded mails from relatives that work similarly. Trouble is, such emails go through a trust network; what happens when you turn it into an open broadcast system? Should be bloody obvious, really:
Megaphone has no registration or identity check, so nothing would stop those opposed to Israel downloading Megaphone and using its alerts to voice opinions against its activities, however. Inevitably, a hacked version already exists which replaces Israeli flags with Palestinian ones and alters some of the text.
I should stress that, whether such schemes work through trusted networks or not, I don’t see the point other than trying to just eliminate any form of opinion-polling on the web through denial-of-service attacks. Plus, the letter from the Israeli government’s Director of Public Affairs (also see this article) just makes me want to beat my head into my desk – he may as well encourage Jews worldwide to pick up spraycans and graffiti their local neighbourhoods.
Tom’s and Chris’s posts about FOO Camp – mostly agreeing from both sides. It looks like the occasional burst of hostility to FOO has now quietened to general friendliness from all but a few noise-makers with bruised egos. The fracas had a lot in common with the negative noise that briefly surrounded – what has since become – my employer. The message was: “If we’ve heard about you, but you’re not letting us in, that’s bad.” In other words, nobody’s allowed to have private parties any more.
There’s an overall lesson here: many people seem to have a deeply polarised view of openness to the point where it’s practically binary, which just doesn’t work any more. Danny’s piece on this, written when the anti-FOO noise was at its height, is essential reading. We need more shades in talking about this stuff, and to understand that those shades may be present in situations that we don’t currently understand. Postel rides again.