Tag Archives: privacy

Review: Free: The Future of a Radical Price

Free: The Future of a Radical PriceFree: The Future of a Radical Price by Chris Anderson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Reading Free: The Future of a Radical Price reminded me, in many ways, of  The Grand Design.

To understand the universe on the quantum level, you have to embrace understandings and facts that seem ludicrous at human scales. That is, that we have free will; that things cannot be in the same place at the same time; that time progresses at one speed and forward only, are all convenient and explicit truths for our day-to-day existence. But at the subatomic level, that’s not how things work; not at all.

Anderson’s arguments about Free — that is, gratis and libre — are presented in the same sense, if not quite as well or explicitly.

Free does a fine job of explaining the mechanics of how things can be free on the Web: namely, per-unit / per-user costs are so low, they might as well be considered nothing.

He also does a good job of explaining the obvious money-making models applied successfully so far: advertising, freemium (basic service is free; premium service costs money) and non-monetary / indirect recompense, such as an increase in reputation / marketing of ancillary products, such as concerts and merchandise for musicians or speaking engagements and consultations for professionals.

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News Of The World Wasn’t ‘Hacking’ Voicemail, It Was Blagging

This is nitpicky, and I certainly don’t mean to take lightly the seriousness of the matter. But I do want to clarify that the News of the World wasn’t technically “hacking” voicemail in its scandal. It was engaged in social engineering.

For those of you who missed the headlines (and for the benefit of posterity): News of the World was (until July 10, 2011) a Sunday tabloid; like most British tabs, it’s best known for printing racy pictures of women and sleazy stories.

News of the World  hired a private investigator to help it research stories. That contractor gained access to a number of voicemail accounts, including those of a murdered 13-year-old girl, several soldiers killed in the Middle East conflicts, and royal family members.

All the shoes involved here haven’t yet dropped, but as of this writing the scandal has closed the paper after 168 years of publication; threatens to bring down Prime Minister David Cameron; has led to several arrests and may well result in additional restrictions on Great Britain’s press. (Even overwhelmingly reasonable pundits, such as The Economist, are calling for a mucking out of British journalism’s stables.)

The entire affair is loathsome, no question about that, even for the British press, nefarious for its “chew people up and spit them out” appetite. It’s also caused other world press outlets to term what News of the World did “phone hacking,” needlessly worrying people who have taken reasonable steps to secure their voicemail that they, too, might be targeted.

So I want to clear things up. If you’ve changed your voicemail password (PIN), you almost certainly can’t be violated in the way News of the World violated its victims.

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Google Search Results Encourage New Wave Of Negative Customer Service

A fascinating article in today’s New York Times examines the case of DecorMyEyes, an online eyeglasses retailer who’s found an interesting exploit in Google’s search rankings.

Noting that Google’s PageRank algorithm doesn’t determine if a linkback to a Web site is positive or negative, store owner Vitoly Borker games that system simply: He fights every customer complaint bitterly, with verbal abuse, counter-complaints, and what some construe as overt threats of violence.

Update, Dec. 2, 2010: Google has changed its PageRank algorithm to weigh the negativity of comments.

This aggressive, seemingly destructive behavior is so over-the-top, it leads disgruntled customers to complain everyplace they can online, including at such massive entities as Get Satisfaction.

The long and short: Lots of mentions and links to his Web site, plus lots of mentions of the brands he sells, all in context, often on high-traffic Web sites, means searching for a specific pair of eyeglasses often leads to Borker’s Web site being listed first in a Google search.

Borker effectively preys on the inexperienced online shopper. “If you’re the type of person who reads consumer reviews,” says the Times, “Mr. Borker would rather you shop elsewhere.”

He gets away with it via a combination of apathy and obeying the letter of the law.

His previous hosting company and eBay (from where he buys glasses for resale)  ignored scores of complaints until the Times inquired about his accounts. The confusion law enforcement has over Web-based commerce crime, including the IC3, means police have largely been absent, even in the face of obvious violations of the law.

Borker carefully monitors Visa and MasterCard complaints, making sure he doesn’t go past the monthly complaint limits. After MasterCard closed one of his merchant accounts, he opened another:

“There is no such thing as shutting someone down on the Internet,” he said during our initial telephone interview. “It isn’t possible. If Visa and MasterCard ever shut me down, I’d use the name of a friend of mine. Give him 1 percent.”

Most interesting, Borker sells on Amazon.com’s Marketplace, and doesn’t employ any nastiness there, because Amazon has a very low tolerance for customer complaints, according to the Times.
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Killing Tynt’s “Read More” Clipboard Copy Hijacker With The Adblock Plus Plug-In For Firefox

Update, 20 July 2011: I received an e-mail that notes the correct link to Tynt’s opt-out button is now http://www.tynt.com/tynt-users-opt-out. Its author adds that he believes their opt-out system now works.

I love Firefox. It’s pretty much the only Web browser I use.

I hate Tynt. If you’ve ever copied text from a Web page, then pasted it, only to find a mysterious “Read More:” link inserted at the end of the text you copied, you just ran headfirst into Tynt.

Each time a user pastes content from your website into an email, blog or website, we automatically add a URL link back to your site’s original content. When someone clicks that URL, they are directed back to your site and see the original content. This drives incremental traffic to your site when your content is shared without your knowledge while maintaining a consistent user experience.

It may well be a “consistent user experience” for me to have to hit the backspace key to delete the “Read more” link Tynt adds every time I copy a small block of text, but it’s a consistently annoying experience.

I appreciate the importance of reciprocal links. I understand the challenge to content publishers of having content lifted from their Web sites without attribution.

So before I get into details about this fix, let me be clear: If you copy Web content, attribute it. It’s the right thing to do.

That said, there’s a wrong way of getting people to do the right thing, and Tynt is definitely the wrong way.

I find having my simple act of extracting a quote from a Web page turned into a link-spamming takeover of my local machine to be far more disturbing than a tracking cookie or layer ad.

Don’t be messing with my clipboard. It’s mine, not yours. I will put into it what I want there, not what you want.

Fortunately, I was able to put an immediate end to Tynt’s “Read More” clipboard copy highjacking in Firefox with Adblock Plus, a highly popular add-in that does what its name suggests: Blocks advertisements, and other content, from displaying on a page.

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