Category Archives: Opinion

What part of your privacy does Google StreetView encroach upon?

Google StreetView car by I See Modern Britain

Google StreetView car by I See Modern Britain

 

Right from the start I’ve been fairly dismissive of privacy concerns over Google StreetView.

In my view, Google are just snapping what any general member of the public can see in that place at that time anyway. It’s already “in the public domain”, so to speak.

I haven’t had the fortune to come across a staunch opposer to StreetView yet, but if I did, as I commented over at MySociety, I would ask them, “What part of your privacy goes Google StreetView encroach upon exactly?”

Sunbathing naked in your back garden? I’m your neighbour, I can see you out my window…

Walking to the shops? I’m walking my dog, I see you. We even pass each other on the pavement and say hello.

Leaving an adult video store? You’re in public, the public will see you. If you don’t like being seen, stay at home and order off the internet or by phone.

Are you an anti-StreetView kinda person? Tell me exactly what it is that makes you uncomfortable about StreetView. Am I being too dismissive, missing the point etc?

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The Twitter settings update as a lesson in web usability

Twitter went a bit potty today over a change made to the services settings.

Yesterday, Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter, blogged the change saying,

“Based on usage patterns and feedback, we’ve learned most people want to see when someone they follow replies to another person they follow… however, receiving one-sided fragments via replies sent to folks you don’t follow… is undesirable.”

See it yet? He said most people. That means a majority. It means that some aren’t like that. That means changing it will be bad for that minority.

Consider this change from Twitter to be entered into the 101 of how to piss off your users.

It’s all about choice. Give people choice and they will reward you with their loyalty, respect and recommendations.

Take features away or make life harder and they will scream, shout, complain and generally bang your door down.

A step backwards? New service makes it hard to e-mail people

Usability is all about making things easy to use. That’s common sense though, right?

Maybe not.

I came across a new service today called Scr.im. It’s (very noble)  aim is to help prevent spammers getting hold of your e-mail address by scraping it off of web sites (such as forums) where you might have reason to post it.

The service replaces your e-mail address with a nice URL, like http://scr.im/hiphilipjohn (and you’re welcome to try that link out) that spam bots can’t get past. When you click on the link you’re asked to complete a simple test, similar to a Captcha.

However noble, though, it just makes e-mailing someone hard. Instead of one click of the e-mail address it takes 3-clicks at best; once to Scr.im, once to pass the test and once for the actual e-mail address.

I understand spam is a problem but I can’t help thinking the time and effort spent building and maintaining Scr.im, as well as signing up, would be better spent on improving spam filters, rather than something which essentially degrades the user experience.

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But 37signals are just neglecting their customers

There’s been a bit of a spat between 37signals and Get Satisfaction today, after Mike Stanley took offence at Get Satisfaction’s efforts to get companies to take notice of their customers.

I really admire Get Satisfaction for the way it sort of shames companies who don’t provide good customer service.

I’ve never experienced 37signals’ customer support but plenty of people seem to think it’s top notch, so I can understand why the wording on Get Satisfaction would be hurtful to their reputation.

To their credit, Get Satisfaction have realised their mistake in how they word their site and responded well to Mike’s post.

However, I do think that 37signals are missing something.

In my last post I spoke about the open nature of the internet, that people will talk about companies on tools like Get Satisfaction and that any company hoping to maintain a good reputation needs to be monitoring these sites.

I also believe that the internet enables people to play by their own rules and that if companies are to provide the best customer service they should be prepared to do that in the customer’s preferred method.

Mike slammed Get Satisfaction’s approach saying,

 Their brand of “open” means “only on Get Satisfaction.”

Surely Mike is being hypocritical, though? If 37signals are committed to providing excellent customer service, shouldn’t they deliver that service via whatever means customers ask for it?

They already do that through Twitter, so why not Get Satisfaction?

Mike suggests that,

When customers see a “support site for 37signals” and an open text field, they’ll post their concerns and they’ll get pissed when they don’t hear back. I would be too!

That’s certainly not a good thing, but by not taking part in Get Satisfaction aren’t 37signals just neglecting those customers?

What do you think? Should 37signals use Get Satisfaction like they use Twitter or should Get Satisfaction be making sure that visitors to their site are well informed that 37signals has it’s own support area?

Update: I’ve added my thoughts to the comments of Mike’s original post. Do find on “Philip John” to see it. Maybe 37signals didn’t like my comment, ’cause it’s been deleted. I’ve commented again asking why. Let’s see if that one stays there.

Government asks for 2Mbps, Virgin offers 200Mbps

First, let’s forget those who don’t want broadband for a second and consider only those who have and use broadband services.

I’ll keep this short. How can the UK Government possibly think that asking for 2Mbps in it’s preliminary Digital Britain report is anywhere near acceptable?

Virgin, theoretically, can achieve 200Mbps with their fibre (aka FTTC) network. Though the actual speed is unlikely to be that high in reality, they do quote a minimum of 100Mbps downstream.

They’re still likely to end up beating BT to it in any case, completing their rollout by 2012.

It makes the Government look like a bunch of uneducated fools touting 2Mbps as the speed to have whereas thousands (if not millions) of homes already have twice that and will potentially, in the next 3 years have one hundred times that speed at their fingertips.

The Government is so far behind the curve it’s infuriating. How can we, as a country, possibly be innovative enough to compete on the world stage with that kind of attitude from Government.

So here’s my request to the folks in Whitehall: Stop spending money on a report that is about two years out of date before actually being fully produced and instead spend it incentivising companies like BT and Virgin to speed up their rollout.

I’m moving to San Francisco if you don’t.

Citizen journalism: Friend or foe to traditional media?

Recently I’ve become involved in a relative new project, The Lichfield Blog. As you may gather from the name it’s a blog, about Lichfield.

I’m really proud to be part of something that has such a switched on and engaged little team behind it.

It was especially gratifying to watch as the story of a fire in one of Lichfield’s pubs quickly made it onto the blog just 3 hours after the initial call to the emergency services. Obviously we were lucky to have one of our team walk past at the right moment with a camera phone – a photo quickly made it’s way on to Twitter and a few tweets later the post was up.

The blog’s creator, Ross, made a call to the fire service about the incident and learned that no-one else had picked up on the story yet. It seemed we had beaten the local media. Having seen other, more high-profile, stories break on Twitter that doesn’t surprise me but it did make me think about all this “newspapers are dead” talk.

The blog has a few hundred visitors now, which is great, but it’s never going to kill the newspapers in Lichfield. I wouldn’t want it to either – there are plenty of people throughout the world, not just in Lichfield, who like to read a paper.

So the question isn’t, “are newspapers going to die?”, but rather “how can newspapers use citizen journalism?”

A good example is the Pancake Race in Lichfield. Nick Brickett has been providing photography for The Lichfield Blog, his first assignment being the traditional Shrove Tuesday Pancake Race. His photos of the event made their way onto the Express & Star web site (ironically, as I write this, said web site is down!)

This could be the way journalism is going. Another great example is Channel 4 News (who my Twitter followers will know full well I admire).

Their coverage of the Schiphol plane crash was very much driven by Twitter. I sat in front of Tweetdeck and watched it all unfold in front of my eyes, from them picking up the story, contacting an eye witness to putting a Twit on the lunch time news. It was a first for them and possibly for journalism in the UK.

Krishnan Guru-Murphy of Channel 4 News says that Twitter is “just another way of finding people and talking“.

I suspect some journalists will treat services like Twitter and citizen journalism in general as a threat rather than an asset. I’ve heard of publications shutting down because they just can’t sustain themselves for much longer (obviously the ‘crunch’ doesn’t help) but instead of shutting down, I believe they should adapt and grow with the times.

And let’s face it, it’s cheaper to do it online!

Do you think the internet is a threat to traditional media, or should traditional media adapt and embrace services like Twitter as sources for news?

The Guardian should know better

I like the Guardian, probably because it’s so tech savvy, but I was dissapointed reading Simon Hoggart’s column (via The Lichfield Blog) having a bit of a moan about Michael Fabricant MP’s use of Twitter.

Hoggart takes the typical response to seeing Twitter;

“I don’t understand it, therefore it’s just full of toilet trip talk and sandwich fillings from people who have nothing better to do than seek all the attention in the world as best they can in 140 characters.”

His article was, in essence, an elongated version of exactly the kind of drivel he assumes Twitter is constructed from. There’s about as much interesting reading there as there is on a pack of B&H.

I can sympathise with his viewpoint though. After all, Twitter is faster than traditional media at reporting the news.

Microsoft, Yahoo Deal Would Strengthen Google

I’m getting might pissed off with all this talk about some “deal” between Microsoft and Yahoo now. I don’t see how Microsoft forking out $15 billion for Yahoo’s search business would have any impact on Google‘s share.

Sure, on paper, Yahoo’s share would drop to 0% and Microsoft would jump from 8.5% to 29%, but Google’s share would still sit at 63.1%. (Based on comScore’s latest figures.)

Today, a large Yahoo shareholder, Ivory Investment Management urged the company to sell to Microsoft to maximise shareholder value.

How exactly does “maximising shareholder value” increase either Yahoo’s or Microsoft’s chances of stealing market share from Google and actually making a difference in search?

Come on folks, instead of wasting Yahoo’s time and money on lining shareholder’s pockets, how about giving two shits about making the product worth using. Isn’t that what makes Google better than Yahoo and Microsoft? Isn’t that why you’re lagging behind? Come on, it’s not rocket science.

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LinkedIn Now Major Factor in Online Reputation

I’ve not been much of a fan of LinkedIn. It’s too closed off and there just aren’t enough ways to interact. I prefer networking through the likes of Twitter or Facebook.

One example is how easy it is to create a presence for your company or brand. Previously, LinkedIn only gave you the ability to create your personal profile. Facebook, on the other, with fan pages, makes it easy to both establish a brand presence and encourage people to interact.

The closed nature of LinkedIn alienated it from the rest of the social media space, in a way, because it didn’t allow much integration. On the other hand, services like Twitter, Facebook and FriendFeed have APIs and actively encourage integration with other services.

LinkedIn seemed to be saying “Nope, if you want to tell people what you’re doing, do it here.”

Now all that may be changing.

Three weeks ago, they launched their Applications platform. It’s not completely open, which is a shame, with applications having to go through LinkedIn approval, but it’s a start. I’ll be looking forward to the Twitter application (listen up LinkedIn staff!)

This week comes an bigger step and one that interests me even more: company profiles. I’ve created mine.

It does worry me how easy it is to create (or claim) a company profile, though. Which also means that it’s important that any company make sure they’re LinkedIn profile is looked after by someone in their organisation.

Even more so now that the profiles are public, as announced earlier today. Anybody searching for your company name may well come across your LinkedIn profile

With the very social, democratised internet we are experiencing, reputation management is a big concern. LinkedIn just added themselves to the list of sites to be on by default.

T-Mobile Attempting to Entice Customers; Uses a Really Lame Phone

Again, via InformationWeek I learn that T-Mobile is going to try and get new customers by enticing them in with the Motozine ZN5.

The phone boasts a 5-Megapixel camera, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, 350MB of internal memory, a built-in organiser, voice recording capabilities, MP3 player, FM radio, TV-out capabilities, standard headphone jack and a 2.4-inch display with capable of 240 x 320 resolution.

It’s ONLY $99 with a two-year contract.

Last year, Nokia brought out the Nokia N95 (which I own and enjoy). It has everything the ZN5 has, but it’s much better.

For a start, it has a 2.6 inch display compared to the ZN5’s 2.4 inches (size DOES matter, folks). It has 3G which the ZN5 does not (and why any phone manufacturer would bother releasing a phone without 3G capability is beyond me. Dark ages, anyone?)

It has 8GB of internal memory. Yes, that’s not a spelling mistake. The ZN5 has 7% of the memory of the N95. Okay, the ZN5 is expandable up to 4GB but that’s gonna cost you extra and is still only half the size.

So how much is the Nokia N95? Easily free with a £35-ish per month contract. And an 18 month one, not two years. That’s about half the price of a new contract with the XN5 on T-Mobile.

Forgive me if I’m missing something, but it sounds like T-Mobile think this phone is impressive. It’s really not. I feel sorry for anyone who pays $99 for a phone that is so far behind the times.