Expert Texture Home Contact me About Subscribe Digipede Connect on LinkedIn rwandering on Twitter rwandering on FriendFeed

rwandering.net

The blogged wandering of Robert W. Anderson

Meeting Notes #1

On the phone with Steve Gillmor this morning talking about, among other things, Plan B

Here are my notes:

 MeetingNotes

Tags: , ,

Google I/O Day 1

Quick notes from Google I/O today. 

Best things I saw were (in order):

  1. Android.  Very disruptive.  It will force the iPhone to be more open.  It will further commoditize the hardware (driving down prices).  It places Symbian, RIM, and WM into filling niche roles.  Of course the other mobile OSes aren’t sitting still, but they are already playing catch up.  This will put them further behind.
  2. GWT.  JavaScript apps written in Java with familiar tools.  Cool.  Interesting how Microsoft and Adobe are solving the JavaScript-dev-maint problem with rich containers (Silverlight and Air / Flash) while Google is solving it with a Java to JavaScript compiler.  The former are working outside
  3. OpenSocial.  The fundamentals of this API and Friend Connect are to allow social applications to interact across silos.  To me this means user control.  This will ultimately force silos (like Facebook) to open up.  I like it.

Participated in the ongoing argument between Robert Scoble and Steve Gillmor regarding FriendFeed.

Met a man dressed in a pirate costume.  Or Ben Franklin costume.  Pano Kroko.  Fascinating guy.  Checkout www.churmo.com.

Ran into an old friend, Julian Wixson.  Hadn’t seen him for at least ten years.

Went on a trek with Robert, Steve, Pano, Julian, Vincent Nguyen of Slashgear, Mark Lucovsky  and a student to see Gary Vaynerchuk talk about his new book.  I learned two things:

  1. It is about a 15 minute walk from Moscone West to Union Square. 
  2. Don’t drink the same varietal twice.

Got back to the Google party just in time to see Flight of the Conchords.  Those guys are very funny.

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Blaine FriendFeed

I got a call from Steve Gillmor earlier today asking if I had seen his TechCrunch post, called Blame FriendFeed.  I hadn’t.

I just read it.  It had me laughing so hard I couldn’t read through the tears in my eyes.  It’s all classic Gillmor, but when you get about two thirds down, LOL:

Here’s my demo of the difference between FriendFeed and Twitter:

Twitter: Hi, I’m having Sugar Pops for breakfast.

Ten minutes later….

FriendFeed: Hi, I’m having Sugar Pops for breakfast.

And it just gets funnier.

BTW: I misheard Steve on the phone and thought his post was called Blaine FriendFeed, a reference to Blaine Cook.  Now that’s funny.

Tags: , , ,

Google Reader Misappropriated Our Shared Items

image_thumb[1]Earlier in the week I stopped using Google Reader for a few days.  Every time I started it, I would be reminded of their new sharing features (see the dialog on the left).  Then I would close the browser tab. Why?

Google changed the Reader user-contract with no notice.  This rankles me.  I’ve lost control of my shared items.  This is a dramatic change with only the weakest of opt-outs.  What’s more, any opt-out is too late.  My items have already been shared.  What kind of opt-out is that?

Oh, but there are more options.  They give us the ability to manage who gets to see our shared items.  But only after others have a chance to read them.  For example, I can hide my items from my “friends” who are on Google Reader.  Other “friends” that start using Google Reader will get to read my shared items immediately.  The onus is on me to make sure I actively manage the list. 

And the icing on the cake?  “Friends” wasn’t a word in use by Google Reader before.  Now it has been defined to mean my Google Talk contacts.  No fair.  This is not analogous to Facebook “friends”.  In Facebook, I accepted people as “friends” based on the Facebook definition.  Now my Google Talk contacts are my “friends” based on Google’s new definition.  This is clearly backwards. 

Is Google breaking their terms of service?  Almost definitely not, but they are changing a basic part of the user-contract: that user data won’t become more public without user consent. This is a perfect example of the “User-Beware contract“, summed up as: “we’ll change the user contract whenever we feel like it.”

What’s next? 

Your email contacts have been shared with your friends

Your emails have been shared with our advertisers

You calendar entries have been shared with your . . .

You get the idea.  This may seem like a joke, but frankly I don’t know what is in store for the user contract.

Steve Gillmor suggests this is arrogance on Google’s part, and he’s probably right.  Yet mostly people are ignoring this or don’t get it (e.g., Scoble doesn’t seem to get why anyone would care). 

Why is the blogosphere giving Google a free pass on this one? 

Tags: , , , , , ,

With Beacon, Facebook is not the problem

Unless you live under a rock (or don’t follow the social space) you know that there has been a big uproar of Facebook’s Beacon.  This is the feature that enables 3rd party web sites to transmit your actions (or “stories” in Facebook lingo) to Facebook. 

If you want to know more about how it works, Jay Goldman wrote the excellent post: Deconstructing Facebook Beacon JavaScript.  The title belies the fact that the article gives a good overview too (it isn’t just for developers).

An innovative idea — one that reminds me much of the GestureBank work conceived by Steve Gillmor and myself.  Given that, it should be no surprise that I don’t think Facebook did anything “evil” here. 

Now, they could have done a better job with it.  From the get-go, I would have preferred if they had

  • been more public about how it works; and
  • required that users “opt-in” to the whole program.

Not surprisingly, there was a backlash and Facebook made some changes (Official- Facebook Flips On Beacon).  Great.  I don’t think what they did violated their user contract, but the changes are more user-friendly.  I would prefer my User Aware contract, though this is a User Beware contract (User Contracts – Part II- User Beware). 

But, the problem isn’t with Facebook or their user contract.  If you don’t like the service (in total), don’t use it.

What I don’t understand is all the focus on Facebook here.  Like all silos they are capturing data, data, data.  That is what Facebook is all about.  

Why isn’t the focus on the 3rd parties who submit your stories?  They are the ones pouring user stories into Facebook. There have been reports of users not having approved their stories.  This is a bad thing, and maybe a technical flaw in Beacon, but ultimately it is the responsibility of the 3rd party to protect your data.

They should give the users control over their Beacon settings:

  1. Never send stories to Facebook
  2. Approve each story before it is sent to Facebook.
  3. Always send stories to Facebook.

If anything, Facebook should require this of its Beacon partners.

So, why aren’t people up in arms over the eBays, TripAdvisors, Yelps, Fandangos, Epicureans, etc.?

But, hey, if you don’t like the way these sites are spraying your data over the Internet, then stop using them.  

Tags: , , , , , ,

A Microsoft pawn? Me?

John has an excellent post wrapping up his trip to SC ‘07 — the bashers’ ball. He is tired of all the Microsoft bashing:

It is amazing to me the level of religious fervor that Microsoft still inspires. The bashers out there can be perfectly calm and reasonable about a wide range of topics – but say the word “Microsoft,” and they turn bright red and irrational. I have watched this phenomenon for years, and still find it inexplicable. Microsoft is a company. That company makes software. Some of their software is very, very good. Some of it is remarkably bad. I don’t understand why some people find it so hard to remain objective (or even civil) when discussing their products and market presence.

Statement of fact.  Nothing new exactly, but then he goes on how this relates to our company (emphasis mine) . . .

Many Microsoft bashers think that all of us at Digipede are mouthpieces for the Evil Empire, and that we are just pawns of the Microsoft machine. On the other hand, while we have plenty of fans within Microsoft, there are also some Microsoft employees who think we are difficult annoying troublemakers . . .

Pawns of Microsoft? Please. But maybe we are misunderstood. The other day I found myself convincing Steve Gillmor that I’m not a Microsoft fanboy (I don’t think I succeeded). But John says it well,

In fact, none of us at Digipede love or hate Microsoft – we work with Microsoft. We do so for real-world business reasons that help us change the world for the better while building a great company. We work with other companies too, but Microsoft occupies a special place in the technology landscape, and we work very, very hard to understand how to work with them to our mutual benefit. There are some great people there doing great things, and the bashers only hurt themselves by blinding themselves to these very real contributions.

Yeah, I don’t love or hate Microsoft; however, I do really like Microsoft .NET.  Does that make me a pawn of Microsoft?  .NET isn’t my religion.  I’m not a zealot about it.  It doesn’t mean that I think everyone should be using .NET / Windows nor does it require that I go around bashing Apple / Sun / IBM / Google / Linux / Java / PHP / Rails / whatever. 

I don’t think Microsoft bashing is a requirement for entry to the HPC and Apple fan clubs either, is it?

As long as I can remember, I have detested the religion of the OS (or programming language, or platform, etc.). Passion for technology is great — it’s a requirement for success in this field.  But I’m tired of people using their passion to bash, bash, bash. 

Maybe I just don’t get it, but if you’re a basher, please just move along.  And if you still think I’m a Microsoft pawn, well, I’m not going to convince you, now am I?

Note to Robert Scoble: you had the temerity to criticize Apple and the zealots came out in force — even called you a Microsoft shill. Welcome back to our club, Robert — though I’m not sure you ever really left.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Gillmor’s Group on Facebook

Recorded a show with Steve and the Gang last Friday.  Steve says,

Last Friday we recorded a new show titled The Gang. I’m initially asking those interested in hearing the results to join this Facebook group. Looking forward to seeing you there.

See you there? 

this is Robert's profile

Tags: , , ,

User Contracts – Part II: User Beware

I recently wrote about some problems I had with the user contracts for Cluztr, an attention service.  At the time I promised to write about a user contract I could stomach.  Some of these ideas are being rolled into what Steve Gillmor has called Click Insurance to be supported by the GestureBank.  More on that soon.

My problem with the Cluztr contract is their version of user opt-in.  Cluztr is unremarkable in this way — many companies use the same approach.  Their form of opt-in goes like this:

  1. Read our user contract before you use our service (good);
  2. Using our service implies acceptance of our contract (good);
  3. We may change our user contract (not good or bad);
  4. We may not post any notification that our contract has changed (bad); and,
  5. Continued use of our service implies acceptance of our new user contract (what?).

I call this the User-Beware Contract.  This is any contract expressly allowing the service provider to change it without user notification.  The onus is on the user to be wary of the service provider.

Instead, I’d like to see the User-Aware Contract.  It goes something like this:

  1. Read our user contract before you use our service;
  2. Using our service implies acceptance of our contract; 
  3. We may (and probably will) change our user contract;
  4. We will notify you of any change;
  5. Any change will require you to opt-in again formally (through a click-through or other process);
  6. If you do not formally agree to the new contract, you will be removed form the service and all user data associated with your account will be purged.

This type of contract puts the onus on the service provider.  After all, the service provider changed the user contract — shouldn’t they take the responsibility of notifying them and getting their continued opt-in?

A variant of the latter approach is not uncommon (e.g., on banking sites).  Your data may not be purged if you don’t accept the new contract; however, you will not gain access to the site unless you do.

That said, the User-Beware Contract is, by far, the dominant contract on the Web.  The big players all use it, most of the smaller players use it.

I would like to see an attention service throw out their User-Beware Contract in place of a User-Aware Contract.  Of course, they’ll have to notify their users of the change ;)

Tags: , , , , ,

User Contracts — Part I: Cluztr

User contracts are the proof behind user in charge business models.  I took Steve Gillmor’s challenge to go and take a look at attention startups in search of a user contract I could stomach.  First up, Cluztr.  I suppose this is pronounced clusterApologies to my distributed computing readership — this is not a clustering company.

The interesting part of their user contract is in their privacy policy.  I call out some parts of it (out of order).

Adherence to the principle of Property

Most importantly in this context, the principle of property:

Property – You own your attention and can store it wherever you wish. You have CONTROL.

A critical corollary to this is that you can delete your attention data too.  They have this covered in the following:

Cluztr collects clickstream data by means of a browser add-on that tags your use of the Internet. We do not track Internet usage on a secure website, or capture username or password information at any time. You have full control over your clickstream data and can delete or purge our database at anytime.

Note to legal: tighten up that language.  This really should say “purge your attention data from our database” instead of offering users the right to completely delete the entire Cluztr database.

So far, so good.

Changing the policy without notice

And then we have some sticky language about changing this policy.  Granted, this is common in its user unfriendliness:

By submitting your information you consent to the use of that information as set out in this Policy. If we change our Privacy Policy we will post the changes on this page, and may place notices on other pages of the web site, so that you may be aware of the information we collect and how we use it. Continued use of the service will signify that you agree to any such changes.

In other words (my words):

You own and control your clickstream data unless we decide that you don’t.  This privacy agreement is the only place we are obligated to tell you this.

Not good.

Change of ownership

And finally, their sale caveat:

Unless otherwise stated in this Privacy Policy data relating to you will not be disclosed to any third party unless you have specifically given your consent. We will not rent or sell your personal information without your permission (other than as part of a sale of the whole or a substantial part of the assets of Cluztr).

This language makes me nervous because it appears to mean:

You own your data unless we need it as an asset to sell the company in which case we own your data.  For all intents and purposes, we own your data.

To be kind, they may mean here that your contact info (like email address) is owned by them, but your clickstream is not. If they are purchased, that contact info would be passed to a new owner.  OK, but the ownership of the clickstream should not change and, if that is their intention, they should state it.

Conclusion

Cluztr has made a good start at a user-friendly contract but then mucked it up by over reaching on rewriting the policy and on the company sale.

I wouldn’t sign up with an Attention service with such a policy.

Next up on this topic:

  1. the GBX2 broadcasting user licenses
  2. a better user contract (what I currently call triggered-opt-in)
  3. other Attention companies and their user contracts

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

Good Lawford

Steve breaks radio silence and admits he is a pooka (from Bad Sinatra).

A lot of good stuff in this post, but I want to highlight one part. 

I posted the other day about the deprecation of the Google API.  My take: good for the Google; bad for the gaggle (i.e., the application developers).  Fun to talk about, but there are pragmatic solutions to this.  Something to be scared of?  No.

We (the users) needn’t be scared of vendor choices like this.  Why not?  Because nobody is forcing us to use these services.  As Steve says:

Who am I supposed to be scared of? Google? Nope, if the Ajax API and the terms of service around including unaltered adsense are so counter to user interest, that will precipitate a decline in usage and therefore less adoption of Google properties. Seems self-correcting to me: user votes, user wins. Why do we need saving here?

Exactly.

Tags: , , , , ,

Next entries »