Sunday 24 August 2008

Scrabulous completely gone from Facebook

It's official, I hate Hasbro.

Yesterday, Scrabulous disappeared from Facebook completely after Hasbro sued them. It's been suggested that I sign up to the Hasbro application on fb but I'd rather light fire to my newly painted toenails. It was a good fb community and was well written and presented.

This is a terrible shame. Big companies triumph again. Why can Hasbro do this in Australia?

Apart from status updates and photos, that only reason I went to facebook was to play Scrabulous. Twitter and flickr can replace the others for me. Maybe this is the end of facebook, at least for me.

Monday 11 August 2008

Spam A LOT

Photo by cursedthing used under the flickr Creative Commons license

Today I unsubscribe from Australia's biggest ticketing agent after they sent out mine and tens of thousands of other people's email addresses in a broadcast email.

I opened it thinking "cool, I might go see the Dandy Warhols" and was pretty unimpressed to see the body of the email with a listing of their subscribers. Apparently I am in the lucky 0.01% who had their email address shared with their entire mailing list and any spammers who get their hands on it.

First thought, can I trust a company with my credit card details if I can not trust them with my email address? Second thought, where do I complain about this? Go here and do complain because in Australia you can't be defended if you don't put your hand up and complain.

Friday 1 August 2008

Degoogling My Life

I've recently started using Google Analytics for my blogs. Yes, I'm watching you watching me.

A few interesting things have emerged from setting this up and from looking at the data it produces. The first is that Google applications are easy to register for, own and use. They make it easy to let them host your data. The second revelation is that a website can collect a surprising amount of information about you as you meander around the Interblag.

Let's go backwards and look at second things first - collecting information about the people who land on your site. Here is a quick summary about what I know about you when you visit this blog:

  • your browser and OS;
  • screen colours and resolutions;
  • flash and Java versions;
  • network location and host name;
  • connection speed;
  • the length and depth of your visit (the pages you read and time you spent);
  • language used;
  • referral sites (search engines, other sites or if you came directly to my blog);
  • and where in the world you are.
There are many valid reasons for wanting to know this useful information. It makes it easier for software engineers that build web applications to know about and cater for the different technologies in use out there. It helps us serve the majority when building a site by knowing what is most commonly used.

This information is collected using a simple script call that looks something like this, which is generated for each of your sites:

<script> type="text/javascript" var="">gaJsHost = (("https:" == document.location.protocol) ? "https://ssl." : "http://www.");
document.write(unescape("%3Cscript src='" + gaJsHost + "' type='text/javascript'

<script>pageTracker = _gat._getTracker("xx-xxxxxxx-x");

Now back to the idea of making it easy to give your data to Google. I often roll my eyes at friends (geeks mostly) who avoid getting a Google account at all costs. They don't want a huge company to have so much information about them. Another good friend of mine believes that no matter why information is collected, it will be used for evil. Combine those too ideas and even with a company that promises to do no evil, you may get a little nervous.

Google knows a lot about me. I use their email; docs; feed reader; blog hosting and editor; photo library; web analytics tools; webmaster tools; and their oxygen. OK, not the oxygen but they might own shares in it. They use this information to provide advertisers with targeted advertising. I imagine they have a setup like Gringots, with the servers that store the history of all our virtual wanderings. I like to believe it is protected and will not be used in a bad way.

Of course, I'm not going to jump up right now and stop using google apps due to a passing over-thought paranoia. They are easy to use. Easy to start using. They use one id and one password. They let you do what you want to do without worrying about how. They are free.

As for how easy it would be to degoogle my life, I'm not sure. What are the alternatives?

Email: I could get mail through an ISP and bring it down to my laptop. It already comes to my crackberry;
Docs: Easy, Office on laptop. Everyone has that these days. How would people collaborate on the documents though? hmmm...
Feed Reader: Use Firefox but that doesn't move with me. Maybe another web reader.
Blogging and Analytics: Easy, host a web server running WordPress or use a hosting site and track everything through feedburner.
Photos: I already use flickr and facebook for that too.
Oxygen: It's free.

Will I be doing this any time soon? Probably not, it all seems like a lot of effort. Maybe one at a time. First I need a universal id. Let's see how it goes.

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