A Tech-Econ Mashup with a Libertarian Flavor

Awesome New Twitter Tool

First, let me preface this post by saying that Twitter is still over-hyped and full of worthless information.

Now, for those of you (like myself) who’ve fallen prey to its evil, self-aggrandizing appeal – or if you just like sharing links and stuff – there’s an awesome new tweet-management tool that I’ve been using. Hoot Suite has some great features, including:

  • The ability to schedule your tweets ahead of time (so that you can space out your tweets throughout the day, rather than clog up your friends’ feeds with several consecutive posts)
  • Multi-platform support: update your twitter, facebook, and Linkedin accounts (for those of you who bother signing into Linkedin more than once a month).
  • A built-in link shortener that also tracks clicks – see how many people click on your tweeted links.

Thanks to Cord (and Michelle) for bringing this awesome tool to my attention.


Filed under: Information Tech, Tech Biz,

US Still Pwns China on Free Speech


Today marks the 20th anniversary of the bloody end to the Tiananmen Square protests in Beijing. Reports abound that the Chinese government has blocked several social networking sites in order to avoid a resurgence of anti-government sentiment:

…the Chinese government has begun clamping down on access to popular Internet services in an apparent effort to quell memorials, protests, or any rekindling of the pro-democracy and anti-government sentiments that led up to 100,000 Chinese to gather at Tiananmen Square in the first place. Microsoft and Yahoo have confirmed that access to Flickr, Hotmail, and even Microsoft’s new Internet search service Bing have been blocked by the Chinese government, and reports have access to microblogging service Twitter shut down as well.

I don’t get sentimentally patriotic very often, but seeing that iconic image of the man in the white shirt standing in front of the line of tanks makes me happy that I live in a society that embraces the idea of free speech. I’m not a very politically-savvy person. IMHO, politics is nothing but a ridiculous game and an utter waste of our money. However, with that massive waste of money comes a big government that’s too intellectually divided and, more importantly, too inefficient to ever be able to censor our speech, thoughts, beliefs, and expressions.

Try to imagine an entity of the US government actively regulating content on the internet. The feds are already doing such a great job with medicare fraud, online prostitution, disaster relief, the war on drugs, the financial sector, social security, the budget deficit… need I continue? When it comes to protecting free speech, our saving grace may be that our government is too incompetent and uncooperative to ever become an Orwellian dictatorship. My idea of a realistic dystopian future is less like V for Vendetta, and more like Idiocracy (“paid for by Carl’s Jr.”)

Filed under: Information Tech, Politics, , ,

Facebook Allows Developers to Access User’s “Streams”

Facebook announced today their new “Open Stream API,” which will allow 3rd-party developers access to users’ “data streams” (i.e. status updates, posted links, pics, wall posts, and anything else that could show up on a user’s Wall). Privacy advocates, take heart:

Users will maintain control of their data privacy, [platform designer Dave] Morin noted, and applications will be able to access streams only with individual users’ permission — largely the way Facebook’s current on-site application system works. The data harvested by new applications will be subject to the same privacy strictures as any other data on Facebook: Even if it’s on other websites, it will still be visible only by your friends, not the public at large.

Facebook is taking a step closer to what I suggested right here last week, in opening up and allowing other networks and developers to more easily interface with users’ profiles and data (I love when I’m on the right track without even realizing it). Facebook is on track to becoming a ubiquitous technology – imagine if ten years from now, people refer to all online social networking activity as “facebooking” (similar to how performing an online search is commonly called “googling,” something Google has been fighting for some time).

Now, if only Zuckerberg & Co. would end this senseless “Twitterization” of facebook’s appearance, there’d be no stopping them.

In related news, MySpace has hired Owen Van Natta, a former facebook executive, as its new CEO (does this mean Tom is no longer my friend?). My $0.02: cleaning up the MySpace cesspool and turning it back into a company that anybody will take seriously is one of the most difficult jobs a web entrepreneur could have.

Filed under: Information Tech, Internet, Tech Biz, , ,

How to Improve Social Networking

OpenID is onto something.

Apart from Facebook, neglected LinkedIn and Twitter accounts, and some bookmarks, I haven’t embraced social networking to the fullest because I don’t want to bother with 75 different accounts, profiles, usernames, etc. I’m already keeping track of about 4 different identities (or “brands” as those so-called “new media gurus” would call it) across the internet that I’ve created over the years, and I’m not looking to add more complexity to my life at the moment.

An example of how to properly incorporate social networking into your business: Netflix now allows users to interface their accounts with their facebook profiles, so that any film that a user rates on Netflix will show up as a little blurb in their facebook feed (typically a short line reading “Libby rated Swingers 3 out of 5 stars”). Admittedly, the only useful purpose for this is that I can now broadcast my taste in film to my facebook friends, but it’s a heck of a lot easier than maintaining a Netflix account for my movie rentals, PLUS rating everything I’ve seen on facebook’s Flixter app. My life is now a wee bit simpler.

I feel like facebook has an opportunity to become a huge internet launch pad for people, the biggest thing since Google. Imagine if, instead of every niche social community each starting up its own separate social networking website, they instead were able to build off of facebook’s? I’m not talking about setting up a “fan page” (who really ever reads those updates, anyway?). Think of how easy it could be to set up a new social network if users could just login to these new separate, smaller networks with their facebook profiles, similar to how I can leave comments on my friends’ Blogspot blogs with my WordPress ID. Again, life is made simpler.

Does anybody have more examples of integrated social networks?


Afterthought: at some point in the last couple years, it seems like we’ve begun moving away from the old wisdom of never putting our personal information online, towards making our personal information freely available, even so far as using our real names as our cyber-identifiers. Thoughts?

Filed under: Information Tech, Internet, Tech Biz, , , , ,

On Twitter

Here’s what my twitter feed looks like on an average day:

  • Policy wonk friend: “This is stupid –….”
  • Reading friend: “At such-and-such cafe reading what’s-his-face.”
  • Random friend A: “Watching a movie, television show, or sporting event.”
  • Social friend : “Anyone going out after work?”
  • Foreign friend: [something in Italian]
  • Random friend B: “Spending the weekend at some other place, going to see some weird thing.”
  • Institution I meant to take off my follow list: Read the latest press release here…
  • Youtube Junkie friend: “this is funny –…”
  • Random friend C: “Saw something on the metro this morning.”
  • Friend I don’t really know: “The new album by a band I (and only I) like is good, but not their best work.”
  • Random friend D: @Random friend A “comment on same movie, television show, or sporting event.”

I’m about ready to give up on Twitter. None of my local friends use it (facebook and cell phones for us), and most of the tweets I read are either out of context for me or just not relevant to anything I’m involved in currently. I don’t see much point in twittering the minute details of my often-banal daily experience, either. Still, I maintain a half-assed tweeting habit, hoping that it will grow on me.

Recommended Reading:

Why Twitter can be Dangerous

100 Things More Popular than Twitter

Filed under: Information Tech, Internet, , ,

Protecting “The Children” ain’t easy.

Technology alone can’t protect “The Children” from online threats. So says a report released yesterday by the Internet Safety Technical Task Force. Some highlights:

  • Most minors who are exposed to pr0n have actively sought it out. Also, much “problematic” content is actually created by or shared among youths themselves (who else would have popularized “2 Girls 1 Cup?” Your mother?)
  • Social networking sites are “used primarily to reinforce preexisting social relations.” Writing “WHORE!” on a myspace page is similar to how you used to make obscene phone calls to your archnemesis. (You remember, the girl with perfect hair, great clothes, who eats whatever she wants and stays skinny, who stole your boyfriend in 8th grade, and who beat you out for the lead in “Alice in Wonderland.” Whore.)
  • Minors are not equally at risk. A child’s psychology and family dynamic is a much better indicator of their likelihood to chat with 40-year-old creepers than the type of chat protocol they use.

This is undoubtedly disappointing news to those who put their faith in technological safety-measures, such as robust and impossible-to-bypass age -verification systems or filtering software. Conversely, this is great news for the web companies who’ve been shouldering much of the blame for all of the internet’s evils.

It’s also good news to the reasonable among us who think that parents are responsible for, you know, being parents. The fact that children who are already at-risk are more likely than their peers to be exposed to threats on the internet is a pretty good indication that this is a problem that should be tackled by parents, not regulators.

Further reading: Ars Technica says the biggest online threat to kids is… other kids. /feigned shock.

Filed under: Information Tech, Tech Biz, , , , , ,

No thanks, Mr. Martin, I’ll stick with Charter.

FCC chairman Kevin Martin recently scrapped his plan to create an national wi-fi broadband service, one that would have (supposedly) filtered out every piece of pr0n and smut a hormonal 13-year-old would want to get his hairy palms on.

Need I go into all the reasons why a heavily-filtered public internet service would be a terrible, terrible idea? Well, for starters, there’s the first amendment issues surrounding the censorship of public spectrum. Also, don’t overlook the fact that the government sucks at providing most of the services it provides (been to the post office lately?). Then there’s the privacy issues surrounding government regulation and administration of an electronic communication medium. Not to mention the fact that the market has already indicated that there’s no need for the government to spend tax dollars to provide this “public good.” And to be practical, even the “smartest” net filtering programs are dumb as rocks when it comes to natural language processing and typically end up blocking web pages about, for example, breast cancer prevention.

Ryan (yes, the Ryan Radia for all you fans) at TLF has a great post on this story.

Filed under: Information Tech, Internet, Politics, , , , , , , ,

Abbreviation Frustration (AF).

IP: Intellectual Property, or Internet Protocol?

Sure, it’s easy enough to determine an author’s meaning through context alone, but I still get thrown for a loop every once in a while by this one.

Filed under: Information Tech

Best Network Management Practices?

Today the Google folks are blogging about network management practices. The main thrust of the article:

“So the real question for today’s broadband networks is not whether they need to be managed, but rather how.”

How, indeed. Transmission rate caps, two-tiered pricing, and privately-owned connections (especially exciting for nerds like yours truly) are among the many suggestions put forth by experts. However service providers decide to manage their networks, what’s important is that it is the network engineers and IT specialists deciding the best management practices for their particular company, and not a regulatory body mandating a series of one-size-fits-all, innovation-stifling “solutions.”

Filed under: Information Tech, Uncategorized, ,


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