Tag Archives: online

Broadcast on the web – ipadio

One of the first people I met at SOMESSO on Friday was Giles Bryan, who is one of the founders of ipadio. I mentioned that I was experimenting with a tool called AudioBoo on the iPhone recently… well, ipadio is similar, but there are a few key differences. It works from any phone; it records and streams live as you talk (the audio quality is not as good as AudioBoo, but the uses are arguably more flexible); and you can conference in multiple people to a call, so you can effectively have group chats or interviews live on the web from any phone.

Giles was good enough to let me have a look at a development pre-release version of their forthcoming iPhone application, and this morning we had a discussion about ipadio, some of the celebrity users, and some of the things you can do with it.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

I’m honestly not sure how often I’ll be using ipadio, but I have a “phlog” (phone blog) over on their site, so feel free to follow it if you’re interested. It’s clear that there’s a lot of interest in the online audio space so it is interesting to see these services develop.

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EU to restrict Internet access?

Blackout Europe

For the past week my avatar image has changed to show one of the logos of the Blackout Europe campaign.

“What’s that all about?”, many folks have asked me in the past few days. Well, as I understand it, this is the situation: the European Union is debating a set of measures called the Telecoms Package. This package is set up such that ISPs will in future be able to parcel out Internet capabilities to consumers in much the same way that satellite and cable TV companies do today – so, for example, there is a possibility that in future you will not pay a flat rate fee and have access to “everything” online, but you might have “starter package” with a certain range of sites plus, say, Skype access, and a “gaming package” which would give you access to various online games services, and a “pro package” which enabled all sites plus any services you wanted. Basically, they will be able to filter what you are doing based on site or protocol – those are just some examples I thought up rather than anything known to be in the works.

How does that differ from Internet packages in Europe now? Well, right now there’s no real differentiation between the services and sites that can be accessed, although there are often speed limits and download caps. This is potentially a fundamental change to the way in which access to the ‘net might be regulated and controlled.

It’s all a bit technical, but for more detail see this page on the Blackout Europe blog and look under section 6 for a set of annotated PDFs which discuss the measures in detail. You can also read the open letter already sent to the EU Parliament.

It’s a hypothetical situation, and as several folks have pointed out to me over the Twitter stream, it might be pretty difficult to actually implement. Other people have pointed out that the site itself “looks unprofessional”, which I suspect is more a factor of translation and time than anything else. I don’t think either of those two issues should really stop people from registering their discontent at these proposed changes. There are forms available on the site to enable people to contact MEPs. I’m late in blogging this, as the deadline is really in the next 24 hours – frankly, I’m surprised that the site, Facebook page and other social networks haven’t attracted more attention.

The press release about the Telecoms package makes it all sound very reassuring and good for the public, but as ever, the devil is in the detail.

Computerworld UK has published a great article on the issue today – here’s an extract:

Unfortunately, it’s an openness that is fairly subtle for non-technical people; above all, it’s not at all obvious to politicians, who seem to assume that apparently minor tweaks won’t change things much.

At least, that’s the most charitable explanation for the fact that European politicians are on the brink of passing legislation in the current Telecoms Package that will destroy a key part of that openness, by allowing telecoms companies to discriminate in the way that they handle IP packets according to their type.

(via @glynmoody)

One of the issues that still exists with the EU is the visibility of the institutions and processes at a national level. As a supranational organisation, it’s commonplace for people not to be aware of what is going on in the Parliament, even though in my experience, the EU’s web presence actually provides a great deal more transparency and insight into what is happening in Parliament than many national governments. People tend only to respond to EU legislation once it has been enacted and then re-enacted within their own national context. So, there are a whole bunch of things going on at an EU level that most people in European countries pay no attention to unless they are picked up by the media, and even then only if enough noise is made about the issues at hand.

It’s not too late to take a look at the site, and contact your MEP to let them know how you feel about freedom of access to the Internet – get the amendments that neutralise the offending clauses in “the Telecoms package” passed.

Update: another good article on the detail of the package, again via @glynmoody

Facebook – crowdsourcing a new ToS?

Well the furore over Facebook’s attempt to update / “clarify” their Terms of Service continues.

facebook terms

I’m actually very interested in the whole issue. For a long time now I’ve pointed people at the offending paragraph in the Facebook ToS which has potentially claimed usage rights to what you upload to their servers, and I’ve fought shy of putting a lot of my own photo or video content on the site for that very reason. Those of you who have heard me speak about social media in public may well have heard me point it out in the past. Based on the current wording I still wouldn’t share my family photos on Facebook.

Anyway, the recent amendment to the ToS and the apparent continued claim to retain and use content even after a profile is deleted caused Facebook to rapidly change tack. People are hailing the reversal to the previous ToS as a victory… all I’d say to that is that I was concerned enough about the previous wording. The relevant wording is below, although it’s important to note that the same paragraph goes on to state that Facebook does NOT claim OWNERSHIP of the material, but the wording is pretty clear about usage rights, in my opinion:

By posting User Content to any part of the Site, you automatically grant, and you represent and warrant that you have the right to grant, to the Company an irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid, worldwide licence (with the right to sublicence) to use, copy, publicly perform, publicly display, reformat, translate, excerpt (in whole or in part) and distribute such User Content for any purpose, commercial, advertising, or otherwise, on or in connection with the Site or the promotion thereof, to prepare derivative works of, or incorporate into other works, such User Content, and to grant and authorise sublicences of the foregoing.

(excerpted from http://www.facebook.com/terms.php as they stood at 14:00 GMT 18th Feb 2009)

In response to the noisy reaction to the aborted change, Mark Zuckerberg posted on the Facebook blog talking about taking a new approach to crafting and communicating the TOS. I find this particularly interesting, as it suggests that Facebook wants to take a more collective or even potentially a crowdsourced approach to the whole area.

Now, I’ve been through this kind of experience, myself, professionally – IBM has been through the process of creating blogging, virtual worlds, and now social software usage guidelines, and we’ve done so transparently, collaboratively, and with a pleasantly light touch. I’m not yet convinced that Facebook will take such an open and collaborative approach to revising their service guidelines… and as Rooney tweeted earlier, this does present a challenge for a company but as we know it’s not the first time that the socially-networked masses have forced a change in policy, and not even the first time Facebook has been affected. Interesting times, and I will continue to follow this area with interest.

Update: some nice thoughts on the issue here, too.

Youngsters, social media, and online privacy

While I was driving to work this morning I listened to a piece on Radio 4 about an Ofcom study published today (also reported on the BBC News website). The report and interview on the Today programme was essentially suggesting that children in the UK are routinely sharing too much personal information on social networking sites. One mother interviewed said that she didn’t really understand the privacy settings on the social networks her son used, that she trusted him, and then admitted that she had “abdicated responsibility” for his use of the sites.

It was another of those segments that made me gnash my teeth and make comments at the radio. While I very strongly believe that children (and their parents) do need to be well-informed about the ways to make effective use of social networks and how to protect themselves online, I wanted to share an interesting experience that may indicate that the problem may not be as bad as the media makes out.

During the Blue Fusion event we ran at IBM Hursley recently, I spent a day running an activity that was all about identity theft and online privacy. The idea of the game was that the students were given a single piece of information – someone’s name – and then had to see how much they could find out about them through social engineering: web searches, finding paper information, or passing themselves off as various official organisations in roleplays. It was entirely contrived, of course… the designers of the activity had deliberately setup a social network profile for the person with “just enough” data to put the youngsters on the right track, and then laid a bunch of other clues based on the individual being quite hapless (not shredding documents, giving out personal data entirely too freely, etc). It was a lot of fun to run, and also brilliantly put together.

At the end of the activity I made a point of bringing the teams together and talking to them about how careless use of social networks could theoretically provide openings to identity theft. We had a short Q&A session that revolved around what networks they used (interestingly, most of them were on Bebo or MySpace, and not Facebook), and what kinds of information they shared. Home addresses, telephone numbers and dates of birth were not generally on the list, which was a bit of a relief! The overriding impression I got from the exercise was that these students had a high degree of common sense… not that I’m saying that the sample group should be taken as indicative of every UK student, but their degree of online literacy was highly impressive.

On top of today’s Ofcom study, whilst I was at Male’ airport on the way back from vacation I caught a snippet on Sky News covering last week’s publication of the Byron Review. There’s a lovely statement in the Executive Summary of the review:

Children and young people need to be empowered to keep themselves safe – this isn’t just about a top-down approach. Children will be children – pushing boundaries and taking risks. At a public swimming pool we have gates, put up signs, have lifeguards and shallow ends, but we also teach children how to swim.

Again, from what I’ve read I think I broadly agree with some of the findings, but the point at which the teeth-gnashing comes in is where the report (and the media) start to talk about regulation, which just seems to me to indicate a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of the Internet. Educate, don’t always seek to regulate.

The question is: just who needs educating here? The adults, the children, or the media? I think it’s obvious that today’s youngsters are streets ahead of most of their parents in terms of online literacy. I hope their parents can be persuaded to keep up, and not to attempt to crack down. And I hope the need for a weekly scare story about social networks can actually subside at some point this year – seriously, it’s getting old.

Apparently the Home Office is due to publish a set of recommendations later this week. I await their thoughts with a mixture of interest and dread.

Some other online presences – Seesmic, YouTube, Tumblr

I’ve become aware that I’m increasingly using a bunch of other online services, but that I don’t have very visible links to them on my blog, which is something that needs to be fixed. I need to tackle the About page very soon, along with that blogroll over on the right-hand side, too.

Seesmic

I’ve mentioned before that I’m trying out Seesmic, which is kind of like video Twittering.

I still don’t find it very intuitive or easy to use. The first problem is that it requires far more time and attention than something like Twitter, and thus I might comment in a conversation thread but rapidly run out of temporal bandwidth for watching all of the responses.

More importantly though, it is written in Flash and there are no URLs to profiles for individuals, so I can’t give you a direct link to my Seesmic page… and if you do have an ID there, you’ll just have to look for one of my posts to pop up in the public timeline in order to find me (or search for me using egowhore). They need to fix this.

Seesmic is pretty interesting though, and I’m giving it a go as much as possible.

YouTube

In keeping with the video theme, I also now have a YouTube profile. This is just an FYI in case you’re a YouTube fan… I’ve been thinking about the available online video services and may blog further about this soon. Feel free to connect with me over there.

Tumblr

My tumblelog has been quietly collecting my del.icio.us links and stuff for a while but I’ve started to occasionally post photo and video links over there too. I noticed recently that Tumblr’s functionality has significantly improved and there are far more options for customisation, a dashboard, and other nice things to play around with, so I’ve become more interested in using that again.

Tumblr is really a lot nicer than Suprglu, which I wrote about nearly two years ago but which clearly hasn’t had the investment that Tumblr has benefited from. My Suprglu page is still there, but I can’t see me actively doing anything with it.