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Mark’s Cell Phone

I gave Mark an Sony Xperia J last Christmas which he loved.  He thought it was the greatest phone ever, even if it wasn’t.  The Sony Xperia J has a memory problem that means that it doesn’t handle apps well.  I am not sure why this version of Android on this phone acts so poorly but according to the tech forums, it does.

The phone broke this summer and all of a sudden Mark’s attitude changed for the better.  So much that we had some very long talks about it.  He told me he missed being able to talk to his friends and Wendy and I via text but he didn’t really miss his phone very much.  He was kind of glad that he didn’t have it around.  He was funnier, more laid back, and said he was sleeping better.

It wasn’t the phone that was the problem, it was that he would find some time and play some games that would keep him on it for hours.  He was like a lot of youth, addicted to their phone.

So we talked about the kind of phone that we would get.  I decided on getting him a Blackberry Curve. It would let him text others and not be distracted by other stuff. Virgin Mobile’s was $150 which I found a little steep.  Telus had one for $100 so I decided to make the switch.  He isn’t under contract so I set off to Best Buy and get his phone.  While I was there, I saw they had a Nokia Lumia 520 for Windows Phone for $110.  I was torn over what phone to get but in the end it was the constant barrage of Windows Phone tweets by Darren Sproat that won me over.  I haven’t heard of anyone excited over a Blackberry since 2005.

Nokia Lumia 520

I set it up with Telus who has far inferior pre-paid plans than Virgin Mobile and gave it to Mark.  The next day the phone wasn’t working.  I called back and Telus said that they hadn’t gotten paid.  I had a receipt and a confirmation number from Mastercard and still that wasn’t enough.  It was kind of weird.  

So I took Mark’s phone to Tech Box.  I had never been in there and they unlocked the phone for $20.  It took a couple of days more than they said (the first code was slow coming and then didn’t work) but they told me that one of them would be in the office on a Sunday and to stop by.  We did, they unlocked the doors, and the phone was working.  He was thrilled.

So I set up Mark’s phone for him and I have really come to like it.  It doesn’t have all of the apps that the iPhone or Android does but I was able to get him…

  • Instagram
  • Vine
  • Twitter
  • The Score
  • BBC
  • CBC
  • CNN
  • Metro
  • TuneIn
  • A podcast app
  • Weather app
  • Photoshop

He told me today that he misses having a StarPhoenix app but other than that, he is set.  Internet Explorer isn’t that bad on the phone either.  I didn’t install any games and he is fine with that.  The phone is pretty snappy and the tiles feature of Windows 8 is designed for a phone (and not a computer screen).  It works really well.  I have told a couple of people that while I love my iPhone, I could switch to Windows Phone and be perfectly happy.   Especially when I think that I spent $110 for the phone.

There are some other cool stuff installed for apps like a transit app (that doesn’t work in Saskatoon because we don’t make our route information available like most other cities).  Bing Maps is no better or worse than Apple Maps (actually it is probably better).

So back to Mark.  He’s happy with the phone.  He likes not having a phone with the distractions of games and then frustrated over not getting other things done.  He’s like a lot of 14 year olds but with this phone, he seems to have found a mix of being connected and not being too connected.  We will see how it goes.

Teen crews linked to 40 percent of NYC shootings

This is a staggering statistic

 There are more than 300 of them in New York — violent crews of dozens of 12- to 20-year-olds with names such as Very Crispy Gangsters, True Money Gang and Cash Bama Bullies.

Police say these groups, clustered around a particular block or housing project, are responsible for about 40 percent of the city’s shootings, with most of that violence stemming from the smallest of disses on the street, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

“It’s like belonging to an evil fraternity,” said Inspector Kevin Catalina, commander of the New York Police Department’s gang division. “A lot of it is driven by nothing: A dispute over a girl or a wrong look or a perceived slight.”

The trend of smaller, younger crews has also been seen in Chicago and Northeast cities over the last few years as police have cracked down on bigger, more traditional gangs, experts said. While the Bloods, Crips and Latin Kings still exist, operating such money-making schemes as drug dealing, their members are usually older and understand the timeworn mantra of organized crime: violence is bad for business.

Not so for the crews, whose recklessness prompted former Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly in 2012 to launch an initiative to confront the crews dubbed Operation Crew Cut.
Investigators now focus on gathering intelligence about specific crews — understanding their activities, allegiances and feuds, which they glean through traditional street policing and trolling of social media sites, cellphone photos and even recorded jailhouse calls.

Police have also stepped up arrests of the most active crew members. In Manhattan, prosecutors set up an internal email alert system that notifies them when crew member are arrested, even on minor charges, and provides beyond-the-rap-sheet details for bail arguments. The prosecutor might mention that the person was a suspect in another crime or had made threats on Facebook, for instance.

In a recent case in Harlem, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. says a 2009 killing kindled years of vendetta attacks, including three killings and 30 shootings. Sixty-three people were rounded up, and at least 62 entered guilty pleas, including crew members so young that one told another to “mob up” after school.

“The evidence was very powerful,” said Robert Anesi, who represented a 19-year-old who pleaded guilty to attempted murder and conspiracy charges in the case last week. “They had such access to social media and they knew who the players were.”

NYPD statistics show gang arrests are up citywide nearly 14 percent from 2013 — and more than 28 percent from two years ago. Shooting incidents citywide are about the same as they were last year, with 282 recorded so far, and are down by nearly 23 percent from two years ago.

Still, crew-related violence persists despite record dips in overall crime in New York City over the last few years. The most notable recent case came in March when investigators say a 14-year-old member of the Stack Money Goons shot a .357 revolver at a rival member of the Twan Family on a crowded bus in Brooklyn. The bullet instead killed an immigrant father who was working two jobs to support his family.

“When you ask young adults, ‘Why? Why did you shoot that young man?’ Probably 80 percent of the time the answer is: He disrespected me,” said Kai Smith, an ex-con-turned-businessman who runs a gang-diversion program in city high schools.

Lessons Learned

A couple of years ago my Gmail acct was accessed by someone in Hungary.  I am not sure how they got in but I changed my password immediately.  I lost several thousand email messages.  I implemented a difficult to type and guess password, used two step authentication and started to change up my passwords frequently.

Over time I got careless.  I hated two step authentication and instead of a hard to type password, I used a much easier one.  A sports team.

A couple of weeks ago I realized that I had become careless and “calgaryflames” was not a good password for my email.  I saw this post by Khoi Vinh and realized that I needed to up my game but never got around to it.

Yesterday on the 5:15 p.m. Saskatoon Afternoon roundtable, I mentioned that I was a Calgary Flames fan and realized that I needed to change my password again.

As I got home last night, people asked me if I was deleting tweets.  I wasn’t and decided to see what was going on and I could see tweets disappearing in front of my eyes.  My first thought was that Twitter was having a server error but then I realized that no, they were being deleted rapidly.  I tried to log into Twitter and could not.  That wasn’t good.

I checked my email and that was locked as well.  After getting that unlocked and my old access back, I was able to have my Twitter password sent to me.  

By that time, all of my tweets except for two retweets were gone (those two retweets disappeared last night).  At the same time I realized that my blog was hacked as was two other social networks.

I have backups of my blog and I restored that database.  By that time I kind of noticed emails were missing.  Basically some of the messages that I had that were filtered a certain way were deleted.  It also looks like some searches were done and then the messages were deleted.  I have asked Google to see if I can get those back but from what I have read, they are gone.

Gmail does log IP addresses that log into the service but those are dead ends.  When I searched them, they lead to an anonymous offshore IP service that hides IP addresses.  You know if case you have to hack someone’s account.   If you searched for “password” in my email account, that would have given you all of my passwords or the ability reset passwords.  That is what screwed things up for me and gave them the keys to other services.

Everyone wants to know if it was just random or if someone was looking for something.  I don’t really know but my feeling is that they hacked the password, looked around, saw a lot of boring stuff, deleted some crap, and left once I started to freeze and re-access somethings.

Did they find anything interesting?  No.  Things I hold in confidence are actually stripped of identifying information and forwarded to a secure account.  Traces of which are deleted from my email system.  So what they found are social media passwords (doh!), XS Cargo flyers (yawn) and recommendations from Amazon on what I need to read next.  

So to avoid this from happening to you, here are the steps you need to do to keep your data safe.

  • Set up two-step authentication on all accounts that provide it
  • Use Diceware to create secure passwords for all your email accounts
  • Create a unique email address for your most valuable log-ins
  • Use a good password utility to create unique, strong passwords for every site you visit
  • Create fake security-question answers
  • Freeze your accounts with all three credit agencies
  • Don’t let Web sites store your credit card info
  • Hide your Who-is listings if you own your own domains
  • Set up WPA-2 encryption on your wifi router
  • Never click links in email
  • Prepare ahead of time for identity theft or hacking

Inside the world of fake Twitter accounts

If you aren’t padding your numbers, you aren’t trying“.  Not sure if I agree with that.

Mr. Vidmar offers a window into the shadowy world of false accounts and computerized robots on Twitter, one of the world’s largest social networks. Surrounded by a dozen computers at his home overlooking a golf course near the Las Vegas Strip, Mr. Vidmar has been buying fake accounts and unleashing them on Twitter for six years.

Today, he says he manages 10,000 robots for roughly 50 clients, who pay Mr. Vidmar to make them appear more popular and influential.

His are among millions of fake accounts on Twitter. Mr. Vidmar and other owners manage them to simulate Twitter users: they tweet; retweet, or forward, other tweets; send and reply to messages; and follow and unfollow other Twitter accounts, among other actions.

Some entertainers pay for fake followers. But false accounts can be political tools as well. In 2011, thousands of fake accounts disrupted anti-Kremlin protesters on Twitter.

The fake accounts remain a cloud over Twitter Inc. in the wake of its successful initial public offering. “Twitter is where many people get news,” says Sherry Turkle, director of the MIT Initiative on Technology and Self. “If what is trending on Twitter is being faked by robots, people need to know that. This will and should undermine trust.”

Fake accounts thrive on Twitter in part because, unlike Facebook, FB +1.07% Twitter doesn’t limit users to a single account, or require them to use their real names.

Twitter’s terms of service prohibit “mass account creation,” and the buying or selling of accounts or followers. Last spring, Twitter helped a research team apply a filter that, for a time, blocked 95% of new fake accounts.

A Twitter spokesman wouldn’t disclose whether the company has continued to use the researchers’ technique to identify and block suspect accounts.

While conceding that fakes are “a difficult problem, the Twitter spokesman said, “We have a variety of automated and manual controls in place to detect, flag, and suspend accounts created solely for spam purposes.”

On Friday the company posted a job opening ad on its site for an anti-spam product manager position.

Mr. Vidmar says Facebook has suspended his accounts and threatened legal action for pursuing similar activities on that network. Twitter hasn’t contacted or reprimanded him, he says, though it has suspended or deleted several personal accounts he has used to pitch his business.

In securities filings, Twitter says it believes fake accounts represent fewer than 5% of its 230 million active users. Independent researchers believe the number is higher.

Italian security researchers Andrea Stroppa and Carlo De Micheli say they found 20 million fake accounts for sale on Twitter this summer. That would amount to nearly 9% of Twitter’s monthly active users. The Italian researchers also found software for sale that allows spammers to create unlimited fake accounts. The researchers decoded robot-programming software to reveal how easy it is for spammers to control the convincing fakes.

Twitter declined to discuss specific findings.

Jason Ding, a researcher at Barracuda Labs who has studied fake Twitter followers for more than a year, also thinks Twitter underestimates the prevalence of fake accounts on the network. Mr. Ding says users don’t understand how active and realistic the fakes can appear.

For 10 months in 2012 and 2013, a team of researchers from the University of California Berkeley and George Mason University worked with Twitter’s security department to help identify fake accounts and minimize robot activity.

The team bought fake accounts on the black market, identified common characteristics, and developed a filter that would block roughly 95% of such accounts. Twitter’s previous system caught about 8% of fake accounts, the researchers said. They presented the results at an academic conference.

In April, Twitter and the researchers applied the filter. Mr. Vidmar says he remembers the day, because most of his fake accounts were deleted, and he couldn’t create new ones. “They cleaned house,” he says.

But Mr. Vidmar and others say the underground market quickly adapted. The researchers’ system flagged accounts with incomplete profiles, no pictures, and little activity. In response, Mr. Vidmar says suppliers now fill out more account details, add pictures, and tweet from the accounts before selling them.

That drove up the cost of fake accounts. But marketers and researchers say the black market is again thriving.

Just two weeks after the crackdown, Twitter caught only about half the suspicious accounts being offered by merchants previously identified as selling fake accounts, according to the Berkeley researchers.

Mr. Vidmar says one of his suppliers is offering 150,000 fake accounts for sale. “I could go buy fake accounts from about 20 different sources right now,” he says.

A-Rod is as successful on Twitter as in life

A-Rod has been on Twitter for a day and has already upset Brian Cashman and the Yankees

“You know what, when the Yankees want to announce something, [we will],” Cashman told ESPN New York. “Alex should just shut the f— up. That’s it. I’m going to call Alex now.”

Rodriguez tweeted Tuesday that he has been cleared to play in rehab games. Rodriguez’s comments seemed to contradict what Cashman told ESPN New York’s Wallace Matthews on Monday.

“Visit from Dr. [Bryan] Kelly over the weekend, who gave me the best news – the green light to play games again!” Rodriguez tweeted.

On Monday, Cashman shot down a report that Rodriguez had been given the go-ahead to play in games.

“He has not been cleared by our doctors to play in rehab games yet,” he said. “He’s getting closer. There’s no doubt about it. But we don’t have a date for him to start playing games yet. It could be July 1. It could also be July 5, or maybe June 25.”

Cashman explained that Dr. Kelly had no jurisdiction over Rodriguez’s rehab once the third baseman left New York to go to Tampa. Dr. Kelly had been approved by the team to perform the surgery and oversee Rodriguez’s recovery in New York.

Cashman ended up emailing Rodriguez and did not get an immediate response.

The Yankees’ relationship with Rodriguez has been tense since the end of the 2012 playoffs. Team officials were aware that Rodriguez asked for a woman’s phone number in the stands during Game 1 of an ALCS loss to the Detroit Tigers. Rodriguez was pinch-hit for and benched throughout the playoffs.

This isn’t the first eruption that Cashman has had this year over A-Rod and I doubt it will be his last.  Personally I think the Yankees are trying to come up with a strategy to let him go with cause so they can void his contract.  If this was Jeter doing it (not that the Captain would), it would have been handled very differently.

Stephen Harper “live tweets” his way through his first day back

A fun look at how our Prime Minister spends the day.  Of course my question is it doesn’t show him working on his hockey book.

Time to Unplug?

Cost Of Daily Interruptions Infographic

The interruptions that come in from Twitter, Facebook, and text messages at work pretty much makes having a meeting or even a conversation impossible some days.  I think we lose half of our working days some day to social media which is really appalling.  With texting making it easy for anyone to get you at anytime, it is almost as if work plays second fiddle to personal correspondence in many places.  It’s no wonder why some organizations pay for voice but don’t give out data plans on their company phones; employees don’t know how to police them.

Mark

Mark Cooper

For those of you who think I am difficult, meet my son as I try to take a nice photo of him.  Of course he is on his netbook right now, typing this tweet to Sean Shaw.

If Sean wins in Ward 3, he has a deal to take over the live blogging of city council meetings. That’s scary enough, what’s scarier is that it already clicked in that he can use that ability for evil. I need to start controlling who he is folling on Twitter and online a lot more carefully.

Decorum in City Council

I mentioned earlier that Mayor Don Atchison and some other councillors don’t think that Twitter should be used in City Council.  Darren Hill is the only frequent Twitter user in Council and by frequent, I mean probably three tweets in a four meeting month.  In Hill’s defense, he says that he does it to correct false statements or misinformation.  A look back at some tweets he has sent out, not only is he right but often I am the one that is spreading false information… I got the name of the city administrator reading a report wrong and was quickly corrected.

This has had a weird impact on council in that Hill is one of the reasons why people care more about city politics than ever before (I’ll also give credit to Charlie Clark, Mairin Loewen, Sean Shaw and his blog, Dave Hutton and his live tweeting Council meetings) because we can interact with them.  What happened was that people (and our smartphones) started to show up at Saskatoon City Council meetings and we interact with each other and those at home, and even councillors in other cities who are following the action using the #yxecc hashtag.  At the FCM meetings, I was told by several city councillors from all over they love the actions on the #yxecc hashtag on Monday nights (often during their own council meetings) and want to know how to get that kind of civic involvement in their city.

Councillor do follow along.  I have been given the slow glare by more than one councillor after disagreeing with them as they check Twitter on their phone discreetly.  Is that kind of behaviour appropriate for an elected official?  Let me describe for you the kind of behaviour one sees at City Council. 

  • During the budget review process, at least two and probably three nodded off during the deliberations.  At least once a month, someone has taken a nap for a couple of moments.  If they weren’t technically asleep, they were pretty close.  I can tell when it is after 9:30 as one of the other councillors gets cranky after that hour.
  • Cosmo Industries showed a music video/song that they had made to guilt councillors into voting their way and instead of calling them out for it for a grotesquely manipulative act, they fell over telling Cosmo how great they were.
  • Councillors lecture each other, voters, and city administration for extended periods of time, often in the identical way that the previous speaker had just lectured someone and it keeps going on and on some meetings.  Everyone knows this is just political posturing and is contributing nothing to the debate.  Sometimes this is contrary to statements given at previous meetings or even earlier in the meeting.  It’s horrible.  Of course some of these talks are all about building up their perceived electoral base.  It has nothing to do with the current debate but one persons politics and it takes up a lot of time.  It is painful for me to listen to, I can’t imagine what it is like  for other councillors.
  • One councillor is consistently unprepared, hasn’t read the council package, and looks to others (generally the mayor) on how to vote.  That doesn’t stop that councillor from speaking for extended periods of time on topics the councillor doesn’t understand.  What frustrates me is that they are paid to be prepared.  I don’t get paid to attend those meetings and I read the council package.  Why can’t councillors?  Oh never mind, we know the answer.
  • The administration reports to council are often interesting but I see many of them before hand.  If I see them, I am assuming that most councillors do as well (that being said, not always) and have a copy of it in their council package.  While it’s always fun to hear from administration, how much attention does it take to hear the same report at least twice.  Oh yeah it’s also on PowerPoint so you can get to hear the administrator read you the report.

Not to go all John Turner on you and say that television has destroyed democracy but that is the main reason why the speeches can be so long and at times the behaviour can be brutal.  It is a partisan place, probably more so now that previously with quips and shots being taken.  I can’t see City Council meetings being a rewarding experience for anyone.

Before I go any further, some of the councillors are really earnest who really speak passionately on topics that may be unpopular.  After one meeting I asked a councillor if there was a plan behind alienating himself from an entire neighbourhood that was outside of his ward.  There wasn’t, he just thought they deserved an explanation for his vote.  I was actually inspired.  Other councillors pick their battles very carefully.  While some come unprepared, others know the package inside and out. (I have jokingly chided Mairin Loewen on Twitter [whose laptop screen faces where I often sit] for paying too close of attention.  That can’t be good for her).

In the end City Council is not a professional group of administrators or board members.  They are politicians and too many politicians are out to their own self-interests (mainly re-election).  If I was going to tackle any problem with council (other than the councillors who are just mailing in their votes and debate are replaced), I would:

  • Greatly limit PowerPoint and media (and no Keynote won’t make it better)  Limit media to drawings and maps.  The rest can be posted to the website.  No music videos.
  • It’s impossible to police but make it clear that political posturing speeches have be kept short.
  • Go to blind voting.  We have these big debates and you have a couple of councillors who are looking around at others on how to vote.  Really?  If you are going to vote together and you can’t even plan that out before hand, you deserve to lose more votes.
  • Come up with with some rules for technology.  Former NDP MLA Hon. Pat Atkinson used to tweet Question Period.  It was loved by both sides of the debate and it opened up the legislature in ways that we hadn’t seen before.  Technology is good and if council members can multi-task and if it doesn’t distract others, good for them.
  • Let coffee into council chambers.  The water looks really dignified but those meetings are two and three hours.  If it keeps council members awake, it’s a good step.  I also suggest cookies and snacks.  If a little bit of caffeine helps foster a more articulate debate, do it.
  • Stop with the partisan crap.  We have right wing candidates pooling their resources for a call centre (but we aren’t a slate) and coordinating some of their campaigns.  You have councillors advising candidates all in favour of more councillors of a particular worldview.  Is this really where we want to go?  What happened to the idea where wards elected candidates that are best suited to represent their interests.  We are getting close to having the choice between two candidates and what they want to do.  It’s a big change and one that we will regret as a city.  I don’t really care if my councillor is right, left, or centre.  I want one that listens and is for what is in the best interests for my ward.  We are on the brink of losing that if the slate idea keeps building.
  • Of course the incumbents looking after their own electoral interests in excluding old lawn signs (the biggest expense in most civic campaigns) from election spending while making their challengers expense their signs is a joke.  I am glad there is a movement to change this (and credit needs to be given to Charlie Clark and Mairin Loewen for leading this charge previously and in the present).
  • Encourage Hill and others to tweet as they see fit.  It opens up City Hall and City Council meetings.  It encourages citizen participation.  I hear more about Calgary from @nenshi’s Twitter feed than from many other sources.  Who cared about Newark, New Jersey until Mayor Cory Booker started to tweet at @corybooker (and saved some people from burning buildings).  City Council does some a horrible job in communicating as a group, they need any help they can get.  As for the Mayor’s suggestion of a big screen with Tweets go, I am both in favour of it won’t stop trying to hack into it until I take it over one meeting.  Seriously if he was going to do it, stream the #yxecc tag with users that have to sign up each meeting.  I would love to see Mike San Miguel’s, Darren Hill’s, my own, Jeff Jackson, and other tweets as we went along.  I can’t imagine how big a distraction it would be to council but I think we have established that they don’t always pay attention.

So just like politicians everywhere, instead of focusing on the real issue, they are focusing on smartphones and Twitter.  I think it comes from not being able to see the forest through the trees.

I no longer care what you think.

Derek Powazek wrote this last year

Life on the net can be hard. It’s human nature to want to be liked, and to feel bad when someone says something negative to you. And if it’s one thing we all know about the internet, it’s that at any moment, someone, somewhere, is saying something negative.

An easy solution would be to withdraw, to not participate at all. But the world is getting more digital, not less. Eventually we won’t have a choice: if we want any kind of social life, we’ll have to participate in the social web.

Another solution would be to develop a thicker skin. And while I’ve certainly done that over the years, I never want to become so callous that I just don’t care about anything. I want to be able to be myself in the world.

So the solution I’ve come to is this: I care a lot about a very small group of people. I maintain a hierarchy of who I need to be okay with. It starts with my wife Heather, my parents and my sister, and includes my clients and a very short list of friends. You know who’s not on that list? Anonymous internet commenters. For them and everyone else not on the list, I just try to remember a saying I heard once: “Your opinion of me is none of my business.”

If you’re reading this, chances are, you’re not on that list, and I’m sorry if that hurts your feelings. But the truth is, I’m probably not on your list, either. It’s okay if our hearts are not yet big enough to include everyone they deserve.

He manages it this way

If you use Twitter, you pay attention to your mentions – the tweets that include @yourusername – because that’s how you have conversations. And therein lies the problem, because anyone can tweet at you that way. Some of those people are batshit crazy like the Haight Street Guy, while others are just merely rude like the Conference Talker Guy.

The difference is, on Haight Street, you have to walk briskly away and hope you’re not followed. And at the conference, you have to de-escalate the conversation politely, in front of a crowd. But on Twitter, there is a magic button, and in one click, poof, the crazy is gone.

It’s a wonderful thing. A thing so lovely I often find myself wishing it existed in real life.So why is blocking such a taboo?

I think the Block function on sites like Twitter and Flickr is unfortunately named. There’s something about the word – Block! – that comes across as a personal insult. And that’s too bad, because it’s basically the only tool we have to effectively manage our social experience in those communities.

I propose that blocking people on sites like Twitter or Flickr should not be interpreted as an insult. I propose that it’s simply taking yourself out of someone else’s attention stream.

If I block you on Twitter, my tweets no longer show up in your timeline. If I block you on Flickr, my photos no longer show up on your contacts page. In these settings, this is the only way for me to remove myself from your attention.

I don’t know what Derek defines as his breaking point.  Over the years I have left a couple of comments on both his and Heather’s Flickr and Twitter streams that have been sometimes ignored and sometimes replied to but I haven’t been blocked.  I tend to do the same thing although I fall more on the ignore side of the things which doesn’t mean I don’t care but it often means I have nothing to say back.  It’s how Twitter works.  I hadn’t thought of it that much until someone that I know unknowingly posted something fairly offensive on my Twitter stream and I was going to reply when I realized that I didn’t care what this person thought of my views so I hit “block”.  I used to do it quite a bit on my blog but a combination of blocking those that just want to argue and not posting very much eliminated the need.

I get a lot of criticism and feedback at work.  I work with the hard to house and many have significant anger issues along with a variety of social disorders.  When they don’t get their way, they generally comment on my weight, my intelligence, my faith, being bald, and being ugly.  It happens day in and day out but at the end of the day I can go home and relax.  To log in and get it day in and day out when all I want to do is a little reading and writing is absurd.  By blocking you, I remove my offensive views from your attention and we are both happier.  My piece of the internet is free from inane comments, your net is free of my views that bother you so much.  There is such a thing as win/win and it’s found by clicking block.

Powazek talks of the need to stay reconciled with some people but I find that those people don’t take stupid potshots online.   The other thing is that there is a difference between being close to someone and having to interact with them online.  Facebook and myself don’t get along that well.  It doesn’t mean that I don’t like people who choose to interact there, it just means that I choose not to interact with them there.  Same with online.  On Twitter I choose who I follow but I can also choose who I want to follow me and I am realizing more and more, I don’t want all people interacting with me there.   I realize that some people that are normal in person are jerks online.  If you don’t like it, I think I just said, I don’t really care.

Life in the cloud

As SaskTel winds down CDMA coverage in Saskatchewan, I need to upgrade Mark’s cell phone (a LG Rumor 2) that he loves.  He is on a cheap pre-paid plan with Virgin that I don’t want to upgrade or add data so I will keep with a feature phone, probably a LG Rumor Plus or a Samsung Gravity 3.  It’s talk, text, and email which is really all Mark needs right now.

I have been thinking about what I need ever since RIM’s network when down last summer.  This is how I am thinking.  I had a Blackberry Curve 8530 and like a lot of smartphone users, I have everything flowing through that phone.

  • Two email accounts
  • Blackberry Messenger
  • Text
  • Twitter
  • Flickr (which never worked on the phone)
  • Dropbox so I could send and receive files
  • The Score Mobile App (I have a problem okay)
  • MySask411 which replaced my phone book

I got a fair amount of work done and even wrote a couple of columns with it.  It worked really well for me until that outage.  When Blackberry went down, so did my phone.  I couldn’t get calls, I couldn’t even connect to a Wifi network.  My phone was essentially a brick that I carried around and hoped would return.  While it wasn’t the reason I switched a Samsung Galaxy Ace over Christmas (the cost of the new Curve’s were high on Koodo and didn’t seem to offer a lot more capability as well as my general lack of faith in the Blackberry platform) I essentially swapped out RIM for being totally dependent on Google and this week I had an uncomfortable realization about how totally dependent I am on Google.

I was one of the first bunch of Gmail users way back in 2004, back in the days where invites were limited to five per person and where actually being sold for money.  I got one, used my five invites on Wendy and some friends.  Gmail was so new and fresh it had that new email smell to it.  It served me well until this year when I got a notice that my email had been accessed by someone using an IP address from  Serbia.  It was really unsettling because as I had a decent password and changed it periodically.  Having not travelled to Serbia recently (or ever) the idea that I had been hacked was a horrible one.

As for my ID, you have your drivers license, your passport, your Saskatchewan Health Card, your Social Insurance Number but my email is just as big of a part of my ID as anything.  I have used it to sign up for Flickr, YouTube, Twitter, PayPal, even my bank and credit card uses it to communicate with me.  While I am careful, having everything exposed was not that pleasant and it resulted in new credit cards being issues, new passwords, and really all new everything.

Shortly after that I had a huge problem with email.  Emails were missing and there was about a 1500 email hole from about a year before that I discovered.  I wasn’t the only one that has had this happen to me.  The Gmail help forums are full of users that have lost thousands of emails and no one really knows why.

Since then there is someone that I will email periodically at The StarPhoenix that occasionally doesn’t acknowledge the email.  I am the same way so I never thought of it until Friday when I got a call from my editor to see why I never filed my column except I did on Wednesday.  I resent the column and it appeared.  It’s the second time it happened but I have long had these sneaking suspicions that it was a problem with the @thestarphoenix.com domain.  I checked the Gmail help forum and it tells me that I need to check with the domain name that wasn’t getting my email as they are of course faultless.  Of course the email was never received.

This isn’t the first time this happened.  A friend used to work at USA Today.  An email I sent him took a full year one time to show up.  I was working somewhere else and using their email (which was served up on Dreamhost) was the only server they ever had a problem with and then only sometimes.  It has happened to me before from SaskTel where an email just hung out for month before being delivered.  It happens but how do you know it happens.  I never got a bounce message in any of those situations so I assumed (incorrectly) that it had gone through.  Maybe we need to downgrade to Eudora 3 and start sending read receipts again.

So on Friday, my email was down, my cell phone was acting erratic (I think the problem was Koodo) and I realize that when things go down, they really go down.   What can you do about it?

Gmail

Leaving Gmail is really hard because I think we underestimate how much spam and email that we get and I really don’t want that to make it to my phone.  I know SaskTel has web access but so many friends of mine have had their email account become totally full after a couple of days that it is pointless if you are a heavy email user.   I can set up a 500mb account for myself on Dreamhost but I get thousands of spam a day and Gmail handles it better than anyone else.  I am in the process of putting coop AT jordoncooper.com to rest which will cut back on some of the spam but it’s a big problem when you are have old email accounts.  There are a lot of things that still use it, including some that I am sure I don’t remember but will need someday.

As Wired Magazine published yesterday, Gmail has a pretty big security hole in it.

But since Gmail added OAuth support in March 2010, an increasing number of startups are asking for a perpetual, silent window into your inbox.

I’m concerned OAuth, while hugely convenient for both developers and users, may be paving the way for an inevitable privacy meltdown.

For most of the last decade, alpha geeks railed against “the password anti-pattern,” the common practice for web apps to prompt for your password to a third-party, usually to scrape your e-mail address book to find friends on a social network. It was insecure and dangerous, effectively training users how to be phished.

The solution was OAuth, an open standard that lets you grant permission for one service to connect to another without ever exposing your username or password. Instead of passwords getting passed around, services are issued a token they can use to connect on your behalf.

If you’ve ever granted permission for a service to use your Twitter, Facebook, or Google account, you’ve used OAuth.

This was a radical improvement. It’s easier for users, taking a couple of clicks to authorize accounts, and passwords are never sent insecurely or stored by services who shouldn’t have them. And developers never have to worry about storing or transmitting private passwords.

But this convenience creates a new risk. It’s training people not to care.

It’s so simple and pervasive that even savvy users have no issue letting dozens of new services access their various accounts.

I’m as guilty as anyone, with 49 apps connected to my Google account, 80 to Twitter, and over 120 connected to Facebook. Others are more extreme. Samuel Cole, a developer at Kickstarter, authorized 148 apps to use his Twitter account. NYC entrepreneur Anil Dash counted 88 apps using his Google account, with nine granted access to Gmail.

This is where it gets nerve wracking.

You may trust Google to keep your email safe, but do you trust a three-month-old Y Combinator-funded startup created by three college kids? Or a side project from an engineer working in his 20 percent time? How about a disgruntled or curious employee of one of these third-party services?

Any of these services becomes the weakest link to access the e-mail for thousands of users. If one’s hacked or the list of tokens leaked, everyone who ever used that service risks exposing his complete Gmail archive.

The scariest thing? If the third-party service doesn’t discover the hack or chooses not to invalidate its tokens, you may never know you’re exposed.

The reliability isn’t just a Gmail issue but most of us switched to Gmail because it was run by Google and we never thought that we would have these issues. 

The other issue with Google is that even though they post an Apps Dashboard to let you know how things are going, this is a multi-billion dollar company with no way to contact them unless you are a large customer.  I have had Gmail down and nothing shows up on the Dashboard so it has to be a big outage to report it.  That’s fine if you are affected with others but if you are not part of a giant collective of frustrated Gmail users losing control on Twitter, what recourse do you have.  Google tells you to that they look at help forums but there are thousands of unresolved issues, some that go on for a long time.  This isn’t unique to Google, a friend had a nightmare in getting locked out of his Twitter account because of a Twitter database error.  It look a couple of months to resolve and that was even after it’s CEO got involved.  At least you can contact Dick Costello, who do you contact anymore at Google?

Google Contacts

I download and backup periodically my contacts for a couple of reasons, I need to keep them sync’d across my two accounts (one for work, the other one is personal).  They are also sync’d on my iPod Touch, iPad, and Android phone.  Of course I just read on Kottke this week that stealing your address book among iPhone developers is quite common.

It’s not really a secret, per se, but there’s a quiet understanding among many iOS app developers that it is acceptable to send a user’s entire address book, without their permission, to remote servers and then store it for future reference. It’s common practice, and many companies likely have your address book stored in their database. Obviously, there are lots of awesome things apps can do with this data to vastly improve user experience. But it is also a breach of trust and an invasion of privacy.

I did a quick survey of 15 developers of popular iOS apps, and 13 of them told me they have a contacts database with millons of records. One company’s database has Mark Zuckerberg’s cell phone number, Larry Ellison’s home phone number and Bill Gates’ cell phone number. This data is not meant to be public, and people have an expectation of privacy with respect to their contacts.

So while I am giving all of my contact information to Google intentionally, I (and so are most of you) am un-intentionally  giving up your contact information to developers (sorry about that) which is one of the reasons why there is so much spam in this world.  Thanks Apple.  So even if Google is protecting our private information, as soon as we sync it with our iPhone or iPad, it is compromised.

This brings up my next issue, which phone vendor can we trust? Apple allows people to download your most private of personal information, Google controls and ties it all together in an Android phone, with Blackberry you just have a crappy phone experience and does anyone expect Windows 7 Phone to be any better.  RIM has better security but isn’t able to deliver on their phones.

I was talking to a businessman who has been tied to his phone since AGT came out with the Aurora (such old technology, Google doesn’t even know about it) and he said to me the other day that he was willing to ditch his smart phone and go back to a flip phone (or a feature phone so he could text his kids).  His company email server was down and he couldn’t do “anything” and was frustrated in the same way we all get frustrated.  He said with a regular cell phone, when it went down, all it did was affect his phone calls.  Now when his smartphone isn’t working, it affects everything.  He was actually in the process of heading to Midtown Mall and purchase a cheap phone so as he put it, at “least I can call someone”.  In some ways as I looked at a Nokia C1 by Fido today I wondered if this may be what I really want, an update to the Nokia 1100 which is still the world’s most popular phone.

Koodo

Koodo’s cellular service is okay here in Saskatoon.  They use Telus’ network and do a not bad job of staying active.  I find that when SaskTel is having problems, so is Telus/Koodo which makes me feel somewhat better but not a lot.  In other words when I get no service at my house, neither does anyone else using SaskTel, Telus, or Virgin.  When Koodo’s network is acting up, I can tell by looking at my phone when something is wrong.  My Foursquare check-in options revolve around Carlton University’s campus, my network says Telus or even SaskTel instead of Koodo, and my calls drop more than they should.  Wireless is defined by it’s Ready, Shoot, Aim background and we shouldn’t be surprised with it’s technical difficulties considering the rate that technology is changing but more and more I keep wondering if a step back may be order and evaluate if I want all of my personal information being in a platform that is so easily exploited. 

Even if you can trust them now, can you trust them in the future.  Google’s recent privacy changes spooked millions and may have launched a competitor in Duck, Duck, Go.  These aren’t new concerns as I remember AKMA struggling with how much he should trust Flickr years ago.

I could come off the cloud but that is a lot easier said than done.  I could use Thunderbird for email and contacts and Lightning as a calendar.  I could use Dreamhost’s IMAP server, keep my email off my phone, and ditch my iPad, or at least not sync up information with it.  It can be done but it is a very different 1998 era web that I don’t think I want to go back to either.

When you think of the information you have in your Gmail account, address book, calendar, and other apps (think of Mint and your bank app on your phone), why aren’t we either demanding more security or at least taking steps to protect ourselves.  I know RIM’s the most secure but their phones are terrible right now.  I wonder if the next thing in wireless will not just be the cool apps but the cool apps that protect your data because right now my data isn’t feeling all that safe.

The story of Mark Horvath

I met Mark during his visit to Saskatoon last summer but have been a fan of his work online for sometime.  Here is his story and a trailer for a movie about his work.

Showing how you can change the world via Twitter and YouTube.  You can find more about what Mark is doing at Invisible People.tv

Working hard to raise the level of discourse

My biggest contribution so far to the Saskatchewan election

Working hard to raise the level of discourse

Early anniversary gift

Wendy's Samsung Galaxy 550I had wanted to upgrade Wendy’s Samsung Link for a while now as Virgin Mobile has had some entry level Android smartphones out for a while.  Every time I went out and looked, they were sold out.  I finally tracked one down today at Best Buy and decided to pick up a Samsung Galaxy 550.  It’s not cutting edge but it runs Foursquare, Twitter, Angry Birds, Flickr, and a bunch of other apps pretty well while being a lot cheaper than an iPhone.  While I don’t think it will make me want to give up my Blackberry, it’s a pretty decent little phone.  The bad part is now our competition on Foursquare is heating up.

While I am talking about Virgin Mobile, Visions Electronics is giving away free Virgin phones with no contracts.  You can cancel a month into it if you want.  They have the LG Rumor 2, the Samsung Gravity 3, and some others.

What has Warren Kinsella done lately?

The other day in the hospital, Mark complained to me about his Twitter user name.  He doesn’t like @coopermark and said it looked stupid.  I replied to him that others have that form of username.  When pressed who I was referring to, I said Warren Kinsella’s username on Twitter is @kinsellawarren.  Mark asked who Kinsella was and I said, he helps Liberal’s win elections.  Mark replied with, “So he hasn’t done much lately.”