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3 posts categorized "April 2012"

April 19, 2012

Point, Counterpoint - No More "Fun" in Functions?

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I read an interesting post from That Credit Union Blog yesterday, in which author Rob Rutkowski shed a tear or two for NCUA examiners who were doomed to attend a conference with no free meals or drinks. Not becaus of anything they did, mind you - most of the blame goes to the GSA, who spent $800,000 on an extravagent Vegas that outraged the public and the President, too. 

Rutkowski, from his post: 

...Canceling a reception does not help moral...Look, NCUA has to compete with private employers to recruit bright and honest people.  Are there perks in being an employee of the federal government?  Sure, good benefits, nice holidays, what have you, but in Washington D.C. private industry pays more and NCUA has to compete with that.  Having a modest reception for hardworking employees in any industry is a good idea.

A short time later, Aite's Ron Shevlin (of the Snarketing 2.0 Blog) offered his colorful reply: 

This is the political reality of the times, Rob. The GSA is part of a government whose President calls for “shared sacrifice.” Spending $800k on an event isn’t shared sacrifice, and it should come as no surprise that political opponents would make hay out of this.

I have to believe that Ron's onto something when he talks about the political blowback of another raging party scene. I'm sure that after the GSA had its fun, a big, bad envelope showed up on the desk of every director in every branch of government with a very simple message: 

"Don't even THINK about doing this."

What's the happy medium? How can government agencies give employees a good conference experience and a reason to continue their employment without blowing nearly a million dollars on swag? 

I want to hear your thoughts - leave your comments below.

 

April 13, 2012

The "Duh of the Week": I got my old camera...

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by Ron Daly 

This week, Facebook bought Instagram, the photo-taking-and-filtering service that's now available for iOS and Android, for one billion dollars.

If you're a more visual learner, that's $1,000,000,000. For those of you who need a point of reference, that's half of the total value of Kodak's entire patent portfolio (according to this, anyway). The company that spent the 20th century making photography accessible to the masses is bankrupt; the nerds who created an app that makes pictures look like they did in the 60s and 70s just hit the mother load. 

Is it fair? Nope. It's business.

The "Duh of the Week" goes to everyone who says Instagram isn't worth the cool billion they just made. Because as a very wise person once said, "it's worth whatever you can get for it." Is it a decision Facebook will end up regretting? I don't think so, Facebook is almost entirely about sharing pictures with other users. Don't believe me? Facebook takes 100 million uploads every day,according to these figures...and those are a little dated.

But why wouldn't they buy a service that allows people to take, modify and post pictures on the go? They've never really had their own "camera app" (that I know of), so Instagram is just filling a hole. It's smart on Zuckerberg's part, how well the Instagram community will respond is another matter. 

For what it's worth? I've got my old Kodak 35mm here...any takers? 

 

April 05, 2012

The Worst Part of "Data"

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by Ron Daly 

The era of social media has changed many aspects of our daily lives. We don't wait for news to happen, it happens and we're sent our own little headline to read and link to click. We don't wait for emails from family, they broadcast what they've been doing and we just observe as an audience. You don't have to work that hard to be a stalker...heck, all the hard work's done for you.

I read this article on Cult of Mac about an app called "Girls Around Me", at one time available on the App Store (now removed), that could show anyone using the app where girls (or guys) were in their area on a Google Map. Not only could you see images of the "girls" in your area, you could see their personal details. You could even track their movements.

I was disgusted...certainly, as a father, but even as a human being. These girls were being tagged - if you wanted to, you could walk up behind one and call her by name. 

Is this what we want? 

Troubling thing is, these girls didn't seem to know they were doing anything "wrong"...they were just checking into locations and updating their Facebook profiles. 

Read this section of the article, where the author was asked by a friend how this app could be sold on the App Store. 

...I replied that as sleazy as this app seemed, Girls Around Me wasn’t actually doing anything wrong. Sure, on the surface, it looks like a hook-up app like Grindr for potential stalkers and date rapists, but all that Girls Around Me is really doing is using public APIs from Google Maps, Facebook and Foursquare and mashing them all up together, so you could see who had checked-in at locations in your area, and learn more about them. Moreover, the girls (and men!) shown in Girls Around Me all had the power to opt out of this information being visible to strangers, but whether out of ignorance, apathy or laziness, they had all neglected to do so. This was all public information. Nothing Girls Around Me does violates any of Apple’s policies.

You see, it's all just data. Yes, it's personal. Yes, it's revealing. Yes, in the wrong hands, at the wrong moment, it could be dangerous, even deadly. But on the most basic level, it's just data. Facts and statements, numbers and figures. Separately,  they don't seem like much:

"I went to the laundromat today."

"I just became the mayor of the Fro-Yo place."

"I dumped Josh, so I'm single again." 

Put them all together, you get a pattern. Look at a pattern long enough, you begin to see ways to exploit it. 

A few weeks back, we brought up the story of a teenager whose parents figured out she was pregnant after she got baby coupons from Target. Our solution? A little more humanity in an automated process. But all of this data comes from behavior. The girl with the coupons? She bought a certain set of products Target had flagged as products purchased by pregnant women. The girls on "Girls Around Me"? They were posting updates and "checking in" to locations. They were all behaving a certain way and leaving an easy-to-follow pattern. What's the solution? Make people behave differently? Or, more simply, teach people how to self-select their level of privacy?

The same website (Cult of Mac, which for Mac-minded people is a very good read week-to-week) came up with a guide to stopping this kind of data output on your Facebook and Foursquare accounts. Give it a look...it could be very helpful.