The Trouble with Web 2.0

December 23, 2006

Once upon a time, publishing webpages was solely the domain of a relatively select few. Those who had the ability to code in HTML, who knew how to use FTP to upload files and who had access to space on a webserver connected to the Internet. A decade ago, GeoCities was one of the first sites to offer free webspace for the general public to post their own pages. Many, many bad pages were produced, mainly because you still needed technical skills and ultimately, it was a sea of static pages providing one-way communication. And just because you had technical skills, it didn’t mean you also had writing and layout skills.

Skip forward to late-2004 when the term Web 2.0 was first used. A new wave of dynamic and totally interactive websites was introduced and the previous travellers of the information superhighway could all suddenly become consultants to and constructors of it. Wikipedia introduced the concept of a free on-line encyclopedia with hundreds of thousands of contributors and reviewers. MySpace offers social networking with an interactive, user-submitted network of friends, personal profiles, blogs, photos, music, videos and groups. Sites like are a social bookmarking phenomenon and have the power to direct large numbers of visitors to websites through a quick and simple recommendation system. Sites and services like these are increasing the generation of content on the web exponentially, simply by giving everyone the ability to easily contribute.

The trouble with Web 2.0 is that many new contributors have little consideration of laws and ethics and the governance of many nations has no comprehension of the implications of Web 2.0. For example, a few years ago, the band Metallica came down very heavily on peer-to-peer sharing networks like Napster for illegal distribution of their music. In the scheme of things, Napster users were a drop in the bucket compared to YouTube. This free site contains videos contributed by anyone and viewable by everyone, and many of Metallica’s video clips and live performances are neatly catalogued. While their Terms of Use specifically state that the uploading of copyrighted material is not permitted, the worse thing that will happen is the video will be removed as soon as it’s identified. Problem is, with 65,000 videos being posted each day, finding them all is not a simple task. So YouTube is presently a minefield of copyrighted videos – but even that didn’t stop Google from paying US$1.65B to acquire the company. Worse still, it’s a place where kids can post their pranks, shot with their mobile phone cameras. You like to destroy displays in a supermarket? Get your mates to video it, post it on YouTube and you’ve not only got a worldwide audience, but a host of mimickers to idolize and emulate your feats across the globe. Sadly, there are also videos of school playground bashings and fights.

Social networking sites like MySpace and Bebo are aimed directly at younger people and often at children. While it’s great that children can express themselves and have a voice in front of a wide audience, it’s the more mature concepts of privacy, decency and respect that are often lacking in their posts. Further, it’s the legal concepts of copyright infringement, defamation and incitement that are easy to forget in the world of Web 2.0. Why is it possible to so easily and publicly identify, defame and slander a man on a site like Don’t Date Him Girl! without any evidence to back it up? Why can students edit Wikipedia and Bebo entries about their school to include disparaging comments about teachers and other students?

The most common way that schools around the world are managing this problem is by filtering (blocking) access to many Web 2.0 sites at school. OK, that keeps the problem out of the school (assuming the children haven’t worked out how to circumvent the filters), but it does nothing to stop the problem at home. Laws are also ill-equipped to manage the problems of Web 2.0. What if the poster is a minor? What if the service is hosted in another country? What lesson will be learnt if the only repercussions are that the offending post will be removed – sometime after it has been found and reported?

So what’s needed? I think governments, schools and parents need to be more open-minded about the social-networking phenomenon for a start. We need to stop managing the posts and start managing the people who post. We need to update the age-old difference between right and wrong to mould it into a Web 2.0 environment. It’s not about exclusion, it’s about teaching respect and consideration and responsible self-publishing. It’s about teaching people to think critically in all aspects of life and it all needs to be backed up with appropriate, enforceable guidelines and laws.

Finally, yes, I accept the irony of writing about the Problems of Web 2.0 by using a Web 2.0 application. ) And there’s always the problem of what people might add to the comments section! ;)

How Google Earth Killed Santa…

December 23, 2006

December 12, 2006: GOOGLE releases an add-on to Google Earth in an attempt to reverse the damage it has done to millions of children around the world. But instead of reigniting children’s belief in Santa, it has effectively provided a fatal blow that will resonate in the ears and minds of our now scarred youth.

Google Killed Santa

Children know that if they are good, Santa will come to their house on Christmas Eve and bring them presents. But only if they have been good all year. Santa lives at the North Pole and on Christmas Eve he takes off in his sleigh pulled by magical reindeer, to visit the home of every good child on Earth.

For over a year now, many schools have been using incredible educational tools like Google Earth with their students to give them a wider view of this amazing planet and the reality we live in. One of the first things just about everybody does with Google Earth is to find their own home in their own town. They zoom in and they see their rooftop and their backyard. They see the park down the street. They see their school. They see an ocean of rooftops. They see their whole town. Then they start to think.

In the playground at lunchtime little Virginia is discussing with little Charlie: “Did you see all those houses in our town? Did you notice how few houses actually had chimneys?”. Charlie says, “Yeah, so what?“. So what, indeed. Well Virginia, did you know that less than 0.002% of dwellings in the world have chimneys and that many are little more than stovepipes that even a skinny Santa would find impossible to climb into?

After lunch, Virginia jumps back onto Google Earth. She heads off to the North Pole. She saw Elf last Christmas. If you can spot a topless sunbather on a rooftop in Holland in Google Earth, you must be able to spot Santa’s place! But guess what? There’s no land at the North Pole! All Google Earth shows is water. The Arctic Ocean. She’s confused. She discusses her findings with other students. Then one of her friends reminds her of NORAD. Yes! NORAD!

They’ve got this fabulous website that is dedicated to tracking Santa’s movements across the globe on Christmas Eve. NORAD’s been tracking Santa every year since 1955! They use satellites, radar and trailing jet fighters with SantaCams. Isn’t NORAD run by the government? They must have video, audio and photographs that prove Santa’s miracle. Surely the government would never deceive children. So Virginia takes a closer look at NORAD’s site. She finds an official email address for Santa himself. She knows it must be official – – but still, she’s not sure. So she runs a WHOIS lookup. Strangely, she discovers is registered to a company in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Virginia’s concerns start to grow. Coincidentally, there are “Virginias” in every school, in every town, in every country on Earth. The news gets back to Google that a revolt by children across the globe is imminent. Parents are furious. Meetings are hastily arranged and Google Earth 4.0 is released and with it an add-on to allow children to “see” and track Santa from his “base” at the North Pole.

The school Principal negotiates a meeting with Virginia and her followers to show that the “bug” in the previous version of Google Earth had been fixed and that Santa uses “scrambling” technology to avoid detection and keep the location of his workshop a secret. Google Earth 4.0 includes a new codec that circumvents Santa’s scramblers. Virginia sits at the computer and heads straight to the North Pole.

Google Killed Santa Google Killed Santa Google Killed Santa

OK, that looks plausible. Official NASA watermark on the image. There’s his workshop, a runway and his reindeer and sleigh waiting. But what’s that on the path? Viriginia zooms in. There he is! It’s Santa! But he looks somewhat cartoonish. Something’s wrong. Virginia plays with Google Earth’s slant tool andthe game is up.

The story of Santa Claus has been passed down unchanged from generation to generation. Not as a story to delight children, but as a way for parents to control their children. But it’s harmless! – or is it? Perhaps it’s OK to teach children there’s nothing wrong with being deceitful – I mean, it goes all the way to the top of government anyway… Or instead, maybe we could all be better parents and show our children the difference between right and wrong by what we do and what we say. Our children aren’t stupid. Why do we treat them like they are?

Wishing all my readers a happy and safe Christmas. )

Google Killed Santa

Avoiding the 5 Most Common SEO Mistakes

December 2, 2006

Avoiding the 5 Most Common SEO Mistakes

Mozilla/Firefox leader speaks at Web 2.0 conference

December 2, 2006

Brendan Eich (see bio below), who works on the Mozilla project, is speaking at Web2.0 conference ( right now. I’ll have an Mp3 file up in 15 minutes… so reload this page if you like.

Brendan Eich Eich is responsible for architecture and the technical direction of Mozilla. He is charged with authorizing module owners, owning architectural issues of the source base and writing the “roadmap” that outlines the direction of the Mozilla project. Eich created JavaScript, did the work through Navigator 4.0, and helped carry it through international standardization. Before Netscape, he wrote operating system and network code for SGI; and at MicroUnity, wrote micro-kernel and DSP code, and did the first MIPS R4K port of gcc, the GNU C compiler.

Britney Spears “uncoverage” coverage: Day 2

December 2, 2006

The boom keeps on rolling.

The Internet is HOT for Britney Spears crotch information (and anything from the Britney-Paris HiltonLindsay Lohanaxis of evil” troika).

Britney performs in Hershey in 2000.So let’s dive in with a quick roundup of what’s been written lately:

WE KNEW AND DID NOTHING!: KeepMedia published a story from Chuck Klosterman back on Nov. 1 about Britney and her nakedness in Esquire magazine.

Ironic how this story sets up Britney’s latest four-time flash-fest, and how the writer completely sees the coming Britney re-invention efforts:

This is a hard detail to ignore because the men who have seen a pantless Britney belong to a highly select fraternity: It’s Justin Timberlake, her gynecologist, the photographer who’s doing this particular photo shoot, and (maybe) the frontman for a third-rate rap-metal band from Jacksonville, Florida. That’s more or less everybody.

And—perhaps stupidly—I actually thought I was about to rush this semipathetic frat; I honestly believed the reason I was invited to this photo shoot was to glimpse Britney’s secret garden and write about its cultural significance. Somehow, that seemed like the only logical explanation as to why her naked ass was being unleashed on the cover of this magazine; this whole affair must be an aggressive, self-conscious reinvention.

I mean, why else would they have invited the writer to the shoot? Why else would Spears have just released the “news” that she lost her virginity at the age of eighteen (a story that surfaced only twenty-four hours before this very photo session)? Isn’t this how the modern media operates? Isn’t everything wholly overt?

OBJECTION!: Fox News talked to some divorce lawyers, who say that Britney’s latest flaunting of private parts could come back to haunt her in a custody battle with her ex-husband Kevin Federline (or K-Fed, as he’s know in the ‘hood).

I don’t know what will hurt Britney most, the nudie pics, or the sex tell-all book that K-Fed is suspected to be shopping around?

PARTY LIKE IT’S 2007: Britney’s allegedly booked the Pure Nightclub at Caesars Palace hotel and casino in Las Vegas for a private New Years’ Eve gala (pants optional?). This according to the entertainment giant news source, China Daily.

CLEAN FUN?: The Toronto Star is running a Canadian Press hard-hitting report on Britney’s pelvic area, examining the … no, not kidding … the health risks associated with going pantless, including … again, not kidding … second-hand (or, ummm…second crotch?) health risks!

Britney’s Crotch Takes Web by Storm

December 2, 2006

I almost feel like I need a shower after writing about this, but now that the Associated Press has covered the story, I feel it has new legitimacy.

Britney at the Teen Choice Awards (AP)When I started this blog earlier this month, some of the copy desk editors at the New Era chided me a bit for my fascination with the Britney SpearsKevin Federline divorce saga.

They asked, “Why is this news?” and “If you’re doing an “Internet life” blog, why are you covering celebrity gossip?”

Granted, those copy editors that question my logic are in the over-40 crowd, and filter through “real news” everyday about war, politics, crime and other serious issues. Celebrity “news” is pretty much drivel to them, and I respect that. It’s cool. I get it.

But, if you look at my blogs’ traffic, most of my site’s visitors have come looking for three celebrity stories: My postings on Michael Richards and his infamous n-word rant at a L.A. comedy club and his subsequent apology, the Paris Hilton-Spears-Lindsay Lohanaxis of evil” in Vegas and my posts about Spears and K-Fed’s divorce.

Or is that now Fed-ex?

So now that the AP is on this story, I feel I can tackle the topic that the Internet and bloggers are abuzz about…

What is Spears thinking flashing her naked crotch around to photographers??!?!?

I mean, seriously!! And FOUR TIMES no less!!

Pink is the New Blog, a very good celeb-watching blog, has been keeping the flash count, and has a very good analysis of the … umm … well, “the situation.”

This whole trend of Brit “forgetting” to wear her undies is starting to be a tad damaging, in their view. Especially since “pelvis flash No. 4″ came while at a gas station. That further enforces her negative “trailer trash” stereotype. (Just watch an episode of the train wreck reality show she did with K-Fed, and you’ll see what I mean.)

Million Dollar Homepage Becomes Multi-Million Dollar Homepage

December 2, 2006

Alex Tew, the mastermind behind The Million Dollar Homepage is most certainly pressing his luck. Tew sold one million pixels worth of advertisement for $1 per pixel and made $1 million. It worked so well that he thinks he can do it again, this time for twice the price.Tew is reportedly on the verge of launching a second site called Pixelotto. Instead of selling each pixel for $1, he plans to sell each pixel for $2, plus hold some kind of lottery where the winner who clicks the right advertisement will win $1 million.

I will gladly eat my words if Tew can pull this off but I just don’t think that lightning strikes twice. It was a good idea…once! Second time around, it’s not, as Michael Arrington calls it, “another stupid, brilliant idea.” It’s just a stupid idea.

Gizmo Project Will Make Web Calling Easy

December 2, 2006

One of the biggest challenges of being a mobile worker is that it is almost impossible to make VoIP calls, either over EV-DO networks, or commercial wifi services, like the T-Mobile network, often found in Starbucks. Port blocking, and lack of bandwidth makes it difficult to make phone calls when you most need them, forcing you to spend the expensive premium mobile wireless minutes.Well, there is some good news coming. Earlier this morning I had a chance to chat with Jason Droege, CEO of San Diego-based VoIP services provider, SIPphone, and he showed off a new version of his service that is ideally suited for Web Workers.

SIPphone makes a soft client which runs on Windows, Linux and Mac computers, and allows you to either IM your friends, or chat with those on your buddy list. What makes it as useful as Skype is its ability to make and receive regular phone calls, from either landlines or mobile phones. Outgoing calls cost a penny a minute anywhere in the US, so it is fairly inexpensive.

The company has now developed a new flash-based browser plugin based version of their service that is very simple to use. The new offering will be launched sometime in the near future. later this month. Go to the website, plug in the number, and hit call. The call is initiated and that’s it. If you have a pair of headphones (all iPod owners do), just plug them in and have a conversation. You don’t even need to have any Gizmo software installed on your computer. You could make phone calls from Internet Cafe’s if you are traveling around the globe.

I suggested to Jason, that they should also add a feature where you can plug in your mobile phone number and the system connects both phones. This would reduce the reliance on choppy wifi networks, or bandwidth constrained EVDO networks.

It is not impossible, and Jajah, another low cost VoIP service provider, offers similar connection service, and is becoming very popular. These kind of simple browser based VoIP applications are going to become more valuable as more of us cut the cord, and work outside the “box.” What do you think folks? Are you likely users of this web-based calling service.

Forbes Video Interview With Digg CEO

December 1, 2006

Michele Steele at Forbes Video Network interviewed Digg CEO Jay Adelson to discuss site usage and acquisition rumors. The video was posted on November 22, 2006.

Steele asked Adelson about the size of the Digg audience (Digg has claimed 20 million uniques a month, v. 1.3 million that Comscore reports). He responded by saying that Digg sees about 1.5 million uniques per day when RSS readers are combined with website traffic, and he claims that third party website monitoring tool are flawed (I agree).

Steele also asked Adelson about the recent rumors that Digg was close to selling for $150 million. He denied the rumors and stated flat out that Digg is not currently in acquisition discussions with anyone.

My favorite exchange is when Steele asks Adelson “What will keep Digg from being a one trick pony?” His answer – “community.”

The ‘iPhone’ Coming Out January 2007

December 1, 2006

CNN and Reuters is reporting that the rumors of Apple introducing an iPhone are no longer an “IF” but a “WHEN”. Speculation is as early as January 2007 at the MacWorld Conference.

Since Apple’s introduction of the iPod five years ago, the company has sold more than 67 million of the devices and more than 1.5 billion songs from its iTunes online music store. Now, Chief Executive Steve Jobs and Apple are poised to roll out what has been dubbed the “iPhone,” perhaps as soon as January next year at the Macworld conference that kicks off every new year, analysts say. “From a technical standpoint, the phone is pretty much done,” said American Technology Research analyst Shaw Wu. “It’s a big endeavor and we believe it’s beyond speculation.”

Speculation has simmered since even before the introduction of the ROKR phone from Motorola Inc. that uses a slimmed-down version of the iTunes digital music jukebox to play 100 songs. But sales were lackluster as users complained the phone did not hold more songs.

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