Monthly Archives: March 2008

BT advertising system abuses trust

The idea that BT are happy to consider the Phorm advertising system is amazing. To introduce a system that will monitor your activity AND act on that activity to deliver adverts to you and that you have to opt out rather than opt in is just ludicrous. It seems that BT are abusing their privileged position in carrying your data. Any other business that has an opportunity to collect your data must gain your consent to use it for anything other than delivering the service you requested from them. Why are BT able to do this? This is the kind of idea that comes up in sessions around building new ISP services and being more than a “pipe” provider, but gets shot down on the basis of overstepping the mark on privacy. I know this as I have been in that kind of meeting in the past. You need to think about ideas, but drop the bad ones.

If BT were to introduce a service that monitored all your phone calls for keywords then shared these trends with advertising partners there would be an outcry. What if they introduced this kind of service on the HomeHub Voice Over IP phone. You call Pizza Palace and they’ll relay the information to Super Pizza who can then put a discount leaflet for your favourite Pizza through your door or maybe even just re-route the call to save the printing! Sound scary? Well it’s not far away from some ideas that are raised in “service improvement” meetings.

Looking at the technical side, they suggest that you can switch it off by opting out. But you have to have a cookie on your system so they can see you’ve opted out. When you’re out you’re out 100%, the system doesn’t look at your traffic. But hold on, if it has to check a cookie then it has to look at something to check that. So it’s still looking at your traffic. That doesn’t sound like 100% to me. They also suggest that you can block cookies from to stop the service. So something tries to set a cookie and gets blocked. Again, that doesn’t sound like being out 100%. That system still has logs. Everything I have seen about this service has too many contradictions and rings too many alarm bells. Ben Laurie has a good technical write up and considers what they look at, the risks of attack on the service and that any IP based opt out would have to be on a household not an individual.

In principle, there is nothing wrong with running targeted advertising. I don’t like it personally, but many people would love that. As I have said in the past, people would be happy with all sorts of different services as long as what they are getting (or trading) for cheaper service is clear. BT are calling for clarity on speeds, so lets have clarity on the whole service.

BT, you hold a position of trust. Please don’t abuse it.


On the inside of a stroke

Wow. I just watched the TED video of Jill Bolte Taylor’s talk. It’s absolutely incredible. After she describes her background in brain research, she describes her experience as she progressed through a stroke. It’s scary and fascinating and may make you do a Scoble.

The way she describes the right brain state of connected energy and the lack of that jabbering logic telling you to make sense of everything sounds like the state Buddhist Monks have been trying to attain for so long. Just this morning coincidentally I was reading a part in Matthew Polly’s American Shaolin where he describes how he felt that kind of experience for just a few moments. He was practising the Kungfu and describes it as a form of moving meditation but wasn’t able to return to that state again.

Jill mentions that we can choose which side of the brain we allow to control us. I’d love to know how. I highly recommend watching the video of Jill (and reading Matt’s book).

Zuckerberg Lacey interview over hyped

I just watched the Mark Zuckerberg interview at AllFacebook, and I thought overall, Sarah Lacey was handling the interview quite well. There were awkward moments like the “how we met” stories and other fawning exchanges, but maybe that’s just her style for trying to get people relaxed.

Sarah asked some very good questions and put him on the spot a number of times. She’s not a tenacious interviewer like BBC’s Jeremy Paxman or John Humphrys but I don’t think this was intended to be that kind of interview anyway.

I think Mark was talking to the crowd too much and it had the effect of making Sarah look bored, looking around instead of engaging her subject. That’s just a style thing and the nature of these kind of interviews.

She handled the heckling reasonably well, and was up against an unnecessarily angry mob. I don’t know what the vibe in the room was like, but the few hecklers probably pushed the overall mood and the Twitter back channel aggravated the problem.

I find the potential for mob rule within on-line communities quite concerning. Once a group takes control it’s not easy for individuals to fight back. More on that in a future post.

Developing on a platform for the platform

On TWiT this week, Dave Winer was talking about the ideal podcatcher. Key features being that it would be independent of other devices (acquire content itself rather than via another device), you should be able to create content on it as well as consume and the software should not be controlled by a single company. About half way through the podcast he illustrated how open systems can thrive by referring back to the Apple II, Mac and IBM PC as platforms on which you could create software for the platform and this was what created such success.

A closed device does not build a creative community that can help evolve the device – it becomes stale. This was a part of what I was describing in a previous post about moving to light devices and having the intelligence in the cloud. If the system is not open then you stand to lose the economy of scale that the current market provides. Users can’t innovate on the edge devices, and can’t afford to run the devices that provide the service in the cloud.

I hope we can always keep that open model for the benefit of everyone.

What did you Mean?

I just heard Lore Sjobergs podcast about the words of La Isla Bonita. I always wondered what Madonna meant by “Eyes like the desert”. I always thought they were dry and full of sand. Ah the wonders of poetry. He always makes me laugh.

Getting the words out

Oh the pain of writing, it’s just not like talking. I just started to write a post and got hung up with how I would say something. Then I found I completely lost track of what I was really trying to say. Well, there’s a sure signal I need to post more frequently so that I can just get on with it without thinking too much. So here’s a “stream of conciousness” post that would probably be more appropriate for a tweet. Since I haven’t been using it it’s going to go here. Maybe I’ll get back to the original post in a minute.