Google’s Lost Social Network

Rob Fishman, writing for BuzzFeed on Google’s Lost Social Network, describes the situation when Google killed the sharing features of Google Reader, its RSS aggregator. Convinced that it needed to compete with Facebook in the social networking realm, Google envisioned these features would exist in Google Plus, the maligned social networking platform it launched in 2011 at the expense of an already vibrant, if not super-sized social, community.

There is a business lesson to be learned here. That Google shot themselves in the foot by integrating rather than innovating an existing social network. Google could have refined its own network rather than reproduced the social network. But there’s a cultural lesson, too, surrounding the nature of oligopolies in the digital realm.

The problem with oligopolies — markets dominated by a handful of outsized players — is not only that they quash the little guys, but that they tend to fixate on one another. In its most benign form, that makes for a lot of copycatting; Facebook releases “cover photos,” so Twitter introduces “header photos.” The dark side is a rancorous string of patent wars among smartphone makers and social networking giants, squabbling like litigious heirs to a disputed fortune.

The mentality that one big player has to eclipse another big player might make sense in traditional businesses, but the bottom-up nature of digital networks negates this rule when it comes to governing the Internet. While Google successfully killed off the Reader community by taking away its networking tools, it could not force them to migrate to Google Plus. By contrast, consider how quickly landline telephone users have been migrated to wireless cellular networks for their voice telephony needs.

At the moment, I don’t have a definitive answer at the moment for whether the Internet and the networks it enables can be controlled as easily as they might be with other monopolies and oligopolies. But it is discouraging to see the big players try.

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Google is Sticking to its Own Vision of Freedom of Expression

Virtually blocked – With no breakthrough on YouTube registration in Pakistan in sight, the authorities affirm the ban will stay:

After a prolonged spell of suppressed activity, social media websites
in Pakistan suddenly became alive on Dec 3, with endless posts and
tweets about the reopening of YouTube in the country. To many, this
was nothing unexpected as the development had coincided with the
tentative deadline given by Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA)
Chairman for the removal of the ban. He had told a private TV channel
on November 15 that the Youtube ban may be lifted within 15 to 20

Posted in After School Special, The Net Delusion (Morozov) | Leave a comment

Response to The Filter Bubble

The Filter Bubble by Eli Pariser talks about a growing issue for internet users around the world. Social media sites and search engines are a couple of the many types of websites that monitor your time spent surfing the web. They use information and data collected to market specific products to you based on your browsing history. Google started customizing its search results for every user. , Google now tries to predict what you are most likely to click on instead of giving you the most popular result. This is why you see very specific advertisements while using Google or playing on Facebook.  According to Pariser, this strategy works well for advertisers, but it is definitely hurting society. By limiting the types of advertisements people see, the internet is limiting everyone’s mindset. Pariser explained how this growing trend threatens to control how we use and share information as a society. Pariser worries that technology companies are already silently doing this for us. As a result, he writes, “personalization filters serve up a kind of invisible autopropaganda, indoctrinating us with our own ideas, amplifying our desire for things that are familiar and leaving us oblivious to the dangers lurking in the dark territory of the unknown.” Pariser wants companies to become more clear about their filtering practices and to put in more diversity into their search results and recommendations. He believes that Internet companies could, and should, be more than just information utilities assisting us with searches, communication and shopping. The Filter Bubble shows how personalization weakens the internet’s original purpose as an open platform for the spread of ideas and could leave us all in an isolated world.

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Generosity: Marginal Cost of the Internet

Last year, when we read Clay Shirky’s Cognitive Surplus, I was most taken by the point about the growth of new technologies can give rise to more culture. That cultural output may not, on the whole, necessarily be better, but there will be something revolutionary to come out of it. While cultural abundance is certainly something noble and desirable, I had overlooked another necessary condition of this surplus. There must also be a social incentive, one that transcends financial compensation, requiring something akin to generosity.

A few days ago, I came across an episode of a long-running TV series, Computer Chronicles, about the Internet from 1993. (I don’t remember seeing this during its twenty-year run, between 1983 and 2002, but man, I wish I had!) Throughout the program, the hosts do a pretty commendable job at explaining the Internet (or “internet” as almost everyone on the program refers to it). One of the first things they do is distinguish it from commercial networks, such as Compuserve and Prodigy, and from closed networks, such as those run by NASA and (D)ARPA. The Internet, they imply, is free and is open. It is “open” in that there is no central authority controlling it, and it is “free” after one invests in a computer, some software, some networking infrastructure (basically, a modem and a phone line), and sign up with a service (for $10–20 per month, they explain).

The Internet in this 1993 episode predates the web, but the features of the Internet are nonetheless compelling . The guests showcase a handful of Internet technologies: gopher, telnet, finger, and file transfer protocol (FTP), which in 2012 are all deprecated. We also see a demonstration of The Well, a very old but still operating online community. Each of these technologies were independent of a commercial system. They were all contributed by an eager community of early users of the Internet. It is as if they understood that in order to make this network great, there must be some measure of personal sacrifice. The Internet was not a way to get rich. It was a place to connect, or at least it seemed that way.

In economics, a marginal cost measures the amount the cost of production rises when you produce one more unit. Usually, the cost of producing a single item, such as one pizza cone maker, is very high. But when you produce an additional item, it should cost a lot less than to make just one. Once the Internet was designed, the computing power produced, and the user base established, the marginal cost of producing early Internet was the generosity of its users.

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Readings for the Next Two Weeks: on Open Source and on the “Net Delusion”

Over the next two weeks, I expect you to do a significant amount of reading. Don’t let me down.

On Monday, December 10, we will be discussing Open Source and the Commons. You will have three short readings to do before class.

  1. Levinson, Paul. Chapter 4, “Wikipedia.” New New Media. 1st ed. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 2009.
  2. Lievrouw, Leah. “Challenging the Experts: Commons Knowledge,” Alternative and Activist New Media. 1st ed. Cambridge, UK: Polity, 2011.
  3. Raymond, Eric. “The Cathedral and the Bazaar”, 2002.
    This reading is part of a relatively long text. Please continue to each subsequent section. For example, following “The Cathedral and the Bazaar” is “The Mail Must Get Through,” followed by “The Importance of Having Users,” etc. Please read as far as you can.

You will need a username and password to access the first two readings. (It’s posted in the announcements section of Blackboard.)

For December 17, you must post on the course blog a 200-word response to the Morozov book, The Net Delusion. If you don’t mind reading an electronic copy, you might be able to read a copy of it using ebrary. I have access to ebrary through another campus so I’m unsure if you also have access at Queens College. Please test it and let me know, by posting a comment to this entry, how it works for you.

No matter how you get the book, it would probably help you do read a few chapters at a time. Here’s a schedule I set for myself.

  • Read by Thursday, December 6, pages 1–84
    1. Introduction; the Google Doctrine
    2. Texting Like it’s 1989
    3. Orwell’s Favorite Lolcat
  • Read by Sunday, December 9, pages 85–178
    1. Censors and Sensibilities
    2. Hugo Chavez Would Like to Welcome You to the Spinternet
    3. Why the KGB wants you to join Facebook
  • Read by Thursday, December 13, pages 179–274
    1. Why Kierkegaard Hates Slacktivism
    2. Open Networks, Narrow Minds: Cultural Contradictions of Internet Freedom
    3. Internet Freedoms and Their Consequences
  • Read by Sunday, December 16, pages 275–320
    1. Making History (More than a Browser Menu)
    2. Wicked Fix

Check back here on Monday, December 10, for me to post the question I want you to consider for the assignment due on December 17, on Morozov and The Net Delusion. Later in the week, I will post a videotaped lecture and some other supplementary material as a makeup for our cancelled class on October 29, due to Superstorm Sandy.

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Why Strong Passwords Matter?

Remember how I was talking about passwords and the importance of having different passwords for every website you use? The length and the randomness of the characters in your password matters a great deal, too.

Stephanie Miot, writing for PC Magazine:

Despite websites that urge users to create a password with more than six characters, as well as a combination of lower- and uppercase letters, digits, and special characters, few people follow the rules. PasswordGenie reported that only 30 percent bang out seven or more characters, while 16 percent focus only on digits, 40 percent use only lowercase letters, and less than 4 percent type a special character or two.

But how much do those guidelines really matter? A lot, according to PasswordGenie, which calculated a rough number of hours (or days, or years, or even millennia) that a computer would likely need to crack different passwords of varying strengths.

Unsurprisingly, the all-lowercase, six-character code would last about 10 minutes. Even a seven-character password stitched together with numbers and symbols would take only four years to decipher.

How long are your passwords? How random?

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Alex Mora on the Filter Bubble

You’d have to be pretty damn oblivious to not acknowledge the fact that our right to privacy has been thrown out the window. From the moment we began streaming websites for helpful information, a record of search history and browsing habits has been keeping track of our every left and right click. Now, immediately [and naturally] people begin to panic when you remind them of this… and rightfully so. Invasive behavior has always been shunned ever since society was able to disband itself from a hierarchical class structure. However, instead of widespread anxiety from this proverbial techno-voyeurism, we’ve somewhat become assimilated to the lurking shadow that is the filter bubble.

I, for one, blame the depleting attention spans and overwhelmingly excessive trust in our government that our countries younger generations exude (present company included). You can also make the argument that such carelessness about being watched and used as marketable data is just recourse of 20th century capitalism working its magic. Whatever the case may be, it’s in the best interest for everyone to remain calm. Just as our legal system works to protect the rights of the masses, we should also abide by this system that records our search inquiries to better assist our online lifestyle. In the end, isn’t this just a tool for narrowing down our interests? Until our online security becomes more aggressively intrusive on a personal level, I say let the viral marketers tend to our needs, even if it is a slight nuisance at times.

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Filter Bubble-The City of Ghettos

The filter bubble- the city of ghettos can be compared to the internet. Some people get online routinely to check their emails, get on facebook to update their statuses, change their privacy settings not knowing our personal information is never private beacuse of an algorythim code created by media marketers who taylor ads from our interest. these companies know what we want, know who we are, and think they know who we are. the city of ghettos is the analogy of people who are stagnant who routinely doing the same thing and dont break the cycle of knowledge or improvement in their lives. some people become “programmed” like Douglas Rushkoff mentions in his book “program or be programmed”. we become part of the filter bubble a small section of this big world the “internet”. we are sectioned off by our interest and never given any alternatives of information to expand our mind or interest. so we become like the mouse who comes out 30 times a day and fall into the mouse trap that is set up with the bait which is the ads directed to our interests also mentioned by Andy Woolworth in the” filter bubble” book. this form of consumerism is what the online companies like amazon, google and facebook do, put up ads taylored to you and we say “do i want this new item, cause the one i have now is old”. so we feed into buying it and “boom” we fall in the trap. that is how we get suck into the filterbubble, isolated from more important issues out in the world. we have to be aware what is being done with our personal information and creat a movement of or law to protect our personal information from these companies. we also cant forget that the government also is monitoring wat we do and know who we are and where we are too. thats the scary part of getting online even if we buy new computers with a different IP addresses. we have to broaden our searches and expand our minds and do something before we lose total control of our identity.

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programmed or be programmed

The presentation in our class touched on some points which relate to
time, and how some of us who have a cellphone or a tablet lose their
sense of place in time. The example of the girl who took photos of
herself in the party then posted it on facebook or twitter, just to
show off the time she is having at numerous places she has been too,
to gain popularity or find the party that she can comment to others
about that the party is a place people show go to.its funny because
little does she know she spends her time photographing herself and
missing out on the real action of socializing and meeting new people.
she is also losing out on potential networking opportunities for work.
i think this form of losing sense of place and time can also be seen
on the streets of new york city. there are people who walk around
texting and they get so wrapped up on their phone they lose place in
tme like crossing the street. i seen a girl one time crossing by
queens college and she didnt even look to see if cars were passing by.
luckly the light was in her favor, that was so crazy. another is
driving while texting people have lost their lives because of the need
to respond to atext message. that is serious and recklace.

In addition, another point metioned was the expectation of a response
on texting. this is the next big thing that emerged from emailing in
the 90’s. i remeber emailing my friends and waited a day or too froa
response but i had the expectation of a response. Now people and i do
it too look to see if they have recieved a response to a text message.
this has been the funniest thing because i could be cleaning with
music playing and check my cell phone to see aresponse. its like some
people say for the younger aged generation, their response is the
quick. sometimes the responses are not thought out properly . Or the
responses of youngsters or some who do respond quick are in short
format of writing. one thing i heard rushkoff state was the computer
has only been another platform to write on. we have the tools to
program but dont use them instaed we become the used, not the user.
Another point expressed was the phantomvibrations. i find my self
touching my pockets or reaching to see if my phone is going off from a
call or text too. its really funny that these behaviors were a even
the same for people who watch TV and dont change the channel to
commercials. i have seen this and its mental and the fact some people
dont care. thay would eat and watch TV. i cant stand this because
there are many others channels to surf through. i think is torture. i
like flippin through channels to see whats playing on other channels
to catch my interests.

Another point i heard was how programmers figure out the persons
interest in life. I heard that network companies know what are peoples
interests. And that is done by swiping credit cards or debit cards or
inputting data in a computer with a username and password is another
form of being programmed. our likes are sold to other countries
stealing ones identity. also predictive behaviors is also intersting
to know because we can sometimes think our devices and the computers
we use will perform the same way of each other. is strange how
advertizings online or magazines recognize what consumers like or
choose to read and look at. another point is how most ads on products
like the “quaker oats” are not seen in our stores or in New york city.
we have to go by what people say or recomendations. i guess thats how
we prefer to eat or drink. programmed and be programmed is a very
interesting book to read its mind opening. the presentation was great
and straight forward to understand.

Posted in Program or Be Programmed (Rushkoff), Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Michael on “The Filter Bubble”

Companies want to have the ability to market products directly to consumers. If I owned a company, I would want to know what each consumer liked or disliked so that I could customize a product that the majority of them would want to purchase. Would I want to know every aspect of each consumers life? Not necessarily but if I could sell that data for a hefty profit; would I? Well, I would not but many companies would since the price of the data is very valuable to other companies who would want it.
The ” Filter Bubble” presentation showed how companies have filters set up via social media, shopping and other websites that follow an individuals travels tailoring ads that may catch the eye of the viewer. The information that the individual gives in order to join a site is very personal. Should one reveal their age, sex, address, birth date or other personal information in order to indulge? Millions of people do and I, for one, curtail my personal information on some sites. It was stated in the discussion that once ones personal information is “out there” it cannot be removed; it’s there permanently.
I tend to carefully limit which sites I give personal information to. My information is most likely in the hands of companies that do not have my permission. It seems as though my information could get into the wrong hands. Identity theft is a major concern for many. Will the future in filtering guarantee secure transactions? It has not succeeded yet. The “filter bubble” could be a benefit to all. I personally like the fact that knows the types of products that I need. Security is a major concern for me and companies should receive permission from individuals to sell their personal information.

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