May 31, 2007 Leave a Comment

So morish.

Forget Airwolf – time for Airlion

May 22, 2007 2 Comments

I have bought myself a helicopter.

Not a real one, unfortunately. Though imagine how easy commuting would be then. No, it’s just a PicoZ Micro Helicopter from Firebox. Here’s a video of someone else flying it.

I’m sure I’ll be crashing it into walls and allsorts. It’s a shame, really, that I don’t have a cat to terrorise.

In other news I should get broadband installed on the 29th. I miss it and I miss online poker 🙁

Online Accountability

May 12, 2007 2 Comments

I read Sharon Herbert’s post ‘Shooting the messenger : Taking the Internet to court‘ recently, and it made me wonder how accountable people should be for their actions on the internet. As I start writing this post I feel people should be accountable, but my intial thoughts are that to be held responsible for something means your actions would need to be monitored, assessed and then judged. How much, therefore, are we willing to sacrifice in order to make the internet a ‘better’ place?
My thoughts then went to how impossible it would actually be to hold most people accountable for what they have done online, because as soon as enforcements start being made, anonymity would take over.

The Internet has come along way since the early days, obviously. Whereas at one time you had a website to show information, or to put up a page about your personal interests, you now have plug and play software which allows you to easily create communties, and there are so many social networking and ‘web 2.0’ sites out there that the hugest part of the internet nowadays appears to be interaction and having the visitors to a site creating as much content as the owners; the act of which means it is often the contributors and not the site owner who will raise or lower the credibility of a site.

Now, if you go school or work you obviously have to control what you do and say. Telling your workmates lies about your boss over and over could lead to trouble, perhaps a warning or dismissal form work. In some cases this may happen also if you post lies about your boss online. We’ve certainly heard in the past of bloggers being fired due to something they have written about their workplace, or employers looking at the accounts of potential employees on myspace or facebook to see what they may have written about themselves – and this having an effect on the outcome.

Should we as a society be taking action on what we see in a website though? I guess in the case of the employer looking at the information for a potential employee you could say that this is just a way for the employee to get a feel for the character of an individual, to see if they may fit into their company. Does it really matter, though, if wannabe-accountant-Daisy-McPhee had her first beer at 14?

Does an employer have the right to google the name of someone they are about to interview? What if they did google someone, found a few blog posts which were all very meaningless, but then found an article written by someone of the same name who was promoting, let’s say, white supremacy. Though it may not be clear if the author is the same person as the one attending interview, perhaps the interviewer is a little judgemental or prejudice before the interview even starts, and poor Daisy McPhee doesn’t get the job due to an internet article she may not even have written.

I could create a blog with ease and pretend to be someone I’m not, perhaps someone I dislike if I had that intention. I could be a cruel and shocking individual, very open about the things and people I hate, and the sadistic things I do. This false information could seriously impact an innocent party if the information I write is taken seriously by someone doing a search for that person. Would I ever be found out? Doubtful.

The fact is, this will happen. There are always going to be people who act less civil than others, whether online or in real life. You’re always going to get someone who is a little unhinged and will slag off ex-boyfriends or ex-girlfriends – and whether they do this in their personal diary, on the toilet wall of a local pub, or on a website – you probably can’t get rid of it. Should action be taken against them? Only if their actions are criminal.

So then we must perhaps look for a way to moderate the messages, to find someone who we can hold responsible for them. This is not going to be the author of the message, that’s for sure.

If a message is written on a wall, we turn to whoever owns that wall – be it the pub landlord, council or homeowner – to be the one who will remove the message. It’s up to them, though, as to whether or not they do so.

Online, we also look towards the site owner to be the person who removes the message, and again I guess it’s up to them to do so. Should they be forced to? Well, the answer to that I guess depends on how much you wish to live in a society where you have freedom of choice and freedom of speech. If someone posts a comment in reply to this post, it’s up to me to moderate it and either leave it or delete it. If it were a comment about someone else, and they dislike what is said, it’s still up to me as the blog owner to moderate and take any action I wish. I feel we should not live in a world where I am told to delete something from my website.

Recently, seclists.org was taken offline by the registrar who had been contacted by myspace stating the site listed passwords of myspace.com members on the site. To me this is shocking, and a huge breach in the rights of the domain owner. It is up to them to moderate the content and take action, no one else. If someone posted something like that in my forum then it’s up to me to deal with, and second to me would be my webhost (but only if I had done something which goes against their terms and conditions). The registrar of my name would have no right at all to change nameservers and bring my name down. The correct action for myspace to have taken in the above example would have been to change the passwords of all members they thought had been affected, email the members and tell them why the password had been changed, and that is that. The fact they go to the registrar is unbelievable.

As far as the blogosphere goes, it is again the site owners who are accountable for content. Tim O’Reilly recently posted a draft ‘code of conduct‘ which he feels bloggers should adhere to, and which I think is a waste of time. I would never sign up for something like that, as I cannot personally guarantee I would delete any offending messages.

I also think it would be pointless trying to identify anyone online leaving a message or making a post somewhere. Anonymous posting is often used by someone not wishing to reveal their identity, but if anonymous posting was removed the individual wouldn’t suddenly decide not to post something, they would simply use an alias to do so.

So how accountable should an online user be? As accountable as an offline one I guess. If they do something illegal, they should have the necessary action taken. However, as the internet is a medium which is increasingly hard to control and even more difficult to assess the authenticity of a user, I feel the owners of a website should be more accountable than anyone posting to it. In the cases highlighted in Sharon’s post, I think it certainly is the responsibility of the site owners to monitor the content and to take action they deem necessary.

If someone posted lies about me on a website, I guess I would just have to live with it in my own safe knowledge that it was untrue. Although if those lies then stopped me from getting a date, or a job, I would then have to reconsider my feelings on the topic. Sure, I know they’re lies, but obviously other people think it’s true. What then if a woman said I raped or beat her? Sure, I know they’re lies, but the cops don’t. Suddenly the lady in question must be accountable for these comments, and the police must want to know who she was and if they must press charges? This accountability suddenly switches from the site host to the comment maker, simply because it’s something that to me would be very serious and damaging. Removing the comment would make the message go away, but would also leave a black cloud over me.

It’s a difficult issue, and one that’s not going to see a resolution anytime soon.

I’m just thankful I haven’t been in a situation where I’ve had to do anything other than give some casual thought to this subject, and that the worst things I’ve had to moderate on any of my websites is spam.

Start with the corners

May 7, 2007 Leave a Comment

Puzzlefloor looks like just the sort of tacky wooden flooring I want in my house.

Look at it, all interlocking and such to make a jigsaw pattern…


You would use a ‘jig-saw’ to cut up the edge and corner pieces of course…

Puzzlefloor Room

Note that the room above is not my bedroom. I don’t yet have Puzzlefloor installed, see.

PageFour – GotD

May 4, 2007 2 Comments

Giveaway of the Day have what looks to be a nice piece of software for creative writers. PageFour is described as follows:

PageFour is a tabbed word processor and outliner for creative writers. Where other word processors were designed with the business user in mind, PageFour aims to meet the needs of a different class of writer. It’s rich feature set includes Print Templates to make printing your manuscript as easy as possible, as well as Snapshot Copies and fully interactive archiving.

With a built in Smart-Edit tool to identify over-used words and phrases, as well as a straight forward Notebook structure that ‘hides’ file handling from the user, PageFour simplifies the mundane aspects of writing, leaving you to focus on the more creative side.

It’s available for free for the next 22 hours. Unfortunately I’m playing poker tonight so won’t get to install it on my home PC.

Cocaine – Pure and Simple

May 2, 2007 Leave a Comment

I saw a fascinating video on how cocaine is made for the first time today, and viewing it put me on a line (hee) that led me to seeing a few other videos, all around this topic. You know how it is when you see one video and you keep clicking until you find many random ones. Here’s a few of the videos that I watched, the first two are very interesting, and well worth the watch. The others are more ‘fun’, so can be seen or skipped as you like.

How cocaine is made (6 min 13 sec):

How Cocaine Is MadeClick here for the funniest movie of the week

Cooking cocaine (5 min 39 sec):

I didn’t realise how much crap went into it (though I must admit, it was filtered down a lot to remove impurities).

The other videos weren’t quite so fascinating.

Colombian advertisement on the addictiveness of cocaine (15 sec):

Synthetic cocaine for sale in the 80’s (37 sec):

Cocaine Blues – Taken from ‘Walk the Line’ (3 min 10):

and finally…

The next video is the one which put me on this trail (somehow). This is a secretary, I assume, who is probably the fastest person in the world at stamping.

Fastest stamper in the world (45 sec):

Fast Secratery – video powered by Metacafe

I wonder if she was tested for drugs afterwards?