Weblog on the Internet and public policy, journalism, virtual community, and more from David Brake, a Canadian academic, consultant and journalist

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31 January 2003

Howard Rheingold posts about Affero – a new open source reputation tracking scheme that lets people indicate that they like or dislike what you have posted or even pay you or your favourite charity money.

The thing about it that is interesting to me is that, “the system doesn’t come bundled with any particular forum or community platform, so any independent community host can integrate the services and individuals can share reputation across various communities.”

Of course this has its good and bad points as I discussed the other day at an e-mint meeting. It means your reputation is consistent which could keep known creeps from polluting new communities. On the other hand, it makes it harder to rehabilitate yourself if for some reason you make yourself very unpopular in one particular context. Some people are very un-helpful in one context (they’re a raving right-winger, say) but in another context (offering tech support) they may be really valuable participants. This calls for “multi-dimensional” whuffie.

We’re still at the early stages of handling online reputation but it is encouraging that these experiments are happening.

Needless to say I have registered so if you like this weblog, you can rate it by clicking here.

Filed under:London,Personal at12:51 pm

Hurray – my borough’s schools are no longer the nation’s worst – Islington is the the fifth-worst borough now and has slipped ahead of Hackney.

Microsoft has agreed to make substantial changes to its “Passport” online identity software (as used by Hotmail and .NET among other MS services) to make it comply more effectively with EU privacy guidelines. As the BBC reports,

European data laws impose significant burdens on those that hold information about customers to try to ensure that it is not abused or stored for long periods without good reason.

The agreement reached with Microsoft means that when Europeans sign up for the service they will be asked to designate themselves as EU residents and then decide how much information they are happy to share with the software giant.

30 January 2003

This is the area I am studying at the moment so I found this special report interesting.

It is a little lightweight but cites some useful books. It maintains among other things that the Internet may not after all be a big threat to authoritarian regimes and that it may lead to more direct democracy in democratic countries. It also goes over familiar ground on the issue of privacy.

29 January 2003
Filed under:Current Affairs (UK),E-government at4:36 pm

Many of the criticisms summarised in this BBC report like the need for more service-centred cross-cutting websites are already being acted on. But inevitably they found a few embarrassing gaffes. Eg:

“The MPs found that the Downing Street website did not have a complete up to date list of ministers.

“On 12 June, the UK online site had as the latest ‘hot topic’ information on the Budget, nearly two months after the event,” they said.”

28 January 2003

This article in the highly influential publication Foreign Policy by Charles Kenny is kicking a straw man. It starts, “Giving Internet access to the world’s poorest will cost a lot and accomplish little” but ends with the more equivocal (and accurate) conclusion, “Communications matter to the poor. A system of well-regulated, competitive communications services will reduce costs and extend access. In many cases, it may well be worth extending access to telephony with limited, targeted, carefully designed subsidy programs. But pursuing universal access to the Internet would be a misallocation of considerable resources.”

I don’t think he’s wrong if the money spent on communications was “zero sum”. I agree access to the Internet is not likely to be as important in helping people as more basic things like basic education and health care. But of course it is important to progress on several fronts of improvement simultaneously, and the fact is that money for improving telecommunications infrastructure seldom comes from the same sources as money for primary education etc.

Most importantly, while subsidising universal access may be excessive at this stage in the development of the Internet, that doesn’t mean that as costs lower the cost/benefit of providing Internet access my be better than the cost/benefit of other aid activities in certain areas under certain circumstances.

[Later] Peter Thomas suggests (if I understand him correctly) that there are people who are seriously advocating universal access not just targeted access. I would just say that since universal access is so far away it is safe to use as, if you like, a propaganda tool to lever money out of organizations to accomplish certain tasks in the name of wider access. Let’s worry about the absurdity of trying to offer universal access when the developing world has reached the levels of access available in the West.

27 January 2003

The good news is that a group called the Digital Partnership is organizing the distribution of thousands of surplus PCs to developing countries. The bad news is that Microsoft is supplying them with Windows XP and Office XP free of charge.

It’s good that they are finally agreeing to give licenses away to the needy after earlier situations where they tried to prosecute charities for piracy. However, I fear that most of the PCs that are discarded may not be powerful enough to run XP effectively. Alas Microsoft seems to have little interest in actively supporting older computers, most of which are more than powerful enough to run useful applications on earlier versions of the operating system.

If this continues (and I see little sign of change in attitude from MS) this may end up penalising them in the long term as people in countries with older machines will find they just can’t run Microsoft software unless they pirate older versions (since MS won’t sell or support them after a while). It might even encourage developing countries into the Linux camp…

26 January 2003
Filed under:Gadgets,Mobile phone and PDA at11:07 am

A British company, Hypertag, has developed small, cheap tags that broadcast a signal on infrared or bluetooth with simple messages. (Other companies are working on location-based messages using GPS or “cell-ID” but this low-tech solution might be cheaper). I can see that it would be useful for, say, art exhibits, but I am a little worried that it could contribute to a blizzard of automated messages that would pop up on your mobile as you moved around.movies myers mikemovies fucking mommom movies sexmovie celebrities nudemovie humpsmovie download makerclips sex scene moviemovies 1999 released in Map

25 January 2003

I was going back through my old “must blog this sometime” bookmarks and came across this hearwarming tale of how thanks in part to a virtual network of messageboards for Mac lovers a man helped police catch a fraudster. Of course it is also a little creepy in that it shows how easily someone’s private details (the criminal’s in this case) can be acquired…

On a similar theme, the BBC reports that both a big-time spammer and John Poindexter, the man in charge of the US Government’s Total Information Awareness program, have had their own privacy violated by vengeful netizens.

24 January 2003

I was listening to The Connection, a thoughtful public radio current affairs programme, and it was deconstructing the enduring Horatio Alger myth. Neal Gabler mentioned an extraordinary Time magazine poll in 2000 that revealed that 19% percent of Americans say they are in the richest 1% and a further 20% expect to be someday. Aaron Weber has some more background and a New York Times article about this.

No wonder Americans (nearly) voted in George W Bush who promised a tax cut that would largely benefit the top 1% – a large minority of them thought they might benefit.

Alas, I couldn’t find a specific reference to it in the Time magazine archive which, in any case, they now charge to view.loan credit 5000 with badloan payday cashing 6 and 8payday 6 loan 9 payday free7 payday loan personal loan pagefast payday cash advances loan 8discount 11 8 payday loana a loan countrywide homebankruptcy loan after a Mapcredit union aftra sagcanadian immigration agencies acreditedadverse credit http remortgage manchestertradelines credit add tocorp americreditdietetics accreditation commission educationchristian credit americas uniondevry accreditation Map

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