Monday 31 May 2010

Google Maps lawsuit

I personally think there should be laws about stupid people (a) using the Internet and (b) having the ability to file lawsuits... but that's just me.

Sunday 23 May 2010

Friday 21 May 2010

WEB101 - Learning Portfolio, Week 12 - The Future of InternetCommunication

This is the final week of lectures for Web 101 and I have to say that overall I've enjoyed this class very much, although the assignments were an exercise in hair-tearing hell that still make me sweat when I think about them.

This week the discussion was about what will happen in the future - Web 3.0, if you like, or the Semantic Web. Which in my mind can be best summed up as the "Internet fridge" concept. It looks really interesting and I'll be watching how it all unfolds with interest, but I guess I'm always a little sceptical of these predictive things because really, it's all guesswork. People can have great ideas and the best of intentions but then it all just goes pear-shaped and often there's no rhyme or reason to it. Who would have predicted that VHS video would have completely annihilated Betamax when in reality, Beta was much better technology? Who would have predicted that Windows would be so much more popular than Mac, when Mac is technologically superior? Most of these things we see about possibilities are just that - they promise a lot and they have the potential to be fantastic, but that doesn't necessarily mean they'll happen the way people are predicting, because people are unpredictable. Who would have predicted, out of all the social networking platforms that have arisen in the last 10 years, that it would be Facebook that would get 400 million users?
We also had a look at a video about Google Wave, which I'd seen before. At the time my first thought (apart from thinking what a dork Greg was) was - complicated and confusing. And I couldn't imagine a real-life context that I'd actually use it. It looks to be a whole bunch of stuff that already exists, rolled up into one Google-controlled entity. As if they don't have enough control over our data! I could be wrong but I can't really see it taking off because I think, at the end of the day, the reason that Facebook is so popular ISN'T because it has the most bells and whistles - it's because it's the simplest to use. :>

And so ends my first foray back into the world of study, albeit on a decidedly sceptical note. Thanks for reading! I've enrolled in MED104 for SP2 so if we need to blog, I'll be back then. :-)


PS: I keep thinking about the irony of studying "online communications and collaboration" - online. Without the Internet and the World Wide Web, I wouldn't be studying this course OR studying online. Learning online, with downloadable lectures and online discussion forums, has in itself proven to be an excellent example of online communication and collaborative learning! So by completing this unit online, I've effectively shown that I've learned about it... or something! :>

Tuesday 18 May 2010

If your kids are school-aged they will have likely already experienced the Internet at school. If you need to catch up, here are some tips to help you Get Started...

(These tips have been reproduced here on the KidSafety website...)

This is a basic starter list if you have a primary-school aged child (like I do). I will add more sections to cover older children in time.


 * Make sure any Internet-enabled computers are set up in a space where you can see them at all times.
 * Sit with your kids as often as you can when they use the Internet, so you can not only keep an eye on where they go but also find out what they like.
 * Limit their online time to something age-appropriate - for instance, no more than 1/2 an hour a day for 6-8 year olds.
 * Learn how to use the History function in your web browser so you can keep tabs on sites visited.
 * Consider setting up separate login on your home computer, which will enable you to keep your own files safe from prying eyes! Make sure you know all the passwords, and change them regularly.
 * At some point your child will ask for email, IM or Facebook. Think about if they really need it at this age and if the time is right, sit with your child and set up their account with them so that you have access to the password. Being part of the sign-up process establishes you as a part of their social network, rather than setting you up as something for them to circumvent! For email, consider using something like Gmail, which has low levels of spam. Make a habit of checking their friend lists to ensure that you know who they're communicating with. Go through all of the privacy settings and make sure the account is not open to the general public.

Educate yourself

 * If you have little or no computer experience (or confidence), most local libraries or councils offer affordable basic computer and Internet courses.
 * Consider joining a social networking site such as Facebook. With 400 million users around the world, chances are good that your child will want to join one day. The more you know about it, the better-equipped you are to help keep them safe.
 * Explore the Internet together and get your child to show you what they know.

Educate your kids

 * Talk to them about the importance of keeping identifying information to themselves - things like name, address, phone numbers, birthdate and school. There is no need to go into explicit detail - just explain that you're concerned about strangers showing up at the front door. Make sure they understand that they should not put any of these things online unless they check with you first.
 * Teach them to think before they type or click. Help them to understand that once information is put online, it is there forever.
 * Explain that you shouldn't do anything online that you wouldn't do in real life.
 * Make sure that they can't share photos with the general public.


 * You may like to consider Filtering or Parental Control technologies, which will enable you to block everything unless you specifically allow it. Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA) provides a list of this type of software.
 * Install anti-virus, spyware and adblocking software on your computer, to stop any accidental nasties being installed on your computer.
 * Make sure you have a working firewall (if you use Windows, most versions include Windows Firewall which is on by default).
 * Take advantage of spam-blocking tools offered by your Internet provider or e-mail software.
 * Use a pop-up blocker or toolbar (like Google’s).
 * For the more technically-minded, consider setting up a Google Alert on your child's name. Anytime their name appears anywhere that Google can find, you will get an email notification.
 * Bookmark their favorite Web sites to reduce the chances of misspelled addresses.
 * Bookmark kid-sized search engines such as:
   o Yahoo! Kids
   o Ask Kids
   o Kids.Net.Au
 * Visit the Australian Government's CyberSmart website, which offers activities, resources and practical advice to help kids, teens and parents safely enjoy the internet.

Visit us at the KidSafety website for more information and resources.

Thursday 13 May 2010

Accidents Happen

On Mother's Day we were involved in a car/motorbike accident. Luckily nobody died. We were heading off for a Mother's Day lunch and pulled over to the side of the road so Hubby could look in the boot for a missing phone. He waited at the back of the car for traffic lights etc. to change and then got back in, indicated, pulled out and there was a huge thump and the next thing I saw was a guy literally flying across my field of vision, and at the same time we felt the car go over something solid. Motorbike Guy landed and managed to pick himself straight up and fling himself onto the footpath where he collapsed, and where I got to him seconds later. Then there were police, ambulances, crowds of onlookers and my kids crying in the backseat of our car, where they were still strapped in. Utter chaos.

It's absolutely true when people say "it all happened so fast". It wasn't until later on that I was able to piece it together. I'm a slightly nervous passenger so when Hubby looks before turning, I look too (which I suspect drives him mad but that's another story). Neither of us saw this guy. We were only about 30 metres from an intersection and he wasn't there when Hubby got in, so he either came from around the corner (and was FLYING), or ran the red light (and was FLYING). (We found out later that he was meant to be at the airport by 1pm for a 3pm international flight and this happened in South Yarra at 12.40pm - fair odds he really was FLYING and I don't mean the plane type). And the thing we ran over was, luckily, the guy's bike and not the guy.

Anyway, the good news is, the paramedics didn't think there were any breaks or fractures, although he did have a laceration on his knee and shock. I rang all 4 hospitals in Melbourne later that night to see if I could track him down and he wasn't in any of them, and all of the hospitals said that probably meant he'd been seen in Emergency and then sent home with painkillers. Hubby's car ISN'T a write-off, but it's going to take a couple of weeks to repair (the bit that holds the 2 front wheel together snapped so the steering was gone). And the kids were 100% fine by the next morning.

My problem with the whole episode was that I felt that, at the end of the day, it was a genuine accident where 5 people were in the wrong place at the wrong time, 4 people were fine and one went off in an ambulance, and as a human being I should be able to make some kind of "hope you feel better soon" gesture, without any kind of finger-pointing or blame. But the reality is that I can't, and every person I mentioned this to warned me off with a different horror story of the possible resulting lawsuits, harrassment, etc. that I may face if I did this. So I did... nothing. And that's the part that bothers me the most.

WEB101 - Learning Portfolio, Week 11 - Social Me(dia) Rivers

This week we went a bit further on the whole web presence concept and examined ways that we could shape our online identities. One of the things we were asked to look at was FriendFeed. Now, for some reason I've always had a complete mental block when it comes to things like FriendFeed - they make me really uncomfortable. This week's lecture and reading forced me to think about exactly why. Initially when I got into Facebook, Myspace, LinkedIn, etc. I thought it was really cool (from a technical perspective, mostly) to link everything up and have Twitter comments showing on Facebook, etc., so I madly linked whenever I was prompted. But during this course I've thought a lot more about the image that I've started to present online (after years of doing my very best to be completely anonymous) and I've realised that I have several very different audiences based around several different social networking apps, and what I display to each of them is carefully considered and mostly relevant to that group. So particularly over the last few weeks of web presence work, I've mostly undone the permissions/connections between apps that I'd previously authorised, and done things like splitting out my Twitter accounts, because at the end of the day I don't want to bore my mostly non-technical friends with geekspeak, and I don't need my professional or school worlds to know details of the latest funny thing my 3yo has done.

I can appreciate how something like FriendFeed can help to define your own footprint, rather than somebody else doing it for you perhaps in a way you don't like. It's a way of presenting your very own RSS feed of yourself to the world. I just think that unless you're very one-dimensional, that you could end up presenting a multi-dimensional view of yourself to the entire online world, with dimensions that perhaps not everybody needs to see or know about.

So, I created the account and added a couple of feeds to it. But I've set it to protected, and for now I don't really want to use it. If nothing else, I guess I've "reserved" my chosen username to stop anybody else getting it! My conclusion - still haven't changed my mind, still uncomfortable with it. I'm glad now I can put it into words though!

Monday 10 May 2010

WEB101 - Learning Portfolio, Week 10 - Your Digital Shadow

Well, this got me a little confused at first. Internet Footprint... Digital Shadow... I thought they were two different names for the same thing. Apparently not. This will teach me to get behind and then do 2 weeks worth of (similar) work in the same week.

Now that I've caught up... your Internet Footprint is the things you purposefully put onto the Internet about yourself, while your Digital Shadow is the, if you like, "unauthorised" stuff that is put there by others. So probably my Week 9 description of my initiation into Online Paranoia would have been better suited to this post than the last one! Oh well... :> Both of them together make up your Web Presence.

Using a couple of different search engines to check my Digital Shadow, I was happy to see that there's really only one thing there that I didn't put there - a video clip of a TV segment I did for my ex-business a couple of years ago. I do have a Google Alert setup on my name so I don't get too many surprises, but it was good to confirm it. The main links that came up were my LinkedIn profile, Twitter and a link to my Facebook profile, all of which I setup myself, and a link to the aforementioned video, and I'm OK with all of that. There's another person with my name in Ireland who's some kind of Solaris programmer so a lot of the stuff that comes up is her, and she doesn't seem to do much that might somehow reflect badly on me. Overall I'm pretty happy with what I've got online and more importantly, with what I haven't got. :>

The part of this week's lecture that really got me thinking was the concept that more privacy equals less reputation - so if somebody else decides to post something false about you online, and you have no web presence at all, then this is the only thing that people will read about you online and you will therefore likely be judged by others based on a falsehood. Talk about a rock and a hard place! Initially I felt quite torn about this. I've spent the best part of 15 years masking my surname, using 2 or 3 different nicknames depending on what I do where, hiding my IP address in a variety of ways and generally doing my best to stay as anonymous as possible, all the while being actually quite involved in various online things. This all got me thinking back and wondering if I should have done anything different...

But the more I think about it, the more I realise I AM happy with what I've done and not done. For example, in my earlier days I spent far too much time on IRC, on a particular network using a particular nickname and cultivating a particular image, purely for my own amusement (and that of some of my friends who I knew IRL as well). I was quite well known for being sometimes witty, sometimes mean, sometimes crude and sometimes genuinely funny - and some of those things I wouldn't say I'm really like IRL at all. What it mostly wasn't was professional, and now that I'm approaching 40 and I have 2 young kids of my own, I'm fairly happy that none of it is in the public domain and that my kids will probably struggle to find any of it!
So for now I'm OK with LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and a couple of other things. But I've also recently registered a personalised domain name, just in case I get comfortable enough to want to build my web presence properly in the future. :>

Tuesday 4 May 2010

WEB101 - Learning Portfolio, Week 9 - Your Internet Footprint

What is your Internet Footprint? Well, basically, it's all the information about yourself that you put online. I really liked this quote from our coursework this week:

The most important point to remember ... is that you cannot assume that anything you 'send via' or 'post to' the Internet will remain private. You should consider all communication over the Internet as 'potentially' public.

I've put a lot of thought into my online footprint over the years, all due to one event that happened in 1996. I was chatting on IRC with a bunch of people I knew about being anonymous on the Internet and this uber-geeky 16yo kid bet me that he could provide my full name, address and home phone number within 10 minutes. I'd very carefully setup my IRC client without any reference to my surname, the only location I ever listed was "Melbourne", and he was in Baltimore so I figured it was an easy win. Imagine my surprise when he came back with that exact information - in 6 minutes! It turned out that my ISP had client details accessible online, so he did some funky Linux stuff which started with querying my ISP and ended with Needless to say, the ISP was contacted (they were just slightly freaked out and took the whole thing offline immediately!) and the next day I arranged an unlisted phone number and got my details removed from the White Pages website. And that's when my Online Paranoia began. :>

As I may have mentioned previously, I held off on joining Facebook early on because I wasn't comfortable with the way the security settings worked. I've had a personal web page in one form or another from 1995 until about 2005, with links, information and photos about my travels, the arrival of my daughter, etc., but it was completely controlled by me and I was really careful about only putting things on there that I was happy for others to know about. Myspace and Facebook unnerved me, firstly because they required a surname and I'd never provided that online, but also because other people could add things to my page.

Today, I'm fairly happy with my Internet Footprint. I use Facebook for personal stuff, and I think I've got it as secure as I can make it. I use LinkedIn for professional connections, and I only put information on there that I'd be happy for potential employers to see. Recently I engaged in a Facebook Friend Cull, which was liberating for me, albeit potentially offensive to some, but at least now I'm happy with who is seeing the public minutiae of my life! Even within my so-called "private" Facebook profile, I deliberately do not include information such as my date of birth, suburb, home phone number or even display my email address anywhere (although this is more about spam prevention than anything else). I also do not include any photos that are potentially embarrassing to myself, my children, friends or family. So I like to think that I've got it vaguely under control!