Categories
Digital rights Law & Freedom

Rethinking social media privacy

Anonymous contre Acta à Rouen

I was an active Foursquare user back in the first years of it, and it’s been a while since I toned down my participation in it. A few years ago, my girlfriend questioned me on why I was reporting my location everywhere I went. What was my gain on it? How much value did I gained versus the risks and privacy losses? This applied to Foursquare and all the other social media networks, specially Facebook.

Giving some thought to what people post on social media networks, as individuals, there’s a lot of questioning as to why one does such things. They make it a game, addictive with lame rewards and “badges” with no meaning. They get supported by your friend’s peer pressure to go on and join and also to actively participate. If you’ve been an active user of a social network you know it’s hard to quit.

Some don’t even tell you that you’re being tracked while you use it, while you check that photo your friend added or replying to that family member that seems to have forgotten what email is and how it works. We empower the social media sites with content. We write for them, we upload for them. Make it rich in content and attractive to more people for them. They get to sell our content, brag about our ideas and scrutinize your activities and thoughts. And all we get is the social communication benefit. Now we are so highly communicated that we barely talk to each other while waiting in line at the bank or while your car is being washed. I’ve seen families that are so connected that they all stare at little screens at a very quiet dinner table.

By the time my girlfriend was making me think of a balance in my privacy, drug wars in northern Mexico reminded us all why we need privacy. Friends being kidnapped because it was easy to know where they were and who they hang out with. Our own free speech being used against us. Things got so bad (still are) that you could not talk about what was going on in public places. People had to create a language of silences and signs to discretely say what they wanted to say if they were in public. People got so used to it, that even in the comfort of their own homes they could not pronounce the name of the attackers.

Covered protester

Suddenly you’re being reminded that the world is not a happy safe place where you can shout out everything about you. That it is not about having something to hide, it’s about protecting yourself and those around you. You wouldn’t hide your family, but you also wouldn’t like them to be taken away from you. Although I do know people that did had to hide their family.

The problematic part is that leaving the social media sites is not an option. You’ll be like a caveman or outcast, missing on a now big part of your participation in the world for social or even business communication. Your social circles will almost demand your participation in them to stay in touch. Even if you leave and cease all participation, the social media networks will still know about you by what your friends post about you (photos, videos, comments, links). That’s why I have reached to the conclusion that the best answer to that is to moderate my participation in them.

I want to share this talk by Eben Moglen, lawyer of the software freedom law center and who help draft the GNU license among several other things. This talk is from 2011, and he used references to the KGB as examples because he probably knew that using the US government would be too unbelievable by most people at that time. Oh but times change, unfortunately not much for the benefit of freedom and anonymity.

Wow, this blog post was drafted on september 30th 2011 and was sitting idle without much changes or additions. I thought of deleting the entry, as I had no reasons to talk about social media privacy anymore. But times change…or maybe things just got worse, and there’s been a lot of mess with privacy lately.

Categories
Photography

I’ve joined Instagram

Instagram logo

After long time avioding the hype, I decided last week to finally join Instagram. I’ve been trying to get more involved with photography and reading several good photographer’s blogs and some recommended to get into that. Also that after reading that it is powered by Django, I had lots of curiosity.

Among the things I like about Instagram are the many preconfigured filters. There’s a lot of them and fast to try out. It would be great if you could fade a bit some of those effects or tune them, just like you can do with Picnic when editing photos on Google Plus. Also the basic color & saturation corrections would be nice to have too. The blur effect is very cool and easy to use, I always used to do that by hand (or tried to) on Gimp or other photo editing software. The Ice Cream Sandwich image editor doesn’t have a way to do it, so having it on Instagram is nice. Sharing on multiple social networks is very comfortable too. I wish one could configure what albums on the phone get synchronized with google plus auto-upload feature. Right now it only syncs the main camera album, and all Instagram edits get saved at the “Instagram” album, so they don’t get synced, but that’s an Android ICS feature waiting to happen, not Instagram’s app fault.

So far I’ve seen, there is no web interface to browse all your and others pictures on Instagram. There’s another web app called Statigr.am and you can use that as your web access to the images. I wonder why that decision was made, a good web interface is always handy, plus you use your larger screen of your desktop or laptop. I’m a bit worried about the license on my uploaded images, but I don’t plan to upload anything important anyway. And if I did, I would republish on Flickr with a Creative Commons license, the way I like it.

As an online photo sharing app, I still prefer Flickr over all the services I’ve tried: Picasa/Google Plus, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and recently 500px. Even though many criticize it for being outdated or “left behind”, just because it doesn’t have a decent mobile application doesn’t mean they’ve staggered. Recent minor changes have been great usability commodities and it lets me share and blog my pictures easier (when on my computer, not phone/tablet) letting me choose from different sizes to, for example, share them on my blog. Community wise I’m still not sure, since I don’t have lots of followers on Instagram, the activity on my photos is not that big.

Here are some of the pictures I’ve uploaded:

chamaleon

Llama

Chinchilla

Don’t forget to follow me as gabrielsaldana (don’t know if there’s a way to make a link to follow or something, since there’s no web interface to my profile). I still have lots to learn about Instagram. Mind to share with me some tips in the comments?

Categories
GNU/Linux Free Software & Open Source personal

New media reading habits on tablets and ebook readers

eBook reading

With the latest releases of ebook readers and tablet devices (iPad, xoom, galaxy tab, etc) reading habits are changing from paper based to digital in a faster pace than before.

I’ve been using my Samsung Galaxy Tab for reading a lot more. I enjoy more reading my social media updates (Twitter, Google+, Facebook) on this device than using my laptop. Sometimes I even prefer to use that device even when having my laptop in front of me. Maybe touch scrolling feels nicer than wheel or trackpad scrolling. I still don’t know what exactly it is that makes it feel better.

Broken Kindle

I once borrowed a Kindle from work and one day, right before a 6hr long flight, the screen got damaged. On that trip I wanted to try out travelling with only the Kindle and no paper books, so I was left without any reading material. It was a frustrating waste of time. The advantage of travelling light is no longer very attractive to me over the advantage of reliable reading material.

On the other hand, I’m also very concerned about DRM in ebooks and the volatility of digital goods. Being in a “third” world country, I’m not used to buying digital goods, since there hasn’t been much services available and many US based services are blocked or restricted. The good side of it is that with free software like Calibre, I can convert any PDFs I find into Kindle format easily.

Google Books

I am yet to try out the Google Books app in the tablet. I found a lot of excellent classic reading material for free so I can try before spending any buck like books from Jules Verne and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

The advantage I see on reading on the Kindle over reading on my Android tablet is that the Kindle is a distractions free gadget. On my tab I’ll get easily distracted with new email notifications, app updates, status updates, etc.

Some friends claim to be reading more now that they have a Kindle than when having paper books. While other friends who own an android tablet or iPad device tend to use their laptops less at home after work is done.

So I still wonder why is ebook reading on these devices more and more attractive lately. Is it because of the novelty of the gadget? Is there a real advantage or commodity over paper books or is it just techie fashion?

Categories
News

Yahoo sells Delicious bookmarks to Youtube Founders

Del.icio.us logo

Good news to those still fans of the Del.icio.us social bookmarking site. On the delicious blog is now news that Yahoo! Inc has sold the property to the founders of YouTube, Chad Hurley and Steve Chen. Delicious will keep existing and will be part of their new company AVOS.

From the AVOS website, we read the following:

“We’re excited to work with this fantastic community and take Delicious to the next level,” said Chad Hurley, CEO of AVOS. “We see a tremendous opportunity to simplify the way users save and share content they discover anywhere on the web.”

That means that the service will continue to operate, and even better, to improve. So hopefully we can see a Firefox 4 compatible version of their browser plugin anytime soon. Lets see what else they come up with to improve the current site.

Some changes are already set. If you log in to your delicious account you will be prompted to confirm your authorization of migrating your data from Yahoo to the new Delicious home servers. If you do not authorize, your account will not be migrated and thus will be deleted.

I already signed up for the migration, and although I’ve been critical of proprietary software as a service solutions, I find delicious (and its firefox & chrome plugin integration) very handy and useful. I’d love to see free bookmarking services like Scuttle to improve to match Delicious, or see how Freelish.us develops, but in the mean time, I’m still a Delicious bookmarks user.

Categories
GNU/Linux Free Software & Open Source News

Freelish.us an alternative to Del.icio.us bookmarks plus microblogging

Freelish.us logo

The people from StatusNet have released freelish.us, intended to be a social bookmarking site to replace the almost dead del.icio.us. And I say intended because its more than that. Its actually a modified instance of the status.net microblogging software, so you can use it as you use identi.ca or twitter, but tags, links, images and videos get displayed differently than on the default versions, making it the perfect mix between microblogging and social bookmarking. You get all the benefits of the social and federated microblogging platform, like groups, tags and threaded conversations with your bookmarks.

You can import bookmarks from del.icio.us and there’s a bookmarklet so you can save any site quickly from your browser. The best part, is that you can also use Emacs Identica-mode with Freelish.us to save your bookmarks from Emacs!

I hope that these changes also make it to identi.ca to make it even more awesome than it is now.

Categories
personal

Arriving late to the mobile computing era

mobile computing

As I’ve mentioned on previous posts, I recently got an android phone. And I don’t say “smartphone” because I had a Nokia N95, which was considered a “smartphone” back around 2007 or so. But this phone is different. Ever since the BlackBerry and the iPhone got out and then the Android OS devices, the small device in your pocket was no longer “just a phone”.

I know, I’m VERY late to write about this topic as if it was today’s novelty. The fact is that at the time of this writing, not everyone yet has joined the mobile computing world. I would like to share some of the things I’ve been using my phone, for others who, like me, are joining late the smartphone world.

So, for those who are still thinking on getting a smartphone, and wondering what’s the big deal or the big buzz around the topic, here are three basic ideas that I’ve found out after I got my android device:

Your device is not a phone, its a pocket computer.

That’s the first paradigm I noticed to be a big shift. What’s the big deal about it? Well, you can install and create lots of applications that you can use as entertainment, but specially to assist you on the go. You would never have on your desktop/laptop an application to split the restaurant tab, or remind you your grocery list, or aided with GPS and accelerometers to track your exercises. Its a different kind of computing you’ll be experiencing.

Your device is an extension of your desktop/laptop.

With applications like Chrome2Phone, you can easily extend what you’re doing on your computer to your mobile device. I sometimes search for an address on my computer browser, since the normal keyboard is more comfortable, and use this app to send the map to my phone, so I can use it on the road to get to my destination. Once I traveled to Mexico city for 7 days and did not used my laptop at all! Games, browsing, socializing, were all done from my phone (I did no programming those days, I was on vacations).

Your device is an extension of your memory and yourself.

Having a computer in you pocket handy for whenever you need it and packed with applications for many uses, you can have a better control of your time and tasks. Your to-do list, your calendar, your contacts, your social network notifications, your camera, all this in real-time sync with the online world and your computer can help you not miss anything, from attending a meeting, tracking your health or saving a moment through a video or photo and immediately sharing it to get real-time feedback.

For those who have already been in the mobile computing era for a while, what has been your experience? How has your life changed since you got your smartphone?

Photo is Creative Commons Licensed by Johan Larsson on Flickr