Quitting Facebook (again) and, to a certain extent America…

In light of recent developments in the Wikileaks saga — mostly the recent decision by the United States government to subpoena all information related to twitter users who follow #wikileaks, of which I am one — I have decided to curtail my activity on American social networks. Sadly, the United States government does have sway over American companies and can effectively put a gun to their heads in order to force them to reveal information on their users regardless of said companies’ privacy policy.

Frankly, this isn’t acceptable. If one wants to protect one’s information one is left with little choice but to try and abandon US sites and companies as much as possible and opt instead for other sites and companies that are at least at arm’s length distance from the American behemoth. Not that the USG won’t overreach and encroach on foreign sovereignty to the extent to which they can get away with, but at least I won’t make things easy for them. My domain name registrars and web server ISP are already fully Canadian, and I’ll try and examine ways to put more distance between myself and the USA in the coming weeks.

Yeah, I’ve deleted my Facebook account before, and stupidly came back because someone I know seemed to have problems getting in touch with me. That turned out to be pretty dumb and pointless for a number of reasons I shan’t bore you with, and I keep almost no data on Facebook as it is, but a step’s a step.

Am I giving up Twitter? There doesn’t seem to be much of a point in doing that now. You can’t delete a Twitter account anyway, you can only deactivate it; and one has to give kudos to Twitter for getting the formerly-secret subpoenas unsealed so that they can notify the users directly concerned, that took balls on their part. Can you imagine Mark Zuckerberg doing such a thing? I can’t. The guy has no scruples or moral compass. He’d hand over your info before even reading the subpoena. Probably already has, to be frank, and that’s why Facebook is the first to go, and I won’t be back this time.

Whatever happened to Obama? I railed as much as anyone against Bush’s secret warrantless wiretapping for the Orwellian nightmare that it was, and back when he was just a candidate Obama was saying the right things, such as:

“Government whistleblowers are part of a healthy democracy and must be protected from reprisal.” -Candidate Obama, 2008

But once in the White House he wasted little time in showing us that this display of principle was nothing but bullshit and marketing (but I repeat myself). All in all Obama is no different than his predecessor, but he does prove in his own disappointing-the-supporters way that there is indeed no difference between black and white. I can’t remember a time when an individual has disappointed me more than Mr. Obama. People like me thought he would be the man to bring “change you can believe in”. But as with everything said for a purpose (in this case, to win votes), ultimately one is disappointed at the sheer hypocrisy of it all.

Something fans of irony can appreciate

After spending the last couple of weeks twisting foreign and corporate arms (successfully) to take down Julian Assange, the United States takes a break in order to celebrate “World Press Freedom Day”. Clearly the US State Department would be unable to detect irony even if “irony” was a baseball bat that was used to repeatedly smash the limbs and skulls of whistleblowers.

Clearly this is double-plus-ungood. Really, Americans, do you think anyone’s taking you seriously on that one?

Today I learned…

…that on Fark, a civil discussion with no graphic language of the infamous Goatse picture can get you suspended for “graphic text content”. I had no idea the boards were monitored by the mutaween.

From the “dead to me” file — Technorati

I was wondering about the relative dearth of traffic recently, and had a look at this site with my adblock turned off. As it turns out this was causing the page to apparently not load; what was really happening was that the page did load, entirely, but then there was a sneaky call to a web site called b.scorecardresearch.com which never loaded, so every non-adblocked call to this site resulted in blank pages and hung browsers. At least on Firefox it’s obvious that there’s a delayed call to a third-party site; with Google Chrome I just ended up with a blank page.

On doing a bit more research I found that this “scorecardresearch.com” site is an advertising beacon, which is annoying enough, but then I found out that the call is made from a script that comes with the technorati widget that was on the wordpress template of my site. As of now this has been removed, and it will not be coming back. To put it plainly, fuck Technorati, for tracking users and screwing up my site. And don’t give me any of this “it’s not our fault” crap, it is your fault. You included this third-party script call into your script, it’s up to you to make sure it works and replace it if it doesn’t. And why exactly are you tracking user activity by IP in the first place anyway?

So, Technorati, you’re dead to me.

Is Reddit on the path to decline?

For a long time I’ve been a member of reddit.com, which is a fairly popular blog of sorts, but recently I’ve started to wonder if it hasn’t jumped the shark and entered its natural period of decline.

I’m not usually a big fan of the whole “is this what this site has become” whines, and this isn’t going to be a note about how the content used to be so much better than it is now (although one may say that such naysayers have a point, what with imgur.com now practically being the most prominent source of links). The site has grown tremendously and recruited users from outside its traditional scientist/engineer base to become more of a general content site, although it does have its overall tendencies, viz. atheism and political liberalism.

That being said, over the past few months it seems that the site is succumbing to its own success. Site performance is generally marginal, and during busy times you’re disturbingly likely to get a 502 error page instead of the comments page you wanted. The search functionality, which was never one of the site’s strengths, is now basically unusable; when doing a search you’re most likely to get the message that reddit is “under heavy load”. Likewise when you attempt to check your unread messages, you often end up with the picture of the reddit alien sweating while carrying a big object on his back (get it? “under heavy load”? harharhar). And of course there has recently been a bit of outright downtime.

The problem is that this just isn’t supposed to happen, not for a site which prides itself on its tech-heavy roots, and especially not for a site which has been acquired by a large corporation. Availability issues are understandable for sites such as this one, which do not have a server farm available to accommodate an excess of requests; but in reddit’s case it’s owned by Condé-Nast, a company with a lot of resources at its disposal. The site has had a few upgrade-related outages in the not-too-distant past. It would appear that the upgrades did not really resolve the underlying issues. It would seem that reddit doesn’t scale as well as its owners think it does.

At the same time it’s not like demand for sites such as reddit is showing signs of abating. The site’s pageviews have grown 1200% since January 2009 (acc. to Alexa) and over 10% in the past three months. So reddit’s capacity problems, it seems, are only going to get worse with time, especially given that they can’t really cope now. Which is really odd for a site whose membership could once be relied on to say that they knew 20 programming languages and “only” used 5 or 6 on a regular basis…

A neat Googletrick

Ever been desperately curious to know how many seconds are left until the new year? Neither have I, but now that I’ve sewn the seed in your mind, the best way is to go to Google, leave the search text field blank, and click “I’m feeling lucky”. Voila: the seconds that are left until New Year’s day are shown in a countdown.

Play head games with yourself

If you like the idea of sending yourself a message in the future, broken.com’s email capsule is something you might want to check out. I’ll only know how well it works tomorrow, though. I’m surprised I didn’t know about this before, it’s a simple enough idea…

Same result, no reward.

When Microsoft offered nearly fifty billion dollars last year to acquire Yahoo I thought this was the stupidest thing Redmond had ever done, and in hindsight not accepting the offer was indeed the stupidest thing Yahoo had ever done. In a new development this week Yahoo has announced that it was ditching search and concentrating on its ad service in a 10-year agreement with Microsoft. Effectively Microsoft ended up getting almost as much control over Yahoo as they would have by owning it but for a fraction of the cost, while sidestepping antitrust regulations that would have resulted from an acquisition. In the end it goes to show that Yahoo really has been managed by the dumbest people in the IT business for the past couple of years…

How NOT to do public relations.

First, spot a blogger who finds a relatively minor, non-critical bug in your web site. Second, make sure some of your staff insult him personally and call him a liar, and make sure they do so from their office computers (read the comments on that first link). Third, have your PR department make a statement that bloggers are idiots and lunatics. Fourth… profit?

Ryanair seems like one place left in this world where PR men still enjoy their three-martini lunch!

Like 1994 all over again!

Ah, the good old days of dialup internet and restricted university access, a time when people started wanting to know what this “internet” thing was about… may they never come again, except perhaps in parody form: Mastering the Internet and Mastering the Internet Part 2.