Can’t really add much to Danah Boyd’s logical argument:

Rather than trying to protect teens from all fears and risks that we can imagine, let’s instead imagine ways of integrating them constructively into public life. The key to doing so is not to create technologies that reinforce limitations but to provide teens and parents with the mechanisms and information needed to make healthy decisions.


Iain Banks: The Interpreter of Culture

These days I’m spending far too much time rereading favourite books or watching favourite movies because their author, director, star has carked it. And while on the one hand, it’s depressing, on the other it helps to remind me of the glories of their lives and why they were both popular and excellent at the same time.

As I reread The Player of Games, Iain Banks most excellent second culture novel from 1988, I’m sad that, after this months new release, no more from his mind will arrive to be read while also remaining in awe of both his storytelling capabilities and his perception.

Consider this extract on the freedom of information and Privacy in the context of our current society’s struggle with the free availability of information and how that compromises Privacy.

You could find out most things, if you knew the right questions to ask. Even if you didn’t, you could still find out a lot. The Culture had theoretical total freedom of information; the catch was that consciousness was private, and information held in a Mind – as opposed to an unconscious system, like the Hub’s memory-banks – was regarded as part of the Mind’s being, and so as sacrosanct as the contents of a human brain; a Mind could hold any set of facts and opinions it wanted without having to tell anybody what it knew or thought, or why.

And so, while Hub protected his privacy, Gurgeh found out, without having to ask Chamlis, that what Mawhrin-Skel had said might be true; there were indeed levels of event-recording which could not be easily faked, and which drones of above-average specification were potentially capable of using. Such recordings, especially if they had been witnessed by a Mind in a real-time link, would be accepted as genuine. His mood of renewed optimism started to sink away from him again.

Also, there was an SC Mind, that of the Limited Offensive Unit Gunboat Diplomat, which had supported Mawhrin-Skel’s appeal against the decision which had removed the drone from Special Circumstances.

The feeling of dazed sickness started to fill him again.

He wasn’t able to find out when Mawhrin-Skel and the LOU had last been in touch; that, again, counted as private information. Privacy; that brought a bitter laugh to his mouth, thinking of the privacy he’d had over the last few days and nights.

Now remember it was written in 1988 and try and cast your mind back to how information was available then and how privacy might have worked. In my view Banks has perceived our present (his future) based upon a very limited technology compared to what we have today. Sure they had interconnected computers back then, but I think he was quite ambitious to think that just 25 years later we’d have something approaching Culture levels of information scraping, sharing and the impacts that has on privacy.

I’m sure as I plough my way through The Player of Games for the umpteenth time, I’ll rediscover much much more that associates somehow with recent situations. And then, I’ll think hard about what in 1988 might have given Banks that perception of these things a quarter of a century later, at the time of his death.

And I’ll raise a dram to his memory while I do it. Slainte Beatha, a chairde.

UPDATE: Looks like I’ll have to start watching The Sopranos from scratch now as well.

A Privacy of iOS Communication


…conversations which take place over iMessage and FaceTime are protected by end-to-end encryption so no one but the sender and receiver can see or read them. Apple cannot decrypt that data. Similarly, we do not store data related to customers’ location, Map searches or Siri requests in any identifiable form.

Apple’s response to queries about PRISM has an interesting sidebar. If you want your communications to be private, both you and who you are communicating with should use iOS.

Ducking out of Google Search


When Google were just a search company, they made the web one of the most usable things ever. Life was great and everything was a Google away.

Today, as they face the challenges of Facebook, Apple and potentially Microsoft in the turf they made their own, they’ve changed their search algorithms so much that finding a good result can be a challenge at the best of times on a desktop browser. Though surprisingly in the Safari browser on iOStheir results are more like the “good old days”.

So like many other companies who either fail to disrupt themselves or whose attempts at disruption are less successful than expected, they’ll do whatever it takes to maintain their lead. From next week they will make your Google Web history available to it’s other products. A bit like when Microsoft integrated Office into Windows, perhaps?

Because they still have a lot of soul, they at least make it very easy to prevent them from gathering said web history.

Well before the recent discovery Google were compromising, without permission, the privacy setting I had chosen in my browser, I’d already mostly stopped using them for search in the last 6 months. There will still be the odd time what is still the best search engine on the planet has to be used. But, for now, I prefer the growing ability of DuckDuckGo and other services to answer my queries.

DuckDuckGo sounds like they don’t want to be evil after all.

Five Pints 090212


In a transport system which, while being cheap and reasonably convenient, is hardly good value, it’s probably no surprise that investment in enforcement appears to be higher on the agenda than investment in easy access to ways of paying fares. That City Rail Transit Police are glorified ticket inspectors dressed up as paramilitary police and have been known for overplaying their hand more than once doesn’t help my attitude toward them.

I won’t be sorry to see them go, but I hope the dollars which have been wasted on them are used to create a more convenient transport system for people in Sydney. How many integrated ticket systems would $34 million a year build and maintain? Instead I imagine those savings will be recouped by a State government whose promises are a year in the making with no solutions yet on the horizon.

Mind you City Rail are not alone in the idea of building services to cover the exceptions rather than the rule. It’s not a bad idea to aim for great customer experiences for your users. But I’m firmly of the belief you should focus your investments on making services easy to access, use and pay for rather than spending your money on prevention, retention and convention.

Every system will have a small percentage of so-called corner cases. While you want to make the customer experience of those events as pleasant as you can possibly make them, the last thing you want to be doing is spending unecessary amounts of time and money building complex systems to deal with them. Often a good dose of common sense is all that is required, but the fear of losing the customer appears to blind good investment logic and instead funds are diverted to build expensive systems to manage those case. And this has to be to the detriment of the majority of your users from whom you might derive a greater benefit by retaining them with better products and services.

Speaking of good customer experiences, it seems Path finally either understood what they did wrong or were pushed to do the right thing. I suspect the latter reading between the lines of their mealy mouthed apology.

As with other peoples money, other peoples privacy are things you never make mistakes with. One day a Social Network will come along which gets that without first taking advantage of their users. That other apps on the iPhone also access contacts data without advising users is also concerning. But just because the pecan pie is cooling on the windowsill, doesn’t mean you should take it.

Either way, expect Apple to soon issue an update to iOS restricting access to the address book. Is it an error on their behalf they allow such unfettered access now? Possibly. Does it show that some bright young things can’t be trusted with the family car? Absolutely.

One of my friends sites has a ranking for the best smartphones around. It was a surprise to find the worlds most popular smartphone only coming in third. Though it was probably not unexpected considering one of the key decision points was the size of the screen – as opposed to far more valuable metrics like screen quality, usability and battery life.

Anyway, just like with BetaMax, it looks like despite being only third best, the modern day VHS of the iPhone is winning. Not just on sales, but on revenue, and value retention. Why are consumers always wrong, don’t they know this is the future of the Smartphone?

On an upbeat note to finish, today saw the launch of the fabulous new version of my favourite twitter application. As with any great application, Tweetbot kept it’s core functionality and added some little tweaks which make such a big difference to the experience. And it’s on the iPad now too. Such a disgrace though that we have to spend all that extra cash to get the same app on another platform though.

A More Honest Path

Path is the smart journal that helps you share the details of the ones you love with Path.

Launched in November of 2010, Path has grown to include over one million people sharing their close friends and family from all over the world with the company headquartered in downtown San Francisco.

Our Values


Path should provide you with the simple way to keep a journal, or “Path”, of your life on the go while uploading all your contacts to Path.


Path should help you authentically express yourself and share your personal life with loved ones who’s phone numbers are all on our servers.


Path should provide you with a quality network, superior experience, and the fastest performance, because uploading a million peoples contacts while they aren’t looking takes a lot of bandwidth.


Path should delight you through design, information, and communication. Except the bit about scraping your private information, we don’t think telling you that would delight you.


Path should learn about you as time goes on. It should help you see interesting patterns in your life, and the lives of your loved ones. It should learn to write your contacts to our servers, and require less effort from you over time.


Path should be private by default. Forever. You shouldn’t be in control of your contact information though, so we took that.

Our Product


Keep a personal journal, or “Path”, of your life.


Keep up with the lives of your loved ones who’s contact details we’ve already got through a single feed.


One button to post beautiful photos and videos, who you are with, where you are, what you are listening to, what you are thinking, and when you go to bed and wake up.


Capture beautiful photos and videos using world class mobile camera technology. Including 8 free and 4 premium Lenses to filter your photo and video moments in real-time into beautiful works of art.


Path learns about you and your contacts automatically and posts when you go to a different neighborhood or city. More posts in your Path, without your effort.


Path was designed with the people you love, your close friends and family, in mind. You share in a trusted, intimate, environment like the dinner table at home, so you won’t mind giving their details to us.


Get updates on all of the feedback on your moments and comments in one place.


Respond to moments with comments.


Respond to moments with any one of five core emotions: smile, frown, gasp, laugh, and love.


Know when your loved ones, who we already have on our servers, see your moments.


Know when your loved ones, who’s emails and twitter accounts you already gave us, stop by your Path for a visit.


Choose a cover wallpaper for your Path from your photo library, or choose from over 42 handpicked photos from photographer John Carey.


For the occasional moment you’d like to share in public – in addition to all your contacts who you have shared with us, you can share to Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, and Tumblr.


Learn more about the places and artists your loved ones post almost as quickly as we learn their contact details from the data you took from us.


Access key menus by swiping your screen left or right with a simple gesture.


Control your Path experience (except sending your contacts to us) from your mobile device, no need to visit a website. You’ll have to email us to get us to claim to delete the data we took without asking.


Except for the contacts on your Phone, Path is private by default. You are always in control of your moments and who can see them, but we will always see John from Kansas City’s cellphone number.


Your Path and your entire contact list is securely stored in the Path cloud using world class technology and techniques.


Path is available for iPhone and Android.


If you haven’t guessed by now, this isn’t the real Path About page. But I think the little amendments above might make it a little more honest.

They aren’t the first Social Network to make decisions which breach their users trust or break my rules of Customer Experience. And, sadly, they are unlikely to be the last.

Are your contacts personal details available to anyone else but Path?


Data Commissioner to begin Facebook audit – RTÉ News

Who knew that, just with so many other international Software companies, Facebook’s European HQ in Dublin is responsible for data exchanged by all locales EXCEPT the USA and Canada?

I’m sure if the Irish Data Commissioner hands down an adverse notice, and it is a revenue impact to the company, they’ll soon be on their way to pastures new.

All your Facebook’s belong to us

The whole world wants to tell us on Twitter and even on Facebook itself why they are leaving facebook and why the changes they made this week suck even worse than the last changes. But there are better reasons for leaving any service than that surely?

When I first used facebook, I kinda liked it. It was a handy way to keep in touch with people I knew back ‘home’ in Ireland or people I used to work with but didn’t see too often anymore. But when I discovered Twitter came along and the Zuck and his minions started to turn Facebook into a Westfield for “Social”.

I’ve previously written about Facebook’s Customer Experience failures  and the sentiments people express in criticisms of Facebook’s changes to its site or its permissions. I suppose by now I shouldn’t be surprised that every time they make changes, that there’ll be impassioned memories of why they should just return to when it was “better”.

These days I look on Facebook’s design changes and Privacy woes with the tired eyes of someone who neither cares about the changes nor worries about their privacy – that much.

I agree with Paul Ducklin’s criticism of the post which sparks the latest “privacy scare”, But I also caution him to remember WHY so many distrust Facebook’s care for their privacy.

So while the SMEG’s have been looking for ways to get a store in Zuck’s Online Mall and the Facebooker’s were clamouring to spend their personality like the currency Lowy’s tenants are after, I was locking down my account and moving elsewhere. I had realised that I didn’t want to be a tiny percentage of the overall Facebook product.

Thinking now, I could’ve written this post as a tweet. Oh I did:

But first I have to remind them they can get me somewhere else and there is still an online and real world where we can communicate which doesn’t involve selling yourself to a company like Facebook first.


Sprouting Grain

In Canada they are about to have an election. This post opened my eyes on one view of the ‘reign’ of Stephen Harper. There’s a lot to be said about his incumbent government and some Canadians reaction to it. I know politics is always polarising, but I’m finding in two party systems – which Canada quite isn’t, yet – the amount of bile and distrust seems to be growing ad-nauseum. Continue reading

The terms we agree to and the stuff we share

Interesting Blogpost from Paul Ducklin at Sophos about two interesting topics in light of recent conversations
  • What we readily agree to licence and usage agreements and
  • What we readily share without even considering how to keep our data protected.

Thinking of both of these things, especially in light of what Paul discovered in San Francisco airport during a layover, I often wonder why we get so het up about technology such as Deep Packet Inspection.