January 17, 2011

QotD: The impermanence of “The Cloud”

Filed under: Quotations, Technology — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 15:13

We adopt many web services because they’re convenient (and free!), but it’s only after becoming dependent on those services that we recognize why they were provided for free in the first place: after all, it’s only by eliminating the inconvenience of paying users that startups can snag attention and secure the freedom to alter, downgrade, or cancel their services at will. By then, of course, we’re trapped in an unstable relationship, and our only means of recourse is to wail as loudly as possible, “You broke my heart!”

The big lesson that should have come out of the Tumbleocalypse was that we trust too easily. Did any of us listen? Nah. Instead, we’re signing our friends up to Dropbox to score 250 megs of bonus storage space and sending our most important documents to “the cloud.” We trust Dropbox because we trust others who use Dropbox: web designers, tech writers and professionals who, we believe, would never gamble with an unproven, flaky, or suspect service. Without this kind of trust-by-proxy, free web services couldn’t survive at all. Can you imagine anybody in their right mind signing up for a Facebook account today without a good friend by the sidelines whispering, “Don’t mind all that privacy whaffle. I know these guys mean well.”

Cloud storage is convenient, of course — ask anybody who’s experienced the horrors of manually synching PC to iPhone — but we downplay the risks involved in outsourcing control of the data we own. We so badly want to live in the future that we’ve lost the ability to question what living in the future might actually mean.

[. . .]

Those who believe that “the cloud” can act as a storage platform for our collective memories believe that everything that was available to us yesterday will be just as available to us tomorrow. Where exactly does this conviction come from?

The web is like any other sprawling city, and maybe worse: it’s so damn rickety it’s a minor miracle it hasn’t collapsed entirely. When you link, you do so trusting that the data to which you direct your readers won’t just up and disappear into the virtual ether. Except that, inevitably, it will — the short history of the web has established that much. We live somewhere, we leave, it becomes forgotten, and then we come back years later to find our old haunts brutally 404’d.

Connor O’Brien, “Link Rot”, The Bygone Bureau, 2011-01-17

Another sexting case, with a slightly misleading headline

Filed under: Law, Media, Technology — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 12:50

A brief report at the National Post implies something a bit different than the article actually says: Woman jailed after nude photo posted on Facebook.

Eighteen-year-old Angelica Nicholson of Portage, Ind. sent a nude photo of herself to a “male acquaintance” — apparently to the displeasure of the acquaintance’s girlfriend.

The girlfriend in turn posted the photo on Facebook and after an exchange of heated text messaging, Ms. Nicholson contacted Facebook to remove the photo.

Dissatisfied with Facebook’s response time, Ms. Nicholson called 911 and claimed she was 17 to get the photo removed faster.

Police found out the woman was 18 from government records, and Ms. Nicholson was arrested for false reporting.

So, yes, she was arrested, but not for posting a nude photo on Facebook. Abusing 911 services, yes, but not for posting to Facebook.

Another report from Brisbane

Filed under: Australia, Environment, Railways — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 09:49

My friend Roger is doing well (having been outside the worst of the flooding), and sent this update on the rail and transportation situation in Queensland:

A couple of pictures of the western rail line from Brisbane to Toowoomba. The line, mostly double-track has been extensively damaged and willl probably be out of commission for over three months.

This shows flood debris, and a bull, lodged on one bridge. Some 20 people in the area are also missing so there may well be bodies in the debris as well. It is being carefully checked but there is a huge amount. One body was found in her house which had already been searched twice before.

Part of the Moura coal line in Central Queensland. There could be some delays here as well.

Meanwhile, in muddy Brisbane, in an effort to keep cars off the roads all public transport is free for the next few days. The railways parked their electric commuter trains on some tracks that were well above flood level. Unfortunately, graffiti artists, using Facebook and Twatter, called up every idiot on the East Cost that had a can of spray paint. Some even came from Melbourne. About half the train fleet was so badly overpainted that the sets could not be run. Cost estimates are in the order of a couple of million to clean.

The cops can now read Facebook etc. and feel they have enough evidence to throw at least some of the perps in the slammer. Hopefully with their private parts painted a bright blue.

Update: It’s not just flooding in Queensland . . . there’s also now flooding in Victoria. There are always idiots who try to do stupid things, especially around flooded rivers:

A bizarre decision to ride an inflatable doll down a flood-swollen Yarra River blew up in a woman’s face yesterday when she lost her latex playmate in a rough patch.

The incident prompted a warning from police that blow-up sex toys are “not recognised flotation devices’’.

Police and a State Emergency Services crew were called to the rescue when the woman and a man, both 19, struck trouble at Warrandyte North about 4.30pm yesterday.

They were floating down the river on two inflatable dolls and had just passed the Pound Bend Tunnel when the woman lost her toy in turbulent water.

Another reason to view self-reported study data with caution

Filed under: Britain, Science — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 09:30

There’s a reason that studies that depend on direct observation/measurement often differ in their results from studies that depend on self-reporting by the group being studied — because people lie:

Many mothers are under so much pressure to appear like perfect parents that they cover up how much television their children watch or what they cook their families, according to a survey.

Such “white lies” also extend to how much “quality time” mothers spend with their partner, website Netmums said its survey of 5,000 people suggested.

The parenting site said mothers often made each other feel “inadequate”.

[. . .]

Almost two-thirds of those surveyed said they had been less than honest with other mothers about how well they were coping and almost half covered up financial worries.

Almost a quarter of mothers admitted to downplaying how much television their children actually watched — and one in five “span a yarn” over how long they played with their children.

Modern updates to Bierce’s Devil’s Dictionary

Filed under: Government, Humour, Liberty, Politics, Quotations — Nicholas @ 09:03

I’ve always been a big fan of Ambrose Bierce’s collection of definitions, The Devil’s Dictionary. Many of his definitions ended up in various places in my original quotations website, as more than a century later, they were still both funny and true.

Paul Bonneau has a list of updates in the Bierce tradition:

A Cynic’s Political Dictionary

Democracy: Mob rule.

Republic: A euphemism for “police state”. See “Police State”. Also, a geographical region in which representative government is practiced. See “Representative Government”.

Representative Government: A refinement in Democracy in which a mob of people select the least moral among them, to police their morals.

Representative: A politician who claims to be able to simultaneously represent two other people who hate each other’s guts. See “Politician”.

Senator: A politician who spends more time drunk. See “Politician”.

Election: A type of circus, provided for entertainment and for giving a veneer of legitimacy to politicians. See “Politician”.

Politician: A euphemism for “liar”.

Public Servant: A euphemism for “master”.

Voter: A euphemism for “slave”.

Media: People whose job it is to propagate politicians’ lies far and wide.

Political party: A collection of people who participate in mindless team sports in an election. See “Election”.

Democrat: A Republican who claims to care. See “Republican”.

Republican: A Democrat who claims to support liberty. See “Democrat”.

Minarchist: An Anarchist in training. See “Anarchist”.

Anarchist: A slave suffering slavery burn-out.

Government: An amalgamation of masters.

State (or Country): An amalgamation of masters and slaves. Also, a plantation.

Police: Overseers on the plantation; also, tax collectors.

Taxes: A euphemism for “plunder”.

Police State: Typically refers to a country other than the one you happen to be a slave in. Also, a place where other people mind your business.

Jail: A jobs program for jailers.

School: A jobs program for teachers.

Teacher: One who turns children into voters for the government. See “Voter”.

Smith and May illustrate the CBSC decision

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Cancon, Media — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 08:37

Link to news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20110114/od_nm/us_canada_song_odd.

Cartoon from this week’s edition of Libertarian Enterprise.

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