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Are you representing the company or yourself? October 22, 2012

Posted by Mark Hillary in Current Affairs, Internet.
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If you blog or publish on social networks then you probably have a ‘profile’ page with information on who you are – unless you try to do everything online anonymously.

It’s likely that your profile page includes some information on who you work for and maybe even your position in the firm, so how is the line drawn between when you are publishing information and content in your own name or in the name of your employer?

This used to be easy. Companies kept a list of media-trained managers. They were the only people allowed to ever talk to the outside world about the company and to be quoted as ‘Mr X from company Y says Z’. Now it’s not so easy.

If Michael Dell tweets an opinion, is he doing is as Michael Dell or as a senior representative of the Dell computer company?

None of this is really clear yet. Many people add a disclaimer to their profiles, especially those who work in the media. It usually says something like ‘Opinion here is personal and is not on behalf of my employer’, but surely this approach can also fail.

Media giant Rupert Murdoch often takes to Twitter to give his opinion on anything and everything – at present the US election is a favourite topic of his. But he has no disclaimer on his profile and even if he did have, most readers would assume that what he says is the opinion of his company, News Corp, even if that flies against all traditional ideas of the board needing to approve company communications.

I don’t know of a legal challenge to a social media profile disclaimer to date, but it can’t be far off. I believe that if you have stated your employer as a part of your profile then you are in some way bound into the communication rules of the organisation – even if much if this is unwritten.
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Facebook Deletes Fake Likes on Fan Pages September 28, 2012

Posted by Mark Hillary in Current Affairs, Internet, Software.
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Facebook has started deleting fake ‘likes’ on fan pages after confessing that around 8.7% of all likes were probably false.

The BBC’s technology correspondent, Rory Cellan-Jones, tried an experiment earlier this year where he set up a company page on Facebook – offering bagels – and despite having no information about the products on the page it quickly attracted over 1,600 ‘likes’.

Many of the most popular Facebook pages have started shedding a large number of ‘likes’ including pop stars such as Lady Gaga.

This might all be seen as just a storm in a teacup by many, tinkering around with algorithms in much the same way as Google does all the time when they have a regular review to improve search results. But it is more significant.

Advertising is now a significant source of income for Facbeook and the number of times a product or company page is ‘liked’ has an effect on how often that page appears in the news stream of fans.

For Facebook to continue building a business model based on genuine fans with a genuine desire to learn more about products, they need to demonstrate to companies that fans on Facebook are real people – not robots automatically liking every new page.

It is significant that Facebook is undertaking this clean-up, but it is worth noting the flipside of the argument, that over 9 out of 10 ‘likes’ are by real people – and now the fakes are being removed, brands can be assured that figure is getting higher and more trustworthy.

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Internet Explorer Ruling is Old News Anyway September 27, 2012

Posted by Mark Hillary in Current Affairs, Internet.
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The European Union antitrust head has announced that Microsoft is to be charged with failing to follow a ruling from 2009 related to their failure to offer a selection of web browsers.

This ruling is centred on the ability of Microsoft to bundle their Internet Explorer system with Windows, the web browser that for many years was the dominant choice for browsing the web.

But this ruling feels like old news, even though it was just announced this week.

Internet Explorer is no longer the dominant product for web browsing.

The crown now belongs to Google with their Chrome system and Firefox from the Mozilla Foundation is close on the heels of Internet Explorer. In fact if you now add together Chrome and Firefox, they are used for almost half of all Internet web browsing. Internet Explorer retains just over 23%, but this figure is dropping.

The EU may be throwing their legal muscle at Microsoft, but the market has moved on anyway. Internet Explorer became a bloated, slow product that was full of bugs and subject to endless virus attacks. Google offered a light, very fast product with Chrome and users switched in droves.

Now the browser has become more than just a browser anyway, with Chrome offering a gateway to all the services offered by Google, further locking in users and preventing them from seeking out an alternative.

Microsoft can only wish they spent more time focused on improving the product and letting users decide on the best tool for web browsing. Now they are suffering the irony of being fined by an antitrust body as their product is losing market share to the competition.

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Samsung v Apple: The fight goes on August 31, 2012

Posted by Mark Hillary in Current Affairs, Hardware, Software.
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Who would have thought that intellectual property law could suddenly become so interesting? Two of the biggest tech brands in the world – Samsung and Apple – are slugging it out in courts across the world.

An American court awarded Apple over $1bn in damages when it declared that Samsung had infringed several key aspects of proprietary software and technology design.

Subsequently a Japanese court awarded Samsung victory in a battle over the way their phones synchonise data with personal computers. It’s going back and forth as the giants argue over design issues and who is copying who.

Of course intellectual property needs protection, but the real loser at the end of all this is going to be the consumer. Take cars as an example. You can go out and buy a Ford, VW, or GM vehicle and be able to drive it immediately. You don’t need to spend a day learning how it all works before you are familiar with the controls.

Isn’t this analogous to mobile phones now? They are complex devices, but there are many basic controls that are the same; settings, web access, email, apps. I just moved from Android to an iPhone and it took me a couple of days to become familiar with the environment – even though I use several other Apple products. What if I move to an Android phone in two years? Will I have to learn everything again to get it to work?

We need phone companies to innovate and not just to copy each other, but the consumer will end up paying all these damages. It’s time the phone companies started talking to each other and pooling technologies in the same way DVD and similar technologies are shared between manufacturers.

A slight difference (phones)

 

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Time to stop outsourcing? August 30, 2012

Posted by Mark Hillary in Current Affairs, Outsourcing.
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Popular technology blog Horses for Sources has launched a survey asking whether they should stop using the word ‘outsourcing’ in their coverage of the industry.

Most involved in technology outsourcing have moved on from the old days of labour arbitrage or augmentation. Service providers don’t just pitch themselves as the cheapest any longer, they position themselves as the experts in whatever they do.

Clients commissioning work from the service providers know that they are buying in expert services, usually services they could not perform in-house.

But the political rhetoric has barely changed. As the US presidential election approaches, outsourcing is still considered a dirty word for politicians and a way to score a few cheap votes by patriotically insisting that they would ban it forever.

But these same politicians probably calculate their budgets using Microsoft Excel and broadcast information using Cisco services. They fail to see that any large technology company is already working with global resource and any company starting today will consider hiring suppliers from all over the world.

It’s not that outsourcing is about shipping work off to cheap economies; it is just that the Internet has created a global marketplace. If the marketplace is global then that can create both problems and opportunities back at home, but how come the politicians rarely focus on the opportunity of small niche companies being able to reach a bigger market?

So do you agree with HfS? Is it time the industry stopped using the term outsourcing and if so, what would be better?

Horse

 

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When is an outsourcing contract not a contract? July 23, 2012

Posted by Mark Hillary in Current Affairs, Government, IT Services, Outsourcing.
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The Olympic games is almost with us and as the sport has yet to being the media is trawling through every negative angle they can find. The latest is the failure of security firm G4S to supply enough guards on time – leading to the need for the games organising committee to use more police and army personnel than ever expected.

The Chief Executive of G4S has apologised profusely and admitted that the situation is a shambles – in his own words, but was his company really to blame?

When outsourcing goes wrong it is not always the supplier at fault. The London Organising Committee (LOCOG) for the games originally specified that 2,000 guards would be required. This is what G4S had always been planning for.

Only a couple of months ago this figure changed to around 10,000 guards – plus all the volunteers and other military personnel that were expected to also help. So the scope of the contract changed by at least 500% with a very short lead-time.

Nobody wants to explore this in too much detail right now – the games are upon us this week so the post-mortems will take place once it is all over, but it looks like a classic outsourcing dilemma. The client suddenly needs to ramp up and will offer an enormous bonus to the service provider, but if the provider felt any doubt about their ability to scale up so quickly then the honourable thing to do would have been to refuse the change in the scope of the contract.

All will be revealed once the games are over…

Wenlock

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Blurred Vision on YouTube July 20, 2012

Posted by Mark Hillary in Current Affairs, Government.
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The Google-owned video site YouTube has just announced a new feature that allows users to upload their content with faces blurred. The feature allows those who require anonymity to upload videos, but can also be used by anyone – for example a parent might want to blur the face of his children on a video that might receive a lot of views by strangers.

The technology is automated, so the system can detect faces and blur them then the users can preview the video frame-by-frame before publishing it – with the certainty that every individual frame is blurred.

This is an interesting development in the light of recent political upheavals across the world. YouTube was credited as being a major force for change in events such as the Arab Spring and video from the ground uploaded by activists was essential in demonstrating to the world that official government statements were not always to be believed.

Because the original video must be uploaded and then processed it may be interesting to see if there is ever any legal challenge and request for the original video to be released – perhaps where the blurred face conceals a criminal. YouTube are facilitating anonymity, but will people trust that there really is no original copy of their movie online?

Face Shake

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Samsung quashes Facebook copycat rumours June 20, 2012

Posted by Mark Hillary in Current Affairs, Internet, Software.
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A very strange story hit the media recently about claims that Samsung was planning to launch a Facebook clone. Samsung immediately quashed the rumours, but backtracking slightly they admitted that the Samsung ‘Family Story’ App – which allows people to share photos and news updates with friends – was going to be expanded and improved.

What is surprising about this story is that critics assumed that by adding a photo-sharing tool to their phones, Samsung would be able to in some way rival Facebook.

Facebook is now a global juggernaut with more than half of all connected people using it regularly. Even Google has struggled to build a social network to rival it, with their G+ hailed as a technical success even though very few people actually use it.

And this is the problem for any new market entrant; the network effect prevents a rival emerging quickly. Consider online auctions as another example – you will always turn to eBay first because it is where most sellers go to list their items and they are listed there because it is where most buyers go to find something.

Facebook has suffered negative publicity over their recent IPO and the incredible overpricing of the stock at flotation, but the company is still in a powerful position to control the vast majority of the time people are online – and therefore may yet justify a value far greater than it presently trades at.

If Facebook moves from being just a social network to being considered almost as ‘the Internet’ then what hope does any rival have, whether they have millions of phone handsets in the market or not?

Samsung F490
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New domains for a new Internet June 14, 2012

Posted by Mark Hillary in Current Affairs, Internet.
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Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann) is the organisation that organises the Internet – assigning the domain names we all know, such as .com and .org.

They just announced plans to create many new domains and asked organisations to submit requests for new suggested domains. Big tech firms like Google, Amazon, and Microsoft have all asked for new domain names, but what is interesting to see is that even non-tech firms like Land Rover have made requests for domains such as .landrover.

There is a concern that this process has commercialised the control of the Internet itself. Of course, brands and big commercial companies like Amazon and Google dominate the Internet as we know it, but it is also a resource that can be freely used just for the exchange of information.

With brands spending over £100,000 just to apply for the right to create a new domain it means that only those with deep pockets can guide the direction of the Internet and is that really the way we should be taking it?

The US government still takes a keen interest in the overall governance of the Internet and all the key organisations like Icaan are still based in the US, but perhaps it is time for a supranational body to be created – so the future of the Internet is not just auctioned to the highest bidder.

Land Rover Badge
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Fighting piracy requires carrots, not just a big stick May 10, 2012

Posted by Mark Hillary in Current Affairs, Internet, Software.
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The Pirate Bay (TPB) is a Swedish website that links to online copies of music, films, and software – anything that can be easily copied and distributed online. It is possibly the single largest library of illegally copied intellectual property in the world and has been resistant to the authorities for many years, largely because they don’t store the content themselves and the links use very strong cryptography to mask the exact location of copied material.

As the law enforcement authorities have failed to stop sites like TPB the UK courts (after an action raised by the British Phonographic Institute) decided to tell Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to just block access – preventing all but the most determined users from accessing them. This week, Virgin Media became the first UK ISP to stop their users from accessing TPB.

It did not go well. The Anonymous hackers collective attacked Virgin Media’s website and brought it down on May 9th for over one hour. Four other British ISPs have vowed to block access to TPB and BT is about to decide on their position.

The ISPs are in a difficult position as they are being forced to censor their service – preventing access to a particular site – yet they have always managed to stand aside from these debates in the past, arguing that they just provide the infrastructure and can’t be expected to police what people do online.

The bottom line for organisations like the BPI is that piracy will only end when the legal route to owning movies and music is easier than the illegal. Services like Spotify and Netflix are now making on demand legal renting of content far easier than searching for illegal copies. Perhaps they should be focusing on making the carrot, rather than the stick, a lot bigger, because banning access to a single pirate site is like putting a sticking plaster on a gaping wound.

Pirate deck at Club Earl

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