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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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Photo by Urs Steiner licensed under Creative Commons

Turn off the networks – says who? October 21, 2011

Posted by Mark Hillary in Hardware, IT Services.
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A recent poll by the BBC found that most British citizens would like to the see the police respond to riots with water cannon, tear gas, curfews and even a third suggesting the police should be firing rubber bullets.

With the British riots still quite fresh in the mind of most respondents and the police being criticised for a soft approach, it’s no surprise that the average man on the street wants a tough approach – regardless of how all these measure might appear to be the beginning of a police state.

But it was interesting to see that 55% of the people polled by the BBC also believe that the police should have the power to close down social networks such as Twitter, Blackberry BBM, and Facebook.

It seems like one thing for the public to be asking the police to take tougher action on rioters, but if the public are now asking for the police to have control of the Internet then will the politicians respond? It would clearly be popular with the public, but is it right?

Those in favour of this measure are clearly arguing that many of the riots were arranged or exacerbated by communication on social networks. The one to many broadcast ability of these networks and the ability for messages to be passed on and re-broadcast makes them far more powerful than the telephone or basic text messaging.

But did the police ever turn off the telephone network in the past when there was a riot, and where would this power stop? Who would give the command to suggest that a minor civil disturbance has gone past the line and now all social networks need to be closed?

In my own experience, the messages I was seeing on the Monday night of the London riots were mainly councillors and local businesses, all out there on the street and sending messages to help people stay safe. All of this would have been impossible if the networks were down.

This is one of those moral questions that make people realise the power of blogs and microblogs – instant, available to all, and easy for others to pass on. The world has yet to really absorb the power of one to many communications, but I hope the positive outweighs the negative in public perception soon as the measures being proposed are dangerous for democracy itself.
London Flames

Better to be safe than Sony October 17, 2011

Posted by Mark Hillary in Hardware, Internet.
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The last few weeks have featured one technology disaster story after another and two of the big ones involved Sony – no stranger to controversy after their Playstation network was hacked earlier this year and the personal payment details of about 77m users were compromised.

Even worse, none of the data was encrypted – a basic error for a company with so much personal data.

Their latest woes surround the recall of around 1.6m televisions because of a fire risk, more of a smoking set than smoking gun. The incidents are clearly not connected, but it is causing immense damage to the brand itself, once the very measure of global quality and expertise in electronic products.

And if Sony are feeling the heat then think of how the executive team of Research in Motion are feeling. The makers of the Blackberry smartphones are recoiling from the pain of tens of millions of their users losing all Internet access (including email) for several days last week.

Blackberry has been suffering for the past few years anyway. The traditional corporate users have been switching to iPhone and Android handsets and the brand has failed to resonate as ‘cool’ with the young. Couple this gentle descent with the recent outage and they might be facing a tailspin – certainly in confidence if not in actual user numbers yet.

Most users – personal or corporate – are locked into contracts, but at the contract expiry they are free to explore other options and this could be extremely damaging for the company in a year or so.

The old expression about capitalism coined by Marx was that ‘creative destruction’ ensures that older ways of doing things get destroyed by the new. We always expect new innovative companies to come along and shake up the world of technology, but when the giants of technology start shaking the ground through their own mistakes and errors many would suggest that they deserve to suffer.
Broken TV

Taking Bribes October 18, 2010

Posted by Mark Hillary in Government, IT Services, Outsourcing.
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Anyone doing business around the world will know about bribes. I myself have been offered several and – thankfully for my own conscience – I have always turned them down. But I’ve had to give bribes here and there to get myself out of various scrapes, such as my driver in Morocco paying off a policeman to avoid a speeding ticket, or the taxi driver in India who decided I was not going to be allowed out of my taxi until I paid a ridiculous fare.

But these are just travel experiences, small beer compared to genuine corporate bribes.

The serious fraud office in the UK is about to crack down on multinational firms offering bribes, the greasing of the wheels that used to be accepted just as how you had to “do” business in places where it is just accepted.The new Bribery Act replaces the patchwork of British laws that previously cover bribes. It will cover the corporate offence of making or receiving a bribe and though it has been delayed, it looks like it will be law by April 2011. That means companies all over the UK will need to look again at anti-corruption measures – if they have any measures documented in the first place.

But the question I would ask is, what is a bribe? I know that when I meet people from the BBC, they always pay for their own coffee or lunch. They won’t accept any free trips overseas for any reason. This helps them to retain a high degree of impartiality.But each summer, I’m offered tickets to the cricket and other big sporting events by people from the IT industry. Recently the trend has turned more to rock concerts as well – which suits me. And there is a natural tendency to look more favourably on a company that has bought you a nice box for a test match, but I personally look on it as improving the relationship – giving time to building ideas together – but not buying access.

I’d never write an article in the press about a firm or recommend them just because they bought me some sports tickets.Is the SFO going to explore this kind of entertainment, which is commonly used by people in IT, or is it just higher-level fraud that will keep them active?

Bill shock to end? March 16, 2010

Posted by Mark Hillary in IT Services.
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This month, new EU laws to protect users with roaming mobile devices came into effect. The aim of the new legislation is to prevent what the media has termed “bill shock” as many users of telephones or Internet dongles have found that roaming data charges can be extremely high – especially when compared to the charge (often in contract anyway) when used in the home market.

Look at the case of William Harrison, a student at Nottingham University who visited Paris last year to begin an internship. Mobile phone company Orange advised him to use a 3G dongle, but Harrison never counted on his first month of internet use costing £8,000.

Other examples recently documented in the Sunday papers include a £4,900 bill for downloading a copy of The Apprentice on the BBC iPlayer and a £31,500 Vodafone bill for similar TV downloads. Vodafone did slash that bill to a more manageable £229, but how can such huge bills be racked up in the first place?
It’s all about data use. A laptop or phone that is using broadband on a roaming package – rather than the locally agreed fixed monthly price – will rack up additional charges based on how many megabytes (mb) of data are downloaded. The March 2nd edition of Eastenders on the BBC can be downloaded in 319mb. At the Virgin mobile roaming rate of £5 per mb, that’s going to be a cool £1,595 on your phone bill, just for catching up on the latest happenings in Albert Square.

So will the new legislation work? It’s aimed at ensuring mobile operators cap roaming usage to no more than €50 per month, and they now have until July to implement the procedures. If every provider implements the new rules then it should prevent further “bill shock”, but what if one company doesn’t, or their systems fail to give warnings in time? Who’s liable for the bill then?