Web Politics


UPDATE to the UPDATE: Blogger folk – here’s what you need to know to set your comments to allow links to blogs on other platforms. First, you need to log into your blog via Blogger in Draft, which is a kind of sandpit or beta Blogger that exists, supposedly, so that you can play with Blogger features before they’re actually released. What the hell is that? They implement a feature (OpenID) blog-wide on the main platform but you can only change it from the beta??? O-k-a-a-a-y… Anyways, once you’re in Blogger in Draft go to Settings->Comments and check ‘Registered Users – Includes OpenID‘

So, after spending ten minutes figuring this out, and with help from someone who was clued-in, I don’t feel quite as bad that I flew off the handle at Blogger. What kind of idiots alter their current release software to take away utility that existed previously and that can only be restored if you happen to be running the beta? And where is the notification on your Blogger Dashboard that says ‘Parts of your blog have been changed, and will not be accesssible to you unless you go and log in to another site entirely’?

I say to you again: WordPress, peeps.

UPDATE: rd5 comments that the reason this happens is due to Blogger implementing OpenID! So all you folks on Blogger, please read the comments on this post to find out how to allow other blog platforms to get active links. And I’ll just go eat a slice of Humble Pie that comes direct from the Oven of Shame set at gas mark ‘Egg on your Face’ ‡

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Once upon a time, so long ago that it seems like just a bad dream, Tetherd Cow Ahead started its life on the Blogger™ platform. All went well for a while, and indeed, I am grateful that Blogger™ was such an easy way for me to start The Cow rolling.*

But then, not long after Blogger™ was acquired by Google™, things started going haywire. There was the dreaded ‘smenita’ affair that intermittently took down Blogger™ Comments for weeks. After that, there was a several-week-long crapshoot in which nobody (including me) could tell whether or not The Cow was likely to be functioning or commentable. This was made aggravatingly worse by the fact that Blogger™ personnel went completely incommunicado, and made no effort whatsoever to let users know what was going on, let alone apologize for the problems. Then there were numerous smaller but infinitely annoying shutdowns and faults that served to make a quick read of The Cow into an interminable chore. Again, with no explanations from Blogger™. After weeks of frustration I’d had enough and (with surprisingly little effort) I migrated The Cow over to WordPress where I’ve maintained it with no trouble ever since.

Only now, it seems, I have cause to bitch about Blogger™ once again.

I visit many friends who have their digs on Blogger.™ Up until now, whenever I have left a comment, I have been able to enter my name as either a user from a Blogger™ account (which I can do, since my old account is still active)†, a name & url combination (which creates a direct link on my name to the url, in most cases TCA) or post anonymously.

My preference is to leave my name linked directly to my (non-Blogger™) blog. This means that if you want to visit my blog, you simply click on my name.

Over the last few days though, I have noticed a disturbing difference in the way that Blogger™ allows a visitor to comment: now, instead of having the option to link my name to a url, I am only allowed a non-linkable ‘nickname’. Either that or I must have a Blogger™ account. In other words, I can no longer leave my name as ‘reverend anaglyph’ and have it link back to Tetherd Cow Ahead.

This is a really shabby and pathetic impediment for Blogger™ (and one must therefore assume Google™) to have foisted on its users. It effectively says to your commenters: you cannot comment and be linked to your own blog without being a member of the Blogger™ club. It is, in fact, antithetical to the very concept of blogging.

If you have been thinking about shifting your blog elsewhere (and I do recommend WordPress supported by your own host if you can afford it) then now is the time to do it, as a protest to this extremely Microsoftian draconian imposition. Either that, or write to Google/Blogger™™™™™ and use strong language on them.

Blogging is about interaction, not about clubs & closed doors. These kinds of ideas will bring the utility of the internet to its knees if they get a grip. Acowlytes! Protest them, and protest them strongly!

ADDENDUM: And here’s a thought: if, in the course of your wonderful philosophizing, you manage to attract new readers to your blog, and they reside on platforms external to Blogger™ (and there are now dozens of free blogging sites) you can almost certainly kiss them goodbye as new connections in your blogging circle. Why? Because no-one will be able to follow them back to their own place to engage in the community that is set up by such a practice. Why should they visit you and engage in your show if their is no possibility of reciprocation? My best blogging buddies – indeed, nearly all my current blogging friends – came here via other people’s blogs, often on other platforms.

If you think I’m over-reacting a bit on this, go spend some time trawling around a closed community, like, oh, MySpace let’s say, and see exactly what calibre of intellectual tête-à-tête a whole lot of inbreeding gets you.

For my own part, this very problem has prevented me from engaging in the TypePad and LiveJournal communities – every time I find myself at a TypePad blog and want to strike up some banter with the writer, I am supposed to ‘Join Up’ to do so. Bollocks! They’re gated communities by any other name, desperately trying to keep out the riff-raff.

Viva la revolucion! To the guillotine with the lot of them!

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‡TCA consumes and recommends The It Crowd.

*And as we all know, a rolling cow gathers no moss! (Cow rolling should not be confused with cow tipping which is a different thing altogether)

†On a technical note: I’ve hacked my Blogger site in such a way that if I do leave my Blogger name, you now never see my old blog – instead, you are whisked immediately to the proper home of TCA. I’m lucky – I know how to do these things, but it’s probably outside the capabilities of many less technically inclined bloggers.

Hey CowPokes!! Don’t Forget: the Christmas Competition is still running! Be sure to get yer entry in!

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A Dime per Chime

So I was over at Modern Mechanics having a browse as I’m wont to do, and I found this great article about an invention to keep canvassers and peddlers from ringing your doorbell.

The principle is simple enough – the doorbell won’t ring unless you first pay a dime into the slot, thereby discouraging anyone without a legitimate purpose. If you’re an approved caller, your dime can be refunded on opening of the door. If you’re just a hustler you lose your dime and it goes to charity. Brilliant enough – there are times when I would have found this mighty handy.

Then I had a brainwave (and I’m actually being serious here folks, for a change): take this idea and remodel it for the digital world and you have a fantastic method of stopping email spam in it’s tracks.

Now there have been a few different pay-per-mail schemes mooted in the past, but they tend to come from people like Microsoft who have a view setting up yet another revenue stream (and heck knows they really need it). They invariably operate on the principle that you make a micropayment for each email you send. In other words, it’s using the old Post Office concept – you stamp your mail to send it. And it costs you.

I’m suggesting something significantly different.

Here’s how I propose it would work: If someone wants to send you an email they must pay you a small fee – say the equivalent of a mailed letter. Their email goes into your Inbox and when you see who it’s from, you approve it and their fee is refunded. You only need to do this once for every sender.

Spammers would be completely stymied – sending millions of unsolicited emails would cost a fortune. Genuine advertisers could still send you email, but they would have to pay – and if you declined their dime, they would lose it.

The money would be held in some kind of escrow, and from time to time you would approve its donation to charity. The escrow slush fund could also finance the service that facilitates the process.

This idea also answers one of the the most widely-voiced objections to a ‘paid’ email system: that users would have to start paying for something that is already free. With my Dime Per Chime™ scheme the end user doesn’t pay at all![tippy title=”¹”]In fact the biggest drawback I can see is that it might become too effective, thereby rendering the whole idea worthless…[/tippy]

Sum effect: End user happy, charities happy, spammers very very unhappy. O frabjous day!

Is this not genius?

Help me beta it Cowerati!

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¹In fact the biggest drawback I can see is that it might become too effective, thereby rendering the whole idea worthless…

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Mark my words: Google is the Roman Empire of web colonization, and the beginning of its decline is already being chalked in big letters.

Honestly, their rise in profile is commensurate with their increase in stupidity. I’ve talked before about the impending disaster of the Ne’er-Do-Evil, but consider this latest piece of idiocy: Google’s lawyers have taken action against several media organizations in an effort to stop them using the word ‘google’ as a verb unless they’re referring directly to a search made on the Google engine.

HELLO GOOGLE! IS ANYBODY HOME?

I almost wept at their daftness. Well I would have, but it’s hard to pull the kleenex out of these damn velcro pockets without making a mess. And everyone knows that tiny bits of kleenex are almost as difficult to hoover up as styrofoam or q-tips.

Did Google somehow just forget which century they’re living in? Do they actually read anything online? Did someone remove the word ‘ubiquity’ from the Google Law Department’s dictionary?

Google has, up until recently, had everyone believing that they have grokked the internet paradigm for Century 21, but in this startlingly moronic lunge for control over the idiom, the concepts involved seem to be running off Google’s lawyers like jello off teflon.

Eros Bit

You know, it’s quite remarkable. I make posts about science, art, philosophy and religion and get a smattering of comment and a trickle of visitors. But one picture of a scantily-clad girl sticking her fist up a cow’s bum and my visitor rate doubles and my comments spike.

And over at Perpetual Ocean my Eros ex Mathematica images account for nearly 45% of the site traffic and now have racked up over 3 million hits.

Let there be no doubt about the subject that still drives the internet.

Voodoo Doll

I have this friend who was interested to know if it is possible to put a curse on someone online. This friend searched all over the internet and found that aside from one poxy and insipidly saccharine voodoo doll site, there appears to be nowhere at all where this can be done.

Oh very well, I know what you are all saying: “Who’s he kidding, we weren’t born yesterday! We are The Astute Cognoscenti of The Cow!”. Yes, I confess, it is no ‘friend’ I am talking about, it is ME!

Yesterday, after one last unprovoked prodding by some oily friend of Raymundo I decided that I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any more! I am being assaulted from all sides with spam. It’s getting to be a real pain in the ass. It clogs up my email, stops my friends from leaving comments on my blog and even invades my dreams. But what to do???

Then, last night, sometime around the Witching Hour, it came to me! If the little red wagon of the spammers can’t be fixed by conventional means, then it follows that I have no option but to turn to black magic.

But dammit! What the hell is this? I can buy my groceries online, book my flights online, pay my gas bill online, watch my movies online and get ordained online but evidently there is just no way to put even a basic curse on someone via the internet.

This is a failing of apocalyptic proportions!

I did find a site that offers to sell me a voodoo doll kit via mail order. A compromise, but I guess…

The one thing that immediately struck me, though, was the caveat:

Remember to ask that the person be hurt only as much as you were, no more and no less — by using a doll fairly you are in no way breaking any Universal laws.

Now this poses a difficult ethical question: How much do these spammers hurt anyone? According to Spamhaus, a site that tracks the nefarious escapades of the web’s spammers, Public Spam Enemy #1 in the top ten is the Ukraine’s Alex Blood. Mr Blood is profiled as the operator of a ‘massive botnet and child-porn spam ring’. That’s pretty bad, right? That deserves a pretty hefty curse, right?

I opted for having his eyes put out or his hands chopped off. Or both.

I mentioned it to Nurse Myra.

“I’m a bit worried about this evil streak that’s coming out in you,” she said, in a spectacular example of the Pot Calling the Kettle Black.

“Why?” I said, “Spammers are the scum of the earth!”

“Even so, that’s rather extreme…”

“What about having his dick shrivel up and drop off?” I asked. “Painfully”.

She made a face.

“Well what would you suggest?” I asked. “A bad case of diarhhoea?”

No, this will never do! I need some serious hi-tech online voodoo to kick the butts of Alex Blood and his despicable cronies. Something that doesn’t come with prudish karmic warnings.

So, Faithful Minions of The Cow, this is your mission should you choose to accept it (when I say that, you understand I am just quoting Mission Impossible and that you have no choice, n’est ce pas?):

I want you all to go out and scour the web for online black magic. These lowlife scum must be stopped!

Dumb Card

In Australia, our risible government has just announced the genesis of a personal identification card for the citizenry, something this conservative party has been trying to instigate for over two decades. It has never been popular, but since this government seems to believe it is invincible (and indeed, I am beginning to wonder if the Australian populace has had a sudden plunge in IQ, fulfilling this belief), it has just issued an edict that the card will be so, and that, apparently, is that.

I don’t want to dwell on the implications of infringements of personal freedoms here – I’m sure the smart readers of The Cow are already aware of such perils – but instead highlight some of the continuing idiocy that seems rife when it comes to modern technology.

Specifically this claim: The card would have the Highest Levels of Security and that it would be Completely Safe.

Now. Politicians and other people who think we are still living in the 1950s hear me: NOTHING IS ‘SAFE‘ IN THE DIGITAL WORLD. NOTHING!

This pig-headed, arrogant and stupid belief is based on the supposition that all the smartest people out there are:

a: Employed by friendly government or legitimate business interests, and/or

b: Honest

This is demonstrably not so, and as we become more and more reliant on the digital world for our data storage, the risk becomes proportionately greater. At the moment things hang together because the ad hoc system is diffuse and evolving and new, and the exploiters are by and large amateurish and not organised. But slowly that’s changing, and as the recent Citibank frauds have shown the execution can be novel and simple and devastating.

If you trust your valuable data to the online world unaware of the risk, you are a fool. An incidence of massive online fraud of some kind is inevitable and imminent.

Aside from intentional criminal manipulation for actual monetary gain, the other commodity that has value in the digital world is information. I have exactly zero faith that a government like ours, which has demonstrated time and time again its complete failure to grok the online world, would have even the remotest chance of protecting valuable personal data from someone who really wanted it. Or, that once such data is accumulated, it will not be used for purposes other than those for which it was collected.

I believe a ‘Smart Card’, for that is what they are calling it, is a very dumb idea.

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