Friday, December 28, 2018

go home tumblr, you're drunk

Tumblr's new community guidelines came in earlier this month, and have been somewhat dissected already, of course. I had assumed that my largely anodyne tumblr (I use it as a basic scrap-book) had been passed over by the beady electric eye of image-analysis. Not so. Today I had a message about violating community guidelines. Really, Tumblr?

Yes, really. Presumably this one is violating guidelines for, I don't know, not really being funny any more? Appeal.

Ye-es. It does look a bit disturbing. Presumably all those little eyes triggered something, somewhere... sadly you can't see the jittering animation on this clip, which is quite nasty, but I'm still inclined to label this as NOT ADULT CONTENT.

Oh, but I've saved the best for last:

It's a giant river salamander, in case you're wondering.

Curiously, my other Tumblr, lesbians-in-flightsuits, has not triggered any warnings at all. Which is a bit of a surprise, as it's a fashion tumblr featuring a fair amount of experimental couture.

Thursday, November 08, 2018

and the end point of the data breaches is this

Here and there, emails are squeaking through my spam filter. A basic scam comes in auto-translated wonkspeak, an email address and password combination that feels like it came from the dawn of time, but that was probably only 5-6 years ago. Threats, an amusing spamster name (Tiphanie Hatch is my favourite so far) and a demand for money.

I reported it (like you should - I always do) and was told that most people thought that the password belonged to a site I didn't even remember being breached. Which just goes to show, your data is out there. Old, out-of-date, inaccurate, clumsy. But someone has crammed it into a half-working database that is now algorhythmically churning out threats in your general direction with what you fervently hope is minimal human intervention (though it is a sad truth that there are still a lot of content-related areas of work where humanskill copy-across can get through the job faster than writing programmes enough to automate it, so possibly there's a sad barn full of data-monkeys following a how-to script somewhere).

This scam is designed to ensnare moderately prosperous and easily embarrassed workers with no technical skills whatsover who have surfed porn sites at their workplace. I can't imagine that this is a heavily populated marketing persona, but this is a long way from my area of expertise, so maybe I'm wrong.

The threats are all delivered in chummy wink-wink speak:
I am in shock of your fantasies! I've never seen anything like this! I did not even know that SUCH content could be so exciting! So, when you had fun on piquant sites (you know what I mean!) I made screenshot! First part shows the video you were watching (you've got a nice taste ; )
The message is peppered with random techspeak, like someone vomiting up an aside from a tech thriller novella:
My Trojan have auto alert Antiviruses do not help against modern malicious code I installed a rat software i have a special pixel in this mail your internet browser started functioning as a RDP having a keylogger
The threats are filleted into incomprehensibility, and they follow the carpark-beggar pattern of asking for weirdly precise amounts of money. In bitcoin, of course, that bastion of respectability.
if i don't receive the BitCoins, i definitely will send out your video to all of your contacts including members of your family, colleagues, and many others ... if you need evidence, reply Yes! and i definitely will send your video to your 6 contacts. 
I'm tickled, but I also know about the dark side of all this. The people who have become ensnared, have tumbled into blackmail, debt and despair, who have killed themslves rather than face the embarrassment of seeking help, often the more vulnerable people, but not always. Sometimes they're highly functioning people who responded for a laugh and got caught up in layers and layers of bullshit that go all they way down to the dark, the desperate, the endebted and the enslaved and realised that it's not funny, after all. Not funny at all. 

Monday, August 27, 2018

thinking of setting up a myspace again

I'm in a band (woo-hoo) and we have of course done the usual of setting up an Instagram and a Twitter and a Facebook and a Bandcamp but in the way of these things I'm struggling to engage. It's not that the band doesn't have a voice and aesthetic (it does) or that I don't like it (it's awesome; everything about it is awesome) but something deep in the architecture of the platforms. Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Bandcamp. Pictures, words, people, stuff. Where is the music?

Music-first social networking sites struggle. I remember the giddy delight at Soundcloud, but it's struggled to move with the times or feel properly social, and we haven't even set up one for this band. The last band, for which I provided various services over the years, had one. That was during its high years.  Whatever became of Audioboo? I used to fill it with snippets of found sound and birdsong. Now it's Audioboom and just another small scale online publisher. Last FM, RCRDLBL, emusic, there was even a DJ-ing one where you played at being a radio host and I actually managed to make never-met network-buddies through its delicious combination of blunt track-matching algorithms, and I-love-this interaction formats. All gone.

So of course I got to thinking about the first great social networking site that got music right. Myspace. Like so many, my data echo is still sat there in the empty halls, waiting for the winds of fashion and legislation to let in a shaft of light, to crack the door once more. I imagine Myspace Tom, grizzled and sat on his dusty throne, looking up confused as the music fans come flooding back, looking for their home online, that they still don't have, not really.

But of course, Myspace isn't what it once was, and Tom is doing other things now. We could do it though, couldn't we? Set up a Myspace for the band, like it's 2005 all over again?

Yeah, probably not.

Thursday, August 09, 2018

not going to turn off my ad-blocker, sorry

Just this year, the whining to turn off your ad-blocker has really been cresting. "Support your local newspaper" says one "our advertising revenue is a vital income source" says another. I'm a reasonable person, and I understand their point. Sure, let's turn off the ad-blocker. 

Particularly on local news sites, this is quite a serious mistake. Adverts load slowly, blocking the news story as they load, as they are primed to load before other content. They freeze the browser. Sometimes they do that so hard that everything crashes, or you have to go to task manager to kill the browser, clear cookies, and start all over again. I particularly notice this at work, where on one of my browsers ad-blockers are not actionable and I need to look at local news sites. Typically I'll leave a few pages loading while I go off and do something else on another tab. But I'd better not be doing anything important, as this can easily crash the entire browser.

The reason people block ads on the internet is not because they hate you and want to kill your income streams. That's your motivation, not theirs. The reason people block online adverts is because they are shit. They break your browser. They stop information loading. They flash in hypnotic, migraine-inducing colours at the periphery of what you're reading. They simper click-bait into your peripheral vision. They start talking over the video you're watching (this is especially a feature of American news-sites).

Darlings, you are missing the point. You want me to turn off the ad blocker. I'd love to turn off the ad blocker. I love adverts. They're one of my favourite art forms. Seriously, when I was a kid I used to collect Silk Cut adverts and stick them on my wall.

But you can't watch an advert when it's busy breaking the furniture.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

surreal follower suggestions

I kind of know why I was suggested this account to follow. But it still raised an eyebrow when the suggestion came:

Particularly when the bio stated firmly "For UK farmers/professionals (e.g. vets) only.". 

But, they're promoting their account (fair enough) and my account (this is a work account, which promotes apprenticeship opportunities, including occasionally some on pig farms) does have a faint acquaintance with modern pig farming. I've posted on pig farmer apprenticeships. I'm probably even following a couple of local farms that regularly have vacancies for young workers.

I didn't follow this account though; it's a step too far removed.  

Monday, July 02, 2018

life on the post-GDPR internet

Ever since GDPR landed, there has been an explosion of websites with full-page privacy flashes on the way in, redirects to unescapable permissions pages and from some providers, denial pages, either subtle (cookie-enforced trap-pages that cannot be passed), deniable (go to my plain-text version!!!!) or outright ("we have decided not to serve users within the European Union").

None of this is coming across as protecting the user, particularly as all those "solutions" bar the outright denial involve granting the sites more rights and permissions than they were previously exercising while withdrawing service to a larger or greater extent. So added to all the sites behind browser-buggering levels of advertising, undismissable startup flashes and paywalls, we now have to add all the sites that got into a strop over GDPR, and in their excitement let their legal and advertising staff trample over their UX and content workers in their rush to smack their users round the head repeatedly while yelling "look what you made us do!!!!!".

Because this is what it feels like. Come on, the world. Plenty of providers were able to look at GDPR, shrug and carry on, because that was what was being done already. No need to go off on a hysterical tizzy, guys - particularly as the horse has bolted here. My data is spattered through your servers, and no amount of privacy notices is going to change that, not now, not tomorrow and not for the future. particularly as I am a fully signed up Google-tithed, LJ-using, open Twitter account carrying, eyes-open-on-Instagram member of the open web.

It's not even shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted, It's more like repeatedly slamming the barn door in my face while all my stuff is already strewn all over the grass outside.

Just. Stop it.

Thursday, June 07, 2018

and then the menus went blank

Mystery meat navigation underwent a whole new world of strangeness as I opened my seldom-used video programme in order to do a fairly normal bit of video editing. I use an old version of Premiere Elements (like many large workplaces we have a long process of license acquisition, safety checking, application virtualisation etc.) which isn't great but I don't need anything very clever, of course.

Except that today, the menus had mostly not loaded.

I've been using computer programmes for long enough that I can take a rough guess at where a menu item might be and basically click in the dark. So I edited and published. vaguely aware of a weird prickle of nostalgia.

I was also around for the early web, before the rise of usability, back when menus and navigation were seen as spaces for creativity and challenge rather than user coddling/tweaking/poking/peeping/pumping. People got cross about that, as I recall, but I always quite liked a nice slice of mystery meat navigation - menus that flickered in and out of existence, changed into strange things, crawled around the screen, and so on.

Well, I'd better like it, as that's what I've got now. After two afternoons of fix-reinstall cycles, deleting local and global profiles, and after I briefly showed a proper programme load on a fresh machine, an entire machine swap-out... it can't be fixed.

So while I'm waiting for a new version of Premiere to work through the approval and virtualization process, I'm back to stabbing in the dark.

Click, click, click.