WordPress Blog cross-posting


It’s not often you can assume trust in relationships. It needs to be earned after all.

However, when I link to one of my other blog posts on this site, I don’t expect to be asked to approve the link. You’d think even if WordPress didn’t automatically trust incoming links from other WordPress.com blogs, it would at least trust links within my own domain.

There has to be a way to do this right?

Five Pints 090212


In a transport system which, while being cheap and reasonably convenient, is hardly good value, it’s probably no surprise that investment in enforcement appears to be higher on the agenda than investment in easy access to ways of paying fares. That City Rail Transit Police are glorified ticket inspectors dressed up as paramilitary police and have been known for overplaying their hand more than once doesn’t help my attitude toward them.

I won’t be sorry to see them go, but I hope the dollars which have been wasted on them are used to create a more convenient transport system for people in Sydney. How many integrated ticket systems would $34 million a year build and maintain? Instead I imagine those savings will be recouped by a State government whose promises are a year in the making with no solutions yet on the horizon.

Mind you City Rail are not alone in the idea of building services to cover the exceptions rather than the rule. It’s not a bad idea to aim for great customer experiences for your users. But I’m firmly of the belief you should focus your investments on making services easy to access, use and pay for rather than spending your money on prevention, retention and convention.

Every system will have a small percentage of so-called corner cases. While you want to make the customer experience of those events as pleasant as you can possibly make them, the last thing you want to be doing is spending unecessary amounts of time and money building complex systems to deal with them. Often a good dose of common sense is all that is required, but the fear of losing the customer appears to blind good investment logic and instead funds are diverted to build expensive systems to manage those case. And this has to be to the detriment of the majority of your users from whom you might derive a greater benefit by retaining them with better products and services.

Speaking of good customer experiences, it seems Path finally either understood what they did wrong or were pushed to do the right thing. I suspect the latter reading between the lines of their mealy mouthed apology.

As with other peoples money, other peoples privacy are things you never make mistakes with. One day a Social Network will come along which gets that without first taking advantage of their users. That other apps on the iPhone also access contacts data without advising users is also concerning. But just because the pecan pie is cooling on the windowsill, doesn’t mean you should take it.

Either way, expect Apple to soon issue an update to iOS restricting access to the address book. Is it an error on their behalf they allow such unfettered access now? Possibly. Does it show that some bright young things can’t be trusted with the family car? Absolutely.

One of my friends sites has a ranking for the best smartphones around. It was a surprise to find the worlds most popular smartphone only coming in third. Though it was probably not unexpected considering one of the key decision points was the size of the screen – as opposed to far more valuable metrics like screen quality, usability and battery life.

Anyway, just like with BetaMax, it looks like despite being only third best, the modern day VHS of the iPhone is winning. Not just on sales, but on revenue, and value retention. Why are consumers always wrong, don’t they know this is the future of the Smartphone?

On an upbeat note to finish, today saw the launch of the fabulous new version of my favourite twitter application. As with any great application, Tweetbot kept it’s core functionality and added some little tweaks which make such a big difference to the experience. And it’s on the iPad now too. Such a disgrace though that we have to spend all that extra cash to get the same app on another platform though.

Is your Twitter account sending Spam DMs?

If your Twitter account is where you talk to your customers or promote your business, the last thing you want the account to be known for is sending controversial tweets or DM spamming those who follow your account.

I’ve noted the amount of DM spam is on the rise again recently, following a long time between drinks, but thankfully there are some simple steps you can take to prevent your hard work from being compromised.

  1. Remove Applications which are connected to your Twitter account.
    In my experience giving authorisation to a dodgy app or website is the primary cause of a hack. Much of the relationships you build online are based upon trust, so make sure you first trust any service which wants to connect to your twitter account.
  2. Change your twitter password regularly.
    It’s good practice to change passwords on any service every 90 days or so, and while your twitter account wouldn’t usually contain any compromising information, you don’t want to be one of those embarrassed by the wrong (or even the right) people using your account.

That’s it.

The Security company Sophos just shared a post with similar guidance. The author prioritises running anti-spyware and keylogger checks on your computer. But I think that’s got little relation to a specific hack of your twitter account. If you are finding keyloggers or spyware on your computer it’s symptomatic of a larger problem.

We can only hope as twitter grows they revert to being wary of unfettered account creation, mention spam and Application connection. But as long as twitter continues with a reactive process for shutting down spammers, we’ll need to be on our guard.

UPDATE: Webroot are reporting HTTPS has become the default protocol for contacting twitter on the web. It may not solve all the problems, but it’s certainly no harm.

Instead of doing the job you were hired to do

Many years ago, I translated from a pre-press and design into Software Development. At both jobs I worked as part of a bigger picture. In other words, our little band was just a small part of a major conglomerate. But we shared premises with manufacturing and warehousing and that meant there was a requirement to be ISO 9000 compliant at both sites.

In both cases we had little to do with the manufacturing but Process doesn’t discriminate. Process is all about catering for the Lowest Common Denominator, so we needed to be “compliant” with it. And take the time to learn it, and write ours, and maintain said compliancy.

Instead of doing the jobs we were hired to do.

From my lounge chair, the modern take on “laws” seems to apply similar logic. It’s a well known fact that you attract people to work in specialist skills areas like healthcare and education, you need set in stone “penalties” when minor “offences” might be committed by a tiny percentage of staff.

In 2011 it’s absolutely essential to ensure highly trained individuals have laws to prevent them from using their common sense to do their job right. To make people whose vocation it is to care for people afraid of fines potentially equal to an Annual Salary before they even start working.

And driving them away from doing the jobs they were trained to do.

Don’t get me wrong, I respect processes and laws. In large organisations processes are important to help people do their jobs. In countries, indeed the world, laws are required to ensure the majority of us have a series of guides to help us decide from right or wrong.

Except when compliance with processes and laws become people’s jobs. When highly skilled, highly trained individuals are becoming deskilled due to spending greater and greater percentages of their time understanding and trying to follow process.

Using their time and skills to report on rather than do the job they are competent at.

Modern capitalist theology tells us that we should be aspirational, get educated and get rich. So in a world where we appear to have sent all those jobs which rely on process overseas, perhaps it’s time for the aspirationally educated to push back on the lack of trust inherent in the obsession with controlling everything down to a crossed t.

Instead maybe we can use the saved time to produce great ideas, pay more attention to people under our care and provide excellent services.

Whispers from Egypt or Revolutions of Trust?

In Egypt today we see the possibility of Social Change as demanded by many of the People following a lengthy pseudo-democratic dictatorship. We see this because as well the mainstream media, many on the Internet – especially on Twitter and Facebook – are sharing updates of events on the ground. Our trusted circle our friends are sharing updates from others who they trust, or at least we hope they trust, before we update.

As Egypt is blocking its Mobile Networks and the Internet in order to “maintain order”, how can we trust who is sharing what with us, when it was sent, where it was sent from and if there is any sinister motivation behind the sharing of certain information.

Mark Pesce said in his Keynote Address to linux.conf.au yesterday:

When we see our friends smoking, we want to smoke.  We want to fit in.  We want to be cool.  That’s what it feels like inside our minds, but really, we just want to imitate.  We see something, and we want to do it.

So we retweet, share links, add commentary. Be part of the in-crowd, join in on the conversation. But what are the limits to this mimicry? Pesce further says:

one needs to choose one’s friends carefully…They are puppet masters, pulling your strings, even if they are blissfully unaware of the power they have over you – or the power that you have over them.

And here is the rub with relationships we have built on twitter or Facebook. How well do we really know some of the people we retweet or share information from? How much trust have they earned that we sub-conciously retweet their every important tweet?

Recently we’ve had an example where in London where someone tweeted that they were “Shooting” an Ad for a fizzy drink company in Oxford Circus. Within minutes, people were asking if there was a Gun Alert, and not long after that the question mark had been dropped and soon enough people were being told stay inside as there may be terrorists.

Since the events recently in Tunisia we’ve had every man and his dog in the Media; Demand, Social or Otherwise, trying to associate technologies as diverse as Facebook and Wikileaks to the “revolution”. There’s no doubt they had some impact on the final moments of said revolution, and just as we saw in the London example and are presently seeing in Egypt, they are perfect ways of quickly communicating information, correct or otherwise, not just one-to-one as traditional communications like the Phone or SMS is, but to the world.

Instead of trying to claim that this is “the first Facebook or twitter revolution” perhaps we should instead be questioning the nature of some of the information which is being shared. We should be asking where’s the curation? Where’s the verification? How far are you stretching your trust? At what point do you stop mimicing the behaviour of the members of your Social Graph?

Returning to the situation in London last week, it’s important to note from the tweets that many of them were mentioning (adding an @) reputable Media organisations to alert them of the “threat” going down(and even criticising them for not picking up the story). Yet none of those organisations joined in the self-replicating orgy of misinformation. And if I check my own retweet feed in twitter just now, I note the prevalence of some of the Mainstream News organisations like CNN, The Guardian and Al-Jazeera. Perhaps it is that trust is rising to the top or maybe the attempts at blocking the internet have successfully reduced the amount of on the ground information which I recall so well from Iran and Mumbai during those terrible days.

It would be remiss of me to acknowledge that some people haven’t learned the requirement to trust sources or verify them before passing on Chinese Whispers. Especially after the experience of Mumbai in 2009. But in general, and as Mr. Pesce wrote: we have a great

facility for mimesis…as broadly flexible as the one we have for language

So my challenge is then to decide how can I climb away from this mimicry? And rather than pointing fingers at what the Media and others should be doing, asking, how can I step back from what is going on in the World and assess the source before joining in? When I retweet something on Twitter just because it looks like something I *believe* in, am I any different from the Children in last weeks This American Life who were lapping up the pre-Reagan propaganda on Grenada or the locked on Fianna Faíl voters in Ireland who will still cast a ballot for them in the upcoming General Election as if the last three years never existed?

As we sit in our comfortable chairs watching the events of Egypt unfold on Cable TV and in Social Media we need to forge our own revolution of trust. As Mainstream media rushes to embrace and attempt to dominate news on Social Media, it is beholden on those of us who use Social Media regularly to better validate the information we are sharing, apply some critical thinking to what we are reading, ensure we are getting the full story and then share the knowledge to those who trust us.

Continue with our mimicry and we better get used to even more Chinese Whispers in our circles of trust.

Breach of Trust

Recently I wrote about trust in some detail.

Today I wrote about a breach of trust. Except I didn’t call it that at the time. However as the day went on, I eventually realised this was exactly what it was.

pondering the vagaries of trust and how quickly it breaks downTue Jul 13 05:46:15 via Digsby

It felt like a big step to take but I eventually realised that, just as with a breakdown in trust in any relationship, one thing is often enough to cause trust to be breached. And while the trust I described in Continue reading

Foursquare Was Leaking Your Data, Too Busy With Funding To Tell You – The Consumerist

We think the first comment on the apology post sort of sums up the way people feel about this issue:

Translation: A smart hacker we won’t credit (Jesper Andersen) totally busted us violating our privacy policy, but we didn’t say anything until after we cashed the $20m check and we hoped it would just go away. But a blogger e-mailed our funders so we had to put in a real fix this a.m. and write this blog post.

For more about the security hole, check out Wired’s original article.

I like Foursquare, and I’m not sure how important the data which was being leaked is. However, that isn’t the point. For a small business the most important thing is building trust with your users. This is a breach of trust.

They have work to do win it back.

The rush to Location Based Services in the online space is a potential legal and PR nightmare for companies. I, for one, would like to be absolutely certain of the benefits and our ability to minimise the risks before I would go down that route.

Show me a successful relationship without Trust

When I started in University, there were these little beige boxes with a built in screen over in the corner of the Typesetting room. 5 years after the first Apple Macintosh, personal computers were making their way into the training establishments for future newspaper and publishing industry employees.

Naturally most of the class avoided them. It was 1989 after all and in my experience most computers were still mainly for games or typing using Wordstar and DOS or Windows 3 if you were lucky. One or two significant others and I, however, did not. We taught ourselves Pagemaker 3.0, QuarkXPress 1.0 and Illustrator among other ways of doing things.

We drew and wrote things on that tiny screen, not necessarily because it was easier, but because it was different. And we grew to trust that little Mac Classic so much that even when we got fancy LCIIIs and Quadra 800s for the main class we still went back to it.

This week I talked with a friend about reasons why we buy certain products. Especially when we continually go back to the same brands. Even when those companies become surrounded by earned and unearned controversy.

I told him I believed it’s because we trusted what we were getting. I understand there is a bit more to it than that – value and cost springs to mind – especially on smaller ticket items. But I firmly believe trust is a large reason for sticking with a product. Trust in a brand, trust in the service, trust in the dependability of their products.

Similarly, I trust my coffee shop to give me the coffee the way they know I like it in the morning. Others might dispute my rationale that it’s the best coffee in Sydney. But I know I’m getting what I want and trust them to continue take care of my tastebuds.

Like us all, I’m a creature of habit. So what if we’re all wired subtly differently, we all have habits we find difficult to let go of. Otherwise, how can we explain our ongoing resistance to change, despite the knowledge that all things must, in the end, change?

While I was chatting about my first few weeks in college over a cup of coffee with a friend. I recalled how that time involved learning how to use the antiquated technology that was still in wide use in the Newspaper industry in 1989. Seven Inch Green screens. Eight inch floppy disks. Processing units the size of a Fiat 500.

Just so we could enter and tag text.

I adore those machines for teaching me my understanding of tagging, but not for being the key piece of a workflow which seemed idiotic even to a 17 year old know it all.

That those machines were still in wide use in the late 80’s seems odd to us now. But if you understood the industry they served you’d know it was probably because in a time of a slow adoption of new technology and in an industry even slower to move, they provided an easier and cheaper way of producing newspapers than traditional linotype and their ilk had become. Remember there were still plenty of hot metal printing shops in operation past 1989.

But those systems were also built and supported by companies such as Linotype. The same brand, with existing Customer Service and Support machinery. And a long history in the publishing and printing industry. A different product, yes, but a company trusted by that large industry with many of its key stakeholders resistant to change.

More than 20 years later, as we move into the second decade of the 21st century, it’s interesting to see similar trust patterns continue with new products in the consumer world. Those computers have shrunk even smaller than the MacClassic I described earlier and become consumer devices. Used in active and passive ways to assist us in enjoying our cosseted lifestyles. From the digital clock to the ATM to the car you drive, computers are in practically everything we touch.

The problem with most of these devices which make our lives easier is that we really don’t trust them. While we enjoy the benefits they bring to us, we expect them to fail us by breaking down at any moment. We rejoice when something survives past its warranty date, yet still buy cheap no name products and feel let down when they fail. Does that sound like a contradiction? Absolutely!

Many of us strive to buy certain products because we trust when we go to use them they will work. This is especially important for those things we don’t use too often. And when they don’t we trust the companies which make them to think it worthwhile to at least attempt fix them. In our consumer “buy, use and discard” society, it’s becoming more and more unusual to find products and services to buy which you can invest that type of trust in.

Our Bosch washing machine has been going for 8 years without a problem and our Bosch dishwasher (even older) survives manfully on one successful service call.

I don’t think it is a surprise then that Bosch use “Invented for Life” as their motto. It’s an interesting corporate statement, but considering their product quality, service and support perhaps apt. I take two meanings from it – we want you to use our products in your life and we want you to use our products for life.

So far not only do they say it, but when you see tradies trusting their power tools and our own experiences, I’m thinking its a reasonably safe bet you’ll get what they promise.

The quote “To be trusted is a greater compliment than being loved” by the Scottish Author and Poet George McDonald was shared this week on twitter and I was immediately struck by it. A very powerful statement, I think we’ll agree.

Thinking about this and talking with my wife, I realised that while personal relationships are built on many things, in the end trust grows to becomes the backbone of that relationship. Meeting for coffee or down the pub or chatting online are important relationship starters, but in the end are just an important habit or a ritual which we enjoy with each other.

Listening to others, taking what they say as truth or at least accepting their arguments despite disagreement. Accepting recommendations – those things are all built on trust.

The same can be said for relationships like marriage. Even those without a great deal of love often stay together because of force of habit. But those same relationships would disintegrate without trust.

An so in a week when Google announce their latest update to the Android operating system and have been in trouble for collecting our Private data as it was being sent over unsecured Wi-Fi connections, trust is on my mind when it comes to technology companies. And I’m not even going to mention a certain other online service.

Salesforce seem to understand the importance of being trusted by their users. Providing “real-time information on system performance and security” for their customers 24/7 is obviously a must have for the services which they provide. But why should it be limited to companies who operate exclusively on the internet?

I use Google services, and I love their Gmail and Search products, though I constantly question how they use the information I share with them and which they then use to make their profits.

And even though, on the face of it, those issues with Privacy are a completely different business to the Mobile Phone business, the reduction in trust of a company overall caused by recent admissions is going to be unhelpful to them. For example it’s not going to help convince me or anyone else to switch to the Phones supplied by Google’s Android Partners in the near future.

Naturally, they already have some way to go to convince many of us to trust their obviously clever and innovative products. They have no history with us to prove they can provide us with the dependability, reliability and service we have with existing products. For myself, I’m happy with what I currently use and most importantly what I currently use has not done anything to break my trust.

Like that MacClassic of 21 years ago, companies need to put something in my path at a time perfect enough to attract my attention and break my existing habits or create new ones. But even if they do that, those organisations which I do trust, like Apple and Bosch will still need to give me a series of bad customer experiences, either in service or product quality, to destroy that trust in order for me to even consider casting my net for alternatives.

As I see it recently only iPad (launching this week in Australia) has entered the market as a new habit creator of the form I mention above. Just as those in the publishing world who cast aspersions on the abilities of Desktop computers to replace the known systems back in the 1980’s were wrong, I believe the trust relationship Apple have built up in the marketplace for building reliable, usable products allied with good customer service will allow iPad to succeed.

However, it’s easy to make your fans happy, its another thing to have a sustainable level of reliability. Unless Apple proves the iPad habit changer is also worth trusting or Google and their vendors show that with Android they have a trusted habit breaker, it’ll be some time before we can say if either Product has legs built upon a trust well earned.