Why Net Neutrality Matters

TechDirt has a good example that should show you what is at stake with net neutrality rules.

For about $12, Sprint will soon let subscribers buy a wireless plan that only connects to Facebook.

For that same price, they could choose instead to connect only with Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest—or for $10 more, enjoy unlimited use of all four. Another $5 gets them unlimited streaming of a music app of their choice.

Think about how this plays out. If you run a website, in order for mobile users to actually be able to reach your site, you’re going to have to negotiate with the mobile carriers to get your site carried so that users can access it. It’s no longer enough to spend money on hosting and building a site, now you have to also pay the carriers. So long to independent voices on the web.

If this type of scenario sounds familiar, it’s basically what we see with cable tv now. All those conflicts that saw you lose a network for a few days or weeks here and there? Now imagine going through these negotiations for every single website? Yeah, no one wants that, except the ISPs who aren’t happy charging you for internet access, they also want to charge the internet for access to you, one website at a time.


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Deactivating AddThis

I’ve been using a couple of AddThis plugins on this site recently, in an effort to make it easier for folks to share things that they find interesting on the site, or to encourage folks to share or like the Facebook page, etc.

Tonight, however, I’m deactivating AddThis on the site. The reason? This article about tracking web visitors using canvas fingerprinting.

Rich Harris, chief executive of AddThis, said that the company began testing canvas fingerprinting earlier this year as a possible way to replace “cookies,” the traditional way that users are tracked, via text files installed on their computers.

“We’re looking for a cookie alternative,” Harris said in an interview.

Harris said the company considered the privacy implications of canvas fingerprinting before launching the test, but decided “this is well within the rules and regulations and laws and policies that we have.”

He added that the company has only used the data collected from canvas fingerprints for internal research and development. The company won’t use the data for ad targeting or personalization if users install the AddThis opt-out cookie on their computers, he said.

Arvind Narayanan, the computer science professor who led the Princeton research team, countered that forcing users to take AddThis at its word about how their data will be used, is “not the best privacy assurance.”

Look, I’m not particularly interested in tracking my readers. I am interested in having easy ways to help you spread the word about my sites, but there are plenty of other ways to do that. It’s not worth alienating those of you with privacy concerns, especially when I fall into that category myself!


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Lessons From Comcast Your People are the Company

I found it interesting that Comcast is publicly saying that they are “embarrassed” by the behavior of one of their custom support reps.

I mean, yeah, what else were they going to say?

But it does teach us something important about front line service employees. When Ryan Block and his wife dialed the toll free number in order to cancel their account, they weren’t calling the individual who answered the phone. They were calling Comcast, and to them, the person on the other end of the phone was Comcast. In looking at the various commentaries about the story, and the comments left by readers, you see the same assumption, this is Comcast acting this way. This is the way Comcast teaches it’s employees to act, this is official policy, and so on.

Now I have no idea if it is official policy at Comcast or not. I’ve never been a Comcast customer, (Although I will be when I get to Oregon, so much for having any choice!) but from what I’ve read and heard, it would really not be surprising if it was the policy. On the other hand, that doesn’t matter. In this instance, the customer service rep is acting as Comcast, so it is Comcast doing this.

I think we tend to forget this, and it doesn’t just apply to customer service jobs. As the guys at Manager Tools are fond of saying about bosses and their directs, to them, you are the company. When you share information, and maybe more importantly when you choose not to share information, to your directs it is the company doing that, not one individual. If you choose to not tell them something, it is the company deciding not to tell them something.

Stop and think about that. No really, stop and think about it.

That day some important news was coming down the pipeline from senior management but you put off sharing that information with your team because you wanted to get home early? They found out about it from somewhere else, and probably assumed that they were being left out of the announcement on purpose. That time you made a flippant remark about budgets being tightened = company is in trouble. You are the company. You are the source of information about the company to your directs.

Now think about the comments you make when you’re customer or partner facing? Yeah, you are the company to these folks, and if you run a company, those folks are the company to your customers. Look around at the people who work for you, how does that make you feel? If those aren’t the people you want representing your company, or if you’re not sure how well they are representing the company, you should probably spend some time doing something about that.


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Good Resource for WordPress Database Management

Found this article the other day, and as I read through it, I discovered that even for a WordPress oldhead like me, there were some good reminders on using PHPMyAdmin to get database backups quickly, restore backups and more importantly a hood reminder about occasionally going and optimizing the database tables.

Hadn’t done that in awhile, and now that the databases on my sites have been optimized, they’re using less space and the site does feel just a little bit snappier to respond.

File it away, never know when it might come in handy!


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Early Impressions of LinkedIn Publishing

linkedinAs you may know, I decided to give LinkedIn’s publishing platform a try after it was opened up to me, and many others.

To further the experiment, I also pushed out links to just about every social network I could, pointing to the LinkedIn piece. I pimped it more than I usually pimp a post from this site, though I will admit there have been a couple of posts that I pimped just as hard.

The results were pretty mixed. The number of people who saw the link on the LinkedIn site is a bit higher than the number who would see it just through the RSS feed, but about the same as the number who see it on Twitter, and Facebook, though I can’t know how many people actually see it on Twitter. The engagement level, based on the counts from the share buttons on the site, was about the same as one of those posts I feel really strongly about here and share widely.

All in all, I’d say, in terms of reaching a large number of people, it’s about running even to having a blog for most people. Obviously, your well-connected influencers (as defined by LinkedIn) see much, much more traffic to their LinkedIn posts. For the rest of us, I think it probably helps reach some folks who don’t use Facebook, Twitter or RSS feeds, but it’s hardly a world-changer.

As far as a publishing platform, my opinion is a bit of a mixed bag as well.
Continue reading

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Depression Stigma in IT?

Closeup fireI’ve been struggling with writing this for a couple of weeks now, but ever since I saw the article over on TechCrunch entitled We Need To Talk About Depression it has been on my mind.

The article talks about some of the stigma associated with depression and mental health in a startup company.

Building a startup is like climbing a mountain and being told you’ll only get the gear you need–harnesses, helmets, bottled oxygen–as you struggle toward the peak. Long hours away from family, responsibility to investors and users, and the fear of failure are extremely stressful and they sometimes coalesce into something more severe.
I’m not a startup founder, but as a TechCrunch writer I’ve gotten to know many, some quite well, and I’ve seen how entrepreneurship can put even the most optimistic people at risk for depression.

It got me thinking about the tech world in general. There are certain stereotypes about tech workers; we work long hours, have no social life, deal with highly stressful situations putting out all of the technical fires that happen within our organizations, etc. Those stereotypes, unfortunately, also turn into expectations. I have always thought that was one of the bigger problems with attracting females to an IT career, this sense that they would be expected to work long hours, be on call for emergencies, and non-emergencies, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, etc. (Granted, there are many other reasons why there are a lack of females in the tech world, but this is not an article about that)

Those expectations would make it difficult for someone dealing with depression as well. As John Grohol stated in response to the above article:

 Indeed. When you’re young and feel like you have endless energy, working 80 hours a week (and getting paid for 40) seems like a good idea. But it’s not. It eventually catches up to you, stresses you out, and throws your entire life out of balance.

Some of the articles written around this topic sound like thinly-veiled excuses for the discrimination and prejudice that many have experienced in startup cultures. That because these environments are stressful and demanding, it somehow excuses discrimination and stigma of mental illness.

Here’s where it gets personal to me. I’ve struggled with depression. I’ve attempted suicide before. Sure it’s been years, but this is something that I know I have to be on the lookout for every single day of my life. It’s also something that, while I freely discuss it on my other site, I don’t often discuss professionally. Continue reading

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