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A Possible Goodbye to the Dark Web

June 7, 2016

Should the Dark Web be eradicated? An article from Mic weighs in with an editorial entitled, Shutting Down the Dark Web Is a Plainly Absurd Idea From Start to Finish. Where is this idea coming from? Apparently 71 percent of internet users believe the Dark Web “should be shut down”. This statistic is according to a survey of over 24,000 people from Canadian think tank Centre for International Governance Innovation. The Mic article takes issue with the concept that the Dark Web could be “shut down”,

“The Dark Net, or Deep Web or a dozen other names, isn’t a single set of sites so much as a network of sites that you need special protocols or software in order to find. Shutting down the network would mean shutting down every site and relay. In the case of the private web browser Tor, this means simultaneously shutting down over 7,000 secret nodes worldwide. The combined governments of various countries have enough trouble keeping the Pirate Bay from operating right on the open web, never mind trying to shut down an entire network of sites with encrypted communications and hidden IP addresses hosted worldwide.”

The feasibility of shutting down the Dark Web is also complicated by the fact that there are multiple networks, such as Tor, Freenet or I2P, that allow Dark Web access. Of course, there is also the issue, as the article acknowledges, that many uses of the Dark Web are benign or even to further human rights causes. We appreciated a similar article from Softpedia, which pointed to the negative public perception stemming from media coverage of the takedown child pornography and drug sales site takedowns. It’s hard to know what isn’t reported in mainstream media.

 

Megan Feil, June 7, 2016

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Turn to Unsplash for Uncommon Free Photos

June 7, 2016

Stock photos can be so, well, stock. However, Killer Startups points to a solution in, “Today’s Killer Startup: Unsplash.” Reviewer Emma McGowan already enjoyed the site for its beautiful free photos, with new ones posted every day. She especially loves that their pictures do not resemble your typical stock photos. The site’s latest updates make it even more useful. She writes:

“The new version has expanded to include lovely, searchable collections. The themes range from conceptual (‘Pure Color’) to very specific (‘Coffee Shops’). All of the photos are free to use on whatever project you want. I can personally guarantee that all of your work will look so much better than if you went with the usual crappy free options.

“Now if you want to scroll through beautiful images a la old-school Unsplash, you can totally still do that too. The main page is still populated with a seemingly never ending roll of photos, and there’s also a ‘new’ tab where you can check out the latest and greatest additions to the collection. However, I really can’t get enough of the Collections, both as a way to browse beautiful artwork and to more easily locate images for blog posts.”

So, if you have a need for free images, avoid the problems found in your average stock photography, which can range from simple insipidness to reinforcing stereotypes and misconceptions. Go for something different at Unsplash. Based in Montreal, the site launched in 2013. As of this writing, they happen to be hiring (and will consider remote workers).

 

Cynthia Murrell, June 7, 2016

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

The Scottish Philosopher in Silicon Valley

June 6, 2016

When Alistair Duff, professor of information society and policy at Scotland’s Edinburgh Napier University, checked out Silicon Valley, he identified several disturbing aspects of the prevailing tech scene. The Atlantic’s Kevah Waddell interviews the professor in, “The Information Revolution’s Dark Turn.”

The article reminds us that, just after World War II, the idealistic “information revolution” produced many valuable tools and improved much about our lives. Now, however, the Silicon-Valley-centered tech scene has turned corporate, data-hungry, and self-serving. Or, as Duff puts it, we are now seeing “the domination of information technology over human beings, and the subordination of people to a technological imperative.”

Waddell and Duff discuss the professor’s Normative Theory of the Information Society; the potential for information technology to improve society; privacy tradeoffs; treatment of workers; workplace diversity; and his preference that tech companies (like Apple) more readily defer to government agencies (like the FBI). Regarding that last point, it is worth noting Duff’s stance against the “anti-statism” he believes permeates Silicon Valley, and his estimation that “justice” outranks “freedom” as a social consideration.

Waddell asks Duff what a tech hub should look like, if Silicon Valley is such a poor example. The professor responds:

“It would look more like Scandinavia than Silicon Valley. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t develop the tech industry—we can learn a massive amount from Silicon Valley….

“But what we shouldn’t do is incorporate the abuse of the boundary between work and home, we should treat people with respect, we should have integrated workforces. A study came out that only 2 percent of Google’s, Yahoo’s, and a couple of other top companies’ workforces were black. Twelve percent of the U.S. population is black, so that is not good, is it? I’m not saying they discriminate overtly against black people—I very much doubt that—but they’re not doing enough to change things.

“We need the best of Silicon Valley and the best of European social democracy, combined into a new type of tech cluster.

“There’s a book by Manuel Castells and Pekka Himanen called The Information Society and the Welfare State: The Finnish Model, which argues that you can have a different type of information society from the libertarian, winner-takes-all model pioneered in Silicon Valley. You can have a more human, a more proportioned, a tamer information society like we’ve seen in Finland.”

Duff goes on to say that the state should absolutely be involved in building the information society, a concept that goes over much better in Europe than in the U.S. He points to Japan as a country which has built a successful information society with guidance from the state. See the interview for more of Professor Duff’s observations.

 

Cynthia Murrell, June 6, 2016

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Play Search the Game

March 25, 2016

Within the past few years, gamers have had the privilege to easily play brand new games as well as the old classics.  Nearly all of the games ever programmed are available through various channels from Steam, simulator, to system emulator.  While it is easy to locate a game if you know the name, main character, or even the gaming system, but with the thousands of games available maybe you want to save time and not have use a search engine.  Good news, everyone!

Sofotex, a free software download Web site, has a unique piece of freeware that you will probably want to download if you are a gamer. Igrulka is a search engine app programmed to search only games.  Here is the official description:

Igrulka is a unique software that helps you to search, find and play millions of games in the network.

“Once you download the installer, all you have to do is go to the download location on your computer and install the app.

Igrulka allows you to search for the games that you love either according to the categories they are in or by name. For example, you get games in the shooter, arcade, action, puzzle or racing games categories among many others.

If you would like to see more details about the available games, their names as well as their descriptions, all you have to do is hover over them using your mouse as shown below. Choose the game you want to play and click on it.”

According to the description, it looks like Igrulka searches through free games and perhaps the classics from systems.  In order to find out what Irgulka can do, download and play search results roulette.

 

Whitney Grace, March 25, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

 

Facebook: In the Spotlight

March 7, 2016

A Facebook executive found that the party-loving Brazilians were not full of fun recently. A Facebook executive was detained without samba music. (See “Facebook Executive Jailed in Brazil.”)

Also interesting was “Facebook Hit With German Antitrust Investigation Over User Terms.” The write up reported:

The German federal competition authority has opened an investigation into Facebook over what it suspects is “an abusive imposition of unfair conditions on users.”

The friction between governments and widely used American software systems and services appears to be increasing.

The only challenge will be figuring how to put the horse back in the barn. The barn burned and apartments and a Chuck E Cheese have been built on the once fallow land.

Facebook was set up in 2004. That works out to more than a decade of development. How often are complexes torn down in a modern digital city? Municipal bureaucracies often react slowly and in often confusing ways.

Stephen E Arnold, March 7, 2016

LinkedIn: Looking for Its Next Gig?

February 29, 2016

I signed up for the free LinkedIn years ago. I don’t do too much LinkedIn surfing. I do delete the email I get from the company. I had one of the goslings post a list of my articles to see what would happen. (Results of the test: Nothing happened.) I find it amusing that marketers and PR “professionals” want to be my LinkedIn contact. I used to write these folks and ask, “Why do you want to be my LinkedIn friend?” (Results of the test: No one writes back.) Now you know why I don’t do much LinkedIn surfing. No, I don’t read the musings of the firm’s “thought leaders.”

I did read “LinkedIn Problems Run Deeper Than Valuation.” The write up informed me of this interesting “assertion”:

The problem stems from each of the company’s revenue streams, which ultimately diminish the business value of using the service. Whether it’s being paid to promote content, focusing on sales and recruitment over other professions, or interruptive advertising, these streams incentivize poor behavior by individual users on the site.

I like that “poor behavior” and the incentive angle. The concrete foundation of LinkedIn, it seems to me, is spam.

The company, according to the write up, has a reason to face each day with a big smile:

The company still has assets that are the envy of any tech company — a vast user base and a wealth of content to exploit.

As Yahoo’s publishing experiment demonstrates, content may not be enough.

I think the larger issue is the fact that social networks often lose their stickiness after a period of time. Google’s social efforts seem to mirror the challenges of MySpace. LinkedIn may find itself trapped by its own job hunting system choked with marketers’ leading thoughts.

Why not drive for Uber, Lyft, or Amazon? Less spam and probably a shorter path to some real cash. By the way, did you ever try to locate something using the company’s search engine? Quite a piece of work is that.

Stephen E Arnold, February 29, 2016

Hip SXSW Media Conference to Probe the Dark Social

February 4, 2016

This year’s SXSW Conferences & Festivals will be exploring the world of Dark Social, a term introduced by The Atlantic senior editor Alexis C. Madrigal in “Dark Social: We Have the Whole History of the Web Wrong.”

In a SWSX interview, Marc Jensen, Chief Technology Officer of space150 and his associate Greg Swan, Vice President of Public Relations talked about Dark Social and the perception of privacy. They also shared their thoughts on the shift from traditional social sites such as Facebook and Twitter  to more alluring Dark Social. In my view their main point was:

This [no referrer data] means that this vast trove of social traffic is essentially invisible to most analytics programs. I call it Dark Social. It shows up variously in programs as “direct” or “typed/bookmarked” traffic, which implies to many site owners that you actually have a bookmark or typed in www.theatlantic.com into your browser. But that’s not actually what’s happening a lot of the time. Most of the time, someone Gchatted someone a link, or it came in on a big email distribution list, or your dad sent it to you. Nonetheless, the idea that “social networks” and “social media” sites created a social web is pervasive. Everyone behaves as if the traffic your stories receive from the social networks (Facebook, Reddit, Twitter, StumbleUpon) is the same as all of your social traffic.

Bob Lefsetz speaks about the differences in social behaviors in The Lefsetz Letter states:

Oldsters are rarely early adopters. They know the value of money, they’re set in their ways. For all the old bloviators bemoaning the loss of privacy online, it’s the kids who got the memo, that if they post pictures of illicit activity they might not get a job in the future. Kids believe in evanescence, oldsters believe in the permanent record.

These differences in social behavior are not only generational, they are transformational. Children and young adults want the freedom to say and do as they please, particularly when it comes to social sites. The more ephemeral the site, the less inhibited they feel. There is a sense of false safety on Snapchat, WeChat and WhatsApp then there is on Facebook or Twitter.Are young people soon to be pawns in a dangerous game of criminal “pickle?”

Dark Social network more likely than not will become breeding grounds for predators. Dark Social could prove to be one of the most powerful tools in criminal’s toolkit. This begs the question: Do the benefits of privacy outweigh the dangers of corruption?

Martin A. Matisoff, MSc, February 4, 2016

Google Plus or Is It +: Try and Trying Again

November 18, 2015

I read a pride of write ups about Google Plus or is it Google +. Searching for odd ball characters like “+” or “^” adds some spice to the researcher’s life.

A representative article is “Google Isn’t Giving Up on Its Social Networking Ghost Town Google +.” That’s an important idea. Google has been struggling with the Facebook type service since the days of Orkut.

Google, unlike Facebook, comes at social from the search and retrieval angle spiced with a healthy dependency on online advertising juice. Facebook originated with an idea appealing to lonely folks in a dorm.

According to the write up:

the web giant has just given the service a complete overhaul on iOS, Android and the web. The new design focuses on “collections” and “communities”, positioning Google+ as a network dedicated to interests, rather than a personal service. Its layout has also been simplified and better optimized for mobile.

Some of the comments on Hacker News were quite interesting. Here are three:

Dredmorbius: Google have been tremendously coy about what their success metrics for G+ are, though they’ve played highly disingenuous all-but-utterly-fake numbers games in playing up “engagement” since the very beginning. I’d argue that the issue isn’t numbers, but relevance. G+ is lousy in many ways but has a few small areas of success, notably its Notifications mechanic, a community which, for me, works fairly well, and a search which while pathetically under-featured is comprehensive and fast. inning the numbers game for social vs. Facebook in its current incarnation is a fool’s errand. Numerous people have pointed this out, including ex-Googlers pointing at the “Interest Graph” (though suggestions for following / pursuing this date to the first few months of G+). If Google does grab the Cosmo crowd, that’s fine, so long as it doesn’t also chase off the Nature/PLOS crowd in the process. Unfortunately, Google’s proven more than happy to sling absolute snot (as in the G+ “What Snot” feature … oh, no, that’s “What’s Hot”). Power users learn how to disable that instantly.

A second comment I noted:

Nilkn: This [Google’s design approach] is actually part of why my recent switch from Android to iOS was so refreshing. While material design looks great on some level, it seems to be so remarkably wasteful of space. Google+ actually feels claustrophobic to me in a way: there’s so much content, and yet you can see so little of it at a time. It creates a feeling of being constantly lost.

And a final one:

Pbreit:  Seems like it’s still drastically missing the mark on having a reason for being. Why would I use this? What would I put on there? Why there and not elsewhere?

The Alphabet Google thing wants to be social. It wants to generate ad revenue. It wants to be more than search. Noble goals.

Stephen E Arnold, November 18, 2015

Searching Tweets: Just $24,000 per Year

October 21, 2015

Short honk: Love Twitter. Want to search tweets and sort of make sense of the short messages? A new service from Union Metrics is now available, according to “Union Metrics d\Debuts Search Engine That Gives You Access to Twitter’s Entire Archive.” This is a link from News360 which is available, but slowly, to me in South Africa. For you? Who knows?

Here’s the pricing, which I assume is spot on:

Although available to all Social Suite subscribers today, the service costs extra. For $500 per month, companies can access up to 30 days of data from Twitter’s archive. For $1,000 per month, Union Metrics’ Echo 365 plan grants unlimited access to up to a year’s worth of data. Finally, for $2,000 per month, the company’s Echo Full Archive plan grants full access to everything.

Twitter is looking for revenue and customer love. Will this type of tie up help?

Stephen E Arnold, October 21, 2015

Predictive Search Tries to Work with Videos

October 14, 2015

Predictive search is a common feature in search engines such as Google.  It is more well-known as auto-complete, where based on spelling and keyword content the search engine predicts what a user is searching for.  Predictive search speeds up the act of searching, but ever since YouTube became the second biggest search engine after Google one has to wonder if “Does Video Enhance Predictive Search?” asks Search Engine Watch.

Search engine and publisher of travel deals Travelzoo created a video series called “#zootips” that was designed to answer travel questions people might search for on Google.  The idea behind the video series was that the videos would act as a type of predictive feature anticipating a traveler’s needs.

“‘There’s always push and pull with information,’ says Justin Soffer, vice president of marketing at Travelzoo. ‘A lot of what search is, is people pulling – meaning they’re looking for something specific. What videos are doing is more of a push, telling people what to look for and showing them things.’ ”

Along with Travelzoo, representatives from SEO-PR and Imagination Publishing also agree that video will enhance video search.  Travelzoo says that video makes Web content more personal, because an actual person is delivering it.  SEO-PR recommends researching keywords with Google Trends and creating videos centered on those words.  Imagination Publishing believes that video content will increase a Web site’s Google ranking as it ranks media rich pages higher and there is an increase in voice search and demand for how-to videos.

It is predicted that YouTube’s demand as a search engine will increase more content will be created for video.  If you understand how video and predictive analytics work, you will have an edge in future Google rankings.

Whitney Grace, October 14, 2015
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

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