The Great Debate

Are social media platforms the Jurassic Park of computing?

Kevin Prince is chief technology officer of Perimeter E-Security.

– Kevin Prince is chief technology officer of Perimeter E-Security. The views expressed are his own. –

Social Networks have grown out of control. Literally. Today, neither users nor social networking companies can control the monsters they have created. Think Jurassic Park: where John Hammond wanted to build something no one else had ever done, a fun theme park combined with a zoo of cloned dinosaurs.  He built what he thought would be adequate security, but in reality, didn’t understand nearly enough about the environment he was trying to control.  People naturally trusted that proper security was in place and that they would of course be safe. Quickly things spiral out of control, and nearly everyone gets eaten by the end of the movie.

The creators of social networking sites — yes all of them — are just like John Hammond. Their unique ideas caught on in such a viral way that just keeping up with the bandwidth, processing power, storage, development, and everything else required to keep the system online is an amazingly complex, never-ending task. For most of these sites, security is – and has always been – an afterthought. Some of them try, but it’s a bit like closing the amusement park gates after the Tyrannosaurus has bolted.

The users of social networking sites also contribute to the problem. Most are absolutely reckless when it comes to behavior on the sites. A while ago, I ran a social networking experiment on Facebook. I created a new user profile based on a free Google mail account. I chose the name Rebecca Johnson, made her 26, and used a profile picture of a three-year-old girl in a dress that I snagged from a department store website. No other information was in the profile. I wanted to see what would happen when I invited random strangers to be friends with this fictitious person.

Lucky for me, Facebook presents you with people it thinks you might know. Due to a lack of information in my profile, Facebook presented me with people of all ages that live in my county (obviously they were looking at my IP address and correlating that with my city). I of course knew none of these people but went ahead and invited them and others. In all, I invited 250 totally random people to be my friends. The only criteria I used: they had to have profile pictures. My logic: if you don’t have a profile picture, you’re probably not a serious or frequent user. Here’s a timetable of what happened next.

from The Great Debate UK:

The meeting of young minds

IMG01410-20100209-1350A sedate group of more than 1,000 young people brought together in London to discuss socio-political issues makes a sharp contrast to those who challenge the status quo via demonstrations, rallies and picket lines.

At the first annual One Young World, organised by advertising agency Euro RSCG Worldwide, delegates 25 years of age and younger network in an environment sanctioned by such high-profile “counsellors” as former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, economist Muhammad Yunus and musician Bob Geldof.

There are no immediate signs of dissent among the hand-picked delegates meeting at the ExCel London convention centre from February 8 to 10.

from The Great Debate UK:

One Young World: let’s hear it from the under-25s


Amid the ongoing global conversation about the economy, and projections about when -- and in which markets -- the world might emerge from financial crisis, the collective voice of the 25-and-under age group is hard to hear.

It could have been silenced due to a sense of futility about challenging the so-called Establishment, or it might be online -- constrained by such social media outlets as Facebook and Twitter.

Whatever the case, advertising and communications agency Euro RSCG Worldwide is taking measures to get the under-25s to speak up on such issues as the environment, health and education at an event called One Young World, which will be held from February 8-10 in London.

from The Great Debate UK:

Are publication bans outdated in the Internet era?

IMG01299-20100115-2004The debate over freedom of expression and the impact of social networking on democratic rights in the courts is in focus in Canada after a Facebook group became the centre of controversy when it may have violated a publication ban.

The group, which has more than 7,000 members, was set up to commemorate the murder of a 2-year-old boy in Oshawa, Ontario.

The breach of a publication ban could lead to a mistrial, a fine and even jail time. Violating a ban could taint the opinions of witnesses or jurors, and the news media must wait to report information protected under a publication ban until after the trial is over.

Newspaper brands that manage the transition to digital models can thrive

davidmossiv– David Moss is a director at PricewaterhouseCoopers in Atlanta. The views expressed are his own. –

“Newspapers are dying.” Lately, that’s the constant, gloomy chorus. But it couldn’t be further from the truth.

Certainly, the newspaper industry faces significant challenges, including a tough economy and the mass migration of readers and advertisers to the Internet. But newspaper brands that successfully transition to digital models can thrive — without giving up their streamlined print products.

from The Great Debate UK:

Remembering how to forget in the Web 2.0 era

Amid ongoing debates over the hazards of excessive digital exposure through such Web 2.0 social networking platforms as Facebook and Twitter, a new book by Viktor Mayer-Schonberger extols the virtues of forgetfulness.

Since the emergence of digital technology and global networks, forgetting has become an exception, Mayer-Schonberger writes in "Delete".

"Forgetting plays a central role in human decision-making," he argues. "It lets us act in time, cognizant of, but not shackled by, past events."

Can sleeping giant Skype reinvent itself?

eric_auchard_thumbnail2.jpg – Eric Auchard is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own –

Do once-hot Internet start-ups who miss a date with destiny ever truly get a second chance? History says no, even for once-great names like Netscape, AOL and MySpace.

Skype hopes to be the exception. On Tuesday, a group led by top Internet financiers in Silicon Valley and Europe agreed to pay eBay $1.9 billion in cash for a 65 percent stake in the one-time web calling sensation.

from Commentaries:

Twitter backlash foretold

Technology market research firm Gartner Inc has published the 2009 "Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies," its effort to chart out what's hot or not at the cutting edge of hi-tech jargon. It's just one of an annual phalanx of reports that handicap some 1,650 technologies or trends in 79 different categories for how likely the terms are to make it into mainstream corporate parlance.

Jackie Fenn, the report's lead analyst and author of the 2008 book "Mastering the Hype Cycle," delivers the main verdict:

Technologies at the Peak of Inflated Expectations during 2009 include cloud computing, e-books (such as from Amazon and Sony) and internet TV (for example, Hulu), while social software and microblogging sites (such as Twitter) have tipped over the peak and will soon experience disillusionment among corporate users.

from The Great Debate UK:

Free may be a radical price, but is it progressive?

padraig_reidy-Padraig Reidy is news editor at Index on Censorship. The opinions expressed are his own.-

Mainstream consumer media is, it is agreed, in trouble. The idea of paying for one or two newspapers a day is now confined, it seems, to quaintly old-fashioned types who boast of their ignorance of the Internet, or business who actually need the information in the pages of the Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal.

Wire services’ content is processed so fast by subscribers that one can barely spot the time difference. Local newspapers are seeing their stock in trade diminished. When one’s entire life is catalogued on Facebook and Flickr, there’s little thrill in having your picture in the local paper, or indeed huge necessity in publishing births, deaths and marriages. And why place a classified ad in a newspaper, when we have eBay and Gumtree?

from For the Record:

Citizen journalism, mainstream media and Iran

dean-150Dean Wright is Global Editor, Ethics, Innovation and News Standards. Any opinions are his own.

The recent election in Iran was one of the more dramatic stories this year, with powerful images of protests and street-fighting dominating television and online coverage.

Because traditional news organizations were essentially shut down by the authorities, it fell to citizen journalists -- many of whom were among the protesters -- to provide the images that the world would see, using such social media as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.