Stupid Idea, Has a Life of Seconds

Found out today that there is a new company called The Pudding in private beta. Nothing new there. They are offering free PC based calls. I can only presume that this implies PC to landline calls. Great, excellent. But we all know that there is no such thing as a free lunch. But sure we can put up with the odd advert or pop-up if the product is worth it. But the product better be good. In this instance I don’t think any product would be good enough.

The price of the free calls is that you agree to let the company listen into your conversations and then deliver contextual advertising based on what you are talking about. What the heck are they thinking? This has got to be the worst business model I think I have ever heard.

In this era where people are as paranoid as ever about issues such as privacy and identity and all that goes with it, a company has decided to “bet” that people are going to be willing to give all that up for what? Free phone calls! Stupid idea. It just is not going to happen. That opinion comes without even exploring the idea of advertising which quite frankly I could do without and would rather pay for a service that comes ad free. But that is me.

Stupid name stupid idea, and that is going straight into the broken egg pile here at the chicken coop.

The Pudding Screenshot

Via: Silicon Alley Insider

Track Visitors to Your Blog Easily With Clicky

Clicky is a visitor tracking service that has been designed for use with blogs but works on any website. While they do not claim to replace a statistics and monitoring service like Google Analytics or SiteMeter it is said to be a complimentary service to augment your current tools for observing your traffic. While services such as those mentioned give you a “big picture, Clicky gives you a macro version of individual users. Lets you know how individuals visitors are interacting with your site.

Individual users are grouped into sessions, information includes:

  • IP Address
  • Web Browser of choice
  • The page and URL that they are viewing
  • Date and time
  • Referrer
  • If they came via a search engine, which one and what search string they used

If a particular visitor has Java Script disabled, no problem; it still works. Although the information gathered is limited and such things as the referrer can not be accessed. (So much for “No Script” Firefox Extension…) . Every click that is made on your site is logged and sent to your account with Clicky for you to view when you log in. I am not sure what you think about this but it does make me feel a bit creepy and makes me wonder what is going to be done with the information once it is sent to Clicky. They do however give this reassurance:

“We are not out to get you. We have no reason to secretly look at your visitor traffic. We may randomly use some of our customer’s traffic data for bug fixing or feature development, but other than that, your traffic data is yours and we will respect your privacy.”

That may be the case now but I wonder how much money it would take for them to change their minds? However this is not a warning off the service, rather something to keep in mind if you are considering using it.

I guess that you figured that you have to cut and paste some code to your web page, you guessed right. They claim that it works on any web page. There are instructions for use with Blogger and even WordPress.com. Only the Blogger code is shown on the information page. I am no code monkey but it looks like there is a script in the code shown. As all WordPress.com users know all code containing script is stripped when you try to put it on a page or a sidebar widget. So unless the code is different for WordPress.com blogs then I can not see how it would work. Feel free to comment on this if you know for sure or why I might be wrong.

The service offers a variety of ways to view the information gathered:

  • Dashboard: or quick summary and overview
  • Click Log: This is the raw data with no groupings or data processing
  • Sessions: A log of an entire visitors click “history” while they were on your site
  • Filters: To drill down into your data and make what sense of it you want to

At this time the service is in beta and free. Once it launches they plan to charge a “reasonable” fee (no hints). It is worth noting that there are other sites that track individual users. Such as Crazy Egg that uses a “heat map” to display the “hot spots” or frequently clicked parts of your site. This type of tracking is a fine line, I have to admit I would have reservations about using it. It does feel a bit intrusive. But that is just me, what do you think?

Facebook Privacy Issues: I Don’t Get It

This last week saw a huge problem blow up at Facebook the social networking site “…an on-line directory that connects people through social networks”. Basically two new features were rolled out; “News Feeds” and “Mini Feeds”. From what I can gather they are like any News Feed aka: RSS type of deal, as you might have for a blog. These features allowed users to see what their friends were up to such as; items added, pictures, comments and the like. What Facebook did not realise was the outrage this would cause from users.

So these new features were rolled out and there was a revolt. Here are some of the actions taken by users:

In my effort to try to understand what all the fuss was about I have found some of the reasons that users have issued as to why the new features are unwanted. I do not have a Facebook account myself so this is all I have to go on: Here are various quotes taken from a few sources and since they seem to be talking for the masses…

“It damages what privacy was left on Facebook. Before Feeds, it was already easy enough to stalk anyone at your school, and everyone on your friends list; but with the advent of Feeds, it is now nearly impossible not to be “stalked” or to “stalk””

“Without even trying an individual now knows the changing relationship status of individuals on their friends list”

“It is almost impossible now to keep your information to yourself…”

“Before Feeds there were steps that could be taken to prevent your information becoming everyone’s property; now there is literally no option to prevent your information from going completely public.”

“This feature was not requested by the users”

“People that I have spoken with are perturbed by the overwhelming collection of personal information that is displayed about friends, acquaintances, and other Facebook buddies.”

“Despite the fact that this does not “violate the privacy policies already in place,” we feel that it is invasive and directs us to information that we are not normally interested in.”

While not ranking too high on the priority list, there were issues raised about the aesthetics of the additions.

“There are other reasons users are complaining, ranging from the fact it takes away the time-wasting aspect of Facebook to aesthetic complaints about the new look.”

I am not sure if this is truly representative as there are 9.5 million users of Facebook. But there are reports that there are 100 thousand users belonging to the “Students Against Facebook News Feed” group. So that is a fairly large representation and not to be ignored. So I will assume that the anti-feed lobby is a fairly universal feeling among users.
This all created a huge buzz, resulting in an issue that has become much talked about until steps were taken to subdue the masses on Facebook. Indeed the CEO himself responded personally to the negative reaction that the features received.

The issue seems to be resolved in so much as the Facebook people have developed a bunch of privacy controls to give the user control over what is put into feeds, if anything; and who can see them. That sort of thing anyway.

While I do not criticize users for the way that they feel. I would also argue that any company should put the users first and listen to them. I would also say that if they feel this way, even with the exaggerated responses that are inevitable that there must be truth in their concerns and these should be addressed.

But here is the bit I just do not get. News feeds within the blogging community are valued and relied upon as a useful tool and an accurate indicator of just how many real readers you have. It also helps you disseminate information. For me I would be devastated if I lost the feed from my site. Indeed the changes were reviewed favourably by some. But to me the reaction by Facebook users flys in the face of contemporary feeling and sentiment of the Internet community and information sharing. To me it is the equivalent of me asking WordPress to allow me to have privacy controls over my RSS feed and allow some people to access it and not others. Sure this can be done with secured RSS feeds that require passwords but I have not set up a public blog to do that. Maybe that is not the case on Facebook.

I am not criticizing the users of Facebook for the way they feel. Certainly there looks to be a generalised fear of “stalking” and harassment. Perhaps even assault in real life, but this was not stated. This may be a genuine fear and well founded. However it does seem a little “school playground” type mentality in so much as they seem to want to stick to their “clicks” and groups and maintain their privacy within those groups. This is a strange concept to me, seeing it in on-line communities. It could be argued that it comes accross as immature, but that is from the outside looking in. Not sure if this is a reflection of the demographic or not but I would expect that there was a large school-aged user base, given that these are the groups where Facebook started; colleges, schools, areas, regions etc.
Adding to that it looks like you could belong to a group within Facebook that was your school. I can see how some information getting out could be damaging to an individual at that level. However that in turn would cause me to ask why is that people are putting that sort of information in a public space on the web.

So that is what I see and how I have seen the whole Facebook fiasco. I am quite open to being corrected in regards to the finer points of Facebook. However, I am looking at it from an information sharing and the comparison to RSS feeds and the differences that can make in a tight community. The prompt action and changes made by Facebook are to be commended.

Skype 2.5 Installed: I am Over my Hissy Fit

Skype2.5Well I was a "tad" peeved off that this release of Skype did not include a record function and I had decided that I wasn't downloading it until I got over that. But after some encouragement from Sebastian I decided to install it.

I was pleasantly surprised at what I found. The "new" Skype is not all that new, rather more functional. The install is all the same and that had no problems. The first really noticeable thing was that the audio quality is better and there is greater emphasis on that with the inclusion of a "quality monitor". Not sure how that works as I do not have that many issues related to audio quality because I have a pretty quick connection. The problems that do occur are usually related to lag or resources pressure on the other person or person's local machine. And that I am afraid is unavoidable.

I said that I did not think I would use the SMS function. But I have actually found myself using it a lot. Like today I have come online, I got a message that someone wanted to talk to me, they are online but not answering. So I have SMS'ed him and now he knows I am here: he is yet to turn up though. But I think that it is cool that I can do that. The reason that I hate SMS is the fact that it is a pain in the butt when I am used to a keyboard. Having the ability to SMS from Skype actually makes SMS more accessible to me. By the way any reply that is sent to an SMS that I send from Skype goes to my personal mobile, the recipient is none the wiser about where the SMS was sent from. Seamless; an in usual Skype fashion; "It just works".

By the way the cost of an SMS in Australia via Skype is 0.12 AUD and to send an SMS to the UK is 0.13 AUD. I was told today by a colleague that the cost to the UK is normally 0.35 AUD. Definatly a saving there.

I am yet to try the mass call function which can apparently support up to 100 people. I am also yet to investigate Skypecasts, not sure what that's all about but I think it has something to do with this new feature. The thing that bothers me a bit is the fact that when you want to join a Skypecast it says that it says Skype is making a SkypeOut call. Apparently, at this point in time they are not charging you for this service as reported by Andy Bramson. Andy also reports as to the origin of the SkypeOut call, interesting stuff. But I suppose that means they will have that option in the future, we will see what happens. Skypecasts are, as far as I can tell are community chats and conferencing. The scope of this is massive. Imaging a Podcast with 20 others listening, contributing and live! Awesome. Aparently there is a "virtual" microphone that can be handed out by the moderator. I am going to have to explore this as it looks exciting.

Topping up your Skype credit is much easier with 2.5. Which as I have said before is in the interest of Skype. That said it is much easier and it is secure.

There are some other minor additions like the fact that the modern ring-tone has changed yet again to something yet more nauseating! But they have included the "classic" ring-tone that we all love. That is my take on Skype 2.5.
Maybe in the final release they will just drop a record button in there…

RSS Calender; Great Idea!

I stumbled upon this while reading my RSS feeds today and I think it is a great idea.

The site is RSSCalendar, not sure if it sort of coincides with the release of Google’s calender effort but it seems ironic. Basically from what I can gather registered users create a calendar then create entries that are updated to others via RSS. It does this by you creating a unique RSS feed to the calendar that you set up when you create a calendar.

I think this is a great idea as a way of sharing what you are doing with family or friends. The other application would be working with a small group on a business project for a limited time, as calendar’s can be daily, weekly, monthly or yearly. Updates will be sent to everybody subscribed to the feed in real time.

The only thing that I was thinking might be a concern is the fact that anyone would know what you were up to if they were subscribed to your feed. I am not sure if the option to password protect the feed is available but if it isn’t it should be. Because I am thinking if you post that you are out of the country on a certain week, I wonder if all your electrical appliances will still be there when you get home? In addition a group might not want the whole world to know what they are working on. I don’t know how easy it is to search for RSS feeds but I would not imagine it to be too hard. So the assumption that others would not know the feed address because you didn’t give it out is not in my opinion safe-guard enough.

Apart from that it looks like it has promise. Have a look. It is still in Beta but then again what isn’t these days.