Social Media and the mob

One of my favourite films is ‘The Fisher King’ – one of the most haunting scenes in it is where Radio ‘Shock Jock’ Jack Lucas repeats the words ‘Forgive me’ from a TV script he is hoping to star in, whilst, unbeknown to him, thoughtless comments made by himon his radio show have driven a mentally ill caller to take a gun to an upmarket bar and open fire on people there.  The next scene in the film is of him three years later in a drunken rage after his life has fallen apart in the aftermath of the shooting, with his anger being directed at the actor who DID get teh role.

A few words uttered thoughtlessly in a public arena; in the film it was talk radio, but today it’s just as likely to be Facebook or other Social Media.  Of course, Social Media is a valuable tool with which to organise groups that are angry at social and political issues, for example.  But there are also a number of groups that go beyond what is acceptable:

There have been similar items featured on YouTube and Twitter – and as long as there has been any sort of media – starting with the pub on a Saturday night – there have always been public threats made against people.  The reach of Social Media though makes these sorts of groups and viral campaigns different in some major ways:

  • Sheer numbers – let’s face it, with Facebook you have a potential audience of 400 million people for your campaign.
  • Persistence and visibility – until such a group is removed it’s there all the time and can be found via search engines inside the Social Media site and indirectly form outside the sites.
  • Speed of activity – something can grow rapidly – much more rapidly than any campaign arranged through traditional media.

The obvious immediate result of this sort of mobilisation is the generation of ‘flash mobs’ – often for very good causes – where groups of people assemble, do something. then disappear.  This can frequently be done in the space of a few hours, rather than the days or week traditionally required to get a traditional demo together.

However, a less obvious but more sinister aspect of the use of Social Media is what’s best called ‘validation’.  This is something I’ve touched on in a previous blog post here on Joe’s Jottings – ‘Gazing in to the abyss’ – and it’s possibly more dangerously relevant when we look at the role of Social Media in generating a good, old fashioned, pitch-fork and torch carrying mob.

If you’re one slightly disturbed individual who thinks that a public figure deserves death, then the chances are that until recently you’d find very few people who agreed with you – or even if they agreed with you, would be very unlikely to publicly state it.  Today, the world’s a different place.  Your views can find validation in a number of ways – someone may set up a ‘jokey’ ‘Let’s kill X’ group or web site; other nutters may be more serious about it; or you might see groups on the Internet who just don’t like the person.  And you might see all of these people as somehow validating your point of view – a little like Jack Lucas’s deranged listener.

Let’s just hope that we don’t have too many people saying ‘Forgive me’ as a consequence.

A quick guide to blog spam…

I’ll soon be hitting a landmark on Joe’s jottings – 10,000 spam posts caught by the Akismet spam trapping plug-in for WordPress.  Not at all bad going – I would advise anyone who runs a WordPress Blog to get their hands on this very useful piece of kit!  Anyway – I saw a comment posted by another blogger that made me wonder about ‘spam spotting’ in general, especially as I’ve seen a number of spam posts that are plausible enough to look like a ‘real’ comment sneak through Akismet (not many – about 2% in total) in to my moderation queue, and I’ve also seen quite a few comments on other blogs that are clearly spammy.

So, here’s a few thoughts as to keeping your Blog spam free!

  1. First of all – why bother?  The simple answer is that if you allow spam posts to appear in your blog comments then it gives the impression that you don’t care enough to keep the spammers at bay.  I’ve set my blog up so that all comments need to be moderated / checked before they show up on the live blog.
  2. Use a good spam-trap like Akismet.  It save so much trouble and effort and is well worth it – and it’s free for personal use.  There’s no excuse! It isn’t perfect – it will sometimes allow stuff through in to your comment queue which you then need to check out. 
  3. When you get comments in your comment queue, it’s worth looking at the email address.  My general rule of thumb is that if the mail comes from a .ru address, or just looks ‘unusual’, I bin it, irrespective of what the actual comment is.  This may sound rather ruthless but I’ve yet to have a single real comment from an .ru email address, so I can’t be bothered to spend brain cells on it.
  4. Take a look at the relevance of the comment made against the article on which the comment is givn.  Some spammers apply ‘generic’ comments such as ‘great post’ to everything – don’t be deceived – take a look at the email adderss and any link.  Don’t necessarily click on the link – you have no idea what’s on the other end of it.
  5. Some comments may be of the form ‘How did you get this template working?  Please mail me and let me know how.’  Occasionally these even have sensible looking email addresses, but I NEVER reply to a comment on my blog through email.  Basically it’s just a way for the spammers to get a ‘live’ email address from you.
  6. A general piece of advice is to be wary of any comment that is complimentary or that is in bad English or just a single sentence of the ‘I agree with this post’.  ‘I agree’ posts add little to debate around posts on a blog anyway – if the person is genuinely commenting they’ll tend to put a little more on to the comment.  Some comments are in incredibly poor English – even if they’re not spam, I bin them as they just look poor on the comment list for an article.
  7. If you do get comments that are spam, and that have escaped the attention of your spam filter, please ensure you report it as spam using whatever ‘report spam’ options are available in the spam filter you’re using – that way you’ll be contributing to improving the quality of spam filtering.

And there you go!  May you be spamless!

Why are some Open Source support people so damn rude?

Don’t get me wrong – I love Open Source software and have used some of it fairly widely in various development projects that I’ve done.   I’m also aware of the fact that people involved in the development and support of such software are typically volunteers, and on the odd occasion I have called upon people for support, I’ve always had good experiences.

I’ve also seen some absolute stinkers of ‘support’ given to other developers, in which the people who’re associated quite strongly with the softwrae have treated people in a rude, patronising and often offensive and abusive manner.  Now, in 20+ years of dealing with IT support people – including folks like Oracle, Microsoft. Borland (showing my age) and even Zortech and Nantucket (back in the deep past!!) I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I’ve had this sort of treatment from big bad commercial software houses.  It’s unfortunate that I’ve seen dozens of examples of this poor customer service from Open Source suppliers in the last couple of years.

Because even if we don’t pay, we are customers – and some of the worst behaviour I’ve seen from companies where users are required to pay for a license when the software is sued in commercial situations.  It’s hardly encouraging, is it?  I know it can be frustrating to answer the same question several times a day, especially when the solution is well documented, but rudeness isn’t the way forward.  After all – it doesn’t exactly encourage people to use the product, or pay for a licence – rather than persevere or even volunteer a fix, folks are more likely to just go to the next similar product on the list.

Ultimately, it boils down to this; piss off enough potential customers and people like me will write articles like this but will name names and products.

So, here are a few hopefully helpful hints to people involved in regularly supporting products and libraries.

  1. If it’s your job, you’re getting paid to do it.  If you’re a volunteer, you’ve chosen to do it.  In either case, if you don’t feel trained up enough in the interpersonal skill side of things, just be nice, and read around material on customer support.  If you don’t like it support, then rather than taking it out on customers, quit.  Because you’re unhappy is no reason to take it out on other people.
  2. Remember that the person asking the daft question may hold your job (or the future of your product) in their hands.  You have no idea whether they’re working on a project for a small company or a large blue chip / Government department.  Your goal is surely to get widespread adoption – the best way to do this is to make folks happy.
  3. Even if the fix IS documented in any number of places, be polite about it.  If it’s that common, then have it in your FAQs or as a ‘stock answer’.  The worst sort of response is ‘It should be obvious’.  Of course it’s obvious to you – you wrote it.  It isn’t obvious to other people.  This seems to be a particular problem with ‘bleeding edge’ developers who swallow the line that ‘the source code is the documentation’ – it may well be, but if you want your product or service to be adopted you need to get as many people as possible using it.
  4. Don’t forget that if someone perseveres with your software, through buggy bits, they may be willing to help you fix it.  The chances of you getting a helper if you are rude to them is minimal.
  5. If you get a lot of questions or confusion about the same issue, perhaps it’s time to update the FAQs or Wiki?  And don’t forget sample code – if you’re generating code libraries PLEASE provide lots of real-world examples.

And to all the nice support folks – thanks for all the help – it is appreciated!

Facebook would like you to share even more….

There’s an episode of ‘The Simpsons’ in which Lisa sets out to determine whether a hamster or Bart is the more intelligent for a school science project.  She does this by applying electric shocks to the ‘subjects’ when they attempt to feed.  the hamster soon stops trying to eat the nuts that are attached to teh electrical wiring, while Bart just keeps on getting electric shocks whenever he tries to eat a slice of booby-trapped cake.

And so it seems with Facebook and privacy issues; no sooner than they navigate their way through one privacy crisis, then they end up with another problem of their own construction –this time involving a new plan to allow ‘trusted third party partners’ access to information about your Facebook account.  At the moment, when you go off to a site – like a game – that connects to Facebook via the ‘Facebook Connect’ application, you’re asked if you wish to give the site permission to access data from your Facebook account that the site needs to work.  This is usually the point at which I say ‘No’ and close the brwoser window, I should add.  The new arrangement will be that certain sites will be given special dispensation to bypass this process and use your Facebook ‘cookie’ on your PC to identify your Facebook account, then go off to Facebook and grab details about friends, etc. without you ever agreeing to it.

Of course, there will be the option available for us to Opt Out of this rather high-handed approach, and by reducing the amount of information that you make available in your profile with a privacy setting of ‘Everyone’ you’ll be able to restrict what data is presented anyway.  But it does appear that this, combined with the recent changes to default privacy settings that made ‘Everyone’ the standard (unless you change it), are pointing to an increasing interest form Facebook in working out ways of :

  1. Using your facebook login and data as a ‘passport’ on to other affiliated sites.
  2. Increasing the ‘stickiness’ of Facebook – not necessarily by keeping you on the Facebook site but by keeping information about your social activities with other Facebook users going back to the Facebook site.
  3. Increasing the ‘reach’ of Facebook accounts to make them more valuable for monetising.

It’s inevitable that Facebook will want to start making some real money from the vast amounts of personal data acquired on their users; if they increase the number of ‘selected partners’ significantly then the amount of data that can be collected about behaviours of Facebook users will be vastly increased – perhaps it’s time to start remembering that you are soon going to be paying for Farmville and other such activities one way or another; it may not be a subscription, but your personal data might start showing up in all sorts of places.

You may have missed this…the day China pulled the plug.

You might have missed this.  I certainly did – but then again for the last week or two I’ve been running around like the proverbial ‘blue arsed fly’ trying to juggle a variety of personal, professional and voluntary responsibilities whilst avoiding cat-induced sleep deprivation.  Anyway…where were you when China appeared to ‘turn off’ access to Twitter, Facebook and YouTube all over the world?

Because yes, it actually happened – from sometime on Wednesday traffic destined for the servers of these three social media giants was noticed to be going to servers based in the People’s Republic of China.   Technicians overseeing the world’s DNS systems (the ‘phone books’ of the Internet that tell servers and routers around the Internet where to send traffic to) noticed this, and eventually traced it back to a node on the DNS system in Sweden, that may have either been accidentally reconfigured or deliberately reconfigured by hackers.  Whatever the reason, it’s been an eye opener in principle, it means that any reasonably equipped government or terrorist organisation can subvert the whole routing system of the Internet – at least until the holes that allowed this to happen are secured.

The nature of the Internet is such that it has always been possible to do this sort of subversion; it’s just that the Net has never been important enough to be worth worrying about until recently.    The recent kerfuffle between Google, the Government of the PRC and the US Government has put the Internet firmly on the political stage – much more prominently than took place during the Iranian disturbances last summer.  (I’ll be commenting again on Google / PRC in the next few days, but here are my previous comments on that particular story)

It’s almost certain that this was an act either ordered or condoned by the government of the People’s Republic.  Their much vaunted ‘Green Dam’ is clearly capable of acting way beyond the borders of the PRC, especially if the remote control ‘exploits’ are used to take control of PCs running the program.  This would effectively give the PRC a massive cyberwarfare potential, with every PC legally installed in the PRC being capable of taking part in a botnet.

This action very much appears to be a shot across the international community’s bows; the PRC demonstrated their ability to break the Internet.  There are ways around this intrusion, of course, and steps will be taken to deal with it, but it does show that the gloves are off in what is increasingly a battle of wills between governments wishing to restrict what their citizens can read online and those that aren’t interested.  And I’m afraid that I have to include some democratic governments – like Australia – in that list.

The Internet is a political weapon; last Dceember I commented on how the rules of online civil unrest might be changing, as people on the receiving end of protest decided to do something about it – in that item it was Iran and Twitter.  It may well be that that was simply the beginning of ongoing efforts from repressive regimes to control the streets of cyberspace as well as the streets of their own cities.  What is important to realise is that the nature of the Internet – it’s flexibility, expandability, it’s ability to be used for things that the original creators had never even thought of – is at the root of the relative ease with which people can break it.

Unfortunately I expect the ‘powers that be’ to react to this sort of threat by using it as an excuse to tighten up various aspects of security and surveillance on the Net.  Expect legislation such as ACTA and The Digital Economy Bill to be tightened up in a ‘9/11’ style response to this act of online retaliation.

The Birth of a Brand

As some of you may know, I’m on the Board of the Hillsborough Forum, a group that works for the economic regeneration of the Hillsborough area of Sheffield, and also coordinates other activities in that area, such as ‘Yorkshire in Bloom’ and other community activities, such as Community Gardening.  I’m very proud of my involvement with HF – and certainly enjoy working with some wonderful people such as Wendy Wells.

Tonight we had an event to launch our ‘Made in Hillsborough’ brand – an attempt to provide a unique and easily identifiable brand for companies and businesses based in the area.  the brand was designed by local, highly skilled, Graphic Designer Emma Metcalfe and manages to encapsulate all the major aspects of Hillsborough – green spaces, soccer, the Barracks, the range of produce available in the area.  It’s so ‘hot off the press’ that the first time I saw the ‘full version’ of the logo was at this presentation, and it’s a smasher. 

It’s partially visible in the background of the above photograph and on the right you can see a larger version of the logo in all it’s glory!  The launch took place in the Hillsborough Hotel, who provided us with excellent surroundings, a nice buffet and a very nice special brew for the occasion from their in-house Crown Brewery – Hillsborough Pale Ale.  Of which a fair amount was quaffed by all, including me.

There was an excellent set of introductory talks from the Rt. Hon. David Blunkett MP, local author and historian Ron Clayton (Ron – if you’re reading this send me your web site address!!)  and Hillsborough Forum’s very own ‘member of the Queen’s Gang’, Wendy Wells MBE.  And then it was down to networking, brewery visiting, eating and drinking!  And a fine evening was had by all, with your correspondent finally strolling home through the drizzle at 11pm!

We had excellent support from many Hillsborough businesses for raffle prizes and give-aways on the night including Picky Miss Sock Monsters, Imogen’s Imagintion (milinery / hats), Simpkin’s Sweets, Teddy Bear Maker and Funks Butchers.  On a personal level it was great to see old friends again, and make contact with Russell Cavanagh who runs NW Sheffield News Online.  My major social gaffe of the evening was not immediately recognising the very friendly folks from the Java Lounge coffee shop in Hillsborough – given the amount of coffee and cheesey crumpets they’ve served me in recent months that was a wee bit embarrassing! 

But – thanks to all!!  Follow @Hills_Forum on Twitter, and if you want to help plug the brand, use the #MadeInHillsborough hashtag!

Civil Partership ceremonies on religious premises….some contradiction in terms?

Over the last decade or so, the number of times when New Labour has created legislation in what ‘the Simpsons’ would call ‘the American way’ – i.e. do a ‘half arsed job’ – has been legion.  There must be some sort of finishing school for NuLab legislators where they go to have that bit of the brain responsible for common sense somehow removed.  And now Lord Ali has kept up the tradition by tabling an amendment to the Equality Bill that allows civil partnership ceremonies on religious premises.  Note the juxtaposition of words there…civil…and religious.

In a letter to The Times, Lord Carey, a former Archbishop of Canterbury, has expressed his concerns about this amendment.

Now, I was of the impression that the reason civil partnerships existed was for people who could not or would not undertake a religious marriage (irrespective of religion) but still wanted to publicly commit themselves to each other.  Look what the website has to say on the issue:

“A civil marriage ceremony cannot have any religious content, but you may be able to arrange for individual touches such as non-religious music and readings to be added to the legal wording, and for the ceremony to be videoed. The register office where you intend to marry will be able to tell you more about the options available.

A Civil Partnership is legally formed by the signing of the civil partnership schedule. Like a civil marriage, this is also non-religious, but couples who wish to arrange for a ceremony should discuss this with the registration officials.”

Seems pretty straight forward there.  They even say ‘cannot have any religious content’.  With me so far?  Good.  Let’s take a moment to thing about religious buildings – and I’m going to include churches, mosques, chapels, synagogues and temples here.  Most religious buildings are built with certain tenets, based on the religion in question, in mind.  Ignoring the theological issues around whether the church refers to the building or the people who celebrate there, and focusing purely on the building itself, there are aspects of the construction and furnishing of most churches (and other religious buildings) that are symbolic – altars, crosses, positioning of certain fittings and furnishings, the orientation of a building within a plot of land – all can be highly symbolic, and hence ‘religious’.  So, to be strictly within the letter of the law, any ceremonies held would have to somehow remove the symbolism from the building.  Do we have to take away a cross because it might show up on a video, for example?

We then have the whole raft of issues around desecration; if a Mosque were to be used, do we insist on all those entering the main part of the room to be barefoot to respect the building, or do we allow any footwear?  Same with clothing.  Or is it likely that this opening up of religious buildings would only apply to, for example, Christian denominations or faiths that do not insist on certain rules around footwear / clothing / etc.?

And this applies whether the couple participating in the ceremony are heterosexual or homosexual; we have here a simple issue of a law being bought in as part of an ‘Equality Bill’ that will actually remove the rights of religious communities to indicate how their buildings are used by non-believers.  Hardly equal rites for them, is it?  Especially as in many religious communities the fabric of the buildings is maintained not by state or local government but by the religious group themselves.

A religious building is for the celebration of religious events.  It’s not to provide a photogenic backdrop for people with no beliefs at all.  It isn’t to provide yet another football in the political battles around the rights of homosexuals vs heterosexuals in our communities.  By hanging this legislation of the Equality Bill, I’m afraid that it will end up putting some priests, Imans and vicars in a terrible position of being asked to go against their conscience or against the law in the name of equal rites – which don’t seem to apply very much to religious folks in these sorts of situations.  A vicar can refuse to marry people in a Church based on any number of reasons – divorce, where the people live, lack of obvious connection with the Church / parish.  These restrictions have been in place for centuries in some cases, and apply to everyone irrespective or sexuality, race, whatever who wish to use the Church.

This law seeks to effectively de-consecrate religious buildings for a short period of time – it should be resisted.

Now – here is where what I write will start getting contentious and I expect to be upsetting a few folks with what I say next. 

It’s no secret that I am a religious man.  I like to think of myself as a fairly tolerant and reasonably non-judgemental fellow, but it increasingly seems to me that when our Government talks of tolerance and equality it usually means that religious folks are going to get it in the neck, and be expected to suspend some of our personal beliefs in how we conduct ourselves in our day to day lives.  If we’re now going to start being told who we can and can’t allow to use our own churches and holy places, then our rights are being eroded, and perhaps it’s time for some tolerance to be shown to us and our beliefs.

Chrome – the prissy Maiden Aunt of browsers….

I’m currently involved in developing a web application of moderate complexity using Ext to provide a ‘Web 2.0’ front end on a PHP/mySQL application.  We’ve endeavoured to make it work across a range of browsers – Firefox, IE, opera and Chrome.  And this is the blog article in which I vent my spleen about Chrome.

Because, you see, there are some occasions when Chrome is an absolute bag of spanners that behaves in a manner that just beggars belief, and it worries me immensely.  If IE behaved in the same way that Chrome does under certain conditions then the Chrome / Google Fanbois would be lighting their torches and waving their pitchforks as they headed out towards Castle Microsoft.

Giving Chrome it’s due, Chrome renders CSS well against standards, and is frequently faster than Firefox and IE in terms of delivering pages; where it does seem to be lacking is in it’s sensible handling of JavaScript. The general impression I’ve had over recent days with Chrome and JavaScript is that it’s incredibly picky about how it handles JavaScript that is less than perfectly formed – hence the ‘Maiden Aunt’ jibe.  It requires everything to be very right and proper.  I understand that any browser should be expected to deal with properly structured script, but in recent years I’ve found that the major browsers tend to behave in a pretty similar manner when processing JavaScript and tend to vary in behaviour when rendering CSS – hence the fact the some sites look different in IE than they do in Firefox or Chrome.

But I’ve encountered some horrendous differences in the way in which Chrome on one side and Firefox/IE on the other handle JavaScript.  Chrome seems to be very ‘tight’ in it’s handling of two aspects in particular; white space and commented out code.  I hope that following comments might prove useful to anyone doing JavaScript development – particularly with libraries such as Ext.  Note that these issues don’t occur all teh time with Chrome, but have occurred often enough to give me problems.

Watch the White Space

Chrome seems particularly sensitive to white space in places where you wouldn’t expect it to be.  For example:

  • Avoid spaces following closing braces ( } )at the end of a js source file.
  • Avoid spaces around ‘=’ signs in assignments. 
  • Avoid blank lines within array definitions – don’t put any blank lines after an opening ‘[‘ before data.

Watch the comment lines

The // construct used to make a line in to a comment line needs to be handled with care with Chrome.  Don’t include it in any object or array definitions – whilst it works OK in IE, it can cause major problems in Chrome.

Indications of problems

If you’re lucky you may get a straight forward JavaScript error – in this case you will at least have an idea of what’s what.  If you’re unlucky you may end up with either an apparent ‘locking up’ of Chrome or a 500 Internal Error message from your Web server.  The ‘lock up’ will frequently clear after a few minutes – the browser seems to be waiting for a timeout to take place.  When the errors do take place, I’ve found that the loading of pages featuring JavaScript errors is terminated – it can give the impression that a back end PHP or ASP.NET script has failed rather than client side script.

In summary, just be aware that Chrome may not be as well behaved as one would expect.

And that’s my whine for the day over!

I sometimes wonder….

As some of you will know, I’m what’s best described as an (occasionally) practising Christian.  Just to get the joke out of the way early, I’ll keep practising and one day I hope to get it right!  Yesterday I attended a Christening in a different Church to my usual one, and the sermon offered was about the topic of expectation; funnily enough, over the last 24 hours I found myself pondering a few issues around the topic of expectation – what I expected form others, and what others expected from me.

The funny thing is that this isn’t the first time that this has happened to me.  Before I became a ‘regular’ attender at Church, I’d sometimes go on a whim and was quite surprised at how often the sermon or a reading in Church would provide me with insights in to whatever was uppermost in my mind at that time.  Of course, I’m aware that there are any number of explanations for this sort of thing.  The first is that I remember only the times when there was a relationship between my state of mind / concerns and the sermon given on a particular day.  A second explanation is that I read more in to the sermon or reading that is actually warranted.  And there are probably more….

But…it sometimes makes me wonder.

Whether coincidence, causality or synchronicity I do find the experience useful, and in many ways that’s all that counts.  I get inspiration, guidance and intellectual provocation from what I hear at Church, as well as an affirmation of my faith.  I sometimes wonder if these ‘coincidences’ are actually some sort of answer to prayers that I’ve not said out loud – they are often so very relevant and provide me with inspiration and insight to get stuff done. 

As an aside, I just heard the following line of dialogue from the TV show ‘FlashForward’ that ‘What some people see as coincidence is actually God at work’. 

Daft as it may sound, I think that’s a great point to finish this post.

All your personal info belongs to…some web site or other?

This is an interesting little article about a new product from Mozilla Labs for Firefox – it allows you to grab tour personal contact data from various web services and sources, and then keep it in a repository from where you can decide exactly what to make available to OTHER web services and sites.   The data is stored and indexed locally – as @timoreilly tweeted – “I like the idea of a smarter client-side address book, so my social data doesn’t end up belonging to someone else. ”

And so do I.

I have a large contact list in Outlook on my PC which definitely goes nowhere near any online web service.  In a similar way, 95% of people I deal with on Facebook I deal with purely on Facebook; same with twitter and any Internet Forums I belong to.  If  Twitter and Facebook disappeared overnight, I’d lose access to quite a few contacts I have in those two ‘depositories’ of data, but some folks on there that I would DEFINITELY miss in the event of Social Networking meltdown I’ve got alternative means of contact for – usually e-mail addresses, occasionally phone numbers.  As for e-mail, I tend to use good old fashioned ‘Mail Client’ software – Outlook again, I’m afraid! – and rarely use web mail.

I guess the bottom line is that I don’t really trust any server outside of my direct control when it comes to storing my personal data.  I wouldn’t feel 100% safe with having all of my contacts lists on the servers of someone like Microsoft or Google for a couple of reasons:

  • Your access to your contacts is gone if they have connectivity issues or a server goes.
  • Your contacts are open to exploitation from hackers / spammers.
  • Your contacts contribute to the ‘database of intentions’ – if your contacts have accounts with people like Google or Amazon using the email address in your list, it’s potentially possible for their interests to be used to target ‘social advertising’ at you when you use your email address to access a site.

This is without starting to worry about the issues surrounding storing my content on other people’s servers.  No, I’m much happier to keep my central list of contacts on my PC.  I can back it up, it’s always there when I have access to my PC, if I want to put it on another machine it’s just a case of copying it over.

The Mozilla application looks useful in terms of getting backups of such data – which is great – but I’m still going to be terribly inefficient and keep my contacts where I know what’s happening to ’em!