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.

Facebook and the panic button….

Since the recent case in which a teenage girl was groomed and murdered by a paedophile via the Facebook site, there has been a lot of pressure from the UK Government for Facebook to put a ‘Panic Button’ style link on the site – a move supported by the CEOP organisationFacebook have commented that they have no objection in principle to making it easier to report abuse on the site, but that they feel that the CEOP supported option is not necessarily the best way.

Facebook are far from perfect in the way that they treat their users; I think all of us who use the site would have our own grumbles about privacy and the attitude of Facebook as a whole towards individual users now that they’ve got big.  But to be honest I think I would rather central Government stayed out of issues like this – especially New Labour, who seem to have spent the last decade dismantling our civil liberties bit by bit.  For a previous broader comment on this issue, I direct you to this item from a year ago, in which author Phillip Pullman commented on the behaviour of New Labour.

Since then we’ve had the Digital Economy Bill – even without the Lib Dem Peers’ Amendments it was a pretty poor piece of legislation.  With the amendments it offers a wonderful means of stifling debate by simply shutting down access to any site that breaches copyright.  Under the Bill, as it stands, and if it were strictly applied, YouTube could be blocked to UK ISPs because of material that breaches copyright. 

Part of the problem with New Labour is their amazing ability to put together piss-poor legislation on a ‘knee jerk’ basis.  A lone gun nut leads to a total handgun ban – which doesn’t affect criminals as they tend to disobey the law anyway.   Despite massive increases in the legislation aimed at child protection, the very basic laws that were there all along fail to be implemented and children keep getting killed.  And there are many more examples.  One interpretation of this repeated series of cock-ups is that they’re just incompetent; my own interpretation is that New Labour are just incredibly keen on reducing our civil liberties as much as they can to have a nicely compliant and obedient citizenry.

The issue for me here is not just the Facebook reporting mechanism; I’m afraid I regard that as something of a ‘thin end of the wedge’, by which Government could influence and impact the policies of web sites not even based in Britain.  It’s not far from that sort of thing to the  censorship policies adopted by China and, more recently, but to a lesser degree, Australia.  Protesting about this sort of Government activity, which initially starts with child protection, is a little bit like trying to answer the question ‘Have you stopped beating your wife?’ in a way that doesn’t make you guilty.  But given this Governments record on civil liberties I’m afraid I do not and cannot trust them. 

As  Rousseau said “Free people, remember this maxim: we may acquire liberty, but it is never recovered if it is once lost.

And we’re losing it bit by bit.

PCC, Stephen Gately and liberal backlash

The Press Complaints Commissionshas decided not to uphold complaints about an article by Jan Moir about the circumstances surrounding Stephen Gately’s death.  I’m not going to rehash the details of the case – a quick Google will allow you to find the original article, but my main interest is in some of the comments that I’ve heard floated up on Twitter and other web sites about the findings of the PCC.  The PCC did indeed receive a record number of complaints – 25,000 – about the column, and there was a fairly hefty campaign mounted over social networks such as Twitter to encourage people who felt strongly to complain.  The newspaper concerned, The Mail on Sunday, dodged censure:

PCC chairwoman Baroness Buscombe said the commission found the article “in many areas extremely distasteful” but that the Mail had escaped censure because it “just failed to cross the line”.

The PCC had considered context and “the extent to which newspaper columnists should be free to publish what many will see as unpalatable and unpleasant stories”.

and two complaints to the Metropolitan police that were passed to the Crown Prosecution Service were also rejected as grounds for prosecution because of insufficient evidence that the piece breached the law.

Jan Moir’s piece was ill-timed, and some of her comments were hurtful to some people.  I guess that there were those who found the piece upsetting who didn’t complain, and that there were probably quite a few people who wholeheartedly agreed with what she had to say; after all, complaints procedures rarely get support.  But, as they say, process has been carried out and judgement bought in by the PCC and the CPS, and in many ways that should be the end of it – whether you agree with the outcome or not. 

Having said that, I wasn’t surprised today when I saw a fair amount of blather on Twitter from the ‘chattering classes’ referring to the PCC judgement, starting off by saying that as the editor of the Mail on Sunday is on the PCC, the verdict is immediately biased.  I guess that’s to be expected.  We then went in to slightly disturbing territory, with a Tweet that I came across along the lines taht the Tweeter didn’t want to censor comment but felt that something to rein in columnists from claiming authority they didn’t have.  There’s also this debate on the BBC’s own web site.  Now, why do I find that tweet rather disturbing? 

It’s all in the wording.  Where does ‘claiming authority’ start and end?  Do we apply it across the board?  Do you have to be a political scientist to talk about politics?  A GP to write medical articles?  A physicist to comment on the LHC?  And what about us bloggers?  Do we have to ‘in with the in crowd’ before we can comment on the activities of celebrities?  Do I have to have a degree in economics before I can comment on the parlous state of the UK economy?  Should we have license to comment?

I’m sorry – but a good columnist SHOULD occasionally say something that pisses people off; one shouldn’t b personally offesnive or abusive, but the sacred cows of modern society should be up for comment. Once you start down the road of ‘reining in’ columnists it’s the thin end of the wedge towards full blown censorship.  Would there have been so much fuss from the media and liberal intelligentsia were the column about the death of a young ‘smack rat’ in similar circumstances?  I very much doubt it; I fear that a lot of the reaction here has been about the death of  ‘one of their own’ in what must be described as unusual circumstances – unusual in my experience, any way.

 There’s an old saying that someone stays liberal on law and order until they get mugged or burgled; perhaps we might expand that to suggest that some people stay liberal on freedom of speech until someone dares to use it to say something they disagree with.

Is this a valid test of Social Media Newsgathering?

journalistA few days ago I came across this news story, in which a group of French journalists are to be holed up in a farmhouse somewhere with no access to normal news media but with access to Social Media – Twitter, Facebook, etc.  The idea is to see whether news can be effectively and accurately reported via Social media.

It’s an interesting idea, but, just like Celebrity Big Brother, one has to ask Is there a point?’  To start with, as has been pointed out by some commentators, by announcing it in this way it’s quite possible that people will try and game the system and attempt to get some totally ludicrous story in to the news programme that these reporters will be creating in their isolated time.  And there’s the lack of ability to follow up alternate sources who aren’t on Twitter, no way of getting a gut feel from the rest of the media, etc.  In the last week there was a particularly persistent rumour on Twitter that Johnny Depp had died, which indicated the ‘life of it’s own’ aspect that many rumours have, only this time it was spread incredibly quickly and virally across Twitter, hence reaching, in the words of the beer adverts, parts other rumours in the past could not reach.  I have a gut feel that the items that interest the vast majority of people on Social Networks are unlikely to be the content of conventional ‘serious news’ outlets.  More National Enquirer than National Interest, more Geek than GATT.  I can see some areas of overlap – the major big stories like Haiti, for example.

On the other hand, if by chance the news reported by these reporters reflects to a greater or lesser degree the output of the conventional media, then it has an awful lot to say about the efficacy of the ‘citizen journalist’ in pumping out on to social media outlets news that is editorially similar to that which is reported by the mainstream. 

A further possibility is that ‘hard’ news stories that don’t get conventionally reported but that do appear on social networks and web sites such as Indymedia might be picked up and run with.  To me, this is the most interesting outcome of all, and if the reporters and their parent stations play the game with a straight bat it could give us all an intriguing insight in to the editorial policies of conventional media and how this form of newsgathering of crowdsourced stories might start showing more sides of conventional news stories than typically gets reported.

One thing that does concern me about this sort of approach, apart from validation and verification, is analysis.  Everything is a scoop; the fast nature of Social Media means that the time taken to interpret and analyse what’s happening is time in which any number of other stories will zoom by.  This is a pattern we’ve already seen in 24 hour rolling news; everything is reported quickly; the facts (or rumours) are reported with no sense of context.  It’s like trying to get a picture of the strategic and political importance of a military engagement from  a soldier who spent the whole battle in a foxhole pinned down by enemy fire.  It’s a valid viewpoint in one way, but is not a method of reporting that produces truly informed citizens.

Google does the right thing (for Google, that is)

googlesignFor a long time I’ve taken the mickey out of Google’s famous slogan ‘Do No Evil’.  I mean, most companies and individuals go through life with their ethical and moral compass intact and manage to perform this simple piece of behavioural calculus every day of their lives.  To me, it takes a particularly arrogant bunch of people to make this slogan a selling point.  And it leaves you open to a lot of pot shots form people like me when you get caught with, figuratively speaking, your hand in the cookie jar.  And I know the irony of my position, being a Google user.  Please, Microsoft, get Bing sorted!

And so it has been for a while with Google and the People’s Republic of China.  Google’s presence in China – – was only sanctioned by the Chinese Government if the search results were modified (after all, censored is such an evilword) so as to suit the political world view of the PRC.  So a search on ‘Tiananmen Square’ might return lots of touristy stuff but certainly wouldn’t bring back stories about student protests, tanks crushing demonstrators, etc.  Google’s stand on this always seemed to be rather against their loudly stated intention to ‘Do No Evil’, but in this case it was pretty clear to everyone except those who’d imbibed of the springs at Mountain View that Google were supping with the Devil with a long spoon.

Until this week.  This week Google announced they were re-considering their positin in the PRC after the company had detected what it described as “a highly sophisticated and targeted attack on our corporate infrastructure”in efforts to get in to the Gmail accounts of Chinese political activists.  This is almost certainly Google speak for “We know the PRC Government is behind this but can’t provie it / don’t want to say it in public’.  As a result, Google have stated:

“over the next few weeks we will be discussing with the Chinese government the basis on which we could operate an unfiltered search engine within the law”.

which at first glance seems pretty brave of Google – looks like they might be following through on the ‘Do No Evil’ stuff and are facing up, toe to toe, to the creators of the Great E-Wall of China.  It would be nice to think that Google’s ethical sense has finally determined that by running the filtered service in China they’re actually compromising their own integrity and also supporting a totalitarian regime.

However, I think it’s most likely that Google will use this set of events as an excuse to get out of China altogether.  Why?  Google are second string in China; the locally developed search engine Baidu has largest market share, with Google apparently being most popular for technical stuff.  Google are losing face by their inability to get to the top of the tree in China, even after compromising their integrity.  In the West, Google are losing the lustre of ‘Do No Evil’ – in some quarters they’ve overtaken Microsoft as the Corporation you love to hate – certainly for me they’re a larger threat to my personal privacy than Microsoft have ever been in the whole history of that  software house.

No, Google will pull out of China, or seriously reduce it’s exposure there, not for ethical reasons, but because it suits Google’s market strategy.  They need to save face out there, and regain some of the moral high ground at home.  This latest Chinese exploit will give them the excuse they need to exit and try and maintain that it’s all ethics, when it’s actually all market.

For Google’s deal with the Chinese Devil, the spoon they supped with just wasn’t long enough.

The last freedom moped from nowhere city….

2009_07_08_iran_01Back in the 1980s there was a sit com on British TV called ‘The Young Ones’, which was based in a student house and followed the surreal adventures of the students who lived there.  One of the characters was a rather pompous, arrogant, wannabe anarchist called ‘Rick’, who was constantly going on about revolution, and whose ratherfatuous comments about politics gave rise to the title of this piece…

As my life unfolded and I became involved in left-wing politics in teh 1980s, I encountered a fair number of ‘Ricks’ – folks who were full of talk about how we should pass a resolution condemning some organisation or country or other for their actions but who were surprisingly absent when it came to the grunt work of winning elections to put ourselves in a position where we could at least effect change.

And Ricks are still with us today, in the electronic world.  I came across this piece from the Telegraph – ‘The fatal folly of the online revolutionaries’ and was reminded of the posturing of Rick and the other Ricks I have known.  The bottom line is that the Iranian Security Services now carry out ‘deep packet inspection’ of a lot of Internet traffic, which allows them to see where traffic originates from and where it’s going, as well as content.  Which means that if someone in the West sends a supportive email message, a one to one Tweet, converses by MSN – it increases the chances of the Iranian authorities identifying the recipient and taking action.  Much of this sort of intelligence work relies on a lot of traffic between ‘targets’ that can be identified and analysed.

So, being a slightly thoughtless, well-meaning, armchair revolutionary encouraging someone in  Iran to take action against the Government via personal message can get someone at the sharp end killed or imprisoned.  Real life, as they say, is a bitch.  A recent retaliation against Twitter probably got more news footage than many of the deaths that take place in these riots, which tells us something about the priorities of our own news services.  A further piece about ‘Twitterised Revolution’ is here.

Now, this doesn’t mean that support cannot be offered – it means that we just have to redress the balance of risk.  And activity should not be mistaken for effective action.  My initial thoughts:

  • There are folks in Iran (and other more authoritarian and totalitarian regimes than our own) who are risking life and limb to get video footage and stories out of of their countries, and succeeding.  If you’re wanting to help the cause, when you come across this stuff promote it via your own Social Media sites, blogs, etc.  Take a look here.
  • Campaigns like the recent one to turn your avatar green for Iran are great for awareness raising.  And they don’t impact individuals ‘over there’ but offer visible support to users of the services.
  • Work within the laws of our own country, and via the political processes here (wherever here might be for you!) to raise awareness, find out what your own Government is doing and vote accordingly next time around if you don’t like it.  Engage with your elected representatives to put pressure on at a Governmental level.

By engaging directly with people ‘on the ground’ in these regimes, encouraging illegal activity, you might get someone killed.  You will almost certainly do less good than if you work within your own country.  The folks out there can do with our moral support and the indirect support of our Government and media – they can probably do without armchair revolutionaries throwing virtual bombs and pissing off the local authorities who then retaliate with real bullets.

Sitting back and engaging in the above suggested activities may not be sexy or cool, it may even be regarded by some as cowardly – but if you want to play at being Rick, just think about the consequences for those on the other end of the connection.  Don’t forget that the aim of the game is to effect change for those people, not provide Westerners with vicarious thrills. 

(Image from From

What goes in to a blog?

I recently came across a couple of articles about blogging. Well, I’ll be honest – they were in my Twitter feed and I took a look at them to see what other people’s views were on the subject of content in blogs. It was sort of distressing to me – according to those particular authors I’m doing absolutely everything wrong.  For example:

  • I mix subjects – I have technical stuff sitting side by side with personal stuff.
  • I rarely have articles that have ‘xxx ways to do yyy’ as the title.
  • I definitely don’t have a marketing plan for Joe’s Jottings

There were a few other items that cropped up in these pieces – enough to make me sit back in my chair (carefully moving Marvin the cat form behind me – he’s a big fellow and would not tolerate being squished) and think about this article.  What goes in a blog?

I guess the bottom line answer is ‘What’s the blog about?’  If you’ve set out to write the world’s authoritative blog on Mousterian Variability then you will have a fairly shrewd idea of what’s good.  A blog entry on your trip toLe Moustier is good, 500 words on your views on nearby spa towns, not so good in the consistency stakes.  But if you’re writing a personal blog, then I’m afraid that as far as I’m concerned it should be a case of ‘publish and be damned’ – what you want to go in, goes in.  After all, one definition of the word ‘blog’ is very straight forward:

“A frequent, chronological publication of personal thoughts and Web links”

and applying this definition I hit the spot a little better.  Joe’s Jottings is indeed chronological, consists of personal thoughts and web links, and strives to be frequent.  🙂

Unfortunately for the digerati and the marketing types out there, my personal thoughts do tend to wander around somewhat and very rarely do they include a line that says ‘How can I market / monetise Joe’s Jottings’ and even less frequently do I bother about whether I think about technical stuff after non-technical stuff, and whether I remembered to include a 5 point list in my thinking every 20 minutes.  People’s personal thoughts, to me the basis of a personal blog, don’t run like that.  They’re the stream of everyday consciousness that makes us the interesting souls that we are.  When we start filtering the contents of what is supposed to be our personal thoughts and writings to suit marketing demographics and audience statistics then we need not worry about censorship of the web – we’re already doing it nicely ourselves.

George Orwell wrote a column for the Tribune newspaper in the 1940s called ‘As I Please’ that would find political pieces next to home handyman tips, for example.  And that was the way that Orwell thought – he was a writer, a political thinker, but also a chap who had other interests that he felt were important enough to him to get featured in his ‘weekly bloggings’ for Tribune. 

Ha!  My question answered, indirectly by George Orwell.  What goes in to a blog?  Whatever you like…as you please.

Do No Evil – Ursula Le Guin, The Authors Guild and Google

dr_evilDuring Google’s formative years, the company decided to come up withthe equivalent of a short mission / vision statement that summed up what it was to be Google.  After some serious thinking, the slogan emerged.  ‘Do No Evil’.  Nice…although as someone pointed out – it really is just civilised good manners to do no evil.  Why make such a fuss about it?

Well, the years pass and Google just keep dipping a toe in the muddy waters of naughtiness, with occasional activities that, whilst usually not up there with breeding sharks with head mounted laser cannons, a la the handsome fellow top left, might be construed as being pretty darn close to very bad indeed. 

Take a look at parts of John Batelle’s book ‘The Search’.

Anyway….enough of the history lesson.  Recently Google have been scanning books.  Hundreds of thousands of books.  MILLIONS of books!Some old and out of copyright…other…not so old and definitely not out of copyright.  And they’re going to be scanning millions more.  Their aim is to create an online scanned library of books to equal the scope and reach of national libraries.  Now, various settlements have been agreed and Google take efforts to try and restrict copying of copyrighted materials, but there have been a number of legal blocks to Google based on their breach of copyright.

The US Authors Guild – an organisation that supports the rights of authors in the united States – has recently entered in to an agreement with Google to support the project.  In many ways, this gives the project the apparent support of a large number of authors, but some individuals – like Ursual Le Guin – are quitting the AG in protest.

I can see the point of the author’s protest – after all I’m a published author myself – but at the same time agree that Google seem to be taking steps to restrict the amount of the book that you can read online.  However, my fears are for the future.  This set of agreements seem to have given Googlean incredible’head start’ on what is effectively a large tranche of the world’s written knowledge.  What happens in a few years time when a library or a publisher hits hard times, and that nice friendly Googlecomes along and says ‘Hey, we can help.  Just let us have the rights to display all of each of your books online, and an e-book publishing right, and we’ll buy you out / licence your stuff.’  All of a sudden Google starts becoming the arbiter of what’s published across the board.

At themoment,  Google can effectively make or break web sites the world over by the simple expedient of adjusting it’s search engines or, in some cases, excluding sites directly.  Google currently only takes the latter steps when they’re compelled to by law or someone like the Chinese Government tells them to do so, but the technology is there.  Again, see ‘The Search’.  Now, imagine 2015 when Googlehave the online rights to the book collections of a few major publishers.  And you happen to run ‘Bill’s Books’ – a little shop still selling books the old fashioned way – and you have old stock that might just conflict withthe publisher that Google have just bought up.  You might just find yourself falling off the search results… Conflict of interest, maybe?

I’m afraid I don’t trust anyone withthe sort of control that Googleis getting over the world’s knowledge and information.  It’s an extreme idea, but could Google end therevolution of available knowledge started by Gutenberg.  If all knowledgeis increasingly online, and access is directly or indirectly arbitrated by one corporation, that is a Hell of an opportunity for censorship of the sort last practised in the Middle ages by the Catholic Church or by the Totalitarian Governments of the 20th Century.

Like most of us – I use Google quite extensively.  I’m just not quite sure that the spoon I’m using to sup with is long enough anymore.

Is this really to the public good?

911buildings A couple of weeks ago I came across this article in the Guardian (not my normal read, but their online media pages are useful) referring to the publication by the Wikileaks organisationof an archive of text and pager messages from 9th September, 2001, which effectively provides a narration to the terrorist attacks on New York city that day.

The archive contains text and page messages generated by both human beings and computerised systems.  Many IT systems fall back on sending pager and text messages when something goes wrong, and unsurprisingly a lot of IT systems were going wrong that day.  There were also lots of ‘tactical’ messages betweenthe emergency services, requesting people come in to work, etc.  But what I find rather distressing – and maybe I’m over-sensitive here – is that amount of private messages between normal people involved in a very abnormal situation – folks in imminent danger of death reaching out to their loved ones in the only way possible to say ‘I love you’; worried watchers of unfolding events realising that their family was in the middle of it all and asking them to get in touch; basically, an awful lot of people in extremis reaching out to family and friends with concern and to say, in some cases, Goodbye.

Now, who on Earth could consider the latter clutch of messages to be of any public interest whatsoever?  I’m honestly dismayed that Wikileaks did this.  There are soem things in this world that are just personal.  They may be of titillation value to the public, but to argue that there is any public interest value in publishing such personal messages in this way just beggars belief.  I have to say I’d be very annoyed if I found a loved one’s last message to me published for all and sundry to read without my say so.

Wikileaksdoes a lot of good work, but they need to realise that there are categories of hidden information in the world.  For the sake of argument, let’s call them Sensibly Secret, Public Interest, Private and Personal.  Sensibly Secret is stuff that’s been officially labelled as ‘secret’ for purposes of national security, and validly so.  Public Interest is stuff that is generated by our governments, local and national, our leaders, businesses, etc. that some may wish to hide but that it is genuinely in the wider public interest to ‘out’ – a government department covering up mistakes, a business hiding poor safety reports, bad public budget management, public safety, military errors that have cost the lives of our troops, etc.  Then there’s Private – things that businesses and individuals MAY wish to keep secret – the day to day details of the running of a business, or Government, which may need to be publicised or made available to others in order to ensure that no wrongdoing is taking place.  And then there’s personal; the stuff of the red-top tabloids; who Tiger Woods is sleeping with/ has slept with, whether x,y or z is gay or has a fish fetish, and private texts and emails between people facing death.

There….not perfect but not too difficult to get ones head around, is it?  Personal information may well get out in to the world but it isn’t the role of whistle blowing groups like Wikileaks to publicise it.  There are enough real, live, current Public Interest issues to chase up without becoming an electronic tabloid.

Twitter hacked – not the end of the world, no surprise, and a badge of honour.

There’s a scene in the movie ‘Blazing Saddles’ where the Waco Kid, being asked why he’s ended up in prison for drunkenness, bewails the fact that when he was the well known gun-slinger everyone wanted to try and get him, so they could be the new number one.  He tells how he eventually hung up his guns when he heard a voice yelling ‘Draw’, turned around to fight, and nearly shot a 5 year old child.

He turns his back on the little brat, who then shoots the Waco Kid in the ass…..

Life in the online world gets like that, too.

Apparently Twitter was hacked last night by an outfit called the Iranian Cyber Army.  The story broke on the Mashable web site – I have to say that were I not receiving Tweets from Mashable I wouldn’t have known, as I’ve been getting (I think) Tweeted over the period of the hack and I can quite happily see their home page.  The fact that this is now being reported as a DNS based attack means that it wasn’t so much Twitter that was walloped as that traffic to Twitter was diverted elsewhere for a while …

Anyway, let’s face it – this is a slap in the face to Twitter (indirectly) but isn’t the end of the world.  At least some of us – if not most of us who’re not using the DNS system that was compromised – are still Tweeting  and the world will not slide to DEFCON1 because the global inanity stream was temporarily interrupted for the Digerati.

But, assuming these chaps ARE who they claim to be –  a group with Iranian sympathies – we shouldn’t be surprised.  A campaign was organised through Twitter earlier this year to protest about the clamp down on civil rights in Iran.  This attack may be regarded by the originators as ‘payback’ and goes to show that in Cyberspace, as in the real world, ‘people power’ is not a one way street.  The big boys do sometimes have their day of successful protest as well.  Governments can quite easily learn the fine arts of online civil disobedience, and do it with greater ease than the folks running the protest.

When people use a site as a base or launching ground for civil disobedience, campaigning or protest then it will become a target for those who object to the issues being promoted.  That kickback may come in the form of debate, negative campaigning against the site, abuse of people on the site, legal efforts to remove or silence the site, or, as here, technical efforts to remove the site.  Which means that more and more sites used by people to organise campaigns will either have to become ‘hardened’ to protect against attack or stop carrying legitimate material that someone, somewhere, is pissed enough about to want it removed.

We may be heading in to a period of ‘big boy’s rules’ in cyberspace where sites that permit the exposition of people power are simply taken down by this sort of online activity.  But if that happens to your favourite site, and the cause is just, don’t be sad; regard it as a badge of honour that your activities have upset someone enough to want to take you down.

Remember the words of Winston Churchill ‘ ‘You have enemies; that’s good – it means that you have stood up for something sometime in your life’.