March 2007

Bloggers Behaving Badly

by Joey deVilla on March 27, 2007

Internet Tough Guy Magazine

It’s shaping up to be a long week in the blogosphere, and it’s only Tuesday! What with apologies for bad ideas, ungentlemanly non-apologies, and Dave Winer and Nick Denton joining forces to form a great moral vacuum (So THAT’s where the sucking sound is coming from!), expect Techmeme and just about every other techie blog out there to participate in the online discussion of what is and isn’t appropriate online behaviour.

In the interest of keeping things a little less noisy on this blog, I’m going to post any opinion about Kathy Sierra’s situation on my personal blog, starting with this entry: The Star Trek “Nazi Planet” Episode, MeanKids.org and Kathy Sierra.

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Wigu comic from February 20, 2002: “What is wrong with internet people?”

Barely minutes after I dashed off a quick post about how having a web presence can greatly improve your job prospects in the high-tech world, I found out about Kathy “Creating Passionate Users” Sierra’s article that reminds us of the downside of a web presence, especially if you’re a woman.

She writes:

As I type this, I am supposed to be in San Diego, delivering a workshop at the ETech conference. But I’m not. I’m at home, with the doors locked, terrified. For the last four weeks, I’ve been getting death threat comments on this blog. But that’s not what pushed me over the edge. What finally did it was some disturbing threats of violence and sex posted on two other blogs… blogs authored and/or owned by a group that includes prominent bloggers. People you’ve probably heard of.

What follows is her description of some very nasty threats made against her, and as a result, she’s decided to cut back on blogging, cancel her much-anticipated appearances at the O’Reilly Emerging Technologies Conference and call the police (and with good cause: remember, death threats are illegal, and hey, don’t dismiss ‘em until you get one yourself).

I can only have the vaguest understanding of what it feels like to get a death threat. The warning that I got over the phone from the creepy guy from Quick Boys Moving and Storage — “Remove that comment. That’s all I’m going to say” — was somewhat unnerving. I imagine that getting death threats and seeing Photoshopped photos of yourself in gags is far, far worse.

I am reminded of a line from Neal Stephenson’s novel Snow Crash — the one about the sexism in high-tech circles being a particularly bad case, since male techies often consider themselves “too smart to be sexist”.

I encourage all of you to speak out against these evil and illegal actions and do what you can to make sure stuff like this doesn’t happen again. And, if you’ve got the time and inclination, please leave a note of support over at Kathy’s blog.

Hang in there, Kathy. We’re all looking forward to your return.

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No Web Presence? It Might Hurt Your Job Prospects!

by Joey deVilla on March 26, 2007

Onion article: “Area Man Consults Internet Whenever Possible”Those of you who’ve been following my personal blog, The Adventures of Accordion Guy in the 21st Century, might recall a posting from way back in 2004 in which I wrote about my appearance in an article in the Globe and Mail titled Net Diarists Blog Their Way to a Job. The article also covered how the blogs helped the charming, telegenic and tech-savvy Amber Macarthur land her job. For reasons I will never fathom (but for which I am grateful), they used my picture for the article instead of hers.

The general gist of that article from a couple of years ago was that having a blog can help build your presence on the web, which in turn can help get you a job. Today, a ComputerWorld article posted today takes it to the next step: it says that not having a web presence can actually hurt your job search.

In a 2006 survey by executive search firm ExecuNet in Norwalk, Conn., 77 of 100 recruiters said they use search engines to check out job candidates. In a CareerBuilder.com survey of 1,150 hiring managers last year, one in four said they use Internet search engines to research potential employees. One in 10 said they also use social networking sites to screen candidates. In fact, according to Search Engine Watch, there are 25 million to 50 million proper-name searches performed each day.

In today’s job market, turning up missing on the Web may not be a fatal flaw, and it’s probably better than having a search result in a photo of you in a hula skirt. But over time, the lack of a Web presence — particularly for IT professionals — may well turn from a neutral to a negative, says Tim Bray, director of Web technologies at Sun Microsystems Inc.

“Particularly because we’re a core technology provider, if someone came looking for a senior-level job and had left no mark on the Internet, I’d see that as a big negative,” he says.

The article provides these tips for boosting your presence on the web:

  1. Know where people look. Do a “vanity search” on your name on search engines and blog search tools like Technorati. See what the first three to five pages of results have to say about you.
  2. Start a blog. Blogs, when used well are SEO goldmines as they often are:
    • Heavy on the text
    • Rich in links
    • Updated often
    • Well-formatted (from an HTML point of view)
  3. Join the open source community.
  4. Build a web page.
  5. Create a web profile.

Andy Beal added another four tips to the list:

  1. Buy your domain name. “Even if you don’t do a lot with it, you should own a domain name that matches (as close as possible) your name. Your online brand is important, and guess what, despite how many employers you may ultimately have, you’ll likely keep that same name for life!”
  2. Understand your Google profile. “Most potential employers are going to use Google, so you may as well focus on the search results there. What’s being said about you, what pages are indexed? Don’t just look at stuff that is about you, look at listings that are about someone with the same name, yet maybe negative. You should be prepared to explain that the person convicted for 3 counts of armed robbery, is not actually you.”
  3. Own your brand. “When someone searches for your name, you should try and make sure you have as much control over what they see, as possible. Set up a Flickr account, LinkedIn profile, blog, user-group profile, etc.”
  4. Destroy the evidence. Ok, so while most stuff you put online is there for eternity, that doesn’t mean you can’t try some damage control. “That blog post you uploaded – the one where you went on an all night drinking binge and broke into the local Krispy Kreme – remove it! While it may still exist somewhere on the web, it is less likely to show up in the Google search results, if you’ve removed it from your own blog/social network.”

Andy also points to an article of his from last year that might come in handy: Online Reputation Monitoring & Management Beginners Guide.

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Big Content 1, Cablevision 0, Apple ?

by george on March 26, 2007

New York cable operator Cablevision has been trying to roll out network DVR service to their customers for the last year:

In a move that could ignite a major debate about consumer “fair use” of TV programming, Cablevision Systems will unveil plans to test a service that gives cable subscribers the ability to record and time-shift shows using existing digital set-top boxes.

Although it works just like TiVo and other digital video recorders (DVRs) — consumers choose in advance which shows to capture and can fast-forward through ads — the recording itself will be stored at the cable system, not on a hard drive in the consumer’s home.

USA TODAY’s prediction of trouble between Cablevision and Big Content proved prophetic. Last week Cablevision lost a court battle over their network DVR service

A federal judge has ruled against Cablevision Systems’ experiment with network digital video recorders, siding with Hollywood studios who said the devices would have violated copyright law.

Several studios and cable networks sued Cablevision, saying the company didn’t get their permission to rebroadcast the programs.

Cablevision argued that because the control of the recording and playback was in the hands of the consumer, and not Cablevision, the devices were compliant with copyright law.

Are things going so well in Hollywood that Big Content can take their cable-operating friends to court as well as their internet-based frenemies?

Cablevision (and every other cable company) was simply looking for a way to offer time-shifting to their customers, but with a better economic model than putting a box with a hard drive in every home. When you think about it, the studios would actually have been in a much better position to enact content restrictions (such as no commercial skipping, or time-bombing recorded shows) on a network DVR service rather than with a traditional client-side DVR architecture.

And yet, Big Content would rather kneecap a longtime collaborator in Cablevision for the sake of a rebroadcasting right that exists in theory, rather than in practice. In practice, as far as the customer is concerned, this is just the same as any DVR.

For all their protests to the contrary, the movie studios seem intent on empowering interlopers like Apple (hey, even Scoble likes Apple tv), rather than protecting their natural friends in content distribution. For Apple, content is a means to an end (an important one, to be sure). Making Apple’s hardware-based business model more powerful may be the ultimate outcome of Big Content’s actions against network DVRs.

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That Reminds Me of a Story…

by Joey deVilla on March 26, 2007

Tombstone for the newspaper: “Hey! Not dead yet! Quit eulogizing and go get some shovels!”

A couple of recent articles — Mike Arrington’s Print Media Demise, Cont. and Susan Mernit’s recent blog post, The pile on to declare print (newspapers) dead, reminded me of a story I recently heard from my friend Chandra, who teaches what you might call an “English for business” course at a community college in Toronto.

She posed this question to her class: “Suppose your company was facing some negative publicity in the papers. What would you do?”

Here students that there’d be nothing to worry about. The general gist was that nobody gets their news from newspapers anymore.

She then changed her question slightly. “Okay then,” she said, “what if the bad publicity came from blogs?”

The response this time was different. Bad press in the blogosphere? Okay, now you’ve given us something to worry about.

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    “Hello My Name Is” sticker

    Over at the Tucows Blog, there’s a new article by Tucows CEO Elliot Noss titled Questions to Ask Before You Pick Your Domain Name Registrar. Here are the questions, each of which Elliot goes into further detail:

    1. What is the registrar’s primary business model?
    2. Does the registrar make transfers as easy as the rules allow?
    3. Do you allow for easy locking and unlocking of domain names?
    4. Does the registrar make it easy to opt-out of auto-renewals?
    5. Do the registrar tie domains to its services?
    6. Does the registrar offer Whois privacy? What are its privacy policies in general?
    7. What are the registrar’s policies on compliance issues like litigation, ownership disputes and WDRP?
    8. How easy is it to contact the registrar?
    9. What happens when my domain expires?
    10. Are the people selling you your domain name a registrar or a reseller?

    If you’re thinking about registering a domain name anytime soon, this article is a worthwhile read.

    Some of the terms and concepts covered in the article might be unfamiliar to you, but worry not: this week, I plan to write some articles explaining some of them. I hope that this will clear up some of the confusion about domain name registration.

    One more thing: in the interest of full disclosure, I work for Tucows, a company that is a domain name registrar and for which Elliot Noss is the CEO.

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    A “Clown Co.” Image for Your Blog Entries

    by Joey deVilla on March 23, 2007

    Hey, other tech news sites.

    We understand the internet ecosystem — borrow a little from this site, grab an image from that site, quote and link to a couple of blog articles — and we think it’s all good.

    We notice that in the rush to write articles about “Clown Co.” — you know, the partnership between News Corporation and NBC Universal to create a “YouTube killer” — that while references to Google’s coining the name for the partnership abound, there is a paucity of actual clown images being used in the stories, even in tech news sites known for their snark and smart-assery (Valleywag, we’re lookin’ right atcha).

    Because we at Global Nerdy live to serve, we hereby provide this image for you to use in your articles. It features Insane Clown Posse, a ridiculous hip-hop band with a follwoing among “the kids”. There are some similarities between ICP (as the band is often called) and Clown Co.: it’s a partnership of two, both ventures are kind of hard to explain, and hey, we felt like poking fun at them. Here’s the pic:

    “Insane Clown Posse” picture for Clown Co.

    Feel free to use it wherever you like — just credit Global Nerdy, okay?

    Don’t say we never did nuthin’ for ya.

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