Facebook’s HUGE Gaping Security Hole

To say I was stunned to discover StalkScan today is an understatement. It’s value proposition is simple: enter the profile link of someone on Facebook….anyone…..and have instant access to all of their private data!

That’s right, everything like photos, videos, posts, friends, political parties, everything. I suggest you immediately do these two:

  • Send a tweet to @facebook and to CEO Mark Zuckerberg @finkd and let them know what you think
  • Fill out this form when you’re logged in to Facebook and complain.

While I am well aware that privacy and security online is an illusion, Facebook has has a history of doing a horseshit job protecting us. Let them know that you think so too.

Once you put in someone’s profile URL, you have instant access to all of these choices!


You Are Dead. So Now What Happens With Your Digital Life?

There is no easy way to say this but here goes: You are going to die and so am I. It is not a matter of if we will die, but rather when.

Now that fact is out of the way and on the table, what is going to happen with your digital life when you’re gone?

Really good article today in the New York Times about this exact topic: Is Your Digital Life Ready for Your Death?

You’ve probably thought about what will happen to your finances, your possessions and maybe even your real estate when you die. But what about your Facebook account? Or your hard-drive backups?

The NYTimes article gives several practical actions to take and they’re easy to do:  [Read more…]


Takei Tours YouTube Space LA

George Takei’s YouTube show, Takei’s Take, tours YouTube Space LA (there are also London, Tokyo and New York locations currently). If you haven’t yet heard about this space, and what they’re trying to accomplish, this is a perfect overview in 4 minutes (and always enjoyable due to George’s take on things and his delightfully positive attitude and outlook)!


We Are All Connected: My DNA Journey

UPDATE 5/11/2014
Saw this article today and did some investigation.
A variant of the gene KLOTHO (KL) is known for its anti-aging effects in people fortunate enough to carry one copy. Now researchers find that it also has benefits when it comes to brain function. The variant appears to lend beneficial cognitive effects by increasing overall levels of klotho in the bloodstream and brain.” Also, Klotho (KL) is generally considered to be a tumor suppressor gene in breast and pancreatic cancers.

Turns out I have the variant. I would never had known that had I not been able to login to 23andMe and discover that I had it. Cool, heh?

Three years or so ago National Geographic produced a fascinating show called The Human Family Tree as part of its Genographic Project. If you haven’t seen it I don’t want to introduce any spoilers, but it was the first show like this I’d watched that told real stories about the amazing connectedness of humans. It also had surprises in it that obviously changed the worldview of some of its partcipants!

That show was a big deal to me since it was the first spark of my internal fire to learn more about DNA and my own family tree.

23andme-kitAfter this show I became very intrigued by the work going on at 23andMe. At the time, the ‘swab’ kit (for sending in your DNA) cost $499 so I decided against it at the moment. In the fall of 2011 they dropped the price to $99 so I signed up.

It was fun to see the results but the key with 23andMe is that the participants have to answer survey questions…over-and-over-and-over again. I’m willing to do it since I benefit from other people doing the same, but it did become a daunting task after awhile. Still, I was able to see what others in my maternal/paternal haplogroups suffered from so I have at least an idea of what sorts of illnesses I’m prone to having.

I’ve also connected with 3rd, 4th, and 5th cousins. One woman who is a 3rd cousin, for example, connected with me and she lives in California. I looked at her profile and, in a long list of surnames she was connected to, was the surname of my maternal grandmother’s parents! So my great grandfather’s family in Norway had a male who, um, ‘connected’ with a woman in her lineage and passed on that familial DNA. Cool.  [Read more…]


McKinsey: Social Media’s Productivity Payoff

If you have ever tried to convince a senior level executive in a company that investing in social media would have a payoff, then you know exactly how tough it is to answer the “So where is the ‘return’ on that investment?” question!

The McKinsey Global Institute, the research arm and ‘think tank’ of the global management consulting firm McKinsey & Co., has just released a new report entitled, The social economy: Unlocking value and productivity through social technologies. Like all other reports they’ve released of this nature, this one is free and is absolutely worth your time to read if you have any interest in this topic whatsoever.

The authors of this study, James Manyika, Michael Chui, and Hugo Sarrazin, also wrote this post at the Harvard Business Review touting their study and I really liked their first paragraph in that post since it about sums up the value of reading this report succinctly:

How’s this for counter-intuitive? Social technologies — the software and services that make it possible to show off your vacation pictures to all your Facebook friends and follow your favorite team tweet by tweet — are not just giant time sinks that keep your employees from getting their work done. On the contrary, they may become the most powerful tools yet developed to raise the productivity of high-skill knowledge workers — the kind of workers who help drive innovation and growth, and who are going to be in increasingly short supply.

How productive did they find social media use? For many of us the findings in this report simply confirm what we know intuitively about the power of social media and connecting with prospects, customers, colleagues and industry peers. But one of the reasons adoption of new technologies always lags we early adopters is because there isn’t mainstream, business-centric and authoritative voices confirming it for organizational leadership.

This study, while still making a few leaps here and there, will go a long way on motivating executives to fund and accelerate the use of these new technologies. Just look at this graph and the “20 – 25 percent” productivity increase and you know this will get A LOT of attention!



Social Apps, By Default, Are Hijacking Facebook

After noticing that my friends in Facebook were posting EVERY song they listened to, EVERY video they watched and EVERY link they decided to share I was just about ready to delete my account due to all the “noise” of these lifestream sorts of postings.

Increasingly social apps like Socialcam, Spotify, Google Play and most others have set, as a default if you connect your Facebook or Twitter accounts, to go ahead and auto-post EVERYTHING the app does to your Facebook news feed! The result is a steady stream of stuff I don’t care to read or to see from an accelerating number of friends and family who are starting to use these social apps.

Socialcam's Facebook settings (click for larger view)

This morning my sister commented under a rant I did within Facebook (imploring people to go in to app settings and to please disable auto-posting to Facebook) and she pointed out she was seeing EVERYTHING posted from my Socialcam app. 


So I went in to Socialcam’s settings on Facebook and discovered that these were set by default:

  • + Add your Facebook friends’ videos to your feed
  • + Publish my Socialcam actions (Follow, Like and Comment) to Facebook
  • + Publish videos I watch to Facebook.

Seriously? I kicked myself for not having taken more time when installing Socialcam — which I’d done some time ago but then deleted in favor of using another app called Klip but reinstalled it when so many of my friends started using it — and didn’t spend any time deciding what I’d allow the app to do and not do.

My bad.

The bummer is that this sort of “auto connecting” to Facebook is “EVERYONE’s bad” and newbies (or the masses who, for the most part, are not tech-savvy or aware) will quickly make Facebook more of a cluttered and horrible user experience as these “social apps” are adopted by them in droves. 

Though these default setups by social apps are undoubtedly making it easier for an app to go viral — it’s exactly what Instagram did and look at what happened to them — the result is that more and more people are becoming really agitated about this practice (like me) and will either have to go in to each app settings to find ways to turn the damn things off, or they’ll just delete the app…

…or slow their use of Facebook or delete their account altogether.


Zite’s Amazing Followup (& the App is Free)

One of my favorite iPad apps is called Zite. As a self-proclaimed news-n-information junkie, I’m always on the hunt for better and more powerful ways to stay on top of trends. In the past I’ve trolled my 300+ RSS feeds in Google Reader, but increasingly am using “aggregation” apps like Zite to do the heavy lifting for me. It’s a bonus that skimming/reading/trolling for news and information with an app like Zite is A LOT more enjoyable than in a simple news reader.

I was having challenges with one aspect of Zite though: for some reason articles I was saving to Instapaper for later (or offline) reading weren’t being saved. Since remembering where a piece of news or info came from is increasingly difficult in today’s “drinking from a firehose of information” world, this non-saving was a deal-killer for me with Zite.

Figuring that support for a free app like Zite would be either marginally or non-responsive to my concern, was I ever pleasantly surprised with what took place!   [Read more…]


SayMedia (Typepad) Unethical Billing Practice

In the same way that AOL screwed thousands of their customers by double-billing until they got caught, made it extraordinarily difficult to leave the service, and did this so often with practicesso egregious that almost every state in the union had its attorney general go after the company until they settled.

SayMedia, parent company of the blogging service Typepad (they acquired Six Apart this fall) among other things, has been billing for services not rendered.

After a few months of a painful migration from Typepad to WordPress—made all the more difficult by the Typepad practice of obscuring the image pathname as well as changing their permalink structure three times from 2004-2009 when I was with them—I posted about my joyful transition to a platform (WordPress) that had a pulse and some passion behind it. I cancelled my Typepad Pro service that month (June of 2009).

Now I discover today (from doing tax prep last night) that Typepad not only billed me LAST November (2009) for $149.50—probably because I was doing a blog for Scholastic Administrator running on Typepad and had logged in to Typepad in order to post to it and they must’ve matched the email and assumed I was logging in to the cancelled account—and now I found out that they billed me AGAIN for a yearly $149.50 for a year of pro service this November!

This is no accident. It is clearly intentional and, I’m guessing based on my past experiences in businesses going down the shitter like Six Apart is, that they’re sneakily and quietly billing everyone they can, hoping that some percentage will slip through the cracks.


Typepad charges a year in advance. They just posted a credit for one charge and I’ve contacted them about additional credits for June-December of 2009 (a pro-rated amount) as well as this full year (since they charged me in November of 2009 for Dec ’09 to Dec ’10).

While using Typepad and seeing the acceleration in social media use, I was always stunned by how hidden from view Ben and Mena Trott were (the founders of Six Apart). They barely blogged, were reluctant to engage with customers or the press, and were clearly way over their head.

My interactions with former CEO Barak Berkowitz to the current one Chris Alden, as well as the former “evangelist” for them Anil Dash, my impression always one of them willing to initially engage but then they’d go strangely radio silent….in a very atypical way. I’ve worked with dozens of startups and with (and at) large software companies and the passive-aggressiveness, shyness, and what seemed like childlike timidity was one of the other reasons I abandoned Typepad. My gut told me they couldn’t possibly be successful with those attitudes, their business practices and what certainly came across as complete indifference to customers paying them money.

I’ll be one of the first ones to stand up and cheer when Six Apart goes out of business and/or shuts down Typepad (like they did Vox) because so many people have abandoned the service.


“They’re Here…”

In the 1982 film Poltergeist, the little girl in the family becomes aware of the “TV people”, spirits manifesting themselves within the television. The first sign something was up is when the Dad falls asleep, the TV turns to white noise, and the youngest daughter hears the spirits talking and comes downstairs, places her hands on the TV saying, “They’re here!

No one in the family knows what’s coming and that the little girl has invited in the spirits and things turn ugly fast (by the way, if you haven’t seen it, rent it this Halloween and watch it with all the lights off).

We all know “they’re here” (services that analyze and aggregate what we’re doing online) but it’s happening so slowly, so stealthily and so seamlessly that most of us aren’t really aware of what’s coming.

I can talk until I’m blue in the face with clients about the power of “The Big Three“: Predictive analytics; location awareness; and presence awareness. These three are enabling all the major companies to perform precision targeting of ads by understanding our likely behavior and response to an ad, determining where we are located at that moment, and whether we’re online. The last one, by the way, will matter more as smartphones and mobile devices allow always-on apps to run in the background so marketers can deliver ads in real-time wherever we are at the moment.

You probably already know this but if you don’t, The Big Three are already here and living among us. And every smart app developer and online company are using them in some fashion! Is this a good thing or is it evil? [Read more…]


SixApart Lost Its Way

VideoEgg is acquiring SixApart, maker of Movable Type and the hosted service TypePad. Normally I wouldn’t care about a small time buy like this one, if it wasn’t for the fact that TypePad was where I started blogging in 2004.

The TypePad hosted service was the best out there in 2004. Great features, good themes, and a rock solid infrastructure. But in most ways they didn’t keep pace with the capabilities of WordPress, the emergence of microblogging platforms like Tumblr and Posterous, and I know I often hammered on them to add features and even got engaged in emails with CEO Chris Alden, who promised many new things that never materialized. As an aside, Alden’s joining SixApart was announced by co-founder Mena Trott in this blog post—her most recent—from three years ago.

The original iPod

In my view, SixApart lost their way. TypePad was the service as blogging was exploding and they rested on their laurels and didn’t do much while others were innovating all around them. I got so fed up I exported all my content in 2009 and, with great effort to fix their goofy attempts to keep people from migrating away, did so with great delight since I was finally on a platform (WordPress) that gave me great flexibility (and yes, I see the irony with yesterday’s post).

As an analogy, imagine if Apple had introduced the first iPod and then didn’t make any material changes for several years. Or, like Alden pointed out to me many times when he mentioned how many wonderful things they’d introduced, it was if Apple added a bunch of features to an iPod that no one cared about (“Look at our new Notes functionality! Now you can listen to music and twirl your click wheel to select letters and type notes!“).

The other thing that always bugged me about SixApart was how opaque they were when they were in the business of transparency (i.e., blogging). When they had service outages they never talked to their customers publicly. When the heat got turned up they appeared to hide from view. Alden, the chief evangelist Anil Dash, Mena Trott (with whom I talked at Web 2.0 Summit) and others with whom I interacted over the years would initially engage and then shut down and go radio silent.

This behavior was polar opposite from other interactions I’ve had with companies whose leadership embrace and appreciate a customer trying to help and suggest ways to make their product better. SixApart folks always seemed to take customer feedback as a personal affront and go in to defensive mode instantly vs. seeing it as an opportunity to improve.

It’s no wonder they failed.