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June 30, 2007

Can you be too popular?

If you are Facebook you might be. As for if you are on Facebook, I doubt it. Though Jimmy Carr had over 3,000 'friends' when last I looked.

Facebook could be in a bind. A colleague (in her 20s - when to find someone on there over 29 was a rarity - yonks ago, perhaps even two months back) mentioned the site to me as something interesting businesses should be aware of and could even benefit from as a way of engaging staff and communicating with them.

As you will now know, it has exploded in a glorious example of tipping points, network theories and viral marketing frenzy. PhD students must be tripping over each other to analyse it.

The problem I anticipate is this. The company opened up its API to application developers. The scope, then, is there for all kinds of web-based tools to be accessed via Facebook - webmail to name but one. This makes it more usable but also gives good cause to corporations, already concerned about the time staff spend poking each other online to block the site.

Thus the baby gets thrown out with the bathwater.

The impact on Facebook is primarily that it gets less use and therefore less ad revenue. More significantly in the long run, however, its initial potential to connect people and maintain networks that are more than a substitute for existing tools (email, mobile etc) is reduced. Currently you can be a member of your company's network. However, for the most part businesses are not using these to engage with staff or break down silos within their organisations.

Even more significantly, Facebook is approaching the critical mass that enables us to maintain our business contacts. If you've tried to implement a CRM (customer/contact relationship management) database, you will appreciate how damned hard it is to get people to do this. Businesses are ever more intent on getting staff to leverage their external contacts - tools like Facebook could enable this.

I have a few suggestions, then, that might address this and keep Facebook accessible and potentially more useful:

1. Create a 'work-friendly' access point with slimmed down access to applications to minimise the security risks to businesses
2. Enable users to designate (non-mutually exclusive) 'work' and 'social' contacts (should they wish to) to manage reputational issues more subtly
3. Engage with major businesses to see how Facebook can be of benefit to business
4. And businesses - rather than removing access from corporate IT networks - add a fair use of social networking tools into the IT policy

Any further thoughts?

June 30, 2007 in Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

June 24, 2007

6 degrees of Wikipedia

If you're bored at work here's a mild diversion which proves strangely addictive (or perhaps that's just me).

1. Select a destination: a pop group, film, well, anything really, so say The Manic Street Preachers
2. Click on the Wikipedia Random Page
3. Try to get to your chosen destination in the fewest steps
4. Er... that's it.

So, then
1. Deepak Singh Meher (No? Me neither. An Indian Fame Academy-style show contestent apparently) to...
2. Fame Gurukul (said show) to...
3. Fame Academy to...
4. Edith Bowman (DJ and Fame Academy winner) to...
5. Top of the Pops to...
6. Britpop to...
7. The Manics

Well, maybe not 6 but I bet it could be done more quickly.

Update: naturally there is a page on Wikipedia all about this

June 24, 2007 in Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 23, 2007

A gem from Newsbiscuit

Soviet Union to reform for ‘one night only’

Despite what Kirgizia claimed about the Soviet Union being a team of equals, as one fan said ‘the Soviet Union without Russia would have been like The Osmonds without Donny.’

June 23, 2007 in Humour | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 07, 2007

When discussion means nothing of the sort

Today's Government Discussion Document Ahead of Proposed Counter Terror Bill 2007 reads like the minutes taken from a conversation between John Reid and a flunky in the back of the ministerial limo taking the self proclaimed Terminator from the Houses of Parliament to the Home Office. At least they remembered to remove point 21: "Erm, I think that's about all. Flick through the Sun and see if there's anything I've missed."

It is not as though anyone even bothered formating it properly, so point three contains a phrase in larger type than the rest of the sentence - "...new drive, more cohesion and a greater strategic capacity in the fight against terror". Surely they weren't trying to emphasise this, were they?

Of the three key elements trailed in advance, pre-charge detention ('90 days' to civil liberties nerds), is first up with three measily points. Only three are needed though, apparently, as 'The decision to increase pre charge detection limits from 14-28 days has been justified by subsequent events. That means we have been able to bring forward prosecutions that otherwise may not have been possible.'

Really? Note that weasily 'may' lurking five words from the end. May. Not 'would'. And the evidence? None presented. Thus the debate is not about whether 90 days (or even 28 for that matter) is an issue, merely how to do it. See what they did there?

Point 7 highlights that in 'terrorist' cases suspects can be questioned after charge on any aspect of the offense for which they have been charged' (Reid's emphasis). Sounds fine. However, in the broader context of 'terror' legislation, the police have been free with the use of prevention of terrorism powers - octogenerian cause celebre Walter Wolfgang being a fine example. Please do correct me, but what is to stop police circumventing the non-terrorist law by charging suspects of non-terrorism activities under terrorism legislation? A minor point perhaps, but I'd like to know, nevertheless.

'The police have identified some circumstances in which it is necessary for them to have a self-standing power of entry and search of premises to enforce and monitor the control order effectively.' And these are, precisely? Without going into the decided dubious case for control orders and their affront to habeas corpus, once more this is not a discussion, still less a debate: no case is made beyond the fact that 'the police' wish it. I'm sure some wish some offences resulted capital punishment, but that doesn't mean it should be so.

Intercept as evidence: as Taking Liberties director, Chris Atkins reasoned on FiveLive this morning, use of intercept evidence in trials is not per se a bad thing. However, past experience of the governance surrounding terror measures suggest that it needs robust accountability, residing with the judiciary, to prevent abuse of the system.

The wording of point 18 is typically meaningless:

The right approach is to address this carefully and fully before deciding on whether to use intercept as evidence. That is what we are doing. However we believe that we now need to reach a conclusion on this issue. Therefore, subject to further discussions to agree the structure and timescale, I am today announcing that we will commission a review of intercept as evidence on Privy Counsellor terms.

"We need to make a decision, so let's launch an enquiry." Now I'm not absolutely certain, but would I be right to assume 'Privy Counsellor terms' would not be entirely public and transparent?

And then stop and search. This one's been kicked into the long grass. Or so it was reported. I'm not so sure - all the document says is that they are consulting on it. Don't believe the spin.

So finally, you are exhorted to be involved in the consultation via the Security website.Well, not quite. You are asked to email your comments to CTBill2007@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk. So that's okay then.

So what do we do? First off, I suggest we all email proposing a more open forum for discussion. Secondly we debate and always CC the email address, to keep them in the loop as it were.

Still, my hunch is that based upon this document, discussion on the issues is not what Reid wants. The assumption is that the majority needs to work out how to circumvent the pesky minority, so as I contend, this is not really a discussion at all. No change there then.

June 7, 2007 in Observations | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack