Ramblings & ephemera

How to increase donations on non-profit websites

From Jakob Nielsen’s “Donation Usability: Increasing Online Giving to Non-Profits and Charities” (Alertbox: 30 March 2009): We asked participants what information they want to see on non-profit websites before they decide whether to donate. Their answers fell into 4 broad categories, 2 of which were the most heavily requested: The organization’s mission, goals, objectives, and […]

Gottman on relationships

From THE MATHEMATICS OF LOVE: A Talk with John Gottman (Edge: 14 April 2004): So far, his surmise is that “respect and affection are essential to all relationships working and contempt destroys them. It may differ from culture to culture how to communicate respect, and how to communicate affection, and how not to do it, […]

The future of security

From Bruce Schneier’s “Security in Ten Years” (Crypto-Gram: 15 December 2007): Bruce Schneier: … The nature of the attacks will be different: the targets, tactics and results. Security is both a trade-off and an arms race, a balance between attacker and defender, and changes in technology upset that balance. Technology might make one particular tactic […]

Old botnets dead; new botnets coming

From Joel Hruska’s “Meet Son of Storm, Srizbi 2.0: next-gen botnets come online” (Ars Technica: 15 January 2009): First the good news: SecureWorks reports that Storm is dead, Bobax/Kraken is moribund, and both Srizbi and Rustock were heavily damaged by the McColo takedown; Srizbi is now all but silent, while Rustock remains viable. That’s three […]

Social networking and “friendship”

From danah boyd’s “Friends, Friendsters, and MySpace Top 8: Writing Community Into Being on Social Network Sites” (First Monday: December 2006) John’s reference to “gateway Friends” concerns a specific technological affordance unique to Friendster. Because the company felt it would make the site more intimate, Friendster limits users from surfing to Profiles beyond four degrees […]

Problems with airport security

From Jeffrey Goldberg’s “The Things He Carried” (The Atlantic: November 2008): Because the TSA’s security regimen seems to be mainly thing-based—most of its 44,500 airport officers are assigned to truffle through carry-on bags for things like guns, bombs, three-ounce tubes of anthrax, Crest toothpaste, nail clippers, Snapple, and so on—I focused my efforts on bringing […]

Bruce Schneier on security & crime economics

From Stephen J. Dubner’s interview with Bruce Schneier in “Bruce Schneier Blazes Through Your Questions” (The New York Times: 4 December 2007): Basically, you’re asking if crime pays. Most of the time, it doesn’t, and the problem is the different risk characteristics. If I make a computer security mistake — in a book, for a […]

Bruce Schneier on identity theft

From Stephen J. Dubner’s interview with Bruce Schneier in “Bruce Schneier Blazes Through Your Questions” (The New York Times: 4 December 2007): Identity theft is a problem for two reasons. One, personal identifying information is incredibly easy to get; and two, personal identifying information is incredibly easy to use. Most of our security measures have […]

CopyBot copies all sorts of items in Second Life

From Glyn Moody’s “The duplicitous inhabitants of Second Life” (The Guardian: 23 November 2006): What would happen to business and society if you could easily make a copy of anything – not just MP3s and DVDs, but clothes, chairs and even houses? That may not be a problem most of us will have to confront […]

An analysis of Google’s technology, 2005

From Stephen E. Arnold’s The Google Legacy: How Google’s Internet Search is Transforming Application Software (Infonortics: September 2005): The figure Google’s Fusion: Hardware and Software Engineering shows that Google’s technology framework has two areas of activity. There is the software engineering effort that focuses on PageRank and other applications. Software engineering, as used here, means […]

Richard Stallman on why “intellectual property” is a misnomer

From Richard Stallman’s “Transcript of Richard Stallman at the 4th international GPLv3 conference; 23rd August 2006” (FSF Europe: 23 August 2006): Anyway, the term “intellectual property” is a propaganda term which should never be used, because merely using it, no matter what you say about it, presumes it makes sense. It doesn’t really make sense, […]

More problems with voting, election 2008

From Ian Urbina’s “High Turnout May Add to Problems at Polling Places” (The New York Times: 3 November 2008): Two-thirds of voters will mark their choice with a pencil on a paper ballot that is counted by an optical scanning machine, a method considered far more reliable and verifiable than touch screens. But paper ballots […]

Luddites and e-books

From Clay Shirky’s “The Siren Song of Luddism” (Britannica Blog: 19 June 2007): …any technology that fixes a problem … threatens the people who profit from the previous inefficiency. However, Gorman omits mentioning the Luddite response: an attempt to halt the spread of mechanical looms which, though beneficial to the general populace, threatened the livelihoods […]

George Clinton and the sample troll

From Tim Wu’s “On Copyright’s Authorship Policy” (Internet Archive: 2007): On May 4, 2001, a one-man corporation named Bridgeport Music, Inc. launched over 500 counts of copyright infringement against more than 800 different artists and labels.1 Bridgeport Music has no employees, and other than copyrights, no reported assets.2 Technically, Bridgeport is a “catalogue company.” Others […]

George Clinton and the sample troll

From Tim Wu’s “On Copyright’s Authorship Policy” (Internet Archive: 2007): On May 4, 2001, a one-man corporation named Bridgeport Music, Inc. launched over 500 counts of copyright infringement against more than 800 different artists and labels.1 Bridgeport Music has no employees, and other than copyrights, no reported assets.2 Technically, Bridgeport is a “catalogue company.” Others […]

The latest on electronic voting machines

From James Turner’s interview with Dr. Barbara Simons, past President of the Association for Computing Machinery & recent appointee to the Advisory Board of the Federal Election Assistance Commission, at “A 2008 e-Voting Wrapup with Dr. Barbara Simons” (O’Reilly Media: 7 November 2008): [Note from Scott: headers added by me] Optical Scan: Good & Bad […]

Cheating, security, & theft in virtual worlds and online games

From Federico Biancuzzi’s interview with security researchers Greg Hoglund & Gary McGraw, authors of Exploiting Online Games, in “Real Flaws in Virtual Worlds” (SecurityFocus: 20 December 2007): The more I dug into online game security, the more interesting things became. There are multiple threads intersecting in our book: hackers who cheat in online games and […]

Matching voters with their votes, thanks to voting machines

From Declan McCullagh’s “E-voting predicament: Not-so-secret ballots” (CNET News: 20 August 2007): Two Ohio activists have discovered that e-voting machines made by Election Systems and Software and used across the country produce time-stamped paper trails that permit the reconstruction of an election’s results — including allowing voter names to be matched to their actual votes. […]

A collective action problem: why the cops can’t talk to firemen

From Bruce Schneier’s “First Responders” (Crypto-Gram: 15 September 2007): In 2004, the U.S. Conference of Mayors issued a report on communications interoperability. In 25% of the 192 cities surveyed, the police couldn’t communicate with the fire department. In 80% of cities, municipal authorities couldn’t communicate with the FBI, FEMA, and other federal agencies. The source […]

China’s increasing control over American dollars

From James Fallows’ “The $1.4 Trillion Question” (The Atlantic: January/February 2008): Through the quarter-century in which China has been opening to world trade, Chinese leaders have deliberately held down living standards for their own people and propped them up in the United States. This is the real meaning of the vast trade surplus—$1.4 trillion and […]