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Could the cookie crumble for websites?

Companies with websites and online businesses have been given 12 months to implement a new EU directive that means they will need to ask permission from users to track their history.

Websites use ‘cookies’ to store information that people might want to see again, like usernames that you do not want to retype every time you use a site or a history of your purchases on an online shopping store.

However, as part of a new EU Privacy and Electronic Communications Directive any websites using cookies will need to provide a way of asking the user if this is OK – meaning more pop-ups and banners interrupting their web experience.

Although, companies are being given a year to implement the change, the obvious effect – if not straight away – is that businesses will have to go to much greater lengths to update visitor data on a regular basis.

Matthew Robins from web-design forum Webreality said: “If a website becomes compliant and seeks to ensure that it complies with this law, it will have to change the way it interacts with its user. For example, if it is using a cookie which allows it to track the behaviour of that user on its website, it will have to ask permission from the user before it sets the cookie on that user’s computer. That will mean some form of interruption of the user experience so something on the screen asking the user to tick a box before they continue.”

In the web world it has prompted concerns that people might move away from European websites in favour of American ones simply to by-pass what could become a constant barrage of banners and pop ups asking for consent.

But web experts are warning against making any rash decisions.

Matthew explained: “Our advice to all of our clients it to take advantage of this 12 month grace period that the regulator has provided to make sure that you don’t disadvantage yourself by becoming compliant too early or by becoming compliant in a way which is not strictly necessary, because the one glimmer of hope in all of this is that the manufacturers of the web browsers, that’s the software we all use to browse the web will change the way that their settings work to make it possible to accept blanket cookies from websites.”

So for now, it seems companies might well be able to have their cookie and eat it too.

(Source: Channelonlinetv)

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Skype outage affects users
Servers down, according to Skype reports, affecting users around the world

Published 27th May, 2011 by Penny Jones

Popular online communications tool Skype suffered another crash yesterday which not only affected services but its own website, its second outage in about six months.

Skype posted alerts updating users on its Twitter account.

It said: “Earlier today, a corruption occurred in a small percentage of users’ systems that resulted in some of our community not being able to sign in to Skype. We issued some instructions which would allow you to get back online, but understand that they’re fairly technical, and have been working hard to produce a version of Skype for Windows which fixes this problem automatically.”

Skype was purchased by Microsoft earlier this month for US$8.5bn. Microsoft said it plans to increase access across both company’s product lines to real-time video and voice communications through the purchase.

The problems first occurred about midday GMT on 26 May, and Skype later said it mostly affected accessing Skype through Windows. It said an update would be issued to users tomorrow.

According to reports on the Skype website, the outage was caused by a server outage, or a “short break”.

December’s outage was blamed on overloaded servers that were then hit by a bug.

Skype said at the time this had affected its supernodes, which had to be taken offline – these are the computers that connect millions of user computers and phones around the world that use Skype.

During the December outage Skype said: “Under normal circumstances, there are a large number of supernodes available. Unfortunately, today, many of them were taken offline by a problem affecting some versions of Skype. As Skype relies on being able to maintain contact with supernodes, it may appear offline for some of you.

What are we doing to help? Our engineers are creating new ‘mega-supernodes’ as fast as they can, which should gradually return things to normal. This may take a few hours, and we sincerely apologise for the disruption to your conversations. Some features, like group video calling, may take longer to return to normal.”

(Sources: DatacentreDynamics, and MemeGenerator)

This article is about how people in Syria which could face civil war any moment make use of the Internet, despite threats. While it is quite difficult to find positivity in this whole matter, something small still helps.

Citizen journalism has been criticised at times for its inaccuracy, fear mongering, and biased opinions. However, in this case, I’m inclined to believe in the bravery of the Syrian people who forge on and feel a duty to report on events that are tearing their country apart.

While it can be said that the citizens who do that could be blogging out of self-interest (e.g. to get help for themselves, to stir trouble, etc), I’m sure that there are also those who just want to give their country a voice. History has unfortunately shown that countries in need sometimes get overlooked in the wake of newer issues, so I suppose this is also a way of ensuring that Syria is not forgotten.

These few phrases I feel, have described perfectly the situation:

Yet despite all safety concerns, thousands of Syrians citizens today have found a voice.

“A major role citizen journalism is playing is that it is magnifying the dispossession and despair of those who cannot speak,” said sociologist Samir Khalaf, professor at the American University of Beirut.

“Who is going to speak on behalf of those who are bereft of speech? This is where citizen journalism comes in… in an uprising that is all about citizenship.”

(Source: Middle East Online)

Saw this article which struck me as amusing at first, then provoked a couple of thoughts.

Firstly, as one of the world’s most censored country, China organising a large-scale online activity made me look twice at the headlines. The basic principle of the Internet is a sphere whereby information is freely exchanged. This article made me wonder if China, as one of the rising global powers, has enough clout and determination to re-make the Internet, Chinese stye.

Secondly, it gives rise to another question: Is China loosening up its strict policies and taking a more ‘Westernised’ approach towards the Internet (and dare I mention, freedom of speech)?

While the Internet is a bane and boon for netizens and people/organisations/governments with reason for hiding certain information respectively, it cannot be denied that the strength of the World Wide Web lies in its ability to disseminate data.

As noted in the article, the various Chinese websites participating in the online activities are pro-Communist Party. Hence, so far it appears that the degree China is willing to go only extends to news organisations which are sure to support its views.

However, as some optimists are wrought to believe, China is finally opening up.

What do people think? (:

(Source: People’s Daily Online)

This post draws upon content from Week 10 lectures as well as readings. The question to be discussed is as follows: Following Week 10 tutorial’s exercise, explain why you chose the Creative Commons license that you added to your blog and discuss the relevance (or not) of adding the license.

I’ve recently added something new to my blog. A box at the right-hand column declaring basically, that any content here is free for all! As long as you mention you saw it first here. It’s not very difficult, given the ease at which one can hyperlink things.

I chose to use the freest form of Creative Commons License: Attributions, which lets anyone who’s interested in my blog’s content to “distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon [my] work, even commercially, as long as they credit [me] for the original creation. This is the most accommodating of licenses offered. Recommended for maximum dissemination and use of licensed materials” (Creative Commons, 2011).

The main rationale behind using this license is due to one of the aims for this blog project: Connectivity.

Connectivity is defined as access to the World Wide Web (WWW) whereby one can interact with others using the Internet (LeBlanc & Blum, 2007). To enable my blog to be accessed and used by as many netizens as possible, following the principles of network neutrality, I’ve decided on using this particular license, Attribution (Save the Internet Coalition, 2011).

Network neutrality is summed up neatly with this sentence: “This principle implies that an information network such as the internet is most efficient and useful to the public when it is less focused on a particular audience and instead attentive to multiple users” (Lin, 2010). Lin has also stated that under this theory, no information should be prioritised over another, hence another reason for my choice of this Creative Commons License.

While it’s true that network neutrality will most likely have the greatest effect when adopted by major online content providers, as a citizen of the WWW who believes that every little bit of effort will move us towards this desired state of free (online) press, I chipped in.

On the other hand, it can be argued that if I’m standing on the side which advocates free use of information on the Internet, there’ll be no need to add a license to my work. However, I also understand the value of original work, which is precisely what the Creative Commons License allows for (Garcelon, 2009). While I have opinions of my own, basis for a certain thought might come from some more enlightened person. Grateful for them allowing others to get insight, I’ll make sure to give them credit. Along the same line of thought, while I’m happy if others find my blog useful, crediting me would boost my happiness (and ego)!

While access to more information is important and necessary in advancing society, I’m also of the opinion that this license I chose will kill two birds with one stone. Creating a community that will not take information for granted, and hopefully grow to treat the importance of acknowledging freely available work as commonplace will be an ideal net order. In this sense, it can be said that by including this license, I’m helping in public education!

Hence, by joining a wider community of netizens who are willing to share information and also aid in creating a better and friendlier WWW, I believe that the addition of a Creative Commons License which allows free usage of my blog while at the same time helping to normalise credit-giving is the best possible compromise.

References

Creative Commons, 2011. ‘About The Licenses: The Licenses’, viewed 27 May 2011.

Garcelon, M. 2009, ‘An information commons? Creative Commons and public access to cultural creations’, New Media Society, Vol. 11, No. 8, pp. 1307 – 1326, Sage Publications.

LeBlanc, DA. & Blum, R. 2007, Linux For Dummies: 8th Edition, Wiley Publishing Inc., Hoboken, New Jersey, USA.

Lin, R. 2010, ‘Network Neutrality: Definition of Network Neutrality’, viewed 27 May 2011.

Save the Internet Coalition. 2011, ‘Network Neutrality 101’, viewed 27 May 2011.

This post draws content from Week 9 lectures and readings. The question to be discussed is as follows: A) Burgess and Green argue that: ordinary people who become celebrities through their own creative efforts “remain within the system of celebrity native to, and controlled by, the mass media” (Reader, page 269).

While it cannot be denied that celebrities can exist mostly outside mainstream mass media (read: the indie industry), I agree with Burgess and Green’s argument (Burgess & Green, 2009), mainly because it comes to a point whereby the mass media eventually encompasses all.

Burgess and Green further elaborated saying that media power will always lie with big media producers because these media conglomerates are the ones fueling the notion of ‘amateur stars’; “rags-to-riches stories” (Burgess & Green, 2009, p. 22). There have been numerous stories of ordinary people gaining recognition online through Youtube, MySpace and so on. When mainstream media picks up on them, they are propelled to greater fame.

While it can be argued that many celebrities like Radiohead and R.E.M who are known to the public, do not conform, or ‘sell out‘ (Urban Dictionary, 2011); they have been highly involved in non-commercial distribution of their work which goes against the basic principles of mainstream music industries, by virtue of the fact that they have become household names prove the over-reaching influence of mass media.

My point is, while celebrities who have gotten famous out of their own creativity appear to be independent of mass media, to get famous and remain famous, mass media is a vital element of the equation.

Whether it is going along with the tastes of the public who utilise mass media, or purposely resorting to shock tactics which appear contrary to what the masses want or have been inundated with via mass media (i.e. Leave Britney Alone: Chris Crocker with his clashing views at the time, standing up for Britney Spears when the mass media was mocking her), ultimately, ‘self-made’ celebrities remain within the control of mass media.

In other words, the mass media remains a barometer by which these celebrities measure themselves against, and decide on a presentation that would gain them the most fame.

Taking the case of Youtube again, one Youtube celebrity whose work has spawned a slew of similar video tutorials, is Michelle Phan.

Michelle Phan is a Youtube ‘star’/makeup artist who has over a million followers on her Youtube channel, and has garnered nearly 70 million views since 2006. While it can be argued that because she makes use of her personal skills to teach makeup to her viewers and thus is not controlled by the mass media, her content is fundamentally influenced by the mass media, thus she “remain[s] within the system of celebrity”.

Take for example her makeup tutorial on Lady Gaga’s Poker Face makeup.



Phan’s video tutorial was posted in May 2009, at the height of Lady Gaga’s fame for her debut album featuring the song Poker Face. Therefore, it is quite easily inferred that Phan, a self-made celebrity is within the control of mass media which compelled her to produce content which she knows will be popular with her viewers due to the hype surrounding Lady Gaga.

Hence, I believe that Burgess and Green’s argument holds.

References

Burgess, J. & Green, J. 2009, ‘Youtube and The Mainstream Media’, Youtube: Online and participatory Culture, Polity Press, Cambridge, UK, pp. 15 – 37.

Phan, M. 2008, ‘Lady GaGa Poker Face Tutorial’, Youtube.com, viewed 24 May 2011.

Urban Dictionary. 2011, ‘Urban Dictionary: Sell-out’, viewed 24 May 2011.

As the title explains, this is another short post about WordPress and the various difficulties I have encountered. This time, the problem was with WordPress automatically ‘eating’ up my line spacings.

A quick Google search ensured when I again, got annoyed that the formatting for this blog was strange i.e. does not live up to my exacting standards. As I found, a number of netizens have also faced this irritant and a fair number of forum postings have been used in the discussion.

For an example of what I mean, here’s one. Despite entering after each paragraph, before and after each inserted media, things still ended up like this:



The lack of line spacings before and after images! I suppose you would have to be a really oddball like me to care about such things, but there you go.

Thankfully, this time’s search for a solution was a pretty easy one. This website that popped up gave a simple, and most important, working solution.

My life is complete. For the moment at least.

References

Google. 2011.

JBS Partners. 2008, ‘WordPress strips / removes blank lines while I add empty lines’, JBS Partners, viewed 25 April 2011.