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Digital death and the digital afterlife: How to have one and how to avoid it

10:16AM | Monday, 20 October

In 2012, the UK’s Sunday Times reported that actor Bruce Willis was going to sue Apple because he was not legally allowed to bequeath his iTunes collection of music to his children. The story turned out to be false (and shockingly bad journalism) but it did start a conversation about what we can, and can’t, do with our digital possessions.   It turns out that “possessions” is actually a misnomer. We actually don’t own the music, books and movies we “buy” from Apple and Amazon. As Amazon puts it in its license terms, “Kindle Content is licensed, not sold, to you by the Content Provider”. In other words, we are allowed to read the content but we are not allowed to pass it on.   It comes as no surprise then that 93% of Americans surveyed were unaware or misinformed when asked about what digital assets they were able to pass on in the event of their death.   But the problems don’t stop there. Relatives of the recently deceased are frequently left with a range of decisions and challenges when it comes to dealing with their online accounts, especially social media. This is not made easier by the fact that every company implements different strategies in dealing with accounts belonging to a deceased user, coupled with the fact that in the UK in 2012 at least, the average user had 26 accounts. In most cases, getting an account shut down requires close family to produce a range of documentation to prove that they have the right to request that the account is terminated. This doesn’t allow for those relatives to get access to the content of the accounts however.   Taking a lead in making the process of handling accounts of the deceased simpler, Google has implemented their Inactive Account Manager. This allows anyone to specify what should happen in the event that an account has not been accessed for at least 3 months. Up to 10 people can be notified and the contents of the accounts, including services such as YouTube and Google+, shared with them. Alternatively, the accounts can simply be automatically deleted.   Facebook will, on request, “memorialise” a person’s Facebook page. This freezes the page with the same permissions as it had when it was last accessed by the user but will stop the page from being discovered in a search and will not actively promote the page to others.   The role of social media in the bereavement process has been the focus of an increasing amount of research. Generally, it is thought that social media can help in the bereavement process, although the persistence of a person’s profile online may make final acceptance of the passing more difficult. An interesting finding has been that when people post on a memorial page, they frequently do so in the present tense as if the person was still alive.   In the UK, a survey has found that 36% of people would like their profiles to continue being available online after they die, with a larger proportion of 18-24 year olds preferring this option than over 55s.   It doesn’t have to stop there. There are now services which allow you to continue Tweeting after you die using a bot that has studied your tweeting style. Other services allow users to send final messages via Facebook and LinkedIn.   Digital estate planning is starting to become more of the norm and people are being prompted to think about what they want done with their digital assets and accounts after they die. This is going to be a significant issue for social media companies in the future. Since Facebook started, about 10-20 million users will have died. This number will increase and eventually overtake the number of living users on the site, by one estimate, in 2060.   In one humorous envisioning of the future, Tom Scott has produced a disturbing possibility in his video “Welcome To Life: the singularity, ruined by lawyers”. In it, he describes a corporate sponsored network as a resting place for the digital version of your consciousness, that is, of course, ad sponsored. In this case as with the question today, it is perhaps best for all if your online social presence ends when you do.   David Glance does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Is anything ‘private’ anymore? How social media and tech companies sniff out your data

10:49AM | Thursday, 16 October

With all the new mobile devices come the potential new methods for advertisers to keep track of you across all your devices. They are given access through deals done by the large platforms and gatekeepers of your information.   Here are a few of the ways the big social media and tech companies are accessing your data and using it for profit.   Facebook: It has access to enormous amounts of very personal metadata collected from all of its users, including everything from employment, family, hair colour, friends, travel, home location and many other details. Mined from its users, this information is considered very valuable for advertisers and marketers.   Another way Facebook tracks your movements is when you use your Facebook sign-in for other websites. This is also tracked by Facebook.   And Facebook owns a number of apps, including WhatsApp and Instagram, that collect your information through your usage of the app. Facebook is large and looking to expand both its platform and ability to track your movements. It will keep purchasing and creating new ways to find and sell your information as this is its greatest income source.   Apple: Its main tracking is through your email address and iTunes account, which tracks your credit card data and usage. When you purchase anything through an Apple device or using any Apple system, this information is used so the ads you see are normally reflecting your past activities.   Google: When you log in to any Google account, you are then tied into the massive Google network. It also uses an Android mobile operating system which assigns each user a Google Ad ID. Google has many ad products and services such as AdSense, which access your ad identifier and compile the information with all the other YouTube, Gmail, Search and other personal digital history information, irrespective of what device you may be using. So why don’t they have to notify you of the use of your personal information? Because when you sign up to their services, you agree to their terms which include using your personal data as they please for advertising purposes. However, Google is still involved in class-action suits in various states in the US regarding its right to analyse message content and sell byproducts to advertisers. It is argued as beyond the scope of what is intended by the use of personal information.   Google maintains it has the right to collect even your most sensitive data as long as it flows across an open Wi-Fi network. Google has been doing a lot more than its lobbyists and executives are disclosing when they are defending their initiatives.   They could easily make collection of information for advertising more privacy-friendly if they wanted or were forced to, but at the moment we are at the mercy of the dominant operating system vendors who are not required to do so. Be aware: deals are being struck selling your information As you may have seen in the news recently, Facebook has struck a deal to sell access to your data to MasterCard. It claims it is not your ‘personal data’ but it includes your location, spending, connections and much more. This may not be personal data to some but it still seems very ‘personal’.   This is likely the first of many deals to help monetise the ‘free’ Facebook model and seems to be the model for many large platform service providers on the internet. It is likely not to be the last.   One thing that is important to remember about all this: it does not matter whether you are using an Android or an iOS device; you can still turn off many of the tracking mechanisms in the menu settings.   Yet it still makes one wonder what is left under the ‘personal data’ legal definition anymore.

The OECD’s scorecard for the Digital Economy: Australia OK, but could do better

10:40AM | Wednesday, 8 October

In a report that is due to be released next month, the OECD has drawn a picture of the state of the world’s digital economy, or at least that of its member countries. The reported data paint a picture of our modern digital life, with growing numbers of people accessing the internet via high speed broadband or wireless on their mobiles, enabling them to take part in social networks and online shopping. The digital citizen   Overall, the number of adults in the OECD countries that use the internet increased from 60% in 2005 to 80% in 2013. The gap between young and old varies according to country but in the most advanced economies, up to 95% of young people are now internet users. 70% of them also access the internet at school. Buying products and services online has now become the norm, with 50% of users doing so, and an increasing proportion of that is now via a mobile device.   E-Government services were used on average by 35% of individuals and about 80% of businesses. E-Government is defined as people accessing information and submitting completed forms, including tax returns.   A particularly interesting set of data showed the degree to which users in a particular country would watch YouTube content from that country. This was highest in Japan where 75% of YouTube views were of Japanese videos, through to the USA where 33% of content viewed was of US origin and Australia where only 8% of views was of Australian content. Unfortunately the data doesn’t tell us where the majority of content Australians watched came from but one can only assume that it was from countries like the US and UK.   It seems that being a digital native starts young in most OECD countries. The age of first access to the internet in 2012 ranged from 33% being under 6 in Denmark to the majority of Russians being over 10 years old. Australia, as with many things digital, was somewhere in the middle with the majority of kids being under 9 when they first accessed the internet. The not-so-digital citizen   Not all is quite as switched on as it would appear however. In the EU, over 60% of the labour force reported that they had insufficient computer skills they considered necessary to apply for a new job. This included just under 40% of people with a university education. Again in the EU, 30% of internet users cited concerns about security as the reason they wouldn’t buy anything online.   Computer use at work also varied dramatically across OECD countries with countries like Russia and Italy reporting over 50% of workers not using a computer at work. This figure was around 26% in the US and as low as 17% in Norway. Digital companies   Companies have been slower than individuals to adopt digital ways but they have recently been speeding up. According to the OECD, “It took 15 to 20 years for slightly more than three quarters of enterprises to develop a website, but only a few years for around 30% of businesses to become active on social networks”. In the OECD countries, 94% of businesses have access to broadband, 75% had a website, but only 20% conducted any sales online. The standout country here was New Zealand where 80% of companies purchased goods online and 45% of companies sold goods online. The use of enterprise resource planning tools was lowest in the UK where only 10% of companies used this type of software. Wired (and wireless) countries   A key enabler for a digital economy and digital citizens is access to broadband. The main driver here has been access to wireless broadband, principally enabled through the mobile phone. Almost 75% of OECD citizens now have a mobile wireless broadband subscription. In Australia, there has been a radical increase in subscriptions since 2009 where the figure was less than 20%, to now where there are more subscriptions than inhabitants. Australia now has the second highest wireless broadband usage of all OECD countries.   Fixed, or wired, broadband subscriptions in OECD countries tell a different story. Korea leads the world with over 70% of fixed broadband subscribers having speeds above 10 Mbps. The USA is over 30% but Australia is down near the bottom of the list at 10%.   The Digital Economy   The impact of information and communication technologies (ICT) on the economy is huge. ICT companies spend more on the research and development than the rest of the economy and across the OECD productivity in IT companies is about 60% higher than the rest. Other analyses have estimated that the impact of wireless broaband on the Australian economy has been around $34 billion a year.   As countries continue to look for ways of boosting their economies, investing in productivity and innovation through information technologies seems the most feasible way of achieving this. This is especially true for countries like Australia where the reliance on mining is not sustainable.   This article was originally published at The Conversation.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

'Bendgate' tests: Just 31 kg of pressure to deform an Apple iPhone 6, compared to 68 kg for Samsung Galaxy Note 3

9:37PM | Monday, 29 September

It takes significantly less pressure to bend an Apple iPhone 6 than most other smartphones, according to tests conducted by US consumer website Consumer Reports.   The results come after claims on social media and online message boards that the company’s latest flagship smartphones can be easily bent went viral.   Following reports on social media about iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus phones being bent in users’ pockets, YouTube user Lewis Hilsenteger posted a series of videos demonstrating how easily the device can be bent with human hands.   The videos appear to show that applying pressure on the back of an iPhone 6 Plus at a specific spot near the volume controls while at the same time pushing downwards on the edges of the screen can cause the device to first warp and then break.   Consumer Reports responded by testing how much pressure it takes to break the iPhone 6, although with the pressure applied across the middle of the device rather than in the specific spot demonstrated in Hilsenteger’s videos.   The report notes that the iPhone 6 bends at 70 pounds (or 31 kilograms) of pressure and breaks at 100 pounds (45 kg), while the iPhone 6 Plus bends at 90 pounds (40.8 kg) and breaks at 110 pounds (49.8 kg).   This is significantly less than the 130 pounds (58.9 kg) required to bend the iPhone 5 or 150 pounds (68 kg) for Samsung’s Galaxy Note 3.   For its part, Apple is claiming just nine users have complained about their device bending within the first six days of the product’s release, although the bending phenomena was noticed by Wired in its review of the device.   This story originally appeared on SmartCompany..

That Startup Show: episode two revealed, shortlisted for award

9:13AM | Thursday, 18 September

Online web series That Startup Show has been shortlisted for the Best Innovation Award at the 2014 Online Video Awards, as its creators negotiate with possible distributors.   The second episode of the web series was released on Wednesday and looks to build on the success of the pilot. The first episode, released on YouTube in August has had over 36,000 views with a global reach across Asia, Canada and the USA.   That Startup Show co-producer Sally Gatenby says the team was negotiating with a number of possible distributors, including TV.   “We’re looking at both traditional and online,” she says. “Given the amount of views we’ve had in a short amount of time, we’re looking forward to seeing how we can leverage that and reach a larger audience.”   Episode two, which you can (and should!) watch below, features Oxygen Ventures general manager and investment director Ilya Frolov, IntelligenceBank co-founder Tessa Court, and AngelCube co-founder and lead investor Adrian Stone. They, along with the host, comedian and tech commentator Dan Ilic examine the Australian venture capital landscape, the perceived lack of funds in Australia, and examines why “bizarre” innovations like Yo manage to raise capital.   “We’re really happy with how the episode has come across,” Gatenby says. “We really wanted to demystify the role of venture capital in Australia.”   Show creator Anna Reeves, a former business affairs manager for cult TV show Rockwiz in its early seasons is thrilled with how That Startup Show has been received so far.   “For us, it’s also about actively engaging our audience on this journey in a unique a fun way, which adds vaue and foster connections with the amazing startup culture we have in Australia,” she says.   “That’s actually what we love most about it.”   That Startup Show episode three and four will be filmed back-to-back in late October as part of StartupAus’ Startup Spring Festival.   Tickets are available at That Startup Show’s Eventbrite page.     Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Amazon buys Twitch for almost $1 billion: Five things you need to know about its latest purchase

8:18AM | Tuesday, 26 August

E-commerce giant Amazon has splashed out, paying close to $US1 billion ($A107 billion) for live video gaming platform Twitch.   Amazon said on Monday it will pay $US970 million in cash for the platform, which had previously been rumoured to have fallen into the hands of Google. The deal is expected to close by the end of this year.   “Broadcasting and watching gameplay is a global phenomenon and Twitch has built a platform that brings together tens of millions of people who watch billions of minutes of games each month —from The International, to breaking the world record for Mario, to gaming conferences like E3. And, amazingly, Twitch is only three years old,” said Amazon founder and chief executive Jeff Bezos in a statement.   “Like Twitch, we obsess over customers and like to think differently, and we look forward to learning from them and helping them move even faster to build new services for the gaming community.”   Twitch chief executive Emmett Shear said in the same statement the acquisition will allow it to “create tools and services faster than we could have independently”.   “This change will mean great things for our community, and will let us bring Twitch to even more people around the world,” he said.   So what is Twitch and why did Amazon fork out the big bucks to purchase it?   Here’s five things you need to know about the platform. 1. Twitch allows gamers to live stream their gameplay Twitch enables game lovers to broadcast their gameplay sessions on PC, Xbox One or PlayStation 4 to viewers online, essentially turning what was once a solitary pursuit into a spectator sport.   Users typically see the screen of the person playing the game, as well as a video feed of the player’s face and a window that allows they to chat with the player and other viewers.   2. It is used by millions of gamers Twitch has more than 50 million monthly active users and more than 1.1 million members who broadcast videos each month.  In a typical month, Twitch users will watch more than 16 million minutes of gameplay.   The platform has grown exponentially since it was launched in June 2011 with 3.2 million active users.   3. The platform started out as something called Justin.tv   Twitch was founded by Justin Kan and Emmett Shear, who also co-founded Justin.tv, one of the first websites to host livestreaming user-generated video.   Twitch was born as one part of Justin.tv, which the duo launched in 2007 and allowed users to broadcast their own video live streams.   But Business Insider reports Twitch soon took over Justin.tv, so much so that Justin.tv changed its name to Twitch in February this year. Justin.tv officially closed earlier this month, with Twitch becoming the business’ sole focus.   4. Twitch allows advertising   As with most other online social platforms, Twitch does share advertising revenue with those who broadcast their videos on the platform. And there is little doubt the advertising potential in the platform is at least part of Amazon’s attraction.   According to the New York Times, most Twitch broadcasters, which can include businesses and content publishers, currently earn very little from the platform, although there are some said to be earning more than six figures a year.   5. It may expand to include live concerts in the future   While Twitch’s users are dedicated gamers, the platform has experimented with live music concerts, raising the possibility of the platform morphing into a live equivalent of YouTube.   In July this year, Twitch hosting a free broadcast of a concert by musician Steve Aoki. According to The Verge, Twitch said at the time it had received feedback that 80% of its users would be interested in watching live concerts.   This article first appeared on SmartCompany.

THE NEWS WRAP: China could have its own operating system by October

8:28PM | Sunday, 24 August

China could have a new homegrown operating system by October, to take on imports Microsoft, Google and Apple.   The US and China have had a number of disputes regarding cyber security in recent months.   The operating system would first appear on desktop devices, before being extended to smartphone and other mobile devices, the head of an official OS development alliance, Ni Guangnan, says.   Ni says he hopes the Chinese-made software would be able to replace desktop operating systems within one to two years and mobile operating systems within three to five years.   Coin apologises to customers   Connected credit card startup Coin issued an apology to customers on the weekend after mishandling the announcement of a product delay.   The San-Francisco based startup was criticised last week after revealing, after months of ambiguity, it would be delaying the launch of its connected credit card and replacing it with a beta program in which its 10,000 pre-order customers could opt in to receive a prototype. They would be required to pay $30 to upgrade to the finished product when it launched.   Coin reversed its stance and the beta program will now be free. It apologised to its users for a “lack of transparency and clarity” in its communications.   Facebook most popular app in US   In comScore’s latest mobile app report, which tracks the 25 most popular smartphone apps in the US, Facebook leads the way by a considerable margin.   The Facebook app had 115.4 million US unique visitors over the age of eighteen in June 2014, with YouTube finishing in second with 83.4 million. The top subscription app is Netflix with 28 million unique visitors.   Overnight   The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 38.27 to 17,001.22. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US93 cents.

Google’s ads can now deep-link into app content, promote Android apps

8:24AM | Thursday, 21 August

Google is rolling out a number of new Android app promotion features across its Google Search, the Google Display and YouTube ad networks targeted at app developers.   For developers, Google now allows developers to promote their app through its ad networks, with the ads only appearing for users who haven’t downloaded the app from the Google Play app store.   Developers can also embed deep links into content in their apps from ads on Google websites, with the ads only appearing for users that have previously installed the apps. The deep linking within apps mirrors a feature introduced by Twitter in January.   In an official blog post, Google’s vice president of AdWords product management, Jerry Dischler, said app developers such as LINE, Zoopla and Booking.com have already signed up for the service.   “Here’s how it works: let’s say someone has the Booking.com app installed on their phone and searches for “San Francisco Hotels” on Google.com; now they can go directly to the specific page in the Booking.com app that shows listings for hotels in San Francisco,” said Dischler.   App downloads through the Google Play store that follow a user clicking on an ad will show up as a conversion in AdWords without any additional setup.   This article originally appeared on SmartCompany.

THE NEWS WRAP: Google looking for ways to get more children using its services

8:19PM | Monday, 18 August

Google has been working to overhaul its Web services so it can legally allow children to use them, The Information reports.   It’s looking at features that include a dashboard for parents to oversee their kids’ activities, a child-safe version of YouTube and requiring people who sign up for a Google account on Android devices to share their age.   The effort is being driven by Google’s desire to find new ways to expand its user base.   Tumblr partner will now scan photos for clues about brand affiliation   Yahoo-owned Tumblr has inked a deal with Ditto Labs, a company that analyses photos on social media for brand related data.   The deal will see Tumblr start to search through all the images on the site looking for clues about the brand affiliations of users.   Tumblr head of business development T.R Newcomb says the company isn’t planning on doing anything ad-related with that data, rather it will be available to advertisers who want to understand how they are perceived on the platform.   US nuclear regulatory commission hacked   In the last three years, United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission computers have been hacked by foreigners twice and an unidentifiable individual once, according to an internal investigation, Nextgov reports.   One incident involved emails sent to about 215 NRC employees in a phishing attempt which took users to a cloud-based Google spreadsheet. Twelve employees fell for the attempt. The IG Cyber Crime Unit was able to track the person who set up the spreadsheet to a foreign country.   Overnight   The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 175.83 to 16,838.74. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US93 cents.

Google+ now allows fake names – is that a good thing?

8:22AM | Thursday, 7 August

When Google+ launched in 2011, it enacted the ‘real name’ policy in order to prevent spam, trolling and to try to give users more confidence to connect with new or other people. So what went wrong with this policy?   Google loosened restrictions on real name requirements   Last year there was outrage by YouTube users when Google implemented the policy which forced YouTube users to sign up for a Google+ account in order to post comments. It was done to try to crack down on spam comments, trolling and low quality posts. This change upset so many users that they filed a petition on Change.org to try to force Google+ to reconsider its decision.   In an effort to try to appease, Google+ has been loosening its restrictions on the Google+ real names policy over the past few years by allowing maiden names and nicknames to be included but still displaying the ‘real’ names next to it.   But it was still not enough   In the last few weeks, Google+ has now caved in to all the complaints and requests to allow multiple or fake names. They are apologizing, stating that the original policy was confusing and it excluded some people who wanted to use Google+ without including their real names.   There was a lot of controversy when this was required as it meant that people could not post comments and use the internet anonymously. There was support for this. And there were complaints. A lot of complaints.   The only restriction Google has put on this ability to change your name on Google+ is that once you make a change to your profile name it is locked for three months, so you cannot change it multiple times during the period.   Google+ also made it clear that if you impersonate someone else, they will suspend your profile.   What does it all mean now?   Users can change their name by clicking their existing username while they are in their Google+ profile. You just select Profile from the drop-down menu in the upper left corner, click on your name and enter your ‘preferred’ name. It’s that easy.   When you change your username on Google+, it also changes your ID on the other Google products such as Gmail and YouTube.   What this means now is that people are now permitted to use fake names, nicknames, pseudonyms, etc on Google+ and YouTube users can now again comment anonymously.   And now the trolls can come out to play…

That Start Up Show announces first panel line-up

7:31AM | Thursday, 24 July

That Start Up Show, the Australian startup and entrepreneurial web series, has announced the line-up of its first panel, including Alan Noble (#StartupAUS, Google Australia), Bronwen Clune (editor, StartupSmart) and Seb Eckersley-Maslin (BlueChilli).   That Start Up Show will focus on the fast-growing Australian entrepreneurial boom and the culture that surrounds it. This unique series brings together businesses, creatives, startups, VCs, capital, incubators and entrepreneurs to the public on a 6-month journey exploring the ups and downs of being a startup. The series will be filmed once a month commencing with a special launch event on Thursday 31 July.   The series’ first episode tackles ‘What the BLEEP is a start up?’, with the panel discussing why this definition is important to make in light of the federal government’s planned Entrepreneurs' Infrastructure Program for startups.   The VIP Ticket offer sold out quickly, and demand for Launch Tickets has been so strong that more tickets were released this week. Episode one films Thursday 31 July at The Savoy Hotel and the edited show will be released on YouTube a week later.   “The response has been so great we’ve had to release more tickets for the first show, which speaks to the startup community’s interest in a show like this for Australia,” says Sally Gatenby, co-producer of That Start Up Show.   A special appearance by Silicon Valley tech commentator Rambotia Jones has been confirmed, with more international guests arriving for the 6-month season.   WHERE:                Back Bar - The Savoy Tavern, 677 Bourke Street, Melbourne VIC 3000 WHEN:                  Thursday 31 July, Doors Open 6pm, Show Starts 7pm LINKS:                   www.thatstartupshow.tv   StartupSmart is a media partner.

Any name will do from now on says Google – why the change?

7:02AM | Wednesday, 23 July

Google has announced a surprising end to its controversial “Real Name” policy with a contrite post on Google+, telling users that there are “no more restrictions” on the names people can use.   This is a dramatic change in policy for the company which suspended users en masse in 2011 for using pseudonyms – an event that users have since described as The Nymwars.   The policy had been criticised since for being capriciously enforced, allowing celebrities such as American musician Soulja Boy (real name DeAndre Cortez Way) to use a pseudonym on the network, but ignoring users who wanted to do the same.   Some users who used their real name on the social network even ran afoul of Google because their names did not fit the assumptions that Google employees made about about what counts as a real name.   Technology writer Stilgherrian and reporter Violet Blue have both documented their problems with Google’s name policing wrongly affecting them, even though they used their real names.   The policy became even more vexed in recent months, as Google integrated Google+ with Android, Gmail and YouTube, where users expected support for pseudonyms.   Although some users hoped that Google+’s real names would fix YouTube’s nasty comment ecosystem, it became a controversial change for many YouTube users.   Why does this change matter?   The change to Google’s policy is important because it shows a change in attitude towards rights of users online.     Vint Cerf, a senior executive at Google, had argued that “anonymity and pseudonymity are perfectly reasonable under some situations", especially where using a real name could endanger a user.   The new policy should bring Google into line with the Australian Privacy Principles for Anonymity and Pseudonymity announced by the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) this year.   While we might normally consider names and pseudonyms purely as markers of our identity, the OAIC argues that anonymity and pseudonymity are important privacy concepts that allow people to have greater control over their personal information.   Why are pseudonyms so contentious?   Letting people adopt a pseudonym or participate anonymously gives users a freedom to participate without fear of retribution. Academics call this disinhibition.   The freedom from restraint that anonymity brings isn’t a particularly new concern. In the 1970s Johnny Carson told The New Yorker that he couldn’t bear citizen’s band (CB) radio:   [..] all those sick anonymous maniacs shooting off their mouths.   Similarly, writers have told stories of morality and anonymity since Plato’s Republic and the Ring of Gyges which grants its wearer the power to become invisible, similar to the ring in Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.   This freedom can be valuable for people at risk of harm, as it can allow them to seek support or to participate in online communities without fear of being stalked or persecuted.   Similarly, lesbian, gay and transgender users at risk of discrimination can participate online without being publicly outed. It can also allow people the freedom to express themselves without endangering their relationships with friends and colleagues.   Employees even risk retribution when their employers perceive that their online behaviour reflects on their workplace. US Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens argued that anonymity is protected as part of their right to free speech as it can “protect unpopular individuals from retaliation — and their ideas from suppression”.   The problem with anonymity   The catch is that this freedom also empowers people who wish to hurt and harass others. “Trolls” can operate anonymously because it can free them from responsibility for their actions.     This becomes particularly problematic when anonymous or pseudonymous users threaten people with harm. A number of women have written about the bullying and violent threats they regularly experience at the hands of anonymous trolls.   In some moderated online environments, users are protected from these kinds of speech by the thankless work of comment moderators who help to manage online communities.   Ultimately, Google+’s new policy will empower people by letting them participate on the network with greater control over the identity they use. This will help trolls and new participants alike. It falls to Google and its team of moderators to make sure that the network remains a safe place for users.   Google’s policy change shows that the company has become responsive to user concerns. We should consider that for many websites, creating an environment where users are free to participate, and free from harm is a difficult affair.   As for The Conversation, it still favours people registering with their real name as part of its aim for transparency in any debate.   This article originally appeared on The Conversation.

THE NEWS WRAP: YouTube gives slow video providers the name-and-shame treatment

7:06PM | Sunday, 6 July

YouTube has followed in the footsteps of Netflix and is now publicly shaming internet providers who provide slow video.   When videos have trouble buffering, blur or won’t play at all, YouTube offers a new service which allows them to find out why.   It takes you to a new Google website which displays video playback quality for internet service providers in your area.   Information gathered by NSA on ordinary internet users far outweighs specific targets   Nine out of 10 account holders found in a large cache of conversations intercepted by the NSA were not the intended surveillance targets, according to the results of a four month-investigation by the Washington Post.   The investigation reviewed roughly 160,000 intercepted email and instant message conversations and included medical records sent from one family member to another, resumes from job hunters and academic transcripts of schoolchildren.   Facebook experiments had little oversight   Until recently, Facebook’s Data Science group operated with few boundaries, a former member of the team has told the Wall Street Journal.   At a university, researchers normally have to rely on consent from participants to conduct studies.   Facebook relied on its Terms of Service, which now say that user data may be used for research.   Former Facebook data scientist Andrew Ledvina recalled a minor experiment in which he and a product manager ran a test without telling anyone else at the company.   Overnight   The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 92.02 to 17,068.26. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US94 cents.

The new video channel tuning into Australian software developers

7:22PM | Sunday, 6 July

Two Sydney-based entrepreneurs are set to launch a new online video site with content focused on software development that hopes to get more people interested in coding as a career.   The project came about after videographer and Kwuest Pictures founder Kieren Wuest met developer Dan Draper while filming the Codehire Cup.   Wuest told StartupSmart the pair quickly identified a video channel for software developers as being a potential opportunity, and Codr.tv was born.   “We came up with the idea around a certain community of programmers, and we want to create programming that appeals to that community,” Wuest says.   Draper told StartupSmart getting young people interested in coding as a career was a key objective for the site, but they were also hoping to break down gender bias in the tech industry.   “I’ve been in the code industry for 20 years, and I’ve been frustrated with the market perception of what coding is all about. Many people don’t realise how ubiquitous coding is,” Draper says.   “In the developed world, you’d be hard-pressed to find a business that doesn’t rely on code in one form or another, from things like [CRM] to apps… and either in-house or out-sourced developers.”   While initially focusing on YouTube videos, Draper says the aim is to turn the site into a hub with a range of content including articles, videos, newsletters and podcasts, with content on the site divided into two ‘streams’.   The first stream will include broad-reaching content with interviews, skits and broad topics looking at what makes a good coder. The second stream will feature far more technical and targeted content aimed at developers.   “It won’t be a full-blown education tool, but it will be a starting point. For example, if there’s a new database cluster, you can learn how it affects web developers. It will be Popular Science for coders,” Draper says.   The channel is set to launch in late August, and interested developers can find out more at Codr.tv.

Building an eBay-style marketplace for bitcoins and litecoins

7:38AM | Tuesday, 1 July

Australian bitcoin and litecoin marketplace Cryptothrift, wants to become eBay for crypto-currencies and is trying to create an economy for anonymous currencies.   The company, which runs an eBay-style online auction site where users can buy and sell items with bitcoins and litecoins, was founded last year by Sydney-based crypto-currency enthusiasts Ahmad Aoun and Paul Screen.   Cryptothrift sells everything from computer game download codes, to fishing hats, laptops, tablets and YouTube video views.   Sellers pay a 2.5% flat rate or a transaction fee, whichever is higher. Buying items is free, but the company charges a 1% fee if escrow is selected at the checkout.   Screen told Private Media the company was accepting a number of other crypto-currencies for a brief period, but it just wasn’t worthwhile.   “In practice there just wasn’t the volume in sales to advocate supporting them,” Screen says.   “What we’re seeing is people are only interested in bitcoin.”   Screen says the company’s sales are continually growing month on month, 90% of which are in bitcoin, with litecoin making up the other 10%.   Dealing with scammers attracted by the anonymity of bitcoin has been Cryptothrift’s biggest challenge.   In response, Screen says the company has implemented an escrow payment system.   “Bitcoin and crypto-currency has this tag that it’s anonymous and therefore it tends to attract a lot of the wrong types of people,” he says.   “We’re trying to approach things from the opposite way, we want our system and business to be as transparent as it can, we’ve registered with ASIC here in Australia and we’re not hiding from the ATO (Australian Tax Office).”   Trust has been a problem for the site, it’s been accused by some users of being a scam. They’re accusations Screen says are inevitable, but unjustified.   “I can’t hide away from that, it’s going to happen,” he says.   “It’s why we’ve introduced the escrow system that allows buyers 30 days to determine if they’re happy with their purchase and release the funds.”   He says there have been cases of scammers operating on the site and “it’s generally pretty clear cut what’s happened”, but the company provides arbitration services and refunds.   A large number of the products available on Cryptothrift are digital, which Screen says can lead to stolen items being sold, something the company is constantly on the lookout for and doesn’t tolerate.   Screen says in the coming months, Cryptothrift is looking at introducing a verification process, to ensure transparency amongst sellers and in order to comply with know your customer regulations and anti-money laundering laws.   “We’ve been in talks for the last few weeks, we’re looking to outsource the verification process for simplicity, but the cost is holding us back, we need to justify that expenditure,” he says.   “We’re toying with the idea of doing it in house.”   The company has been funded entirely by its founders so far, and while they’re not actively searching for investment, Screen says they’re not opposed to external funding.   “It’s something we’re considering,” he says.   “We know we want to expand, and we have a lot of good plans for sure, there’s a lot we want to do, but we’re going to need some kind of capital investment.”

THE NEWS WRAP: Twitter snaps up ad tech firm Tap Commerce for close to $100 million

6:22PM | Monday, 30 June

Twitter has acquired advertising technology firm Tap Commerce for a price in the region of $100 million, sources have told Re/code.   The New York company is in the business of “re-targeting”, that is it convinces customers to return to the mobile apps they have downloaded.   Its clients include Fab and eBay.   In an announcement confirming the deal, but not the price, TapCommerce says nothing will change for its existing customers, but joining Twitter will enable the company to dedicate more resources to developing its product and expanding its services.   Google to shutdown Orkut   Orkut, Google’s first foray into social networking, will close on September 30, a decade after its creation.   Google says the decision comes due to the growth of YouTube, Blogger and Google+ communities, which have outpaced that of Orkut, and closing down Orkut will allow it to focus more energy and resources on those social platforms.   Google says it will preserve an archive of Orkut’s public communities.   MapR raises $110 million   MapR Technologies, which provides an enterprise Hadoop distribution used for marketing, operations and security has announced it has raised $110 million in funding led by Google Capital, Qualcomm Ventures and previous investors.   Overnight   The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 25.24 to 16,826.60. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US94 cents.

NBN Co and Telstra agree on broader FTTN deployment

6:55AM | Thursday, 26 June

NBN Co and Telstra have reached agreement on an expanded program to plan, design and construct fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) high-speed broadband to about 200,000 homes and businesses.   The agreement marks a major step forward in the Government’s ongoing reform of the National Broadband Network. The reforms currently underway at NBN Co will ensure the network is delivered sooner, at less cost to taxpayers, and more affordably for consumers.   The number of premises to be covered by the project is roughly equivalent to the 206,000 homes and businesses passed by the NBN fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) rollout in established neighbourhoods over the entire period the previous Labor government was in power.   NBN Co will continue to deploy its FTTP, fixed wireless and permanent satellite networks during the period of the FTTN trial deployment.   NBN Co’s contract with Telstra will ensure initial rollout of FTTN focuses on areas categorised as ‘underserved’ in the Government’s MyBroadband broadband quality study.   NBN Co estimates areas underserved with broadband account for around 28 per cent of the premises in the rollout regions.   ‘This announcement demonstrates how FTTN can help to bring broadband more quickly to many regional areas than would have occurred under Labor’s plan—and that is good news because upgraded broadband can help regional communities capture improved economic, educational and social opportunities,’ said Paul Fletcher, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Communications.   Rollout regions included in the trial project include:   Belmont, New South Wales Bribie Island, Queensland Boolaroo, New South Wales Gorokan, New South Wales Morisset, New South Wales Hamilton, New South Wales Bundaberg, Queensland Caboolture, Queensland Gympie, Queensland Warner, Queensland   In addition, the NBN will expand its current FTTN pilot in Umina on the New South Wales Central Coast.   The agreement for a thousand-node FTTN trial represents an interim step while NBN Co, Telstra and the Government finalise changes to the existing Definitive Agreements covering Telstra’s participation in the NBN. It is anticipated that these changes will include arrangements for the NBN Co to gain access to Telstra’s existing local access network.   In parallel NBN Co will work closely with telecommunications retail service providers to finalise the design of its FTTN products and provide services to end-users.   Early line tests using Very-high-bitrate Digital Subscriber Line technology (VDSL) indicate that download data rates of up to 100 megabits per second and upload data rates of up to 40 megabits per second are achievable over copper lengths of a hundred metres.   The top available downloads speeds are approximately 17 times faster than current average fixed line broadband connections to Australian households. These speeds allow ten high definition television shows to be streamed to a single household or business concurrently. A three minute YouTube video will be able to be uploaded in as little as 42 seconds, compared to up to 20 minutes on today’s average ADSL connections.   Since the September 2013 election the number of households and businesses with active service over the FTTP network has tripled from 48,000 to 146,000.   In the same period the number of premises passed by the FTTP network has almost doubled to 482,000.   Telstra, the NBN Co and the Government are well advanced in negotiating changes to the Definitive Agreements. These negotiations have not yet concluded but are progressing well.   The limited deployment of FTTN is an important step in allowing NBN Co to determine how a multi-technology mix rollout will change its construction and service provisioning operations.

THE NEWS WRAP: Snapchat finds a new narrative with Stories

6:36AM | Monday, 23 June

Snapchat’s most popular feature is no longer its self-destructing snaps, but its newest feature – Stories.   The company told The Verge that one billion Stories are now viewed per day.   Stories allows users to create compilations of snaps that last 24 hours and are viewable by their friends.   Twitch extends partnership with YouTube   Internet videogame broadcasting company Twitch has extended its partnership with YouTube, which will see the popular video streaming service issue alerts when Twitch users begin streaming videos.   It comes as Google has reached a preliminary deal to acquire Twitch worth $1 billion.   300,000 systems still vulnerable to heart bleed   When the Heartbleed vulnerability was first announced, Errata Security found 600,000 systems vulnerable.   Now two months later, using the same technique, simply by scanning on port 443, Errata Security found 309,197 systems still vulnerable, roughly the same amount it found a month after the vulnerability first was announced.   Errata Security says this likely indicates that people have stopped trying to patch the vulnerability.   Overnight   The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 25.62 to 16,947.08. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US94 cents.

OPINION: Why open source is not always the best tool for the job

6:06AM | Thursday, 19 June

Earlier this year, I reviewed the latest version of an open source computer operating system called Kubuntu. For the uninitiated, like Windows, Mac OS-X or Android, Kubuntu manages a computer’s hardware, provides a user interface and allows users to run apps. It includes a desktop environment called KDE along with a set of apps covering everything from graphics and multimedia to internet, office and games.   While I was critical of the installation process (and deservedly so), I had many complimentary things about Kubuntu to say in the review, including the following:   “The good news is, assuming you get through the installation process, is that Kubuntu and KDE 4.13 does have a lot going for it.” “Firstly, there are preinstalled apps covering most of what you’d need to do, from word processing, to playing CDs, to watching videos and surfing the web.” “There are big improvements in how multiple screens are handled. It’s now literally a matter of dragging and dropping to have two connected screens mirroring each other, or having one to the side of the other.” “With a little tinkering, you can set it up to look like a Mac (including each app’s menu bar across the top of the screen), or like Windows (with the menu bar across the top of each window). You can also set up multiple ‘activities’ each with their own desktop layout.”   Yet, literally for months after the review was published, there were (at times incredibly detailed) comments from open source advocates arguing against the conclusion that this was not a product for everyone.   The open source basics   Kubuntu is an example of what is known as “open source software”. The basic idea behind the open source model is that the developer gives away a computer program for free, including the source code used to create that program. Users are free to make any changes they require in the future and share their modifications with others.   In terms of copyright, open source software is often made available under a licensing agreement such as the GPL, or under a Creative Commons licence.   Can you really have a free lunch?   Of course, this raises a question: How do software developers survive if they give their product away from free?   In many cases, open source projects are the work of hobbyists or not-for-profit groups, with Wikipedia probably the best example.   Some companies (such as Red Hat and IBM) give away software on an open source basis, but charge businesses for services such as setup and support.   An example I’ve discussed in this column previously is Firefox. Mozilla supports giving its popular web browser away for free based on the commission it receives from Google each time someone searches from the search bar. As incredible as it might sound, that little search field is worth around $US280 million per year in revenue.   One of the best known examples of open source software is the Android smartphone and tablet operating system. Here, Google makes its money by selling downloads, as well as the mobile services (Gmail, YouTube, etc.) it bundles with the platform.   Another well-known example is WordPress, which is offered by its developers (Automattic) on an open source basis, with a commercial cloud-hosted version at WordPress.com supported by ads and premium upgrades.   Open source software stands in opposition to proprietary or closed-source software, where the developer retains all intellectual property rights to the software, along with the source code. Windows, Microsoft Office, Photoshop and most other commercial apps are examples.   The best tool for the job   Advocates for open source software are certainly a passionate lot when it comes to their software licensing model of choice.   In many areas of the tech industry, there are open source products that are either market leaders, or are at least competitive in terms with features with their proprietary counterparts.   And certainly for many cash-strapped businesses, if finances are tight, choosing an open source option can be quite appealing.   However, there are many hidden costs in business that stem from using the wrong tech tool for the job, including lost productivity, the cost of IT staff for the initial setup and installation, maintenance costs, IT support costs and lost business opportunities.   When these additional costs are factored into account, the product with the lowest upfront costs might not have the lowest total cost of operation.   And the harsh truth for advocates is the open source option is not always the best option in the market, or the best choice for every business.   As the example of Kubuntu shows, an open source product that works well in one situation might not be the best choice for everybody.   So, when it comes to choosing a tech solution for your business, it pays to evaluate a range of options, both proprietary and open source – because being an ideologue with technology can be costly in the long run.   This article first appeared on Smart Company.

THE NEWS WRAP: Has YouTube killed the indie rock star?

6:20PM | Tuesday, 17 June

Independent musicians could disappear from YouTube in a matter of days after Google confirmed the popular video streaming service would drop content from independent labels that have not signed up for its upcoming music streaming service.   Google is set to begin testing the new service, rumoured to be called YouTube Music Pass, in the next few days, with a launch expected later this year.   Democrats defend net neutrality   Democrat party lawmakers in the United States are set to unveil a piece of legislation that would force the Federal Communications Commission to ban internet fast lanes.   The proposal requires the FCC to use whatever authority it sees fit to make sure internet providers don’t speed up certain types of content at the expense of others.   eBay Valet app launched   The online shopping giant is expanding its eBay Sell For Me service to mobile with the launch of a new app called eBay valet.   The app promises to take every step of the selling process and automate it.   It’s designed to make online selling easier for first-time sellers and anyone who doesn’t have the time to handle a listing themselves.   Overnight   The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 27.48 to 16,808.49. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US93 cents.

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