An image of a green fedora hat, which serves as the logo for this site.Gordy's Discourse

Facebook’s ’trustworthiness’ score comes under fire External link icon.

Facebook has started scoring some of its users based on ‘trustworthiness’. This score is allegedly used by Facebook’s misinformation team to try and stem some of the fake news the platform sufferers from.

However, the trustworthiness score has its critics. Dr Bernie Hogan from the Oxford Internet Institute:

But consider the analogy of one’s credit score.

You can check your credit score for free in many countries - by contrast, Facebook’s trustworthiness is unregulated and we have no way to know either what our score is or how to dispute it.

Facebook is not a neutral actor and despite any diplomatic press materials to the contrary, it is intent on managing a population for profit.

And Ailidh Callander, a solicitor at Privacy International:

This is yet another example of Facebook using people’s data in ways they would not expect their data to be used, which further undermines people’s trust in Facebook.

This may only be an issue for non-EU users because Facebook’s secrecy about it might violate GDPR’s requirements in the EU, although I’m only speculating here.

Instagram face and the quest for perfection External link icon.

I don’t have an Instagram account and I’m not a huge fan of social media in general, but I found Alexandra Jones’ article on the BBC fascinating. And when I say fascinating, I mean in the way it reflects on society and how superficial everything seems to be these days.

But is it really just ‘these days’?

Celebrities — actors, pop singers, film stars, models etc. — have always provided a look that people have tried to emulate.

In fact, Alexandra says:

Photo-perfect skin and sculpted, contoured cheekbones, wide almond-shaped eyes which taper up into a feline point, and that full, inescapable mouth. This look is what Twiggy’s lashes were to the 1960s and what Kate Moss’ dewy skin was to the 1990s.

Popularised by the Kardashians (who else?) and copied by everyone from Love Island’s Megan Barton-Hanson to myriad beauty influencers such as NikkieTutorials (10.6m subscribers on YouTube), Patrick Starrr (4.5m followers on Instagram) and Sonjdra Deluxe (1.1m followers on Instagram). Increasingly, it’s also appearing on the faces and social feeds of regular people like (for a week), me (about 850 followers on Instagram).

Now I’ve heard of Twiggy, Kate Moss and, unfortunately, the Kardashians, but I have no idea who the other people she mentions are. But it’s possible that what’s going on today is no different to what went on in the 70s. Indeed, as a mid-teen I wanted a leather jacket because The Fonz wore one and he was cool.

My inkling is that things are different now, though. Social media provides further reach than we’ve ever had before and it influences the young a lot more. I’m prepared to accept there may be an element of old-fogeyism in my views, but I think the quest for bodily perfection and other superficial goals is more obsessive now. And I think that’s deeply unhealthy.

But what do I know? It’s certainly not up to me to tell people what to do with their faces (although I feel as justified as anyone else to make social commentary about it).

My own face is less ‘Instagram face’ and more ‘Ben & Jerry’s face’.

What's the point of Launchpad? External link icon.

I must admit I usually only activate the macOS Launchpad when I accidentally click its icon instead of the one next to it.

Zac Hall at 9To5Mac says:

Launchpad doesn’t get much love from Mac power users (there are plenty of other efficient ways to launch Mac apps) and Apple really hasn’t touched the feature in years. But it’s a feature I use regularly on my Mac — after making a few adjustments.

And his article goes on to describe how he makes Launchpad slightly more useful.

So will I use it more in the future? Probably not, but I have a soft spot for articles that find uses for unloved apps and maybe there are people out there who’ve just been dying to get to grips with Launchpad.

Playing around with Launchpad did at least remind me to delete some long-unused apps I had sitting around on my machine.

Twitter flips API, cripples many third-party apps External link icon.

Twitter is transitioning to a new API today. It announced the changes in April 2018 but today’s the day it’s supposed to be flipping the switch.

The trouble is, this will cripple some of Twitter’s third-party apps. John Voorhees at MacStories reports the following as being amongst the effects:

Timeline streaming has been removed, replaced with automatic refreshes every couple of minutes.

Retweet, quote tweet, like, and follow notifications are gone.

Mention and direct message push notifications have been reworked, which can delay them several minutes.

Tweetbot’s Stats and Activity view that displayed aggregate like, retweet, and follower data along with chronological like, mention, reply, and follow information has been removed.

The Tweetbot Apple Watch app has been discontinued.

I’ve never understood why API producers deliberately crock third party apps because a rich developer ecosystem benefits them in 99% of cases. Presumably the people who make the decisions to do these sorts of things have control issues.

Twitter finally takes some (minimal) action against Infowars External link icon.

Further to my previous post on this issue, Twitter is taking some action against Infowars, although it only amounts to seven days in the sin bin.

Jon Russell at TechCrunch writes:

Twitter is punishing Jones for a tweet that violates its community standards but it isn’t locking him out forever. Instead, a spokesperson for the company confirmed that Jones’ account is in “read-only mode” for up to seven days.

Apparently Infowars fell foul of a targeted harassment clause in Twitter’s Ts & Cs.

This is what Twitter claim, anyway. Or could it be that they’re just finally giving in to user pressure?

The Infowars debate and a website's whims

Infowars is complete nonsense in my opinion but it raises a bigger question: the rights a privately-owned website has to determine what content they allow. I argue that their right to choose what content they show and who they allow to post on their site is absolute, as long as it's legal.

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Five good books I’ve read in 2018

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Five fiction books I've read in 2018 and would recommend, along with very brief reviews. 'The Good Daughter' by Karin Slaughter, 'The Outsider' by Stephen King, 'Norse Mythology' by Neil Gaiman, 'How To Stop Time' by Matt Haig and 'Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine' by Gail Honeyman.

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Why reading beats video for information and instruction

I like to read and I firmly believe that, most of the time, written articles are better than videos or podcasts for imparting information and instruction. This article represents my dubious attempt to justify that position. I'm not against video and audio per se - indeed I love watching films or listening to music - I'm talking about things like help texts, how-to articles and similar.

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Advertising accurate broadband speeds in the UK External link icon.

I'd missed that a regulation had been introduced to force ISPs in the UK to advertise more accurate broadband speeds. It seems "up to" speeds must now be accurate at least 50% of the time.

The article reports:

BT, EE, John Lewis Broadband, Plusnet, Sky, Zen Internet, Post Office, SSE, TalkTalk, and Utility Warehouse previously advertised their standard (ADSL) broadband deals as up to 17Mbps.

The new advertised speed is now more than a third lower at 10Mbps or 11Mbps.

TalkTalk has completely dropped advertising speed claims from most of its deals.

Vodafone has also changed the name of some of its deals: Fibre 38 and Fibre 76 are now Superfast 1 and Superfast 2.

I can’t say I’m surprised as I think most of us will have often seen speeds lower than the ones advertised for the packages we bought.

Whilst they’re at it, they could take a look at the so-called ‘unlimited’ data packages. These invariably come with small-print limitations that are along the lines of: “It’s unlimited until we decide it isn’t.

OmniFocus review

Rating star.Rating star.Rating star.Rating star.Rating star.
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There are many list taking and mild project management apps for Apple products. I've tried a few of them but OmniFocus remains my favourite. In this article I review OmniFocus 2 for macOS and 3 for iOS, the latter of which finally brings proper support to the iPad platform. I really like this app and it would have a five star rating if it wasn't for a couple of features in the iOS app that particularly bother me.

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Google plans to comply with Chinese censorship External link icon.

There isn’t a lot of meat on the bones of this story yet but Google said:

We provide a number of mobile apps in China, such as Google Translate and Files Go, help Chinese developers, and have made significant investments in Chinese companies like JD.com.

But we don’t comment on speculation about future plans.

If this story turns out to be true then it essentially means:

  • 2010: Google shuts down China search engine because they believe in free speech.
  • 2016: Google realises it’s leaving lots of money on the table and CEO Sundar Pichai says “Google is for everyone - we want to be in China serving Chinese users.
  • 2018: Google decides financial gain trumps free speech and plans the release of an app conforming to Chinese censorship.

Just a reminder that Google’s 2004 IPO prospectus said:

Don’t be evil. We believe strongly that in the long term, we will be better served—as shareholders and in all other ways—by a company that does good things for the world even if we forgo some short term gains.

Hmm. I’m looking forward to seeing how they justify this one (if, indeed, there’s any truth in the story).

Controlling your own creative content and IndieWeb

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I've long bleated on about why you should have your own website rather than use the so-called 'corporate web' and I bleat on about some more here. I do feel this is a really important issue and it's the only way to protect your own words, photos and videos, immune to the whims of the likes of Facebook, Google, Tumblr, Blogger and similar. I also point to IndieWeb in this article as they provide an excellent blueprint for doing just this.

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Clamp down on fake news, says MP External link icon.

Whilst I quite agree that genuine fake news probably needs some sort of regulating, we have to be careful. There’s a trend for politicians (and others) to simply brand anything they dislike or disagree with as ‘fake news’.

The lines are very blurry with this sort of thing and one has to be careful to separate something written as opinion from something written as fact.

Social media — and Facebook in particular (once again) — gets it in the neck a lot in the above article. Normally I’m quite happy to blame social media for many of society’s ills but some of the ‘spin’ from the regular press could also be seen as fake news and maybe that’s a consideration too.

Although the irony of politicians berating others for lying is not lost on me.

Flying cars are as likely as flying pigs in the UK External link icon.

I applaud the companies creating these things. It’s the way we should be going. Granted the flying car in the article linked to above only has a top speed of 6MPH and a battery life of just 20 minutes, but it’s a start.

Our transportation systems seem to be getting worse instead of better — slower instead of faster — and that seems at odds with a so-called “advancing technological society”.

We have no commercial supersonic flight since Concorde’s demise, the roads are congested and speed-limited to the nth degree and the railways often just don’t run at all, either because of things like timetable changes or an endless series of strikes.

So props to any company trying to improve our transportation system.

The problem, though, will be the regulation. I’m convinced that driving, if it was invented now, would simply not be allowed and I dread to think about the reams of regulation that’ll be necessary to allow us to take to the air on a personal level. It would take governments — ably assisted by hoards of money-grabbing lawyers — decades to come up with the rules, and they would be aplenty. And that’s if it was even allowed at all.

Please excuse my pessimism here. It’s not the scientists, technologists and engineers I doubt, it’s the government and the law-makers.

Apple WWDC 2018 summary External link icon.

The Next Web provides a useful summary of Apple’s 2018 Worldwide Developer Conference.

If I’m honest, a lot of it doesn’t interest me too much. Emojis (or Animojis or Memojis) are a gimmick I never use; I don’t have an Apple Watch or Apple TV; I’m not a parent so I’m not interested in restricting app use time; and I rarely use Siri. I appreciate these things may be of interest to others, though.

Even the things that did interest me only did so vaguely.

iOS 12 is going to have improved photo sharing options and notifications will be grouped so that they can be swiped away more conveniently.

Mojave is the nomenclature attached to the new release of macOS. It’ll have a ‘dark mode’, a new Finder view called ‘Gallery’ and a screenshot feature like iOS.

The most interesting thing to me was the planned improvement to Safari to stop more tracking by websites. This I welcomed, although I suspect it’ll start a tracking war and Facebook — one of the organisations Apple is specifically targeting with this — will probably figure out ways to track things regardless.

Over all, though: meh.

Infernal Windows 10 updates

Windows 10 is a lemon of the most lemony order. In my latest battle with it, it has the temerity to reenable the Windows Update service, despite me disabling it, and then it completely fails to install the update it so urgently wanted anyway. The ultimate solution to this failed update is, it says, to reinstall the entire OS. What a crock of shit.

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Washington Post doesn’t quite get GDPR right

If you're in the EU, GDPR has been everywhere recently. I'm basically in favour of it as a stepping stone to my ultimate desire here, which is for us to have full control over our data as a commodity. I explain a bit more about this here and particularly look at what's right and what's wrong with the way the Washington Post seems to have handled GDPR.

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The Drake equation and the search for ET

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The Drake Equation, which estimates the number of planets currently inhabited by intelligent life in our galaxy, can vary greatly depending on the numbers you plug into it. The thing is, there isn't a lot of agreement about what those numbers should be. It makes the whole thing rather pointless and I have serious reservations about the usefulness of this equation but, just for fun, I plug my own numbers into it.

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Tech companies should have more email support

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I have recently had a fair amount of communication with Apple regarding a support issue and this has reminded me how many tech companies shun email support. I think this is a bad idea because it's the most efficient and convenient method of support in a lot of cases. This is a particular issue with me because I'm partially deaf and being forced to use telephone support makes things quite difficult. Technology companies in general need to offer more email support.

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How did Google get so big? External link icon.

A CBS News article by Steve Kroft in which Gary Reback, an anti-trust lawyer, is interviewed about Google’s search and search advertising monopoly.

The thing is, Google’s job is to become dominant and maximise it’s profits and shareholder value. That’s what businesses do. You can’t expect them to voluntarily do anything that might damage their own earnings.

Government regulation is the only way you’ll ever tackle this sort of thing. The EU seems fairly keen on this sort of regulation and has already hit big tech with a number of fines. The US, however, doesn’t seem to have the stomach to take on the big tech companies.