Fantastic couple of talks at last night’s Hacks & Hackers London meetup. Unfortunately today I’m off to make a newspaper in a field (again) so don’t have time for a full writeup – but I was live tweeting throughout the talks and I’ve Storified them here
This was not a gathering of true believers, come to hear a familiar sermon and sign familiar hymns. No, the first presentation was exploring the idea that protecting the identities of sources gets ever harder in the digital age. Stick your head in the sand about digital skills, and you run the risk of failing to protect your sources.
Over a quarter-century ago, Xerox introduced the modern graphical user interface paradigm we today take for granted.
That it has endured is a testament to the genius of its design. But the industry is now at a crossroads: New technologies promise higher-bandwidth interaction, but have yet to find a truly viable implementation.
10/GUI aims to bridge this gap by rethinking the desktop to leverage technology in an intuitive and powerful way.
We’ve been playing with Muse for the past two weeks as part of the private beta, and we are impressed with the tool’s functionality and featureset. What differentiates Muse from some other code-free website creation tools is this: the user interface and the design paradigms mimic those from other Adobe Creative Suite applications, namely InDesign.
A news operation joining Tumblr is usually not worth a post here. But what BreakingNews hopes to do is unique. They’ll be aggregating breaking news from other news organizations on Tumblr, using one of Tumblr’s backbone features: tag curation.
The New York Times has introduced its long-delayed Beta620, a public beta testing site where web surfers can experiment with new products that could eventually take root on NYTimes.com.
The AP-Google Journalism and Technology Scholarship program will provide $20,000 scholarships for the 2012-13 academic year to six students pursuing or planning to pursue degrees at the intersection of journalism, computer science and new media.
There are several catalysts for jump-starting progress, but managers can begin to break negative cycles and get positive progress loops going if they start with three fundamentals: meaningful work, clear goals, and autonomy. Be sure that people understand how their own work contributes to something they can care about — a mission with meaning. Establish clear goals for projects, so people know what they are working toward, but allow them autonomy to use their own talents and expertise to get there. Ideally, those goals will include interim, achievable milestones, so small wins will happen early and often. Above all, pay attention. Stay alert to the progress inhibitors that reduce the probability of small wins, and neutralize those inhibitors as much as possible.
As Weinberger notes, what sites like Reddit and Quora do very well is take advantage of the social elements of the news and media — in many cases, far better than their traditional media competitors
For every URL shared by The Economist on Twitter, we see more clicks on average, and a substantially higher median compared to the rest. Even though the size of The Economist’s audience is less than a third of the New York Times’, it is generating hundreds more clicks per shared link.
I’ve said on many occasions that I am genuinely baffled how so many news organisations seem to think that they can grow an active community on their website, without investing in any community management.
Christopher was somewhat disparaging of data fetishists. He argued that an attitude of “Lets make some websites with lots of data” gets you nowhere since “ordinary people don’t give a shit” for data, they want “stories”
I did think there was a paradox at the heart of Christopher’s argument. There is no doubt, as Scott Byrne-Fraser and Alastair Dant have said before about dataviz at Hacks/Hackers events, that the story-telling needs to be more important than the aesthetic appeal of the graphics. Yet, inevitably, the demos that drew the most gasps and admiration from the Hacks/Hackers crowd were the most visually stunning ones.
So, when we’re asked to use our programming skills to add a new commenting system, redesign an overall site, it’s not what I’m looking for. No one makes you choose between being a reporter and a writer — you use the writing as a way to express your reporting. Why is that not more commonly acceptable for those of us who code?
Brainloop offers an online platform that helps companies such as Twitter but also clients like BMW and Nokia protect confidential documents and automatically apply the necessary security policies to files that they’d like to shield from outsiders.
BuzzData allows you to share data either publicly or within a closed network.
Indeed, a data reporter from Telegraph.co.uk has requested access to see if BuzzData could work for the newspaper as a data-publishing platform, according to a member of BuzzData’s team.
Last Saturday I presented to students taking part in the brilliant Young Journalist Academy.
The topic was “New Media” (not my title) and the primary aim was to get them up and running with their own blog and learn to publish online.
However, I also knew it would be the perfect opportunity to gauge just how aware a group of bright, 16 and 17-year-olds were on the issues of web privacy and of just how easy it is to track down information about people online.
The case study I included shocked them, especially when it came to Facebook privacy.
I won’t be publishing it online in order to protect the identity of the individuals involved. However, I have been asked to explain the process I went through to obtain the information that I did. This is the purpose of this post.
It frightens me how simple it was to get all that I did.
I chose a few keywords “gunfire, shot, attack, missile” and ran them through Twitter search. Most of what I get back is utter rubbish. However, a few genuine tweets shine out. One in particular is particularly interesting: it references the first name of a person and says they were coming under attack. It also uses some army jargon that seems genuine.
I check the Twitter profile of the tweet. It provides me with what looked like the real name of the person tweeting, a profile picture, the town they live in and a profile description which connects them to the US military.
I use Google to search for their full name and the town in which they live. This brings up two results on White Pages. One of these is associated with a person who had the same first name as the person mentioned in the original tweet. It looks like I may now have their home address and phone number (I haven’t called to check though).
I use Google again to search for the full name of the person mentioned in the tweet and find a Linkedin profile that matches the name and location. It also provides a military job title that makes perfect sense in the context of the tweet.
I conduct a number of Google searches that include the name of the person mentioned in the tweet, their location and their job title in an attempt to find out more information about where they might be.
This is not so easy, but thanks to a local military historian and an interview with someone else on a military history website I can make a very good guess at the regiment they serve in and where they are currently stationed. I imagine if I hadn’t come to this topic cold, I could find more ways to search or, indeed, could make a few useful phonecalls at this point…
Google again. This time I search for both the name of the person in the tweet and the name of the tweeter. This brings up a profile on the website of a small business.
The “About Us” section has an entry about the tweeter. They are a member of staff. There is a profile picture (the same one used on Twitter), job title and some friendly information about them confirming: that they are married to the person mentioned in the tweet, how long they have been married, the names of their children, their email address and the organisations that they volunteer with in their spare time.
I Google (again) the name of an organisation I now know the group the couple volunteer for. It has a public Facebook page. One scan for the tweeter’s first name on that page uncovers comments left by a Facebook profile that the couple share.
Clicking onto the couple’s Facebook profile reveals that they must have Facebook’s recommended privacy settings. This means that all their past profile pictures are publicly visible. So, I now have a lovely family photo to go with the names of the couple and their children.
The couple have also been fantastically diligent with linking up with family members on Facebook. This means I now also get to see a list of profiles for the extended family. I learn the maiden name of the wife. It also turns out her mother has no privacy settings on her profile at all – her wall and all her photos are available to browse.
However, I don’t browse them.
I’ve gone from one tweet to knowing an entire family’s names, location, address, contact details, what they look like, how they are connected to the military and, potentially, where a part of the US army is coming under fire.
I stop there because I am already completely freaked out by just how far I’ve already got from a few Google searches.
It’s easy to say it’s incumbent on the individual to protect their own privacy, but it’s hard to see how we can always stop this type of jigsaw identification of people online. Sometimes people are mentioned online without them even knowing. Certainly having stricter default Facebook privacy settings would help, but it’s not the only answer.
The PCC has started to issue guidelines to journalists about how they use information from social media profiles in their stories and anything obtained online is still subject to the “public interest” test. However, the “reasonable expectation of privacy” guidance doesn’t feel that well tested yet – especially when you can easily build up a picture of someone from fragments from numerous public websites. I’d be interested to get some more information about the law in this area.
Even if it had, I am sure there are those who would still be interested in using this type of technique for their own purposes and would not feel bound by any ethical code…
"Although I do not remember the specific incident, this sounds highly probable. I thoroughly enjoyed working with Nigel Kennedy, whom I remember with affection. Additionally, since I was in my twenties, I'm sure it was not the only incident of the kind; we all do idiotic things when young. I am not a very good dancer and must apologise to any and all journalists who were forced to watch me dance that night at Ronnie Scott's."