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Another small step towards civility on the electronic frontier

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Like Ray I find the moves  announced recently by Gillard to hold some internet platforms accountable for their anonymous users activities a good if inadequate start to  making cyberspace somewhat more civil environment for those of us who use it, and lets face it that means just about everyone these days. While many long term users have long resigned themselves to the notion that civilising the online space is “impossible” I am rather more optimistic that civility will be enforced incrementally over time and I think that enforcement will come from the courts acting in both criminal and civil cases to demand that those running the blogging platforms provide the identifying  details of site-owners when those individuals have slandered or defamed real individuals.

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The old aphorism suggests that the longest journey begins with one small step, and I see quite a few small steps happening out there and it may take a while but I expect that like the old wild west civilisation and civility will come to the online frontier eventually.

Cheers Comrades

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The beginning of the end of the pioneer period

In my post the other day I was postulating  a new normal where every internet user was at least known to the service provider that they used so that they could be held accountable for the things that they said and did online. Reading the opinion piece in today’s age makes me think that my predictions/expectations may be closer to fruition than I thought:

A LITTLE over a decade ago, just before the masses discovered the digital universe, the internet was a borderless new frontier: a terra nullius to be populated by individuals, groups and programmers as they saw fit. There were few rules and no boundaries. Freedom and open standards, sharing information for the greater good was the ethos.

Today, the open internet we once knew is fracturing into a series of gated communities or fiefdoms controlled by giants like Apple, Google, Facebook, Amazon and to a lesser extent Microsoft. A billion-dollar battle conducted in walled cities where companies try to lock our consumption into their vision of the internet. It has left some lamenting the ”web we lost”.

The same firm in some cases now provides not just the content we consume but the devices we consume it on and a plethora of other services to help manage our digital lives, be it email, online storage or e-commerce.

Increasingly, the web kings are expanding into each other’s turf and butting heads with smaller pretenders to the throne, such as Twitter, locking competitors out of their ecosystems but, more importantly, locking us, the consumers, in.

”There’s no question that we are witnessing a clash of the titans over ‘our’ data”, says Jennifer Zanich, serial Australian entrepreneur and now co-founder of start-up Paloma Mobile.

Data is the oil of the digital age, handed over willingly by consumers seduced by the latest flashy new web service. Big data is where the big money is made on the web today, and famous US venture capitalist Mary Meeker describes it as the ”Wild West” of the internet.

So much of the belief in the ungovernable nature of cyberspace is predicated upon the “wild west” view of the internet  but as it becomes a more organised and more commercial rather than Geek space the frontier town mentality will, like the old west fade away to be replaced by a more urbane and dare I say it “civil” environment quite simply because it is bad for business for it to be anything else. So if Asher Moses is correct the commercial imperative will drive a decline in the anonymity of users on the various conduits like twitter and blogs  to the owners of those platforms. Readers can obviously see that that this will be a boon for accountability as governments will pressured into ensuring that their online citizens are protected from both both commercial exploitation and online  abuse.
The online space is changing fast and not all of that change will be entirely beneficial or benign. Personally I find the idea of storing my data in “the cloud” rather unsettling and somewhat insecure (does anyone remember the collapse of “Haloscan” and the subsequent evaporation of millions of blog comments?). I find it hard to believe that everything online will be in anyway “eternal” or permanent as users create more and more content it seems inconceivable to me that we won’t  eventually find the older stuff disappearing  just as the graves in an ancient necropolis melt into the landscape with disuse.  It costs money to maintain an exponentially expanding online archive and the ones paying the bills for that storage won’t shell out forever to maintain those graves when the servers can return a profit by being re-purposed.
Of course like the decline of the old west there are people who just loved the anarchy and lawlessness who will truly morn the coming of civilisation to our online world but they will be very much in the minority as the Mums, Dads and their children outnumber the Geeks and scum-bags who first settled this new electric country and the Mums, Dads and their children  will neither celebrate nor mourn the passing of a period of utter lawlessness that the online  pioneers have had to endure.
Cheers Comrades
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From mindfulness and care comes civility , and civility is the foundation of a well functioning society

Mouse Jim

Of course the other side  to the online anonymity issue relates to the use of social media in and about the workplace, and its the possible employment  repercussions from online interactions that advocates for anonymity usually cite as a reason for their position on the matter. However I think that they are quite mistaken on a couple of levels.

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Firstly  when you are on the boss’s dollar you really have no right to carry out personal business or commentary on  life instead of devoting yourself to the tasks for which you are being paid. It has never ceased to amaze me just how many people who comment on blogs (including my own ) or tweet madly away during work hours and this trend has become even more common with the advent of internet capable smart phones which circumvent any restrictions on the use of workplace  computers.

Secondly there is the matter of how what you may post on social media will reflect upon your employer and the incidents described in the image on the right  (from the AGE) are good examples of the possible negative consequences for being an online  fool or smartarse.

Rather than whining about employers taking note of stupid or malicious online behaviour perhaps those who advocate for the impunity of anonymity on the net should instead realise that the other side of the equation is that if people were as well mannered and respectful online as they are obliged to be in “real” life then the chances of them having any negative consequences for an internet presence will be very small indeed.

I have been blogging for exactly seven years this very day* and during that time I have seen a great deal of change in the online environment   the electric country has become populated with far more ordinary folk rather than being mostly populated by the early adopters of the personal computer and as the demographic has changed so to has the expectations of society about this online  part of life. No longer do is  anarchy and a mostly pseudonymous interaction the norm. Most of us have face-book, twitter or some other sort of social media presence and its up to us all to use our online presence with mindfulness and care for the consequences of publication. This is a good thing as I see it because from mindfulness and care comes civility , and civility is the foundation of a well functioning society, which is after all what we want isn’t it?

Cheers Comrades

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*Happy Blog day to Moi 🙂  🙂

The squawking of twitter

Ah the joys of social media!

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To be entirely frank I am delighted by this development because it means that those people who have believed that twitter is a place where the malicious things that they have blasted out into the ether would never  have repercussions for them  are  now reaping what they have sown.  and the man who has been so cruelly defamed with the most vile accusations that can be imagined is showing the arrogant  that there is no such thing as a free pass on the electronic super highway.

More power to Lord McAlpine’s arm Comrades

How many Computers?

The natural question that any parent should ask when considering the role of computers in education is how much is enough?

“What Kevin Rudd has done is raise expectations through the roof all year promising he’d come up with innovative and original thinking but when the time came to deliver he failed,” Mrs Bishop told ABC Radio today.

“He’s clearly vacated the field of new ideas and there was nothing remotely revolutionary in anything he had to say.”

Yesterday, Mr Rudd pledged to deliver a computer for every Australian student in years 9 to 12, amongst a raft of initiatives to ensure students had world-class internet access.

Mrs Bishop said schools already had an adequate number of PCs in place.

“I visit schools all across Australia I’m yet to see a school that is not well served with computers.”

A 2003 Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) report found Australian students had “universal access” to computers, she said.

The Australian

We have three PC’s in this house and my children, even the three year old, are amazingly competent in their use. I encourage them to develop their computer skills because I recognise that the PC is the portal to the modern world of information. However I really don’t think that more is better when it comes to computers in education . My daughter’s school has an adequate number of computers and they are very well used by the students when it is considered appropriate by their teachers.

Labor under Rudd would see an individual machine supplied for each child and they want to ensure that every school is connected to broadband. I actually agree with the notion that every school should have connectivity to broadband and I don’t think that The ALP has any monopoly on that idea. However the notion that every high school student should have an individual lap top, with net access no doubt, strikes me as going against all notions of sensible use of the technology by young people as they grow up. We have long been advised that to protect our children that we as parents should ensure that we only allow access to the net from a PC in a public part of the house, that parents should maintain an overview of our children’s actual usage by perusing, the history logs on our PC’s. Yet under Rudd’s plan this parental over view is going to be severely compromised as our children are given unfettered access to the web , unfettered access to chat rooms with their baggage and the inevitable predators who prey on the vulnerable. Anyone who is honest will tell you that filtering programs like “net Nanny” are by no means perfect and computer savvy children can disable them quickly enough so there is in reality no way to ensure that the content that Rudd’s “Education revolution” will expose our children to will actually be good for them as young people. Which of course begs the question of the veracity of the information on the Internet. We all know that there is lots of information on the net but young people are by their very nature rather credulous and they acquire the critical facilities to decide on the real value of the information only over time. The guidance of us as parents and those we nominate as our proxies (their teachers) have a very big part to play in helping them to develop decrement and an ability to find the specs of truth amounts the vast amount of dross that populates the web. Of course you will not hear any of these concerns from the Ruddites who seem to be in the thrall of the purveyors of the technology, because surely the computer makers and the software writers must be rubbing their hands together with glee at the prospect of selling so many new machines and operating systems under a Ruddite regime.

We are all agreed that our children need to be computer literate to find their place in the modern world, as in good cooking there comes a point where more is not necessarily better. A laptop for every child in years 9 to 12 is without doubt a case of far too much salt in the soup.

Cheers Comrades

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