Archive for the ‘Decatur’ Category

Repost: Facebook’s Gone Rogue; It’s Time for an Open Alternative

Check out the original article by Ryan Singel here

Facebook has gone rogue, drunk on founder Mark Zuckerberg’s dreams of world domination. It’s time the rest of the web ecosystem recognizes this and works to replace it with something open and distributed.

Facebook used to be a place to share photos and thoughts with friends and family and maybe play a few stupid games that let you pretend you were a mafia don or a homesteader. It became a very useful way to connect with your friends, long-lost friends and family members. Even if you didn’t really want to keep up with them.

Soon everybody — including your uncle Louie and that guy you hated from your last job — had a profile.

And Facebook realized it owned the network.

Then Facebook decided to turn “your” profile page into your identity online — figuring, rightly, that there’s money and power in being the place where people define themselves. But to do that, the folks at Facebook had to make sure that the information you give it was public.

So in December, with the help of newly hired Beltway privacy experts, it reneged on its privacy promises and made much of your profile information public by default. That includes the city that you live in, your name, your photo, the names of your friends and the causes you’ve signed onto.

This spring Facebook took that even further. All the items you list as things you like must become public and linked to public profile pages. If you don’t want them linked and made public, then you don’t get them — though Facebook nicely hangs onto them in its database in order to let advertisers target you.

This includes your music preferences, employment information, reading preferences, schools, etc. All the things that make up your profile. They all must be public — and linked to public pages for each of those bits of info — or you don’t get them at all. That’s hardly a choice, and the whole system is maddeningly complex.

Simultaneously, the company began shipping your profile information off pre-emptively to Yelp, Pandora and Microsoft — so that if you show up there while already logged into Facebook, the sites can “personalize” your experience when you show up. You can try to opt out after the fact, but you’ll need a master’s in Facebook bureaucracy to stop it permanently.

Care to write a status update to your friends? Facebook sets the default for those messages to be published to the entire internet through direct funnels to the net’s top search engines. You can use a dropdown field to restrict your publishing, but it’s seemingly too hard for Facebook to actually remember that’s what you do. (Google Buzz, for all the criticism it has taken, remembers your setting from your last post and uses that as the new default.)

Now, say you you write a public update, saying, “My boss had a crazy great idea for a new product!” Now, you might not know it, but there is a Facebook page for “My Crazy Boss” and because your post had all the right words, your post now shows up on that page. Include the words “FBI” or “CIA,” and you show up on the FBI or CIA page.

Then there’s the new Facebook “Like” button littering the internet. It’s a great idea, in theory — but it’s completely tied to your Facebook account, and you have no control over how it is used. (No, you can’t like something and not have it be totally public.)

Then there’s Facebook’s campaign against outside services. There was the Web 2.0 suicide machine that let you delete your profile by giving it your password. Facebook shut it down.

Another company has an application that will collect all your updates from services around the web into a central portal — including from Facebook — after you give the site your password to log in to Facebook. Facebook is suing the company and alleging it is breaking criminal law by not complying with its terms of service.

No wonder 14 privacy groups filed a unfair-trade complaint with the FTC against Facebook on Wednesday.

Mathew Ingram at GigaOm wrote a post entitled “The Relationship Between Facebook and Privacy: It’s Really Complicated.”

No, that’s just wrong. The relationship is simple: Facebook thinks that your notions of privacy — meaning your ability to control information about yourself — are just plain old-fashioned. Head honcho Zuckerberg told a live audience in January that Facebook is simply responding to changes in privacy mores, not changing them — a convenient, but frankly untrue, statement.

In Facebook’s view, everything (save perhaps your e-mail address) should be public. Funny too about that e-mail address, for Facebook would prefer you to use its e-mail–like system that censors the messages sent between users.

Ingram goes onto say, “And perhaps Facebook doesn’t make it as clear as it could what is involved, or how to fine-tune its privacy controls — but at the same time, some of the onus for doing these things has to fall to users.”

What? How can it fall to users when most of the choices don’t’ actually exist? I’d like to make my friend list private. Cannot.

I’d like to have my profile visible only to my friends, not my boss. Cannot.

I’d like to support an anti-abortion group without my mother or the world knowing. Cannot.

Setting up a decent system for controlling your privacy on a web service shouldn’t be hard. And if multiple blogs are writing posts explaining how to use your privacy system, you can take that as a sign you aren’t treating your users with respect, It means you are coercing them into choices they don’t want using design principles. That’s creepy.

Facebook could start with a very simple page of choices: I’m a private person, I like sharing some things, I like living my life in public. Each of those would have different settings for the myriad of choices, and all of those users could then later dive into the control panel to tweak their choices. That would be respectful design – but Facebook isn’t about respect — it’s about re-configuring the world’s notion of what’s public and private.

So what that you might be a teenager and don’t get that college-admissions offices will use your e-mail address to find possibly embarrassing information about you. Just because Facebook got to be the world’s platform for identity by promising you privacy and then later ripping it out from under you, that’s your problem. At least, according to the bevy of privacy hired guns the company brought in at high salaries to provide cover for its shenanigans.

Clearly Facebook has taught us some lessons. We want easier ways to share photos, links and short updates with friends, family, co-workers and even, sometimes, the world.

But that doesn’t mean the company has earned the right to own and define our identities.

It’s time for the best of the tech community to find a way to let people control what and how they’d like to share. Facebook’s basic functions can be turned into protocols, and a whole set of interoperating software and services can flourish.

Think of being able to buy your own domain name and use simple software such as Posterous to build a profile page in the style of your liking. You’d get to control what unknown people get to see, while the people you befriend see a different, more intimate page. They could be using a free service that’s ad-supported, which could be offered by Yahoo, Google, Microsoft, a bevy of startups or web-hosting services like Dreamhost.

“Like” buttons around the web could be configured to do exactly what you want them to — add them to a protected profile or get added to a wish list on your site or broadcast by your micro-blogging service of choice. You’d be able to control your presentation of self — and as in the real world, compartmentalize your life.

People who just don’t want to leave Facebook could play along as well — so long as Facebook doesn’t continue creepy data practices like turning your info over to third parties, just because one of your contacts takes the “Which Gilligan Island character are you?” quiz? (Yes, that currently happens)

Now, it might not be likely that a loose confederation of software companies and engineers can turn Facebook’s core services into shared protocols, nor would it be easy for that loose coupling of various online services to compete with Facebook, given that it has 500 million users. Many of them may be fine having Facebook redefine their cultural norms, or just be too busy or lazy to leave.

But in the internet I’d like to live in, we’d have that option, instead of being left with the choice of letting Facebook use us, or being left out of the conversation altogether.

My Interview with Jay Maynard, The Tron Guy

I had seen Tron Guy online a few years back but hadn’t given him much thought until I recently happened to see the trailer for Tron Legacy on YouTube. I’d seen him on Jimmy Kimmel Live and several Internet videos and he seemed to be a happy little fella, so I thought, w…hat the heck, let’s see if I can locate this guy, call him up and just talk to him. Sure enough, that’s what happened.

Now, I know little to nothing at all about the film Tron or the world of Tron, so I wasn’t sure exactly what to ask him. I just came up with a few questions off the top of my head and gave it a shot. You can read more (if you’re bored or just absolutely have to know more) about Jay and his Tron hijinks on his personal website

@: http://www.conmicro.com/

or

@: http://www.tronguy.net/

He’s an interesting character, to say the least, but he seems to have fun with it, and I applaud that. Hey, at least the guy’s being himself. Well, the Tron version of himself. that is. *sidenote: I happened to be in a museum where I overheard David mention that a video game looked like the Tron game. Serendipity at its best. I asked him to participate in the interview just before I called Jay. Thankfully he agreed.

-Travis Lickey

The Krekelympics: “My boy says he can eat fifty..”

Image courtesy of Krekelympics

Image courtesy of Krekelympics

If you’re a native of Central Illinois, then you’re certain to have eaten at what can only be described as the best burger joint around, Krekels.

A favorite among high school and college kids, it was the place where two years ago, a group of Eisenhower alumni happened to have run into one another while back  from college. Enjoying the familiar taste of friendship and of being home again, they quickly locked in the idea to see who among them could down as many of the famous burgers as possible and to ultimately be declared the champion of the group. After the first year was deemed a success, it was decided that they would all meet back at Krekel’s the following year to propose the same challenge. Only this time, they would have a following of their very own. “The idea blossomed that we should just have a formalized competitive eating (event) at Krekels the next time we all came home.” said Ryan Smith, one of the event organizers. The 2008 Krekelympic games had been opened.

The second annual Krekelympics began today at the Colonial Mall location at 1355 N Illinois Route 48 near Millikin University with a registration time of 12:30pm and a kick-off time of 1:00. Participants, like in 2008, will pay a $30 entrance fee which buys their food. Any remaining money will be donated by the group to the Northeast Community Food Drive. Todd Teel, owner of Krekels, will donate half of the food cost for the event to the same charitable organization.

Just what can be expected at this years Krekelympics? An increase in the number of people wanting to prove their endurance for one. “This year should be quite a bit different” Smith went on to say. “I wouldn’t be surprised if it doubled”. Last year the contest moved around to each of the five locations in Decatur, however, this year it will remain at the Colonial Mall location.

The two main events will be the Sprint challenge, in which contestants will try and eat as many double cheeseburgers as they can within a ten minute period. The second, the Endurance Event, consists of several twenty minute rounds in which each contestant is given a double cheeseburger and fries and continuing on until only one is left standing. Spectators, or anyone not wishing to participate but still want to support the cause, can pay $15 for a lunch.

Krekel’s has been a staple of the Decatur community for decades and with the rising success of the Krekelympics, well, it just goes to prove that the legacy of the small, family owned business will be sure to continue on for decades to come.

You can become a fan of the Krekelympics on Facebook by clicking here.

-Travis Lickey

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