Privacy Advice from the Last Century

I’m still wondering if the How to Safeguard Your Privacy Online post on GigaOM is real or a parody. No, I’m not talking about the advice for the paranoid, which includes gems like:

Do not make international phone calls.

Do not have a home broadband connection.

After all, these are for the paranoid… but let’s look at some of the tips for most of us, assuming we fall under the Feeling Practical But Not Paranoid category:

Do not use desktop search tools like Google Desktop or Microsoft Desktop Search.

Do not use webmail from a service provider like AT&T, Google or Microsoft.

Do not use browser toolbars or desktop gadgets.

Remove all social network accounts.

Clear your browser cookies after every session.

Change your local username daily.

He is so right, yet so wrong. Yes, the above are all real dangers on our privacy – but hey, we all know since Scott McNealy we don’t have privacy anyway. He got chastised for his famous declaration in 1998 – perhaps he was a bit ahead of his time, but things got a lot worse (better?) since then.

Let’s just look at cookies. The obvious Privacy 101 principle in the 90’s was to control them. Since then we’ve seen an army of cookie-washer products, the popular browsers all offer their own privacy/cookie settings – yet all this works less and less. Quite a few sites – including blogs – will fail to load properly when seemingly unrelated, third-party cookies are blocked. Sometimes they work, but next time you come back to the site, there’s just a white, blank screen. This is ugly. Since I can’t easily figure out what blocked the site, I typically end up deleting all browser cookies as well as all cookie-rules. Then the game starts again – some of the sites / blogs take minutes to rotate through dozens of cookie-requests, literally making it impossible to read their own content. I’m about to give up: might as well just enable cookies – privacy is long gone, anyway. Besides, if I am getting ads served up, they might as well be better targeted.

Not using search? Web-mail? Changing user-names daily? C’mon… it would be completely impossible to live with these rules. We have long given up any resemblance to privacy for the sake of convenience. Get used to it. Unless you want to shut down the Internet, remove any computers from the house and lock yourself up in your home. Better yet, move to a remote island, where everything is low-tech and healthy. smile_omg


The Irony of Contextual Advertising

I fully agree with Ionut: Gmail’s spam filtering is amazingly effective. I don’t really care about how they do it, as long as it works this well.thumbs_up

But there’s a bit of irony in his post on Google Operating System, and it comes from none other than Google: just as soon as he’s done praising Gmail, Adsense serves up ad ad from a competing service:

Funny thing is, competitor or not, Adsense is correct: the ad is as contextual as it can get, since the article was about spam filtering.smile_tongue

Of course it could have been a lot worse

(P.S. the pic is only for illustration of what I found on Ionut’s blog; I am not running ads here)

Update: Donna Bogatin found another Web Blooper.


The Blog Poll Platform You Should Avoid


Polls are an easy, simple way of getting immediate customer/reader feedback, and also letting the voters know what their community thinks.

There are a number of good products to chose from, like dPolls often seen on TechCrunch, the platform GigaOM is using (whatever it is), Blogflux and Majikwidget seen at Guy Kawasaki’s, PollDaddy used by the ReadWriteWeb …etc. I tend to use Zoho Polls, which, other than its native display also allows me to easily chart out the results using Zoho Sheet. All these apps have a clean interface, are easy to use and immediately display vote results right where you voted (in the blog).

The one you should avoid is Blogpoll. My friends at Atlassian put out a poll, and after voting, and a ridiculously looong wait, this is what I saw:

WTF… where’s my poll? Ahh, perhaps that blue bar that says “your title”? Yes. If you scroll down, you can actually see your poll results in a tiny box, surrounded by a jungle of advertising.

Now, I understand the economics of a free service, but guess what: when you overdo advertising so badly that customers have too look for what they came for … chances are, they won’t be repeat customers. And that’s the end of your service.

(P.S. Jon, I hope you’ll still invite me to the User Conference…)

Update (3/15): Jon is now running a poll on what’s the best poll software… cast your vote over at Atlassian.


Using AdWords to “Badmouth” the Competition

Espen talks about how Google’s AdWords is used against 24SevenOffice. Here’s one of the ads displayed for the keyword “24SevenOffice” :

24SevenOffice – Great system for doctors, quick service, low costs!

The only problem is, 24SevenOffice does not do any of it. It’s a CRM+ERP+Communication+ .. + SaaS provider.

Whoever put up the ad, will likely pay very little, as few who specifically search for the company will click through. They manage, however, to clobber their competitor’s image, confuse and drive away potential customers, or disappoint the few who actually might be looking for a doctors’s solution, click through and feel “bait and switched”.

(somewhat) related post:


Ad-supported On-Demand ERP? No Way….

Ad-supported content? Yes. Personal Productivity tools? Yes. Enterprise Software? No way. (IMHO)

There’s an interesting, Microsoft-induced debate at ZDNet re. the possibiliy of funding free On-Demand software via advertising:

It all started with Microsof app’s but from there it’s just a step to arrive to Gerge Colony of Forrester: I foresee a world in which even enterprise applications like financials, ERP (enterprise resource planning), and supply chain software will be advertising-funded.”

My take: that we have a lot of web-based content supported by ads is already a fact. Consumer software, personal productivity tools? Quite possible.

Enterprise Software is a different animal. Why? It is used by businesses, who have their own business processes and workflow. Clicking on ads would be a distraction from that business process, I can’t possibly see why companies would support it. True, there will be major changes in the delivery/ pricing model for enterprise software. When prices come down from the stratospheric heights set by Oracle, SAP et al and become more reasonable, a’la Salesforce, NetSuite, SugarCRM, 24SevenOffice, SmartCompany ..etc, my bet is companies would rather pay those prices then accept the productivity-loss caused by their employees clicking around the Net for hours a day…

Update (11/29) : SAP’s Jeff Nolan on Ad-supported Business Apps.