Automattic has a poor record of respecting its users’ privacy, insofar as the company has gradually added additional surveillance mechanisms into their products without effectively notifying users. Several months ago when I updated the WordPress Stats plugin I discovered that Automattic had, without warning, integrated Quantcast tracking into their Stats plugin. Specifically, there was no notice in the update, no clear statement that data would be sent to Quantcast, nor any justification for the additional tracking other than in a web forum where their CEO stated it would let Automattic “provide some cool features around uniques and people counting.” This constituted a reprehensible decision, but one that can fortunately be mediated with a great third-party plugin.
In this post, I’m going to do a few things. First, I’m going to recount why Automattic is not respecting user privacy by including Quantcast in its Stats plugin. This will include a discussion about why reasonable users are unlikely to realize that third-party tracking is appended to the Stats plugin. I’ll conclude by discussing how you can protect your web visitors’ own privacy and security by installing a terrific plugin developed by Frank Goossens.
I tend to (almost exclusively) access key websites related to my research and personal interests through RSS feeds. As a result of using Google Reader to collate new content, I rarely actually see the blogrolls and suggested links that are provided by those key websites that I grab content from on a daily basis. Given that I’m sure many people read this site almost exclusively through RSS, I wanted to prepare a short piece that highlights just some of the key blogs and websites that I turn to on a regular basis in the hopes that readers might find some cool and interesting new sources of information they’d otherwise never come across. As a hat tip, this post is largely inspired by Rebecca Bollwitt‘s “The Missing Link” that considers (as of 2008) the changing characters of link lists and blogrolls.
Aya Walraven is a digital media and internet enthusiast who primarily works in video, web, and emerging technologies. A self-appointed internet-culture historian and archivist, she studies and documents mobile technologies and online behavior, particularly in Japanese youth and anonymous communities.
While it’s fine and good to leave a comment where neither you nor an anonymous blogger know one another, what happens when you do know the anonymous blogger and it’s clear that they want to remain anonymous? This post tries to engage with this question, and focuses on the challenges that I experience when I want to post on an ‘anonymous’ blog where I know who is doing the blogging – it attends to the contextual privacy questions that race through my head before I post. As part of this, I want to think through how a set of norms might be established to address my own questions/worries, and means of communicating this with visitors.
I’ve been blogging in various forms for a long time now – about a decade (!) – and in every blog I’ve ever had I use my name. This has been done, in part, because when I write under my name I’m far more accountable than when I write under an alias (or, at least I think this is the case). This said, I recognize that my stance to is slightly different than that of many bloggers out there – many avoid closely associating their published content with their names, and often for exceedingly good reasons. Sometimes a blogger wants to just vent, and doesn’t want to deal with related social challenges that arise as people know that Tommy is angry. Others do so for personal safety reasons (angry/dangerous ex-spouses), some for career reasons (not permitted to blog/worried about effects of blogging for future job prospects), some to avoid ‘-ist’ related comments (sexist, racist, ageist, etc.).
I owe this (more nuanced reflection) of yesterday’s note on the role of ‘professional’ versus ‘amateur’ news, again, to my colleague Tim Smith. After reading my post yesterday, he replied:
nice piece Chris! I have a follow up question.
is investigative journalism on the net in the spaces Simon characterized as amateur. I am thinking of reports like a Bob Woodward breaking of Watergate. A Seymour Hersh breaking of Abu Ghraib. This type of investigative reporting.
Do you see the type of investigative journalism (on political matters) coming from blogs and internet media? If not, could it come from there? It certainly requires a system of professional training (gathering and putting together information not necessarily available on the internet), resources and social capital (contacts).
Re-reading what I’d posted, I can see that these are questions that needed to be asked and responded to. Below is my response to Tim.
I rely on other people to produce content for me to consume, and I reciprocate by providing my own content (via this blog, government submissions, submissions to alternative news sites, interviews on radio, etc.) to the public. I see this as a reciprocal relationship, insofar as anyone can come here and use my content so long as they abide by my creative commons license. Unfortunately, most advocates for newspapers would see what I do (i.e. blog, think publicly) as unequal to their own work. I’m just an amateur, and they’re the professionals.
One of my colleagues recently linked me to a statement that David Simon presented to Congress about the life or death of newspapers. His argument is (roughly) that bloggers and other ‘amateurs’ cannot be expected or trusted to perform the high quality journalism that these ‘amateurs’ then talk about online (Note from Chris: clear case in point, the critical analysis by journalists of the Bush administration and Iraq compared to bloggers. Oh…wait…). You need dedicated professionals who are professionally trained to generate consistently high quality and accurate content. At the same time, the for-profit model of newspapers has led them to cannibalize their operations for profit. Newspapers will perish if capitalism and the market are seen as ‘solutions’ to the demise of newspapers, just as amateur culture and their appropriation of media will destroy content producers. Something must be done.
In this post I want to think, just a little bit, about the role of platforms and how I’m attempting to maneuver this space. This is aimed at better clarifying (for me) how this space is used, as well as to render its use more transparent (which is apparently a core facet of building successful platforms *grin*).
A few weeks ago I was linked to a blog page that discussed the role of platforms in opening up future publishing-related avenues. The principles of the post could be boiled down to the follow:
- Speak authentically;
- Speak regularly;
- Speak in an open, transparent fashion;
- Speak so that the development of ideas is clear;
- Speak so that you are demonstrating your authority.
These are, generally, pretty traditional tropes surrounding Web 2.0. There isn’t anything terrifically new. What interests me, however, at the fourth and fifth items. In rendering transparent the development of ideas, what I think is most helpful is that a final, codified, textual work is opened up to the reader. Should they be sufficiently interested in the work, they can move to see how an argument was, and wasn’t, developed. By seeing how and why a writer has cordoned off particular threads of thought it is possible to open new and interesting approaches to a critique – as a firm advocate that reading theory is greatly assisted by understanding the author’s life and situation, and blogging (or establishing a similarly open platform) gives readers a way of getting to ‘know’ the author beyond the 100 word summary at the end of a book.