Somebody is using my email address to send spam, how?

Just received a spam email seemingly sent with my Yahoo email address, so if you get one from my Yahoo address called 'January 74% off', it's not me, don't open, but my question is how do they do that? The email address is identical. How can they possibly pull that off? I've got a number of other emails, and it's about time I ditched Yahoo since it's so painstakingly slow and erratic, regardless of which Yahoo version or which computer I use, but can I prevent this from happening to other email addresses? I'd be grateful for any advice...

Computer woes

It's my worst nightmare come true, well actually it could be a lot worse, but still: my laptop is ill, so I think I need to head for the gym to steady my nerves.

Yesterday I thought I'd have a major nervous breakdown when I was unable to turn on my laptop (it's an extension of my mind, not to mention instrumental to how I earn my living).

Luckily I'd already filed my first story that day, but unfortunately I had to go straight into an editorial meeting and postpone both the nervous breakdown and trying to fix the laptop. Turns out it was just the battery, it worked well when I first removed it and then put it back in, but the machine went black on me again just now as I was writing. Again it's the battery, but it acts funny in other ways too: often freezes if I have the wireless on when I turn on the laptop, or the icons on my screen won't show up, or programmes 'run down' the screen or only close partially when I turn them off. So I think I'd better take it to Toshiba hospital next week, which is a pain in the ass if you don't have a car, because it's located in nowhere land and only open during office hours (when I'm supposed to be at work)... My last visit did nothing to endear me to the place...

But first I'll get that workout to calm myself enough to finish all the other things I was going to write today.....

Must read of the day: All this online sharing has to stop

This piece is absolutely hillarious, so I couldn't help but share it with you. Here's an excerpt, but go read the whole thing. The author first deals with the woes of the music industry:

"You think you were the first to suffer from your content getting ripped off and spread to the four corners of the earth? Get to the back of the line, bud. There's a few people ahead of you"

Then the woes of the newspaper industry:

People "copy-and-paste entire articles from online newspapers to blog sites or to their own computer and they don't pay a thing. Then they read them or 'share' them with other people who they might not even have met."

Before he gives us this little gem:

"Next, pornography. You know, there used to be tons of top-shelf magazines, all earning a comfortable living. Then you know what? The damn internet came along and at a stroke destroyed their business model, in which shifty-gazed commuters had to go into insalubrious shops to get "content". Now there are loads of internet sites (Google reliably tells me) where you can get free amateur porn - exactly the same sort of stuff that people used to pay for! It's shocking (and what's more, there are no unsightly staples in the middle of the pictures)."

Before he tails it all off with a great two lines that puts the whole article in a new perspective....

What's up with The Independent's website?

Did The Independent online have technical problems this morning? Some ten minutes ago I only got error messages like site not found, site unavailable or too many incoming HTTP requests if I tried to access articles from my newsreader or via bookmarks on my work PC, same thing earlier this morning when I was unable to access even the main site via my laptop. Too busy chasing other deadlines to investigate, but strange... The Indy is probably the site I most frequently get error messages from when I try accessing articles from my newsreader, usually site unavailable or site not found, but nothing on this scale....

Update 23/01: what a (not so) perfect time to finally blow off some steam about this, turns out we got a brand new Independent online as of today, at least a new layout with what looks like improved RSS-navigation. Don't like the brown banner much, but I'll stop being grumpy, even about the 75 old Indy media articles that showed up in my newsreader today, and try to find some time to test it over the wknd (long day, need some sleep, might be over the moon if I find a much improved site when I'm more rested).

Another news site moves to open software, the news site of Swedish trade publication Journalisten, published by Sweden's journalist union, unveiled its brand new website just after Christmas. The site is built in textpattern, an almost bloglike open software solution. Apart from the much improved layout, the new site is a joy for all RSS-lovers, offering separate feeds for the various sections of the site such as opinion pieces, job ads, news articles etc. Journalisten's editor told me they'd chosen textpattern due to the much simpler content management system, delivered by Netrelations, and the opportunity to display all the websites' various sections better.

Other news sites using open software in Scandinavia include Reiser og Ferie (Joomla) and ABC Nyheter (Drupal) in Norway and (Drupal) in Denmark.

What would we do without internet?

It was Christmas day in a tiny village in a remote corner of the world. My mum wanted to go to church, yet the local paper didn't list at what the times the Christmas sermons were on.


Abdicating local coverage?
Now, we could talk of abdicating coverage and all of that, but I have a hunch the common practice is that churches have to pay for ads to get the times mentioned, and, in either case, there's always the internet: of course the Norwegian state church has its own homepage that lists sermons in various towns and cities...

The Government gets RSS-feeds (or, RSS is now at the political realm's disposal, let's hope it 'gets it' as well)
....via Andreas I even learned today that the Norwegian Government finally has managed to add RSS-feeds for each and every government department to its website, with separate feeds for the parliament's two chambers, for press releases, white papers, green papers etc. Now if the politicians and lobby groups could only learn to subscribe to the documents they need via newsreaders, we might save a small forest each month - and maybe this country could edge a bit closer to deserving all those political claims to being a world champion in environmentalism, though when it comes to digital democracy the Estonians are still way ahead of the game....

'Digital natives' is a dangerous term

It's vouge these days to talk about how the younger generation will turn the media world upside down, digital natives as they are. And yet, this statement is paradoxical, as too many journalism students, digital natives or not, seem to "aspire to work in some newsroom ca 1973". Jill Walker Rettberg highlights a deeper problem, which chimes with my own experiences:

"...despite today’s students having grown up with technology, and despite their using the net extensively, they still lack very basic skills for using the net in learning at a university level - and the ways teens use the internet differently from older users (e.g. games, IM, social networking) can almost hide the fact that many of them lack skills seen as basic in what we oldies call digital literacy - such as being able to find relevant information, evaluate it, synthesize it and present it. Of course it’s also possible that they’ll simply redefine 'digital literacy' so it means something else once they’re adults, but I somehow doubt it. I think actually the idea of 'digital natives' is dangerous - it lets us as teachers and parents off the hook."

For the record I should say that I'm by no means a techie – I know some advanced stuff, am ignorant of some basic stuff and basically just learn as I go along – but then, neither do I belong to the generation of digital natives, missed that one by a year:-)

Key Internet Insights

One of those days: so many stories to blog about, but no spare time so far. In the meantime, here's the two most compelling quotes about the Web I've come across in a while:

Adriana Lukas: The futility of control freakery
... It was the internet that has driven the futility of control freakery home for me too. Once you start blogging, interacting and communicating, there is no point in trying to make people pay attention to you, let alone force or manipulate them to do what you consider right or appropriate. And anyone, whether an individual or business will struggle with the web until they realise that they should control what they can, not what they wish they could.

Tim Bray (via Adriana): The Net's killer application
Here’s the thing: the Net’s killer app has always been other people. There are side benefits, like access to all the world’s information. But the links that matter aren’t between pages but people, and they’re strong and rich and subtle. Multiply the infinite flavors in human relationships by a thickening bundle of means-to-connect; that product is what’s new and what’s good and what’s exciting. People who are looking for the Next Big Thing are mostly looking in the wrong places. And anyway, you don’t need to look, it’ll find you. The Next Big Thing? Two fearless predictions: it’ll be about a new way to connect to people, and it won’t show up first on either Techmeme or TechCrunch...

Internet thieves beware

This really beggars belief: guess we have to add wi-fi broadband theft to the list of new world crimes unheard of before the age of Internet. I thought Scandinavia was bad for legislating all things great and small - I could go on for hours about the dog poo squad and other bizarre rules and regulations politicians come up with here - but in London a man has actually been arrested for 'stealing the waves' as Adriana so aptly puts it.

From a news report:

Police officers has arrested a man on suspicion of stealing a wireless broadband connection after spotting him using his laptop in the street... Dishonestly obtaining free internet access is an offence under the Communications Act 2003 and a potential breach of the Computer Misuse Act.

I had no idea. Now I know why some hotels can get away with such ludicrously expensive and impractical internet set-ups.

Spam season and the (il)logic of spam

I guess I'm lucky, or have been, to receive very little spam on this blog, just the odd trackback, but this month spam's been a daily nuisance - mostly in the form of trackbacks, but also comments. What's struck me though, is that most of it links to real products, like Dolce & Gabbana sunglasses or book reports. So, is this a new, absurd product advertisment strategy, or just pranksters with a bizarre kind of humour? Where's the business model in spam?

Now, blog spam, at least the kind I get, comes in three differents forms: 1) when someone writes gibberish and links to a product website: seems like an obvious prank, I mean, who would click on a link like that? 2) says "I've found the ultimate solution to xx" and links to a product website, why would I care? 3) says something intelligent that relates to the topic of my blog and links to a product website. If it's intelligent enough I might let that pass as it could be the beginning of an interesting conversation.

But the whole business of spam really is beyond me: you spam 10,000 blogs, get 5,000 or less hits - how big a percentage is actually stupid enough to buy your product? Try to advertise sunglasses via a trackback on my media blog, huh? That is almost as widely off the mark as the spam emails I get about available Russian chicks and European casinos. Talk about untargeted marketing...

Here's an interesting blog post (in Swedish, via Henrik Torstensson) about sites spamming Swedish blogs with links to 'link farm like' catalogues. Again, the business model escapes me....


Ghost let loose in my Bloglines account?

Something really weird is happening with my Bloglines account. All of a sudden I found two new feeds I certainly didn't add myself, in fact, had never even heard of before: one Didier Stevens and one Panzera Security blog. Very strange. Then, the next time I checked my newsreader, Didier Stevens was gone but to my surprise I saw that one of the feeds I do subscribe to, David Black, had 10 new posts. Upon closer examination I found that this Didier Stevens feed had inserted itself into David Black's feed, and the former was clearly advertising for various software solutions. A new sophisticated form of spam? I'm even supposed to have saved one post from the Panzera Security blog which I have never opened. Spooky. My mind needs some rest after a long days' work now, but would be grateful for any suggestions of what's up here ...

A fancy piece of luggage or an extension of your mind?

That's the central question facing a federal appeals court in a case that could sharply limit the government's ability to snoop into laptop computers carried across the border by American citizens.

The question, before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, arose from the prosecution of Michael Timothy Arnold, an American citizen whose laptop was randomly searched in July 2005 at Los Angeles International Airport... In June 2006, a judge from the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California threw out the evidence, finding that customs officials must have at least "reasonable suspicion" to begin prying into the contents of an electronic storage device, a decision the government is now appealing.

"Electronic storage devices function as an extension of our own memory," Judge Dean Pregerson wrote. "They are capable of storing our thoughts, ranging from the most whimsical to the most profound. Therefore, government intrusions into the mind -- specifically those that would cause fear or apprehension in a reasonable person -- are no less deserving of Fourth Amendment scrutiny than intrusions that are physical in nature."

The US government disagrees: "If allowed to stand, the district court's decision will seriously undermine the nation's vital interest in protecting its borders by removing the significant deterrent effect of suspicionless searches."

Priceless. Do check out the rest of the article here (just catching up on my Wired feed). The case is due to be argued later this year.

What's up at Wikipedia?

...this graph provides definitive, sobering proof of something gone awry at Wikipedia. Sometime in September/October of 2006, the growth rate of Wikipedia dropped dramatically. It crossed over from overperform to underperform in that time. And it’s been mired in that slump ever since... What could explain this? The beginnings of a virtual colony collapse disorder, or the natural course of a mature community? Interesting post from Andrew Lih (via Rebecca MacKinnon), but as so often, some of the most interesting bits can be found in the comments.

Account Suspended

This blogging account had been suspended due to Typepad's sudden inability to process my credit card in its US billing system.

At first they kindly suggested all the possible ways in which I could be at fault here, insufficient funds etc. When I denied all these accus... eh... suggestions, they graciously explained that they had a systematic problem with their US billing system and offered to move my account to their UK portal to prevent further errors. I was informed that this move had been successful and that I would now be able to update my billing information successfully.

Since my billing information had remained unchanged through all this, and my mind was full of more weighty concerns, I didn't see any point in doing that, ignoring the possibility that this benevolent suggestion of what I would be able to do could be code for 'you need to re-active or confirm' your billing information for this to work properly. And thus it came to be that I logged in to my email box today and found that my Typepad account had been suspended. And since I am very gifted when it comes imagining the worst possible outcomes: if this site goes all black in the next hours or days – this is the explanation. Not Happy. Think I need a looong workout.

Which ISPs Are Spying on You?

It was recently put to me that there are perhaps greater 'privacy invasions' to worry about than companies compiling all the electronic footprints we leave behind in this Web 2.0 world ours; only to store them in databases for clever commercial purposes, such as targeted marketing. Or as this person sarcastically put it (my translation):

The Facebook Fever that has ravaged this country for the entire month of May took a dramatic turn when someone realised that the information we provide about ourselves can be used to send us relevant advertisement. Experts encourage Facebook users to give careful consideration to whether or not they reveal themselves to be in the target group for sanitary towels or mineralwater ads.

You may laugh at me for still feeling a bit uneasy about this, but in countries like China, where the government is no stranger to confiscating such user data to police the opinions of its citizens, it is no laughing matter. Storing used data for a certain period of time also begets questions like: how much of this are the internet companies willing to share with government institutions when, and under what circumstances?

Which leads me to this interesting Wired article on data privacy (via Rebecca MacKinnon, Wired's RSS-feed is just too much for me so I keep getting backlogged):

The few souls that attempt to read and understand website privacy policies know they are almost universally unintelligible and shot through with clever loopholes. But one of the most important policies to know is your internet service provider's -- the company that ferries all your traffic to and from the internet, from search queries to BitTorrent uploads, flirty IMs to porn.

Wired News, with help from some readers, attempted to get real answers from the largest United States-based ISPs about what information they gather on their customers' use of the internet, and how long they retain records like IP addresses, e-mail and real-time browsing activity. Most importantly, we asked what they require from law-enforcement agencies before coughing up the data, and whether they sell your data to marketers.... here's what they found.

Wi-Fi (free) warning signal


I picked up this 'would have been very handy sign for hotels', or at least for their customers, from Virtual Economics (via David Black) just as I was sitting in a very posh hotel lounge fuming over the hotel's crap internet set-up.

Why is it that the internet set-up at fancy hotels tend to be as expensive as it is impractical, whereas less expensive hotels often have free wi-fi throughout? During my recent 10 days on the road, I would typically stay in a perfectly charming hotel where maybe the floors weren't quiet straight, and consequently the bath tub tilting slightly, but at least it would be clean, friendly and provide free wi-fi, in contrast to the posh hotels where I ended up using an amount similar to what I pay for my monthly broadband for two days of internet connection.

Not to mention how the internet-set up in the rooms was incompatible with the one for public areas (like in, impossible to read your newsfeeds over breakfast or lunch). It's the opposite of no-frills airlines: with these hotels the more you paid, the less you got – apart from straight floors, that is.

At least the posh hotels had gyms, my reason for choosing them in the first place, but I'd rather have free wi-fi and pay for a drop-in at a decent gym the hotel has an agreement with, than pay small fortunes for being online and get free access to gyms that resemble dumping grounds for equipment that was cool in the seventies. But I guess, with documentaries like this one from Panorama (via mediastandardstrusts' blog) hotels have a new excuse not to provide wi-fi in the rooms, and could even use the lack of it as a sales pitch: used to be 'smoke-free throughout' that heralded a truly modern hotel, now it's 'wi-fi free'... ?

Where generations meet online


I found this wonderful map over at Confused of Calcutta (the original is here), where JP Rangaswami has some interesting reflections about it. Here's a few highlights, but do read in full:

One, it represents many generations, but the generations are often isolated.

Two, there are some dogs that aren’t barking, and it is worth considering why.

Three, we need to understand more about the places where the generations meet.
Why that is the case. Facebook and YouTube both span multiple generations now, Flickr and have that effect as well, but I find places like DeviantArt far more intriguing. What is it about the communities like DeviantArt that they became ageless from the start? What can we learn from them?

A few favourite links this week

I know using a social bookmarking site would make it a lot easier to keep up with things, but since my laptop is instrumental to how I earn my living, I am, perhaps irrationally, paranoid about setting my security settings to accept all cookies (which these sites demand). I am on, but not too frequent as I only use it when I'm in my office and not on the road or working from home. Anyway, here's a few of those posts I thoroughly enjoyed this week, but found no time to blog about:

Google acquires Internet (via Adriana's furl feed):
MAY 12, 2017 - BUSINESSWIRE. Mountain View-based search giant Google Inc today announced they’ve acquired the internet for the astounding sum of $2,455.5 billion in cash... In a conference call earlier today, Larry Page explained the strategy behind the acquisition. “We realized it’s not very cost-effective to buy the internet in smaller portions.”

Hope for local TV (Doc Searls on IT Garage):
The TV news system isn't broken. It's just one system struggling to thrive in the midst of many new systems that will only get more and more useful — both to TV news operations and to viewers.

Online communities: media companies focus too much on technology (Kevin Anderson for The Press Gazette):
After years of resistance, newspapers are opening up to what New York University journalism professor Jay Rosen calls the "people formerly known as the audience". But too often, they focus on the technology and fail both in terms of content and culture, dooming their community efforts from the start... Ask yourself: What ties your community together? If you don't know, that's your first problem. Get out from behind the desk. Talk to people about what they are talking about.

Confused of Calcutta: Learning from comments people leave on my blog:
I often get asked why I blog, and you’ve seen enough of my answers before. And it’s strange, how someone’s eyes glaze over when I come to the bit where I say “and I learn from my blog, from the comments people leave”. It’s the sort of look reserved for people who say “I read Playboy for its literary content”…

Editors Weblog looks at newspapers' comment dilemmas:
The News&Observer notes newspapers' ‘hypocrisy’ in requiring print letters to be signed and letting online comments be anonymous. Should free comments on all online stories be allowed at all?

IT Conversations: more about the net as a giant zero

If you enjoyed Doc Searl's recent post on Giant Zero Journalism, this podcast (via Adriana's Furl feed), which I of course only found time to listen to this weekend, provides further food for thought:

Craig Burton has said that the best geometric representation of the net's end-to-end architecture is a hollow sphere comprised of everything and everybody on it. Doc Searls, senior editor for Linux Journal, used this statement to describe the hollow sphere as a "giant zero” that it puts every point at virtually zero distance from every other point. He joins Phil and Scott to discuss his current work on the concept and how it has changed communication. Doc also evaluates the importance of blogging in current communications and illustrates how bloggers can influence more traditional writing.

Did you miss the post on Giant Zero Journalism, and the vibrant web discussion it snowballed into? Here's a few highlights:

It is essential for the mainstream media to understand that the larger information ecosystem is one that grows wild on the Net and supports everybody who wants to inform anybody else. It no longer grows inside the mainstream media's walled gardens. Those gardens will continue to thrive only to the degree that they do two things: 1) open up; and 2) live symbiotically with individuals outside who want to work together for common purposes.

We have readers and viewers, not just "audiences" and "consumers". We write articles and essays and posts, not just "generate content". "User-generated content", or UGC, is an ugly, insulting and misleading label.

"Content" is inert. It isn't alive. It doesn't grow, or catch fire, or go viral. Ideas and insights do that. Interesting facts do that. "Audiences" are passive. They sit still, clap and leave. That might be what happened with newspapers and radio and TV in the old MSM-controlled world, but it's not what happens on The Giant Zero. It's not what happens with blogging, or with citizen journalism. Here it's all about contribution, participation. It involves conversation, but it goes beyond that into relationship — with readers, with viewers, with the larger ecosystem by which we all inform each other.

The Social Impact of the Web

Adriana Lukas sums up the impact of the web in three levels, touching on democracy, authority, the individual, technology. As always, it's worth reading in full, but here's a highlight:

...people are learning something: They are learning self-determination and unlearning decades of one-way communication and mass broadcasting. The ability to express and respond to things on their own terms and their own way is what this is about. And in some senses, autonomy is a more meaningful definition of freedom as it entail my freedom to do many things essential to my identity.