The Snow In The Summer or So-So


Mon 22 May 2006

Breast is best; six is worst

Regular readers will be tediously aware that Six Apart is, very carefully, converting its Livejournal community into part of the Corporatist hegemony. Founders Anil Dash and Mena Trott are notorious reactionaries, in favour of allowing stalkers to operate freely, and selling people's private information to the highest (or lowest) bidder.

As part of this reactionary tendency, Six Apart has pitched into the war against women. This battle is promulgated by the illiberal right-wing in the failed provinces, in an effort to keep women in a state of perpetual pregnancy and to reverse the small steps towards equality that have been made in the past few decades. It really is time that we stopped pretending these people can run anything more complex than a bath. But I digress.

Six Apart's weapon of choice? Breast-feeding. It is most obviously not a violent act, it is not pornography, and by no sensible definition is it a sexual act. Unless, that is, you are so completely repressed and/or immature as to automatically associate lactation with copulation. One leads to the other, but there is no automaticity. Or unless you are part of a cabal that is bent. Bent on securing a profit for itself, bent on the pursuit of power, and bent on surpressing all dissenting voices.

Sooner or later, Dash, Trott, Fitzpatrick, or one of their brainwashed minions will be speaking at a conference in the UK. It would be fantastic to stage a peaceful counter-protest, perhaps a live demonstration of breast-feeding while said moron is yammering about the wonder of their product, or how the world cannot operate without using Six Apart's products and hence supporting the Corporatists.

In the meantime, I would, again, urge people to very carefully consider their support of Six Apart's products.

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posted 22 May 2006, 19.28 +0100

Thu 25 May 2006

The continued decline and fall of Livejournal and Six Apart

Absolutely the final word on the National Pest's cockup - a full and frank apology, albeit on page 2.

Richard Younger-Ross introduced a bill to stop large shops from opening on Sundays. I reckon the status quo is broadly acceptable - six hours between 10am and 6pm, no trading on Easter or Christmas Day. Any further liberalisation would be a step too far.

The death has been announced of Lloyd Bentsen, former vice-presidential candidate. He's best-known for taking a national television audience with him to shoot quails in a barrel: "I knew Jack Kennedy. You're no Jack Kennedy."

And once more into Six Apart's descent into the Corporatist morass. Doug Bryan claims to head business operations at SA, and he has scribbled a note regarding the breastfeeding mess. Mr Bryan wrote,

it is important to maintain consistency throughout our service

When, then, will Livejournal get an abuse staff that is professional in operation, if not professional in status?

this is like a police officer having to enforce speed limits in neighborhoods [sic] where kids play.

This is a very poor analogy; breastfeeding, unlike speeding, is not a crime. It is not indecent under any sensible legal system. It is not illegal, and it is grossly misleading for you to imply that it is.

it’s because of users like yourselves that LJ exists, and we want to continue to run a service that enables you to create community, connect with others, and express yourselves in a free, safe, and positive manner.

Translation: We're shit-scared that our bottom line will take a hit. But the clincher came a little bit earlier.

LiveJournal is in no way against breastfeeding or breastfeeding mothers.

Then there is absolutely no argument to be had; if Six Apart is not against breastfeeding, then it accepts without reservation that images are not obscene. Any other action - a promised "review", a policy regarding the specific content - is at variance with the claim.

While I'm on the topic, here are some stats:

Total accounts: 10296172
updating in last 30 days: 1203631 (11.7%)
updating in last 7 days: 721606 (7.0%)
updating in past 24 hours: 253571 (2.5%)

Compare that against figures from March 2005:

Total accounts: 6611141
updating in last 30 days: 1520011 (23.0%)
updating in last 7 days: 970684 (14.7%)
updating in past 24 hours: 367704 (5.6%)

From June 2004:

Total accounts: 3171504
updating in last 30 days: 1153683 (36.4%)
updating in last 7 days: 756888 (23.9%)
updating in past 24 hours: 292198 (9.2%)

And from June 2003:

Total accounts: 1079730
updating in last 30 days: 413602 (38.3%)
updating in last 7 days: 291296 (27.0%)
updating in past 24 hours: 119504 (11.1%)

This is a pen, and a piece of paper. Draw your own conclusions.

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posted 25 May 2006, 20.42 +0100

Sun 28 May 2006

One against Six - a recap

A definite hello to everyone visiting from exposing lj abuse. Here's a brief catch-up of my position regarding Livejournal.

Just under a year ago, I proposed five tests for Livejournal to retain my custom.
1. Splitting the "Friends" concept into "I wish to read" and "I trust".
2. Providing official documentation so that someone who knows CSS well can adapt (or create) an S2 style for themself.
3. Splitting the servers over more than one geographic site.
4. Support for pinging aggregators other than
5. An acknowledgement from the owners that their users are not all living in the united states, and that some of their customers do not welcome the legal creep.

Needless to say, no progress had been made on any of these fronts by the time I reviewed the situation in December. At this time, I found that Livejournal was failing to meet reasonable standards of privacy and availability, and its culture had become "for the greater good of the bottom line", a culture of self-promotion over all other objectives.

In March, I had a run-in with their oh-so-competent support staff. In spite of my explicit request to the contrary, they persisted in closing an old feed of this site, and substituting a new one. (Shameless plug: readers may wish to add tsitsoss_rss to their reading list. It works when it works. Don't come crying if it doesn't.)

Last month, I hit the final straw, when Livejournal introduced advertisements and told us what software we could run on our own machines. This arrogance violated the letter and spirit of the social contract between myself and Livejournal. That was the community I joined in 2003, those were the written community rules, ones that could only be changed with the majority consent of the community. But we forgot that corporateamerica knows no honour, only profit. Six Apart is a profit-seeking company, not a benevolent dictatorship. By acting in this dishonourable way, Six Apart kills its own society, kills its own source of riches, kills its own future.

Immediately that adverts were introduced, I asked this question of Livejournal, via the published privacy@ address:

I am concerned that the combination of sex, age, location, interests, and other information may be sufficient to allow individuals or very small groups to be identified. Could you please give details of the checks you have in place to ensure that this does not and cannot happen.

That was over a month ago. I am yet to receive an acknowledgement, never mind a substantive response. Work from a learned friend has established that individuals are identifiable from location, age, and interest.

It's in this atmosphere - Six Apart has sold out the community so that it might curry favour with potential advertisers - that the current breast-feeding brew-ha-ha arises. Six Apart's objective for Livejournal is to get adverts in front of eyeballs. That's all. Anything else - any sense of community, any donations from satisfied users, is a bonus. The objective here is not to drive away active users, for there are not enough active and annoyed users to alter data storage or data transfer costs.

No, the aim is to sell more commercials to those sheep who will happily graze on whatever commercial crap is put in front of them, and making the site's public face like a nursery helps to reassure advertisers. This is, of course, a very Web 1.0 way of doing things, but then Six Apart burns through speculative capital like a dotcom bubble firm. Plus ça change.

If you're still using Livejournal for anything important, it's probably best to back up a copy of your journal now. (I have an offline copy of the linked post, in case Six Apart removes the journal. I will not hesitate to post it prominently.)

Ultimately, the problems I have with Six Apart will not be resolved by a professional abuse team, whether professional in status or in action. My problem is with the company's culture, or more precisely the way it wishes to impose its culture onto mine. I cannot honestly say that I will resume posting there if there's a grown-up abuse team. I can say that I will not post there if the abuse teams remains, in all senses of the word, amateur.

One bit of digging on the stats page produced the following lines, which I reprint without comment.

usertrans_upgrades_to_plus	2006-04-13	6
usertrans_upgrades_to_plus	2006-04-16	1
usertrans_upgrades_to_plus	2006-04-17	4657
usertrans_upgrades_to_plus	2006-04-18	11139
usertrans_upgrades_to_plus	2006-04-19	5016
usertrans_upgrades_to_plus	2006-04-20	3339
usertrans_upgrades_to_plus	2006-04-21	2530
usertrans_upgrades_to_plus	2006-04-22	2624
usertrans_upgrades_to_plus	2006-04-23	2462
usertrans_upgrades_to_plus	2006-04-24	2001
usertrans_upgrades_to_plus	2006-04-25	1346
usertrans_upgrades_to_plus	2006-04-26	1221
usertrans_upgrades_to_plus	2006-04-27	1088
usertrans_upgrades_to_plus	2006-04-28	951
usertrans_upgrades_to_plus	2006-04-29	1026
usertrans_upgrades_to_plus	2006-04-30	1029
usertrans_upgrades_to_plus	2006-05-01	1013
usertrans_upgrades_to_plus	2006-05-02	919
usertrans_upgrades_to_plus	2006-05-03	2100
usertrans_upgrades_to_plus	2006-05-04	2075
usertrans_upgrades_to_plus	2006-05-05	1445
usertrans_upgrades_to_plus	2006-05-06	1335
usertrans_upgrades_to_plus	2006-05-07	1350
usertrans_upgrades_to_plus	2006-05-08	1487

The numbers in the final column sum to 52,160. The sum of numbers labelled newbyday for the same period is 153,690.

And finally, an occasionally answered question: where did the name "The Snow in the Summer or So-So" come from? Latvia's debut Eurovision entry, performed by top band Brainstorm. Though quite why they played their UK dates opposite this year's Eurovision is going to remain a mystery forever...

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posted 28 May 2006, 16.51 +0100

Wed 19 Jul 2006

More lies from the loose people at Six Apart

In which Patricia Mitchell, Six Apart's retained advertisement whore, pretends that everything in the garden is rosy. LiveJournal is a top 100 site - true, number 61 in to-day's Alexa rankings - and probably the only one that didn't have advertising. False - excluding the various Asian sites, which I don't have the knowledge to read, there are no paid-for commercials on Ebay (numbers 9, 36, and 66), Microsoft (13), Amazon (15), Comcast (62), Apple (63), Dell (78). There are no advertisements at all on Wikipedia (17), the BBC (23). Mrs Mitchell is either woefully uninformed, or is flat-out lying.

The LiveJournal community is an interesting and eclectic group of personal bloggers. Many of them are anti-advertising and believe all advertising and marketing is bad... I decided to use the power of social networking... It's going the right way by making it an engaged experience... I’m personally approving every [commercial] that runs on LiveJournal.

A system that works so well that Mrs Mitchell is personally installing crapware on people's computers. It's going so well that there are instructions on site to get rid of Livejournal commercials. It's going so well that some of us have moved off Livejournal completely.

If you're going to engage with us, Mrs Mitchell, why won't you answer any question that criticises the commercial creep of your company? Why was your first reaction to install loud and intrusive banner advertisements everywhere? Why did you try to change your terms of service to tell us what software we could run on our computers? Why will you not accept that Six Apart has killed the community it tried and failed to buy?

It's got to be the right message. The targeting's got to go both ways. I can deliver the right person to you. You've got to deliver the right message to them.

The message here is that Six Apart, as a company, is a bunch of money-obsessed hucksters who would happily sell their own grandmothers if the price were right. Of course this isn't about improving the service for blog-authors. It's about delivering eyeballs to advertisers. Just like every other bunch of social retards who sell their principles for cash.

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posted 19 Jul 2006, 19.13 +0100

Thu 27 Jul 2006

An apology would be nice, but only if you mean it

Langsite is confused.

A certain person [link to this blog] whom claims to be independent from Live Journal posted in a friends locked entry of live journal, even though they claim to no longer use it because of Six Apart's policies. Yet they post in it and of coarse [sic] leave a link to this blog. My my my you lie like a rug.

They have a post and a link to have their friends list come here. I don't think that is completely independent from Live Journal. In fact she/he just made my orginal point.

For the hard-of-thinking, here's how it works.

1) I write in my blog, hosted at free-online.

2) The blog is read, dissected, and digested, and some people leave comments.

3) As a courtesy to readers, I allow Livejournal to take and display a summary of all posts. You do not know how difficult it was for Livejournal staff to do this very simple task, and even then they utterly botched it.

4) Readers then follow the links, and (if they wish) re-post them, because that is what blog readers do.

It would be absolutely trivial for me to block Livejournal's servers from this blog. I do not wish to do that, because I care about my readers. Equally, it would be absolutely trivial for me to direct visitors from Langsite to a debunking page. I do not wish to do that, because I care about honesty.

The facts are verifiable. I have not posted or commented to Livejournal since Six Apart attempted to ban us from running software on our machines in April. What other people do is entirely their call, for I do not control other people, and I do not seek to control other people.

To cut to the chase: Langsite has put forward no evidence whatsoever that I have misled anyone. I encourage Langsite to back up the claims, or withdraw the explicit accusation of lying and idiocy.

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posted 27 Jul 2006, 18.28 +0100

Sat 29 Jul 2006

What you've got to do is put the tea-cup in the tea-pot

When someone does not know the way things work, for instance the difference between a syndicated RSS feed and a maintained account, it becomes the duty of those who do know to educate and to share their knowledge. It may often be necessary to question some assumptions, especially one that runs "it's true for me, so it must be true for everyone."

When someone has been exposed to this information, and still refuses to accept that they may have been mistaken, then the community is entitled to doubt their bona fides.

Mind is like parachute: works best when open.

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posted 29 Jul 2006, 10.23 +0100

Wed 06 Sep 2006


G****e has given all sort of user information to the government in Brazil. The leaders in the South American country want email addresses, IP numbers, and other information of some people on the data behemoth's social notworking site. Apparently, these people have been racist, anti-gay, or otherwise indulged in nastiness.

The point here is that, yet again, we have a case where laws and standards are in conflict. On the one hand, the rules in Brazil say that thou shalt not be abusive to other people. On the other, G****e acts under a legal code that claims to let people say anything to anyone. Which law should rule; the restrictive standards of Brazil, or the laissez-faire attitude from Arizona West?

Let us, for the sake of argument, suppose that it should be the more restrictive standard that applies - it's that way for Brazil, it's that way for the advertising engine's operations in Red China. By that token, G****e would be doing all it can to comply with other regulations in various countries around the world.

Such as, for instance, the European Union's stringent data protection regulations. Data holders can only process data for clear and limited purposes, and keep information only as long as is necessary. One can't, for instance, put all the information from your web searches, your emails, and your blog posts into one massive database, keep the information for all time, use it to build a profile of someone, and then go on to sell advertising that may or may not be more closely targetted. That is so clearly illegal as to be laughable, yet G****e continues to get away with it.

If the information-to-advertising machine is going to respect the local customs of Red China and is going to respect the local customs of Brazil, why won't it respect the local customs of Europe? All we're asking for is equal treatment, not to be treated as second-class citizens by a third-rate company from a fifth-rate desert.

Other points of note: Two and a half years after first release, G****e-mail still actively discriminates against the blind. This blog does not permit references from G****e, be it crawler, search engine, or mail account. And I may be the only person in the entirity of cyberspace who does not have a G****e-mail account - unless you know better!

, , , , , , ,

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posted 06 Sep 2006, 18.23 +0100

Thu 21 Sep 2006

Still not flying to-night

Maybe Mr Evans should have had a quiet word in the ears of the transport and interior ministers. Between them, they've announced that the aircraft hand luggage ban will be relaxed a little further, restoring the size of bags to the international standard. Travellers will still be allowed just one carry-on per person, and no liquids will be allowed through security - the scientific numpties still believe the myth that a plane can be blown up with nothing more than some lipstick and a tube of extra-minty toothpaste. It is not clear if 50% of passengers will still be subjected to body searches.

To-day's transport minister, someone called Douglas Alexander, said, "We will never compromise the security of the travelling public." By insisting that the security staff concentrate their efforts on people carrying eyeliner, rather than investing their time in targetted searches, Mr Alexender is compromising the security of the travelling public. He is a woeful failure and must resign.

, , ,

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posted 21 Sep 2006, 16.47 +0100

Sat 02 Dec 2006

Like father, like son

British Sky Broadcasting's current chief executive has raised his objections to the concept of broadcasting regulation. James Murdoch, son of Rupert, launched a remarkable tirade against the concept of broadcasting regulation.

Mr. Murdoch said, From the very start UK broadcasting regulation was skewed. Not to protect people against real harm, but to ensure that broadcasting was a sort of moral and educative crusade... It was and is authoritarian.

Two points arise from this passage. First, Mr. Murdoch really is casting the net a very long way back. The view of broadcasting as, first and foremost, a moral and educative crusade went out with the advent of the second world war. During that conflict, the B.B.C. successfully unified the nation. Mr. Murdoch's operation will never, ever, manage such a feat, unless it's in revulsion at the vapidity of its output.

The second point relates to real harm, which Mr. Murdoch tosses about as though it were a concrete object. It's not, and he must define his terms before using them. It is generally accepted that sex, drugs, violence, and bad language should not be seen on screen. But is there not a case to take care against moral harm? It is far more difficult to define moral harm, as it is not the subject of a consensus. I would argue that the untrammelled pursuit of profit before any social objective is a direct cause of real harm.

This is, of course, part of the tension between capitalism and liberalism that Mr. Murdoch does his best to ignore. He goes on, The reality of the explosion of broadcasting choice... is that there is something for everyone.

Where, then, is the channel discussing difficult philosophical matters? Where is the primer on the works of Primo Levy or Bertrand Russell? Where is the discussion on the future of the English language? Indeed, where is the channel providing pawn-to-pawn coverage of the world chess championships, or a feature documentary on the sudoku masterclass?

Where is the channel broadcasting the best entertainment from across Europe? Where is the channel showing the best bits of Star Academy in France, Spain, Belgium, Sweden? Where is the channel flitting from German to Italian to Hungarian, showing us the best of Europe's broadcasters without regard to language?

Where is the channel broadcasting the Junior Eurovision Song Contest?

Mr. Murdoch is talking out of his hat again. His service offers something for everyone, so long as they want mindless entertainment and in the English language. It's worth noting that the only intelligent entertainment comes from the public service broadcasters, BBC, Channel 4, and the TV5 consortium.

Mr. Murdoch continued with the amazing claim, People are not forced to watch what the elite think is good for them. Yes they are. People are, if not forced, then nagged ceaselessly into watching what the elite thinks is good for them. The elite here is the advertising elite, and the constant drumming about the brilliance of shoddy programmes comes for shows that are good for the advertiser, and good for the broadcaster, not necessarily good for the viewer. Witness British Sky Broadcasting's remorseless over-hyping of the mediocre Lost! and 17.

He also attacked the BBC's fantasy of creating a British alternative to Google as this is not public service, it's megalomania.

Mr. Murdoch has started by being wrong, has continued by being wrong, so why stop being wrong now? Its internet presence continues the B.B.C.'s mission to push forward the best of British values, including honesty, fair play. Values of accessibility to all, not just those who will pay £500 per year. Not values that Mr. Murdoch or his family have ever encountered before.

Mr. Murdoch concluded his speech by saying, The best approach for a regulator is to watch the market carefully, deal with real harm when it occurs, and make sure that the public interest really means what it says.

Guess what. He's wrong. The best approach for a regulator is to ensure the optimal allocation of a finite broadcasting space. Twenty million channels selling shit that no-one wants to buy, or fleecing the public through call-and-lose scams, is a complete waste of space. This accounts for an awful lot of the drivel thrown into the ether by British Sky Broadcasting.

The company can churn out as much gubbins as it wants through the Astra satellite, for space on there is almost infinite; I am far from convinced that it should do so. Terrestrial space is severely limited, and for the British Sky Broadcasting to have 1/12 of the bandwidth is about right, particularly given their very questionable contribution to society, and laughably low-quality programmes.

Give me content, or give me hell. British Sky Broadcasting: one-third more hell for your money.

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posted 02 Dec 2006, 14.06 +0000

Tue 19 Dec 2006

A tale of shoddy service

Some would argue that it is a bit pointless having a Search Engine Bomb on this blog, for we quite deliberately turn the largest advertising agency search engine away at the door. Not that that's going to stop us from spreading the tale of the terrible service one of our readers received from B&Q Appliance Warehouse. Itchy bought a washing machine, which quickly developed a fault. We'll let Esther Rantzen doing her synchronised teleprompters pick up this one.

Esther Rantzen: B&Q Appliance Warehouse said they would deliver on a day.

Keiron Prenderville (for it is he): They failed to deliver on that day.

Esther: Then they said they would call to arrange a new delivery date.

Keiron: There was no call.

Esther: On the day, B&Q Appliance Warehouse said that the washing machine was in the delivery lorry.

Keiron: The washing machine was not in the delivery lorry. It was not in their warehouse. B&Q Appliance Warehouse had no stock again.

Esther: Itchy asked for a full refund.

Prendervill: By a complete coincidence, B&Q Appliance Warehouse found that they did, actually, have some stock, and a replacement would arrive within a week.

Estooth: There was no phone call.

Prenderghast: And, at the end of the week, no washing machine.

Rantzen: So Itchy asked for a full refund.

Ghastly: And B&Q Appliance Warehouse promised a full refund within three days.

Ranting: On the basis of this, Itchy ordered a replacement from John Lewis, a reputable and decent store.

Gherkin: Though the new washing machine did arrive, and the old one left on the back of the same van, the refund did not.

Ranting: B&Q Appliance Warehouse said that they could only authorise the refund when they received the old machine back.

Prenders: At this point, Itchy realised that B&Q Appliance Warehouse was prepared to lie in the morning, lie in the afternoon, and lie in the evening.

S-FOR: The gas board said... oh, hang on...

(With apologies to everyone on That's Life.)

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posted 19 Dec 2006, 19.20 +0000

older writing... write to