CyberCivil War in Tunisia

Wednesday, January 5th, 2011

Remember “Anonymous,” that loose band of hackers that a few weeks ago took up the role of avenging angels for Julian Assange’s Wikileaks organization, attacking the sites of the credit-card providers, banks, etc. that had refused to process its payments? Well, where are they now? Have they gone off to find more interesting off-line pursuits with the advent of the New Year?

Hardly. An interesting article today in Le Monde (no by-line) indicates that they’ve taken up a new target, not really Wikileaks-related and ordinarily so off-the-map in geopolitics terms as to usually never attract attention: Tunisia, specifically its government. A couple days ago I twittered in this space about “Trouble in Tunisia,” basically some violent police-student confrontations in a mid-sized city off to the west, near the Algerian border. But this Le Monde article shows that I didn’t even know the half of it. (Probably fortunately for me at the time: I had only 140 characters to work with!) (more…)

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Hang On To Your Googlers!

Thursday, November 11th, 2010

It’s good to be Google! Most of the Western world may be struggling with various degrees of above-average unemployment, but one much remarked-upon news item of late concerned the Mountain View, CA powerhouse’s awarding a 10% across-the-board pay-rise to all employees, together with a one-off lump-sum gratuity of $1,000. One aspect of that move’s appeal was how much of a throw-back it seemed as a personnel measure, far-removed from today’s HR environment where bonuses going only to those identified as the company’s true high-achievers, not to every employee, are more the norm. Yet a few analysts could still see the logic in this approach (including, for example, this commentator on the Atlantic website).

Writing in Le Monde, Marion Solletty takes yet another cut at what this latest move by Google means:

. . . the star of Silicon Valley feels itself under threat. Its vital forces, the engineers who fine-tuned its mysterious algorithms, are leaving it. With the eye of a connoisseur they have watched the sparkling rise of the new stars of the Web, the social networks. And they respond to the call of the bold.

Search, and text ads, and YouTube videos: all that is just so yesterday, man, just so . . . 2008, you know! And then following directly comes the anecdote of Cedric Beust (with a suspiciously French name!), a six-year Google employee who now has left to join LinkedIn.

What goes around, comes around. According to Solletty, Google first stocked itself with quality personnel by raiding the leading Internet-related firms of its own period of skyrocketing growth. Now it’s the turn of others, including especially Facebook, whose employee total has gone from 1,000 to 1,700 within the past year (although it has had its own top-level defections), or Twitter, which has tripled from 100 employees to 300 in that same period.

Ironically, Google’s latest salary-move did cost it one employee. The internal company message announcing it (“CONFIDENTIAL: INTERNAL ONLY”), and lauding employees as “the best in the world,” was soon leaked to an industry blog so we could all savor the message, at least vicariously. But he who did the leakin’ was fired.

UPDATE: It’s worse for Google than we thought! TechCrunch now has this piece about a Google engineer threatening to leave to join Facebook and getting $3.5 million in stock to stay!

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“Facebook is Self-Prostitution”

Friday, May 14th, 2010

In case you haven’t heard – maybe you’ve just been too busy with your status updates – Facebook has come under considerable fire lately for its apparent loose attitude towards security and users’ privacy. Maybe you also haven’t heard about the four NYU students who managed in a relative flash to raise tens of thousands of dollars for their project to create an open-source alternative to Facebook called “Diaspora*.” (Yes, with that asterix at the end; further information about their project here.)

But here at EuroSavant our job is to inform you of things that you may not have heard about from the Eurosphere. So had you heard that your great-uncle in Germany also doesn’t want you using Facebook? Well OK, maybe he’s not really your great-uncle, he just looks like he should be, as you will realize if you surf to the recent interview with him in Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, whose rather sensationalist title I have borrowed for the title of this post out of similarly sensationalist motivations. Actually, he’s probably someone worth listening to even more than any great-uncle in Germany: he’s Ernst Pöppel, renowned professor of psychology at the University of Munich. (more…)

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Facebook Going to the Dogs

Saturday, August 1st, 2009

fkblaffendehond“Snoutbook”? “My Dish”? Exporting the social networking paradigm to the canine world was probably only just a matter of time, and you can still legitimately debate how such a service might best be named, but there is already a notable site of that kind in existence, and it is called honden.be (“honden” being Dutch for “dogs”). The Belgian daily Het Nieuwsblad has an article up now on-line in its “Lifestyle” section about the new project of one Jan van Vlimmeren, a Fleming, to set up that site to bring social networking functionalities like the “Wall” (to relieve oneself on?) and “pokes” (here “sniffs”?) to man’s best friends, as represented by their owners. Specifically, on honden.be you can already set up your dog’s profile, join groups, post a doggie-diary, and even hook up with Google Maps to locate the nearest veterinarian and canine hair-salon (although I suspect that that latter functionality does not extend beyond Belgium). Features that are soon to come include a new category of profiles for dog-breeders as well as checklists to compare your own dog’s personality with the character-traits that his/her particular breed suggests that he/she should have. What’s more, according to the Nieuwsblad article 220 dogs have already been signed up to the site!

Van Vlimmeren does stay aware of other dog-oriented sites which might pose a bit of competition. There’s dogster.com, for example (“for the love of dog”), which he dismisses as “not very user-friendly.” It’s also true that dogster.com is not really structured to be a social-networking site, although it does have private accounts, discussion fora, and groups. It also has a companion site called, of course, catster.com, with much the same pluses and minuses. One has to assume that Van Vlimmeren is well aware of the obvious main limitation of his own honden.be: he’s going to find it hard to make it appeal to anyone with no capability in Dutch!

UPDATE: I should have known that Facebook itself would be on the case. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you: Dogbook!

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Aaaaaaaapril Foooooool!

Wednesday, April 1st, 2009

It has been a particular challenge going through the Danish press today: they seem especially gripped by (to coin a new term) “April-Fool-itis,” that is, celebrating this April 1 by planting remarkable “news” stories that turn out just to be a joke. Even if one is inclined to look favorably on the practice (e.g. as an amusing change-of-pace from the pedestrian nature of most news during the other 364 days of the year), Danish newspaper practice unfortunately waters it down substantially through the practice of frequently running the same articles from the Danish news-agency Ritzau in several of the papers at the same time. This naturally reduces substantially the amount of truly-original (as opposed to “echoed from Ritzau”) material. (Dutch papers also have this problem, i.e. of too many papers too often publishing the same article, by the way.)

Still, there are a handful of original joke-articles out there. But then the next problem arises, i.e. that the humor is too tied-in to the Danish cultural and/or political context to raise any laughs outside of the country. Anyway, let’s go looking for these jokes-articles and you can decide this for yourself. This exercise will also be valuable as a means to “innoculate” you against these tongue-in-cheek news-tales in case you later run across them within a context elsewhere that presents them to you as real. (more…)

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Mob Moves In on Facebook

Wednesday, December 31st, 2008

No, don’t worry, I’m not saying Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is about to be fitted with his very own pair of cement shoes. Rather, as just reported by the leading Flemish newspaper De Standaard (Italian mafia-leaders heroes on Facebook), it seems that the leading social-networking site has also turned into a sort of cosa nostra. Specifically, the article (attributed only to “VVE” – is this part of an author-protection program?) discusses the couple of fan-groups existing on Facebook dedicated to some notorious bosses of the Italian Mafia, including Toto “The Beast” Riina (convicted in 1993, currently serving 15 concurrent life-sentences in jail) and Bernardo Provenzano, his successor. (No indication that Provenzano is currently anywhere but on active Mafia duty.) These groups apparently feature member comments like “he’s an honest man!” and “people should kiss his hands!” and so come as rather unwelcome to relatives of past Mafia victims, such as Maria Falcone, also quoted in the article and who is the sister of the famous anti-Mafia judge Giovanni Falcone, killed by a bomb in 1992. On the other hand, Falcone and various other anti-Mafia heroes have their own Facebook fan groups, which the article reports always have far more members – tens of thousands – than those for the Mafia criminals. But still . . .

(€S readers are advised that, any Mafia endorsement to the contrary, there is no Facebook counterpart to this site or anyone associated with it. Nor are there any plans in place or in prospect for the same. Comments regarding hand-kissing or anything else, as usual, can simply be addressed to the e-mail link over in the right-hand column.)

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