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Welcome to Our Social Network!

What You thought You were Getting

What You Thought

What You Thought You Were Getting

What You Got

Welcome to Our Social Network! Now SHUT THE FUCK UP and BUY!!!

Welcome to Our Social Network!

Welcome to Your OUR Social Network!

All Things Digital – Frontrunner or Weasel Text

Privacy on the Internet is starting to get some mainstream traction as more and more folks are getting a clue, the collection and sale of browsing information is becoming big business, and arguably the premier business publication the Wall Street Journal posted an incredibly detailed series.The ouroboros elegance of this business publication opening the trenchcoat of online business is stunning.

All Things Digital is technology website owned by the Wall Street Journal.  In an interesting turn of events like “eating their own dogfood” which is geek speak for practicing what you preach, your first time to All Things Digital, or if you clear all your cookies will bring you to the front page with a yellow banner.

Here is a screenshot of a page from All Things Digital for Oct. 1, 2010. Note the yellow banner entitled “A note about tracking cookies”

“Some of the advertisers and Web analytics firms used on this site may place “tracking cookies” on your computer. We are telling you about them right upfront, and we want you to know how to get rid of these tracking cookies if you like. Read more »”


That they are telling us upfront is a fib since they have been online a number of years and this is the first I have seen it. This is ‘advancing to the rear’ and or  a PR Stunt to make you like getting your privacy violated. Put it away right now as we follow the Read more link.


Here is the text of their explanation:

Tracking cookies are small text files that can tell such companies what you are doing online, even though they usually don’t record your name or other personably identifiable information. These cookies are used by these companies to try and match ads to a user’s interests. They are used all over the Web, but in most cases, their presence is only disclosed deep inside privacy policies.

We want you to know how to get rid of these tracking cookies if you like. Here are links to pages where you can opt out of the cookies set by our ad-placement contractor and our analytics contractor:

* http://www.doubleclick.com/privacy/index.aspx
* http://www.omniture.com/privacy/2o7

We’d prefer a totally opt-in system, but, as far as we know, the ad industry doesn’t have a practical one as of now.

If you want to clean out all tracking cookies from all your Web sites, here are links where you can download three programs that can clean out tracking cookies:

* http://www.lavasoftusa.com/products/ad-aware_se_personal.php
* http://www.spybot.info/en/download/index.html
* http://www.webroot.com/consumer/products/spysweeper/

You can also change the preferences or settings in your Web browser to control cookies. In some cases, you can choose to accept cookies from the primary site, but block them from third parties. In others, you can block cookies from specific advertisers, or clear out all cookies.

Not all cookies are tracking cookies. Like most other Web sites, ours may place cookies on your computer, in addition to any placed by advertisers. But ours aren’t “tracking cookies.” They merely do things like save your registration information, if you choose to register. They do not tell us what you do or where you go online.

Frontrunner or Weasel Text?

Frontrunner. They are being upfront and providing an explanation.
Weasel Text. You only see it once. This is the same crap that commercial websites do to you when you register and by default you accept Terms and Conditions by registering. The T&C is where you agree to be tracked, screwed, blued, tatooed, and have any information about you packaged and sold to the highest bidder or anyone with a checkbook. But that is a different rant.

Frontrunner. They do tell you how to get rid of certain cookies, of their ad-placement contractor and analytics contractor, but do not discuss web beacons, or Flash Cookies which are a whole ‘nother story.

Weasel Text. They go on to say this:

“We’d prefer a totally opt-in system, but, as far as we know, the ad industry doesn’t have a practical one as of now.”


My question is “Why the fuck is it the ad industry’s job to come up with a solution to a problem they themselves  support by using these companies?” 

Practical? WTF? You mean easy. You mean letting the same abrogation of responsibility continue.

They don’t tell you about Ad Blockers so you don’t have to see the ads in the first place, but make you jump through hoops to visit their site without being collected, collated, and sold off. Although these are good steps to regain your privacy, they neglect to tell you about the performance penalty that is imposes on your  computer. Your browser is slower as these programs have to run before you see any of the ‘content’.

All Things Digital gets an ‘atta boy’ for stepping up with this information, but gets an ‘aw shit’ for not making the note a permanent part of their site.


Just about every commercial website has a privacy policy. Usually buried at the bottom or in an inconvenient location, telling you that they are really the good guys and it is those nasty but necessary “Third Party’s” and or “Partners” that are tracking you.

The reality is that no website requires cookies. Counting visits and page views are recorded in the logfiles of every site on the web. However counting this way gives you raw numbers only without identifying individual users or computers. Which is a good thing if you value your privacy. It is a bad thing if you are relying on advertisers to support you.

Advertising supported publication is a dead end. Just ask the Newspaper Industry. It is alive on the web because nobody has thought of a better way to support sites. Paywalls don’t work. Advertisers and Tracking companies are using the value proposition of tracking you to present ‘relevant’ ads. They sell this shit to sites in a Faustian bargain of taking over the chore of counting and ad sales in exchange for tracking information which in most cases is not shared with the sites and is packaged and sold to anybody with a checkbook. This is why there is always a disclaimer about  ”those nasty but necessary “Third Party’s” and or “Partners”‘.

This ‘get out of responsibility’  should make you stop and think for a moment about any site’s veracity, ethical or moral compass in the information they present. If they are so quick to give up control of their site, and make your visit a target to sell you shit, what if any faith of trust should you have in the information they present?


Twitter and HTML

In the latest adventure on the web, Twitter the texting darling application that supposes that all the worlds news and intelligence can be explained in 140 characters, has been compromised by none other than exploiting and using JavaScript. Shelley has the goods here.

HTML stands for Hyper Text Markup Language, which at one time was about getting text on the screen with the odd image. The Hyper stood for the transport protocol. Not anymore especially among the AJAX fools and Flashturbators, whose idea of a good time is to plant code on your computer, track you across the web and sell that information to anybody with a checkbook who will hire some dumb young designer to create ‘ads’ that target you for shit you can probably do without.

Using JavaScript to plant more shit on your machine and follow you around even more. (If your browser is slow, don’t blame your connection, but rather the sites you are surfing and all of the connections they are making with webbugs, cookies, flash cookies, IFrames, that load in the background and foreground before you actually see the text that originally brought you to a site. I mentioned this 10 years ago.

You want VRM? This is where you start.

Keep you money in your pocket until these folks figure out that spying and pickpocketing you is not acceptable.

What is not happening is calling out the sites that use the ‘not responsible for third party behavior’ crap.
Sites that want to count shit have log files to look at, which have been used and generated since the first webserver went online.  I am not buying the ad supported web. If folks have stuff to sell they can be upfront about it, and not get sucked into the ‘other peoples money’ game’ . This is what is fucking  journalism on the web now and is not gonna get any better before the heat death of the universe.


More JavaScript madness. But before you go all VRM or NoScript, stop a moment and bitchslap the Browser Makers who include JavaScript engines in their browsers.

The largest enabler in this game are the browser makers including javascript engines in their browsers allowing the whole tracking game to be played. Scripting is how the majority of tracking cookies get set.
Flash cookies are a whole different game.

Second up is the <iframe> html tag allowing a webpage to send truckloads of privacy invaders into your machines.

The privacy settings in browsers you see are so much bullshit. If they were serious about your privacy, they would have an automatic cookie decoder to let you know what they are trying to get, and the ability to slam the door on them.

Until the browser makers slam the door and web designers get back to emphasizing the Text and kicking the Hyper in the balls, you will not see any improvement in honest presentation or representation of goods and services.

Any Privacy you want is out the window.



VRM Quote of the Day

“I don’t want you to fix this issue for me, I want you to fix this issue for everyone.”
Tara HuntHPC

Digital Thug – Abandonment Tracker Pro

Online website sales provide a company a cost effective way to offer products and services without a lot of the overhead with physical locations. They also provide physical stores the ability to reach prospects on a global scale.

In the online world there are many tricks that websites use to track you. From requiring cookies to be turned on to use websites, placing multiple cookies on your computer from third party ad servers, to requiring registration with personal information for use.
The goals of these are ‘stated’ as being necessary to bring you superior service and separate you from your money. Everybody says that they keep this information private, and only share it with the people in the company, and online partners, who they disclaim and disavow in terms of what they do with this information. Basically your ass gets sold down the river to anybody with a checkbook.

Online Shopping carts get abandoned all the time for any number of reasons. One of the biggest factors in this the ability to get Quality, Price, and Service, which, off line you had to settle for one or two and could not get all three.

Getting you to buy is magic. There is no script, offering, or sale that will convert lookers into buyers. Online merchants have tried all sorts of things. Usually when you left a site, you were done, just like walking out of a store at the mall. You moved on, they moved on.  But there continue to be various digital schemes to convert you into a cash cow.

The latest scheme is the Digital Thug of the Week – Abandonment Tracker Pro

This NYT article Just Browsing? A Web Store May Follow You Out the Door gives you a good overview of how this technology works.

Abandonment Tracker Pro which says “Abandonment Tracker Pro’s real-time behavioral targeting algorithms automatically tune themselves to your site’s unique characteristics,” like these:

Automated abandonment follow-up campaigns

* First response in real time
* Multi-stage campaigns to maximize conversion
* Intelligent handling of repeat visitors ensures offer integrity

Self-learning behavioral targeting

* Self-optimizing follow up optimizes revenues
* Advanced behavioral analytics
* Learns when an offer is needed to maximize conversion

Easy integration

* Prepackaged integration with major email systems
* Prepackaged integration with major CRM systems
* Easy integration with your internal systems

Source http://www.seewhy.com/atpro

This is digital thuggery.

Imagine walking out of a store and having a salesperson following you down the street, screaming “Why didn’t You BUY!!!” This is the digital equivelent of what these people are offering. You get demoted from customer or prospect to ‘abandoner’.
Getting an email and or a phone call from an online shopping expedition is the ugliest thing I have encountered to date. Companies that use this technology, may see a short term sales rise, but once the implications of this sink in, they will not get any repeat business.

Offering me shopping is one thing, but stalking me because I didn’t buy, guarantees that I will never darken your site or door again.
The sites that will take the biggest ass whooping are those that make you put items in the shopping cart to see the ‘best price’.

Here is their most recent customer list. At least those that actually admit to using this.

Vendor Relationship Management and Personal Health Records

VRM is a theory that we own our data and should be in control of our relationships with folks who want to sell us stuff.

Dave over at e-patients has posted “Meaningful Use”: a pivotal definition for new-wave medical records systems which looks at coming medical records that are headed to the same place.

Dave outlined these principles on medical records.

My principles

* Patient is a first-person word. Your time will come: someday it will be you, your child, your mother, your spouse on that hospital bed or at that roadside being tended by an EMT. The way to think about this is in the first person: “my data,” not “patients’ data.”
* It’s my data. It’s my life that’s at stake. I have a right to seek the best care in the world, and if that means exporting a copy of my data from your system and taking it somewhere else, I have a right to do that..
* Corollary: No more proprietary data. Whose data is it, anyway? We must put an end to the era where a system provider thinks the data they collect is their property. Lives are at stake. Vendors must adapt to a world where they earn their margins by creating on-going value, not by holding data captive. This includes images (CT scans, MRIs, etc) as well as lab results and everything else.
* Let each constituency say what works for them. Patients shouldn’t say what doctors need, and doctors shouldn’t mandate how patients should and shouldn’t describe things. (Warning: experts on both sides should be able to comment on / warn the other about apparent errors. Docs must be able to say “Whoops, you overlooked this,” and patients must be able to say “Whoops, you overlooked this.”) [[link to medpedia post]]
* Enable participatory medicine – doctor-patient collaboration. Make it possible for each party to view the same data. (Ideally, I’d like to enable collaboration tools such as online discussion of my medical records – but that’s beyond the scope of this post.)Source e-patient.net

Replace Patient with Customer and you see what I mean.

Bonus Link: Health Care Relationship Management

Website Terms and Conditions Unenforceable – Blockbuster, Facebook and Beacon Oh My!

Website Terms and Conditions have always been bullshit to me. I have posted about them numerous times, especially Social Network and other Sharing sites in relationship to their intellectual property land grab regarding your copyrights and their requiring you to grant them:

” a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use, copy, publicly perform or display, distribute, modify, translate, and create derivative works of (“use”) any content you post on or in connection with ” [insert your favorite sharing site/ social network here]

The presumption on the part of website owners is that you will take any shit that they choose to shovel at you, agree to whatever they say forms a contract between you and them, retaining the ability to change the Terms and Conditions at any time, that you lose the ability to sue in a court of law, must submit to binding arbitration, on their terms and at the location of their choice, and that your visit is a voluntary, reasoned, and contractual obligation.

This is analogous to entering a store and being forced to make a purchase because you walked into their door. Even casino’s don’t pull this crap, and they are a lot more adept at separating you from your money.

Website Terms and Conditions Unenforceable – Blockbuster, Facebook and Beacon

A recent decision of US District Court for the Northern District of Texas has ruled Blockbuster’s Website Terms and Conditions ‘illusory‘ and therefore unenforceable.
Illusory promises are so named because they merely hold the illusion of contract. This is the Whimpy Burger contract, “I will gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today”.  Tuesday never comes….

This case was brought by Cathryn Harris, who was a Blockbuster Online customer, had a Facebook Page and got sucked up in the Beacon Advertising Program. Basically what happened was that her Blockbuster purchases got sucked out of Blockbuster, passed through Beacon and the broadcast on her Facebook Page and ‘shared’ with her Facebook Friends.

The money shot is from the Register UK

“The Court concludes that the Blockbuster arbitration provision is illusory,” said the judge, Barbara Lynn. “There is nothing in the Terms and Conditions that prevents Blockbuster from unilaterally changing any part of the contract other than providing that such changes will not take effect until posted on the website.”
Source: The Register ‘Website terms unenforceable due to unlimited right to amend’
Here is The ruling (6-page pdf)

This is a Victory for everybody with an internet connection.
Doc Searls and the Project VRM folks should be all over this like white on rice. One of the principals of VRM, is that we have the right to manage our relationships with Vendors, by expressly determining what, if any information we share. This is not limited to what information we explicitly provide, but will soon put a stop to website cookie tracking, third party ad network tracking and Behavioral Targeting.

Driving a Stake into ‘binding arbitration’ is just gravy.
My viewing your website does not obligate me to join, purchase, or agree to your terms and conditions at any time for any reason.
This means that every website and social network is going to have to acknowledge that its visitors and  members are the only reason for its existence and change their Terms and Conditions to understand that we are equal partners and not sacks of flesh for you to slice and dice, and sell off to any asshole with a checkbook.


Here are some interesting things to show up on the internet lately.
Is VRM a ‘phenomenon’? Alan Mitchell looks at VRM from a different perspective. Still missing the point that for VRM to succeed requires us to make companies beg for information after a full disclosure. The default position is that they are stealing it with every click and visit.

WordPress Tips + Things You Can Do After Installing WordPress Interesting things to do if you are running WordPress yourself.

Social Media
The Media & Social Media: Follow Up With Cincinnati Enquirer A story selling the Social Media/PR Rebranding/User Generated Content model to the Social Media thermos bottle. It is worth the read as there are a large quantity of numbers tied to this post. It should also be noted that as the Social Media Missionaries show up at your door, you should probably think about how much work this is.

the Amazon electronic book continues to elicit reviews. Shelley Powers has an Interesting look at her’s and pricing.
Grumbles in Kindletown

Privacy, VRM, and lawd help us the US Congress

Privacy or Not
The internet is not a friendly place. What you do in the privacy of your own home vaporizes the moment you go online. Imagine walking out of your house naked, having a flashing billboard over your head spewing out every private thought you have. You get tracked, sliced, diced, spun dry, and become a demographic, that anybody with a checkbook and an ad campaign can pick up for a song.

Every site, click, comment, posting and purchase gets sucked up into someone’s data bucket. Without notice, discussion, or acknowledgment. Websites value your privacy right up to the point there is a buck in selling this information. They are called ‘partners’ and ‘third party managers’. They like to say they serve you, like a kindly domestic bringing you a drink at the end of the day, when in reality, they are more like a group of home invaders, force feeding you with a fire hose.

Blocking Ads, rejecting cookies, using an anonymiser, are steps you need to take to try to take your privacy back. Understand that these are active steps you must take. The default is walking around naked with a billboard.

Behavioral Targeting
BT is the catch phrase used by marketeers that all of the above mentioned privacy stripping activities are lumped in an attempt to obscure its purpose. Not unlike tying a brick to your penis, as a Natural Male Enhancement Method. Both of which hold an almost fatal attraction for segments of the population. Never mind, people do weird shit.

From a marketing standpoint the internet is a target rich environment.
The invention and expansion of the internet is really the best thing that has happened to companies since the first advertisement rolled off a printing press. Global Reach, extremely low publication and distribution, open 24/7, and qualified sales leads, when done properly.

The number of companies that do it well is extremely small in relationship to the number of commercial sites out here. Companies realizing that their websites suck, turn to what they know, which is plastering ads on other sites, driven by the evangelists and fundamentalists of Marketing. They in turn do what they know, which is to place ads on sites and with companies who live by advertiser support. The first casualties are the newspapers and magazines, whose dead tree publications are being decimated by the online world.

VRM aka Vendor Relationship Management is the latest attempt by Doc Searls to bitchslap companies into realizing what Peer to Peer means. The problem that I have been wrestling with for months is that VRM has at its core, the idea that we have to be receptive to companies and their advertisers. Without this principle there is no management required. This is just as disingenuous as the Opt Out method, which is the new black in privacy, or so they would have you believe.

The US Congress is learning about Behavioral Targeting from the companies that are doing it. Letting the inmates run the asylum comes to mind.

No surprise as having a Presidential candidate who doesn’t use computers, a congress critter who describes the web as tubes, and others who don’t answer email, and think that the internet is something that kids use.

From this article Legislators Apparently Unaware of Adblock Plus, TrackMeNot, comes this Money Shot;

Google wrote in its letter to the Committee. “To ensure the continuation and proliferation of responsible behavioral targeting practices, we are supportive of efforts to establish strong self-regulatory principles for online advertising that involves the collection of user data for the purpose of creating behavioral and demographic profiles.”
Source: Google’s Letter to the Energy Committee[PDF]

Think about that.