26 Aug

Twitter as a Social IM

What is twitter, social im, web 2.0 irc channel? In their own words “Twitter is a community of friends and strangers from around the world sending updates about moments in their lives.” The site basically allows you to follow any person and their updates (which range from the mundane ‘walking the dog’ to the more interesting “with all the life streaming going on, I’m wondering if anyone is going to create content anymore or just copy it all”). The interesting thing is that all posts are visible to everyone else who is following you. This means that you can direct a conversation to a wide following of people.

The more I think about the more the way I describe Twitter, Pownce, Jaiku, etc, is these are services that are a social IM. You can talk and micro-blog in a social manner. The recent Gnomedex Conference had people talking about the presentations on the stage rather than through IM and limiting their conversation to just one person, through  Twitter (called twittering) and discussing it with everyone at the conference and even those not at the conference.

It would however not be right to call Twitter and is like minded services a Web 2.0 IRC Channel, for one important reason, you know the people who are following you and who you are following. Now I don’t mean that in sense that you know them in person, the majority of people that I am following on Twitter I don’t know in person, but I know who they are. I choose who I will listen to, who I will ignore, who I wish to include in my conversation. This is a powerful feature that distinguishes twitter from most open IRC channels in that anyone can join and participate in the conversation without any say from anyone else.

The next thing is that twitter has a 140 character limit, forcing people to limit the amount that they say. Also twitter has a wonderful API that allows developers to build off of it and create some cool new things. This adds momentum for those people who are most interested in using new tools want to be able to play with and build onto it.

Twitter is best summed as a Social IM here in defined as – an instant messaging platform that is open and allows the sending and receiving of messages to a community of people that choose to receive those messages. I can’t find another definition of this elsewhere, and this is still a rough definition if someone has a better idea of one leave a comment. Also tell me what you think of social im’ing. I’ll do a follow up of if it will gain traction outside of the small group of first adopters.

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01 Aug

Facebook Security

Facebook is starting to show more kinks in their armor. There have always been security issues with Facebook beyond the sex predators. That security is a user chosen action “Blocking a Person”, and is what I wish to discuss.

What happens when you block someone on Facebook? In theory this means that you will no longer see that person on Facebook in any shape form or fashion. You won’t know if that person wrote on the wall of a mutual friend, is even the friend of someone, you won’t even find that person on a search of Facebook. This has almost always been true, however there are flaws in the system as there are in every security system. I personally have several people blocked on Facebook due to personal reasons that don’t matter to this conversation. I have been able to both find these people and access their profiles even though I shouldn’t be able to. I won’t go into how to able to do this, for two reasons, A – it’s extremely tedious and technical, and B – Facebook changes the system often enough that it has to be done a different way every time. However that isn’t the point of this, instead I want to focus on something else and much more direct and easier access – external applications.

External applications have become the new talk of Facebook and are opening up a whole new flood gate of problems. Facebook has all kinds of different applications that allow you to add value onto the current ecosystem however you desire. One app, which I personally do not have installed, is called Top Friends. Much like MySpace’s Top Friends, you pick your “Top Friends” and display them on your profile page. I was informed that I was placed into the Top Friends chart of a friend, being interested I clicked and took a look at the page and saw who else was listed that I knew. Curiously one person a name wasn’t displayed and neither was a profile photo. I was wondering who it was so I clicked on the profile photo but it took me back to said friend’s profile page. Ok, well Top Friends also allows you do a couple other things through Facebook and companion apps – Super Poke, Message, and Write on Fun Wall. So I tried message as I do not have Super Poke or Fun Wall installed. Guess what I was taken to, a page where I could message a person who was supposed to be blocked to me on Facebook. I didn’t test this to see if I actually could message them as it would defeat the whole purpose of the actually being blocked, but since I was at this stage I see no reason why I wouldn’t be able to communicate with this person.

This in my opinion is a simple and easy security flaw that any average person would be able to exploit. And this merely demonstrates probably a whole host of security concerns that the external applications are adding to Facebook. My desire isn’t to see Facebook disappear or to encourage people to harass people who they have blocked or are blocked by, but rather to draw attention to a hole in Facebook’s armor.

jtyost2

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