How Forever Is The Internet And Your Data?

At one level we should all be very worried about anything we post online, because (as has been proven numerous times) when you post anything it can stay around forever. What you may flippantly say today can come back and bite you in the ass at any point, for decade’s to come. Just look at the current US presidential election. There are currently thousands of journalists trawling though every single word said, written or recorded by every prospective candidate, and anyone they ever knew, looking for anything to keep people looking across the next ad break.

Conversely it’s almost impossible to imagine that all the data that is being generated today will be kept forever. Through a mix of data corruption, replacement of legacy technology and efforts people make to delete older or boring material, it’s hard to know what data will be kept.

Today’s storage mediums such as disk drives, tape backups, solid state / flash memory, CD’s and DVD’s all have very finite lives.

• Tapes rely on the magnetic properties of metalized particles sprayed onto the surface of a long tape. Over time the magnetic alignment of the materials do decay, and because tape is wound as a spool, there is also the impact of different layers of the tape interacting. Actually since the most modern tapes use techniques to squash ever greater volumes of data per square inch, even with the latest data correction and recovery algorithms and the advanced physical material newer tape technologies may actually be getting less reliable in terms of longevity.

• Hard disks have the data stored on a magnetic layer sprayed onto disks, which spin at high speed with the read/write head sitting microns above the surface. There is a lot of continual physical movement and so they do wear out. They may last for decades, but ask anyone who runs a datacenter, how often they have to replace blown drives, it is a daily activity. Modern disk drives are exponentially more reliable than ones of decades ago, but there are just so many in use that the math means even a small percentage of a large number is a large number.

• CD’s and DVD’s in theory could last for hundreds of years, but writable ones are much more delicate than you would imagine. They rely on organic compounds as the writing layer. A small scratch on the label side can allow moisture to invade causing the written data to erode. Yes DVD’s “could” last a long time, but it’s not guaranteed. And in the same way that it always rains after you wash the car, that most critical disk is always the one that has a problem being read back.

• Solid state drives and flash cards don’t rely on magnetic particles or moving parts, but the longevity of them is not that clear, because they really haven’t been around for that long. Depending on the technology used some people say the storage time for offline drives could be as low as a few months. USB sticks seem to have longer planned lives, maybe in excess of 20 years or more. But we are in the “wait and see” phase.

There really is no medium in use today that can guarantee stored data will last hundreds or thousands of years. The most reliable medium we know of is still stone tablets and parchment, but it’s fair to say these have a very slow write and read speeds and the data capacity per square inch really doesn’t work for today’s data volumes ☺

Technology in use just thirty years ago to provide long terms storage probably worked quite well, but there are now so few drives available to read the stored data from that time, it’s not clear how good it really was.

Cloud storage sounds great, as you are making the problem someone else’s. The idea is you pay them, and they take on the burden of making sure your data is retrievable in the future. This is probably a good idea, as a company that spends all its time thinking about just storage should be able to keep moving data to modern new types of devices as they become available, therefore keeping it readable . The caveats are :

1. You need to keep paying them. Forget and your data could be deleted.
2. They had better stay in business.

As the years go on, the amount of new data being created explodes in terms of volume, and the information about the data (the meta-data) created with new data continues to improve. This means that older data seems to be harder to keep track of than modern data, and data can get old pretty quickly. How much effort do you put into keeping data you created five years ago? You probably still have it, but could you find it if you need it?

Data also becomes corrupted quite easily. Things happen. I have a lot of old emails that were created in formats that I no longer have ways of reading. I have old databases created in programs that no one has used for decades. This data is in effect now dead. I can try and convert it into modern formats, but in the process I’m hoping that every aspect of how the old data was created is maintained. But in my experience converting old formats into new formats never works quite as well as expected.

We all have more and more data to manage, and the older bits get less and less attention, until they are effectively unusable.

It doesn’t matter how you store it, the world moves on and old data looses its value quicker every year. Old data becomes harder to manage, and while it may still exist somewhere, it’s almost impossible to find and use.

There are two situations you can rely on:

1. If you said something once that is now embarrassing, that piece of information is most likely to survive and be readable.

2. If you want to access data that you created more than 5 years ago, it’s never easy.


Is It Time To Go Back To Print?

Several years ago I stopped buying print magazines, instead relying on websites for my news, opinion and science. And for a while this worked well for me, I even got a kindle to read books.

Some people say that reading on a screen is just not the same as reading off of a page, and obviously they are right, it’s not the same. But in some ways it was easier, as your ability to find content is vastly increased, and it’s possible to travel with a complete library on any screen you choose.

But there are a couple of downsides to digital reading. The most obvious technical difference is in the quality of the represented text, it’s clearly different, and some don’t find it as easy to read (even through others love the fact you can resize text to suit your eyesight and mood).

But to me there really is only one reason why e-reading is not as good as paper reading, and that single reason is the increasingly annoying and intrusive ad’s.

A few years ago ad’s just sat at the top and bottom of a page, statically looking just the same as the ad’s in a printed newspaper. Then they started to pop-up and required extra work to navigate around.

But then they started to interact with the reader, to try and be “more relevant”, but actually are just like that really annoying kid you went to school with, who would never shut the fuck up.

That kid that would incessantly talk; and talk about absolutely anything, however irrelevent. That kid that as he became a teenager was clearly deranged, and would walk around the streets talking to anyone and anything that just happened to be in his or her line of sight. The one that used to have a regularly blackend eye from speaking crap to the wrong person he just happened to pass.

That person that probably even now is part of some anti-everything conspiracy group trying to tell the world that the moon landings were fake, and his mother was kidnapped by aliens.

Actually I think that kid is now employed by Google. They have co-opted his lifelong skill of being irritating as the new ad presentation technique.

Who ever thought that ad’s that move around across your screen was a good thing?

Why do I need to see a thirty second ad before watching a video segment on a news article, when the ad has absolutely nothing to do with the article I’m trying to read.

And what total utter bastard thought we needed to hear a video auto play as we mistakenly mouse’d over some bold text in a scientific paper? (Yes I means YOU New Scientist magazine online).

I know that online advertising is a multi multi billion dollar business, but honestly does anyone actually read online ad’s or does everyone do what I do, and hunt longingly for the sneakily hidden X on the ad’s while reciting a series of swearwords that used to be just the domain of really humorous Tourette Syndrome sufferers.

My wife gets the paper delivered daily (mainly for the crossword) but I’m finding myself looking at it longingly, and remembering the halcyon days of the internet when advertising was an interactive as the woman who works at the DMV (ie. Not at all).

There is a tipping point online advertizers, one that you are fast approaching when I (and the silent majority) may have to resort to buying magazines again!


Join CAPA today!

Join CAPA today!

There is a vile, rude, obnoxious and insulting form of advertising on the web, it’s called the pop-up advert.

These are so annoying as to cause most reasonable people to just leave the site that is showing them,

I for one would never purchase anything promoted on a pop-up. The process is simple, while you are viewing a page on the web, an irrelevant, and often noisy advert jumps up on the screen. You then spend a few seconds hunting around the edges for the elusive X to close the window.

Sometimes, while searching for the close button you may click on the body of the ad, causing it to take you to the advertisers webpage. This causes the advertising agency that created the ad to be able to tell the advertiser that they had a click through, which means they can say that the ad worked and so they should so some more. Of course they could dig further into the statistics and see that your next action was to immediately close that window (they call that bounce), but why would they want to do that, as it doesn’t provide them with a way of justifying more ads.

These ads are the advertising equivalent of farting in a crowded elevator; the only people that enjoy them are the socially immature people who created them.

There are some basic ways to stop these things. Some security features of web browsers allow you to block pop-ups, but of course the “elevator farter’s” have found ways around this. Now instead of the pop-up opening a pop-up window they just have it display in the already open window, this defeats the security feature of the web browser. Because clearly those who enjoy farting in elevators believe their stink must be smelt.

If you are a company that spends money with an agency on web advertising, ask your advertiser to explain the bounce rate to you. If you see that the bounce rate is accounting for nearly every click-through, you can be certain that you are wasting your money. And now is the time to kick your agency to the curb.

The explosion of pop-up advertising has to be stopped!

I propose that there is a need for CAPA, the Campaign Against Pop-up Ad’s

And here is the charter:

1. Never buy anything from a company you see that uses pop-up ad’s

That’s is, it’s pretty simple.


Does the end of net neutrality mean the dream is dead?

Capitalism at its best offers a fantastic way for innovative ideas to get their moment in the sun.

The availability of capital to be risked has taken the world from kings and serfdom to a relatively amazing place. The modern industrial universe is on the internet.

So allowing the “owners” of the internet infrastructure to decide who gets to play and can charge different rates for different access is in effect removing the ability of disruptive technology to get a foot hold.

Why would a cable company want Netflix to thrive, it’s killing their old business model?

Why would a bank or insurance company want a financial service aggregator to thrive, they are forcing down prices.

Why would Google want a distributive search service to thrive, it’s could decimate their ad revenue?

Why would anyone who is in a position of power today want to allow new ideas that directly impact their current revenue stream to happen?

Well quite simply they would not.

Today a small number of very large business are intertwined and deliver the backbone and on and off-ramps to the internet. The law has until now required them to openly offer their services without consideration of the type of use their customers are putting the systems too. And this has allowed millions of new ideas to grow and be tried. Many have failed but some have become the best ideas of their time. Each one if them was disruptive, but with the end of net neutrality in the future many new ideas will not be able to compete, as the incumbents will have the ability to make disruption untenable though now legal aggressive pricing tactics.

Anyone who thinks this will not happen when net neutrality is removed just needs to look at every single other time when anti-competive ideas have been legal. Asking the wolf to guard the hen house never works. Business will always use every advantage it has, if it’s allowed it will be done. If its almost allowed it will be done. The only time a business acts ethically is when there is a material advantage in doing so. Many businesses talk about doing good, but that is simply because doing good things can be good for the balance sheet. Business is a matter of survival of the fittest, and when you allow the biggest to have a huge advantage they will always take it.

This is why rules that allow new ideas from new people to gain a foothold are so incredibly important. In the same way that the oil and car industries held back alternative fuels, electric cars and high speed rail, giving Comcast, Cisco, Google, AT&T and the rest of the current crop if internet giants a way to make new internet based ideas unprofitable can only be bad for capitalism. The rise and fall of the roman empire tells a deeply relevant story.

Let’s not allow the rise and fall of the internet to read the same way.


Breakup Note Signed by “Autopen” in Question; Relationship End Delayed 2 Months Pending Inquiry

January 3, 2013: Average Angry Wire Service:  A controversy is brewing in Washington, DC around the use of an autopen to sign an important document, namely a document which would end a controversial agreement between often arguing parties.

This is a boy-meets-girl story that began well enough on a Capitol Hill bar crawl stop at the Tune Inn dive bar and evolved into a semi-commited relationship between the two long-time singles. The relationship now includes a drawer at each other’s apartment, a joint credit card and an assumed “date” each Saturday night.  But as with many boy-meets-girl stories it got ugly after one unfortunate “toilet non-flushing” too many. Screaming, name calling and a storming out followed and then a few days later the “note” appeared in the boy’s Google + account.

The autopen is mightier than the swirl?
The autopen is mightier than the swirl?
The girl in question (Nancy), states that “It’s over!” and that autopen is a perfectly acceptable way to authenticate a breakup, BFF status change or other relationship decision.  Her former love (John, but known as “Boner” by friends and colleagues), disagrees and adamantly states that the breakup “isn’t the real deal without a real quill.”  He also refuses to relinquish her drawer, end their fiscal entanglements or change his Facebook relationship status until she returns from her family vacation in Hawaii (so they can come to a resolution face to face on neutral territory in Washington).

His challenge to the validity of the “Dear Boner” letter has caused Nancy stress on her Hawaiian vacation, according to her spokesperson, and almost led to her canceling a much anticipated golf game and cliff diving tour with the newly elected president of the local American Legion hall in Waikiki Beach.  Her spokesperson also stated that she’ll deal with the problem in 2 months when she returns to DC and that her debt to him will eventually be paid off and won’t cause his Visa account to reach its ceiling and hurt his credit rating.

Sources familiar with the couple said they couldn’t elaborate on the bathroom incident but heard her threaten him with a “swirly” or similar swirl related toilet action if he didn’t “clean up his act.”


Who Writes the Epitaph?

Consider Gore, Al.  For a guy who was never president, he’s incredibly well known for a great many things.  Which one will rise to the top and be his final 1-line epitaph?  Some possibilities include:

– 1/2 of the fiery young Clinton-Gore presidential team for 8 years who drove the “Reinventing Government” initiative to cut waste and red tape in Washington, DC

– Inventing the Internet (and making us capitalize “Internet”)

– “Inventing” the Global Warming issue (or the GW myth if you’re skeptical), and winning the Nobel Prize for it

– Losing his home state of Tenessee (with 11 Electoral votes) in a presidential election he lost by 5 Electoral votes

Candidate Gore’s famous on-stage kiss

– The icky, creepy on-stage, on-air erotic kisser of Tipper “Parental Advisory record labels” Gore

– Hanging chads and the most controversial election result in generations

– Co-founder of “Current TV” network (with Joel Hyatt)

…Or will Mr. Gore just be best remembered for being a hilarious “head-in-a-jar” (a preachy, boring one at that) on the animated TV show Futurama?

So, will Albert Arnold Gore, Jr. best be remembered for something “positive” or something “negative?”

There’s a saying from an Australian philanthropist, lifesaver and pubbuilder known as Sheepshagger John which may help you predict the answer, “You know, a man can do a thousand great things, but if you “shag” one lousy sheep…”– (5) (7)


Is Net Neutrality a Myth?

There is this concept called fairness. I say concept because frankly the world isn’t a fair place. The deck is always stacked.

If you can afford it you can travel first class and arrive fresh giving you a competitive advantage.

If you work in a corporation and have a senior position, you will have a comfier chair, a bigger office, an assistant, a key to the executive washroom. All of these perks make you life easier, meaning that you personally will be more productive as compared to someone who doesn’t have these advantages.

If you live in a country with road tolls, you can choose to take the faster, smoother, safer route (and pay more), or take the slower, bumpy route with traffic lights, blind curves and more traffic.

Generally these are not choices, but practice limitations placed on people who cannot afford the cost of the smoother path through life.

Should the Internet be the same way? Is the Internet already the same way?

Access to the Internet is expensive, and the more you pay the better access you can achieve. There is a technique that large banks use to make incredibly fast, tiny trades on the worlds stock markets. They are able to buy and sell millions of times in the time it takes everyone else to make a single trade. This allows huge profits to be accrued just because of the speed advantage.

But is it fair to allow this model to continue. Well clearly it’s not fair, but when has fair ever been a concept that we all adhere to?

Check out this link Is Net Neutrality possible?
I’m personally in favor if keeping the Internet as a level playing field, where no one gets more efficient access beyond what they pay for their on-ramp. I’m just not sure that that it’s possible or ever really existed this way. But we should do whatever we can to keep it as even as possible.



Partial Response, Maximum Likelihood

In the early 1990’s a very cleaver little formula become popular in computing and telecommunication fields. This little formula was called partial response, maximum likelihood (PRML), and it was able to identify the digital data stored in a very weak analog signal.

That might sound rather boring, but PRML was one of the turning points for stored and transmitted data. All of a sudden the amount of data that could be stored on a hard disk grew exponentially. Before PRML a big hard disk would have been 80MB, and it was limited because the space needed to store a bit of data was large due to the strength of the magnietic field needed to write a strong enough data bit. but as soon as PRML hit the streets a weaker magnetic field could be used and the space needed to store each bit was reduced dramatically. This allowed the capacity to jump up to 120MB, 250MB then 500MB and then 1GB, now drives are hundreds of gigabytes and often multiple terabytes per 3.5 inch disk (with multiple platters in each disk drive).

And as the capacity was growing, but the size of the disks stayed the same, data transfer rates also grew dramatically. This allowed Microsoft and others to create much larger bloatware. If it wasn’t for PRML maybe we would never have seen the paperclip in word, or be able to store just such an immense amount of porn and pirate movies on the internet.

And of course PRML was responsible for much more than just hard disks becoming massive. Another amazing PRML child was the digital cellphone. Before PRML cell phones were analog which meant that the quality of sound you heard in your ear was full of pops and whistles and people saying “hello can you hear me, this fu&*ing piece of Sh$t phone gaaaaaahhh”. And the phones themselves were much larger to deal with the much higher transmission powers.

But since PRML the sound you hear in your ear is crisp and clear, as it’s digital you either get a sound or you don’t. And with PRML checking every bit to work out if it’s a one or a zero amongst all that static and interference on the radio spectrum what you hear is clean. Of course cell phones still drop calls (yep, a lot less than decades ago, but still enough to drive us nuts). But when a call quality is so low that PRML can’t work out the signal, what you hear is silence, rather than the person at the other end screaming expletives into the mouthpiece.

As I’ve basically grown up with PRML, I’ve discovered another even more valuable use for the technology.

I use my own version of PRML on conversations people have with me. It’s so much easier than listening to every word. Now I just listen to the odd bit of a sentence and my PRMLing brain fills in the missing bits.

I find this process to be perfect, and I’ve convinced myself that I never miss anything important.

I suspect my wife does not totally agree…..



Social Media = Domesticating a Wild Animal?

All organizations now have some sort of a digital strategy and “social media marketing” as part of their plan.

It seems like a no-brainer – Facebook and Twitter accounts are free and we can use the interns and “young employees” along with a few extra cycles from the PR guy.  It’s Win-Win.  Free advertising.  No foreseeable downside, right?

Example For Your Review: A major college football program (Arizona State), and their conference which generates more than a quarter of a billion dollars per season (The Pac 12), learned the hard way that it isn’t always “Win-Win” with no downside.  The program recently had its pre-season “Pac 12 Media Days” and scheduled press conferences with Q&A for each team’s head coach, including ASU’s new leader Todd Graham.  “Use that interweb social media stuff to promote the event!” was the likely command from the 60+ year old university leadership to the underpaid 22 year-old running social media for the school, along with, “Do your Tweeter thing and get us some new viewers!”   The young social marketer thought it would be a great idea to get fans involved in the Q&A by allowing them to tweet questions directly to the coachvia the #AskASU hashtag during the televised event in front of a room full of media.  Well, what occurred was what is known as a “hijacking” – In this case, fans of ASU’s new coach’s previous team (the Pitt Panthers), took this opportunity to ask their former leader a “few” questions about the circumstances of his abrupt and unexpected departure last December.

You see, less than a year after being hired to a 5-year contract by Pitt (and unbeknownst to his employers), Graham took another job to coach the Arizona State University football team.  He informed his team and Pitt via a text forwarded to a Pitt football administrator.  Graham took a lot of heat in the national media, especially in football-crazy Pittsburgh.  Ridiculed during his 1-year Pitt tenure for his use of football platitudes like “high-octane offense” and panned for throwing his players under the figurative bus, there was no love lost between the coach and the Steel City.  He also called ASU his “dream job” after saying the exact same thing about his previous employer 12 months earlier.

The Twitter “question” queue was completely dominated by Pitt tweets and included:

Coach when you mentioned speed speed speed, were you then hinting at how fast you would be leaving Pitt? #AskASU

Coach G, you do realize that allowing transfers without penalty is only a privilege for Penn State students, right? #AskASU

#AskASU coach, what are your thoughts on having more wins than Joe Pa last year? Will you use that for your next dream job?

What genius catchphrase will you invent this year that’s bound to be taken so seriously by the students in Tempe? #AskASU

Coach, would you leave Penni if an opportunity for a “dream” wife came along? #AskASU

#AskASU so how do you feel about email breakups

Coach Graham, I know what it feels like to be unfairly vilified. You have my support. #AskASU #PennState#Misunderstood [Eds. note: That’s a fake Mike McQueary account.]

#AskASU Coach,aren’t you glad you don’t have those pesky Steelers hanging around YOUR cafeteria

Have you put your house on the market yet? #AskASU

Hey Todd, my grandmas cat passed away, can you text her the bad news. I dont have the heart. #AskASU

Coach Graham- How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop…or do you just quit licking and leave half-way? #AskASU


Todd (aka Fraud) Graham: Did social media help get him labeled as “the devil himself?”

-Win-win?  No downside?  Maybe not.  This hijacking was so thorough that news outlets saw how high it was trending and wrote stories about it and the coach in question.  His status as a pariah and example of what’s wrong with college sports is now complete.

Trying to use social media to promote your company or organization is a little like trying to domesticate a chimpanzee or tiger… it’s a only a matter of when you’ll get bitten so think about the risks and prepare for the good and the bad that comes with this “free” marketing/PR.



Tv programming is a vicious cycle of delusions.

When I was growing up there was a total of three tv channels to choose from. We had a little black and white tv and that’s the one I saw the first man take the first step on the moon with.

Now that was a cool tv moment that stuck with me. My memory today is of my dad waking me up in the middle of the night and in a very excited voice, telling me again and again that I was going to see something I would never forget. I worked, I’ve never forgotten it.

A couple of decades later my favorite band wrote about “thirteen channels of shit on the tv to choose from” a phophecy that has lead to today where there are literally thousands of unbelievably crappy channels of tv available. And now with the power of the Internet that amount of total unadulterated useless crap being broadcast is growing at an exponential rate, thanks to the likes of YouTube, Hulu and their ilk.

The problem is, that it’s really expensive to make excellent broadcast quality material. And every channel needs to fill the spaces between the adverts with something to stop viewers channel hopping. So they do it in the cost cost efficient way they can.

So we end up with reality tv, game shows, opinion shows, chat shows and anything else where the cost of production can be limited to as few cameras and back end staff as possible with the maximum broadcast time, and the minimum number of retakes.

Even channels that used to broadcast the news,and now filled with opinion shows, where so called pundits interview a couple of so called experts on a topic of so called current interest.

And even these shows really just look at what’s on their competitors shows to see what to discuss. It’s got to the point now when opinion shows just discuss the opinions of other opinion shows. It’s to the point where bill o’reilly spends all his time critiquing Rachelle Maddows and she spends all her time critiquing him. It’s nuts, but cheap.

All they really care about is filling the spaces between paid ads. But of course now In the world of digital video recorders (DVR’s) many of us have the technology to entirely skip the ads. And the tv channels use an outmoded technology to measure viewer numbers that is both inaccurate (my guess is always much higher than reality) and ignores viewer ad skips.

So we’re in a world of bullshit, with media companies are desparate to fill their millions of channels with any kind of cheap programming to get viewers, just so that can convince advertisers to fill the minutes in between with paid for ads that we all skip. It’s a vicious cycle of delusions.

And as the quality of shows continues to decline, the need to delude gets even greater. Who would have thought that the word housewife could have be transposed with train wreck. But if you watch any of the housewives of new York or new jersey or atlanta etc, you would be left instantly with the idea that every housewife in the US is both incredibly rich and totally mad.

Add to that reality shows about everything from the po-lice in every tiny town, to people who run pawn shops to toothless swamp people. Then add in hugely long shows with thousands of people who have no idea how to sing (interspersed with the odd bit of talent) and time fillers about people who are totally bonkers and fill their houses with every piece of garbage and packaging that they ever consumed, and you are actually left with a situation where the ads are actually better viewing than the bits in between.

I’m thinking of designing a DVR that only records ads. What with the likes of GEICO and some of the excellent medical disclaimers, I think we have reached the place where the production quality and scripts of tv advertising is evidently better than the programming.

who can forget the drug that cures restless leg syndrome, but leaves you with a severe case of gambling and sex addiction…., awesome. (116)


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