Two recent NPR stories caught my attention for how they speak to a pervasive problem plaguing organizations like mine: loss of organizational history.
One story is about “Bruce,” the name given to the three giant fake sharks used in the movie Jaws. After the filming concluded, all three models were lost and most likely destroyed. After all, you can’t keep every movie prop for sentimental reasons, right? Of course, hindsight is 20/20 and so, years later, the efforts of a determined journalist finally paid off. After coordinating tips from a dedicated Jaws fan community, a fourth shark made from the same mold as the movie models was found in a California auto yard. Used as a prop at the Universal Studios Theme Park in Hollywood, this 25-foot-long behemoth was sorely weathered. But Jaws fans can finally rejoice that a key piece of Americana has been found.
A similar story revealed that 75 silent films were recovered from the New Zealand Film Archive. One such film is a 1927 feature called Upstream by four-time Oscar-winning director John Ford. These early American movies were sent to remote areas of the globe late in their lifecycle. The physical films degraded quickly and, since they were shipped in heavy metal cans, distributors in the States thought it financially wise to abandon them rather than pay to ship them back. However, projectionists and collectors thankfully protected them until they found their way to the vaults of the New Zealand national archive.
Both of these stories are examples where the value of something – films and film props – wasn’t realized until years after they were lost. And, while I can understand how financial limitations prevented preserving a giant shark and dozens of classic films, the same doesn’t apply to expert knowledge and experience. These types of “artifacts” are easy to preserve, especially with the availability of social enterprise tools like blogs.
So I have two questions for you…
Can you think of a project or area of expertise you worked on years ago that has since been lost because the knowledge wasn’t captured properly?
What can you do – today – to prevent repeating this mistake?
I’m one of the last people to raise the paranoia flag, but as a social networking enthusiast and social software trainer, I have a certain obligation to investigate the privacy issues around such web sites. Recently, I’ve been talking with folks, reading, and thinking a lot about privacy.According to a colleague (and a character in the latest episode of House), privacy as we define it today is “a recent invention that started with urbanization.” In other words, when we all lived in small communities, personal and family privacy was impossible; everyone knew everything about everybody else.
Now, we can go from our house to the garage to our car to the garage at work to our cubicle…and reverse that in the evening. Hence, the “expectation of privacy” most people have come to demand. With the advent of social networking web sites, blogs, Twitter, and the rest of the read-write web, we have seen this model challenged, however. Technology has enabled us to broadcast aspects of our lives in myriad ways.
I think social networking sites offer the potential for everyone to maintain and develop relationships they would not have been able to before. But I also have four kids who will only know an internetworked world and “Internet of Things” (hey, I encourage all of the kids to play with my iPod Touch and get on the Web…under supervision, of course).
But allowing children – or, in many cases, parents and grandparents – free reign on these sites without helping them understand the implications of their action is irresponsible.
Leave me a comment after you watch the video about how you protect yourself and your friends and family online. And you may want to revisit your Facebook privacy settings just in case…
Over the Thanksgiving weekend, I ran into an issue that I haven’t had to deal with for a long time: blatant hostility towards technology. Since I work in a tech field, most of my daily encounters are with the geek crowd. And when I get home, my wife is very sympathetic to geek-kind (or at least she pretends really well!).
Here’s the scene: I’m out with some family members (who shall remain nameless) at a restaurant and I’m having a great time. I decide to update my Twitter (and Facebook) status from my mobile phone. Later, at a nearby coffee shop, I do it again, for a total of three digital distractions during our visit (technically, one didn’t count since I was showing one of my family members how an application worked on my iPod Touch).
A bit later, one of my family members asked what I was doing on my phone earlier. When I told him/her (anonymity is crucial here), he/she asked me, “Well, could you not do that while you’re visiting with us?”
Wow. I didn’t really have a response to that. I was taken aback due to two things: 1) this individual is relatively tech savvy and 2) social media is so integrated with what I do that being asked not to do it seems downright rude.
After thinking about him/her a bit more, however, I realized that “tech savvy” is not the same as “digital native.” This individual is someone I’d call a “neo-Luddite” in that he/she is comfortable with technology as of about five years ago: using a PC, email, and general Internet searches. But when it comes to the increasingly integrated nature of technology in our lives, this person just doesn’t get it (yet). He/she still has the misguided idea that as long as he/she doesn’t do much on the Internet, that his/her privacy will be guaranteed.
In fact, later I learned that this individual prefers not to have any identifying photos or content posted about him/her on the Web. Whoops. For years, I’d been posting photos of him/her and his/her entire family on my personal web site’s photo gallery.
Now that I’ve had time to think about it, though, I realize that I need to be a bit more sensitive. I began to think that just as I wouldn’t drink alcohol around a friend who is a recovering alcoholic or serve peanut butter to someone with a peanut allergy, maybe I should be proactive about finding out about the technology preferences for those around me. Especially when it concerns posting photos of them or their kids on my web site, Facebook, etc.
This will be especially important when, in a few weeks (I hope) I start using an EyeFi card in my digital camera (courtesy of this awesome deal from Google). I’ll need to be vigilant of how I set up this card to avoid posting photos publicly until I’ve had a chance to sort through and filter which ones I want to publish.
What do you think? Will you be around anyone during the holidays who might prefer that you “check your tech at the door” or even be offended if your use of tech encroaches on their life? Leave your stories and suggestions in the comments!
If you haven’t heard by now, Facebook recently modified the default privacy settings for all accounts. I paid this little heed, since, when I was prompted to, I merely accepted my previous privacy settings. Which were pretty good.
Unfortunately, I didn’t realize that Facebook had removed some items out from my control. The one that bothered me the most is that I no longer have an option to control who sees my friend list. Now, I’m no paranoid recluse, but I think this change is an affront to my privacy. Plain and simple.
Fortunately, the “crowd” was there to help. A quick Google search led me to hundreds of pages of people asking the same question:
“With the new privacy settings, how do I prevent others from seeing my Facebook friend list?“
A short and sweet comment on Yahoo! Answers gave me what I believe is the only solution under the current privacy rules. On your profile page, scroll down to your friend list. Look for the pencil icon and click it. Modify the settings to suit your privacy needs (the screen capture below shows what I decided was best for me).
What’s a shame about having to do this is that now nobody (even friends) can see my friend list. This eliminates the ability for one of my friends to find new contacts based on my friend list. But this is a necessary casualty of what I hope are temporary limits on Facebook’s privacy controls.
Update: I also discovered that CNET published a blog earlier today with similar instructions.
I’ve been a web hobbyist/enthusiast since the mid-90s and in all that time, I’ve maintained a fairly high level of trust mixed with a healthy amount of skepticism. That balance shifted recently my personal web site was “hacked.”
Let me explain what happened: My site is designed to keep family and friends up to date on what’s going on with our family (mostly the kids). When I first launched it and for many years, I kept the commenting wide open. After all, who would take the time and energy to vandalize a little-visited family web site?
About a year ago, I was forced to control and monitor comments a little more closely. I changed the WordPress settings to require someone to register first or have a previously approved comment before they could comment. But I set WordPress to auto-approve new user accounts. After all (uh-oh), who would go through the trouble to set up a user account just to vandalize a little-known family web site?
I found out this past week that even these measures were woefully inadequate. Apparently, within the span of a few hours, “someone” (presumable a bot) created several user accounts, then used those accounts to leave comments on my posts with links to “badware” sites and embedded script code. Google immediately flagged the site as “distributing badware.” That’s when the fun began.
A Slashdot article provided insight into what Google did:
In an effort to promote the ‘general health of the Web,’ Google will send Webmasters snippets of malicious code in the hopes of getting infected Web sites cleaned up faster. The new information will appear as part of Google’s Webmaster Tools, a suite of tools that provide data about a Web site, such as site visits. ‘We understand the frustration of Webmasters whose sites have been compromised without their knowledge and who discover that their site has been flagged,’ wrote Lucas Ballard on Google’s online security blog. To Webmasters who are registered with Google, the company will send them an email notifying them of suspicious content along with a list of the affected pages. They’ll also be able to see part of the malicious code.
What happened to me specifically was:
- If anyone attempted to get to my site, they’d get a warning page saying the site was flagged by Google.
- If they chose to click through, they got a version of the site rendered without CSS or images (i.e., horribly ugly).
- If I, as the admin, tried to log in to WordPress, I merely got looped back to the login screen, preventing me from logging in.
After a few exchanges with my web hosting company (MidPhase), I realized that the onus to fix the problem fell to me. While I’ve been a tinkerer, I’m no PHP expert. That means that while I can install and configure applications like WordPress and MediaWiki, I don’t really know everything that’s going on under the hood. That means that I have no idea what’s supposed to be there and what isn’t. How the heck was I going to fix this?
After panicking for about a day, I came to a solution. I scoured the database tables looking for rogue user accounts and comments and deleted them. I then archived my WordPress files, replacing them with a fresh install. I scrapped my theme (in the event it was outdated and adding vulnerabilities) and installed a recently published theme.
I then submitted a request for Google to reevaluate my site. After one unsuccessful “rescan,” they finally cleared my site with a clean bill of health.
While it caused me to miss nearly an entire night’s sleep on Sunday (as well as hours of time that I would preferred to have spent with my kids…), it seems like everything is back up and running.
A few lessons learned:
- Google is quick to protect, slow to educate. I’m glad Google flagged “badware” on my site as I was unaware that someone had hacked it. This was done to protect the general Internet public from being infected. However, while Google blocked my site very shortly after discovering the malicious links, I would have appreciated more information on the pages that were affected. Instead, I got an abbreviated list and a vague description of the problem.
- Security is, indeed, everything. Bad people are out there. I know that now. Why would someone care to hack my measly personal web site? Most likely to simply spread malware. Because of this, I had to tightly restrict commenting on my site. I now require users to get approved for an account on the site before they can comment. This additional hassle will probably stem the already meager flow of comments, but I simply don’t have the time to go through this mess again.
- I need to be more cautious. I’ve been somewhat recklessly installing plugins and extensions for WordPress and MediaWiki without attempting to understand how each one works. Some of these pull in information from other sites. Were those sites to be affected/infected with badware, it would instantly stream to my site. By removing these plugins, I hopefully will increase my security, clean up the visual appeal of the site itself, and speed up the web site load time.
- Separate your domains. In addition to the main site, I had also created a sub-site for my wife to keep daily records as she homeschools our kids. This site was blocked along with the main site. I have since used another URL for her blog to isolate the two and prevent future collateral damage.
- A webmaster’s job is tough. I admit that maintaining this site is just a fun hobby. That said, it’s times like this that make me appreciate the job of a webmaster who must maintain 24/7/365 vigilance over the security of a web site. While I had the potential to lose years’ worth of stories, photos, and personal interest information, this is nothing compared to the personal, financial, and other sensitive data that is at risk every day on millions of web sites around the world. My hat is off to you folks!