2009-02-23

When things go boom.

Say someone manages to log into one of your many accounts online, changes your password and your contact email address. Your webmail account, your blog, social website -- do you know how to regain control of that account?

In most cases the answer will be: probably not. And don't expect any help from the companies running the sites. Any self-respecting company running a high profile service of some sort will know how to insulate themselves extremely well from their customers. If they do have some narrow pinhole through which you can communicate with them, you will most likely reach their least qualified, least motivated and most underpaid employees. Not only are these people not going to have even a fraction of an ounce of sympathy for you: company policy will most likely forbid them to help you anyway.

As an example: years ago I used to work for a company with which I had created an account. Years before I joined them. I had since forgotten the password and the contact mail address was for a machine that didn't exist anymore at a domain that was long gone.

Even though I worked for the company they told me to get lost. Apparently something to do with not wanting to open a particularly nasty can of worms. Understandable yet infuriating.

Think about this for a while. You willingly depend on all these services on the web. But if your password should somehow find itself in the wrong hands: you are most likely screwed.

I am writing this not because I've experienced having an account compromised (or just lost) in recent years, but because I think addressing this problem is important. I am sure people have tried to come up with solutions for this, but since it is still a problem with most major sites, no solution has gained significant traction.

This problem requires attention. Preferably before politicians and lawyers start to get funny ideas about how this should be done.

2009-02-11

asdasdasdasdddd

I did a search for "asdasdasdasdddd" today. As you might have guessed, it was just some random string that I entered to perform a test search.

Apparently there are about 234.000 hits for "asdasdasdasdddd".

Indeed, the Internet is a million monkeys randomly banging their keyboards.

2009-02-07

Newspapers - the really low hanging fruit.

With newspapers going out of print, moving onto the web, struggling to find a viable business model and not displaying a whole lot of talent in having one materialize, times are indeed bleak for the newspaper business. Who knows, any day now, newspapers may have to resort to actually figuring out what their readership wants. The horror.

I suspect that newspapers is one of those businesses that need to be reinvented and that it needs to happen from the outside. One of those businesses where decades of experience in the industry ends up being a handicap because it has eroded, and eventually oblitterated, any urge to ask really fundamental questions about what the product should really be about if you were to invent it today. These things happen from time to time. When people get rich, fat and lazy doing the same thing for decades. Then the basic premises change and they go extinct.

Tell you what I want.

I never want to see any story ever again about football, celebrity gossip or reality TV shows. I'd be willing to pay a modest fee per year for newspapers to shield me from this sort of inane rubbish. This is really low-hanging fruit. If you don't know how to deliver this then you ought not to be in the newspaper business.

Oh, and while you are at it: would it kill you to make newspapers, if not visually pleasing, then at least not reminiscent of the glucose-fueled scrawlings of a five-year old with a box full of crayons?

I'll put my 20 dollar bill here. It'll be there when you decide to give me what I want. Okay?