March 20, 2005
Andrew Dixon has a great list of One-Liners for Code Cowboys. "A computer scientist is someone who, when told to 'Go to Hell', sees the 'go to', rather than the destination, as harmful."
March 17, 2005
World Usability Day
Usability Professionals Association: "The goal of World Usability Day is to promote the fields of usability engineering and user-centered design. We aim to do this by encouraging, organizing, and sponsoring activities at the local level around the globe, all occurring on November 3, 2005. We envision the UPA, UPA chapters, and allied organizations all holding separate yet related events, revolving around a common theme."
March 14, 2005
Challenging my comment about my not representing my employer when I write here, Tyme White comments on the lack of personal information posted here, and suggests that, because I choose not to post personal details here, I must "instinctively know there could be a problem" (if I were to post such information). This really surprises me, especially since Tyme herself admits to feeling uncomfortable writing her own "about" page.
Look, we sorted this out on Usenet years ago. Your online identity comes from what you write, what you do, how you interact, what relationships you form. That's how people form their opinions of you, decide whether to trust you, figure out whether your tastes and values align with their own. Your real-world identity and credentials may help, but they're not mandatory. If I write an "about" page calling myself Nerkin the Pixie and claiming I work on the Dwarf Tenderising team at the Happy Valley Rendering Plant, you may think I've chosen a stupid handle, and you may initially find it harder to know where I'm coming from (though you might jump to some conclusions regarding recreational pharmaceuticals), but it won't change whether or not you share my taste in books. The Da Vinci Code will still be crap no matter who I work for.
Vaguely related to this, I happened across Hurricane Blog's remark that "I know some people who are very private... these people are not maintaining weblogs. You shouldn’t maintain a weblog unless you are secure in yourself and your beliefs." But one can be secure in oneself and one's beliefs but not court publicity or want to share one's personal life. (Hurricane Blog itself being a fine example: the author describes it as "mostly anonymous.") And, by contrast, what about all those teen angst weblogs we keep getting told are clogging up the Web? Sometimes it seems that the most insecure people are the ones most eager to share their lives in public.
March 11, 2005
Scoble: "The reality is you're always representing your employer when you talk in public, no matter how many disclaimers you make." Nonsense. You're no more "always representing your employer" than you're "always representing your country" or "always representing your dog."
In my own case, I'm pretty sure most people who stumble across this site don't know who I work for. So how can I possibly be "representing my employer"?
March 05, 2005
Verifiable identity is not the threat
Prospect magazine has a great article on potential benefits of identity management: "A nurse, for example, ought to be able to send an email (to report lax hygiene routines, say) with a digital certificate that proves that she is a nurse, but not what her name is."
Modern cryptosystems mean we can put the decision in the user's hands as to how much of their identity they want to disclose (prove). Instead of the government, and only the government, having access to all your personal information, the author proposes a scheme by which the citizen, and only the citizen, could disclose as much of their personal information as they wanted in order to obtain the credibility or service or entitlement they wanted.
Although attractive, there is still a big catch here: the "it's not mandatory honest" factor. What's to stop service or entitlement providers demanding superfluous information? Maybe I'm happy to prove to the insurance company that I am who I say, but that doesn't mean I'm happy for the call centre drones to titillate themselves over the embarrassing incident with the emu. (Oh hush. I was young. And feathers were in.) But what's to discourage the insurance company from demanding full access to my identity? "Don't worry, sir. It's purely for verification, to eliminate risk factors and ensure we can give you the best possible quote. If you've got nothing to hide, you've got nothing to fear. Nothing whatso... oh look, snork yuck chortle and forward to all. Do carry on, sir."
The technology certainly exists to support Birch's ideas; in particular, Birch's principle of an autonomous card verifying against its current user is much more practical than Blunkett/Clarke's idea of a user verifying against a central database. As with so much around the ID card, however, the problem is the social issue of preventing misapplication. A card that works in the presence of angels is pretty easy. But the devils are not only amongst the cardholders as Blunkett and Clarke believe: there are devils amongst the agencies and corporations who consume the card, and we have to be sure that the card protects us from those devils just as much as it enables us to prove we are angels.
Cambridge council formally opposes ID cards
Not that I live in Cambridge any more, or that any dissent will be heard in Blair's "Big Conversation," but it's nice to know:
"This Council notes that the Home Secretary is currently attempting to push an ID Cards Bill through Parliament. This Bill will have an effect upon all of the people of Cambridge. This Council believes:
"1) That the disadvantages of such a scheme will outweigh any likely benefits to the people of Cambridge.
"2) That the scheme will do little, if anything, to prevent terrorism, crime or fraud.
"3) That the national database that underpins the identity card scheme may facilitate criminal fraud, terrorism and potential state abuses of human rights...
"The motion was passed unopposed, with Labour councillors abstaining and the Conservative member absent."
Ian Nimmo-Smith: "We will not cooperate with any Government-run pilot schemes and we will do everything short of being illegal in terms of opposing a national ID card." Cambridge News: "The council will also commit itself to ensuring that ID will not be required to access council services."
Meanwhile, a London protest commemorating the abolition of wartime ID cards was broken up: "[The] all-seeing eyes of our database state were represented by costumed suppporters as giant, unblinking eyes. The group was moved on after an hour and a half, with police claiming the polystyrene breastplates of the costumes... looked like explosives."
March 01, 2005
Dispose woes in Whidbey
Matthew Adams identifies a nasty little problem with the way Whidbey auto-generates Component.Dispose().