Tag: Social Network

Blog: Miracles for Sale – Lazlo Ferran

This week: Facebook privacy, FREE Offers, building a social network, OCD Update and Formula One.

I haven’t actually seen the film Miracles for Sale from 1939, but having read the synopsis, I want to see it. The reason for my choice of title will become clearer if you read the section on Facebook privacy. Because You’re Worth It might have been a more appropriate choice of film title but the 2002, made for TV film has no reviews and no actors in it.

Facebook Privacy
Now I am making some progress with my project to build my own Social Network, I have to start thinking about I handle data and specifically how to keep member’s data private. Privacy is a huge issue these days; when I asked a friend for his views he told me he had joined over ten networks and that people are into privacy these days. I think he’s right. People don’t want to share their personal information with anyone but their closest friends. The problem is that Facebook is doing exactly that.

If you log in to Facebook and then click the drop down to select your Privacy settings you will see a menu on the far left which includes Apps and Ads. I suggest you turn off any aps you don’t use (I found many here listed which I never use) but for now click on Ads. At the bottom you will find a sub section: Website and Mobile App Custom Audiences.
Read this. So how does Facebook get away with this? Simples: they are very open about it.

But are they? If you click on the Learn more link in the first bullet point (it’s not very obvious because they have used a dark blue highlight with black text) you will see a video that explains how Online Behavioural Advertising works. Its all pretty simple and we know the theory behind it; by sharing some of your data with advertisers, Facebook allows the advertisers to place adverts in front of you if they think you might buy their products. In the process Facebook makes shit-loads of cash. Nothing new there.

However, Facebook is keen to point out they don’t share any of your Private Data. They only share your public data. In actual fact I found Facebook’s link didn’t work but a quick google located the website they refer to: http://www.iabuk.net/.

I was curious. This websites didn’t seem aimed at the general public but more at advertisers; they constantly talk about ‘they’ and ‘them’ when referring to the public who are viewing the adverts. It seems like another world from social networks so I hunted around and found this video: http://www.iabuk.net/video/the-evolution-of-online-display-advertising.

This is much more interesting than the first video. I had the uncomfortable feeling while watching it that I was being given the hard sell for the concept of the Ad Exchange. I didn’t really understand what it was other than a network of people sharing your personal data. I needed to do more research.

I won’t go into technical details but it seems to me that what Facebook and the Ad Exchange do is share your IP address which they consider NOT to be your Private Data. They consider this Public Data. This is because from a techy point of view, they processes simply won’t work unless they share your IP address (essentially the physical address of your computer). While it’s true that they are not connecting your browsing habits with your name, they ARE connecting them with your computer so to me, the difference between your IP address and personal name is academic. Sure somebody else could be using your pc/mac/laptop but most of the time it will be you.

I suspected as much because recently a friend of mine was caught in a retail scam and when she contacted them they managed somehow to connect her with her blog posts criticising them even though she used a false name on the blog. There is only one way they could have done this; if her IP address was shared.

Thus it looks like they have hidden a declaration of what they do beneath layer upon layer of jargon. Paradoxically it looks like the older process or infrastructure called the Ad Network is more transparent and fairer; there the advertiser buys advertisisng space on a website and trusts the publisher (usually the owner of the website) to publish their advert for them. In this process the advertiser never sees any data about you until you browse or buy their products.

While thinking about how to use RDF on my Social Network I had started to wonder how I was going to share the triples while (which is a fundamental part of the RDF paradigm) and now I have decided to develop a system along the Ad Network model.

Free Offers
Ordo Lupus and the Temple Gate is still FREE on Amazon until 5 November for Halloween.
Attack Hitler’s Bunker! will be FREE on Amazon from 6-10 November. This will be its first free promotion so make sure you grab a free copy.

Building a Social Network
This week I had to choose a triple store for my data. It has taken me a few weeks to think about this because it was not clear to me how one can legally or morally share data in an RDF world although the world of triples is one of sharing data. I want to contribute to the Global Graph so I needed RDF. In the end I settled on MongoDB. It’s slow (according to reviewers) at inserting triple data but this doesn’t matter to me. My primary store is MySQL and I only need to run a daily cron to update the triple store. However, MongoDB is quick to query and more versatile if I later choose to build some commercial tools. Note: I will DEFINATELY NOT be sharing members’ Private Data of my members. So if you are one of those already in the test group, don’t worry!
Since installing the triple store (thanks MongoDB makers – your instructions were wrong and caused me problems for a few hours!) I have focused on building a Facebook Ap. That is about all I am prepared to say about this for now. It’s proving a bit tricky to achieve what I want but for those of you who are interested, I will keep you updated.

OCD Update
For those of you not aware, I have suffered from OCD for the last 18 years. After a six-month period of private Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) last year, ending in November, I pursued a plan devised by myself and refined by my therapist for the next six months. My fear is of dust and germs and my flat had become difficult for me to clean. My plan was to employ a regular cleaner and this worked for a while. But then I was made redundant. SInce then I have had to make do with cleaning myself. I must admit, there has been little improvement in my OCD since then. I talked to my doctor about it and we agreed that I should apply for more treatment on the NHS. I was placed in a queue and my first appointment is on the 6 November. I will let you know how I get on.
On the same subject, there were two tv shows on OCD this week; one focusing on patients at a treatment centre and one on OCD sufferers being used to clean the flats of people who simply don’t clean. I didn’t catch the second but the first was interesting. One sufferer called James seemed to suddenly gain control of his OCD through a fairly simple exposure exercise. For those not familiar with the term, one of the techniques used in CBT is exposure; making the sufferer touch something they don’t want to touch and then not applying their normal rituals to counter the effect. I am very happy for James that he made progress so quickly. I found it quite moving I did note that OCD can look amusing to the casual viewer. One case I have heard of was a sufferer who was convinced they caused road accidents wherever they drove and so had to loop back to check the roads all the time. Their journeys took a very long time to complete.

Formula One
I am even sadder that Mark Webber will be retiring this year. He has been a very underrated driver and has suffered while at Red Bull. Their constant pushing Vettel forward and holding Webber back has curtailed a promising career. I am not normally a conspiracy theorist but I do wonder why it is that Mark always gets the technical issues. Why on earth wasn’t his KERS turned on and charged when on the grid last Sunday?

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Blog: The World Is Not Enough – Lazlo Ferran

This week: Para-Worlds, Social Network build and Free Offers.

Para-Worlds
I have spent most of this week defining a para-world. When I sit down to work on one of my literary projects now, I often feel hesitant: have I forgotten the thrust of the book; does what I am going to write fit into the world-view o the main character; oes the story express the world view I want to show. With about ten books published it is getting increasingly hard to keep track of the different world-views my stories encompass. moreover its becoming harder to invent new stories that are either so radically different from my existing ones that I don’t have to worry about any incongruity or ones that are similar enough to existing ones that I need to avoid the reader saying, “Hey, this doesn’t fit with that previous story – what’s going on?”

So I decided to think about coming up with a para-world which could encompass my sci-fi and fantasy stories. I am not exactly coining the term ‘para-world’ but I had better define what I mean. I mean by that a world that explains the unexplained elements of our own world; the hidden world as I see it if you like. Actually it is more like a hidden world as I see it; it is not the only view I have and is probably not the one I use in my day-to-day life.

I am not the first to try it either; Tolkien did it on a monumental scale; The Silmarillion can hardly be equaled for breadth of vision. I certainly don’t expect to equal it. I have come up with something though. To my delight I have found that it can accommodate most of what I am writing and most of what I have written. It does make me wonder a bit if it wasn’t there all the time without me knowing it. I have documented it and will develop it in the future. It may well remain a secret although bits of it will obviously seep out.

Social Network Build
If you follow my blog and read last week’s post, you will know that I am developing my own social network; I have the skills from my years in the IT industry and I may well have the will to do it now. Three of my friends have accounts now so that we can develop some ideas.

This week I added an email module to Drupal so that one can sign up on the test version without the admin having to unblock accounts. I also downloaded the Zen theme so that I can mess around with the look and feel. I have an idea or two to try and will probably develop them this week.

Free Offers
Ordo Lupus and the Temple Gate will be FREE on Amazon from 1-5 November for Halloween.
Attack Hitler’s Bunker! will be FREE on Amazon from 6-10 November. This will be its first free promotion so make sure you grab a free copy.

Elsewhere
Has anybody noticed that Eddie Jordan is looking more like Woody Allen every Formula 1 race? I would love to see Woody Allen commentate on F1. He would be even funnier as the pit-lane reporter.
David Coulthard: Woody, did you see that tyre change? What more can you tell us from the Ferrari pit?
Woody: Jake? Is that you? I am having a… what’s the name… a panic attack! Oh my god! This woman with something above an F-cup just walked up to me and asked me for her autograph. She thought I was Niki Lauda.
David Coulthard: I see. That’s great, Woody.
Woody: Yeah, it would be but she didn’t have a pen. She didn’t have paper either but she wanted me to sign her thigh. Needless to say I left my pen in the ladies toilet. I could hardly say, “Come with me and I’ll take you to my pen!”
David: How did it get left in the ladies loos?
Woody: Yeah. Well, that’s another story… Anyway, turns out she’s a psychotherapist so I think I got it made!
David: Thanks Woody for the latest from the pit-lane.

For me, F1 is getting very boring. I rarely even make the effort to watch now. Apart from the domination by a young man who has been spoiled into thinking he is the best, the technology has become somewhat stagnant. I look forward to the return of turbos next year.

I also wish Valentino the best in tomorrow’s MotoGP. Great that Hayden made it onto the front row, a very rare thing for Ducati these days. They really need to get their company philosophy sorted out. Do they want to be the best small manufacturer out there or an average medium-sized manufacturer? Also, it was a terrible error for Marquez last week but he is young: you can’t go through a rookie season without a few big mistakes.

Blog: Back to the Future – Lazlo Ferran

This week: Social Networking website dev and RDF, Lord of the Rings radio series, review of La Vie en Rose (Edith Piaf biopic).

No sneak preview this week. God! Another week when I haven’t a clue what to write. I will just have to wing it!

Social Networking Site
This week’s blog title is due to my first tentative steps into the AI world of Web 3.0. For the last two or three years – since stumbling upon an article about Resource Description Framework (RDF), I have been championing the whole idea of large data sets of triplets describing resources in a meta-data kind of way. Tim Berners-Lee – inventor, if you like, of the World Wide Web – has pronounced it as the precursor to and foundation of Internet Artificial Intelligence. I believe him. Without some way of aggregating data and meta-data there will soon be just too much information around to be used by humans. We need an intermediary, an intelligence that can filter it for us. For that we need large data stores of meta-data. That is where RDF comes in. It has been around for many years but, like HTML, it has been adopted by developers in a role for which it was never intended. It’s simplicity is probably it’s main virtue, and asset – as with HTML.

I always intended to dabble myself in this field, if only to keep up with the latest IT developments. I was on the very first HTML course – just five of us – in South Kensington. This was way back in 1996. I had discovered the internet and world wide web the previous year while temping at Nortel. The little dog cursor, running in ftp, has fascinated me. I consequently booked a place in Islington’s Central Library on the first internet connected PC for the public in North London. For the next six months, mine was the only signature in the bookings. There was only black and white text then, and only a few American sites (UCLA for one) had cracked images. It was a frontier. I love frontiers; few rules. From that I was able to walk into my first job as a webmaster and command my own fees.
This may all seem a million miles from writing but at the root of both my writing and internet projects is a love for connecting with people and observing how they behave. For this reason I have decided to try and build my own social network website.
I have gone with the WAMP paradigm: Windows (cos I have a windows PC), Apache, MySQL and PHP.
Tutorials for installing these were easy to find on youtube and I chose the ones my lucidnerd. He speaks very clearly and seemed to know what he was doing. Unfortunately he left me in the lurch somewhat when I reached the point of installing my cms for the social network. I chose Drupal. I used it in my last job and found it to be pretty stable. Sure enough lucidnerd did a turorial for installing drupal on Windows 8 so I thought I had it made. Wrong… At the beginning of the tutorial I find that he uses the WAMPserver application – a kind of one-click application to install all of the above three apps.I could find no help at all in installing Drupal 7 on the above development environment.
Therefore, I had to just install Drupal 7 on my own. Everything went fine until I told Drupal where the database was and what user/password to use. The next screen had a brief message telling me the table ‘properties’ already existed and the rest of the page was blank. I googled this error and found many others had experienced the same problem. The cause seemed to be browser related so I tried again in firefox and explorer – several times. The problem was worse in Firefox with not even an error message and explorer wasn’t any better. It was only when I returned to Chrome that I received a similar error, but this time naming a difference missing table. I thought… hm, this sounds like a memory issue. Sure enough, further googling revealed a comment by a developer that a problem with his flavour of drupal could be fixed by increasing the execute time and memory allocated to Drupal. I increased both hugely and… success!

So now I have Drupal installed and RDF ready. I have been researching themes and it looks like Zen is the one to go for: mobile friendly, versatile and quick. From here I will want to extend the application using a NoSQL data store and RDF.

Now I just need an idea for my site. Ideas on a postcard please.

I will keep you informed of my progress with this project.

Other News
There will be an announcement here shortly of two free promotions of my books. Watch this space.

Elsewhere
I watched La Vie en Rose – the biopic of Edith Piaf this week. It’s an excellent movie but Piaf is such a boor. If it wasn’t for a passionate singing voice, I don’t think there would be anything likable about her. As a performer of chanson réaliste songs, she was impressive but I don’t think she quite matches up with other modern chanson singers like Jaques Brel. Nevertheless the film is colourful and well-directed. You won’t get bored if you are the slightest bit interested in singers or her life. My only criticism was the jump cuts – backwards and forwards throughout the film. This could have worked very well if they had jumped ‘back’ to only one segment of her life but the director chose to randomly visit various stages of her career. The clarity was not helped by fluctuations in her appearance – it could deteriorate and then improve with her heavy drug additions and recoveries. The confusion was even further exacerbated by lack of information about her various romantic relationships: men appeared and disappeared, including a husband with little or no explanation. Four out of five I think.
I have also stumbled upon a radio series of Lord of the Rings which I was unaware of. I will start watching it tonight. If anybody else has listened to it, I would like your views. I don’t yet know why it is labelled ‘notorious. Here it is: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wTledKaqoJ4