Friday, May 18, 2012 Klout?

Today I told a recruiter that I didn't want to relocate to a certain metro area for the job he was peddling, and he demanded to know why. Uh...?

But that's not what I want to talk about. Yesterday and today I was involved in a spirited discussion about a fairly new (3 years old) social media platform called Klout. Klout, which purports to measure your "influence" in social media, has been getting a lot of attention recently, mostly due to an article in the current paper edition of Wired.

Like any fairly new meme, Klout is on the receiving end of a lot of bashing, mostly from "old guard" IT wags who term it invasive, meaningless, part of the social media "popularity contest", and so on. Even xkcd's Randall Munroe had something negative to say about it. And I say they're missing the point.

In the last decade, Social Media, as a concept, has become entrenched in First World culture. People who, ten years ago, used the Internet rarely or not at all, use it frequently now because of Social Media and its influence. But a lot of people who, like me, predate their interaction with computer technology to before Social Media (or even the Internet) existed, have a very "get off my lawn" reaction to a lot of Social Media platforms. Having existed before it, and having not thought it up themselves, they think they're above it. (A good counterexample to this type of thinking is Marc Andreessen, who is also featured in this month's Wired.)

I don't love all of it, myself. For instance, although I have an account on Facebook, I have never liked the site and rarely read posts there (I seem to post a lot, but most of it is auto-posted from other sites). I wasn't an early adopter of Klout; I knew it existed but I wanted to see where it would go before jumping on the bandwagon. Wired's article told me what I wanted to know and I jumped in, thereby raising my "score" - which already existed since I tweet publicly - from 22 to 49 (out of 100) in two days.

Does it mean anything? Is it just all a big popularity contest? Of course it is. Go look up who has a score of 100 and you'll see that that's the case. But that is the point. The "Net" - which started out as a government defense research project - has become a world-wide party and the popular kids - who in many cases are also technological and artistic innovators - have taken over. You don't have to play if you don't want to. Your priorities may lie elsewhere, and there's nothing wrong with that. But because a technological innovation doesn't fit your worldview is no reason to disparage it. It didn't work for Jacquard's detractors either, a fact for which modern IT curmudgeons should be grateful.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

the importance of being anonymous...?

I haven't posted here in a while. I've never been more than kind of intermittent, but currently I have a good reason; I'm writing weekly articles for Crain's Cleveland Business. They're a little non-technical (basic security for businesspeople), so the content is probably not what I'd choose to share here anyway, but with 500-1000 words per week going there, I'm not as motivated to post here.

That said...last night, I went to our local chapter ISSA meeting last night. They weren't charging admission to the meeting, so it was basically free CPEs (and free pizza). I was a little late for the meeting due to mixing it up with another meeting I have next week, so I was a bit flustered as I entered the venue.

As I approached the room where the meeting was being held, I saw a sign on the wall about the meeting saying to text to a certain phone number for a door prize. I had my phone in my hand anyway, so I paused and sent the SMS, then proceeded into the meeting.

Realizing I was late, I quickly sat down. The lecturer, Branson Matheson, was talking about social engineering, which is a subject that's very interesting to me. During the lecture he mentioned the "hack" he'd perpetrated and wondered aloud how many phone numbers he'd captured that way.

Yup, okay, he got me. Turned out, too, that I was the only person in the room who fell for it, although that fact is mitigated to some extent by the fact that not everybody in the room actually saw the sign. But really...did he in fact "get me"? What exactly happened here?

It's no secret, I'm looking for a job. Because of this, I give people my contact details several times a day. I WANT people to have my phone number. In fact, had I arrived at the meeting early, as I'd intended to do, I would have been passing out my virtual business card (via Cardcloud) to anybody who would take it. People very often do, in fact, exchange business cards at such meetings, which will usually include a mobile number among others. So, practically speaking, Mr. Matheson didn't actually gain any knowledge that I wasn't willing for him to have, and in fact, he didn't have a name attached to that number. 

Mr. Matheson's point was that there's nothing stopping a hacker from putting up signs randomly saying "text to [phone number] for free offers" and actually collecting phone numbers that way, and it's a very good point. I was fairly sure, when I sent my text, that I was sending it to an officer of the local board (and he is, in fact, the VP of the local chapter), so while I "fell for" his trick, I'm actually just as happy that he has my phone number. Maybe he'll refer me to a new job. ;)