Nine to Noon: 18 June 2009

June 17, 2009 – 4:50 pm

Listen to my 18 June 2009 appearance on Radio New Zealand’s Nine to Noon show. I spoke about online dating scams, Twitter’s role in the Iranian election protests, and would have spoken about Chris Knox but we ran out of time.

Here are my notes:

Online Dating Scams

NZ Herald story

What: Websites that let people post their details and look for matches to date. Biggest is Because it’s the web, members are not necessarily in the same country.

How: Man introduces self to woman, they become friends, speak on the phone, want to get together in person. He says he’ll make a trip. Excitement! Then catastrophe strikes–his passport is held by a Malaysian bureaucrats and he must pay $150 to get it back. Wire the money to Malaysia. Thanks! Oh no, more bribes needed. And on it goes, stringing you out.

Common? Very. High level of unreported cases, based on my anecdotal poll of friends. Embarrassed to admit it.

What you need to know: people suck. Also, don’t wire money to people. Just don’t.

Iranian Elections

NY Mag piece

What: Iranian elections featured the hardline incumbent (Mahmoud Ahmadinejad) vs the reform populist hoping to win on the youth vote Obama-style (Mir Hossein Mousavi). Text messages were shut down before the elections in the hope of preventing the youth from getting the word out. The elections results were within hours of polls closing, despite huge numbers of paper votes, and were a record landslide to the incumbent. Rioting broke out, then a huge hundreds of thousands of people silent protest march coordinated by Twitter.

How: This wasn’t mainstream news in the US but bloggers and Twitterers went nuts following this (it was like being caught up in it as it happened) and an ad hoc infrastructure grew up to translate, retweet, and generally amplify the messages of the discontented. There are people acting as news hubs, and a “hash tag” (#iranelection) that people mention in messages related to the election fallout. The government have tried to block Twitter but failed.

Why failed: Twitter has exposed their service through “APIs”, allowing anyone to write a program that can read and post to Twitter. So even though the government blocked the main Twitter site, there are hundreds of different web-based Twitter services that the government is having to find and block individually. Furthermore, through “open web proxies” (the same thing that lets teenagers bypass the school’s firewall and read Facebook from the library computers) the Iranians are leapfrogging the government’s efforts at censorship.

Thoughtful piece by New York Magazine talks about how mainstream media and Twitter were complementary: Twitter’s the firehose, while cable TV offers quality control and other filters. It’s great to finally have the choice.

That’s why celebrities use Twitter–sick of seeing their public image being women’s magazines photos of their fat arses with headlines like “ANGELINA GORGES AFTER PIE SHOP TANTRUM”, they’re taking advantage of the ability to communicate directly with their fans, without the filters and distortion of the middlemen.

The technology has also let the family of Chris Knox set up a web site where they can sidestep the shoddy reporting of the newspapers and communicate straight with friends and fans. Initial newspaper stories featured unnamed “friends” and too-grim reports. Now you can get the facts straight from the source.

The Chris Knox web site

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