Nik's Technology Blog

Travels through programming, networks, and computers

Can we rely on Cloud services to look after our data?

With the current trend moving from desktop applications to web applications, more and more of our data is being stored in the data centres of computer service companies around the world, rather than on our computer hard disks like in the old days.

The benefits of storing data in the "the cloud" are that you can access your documents anywhere you have an Internet connection. However, you have to ask yourself what happens if my data go missing?

This month the social bookmarking site Ma.gnolia which I had been using for 2 years or so to store all my web bookmarks suffered a data loss which brought the service down, and it doesn't look like any of their data recovery attempts will be able to resurrect the data and the service.

I've also noticed that occasionally Google Docs has problems retrieving saved documents.

Luckily I was able to use Ma.gnolia's recovery tool to recover most of my bookmarks from the web cache, and have since imported them into delicious.com, but incidents like this should be a reminder to us all that it pays to take care of your important data and not to rely on such services to store data that is important to you.

Of course the hard disk on your computer could fail too, but you all perform regular back ups, so that's not a problem is it... :-)

Since I wrote this post Gmail had an outage and Techradar have posted a similar article as mine here...

Google Paid Link Policing and other more Democratic Ranking Methods

Google's Webmaster Help Center explains Google's policy on paid links and encourages people to report them to Google. Here's a snippet from Google's statement:

"Buying or selling links that pass PageRank is in violation of Google's webmaster guidelines and can negatively impact a site's ranking in search results.

Not all paid links violate our guidelines. Buying and selling links is a normal part of the economy of the web when done for advertising purposes, and not for manipulation of search results. Links purchased for advertising should be designated as such."

Google essentially want websites to designate paid links with rel="nofollow" anchor tags, so link juice or PageRank is not passed on to the website who bought the link. The use of rel="nofollow" anchor tag was originally conceived to stop comment SPAM on blogs and discussion boards, but its use has now spread to the policing of paid links.

I understand the difficulties Google and the other search engines must have in determining when to pass link juice between websites, but leaving the webmaster in control of this is like asking Google to start ranking sites by meta keywords again.

I'm beginning to believe the future of web search lies in the democratic nature of the StumbleUpon, Digg and other social bookmarking methods like (del.icio.us and my favourite ma.gnolia), whereby users vote, tag and bookmark sites. Surely a combination of popularity and search algorithm is the way forward?

Updated: Shortly after I posted this blog entry, Google has been spotted testing Digg-style voting buttons on their results pages!

Updated: Matt Cutts and Maile Ohye posted on The Official Google Webmaster Central blog on 1 Dec 2007 a post that intends to clarify Google's stance on paid links.

Protect Your Identity on Social Networking Sites

Social networking sites are being used by criminals to steal peoples' identity. Once enough information has been gathered, credit cards and other services are set-up in the name of the person being targeted.
There are various sources on the Internet where thieves can collate information about a potential victim, such as the Land Registry information and the electoral register. However adding too much personal information to social networking sites like Facebook can facilitate thieves and make you an easy target.

So what can you do to minimise the possibility of online identity theft?

  • Make your Facebook profile only viewable by your friends.
  • Don't disclose your full date of birth, address and current employer, job title and other personal data.
  • Don't let Facebook allow search engines access to your page.
  • Use different passwords for each site and don't use easy to guess names like your pets name or 'password' 'abc' etc.
  • Don't add friend requests of people you don't know.
  • Install anti-spyware and anti-virus software on your computer, keep it up-to-date and scan your machine regularly.
  • Install an anti-phishing toolbar on your web browser, such as NetCraft and don't click on links in emails that purport to come from legitimate sources such as banks or other merchants like eBay. Instead type the URL into your web browser.

The Rise and Fall of User Generated Content?

Another day another ludicrous allegation about cyberspace. Apparently..."The vast majority of blogs on top social websites contain potentially offensive material."

This was the conclusion of a ScanSafe commissioned report, which claims sites such as MySpace, YouTube and Blogger which are a "hit" among children can hold porn or adult language. According to the report 1 in 20 blogs contains a virus or some sort of malicious spyware.

The Problem?

User generated content is to blame of course; because of the nature of how the content is built and edited it makes it very difficult to control and regulate.


Even if you were to monitor every post on a website as part of your process, how would you clarify whether a particular portion of text, or Photoshopped image has violated anyone's copyright or intellectual property?


This is a problem the big search engines have as well. With so many SPAM sites scrapping content from other sites, then republishing the resulting mashed content as their own work in order to cash-in on affiliate income generated from SERPS. Is Google working on a solution to stem this SPAM?

EU Intellectual Property Ruling

Another potential blow to websites which rely on user generated content is the European Union ruling on intellectual property which is making its way through the ratification process. This could see ISP's and website owners being charged for copyright infringements even if the data was posted by users of the site.

Does Twittering have a place in Business?

Is there supposed to be a point behind Twittering I asked myself? The Twitter.com site is pretty scarce on describing a particular use for it's service apart from "What are you doing now?". Maybe not limiting it's boundaries is part of it's success?

I'm always willing to try out new technology, I'd describe myself as an early adopter. Now I'm not saying I won't ever sign up and be a fellow Twitter myself in the near future, but from the outside, and without experiencing it firsthand I can't see why anybody would be interested in a rolling commentary of what some other individual is doing right now. I guess if you're into instant messaging (IM) or texting and want to let all your friends or family know what you're up to broadcast fashion, that might be a powerful tool. I'm guessing adding a Twitter to a myspace.com page would be the best place to put this kind of information.

Celebrity Tweets

A celebrity Twitter on the other hand might be extremely popular in this celebrity obsessed world we live in. Just imagine the sort of Tweets Paris Hilton would send from her Sidekick cell phone! And the hoards of followers that would subscribe.

What about Twitter use in a business environment?

Blogs, instant messaging and texting have all been adopted by the businesses and they all started out in the consumer space, but what business problems could they solve?

I can see them being used internally inside companies for staff to keep line managers updated on what tasks they are working on. After all Microsoft amongst others have found business uses for IM.
Public Relations could be another use, as could musicians and bands keeping their loyal fans up-to-date on tour etc.