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, 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...

Stricter Guidelines for the use of Voucher Codes on Affilliate Websites

From January 1st 2009, there will be stricter guidelines for voucher code use on affiliate websites in the UK.
The Affiliate Marketing Council (AMC) , part of the Internet Advertising Bureau has issued a code of best practise to avoid putting it's members brands at risk.
The following affiliate networks have so far signed up to the new code of conduct.

  • Affiliate Window
  • Affilinet
  • Commission Junction UK
  • DGM-UK
  • TradeDoubler
  • Platform-A’s
  • Premier Affiliate
  • Network
  • Webgains
  • Zanox

The Voucher Code best practise press release states that affiliates will need to make sure they comply with the following come 1st January 2009:

  • Using 'Click to Reveal' when there is no valid or current code present is not permitted of affiliate publishers including using 'Click to Reveal' to show any deals/offers/sales instead of vouchers.
  • Voucher code affiliate publishers must clearly detail the voucher offer that will be revealed by the click.
  • A valid code is defined as a code that has been legitimately issued by a merchant for use online. This code will have an activation date and where necessary a deactivation date.
  • Voucher code directories must contain clear categorization and separation between deals/offers/sales and discount codes

I'm not quite sure how this will affect sites such as which links to vouchers posted by members of it's forum, since they rely on user generated content, which is most probably unmoderated.

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 ( 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.

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.