Google plus and unlinking feeds


I’m now on Google Plus which seems pretty good but I got issues with it.

First up I like the circles methodology but what bugs me is the fact that those circles only exist within the Google plus ecosystem and thats even with the Google plus application on my Android phone. Weirdly enough I already tagged most of my contacts in Gmail and that does sync with my phone.

Ideally Google plus would understand the tags I’ve assigned to people in Gmail and allow me to automatically translate those into circles.

Google Plus also feels like a early Facebook right now, everything is deep inside its walls. It looks like Google might be catching up with Facebook by not making the same mistakes. But I do wonder about the integration with other Google products? I noticed the profile is synced with your Google profile so thats good, it looks like Buzz makes up the Stream part and I think I saw Google Talk somewhere on the stream bit.

One of my biggest complaints is the ability to send twitter microblogs into Buzz/Stream. I wrote on the stream space something like that. Just on a off point, it is great to see the privacy options in Google Plus, hence why I can actually link directly to the thread of discussion. In the end Adewale send a link to Unlink your feeds.

You need to unlink your feeds.

I understand why you did it. I’ve made the same mistake myself. But it’s hurting your friends, it’s hurting you, and it’s hurting the Internet. You need to stop.

You need to stop automatically dumping your feeds from one account into another.

Look, I know it’s tempting. New service, not sure how you’ll keep up with the ever demanding maw and there’s the “import your content” button, right there in the sign-up process. A quick trip through a login screen or an OAuth link and there you are: All your stuff automatically aggregated into a new one-stop-shop of the genius things that pop out of your head.

No muss, no fuss, right?

This is an illusory solution. It’s a false idol. It’s contributing to noise pollution on the Internet and the only people it helps are company execs who want to make spurious claims about “user engagement”. It’s diminishing the quality of your output and of others’ experiences.

You need to unlink your feeds and put a tiny bit more effort into using each service for what it is.

So I disagree and I’ll give you my reasons why… Of course this may only apply to me… And I understand this may not be true for everyone.

Its hurting your friends.

My friends are very divided and so those on facebook don’t use twitter, so there’s little duplication. I get the spamming idea but frankly if I didn’t dump my twitter into facebook, I would say little to nothing on facebook. This might also sum up how I feel about facebook generally…

Its hurting you.

Oh agreed but we covered the lack of respect I have for facebook. I would also add why the heck would I spend so much time on crafting messages which work in favor of the company hosting the social network? If there was an argument for a distributed social network, this would be it.

Its hurting the internet.

"Stop thinking like a spammer and starting thinking like a person." Well I would say this is nonsense. I’m one person and what I say is generally what I would say in a public space. Facebook isn’t a public space (or at least it mixes the public and walled garden too much) ideally I would be able to link (maybe even xinclude) my comment.

I know some of my friends on Facebook do wonder whats with the # and @ but they’ve mainly got over it now. Hopefully one day it will be easier to almost xinclude your thoughts from one to another and slightly alter it. Right now a linked feed is the best way to do this…

There’s a better way.

At last something we do agree on…

I have a vision of a new social networking paradigm. Handcrafted social networks.

I imagine a world where people take each network for what it is and participate (or not) on those terms. Instead of a firehose slurry of everything buckets, I imagine separate streams of purified whatever-it-is-each-service-does. I envision users that post when they’re inspired and don’t mind skipping a few days if nothing particularly interesting comes up.

I’m like Thumper’s mother. “If you can’t think of anything good to say, don’t say anything at all.”

I imagine people taking the extra 10 seconds to reformat a post for each service if the message is so relevant and important that it needs to show up more than once. I imagine being able to choose who I follow and what subset of their postings I get with a high degree of granularity.

There may come a day when this vision gets implemented on the server side. When all the social networks give me fine grain control for hiding subsets of the updates sent out by my contacts. But until that day comes, it’s gotta be solved on the client side.

I thought Google plus would be along this line but its not. It does a lot of things right including Dataportability, thanks to the Data Liberation front’s Data takeout service.

So my general thoughts is Google plus has got the basics kind of right but there overlooking some of the advantages they could bring to plus like Gmail contact sync and the Android application. The Facebook application on Android is pretty poor to say the least (i don’t even know why I got it on my phone), and frankly Google+ is even worst. Where’s the contract syncing once again? And heck why is no one doing event syncing?

I noticed Google plus does actually have my connections to Yahoo, Facebook, Twitter, etc but isn’t make use of them at all. I know there’s conflict between Google and Facebook but hey if I choose to pull stuff from these other services to Google plus, thats my decision.

Google plus does feel a lot more open (and funny enough a lot like Diaspora) that the closed wall system of Facebook but they really do need to improve on certain aspects before I use it fully.

Gnome 3, its got some issues…

Ubuntu 11.04 running Gnome3

Since I switched to Gnome3 I’ve been finding some weird inconsistencies. The problem is, I can’t be sure its actually Gnome3 or something else?

My first ignorance is the vertical only workspaces. I’m use to using ctrl+alt+left/right to wizz around the work spaces I have open (usually about 6). Now the left and right does nothing and you can only wizz around the available workspaces by doing ctrl+alt+up/down. From reading the web, it seems the only reason for it is because of the Activities mode.

If they could rearrange that it would work quite well.

Gnome-Do is also a little lost now, because of the total change in Gnome 3 shell. I do still use it over the windows/super key which brings up the menu and other stuff. But had to change the mappings to ctrl+space instead of super+space to avoid conflict with Gnome3. If you do hit the super key and start typing it will find stuff for you but its no where near as clever as Gnome Do. What needs to happen is Gnome do needs to be a plugin for Gnome shell or something. Not heard anything from the author about this yet. The last update was quite some time ago to be fair, so I’m not even sure its still going or not. I also noticed that the dock option seems to have gone from Gnome do, which I wonder is to do with Gnome 3’s Dash or not?

Alt+Shift+Tab no longer seems to go backwards when selecting windows which is a real pain (and yes I do have that set in my keyboard options). What makes things maybe worst is you can’t seem to easily select windows within an application from the Alt+Tab menu. So instead you have to hover over a sub window menu which shows the application windows. This is a real pain when using something like Evolution with lots of sub windows of old and new emails. Even using Dolphin (file manager) with multiple windows is a nightmare.

The Activities menu/Window Picker is a nice style exposure type system but selecting windows is a nightmare because you can’t tab or shift+tab. Instead your forced to use your mouse to select windows and applications. You can type in what your after like Gnome Do but that only selects new applications not applications/windows which are already running. There’s this easily overlooked highlight which shows you whats open already and whats not but its too easily missed.

I’m hearing Gnome 3 is not very good about handling multiple screens and I can believe it if you can’t move left or right. I’ll find out for sure tomorrow when I return to work and plug my laptop into a 24″ LCD monitor which sits on my desk.

Inline replies

I certainly think something is up because I’m not getting the lovely way Gnome 3 should look going by the Gnome 3 Design page.

I do still miss my Compiz 3D rotating cube but if they can get some of these issues solved I’m willing to change and kind of embrace the new style of Gnome 3, specially if they can sort out the horizontal and reversal stuff. I’m very interested in some of the other stuff I’ve seen like Gnome Shell with Zeitgeist (gnome activity journal) replacing part of the shell.

Its also worth pointing out Webupd8 which I thought was a spammer site but actually turns out to be a good site for the latest to do with Gnome Shell and Unity.

Did Google just kill Prezi without breaking a sweat?

google plus

So everyone’s going crazy about Google Plus right now but am I the only one to notice, Google just rolled over and crushed Prezi. And to be honest, I’m glad they did or might do because that Prezi technology (if you can call it that) needed a good solid kick off the web. Like I said before, the concept is not bad but the actual process is a joke and not realistic for giving presentations. I’ll refer you to the conversation me and Nancy Duarte had at Thinking Digital.

The interesting part is, I don’t think Google is even thinking about it in that way. So Prezi lives on for now. But if Google was to license there technology or make it easy for people to build there own google maps like layers, it would be all over for Prezi… And once again, good riddens.

JK Rowling jumps head first into self publishing

Harry Potter

I posted this from my kindle on twitter… Its awkward because it doesn’t post the source but its actually from Ars technica.

By publishing on her own website, Rowling adds: “We can guarantee that people everywhere are getting the same experience at the same time. That was extremely appealing to me. I am lucky to have the resources to do it myself and I think this is a fantastic and unique experience that I could afford to take my time over to make this come alive. There was really no way to do it for the fans or me than just do it myself. Not every author could do this, but it’s right for Harry Potter. It is so much fun to have direct content with my fans. It was an extension of the existing”

JK Rowling is sure to make a mint and even more from self publishing… Further more I was intrigued to hear Rowling is green lighting a non DRM format for publishing.

Rowling has opted to keep the e-books DRM-free, meaning that they are not locked into one device or platform. She is instead opting for digital watermarking that links the identity of the purchaser to the copy of the e-book. This doesn’t prevent copyright theft but does ensure that any copies will be traceable to a particular user. This is similar to how iTunes is DRM-free, but embeds user account information within each file purchased.

Great move, and I wonder how the shop owners such as Amazon or B&N feel about this? I’m also wondering if Amazon will finally sort out the disconnect between Amazon bought books and personal documents. For example link to non-Amazon bought books.

The disconnect between self published and mass published will hopefully get much smaller encouraging even more to attempt self publishing.

XBMC and Fan Art romps onwards

XBMC Fan Art logos

Found via the latest XBMC blog post.

Fan Art TV

…Joins the already amazing… The TVDB and The Movie DB, as great places to collect FanArt and add them to the already amazing XBMC experiences. Literary the XBMC guys and community are innovating like crazy and it doesn’t look like stopping anytime soon. Total Kudos to this amazing project, I can’t imagine consuming media without it.

These additional features would be dramatically less useful if not for is a crowd-sourced website, much like thetvdb and TMDb, designed to provide all the additional little features that we each would have to spend hours amassing on our own. Kode, the developer, is always appreciative of additional art or art requests, and asks only that you follow the rules that may be found here.

Its also worth metioning from the other end of the scale, the amazing and Think of them as the last.FM of Films and TV.

When you look at other media centres, they just look plain and boring in comparison… There’s certainly something about making customising simple and easy which is very compelling…

Textuality almost the idea we had but poorly done

INST MSGS - Episode 11 - U H8 ME

A long time ago Channel4 posted a contest based around writing a play. Having never written a play before me and Sarah (my exwife) went about writing a play based around the interactions of people via social technologies.

The concept was simple, people interacted on stage in different ways, you could see what there really thinking about or mean via a large screen above them. Honestly quite a bit of the influence from my end came from the very early project by Jun Group called Welcome to the scene. (a candidate for something to re-look at me thinks)

I was intrigued when I read about textuality in my cousins movie collection of course in XBMC.

Now to be fair it only managed 3.4 stars out of 10 on IMDB so its not exactly inception but its worth watching to see how the concept we came to was executed by others. If I had the time and resources I would like to still see it as a play.

It was actually proposed to the contact theatre as their young and talented improv artists could maybe do something quite amazing with it, but I’ve never really picked up on it.

Lastly Revision3’s INST MSGS, rings a bell when re-looking at this whole area.

INST MSGS is a web anthology series that dramatizes social media. Based on everything from submitted instant message conversations to found Craigslists ads, INST MSGS shines a satirical light on modern (mis) communication.

The Shift and my own shift…

Near Death Experiences

When you have a near death experience (NDE) or I guess brush with death your meant to act or feel a certain way it would seem. I don’t seem to be acting or feeling that way (what ever way its meant to be) some suggest I might get posttraumatic stress disorder in years to come. If this is true, I’m certainly not looking forward to re-experiencing the original trauma through flashbacks.

I remember back in July last year talking to my social worker (I assume they get you one after a dramatic experience just in-case you decide to do something silly) the one and only time. He came to my flat and we talked generally about everything and how I felt. It was ok if a little weird (most of the conversation centered around my anger for the way I was treated at the hospital), but he said something which made me think.

Obviously I don’t remember exactly what he said but basically it was something like “such an experience will make you re-evaluate your life and your faith.” To which I answered… “Like faith as in God?” he answered, “…yes I turned to god when something like this happened to me for example.”

That was the last time I saw him really, not because he was bad. Just didn’t really need him. I’ve been figuring stuff out myself in my own time but to be honest I’ve not really been thinking about turning to god or anything like that. But every once in a while I come up against (for a better word) something which makes me think (not necessarily in favor of god or religion).


This time, it was when I went to the Thinking Digital university/workshop on with Bobby Patterson. I wasn’t looking for happiness or even seeking happiness, since the near death experience I’ve come to appreciate life on a totally different level.

Its hard to explain… but I’ll try

I view life on a slightly amazed scale. The miracle of life is so precious and I’m in totally ore we even exist at all (thanks to evolution). We scuttle around and worry so much about our own problems while the rhythm of life marches on regardless.

Our brains are wildly complex and able to conjure up the greatest dreams and darkest nightmares. The mind can set you free or imprison you for life.

Its genuinely a wonder and thirst for life…

And I’m reminded of this quote… (no idea who from)

Your just a thought away from changing your life…

So when Bobby talked about and some of the thinking behind and why, it struck a cord with me and my recent thinking.

One of the many links he suggested was a link to a film called the shift by Wayne Dyer

From the creators of You Can Heal Your Life: The Movie comes a compelling portrait of three modern lives in need of new direction and new meaning. In his first-ever movie, Wayne Dyer explores the spiritual journey in the second half of life when we long to find the purpose that is our unique contribution to the world. The powerful shift from the ego constructs we are taught early in life by parents and society—which promote an emphasis on achievement and accumulation—are shown in contrast to a life of meaning, focused on serving and giving back. Filmed on coastal California’s spectacular Monterey Peninsula, The Shift captures every person’s mid-life longing for a more purposeful, soul-directed life.

I watched the shift and I thought about it. I wasn’t sure quite what to say about it.

It felt quite religious in parts but in other not so much. There’s a air of cheesy self helpness to it but actually its not as bad as it would seem to be. The hard thing is wanting to know, what its end game (as such) is? I felt looking at Wayne Dyer’s wikipedia page would help, and it did. The interesting parts included…

Although Dyer resisted the spiritual tag, by the 1990s he was altering his message to include more components of spirituality, in Real Magic, and higher consciousness, in Your Sacred Self.

My belief is that the truth is a truth until you organize it, and then becomes a lie. I don’t think that Jesus was teaching Christianity, Jesus was teaching kindness, love, concern, and peace. What I tell people is don’t be Christian, be Christ-like. Don’t be Buddhist, be Buddha-like. [cited interview]

“Religion is orthodoxy, rules and historical scriptures maintained by people over long periods of time. Generally people are raised to obey the customs and practices of that religion without question. These are customs and expectations from outside the person and do not fit my definition of spiritual.” [cited post]

I feel that should be going for this self help stuff, but I’m still feeling very uneasy about it. Some of the things from the shift are interesting but the overall tone is closer to something I can imagine someone with an agenda or religious view would have. I’ve certainly not damaged the part of my brain which deals with rational thought thats for sure. I expect Dyer if he read this and saw me, would suggest its ego talking but I certainly don’t think it is.

Anyway, I didn’t quite know what to think at the end but I certainly felt a bit like oh well thats a shame…

I guess I’m hardly changed in certain ways but forever changed in others. I do feel like I should be more changed that I actually am, but maybe thats the fighting response holding on to what I am or something… Who knows…

Grassroots Innovation & Creativity

Composition: King x Knight

People have been wondering what am I up to since Backstage closed down.

Well its kind of hard to describe but generally I’ve become the resident troublemaker, breaking all types of rules and really etching a new kind of path for myself. If I was going to explain it in a buzz word compliant way, it would be something like… Senior Emerging and Disruptive Grassroots Specialist for BBC R&D.

Yeah feel free to be sick all over your screens.

But one aspect I certainly want to focus on is new types disruption and innovation from the edges or grassroots.

So part of my new job will be seeking the seeds of disruption and innovation before they get to the point of broad adoption.

I come with examples…

Most of the people reading this have been on Twitter at least 4 years, and we could see something interesting was going on with Microblogging but no one really knew what? About 4.5 years ago I met the guys from Twitter (Ev and Biz) and I did talk about what we (BBC) could do with Twitter. Unfortunately I working on Backstage, meant my focus was on data. Although we did talk about what the opportunities Twitter might give the BBC. Of course most of that went up in smoke and Twitter marched on to establish a business model (ok not a very good one but its still something) and a certain amount of dominance in the microblogging and social fields.

Just imagine what would have happened if things turned out different. The point is there was something there and with a good trial someone else could have identified it as something interesting that the BBC should look deeper into.

How I find interesting stuff?

I mostly rely on the people around me for pointers. Thats why I tend to only follow a small number of people on twitter. But I also look at what certain people are up to. In actual fact, its this aspect which bough me to the BBC. Seeing what Tom Coates, Paul Hammond, Matt Patterson, Ben Metcalfe etc were up to really got me going. I had no idea who they were originally but most of them were pretty accessible in person, which really helped.

But as I’ve noticed and you would expect the list of innovators changes all the time. Not that I’m not saying these guys are not doing anything interesting. Actually they may be but new people come along all the time.

I’ve ping’ed a few people about the idea of what I’ll be doing into the future and had various comments back. Some positive, some quite negative but all a great help with lots of ideas and thoughts. One of the most provoking has to be the idea of it being an inbreed network. It really got me thinking… How do you have a network of trusted people but not make it your friends and keep the signal strong?

The obvious example seems to be keep it open… But with openness comes the trouble of keeping the noise out. Its a challenge but I’m hoping to tackle it in a social sciency kind of way.

I really like what Mozilla has done with there Drumbeat projects. But there is a theme which means people are rally around an idea or concept at least. But its wide open, which means you can get right to the edge, no messing. The best way to get stuff from very left-field. Actually I’ve been thinking instead of copying Mozilla, maybe there’s a way to leverage or even work with Mozilla for the benefit of both organisations?

Documenting stuff no matter what

Theres lot of things BBC R&D does which it classes as a throw away experiment and then years later I see something which resembles the original concept or idea. Its critically important to document and I would say share the successes as well as the failures. In R&D right now, we tend to bury this in obscure papers which don’t get to see the light of day. I always wanted to get away from writing papers but have fallen into the trap of writing papers too.

There are better ways, be it prototypes, a series of detailed blog entries, whatever works to document experiments and projects. I don’t doubt a properly authored paper with many citations are a better that a blog post. But if the paper becomes the reason why documentation isn’t done, then maybe its a problem? Right?

I’ve noticed a whole bunch of new ways to document stuff, most of them are simply prototypes filmed and put on youtube. It won’t stand up to much scrutiny but at the point it needs to, then thats when the paper can be written. Its like that all too familiar innovation funnel. Things are cheaper at the start than the end. Maybe you don’t want to commit to writing a lengthy paper when a series of blog post will aid writing the paper at a later date. The blog post can also function as prior art too.

What I have to recognize is that I work in the Emergence stage of innovation.

Emergence – (also known as embryonic stage) shows little improvement in key performance characteristic. Technology operates far below its potential. Neither the characteristics of technology nor its applicability to market needs may be well understood. A long gestation period exists before attempts are made to produce a technology. This new invention period is characterized by a period of slow initial growth. This is the time when experimentation and initial bugs are worked out of the system.

Its ok to be wrong

its ok to be haphazard

Its ok to not have all the answers

its ok to bounce from one thing to another.

Just as long as the experiments are cheap, documented and understanding is formed and shared internally and sometimes externally.

So with all that, spilled out across the this blog entry… I’m coming around to something which is I think very impressive and fundamentally what the BBC really needs now and for the future.

I guess its exactly what the guys behind Backstage were thinking before backstage was formed in 2004.

Wish me luck…

Mozilla Media Festival meet Dj Hackday?

Mozilla Festival — Media, Freedom and the Web
London, November 4 – 6, 2011

A gathering of passionate, creative people using the web to bend, hack and reinvent media. We’re solving real problems and building prototypes with talented designers, world-class journalists, resourceful media-makers, and cutting-edge developers.

The prolific Desigan Chinniah who now works for Mozilla and the always ever so sweet Michelle Thorn came to Manchester recently to kick start one of Mozilla’s Drumbeat projects. This one was centred a collaboration with the Knight foundation and trying to change the Newsrooms of the best companies with a good harsh look at Comments, People powered news and Better Video. The badly named Mojo project, is now in its closing stages and all the efforts are being judged. I am a little ashamed that more of the Manchester digital lot didn’t turn out but I’ve already made my feelings be known on Twitter. I did also say to the guys that I would write a blog post but never got around to it, so hopefully this will be a good sub for that.

The Mojo project was and is a very interesting open innovation project but more about this in a later to be written blog post…

When Desigan and Michelle were up in Manchester, I showed them around a little. We ended up after dinner having a late drink or a night cap if you prefer. So on a late night Tuesday we headed into the Northern Quarter for drinks ending up at Noho in Stephens Square.

We talked for ages  about many things including the idea of me Djing on my pacemaker at the Mozilla Media Festival in London in November. Of course I agreed… So if you want to see me djing live and you don’t live in and around Manchester, you can see The Cubicgarden working the dance floor with his pacemaker in London.

I’ve been thinking also as part of the media festivals innovation challenges it could be possible to run Dj Hackday as one of the challenge?

I’ve contacted many people regarding the concept of Dj Hackday including SoundCloud and MixCloud. And although there behind the idea and even see the point of having a hackday just for djs oppose to a music hackday. They seem less eustatic about coming up to Manchester for it, even with the great venue we may have for it. So this could work out quite well for everyone interested… I also like the idea of “a gathering of passionate, creative people using the web to bend, hack and reinvent djing

Lytro’s light field camera

I first heard about Light Field Cameras from a industral trainee called Matthew Shotton. Although as Tony points out on Twitter, it was the idea of using it for video which drive the project.  He built a system for Makerfaire 2010 which pushed a DSLR along a short track and take pictures at certain intervals.  Once taken he pulled them into a application he built which turns them into a camera which has endless focus points… (we really should have documented this better, oh well next time for sure)

Of course theres many people working in this area and my focus is more about the grassroots and open, but its interesting to see the commercial play.

Lytro are going to release a product soon they say

TV show and a MMO in one universe


I like the idea of Defiance

Defiance is a number of things. It’s a third-person shooter, but it’s also an MMO. It’s a PC game, but it’s also coming to consoles. It’s a video game, but it’s also a television show. A multimedia collaboration between Trion Worlds—the developer behind the MMORPG Rift, launched earlier this year—and the SyFy network, Defiance is nothing if not ambitious; events from the game will have an impact on the show, and vice versa.

Although not a totally new concept, its a good tie up and certainly something which more TV companies and maybe broadcasters will/should follow suit. The worry is that SyFy/Trion won’t get the tone right and it won’t be a success in broadcast terms or even in gaming terms. It needs to be very strong and each one should be great experiences in themselves.

However, Hill was quick to point out that even though the game and show work best in tandem, both Trion and SyFy are working hard to ensure that they also stand on their own as pieces of entertainment. “To get the full experience, though, you’re going to want to do both.”

One of the obvious ones I was thinking about when you think of this concept is The Sims. On the TV show, you could get people who play characters and interact as virtual characters in the game. The best interactions become storylines on the show… But there is the notion of who’s leading who?

How would the BBC be able to pull off such a project? Well with BBC Childrens and BBC Games Grid based in MediaCityUK, I don’t think it will be too long before it starts to naturally happen… You can certainly imagine a Radio Drama based around a live playscape.


A house and trance night like no other…

When I first moved to Manchester, I hoped to hear more trance… There wasn’t that much in London and to be honest London’s never really been a city for Trance. So with the move, the hope of trance. I mean all those great super clubs such as Gatecrasher, Cream, etc are from around the north of england.

But its not happen… I’ve been to a couple of nights run by Rong… but its gone quiet.

So in my usual way I don’t like to stand by and let it go. Instead I’ve setup my own night at Arcadia on Great Ancoats Street.

Of course its not just me, its Simon Lumb better known as Dirty Si is my partner in crime on this jump into the unknown. I’ve not played out for a while now but a long time ago I use to play regularly in Bristol but running your own night (even a bar night) is something else.

Others DJs are going to join us and we’re looking at going every week… Expect flyers, surprises and a full on promotion soon enough…. Now we just need a name for the night. I’m backing “Startup.”

Social steganography with Securebook?

Rob Best wrote to me after seeing my post on Social Steganography.

I read your article on social steganography and I have also become interested in it even if it is old news by now. So intrigued I decided to write my first Android app (Securebook) with the sole purpose of letting you hide secret messages in seemingly normal Facebook status updates. Hope you’ll check it out:

I wrote back to Rob and said, I’ll check it out and I did. I got the Free ad-supported version…

Securebook required my facebook login which was done via a web login, so it shouldn’t worried too much. Once in the application was pretty simplistic. You can look at your wall or post something. When you post, you get the option to write something publicly and something hidden.

So I thought i’d test it and posted something on my facebook wall.

testing securebook lite the first social steganography app

Can’t read the message in the message? Download Securebook to see what you’re missing.


Before long I received some interesting comments from friends (Combination of Micheal, Tim, Marcus, Maria, Paul) who were less that impressed… Of course you can’t see my wall (one of the problems with Facebook), so I finally did a summary and posted it to Rob Best as a email.

Having had a look about, it looks like securebook don’t understand what stenography means because they’re the ones adding lots of that text saying “Hey look, it’s encrypted”. Also, how would securebook know they’re the first social stenography app? There could be loads, and by definition you shouldn’t know if someone was using it! 🙂

Securebook isn’t doing stenography. Simple as that. Shoving the ciphertext in the exif comment data of a JPEG, and then posting the JPEG on a website, and linking to that from a facebook post (for example) would be stenography (after a fashion), because the message would not be visible. Simply adding the ciphertext clearly visible in the body of a status update is not stenography. If the person writing this app doesn’t understand that basic difference, stay away from the app, since they simply do not understand stenography.

Rob wrote back to me in this reply…


The paid version removes the “Can’t see the message …” text. And if you use the link functionality as your carrier, the only “give away” is that Facebook will show that the message was posted using Securebook (I may change this though).

And in reply to the rest of the comment…

Again, the cyphertext is not visible when a link is used as the carrier.

I actually had this in my first draft version. Actually, I first was encoding the message in the lower 4 bits of the photo and uploading it to Facebook. Problem is I couldn’t nail down Facebook’s compression so the message was lost. I then thought to put it in the exif data but Facebook strips that too! I then was forced to decide if I wanted to pursue this path or do something else.

I found that I could put the message in a Facebook link (replacing the actual URL) and since only the caption is displayed the message remained hidden, but of course the link was broken. I think this still constituted steganography though.

Lastly I looked into encoding the message using whitespace and also using the letter of each word in the message to do a dictionary lookup and find a word starting with that letter. The posts were of course non-nonsensical at that point so I scrapped that idea.

Going back to your comments, perhaps in version 2.0 I’ll add the ability to upload a photo to a site where I can manage the compression therefore saving the message encoded in the last 4 bits (or exif data) and link to it from Facebook.

So I think its a noble attempt and hopefully the feedback is helping Rob. Its a really great and useful first application, I’ll certainly keep it on my android device and look forward to the updates of Securebook. Good work Rob, interesting application and I’m sure once you get it cracked, people will flock to download it…

Introducing the Salford Cinema Club

Orange Wednesday

I’ve decided to kick off the Salford Cinema Club seeing how the Manchester Cinema Club seems to have gone quiet (last blog post was April 16th 2011).

One of the main reason is because now BBC North is based mainly in Salford Quays we’ve lost the BBC Club in the transition to Media City UK. So we need to make our own entertainment (as such). Orange Wednesday is a interesting concept and it just happens that the Lowry centre not only has one of the best theaters in the country but also a decent enough cinema and a Pizza Express right next door. Even if the film isn’t on there, the AMC 16 cinema is a short tram ride away at the Gmex/Castlefield stop (actually theres a nice short cut from the tram station to the cinema). So everything seems perfect for carrying out my idea of a cinema club. It may not work, but hey nothing tried, nothing gained…

The concept is simple…

Wednesday’s are Orange Wednesdays and a ecosystem has grown up around Wednesdays.

Every week, we’ll head to Pizza Express in Salford Quays to eat 2 for 1 pizza as part of the Orange Wednesday deal and discuss the range of films available at either the local Salford Quays Vue Cinema or the AMC 16 at the great northern (only a short tram ride away). After dinner, we’ll split up and head off to the films in question. Sometimes you’ll get a bunch of people going to one film and other times you may get a bunch of people going to many different films. The purpose of the meal is to capture peoples imagination and hopefully convince enough people that they should join you at the film of your choice.

The HTC, slowly feeling their way around

All my current phones

HTC you got to love them

From obscurity they rose via Microsoft’s Windows Mobile platform. I’ve always been a fan because frankly they packed in a ton of technology into their devices and then sold them at a reasonable price. Mainly because they signed exclusive deals to the likes of Orange in the UK.

When they started producing Android devices, things really picked up and HTC started making a real name for themselves with the general public. Hackers also enjoyed Android HTC devices because they were more like a PC than anything else. HTC must have understood this when they jumped on the Social media bandwagon…

However they may not have expected the 2 way nature of the early adopters. Here’s their backtracking in action

First caseHTC decides to lock all there bootloaders on future devices

Then… HTC changes its mind after all the comments on its own Facebook page

Second caseHTC says the Desire won’t get Gingerbread

Then… HTC backtracks, says the Desire will get Gingerbread after all‎