Security vs Usability

I’ve come to a point where I do **not** update apps, plugins, software in general. I know that’s a regressive approach to safety, but safety can’t keep trumping usability all the time.

Source: My comment on Stephen’s Notebook

 

Every few days, I have a conversation about security vs usability somewhere. With my iPad Mini, I blindly trusted Apple to do the right thing and they’ve screwed me over. It’s a beloved device, destroyed completely by iOS 9.

So I’ve basically given up on this bullshit harp that companies sing of ‘security’ to shove software updates down our throats. Sometimes it’s their stupidity, and sometimes it’s just them being sinister. The new Microsoft is the old Microsoft. The benevolent Apple is an insidious Apple. Don’t get me started on Facebook, twitter, and Google. Gmail is just the latest casualty of our overzealous overlords.

Yes, security is a big problem. Yes, it needs constant vigilance. But just like national defense budgets, one key phrase doesn’t allow organizations to completely railroad people’s expectations, asks, hopes, and in this case, UX.

If you’re concerned that by not updating software, you’re living on the edge, restrict the things you do on that device, while keeping other devices that are completely updated and secured. Use only frequently updated third party browsers instead of the default options. Read up on the latest security scares on the Internet and just be aware of the situations you can get into. But most importantly – back up. Make frequent backups of things you care about. I don’t care if it’s as much as letting iCloud run its course every night, and Google Photos siphoning off your pics. Just do it so that if you brick your device, or get hacked, you’re not set back a hundred years.

99% of security is just keeping your eyes open.

This is why Google+ integration failed

 

google+ spam

I got the above chat request a few days ago. This came in Hangouts, which is tied into my GMail. I opened it today. Amanda wants to chat. OK.

But, who’s Amanda? No where in the above window is there a link that goes out to Amanda’s Google+ profile. I can’t even see Amanda’s gmail ID from this dialog. But that’s supposed to be a moot point if I can get access to her (it’s?) Google+ profile.

But if I can’t see either of those, how do I know it’s spam or a legit chat request. To err on the side of caution, I’ve Ignored, Reported and Blocked Amanda.

This is why the Google+ integration failed from the get go. If you’re going to shove it down our throats, at least be thorough with it.

Notes for Week 2 of 2014

So, it’s been an interesting week. Some observations –

Social

Found this gem of a Difference between Facebook and Twitter –

Facebook – 

“Best Practices

Making API calls directly to Facebook can improve the performance of your app, rather than proxying them through your own server.”

Twitter – 

“Caching

Store API responses in your application or on your site if you expect a lot of use. For example, don’t try to call the Twitter API on every page load of your website landing page. Instead, call the API infrequently and load the response into a local cache. When users hit your website load the cached version of the results.”

< p>Turns out, when not losing market share to a third-party app, Facebook is actually quite nice to developers as compared to Twitter. To be fair, tweets constitute a lot more volume and processing, so it would make sense for Twitter to want the devs to cache their data. Also, even ADN  has rate limits but at least their limits are more generous than Twitter.

Seriously though, twitter has millions of dollars for servers and all I have is a 128MB VPS. What the heck, Twitter?

Google(+)

Google is no longer Google. It’s Google(+). Everything we love about Google and it’s services is being slowly replaced by Google+ and the latest victim is GMail. Now anyone on Google+ can email you without knowing your email ID. As a communication tool, this makes GMail more open. But that’s exactly what people don’t use GMail for. They use it for Email. Big difference there Google. You can opt-out, but what’s the bet that option will be going away soon?

What Google should actually do –

Google understands one thing and one thing alone – Search. Pushing Google+ isn’t going to help them overcome the social networks of the world. But there is one thing I covet – the Search API. Seriously, why don’t we see third-party Search apps that innovate the way we see our Search results. That’s one data stream we’ve not targeted yet. Google needs to let people in, do their thing and pretty soon we’ll see people integrating Search with  social platforms. Oh, you wanna see which of your Facebook friends searched for the latest Tom Hanks movie and then clicked on IMDB? Here’s the data to that. Seriously Google, stop letting one segment of the business take over the other, specially since we know you’ll kill Google+ a couple of years from now.

Advertising

Ah, advertising! The Bane of TV show lovers binge-watchers. Advertising has slowly crept in everywhere on the Internet, from YouTube to Hulu. Towards YouTube, go find YouTube5. It’s an extension that replaces the usual YouTube player with a cool HTML5 one and kills all ads in the process. Enjoy.

To Hulu, I say, well, get rid of the “Brandon Switched to Ford” ad. Seriously. It’s a stupid ad, I’ve seen all too much of it and Brandon looks like a total douche for being the black sheep who abandoned the family tradition and switched from a Honda to a Ford. If ever Hulu fails, it’ll be because they keep repeating the same ads over and over again. I do not want to be bored by ads, I want them to be innovative and interesting. (Coincidentally, Samuel L Jackson staring in my face is not innovative. I’m looking at you, Capital One.)

I finally also saw the KFC ads that look like some woman with a video camera uploaded to YouTube. That’s supposed to be innovative? Nope. She looks drunk/high/both and you’re not fooling anyone with these ads KFC, those are scripted (or worse, they’re not!).

Finally, saw a teeth whitening strips ad on Hulu that said, very specifically, “If your teeth are not getting white, they’re getting yellow”. Ok, first of all, yellow teeth are perfectly normal and more an indication of stomach trouble than a medical emergency. Second, the ad targets people women who drink coffee. First it was guys who smoke who were targeted and now this. Finally, that text up there. That’s a scare tactic. Pretty soon, they’ll come up with a white paper saying that yes, your teeth getting yellow is a medical problem and you need to use teeth whitening strips in conjunction with toothpaste. All of this will be driven by only one thing – Sales telling the Marketing team to get innovative with the ads. There’s no real medical issue that they’ve tried to resolve.

That concludes the rant session on advertising.

Clients from Heaven

I’ve been building a web app for my brother and he mentioned that the text on the screen doesn’t ‘look black’. For a second, I tried hard not to wonder if my brother is a typical MBA Client from Hell but as it turns out, he was right, the text was actually #2C3E50 which is actually a weird dark blue. Thanks Bootstrap for making me look bad in front of my brother!

WordPress

It was an exciting week to be a WordPress user. Snaplive, a front-end text editing solution was showcased to a few who had signed up for updates. It seems to work really well with WordPress, so expecting some really good things in the future.

Ghost had promised to revolutionize WordPress, but instead it went and setup shop elsewhere. That’s ok, since we have Gust, which is a plugin that ports the awesome Ghost Admin panel functionality to WordPress. Mind you, this just released, so if you’re not ready for bugs (which software doesn’t have bugs?), don’t install this yet.

Finally, a shout out to whatweekisit.com, which I used to, umm, calculate which week of 2014 we’re in. Yeah, I should have just looked at a calendar.

Are you getting hammed on your social network?

We all hate spam. Spam is useless, it fills up too much of our email space and it takes a lot of time to get rid of. That’s why email providers invented filters. They wanted everyone to be rid of everything associated to spam.

In today’s age, we’re not restricted to email. Most of our conversations happen on social networks and email is reserved for sending documents or larger conversations (or maybe the occasional person who’s still not on any social network). There’s some protection from spam in social networks because it’s in the benefit of the network providers to prevent non-sense from entering a user’s feed (this is, of course, not true for Facebook). Thus there are enough ways to block spam (ban the spamming friend or application, set filters or use hardware to detect spam) or to avoid it (by overlooking certain posts) that we’re no longer too worried about spam. But what about ham? Continue reading

Why Google+ will fail

I hate to be a harbinger of bad tides, but here are a few reasons why google+ will fail. I don’t write much nowadays so I’ll keep it short –

  1. Too much to do
    All websites ever successful started with just an idea. Google’s humble beginning was a page with a search box and a button. Twitter started with just one stream of tweets pouring in. Facebook started out as a place where you yourself share your profiles and likes and dislikes. So, when a mash-up of ideas comes along, people not only compare it to all other services, but also feel confused at what’s happening. I still remember introducing Facebook to my brother Nipun and he telling me that it’s darn confusing to use. Yesterday when I gave him a tour of Google+ the first thing he pointed out was that it’s just twitter on google! I tried to explain that there are other features too like group video chat etc but he just pointed me to an article about facebook teaming up with skype (he’s not tech-unsavvy, just waits for me to give him the latest news). Granted, facebook will probably flounder with video chat just like they do with everything else, but considering how people are well settled into facebook and google plus will still remain in beta (oops, they call it field testing!!!) for a long time to come, facebook can quickly gain lost ground since people know skype’s the best!!!
  2. Too much integration
    It seems that ever since I’ve gained access to google plus (5 of my friends added me to circles and I was in), Google+ is everywhere. From my google reader page, to my iOS mobile gmail login and from my emails ( I got a flood of google+ notifications) to my custom mail client ( I use mailplane for Mac, so shoot me!!). Google wants google+ to be everywhere I go. I don’t want that. I want to be able to shut it down and get rid of it when I want. I can do that with facebook, with twitter and I even did it long ago with good old orkut ( yes I too was on that boat once). But can I do it with google+? No. Bad idea. It has become so pervasive that I opened my google account settings and there it was, a dedicated google+ settings page. All this integration now seems to drive me away from google et al. I don’t wanna do that!!!
  3. Change is everywhere.
    Mashable says that in the google+ wave, google has plans of renaming picasa and blogger to google photos and google blogs ( thank god they didn’t touch YouTube!). When you login to gmail, the top right has a link to show you gmail’s new look. One of my apps recently updated itself since they say google has changed the way gmail’s handling of third party apps has changed. Ok, there’s change everywhere. But so much so fast? Google is but one entity to me. It gives me mail, search, blogs and images. But it’s just one entity. Even if all the above changes are not due to one single team, this is definitely a classic case of left arm not knowing that the right arm is updating the code. My whole plethora of google offerings is changing
    Within the next month or so and not all of it will be good. Most importantly, from a PR standpoint it’ll all be blamed to google+ since that’s the major new thing that google came up with. And with the integration that I pointed out above, google+ just doesn’t feel right.

I like Google. They make great products. But in an effort to gain whatever market they’ve lost to facebook and twitter and skype, they just made a mashup that even mashable would not approve of!!! It remains to see if I’m right.