My Own Lil’ Privacy Crusade – Facebook Accidents Waiting To Happen

I have addressed my privacy concerns in the past, but every time I do that I am very careful not too come off as too strict or paranoid. Today I have witnessed how things people do in the virtual world can come back and bite them in the ass in the real world. Although it would have made a great teaching case, I will not be able to go into any details since it happened to people I care about.

Facebook is an amazing tool, and its privacy settings are excellent as they allows you to define exactly who sees what. You spend so much time on Facebook, is it too much to ask that you invest 10 minutes just one time to insure it does not ruin your life? I honestly don’t get it. Is it idiocy? Is it technophobia? Why insist on learning a lesson that so many others have learned before you?

Examples? Well, since I cannot go into that recent major one, let’s discuss other acquaintances of mine:

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Left: An acquaintance of mine who thought being naked in the toilet is something everyone should see. Right: An acquaintance of mine explaining herself after a recent ‘relationship status’ change made one too many friends ask her what was going on.

Convinced? Great! No need to delete any friends or photos. Just follow the simple instructions here: 10 Privacy Settings Every Facebook User Should Know.
Finished? Great, now pamper yourself by following the simple instructions here: How To Filter Out Facebook “Friends” Without Them Knowing.

All done? Now sit back and have a laugh:

Hey! Associated Press, Please Sue My Newspaper!

I am sure everyone had seen the Obama HOPE poster by Shepard Fairey, but I am not so sure many people follow up on the legal issues behind it. The basic plot goes like this: before creating the work, Fairey used Google to search for an Obama image as a reference. He found an image he liked and created what became a ubiquitous poster. More than a year after the poster went viral the Associated Press contacted Fairey, claimed they own the original image and wanted to sue him for damages. The best thing about it is that the photographer who actually took the original photo, Mannie Garcia, is not an AP employee but a freelancer who claims he holds the copyright and is not just fine with what Fairey created – he is proud of him. Here’s Fairey in his own words:

We live in interesting times. Technology is evolving so fast, we can barely keep up with the ethical and moral questions raised. And so if the AP chooses to put themselves at the wrong side of progress and sue Fairey for his use of the original photo, I plead with them to please also sue my newspaper Maariv and its caricaturist Zeus (Ron Zisenbach) who yesterday published the following image, in clear violation of the AP standard of fair use:
Obama Caricature in Israeli Newspaper Maariv - July 21, 2009
The Hebrew text says: “solar eclipse”

Media Mention: Shahar Golan Interviews with Kol Israel Radio

I was interviewed for the Voice of Israel English News on REKA radio in light of the new Cellcom TV ad. If you are unfamiliar with the ad you might want to check it out first:

Now here is my interview with journalist Idele Ross, as aired earlier today. Unfortunately the interview was cut short by breaking news just as I finishing making my point. Oh well… Fortunately, the interview was broadcast a second time, this time in its entirety:

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Newscaster Naomi Segal: […] You are tuned to Kol Yisrael, The Voice of Israel, broadcasting from Jerusalem. This week even the New York Times reported on the controversial Israeli television commercial for a cell phone company which shows Israeli soldiers and unseen Palestinians playing soccer over the security fence. Bloggers have been discussing the pros and cons of the commercial which carries the tagline “What do we all want? Some fun, that’s all”. Website designer and digital artist Shahar Golan blogs regularly about the culture of advertising in Israel. He spoke to reporter Idele Ross.

Shahar Golan: Usually when I look at an ad that amazes me at how either politically incorrect or just crass it is, I usually imagine, you know, like an 18 or 20 year old Israeli copywriter thinking about it and for some reason the process never stops at “Okay, that was a nice idea, let’s think deeper, let’s go further” and usually, in my mind at least, it seems like Israelis are making jokes and putting them into ads that really don’t make the cut.

Idele Ross: So why blog about this in English on the Internet? Wouldn’t you be more effective if you were, I don’t know, blogging about it in Hebrew?

Shahar Golan: Yeah, well… My niche is basically writing in English about popular culture and also I blog about Israeli stuff but since I see my audience as the entire world, I just can’t constrain myself into writing in Hebrew which has a definite number of people who can understand it. I write in English and hope that the world reads it and Israelis would make an effort to read it.

Idele Ross: So, among your most recent entries is “Top 10 Most Offensive Israeli Ads – Part 1“, “Top 10 Most Offensive Israeli Ads – Part 2“. Now, based on what’s out there, who’s reading and what kind of responses or talkbacks are you getting?

Shahar Golan: I usually see what people are searching for and basically people are interested in what offends people, either as research or, you know, they’ve seen something that was just so out there that they wanted to share and see who’s been talking about it and that’s how many people come to and find my blog. In the post that you mentioned, basically, I write down about politically incorrect or ads that were made hoping that no one outside Israel would see them. There’s an ad, for instance, for the cable company, HOT, that uses the Vietnam war in a very elaborate musical kinda way but was a bit too much in my opinion, assuming someone will, from the outside world, from the US or from Vietnam, would see it makes light of it just to entertain Israelis and sell a couple of cable subscriptions and that was a bit too much in my opinion.

Idele Ross: Will you be highlighting the most recent, somewhat controversial, Cellcom ad?

Shahar Golan: Right… I’ve been thinking about it, and thinking what I’m thinking about it and what’s my opinion, because basically the ad itself is rather cute, let me say, and that’s what’s rather annoying about it. You know, as Israelis we’re all soldiers at one point or another, and we like our soldiers, so when you’re seeing a couple of soldiers playing soccer in a cutesy kinda way it’s rather nice, but this has further political implications that I’m not sure either the ad company McCann Erickson thought about or the advertiser Cellcom had thought about because this basically moves them into the political conversation and I’m not sure that they want to find themselves there. The ad can be construed as rather controversial, because you see soldiers basically playing over the security fence, the Israeli barrier, but you don’t see their counterparts, you don’t see the Palestinians who are allegedly playing soccer with them, and it’s a convenient way for the company to say, you know, “We are connecting people, we are in communication”, and how easily it is to connect, to move beyond the obstacles, but basically since “the other” is faceless it’s rather crass and a very strange step for the company to engage in this political discussion that probably has no business within the business world.

Newscaster Naomi Segal: Blogger Shahar Golan. The weather outlook for tomorrow through Tuesday…

Update: I have just noticed I was mistaken and the Vietnam war ad I mentioned during the interview was not for Israeli cable television provider HOT, but for Israeli satellite television provider YES. Apparently, aside from leaving a bad aftertaste, the ad was unsuccessful in ‘branding’ me with their product. HOT, YES, it’s all a blur…

Design for Obama: The TASCHEN Book – Follow-up #2

Three months ago I was asked to participate in a new art book by TASCHEN. The Hebrew posters I designed for the Obama campaign had reached the right people and will be included in the upcoming anthology. The book is scheduled for sale on November 2009 to mark one year of the Obama presidency, and it looks like it is coming along just fine, as I just found out it now has an official name and a cover design:

Design for Obama, Posters for Change: A Grassroots Anthology
Edited by Spike Lee and Aaron Perry-Zucker
Essay by Steven Heller

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You can pre-order the book right now!

Big Packages, Small Packages, Stamps and Letters, People in a Line

Israel Post LogoSent some parcels today from the neighborhood post office, and when I tried to track their delivery online I was reminded of how lame is when it comes to this simple task. Basically, when you submit an item number for tracking, you are redirected to a page which gives you its status. Naturally you would want to keep the results page open and refresh it from time to time, but while the status of the item changes – the page never does. For that, you would need to resubmit your 13-digits-long item number every time you want to inquire about its status.

For your benefit, here is the workaround I use. If you have a browser that can be set to auto-refresh a page, like Opera, just copy this URL, then paste it in your browser after editing the item ID. For most people, it might be easier to download this file, unzip it and update the item IDs using Notepad. Then just load the html in your favorite browser and it will auto-refresh every 10 minutes.

And now for some post-office related nostalgia:

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Guess I Am Not Human, Then…

YouTube's Captcha SucksCaptcha, those ‘Are you human?’ tests usually appear when signing up for services, but now they pop up when you least expect them, like searching for a video on YouTube. Something in the way I use YouTube must be triggering the YouTube beast, as it challenges me to a duel so often it has become a nuisance.
Now I am not dyslexic and my English skills are just fine, so when I noticed I was failing YouTube’s Captcha tests in succession, sometimes passing the test only after my sixth or seventh attempt, I started to get suspicious.
Above are 16 YouTube Captcha tests I personally believe failed recently. Some of them are so simple and obvious that you might think there would be no problem ‘solving’ them – but you’d be wrong. And the fact they need to be quote-unquote solved, is just what’s wrong with the system as these reverse Turing tests are supposed to come natural. Facebook, for example, asks you to type in real words – and I never seem to fail their tests.

Apparently Professor Lawrence Lessig has bigger problems with machines going wild. Here is a lecture he gave three days ago titled “Will Technology Change Our World”:

So What’s The Deal With Pornography?

Discussing porn on my blog was not in my plans, but Seinfeld – A XXX Parody seems like a riot. It is supposed to be the adult version of one of my favorite TV shows, and apparently it answers questions like: what it would be like if Jerry got it on with Elaine, or if Kramer stumbled into a 3-way. Check out the SFW trailer:

CompuServe Died! Who Did What Now?!

Know whence thou comest and whither thou goest;
 – – Ethics of the Fathers: Chapter Three

CompuServe died this week. The service that started in 1969 and by the 1980s offered electronic mail, real-time chat and online shopping, was shut down by AOL, its current owner. Yes, of course I know most people have never heard of CompuServe. The Internet, just like electricity, has always been there – or so it seems.

I am pretty sure I really hope there are many people out there who would be interested in learning how all this came about and there’s no place better to start than by watching BBS: The Documentary. Spanning 8 episodes of 40 minutes each, it’s almost as long as a Claude Lanzmann’s documentary, but it’s full of geeks reminiscing about old times. Here’s the first episode:

Check out episodes 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8.

For Once, the Yes Men Say No

Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonanno, The Yes Men, have an unusual hobby: posing as top executives of corporations they hate. Armed with nothing but thrift-store suits, they lie their way into business conferences and parody their corporate nemeses by basically doing everything that they can to wake up their audiences to the danger of letting greed run the world. I have watched their 2003 documentary and was hoping to catch their newest film, when I found out they will be protesting Israeli policies by withdrawing from the Jerusalem Film Festival in solidarity with the ‘Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign for Palestine’. Here’s an excerpt from their letter to the JFF:

[…] This decision does not come easily, as we feel a strong affinity with many people in Israel, sharing with them our Jewish roots, as well as the trauma of the Holocaust, in which both our grandfathers died. Andy lived in Jerusalem for a year long ago, can still get by in Hebrew, and counts several friends there. And Mike has always wanted to connect with the roots of his culture.
But despite all our feelings, we cannot abandon our mission as activists. In the 1980s, there was a call from the people of South Africa to artists and others to boycott that regime, and it helped end apartheid there. Today, there is a clear call for a boycott from Palestinian civil society. Obeying it is our only hope, as filmmakers and activists, of helping put pressure on the Israeli government to comply with international law.
[…] To those who want to see our film, savlanut and sabir (patience)! And for all the rest of us, a little LESS patience, please.
L’shanah haba’ah beyerushalayim,
Andy and Mike
The Yes Men

After reading their full letter I still disagree with their action but I do so respectfully. Here’s what we’ll be missing:

There’s Many Lost, But Tell Me Who Has Won?

And it’s true we are immune
When fact is fiction and TV reality.
And today the millions cry
We eat and drink while tomorrow they die.
  – – “Sunday Bloody Sunday” – U2

I grew up listening to Michael Jackson. In 1993 I watched him perform on stage in Tel-Aviv. I am not indifferent to the loss of this pop icon. Still, I cannot help think what I hastily wrote two weeks ago has been proven to be true: if the events in Iran are a test case then the mainstream media is not doing its job. Virtually all the major news programs have transformed into Entertainment Tonight, dedicating valuable time to insignificant events: there is no will, no there is a will, she doesn’t want the kids, no she does want the kids, open casket, closed casket. COME ON ALREADY! The guy died – that was news. When the autopsy report will be published – that will be news too. Everything in between is just noise, and lots of it.

As honest newsmen turn into gossip guys in front of our eyes, people who are interested in getting the news, the real news, must turn to new media, and I am pretty sure they won’t be back soon. Like other industries before them, the television industry is dying a slow ungraceful death in front of our eyes. Reading from on the air is the beginning of the end.

One invaluable source of real news from Iran has been Huffington Post’s Nico Pitney who’s been live blogging since the uproar began. Whatever name future historians will give to the events we are witnessing in Iran, there is no doubt that this is a complex process that cannot be reduced to dichotomies of good and bad, free and oppressed, conservative and reformist. As far as I can tell, the only way to gain any knowledge and hopefully some understanding of how events unfold in this foreign country, is to spend a couple of minutes every day scanning through Pitney’s updates.

HuffPo’s Iran live blogging is also where I found out about this latest act of solidarity: it is U2 performing last night at Barcelona, flooding the stage with green light in support of the protesters, singing ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday‘ as the lyrics in Farsi run across the video screens.