On Fans and Fanatics

[singlepic id=276 w=320 h=240 float=right]I was a member of the (now defunct) ‘Support Gili & Dorit’ Facebook group for a while now, and thought it is only fair to convey my criticism for the lack of originality shown in the first dance routine in Dancing With The Stars, and so I posted a link to it on the group’s wall. Apparently my (and Justice Brandeis‘) sunlight-is-the-best-disinfectant attitude was not appreciated, as the link I posted was soon deleted and I was banned (!) for life from ever posting or re-joining the group.

Now, mind you, I am not complaining here. On the contrary! This is almost a badge of honor. But I do want to make a couple of points:
1. Always save screen captures.
2. Aaron Sorkin said it best in The West Wing (jump to the 2:57 marker)
httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SkMQkyAB_O4

What’s Wrong With the Israeli Internet Today? – An Update

Two years ago, while watching the film Rendition I was quite taken with Moroccan actress Zineb Oukach which I mistook for Israeli actress Hadar Ratzon. This led to my making a point about the Israeli Internet being stuck in the 1990’s, a point I seem to keep on making.

Later on I used the Israeli Screen Actors Guild as an example for Israel’s laxed approach to privacy and how, for instance, Ratzon’s cellphone number, SSN and date of birth can be revealed using a simple Google search.

Now, since most people cannot distinguish between a ‘white hat’ and a ‘black hat’, it is quite likely all this made me look like a kind of stalker. Creating a portrait of Ratzon out of her cellphone digits probably didn’t help. :)
I get that vibe now and again from people who don’t get technology. I guess it’s true what they say: ignorance is bliss. Apparently once one’s naivete has been interrupted, one sometimes gets upset.

Okay, so in two years’ time has anything changed? Not much:
1. Israel’s leading acting agency Perry Kafri still won’t spend a couple of bucks building a website for each of its actors.
2. Two years ago, Hadar Ratzon’s page consisted of three photos, one coding error and no background information. Today it boasts eight photos, zero coding errors, some background information – but also quite a few errors including some kind of “Mongols contest” which presumably stands for “monologue contest”; Plus a characterization of Ratzon’s acting part in “Rendition” as “leading role” – a gross exaggeration.
3. Two years later, the Israeli Screen Actors Guild did nothing to curtail its privacy leakage.
4. Hadar Ratzon now has an official website! Yes, I was quite happy to be notified of this glorious fact by a friend of Ratzon who built it for her (oh, but of course). Two years ago I suggested HadarRatzon.com – but apparently she went with HadarRatzon.co.il.

And so we get enough progress to celebrate with a showreal [sic]. Here’s to hoping Hadar Ratzon is taking all this in stride:
httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UrYykvP6jMA

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:
httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dRap7uw9iWI&showinfo=0

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

Close Encounters of the Turkish Censorship Kind

Vacationing in Göynük, Turkey,
Thinking to myself:
This is how all Muslim countries should be,
Secular, advanced and free.

Logging to YouTube and reading this:

How YouTube looks in Turkey - BANNED - 2008-12-23

 

Access to this web site is banned by “TELEKOMÜNİKASYON İLETİŞİM BAŞKANLIĞI” according to the order of: Ankara Çubuk Sulh Ceza Mahkemesi, 30/10/2008 of 2008/558

 

No worries… Anonymizing proxies work fine.

What’s Wrong With the Israeli Internet Today? – Brought To You Courtesy of the Israeli Ministry of Transport

I have already posted an elaborate list of the top annoyances plaguing the Israeli Internet*, but wherever my mouse takes me I encounter more and more prototypical examples:

Let’s say you want to check out the official website of the Israeli Ministry of Transportation. You skip Google, as you can distinctly recall the easy to remember URL from a radio spot, and so you type in: mot.gov.il – only to receive this disappointing page:
[singlepic id=90 w=500 h=441 float=center]

No, 404 is not the serial number of a new form you need to fill out, but the error message you get as someone was not clever enough to define the DNS settings properly.

Now, I should point out that the world can be divided into two groups:

  • One group is made up of those who believe that, similar to Dorothy clicking her heels three times, their typing the letter W three times magically charges the Internet, thus allowing it to flow smoothly and deliver data to their computer. Individuals within that group tend to utter phrases like ‘I clicked on the Internet’ or ‘the Internet is broken’.
  • The second group is made up of those who actually know what FTP, gopher or telnet mean, thus knowing WWW was an arbitrarily chosen name for the server that delivers HTML pages. Individuals in this group tend to skip the unnecessary typing of www in domain names, but will always say ‘double-you double-you double-you’ when dictating web addresses to acquaintances they do not consider particularly sharp.

 

Okay, back to the Ministry of Transportation:
Upon receiving the 404 error, you enter the same address with the WWW prefix, and lo and behold, you get the government website:
[singlepic id=89 w=500 h=441 float=center]

Now take a close look at the web address in the right-hand corner:

That’s right! No www!

Now, as I pointed out in a previous post, aside from the obvious disaster of not showing your reader the requested website, there are two additional mistakes the MOT webmasters made:

  • They failed to define a human-readable 404 error page, with some helpful links
  • They failed to define a reporting mechanism that would raise a flag at the webmasters side

 

Related browser trick:
Clicking Ctrl-Enter instead of Enter in your address bar, results in the auto completion of the URL with a ‘www’ prefix and a ‘.com’ suffix.

 

* For a lack of a better term, ‘Israeli Internet’ is what I call the ad-hoc collection of websites run by Israelis.
** As with my previous posts, all the information was checked, double checked, and was correct at the time of its publishing.

What’s Wrong With the Israeli Internet Today? – Brought To You Courtesy of the Israeli Screen Actors Guild

Update 1/2010: Hadar Ratzon now has an official website at HadarRatzon.co.il

I have already posted an elaborate list of the top annoyances plaguing the Israeli Internet, but wherever my mouse takes me I encounter more and more prototypical examples:
Today, while preparing to reply to a recent reader’s comment in a post I wrote about Israeli actress Hadar Ratzon, I stumbled upon her private cell phone number, her home number, home address, and email. Yes, believe it or not – all it took was a simple Google search, as apparently Shaham, the Israeli Screen Actors Guild thought it wise to upload her resum? to their website, including the mentioned contact details. Upon expanding my search I found around 150 members’ resumes, many of which included contact details and even the coveted national ID number (an SSN equivalent).

This is what where we are headed in this 21st century: never mind the criminal acts, like the occasional stealing of Ministry of Interior records and uploading it to the nearest P2P network – no need for criminal acts when the government ships the database by regular mail and it gets lost. Never mind the illegal reverse telephone lookup which lets you easily spy upon a caller, revealing its name and address – no need for illegal acts when a body of government passes regulation to reveal contact details of pet owners, so that as long as you are stalking someone who has a dog, you can get all your spying needs fulfilled legally.

[singlepic id=55 w=240 h=360 float=right]Forget about sex tapes leaked to the internet – that is just entertainment compared to the tidal wave of bank frauds, phishing scams and identity thefts headed our way. You thought The Net was a silly 1995 film with Sandra Bullock? Better think again. Lucky for Bullock she is not a member of the Israeli SAG, so I cannot use her cell phone number as a gimmick to end this post – but if you liked the 2007 film Rendition, just pick up the phone and convey that to cast member Hadar Ratzon – you already know how to find her phone number.
 
 

It’s not about abortion. It’s about the next 20 years. Twenties and thirties, it was the role of government. Fifties and sixties, it was civil rights. The next two decades, it’s gonna be privacy. I’m talking about the Internet. I’m talking about cell phones. I’m talking about health records, and who’s gay and who’s not. And moreover, in a country born on a will to be free, what could be more fundamental than this?

– Sam Seaborn (Rob Lowe) – The West Wing TV Series

 
  

* As with my previous ‘What’s Wrong With the Israeli Internet Today?’ posts, all the information was checked, double checked, and was correct at the time of its publishing. On average, things I complain about tend to get fixed, usually within a few weeks, so if you stumbled upon this page and got different Google results, it probably means that the relevant people read my post. No worries, in the age of Internet Archive, nothing posted on the internet can ever be removed.

** Hadar Ratzon was somewhat surprised an hour ago when I rang her up. Although she knew Shaham had her resum?, she was not aware that any Tom, Dick or Harry can just run her digits and get her on the phone (or show up at her doorstep, for that matter). She did not sound too happy about that.
On a related side note, she acknowledged visiting the mentioned previous post about her on my blog, and insinuated it was the trigger for improving her official Agency page.

ANSI art created using HTML Image Page Builder

What’s Wrong With the Israeli Internet Today? – Brought To You Courtesy of the IDF

I have already posted an elaborate list of the top annoyances plaguing the Israeli Internet*, but wherever my mouse takes me I encounter more and more prototypical examples:

Let’s say you want to check out the official website of the Israeli Defense Forces. You google IDF (in Hebrew in our example), and get these results:
[singlepic id=29 w=450 h=900 float=center]

Oh my, you hit the jackpot! The first result is exactly what you were looking for. Feeling lucky you click the first result only to receive this disappointing page:
[singlepic id=30 w=450 h=900 float=center]

No, 404 is not a new Israeli army unit, but the error message you get as of recent days, as someone was clever enough to wait for the page to reach Google’s number one result and only then screw up with the DNS settings.

Aside from the obvious disaster of not showing your reader the requested website, following are additional mistakes by the IDF webmasters:

  • Failing to define a human-readable 404 error page, with some helpful links
  • Failing to define a reporting mechanism that would raise a flag at the webmasters’ side
  • Defining a folder name with CAPS is very unorthodox, and using a Hebrew word (‘dover’) is an additional no no. These two methods assure your readers never remember the exact URL, making them dependent on search engine results – and we just learned how far that gets you.

If you still want to check out the IDF website, you can click here for Hebrew or click here for English:
[singlepic id=31 w=450 h=900 float=center]

* For a lack of a better term, ‘Israeli Internet’ is what I call the ad-hoc collection of websites run by Israelis.

Blogging: The Tipping Point

Update: This post discusses TipJoy, which has now shut down its service. More info here.

Most bloggers and small content-providers do not expect to earn money that way. They do it for the fun of it, writing about things close to their heart. But everyone needs to feel the love, and so bloggers take comfort in the rising number of visitors, the search terms that led visitors to the website, and by the comments left.

When that initial love fades, many bloggers post a PayPal donation button or an Amazon Honor System paybox, to allow readers to leave small cash tips as a way of saying thank you for the content provided. The thing is, as most people read multiple blogs daily, it usually takes an extraordinary event to make a reader step out of his comfort zone, login to his PayPal account and actually send a buck.
This is where TipJoy, an exciting new startup comes to the rescue: readers are not required to create an account to leave a tip, so the initial friction is removed. They just click the tip this button | TipJoy.com button and type in their email address, thus starting to build up an account debit – one single account for tips left in multiple websites. Eventually readers can pay that debit off via PayPal, although no one comes after you if you choose to skip out on the bill. Readers can also start to ask for tips on their own site, and anything people leave for them offsets what they have given to others.
That is the magical simplicity of TipJoy: Did you read something that made you laugh? Tip the blogger 10 cents. Someone posted a scoop you enjoyed reading? Click to tip them. At the end of the month, go to your TipJoy account, and pay your entire 3 dollar bill in a single PayPal transaction.

frgdr.com added TipJoy’s ‘tip this’ buttons to its posts. We’ll see how it goes.

Hat tip to TechCrunch.

Web 2.0 and Jerusalem Snow Alerts

Jerusalem is expecting significant snowfall this coming Tuesday evening, and so the director of the Naggar School of Art, a client of mine, has asked for my advice on how to instantly update the school website so that students will know if there will be any classes Wednesday morning.
Good thing Web 2.0 was around to help us out: the Internet in its current phase enables different services to interface, that is exchange data with each other, and that allowed me to make one school director very happy, as he is now able to text snow status updates from his cellphone, allowing the students to receive automatic updates by SMS, RSS, or by simply visiting the school website.

Here is a cool video explaining Web 2.0. You may need to watch it a couple of times to absorb all the information:

httpv://youtube.com/watch?v=NLlGopyXT_g
 
 
The CommonCraft Show has great videos explaining different aspects of Web 2.0 in plain English, so anyone (Yes, even your mother) can understand.

If you want to find Shahar Golan / frgdr.com around Web 2.0 you can read his FAQ here.

What’s Wrong With the Israeli Internet Today? – Brought To You Courtesy of Hadar Ratzon

Update 1/2010: Hadar Ratzon now has an official website at HadarRatzon.co.il

I have already posted an elaborate list of the top annoyances plaguing the Israeli Internet*, but wherever my mouse takes me I encounter more and more prototypical examples:

Let’s say you’re watching the film Rendition (2007), and you notice a breathtaking actress:
[singlepic id=4 w=450 h=254 float=center]

You wait until the movie ends, and by scanning the credit list you find out her name is Hadar Ratzon:
[singlepic id=6 w=450 h=254 float=center]

You come home from the cinema, and anxiously google it:
[singlepic id=7 w=450 h=254 float=center]

Of course you did not really expect to find an official HadarRatzon.com website, as that may cost up to ten (10!) dollars a year, but the first result is her agent and it seems promising:
[singlepic id=8 w=450 h=296 float=center]

Guess again! Three photos and a website error – this is all the information you get from the company that gets a significant percentage off her income. Could there be a better example to prove that Israeli companies do not consider the Internet a marketing tool, nor a knowledge acquisition tool?

* For a lack of a better term, ‘Israeli Internet’ is what I call the ad-hoc collection of websites run by Israelis.


Afterword:
Thanks to reader koko, I stand corrected. I must have been mesmerized by Fatima Fawal (Zineb Oukach) and her middle-eastern features, that when the credits rolled I mixed her up with Safiya (Hadar Ratzon). As koko suggested, Safiya is the lover and co-worker of Douglas Freeman (Jake Gyllenhaal). Here is a frame of hers from the film:
[singlepic id=14 w=450 h=254 float=center]
And another one, just to make it up to her:
[singlepic id=15 w=450 h=254 float=center]
Either way, my critique of the Israeli Internet still stands – it just so happens that this entire post started by a case of mistaken identity.