• Moving On….. Thanks, and Goodbye


    Back in September of 2008 a small, yet hardy, bunch of bloggers, backed by the support of Zoho, embarked on a journey of discovery, creating what they hoped would become the number one resource for cloud computing thought leadership. I was stoked to be offered the opportunity to co-edit CloudAve and appreciated working with Zoli […]

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  • Podcast: Open Source and Cloud Computing


    I have been advocating the role of Open Source in a Cloud based world. Recently, I got a chance to sit and talk with Geva Perry and James Urquhart on their podcast about the relevance of open source in a cloud based world. You can download the podcas…

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  • Rackspace Gives Email Users Choice


    I believe that all generic technology services should be outsourced. Anything that doesn’t provide a point of differentiation for your business is a candidate to move to the cloud. One of the first applications in this class is, I believe, email. Beyond security of your data, there is no compelling reason to keep your mail […]

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  • Doing Well By Doing Good – ConsumerBell


    After the GoogleIO conference a few weeks ago, I attended the Mashable soiree at SoMA watering hole Roe. Somewhat jaded by jetlag, too little sleep and a punishing conference schedule, I spent most of the evening leaning against a…

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  • The Cloud – A Post Hype Reflection


    Recently I was asked to present to the Canterbury branch of the New Zealand Computer Society on cloud computing. Icelandic volcanoes resulted in me partnering with Abhinav Keswani, fellow Christchurch industry insider, to present to the gathering. My presentation was a general overview, along with a criticism of the all-too-prevalent cloudwash I’m seeing in the […]

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  • Privacy Settings are a Crutch. Free Apps Profit from your Data

    Happy 1984

    William Vambenepe posts a challenging thought piece with a very simple contention – Data too sensitive to leak from Facebook is too sensitive to be on Facebook.

    Vambenepe gives many examples of ways that Facebook can fail, but sums it up with a simple piece of advice: “Don’t put anything on any social network that you don’t want to be made public.” He goes on to broaden his thesis, looking at the Google Buzz fiasco saying that:

    It’s as if your insurance company suddenly decided it wanted to enter the social networking business and announced one day that you were now “friends” with all their customers who share the same medical condition. And will you please log in and update your privacy settings if you have a problem with that, you backward-looking, privacy-hugging, profit-dissipating idiot.

    All of which was interesting given the (somewhat in jest) session I lead at the recent Google Bar Camp entitled “Who is more evil, Google, Apple or Microsoft?”. Now given that this was a Google event with a bunch of Apple users present, I was pretty certain that Redmond would come out looking worst in the scrap but in fact this wasn’t the case. At both this session and a similar one I’d run previously along the same lines – people surprised me in their response. Many seemed to have the view that all three are evil, it’s just that with Microsoft and Apple their evilness is overt, whereas with Google it’s a much more understated attribute.

    Now I’m not at all a Google hater. I live in Google apps, I’ve got lots of friends who work for the organization and fundamentally I love what they’ve done to the marketplace but despite all that I feel a little… uneasy. The theory goes like this:

    Microsoft and Apple make their gazillions  from selling software and/or hardware that, in a lot of examples, is proprietary and that traps its users into a particular way of working. Users, to a greater or lesser extent, accept this vendor lock in because they:

    1. Gain a consistent way of working
    2. Feel some certainty over the security of their data

    Google is different – we all know that Google manages to offer us cheap or free products mainly because they are able to make huge money off of the collective intelligence that they so effectively mine – and this is where our concerns begin. People are (broadly) comfortable with their web searching habits being part of the great Google aggregate, but that becomes more concerning when they’re considering the same with their documents, their photos, their financial data.

    So what can we learn from this triumvirate? And how should we relate that to the current furore regarding Facebook and privacy?

    As Vambenepe says:

    Yes you should have clear privacy settings. But the place to store them is in your brain and the place to enforce them is by controlling what your fingers do before data gets on Facebook. Facebook and similar networks can only leak data that they posses. A lot of that data comes from you directly uploading it. And that’s the point where you have control. After this, you really don’t. Other data comes from tracking and analyzing your activities and connections, without explicit data upload from you. That’s a lot harder for you to control (you rarely get asked for your privacy preferences on this data), but that’s out of scope for this blog entry.

    Just like banks that are too big to fail are too big to exist, data that is too sensitive to leak from Facebook is too sensitive to be on Facebook.

    And so as many questions are raised as are answered – I’d like to get a feel for how the readership regards the big three – Google, Apple and Microsoft, in terms of privacy and how this relates to an unasahamedly consumer play, Facebook.

    CloudAve is exclusively sponsored by

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  • On Google’s Analytics Gallery, Terms and Conditions, Software Ownership and Responsiveness


    This starts out as a chastisement for Google and ends up congratulatory. Read on for details. So Google launched an app gallery for Google Analytics – how interesting can that be you ask? Well quite interesting from a “who…

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  • The World is International Google, Believe It Or Not


    consumer-map This post might come across as sour grapes, it’s sure not meant to be that way.

    I’ve spent the last two days at Google IO – It was an amazing event – the Android keynote that Vic Gundotra gave in particular was astounding. But anyway, I digress.

    At the event all attendees were given a free HTC EVO 4G device with a months free calling and data on Sprint. It’s a pre-release device and is absolutely gobsmackingly amazing – fast, big, light and beautiful BUT it only works in the USA.

    There were 5000 attendees at IO – of which a significant number come from outside the US – we’re all now proud owners of… a WiFi device that we can’t use on our home networks.

    Now as I say, one shouldn’t be ungrateful – I’m stoked to have got the device and for the next day will feel like one of the cool kids – but maybe Google should have thought a little about those of us from outside the US, it leaves a little bit of a bitter taste to be somewhat forgotten.

    Anyway – there’s my rant – if anyone wants to buy a brand new EVO 4G with free calling and data for a month and a developer discount available on a two years sprint account – just let me know! (Or alternatively if anyone wants to swap for a non-contract AT&T Nexus One, that’d do as well!

    CloudAve is exclusively sponsored by

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  • There’s a Reason It’s Free – Get Over It…


    I’ve been mulling this post around in my head for quite some time now – an eight hour flight across the great Australian Desert seemed as good a time as any to finally put pen to paper (fingers to keys?) and write this post.

    We’ve been hearing much lately about privacy concerns with free services – hardly a day goes by that we’re not regaled with tales of the dastardly deeds of Facebook, Magnolia, Blippy or some other service that is free-to-customers.

    It seems people are carefully avoiding making the only distinction that makes any sense to me: that of paid vs free services. While I know it’s seriously uncool to question the cool kids who build applications with no idea of how monetization will occur, but I can’t resist. Yes, building an application in the cloud is cheaper/easier than in the old days. Yes, scaling an application is quick and easy. Yes, pre configured “building blocks” can be bought off the shelf.

    But having said all of that – this stuff still costs money. Quite simply – an application that is scaling in terms of users or load, and that has no source of dollar, is facing a complete disconnect. Sometimes some things are either purposely or accidentally omitted in that case.

    Some cases in point…

    People are surprised when Google (via Buzz) or Facebook socialize information about us that we didn’t think would be socialized. Go figure? Both these services have a business model that (at least in part) is fueled by the aggregation and dissemination of bulk information about users. While particular cases can be written off as mistakes – fundamentally these guys are about making information pervasive – don’t believe that YOUR information is excluded from this aim.

    Blippy, the somewhat bizarre site where people can link their purchases via credit card. Recently Blippy had a privacy issue where some people’s credit card became searchable and turned up on Google. It gives an interesting twist to the view of one of the founders of Blippy, Philip Kaplan who says:

    We think that many things used to be private only because there was no way to share them

    Interestingly enough in the Blippy case, recently as reported in the NY Times:

    Amazon actively blocked people from linking their Amazon accounts to the Blippy site, citing security concerns. Blippy recently offered a workaround, asking users to link their Gmail accounts, so it can skim their inboxes for Amazon receipts. Amazingly, Blippy says that thousands of users took this step.

    Don’t mistake – their is fundamentally a difference between a paid, and an unpaid application. There is fundamentally a difference between an application targeted for business users and one for the consumer market. Forget this differentiation at your peril.




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  • Protect Your Facebook Privacy

    I have been critical of Facebook’s privacy policies in this blog. In my opinion, Facebook has really gone rogue. They give a damn to users just like what Microsoft did during the time it had monopoly like power in the market. Having said that the movement to delete Facebook accounts is at best hysterical. I think we should have a more pragmatic approach than the emotional approach of deleting the Facebook account in protest. At least, from my point of view, I am not going to delete my account even though I am terribly upset about Facebook’s attitude. I have my entire family and most of my friends in there and I cannot afford to delete my Facebook account (at least at this time). I am more inclined to take a pragmatic approach, continue to voice my protest through Facebook and other online forums and take steps to protect my privacy as much as I can.
    Now, there is an option. The good folks at ReclaimPrivacy.org has released a bookmarklet that helps you tighten your privacy in Facebook. It is a scanner that scans your Facebook account to inspect your privacy settings and warn you about settings that might be unexpectedly public. All you have to do is to drag the bookmarklet to your browser toolbar, log into your Facebook account and click the bookmarklet you just installed. It scans and tells you if your privacy is good. If not, it gives you an option to fix it with a click. A pretty nifty tool that can help people like me who still want to stay in Facebook but maintain a level of privacy.
    I wish these folks had put up a nice “About” section giving background on the effort. It would have given more confidence to non technical users (well, there are more than 450 Million of them in Facebook) who want to use the tool for fixing the Facebook privacy issues. Technical users can see that it is an open source tool with source code available. This is good enough to assure us that we can trust the tool. Anyhow, if you are worried about the privacy of your Facebook account, I strongly urge you to use this tool to fix it. 
    Disclaimer: It is a publicly available open source tool which I used to fix the privacy issues in my account. Your mileage may vary and I am not responsible for anything that happens with the use of the tool. As a blogger, I am writing about a tool that could potentially help Millions of Facebook users. Check out the Techmeme discussion about this tool.
    CloudAve is exclusively sponsored by

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