August 2011

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So, there’s a reason Google is being so stubborn over this “real names” policy. Google+ isn’t a social network at all, despite the fact that it looks like one. It’s actually the core of an identity service.

I wrote about this for Crikey today, a piece that includes Google chair Eric Schmidt’s confirmation of that plan and some observations that suggest Google+ is failing to reach critical mass.

The continuing bad press over what’s been dubbed #nymwars won’t help. Yet I suspect that Google’s need and desire to prevent Facebook Connect becoming the planet’s default identity service will override most concerns.

It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out.

Schmidt has always been the go-for-profits guy. Google co-founder and CEO Larry Page is reportedly aware of the problem, although an informative post by Stephen R van den Berg says it’s unclear whether he’s being properly informed about the criticism. That post was written a week ago, however, so I daresay Page has seen at least some of the news reports since. And the other co-founder, Sergey Brin, has been notably silent.

It feels like things have come a long way since my original expletive-filled rant.

Oh, and thank you to everyone who said they liked the Patch Monday podcast on this topic. That’s especially pleasant given my fears over the rushed recording.

Google’s disaster of a “real names” policy was the subject of today’s Patch Monday podcast. How could it not be, after my own experiences and the attention that scored globally?

Australian developer Kirrily “Skud” Robert, a former Google employee currently resident in San Francisco, has been compiling Google’s name failures, so she was a natural guest for the podcast.

You can listen below. But it’s probably better for my stats if you listen at ZDNet Australia or subscribe to the RSS feed or subscribe in iTunes.

Please let me know what you think. Comments below. We accept audio comments too. Either Skype to stilgherrian or phone Sydney +61 2 8011 3733.

A weekly summary of what I’ve been doing elsewhere on the internets. The balance of the week felt right, but Mistress Insomnia certainly made her presence felt.

My schedule also changed a lot this week, and I ended up spending the entire time in Sydney. I return to Wentworth Falls tomorrow.


  • Patch Monday episode 102, “Political, economic hacking needs attention”. An interview with Dmitri Alperovitch, vice president of threat research at McAfee, and author of Revealed: Operation Shady RAT (PDF), which exposed a hacking operation that had compromised 72 organisations.


Media Appearances

  • On Wednesday I spoke with Keith Conlon and John Kenneally on Adelaide radio 1395 FIVEaa about the 20th anniversary of the web and what the future might hold.
  • On Thursday I spoke with Bernadette Young on ABC Gold Coast about the resignation of Steve Jobs. The recording failed part-way through, so I haven’t posted it here. But I will if you want me to.
  • Also on Thursday I spoke with Tom Elliott on Melbourne radio 3AW, also about Steve Jobs. I’ve already posted a recording.

Corporate Largesse

  • On Wednesday I attended the Security 2011 Expo & Conference at Darling Harbour. As is usual for when one has a media pass to such events, I was given free food and drink.
  • Also on Wednesday I went to Text 100’s Christmas in August Event. Text 100 is a PR firm, and Christmas in August is where their clients show off their new consumer gadgetry that’ll be on sale for Christmas. The food and drink was free. And copious. Too copious. Way too copious.


Most of my day-to-day observations are on my high-volume Twitter stream, and random photos and other observations turn up on my Posterous stream. The photos also appear on Flickr, where I eventually add geolocation data and tags.

[Photo: Leichhardt Town Hall, Sydney. I wasn’t in Leichhardt at all this week. This photo was taken on 17 July 2011. I didn’t have any photos from this week that were suitable.]

August 2011 marks the 20th anniversary of the first web page going online. My former ABC Radio colleagues Keith Conlon and John Kenneally, now with FIVEaa Adelaide, wanted to have a chat.

I hadn’t been awake very long when I did this live radio piece. At the time I thought it was a bit all over the place, because I simply talked about whatever came into me head. But listening back today, I think it’s actually OK. What do you think?


The audio is ©2011 dmgRadio Australia, but since they don’t post many of their live interviews I’m doing their job for them. Besides, it’s not as if I get paid, and it’s not as if this ain’t a decent plug for them.

As soon as I heard the news on Thursday of Steve Jobs’ resignation as CEO of Apple Inc, I knew it would re-shape my day.

Sure enough, it did. While I was already scheduled to write two stories for CSO Online, Crikey soon commissioned a Jobs piece. And in the afternoon I did two radio spots. This is one of them.

Tom Elliott was filling in for 3AW’s drive presenter Derryn Hinch, and did a perfectly competent job.


The audio is ©2011 Radio 3AW Melbourne Pty Ltd, of course, but it hasn’t been posted online by 3AW and this does act as a nice plug for them.

As soon as I arrive back from my trip to Kuala Lumpur on 13 September, I’m off to Canberra for the 2nd National Cyber Warfare Conference on 14 and 15 September. No I won’t be. See the comments.

I’m covering it for CSO Online, and for the moment I’m assuming that’ll be in the form of written material. I’d also like to cover it for the Patch Monday podcast, but I don’t think that’ll be possible due to the contractual arrangements.

The event itself runs for a day and a half. An afternoon of presentations followed by a day of roundtable discussions. I’m looking forward to it.

If there’s anything else happening in Canberra either side of this event, please let me know so I can plan to attend,

Just 10 days from now I’m flying to Kuala Lumpur as the guest of Kaspersky Lab, the information security company. It’ll be my first time to Malaysia.

The event is a briefing for Kaspersky’s partners and the media in the Asia-Pacific region about their new Endpoint Security 8 for Windows product, due for release in October.

The event itself is Thursday 8 and Friday 9 September, but I arrive early on Wednesday 7 and fly out late on Monday 12, so I’ll have three or four days to explore the city.

Any suggestions for what I should do and see?

As an aside, I’ve actually met the founder, Eugene Kaspersky. We were seated together on the panel discussion Is cloud secure enough for business? at the AusCERT Conference on information security. He’s everything you’d expect a Russian billionaire to be. However I’m fairly sure he won’t be at the KL event.

[Photo: Petronas Towers, Kuala Lumpur, by Amber de Bruin, used under a Creative Commons BY license.]

There’s been a few developments this week in my battle with Google over my name. More communication. And more media coverage.

On 18 August I responded to Google’s boilerplate email thusly:

Hi folks,

My full, legal name is a mononym, “Stilgherrian”. It has been so for 30 years. This name has been used consistently throughout that time on every official document, in every credit line in print, on radio and on television, in everyday use… everywhere.

Dare I say it, a Google Search will soon reveal that.

My only photo ID is my passport, and I am unwilling to send a copy because I have security concerns.

I can’t edit my name in Google Profiles to match my “real” name, because it won’t let me leave the surname field blank.

How do we fix this?



Google’s reply arrived on 20 August.

Read the rest of this entry »

[This is a slightly edited version of the article written for “Stories: from The Local Government Web Network”, issue 3, August 2011, which was distributed at the LGWN’s conference in Sydney on 18 August. Some material in this article also appears in Tweeting your way out of Paranoia, the closing keynote presentation I delivered.]

If you’re not yet at least experimenting with Twitter, the real-time social messaging service, you should be.

Suppress the corporate paranoia. It’s a lot easier than you might think. And while Twitter does get far more attention than its relatively small size might suggest — truly active Twitter users number perhaps 20 million globally compared with Facebook’s 750 million active users and counting — it punches well above its weight in terms of connecting with influential community members.

Twitter may not ever become the core real-time service used by the masses. Or if it does, it may only be for a few years. You only have to look at the last decade to see the then-leading MySpace surpassed by Facebook in 2008, just four years after Facebook was founded. Google’s launch of Google+ in June this year has generated plenty of speculation that the search and advertising giant’s foray into social networking will in turn wipe Facebook off the planet. Who knows?

There will always be some real-time social messaging service, however. Whether that’s Twitter as a stand-alone service, or whether we all end up using a real-time component of Facebook or Google+ or something that has yet to be deployed — none of that matters. The principles and practices of real-time messaging will doubtless end up being much the same.

Anything you might do with Twitter will be easy to migrate to any other real-time messaging system. The lessons you learn will carry across too.

Read the rest of this entry »

I was invited to present the closing keynote at last week’s NSW Local Government Web Network Conference in Sydney. Give ’em something light at the end of the day, I was told.

Here’s the result.

My argument, such that it is, is that corporations like local governments avoid change because they’re paranoid, so they need to get themselves some mental health. I present an anonymous theory about “The Three Pillars of Mental Health”. Twitter, I then argue, is the perfect low-risk exercise for a government starting to involve itself in social media and social networking to start overcoming that paranoia. I then present some suggestions for how they might tweet.

Tweeting your way out of Paranoia from Stilgherrian on Vimeo.

The articled I mentioned in the video, the one I wrote about using Twitter, is Twitter: a guide for busy paranoids.

The Flip Video delivered fairly shitty footage of me speaking, as you can see, so I decided to keep the slides in screen for most of the time instead. James Purser recorded the audio.

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