DDoS of Social Media

Twitter, Facebook, LiveJournal and other sites all admitted to suffering from a DDoS attack. It seem to me the purpose of a Denial-of-Service attack (DoS) against a web site is to flood it with so much traffic the site becomes unusable. The DDoS is where multiple other computers are coordinated into launching the attack.

All three of the above mentioned sites have had recent issues keeping up with growing usage. The USA inauguration and Iran demonstrations peaked traffic so much the sites seemed like they suffered from a DoS. Already at the edge, an attack tipped the barely making it social media sites over it. Some users abandon them for less popular (so more stable sites). Those who stick around suffer from learned helplessness.

Causing all this hullabaloo over a single user seems odd to me. I don’t speak Russian, so I don’t know if this guy from Georgia (the country) deserved it. Also, it is almost the one year anniversary since Russia invaded Georgia. During the invasion, DDoS attacks disabled Georgian web sites. So, maybe this is to show Georgia the Russians are still capable of causing problems? This is why security evangelists want us to be able to deal with threats.

Various computer viruses over the years have turned millions of computers into zombies for botnets. So… If you are upset about your favorite social media site getting taken down, then maybe you should act on ensuring your computer and others in your social network were not enlisted into a botnet?

Expression Costs

(This started out as a blog comment for Sania’s post Facebook Killed Your Blog. I’m posting it here first.)

We share blogs with the whole world. So our blogs get lost in the noise, bolstering the need for a whole industry optimizing getting found in search engines. Its a concerted effort just get noticed. That’s because blog readers have to seek out blogs to follow, subscribe to the feed, and follow. Finding the best blogs to read is sometimes difficult and more from word of mouth than anything search engines provide.

Blogs also tend to have a lot of information to digest. Social networks have just a line or two with maybe a link to more information. Blog readers typically are designed around the idea of collecting all the posts and letting the user pick which to read. Social networks typically are designed around the idea of just showing recent posts and letting the users choose how far back in time to read.

As technologies lower the costs to express ideas (aka get easier), blogs will get left behind as they have become upside down in value. The costs of writings, reading, subscribing, and commenting on blogs are more expensive compared to micro-blogging or status updates.

Why blog when hanging out on social networks are so much easier? Blogs can only survive as long as they have information worthy.

Why blog when readers are no longer reading? Posting blog entries on social networks does help keep traffic levels somewhat by getting exposure.

As bloggers providing valuable expression leave blogging, the value of blogs decrease. People will still blog. It just won’t be the popular thing to do.

The Twitter Timesink

Glenn asked: “What is it about Twitter that makes it more of a time sink than Facebook?”

I consider a time sink something where I invest a high value of time for boring and poor value.

My contacts mostly duplicate in Twitter what they provide in Facebook. The time I spend reading Twitter posts I’ve already read in Facebook is a waste of my time. My Twitter contacts respond about a 1/5th as much as Facebook users (it used to be higher in Twitter). So I get more out of Facebook.

Twitter Replies suck. The Replies system makes it look like my contacts reply much more to me than others which I find highly unlikely. More likely the Replies implementation stifles conversation by requiring either everyone to be public or to allow all the participants to follow each other for there to be one conversation. Instead its many different (sometimes hidden) duplicate conversations. Facebook comments are attached to the status update so following a conversation is significantly easier.

Twitter Apps suck. Last Friday, I looked at Facebook Connect for AIR. My complaint about it was my interactions with Facebook would be as limited as Twitter. The promise of Twitter apps is to do more than the Twitter.com web UI provides. Many just provide easier ways to do the same thing: see your Twitter timeline. Others let you see quantification of your usage. Facebook apps by contrast provide access to content not within Facebook, so more of the web because part of my Facebook access so I can actually do more.

Except Socialthing and Tweetdeck. They are exemplary implementations of Twitter Apps. They extend the functionality of just Twitter by itself and are primary reasons I kept at it for so long. Socialthing unofficially died a while ago and official stoppage of support was announced last week while I wasn’t using it. Tweetdeck probably will stick around for a while.

Twitter lacks granular privacy. In Twitter, either you are private or public or ban specific users. I’m torn between public and not. So I opted for private with sneezypb where I mostly subscribe to friends. My other account, ezrasf, was where I subscribed to Blackboard community members, educational technologists, etc. Facebook could improve some in privacy as well. Compared to Twitter, Facebook makes a great attempt at granular privacy. Plurk, another microblogging / status update site, represents the privacy  Holy Grail for me. It allows for making specific posts public, private, available to groups, or individuals.

Week Two Almost No Twitter

Since I cut back on Twitter, my sneezypb account’s password was changed to something completely random and unknown to me. Tweetdeck was uninstalled. Most of the few on my subscription list I still need to follow now reside in my RSS reader for now.

Productive? Check.

  • We tell real stories instead of how talk about how Twitter is good/bad/indifferent.
  • I’ve posted 11 times to this blog in the last 16 days vs 22 in the 120 days before the change.
  • Work days seem significantly shorter. I only still have to transition between meetings notices, IM notifications, people dropping by my cube to understand my emails, phone calls, conversations over the cube walls, people lost in the cube farm, and YouTube watchers.
  • I’m only having to read status updates once.

Twitter was obviously way too much of a time sink.

Heather asked about my absense from Twitter. Changing the password broke Ping.fm from updating my Twitter status. I’d just need to give Ping.fm the password to keep those on Twitter in the loop. I’m starting to think I’d rather those few left on Twitter just to sign up on Facebook rather than give up on the cold turkey.

I’m such a bad friend.

Blame It on Oprah

Ev said, “To those asking: Site slowness today had nothing to do with @Oprah.” Social networks are amusing and fun at times. I’m just a fan of moderation. Too much of anything will ruin it. Ever since Twitter became the new Golden Tool of PR, I knew it would be a matter of time.

Friends and coworkers bring up Twitter as though they have nothing else to say. Apparently the web sites we use define who we are just like fashion did in the 1980s and 1990s. Well, I am a black teeshirt and shorts guy.

🙂

So… I’m spent on < 140 characters.

Update: Maybe not… I’ve culled the list of people I am following from 96 down to 37. Maybe more if I look at it anymore. (Even the 10 most extraordinary tweets couldn’t diswade me.)

Better CE/Vista Web Server Log

Some support tickets are more easily solved by knowing both user behavior and environment. An often helpful piece of information is what web browser they used. To add this, shut down the cluster, edit /VISTA_HOME/config/config.xml to include the cs(User-Agent), and start the cluster. This line will need to appear for every node. At startup, the nodes will download a new copy of the file.

<elf-fields>date time time-taken c-ip x-weblogic.servlet.logging.ELFWebCTSession sc-status cs-method cs-uri-stem cs-uri-query bytes cs(User-Agent) x-weblogic.servlet.logging.E LFWebCTExtras</elf-fields>

Command:
cp config.xml config.xml.bak
sed -s s/bytes x-/bytes cs(User-Agent) x-/g config.xml.bak > config.xml

Probably this could be edited in the Weblogic 9.2 console. I haven’t looked yet.

Cross-Seeding the Clouds

There is a good post on backing up a PLE or really anything created in the cloud. The danger of working in the cloud is the site disappearing like Ma.gnolia recently. When the data is important, such as for teaching a class, this is huge.

So the advice to have additional copies elsewhere is good. Is it the only way? I like the concept of cross-posting better than backup and restore to alternative sites. Instead of regular exports and imports, as the data is generated in multiple places at the same time. Think of it as an near instantaneous export and import to minimize the loss.

Perhaps more opportunities for cross-posting would make the Interweb a safer place for our data.

Off the Twitter Timeline: Icons

I laughed at reading this one.

Dear Blackboard: If you include icons in your interface, they should f’ing well be clickable. Everyone but you knows this. jazzmodeus

I thought this might refer to the new item icons. Jason works for Emory (doing instructional design) and taking classes at Florida State. Both use Academic Suite. So its probably not what I thought….

In Blackboard CE/Vista, the “course list” [1] can show icons to alert about new things to do. These can be about waiting assessments, discussion, mail, etc. If users click on the icon, then they can see the items causing the notice. At least, when left at the defaults.

One of the schools we host discovered when students entered a tool by clicking on these icon, the subsequent activity would not be tracked. The work around was to turn off the link rather than the icons entirely.

We agreed with the school and labored to convince Blackboard this was a major security problem. Unfortunately, the people who post the support bulletins have yet to post something about this problem. Its not a major item unless you are the student being accused of cheating because your activity doesn’t show appropriately.

[1] course list – This name bugs me….

  • The name is a hold over from when instruction took place in courses. In this system they take place in sections. So why not section list?
  • MyWebCT is dumb. MyBlackboard is dumber. “My” is 2004-ish portal cutesy, personalization name buzzword. Similarly, “e” and “i” are similarly dumb.

Off the Twitter Timeline: Clunky WebCT

Summize provides a great way to troll for what people are saying. Beyond just searching for a term, it provides RSS feeds for terms. I follow several, such Blackboard and WebCT. The WebCT one netted me the following tweet:

annoyed with how clunky webct can be at times – it had to have been designed circa 2000 – amandakern

WebCT products, whether CE or Vista, have always been clunky. Ease of use has always been a problem with the products. Any improvements Vista made were offset by so many more tools and options to make it the net effect more clunky. I’ve seen some sales people and Dr. Cs whip through the navigation like it is easy to use Vista. Practice makes perfect. Too bad the developers can’t be perfect.

Whenever I see schools pick a product, I think the ones who have Ease of use on their list probably have been using WebCT legacy products for years as opposed to Blackboard products. They and their faculty are scarred enough they cannot afford to get it wrong on ease of use again.

RSS Is Relatively New?

The email was an innocuous “Ooh, shiney!” message. RSS feeds are now available for a status site. However, one thing concerned me….

RSS is a relatively new and easy way to distribute content and information via the Internet.

I personally have been aware of RSS since 2002. However, as I am a relatively late adopter of technology, I was not surprised to learn RSS has been around since July 1999. This technology has been available for nine years. 1999 is the same year IE5 became available. That is a few months before Windows 2000 became available. This is before the technology bust which weeded out much of the Internet craps. (Are we due for another one of those?) Next year we can celebrate the 10th anniversary of RSS. Can we really call it new when we celebrate it being around for a decade?

The point of “relatively” was to soften the word new. I was supposed to be mollified by it isn’t really new but it isn’t really old and is closer to new than old. It just sounded to me like whoever wrote it only heard about RSS within the past two years or so. So maybe the message was more “Ooh, shiney!” for them than for me.