Crowdsourced Proofreading

In spite of armies of editors and proof readers, main stream publishing has a long history of published typos.  And as a writer I can tell you, it’s really easy to miss something, especially in something as substantial as an article or a book.  Even if you know how to spell.

Even when a mistakes were caught, it wasn’t reasonable to assume publishers would recall books and reissue them with corrections.  Errors wouldn’t be fixed until the second edition.  If there was a second edition.

One of the most earth shattering things to happen to the world of proof readers was our move into the digital age with the invention of the spell checker.  Suddenly proof readers became obsolete.

But all spell checkers are not equal.  When the typo is a real word, no spell checker is going to flag it.  The thing we often forget about technology is that it is no more perfect than any other tool; human supervision is still required.

Wikipedia is the poster child for self publishing.  Not only does it rely on the good will of the public to add articles and factual information, if errors are made, Wikipedia is self-correcting: the public has the power to correct errors and ommissions, whether of fact or spelling.

All those mainstream publishers who no longer employ enough staff to adequately proof read their content are publishing online in digital formats.  Instead of hiring proofreaders, they often have a “report typo” option on their webspage so readers can catch their mistakes for them.  Just as CBC does.

This way, when a reader gets hit between the eyes by an annoying typo, we can report it, so others won’t have to suffer as we have.

When I found a typo in the CBC article Chippewas of the Thames vow to continue pipeline fight good neighbor that I am, I decided to let CBC know so the error could be fixed.

"You gave us hope and when it came down to the process that you pit in place for us, and we reached that pinnacle, it was not what you said."

So I clicked on the link— it should be easy, right?   But it seems CBC isn’t as interested in being told about typos as it is interested in getting personal information about anyone who wants to correct a typo.

"process that you pit in place" presumably should be "put" NOTE: Presumably you want to crowd source your proofreading. That means you seek help from people like me who are willing to take the time to notify you when CBC publishes an error. That's reasonable. What is NOT reasonable is that CBC *requires* people who are willing to HELP CBC (gratis) to turn over personal information. Name: [Required] Email address: [Required] City, Province and Country: [Required] In other words, we are not only doing work you really ought to be paying professional proof readers to do for free, and are required to pay for the privilege with our personal data. Which is why I'm not doing this again.

This isn’t a news issue, or even a matter of opinion.  If I point out the author probably didn’t mean the word “pit,”  it doesn’t matter who I am or where I live.  I could be living in Iceland and it would still be a typo.  Either I’m right or I’m wrong.

Something that ought to take a minute and cost me nothing but a bit of time I was willing to spend, ended up costing me privacy.

There is no need for it, but this has become a prevalent practice online.  Our personal information has become a valuable commodity that companies want for themselves, and very often to sell.

If you’ve ever wondered why you get spam, this is why.   (I know someone who gave up an email account because he got so much spam.)

We need to stop giving our personal details to companies who have no legitimate need of them.

If you’re buying something that needs to be delivered, sure, you have to give your address.  But if you’re making a donation to a political party and they want to be able to connect with you, they will need an address, a phone number, or an email address— but not all three.  If you’re leaving a comment or signing a petition, they want to make sure you’re a real person, not a bot.

Companies want it all; whether they need it or not.  If you give it to them, when you tell them to stop phoning you, they can send you junkmail or spam.  If CBC or any person or company tells you information they have no right to is “required” the correct answer is “none of your business.”

Privacy is an important part of personal security; don’t give up any more than you have to.


WebCred: Reputation is Important

I received this email today, but before marking it as spam, it occurred to me that I should not only reply, I should also blog the reply. Because, you see, this isn’t the first one of these I’ve received, so there are probably an awful lot of bloggers out there getting the same solicitation. Because that’s what this is: solicitation disguised as sharing, a way to game the system. Like any good con it appears to be a good deal for a blogger. But looking a little more closely the hidden costs far outweigh any apparent benefits.

Dear Rebecca:

You offer me a “link swap” where you’ll give me two links in exchange for one of mine.  Wow.

You say:

3-way linking is a very effective link building strategy.

Really. I didn’t know that I needed a “link building strategy.” I thought I just needed good content. If I have good content, people will link to it. Just as I link to other good content. That’s a big part of why I work hard to create good web content.

Our partner sites that link to your site are at least 3 years old with a minimum pagerank of PR3.

I have no idea what PR3 means. I’m assuming it is some kind of marketing lingo, although it could as easily be the kind of “pseudo Authority” Snopes warns against in cases of Internet Fraud. Means nothing to me.

The age of a bottle of wine may impact on a decision of which bottle to buy, but I have difficulty seeing the relevance of the age of a website. I think you intend this as an implied credibility.

How much credibility does the age of a website carry? If that is the only data, my answer to that question is zero credibility.

Any scammer can register a fistful of domain names and leave them cooling on a shelf for three years. Although you’ll never catch me dealing with GoDaddy, as I understand it anyone can register a domain with them for a couple of dollars. It could cost as much as twenty dollars to incubate a couple of three year old websites. I don’t know about you, but to me, my reputation is priceless.

Web age alone has no bearing. If the content is good, I’ll link to a site that goes online today.

Since you’re getting the links from third party websites, they appear totally natural to search engine algorithms. Such inbound links help your website rank higher in Google and other search engines.

This is the real problem, you see. I don’t want the links coming into my site to “appear to be totally natural.”

I want the links coming into my site to be totally natural.

This is an admission that the purpose is to game search engines.

Guess what: I’m not in this to fool search engines into sending me more traffic.

The Internet is valuable for it’s capacity to share information without fear or favor, without needing a huge bankroll, without having to trick people. Isn’t that what TV is for? As far as I can tell, television news is programmed to provide entertainment and maximize car sales.

So when I want real news, I look for it online.

[The Broadcast industry isn’t dying because of ‘piracy.’ it’s dying because of diminishing credibility.]

Misleading search engines doesn’t simply trick the search engines, or the searchers, what it ultimately does is reduce the effectiveness of search engines. I’m a little surprised that Google or Bing aren’t out there offering a bounty on companies like yours that seek to deliberately reduce the accuracy of their search algorithms,

The absolute last thing I want is to deliberately trick Internet users into visiting any of my sites. The only visitors I want are those who chose to visit. Those who have a genuine interest in, or need for the content that is available on my blog.

crying wolf

When a wholly irrelevant website links to mine, the visitors it sends mine can cause me damage.

If netizens searching for articles about astronomy, or travel recommendations or even an escort service, are sent here to my website in error, it erodes my credibility.

A year from now that same visitor might seeking to learn about Self Publishing, but having been scammed into visiting my website under and fooled the last time, they are unlikely to trust the perfectly valid content that I work so hard to make available here.

I use a lot of links, all the time. But the links I use are for sites I’ve visited; sites that contain information – “content” – that I believe to be worth sharing. Content related to mine. Sites that fit with what my site is all about. If I find good content, I am more than willing to send my visitors along to the appropriate website.

My websites don’t sell eyeballs to advertisers, they share content with people.

If I have any ‘marketing strategy’ at all, it would have to be the one advocated by the character Kris Kringle, in the 1947 film Miracle on 34th Street.

Because I’ve worked hard to build an Internet reputation I can live with. I stand behind what I say. But I’m only human, so if I get something wrong, tell me, and I will admit it and do my best to correct it. My Internet credibility reflects my personal reputation. Quite frankly, I am not willing to throw either away. The Internet is brilliant, but using it effectively can be very hard work.

the author as a child with an unopened gift
links, like gifts, should be freely given

Although I can’t prevent dubious sites from linking to my content, I do have absolute control over deciding which links that I will forge. I do my level best not link to sites I don’t trust. I don’t sign up for anything that wants to suck in the contents of my email book or Facebook Friends. I try to avoid fraud, malware, scammers, spammers and information harvesters.

Links are more than citations, they are like a personal recommendation. They carry a certain amount of power as Internet’s equivalent of “word-of-mouth”. They shouldn’t be for sale.

Who I link to is an important part of my web footprint. As such, it is an important part of my online reputation.

Like a gift, any links I give are freely given.

So, in conclusion, Rebecca, my answer is, and will always be, “no”.

a horizontal border of red graphic maple leaves

Facebook PhoneNumbers & Security

Since I’m finishing my novel and committed to uploading it to CreateSpace Sunday night, I’m *not* supposed to be blogging!

But this is a pretty serious FaceBook privacy breach passed on my by friend Mary, and the sooner people know the sooner they can pull their numbers.

If you’ve ever given Facebook your phone number, it is now published.

ALL PHONE NUMBERS are now on Facebook! No joke …

facebook logo

  • Go top right of your screen –
  • click on ACCOUNT then
  • click Edit Friends.
  • Go to the left of the screen and
  • click the phone book.

Everyone’s phone number has now been published.
Please share this with your friends so they can remove their numbers when changing their personal settings.

Of course, the phone book is only published to *your* Facebook Friends…

AND every app that you’ve allowed to access your friend list now has all of their phone numbers.

This one doesn’t hit me because I never gave Facebook my phone number because I follow:

Internet Privacy Rule #1

Never Give Out Unnecessary Personal Information online.

The ONLY time you need to give out your home address or phone number is if you want someone to call you or mail something or visit.

Just because some website insists on accessing your private information does not obligate you to give it to them. If they insist, you are perfectly within your rights to lie. Give them a phony address (not the address of anyone you know). Change your birthdate, lie about your age. Yesterday I advised one of my my brothers to set up a disposable email address before divulging his real email address to someone he thought may be up to no good. And for years I’ve been telling every one I know — including my child — to lie about everything online. (Even just a postal code narrows your location down right quick.)

Think about it. I don’t have to give my identification to walk into a Canadian Tire Store, so why is it necessary online?

My computer guy advises that the best policy for Facebook is to assume that EVERY bit of information you put there will be written on a billboard for every one to see. Facebook may have privacy settings but no real privacy. Facebook lays claim to everything you put there – it belongs to them. See the movie. And realize that the movie is the sanitized glammed up version.

Online Security is spelled https

FYI: While on Facebook, look at your URL address;
if you see http: instead of https:
then you don’t have a secure session and you can be hacked.

  • Go to Account|Account Settings|Account Security and
  • click Change.
  • Check the first setting (secure browsing)
  • Re-Post for your Friends

FB defaults to the non-secure setting.

Only https offers you a secure internet connection. Which is still not encryption. I’ve been told that the reason https is secure is because it is encrypted.

(If you don’t want Bell using DPI to read your mail or peek in your packets with DPI, you want to go further & use encryption… which I have yet to figure out myself. I’m looking into a thing called Truecrypt.)

[Thanks Mary and Paul!]

A Disservice to Canada

Canadian Flag: We stand on guard for thee.
Canadian Flag: We stand on guard for thee.

Maybe I’m naive but I had this crazy idea that the CRTC existed to serve Canada not Bell Canada.

Yet the CRTC is allowing Bell Canada to charge third-party ISP customers “Usage Based Billing”.  This will essentially double my costs as a moderate internet user. But it will be worse for heavy users.

Because these usage charges aren’t just for downloads,

they will be applied both ways.

Don’t they know that this is a recession? The timing for this is almost as sensitive as firing people at Christmas. Apparently the fact that an increasing share of business and employment opportunities are only available online hasn’t make any difference to these decision makers.

Quite frankly I am not looking forward to paying for the privilege of receiving spam, or paying for the privilege of having web advertising inflicted on me, or paying for the privilege of downloading automatic Windows updates (which you can no longer even choose to decline if you have Vista).   Ironically Canadians will no longer be able to download free software like Open Office or Ubuntu for free.  We’ll be paying Bell Canada for it.

I’ve just begun reading the Clay Shirky book “Here Comes Everybody” and this certainly sounds a lot like his examples of the old guard attempting to suppress the use of the internet.

"Here Comes Everybody" by Clay Shirky
"Here Comes Everybody" by Clay Shirky

It would seem that if Bell Canada is allowed to do this, they may kill off the independent Canadian ISPs.

Not, I might add, in the classic free market way by providing better service for a better price, but rather in that time honored feudal way of using the forces of the government to eliminate the competition.

Bell Canada may in fact end up restoring their monopoly since no small company will ever have any hope of competing with them on the unfair playing field provided by the CRTC.

So this move may in fact seem to be good for Bell.  But it certainly is not good for Canada.

A few years ago Canada was at the leading edge of internet affordability. This is why so many Canadians are not only online but comfortable online. We could afford to be.

However over the last few years we’ve been sliding more and more quickly toward the bottom of the list– due in no small part to the actions of players like Bell Canada.

It wasn’t so very long ago that the Canadian Government forced Bell Canada to share the infrastructure with other service providers. Since the Bell Canada infrastructure (read: phone lines) had actually been paid for out of tax dollars when Bell Canada was a government monopoly, once the monopoly was broken it was only fair to share the infrastructure with independent companies for the benefit of Canadians.

Which is why services like Teksavvy can exist. That’s the ISP I use. Teksavvy gets to keep something in the neighborhood of $5.00 out of what I pay per month, while Bell Canada gets more than $20.00– strictly for the use of the phone lines. Yet Teksavvy handily provides good service for less than Bell Canada does.

So you would think that Bell Canada would match the deals being offered by their competitors.
On the contrary, Bell Canada hasn’t even tried. Instead of playing fair they want to kill off the competition and turn back the clock so they can be the only game in town again.

Drastically increasing the cost of internet usage– for no reason except increased profit for Bell Canada and without providing anything in return– could seriously damage Canadian internet access.

The real price we’ll pay is the curbing of Canadian internet use.

Not only will the cost of using the internet increase, it will affect how Canadians use the internet.
We will be much more careful about what we go online to do.

  • We might decide not to make a blog because it will be too expensive.
  • We might cut our kids off Facebook because it will be too expensive.
  • We might decide not to add to wikipedia because it will be too expensive.
  • We might decide against posting our photos on Flickr,
  • but if we do, grandma might not download photos of the grandkids because it will be too expensive.

Maybe you don’t use one of the independent ISPs.  Maybe you’re using Sympatico right now.  Surprise, surprise, Bell Canada is doing the same thing to their own customers too. Are you using a cable ISP? I suspect it won’t do you any good, if the cable ISPs complain to the CRTC about not being able to gouge customers as well as Bell Canada the CRTC will give them what they want.

Even worse are the “Chilling Effects” – who’s going to develop new cool Web 2.0 applications if they’re constantly watching the meter to ensure they don’t exceed the 60 GiByte cap? Who’s going to sign up for online video services if the movies exceed the cap?

–This Blog Is Not For Reading

Ultimately, with caution being forced upon us,  Canadians will have a much harder time trying to compete in a global economy.

What Can We Do?

Help protest this, submit a complaint to the CRTC
For the type of application select Tariff, and as a subject, use File Number # 8740-B2-200904989 – Bell Canada – TN 7181.
(Instructions courtesy of Antonio Cangiano)

And as always, you can call or write your federal MP to let them know what you think about this.  I’d love to hear anyone else’s suggestion or ideas.

You can read the Telecom Order CRTC 2009-484

This is really dangerous.

It will not hurt the internet.
It will just compromise Canadian internet access by artificially inflating the transaction costs.
Which will hurt Canadian Citizens and Business alike.
Talk about acting contrary to the public good.

I’ve started a blog specifically for this issue:  Stop Usage Based Billing
I am compiling links to all the other internet sites dealing with the topic in the sidebar there.
My personal favorite would be