These blog posts are maintained by seeDetail employees. There is a technical blog on testing written by Daniel Cottrell, and a another blog on wider issues surrounding testing and IT written by Chris Neville-Smith.

Posts from all blogs are collated here.

27 February 2013, 12:13 pm

Where's H. G. Wells when you need him?

Is advertising really legalised lying? In cyberspace, it seems, the answer is still yes.

Bad and wrong. But is this coming to YouTube?
Okay, I’m back. Sorry about my long period of absence from this blog. Much as I enjoy a blog on software testing, actual software testing got in the way and I’ve been super-busy for the best part of two months. But this work has finally come to a close so I can now get back to this. And the thing that I’ve wanted to get off my chest for the last two months is a pet hate to many people: internet advertising. Yes, I can hear you all now going "Oh God, I hate those things".

I’ll start with an obvious defence: if we want an internet, we need ads. Some websites, such as this one, are done by people in their spare time (which can be sporadic, as this one has just shown), whilst others, such as BBC News, are funded by other means. But for many sites, somebody has to be paid to create the content, and the only source of revenue is from the website itself. Even ad-free sites can depend on adverts. This blog, for instance, has no adverts, and I want to keep it that way, but I’ll admit that Blogger would never have developed the blogging tools and hosted the blog for free without the cut Google gets from adverts on other blogs they host. There are some interesting suggestions for online micro-payments as an alternative to ads or subscriptions, but there is little interest in making this a reality. Like it or not, adverts are just as much a part of the internet as they are to ITV.

And the obvious complaint? Internet ads are an absolute pain in the backside. At least on ITV they leave you alone when you’re watching the programme. Web adverts, on the other hand, seem hell-bent on grabbing your attention when you’re trying to read something else. All too often they rely on big flashing boxes, garish animations, and the ad itself leaping out of the box and covering the rest of the page. As well is being immensely irritating, it also makes a lot of pages inaccessible to people with disabilties that would otherwise have been fine. It’s little wonder people are turning in droves to products like AdBlock Plus. [1]

But strange as it may seem, annoying the hell out of people isn't the biggest problem with internet advertising. The worst problem is how misleading some of these adverts are - if not outright lies, the sort that H. G. Wellswas on about when he said "Advertising is legalised lying". We've all seen the adverts for "London/Middlesbrough/Carlisle/Bristol/wherever Mum looks 20 years younger". Do these vendors of these products really have a Mum who looks 20 years older in each local area of the UK? I think not. You would never get away with this in any other media (indeed, adverts get banned over relatively minor issues, such as this BT broadband one), but in cyberspace this seems accepted as fair game. And it shouldn't be, because it's been two years since the Advertising Standards Authority gained a remit over internet adverts.

This isn't a dig at the ASA for not doing their job. As far as I've seen, they're doing their best and they are very fair in their decisions. The problem is what they're up against. I can understand why small-time bloggers might subscribe to an ad feed without thinking about it, but some of the worst practices are on sites of big companies that should know better. Take Google's "Sponsored Links" for example. Yes, Google couldn't provide its service without these, but the background shading they use to distinguish sponsored results from real results is so faint it's easy to miss completely. This problem has gone on for years and Google has done nothing about it.

This is a huge problem in IT, especially software installation, because users search for a program, mistake the top sponsored link for the top real link, and end up installing something completely different. Or, worse still, AVG - an anti-virus vendor of all things - allows banner ads at the top of the download page using the same lettering and colours as the AVG page, tricking users into downloading a different program (SRO2012). (This has now changed and the banner is at the bottom of the page, but the fact AVG allowed this to happen in the first place is very disappointing.) Reputable sites such as Lycos allowed adverts being used as Scareware.

Then there's the trick of pretending it's not really an advert. Recently a TOWIE star was hauled up for trying to pass off promotional endorsements on Twitter as her own opinions. Great that the ASA showed some teeth here, but who else is doing this and hasn't been caught yet? There are suspicions that tobacco companies - hardly a shining example of ethics in advertising - are using supposedly user-uploaded videos on YouTube as their way of dodging the ban on tobacco advertising and showing how cool and anti-establishment it is to smoke.

With such rich players determined to ignore the rules and such high-profile players tolerating this behaviour, the ASA have a mammoth task ahead of them. It's not clear which way this will go. It might be that more powers will have to be considered in the future, but with more powers always comes more scope for abuse. It would be a lot easier if the internet-using public simply wised up to these practices. The more people who spot these tricks a mile off and ignore the ads, the less money there is to be made. Better still, if people stop buying these company's other products, and tell the company why they're doing so, as well as complain to the websites hosting these ads, they might think twice before pulling these stunts.

Action from the grassroots against vested interests is always a wildly optimistic idea, but, hey, this is a good time to believe in optimism.

[1] Unsurprisingly, some people aren’t too happy with this. AdBlock plus sparked a minor anti-Firefox crusade (which in turn sparked a whole load of derision). However, one legitimate point made during this furore was whether this would put websites out of business. Personally, I think there's nothing to worry about. The people who go through the trouble of installing this extension are the least likely people to actually click on any of these adverts, let alone buy something. Suffice to say that AdBlock blocks adverts on blogs such as this one, and yet Google is still happy to sponsor Firefox. If Google - which gets almost all its revenue from ads - doesn't have a problem with this, that's saying something.

27 February 2013, 12:13 pm

Cross-platform is the way to go

AMD will shortly be enabling Windows 8 users to run Android apps. I would advise Microsoft to welcome and support this.

Mr Ballmer, surely you won't deprive
your loyal customers of this?

Last year I wrote a blog article on “The Ghost of Vistas Past”, outlining how high important it was to Microsoft that Windows 8 is a success (along with the mistakes from Windows Vista that overshadows the reputation of all future releases). Well, we’re now approaching the release date and I’ve been looking at the pre-release version. Have to say, there have been a lot of Windows 8-bashing comments, but it’s hard to tell whether this is just the new tablet-optimised interface they’re getting used to or something more. At the moment, this could still be anything from a revolutionary ground-breaker to a Vista Mark II. But I’m going to make Microsoft a helpful suggestion regarding their controversial app store.

Firstly, an app store is a good idea. Linux distros were doing this years before there was the iPhone, when it was called “package management”. It’s good because instead of a mish-mash of programs from installation CDs or the internet, there’s a central database which takes care of all installation and updating. And as your computer keeps track of which packages installed which files, if you want to uninstall anything, you can do it properly, instead relying on unreliable uninstallation files that came with the program you don’t want. So far, so good.

The problem is that the range of official Windows 8 apps is reportedly very low. As late as last month (September), it was being reported there were only 2,000 apps, compared to 500,000 for Android. You can argue that it’s good to have a small number of apps that you know are high-quality and reliable, but that’s no good if you can’t find the app that does the job you want. There’s a debate around whether Microsoft is being too stringent accepting apps in the first place,[1]but the real obstacle is incentive to write these apps. There’s no getting round the fact that Apple and Android, having got to the smartphone and tablet markets first, dominate the market. Just like Linux suffered for years from lack of software when Windows dominated the desktop market – which Microsoft used against it – some might say that Microsoft is getting a taste of its own medicine in the smartphone and tablet market.

But help is at hand from AMD. As a result of a collaboration with Bluestacks, it will shortly be possible to run Android apps in Windows 8, on desktops, laptops, tablets, and possibly smartphones. Even if, as Microsoft hopes, their apps store is a bastion of high-quality apps, by adding the choice of Android apps you turn Windows 8 tablets into far more versatile devices. Can’t wait for the latest Angry Birds to be ported to Windows 8? No problem, just install the Android version and away you go.

And the response from Microsoft? Apparently nothing. Their strategy was to encourage developers to write more apps for Windows 8, so I assume this strategy is unchanged. I can’t understand the logic behind this. With Windows Phones still a niche product with no immediate prospect of growth, it makes no commercial sense to write an app for Windows instead of the big two. Even porting an app from one operating system to another is tricky. If neither app writers nor Microsoft are able to put in the work getting apps to run on Windows, one would have thought they’d have welcomed AMD doing the job for them.

And leaving AMD to do their own thing is far from a safe bet. We don’t yet know how reliable this will be. In theory, you can run Windows programs on Linux using wine, but this is such a nightmare to get working, many Linux users don’t bother and use the closest equivalent native Linux program instead. The problem is the masses of fiddly settings you need to tweak to get a Windows program to properly interface with all the Linux components such as sound, graphics, printers, internet, you name it. Crossoveris reputedly better, but only because you pay people to do all this fiddly work for you. Even so, the range of programs certified to work using crossover is limited. How much work is AMD going to have to do to get 500,000 Android apps working in Windows? It will depend a lot on how clever their cross-platform component is, and only time will tell. But it would be an awful lot easier if Microsoft threw its weight behind this. They could integrate this into Windows 8, they have deep enough pockets to test and tweak all the apps they want, and I’m sure it would be a better job than AMD/Bluestacks going it alone.

I can only imagine the thing Microsoft stands to lose is pride, especially after years of telling their customers they’re best off sticking to Microsoft Windows, Microsoft Office, Microsoft Internet Explorer, Microsoft Exchange, and Microsoft Everything (or, only where Microsoft doesn’t have a program, something written for Microsoft Windows).[2]It’s one thing being behind in the smartphone/tablet market, but quite another thing to admit it by welcoming apps written for a rival. And it could raise questions. If Microsoft is depending on apps written for Linux-based Android to sell Windows 8, how can they justify refusing to port Microsoft Office to Linux? Serious question.

My advice to Microsoft is that, in the long run, they would be better off forgetting about Microsoft Everything and go back to competing in a cross-platform world. At the moment, Microsoft are hoping that as long as customers need Windows to run Word and Excel, they’ll buy Windows, but with Libreoffice catching up on everyday functions, and file compatibility improving, customers may soon question whether they need Word or Excel in the first place. But where Libreoffice won’t be going any time soon is the advanced features of MS Office. Crossover’s chief selling point is running MS Office on Linux, and many Linux users pay for this. Remove the complication of an emulator and you can expect demand to increase. For every risk posed to Microsoft for going cross-platform, there’s an opportunity.

Will Microsoft embrace multi-platform? So far, it’s hard to imagine them dropping their old models. In 2005 technology columnist Bill Thompson hypothesised a future where Microsoft re-dominates the IT market with its own version of Linux called Micrix. But he didn’t seriously expect Microsoft to remotely consider this route, and they didn’t. Seven years on, I still don’t expect anything this radical, but there is one crucial change: Apple is rapidly overtaking Microsoft as the all-controlling bad guy. Can Microsoft rediscover itself as the guardians of a free IT system. Relive the heyday of Windows 95, the OS that freed you do anything with your computer?

The daft thing is that Microsoft is slow to recognise its own cross-platform successes. The Microsoft Kinect, as well as being quite successful on the X-Box, is a very popular accessory for all sorts of other uses. But wasn’t until hackers took the matter into their own hands that Microsoft realised they were on to a winner. Could we see the same take-up for Android apps in Windows? Microsoft Office on Android tablets? The sooner Microsoft sees this as a good thing, the better.

[1] Of course, the most notoriously stringent app store is Apple’s. The crucial difference is that Apple, as the first entrant into the commercial app market, can get away with it. Few developers want to cut themselves out of Apple’s app market, however many hoops they have to jump through. With the smaller Windows Phone market, the same app developers might decide it’s not worth the hassle.

[2] Although, to be fair, this is still an improvement on Apple. At least with all things Microsoft you get a free choice of hardware. Under Apple’s ideal, you don’t even get a choice on that.

27 February 2013, 12:12 pm

Lessons from the Narwhal

There is a lot at stake with the new user interface in Windows 8. Ubuntu’s experience from 2011 gives us clues for how this might work out.

Screenshots of Unity with critical remarks
Brace yourself Microsoft. It's your turn now.

With a new Windows version coming out, 8 is of course dominating the tech blogs. I haven’t looked much myself, but I’m assuming there’s gushing praise from Microsoft fanboys and scathing remarks from the hardcore Mac and Linux fans. I really have no appetite for a string of blog posts on one product myself, but having had a look at Windows 8, there’s now one extra thing that’s grabbed my attention other than the Windows Store, and that’s the Metro Interface (it’s now called the “Modern UI” due to a copyright row, but everyone’s still calling it Metro). I promise to move on to something else next time.

This new interface has grabbed a lot of attention, and not all of it’s good. Microsoft’s incentive is to make Windows 8 more friendly to tablet users where they desperately want to compete with Apple and Android, but they risk alienating their desktop customers. I have now tried out their interface and I can confirm it’s a right pain in the bum to operate with a mouse compared to the Start menu it replaced. I can see this being good for touchscreens, but there’s no sign touchscreens are going to replace keyboard, mouse and monitor in the office. Usability is a major issue for mass consumer software, and from the sound of some commentators you’d think this was Windows suicide.

Well, the good news for Microsoft is that there’s a favourable precedent here. Two years ago Canonical did something similar with Ubuntu 11.04 aka Natty Narwhal and its controversial Unity interface. There were a number of factors behind this decision, touchscreen-friendliness being just one of them, but there was a similar scornful reception from the Ubuntu faithful as there is from the Microsoft faithful now. I was just as sceptical about Unity then as I am about Metro now. In fact, after trying out Unity on my test partition, I decided to upgrade to Ubuntu 11.04 – but only once I knew how to force it back to the old interface.

And here’s the good news. I kept Unity on my laptop and netbook (Unity was partly designed as a space-optimised OS for small-screen netbooks), and after while started to understand where it was coming from. The Dash interface was a nightmare to use as a replacement to the Launcher (the Linux equivalent of the Start Menu), requiring numerous extra clicks to launch a program. But once you put all your key programs in the sidebar (which, realistically, is unlikely to be much more than the web browser, word processor and spreadsheet for most people), that’s not a big issue. I found the buttons at the side are a good way of keeping track of different windows belonging to the same program (very similar to the Windows 7 taskbar), and when used in conjunction with the new-look virtual desktops it becomes a powerful way of organising all your windows. There were a couple of feature I felt were more trouble than they were worth on desktops (overlay scrollbar and Global menu), but were easily disabled. When the next release came out six months later and the Unity interface had been refined a bit, I finally make the leap. And this was the experience of a lot of users.

And this is an important lesson in usability for Microsoft and everyone else: it can take months or even years to know if an interface change is a success. I’ve said previously that usability testing is hard because developers and testers, by definition, don’t know what it’s like to be a novice on a computer. One solution is to bring in non-technical people for usability tests, but this example shows a limitation: how can a few days or even a few weeks testing tell you what users think in six months’ time? We know from Ubuntu that it can take months or years for a change to gain acceptance from your users. Canonical and Microsoft both chose to the sceptics, then go ahead anyway and hope for the best. Canonical got away with for Unity, and that’s where there’s hope for Microsoft and Metro.

But it would be foolish to use Unity as proof that it’ll all be fine in the end. There’s a fine line between introducing unpopular changes that gain acceptance over time and imposing unpopular changes that stay unpopular. Facebook’s timelinelooks set to be the latter. The Microsoft Office ribbon is at best a “Marmite change”, where you either love it or hate it. Unity wasn’t a complete success, because some users switched to Linux Mint (an Ubuntu fork that, amongst other things, stuck with the only Windows XP-like interface). In any case, there’s only so far you can go using Linux as a precedent for Microsoft. Linux users are a different demographic group to Windows users, generally more tech-savvy (so more likely to customise their favourite OS from the default setting but also more likely to switch distros if they get too annoyed), and generally different expectations. There’s no knowing if a change accepted by Linux users will also be accepted by Windows users.

If it was up to me, I would have made the new “Metro” interface the default for tablets and the old interface – including Start button – the default for laptops and desktops. Nothing particularly against this interface; just that Unity struck me as a good all-purpose balance between desktops, notebooks, netbooks and tablets, whilst the new Windows 8 screen strikes me as heavily optimised toward tablets. Or, at the very least, they should make it easy to switch back to the old interface with a few clicks. I know that maintaining two different interfaces is extra work (Linux users who stray from the default settings too much will find themselves running into bugs quickly), but – come on, it’s Windows, the highest-selling piece of software in the world, Microsoft can afford to do this.

But it’s unlikely this change of interface will be a Windows killer. Microsoft has many things to worry about – lack of Windows 8 app, a minor share in the smartphone market, open-source competitors getting better, the prospect of Android making the leap from tablet to desktop – but the Ubuntu experience shows that outrage over user experience tends to be a short-term thing. The real test will behow well Microsoft adapts to the changes to the IT market in the last decade – and it will take more than a change to the start page to make or break Windows.

27 February 2013, 12:12 pm

What is going on with Google’s takedown requests?

Iggle Piggle: The new boss of the Pirate Bay?

I know I promised to take a break from Microsoft blog posts, but here’s a third one in a row. Not Windows 8 this time; it's about how Microsoft has got itself in the news for the wrong reasons. It’s been spotted that Microsoft has been sending automated copyright infringement notices to Google claiming that its copyrighted material is being infringed by sites such as, err … the BBC and its well-known hotbed of online piracy, CBeebies. The BBC was unaffected as it’s on a Google whitelist, but other sites weren’t so lucky, including perfectly reputable sites such as AMC Theatres and RealClearPolitics.

First of all, embarrassing though this is for Microsoft, it’s not fair to single them out. Their only crime is getting caught. The majority of copyright enforcement comes from the big film and record labels. As I’ve previously written, wanting to protect their material is reasonable, but their record of heavy-handedness isn’t. Although Microsoft has been criticised for collusion with the record companies, on this issue of dodgy automated takedown requests, I imagine the record companies are doing the same, if not more.

The root problem is that online piracy and copyright is a horribly complicated issue, and it doesn’t help that rules designed to be fair are being abused on both sides. I’ve looked at Google’s information on takedown requests and it seems fair and even-handed, so what’s going wrong? To consider this, let’s go back to the beginning.

First of all: something has to be done. I don’t want to go repeat my arguments, but the short answer is: i) films and music can’t be made for free, and ii) the pirates forfeited any moral high ground when they started raking in huge profits. But, as we all know, with the pirates swift to place material on foreign servers out of reach of the law, and to move on every time a takedown writ is issued, lawsuits alone doesn’t do the job. So attention turns (in part) to making it harder to find the stuff in the first place; the idea being that if it takes effort to pirate your new favourite single, you might decide that paying 99 whole pennies for a legal download might not be such a bad option after all. One obvious thing you can do is stop illegal downloads showing up in Google search results. No grounds for the pirates to complain – it’s not Google’s job to make life easier for them. So far, I have no objections. And then things start to get messy.

There are two snags: firstly, Google is an automated service covering gazillions of websites, and it is simply not practical for the staff at Google to fully investigate every claim. Secondly, a lot of copyright holders have been getting greedy and claiming copyright over things that aren’t theirs. It’s not just the film and record companies who are guilty of this; film studios have tried to get unfavourable reviews hidden, businesses have tried to get rival companies blocked from Google, employers have tried to get critical employees’ blogs delisted. Google claims to be refusing these requests, but these were easy because the copyright grounds were blatantly frivolous. One must wonder how many borderline cases are getting pushed through by the side with the bigger legal team.

But, this worry aside, Google makes a good attempt to come up with a fair copyright policy. If you want to claim copyright over some else’s web content, you have to back it up with an affirmation that this is true to the best of your knowledge. If you’re found to be lying, you might face criminal charges. Google, in turn, informs webmasters of alleged copyright infringements and give them a chance to state their case. Again, if you lie when making a counter-claim, you can also go to court. This seems fair enough – reporter or defendant, if you are in the right you shouldn’t mind making yourself answerable to the law. That ought to weed out most pirates without giving copyright claimants undue power – or so one would think.

In the last few months, things have suddenly changed. There has been an explosion of takedown requests, now seven times what it was in June. How has this happened? It’s not like there’s been a sudden surge in pirated material, so I can only assume it’s a surge in copyright claims. So presumably lots of companies, not just Microsoft, have started sending automated notices of copyright infringements to Google. To some extent, you can argue it is necessary to do this in order to keep you with pirates repeatedly re-uploading the same material. But as the recent debacle with Microsoft and CBeebies shows, these automated requests can get it badly wrong.

The current consensus seems to be that it’s all Microsoft’s fault and not Google’s, with Google apparently only doing what it legally had to do. I don’t quite agree. Google has to take its share of responsibility. It’s one thing taking the word of a human who stands to go to court if found to be lying; it’s another thing to take the word of a computer. Neither Microsoft nor any other company should have “computers errors” as an excuse for false copyright accusations with impunity, and it’s up to Google to put their foot down. If I was in charge of Google, I would think twice about accepting automated reports; at the very least, Google should only be allowing it if Microsoft and everyone else can demonstrate they’re taking steps to stop false positives. Few people would argue that Google search results alone is going to stop piracy – the most it can hope to achieve to persuade some casual pirates that legal downloads are easier – but it would be a stupid own goal if the moves to stop piracy is derailed by a faulty computer program.

27 February 2013, 12:11 pm

A harsh lesson for Facebook

As expectations for a free internet increase, more novel ways have to be found to make money. Instagram is a prime example of how not to do it.
“Hello John. You only did six Facebook Status Updates yesterday. Why don’t you buy
the new iThing plus max supreme, with new Facebook infinity plugin included?”

There’s a famous scene from the Stephen Spielberg classic Minority Report depicting a possible future of advertising. In the film, whenever our hero John Anderton enters shopping centre, the nearest advertising billboard scans his irises and says “You, John Anderton, need a holiday / designer jacket / ticket to the Superbowl.” (And when he gets a new pair of eyes on the black market, the adverts change to “You, Mr. Yakamoto, need a holiday / designer jacket / ticket to the Superbowl.”)

Like most science fiction films, it sought to portray an uncomfortable vision of the future, in this case one with scant disregard for civil rights or privacy. However, it appears that the advertising industry completely missed the point and thought Mr. Spielberg was portraying a rosy future where hard-working businesses can sell more products to consumers through a “relevant adverting experience”. At least, this would explain the logic behind those internet adverts of “57-year-old [Insert location you are accessing internet from] Mom looks 27 – click here to discover her secret”. It would also explain why, when you look at one website, the adverts of that product keep following you to other sites – an action I find comparable to sales reps from Boots following you into Debenhams and Costa to pester you into buying the shampoo you were vaguely browsing.

They haven’t quite reached the technology needed to do full Minority Report -style advertising, but recently a photo-sharing site decided it would join in the fun. Yes, following its recent acquisition by Facebook, Instagram helpfully informed its customers, somewhere in its new terms and conditions, stating that in one month’s time they’d have the right to use your photos for any advertising they want One problem: in most cases, it’s not just the consent of the uploader you need: you also need the consent of the photographer (who is not necessarily the uploader) and for adverts you really need the consent of the people in the photos too. So really the only practical legal way they could use this is to use people’s photos as personalised adverts directed at them. Not sure what they had in mind – maybe “If you liked these hills, you’ll love the hills in Bratislakislavia which you can now reach with cheap flights from us. Click Here.” Anyway, we’ll never find out what their plans were because a massive backlash forced them into a U-turn.

As I’ve said before, it is unfair to vilify a website simply for seeking new ways of getting commercial revenue. I can only think of one major website that runs itself entirely on voluntary donations (Wikipedia), and that is only possible through an unprecedented amount of good will, both from donors and volunteer contributors. The rest cannot run themselves for free. How far it’s morally acceptable to go is open to debate; some web users, for instance, argue that even the most non-intrusive advertising is bandwidth theft, whilst some less scrupulous advertisers would see no ethical issues in, say, putting an ad for a Wonga loan on a debt advice site. The moral debate, however, is a side-show: as is stands, there’s very few rules against intrusive advertising. They can do it, and they are.

But no matter how blasé you are about advertising ethics, there is one thing you ignore at your peril: how your customers react when you go too far. And this is where I think Facebook’s management of Instagram is a problem. Because Facebook has a record that it can get away with anything. It is one of the most heavily-criticised sites for is casual disregard to privacy. And yet every time Facebook makes a controversial change to its privacy policy, Facebook users usually react en masse by either joining a disapproving Facebook group or writing something disapproving in a status update. This is not a sweeping generalisation of all Facebook users being apathetic, but more an observation of how hard it is to vote with your feet. If you leave Facebook, you forfeit your network of Facebook friends. That’s not an issue for people like me who found the whole concept of Facebook friends utterly pointless, but I’m in the minority here. You Facebook friends won’t be waiting for you on Google+.

That safety net does not apply to Instagram. Migrating to another site is much easier: you just open a new account, upload all your photos, and close your Instagram account. No need to worry about how your friends will view your new site – search engines will pick it up in no time. But with Facebook so used to doing what it likes without consequence, it seems that complacency overruled common sense. And the rest is history. The outcry forced them to back down. Even this may be too late. Those who went through all the trouble of migrating to Flickr are unlikely to bother coming back. Facebook may well have changed Instagram into a $1bn waste of money.

What is most frustrating is that this was completely avoidable. There are plenty of ways of making money without alienating your users. Google Blogger provides AdSense on blogs on an opt-in basis, with a cut for both the blogger and Google, with enough left over to pay for the ad-free blogs. Wordpress funds its blogs through a series of optional paid extras, with again enough revenue left over to fund a free blog service. Surely there must be ways for a photo-sharing site to make money? How about, instead of using other people’s photos without permission,  scour instagram for the best photos are offer a deal on selling as a stock photo? You get a cut, Instasgram gets a cut, have enough left over to run the site and the added bonus of an incentive to upload the best possible photos. Sadly, such is the damage to Instgram’s reputation we’ll probably never know if they could have done this.

Will Facebook learn lessons from this? I hope so. Will advertisers in general learn lessons from this? I suspect not. I suspect they’ve already moved on from Minority Report and they’re now getting inspiration from the “RESUME VIEWING” scene in Black Mirror. It’s the bit where a computer detects you’re looking away from an annoying advert, displays a message saying “RESUME VIEWING” and plays an earsplitting high-pitched noise until you give in and look at the screen again? Luckily, there currently isn’t the technology to create something like this in real life - wait a second, could you adapt a Kinect to do that?

Oh dear. I've got a bad feeling about this.

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