Monthly Archives: September 2010

NYC Hacks/Hackers and Facebook’s Justin Osofsky

Justin Osofsky, Facebook’s Director of Media Partnerships, came to talk to the NYC branch of Hacks/Hackers. Had some interesting, general things to say about how traffic patterns change with the use of Facebook to promote articles. I also liked the OpenPlans penthouse and the catering by Xi’an Famous Foods.

Gawker Reports on Ex-Google Engineer Reportedly Showing his Unfettered Power to Teens

I hope most people are vaguely aware that the Google’s great utility and ubiquity also pretty much means it knows everything about you. If not, this Gawker/Valleywag story by Adrian Chen should be a primer. It’s the first detailed alleged case that I’ve read in which a Google employee was reportedly caught and punished accessing and disseminating private information. And not just basic private information, like birthdate or middle name. But something as tangential as the phone number and name of his target’s girlfriend.

It’s unclear how widespread Barksdale’s abuses were, but in at least four cases, Barksdale spied on minors’ Google accounts without their consent, according to a source close to the incidents. In an incident this spring involving a 15-year-old boy who he’d befriended, Barksdale tapped into call logs from Google Voice, Google’s Internet phone service, after the boy refused to tell him the name of his new girlfriend, according to our source. After accessing the kid’s account to retrieve her name and phone number, Barksdale then taunted the boy and threatened to call her.

There’s any number of ways to get this info…it could be as simple as going through the contacts list. Or the chat and call logs. Or typing in “xoxo” into a Gmail search. The point is, according to Gawker’s exclusive, is that even if Google lives up to its public-relations image of being privacy-conscious, a rogue employee can apparently have free and all-seeing access into your accounts. This is the case with any database-service, government or corporation run. But for some of us who use Google for everything, unauthorized information access can be catastrophic. For example, because GMail’s search capability is so convenient, I email myself the dates and times of doctor appointments. Anyone who has access to my account could easily find every doctor or dentist I’ve gone to, and when.

The biggest question in Gawker’s piece (Google did not return their calls for comment) is what kind of access logging they do for engineers such as Barksdale. Gawker says an ex-employee tells them that Barksdale’s position required constant access to the servers, and that engineers such as him were highly competent and trusted:

Barksdale’s intrustion into Gmail and Gtalk accounts may have escaped notice, since SREs are responsible for troubleshooting issues on a constant basis, which means they access Google’s servers remotely many times a day, often at odd hours. “I was looking at that stuff [information stored on Google’s servers] every hour I was awake,” says the former Google employee. And the company does not closely monitor SREs to detect improper access to customers’ accounts because SREs are generally considered highly-experienced engineers who can be trusted, the former Google staffer said.

Model Casting Snapshots for 2010 Fashion Week, for Spring/Summer

I got to help a friend with model casting for Fashion Week. It was both amazing and painful, mostly because I think I pulled something in my back after lifting my camera to take shots of several hundred people. After seeing that many models, I’m still not sure of the difference between a skinny tall person and a runway model. And also, how someone plain in person can look amazing in photos.

My photos were only so the designers could see how the models looked outside of their portfolio, so I didn’t do any direction (i.e. ‘OK, now give me mad. Now give me confused. Fabulous!’. It was basically yearbook photo day at the world’s most glamorous high school. And I couldn’t tell if their I-just-woke-up-barely-in-time-to-go-to-a-casting-call-and-didn’t-have-time-to-get-made-up was real or carefully constructed. It wouldn’t surprise me if their disheveled look was real, and what makes them a model is that they can do that and still look better than everyone else.

Signs from WTC Ground Zero Protest of Park51/Cordoba Center/Mosque, Sept. 11, 2010

9/11 "Ground Zero Mosque" Protest/Anti-Protest, Sept. 11, 2010

Caught the tail end of the protest against the proposed Cordoba House and mosque near Ground Zero. Some interesting signs.

Apparently, the amount of stars and stripes patternage is important to your message. This amount of flagginess is hard to argue against.

9/11 "Ground Zero Mosque" Protest/Anti-Protest, Sept. 11, 2010

Yet, Kid Rock makes a good point here:

9/11 "Ground Zero Mosque" Protest/Anti-Protest, Sept. 11, 2010

The top part of the right-sign says “What would Jesus Do?” Lose in a knife fight against Mohammed, apparently? That’s heresy in some circles.

9/11 "Ground Zero Mosque" Protest/Anti-Protest, Sept. 11, 2010

You can tell this lady is old-fashioned by the way she added two spaces after the sentence-ending period. That’s indicative of the typewriter era and monospace fonts. Modern word processors automatically add the correct spacing.

9/11 "Ground Zero Mosque" Protest/Anti-Protest, Sept. 11, 2010

It’s hard to see here, but the woman’s sign says “Cordoba = Conquer” and “NOT HERE!!”. Maybe her message would be more effective she put more effort and production into it than a Crayola marker. The pro-Cordoba (pro-conquest, apparently) used photos and colors to point out that “Islam has been in New York for 400 years”.

9/11 "Ground Zero Mosque" Protest/Anti-Protest, Sept. 11, 2010

If this woman’s posterior were wider, her message (I think it said, “Religion of Peace My ASS”) would be readable. But it still works in a practical sense, as a label of which side of her body is facing you. Efficient!

9/11 "Ground Zero Mosque" Protest/Anti-Protest, Sept. 11, 2010

WTC 9/11 Tribute in Light, as seen from the Brooklyn Bridge Park

More photos of the World Trade Center memorial lights can be see on my Flickr account. In years past, it went a whole week, though due to lack of funding, the lights were shown for just a few days this year. There was even doubt that they wouldn’t be up next year, the attacks’ 10th anniversary

Apparently the lights were shut down temporarily last night at around 11, because of the birds it attracted. Looking from a vantage point near the base of the lights, the lights stretch so high up that they could be mistaken for a futuring city, and the birds a flock of speeding, circiling aircraft.

WTC 9/11 Tribute in Light, Bird flock

“No Shit” Moment #5812: ABC’s Chris Cuomo

That’s very insightful Chris. Too bad your colleagues didn’t realize that and decided to leave the troll alone. It’s ironic it takes (or would take, he can’t seem to make up his mind) the conscientious objection of the f**king crackpot who started this mess to give the media an excuse to find some other story to cover.

And the anti-Quran-burning advocates also need to give it a bit of a rest. Many of them are the same people who would argue (rightfully, in my opinon) that the vast majority of Islam is composed of moderate, well-meaning and intelligent people, just as is the case for the other world religions. Thinking that Quran burning is ignorant is fine. But throwing up a fit risks a certain condescension, as if you secretly think that Muslims really are a bunch of uncontrollable extremists and that they aren’t yet ready to deal with criticism (just as Christians have had to deal with Piss Christ, for example).

Nonetheless, there are reports of violent protests in Afghanistan about the Quran burning. I don’t blame them. First of all, the protests are happening in Afghanistan, a country that has plenty of non-religious reasons to be angry. Gen. Petraeus is right that any story that fits the mold of American antagonism against Muslims will hurt the mission to win the hearts and minds of Afghans. But so will any story detailing the abuses of, say, Blackwater contractors.

But those kinds of stories are unlikely to get wall-to-wall live coverage from network and cable news or make the covers of 50+ newspapers. Assuming that the average Afghan has just a basic understanding of American media culture, I wouldn’t blame them not being able to tell the difference between our apparent obsession with this Quran-burning pastor and an obsession with Koran-burning itself.

Hacks/Hackers Meetup on Gawker Rooftop, Sept. 8, 2010

From the “Business and Pleasure” mixer for the news geeks group, Hacks/Hackers on the Gawker Media rooftop in Nolita. There was an open bar, but yet the dance floor was empty, which I’m sure was entirely unrelated to the infrequency of Lady GaGa selections by the DJ.

The Tribute in Light, as seen from the Gawker roof:

Hacks/Hackers Meetup on Gawker Rooftop, Sept. 8, 2010