Thursday 13 January 2011

Cyber world

I have for some time taken an interest in the effect of the Internet on  the connected world. There are several broad brush strokes that one can use to compartmentalise the Internet. However, even measured in broad brush strokes, the strokes would be a very large number. Then if you then take each broad brush stroke you can break that down much further into a myriad of smaller more specific areas. The granularity that one could achieve is almost infinite.

Some broad brush strokes.

  • Spam.
  • Porn.
  • eMail.
  • Business.
  • Issues.
  • Recreation.

Spam definition: The use of many and varied electronic messaging systems to send unsolicited messages indiscriminately.

Wiki says: Spamming remains economically viable because advertisers have no operating costs beyond the management of their mailing lists, and it is difficult to hold senders accountable for their mass mailings. Because the barrier to entry is so low, spammers are numerous, and the volume of unsolicited mail has become very high. In the year 2011 the estimated figure for spam messages are around seven trillion. The costs, such as lost productivity and fraud, are borne by the public and by Internet service providers, which have been forced to add extra capacity to cope with the deluge. Spamming has been the subject of legislation in many jurisdictions.
The problem is the same one as Pandora's box or the Genie and the bottle. Spam is out and it is now impossible to contain it again. Strangely enough, several big business have been created in what is an almost futile attempt mitigate the spam problem. The business in the main is built around identifying and removing spam messages before they enter your mailbox. The second thrust is to eradicate malicious software from your computer that is using your connection and bandwidth to propagate the spam problem.

In a curious paradox, security experts are trying to work out why the amount of unsolicited bulk email distributed worldwide fell dramatically towards the end of 2010. That said, they also suspect it's a situation that won't last long. Security firm Symantec estimates that in August the number of bogus emails sent daily was around 200 billion. Surprisingly, that number slipped dramatically to 110 billion by October, was just 70 billion in late December, and collapsed after Christmas to around 30 billion. (Source:

If you're staggered by talk of tens or hundreds of billions, it's worth noting this isn't the number of messages that people actually receive. The vast majority of spam is filtered by email service providers, though the small percentage of spam that actually does get through certainly makes for a lot of junk email. It's not likely that the drop has to do with spammers taking time off to celebrate the holidays. And although it may make sense to avoid sending messages to businesses when they are shut down for seasonal breaks, that wouldn't seem a big enough factor to explain the pattern.
Ignoring Porn, eMail and Business use, because in my opinion they are all pretty self evident. We come to Issues. This is possibly one of the more interesting areas of the Internet. yet at the same time it is one of the least understood. The most famous issue at the moment is WikiLeaks. Julian Assange, like him or loath him has brought global issues to the forefront. Campaigns that are intended to bring issues into the global spotlight can highlight the shortcomings of individuals, companies and even Governments. I don't know of anyware that this is better illustrated than through the whole WikiLeaks issue.
Is it good to shine a light into the dark corners?
It will depend on your political leanings. If for instance the issues are those that might be addressing "political prisoners" and "prisoners of conscience" for instance. Sites such as Amnesty International are renowned for doing good work in this area. 
Greenpeace is well known around the world for many campaigns such as "save the whales". Greenpeace states that its goal is to "ensure the ability of the Earth to nurture life in all its diversity" and focuses its work on world wide issues such as global warming, deforestation, overfishing, commercial whaling and anti-nuclear issues.

One of my favourite sites is avaaz. Avaaz is an International Civic Organization that promotes activism on issues such as climate change, human rights, and religious conflicts. Its stated mission is to "ensure that the views and values of the world's people inform global decision-making."

There are many others to choose from. I enjoy this type of indirect action, because I can choose to support each of their aims in a passive or reactive way. It might be that I learn more about the day-to-day issues or that I choose to sign an online petition.

At the same time, governments of the day also embrace the Internet to address the voting public issues. The UK prime ministers ePetitions is a typical one. So both sides of the WiliLeaks issues are avid users of the Internet.

Last of all is Recreation. The Internet is full of information on every subject matter under the sun. Some information is carefully researched and is subject to a form of peer review. Wikipedia is one such site. Which on balance the information contained is reasonably factual and unbiased.

Then there are the one trick pony or single issue sites. Which specialise in a whole plethora of single specific issues. Often taking the form of a forum where anything can be debated. Generally, there is much good that comes out of such sites. However, the downside often comes disguised as a set of conditions or rules which go some way to limiting the debate.  Or when the forum is not managed in such a way, where the users are guided back on to the main thrust whenever they drift off. There are often as many opinions on a subject topic as there are forum members.

Then there is blogging. Blogging is a curious pastime for the amateur, an all embracing technology for the professional and a place for individuals to leave their mark on the cyber world.  As I said in a previous post:- "Some people want others to read their blogs, because it allows them to build up a passive friendship. Friendships, which are at the same time, kept almost at arms length. Maybe the blogger is shy and retiring - just like me! Blogging for me is historical, I love history in all its flavours. The Internet is part of a digital technological revolution. - We might have missed the early part of the industrial revolution but we were around for the latter part of it. The Internet content is being chronicled already, it is being backed up and indexed. Personal blogs will have much more of an impact in the future."

So I write about whatever flickers through my fingers at a particular moment in time. I do try and keep to the blogs ethos and talk about narrow-boats, canals and my interaction with them. Sometimes I go off at a tangent - today is one such day.


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