Category Archives: Internet

Cookie Nightmare

Sept2016Cookie

Do you know how many cookies are placed on your computer? Does it matter?

The EU directive from 2011 had companies scrambling to find good ways of notifying visitors about the cookies being placed on their computer and giving opt-out measures. There weren’t good tools around and translating the law into technical requirements was a bit of a nightmare. Ironically it led to the company I worked for collecting more information, as we needed to be able show that we’d responded to people’s cookie preferences.

There are three common approaches;

  1. Implicit agreement
    a warning is placed on a website saying that if you proceed with viewing the website you accept cookies from the publisher, this is most common on information or news sites, it seems to be more common on UK sites than Dutch sites, here’s how the Guardian presents their cookie notification, they also offer a detailed explanation of cookies.
    Screen Shot 2016-09-06 at 09.04.38
  2. Forced agreement the site is blurred out or obscured and an overlay forces you to click ‘agree’ to proceed, this is commonly used on Dutch sites, here’s the Dutch newspaper Het Parool, you only have the option to accept.Screen Shot 2016-09-06 at 09.00.53
  3. Pop-up with cookie options
    This is rarer, but some sites give you the option to choose which cookies you would like to install, usually giving you a choice of three levels of cookies. The lowest level is those required for website function, the next level relates to site measurement or personalisation, and the third level is often the advertising cookies. It’s this third level that mean you’ll see ads from the same company every time you open the internet for 30 days, no matter which page you’re on. The advertiser is collecting significant information about your site visits.

I’ve heard from web experts that the number of people adjusting the level of cookies they accept is low, less than 1%, which makes it seem a lot of work to manage cookies for a very small group of people.

However Many people manage their cookies though browser settings, it’s fairly easy to do in Chrome and Firefox,  and I suspect people really concerned about cookies and privacy take such measures.

When the ‘pop up with cookie options’ is used it’s not always clear how to find the cookie options. One of the most common tools used by companies (who often outsource the cookie management) is TRUSTe, which does give visitors control of their cookies but it’s not easy to see how.

When opening a website using TRUSTe you are presented with a pop-up that talks about “Your Choices” but is designed to push you to clicking on “agree and proceed”.  The little link to the right, that doesn’t look like it does anything is actually where you find the choices.

cookies1Here are the three choices you’ll get.

cookies2Required cookies just let the site function in a sensible way, it means the site will “remember” your language preference for example, sometimes the cookie only lasts for the duration of your visit. Functional cookies provide data on your visit and advertising cookies mean your data is going to an advertiser or media buyer – these are the cookies about which there should be the most privacy concerns.

In all the cases I’ve checked the default setting is for advertising cookies.

I changed the setting to allow only required cookies, and got a warning that the submission would take up to a few minutes.

cookies3

In fact it took less than a minute – this time.

I think some cookies, like those retaining a language preference, on-site tracking or login details, do not cause any significant privacy issues. Others, the advertising cookies, the tracking cookies, are a potential issue. Yet, despite all the good intentions of the EU directive, only one of the cookie options implemented allows you to opt out of those cookies and that’s not always easy to find.

How do you manage cookies as a visitor? I’ve put a poll up on twitter, let me know on the poll, on twitter, or here in the comments.

 

Header Image; Halloween Sugar Cookies  |  Annie  |  CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Easter Egg Pheneomenon

2016march_easter

The ones found in media, the chocolate ones are for the weekend.

An Easter Egg is a surprise addition, something unexpected and usually humorous, included on a DVD, movie, music compilation or software. They usually have an “inside joke” quality to them, and some range into rather esoteric geek territory.

Online Easter Eggs

Google leads the way in producing browser-based Easter eggs with easy to get jokes. They’re your standard hollow chocolate Easter egg. Easy enough to consume, and leave you wanting more. Here are some of my favourites;

Search for ‘anagram’, ‘recursion’, ‘askew’ or ‘do a barrel roll’ and watch what happens.

If you use google maps, pay attention to what happens to the pegman, he changes in various locations or to celebrate specific occasions. He’s been a penguin, a witch, a leprechaun a rainbow, a skier and an astronaut. There are two locations I found that still have adapted pegmen.

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There are also some hidden subpages from Google, a virtual teapot for example, or a bonus puppy shot in the app store.

Easter Eggs In Films and TV

Disney is famous for “cameo” appearances of one character into another movie, so Goofy turns up in the Little Mermaid, and Mickey Mouse makes a brief appearance in Frozen.

The geek TV sitcom “The Big Bang Theory” has a final shot that’s a “card” from Chuck Lorre, the series creator. These are usually on the screen for a matter of seconds meaning it takes some dedication to get to read them. Card #221 is a philosophical rambling on politics and horses.

Easter Eggs In Advertising

Ever wondered why phone numbers in (US made) movies begin with “555”? It’s a range of fictitious phone numbers so that the movie doesn’t accidentally use a working phone number. Except when it does. In 2014 Old Spice included a real phone number in their ad and gave away free super bowl tickets to the first person who called the number.

More delightfully, Innocent, the UK health drink company, included a help line phone number on their bottles. They invited you to call them even if  you did not have a problem and promised to sing you a song if you did. We called and they did indeed sing.

Easter Eggs In Geekdom

I’ll stay out of the seriously geek territory, but will point out that if you open a firefox browswer and type ‘about:mozilla’ into the URL bar, you will get to read a verse from the Book of Mozilla. The verses are written in an eerily apocalyptic style, but do contain references to events that are history for Mozilla. With some historic knowledge you can decode them.

I think companies, such as Google and Disney, which create Easter eggs in their products are displaying a sense of fun – sometimes to the surprise of unsuspecting viewers. They’re also inviting us in, teasing us to become part of the inner circle. Not every company has the platform to do this, nor the company culture to support it, however when it works it’s genius branding.

Still looking for the perfect chocolate Easter egg?  Michel Roux jr reviewed various flavours, and then there’s this, a Game of Thrones inspired dragon’s egg.

Dragon's egg

 

Image: Easter eggs  |  Dan Zen  |  CC BY 2.0

 

The Internet of Things

Internet of Things

The idea behind the Internet of Things (IoT) is simple, use the internet as a communications network and enable devices to talk to each other, to applications and ultimately to us.

To give a really simple example that already exists, in fact I have one installed in my house, a home heating system that includes a thermostat and an app that lets me schedule temperature changed by date and time.  It cost an extra hundred euros, but the savings due to scheduling lower temperatures at night and on holiday will pay for that.

IoT has tremendous potential to simplify our homes, cities, work environments, transport systems, and healthcare. We’re well on the path towards the IoT, many companies are creating connected devices and Intel has stated that we’ll all have 7 connected devices by 2020.

ISF_Infographic_1600x944

Most people already have multiple devices that are connected to the internet; phones, laptops, e-readers, computers, TVs. Coming soon to your home are connected devices such as heating, fridges, lighting, sound systems, and home security. Gartner estimates that by 2022 we’ll have more than 500 devices in our homes, although they don’t provide a list.

IoT goes beyond our front door, the healthcare industry is looking at connected devices to support patient care in hospitals and live-at-home independence for people with disabilities and the elderly.  For those without known health issues wearable devices monitor your activity and fitness each day.

1970s Teasmade

Many of the home devices can also make our work environment smarter, and more productive, including a wifi enabled coffee machine reminiscent of the old fashioned teasmade of the 70s.

IoT also impacts our transport systems, giving us the famous Google driver-less cars and smart driving systems, along with automation of our public transport systems.

On a large scale cities are looking at smart ways to use limited resources, including space, more effectively. Monitoring traffic, pollution, rainfall, foot traffic, waste disposal can help a city provide better services and save money. A very simple example; lighting a city can be revolutionised by knowing how city space is used, and the lights themselves can be monitored and maintained based on information rather than inefficient repeated inspections.

What’s the catch?

Masses of opportunities, but what’s the catch? There are concerns around security, privacy, and some specific ethical concerns.

If your connected device is critical then it needs to be secure, hackers have already tested a number of devices and found that the security is lacking. In one alarming case researchers hacked a pacemaker, the pacemaker was in a mannequin, but if it had been in a person that would have amounted to a death sentence. Some guidelines have already been created to protect yourself against IoT risks.

If our homes have hundreds of connected devices how can we know which data is provided? Many of the IoT devices don’t allow you to discover that. There are existing data protection laws in place that companies must follow, but when each “thing” in your portfolio of IoT is transmitting data about one aspect of your life that is a massive amount of data.

Driverless cars, potentially part of the IoT pose a very specific ethical challenge; how should they be programmed when the choice is between harming a passenger vs harming a pedestrian? I don’t know either – and the dilemma is likely to push us towards smart assisted drivers rather than fully driverless cars in the short term.

I’m excited by much of this development, but if devices remain discrete and unconnected the number of control apps I have on my phone will become unmanageable, this is starting to be addressed with some platform systems for smart homes. I can’t help wondering what I will do with all this new information, and whether it will really give me new insights.

Image:  BB8 Puzzle   |  Kevin Baird  |  CC BY-ND-2.0

Mashies – the winners

So Mashable announced the winners of the Mashies, but didn’t provide any links to the entrants’ content. I’ve started collecting links that at least show something of the campaign, I’ll add more as I find them – feel free to tweet me or leave a comment to suggest a link.

Best Public Service Announcement

Winner: BBDO New York and AT&T for It Can Wait Integrated Campaign

360i for #MAMMING

BBDO New York and Autism Speaks for Lifetime of Difference

Big Block Live for Save the Children – The Most Important “Sexy” Model Video Ever

Purpose for Scenes from Everytown: 4:08 pm

Best Use of Vine

Winner: Target for #unPOPtheBox

Deep Focus and Tombstone for Bites of Fright

GE for #6SecondScience

MRY and Visa for Everywhere You Want to Be Olympics Campaign

We Are Social and Evian for Amazing Baby Rescue Me

Best Use of Instagram

Winner: Wieden+Kennedy New York and Heineken for Crack the US Open

Causebrands and Cotopaxi for Questival

Havas Worldwide Chicago for Havas Chi Internship Draft

Razorfish and Mercedes-Benz for Take the Wheel

VH1 for Love & Instagram: #CheckYoSelfie

Best Viral Video

Winner: Don’t Panic London/UNIT9 and Save the Children UK for Most Shocking Second a Day

CP+B and A.1 for A.1 New Friend Requests

Creative Artists Agency and Chipotle for The Scarecrow

Deep Focus and Lay’s® for Lay’s® Do Us A Flavor

Leo Burnett Toronto and Always for Always, Like a Girl

Best Facebook Campaign

Winner: Wenderfalck and MTV for Match Machine

Attention and Dunkin’ Donuts for Global Donut Day

Colenso BBDO and Burger King for Motel Burger King

MRY and Listerine for Power to Your Mouth

McCann-Starcom and Coca-Cola Italia for #DilloConUnaCanzone & Coca-Cola Summer Festival

Best Use of Snapchat

Winner: Rethink for Memory Project

Association of Surfing Professionals for ASP Surf + Snap: Digital Autographs

GrubHub Inc. for GrubHub Snapchat

Huge and Audi for Audi Takes Snapchat by Storm on Super Bowl Sunday

Wieden + Kennedy New York and Heineken for Snapwho?

Best Branded Twitter Account

Winner: BTC Revolutions and Applebee’s for How Do You Like Them #FanApples

Cavalry and Smith and Forge for @SmithandForge: 19th Century Perspective

Delta Air Lines for Delta Presents: Prepare for Laughter

Guitar Center for Guitar Center Twitter

Publicis Kaplan Thaler and ZzzQuil for ZzzQuil Twitter

Best Interactive Ad Execution

Winner: Interlude and Sony for Like a Rolling Stone – Interactive Music Video

CP+B and Domino’s for Domino’s Live

Digitas and Motorola for Moto X Interactive Print

Rapt Media and Ogilvy for Philips Designed to Play

Razorfish Germany and Audi for The Perfect Day

Best YouTube Brand Channel

Winner: Great Works and Absolut for Absolut Drinks In Motion

Fullscreen and GE for GE Reports

PBS Digital Studios

Razorfish London and Unilever for All Things Hair

Weber Shandwick and Milk Processor Education Program for Chocolate Milk: From the Gridiron to IRONMAN

Best Twitter Campaign

Winner: DDB New Zealand and SKY New Zealand for Bring Down the King

Edelman Digital and Samsung Mobile US for Samsung Keeps the #PowerOn for Galaxy Owners at SXSW 2014

HCL Technologies for #CoolestInterviewEver

NBC and Telescope Inc. for #VoiceSave for NBC’s “The Voice”

We Are Social and Adidas for Brazuca

Best Social Media Campaign

Winner: BBDO Colenso and Burger King for Motel King

BBDO New York and AT&T for @SummerBreak

Deep Focus and Tombstone for Tombstone Bites of Fright

iProspect and Chevy for Chevy and the American Cancer Society Paint Social Media Purple

Zocalo Group and Nestle Coffee-mate for Stirring Up Love “Outside the Cup”

Best Real-Time Marketing

Winner: Allen & Gerritsen and Dietz & Watson for Laser Ham

DDB New Zealand and SKY New Zealand for Bring Down the King

Grow, Wieden+Kennedy, and Google Creative Partnerships for Nike Phenomenal Shot

MRY and Listerine for Listerine “Power to Your Mouth”

Taylor Strategy and Taco Bell for Taco Bell President’s Reddit AMA during Taco Bell Breakfast Launch

Best Interactive Audio

Winner: BBDO Colenso and Pedigree for KPFM

Edelman Digital for Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare Kevin Spacey Reveal

Epiphany and Amplifon for Amplifon: Sounds of Street View

Best Branded App

Winner: Glasses.com for Glasses.com Virtual Try-On App

2Mobile and Caixa Insurance for #transitoaovivo

Comedy Central with Isobar for Comedy Central App

Web Reservation International – Hostelworld.com for Hostelworld iPad App

WWE for The WWE App

Best Branded Facebook Page

Winner: USA Network for Chrisley Knows Best

Cookie Jar for Airtel Buzz

Iris for Team Messi

Publicis Kaplan Thaler for ZzzQuil

Resource for Sherwin-Williams

Best Native Advertising Campaign

Winner: Creative Arts Agency and Chipotle for The Scarecrow

Causebrands and Cotopaxi for Cotopaxi Questival

Kik Interactive and Funny or Die for Funny or Die Promoted Chats

M&C Saatchi for GOWEST (Become Cyber Spy for Equality)

Razorfish and Mercedes-Benz for Take the Wheel

Best Product Placement

Winner: Causebrands and Cotopaxi for Cotopaxi Questival

The Integer Group for Pringles Flavor Slam at Walmart

REVOLT Media and TV LLC for FIAT 500 REVOLT Nation

WhoSay and Canon for #BringIt

Weber Shandwick and Unilever for All Things Hair

Best International Digital Campaign

Winner: DDB New Zealand for Bring Down the King

HCL Technologies for #CoolestInterviewEver

M&C Saatchi for GOWEST (Become a Cyber Spy for Equality)

Razorfish London for All Things Hair

Rethink for Luge

Best Branded Game

Winner: The Integer Group for Pringles Flavor Slam at Walmart

Colenso BBDO for V Robbers

Creative Artists Agency for The Scarecrow

TBWA/Paris for The Most Serious Game Ever

Wieden+Kennedy and Coca-Cola for AHH

Best Use of Tumblr

Winner: Erwin Penland for Denny’s Tumblr Account

Firstborn for Keds Bravehearts

Iris Worldwide for Rimmel London – Retro Glam

McGarryBowen with Kraft for Miracle Whip Tumblr

WGSN for WGSN on Tumblr

Web Summit Highlights: Day One

Phil Libin, CEO Evernote

websummitI missed his presentation last year, but my colleague recommended him as a speaker and a visionary, so this year I was determined to be in the room.

His vision comes down to; make work less sucky.

Evernote are ahead of the curve on productivity tools. They see the free version as their main version, and focus on getting people to “stay rather than pay”. People use the free version for a long time before buying into the product. They’ve also seen that individual users are often their best leads for enterprise to use Evernote.

His advice to entrepreneurs and developers; make something useful, see if people will like it and stay on it. Their best test of whether will use a new feature or tool is whether their colleagues use it.

Lew Cirne

Lew Cirne is the founder and CEO of New Relic, a company founded on the principal of making data visual in a way that is useful.

He had the quote of the day

Life is too short for bad software

The Role of Technology in Filmmaking: John Underkoffler and Tim Webber

John Underkoffler from Oblong worked on Minority Report and went on to make a real version of some of the coolest tools shown in the movie. Tim Webber from Framestore won the Oscar for visual effects in the movie Gravity. What I loved about this discussion was the emphasis on telling a story. The story comes first and the technology is tool to tell that story.

In the future they see the possibility to integrate with reality tools, but that this has to work in parallel with the story rather than detracting from the story. It occurs to me that at some point movies with virtual reality tools will start to blur the line between movies and games.

The next technology challenge is CGI “humans” that are believable and sustainable for a whole movie.

One key to their success is a very interesting skill that has growing importance in all sorts of companies. Movies are now made across several teams located in different countries, so collaboration in virtual environments has become an essential skill.

Eva Longoria

Room starts to fill up – this might be the closest geeks ever get to genuine stars.

This is not the most original of interviews, some of the questions seem to have been cribbed from an old Cosmo magazine. But Eva Longoria is gracious and funny and she gets her points across.

  • in the cycle of poverty the best intervention is education
  • women start biz at 3x rate of men but have trouble getting access to expertise and capital (in US)
  • her foundation starts addressing these issues

By the end of the 20 minute interview there is a crowd at the front in a photo frenzy.

Gary Marcus

Artifical Intelligence has been disappointing, all the best stuff is always promised as something 20 years away – but we’ve been saying that for 50 years. As Peter Thiel once said “We wanted flying cars, we got 140 characters”

Privacy Discussion

Last year there was a panel discussion in a tiny hard-to-find room, that ended up over-crowded with people peering in through the door. This year it’s on the main stage. Privacy is a real issue, and a challenge for all companies working in digital. An ongoing challenge in my work in social media.

Legal rep for NSA vs CEO from Cloudflare on the basis of privacy in the digital world; neither of them deny the importance of privacy and the challenges faced. But the discussion is where does the responsibility lie?

Peoples’ expectations have changed, many users will sacrifice some privacy for free services. Facebook and Google have a business model that exploits this, selling aggregated data to advertisers. But this is not everyone’s business model; Apple, Cloudflare and Ello are showing that.

There seems to be an ongoing tension between security and privacy; is this inevitable?

Drew Housten

The CEO and founder of Dropbox, a tool I’ve loved and used for years.

He begins by talking about a tennis ball and the number 30,000

The tennis ball represents obsession – think of a dog at play, and 30,000 represents the number of days you have have in your life. Realising at the age of 24 he’d used up a third of them jolted him into starting out as an entrepreneur.

As Dropbox became successful he got a call; Apple were interested. He famously didn’t sell. When asked what number was on the table, he admits they never got as far as stating a number. Before the meeting someone told him that if he didn’t want to sell the company then don’t discuss selling the company.

When asked about competition he answers almost casually “We’ve always had competiton”, but manages to give the impression that being seen as a competitor to giants such as Google et al is a sign of success.

There was an announcement earlier – Dropbox and Microsoft have agreed to work together and produce deep integration between their two products. This leads to a question about equal pay – given the Microsoft CEO’s advice to women to rely on “karma” for salary equality. His answer is unequivocal “two people doing the same work should get the same money regardless of gender”.

And with a round of applause I wander off to find a Dublin shuttle bus. The driver roars “it’s two euro and tirty-five cents, all Dublin buses take coins only” and when we look surprised “this information is all on the web”.

Lessons from Implementing an Enterprise Social Network

I went to Copenhagen to attend the IntraTeam event last week and talk about what we’d learnt implementing an enterprise social network at ING – that ESN was called Buzz. Here’s the presentation I gave – with some added speaker notes.

http://www.slideshare.net/changememe/buzz-louise-mcgregorppt

Designed to tell the company story

Luxottica, known for its product design, has just updated its website to reflect online design trends – and give its products a stylish showcase.

Luxottica’s site last week – showing the home page and the brand page.

The site served the purpose of communicating company performance but did little to inspire interest in design or products. Given that they design eye-wear for some of the world’s great fashion brands it was a disappointing experience.

Luxottica’s site now – showing the home page and the brand page.

The difference is huge; Luxottica has re-used a lot of existing content to create a rich experience for the user packed with images and video. The navigation is simplified,  brands are highlighted, and the company’s charitable foundation “OneSight” is featured.

But the changes go deeper than just visual, they include;

  • responsive design, meaning this site will look good on all devices
  • shareable content, every page includes the “share” option under an icon
  • pulling in content from social media channels
  • icons used to identify functions across the site
  • “infinite” scroll, combined with persistent left hand navigation
  • increased storytelling, instead of writing text about the company or the brand stories have been collated from across the company to give the visitor a understanding of the whole company.

This website design is on trend, covering a number of the 7 digital design trends I wrote about last year.

There are a few “minus points”; the media gallery includes just 5 images which seems very thin when the rest of the site is so rich, the videos are sometimes very long,  and the content in the individual brand pages is rather uneven (very rich for Oliver People and very thin for Chanel) which I understand is due to some brands being owned while others are licencing agreements.

But the framework is there to deliver great visual content, and tell the brand story to all stakeholders. The team behind the site should be congratulated, it’s a great step in the right direction – Luxottica.com now looks like it’s from a design company.

(Disclaimer; I know the project manager behind this, she’s fantastic – she also used to work for me)

Increasing Web Traffic is not a Business Goal

Screen Shot 2013-08-25 at 4.06.32 PMImagine you’re the director of a fantastic, imaginative and popular theme park, located 30 kilometres from a European capital.

How would you measure the success of the park?

  • by the number of visitors to the city
  • the number of tickets booked online
  • the number of people through the park’s gate
  • total revenue
  • revenue against costs

If you chose the fifth option then you can probably stop reading.  While all the others measure factors impacting the business it is the only measure of the success of the park.

Imagine the you ran a campaign to increase visitors and doubled the number of people coming through the gate; but they came on discounted tickets, didn’t spend as much once in the park, but drove up service costs. If your KPI was only on gate numbers you’ll think this was a success, but on a business basis you’ve destroyed value. And in the long term these may not be the loyal customers you’re looking for (as many Groupon suppliers found to their cost).

This is a rough analogy of measuring web traffic, it’s a contributing factor to business success, but not an outright measure of success. It’s also something you don’t entirely control. Sure you can do all the SEO and banner campaigns to drive traffic but external factors also play a part; the biggest traffic drivers to our corporate site in recent years have been events around the financial crisis.

So if you’re trying to develop a set of KPI’s start with the business goal, which should relate to either increasing revenue, building your brand (which should lead to increasing revenue) or reducing/optimising costs. Look at the contributing factors, understand their impact. If you’re looking at website traffic analyse the data in depth, try to find the behaviours that contribute to your business goals. Is it a sale? a subscription? sharing content? viewing a video? Measure that. Measure the number of people who do that as a proportion of total visitors. That’s your conversion rate, that’s the interesting number. To go back to the theme park analogy those are the people signing for the all-inclusive deal.

Traffic isn’t the only thing to think about. Some years ago a Google sales person was talking to me about increasing traffic to our corporate site. At the time my concern was that we had too much traffic – because the site uses the .com domain US clients often expected it to be their “local” site. So it’s worth using surveys to analyse who is visiting your site and what their goals are – in our case we address this specific issue using IP sniffing to guess the visitor’s location, and then served them a splash page directing them to the local site (since some US visitors do want the corporate site we couldn’t just redirect US traffic). So it’s not just volume, it’s whether you’re bringing the right people to the site.

Traffic to a site or within a site should be measured, and web managers must make adjustments  that make their site easier and faster to use. Increasing traffic will almost always be good for business – just don’t mistake it for a measure of business value.

Image Mystic Beach Traffic Stop Diorama / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Confession; I was a troll

A Young TrollIn my (internet) youth I was a troll, I did it for fun.

I’d pick a cryptic handle such as birds_of_paradox, and tease the other regulars on a forum. I once posed as Mrs_God to counter-troll an unpleasantly bossy Mr_God. I wasn’t ever nasty or abusive, OK maybe occasionally a low grade of mean. So for me it was adopting an anonymous handle and teasing a bunch of people. I’ve moved on, most of the stuff I post on the internet now is in my own name.

Of course I’ve encountered more sinister forms of trolls; some were simply out to challenge political views, some would play devil’s advocate against whatever the discussion was, some posted irrational statements to draw attention to themselves, some posted porn images deceptive titles, and there was the inevitable Rickrolling. I’ve even had one troll want to meet me. Er, no thanks.

But those were the good old days. Trolling seems to have gone high octane, with certain twitter posts including threats to a celebrity or their family, an Olympic athlete was abused via twitter last year, and this year’s Women’s Wimbledon champion was abused for not looking like Sharapova (interestingly a number of those twitterers have now locked or closed their account). The people doing this are using the seeming anonymity of the internet to abuse someone who doesn’t deserve it… seriously; who abuses someone for winning a grand slam tournament?

The meaning of the word has shifted in a second way, it’s not longer about teasing regulars on a forum, or challenging a collective viewpoint, or even getting an angry reaction from a message board. It seems to be used to describe anything that annoys someone somewhere on the internet, including something published by a mainstream news organisation such as the Rolling Stone’s cover photo of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. As Salon quoted in a recent article;

“People have come to use the word ‘troll’ to mean, ‘It made me angry on the Internet,’” said Doyle. “And that’s pretty broad. It’s a big and noisy Internet.”

The meaning of words changes over time; “nice” used to mean stupid for example (and now you’ll be suspicious if I ever use it to compliment you).

But the problem here is we already have some words that work; in the first case how about “abuse” or “bully”. In the second “provocative”. It was a provocative cover, designed to provoke a reaction or challenge perceptions.

Meanwhile I’ve got some new hobbies – I’ve abandoned my troll bridge.

Any other reformed trolls out there?

Image; Trolls&Légendes 2011 /Manon Fockedey/ CC BY-ND 2.0

The Law of Cookies

About a year ago the EU directive on the use of cookies online came into effect. The idea was to give consumers a better understanding of what information was being collected about them and how it was being used. Which seems like a noble motivation. Many experts said that the law was unworkable and ineffective – even as they scrambled to implement it on their sites. Others pointed out that it was unenforceable outside the Netherlands.

Screen Shot 2013-07-14 at 12.14.39 PMThe Dutch requirements are, it seems the toughest, and implementing them means we now collect more information than we used to, and store it longer. Because the law requires a strict opt-in Dutch sites tend to use splash pages or white boxes before letting you see their content – such as this example from RTL Netherlands. RTL is a pan European company, their other sites do not force this on their visitors – but the cookie law implementation varies across the EU.

The cookies we set on our site serve three functions;

  1. remembers which language you want to use to read the site
  2. remembers your response to a disclaimer (we include some information that is not supposed to be for the US market)
  3. collect (anonymous) data on your visit so we can improve the site

We didn’t want to force people to opt-in so it’s optional. Not surprisingly most people don’t which means that on return visits they may need to re select their language, and they may need answer the disclaimer multiple times – and this applies to visitors outside the EU. We now do not get enough data to analyse the site.

There’s no good solution to this; either we annoy visitors with the forced opt-in, or we don’t collect enough data to analyse our site, or we don’t comply with the law. It’s a frustrating situation to be in. Particularly as we know from other research that 90% of visitors will leave the cookie acceptance on the default setting – even if that is the highest setting.

The ICO, the organisation responsible for the enforcement of the cookie law in the UK, announced a change to their use of cookies earlier this year, effectively moving to an opt-out model. For UK sites the cookie law is a vestigial form; you need to disclose how you use cookies but specific opt in is not required. Here’s a helpful timeline of the developments in the UK.

For Dutch companies the requirement remains unchanged, full opt-in is required and companies must collect proof that visitors have opted-in (that’s the extra data we’re now collecting about you). There’s no indication from OPTA (the Independent Post and Telecommunications Authority – the organisation charged with enforcing the law – part of the Authority for Consumers and Markets), that any change is planned. However Dutch site “Marketingfacts” reported that a bill amending the cookie law was presented to parliament on 20 May (Article only in Dutch). The proposed changes would allow analytical cookies and those needed for the operation of the site to be set based on implied consent provided the data collected did not have an impact on privacy.

The bill has been through a consultancy phase and it will now be up to the minister to decide whether to submit the bill to the lower house. Like many of those working in digital industries I am hoping this bill goes through.