Archive for May 24, 2011

Sony hacked again as attackers target Sony Music Japan. This is getting tiresome.

Just when you couldn’t imagine it getting any worse for Sony, a new wave of attacks have been levelled on the Sony Music Japan website, exposing databases using SQL injection techniques.

NakedSecurity reports that the highlighted databases do not contain sensitive information, with no names, passwords or personally identifiable information thought to have been exposed in the attacks.

However, the attackers, who mock Sony with a note stating “This isn’t a 1337 h4x0r, we just want to embarass Sony some more”, do note that two other databases on the site are vulnerable but it is not known whether they contain sensitive information. Lulz Security takes claim for the breach, the same hackers that targeted Fox.com earlier in the month.

It’s been a tough month for Sony, which first saw its PlayStation Network brought down for weeks after hackers stole sensitive information hosted on the platform. Soon after that, it emerged that a phishing site was found on Sony’s Thailand portal before it attackers managed to breach the company’s Greek website using a similar SQL injection attack.

Sony is reported to have lost $171 million as a result of attacks on its gaming platform, but its reputation could suffer more than its bank balance if events continue to play out as they currently are.

Sonar gets us closer to the promise of true geosocial networking

Imagine heading to a party, or a conference, or a bar and getting a briefing before you go of the people who will be there, and how they are connected to you.  Your briefing would include photos, profiles, links to social media presences, and of course, the person or people who you know in common.

Armed with this information, professional party goers could have an unfair advantage in creating witty conversation.  Sales people could create connections with potential clients, seemingly out of thin air.  And the players among us could find themselves with plenty to talk about with that special someone.

This is Sonar, and it’s brilliant.

It’s Rapportive for the real world, it’s your own personal attache to remind you who you should (and shouldn’t be) speaking with, and it’s a great big spotlight shedding light on those interesting people who are just two degrees away.

One of the confusing aspects of the term “social networking” is that it implies meeting new people.  On Facebook, the largest social network of them all, meeting new people is not really part of the equation – it’s more about keeping up with the people you already know.

Early geosocial pioneers like Foursquare and Gowalla took this concept of connecting with people you know and added the element of location and presto – you had a great way to potentially meet up with friends.

Only recently have geo networks dared take on the high risk / high reward project of connecting strangers in the real world.  Meet Gatsby, a favorite of mine, uses a digital concierge approach to try and match you with people you might get along with.  AgoraApp tweets back at you if friends of friends are nearby when you check in with Foursquare.

But Sonar shows you everything.  All nearby venues with a list of folks who are there, ranked by the people you know in common.  And because it is based on the friend of a friend model, there is at least the perception that Sonar is less risky than just getting matched with strangers in the street.

Amazingly, on launch day, Sonar is already working pretty well – at least here in San Francisco.  Firing up the app shows me that there are nine people with whom I share a Twitter or Facebook connection currently at Zeitgeist, a beer garden down the street.

How did Sonar pull off this critical mass from day one?  Wisely, they chose to build on existing Foursquare, Facebook, and Twitter data meaning they can already provide a good experience in places where people use those services to check in.

I’m excited about this service, and I think it could even end up being more useful than some of the services whose data it is built on top of.

Jeff Jarvis asks Nicolas Sarkozy to take a "Hippocratic Oath" regarding the Internet: "First, do no harm" and is che…

Jeff Jarvis asks Nicolas Sarkozy to take a “Hippocratic Oath” regarding the Internet: “First, do no harm” and is cheered. Sarkozy happily obliges. (We’ll see.)

May 24, 2011, 4:57 AM

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Nicolas Sarkozy Gives Tech Entrepreneurs A Big Smooch, Stays Vague On Policy

nicolas sarkozy france eG8

Image: Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry, Business Insider

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French President Nicolas Sarkozy opened up the eG8 Forum in Paris with a keynote speech and interview with Publicis Groupe CEO Maurice Levy and journalists. 

His speech was basically a big smooch for the internet. The internet is a revolution and a new world, Sarkozy said, and he wants to do everything to help entrepreneurs make it awesome.

Sarkozy called the internet the “third wave” of globalization, and the most important: the first wave was that of explorers like Columbus and Magellan, the second wave was the Industrial Revolution and what came after, and the third wave is the internet

The only problem is that France often has boneheaded policies related to the internet, and the speech, while phliosophically soaring, was also light on policy. 

When asked during the QA about what policies he planned on putting in place specifically, he mentioned investment in infrastructure and building world-class universities, which is great. But what France and Europe really need to boost entrepreneurship are a better tolerance of failure (and, frankly, less regulaition and less taxes). He also pointed to his newly-created “National Digital Council” of top internet CEOs which he has said would be consulted before any new internet regulation was enacted. 

When told that starting the eG8 was politically risky, Sarkozy did say something that every entrepreneur can sympathize with: “The worst risk is not taking any risk.”

Now we only need for French society and policy to be as comfortable with risk. 

Don’t Miss: Getting Into The eG8 This Morning →

The State of iPad Usability

The iPad report, co-authored by Raluca Budiu and Jakob Nielsen, is a hefty 129 pages and is available for free download. The report tested 26 iPad apps and 6 websites. The testers in this study were required to have at least 2 months’ experience using iPads.

There has been “good uptake of several of our recommendations from last year,” claims the report – such as apps implementing back buttons,
broader use of search,
homepages and
direct access to articles by touching headlines on the front page.

The report reiterates a common understanding about the iPad, that it’s mostly for media consumption. Email is “the only slight exception to the rule.” Specifically, the Nielsen participants reported using their iPads for games, checking email and social network sites, watching movies and videos, and reading news.

Website or App?

This is a question that many online services are asking themselves as they consider the iPad.

Nielsen reports that websites are generally very usable on the iPad. However the report cautions of a design issue it labels “read-tap asymmetry,” which is when “the content is readable, but the links and widgets are too small to touch reliably.”

iPad applications had many more problems though, in comparison to websites.

The study tested a few tasks that were performed both on the Web (meaning via a web browser on the iPad) and using an application. The report concludes that “our participants were always successful on the Web [but] a third of the corresponding tasks that involved apps ended in failure.” The report gives two reasons for this:

  1. The apps contained less content than the websites.
  2. The app design was confusing or the app made the user work more.

Dr Nielsen’s Design Prescriptions

Confusing design is where Jakob Nielsen traditionally leaps to the rescue, with his ‘keep it simple’ philosophy for successful usability. Sometimes Nielsen is guilty of being too dismissive of current web trends. Indeed, his own website is often criticized by web designers for its 1990′s style minimalism.

However, the guidelines in this particular report are well defined and backed up with research. For example, on having large enough touchable areas:

“Research has shown that the best target size for widgets is 1cm x 1cm for touch devices; however, we still see some apps that have tiny targets, far below that recommended limit.”

The report lists many other examples and they are well worth perusing if you’re a developer or designer of websites and/or apps.

There’s also some useful analysis of how iPad usage differs from the computer. For example, this extract regarding media websites:

“From our testing of news and magazine apps, it turns out that most users read just a few articles per session, and spend most of their time scanning headlines and summaries for something of interest. That’s why it’s important to support the browsing activity better by giving it extra space, especially if there are a lot of news stories to go through.”

The report offers a full case study about magazine apps, starting on page 96.

A Return to Form for Jakob Nielsen

Overall, this is a detailed report that is packed with examples and screenshots. It’s free and is a must-read for anybody designing websites or apps for the iPad.

It seems that the era of mobile phones and tablets has given Jakob Nielsen a second wind in the field of web usability, after years of not very useful hot air about web 2.0 PC trends. Nielsen is back to his best with this report on iPad usability. Welcome back, Mr Nielsen.

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