Friday, November 30, 2007

"Master, I have a big head . . . and little arms."

I'm reading much drama and angst over the new flagging feature for LJ. The LJ powers posted an update with some clarifications, but the main problem I see with the system has not been addressed -- more on that in a moment after I rant about some of their other comments.

Some clarification of their clarifications.

  • LJ sez: "As additional measures to prevent abuse of the flags, only accounts registered for over a month may use the flagging feature, and use of the flags is limited to five per user every twenty-four hours. Misuse of this sytem [sic] will result in the user's flags not counting towards the threshold for review."
That's about the only good clarification within the update. Now someone tell them to fix their spelling. Moving on . . .

  • LJ sez: "Most importantly, logged in users over 18 will not see any of the changes made by the settings of this program unless they choose to. You won't see any of the lj-cuts related to this system and your friends page will appear exactly as it always has. We feel it's important that this doesn't impact adults using LiveJournal."
However -- in your user view settings located at you might notice that the default setting way at the bottom of the page is "Use Moderate Filtering." So if you don't like having your content censored, and you've entered in a birthdate indicating you are over the age of 18, you should go now and "fix" that setting to "Do not filter my results."

  • LJ sez: "This system will not accept flags on friends-only content. Although a flag icon may be present on the navigational strip, if you click it while viewing friends-only content it will only give you the option to flag the journal. Friends-only content is not affected by or included in any part of this system.
How does that actually make this feature useful to concerned parents? The kids that want to hide their emo thoughts from the adults have already marked their journals friends only, so the children are well educated about how that feature works. Meanwhile the predators here are likely marking their stuff friends only and adding their targets to their own friends list and luring the kids to view their stuff. Remember folks, you add people to your list so others can see your private entries. Not the other way around. This feature seems exactly backwards to me.

  • LJ sez: "The date of birth used when you create your account is the way that your age is calculated by LiveJournal. If you did not enter a date of birth when you registered, it will default to the date on your profile (which you can enter but hide on the Edit Profile page). If a user has not entered a date of birth, the first time they click on an lj-cut generated by these systems they will be prompted to enter a date of birth. That will then be the system-recorded age (so they shouldn't have to enter it again)."
This . . . this is my main concern. For this feature to be at all worth having, there must be a way to verify the age claimed by the user. For now, any person who is under 18 years old and wants to see "Adult Content" on LJ is simply going to lie about their age.

Worse, I cannot think of anyway to verify ages that isn't draconian in nature -- and even those methods are easily spoofed. There isn't a foolproof way for websites to gather proof of anyone's age without drastic and privacy threatening measures. Credit cards? Not even. Fax paper records? Steal Dad's or Mom's ID for a few minutes. There. Is. No. Good. Way.

Greater minds than LJ can afford have been struggling with this problem for years. We still don't have a good answer.

I'm just not sure how well this plan was thought through.

Master? Master?

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Have we really become

Biloxi's recovery shows post-Katrina divide

Two years later; Many Katrina victims still have no power, but they can see their wrecked homes and FEMA trailers at night by the glare of nearby -- newly rebuilt -- casino signs.

Yet in the wrecked and darkened working-class neighborhoods just blocks from the waterfront glitter, those lights cast their colorful glare over an apocalyptic vision of empty lots and scattered trailers that is as forlorn as anywhere in Katrina's strike zone.

"At night, you can see the casino lights up in the sky," Shirley Salik, 72, a former housekeeper at one of the casinos, said this month while standing outside her FEMA camper with her two dogs. "But that's another world."

It seems shocking, but the stark realist in me accepts this disparity in our societies priorities. And that saddens me deeply.

I need to rethink MY priorities.