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Archive for August, 2011

Google: We’re Going To Be Evil

August 28, 2011 Leave a comment

So… Here’s the answer from the horse’s mouth, via a question NPR’s Andy Carvin asked Google CEO Eric Schmidt: Google+ is not a social network. It’s an identity service and Google intends to “leverage” (i.e.sell) the personal identity information it demands — demands! mind you — that you give it in exchange for the privilege of using the G+ service.

Even more interesting is Schmidt’s attitude about the policy, which amounts to: If you don’t like it, fuck you, go someplace else. Sound familiar? Like maybe, cough cough, Facebook?

I don’t believe Google’s position on this is tenable. I’ve maintained for weeks now that Google is seriously fumbling its one big chance to knock Facebook off of it’s perch by proving that there’s big money to be made be in the social media sphere by not being a scumbag. I still think that’s true. But it is beginning to look more and more like it won’t be Google that proves it. Their “don’t be evil” policy seems to stop at the Google+ door – if it ever really existed at all.

If they keep this up, I may have to rethink my many connections to Google’s services. If they have this attitude toward my personal identity information, what in the hell are they already doing with the other information I have on their servers?

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The NOT Facebook

August 17, 2011 Leave a comment

Let’s get one thing clear right up front: I hate Facebook. There’s only one reason on this planet that I even have an account there: My friends and kids are there and nowhere else. So if I want to stay in touch with them, that’s where I have to go. They’re lemmings; they don’t care how much information they’re handing Mark Zuckerberg. They are, in fact, his kind of people. Me? I’ve installed every kind of anti-Facebook snooping app I can find; I don’t play their silly games—which are really just information harvesting scams; I go, I read, I post and reply and get off. I’ve even quit using their chat and private mail function since they recently decided you can no longer delete anything. All you can do is ‘archive’ chat streams and private mail. (And I use the term ‘private’ very loosely here. This is Facebook, after all.)

So I was delighted to see the launch of Google+. I’m already in bed with Google so deeply I can’t even see straight. I run an Android phone; my contact list is synced to Google Contacts; my appointment scheduler is Google Calendar—synced, of course; my todo list is via Google Calendar; many the documents I reference regularly are stored in Google Docs; my photo albums are synced to Picasa; and lately for some of the ebooks I need to regularly reference I’ve turned to Google Books.

So Google+? Hell yeah! Social media needs a fresh face. On Twitter, which I use solely for marketing my company, I under share and even then am very conscious about what I tweet. With Facebook, because it’s Facebook, everything is public, and you have to assume that even if you make it private, it’s in one way or another public. So there, Zuckerberg gives you no choice but to over share. Google+, by design, seemed like the perfect alternative. In fact, it seemed Google had positioned itself rather uniquely. Between the circles concept and Google’s Safe Search technology, Google+ could not only allow you to be as private or as public as you chose, it would also allow those who wanted to, to safely post adult content.

Then Google got stupid. First, they decided right after the Google+ roll-out that everyone—yes everyone— had to have their real name in their Google profile. Never mind that I could put ‘John Smith’ in as my real name and Google wouldn’t know the difference. Accounts using obvious aliases (and maybe for good reason, though it’s none of Google’s damned business) began being suspended. Second, rather than taking advantage of the already deployed technology of Safe Search, Google decided to prohibit adult content on Google+. Content they could easily filter using Safe Search. Between the two, the anger and frustration being directed at Google by new Google+ users has been vociferous. Just yesterday one user, whose account had been suspended for four days, posted “fuck you Google+; come follow me on Twitter everybody…”

So in the end, while Google+ has a nice feature called Circles, in all other respects it’s rapidly becoming little more than Facebook II, complete with bad reputation. What few differences there were are shrinking every day. Even the information harvesting games the Facebook lemmings enjoy are being rolled out on Google+. In fact, it sounds like many of them will even be the same games, retooled for the Google platform. All of which means Google+ chances of steamrolling right over the top of Facebook, a chance I and many others originally counted as very good, are shrinking fast.

If I were Google, I would seriously reassess a few policies if my goal with Google+ was to retake the top spot as the stickiest, most visited website in the world. We do need a new and better alternative to Facebook and Twitter. Unfortunately, as currently being deployed, Google+ isn’t going to be it.

Third Party Cannabis Inspections Commeth

August 3, 2011 Leave a comment

So, yesterday the San Francisco Chronicle published a PRWEB press release about “[Chris] Van Hook, an attorney well-versed in medical marijuana law and the founder of the Clean Green Certified inspection program,” who is helping California Counties “ensure that local medical marijuana growers and dispensaries are operating in accordance with state and local laws.” Van Hook is apparently running around to different counties encouraging them to implement a marijuana inspection program similar to the USDA National Organic Program. He’s encouraging “vendors who supply local collectives” (i.e. growers) to be forced to purchase business licenses and to be certified by his new inspection agency. His new inspection agency would be required, of course, to work under the direct supervision of an attorney. (He’s a lawyer. What else would you expect?)

Now, setting aside the dubious assumption that the only way for an industry to be considered legitimate and legal is for it to be heavily regulated for a moment, the first thing that struck me was: Wait a minute! It’s (more or less) illegal to grow cannabis for sale in California. If this guy is as experienced as the press release claims, he should know that virtually every medical marijuana case that comes before the courts pivots around the question of whether the individual whose liberties have been deprived was growing/carrying/and or possessing enough marijuana ‘for personal use’. Just a couple of months ago there was a rather ridiculous case in Modesto where the accused, who held both a verified medical marijuana card and a doctors order, was arrested because the quantity of processed marijuana s/he possessed was considered too small and was therefore inconsistent with the growing operation found at the residence. Therefore, the cops asserted, s/he was growing ‘with the intent to sell’—the standard umbrella charge.

Right now, growing marijuana is legal in California ‘for personal use’—though what amount constitutes enough for personal use is dubious, even with a doctor’s order. Never-the-less, the courts have refused to allow an affirmative defense. If the cops decide whatever amount you have on you (over the clearly stated half-pound allowed under State Law) is too much for your personal use, or now apparently to little, they can arrest you. Then you’ll have drain your bank account to prove your medical use case in court. Right now, cannabis clubs and dispensaries are nominally legal as they are covered somewhat thinly by the State Attorney General’s guidance on the matter, though the courts maintain they flatly refuse to be bound by the AG’s guidelines. The only part of the puzzle that remains seriously gray under California’s current crazy quilt of medical marijuana laws is the very part on which Van Hook is running around advising local governments: The supply of medicine by growers to dispensaries. And given the current legal situation, his advice to local governments seems crazy!

Is Van Hook seriously suggesting that California Counties put themselves on the hook for inspecting an agricultural product that it is essentially illegal to market under State law and blatantly illegal under Federal law? Is Van Hook suggesting that counties, some of which are totally dependent upon their marijuana growers for their financial survival, force their growers out into the open by mandating business licenses and agricultural inspections of their operations? (Come on in, DEA. You’re welcome!) And even after the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Gonzales v. Raich, is Van Hook seriously suggesting the State of California take on the Federal Government over the issue?

I seriously hope it’s none of the above. Hopefully Van Hook is merely preparing California Counties for the time when marijuana is fully legal, but (unfortunately heavily) regulated. Such a time is coming, but it may be a few years off. First, California voters will have to approve State legalization via the coming 2012 ballot initiative. Second, the Frank/Paul bill will have to pass and become law, removing Federal criminalization and returning control of the drug to the states (where all drug enforcement properly belongs). But that may be even further down the road. Congress is extremely distracted by the bright shiny issues that attract media attention, and is likely to stay so through the coming election cycle. So unless Federal decriminalization suddenly becomes a darling of the national media (and if it does, there’s a 50/50 chance it will be cast in a negative light, rather than a positive one), don’t look for the bill to gain enough traction to fly through Congress on wings. Too, the DEA is unlikely to let funding for its ‘war on drugs,’ of which marijuana is a major part, go without a fight. So push back by the agency will be hard and harsh; the will of the people be damned.

In the mean time, Van Hook needs to be very very careful about what actions he advises his clients to take—and when.

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