Privacy is one of those things. You know that it exists but you don’t necessarily believe in it wholeheartedly. I mean, if you did, surely you wouldn’t post your personal details all over the internet for everybody to see – unless you wanted them to, of course.

You don’t have to read very far around this subject to find alarmist stories, from the urban myth that the CIA invented Facebook (or MI5 in a recent version I heard) to persuade us all to place our identities online, to more sober reflections on what privacy means to different people and how online exposure can impact on your life. A friend of mine recently explained how exposure on a social networking site could literally cost them their life as a result of a disturbing past liaison. Most of us are far less concerned about being found and are willing to forgo such concerns in the hope of making new friends and contacts, or finding old ones again. More troubling, however, are the possibilities of building up an identity profile by cross referencing web sites and using photo recognition software (Gross and Acquisiti) and back-door Facebook applications to mine hidden data.

It is tempting to remind ourselves that the chances of someone stealing our indentity are pretty remote. I have to confess to being more nervous of throwing my bank details out with the rubbish than I am to having them stolen online (though I won’t tempt fate by pouring scorn on the idea – remember what happened to Jeremy Clarkson 🙂 . I also think that it’s unlikely that anyone would want to stalk me, though I recognise that these risks are real enough to others. Of course Mark Zuckerberg has an interesting ‘people want to opt out while we use everyone else’s data to make money with’ spin on the matter, but then he would as he has done rather well out of allowing Facebook to do just that.

As I was writing this, a conversation was struck up between colleagues, one of whom has just discovered the joys of Facebook and had had a live chat with a friend that has gone ot work in China. The wonders of the social network seemed clear enough to her at the time of speaking, but as she did so, another colleague interjected with the declaration that she would never use FB. ‘It’s too creepy’ – someone from the past that she hadn’t invited contact with had got hold of her email address from an online communication between two mutual friends and this had unnerved her slightly. This set me wondering about the number of times I’ve actively tracked down old friends via the web in the past; they’ve always seemed pleased to hear from me, but maybe on occasion they might have found my sudden appearance ‘creepy’. I’ll never know, but at least I can be sure through Facebook that they are inviting contact and that they don’t have to accept my friend request. To this extent at least, Zuckerberg is right, they can opt out of contact if they want, and I won’t be too upset either.


… or moving house if you don’t speak Spanish. I’ve been blogging with Blogger for years and, though I was never unhappy with the service and always found it user-friendly, I’ve come to like the look and feel of WordPress of late. Hence the decision to up sticks and head on over here, importing my last post from Blogger on the way. I look forward to exploring its features.

As a techie and self-declared webhead, it’s always nice to have something new to play around with and my decision this week to switch much of my activity to Ubuntu has been a rewarding experience, especially so with the arrival of the latest release – 8.04 or ‘Hardy Heron’. It’s not my first time, I’m not a Linux virgin, so I expected it to be a similar experience to previous attempts with Red Hat, Mandrake and Ubuntu 6 (Dapper Drake?). Imagine my surprise then when I downloaded it and Wubi and set about installing it. This kind of thing used to entail much time and anxiety, as well as reading up on lines of code necessary to make things work. After all, this was all part of the fun and set one apart from the average Windows user – almost feeling part of ‘Hacker culture’ as Castells saw it in ‘The Internet Galaxy’ (2001). As he pointed out at the time “…the main obstacle to Linux development into low-end consumer users is the lack of interest of sophisticated computer programmers for this kind of application.” He was referring to user-friendly applications of the kind that Windows users are used to, the kind of thing that both my small children and aging parents can cope with. So, the installation process being incredible simple and the fact that I didn’t need to worry about partitioning was a nice start. Rebooting gave me the option of choosing either operating system (I installed under XP), and once the user accounts were set up (anyone could do this), that was it. In fact, it was so easy that I was almost disappointed that there wasn’t more to it. This was just like installing Windows, and what’s more, everything works. No need to configure my internet settings, it detected them. No more searching around for Linux versions of file sharing applications etc as comes bundled with just about everything you need. I did have to look around for a version of Skype, but the command lines I needed can now be copied and pasted into the terminal window so even this was a breeze.

But is it a rival to Windows for the average user? Not quite yet. There are still some things that need tweaking – my webcam doesn’t work in this version of Skype (though my Bluetooth dongle does, while it crashes Windows). This article sums up the difference pretty well, I feel.

So now, I’ll have to start using this blog more regularly, writing from Ubuntu (actually this entry was written under XP) and reflecting on educational technology matters as frequently as is necessary for the remainder of my current course.

Yet another blog, taking my total to 17 on my blogger account. The others are mostly defunct now and have (had) a variety of functions, but it was a surprise to count them up and see what a long and varied history I’ve had as a blogger and web head. I know this doesn’t mean that I’m not a digital immigrant, but maybe an honorary digital native?

I will be using this space for musings and rantings in the area of online education and especially for reflections on my current MA studies, now in the home stretch – though I don’t see why I might not use it to let off a bit of professional steam in my own educational context too.

Watch this space.