The Home Front, a cyber warriors guide

white-android-logo_00039624

Android users: your phone is under attack. You know that Swype keyboard that’s so much nicer than clicking on each letter? That’s a surveillance device that logs every word you input. Switch to Google Keyboard right now. Swype Keyboard Free lists the following Permission Details: approximate (network based) location, precise (GPS) location, read your text messages, read call log, record audio, read terms you added to the dictionary. Google Keyboard contains none of that. Why does a keyboard app need GPS coordinates? Continue reading

Solar Home

Solar Home Inc engages in online sockpuppetry

In addition to its comment spam, domain speculation, and cybersquatting, Solar Home Inc also engages in sockpuppetry

Solar Home

Solar Home

Click here to see all the posts in this series.

Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines “sock puppet” as “a false online identity used for deceptive purposes.” Wikipedia’s entry describes a sock puppet as “an online identity used for purposes of deception” including but not limited to using the extra identity to talk to/about the original, praising/defending/supporting people or organizations, and bypassing site bans.

As part of my investigation into the online practices of Solar Home Inc, I have read dozens of comments on blog posts, news articles, online solar tech articles, and investor notices written by Solar Home’s founder and CEO, Ray Boggs, and a Solar Home employee named Ron Winton. In only two cases did I find either acknowledging that they work together. This makes Winton a Solar Home sockpuppet himself. In one case, a mistake by Winton in Motley Fool comments revealed that at least one of the three usernames affiliated with Solar Home was a sockpuppet. And I found several additional usernames that are also supporting Solar Home’s resale business, but no indication that any of them acknowledge their connection to Solar Home. Continue reading

nospam

Solar Home Inc uses domain speculation and cybersquatting to support its business

Solar Home Inc has not only supported its business with four years of comment spam, it also engages in domain speculation and cybersquatting on other companies’ trademarks.

Solar Home

Solar Home

Click here to see all the posts in this series.

In the process of investigating Solar Home Inc’s comment spamming, I came across dozens of websites that were all linked to Solar Home, either in the copyright notices on individual pages or on the About/Contact Us pages. Since most businesses don’t bother to maintain more than a handful of websites, the fact that Solar Home seemed to have dozens caught my attention. When I broadened my investigation into Solar Home’s websites, I found that Ron Winton (as “Ronwiserinvestor”), an acknowledged employee of Solar Home, admitted in a Motley Fool comment that Solar Home controlled “800 active websites” as of April 2014.

I also found that the 800 acknowledged websites actually represented a small fraction of the nearly 6,300 solar-related websites registered by Solar Home. Of those 6,300 websites I personally verified that over a hundred of them were explicitly tied to Solar Home and that, by offering several of those websites for sale, Solar Home is engaged in domain speculation. I also identified a few websites that contained the trademarks of other companies, including one that could be a Solar Home competitor, indicating that Solar Home also engages in cybersquatting. Continue reading

Solar Home

Solar Home Inc’s business supported by comment spam, domain speculation, and sockpuppetry

Solar Home Inc controls over 6000 websites, cybersquats on other companies’ trademarks, posts hundreds of cut-and-paste comments on news, technology, and investing sites, and posts those comments using at least eight separate usernames.

Solar Home

Solar Home

Click here to see all the posts in this series.

On my first Renewable Journal post, a commenter by the name of Ray Boggs dropped a list of reasons not to go with a solar energy lease like the one I have with SolarCity. I briefly looked into his points and found that some were valid while others were not. In addition, I discovered that Boggs is the founder of Solar Home Inc, a Victorville California solar system reseller. This makes SolarCity and other solar lease providers Boggs’ competitors. So I responded in the comment thread, pointed out that Boggs was a biased commenter, and left it at that.

On July 16, National Public Radio (NPR) ran a story about solar leases and how they might not be all they’re cracked up to be, and when I glanced at the comments on NPR’s website, I noticed that the very same Ray Boggs had posted another comment attacking solar leases. But the fact that his comment at NPR was nearly identical to the comment he posted at S&R got me wondering if Boggs was more than just a businessman trying to undercut his competition. It got me wondering whether or not Boggs was essentially a spammer. So I did some digging.

What I discovered is that there are hundreds of nearly identical comments posted on solar articles and websites going back to September 2010. I discovered nine distinct usernames and/or individuals responsible for posting those comments, usually without acknowledging their connection to Solar Home. And I discovered a network of literally thousands of nearly identical websites controlled by Solar Home that serve the dual purpose of attacking solar leasing companies while also promoting Solar Home’s products. Continue reading

Ello

Ello: some interesting follow recommendations for our new social network

Watercolor 2012, by @laura_d

There’s been some back and forth here in the last couple of weeks about Ello, the new social network. If you’re on Ello, or are thinking of joining, here are some people you might want to investigate and possibly follow.

Let’s start with the S&R folks. @docdenny is, as you know, god of macro photography, and lately he’s been experimenting with some new toys and techniques that visually bridge the space between photography and painting.

Our boy @sirpaulsbuddy is fighting the good fight. Continue reading

Say Ello to the Great Firewall

ellnoThere’s a cyberwar on and we’re losing. The New York Times reports 10 financial institutions including JP Morgan Chase are compromised and we don’t know the extent of the damage. Home Depot, Target (asking for it), Ebay, P.F. Chang’s, the Montana Health Department, and Domino’s Pizza (Belgium and France), have all been attacked in 2014, more than 1,000 businesses in total.

Meanwhile the hot new social network startup Ello is capturing 20,000 users per day, despite grave warnings that their business model doesn’t make sense unless there’s something we don’t know about it. One rave review mentions the total lack of political content. Do you believe that all those creative free-thinking American citizens suddenly tacitly agreed to stop discussing politics when they joined this site? I joined up to ask them that very question. Continue reading

Ello

Ello: some thoughts on why there isn’t much political discussion on our controversial new social network

elloIn the last week or so I have seen an amazing amount of energy devoted to burying Ello. Mind you, it hasn’t launched yet. Still in beta. These folks are trying to kill it before the doors officially open. What’s weird is the range of attacks I’m seeing. Business insiders patting it on the head and ‘splaining why, noble as it is, it just won’t work. (I can’t prove that these folks are pimping for Facebook, but their efforts have to be making Zuck happy.) Pro-privacy types saying it’s sold out before it gets started because the developers take venture capital money. Design junkies telling us how it’s the worse design experience since, well like ever. On and on and on and on.

[sigh]

I’m not here to tell you that it’s going to put Facebook out of business. Continue reading

CATEGORY: Education

Using Facebook to promote school fundraisers: a friend goes ballistic

A friend of mine has been using Facebook to solicit contributions for his son’s school fundraiser. He’s not alone – I’ve seen more and more of this lately, and perhaps you have, too. Last night he exploded – apparently despite all his pleas, he got no response. As in, zero. He went off on his FB friends in ways that are certain to offend a lot of them.

A few moments ago I posted this to the thread.

_________

Dear Xxxx:

I understand your frustration, and if I had kids I’d probably stay mad. But I think you’re upset at the wrong people. Continue reading

Ello

Say Ello: six observations about the world’s newest social network

elloA month ago most of you had probably never heard of Ello. By now a lot of you have. And at the pace the news has been getting around in the past few days, this time next week even hermits will know about it.

The short version is that Ello is the brainchild of a team of designers and developers who are committed to preserving user privacy. Sort of an anti-Facebook, if you will. As you can imagine, there’s going to be interest in something predicated on that kind of philosophy, and interest this past week got so intense that they had to throttle new user add/invites briefly to make sure the system could handle the load.

I was one of the early adopters – I heard about it and went to the site to request an invite months ago, and I was in the door quickly when they opened it up to beta last month.

Here are some observations, in no particular order.

1: The creative factor is through the roof. Continue reading

Book-Review

Book Review: St. Nic, Inc. by S.R. Staley

It’s not Santa Claus vs. the Martians – it’s Santa Claus (sorta) vs. the DEA – which is, come to think of it, almost as nuts…

St. Nic, Inc by S.R. Staley

Sam Staley’s latest book is a Christmas story. It’s not, however, the sort of Christmas story ones hears in homes on Christmas Eve. There are no shepherds “keeping watch over their flocks by night” or flying reindeer jockeyed by a “right jolly old elf.” Staley’s book is a Christmas story with all the 21st century twists: the North Pole is home to NP Enterprises, a slickly run distribution company with billions in revenues and a 26 year old MIT trained computer geek CEO named Nicole who employs large numbers of talented, intelligent people who happen to have the condition known as – you guessed it – dwarfism; its ability to operate is based on economic funding from a 21st century source – a computer operating system superior to others on the market; and its problems within the narrative come from overzealousness on the part of a government official.

NP Enterprises is a family owned business founded by Nicole’s great grandfather, a Dutchman named Nicholas Klaas, who moved to the Far North and began making toys which he sold to trappers and hunters for their children. Continue reading

ArtSunday: LIterature

The state of literary art II: of literary magazines…

One of the things an aspiring writer learns quickly is that literary magazine editors are a quirky lot…but that there are lots of literary magazines these days….

cover, Fiction International (image courtesy Fiction International website)

(For previous essays in this series, look here.)

My second essay on Joe David Bellamy’s interesting look at the literary community at the end of the last century, Literary Luxuries: American Writing at the End of the Millennium, is Bellamy’s essay on his time as a literary magazine editor (and founder).

The essay is really about two issues – issues that relate to the politics behind literary fiction and its outlets and the politics surrounding the relationship between creative writing programs and English departments. Bellamy’s essay is worth a look because it reminds us of the evolution of English departments, the rise of creative writing programs, the role of “little” or literary magazines in the move of serious literary work (both fiction and poetry) out of the mainstream, and how the Internet has allowed a renaissance of sorts for literary magazines many of whom were almost done in by publishing costs before the Web came along to save them (and allow the rise of many new journals including the one here at Scholars and Rogues). Continue reading

Facebook - Unshare

Goodbye, Facebook. Supporting anti-gay marriage, anti-human rights candidate was finally too much.

After all Facebook has done, there’s only so much a person can take.

And kittehs. Can’t forget about the kittehs.

By now, anyone who has been paying attention is well aware of Facebook’s general user-unfriendly shenanigans, with the possible exception of Facebook’s support for net neutrality, to say nothing of all the minor aggravations users put up with on a daily basis…continually refreshing advertisements, live video popping up in the news feed, a news feed that doesn’t show you everything you mean to see, a newsfeed that occasionally reverts to Top Stories in spite of your every wish and command. Oh, but hey, there’s kittehs!

What kind of user-unfriendly shenanigans, one might wonder?

Continue reading

Journalism

‘Journalism-as-process’ needs an overhaul

Speed-induced error, lack of definitive sourcing, problematic context always a risk

The emergence of “journalism-as-process” thinking continues to annoy and confound me. Elsewhere at S&R, my friend and colleague Brian Moritz explains its impact in sports journalism. While I appreciate his take on its application in the LeBron Sweepstakes Story, this “process” continues to impress me too often as mere Twitter bait.

Incrementalism breeds error. And not necessarily a highly visible, dramatic error. Often, it’s the absence of information that breeds error of interpretation and story sequencing. If readers and viewers miss part of the “process,” they may take in the story missing earlier fragments. That leaves them, in effect, erring in understanding the story. So does speed degrade accuracy — beat everyone else to the tweet. One only needs to dig into the history of AP vs. UPI to see that.

Does “process” effectively and rigorously sort out hype and the quest for hits and ratings from substantive facts? In the LeBron story, what facts — yes, real facts — emerged in the “journalism-as-process” approach? It’s a simple story: Will he stay in Miami or will he return to Cleveland? Yet ESPN and sportswriters everywhere milked that simple equation for hundreds of hours of airtime, thousands of tweets, and at least two or three column inches in real print newspapers. (Yeah, that last phrase is sarcasm.)
Continue reading

CATEGORY: Sports

The LeBron James story is the future of sports journalism

“Journalism-as-process” is here, for good or for bad, and whether you like it or not

SANDOMIR-master675It’s going on nearly two weeks now since LeBron James announced he was returning to Cleveland.

So who broke the story?

Well, Chris Sheridan was the first journalist to report that James was going back to Cleveland, reporting it on his website. But Lee Jenkins and Sports Illustrated had the actual story, “written” by James and posted online. Continue reading

Adventures in headline writing, Gaza edition

The New York Times, a division of the Israeli Military.

So something happened in Gaza today, something horrible even by the abysmal standards of that terrible situation. Here’s the headline in The Guardian:

Israeli strike on UN school kills 15

With the following sub-lede:

UN says it was refused time to evacuate civilians before IDF shelled Gaza school, injuring 200

Then there’s The Independent: Continue reading

Facebook - Unshare

Open letter to Mark Zuckerberg: you owe us one hell of an explanation

Did Facebook’s scientific study contribute to user suicides? We’ll never know, but statistics demand that we ask the question.

Dear Mr. Zuckerberg:

As the title of this post indicates, you owe us one hell of an explanation. Indulge me, if you will.

As you are undoubtedly aware, your company, Facebook, recently had a scientific study published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS). I would naturally assume, social media being your element, that you are aware of a degree of outcry about the ethical lapses that appear evident in your study’s methodology. I doubt you registered my own outrage, so ICYMI, here it is.

A key element of my expressed outrage is this:

Did you know that you were consenting to have your emotional state manipulated? Continue reading

Internet and Social Media

Facebook tramples human research ethics and gets published by PNAS for the effort

Facebook may have experimented with controlling your emotions without telling you

I start out an angry bastard on most days, but that’s just before coffee. After that, I actually lighten up and quite enjoy life and laughter. I’m really not the bitter old curmudgeon I tend to unleash when I write. Even much of my political ranting is spent more tongue-in-cheek and facepalming than actually risking a real aneurysm.

But this pisses me right off. Continue reading

Media

Amusing ourselves to death: new Sciencegasm meme nails it

The public interest is what the public is interested in, bitches.

Thanks to Facebook, we all see new memes every day. Some of them are funny, some insightful, and a lot are of the preaching to the choir variety, which even though they’re right as rain, they occasionally get tiresome. Like a lot of us, frustrated as hell with the sorry shape of our society and the deteriorating condition of our planet and the sheer hopelessness of mounting an assault against the mountain of cynical, corrupt cash standing between us and a solution, I guess I suffer from bouts of what we’ll call Fact Fatigue. If we’re intelligent, I fear, the truth is too much with us.

Every once in awhile, though, somebody sends one around that’s so on-point you can’t ignore it. Today, for instance, it was my friend Heather Sowards-Valey (she of Fiction 8 fame) sharing this one from Sciencegasm: Continue reading