E-letter: Power of chaos

As a kid, I was hypnotized by the view down onto the tailrace of any hydro dam. There, in the heavily oxygenated water, you could see breath-taking power, boiling, seething…. From time to time a fish would come up. To my eyes, a leviathan. Who knows what monsters could lurk down there, where fishing was forbidden and no boat could go? I was transfixed with by the power of chaos.

Kerry Knudsen

Kerry Knudsen

It may be a dumb analogy, but I see today’s digital communication world in much the same way – opportunity, restriction, anarchy and predation.

I see internet security as a major threat at the company, regional and national levels. I stumbled across a YouTube video that give instructions on how to find out other people’s passwords (only for educational purposes, of course). Passwords just plain puzzle me. I currently have 157 passwords. One, for my e-mail, requires that I change it every six months, that I not use a password similar to any I have used before, that it have eight characters, one of which must be a capital letter and one of which must be a numeral or special character, except not some special characters that are not revealed until you try them.

We are asked to understand that these measures are necessary for security, but we are not told whose security. I doubt it’s mine, since my entire banking information is protected by a four-digit password (personal identification number), and I am guaranteed that any losses because of an incursion into my finances is limited to $50.

Whether eight, semi-annually refreshed nonsense words or a four-digit PIN, it seems it matters not, since YouTube has 284,000 videos on how to find them.

 

In my view, a very important story moved just before Christmas in Forbes magazine. I have linked to it, and the link is checked and clear.

I imagine you, like me, get dozens of TRUE FACT e-mails each week, telling us what Abraham Lincoln actually said or what General Petraeus wrote. My defence for years has been to navigate to www.snopes.com. Snopes was almost unique in its ability to find, check and confirm internet hoaxes, hopefully with the goal of educating people before their emotions took control of their minds over perceived slights and misconstrued offences. Get hit with the “bricklayer’s accident report?” Go to http://www.snopes.com/humor/letters/bricks.asp (checked and clean) and learn the true story.

But now Snopes, like so many publishers before, has come under the hard scrutiny of its own environment and denizens. Recently plagued by accusations of bias from the political right, an attempted in-depth fact-check by Forbes turned up Snopes with its hand behind its back, pleading to understand that an ex-wife will not allow it.

Too bad, really. One should be more careful about settlement agreement.

 

More of concern, actually, is that Snopes appears in negotiations to sell itself to Facebook. Facebook, that paragon of turpitude, if such a thing can exist. Facebook, that locus of cyberbullying, stalking, conning and navel-gazing for the connected. Please forgive me, all my friends and associates that love and use Facebook, but I have tried and cannot seem to get the “bug.” I simply have enough exposure from irking the government and I don’t need to give them another window to peep through.

At heart, the issue is that commercial speech, in this case, Facebook, is buying up “content” because it has (had) “credibility.” The thing is, as with other virtues, you can spend your life building trust, and it only takes one moment of weakness to blow it.

Take a look at the Forbes article, if you have time, and send me a note about your thoughts. I am anxious to hear.

In the meanwhile, I will just sink back below the bubbles and frenzy — the warring currents of public opinion, politics, economics and news — and see what passes by over the next few weeks. Could be interesting.

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