Blog Fiasco

June 14, 2012

My friends do cool things

Filed under: The Internet — Tags: , , , , — bcotton @ 9:57 pm

It’s hard to believe that a year has passed already, but it’s almost time for Mario Marathon 5. Once again, the Mario Marathon team will be raising money for Child’s Play Charity. In addition to the joys (and possible tax deductions, consult your tax professional) of helping kids, there are lots of great contest prizes. If you donate through the widget found on several funnelfiasco.com pages (for example, on the right-hand side of this page), I’ll match your donation dollar-for-dollar (up to $200 total).  Mario Marathon 5 begins at 11 AM EDT on June 22 at www.mariomarathon.com.

That’s not the only cool thing going on, though. Some other friends have just released the beta of a new website: Think Lafayette. Think Lafayette is a combination social media, community calendar, and local discussion site. Part of the launch included a profile of me, since I guess I pass for a local celebrity these days. If you’re a local, sign up and help make this a great resource.

November 2, 2010

Social steganography?

Filed under: The Internet — Tags: , , — bcotton @ 11:19 am

Steganography was in the news this summer when the FBI revealed that Russian intelligence agents were using steganography to pass secret messages.  Unlike encryption, which mathematically changes a message so that it can’t be read by a third party, steganography hides the message in plain sight — in this case in image files.  With the buzz in the news, there was some discussion on blogs as well.  I’m not sure how I came across it, but Danah Boyd penned an article about steganography in social media.  Boyd talks about a girl named “Carmen”, who quoted lines from a Monty Python movie to communicate distress to her friends while hiding it from her mother.

I took serious issue with the article as an example of steganography.  While it may technically meet the definition since Carmen’s mother apparently does not realize a secret message is being sent, that’s more a matter of serendipity than message obfuscation.  Frankly, it’s a better example of “Carmen’s mom has no taste in movies” than “teens can hide secret messages in Facebook”.  If Carmen’s mom had seen “Life of Brian”, which is undoubtedly older than Carmen, then the steganography fails.

Steganography only works if the recipient knows not to respond in the clear, too. If Carmen’s friend “Jane” had said “aw, what’s wrong”, the whole thing is blown. It’s possible that Carmen and her friends have worked out a protocol ahead of time, but that’s more of a code than a method.  While it would be very trivial to share secret messages on Facebook, but song lyrics from a beloved movie is a pretty bad way to do that.  To me, this article reads like another “OMG YOU WON’T BELIEVE WHAT KIDS ARE DOING ONLINE” piece designed to scare gullible parents.

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