Like Facebook and Microsoft, Google also asked the US government for permission to publish NSA and FISA requests. While the first two already published aggregate data about their local, state, and federal national security requests and the “fraction of 1 percent of accounts” those requests affected, Google has not (though remember that Google has maintained a quite excellent transparency report for some time). I wager Google is waiting to publish until the government also allows FISA information.
For the six months ended December 31, 2012, Microsoft received between 6,000 and 7,000 criminal and national security warrants, subpoenas and orders affecting between 31,000 and 32,000 consumer accounts from U.S. governmental entities (including local, state and federal).
We have not received any national security orders of the type that Verizon was reported to have received that required Verizon to provide business records about U.S. customers.
For the six months ending December 31, 2012, the total number of user-data requests Facebook received from any and all government entities in the U.S. (including local, state, and federal, and including criminal and national security-related requests) – was between 9,000 and 10,000. These requests run the gamut – from things like a local sheriff trying to find a missing child, to a federal marshal tracking a fugitive, to a police department investigating an assault, to a national security official investigating a terrorist threat. The total number of Facebook user accounts for which data was requested pursuant to the entirety of those 9-10 thousand requests was between 18,000 and 19,000 accounts.
If you can’t beat em, plunge a knife into everyone and everything, then twist until you bring em to their knees.
This morning I uploaded the second episode of Finer Things In…, my new podcast with John Morrison. It’s a 24 minute conversation about OS X 10.9, iOS 7, what they mean to each other, and the the pros and cons of hitting a giant reset button on iOS.
I think this one turned out really well. We’re getting a good chemistry down and we had some great banter over a short chat. Give it a listen.
I’m re-learning photography. I am also obsessed with decaying and abandoned things around Chicago, so I started a new photoblog called Abandoned Chicago. It will be a mixture of photography from me and a couple friends, as well as great photos and inspiration I can find elsewhere.
Abandoned Chicago is powered by Tumblr, so submissions are open. If you’re a Tumblr user, I used a premium theme so you’ll get full credit with an author thumbnail and link to your blog. If you’re not on Tumblr, feel free to add your name and a link to your site or social whichamawhoosit.
I’m spending more time writing here and at Finer Things in Tech, and part of my recent efforts involved finding an alternative for Feedburner. You don’t need tea leaves to see it’ll get shut down soon, yet tracking your feed subscribers is a big chunk of the publishing market that Google decimated so there aren’t a lot of mature alternatives. Fortunately, I found one and, for now, it’s called URI.LV.
There was just one problem, though: URI.LV was having a hard time tallying my feed subscribers. This is a particular hangup for Finer Things since it enjoys a pretty healthy subscriber audience. Thankfully, URI’s owner, Maxime Valette, was a champ in helping me troubleshoot the problem and solve it.
Long story short: Finer Things in Tech got large enough a while ago to switch it from DreamHost (I know, I know) to Page.ly, and finally WPengine. Both are managed WordPress hosts that offer a number of performance and support perks over your garden variety web host. While WPEngine is working out great, URI.LV experienced the same problem with both of them when it comes to caching the site.
After a lot of back and forth with Maxime and WPEngine, I found out that even though WPEngine automatically enables one of the popular WordPress caching plugins in your WordPress installation (which is a welcome practice), it also runs a separate caching layer beyond your site at some kind of server- or service-wide layer that you can’t access. This is also welcome, but the aggressive caching made it difficult for URI.LV to watch all the Finer Things in Tech feeds to which readers subscribe.
Eventually we got it sorted out. WPEngine had to tweak caching for my site and Maxime added some tricks to watch for this kind of aggressive caching from managed hosts and WordPress sites. If you’re looking to make a similar move for your site (whether it’s powered by WordPress or not) and track its feed(s) in a soon-to-be post-Feedburner world, watch out for this stumbling block. I’m pretty happy with URI.LV and support was great in getting this figured out. If you do look at URI.LV, it has an official, first-party WordPress plugin (a strong, strong desire of mine) and a really simple Feedburner migration guide. I recommend it.
App.net really is starting to hit its stride, and I think Whisper for iPhone will be another big step. It’s a private and group messaging client from Jared Sinclair and Jamin Guy, makers of the excellent Riposte, and it’s great. It should also arrive soon, once Apple approves it.
If you need an analogy, Whisper is like Facebook Messenger. It strips out the other significant elements and features of App.net as a service to focus on personal messaging. You can message a single friend one-on-one or create a private group conversation with multiple friends. Unlike Patter, Whisper does not support App.net chat rooms, be they public or private. It also has no option to post something publicly on App.net’s social stream or any other service, for that matter. Whisper is specifically for direct, private messaging on App.net’s paid, ad-free, private platform.
Sinclair and Guy covered the messaging bases quite well and packed in some great extra features, some of which you may recognize from Riposte. Whisper supports some customizability like font size, display name, and web browsing tweaks, as well as a full-screen mode that’s on by default. Part of the charm of Whisper, and Riposte, is its rich embracement of a touch OS with little UI chrome out-of-the-box and a good set of gestures for navigation and other actions. Disabling full screen mode adds a title bar with navigation buttons, you know, just like OSes had thirty years ago.
One of Whisper’s best features is support for sharing things besides just text and photos. Tap the paperclip icon and you can attach your current location or nearby places, which is really handy for organizing all sorts of meetings (these features are powered by Factual.com, App.net’s Places API). You can also share stickers, which are kind of next-generation emoji or smiley faces. I love them. Stickers can put a smile on someone’s face, so they can help make the world just a tiny bit better of a place.
In general, stickers are much more varied in topic, nature, and emotion, they have much more detail than your typical smiley face icon, some of them can animate on some services (Whisper’s do not), and they can be found in many of the post-SMS messaging apps and services including Facebook Messenger, Path, and Line. Whisper will launch with two pages of stickers, and Sinclair says they have “a huge list of stickers left to make.”
Whisper offers an in-app Pro upgrade that adds things like more typeface choices, a convenient “Last Photo Taken” option when sharing photos, a clever Screen Brightness Gesture (it’s much faster than digging into the Settings app), and a Dark Mode that you can toggle manually or put on auto. Once you install Whisper, Riposte gains a smart option to have the QuickView PM button either open its in-app PM screen or switch you over to Whisper. If you choose the latter, Riposte’s PM icon will still change color upon new messages, but tapping it will swap apps. I like it.
I helped test Whisper for the last couple of weeks and I really like it. I’m very much a post-phone call and post-SMS/iMessage smartphone owner, and Whisper has earned a place in my homescreen’s Msgs folder right next to Facebook Messenger and Google Hangouts (the two services where I know the most non-SMS users). Whisper is fast, well designed, and employs some of the best post-SMS messaging features and tools out there.
App.net is growing slowly and steadily, and I’m really happy to see more diverse, beautiful apps like Whisper expand on the platform’s potential. It should hit the App Store soon, once Apple approves it, and Whisper will cost the low, low price of free. If you want the Pro features like multi-account support, high-res photo uploads, Auto Dark Mode, and more typeface options, the upgrade costs $5.
You know how everyone who has made something tells you to make things that you, personally, wish existed? That gives you the best shot at making them even better and finding other people who would really want that same thing. This is what I did with Finer Things In…, my first Finer Things in Tech podcast—first personal podcast separate from a writing gig, ever—that I run with my friend John Morrison.
We wanted to try a few new ideas with this show. For one, it isn’t 90+ minutes long—it’s a very shower-able, commute-able 20 minutes or less. Plus, we’ll focus one just one or two topics about recent tech news, culture, or a longstanding thorn in the industry’s side. For example: our inaugural episode is about why the Chicago Sun-Times laid off its entire staff of full-time photographers, what it means for regular readers, and how the world of “professional” photojournalism is changing. Our episode next week with most likely be about not just what Apple did and didn’t announce at WWDC 2013, but what it means to the industry. The episode after that? We’ll see.
I’d love it if you give our show a shot by subscribing in iTunes or to the direct feed. Let us know what you think, what you’d like to hear, or any other feedback at Finer Things in Tech, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, or App.net.
As always, thanks for reading and, now, listening.