Monthly Archive for May, 2008

Classifying the data that build your online presence.

On Internet, many data exist that contribute to your Online Identity and your Online Reputation.

I believe that 4 types of data build your online presence.

  1. The profile data that you provide on various platforms such as a user profile in a forum or your Facebook account, etc. These data will subsequently be partly available to everyone or to a limited number of people.
  2. The contents that you publish as an author (like this blog), as a contributor into a publication (co-writing) or as a commenter on top of an existing content.
  3. The indirect content that refers to your content (those from category 1). It is usually comments or contributions from others that refers to your writing and provide their view about your saying/writing.
  4. The indirect profile information that your online friends write about you.

I intentionally discard all the data that are automatically generated and collected by external parties about your online activities (cookies, logging, etc). Why? Because by default they are not published to the crowd and so doesn’t fall under the 4 categories described above. As soon as they are published then they wouldfall under category 3 or 4. Michel Bénart, in the comments, proposed to group them as a fith category, the “grey data”, and I buy to his idea. The definition of it is:

…data collected during your online activity by third parties through cookies, beacons, and log connexions, to build your marketing profile…

What is your view on this data categorization ?

Doppelganger.name (French site) published a couple of articles that approach Online Identity and Online Reputation.

Here is how I woud map the 4 types 5 types of data. Online Identity is made of type 1. Online Reputation is made of type 3 and 4. I’m puzzled where to put type 2 and my god feel says Online Reputation. Type 5, being the grey data, are not strictly speaking visible Online Identity or visible Online Reputation.

Tell me what you think about this.

Weblin : a different Instant Messaging approach.

Weblin Logo

Some weeks ago, I first discovered Weblin browsing the blog Presse-Citron. It was located as a side widget.

Being curious I gave it a rapid try and played a few minutes with the Weblin lite version as offered in the blog.

What is Weblin? It is an instant messaging system that aims to connect you to other Weblin users currently viewing the same website as you. And rather then doing it in a typical chat window, it uses an overlaying animated avatar that stands at the bottom of your browser’s window.

The feeling was not negative, it was amusing but I was not trilled. That was enough for me at that point: I was a little more knowledgeable, I knew about Weblin better than before.

Recently Eric Dupin wrote an article about Weblin. Reading it raised my curiosity once again and I decided to give it a deeper try. This time I decided to install the client on my machine.

Weblinstaller.exe is a small installer that calls back the weblin server to download the latest version of the application.

Weblin Net Installer

Installation of Weblin is simple; it create a temporary account first, accessing that account only gives you access to a limited number of options in Weblin website to customize your avatar. Later you can identify yourself with an account of your choice and access to more futile feature like choosing your avatars from a wider list.

Basic usage of Weblin is intuitive. Yet again a new icon in my systray, yet again a new service running on my machine. With Weblin enabled, just go on your favourite website and see other weblins and engage conversation.

Your avatar and those for other users will show t the bottom of your browser window. You can also define to be visible or not, automatically connect to the “chat room” when you enter a website or not, etc.

Weblin appearance in your brower

I must say I haven’t explored all the features of Weblin: changing room, an interesting yet-to-explore applications’ menu, weblin publishing and others.

On the weblin account page itself, there is plenty of options. Not my idea to detail them all. But I captured the classical describe-yourself-and-display-it-to-others, a rather complete avatar customization interface.

There is also a section about “Buying Gifts” associated with a virtual backpack for the Avatar. Credits to purchase items seem to be linked to your chat activities. The more you chat the more credits you get.

Weblin \

Your weblin account can retain 3 different Avatars but you can only activate one at a time. The activation impacts all your opened browser pages. It is not possible to have Avatar “A” active on a specific set of sites and Avatar B active on a different set of sites.

Weblin - Switching your avatars

You need to test Weblin to know if you like it or not and certainly if you want to use this kind of communication channel to fulfil your daily desire of chatting with other people.

My own view is on this: Not for me.

Will it works for you ?

Sunny WeatherLittle note: It took quite a while to complete this article: Good weather and related outdoor activities definitely slow down my posting frequency.

How to keep safe your data over time in Home User context

Home User create documents since the early ages of Computer: word documents, spreadsheets, presentations, etc.

Overtime the number of these documents grows, some of these documents have a pretty limited lifetime but others aim to be retained for long period of time. The characteristic of these documents is: small sized.

Today with the Digital Cameras at every corner, Home User creates massively new data, hundreds of pictures each of them usually being 1MB+. Of course picture should be sorted with a keep-the-nice-ones-otherwise-delete approach. Today with HDD or Memory card Video Cams, the same applies and the size of these data is even bigger. Bottom line is: you need to store the data you somewhere; most of the time you will upload from you portable device back to your computer.

Bear in mind I exclude anything that you did not created/generated and so would generally be composed of pictures, videos, scanned documents, purchased multimedia files and documents (“Word” documents, spreadsheets, presentations, etc). I’m also including any multimedia file you would have purchase, acquired legally.

Not all documents, all pictures or all videos you made are important to you or your family but definitely many are. How can you ensure that in 5/10/15 years or more you will be able to access these data? Or just access the data tomorrow if your computer disk crashes or your laptop is stolen (no pleasant but it could happen).

Ok… Burning CDs/DVDs and you have a copy of the data. But Lifetime of the CD/DVD itself is limited. Here is a French article from Weboutside Blog. Forget about CD, their capacity is too small to fit today’s multimedia sizes need. DVD is a nice alternative but be ready to re-burn DVD every 3 years.

Today, online storage solution and online backup exists. Some are free some are not and have a monthly fee model.

Today, external drives are affordable/cheap. Their capacity nearly double every year while the price remains steady. 500GB external disk costs today around 100$, 250GB external disk cost also 100$ about a year ago.

What kind a scheme shall we put in place to decrease the probability of loosing an important data accidentally, in 5 years, in 10 years, etc?

The Statement is that keeping your data only on your local hard disk is not appropriate. This then leads to taking a copy elsewhere should it be an online copy or an offline copy.

The difference between “online” and “offline” is the rapidity which you can access the data. I consider online storage, online backup and CDs/DVDs as “offline copy”, because it takes time for me to retrieve the data compared to having the data on the local hard disk.

Let’s now take an example.

  • You have a new laptop and you dedicate to your own generated data 120Gb of disk space.
  • Assume you have 50GB of existing data and that your data grow is now 2Gb per months (mainly made of pictures and videos).
  • This means that in 3 years time, your 120GB disk space will be full.

4 routes for setting up a plan to keep your data safe over time…. go for DVDs, go for online storage (I’ll take JungleDisk as an example), go for online Backup (I’ll take Mozy as an example) or go for an external USB disk drive.

What about cost for these 4?

  • DVDs will cost you a total of 15$ (30 DVDs).
  • JungleDisk will cost you a total of 486$ after 3years, see here the cost details.
  • Mozy will cost you a total of 178$ after 3years (4.95$ per month for unlimited capacity).
  • 120GB external drive costs… euh … you cannot find these anymore, but let’s assume a 250Gb Western Digital MyBook : 100$.

=> Online Storage is not a cost effective solution compared to Online Backup.

Let’s then have a look to the DVDs approach (offering an offline copy), the online backup (offering an offline copy) and the external disk (offering an online copy). What are the pro and cons?

  • Pros of DVD
    • Virtually free.
    • Easy to send offsite to offer disaster protection (fire, flooding, theft, accidental damage).
  • Cons of DVD
    • Not a backup solution, but rather a manual copy solution.
    • Risk associated to the elapsed time between 2 DVD copies (assuming you burn a DVD as soon as you have enough new data to fill a new DVD).
    • Time to burn a DVD.
    • Re-burn of DVD every 3 years (to ensure no media loss).
  • Pros of Online Backup:
    • Reasonably cheap with unlimited disk space.
    • Automatic backup mechanism.
    • Protection from disaster (fire, flooding, theft).
  • Cons of Online Backup:
    • Time to copy over the data. In today’s world, time is money. Huge initial upload time (50Gb to upload will take time over ADSL).
    • Cost of the upload, unless you have unlimited ADSL upload.
    • Download time is you need to restore the data + cost if not unlimited ADSL download.
  • Pros of external drive:
    • Cheap device for large disk space.
    • Rapid backup/restore.
  • Cons of external drive:
    • not a backup solution, unless you use backup software (Cobian for example)
    • no protection against disaster (fire, flooding, theft, accidental damage; assuming the external disk is at the same location as the main data)

No matter what route you take, make sure you backup/duplicate your data.

What about my choice? Online Backup is appealing but the duration of the initial backup scares me: my initial upload duration would be about 10 days. I currently use the external disk approach. I dedicated an external disk to keep a copy of my data. Most of my data (in size) are Pictures and Videos and so are ordered by date. I copy on my external disk all new or updated data every month. I also have a copy of all my data offsite but limited to data prior Dec 2007.

Thanks to Georges for our conversation about this subject and his inputs.