Being Bellingcat

A few years ago, I was paid to do some (low stakes, very basic) open source intelligence research. The practise still fascinates me, but I’ve never dived in as deeply as I could. Or as thoroughly as Bellingcat, a company that beats established intelligence agencies analyses all the time.

Wired sat down with the company’s founder to discuss AI, being on Russia’s hit list, and the psychological toll of digging up the truth so many don’t want to hear.

The wild world of SEO

I keep getting job suggestions that involve SEO, but feel I can’t apply for them. If I was good enough to get a job doing SEO, I’d be driving so much traffic to my shop and YouTube channel that I wouldn’t need a job at all.

But hopefully, I wouldn’t become the sort of SEO pirate talked about in this article.

If I mention SEO a fee more times, will it help Spinneyhead’s SEO?

The Online safety bill will probably make things worse

Exactly how the new rules will be implemented remains to be settled, but they likely won’t work.

I see the vague definitions of what harmful material is will lead platforms to censor perfectly legitimate content. And you can bet that the people most often hit by this will be primarily from already under represented or vulnerable groups.

A Neuroscientist’s Radical Theory of How Networks Become Conscious – Wired Science

I can’t be the only person who’s tried to plot out “the network’s alive!” story.

It’s a question that’s perplexed philosophers for centuries and scientists for decades: Where does consciousness come from? We know it exists, at least in ourselves. But how it arises from chemistry and electricity in our brains is an unsolved mystery.

Neuroscientist Christof Koch, chief scientific officer at the Allen Institute for Brain Science, thinks he might know the answer. According to Koch, consciousness arises within any sufficiently complex, information-processing system. All animals, from humans on down to earthworms, are conscious; even the internet could be. That’s just the way the universe works.

A Neuroscientist's Radical Theory of How Networks Become Conscious – Wired Science.

My Single Friend 1

A few weeks ago my lovely friend Charlotte signed me up for My Single Friend. Unfortunately it seems that I’m just as shy about talking to new people online as I am off. Today my not so lovely, but still loveable, friend Dan has been haranguing and embarassing me into sending some messages out. How do you sound interesting and not creepy by email?

Is there an internet law about how some people are just too dumb to have a clue? 8

The Onion could probably do a good piece on some idiot calling for a repeal of Godwin’s Law and their made up fool wouldn’t sound any more clueless than Stewart Cowan when he demands the same thing. Now I know that I’ve slightly abused the definition of Godwin’s Law myself on occasion, but I at least understand it and its purpose. Godwin’s Law states- “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1.” The longer and more heated a debate becomes, the more likely someone is to lose perspective and start comparing their opponents to Hitler. There is a corollory to the law which suggests that, in a civilised debate, the person who has just proven themselves an idiot automatically loses, the thread is officially closed and everyone should move on. Cowan isn’t very good at civilised debate.

You know the type-

“I’m not allowed to inflict my poisonous and foul smelling addiction on other people in pubs any more! It’s just like the Nazis!”

“The speed limit around schools has dropped to twenty, so that I’m less likely to kill children! It’s just like the Nazis!”

“I have to put a little thought into which bin I use! That might make me stop and realise how much waste I’m generating! It’s just like the Nazis!”

“I’m not allowed to use my religion to justify breaking the law and discriminating against people! It’s just like the Nazis!”

“People are paying more attention to the carefully researched, proven facts than my poorly thought out propaganda! It’s just like the Nazis!”


Cowan is more eager than most to brand anyone doing something he doesn’t agree with a fascist. Even when he’s tackling something I could agree is objectionable, he’s too eager to go all frothy at the mouth to ever elicit any empathy from me. Somehow the fact that the majority of people polled didn’t think it’s a good idea to let idiot Americans pay addicts to be neutered passed him by. He’d rather lament about how it’s evil that some people like to stay in touch with reality when he thinks they should be joining him in his fantasy world.

I’m sure Stewart Cowan’s anger keeps him warm at night, but he’s the blogger who cried wolf- repeatedly and loudly- and has proven he has nothing useful to add to any debate.

The debate is now officially closed 1

Salford based political genius Richard Carvath is a gift that just keeps on giving. He’s supposedly on a self imposed blogging embargo until the end of October, but he keeps breaking it. Most recently he popped up to give us “a rare glimpse of the sort of efforts I do make with the media in my work, and also to show the sort of well-written, heavyweight letter which rarely sees the light of day in newsprint“.

The well written letter goes Godwin in the first sentence by comparing someone with a view different to Carvath’s to the Nazis (and slave traders). It ends with the heavyweight suggestion that human rights abuses in China somehow are the same thing as women in Salford choosing whether or not to have an abortion.

It’s almost too easy to pick on Carvath, but whilst he maintains his ill informed and often offensive opinions he’s going to keep providing material for my amusement.

Who’s willing to say nice things about me?

Time to try something new. is the old idea of friends matchmaking for each other taken onto the internet. And for the rest of March they’re offering a month’s free membership to listeners of XFM. Go on, somebody volunteer to write a glowing reference for me and I’ll join. At the very least I’ll buy you a drink and will have tales to tell. And who knows……

Will the Liberal Democrats save the Internet?

I’ve not been following the Digital Economy Bill (DEB) as closely as I should. My opinion has probably been the same as most people’s- it’s not going to work, it’s going to make life harder for small businesses and individuals because it’s the corporations that have the lobbying power to get things done their way and there’s probably nothing I can do to prevent it.

But there are things I can do. My local MP is a Liberal Democrat, so I’m going to draw his attention to this emergency motion to be tabled at the Lib Dem Spring Conference over the weekend-

We welcome the stand of Liberal Democrat MEPs against web-blocking; specifically that, on 4 March 2010, Liberal Democrat MEPs helped the European Parliament to demand access to the negotiation texts of the secret, international Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) negotiations, which were condemned on 22 February 2010 by the European Data Protection Supervisor for endangering internet users’ fundamental rights.

We note with concern amendment 120a to the Digital Economy Bill which allows web-blocking for alleged copyright infringement and which was passed on 3 March 2010 with the support of Liberal Democrat and Conservative peers;

We reaffirm the Liberal Democrat constitution commitment: “We champion the freedom, dignity and well-being of individuals, we acknowledge and respect their right to freedom of conscience and their right to develop their talents to the full. We aim to disperse power, to foster diversity and to nurture creativity.”

We believe that this amendment to the Digital Economy Bill

a) would alter UK copyright law in a way which would permit courts to order the blocking of websites following legal action by rights-holders

b) would be open to widespread anti-competitive and civil liberties abuses, as the experience with similar web-blocking provisions in the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act illustrates

c) could lead to the closure of internet hotspots and open wifi operated by small businesses, local councils, universities, libraries and others

d) could have a chilling effect on the internet, freedom of expression, competition and innovation as Internet Service Providers take down and/or block websites to avoid facing the costs of legal action

e) may be illegal under the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union and other EU law

We condemn

a) web-blocking and disconnecting internet connections

b) the threat to the freedom, dignity and well-being of individuals and businesses from the monitoring of their internet activity, the potential blocking of their websites and the potential termination of their internet connections.

c) the Digital Economy Bill for focusing on illegal filesharing rather than on nurturing creativity and innovative business models.

We support

a) the principle of net neutrality, through which the freedom of connection with any application to any party is guaranteed, except to address security threats or due to unexpected network congestion.

b) the rights of creators and performers to be rewarded for their work in a way that is fair, proportionate and appropriate to the medium.

Conference therefore opposes excessive regulatory attempts to monitor, control and limit internet access or internet publication, whether at local, national, European or global level.

We call for:

1. All publicly-funded publications to be freely accessible under a Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike licence.

2. Copyright legislation to allow fair use and to release from copyright protection works which are no longer available legally or whose authors cannot be identified.

3. A level playing field between the traditional, copyright-based business model and alternative business models which may rely on personal copying and legal filesharing.

Call 2 would have to be finessed a little. Some see the orphan works provision in the existing DEB as a licence for big media companies to plunder online archives for free material whilst paying far below market rate should the original author catch them. On the other hand, there’s a lot of material out there just begging to be rediscovered, and mashups are an artform in themselves. It’s a tricky one to get right, and I wouldn’t know where to begin.

There’s a Facebook group you can join to show support for this motion, and if you know the email address of a Lib Dem MP pass the link on.

via BoingBoing

Has Iain Dale gone Godwin?

There’s a fair amount of anger about this post on Iain Dale’s Diary, where he reprints a couple of political images by artist Louis Sidoli. One of the pictures in Dale’s post features Gordon Brown as Hitler with a description, from the artist, which is pure Godwin-

The first piece is called ‘Reign of Error’ . It is a play on words from the recent book which described Gordon Brown’s leadership at No10 as a ‘Reign Of Terror’. In this piece, he is ‘morphed’ into an image of Hitler! Of course it is provocative, but if you think about it, there are strong similarities: Both started out as chancellors, both bullied their way to the top and seized power without being democratically elected, both tried to rig the electoral process, both prone to flying into uncontrollable rages and both caused huge economic damage to our country etc…

Dale is only really reporting on the artist’s work, but he does throw in a justification by comparing it to anti-Thatcher works which appeared during her time. Still, I do think the reaction’s a bit over the top. Sidoli’s art, in these pictures at least, is weak and naive. He suggests that he wants to create something as iconic as Shepard Fairey’s Hope image of Obama, but he’s a long, long way away from that.

I’m not going to jump on the anti-Dale bandwagon on this one, but I do wonder what his reaction would have been to an equaly offensive image of David Cameron.

I, for one, welcome America’s new Marxist-Nazi-Muslim-Liberal Hive overlord 3

Today Barack Obama becomes US President. Unfortunately, he’s not the Messiah, just a politician with far better ideas than the guy he’s replacing. Even given two terms he probably can’t completely clean up the mess left by Bush and friends, but at least he won’t try to make it even worse.

A post on Joan Bushwell’s Chimpanzee Refuge pointed out that today would be a great time to take another look at the rightwing sites I followed during the election and see what sort of idiocy their self pity generated. There’s the post linked in the article, which suggests that any “liberal” success is down to some sort of Hive mind. Because like minded people working together for a common goal is a Socialist invention somehow. The same guy Godwin’d (again, I’m sure he did it multiple times during the election) a few days ago, because trying to sort out the banks is the first step on the road to the concentration camps.

Stop the ACLU jumps on the too-tired-to-do-any-original-thinking bandwagon with a similar post and tries to stop global warming by quoting a guy who doesn’t seem to know what he’s rebelling against.

Michelle Malkin has an open thread for people who want to moan about living in a democracy.

Little Green Footballs tries to place the blame anywhere other than the Worst President Ever and the stupidly dangerous pair that wanted to carry on his good work.

You know, I sort of miss these idiots, but I don’t know if I have enough time to follow all of them. Maybe just one RSS feed, to sample the madness? They are, after all, embodiments of the sort of beliefs I’m giving to the bad guys in Sounds of Soldiers.

Update Take nine and a half minutes to learn why these people are so wrong and deluded-

Tweets today

00:28 Blog: Tweets today #

00:28 Blog: NaNoWriMo first draft- The Battle of Longsight Market #

00:38 Radio 4 US election coverage on sleep. My dreams will be filled with electoral colleges. #

07:02 Just woke to news that Obama has been elected. Excellent. #

09:26 Blog: Obama Wins! #

11:27 Blog: We have fractal cauliflower #

11:27 Blog: Oooh look, Godwin! #

12:01 Scale: If you have 3,200 pounds to spare #

17:30 Blog: This is why Barack Obama got elected #

17:35 Hey look at me I’m covered in punk. Covered in candy. Covered in candy. #

18:27 Eating in bar 38. Got one spare ticket. #

19:46 Time for a little Bondage. #

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Oooh look, Godwin!

Paraphrased, but only very slightly, for some right wing idiots blog-

“You know who else promised change? Hitler, that’s who. Congratulations America, you just elected Hitler. And Fidel Castro. Yes, Fidel Castro promised change too. Congratulations America, you just elected Hitler AND Fidel Castro all rolled into one.”

Man shot for wearing Barack Obama T-shirt

The scary thing is, this happened in London. A man wearing a Barack Obama t-shirt was harassed whilst shopping by a man who later came back with an airgun and shot him. The attacker was obviously an unhinged racist looking for a reason to attack someone, but the Obama-hate is the sort of thing I expect to see more of from the right wing nuts in the US. All the morons currently going all Godwin and equating him to Hitler will go into full on armed uprising fantasies if (when? please make it when) he wins the election.