Archive for May, 2009

Money as Debt / El Dinero es Deuda

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

Codex Manenssis

have a couple of buddies that are quite far from being what I’d call prolific email writers. We might exchange three or four (maybe five under exceptional circumstances) emails every year, and apart from the past and the memories we shared our friendship relies on scattered meet-ups that our busy schedules allow us to organize every now and then, less often that we’d like.

The good thing about this irregular email communication pattern is that when I see their names popping up in my inbox I automatically know that there’s gotta be something VERY interesting in the email.

I just got one of those emails with a link to probably the best documentary/video I have ever seen in the last months. It’s called “Money as Debt” and it explains the financial foundations of our western society. If you are wondering where the ultimate roots of this financial crisis are, how we ended up being in such a chaos, and what we could do to get out of it then you really need to check the video. It’s very basic economic stuff, things that everybody should know (and many of you do know or at least heard about) but very few people have stopped to think what they really mean. I didn’t have - and the video really opened my eyes.

It’s true that I don’t totally agree with the last 10 minutes where the author gives his solution for the problem… but nonetheless the video is worth every minute you spend watching it. Here you have the link (watch out because the entire video is split into 5 parts).  I hope you like it as much as I did.


Codex Manenssis

engo un par de colegas que no son precisamente lo que diría unos prolíficos escribidores de emails. En el transcurso de un año a lo mejor intercambiamos tres o cuatro emails, quizá cinco bajo circumstancias excepcionales, y además de las vivencias y los recuerdos que compartimos en el pasado podríamos decir que nuestra amistad se mantiene gracias a esas pocas veces, muchas menos que nos gustaría, que nuestras apretadas agendas nos permiten compartir un par de cervezas.

Lo bueno de tener una comunicación tan irregular con ellos por email es que cuando su nombres aparecen de repente en mi inbox automaticamente sé que el mensaje contiene algo MUY interesante.

Acabo de recibir uno de esos emails con un link al que probablemente sea el mejor documental/video que he visto en meses. Se titula “El Dinero es Deuda”, y explica mediante ejemplos muy sencillos los cimientos financieros de nuestra sociedad occidental. Si te estás preguntando dónde están las raíces de la crisis financiera que nos acosa, cómo diántres acabamos en semejante situación y qué diablos podríamos hacer para salir del atolladero, entonces pincha en el link y empápate con el documental. Es teoría económica muy sencilla que todo el mundo debería saber (de hecho, muchos de vosotros lo sabréis ya o lo habréis oído en multitud de ocasiones) pero que muy pocas personas se han parado a pensar en lo que REALMENTE significa. Yo no lo había hecho, y el video me ha abierto los ojos.

Aunque no estoy totalmente de acuerdo con los últimos 10 minutos del documental donde el autor expone algunas recetas para salir de la crisis, el resto video realmente merece la pena. Y lo mejor es que está traducido al español. Aquí tenéis el link:  Espero que os guste tanto como a mí.


The Facebook Effect

Tuesday, May 5th, 2009

Codex Manenssis he first time I heard about the “Google effect” was 6 years ago during a lunch break in Germany. I was deep in my thoughts, wondering if the hardness of the lamb meat I was munching was due to an old age death or to the cook inability, when I overheard a conversation from the next table. Apparently a program manager in Munich wanted to hire a new engineer and after having a successful and convincing job interview with her, he just thought about finding out what Google had to show when looking up her name. And he found something very interesting indeed: some pictures of hers totally drunk in a big party. She was hired after all, and the pictures topic was dropped to a mere anecdote to laugh about. But if the program manager had been stricter, or if the interview had been less successful, those pictures would have been fatal for her job application. 

Codex Augustine, La Cité de Dieu, Paris, Orosius Master, 1400-1410I also remember that after laughing about the whole picture issue, the conversation degenerated in a virtual, dick-measuring context where instead of centimeters or inches, my lunch companions compared how many Google hits they got with their names and their professional successes when looking up themselves. “In the second hit you can see the latest article I wrote in that magazine, and in the fourth or the fifth the open source program I developed in my free time last year” “Man, that’s nothing - you gotta look at my results. In the very first hit you can see my whole professional background, and in the second conference I will be giving next semester…”. I was sort of surprise that someone could be so proud of what Google threw at him when searching for his name… until I came to the conclusion that if you were a socially handicapped computer nerd with a stiff spine and a clear inclination for work-alcoholism and egocentrism, looking at those google hits was the closest thing to an autofellatio you could come up with.

That conversation had an impact on me, though. I had never thought about all the information, good or bad, unintended or deliberated that the Internet could provide about a given person. For some time I became a paranoid web user and started using cookies trackers, web anonymizers and all kind of weird stuff to stop the Internet from knowing about me. Then, with time, and as it usual happens with this sort of things, I started finding it annoying and got back to my normal web-browsing behavior.

Until last month, when I was told from different people that, under certain circumstances, you can get someone’s Facebook albums’ pictures as Google hits when looking up his/her name -even if his/her security settings are correctly configured. All the information you have inside Facebook is so perfectly well linked, and so highly interconnected with your friends’ accounts, that all that it takes to expose the entire information chain is just one account with wrong security settings. I was even told about special Facebooks applications that are able to look for security leaks to recompose someone’s profil without having direct access to it. Not only your pictures, but your affiliations, political views, religious beliefs, hobbies, likes, dislikes… anything you thought it was safe to share with your friends might be publicly accessible to someone with the right skills.

Now, who might be interested in that, anyway? Lots of people. Some of them are not worth worrying about, such as marketing companies trying to ascertain consuming or behavioral patterns to launch more successful marketing campaigns. They’ve been doing or trying to do that for a long time, so what? But some others could be really worrisome.

Your future employer, for example. There are already a bunch of companies in the US and some other countries like Germany whose only goal is to gather information about people. Those companies are contracted by major employers before hiring someone in order to get as much information as possible about the future employee. Totally legal. And the social networks like Facebook, Tuenti and the like are virtual paradises for them. Just think about all the information that you, personally, have already shared. Think about all the information about you that your friends and contacts have, deliberate or unwillingly, shared with more people. Now try to come up with some prejudices, ideas, images, gut feelings and conceptions about your person, right and/or false, that someone might come up with when having access to all that information… Really scary.

Codex Die pelgrimage van der menscheliker creaturen, Southern Netherlands, Guillaume de Deguileville, 1440-1460We all have heard about the tracking cookies and how some entities in the Internet try to keep track of your surfing habits and the pages you visit in order to know more about you. That is peanuts in comparison to the Facebook effect. People are loading the Internet with personal information and not all of them are aware of the consequences that might have. And I am not trying to be apocalyptic here, but Facebook might not be the “close circle” you are taking it for - just think twice next time you upload a picture or write a comment in it.

Of course this new social trend is far from stop: Google just came out with the so-called “google profiles”. According to Google, ”a Google profile is simply how you present yourself on Google products to other Google users. It allows you to control how you appear on Google and tell others a bit more about who you are. With a Google profile, you can easily share your web content on one central location. You can include, for example, links to your blog, online photos, and other profiles such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and more. You have control over what others see. Your profile won’t display any private information unless you’ve explicitely added it. Needless to say, your google profile will come up as the first hit if someone looks for your name. The perfect lure for big egos with stiff spines…