18 Dec 2012

About Instagram

Author: will | Filed under: creativity, data, data retention, identity theft, kerfulle, photo

If you are going to sell my pictures without me getting a cut and not call it piracy… Bye.

Today is Yesterday was (this post got stuck in draft) the day that the Leaving Certificate English paper 2 didn’t happen. The cause, this is really for my non-Irish reader (waves at Aunt Mary); a steward running the exam on Wednesday opened and put out paper 2 instead of paper 1 by accident in a school in County Louth.

This error has effected 51,800 students, and cost the steward his job. Admittedly, no one died. Only study plans are disrupted.

The funny thing is that this isn’t the first time such an error has happened. But this year the consequences are that the second paper is being sat on Saturday with a back-up English exam.

What occurred is a perfect storm of events…

Firstly, the timetable of exams changed. Until recently English papers 1 and 2 were sat on the same day (morning and afternoon). Since both exams are, well, tough and require a lot of writing it was felt that spreading the exam over two days would be easier on the students hands, if not on the students themselves.

If the error had occurred in the past, only the 15 students who received the wrong paper would have been effected.  True they could have informed fellow students that the paper featured “macbeth, deception, bishop, keats, walcot, larkin …” to quote the tweet, but most (lets face it, there is going to be a little comfort cramming between exams at least) of the study would have been completed long before the exam. Having a full day between exams meant that the important information could get out there and get spread widely.

Secondly there is the nature of the exam itself. Paper two of the Leaving Certificate is regarded as one of the toughest tests in the pre-university examination system. In out system exam marks mean points, and points mean University places. The English syllabus means that the students have to study eight poets and guess as to which two or three would be on the paper.

Had this been the Mathematics exam, then the information would be harder to spread. After all knowing the type of maths question does not limit the study as much as dropping 6 out of 8 poets. Equally has this not been one of the “big three” exams of English, Irish and Maths, the reason to spread the information would have decreased.

So you have a high pressure exam, which most if not all the leaving certificate students will be sitting, where the important details of which can be summed up in three or four words; the names of the poets. Words which quiet easily fit in the space of a single SMS message. Or a tweet. So a small amount of information can cause a huge amount of damage.

The third part of this is the fact that social media played a part. And yes I’m counting the leaving certificate discussion section of Boards.ie as social media. In fact it appears that the public dissemination began on Boards.

The timing is interesting here. Boards only started seeing this information close to 4pm. This implies that the information only started leaking around then. What is likely is that those 15 students started passing the information as soon as the afternoon exam (home economics as it happens) was over. Given that the steward reported the loss of confidentially around 4pm, when parents of the children informed him, this sound about right. Even if the steward had reported the breach immediately (and maybe kept his job over it) the spreading of the information would have followed the exact same time line.

Or to put it another way, the Department of Education found out the same time that everyone else did. Posibbly a short while earlier.

At least one, mostly likely two or three of the children waited until they got home, and got internet access to talk to each other. This spread the word. Needless to say, it spread very quickly amongst a number of interested students. Then wider.

Now a lot of students cut back on social computer use (e.g games) during the exams. After all its only two to three very important weeks for which they have worked two years for. Discussion was rife.

And the department of education picked it up very quickly.

There is a backup exam in case of leaks. Normally what would happen is that effected schools would get the backup paper. For a single school a delay is tolerable as the second exam of the day could be delayed by the same amount. In this case, because of social media and the internet, every school in the country (and beyond, the leaving certificate is not only limited to Irish schools, but I can’t think of any places that use it) was effected. The issue changed from containing the problem to distributing the exams to all the test centres.

So the exam was rescheduled. Not everyone was in the loop. I’ve heard stories of students studying for the English paper after it had been rescheduled. Which probably means that they had shut down all connections for study reasons.

What does this mean for the Department of Education.

1) All leaks are now national leaks. Unless the leak is a mistiming (exam starts and ends early) then assume all the information is out there. Students can only be quarantined in special circumstances, for example the Jewish students who cannot sit the exam on the Saturday for religious reasons.

2) Different colour coding for papers. All the morning exams have a different colour cover from all the evening exams. When both papers were on the same day, there wasn’t an issue, the colours were different. When the exam because consecutive mornings, then it became an issue again. Using more colours, maybe 4 colours with alternating colours for different mornings and evenings. A quicker, cheaper fix might be have the second paper being on the following afternoon. Or the following week. One would make mistakes unlikely, the other would give more recovery time.

3) Sign-off. The steward needed to get two students to sign-off the opening of the paper. Firstly these students are not disinterested parties, assuming malice, they would want this information. Secondly, these student have no training on the proper procedure. If the head of your exam asks you to sign something so the paper can be passed out, you’ll sign it. I know I signed off an exam (only 2 of us sat the paper) so I didn’t realise that I was signing a procedural document at the time.

In short, the current “the procedures have been followed” process have absolutely no purpose. Insisting that a teacher or someone equally fire-able by the Department sign off would at least make the checks viable.

So is this going to happen again?

Yes. You see, human error is likely. The consequences differ widely every time, in this case a lot of inconvenience for all the students this year. Next year, it could be something small.

Annoying, yes, but stuff happens all the time. Next ear we will all year about the steps taken to avoid this from happening again. Or at least, the steps to make if less likely.

And the odd on winning the lotto are?

take care,
Will Knott

I’m not going to write a lot on picturegate.

Partially because Dr Eoin O’Dell a Fellow and Senior Lecturer at the School of Law, Trinity College Dublin has a much better (but a snap shot of a moving target) list of all the Picturegate coverage from which you can find out about the reactions online as well as a legal analysis of the likely court actions.

And partially because around the time that the caricaturist, artist and t-shirt maker Allan Cavanagh was being interviewed by George Hook on Newstalk about the reaction to the Cowen/Casby scandal, I was being interviewed by Fianna Fáil (*waves at the appointment panel monitoring this blog*). I actually brought up the painting/apology and the reaction (seconds later) on Twitter and in the Irish blogging political sphere in the interview.

They were aware of it. This was 20 hours in to the anger.

Since then there has been front page coverage in the Irish newspapers, and coverage across the UK, European and American news. Anger at the apparent change in Garda resources to investigate the hanging of the paintings. Cried of state censorship and stifling of free speech. Questions attempted to in the Dáil.

It’s gone from being a (admittedly distasteful if you are in the Cowen family but) mildly amusing “And Finally…” style story to a major news story which its unlikely that RTÉ will want to touch with a bargepole.

The reaction, well I did a bit of Twitter trending and here are the results from Stream Graphs


If I could access this graph for an earlier time the graph would be scary around 21:30h on March 25th when the apology was read out. Twitter exploded for a little while then. It hasn’t stopped yet.  It looks like its easing down a bit, not going to completely die down.

The internet changes things.

Once, if this happened you would have a number of very upset people. Maybe they would ring each other. One to one. And agree in their anger. Now, they can communicate many to many. Pass the latest news to each other behind the mainstream media. React, repeat, retweet the latest information until everyone knows. Dig a story left along by the mainstream media back in to the harsh light of international news coverage.

So if you are going to react, you had better monitor and react quickly.

Things have changed. Its good to talk/type/tweet. Communication behind the scenes will ensure information gets out there, in the same way that the internet treats attempts at censorship (be it a blocked site or bad news) as damage that it routes around. This isn’t always an automatic thing. Often people keep that which they deem important alive.

And kicking.


take care,
Will Knott

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Timing is interesting. Markham Nolan blogged about, well, bloggers being used and abused by marketing types and quoted the example of The Big Switch outreach done by Bord Gáis electricity. Go read it and come back. This post is my comment as he “plucked out” a comment I left and given that I’ve been named, I’m not intending to be shamed.

(I have shame, don’t use it much)

The rest of this post is the comment I left…

I think I need to defend myself after you “plucked me out”.

I’ll go with this one example of the Bord Gáis meetup. This wasn’t a scheme dreamt up by a PR firm, this was Bord Gáis doing it themselves. All the bloggers that attended did so out of curiosity. None of us knew what it was going in.

If we did, I suspect a different group of bloggers would have shown up.

If you want bloggers, ask bloggers who blog about your area. For the event the ideal group would be business bloggers, consumer affairs bloggers, green affairs bloggers. Oddly enough marketing and advertising bloggers would have been interested too.

Or to put it another way, would you invite a music journalist to the launch of a new cheese? (No jokes please)

I know that not everyone who attended blogged about it (yet at any rate). I know that it ended up being one of my longer posts.
From what I can tell, it was the first attempt at blogger outreach (not just their first attempt, but THE first attempt following the Collision Course).

Lots of information was freely given. It was interesting to see a “grown up” product that few would describe as “sexy” being used for outreach. Things are changing in the marketplace, bloggers may be invited to more, but that is no guarantee of a write up, let along a favourable one.

The early inviter will get the “well they invited us” posts, but if it becomes more commonplace, the “I was there” won’t be blogged. The “I’m interested in this topic, give me the info” will take over. After all, most (if not all) Irish bloggers are amateurs.  They have work, school or other duties in the mornings. They can’t attend a day-time press conference (or film screening). They don’t all live in Dublin (interesting to see how many of these things will take place in Cork, Galway, Kilkenny or Limerick). And bloggers are under no real obligation. A day without posting isn’t going to cause much harm. Not the same can be said about mainstream media.

Or to use your analogy, the swarm of locusts may find the field is empty when they get there.

Of course, locust only swarm then their serotonin levels increase. That’s the happy chemical of the brain.

Who says that bloggers make a happy meal?

take care,

Will Knott

Tomorrow I’m heading in to a Collision Course between PR and marketing people and bloggers. I have the odd feeling that this will be the first time that some people in the PR world meet a real live blogger. Now some people thing that this is going to be a fight. Personally I think its going to be a repetition of common sense.

The event is being organised by Damien Mulley, a blogger turning in to game maker. After all, he’s giving away his marketing advice. All of it sensible, none of it shocking. Except for the shock of the “new”. It’s not rocket sience, its people.

You do know how to talk to people, right?

Sometimes I wonder. I’m interested in listening to the PR and marketing folk (know your enemy and all that). I’ve learned that badly done cold pitching is frequently badly done. E-mailing out all the information with a “oh, this is embargoed” tag at the end. Blindly following the “tags” in the contact database, rather than making their own in a targeted area (blame the list makers if you will).

PR and marketing is changing. Social media (and I’ll include blogging in this pile) is about conversation. Two way communication. Think about a journalist forming contacts in particular areas. A go-to gal on tech issues. An agony uncle on relationship issues. Making contacts who can help. Thats where PR is heading. Its going to be hard work, but bloggers aren’t scary most bloggers aren’t scary.

We will bite. But only when provoked.

take care,

Will Knott

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27 Aug 2008

Liable in a public space

Author: will | Filed under: kerfulle, pink for October, pinkforoctober

I’m trying to see if I can get the Pink for October Ireland project running with publicity for September 20. In Cork at least… more on that, see below.

Vector version of :Image:Color icon pink.Image via Wikipedia

Trying. Having trouble getting the domain I want due to user account isues and only being able to get online long after office hours are over.

And I’ve had a new problem presented before me.

In order to have the photographers meet the models in a public space, I’ll need to complete a “Form PS” off the Roads and Transportation Directorate of Cork City Council. This is the licence to use a public area for an activity or event. If you want to have this event in your city, you’ll need a similar form off your local council. I’m applying for Cork.

However, in order to do this event, legally, you need to have public liability insurance for a minimum of €2.5 million for a single incident.

Somehow I don’t think such cover comes cheap.

Without the cover, no approval (or so it seems) and without the approval, well …

  • no publicity which means
  • few if any models which means
  • not much of a point

And its not just Cork. If there are going to be nationwide events, cover will be needed for every meeting venue. And this is a bunch of people getting together (a photo-walk essentially), not a club or society. So there are no funds to use for this.

I will be asking the council nicely, but I don’t know if its possible right now.

Is there a way around this? Any advice or suggestions?

take care,
Will Knott

update September 3 2008. The 2008 Pink for October Ireland portraits won’t be happening. Details in this post.

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Dear Ms. Marianne Mikko Member of the European Parliment,

I’ve been reading reports that you have called for a registration of bloggers.

Given the importance of the Internet in Estonia, I suspect that you would get a lot of, er, assistance in answering an explanation of what you mean.
Or at least a high level of details on what you are actually requesting.

Most blog posts are highly personal by nature, be it personal observation, on the ground reporting of a war in their local neighbourhood, on the antics of their cat (depressing there are a lot of these) or the rote by which a blogger investigated the dealings of a disgraced public official.
They are closer to opinion pieces than investigative reporting.

There are also blogs which by their very nature need to be anonymous. Those detailing illegal activities by officials for instance. A registration of such a blogger is likely to lead to intimidation or death.

Do you wish to clarify your wording.
Say in a blog of your own for instance?

Yours sincerely,
Will Knott


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“I am never forget the day I first meet the great Lobachevsky.
In one word he told me secret of success in mathematics: Plagiarize!

Let no one else’s work evade your eyes,
Remember why the good Lord made your eyes,
So don’t shade your eyes,
But plagiarize, plagiarize, plagiarize…
Only be sure always to call it please, ‘research'”. — Tom Lehrer (MP3)

Now then, I have no doubt that most of you think I’m talking about a little kerfulle (called copyright theft) between Daimen Mulley and Ace Internet Marketing, but not quite.

First off, Nicolai Ivanovich Lobachevsky really did exist, but there is no evidence that he plagerized. The entire Tom Lehrer was written for Danny Kaye was a joke but the above attitude exists… because it’s legal!

Lobachevsky and Lehrer both work in mathematics… a hard science. And simply put, you can’t copyright a fact.

Think about it. What colour is the sky on your planet? “The sky is blue” is a fact and not copyrightable. The line “well, I’m from Ireland so it’s mostly overcast grey” is opinion, and so is copyrightable.

If you publish a non-fiction book, then you are stating that everything in it is fact. If someone then used the facts in your book as a basis for fiction, you shouldn’t be able to sue. If its a history (or even a pseudo-history) book, then your “plot premise” is probably re-producable without you getting a penny.
However is large chunks of your text have been copied (and not text attributed from another source) then you have a stronger case.

So, if you are going to steal off someone, it is better to take the facts and then reproduce it in your own words.

What about fair use… well let me put it this way, if you take content form another site, make the entire chunk a link. If your post, article, whatever is almost entirely a link… you have breached fair use.

Unless of course you do something to turn it (or them) into a completely different work. Think Andy Warhol and his soup cans. Think any of those music mashups you can think of. Usually it forces you to listen to the sources with fresh ears.

Or think about it creatively. Take other peoples footage from across the world and edit it in to a cheap music video to make a point like Sarah McLachlan does in “World on Fire”

Or mix together 32 songs and 28 different dance routines to make something humorous (laugh-out-loud in places) like Judson Laipply does with “The Evolution Of Dance”.

take care,

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