Abuse and Misue of Technology limits its usefuleness

Here is rather an interesting dilemma. When new technologies or behaviors evolve, there is almost always someone that will abuse or misuse it, for example using it for illegal or criminal purposes, or just as an annoyance.

This misuse eventually reduces the usefulness of the new technology.

Our response to this misuse varies a lot, depending on our cultural and social upbringing, and outlook in life. This collective response is very important since it may shape the technology's future. It could either be limited, adjust to the change, or be abandoned altogether.

Examples of misue of technology are many:

Usenet

Usenet was one of the first mediums for free exchange of information over the internet. It remained useful for a long time, but then it got swamped by abuse from various parties. Initially it was people who did not follow the netiquette of posting, then the people who had political or religious rants and posted them to every newsgroup that exists, then it was the advertisers and spammers.

Email and Spam

There was a time when people were able to put their email address on their web sites, with a mailto: before it, and others could just click on it and contact them. There was also a time when people included their email address in their signature in Usenet, mailing lists and forums.

These days are gone forever it seems. Spam has limited the use of email. It has also spawned a whole new category of programs, anti-spam products.

Comment Spam

Now Spam has diversified into other areas. On forums and blogs, spam now comes using automated programs (bots) that post their advertising messages to comments on other sites.

This now causes blog software writers to either disable comments (limiting the usefulness of software), or to write anti-spam comments (a countermeasure).

Referer spam

Another new technique is to put links in referer links. So if any site has publically viewable referer links, they would show up, and

Search Engine Spam

Link farms

Phishing

Phishing is when sophisticated spammers impersonate a known corporate entity (e.g. a bank, Paypal, eBay, ...etc.) and try to trick the users into visiting a fake web site that pretends to be that of that corporation, and capturing the user name and passwords of the user.

They then use the information they gained to withdraw money from the accounts of the victim.

Viruses and Trojans

These should be well known to anyone who has been with computers for more than a few months. Although these are mainly nuisances, they serve as vehicles for other sinister stuff, such as spyware.

Spyware and Malware

These are innocent looking applications that capture data from the user and sends it to others. It can be a mere privacy violation issue, to slowing down the computer, to really malicious stuff, harvesting passwords, bank account numbers and other things.

Banner ads

Banner ads are a bane on the internet. I do not personally mind targeted ads that are unobtrusive. What really ticks me off is the dancing ads that distract you from what you are reading, and cause you a migraine headache. Many of these ads slow down your computer as well, as they use heavy stuff like Flash and Java.

On the other hand, this is an area for innovation. Google's approach to ads is unique, and does work: they use text only ads that blend with the rest of the web site. They are non intrusive, and best of all targeted.

Ad blockers have been one response to this, such as the ad blocking extension to FireFox.

Our Response: an Analogy

Imagine this scenario thousands of years ago, when early man discovered fire. Initially, it would be from lightening or forest fires. Man learned to make it go on and on by adding dry wood to it. Soon, they discovered that it is a good way to keep predators away, to see in the dark, and keep them warm on cold nights.

Eventually, they would learn how to create fire without having to get lighted embers from somewhere.

Now imagine a bunch of caveman huddled together around an open fire. One of them gets burned by accident. How would they react? Imagine that the others all put the fire out with their clubs, thumping their chests and hooting in excitement and victory. After that, they all continue sitting around in the cold and dark cave again!

So, while some tend to ban a technology outright out of fear of its consequences, others just try to workaround the problems, and move foward.

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Comments

Bravo

I hear ya, man. Embarassing as it may be, I'm one of those flashy ad offenders. I cringe every time I look at my comic site (www.bluecrashkit.com) and see all the flashy, glaring ads. Eh... Well, it's a paycheck. I'm trying to find a balance between profitable and obnoxious. I DID draw the line at pop-unders and pop-ups, at least.

The up side of all this is that the ad situation has inspired me to work on learning PHP. I finally (as in just a few hours ago) purchased a copy of "PHP and MySQL for Dummies" to try to figure out how to build in a Paypal subscription option for the comic site so that subscribed users won't have to look at ads--If I learn enough, maybe I'll even figure out how to turn the comic update script I use into a Drupal module.

Ecommerce

You do not need to learn PHP to do it.

It is fairly easy to do with Drupal's ecommerce package and granting roles to subscribed users. Ecommerce already supports Paypal, so it is exactly what you want.
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Khalid Baheyeldin