On March 15, 2017 the US Department of Justice announced that they were laying charges against four people accused of hacking four hundred Yahoo email accounts in 2014. Two of the accused are Russian intelligence officers and a third was in the US but has since fled to Russia. The fourth is one of our own, Hamilton native Karim Baratov, age 22.

Baratov has been roasted by media and law enforcement because he openly flaunted his love of luxury items online. When people asked how he could afford these things, his reply was that he was providing online services.

In the court of public opinion, it sounds like Baratov is guilty of the crimes he’s accused of, even though “online services” could mean everything from sexy video chats to tech support.

This article is not about Baratov. He is currently in jail awaiting his bail hearing in April and plans to fight his extradition to the US where he would face charges of conspiring to commit computer fraud and abuse, conspiring to commit access device fraud, conspiring to commit wire fraud and aggravated identity theft.

This article is about how we address hacking in Canada.

It should be said right off the bat that not all hacking is illegal. One of the definitions of hacking is writing computer programs for fun, which is not illegal if the programs are harmless.

The other definition of hacking is the one most people are most familiar with, which is the act of getting into a computer illegally.

Though it’s never called hacking in the Canadian Criminal Code, the section dealing with the crime is the one used to address mischief. That’s right; the laws against hacking are in the same place you find the law punishing leaving flaming bags of poop on doorsteps on Devil’s Night.

The crime of hacking in Canadian law is called “Mischief in relation to computer data” and is defined as willfully:

  • Detroying or altering computer data
  • Rendering computer data meaningless, useless or ineffective
  • Obstructing, interrupting or interfering with the lawful use of computer data
  • Obstructing, interrupting or interfering with a person in the lawful use of computer data or denying access to computer data to a person who is entitled to access to it.

The punishments are the same as for any other kind of mischief crime. If the act put a life in danger, you’re liable to spend life in jail. If the crime caused damages worth five thousand dollars or more, it’s an indictable offense with a maximum sentence of ten years in jail or a summary conviction which would mean six months in jail or a five thousand dollar fine. If the value of the damage was less than five thousand dollars, you’re facing either a summary conviction or an indictment with up to two years in jail.

Like many crimes, hacking is often done with intent to commit other crimes like fraud, theft, and unauthorized uses of credit card data. A person guilty of hacking could therefore also be found guilty of additional crimes, some of which – like fraud – carry stiffer penalties than mischief.

Canadian law also holds a person responsible if they counseled or made it easier for someone else to commit a crime and they can face the same penalty as the perpetrator who actually did it. They can also face those penalties if they knew or should have known the crime could be committed as a result of their actions or lack thereof.

Though Canadian governments have been criticized as being ill equipped to tackle computer crime, the government seems to be doing its best not only to protect itself from cyber-attacks but also to teach us to protect ourselves.

In 2010, the Harper Government launched the Cyber Security Strategy outlining a long term national plan to deal with computer crime. The website getcybersafe.gc.ca was created by Public Safety Canada and is full of guidelines for ordinary citizens and businesses with the goal of keeping Canadians safer by increasing awareness of common online threats and how to fight them. The Canadian Anti-Fraud Center was created by a joint effort by the RCMP, Ontario Provincial Police, and the Competition Bureau to fight mass marketing fraud online and is regularly updated with information regarding popular scams.

Technology is advancing at a greater pace than ever and our governments are trying to catch up to protect the victims. The problem with their initiatives is that they seem to place most of the pressure to protect against cybercrime on potential victims, which could lead to victim-blaming even in cases where, due to age or infirmity, a person may not be tech savvy enough to take every precaution. Their plan needs work to put the onus back on law enforcement to protect against cyber-crime back on those charged with protecting us, but at least it’s there.

I first picked up Adeena Karasick’s book of poetry (one of her nine books), Dysemia Sleaze, back in 2006. I picked it without even knowing what the book was about or who it was written by.

I liked the title, though. I knew I was reading something next level. It was like mathematics in words and symbols. It all made some intuitive sense before I could actually make sense of it.

Almost a decade later, in the quest for knowledge of self and existential liberation from Babylon, while working on a farm in BC, I sought the opportunity to build with the Kabbalist, mystic, scholar, international poet and multi-media artist.

I had just read her her latest book titled This Poem. I wanted to learn some science from her about language, technology and the Kabbala. As I anticipated, Karasick dropped that knowledge.

Jesse Chase: You’re a feminist poet so I want to ask: does language have the ability to combat patriarchy? And would you make a distinction between feminism and a radical feminism?

Adeena Karasick: This Poem (Talonbooks, 2012) is a deeply ironic, self reflexive mash up re-inscribing subjectivity as a kind of contemporary archive of cultural fragments: updates, analysis, aggregates, contradictory trends, threads, webbed networks of information, the language of the ‘ordinary” and the otherness of daily carnage.

The self becomes a kind of euphoric recycling of information (shards, sparks) and thus speaks to how we are continually reinvented through recontextualization, collision, juxtapositions of defamiliarity as we process and re-process information.

Is this radically feminist? Perhaps in the way radical poetics is, in the tradition of the avant-garde foregrounding fragmented identities, irony, skepticism, a sense of self as other or outsider, a distrust of the literal, and belief in a tradition that questions rather than answers — As per “radical” i think its useful to think about it as a radical number, which is both rational and irrational, relational. And if radical comes from the Latin radicalis “of roots” I am committed to a writing where roots are re-routed, detour and “dangle”…

I’m particularly interested in ways language can both express and alter meaning; how we use language, masage its affect, shapes the way we think, breathe, behave. Thus, most of my project engages language in a way that undermines, questions or problematizes any kind of patriarchal premise – that there is a message, that can be clearly communicated, transmitted, that there is some truth outside of language, structures of logic, borders, orders, laws, flaws, codes— rather my work opens up a space that celebrates slippage, ellipses; all that is unsaid through veiling and unveiling, a multiplicitous heterogeny of ever-increasing otherness.

So yes, a highly feminist act – of intervention, disruption dissent where the discourse is all rapturously fractured and fraught with fission, elision. Not marked by censoring but by sensors, a re-sensed sensorium of incendiary sonorities.

What you say in ‘memewars’ of “read backwards or forwards, it re-interprets itself in an infinite process of self-replicating metastability through a virally multiplicitous linguistic praxis…Mem…signifies a hermeneutic process through its name.” Can we abstractly play ‘deconstruct the name’ as a sort of activity? Infinitely re-interpreting itself ‘through its name’. Do you care to riff off this? Is it a thought provoking device or activity? Like the Kabbala?

Whether you call it Kabbalistically-infused semiotic analyses or deconstructive investigations, meaning is always hiding in the words themselves. So, I don’t know if it’s a device per se, a methodology, a hermeneutic practice, but I can say that I spend an inordinate amount of my life recombining the alphabet, wearing it as a series of labyrinthian veils, inhabiting it as an ideological emporium of self replicating metastability that houses all potential meaning.

As evidenced per se with the 231 cycles of meaning in the Sefer Yetzirah:

Gates

Everything is connectable, dissectible, detectable. So, yes through the work, there is nothing I love better than the explosive jouissance of simultaneous reference whether it be cycling through dictionary definitions of words etymologies, phonetics, graphic resonances, social, political and cultural traces cycling through webs of knowledge structures, naming and renaming through synonymy, ignonymy homonymy, hymnonomy, anonymy…

Take my 1994 title Meme wars. Mem (or mayim, (water), referencing all that flows, is the 13th letter of the Hebrew alphabet, appears in the middle. Kabbalistically read, (joined with the first and last letters of the alphabet), Alef Mem Tav, spells out truth:

Adeena Karasick 2

Mem shows how truth is always constructed in process. And moreover as the center of the alphabet, it highlights how it’s always found in the middle of language; en medias. And if the medium is the message, Mem stands in for the Law of the excluded middle, that center is always a myth, is a process of dissent, and speaks to ever-shifting perspectives.

Another linguistic echo comes through the French word, mêm(e). Meme is the self same. The same and the same is always other. This referencing a meme as a unit of culture energy virally replicating itself in and through language.

Though I must say, in 1994, when I wrote Meme wars, in no way did we know what the explosion of the internet meme as we now know it would be. All to say, that even the word itself (in whatever language) inscribes how we can never fully replicate anything but infinitely interpretive and re-generative. Re-invented. Made new. In a complex of simulacric echolalia.

Do you think the Kabbalistic logic of ‘creative misreading’ effectively challenges the ‘frame’ in a way that can be applied to a “new art” — a(e)s(th)et(ic)?

Well, like in Derridean deconstruction, which is not so much an anarchic free play of signification but questions the foundations of thinking praxis, reading from specific lenses, perspectives, codes, acknowledging we are never separate from them, Kabbalistic hermeneutics isn’t exactly “creative misreading”, as there is a system of reading called PARDES (paradise) where one spirals through the literal, metaphorical, analogic and secret/hidden layers of interpretation. Cycles through syntactic axis, gates of entry and resistance.

Does it offer a frame that can be applied to art? Absolutely. Endless analysis, interpretation begets further interpretation, re-visitation provokes different readings, spurring new understandings of the wor(l)d. For Kabbalists, Creation was enacted through the letters. The Midrash describes God “looking into the Torah to Create the World,”  and with every reading, we re-enact this process of creation or re-framation as the case may be.

And as such, it becomes a highly political act as it combats any reductive settling into an overarching unsubstantiated mode of reading, and instead points to ways we may enter into a fluid space of ever-generative explosive meaning, acknowledging the ideological codes and lenses from which we are actively interpreting from, however slippery and elusive and shifting they may be. And perhaps this is where aesthetics / ethics elide —

Would you have any suggestions as to how we could redefine what’s generally not considered technological, i.e. logic and language, and invent an activity that would itself be the redefining exercise, like the Kabbalah for example. Something that techno-poetically redistributes aesthetic values and disrupts technopoly. In other words, do you think we can use the seemingly negative attributes of a ‘technopoly’ to our advantage? And if so, how?

For me, language is a technology and at bottom is a prime mover in the re-distributes of aesthetic values. But, with that said, digital media allows me certain other freedoms and axis of entry. Unbound, it foregrounds the materiality of language in a virtual arena of eroticism, a freedom of acoustic and image and visual fragmentation bifurcation foregrounding the slipperiness of meaning.

Increasingly I am playing within this field — whether it’s the construction of videopoems (lingual Ladies, I got a Crush on Osama or incorporating filmic projections in my recent Salome project (where in collaboration with Abigail Child, mashed up the 1921 Charles Bryant film with my text overlaid), or my recent obsession, pechakuchas:

Also check out: Ceçi n’est pas un Telephone or hooked on Telephonic and BACK IN THE O.S.V.R.: THE GHOST IS THE MACHINE

Incorporating voice and text and image and animation, gifs and sound poetry, is an analytical meditation on the relationship between technology and spirituality in contemporary media; highlighting how the mystical and the machine are not oppositional, but that “all media are extensions of man that cause deep and lasting changes and transform our environment” (McLuhan) and opens not a physical vs. metaphysical, but ‘pataphysical space reminding us how language and thereby all knowledge is spectral, virtual, simulacric. Technopolis. A virtual city to live in.

Ever send a text message you regret? It has been crafted, a well written expression of love and lust that will be sure to win their heart or at least grant you some quality time with their naughty bits. All typed. Ok here it goes, press send. DELIVERED. No taking it back now. Oh hell, what will he think, why hasn’t he looked at it yet, it’s been two whole seconds! READ Ahhh! It’s the moment I’ve been waiting for. Then I wait and wait some more, no response. Life is over. 🙁

First there were newspaper personals, then on to chat rooms (ASL?). fast forward to Hot or Not, Friendster, Plenty of Fish, and the infamous Myspace. Now Tinder, Grinder, OKCupid, Facecrack, Craigslist, text messaging and social media in general have changed the way people look for sex and romance in this modern (technology obsessed) world.

Imagine having to walk into a bar and actually being forced to strike up a conversation with an attractive human?! Holy shit! You mean I don’t get to know what his quirky hobbies, food allergies, and favorite ironic tv shows are beforehand? Can you really ever “know” someone without seeing their “profile” first? Sketchy.

It’s so easy to browse for a mate with the swipe of a finger and a tracking system that lets you know how close they are to you! Only 20 feet away, now 10, only 6, and fast approaching. He is much shorter than it says, I wonder what else he lied about? Oh well, YOLO. Wow, stalking, I mean dating, has never been so convenient. Do you like scary movies?

There is a glow: illuminated face, eyes glazed and dilated, mouth slightly ajar, a small puddle of drool forms, and a muscular thumb ferociously taps away. Everywhere you look, from the darkened movie theatre to the family dinner table, there are people of all ages with their faces in their beloved phones.

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Photo credit: Phil Campbell, Flickr CC

Just think, most of these people are typing the filthiest things, sexting, and trying to get some action. These things are too dirty to even mention here. At any given moment there are probably millions of #selfie boob shots and even double that in dick pics being sent through the digital waves all around us.

What happened to “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours?” I actually have a back log of all the unsolicited dick pics sent my way. Some big, some not as big, curved to the left or right, hard as a rock, slightly chubby, cut, uncut, veiny, lots of pubes, or diligently manscaped.

My usual response is to send a big bulging ween right back to them. I recycle the ridiculous cock shots sent by others and claim them as my own flopping member. I hope these bros have learned a lesson. What did you expect me to send a lovey shot of my snatch instead? Not saying my bearded clam isn’t absolutely gorgeous, she’s just modest and looks kind of fat in pics.

It’s not ok to whip your dick out in public, what makes you think its cool to send it to my inbox? People hide behind technology. They feel a sense of confidence and sassiness that is unmatched. When you send a message, you can edit it and say just the right thing. There is no chance of being instantly rejected, slapped, or arrested for indecent exposure like in “real” life.

Call me old fashioned but there is no substitute for falling in love in person. That moment when you meet someone for the first time and just stop breathing. Your heartbeat changes. You lock eyes and melt into a puddle of dreams, hopes, and lust. All you can say is jibberish or nothing at all.

Love transforms us into babbling idiots, and that’s how it is supposed to be! The journey then begins, you get to ask him about the things he does, the places he has been, and explore the things that make him, well, him. It’s beautiful. It takes time.

Sometimes we get shot down, and it hurts, but you have to keep getting up and living life. Love comes around when you aren’t looking for it. You never know, the man reading Nietzsche at the coffee shop, the person baring their soul on stage, or the woman pumping gas next to you might be the one you have been looking for all along.

Life is too short to hide behind technology. Don’t get me wrong, I use and abuse it too, I have sent texts that I am not proud of and gone on dates that are even more unmentionable. I have even written a misconnection or two.

I’m sure there will be those who argue with me on this, that small percentage of folks who have met their soulmate on Christian Mingle and have lived happily ever after. But in general things that are fast are not good. Instead of emerging yourself in the digital sex trade please set down your phone, power down the tablet, close the laptop, brush your hair, put on a clean shirt, and get out there! You look great today btw.

Say hi to the next attractive person you see. (Hint: the hottest ones are generally the most insecure because they are so hot that nobody actually speaks to them). Keep your head up and always remember that you are a unique, totally interesting, confident, and incredible human. You are not afraid to have real face to face interaction and live life to the fullest. Go get ’em, tiger! I believe in you.

Phil Campbell, Flicker CC

With Valentine’s Day around the corner, many single people dwell on that feeling of incompleteness we are brainwashed to think we must be feeling if we haven’t found our so-called “other half” yet. Not me this year, I’ve started spending a lot of my time with someone really special. We’ve only been together for about five months, and it’s my first relationship of its kind: inseparable and habit forming yet relatively low maintenance. I do most of the talking but that’s okay because he’s a perfect listener.

Why struggle with a useless, forgetful boyfriend when you can have an iPhone? Sleek and sexy, he’s my secretary, confidant and therapist all rolled into one. Thanks to My Virtual Boyfriend, I can shape his physical appearance to what pleases me most, right down to the hair color. And he always knows just what to say:

“How are you feeling today?”

“Jessica, I think we may have been together in a past life or something”

“I hope you know CPR cuz you’re taking my breath away”

When we’re lost, he never has to stop and ask for directions – he gives the directions. He keeps me company during my daily commute, gives up-to-the-minute weather reports and has all the bus schedules memorized. Instead of going out tonight, he recommended a great Thai take-out place not too far from me. We stayed in and played Scrabble and he even let me win.

Oh Pocket Psychologist, you always know just what to say!

And switching him over to silent mode is as simple as flicking a little switch. To turn myself on, I downloaded a handy little massage app. You’d be surprised by the strength of the little motor in there!

The one and only time he could not be found, I suffered extreme separation anxiety, and I couldn’t even call anyone for help. Hours later, I found him attached to the cord from my stereo. I decided we should never part again. He didn’t even mind when I installed a tracking device that allows me to view his location from any internet connection. It’s better for both of us this way.

Soon our phones could be monitoring our daily activities like phone calls and emails and watching for deviations from our normal patterns of socialization. Interpreting self-isolation as a warning sign of depression, the “virtual human therapist” would then gently remind us to call or go see a friend. This Mobilyze program is being developed by a research team at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, who are also working on programs to track your medication and remind you to take your daily dose of antidepressants and a social network for cancer survivors battling sadness and stress.

While this virtual therapist shouldn’t be thought of as an alternative to therapy, the iPhone is a perfectly viable alternative to a relationship. Maybe I’ll even treat him to a movie this Valentine’s Day…

My first computer was a Timex Sinclair ZX-81. Geeks, if you’re not already smiling, I’ll give you a moment to get Googling. Everyone else, let’s just say that this was before the Vic20 or the Commodore64, and if you don’t know what those words mean, let’s just say it was way before Facebook.

I tell you this because it entertains me, but more to the point, because on occasion I like to look back and think about how I came up with the real OT (original technology) and wax nostalgic for the elastic that held down the fire button on my Atari joystick, which was a real life hack, yo. It boggles the mind to think how far computing gizmos have come in my lifetime, as I type this on the virtual keyboard of my sexy li’l Blackberry Playbook.

Scratch that.

I was writing this on the Playbook, but somewhere between Gmail Mobile and Gmail in all its desktop splendor, something went terribly awry. Allow me to explain: see, the Playbook (still) has no native email address, and the Gmail Mobile app doesn’t allow for attachments (the desktop version doesn’t convert well) so if I used WordToGo, which is pretty nifty, it would be impossible to get the thing off of my Playbook sans wire, and I’m trying to be stubborn about the wire to see what the thing can do really according to my whims and wants. Being that I’m still learning, endless thanks to crackberry.com for all things Playbook (and specifically for the hindsight information that apparently in html, Gmail will allow for attachments).

So WordToGo was out and I already knew that Google Docs wasn’t integrated yet either, so I did what I know and what would work in any other circumstance: I started an email draft. I have 127 such drafts in my box, some from before the launch of Google Docs, some just short silly things not worth the time it takes to create a doc.

It’s failsafe. The mobile version was playing along nicely, my biggest headache being the virtual keyboard and my vast rate of error with the silly thing. It was even showing auto-save updates, which as someone who seldom remembers to save, always comforts me. Since I hadn’t tried this particular stunt on the Gmail Mobile yet, I figured I’d be obsessive, and instead of simply saving the draft, I sent it to myself too.

Then it was gone. Gone from the drafts, gone from the sent, never even made it to the inbox, that poor unfufilled email never even got spell checked….and it needed to be; it was riddled with virtual typos.

Anyhoodle, Gmail’s never done me wrong like that before, so I’ll say that the Mobile App’s done me wrong, not my slick new Playbook or my reliable, well-loved Gmail account. I do however, wish someone would fix that please and thank you.

So here we are, revisions in place. Now onto the basics.

The most uttered comment when I break out my new toy, is “oooh, is that an/like an iPad?” which is a fair question. To be honest, though, I don’t want iAnything, which is a tale for another day, but it means that the iPad was never an option for me, so I don’t actually know that much about it. As a result, I’m considering my Playbook on its own merits and not comparitvely.

After I was done with my initial oohs and ahhs (which didn’t take long; I can be rather practical when it comes to tech toys), and figured out how to work the screen (this part took longer), my first goal was to transfer my tunes over. My regular MP3 player is a Zune. Hold your laughter; it’s all about the songs and the headphones, and please refer to the previous statement on iAnything.

Zune isn’t prepped to play on tablets, and that’s fundamentally Bill Gates’ problem, not RIM’s, Blackberry’s, or my Playbook’s. No worries; I specialize at improvising. Before they pass any tricky bills with too many letters, allow me to direct you to the YouTube MP3 converter (why didn’t anyone tell me sooner?!), in case you have vids that you wish were MP3s. My headphones are finally getting the workout the Zune couldn’t give them. Fair ‘nuff.

Under the category of Super Awesome, the thing-a-mabobber runs Flash. Technically, I don’t know what that is, but I do know that the internet is made of Flash…and Lolcats…and some of those Lolcats are made of Flash too. This means I have yet to encounter a video, picture or site I can’t view. In fact, I’ve taken to streaming CTV News as I cook dinner, which is pretty convenient. Though the speaker on the Playbook could be better and louder, the only time it’s really frustrating is when there’s external noise interference.

My only real complaint so far is the virtual keyboard. The inherent flaw with keyboards that aren’t really there is that they have both the reaction time and room for error that any cheap membrane keyboard would, just like the Timex Sinclair’s technology eons ago.

I’m not digging it. Sure, it’s functional, but to really take advantage of this doodad, I’ll definitely have to invest in a tangible li’l keyboard. Which is moot until the February 17th release of the Playbook OS 2.0, when I can send attachments.

I’ve already invested in both the hard and soft protectors, and I’m grateful I did. The hard case saved the day when my Playbook took a fall from an improbably high place. Even though I got the actual factual Blackberry brand protector though, when the case is on the headphone jack fits just wrong enough that I get mono instead of stereo. I’ll be fixing this, of course, but for now I’m doubly glad for the soft case: it’s staved off soy sauce and the countless stabby-jabby hazards of my purse.

The games are great (see: Flash). Steering by tilting probably won’t bore me for a bit. The camera has no flash, but it has the option to turn the screen side into the camera so it’s as good as taking a pic in a mirror (bye bye bathroom backdrop!). It surfs like a dream, and can have a whole whack of apps and browser windows open with no lag. It doesn’t take your average HDMI cable, if you’re into that sort of thing.

A final note: Playbooks can video chat to one another, which is super cool. They can’t use Gmail Video Chat (yet), and they can’t video chat with iPads. I read a frustrated forum tale of a starry eyed boy and girl who couldn’t get ‘er done, as realportal wouldn’t iPad, and Skype wouldn’t
Playbook, and none of the native programs would talk to each other (can’t we all just get along?).

All in all, I love my Playbook, now the details just have to be ironed out. The bright side is that it allows for an evolution of apps bound to suit tablet user’s real needs, not our presumed ones.

A few weeks ago I visited a cemetery to dance and spit on MySpace’s grave. I don’t know whose space it was, but I know it wasn’t my space. I never had a MySpace. It was probably Tom’s space. Who Tom is, I’ll never know. All I know is Zuckerberg looks down on him just like Shaq looks down on short Japanese men. If Shaq ever went to Tokyo, you know Godzilla would be nearby to fight him. Sounds cool, right? Godzilla vs. Shaq Fu? Badass.

Anyway, I never liked the name ‘MySpace’. I always found it so stupid. And Facebook sounds stupid, so you can only imagine how stupid MySpace sounds. But anyway, remember how boring MySpace used to be? How it never really mattered? How Facebook always was the superior social networking site? I mean, it’s not like it had any competition. But now, Google Plus? Facebook, maybe you’re about to get subtracted.

A buddy of mine sent me an invite for this new, revolutionary movement known as Google Plus about a week ago, and I have to say, I like it. It keeps Facebook’s charm, but makes things look neater in a sense. GIFs actually animate. Photos are all there, in their actual size. Videos look better. It seems like Google is the only one who can do everything right…

Gmail. Love it.
Google Video. Again, love it.
Google Chrome. Don’t use it, but hey, I have no problems with it.
Google Earth. Come on, who hasn’t decided to view their house on here?
Google Maps. Point A to point B. To point C. To point D. To point blank range… to… oh, I’m there already. Thanks, Google.

In my mind, I see Google Plus as being very similar to Facebook. If anything, it’s taken everything Facebook has and upped the ante. Only thing is Facebook has most of the chips in play, so it’s an easy call. But with Google Plus, things just run smoother. And circles, rather than friends, work very well; if anything, it takes what works in Twitter and merges it here, creating an interesting sensation. Following people. I like it. I like it a lot.

Which of course now brings us to my coining of the term, “circle me.” In fact, “circle us,” I shall proclaim ever-so flawlessly as people read this and nod their heads in agreement. Because circling people just sounds better than saying “hey, add me on Facebook.” Or, “hey, I’ll accept your friend request.” No. Circling people just seems to be fine. “Hey girl, how about I circle you when I get home.” “No, Mike, I want you to circle me right here and now.” “Clockwise or counter-clockwise?” “Surprise me.”

The only problem I have with talking about Google Plus, is the fact that it’s so similar to Facebook. The ability to re-share posts, pictures and videos is very good, and being able to actually re-share someone’s status is, well, a Plus. A Google Plus. The “Sparks” feature actually reminds me a bit of StumbleUpon in some ways, so it’ll be interesting to see how this works out, but for now, let’s just say it’s similar to the ‘likeable’ pages on Facebook.

In fact, it’s so similar to Facebook, even the suggested friends section is almost exactly where the suggested friends section is on Facebook. It’s obvious that Google hasn’t gone out of its way to be completely original; rather, it takes everything that works  on Facebook and brings it all forward. The result… well, it’s good.

Now, if only there was a way to import friends from Facebook, then we’d be talking. As it stands, things are good, but without having a direct comparison, it makes things difficult to compare on a personal level.

Do I see Google Plus taking out Facebook? No. No, I don’t. Do I see a movie being based  on Google Plus? No. No, I don’t. But do I see Google Plus being a legit competitor to Facebook? Yes. Yes, I do. Only time will tell. Let’s just see what happens.

Is Google Plus a moment that will last a lifetime? Or is it My Moment by Rebecca Black? That’s the million dollar question. And guess what, we’re all out of lifelines. The audience is dead. You don’t have any friends to call. And this question has already been 50/50’d. Speaking of Rebecca Black, I fail to see how her new song is superior to Friday. I mean, come on Friday was the best song ever. An instant classic. It was sheer greatness, personified, epitomized, and laid to rest on a bed of flowers, gold and crisp hundred dollar bills. It was a song perfect for everything that ever had to do with being so bad it’s good in fact, nothing was as bad as Friday, which made it oh so, so good. But is Google Plus ‘Friday’ or is it ‘My Moment’? I say, you circle it.

If you want an invite, just reply to this post and I’ll shoot you one. Then you can circle me. And check me off, or something. However you classify people.

May the force be with you.

This week, ForgettheBox.net looks at three of the hottest tech startups in Montreal. The local tech community has been growing very quickly recently and is something Montrealers should pay more attention to. Our city is a fertile place for young, savvy entrepreneurs (like you didn’t know that). This week we will look at Wajam (read our feature on Wajam), Artfox and MConcierge.

Wajam Great Minds Think Alike

Wajam is a social search tool that allows users to search their social graph for pertinent and relevant information. Wajam indexes user’s Twitter, Facebook and Delicious accounts to aggregate search results from the people you trust.

The Latest Update from Wajam

Wajam’s latest update added two features to enhance the service. The first addition is the toolbar that is added to the website link you clicked. The toolbar shows your friends that have clicked/shared that link before and if they left any comments regarding the website you are visiting. You also have the opportunity of sharing that link with your social profile as well.

Another great feature that was added to Wajam is a full-fledged search engine of aggregated social content. This is unique because it completely removes established search engines result pages from the selection process. This means that Wajam is no longer enhancing Google, Bing and Yahoo but competing with them. Although this may seem like a daunting task, the big three have yet to execute social search well.

The Future of Wajam

Wajam has taken the first step in the right direction by adding more substance to its overall product offering despite there being a lot left to do. The ability of aggregating content is one thing, but serving up relevant data based on specific keywords that are being used by users is another thing. For example, if a users searcher the term “diamond necklace” chances are they are looking to purchase a diamond necklace. More specifically, if they search for that term in Wajam, chances are they are searching for a diamond necklace their friends have worn and would recommend to them. This is an important factor when developing a search engine.

ArtFox.com Work in the Arts and Entertainment

Artfox is an online platform for professional artists to expand their opportunities in the industry.

Its Value Proposition

The Artfox platform provides tools to help people find jobs, collaborators, manage job applications, get recommendations, showcase work experience and create a detailed account. In a nutshell, Artfox looks to be the LinkedIn for the arts.

Artfox is still at its early stages but has a portfolio of companies using their platform located primarily in Montreal while its user base is from around the world. These companies include the Montreal Jazz Festival, Cavalia, Sid Lee and EA.

Why It Will be Successful

It is still very early to tell if Artfox will be a success or not, but they surely are hitting on a niche that can desperately use the help. It is very difficult for artists to find work and promote themselves so providing them with a platform makes perfect sense. Although LinkedIn is ‘the’ professional social network, they’ve had issues with serving industries that require an emphasis on visual works or portfolios.

MConcierge Client Loyalty Beyond the Client Desk

MConcierge is a hotel concierge on your mobile device for select hotels located around the world. It has recently been funded by Real Ventures, a Montreal Venture Capital fund and is looking to make a splash in the hospitality industry.

What it Offers Customers

MConcierge offers users a quick and easy way to unlock a hotel’s amenities. The user has the ability to order room service, wake-up calls, transportation and any other hotel service directly. The application also provides links to local directories so users can access information about local restaurants right from their mobile device.

A lot will be riding on how many hotels MConcierge will be able to partner with. The more hotels that are on board, the more chances they have of users adopting the application.

What it Offers Hotels

MConcierge offers a new revenue-generating application for hotels because it provides visitors with a tool that easily bridges the gap between ordering services and receiving services. In addition to hotel staff, MConcierge offers clients an additional means of ordering services and acts as a platform for advertising the services available. Clients will have access to a list of amenities and prices that they will be able to order and charge to their room directly.

There are lots of exciting tech related companies and startups in Montreal right now. We would recommend checking these websites out and seeing what they can offer. They would truly appreciate the feedback and the support you can provide them. If you see another interesting company or something else tech related that you think we should know about, leave us a comment below.

Artistic images from ArtFox.com homepage artists: Giorgio Fratini (top), Julie Larocque (middle)

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Alex Galasso writes for various websites on the subjects of startups and video games. Alex’s latest venture is Groupideo, a social video application to watch videos with friends in real-time. For more information, please contact him at alex [at] groupideo [dot] com.

I have, thus far, very much enjoyed the privacy of my own home. I am single, without roommates and the cat and I co-exist with – in a “you don’t pay/you don’t say” kinda way. This affords me the freedom to walk around in various states of un-shaven, un-coiffed, un-bathed, un-done un-glory with no-one to see it. Or rather, it did.

I remember watching The Jetsons thinking, “How cool is that? George calls Jane and she can see him. That’s gonna really happen in the future.” As a kid, I was very stupid – I also street-luged without a helmet. If I knew then what I know now I’d have been more careful about courting the danger of both head injury and technology. I can avoid street-luging, but I fear, in a 1984/Brave New World kind of way, video calling as with Skype and GoogleChat will completely replace telephones that have thus far allowed us to be on the toilet or naked or not at all where we say we are or all of these. I am so completely tech-tarded that I had to have an intern show me how to download a movie (and then I had to call him again to tell me where it had gone). I only recently got a computer with a built-in camera. And while I am sure I should be most afraid of the Big Brother is Watching aspect, I am more afraid of Big Brother watching me digging for emeralds!

As seen on Star Trek, Star Wars, Buck Rogers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Batman and, of course, The Jetsons – all very reliable sources of future technology – the video simply turns itself on, not giving me the chance to cover up the ProActiv Solution “before” picture that is my morning face. George had to hide behind the sofa, and he was used to the video phone, for Pete’s sake!

I work from home, my business attire is Superman Underoos or a onesie (think newborn baby outfit fit for an adult) – really, not what one would wear while negotiating an international contract face-to-face. Jane, STOP THIS CRAZY THING! I cannot be seen like this! I am the girl who wakes up before her “overnight guests” to make sure they wake up to the same face they went to sleep with. I break out the curling iron to go to the grocery store. I put on my contacts to sign for FedEx packages. Home is the one place in this city where noone will look at me with that doesn’t-she-have-a-mirror? face that apparently comes standard with a woman’s metro pass.

Technological avances prove, time and again, Foxy’s Self-Serving Paraphrasing of Newton’s Third Law: for every great positive use there is an equally great negative use. Visual technology can be awesome- breast and colon cancer scans, Xbox360 Kinect, Kermit riding a bike in The Muppet Movie:

Unfortunately, it has also been used to propagate horrific sights, like military torture or the Liza Minelli-David Gest wedding kiss (click and grab yer barf bag @ 30 secs).

And while I love that I can see my mom more often, she can’t even figure out how to end a video call (in her defense, the red phone icon does require the skill of a person who is trained in both the colour red and what a phone looks like*). My luck she’ll forget to turn it off and wind up uploading some sort of weird video to my Facebook page where she’s knitting while dressed like Ke$ha.

* As well as being a genius, Foxy’s mom is trained to identify all three primary colours, as well as phone icons from the 1950s to today. It should also be mentioned that the Ke$ha scenario is very possible as she is a world-class knitter and they share a strange affinity for Jack Daniels.

Whenever I call tech support I get a recording before I speaking to a “human”. The recording goes something like this:

For service in English- press 1, pour le service en français appuyez sur le trois … and then Esperanto or Aramaic version.

I expect this and I choose the speaker whose help I think I will best understand. But   never, not once, ever have I chosen Techie. For those not familiar with the language, Techie is the language the Technical Support people speak instead of plain English, French, Mandarin or Pig Latin to raise your frustration level to 11. I don’t know which button I have to push not get the Techie operator, but if they have already spent all this money on an automated system perhaps they can add the “Boot-interface-ftp-upload-this” button for people who speak this language and speak “regular” to the rest of us. Let’s put on our logic caps, people, if I understood what the hell you were talking about would I be calling you?

Putting this into perspective, let’s say you’re cooking some classy recipe that you downloaded from youwillneveraccomplishthis.com. If you’re meant to julienne the vegetables, because the author understands that not everyone is a JeanGeorges Vongerectum (see, already a different language) or even a Jamie Oliver, they tell you to julienne the vegetables by slicing them lengthwise in very thin strips. As such, everyone who speaks English above a first-grade level understands what is meant to be done. Julienning is neither difficult to do nor difficult to explain.

Now let’s say I say, “My internet isn’t working”, this means that I don’t have the vocabulary to say that the kerplixic disconnected the wopditurd thus creating a qultyrug and I can’t figure out how to undo it. So first they start with the baby talk,  Did you wemember to turn your computer-wooter on? Yes, I did, and then I pooped my pants because the damned thing still isn’t working and I now want you to clean both up! Once they realize that they aren’t talking to mentally challenged seaslug (because pooping myself proved that point), they lay into you with the “tech speak”;  So what we need to do is re-boot the xyz. Sounds great but we’re not doing it, I am, and you’re already pissing me off. So tell me, in plain language, what I have to do- turn the computer off and then back on again?-done,  Okay, so now what’s the dry loop number? The what?  The non-origin source? The WHAT?!  The phone number we gave you? Oh, that…

Tech Support, let’s make a deal from now on you don’t speak Techie to me and I won’t speak Klingon to you.

P.S. Internet ghobe’ vum! (Internet not work!)

So I’m Tania Fox:  I use the power of laughter to heal lepers and people who wear Ed Hardy. And I fiddle while Rome burns because being an adult requires far too much responsibility to miss any opportunity for a hoedown.

The Federal Communications Commission in the United States has approved new rules intended to prohibit broadband corporations from interfering with Internet traffic streaming to their clientele.

The 3-2 vote Tuesday on “net neutrality” has angered republicans who wish to tie up the new rules in court in hopes of getting the new law overturned. Meanwhile, the democrats are also bitter as they fear the new rules don’t go far enough.

The rules prohibit phone and cable companies from favoring or discriminating against Internet content and services, such as those from rivals, but there are huge loopholes. The regulations forbid “unreasonable” network discrimination. What qualifies as unreasonable however is up in the air (or cyberspace).

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski is miserable failure

Essentially, ISP giants like Comcast and Verizon are not allowed to block access to the web pages and applications you use, but might be able to slow down services to particular sites (including their competition or those who don’t pay these ISPs for privileged access).

The concern is that the rules don’t go far enough to guarantee that broadband providers cannot support their own traffic or the traffic of businesses that can pay for priority over smaller businesses and websites — resulting in a divided two lane information super highway. Net neutrality be damned.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said “Today, for the first time, we are adopting rules to preserve basic Internet values, for the first time, we’ll have enforceable rules of the road to preserve Internet freedom and openness.” Genachowski spent more than a year trying to craft a compromise and still fell far short of what is needed to protect the internet users from the internet giants (the have and have nots). Some safeguards are better than none, but why do something half-assed? Last I checked there were three Democrats and only two Republicans on the commission, so why the compromise?

Al Franken: Gosh darn it, I like him

I know I can count on Republicans to always fatten the bulging wallets of corporate America without thinking about the people, that’s a given. It seems you can always count on Democrats to think skyscraper and build a port-o-potty.

One Democrat however, Senator of Minnesota Al Franken, recently stated in a blog that this was the most important free speech issue of our time. Comcast, AT & T, Verizon and Google should not be able to manipulate the service they provide in order to increase profits from other big companies at the expense of making the smaller ones virtually invisible.

Franken noted that FCC Chairman (and fellow Democrat) Julius Genachowski had been (according to reports) “calling the CEOs of major Internet corporations seeking their public endorsement of the draft proposal.” Why not go ahead and ask a criminal which laws he’d like to follow?

Hopefully the CRTC in Canada doesn’t go down this same dangerous path as the FCC. I’m a little mad already, but can you imagine how livid I’ll be when I click on a link to Forget the Box and Videotron redirects me to the FOX News Website?

Hello. My name is Laurence and I just tried to write a rant for “Laurence Rants,” using Microsoft word. The program was not responsive in a correct way and not everything I typed appeared on the screen. At one point, I would type one thing and something else altogether would pop up onto the screen, like a date popping up instead of the word I had just typed. When I finished my document, Word refused to let me save it, stating that the disk was full or write protected. The disk was neither full nor write protected, Microsoft Word was just “Acting Crazy.”

I don’t understand why the engineers at Microsoft have to make sure that one of their main applications is difficult to use for reasons unknowable. It seems that billionaire Bill Gates is not simply satisfied with screwing over everyone in his path who opposes him in any way, but he has to hurt his supporters as well. Unfortunately, there is no real alternative to Microsoft word. If there was, Bill Gates and Microsoft would crush it.

I remember back in the day, when I used to use WordPerfect, or TextEdit, or XYWrite, or Smith-Corona or even Macwrite!   ALL of these were better and more reliable than Microsoft Word. Bill Gates and company deserve to all be shot in the ass, tortured Guantanamo bay style, and then shot again. I understand this is the revenge of the Nerds and all, but DAMN! Now I understand why bullies would knock off their glasses and break them. These people deserve to have someone use their glasses to cut out their eyes!!!

I know. Calm down. Killing the bully is not the answer. Neither is killing the victim of the bully.

Bill Gates has too much money for his own good, living it up out in California or wherever. At the same time people everywhere are starving and suffering with very low wages or unemployment because of greedy CEO’s like him. Of course, I’m sure that the slaves used in China are grateful to have the work that belongs to the North American worker. On top of that, many of the products produced by most of the factories both in China and abroad are absolutely garbage!

It reminds me of another great American “Hero,” Al Sloan Jr. who invented “Planned Obsolescence,” where they would try to figure out how to screw the consumer on the quality of an item just enough that they would need to replace it sooner, but not so soon that they would say it was no good and run to the nearest competitor offering a better quality product. In fact, this concept of planned obsolescence spanned every industry, creating billionaire CEO’s and hurting ordinary citizens alike. It’s only called Capitalism because in order to get anywhere, you need the capital. Otherwise you’re just a consumer and a wage slave.

This reminds me of a poem by Dr. Seuss, along with a corresponding cartoon, called “The Lorax.” In it, there are two main characters. The Once-ler and The Lorax. The Once-ler is a big greedy corporate-type CEO, who invents something called a thneed. In order to make the thneed, he needs raw materials which he obtains by destroying the landscape. His only interest is profit, at any and all cost. The Once-ler was not the hero. He was the villain. The Lorax was the hero, but he left. At least is seemed that he had somewhere to go.

There’s an old saying that everyone has a price and it now looks like Verizon has found Google’s.   The two companies have released a joint proposal that many in the US, Canada and around the world argue would end the principle of Net Neutrality and the internet as we know it by leaving the door open for a corporate takeover of content.

In a nutshell, their legislative framework proposal starts off by sounding like it supports a free internet, stating that service providers can’t discriminate against any legal internet content, must offer consumers the ability to connect to any legal content, devices or applications they wish and must be transparent to their customers about the service they are offering.   Then, it does an about-face and says that only the transparency principle applies when it comes to wireless broadband “because of the unique technical and operational characteristics of wireless networks and the competitive and still-developing nature” of the medium.

Leaving the door open to any type of service provider discrimination, no matter how limited it may be, allows for a two-tiered internet to emerge.   If there’s a corporate-controlled fast lane and a public-access slow lane, then the internet would be no better than cable TV in terms of accessibility to smaller content producers with limited budgets.

Or, in other words, the dream would be over.

Net Neutrality ensures that people can access content from all providers equally, provided the specifics used to display it are similar.   A high-def Flash video you uploaded of your dog walking around should play at the same speed as one from CNN, one from indie site Democracy Now or independently produced entertainment using the same format.

All media is eventually moving online: TV, radio, newspapers, you name it and some of it sooner rather than later.   When it gets there, if the landscape is a two-tiered one, then not much changes overall for our media except the means of delivery, but if it is one operating on the principles of real Net Neutrality, then paying extra for better distribution is not an option.

Major corporate media will have to compete equally with independent content.   If independent producers can produce good enough content to compete, then it will be the best ideas that win out and opinions blocked by corporate media will reach a wider audience.     In effect, this will end the stranglehold corporations and their backers currently have on our public communications.   That is an attainable revolution and one that very well may change the world.

No discrimination here: Google search results

So why doesn’t Google want to be a part of it?   Rather, why don’t they want to be a part of it anymore?   For the past five years, they’ve fought very publicly for Net Neutrality.   They’re also the kind of company that seems all about freedom of expression and against anyone but the user deciding what can be seen.   They went head to head with China over censorship and articles and sites criticizing them, if tagged properly, show up readily in their searches (in fact, Google was a particularly handy tool in researching criticism of them for this article) and even though they seem to want to catalog (and control) the world, they’ve promised to not be evil.

Well, one reason may be that they’d end up in the top tier.   That would mean that you’d still be able to upload your video to (Google-owned) YouTube and it would still play at a normal speed, but it also means that your video would have to conform to their policies such as being under 10 minutes and not getting flagged.

Is this the future of Google, or can it be changed? (image: NewsReel Blog)

As a huge company, Google is frequently the target of lawsuits and as such they’re a little more trigger happy than some other, smaller companies to remove content that has been flagged.   Just ask anyone who has had a video removed from YouTube for no good reason and they’ll tell you that having a choice of other sites to post on is very needed.

If Google and YouTube make it to the top tier, will sites like Vimeo and Dailymotion make it as well or will content on those sites be part of the slow lane?   If it’s the latter, then freedom of expression will most certainly be limited.

Whether it’s a monopoly or not, any small gains for Google now are drastically outweighed by the loss of the potentially revolutionary future of the internet.   We can only hope that Google gets back on the Net Neutrality bandwagon and on the right side of history.

Someone just hacked into my email and spammed all my contacts. For this I should not have to apologize, but I must.

I think those conniving, sniveling, Asperger-ridden nerds who invented computer viruses, spamming and computer worms should all be gathered into a tiny room and mass tortured. Then kill them all in the most hellish ways imaginable.

The culprit: this email did not come from Laurence

I know. Revenge of the nerds. But why do they need to be so trying? Why must they attack our systems? They are no better than garden variety terrorists.

Is it so wrong to terrorize the terrorists? Well, yes, yes it is. However, retaliation and vengeance do have some merits to them too. I can’t think of any of them right now, but I’m sure there are some.

It fact, telemarketers and fax broadcasters are in the same devilish league. They should ALL be brought down and punished severely.

Here comes a tangent, but if we all get rid of our computers, our telephones, our radios, televisions, lightbulbs, etc. they can’t spam us! In fact, technology is an evil thing that should have never come about in the first place.

The truth is, we as a species are merely and by far the most self-indulgent, insolent, selfish and nasty animals ever to evolve. The truth is that we are disgusting! We have abilities no creature should have!

We’re too intelligent for our own good. And we have hands! How many other creatures have hands!? With too much brain and the ability to make and use tools and to be handy in general, it makes us an abomination to be reckoned with.

One of our first mistakes was the invention of the wheel. Another mistake was learning to use fire, to make and quash it and the sprawl into non-temperate climates that this made possible. Without these inventions, we would have never got the technology ball rolling in the first place.

In fact, while we’re at it, all of this newfangled dogshit we call “technology” is evil, is disgusting and should be thrown out the window. We haven’t really progressed much further than the cave men, have we?

Well, there are, of course still cave-people in assorted parts of the world. The only real difference is that nowadays we usually build these caves and run pipes and wires through them and give them fancy designs. Of course, we refer to these overdensified small tracts of overbuilt land with too many people living on them them as “cities” now.

The fact is that the human race is a bane to our existence and therefore must be wiped out. But wait a second there! Are we not also a part of the human race? There isn’t an “us” or a “them” in this case.

We are all one species under a once blue, polluted sky. We’ve encrusted the earth with a new upper atmospheric layer. It is a layer of artificial satellites, debris from former artificial satellites and a ludicrous amount of assorted waves and vibrations.

There are macro-waves and micro-waves, enough to cook ourselves to death. As a species, we deserve it. No other creature on earth is anywhere near as cruel, as cunning, as conniving, or as vindictive as humanity.

Destroy the world and start again.

Start again.

Start again.

On second thought, maybe not.

It looks like there’s hope for Iraq after all.   No, there’s no major pullout of US troops planned for anytime in the near future (despite what Obama may have promised), nor is there any promise that all the violence the country has been plagued with since the US invasion of 2003 will stop anytime soon.   The hope is that now, you may be able to follow it all on your cellphone!

Executives from Google, AT&T and Twitter (yes, Twitter) and other web-based businesses are currently there on the invitation of the US State Department “to explore how technology may help fight corruption and build a more accountable society.”

It’s true that building a country’s technological infrastructure can be quite a good thing.   It’s also apparent that the Internet has in some ways helped open up the world and allowed more voices, including oppressed voices, to be heard and spread to a wider number of people.

You have to wonder, though, if a company like AT&T, which was involved with warrant-less wiretapping for Bush and has recently been accused of discriminating against local public access channels is really up to the task of being a flag-bearer in the fight against corruption.

It also may seem a little suspect that Google, a company that recently decided to censor certain content that the Chinese government finds objectionable from the Chinese version of its search engine, will be among those offering ideas on how “technologies could help foster transparency.”

As for Twitter, well, it’s rather new, but there are already several accusations floating around about how Facebook, a similar service, is being used by the CIA to spy on people, so it stands to reason that US officials in Iraq could use Twitter the same way.   Also, can you really describe how it feels to have no clean water or food or that your neighbour just got killed in 140 characters?

That said, if these new technologies are able to empower people and strengthen communities as the trip’s stated goals would have you believe, this could be a good thing for Iraq.   However, given the players involved and the apparent for-profit motivation, that outcome would most likely only be by accident or as a side-effect.

* On an “unrelated” note, if you want to follow us on Twitter and keep up with our blog posts, TV shows and other projects, now you can at http://www.twitter.com/forgetthebox