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Doug's Mailbag: Windows Phone Static, Web Anonymity Solution

One reader thinks Windows Phone 7 has quite an uphill battle in store for itself:

I think Microsoft HAD a shot at the mobile phone market until Android messed things up good for them. If Apple was Microsoft's sole competitor in the mobile phone OS market, I think they would have a HUGE chance to really heat things up. I think developers (like myself) will see early success in application development with Android as opposed to Windows Phone 7 or iPhone because Android development starts with a focus on function and works its way toward outward appearance.

Windows Phone 7 development starts with appearance then on toward function. I developed an app for both Windows Phone 7 and Android. Before I could hit the ground running with Windows Phone 7 I had to wade through PDFs of how my app was supposed to look. The information was very much geared towards designers, which I am not. I then had to visit several other places for help and meaningful information.

With Android, I went to the main android development website and NEVER had to leave the site. The site is so well organized. It's almost impossible for developers to get lost. I was up and running with Android development in record time! My first application was an application that tapped into our company's time and attendance database to display a company In/Out Board (in real time, using almost no data transfer) right on your Android phone. HOW COOL IS THAT!?

Developers NEED to have functional success early in new application development. I'll leave it to the designers to then tell me that a yellow font on a green background might not look so nice.

I have no doubt that Microsoft will keep up the fight. But Android is going to make it harder to come from behind, way behind. Darn that Internet search company!

Here's one solution on how to bring some more accountability on the Internet:

I find it intriguing that the Internet is as "old" as it is, and yet this question of net anonymity still persists. The prescient quote from the article, IMHO, is "Privacy is not the same thing as anonymity." In order to assess that comment, it may be helpful to remember the purpose for which the Internet was created: To allow DARPAnet to communicate following a nuclear attack. That 'mission statement' does little to address the privacy vs. anonymity vs. free speech vs. censorship that has raged since it becoming available to the common man.

Echoes of these issues can be heard all around us -- some have been resolved (license plates on cars to allow for identification), and some are still open (micro-stamping ammunition). Certainly, there are many other examples, but they all seek to balance the same wobble-legged chair: Where and when does the State have the need/right/ability to intrude on a person's privacy/identity/anonymity?

Sadly, I don't think I have a 'silver bullet solution' (no pun) that works in all circumstances. However, a wise preacher once explained it this way -- your rights end where mine begin. The need of law enforcement to identify the owner of a random car on the street versus the right of a random driver to retain privacy has resulted in license plates. Having a meaningless alpha-numeric assigned to my car seems to strike a reasonable balance. It is a cheap solution (not adding in taxes and whatnot!), and it uses available technology. The jury is still out on whether a similar solution would work for handgun and/or rifle ammunition.

I bring these up because they seem to apply to the discussion at hand. I agree with the wisdom of your stance of, "I wouldn't mind if you had to prove your age or identity to see the really crazy stuff on the Web. That would be a kind of tier where my kids couldn't browse for the truly hideous, but consenting adults could." In principle, it is no different than keeping the girly magazines behind the counter and wrapped in black plastic. Also in principle, I see no harm in issuing Internet 'license plates' that allow for making "the truly hideous" out of reach for my kids.

But the rub (again, no pun) lies in the forfeiture of freedom in the interest of protection -- the ability to keep my kids away from smut is the same ability that could keep me away from... whatever 'they' don't want me to have. Likewise, the ability to identify me is the same ability to track me.

Trying to wrap all this up; yes, being able to identify someone who is "trying to commit a terrible, evil crime" is a compelling state interest. But I can't recall a case of death-by-blogging (although, some have tried). I think the balance, then, lies in issuing 'license plates' for the types of activities that could impact someone else: posting code. To rephrase my preacher, I won't argue your right to post words or images in anonymity. However, that anonymity ends when you're posting something that could infect my computer.

You want to post words or pictures that prove Rule 34? Fine. I should filter myself or my kids. You want to post code? Tell the world who you are.
- Dave

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Posted by Doug Barney on 08/25/2010 at 1:18 PM


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