We need to understand a simple premise - nothing is free. There is always a price to pay, even for services that are free at the point of sign up or delivery.
Facebook, Whatsapp and Instagram are all free to use and all owned by Facebook/Mark Zuckerberg. If nothing truly is free, then we have a few questions to answer:
We've already discussed the moral angle to social networks, especially Facebook in previous posts, so in light of the annoucement that Mr Zuckerberg finally plans to do the inevitable and merge the three platforms, let's have a look at the privacy angle for a change. and examine the impact this merger will have on you as a user.
There is absolutely no way, in a million years, I would trust a word that came out of this mans mouth.
From a business point of view, Facebook's ownership of three platforms that perform similar or identical functions doesn't make a great deal of sense. Currently you have:
In business, developing, maintaining and hosting services which are similar or do the same thing isn't logical. You're spending too much, employing people to do the same or similar jobs and you're splitting up the data or information you've collected which is by far your biggest asset.
Zuckerberg faithfully promised when WhatsApp was taken over that it would always remain a stand alone service, continuing to be seperate from Facebook. When they took over Instagram they promised the same. No one in their right mind believed him and... blow me down with a feather if he hasn't gone back on this promise and openly announced the merging of similar services.
Of course, this is marketed as being in our best interests and to provide us with a smoother, more customised user experience.
It is not in your best interests.
It's quite funny to talk to students about their social media preferences. They'll be almost disgusted that you'd suggest they use Facebook these days but will openly and passionately advocate their use of Instagram. It's the same platform! Soon, it really will be the same platform.
In software development, web development and hardware management terms it would be sheer madness if Facebook allowed these services to be separate for any longer than is strictly necessary. I will knit the hair of a dog into a fetching jumper if they haven't been working on this merger from the day the takeover was completed.
The future is likely to be quite simple, they don't need three messenger services so they'll close them. This may be explicit in, for example, the removal of direct messages in Instagram and the closure of Facebook Messenger, or it could be far more subtle in that the apps themselves will continue to exist but the underlying code and messaging platform will be identical, only the "front end" will look different.
But why should you care, why does this matter?
The answer is simple. Absolutely everything that has happened since the inception of Facebook has proven one simple fact:
You cannot, and should never, trust Mark Zuckerberg with your data and he has absolutely no respect for your privacy whatsoever.
How can I make such a bold and sweeping statement?
Simply, how can anyone respect your privacy when their entire business model is founded on the principle that they need as much of your data as they can possibly get their hands on in order to sell it to other businesses or advertisers.
Furthermore, Zuckerberg and Facebook have been found out time and time and time again for:
The list is honestly endless. But, there's more.
WhatsApp had a big selling feature - end to end encryption of your messages. Put simply, this means that no one but you and the recipient of your messages should be able to find out what you're talking about. If someone intercepts your traffic then they shouldn't be able to make sense of it. This has a huge business down side - you can't read your users content and trust me, they want to.
If this sounds odd, consider the fact that Google read your email if you have a Gmail account. They're very open about the fact that everything you upload to a Google service, such as your photos, emails and so forth will be used to train machine learning algorithms. Every now and again a real human will need to check that work - which is why you've heard "scandals" recently where Amazon, Apple and Google all had to "admit" they were employing hundreds to workers to listen to thousands upon thousands of recordings from smart speakers, obviously including those false positives when your speaker kicks in when you haven't asked it to. Someone, somewhere listens to you telling your speaker to go away...
People are so used to this invasion of their privacy in return for something free such as an email account or a decent search facility that they either don't notice, don't care or simply its passed them by that this even happens. We've all noticed the "spooky coincidence" that you mention you fancy getting a talking pet frog and then suddenly, all your adverts on social media suddenly turn into pet frog websites. This isn't coincidence and only happens because our privacy has been invaded and eroded to an already unacceptable level.
How does this happen? Profiling and information sharing. You don't need to do anything, log in to anything or do anything out of the ordinary to enable algorithms to work out who you are, what you're doing, what you like and most importantly - to connect your behaviour on different apps, platforms and networks together to effectively follow you around. Data mining and gathering is so good now that an algorithm can work out that you're you regardless of whether you use different devices, different user names or even move around the country. Think about when you spend time with your friends and YouTube suddenly recommends similar things to you - this is based on your location data, data which is so powerful it even tells these companies what job you do, your daily schedule, your shopping habits, who you hang around with, what you do when you're with friends even down to which apps you're all using when you're busy ignoring each other. The bottom line is this - you don't even have to be using an app these days for it to learn all about you and the amount it can learn about it is eye watering.
But Mr Zuckerberg isn't happy with this. He wants, and has your permission to access, more. Zuckerberg wants to be able to tell advertisers as much as is possible about you, what you like, what you do and what you talk about (and to whom). This is where he fell out with the founders of WhatsApp, two people who posessed something crazy and disagreeable to Zuckerberg - Morals.
Facebook want to take data from your messaging habits and use this to profile you further. It makes their advertising platform even more profitable and attractive. Both founders of WhatsApp left citing Zuckerberg's complete disregard for the privacy of users and their data, he is literally hell bent on monetising you and your information whether you give him permission to or not. This is illustrated by the fact that Facebook Messenger is indeed capable of end to end encryption but its disabled by default and buried in the settings where they hope you don't find it.
When this merger of platforms is complete, you can guarantee that your behaviour in WhatsApp will be used to target advertisements to you. You can guarantee that your conversations or use of the app is nowhere near as private as you think it is. In short, you've got to be stark raving bonkers to use these platforms any more.
So what can you do? The answer is simple. Delete Facebook, delete WhatsApp and be careful what you post on Instagram and certainly don't use it for chat. The alternatives are obvious - the guys who founded WhatsApp went and created Signal. It's the exact same thing as WhatsApp, has the same functionality and has the added bonus that they're not out to make money from your conversations.
Just stop and think for a minute - would you want anyone, ever, seeing your messages? I'm not saying Zuckerberg is going to decrypt your conversations, but there is every chance they will be trying to find every possible way to gather data about what you discuss, how, when, where and with whom. This will then be used to link you to behaviour on other platforms. No thanks, not for me.
If you have any sense, you will use Signal or another messaging app and you will get the hell away from anything owned by Facebook.
And we haven't even started on their crypto currency, but that's a story for another time...
To tidy things up and simplify the content and design of this site, we've split off the OCR GCSE Business content on to another site. This meant careful consideration had to be given to the name of the new site, it had to be:
See what we did there?
Share? Interest? Business terms and.... double meaning! It's like learn it with davo 2.
I have no shame. See you there...
You may or may not have noticed the new "GCSE OCR Business" link appaear in the menu at the top of the page. Today I've uploaded the first module of lessons for our students and any other schools to use as they see fit. Hopefully they'll be of some use to you!
Currently, we've only got 1.1 - Business Activity uploaded, the remaning parts of Unit 1 will be uploaded as they are completed.
As usual, if you are a student and you miss a lesson/want to revise a topic then they're a great place to start/catch up...!
Revision resources are planned for the future, most likely in the form of video tutorials. Keep an eye out for updates in the near future!
This year is all about refinement and updating of our resources and the first part of that process has been to change some of the lessons we've been delivering. If you look on the GCSE CS - Lessons page now, the Unit 1 - 1.1 lessons have significantly changed to make them more digestable, to focus more on the important learning points and to, quite frankly, make it a little bit more interesting.
If you do use these resources then keep your eye out for changes as I'll upload new copies of lessons as and when they are updated.
One other target for this year is to update the Unit 1 revision resources to include more video content, just to add another type of resource for revision or lesson purposes. I'll provide an update here when this happens later in the year.
I've recently put together a spreadsheet which collates all the past exam questions into a searchable/easy to sort form.
This should make any future revision/lesson planning/creating assessments quite simple as it only takes a few clicks to find all relevant past questions on either a topic or sub topic.
The data is capable of being organised by:
I've even included the page number on the exam for you...
Please don't ask me to upload or provide copies of exam papers - I get many requests for this and I can't host or email exam papers for the simple reason they're not mine and OCR would probably get a bit upset about it. Exam papers are readily available for anyone at any school delivering the course - if your teacher won't provide them to you then... why not?!
To use, simply open up, click on the drop down and filter by the criteria you're looking for.
I will obviously update this as new exams are released so you can easily revise specific topics or sub topics.
Coming very soon is the A-Level version of this.
Click here to download, or simply visit the GCSE CS section in the menu.
Recently there have been a number of incidents in the world that have highlighted an interesting moral, ethical and in some cases legal debate about social media and who is responsible for the content on these platforms.
Briefly, Instagram is under fire for being a platform where it is trivial to find information and "guidance" on various forms of self harm, eating disorders and even suicide. Several high profile events have shown that young people especially are finding what they see as support groups of like minded people which then normalises their own feelings/actions rather that supporting them in the ways they need to get help.
Facebook has once again come under criticism for the woeful monitoring or moderation of the content on its network (and don't forget they own Instagram so are equally responsible for criticisms levelled there also). In the wake of the recent terrorist attack in New Zealand, it quickly became apparent that one of the main motivators for the attacker was to spread their actions as far as possible using various outlets, Facebook being the originating platform.
These actions have raised several questions which on the face of it are trivial to answer, but when you look into it raise all sorts of questions about who ultimately holds the responsibility to moderate content online. Questions such as:
Australia and New Zealand were in a difficult position - they clearly had terrorist attacks happening in, or linked to, their countries and the attacker had posted their "manifesto" on social media before then live streamed the attacks on Facebook. Both governments called for "more to be done" to prevent this kind of thing happening - which anyone would conclude is entirely reasonable. However, it's also obvious that they're fighting a battle they can't win.
Some ISP's in Australia especially have taken the decision to block certain websites that hosted copies of the attack video and failed to remove it. This is likely to avoid government action or bills being passed that would require further and more sweeping changes to be made. Interestingly, some of the pages that have been blocked have protested their innocence and annoyance that ISP's have blocked them. Clicks = cash, so less traffic is hurting their business.
They're also a little miffed because Facebook has faced no action from governments (as yet) because they "took swift and serious actions." The cynic in you might point out that the reason ISP's haven't blocked Facebook in the same way they blocked other sites is because Facebook forms a huge part of their traffic and if they block it, users will literally cancel their subscriptions and move to an ISP that didn't block them. Arguably, if you're going to put blocks in place, then Facebook has to be blocked - this is where the attack started, was publicly planned and then carried out.
Sadly, then, it seems the frustration most governments feel is with the fact that some companies such as Facebook (and Instagram as they own them), Google and so forth are simply "too big" to be tackled. Sajid Javid, the current UK Home secretary repeatedly makes public statements that social media companies must be more responsible or take more preventative measures or "face action." He knows full well, or will quickly find out, that no matter how much he would like to make changes, he is largely powerless - the internet is not under any one countries control.
So then we move our attention to those social media companies. It is fairly clear that governments can only introduce rudimentary measures and then only in their country or jurisdiction and then these can be easily bypassed by most VPN/Proxy services. Also, the people we are trying to protect the most - the young, are by far the most switched on to technology and they are all capable of bypassing measures either themselves or by following methods by word of mouth.
Therefore, it is not unreasonable to suggest that companies like Facebook should take the lead when it comes to finding, removing or blocking this kind of content altogether. Let's establish some facts - they are the central point, they are the only organisation with access and control to all this content and most important of all, they absolutely are capable of implementing measures that would either completely or vastly reduce this kind of content.
If they want to.
And it's a big "if" isn't it. These companies don't charge users to use the service, they experience an unimaginable amount of content being uploaded to their platforms on an hourly basis and make all their profit from advertising. Advertisers do not care about morals, they care about reaching their target audience as intrusively and repeatedly as is possible. Social media has given them these opportunities in a way never possible before in history - this is why social media platforms like Facebook are worth hundreds of billions.
The sad fact is that Facebook are a business. Business exists for one single core purpose - to make profit. To think that they have a moral obligation is to pull the wool over our own eyes - they absolutely do not. Given the choice between an awkward press release and some soothing words to various parties and actually making changes for moral reasons, they'll choose the press release every time. Any changes that Facebook make that would make an impact in the real world would result in fewer users on their platform. People don't like the idea of "censorship" and are used to an always on, instant upload culture. Any delay in content appearing on the platform would give a "second rate experience." To a company like Facebook this is unacceptable. User count is everything and less users = less profit. They want all of your data and they want more of it. The more they have, the more they're worth.
So yes, if they wanted, Facebook could easily bring in a multi pronged attack that would have a drastic effect. They could easily afford to employ hundreds of moderators in different countries to automatically review flagged content. They could employ their machine learning to analyse content in a more aggressive way and to highlight more for review. They could tighten their guidelines and refuse to allow hate speech on their platform, or to refuse groups advocating certain right wing view points. They could follow through on the terms and conditions all users agree to and remove more accounts, or even bring action against particularly offensive users. The list is almost endless - but all of it comes at a cost.
Did they do anything? Their analysis looks really good. They did immediately remove the video of the attack but... once it was reported. Remember, before it took place, the manifesto, a page of hate speech was already hosted by them without raising any alarm. Remember also that computers are absolutely amazing at text and language analysis and they definitely have the technology to highlight this. Then they hosted a free for all - users uploading the content which they then had to chase down and remove or rely on user reports. Users took measures to obfuscate the video so that it didn't match a hash created of the original stream. From the outside, it looks like they did a lot to prevent the spread. In reality, they did what they had to do to minimise the poor publicity of what had happened on their platform.
Will anything change in future? The answer is no, because the only way Facebook could be encouraged to change is their users closing their accounts. If users started to leave en-mass then they would begin to listen. They made positive noises when users left of the Cambridge Analytica scandal. The unfortunate truth is that millions of users simply don't care, they want to log in, aimlessly read terrible memes and look at pictures of pets and dinners before moving on.
It is, then, perhaps us as users that hold the ultimate responsibility here. We are responsible for not posting offensive content and also we have the absolute power to force change if we want. If you genuinely think that a platform hosting a live terrorism event and then taking zero action afterwards is socially unacceptable then maybe there is a moral obligation on us to no longer associate ourselves with that platform.
Morals and ethics is an endless conversation.
If you're in my Year 11 class right now, you'll know that we've just had a grim taste of reality when looking at the calendar and realising there are 8 school weeks left until our exams. Inevitably, as teachers, we then roll out the tired cliches of "it goes by so quick," "you'll wish you'd revised sooner/done more," and "you need to have a sense of urgency now!!"
All of these things are true and in an ideal world you'd all be robotic and be sat in your rooms every night, going over exam questions, comparing yourself to mark schemes, highlighting your weak areas and addressing them with revision. But you're not, you're human and this means you have a social life, other subjects to worry about and pressure coming out of your ears.
So how do you cope?
Simple - Little, effective and often. Make the most of your time and your stress will reduce as you gain confidence and realise you're becoming more and more prepared.
Apparently, it takes two weeks to form a habit, meaning you stop thinking of ways to get out of something or making up excuses and just get on with it instead, which indeed means there is still time to do the right thing.
Here's what I'd do:
The principles are really, really simple. The question is, how motivated are you to take control of your own exam destiny? The bottom line is this, all you need to do is walk out of each exam knowing you did the best you could. This way, you'll be less stressed and confident in doing well. If you know you could've done better, that will stick with you and nag at you for some time.
Don't waste the wonderful opportunities you have right now.
Music - it's a pretty big deal. Some people quite literally define themselves based on their chosen genre or favourite band and lets face it, I'm no different. If I could turn into Noel Gallagher then I would. Instantly.
In the late 1990's and early 2000's technology has got to the point where internet speeds were increasing, computing power was going through the roof and devices were getting smaller, cheaper and more powerful. This was something of a perfect storm for the music industry and they just didn't get it. To say that large record labels missed the boat is a slight understatement. They didn't miss the boat, they didn't even know it had even been made, boarded by most of the worlds teenagers and had long since set sail.
The way people listened to and experienced music was changing, rapidly. In the mid 1990's, CD was the height of technology and if you were really into your music you might even have had a portable CD player or later on a Minidisc (ah Minidisc, the memories – so many good times in my life have had their sound track played through one of these beautiful machines). Music shops were big business and I can still remember that latest release albums were always £9.99, but if you wanted something more "obscure" then you'd easily pay £16 for an album. Now I couldn't tell you where a single music shop even is. What, quite literally, caused the death of a whole industry?
Of all the technologies that influenced this change, MP3 is the single biggest factor. Before MP3 there really were not any sensible ways of taking a CD and turning it into a digital file that could live on your hard drive on your PC. Hard drives were small, PC’s were big and bulky things that you didn’t really want on all the time (or sat in your living room). You could certainly rip a CD to a WAV file, but these were uncompressed and until about 1999 when hard drive capacities really started to rise, that would mean you could fit about 5 CD's on your PC and then it would be full. This meant that no one bothered, or even thought about building a digital music library. Instead everyone stuck to CD - and why not, they were relatively small, portable and played through a decent system they sounded incredible.
To understand the impact of MP3 we need to understand a few things. MP3 is a lossy compressed file format. This basically means it took a sound file and made it much, much smaller. To put this in context, an average length song taken from a CD and stored as a WAV file would have been between 60-70Mb. The same song converted to an MP3 file would be 3Mb. Still not impressed? This meant we could fit an entire album as MP3 in the same space as one single song ripped to WAV and to top it off, the sound quality was really very good. This was game changing and was about to quite literally change the way most of us live our lives.
Coincidentally, just as this was happening, people started getting connected to the internet for the first time and because MP3's were so small, even on a 56kbps modem (max download speed 5kb per second) it wasn't too painful to download a song - it took about 10 minutes but most people were prepared to wait because that song was... free!
Initially people just ripped CD's and then created a website to share it as a standard download link. Record companies obviously got quite angry and made hosts take the sites down and not everyone had the skill to create them in the first place. Then Napster happened and my god, it was the internet equivalent of world wide looting raids and riots. Napster was a very easy to use program which simply scanned your hard drive for any music and then made it available to anyone in the world who also had a copy of Napster. I cannot tell you the amount of Oasis bootlegs, live performances, B sides and demos I downloaded that year. I literally filled my boots, as did every other teenager in the world who had an internet connection at the time.
It didn’t feel like it at the time but this had a huge impact on our very culture. Stop and think for a minute, music at the time was primarily played through hi-fi systems, car stereos or bulky Walkman or Discman systems (a what now?!). You simply couldn’t strap on a pair of trainers and go for a run listening to your favourite motivational play list – the technology literally didn’t exist.
Clever people suddenly started to take notice that young people, who were broke, had found a way of metaphorically robbing the music bank and they were getting away with it. They were also dying for a way of taking this collection with them – we were Winamp addicts and it was brilliant, but you’d look strange strapping several kilograms of PC, CRT monitor and a generator to you to take it outside. The walk/discman was about to die, but no one could quite figure out when or how.
It is one of my favourite “tech tales” the time that Steve Jobs got together some of the music industries biggest figures and basically told them they were all morons. Even with one of the most influential people in the history of technology sat in front of them they couldn’t understand that unless they lowered their prices, people were simply going to steal music until they went out of business. He told them a song was worth 79 cents and that was that. They thought he was crazy.
It took them about 5 seconds to realise he was right when the iPod was released and the world lost the plot buying them. The iPod is basically dead now, which was unimaginable 10 years ago even, but it cannot be underestimate the influence it has had on our culture and society. Almost overnight, headphones had turned from black to white, people were wearing them as a status symbol. Moreover, people were listening to music anywhere and everywhere they went – this simply hadn’t been possible before. I loved it, no longer did I have to sit on the bus to university doing the “we’re all pretending to be in a lift” thing where no one looks at anyone or dares to have a conversation. We could all just put white things in our ears and disappear into our own world.
And that is probably where the story turns sour. It is now the case that, given the choice or freedom, most people will choose to almost permanently have headphones either round their neck or plugged into their ears and there is, quite simply, no more antisocial device than headphones. No longer do we share the experience of listening to an album, discovering new music together, getting lost in lyrics or similar, most of our listening is done in solitary confinement. We’ve shut ourselves off from potential conversations, social interactions and “difficult situations” simply by ignoring them in an antisocial way.
Every advance in technology is a good thing and can always have a positive influence on our lives and our futures, but for every advance there is a method of abusing it. Everything in moderation is fine, but actually I can honestly say our school has become a more social, friendly place since we banned the use of headphones and phones during the day.
And to think, all this started because someone figured out how to make sound take up less space – it’s almost impossible to consider all the possible impacts of our actions, but it’s always worth a thought, right?
A quick summary of things that have changed on the site recently:
Exams are over, results are in and what an odd experience the last year has been.
OCR, the ever thoughtful people that they are, decided to send out certificates that you can print out for your students if you weren't naughty when doing the GCSE coursework to say well done for putting all that effort in for nothing. Remember, this is what you get for not cheating! Bonus.
The A-Level went well again this year and it was nice to see comments from the coursework moderator along the lines of "Christ, you're not cheating here either are you?!" The students did very well this year and several of our students have gone on to study Computing at university. Long may their beards grow.
As for GCSE, we improved for the third year running, proving that if you have a pair of complete nutters stood in front of you for two years, desperately trying to ram some information in your head in an interesting way you do actually learn something if you turn up and do as we ask.
In all seriousness I could not have wished for a finer set of GCSE students than I had this year. They were a genuine pleasure to stand in front of several times a week and I enjoyed every lesson. I am exceptionally proud to say we had our first grade 9 this year and on paper two the student in question was 2 marks off 100%. I take no credit for that performance, the amount of work the student put in meant the success lies with them alone. I also look forward to welcoming many of them back next year as Year 12 students, where I will have to learn their names all over again because I won't recognise them in different clothes.
But what have we learned from the experience of changing to the "tougher" exams. Well, in summary:
So what's on the to do list this year? There's a lot of work to do on the site, but here's my thoughts going forwards:
And quite frankly I think that's enough for one year - we've got students to motivate...
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