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shadowspar: The flag of Canada (Canada flag!)
Friday, May 16th, 2014 07:26

CW: Brief mention of stalking behaviours.

It seems to be that time of year again where every retail purchase you make comes with a side of "We're doing a survey!!!1 Can we please have your postal code? :D"

Of course, the store is compiling data on where their customers live, and what people who live in each place buy, so they can try to market to you more effectively (iow, more creepily).

I'm not sure everyone's aware of this, but your full postal code gives your home address to a high degree of precision. One postal code represents

  • all houses on one side of one residential street for a block or so, or
  • one high-volume recipient of mail, like an apartment or office building, or
  • in rural areas, a single small village or hamlet.

To put this another way, if you take a look at a postal code directory, the entries in it look something like this:

   D2D 1S1:   Even numbers   38-52 Strange St    Anytown ON
   D2D 1S2:   Odd numbers    53-79 Strange St    Anytown ON
   D2D 1S3:   Even numbers   56-128 Strange St   Anytown ON

   D2D 1X5:                  1000 Charm Ct       Anytown ON

By disclosing your postal code, you're essentially disclosing your home address. Especially from a personal safety perspective, if somebody knows your postal code and what you look like, they can almost certainly find you and your residence.

Now, given how personal this snippet of information is, you might not feel comfortable giving it away. If so, you can spread some holiday cheer and test their computing systems at the same time! Just tell them your postal code is:

H0H 0H0

...which is the code for Santa Claus' workshop at the North Pole.

Just think! As the poor statistics sorters sift through mounds of boring data, their faces will no doubt brighten as they see that Jolly Old St Nick's helpers were indeed busily working their way through the stores, stocking up on goodies for the holiday season. Just Imagine the glow on executives' faces when they see in the reports before them incontrovertible evidence that Santa's elves have been hard at work all year picking up toys, toasters, and tequila for good little children to find under the tree on Christmas Day. ^_^

shadowspar: cartoon of a developer sitting in a chair, reading a book, with back turned; speech bubble: "stacktrace or gtfo" (stacktrace or gtfo)
Monday, August 22nd, 2011 12:16

So this happened to swim by in my Twitter feed:

New Approaches To Designing Log-In Forms

This kind of thing makes me want to metaphorically grab hold of the field of User Experience Design, tell it "Here, I have someone I'd like you to meet," and drag it over to the field of Security. The converse goes for Security when (for instance) its practitioners come up with an amazing new security procedure that no user will ever follow. In fact, a great many problems would be solved if we could but make a few more introductions between disciplines. Getting Software Development acquainted with fields like Ethics, Sociology, and Social Justice and concepts like privacy, identity, diversity, and accessibility would be a good start.

shadowspar: An angry anime swordswoman, looking as though about to smash something (Default)
Thursday, February 18th, 2010 18:12

In their job application form, a company asked me "What's your motivation?". In reply, I pulled together the following mini-screed.

It's only a fragment of why I'm involved in technology, but I liked it enough to post it here. (Besides, their form has a bug which stopped me from being able to submit it, and I wanted to put this somewhere. Curse of the tester, I guess.)

As terrible as it sounds, I think that much of my motivation comes from frustration.

It's galling when I see a UI that's actively unhelpful. Encountering yet another easily preventable security problem makes me shake my head. Code that's a nightmare to test or debug makes us all want to scream. It's so frustrating, because I've seen all of these things done right, yet so frequently they're done wrong! So much so that most people have gotten used to them and think of them as ordinary.

I like code that's clear. Design that conforms to the user instead of forcing the user to conform to it. Features that are solid and robust. Applications that people rave about...or that just let them get their work done so unobtrusively that they're hardly noticed at all.

Things like that make me proud. That's the kind of project I want to contribute to.

shadowspar: An angry anime swordswoman, looking as though about to smash something (Default)
Wednesday, November 25th, 2009 01:12

I've been meaning to start a blog about technical topics for some time, leaving this one free for more personal stuff. Chris's creation of the writing-about-testing mailing list & conference plus the subsequent encouragement to write about tech stuff were the final impetus I needed to actually go and do it. There's naught but a "Hello world" post yet, but if you're interested, feel free to follow things at http://rickscott.posterous.com/.