It is often said that there is no such thing as a bad idea. But this maxim fails to take into account the sheer stupidity of humans.
This is evidenced by the yet to be released Peeple, an app described as Yelp for people that allows Facebook users to submit reviews of fellow humans on the social network as if they were products to be reviewed in an online store. What could possibly go wrong with that?
Now, Sneak cares little for the feelings of others, preferring a smug detachment from the concerns of the average selfie-taking twerp he encounters along the highways of the internet.
But clearly his ambiguous stance on humanity is nothing compared with Peeple founders and, ironically, marketers Julia Cordray and Nicole McCullough, who may have forgotten how the internet works.
You know the internet, where misogynists, racists, misanthropes and just a lot of angry men lurk, waiting to pounce on anyone putting their head above the virtual parapet.
So from Sneak's point of view the Peeple app is a recipe for disaster akin to Edward Snowden enabling the location settings on his Twitter account.
Peeple's website claims that the app will allow you to "rate and comment about the people you interact with in your daily lives on the following three categories: personal, professional and dating".
"Peeple will enhance your online reputation for access to better quality networks, top job opportunities, and promote more informed decision making about people," the company said, presumably swallowing naivety-boosting pills and forgetting how judgmental the average human is.
Sneak doesn't need his crystal ball, which is currently out of batteries, to predict that the opposite of Peeple's ambitions will be realised.
Facebook trolls will no doubt delight in rating their so-called Facebook friends poorly for cheap laughs, while disgruntled former lovers or colleagues may use the service as a way of getting revenge against those who may have slighted them. And the sheer scope for online bulling and victimisation is almost unparalleled.
Peeple claims that the reviews are not anonymous and that negative ratings will be held for 48 hours allowing the reviewed to check their rating.
But the founders seem to have missed the fact that their app will still expose those being reviewed to potentially abusive comments, regardless of whether they are being made public or not.
Furthermore, negative reviews cannot be deleted, just not displayed. Then to rub a grain of salt into the virtual wound, it appears that users can't remove themselves from Peeple's database.
So congratulations Peeple for creating abuse-as-a-service.
Peeple also claims to be anti-abusive, but given that Facebook has an audience of nearly 1.5 billion users, Sneak highly doubts that Cordray and McCullough will be pulling all-nighters going through comments, such as "she needs to eat a burger", or "he's got no swag", and "I hate his glasses".
The BBC reported that the people are already in an uproar over Peeple, and that the app has been described as creepy and terrifying.
Sporting a god complex, Cordray told the BBC that the furore is just a reaction to change. "When people found out that the earth was round instead of flat and that we revolved around the sun instead of the sun revolving around us, naturally people were upset and confused and they pushed back with all that they had," she said.
Sneak just face-palmed his head so hard the smack generated a soundwave strong enough to crack the previously mentioned crystal ball.
Cordray also took to Facebook to try to dispel media opinions that Peeple is a metric tonne of stupid, fuelled with a tanker full of ignorance.
She accused the media of failing to do its research into how Peeple works and suggested that users visit the Peeple website. Like any good media figure, Sneak did just that only to find the website was not working.
Sneak hopes that Cordray and McCullough sort out the parameters of Peeple to rigorously prevent it from being a bullying tool du jour, or kill the app completely and stick to their day jobs.
Otherwise Sneak will rate them to be five stars worthy of being fired directly into the sea.
Sometimes during long, dark lonely evenings when Mrs Sneak is away on meetings with Elon Musk to discuss Tesla lithium-ion batteries over a glass of Chianti, Sneak will boot up his PC and trawl the web for glamorous celebrities.
Model, TV personality and ‘actress' Kelly Brook is one of Sneak's favourite figures to type into Google's search bar. It's because, like many a teenager going through puberty, he likes her big eyes. Yes, definitely the eyes.
But Intel Security has arrived to give Sneak's browsing a cold shower, as Brook has been named as the most dangerous cyber celebrity of 2015.
Brook gains this moniker, not because she is the cyber equivalent of folklore spirit Bloody Mary during an act of captromancy, but because hackers make use of her celebrity status and reputation for raunchy pictures to lead web users into malware and virus traps.
Cyber thieves can then swipe private data and sling malware onto a red-faced user's PC, laptop or mobile device.
Sneak himself was once caught out by such a devious trick, right at the moment Mrs Sneak returned home and started switching the lights back on.
As an enterprising problem-solving chap, Sneak immediately ejected his laptop through the nearest window. He then placed all blame for its destruction on the cat (pictured below), who was idly watching the situation unfold in that judgemental way natural to the feline species.
Nick Viney, vice president of consumer, mobile and small business at Intel Security, explained that a lot of people are not aware of the digital risks such celebrities pose to their PCs and could be similarly caught out.
"Most consumers are unaware of the potential risks they are exposing themselves to by clicking on sites that provide them with the latest news and entertainment," he said, probably in a tone that suggests he's more disappointed than angry.
"But cyber criminals are quick to exploit this desire for breaking celebrity news, leading consumers to sites that download harmful malware onto devices and steal their private data."
Brook tops Intel's danger list, but she is joined by other celebrities such as model Katie Price (aka Jordan) in second place and X Factor judge Nick Grimshaw in third.
It's a sad state of affairs when Sneak has to give up his little pleasure rituals, but perhaps it is best to heed Intel's warnings to avoid embarrassing situations erupting at the most inappropriate moments.
15 Sep 2015
Humanity has dreamed of only one thing since first gaining consciousness: creating robots to have sex with. Well, maybe.
Sneak was intrigued to see that, while some are worried that the development of robots may spell the end of work, or the world, others are concerned that the biggest peril is the development of AI technologies housed in human-looking forms that can be used for sex.
The straight-faced Campaign Against Sex Robots is worried that a world with robots for sex will further enforce stereotypes about men and women's roles in the world, and stop some people forming healthy attachments to other humans.
"As researchers we encourage a wider debate and discussion about the development of sex robots and the implications for society," the website states.
Sneak knows the fear well. He's seen enough episodes of Futurama to know the risk that sex-bots pose to the future of the Earth, as you can see in this Vimeo video.
Of course, not everyone agrees. Douglas Hines, chief executive of True Companion, which is developing a robot called Roxxxy (video below - incredibly safe for work), told the BBC that he doesn't think having sex with a robot will be a big part of the appeal.
"We are not supplanting the wife or trying to replace a girlfriend. This is a solution for people who are between relationships or someone who has lost a spouse," he said.
"People can find happiness and fulfilment other than via human interaction. The physical act of sex will only be a small part of the time you spend with a sex robot - the majority of time will be spent socialising and interacting."
Sneak isn't sure what to think about all this, to be honest. Undoubtedly there will be some out there who would benefit from having a sexy-time companion robot and, if so, this should be encouraged.
However, as the Futurama video so terrifyingly shows, a world in which sex robots become the norm could spell the end of the human race, or at least cause some to expect the same unthinking obedience in a partner as a robot, because we all know that's not how it works.
For now, though, let's at least enjoy the fact that we've reached a sufficiently advanced technological era that the moral dilemmas posed by sex robots is a real debate.
30 Jul 2015
Sneak loves self-service checkouts. They remove the need for human interaction and there’s something vaguely futuristic about the whole process.
However, one thing he can do without is the horrible AI voice of the robotic ‘woman’ who barks instructions, not least her most reviled phrase: ‘Unexpected item in bagging area.'
This refrain is the scourge of shoppers everywhere, and no doubt the workers in supermarkets who have to hear the phrase over and over and over again, which can't be conducive to a positive mental state.
Indeed Sneak once stood in a queue in Tesco when, quite by chance, five or six machines all said the phrase at the same time. The effect of surround-sound checkouts voicing their disapproval of shoppers' checkout styles was unnerving to say the least.
The phrase makes no sense either. The items the robotic checkout girl claims are 'unexpected' are often nothing more than a loaf of bread or a pint of milk, which are hardly unexpected for a supermarket.
Furthermore, why is the till commenting on the surprise of Sneak’s shopping choices anyway? 47 Pot Noodles is a perfectly acceptable shopping spree, is it not?
In light of all this, Sneak is delighted to read that Tesco is doing away with the hated phrase and even replacing the woman’s voice with the more plummy sounds of a, well, man.
The helpful folk at Tesco have even made a video showing the old, hated phrases, and the new, more soothing, phrases and how they will sound, which you can listen to below.
The change to more friendly and welcoming sounds and sayings raises an interesting point: as more electronic assistants enter our lives, the tone of voice, phrases and delivery styles must become more natural (and tolerable).
Otherwise shoppers will start to shun those supermarkets they don't enjoy for those they do, perhaps based on nothing more than the quality of the AI's personality.
Hmm, Sneak didn't mean to get so deep there. You could say it was a case of unexpected intellect in the blogging area.
Sneak is an old hand at deflecting blame, having convinced Tim Cook that the iCloud password leak was a ‘hack' and not down to his falling asleep on the ‘do not press' button for Apple's cloud while he was contracting at Cupertino.
But even Sneak has to doff his weather-beaten cap to Google, which has blamed its fourteenth driverless car prang on human error once again.
Sneak uncovered Google's unwavering faith in its autonomous automobile systems while he was idly refreshing the Google blog.
The ‘don't be evil' search firm's tech-equipped Lexus was rudely shunted in the boot by another car during rush hour at a Californian intersection.
Chris Urmson, leader of company's driverless car project, explained how the innocent self-driving Lexus was rear-ended by a car driven by one of those pesky humans. You know the type: hair, hands, feet and possibly a soul.
"The light was green, but traffic was backed up on the far side, so three cars, including ours, braked and came to a stop so as not to get stuck in the middle of the intersection," wrote Urmson, as if he was setting the scene for the dullest episode of Top Gear.
"After we'd stopped, a car slammed into the back of us at 17mph and it hadn't braked at all."
Possibly not someone who understands the concept of aloofness and condescension, Urmson added: "Our self-driving cars are being hit surprisingly often by other drivers who are distracted and not paying attention to the road."
In a seeming nonchalant manner, Urmson explained that the crash resulted in "a bit of minor whiplash" for three Google employees, who are probably now emailing their CVs to Apple's Tim Cook and Jonny Ive.
To quell Sneak's cynicism synapse, and more convincingly put the blame on humans, Google went so far as to create a video representation of the incident showing the Google Lexus as the victim.
Google claims this as evidence that its driverless cars compare favourably with human drivers.
It might be worth reminding Google that this is the fourteenth time it's blamed more fleshy constructs for incidents involving its robot cars. And Sneak would also like to point out that Google's driverless car tech also put the willies up an autonomous Audi when the search firm's car took a liking to sudden lane changing.
Popping on the HoloLens, which he ‘acquired' from Microsoft after drinking absinthe with Satya Nadella, and firing up the crystal ball app, Sneak can foresee a future where humanity lies in ashes after murderous robots wipe out all but an enclave of Google engineers hiding out at Mountain View and blaming humans for not installing the latest version of Android for Cyborgs in their robot butlers.
Sneak loves the idea of driverless cars; nothing would make him happier that being ferried around by an amicable autonomous automobile, allowing him to get on with contributing to WikiLeaks without being interrupted by taxi drivers and their ‘unique' take on current affairs.
But Sneak would quickly change his mind if said driverless car went rogue and tried to take out a rival self-driving vehicle in a highway version of robot wars. This was almost the case on the mean streets of California, where the Inquirer reports, Google's driverless car nearly ploughed into an autonomous Audi.
According to reports, a Lexus RX400h equipped with Google's self-driving hardware and software, decided it would cut off the Audi, operated by Delphi Automotive, which was minding its own robo-business in another lane.
The metaphorical jury is still out on whether Google's autonomous car took umbrage at a rival robot car, and wished to remove it from the Californian highway.
The car crash was narrowly avoided thanks to the actions of John Absmeier, director of Delphi's Silicon Valley lab, who was in the Audi Q5 as backup to the autonomous systems, who Sneak has dubbed ‘the robot whisperer'.
Sneak can imagine the look on Absmeier's face morphing from that of a relaxed exec enjoying chat-free chauffeuring, to a one of shock and anger, as the Lexus bore down on the Audi.
But Absmeier claimed he took "appropriate action" to avoid a messy merger with the looming Lexus.
Sneak reckons Absmeier is playing it a little too cool and probably turned the air around him blue with colourful language directed and the Google car.
Ever the corporate mystery, Google has yet to comment on the incident, but Sneak thinks someone needs to sit down with the search giant's car specialists and have a chat about the rise of the machines, and the three laws of robotics.
As worrying as rogue cars stalking the Californian highways might be, Sneak is more concerned about the evolution of Microsoft's virtual assistant Cortana, who seems to be spreading herself all over the company's products.
Sneak can already picture a desperate Satya Nadella hammering the ‘Off' button for the Azure cloud, as a cyborg Steve Ballmer tightens his grip around the chief exec's throat.....and to think they're making a new Terminator film.
Sneak often gets cheesed off by the overuse of emojis in text and instant messaging. People end up using smiley faces, angry frowns and happy poos to express their innermost feelings, leaving the the English language languishing unused until it ferments like an over-ripe Stilton.
But it seems there is nothing to stop this tide of emjois spreading across the world, with the latest un-Brie-lievable revelation that a series of new emojis are arriving on smartphones, with a cheese emoji among them.
Some are welcoming this arrival but it just grates on Sneak as he can't Camem-bear thinking about a situation where a chunk of Cheddar would fit in the general discourse of a text message.
But somewhere among the curds of humanity, there are sure to be linguistically stunted Gouda-gobblers who are happy to tap out iMessages covered with slabs of Emmental and grammar equally full of holes.
Perhaps Sneak is being intolerant to lovers of lactose-based texting as keen language destroyers have also petitioned the Unicode Consortium, the organisation that makes emjois, for a series of other odd emoji choices.
Maybe Sneak is too mature, but he feels that popular requests for burrito, taco and unicorn head emojis raise significant questions about the state of humanity.
He simply cannot envision a situation where a unicorn emoji would be an appropriate text response, as one does not come across many unicorns in everyday life unless you're partaking in substances that Sneak came across during his formative days as an IT assistant.
But no doubt the enterprising minds at the Consortium will milk the requests until they churn out the next batch of smelly emojis, all while Shakespeare spins like a top in his grave.
When plans for new generic top level domains were unveiled a few years ago many firms bridled at the idea that they would be forced to pony up for endless variations of their domains to stop squatters trampling on their turf.
Many found the nagging annoying but, as a case relating to the .horse domain has shown, these fears were not stirring up trouble for no reason.
The incident relates to US supermarket chain Walmart which has finally reclaimed access to the Walmart.horse domain after it had been taken over for longer than Sneak can remember.
The website in question had simply displayed a picture of a horse standing in front of a Walmart store - thanks to the magic of Photoshop. However, Walmart considered this a nightmare of a situation, so it had to take action.
Walmart turned to the World Intellectual Property Organisation, as reported by The Guardian, to try to reclaim the domain, citing the person behind the website as riding roughshod over its brand. In the end the comedian horsing around with the domain relented and handed it to Walmart.
Yes, Walmart made a bunch of false accusations and I didn’t feel like fighting them anymore.— Jeph©˚¨©˚˜˚œ∂¶§∂å˚© (@jephjacques) May 19, 2015
The case illustrates that it's important not just to whine about changes in the technology market, but to study what is going on and lay out whatever is necessary to get the URLs you need to protect your brand, before the horse domain has bolted.