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Reddit is putting limits on subreddit customization, and users are worried

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Reddit is making some big changes to the way individual communities can customize their look, and it has some users worried that subreddits are going to get a lot less interesting.

The operators of subreddits have long had access to their community’s CSS — web styling information that lets them heavily customize the look of a page. But in “the coming months,” Reddit is going to stop doing that.

Instead, Reddit plans to create specific customization tools that’ll let subreddit managers change the look of their pages. That’ll make it a lot easier for people to make changes, but it’ll likely be a lot more limiting.

Leaving the CSS open to subreddit managers has offered a ton of flexibility and means that basically every popular community you visit on the site will have its own look. Common changes include custom header images or photos, themed icons and backgrounds, and the addition of calendars, menus, and other tools.

But relying on custom CSS poses a number of problems, which Reddit CEO Steve Huffman pointed out while announcing the changes: for one, you have to know how to code CSS, which not everyone can do. And two, the customizations largely don’t display on mobile, which Huffman says accounts for more than half of all Reddit views.

There were also bigger problems for Reddit’s engineers. Huffman says they’ve had to be careful while making changes to the site because they could break subreddits’ looks. By limiting what subreddits can do, this new system will avoid that.

The customization tools will come as part of a “full redesign of the site.” There’s no estimate on when that’ll be ready, but Huffman talks about the associated design tools in terms of “months.”

Naturally, the limitations of the new site have some Reddit users concerned. “The lack of CSS styling gives me a uneasy fealing (sic) that our communities are turning away from something unique and special and just being another subreddit droid that all look basically the same,” writes D0cR3d, who moderates a number of gaming subreddits.

“Are the admins actually going to implement every use case we moderators use CSS for to accomplish functionality?” asks reseph, a moderator on the Sailor Moon subreddit. “I don't see that being feasible. If not, then this is simple a loss in functionality for many many subreddits.”

Reseph, who says he fears the changes will “homogenizing Reddit,” also linked to a survey for Redditors to take. The survey has over 700 responses right now, with 84 percent of respondents saying the removal of CSS is “unacceptable.”

Subreddit moderators are worried that key customizations they’ve build out won’t be replaced. D0cR3d says gaming communities use countdown clocks to highlight events and announcements. And reseph mentions that CSS has been used for a wide variety of changes, from things as simple as adding extra buttons to more specific additions like the Minecraft subreddit adding info on whether servers are online.

Huffman says that Reddit’s plan is to build out a number of common customizations and widgets. That’ll presumably include the basics, like custom images and icons, but he also says it’ll include features like a native calendar widget.

“Giving users a blank canvas has led to many wonderful developments on Reddit,” Huffman writes. “This is not lost on us, and we'll work hard to continue to provide these surfaces for creativity.”

Reddit plans to work with moderators to determine what features it should add, but Huffman admits “the transition isn’t going to be easy for everyone.”

It’ll be a tough balance for Reddit to strike, and the site will almost certainly end up disappointing some communities when the changes finally come. But there’s an extent to which this seems like the right decision: Reddit’s traffic is moving to mobile — those visitors may not have been the majority for long, but they will be for the foreseeable future. So it makes sense for Reddit to build a better experience for them. Hopefully, the site can do that without hurting part of what let its communities stand out.

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cbenard
1 day ago
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Idiots.
Plano, Texas

EFF heads to appeals court, demanding judge take action on Megaupload user data

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Enlarge / Following the Megaupload bust, the feds took more than 1,000 servers belonging to Carpathia Hosting. The servers, now offline in a climate-controlled facility, held more than 25 petabytes of data. (credit: Getty Images)

It's been more than five years since the government accused Megaupload and its founder Kim Dotcom of criminal copyright infringement. While Dotcom himself was arrested in New Zealand, US government agents executed search warrants and grabbed a group of more than 1,000 servers owned by Carpathia Hosting.

That meant that a lot of users with gigabytes of perfectly legal content lost access to it. Two months after the Dotcom raid and arrest, the Electronic Frontier Foundation filed a motion in court asking to get back data belonging to one of those users, Kyle Goodwin, whom the EFF took on as a client. Goodwin ran OhioSportsNet, and he used Megaupload to store the digital video he recorded of high school sports games. He paid €79.99 ($87.49) for a two-year premium subscription.

Years have passed. The US criminal prosecution of Dotcom and other Megaupload executives is on hold while New Zealand continues with years of extradition hearings. Meanwhile, Carpathia's servers were powered down and are kept in storage by QTS Realty Trust, which acquired Carpathia in 2015.

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Comic for April 16, 2017

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Tim Cook Threatened to Remove Uber From the App Store Over iPhone Tagging Tactics

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Apple CEO Tim Cook threatened to pull Uber's app from the App Store in early 2015 after discovering the ride-hailing company was secretly "fingerprinting" iPhones that used the app, it emerged on Sunday.

The claim appeared in a New York Times report profiling Uber's risk-taking chief executive Travis Kalanick, who was apparently summoned to Apple's campus for a face-to-face meeting with Cook over the app's behavior.

Travis Kalanick (left) and Tim Cook at a 2016 fashion gala (Image: Reuters)

According to the report, Uber was trying to prevent fraudsters from creating multiple fake accounts on the same device to collect new account bonuses, but to do this it had been recording the UUID serial numbers of iPhones so that it could identify them even after the app had been deleted and the phone wiped.

Knowing that the approach was a clear violation of Apple's app privacy guidelines, Uber implemented the tactic regardless, and even went so far as to geofence Apple's Cupertino campus so that Apple engineers using the app wouldn't see its fingerprinting behavior.
Mr. Kalanick told his engineers to "geofence" Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino, Calif., a way to digitally identify people reviewing Uber’s software in a specific location. Uber would then obfuscate its code from people within that geofenced area, essentially drawing a digital lasso around those it wanted to keep in the dark. Apple employees at its headquarters were unable to see Uber’s fingerprinting.
However, the tactic didn't go unnoticed by Apple engineers for long. Soon after the discovery was made, Tim Cook had a meeting with Kalanick and demanded that Uber stop the fingerprinting immediately, otherwise the app would be removed from the App Store. Facing the loss of millions of iPhone customers which would essentially destroy the ride-hailing business, Mr. Kalanick acceded.

This isn't the first time reports have emerged over the Uber app's dubious-sounding behavior. Concerns were raised late last year when users complained that the app appeared to track them for days or even weeks after they last used the ride-hailing service, forcing an explanation from the company.

The New York Times article offers more detail on the Uber CEO's history of controversial business tactics and can be read here.

Tag: Uber

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Dallas siren “hack” used radio signals to spoof alarm, says city manager

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Enlarge / A siren similar to the type set off by a "hacker" in Dallas last weekend. (credit: Getty Images/CPCollinsPhotography)

Last Friday night, as midnight approached, someone managed to trigger the emergency siren system used by the city of Dallas for tornado warnings and other emergencies. And that someone managed to keep the alarms in action for 95 minutes—even after emergency services workers shut them off. The entire system had to be shut down.

Dallas officials initially blamed "a hack" for causing the midnight siren escapade—a statement that was initially interpreted as some sort of network intrusion into Dallas' emergency services computer systems. But in a statement issued yesterday, Dallas City Manager T.C. Broadnax clarified the cause, saying that the “hack” used a radio signal that spoofed the system used to control the siren network. He would not go into details. "I don't want someone to understand how it was done so that they could try to do it again," Broadnax said. "It was not a system software issue, it was a radio issue."

Broadnax said that measures had been taken to prevent the incident from happening again, but he would not say what those measures were.

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cbenard
14 days ago
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Of course.
Plano, Texas

Google ruins the Assistant’s shopping list, turns it into a big Google Express ad

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The Google Assistant, Google's voice assistant that powers the Google app on Android phones, tablets, and Google Home, has just gotten a major downgrade. In a move reminiscent of all the forced and user-hostile Google+ integrations, Google has gutted the Google Assistant's shopping list functionality in order to turn it into a big advertisement for Google's shopping site, Google Express.

The shopping list has been a major feature of the Google Assistant. You can say "Add milk to my shopping list," and the Google Assistant would dutifully store this information somewhere. The shopping list used to live in Google Keep. Keep is Google's primary note-taking app, making it a natural home for the shopping list with lots of useful tools and management options. Now the shopping list lives in Google Express. Express is an online shopping site, and it has no business becoming a dedicated place to store a shopping list that probably has nothing to do with Google's online marketplace.

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