Thursday, June 28, 2007

Redux: Blogging and copyright fair use


This week, AOL may have created some uncertainty in copyright circles, among bloggers at least, when it rolled out its Beta version of “AOL News” which features ticker-like headlines of sensational goings-on, and then features links to stories in conventional fashion (like Yahoo! and CNN). AOl often gets many of its stories from news services, especially the Associated Press and Reuters. I noticed that the copyright protection disclaimers have gotten more specific:

"Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. The information contained in the AP news report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press. All active hyperlinks have been inserted by AOL.

"Copyright 2007 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of Reuters content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Reuters. Reuters shall not be liable for any errors or delays in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon. All active hyperlinks have been inserted by AOL."

The Reuters clause does mention in-line framing, which has long been considered a legally objectionable and infringing practice by many corporate content providers. Framing is a practice where the users causes the content to appear in another web page as if it were an integral part of the page, without a link becoming apparent to the visitor; the content is brought up invisibly. (Even for novice publishers, framing by others can cause serious bandwidth issues.) Over time, as many of us know by now, conventional linking, whereby the visitor must click and intend to see the new content (whether or not it opens a new cascaded browser window) has become accepted, since some court opinions around 2000. Conventional linking is very much like a bibliographic reference in a term paper in college. It’s important to remember that many newspapers and news organizations archive their stories and begin charging after a few weeks. Sometimes newspapers will defeat deep links with A-records that force the visitor back to the newspaper’s home page (The Washington Times has started to do this, and I find it hard to locate a lot of stories in its own search engine). Most newspaper and television sites, when they republish AP stories, must remove the original stories in about two weeks.

The Associated Press clause seems to imply that “information” or facts in the story may not be reproduced in another story. Many other sources (like television station websites) use AP, and in the past the clause has been:

"The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed."

The new clause from AP for AOL use seems to be more explicit. However, if one checks much of the literature on copyright law, it repeatedly says that fact themselves are not copyrightable, nor are “ideas.” This needs to be distinguished from a “trade secret” which is a protected business confidence that has not been yet released “in the wild” to the public. There have been reported some litigation when material is too closely paraphrased, which is probably what “rewritten” means.

Of course, we need to think about common sense here. Most interest groups spread news with relevant “facts” of concern to their constituents based on these breaking news stories, often on email listservers, and for non-commercial purposes. Often the original stories are send as is on listservers. I have always thought of this as “fair use” if done non-commercially and there is a legitimate political or social consequence of the information.

Some “facts” obviously have immediate political importance. A good example would be the surprising statistic, released yesterday on CNN, that nearly 80% of Americans polled favor ending “don’t ask don’t tell” regarding gays in the military. It’s not hard to imagine how circulation of that “fact” could affect Representatives and Senators (whatever the constitutionality of the current law). On the other hand, what Paris Hilton (hardly a role model for young people!) told reporters as she got out of jail probably isn’t too relevant, and if AP wants to protect that as a “fact” it seems OK.

The EFF guidelines recommend that bloggers give “transformative” value to information that they present and state its importance, beyond what might have been said in an original reporter’s scoop. That certainly is a big boost to a fair use claim. Another help is to try to name more than one source if possible (most important news stories make all the major networks), as they taught in high school English when we did those dreaded term papers (and, as noted yesterday, multiple independent sources help establish the “notability” of an otherwise obscure item). These are the practices that I try to follow.

There is a good reason why copyright law does not regard "facts" or "ideas" as copyrightable. If they were, then access to information and dissemination of it would belong to those in positions of financial and political power, or in control of families (and be tied to certain views of the family). Of course, some people seem to want things to be that way (start with the Vatican). "New" facts might, in the view of some, have some intrinsic value that should be protected. I remember the mid 1950s Parker Brother's board game "Star Reporter". It ought to be resurrected.

My earlier blogger entry on paraphrasing was (Oct 2006) here.

My earlier posting on "Turnitin.com" and its use in schools and colleges, was here.

My own academic integrity policy.

Electronic Frontier Foundation link on bloggers and fair use. This reference is detailed and should be studied carefully.

TorrentSpy discovery requirement could impact Net as a whole


There is a relatively obscure case going on in California about electronic record keeping and discovery. Back on Dec. 1, 2006 federal courts had adopted a rule that effectively increased retention requirements of employers on email and various other e-communications, making them subject to discovery requirements in federal litigation. For some years, remember, some companies had told employees it was better not to keep unnecessary emails and other papers around so they could never be subpoenaed. This seems to have changed. There also seems to have been some complicated changes in federal civil rule procedure 34. I’m not sure how closely these are connected (readers can comment).

The case involves a ruling by a judge that TorrentSpy activate logging of IP addresses and turn them over to movie studios in a lawsuit involving alleged copyright infringement. It’s rather complicated. But EFF is maintaining that a precedent might be set that requires unprecedented record keeping by search engine companies and ISPs for ordinary web accesses (outside of the "Shawn Fanning" world of P2P). We already saw a controversy over this during the recent COPA trial. Such requirements could raise the price of Internet services and barrier to entry of many businesses or individuals. They would also seem to have a bearing on all the recent debates about Network Neutrality and stories that the United States is unable to keep up with other countries (like Japan) in access speed.

This issue should not be confused with United States Code 2257, having to do with record keeping by websites of actors in adult entertainment.

EFF report on amicus brief, June 24.

PDF text of amicus brief

Discussion of Rule 34
by Atkinson-Baker, court reporters.

Cornell law school link on Rule 34.

Earlier blog posting on record keeping.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Notability guidelines on Wikipedia get "notability"


Recently, the free online encyclopedia Wikipedia has apparently tightened enforcement of some of its guidelines, apparently because of media pressure and reports that schools and professional media organizations don’t respect the information in it as fact-checked or reliable. (I had addressed his perception on this blog on Jan. 23, here. ). Also, the online encyclopedia has removed material that its editors and community believe to have been placed for self-promotional purposes and material that it believes should not be placed in a reference encyclopedia.

This refers to a concept that Wikipedia calls “notability” or “worthy of notice.” The link is here. Essentially, the concept means that an entity has been covered in the media by parties other than the entity itself (if the entity is a person, and that would include the entity’s family), its employees, or other stakeholders with a permanent connection to the entity if it is a business or organization, or creator or author if the entity is content. Sometimes the concept means that it is far preferable that the entity have been written about by the established “press” or “professional” journalists. It is also preferable that there be an expectation that the entity remain of permanent interest to the public. Guidelines for Wikipedia in some other countries (such as Germany) are reported to be stricter than in the English version. It's also "notable" that some groups consider blogging intrinsically to be valid journalism. See the Electronic Frontier Foundation's link for bloggers, here.

It is important to remember that an encyclopedia entry should be factual and point to fact-checked references. It is all right to describe political theories of others, as noted in history. It is not the appropriate forum to develop one’s own new theories in an encyclopedia article. Other kinds of sites would be appropriate, and I’ve tried to propose ways to do that on this blog. It is even reasonable to develop database-driven schemes to link other kinds of sites to encyclopedias like Wikipedia.

Recently the Wikipedia entry for psychotherapist Paul Rosenfels has been cited for possible lack of notability. The current reference is here. I just checked it again while writing this entry, and the visitor will note the notability concern on the page. The Wikipedia notation says "The best way to address this concern is to reference published, third-party sources about the subject."

First, a bit of background:

Dr. Rosenfels helped found the Ninth Street Center in the East Village in New York City in 1972. He passed away in 1985. The Center has its own impressive site (just noted) and much of the material is stored on The English Server at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. The reference is this. The visitor should explore the site to understand its philosophy and point of view. It speaks well for itself.

I was active with the Center shortly after moving into the New York area, from 1973-1975. I withdrew from it because of personal issues, and then moved out of the area, to Dallas, in 1979. The Center still runs chats and other forums, and I have attended some of the scheduled chats.

So, now, to establish notability, what about third party bibliographic references to the subject? The Center was sometimes mentioned in New York City newspapers. I do recall a column “Hot nights at the Ninth Street Center” some time in 1974 (after I had moved to the City), probably in the Village Voice. (See updated listed below at the end of this posting; It seems to have been in Gay Mag.) I believe that the article discussed the talk groups and Saturday night potlucks. There may have been other mainstream or "outside gay press" articles. (Maybe The New York Native covered it. I do remember that Robert Blair of Evangelicals Concerned mentioned Paul and the Center on a trip to an EC meeting in Texas in the 1980s; blogger note here.) All of this could help, in the long run, support the concept of “notability” (it might take some good old-fashioned pre-Internet microfilm research – the kind I had to do in college for term papers -- in New York City).

It does seem that Wikipedia's main concern will be whether available sources (especially links) came from within the Center or people too closely connected to the Center, instead of "neutral" outside press or academic sources. A quick search does show mostly references from people associated with the Center, which would be expected for almost any smaller organization or group. A number of people became disengaged from the Center for one reason or another over numerous years. They could now be perceived as an external source of credible information to support the idea of notability. I think that this is so even if none or few of these individuals are part of the formal press. Furthermore, there is another group in Brooklyn that follows on the work of the Center called the Cortelyou Center. All of this can support notability.

Wikipedia's "notability" guidelines exclude using "self-published" sources (as do other groups, such as Author's Guild, which usually only admits to membership those able to get advance royalties from third parties). Some newspapers don't review "self-published books." However, cooperative publishing (with both companies and various academic groups) is becoming a more common practice, and is often mentioned at writers' conferences. After all, a dissertation is, in a sense, cooperatively published. It would seem that some cooperatively published sources (like English Server) support the spirit and intent of the concept of notability, at least.

The Center has a DVD of some of the talk groups that has never been commercially released (as with Netflix or documentary film festivals), but I suppose that it could be, with appropriate legal releases; and it has published a number of books, most of them by Paul Rosenfels, on a particular view of psychology. I can remember other groups in the 1970s in the LGBT community, such as Identity House, that add to the history of the time. Now there is an LGBT center in Chelsea in New York City, and it is pointed to by one of the subway stops. It may be that some of this could help add to notability.

But there is another conceptual disagreement, here, about the importance of formal “professionalism,” at least in journalism. Silicon Valley entrepreneur Andrew Keen just authored (and Doubleday published) a short but blistering book “The Cult of the Amateur,” (review here: in which he criticizes the (apparent) self-indulgence and lack of credibility of most of today’s user-generated content on the web, and considers it a threat to security and to legitimate media business. I think a lot of what he says sounds like old-fashioned turf protection (the Vatican, after all, is the prime example of that). There seems to be an issue with some people that they would like to force everyone to “compete” in the open market according to their rules (“like men” – we all remember the days of rites of passage). Somehow, succeeding in “competition,” as well as taking on family responsibility, establishes the right of someone to be heard from. At least, that is the mindset. And it could get dangerous. Translated to “notability” it would mean that something should only reach the public when it gets there by (bureaucratically) established rules of competition. There is no question that the “rules” (often enforced by unions) help keep people who “get there” remain wealthy and privileged. It’s always like that. Intellectual property law recognizes a concept called “right of publicity” (or “right to publicity”) which has always been morally controversial because it seems to reward limelight and fame for its own sake. Now, this very comment is an “opinion” that would not be appropriate in an encyclopedia article on intellectual property legal concepts and torts.

In the 1970s, many of the visitors and participants in the Center lived in the nearby Easy Village neighborhood (I “commuted” from New Jersey until I moved into the City in September 1974). Given the post-Watergate, post-Stonewll political climate of the times (which was steadily improving), Paul Rosenfels tended (in the 1970s) to encourage gay men to focus on others in their own, somewhat sheltered community, and to keep a lower profile with respect to the outside world. Of course, this notion was already contradicted by the publication of various books. Eventually, important ideas find there way into the outside world and have an impact on it. It may take a lot of time for people to see the impact, but the Internet has certainly provided a major opportunity for previously relatively obscure and “private” people to become relatively well known. Not everyone likes this, but it is reality. Original content from a new group or source can gradually obtain public importance, but Wikipedia now seems to want to see a spontaneous reporting source from outside the source to confirm this. Again, this seems to have happened, in large part, in response to media and academic criticism of the "open source" encyclopedia concept.

Paul Rosenfels certainly was a significant figure in East Village neighborhood and New York City history in general. His legacy lives today and probably contributed to the founding of the LGBT Center. It should eventually become possible to establish his notability.

I have not yet created a Wikipedia account myself or contributed any articles or modifications. Remember, Wikipedia contributions are anonymous (a criticism, that does not apply to other proposed encyclopedias like Compendium). I may decide to set up an account and address this entry or several others that I am aware of. But encyclopedia writing must be very structured, objective, stick to facts and refrain from speculations, which belong elsewhere.

The visitor could look at the Wikipedia entry for "same sex marriage", go down to "Controversy" and see that, while there is a lot of good and reasonably temperate discussion of the various arguments, the editors flagged the section as needing references or sources for the opinions stated. In an encyclopedia, a particular interpretation of a particular author is a speculation, but the fact that the particular author expressed that particular opinion is a fact. Again, in an encyclopedia there need to be multiple "mainstream" sources from generally accepted media or publishing entities.

My view of this example is that, in an ideal "open source" educational system, the myriad of "opinions" should be organized on a separate table or database object and appropriately cross-referenced to each other (and to opinions about coordinated issues like eldercare or adoption / foster care or "family values"), and then separately to "sources" as Wikipedia views sources. There could also exist a facility for the user to purchase copyrighted original sources through a central Amazon-like system, so that one has a database that is something like an amalgamation of Amazon and the Associated Press!

Update: June 29, 2007


The Ninth Street Center website has a number of external references. The Center has reproduced these references in its own template. For Wikipedia, one would want to give links to the original sources online if possible; if in hardcopy microfilm only (as at a public library) one would give a conventional bibliographic citation and note physically where the material exists, if it can be found.

Here is the basic reference

A few examples:


Seymour Shubin, SK&F Psychiatric Reporter, 1968
Herb Spiers, Body Politic, 1972
John Paul Hudson, "Hot Nights at the Ninth Street Center", and "Building a New Gay Scoiety", Gay Magazine, 1974
D. F. Lawden, Psychoenergtics, 1981
Judy Chicurel, East Village EYE, 1983
Graham Jackson, Studies in Jungian Analysis, 1991
Review of Paul Rosenfel's "Psychology of the Creative Process," Torso, 1992.
Jay Bolick, The New York Native, 1987
Bob Ledwidge and Jane Wallace, Independent Review, 1998
Walter Godsoe, review of book "We Knew Paul", 2000
Kim Marie Pozar Gaye, review of Rosenfels book "Love and Power", 2000
Meenakshi Gautam, "Going the Wilde Way" 2000


I have two citations on this list myself, but they might be seen by some (because of ("pseudo nepotism") as less notable since I was associated with the Center and because, in the view of some in the spin of the media world today, I am still an "amateur." Still a troubling concept!

Again, the notion that "professionals" get to determine the credibility of a social movement or theory is disturbing. But remember the bruhaha -- on both sides -- back in 1973 (when I was "coming out" for the second time) when the American Psychiatric Association stated that homosexuality should not be considered an "illness." That credibility is still important in discrediting coercive campaigns to get people into "reparative therapy" by some groups today. Reference here.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Supreme Court, free speech, the FEC, special interests, and bloggers: important ruling yesterday


Earlier on these blogs I’ve discussed the concerns that campaign finance reform could hamper free speech by bloggers, as was pointed out by a notorious Washington Times editorial on October 12, 2005, as well as dire warnings earlier on the Internet about a “crackdown” on political blogging. In early 2006, there was a lot of discussion of a proposed Online Freedom of Speech Act, and in May 2006 the Federal Election Commission offered guidelines that appeared all right for most political blogging.

Yesterday, Monday June 25, 2007, The Supreme Court rules on the case Federal Election Commission v. Wisconsin Right to Life. The Court had, in 2003, accepted the constitutionality of campaign finance reform in principle, and said that as a general rule candidates could be regulated in the way they sought soft money support (conceivably that would affect bloggers). The Court had also said that specific interpretations of McCain-Feingold could be challenged, however.

Wisconsin Right to Life had wanted to run radio ads before a 2004 Wisconsin primary, asking voters to contact Russ Feingold and Herb Kohl to not filibuster President Bush’s judicial nominees. The ads were canceled because McCain-Feingold prohibits spending money on ads that mention candidates within 30 days of a primary or 60 days of a general election. It has been said that the ads could have been funded from separate political action committees.

In its opinion yesterday, the Supreme Court said (5-4) that interest groups (corporations, unions, NGO’s, advocacy groups, 401C3’s, and presumably even individual bloggers) have a right to fund and run issue advocacy ads that mention candidates names, even right before an election or primary. The only restriction would be a “vote for me” sentence. Chief Justice John G. Roberts wrote, “Discussion of issues cannot be suppressed simply because the issues may also be pertinent to an election. Where the First Amendment is implicated, the tie goes to the speaker, not the censor.”

Dissenting views expressed concern that the spirit of campaign finance reform was broken, and that special interests would be rigging elections by fooling voters with spending campaigns.

So this decision has a mixed meaning. It does, on the surface, support individual online speech, and seems to stop initiatives that could have eventually undermined blogging (among many other concerns that have been discussed here). But it also gives big unions and corporations a free hand to spend large sums to manipulate voters by appealing to their emotions and sometimes intellectual immaturity.

It’s right to be concerned about how this conundrum plays out in affecting how democracy works. Free speech is one of our core concepts, and we don’t like to see it bought. On the other hand, when it comes spontaneously from individuals, it needs to be made in good faith and not create conflicts of interest. We like to see the public better able to get beyond the “me first” comfort level in how they understand issues. The technological marketplace – computers, the Internet, P2P, digital media, search engines, user defined content – have started on us. But for really effective democracy we need to take it a level deeper.

Link to the Opinion (on Supreme Court website, PDF): here.

Earlier blog entry on editorials about the FEC and campaign finance: here.

CNN story.

Discussion of Supreme Court ruling yesterday on "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" case, here.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Digital Media Conference at AFI/Silver Theater in Silver Spring, MD



I attended the Digital Media Conference today at the AFI Silver Theater in Silver Spring Md.

There were two keynote speakers (documentary filmmaker Robert Greenwald, discussed at this blog entry today, and Alex Welch, President and CEO of Photobucket.

There were numerous panels, about “Digital Media Trends to Watch”, “The State of the Digital Union”, “Is There a Business Model for Social Media & User-Generated Content?”; “What’s New in Web 2.0”; “The Digital Evolution of the Music Business”; “Internet Video and Big Media”; “Mobile Media”.

The overall tone of the conference bounded around over the question of the value of user-generated content, and its long-term challenge to the supremacy of conventionally licensed and distributed content, which used to keep the amount of content finite. The concern over professionalism was mentioned, including a reference to Andrew Keen ‘s new book “The Cult of the Amateur: How Today’s Internet Is Killing our Culture” (Review here.) Now, the challenge is how to get users to pay for a plentiful non-scarce resource. Of course, there is advertising (and automatically delivered ads), but another tool is to give away content free and ask consumers or visitors for support; some visitors will help if they believe that the publisher is on to something important to them.

IPO’s were getting harder because of Sarbannes-Oxley, but angel financing, from investors willing to accept some losing risks for “home runs”, was becoming common.

User-generated content, even video, is likely to eventually eliminate the need for middlemen or formal distribution companies, necessary in the physical world. One speaker encouraged web publishers to use widgets to enable users to participate. If you don’t trust your visitors, he asked, what good are you doing? One panel discussed virtual world websites like Second Life (there are several others), and admitted that they took a lot of time to learn but tended to captivate some visitors who liked becoming “avatars” in parallel worlds. (The idea certainly suggests some sci-fi screenplay scripts, doesn’t it.)

I asked two of the panels how they felt about all the recent media reports about employers becoming concerned over their associates’ personal blogs and checking profiles of job applicants. One of the panels considered this mainly an HR problem for employers, but not for the web industry as a whole. Another was more concerned, admitting that firings were happening, and that in specific industries there could be real problems with employee blogging because of specific liabilities, such as in pharmaceuticals, where suggesting a non-approved use of a drug can put one in jail. One panelist mentioned that more college kids were whitelisting their blogs and profiles. All the panelists agreed that teenagers and young adults tend to enjoy the limelight and don't have the same expectations of privacy as did earlier generations, and even this has unknown legal implications.

On mobile content, the panelists pointed out that wireless services still bill along a metered service philosophy, and are not as able to offer essentially unlimited content.

The final keynote speaker (Welch) noted that only about 2% of people who watch Internet video content regularly actually create and upload such content.

All of the panelists came from a social and economic background that stressed individual initiative and effort, and paid relatively little heed to business or familial hierarchy and "politics", compared to the sociology of the past.

There were a few exhibitors, including Deloitte, and particularly legal publishing company Pike & Fusher. This company is planning a conference on “Legal Risk Management in the Web 2.0 World, at the AED Conference Center at Connecticut Ave. NW, September 18, 2007. The contact is Meg Hargreaves. The conference appears important in view of topics already covered on this blog, because there is a session on “Citizen Journalism, Libel & Privacy,” addressing who should be held responsible for defamatory content, especially when it seems to be anonymous; and “Online Social Networks & Privacy,” which will deal with widespread reports that employers are checking profiles of job applicants.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Call it "The Project": enriching knowledge databases and searches, beyond the wikis



I had discussed some of these thoughts here on May 23 (“more progress on ad delivery), and today I wanted to reiterate what my own perception of the next generation of Web 3.0 or what-have-you content delivery ought to be.

Take a step back, here, and imagine that we could give people better ways of watching their own personal and familial interests than just marching in demonstrations or shouting slogans from the Capitol West Lawn, or signing Internet petitions or emailing form letters (written by someone else, “writers”) to their elected representatives. Let people learn to think and speak for themselves. Of course, this is double edged, and many people are in publicly visible job situations where they cannot easily speak for themselves. But, in time, the Organization Man (or Woman) will surely wane.

Call it “The Project” if you will. (More maybe “The Shop” from a Stephen King horror novel thirty years back.)

The aim of the Project is as follows:
(1) Demonstrate the connections between different issues usually thought of separately, for example
1a – the military gay ban, conscription, and potential national service requirement
1b – the military gay ban, gay marriage, and gay adoption
1c - gay rights, individualism, and interdependence
1d – public health, individualism, independence, and interdependence
1e – reverence for human life, procreation, and filial responsibility
1f – different “normal forms” of morality
1g – filial responsibility and childlessness
1h – speech, self-publication, the Internet, and employers (and military)
1i - global warming, oil depletion, personal independence and mobility
1j – health care, interdependence, autonomy, moral hazard, public morality

(2) Support the claim of connections with lists of incidents, and provide the tools to evaluate the reliability of the sources
(3) Provide the bibliographic sources
(4) Provide hooks that other search tools (Amazon, imbd, Google trends, etc) could use

Another feature would be the reviews (movies, TV, books, drama, performance events, etc) and provide the links between the reviews and the issues, as noted in the blog posting Monday June 18.

The issues themselves would be grouped in blocks according to the chronological period in which they surfaced. The Cold War and the draft were evolving in the 60s, oil shocks in the 70s, pandemics (like HIV) in the 80s, the military ban and modern views of GLBT issues in the 90s, workplace fairness issues evolving quickly in the early 1990s (as with the FMLA); Internet speech issues in the late 90s and after 2000, terrorism and Patriot Act issues after 2001, eldercare and new views of the family after 2000.

Structurally, a database like this might be more like a networked hierarchy (somewhat like IDMS on IBM mainframe computers), with quite a bit of relational processing too. The "Set" entity in a networked hierarchy confers the ability to correlate concepts in different hierarchies or chapters. This goes beyond the encyclopedias and wikis and attempts to maintain these relationships dynamically, and notify the visitor when things change.

I perceive the Project as giving students (college and AP high school) could use to develop a deeper understanding of the interrelationships between social and political issues.

Picture: "Ivy Town" in NE Washington DC, where there has been a fight over red light district zoning after eminent domain, for private development, closed many "adult" businesses; taken from the Red Line.

Also, picture of a typical West Lawn rally (this one anti-Israel).

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Rules: if they come from Thomas Jefferson, that's OK


While on my last day of substitute teaching last week, I saw a sheet of “Thomas Jefferson’s Top 10 Rules for living the Good Life.” Here is a reference.

Monticello (Jefferson’s home in Charlottesville, VA) offers a gift version of this, framed, for sale at this link.

The rule that catches my eye is #5, “Pride costs us more than hunger, thirst and cold,” and coordinated with #8, “Don’t let the evils which have never happened cost you pain.” Proverbs they are.

Of course, Bob Parsons has his “16 Rules” here: including “never expect life to be fair.” That is one of Donald Trump’s rules.

But the funniest is the “1872 Rules for Teachers” (20 years or so after James A. Garfield was a teacher even as a teenager). I like the line about bringing a “scuttle of coal” and to “whittle nibs” of pens. Men teachers could court once a week (twice a week if they attended church regularly).

Here's a good proverb, dating to a co-worker from 1972: "Verbosity promulgates egregious epigramitization." Some more aphorisms are here.

Monday, June 18, 2007

My domains, with blogs as newsfeeds


How Blogs fit

My master site is focused loosely around my three books, especially the first book – the “screed” that I discussed in the January blogs in response to an Amazon review – whose six chapters give me a framework to organize political and social thought in a sequence of concentric circles that develop interrelationships (“worm holes”) among the issues. The master site has directories of reviews, three sets: movies, books, and live performances. The movie reviews include some TV series when the series are “movie-like”. The live performances table has been called “drama” but it includes live musicals, concerts, musical compositions, and the like, and DVD’s made directly from them (or broadcasts of them). The idea, ever since about 1998 (when these were on hppub.com) was to relate all of these media content and performance materials to social and political issues. (Actually, the physical layout of the hppub home page back in 2002-2003 may have made that clearer than does today’s doaskdotell page.) In time, I got to review most things I saw, and in more detail, and the techniques of presenting issues (as in screenwriting) became as interesting sometimes as the issues themselves.

In January 2006 I started my blogs. There are a number of them, and each one has a brief description in italics explaining the essential purpose of the particular blog. From any blog (as from the doaskdotell.com home page) one can navigate easily to the other blogs (from the Profile, which displays all the blogs in the order in which they were most recently updated). I use the simple e-blogger, even though I know there are other possibilities (like WordPress).

The blogs are my way to giving visitors a sense of what’s going on. As I said in a previous post, they serve the function of an expanded news ticker. They are intended to have the effect that AOL has with its headlines, usually about four or five provocative things that have happened around the world in the past 24 hours. (I remember the one about Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson – the “wardrobe malfunction” mistake at the 2004 Superbowl!)

I have separate blogs for movies, books, and “drama” (in the sense above). Search engines do not like publishers to duplicate content too much, so they are not intended to duplicate the reviews on doaskdotell. Typically, the master reviews on doaskdotell are intended to give the basic information about the book or movie. The “reviews” on the blogs deal with newsworthiness. Most recently published books that I choose to review are important to me for a reason – they create “news” in what they say about some issue (say, gay marriage or family values, or maybe the possibility of resuming the draft). Movies are not so carefully chosen, but I try to see all of those that address any issue that I am concerned about. I try to stress independent films and films that may not be as widely reviewed elsewhere. Films that “make news” (especially those shown in festivals and that may not yet have US commercial distribution) are selected and discussed in the movies blog. Sometimes I make a “master entry” in the doaskdotell site and give only identifying information, and link to a complete review on the blog, for films that are newsy enough.

For television, I often pick episodes of shows that made news, as do some episodes of Oprah (where she introduces a Michael Moore film), or Dr. Phil (where he presents a teacher fired for off-the-job web activity).

Some of the blogs (the GLBT blog and major issues blogs) combine summarizing of news stories with a little editorializing. These blogs continue what I started on the “controversial issues” directory on doaskdotell. That subdomain has a large number of essays, which I used to try to maintain with many footnotes. This has become cumbersome, as I am always hitting a moving target; it is more effective to update the issues with blog entries and link directly to the blog postings from the directory for that subdomain as news develops.

One issue is the search engine reports. For doaskdotell I use Urchin, and I can see from the search arguments what people are concerned about. For example, I can tell that the public is very concerned about filial responsibility laws, about employee blogging, and certain body image issues (especially for men). I don’t get the search engine analysis on the blogs yet, and I would like to resolve this. That is one disadvantage of putting a lot of detailed discussion of a problem presented by a book or movie on the blog rather than on the site.

As I noted last week (June 10), some companies are trying to solve the problem of matching the substance of issues to currency of news. Web2 Corp, discussed last week, tries to tailor current events to the locality of the visitor. There may be paradigms in development to achieve both currency and depth for the visitor, and I will be looking closely to see what various companies are doing about this, and what I can do about it—less artificially than now.

There is a table that summarizes my domains here.

Important posting today on Internet safety: FBI knocking doors on infected home users, here.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Poll worker redux at a primary


I worked the polls in Arlington at the Nov. 2006 election, and that was a bear -- I described it on this blog on Nov. 7.

Today, it was a Democratic Primary in north Arlington, VA with only one race, county treasurer. A fifteen hour day with a myriad of forms, counter tapes, signatures, and envelopes at the end. A slow day, but still 230+ people showed up, a pretty good turnout for one minor candidate (2%). In Arlington, there are not separate primaries by party; any registered voter may vote in any primary.

The sign in process (where a voter number is assigned and marked off) out to be automated so that it tracks automatically to the voting machines and balance automatically. Arlington does not approve of the idea of keeping a paper record of each vote, as the county feels that it could set up situations where fraud could occur with less abled voters. But all voting jurisdictions are still scratching for perfect world solutions after the Florida 2000 fiasco.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Web2 Corp (OTCBB WBTO.CO) looks like a very interesting new player in the "content intelligence" market



A couple times this past month I have gotten an unsolicited fax from “High Tech Stocks” for a company with a domain name called YouGetIt.com. I don’t read a lot of them carefully, but this one caught my eye, first, by calling it a “Web2” company, which it is. In fact, the company is officially known as Web2 Corp. and is traded over the counter under the symbol WBTO.OB. The latest financial profile on June 11 on Yahoo! is at this link. The stock declined a bit Friday, but it what the company purports to do is interesting.

This site connects your ip address when you dial in with a zip code. Normally, this is known precisely, as with a fixed cable high speed connection, or a wireless connection (that changes on a laptop as it is moved geographically, as in a motel). I presume that with a local model dialup (like on AOL) it can do this (I’ll test it later). Similarly I presume that this works in a Kinkos or a library (will test). It displays the zip code that it found, and then a number of panels emphasizing local news that may affect the average consumer. These items can include traffic reports, police reports, entertainment (movie listings and plays), jobs, weather and severe storms. There are panels giving feeds to more global sources of news, such as Digg and Tech Crunch.

The site has social networking capabilities that are now familiar to users of Myspace, faceboook, etc. The user can set up a free account and create a profile, blog, and post videos. As with any such site, the user should be circumspect about the information he or she poses and assume that employers or others could see it.

I went ahead and set up a profile and set up one dummy blog entry, pointing to my other domains. I was not able to enter html links, and will have to figure out how to do this.

At this point, it’s interesting to look back and compare this to all of the other kinds of user-defines content facilities over the past dozen or so years. By 1995, a few companies were offering services to define personal web pages. AOL had offered the ability to set up rudimentary profiles early, probably 1994 (when I joined). At the beginning of 1996 AOL offered a personal home page, but did not offer the ability to offer self-publishing of textual content until the introduction of personal publisher (Hometown AOL) by October 1996. By 1997, it was becoming much cheaper an practical for users to have their own domains which they controlled by a simple FTP program (like WS-FTP) and by then Microsoft Front Page was becoming reasonably practical to use. By about 1997, most dialup services were fast enough to handle reasonable amounts of content.

For a number of years, the Web supported some separate cultures. The “dot com” boom seemed predicated on the idea that people could shop much more efficiently over the Internet than they could with bricks-and-mortar stores or with real sales people. I can recall in 1999, at Reliastar (now ING) where I worked, that the CEO told employees that their stock price was soft partly because the company was not a “dot com.” We all know what would happen, starting in late 2000 – the dot com bust. At the same time, all the while, personal publishing was growing, sometimes supported by advertising revenues, which were often small. Around 2003 to 2004, the new generation of Web 2.0 started flowering, with the idea of blogging software (that didn’t work with real reliability until maybe 2005), and social networking sites. All of these concepts can come together with an operation like Web2 Corp, which is why some investors are touting it.

When I had my older site hppub.com (no longer valid), I had a couple of free news feeds (one from 7AM news and one from Vibrant Media) for a couple years, that gave the visitor a snapshot view of what’s going on in the world quickly. Back around 2003 visitors indicated to me that they found this effective (I would show it to them in bars on Saturday nights before hitting the disco floor). Companies no longer offer this free, it seems. I experimented with a java starter site that could provide pseudo-feeds, but the company that provided that platform apparently failed. Now, I simply provide links to many blogs, that typically are headed by a recent headline-like entry that addresses an issue related in some way to individual freedom and responsibility. But Web2 certain has an infrastructure that could combine current events (local, global, and cyber) with applications that diagram the current state of affairs on many issues, explored elsewhere on these blogs.

Web2 Corp says that it is looking for journalists (I’m not sure how credentialed they have to be) and other professionals, probably mostly as freelance. I’ll look into this over the next few weeks and continue to explore this site and any other new similar sites.

Also today: posting on wireless access in rural areas (Net Neutrality blog)

Update: June 14


Please go to this blog link for information about a June 15 deadline for comments to the FCC on network neutrality.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Economist article on marriage in America



The sedate and objective British periodical The Economist, in the May 26 2007 issue, offers an essay on U.S. marriage, called “Briefing: Marriage in America: The Frayed Knot: As the divorce rate plummets at the top of American society and rises at the bottom, the widening “marriage gap” is breeding inequality.” There is a humorous cartoonish picture of a suburban church with a sign that reads “Candelight Wedding Chapel: Marriage Info.”

The article mentions author Kay Hymowitz of the Manhattan Institute, and her book “Marriage and Caste in America: Separate and Unequal Families in a Post-Marital Age” (publisher Ivan R. Dee, 2006). The title communicates what she has to say. (Review on blogger.) Typically, in stable middle class to upper middle class America, marriage works very well as an institution, and kids growing up in stable two-parent families do well in life, and often tend to follow the pattern of their parents. In lower income “families,” as conservatives have documented for decades, there are perverse incentives (including welfare) that keep mothers single, and their kids do not learn the social skills (including those related to marriage) necessary to get our of poverty. (Of course, real caste systems in other societies deserve explanations.) It is also generally true that, at any education level in the West, married people (especially with children) accumulate (per person) more wealth, not only because of "economies of scale" in a household, but because when people have other dependents (especially their own lineage) they tend to "compete" better and may be more aggressively inclined to manipulate their environments to the advantage of their own families.

The public policy question has always been, of course, how much should government get involved in all of this? The article has subsections with inviting titles like "Children of the sexual revolution" and "A little help from the government." There are many niches to explore, in tax and public school policy. All of it sounds well intended. But, it seems, only those who are more libertarian leaning are willing to pop the ethical question: is it right to force those who are not emotionally inclined to marry and beget (through natural biological procreation) their own lineage support, with their own “sacrifices”, those who do? Face it, this is one of the most important questions for gays and lesbians. But it goes way beyond LGBT; also important is the issue of women who postpone childbearing (sometimes at medical risk) to further their careers (say, medical school, which does take years) and who want to earn as much as men. The deeper question is that human beings can define other psychological goals for themselves that don’t involve the matching of 23 sets of chromosomes. But marriage seems to be an institution like no other; it socializes the deepest intentions of people, and makes them see their worlds and personal goals differently. Those who live productively outside of the institution can become serious competition or at least distractions.

That’s the problem: most articles on supporting marriage (whether from more conventional social conservatives like Maggie Gallagher or Jennifer Roback Morse) don’t take the question far enough. What do you want from people whose emotional makeup is really different? That’s not limited to homosexuals.

I just watched a tape of a 1977 performance of Thornton Wilder’s play Our Town (1938) on a substitute teaching assignment. The play is famous for demonstrating the socializing aspects of marriage. I’m renting a couple of other performances from Netflix and will have more details to impart soon. But one point that comes out is that most men can only take “culture” by themselves so far. They need a partner, and they need an organic purpose. Marriage and children often (but not always – that’s the caveat) provides that purpose.

As someone who is “different” I can sketch a characterization of an emotional world that does not require marriage, or even a committed partner. It does, in fact, depend on art and human culture – in my case, music is very important to it. Of course, however, that culture depends on a stable and technological civilization offering personal freedom – what I know as “democratic capitalism” – so much a debate on the international scene. It is a backdrop that I cannot take for granted.

There is the sensitive matter of filial responsibility. This can become an especially troubling issue as, in certain economic classes, people have fewer kids and people can live longer. It can invoke generational conflict and, if population growth is more in previously disenfranchised groups, security issue (as in Europe where the Muslim population could become politically more powerful). People without kids may find they have as much or more responsibility for eldercare (or even sometimes sibling care) than others with their own kids. This gets beyond the legal and financial arguments (which could be considerable). It demands that “singletons” become receptive and responsive to the emotional demands of extended family whether or not they really want to or personally need to. This dynamic has become more significant again in the Internet age as lives are not as “private” as they were (especially in the big cities) thirty years ago.

Back in the 1970s, the Ninth Street Center in New York City explored the idea of personal growth through polarized relationships that, in a psychological sense, could “imitate” marriage. In today’s context, this sounds like a preview of same-sex marriage, but the Center (and its central philosopher Paul Rosenfels) insisted that relationships should exist for their own sakes and for the well-being of the participants, not for the social supports and formal approbation of legal marriage. It seems a bit of a paradox that Rosenfels insisted that relationships would be earthy and seem real to the participants, and not an intellectual construct to be viewed apart by splitting off the personality. To have real partnerships, one needed to overcome the psychological defenses (like sadism and masochism) that make the single life appear judgmental about conventional society and conventional marriage. One needed to grow into “real life.” One observation was that in the 1970s, Center aficionados tended to live in lower Manhattan (often the East Village, where it was located) and led lives that didn’t leave the City in a meaningful public sense (people would brag that they never ventured north of 14th Street or Union Square).

One paradox is that during the age of individualism (from the late 60s on) marriage has become “privatized” and viewed as an arrangement that mutually benefits the participants, emotionally and financially. The philosophy of the Center certainly reinforces this idea with respect to same-sex couples. As a legal and public institution, marriage, more than any other purpose, serves as the vehicle to provide a socially stable environment to raise children and the next generation. There is no problem with respecting that view in and of itself. The practical problem is that there is no way to separate providing a safe environment for children without providing preferential and protective treatment for the adults in the marriage, and without demanding “sacrifices” from those who don’t get marriage. The concept of marriage in more tribal cultures, in fact, with the emphasis on “honor”, tends to shelter individuals within the tribe or extended family from cognizance of shortcomings in their own competitive abilities (despite all the emphasis in pressuring young men, through rites of passage, that they will become suitable suitors for women and protectors of lineage). That is one reason why the culture wars and even “clash of civilizations” has become so emotional with some people. Sexual attraction usually experienced (especially by men) as having self-serving purposes (that may become judgmental), until a social context gives it meaning (especially openness to new life) that benefits others. That's one reason why the rituals of dating, courtship and marriage used to involve so much "non rational" pampering.

On balance, it is a difficult controversy whether the social supports of marriage are really best for the relationships for their own sake. We don’t like to admit that a lot of people get married and have children because they think that they have to.

Correlated post today: Will the military DADT policy finally fall? Entry here.

Picture: a couple generations ago, a man would fix a woman's car. Maybe not so much today. Ironically, this picture was taken at Washington DC LGBT Pride 2007.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Mystery novelist has to ward off Internet attacker


On Thursday June 7, Anderson Cooper, on his 360 program on CNN, conducted a brief interview with mystery novelist Patricia Cornwell, who had left Richmond, VA in 2001 after repeated “cyberstalking” by another man who made all kinds of accusations against her. She fears that his accusations could entice other unstable people to act against her, as she said in the interview. She has sued the man for libel, gotten various desist letters and court orders to have the defamatory material moved. Apparently the man went to Europe and it is difficult to enforce the orders.

There are several major accounts on the Internet. The Boston Globe has a factual story by David Mehegan on June 7, link here.
The Writers’ Blog has a story about the libel suit from May 23, here.

This story reminds one of a number of earlier media reports about “reputation defense” which I have discussed on this blog (such as on Nov. 30 – look at the archive). Various companies have been set up that offer to monitor reputation for a fee and try to have damaging material removed, although it is not yet clear how effective these voluntary efforts are. One major area where there are many problems has been social networking sites, and this sometimes has included false profiles put up by a third party in someone’s name.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

EFF attorney weighs in on copyright infringement on campus, and challenges music industry


Fred von Lohmann, a senior staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation in San Francisco, has an interesting op-ed “Copyright Silliness on Campus” in The Washington Post today (June 6) on p. A23, at this link.

I’ve taken up the controversy over lawsuits against home users (and college students) for illegal downloads and copyright infringement on this blog, on May 17 and March 30. (Check the archive links.) Lohmann makes the interesting comment, “At its heart, this is a fight about money, not morality.” Lohmann suggests that the music industry arrange with universities to set up accounts (charged on student fees) that would allow unlimited downloads that don’t expire, and that work on all devices (including iPod) and don’t run into copy protection and DRM. Some music companies and movie studios are beginning to experiment with elimination DRM copy protection, and that may be an encouraging sign.

But students should not simply have this taken care of for them by schools. They should know what they are paying for. Otherwise they will have the idea reinforced that all content is essentially “free”.

One thing that confounds this problem is that so many content providers (myself included) do offer a lot of free content on the Internet, in order to be “noticed.” This is the “free entry” mechanism. This helps encourage the notion that stuff is “free.” One of the concerns in the MGM v. Grokster case (decided 2005) was that the downstream liability issue could spread to other issues, like ISPs (although provisions of the 1996 CDA might have prevented that). Fortunately, the Court kept the downstream liability provisions narrow, to apply to businesses whose model depending upon encouraging infringement.

Music providers and movie studios need to work on providing work legally and packaged in ways that consumers want. They have been intransigent on this in the past (with over priced CD’s and the lack of availability of singles, but this has been changing). Netflix and Blockbuster certainly make high quality movie viewing available at home legally for low prices, and the issue is getting DVD’s made of more films and getting them out as soon as the theatrical runs are over. I am still waiting for the DVD of “Camp Out” (about a summer camp for gay Christians, as a reply to “Jesus Camp”), which I missed the one theatrical screening of.

On June 7, NBC4 in Washington DC reported that lala.com has a new model to compete with iTunes, and has paid a huge royalty to the music industry in order to offer instant "free" songs, intending ad revenue or making targeted music sales. Maybe this idea will help resolve this problem.

Update: 6/7/2007

Two important postings on other blogs:
Trademark Dilution Revision Act of 2006 passed.

Substitute teacher convicted for endangering minors because of a malware problem on a school system's network

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Virtual Reality, blogs, indentifiable people, and torts


The virtual world of the Internet and now virtual reality sites, where reality can be pretended and simulated, is leading to further legal conundrums. Today Alan Sipress has a story in The Washington Post “Does Virtual Reality Really Need a Sheriff?: Reach of Law Enforcement Is Tested When Online Fantasy Games Turn Sordid” at this link. There have been legal controversies of simulated cp, the laws against which may be unconstitutional in the U,S. but which may be illegal in other countries. There are controversies associated with Linden Lab ‘s “Second Life” because real people can be represented in virtual fictitious settings that others would perceive as defamatory.

But now there is a major case where an anonymous blog with unnamed characters has still led to litigation, however speculative, over invasion of privacy. It is well known that defamation or invasion of privacy suits have occurred over novels that represented real people who could be identified. In theory the same would be true of the Internet and blogs, and this is starting to happen, apparently. Recently media outlets have discussed the litigation against Jessica Cutler, who was sued by a lawyer who worked for the same Senator Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) as she, after she described sexual adventures in detail in her blog with someone who as identifiably him. The wiki story is here. Her misadventures were made into a “novel” called “The Washingtonienne” to be published by Hyperion (Disney, the same company that published Chandler Burr’s “A Separate Creation” about homosexuality and biology.) There was a story in The Washington Post by Andrew McClurg Aug. 15, 2005, “online lessons on unprotected sex”, that demonstrate the difficulty of such litigation if the claims are true (not libelous). The legal doctrine of invasion of privacy, and disclosure of non-newsworthy but embarrassing (and true) facts about someone that the public would find highly offensive. McClurg humorously writes, “ask potential partners if they own a computer.”

Jessica Cutler had even used a pseudonym herself (Washingtonienne) but her claims were amplified by the gossip site Wonkette.

Update: June 4, 2007: Lawsuit by teacher for movie that allegedly defames him


Indiana math teacher Daniel Clevenger has sued four secondary school students who made a film called "The Teddy Bear Master" that he claims names and defames him. When the story of the film is told, it is ambiguous as to what it really means and whether it really is defamation. The AP story by Rick Callahan is "Ind. teacher claims film defamed him," and appears in the Evansville Courier Press May 31, here. The visitor is welcome to judge the AP story for herself as to whether this is really defamation. The film ran short of 80 min and it is not clear how it was exhibited or distributed from the story. The students were able to challenge their expulsion on First Amendment grounds. There have been a few cases before where teachers and administrators have been defamed by students making up fake Myspace or social networking site pages impersonating them; one of these was discussed on the Dr. Phil show last December. But this may be the first defamation lawsuit by a teacher against high school age students and their parents, in the conventional idea of media defamation. (It is not completely clear from the story if the school is private or public, but the website for the C. A. Beard Schools makes it appear to be public.)