Thursday, March 31, 2011

New mass litigation technique in P2P cases: sue all individuals in a "swarm" over one video

Here’s a new twist in the mass litigation saga.  Liberty Media, distributor of “adult” video, is suing all the members of a P2P “swarm” connected to the sharing of a particular pirated video.  This seems to be a new tactic to get around court objections to filing one suit against thousands of unrelated individuals, as in the US Copyright Group litigation.

There is a Digital Media Wire story by Mark Hefflinger on the matter March 30, link here

Individual defendants in such a case may obviously be less eager to litigate in public. 

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

University of Minnesota publishes study on effect of P2P on music industry: the "Post Napster" world

The Carlson School and Department of Economics at the University of Minnesota has published a study by Joel Waldfogel on the relevance of P2P file sharing and weakened copyright protections in the release of new music and new artists.  The title is “Bye, Bye Miss American Pie: The Supply of New Recorded Music Since Napster”, link here. Electronic Frontier Foundation recommended this paper in a tweet recently. 

The author gives a comparison to the effect of radio on the market for records in the 1940s and 1950s, when record companies paid radio stations to promote their releases, a practice called payola that would be outlawed in 1960.  This all happened very much during my own coming of age.

The profitability of releasing new music may well be an issue for record companies today, as so many releases sell relatively few CD’s or MP3 downloads.  But the cost of creation and production is less because of technology, and innovative young composers report that they can work alone much more quickly than could artists in the past and produce work of professional quality.

Furthermore, P2P and other Internet mechanisms may help new artists distribute their work legitimately, without the need for an “establishment”, and I wonder if this is the real existential threat: low cost competition to an industry used to finite supply and huge compensation for stars.

The analysis may not carry over well to motion pictures, where industry considers piracy such a big threat, since movies inherently cost a lot more to make and distribute. Nevertheless, some influential films have been produced in recent years for very low budgets, and the old studio system (and festivals that support them) have faced serious competition.   Columbia professor Tim Wu has analyzed the trend for media and communications monopolies and hegemonies to reinvent themselves in his book “The Master Switch”, reviewed on my Books blog Jan. 30, 2011.

I got to know "The U" campus pretty well in my six years in Minneapolis from 1997-2003. 

Also, here's a link to a distantly related article by the American Music Center.

Monday, March 28, 2011

"Color": instant social networking by your cell phone, like it or not

Here’s the ultimate in “social networking”, without even the need for a structure like “friending”. It’s called “Color” (link), a startup that definitely is not in black and white.  It’s supposed to be announced March 31 for Android and iPhones, according to founder Bill Nguyen, who reportedly has raised $40 million in startup investors.

Color will connect users who sign up for the app with their phones and let others follow them and share their experiences.  It’s a bit like putting a camera around your cat’s neck and making a movie about his roamings. (A Seattle couple really did that.) The Huffington Post (Bianca Boster story link) calls it a social network for the “Post PC” and “Post Privacy” world. Divorce lawyers and private eye's will love this. 

Even a news source in China calls it a social network for the here and now, link. Will Facebook come up with a counter to this?

I would wonder about the copyright implications. Would you have the legal right to post an image that appeared on your phone taken by someone else and transmitted by the application?

Friday, March 25, 2011

School districts struggle with social media policies

The Washington Post, in a front page story by Kevin Sieff, reports Friday morning (March 25) about a move by the Virginia Board of Education to require school districts to develop policies regarding social media use by teachers. The link is here.  The policy would not by itself involve the use of social media at home until it affects the school.

Teachers have found that Facebook groups can be used to convey assignments without requiring friending.  Facebook, remember, was born in a university campus environment.  But it’s widespread use for “everything” could invite abuses and security problems.

Teachers have also found that Facebook can provide a convenient platform for project assignments, such as creating profiles for characters from Chaucer's Canterbury Tales (or Shakespeare plays). I've recently recommended a classic film "A Canterbury Tale" for English teachers on my movies blog.

Twitter is interesting because it encourages terse writing. A number of people, some of them media personalities like Ashton Kutcher and Anderson Cooper (and many others), have developed followings because of their ability to communicate so much in fewer than 140 characters.  

Some smaller companies like Schoology), Moodle and Blackboard provide for a much more easily regulated form of social networking.

Somewhere around 2005 or so, schools started discovering that students could find web postings authored by teachers at home with search engines, just as social networking sites were starting to become popular.  Myspace was more popular then.  Shortly thereafter, media and industry discussions (and entrepreneurial responses) about the problem of “online reputation” ensued.  

Sometime around 2007 or 2008, after I had stopped subbing, I had some email discussions with the Arlington (VA) school system about getting involved in training in "online reputation".  It got bogged down in procedural bureaucracy with all the state regulations of how content can be developed for schools.  But I may get back to this initiative again.  

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Federal judge says that copying entire article can sometimes be Fair Use (Righthaven cases)

Ars Technica, in an article  by Nate Anderson, has a "Law and Disorder" story on the Righthaven copyright troll mess. Recently, Righthaven lost a big case on Fair Use grounds against the Oregon-based CIO, Center for Intercultural Organizing (link ). 

What’s interesting here is that a federal judge took it upon himself to argue Fair Use, and maintained that the doctrine could apply even for entire article reproduction in some cases, such as if the readership were different and the copying website were non-profit.  This could mean that Righthaven’s strategy is making copyright less secure for small newspapers, not more.  It could also mean that a larger paper might more easily enforce a no-copy policy if it already has national reach.  The judge also apparently questioned the champetry in Righthaven’s strategy, also.

Anderson also points out that sometimes Righthaven has sued people who had developed the original content facts, which LVJR or other small papers then wrote up.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Washington Post ombudsman: Mince no words on plagiarism, in view of the demands of journalism as a profession

The Washington Post’s new ombudsman, Patrick P. Pexton, has a column Sunday March 20, p A19, “The damage done by Post reporter Sari Harwitz’s plagiarism”, link here

Pexton minces no words, and calls plagiarism “theft”.  His essay points out the work that reporters do, gathering original material (I lost the chance to do that last night by falling ill right before the SLDN Annual Dinner – see my GLBT blog), and the tight deadlines that they must meet in submitting their stories, with perfection and fact checking.  Even for a professional journalist, the possibility that one could skirt a deadline by cutting and pasting, might prove too much, just once.

I don’t think Pexton would say this bluntly, but it certainly makes informal blogging look lazy in comparison. Of course, usually, blogging makes a lot less than a reporter’s salary (not always – look at Heather Armstrong and “dooce”). That could help explain the desire of some smaller newspapers to go after bloggers who repost their stories (although the “champerty” of Righthaven is another matter).

It also can help explain the difference in business models for newspapers -- to put up "paywalls" for formerly free content online.  A subscription to a global paper may work for the consumer, but not for a small local paper which perceives injury from the low cost, no overhead competition from bloggers. (The New York Times recently announced the start of its paywall; the Washington Post has not done so, at least yet.)

Paid reporters must maintain public objectivity or neutrality, too.  Back in the 1990s, a reporter for a Tacoma, WA paper was transferred to copy-editing when her public advocacy of lesbian rights became known, and at the time, a state court upheld the action. Maybe that wouldn’t happen today, but it makes a point.

Friday, March 18, 2011

New York Times to implement a paywall by end of March for most visitors

The New York Times will implement a paywall for most US visitors at the end of March, 2011. A paid subscription will be required after visiting 20 articles a months. The Atlantic (with the Financial Times) has an interview today here.

The New York Times has its own "analytic geometry" story here.    The cheapest plan is $15 every "Februaru month" of four weeks ($195 a year). 

 Print subscribers would get online content "free" (except on e-books).  Again, one main objection to print subscription is that it must be stopped for vacations.  Daily delivery is $7.40 a week in most locations (a considerable discount from newsstand prices). 

Other newspapers will surely look at the paywall.  Having one could help newspapers enforce copyright claims (as we’ve discussed with Righthaven).

Originally, the plan was to take effect January 1, 2011, so readers got a bit of a break. But the paywall goes into effect just as the news gets as scary as ever.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Washington Post suspends reporter for plagiarism; new Facebook pages track Righthaven

In these days where bloggers are getting sued by Righthaven for reproducing stories from certain newspapers, a Washington Post investigative reporter, Sari Horwitz, was suspended by the Post for three months for cutting pasting some sections of stories about the investigation of Jared Loughner that had appeared first in the Arizona Republic, in stories that she presented as her own to the Post.  The link for the story is here

The Post story, by Paul Farhi, puts the issue in terms of plagiarism, and doesn’t mention the controversy going on with bloggers and Righthaven, and the big questions of copyright, Fair Use, and champerty.  

As far as I can tell, the Arizona Republic is not one of the newspapers using Righthaven.

There is a new website “Righthaven Lawsuits” here  

There are also two new Facebook groups, a “Boycott the Denver Post …” page  that mistakenly lists the Las Vegas Sun as one of the plaintiffs; it’s the Las Vegas Journal-Review;  the Las Vegas Sun, with Steve Green, has done among the most comprehensive reporting.  There is also a “Righthaven Insideer” page.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Microsoft offers stronger "do not track" with IE9, on Vista and W7 only; still opt-out; Stanford prof questions effect on Internet business models

Microsoft has implemented a strong (but still opt-out) “do not track” in IE9 and proposed two components of it that could become a computing standard that advertisers must honor.

There are various stories, including WSJ (tweeted by EFF), but the Betanews story summarizes it here.   One part of the standard proactively maintains white and black lists of servers that a web user allows, and another sets preferences, recognizable by Javascript (as well as java and c++  or c# libraries) that webservers will be expected to honor.

W3C has a report on Microsoft’s submission here.

CBS News has a detailed writeup that explains that this works only on Vista or Windows 7, not XP, which is limited to IE8, forever, link

“Do Not Track” has its own site here.

The Center for Internet and Society at Stanford has an interesting article by Jonathan Mayer, “Do-No-Track is not support to ad-supported business” here  because it affects only behavioral advertising, which is about 4% of the ad market, and because it is “opt-out” it does not eliminate it, but it might cap it.  I would still wonder how it could affect small website and blog operators who may depend more on advertisers who do use it, and I wonder how it could affect Facebook.

Internet businesses have developed business models that are predicated on a more “individualistic” value system than many people are ready for.  Tracking by IP address probably doesn’t affect most people significantly, but it might for people interdependent on more complex social arrangements.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Liberal pastor talks about "what we need rules for" (Arlington VA - Trinity Presbyterian)

Today, Sunday March 13, Rev. Judith Fulp-Eickstaedt at the normally liberal Trinity Presbyterian Church in Arlington, VA gave a stinging beginning-of-Lent sermon “Temptation: Standing Firm in a Culture of Lies”.  The scriptural reference was, of course, Matthew 4, the Temptation.

And the gist of the sermon is the central Paradox of Christianity: no human being can be “right” on his own, or is entitled to develop complete knowledge on his own; everyone needs God. Call it “the Knowledge of Good and Evil Problem”.  David Day had spoken about it at MCC Dallas one Sunday night around March 1982 (long before the days of the Cathedral of Hope).  Today, Fulp-Eickstaedt hit quite hard common attitudes usually praised in individualistic culture: get that next personal accomplishment before having a family, or expect personal freedom at any cost. 

But “needing God” has an earthly correspondence: one needs Others, in the sense that one needs to meet the real needs of others and have a real stake in the future of his or her family and community. This is a moral area separate  from “personal responsibility” as modern liberal democracy (and especially Cato-style libertarianism) puts it. It has nothing to do with making choices. It presumes we all must “belong” after all.

It’s easy to think of other examples of this point of critical attention. In the gay horror short “Bugcrush”, at a climactic moment, the psychopathic Grant says “I can do whatever I want”, twice. That’s the lie. (I leave aside how consensual that situation is or isn’t.)  Around 2004, Mother Jones backed up an article by James McKibben about “hyper-individualism v. solidarity” with a cover that read “A Nation of Ones: How We Lost the Common Ground” – yet I remember back in the 1980s that MCC Dallas Pastor Don Eastman used to talk favorably about the idea of a “team of one.”  In the past couple of decades, we’ve come to deal with the problem of “asymmetry”, the idea that one person, without permission of others, may, if smart enough, innovate something that changes the “rules of the game” for everybody, and creates new risks.  Welcome to the world of Facebook.  Michael Ruppert, in the interview film “Collapse”, says that rugged individualism is doomed; to survive sustainably, people will have to learn being anchored in families and tribes again, very locally. We start to see the point of youth-group's 30-hour-fasts and the old Catholic idea of sacrificing for Lent. 

So we’re coming around to expecting a new kinds of integrity: the idea that one has real accountability to others, before he starts making any choices at all.  That is how “it used to be” a few decades ago.  Conflicts between “tribes” for resources were for the official politicians – elected in a democracy. That led to enormous corruption and abuses of power (like Watergate).  But today, we might be able to instill a similar ethic; since everything is so public (with Wikileaks around), no tribal leader can get away with it.

Fulp-Eickstaedt spoke of the need for some rules, even in a Garden of Eden that had started with so much freedom. One rule was something like the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle (of the play and film “Copenhagen”).  In the world of “social conservatism” (more moderate forms of authoritarianism, trying to avoid both fascism and communism and preserve a relative freedom within a family or community unit), rules are designed to prevent unusually predisposed and asymmetrically talented people from cheating the system, or from being able to benefit by getting out of things that are unusually disquieting or even humiliating for them to face. This does bear on the “question” of homosexuality. (“Is that a question?”) The Vatican insists that gender non-conformity is one of many immutable “challenges” that God or nature must allow in a living world but that the individual must resist (as a special cross) to avoid passing serious disadvantage onto others who may be even more disadvantaged but out of sight (such as low-wage workers who do the things we can’t face).   Even so, TPC has always been outwardly liberal, sympathetic to gay marriage and ending “don’t ask don’t tell” as a matter of fairness and equality. The “lies” (in the view of this sermon, and in books like Lisa Dodson’s “The Moral Underground”) seem to be those of big business, that we can build financial pyramids and get something for nothing, or get rich of the skin or the disadvantaged, or remain blissfully ignorant of “inconvenient truths” about our environment and not unlimited natural and now demographic resources. Social conservatives, remember, want to take moral finger-pointing away from institutions and companies and pin them back on every individual.  If no individual can cheat, then inequalities will melt away. If only the “rules” could be so easily enforced.

In summary, it seems that the New Testament calls on individuals to become alert and responsive to others before or at least while they seek out their own personal goals and deploy their own talents. That's separate and happens even before making choices, not just taking responsibility for choices afterward. Family responsibility can exist even without the acts to make babies. The Left tends to think that this moral responsibility primarily belongs to the wealthy and those in power (or those who benefit too much from "the system"), but the Right, or at least social conservatives, think this belongs to everyone. It may be true that in a world of asymmetry and exposure to environmental and demographic change, we may not be able to sustain our democracy without becoming more "social" in person again as well as on an abstract network. 

Friday, March 11, 2011

EFF files major papers challening Righthaven champerty with LVJR cases

Here’s another piece on the Righthaven mess, by Keith Hansen, at “American Free Speech”, with link. He speaks of Righthaven as a “copyright holding company”, an interesting mix of words. He also discusses the Brian Hill case.

Steve Green has a March 4 Las Vegas Sun story, in which he describes an EFF filing of “heavily redacted” court papers regarding the arrangement between Righthaven and the Las Vegas Journal Review, (website url) here. The papers would arguably show that the plaintiffs do not have a valid economic interest in the papers they have “sold” to Righthaven.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

A note about "upward affiliation" and dependencies

I’ve talked about the likelihood of a new “social contract  (Feb.  7) related to sustainability – that everyone shares a stake in the future after they’re gone -- concerns in terms of the “paying your dues” notion,  but the discussion often bifurcates toward concern over the meaning attributed by others to someone’s interpersonal relationships – especially, in my life, mine, and the concerns over the ethics of “upward affiliation.”

But I need to look back to the source of this. Since Mother passed away, I’ve found all of my own reports cards – handwritten – in first grade (1949), the teacher painstaking wrote every kid’s performance in cursive writing on notebook paper!   Particularly with teachers in the First and then Third and Fourth grades (same teacher), there are pointed concerns about my overdependence on others.  I’m not sure specifically what classroom activities provokes these comments.  True, they could be related to my falling behind athletically and in terms of gender-specific mechanical skills. I had the impression that others were demanding performance from me in areas related to their need to see me “conform” or to be available for sharing the fungible risks of masculinity (preparedness for war through team sports, etc).  These took up brain space for things I knew I could shine at (like music). 

This can translate into adult concerns about moral karma.  No, I don’t change my own oil or tires.  But there comes a point where our dependence on others, even  through the market economy, to do the jobs we are too physically lazy or incompetent to do ourselves, raises sustainability issues.  (Think how we depend on utility linemen to restore power after winter storms.) Not everything that is important can be bought or sold with fiat money with impunity.

All of this, including growing up in an era of a male-only military draft with a social policy (student deferments and “good deals” from the Army at enlistment for the educated) produced an attitude on my part about meritocracy, that people had to prove themselves worthy competitively. During the Vietnam era, young men who did not wound up involuntarily in infantry units in Vietnam, exposed to risks not of their own choosing (I remember drill sergeants talking about one-in-three night patrols.) 

So I, as a matter of “logical reaction”, developed and then nurtured my attitude of “upward affiliation” (George Gilder used that term in his “Men and Marriage” book in 1986). Before I would bond “emotionally” to someone, the person had to “deserve” the emotion, and “belong” in the world. There was no point in investing real feeling in someone who had failed or was lost.  What had been demanded of me could rightfully be demanded of others.  And this fits the libertarian notion of the use of consent in “choosing” personal relationships; no one is ever harmed or spoken of badly. Some people are left out. The market is supposed to balance this. But in practice, it seems that if everyone did this, there would be no place in the world for the less able, and a supposedly liberal society could migrate back to ancient Sparta, or worse.  It was the way I managed my attentions that was of such concern by the time of my William and Mary expulsion, and subsequent period at NIH, not how well I could do manual “chores”.  The emphasis had shifted.

Because of my background and how I reacted to such, it wasn't "real" to me that someone else, less intact, would benefit from connection to me as "a person", and that such a process would constitute a valid personal goal. (After WM, my father said, the psychiatrist had said, "you don't see people as people" but as "foils".) Such an emotional focus would seem to become a prerequisite for accepting and keeping an intimate partner in your (my) life as everyone aged and encountered inevitable problems. On the surface, that sounds like the way the Vatican talks about "complementarity" necessary for lasting (heterosexual) marriage. But it would be necessary for any relationship to sustain itself long enough to raise children. 

Of course, we know that history from the late 60s on to the present day encouraged hyper-individualism and private choice; but choice started having more public significance in an age that saw the Internet (Facebook) and 9/11, all in the space of a few years. 

We could say that “family” is supposed to give value to all people, and that may be more true today with lengthened life spans and periods of disability at end of life.  But in earlier generations that was not so completely the case. People could be tucked away, kept out of sight, by overprotective and squeamish families. That’s why the Gospels have such a nuanced view of family, personal, and community responsibility, in such a way as to seem to call for double standards. 

Back in third grade in 1952, we did have an after-school religion class; that was “allowed” then (three decade before prayer in public schools could be debated by the “Moral Majority”). I recall that the teacher once asked us to confide anything we wanted on an art-work sheet we would turn in. I wrote down “I have idols.”

Monday, March 07, 2011

New Mexico police department revisits social media policy, setting example for other local government agencies

Recently, the Albuquerque, NM police department announced that it would develop a social media policy (or blogging policy) for police officers and employees after an incident where a police officer characterized his job as “human waste disposal.”

The department says that when an officer speaks on Facebook and is identifiable as a police officer, he is representing the department, and inappropriate comments could undermine future testimony in court and jeopardize legitimate prosecutions.

This doesn’t sound remarkable to me. But almost any statement of opinion about some group of people might be construed as hostility and create this sort of future legal jeopardy.

I discussed this “conflict of interest” issue on my “IT Jobs” blog today.

I also found that several local newspapers in the Southwest had already archived the story, or require subscription to read. It appears that, in line with recent concerns about newspaper loss of revenue and the whole Righthaven mess (suing bloggers -- most of Righthaven's potential clients seem to be smaller newspapers belonging to certain media companies), some small newspapers are taking the strategy of not sharing local stories (even those of potential national importance in setting examples) as openly with the major national media sources, partly so that other low-cost or free online journals can’t as easily “compete” with them. This is their right, but it sounds foolish.

However TV station KOB had an embeddable clip:

Eric Schmidt talks about newspaper business models in an "Atlantic Wire" piece "What I Read" where he talks about "freemium" plans and suggests that Google and other providers can help newspapers experiment with legitimate strategies for earning content-based revenue (from ads and subscriptions). The link is here. The same could be true for bloggers.

Picture: no, that's not White Sands, it's a Delaware Beach; I did visit White Sands in Jan. 1979; it looked like snow. 

Friday, March 04, 2011

Potomac Tech Wire holds breakfast conference on "Social Media Outlook 2011"

I attended the Potomac Tech Wire Social Media Outlook 2001 Breakfast at the Tyson’s Ritz Cartlon this morning. The link is here
The weather was perfect (no windstorm, like we had at a breakfast a couple years ago); but somehow, as I pulled in to the hotel, Taylor Swift’s “Mine” came on to Sirius XM, and her voice reminded me that I had forgotten my digital camera.  Cell phone photos are a joke, so I had to do the next best thing for visuals today.

Addie Connor from Social Code was keynote speaker. The company is a subsidiary of the Washington Post. It works mainly with Facebook. She discussed generating Fans at High Volume sites, and claimed that some clients received over 1.8 million Wall impressions in 12 days. She said Facebook stands out in the ability to give advertisers statistical information that actually improves sales. (Maybe that’s why FB makes so much money!  It’s Donald Trump “Apprentice” type of reasoning.)

This would mainly work for small companies, or particularly agents for larger companies (like insurance agents).  They also work heavily for non-profits and particularly for charities. Another client was a Las Vegas casino that wanted to know which shows and entertainment acts appealed to customers, to design travel packages (in fact, I remember seeing an “Atlantis” show at the Luxor back in 1997!). She called this “developing customer intelligence”.

The regulatory environment can seriously affect the way they serve ads; for example they can’t show dollar donations.

One question from the audience pointed out  “a Fan is not a paying customer.”

Rohit Bhargava of Ogilvy introduced the panel, to discuss “seven trends in social media”.  He introduced the concept of “social currency” – “like, dislike, and unlike”.  (Is this the first sign of a migration from a fiat economy – an idea for science fiction.)   He talked about “curation” as opposed to “content creation” (“how to Blog”).  “What you’re an expert in isn’t necessarily what you do for a living.”

He discussed Path, a social network that limits or rations the number of friends to 50. 

He also discussed the notion of “approachable celebrity”, not risking restraining orders.

Here is the list of panel members:
Rohit Bhargava, SVP, Strategy & Marketing, Ogilvy 360 Digital Influence
Addie Connor, Director of Advertising, SocialCode
Jodi Gersh, social media manager, Gannett
Chris McGill, SVP Strategic Partnerships, UberMedia
Scott Silverman, co-founder, ifeelgoods
Debbie Weil, author and social media consultant
Moderator: Paul Sherman

Another panelist talked about Facebook credits as currency.

Debbie said that blogs (publications) are still the heart of social initiation – a Web 1.0 view from the 90s!
There was some concern about overdependence on the social aspect, and allowing a company (or “person”), however benevolent, to have so much access to behavioral data.

Another quote:  “Tweeing in the woods: if no one hears you, what’s the point?”

The use of LinkedIn as a site to narrow the list of contacts who can help professionally was mentioned.
The Baby Boomer have recently started using Facebook and other social media in large numbers, and are catching up with the Kids.

40% of time on Facebook is spent playing “social games”.  not just Bingo. Try Cityville.

There are “DC Tech” and “DC Social Media” Faebook groups.
I asked about “Do not track” and also about Righthaven.

Addie said that “do not track” may not be such a threat because companies can build aggregate data for advertisers without it, and Rohit said that tracking is “lazy marketing.”

I also asked about Righthaven, as part of the question. No one on the panel responded to it.  I also discussed frivolous litigation with someone from the Washington Post in the networking outside. I hope I see more coverage of it.

There was a question about “Trust” (and online reputation) in social media from the audience.

After the group closed, two people came up to me and asked how to look up the Righthaven matter. 

Wikipedia attribution link for Tyson's picture. 

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Rodney King incident: a high point for citizen journalism, just before the Internet took off?

Poynter has a great story on the history of citizen journalism, going back to pre-Internet days, with some details about Rodney King in 1991. There have been legal issues and lawsuits before, and there has always been some controversy as to whether major media outlets should get “citizen journalism” for free, with link here. MSN and Bing featured the story Thursday morning. The story does cover the significance of self-publication and self-distribution. 

The best citizen journalism presents original facts, discovered by the journalists.  The next best thing is to present new connections between previously known facts, the idea of “connecting the dots” (or “keeping them honest”).

The least good thing is personal opinions for their own sake, or a focus on one’s own participation in victimization.

Does good reporting create an end in itself?  Or does someone need to have some other purpose to earn standing, “the privilege of being listened to,” an old idea that seems to come back. 

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Don't over-depend on "The Cloud", especially somebody else's "free" services

Computer World seems to have the latest news on the Gmail outage reported this past weekend, with the basic link here, and it plays Devil's Advocate. 

Gmail has its own account of the problem, dated yesterday, here.  (Gmail has been praised for being one of the first services to use https.)  And the BBC has a story making a rather tenuous comparison to an outage for a British telecomm company Vodafone, here

As various other media reports say today, there’s something to be said to taking some responsibility for the safety of your own email and blog content, especially if you use “free services” like Gmail, Blogger or Wordpress, and the like.  This question also applies to use of “free services” for publishing and social networking. These are, after all, ad (and probably “tracking”) dependent to be profitable.
There’s an argument as to whether it’s better to pay for your own space, and then map your blogs to it (and have your own licensed copies of the publishing software in that space rather than depend on the “free service”).  Right now, this is still cheap. And you may get more “due process” in case of a mishap or false accusation (of spam). 

In fact, it’s getting common to use “cloud” backup services (Carbonite, Mozy, and now Webroot).  These aren’t free; you pay for them, but they are not perfect.  What I find is that these are still much less convenient to use that your own flash-drive backups if you have a hard drive failure or have a computer rebuilt.  At one time, I had Webroot, and then that backup failed on a Vista machine and I started using Carbonite. Now that I have a new version of Webroot security on Windows 7, I’m back to Webroot. It’s too much work to keep track of so many backups and use bandwidth to run them all the time.

So, I make my own copies of my own blog content and flat site content, save them on USB PNY flash drives, and let the Cloud back them up, too.  I sometimes keep one flash drive in a safe deposit box, if I travel.  It wouldn’t be a bad idea to make copies of Facebook and Twitter posts and back them up separately.

Emails I usually don’t need to keep  (media reports talk about how people saved their own AOL email in the good old days); but the few that I do need get the same treatment: manual backup to flash drives from a “private memos” directory (stuff I don’t publish quickly, which amounts to a lot more than “you” would think from what I do post).  

But, beware that "The Cloud" doesn't morph into Steve McQueen's "The Blob".  Or, "it crawled out of the woodwork."