Thursday, March 29, 2012

Righthaven implosion continues; Watch the metaphor for "The Bike Lesson"

Well, the Righthaven business has gotten so silly that now there is a spoof on “Gametime IP:  Lawyers practice so their clients’ IP is ready for game day”.  That is, IP means “intellectual property”. The satire is a reference to the children’s book “The Bike Lesson”, as a metaphor for “Dickinson Wight Partner (and Righthaven CEO) Steve Gibson on IP Moneitization”, here. (How about continuing the comparison to Vittorio Di Sica's 1948 classic film "Bicycle Thieves"?)

I can only say that as a 7 year old, I was afraid to ride a bike and used a tricycle for a long time.  And the new bike in my garage is still underutilized.  I ought to be able to use it to get into the City and get home without the unreliable Metro and without waiting for taxis.  And what about all night political protests to cover in blogs the next day?

And I scowl with disapproval on Twitter at bad biker behavior -- approaching intersections from the wrong way so that right-turning motorists can't see them in time.  (Or just riding on the wrong side because it seems brave.)  And do competitive cyclists really need to shave their arms and legs?  Does .01% of wind resistance really matter?  

So much for making fun of Righthaven with biker metaphors.  

The Righthaven Victims site  (now its own space)  says that Righthaven has been ordered to pay over $195000 in judgments and fines so far. 

In early March, according to Steve Green of “Vegas Inc”, a federal judge stripped Righthaven of its remaining copyrights (story).  It’s been a long time since Righthaven has claimed any more “victims”.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

FTC privacy recommendations are underwhelming, but that's OK for a lot of us

The Federal Trade Commission is urging Congress to enact laws that would require data brokers to disclose what personal information they buy and sell about consumers.  However the FTC is not recommending requiring mandatory anti-tracking buttons, although all major browsers are now offering this opportunity voluntarily.
Cecilia Kang’s in the March 27 Washington Post is here.  

As a whole, Silicon Valley companies sounded relieved that the rules were more like those of a 4-way-stop sign and a road closure.

People who share computers with family members (or parents with teens to supervise) are much more sensitive to this topic than someone like me is.  

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Washington Post not likey to follow NYTimes with a paywall

Patrick B. Pexton, Washington Post ombudsman, writes today that isn’t likely that the Washington Post will follow the New York Times and implement a subscriber paywall soon, link here 

He gives some analysis on how a big newspaper like the Post has to operate to make money, and online subscriptions don’t come close to print or online ad revenue, and a newspaper really needs a huge online readership (maybe close to a million page requests a day with low enough bounce rate) to make subscription work.  Of course, advertisers probably look at things like bounce rate, too.   He says that the Post needs major IT overhaul --  which probably means doing a better job than the IT client world has done in the past ten years (all those companies that hire through agencies) of heeding legitimate concerns professionals have of their career progress.  I know that from my own experience.

The tone of his op-ed suggests skepticism that the NYTimes paywall really makes that much money.
As I’ve noted before, I’m very concerned about this number-driven attitude that all media companies seem to have now. 

Curiously, a number of smaller newspapers (some of the kind that got involved with Righthaven) have some ludicrously expensive paywalls. Don't they want readers?
Read "it" and don’t weep.

Picture: Lipstick Building, NYC. Where did Bernie Madoff "live"?

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Embeds of YouTube videos suddenly not working

I’m noticing a problem today in viewing YouTube embeds on any site (Blogger, Wordpress, flat sites).  It seems that a URL inside an iframe like this:


it displays a blank panel with nothing viewable  because the “embed” subirectory is no longer reachable.

  I couldn’t find anything recent on the Forums about the problem.  (There's some stuff on Wordpress from Aug. 2011.)  What I found is if you go to “Page Source” (under  “Web Developer” in Firefox) and get the URL if the embed, you can view it in a separate window by replacing some characters in the URL as follows:  

In other words, replace “embed/” with “watch?v=”  and you can see it.
I’ll have to follow this and see if youTube solves it.  Obviously, none of us bloggers can replace all of our embed code easily.
Also, mobile versions of blogs don’t seem to be displaying this morning.

I would appreciate comments if someone knows what is going on with YouTube embeds.  It started Saturday morning.

Update: later Saturday:

Now, the YouTube embeds work "somtimes".  The key seems to be trying the specific URL with an ISP address on which it had not failed earlier today.  That is, it works in Internet cafes where you pay for computer time.  Just reloading the page doesn't bring it back if it failed earlier today. Trying with a different ISP (like a different MiFi card) on the same computer does work!

Also, the mobile blog works if you turn off mobile display (as a web page).  It fails when you reset it to mobile.  This may be related to the way it works with browser settings in a specific phone.  It may work on other phones.  (Analytics reports show that some people are reaching the blogs in mobile template even though I suddenly can't.)  I have a Motorola Verizon Droid.   It had worked before. I don't know what has changed.   Maybe the "www" should come off the URL.   Will investigate.

 Update: March 25 (late):

The blogs are working correctly on mobile devices, and the YouTube embeds appear to be working consistently now.   I don't know what really happened.   The problem occurred while I traveled to New York City, but I've not encountered these problems before "on the road".  And others reported the same problems with their sites.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Major ISP's may implement "6 strikes" rule this summer

Karl Bode is reporting  that major ISP’s in the US are considering a “six strikes” program which would disconnect customers who generate repeated complaints for illegal downloading, whether founded or not.  Here is the story.   Not all ISP’s are involved, and the public is being left out of the loop. The policies could go into effect July 1, 2012. ISP's say there will be a progressive education (like progressive discipline) program.

Corynne McSherry at Electronic Frontier Foundation asks, "what if users had been at the table?", here. 

This appears to be mostly (or entirely) directed at P2P and BitTorrent “paranormal” activity. But the ISP’s could “close the Amazon”.  

Thursday, March 22, 2012

No, I don't have time for "cookie-cutter marketing"

I keep getting calls about marketing my books, and I saw, they are old books, and don’t “deserve” the attention that would draw time and resources away from new stuff. 

We all call this “cookie-cutter marketing”.  But one problem is that book publishers, even cooperative ones, see the world through the book industry only, and seem to be reinforcing the idea that a book shouldn’t get out there unless it can generate and maintain numbers on its own.

It is true that a memoir set in the past and with no pretensions of making policy for the future can maintain a certain timelessness.   Someone who has accomplished a lot in a specific field and then writes a history of it could expect sales for a long time.  Permanence can be achieved by certain period fiction, or fantasy (Harry Potter).   Sci-fi is more likely to be influenced by rapid change in science.

But what I did back in 1997 was to take what started as a personal memoir and use a particular twist in it to influence the debate on a particular issue (gays in the military).  This got to be expanded to a much broader concern about liberty interests, and the idea that we have to face the idea that there is a certain tension between personal autonomy (and policy heavily based on individualized personal responsibility) and building and maintaining the social capital needed for sustainability.

So my stuff is an ever-changing product.  I got heavily into blogging in 2006, remained somewhat light on social media (keeping it “professional”), and now need to bring several media pieces together: fiction, screenwriting, music: all of these I have worked with in the past.  But I can’t devote that much to “old stuff” that is always changing (online).

Of course, there is another wrinkle in the way we look at this.  If someone doesn’t have to make an immediate profit from media he puts out, does he really have any responsibilities for others in life that would make him matter?   Forming families, having children, and doing things that raise social capital mean taking sides an accepting a certain amount of hucksterism as normal.   And, yes, with my particular circumstance and message, it seems I took myself out of that game a long time ago.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

My own novel and screenplay projects: Watch out for Angels, no matter how benevolent

I have several projects which I would like to turn into commercial success. 

The most important of these are a novel manuscript called “Angel’s Brother” (previously, “Brothers”), and a layered screenplay called “Do Ask Do Tell” after my book.  These two I will focus on the most this morning. There are some others, such as “Titanium”  (and its sequel “Prescience”), and “69 Minutes to Titan”.  There are older ones’ such as “Baltimore Is Missing” (entered into Project Greenlight in 2004) and even “Make the A-List”.

These projects all present characters discovering and facing existential challenges, so my first job in mapping out everything is to make sure that the grand design works. Yes, with my characters I play “god”, and I have to make sure that “god” has set up a consistent set of rules.  The laws of physics are about to be expanded.

Once you have the “Idea”, you have the specific Characters, and then you have the abstract political infrastructure around – yes, the US government, the secret right-wing establishment, the Army, etc.  In one of his books, Stephen King called this element “The Shop”.   And what is its purpose?  Does the right wing really want Armageddon so it can re-emerge in complete control?  That’s our fantasy, isn’t it?  Some Evangelicals probably want the Rapture of the Believers and the Tribulations (Post or Pre, I’m not sure).  It seems as though Establishment takes on a life of its own, generates and empowers (quite at the physical level) marriages, and takes care of families within a social structure, and excludes others while pretending to include and convert them.  There’s always a danger of slipping back into feudalism.

 And so why, then, would the “Shop” cover-up what it knows about UFO’s?   Is it just because it doesn’t want to lose control?  The “Shop” must believe things can purr along with some stability, even if aliens are perched out there, only 20 light years away (or even 69 light minutes away) ready to bring our history to a Finale.

So here’s the lowdown, folks.  The extraterrestrials are angels, and some of them walk among us.  We may think we recognize them.   I’m getting ahead of myself – this is about the book  (“Angel’s Brother”).  And they’re about to do a housecleaning of sorts.   They’re going to offer some people a new kind of vicarious immortality, but remove them from society as we know it.  In the meantime, the society that is left comprises much more social humans than we are today. It can sustain itself, in the wake of climate change and everything else.

The “immorality” comes through a kind of virus, which at first seems a bit like a retrovirus.  It seems to infect (through close personal contact) men with weaker circulatory systems, especially after they suddenly spend some time at higher altitudes or sometimes when exposed certain pollution.  The men sometimes seem rejuvenated  for  a while, and then crash and go through spectacular deaths, almost disintegrating.  But a “victim’s” soul  may sometimes be implanted into the mind of an “angel”, who then has memory contact with that person’s life – if he accepts the person.  The virus carries the information of the expired consciousness through the surface of a “microscopic black hole” embedded in trace heavy elements deep within the virus, almost like buckeyballs.

The concept of “consciousness transfer” (and perhaps "contraction") is an extension of reincarnation.  With the “usual” idea of reincarnation, a person starts developing awareness of the life of the person he/she reincarnates over time, through meditation. It’s a single-threaded process. But here it’s possible for the angel to consolidate memories of multiple people (even with overlapping lifetimes), whose own track of awareness is allowed to surface periodically for “exercise” periods, while in a kind of anesthetic unconsciousness at all other times.

As for the characters, there are many, and I’ve experimented with novels from the viewpoints of several of them, including one based on me, “Bill”.  But what I found was that readers (or potential moviegoers or even television series addicts)  will develop a hook for characters they “like” and identify with, people they would like to be like.   Everybody roots for Clark Kent in Smallville, right?  Or the two young men, as brothers, chasing family demons in “Supernatural”. 

So I have one character, Randy, a high school social studies teacher in Dallas, married with three kids (the oldest about 14), about 40, and just about at the end of his young adulthood physically.  He was an intelligence officer in the Army but left, and took in a second civilian career for “personal” reasons. But the government still uses him for “investigations” started during his service.  Once in a while, the school system hires a long term sub and he goes off on fishing expeditions, some of them related to “civilian defense reservists”.  He does help with emergencies like Katrina, usually without his family. But there’s a sinister thread to some of the assignmnts.  He’s long suspected the nature of the “enemy”.

As the book opens, he meets, in late Spring, a lean, attractive college senior named Sal, the other main character, while touring the Auschwitz grounds near Cracow.  Why is he even on a European Eurailpass odyssey by himself when he is a family man?  But his bosses have other assignments, to go up to Finland, and pick up a mysterious object at a camp near the Russian border, and simply bring it back to a secure location.  The “Shop” (the Army, in this case) will get it transported to storage in the US (Nevada), where other characters become involved with it. 
Many of the other characters come into play through a not-so-secret “Academy” in the West Texas prairie, which has its hooks into the civilian preparedness program from the 80s.  Refugees from yuppie layoffs have been learning new skills there, where there is a motto “there is no ‘they’”.   The buck stops with someone.  People there learn to become emergency technicians, getting things recovered from all kinds of imaginable disasters, including cyber attacks.

Besides “Bill” (with my history), there is “Ali”, an ex FBI agent who was seriously injured in a mysterious auto crash in Montana, and his physician wife, who has gotten wind of the existence of this “virus”.  Ali’s son, Amos, had committed a computer crime (planting a “logic bomb”) in the old mainframe world, and that had caused him to intersect with Bill.   Then there is Natalie Skiis, a young woman who has born three mystery kids, the youngest two of which periodically “go up”.  Natalie had once bought a condo from Bill and had to be bailed out. 

Sal, which finishing college and in ROTC in Dallas and suddenly not having to hide because of the repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell”, makes his income from working and teaching at the Academy.  Randy gets curious enough to go look at the Academy on his own and eventually starts getting more intimate with Sal, short of sex, but realizes he wants another “peak experience” before he is too old.  His passions in marriage are starting to slip, and his wife notices.  In time, Randy shows symptoms of the “disease”.  Randy had heard of Sal when teaching from a long term sub when Randy had been out while Sal made a high school field trip to Randy’s school.
Randy goes on a few  field trips, to Bilbao, where he is assaulted on the street and picks up another artifact, and then to Russia, where he “goes up” himself.  He finds out “what it is going to be like”.

In the meantime, Natalie’s youngest kid, Matt, a super jock type, has learned about Bill and asks Sal to “set him up”.  Sal arranges an intimated encounter in a motel near the Academy.  Bill, “infected”, becomes his “younger self” for a while, and Sal sets him off to retrieve a piece of unusual computer hardware (matching that retrieved by Randy in Russia) from a local retail store.  It seems to have been moved off the Academy grounds in order to provide a way to set some one up.  Bill “borrows it”, takes it back to the Academy, and transmits the data it wants (to Matt), and then tries to return it.   He ages back, and is arrested anyway.  He expects that the pictures won’t match.

The characters eventually gather for a special ritual in a mountain setting, where the characters discover “the angels”.  Sal finds out he is indeed “one of them” but didn’t know it. Others include two of Natalie’s boys.
Sal is about to be processed out of ROTC for violations of rules (despite repeal of DADT) involving supposed hacking of other kids' "minds" but has to agree to testify against Bill, who then goes bonkers at the trial.

Randy’s wife confronts him about their marriage, and they split up.  Randy takes the oldest son Rick with him as he takes a new assignment in Washington.   Rick gets kidnapped.   Sal helps get him recovered.
Randy, Sal, Bill, Ali, and a number of others gather in the mountains (there is something made of “mountaintop removal” and the effect of elevation on the course of the virus) to meet with the other “angels” who will lift them up.  The world below will indeed undergo a “purification”, although not so catastrophic as in the movies like “Knowing” or “Melancholia”. 
Now, I have to change gears for a moment. Let’s talk about the “main” screenplay, “DADT”.  Here, I’ve layered a fictive short called “The Sub”, some of my “personal history” (William and Mary et al), and an experience where “I” waked up in a bizarre institution where I  am sent through a number of training tasks relating to skills appropriate for different periods of history.  I encounter others in this nether-world, including a single mother named Tovina.  There seem to be some families and a lot of children and rather lost adults all living in a small world that seems like a “magic kingdom” with different little domains and a train that connects them (rather like living in someone's model railroad).  I do encounter people from my earthly life, and one of them seems to have read my history telepathically, with the help of an unusual computer.  (The fictive short that I wrote and the life experiences had been connected in my “real world” by lawyers.)  Unlike the novel, there’s no “virus” that saves consciousness; it seems to happen for some people in this “astral-life” station; others would go back into a group consciousness forever, to live in bliss.  But more is expected of some of us.  We (as in the novel) will get to live in through the memories of younger people.
In the screenplay, as in the novel, there is a ritual scene, called the “Tribunal” (recalling one I had played hookey on in college); after that, I experience the opportunity to become young again, temporarily, long enough to experience the possibility of procreation after all, on this “alternate world”, with Tovina.

Before the consummation scene, “I”  (also) come to learn how I got there.   In the real world, someone had knocked on the door and insisted she had the right to squat  in my home and be provided for, based on past events.  I had gone off on a trip, leaving her and family, and come home and found data center, replaced (with the new “auditing” equipment).  I then fell down my own stairs, which would normally be a fatal event.  But I had already been set up to be rescued.   I was sent out of the house on my bike (with one of the other “rommates”, logically “Tove”) in a storm, to another location, where I “went up”. 

In the meantime, Earth does face another calamity. I will go back from the “ashram” just in time to witness it, as other souls will be scooped up.   Again, it’s a partial “end of the world.”


Monday, March 19, 2012

"Me on the Web" service could help monitor online reputation, privacy

I’ve noticed when riding the DC Metro, among Google’s boards on the train cars, a service called “Me on the Web” which will notify you when information about you appears and is detected by the company’s search engine. It’s a funny name, “me” is an object rather than subject in our language.

Here’s the main link explaining it.

I went ahead and signed up for it, directing the stuff to gmail. I don’t expect an overwhelming volume of material. I want to see how well it works.

The possibility of combining tagging with facial recognition technology could conceivably lead to alerts when a picture of you appears in public, but I hardly think that is eminent.

Would "Me on the Web" detect an appearance of one's name on a "tattle-tale" site like the STD site discussed and maligned on Anderson Cooper (and on this blog) March 12?

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Will "do not track" present an existential test of social networking companies' business models?

John Kerry (D-MA) and John McCain (R-AZ) have introduced a “Commercial Privacy Bill of Rights of 2011”,  S. 799, text here, or govtrack here

In the meantime, W3C has established a “Tracking Protection Working Group”, here

Electronic Frontier Foundation, in a piece by Mark M. Jaycox and Rainey Reitman, offers a piece “Facebook’s (In)conspicuous absence from Do Not Track discussions”, link here

My own experience is that the “instant personalization” of my Facebook page, which of course depends on tracking, is somewhat effective.  Sometimes I do get important news items that I had not noticed in newspapers, had not been covered in major media, or on my email accounts.  (AOL depends not on tracking but on the Huffington Post to deliver news, and it is pretty effective.)

Again, these companies depend somewhat on tracking to earn enough ad revenue to support their business models and have the ability to host user-generated content.  

We used to say something like that about network TV, which depended on commercials to be “free”.  But in those days, the only way you got tracked was if you signed up for a Nielsen ratings survey.  By the way, I’ve been approached to let Nielsen track me on the web (a few years ago), and it tended to mess up my machine.  Not worth the $15 a month payment. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Employer, university desire to monitor personal Facebook use (even ask for passwords) raises ethical, business model questions; important story in USA Today

MSNBC has reported further on the controversy of a few employers (such as the Maryland Department of Corrections) requesting applicants to share their Facebook or social media passwords, and with college athletic departments requiring student athletes to let their coaches “Friend” them so they can be monitored.  (On Twitter you can just follow someone, but the person can still unfollow himself.)

The link for the early March update to the “Redtape Chronicles” story is by Bob Sullivan here

Facebook has suggested that sharing passwords with employers could violate terms of service.  The logical implication is that an employer might demand that an applicant close a personal Facebook, social media or personal blog account as a provision of employment.  However, as early as 2000, I had written that such measures could be necessary in some management employment situations to avoid possible conflicts of interest or inducement of hostile workplace. In 2001, white papers on employer blogging policies started to appear online.  About two years ago there were reports that property insurance companies might charge higher premiums to social media users, but this trend does not seem to have continued as far as I know.

On Wednesday, March 14, USA Today has a confrontational opinion piece by Katrina Trinko, “Keep your hands off my Facebook password”, link here. Under pressure from the ACLU, the Maryland Corrections Department later changed the policy to require the applicant to sign-on during a job interview (which would seem to comply with Facebook’s TOS, as noted as a concern above).

The state of Maryland has suggested that the policy was appropriate for prison employees to ferret out gang connections. But mainstream employers may want to gauge extroversion, or the ability of an applicant to develop leads (as in the insurance business). But sociologists say there is a lot more to real business networking than just accumulating friends lists and “likes”. Employer interests in this matter may not be well founded. Employers could be concerned, though, that the tone or subject matter of a person’s online presence could drive away “real world” clients, even if original and valuable in other cultural contexts.  I’ve even wondered about this with I.T. consultants who are sent to client sites. 

Trinko argues that if employers routinely demanded the right to monitor employee personal accounts, Internet speech would be dumbed down and become useless as a personal sharing or even “social capital” tool.  That’s a good argument.  As Rachel MacKinnon noted in her book “Consent of the Networked” (Book review blog Feb. 25), employers can easily channel social media into tools of social conformity, just as overseas governments (China) do. 

Whether a person “owns” his online presence in an employment arrangement is becoming a serious question. It’s easy even to imagine copyright law implications.

Facebook and other social media companies (Twitter, Google+, even Wordpress and Blogger) would do well to network with major employers (or HR industry trade groups) to stop this problem from growing.  It could well affect growth and earnings and even Facebook’s planned IPO.

Update: March 27

There is a story in Information Week by Debra Donston-Miller, "Facebook password debate stirs deep social fears", and it was reported on NBC Washington this morning, link here.  This is seen as an employer's asking for keys to your house.  In fact, back in the early 1970s, EDS used to do "house interviews" of perspective IT employees!  The writer here views such companies as "backward". 

Monday, March 12, 2012

Creator of website for "naming" people with STD's (often falsely) may not be able to "hide" behind Section 230; Anderson Cooper grilled him today

Today, Monday, March 12, 2012, Anderson Cooper aired a riveting report about a website “Std carriers” that allows people (or invites them) to report other people’s STD status, for any disease (HIV, HPV, herpes, etc.)  He does not screen the reports, and only takes “false” reports down if the subject sends medical information.  He also provides a link to services to repair the person’s “reputation”.

The individual running the site is named Cyrus Sullivan.  There has been some coverage of this matter, before, such as by Victoria Bekiempis of the Village Voice on Feb. 12, 2012, here. Nerve has an article by EJ Dickson Feb. 11, 2012, here.

There are many complaints online, such as this reply to one from “p. consumer”, here.

Apparently, the website has been around for some years, such as this Blogger report from the Hooters Girl on Nov. 4, 2008, link.

Anderson scolded Cyrus during the show, asking him about whether he had any "moral compass" and calling him a “waste of breath” at least twice, and presented at least two victims, one of whom found not only her picture on the site but that of her nine-year-old son.  Cyrus said that there are infinitely many places to defame others on the Internet, and Anderson fired back, why do you want to do this and continue it and make it worse?  This would have been a good show for Dr. Phil to appear on.

Internet lawyer Parry Aftab, well known for her work on cyberbullying, addressed the “obvious” question, Section 230 of the 1996 Telecommunications Act.  It’s true that Cyrus would not be liable for false postings by users if he didn’t profit from the site.  But because he directs people to reputation repair services ("Reputation cleanup"), what he is doing might amount to extortion, either actionable in a civil suit, or possibly with criminal complaints.  This is speculative, but there could be (according to Aftab’s comments) a question of Sullivan’s liability if he profited even in a trivial way, such as by running ordinary ads on his site. (A service that facilitated this, like Google, would probably say it violates terms of service or program policies.) I have not personally heard this concept before and plan to check with Electronic Frontier Foundation on whether she is right. Aftab said she would take up Sullivan’s activity with the New York State attorney general right after the show. Sullivan operates from Oregon.

I wonder if HIPAA could also be invoked, to show that the site violates legally driven standards for privacy of personal medical information. 

I have to say that, during the show, Cyrus seemed to rationalize his behavior in superficial ways. He has claimed that “public good outweighs any inadvertent possible harm”.  (Boy, that sounds like a distortion of Santorum’s “common good”.) He also did say he was providing a forum for “subjects” to refute charges made by others.  But should people really have to respond to false charges made by others online that they are HIV-positive? What happens when an employer finds them form a search engine this way?

It’s easy to imagine running sites to report people for doing anything wrong.  I’ve covered here before the “gag order” problem, where medical providers try to ban patients from discussing them online because some physicians and dentists have run into false comments and had their practices damaged. This gets into the “consumer ratings” sites business, which generally has public support and is protected by Section 230.

In fact, there is video on "Daily Motion" that describes (Sullivan's) other sites that allow the reporting of putative cyber bullies or illegal aliens, as well as those with the STD issue, here. It says that posters can report others anonymously, and that there is an "Honor System" and that "false reports" lead to a "fine".  The site is hosted in Holland, which this report also helps Sullivan avoid liability. (I'm not sure how.  Europe has no Section 230 as far as I know, or does it?)

Anderson’s own link, dated March 10, is titled “Guilty until Proven Innocent”, link here

"My Web of Trust" (MYWOT) gives Sullivan's site a red circle, meaning poor reputation, report link here.

Let me add, I do not collect personal information from people myself online, and I do not focus posts on personal matters with people (including the STD issue) unless the person has already been credibly reported in the “established” media (where there has been some fact-checking).

Peter Busch reports on this matter on CBS News in Los Angeles on YouTube here. The tone of the report is not as confrontational as Anderson’s (but Peter did not interview Cyrus).  An attorney says that any person posting false defamatory information about someone else is always exposed personally to a libel lawsuit, even if the operator of the site may not be.  There is obviously a practical difficulty in litigating all such cases. If the accusation was anonymous, there are obvious legal issues and expenses for the plaintiff in discovering the poster's identity.  But if Aftab were right, could a "class action" suit against a site like Sullivan's work?

There's another side of this.  There is a website that allows people to inform partners (anonymously) of their HIV or other STD status, as explained here by Lisa Oldson, Jan. 2011, here. This is unrelated to the Sullivan site. 

This particular problem has a lot to digest.  It is not so simple as it first looked.  

Update: March 13: See post on my "Internet safety" blog with a comment on (the best known reputation monitoring service).  It does have a good score with WOT.  It would not sound credible that it could be party to a scheme such as described in this show.  I could not find a site specifically called "reputation cleanup".  I wonder if it could be some kind of impostor.  I'm checking. Anderson's specific clip on this turns out to be here.  

Update  April 13
There are a number of YouTube videos posted by "NoLimitList", such as this one Apr 13 where Ashleigh Banfield talks to Anderson and predicts that liability limitations on operators under Section 230 will eventually change as the law catches up, link here. There are a lot of rogue sites out there more stories about this matter, but a lot of them don't look too credible.  I'll try to keep up with any real litigation that results from this matter, but I don't see it out there now. 

Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act of 2011 (bill); a baby SOPA?

Here we go again.  There is a new bill, HR 3523, the “Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act of 2011”, ("CISPA") introduced by Michael Rogers (R-MI) and Dutch Ruppelsberger (D-MD) Nov. 30 2011, govtrack reference here. It was introduced some time ago but slipped under the radar screen because of the distraction of SOPA.

Electronic Frontier Foundation has an article March 8 by Rainey Reitman and Lee Tien, link here.  The attorneys argue that, once again, the bill is overbroad, mixing in piracy with cyber security as an existential threat, and goading service providers to pull the plug on suspicious accounts.

Friday, March 09, 2012

Is content king? Not in a social culture, perhaps.

I appreciate comments on blog posts when they address the content of the post, even if critical.

I do get a lot of comments unrelated to the posts that seem to offer generic comments and links to cheesy products (in the past, fake anti-virus software).  Most of these I do reject.

I also get a lot of emails based on the names of one of my blogs, offering a link to a page “10 things….”, for example, “10 reasons to keep dialup”.  Some of these are interesting, but they have nothing to do with the particular blog. (My COPA blog is very often picked as the "wrong blog".)  They obviously attempt to generate page requests and ad visits. 
So I understand the pressure that people find to achieve quantifiable results (sales) with whatever they do on the Internet. 

Since the 1980s, even before the Internet came out of its institutional closet, the world has tended to play an increasing emphasis on individual performance, in content creation and testing.  I experienced that as a computer programmer.  It has gradually become less respectable to make one’s way in the world through social skills. For example, about ten years ago we saw a rapid increase in resistance to telemarketing, unwanted emails (spam), door-to-door selling, and hucksterism in general.  Even so, the Internet seemed designed to facilitate sales (e-commerce), but did so in such away as to drive down legacy neighborhood retail stores.  For insurance professionals, the mechanics of developing and trading leads developed, whereas the interpersonal skills necessary to sell to people directly probably waned. The social media came along and provided all kinds of ways to quantify social connections (monetizing “likes”), but probably discouraging actual in-person friendship (partly by putting a “friending test” up as a potential barrier).

I’ve always been more concerned about the originality and meaning of content, than just with the “numbers” it can generate when deployed.  Yet, as we know, Internet business models, allowing free entry, are all about “numbers”.

I wonder, when I hear about arrests of teenage hackers, why people with so much talent and ability aren’t deploying their skills more productively or constructively (ok, maybe Wikileaks is constructive).

The social conservatives (especially Rick Santorum) say that we’re forgetting that we need each other. We are becoming less social.  It’s as if introversion is a bad thing. 

In the public policy area, I’m a lot more concerned about issues affecting the technological (and legal) infrastructure that allows me to operate and publish (and move around without commitment) the way I do.  Energy availability or the stability of the power grid are much more important to me in a direct sense than, say, gay marriage. The infrastructure allows me not to depend on others whom I don’t want to relate to, allows me to remain Santorum’s “what a snob”, but I still am “dependent” on a broader world where people can do their jobs, even if I’ve paid them.  Major catastrophes, whether relatively local (tornadoes) or global (future wars, pandemics, or technological breakdowns) would force people to learn to interdepend locally, and would force me to accept others into my life whom I do not want.

People may welcome interdependence more when they’ve accepted the idea of the future that will follow them – a lineage – as a top personal priority.  This idea – generativity – did not seem very real to me for most of my life.  My own performance was what mattered. Having families was something that other people did by private choice, and they had to take full responsibility for that.

Since 9/11, and as I have grown older, and as I have been challenged by eldercare and other approaches from people trying to draw me back into “real life” (responsibility for others), I have come to understand what the “older” morality of the generation that raised me was all about. There’s a real issue, with being willing to bond with people based on how one (or “I”) can help them meet real needs, instead of simply bonding with people because one perceives them as “good”.  One must get something out of lifting someone else up, when that person hadn’t been “good”.  One can be drawn into matters that are not of one’s choosing.  That’s really why equality matters.   If you don’t have your own family, you’ll get conscripted to support someone else’s.
You might be called upon to help defend your homeland if there is a threat.  You have to share equal risk and responsibility. And you need to develop socially to be able to do that.
At the end of all of this moral processing we come back to the pedestal that people seem to need to put traditional marriage on, for all the other social processes to happen.
So the next time I see a silly comment, or an email trying to recruit me  ino someone else’s cause (as a “convert”), I’ll remember that many others have people depending on them.  You have to join something so your progeny has a future, perhaps.