Wednesday, February 27, 2013

"Do as I say", not as I did: how online reputation has changed everything

I noted, in a draft from a chapter conclusion of an upcoming book, the irrevocable nature of the decision I made in the 1990s to publish my own story with respect to “gay rights” and the military ban, leveraging a connection between an event earlier in my life and the tricky policy issues of the ban (and of what would be known as “don’t ask don’t tell” until repealed).  The subject matter of my arguments grew out from this one singular issue, which made the “passive self-broadcast” inherent in the Web 1.0 environment a decade ago particularly effective.  I would even say that if I had not stayed “out there” all this time, we just might not have the repeal of DADT (and maybe even the “victories” in “Lawrence v. Texas” and COPA earlier). 
I made myself a personality in an environment that is now passé.  I did it at a time when one could live a “double life” openly (as if this were an oxymoron).  I could appropriate my Internet presence to leveraging my own views.  But after 2001 or so, it became apparent that the world would care more about online reputation than it had before.  By 2006, it was becoming common for employers to view online reputation, even on personal sites and social media, as very much their business.  Most people would have to appropriate their use of their own social media presence for business and career purposes, and could not afford to play devil’s advocate with their own views, in order to help win political battles with irony as I did.
So I have to say, “do as I say”, and not “do as I have done”.  I don’t recommend that people gambit their second careers on venting their political and social theories as I did.  But I had a life history and set of circumstances that I believed to be truly unique (involving both civilian discrimination and the military draft with a couple of Mobius twists).  Most of my friends, including those of college age just getting started on adult life, have no incentive like the one that I did., to create their own limelight with controversy and paradox.  Some of my friends are very gifted in some areas (art, music, performance, software programming,  even comedy , among others).  If you’re good at something and can sell yourself in more established media channels, by all means do so.  And finish college.  (Unless you’re Bryce Harper.)
There was a time when I thought I might enter a second “professional” career – especially teaching, but coming out of the Web 1.0 world, I had expected that this could mean taking everything down and undoing my presence (even in the Internet archive, maybe).   I used to call this my own “Website Persistence Policy” along with my own idea of what a Blogging Policy should be.  That no longer sounds feasible, given the direction that social media (most of all Facebook) took.  In fact, the spin today is that you almost have to have an online presence of your own.  There is a real risk, as I reported on the Internet Safety blog on Feb. 25, that if you don’t, someone could “Argo” your reputation with a fake or pirated profile mimicking you.  There are plenty of stories about this problem (besides the recent one on NBC4 discussed Feb. 25) dating back to 2008, to be found on search engines. 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Now there are copyright trolls specifically for porn

There exist some law firms that troll P2P networks specifically for “illegal downloading” of pornography for adult entertainment firms.  I was unaware of this bifurcation in the troll world, having focused on Righthaven.
Timothy B. Lee has a story in Ars Technica about an immigrant couple “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” who defended themselves after an ISP warning, getting the trolls to move on to someone else. 
Lee’s article, here offers an amusing picture of a chess position of a White king in resignation, about to be checkmated by passed Black pawns, as in the Sveshnikov Sicilian.  (There is something about two connected passed pawns on the seventh rank!)
The couple has a blog called “Fight Copyright Trolls” here 
Apparently for a while there was a scammy “Internet Copyright Law Enforcement Agency”.
There’s another new blog about the trolls, called “Die Troll Die”, here.
I think that the copyright trolls need to watch Magnolia Pictures’s “Troll Hunter”, a Norwegian  film, reviewed on my movies blog Nov. 28, 2011.  The trolls there looked like giant disfigured golems, not attractive enough to be rock stars.  

Notice, in this picture, White resigns.  His queen had been trapped before it was even attacked.  Lee could have used this position for his article. 

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Young actor's video makes fun of free content problem

I found a Youtube video from 2011 that makes fun of our obsession with “free content”, Or maybe, alternatively, it makes fun of the copyright trolls and media lobbyists who want to extract profits from media the old-fashioned way – as we’ve seen in the battles over SOPA, and even  PACER and academic journals.  It’s by actor and songwriter (and comedian), Reid Ewing, 24 (best known as Dylan in “Modern Family”,  titled  “Reid-ing 01: It’s Free”.  He made this video when he was about 21 or 22. It certainly fits the spirit of challenging overzealous prosecution and litigation for “copyright infringement” today.  EFF should use this video.

Perhaps ironically, this YouTube video has been marked private. I will advise if a replacement becomes available for e-commerce purchase or download. I hope so!

(Note, July 2013: "Reid Rainbow" has moved the video to "Igigistudios" production company site, here.  A number of his most interesting videos are available there now.  )

Reid goes to the public library, in a skit that could well fit on Saturday Night Live.  You don’t have to charge library books on your credit card.  You can do research for high school term papers and make 3x5 index cards (like I had to do in high school in 1960, when I legged downtown to the DC Public Library, now near the Convention Center, to write a paper on James Fenimore Cooper’s treatment of women (not very flattering).

And remember how clumsy those microfilm machines were for accessing old newspaper articles?  Back in the 1990s, microfilm was common in “the public library”.

The federal government (especially the ATF with gun background checks) has to do all kinds of manual microfilm and paper checking just like a student used to do at the “public library”.

But before the age of the Internet, the “public library” was even a necessary resource for some mainframe computer programming techniques.  I remember running into a library when on the road to check on whether something I had done at work was considered kosher.

Oh, I remember my first “gay talk group” back in 1973, when the leader reassured me over the phone, “It’s free”.

Update: February 27:

Here is something that's "free":  A smartphone app that allows the user to get up-to-date Metro information in Washington (including busses).  A young man developed it for free distribution as part of his own sense of volunteerism, link here.  The story was reported on NBC4 Washington.

Update: March 9:

Reiding-201, maybe, in Frostburg. MD:

Or the Frostburg museum:
Or Salisbury, PA ("America starts here"):

Friday, February 22, 2013

Controversy over citizen photography of police activity continues in MD

Television station WJLA (ABC affiliate) reports that a  police officer in Montgomery County MD, detained a man from Rockville, MD, Jared Parr, for videotaping police activity with motorists.  The story by Hatzel Vela follows.

Parr runs a YouTube channel called “Rockville cop watch”, link.
But Montgomery County Police later told the ABC affiliate that the police officer was wrong.  In 2010, a Maryland judge had ruled that state privacy laws allow videotaping and audiorecording in any area where privacy cannot be expected.

Generally, civil liberties groups have been vocal about the right to videotape police, because of the possibility of abuses, as with Rodney King and the LAPD in 1991.  I would not photograph routine police activity personally unless I saw abuse.

The right to photograph would appear to be the case inside bars and discos, unless property owners have a policy otherwise.  But patrons in the past two years have become more sensitive about the issue than they used to be, probably because of stories of tagging and misuse of photos, which could even create employment problems.  The Saint “Black Party” in NUC actually requires patrons to turn in cell phones. 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

"Broadcast Yourself": Proposed chapter conclusion (for DADT-3 book).

Here's a draft of the "conclusion" of Chapter 3 of my DADT-3 book' the chapter is titled "Broadcast Yourself" (and not just "podcast").  It may sound a little more negative than it needs to, as I look at it this morning.  (See the Book Reviews blog, Oct. 1, 2011, for an explanation of what this new book accomplishes.  The proposed title is "Do Ask Do Tell III: Speech Is a Fundamental Right; Being 'Listened To' Is a Privilege".) Here" it" is:

I took a real “risk” and committed myself, more than I could at first grasp, when I decided back in 1994 to get into publishing on controversial issues, doing it myself as necessary.  I was 51 when I made the decision, and it would be hard to make it stand up indefinitely, as I would soon find.  Maybe it was OK if I lived only another 25 years or so.  At this point, I’m not game to join anyone else’s Army or raise anyone else’s babies.

I feel that I did prove that one person can cover a whole “nest” of issues in such a way that he or she attracts visitors continually, over years; his mere presence as a permanent “devil’s advocate” or public ombudsman tends to keep politicians and some corporate interests “honests”.  (I guess Anderson Cooper owns the phrase “Keeping Them Honest” if I own “Do Ask Do Tell”, which has a similar meaning.) Had I not been “out there”, exposed, for fifteen years, possibly we would not have a repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” by now. But we could also give Zuckerberg and Facebook a lot of credit for motivating the repeal.

If is difficult to function as a “general practitioner”.  I do a lot of things: maintain blogs, write fiction and non-fiction books (the first novel is almost ready for final editing as of this writing), play chess, and compose music. Most people can maintain professionalism only by specializing in one or two areas.  But in my case, the different areas produce a synergy with one another.

It’s also difficult to speak out openly for a long time without creating conflicts with personal or professional commitments, however imperfect they sound in terms of moral ideology. Real responsibility for others requires loyalty, sometimes, and a willing to accept limits in one’s reach.  In a broader sense, it relates to the ability to accept forgiveness. 

One of the ironies of the history of the Internet is the way social media has actually tended to reinforce social conformity.  You need a social media presence now in most lines of work, and you need to use it to support your livelihood (and family), and not your ideology. In the final analysis, the Internet has not made it easier to become “famous” by skipping out on the “rites of passage” (or “tribunals”) of real world competition for popularity and profits.  In fact, the idea of “social circles” (more or less like e-mail listserver subscription lists of the past), supposes that the purpose of online activity should be to interact with others, not just to “publish”.  But in my own case, I found that “broadcast” self-publishing (of Web 1.0) did indeed attract the people I wanted into my physical world.  But that opportunity was more effective fifteen years ago than it is today.

There are people who think that Internet self-promotion should not be perceived as a fundamental right (as derived from the First Amendment), but should be tempered by sharing responsibility for others.  Some people want service providers to assume more downstream liability responsibility to prevent piracy (to protect jobs in legacy music and media industries, which might well fear low-cost competition from “amateurs”), to protect children from cyberbullying, and people in general from reputation damage done by others, often anonymously. This invokes all the controversies with the DMCA, SOPA, and Section 230. 

Furthermore, many forces are arguing that companies and advertisers,  should not be tracking consumer browser behavior (on either computers or mobile devices), because this tracking compromises personal security.  Newer browsers are being offered with “do not track” turned on.  (I can tell from the ads that I get that I am definitely being tracked.)   And visitors are appropriately wary of interacting with “commercials”, not always realizing that they are “customers”.  In time, publishing service platforms (like Google’s Blogger and YouTube, and Wordpress) could become less profitable as a result, and the “free entry” world that we expect now could some day come to an end or at least become much more exclusive.  I hope that the Web 2.0 to 3.0 or 4.0 world has an ace up its sleeve to face this business model issue.  The signs that I receive personally – unsolicited calls to “make” or “raise money” with services or products or for goals that do not seem worthy of or warrant my enthusiasm – are not that encouraging so far.
Remember that the Old Testament ends with the word “curse”.  

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

A "Do Ask Do Tell" Podcast on "Simply Syndicated"

Yesterday, while surfing (after a prompt from McAfee promoting a new “safer search”), and looking up my own “Do Ask Do Tell” , I discovered a podcast show by that name on a site called “Simply Syndicated”.
The show appears to originate in the UK, and has this direct link
There appear to be seven episodes, of lengths varying from about 50 to 85 minutes, the introduction having been posted in April 2011.  The most recent post was on June 27, 2012.  I played the first episode yesterday and a man and woman, both with British accents, discussed general terminology in the gay world, including “asexuality” and particularly “metrosexuality” (the latter of which was the name of a UK miniseries in 2001). 

Other podcasts appear to deal with topics like religion, and LGBTQ movies. 

I could not find an active explanation of “Simply Syndicated” on Wikipedia.  There had lived one entry  before but it  had been deleted.

By the way, “Do ask do tell” does not have an entry either, but “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” definitely does, and I have added to that article before.   In fact, I’ll vary off topic a moment and mention that I am considering contributing an article to Wikipedia about “filial responsibility laws” (“filial piety” is there), but I will look at their much stricter submission guidelines first to see if I can really invest the time it will take to make it work.
I’ll pass along Wikipedia’s reference for “your first article” here --- the effort required is considerable.
To return to talking about the "blog radio" show: The material in the Simply Syndicated DADT podcast seemed to be high-level and aimed to entertain about LGBTQ subjects.  My use of the term “do ask do tell” has broadened to general issues regarding personal and institutional integrity.  Synonyms could include “connecting the dots” and even Anderson Cooper’s “keeping them honest”. 

An important corollary seems to be that it is no longer possible to live a “double life” like it used to be.  Facebook has seen to that, and social media had a lot to do with the demise of “don’t ask don’t tell” in the IS military.

Would I work with this group?  It is very hard to say.  Is the group still active?  I couldn’t find “doaskdotell_podcast” on Twitter.  I do wonder if I should keep my bags packed.  My passport is good until 2014, when it needs renewal.  I just might need it.  I hope this group really is “just” in London.  Sydney, Australia is twenty hours away, at least. 

For anyone finding this post who does not know me, I am the author of the two “Do Ask Do Tell” books, easily found on Amazon, and I maintain the “” website, off which all my blogs and e-commerce links live.

Look also at my Blogger profile, and Twitter (JBoushka)  Facebook ("John W. Boushka"), and at the Books Blog,  June 5, 2010, where I "pseudo-review" my own book.  No, you can't do this on Wikipedia.   

Picture: Me. Note: Preferred email is JBoushka at  

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Residential users, very small businesses are not prepared for "Six Strikes"

Jill Lesser, of the Center for Copyright Information, argues that the CAS “six strikes” alert system will not hurt public WiFi (as in restaurants and bars) or guest service in hotels.  This would be very important – in fact, I think that finding reliable and secure WiFi service at travel destinations is preferable for having to cart around all your own hardware when “on the road”.  Lesser argues that CAS will affect mainly residential users, but concedes that some very small businesses do use regular residential service and could be exposed to it. The CCI link is here
In fact, telecommunications providers often do offer more expensive “business” accounts at homes, claiming that they would get first priority for servicing after outages.  They might try to tack faster bandwidth (as the FCC is pushing) onto “business accounts”.  I’ve already noted that issue on my “Network Neutrality” blog – where residential service in the IS has fallen behind other countries, and where there is so much disparity around the country among providers (as shown up by Google’s recent fiber optic prototype in the Kansas City area).
It does appear that CAS will warn residential users that they must password protect their routers.  Should residences be legally responsible for illegal use (whether copyright infringers or even child pornographers) made by “drive by” operators?  Will home users be required to act as “brother’s keeper?”  (There were arrests on Florida and New York State over this issue in recent years, as home router owners found their signals could be picked up got hundreds of yards; chargers were dropped only when police understood what could happen – expensive for homeowners to defend themselves.  I can often see my neighbors’ routers when I boot up on Windows 7 in the morning.)   Will there be requirements that passwords  be changed frequently,  and be strong and less crackable, which could cause stability issues?

One thing that seems important to me, is that if CCI wants homeowners and residential users to take such responsibility, they should provide training, whether a local Best Buy, at a community college, or high school adult education – but they should do more than ship hardware for self-installation.
In any case, the ISP’s are saying that “mitigation measures” may be less than termination.  They might just be temporary slowdowns, to 256 bps.  That’s the forecast for what is about to happen in a couple months, according to “On the Media” here.
Electronic Frontier Foundation still insists that WiFi connections in homes should still be seen as neighborhood resources, as it argues in a recent “Deeplinks” post here
“Raze the World” (with “Tek Syndicate”) has a 16 minute film “Six Strikes Against the Six Strikes Plan” and talks about tracking technologies like “Mark Monitor” . The speaker points out that people who share P2P are more likely to actually buy things that they pay for, and that the “six strikes” law will encounter “innocent bystander” homeowners because, he says, WPA2, etc. are too easy to crack.  So, again, a need for research – and then training.  

It does seem that this monitoring program has been almost about to start for a long time!

Monday, February 18, 2013

The "sharing economy", home-based business, Internet, and local regulations: more turf protection?

Christine MacDonald gives an interesting perspective eon the “sharing economy” in the Washington City Paper , February 15-21 2013, titled "Share Madness", here.

While she discusses car sharing (Car2Go, ZipCar) and bike sharing, even offering rooms in homes to rent through a service caked “Airbnb” ( website link).  There will be social critics who say that is is a desirable development that can increase “social capital” and make people better prepared to deal with disasters (by being able to house others with little notice), as has happened, after hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, or even after wild fires (even on Malibu). 

MacDonald pointed out that commercial residence sharing is technically illegal in Washington DC, and points to a problem in the past that many entrepreneurial businesses ran into problems with zoning and the need for “business licenses”.  John Stossel, when he reported for ABC 20-20, pointed that out in the past.  In Charlotte NC, a woman’s cookie backing business was shut down because she didn’t have a commercial kitchen (and a similar result would happen in the District).  In Kansas, a beautician specializing in African Americans was shut down until she got a cosmetology license.  And in some New Jersey towns and (back in the 1990s), in Chicago, Los Angeles, and even Philadelphia people have been fined or sued by city governments for writing for publication or running websites (even non-commercial ones) without a “license”.

 A case with a rabbi in New Jersey was particularly ridiculous.  Some of these problems occurred early in Internet history, when larger companies feared competition from individual;s with no overhead – a motive that could have been part of the explanation for the push for SOPA and part of what Aaron Swart’s work was all about.

In Virginia, just about anyone who runs a site is well-advised to report his computer equipment (which devalues quickly) on his personal property tax form, and in most counties there is a home-based business tax, although usually there is a large exemption (like $10000).  The safest thing is to file it.  

Another tip for small business:  always set up a separate corporate structure if you have any significant income from it at all. (See Book Reviews blog, Feb. 12, 2013, review of Mike Young's book "Internet Law".) 

Sunday, February 17, 2013

3-D printers at home and untraceable "wiki" weapons: a new challenge to "government"?

CNN and NBC have recently reported about the upcoming availability of “wiki weapons”: handguns “printed” out of plastic from 3-D printers.  They could be untraceable and confound laws requiring gun purchasers to have background checks in all cases.
The most recent NBC story is about two months old, here (in the "Future Tech" series). 

NBC had also reported that a printing company had cancelled a contract with a manufacturer when it learned that the customer wanted to use the printing apparatus for weapons manufacture.
3-D printers capable of this kind of activity are expensive, but still within the reach of small businesses and better-off homeowners, particularly in isolated areas.  They could fit into “Doomsday Prepper” mentality.
They also raise a question about the autonomy and “power” of individual consumers, able to create asymmetry with seemingly ordinary purchases of hardware that itself cannot be regulated.
Alex Jones (who is indeed controversial, given what happened when he appeared on Piers Morgan) has  a 20-minute YouTube film on the issue, from January.  He calls this a “game changer”. 

I bought my own first laser printer from Sears in Dallas for about $2200, an HP.  Prices would indeed fall in time.
I recall an incident, when I was driving out to Minneapolis to move there Labor Day weekend of 1997, when a cop stopped me for speeding on a street in a Chicago suburb Monday morning. He made a comment, “you don’t have any drugs or weapons do you?” (after all, this was Chicago), but when he saw the box of printed copies of my first “Do Ask Do Tell”, he decided I was a “good guy without a gun” and let me go without a ticket.    

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Electronic Frontier Foundation holds "speakeasy" in Washington DC, expresses concerns over EPCA, Aaron's Law

On Friday, February 15, 2013, Electronic Frontier Foundation hosted a “speakeasy” in Washington DC, at the “Article One Lounge”, downstairs in the Hyatt Regency Capitol Hill near Union Station on New Jersey Avenue.  Some of EFF staff traveled from California for the event.
The two biggest concerns right now seem to be the willingness of Congress to play fair with the Electronic Privacy Communications Act, the current law dating to 1986 and Stored Communications Act (Wikipedia here.) There is a feeling that the Obama administration will fight hard to keep the right to review emails or other digital communications (like restricted tweets) more than 180 days old.
The other major concern is Aaron’s Law.  An attorney explained that the government was very angry at Aaron for downloading many Pacer system court documents and making them available for free.  Even though these documents would be in the public domain and not be copyrighted, the government wanted to charge for each document to pay the expense of maintaining the system.  I have tried to get court opinions (as in some of criminal cases like David Key’s from NBC Dateline) and found Pacer very clumsy to use.
 The government did not have much of a basis for prosecuting him on the Pacer issue, so it watched him like a troll until he slipped, on the JSTOR issue.  Even though JSTOR did not want to prosecute, MIT was inert and indifferent.  So the government wanted to make an example of him.
Swartz was said to have become a wealthy man from the sale of REDDIT, but had spent himself into bankruptcy defending himself from the DOJ.  It’s not clear why there wasn’t more help available.  Perhaps a DVD could have been made about his case and sold to raise funds.  (Ironically, that requires people to actually pay for content!)
I said that it is time to make a biography film of Swartz, either for PBS or HBO or the regular independent film market.  I reviewed a short film from YouTube about him on my Movies Blog on Jan. 27, 2013.
The Obama administration seems to be as aggressive in prosecuting "leaks" cases, or more so, than was Bush.  This is "Obama's War", as Bob Woodward has written. 
There didn’t seem to be any immediate concern about pressure on Section 230, despite comments made in the media in the past year, particularly on Anderson Cooper’s shows (as by Parry Aftab).
There wasn’t much concern about Amazon’s willingness to pull books or DVD’s particularly offensive to the public. 

There also wasn't much concern about the possibility of false prosecutions for illegal activity (child pornography, for example) planted by viruses, such as what happened in Arizona after an incident at the end of 2006. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Press attention to PED in baseball; "Offline reputation" matters, too

The Washington Nationals – pitchers and catchers at least – are starting Spring training in Florida, and apparently under a cloud regarding the “reputation” of its star lefty Gio Gonzales.

The Nationals don’t need this.  After the melt down in the ninth inning (at home) in the last playoff game against the Cardinals last October, they need to get right at it.  They don’t need the remote possibility of a 50-game suspension against one of their aces tainting the season at the start.

A Miami newspaper (The Miami New Times) reported the pitcher’s name in the records of a biogenesis (anti-aging clinic) ran by Anthony Bosch.  Gonzalez .   The clinic is said to have given several major league players banned performance enhancing drugs.  Gonzalez denies using any such substances.  He says that his name may be there because his father used the clinic for anti-aging remedies.  But according to a Washington Post story February 13 by Adam Kilgore about a “PED Report”, Gio’s name appears alongside a cream containing testosterone as late as 2012. 

Major League Baseball is investigating.  Of course, all of the pitcher’s tests are negative, so MLB has to track down the statements of various “witnesses”.  It’s not clear that such a process could yield “truth”.  It’s more about reputation.

But it’s disturbing that Lance Armstrong was able to maintain his denials for so long until they collapsed early this year in the course of a very complicated and protracted investigation (see Wikipedia for details). 
The Washington Post story link is here

The Miami New Times has its "details" (pun) here. Sounds a bit like supermarket or tabloid journalism -- "The Gio Gonzalez Files".  The "Active Patients" insert appears to be an embedded PDF or image.  Set your popup blocker if you look at this paper.

The more mainstream "Miami Herald" reports Gonzalez's denials, here
Right now, the “moral” of the story (so far) seems to be, watch your reputation.  Don’t make enemies.  Watch your whereabouts.  This sounds like pre-Internet era advise from my parents when my father was worried that my employers would have me “followed” when I went into New York City while living in New Jersey. 
Perhaps that’s what sports reporters do, troll clinics, looking for printed lists (don’t even need to hack on the Internet), looking for more scandals for scoops. 
The problem of damage to one’s “good name” did not start with Facebook. 

My father used to say, we have to worry about what "everyone" thinks, true or not. 

The Armstrong matter is also discussed here Jan. 28.  

Update: Feb. 19, 2013

Station WJLA in Washington reports that Gio Gonzalez has been cleared of using any banned substances. 

Monday, February 11, 2013

A website about "Greater Washington" illustrates collaboration among bloggers; a coming thing?

Once again, the Washington Post carries a story about a local Internet entrepreneur of webmaster. This time, the subject is the site “Greater Greater Washington”, run by David Alpert, 35, a graduate of Woodrow Wilson High School in Washington. (Somehow, I don't like to repeat words in names of sites or other media.) 
I went to the site and found an interesting post about the Metro, to which I just posted a comment here.  

The comment system tests for spam by showing a map of the “Five Lines” (the name of an indie movie set on the Metro) and asking a question about the map, like on a geography test in school.

I did not see ads on the site, and I don’t know how or whether it makes money.
The Washington Post story by Rachel Weiner (on the front page of the Metro section) is here.  

The story says that many “amateurish” posts are rejected before publication.  Posters probably can’t introduce overly personal metaphors like I do on my own blogs. 

That raises another question.  Why would someone write for someone else’s blog, unless one was a regularly paid reporter or syndicated columnist (to write for well-known sites like Salon, Huffington, etc., or even Ars Technica or Wired) ?   Someone “like me” prefers to run his operation so that “he” can “do whatever he wants” (to quote a notorious line from the indie short horror film “Bugcrush”).  I think that “the future”, however, raises sustainability questions.  Concerns like “do not track” or even “digital executors” could some day make free blogging services less lucrative and make shared hosting less practical for individuals than it is today.  A big hooker could be political pressure to undermine Section 230 downstream liability protections. Right now, they protect Google, David Alpert, and me (for comments made by others on my blogs).  But I don’t know if we can count on this forever.

On the other hand, the site (like the "Fairfax Underground" forum  that I discussed Saturday) shows that there are other innovations more in the Web 1.0 to "early 2.0" world still taking place and attracting participation. 

The idea of “standing alone” is drawing increasingly negative attention.  Sunday, I attended the Vienna Presbyterian Church (in western Fairfax County, VA, near Tysons), and heard a relevant sermon in the “Life Is Messy” series called “Power Play” by Pastor Pete James. His source was Luke 8:26-39 – I give this not to preach but because the story has real literary applicability to the idea of “going it alone”.  The church projected a Plasma screen high-definition image of a shadow-man walking on top of a desert sand dune in front of an alien sun (like in the [Frank Herbert] book or movie “Dune”, 1984).  The story, according to the pastor,  indicated that socially isolated people tend to migrate to the moral border zones, away from the center, and become vulnerable to (satanic) temptations, as indicated by recent high profile horrific and tragic events (like Aurora and Newtown).   I spoke to him after the service, and he indicated (like Piers Morgan) that gun control reform should be a “no brainer” but thought that there needed to be considerable reduction of the use of violence in media and games. 
Once again, I can “change the subject” in my own post – but I come back.  The world has up to now encouraged people doing a lot on the Internet by themselves.  It might not do so forever.  For example, fifteen years ago, many individuals ran their own web hosting services.  That is no longer the case, as large companies can do a much better job.  In the area of news and content, it’s not so simple. 

Saturday, February 09, 2013

"Fairfax Underground" forum, with anonymous gossip, could provoke discussion about Section 230; attention called to West Springfield High School c.p. suspects

A story by Tom Jackman in the Metro Section of the Washington Post on Saturday February 9, 2013 underlines a possible future controversy over Section 230 of the 1996 Telecommunications Act (or Communications Deceny Act). The story is “Online postings expose a scandal: Facts, rumors on teens’ arrests get equal billing at Fairfax Underground”, link here.
The discussion board at issue, “Fairfax Underground”, link here  This site is a discussion forum about events in Fairfax County, VA.  It has a very “Web 1.0” look to it.  Discussion forums were very popular before social media came along, particularly before 2000.  At one time, there was an “Independent Gay Forum”, a forum on gay issues that was run by persons in the D.C. area  with a libertarian bent.   One of the best forums ever, about the Independent movie business, came with Project Greenlight (run by Miramax Pictures and Matt Damon early in the last decade).  There used to be many controversial forums (particularly about gays in the military) on AOL in the mid and late 1990s. Forums have generally become less visible since people turned to social media, especially Facebook and Twitter.  The one big exception to this statement, of course, would be "consumer ratings" sites (like Yelp), which have recently attracted lawsuits against posters and gag orders from doctors. 
Fairfax Underground is run by Cary Wiedemann. A 28-year-old Virginia native and set up in 2005.  Wiedemann is also a systems manager.  The article says that he runs it as a sole proprietorship (which some lawyers say is risky – as in a book on Internet law by Mike Young, soon to be reviewed on my Book Reviews blog. 

The site allows and perhaps attracts anonymous posting (again, anonymity has been argued as a First Amendment right – except on Facebook), and sometimes the posts could contain supposedly confidential information.  At particular issue is the posting of the names of  West Springfield High school male students arrested for (supposedly) producing child pornography  (discussed on my “COPA Blog” on Feb. 3, 2013).  The police and local government are prohibited by Virginia law from releasing the names of juveniles arrested until certain requirements are met.  But it is not illegal for a private citizen to post the names on the web (unless ordered not to do so by a court for some reason), and Website hosts (whether Facebook, discussion forums, rating sites, or blogs with comments like mine) are not considered liable. 

Wiedemann says he does monitor some content, such as that from outside northern Virginia (at least from overseas), content in poor taste or obviously malicious.  It is possible to monitor comments under Section 230 without incurring liability (as long as you don’t add material to the comments).
Some lawyers say that a site like Fairfax Underground tend to attract people who want to spread gossip, and that such sites create a nuisance.

In one incident. Fairfax County Public Schools obtained a court injunction requiring Wiedemann to remove a posting of class grades, even though the posting had no personal information that could have been used for identity theft.

Wiedemann makes no money from the site. I didn’t see any advertising on the site when I looked at it this morning. 

The Section 230 issue highlights a growing cultural divide on how we implement “personal responsibility”.  Is that to be viewed as an absolutely individual concept (as libertarians see it), or are we morally responsible for “watching each other’s backs”.  People who have kids (married or not) tend to support more restriction on (First Amendment) free speech to protect kids (and might want to see more downstream liability, which could shut down the Internet as we know it).  On the other hand, very often the very same people are quite extreme in defending their purported Second Amendment rights to own weapons to defend their families, something they see as a moral duty in a world that they see as unsustainable and likely to break down.
I do monitor comments on my blogs (spam is removed automatically). In the past (although not so much recently) I removed comments that appeared to be nothing more than unrelated ads or that attempted (in one of two cases) to invite users to download fake anti-virus software.  Now these don’t get past monitoring or spam filters. 
By the way, negative comments that merely express opinions are accepted and do not represent defamation.  There is in libel law a concept called “the Opinion Rule”.  For a good example, look at a negative comment made on my review of a book by Dr. Phil on the Books blog Feb. 1, 2008. 

Friday, February 08, 2013

Righthaven ("copyright troll") is still kicking before the Ninth Circuit

Believe or not, “it’s back”.  Righthaven, that is. The copyright troll is in the Ninth Circuit, trying to overturn rulings from several district courts that it can’t sue people over copyrights it doesn’t fully own.  Electronic Frontier Foundation, in an article by Kurt Opsahl, explained how it was assisting legal blogger Thomas A. DiBase, a former assistant US attorney for the District of Columbia, whose case is in front of the Ninth Circuit for his “No body” blog, which deals with murder cases in which no corpse can be found as evidence. 
Mr. DiBase’s website is here, and the EFF article is here

According to EFF, Righthaven claims it is entitled to sue because it owned copyright for an “instant” (essentially a singularity) before returning the rights to the newspaper. The Ninth Circuit has already questioned whether this use of the Copyright Law is more about form than substance.

If Righthaven wanted to claim full legal ownership, it would have to be involved in maintaining the content of the newspaper.

The "Righthaven Victims" blog has an (older) account of the DiBase case here
Could a similar argument be used against patent trolls?  With that issue, the problem seems to be more that the patents themselves are frivolous. This problem was discussed on my trademark blog in the case of Personal Audio, on Feb. 6.  

Thursday, February 07, 2013

I put myself on a schedule to publish my next book(s)

I did announce today (on Facebook  -- look me up as “John W. Boushka”, my legal name) that I expect to have a “final draft” (pun) of my “Do Ask Do Tell III” booklet, to become an official e-book, by April 1, to turn over for editing.  I expect to do the same for my novel, “Angels’ Brothers”, by May 15.  So, here I go with some project management.  It’s like the old workplace.  I would hope to be able to “publish” officially about three or four weeks after editing.

There is real tension, for those of us who are “different”, between doing what others in our immediate environment (like family, even for those of us who are childless) need us to do for them, and doing what we think expresses ourselves publicly, as “who we are”.  It’s hard to get a grip on it.  Maybe the world does need to make demands on us (beyond the usual norms of “personal responsibility” in a “free market”) to meet ends bigger than ourselves, so that the world can sustain itself.  Families and communities and nations will often do so, and lead themselves to the more usual policy conflicts.  And “we” may find that we are serving ends defined by others, and if we don’t find these social ends acceptable in a more global sense, we just might not live.  We cannot be enslaved or bullied just into going along.

Inside this outer tension there has long been a corresponding conflict about sexual orientation.  Families (parents) may feel that “we” owe them children and progeny, or they may feel that we’re kibitzing, standing on the sidelines and passing judgment on the suitability of others to have families after we (sometimes) were shamed away from doing that ourselves because of inability to compete physically or socially.  They may believe that our conformity is essential to their wanting to do what they know they should do.  I’ve never been comfortable with depending on the idea that sexual orientation is inborn or immutable, because that doesn’t work with other issues.  The right question is, why does (or did) it matter so much to other people, relative to so many other issues?

Outside this whole tension is a question on when self-expression is appropriate.  Earlier in my life, I thought I had the opportunity for expressiveness with music “using the system” of proving real accomplishment with established mechanisms.  Practicality and social pressure intervened.  In the Internet age, I resumed, doing it my own way, answering no longer to anyone.  It’s no surprise that many in the old media establishment would like to eliminate new forms of low-cost competition (look at SOPA).
Oh, “you” say, about the non-fiction book (DADT III), not another “manifesto”.  It will build on the earlier books, citing various incidents, and showing the progression of these sorts of issues (which are layered) in my own life.  It’s hard to draw all these together for one grand outcome.  But the calls I get from others who would want to “recruit” me certainly drive final conclusions.  
Picture above: No, not :Death of a Shadow", just the way the camera worked in the lighting.

Note: I gave Facebook info above; on Twitter I'm "@JBoushka".  Microblogging is rather fun.  

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Zoe Lofgren drafts "Aaron's Law", to prevent frivolous prosecution for "terms of service" violations in computer system access

On January 15, 2013 Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) drafted a proposed bill to be called “Aaron’s Law”, link here
The law would reform the 1986 Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, to eliminate the possibility of criminal prosecution merely for violation of a “terms of service” agreement with a telecommunications, Internet service or social networking provider, in interpreting the concepts of fraud or abuse.
Electronic Frontier Foundation has put the concept this way: “If you’re allowed to access information, doing so in an innovative way shouldn’t be a crime.”  It also proposes that penalties should be appropriate for offenses. 
Some of the “innovative ways” include using a different IP address or MAC to gain access. 
The EFF link (which points to many discussion drafts) is here

It’s possible for people to be banned from specific sites by IP address (by the “HTA access” mechanism), sometimes because of misconduct on the site, so presumably it would not be illegal for someone know he or she is “banned” from accessing a site through a different route (for example, wireless). 
Presumably such legislation would not exempt deliberately flooding a site with bogus requests (for a “denial of service” attack). 

Monday, February 04, 2013

Do people need to be "converted" before they will get your "arguments"? In Web 3.0, it's getting that way

Back in the 1990s, particularly while I still lived in northern Virginia (before I moved to Minnesota in 1997), I was the editor for the newsletter for Gays and Lesbians for Individual Liberty, which we called “The Quill”.  We did have a mailing list, which was substantial at the time, and we gave away free copies at various locations, particularly Lambda Rising bookstore in Washington (which no longer exists).
I remember a debate as to whether we needed a print newsletter at all.  Why not do it all with listservers, one person said.   We already knew where the circulation was (from the mailing list, which was a more valuable thing in those days). 
I argued for the print version because just to have an email newsletter would amount to “preaching to the choir”.
Of course, a lot of “newsletter” publications have become rather public with lists.  Back in the 1960s and 1970s. my father always enjoyed “The Kiplinger Washington Letter”.   And online marketing companies (like Fiercemarkets, link) used to rely heavily on email-list marketing before social media came along.
The idea of publishing to “friends’ lists” or “followers lists” and even restricting access to only these lists, has been around a long time.  Back in the 1990s, we had the “win arguments” vs. “win converts” debate, something that really went on in the Libertarian Party,  I even wrote an essay for the Minnesota Libertarian in 1998 on just that problem.
Instead, however, most major companies these days have made their “Facebook” sites vehicles for general public access, and the “Facebook” sites have become more important than their own domians in many cases.  (This has been particularly true of many small independent films, that can maintain comments and discussion threads going for a lone time with some films.)  It works particularly well for sports teams, too.  Because of  Facebook’s Timeline feature, companies know that they can get attention from almost any members who have “liked” or otherwise profiles them repeatedly.  That’s hard to achieve with Google’s “next blog”.   A big disadvantage, though, is a character limit for a posting (about 450 I think in Facebook, compared to 140 in Twitter). Another important point is that conventional sites and blogs offer statistics on visitors; the "Likeonomics" of today's social media doesn't. 
So in practice, social media have become a tremendous vehicle for publishing ("micro") news  to “everyone”, not just “converts” (that is “friends” and “followers”), which is one reason why many conventional blogs and information web sites have less traffic (from curious “surfers”) than they did say four years ago.  This development (along with “do not track”) could have tremendous implications for sustainability of  web-based business models, for service providers and news groups alike.  Ten to fifteen years ago, “real world” social networking based on “passive” Web 1.0 websites actually worked pretty well, for people with low costs and good logistics for getting around in person.  That may not be so much the case in the future.  We may indeed face “fierce markets” whether we like it or not. People who used to do their own “research” have gotten used to have their own news spoon fed to them.   
Of course, we can imagine another innovation.  Why not combine social media (with friending) with conventional blogging (even site shared hosting) as well as microblogging.  Of course, Blogger and Wordpress platforms offer this in some part, but not with the wild connectivity of Facebook.  There is room for more "big ideas" here, perhaps.  

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Can a school district claim copyright ownership of student and teacher "homework"? Prince Georges County MD thinks so.

Can a school district claim copyright ownership of work done by students and teachers?  Maybe for work done at school yet.  What about work done at home for the classroom?
The Board of Education of the Prince Georges County MD, east of Washington DC. has promulgated a policy that it owns the rights to school-related teacher and student work “even if created on the employee’s or student’s time and with use of their own materials”.  The news story by Ovetta Wiggins in the Washington Post on Sunday, February 03, 2013, is here.  
There is a critical point here.  While a copyright owner can certainly announce that it will enforce its rights, it cannot create rights that do not exist under federal copyright law.  It’s not so clear that federal law would give a school permanent rights to student’s term paper.
The incentive for the policy may have been that the school district wants to make money off of the sale of teachers’ lesson plans.  Some teachers publish their lessons on line, usually on school websites, but some teachers and school districts actually allow the public to see them.  Would a mathematical proof of a well known theorem (say, “The Fundamental Theorem of Calculus”) be copyrightable?  The language and style and visuals could be, but not the logic of the proof itself.  (So Salman Khan can probably copyright his clever video proving the Pythagorean Theorem.)
But there are other obvious issues.  When I was in college (in 1964), a professor asked for term papers to be returned so they couldn’t wind up in “fraternity files”.  Stopping plagiarism can be an issue.
I composed a piano Sonata at home when I was a junior in high school.  I did perform it for my music teacher’s own class one time.  What if I had encountered the opportunity to perform it for a music class at school?  Could the school system have claimed copyright ownership?  I sure hope not.  What if a band teacher composes an orchestral sinfonietta for the high school band (please, not the “Prehistoric Suite”).  It wouldn’t be good if the teacher didn’t own his or her own work.