Friday, September 30, 2016

AG's in four red states sue to stop US transfer of domain name control to ICANN on Oct. 1

Four state attorneys general, for Texas, Oklahoma, Nevada and Arizona, have filed suit in federal court in Texas to prevent the Department of Commerce from surrendering control to ICANN over domains as of Oct. 1, 2016. Politico has a detailed story here.

There is a concern that ICANN could interfere with domains that don’t honor policies that many other countries see as politically correct, such as “the right to be forgotten”, and more acceptance of downstream liability for user behavior, and even the so called “link tax”.

Update: Oct. 1

The judge apparently denied the motion.  So ICANN takes over.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Note on "social use" of a Facebook page

I wanted to re-iterate a point about how I use Facebook right now.

I still post most of my major “news items” there for public use, and my account is in public mode.  I have a separate page for my books, but most people who know me and read my posts still get it from the regular page (or from these blogs or from Twitter).

 Therefore, I do not usually announce what events I am going to in advance.  For security, I don’t confirm that I will attend certain parties or events in advance, or let people know what plays or movies I will attend in advance.  I don’t have enough purely “social circulation” to justify the risks of such a practice.  I know this is frustrating to some people who find it important to show they can get “solidarity” from others in terms of events they organize.  I would need to use a purely private account with content only to friends or subscribers (whitelisted).

In fact, that was the original intention of Facebook, that had at one time been limited to campuses.  “Whitelisting” – the practice of sending information only to people who already know you – reduces the dissemination of “amateur journalism” and can prevent certain kinds of conflicts and reduce some kinds of personal risks.  Then again, someone can attempt to “friend” you to stalk you.  But you could have a rule that you only “friend” people you first meet in the physical world, and be a privately-acting person who lets the outside world go by (except for “solidarity”).

I don’t have enough social interaction to need Snapchat.  But I do find it helpful when people have private message boxes on Twitter (rather than only “Tweet to” boxes).  

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Should bloggers expect people to read their emails? Here's when.

“Blogtyrant” (Ramsay Taplan, in Australia) has another detailed article on how professional bloggers should maintain email lists.  This means deleting some non-responsive subscribers, sometimes.  It was interesting how much time and attention Ramsay gives to maintaining his interaction with subscribers.

There is a lot of technical discussion in the comments, which seem as important as the original article.

The obvious question to the novice would be, why expect people to engage your emails when there is so much spam around?  (How about using a Facebook page, or Twitter, or Instagram?)  Is this a “do unto others” problem?  I rarely open emails about which I have the slightest suspicion,  Or sometimes I open them on an older computer, and find many of them just plain na├»ve and silly in the business deals that they propose.

The short answer is that a niche blogger, a subject-matter-expert in a narrow field, might have a chance of attracting subscribers who “know” you because they opted in (and it’s important to offer the opt-out).   The narrower the subject and more specific the need being met, the better the chance it works.  Some subjects that actually make blogs money would not appeal to many mainstream writers and bloggers, which is how a market like this works.  I can think of some unusual topics – like doomsday prepping (which sounds ironic).  The needs of refugees and asylum seekers (legally different categories) and the responsibilities and possible liabilities for those assisting them sounds like a good topic for this.  So would something like adoption by same-sex couples or even singles, or transgender issues.  But these are very specialized and narrow and nor always in public debate.

It would seem that most niche blogs that make money are associated with small businesses that themselves have to be successful.  That can mean that the business owner has to hire someone or a company to manage email lists and other services.  That would seem to create an employment market, perhaps especially for college-age people in tech corridors (like Research Triangle Park and the Austin RX area).

Sunday, September 25, 2016

New York Times op-ed addresses "the privilege of being listened to"

Kaitlyn Greenidge (“We Love You, Charlie Freeman”) has an interesting op-ed on p. 3 of the Sunday Review, New York Times, Sunday, September 25, 2016, p. 3, “Who gets to write what story?”   Online, the tile leaves out “story”.

Greenridge poses a fictitious project where screenwriters collaborate on a movie where there is a lynching of a black person.  She asks if a white person gets to write the scene.  (Right now, let me reiterate, Gode Davis’s documentary “American Lynching” is still unfinished, as of his passing in 2010).  A lot of people, say no.

Later she gets into the paradox of the “power of words” – the power that writers have to influence social policy just by putting out there to be found, my paradigm – v. the supposed decline in people willing to pay for words, which she says is an illusion.  That gets into the whole area of barriers to entry, gatekeepers, amateurism, free content, all vs. an establishment.

My own experience is more that the “Privilege of Being Listened” to has something to do with having your skin in the game.  I suppose that for some issues, merely being black increases that chance – that the speaker experiences the heightened risk of being profiles and even shot by police.  I think this gets testy.  People don’t like my speaking out on paid family leave because I don’t experience the bodily commitment of giving birth to (or fathering) a child.  But others simply refuse to consider the possibility that they are demanding my “sacrifice” for their choices.

Of course, my perspective is that of being caught deep within my own narrative.  It's not that it's narcissistic (Trump-like).  I simply haven't walked in a lot of others' shoes, and seem sheltered from the interpersonal (let alone physical) risks others have to take.

There seems to be an idea that a speaker should have “standing” in the area she speaks about – skin in the game, maybe even the willingness to prove it with some ritualistic sacrifice to show that “she” belongs. It sounds intuitively that the speaker should be have shared some of the risks of other members of his or her cohort.  A lot of times this means having other mouths to feed, others dependent on “you”, a willingness to find meaning in that dependency of others, even if that compromises the intellectual objectivity of your ideas.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Whoops? Donald Trump?

I got a US mail ad from Donald Trump that is so hysterical that I thought it was a joke.  I included a bumper sticker.

My even posting this on a blog with ads might technically violate the campaign finance reform law back in early 2002, which created a lot of controversy in 2005 as an existential threat to blogging before it blew over.

Trump thinks he can “sell” his vote with his personalized “Stop Crooked Hillary Pledge” and by using his last name as a brand in such bombastic fashion.

I’m not impressed by aggressive sales tactics (which I see on email all the time, including hysterical emails from the Democratic Party too).

I can remember being asked in a screening interview (when New York Life wanted to consider me to become an agent in 2005), “would you buy products or services from a salesman?”  Not very often  Use Amazon.

I do understand attention-getting.  I had a habit of interrupting people in grade school, that I still remember, and it seems out of character now.  Introversion and extroversion are more nuanced than most psychologists think.
Trump thinks it is a great privilege to ride on his campaign plane and to get your photo with him. What a parody of what George Gilder calls "upward affiliation". 

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Washington Post engages debate with "Counter Extremism Project" to counter terror-promoting websites

Recently the Washington Post has covered the Counter Extremism Project” to deploy new technology to combat online extremism. The CEP seems to be predicated on technology that matches other content to items flagged by users as terror propaganda.

The Washington Post published an LTE today from the CTE in response to its Sept. 17 editorial, link.

There’s also a proposal, in the letters, that a non-profit foundation could develop a “seal of approval” for websites.  This seems to extend the concept of rating of websites now for security threats and with peer rating (MyWOT, which had developed back around 2006).  Sound a development could be “bad” for amateurism.

The idea of evaluating content for ideological exploitation reminds me of the reason why some authoritarian leaders (like Vladimir Putin) see media in terms of “propaganda” even today, and do not believe the “masses” can do their own thinking.  Donald Trump talks as if that is what he believes.

But some of the "plots" in the US (as with the NY-NJ plot this weekend) seem to involve offspring of immigrants who have become citizens. Radicalization seems to involve a lack of character, lack of cognition required to "make it" in our kind of world, and then recruitment and travel to the home country where culture is much more group or tribe oriented.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

DOJ enforcement of ADA on UC Berkeley "free" online courses could set a bad precedent for small publishers

I wanted to make a note about the recent decision by the University of California Berkeley to stop access to free online courses because it could not comply with DOJ mandates to provide equal access for the disabled, as part of Civil Rights enforcement.

FEE  (a libertarian-oriented site) has a good story here.  The letter to the school is here.

The idea behind this action worries me as a “small publisher”.  I cannot, in a practical manner, make my books available in large print or audio, for example.  In theory, such a policy could stop self-publishing by content-providers who do not have a large income flow from what they publish.  "Free content" by small speakers certainly does not add revenue to pay for special access.  Of course, browsers can provide tools for access, as can various PC operating system or hardware features, so I wonder why that doesn't enter into the issue.

Wikipedia attribution link for picture of Berkeley gate by Trisweb (CCSA 2.5).  I stayed in Berkeley for a week on vacation in 1971.

Monday, September 19, 2016

"Adblock Plus" may be setting itself up as a gatekeeper of acceptable website ads

The New York Times has a Business Day article Monday September 19, 2016, “An Ad Blocker, Create to Protect Users from Ads, Instead Opens the Door”, by Sapna Maheshwari in her advertising column (Madison Avenue).
The article is about a company Adblock Plus which appears to be setting itself as a recognized industry gatekeeper for deciding what ads are acceptable enough to be pro-actively whitelisted.  This is a potentially “dangerous” idea.

The user installs the product in her browser, which effectively gives the company the power to decide with ads ought to be “publishable”.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Vox Media welcomes "non press" submissions on critical, undercovered topics (like power grid security)

Vox Media has created a new section on its website called “The Big Idea” and seems to be welcoming submissions from those other than “press establishment” journalists, story by Dylan Matthews here.

There is already an article by astrophysicist Lucianne Walcowicz on the threat to the power grids and particularly the Internet from solar storms (which I’ll cover soon on Wordpress).

Vox seems to be seeking articles with factual information from people doing the work – especially in areas like deep science and medicine.  I can imagine the list of insufficiently (or inaccurately) covered critical topics, ranging from power grid security to population demographics, to artificial intelligence, to revolutionary medicine.  I think legal and political discussion of some of the ideas regarding downstream liability on the Internet go there, too.   Maybe animals “people-like” or even distributed intelligence (like that of the orca), or real evidence of alien life belongs there.
Ten years ago, the debate on “don’t ask don’t tell” would have belonged.  Don’t assume it can never come back (particularly if Trump could win).

Friday, September 02, 2016

Melania Trump sues Maryland blogger and UK site; Donald Trump requires non-disparagement clause from phone bank volunteers

Melania Trump has sued a political blogger in Maryland, Webster G. Tarpley, as well as  for defamation.  The site is called "".

Tarpley’s comment is here.

She has also sued the UK’s Daily Mail, according to this NBC story. Trump, as a public figure, would have to show actual malice or reckless disregard of the truth.

The ThinkProgress reports on a nondisclosure statement that even volunteers – just to work on phonebanks (don’t call me) must sign.  There is a gag and lifetime non-disparagement order.  I don’t think it’s enforceable because Trump hasn’t given the volunteers any “consideration” in legal terms.

Why would someone even volunteer under such conditions? What does Donald Trump have to hide?  (Plenty, I guess -- opinion rule.)

For a political presidential candidate, or a family member, to sue an “ordinary” blogger to silence him or her during an election campaign sounds unprecedented and startling (see June 14).

Update: Dec. 12

Melania appeared in court today., Variety story.

Update:  January 28

Dan Morse of the Washington Post reported on p. B6 today that a Maryland judge had ruled Melania's libel suit could proceed.  it sounds conceivable that in a related suit, Media Mail could claim a Section 230-like protection as it is not really the publisher.