Joho the Blog » 2005 » February

February 24, 2005

Amazing visualization

You may not care about the frequency of baby names sorted by year, but you will go gaga over this way of visualizing that information you may not care about.

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As viral as a splinter

Online Media Daily reports that MSN Search has started a “viral campaign” created by an agency called 42 Entertainment. But I don’t get what’s viral about it.

The main page, MSNFound, aggregates six phony blogs supposedly written by a demographically-appealing set of people. The individual blogs are one-entry and not very interesting. In fact, they are interest-averse, as so much marketing is. For example, the one by the so-called conspiracy theorist has a small banner about the “Enron/Afghanistan connection,” but it’s not linked to anything.

The aim seems to be to get you to click on links that are in fact queries so you can see the magnificence of MSN Search. But it in fact is confusing. The surfer dude’s “blog” suggests you do a search on “Tad _____” (where the blank is autofilled each time by the software with something different such as “Huntington Pier” or “Apprentice”) to see some “surprises.” The only surprise is that MSN Search puts a photo of the dude and a paragraph from his blog above all the legitimate entries and doesn’t explain how it got there. It’s just confusing. (In normal searches, the paid-for links are visually set off and the phrase “sponsored links” shows up in a too-faint gray.)

So, what’s supposed to be viral about this other than that by calling it viral, you get people like me to write about it?

(Disclosure: I was a member of the group of people MSN Search targeted for schmoozing shortly before the launch.) [Technorati tags: ]


I’m going to guess that this is the marketing project Scoble rips a new one for.

In response to Scoble, Pamela Parker Caird of The River wonders if a campaign can go viral these days without bloggers.


Sean Carver of MSN responds.

Sean, it’s not that I’m taking the site too seriously. I admit that I’m probably out of your demographic, but why would I want to come back to this site? And if I don’t come back, how am I supposed to figure out that it’s actually a a “search engine ‘opera’”? I understand that it’s supposed to be entertaining but to me it just wasn’t. That’s sort of the opposite of viral.

But, then, I also think the MSN Search tv ads are a waste of electrons. After 28 seconds of random images dancing around a search box, we learn that MSN Search exists. Is there some reason we should go to MSN Search or is its mere existence supposed to be enough of an enticement? But, I assume this ad tested well, so I’m just showing my naivete.

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Orphaned works – a plea from Lessig

A big snippet from email Larry Lessig, star of The West Wing, is sending around, lightly edited:

Thanks to some prodding by a couple of great US Senators, the copyright office is currently considering whether to recommend changes to copyright law that will make it easier and cheaper for you to use “orphaned works” — works that remain under copyright but whose “owner” can’t be found…

To convince them, we need your help. If you have a relevant story, or a perspective that might help the Copyright Office evaluate this issue, I would be grateful if you took just a few minutes to write an email telling them your story. The most valuable submissions will make clear the practical burden the existing system creates. (One of my favorite stories is about a copy-shop’s refusal to enlarge a 60 year old photo from an elementary school year book for a eulogy because the copyright owner couldn’t be found.) Describe instances where you wanted to use a work, but couldn’t find the owner to ask permission. Explain how that impacted your ability to create…

The Copyright Office is already overworked and understaffed, so I’m not asking that you stuff their inbox with demands for action, or anything like that. [Emphasis added] They are not Congress. They are not even the FCC. Their role here is as fact-finder, so “just the facts, ma’am.” (Oops, do I need permission to use that?)

Everything you need to do this is online at http://eldred.cc. ..


Larry also points at LuminousVoid’s reporting on the American Library Association’s oral argument against the FCC’s right to put in blace the Broadcast Flag regulation that will require manufacturers of digital equipment to ensure that their recorders can’t be used to make copies of copyrighted works. The article also points to Declan McCullagh’s coverage. [Technorati tags: ]

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February 23, 2005

Halley’s Bard moment

Halley does a might fine pastiche in response to Rebecca‘s request for bloggy sonnets. Here’s the first quatrain:

Let me not to the syndication of true blogs
Admit impediments. Blog is not blog
Which alters when it aggregation finds,
Or bends with the question of Atom or Dave:

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February 22, 2005

Freedom to Connect

There’s one week left to register for David Isenberg‘s Freedom to Connect conference at the reduced price of $250. It looks like it’ll be an informal confabulation of interesting people, with a special emphasis on how telecommunications might change and change the world. See you there?
[Technorati tag: ]


While we’re talking about freedom to connect:

SaveMuniWireless wants to stop a Texas House bill that would ban municipal wireless networks.

And the EFF is having more luck putting together MythTVs than Greg and I are… [Technorati tag: ]

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Thomas Hoeren

Thomas Hoeren from Muenster is talking at the Berkman Tuesday lunch. He’s been described as the Larry Lessig of Europe.

He says there are five ways of regulating information:

1. By statute. But how do you manage statutes across national boundaries? Plus, technology out-races statues.

2. Regulation by courts. Lessig likes this because you have the client there advocating for herself. Hoeren likes it also, but there are problems: Courts don’t have rules. You can’t predict what they’re going to do.

3. Non-regulation. E.g., until 1989, the US avoided having copyright protection for foreign works. In Europe, consumer protection has not been regulated. But, there are areas where constitutions require regulation.

4. Self-regulation. Good, but there are problems. E.g., eBay is self-regulating but is now being sued under European anti-trust laws.

5. Code as Code, technical regulation. This is Lessig’s innovation. Use technology to reinvent the rules. But the DMCA has lawyers helping companies avoid hacking.

In which situation do we use which tool? That is the main issue of information regulation. We need to find a Kantian “regulative idea,” which Hoeren calls “informational justice.”

There are four ways of defining it:

1. Use a constitution. (BTW, he says in Germany they avoid using the word “property” when talking about “intellectual property.” Yay.)

2. International public law. E.g., Kyoto for air quality. But when it comes to information law, there are too many players. He maintains that Article 9 of the Geneva rules is now being used in a way that twists its original intention.

3. Law and economics. Let the efficiency of rules determine how we think in informational law. But there are fundamental values that are not economic: E.g., the moral right of authors.

4. Can we use ideas of procedural justice to determine the meta-rules for information? Presented by Habermas who said we’ll never find a solution for determining common values. But we can find procedural rules of justice. A result is ok if it’s the result of a fair procedure. Hoeren likes this.

Right now there are many procedural injustices, he says. E.g., most of the internal drafts copyright directives in Europe are first sent to the headquarters to the content producers, not the consumer organizations.

Q: (Me) At Harvard there’s a controversy. We try to have fair hiring processes but it has led to an imbalance in gender and race. Inevitably we judge whether a process is just in part by looking at the outcome. But with information, we don’t have agreement about what is just. So, how do we know that the process is just?

A: We don’t have an idea about what informational justice is, so it’s best to try to make sure that the processes are fair and open.

Q: (Urs) Who defines the procedural rules — that’s the meta-meta problem.

A: In Sweden there are many procedural rules for lobbying. The drafts of acts are published and any meetings with lobbyists are posted on the Net.

(John Clippinger asks about the effect of social norms, a point Hoeren very much liked, but I missed it. Sorry.)

Q: (Urs) What about blended approaches?

A: I’m not trying to invent a theory that changes the whole world. I see procedural justice as a type of negative justice: I can determine what is unjust but not what is just.

Q: (me) Let’s say we go through the process and we lose. E.g., Lessig lost the Eldred case. Should he then say, Ok, justice has been served because the process was fair? But he won’t. He has a non-procedural idea of justice.

A: Yes, but I don’t understand that. As a researcher, Lessig ought to be satisfied. The rest of it is religion. Larry is a preacher.

He ends by admitting that there is an old argument between Hegel and Kant about the limits of formalism. And, he says, he’s not a huge fan of procedural justice; he just can’t find anything better.

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Jason needs your micro-cash

Jason Kottke is going full time as a blogger and would like some help.

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Bacon rulz (not)

An international team has put together a new blog on the virtues of bacon. Ethan Zuckerman, one of the baconists, sees this as yet another way to build bridges between bloggers, in this case the vegetarians and the carnivores.

As a vegetarian, I can only applaud this noble yet repulsive effort.


Ethan has Flickred photos from his India trip. And this post is worth a second link to.

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Community bloggers at the gates

Lisa Williams has started a community journalism site for Watertown, MA: H20town.info. (As of this morning, the name hasn’t made it entirely hrough the DNS system, so you may have to click here for now.) It looks great.

Lisa says she was inspired in large part by Adam Gaffin’s Boston-online.com and Debbie Galant’s Baristanet.com.

When it comes to blogging’s long-term effect on journalism, this stuff matters more than the ability of bloggers to bring down media authority figures. The latter counts, no doubt, but it’s giving us a Barbarians-at-the-gates image. In fact, I think it’d be fairer to view us overall as community gardeners.

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February 21, 2005

Hunter S. Thompson

He was a ferociously talented writer and a truth teller. I’m sad to hear he’s gone.

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