Joho the BlogFebruary 2010 - Joho the Blog

February 28, 2010

I’ve been hacked. Help?

My WordPress account has been hacked.

JohoTheBlog’s RSS feed is showing up in NewzCrawler embedded in spam. Results at Google have begun showing up with spammy titles (“Buy Online, No RX (Prescription) Required! » Zoloft online stores”), with long, hacked URLs (

Googling around tells me that there have been similar-seeming attacks on WordPress accounts.This article is quite helpful. I found some odd cruft in my header.php, have changed passwords, and am stilling looking around.

Any other suggestions?


[2b2k] Another re-org

Last week, I went through the current (dis)organization of the book with Tim Sullivan, my editor at Basic Books. I’ve known Tim for a few of years, (even before he became the editor of the tenth anniversary edition of Cluetrain), which is the basic reason I went with Basic for Too Big to Know. Tim’s got a sharp eye for the structure of books, as well as being smart about, and fully engaged in, the content. Truly pleasure to work with.

Tim is the opposite of freaked out by my thrashing. In fact, he’s actually sort of encouraging about it, because (I assume) he sees it as one way the creative process proceeds. So, I came out of that conversation a little less freaked out myself.

Here’s where I am at the moment. I have a prologue that needs some work but Tim thinks sets up the problem well enough. It contrasts Darwin’s sort facts with those at, and tries to lead the reader to see not just that there is too much to know but that our new muchness seems to be changing the nature of knowledge itself. (My concern with the prologue is that I don’t want the reader to think that the book is about algorithmic learning, as the example might suggest.)

I’ve now re-done Chapter 1. It begins with a section on the data-information-knowledge pyramid as an example of our traditional strategy of dealing with the knowledge overload by narrowing our field of vision. Then I talk about information overload as a fact of life. I introduce Clay Shirky’s “It’s not information overload — it’s filter failure” idea, and then say that the difference is not simply that we now have social filters and the like. Rather, our filters now don’t filter out so much as filter forward — they reduce the number of clicks it takes to get to an item, but they leave the other items accessible. This puts the fact of overload straight into our faces. I close by suggesting a half dozen ways this affects knowledge, but I’m not sure I’ll keep that little section.

I’m working on Chapter 2, for the moment called “The expertise of clouds,” which was a leading contender for the title back when I was plotting the book. It looks like it may be a very long chapter on networked expertise.I’m not exactly sure how to organize it at the moment. The main question is whether I put into it all the multiple case studies and examples of networked expertise I’ve been accumulating.

I feel like I’m postponing facing the organizational problem posed by what I’m proposing as Chapter 3: the history and future of facts. (That’s the grandiose way of putting a much more mundane topic.) I’m afraid that chapter will strike the reader as unfocused and pointless. Why are we reading about the 19th century social reform movement in England? Beats me. But, thankfully I have Chapter 2 to distract me from that question.


February 27, 2010

The economics of accusation: Penalty for false DMCA claims is low

Here’s how DMCA take-down notices work: Let’s say you post a video of a silent, purple, evening rainfall to YouTube under the title “Purple Rain.” Big Mean Co. owns the rights to Prince’s song of that name and notices your post’s title when it does a routine sweep of YouTube. It automatically generates a notice to YouTube saying that you’ve violated copyright. YouTube takes down the video and notifies you. Being a clever person, you go to and send a counter-notification to YouTube, saying that your title actually has nothing to do with the Prince song. YouTube puts your movie back up.

But, the DMCA – the act that outlines this process – allows you to go further. In order to discourage the Big Mean Companies from using a “when in doubt, send a take-down notice” strategy, papering the YouTubes of the world with millions of false claims, you have the right to bring an action against Big Mean for damages. The question is: What are the guidelines for those damages? Will they be substantial enough to actually discourage Big Mean Companies? Or will they be so trivial that the “when in doubt, send a take-down notice” becomes the economically smart strategy?

Eric Goldman reports that a judge has ruled. Here’s my I-am-not-a-lawyer attempt to understand it.

In this particular case, Universal Music sent a take-down claim for a YouTube video of a baby dancing to Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy.” The poster said the video was fair use. The judge agreed. Now the judge has ruled that the poster does not have to prove economic loss in order to get compensated for damages. And, Universal should pay the legal fees for responding to the takedown notice (i.e., telling YouTube that the video actually doesn’t infringe on copyright). But, if you decide to go further and sue for damages, it’s up to the judge (according to this ruling) to decide if the take-down notice contained “knowing and material” misrepresentations. Eric says, “most judges probably will exercise their discretion favorably towards a winning … plaintiff, but it’s not an automatic award.” And, if you lose, you could be ordered to pay the defendant’s legal fees.

Which means, as far as I can tell, that after you (the poster) get the takedown reversed and sue Big Mean for damages, unless you’ve suffered actual economic harm, the best you’re going to get is coverage of your legal fees (maybe). Plus, if you lose, you may be paying for Big Mean’s lawyers’ time.

Sounds like a victory for the “when in doubt” strategy and for Big Mean Companies everywhere.


I asked my friend Wendy Seltzer to check my explanation over. She says it’s basically right, but adds:

This ruling doesn’t change the basic calculation, that plaintiffs’ lawyers could take these cases on contingency and win their fees for a successful 512(g) complaint — it’s just under a different provision in the Copyright Act. Even regular copyright has a fee-shifting provision different from the standard “American rule” that parties bear their own fees and costs.


February 26, 2010

Berkman Buzz

This week’s Berkman Buzz

  • Ethan Zuckerman problematizes censorship circumvention systems:

  • Chilling Effects witnesses the Microsoft/Cryptome collision:

  • Donnie Dong on China’s newest website registration requirement:

  • Has the CMLP found a new test for Section 230 of the CDA?

  • ProjectVRM surfaces a conversation on geocasting:

  • danah boyd shares her perspective on Chatroulette:

  • Weekly Global Voices: “Macedonia: Grassroots Effort to Preserve Folk Music Online”

  • Dan Gillmor insists on journalism as ecosystem:

  • Christian Sandvig kvetches about video game criticism:

  • A year ago in the Buzz: “Join the herd!”


From circles to networks

Just a terminological note:

Over the past decade, we’ve gone from talking about social circles to social networks. A circle draws a line around us. Networks draw lines among us.

(Yet more evidence — as if we needed it — that networks are the new paradigm. Bye bye, Information Age!)


February 25, 2010

7.5 hours later

I watched virtually all of the health care summit, even though I initially intended to watch the beginning and then get some damn work done. Some random responses:

  • Obama kept the tone right. He continues to model democracy for us: People disagreeing but still treating one another with respect. The biggest lesson of the Obama presidency so far for me is what it looks like to consistently treat people with dignity.

  • Overall (i.e., there were certainly exceptions), the Democrats tried to find areas of agreement, while the Republicans pointed to areas of disagreement.

  • Overall, the higher up in the party leadership you were, the more likely you were to waste our time repeating talking points. (Not true for the President and Vice President.)

  • We ought to have a rule: no more anecdotes. We really don’t need to hear about relatives and constituents who were treated well or badly. It proves nothing. We already know the stakes are real and high. Now we need a policy.

  • The Republicans are better at staying on message. I wish the Democrats had responded to the Republican call for a “step by step” policy and “starting over” by saying “Give us an up-or-down vote on health care reform, and if it loses, we’ll start over and go step by step.” An “up-or-down vote” is the old Republic talking point that means a vote with a simple majority.

  • I was glad to see some of the Democrats push back against the Republicans’ ridiculous attempt to tell us that the Founding Fathers wanted a 60-vote majority in the Senate.

  • I think the Republicans came off well. A whole bunch of ideas that I thought were crazy I now think are merely wrong. Seriously. It was good to hear their thinking laid out, starting with Lamar Alexander, who I thought did an excellent job.

  • I’ll be surprised if this summit results in bipartisan legislation. But, it succeeded if only because it showed us what it’s like to have both parties in the same room acting like grownups.


February 24, 2010

Good news from Australia

[Later that morning: Note that this decision was released Feb. 4, so I’m only 3 weeks late with this.] Dennis Cowdroy of the federal court in Australia has decided that an ISP is not liable for copyright infringements by its users using Bittorrent.

I am not a lawyer, so I may not be getting this right. So, here are what seem to me to be the relevant paragraphs, which I’ve highly abridged:

#9 The critical issue in this proceeding was whether iiNet , by failing to take any steps to stop infringing conduct, authorised the copyright infringement of certain iiNet users.

#10 The first step in making a finding of authorisation was to determine whether certain iiNet users infringed copyright. I have found that they have. However, in reaching that finding, I have found that the number of infringements that have occurred are significantly fewer than the number alleged by the applicants. …

#11 …I find that iiNet did not authorise the infringements of copyright of the iiNet users. I have reached that conclusion for three primary reasons which I now refer to.

#12 Firstly, … I find that the mere provision of access to the internet is not the ‘means’ of infringement. There does not appear to be any way to infringe the applicants’ copyright from the mere use of the internet. Rather, the ‘means’ by which the applicants’ copyright is infringed is an iiNet user’s use of the constituent parts of the BitTorrent system. iiNet has no control over the BitTorrent system and is not responsible for the operation of the BitTorrent system.

#13 Secondly, I find that a scheme for notification, suspension and termination of customer accounts is not, in this instance, a relevant power to prevent copyright infringement…

#14 Thirdly, …The evidence establishes that iiNet has done no more than to provide an internet service to its users. This can be clearly contrasted with the respondents in the Cooper and Kazaa proceedings, in which the respondents intended copyright infringements to occur, and in circumstances where the website and software respectively were deliberately structured to achieve this result.

#15 Consequently, I find that the applicants’ Amended Application before me must fail…

Judge Cowdroy then considers issues that his findings made irrelevant, but since IANAL and IANA (I am not Australian), I have trouble understanding them. I think he’s saying that the Telecommunications Act and the Copyright Act would have held if the facts of the case had been different, and that iiNet’s “repeat infringer policy” was sufficiently strong to provide it with “safe harbour,” protecting it from liability.

He then summarizes:

#19 The result of this proceeding will disappoint the applicants. The evidence establishes that copyright infringement of the applicants’ films is occurring on a large scale, and I infer that such infringements are occurring worldwide. However, such fact does not necessitate or compel, and can never necessitate or compel, a finding of authorisation, merely because it is felt that ‘something must be done’ to stop the infringements. An ISP such as iiNet provides a legitimate communication facility which is neither intended nor designed to infringe copyright. It is only by means of the application of the BitTorrent system that copyright infringements are enabled, although it must be recognised that the BitTorrent system can be used for legitimate purposes as well. iiNet is not responsible if an iiNet user chooses to make use of that system to bring about copyright infringement.

#20 The law recognises no positive obligation on any person to protect the copyright of another…

Overall, this seems like a win for the Internet, but let me know if I’m getting this wrong…


[2b2k] Eggs good for you this week

The title of this post is one of my favorite headlines from The Onion.

So, yesterday we’re told that maybe taking a baby aspirin every day is more harmful than helpful, except for those with certain heart disease heart factors. (My doctor has me on ’em. I’m going to keep take them.)

Today, an article in the Boston Globe reports on a study that says saturate fats don’t clog arteries the way we’ve been told for generations. (In the 1930s, when my grandfather had a heart attack, my grandmother was told to make sure he eats lots and lots of butter, to keep anything from sticking to his arteries.)

So, what will they take back tomorrow? Germ theory? Gravity? Heliocentrism? Bring back phlogiston!


February 23, 2010

[2b2k] Tuttle Club’s expertise clubhouse

Here’s a post from last July — ok, so I’m a little behind in my reading — that describes the Tuttle Club’s first consulting engagement. An open, self-selected group of people converge for an open session with the potential client. They talk, sketch, and do some improv, out of which emerges a set of topics and people for more focused discussion.

This is semi-emergent expertise. I add the “semi” because the initial starting conditions are quite focused, so the potential areas of collaboration and outcomes are thus fairly constrained. But compared to traditional Calf Sock Expertise (i.e., highly paid and trained men in blue suits who believe that focus is the only efficient way to proceed), this is wildly emergent.

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February 22, 2010

Jay Rosen on the journalistic quest for innocence

Brilliant, gorgeous piece by Jay Rosen that asks a simple question. Jay takes an investigative piece by David Barstow that he admires. In it, Barstow writes about the Tea Party movement: “It is a sprawling rebellion, but running through it is a narrative of impending tyranny.” Jay asks: Why doesn’t Barstow say that that narrative is false to the point of psychosis? Read what Jay makes of this …

[Later that day:] I’ve had a little back and forth with Jay about this in email, particularly about the journalists’ defense that readers can be counted on to know that the “impending tyranny” idea is false. I don’t buy that defense, and neither does Jay. It means that journalists get out of having to state the truth – there is no impending tyranny – because they can rely on readers agreeing with their own point of view. And we can be quite certain that this is what’s going on because (as Jay points out), if the journalists thought there was any credibility to the claim that Obama is imposing tyranny on us, that would be a far larger story than the Tea Party story in which the claim is embedded. So the journalists get to have their point of view and not have to state it…which makes objectivity into a pretense.


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