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July 31, 2009

Tenenbaum trial bloggage

Marc Bourgeois is doing some excellent blogging of the RIAA v. Tenenbaum trial. Fascinating.

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July 29, 2009

Office hours for non-academics

Academics hold office hours — set periods when they can be found in their on-campus offices, available to talk — because they are not required to be on campus except for when they teach. Since more of the workforce is adopting that work-wherever-you-want approach, I really like Whitney Hess’ idea of establishing of office hours for herself. She’s a user experience designer, and if you want to talk with her, you can count on her being in her office, with a chat client open, on Sunday mornings, 9-10 EDT.

More of us ought to be doing that. I think it’s a keeper of an idea.

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July 25, 2009

Dan Gillmor’s early blogs found

Scott Rosenberg posts the happy news that Rudolf Ammann has found Dan Gillmor’s missing early bloggage for the San Jose Mercury News.

Scott includes a link to Dan’s first post, in 1999. Here are some snippets:

I’ve been thinking about the new ways of journalism, namely the ways the Internet is imposing on all of us. Internet Time has compressed the lives of all kinds of people in all kinds of businesses, and journalism is no exception. In fact, it may be one of the businesses most affected in the long run, both in the opportunities the Net creates and the threat it represents.

So I’m trying one of those new forms. It’s called a “weblog” — and it’s a combination of styles that could exist only on the Web. Text, pictures, hyperlinks and, soon, audio and video are all part of this new form, and I can’t wait to start experimenting with it.

Why do I like weblogs? Because the best ones are windows into the Web, various topics and people’s minds. Rather than trying to describe the form, let me show you several of the weblogs I look at daily (or even more frequently):

There’s nobody I admire more than Dan, for his integrity and his prescience.

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July 20, 2009

Facebook at 250M huddled masses

Brian Solis reports on Facebook’s claim of 250M souls, as well as on the social networking sites popular in various parts of the world.

Simply the map of the global distribution of Facebook users makes clear the danger of building our social nets in proprietary systems that don’t start from the premise that first they must interoperate.

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July 19, 2009

Transparency is the new objectivity

A friend asked me to post an explanation of what I meant when I said at PDF09 that “transparency is the new objectivity.” First, I apologize for the cliché of “x is the new y.” Second, what I meant is that transparency is now fulfilling some of objectivity’s old role in the ecology of knowledge.

Outside of the realm of science, objectivity is discredited these days as anything but an aspiration, and even that aspiration is looking pretty sketchy. The problem with objectivity is that it tries to show what the world looks like from no particular point of view, which is like wondering what something looks like in the dark. Nevertheless, objectivity — even as an unattainable goal — served an important role in how we came to trust information, and in the economics of newspapers in the modern age.

You can see this in newspapers’ early push-back against blogging. We were told that bloggers have agendas, whereas journalists give us objective information. Of course, if you don’t think objectivity is possible, then you think that the claim of objectivity is actually hiding the biases that inevitably are there. That’s what I meant when, during a bloggers press conference at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, I asked Pulitzer-prize winning journalist Walter Mears whom he was supporting for president. He replied (paraphrasing!), “If I tell you, how can you trust what I write?,” to which I replied that if he doesn’t tell us, how can we trust what he blogs?

So, that’s one sense in which transparency is the new objectivity. What we used to believe because we thought the author was objective we now believe because we can see through the author’s writings to the sources and values that brought her to that position. Transparency gives the reader information by which she can undo some of the unintended effects of the ever-present biases. Transparency brings us to reliability the way objectivity used to.

This change is, well, epochal.

Objectivity used be presented as a stopping point for belief: If the source is objective and well-informed, you have sufficient reason to believe. The objectivity of the reporter is a stopping point for reader’s inquiry. That was part of high-end newspapers’ claimed value: You can’t believe what you read in a slanted tabloid, but our news is objective, so your inquiry can come to rest here. Credentialing systems had the same basic rhythm: You can stop your quest once you come to a credentialed authority who says, “I got this. You can believe it.” End of story.

We thought that that was how knowledge works, but it turns out that it’s really just how paper works. Transparency prospers in a linked medium, for you can literally see the connections between the final draft’s claims and the ideas that informed it. Paper, on the other hand, sucks at links. You can look up the footnote, but that’s an expensive, time-consuming activity more likely to result in failure than success. So, during the Age of Paper, we got used to the idea that authority comes in the form of a stop sign: You’ve reached a source whose reliability requires no further inquiry.

In the Age of Links, we still use credentials and rely on authorities. Those are indispensible ways of scaling knowledge, that is, letting us know more than any one of us could authenticate on our own. But, increasingly, credentials and authority work best for vouchsafing commoditized knowledge, the stuff that’s settled and not worth arguing about. At the edges of knowledge — in the analysis and contextualization that journalists nowadays tell us is their real value — we want, need, can have, and expect transparency. Transparency puts within the report itself a way for us to see what assumptions and values may have shaped it, and lets us see the arguments that the report resolved one way and not another. Transparency — the embedded ability to see through the published draft — often gives us more reason to believe a report than the claim of objectivity did.

In fact, transparency subsumes objectivity. Anyone who claims objectivity should be willing to back that assertion up by letting us look at sources, disagreements, and the personal assumptions and values supposedly bracketed out of the report.

Objectivity without transparency increasingly will look like arrogance. And then foolishness. Why should we trust what one person — with the best of intentions — insists is true when we instead could have a web of evidence, ideas, and argument?

In short: Objectivity is a trust mechanism you rely on when your medium can’t do links. Now our medium can. [Tags: ]

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July 16, 2009

Techcrunch’s RT of @Ev email

Sam Bayard of the Berkman Center’s Citizen Media Law Center has posted an explanation of the legal issues around TechCrunch posting some of the content of the email stolen from Twitter’s founders background.

It seems different to me than when people posted internal messages from Diebold, because there was a clear public interest in the reliability of voting machines. I’m trying to bracket out the sense that Twitter is one of us, but I’m failing. The whole thing makes me feel icky.

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July 12, 2009

Transparent justice

The Sunlight Foundation’s Daniel Schuman writes about the transparency of the Sotomayor hearings and about the extent to which the future member of the Supreme Court would support greater transparency in the courts.

There’s also a Twitter stream for news about the hearings. It’s under the name Sonia Sotomayor, but I doubt that she’s actually there twiddling her thumbs….

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July 10, 2009

Internet freedom, but not equality

From the National Journal:

Sens. Arlen Specter, D-Pa., and Sam Brownback, R-Kan., secured $30 million in federal funding for the State Department’s efforts to promote Internet freedom as part of the agency’s fiscal year 2010 spending bill. The program must be approved by the full Senate and the House before it makes its way to President Obama’s desk. The money would promote widespread, secure Internet use by individuals residing in countries practicing repressive Internet monitoring, censorship and control. The outlay is “a low-cost method of allowing people, especially those living under repressive regimes, to access all-source, uncensored, unfiltered information,” the senators said in a Friday press release.

“Tearing down these Internet cyberwalls can match the effect of what happened when the Berlin Wall was torn down,” Specter said. “This funding seeks to enable freedom of thought, expression and the unimpeded flow of ideas and information, and I am pleased my colleagues have recognized the program’s importance.” Brownback added the battle being waged in the streets of Iran and China is also being fought on micro-blogging site Twitter, social network Facebook and other platforms. “This is a pivotal moment for people living in oppressive regimes. The best way to ensure their ability to communicate and share their story with each other and the world is to keep the Internet open,” he said.

The House passed a State spending bill Thursday that did not include Web freedom funding but Energy and Commerce Committee member Mary Bono Mack, R-Calif., earlier this week urged lawmakers to hold a hearing on the role of the Internet in giving a voice to those in repressive countries. Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., who in the 109th Congress chaired a high-profile Internet freedom hearing of the House subcommittee that oversees global human rights, has repeatedly introduced legislation that would prevent U.S. tech firms from working with nations that capture and convict citizens for engaging in democracy promotion and human rights advocacy online.

The NY Times reports on danah boyd’s kick-butt keynote at PDF09, in which she pointed to the class divisions in the Net:

Is the social-media revolution bringing us together? Or is it perpetuating divisions by race and class?

Many of us would like to believe the Internet is a force for unity, but danah boyd, a social-media researcher at Microsoft Research New England and a fellow at Harvard Law School’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, thinks we’re deceiving ourselves.

Speaking last week at the Personal Democracy Forum, an annual conference that explores how technology is changing politics, Ms. boyd asked a packed audience of activists, political operatives, entrepreneurs and journalists to raise their hands if they use Facebook. Almost every hand in the place went up. Then she asked who uses MySpace, and barely a hand was seen.

How could that be? Sure, Facebook is growing much faster. But MySpace is far from dead. In May, Web-traffic tracker comScore reported that Facebook and MySpace are neck and neck in terms of U.S. visitors, with 70.28 million that month for Facebook, up 97% from a year ago, and 70.26 million for MySpace, down 5% from last year.

vMs. boyd got some answers from group of people she’s been hanging out with over the last four years: U.S. teens. During the 2006-2007 school year, her conversations with high-school students began showing a trend of white, upper-class and college-bound teens migrating to Facebook–much like the crowd in the conference hall has. Meanwhile, less-educated and non-white teens were on MySpace. Ms. boyd noted that old-style class arrogance was also in view; the Facebook kids were quicker to use condescending language toward the MySpace kids.

“What we’re seeing is a modern incarnation of white flight,” Ms. boyd said. “It should scare the hell out of us.”

More in the article, including research by Eszter Hargittai… [Tags: ]

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July 9, 2009

Brad Sucks latest album for free — and Brad still gets paid!

NOTE: The 50 copies are gone. Took about an hour.

I’m trying an experiment with a business model I like to call a reverse referral fee. Here’s how it works…

You click on a link that lets you download a copy of Brad Sucks’ latest album, Out of It. The album of wonderful music is yours for free in every sense. (Share it! Please!) But, I’m going to pay Brad for each copy downloaded, at a bulk rate he and I have agreed on.

This offer is good for the first fifty people who download it. After that, you can buy a copy on your own. Of course, Brad also makes his music available for free (in every sense), but don’t you want to support a truly webby, big-hearted musician who’s giving us his talent free of copyright, studios, and DRM? Doncha?

So, if you want to be one of the fifty, click here for your free-to-you-but-not-to-me copy of Brad Sucks’ Out of It.

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July 8, 2009

Running thoughts

I run. Yes, I know the idea is ridiculous, but not half as ridiculous as the actual sight of me “running.” The only indication that I am running and not, say, just leaning forward slightly is that that posture could under no circumstances produce that amount of sweat. Showering for me is not going from dry to wet; it’s merely the replacement of sea water with fresh.

Well, enough about my sweat. Here are some random thoughts from the hard sidewalks of Brookline and Brighton.

0-10 minutes: Jill Sobule is really good. Why don’t I listen to her more? I especially like the songs where she reveals something unexpected about the person she’s singing about. That’s the essence of the narrative art. Also, why is that new song about kissing a girl bigger than Jill’s was?

10-12 minutes: Jeez, Hegel was right about how history works. Everywhere you look at what the Net is doing to us, old forms are being contradicted, but also raised up, and then overcome by something new that includes it while going beyond it. E.g., experts are better able to do what they do, but put them into a network with other experts — and non-experts — and you get the whole expertise taken to a new level. Likewise, the massness of the Web nevertheless is raising up a new type of local-ness, including that in some public, mass-y places there will be nooks with the Norman Rockwell expectation that people will know your name. Or avatar, anyway.

12-20 minutes: Since at the current pace, the number of registered Web domains will hit infinity in the year 2013, what will be the most efficient search algorithm to look up any one of them? Even if they were alphabetized, could you do the old thing of dividing the list in half to see if the target term is in part one or part two, and then dividing it again and again? With an infinite list, wouldn’t that on average take, um, forever? In fact, how would you even know where the middle was to do the first divide? Well, I suppose you could assign them numbers and then divide them into even and odd numbers. But you’re still talking about infinities here. Jeez, I wish I’d taken math after high school.

20-43 minutes: What is the name of the part of the leg between the ankle and the calf — the back part of the leg, not the shins — because whatever it is, it’s on fire. Undercalf? Backshin? The limpmaster? The quadralimpcets? The supra-ankle-scorcholater? Ow ow ow ow ow ow ow ow ow ow ow ow ow ow ow ow ow wow that’s a lot of sweat ow ow ow ow ow ow ow ow.

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