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July 31, 2010

Berkman Buzz

Here’s the weekly Berkman Buzz, as compiled by Seth Young.

  • Wendy Seltzer [twitter] , “Jailbreaking Copyright’s Scope” link

  • Facebook caper? Jonathan Zittrain [twitter] holsters his pitchfork link

  • Facebook privacy settings? danah boyd [twitter] , Eszter Hargittai [twitter] ask, “Who cares?” link

  • Peace on Facebook? Ethan Zuckerman [twitter] tries to do the math link

  • Dan Gillmor’s [twitter] initial comments on the WikiLeaks “Afghanistan diary” link

  • Weekly Global Voices [twitter] : “Côte d’Ivoire: Journalists accused of document theft are freed” link

  • Herdict [twitter] on court-ordered filtering in Russia link

  • CMLP [twitter] on the FTC’s defense of its Blogger Endorsement Guidelines link

  • Radio Berkman 160: “Business, Meet Web” link

  • Doc Searls’ [twitter] belated eulogy for Ricochet link

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March 23, 2010

Why the light blogging

I’ve been traveling. It’s been an intense trip that I’ll tell you about when it isn’t 2am while I wait in an airport to begin a 20 hour trip home…


March 15, 2010

Hummingbird cam

Here’s a live webcam of a hummingbird sitting on a nest with eggs in it. (It could only be improved on if they head-mounted a camera on the bird itself.)


August 27, 2009

What’s wrong with Craigslist?

That’s more or less the question that prompted Wired’s cover story, according to its author’s blog post:

The cover story of this month’s Wired started when the magazine’s editors asked me a pointed question: How can a site that’s so good be so bad? Serving a vast community at an irresistible price (mostly free), craigslist nonetheless seemed the antithesis of what a modern web business should be. Oblivious to innovation and stuck in a 1997 mindset, craigslist was hogging the sector and holding things back. When the editors invited me in to propose that I write the story, they wanted an exposé.

That helps the dissonance in the article. I read it feeling like Gary Wolf, the author, was out to get Craig, but couldn’t find anything negative, so he wrote a weird Attack of the Positives article.

Sure, Craigslist’s site design is cramped, prosaic, and old Webbish. Sure, Craig is quirky and eccentric. So? Instead of writing a piece titled “Why Craigslist Is Such a Mess,” why not write one called “What Craiglist Gets Right,” because, Craigslist gets just about everything right: It offers a service of immense value to users, but prices it not by that value but by its cost. And there isn’t a thing on that cramped, prosaic, old Webbish page that isn’t for the benefit of the user. Craigslist is so much for us and about us that many of us feel it’s actually ours. That’s why we trust it — a classified ads site, for Lawd’s sake! — so much that we’ve built communities there. And the folks who run it, do it with the utmost humility, out of a sense of service.

Cripies, what more could you want? And yet we end up with a story that seems to want to be an expose … except the further it digs, the better Craig looks. So, Gary’s blog post helps to explain what happened. I wonder if the headline was Gary’s; the writers often aren’t even told what the headline will be. (This happened to me here: I don’t think copy protection is “a crime against humanity.”) I also found Bobbie Johnson’s posting about the Wired story to be helpful.

We could do with a WHOLE lot more Craigs.

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August 24, 2009

Doctors and the DMCA

TechDirt reports that some doctors are having patients sign contracts that say the patients won’t rate the doctor online. Worse, the contract assigns to the doctors the “intellectual property” rights for anything the patient may write about the doctor. So, if the patient rates or reviews the doctor on a public site, the patient has violated the doctor’s copyright. This then enables the doctor to issue a DMCA takedown notice to get the site to remove the patients’ review.

Copyright. What can’t it do? Wow.

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Robotic hand

This is burning up the Internets, but it’s so very cool:

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July 30, 2009

Annals of No One Cares But Me: Big pixel drivers

During the late 1980s and early 1990s, I had a peculiar interest in two topics just about no one should or does care about: Drivers for unexpected output devices, and bigpixels. These interests were piqued by my place of employment. I worked at Interleaf, an early innovator in electronic publishing. Back in the day, we had to write our own drivers for the rare and expensive high-resolution printers able to show off the high-res, proportionally printed, typeset-quality, text ‘n’ graphic output our software was able to create. So, I naturally used to care about odd output devices — e.g., eventually our software was used to print low-res codes on soda cans — and output composed of huge pixels.

Therefore, I was delighted to read in the Boston Globe about Artaic, a company that uses a computer to translate images into robotically-created mosaics. It’s got it all: An unusual output device that uses macro-scale pixels.


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July 25, 2009

AP to digitally monitor copyright

The AP has announced it is going to use an automated system to monitor the use of AP content on the Web, looking for copyright violations. The empire is fighting back. From the press release:

The Associated Press Board of Directors today directed The Associated Press to create a news registry that will tag and track all AP content online to assure compliance with terms of use. The system will register key identifying information about each piece of content that AP distributes as well as the terms of use of that content, and employ a built-in beacon to notify AP about how the content is used.

I think there are three possible broad-stroke outcomes:

1. The AP takes an enlightened and generous view of copyright protection and its terms of use, encouraging people to link to and cite its stories, and saving its angry face for commercial thieves, wholesale infringers, and other scum. The AP remains a major source of news, fulfills the social mission of the newspapers who are its members, and our culture is better off for it.

2. The AP’s automated system is set on a hair trigger. The AP protects its copyright so well that no one ever hears from it again.

3. The AP acts inconsistently. It sends scary letters to teenagers who copy three paragraphs about the Jonas Brothers and sics lawyers on a professor teaching a course on media studies. No one understands what the AP is doing, so we all get scared and hate it.

To start with, it’d be great if the AP’s copyright warnings didn’t just tell people what they can’t do, but also told them what they can do, and encouraged us to re-use the material as much as possible. On the other hand, since one of the aims of the new system (according to the press release) is to facilitate the use of pay walls, I expect we’ll see more of the AP’s content making itself irrelevant.

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July 23, 2009

Accountable bloggers and journalists

[Note 1.5 hrs after posting this: Ethan Zuckerman has just put up a superb post on this topic. I suggest you read that instead of this.]

Jillian York of the Berkman Center explains the current confusion about the NY Times’ rather casual suggestion (in a blog post) , based on an accusation in a tweet from Omid Habibinia, that Hossein Derakhshan (aka Hoder) has been an agent for the Iranian government, basically ratting out pro-democracy bloggers. The NY Times has now gone meta on the accusation, saying it only reported it because it’s a sign of the discord and distrust, etc., etc. But it’s still a dangerous charge to propagate. Jillian wants to know why we’re blaming the NY Times blogger and not Habibinia.

I’ve got enough blame in my backpack for both. But I do think that since the NY Times trades on its credibility, it has a greater responsibility. When the NY Times reports a rumor, it not only amplifies the rumor, it inevitably adds credibility to it. That’s just the way it is, and, it’s also how the NY Times wants it.

(I wish I could track down the article I read today about the difficult the human brain has in unlearning bad info even after it’s been shown to be bad. The article talked about the increase in the belief that Iraq had WMDs after it was shown that it did not.)

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July 22, 2009

My PDF talk on facts ‘n’ transparency

Link. (The video embeds my slides, but (1) they get more and more out of order in this YouTube; they were in the right order when I actually presented them. 2. My font got lost somewhere in the translations, and so there’s a fair bit of mis-sizing, text overflows, etc.) (I posted about one of the ideas in the talk (transparency as the new objectivity) here.)

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