Saturday, August 29, 2015
Curiously, New York City is trying to get movie studios (especially Disney, Marvel, Paramount, and Universal) to pursue people who perform as costumed characters in Times Square for “copyright” or “trademark” infringement, story here.
It’s hard to see why NYPD finds them objectionable, but there seems to have been some bad behavior in some cases. The City is said not to want Spider Man or the Hulk in Times Square. (Who doesn't like super heroes? Maybe real ones?)
I find them rather entertaining, although some ask for tips.
This would be something that Electronic Frontier Foundation would see as abuse of copyright law.
Picture: Dec. 1, 2011, my visit
Thursday, August 27, 2015
A front page essay in the Washington Post by Joel Achenbach, “An attack tailored for the Twitter age,” (online “Killer’s ultimate selfie: Roanoke selfie becoming the new norm”) link here , lays out a troubling motivation for some people in an age where gatekeepers to user content have disappeared: becoming famous.
Before the Internet, and the growth of “permissive” social media, no one could have expected this kind of instant “fame”, he says. It's hard to achieve "legitimate" fame without "competing" for it, the underlying idea is. But that leads to obsession with short term results and obsession with numbers games. To the best of my current knowledge, no one who has perpetrated an event like this has ever mentioned my own books or sites (self-published) in some hidden manifesto, but I wonder if I would be contacted if someone ever does.
That claim may not be leaning correctly. The Virginia Tech shooter also sent a similar “manifesto” to news but did not post images or videos on line, and neither did any of the other major shooters, who are easily enough “remembered” for their evil acts, one sentenced only yesterday in Colorado.
Still, the tone of the essay is disturbing, as is a related Post story on the New York Daily News’s tweet of its intended front page – but that was for newsstand print.
But, no question, this incident hit the journalism profession (which I cannot quite claim to have attained, yet) between the eyes. Another Post story reports that the two morning hosts on WDBJ7 in Roanoke VA (story) were the seventh and eight killed in the US since 1992 doing their jobs.
Wednesday, August 26, 2015
Electronic Frontier Foundation, in an article this morning by Mitch Stoltz, reports that Ashley-Madison (through owner Avid Life Media) is using the Digital Millennium Copyright Act Safe Harbor to file takedown notices to platforms (like Twitter and Reddit) regarding personal information leaked by hackers. It’s not clear if the takedowns could be narrowed to isolated tweets or posts. (If Blogger or Wordpress got a takedown notice, would it apply only to one posting, or the whole blog? Would Twitter or Facebook have to remove an entire account over one post?) YouTube will take down individual videos, and suspend or close accounts after multiple requests. More about this below.
Whether copyright specifically protects personal information as a matter of law sounds like an interesting legal question (and if so, what about “Fair Use”?). Other laws (tort and sometimes criminal) are in place to protect personal data, so the use of copyright is gratuitous, because it is an easier way to get something down in a hurry, requiring little gatekeeper’s oversight. It isn’t hard to see that this could get a lot of someone’s content removed (or a whole account) from some sites, to silence it (more details below).
EFF has often pointed out that that the DMCA Safe Harbor makes a convenient tool to quash embarrassing criticism, disguising the complaint as copyright.
Adi Robertson, of the Verge (a Vox subsidiary) has a story about a takedown notice regarding tweets by Joseph Cox on Motherboard, apparently containing fragments of the material, here. Joseph Cox writes that the Tweet was “withheld” here so apparently Twitter will take down individual tweets. He says the material had photographs from an Ashley-Madison office and some spreadsheet stuff that did not identify personal information.
It’s easy to how this could merge with the “right to be forgotten” problem, at least n Europe, maybe here later if France gets its way.
It does appear that Avid Technologies (which owns the music composition software Sibelius) is a totally separate company from Avid Life Media (the trade dress designs are totally different). The Ashley Madison site (of Avid Life) is still up and has a normal-looking welcome page this morning. It even displays a “Trusted Security Award” and an icon as a “SSL Secure Site”.
I have not personally looked at or encountered any material from the leak. I have no intention of looking for it.
There is one other matter to mention here. An attorney, Gordon Firemark, discusses the concept of “interim designation of a DMCA Agent”, a filing with the Copyright Office which he says any website needs to file if the site allows guest posts or comments.
The purpose is so that a complainant would know where to file a DMCA takedown if a guest post or comment was itself infringing. Without a contact point, a complainant still has the right to sue directly (although the complainant would have to serve process). I had been under the impression (I haven’t checked this in a while) that agency filing was possible only if you allow others to post and don’t moderate or pre-screen posts. This question has come up before in the discussion of video embeds. Section 230 would not protect the website owner from copyright claims (that’s what DMCA Safe Harbor does), “only” from libel or privacy or certain other claims.
Tuesday, August 25, 2015
Journalist regrets signing up for Ashley Madison just to report on it; if digital lives for ever, it's hard to "just watch" safely
A journalist reports in the Washington Post, Style section, Tuesday, August 25, 2015, that she created a place-holding account on Ashley Madison (see Aug. 19) just to write a story about it later. That’s the subject of the Post article “Why I fear being on the adultery database”, link here. By Jennifer Jeane Patterson.
She never “did anything” and ignored all the tacky emails and messages she got. And she says her husband understands fully that this was a professional journalism experiment. But she writes now that she is apprehensive about explaining this to her tween kids.
But much of her article seems more like a plea for “the right to be forgotten”. She notes that 20 years ago, an article could go out of print and be forgotten. (Well, the Web was just getting noticed then, as AOL and Prodigy clung to proprietary content on my PS-1).
It’s true that kids and younger people make a lot of small social media experiences. I’m too old (at 72) to play social combat that way, and stay mainly on news, as well as my own music and other content. In fact, there are those who say they don't need to get "news" from me and wonder why I don't rejoin the world at more personal level and give value personally to people who need it.
The experience in the book world parallels what she says. Twenty years ago, a trade-published book might go onto paperback but tended to disappear if it didn’t sell. This was the case of a lot of the life narratives of men and women who fought the military gay ban in the 1990s. Try looking up Joe Steffan’s “Honor Bound” on Amazon now! (Book reviews, Oct. 10, 2007.) But having self-published mine and then used POD, I simply kept them alive myself, competing with myself, by letting them remain “free” on the web for those who didn’t want to pay. Some people don’t like to see this.
Curiously, I kept a distance from most things, pretending to be engaged to report on them, more like an alien observer than a true journalist. And, by the way, in line with what Patterson writes in her article, I do know a handful of young adults who deliberately keep a very low profile in social media, at least for the time being, for a variety of reasons.
Monday, August 24, 2015
I got an email, requesting donation, a while from Truthout, noting that Truthout is a union “news publication”. There’s an article along these lines back in 2010, here.
Now, I do follow Truthout on Facebook and many of its articles are very informative and expose a lot (of the wrongdoing on the right). I haven’t thought about it lately, but television networks are union (NBC had a NABET strike in 1976 when I worked there, and as a (non-union, salaried, exempt) IT employee I actually did some “strike duty” in Brooklyn and was paid extra. Many major newspapers are AFL-CIO.
I suspect that the newer digital news sites are non-union.
But it seems that if you belong to a union, and you write, you lose some freedom to say what you want – although I have belonged independently to the National Writers Union (NWU) when I lived in Minnesota, and it struggled with trying to offer media perils insurance.
Sunday, August 23, 2015
How dare I self-publish and then not hustle to "sell" (copies, so others can make a living even if I don't have to)
I’ve gotten a lot of new Twitter followers recently, and most of them are in the book self-publishing business. And the timeline of tweets, instead of offering a lot of news and personal friends’ activity, now has an enormous volume of pitches from people trying aggressively to sell content, sometimes making rather blunt overtures.
It does strike me that it is unlikely that a large volume of people can really make a living selling fantasy or romance novels, or self-help. It’s hard for a large volume to make it selling anything (including earning ad revenue), despite some specific spectacular successes with mommy blogs (“dooce”) and sometimes other niches (like “Blogtyrant”).
And then I get this attitude from author services’ companies and other vendors: how dare you opine for fifteen years and not make people pay for your stuff, not dedicate yourself to helping us make our own livings by competing in an almost zero-sum game of selling a commodity (in this case, “instances” or printed books, following object-oriented software jargon). I think back ten years ago, when I wrote "editorials" on my legacy site (before taking up Blogger); today, one could look at this out-of-date material (especially on matters like gay marriage) and wonder who was I to opine? But it didn't seem so gratuitous then.
It’s true, for thirty-plus years I had a stable, well-paying career as an individual contributor that didn’t make me “compete” for attention or authority (or “power” of Putin’s kind). When I got into self-publishing, I managed to live a double life for a number of years, but in the era of modern social media that’s now officially impossible. And resistance of users to relate to ads, and of investors sobered by lower growth, exchange rates, commodity gluts and currency concerns, the age of “free” user-generated content could come under business-model pressure (not to mention all the legal and security-related controversies like downstream liability, hacking, cyberbullying, do-not-track, and “right to be forgotten”).
Yet, I focus on finishing my own “original” content, most of which I had conceived of before the Internet created the bug distraction. In my fiction, I do wonder, can I sell it? I can create mystery, and answer questions about what it might be like to live on another world, and even defend the idea that may come sooner than we think. On the other hand, in my fiction, the “gifted” seem to prevail, and the more “ordinary” or disadvantaged are not guaranteed any happy endings. That may have seemed all right ten years ago, when TV series like “Smallville”, “Everwood”, and “Kyle XY”, among others, were popular, and all presented “hero” like characters (brought down to scale from comic book origins). In the past few years, though, I’ve detected a desire in the public to see the “less gifted” make it, and lauded for their efforts (the whole “trophy” debate). That might sell, but it’s hard for me personally to warm up to that.
There’s also the issue that I put so much into telling my own life narrative. I think mine is pretty unusual, in the number of ironies it presents, and in that many incidents really do lead to unusual moral parables. I can, in my own mind, name some people who may have faced some comparable situations, but I know much less detail than I do for my own knittings. Is it the duty of an author to imagine moral dilemmas faced by “ordinary” people unlike the author, in struggling with the adaptive concerns of ordinary life? It’s true, I experience less “instinctive emotion” in ordinary social situations (or in common hardships) much less than a lot of people, and tend to see “marriage and family” as a private, personal afterthought (the way a lot of spy fiction does). The fact is, many people “marry” and form families out of what seems like practical necessity, and that’s never been interesting to me.
All of this goes through my mind and people approach me to get involved in their causes, or even their lives, once I’ve made myself known. That was an unexpected result of self-publishing. My “moral compass” has moved farther from (pro-libertarian) the focus on “personal responsibility” to include things like resilience (especially as relationships start), responsiveness to need, and belonging. Maybe these things are preached by religious scriptures, but they also come from the law of karma. I think a lot of us may be surprised how we will be judged in the afterlife (which physics convinces me to exist). For one thing, there is no honor in victimhood; you’re helping pay for someone else’s sins because you didn’t meet real needs earlier, a lot of times. Luck, an hidden dependence on others' sacrifices and dirty work count a lot more than I like do admit (meaning interdependence, often facilitated by family, becomes inevitable). As I get older, these things become apparent. And the freedom that comes with asymmetry provides new parameters for morality.
Friday, August 21, 2015
A “new” story on “Newsy” repeats what we already suspect or even know: Internet users are blocking ads, and this is costing service providers and website owners (those depending on ads) billions.
The story indicates that the “guiltiest” users are gamers (like "Sean" in NBC's "The Event"), tech site users and social media users. There is an irony in that Chrome has become the most popular browser and Google has made blocking easier than have some other browsers. One particular part of this is blocking Adobe Flash, which many ads use (although gradually fewer of them, just like fewer videos, use it because of the user block, which some users say helps prevent Windows 8 crashes).
Users are also less likely to visit ad sites directly (providing potential product revenue to the websites) because of fear of malware, which is rare when hosted by reputable corporate media sites but has happened.
But content providers, especially major news sites, depend on ad revenue, which supports the “it’s free” experience. That’s one reason why more newspapers have started using paywalls. That’s OK for major magazines (like Time) that you might buy in print anyway, or for truly global papers (like the New York Times), where one annual subscription gets you “all the news”, but it’s a problem when local papers do it, because it is hard to get locality-specific news (like when traveling).
Browser vendors have not so reluctantly supported “do not track”, which also reduces the effectiveness of some ad delivery.
What’s not so clear is how important ad revenue fits into the business models of service providers, both free (like Blogger or Wordpress) and paid shared hosting.
As for games, remember "Myst" and Riven"?
Thursday, August 20, 2015
Indeed, search engine arguments seem to be disappearing from websmaster server logs with end user encryption
I have looked at my own stats this evening on both my Wordpress sites and on my legacy doaskdotell.com site (which is on a Windows server).
It does appear, to the best of my knowledge, that Google search terms are no longer being logged. I cannot find them (as far as I looked) on a sample logfile this evening (in Notepad). They don’t show up in Jetpack statistics from Bluehost on Wordpress, which seem to update almost in real time.
So it does appear that Google is encrypting all search arguments so that domain owners can no longer determine what searches are done from the logs. As I explained on August 10, in the past if has been very useful to me to see what a user searched for in a “forensic” investigation, and that would no longer be possible. It was also possible to see if users were looking for "quirky" observations I had made (especially in some movie reviews).
I do see search engine arguments in my Urchin reports on “doaskdotell” that appear to come from Bing and a few other engines.
I found surprising interest in my 1968 Masters Thesis from the University of Kansas, “Minimax Rational Function Approximation”. I can’t tell if this is really “legitimate”.
I also saw quite a bit of activity from Baidu, China’s search engine, indexing my site. That’s rather interesting since I am supposed to be banned in China.
I’ll keep more of an eye on this as time goes by.
I also just got Final Draft 9 (two machines at a time) and have started my “Do Ask, Do Tell: Epiphany” screenplay (formerly called “Conscripted). I’ll be doing progress reports on Wordpress. I want to have this finished before Halloween.
Picture: Sagamore Bridge, for getting onto Cape Cod, a real bottleneck on summer weekends.
Wednesday, August 19, 2015
Ashley-Madison leak, divorce lawyers, and purported "right to be forgotten" can create a perfect storm
I’ve talked about “the right to be forgotten”, which sounds more like a privilege to me, in several posts recently. But the news today about the Ashley-Madison hack adds more dimension to it, suddenly. (Why does the character “Ashkey Wilkes” from “Gone with the Wind” come to mind?)
I covered some of the news by updating my post on the Internet Safety blog July 20, 2015 already.
Wired, for openers, says we just shouldn’t play along (link ). Here’s a typical story from Vox-affiliate, The Verge, link.
But there is a risk to “online reputation”, partly because some names on the site may have been erroneous or originally entered maliciously. For many people, the “fear” will be overblown, but online reputation companies are sure to jump on it.
To put this in perspective, remember it’s easy to look up aggregate information on almost anyone from subscription data bank companies that cull information off public records and maybe credit reports. It’s easy to look up any home address online and find out if the owner has paid property taxes. I don’t do this, because I really don’t want to know. Maybe if I were to hire someone, or get into a “real” relationship, I would have to, but this begins to sound like soap opera (“Days of our Lives” particularly, and thankfully, I have no reason to be jealous of anyone).
One problem for search engine companies comes up if in fact the “hackers” really do spill a lot of “bad information” (e.g. “The Sum of All Fears”) on a lot of people, who could include those maliciously or accidentally entered and not actually involved in adultery. If the information is put on normal websites or blogs (like on Blogger or Wordress) there won’t be any practical way to know if the information came from the illegal or criminal hack. For some people, there won’t be any way to litigate, although I imagine defamation lawyers are playing glee with this now. Divorces lawyers look forward to feasting (particularly in states with “alienation of affection” laws like North Carolina). It could add fuel to the idea that “the right to forgotten” needs to apply in the US and give France some leverage in trying to push this on us (although I personally disagree).
Ordinary citizens are finding that the Internet provides new ways for potential “enemies” or “adversaries” to hold them accountable for “what they didn’t earn”, in ways outside the reach of the normal legal system. Our whole idea of personal accountability and morality broadens out. We’re finding out what “karma” really means.
Tuesday, August 18, 2015
Hillary Clinton loves Snapchat's self-destroying messages, and probably wants the right for some things to be forgotten, everywhere
Hillary Clinton was videotaped as saying, “Snapchat? I love it. Those messages disappear all by themselves.”
In fact, my own temperament is to want to have a record of what I said (sounds like Nixon and his Watergate tapes). But think of Snapchat as like an unrecorded phone conversation. The only recollection is memory. Or, the fact that for many years, it normally was not possible or practical to access voice mail messages you had left on other people’s answering machines (so 80s!), either at home or work. In the workplace, “SYSMCICS” was how you saved things.
There’s another context for Hillary’s remark, in fact, a couple more. One, of course, is the use of one’s own personal equipment for workplace use, when consumer (or otherwise sensitive or even classified data could be transmitted) – this used to be a lot more acceptable, as people did production support or customer service calls at home on their own computers, before consumer privacy became so vulnerable.
Another is that the paradigm for Snapchat has its opposite: the ability to post things (without gatekeeper) that will get search-engine-indexed, stay public, and always be easily accessed, often for free – my paradigm. Although the legal consequences of defamation, for example, could be the same on Snapchat (if backed up by testimony) as on a public website or book, the practical risk is much less for content that is “whitelisted” and clearly aimed to be seen by a relatively restricted audience (whether or not immediately shredded).
This leads me back to “the right to be forgotten”, and a posting on Harvard cyberlaw, by Annie Pruitt, “When forgetting isn’t best”. She summarizes the ideas of Jonathan Zittrain, who suggests that “delete” requests be heard by a public system (the courts), and not just by private companies, who have an inherent conflict of interesting processing the requests.
By the way, the New York Times had reported (Mark Scott) June 12 that France has actually threatened to fine Google if it doesn’t honor French requests an all its domains, not just “.fr” (since “.com” is so easily accessible). This would seem to have potential impact on the way Google has handled Blogger statements of “privacy policies” (at least when carrying ads), which so far it has handled by TLD (see Aug. 13 posting).
Monday, August 17, 2015
A bizarre story from Michigan illustrates the idea that “self-libel” is possible and can become significant.
A conservative state legislator in Michigan, Todd Courser, fabricated a false story about his own supposed liaison with a male prostitute, in order to hide a heterosexual extra-marital relationship with another conservative lawmaker, Cindy Gamrat. There is an investigation into the possibility that both misused public funds in hiding the relationship, according to a CBS News story here.
The concept of “self-libel” or self-defamation entered my own life with a bizarre incident when I was substitute teaching in 2005, as I have explained here before, on July 27, 2007. But it has the potential to become significant and bring in the “implicit content” problem.
Sunday, August 16, 2015
Anthony Lacey, a 35-year-old Brit now living in DC (or the metro area), has carried niche blogging forward with a new twist. About once a month, he takes a stranger out to dinner and writes a post about what the person does. The activity of the person has to be interesting and uncommon or surprising in some way. Michael S. Rosenwald has a story in the Washington Post Friday, here.
The URL for the blog is here, and if you look down a few posts, you’ll see a “strangers wanted” post and a travel schedule. But many of the dinners are in Washington DC.
Does this sound a bit like the movie “My Dinner with Andre” (1981) by Louis Malle? That film was a favorite of Siskel-Ebert in the past, a film I saw twice (and I rarely do that).
Rosenwald reports that a lawyer looks at the posts before they go up. I have no such luxury for mine. The news story also maintains that Lacey’s numbers are not that overwhelming, but that doesn’t really matter much (to impress me, at least).
One of the most interesting posts (to Rosenwald, at least), seemed to be a volunteer from the Washington Literacy Center, written back in 2012 (it’s post #44). I had not heard of the group, but should have. He could decide to look at Food and Friends, or Whitman-Walker.
Anthony does have a YouTube channel for his blog, as well as Facebook and Twitter. He also has a day job writing about environmental policy.
Picture: interesting coastal landscape near Provincetown, MA, south shore of Cape Cod, about two miles from Commercial St, my recent weekend trip; landscape looks surreal, as if on another planet.
Saturday, August 15, 2015
In another interesting example of defamation law, Jesse Ventura won a defamation lawsuit against the estate of Chris Kyle, in a case regarding a passage in Kyle’s book “American Sniper”. The Dallas Morning News has a detailed story here.
Ventura appeared on CNN Saturday morning to discuss the case. He said the award will be covered by insurance and won’t cost the Kyle family anything.
The case involved a claim in the book that Kyle punched a man falsely identified as Ventura in a bar., when the man said the Navy Seals “deserve to lose a few”.
Ventura maintains that the book falsely profited from misusing his name and reputation. But Ventura, as a public figure, had a high bar to pass to win the case. (See details in another case discussed Aug. 1.)
I met Jesse Ventura in person at an HRC dinner in Minneapolis in late September 2001, after 9/11. I remember a conversation with him, that “it is safe to fly”.
Friday, August 14, 2015
Here’s a little piece from Alternet and Salon last December, “One Nation Under Galt: How Ayn Rand’s toxic philosophy permanently transformed America”, by Bruce E. Levine, link here .
He describes Rand as toxic to young minds. A book review of the obscure “Ideal” by Ayn Rand in the New York Times by Michiko Kakutani, link here , covers similar territory, concerning her apparent contempt for the unfortunate and undistinguished. So, is "selfishness" a "virtue"?
I can process the “coercion” of others on me, and I can process my own resentment of it, my own passions for some things aesthetic, and at the same time aloofness to a lot of mundane intimacies others experience.
It seems others want “me” to demonstrate the inclination and ability to meet the “real needs of other people” and find “meaning in doing so”, before I make myself known as a separate individual with my own values. This is certainly connected to resiliency in a relationship: the ability to form and especially keep an intimate relationship with another adult who is or becomes much less than perfect, much below an “angel”. This used to be connected to procreation, and centered around nuclear family or tribe, and linked to expectations of vicarious immortality, however vulgar daily fecundity can sound. A lot of people seemed concerned about what made me tick, about what I wanted my freedom "for", and imagined that my example could undermine their own capacity to have and raise families. (Really!) For me, reproduction and resilient family intimacy was a personal afterthought, and my attitude toward this changed only as I grow older and ponder my own mortality. No wonder a lot of this remains a matter of faith for many people. If I had been born in an earlier time, I would have had little choice in what to believe. But if anything, modern physics gives me a new idea about the need for connectedness, as consciousness must outlive ordinary experience.
Thursday, August 13, 2015
France wants the ability to enforce "right to be forgotten" for its citizens worldwide, even in the US
EWeek has a slide show on the EU’s “Right to be Forgotten” (similar to a Vox Card Stack), link, with a short article by Don Risinger, here.
The slides point out that a request to be removed from a search engine result is country-specific, but would apply to all major search engines. However, there is a movement at least within France to have all search-result requests for French citizens, when found valid, honored around the world.
Likewise, some trade groups want the right to be extended within the US, but that is not seen as particularly likely soon.
Michael Douglas (from the UK, not the movie actor) in this Ted Talk mentions “digital eternity”. He thinks it is difficult to implement “the right to be forgotten”. It is a “domestic solution” to a “global problem”.
Most comments show concern mainly about advertisers “stalking” people or about very old criminal or civil complaints (which may not even have resulted in criminal conviction or civil loss) from remaining easy to find. However, mere mention of someone with a unique enough name and his being found by a search engine has been known to create some issues for some people, in the “online reputation” context.
The law still does not force individual websites to take material down. But imagine the complexities that could occur if it did. A particular site might become known as a source of forgettable information on people and be individually searchable. On up to three occasions, I have removed names of individuals (in one case an entire article) from legacy sites when the circumstances of the request were unusual enough (and unlikely to recur).
Recently, Google advised Blogger users of privacy laws in Europe, and posts an additional succinct privacy notice for Blogger postings when brought up with most European country TLD’s.
I received an email notification of this article late morning today,
Wednesday, August 12, 2015
I thought I would pass along an article tweeted by J. Dominique from his site, the piece called “stop trying to sell me stuff!: How to go from outbound to inbound marketing”, the site itself called “Inbound Marketing: Content Specialist”, link here.
I have noticed recently that I did get a lot of twitter followers (but not necessarily more Facebook friends) after posting another sales link for my books on my Wordpress site, specifically here. I got some more “friends” on Google+ after commenting on some classical music performances on YouTube while signed on to my Google account (which defaults to posting the comment on my Google+ stream and apparently into the search engine posts on the work or performance).
I think the last point is more what Dominque is talking about. Blog posts, and social media posts (or tweets that link to these or to news articles) should actually help perspective customers or clients in some tangible way related to their interests or needs. Classical musicians and performers tend to pay attention to social media comments on their work when the comments are constructive. So to motion picture producers, directors, and actors; many (especially younger) are more approachable than the public thinks. Maybe the rock stars, because of the sheer volume of fans, are harder to reach. But a lot of media content providers are in the business of making a real living and value some interaction with the public.
So, naturally, depending on one’s niche, posts about tax tips, estate planning, insurance, investing, home maintenance, cars, cycling or any sports activity, or recipes, all are more productive than just content attempts to push commodities (self-published books in my case) on consumers.
All of this needs to be considered in the content of “niche blogging”, the recommendations of “Ramsay Blogtyrant” that I mentioned before.
The other side of this universe is, of course, the cheesy side, where sales people desperately make cheap pitches, whether spam or silly cold calls or texts, to consumers who just don’t need this now (but might have needed it twenty years ago, which is part of the rub).
In the meantime, more cases of people being disciplined at work or fired or social media posts pop up. The latest concerns a police officer in Asheville, NC, after an auto accident that the officer caused, story here.
Tuesday, August 11, 2015
How do people rationalize the use of force (even bullying) and get the approval of others? A look at the protests
As I drove home down I-81 in Pennsylvania Monday (in ridge-top fog), I listened to a radio talk show, from a “liberal” host, generally supportive of the activities of the demonstrations in Ferguson, and of the whole “Black Lives Matter” (speeecifically) movement. A caller was protesting that the behavior, especially Sunday night, simply represented anarchy.
For one thing, I don’t think that the Ferguson incident is the “best” one for the goals of the BLM movement. In most other incidents in other cities, police went over the line and seem to deserve the community anger. The very worst incidents seem to be Baltimore, Staten Island, Cincinnati, and a recent female case in Texas. The case of Darrien Hunt in Utah is interesting has surprisingly little media coverage.
The reason that I feel this way is that it does appear that Michael Brown did behave violently and badly before the incident, including the convenience store theft and then apparently (not completely clear) actually intruding into the police car. Police officer Darren Wilson has a reasonable case and should not be living as an outcast and unemployable, even though not indicted. It’s simply too bad police weren’t using cameras yet. The New York Times has one of the best factual accounts here.
Vox has a yellow “card stack” on the facts and truth as best known, here.
The talk show host (apparently from Scranton or Wilkes-Barre) pointed out that the city of Ferguson had been running its police department as a cash cow, targeting blacks for fines. The serious problems with some local governments in the politically fragmented St. Louis area, and their not representing their people (especially police departments) has been well documented, as are the demands of the Department of Justice for change. All of that is true.
But the talk show host seemed pushed into a position of defending Michael Brown’s behavior as an act of justifiable resistance, rebellion, or “warfare”. That is rather like justifying revolution, which, in the course of history, sometimes happens, and changes the way the “morality” of other individuals’ actions will be assessed by others.
The host also answered the claim that most black crimes are committed against other blacks by saying the same is true for whites.
The host also answered the claim that most black crimes are committed against other blacks by saying the same is true for whites.
As I noted yesterday, I spent some time in Rhode Island this weekend discussing some materials with regard to Gode Davis’s unfinished film “American Lynching” with the estate. It seems that a major goal of Gode had been to document the history of “extra-legal violence” that becomes embraced by others in a cohort as justifiable. In the South through the period of the Civil Rights movement (and sometimes afterward), some white individuals, dispossessed by what they saw as economic losses imposed on them, saw their own violent behavior as “justified”. On the other side, protestors sometimes see their own aggression, and even demands that others off the street join them, as justifiable. The people I talked to noted that I seemed more interested in the "truth" of an incident (indeed, the Rosenfels "eternal feminine") than in helping apparent victims, or taking sides, or forcing some kind of political change.
But really, this whole idea has plenty of precedence in history. The Bolsheviks saw forceful expropriation from the Czarist rich as morally justified. Then the Nazis thought the same thing about their march East in 1939. Zionists see the forceful taking and settling of Palestinian lands as justified by a group objective. And look at the psychology behind how ISIS behaves. To me, it’s all similar.
This weekend, I posed the question another way. Michael Brown had reportedly been a good kid with a promising future, going to college. Why would a good kid suddenly behave violently and do bad things? It’s horrible to see this. In the very worst cases, you get incidents like James Holmes, who, however affected by schizophrenia, killed just to prove that life and existence have no meaning – the ultimate nihilism. For me, this kind of breakdown in another promising person, who might have been regarded at one time even as a role model, is one of the most horrifying of all possibilities. In conversation, the case of Trayvon Martin was mentioned. It’s unclear, but it appears that Martin might have charged George Zimmerman (whose behavior since doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence). One idea floated is that some young men just think they are invincible, even from police or authority, and have a need to prove it by force.
As I noted, the protests seem like a somewhat isolated issue, focused on one group. To me, it’s the context of the problem with respect to other possible social breakdowns that really matters. It doesn’t help to win the battle and lose the war – your entire civilization.
Picture: Fracville, PA, near I-81, on the way home yesterday. Also, Cape Cod National Seashore, and a picture from Fort Dix, NJ, from which draftees left for Oakland than then for Vietnam during the Vietnam war. Also, BLM protest in Cambridge, MA, which I encountered "accidentally" Sunday afternoon, see Issues blog for more.
Monday, August 10, 2015
First, the news media are reporting the anticipated restricting of Google under the ownership name of “Alphabet” (a good trademark name to be sure), as in this New York Times story here.
Back at the end of 2013, Eric Enge in “Search Engine Watch” had discussed six major changes at Google, link here. One in particular is most interesting. I’ll note what he says about Google+. I have found that for me Google+ attracts some visitors (especially in the classical music area) that haven’t looked me up on Twitter, Facebook, or my blogs.
More germane is Google’s gradual move to encrypting search engine key data, first for those logged on to Google accounts, and then for all searches, with a typical explanation here.
This appears to mean that normally search engine arguments would no longer appear on access logs so that analytics passages could tell what users are looking for. It’s pretty obvious that a lot of companies want to know how consumers fund their sites, as would syndicated or franchise entrepreneurs (like financial planners, insurance agents, estate planners, attorneys).
More important is that search key information could matter in some litigation situations. It could be relevant to the Supreme Court’s “reasonable behavior” idea in defamation law. It could tell a website owner with possibly provocative content if most users find the data looking for racy stuff about sexuality, or, for example, weapons and terrorism.
Back in late 2005, I used the search engine arguments on the log files to analyze why a school had banned me from substitute teaching there. (That’s explained on July 27, 2007, and in turn by another Wordpress link that goes into great detail as to how I did this analysis and why it mattered; links already given.) That might not have been possible today.
Web articles say that Bing still offers the search data.
I’ve noticed in the past three years or so that the volume of specific search arguments on my legacy “doaskdotell” site has dropped, and there are relatively few on my two newer Wordpress blogs.
Picture: Kirkland Hall, Harvard (my photo yesterday) as best I could find, where, on Feb. 4, 2004, Mark Zuckerberg launched Facebook by hitting the enter key in his dorm room.
Saturday, August 08, 2015
Why I don't usually march in narrow-issue demonstrations (although I shouldn't pretend I am above doing it)
Just a review of a major point: why am I too “full of myself” to join up to support a single issue to help a given constituency in need? Why am I unwilling to march and scream in a demonstration like any “prole”?
Many constituencies of individual people can be affected by sudden changes (imposed by politicians, by enemies, or by natural causes) beyond their control. These vicissitudes can result in “existential” challenges to how individual people can go on and see themselves.
But typically, meeting a particular need for a particular group by itself missed the larger context in which policy questions are faced. For example, I certainly support “marriage equality”, but to focus on it in the way fundraising and crowdsourcing is usually done, overlooks major other extensions of the issue, such as the parental leave issue, and the tension in our culture between those with and without responsibilities for raising children, and also a somewhat skewed tension over the “importance” of procreation itself to some people.
I understand how “black lives matter” as a phrase does communicate the pain of some people, but “all lives matter” indeed; but the real point is that if indeed we care about all human life, many of us face personal challenges of the heart (in dealing with others up close and personal when they ask for attention, as with “the poor”) that may be unwelcome.
And, likewise, being converted to one particular religions faith or belief, on someone else’s say-so (and personal experience), overlooks the whole context where modern physics really does support spirituality.
It is true that I got into writing (authoring books and blogging) first over the “gays in the military” issue back in Bill Clinton’s 90s. (Grand old days, the country did well.) That particular issue affects a relatively small number of active duty (and potential) “soldiers”, so it sounds narrow. But the less direct implications for many other civilians (not just gay) in many other areas of life could be broad.
I connected the issue to my own experience with the draft (and the deferment system) and US policy, and how it played out against class and race and privilege on the one hand, and with the whole panoply of issues are personal privacy and personal expression (as they were in the 90s at first) on the other. The issue involved forced intimacy in an unusual way, and invoked questions about the government’s (or “society’s”) capacity to compel uneven sacrifices from its citizens in ways that transcend any “axiom of choice.”
Later, in my “second career”, I focused on COPA, and now on Section 230, which sound like narrow issues. But they do beg the question of continuing the “permissive” environment which encourages user generated content (if “amateur”). UGC is a very useful “institution” to support the normal press, to keep politicians and corporate interests “honest”, and force the main media to cover issues with more subtlety. On the other hand, the “permissiveness” tends to burden people with larger family responsibilities, especially for raising kids – something that doesn’t always happen just because of a personal choice as libertarians see it. Cyberbullying, and now even asymmetric recruiting by enemies, is one of the negative results. So these issues have wide implications for both self-expression and stability.
The biggest context of all is still "national security". I'm not socially competitive enough to make it in a world thrown back to the 19th century by EMP or maybe a massive solar storm. Maybe that's my biggest point.
Wednesday, August 05, 2015
The Centers for Democracy and Technology have sent a Coalition Letter opposing Section 603 of the Intelligence Authorization Act, as documented here. The act would require service providers and telecommunications companies to report speech or content to authorities when they have knowledge that the speech represents a potential terrorist threat. The obvious problem is vagueness.
It does not appear, from what I see, that it would require pre-screening of content for terror threats (similar in principle for having to prescreen for libel, which Section 230 protects against, or for copyright, which the DMCA Safe Harbor is supposed to protect).
However, if might require companies to be very proactive when comments are reported by users, or for moderators of forums to act proactively.
Electronic Frontier Foundation has a story on its opposition by Kelsey Harclerode, link here.
The bill is S 1705, with text here.
Practically all service providers ban threats or advocacy of violence. In practice, much violent content is motivate by personal or domestic disputes or broken relationships. Terrorism refers to violence intended to intimidate a civilian population for political purposes.
Again, when amateurs comment on issues related to terror, there may be readers who don’t distinguish between commentary or journalism and actual advocacy.
Tuesday, August 04, 2015
The MPAA is trying to pretend that SOPA actually passed in 2012, asking a court to order service providers (I guess both content and DNS translation) to disable a site (or sites) associated with Movie-tube. The Hollywood Reporter story by Eriq Gardner is here. The site in question appears to be this . Scribd has a sample letter where Hollywood explains its “nouveau” theory on copyright here.
Again, big blockbuster movies on a small computer screen don’t make a lot of sense to me. One time, I saw someone selling pirated DVD’s on a NYC subway for about $3 (of blockbusters). I said nothing. Again, I understand that publicly traded companies think they have to do everything possible to protect their assets. But does piracy really affect jobs as much as they say? It’s relevant to me; I know people with these jobs around the country, and I know that it’s conceivable piracy could someday affect my getting money for my own film – that’s what they will tell me.
Jamie Williams of Electronic Frontier Foundation also discusses a mean subpoena in Mississippi (where else?) seeking discovery about how various parties (illegally) use Google’s services, link here.