Weblog on the Internet and public policy, journalism, virtual community, and more from David Brake, a Canadian academic, consultant and journalist

Archive forFebruary, 2004 | back to home

19 February 2004
Filed under:Academia,Virtual Communities,Weblogs at10:01 am

“Danah Boyd”:http://www.danah.org/, who is researching online social networks, recently “presented at ETech”:http://conferences.oreillynet.com/cs/et2004/view/e_sess/4948 and was good enough to provide a summary. Her points all make sense – what I can’t understand is why designers of social network software keep making the same (fairly obvious) mistakes that she outlines.

18 February 2004

New Scientist “briefly describes”:http://www.newscientist.com/news/news.jsp?id=ns99994663 research that compares lying behaviour on the phone, by email and in face to face communication. Turns out it’s not email – it’s the telephone where most lying occurs (at least in this experiment). Who would have thought? The researchers suggest a reason we don’t lie as much by email is that it leaves a trail and we can be called to account for it later.

17 February 2004

Apparently they intend to sue if there are any public readings of Joyce’s work (which is still in copyright) during the festival commemorating the 100th anniversary of Bloomsday this June – more details “here”:http://www.ireland.com/newspaper/ireland/2004/0209/2893527271HM3JOYCE.html (registration required). “Cory Doctorow”:http://craphound.com/ is rightly outraged.
thanks to Boing Boing and Lawrence Lessig for the link.

It’s so outrageous that you might almost think it was part of a conspiracy to make the EU’s current copyright stance look foolish.

16 February 2004
Filed under:Useful web resources at1:43 pm

If you want to make ‘conference calls’ (calls to several people at once) you can use FreeConference.com to arrange them – but the free version uses a US non-freephone telephone number so you and your fellow freeconference users will probably still have to pay long distance charges.

Here in the UK, BT is selling “Buzz In”:http://www.bt.com/buzz-in/ which is quite a sophisticated conference calling system aimed at domestic rather than business use (doubtless to keep their business conferencing margins high!) but each participant pays 10p a minute – with long distance rates being what they are it would probably be cheaper for everyone just to call America and use FreeConference instead.

*Update:* “Voicemeeting”:http://www.voicemeeting.co.uk/ – another UK company which I just discovered – appears to work in a similar way but costs 5p per minute.

Does anyone know how to do conference calling using free Internet telephony? Of course you could always use the “free calls to the US”:http://blog.org/archives/cat_useful_web_resources.html#000967 that appear still to be available (without fanfare) via the VOIP software at “Free World Dialup”:http://www.freeworldialup.com/ but that may not last forever and it’s not a particularly elegant solution.

15 February 2004

Watch and laugh at “The Man Behind The Motion”:http://www.ryantown.com/manbehindthemotion/ from Ryan McFaul. An interest in computer gaming is not required…

14 February 2004
Filed under:Current Affairs (US) at12:29 pm

An interesting debate – back in ’98 Nike launched a campaign to assert that its sneakers were not made by sweatshop labour. An activist took them to court saying that as this was advertising it had to be truthful. Nike responded by saying it was political action and thus covered by free speech. As of the middle of last year it seems that Nike is losing the case.

Thanks to Utne Webwatch for the link

13 February 2004
Filed under:Current Affairs (World) at12:16 pm

The New Face of the Silicon Age, Wired’s cover story, does a pretty good job of outlining the issues, though what the article doesn’t talk about is the profound organizational problems that can emerge when you outsource – that programming (at least past a certain level) is a craft, not just something interchangeable.

The author – perhaps flattering his audience – tries to downplay the creativity of Indian programmers:

It’s inevitable that certain things – fabrication, maintenance, testing, upgrades, and other routine knowledge work – will be done overseas. But that leaves plenty for us to do. After all, before these Indian programmers have something to fabricate, maintain, test, or upgrade, that something first must be imagined and invented.

The US may keep its design and marketing jobs but my guess is that this is not so much to do with a skills gap as it is to do with cultural issues.

This just in – I gather that the California legislature is “considering banning outsourcing”:http://www.npr.org/rundowns/rundown.php?prgDate=12-Feb-2004&prgId=17.

12 February 2004

The TrueMajority Oreo video is to my mind a very well-crafted political ad (done as a Flash animation). It shows dramatically just how much money goes towards US national defence and how much goes to – say – renewable energy programmes or food aid.

It gets around what I see as the biggest problem there is in trying to tackle macroeconomic issues seriously – nobody outside of a few policy wonks can juggle government programs costing hundreds of millions and billions of dollars and keep them all in proportion.

“TrueMajority.org”:http://www.truemajority.org was founded by Ben Cohen of Ben and Jerry’s fame and is a broad-based liberal lobbying organization based around getting people to respond to monthly action alerts and send faxes to their political representatives by filling out web forms. I suspect fax deluges are getting to be a discredited tactic as they are relatively cost-free for the participants – I hope that truemajority will take the “Dean Road” instead and start getting these people to organize themselves.

11 February 2004

“Pablo J. Boczkowski”:http://sloancf.mit.edu/vpf/facstaff.cfm?ID=17351&ProfType=F&sortorder=name has produced a book that sounds interesting – “Digitizing the News: Innovation in Online Newspapers”:http://mitpress.mit.edu/catalog/item/default.asp?sid=C429EE84-02E6-4F1A-A20D-B9B5BC908D9E&ttype=2&tid=10145 a summary of which is provided as part of an article in the Online Journalism Review. He suggests that (in the three news organizations he studied) the online version of the news was more open to the readers’ voices but also that online news was more influenced by advertisers and more focused on ‘micro-communities’ of interest. That said, his choice of organizations to study was at the cutting edge of online news practice at the time and indeed two out of the three projects he highlights – HoustonChronicle.com’s “Virtual Voyager”:http://www.chron.com/content/interactive/voyager/ and New Jersey Online’s “Community Connection”:http://www.nj.com/cc/groups/index.ssf seem to have been closed down.

I take a more pessimistic view – there does not appear to be much of a business model yet for rich interactive journalism and until one arrives nearly all online news (with some honourable exceptions) is likely to remain largely re-publishing of existing old-media product.

I look forward to the book however as it is time we had an academic’s-eye view of how the cultures of existing news organizations may be changed through greater online involvement (to the extent it exists).

10 February 2004

“Bob Hughes”:http://www.dustormagic.net/ wrote an opinion piece about the sweatshop labour and environmental harm involved in making computers and in disposing of them. On a similar note, see this “new report from CAFOD”:http://www.cafod.org.uk/news_and_events/news/computer_factory_sweatshops_20040126?PHPSESSID=4b0151f1c256c83acdd6dafeeda118c1 on conditions for workers making high-tech components which has encouraged the BBC to “follow up the findings”:http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/3452373.stm with computer makers.

I note that Bob hasn’t given up using computers yet, and I’m not likely to either. But it’s worth bearing in mind the unseen costs of anything we buy or consume and trying to reduce them as much as possible by buying only when we need to or campaigning for better corporate behaviour.

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