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

Archive forNovember, 2004 | back to home

26 November 2004
Filed under:Privacy,problems with technology at11:30 am

If you use an instant message tool, people who want to contact you can know when you are online (that’s half the point of the software after all). But the Big Brother-ish IM Watching.net goes one step further and keeps an eye on the whereabouts of IM users 24/7 (as long as they have elected to make their online status publicly known). So now you can (for example) confront a teleworker or spouse with ‘evidence’ they weren’t at their computers for several hours they said they were. Oooh! Very sinister… Of course it was only a matter of time.

I don’t use IM much myself, and only make my online status known to people on my buddy list so it wouldn’t affect me.

24 November 2004

If you want to collaborate in real time with other people online on something visual rather than something textual here is a pair of options. Imagination Cubed provided by GE (I don’t know why – they certainly don’t seem to promote its existence) is for more business-like uses, “isketch”:http://www.isketch.net/ is for fun – each player gets a chance to draw a word which the other players will try to guess. Both in their different ways seem like interesting and useful Internet tools and both are free…

22 November 2004
Filed under:Search Engines at12:40 am

Google announced a few days ago going from 4bn to 8bn pages.

Which made me wonder what proportion of the web it covers now and how much I was missing before. The last major survey of search engine coverage was in 1999 (Lawrence, Steve, and C. Lee Giles. 1999. “Accessibility and Distribution of Information on the Web”:http://www.wwwmetrics.com/ Nature, 1999, 107-109.) and concluded that no one search engine covered more than 16% of the visible web (it’s probably better now). And what of the (much larger) invisible web? See Bergman, M. K. (2001) “The Deep Web: Surfacing Hidden Value”:http://www.press.umich.edu/jep/07-01/bergman.html, The Journal of Electronic Publishing, 7 (1) for more on that…

19 November 2004

A cute link for someone feeling a little lonely or un-loved guaranteed to make them feel better. (I don’t usually pass this kind of thing on but this is inoffensive – indeed a little heartwarming – and only takes a few seconds of your day to check out…

P.S. If you are an academic who reads blogs this may be the 100th time you read about this but Google has just entered the scholarly research market with “Google Scholar”:http://scholar.google.com/. There’s a short article about it in the “New York Times”:http://www.nytimes.com/2004/11/18/technology/18google.html?oref=login&pagewanted=print&position=

I was pleased to discover that according to Google Scholar the one article I am known for so far – ‘Lost in Cyberspace’, which I wrote while at New Scientist – has been cited 25 times online and in journal articles.

15 November 2004
Filed under:Current Affairs (US),Personal at10:11 am

Like Danah I plan to stop taking as obsessive an interest in US politics since there is nothing much I can do about it in the next four years.

I’ll still be paying attention to various other political issues, however, here in the UK and Europe…

13 November 2004
Filed under:Email discoveries,Personal at12:59 pm

Remember I thought I had “lost 10 years of email?”:http://blog.org/archives/cat_personal_old.html#001218 Thanks to the intervention of a friend and ex-colleague at “Personal Computer World”:http://www.pcw.co.uk/, Frank Leonhardt*, I have my data back at last. All I have lost is the roughly 400 emails I have sent via web-based email which I assume there is no easy way to import into my outbox (well I haven’t exactly lost them – they are still on the web – but they are not indexed like the others.

*He runs a London-based general-purpose IT consultancy including data recovery – do give his service a try!

12 November 2004


Over in the Live Journal of “blog sociology”:http://www.livejournal.com/community/blog_sociology/ here’s a reference to a pair of matching sites – the sorry’s and the not-sorry’s. Both feature pictures sent in by Americans who are (or aren’t) sorry that Bush was re-elected.

This is interesting to me from an academic point of view as an example of how ‘ordinary people’ can use Internet technology to make political statements that have the power of authenticity precisely because of their ordinariness but which have a very low ‘barrier to entry’. You don’t need to be clever or articulate to express your views on the site – you just need a camera.

update Along similar lines “Geodog”:http://www.thebishop.net/geodog/archives/2004/10/08/late_night_thoughts_on_browsing_the_iraq_tag_on_flickr.html points out that services like Flickr make it easy to find photos about what’s going on in Iraq – many of them taken in Iraq. Also see “my earlier blog posting”:http://blog.org/archives/cat_current_affairs_world.html#001222 about this…

11 November 2004

Microsoft has ‘soft’ launched its new “search engine”:http://beta.search.msn.com/ and it is “reviewed”:http://searchenginewatch.com/searchday/article.php/3434261 by “Search Engine Watch”:http://searchenginewatch.com/, which also provides in-depth info on the new features they’ve found so far.

Meanwhile by coincidence (hah!) Google announced it has nearly doubled the number of pages it indexed to more than 8 billion pages. What’s interesting to me is that I had been assuming that the 4bn-odd pages it used to index represented most of the total visible web – obviously not! But how far short is it now? There’s no easy way to tell, and the search engines aren’t giving us any clues…

9 November 2004

In an hour-long segment on Chicago Public Radio’s Odyssey. Both guest speakers had interesting things to say about the changing media and its impact on politics – I can’t do better than to quote the description given here:

Most Americans used to get their political information primarily from the evening news. But with the rise of cable TV and the Internet, there are countless venues for political news and opinion. How are new media shaping what we learn about politics? Political scientist Arthur Lupia and communication scholar Bruce Williams join Chicago Public Radio’s Gretchen Helfrich for the discussion. Lupia is coauthor of The Democratic Dilemma: Can Citizens Learn What They Need to Know? Williams is director of the Institute of Communications Research at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. He’s working on a book project entitled, And the Walls Came Tumbling Down: The Eroding Boundaries between News and Entertainment and What They Mean for Politics in the 21st Century.

“Listen to the realaudio”:http://www.wbez.org/DWP_XML/od/2004_10/od_20041008_1200_3415/episode_3415.ram

8 November 2004

An illuminating account of the truth behind the movie revealed that the real-life head of Strategic Air Command was prepared to attack the Soviet Union whether or not the president gave him an order if he thought the Russians were going to attack and the Dr Strangelove character himself was likely based on “Herman Kahn”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herman_Kahn who was at the Rand thinktank and who wrote books about the aftermath of nuclear war containing references to the need to preserve humanity in mineshafts. Daniel Ellsberg who leaked the Pentagon papers and worked at RAND joked when he first saw the film that it was a documentary.

If that doesn’t scare you enough, it turns out that for about a decade “the ‘top secret launch code’ for US nuclear weapons was 00000”:http://www.cdi.org/blair/permissive-action-links.cfm because Strategic Air Command didn’t agree the security systems were necessary.

And I haven’t heard anything about the security systems and the thinking in the defense departments of the Soviet Union at the time – I imagine what we may learn if and when when that leaks out would be just as scary. It’s a wonder we made it through that period in one piece…

Next Page ?