Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Google Print

Google Print "Library Project" takes books from libraries, scans their contents into digital form, and then makes said content searchable through the Google Print search engine. Items that are in the public domain (items published before 1922 and items with no copyright to begin with like government publications) can be reviewed in full online through Google Print. For items that are protected by copyright, Google will just provide the publication information and a few snippets from the work that contain the keyword that the user searched for. The search results also include online bookstores and libraries from which the book may be obtained. The idea is to expose people to books they might not be able to find in their local libraries.
On September 20th, 2005, Google was sued by the Authors Guild for copyright infringement. The Authors Guild claims that Google displays work without permission from the author (the author has to notify Google if they do not want their work in the database; otherwise Google assumes it is OK to put the content in their database) while Google claims that the amount of content they make availible is extremely small so as to adhere to the Fair Use Doctrine.
I think that Google Print could be an incredible tool but I also think that Google is overstepping its bounds. Publishers have an economic interest in making their material searchable and readible (snippets of it) through Google Print, so why not let them be responsible for submitting their own material to the database? It seems stupid that Google is risking loosing money with this lawsuit when they could just change how they get the content.

Weblog Ethics

I thought this article was kind of silly. The idea that a blog is any kind of news source is ludicrous. Blogs are comparable, at best, to editorials in newspapers. You don't look to editorials for new information - you look to them for new perspectives. That's the purpose of a blog - to share your unique perspective with the rest of the world.
Bloggers should just accept their role. Blogs are nothing more than public journals. The rules in this post are admirable but silly. It's like when little kids freak out about the rules everyone must follow for the imaginary game they just came up with. The article attempts to add legitimacy to something that is inherently illegitimate. It all seems kind of futile. What the author is doing is somewhat dangerous actually. If all the bloggers followed these rules, there's still no certainty that the information they'd be posting would be correct. Following the six rules would just ensure that if the author would post if he/she found out the information was inaccurate.
Blogs, because they lack editors and fact checkers and any real journalistic responsibility to their audience, are inherently illegitimate sources of news. Legitimating them with a list of rules is silly and dangerous.

Diploma Mills

Fake Colleges are the worst. I almost went to one too - my mom was all "you'll save us money and no one will know the difference anyway. How do you think I met your father?" But then I thought about having to deal with all the other stuff that comes with getting a fake degree. Pledging a fake fraternity, finding a date to the fake spring formal, going to fake reunions after I graduated - it's just too much to deal with.
Seriously though, I disagree with the government creating a list to let people know about 'diploma mills.' Those who are dumb enough to think that you can get a legitimate degree from a college nobody has heard from by 'taking classes online' deserve to loose their jobs and get in trouble with the law. I don't want those people out in the streets.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

I'm huge on the college circuit

There's roughly four thousand other David Hutchinson's on the Internet and they all do things at colleges. A Google search with "David Hutchinson" showed me that I'm a visiting professor of Computer Science at Duke University, an associate tutor at the University of Sussex in England, and a lecturer in early Christianity and its literature at Trinity College of the University of Dublin. According to Google, I'm also a ponytailed yoga instructor, the mayor of Lake Forest Park, WA, and a doctor who died in Indiana in 1891. I do love Indiana though so it's good that I died there. Searching Google with "david AND hutchinson" got me to my webpage (www.dhutch.com) that has a pretty kickass sunset on it. There's also some pictures of my multicultural family on there as well, including a picture of Lupe. Oh, where would I be without Lupe?? What's really crazy is that when I searched Google with " "David M Hutchinson" " (my middle name is Martin), the first hit was the website I have at Canisius College in Buffalo, New York. Didn't think someone could go to college in two places at once, did you?? You should never doubt my college-attending abilities. Ever. EVER.

Free Speech vs. Censorship

In the small section on page 75 entitled "Free Speech vs. Censorship," I thought it was really interesting that the U.S. Supreme Court thinks that "the Internet should not be viewed as a broadcast medium like television or radio but as a medium in which individuals are guaranteed free speech." I've always kind of viewed the Internet and its contents as a free-for-all of information where almost anything goes; it is strange to see that the U.S. Supreme Court feels the same way. Part of the problem is that it seems incredibly hard to control what goes onto the Internet. I can't imagine any feasible way of controlling content like that. What makes it even more difficult is that at the same time, the internet is a great resource of information that otherwise wouldn't make it to the public through books, TV, radio, etc. So the Internet cannot be totally disregarded as a useful tool yet everyone acknowledges its potential to be full of trashy, stupid, and possibly dangerous things (pedophiles, bad information), and the U.S. Supreme Court seems to have quit trying to view it as anything other than what it is.

Free Speech vs. Censorship

The small section on page 75 of the book about free speech and internet censorship had what seems to me to be a crazy idea in it. After giving a short description of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 and a short synopsis of the court battle that followed its passing, the book explains that eventually the court decided that the law was unconstitutional. In that case, Reno vs. the American Civil Liberties Union, the U.S. Supreme Court "ruled that this act abridged the freedom of speech that is protected by the First Amendment," and the court went on to imply that freedom of expression is important to maintaining our democratic society. The fact that the court ruled that something enacted by Congress is in violation of the First Amendment or that they think freedom of expression is good for our democratic society aren't really earth shattering revelations. What was crazy to me was the last line of the section in the book, that evaluates the court's decision propagating a view that "the Internet should not be viewd as a broadcast medium like television or radio but as a medium in which individuals are guaranteed free speech." The feeling I have towards the internet and its content is that it's kind of just a free-for-all of information. It just seems really strange that the court feels the same way and that they're officially acknowledging it.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Search Engines and Controversy

I read this report and did a little research of my own to investigate Gerhart's claim that search engines tend to supress controversy or favor certain sides of hotly debated issues. I searched Google and Yahoo with the term "abortion" and came up with some interesting results. With Yahoo, the second hit I got was www.abortionfacts.com. This page is interesting because the name seems to indicate an objective view on the issue, but once I got deeper into the contents of the site, it was clear that there was definitely a pro-life bias to the website. In the quick facts about abortion section, they seem to be refuting the idea of pregnancy as a product of rape or incest with poor scientific evidence to back them up. The first hit through the Yahoo search is called "Abortion: All Sides of the Issue" but has the domain name of http://www.religioustolerance.org/abortion.htm, so I'm sure you can guess the sway of that site as well. There were other websites like Planned Parenthood or this one website that linked the address and contact information of abortion clinics for each state, and these seem to have either a liberal or neutral bend to them. But it struck me that the first two hits through Yahoo were so misleading in their conservative views. Searching Google with the same keyword was even worse, with the first two hits coming from pages within www.abortionfacts.com, and the third and fourth hits coming from www.religioustolerance.org. Again, Pro Choice organizations and databases with just objective information on Roe v. Wade also came up, but it struck me that the first four hits were those sneaky conservative sites. I don't really even mind that they're conservative; it's just troublesome, as Gerhart points out, that websites can come off as neutral on an issue when they really do have an agenda.

Digital Piracy

"To Hollywood's Dismay, Digital Piracy is the Big Ape in Film"
by Timothy L. O'Brien
Monday, August 29th, 2005
http://www.iht.com/articles/2005/08/28/business/pirates.php

This article discusses the risk of Universal Pictures' upcoming remake of 'King Kong' suffering from digital piracy in the form of a "tech-savvy network of film pirates who specialize in stealing copies of first-run movies and distributing them globally on the Internet or on bootleg DVDs." Peter Jackson, the film's director, comments on how digital piracy in the form of bootlegging hurts the movie industry and keeps studios from investing more money in their movies, since the profit margins sink when bootleggers steal a chunk of the revenue for themselves. The article also goes on to explain how there is a wider shift in the economics of the movie industry, with advanced home theatre systems cutting theatre attendance in favor of home viewings of DVDs. DVD and video sales actually represent almost two thirds of the movie industry's total revenue of $84 billion in 2004, with piracy producing $3 billion in revenue for the criminals.

High School Hackers

Just today I read a story in a Florida newspaper about three computer hackers that had gotten into programs that stored the school's grades and attendance records and altered grades for friends. There were three things that struck me as odd about the story. First, I am not suprised that what they did is considered a felony; I am suprised that a crime called "being a principal to offense against intellectual property" is a felony. The name just doesn't seem to fit the crime, which is basically electronic "breaking and entering" and electronic "willful distruction of property." Grades don't really seem to be intellectual property to me, they're just regular property that is kept online, but I guess in a sense grades are an abstract idea so they could be considered intellectual property. Two, I'm reminded that sometimes smart people act like an idiots - the kids didn't even have to steal anyone's password to have access to those grades because a teacher let them onto a computer that had access to the programs that stored the grades. Lastly, I was suprised that all three boys were charged with felonies but two of them just got suspended for a little bit while the third got expelled. To me, a felony is a felony. School boards seem illogical to me to begin with though, so I guess its not so suprising.

Copyright

I think that the DMCA is a terrible idea. I don't think it's technically censorship because I view censorship as direct actions that the government takes to stop the expression of "objectionable" thoughts, ideas, or actions. With this law, the government is not going around removing content from these websites. This is more indirect. The DMCA just sets up a system that makes it easier for private parties to control what people post online. I think there should be laws that pertain to the issues of copyrights and malicious/libel content on the internet, but I think that what the DMCA does is takes away the right of the individual to defend themselves and what they have chosen to express online. By making it possible to sue the network that hosts the site instead of the individual who posted the information, the government has taken the decision of whether or not to go to court and defend the action of sharing the information and placed it in the hands of companies who only have a pecuniary interest in the situation.

Monday, September 05, 2005

McSweeney's

One of my favorite internet sites is Timothy McSweeney's Internet Tendency (http://www.mcsweeneys.net/). This website is an online literary journal with an emphasis on humorous writing. It was created by Dave Eggers, who wrote a book called "A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius." The book is autobiographical and relates the story of a 21 year-old Dave raising his 8 year old brother after the two of them are orphaned when theirparents die within months of each other. The book is hilarious in a strange and honest way and the writing is original in its approach to both the idea of writing an autobiography and the importance of having cohesion in a narrative. Timothy McSweeney's Internet Tendency is kind of a scaled back version of this. Most the things on the site are extremely funny; contributors include Michael Ian Black (Stella) and Nick Hornby (author of High Fidelity) and they also take unsolicited submissions. If you like the Onion, you will probably enjoy McSweeney's.

Homecoming

Okgo is the band that will be playing at Mary Washington's homecoming this year and I'm immensely excited about it. You might have heard Okgo a few years ago when they had a midly popular single called "Get Over It." I guess I would describe them as 'power pop.' I can't think of any other band off hand to compare them to; I guess the Hives is a point of reference for them though. It's just big, loud, rock with hooky choruses and a kind of slinky style. They're a really interesting band though because they're very smart guys but they don't take themselves too seriously at all. The lead singer has a degree in Semiotics from Brown. I still don't really understand what exactly Semiotics is, but I know it has to do with studying signs and signals and different systems of communication. If you want to check them out, you can go to http://www.okgo.net and check out some of their new album. The video for "A Million Ways" is hilarious.
Many students have difficulty not being lazy. Sometimes students have difficulty recognizing trustworthy sources on the internet because it can be difficult to judge the accuracy of the information when the site is sponsored by something somewhat official sounding, like with the anti-smoking website. For te most part though, students seem to run into problems with information on the internet because they have left the internet to be their only option for information - they've started a paper 10 hours before it is due and they do not have time to do research in the library. They just rush through looking for anything they can quote/cite and move on.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Small Ants on Small Boats

My sister used to live in New Orleans until a few days ago. Now the city belongs to the rats, the water moccasins, and the red ants. Red ants are the worst too. They just keep looting all the grocery stores. They have no guilt about it either.