March 16, 2009

Hoo-boy [3:40 pm]

Seattle Paper Stops Printing and Shifts to Web (pdf)

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer newspaper will produce its last printed edition on Tuesday and become an Internet-only news source, the Hearst Corporation said on Monday, making it by far the largest American newspaper to take that leap.

But the P-I, as it is called, will resemble a local Huffington Post more than a traditional newspaper, with a news staff of about 20 people rather than the 165 it has had, and a site consisting mostly of commentary, advice and links to other news sites, along with some original reporting.

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March 12, 2009

Another “If You Seek Amy” [10:03 am]

A Dirty Pun Tweaks China’s Online Censors (pdf)

Since its first unheralded appearance in January on a Chinese Web page, the grass-mud horse has become nothing less than a phenomenon.

[...] Not bad for a mythical creature whose name, in Chinese, sounds very much like an especially vile obscenity. Which is precisely the point.

The grass-mud horse is an example of something that, in China’s authoritarian system, passes as subversive behavior. Conceived as an impish protest against censorship, the foul-named little horse has not merely made government censors look ridiculous, although it has surely done that.

It has also raised real questions about China’s ability to stanch the flow of information over the Internet — a project on which the Chinese government already has expended untold riches, and written countless software algorithms to weed deviant thought from the world’s largest cyber-community.

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March 11, 2009

Foolishness, Facebook, and Reputation [8:15 am]

It’s not just kids who don’t quite grasp the consequences of the revealed life: A New York Police Officer Who Put Too Much on MySpace (pdf)

[I]n the looking glass of his computer screen, he becomes a man of fierce, profane views on how to keep law and order. A few weeks ago, he posted a description of his mood on a MySpace account. “Devious,” he wrote.

The next day, a man accused of carrying a loaded gun would go on trial in State Supreme Court in Brooklyn — and in large part, the case rested on the credibility of Vaughan Ettienne, bodybuilder, Internet user and arresting officer.

What seemed like a simple gun possession case became an undeclared war over reality: Was Officer Ettienne a diligent cop who found a gun after chasing an ex-convict weaving through traffic on a stolen motorcycle? Or was his story a “devious” facade in keeping with the ruthless character he revealed on social network Web sites?

“You have your Internet persona, and you have what you actually do on the street,” Officer Ettienne said on Tuesday. “What you say on the Internet is all bravado talk, like what you say in a locker room.”

Except that trash talk in locker rooms almost never winds up preserved on a digital server somewhere, available for subpoena. [...]

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You Knew It [8:10 am]

But it’s still a shock to see it in print. This used to be what folks said about US environmental policy, too. Fight Over Internet Filtering Has Test Run in Europe (pdf)

As European lawmakers debate how to keep access to the Internet free and equal — so-called network neutrality — they are inundated, not unsurprisingly, by lobbyists.

But the corporate envoys roaming the halls of Brussels trying to make their case, more often than not, do not represent the Continent’s myriad telecommunications and Internet companies, but rather those from the United States. Europe has become the world’s technology regulator. [emphasis added] So the AT&Ts and Verizons are pitted against the Googles and Yahoos to shape European law in the hopes that American regulators will follow suit.

It may not be precisely true, but it does show you what treating problems the same way that ostriches do will get you.

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Scylla and Charybdis [8:03 am]

Tough navigation for anyone — is this going to make the cut? Google to Offer Ads Based on Interests (pdf)

Google will begin showing ads on Wednesday to people based on their previous online activities in a form of advertising known as behavioral targeting, which has been embraced by most of its competitors but has drawn criticism from privacy advocates and some members of Congress.

Perhaps to forestall objections to its approach, Google said it planned to offer new ways for users to protect their privacy. Most notably, Google will be the first major company to give users the ability to see and edit the information that it has compiled about their interests for the purposes of behavioral targeting. Like rivals such as Yahoo, it also will give users the choice to opt out from what it calls “interest-based advertising.”

Privacy advocates praised Google’s decision to give users access to their profiles.

A counter-example: Advertisers Get a Trove of Clues in Smartphones (pdf)

The millions of people who use their cellphones daily to play games, download applications and browse the Web may not realize that they have an unseen companion: advertisers that can track their interests, their habits and even their location.

[...] Eswar Priyadarshan, the chief technology officer of Quattro Wireless, which places advertising for clients like Sony on mobile sites, says he typically has 20 pieces of information about a customer who has visited a site or played with an application in his network. “The basic idea is, you go through all these channels, and you get as much data as possible,” he said.

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March 6, 2009

Computing, Commensuration and Health Care [9:44 am]

A doctor challenges the notion that computers are the answer: The Computer Will See You Now (pdf)

[...] Doctors in every specialty struggle daily to figure out a way to keep the computer from interfering with what should be going on in the exam room — making that crucial connection between doctor and patient. I find myself apologizing often, as I stare at a series of questions and boxes to be clicked on the screen and try to adapt them to the patient sitting before me. I am forced to bring up questions in the order they appear, to ask the parents of a laughing 2-year-old if she is “in pain,” and to restrain my potty mouth when the computer malfunctions or the screen locks up. [...]

In short, the computer depersonalizes medicine. It ignores nuances that we do not measure but clearly influence care. In the past, I could pick up a chart and flip through it easily. Looking at a note, I could picture the visit and recall the story. Now a chart is a generic outline, screens filled with clicked boxes. Room is provided for text, but in the computer’s font, important points often get lost. I have half-joked with residents that they could type “child has no head” in the middle of a computer record — and it might be missed.

A box clicked unintentionally is as detrimental as an order written illegibly — maybe worse because it looks official. It takes more effort and thought to write a prescription than to pull up a menu of medications and click a box. [...]

So before we embrace the inevitable, there should be more discussion and study of electronic records, or at a minimum acknowledgment of the downside. A hybrid may be the answer — perhaps electronic records should be kept only on tablet computers, allowing the provider to write or draw, and to face the patient.

The personal relationships we build in primary care must remain a priority, because they are integral to improved health outcomes. Let us not forget this as we put keyboards and screens within the intimate walls of our medical homes.

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March 5, 2009

Google and “Lost” Copyright Holders [10:41 am]

But copyright isn’t an obstruction to innovation; it would be easy for any innovator to get financing for this effort, right? And, of course, these copyrights are worth more than it’ll cost Google to clear them, right? Now that’s productivity — the backbone of the US economy: Google’s Digitized Book Project Hinges on a Retro Kind of Search (pdf)

Google, the online giant, had been sued in federal court by a large group of authors and publishers who claimed that its plan to scan all the books in the world violated their copyrights.

As part of the class-action settlement, Google will pay $125 million to create a system under which customers will be charged for reading a copyrighted book, with the copyright holder and Google both taking percentages; copyright holders will also receive a flat fee for the initial scanning, and can opt out of the whole system if they wish.

But first they must be found.

Since the copyright holders can be anywhere and not necessarily online — given how many books are old or out of print — it became obvious that what was needed was a huge push in that relic of the pre-Internet age: print.

So while there is a large direct-mail effort, a dedicated Web site about the settlement in 36 languages (googlebooksettlement.com/r/home) and an online strategy of the kind you would expect from Google, the bulk of the legal notice spending — about $7 million of a total of $8 million — is going to newspapers, magazines, even poetry journals, with at least one ad in each country. These efforts make this among the largest print legal-notice campaigns in history.

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Trying for a “Do Over” [10:04 am]

While giving away music videos to MTV created an entertainment juggernaut, it wasn’t under the control of the music industry. So, a try to get it “right” this time? YouTube and Universal Discuss Music Video Deal (pdf)

Google’s YouTube and the Universal Music Group, the world’s largest music label, are in advanced discussions over a licensing agreement that could lead to the creation of a premium site for music videos, according a person briefed on the talks.

[...] The proposed agreement represent the latest effort by YouTube, the online video service, to attract premium content that might lure higher-priced advertisements. Music videos are among the most popular content on YouTube, but they have failed to produce significant revenue for YouTube or the music labels.

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March 2, 2009

Let’s See [8:27 am]

Copyright Holders Challenge Sites That Scrape Content (pdf)

Generally, the excerpts have been considered legal, and for years they have been welcomed by major media companies, which were happy to receive links and pass-along traffic from the swarm of Web sites that regurgitate their news and information.

But some media executives are growing concerned that the increasingly popular curators of the Web that are taking large pieces of the original work — a practice sometimes called scraping — are shaving away potential readers and profiting from the content.

With the Web’s advertising engine stalling just as newspapers are under pressure, some publishers are second-guessing their liberal attitude toward free content.

“A lot of news organizations are saying, ‘We’re not willing to accept the tiny fraction of a penny that we get from the page views that these links are sending in,’ ” said Joshua Benton, the director of the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard. “They think they need to defend their turf more aggressively.”

Copyright infringement lawsuits directed at bloggers and other online publishers seem to be on the rise. [...]

Given the attention that I’ve been able to give this blog lately, I’ve already been thinking about how I might find a more efficient way to post, by actually quoting a little less and trying to consolidate more effectively. Now, it looks like there are those who are going to give me a little stronger incentive…

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March 1, 2009

Obama Wants To Own It? [8:12 pm]

What other interpretation can you construct for this? Appeals Court Allows Classified Evidence in Spy Case

A federal appeals court dealt a blow to the Obama administration Friday when it refused to block a judge from admitting top secret evidence in a lawsuit weighing whether a U.S. president may bypass Congress, as President George W. Bush did, and establish a program of eavesdropping on Americans without warrants.

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