Do You Believe It?

I don’t — at least, not yet. At least, not until the problem of “format aging” is solved — do you really think that “.GIF or .PDF is forever?” Pushing Paper Out the Door

“Paper is no longer the master copy; the digital version is,” says Brewster Kahle, the founder and director of the Internet Archive, a nonprofit digital library. “Paper has been dealt a complete deathblow. When was the last time you saw a telephone book?”

Some homes may no longer have phone books, but many have scanners — and, increasingly, more than one. Flatbed scanners, which most people use for photographs, offer high resolution but are cumbersome for scanning large volumes of paper. New, cheap document-feed scanners that can digitize a stack of papers, receipts or business cards in seconds are becoming popular. Add multiple computers, digital cameras and maybe an electronic book reader, and suddenly paper seems to be on the endangered-species list.


After rising steadily in the 1980s and ’90s, worldwide paper consumption per capita has plateaued in recent years. In the richest countries, consumption fell 6 percent from 2000 to 2005, from 531 to 502 pounds a person. The data bolsters the view of experts like Mr. Kahle who say paper is becoming passé.

*Shock* What Will They Think Of Next?

Hey, at least they’ve finally come to it. Although I expect there still will be cries of “piracy” in the long run with this. HarperCollins Will Post Free Books on the Web

In an attempt to increase book sales, HarperCollins Publishers will begin offering free electronic editions of some of its books on its Web site, including a novel by Paulo Coelho and a cookbook by the Food Network star Robert Irvine.

The idea is to give readers the opportunity to sample the books online in the same way that prospective buyers can flip through books in a bookstore.

“It’s like taking the shrink wrap off a book,” said Jane Friedman, chief executive of HarperCollins Publishers Worldwide. “The best way to sell books is to have the consumer be able to read some of that content.”

[…] Neil Gaiman, the fantasy novelist, short story and comics writer, is asking readers of his blog to vote on the title they would most like to give as a gift. An electronic scan of the winning title will be offered free on the HarperCollins site later this month. Mr. Gaiman said the online effort was not so different from what has been going on for generations.

“I didn’t grow up buying every book I read,” said the English born Mr. Gaiman, 47. “I read books at libraries, I read books at friend’s houses, I read books that I found on people’s window sills.” Eventually, he said, he bought his own books and he believes other readers will, too.

User Innovation On The Rise?

And sharing is at the heart of it: High-tech tinkerers on the risepdf

“People just feel so hemmed in . . . Customers and users prefer open, and what’s happening is that the barriers of expertise required are getting lower and lower,” said Eric von Hippel, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management. “The reason you’re going to see more and more people doing it is because they’ve always wanted to be able to fiddle – but the technology was daunting.”

That’s changing, as do-it-yourself gadgetry becomes more accessible to people who have never even held a soldering iron.

[…] The Chumby, a squeezable WiFi-connected device that pipes Internet content onto a small screen, also makes its debut this year. But the company isn’t just selling the gadget, it’s also giving away the design – from circuits down to the pattern for the leather panels on the outside.

“You might as well share the plans so everyone can benefit from it, and we don’t believe that it hampers our ability to be competitive. To have it open – we think it helps,” said bunnie Huang, the company’s vice president of hardware engineering and a hacker who as an MIT student gained notoriety for hacking the Xbox. “When we share the plans, we invite the users to participate in the process of defining the product.”

Von Hippel, who has studied innovation in various industries, said much of the innovation people take for granted comes from users.

See also Mashups Are Breaking the Mold at Microsoft


What did you expect? Facebook is forever, some users complainpdf

Some users have discovered it is nearly impossible to remove themselves entirely from, setting off a fresh round of concern over the social network’s use of personal data.

While the website offers the option to deactivate an account, Facebook servers keep copies of the information indefinitely. Many users who have requested that their accounts be deleted have not succeeded in erasing their records.

“It’s like the Hotel California,” said Nipon Das, 34, a director at a biotechnology consulting firm in Manhattan. “You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.”

Also How Sticky Is Membership on Facebook? Just Try Breaking Free

Later: Quitting Facebook Gets Easier

Life In A Hall Of Mirrors

Because They Said So

Even by the dismal standards of what passes for a national debate on intelligence and civil liberties, last week was a really bad week.

You’re telling me! But, at least, they got around to showing just how awful the situation has become

The telecoms, which are facing about 40 pending lawsuits, believe they are protected by a separate law that says companies that give communications data to the government cannot be sued for doing so if they were obeying a warrant — or a certification from the attorney general that a warrant was not needed — and all federal statutes were being obeyed.

To defend themselves, the companies must be able to show they cooperated and produce that certification. But the White House does not want the public to see the documents, since it seems clear that the legal requirements were not met. It is invoking the state secrets privilege — saying that as a matter of national security, it will not confirm that any company cooperated with the wiretapping or permit the documents to be disclosed in court.

So Mr. Rockefeller and other senators want to give the companies immunity even if the administration never admits they were involved. This is short-circuiting the legal system. If it is approved, we will then have to hope that the next president will be willing to reveal the truth.

Mr. Rockefeller argues that companies might balk at future warrantless spying programs. Imagine that!

[…] This debate is not about whether the United States is going to spy on Al Qaeda, it is about whether it is going to destroy its democratic principles in doing so. Senators who care about that should vote against immunity.

See also Dahlia Lithwick’s Slate piece: Anybody’s Guess: The Legality of Water-Boarding as Work in Progress

That’s how Americans have come to reconcile themselves to illegal warrantless eavesdropping and to prisoner abuse at Guantanamo Bay. It’s why we’re no longer bothered in the least by the abuse of national-security letters or extraordinary rendition or by presidential signing statements. Deny, admit, codify, then immunize. The law as quickstep.

Later: Glenn Greenwald dissects the Wall Street Journal’s blatant lies in this editorial: Wiretap Showdownpdf


I know — I’ve been slack in posting this week. It’s the start of the term here, and this week was a demonstration of just how much denial I was in about it. Anyway, I hope to get a little more in control this week.

As a splash of cold water, this op-ed in today’s Times is a pretty effective blast — We Interrupt This Broadcast

The usefulness of these white spaces is about to be compromised by a proposal before the Federal Communications Commission by some of the nation’s largest technology companies. Microsoft, Google and others are asking permission to use white spaces — free of charge — for millions of unregulated and unlicensed devices for personal networking systems that they would like to sell, including P.D.A.’s, wireless broadband devices and even toys.

These devices could disrupt the new digital TV signals that government and industry have spent so much time and money to promote.

So, is the problem that these white space devices are going to interfere with TV and other appliances? Or is it that companies are going to get to build devices without paying for spectrum?

And who pwns this congressman? A friend of Jay Rockefeller?

Secrets and Openess

Satellite Spotters Glimpse Secrets, and Tell Them

[Ted] Molczan, a private energy conservation consultant, is the best known of the satellite spotters who, needing little more than a pair of binoculars, a stop watch and star charts, uncover some of the deepest of the government’s expensive secrets and share them on the Internet.

[…] John E. Pike, director of, a private group in Alexandria, Va., that tracks military and space activities, said the hobbyists exemplified fundamental principles of openness and of the power of technology to change the game.

“It has been an important demystification of these things,” Mr. Pike said, “because I think there is a tendency on the part of these agencies just to try to pretend that they don’t exist, and that nothing can be known about them.”

But the spotters are also pursuing a thoroughly unusual pastime, one that calls for long hours outside, freezing in the winter and sweating in the summer, straining to see a moving light in the sky and hoping that a slip of the finger on the stopwatch does not delete an entire night’s work. And for the adept, there is math. Lots of math.

More on the Tudou Crackdown

China cracks down on irreverent Websitespdf

All sorts of irreverent footage ends up on Tudou and other Chinese video sites — spoofs of public figures, off-beat animated films, Taiwanese music videos and real-life street scenes that display the spontaneity and edge missing from state-run television.

No doubt that’s the reason the Chinese government is striking back. A harsh new law that took effect Friday forbids any content “which damages China’s unity and sovereignty; harms ethnic solidarity; promotes superstition; portrays violence, pornography, gambling or terrorism; violates privacy; damages China’s culture or traditions.” More damaging still is a requirement that firms distributing online video or audio be state-owned. If enforced to the letter, the law could kill the most vibrant media in China today.

See earlier post: The Chinese Government and China’s YouTube

Subscription Services (updated)

What happens when your provider gets bought? Yahoo Music Users Going to RealNetworkspdf

Yahoo Inc. will cease operating its online music subscription service and switch its customers to RealNetworks Inc.s Rhapsody music service as part of a new deal between the companies that calls for Yahoo to promote Rhapsody on its site.

Later — the LATimes’ Jon Healey asks the key question: If Yahoo can’t do it . . .pdf

The deal leaves Rhapsody, Napster and Microsoft’s Zune Pass as the last subscription services standing, with Zune Pass being available only to consumers who buy a Zune MP3 player. Previous casualties include MTV’s Urge, AOL’s MusicNet, Sony Music and Universal Music Group’s Pressplay, and Circuit City’s MusicNow. Put another way, some of the biggest names on the Web, the music industry and electronics retailing have ventured into the subscription music market, only to be forced into retreat.

Record company executives have contended for years that subscriptions — which charge users a flat monthly fee to play, but not keep, an unlimited amount of music — were the future of the business. […] But as Yahoo’s retreat makes clear, a powerful brand isn’t enough to persuade masses of consumers to sign on.

[…] [Yahoo’s Ian] Rogers illuminated one of the central problems for subscription services: They’re too complex technologically for most consumers. The electronic locks used by subscription services make them incompatible with iPods, the most popular MP3 players on the planet. That’s strike one. The locks also make it difficult to move music around the home, given how few stereos or boom boxes can support them. That’s strike two. And even the portable players that are supposed to be compatible with subscription services can run into trouble handling their complex software, resulting in freezes, resets and other maddening malfunctions. That’s strike three.

A “Chorus Line” Settlement

Those First in ‘Chorus Line’ Gain a Continuing Stake

The dancers and actors who participated in the 1974 recordings and workshops that were the foundation of “A Chorus Line” have been granted a financial interest in the current Broadway revival, according to a joint statement released on Friday by those artists and the beneficiaries of the estate of Michael Bennett, the musical’s creator and original director.

The arrangement brings to a close 16 months of negotiations between the artists and the estate, during which both sides debated the intentions behind a 33-year-old contract drawn up by Mr. Bennett.

See earlier Contracts, Collaboration and Copyright