Links for through to February 15th:

  • Westpac in Facebook crackdown [The Age] – A case-study in how mis-manage community relations on Facebook: “WESTPAC is censoring criticism on social media sites amid growing public fury over its decision to retrench staff and raise interest rates independently of the Reserve Bank of Australia. Negative comments posted on Westpac’s Facebook page over the past week have been deleted within minutes, which has prompted accusations of a ”propaganda campaign” by the bank. But Westpac has defended the practice, claiming that ”partisan views” could deter customers from researching its financial products on social media sites.”
  • Anger for Path Social Network After Privacy Breach [NYTimes.com] – “Last week, Arun Thampi, a programmer in Singapore, discovered that the mobile social network Path was surreptitiously copying address book information from users’ iPhones without notifying them. David Morin, Path’s voluble chief executive, quickly commented on Mr. Thampi’s blog that Path’s actions were an “industry best practice.” He then became uncharacteristically quiet as the Internet disagreed and erupted in outrage.[…] Mr. Morin eventually did bow to pressure with an earnest apology on the company’s blog. He said that Path would begin asking for permission before grabbing address books and that the company would destroy the data collected. […] At Mr. Morin’s last job at Facebook, his boss Mark Zuckerberg apologized publicly more than 10 times for privacy breaches. It seems the management philosophy of “ask for forgiveness, not permission” is becoming the “industry best practice.” And based on the response to Mr. Morin, tech executives are even lauded for it.”
  • Lessons from Path and Pinterest: Tell users everything [GigaOm] – “Path and Pinterest are probably two of the hottest social services right now, racking up millions of users and generating an ocean of favorable coverage. But both have gotten tripped up by the same thing that has made the social web a minefield for both Facebook and Google: namely, decisions that put their interests ahead of their users and a lack of disclosure about what was going on behind the scenes or under the hood of their services. Will these missteps spell doom for either company? Probably not. But the backlash is a welcome reminder that for social apps, the trust of users is not something to be toyed with. Path, a mobile photo-sharing app that expanded to become a full-fledged mobile social app when it relaunched a couple of months ago, was co-founded and is run by Dave Morin, an early Facebook staffer.”
  • Amazon Publishing bookshop boycott grows [Books | guardian.co.uk] – “The cold war between north American booksellers and Amazon has hotted up this week, with the booksellers joining together to announce that they will not be selling any of the titles published by the online retailer. The opening salvo was fired last week by America’s biggest book chain Barnes & Noble, when it announced that it would not be stocking Amazon Publishing’s books. The website publishes a large range of titles, with imprints covering everything from romance to thrillers, and major authors including Deepak Chopra and self-help guru Timothy Ferriss. “Our decision is based on Amazon’s continued push for exclusivity with publishers, agents and the authors they represent,” said Jaime Carey, chief merchandising officer, in a statement.”
  • Over 3 years later, “deleted” Facebook photos are still online [Ars Technica] – Despite the issue being raised over 3 years ago, Facebook still does not immediately (or even quickly) remove deleted photos from Facebook. While the ability to access these photos is removed, the photo itself can linger on for years, still accessible to anyone who has the direct link. When asked, once again, when this would be fixed, Facebook have commented that they’ve almost moved to a new system that should delete photos within 45 days. That’s still a long time after the remove button is pressed!
  • How Much Can a Celebrity Make for Tweeting? [NY Mag] – “The weirdest thing about the rumor that Kim Kardashian gets paid $10,000 for a Twitter endorsement is that it’s true. (She recently plugged ShoeDazzle.com*, for instance.) The biggest player in the pay-to-tweet market is Ad.ly, a social-media advertorial clearinghouse pairing brands with celebs to inject highly personalized advertising into their Twitter streams.
    The pay rate for endorsing companies like Old Navy, Toyota, Best Buy, and American Airlines is determined by the size of a celeb’s following and how that group responds to his tweets with shares and retweets. On that sliding scale, Snoop Dogg (6.3 million followers) is in the top tier of payments, on the upside of $8,000 apiece, while Paula Abdul (2.2 million followers) falls somewhere in the middle, in the $5,000-each range, and Whitney Port (800,000 followers) falls in the bottom tier, making around $2,500 per tweet.”
  • What if Facebook Timeline was read instead of your CV? [guardian.co.uk] – If the thought irks you, make sure your privacy settings are set appropriately on Facebook as Timeline rolls out: “It’s all change at Facebook in the next few weeks as its timeline feature is rolled out to all users – whether they want it or not. This will make it easier for people to dig into your past from your homepage in an unprecedented manner. Pull up someone’s profile with Timeline enabled and you can scroll back through their entire Facebook history. Click on a year (say, 2008) and you can see everything they did in those 12 months, including status updates, photos, and wall posts.[…] Does this matter from an employment point of view? Well, yes it does. Numerous surveys have shown that employers are using Facebook and other social media sites to vet job applicants. In January 2010, a survey for Careerbuilder.co.uk found that more than half of employers used social networking sites to research job candidates.”
  • Man charged over YouTube driving [News.com.au] – “A P-PLATE driver who posted video of his antics on YouTube faces eight dangerous driving charges and losing his car forever.
    The 22-year-old from Kadina, on South Australia’s Yorke Peninsula, has had his Holden Commodore impounded for 28 days, police said today. He was nabbed after footage of his alleged driving offences was uploaded to YouTube and police learned about his alleged behaviour on roads near Kadina. “
  • Twitter Is a Critical Tool in Republican Campaigns [NYTimes.com] – “When Newt Gingrich said in a recent debate that he was a man of “grandiose” ideas, Mitt Romney’s campaign pounced. It sent mocking Twitter messages with a hashtag, “#grandiosenewt”, encouraging voters to add their own examples of occasions when they felt Mr. Gingrich had been “grandiose.” Within minutes, the hashtag was trending on Twitter. Reporters picked up on it, sending out their own Twitter posts and writing their own articles. The result: for at least one news cycle, the Romney campaign had stamped a virtual “grandiose” on Mr. Gingrich’s forehead. If the 2008 presidential race embraced a 24/7 news cycle, four years later politicos are finding themselves in the middle of an election most starkly defined by Twitter, complete with 24-second news cycles and pithy bursts. With 100 million active users, more than 10 times as many as in the 2008 election, Twitter has emerged as a critical tool for political campaigns, allowing them to reach voters, gather data and respond …”
  • Google CEO Larry Page: Identity Is A ‘Deep, Deep Part Of What We’re Doing’ [Huffington Post] – “Watch out: Google is getting personal. CEO Larry Page emphasized that Google is determined to deliver online experiences tailored to each individual’s interests and social circles, an ambitious goal that requires the web giant to learn even more about its users’ preferences and personal information. “Engaging with users, really deeply understanding who they are, and delivering things that make sense for them is really, really important. We’re at the early stages of that and Google+ is a big effort,” said Page during an earnings call Thursday. “This notion of identity is a deep, deep part of what we’re doing and an example of how we can make all our products better by understanding people.” Though Google already knows a great deal about the people who use its services, from what YouTube videos they’ve watched to whom they email most on Gmail, the web giant still lusts after the treasure trove of personal data Facebook has accumulated over the past eight years …”
  • Google Will Start Country-Specific Censorship for Blogs – “Google figured out Twitter‘s trick for avoiding universally censoring content weeks ago, but it managed to go unnoticed — for a while. That is, until TechDows wrote about Blogger‘s plan for country-specific URLs Tuesday. At some point “over the coming weeks,” Google’s Blogger will begin redirecting users to country-specific domain names — think Google.fr in France rather than Google.com — to avoid universally removing content that would not be tolerated in specific jurisdictions. A Blogger support post, “Why does my blog redirect to a country-specific URL?,” last updated Jan. 9, explains that Google is using the method to limit the impact of censored content. Readers will be redirected to sites with their own country’s domain name when they try to visit blogs recognized as foreign, as determined by their IP addresses. If you would like to see a non-affected page, you can direct to google.com/ncr (NCR stands for “no country redirect”) …”
  • Twitter uncloaks a year’s worth of DMCA takedown notices, 4,410 in all [Ars Technica] – “On almost any given day, Twitter receives a handful of requests to delete tweets that link to pirated versions of copyrighted content—and quickly complies by erasing the offending tweets from its site. That fact itself is probably unsurprising to people familiar with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown process, which gives sites like Twitter a “safe harbor” against lawsuits related to user behavior and uploads—so long as the sites don’t knowingly tolerate pirated material or links to such material. But Twitter has taken the unusual step of making DMCA takedown notices public, in partnership with Chilling Effects, a project of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and several universities. […] Scrolling through recent takedown notices, you’ll see names like Magnolia Pictures, Simon and Schuster, Warner Music Group, Universal Music Group, among those of many other media companies.”
  • Tweets still must flow [Twitter Blog] – Twitter starts blocking tweets nationally: “As we continue to grow internationally, we will enter countries that have different ideas about the contours of freedom of expression. Some differ so much from our ideas that we will not be able to exist there. Others are similar but, for historical or cultural reasons, restrict certain types of content, such as France or Germany, which ban pro-Nazi content. Until now, the only way we could take account of those countries’ limits was to remove content globally. Starting today, we give ourselves the ability to reactively withhold content from users in a specific country — while keeping it available in the rest of the world. We have also built in a way to communicate transparently to users when content is withheld, and why. We haven’t yet used this ability, but if and when we are required to withhold a Tweet in a specific country, we will attempt to let the user know, and we will clearly mark when the content has been withheld.”
  • Google Will Start Country-Specific Censorship for Blogs – “Google figured out Twitter‘s trick for avoiding universally censoring content weeks ago, but it managed to go unnoticed — for a while. That is, until TechDows wrote about Blogger‘s plan for country-specific URLs Tuesday. At some point “over the coming weeks,” Google’s Blogger will begin redirecting users to country-specific domain names — think Google.fr in France rather than Google.com — to avoid universally removing content that would not be tolerated in specific jurisdictions. A Blogger support post, “Why does my blog redirect to a country-specific URL?,” last updated Jan. 9, explains that Google is using the method to limit the impact of censored content. Readers will be redirected to sites with their own country’s domain name when they try to visit blogs recognized as foreign, as determined by their IP addresses. If you would like to see a non-affected page, you can direct to google.com/ncr (NCR stands for “no country redirect”) …”
  • Man charged over YouTube driving [News.com.au] – “A P-PLATE driver who posted video of his antics on YouTube faces eight dangerous driving charges and losing his car forever.
    The 22-year-old from Kadina, on South Australia’s Yorke Peninsula, has had his Holden Commodore impounded for 28 days, police said today. He was nabbed after footage of his alleged driving offences was uploaded to YouTube and police learned about his alleged behaviour on roads near Kadina. “
  • What if Facebook Timeline was read instead of your CV? [guardian.co.uk] – If the thought irks you, make sure your privacy settings are set appropriately on Facebook as Timeline rolls out: “It’s all change at Facebook in the next few weeks as its timeline feature is rolled out to all users – whether they want it or not. This will make it easier for people to dig into your past from your homepage in an unprecedented manner. Pull up someone’s profile with Timeline enabled and you can scroll back through their entire Facebook history. Click on a year (say, 2008) and you can see everything they did in those 12 months, including status updates, photos, and wall posts.[…] Does this matter from an employment point of view? Well, yes it does. Numerous surveys have shown that employers are using Facebook and other social media sites to vet job applicants. In January 2010, a survey for Careerbuilder.co.uk found that more than half of employers used social networking sites to research job candidates.”
  • Angry Birds boss: ‘Piracy may not be a bad thing: it can get us more business’ [Technology | guardian.co.uk] – “Rovio Mobile learned from the music industry’s mistakes when deciding how to deal with piracy of its Angry Birds games and merchandise, chief executive Mikael Hed told the Midem conference in Cannes this morning. “We have some issues with piracy, not only in apps, but also especially in the consumer products. There is tons and tons of merchandise out there, especially in Asia, which is not officially licensed products,” said Hed. “We could learn a lot from the music industry, and the rather terrible ways the music industry has tried to combat piracy.” Hed explained that Rovio sees it as “futile” to pursue pirates through the courts, except in cases where it feels the products they are selling are harmful to the Angry Birds brand, or ripping off its fans. When that’s not the case, Rovio sees it as a way to attract more fans, even if it is not making money from the products. “Piracy may not be a bad thing: it can get us more business at the end of the day.””
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Google_TV_Logo After announcing the service earlier this year, Google today began the hard sell of their forthcoming Google TV platform. It has hardware and software components, with the hardware either wired into new TVs (such as the flagship Sony Internet TV) or via a connected box (like a tuner or Apple TV box), but its main innovation is what looks to be a pretty sophisticated but non-threatening interface which combines web video, broadcast tv and recorded media. While it’s not out yet, it’s worth taking a look at the Quick Tour of Google TV as it demonstrates most of the capabilities and really emphasises how an application-driven web tv experience could be something pretty impressive. Twitter, for example, have already announced their Google TV app will come bundled in the initial software.

As Google moves further and further into the domain of big media distributors, there will inevitably be something of a power struggle, as this quote from the New York Times reminds us:

Google TV has been in talks with the major networks and Hollywood studios about optimizing their Web sites for TV screens and about obtaining data about their programs for search purposes. But one executive described the relationship between Google and the networks as being at the “first date” stage.

According to executives involved, some networks want Google to share revenue from the ads that it overlays on videos. Some want Google to weed out illegal Internet sources of their shows and make sure that their marquee programs still stand out on a service that potentially levels the playing field for all makers of video.

The struggle for our TV screens will reach new heights, and even the Apple TV box looks positively safe and conservative in comparison. Given the ongoing war between corporate copyright owners and unauthorised downloaders, Google TV seems like a fertile battleground since the experience of watching either streaming tv or unauthorised downloads may be very similar (with the absence of ads for unauthorised downloads being potentially the only meaningful difference).

For those of us outside the US, the question of international versions of this service is a thorny one. For each and every country, Google will have to negotiate new relationships with the existing broadcasters. Indeed, the analogue-era tradition of cutting the globe into national zones for the purposes of media distribution looks even more arbitrary than ever as the web and television edge even closer together. Certainly, there is the potential for the tyranny of digital distance to really throw a spanner in Google’s no doubt global aspirations for Google TV, but looking through Australian eyes, the service would definitely be welcomed by viewers.  Indeed, if Google negotiate carefully, they can probably win the support of the networks, too, who are all seeking to profit on catch-up tv services. From ABC’s iView to Plus7, Nine’s FixPlay, Ten’s Full Episodes and Video site and even SBS’s developing catch-up service all the Australian national broadcasters have  presences online from which viewers can stream full episodes. With some minor tweaks, most of these services could easily be optimised for Google’s TV platform.

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Links for June 4th 2010 through June 10th 2010:

  • Copyright: The Elephant in the Middle of the Glee Club – Christina Mulligan [Balkinization] – Great post from Christina Mulligan about copyright and the (fantasy of) Glee: “The fictional high school chorus at the center of Fox’s Glee has a huge problem — nearly a million dollars in potential legal liability. For a show that regularly tackles thorny issues like teen pregnancy and alcohol abuse, it’s surprising that a million dollars worth of lawbreaking would go unmentioned. But it does, and week after week, those zany Glee kids rack up the potential to pay higher and higher fines. […] Defenders of modern copyright law will argue Congress has struck “the right balance” between copyright holders’ interests and the public good. They’ll suggest the current law is an appropriate compromise among interest groups. But by claiming the law strikes “the right balance,” what they’re really saying is that the Glee kids deserve to be on the losing side of a lawsuit. Does that sound like the right balance to you?”
  • Second Life in second incarnation [The Age] – “Linden Lab, creator of the online virtual world Second Life, is laying off 30 per cent of its staff and restructing it to make the once popular online world more relevant to social networking times. The San Francisco company did not reveal how many people it was letting go as part of what it called a “strategic restructuring,” but it is understood it has more than 300 employees. […] Chief executive Mark Kingdon, known inworld as M Linden, said the company plans to create an internet browser-based virtual world experience, eliminating the need to download software, and extend Second Life into social networks. […] Second Life was an online sensation after Linden Lab launched the virtual world in 2003 as a place for people to play, socialise and do business but its popularity has faded in recent years.”
  • Ashton Kutcher: ‘Bruce Willis? At first it was difficult. He’s the guy who used to sleep with my wife…but it got easier’ [Mail Online] – Ashton Kutcher on how he used Twitter to escape the paparazzi: “There used to be five or six cars full of paparazzi following us – I stopped that with Twitter. Except for rare occasions, they don’t follow us any more. I definitely try to lead the long tail of the press, so if I’m going to an event I break the story myself – I don’t need somebody making money from breaking a story about me. If I’m going to be in a zoo, I want the keys to the cage – I saturate the market with images of myself, so their images won’t have any value.” (5th June 2010)
  • The ‘Star Wars Kid': Where is he now? [The Age] – “Today, Canadian law student Ghyslain Raza is president of a nonprofit organisation dedicated to preserving the heritage, culture and history of a riverside French-Canadian town called Trois-Rivières. But before that, the world knew him by a different title: The “Star Wars Kid.” Raza is now a law student at Montreal’s McGill University. In February of this year, he took control of the Patrimoine Trois-Rivières (formerly called the Society for Conservation and Promotion of Cultural Heritage), which was founded more than 30 years ago. […] Is that where you expected the Star Wars kid to be today? The short attention spans of viral video viewers prevent the subjects of the videos from fully and accurately presenting themselves. Few people would want to be entirely defined by one minute and 48 seconds of fame, but that’s the hand Raza was dealt in his youth. Hardly anyone would recognise him these days, though.”
  • Court uses Facebook to serve paternity test order [The Age] – Australian courts allow Facebook to be used as a communication platform for serving legal papers: “In a case which highlights the difficulties of keeping a low profile when you have a Facebook account, a court has ordered that the social networking site be used to serve legal documents on an elusive father in a child support dispute. The federal magistrate who made the order, Stewart Brown, said the Adelaide case was unusual but ”demonstrative of social movements and the currency of the times”.”
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Links for May 5th 2010 through May 6th 2010:

  • Glitch Brings New Worries About Facebook’s Privacy [NYTimes.com] – Privacy concerns = declining trust! “For many users of Facebook, the world’s largest social network, it was just the latest in a string of frustrations. On Wednesday, users discovered a glitch that gave them access to supposedly private information in the accounts of their Facebook friends, like chat conversations. Not long before, Facebook had introduced changes that essentially forced users to choose between making information about their interests available to anyone or removing it altogether. Although Facebook quickly moved to close the security hole on Wednesday, the breach heightened a feeling among many users that it was becoming hard to trust the service to protect their personal information.”
  • Facebook Burning Through Its Most Valuable Asset [The NewsCloud Blog] – Why trust still matters: “Venture investors often focus on the burn rate of a startup to determine how long a company can operate before it becomes profitable. After last week, investors in Facebook should be asking how long the company can continue its phenomenal growth as it quickly burns through the trust of users that expected the company to protect their privacy. […] Now, I’ve even more amazed that after Google’s Buzz debacle, Facebook has drawn a line in the sand against common sense and the basic privacy expectations of its growing user base with its new social graph. Just as Microsoft employees, incredibly, seemed to think they could surreptitiously market exploitative sexting ads to teens by using a male rather than a female, Facebook thinks that it can sustain its growth while essentially pimping the private lives of its users to the highest bidder. There seems to be no adult supervision at either company.”
  • Catherine Deveny Fired From The Age [The Age] – Yes, controversial/provocative comedian Catherine Deveny has been fired from The Age for tweets made during the Logies, including the now infamous “I do so hope Bindi Irwin gets laid”. Her humour is generally in poor taste, but is it worth sacking someone for, especially in their own time? Deveny certainly seems well within her rights to ask if there is actually a policy about social media at The Age. There probably should be. That aside, this little controversy has probably given Deveny – and the Logies – more free press than they’ve enjoyed in years. I’d suggest this “sacking” makes her more commercially viable as a personality, not less employable. I guess we’ll see.
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Links for November 17th 2009 through November 23rd 2009:

  • Microsoft and News Corp eye web pact [FT.com] – “Microsoft has had discussions with News Corp over a plan that would involve the media company’s being paid to “de-index” its news websites from Google, setting the scene for a search engine battle that could offer a ray of light to the newspaper industry. The impetus for the discussions came from News Corp, owner of newspapers ranging from the Wall Street Journal of the US to The Sun of the UK, said a person familiar with the situation, who warned that talks were at an early stage. However, the Financial Times has learnt that Microsoft has also approached other big online publishers to persuade them to remove their sites from Google’s search engine. News Corp and Microsoft, which owns the rival Bing search engine, declined to comment.” (NewsCorp + Microsoft = B(e)ing Evil!) [Via]
  • Teachers warned off online Facebook contact with students [PerthNow] – “Teachers[in Western Australia] would be banned from contacting students on social-networking websites like Facebook or Myspace under proposed changes to their code of ethics. The move comes after the WA College of Teaching disciplinary committee reprimanded about 10 teachers in the past year for inappropriate cyber interaction with students. The behaviour included teachers sharing private photos with students and in some cases engaging in online sexual innuendo. WACOT’s disciplinary committee chairwoman, Theresa Howe, said the code of ethics needed to be updated to specifically target inappropriate and over-friendly computer correspondence between students and teachers.”`We’re seeing an increase in it and it has to be specifically addressed,” she said. `That should be in both the code of ethics and in professional development courses for teachers.”
  • Reporter Center’s Channel [YouTube] – A fantastic resource to help up and coming reporters, journalists and media students think about how to go about, and improve, the way they do things. [Via mUmbrella]
  • BigPond pulls plug on Second Life [The Age] – “Telstra has decided to close its doors on Second Life, evicting the residents of its virtual BigPond Island and revoking their unmetered usage, in a move that has infuriated some subscribers. BigPond’s presence will cease on December 16, signalling an end to its two-year “experiment” with Second Life, and residents of the swanky virtual Pond Estate have been given a month to relocate elsewhere. Second Life is a virtual world that enables members to build or trade in-world objects and interact through their “avatars”. In its early days, new users flocked to the platform and organisations raced to set up a presence there to find new ways of engaging with their public, but the buzz surrounding virtual communities has since waned. According to a Second Life enthusiast, as many as 1600 users could be affected by BigPond’s closure, many of whom are socially isolated or disabled and unable to afford to continue maintaining their presence on the virtual world without unmetered usage.”
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Links for November 15th 2009 through November 17th 2009:

  • Nose, face, cut, spite: Blocking Google [BuzzMachine] – Jeff Jarvis has a neat little summary of what the research suggests would happen to Google is Murdoch stops letting the search engine index his news properties: in short, not much damage to Google, and whole world of loss-of-revenue pain for News Corps. Interestingly, pulling Wikipedia out of Google searches would do more damage!
  • Social media focus [BBC – The Editors] – The BBC appoints a social media editor. (This is the shape of things to come …)
  • I’m Belle de Jour [Times Online] – “Meet Belle de Jour, the anonymous blogger and former prostitute whose explicit, funny, articulate, eye-popping online Diary of a London Call Girl has fascinated millions of readers worldwide. Here she is: Belle, the famous tart, whose books became runaway bestsellers, who was played on screen by Billie Piper in the television series based on them, whose brand is instantly recognisable to anyone who uses the internet or bookshops and who has stirred up a considerable amount of controversy through her writing-as-a-whore career, not least because she has always refused to condemn prostitution as being necessarily bad or sad: our very own second-wave Happy Hooker. […] She’s real, all right, and I’m sitting on the bed next to her. Her name is Dr Brooke Magnanti. Her specialist areas are developmental neurotoxicology and cancer epidemiology. She has a PhD in informatics, epidemiology and forensic science and is now working at the Bristol Initiative for Research of Child Health.”
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Links for February 26th 2009 through March 6th 2009:

  • Australians spend much more time online | Australian IT – “The Nielsen Online Internet and Technology Report surveyed more than 2000 Australians and found the average Aussie spent 89.2 hours a week consuming media last year or almost 80 per cent of their waking hours. … this was an increase of almost five hours on 2007 and an extra 17.8 hours from 2006. “Given the average Australian is only awake for around 112 hours per week, it’s surprisingly just how many of those waking hours are dedicated to media consumption… We’ve seen some pretty extraordinary increases in the past few years, however we would anticipate a levelling out in consumption hours of the next few years as Australians simply run out of hours in the day.” … people aged over 16 spent an average of 16.1 hours on the internet each week, 12.9 hours watching TV, 8.8 hours listening to the radio, 3.7 hours on a mobile phone and 2.8 hours reading newspapers. Some users also used more than one form of media at once, with more than three in five internet surfers [also]watching TV”
  • RED MARS For Free [Warren Ellis] – “Kim Stanley Robinson’s brilliant sf novel RED MARS is now available as a free PDF download from its US publisher. [Direct link to PDF], and their Free Library page listing it and other available free downloads. Be warned: RED MARS is first of a trilogy, and there’s a good chance you’ll find yourself craving the others (GREEN MARS and BLUE MARS).” (If you”ve not read Red Mars, you’ve missed out on the best hard SF in years, go read it. As Ellis says, once you’ve gone Red, you won’t be able to stop yourself rushing to buy Green and Blue, too!)
  • Virtual Worlds – Detailed timeline of the emergence of Virtual Worlds – encompasses many recognisable and a few more abstract elements (do virtual worlds really start in the 1700s?) (Thanks, Jill)
  • Web censorship plan heads towards a dead end [The Age] – “The Government’s plan to introduce mandatory internet censorship has effectively been scuttled, following an independent senator’s decision to join the Greens and Opposition in blocking any legislation required to get the scheme started. The Opposition’s communications spokesman Nick Minchin has this week obtained independent legal advice saying that if the Government is to pursue a mandatory filtering regime “legislation of some sort will almost certainly be required”. Senator Nick Xenophon previously indicated he may support a filter that blocks online gambling websites but in a phone interview today he withdrew all support, saying “the more evidence that’s come out, the more questions there are on this”. The Communications Minister, Stephen Conroy, has consistently ignored advice from a host of technical experts saying the filters would slow the internet, block legitimate sites, be easily bypassed and fall short of capturing all of the nasty content available online.”
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Links of interest for October 22nd 2008 through October 23rd 2008:

  • Playing Columbine: An Interview with Game Designer and Filmmaker Danny Ledonne (Part One) [Confessions of an Aca/Fan] – A fascinating interview with the man behind the very controversial ‘serious game’ Super Columbine Massacre RPG! which sought to deconstruct the tragedy and the way it was reported by simulating the experience. (See also Part II of this interview, Part III, and the game at the centre of the discussion, Super Columbine Massacre RPG!)
  • Online Streaming Adds Millions of Viewers for ‘Heroes,’ ‘The Office’ [TV Decoder Blog – NYTimes.com] – “How many consumers stream TV episodes on the Internet? How many download the episodes on iTunes? How many watch the episodes using video on demand? How many view the episodes on mobile phones? NBC is trying to tell by adding together all the exposure of its episodes on five platforms in a rubric they call the TAMi, short for “Total Audience Measure index.” The TAMi was first used for the Olympics and is now being released on a weekly basis for NBC’s prime time shows.” (the TAMi seems like a very clear admission that Neilsen ratings and similar eyeballs on tv screen measures are simply out of date!)
  • Sickie faker busted by Facebook [The Age] – “A Sydney telco employee has learned the hard way the perils of sharing too much information on Facebook after he was caught by his boss faking a sickie after a big night out. The manager then sent Doyle a screen grab of Doyle’s Facebook profile, highlighting a status update written on the leave day in question. […] “Kyle Doyle is not going to work, f— it i’m still trashed. SICKIE WOO!,” it read. Sprung and with no room left to move, Doyle replied to the boss: “HAHAHA LMAO [laughing my ass off] epic fail. No worries man.” In an email exchange doing the rounds of office blocks, Kyle Doyle was asked by his employer, AAPT, to provide a medical certificate verifying a day of sick leave in August.”
  • Backlash over Microsoft’s anti-piracy tactics [The Age] – “Chinese internet users have expressed fury at Microsoft’s launch of an anti-piracy tool targeting Chinese computer users to ensure they buy genuine software. The “Windows Genuine Advantage” program, which turns the user’s screen black if the installed software fails a validation test, is Microsoft’s latest weapon in its war on piracy in China, where the vast majority of 200 million computer users are believed to be using counterfeit software, unwittingly or not. “Why is Microsoft automatically connected with my computer? The computer is mine!” one angry blogger wrote on popular Chinese web portal Sina.com. “Microsoft has no right to control my hardware without my agreement.” Another blogger railed over the cost of authorised versions. “If the price of genuine software was lower than the fake one, who would buy the fake one?” he wrote.”
  • Dutch teens convicted of virtual theft [The Age] – “A Dutch court has convicted two teenagers of theft for stealing virtual items in a computer game and sentenced them to community service. Radio Netherlands reports that the two teenagers – a 15 and a 14-year-old – were found guilty of using violence to rob a 13-year-old classmate of virtual property in the multiplayer online game RuneScape.”
  • Hell hath no fury like the ‘ex’ files [The Age] – “It was the wedding present from hell. In the middle of his Pacific island honeymoon, a Melbourne finance executive discovered that a woman claiming to be his ex had branded him in cyberspace as a dud lover and serial cheat. Along with his name and picture, the anonymous “ex” posted his mobile phone number, address and car registration on the “love rat” site dontdatehimgirl.com. … The executive is one of more than 200 Australian men whose profiles have been posted on dontdatehimgirl.com or datingpsychos.com — US sites now being used by Australian women to post anonymous rants against men who have supposedly done them wrong, and to warn other prospective partners. Other women — also anonymous — then add “comments” which may include their own experiences of the same man. Men named — and often also pictured — in the profiles may deny the accusations.” (What happens when citizen justice decends into the digital lynchmob!)
  • Obama in-game advertising [The LAMP Watercooler] – “The Obama campaign has made strong use of the internet for fundraising, organising and spreading the message. The campaign has gone to a new level with the release of in-game advertising as illustrated in this screen-shot published on Gigaom recently.”
  • Digital switch timetable [TV Tonight] – “[Australian] Senator Conroy has mapped out the switch from analog to digital television …” Perth will have to switch to entirely digital television broadcast by January – June 2013; regional WA by the end of 2013. Follow the link for the timeline for the rest of Australia.
  • Giant database plan ‘Orwellian’ [BBC NEWS | Politics] – “Proposals for a central database of all mobile phone and internet traffic have been condemned as “Orwellian”. Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said the police and security services needed new powers to keep up with technology. Details of the times, dates, duration and locations of mobile phone calls, numbers called, website visited and addresses e-mailed are already stored by telecoms companies for 12 months under a voluntary agreement. The data can be accessed by the police and security services on request – but the government plans to take control of the process in order to comply with an EU directive and make it easier for investigators to do their job.” (Apparently you’ll need a passport to buy a mobile phone in the UK, too.)
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Links of interest for September 5th 2008 through September 8th 2008:

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Interesting links for August 23rd 2008 through August 25th 2008:

  • Drilling Down – Preferring the Web Over Watching TV [ NYTimes.com] – “For children ages 10 to 14 who use the Internet, the computer is a bigger draw than the TV set, according to a study recently released by DoubleClick Performics, a search marketing company. The study found that 83 percent of Internet users in that age bracket spent an hour or more online a day, but only 68 percent devoted that much time to television. The study found that the children often did research online before making a purchase (or bugging their parents to make one). The big exception to this rule was apparel: like many grown-ups, the children said they preferred to choose their clothes at a store.”
  • Film Studies For Free [Catherine Grant on Blogger] – “Film Studies For Free actively espouses the ethos of Open Access to digital scholarly material. It aims to promote good quality, online, film and moving-image studies resources by commenting on them, and by linking to them. These resources will include published scholarship or research in various forms: from film and media weblogs, through online peer-reviewed journals, to other forms of web-based scholarly writing, as well as online works of film/moving-image research by practice. Film Studies For Free readers are invited to bring relevant items to the blog’s attention; please use the comments option or this email link to do so.”
  • “A Few Lives Left” for Poor Research into Virtual Worlds [PERSONALIZE MEDIA] – A substantial, well-research and convincing rebuttal of this article from the SMH on Second Life and Virtual Worlds. This rebuttal contains many stats and figures which cast Asher Moses’ piece in a pretty poor light.
  • Hollywood losing its grip on television content [Darknet] – JD Lasica interviews Eric B Kim (an Intel VP and general manager of its Digital Home Group) and Patrick Barry (VP of TV for Yahoo) about the coming trend of getting TV properly on the net: “Kim’s quote that most stuck out for me was this: “We’re bringing television to the internet.” Notice what Kim didn’t say: We’re bringing the Internet to television, which has been the approach of the big movie studios until now. (Or, until recently, We’re preventing the Internet from coming to TV.) I don’t know whether Kim’s turn of phrase was intentional or not — I suspect so — but the difference is a significant one. “
  • Video: Lifelike animation heralds new era for computer games [Times Online] – “Extraordinarily lifelike characters are to begin appearing in films and computer games thanks to a new type of animation technology. Emily – the woman in the above animation – was produced using a new modelling technology that enables the most minute details of a facial expression to be captured and recreated. She is considered to be one of the first animations to have overleapt a long-standing barrier known as ‘uncanny valley’ – which refers to the perception that animation looks less realistic as it approaches human likeness. Researchers at a Californian company (Image Metrics) which makes computer-generated imagery for Hollywood films started with a video of an employee talking. They then broke down down the facial movements down into dozens of smaller movements, each of which was given a ‘control system’.” [Via io9]
  • The dawn of intelligent machines [BBC NEWS | Technology] – “The idea may scare some, but Intel predicts that by 2050 machines could surpass the peak of human intelligence. So predicted Justin Rattner, chief technology officer at the chip maker, in a presentation at the Intel Developer Forum which examined how technology is expected to bridge the gap between man and machine. The vision included sensitive robots and shape-shifting materials. “There is no question that one of the most likely things that will happen in the next 40 years is that machine and human intelligence will come much closer together,” Mr Rattner told the BBC. “The ability of humans to communicate with machines and for machines to communicate with humans will get so much better.””
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