December 21, 2004

Fact-Checking And Journalists

Here's two notes on posts I'm not going to write, and why, to add to reality-based thinking about blogs.

EFF's recent spam paper Noncommercial Email Lists: Collateral Damage in the Fight Against Spam has the following parade of horrible:

For example, the technology journalist Declan McCullagh reports that SpamCop blacklisted his email list ... Rectifying the situation proved difficult, and McCullagh was incorrectly listed as a spammer with SpamCop two more times after that.

Oh boy, is there more to the story than appears in that paragraph! But what's the point of my taking it on? Spam politics is a war-zone, and I'm unarmored. I don't need the fight. I'll just note a question for all the people enamored of the supposed power of blogs in fact-checking journalists:

What happens when someone fact-checks a journalist, and the journalist can just reply: "Sod off"? (or, for that matter, "Are you high?")

Further on the topic of blogs, facts, and journalists, the official report concerning the CBS forged memos scandal is due soon. This will be the result of the network's own internal investigation. I've thought of trying to expand a post I did on Gatekeepers of the Media vs. Blog Triumphalism, which examines the huge institutional support in going after Dan Rather. But the prospect of stirring up a hornet's nest of raving wingnuts, is not appealing. I'm not a club-member of one of the political alliances, so either nobody will hear it, or I'll just get slammed.

So much for the ability to be heard ...

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in journo , spam | on December 21, 2004 11:59 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups
December 19, 2004

Total Google Awareness, continued

Google-Watch appeals to the American Library Association

I'm aware that the ALA is already involved with discovery and lobbying on this issue with the Justice Department over practices that grew out of the USA Patriot Act. But keep in mind that the scale of anything Google does is a million times larger than the scale of anything that involves discrete libraries, access to paper hard copy, and occasional subpoenas for specific information. Perhaps the scale of what Google does is even ten million times larger.

["me too", worth thinking about.]

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in google | on December 19, 2004 11:59 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups
December 17, 2004

PR Flacking / Reputation-Credit II

Final arguments were scheduled to have been filed in the Nitke v. Ashcroft US court case, concerning issues of US censorship law, the Internet, and community standards (recall, I'm an expert witness for the civil-liberties side). So it's time for another round of flackery. I'm actually slightly optimistic this round, since I did get an expression of interest. So it's not all bad.

But again, I am not cut out for this sort of thing. I agonize over whether to make another (likely futile) try at working around Slashdot's shame of an abusive editor who has obvious, blatant, personal grudges. In general, I have to risk perhaps annoying people who ignored me in the first round. I'm not good at glad-handing. Even with better prospects, it's still a time-sink and draining. Oh, glory be the blogolution (link omitted there out of self-preservation) versus gatekeepers.

To the tune of Matchmaker, Matchmaker:

Gatekeeper, gatekeeper, give me a link.
blog to my blog, track me a back.
Gatekeeper, gatekeeper, read through your feed
And give me a traffic link.

[Update: Sigh, it doesn't seem as if there's much of a hook for a press story. There were a few schedule changes. If anyone cares:
The free-speech side post-trial brief was submitted on November 27. The government is filing its post-trial reply brief on December 23. The free-speech side rebuttal then will be filed on December 30. After the holidays, some of this material may get posted on the website of lead lawyer John Wirenius. ]

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in activism | on December 17, 2004 11:59 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups
December 15, 2004

The Dark Side Of Google

The Dark Side Of Google

["me too" - via Discourse]

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in google | on December 15, 2004 11:59 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups
December 13, 2004

European Internet Censorship

Andreas Bovens send me the following information on what's happening in European censorship, thanks:

For your info, there are some interesting moves on the European internet censorship front:
> The European Union has launched a 45 million euro ($60 million) plan
> to protect children from pornography and racist sites when they surf
> the Internet.
> [...]
> It will increase the number of hotlines, finance technology to filter
> out pornography and raise awareness among parents and children, though
> it was not clear if the funds will be distributed to member states or
> used at the European level.

Official Press Release:

Also have a look at the Safer Internet Programme page:

And one of the programme's "success stories": Surf-Mate

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in censorware | on December 13, 2004 08:05 AM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups
December 10, 2004

IS2K4 Conference Skepticism Articles

A little while ago, I noticed John Palfrey wrote, about the votes, bits, bytes conference and a hypothesis that blog campaigns "created a larger, activated at-critical-mass-constituency, and lots of VOICE" (my emphasis)

I look forward to testing out this and other hypotheses at the Internet & Society conference in a few weeks.

I thought to myself, that testing involves discovering whether something is true or not, of what is correct and what is not. I hope that testing is fact being done.

As almost nobody cares what I think, I will merely attempt to perform a public blog-service and increase the PageRank and popdex and other measures of the following skeptical Andrew Orlowski articles:

Kerry net chief: cool software doesn't win elections

He derided net evangelists who believed that the answer was 'let's come up with new ways of talking!'

"The belief was 'let's get 5,000 people out there and they'll talk to each other. but to put a president in office we need to get people organized and trained." In the end, he said, a field organization was far more valuable than blog blather.

[n.b. cross-reference to David Weinberger's report]

In net politics, it's God vs Dog

[n.b. cross-reference again to David Weinberger's report]

It is a sobering thought that my post here probably has more of an influence via ranking algorithms than audience :-(.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in cyberblather | on December 10, 2004 11:59 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Comments (1) | Followups
December 09, 2004 book / Internet-extremism idea comment

Due to a curiosity which is perhaps not good for me, I glanced through the Harvard Conference "Working Hypothesis" paper. I don't think I can rightly write much about it. I'm 99% sure no harm would come to me as a result, but the other 1% ... Not worth the risk :-(.

However, regarding the idea of the Internet creating extremism, I've already written (and took whatever flames and reputation-hit resulted) extensive criticism in a discussion about that topic back when the book was first published, at:

That's about all I should say. sad face

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in cyberblather | on December 09, 2004 06:35 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups
December 06, 2004

Gatekeeper validation

Lis Riba wrote a recent post that I found very interesting in terms of data about getting posts read. Describing some original research she posted herself, On blog popularity (my emphasis):

I blogged it, but that wasn't enough for me.

I thought this was big news and wanted to spread the story.

So the next thing I did was go to the big name blogs. ...

I probably spent the better part of two hours sending emails and posting comments around the blogosphere.

Hits to my weblog soared. I was getting as many hits per hour as I normally got in a typical day [graph] ...

Except, I loathed the process! Notifying other bloggers of my find was boring and repetitive. I wanted to go out and conduct further research, move the story forward. But I couldn't do that while I was spending my time publicizing my existing post. I felt like I was stuck in a standstill. Does that make sense?

Yes. Greatly.

Note, someone can write an absolute gem of a post. Original, top-quality work. But ...


To get any reputation-credit at all from my being an expert witness in the Nitke v. Ashcroft case, I've had to flack, flack, flack, and I'm not skilled at it - "boring and repetitive" is just the start.

Or, in a word: Gatekeepers.

But I bitterly repeat myself.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in cyberblather | on December 06, 2004 11:59 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Comments (1) | Followups
December 05, 2004

Slashdot Convect

Three thousand (3000) hits.

That's approximately how many hits were just received by my page on the Al Gore Internet story. Those were generated from one or two popular comments linking to it, in a Slashdot discussion.


That 3000 is an order of magnitude more than my daily blog readership.

Which means those comments themselves have two orders of magnitude more readership than my blog.

So the Slashdot front page is three orders of magnitude greater reach.

I've done this "Slashdot Effect" calculation before. This is not difficult mathematics, not Analytic and Algebraic Topology of Locally Euclidean Metrization of Infinitely Differentiable Riemannian Manifold.

I suppose there's no point in repeating myself. It doesn't do any good :-(.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in cyberblather | on December 05, 2004 11:59 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Comments (4) | Followups
December 02, 2004

Cites & Insights, December 2004

People sometimes argue to me that I underestimate the extent of where I'm heard. I tend to regard that argument as mere kind words (after all, well-wishers aren't going to say to me that it's hopeless, I'll never win). But every once in a while I do wonder about it.

I've learned that Walt Crawford is a "blockbuster" ("In the library world he's like Madonna, ..."). So I should note his latest library 'zine (not his blog) issue, "Cites & Insights" December 2004. And I'm mentioned (my links below, but emphasis in the original):

One quick note in a rare three-issue sequence. In Cites & Insights 4:12, I discussed the Sima GoDVD! box, which "enhances" video in the analog domain so that you can convert it to digital form to burn to DVD, and in the process appears to undo Macrovision copy protection (which works by degrading analog video in a specific manner). In the following issue, I noted a clarification from Seth Finkelstein to my presumption that GoDVD! couldn't be prosecuted under DMCA because it operates entirely in the analog domain: DMCA had a special provision to protect Macrovision even in analog cases. I commented that GoDVD! was still probably in the clear, because the DMCA clause discusses recording devices, and GoDVD! isn't a recording device. An October 13 post at Finkelstein's Infothought blog (, highly recommended) quotes my full discussion, highlights the last sentence ("'s just a video enhancement box"), and suggests that GoDVD! probably doesn't violate the letter of the law. "On the other hand, this looks very much like what a hostile judge would view as a loophole. Or at least fodder for a quick amendment." His conclusion: "Even if it's true now that the GoDVD! box does not violate the Macrovision section of the DMCA, I'm not optimistic as to how long it will remain true."

Leaving shameless self-promotion, the sections recounting the recent history of the INDUCE/IICA, and the by now typical chop-suey of copyright legislation, are extremely useful overviews. Walt writes in-depth coverage, but with enough context so that someone new to these topics will be able to understand it.

For something completely different, I have a comment on the following part:

I'm sure every Cites & Insights reader knows that any PC with any connection to the internet -- even a dial-up connection -- must have an active firewall as well as full-time virus software updated at least weekly. ... Or let your machine be used to attack other machines and spread spam even further, while taking most of the CPU power you're paying for. It's your choice.

As the saying runs: Remember: it's a "Microsoft virus", not an "email virus", a "Microsoft worm", not a "computer worm".

Linux machines do need firewalls for additional security. But these days, it's almost to the point that before I'd use a Microsoft program for email, they'd have to pry my keyboard from my cold dead fingers. Quite seriously: The need for full-time virus software is not a fact of life, it's a fact of Microsoft. There's reasons for that, design constraints and deliberate decisions which favor convenience over security. But those decisions have costs. I've long conjectured that one of the best selling points for Linux, in terms of just a little concrete detail which may be worth more than any abstraction, is the sheer relief of not having to worry about the @#$% Microsoft Word viruses and Microsoft Browser security holes.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in copyblight , security | on December 02, 2004 11:59 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups
December 01, 2004

China and Censoring Google News

The following post is a service of "Almost everyone else is echoing it, but I'll add some value so people don't complain that I only talk about my struggles with activism".

The latest Google censorship story has its echo-chamber root in the following Reporters Without Borders story:

Google urged to react after Chinese authorities block Google News

"China is censoring Google News to force Internet users to use the Chinese version of the site which has been purged of the most critical news reports," Reporters Without Borders said. "By agreeing to launch a news service that excludes publications disliked by the government, Google has let itself be used by Beijing."

For some ground-level info, go read the comments on "Shanghai-based journalist" Fons Tuinstra's site (via Dan Gillmor)

"The current block on Google News is a strange one, since only a few of the Google IP addresses have been blocked. The discussion on what is going on is still in full swing, the association RWB makes with the Chinese google site seems one of the less likely ones." (Fons Tuinstra)

[I also did a quick check myself, the ban is sometimes there, but the small implementation seems an accurate description]

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in google | on December 01, 2004 07:48 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups