Borg Journalism

We are the Blogs. Journalism will be Assimilated. And journalist John Hiler thinks it’s for the better. (He’s right.)

John Hiler has written a great article about how weblogging is changing the face of journalism. While he uses the Borg metaphor, it’s pretty clear that he thinks the changes will be for the better.

Funnily enough, Rochelle’s had some experience with something like this., a food-oriented discussion site where Rochelle frequently participates, seems to spawn a mainstream food story every couple of weeks. For example, there was a vibrant discussion about taco trucks, with many people telling about their favorites. And sure enough, the Chronicle soon ran a story about taco trucks in the Bay Area, an article we read and enjoyed.

The best journalists credit their sources and inspiration, because it means they’ll get more of it. Right now weblogging and online communities of all types are very new, but it’s clear their impact on and integration into mainstream culture is something we’ll be noticing for some time.

Microsoft’s Whining Competitors

“The whole point of the [Microsoft antitrust] case is that Microsoft’s abuses of its market power have damaged competitors, and any remedies the court imposes should be designed to correct that situation.”

Microsoft has repeatedly asserted that the trial is really about their competitors whining about losing, and that those trying to add restrictions to the proposed settlement are just competitors trying to gain extra advantage.


As Henry Norr writes, “The whole point of the case is that Microsoft’s abuses of its market power have damaged competitors, and any remedies the court imposes should be designed to correct that situation.”

Since the proposed settlement won’t correct the situation, the damaged parties continue to try to create a settlement that will. Which is exactly what they should do, and what the law should help them in doing.

Teacher Reviews for Your School looks like a great resource for getting honest information from fellow students about what classes and professors to take — and who to avoid.

Rochelle is taking a web building class this semester, and for her final project is working on a system that will help capture student reviews of the instructors in her program (MLIS at San Jose State).

As part of her research, she found a site,, which does much the same thing, but for any school in the world.

It’s a pretty nicely done site, and if you’re currently in school (even part-time, like Rochelle and I), you should take a few minutes and add your reviews to the site.

And pass the URL along to your classmates; these things are only useful if there’s a good body of knowledge that gets preserved.

Pets Warehouse Sues Hobbyists

Why is great: covering little stories like Pets Warehouse Sues Hobbyists.

I’m grateful to for running this story, about how the people behind Pets Warehouse sued a bunch of hobbiests. From reading the article, it sounds like a classic case of someone using the legal system to intimidate and outspend an opponent into submission. I doubt very much if will roll over and play dead in quite the same way, and so they’re making sure the story of the little guy is heard. is a great online publication. They have outstanding political coverage, and do a great job of covering technology in a way that no one else really does, with thoughtful, in-depth writing of the highest quality.


Bush Loves Big Energy

“Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham met with 36 representatives of business interests and many campaign contributors while developing President Bush’s energy policy, and he held no meetings with conservation or consumer groups.”

After 11 months of stalling, the Bush administration complied with a court order mere hours before the deadline, and released documents regarding who influenced the formation of the administrations energy policy.

The documents are clearly incomplete, with much substantive information still being withheld; no doubt Judicial Watch, an conservative political watchdog organization, will be back in court to force complete disclosure.

Nevertheless, in a Washington Post article Energy Contacts Revealed the documents makes it clear “Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham met with 36 representatives of business interests and many campaign contributors while developing President Bush’s energy policy, and he held no meetings with conservation or consumer groups.”

What a surprise.

Does Andersen Deserve to Die?

Does Andersen deserve to go down in flames? Yes.

I recently heard an interview on NPR with some Andersen employees, based in South California, who were basically saying that they loved their company and didn’t think Andersen as a whole should go down in flames for the Enron debacle.

I disagree. Ever heard the saying “one bad apple can spoil the whole bunch?” I think it’s great to have some kind of counterbalance to all the merger mania and consolidation amongst the various corporate behemoths.

Why shouldn’t there be a risk? These large corporations have no one’s interests but their own, and are virtually above the law (especially when they’re buying politicians). The consequence of being brought down for egregious behavior is a not a bad thing, IM!HO.

Oh, yeah, here’s a fun article about how lying was SOP for Andersen.

Work Hard, Play Hard

Seeking to “narrow the focus of the drug war to the true enemy,” Congress passed a bill legalizing drug use for the gainfully employed Monday.

In an interesting new development in the War On Drugs, Congress has passed a bill legalizing drug use if you are gainfully employed.

“Stockbrokers, lawyers, English professors…you’re not the problem here,” said DEA Administrator Asa Hutchinson at a White House press conference.

“Drugs are addictive, and that’s true whether you’re a ghetto gang member or a Harvard-educated entertainment lawyer. But the cold, hard truth is, if the ghetto kid gets hooked, he isn’t going to clean up in a rehab clinic in Palm Springs and maybe even become president, now, is he? That’s why we need to protect the less fortunate among us with the threat of arrest and incarceration.”

When Elephants Dance

When Elephants Dance is the single best survey of the technological, political, and legal aspects of the current intellectual property power grab. It weaves together the complete story and history of the issue.

If you only read one article, make it this one. If you think I’m a zealot on this issue, the 15 minutes it will take you to read the article will prove you right or wrong. I’m pretty confident where you’ll come out.

Probably the best summary I’ve read comes from this article:

As security and cryptography expert Bruce Schneier explains it to Mike Godwin: “If you think about it, the entertainment industry does not want people to have computers; they’re too powerful, too flexible, and too extensible. They want people to have Internet Entertainment Platforms: televisions, VCRs, game consoles, etc.”

What’s in a Name

Andersen Consulting renamed themselves Accenture. At the time it seemed like a bad idea to lose a name with brand recognition and value. Now they look like rocket scientists.

A little while ago Andersen Consulting renamed themselves Accenture, and announced it with a bunch of SuperBowl ads. I remember having conversations with other folks in marketing, about what a terrible idea it was to change from a name that had a lot of brand equity and recognition to something new.

Now the folks behind the name change look like rocket scientists, eh?

The Senator From Disney

The senator from Disney wants the SSSCA to put copy protection systems in every digital device and operating system. He wants it because he’s been paid to want it, but it’s a horrible idea with terrible consequences to consumers.

Senator Fritz Hollings from South Carolina is frequently referred to as the senator from Disney. The reason is he takes a lot of money from Big Entertainment (nearly $300K in the last election cycle) and in return he favors laws that Big Entertainment wants passed. Here’s the latest one.

The Security Systems Standards and Certification Act (SSSCA) is another example of laws that don’t get people upset at first, but are another step on the road to ruin. The SSSCA mandates that copy protection be built into every digital device and operating system.

At first you think, no big deal, it’ll only affect those music pirates. But if you investigate further, you find it’ll prevent you from making those music compilation tapes or CDs — of music you paid for. It’ll prevent you from making backups of your software on your PC — software you paid for. It’ll prevent you from recording TV shows onto a digital device, even if you’re just using it like a VCR.

It’ll make your children felons if they use a 10 second clip of a movie in a homework project. That is, except they won’t be able to use a 10 second movie clip in anything — unless you pay for the privilege. The SSSCA’s mandated systems will see to that.

The SSSCA is yet another tactic of Big Entertainment “to use their copyright not just to obtain fair compensation but in effect to exercise complete dominance and total control of the copyrighted work…”, according to Rep. Rick Boucher of Virginia.

Just like Microsoft wants a piece of every transaction anywhere on the Internet, Big Entertainment wants a piece of any use anywhere of any piece of material on which they assert they hold the copyright. This includes eliminating the concept of “fair use,” which is today what lets you do all of the things I listed above.

An article with more details, especially some details of the slimy practices of the Recording Industry, is at Fox News. Republicans Should Back Recording Artists, Consumers is definitely worth the read.

Hollings was hoping to rush discussion of the SSSCA through the Senate and get it passed into law quickly and quietly. The technology industry is not so excited about this legislation, and in congressional testimony on the Act Intel executive VP Leslie Vadasz warned that such legislation would be catastrophic for the high-technology industry.

Hollings blasted him for having the spine to stick up to him, and in general the hearings were the usual Congressional posturing and ego-stroking for their largest campaign donors.

There are not a lot of representatives on the side of the consumer in this debate. Even Intel is mostly interested in keeping Congress out of their business, not in ensuring consumer-friendly digital rights management.

If we don’t act now, we don’t get to complain later.

Saving the Mouse, or Corporate Welfare?

As the debate over copyright grows, it becomes increasingly clear that the recent copyright extension is nothing more than corporate welfare.

Most people are not paying much attention to copyright and intellectual property (IP) rights issues. This is demonstrably true because virtually all of the IP-related laws passed in the last decade, including most notably the DMCA and the Sonny Bono Copyright Extension Act, have greatly enlarged the rights of corporate IP holders at the expense of the freedoms of individuals. And very few people are complaining.

Let’s talk about copyrights. When the Framers wrote the Constitution, they provided that creators of ideas should have exclusive rights to those ideas for a limited time, to encourage the advancement of the sciences and “useful Arts.”

The key word here is “limited,” and the concept is that there is a balance between the value of the idea belonging to the public domain and the incentive to produce new works. If the limited period is too short, there’s no incentive to produce new works, but if the holder retains the rights too long, or for an unlimited time, the public is deprived of other advancements that would come if the idea belonged to all.

Which brings us to the Sonny Bono Copyright Extension Act, which extended for the eleventh time the duration of copyright for a particular work, by an additional 20 years.

The Act was funded by the entertainment industry, to the tune of more than $6 million in campaign contributions to Congress.

The problem with the Act is that it’s basically just a gift from Congress to Disney, in return for cold hard re-election cash. There is no public good that comes of it.

You can read a more eloquent and rigorous examination of the issue in The Mouse that Ate the Public Domain, an article that should have you writing your congressional representatives.

Except, well, most people don’t care, because they don’t see the harm. At some point, all the little things add up and we’ll realize what we’ve lost, and wonder, how did we let this happen?