Publishing and content

Civility in social discourse

The blow up over Imus' idiotic remarks and a raging debate among bloggers about the need for civility online may just be the tipping point for a long overdue honest appraisal of the lack of civility in our social discourse. There is no question that over the past decade, the way we speak to each other and the language that we use has been coarsened to the point that sometimes I think we need to cover our ears.

Knowledge Democracy:

Blogging: At least know what it is

There are several stories about blogging making the rounds of the news sites, as well as an ongoing discussion in the business world about employee blogging.

Item One: Katie Couric is in the news because she tried to pass off a producer's made up story as her own thoughts. Couric is supposedly blogging, but as it turns out, other people write her blog. And those other people, as it turns out, did not have much to say either so they were cribbing from the Wall Street Journal.

Knowledge Democracy:

Mainstream media struggles with blogging

I was at a regional bloggers conference yesterday, where several bloggers spoke about blogging and the value of bloggers to the community as well as the value of business-oriented blogs. One of the invited speakers was a local TV newsperson who has a fairly lightweight blog, and while this person started off talking about blogging, they quickly veered into a fingerpointing lecture about how "real" journalists have gone to journalism school and are trained in the ethics of reporting the news. It went downhill from there.

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Will Joost trounce YouTube?

Joost, a video streaming start up long the lines of YouTube, may be poised for rapid growth. Frustrated with YouTube's lack of attention to copyright, media giant Viacom has signed a deal with Joost to host Viacom's extensive catalogue of music and TV shows (including MTV, among others). It is not so much the redistribution of copyrighted material that has been bugging Viacom--instead, the company just wants its fair share of the ad revenue.

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Grappling with technology

An Illinois legislator has introduced a bill to outlaw "social networking" sites in Illinois libraries and schools. The bill is extremely broad, and probably will never be passed, but it is an interesting exercise in lawmaking.

Knowledge Democracy:

New media is beating old media

It has taken about five years, but the New Media revolution, which I think started in 2002 with the availability of easy to use blogging software, has started to put real pressure on Old Media. This article talks about huge job cuts among the Old Media newspaper and TV giants. It is not so much that Old Media is irrelevant--it is more about the fact that Old Media has stubbornly refused to rethink what it does and how it does it. The stubbornness has led to loss of revenue and job cuts.

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Knowledge Democracy:

Are Google book scans selling books?

As an author, I was highly skeptical when Google announced a year ago that it would start scanning books and making them available for search. Along with many other groups and organizations, it seemed like an obvious violation of copyright. The main problem is that Google, of course, places ads on every scanned page that someone sees, and authors get no share of that ad income.

But a new report suggests that the Google "service" might be increasing book sales. That is good news for authors, if it applies across most scanned books.

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Knowledge Democracy:

Wikipedia defies China

The free online encyclopedia Wikipedia has refused the Chinese government's request to remove certain material from the Wikipedia Web site, and in retaliation, the Chinese have blocked access to Wikipedia for everyone in China. Unlike other the leaders of other companies like Microsoft, Google and Yahoo!, who have collaborated with the Chinese government and agreed to assist with censorship, Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, has taken a principled stand and refused to participate in censorship.

Knowledge Democracy:

Amazon offers an eBook

Amazon is offering an eBook. Dozens of companies lost their shirts with ebooks in the late nineties. Back then, laptops were expensive and PDAs had tiny screens and were hard to read (Apple's Newton was the exception). So many thought that ebooks--light, portable readers--would catch on. But the number of titles available for any given platform were limited, and too many manufacturers opted for proprietary book formats that made publishing a nightmare.

Knowledge Democracy:

Cheap easy video is changing politics

YouTube is beginning to change politics, as the rising new Internet service is making it easy for anyone to make video available. Short video clips with political messages are chipping away at another Old Media monopoly, the political ad. Back in the old days, as far back as a year ago, you had to have a big budget to produce and air a political ad. Limited time spots for such ads on broadcast and cable TV made them expensive.

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Knowledge Democracy:

The blogger police

A school system in Illinois apparently does not have enough to do in the teaching our kids department, and is now going to start reading student blogs to make sure the kids don't write something "inappropriate."

Knowledge Democracy:

Regulating blogs

There are apparently still people in Congress that want to regulate blogs. This brief article says that blogs that spend more than $5000 a year on their operations could be regulated by the Federal Election Commission if they write about politics.

Knowledge Democracy:

Schools overreact to student blogs

This is just one of several stories I have seen recently about K12 students who have their own blogs and get censured by K12 school officials. Student blogs are now common, and school systems have failed to adapt to the new reality. It clearly unnerves some school administrators that students now have a public forum completely independent of the school system. In the old days, students with a bent for writing worked on the school paper, which was monitored by a faculty member.

Knowledge Democracy:

XM radio sued by music industry

According to USA Today, XM Radio is being sued by the music industry for its new satellite radio, which has a record feature. XM's iPod-like recording functionality is actually pretty limited. Although it can store up to 50 hours of music, the service is essentially subscription-based. If you discontinue your XM radio subscription, your music disappears. The songs are also stored in a proprietary format, so there is no easy way to copy them to other devices, like your computer or to a CD.

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Knowledge Democracy:

Microsoft doesn't "need" to be the gatekeeper

USA Today has an article today on the front page of the Life section about Microsoft's bid to sink its tentacles into every kind of digital entertainment. There is a quote in the article from an analyst at at Morgan Wedbush Securities, and he said:

"Microsoft...recognize[s] their software needs to be the gatekeeper to that kind of commerce."

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Knowledge Democracy:

Bloggers exempt from political rules

Teh Federal Election Commission has clarified rules for political and campaign activity by exempting virtually all kinds of political speech on the Internet from the onerous rules that cover how campaign funds can be spent.

The rules, which surfaced last year, seemed to require onerous reporting by citizen bloggers if they even wrote about political candidates, and if they accepted campaign ads on their Web sites, it was worse. But occasionally government does the right thing.

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Chinese government competes with Google

Just weeks after news that Google "respects" the Chinese government's efforts to censor free speech, the Chinese have rolled out their own search engine, meaning that Google's efforts to suck up to the communists was all for naught.

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World of Warcraft takes aim at Chinese censors

Cory Doctorow, writing in the Canadian Globe and Mail, says that some of the more than 4.5 million World of Warcraft players are taking aim at Chinese communist censors. The popular multiplayer online game has a worldwide audience of participants, including many in China.

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Knowledge Democracy:

Is Google censoring the U.S.? (no)

I got this link from a friend. It's a short video clip hosted on Google, and when I click on it, I get this message (so do many other people).

This video is not playable in your country.

As my friend asked, "Are living in China now?"

Google has stepped on a banana peel at the top of a very steep hill.

Update 2/22/06

I was completely wrong about this...see the comment below for a perfectly reasonable explanation.

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How Google may fail

I worded the title of this article carefully; I used "may," not "will." Google may end up as de facto owner of the world's information, and I could be wrong. Time will tell.

Google's early success came by doing something well that no one else was doing--searching the Web. Google studied the behavior of early search engines like Alta Vista, and came up with better search algorithms. Everybody liked Google because it did something no one else could do--produce relevant search results.

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