Google Print

I haven’t written specifically about Google Print (although I’ve alluded to it a couple of times), but I thought, hey, better late than never.

There are literally millions of posts all over the Web about this, so I won’t bore you with a recap. What I will do is ask a question that has been bothering me and that keeps me from fanboying about Google Print.

First, some back story. In college, I had more than one professor who chose to use a text that wasn’t in print anymore. What this usually meant was photocopies of the pages of the book in question from the university library. If I made the copies (and didn’t get called out for copying “too much” of the book), the library staff didn’t seem to mind. However, if the professor did so (or his staff) and handed those copies out to the students, that had to be cleared for all the copyright BS, as if the University were reprinting the entire book. (There was some arbitrary threshold if I remember correctly.) It basically boiled down to a huge legal mess if the professor needed to use the text. Some did, some didn’t. In the “didn’t” case, the class was basically left to their own devices to obtain the text as they could.

Google claims that scanning (copying), running OCR, and shoving all the text of these books into their database is fair use. Many claim this should be so because it furthers society somehow (I’m not contending that). For example, David Weinberger says “…as a citizen who wants to live in an ever smarter world, I hope Google Print goes ahead.” Ok, I can buy that. But if University professors, who certainly are making the world smarter, can’t do essentially the same thing as Google wants to do without paying their dues, why is Google suddenly exempt from those rules?

Until someone gives me a clear answer to that, I can’t fault any author that raises an objection. Don’t get me wrong, I think a Google Print-like service is inevitable, but why do we have to strongarm people into the system if they don’t want to? Enough people are dying to get in (*hand up*); Google is wrong to use their muscle to force anything down people’s throats.

Why Does God Hate Amputees?

A totally biased, simple, attack on the religious. It’s the same, tired, “religious people are mindless idiots” argument. WIth a clever title. And lots of straw men. Actually, one big straw man, but that never seems to matter.

By the way, God is bad because men are mortal. And he doesn’t exist because the Bible is fake (I love self-referential arguments). Shove that in your philosophical… pipe and smoke it.

If you want an interesting topic for discussion about God, try God, A Biography by Jack Miles.

Link

Common Census

Via S.S. Trudeau we get a link to the Common Census map, drawn not by political boundaries, but by influence. Influence in this case is measured by respondants to the (brief) survey about what you feel is your community.

This is a very interesting map and illustrates a commonly held perception about Michigan; that of the sphere’s of influence within the state. I wonder if this holds true for the other regions of the country.

Check it out and contribute; it’s only as good as people’s input.

CommonCensus Map Project

Attack of the Blogs

Congratulations to Forbes for having one of the most poorly written articles on blogging ever. Daniel Lyons, who obviously falls squarely on the side of the older styles of journalism (those would be nepotism, invective, and abuse), pens a mighty blow against “the ultimate vehicle for brand-bashing, personal attacks, political extremism and smear campaigns”, blogs. Here’s a nice sampling:

Often a bashing victim can’t even figure out who his attacker is. No target is too mighty, or too obscure, for this new and virulent strain of oratory.

“Bloggers are more of a threat than people realize, and they are only going to get more toxic. This is the new reality,” says Peter Blackshaw, chief marketing officer at Intelliseek…

“I’d say 50% to 60% of attacks are sponsored by competitors,” says Bruce Fischman, a lawyer in Miami for targets of online abuse.

One blog, Groklaw, exists primarily to bash software maker SCOGroup in its Linux patent lawsuit against IBM, producing laughably biased, pro-IBMcoverage; its origins are a mystery.

Google and other services operate with government-sanctioned impunity, protected from any liability for anything posted on the blogs they host. Thus they serve up vitriolic “content” without bearing any legal responsibility for ensuring it is fair or accurate; at times they even sell ads alongside the diatribes.

Ah yes, the sweet sounds of balanced reporting. Welcome to blogging world, Mr. Lyons. I’m guessing your next story will be about the poor quality of the millions of emails you are about to receive. And, not to take the bait too hard, but you are also an idiot, Mr. Lyons. Blogs are more than a cheap product-bashing tool. They are also important tools for communicating to millions of people. Even Presidential candidates use blogs to campaign. Blogs are social barometers. Blogs are ways for companies to talk with, not to, their customers. Companies also put on human faces with blogs (see Microsoft). Oh, and Groklaw is a pretty interesting study in the power of blogs to overcome the disinformation you obviously fell for, Mr. Lyons. (Hot Tip: SCO is going to lose.)

So, the next time you, Mr. Lyons, want to write a story about blogs or anything related to the Internet, pull your head out of you ass (or at least quit kissing the ass of what I’m guessing are sponsors) and try to present the entire story. And if a Forbes editor wants to prevent your brand name from ending up like a blog-bashed diet-pill, you’d do well to sort out Daniel Lyons.

Read the whole article (BugMeNot required; wonder what Forbes thinks of that extension?) and the original story on MeFi.

Scourge of the Earth

The comments situation here will continue as I just had a fun peek into my server stats. 22.09% of the requests to my site are to mt-comments.cgi. Oddly, the most bandwidth passes from my Politics category, but that’s another story.

Now, I don’t pretend to be in any way important to the community; this is a vanity site and a chance for me to screw around with a server without nuking one my own machines. Still, I was amazed at the traffic that spammers bring to this back-woods URL. In the last 80 days, 7691 hits were recorded to just mt-comments.cgi. That’s a little under 100 a day. That’s almost, well, 100 times more than the legit visitors I get. (Thanks to AAiOR for continuing to read, BTW; if you’re ever coming to Chelsea, drop me a line. I think I owe you a beer.)

Anyway, as humbling as a stats check was, I’m going to keep the comments open to registered users only. Sorry, but mainland China is a little too friendly to the scum of the internet.

Comedy Central Drops a Motherload

Comedy Central has announced that on November 1, they will launch Motherload, a broadband IPTV service. Yes, it will include The Daily Show because, if it didn’t, no one would have noticed the press release.

This is a cool idea; Comedy Central has decent traction among the high-bandwidth crowd thanks to the Daily Show and they probably realize that they get a lot of publicity from the file trading of clips of the show. They don’t issue C&Ds to everyone who posts them because it gets them more viewers. Motherload gives them the ability to bring those people back to their site (read: more advertising), but also gets eyes on new shows. It’s an incubator for new content.

We’ll see how they screw this up (they have the dreaded “$SERVICE Video player” phrase in the press release, so some kind of wonky DRM is obviously going to be a part of this (WMV? Real Player?) Hopefully it’s not too intrusive.

Hey Comedy Central, chuck some bucks at Odeo and get video enclosures set up for you content so it can get fed right into iPod with Videos. Mmmm…. RSS Tivo.