Freenet Project

Can we bypass censorship on the Internet?

The story was that the Internet was designed to bypass censorship (in the sense of reroute around disruptions) and that the technology was therefore inherently democratic. Now we worry this won’t stay true as we discover that countries can censor the net and commercial interests (RIAA) can scare beharior. We are discovering what political activists have always known, you can’t count on systems by themselves – you have to pay attention to achieve values. The Freenet Project (thanks to Matt for this) is an example of paying attention – building the human and technical network to support redundant distribution of information.

My memory of Freenet was of something different – local free internet ISPs in the days when there were few affordable options for those outside the university – hmmm is this the same org morphed?

Anyway, they are doing what James Chartrand and I imagined and called the Beacon project. (As always, if you have a good idea that just helps you recognize that someone else had it before.)
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Making Lore

How can one capture the folklore around a topic?

Andy Hertzfeld (of Mac fame) has developed a set of python scripts to run About Folklore. The scripts allow for projects where teams of authors/historians can create a web of testimony – “oral” history. There is, at present, only one project supported and that is on the original Macintosh. The site, in principle, will support many such projects.
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Spam and Greeting Cards

Will spam kill the net as we know it?

In a previous entry (Overcome with Spam) I commented on spam/sporn is changing what we can do. Here is a scary dissection of a spam greeting card e-mail: Ecard-hijack spam.

It stuck me back in December that e-cards were dead when I began to get spam claiming to be e-cards. Now I wonder if this is not sweeping net culture. Any bright idea or service that depends on people trying out (and trusting) unknown others becomes a trojan horse for viruses. At what point do we basically stop doing anything except with trusted entities? When that happens the Internet as a democratizing (in the sense of connecting people laterally outside of exising hierarchies) force dies. At that point we lose the global “inter”net and move to forms of intra/extra nets that are limited gated communities.
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Can we track culture on the web?

With Skip Poehlman in Computing and Software here at Mac we did a project on culture tracking on the net. The idea was to track keywords by checking search engines every night. The data was recorded so you could graph the ups and downs of keywords.

The idea came from a conversation with a friend about whether it was possible to create a cultural stock market so people could bet on items like “Madonna”, “XML” or “James Bond”. Since then I have found sites doing things like that. Here is a site that explicitly lets you play a stock market game on blogs. BlogShares – Fantasy Blog Share Market.
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Blogs and Power Laws

Will blogs go the way of all media? Will a few dominate?

Well, it has already happened. So called “power laws” seem to apply to blogs where a small number blogs get lots of attention and most very little. See Clay Shirky’s (soon to be a LOTR character) Shirky: Power Laws, Weblogs, and Inequality, a short paper on the subject. He suggests that the very success of a few may change things – they may be percieved eventually as mainstream and cease to be considered blogs.

CBC radio today also had a thing on DNTO (Definitely Not The Opera – one of Peigi’s favorite shows so I hear it too) on blogs. They pointed out how marketers are creating blogs to promote products. The death of blogs! (Mind you, calling the death is getting to me – is anything left alive?)
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Blogging and Janice’s blog

What is a blog, really?

Janice P. talked to me about blogging for an article for a McMaster publication and we got talking about guilt and blogging. Like the journals I used to keep and the research note books I kept up until I started this blog, I feel guilty if I don’t post on a regular basis (lets say once a week.)

On her blog she comments on guilt and blog death. (Hi JP!)

I wonder if the blog hasn’t reopened all our worries around journals and immortalizing everyday thoughts. Someone must have written on this.
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RIAA and P2P Music

In an article by Fred von Lohmann, the attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the issue of all the RIAA suits against individuals who are file swapping is discussed. Lohmann, inRIAA’s college lawsuits a wrong answer | CNET, argues that the Digital Millenium Copyright Act of 1998 makes people guilty until proven innocent because organizations can get subpoenas automatically by “merely making allegations of infringement.” (In other words, the federal court issues them automatically without review of a judge or a lawsuit being filed.) Universities are responding to these subpoenas that they don’t know who is responsible for the IP address, since they are assigned dynamically. Thus universities can’t help the RIAA – one wonders if universities are setting up their systems so they cannot know who used the offending IP address to frustrate the RIAA.
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