Doc Searls points out another good
article about weblogs,
which are starting to get serious media attention. (Has it really been
two years since I first
started hearing about them?)
A “weblog”, for those of you unfamiliar with the term, is a
chronologically-organized web site that’s updated on a more-or-less
frequent basis. (Some are updated multiple times a day, others can go
for weeks without activity.) Some reduce the name to “blog”, but just
can’t make myself like that term. Even “weblog” has problems, as it
invites confusion with the logs kept by web servers.
We could just call them “web pages”, but then we wouldn’t have a fancy
From Buffy to Eskimos
I read an
article about Joss Whedon’s recent work,
like the season finale of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and his
new comic book Fray. I mention that mostly because of the
article’s title: “All work and lots of slay”.
Notice anything? Like the way the words aren’t capitalized?
I first heard about this while reading Jef Raskin’s book reviews,
where he mentions The great Eskimo vocabulary hoax, a book
of linguistic essays which apparently recommends this approach.
Curious (linguistics being a hobby of mine), I looked around for
information on the book. I didn’t find any, but I did locate a
of Eskimo vocabulary that actually lists all the words for
“snow” in a particular Inuit language. Turns out, the number of words
is remarkably similar to the number of words in the (also provided)
list of English words for “snow”.
So much for that cliché.
Which side is the good one?
at how Tivo annoyed
hackers, let’s look at how the hackers annoy Tivo. Turns out,
a group has released software that
lets people extract recorded programs
from their Tivo hardware.
So what, you ask? The problems comes mostly from the
which doesn’t look kindly on anything that gives people even the possibility
of copying movies without paying for them. If they decide that Tivo
is going to be an easy way for pirates to get raw material, they
may take action against the company—which would certainly piss off the
many hackers—and regular people—who use the service. (I should point out
here that I’m using “hacker” in the sense of “clever computer programmer”,
The unblinking eye
Salon writes about
the Arizona prison cam, which
distributes video feed from an Arizona prison on the internet. According
to the warden, it’s there to reassure people that the prisoners are
being treated appropriately, as well as being an additional deterrent
against crime. There are some thorny issues about rights and privacy
here—although some may agree with one of the
which states: “I do wish people would quit worrying so much about
criminals’ rights. Why do they have any?”
Whether you agree or not (I certainly don’t), the issue here
is not limited to prisons. Perhaps you’ve seen the “pop-under” ads
for X-10 web cameras? (So-called because they pop up underneath your
web browser window, where you might not notice until much later.) They
all but state that they’re useful for secretly recording the world
and distributing the feed on-line.
Anywhere you go, you might be on camera. It’s been argued that
this invasion of privacy is nothing to be afraid of: it’s just
like being in a small town where everyone knows everyone else. The
sticking point in that analogy is that you don’t know the people
who are watching you.
Steve Mann proposes that
we fight back by always
wearing a camera. He is a developer of wearable computers and
wearable cameras who is deeply concerned about the privacy issues
involved with ubiquitous surveillance equipment, and he argues that
having multiple, independent records of an event is better than relying
on a single record from an unknown body. (Even better would be no
surveillance, but that’s a moot point in many cases.)
A key point he makes is that hidden
cameras are worse than visible ones. Even wearable cameras should be
visible, perhaps signified by a glowing red
LED, which people associate
with cameras (thanks in part, no doubt, to Stanley Kubrick).
Interestingly, he also argues that the
video feed should be
available, stating: “[P]eople who are being watched by a camera have
a right to not only know that they are being watched, but to see how
they look on the camera.” Thus, a security camera whose image is shown
on a large screen nearby is infinitely better than one hidden behind an
Thus, the Arizona prison cam isn’t so bad. Except that not everyone
it captures is a prisoner or a guard. Apparently, people who have been
arrested but not yet charged with any crime have also been broadcast.
This is where it starts getting sticky: convictions are public record,
but arrest records are sealed to prevent damage to the reputations of
possibly-innocent people. Granted, if those people are wearing NetCams,
they’re likely to be treated well, but consider how many people think,
“They might not have been charged with anything, but they must have done
something wrong, or else they wouldn’t have been arrested.”
I don’t think anything short of social change is going to solve that
In A Deepness in the Sky, Vernor Vinge lists ubiquitous
law enforcement—achieved through extensive surveillance—as one of stages
civilizations may pass through just before they collapse. Alternately,
Bad Man”, Marge Simpson states: “You know, the courts might not
work any more, but as long as everybody is videotaping everyone else,
justice will be done.”
Tiny cameras can be used for good or for evil. I suspect we’ll get