July 29, 2009
Posted: 01:28 PM ET
Twitter.com unveiled a new design for its homepage today that brings search functionality to Twitts and non-Twitts alike.
The new homepage design features a prominent search field that can be accessed without logging in to Twitter. Public tweets that match your query are cleanly rendered below the search area.
The new look also includes trending topics by the minute, hour and day. Clicking on one of these topics provides a brief description followed by recent search results.
TechCrunch sees the change as a step forward for Twitter:
What do you think of the change? Would you like to see similar updates to the internal areas of Twitter or do you like things the way they are?
Posted: 09:38 AM ET
A 127-character tweet about a moldy apartment in Chicago could end up costing @abonnen $50,000.
On May 12th Amanda Bonnen, who has since deleted her Twitter account, responded to a friend with the tweet, "@JessB123You should just come anyway. Who said sleeping in a moldy apartment was bad for you? Horizon realty thinks it's okay."
@abonnen only had about 20 followers that directly received the message, but her profile was set to public, and Chicago-based Horizon Group Management discovered the tweet.
Chicago Now reports the company then filed a defamation lawsuit alleging Bonnen, "maliciously and wrongfully published the false and defamatory Tweet on Twitter, thereby allowing the Tweet to be distributed throughout the world."
Horizon is seeking $50,000 in damages.
If @abonnen's statement is determined to be false and tweets are considered a legitimate form of publishing, she could be held liable for damages to Horizon's reputation. But it isn't quite that simple.
Ars Technica explains some of the complexities:
Horizon owner Jeffrey Michael told the Chicago Sun-Times the company never tried to contact @abonnen about the tweet adding, "We're a sue first, ask questions later kind of an organization."
Michael later said his remark was meant to be "tongue-in-cheek," and further explained his company's position:
Unfortunately for Horizon, the media attention surrounding this Twitter lawsuit will likely damage the company's reputation far beyond the scope of @abonnen's message to her 20 followers.
Do you feel tweets should be held to the same legal standards as other publications regarding defamatory remarks, or does the conversational nature of social networks release them from libel?
July 27, 2009
Posted: 11:39 AM ET
Last night Internet Service Provider (ISP) AT&T began filtering portions of the controversial image board 4chan.org.
AT&T broadband subscribers found they were unable to access the infamous /b/ and /r9k/ sections of the site.
4chan.org is a system of message boards primarily dedicated to anonymous discussion and image hosting. The site's popularity is largely due to minimal posting regulations that stimulate a freewheeling, Wild West atmosphere.
The news of AT&T's filtering sparked a firestorm of criticism from blogs and Internet forums by contributors who believed AT&T was censoring content. 4chan fans and detractors alike condemned what they believed to be an apparent violation of net neutrality. Sites such as Encyclopedia Dramatica began calling on users to respond to AT&T with a show of anonymous force:
Anonymous posters also began to spread rumors claiming AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson was found dead outside his home and that AT&T had stopped carrying the iPhone in attempt to affect AT&T's stock price.
By noon Monday, AT&T responded with the following statement:
It is unlikely that 4chan.org, or any popular web server, would engage in the illegal practice of denial-of-service attacks. Moot, owner and administrator of 4chan, offers another explanation:
Though the cries of censorship and claims AT&T violated net neutrality may have been misguided, AT&T should have informed its customers before blocking such a large and controversial Web site.
I doubt that is a mistake they will make again.
July 14, 2009
Posted: 12:24 PM ET
Last week the New York Times e-mailed a survey to its print subscribers to ask how they felt about paying for online content.
According to the survey:
The recession has not been kind to print news publishers. Several large newspapers such as The Rocky Mountain News have closed their doors for good, while others like the Seattle Post-Intelligencer have become Web-only publications. But advertising alone may be unable to sustain many news services, and publishers are scrambling to find new online sources of revenue.
Dwindling profits are also causing media companies to become more possessive of the news they generate.
In an article from the New York Times, Associated Press executives say they are concerned about news forums around the Web, including major search engines and aggregators like the Drudge Report, that link to news articles without paying licensing fees.
A group of European publishers is even pushing for new laws restricting online news distribution that, Ars Technica claims, "amounts to a long-winded rant against the Internet for stealing their news."
After years of easily accessible free news online, can the New York Times or any media company successfully retreat to a subscription-based method to monetize and control content?
Would you pay for access?
June 30, 2009
Posted: 10:02 AM ET
The Pirate Bay, a Swedish file-sharing Web site used by millions to exchange movies and music, is reportedly being sold to the Swedish company Global Gaming Factory X AB for nearly $8 million.
A blog posted on thepiratebay.org Tuesday morning says rumors of the sale are true:
The Pirate Bay and its founders have been under legal attack from copyright owners for years. While the Web site does not host copyrighted content, it does host millions of torrent files which enable peer-to-peer file-trading. Many of these torrent files point to copyrighted material.
In April four of the Website's co-founders were convicted of collaborating to violate copyright law and sentenced to one year in jail as well as ordered to pay $3.6 million in damages to several major media companies.
A press release from Global Gaming Factory suggests, following the sale, the Pirate Bay is done with piracy:
There are hundreds of competing Websites that offer copyright infringing torrents, but it appears the Pirate Bay, which once claimed a spot on the Web's top 100, will no longer be among them. The site claims more than 3.5 million registered users.
The news made Pirate Bay one of the top trending topics on Twitter Tuesday morning, with many tweets mourning the sale. "The Pirate Bay walks the plank for new biz model," said one Twitterer.
Will the sale of the Pirate Bay mean an end to free copyrighted material for all? And can Global Gaming Factory monetize a site that is based on piracy?
June 17, 2009
Posted: 09:56 AM ET
As a longtime Firefox supporter and a web designer who is often frustrated by Internet Explorer's lax adherence to web standards, I was not particularly excited when Internet Explorer 8 (IE8) was released earlier this year. However, Microsoft's new IE8 marketing campaign has managed to grab my attention.
According to a Microsoft press release:
In order to participate, users need to download a complete copy of IE8 from the Browser for the Better website by August 8, 2009.
Given that most web surfers (approximately 66 percent of the browser market) already use some version of Internet Explorer, this seems like the perfect opportunity for many people to upgrade. And those of you married to Firefox, Safari or Chrome can still participate. I'm confident your favorite browser will forgive your brief infidelity if IE8 doesn't satisfy. After all, it was for charity.
June 12, 2009
Posted: 09:18 AM ET
Wikipedia may be 'The Free Encyclopedia,' but that's not stopping some editors from making a few bucks.
Tuesday, Wikipedia's community began a discussion to address the practice of paid editors, or editors who are hired by outside sources to alter content on the site. There are no specific rules that forbid Wikipedia editors from accepting payment and, currently, editors-for-hire are allowed to dance around Wikipedia's conflict of interest (COI) policy. But if the Wikipedia community decides that paid editing deserves no part in their free society, these entrepreneurial editors may find themselves out of a job.
Wikipedia's arbitration committee voted last month to block edits from the Church of Scientology after editors from within the church revised articles to reflect a pro-Scientology viewpoint. Critics of paid editing see a similar violation of Wikipedia's COI policy occurring with financially motivated posts and believe they could damage the site's credibility. Wikipedia contributor Hmwith writes in the open discussion:
Though most participants in the discussion disapprove of using Wikipedia for financial gain, they stop short of condemning paid editing or calling for a ban. Alanyst writes:
How do you feel about paid editing? Can paid contributors maintain a neutral point of view - and if not, is Wikipedia's process of peer review enough to protect its integrity?
May 29, 2009
Posted: 03:47 PM ET
The collaborative online encyclopedia Wikipedia has banned the Church of Scientology from editing the site. The Register reports Wikipedia's Arbitration Committee, or ArbCom, voted 10 to 0 in favor of the ban, which takes effect immediately.
Wikipedia's innovative free-encyclopedia draws upon the knowledge of millions of users to create and edit articles on every conceivable topic. Edits appear immediately and do not undergo any formal peer-review process.
Wikipedia officially prohibits use of the encyclopedia to advance personal agendas – such as advocacy or propaganda and philosophical, ideological or religious dispute – but the open format makes enforcing such policies difficult.
According to Wikipedia administrators speaking to The Register:
However, Karin Pouw, with the Church of Scientology's public affairs office, told me she is unaware of any coordinated effort to alter Wikipedia. Instead, she described the edits as individual attempts to correct inaccurate information by impassioned Scientologists and interpreted the ban as a typical Wikipedia response to arguments over content. She noted that even the U.S. Department of Justice received a temporary ban after someone erased references to a controversial scandal from inside the government agency.
One Wikipedia contributor I spoke with that was involved in the Scientology arbitration agreed that some of the edits coming from the church were justifiable, but insisted the ban was necessary after the church refused to follow Wikipedia's policies:
"The edits coming out of Church of Scientology servers were of the sort that made their organization look better. Up to a point that's justifiable, when it comes to correcting inaccuracies or removing poorly sourced negative information. There were times when they went beyond that and deleted well sourced information that was unflattering, and there were times when they insulted other editors in a manner that would reflect poorly upon any religion."
Some see Wikipedia's decision as a setback to the Utopian goal of Web 2.0 in which every user is allowed to freely contribute.
How do you feel about the ban? Should Wikipedia actively suppress self-serving, misleading or inaccurate information? Or does every voice deserve to be heard?
May 15, 2009
Posted: 06:21 PM ET
Thanks to those of you who offered remedies to my RSS stress, which I wrote about in a recent post.
I think I've come to a solution that works for me. I pull up some sites I really love with tabs, just so I can see them and take in the feel of the site. Then I get a hearty dose of my online stories through an RSS reader. I took your advice and pared down some of the feeds (turns out, I had dozens too many). And - just to make it feel like less of a chore - I click "mark all as read" more frequently, so I don't have to feel guilty about not getting to some stuff.
Here are a few of the comments I found useful.
John D. says RSS reader and Twitter overload are symptoms of our over-busy society:
Justin B. says people need to decide what they really do and don't want to read
Nick M. says the speed of the RSS reader is important:
And, on the subject of Twitter replacing the RSS reader, Sean has this quip:
Posted: 10:22 AM ET
Supporters of the web site 'The Pirate Bay' demonstrate in Stockholm, on April 18, 2009.
Svartholm and his three co-defendants, who were sentenced to one year in jail and ordered to pay 30 million kronor ($3.6 million) to media companies, immediately appealed the court's decision and vowed never to pay up, declaring, "Even if we had the money I would rather burn everything I owned and not even give them the final dust from the burning. Not even the ashes."
However, last week Svartholm may have reversed his decision regarding the fine and launched a Swedish site internet-avgift, 'internet-fee' in English. Though the site's actual creator is unknown, the domain name internetavgift.se was registered by "svarth3024-00001."
The new site encourages Pirate Bay supporters to send extremely small sums of money to Peter Danowsky’s law firm, which represented the music companies in the trial. The idea behind the "fundraiser" is to inundate the law firm with such a high volume of insignificant payments that processing all the donations actually would cost them money.
The Blog Pirate calls the plan a Distributed Denial of Dollars attack (DDo$) and compares it to the common, and illegal, hacker practice of using DDoS attacks to knock websites offline:
Can the Pirate Bay defendants actually use their supporters to overcome a court order, or is this just a revenge attack initiated by Internet dissidents who support online piracy?
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