31 March 2007

Commercialization of the internet

I found an interesting article by Bill Thompson, a regular technology commentator at the BBC. Thompson uses one particular person's dispute with MySpace to illustrate that there are very few public spaces on the internet, and how the privatization of the internet limits freedom of expression.
"The services we are all using and increasingly dependent on, like Flickr and YouTube and FaceBook, are not there to make our lives better or enhance the quality of public participation. They are there to make money for their founders and owners.

Just as the purpose of commercial television is not to make good TV programmes but simply to deliver an aggregated audience to advertisers, so the real point of social networks is not to transform our ways of life but to find new contexts within which we can be exposed to approved commercial messages.

In its early days access to the internet was governed by "acceptable use policies" which prohibited commercial activity of any type.

This was reasonable because the network was built, paid for and managed by university departments, government agencies and the military. When it was privatised in the 1990's all sorts of commercial uses were permitted, and today it is as much as part of the capitalist economy as any shopping mall....

However, in the process of privatisation we have given up an important third space, somewhere between the university network and YouTube, a space which we can all use equally and which is dedicated to the public good.

We have lost the online equivalent of parks and roads and shopping streets, where the limits on what we can reasonably say and do are set by society as a whole and not by the commercial interests of one company."--The race to preserve the third space.

Makes me wonder where the internet is going, what form it will have in the future and how the general public will interact with it. Will I notice any changes, will I like the changes, will I even notice change has occurred?

Tennis etiquette

Earlier today I was watching parts of the women's final at the Sony Ericsson Open where Serena Williams defeated current world number one Justine Henin (0-6, 7-5, 6-3). I was struck once again by the large number of spectators cheering whenever a player faults and even more so when double-faulting. I feel that cheering, clapping, what have you, for a double-fault is just, I don't know... a trifle rude. Perhaps "unsportsmanlike" would be a better description for how I feel. It's not very nice.

I seem to recall a time when the people applauding after a double-fault were strictly in the minority, but recently that doesn't sound to be the case. Maybe sound/microphone technology has improved a lot, just making the cheering more noticeable to television viewers? Maybe it's also dependent on the locales of the event? I don't know.

I think I mentioned this before, but another thing that annoys me are people who insist on screaming, yelling, cheering et cetera in the middle of someone's serve.

Oh yeah, there has got to be a way--and if not someone should definitely invent one--to have the microphone pick-ups muffle/deaden the players' shrieking. I guess I'm of the mind that players can grunt/shriek/yell if they want to. It's not like I'm a paying spectator trapped in the stands; if the shrieking gets too annoying I can always change the channel. But still, I'd rather watch tennis.

29 March 2007

Blogshares and me-- part I

For the past while I've been spending some time with Blogshares, an online game I've posted about previously. At its most basic, in the game blogs are akin to companies, shares of which can be bought and sold similar to the stock market. It's not real money, of course, but nevertheless I find Blogshares a fun way to pass the time.

My goal in Blogshares has evolved with time. At first I was merely bored and thought I'd try it out. Once I started getting familiar with the basics, I started to see how much B$ I could make. I became much more picky and discerning in regards to which blogs I would purchase (aside: the only reason I own any shares in my blog is because it's *my* blog--if it was anyone else's the valuation would be too low for me to even bother!).

For a month or so I remained a "non-premium" aka non-paying member, which is fine, but I quickly found the 20 transactions per day limit... well... limiting. Anyway, in the forums someone was offering a premium membership ($15 USD per annum) for the first person to meet his/her criteria. I posted, and was generously given a premium membership. A fairly fortuitous happenstance as I'd about decided to purchase a premium membership in order to have access to added functionality in the game.

Happily, there are many experienced players in Blogshares willing to provide help and advice to newbies. Anywhoo, for a while I actively looked for blogs I could purchase to build up my portfolio and net worth. Finding vulnerable, high value blogs became a little tedious, so my focus turned to voting and moderating blogs in to categories. This earned me "chips" which I then sold for B$.

My interest in Blogshares tapered off, or perhaps plateaued would be a better description. I was content with maintaining my portfolio and occasionally searching for a new blog. But then something happened....

28 March 2007

Senator McCain's MySpace page--hacked!

I thought this story was hilarious. This past Tuesday visitors to presidential candidate, Senator John McCain's MySpace page discovered that the Republican Senator had changed his position on gay marriage:
"I have reversed my position and come out in full support of gay marriage ... particularly marriage between passionate females."
Okay, okay, so it was a prank. But what I thought was funny was not so much the fake message per se, but the reason for it at all.

Mike Davidson, cofounder of Newsvine, claimed responsibility for the prank. Davidson says he hacked McCain's MySpace page because they were using a template he designed without giving Davidson credit. But that's not all. To rub even more salt into the wound, Davidson said that his images were used on the page and that McCain's office was using his server to serve McCain's MySpace page--essentially stealing Davidson's bandwidth whenever someone visited McCain's MySpace page.

Anywhoo, you can read the entire article in the above link, but because McCain's office was using Davidson's template as well as images on Davidson's server, Davidson was able to replace one of the images with the statement regarding gay marriage.

"So, the only thing necessary to effectively commandeer McCain's page with my own messaging was to simply replace my own sample image on my server with a newly created sample on my server.... No server but my own was touched and no laws were broken. The immaculate hack."--Mike Davidson (quote from PC World).

25 March 2007

John and Elizabeth Edwards on 60 Minutes

I read a post on Daily Kos regarding a recent appearance on 60 Minutes by U.S. Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards and his wife, Elizabeth. Elizabeth Edwards was diagnosed and treated for cancer in 2004; last week they learned the cancer had metastasized--treatable, but not curable.

I liked Elizabeth Edwards' quote taken from their appearance on 60 Minutes:
"You know, you really have two choices here. I mean, either you push forward with the things that you were doing yesterday or you start dying. That seems to be your only two choices. If I had given up everything that my life was about – first of all, I'd let cancer win before it needed to. You know, maybe eventually it will win. But I'd let it win before I needed to.

And I'd just basically start dying. I don't want to do that. I want to live. And I want to do the work that I want next year to look like last year and... and the year after that and the year after that. And the only way to do that is to say I'm going to keep on with my life."

Update: I've just skimmed through various comments posted so far--on 60 Minutes/CBS and Daily Kos--regarding Katie Couric's interview of the Edwardses. The vast majority are very positive towards John and Elizabeth Edwards, but wow! Couric is definitely taking a beating in quite a few of them. You can form your own opinion by checking out the above 60 Minutes link, and some others at This is for you, Katie Couric.

23 March 2007

Katie Couric on The Colbert Report

I occasionally watch The Colbert Report; the most recent episode I watched was last night's. The guest was Katie Couric of the CBS Evening News and formerly of the Today. Even though I've never watched the CBS Evening News or the Today I knew who Katie Couric was, and was somewhat aware of the media hype produced when she became the first woman to solo anchor a major network evening newscast.

Anywhoo, not knowing much more than that, I was impressed by Couric's appearance on The Colbert Report. Couric appeared relaxed, never at a loss for words, made jokes and sent zingers right back at Colbert. Colbert's interviews are usually my least favourite part of the show, but that wasn't the case this episode.

Of course, Couric's extensive media experience probably surpasses most guests' so perhaps I shouldn't have been so impressed, but I was. Exactly how impressed was I? Impressed enough to sit right down and make this post, anyway. :o)

20 March 2007

Pi Day, 14 March

Sounds like a lot of fun--wish I could have been there. I guess there's always next year. ;o)

Pi Day celebrated, published in Nature.

Update 21 March 2007
: Oops. I just remembered you'll need a subscription to read the article. Ugh.

Updated 22 March 2007:
Anywhoo, the Nature article was covering the events of Pi Day at the Exploratorium in San Francisco. You can find out more about the 2007 19th annual Pi Day celebration by following this link to the Exploratorium.

10 March 2007

Mixed feelings

From the Vancouver Canucks official website:
Roberto Luongo collected his 39th win of the year to surpass Kirk McLean as the goaltender with the most wins in a single season when the Canucks defeated the San Jose Sharks 2-1 in overtime on Friday night.
First, it was another important win for the Canucks. Though approaching the end of the regular season in such a close race, I guess they're all important. Second, great job by Roberto Luongo, as usual. I don't think many would argue that a large part of the Canucks' success this season hasn't been because of Luongo's presence in goal. Congratulations on breaking the record in his first season with the Canucks.

So why the mixed feelings? I think it will only be until Luongo helps the Canucks make a solid run to the Stanley Cup finals that he'll have a chance at replacing Kirk McLean as my favourite Canucks goaltender. But the way things are going, I sincerely hope Luongo will stay with the Canucks long enough to break all the goaltending records.

01 March 2007

Visitors in February 2007

Here are the top 5 visitors--listed by country--for February 2007:

1) United States,
2) Canada,
3) Australia,
4) European Union,
5) Great Britain.

I really wish I knew who/what/where "Unknown" means. Are these people who hide their IP addresses or something?

Anyway, here's the full list of visitors for February 2007. Stats for previous months can be found by following this link.