In light of the US House of Representative’s overwhelming vote in support of the Deleting Online Predators Act (DOPA), I’ve set up an online news digest called DOPA Watch. The page automatically aggregates the latest blog entries and news stories referencing DOPA, courtesy of the blog search engine Technorati and Google News. It also includes legislative updates generated by GovTrack. You can also subscribe to the news feed via email, or via RSS. -andy
July 27, 2006
Last night, the US House of Representatives passed the Deleting Online Predators Act (DOPA) with an overwhelming majority – so overwhelming, in fact, that only 15 members voted against it. This means that 435 members voted in favor of it – in favor of hysteria, panic, misinformation, while against media literacy, local control, Web 2.0 and common sense. Assuming the Senate passes the act and it gets signed by the president, DOPA would force schools to filter out all interactive websites if they wish to receive federal Internet subsidies. There’s a loophole for interactive sites that are educational in nature, but we know how that works – teachers usually don’t have control over the Internet filters so they can’t unblock sites that are legitimately educational. So every blog, bulletin board, e-list and online community that you currently value in the classroom, be prepared to say bye-bye to it.
I had a feeling the bill would pass the House, but I’m stunned by the overwhelming nature of the majority. It just goes to show you that if you allow news outlets to whip up hysteria over a problem that’s actually a small fraction of what it appears to be, Congress is going to find a way to capitalize on it. And our students and teachers will suffer because of it. -andy
July 26, 2006
Good news from Brian Conley of the Alive in Baghdad video blog. His Baghdad team member has been released after being kidnapped three days ago. Brian writes:
It is with great happiness that I can tell you our correspondent was released this afternoon in Baghdad, after approximately 72 hours in detention.
We still cannot provide his name or any more specific information, as we have not been able to reach him for permission and the specific details baout his detention.
His brother contacted our correspondent, Omar Abdullah, to tell him the good news.
As soon as we have more information, we will update the site immediately.
I would like to thank all of you who made an effort to send the word out about our correspondent and for all the support we’ve been provided in the last 24 hours.
Alive in Baghdad will continue producing media from Iraq, despite these recent events, and we hope to say the same about our recently released colleague, but only time will tell.
Such a relief… -andy
July 25, 2006
This is my 9,000th photo I’ve uploaded to Flickr.
I’ve just received some disturbing news from Brian Conley, coordinator of the video blog Alive in Baghdad. One of his team members has been kidnapped in Baghdad while taping footage for the blog. Because of concerns from his family, Brian hasn’t published the individual’s name yet, but I hope this will occur soon so we can start mobilizing a campaign for his release.
Here’s the text of Brian’s post:
It is with deep regret that I type some of the words I hoped would never come.
It is foolish to have thought we might somehow be safe from the violence and chaos of Baghdad’s streets. However, I somehow believed we had a kind of special defense or protection against the ordinary violence of Baghdad in 2006.
On Sunday morning, between 11am and 12pm, one of our newest correspondents disappeared from the al-Amal Neighborhood. He was there with his brother, gathering B-roll of the security in place around Baghdad’s gas stations, as well as the long refueling lines that continue to insult the residents of one of the world’s most oil-rich countries.
At the request of his family, we can only reveal certain information at this time. We hope their perspective will change soon, because we believe that, in this case, publicity is one of our most important tools to ensure our colleague’s safe return.
Before he began filming our correspondent confirmed permission with the Iraqi National Guard in the area who were maintaining security around the station. After they agreed to allow him to film, he took some footage of the National Guard’s security position and then moved on to shoot nearby the gas station.
While his brother waited in their car across the street, he approached the station and began gathering footage. This correspondent was hired primarily to gather footage around the city of Baghdad to provide our viewers insight into the day-to-day life on Baghdad’s streets.
Within ten to fifteen minutes of his approaching the gas station, gathering photos and video of the pumps, the long lines, etc. a civilian vehicle approached. Several men left this vehicle, they were not uniformed, but carried pistols, what appeared to be “police handcuffs” according to his brother, and other guns.
The correspondent was grabbed, blindfolded, and placed in the vehicle which then left the scene.
During this entire time, the Iraqi National Guard were nearby, within sight, and did nothing.
It is unclear who kidnapped him, but it is believed to be one of the militias that is connected to the current Iraqi government. The inaction of the Iraqi National Guard suggests it was either a militia or plain-clothed unit operating in the area.
It has now been over 48 hours since our colleague went missing. We are calling on press freedom outlets as well as other bloggers, vloggers, journalists, and governments to take a stance against this.
Alive in Baghdad has endeavored to be a non-partisan source of news about life in Iraq with Iraqis themselves producing content and telling stories about their lives.
If you have information or wish to offer support in the safe return of our colleague, please send an email to aliveinbaghdad at gmail.com.
I’ll post updates as soon as I learn more information. -andy
The American Library Association’s Washington office is reporting that the House of Representatives will likely vote on the so-called DOPA Act tomorrow. DOPA, the Deleting Online Predators Act, would force schools and libraries receiving federal Internet subsidies to block all interactive websites, including blogs, bulletin boards, email lists and online social network. It’s an absurd reaction to the anti-MySpace hype that’s been dominating the media in recent months, and threatens to make the Internet completely useless as an educational tool. Schools already have the ability to block inappropriate websites, and they should be the ones determining which sites are educationally relevant.
Please call your congressional representative today and tell them that you are against HR 5319, as it’s officially known. The House switchboard is 202-224-3121 – just give them the name of your representative. If you don’t know your representative, you can contact them online – just supply your address and it will be directed to your representative. -andy
July 24, 2006
Yesterday I had the chance to spend a few hours walking through Washington DC, visiting some of my old haunts. Dupont Circle is as wonderful as ever, particularly since the local brass band was out in force. On weekends during the summer, these dozen or so jazz musicians perform an impromptu concert on the northern side of the circle. You never know who will stop and listen, but typically it’s a combination of tourists, locals, embassy officials and the occasional homeless person. Yesterday was no different. I’ve probably seen these guys perform dozens of times over the years, but I think this was the first time I sat down to listen. They’re not the best brass band in the world, but they sure are a lot of fun. Have a listen. -andy
July 22, 2006
In my never-ending quest to find more gamelan degung music for my growing collection of music from Indonesia, I stumbled upon perhaps the funniest recording I’ve heard in ages. It’s a gamelan version of the Wall of Voodoo song, “Mexican Radio.”
A bizarre twist on one of the great songs of the 1980s, this version, by a gamelan band called Monkey C, sounds as if Tom Waits had quit Los Angeles and high-tailed it to Bali. Perhaps you have to be a fan of both Wall of Voodoo and gamelan music, but I sure got a kick out of it. It’s an instrumental, probably because they couldn’t replace the line, “I wish I was in Tijuana/Eating barbequed iguana” with an appropriate Indonesian city to rhyme with “gecko.”
Anyway, Check it out. -andy
Screen shot from the Daily Star showing a hyperlink to a hemorrhoids ad when referring to “piles of rubble.”
For the last couple of years I’ve read Lebanon’s Daily Star newspaper, which I’ve found to be an excellent source of opinions and editorials on the Middle East. But their recent decision to integrate an advertising revenue generator called ContentLink into their website is beginning to give me pause.
ContentLink is a form of “in-text” advertising. Rather than placing traditional ads adjacent to an online article, it embeds hyperlinks into words found within an article, pointing to an advertiser based on what it believes to be the meaning of that word. For example, if an article contained the sentence “Prosecutors declined to indict San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds this week,” the phrase “San Francisco” would link to a website about San Francisco tourism. Using this system, an online newspaper like the Daily Star would receive income every time a person clicked a link to one of these advertisers.
For starters, I’m not thrilled with the idea, because when I click on a link in a news article or blog entry, I expect it to link to more information about that topic, not to an advertisement. Rather than adding to the value of the content contained in the news source by linking to relevant information, as is the norm with most hyperlinks, in-text advertising devalues it, sending the reader to an unexpected sales pitch. If I were David Ignatius, Rami Khouri or an other regular contributor to the Daily Star, I’d be troubled to see my writings link to these ads, because it gives the appearance of the author’s endorsement, just like a blogger would link to pages he or she wanted readers to visit for one reason or another.
Unfortunately, ever since the conflict with Israel erupted over a week a go, I’ve noticed that many of the in-text ads contained in the Daily Star have often been surprisingly undignified, apparently based on incorrect or inappropriate interpretation of the keywords contained within the articles. Here are some examples of sentences contained within current Daily Star articles and the in-text ad links connected to them:
The logjam may break up quickly or only after several weeks, and it could produce a major setback for Hizbullah or a symbolic victory. (“Break up” links to “Breakup Advice for Moms: Moms, get divorce advice & connect with other moms. Free to join.”)
Much of the country over which Siniora’s government now presides has been reduced to holes in the ground and piles of rubble. (“Piles” links to “Piles or Hemorrhoids: Western and Eastern remedies for this common malady piles or hemorrhoids.”)
At this point, there is little reason to believe that either the mainstream Hamas leadership or the Abbas [government] has any real control over Shalit’s fate. (“Abbas” links to “Free Ringtones – Abba: Get your free Abba ringtones here. Works with all Cingular, and T-Mobile phones. US residents only. Subscription services required.”)
The challenge for the Bush administration as the Lebanon war explodes into its second week is just that – to keep faith with Siniora and his “Cedar Revolution,” even as it stands by its close ally, Israel. (“Bush administration” links to “Bush Administration Shirts and Gear: “W the President” and more – Celebrate Bush and American values with attractive stickers, buttons, T-shirts, mugs, and other gear. Perfect gifts for friends and family.”>)
Wrapped in blankets and plastic bags bound tightly with tape, the bodies were lowered from the truck into simple pine-board coffins doused with a chemical spray to mask – without much success – the cloying odor of death. (“Odor” links to “Reduce Pollutants & Improve Indoor Air Quality! Now you can purify the air you breathe by reducing & improving your indoor air quality with these air purification & ozone generators. Odor & mold removal! Please call for quantity discounts. For healthier breathing order today!”)
There’s no telling where a Daily Star article will link, as ContentLink appears to generate new links each time you reload a page. But each time I check my RSS feeds and see an interesting op-ed or article coming from the newspaper, I cringe at the thought that the ensuing article will link to something wildly inappropriate, particularly in the context of the current violence.
I understand the Daily Star’s need to generate revenue. But I would hope they might reconsider using this advertising service, particularly during this conflict. At minimum, they should at least re-tune it so it doesn’t produce such absurdly embarrassing results. Seeing hyperlinks to hemorrhoids ads when referring to “piles of rubble” – particularly when innocent civilians are lying under those very piles – is an insult to every family suffering on both sides of the border.
I think I’ll just have to stick with reading my friend Mustapha’s blog, Beirut Spring – I sincerely doubt I’ll see him linking to hemorrhoids ads anytime soon. -andy
July 20, 2006
Yesterday I had the honor of delivering the keynote at the ThinkBright Summer Digital Institute, hosted by WNED public television in Buffalo, New York. The speech, “Embracing Web 2.0 in an Education 1.0 Universe,” was a variation of one I’ve done previously this year, but with a greater emphasis on education. For those of you who are interested, here’s a podcast of the speech, along with the accompanying Powerpoint. -andy