wasting bandwidth since 1999

Tag: information (Page 2 of 3)

Only Annoying

I know, a big chunk of my life is spent in a strange little bubble.

Last Wednesday afternoon, my Twitter feed exploded with surprise/anger/sadness over Google’s announcement of the impending death of Reader. In the normal world, most people were coping with the usual end-of-week issues and thinking about the weekend.

Ok, so Google’s corporate decision to shut down a service that wasn’t making any money for them isn’t a big tragedy, even to most in my decidedly geek twitter feed.

But at least for me it’s a big annoyance, for two reasons.

The first comes from having to find a replacement for Reader. RSS is one of the cornerstones of my information flow and almost every app I use in that category is tied to it. Going without RSS management tools is just not an option.  

Fortunately, there are already alternatives (Feedly and NewsBlur are two I’m playing with at the moment) with lots of smart people working on others (digg for one). I’m also hopeful that Marco Armant, creator of Instapaper, another cornerstone for me, is right when he speculates that because of Google’s decision we are “finally likely to see substantial innovation and competition” in this space for the first time in a decade.

Index card

The second annoyance, and the difficult part, is finding an RSS aggregator that will be easy to explain to all the not-so-geeky people I work with on a regular basis. Teachers, librarians, school administrators, and others who need systems for managing their ever increasing information flow that are better than bookmarks, email, and other 20th century tools.

Over the past five years or so, I’ve probably done twenty presentations and workshops around the concept of managing information in an age of data overflow and being viewed on multiple devices (one example). In every one of them Google Reader, and apps that use the service as the back end, was featured front and center. I’m doing another in a couple of weeks so some fast editing is in order.

But that’s my problem, and I doubt anyone at Google is at all concerned.

Which brings us to another lesson from all this that I need to include in my sessions: never assume that even the best companies have your interests as their first priority, unless you’re related to the CEO.


The graphic is my lame attempt to imitate the work of Jessica Nagy at the wonderful This is Indexed. Sorry.

Insanely Inadequate

David Weinberger on copyright in 2012.

I think our current copyright system is insanely inadequate for the new ecology, and that it has the opposite effect that its best-spirited defenders want it to have: the current copyright laws (and mindset) are impeding the greatest cultural flowering in our history, and if those copyright laws are taken to their proposed maximum, they will kill culture dead.

He goes on to discuss how he and the musician whose post inspired his comments both depend on copyright to make a living (at least part of it) but still believe the system is broken.

Slightly off the topic of our screwed up intellectual property system, I’m in the middle of reading Weinberger’s new book Too Big to Know and highly recommend it. It’s an interesting read about how information is moving beyond an expert-driven system to a world of knowledge where networks are the experts. For those of us in education, his ideas have many implications.

Who Owns Your Digital Identity?

In a recent article for the Guardian (mercifully one British newspaper not owned by Rupert Murdock), Dan Gilmore makes some interesting points about who controls the information you post using social networking tools like Twitter, Facebook, and the current buzz champ of the digerati, Google+.

He says we need to consider not only what we get from these free services but also what we’re giving away in the bargain.

Control, ownership and value are inextricably linked, but having one does not necessarily boost another. Exposure on a site you don’t control may be worth more to you than lack of attention on a site you do. And you may find the social and professional connections you make and enjoy on third-party sites so useful that they’re worth what you are giving up. But it’s worth weighing the tradeoffs.

If you make G+ (or Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIn or Tumblr any other service that hosts your conversations and other “content”) your primary online presence, you are in effect giving away something enormously valuable. You are giving your contributions to the emergent global conversation to a company that values you largely as a contributor of data it can then turn into money.

I’ve never been under the illusion that the content on this site has large amounts of value to anyone but me (certainly not in monetary terms), but since I started doing this many years back, I’ve had the feeling that I would be better off in the long run if my primary online presence was on a site that I owned and was under my control (or as much ownership and control as the public web allows).

It’s not that I fear what Google or Twitter or Tumblr might decide to do with what I post (Facebook can be a little creepy in their decisions around privacy but still not something to fear), I just like to make my own decisions about those little bits of information.

On a related branch of this discussion, we also need to incorporate some of the ideas about which Gilmore is writing* into what we teach kids, and adults for that matter, about creating and maintaining their online image.

Helping them avoid giving away control of their thoughts and ideas to someone else.


*And no, I didn’t miss the irony related to Gilmore posting his ideas on the topic of control to the online edition of a newspaper, although I assumed he was paid for the work.

Crap Detection 101

“The all-important literacy of determining the credibility of information found on the Internet.” as presented by always interesting Howard Rheingold.

Well worth 24 minutes of your time and a wonderful outline for what we should be teaching all our students.

Fighting With The Past

Lately, the Associated Press has been complaining loudly about the people who have been “stealing” their content.

In their minds, that includes everyone from Google (which actually has a contract to use their news feed) on down to any blogger who has ever quoted from one of their stories.

And they have a plan to do something about it.

What do bloggers and a 1918 newspaper syndicate have in common? According to the Associated Press, both are wretched hives of scum and villainy–parasites, if you will, sucking a healthy living from the AP’s expensive newsgathering operations.

And the AP means to do something about it, reviving a legal doctrine it helped to create back during World War I: the concept of “hot news.”

The Court ruling created the “hot news” doctrine, in which groups like the AP are granted a pseudo-property right to breaking news stories. The right is quite limited, generally applying just in situations where another party rewrites the news “without independent investigation and verification.”

And the modern-day version of this dispute has implications that go beyond a single blogger including a few lines from an AP news story.

Depending on how hard it pushes the “hot news” idea, the AP (and similar services) could spark a new war over the quasi-ownership of facts. Fair use, which applies in copyright cases, would not be a defense against a property claim, and most journalists arguably violate all five of the “hot news” tenets listed above.

It’s an interesting story, one that’s worth a few minutes of your time to read.

But the AP’s approach to this “problem” is more about news gathering and distribution from 90 years ago than it is about the information business in the modern world.

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