Today, as phone, video, and broadcast services have become merely bits passing over a wire, Congress’s intentions embodied in the 1996 Act have been completely subverted. Through a wave of mergers and years of litigation (helped along by some gymnastic labeling fiestas by the FCC), new companies have found it almost impossible to compete.
We have Ma Cell instead of Ma Bell, with just two companies — AT&T and Verizon — utterly dominant, their vast spectrum holdings, control over handset manufacturing, and provision of backhaul adding up to moats around their businesses that Sprint and T-Mobile can’t cross. We have a handful of cable incumbents — chiefly Comcast and Time Warner — controlling high-speed wired access to everything at whatever prices they want to charge.
Given this context, and its direct impact on consumers’ pocketbooks and innovation in America, you’d think that Congress would want to have an empowered regulator able to do something to protect the country from the rational, profit-seeking depredations of our new generation of monopolists.
Instead, the House Republicans are going in exactly the opposite direction. They’re lining up big-company support to push legislation early next week on the floor of the House that would gut the FCC. The bill, H.R. 3309, is called the “FCC Process Reform Act of 2011.”
Google announced today that it has begun indexing attribution of content to particular authors, not just to the websites they appear on. Links associated with the author of a page can now have the code rel=”author” added to them and Google will understand that to mean that the linked name is the linking page’s author. That’s a potentially significant change to the balance of power between sites and the individuals that create for them. Widespread adoption of rel=”author” in a web of open data could create a wide variety of other possibilities as well. There’s no reason to believe that Google will be the only company indexing this structured markup. That which is marked-up in a standardized, publicly and programmatically accessible way can be measured, monitored, optimized and more. Now the work, and the success, of particular authors will be trackable across publishing platforms and websites. There are a lot of future scenarios that could become real as a result of this. Imagine a famous author, for example, able to leave one of the great publications of the previous era and take their PageRank (or a future AuthorRank) with them. That could shake things up and that’s just one of many things that could be possible with the instrumentation of authorship.
A United Nations report said Friday that disconnecting people from the internet is a human rights violation and against international law.
The report railed against France and the United Kingdom, which have passed laws to remove accused copyright scofflaws from the internet. It also protested blocking internet access to quell political unrest (.pdf).
While blocking and filtering measures deny users access to specific content on the Internet, states have also taken measures to cut off access to the Internet entirely. The Special Rapporteur considers cutting off users from internet access, regardless of the justification provided, including on the grounds of violating intellectual property rights law, to be disproportionate and thus a violation of article 19, paragraph 3, of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
The report continues:
The Special Rapporteur calls upon all states to ensure that Internet access is maintained at all times, including during times of political unrest. In particular, the Special Rapporteur urges States to repeal or amend existing intellectual copyright laws which permit users to be disconnected from Internet access, and to refrain from adopting such laws.
Big news for international internet policy. Given the UN has absolutely NO authority over countries’ legal stance regarding internet access, I’m not sure exactly what this will accomplish, but it certainly keeps the conversation moving in the right direction.
Today, Twitter unveiled its long awaited photo and video sharing, not only leaving the likes of Twitpic, Yfrog and Twitvid in the dust… with a twist: pushing hashtags. Watch Twitter’s new “Top pictures” and “Top Videos” soon becoming the latest buzz word in both social and mainstream media.
In watching the official unveiling video below, Twitter is smartly appealing to users’ love-hate relationship with the ubiquitous 140 characters limit: too limiting to ramble but fantastic to consume and digest.
Twitter does this by upgrading the old age adage: “A picture is worth 1,000 words” by adding to it that “A hashtag is worth a 1,000 pictures”. Something a simple as a # and a word more meaningful than 1,000 pictures? Tall order you think? Maybe not so for those among us who dabbled with the use of hashtags on Twitter.
If you put the #perfectmoment hashtag side by side along with an actual picture of what someone decided it was the representation of a perfect moment; which do you think will be more powerfully meaningful? Your imagination or the visual representation of someone else’s judgment?
Like a smirk, a jaunty body expression, or a hushed voice, a hashtag can completely change the way we interpret a message, by jamming together our subconscious associations of the two (word and image). Just look at how people use hashtags; certainly there is a lot of standard informational tagging, but more and more, people employ hashtags for creative reasons which don’t necessarily follow from the content of their Tweets.
I’d never thought about it in those terms before, but after the article’s author makes that stellar point, I realized that the effectiveness of hashtags stems from the same basic principle of Eisenstein’s “montage theory” that guides modern film editing – the idea being, that our brains naturally form a connection between seemingly disparate ideas, a connection that allows us to “tell the story” of what happened bewteen two nonsequential film shots.
The principle is exactly the same as non-sequitor hashtags; they cause our minds to expand the interpretive framework we come to understand the statement/image/idea through, reshaping the message itself in the process.
The amazing thing about hashtags, and our ability to process nonsequential film images, is that even completely ostebsibly unconnected individuals can come to find a deep, universal connection with others, through their shared experiences and associations. You’ve felt this every time a theater has erupted in laughter in unison, or when you’re compelled to retweet that witty, ironic Tweet with a dozen other people.
As we start to understand memes, hashtags, trends, and other essential products of human communication, we are revealing, bit by bit, how fundamentally related we humans really are.
Twitter has just notified its users via a Tweet that it will begin notifying them that someone they follow has retweeted or favorited one of their tweets. The new notifications will apparently be delivered in the same manner that current notifications about direct messages and new followers are sent. Updated.
A nice, if minor, option.
What Zite Does
When you download Zite to your iPad, you can let it learn about what topics you’re interested in from your Twitter, Google Reader or Delicious data. The app then creates a magazine-like interface for you to scroll through stories from a wide variety of sources online about those topics. You can give very specific feedback about what you like or don’t like and then you get more stories like that. It’s like Pandora for news articles. Not a lot of control but smart personalized learning. We reviewed the app in more detail yesterday and said that if you like Flipboard (Apple’s iPad App of the Year) then you should try Zite because it’s even easier to use.
What the Lawyers Say
Yesterday Zite received a Cease and Desist letter signed by ten lawyers from big, big media companies: Time, The Washington Post, McClatchy, E.W. Scripps, Getty Images, National Geographic, Gannett, Dow Jones, Advanced Publications and the Associated Press.
Here are a few excerpts from that letter:
“By systematically reformatting, republishing and redistributing our original content on a mass commercial scale without our permission in your iPad application, Zite directly and adversely impacts our businesses. Your application takes the intelletual property of our companies, as well as the hard and sometimes dangerous work of tens of thousands of people. It depreives our websites of traffic and advertising revenue. We do not know your intentions, but your actions harm our companies and the broader media and news industry on which your application relies for its content…
Bad news for indie content aggregators out there. I wonder where my own site falls in this legal grey area? I always give attribution, and clearly marks quotes, but I do remove their adds and reofrmat their articles, and I certainly don’t ask first.
The Internet’s importance as a preserver and driver of language use has been reinforced this week with two key symbolic developments.
The first is the news that the Internet-isms OMG, LOL and the usage of “heart” as a verb have made the Oxford English Dictionary, throwing purists into a tizzy, because basically people generally hate change (it took about fifteen years for people to finally accept that the doubled-up adjectival noun “web site” would inevitably become the all inclusive noun “website.” And it took the AP Stylebook about twenty to eventually join the two).
The second development is that you can now search Google in Cherokee; In an effort preserve the endangered language Google has partnered up with the 300,000 strong Cherokee Nation, adding the traditional language to its repertoire of 146 interface languages here.
The most significant action the OED has taken for the development of linguistics in my lifetime is the inclusion of ” < 3 ” (the ASCII graphical-art representation of the noun [and now, verb] “heart”) in the dictionary as a word.
Facebook is aiming to streamline communication between two people by aggregating all your messaging across SMS, external email, Facebook private messages, and Facebook chat, into one threaded conversation, which can be delivered to any number of outlets.
The overall goal is to make people feel even more connected, overcoming some of the fragmentation we live with when using multiple communication platforms.
How you choose to receive messages can vary based on who you’re talking with. (Text-heavy tweens can get everything by text; choose to receive updates from your business partner only by email, or your hubby everywhere).
Everyone can now own a custom email address at the Facebook.com domain. Your Facebook.com email address will be based on your custom Facebook Profile URL. If you haven’t set one up yet, definitely set one up ASAP. However, it’s not necessary to use the custom Facebook email.
This sits on top of, and is apprently compatible with, most other email clients, so it is in no way a “Gmail Killer”. Similarly, you can use this tool to communicate with non-Facebook users. However, when you communicate with people who aren’t in your Facebook social graph, you’ll have to specify that they should be added (to separate them from spam). It’s unclear what Facebook does with this kind of “data” and both Zuck and Boz danced around the multiple iterations of this question from the audience.
No filtering of conversations within threaded messages. All your mom’s LOLcat emails will come right on through.
Messages can be deleted on your side, but not on your audience’s side. (If I understood Zuck’s horrible public speaking correctly)
IMAP protocols will be coming.
There will be the option to forward messages, so it’s unclear exactly how “private” your “private” conversation will be. The “limits” the system uses to determine who is spamming and who is real, are draconian and invisible. “If you’re using it for the wrong reasons, you’ll hit the limits quickly.”
Ads: “Will content inside conversations be scrapable for advertisers?” Yes. Rather than addresss the obvious issue of privacy, Zuck tries to sell us once again on the idea that his advertising is the good kind.