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Wikipedia’s arbitration committee ruled to permanently block contributions and edits to Scientology articles from Internet addresses originating from the Church of Scientology’s headquarters.
The decision follows six months of debate among administrators of the user-edited encyclopedia, who found conflicts between Wikipedia editors who were Scientology enthusiasts and those who disliked the religion. Some 430 Scientology entries on Wikipedia resulted in constant battles over revisions between the two camps. User accounts were created for the sole purpose of deleting or adding information on Scientology, a practice seen as harmful to Wikipedia’s neutrality principles.
Tuesday was a unique day. As the 12th day of May and its second Tuesday, I had appointments to keep within civil society. While I was out and about interacting with other human beings in-person, Twitter launched a change. Download Squad reported that Twitter changed part of their core functioning. UX specialist Whitney Hess railed against the change. Gregory Pittman linked on Twitter to a blog post where Twitter explained that the change was due to engineering limitations related to system stability.
This presents a core problem in the Twitter debates. Twitter may be where people hang out. Is it structurally capable of handling the load, though? Are there reasonable assurances of consistent system behavior? Today's blog post dances around the problem of scalability somewhat by relegating it to being the 800 pound elephant in the room.
Twitter, at its core, is a fairly limited service. External bolt-ons like TwitPic, Twibes, and more were created to make the service do more than was ever intended originally. Re-tweets, "Follow Friday", and other such things are more limited now which practically prevents serendipitous discovery. Unless service was contracted by a library with Twitter, there could be no guaranteed service level which could potentially annoy patrons that might seek help via Twitter.
Twitter is not the only game in town for microblogging, though. In December 2008, LISTen talked to Evan Prodomou who is a principal designer of the Laconica software platform. Identi.ca is the flagship site for the Laconica service while others like TWiT Army and Dungeon Twitter also exist. Group functionality that Twibes provides Twitter is also integrated into Laconica itself. Twitpic, Twitterfeed, and more can now interact with Laconica-based sites just as easily as they can interact with Twitter.
It seems a technically superior choice to Twitter exists. With the weeping and gnashing of teeth observed Tuesday over changes in functionality, the question is raised as to what constitutes the bright line that has to be crossed before someone will switch services. At the least, you can control your own local Laconica installation far more readily than you can impact engineering decision-making at Twitter. With federation possible through the OpenMicroBlogging protocol, there is less of a need for the monolithic microblogging platform than before.
The biggest question seems to be, though, what the next move is for Twitter users.
On The Twitter Brouhaha by Stephen Michael Kellat is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
Over the weekend, on a mailing list associated with new media transformations, there emerged a debate on the inherent utility of Google Book Search (GBS). Involving Paul Duguid of the Information School at UC Berkeley, Danny Sullivan from Search Engine Land, Tim O’Reilly from O’Reilly Media, and Donald Waters of the The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation (as well as a few others not excerpted here), the debate drew out many of the tensions of GBS.
THIS is the end of the line for Encarta, the encyclopedia that Microsoft introduced in 1993 and still describes boastfully on its Web site as “the No. 1 best-selling encyclopedia software brand for the past eight years.” Microsoft recently announced that sales would soon cease and that the Encarta Web site, supported by advertising, would be shut down later this year.
It’s hard to look at the end of the Encarta experiment without the free and much larger Wikipedia springing immediately to mind. But Encarta arguably would have failed even without that competition. The Google-indexed Web forms a virtual encyclopedia that Encarta never had a chance of competing against.
Publicly-funded research doesn't seem so public when taxpayers must pay to read the results in a journal. A new law may help publishing companies preserve their business models, but will limit public access to the research.
Story on Marketplace
Story in the New York Times
Ever since the rise of Napster, discussions among movie and television executives have included a vow not to let happen to Hollywood what happened to the music industry. After spending a few days last week at the Cable Show in Washington, I’m starting to hear a new worst-case scenario: that Hollywood goes the way of newspapers.
“The biggest risk is so much stuff gets on the Internet for free that we turn into the newspaper business,” Stephen B. Burke, Comcast’s chief operating officer, said in an interview last week.
Ironically, this new fear results from the partial success of Hollywood’s attempt to fight piracy. Sure, like the music labels, studios sue file traders and push for draconian copyright laws. But what is really making a difference is that they are making a good chunk of their content available digitally through services like iTunes and Hulu. This gives the early adopters an alternative to stealing shows, and it gives the studios a promise of profit from digital distribution.
The cloud computing concept takes another hit. Techcrunch dropped a story this morning on more holes found in the popular online application Google Docs. This news arrives right on the heels of another security problem discovered earlier this month.
In short, images embedded in Google Docs could be accessed outside Google Docs itself because the images are uploaded to another server. I've seen something like this myself because if you use Blogger, your uploaded images show up in your Picassa account.
If you share a document carrying a diagram, the person will be able to view previous versions of that diagram whether you want them to or not.
Finally, removing another user's access to a document doesn't always ensure that they can't access that document again later.
These flaws seem serious enough to put at risk the ability of libraries to comply with relevant privacy rules as to patrons if Google Docs is in the mix. Free (as in freedom and as in beer) alternatives like Citadel may prove profitable for libraries to evaluate.
In a session at last weekend's Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) conference billed as “not for the faint of heart,” University of Guelph (Ontario, Canada) librarian and chief information officer Michael Ridley challenged librarians to imagine the library of the future—the very, very distant future.
In a talk that had Star Trek fans among the audience brimming with enthusiasm, Ridley spoke of a “post-literate” future in which man and machine meld seamlessly together. Ridley got right to the point. “What we do is toast,” he told the audience. “Are reading and writing doomed? The answer is an unequivocal yes.”
Ridley entertained his audience with a James Cameron-like vision of the future, where borgs, bio-computing, advances in brain research, the “hive mind,” and advances in pharmacology would one day—although not one day soon—undo the need to read, write, manage, or organize information as we now know it. Want to learn French? One day you will just take a pill, he suggested.