All posts by Brian R.

Harnessing the Work of Bloggers

Techorati has announced a new business relationship with the Associated Press. Read more about it at Technorati Teams With The Associated Press to Connect Bloggers To More Than 440 Newspapers Nationwide.

I was once told that the real definition of a professional is someone who gets paid for what they do. We know that there is more to the definition. I bet if you were to compare bloggers with journalists you’d find we’re both professionals.

Real bloggers write and link because they love. We’re news and politics junkies. We like our info fresh and witty. This propels many of use to write like mad. So we write to give other bloggers what we want from them.

Most of us don’t do it for pay. So what happens when corporations like Technorati and AP get together to aggregate bloggers work and put it up on their websites? Pro business people are always saying nothing is free. So how is Technorati and AP paying bloggers for the services we’re providing them?

One form of payment could be the ‘Neato Effect’. This is when you see your name or something you wrote in the paper. The first couple of times its a rush. The realization that hundreds if not tens of thousands of people are reading what you wrote. For most people this rush is payment enough. What happens when you have a blog and millions of people all over the world read your writing every day? What about when a smart weekly newspaper recognizes you as an expert and pays you to write it? You become a professional. Many bloggers have become pros in one way or another. The ‘neato effect’ as a form of payment just ain’t going to do it for me. Or many of other good bloggers out there I suspect.

Another form of payment is in website traffic. If a local or national newspaper site links to your blog post whether purposely or automatically via Technorati you should get a few more hits. What is that worth to most bloggers? In dollars and cents probably not much. You need tens of thousands of unique visitors to make money on advertising. So a few more from a newspaper of two won’t make a real financial contribution. If Digg or Slashdot links to you then your hits might jump for a day or so but it’ll also cripple your site too. Your Google ranking could increase over time. This might help your ad revenue. But in the end isn’t this just gaming the system?

What if you don’t care about making money on your blog? What does Technorati, AP, or newspaper website have to pay you with then? How about respect as an subject matter expert. That’s good for some karma and community value. How about influence? Political power? Publicity for good causes? Social change? There has to be some other kind of fair trade value.

The fact is for profit groups (newspapers) and a not for profit groups (bloggers) exist with different values that aren’t always compatible. Even if you’re a blogger and want to make money doing it do you think newspapers need your blog enough to pay you well? Hell they can’t seem to pay stringers very well.

Bloggers freely available content is being hijacked. Technorati is helping us find each other and in return is cashing in huge. So will their partners. Main stream media needs us. We’re vanguards of the future. We write in the trenches and get dirty doing it. Its true that many pro journalists have seen the light and are innovating too. I respect old school journalists. Really!

Its the masses of people creating on read/write web that will fill the bank accounts of businesses in the future. How will individuals get in on this? The future will be a giant negotiation for digital labor. We have serious leverage. Content creators like bloggers have real value in their ability to be creative.

Until newspapers decided to admit bloggers are another kind of professional and treat us as such these new relationships just won’t be fair at all.

AT&T Whistle-Blower’s Evidence Released

Wired magazine has release what they claim is a group of documents created by former AT&T technician Mark Klein. He is the lead witness for the EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) in their case against AT&T for helping the NSA spy on American citizens.

Here is a copy of the document – att_klien_wired.pdf. The original link for the PDF was http://blog.wired.com/27BStroke6/att_klein_wired.pdf.

Several civil rights groups and news organizations are working to release all documents in this case to the public.

We are filing a motion to intervene in the case in order to request that the court unseal the evidence, joining other news and civil rights organizations that have already done so, including the EFF, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Los Angeles Times, the San Jose Mercury News, the Associated Press and Bloomberg.

Before publishing these documents we showed them to independent security experts, who agreed they pose no danger to AT&T. For example, they do not reveal sensitive information that hackers might use to attack the company’s systems.

Looks like a lot more than just our phone calls are being spied upon folks.

Via:
Wired News, Why We Published the AT&T Docs

Wired News, Stumbling Into a Spy Scandal

Wired News, Whistle-Blower’s Evidence, Uncut

Akismet Spam 2241

I just setup Akismet and deleted 2241 peices of comment spam from my database. Prob from the past several years. Dang!

Lets hope this plugin doesn’t implode my blog like Spam Karma 2 did. (Disclaimer: I didn’t try very hard to fix Spam Karma. It was just easier to start over. Only because I made BACKUPS.)

Blog back from the Dead

Last weekend I upgraded this site from WordPress 1.5.1 to 2.0.2. All went well at first. Even my old hacked 1.5 theme worked. Then I installed a few new plugins. Podpress and Spam Karma 2. Podpress worked ok. A bit buggy but it did the job. (its a podcasting/itunes/flash player plugin.) Spam Karma 2 was keeping hundreds of comment spam at bay. Then the shit hit the fan. Strangely it degraded over a 12 hour period.

First I got a weird error relating to a Podpress file. I disabled that plugin via the command line. I wasn’t able to log in as an admin to WP.

Then for some reason Spam Karma 2 flipped out. I then realized to what extent this plugin adds tables to your mysql database. It turns out it corrupted my database. Fortunately I had made a backup of my database. The flip side is it seems its missing all of the comments from the month of May. Lots of good posts about Network Neutrality and stuff. 🙁

I have an earlier backup made a day ago. But I’m concerned its corrupted. I restored the dot sql file to a new db. In the end I deleted my entire site and re-uploaded all the necessary audio/image content plus new WordPress 2.0.2. files.

I’m not going to be using Spam Karma 2. I’ve decided to just require people to login to comment. I think we’re all getting used to loging in to participate online.

Lots of tweaking todo. Change is painful but good. Enjoy the new header graphic. What might it mean? 🙂

Tactical Media Group

Found this neat blog by a group called the Tactical Media Group. They’re outa UMASS Boston home of the CTC VIST project. (That’s who sponsored my year of service in AmeriCorps. Good people!)

Here’s what the Tactical Media Group says they’re about:

The Tactical Media Group was formed in Fall 2005 to promote awareness and understanding of media and technology policy. We will engage area communities through educational initiatives in that arena with an eye towards fostering social activism and using media and technology to help bridge the digital divide.

Need to learn why communications policy is urgent and important? Want to know why this Telecom Policy debate is happening? Download the Telecommunications Legislation Toolkit [PDF] made by the Tactical Media Group. Lots of good info clearly laid out. Good job ya’ll!

Do Not Spy List

Move On and the Liberty Coalition have partnered to create the Do Not Spy List. Its basically a list of people who want to tell the US Federal government “…you want to keep your private information away from illegal government snooping…” I signed the list. Tell your friends by sending them the following info.

Subject: Don’t let AT&T and Verizon Spy on You

Hi,

On Thursday, May 11, 2006 USA Today reported that the National Security Agency has been collecting phone records of tens of millions of Americans. Companies like AT&T and Verizon who provide services to hundred of millions of Americans have been giving over phone records to the NSA, even though the NSA had no warrant for those records.

This is wrong so I signed on to the “Do Not Spy” list — just like the “Do Not Call” list to stop telemarketers from invading your home– except this list will tell telecoms to stay out of our private records. You can sign up for it here:

http://www.donotspylist.com

Thanks!

Context
On Thursday, May 11, 2006 USA Today reported that the National Security Agency has been collecting phone records of tens of millions of Americans. Companies like AT&T and Verizon, have turned over millions phone records to the NSA, even though the NSA had no warrant for those records.

Sources
1. “NSA has massive database of Americans’ phone calls” USA Today, May 11,
2006 [usatoday.com]

“BellSouth denies giving call data to the NSA” Reuters, May 15, 2006
[moveon.org]

2. “Questions and answers about the NSA phone record collection program”
USA Today, May 11, 2006 [moveon.org]

3. “Federal Source to ABC News: We know who you’re calling” ABC News Blog,
May 15, 2006 [blogs.abcnews.com]

4. “NSA has massive database of Americans’ phone calls” USA Today, May 11,
2006 [usatoday.com]

5. “Bush Doesn’t Confirm NSA Data Collection” Associated Press, May 11,
2005 [moveon.org]

6. “NSA has massive database of Americans’ phone calls” USA Today, May 11,
2006 [usatoday.com]

[In case you are wondering who the Liberty Coalition is…

The Liberty Coalition is both an organization and a network of partner groups. It works to help organize, support, and coordinate transpartisan public policy activities related to civil liberties and basic human rights. We work in conjunction with groups of partner organizations that are interested in preserving the Bill of Rights, personal autonomy and individual privacy.

Their website says the ACLU, Amnesty International, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation are members.]

Who are Al Qaeda’s known associates?

Bush goes on the defensive and claims the US government is not “mining or trolling through the personal lives of innocent Americans”. But he qualifies it with “Our efforts are focused on Al Qaeda and their known associates.” Who are Al Qaeda’s known associates? Other terrorist organizations? How does Bush and the White House define terrorist organizations?

If you’re a conservative American you might think the ACLU and the Democratic Party is a “known associate”. If you are a moderate or a conservative you might think Greenpeace, PETA, and the School of the Americas Watch are “known associates”. We know for a fact that those last three groups are under investigation by the FBI. How many more groups are being investigated by the US government or their corporate spying companies? How many people are suspected to be known associates or are suspected of aiding and abetting the enemy?

Via: NYTimes

Domestic spying inquiry killed

AP is reporting that the US Department of Justice has stopped its investigation of the warrantless phone spying done by the NSA at the approval of George Bush.

“We have been unable to make any meaningful progress in our investigation because OPR [Office of Professional Responsibility] has been denied security clearances for access to information about the NSA program,” OPR counsel H. Marshall Jarrett wrote to Hinchey. Hinchey’s office shared the letter with The Associated Press.

Commentary: WTF!!!!! We live in a police state! The backlash from this will be huge. The average citizen will become more concerned with privacy and how to be anonymous online. Probably the exact opposite goal of the NSA and White house. But in the interim we will all suffer more paranoia and buy more prescription drugs. (Not me. Just kidding!)

tip of the hat to: dailywireless.org
via: CNN

Jerry Conner got a Stay for DNA testing!

Mark Kleinschmidt, a lawyer at The Center for Death Penalty Litigation, just emailed to tell me Jerry Conner got a stay of execution to perform DNA testing! THIS IS HUGE! A man’s life could be saved! BIG props to the lawyers working hard for little pay to make this world a better place. Yay!

Read more about this case in my post North Carolina Obstructs DNA Testing for Condemned Man and podcast Save Jerry Conner. Its possible that our grassroots blogging and podcasting mission could have helped bring the attention this case deserved. I’m not going to celebrate this fact just yet. The important thing is Mr. Conner gets another DNA test. More details soon.