Category Archives: Activism

Interview with Alex Laats of Podzinger

This podcast is an interview with Alex Laats President of BBN Delta. They have a new audio search tool called Podzinger. It allows you to search for key words inside of audio content like podcasts. I wrote more about it in my post called Search for Keywords in Audio. I’ve used a bunch of services that try to do this and this is only one that works well. This type of audio search tech is used by governments why not activists?

In my first post I brought up some concerns I had about the metada created from audio Podzinger indexes. (To get a bit more context read Retaining My Attention Data Part 1 and Part 2.) Alex addresses some of these concerns and talks about how Podzinger can create metadata that can be used in interesting ways.

I encourage activists of all kinds to explore Internet tools that let you create metadata. This information can serve our missions in powerful ways, from investigating injustice, to gathering support for a cause, and making strategic decisions. But remember always be critical of Internet tools. They are powerful and can cut many ways.

Thanks to Alex for letting me interview him. He was very gracious and a excellent guest. 🙂
MP3 20m 12s 9.3MB 44.1kHz 60kbps

A GRIM Report

Crossposted from OrangePolitics.org
Guest Post by Alan McSurely

Alan McSurely gives an update on efforts to get our member of congress, David Price, to support impeachment of President Bush. There’s been a community forum, two meetings with Price, and now…

We present the Case for Impeachment on Tuesday, February 28th at 7 p.m. at Chapel Hill Town Hall. Michelle Cotton Laws and Rev. Robert Seymour will participate, along with Prof. Dan Pollitt and myself. We will be announcing the formation of GRIM, and asking for your help to build the Movement.
Continue reading A GRIM Report

Veterans and Survivors March for Peace and Justice

Veterans and Survivors March for Peace and Justice

From Mobile to New Orleans March 14-19, 2006

March 19, 2006 is the 3rd anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Veterans for Peace is organizing this five-day march along Gulf Coast Highway 90 to demand the immediate return of our troops from Iraq, and to call for U.S. tax dollars to be spent on human priorities and rebuilding of the devastated Gulf Coast, instead of the illegal occupation of Iraq.

Support Americans in Iraq and the Gulf Coast—bring them home NOW!

Find more info at www.vetgulfmarch.org. Here is a pdf of the flyer. Download, print, copy, distribute.

Why are those sites paying attention to us?

Ruby has been using LastFM a bunch recently. It’s a community website that keeps tracks of what music you’re playing on your computer, lets you tag music your listening too, and it has a browser based audio player that streams you music you might like. LOTS of data and metadata flying back and forth from user to server and server to user.

I’ve been hesitant to join up. I got tired quick of other social software sites like Friendster. Mostly because I haven’t clicked with them in a way to get me to dedicate lots of time. Plus I’ve been more and more concerned about how websites use our data and how the ACT on the metadata they create from it.

Well Ruby just sent me an e-mail that might get me to join LastFM. She said Ed Batista, of The Attention Trust, created a community on LastFM. (It was Ruby’s idea actually.) Here is the group description:

This is a group for Last.fm users who are interested in making more effective use of their “attention data” (including, but not limited to, all the data we’re sharing with Last). We’re big fans of Last, and we love their service, but we’d also love to know what Last is planning to do with this data. We hope this group will prompt some interesting discussions between Last and its users. For more information, visit Attention Trust at www.AttentionTrust.org.

Is it odd that I’d start using a website because I’m interested in how they use their data? It’s not like I’m a competitor trying to grok their business model. I’m not planning on gaming their site. It’s just that I’m a data privacy advocate who wants websites that collect any personal data to be open with us about how they use it. (uh hello Google!) Putting legalese into a super long and hard to understand privacy policy isn’t enough. We need very simple straightforward answers. (LastFM does have a good synopsis of their Terms and Conditions)

Terms and Conditions in a nutshell

* The entry of any personal data on this site is completely optional.
* We do not require an email address during sign up.
* We will not email you crap or pass on your email address to anyone, not even Lars Ulrich at gunpoint.
* Your pseudonymous listening habit data will be available to the public for non-commercial use under a Creative Commons license.
* We reserve the right to sell or license pseudonymous listening data for commercial use, however we will never sell your personal data.
* You you will always have the opportunity to remove from the system any personal information you’ve entered

A great thing about discovering this LastFM group is that I understand the Attention Trust better. I’d heard about it a few months ago and checked out the site but for some reason I didn’t get it. Now with this context of LastFM and the group description it all makes sense. But all the crap about the President admitting to spying on US citizens, Google refusing to turn over search data to the Attorney General, personal research about social network analysis, etc. has pushed me past the breaking point. I’m doing something about my personal data sharing habits. I’m shifting my attention.

This doesn’t mean I’m going to disappear from the net and stop dumping all my thoughts on ya. Naw… you’re not that lucky. 🙂 I’m just going to try and be more conscious. We all need to still give each other bits and bytes. A serious evolutionary jump of my net habits is brewing.

I’m not just interested in how corporate websites are using our data and metadata but how WE can use it to make this world better. How can we improve our lives in ways besides just making money? You could call it selfless data-mining or social data entrepreneurism.

How do we create a civil Internet society? How do we promote fairness? How do we create social justice in the 21st century? I bet part of the answer lies in socially responsible data usage.

BTW – I just joined LastFM and Attention Trust. (See the AT logo on my right side bar.)

Act Now to Preserve Network Neutrality

Here is something you can do to prevent cyber extortion and promote network neutrality.

What’s network neutrality?
“Network neutrality” is a voluntary but guiding principle of the Internet which ensures that all users are entitled to access content and services or run applications and devices of their choice.

Sign a letter requesting network neutrality. It’ll go to the CEOs of the largest cable and telephone companies and the member of congress that represents you. These letter writting campaigns work!

You’re not alone in your concern. According to a poll by the Free Press Assoication, the Consumers Union, and Consumer Federation of America:

Two-thirds of Internet users have serious concerns about practices by Internet network owners to block or impair their access to information and services, and the majority of those surveyed support congressional action to prevent this practice, according to a new poll released today by consumer and public interest groups.

From New Survey: Consumers Want Congress to Protect Right to Access Information, Services on Internet

via: J.D. Lascica, Timothy Karr

Stop Corporate Cyberextortion

How do we organize ourselves to prevent corporate cyberextortion? It’s only a matter of time before they threaten individual users. Even more importantly how do we get the average non-blog reading Internet user to know and care about this issue?

The Issue
Basically big corporations who provide Internet access to companies such as Google and Yahoo want to charge them extra for “preferred services”. This could speed up, slow down, or block an individual users access to search services Google and Yahoo provide. Imagine not being able to find what you want via a Google search. In essence Bell South and Verizon want to put a traffic cop at the Internet spigot and control what SPECIFIC data goes through, how much, how often, and at what quality. This is not the free flow of information that the Internet was built upon.

Read what other people have to say about attempts at corporate cyberextortion by big telcos like Bell South.

From Preston Gralla:

“BellSouth and Verizon have been trying to force big Web sites to pay extortion-type fees if the sites want adequate bandwidth, with Google a prime target. But Google has news for them: It won’t pay.”

“Google’s Barry Schnitt told Paul in an email: “Google is not discussing sharing of the costs of broadband networks with any carrier. We believe consumers are already paying to support broadband access to the Internet through subscription fees and, as a result, consumers should have the freedom to use this connection without limitations.”

From Cory Doctorow:

“Google has rebuffed to an outrageous demand by BellSouth, in which the phone company proposed to charge Google for access to its customers. Bill Smith of Bell South told reporters that he wanted “to charge Yahoo Inc. for the opportunity to have its search site load faster than that of Google Inc.” Google has responded with an unequivocal no — a flat refusal to pay blood-money to carriers to keep them from discriminating against its services. Honestly, what the hell is BellSouth thinking? The whole point of an ISP is that it delivers the same packets as every other ISP; anything else is substandard. There’s only one Google, but T1s come and go.”

From Doc Searls: (Thanks for all the links Doc!)

“BellSouth wasn’t thinking. They were doing what big carriers usually do, which is look for ways to make big money with tiered service to big customers. Dumb, perhaps, in this case; but predictable.”

[ Doc wins the best blog post title of the year (so far) IMHO: Google to BellSouth: Go Tier Yourself a New One ]

For LOTs of context read Doc’s Saving the Net: How to Keep the Carriers from Flushing the Net Down the Tubes.

Washington Post:
Executive Wants to Charge for Web Speed and The Coming Tug of War Over the Internet

I wrote a post called Angry BellSouth and Anti-Public Good Chapel Hill Business, about similar issues with the data access war here in Chapel Hill,NC.

Thanks to Ed Cone for reminding me about this serious subject.

Interview with Mike Hachey of Student Action with Workers

Emiliano ZapataThis podcast is an interview with undergraduate Mike Hachey of Student Action with Workers. We discussed the circumstances leading up to a march and rally they held last wednesday at the Lenoir Dining hall at University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill. Students are mobilizing support for worker-led campaigns to achieve collective bargaining and a living wage. They’re working at the request of dining hall workers, who are employees of the subcontractor Aramark corporation and not the University (an important distinction since state employees have limited collective bargaining rights).

We also discussed the specifics of “team cleaning,” a new unfair management practice that forces workers to perform one repetitive task for eight hours straight. It’s stated goal in company literature is to increase revenue for the University by eliminating jobs, despite the promise to workers from management that it won’t.

We discussed what students, staff, and faculty can do to join the workers in their struggle and lots more. I hope to record more conversations with Mike in the future. Check out the UNC labor history time line on Wikipedia.

MP3 25m 28s 11.7MB 64Kbps 44.1Mhz

The Stories of Experienced Radicals

Anton Zuiker is gearing up to work on his next project called NC Storyblogging aka Narratives of Your Life. It’s based on his interests in blogging, genealogy, storytelling and oral history. This is such a good idea!

It could be a wonderful way to transmit knowledge from generation to generation to generation. This project seems especially important, to me, because the technical illiteracy of some seniors can separate them and their knowledge from younger people who are on the Internet. Shouldn’t all knowledge, emotion, and experiences of adults be passed on to future generations? If we don’t document this information and put it on the Internet it may completely disappear in the future. Books of information will hopefully always be around. But because searching the Internet is so easy and discovering metadata from it is so great having your knowledge on the net is a necessity, IMHO.

A lot of my interest are in radical left politics and the activism that comes from struggle. Sadly many of these struggles are not new to human kind. It seems we’re always taking three steps forward and two steps back. We have traditional methods of passing on information about radical activism knowledge. Great books, teach-ins, consensus groups, fairs, bookstores, etc. But wouldn’t it be great to hear about how-to conduct a sit-in straight from men and women who’ve done it? Wouldn’t it be incredible to listen to instructions on organizing a strike? What about watching experienced radicals discuss movement building? There are so many more possibilities. I wish we had recordings of Bob Sheldon who founded the Internationalist Bookstore in 1981. (maybe we do… ?)

I suppose my recordings of Stan Goff reading his writing about Marxist economic theory counts. But the NC Storyblogging project may be looking for any content gathered. I’m sure rambling story telling is just as welcomed.

But because all knowledge is important I’m interested in documenting many things. Not just politically left concepts from experienced radicals. So I’m sure I’ll be helping Anton record all kinds of stuff. And to be perfectly clear Anton is interested in many story topics. So don’t assume my interest are a limitation of his wonderful project. Respect.

Non-Violent Protest is NOT terrorism

The FBI is investigating domestic activist groups and labeling them terrorists. Why does this sound a lot like COINTELPRO? Because it is!

FBI targeting US activist activities as ‘domestic terrorism’ from Asheville Global Report.

According to new documents released on Dec. 20 by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the FBI is using counterterrorism resources to monitor and infiltrate domestic political organizations that criticize business interests and government policies, despite a lack of evidence that the groups are engaging in or supporting violent action.

COINTELPRO is an acronym (‘Counter Intelligence Program’) for a program of the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation aimed at investigating and disrupting dissident political organizations within the United States. [Definition from Wikipedia]

Found link via Richard Stallman

Runing Windows on a Intel Mac

Yes you read that title correctly. The new Intel Macintosh computers that were announced yesterday by Steve Jobs should be able to run Windows. At first it may not be very easy to do so. But in time, that hurdle will be overcome. See the article, Microsoft, Apple Sign 5-Year Software Pact.

What does this mean for activism, specifically media activism? At first look this means that we’ll have access to ALL of the powerful Windows and Macintosh software on one machine. This is huge! The reality is both operating have unique strengths. It’s an exponential power increase. This new power jump can really help activists.

Will Mac OS X run on a PC? Not any time soon. This is disappointing. Especially for bridging the digital divide. PC hardware tends to be less expensive. It’s what tons of schools and community technology centers have. But those machines will get old and unusable eventually. If you’re responsible for purchasing new computers, and are on a tight budget, consider buying or finding donations of the Apple Mac Mini. It doesn’t have an Intel chip yet but will soon. Once it does you’ll have one very small computer that is relatively inexpensive, can run Windows and OS X, and will be an extremely powerful tool.

In the near future computers will be so cheap and powerful that we can only dream of the RADICAL change we can bring upon the world with a few key strokes. (BTW… this is a good thing. Change is good.)