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Merry Christmas From the One Guy at ifnormation

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While everyone is out there making memes, downloading torrents, digital activism-ing, copyfighting, etc., etc. I think it’s easy to lose sight of one of the minor victories social media and the internet has brought us: The democratization of the Yule Log.

What first was once a tool of bourgeoisie dominance is now free! Finally, comrades, our fake Christmas fires have been snatched from the hands of the Capitalist pig dogs! Viva la Yule Log! Viva la revolucion!

But, really, what started as a Christmas tradition at WPIX in New York has garnered enough fandom for enthusiasts to sit in front of their fireplace with a camera. To novices, this might make the internet sound like a strange place. You ain’t seen nothing yet. For internet veterans, this should come as no surprise.

Merry Christmas. And I leave you with this fine, fine example of internet Yule Log technology.


Written by Matt

December 25, 2010 at 10:20 am

A Great Net Neutrality Primer

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I haven’t chimed in on Net Neutrality yet. I know it seems foolish of me not to, as I do fashion this blog as one about information. The thing is, I’d just rather not put them in writing, mostly because I’m not going to pretend I know enough about the debate and the history of FCC policy and regulation to expound what I feel are informed opinions. Even some of the best, like Slate’s Jack Shafer, who so entertainingly mocks the trend story, submits some this hilarious alternate universe where the American internet is essentially Minitel and Vancouver becomes today’s Silicon Valley, that gets holes poked in it in the comments.

Not that I don’t have views on the subject: I don’t like government intervention, and a lot of industries do better with out it (craft brewing comes to mind immediately) and Net Neutrality supporters seem to cite a quote from former AT&T CEO Ed Whitacre from 2005 that proves paid prioritization is imminent (in fairness, he also said AT&T wouldn’t do that). Plus, I feel like there’s a whole lot of disincentive for telecoms to interrupt the internet as we know it for fear of a whole lot of backlash. So needless to say, I’m not totally sold on it,  but I’ve also read things that nudge me away from that stance.

In an attempt to get myself educated, I came across this guide from cybertelecom.org, which links lays out both sides of the argument on a case-by-case basis. It’s fairly academic, so expect to spend some time with it. I’m certainly not done with it, but from what I can tell it’s a very good primer.

Written by Matt

December 23, 2010 at 6:26 pm

Assagne’s Leaked Police Report and Lack of Self-Awareness

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A bit of irony yesterday from the New York Daily News – not only has Wikileak’s founder Julian Assange’s police report been leaked, but his legal team is pretty pissed about it.

According to the Assagne camp “the purpose can only be one thing: trying to make Julian look bad.” But as more details come out about the rape case, the more questions arise. When we in the United States hear “rape” we immediately conjure thoughts of a repulsive mix of violence, coercion, force, and sexual assault, which is why its so hard to quantify false rape charges, and why rape cases are so damming.

In Sweden, though, the concept of rape is a bit different, highlighted by the dual facts that 1) only 20 percent of rape accusations go to trial and only half result in convictions and 2) Sweden casts a large net over what they consider rape. These are the things that Assange’s supporters trump up in his defense.

Here in the States, though – where Vice President Biden recently called Assange a terrorist – this kind of thing is a PR nightmare. I, for one, am a staunch supporter of what Wikileaks is doing, although I do think Assage is a gigantic douchebag, but for those who think that its just a-okay for the government to do whatever diplomatically and seal those documents up for decades, this is not helping his already skewed image. When the word “rape” is brought into the conversation, few will care that “Miss W” consented to having sex with Assange, then they stopped, then she woke up with him having sex with her (“Miss A” also consented after Assange’s, strong comings-on).  He publicly refers to himself as a gentleman, though few would agree that this is gentlemanly behavior. The courts will decide if this is rape or not, but little doubt remains that Assange does need a healthy dose of humility.

The sad part, too, is that this hilariously ironic lack of self-awareness and self-interest will, largely, be missed by the public. Yes, its funny that the master of the leaked document is deriding the leak of documents directly related to him. What’s worse, though, is that he could have played this right into his hands. Instead his legal team goes to the press wreaking of the same closed nature as the governments Assange hopes to hold accountable. If anything the leaked documents show that Assange is the asshole we all knew he was to begin with, but his status as a rapist is questionable, at least in the sense that it is not 100 percent cut and try. He could have used that to his advantage. Instead, we sit here and laugh at him.

Written by Matt

December 23, 2010 at 1:42 am

Posted in Wikileaks

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Ghana’s Burgeoning…Economy?

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Over at Vice they’ve got a nice story about how Ghana is quickly overtaking Nigeria as the world’s top dog in the internet scam game (which I guess is really a plug about their new show on MTV, where the send one of their bespectacled writers to the country to investigate, in an attempt to be ironic, I suppose).

That’s right, the country that eliminated us from the last two World Cups is also preying on our most feeble minded computer users, begging me to ask when Ghana’s domination of the United States will end.

It used to be Nigerian princes sending us emails asking for personal information, but recent developments have what I assume to be Ghanaian princes sending us emails asking for personal information. The sad part is that people still fall for this kind of thing. The profits reaped by those faking royalty has spawned Sakawa, which used to be the term for simple scamming, but has since evolved into a term for the low-level opulence these guys have attained.

Don’t cry for Nigeria, though, as they have since made the horizontal move to being Africa’s film capital. Not that the film venture isn’t rife with fraud, too – a new movie only has two weeks before it is pirated across the continent. But, hey, at least its more legitimate than email scams.

Written by Matt

December 22, 2010 at 10:41 am

Posted in Tech Culture

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Zuckerberg, You’re Flat Out Wrong

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In a story on CNN Money 26-year-old Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said he has “made every mistake [with Facebook] you can make. But people allow those mistakes because they love [Facebook].”

Sorry, Mark. That just isn’t the case.

More and more people I know don’t love Facebook, necessarily, but they love the service it provides. A lot of people I know deactivate their accounts or at least consider deactivating them regularly. Many come back or simply back off the idea of deactivation in the first place. But no one gushes about Facebook. Not anymore anyway.

I understand this is anecdotal evidence. But the big stories that have surrounded Facebook in recent months haven’t necessarily been good ones. I’m fairly certain the legacy of The Social Network, even if there are factual problems, will outlast that of Zuckerberg’s donation to Newark schools, unless, of course, you’re a student in Newark.

You hear comparatively less about Apple, who people love, despite the fact their products are the least open of any hardware manufacturer. And Google does a great job of covering itself in “Don’t Be Evil” while doing some reletively evil things.

People aren’t smitten by Messages, constant changes to the layout, and privacy problems. It’s hard to take a company seriously that is trying to redefine the very nature of privacy. I know this because I see people complaining about them. On Facebook.

This could mean that people really do love Facebook and overreact to little changes. More likely than not, though, the utility Facebook provides users greatly outweighs any disdain the user might feel for the company. Facebook expands your social circle substantially and allows to you keep in touch with people you normally wouldn’t. As is the case with these websites, unless there’s a good number of people actively using the site, it will flop. Couple these two things together and it keeps people coming back.

There’s a reason New Yorkers keep riding the Subway despite the MTA’s inability to run a decent public transit system. The utility public transit provides is simply greater than owning a car in the city. It’s the same case with Facebook.

Written by Matt

November 17, 2010 at 5:09 am

Posted in Facebook

Man, Julian Assange Seems Like an Asshole

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I always had my inklings about him after those rape and molestation allegations came out earlier this year, but recent behavior has really solidified it for me: Julian Assange is an asshole.

A profile of the man in Sunday’s New York Times lays out the reasons nicely. He has a sick sense of self-importance and a DIY aura of grandeur that keeps him from seeing any disagreement as a good faith disagreement. They are all attempts to destroy him, up to and including unwanted sexual advances on his part. These are not mistakes, no, no, these are deliberate attempts to destroy his credibility and bring down his game-changing website. The Times hails him as the Internet-era’s great font of inflammatory information, and while there is little to dispute about that there also happens to be little evidence to suggest that he sees himself as this day and age’s great transformative figure. A suave ladies man (“They call me the James Bond of journalism”), the true defender of Western Civilization (“Mr. Assange said America was an increasingly militarized society and a threat to democracy”), a man with near infinite intellectual capacity (he is in possession of “what friends call a near genius I.Q.”), and the Church of Wikileaks’ sole messianic figure (“I am the heart and soul of his organization, its founder, philosopher, spokesperson, original coder, organizer, financier, and all the rest.”)

Then he walks out on a CNN interview when asked about the criticism by his colleagues (minions?) and the rape allegations. Evidently he is alternating between these developments being dirty tricks to bring him down and a “If we’re not here to talk about my greatness, I’m leaving” type attitude. Whether he likes it or not these two things are part of Wikileaks, and when the Taliban finds, and inevitably executes, Afghans leaking Americans information, this surely will ingrain itself into Wikileaks mythology. I would expect Assange’s continued dismissal of these criticisms, as well, even when he is forced to confront them.

This kind of behavior does end up manifesting itself in people who do tend to operate on a higher intellectual level (one off the top of my head: Ayn Rand). “I’m awesome and thus deserve the respect and reverence of all those around me” seems to be a common meme among people like this. They become absolutely certain of their abilities and inflate their greatness disproportionate to their worth, think Crime and Punishment style delusions of grandeur. Not that Wikileaks isn’t important or great or changing the way journalists do their work (just like Atlas Shrugged remains a great and influential novel). It is entirely possible that in order to do the kinds of things Assange (and Rand) does (do) there is some kind of value to carrying yourself with so much arrogance it comes out in your sweat. Its what makes these people so interesting – and simultaneously makes them assholes.

Written by Matt

October 25, 2010 at 3:14 pm

Google Playing into “Search Engine Overload”

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Ok, I don’t put much stock in Bing’s “search engine overload,” the fictional ailment in which an individual poises a question and is answered by those around them bellowing asinine answers, as a legitimate critique of Google’s foundational service, but it seems to me Google’s new instant search function is playing right into Bing’s hands. Well, their advertising department anyway.

Type in, for example, New York. If I was just interested in the city or the state, that’s fine, but I can go hundreds of places from there. In the majority of cases I feel like instant search is completely unhelpful. At least auto-complete was good for a couple laughs and it didn’t mess with the page’s aesthetics.  Oh, yeah, and Google had to censor a bunch of instant search results, from Canadian rock band Bearnaked Ladies to the bottom half of women’s underwear to safeguard against a bunch of 11-year-old boys crowding around a monitor in one of their computer classes and giggling. God forbid there’s any giggling. Nevermind the fact you can just hit enter and see the results anyway.

Not that this is changing anything. Bing is still going to be second…err…third behind Google (and Yahoo, evidently). Although Microsoft is the one company I feel has the ability to make legitimate inroads into Google’s market dominance, though that remains to be seen.

Written by Matt

October 14, 2010 at 4:01 am

Posted in Google

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