I have to say the upside of having bloggers at the DNC is that I've learned the ropes of how these conventions go, through their eyes. I didn't know about speech embargoes until a few people posted about speeches before they happened.
While watching Fox news for a few minutes tonight (to see O'Reilly take on Michael Moore), I noticed they don't show speeches in their entirety like the other networks, but simply cut to certain sections. Knowing about these embargoes, it becomes clear why they choose to cut away to live, in-progress speeches -- they know exactly what's coming up and they can highlight the most offending sections, and just those sections, out of context from the rest of the speech.
The intersection of photography and the law has always interested me. I just got the strangest note from a museum, reading me the riot act over a few photos I posted online that I took of their collection. I explained I wasn't selling my photos on my personal site and they eventually called off the hounds, but I'm still taken aback whenever I go somewhere with fine print on the tickets that lets you know commercial photography is a strict no-no.
Any lawyers in the audience care to tell me why these things are enforceable? I can see how taking a photo of a painting, then making lots of prints and selling it would be harming the museum (that might have prints for sale in the gift shop). But taking a photograph of an object within the museum, or a strange view of a sculpture there, how does that harm the museum aside from them merely wanting a financial cut of the action? Is it legal for them to demand you can't sell a photo if you are at a private, non-profit museum? How about at a public one?
I don't know exactly what the relationship is with audioscrobbler, but Last.FM appears to be everyone's audioscrobbler data (like mine), but with mp3 streaming of the music. I just tried it out and heard my own collection streaming back at me, as a virtual radio station. It will even let me hear all my friends' music in streaming form.
Something makes me think this can't possibly be legal or last for any length of time, but it is a cool use of Audioscrobbler's data.
update: Since I posted this I've learned that audioscrobbler and last.fm are working together off the same data, share the same programming teams, and are housed in the same building. I've also heard that unlike the My.MP3.com case in the US, under UK law, the site is legit and legal the licenses the company has are a-ok on internet streaming, which is great to hear. I'd hate to see either useful, cool service go the way of the
original napster dodo.
I wasn't going to write any more about the hotel net blocking thing since the head of IT over at the Sir Francis Drake Hotel promised they'd remove the employee proxy from the guest wireless network, but it's still in place a day later. But this isn't about that. I woke up a bit early this morning and decided to surf around a bit more to see who and how stuff is blocked in the SiteFilter proxy software.
I tried all sorts of blogs, both new and old, political and tech, but the ones that were blocked were completely random. Like I said before, waxy.org is blocked (screenshot), but similar sites are not. Gawker is blocked (screenshot), but no other gawker media site is (wonkette and gizmodo are fine). Acts of Volition seemed strange to block (screenshot), since it's a pretty tightly focused tech/design blog. On the purely humorous side, Oliver Willis is considered not a "Chat" site like the rest of the blocked blogs, but a "Sex" site (screenshot). I bet the #joiito army is not going to be happy when they hear that Joi Ito's site is blocked (screenshot).
When I found another random blog blocked, Girlhacker in this case (screenshot), I tried her main domain, but that worked (screenshot). So it seems they are putting in specific URLs in some cases (like this one), but in other cases (like MetaFilter), I can't get to anything.metafilter.com, as the entire domain is blocked.
Those last two are a bit more interesting than simply blocking one person's daily thoughts. I've been told this system is in place in every public library in Georgia (internet filters are currently required on a federal level or they lose their funding if I remember correctly). I know libraries have a longstanding problem with random folks viewing porn at free kiosks, but I think blocking a major blog service like Blogger is taking this too far. We've already seen examples of voices only heard through blogging, like the Homeless Guy and Salam Pax. They use their blogs as their secret channel to communicate to the world, and it's not hard to imagine someone with an unique perspective on life that was limited to free internet use at a library.
I'm often jokingly comparing bloggers to pamphleteers of yore, but within blogging there are definitely some significant cases where people have a message to get out that can change the world. To find out that an institution of democracy like a library might be barring someone from sharing their perspective with the world saddens me. The irony that I had to go to significant means to even post this entry (my blog software has a *.metafilter.com address) isn't lost on me.
Every few weeks I get email from folks blocked from viewing metafilter at work, asking for my help. I'd never experienced it, so I usually tell folks that if they don't know the right IT person to ask, maybe they shouldn't browse the internet on the job.
I'm staying in a hotel in San Francisco right now and they offer free hotel wireless, which is nice. What isn't nice is that they've got a proxy server set up, just like a lot of large workplaces. You can probably guess where this is going.
There doesn't seem to be much rhyme or reason. BoingBoing works fine, but Waxy.org doesn't. Why on earth should a hotel wireless network care if you want to visit "chat" sites? Why insult your own guests?
update: Cory asks where it is, and it's the Villa Florence, which is a Kimpton Hotel. The network is surprisingly controlled, as I couldn't VPN around the block, but ended up using a public proxy to get to all the sites I wanted to. I contacted their proxy czar (he's listed on the error pages) to see why they do this.
A friend came up with a possible explanation: they might put the proxy up to block employees from goofing off, and didn't bother to build a separate employee network from the hotel customer network. If that's the case, I sincerely hope the same employee computers used to browse the web aren't the same computers that capture my credit card info during check-in. Seems like a bad security problem waiting to happen.
It's not a bad hotel, I've got a bed with surprisingly high thread-count sheets for a lowball Priceline offer. But if you're a internet type person traveling through SF, you might want to skip the Sir Francis Drake and Villa Florence hotels while they have this network control in place.
update #2: I heard back from the hotel IT lead and they had added the proxy for employee surfing, which they never intended to apply to the hotel customer network. He said they are working on lifting the proxy for guests today.
I also found out that the software "SmartFilter" that ran the hotel proxy apparently uses the same database nationwide, since as of now, you can no longer access MetaFilter.com from any public library in the state of Georgia. Terrific.
Back in 1998 or so, I used to totally idolize people that published stuff online. I'd check their sites everyday for updates and vociferously read every word they published and every once in a while I might exchange some email with them. I was entirely too excited to see those names in my from: list. I remember the first time I actually saw these people in person, and I say "saw" instead of "met" because I was too awestruck to even approach them. By the summer of 2000 I moved to San Francisco, and so I got to meet almost everyone I read and I'm sure I was an annoying person around them, quizzing them on their lives and constantly bringing up obscure facts they mentioned online years before. It's hard not to when you know almost everything about a stranger's life.
About three years ago, I started meeting lots of people that were just like me, except the tables were turned. They'd meet me at a conference or a party and ask how my grandmother was doing, if the camera I was holding was the one someone sent me off my wishlist, and if I was still living next to noisy neighbors. I got to learn how awkward it is to meet someone that knows almost every detail of your life, but at the same time they're a complete stranger to you. A lot of these conversations are unfortunately one-sided.
I've gotten used to being on both sides of those situations and I still get a small thrill when I meet someone whose site I've read and I've emailed before.
Yesterday, I got one of those awestruck, early era feelings for the first time in years. I walked into a hotel lobby, someone said my name, then handshakes and I heard "I'm Jon Armstrong and this is Heather."
Hmm. Why does that sound familiar? Heather Armstrong? Hmm.
OH MY FUCKING GOD IT'S THE DOOCE.
Dooce! I fought the urge to hit them with shotgun questions about Leta, the Kitchen Makeover, and their dog Chuck. I'm sure my eyes widened when I realized it was them but I remained calm. I dropped my things off, got dinner down the road, and returned to a nice conversation with Jon and Heather and I did indeed eventually get to hear about Leta, the Kitchen and everything else I've ever enjoyed them both writing about over the years.
The recent Flickr announcement of combined photo/blog feeds at Feedburner brings up a feature I've been meaning to build for ages. For no other reason than to see if it could be done, I've been looking into a way to create a combined feed for this site, featuring two entries above the typical archive of the last x weblog entries. The first entry would be the photo of the day, taken from my tenyearsofmylife.com site. The second was going to be an extra special feed-only post that was basically "my current favorite word" or "thought of the day" that I'm too lazy to make a full entry on this site or a sidebar feature.
I never got around to doing it because the ten years site is on another server and the feed would have to be sucked in somehow, then two onsite feeds would need to be combined. It seems like a perfect fit for someone like Feedburner though, since they're pulling in all sorts of stuff.
There's an obvious endpoint I could see quickly moving my feed to. I've often joked that among all my websites, this blog is sort of my own personal "temple of ego," since it's fairly self-indulgent and I pretty much link to everything I'm posting somewhere else, from here. I could see basically creating an "ego feed" that is the ultimate representation of me. Here's what I would put in my ultimate combined feed:
- last x posts from this site
- most recent photo from my Ten Years site
- feed of my recent posts to MetaFilter, MetaTalk, and Ask MetaFilter
- x most recent Flickr photos
- last x bookmarks posted to my del.icio.us space
- my upcoming events, on the days they happen I suppose
- last x posts I've made to the Creative Commons weblog
- my last x posts to PVRblog
- link to the last feature I wrote
- Any new story I write at Ticketstubs
- Any significant comments I make on any other blog, if I could optionally click something to "send to my feed" as I post it.
Ideally, all the last x posts/photos from other sites would be intermixed into the feed, as they happen. So the feed wouldn't be always in the same order, but ordered by posting date, and may include content from any website or service I'm posting to.
Basically, it'd be the cult of me, all in a single feed, and you wouldn't have to scour a dozen sites looking for my contributions if you really wanted to follow my writing. I suspect we're not a long way off from Feedburner allowing you to do something like that.
Today as I sent an IM to a friend correcting a their/there/they're use in a blog post, it reminded me that I should post a lazyweb request for an MT plugin I've always wanted.
I want a MT plugin that will let a select group of my closest, most trusted friends correct typos in text and URLs on my blog posts and republish their changes without my intervention. If I'm gone for a couple days and improperly used your when I meant you're, I'd love it if a friend fixed that while I was away. I first got the idea when I was trying to think of ways to make Orkut or Friendster useful. If there was some API to those apps that let MT know if someone was a best friend or life partner-level connection, they could be granted temporary edit rights on my blog (maybe Flickr's API could let this work for people I designate as a friend and family member, which seems to be the closest form of relationship there).
Ideally, I'd like an easy way to say that 4 or 5 people I trust could make edits. And I suppose the edits should be checked before and after, with a certain byte count limit, lest you allow your friends to completely rewrite your post. An email telling me what took place would be nice, but I'd like my friends to go ahead and save their changes, with a way for me to rescue the earlier pre-edit entry just in case.
Actually, maybe it wouldn't be such a bad idea to allow anyone to suggest an edit on the post, sending me an email, with a one-click way to approve or disapprove it. Maybe after a random stranger has properly corrected me half a dozen times, I could elevate their status to having republish rights on the edits so I wouldn't have to approve them anymore.
A plugin like this would basically wiki-ize the weblog world, allowing readers to participate and correct small mistakes. I often write in margins of books and email authors all the little typos I found while reading their novel, but this would put that kind of power right into anyone's hands. In the world of programming they say "given a million eyeballs, all bugs are shallow" and maybe in this case, given a million editors, all typos will be fixed.
It can't be impossible to make this happen, right?
Back in 1992, I remember watching the film Bob Roberts in a theather and thinking it was so far over the top that it was stupid. Tim Robbins was going for a political Spinal Tap, but I remember at the time I thought the satire sailed clear past funny and landed somewhere in the depths of self-mockery.
About a month ago I was sifting through some shows my TiVo recorded and Bob Roberts was there, playing on some cable channel. I watched about 30 minutes of it, and after the last few years of post-war politics and overal coarsening of debate, it no longer seemed outlandish and I wondered if I should reconsider my original take on the piece.
Today a friend IMed me a link to an over-the-top conservative singer, and when sampling his tracks I heard the lyric "when in doubt, wipe them out" which crystallized the singer's brilliant Mid-East peace plan.
So Bob Roberts. Turns out it's not much of a satire anymore.
Last summer, I setup a dual platform system, and it uses a single keyboard and mouse linked to a PC for control, but I have to keep an extra mouse on the mac to wake it up.
During a reboot of my PC today, I had five minutes of keyboardless control of my mac, using its own mouse. With Google.com as my browser start page, I figured I'd surf around as I waited for the PC and its keyboard to come back to life. In a matter of seconds, I clicked around Google, ended up at Blogger, a few clicks later I was at Evhead, and from there I was at my own site. Whoa! How'd that happen?
I went back and counted the steps:
1. From Google to the "more »" link
2. From the more page to Blogger
3. From Blogger to their about page
4. From the about page to the "buy us" link to Dan Gillmor's story on the Blogger/Pyra deal
5. The story links to Evhead
6. Ev's site links to an entry on my blog
Six links from Google.com to my blog. Actually, a few hours later, that post has scrolled off Evhead so I guess it's not such a short path anymore.
A minute of more clicking and I found a second path from Google to my site that used 7 links. From Blogger, to their Knowledge Base, is a link to a Wired story on Blogger Burnout, which links to Kottke.org which has a sidebar link to my site. While the KB link to Wired is also time-sensitive and will scroll off, I suspect from the Evhead path, you can get to almost any blog online. Actually, Ev used to have a long blogroll, so it's probably tougher now.
I'm kind of amazed I can get from Google to my site, but I'm more amazed it only took a handful of clicks (remember, since I didn't have a keyboard entry for a few minutes, this is how I discovered it). I wonder if someone could write a simple script to determine the most direct path from Google to your site.
I think I stumbled upon a new web game. How many links does it take to get to your site from Google.com? (update: Kottke has an open thread here for answers)
Anyone that ever wanted to send a photo from their phone to their weblog should take a look at Flickr's new feature that allows you to post to any Blogger, LiveJournal, MT, or Typepad blog. Last year I spent several days configuring scripts that ran on three different servers and it worked, but just barely. In a few minutes of setup at Flickr, you should be able to do pretty much the same thing, for free.
Good news of the day: I found out a Strangers with Candy movie is being filmed.
I don't know how much I'll be posting here this month as I'll be glued to the Tour de France blog and TiVo'd race day episodes from OLN for the next three weeks.
It looks like the changes in the tour this year are going to make things tough for everyone involved, leveling the playing field and maybe even favoring the mountain climbers. I would love to see Lance win this year, I believe unless something drastic happens, even though he may not be the strongest physically, he's the strongest mentally and will push himself on top. At 32, it's likely this is Lance's last year or two that he'll even have a chance at winning, and I hope he does it.
I think Hamilton, Ullrich, and Mayo are going to give him a run for his money though.