Archive for February, 2012

Steve Jobs on Bloggers

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

book coverI recently read Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs. I thought the book was not all that well written. Pretty clearly, it was rushed. If you were the publisher, and Steve Jobs quits his job and then dies, what would you do? Install an espresso van outside of Isaacson’s house? Blast an airhorn every time he starts to nod off? Pretty much. And the book shows it.

That said, it was an enjoyable read. It ends up being a recent history of Silicon Valley, which is fabulous subject matter. And it illuminates the great ideological battles that rage in the tech world today: functionality vs. ease-of-use, open vs. closed, innovate vs. intimidate.

The most interesting thing about the book is that Steve Jobs wanted it, and even picked out Isaacson to write it, and cooperated wholeheartedly in it. Yet the book paints Jobs as a chronic a__hole. I mean, it is hard to like Jobs after you get to know him in these pages. I always rooted for Apple against Microsoft – back when that was a thing. But this book made me like Steve Jobs less and caused me to find all kinds of admiration for Bill Gates.

After learning more about him, I find myself deeply ambivalent about Steve Jobs. He brought the power of computing to the masses. He was a wonderful product designer. But he was not someone who upheld the cause of freedom in computing. And if you are a citizen blogger, few things are more important than freedom in computing.

Jobs discussed blogging specifically when he spoke to newspaper tycoon Rupert Murdoch and his son James about the potential of delivering news content over the iPad. He told them:

We can’t depend on bloggers for our news. We need real reporting and editorial oversight more than ever. So I’d love to find a way to help people create digital products where they actually can make money.

I too want a journalism ecosystem with professional reporters. But appifying the web has the potential to block out blogs. And the thought of that makes me sad.

Court in Texas Should Uphold the Full Lousiness of Patent Law

Friday, February 24th, 2012

Over on my Pixelization blog, I’ve explained why I think a ridiculous patent that threatens Silicon Valley should have carried the day in a federal court in Texas:
Court in Texas Should Have Upheld the Full Lousiness of Patent Law

Cameras in the U.S. Supreme Court Closer to Reality

Thursday, February 16th, 2012

Front of U.S. Supreme Court building with dramatic lightingPhoto by me.

Arthur Bright has a nice post at Citizen Media Law Blog on the good news that the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 11 to 7 to require the U.S. Supreme Court to allow television cameras into hearings.

The bill that has been approved in committee, S.B. 1945, provides:

The Supreme Court shall permit television coverage of all open sessions of the Court unless the Court decides, by a vote of the majority of justices, that allowing such coverage in a particular case would constitute a violation of the due process rights of 1 or more of the parties before the Court.

We’ll see if the bill becomes law. And if it does, the U.S. Supreme Court could always, of course, strike it down (making for a fun new case for your Federal Courts textbook). But it’s a great step in the right direction for open government and media freedom.

My concern going forward, if cameras are allowed into SCOTUS, is that everyone will have equal access to the footage. If the networks put their own cameras in and produce copyrighted footage, that won’t be a boon to bloggers and citizen journalists. The best implementation would be for the court to do its own television feed, which, as a federal government work, would be copyright-free.

And, of course, there’d be fewer cords to trip over …

“Star Trek” Law Enforcement at FTC?

Thursday, February 9th, 2012

Antitrust officials at the FTC are looking into Google. Background here and here.

Google, of course, is a big player in blogging, with its Blogger platform.

Now comes Reagan-era former FTC chairmen James C. Miller III and Daniel Oliver arguing in the Washington Examiner that against the FTC investigation, deriding it as “returning to its Star Trek law enforcement policies – that is, to boldly go where no agency has gone before.”

That’s a cheap shot. The FTC has to break new ground when monopolizers do. That would mean they are doing their job.

Miller and Oliver say that antitrust law “is for consumer welfare, not competitor welfare.” True. I totally agree with that. But Miller and Oliver go from there to a silly argument:

Has anyone heard consumers complaining about Google? We have not, probably because consumers are under no pressure to use Google. They do so because they get what they want from Google, and they get it for free.

Duh. So what? Consumers also don’t complain about predatory pricing – designed to drive out competitors. But consumers are sure hurt when competition eventually dries up.

I have no reason to think Google is engaging in any anti-competitive conduct. Time and time again, I see them on the anti-anti-competitive conduct side. But there’s no reason for the FTC not to look into it.

The best part of the op-ed is when Oliver and Miller disclose they are “advisers to Google,” and then immediately say, “but their thoughts and views are their own.”

Ha. Sure. Their arguments may still have merit regardless of their relationship to Google. But to lamely claim their opinions to be unfettered erases credibility in my book.

The real reason Google seems not to be a potential antitrust threat is that in the cyber world, today’s charging gorilla can quickly be hunched over wheezing (Microsoft, MySpace, and many others.)

But bellyaching about the FTC looking into it and doing their jobs is sorry work.

Local Blog vs. Small Town in Washington State

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

Here’s another local-political-blog-vs-small-town story: Emily Heffter in the Seattle Times: Activist’s blog hammers away at Gold Bar, costs tiny town money

The blog, the Gold Bar Reporter, has become a disruptive force in the Gold Bar, Washington, population 2,000. But good disruptive or bad disruptive?

There’s no doubt that it’s costing the town money. In 2010, the town spent $70,000 responding to public-records requests, nearly all of them from Gold Bar bloggers Anne Block and Susan Forbes. That’s out of a total annual budget of $573,898. The town says that they’ve had to re-assign staff to deal with the onslaught of records requests.

On the other hand, the blog has uncovered some things that seem worth uncovering. During the re-election campaign of County Executive Aaron Reardon, the blog accused Reardon of using taxpayer money for a trip with a mistress. A month afterward, a county employee came forward to admit that she traveled with Reardon in pursuit of an affair on county trips. And now the Washington State Patrol is doing an investigation to see if county funds were misused.

Juror Tries to Friend Litigant

Tuesday, February 7th, 2012

WTSP TV logoBeau Zimmer of WTSP television in Florida reports that Jacob Jock, a male juror in a vehicular negligence civil suit attempted to friend the “young, attractive” female defendant. Good for her she didn’t accept the friending. Instead, she altered her attorney, who told the judge, who kicked the guy off the jury.

Then the ex-juror, who has a large helping of some kind of reverse common sense, proceeded to get on Facebook and brag about how he got out of jury service.

That finally did it, and the judge held him in contempt. Now he’s facing possible jail time.

BTW, USA Today mis-credited Beau Zimmer as “Ben Zimmer”.

Citizen Media Org Workers Facing Prosecution in Egypt

Monday, February 6th, 2012

ICFJ logoUSA Today reports that two Americans and two Egyptians, who are employees of the International Center for Journalists, have been referred to Egypt’s Justice Ministry for prosecution.

ICFJ is a DC-based non-profit org that “promotes quality journalism worldwide in the belief that independent, vigorous media are crucial in improving the human condition.”

The president of ICFJ said that the organization was in Egypt to help improve citizen journalism by teaching fair, responsible, and in-context news coverage.

The American staffers are currently stateside – and presumably they won’t be headed back. The two Egyptian staffers have been questioned by Egyptian authorities, but they have not been arrested at this point, and only learned about the prosecutorial referral via reports in the media.