30.4.07

[vitural = reality]

Stanford's Virtual Human Interaction Lab researchers are investigating how new digital technology can alter human beings and their interactions. Using advanced virtual reality technology researchers can transport student subjects into incredibly real environments, technology the researchers say could be used in a variety of human interactions from police lineups to America's obesity epidemic. Director of the Virtual Human Interaction Lab and assistant professor at Stanford Jeremy Bailenson has been researching a "virtual police lineup" that eliminates the possibility of a witness identifying the wrong person based on a characteristic that could have changed, such as weight or hair. By virtually making the lineup suspects the same weight, dressed in the same clothing, and sporting the same hair cuts, the witness is forced to identify the suspect based on their face rather than a changeable trait, resulting in a more accurate and positive identification. This technology can also be used to transport the witness back to the scene of the crime to view the suspect in the proper surroundings. "In virtual reality, you get unlimited information--you can see someone's face from any distance and any angle," Bailenson said. "When you give them unlimited information they can use, they're more likely to be accurate." The system works using a high tech helmet that captures the users movements using an accelerometer. Four cameras monitor the user's position in the room by tracing a light-emitting diode on the helmet. A computer records the movement information, while a second computer continually redraws the world and sends the information back to the helmet. Additional studies with the technology include monitoring a subject's physical activity levels after watching themselves exercise in the virtual world and tracking a subject's confidence levels after watching an attractive or unattractive simulation of themselves. Bailenson's research was funded by a 2002 National Science Foundation grant.



Article from the San Francisco Chronicle.

[ontario goes solar]


Tyler Hamilton
Energy Reporter

The Ontario government has given approval for a California company to construct a massive solar "farm" near Sarnia that will blanket an area larger than all three Toronto islands with hundreds of thousands of sun-soaking panels.

It will be the largest solar power station in North America and among the most expansive in the world to use photovoltaic cells that produce electricity when exposed to sunlight. Once complete, the 40-megawatt Sarnia project will be able to supply enough emission-free electricity to power between 10,000 and 15,000 homes on sunny days.

"This is certainly the most exciting thing I've ever worked on," said Peter Carrie of OptiSolar Farms Canada Inc., a subsidiary of Hayward, Calif.-based OptiSolar Inc. "We want to take solar mainstream."

The Ontario Power Authority has agreed to purchase the electricity under a 20-year contract that will see the clean power go into the provincial grid. An official announcement is expected today from the energy ministry.


Stanton said solar panel systems, once relegated to the rooftops of homes, farms and commercial buildings, are growing in size as technology costs fall and government incentives increase. "There's also an increasing recognition of the public benefits associated with solar energy production," he said.

"Solar power is carbon-free, it's pollution-free, it doesn't need water, doesn't make noise. Solar also produces power during peak business hours, so it displaces natural gas," he said.

But compared to coal, nuclear power, even wind, solar's squeaky-clean image comes at a high price. OptiSolar is selling the electricity to the province under its new standard offer program, which pays a premium for electricity that comes from small-scale renewable projects. In the case of wind, it's 11 cents per kilowatt-hour. Solar fetches 42 cents per kilowatt hour, nearly four times as much.

Deborah Doncaster, executive director of the Ontario Sustainable Energy Association, said the premium may seem high but is justified given the environmental benefits. She said it's often forgotten that solar-generated electricity tends to offset natural gas during peak periods when air conditioners are blasting and electricity rates are at their highest.

"Forty-two cents compared against 6.4 cents for nuclear is comparing apples to oranges," she said, adding that the publicly touted costs of nuclear power and fossil fuels never reflect environmental costs, health impacts, and industry subsidies.

"I think the issue around 42 cents has to be looked at in the proper context of hidden costs," Doncaster said.

And while large on a solar scale, the Sarnia project is a lightweight compared to nuclear or coal plants. Peak electricity consumption in Ontario yesterday was 18,055 megawatts. OptiSolar's farm could at most supply .2 per cent of that power.

Carrie said OptiSolar chose Ontario over its home base of California, because of the 42-cent offer, which isn't available anywhere else in North America. Only European countries have taken such an approach, explaining why world solar leader Germany installed seven times more solar panels than the United States in 2006.

OptiSolar hopes the premium offered through the Ontario program will give it a return on its investment over the life of its 20-year contract with the province, said Carrie.

The company hopes to break ground in 2008 after getting the necessary municipal zoning approvals and building permits. It has already purchased the real estate it needs, mostly low-value farm and industrial land, and has full backing of the local community.

Carrie said the Sarnia area was chosen because it has the right mix of land and good access to the electrical distribution network. It's also in the most southerly region of Ontario, meaning it offers the best "sun hours."

Solar tends to be a low-maintenance technology, but several local contractors will be hired to help install and connect thousands of solar panels.

"There will also be ongoing contracts for property maintenance, grounds maintenance, security and equipment cleaning," said Carrie, a Canadian and former employee of the energy ministry. He most recently ran his own solar installation business in California.

If all goes according to schedule, the Sarnia solar farm will be fully functional in 2010 and will continue supplying clean electricity to the grid for the next 30 to 50 years.

Not much is known about OptiSolar, though many of its private investors are Canadian. It was co-founded by Randy Goldstein and Phil Rettger, who previously founded the Calgary-based oil sands technology and project developer Opti Canada Inc.

The company says it has developed a way of mass-producing solar cells in a way that dramatically lowers the cost of the technology, making it competitive with conventional forms of electricity generation.

Carrie said the goal in Ontario is to showcase OptiSolar's technology and demonstrate its performance, while at the same time generating revenues from electricity production.

[Google's $3.1 billion deal for the online advertising firm DoubleClick could put the company at odds with itself]


Internal conflicts often happen in finance, when investment banks find themselves advising both sides in a merger. And it happens in agribusiness, energy and other industries where giant companies with fingers in many pies are both buyers and sellers of the same commodity. But it is particularly common in technology and media.

The DoubleClick deal has prompted Microsoft and IBM and others to ask the Federal Trade Commission to investigate the deal on antitrust grounds. And privacy advocates worry that Google will not live up to its pledge to keep the customer data collected by DoubleClick out of the hands of Google's search managers.

But the thorniest conflicts could arise from DoubleClick's Performics division.

Performics helps its clients get better position in search results. Essentially, it works to game the systems of Google, Yahoo and other search engines.

"Google is treading in dangerous waters right now," writes Ross Dunn of WebProNews.com. Google's search results "are supposed to be unbiased and highly relevant," but with Performics, "Google is put into the conflicted position of trying to generate profits by providing result-oriented organic ranking services for its own 'unbiased' organic search results."

The worry, in other words, is that Google's search results could be compromised by operating a division with an interest in skewing those results in favor of clients.

[...]

"Google is treading in dangerous waters right now," writes Ross Dunn of WebProNews.com. Google's search results "are supposed to be unbiased and highly relevant," but with Performics, "Google is put into the conflicted position of trying to generate profits by providing result-oriented organic ranking services for its own ‘unbiased' organic search results."

The worry, in other words, is that Google's search results could be compromised by operating a division with an interest in skewing those results in favor of clients.


To continue reading the CNet article click
here.

29.4.07

[sue vs. chris]

So, is this an example of transliteracy or multimodality? Not sure but it was hilarious:






28.4.07

[narrative and multimodality conference - day 2]

Today marked the second and final day of the Narrative and Multimodality conference organised by Dr. Ruth Page and held at UCE. The morning began with 4 presentations after which we were divided into 3 smaller groups.
Each group settled into a room and prepared for an exciting workshop with the focus on pedagogical and narratological implications of web work. Our group, the
structure and suspense group, first read Inanimate Alice episode one so that everyone in the group would be able to talk about the same thing. Bruce guided us through the reading on a huge screen and I must say that Alice really should be experience with such a screen and volume. The booming music really helped build suspense (although people in the group didn't all agree that it was in fact suspensefull but rather anxiety-inducing). After the reading we discussed using Inanimate Alice in the class/lecture room and how we might encourage students to recognise that reading multimodal works such as Alice means reading all of the modes (I think so anyway) involved in the storytelling - not just concentrating on the textual apparatus (as one member of our group thought was more apt).

After the illuminating discussion we gathered back in the main room for a panel (which I chaired!).
Jennifer Harding presented some fascinating insights thanks to her use of wikis in her undergrad. English classes. She def. gave us all some ideas to try.

The afternoon sessions were all fascinating and ranged in topics concerning high-tech uses of multimodality (Sarah Hatton and Melissa McGurgan on Using Sound Maps in Multimodal Environments to Promote Interactive Narrative) and multimodal print (
Alison Gibbons' reading of a print text which, through its use of multimodality, encouraged an embodied reading). Fascinating stuff.


In his plenary session,
Michael Toolan focussed on the literary/narrative potential (or lack of) of what he calls "high-tech multimodal works." Toolan explained that because certain hypertexts are "too open, too interactive" problems arise because readers cannot share the same "object" (as a book) - something that remains the same across multiple viewers and platforms and time. Therefore (according to Toolan) hypertext is not narrative art. It's "too protean in seqence and event to let us analyse hypertext as narrative." While Toolan is certainly right that some hypertexts and web fictions are open, I would argue (as I did in our workshop session) that most readers would share the same general understanding of plot. After all, the author (hyper or not) has written a story (if we are confining ourselves to web fictions and not poetry or art although those too can be narrative) for a reader. Though there are links, it is ultimately the author who controls access to them and would probably want a story to evolve. Texts such as "afternoon" were mentioned but that seems to be an example where reading paths might differ however readers do visit the same lexias. So, the order of events might be different, but the reader encounters the same narrative fragments. Also, does that mean narrative only exists if "we" can share it? What about each reader narrativising each reading experience? I'd like to hear more about what Toolan meant and I wonder if his views would change after reading stories like Inanimate Alice which is pretty teleological so readers would then share the same "object," or even These Waves of Girls where the underlying story is apparent from most nodes. Toolan successfully got us all thinking (which deserves congratualtions as it was the final session of the day) and his talk has helped me think about what place web fictions can play in pedagogy - what kinds of ideas we'll have to teach students before beginning to teach them multimodal works.



**Thanks to Ruth who did an incredible job organising the whole conference and making sure it all ran smoothly.**





UPDATE: Ruth has also shared some reflections on the conference.

27.4.07

[narrative and multimodality conference]

Whew. I'm back in my funky hotel room, windowless but complete with a 42 inch plasma screen with a web cam view of Birmingham city centre - how transliterate.

After a full day of interesting talks - including plenaries from David Herman (he even did a bit on the multimodality of The Hulk!) and Sue Thomas (developing the idea of transliteracy and including an excellent video on how to eat kumquats) - I'm still digesting what was said/shown/enacted. Highlights, besides the plenaries, included Astrid Ensslin's paper on Kate Pullinger and babel's The Breathing Wall (a gold star goes out to Alice Bell who provided the breathing!) and Ruth Gregson's presentation on tv adaptations (she had a few funny quotes including: "bull*%$£ baffles brains"). Although the day was heavy in theory, it was lighthearted with everyone open to new ideas and various offers of different directions in which to take the concept of "multimodality."

[power of words]

Student writes essay, arrested by police




By Jeff Long and Carolyn Starks

Tribune staff reporters

April 26, 2007

High school senior Allen Lee sat down with his creative writing class on Monday and penned an essay that so disturbed his teacher, school administrators and police that he was charged with disorderly conduct.

"I understand what happened recently at Virginia Tech," said the teen's father, Albert Lee, referring to last week's massacre of 32 students by gunman Seung-Hui Cho. "I understand the situation."

But he added: "I don't see how somebody can get charged by writing in their homework. The teacher asked them to express themselves, and he followed instructions."

Allen Lee, an 18-year-old straight-A student at Cary-Grove High School, was arrested Tuesday near his home and charged with disorderly conduct for an essay police described as violently disturbing but not directed toward any specific person or location.

The youth's father said his son was not suspended or expelled but was forced to attend classes elsewhere for now.

Today, Cary-Grove students rallied behind the arrested teen by organizing a petition drive to let him back in their school. They posted on walls quotes from the English teacher in which she had encouraged students to express their emotions through writing.

"I'm not going to lie. I signed the petition," said senior James Gitzinger. "But I can understand where the administration is coming from. I think I would react the same way if I was a teacher."

Cary Police Chief Ron Delelio said the charge was appropriate even though the essay was not published or posted for public viewing.

Disorderly conduct, which carries a penalty of 30 days in jail and a $1,500 fine, is filed for pranks such as pulling a fire alarm or dialing 911. But it can also apply when someone's writings can disturb an individual, Delelio said.

"The teacher was alarmed and disturbed by the content," he said.

But a civil rights advocate said the teacher's reaction to an essay shouldn't make it a crime.

"One of the elements is that some sort of disorder or disruption is created," said Ed Yohnka, a spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois. "When something is done in private—when a paper is handed in to a teacher—there isn't a disruption."

The "key outcomes" this month for the Creative English class was for students to identify and utilize poetic conventions to communicate ideas and emotions. With that in mind, teachers reminded students that if they read something that posed a threat to self or others, the school could take action, said High School District 155 Supt. Jill Hawk.

The English teacher read the essay and reported it to a supervisor and the principal. A round-table discussion with district officials conveyed, with lively debate, and they decided to report it to the police.

"Our staff is very familiar with adolescent behavior. We're very well versed with types of creativity put into writing. We know the standards of adolescent behavior that are acceptable and that there is a range," Hawk said.

"There can certainly be writing that conveys concern for us even though it does not name names location or date," he said.

The charge against Lee comes as schools across the country wrestle with how to react in the wake of the shootings at the Virginia Tech campus at Blacksburg, Va.

Bomb threats at high schools in Schaumburg and Country Club Hills have caused evacuations, and extra police were on duty at a Palos Hills high school this week because of a threatening note found in the bathroom of a McDonald's restaurant a half-mile away.

Experts say the charge against Lee is troubling because it was over an essay that even police say contained no direct threats against anyone at the school. However, Virginia Tech's actions toward Cho came under heavy scrutiny after the killings because of the "disturbing" plays and essays teachers say he had written for classes.

Simmie Baer, an attorney with the Children and Family Justice Center at Northwestern University, called the Cary incident an example of zero-tolerance policies gone awry. Children, she said, are not as sophisticated as adults and often show emotion through writing or pictures, which is what teachers should want because it is a safe outlet.

jjlong@tribune.com

cstarks@tribune.com

Copyright © 2007, Chicago Tribune

25.4.07

[narrative and multimodality symposium]

Narrative and Multimodality: Language, Theory, Contexts Symposium of PALA's Narrative Special Interest Group 27-28 April, 2007, Birmingham, UK.


A reminder to all conference delegates about the narrative workshop wiki.

Feel free to add your thoughts and questions by clicking the "edit page" button edit wiki button on whichever wiki page you'd like to edit.


narrative symposium workshop wiki

[women, business & blogging - reminder for bursary applicants]

***APPLY BY 27th APRIL FOR A BURSARY (if you live in the East Midlands)!!!***

    *****************************************************

    Women Business
    and Blogging Conference


    Free bursary places are still available for conference delegates living in the East Midlands but the deadline for applications is FRIDAY 27 APRIL


    Just tell us in 100 words why you want to come. Full details at http://www.hum.dmu.ac.uk/blogs/nlabwomen/2007/02/bursaries.html


    Come to the Women, Business and Blogging Conference on Friday 8 June 2007 at De Montfort University to find out how blogging by women and for women builds networks, improves customer reach, monetizes creativity and infuses your business with Web 2.0 goodness! Speakers include:

    Eileen Brown, Microsoft Technology Evangelist
    Jory Des Jardins, Media Consultant & Co-founder of BlogHer
    Meg Pickard, Head of Communities and User Experience for Guardian Unlimited

    Business is becoming increasingly interested in social media and especially in blogs. In Europe
    over the last year several conferences have explored the potential of Web 2.0 networks to increase business opportunities - see
    LIFT07 (Geneva) and Le Web (Paris) for just two examples. But there have been no European events focusing specifically on women and social media - until now.

    Women, Business and Blogging is organised by
    NLab at De Montfort University, Leicester. NLab was developed in the Faculty of Humanities by Professor Sue Thomas to connect creative businesses with writers
    and generate pioneering partnerships. In 2006 NLab ran a series of professional workshops and seminars on blogs, wikis, games and new media writing. In 2007 NLab is proud to present this first-ever European conference for and about women who read and write blogs.


    Who should come?
    This event is for small businesses, individuals, researchers, nonprofits, artistic and educational organisations interested in:
    - women bloggers
    - women in business
    - women customers
    - social media and networking
    - creative communications
    - innovation and cooperation
    - customer relationships
    - opportunities of Web 2.0 and the Long Tail
    - usability

    And, just to be clear, men are definitely invited. All the speakers are women, and we'll be talking about women users, readers and bloggers. But everyone is welcome to attend the conference and participate in the sessions.

    Join the conversation
    We'll be blogging right up to the day and beyond it too. Join the conversation at Tracy Harwood's
    Biz Benefits and Jess Laccetti's Blog This

    How much does it cost?
    The conference fee includes refreshments, lunch and a delegate pack

    Full Rate: £60 GBP including VAT
    Concessionary Rate: £40 GBP including VAT
    Bursaries: A limited number of Full Rate bursaries are available for delegates living in the UK East Midlands.

    Where is it?
    Bede Graduate School, De Montfort University, Leicester, UK. A 5-minute cab ride from Leicester Train
    Station. Leicester is in the heart of the UK, less than 90 mins from London by train and 30 mins from East Midlands Airport.
    We hope to see you there!

    See the website for more information and how to register
    http://www.nlabwomen.com

    For all enquiries, including press and sponsorship, please contact:
    Margaret Barton
    Short Course
    and Conference Co-ordinator
    De Montfort Expertise Ltd
    De Montfort
    University
    Innovation Centre
    49 Oxford Street
    Leicester
    LE1
    5XY
    UK
    Tel: +44 (0) 116 250 6213
    Fax: +44 (0) 116 257
    7982
    mbarton AT dmu DOT ac DOT uk

24.4.07

[multimodality, representation, and new media]

I had to chuckle when I came across this presentation given by Gunther Kress for the IIID Expert Forum for Knowledge Presentation in 2003:
"But of course even though I don't see myself as working fully in the new media I speculate about what difference they make..."









22.4.07

[sunday bbq]

Another lovely afternoon spent with the fabulous Della and Julian ducking blackbirds in their lush garden.














After a satisfying bbq (kudos to Julian and showing off what he learnt in Canada) we ambled through pastures and ponds,

















narrowly evading some crazy cows...




Not ones to send us home empty handed, we returned with an armful of freshly grown (from Della and Julian's allotment) rhubarb and Della's homemade jam.

21.4.07

[google ≠ privacy]



Google's Data-Storing Feature Fuels Privacy Fears
By Joseph Menn, Times Staff Writer
April 21, 2007


"Facing worries about its tracking Web surfers' every move, Google Inc. is now offering a feature to track Web surfers' every move.

Its free Web History service is strictly voluntary — Google users can sign up to have the Internet giant keep detailed records of every website they visit so they can easily find them again later.

The feature is similar to that offered by Web browsers, except the data are stored on Google's servers instead of users' computers and there's no set time after which it is erased.

Web History's quiet debut this week came as privacy advocates continued to raise alarms about the prospect of Google combining its collection of information on individuals with that of DoubleClick Inc. Google has agreed to acquire the New York-based company, which distributes Web ads and tracks where the majority of people go on the Internet, for $3.1 billion.

Three consumer groups filed a complaint over Google's privacy practices with the Federal Trade Commission on Friday, asking it to investigate before approving the DoubleClick deal.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center and two allied groups make a novel argument: Although Google discloses how it retains data in its privacy policy, the search engine goliath is engaging in deceptive practices because most Google users don't know that their search queries can be tied to them, the groups say.

The complaint to the FTC cites a 2006 poll by the Ponemon Institute, a Michigan-based research group that studies privacy issues. When Google users were asked whether they believed that the company captured data that could be used to identify them, 77% said no.

In fact, Google ties search queries to the Internet address associated with a specific computer. The Mountain View, Calif.-based company said last month that it would "anonymize" the data by stripping those addresses from its records after 18 to 24 months.

"Polling information can be persuasive in establishing a reasonable belief that the data aren't identifiable," said privacy attorney Chris Hoofnagle, who worked at the Electronic Privacy Information Center and is now at the Berkeley Center for Law & Technology. "They've got a shot, but it's still a stretch."

In a statement, Google said the electronic privacy group's complaint was "unsupported by the facts and the law." It said that the trust of its users was essential, that its privacy policies were clear and that its users were given choices about what would be done with their information.

Google says the personal data it collects allow it to customize its search and other services, making them more useful for consumers.

Gartner Inc. analyst Allen Weiner agreed that Google users benefited from the practice but said it was a trade-off most people were uncomfortable with. Still, he said, Google continues to push the boundaries because "in order to continue to evolve its product, it truly needs for some of these things to be overcome."

Privacy concerns also have arisen over DoubleClick. A public outcry in 2000 ended the ad company's efforts to use people's names and Internet addresses in tracking online habits. In 2002, it settled lawsuits by state attorneys general and consumers over its privacy practices and promised to tell consumers more about their ability to block tracking software.

Google and DoubleClick took pains this week to explain that because only DoubleClick's advertising clients own the data about where Web surfers go, Google cannot simply merge that information with the profiles it has.

But Richard M. Smith, a privacy and security researcher, said Google could instead give its data to DoubleClick's clients.

"It doesn't matter if it is in one big database," Smith said. "It will go the other way."

DoubleClick referred questions on that theory to Google, which declined to make an executive available for comment.

As for the new Web History offering, Smith notes that Google already collects lists of websites visited when people use its Toolbar and PageRank functions.

Web History, Smith said, "illustrates to people directly how much information Google is capable of collecting."

20.4.07

[UK launch of the Electronic Literature Collection Volume 1]

UK launch of the Electronic Literature Collection Volume 1

Thursday 17th May 2007, 6.00pm - 7.30pm (doors open at 5.30pm for drinks)at the
Institute of Creative Technologies, De Montfort University, Leicester, UK (see http://www.ioctsalon.com/directions.htm for map and directions)

This event is free of charge and open to the public. The first 50 audience members will receive a complimentary copy of the ELC Volume 1.

The Electronic Literature Collection Volume 1 is an anthology of sixty works published by The Electronic Literature Organization and edited by N. Katherine Hayles, Nick Montfort, Scott Rettberg and Stephanie Strickland.

Guests at this Salon will include
- Scott Rettberg (http://retts.net/, writer, co-editor of ELC Volume 1, co-founder and first executive director of the Electronic Literature Organization) And the UK-based writers who feature on the ELC Volume 1, who will show their work and discuss what Electronic Literature means for them:
- John Cayley (http://www.shadoof.net/in/)
- Jon Ingold (http://www.ingold.fsnet.co.uk/)
- Chris Joseph (http://www.chrisjoseph.org/)
- Kate Pullinger (http://www.katepullinger.com/)


"Flaws or no flaws, this is an essential collection. Anyone interested in the field of electronic literature should take the trouble to get it on DVD. Some of this material is priceless, and it may not be available on the Web indefinitely."
- Edward Picot, The Hyperliterature Exchange


"In the breadth of work contained in it, as well as the innovative way the editors and authors have made it available, this is a generous collection."
- Tim Wright, Realtime Arts



Links:
- Electronic Literature Collection: http://collection.eliterature.org/-
Electronic Literature Organization: http://eliterature.org/
- Furtherfield interview with Scott Rettberg of the ELO (writer, co-editor of ELC Volume 1, co-founder and first executive director of the Electronic Literature Organization): http://www.furtherfield.org/displayreview.php?From=Index&review_id=217
- The Hyperliterature Exchange review of ELC Volume 1 by Edward Picot: http://hyperex.co.uk/reviewelc1.php
- Realtime Arts review by Tim Wright: http://www.realtimearts.net/article/78/8536 Download a flyer for this event as a Word doc ( http://www.ioctsalon.com/events/elcv1/salon070517_ELCV1_flyer.doc , 70kb) or a PDF ( http://www.ioctsalon.com/events/elcv1/salon070517_ELCV1_flyer.pdf , 72kb)




19.4.07

[reflections on reading]

On the relationship between memory and landscape in Jane Austen's Mansfield Park


"And about reflection, I think the other thing that happens in all novels is that because you read a novel by yourself in a room, inner space in your own mind and outer space in novels become somehow equivalent, images of each other . . . There's a way in which the whole landscape is inside in a novel, even if it's said to be outside, which I find peculiarly exciting. I think to myself about the world in the head. And Mansfield at some level that I can't even quite explain is a very powerful image of that experience of having a whole world in your head . . ."


A. S. Byatt and Ignes Sodre, Imagining Characters: Six Conversations about Women Writers, ed. Rebecca Smith ( London, 1995), 37.

[Cyber-bullying could lead to school expulsion in Ontario]

"Proposed changes to Ontario's Education Act announced Tuesday are designed to stop students from posting online attacks against other students or teachers.

At a news conference at Queen's Park, Education Minister Kathleen Wynne said the revamped act will add cyber-bullying to the list of offences for which students can be suspended or expelled from school.

"These amendments would ensure that there are strong consequences for inappropriate behaviour, and provide programs so students can earn their way back into the classroom and complete their education," she said.

Ontario Teachers' Federation President Hilda Watkins issued a news release Tuesday lauding the announcement.

"Yesterday's tragedy at Virginia Tech has everyone thinking about students and their safety at school," Watkins said.

"Teachers in Ontario are happy that the proposed legislation includes bullying, cyber-bullying and bullying of teachers as an infraction that could lead to suspension and/or expulsion. This behaviour is unfortunately spreading especially in cyberspace."


Continue reading the article at CBC News



18.4.07

[digitise or die: a personal reflection]

xposted at the PaRT blog.


chairsAs I entered the empty auditorium (I was the first there) I paused and took in my surroundings: padded leatherette seats for the audience, modern, sleek white armchairs for the panel, a bottle of water next to each long-necked microphone, dimmed lights, shining stage, and a background image centered behind the panel announcing the speakers and the title of the talk. I then settled in, ready for "compelling arguments" which, I read, would "leave [me] with a renewed enthusiasm for books and vowing to spend less time online."



Well...that didn't happen.


I suppose activating my prior knowledge (hearing an Atwood interview on
Start the Week earlier in the day) and noting the bold "or" in the title of the talk should have dampened my enthusiasm. But it didn't. I was eager to hear what contemporary authors and a publisher might have to say about current developments in technology very firmly vis-a-vis books.

From Left: Atwood, Page, O'Hagan, WagnerRather than tackle issues arising from the evolution and expansion of digital lit. (things like multimodality, transliteracy, deep learning vs. surface learning, changing roles of the author and reader) all four speakers seemed to focus on the materiality of the book (almost always referred to in its singular form). Atwood and Wagner seemed to find it especially important that we find a book sensual, we can touch it (Stephen Page added that we could smell books...including the glue used for binding...) and, of course, read it in a bath. However, won't printed pages soak or at least dampen, blurring the font and wrinkling the pages? Why might bringing a book into the bath be the test for "good" reading?



"
Besides, more people take showers these days than baths."

O'Hagan began the discussion with a story of how he "mispent his use" hunting for books and winding his way through the rows of books his local library had to offer - something impossible with e-books.



For O'Hagan the joy came from the difficulty of finding the books, they were "old" he says, "very often dusty and a little bit exclusive." "Democratization brings to an end that [notion] of exclusivity." Now, this seems to be the key and in fact the notion of exclusivity kept making an appearence throughout the remainder of the presentation. O'Hagan also made sure to equate exclusivity of reading with a eduction, taste, judgement - all serious qualities that the "democratization" of books (I think he means Austen's availablity on Project Gutenberg) threatens to "demolish" the world of books. "Throwing everything out there" is a "terrible" thing because all readers (not sure whether he means the educated or uneducated ones...) only get a "terrible mishmash" of "unedited...unjudged, uncontrolled material..." This is where O'Hagan brings in the idea of copyright but, not in terms of money (as Atwood said, authors don't do numbers, their agents do) but in terms of being recognised for "serious" ideas. Copyright O'Hagan says is to "select, edit and present material in a way that actually has meaning and umm virtue."

On that note Page begins his segment of the talk by admitting that publishers, writers, all those print-folk, have been "softened-up" as "luddites" who are "sentimentally attached to cracking a book open and sniffing the pages..loving the glue." He says the "technophiles" would love this to be the case but, Page explains, "it's not the truth." He does go on to make a pertinent point in relation to copyright (but I think it can be extended to all digital development) that it is constantly under revision and changes and "makes itself appropriate for the market, gets relegislated...and is adapting very successfully to the modern environment" (however he does not mention Creative Commons et al.). Copyright "must be protected." Those technophiles mustn't think of copyright as something "rather inconvenient." Enter blogger jibe but thank goodness "we don't have to read that stuff anymore." In fact, with the plethora of stuff on the internet, Page admits it's "getting harder to attract people" (those educated readers?). He goes on to insert a quote here but wait, he's forgotten where he's read it, "one reads so many"



Interestingly, putting a positive spin on abundance (unlike O'Hagan), Page explains that intention becomes increasingly important as does finding something "good" and having "trusted recommendations" (sounds like he's been buying books on Amazon...)

Atwood then takes up the talk by suggesting a temporal change: had lastnight's discussion occurred 2000 years ago we would have been talking about "the death of the scroll." Well, that's what the title of the talk refers to then, digitise and authors and books die. At least Atwood exhibited a sense of humor, joking that if we stop publishing books we'll save trees - that's "the positive bit." Well, at least she mentioned a positive. What about access, what about empowerment, what about appealing to different kinds of learners, what about creativity, and why does digital lit. seem to be synonymous with supplanting "the book?" Sadly, it was Atwood's talk that left me the most disheartened. For her, a book is "having a voice with you" "even if that person is dead..." Does Atwood mean the author? So only dead people write books? The people in my row were certainly confused. Moving along, why would digital lit. be any different? Especially in the way the speakers were talking about online reading. For them it was exactly like a book, just text, appearing on a screen. No one mentioned the addition of images, sounds, and, most importantly especially from a pedagogical sense, interaction! This was not a discussion about the future of the book, this was a rant calling for the demise of reading text on a glaring computer screen. In fact Atwood explains, "We're supposed to be talking about computers and whether everybody is going to read your book on a computer...not yet." So that's digital lit.; a print novel not published on paper and left in it's "native" environment...hrm. Atwood goes on to say "it's very hard for one thing to read 500 consecutive pages of Anna Karina on a computer without having something go really wrong with your eyes." I think it would be difficult to read 500 pages straight of anything (nevermind the medium, I'd need a coffee break). How would you actually absorb that and then critically assess what was being said, by whom, and why? Fortuitously Atwood points out that "another thing with computers, you don't neurologically assimilate the information to the same extent that you do with the page...they've done tests of this and that's why when you send somebody a memo you have to itemise all the things you want them to do and number them otherwise they won't see those things."



Who are the "they" who have done such tests. Where were they conducted...what other tests share the same findings? I did some research and found Jakob Nielson explain how people read "web pages" (not memos, not digital lit...): "
People rarely read Web pages word by word; instead, they scan the page, picking out individual words and sentences. In research on how people read websites we found that 79 percent of our test users always scanned any new page they came across; only 16 percent read word-by-word." Thus "we should teach students how to write hypertext and not how just to write printed documents." Exactly, and, we can teach students how to read online (see my lesson plan on Inanimate Alice). Even more crucially, I think, how are memos like novels or like digital lit.? How can these different objects which are crafted to perform different functions and employ different media, and (often) appeal to different audiences, be compared? Atwood sums up the inadequacy of this analogy when she responds to Page's call for "good" e-books by saying "what you mean by a good e-book is one that is really like a book" (not even a "good" book mind you, just a book.)

And so the talk continued until question time. Sadly Wagner didn't seem to moderate the question period and encourage either the panel to stop talking once questions had been (more or less) answered or more discussion from the floor. This resulted in only four questions being broached because certain participants felt it their duty to offer lengthy eulogies on the merits of the book (which no one really doubts). The first question was very good and raised my hopes and was asked by the director of accessiblity at a digital design agency concerning the accessibility of a digitised book (the font size can be easily changed, it can be turned into braille, and it can be transformed into audio) however "digital rights management threatens to slam the door shut...if copyright [drm] means there are such secure locks on digital books." Page answers: "I'm not quite sure how digital rights management would prevent that." Really, like this: "
The impact of compatibility limitations can be especially serious for users with special needs. For example, visually impaired users may not be able to access digital content effectively if DRM renders the content incompatible with specialized text-to-speech devices or software. See All Party Parliamentary Internet Group, supra note 3, at 13-14 (noting that DRM can “prevent the disabled from accessing digital content . . . because the specialist hardware and software that
is used to convert the content into speech, Braille, or large type, fails to interwork with the protected material
)."

After the first question (emanating from the second row), Wagner made a tactical decision and seemed to prefer taking questions from the back (I was in the first row) and from more seasoned looking people, preferably those with pens and paper (I had a digital camera). The second question was directed at O'Hagan: "is there no quality in digital text" to which he responded that "it's true" that to read "literary" work (previously referred to as high-culture) one should be smart or educated but "fact is, education and a serious literary culture have a partnership." By ignoring the merits digital literature offers and the different and wider audience it might reach, nevermind it's still neophyte state, O'Hagan made a call for the "reinstating of that connection" (between "serious books" and education). And he doesn't mean students using google to write term papers...



Favourite Quotes: "What they mean by content, we mean books." "One reason you haven't heard much of the longtail is because it's become a boardroom cliche."
Key Words: serious, literature, bath, paper, glue, book, education, intelligence, exclusivity, high-culture

Personal Aside: just because readers enjoy digital literature or art does not mean that by fiat they just will not appreciate or understand print lit. Why does the anxiety that one will eclipse the other remain? And, how different might this presentation have been had a digital writer or artist been involved?

From Left: Page, Wagner, Atwood signing books after the presentation

17.4.07

[presenting tactics]

"When you are making a presentation, where do you stand from the audience’s perspective and why?

visual_literacy_burmark

(a) to the left of the screen
(b) to the right of the screen or
(c) directly in front of the projector

Obviously (c) is the correct answer, because how else could you make shadow puppets?
But once you’re through with the shadow puppets, the correct answer is (a). Why?
Because in English we read from left to right. So, especially if there is text on the screen, you want the audience to anchor on you, then read across, then come back and anchor on you, read across, and so on. Particularly if you are talking while they are reading, it can be quite distracting to have you standing on the right."



Whew...I chose "a."



From Lynell Burmark's e-book on visual literacy.

16.4.07

[learning in the digital age]



"Since most of today's students can appropriately be labeled as "Digital Learners", why do so many teachers refuse to enter the digital age with their teaching practices?

This presentation was created in an effort to motivate teachers to more effectively use technology in their teaching.

Please see http://t4.jordandistrict.org/payattention to learn how you can become a better teacher."

['net gender stats]

So, in the US it seems women outnumber men in terms of online use:
"eMarketer estimates that there will be an estimated 97.2 million female Internet users ages 3 and older in 2007, or 51.7% of the total online population. In 2011, 109.7 million US females will go online, amounting to 51.9% of the total online population."




The University of Southern California's Annenberg School Center for the Digital Future reported that in 2006 the percentage of females who went online had, for the first time in the six years the center has conducted the survey, surpassed males. It reported that 78.4% of the female population ages 12 and older go online, vs. 76.7% of males.

However, from the CBC, "women don't appear to be as enamoured of online video as their male counterparts, the study found. Only 66 per cent of the estimated 97.2 million females online watch videos, compared with 78 per cent of the 90.9 million men."

"A Statistics Canada study of adults conducted in 2005 found a minuscule difference in usage between the sexes, with 68 per cent of men versus 67.8 per cent of women counting as internet users" (CBC).


Links from Slashdot.

14.4.07

[someone could be blogging you...]

jas_public writes "The Wall Street Journal reports on the controversial events which ultimately led to the firing of radio shock jock Don Imus. 'At 6:14 a.m. on Wednesday, April 4, relatively few people were tuned into the "Imus in the Morning Show" ... Ryan Chiachiere was. A 26-year-old researcher in Washington, D.C., for liberal watchdog organization Media Matters for America, he was assigned to monitor Mr. Imus's program. Mr. Chiachiere clipped the video, alerted his bosses and started working on a blog post for the organization's Web site.' The article breaks down how that viral video clip and word of mouth outrage reached the ears of the presidents of CBS and MSNBC, ultimately leading to Imus' dismissal."

From Slashdot. Posted by Zonk on Saturday April 14, @06:26AM


UNHORSED JOCKEY
Behind the Fall of Imus, A Digital Brush Fire
In a Blur, Watchdogs, Blogs, Email, SpurRadio Host's Firing


By BROOKS BARNES, EMILY STEEL and SARAH MCBRIDEApril 13, 2007; Page A1


At 6:14 a.m. on Wednesday, April 4, relatively few people were tuned into the "Imus in the Morning Show" when Don Imus referred to the Rutgers women's basketball team as "nappy-headed ho's."
Ryan Chiachiere was. A 26-year-old researcher in Washington, D.C., for liberal watchdog organization Media Matters for America, he was assigned to monitor Mr. Imus's program. Mr. Chiachiere clipped the video, alerted his bosses and started working on a blog post for the organization's Web site.

Yesterday, after eight days of dizzying activity, CBS pulled the plug on Mr. Imus's hugely successful radio show. One day earlier, MSNBC had canceled its broadcast of the show on cable TV. CBS had originally suspended Mr. Imus for two weeks, but succumbed amid an escalating national outcry and an exodus of big advertisers. "All of us have been deeply upset and revulsed by the statements that were made on our air," CBS Corp. CEO Leslie Moonves said yesterday in a written statement.
Mr. Imus, who didn't respond to repeated calls seeking comment, had for years been making outrageous and frequently crude remarks about risky subjects such as race, sex and gender, a style that millions of listeners had embraced. The media executives and advertisers profiting from Mr. Imus's popularity stood by him as protests occasionally surfaced. They usually subsided after a few days.
This time it was different. The target was a sympathetic team of young athletes. In the ensuing furor, the lucrative and often vulgar business of talk radio found itself running into new limits, as the Internet sent Mr. Imus to millions of PC screens, driving executives, advertisers and employees to distance themselves from his racist words.

On the morning of the original broadcast, there was little response to Mr. Imus's slur. Media Matters posted the video and transcript on its Web site and sent an email blast to several hundred reporters, as it does nearly every day. The post received dozens of comments, many heated, some more than 300 words long. The next day, top news outlets didn't mention the incident.


To read the rest of this article, click here.

Video: NBC's Steve Capus on discontinuing "Imus"

12.4.07

[more on myspace being their space]

Hosting people's lives online has become big business: services like Flickr and Photobucket serve as a virtual shoe box for millions of photographs, while YouTube and MySpace Video regularly serve up a daily dose of video blogs, home videos, and crazy stunts. But what happens when some of those services depend on the others in order to grow, and the others don't like being used to help the competition?
That's a thorny issue that MySpace has found itself in the middle of, and they're not backing down. The latest: the Powers That Be™ behind MySpace made another move to block content hosted by competitors from being embedded on user profile pages within the site—this time, the popular photo and video hosting site Photobucket.
Photobucket now joins the list of several companies understandably displeased with such developments at MySpace, as they all stand to lose traffic and mindshare as a result. A post on the
Photobucket blog points out MySpace's action and asks its 40+ million users to e-mail MySpace to tell them what they think. "We believe that by limiting your ability to personalize your pages with content from any source, MySpace is contradicting the very belief of personal and social media," writes Photobucket. "MySpace became successful because of the creativity of you, its users, and because it offered a forum for self-expression. By severely restricting this freedom, MySpace is showing that it considers you as a commodity which it can treat as it sees fit."
MySpace's pattern of blocking video and music widgets from competing sites over the last few months has worried Internet users that MySpace was moving toward a closed-content system. The move to block Photobucket videos comes about two months after MySpace's decision to block embedded widgets from
Imeem, a music and video sharing site, and a month previous to that, video sharing site Revver.
MySpace maintains, however, that the company is not blocking content from competitors—they are merely blocking content that contains advertising. "Photobucket recently began running an ad-sponsored slideshow and encouraged users to post these ads in bulletins and profiles throughout the community," a MySpace spokesperson said in a statement to Ars Technica. "We spoke to the company about their actions, but they refused to respect our community's terms and we had no choice but to disable their service."
Photobucket, on the other hand, disagrees. "Photobucket was not contacted by MySpace about this issue," a Photobucket spokesperson told Ars in response to MySpace's statement. He went on to explain that Photobucket allows users to combine their own content with that of "brands" in order to create personalized slideshows and videos, which is what MySpace appears to take issue with. "Some of our users choose to share their slideshows with friends on blogs and social networks, of which MySpace is obviously one,." Photobucket said. This content is not clickable and does not generate revenue for Photobucket—only the branded content and environments on Photobucket do that."
Putting aside technicalities about what constitutes an advertisement, MySpace's claim might explain why content from the most popular video sharing site, YouTube, can still be embedded on MySpace pages. That, or MySpace could still simply be trying to figure out how much of a backlash there would be if they stopped allowing content from the only video sharing site bigger than their own. MySpace isn't stupid; they're aware that these other media hosting sites are gaining viewership because of MySpace, and even said so during September's Merrill Lynch Media & Entertainment Conference. There, News Corp. CEO Peter Chernin
specifically named YouTube, Flickr, Photobucket, "or any of the next-generation Web applications" as being "driven off the back of MySpace."
This sends a major message out to services that are dependent upon larger sites to carry their numbers: don't push it, because MySpace is still in charge. Even if the company wants to hide behind the claim that they're only blocking content that contain advertisements, it's not hard to understand that MySpace prefer its users make use of its own a hosting services over the competition's. Whatever MySpace's true motivation is, it's clear that the company is doing its best to ensure that no one is making an actual profit off of MySpace's popularity except for MySpace.


MySpace to content providers: it's OurSpace, we're in charge
By Jacqui Cheng Published: April 12, 2007 - 01:25AM CT


11.4.07

[blogging pedagogy]

I've just joined this blog hosted by the Computer Writing & Research Lab at University of Texas at Austin. The blog caught my eye because it's about (go figure) "pedagogy and English studies. It is a space to share resources, stories, successes, and failures." Jim Brown, (who seems to be the site govna) writes an interesting post on Fora.tv:
FORA delivers discourse, discussions and debates on the world's most interesting political, social and cultural issues, and enables viewers to join the conversation. It provides deep, unfiltered content, tools for self-expression and a place for the interactive community to gather online.

The interactivity seems to come in the form of posting comments, tagging videos, or even posting your own video content. Essentially it's YouTube with less
Numa Numa kid and more Noam Chomsky.
From the fora.tv site for those slightly dense but still interested in breaking "discourse, discussion and events" there is this explanation:
"The word fora is simply the plural of "forum." The dictionary definition of forum is: the public square or marketplace of an ancient Roman city that was the assembly place for judicial activity and public business."
Whew....I was like so wondering what that was...

I did a bit of a search and found this recording of a journalism conference: "The Coming Media Monopoly. Here is the blurb:

Jun 1st, 2006: Society of Professional Journalists and Media Alliance - San Francisco, CA

The Society of Professional Journalists and Media Alliance presents a panel examining The Coming Media Monopoly: Concentration of Press Ownership and Its Effects featuring moderator Erna Smith and panelists Linda Foley, Tim Redmond, Stephen Buel, Brad Westerhold, and Sandy Close.

The last year has seen dramatic shifts in Bay Area media ownership:

MediaNews, the new owner of the San Jose Mercury News and Contra Costa Times, will soon control nearly two-thirds of local daily newspaper circulation; the two largest weekly newspaper chains, Village Voice and New Times, merged; and there's been an escalating scramble by several large media companies to control the expanding market for ethnic and foreign-language readers.

Can journalism survive in an era of Wall Street mergers and acquisitions?

What about public service and community needs?

What can be done in response to these trends to strengthen the quality of our news media workplaces?

Hear from journalists and media reformers who are responding creatively to the evolving media landscape.


Fast forward to about 8:00 minutes in and you'll hear Linda Foley (president of The Newspaper Guild) firstly give thanks that the conference is taking place in "the heart of America where people actually think about what matters" (8:50 minutes). Then at 10:56 minutes Foley argues that a pressing challenge in this "digital media age we're in" comes down to the worry that "journalism just becomes blogging." Someone shouts out something (unclear in this video) so Foley explains, "by blogging I mean if it just becomes free blogging..." This is detrimental because then "we won't have an umm...ahhh...system of providing credible information" (11:14) (emphasis mine) (You'll be using the fast forward button as umms and ahhs abound). Hrm....and apparently blogging is just opinion while reporting is "just the facts"...really? Are journalists not human then... (I know some would beg to argue).

Personal Note: annoyed it had to be a woman...



The video link is
here.


NB: after fast forwarding this video a few times I managed to crash explorer and then the fora site itself seemed to go down (update for clarity: as in I couldn't get to the site: "cannot find server, the page cannot be displayed)...don't think it's really going to be competing with youtube.

[privacy policy - i think not...]

*Beware of other sites infiltrating your address book...sadly, Flixster is not the only one.* (See this article from two years ago!)


Is Flixster a Big Fat Spammer? Are They Accessing Your AOL or Hotmail Address Book? The Answer to at Least One of These is Yes!

Recently I started getting invitations to join Flixster from both friends and complete strangers. Obviously, this was spam, but why were these complete strangers sending it to me? (For that matter, why were these friends inviting me to join Flixstr, which is a social networking site geared towars movie reviews?)

Here’s what the typical spam invitation for Flixster looked like:

To: me@example.com
Subject: John D has sent you a private message

http://www.flixster.com/servlet/invite/619917699cmcA619918163Btlkhlp3Cm

John D

This note was sent via Flixster by John D (
johndoe@hotmail.com) to me@example.com. If you prefer not to receive emails like this, tell us here: http://www.flixster.com/DoNotSend.jsp?e=me@example.com.

Then I noticed two curious things: 1. All the spam was coming from AOL and Hotmail accounts - real AOL and Hotmail accounts of real people, and 2. It was coming not just to me, but to role accounts at our organization - for example support@example.com. These people had really contacted us for support at one time or another, but a generic role account would hardly be a friend to whom you would send an invitation.

Then I got email from someone, a professional contact with an address at AOL, asking me (and everyone else in his address book) to please ignore the invitation to join Flixster which appeared to come from him but which, he said, had actually been sent by Flixster.

So, what is actually going on?

We decided to investigate, and here is what we found:

Once you join Flixster, Flixster commandeers your address book - your list of all of your personal contacts in your AOL (or Hotmail, Yahoo or Gmail) address book - and sends out an invitation to join Flixster “from” you. Oh sure, you enable them to do it - but clearly enough people are unaware of what they are doing that it’s causing a problem.

How?

Flixster is getting their AOL (and Hotmail, and Yahoo, and Gmail) passwords!

Read on.

Using AOL as an example, when you first sign up for Flixster using an AOL email address, after you select a username and password, the very next screen prompts you for your AOL password!

Here’s that screen - look how compelling it looks that you should give them your AOL password!:



If you use a Gmail address, you can get the same screen, only with the Gmail logo. Same for Hotmail and Yahoo.

Once you give them your password, they grab everyone’s email addresses from your AOL, Hotmail, Yahoo or Gmail address book, and spam them with the invitation. In your name using your email address.

And they access your AOL account before you ever get to the next step. Even though they make you feel as if you have complete control over the process by telling you “On the next page you will be able to select whom to invite”, they already have your contacts by that point. How do we know they access your account first? Watch what happens if you give them the wrong password:



How compelling does that look?

Now, who do we blame for all this? Flixster for asking for the password? The user for giving it to them? After all, the user had to take an affirmative action to send you the invitation spam. But, do they feel compelled to send it? Do they even understand what they are doing?

Do they feel that their ISP has approved this or even partnered with Flixster because Flixster has placed their ISP’s logo right next to the password prompt?

Is this phishing in plain sight?

For their part, Flixster is not only unrepentant about their tactics, but brag about them. An article in American Venture Magazine following Flixster’s getting $2million in VC funding last month, included the following:

“But the site has also grown due to its aggressive viral marketing practices that have raised the hackles of some potential users. Such practices might include the automated selection of your email account’s entire address book in order to send a Flixster invitation to all of your contacts. (Emphasis ours.)

But such practices are becoming increasingly more common as new and even established web sites look to attract visitors without expensive marketing campaigns and a hefty advertising budget.

“I attribute our success to a combination of both of those,” Greenstein said. “We make it easy to invite your friends. Other sites don’t provide good ways for people to spread the word. And, we tried to build a really compelling site.”

Flixster’s Terms of Service start out by saying: “I can’t believe you really clicked on this. What are you trying to find out? Here is our privacy policy (link to privacy policy).”

If you actually go on to read their Terms of Service, however, you’ll find that they mention nothing at all about this. Nothing. One way or the other. But they do, ironically, state that it is a violation of their Terms of Service to “Create a false or misleading identity of, including, but not limited to, a Flixster employee, or falsely state or otherwise misrepresent your affiliation with a person or entity, for the purpose of misleading others as to the identity of the sender or the origin of a message or to harvest or otherwise collect information about others.”

Oh, and it’s also a violation to “Disseminate any unsolicited or unauthorized advertising, promotional materials, ‘junk mail’, ’spam’, ‘chain letters’, ‘pyramid schemes’, or any other form of such solicitation, or to “Harvest or collect email addresses or other contact information of Members, including usernames, from the Flixster.com website by electronic or other means.”

But, it’s ok, because their entire TOS is governed by their privacy policy, which states very clearly:

“Our Just-Say-No-to-SPAM Policy

We do not send SPAM of any kind. The only email you will get from us is a weekly update of the latest movies and quiz questions and, of course, any personal messages sent directly to you by your friends.”

Me? I’ve now got a Just-Say-No-to-Flixster Policy.



NOTE the
comment from one of Flixster's founders:
Hi Anne,

I am one of the founders of flixster. I happened upon your article via technorati.

As a social community on the web, we take issues of email privacy and permission very seriously. Obviously i am saddened by the way your article describes us. Let me clarify a couple things…

1. We do allow users to access common web-address books to select friends to invite. The whole point of flixster is sharing movie ratings with friends - so making it easy to invite people is very important for us. (This is also incredibly common practice around the web - see yelp/facebook/myspace and many others that also offer it. Plaxo actually offers a popular widget to allow any site to offer this feature).

2. We don’t do anything tricky or misleading. The invite friends screens are all clearly explained (visible even in your slightly fuzzy screenshots) and to actually send anything the user must click a button labelled “send invitations” on a screen with their friends names and a list of checkboxes.

2. We use the user’s credentials only to retrieve the contact list and then do not store them in any way. We absolutely don’t do anything malicious or affect their account in any way.

3. The user is then ALWAYS given the list of contacts and asked to select whom to invite. We do not invite anyone they do not select. Of course we want people to invite friends to come try our site - but it absolutely does not benefit us to send invites they didn’t intend and end up with angry users.

4. Once registered, users can control their settings on every single email we send - from weekly movie summaries to new friend requests. If you choose, you can receive no email from us at all.

5. We never sell, rent or buy email addresses from anyone. We are a small company. The intro to our terms of service was intended to be funny. In no way does it reflect us taking privacy issues lightly - which is exactly why we wrote our privacy policy in such clear terms.

Anyway, if you have any questions or want to discuss with me, drop me a note at the email above. i appreciate that your efforts are to help protect people from malicious or dangerous sites - a noble endeavor - i’m really sorry that you felt like our site fell into that category.

Sincerely,
Joe G