Monday, January 25, 2010
A collection of well done photographs featuring workers working. I'm sure it's fine to be impressed and glorify workers, as long as we keep it distinct from Labor. (Thanks, Jenny, for the link)
Anyway, this is one of my favorites...but I love books.
An employee shelves books in the old books collection area at the Municipal Library of Lyon, France on January 15, 2010. The government of France is currently undertaking a 750 million euro ($1 billion) project to digitize its libraries and museums. (REUTERS/Robert Pratta)
Sunday, January 24, 2010
Friday, January 22, 2010
Brief synopsis: a man is beaten by police after a domestic disturbance call. Problem: police were at the wrong place and the man was completely innocent. Initial press statement says the chap was beaten because he resisted arrest. This story retracts that assertion.
I’ll leave it to others to ascertain the “wrong-ness” of the police officers’ actions (read the comments in the story if you want to see that discussion). However, I feel a need to look at the way the department managed the press. The initial statement was destructive. Their credibility was significantly damaged. Leadership looks out of control, dumb, inept or unscrupulous. There are folks claiming that the powers-that-be knew full well the falseness and the only reason they’re coming “clean” is that they were caught. I have no insights into the department, so I can’t comment to the veracity of such a claim. However, this sort of error/poor judgement only feeds that sentiment, and the surrounding distrust. With the Olympics coming, the accompanying attention provides additional embarrassment.
I firmly believe that it’s better to say nothing (for a while) then to risk a gaff of this magnitude. I know that the press hungers, implores for statements NOW. That’s ok...YOU don’t need to address that. That’s not your problem. Quality information is more critical. I saw the same with the coverage of Haiti. We had estimated death-tolls minutes after the quake. That’s simply ridiculous. This is why I stop following a disaster story after I get the original details. I wait for a few days until the fog of disinformation clears. But I care more for quality data than quantity and speed. Yeah, I’m weird.
Thursday, January 21, 2010
Pools slowly, circles reach out
Damp chill feels like home
Odd that this came to me today as we were quite free of rain. Actually, sunny and warm...like spring time warmth. However, I’ve lived in the Seattle area a good portion of my life. I guess this just comes naturally.
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Monday, January 18, 2010
A little while back, I posted a piece about FriendFeed, and one of my friends asked me about how it compared to Posterous. I stumbled upon this poll at Mashable that compares Posterous with Tumblr (note: the poll is from September). I had messed with Tumblr, but didn’t go anywhere with it. I might need to give it another look.
Friday, January 15, 2010
One night in the mid-1990s when I was working as a journalist in Beijing, I went out to dinner with some Chinese friends. I had just finished reading a book called "The File" by the British historian Timothy Garton Ash. It's about what happened in East Berlin after the Berlin Wall came down and everybody could see the files the Stasi had been keeping all those years. People discovered who had been ratting on whom—in some cases neighbors and co-workers, but also lovers, spouses and even children. After I described the book to my Chinese dinner companions—a hip and artsy intellectual crowd—one friend declared: "Some day the same thing will happen in China, then I'll know who my real friends are."
The table went silent.
China today is very different from Soviet-era Eastern Europe. It's unlikely that its current political system—or its system for blocking foreign Web sites known widely as the "great firewall"—will crumble like the Berlin Wall any time soon. Both are supported and enabled by the current geopolitical, commercial and investment climate in ways that Soviet-era Eastern Europe and the Iron Curtain never were.
I do believe, however, that in my lifetime the Chinese people may learn more about some of the conversations that have taken place over the past decade between Internet company executives and Chinese authorities. When that happens, they will know who sold them out and who was most eager to help the Chinese Communist Party in building a blinkered cocoon of disinformation around their lives—and in some cases deaths.
This censored environment makes it easier for the Chinese government to lie to its people, steal from them, turn a blind eye when they are poisoned with tainted foodstuffs, and cover up their children's deaths due to substandard building codes. It is a constant struggle, and sometimes literally a crime, for people to share information about such matters or to use the Internet to mobilize against corruption and malfeasance.
That is the information environment that China's business elites, many of whom have gotten rich running Internet and telecommunications companies, are responsible for helping to build and maintain. For now they are national heroes, having made great (and lucrative) efforts on behalf of China's economic growth and global competitiveness, making China a force to be reckoned with on the global stage. But if history takes some unexpected turns—and that's the one thing you can count on Chinese history doing—it won't always be on their side.
By announcing it will no longer censor its Chinese search engine and will reconsider its presence in China, Google has taken a bold step onto the right side of history.
Four years ago when Google entered the Chinese market and launched Google.cn, Chinese bloggers called it the "neutered Google." At the time, Google executives said the decision to bow to the Chinese government's censorship demands had been made after heated internal debates. They said they had weighed the positives and negatives and concluded Chinese Internet users were better off with the neutered Google than with no Google. They drew a red line under search and said they would not bring any other Google products containing users' personal information—including email and blogging—into China. They held to that line.
Over the past four years I tested Google.cn from time to time and compared its search results with the Chinese market leader, Baidu. I found that Google.cn tended to censor search results somewhat less than Baidu. This supported Google's argument that it at least gave Chinese Internet users more information than the domestic alternatives.
Google executives also pointed out that a notice appeared at the bottom of every page of censored results on Google.cn, informing users that some information was being hidden from them at the behest of Chinese authorities. In this way, the logic went, they were at least being honest with the Chinese public about the fact that Google was helping their government put blinkers on them.
The company's effort to walk a fine line between Chinese regulators and free speech critics ended up being unsustainable. Anticensorship activists still viewed its compromise as contributing to the spread of censorship around the world. On the other hand, the compromise was also unacceptable to Chinese authorities, who were unhappy that Google wasn't censoring as heavily as Baidu. Last year Google came under a series of attacks in the state-run media for failing to censor porn adequately when users—horror of horrors—typed smutty phrases into the search box.
As Google considers exactly what it will do next now that it has refused to censor, some Chinese users are expressing support and sending flowers, others are upset, and others are thumbing their noses, good riddance. Competitors are gloating. Google is in for a rough few months ahead. In the longer run, history will reveal to the Chinese people who their real friends have been.
Ms. MacKinnon is a fellow with the Open Society Institute. She is writing a book about China and the Internet.
Interesting piece from the WSJ. I wonder, though, just how effective a Google withdrawl from China would be without anyone else following along.
Sunday, January 10, 2010
(Graphic from The Global Sociology Blog. For full size, Click Here
Saturday, January 02, 2010
Now, some would say this is due to my liberal, bleeding-heart tendencies, or some such rot. No, the core is the that this has come to close to me. Back in 1980, my best friend, Adam’s, father murdered Adam’s mother. We came home from school to see the coroner sitting in his driveway (he lived right across the street from me). Adam disintegrated before me, and never recovered. And, really, neither did I. To add to the ghastliness, I was with Adam when he was allowed to go back into the house (on a furlough of sorts from the mental hospital he was assigned to). It was supposed to have been cleaned up, but they hadn’t disposed of the bed where his mom had died. That still haunts my dreams.