2004 CCCC U Blog

I was planning on attending the 2004 CCCC conference and participating as one of the facilitators in a half day workshop on
U. Blog: A Practical Introduction To Using Weblogs For the Classroom and Research. But first a absence of funding, and then, impending jury duty interfered. However, I wish my peers the best of luck, and thought you might want to look at their blogs. Here then, in no particular order, Stephanie Holinka Weeblog, Annie Olson Meditations, Barclay Barrios The Year of the Blog.

Apple's MacWorld 2004 Keynote

We stayed home this year; Michael’s book isn’t out yet, and I start teaching next week, and realllly want to finish a few chapters first, so we watched the keynote from home. And one of the most impressive things was the fact that we could. We’re on DSL, but we sat in front of a 12 inch dual USB iBooks, and thanks to Akamai and Apple, and the magic of QuickTime and MPEG4, it was pretty much like watching TV. Not a single real drop out, and you know, we can’t even say that about cable. I noticed Steve Jobs said that there were over 60K viewers watching the stream, and over a 100 countries. Pretty cool. I could teach like that, if I could also interact with my students via iChat AV.

I’m happy about the new G5 servers and new Xserv RAID boxes; I’d like to play with one of each. But the iLife ’04 news is very good, and not just because it might mean more work for me on books. I’m very happy Apple kept the price down; $49.00 is a steal, even for just one of the iLife apps; at $49.00 for all five, that’s less then $10.00 each, as the spouse points out. The educational price, $29.00, is a price students can afford, and the family package (install iLife ’04 on up to five family members computers) at $79.00 is a fantastic deal. I very much want to play with GarageBand. I can see lots of potential for teaching music theory and music appreciation with it. It’s often difficult for non-musicians to understand the underlying structures of a piece of music, the way melody, harmony and rhythm work together, or the way sound from several instruments is “layered.” GarageBand could help with that in several ways, not the least of which would be to have students make their own compositions; nothing explains better than creating some music yourself.

I’m also pleased about the mini iPod; it looks very good, I love the form factor, and the solid state controls, which mean fewer moving parts to wear out. I can see lots of uses for the mini iPod in education (heck I use my first generation one all the time). Get a few mini iPods at the campus library to be used for language lab work, for instance, or to be used for music listening classes, or poetry and drama, or listening to lectures again. You’d want to tag them internally so students wouldn’t forget to give them back, but that’s easy to do. I want to hold a mini iPod in my hand though; that’s the real test. It’d be nice if they came in black . . .

Nothing New

Macworld San Francisco has started, and Steve Jobs’ key note will be streamed tomorrow at 9:00 AM PST. I don’t have much to add to the guesses I made before last July’s keynote. Clearly the digital hub is still key, and I think we’ll see a lot more about Rendezvous/ZeroConfig, and Bluetooth. I still think a phone or camera is a good possibility, but I’m still waiting for a tablet that takes advantage of Ink well. Now, to my way of thinking, a tablet with Inkwell support that also supports Bluetooth and Rendezvous is a Good Thing. I’d like to use one anyway, and since Renzezvous is opensource, I hope someone starts putting it in devices besides printers.

DMCA and Fandom

I attended the “The DMCA and Fandom” panel on Sunday at ConJosé. The official description reads:

How has the Digital Millennium Copyright Act affected Fandom? Fan writers, editors and lawyers discuss recent actions and activities surrounding Fan Fiction.

The participants were Cory Doctorow (author and EFF Outreach Coordinator), C. E. Petit (Harlan Ellison’s attorney), Deborah M. Geisler (an acdemic, fan, and writer), Christy Hardin Smith (attorney and author), Julie Stephenson (fan and attorney, with an interest in writing), and John F. Hertz (attorney, fan, and dance master), who moderated.

The ostensible subject, fans, fandom, and copyright was never really thoroughly addressed—in part I think because the subject was really too large. It should have been divided into two panels, one on the DMCA, and another on Fandom, Fan writing, and copyright and trademarks. More often then not, in the case of say, Buffy fan fiction, or Trek fiction, it’s less a matter of copyright and more one of trademarks, and protective studios. The panelists made a good effort to get there, and the very end of the panel did discuss fannish issues.

The panel spent a fair amount of time, understandably, discussing the DMCA itself. Perhaps Mr. Petit said it best when (I’m paraphrasing) he said that it’s really two unconnected parts. The first part of the DMCA deals largely with the ISP (Internet Service Provider)’s Safe Harbor. The second half deals with “piracy prevention” or “Anti Circumvention.” Mr. Petit described the second half of the DMCA as “bad law, unjustified, just a bad idea.” I want to thank him for a very clear effort he made to be understandable and specific—and for his well-worth perusing web site on copyright from an author-centric stance.

Much of the discussion dealt with the Notice of Takedown, and the problems with the way plaintiffs execute the notice. Often no reason for the notice—no specific text or passage—is given, and often it goes to the ISP not the user. The user may never be told his or her site was taken down because of a DMCA complaint. If the user doesn’t know that a DMCA complaint triggers the “Notice of Takedown,” then the user can’t respond with a “Counter Notification,” explaining why the content does not in fact infringe copyright.

Cory Doctorow (who was also clearly making an effort to be clear but non-confrontational), near the end, made a wonderful point, almost a paen, about the original intent of copyright in the U.S. He was, I think, riffing on the original bit in the Constitution Art I, Sec. 8, Clause 8:

“To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.”

The idea was to promote publication, to increase the number of works available to the public, and to encourage their dessimination, and to eventually have those works return to the commons. We need to remind our legislators of that.

At the same time, I do very much want creators rewarded for their efforts. I just don’t think the DMCA is a rational way to do that. As written, the DMCA invites abuse. I’m increasingly also leaning towards a version of the European droits moral as a partial solution. And I think that creators should be able to decide what rights they are reserving and what rights they are licensing—Lawrence Lessig’s Creative Commons strikes me as a very smart solution to some of our problems, and throwing out the DMCA and starting over for others.

Live Journal SIG

Friday morning at ConJosé I attended a Special Interest Group set up by a few Live Journal users. I’ve looked at Live Journal before; of all the various web log systems it seems to be the one most focused on community in the sense of creating communities via links to like minded Live Journal members, or “friends,” as Live Journal would have it, and a comment system. Live Journal struck me as a good system to introduce undergraduates in introductory composition classes to writing for the web as a way of getting them to write and to think critically about writing as well as just becoming comfortable with writing as a habit. Most, but not all, of the Live Journal users are creating journal-like pages.

Live Journal is a free service, though they encourage users to support Live Journal ($25.00/year) by offering extra services. It’s open source as well. There are even a variety of clients, for pretty much any OS you’d want, to use in posting if you don’t want to rely on a browser and web-based posting. The FAQs are here. It includes the usual structural devices, like chononological based postings, with the newest at the top, a calendar for access to the automatic archives, and various ways of editing and deleting and controlling access to the journal.

Listening to the others at the SIG, I was particularly struck by a few observations. These are my observations, and in no way reflect on those Live Journalists referred to, or linked to. I’m sure I’m getting things entirely wrong in some way. They were both helpful and patient in answering my questions, so I expect some kind soul will straighten me out. In particular, The_ogre, Firecat, Wrapper, Isabeau, Rmjwell, Rowanf.

In no particular order then, here are some random observations about Live Journal, based on my admittedly small sampling from the SIG, and some browsing:

  • The role of the communities, and interaction between members of a community, is seen as a positive feature of Live Journal.
  • Users are particularly aware of the public versus private, and Live Journal software supports that distinction, allowing one to post to a public journal, or to a private one, or to a “communal” one.
  • Most users do in fact use the service to create actualjournals about their daily lives and thoughts.
  • Several spoke about using Live Journal as a way of creating reminders, either short term (groceries to buy) or long terms (events, thoughts and memories to be recorded now for later recall). I think, more than any of the other web log like systems I’ve seen, Live Journal lends itself to the commonplace book. There are also some obvious ways one could easily and useful use Live Journal as community K-logs or Knowledge logs.
  • A surprising number of those at the SIG compared Live Journal to UseNet. This may have been because the group was self-selected based on an interest in SF, one of the largest UseNet communities.