My avatar across the web: a photo of my feet in grey-white socks and brown sandals.

Ben Babcock

I read, write, code, and knit.

21 Articles Tagged with “Internet”

  1. Haters gonna hate: we need Ontario's new sex ed curriculum

    Ontario’s new health and physical education curriculum landed today. As with all curriculum documents, you can read it yourself. This marks the first revised curriculum since 1998/1999.

    I remember in 2010 being disappointed when the McGuinty government backtracked hard on its revised curriculum. Both Premier Wynne and Minister of Education Liz Sandals seem pretty committed to keeping this one around, however, and that’s a very good thing. We need this, and the groups who claim we don’t or who feel that elements of the new curriculum are not “age appropriate” need to open their eyes. It’s not 1998 anymore. It’s 2015. Same-sex marriage is legal, transgender people are people too (always have been, but now let’s act like it), and the Internet is here to stay.

    And I don’t know if you’ve looked lately, but there is a lot of stuff about sex on the Internet. Like, a lot. And that’s before you start looking for porn on purpose.

    Concerned Parents, you are absolutely right: we have a huge problem with sexual education in Ontario. But the reason for that problem is not because of terrible revisions to the curriculum. It’s because the curriculum is so out of…

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  2. Will consult on your spam email for $$$

    I don’t get a great deal of spam, and Gmail does protect me from the most obvious—from a machine’s point of view. Gmail has dropped the ball, however, on detecting spam that is clearly spam to a human but cleverly disguised as legitimate. Here’s a message I received on Wednesday:

    Dear owner of Tachyondecay.net, I’m sure you have been contacted in this matter many times before but our value proposition is much different. We show the client results before we ask for any further commitment. As a business owner you might be interested to gain profit by placing your website among top in search engines. Your website needs immediate improvement for some major issues with your website. -Low online presence for many competitive keyword phrases -Unorganized social media accounts -Not compatible with all mobile devices -Many bad back links to your website I have selected your website Tachyondecay.net and prepared a FREE website audit report. This is for you, completely free at no charge. If my proposal sound's interesting for your business goal, feel free to email me, or can provide me with your phone number and the best time to call you. I am also available for an online…

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  3. Universal fat jokes, Doctor Who will be everywhere, and apparently the Internet is no longer for porn

    I’m comfortably ensconced (this is the correct word) in the well-worn couch in my grandparents’ basement. In a few hours I’ll be on an Air Canada flight to Thunder Bay, where I shall while away my summer in whatever manner pleases me (think coconut milkshakes, ninja dance parties, and suffocating under a massive pile of library books). Until then, though, things happen on the Internet.

    • We should be getting a Doctor Who 50th anniversary special trailer any time soon, because they screened it at Comic-Con. But apparently, according to the comments section, that isn’t going to happen. However, I am somewhat assuaged because the special will be simulcast around the world, which means I don’t have to worry about spoiling it for my dad (or Twitter spoiling it for anyone else).
    • Watch this “in memoriam” video for the myriad characters who have died during the first three seasons of Game of Thrones. Spoilers, obviously.
    • In an interesting spot of science news, evolution might be more predictable than we thought. It’s hard to get testable hypotheses out of macro-evolutionary theory, thanks to the time scales involved, but scientists are always finding ways around that.
    • Also, on the

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  4. Books and tea make for a good week

    I sat in the backyard this morning, and much of this afternoon, and read. The weather was very nice last weekend, and it was nice again on Friday and today as well. Spring has finally crept up on us, and summer is around the corner. I’ve enjoyed a week off of school, taken the time to rest and recharge and read.

    It feels so weird that as I sat in the garden, basking in the calm Sunday morning, protesters continued to occupy streets in Turkey. What began as a simple, peaceful demonstration in opposition to government plans for developing a park (into a mall) has erupted into a full-scale riot. Apparently, the Turkish government and police are rather surprised that spraying tear gas on peaceful protesters and running them over with cars isn’t quelling the riot.

    I can’t quite wrap my head around that kind of massive moment. I’m thankful for the Web, particularly Twitter, for being able to provide me with moment-to-moment commentary and especially photos of what’s happening. It doesn’t make me feel connected—I don’t think I have the right to make such a claim when I have no stake in what’s happening—but it makes me…

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  5. On viewing and “sharing” media in the digital age

    It’s weird how my blog works. I should post another “update type” entry focusing on my half-term shenanigans (warning: shenanigans in the mirror may sound cooler than they later appear). And I will. But I have to get this out of my head first.

    I walk into town for the market every Saturday, and almost every week I spend that walk listening to The Vinyl Cafe, with Stuart McLean. I love this show. I love how Stuart can enthuse about a little detail of Canadian history, particular to whatever venue the show is visiting that week. I love being exposed to new and wonderful Canadian musicians. And, I love the story exchange and the Dave and Morley stories. I loved all this before I moved to England, but The Vinyl Cafe has become even more important to me now that I’m living on my own in another country. It’s a connection to Canada, a very concentrated reminder of where I’m from, and it alleviates a little of the habitual homesickness I occasionally feel.

    Anyway, this week Stuart was talking about movies. He recounted his own experience with movies as a child in Montreal, including his anticipation of the news…

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  6. An open letter to the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade

    Recently I talked about the threat to Canada’s public domain. The following is a letter I have sent in response to the government consultation on the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). As with all my blog posts, it is published under a Creative Commons Attribution license. I encourage you to speak up by February 14 and write your own letter declaiming the desecration of the public domain! Email [email protected]


    Hello,

    I am writing as a concerned Canadian citizen, as well as a student and future educator, with regards to the effects of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) on Canadian copyright law and the public domain. I am aware of the potential benefits of the TPP for Canada’s trade and economy. However, analysis of the proposed agreement reveals that accepting the TPP would commit Canada to extending its copyright term from life of the author plus 50 years to life of the author plus 70 years. This would effectively leave the public domain in Canada stagnant for 20 years. Beyond that, the increase in copyright terms will mean an additional delay—in some cases, more than a century—between the publication of a work and its entry into the public domain. Many Canadians,…

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  7. Please, protect the public domain!

    My New Year’s Eve was pretty good. As I am not much of a party-goer I did not plan on doing anything special. My two friends Cassie and Carly had extended a casual invitation to perhaps do something. Eventually they decided to watch the hockey game, and having no interest in hockey, I did not go over to their house. But I asked them to “alert me in the event of an impromptu snowball fight”. Sure enough, around quarter after eleven, I received a pushy text message explaining that they were coming over to my house! This was followed by one that advised me to have my coat on—at that point, I knew the game was afoot, and I prepared to ambush their ambush. A snowball fight ensued, followed by the more constructive act of creating a snowman. Later we went inside and played a card game, Dominion, that their other friend had brought. It was intense and interesting, and it was a good evening.

    New Year’s Day is always better than New Year’s Eve. Always. Because New Year’s Day is Public Domain Day. Every year, children and adults alike gather round to give thanks and feast, to…

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  8. My father was a nondeterministic polynomial-time algorithm

    xkcd 329: Turing Test Extra Credit

    For perhaps the first and last time ever, "Oxford English Dictionary" was trending on Twitter last Friday. Why? Well, aside from an overdue recognition of this authority's awesomeness, the OED was trending because its latest update adds entries for online initialisms such as OMG, LOL, and FYI. As if that were not enough to send language purists into apoplexy, but the OED now recognizes "heart" as a verb meaning "to love; to be fond of," in the sense of "I heart pyjamas." That's right: Internet diction has taken over our most beloved of English language institutions. We must draw the line in the sand and say, "Enough! This far and no farther!"

    Or not. Rather than looking at this as a compromise of the OED's purity, we could take it as evidence of how our usage of the Internet has shaped language. I admit to uttering "OMG" aloud, telling people I "heart" things, and while I tend not to say "LOL," because I'm not sure how to pronounce it in a way that doesn't sound stupid, I do love me some "for the win" (FTW, for those of you playing initialism bingo at home).

    As the school year draws to…

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  9. Is that a heterotopia in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?

    Let's talk about porn.

    Er, I mean, I didn't just wake up today and say, "Hmm, I think I'll write a blog post about porn." Though that would be totally OK.

    No, for those of you keeping score at home, this is my third critical response to a reading from my Philosophy & the Internet course. Last week we read "Pornography in Small Places and Other Spaces," by Katrien Jacobs, first published in Cultural Studies, Vol. 18. A PDF version is available on her website. It's an interesting article; go read it.

    Back? Good. So, we're talking porn. Specifically, online pornography analyzed through the lens of Foucault's heterotopias. Jacobs approaches pornographic sites as spaces online. She differentiates between place and space by drawing from Michel de Certeau's distinction:

    Whereas places are distinct locations and imply an indication of stability, spaces are constituted through movements and operations of bodies and minds.… De Certeau's "spacing" allows us to conceptualize complex attachments and reflect on networked agency.

    In this sense, we might be able to consider websites "places," because they have distinct locations in the sense that, when one directs one's browser to a static URL, one expects…

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  10. Stage-managing the most popular one-person show

    The Facebook image for those with no profiles, modified to wear Groucho Marx glasses

    Each time I try to compose a post for my philosophy class, I resolve not to discuss Facebook or Google this time. I keep mentioning them, using them as examples, to the point where one might think I spend all my time using one or both of those services. Not so. Not even close.

    Wait, sorry, need to check Gmail on my Android phone….

    Well, I will succeed in not mentioning Facebook and Google eventually. Not today. No, because for my second critical response, I am discussing "Friend Me if You Facebook: Generation Y and Performative Surveillance," by E.J. Westlake. This article is in volume 52 of TDR: The Drama Review, available through Project MUSE (couldn't find an openly-available copy, sorry). We will be discussing this during week eight of class.

    This is an article that is exactly what it says on the tin (or title, as the case may be). Westlake discusses how Generation Y uses Facebook, arguing that members of older generations tend to be dismissive of Generation Y's proactive use of Facebook, focusing on it only as a tool that promotes exhibitionism and apathy. At the same time, she examines how one's activities on Facebook is…

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  11. Your Internet may be monitored for quality control purposes

    Poster advertising the surveillance of London Metro stations by CCTV

    This is a critical response to David Lyon's "The World Wide Web of Surveillance: The Internet and off-world power-flows," published in the Spring 1998 issue of Information, Communication & Society. Those of you lucky enough to have a university account that has access to such things can find it there; those of you following along at home can read the earlier version presented at a Canadian Association for Information Science meeting in 1997.

    That was the single most difficult aspect when considering my response to this reading: it was written in 1997. True, that's only 13 years ago--but the World Wide Web itself is only 20 years old. That is pre-Google, the entity that has, perhaps more than any other Internet-based company, single-handedly changed the way we use the Web--not to mention introduced a suite of privacy and surveillance concerns that weren't around in 1997. So as a technophile upstart who came to the Web in 2004 and writes in HTML5, I had to keep my reservations regarding the article's age in check. After all, despite the changes since Lyon wrote this, most of the article is still valid. There are parts that read as outdated, and…

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  12. The federal government hates blind people and web designers

    Originally I was just going to tweet a link to this CBC news article and leave it at that. The more I thought about it, however, the more outraged I became. I'm not sure why. Maybe it's out of some need to feel vicariously oppressed, on account of the fact that I am a tall white male and thus systemically unoppressed. Maybe it's because, although I am not a professional web designer, I am familiar enough with the field to weep over the attitude displayed here by the government. It is 2011. Last December, the Web turned twenty years old. And we still can't support blind users? Seriously?

    That is what the federal government says. Apparently, rather than spend taxpayer money to pay web designers to update its websites, it would rather spend that money paying lawyers to appeal this court decision. Rather than offer equal services to blind users, it would rather go to court and spend our tax dollars to ensure it can continue discriminating. The government is making us accomplices to discrimination. And here I thought I lived in Canada, not the United States.

    I am taking a Philosophy of the Internet course this term, online of…

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  13. Welcome to the Walled Web 2.0

    As much as I am in love with the technological achievement that is the Amazon Kindle, I have to chastise Amazon and the producers of other eBook readers for what I see as a step backward.

    You may have heard last week about Amazon deleting books off Kindles. This is worrisome because--as Jonathan Zittrain explains--it emphasizes how much you don't own what you "buy" from Amazon or any other company that digs its claws into you by selling you tethered goods. We sacrifice our freedom to keep what we purchase in return for a little convenience in the purchasing.

    That's not all though. Barnes and Noble, bookstore rival to Amazon, plans on launching its own eReader from Plastic Logic. Now, I'm all for competing eReader devices and competing eBook stores. Competition breeds innovation. But what I don't like is this:

    At this point, B&N's plan becomes clear--the books will be tied to the B&N e-reader, and not downloadable by Kindle or Sony Reader owners. Essentially B&N is trying to set up a closed ecosystem that's a direct rival to Amazon's, and that's based from its bricks and mortar stores and a website, versus Amazon's 100% cloud-based solution.

    A synonym…

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  14. What We Learned from #amazonfail

    I quite enjoyed on Easter weekend watching the instantaneous outrage across the Internet, particularly #amazonfail on Twitter, as it became apparent that Amazon had removed sales rankings from books with "adult" content. The outrage stems more from the fact that the application of the "adult" label seems skewed toward books with homosexual content; the heterosexual books are safe. In the ensuing light-speed confusion: Mark R. Probst shared his limited interaction with an Amazon rep, in which the rep revealed the "adult content" policy; the LA Times book blog covers it, then covers it again when sources claim that Amazon has blamed a "glitch"; and some posited it was the result of gaming the system.

    Take the time to read the above articles before reading on.

    What Definitely Happened

    In lieu of any definitive statement from Amazon regarding this debacle, it would be irresponsible to say, "This is what happened." At best, we have theories. But all theories start with facts. Here are the facts, what we know did happen, even if we don't know why it happened.

    Amazon Has a Safe-Search Policy

    As evidenced by Mark Probst's post, a representative for Amazon has confirmed that…

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  15. Newspapers dubbed Internet parasite by Me

    According to Robert Thomson, Google is an "internet parasite". In Thomson's view, Google's aggregation of content promotes a "'mistaken perception' that content should be free" and decreases traditional brand loyalty.

    The nature of content, content creation, and how much this information is worth are at the heart of every major debate regarding the economics of the Internet. These issues are responsible for our DRM woes with regards to software and digital music, and they drive the collapse of so-called "traditional media", such as newspapers, which aren't adapting quickly enough to the new playing field.

    This is the most amusing quotation:

    Google encourages promiscuity -- and shamelessly so -- and therefore a significant proportion of their users don't necessarily associate that content with the creator.

    Oh no! Google's promoting competition among content providers! How dare they?! I mean, it's not as if the so-called "free market" is based on competition. Shame on Google for corrupting those free market values!

    I would go so far as to argue that the whole point of the Internet is aggregation of content. This is why the Internet revolution is so profoundly different from any previous information revolution, including that of the printing press. The…

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  16. Online/Offline is a false dichotomy

    Two months ago I read The Numerati, in which Stephen Baker discusses how technology--particularly the Internet--is affecting marketing techniques and how businesses and individuals manage their data. Now that we have the tools and understanding to mathematically model more behaviour than ever before, there's a new group of people--the eponymous Numerati--at the forefront of this information revolution.

    One of the concerns Baker briefly addresses is privacy. On the Internet, this has always been an issue, but the surge in popularity of social networking this year makes it even more relevant. MySpace and Facebook have made headlines with the Lori Drew case and the launch of identity management Facebook Connect.((Google Friend Connect gets no respect. Poor OpenSocial!)) What was once a matter of "privacy" is now a question of the most appropriate mechanism for managing the convergence of one's offline and online personae.

    And I can't help but feel that some people are missing the point.

    What is Privacy?

    Like "Web 2.0", we tend to throw the term "privacy" around quite a bit without much thought to what we actually want when we demand it. Does this merely mean we want our bank account details safe? Or do…

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  17. The afterglow of my first election

    The polls are closed, and the votes are mostly tallied. Last month, Stephen Harper called an election; this month, he was re-elected with yet anohter minority government--a stronger minority, but still a minority. In the ensuing chaotic coverage, some interesting trends have emerged. The new hot issues are Liberal leadership, government functionality, voting reform, and voter turnout.

    The Liberals lost eighteen seats (at the time of this writing), which is a blow for them. Still the official opposition, yet weakened. Additionally, Dion declared in his concession speech that he would be willing to work with the Conservatives on the economic "crisis" that we're facing. While I commend Dion for extending the olive branch, two questions come to mind: does this mean the Conservatives will have a de facto majority? And will this matter at all in a week or two when the Liberals get a new leader? For indeed, if there was anything the majority of pundits agreed that Dion is done. My opinion of Dion improved during this campaign; however, that still doesn't mean he's a strong leader.

    The next question is: will this government be functional? Harper's cited reason for calling the last election was that government no…

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  18. It's all fun and games until your death ray explodes

    Act three of Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog is up. You can watch all three acts until midnight July 20. Go do it. Right now.

    I've got mixed feelings about act three. As I write this, it's only been up for about an hour and a half, so fan reaction is still formulating. A lot of people are angry. I can see how act three seems like a let down after the first two acts. Now, this may just be major denial on my part, but I think Joss planned it that way.

    A supervillain musical isn't something you see every day. Instead of casting Dr. Horrible as the straight antagonist and villain, he has made him a villainous protagonist. We actually root for him; we want him to get the girl. But having him succeed in his evil plans and getting the girl would blow our suspension of disbelief out of the water--Penny's character doesn't allow that. So the ending is the only natural way for the plot to conclude (if it is a conclusion).

    The saddest scene for me, however, was not the one at the climax after the explosion of the death ray causes you-know-what (if you don't…

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  19. Why yes, that is Joss Whedon in my pocket...

    Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog

    For those of you who haven't watched Buffy, Angel, or Firefly, (I hear you exist, apparently) let me give you a quick rundown on who Joss Whedon is. Those familiar with his oeuvre, please skip to the third paragraph.

    Joss Whedon is an amazing writer. He is the creator of Buffy: The Vampire Slayer and its spin-off Angel, along with a western science-fiction (yes, it's that cool) series called Firefly. Once upon a time, a big bad network cancelled Firefly after airing 12 of the 14 episodes (out of order), much to the consternation of the fans the show had already acquired. It seemed like there was no hope for resurrecting the series, and an Age of Terrible Darkness ensued. Then, a glimmer of hope: thanks, in part, to fan demands, Universal Studios bought the movie rights to the series, and Joss Whedon made a feature film called Serenity, which may very well be one of the best science fiction films of our time.

    With me? Good. During the Writers' Strike, Joss Whedon decided to get together with some family and friends to write a fun musical. Specifically, a supervillain musical. This week he is releasing…

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  20. The addictive nature of online shopping

    It all started with The Little Book of Calm...

    I was putting together the semblance of a costume to wear tomorrow to school, since it's Halloween--aka an excuse to wear a housecoat to school. :D Anyway, I wanted to make a fake Little Book of Calm. It's an actual book, but in this case I'm referencing a British comedy series called Black Books. For some reason I looked it up on Chapters' website ... one thing led to another ... eventually it disappeared from my shopping bag but I found myself staring at other purchases.

    I think that after seeing The Little Book of Calm I decided I should go ahead and buy American Gods, by Neil Gaiman. Then it occurred to me that Chapters now sells DVDs, so I could search for Frank Herbert's Children of Dune (the Sci-Fi miniseries). I've wanted that for so long but couldn't find it in stores. Just my luck--it was there! :w00t: Then it occurred to me to search for the soundtrack to Love Actually. Into the shopping bag it goes.

    After this was all over, I looked at the shopping bag page and stared at it for…

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  21. Internet troubles

    To make a long story short, my Internet connection at home went kaploof! on Saturday afternoon. A service technician should be by on Monday, so hopefully everything will be fixed by Monday night/Tuesday.

    I'm sitting at Seattle Coffeehouse right now, extremely thankful for cafés with wireless hotspots. And that I have a wireless laptop.

    You see, we're painting the room where our desktop computer, modem, router, etc. live. My brother unplugged the modem and router and such, and for the life of me I cannot manage to get everything running again, which is vexing. The router and our LAN work fine; the modem just can't seem to establish a WAN connection. So maybe the modem got damaged when we were moving it, or maybe the cable running to the phone line was damaged, or maybe it's something else entirely.

    I ache, eh. I live online.

    On the up side, the computer room's looking nice. I'll put up photos when I'm less lazy. And when I have Internet.