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Ben Babcock

I read, write, code, and knit.

7 Articles Tagged with “news”

  1. 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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  2. 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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  3. I take it back

    Once upon a time, I expressed a desire to live in Iceland. Unfortunately, these tough economic times have been even tougher on Iceland, what with the government collapsing and all.

    Our government came close to dissolving. It looks like that won't happen, however, now that the Liberal party has a new leader who's decided he'll support the Conservative budget. Many people are upset with this about-face by Michael Ignatieff.((Especially Jack Layton: "Blast! My evil plans foiled again! Nyaaah!")) Since I don't understand economics and don't know how to manage money, the best I can do is shrug and hope that our government isn't planning to do anything silly.((Read: We are. So screwed.))

    Meanwhile, I plan to switch back to the barter system. Think about how much the barter system benefits from the digital world! I don't have to trade chickens; I can just trade electrons with you. It is, by definition, electronic currency. If you prefer a rarer commodity as a currency, you may also trade positrons. Be careful with those, however, as they are liable to annihilate electrons--so I'd keep my bank accounts separate, if I were you.

    Now that we are indubitably living in the End Times,…

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  4. My Digital Wish List

    CBC radio show Spark wants to know what Canada needs to do today to become a major innovator tomorrow. This is an important issue with the election looming. In addition to interviewing technology experts, the Spark blog has asked listeners to submit their own "Digital Wish Lists". Here's mine:

    • Establishment of a Minister of Technology. I agree with Mitch Kapoor. We have a Minister of Health, a Minister of Industry--why not someone in charge of the country's technological infrastructure?
    • Better copyright reform. Bill C-61 has demonstrated that many Canadians care about copyright reform. Even if one is in favour of the copyright protection measures outlined in Bill C-61 (I am not), critics have pointed out numerous flaws that make Bill C-61 a poor piece of legislation. I want our government to have open consultation with the public to craft viable, enforceable copyright legislation that balances intellectual property ownership with the need for access to information.
    • More competition in the telecommunications sector. I am not a capitalist, but a lack of competition does mean that consumers have less choice. Here in Thunder Bay, we have one choice for cable TV service: Shaw. Until recently, only local TBayTel provided home phone

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  5. I'll be voting for the first time, and I will not be voting for Stephen Harper

    An election looms in my own fine country even as the Americans battle it out for who gets to inherit the Bush legacy. Two and a half years ago, Stephen Harper and the Conservatives inherited the scandal-ridden legacy of over a decade of Liberal government. As usual, getting elected is easier than actually running the country and making effective decisions that improve the lives of its citizens--Harper hasn't been doing either of these things very well. He blames his inability to perform on his partners in Parliament, our three opposition leaders. They maintain that he refuses to compromise, doesn't put the toilet seat down, and until he decides to cooperate, they're moving out and going to live with their mothers.

    Er ... anyway, now that we have fixed four-year election dates, the next election would theoretically be in October 2009. However, the Prime Minister still has the right to go to the Governor General and ask her to dissolve Parliament if he believes the government can no longer function effectively. Harper has been rattling just that particular sabre lately, and an election looks increasingly likely. He has met with all three opposition leaders now, but I doubt that any of…

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  6. On attacking from Kamchatka

    Roll your dice, ladies and gentlemen. After sixty years of continuous gameplay, I'm sure you're eager for it to be over, but there's still a few cards left to be won.

    I'm sure that it came as a big surprise to everyone when Russia announced its intentions to absorb South Ossetia after unilaterally declaring it independent. Now Russia has effectively seized control of the territory. Russia's actions are irrational and somewhat disturbing, but what else is new? Unfortunately, I'm having trouble forming an opinion.

    For those of us too young to have lived through the Cold War or the aftermath of the subsequent decades, it can be hard to understand the significance of Russia's actions. It doesn't help that--at least here in Ontario--our one compulsory high school history course ends after World War II. Let's break the facts down and see if we can make some sense of what's happening.

    First, some background. South Ossetia is a region in Georgia that is loyal to Russia. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Georgia became an independent country, but South Ossetia wanted to join Russia--and they were willing to fight for it. Naturally, Georgia does not want to lose a…

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  7. What a crazy world

    Humans are an insane and suicidal species. This is not a new revelation to most of us, I'm sure. Nor is it news that the world is crazy. But let's stop and reflect for a moment on some recent events that underline such insanity, shall we?

    First on the block is the situation in Georgia. When this originally happened, I could understand (but did not approve of) Russia's actions. The area is ethnically diverse and highly conflicted. While South Ossetia may be a part of Georgia, it seems to be more sympathetic to Russia. Unfortunately for them, they're still part of Georgia, and that doesn't give Russia much business sending troops in there. Russia claims that their troops are peacekeeping forces, a response to Georgian troops sent into South Ossetia to quell militants. Then, however, Russia sent troops past the border of South Ossetia into other regions of Georgia!

    After France finally brokered a ceasefire, Russia agreed to withdraw its troops. So far such withdrawals have been minimal. The Russians are playing the old game of "the truth is what we say it is, not what you see." The Russian officials insist that they are withdrawing; soldiers continue to…

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