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Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Saving the Internet

Posted By on Wed, Apr 26, 2006 at 2:48 PM

The blogs are abuzz this week with a movement to preserve net neutrality. The Save the Internet coalition explains it better than I can, so go there if you don't know what I'm talking about. Better yet, watch this short video.

A petition to preserve net neutrality has garnered more than 250,000 signatures in under a week. More info on Daily Kos.

Weekly Posts

Posted By on Wed, Apr 26, 2006 at 10:32 AM

I haven't been updating my weekly post choices on the blog, but they've been in the paper. Two weeks ago, while I was on vacation, I reprinted a fashion faux pas post from New York Ex: The World's Most Powerful Lesbo.

Last week, it was an explaination of localvores from Peter Griffin at Down on the Farm.

This week, I excerpted Charity Tensel's rant about the Vermont Legislature from She's Right.

That's a nice mix, don't you think? 

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Blogroll maintenance

Posted By on Tue, Apr 25, 2006 at 9:22 AM

I need to do some serious work on my blogroll, I know. There are a bunch of Vermont blogs I haven't added yet — this brilliant site, for example — and some that don't even exist anymore, and some that nobody's posted to in a really long time.

I'll try to get to it today. I just wanted to acknowledge that yes, I am aware of this sad fact.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Should reporters seek permission to reprint online comments?

Posted By on Mon, Apr 24, 2006 at 4:43 PM

Just emerged from my deadline haze and saw this thought-provoking column from Ted Vaden, a writer at the Raleigh News & Observer. He dissects a variation of a privacy issue that I think about often — whether or not newspaper reporters should seek permission to reprint information people have posted in public forums online.

The topic came up after the RNO ran a story about a neighborhood organizing to oppose a nightclub.

Residents of a Raleigh neighborhood...were surprised to find themselves quoted in The News & Observerabout a local controversy. They had posted comments on a Yahoo groupsite for residents of the Fox Run neighborhood about a nearby nightclubthat neighbors complained was a public nuisance. The N&O quotedthree messages posted on the site with the authors' names attached. Onesaid, "we all need to push hard as we can, any way that we can to getthis place closed down for good."

Vaden essentially argues that this reporter should have called these residents and asked for their permission before putting their comments in the paper. But some of his colleagues disagree with him.

Dan Holly is editor of The North Raleigh News, which is the N&Osection in which the story appeared. He said he understood why thequoted residents might feel aggrieved at seeing their names in thepaper, but he thought their community site was fair game: "The messageboard was an accurate and honest way for us to get a sampling ofneighborhood opinion."

Holly also said, "When you have a groupthat is setting out to do something as bold as shutting down alegitimate business, it seems like getting your name in the paper issomething that is bound to happen."

Vaden writes:

I have a feeling that theresidents had no such expectation -- obviously, or they wouldn't havecalled to complain. I think we should have called the residents, for acouple of reasons.

First, a newspaper's first obligation isverification, and we couldn't have known for sure that the authors ofthe messages were who we said they were without checking with them.

Butbeyond that, newspapers don't normally quote people, especially thosenot savvy about media, without their knowledge. A good rule of thumb isif we can expect that, in most cases, people would be surprised to seetheir statements in the paper, we should check with them first.Sometimes that means we'll miss a juicy quote or even a story, but thenewspaper's reputation for fairness is more important.

I'm not sure how I feel about that.

I'm definitely in favor of contacting people to verify their identites, but I'm not sure it's being fair to let sources decide what I can and can't report about what's online. If it's available for anyone with an internet connection to see (those Yahoo groups only require users to sign up for a free Yahoo account), if you can link to it from a blog, if you can direct someone to find it, it's not private. Once the information is out there in a public online space, the person who posted the information is no longer the gatekeeper. Asking for permission to report a comment like that is like telling that person that yes, they can control who sees their comments, when in fact they can't.

I probably wouldn't have asked for permission to reprint those comments. I would probably have contacted the source and let them know that I was planning to use them. If they didn't want me to use them, they could delete them, thereby removing them from the public sphere.

I guess that's kind of a hard-line approach, but that's my gut reaction. It irks me when people post things online then want me to pretend like no one can see them. I feel like I'm validating their mistaken notions of online privacy. And it makes me feel like I'm conspiring with them somehow. That makes me feel dishonest, especially when the person in question is clearly seeking attention or organizing for a cause.

It's like they want to have their cake and eat it, too — they want to use the Internet for their purposes, but they don't want people who disagree with them to know about it. That doesn't seem right to me.

This is something I deal with more and more lately, so I'm curious to hear what people think. And keep in mind that my opinions are still evolving.

Friday, April 21, 2006

LA Times columnist posts anonymous comments, has his blog suspended

Posted By on Fri, Apr 21, 2006 at 10:39 AM

Here's a story from today's Washington Post about Michael Hiltzik, a Pulitzer Prize winning columnist and blogger for the LA Times. Howard Kurtz writes that Hiltzik's blog was suspended when editors discovered that he had been posting comments to other blogs using fake names.

Hiltzik has apparently been sniping at conservative bloggers like Hugh Hewitt anonymously, and the LAT says that's a violation of its policy for reporters and editors to "identify themselves when dealing with the public." They're investigating the matter.

Hiltzik hasn't denied that he's been an anonymous troll. Before the editors suspended his blog, he wrote a response to one of the convervatives who complained about him:

"This is amusing, because most of the comments posted on his websiteare anonymous or pseudonymous. . . . Anonymity for commenters is afeature of his blog, as it is of mine. It's a feature that he canwithdraw from his public any time he wishes. He has chosen to do thatin one case only, and we might properly ask why. The answer is thathe's ticked off that someone would disagree with him."

Well, maybe. But my gut reaction to this is that he shouldn't have been commenting anonymously. Anonymous commenters get to side-step responsibility for their remarks, and generally tend to dillute the conversation. People feel much freer to unleash their spiteful sides anonymously, and that's not really productive. Look no further than this thread about that Explore New England blogger plagiarist for evidence. I say responsible bloggers and journalists need to set high standards for themselves if they want to be taken seriously as sources of reliable information.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Cashing in on video games

Posted By on Wed, Apr 19, 2006 at 9:32 AM

Here's a colorful article from the weekly Cleveland Scene about a guy with what sounds like a very successful outfit — he sells video game goods to buyers in the real world.

"It's huge business," says Chris Kramer, a spokesman for Sony, which created the popular MMORPGs
Everquest and Star Wars Galaxy."We've seen the secondary market grow from like a couple guys sellingtheir characters on eBay to what's become like a $200 million salesmarket."

I've read other articles about this trend in recent years, including this one by my friend Rick Marshall at Metroland in Albany. I've tried to find somebody doing this in Vermont, with no luck. Anybody got any examples?

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Would you pay to read the Addison Independent online?

Posted By on Tue, Apr 18, 2006 at 3:14 PM

Looky looky — the Independent's got a sleek new website, with comments on articles, and an RSS feed, and a list of online users, and polls, and forums. Publisher Angelo Lynn even has a blog, though it looks like he might be reprinting his print columns online. Not sure.

Only thing is, you can't read the entire contents of the print edition from that site. For that, you have to click here. And you have to pay. It's $5 a year for subscribers, $30 for non-subscribers.

I think there are other small Vermont papers locking up their print content behind fee walls. Personally, I think this is a bad idea. I for one would not pay each of these papers to read their stories every week. But I do read their sites on a bi-weekly basis to find out what's happening in Vermont communities. I'd like to get that information for free. But is that ripping them off somehow? Do small papers have to charge for their online content? Isn't there a better way to do it for free?

Claudia Emerson wins a Pulitzer!

Posted By on Tue, Apr 18, 2006 at 11:03 AM

Few of my regular readers will care about this, but I was excited to learn this morning that Claudia Emerson won a 2006 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. Claudia Emerson was my first creative writing teacher. I took her Creative Writing I class at Washington and Lee University in the fall of 1995, during my junior year.

That was actually my worst semester in college. I was depressed — despondent, in fact — and almost left school. I took four incompletes, but managed to finish her class on time. It was the only grade on my report card that term. She gave me a B-, which was a gift, really, because my work was so late. I remember her being very passionate about language. She gave me a couple bits of really good advice — all you can ask from a writing teacher, really. But they've been important to me over the years.

I bought a copy of her first book, Pharaoh, Pharaoh, which is still one of my favorite books of poetry. Haven't read Late Wife, the one that won the Pulitzer. I'm really happy for her. What a pleasant blast from the past.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Dan Gillmor tonight in Montpelier

Posted By on Thu, Apr 13, 2006 at 11:22 AM

I won't be there, since I'm now in Worcester, MA, visiting Ann-Elise's family, but citizen journalism pioneer Dan Gillmor is speaking tonight at 7 p.m. in Montpelier (Noble Lounge, Vermont College, free).

I first met Dan a year ago at a blogger's conference in Chapel Hill, NC. I got to talk with him a bit this past week for a preview of his appearance I wrote for Seven Days. I'm bummed I'm missing his talk. Go if you can.

Thanks to Tyrone Shaw and the journalism program at Johnson State for sponsoring the talk.

(photo credit fallfoto.com for O'Reilly Media)

Sunday, April 9, 2006

Maternity Leave, Part II

Posted By on Sun, Apr 9, 2006 at 12:49 PM

I'm on vacation again. I originally intended to take off 3 weeks for maternity leave after my partner gave birth to our son Graham in February. Instead, I took 2 weeks, and decided to spend a week in April visiting family with Ann-Elise and Graham (right). So here I am writing this from a Starbucks in Eastpointe, MI. Perhaps I will post again from the road if I don't have to pay through the nose for wi-fi.

Enjoy being in Vermont, people. The rest of the world isn't nearly as beautiful or as friendly.

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