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July 31, 2004
A Reagan Pounds Bush
  • Ron Reagan: The Case Against George W. Bush. Politicians will stretch the truth. They'll exaggerate their accomplishments, paper over their gaffes. Spin has long been the lingua franca of the political realm. But George W. Bush and his administration have taken "normal" mendacity to a startling new level far beyond lies of convenience. On top of the usual massaging of public perception, they traffic in big lies, indulge in any number of symptomatic small lies, and, ultimately, have come to embody dishonesty itself. They are a lie. And people, finally, have started catching on.
  • posted by Dan Gillmor 12:47 PM
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    We the Media, Audio Version

    Niall Kennedy has put the Introduction to my new book in audio form. I'm flattered.

    (Cross-posted to We the Media.)

    posted by Dan Gillmor 11:03 AM
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    July 30, 2004
    An Election is Also About Issues
  • Paul Krugman (NY Times): Triumph of the Trivial. Somewhere along the line, TV news stopped reporting on candidates' policies, and turned instead to trivia that supposedly reveal their personalities. We hear about Mr. Kerry's haircuts, not his health care proposals. We hear about George Bush's brush-cutting, not his environmental policies.
  • posted by Dan Gillmor 12:03 PM
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    Convention Bloggers and the Future

    For all the occasional self-absorption and recursive coverage of coverage of blogging at the Democratic National Convention, it's clear that the experiment must be chalked up as a success. The bloggers' work ranged from abysmal to terrific, sort of like traditional journalism.

    What's important to keep in mind is that this was one of those moments when things pivot slightly. The accreditation of bloggers to the convention was an affirmation by a highly centralized hierarchy -- the Democratic Party -- of an evolving kind of information flow. That the even more centralized Republican Party has felt obliged to include bloggers is evidence of the shift.

    posted by Dan Gillmor 11:52 AM
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    July 29, 2004
    Fourth Degree

    If I write about coverage of the coverage of the bloggers' reporting at the Democratic National Convention, is that meta-meta-meta journalism?

    posted by Dan Gillmor 08:00 AM
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    Apple Shows Some Mean Colors
  • CNN: Apple: RealNetworks hacked iPod. Apple Computer accused RealNetworks Thursday of adopting the tactics of a hacker and breaking into the technology behind its popular music player iPod device.

    So Apple is happy to let you play your music only in the way it permits, if you're going to use its devices. The company says it'll rewrite its software to thwart Real's customer-friendly hack -- and I use that word in the benevolent sense -- that lets people use what they've bought with just a bit more freedom than Apple wishes to grant.

    Threats to use copyright law against Real are exactly what you'd expect, unfortunately. Apple wants control over online music, and this is just part of the game.

    What we customers want is cross-platform compatibility: standards. What the companies want is lock-in. They may win, but they're only locking me out -- because I won't play by those rules. Which means I've bought my last iTunes Music Store song until Apple starts paying more attention to what its customers want.

    It baffles me, reading the comments below, why people are defending Apple. I'm no fan of Real's sometimes slippery ways, but if you don't like Real you don't have to use its service. To deny people who want more choices in how they use their iPod, however, strikes me as illogical.

  • More: Siva Vaidhyanathan, in this essay posted on the Engadget blog, explains "why all these attempts by companies to tether their customers to specific products, platforms, and formats are bound to backfire."

    posted by Dan Gillmor 07:22 AM
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    July 28, 2004
    If You're in Portland...

    I'm speaking tonight at Powell's City of Books.

    posted by Dan Gillmor 01:37 PM
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    Microsoft 'Newsbot' Sorts the News

    Some more competition for Google News: Microsoft's Newsbot. It's beta software and acts like it, but I'll be watching with great interest.

    (Cross-posted to We the Media.)

    posted by Dan Gillmor 08:15 AM
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    'Losing' Already-Ephemeral Election Records
  • NY Times: Lost Record '02 Florida Vote Raises '04 Concern. Almost all the electronic records from the first widespread use of touch-screen voting in Miami-Dade County have been lost, stoking concerns that the machines are unreliable as the presidential election draws near. The records disappeared after two computer system crashes last year, county elections officials said, leaving no audit trail for the 2002 gubernatorial primary. A citizens group uncovered the loss this month after requesting all audit data from that election.

    This is even worse than it seems.

    The notion of an audit trail in this case is ludicrous to begin with. Even with a digital backup there's still no way you can trust that the votes cast were the votes recorded.

    That's the big problem with touch-screen voting machines that lack a voter-verifiable paper trail -- paper that can be used to check the machines' accuracy and be the actual ballot in a recount.

    And this is only the latest strange incident in Florida's sordid elections record. You have to conclude that the people running elections in Florida are buffoons at best.

    At worst? The thought is frightening.

    posted by Dan Gillmor 06:51 AM
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    July 27, 2004
    Mocking Woody Guthrie's Memory

    The late, great Woody Guthrie is surely spinning in his grave today, in fury over what is happening with one of his most memorable songs, "This Land is Your Land."

    But Guthrie would not be even slightly unhappy at the use of his immortal tune by the JibJab folks, whose brilliant satire of George Bush and John Kerry has become one of the most popular animations ever to hit the Web or any other medium.

    No, Guthrie would be thrilled. He was a folk singer. Like all other folk singers he borrowed from others to create his art. As his son, Arlo, once said:

    "We've heard some of the people talk about some of the songs he wrote tonight. And the truth is, he did steal old songs from other places. He took the old gospel songs, he took the old traditional ballads, and he put his words to them like we heard tonight. People still called it stealing. Plagarism, bad words like that, 'til Pete Seeger come along and renamed it the folk process. I think my dad's theory was that if you wanted people to be singing along with you on your new song, it'd be a hell of a start if they already knew the tune. Or even some of words."
    Woody Guthrie wrote scathingly of people who steal more with fountain pens than guns. He would have loathed the people who abuse copyright so much today, trying to restrict all kinds of fair use, of which parody is an absolutely protected example.

    Guthrie wanted credit for what he wrote, but he had contempt for severe legal restrictions on what others might do with it. According to Pete Seeger, in this account (widely acknowledged in the folk world to be true) from the Museum of Musical Instruments, when Guthrie was singing on the radio in Los Angeles during the Depression, he'd mail mimeographed songs to listeners, and wrote on one:

    "“This song is Copyrighted in U.S., under Seal of Copyright # 154085, for a period of 28 years, and anybody caught singin’ it without our permission, will be mighty good friends of ourn, cause we don’t give a dern. Publish it. Write it. Sing it. Swing to it. Yodel it. We wrote it, that’s all we wanted to do.”
    I'll bet, therefore, that Woody would be horrified -- and angered -- by the behavior of an outfit called The Richmond Organization, which controls the copyright to his music. This humor-impaired crew has gone ballistic and has launched legal threats (CNN) at JibJab.

    The Richmond Organization is dishonoring Woody Guthrie's memory, not that it seems to care. But it's giving us one more example of how the copyright system has abandoned common sense.

    posted by Dan Gillmor 05:33 PM
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    Open Thread

    I'm on my way up to the Open Source Convention, where I'm speaking and making a book-relatedappearance tomorrow night at the great Powell's Books in Portland.

    Please be civil here.

    posted by Dan Gillmor 02:12 PM
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    Why I Wouldn't Bid on Google IPO

    (This is also my column today in the San Jose Mercury News, part of our extensive coverage of the Google IPO.)


    Google is a fine company, maybe heading toward greatness. Yet even if I were allowed to invest in technology stocks (I'm not), I wouldn't bid on this initial public offering.

    At least, I wouldn't consider it at the nosebleed-altitude prices that Google suggested to the world Monday. This is starting to feel frothy.


    posted by Dan Gillmor 10:04 AM
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    Apple Music Player for Phones

    Reuters reports a deal between Apple and Motorola to bring iTunes-like capability to mobile phones. Steve Jobs is quoted as saying, "Wouldn't it be great if you could take a dozen of your favorite songs with you on your phone. We thought it would be great if together Motorola and Apple could give them (consumers) a small taste of what this digital music revolution is about."

    Many of us have already done this. I do it every time I travel with my Treo 600 phone, as I noted in this column a few days ago. Except I have an advantage: I'm using MP3 files, which aren't subjected to Apple's version of Digital Restrictions Management that prevent me from using what I've purchased the way I want to use it.

    Most phones will soon have enough onboard memory for this kind of thing. Users want access to their music, but they don't want DRM speed bumps. I hope Apple and Motorola don't build them in.

    posted by Dan Gillmor 07:19 AM
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    July 26, 2004
    Free Speech Takes Its Lumps
  • Tim Rutten (LA Times; reg req): Free speech under fire all around the nation. At some point over the last decade the words "I think you're wrong about that" were replaced by the dismissive "you can't say that." The opponents of free speech always have a higher value that must be maintained by silencing somebody else � patriotism for the Las Vegas louts; a woman's right to sexual privacy in Colorado; a distaste for politicized airwaves in Washington. But this isn't a discussion that admits a distinction between regrettable means and a desirable end. Speech is free for everyone or it's free for no one. There is a long and painful history to teach us that when liberty of expression is suppressed, the public square does not become a silent place but one where the only sound is the voice of authority.
  • posted by Dan Gillmor 11:32 AM
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    Ted Turner: Break Up Big Media
  • Ted Turner: My Beef With Big Media. As a business proposition, consolidation makes sense. The moguls behind the mergers are acting in their corporate interests and playing by the rules. We just shouldn't have those rules. They make sense for a corporation. But for a society, it's like over-fishing the oceans. When the independent businesses are gone, where will the new ideas come from? We have to do more than keep media giants from growing larger; they're already too big. We need a new set of rules that will break these huge companies to pieces.
  • (Cross-posted to We the Media.)

    posted by Dan Gillmor 08:12 AM
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    Google Going for Mega-Gold

  • Reuters: IPO Would Be Worth $3.3 Billion. About 24.6 million shares would be sold in the IPO for between $108 and $135 apiece, according to an amended prospectus filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
  • This is a breathtaking valuation. Even if I was allowed to invest in tech stocks (I'm not), I wouldn't touch this one with the proverbial 10-foot pole.

    Let's be clear. Google is already a great company. But this price, assuming bidders in the IPO auction go along, has gone to nosebleed altitudes.

    More later...

    posted by Dan Gillmor 07:57 AM
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    A New Look for Blog Search Tools

    Both Technorati and Feedster have changed their look in the last few days, and are doing special things for the political junkies among us. (See this from Feedster; this from Technorati; note the similar URLs, too.)

    I'm holding my breath slightly, because both have also been experiencing some performance problems in recent days. It would be a shame if such useful services, getting seriously noticed for the first time by people outside the blogosphere, give a less-than-excellent first impression.

    posted by Dan Gillmor 05:47 AM
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    Real Hacks the iPod

  • CNET: RealNetworks breaks Apple's hold on iPod. RealNetworks announced Monday that it has unlocked some of Apple Computer's most tightly held technology secrets, giving its music a way onto the popular iPod digital music player.
  • There's good news in this announcement, namely the fact that Real is forcing a tiny bit more openness on Apple, which has been trying for a winner-take-all approach to digital music. More choice, and less lock-in, by these companies is always a good idea.

    But Real is no prize when it comes to locking customers into another box: the one the music industry has created with its insistence on absolute control over digital music. Real's approach to selling songs is not that at all: It says you're only renting them. At least Apple says you (mostly) own what you're buying.

    Nonetheless, this is progress of a sort.

    posted by Dan Gillmor 04:50 AM
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    July 25, 2004
    Bush and Military History

  • Atrios: A Bit Confused . Tell me again why the liberal media doesn't care that Bush lies about his military service? Tell me again why the military doesn't care that Bush lies about his military service?
  • Good questions.

    posted by Dan Gillmor 10:26 AM
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    An Amazing Feat

    Lance Armstrong, winner of his sixth consecutive Tour de France may be the best athlete of our times. A great champion.

    posted by Dan Gillmor 09:11 AM
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    From the Edge, Humanitarian Works

    (This is also my Sunday column in the San Jose Mercury News.)


    They were soldiers and sailors, doctors and relief workers, technologists and managers. Over the course of a few days, they transformed a barren lava bed into a cutting-edge test bed of communications and collaboration.

    Their overarching goal, in a project dubbed "Strong Angel II" was humanitarian: to help create a way for military and civilian disaster-relief people to deal more efficiently with each other -- and with the people who need assistance -- in the turmoil that follows catastrophes.

    I first wrote about the project two months ago, when it was still in the planning stages. During three recent days on the site, which was meant to approximate some of the harsh conditions aid workers would find in the wake of war or natural disaster, I observed much more than some brilliant technology. I saw how people with poles-apart political perspectives could blend, in common purpose, to achieve remarkable results.


    posted by Dan Gillmor 09:02 AM
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    July 24, 2004
    More 'Inadvertent' Oversights on Bush National Guard Record

  • AP: Pentagon Finds Bush's Guard Records. The Pentagon on Friday released newly discovered payroll records from President Bush's 1972 service in the Alabama National Guard, though the records shed no new light on the future president's activities during that summer. A Pentagon official said the earlier contention that the records were destroyed was an "inadvertent oversight."
  • Perhaps Elvis was holding the records for safe-keeping.

    posted by Dan Gillmor 03:04 PM
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    Microsoft's Clean Slate

    Daniel Gross' largely lucid explanation of Microsoft's current business position, which appears on Slate Magazine (owned and operated by Microsoft, though maybe not for much longer) glaringly ignores something: the company's lawbreaking ways.

    He compares Microsoft to the old AT&T. That's actually a more apt comparison than you might think. AT&T was a regulated monopoly. Microsoft is not. But the software company does have the government's blessing, which makes its hegemony much worse for the rest of us. If Microsoft is the new AT&T, it should be regulated, not wet-kissed by the president and his people.

    When he says Microsoft "beat back" antitrust challenges, that's quite the spin. Microsoft basically got clobbered in the trial and in the appeals court. Only when the Bush administration intervened to give back what it had won in court -- a settlement that was a craven cave-in -- did Microsoft finally get away with its illegal acts.

    Then, with the coast essentially clear on serious stuff, Microsoft spent billions to get rid of private antitrust lawsuits it surely would have lost. Of course, for Microsoft, billions of dollars amount to petty cash, which is why it's giving some of the loot back to shareholders.

    We are paying dearly for Bush's deal with Gates, and we'll continue to pay for years go come, in lost innovation and high prices. If Microsoft succeeds in extending the Windows and Office monopolies into putting a toll booth on all digital content, we'll pay even more.

    Maybe the Kerry administration will start enforcing antitrust laws again for the biggest, most brutal monopolist of recent history.

    (Note: Maybe I missed it, but I can't find any reference on the Slate site of Microsoft's declared wish to sell the magazine. Odd.)

    posted by Dan Gillmor 02:22 PM
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    The Guardian on OhmyNews

    The Guardian's Jack Schofield has a chat with the founder of, the Korean online newspaper. Could it work elsewhere, he asks? (My answer is at the bottom of the story.)

    (Cross-posted to We the Media.)

    posted by Dan Gillmor 09:22 AM
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    July 23, 2004
    An Author's Little Thrill

    At the BlogOn conference today, Cody's Books, Berkeley's excellent independently owned bookstore, had a table featuring books by speakers. One of them was mine -- the first retail sales of We the Media -- and several folks bought it and asked me to sign the title page. Now this feels real.

    (Cross-posted to We the Media.)

    posted by Dan Gillmor 01:58 PM
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    Peer to Peer Video Journalism

    Howard Rheingold points to this fascinating description by Drazen Pantic of how anyone can be "a real-time video journalist."

    What you need, is simple: "a blog, a camcorder, and a laptop with WiFi." You bet, and this is just the leading edge of what's coming.

    (Cross-posted to We the Media.)

    posted by Dan Gillmor 09:21 AM
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    July 22, 2004
    Boston Bloggers

    (This will also be a column in tomorrow's Mercury News.)

    A modern national political convention is theater. Candidates are actors, and delegates are props, with the media serving mostly as stenographers and, in a few cases, critics.

    Next week's Democratic convention in Boston will feature a new batch of critics: bloggers. For the first time, people who write Weblogs have been accredited as media representatives. Good.

    The main reason this is a useful development -- if not an earthshaking one (except, needless to say, in the "blogosphere" itself) -- is the injection of new voices into a process that has become all too routine. Some political bloggers have become must-read commentators, as essential in helping us understand the process and its meaning as any professional journalist working for a traditional media organization.

    Some old-media types have been harrumphing mightily at the bloggers' incursion, frowning on the notion that bloggers are journalists in the first place. Wrong issue. Are book writers journalists? Some are, and some aren't. Ditto bloggers.

    The bloggers won't begin to replace the professional journalists, whose work I admire and rely on for certain kinds of information. But if they do their jobs right, the bloggers will bring something valuable to the mix.

    Where Big Journalism remains mostly a lecture, blogging is more a conversation. The bloggers are individuals, moreover. Some are experienced political journalists. Many in Boston will be neophytes when it comes to national politics. All, however, speak with genuine voices from their blogs -- voices their readers have come to know and in many cases trust. Blogs are simultaneously immediate, intimate and subtle.

    Due to the very nature of blogging, they'll be reporting from the edges of our increasingly ubiquitous data networks. I hope they'll experiment with the tools of this emerging trade. Technology has given average people new ways to collect and distribute information to global audiences, and this is an opportunity to show how grassroots journalism can be created and, crucially, seen in new ways.

    There's another collection of potential bloggers in Boston: the delegates themselves. I, for one, would love to see the nearly real-time observations of the people who have been designated as TV props -- the political activists, big-time contributors and others who could pierce the scripted phoniness and show us the event's largely unnoticed nuances. If I spot any such bloggers, I'll link to them on my own site.

    I'll be in Portland, Oregon, next week, speaking at a conference on open source technology. Open source is the process in which anyone can view and modify the source code, or programming instructions, to make improvements or otherwise tweak it for their own uses.

    Bloggers practice a form of open-source communication. The best of them listen and study. Then they write, and then they listen and study again, and write some more. We're still learning how it all works, but I know this: Something new is happening, something we need to watch closely.

  • For a list of convention bloggers with links to their sites, see this page.
  • Great idea from Dave Winer:, a "community site for bloggers participating in the DNC, July 26-29," aggregating postings from a variety of folks. Very useful.
  • posted by Dan Gillmor 05:31 PM
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    Gillmor Gang + One More Gillmor

    That would be me, making a guest appearance at 1 p.m. Pacific time on today's program.

    posted by Dan Gillmor 11:54 AM
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    July 21, 2004
    'Rumor Control,' by Anonymice


    The founders of the new "This is Rumor Control" blog say: "We are creating this blog because of our 'ground truth' belief that while the war on terrorism is worth fighting, and al-Qaeda worth defeating, the current U.S. policies in pursuit of these goals are failing our country in its moment of need."

    The authors claim impressive credentials, but they are giving us handles, not real names. Their reluctance is understandable, given the jobs they say they have. But their anonymity means it's going to take longer for me to invest a lot of trust in their work, assuming I ever do.

    One of the initial postings cites "a memo obtained by This is Rumor Control" but doesn't post it for us to view for ourselves. This is the Web, where the audience likes to see as much source material as possible.

    Nonetheless, this looks like a potentially valuable experiment in grassroots journalism. I'll watch with interest.

    UPDATE: Here's a response from the Rumor Control folks.

    posted by Dan Gillmor 03:10 PM
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    Technorati Chief as CNN Expert

    My older, wiser brother Steve reports that Technorati's Dave Sifry will be a talking head on CNN's convention coverage. He says: "Just as CNN continues to provide the gavel–to-gavel coverage the networks used to do, its alliance with Technorati validates the voice and authority of the blogosphere. In effect, CNN becomes the first bridge between the broadcast age and the peer-to-peer age of the real-time network."

    I wouldn't go that far, given that CNN is the network that told a staffer who had a blog to stop, but it's definitely a sign of progress.

    posted by Dan Gillmor 01:42 PM
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    Your Personal Data, Out of Control

    The American Civil Liberties Union has created a clever animation about how personal data is spreading via linked databases to create the most detailed dossiers on all of us. The scenario, a call to a pizza-delivery service, is exaggerated. But it's clearly the direction in which we're heading. The ACLU offers specific suggestions on how to slow this rampaging privacy invasion.

    posted by Dan Gillmor 09:51 AM
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    The Berger Affair

  • NY Times: A Kerry Adviser Leaves the Race Over Missing Documents. Samuel R. Berger, the former national security adviser to President Bill Clinton, resigned abruptly Tuesday as a senior adviser to John Kerry's presidential campaign after the disclosure that he had improperly removed classified material on terrorism from a secure government reading room last year. The decision came after Mr. Berger endured a day of furious criticism from Republican leaders, who accused him of breaching national security and possibly passing classified material to Mr. Kerry's campaign. Democrats, in turn, accused the Bush administration of leaking word of an F.B.I. investigation of Mr. Berger as a way of diverting attention from the release of the Sept. 11 commission's final report Thursday.
  • Plainly, Berger screwed up in a serious way here. The acts he has acknowledged are improper at the very least, and perhaps much worse than that. Maybe we'll know one of these days when the investigation concludes.

    Almost equally plainly, someone in the Bush administration or campaign illegally leaked word of the investigation just in time to start a political potboiler.

    The timing cannot be coincidental. The 9/11 commission's report, harshly critical of both the Clinton and Bush administrations' anti-terrorism policies, is being issued this week. And next week comes the Democratic convention in Boston.

    The Republicans are predictably claiming (among other things) a coverup, even though the 9/11 commission staff has been widely quoted as saying the commission had the documents in question. USA Today reports, for example: "There is no indication that Berger's action affected the 9/11 commission's work; a spokesman for the panel said Tuesday that the classified papers — some of which are still missing — were copies of original documents."

    The most puzzling aspect of this, as Josh Marshall correctly notes, is Berger's political tone-deafness. Marshall asks: "Why didn't Sandy Berger step aside from his advisory position for John Kerry some time ago?" Good question.

  • Other Blogs Commenting on this Post (via Technorati)

  • (Note: This is a new approach to "political" postings, due to the trolls' tendency to wreck the comments section. They are, of course, free to launch attacks from their own blogs. It's a shame that they are preventing the rest of us -- especially those of you who know how to disagree, even harshly, in a way that doesn't cross the boundaries of acceptable discourse -- from having the valuable conversation we'd like to have.)

    posted by Dan Gillmor 07:37 AM
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    iPod Expands Horizons

    It only seems as though this is National iPod Week, what with Newsweek's cover story about Apple's path-breaking music player and an announcement that each incoming freshman at Duke University this fall will be getting an iPod designed for music and a lot more.

    With great public relations flair, and in the wake of recently announced financial results that bespoke the iPod's success, Apple Computer is doing its utmost to turn the handheld into a must-carry device. What's equally intriguing is its expanding portfolio.

    In his public appearances, Steve Jobs emphasizes music. But the iPods the Duke students will buy -- I say ``buy'' because the cost will undoubtedly be hiding somewhere in the tuition and fees unless Apple is giving the things away, which I doubt -- will do much more than play songs.

    In a press release, Duke said the deal was ``part of an initiative to encourage creative uses of technology in education and campus life.''

    The iPods, the release continued, ``will be pre-loaded with Duke-related content, such as information for freshman orientation and the academic calendar. Through a special Duke Web site modeled on the Apple iTunes site, students also can download faculty-provided course content, including language lessons, music, recorded lectures and audio books. They also will be able to purchase music through the site.''

    Notice that music is almost an afterthought here. And why not? After all, the iPod is a small computer. It just doesn't have a personal-computer user interface.

    Expanding the mission of the iPod makes a lot of sense. The job of storing and playing back music can be handled by other devices, even if not as elegantly as on the iPod. This is the iPod's vulnerability.

    I have an iPod, and I think it's a terrific gadget. But on my Treo 600, the combination handheld computer and phone, I've installed a relatively high-capacity (512 megabytes) memory card and some third-party MP3 playback software. The Treo has become my portable music player, and my iPod stays home.

    Apple has a monster hit on its hands today. But it'll have to keep innovating to maintain that status. By all evidence, the company understands this, and is moving quickly to expand the iPod's mission. It'll need to keep up the pace.

    posted by Dan Gillmor 06:31 AM
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    House Says Options Expensing OK for Top Execs Only

    The U.S. House of Representatives has buckled under pressure from technology companies and wants to intervene with accounting standards bodies to let companies keep misleading their investors.

    That's the bottom line in Tuesday's U.S. House of Representatives vote (Mercury News) to allow companies to continue to hide the cost of stock options from the bottom line. It's a shame to see this, but not surprising.

    The House did say that it would require companies to expense options granted to the five top executives in many companies. Apparently, financial transparency is sort of, kind of, sometimes useful, after all.

    A better idea would have been to eliminate options entirely for those senior folks. They have the most incentive -- and the most ability -- to tweak financial results to get short-term advantage that gives them giant paydays when stock prices rise. Keep options for the rank-and-file, but account honestly for them.

    The whole thing is probably a charade, anyway, because the Senate seems unlikely to go along with the House on this. Eventually, stock options are going to be expensed. Eventually, Silicon Valley will face reality.

    posted by Dan Gillmor 06:25 AM
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    Microsoft Shares the Wealth

    It's about time.

    Microsoft will return some of its cash hoard (Mercury News) to the money's owners: shareholders. On Tuesday, the company announced a $75 billion set of payments, share repurchases and other measures designed to whack away at its absurdly high cash position, well over $50 billion and growing by about $1 billion a month.

    Wall Street mavens have been urging such a move for some time. With legal troubles down to a manageable level, Microsoft says it now can afford to do the right thing.

    Of course, the special dividend and buyback only highlight the fact that Microsoft still has scant competition, largely because the U.S. government has given it a pass to continue abusing its monopoly. Yet competition is better served with that money in shareholders' pockets than Microsoft's bank account.

    posted by Dan Gillmor 06:20 AM
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    July 20, 2004
    'We the Media' Blog in Beta

    Oops, we forgot to turn off the pinging of weblog-alert sites when we put up what amounts to a beta version of the "We the Media" website. Joi Ito spotted it and blogged it.

    As Joi just noted in an IM, it seemed "very appropriate for the book." How true...

    posted by Dan Gillmor 09:53 AM
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    A Small Victory for Freedom in China

  • NY Times: China Releases Surgeon Who Exposed SARS Coverup. The doctor, Jiang Yanyong, 72, returned home late Monday night after about 45 days in military custody, where he underwent political indoctrination sessions and was investigated for possible criminal activity, said one person who had been told about his case. He is not expected to be charged with a crime.
  • posted by Dan Gillmor 09:31 AM
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    Collaboration, Up Close and From Afar

    With great regret, I bid my goodbyes yesterday to the folks at the Strong Angel II demonstration, but I'm staying well-connected to the project in several ways.

    One is by using software that has become a crucial component to the project, Groove, the collaboration software that just hit its 3.0 milestone. Groove does so many things, but at its heart is a peer-to-peer networking system, replete with widgets and tools and fully encrypted at every level. In situations like the ones the Strong Angel teams are modeling, security is vital for some data even if not for all.

    One of the most intriguing demonstrations on Kona has been named "Pony Express," after the relay mail system of yesteryear, except this is being done with WiFi, laptops and Groove. The idea is that humanitarian assistance people in the field -- where there's no connectivity -- could fill out forms on their laptops, gathering data about populations and needs; then someone would drive by with a WiFi-equipped vehicle, synchronize the Groove "workspace" containing the data; and bring it back to the home base. This would be done again and again, and ultimately each person in the field, not just the people at the base, would have the most current possible data even without a direct Internet connection.

    My ongoing regret about Groove is its Windows-centricity. Ray Ozzie and his team at Groove really should find a way to port the application to Unix (Mac and Linux). But they've heard that from me before...

    posted by Dan Gillmor 08:05 AM
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    Oh, Please

  • AP: Advocacy groups challenge Fox News slogan. Fox News' use of the slogan "Fair and Balanced" constitutes deceptive advertising, two political advocacy groups claimed today in a petition filed with the Federal Trade Commission.
  • The argument that Fox News' bogus slogan is less protected as free speech because it's commercial -- and commercial speech gets less absolute First Amendment protection than other kinds -- misses the point. Fox News' purpose with the slogan is plainly political.

    Even if it wasn't, who's actually being misled here? I realize that Americans can frequently be gullible, but how many people who watch Fox News don't already know that it's slanted? Maybe one or two? ("My inlaws, for starters," writes a correspondent...)

    MoveOn and Common Cause should withdraw this complaint. They look foolish, and petty.

    posted by Dan Gillmor 06:16 AM
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    July 19, 2004
    Some News We Don't Get

    Every morning I go to a Website I consider essential for anyone who wants to understand what is happening in Iraq. It's part of Mark Prutsalis' TIDES World Press Reports, a service that is being demonstrated as a core part of the Strong Angel II: Designing the Edge endeavor this week.

    Funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and compiled from a variety of sources, including translations from many Middle Eastern newspapers and the foreign press covering the Iraq situation, Prutsalis puts together a daily summary called the "Iraq Reconstruction Report." It's surely the best overall capsule of the on-the-ground situation you can find. He's also doing a "Global Threat" report containing stories about various terrorism and other threats to peace and stability.

    Here at Strong Angel, Prutsalis, who normally works from his home in Brooklyn, has been compiling his regular reports. He's also doing a daily publication he calls EDNA, or Edge Daily New Alerts, as part of the technology demonstration.

    I've urged Prutsalis to create an RSS feed for this great service, and he said it's on his list. (He also knows he has to make the site look better on Mozilla, where it's currently not very readable.)

    He's also thinking about the value of collecting information from another on-the-ground source: bloggers. This would add enormous value, I believe, to the report, provided he selected the most credible bloggers.

    I've been following TIDES for some time now. It is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the dynamics of the situation in the Middle East. I don't have to like the anti-American tilt of the news coverage, but I'm better informed knowing what the Arab press is telling its own readers. This is important work, and deserves wider recognition.

    posted by Dan Gillmor 09:42 AM
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    July 18, 2004
    Breaking Down Language Barriers

    translate.JPGOne of the big problems in the American presence in Iraq has been a wall of misunderstanding and ignorance brought about by lack of language skills and a lack of information. Machine translation is getting better all the time, and we're seeing some of the results of that improvement here.

    The gear in the picture is a piece in the puzzle. From a satellite dish outside this tent at the Strong Angel II exercise, it's capturing and recording the Al-Manar TV station, a Hezbollah outlet in Lebanon. U.S. military and aid workers -- not to mention officials in Washington -- may find abhorrent what this and other Arabic stations are broadcasting, but they need to know what's being said; they need to understand what prominent Arab news outlets are saying about the U.S. occupation of Iraq and other issues.

    Audio is extracted from the news broadcasts, and converted to text in a speech-to-text program. Then the Arabic text is translated, also by a machine, into English. The results, twice removed from what the announcers have said, are rough approximations. But they capture the gist of the reports.

    The video, audio and texts (Arabic and English) go into a database. Sean Colbath, senior engineer at the BBN Technologies Speech and Language Processing Group, pulls out items -- short video quotes -- that look especially interesting or relevant to the key topics of the day. He bundles them into a file that goes to a human translator on the mainland, who gives an accurate rendering of what the broadcast snippet actually told the audience.

    This is a blending of human and machine translation capabilities, and it's a smart one. The machines get us part of the way. Humans capture more subtlety, but machines can winnow out a lot of the dross first.

    At the heart of the machine translation activity here is technology from Language Weaver, a southern California company. Impressive stuff, and it's barely at the beginning of what's possible.

    Colbath's gear is just one element in the translation tests here at Strong Angel, where people from the military, civilian, governmental and non-governmental spheres are testing new ways to communicate and collaborate in the aftermath of great human tragedy.

    Another experiment, which I have yet to see, sounds amazing: a chat in which you input in one language, someone gets your input in a different language and replies in his or her own tongue, which then comes back to you in your language. I'll tell you more when I've seen it up close.

    posted by Dan Gillmor 04:55 PM
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    Google and Trust

    (This is also my Sunday column in the Mercury News.)

    As Google nears the day when it sells stock to the public, a fundamental question arises: How can the company possibly justify the rich price it hopes to get in the marketplace?

    However brilliant Google's technology may be -- and it's both innovative and path-breaking in many ways -- the online search and advertising company doesn't have a monopoly. And it faces plenty of competition from small and large businesses that have their own share of smart people.

    There's only one way the fast-growing search and media powerhouse can pull this off, and a single word sums it up: trust.


    posted by Dan Gillmor 12:08 PM
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    Difference of Opinion

    Last Sunday's column, about the entertainment industry's latest effort to restrict our ability to make use of the copyrighted material we've purchased, took the technology industry to task for a belated response. Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association, challenged me on that, saying the response was as quick and effective as he's seen from the industry to any challenge.

    Shapiro was, indeed, quick to jump into the fray, but the bulk of the tech industry didn't wake up nearly fast enough.

    Meanwhile, I'll take this opportunity to ask you again to contact your U.S. senators and express your strong opposition to the bill in question, S.2560. There's no time to waste.

    The text of Shapiro's note, edited slightly with his permission, is posted below.


    posted by Dan Gillmor 11:18 AM
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    July 17, 2004
    Making Politics Work Better Via Traditional+New Media

    Susan Mernit has some good ideas on how it might work. Example: Combine the NY Times or Washington Post with Technorati and Feedster. She asks:

    "Why don't we see a major media outlet that will file lots of stories during the election find a way to work with Technorati or Feedster so they can have almost real-time links reflecting people's comments on--and links to--the stories--right on their web site?"

    posted by Dan Gillmor 01:52 PM
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    Sir Tim

    You don't have to be a fan of royalty to still be happy for Tim Berners-Lee, who was knighted today (BBC) in London.

    posted by Dan Gillmor 01:27 PM
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    That Was Weird...

    I just posted a new item, and suddenly there were 22 comments under it -- all from another posting from more than a week ago. I deleted them, but this is just bizarre.

    posted by Dan Gillmor 12:44 PM
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    Interactive Tele-Journalism

    Sean Van EveryShawn Van Every, a researcher at New York University, is here at the Strong Angel II demonstration with some cool technology and an equally cool idea. He's combined some gear into a platform for what he calls Interactive Tele-Journalism, the notion being that the audience should have a more direct participation -- in real time -- with the journalist.

    At Strong Angel he's doing some of this journalism with a video rig that includes a video screen connected to an Internet chat where the audience can make suggestions, including questions to ask and where he might point his video camera. (Here's his page with the video streams and chat software.) It sounds distracting to me, but I like the idea a lot in the context of picking the audience's collective brain in the middle of capturing news.

    Imagine this applied to, say, a press conference. Someone in the audience might know -- surely would know -- a lot more than the reporter about a specific topic and offer a follow-up question the journalists hadn't thought of in the first place. This has interesting potential.

    (Corrected for misspelling of Van Every's first name.)

    posted by Dan Gillmor 11:55 AM
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    July 16, 2004
    Strong Angel Tests Limits of Communications, Collaboration

    Strong Angel siteThis is the site of one of the most intriguing experiments I've seen in the technology arena. A team of talented people from government, NGOs and the private sector has assembled on a lava bed on Hawaii's Big Island for an exercise designed to push the limits of communications and collaboration in a harsh environment, such as the aftermath of a disaster (whether human-made, i.e. war, or natural).

    The project is called Strong Angel II, led by a Navy doctor named Eric Rasmussen. I did a column about this a few weeks ago, and now Rasmussen and his group are putting the plans into action.

    These are the kind of people who make me feel especially humble.

    posted by Dan Gillmor 08:18 PM
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    Airline Passenger Screening Still Government Priority
  • NY Times: Goverment is 'Reshaping' Airport Screening System. On Wednesday the secretary of homeland security, Tom Ridge, was quoted in USA Today as saying that Capps 2 was dead. But a spokesman for his agency, Brian Roehrkasse, said Thursday that "the administration continues to move forward on an automated aviation passenger prescreening system to replace the existing antiquated airline system, to better manage risk and be more efficient."
  • In other words, almost nothing has changed.

    Civil libertarians and people who care about privacy shout when intrusive spying on citizens is proposed. Officialdom pretends to pull the plug on the system, but just puts it into effect in other ways that draw less unwelcome attention.

    What does this really have to do with airline security? Very little, really. After all, some of the airport systems now in place are for show, not for real security.

    It has everything to do with giving government a way to easily know everything we're doing, in close to real time, by tracking our purchases and travels. This is how the surveillance state evolves.

    posted by Dan Gillmor 07:41 PM
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    Open Thread

    No updates until much later today. Talk among yourselves below. Please, please, please be nice to each other.

    posted by Dan Gillmor 08:56 AM
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    July 15, 2004
    Blogs and PR: a Q&A;

    As part of Global PR Blog Week, an online look at blogging as it relates to public relations, Steve Rubel asked me for my own thoughts on the subject. Here's the Q&A; posting.

    posted by Dan Gillmor 09:32 AM
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    July 14, 2004
    America's Health Care Mess

    (This is also today's column in the San Jose Mercury News.)

    Another chapter in the health care meltdown:

    Sometime in the next few weeks, barring a surprising turn of events, the state of California will formally approve the merger of two health insurance giants. An Indiana company called Anthem will acquire WellPoint Health Networks, the Southern California outfit that owns Blue Cross of California, for about $16.4 billion.

    The deal has drawn harsh criticism for many reasons. Not least is the display of raw greed by the insider executives who stand to collect somewhere between $200 million and $600 million in payouts after the buyout is concluded.


    posted by Dan Gillmor 11:20 AM
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    FCC's Powell Talks Common Sense, but Where's Policy?

    Michael Powell, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, talked a great game last night at the Always On conference at Stanford. He spoke out for an open architecture on the Net; indicated that the broadcast "indecency" rules are at best questionable from a Constitutional and logical framework, and generally impressed a crowd of technologists and tech constituents.

    I'll be happier when his views translate more firmly into FCC policies, and when Congress discovers that the distinctions between media are growing far too hazy for the old rules. But this is genuine progress.

  • There's lots of blogging going on here. My older, wiser brother Steve is part of the ZDNet team that's posting here.
  • Oh, here's Powell's alleged blog, which has been drawing attention. I say "alleged" because while I think it's great that he's posting and listening -- two of the major components of blogging -- this neither looks nor feels like the real thing. Still, it's interesting, and the comments he's drawn from all kinds of folks are terrific.

    posted by Dan Gillmor 10:48 AM
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    Software for the Long Term

  • Dan Bricklin: Software That Lasts 200 Years. We need to start thinking about software in a way more like how we think about building bridges, dams, and sewers. What we build must last for generations without total rebuilding. This requires new thinking and new ways of organizing development. This is especially important for governments of all sizes as well as for established, ongoing businesses and institutions.
  • posted by Dan Gillmor 08:32 AM
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    July 13, 2004
    Gay Marriage: A Deeply Political Morality
  • Washington Post: Kill This Amendment. Precisely because of the weight conservatives have put on this issue, today's vote, despite its preordained outcome, has become deeply important. It requires senators to take a public stand on a question of deep principle: Are they willing to warp the entire American constitutional structure to prevent people who love one another from marrying?
  • The amendment is going to lose, but it's dismaying that so many senators -- calling this a moral issue -- are willing to change the Constitution to turn some Americans into second-class citizens. Where's the morality in that?

    posted by Dan Gillmor 10:23 PM
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    Repeat After Me: A Book is a Book

    This NY Times piece compares with Napster. Huh?

    The odd logic is that used books sold online are cutting into sales of new books, which may or may not be true. But the Napster comparison is ludicrous for some obvious reasons, including the fact that an actual book is not a digitized song, and that if I'm holding a specific book you are not holding the same copy.

    The Times piece is about the "doctrine of first sale," which basically says that once a work is sold, it's gone from the creator's control. The purchaser of the item can resell it, give it away or throw it in the garbage, if that's what he wants to do.

    Copyright holders have never liked this very much, and I can sympathize. Visual artists who see escalating prices for works they sold at bargain when they were starting out tend to really not like this situation. But the doctrine of first sale is vastly better than the alternative.

    The idea that the copyright owner should get a cut every time a book changes hands is a Pandora's box. It's also just what copyright industry would like to see happen, and that's what the entertainment industry is trying to create with its various digital restrictions technologies.

    The industry wants a pay-per-use world of arts and letters. Resist. And let's please not equate selling a used book with copyright infringement.

    posted by Dan Gillmor 12:04 PM
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    Google Buys Desktop Software

  • Reuters: Google Acquires Digital Photo Management Company. Web search company Google Inc. said on Tuesday it acquired Picasa Inc., a digital photo management company it hopes will help it to offer services that will differentiate it as it seeks to go public.
  • Intriguing. Google is moving quickly to assemble the pieces of something much more comprehensive than search and advertising. I'm not sure I can see the full outline, though.

    posted by Dan Gillmor 08:56 AM
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    HyperText 2004

    The Association for Computing Machinery is having a conference on Hypertext and Hypermedia next month, and asked me to speak about the evolution of journalism in the Digital Age. Here's the homepage of Hypertext 2004 for details on the conference.

    posted by Dan Gillmor 07:29 AM
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    Finally, a Two-Line 5.8 GHz Phone

    Several readers, recalling my months-ago call for help in finding a two-line 5.8 GHz wireless phone, have let me know that Uniden is selling this one. It looks pretty good.

    One flaw, however, it its lack of internal voice mail. I have an old answering machine, so I can live without it, but this is a pretty weird omission. I may wait a while longer for some company to include all the obvious features.

    posted by Dan Gillmor 07:19 AM
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    The Troll Situation, Continued

    I've had a flood of suggestions from you good folks about my troll problem.Some are, at the moment, technically not feasible. Others are a good possibility, and I'm forwarding them along to our tech folks.

    Some of you have said you won't miss the comments if they disappear entirely. But I still believe the conversation is important, for all of us, when it works right, and I do want to bring it back.

    Incidentally, several of the people who wrote with suggestions are among my more fierce critics on this page. They still think I'm mistaken on the issues (we agree to disagree). They aren't here to cause trouble, but to truly discuss the issues, and they hope we can restore that discussion for those of us who aren't here just to play troll games.

    I hope so, too, and while I'm thanking everyone individually who wrote, here's my public appreciation for the ideas and, most of all, good will.

    posted by Dan Gillmor 06:14 AM
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    July 12, 2004
    A Troll Apart: Comments Endangered

    As you all know, we have a troll problem here. At least one person is repeatedly violating the reasonable boundaries of discourse, to the point that he/she has become unwelcome here. We've attempted to remove this person from the premises.

    But I believe our troll is signing in from a major Internet service provider that, like most ISPs, gives out dynamic IP addresses (a different one every time someone logs on to the provider). Block one IP address, and he/she just signs in again and starts up the trolling machine.

    UPDATE: I'm asked to describe the problem in more detail. OK, the person (or his/her virtual clones) doing this has repeatedly posted false statements about what I do and what I believe even after being told they are false.

    I have no problem with people who disagree with what I write or who think I'm an idiot, as anyone who's read the comments here knows. But that's a long way from plain dishonesty, which is just not acceptable.

    So we are now faced with a decision. We can:

  • Keep playing whack-a-mole with our troll, but this is time-consuming and annoying (perhaps what he/she wants);
  • Ban an entire range of IP addresses, which would prevent some legitimate comments from getting through (something I'm exceedingly reluctant to try);
  • Or shut down comments entirely until we have a new posting system that prevents this kind of ugly behavior by people whose purpose appears to be disruptive, as opposed to having a serious debate of the issues.

    If we take the third alternative permanently, as we have done for the moment, our troll will lose the ability to disagree with me publicly on this blog. Is that really what he/she wants? I'm baffled by such people, but also nearly out of patience.

    Suggestions? Send me e-mail. Thanks.

    posted by Dan Gillmor 04:01 PM
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    Blogging On Next Week

    I'll be participating next Friday in BlogOn 2004: The Business of Social Media in Berkeley. Many of the usual suspects will be there, and we'll all learn something(s) new.

    posted by Dan Gillmor 12:46 PM
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    PR, Blogs and the Evolving Media World

    An online event called Global PR Blog Week is under way. They've posted an interview today with Jay Rosen, who (blush) has kind words for my book. I'm busy answering questions for an interview they'll post later in the week.

    posted by Dan Gillmor 12:15 PM
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    Always On Conference This Week

    I'm speaking later this week at the Always OnAlways On conference at Stanford University. I'm on two panels, one with Joe Trippi, former Howard Dean campaign manager and author of "The Revolution Won't be Televised," and the other with professional journalists and bloggers, and I'm not sure which group I'm supposed to represent...

    posted by Dan Gillmor 06:48 AM
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    July 11, 2004
    Guerrilla News Network
  • NY Times: How to Make a Guerrilla Documentary. ''Outfoxed'' was made in an unusually collaborative fashion. In January, Greenwald rigged up a dozen DVD recorders and programmed them to record Fox News 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for about six months. After scrutinizing the initial footage, Greenwald and a team of researchers compiled a list of what they saw as Fox's telltale themes and techniques: stories questioning the patriotism of liberals; relentlessly upbeat reports on Iraq; belligerent hosts who scream at noncompliant guests. Greenwald planned for the list's categories eventually to become organizing sections of the film. As he envisioned it, the film clips grouped by theme, together with voice-overs and commentary, would lay bare Fox's tactics, frame by frame.
  • This story resonates in so many ways.

    First, it shows how one small news team can enlist its audience as volunteers and create a powerful product. The decentralized reporting model here is not entirely new, but Greenwald and his colleagues used it perfectly. This is grassroots journalism at its most intriguing.

    Second, there are copyright issues. Using snippets from Fox broadcasts clearly qualifies as fair use, yet being right isn't the same as having the money to spend years in court. But if Fox sends its copyright attack dogs after these folks, the network will be facing a high-powered legal team.

    As the story notes, Fox has already abused the "intellectual property" process when it sued Al Franken for satirizing its ridiculous "Fair and Balanced" logo by using it in the title of a book. That abuse was met with a judge's pure derision, and it helped sell Franken's book.

    Suing this time could actually help Fox in the long run, though not in the way it might want at the outset. The copyright law lets Greenwald -- and anyone else -- quote from copyrighted works to create a new work. Fox itself benefits from this in producing its programs, at least the ones that have more than a couple of talking heads in a studio. Losing this suit could help Fox and all other news gatherers and creators produce new works.

    There are rumors that Fox is preparing to launch some grenades at competing news organizations, showing alleged liberal bias. Fine. That would be fair turnaround, if provable. (It might also reinforce Fox's standing as a Republican sock puppet, a separate issue.)

    For more information on the movie, here's the Outfoxed site.

    posted by Dan Gillmor 08:20 AM
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    Glimmer of Hope from Copyright Front

    (This is also my Sunday column in the San Jose Mercury News.)

    The copyright wars continue. For a change, I have some modestly good news from the front lines.

    One horrible piece of legislation before Congress is under attack, albeit belatedly. And one excellent bill is gaining strength, albeit slowly.


    posted by Dan Gillmor 08:00 AM
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    July 10, 2004
    Journalism's New Feedback Loop

  • Gen Kanai: Reader-supported journalism. Whitmore has really taken this project full-circle. By re-releasing all of the survey data to us, he has allowed all of us to learn what he has learned.
  • posted by Dan Gillmor 03:46 PM
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    Right Wingers for Nader
  • SF Chronicle: Candidate says he's keeping money. The increased pressure for Nader to support Camejo's position and renounce a spate of recent donations from wealthy backers of President Bush came after The Chronicle reported Friday that 1 in 10 of Nader's biggest contributors as of May 31 also were major donors to the president's re- election campaign and the Republican Party.
  • It's been obvious for some time that Ralph Nader's ego trip is a gift from heaven for the people who most loathe everything he stands for. Now we see that the gifts go both ways.

    The right wingers sending money to Nader know exactly what they're trying to do. Whether Nader admits it or not, so does he. His spoiler candidacy may be helped, but his place in history just keeps on sinking. Sad.

    posted by Dan Gillmor 02:01 PM
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    Saturn Unveiled

    saturnThe images from the Cassini-Huygens spacecraft get more and more amazing.

    posted by Dan Gillmor 10:11 AM
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    A Privacy Policy Challenged, then Modified

    Ed Foster shone a light on the abysmal privacy policies at the Hilton hotel conglomerate, and now reports that the policies have been changed somewhat for the better. Hilton's hotels are still off my list until there's a complete revision, but Ed and his readers deserve credit for what's been done so far.

    posted by Dan Gillmor 09:03 AM
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    Intelligence Derailed

  • NY Times: The Senate Report. The panel's investigation into how President Bush handled the intelligence has been postponed until after the election. But the bottom line already seems pretty clear. No one had to pressure analysts to change their findings because the findings were determined before the work started. By late 2002, you'd have had to have been vacationing on Mars not to know what answer Mr. Bush wanted. The planning for war had begun. The C.I.A. was under enormous pressure over getting it wrong before 9/11. And the hawkish defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, wanted to set up his own intelligence agency to get the goods on Iraq that the wishy-washy C.I.A. couldn't seem to deliver.
  • posted by Dan Gillmor 08:58 AM
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    July 09, 2004
    Another Top Exec Blogs

    Jonathan Schwartz, president and COO at Sun Microsystems, has a new blog that's off to a good start. There's a human voice on the page, and some actual insight into the person speaking. I'll be watching this one, for many reasons.

    posted by Dan Gillmor 07:49 PM
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    'Patriot' Act Intact


  • NY Times: Effort to Curb Scope of Antiterrorism Law Falls Short. The library proposal, tacked onto a $39.8 billion spending bill, would have barred the federal government from demanding library records, reading lists, book customer lists and other material in terrorism and intelligence investigations. The antiterrorism law expanded the government's authority to secure warrants from a secret intelligence court in Washington to obtain records from libraries and other institutions, using what many legal experts regard as a lesser standard of proof than is needed in traditional criminal investigations.
  • It was close, and the Bush administration and its Republican House allies had to threaten, wheedle and whine, even extending the voting time when they saw they were going to lose if the did things by the normal rules. But they prevailed.

    Slowly but surely, people are beginning to understand what overwhelming power a frightened Congress granted the executive in the wrongly named "Patriot" Act. Maybe, someday, Congress will recover enough courage to protect our rights instead of handing them over so -- forgive the word -- freely.

    Note: A troll whose posts I have banned from this forum pointed out, fairly for once, that it's not appropriate for me to imply that opponents are unpatriotic people. Certain acts may be anti-American in their impact, but certainly in this case they were the acts of people who love this country as much as I -- and our troll -- do.

    LATER UPDATE: What riles me up most about the law's name is its insinuation -- played to the hilt by Bush and his clique -- that anyone who opposes anything about the law is unpatriotic. Remember Ashcroft all but calling people traitors for their challenges to the way the law ripped away at liberty? "Your tactics only aid terrorists," Ashcroft proclaimed, three months after the 9/11 attacks, in just one of the many efforts by the administration and its allies to impugn the patriotism of people who are trying to save the Constitution from different kind of attacks.

    Again, I don't doubt Bush's love of country. But he and his ideological troops should think twice about how they label everyone else.

    posted by Dan Gillmor 09:20 AM
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    Consumer Technology Targeted by U.S. Senate

  • Ernie Miller: Introducing Hatch's Hit List. I will endeavor to post every weekday an example of a nascent technology that can be quashed by the INDUCE Act.
  • First up: WiFi Car Stereos.

    posted by Dan Gillmor 09:07 AM
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    Scare Tactics

    In this scare story in today's Guardian, the movie industry claims one of every four Internet users has downloaded movies, and says, "The MPAA's findings are backed by a report from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which says more movies were illegally downloaded last year than music tracks."

    Given that the average movie -- even after being heavily compressed -- is still not much less than a gigabyte in size, and that the average song is a couple of megabytes, this OECD assertion seems ridiculous on its face.

    posted by Dan Gillmor 08:55 AM
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    Bush National Guard Records 'Inadvertently' Ruined
  • NY Times: Pentagon Says Bush Records of Service Were Destroyed. Military records that could help establish President Bush's whereabouts during his disputed service in the Texas Air National Guard more than 30 years ago have been inadvertently destroyed, according to the Pentagon.
  • Given the White House statements that all of Bush's records had already been made public, this is an, ahem, interesting new development. But are you really surprised? Me, neither.

    posted by Dan Gillmor 08:04 AM
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    CIA's Regrettable Lapses


  • AP: Report Says Key Assertions Leading to War Were Wrong. The key U.S. assertions leading to the 2003 invasion of Iraq -- that Saddam Hussein had chemical and biological weapons and was working to make nuclear weapons -- were wrong and based on false or overstated CIA analyses, a scathing Senate Intelligence Committee report asserted Friday.

    The panel says there's no evidence the White House told the CIA what to say, but the Washington Post cited CIA analysts saying the opposite last year. The CIA screwed up, no doubt, but how much did Bush's people turn Tenet into a scapegoat?

    (Corrected to note report's statement on White House pressure.)

    posted by Dan Gillmor 07:58 AM
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    July 08, 2004
    Newspaper's Election Blog-by-Readers Experiment

    My colleague Mike Bazeley alerts me that the Seattle Times has announced an "Election 2004 Backyard Blog project," inviting readers to be part of the journalism process.

    The newspaper asks:

    "Are you interested in this year's elections? Know your community? Like to talk politics with your friends, colleagues and neighbors? Want an opportunity to blog about your observations?

    "Apply to join a grass-roots campaign coverage effort by The Seattle Times. We want fresh thoughts and perspectives about the elections from places and people not often found in newspapers — your neighbors, your favorite cafes and other local hangouts."

    The Times will keep control of the material submitted, exercising its editorial authority. I wonder what would happen if the paper just gave folks their own blogs and let things rip.

    Whether the control is too firm or not, this is an experiment to watch.

    posted by Dan Gillmor 05:37 PM
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    BlogTalk Redux

    Sorry to have missed this year's BlogTalk gathering in Vienna. I participated in the one last year, and got some eye-opening material from European bloggers.

    Joi Ito set up this wiki about the event.

    posted by Dan Gillmor 05:20 PM
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    Fair Use with DVDs

  • NY Times: Whose DVD? A Debate Over Copies. The free copying tools are available through Internet sites that are not directly subject to American law, often because the nations that those sites call home permit individuals to copy material for their own use. People seeking such tools need only pose the question in an Internet search engine to find dozens of sites devoted to the subject, including the Afonic DVD Guides site (www, run by Joseph Chatzimichail, a 20-year-old electrical and computer engineering student in Salonika, Greece.

  • posted by Dan Gillmor 04:56 PM
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    Did Democrats Invite, then Disinvite Bloggers?


    That's what two right-leaning bloggers say. See this and this. If true, and especially if it's related to the politics of the bloggers, the Democratic convention organizers are making a mistake.

    UPDATE: Jay Rosen got a note from a Democratic official who offers an explanation. It's way, way down in this posting on Jay's blog. Key lines:

    "The vast majority of applications came from left-leaning or progressive bloggers. Therefore, the vast majority of credentialed bloggers are left-leaning and progressive. Likewise, the vast majority of bloggers who received a credential in error are also left-leaning and progressive.

    "I cannot stress enough that our error was one of logistics not leanings."

    posted by Dan Gillmor 09:46 AM
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    Enough is Enough

    I've asked our tech folks to ban the IP address of a commenter on this weblog. He repeated a false personal accusation, after I posted a warning that it was unacceptable.

    One more time: I welcome your disagreements. But there are boundaries here that I won't allow people to cross more than once.

    posted by Dan Gillmor 09:37 AM
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    July 07, 2004
    Bloggers and Political Conventions

    Jay Rosen and Dave Winer will be among the bloggers who have been given credentials to cover the Democratic National Convention in Boston. Good choices, both.

    Jay just posted a long essay about conventions and journalism, and it's fascinating to read. The freshness bloggers will bring to the coverage, he says, makes the experiment worthwhile. I look forward to seeing if this turns out to be the case.

    For my own part, I'm not attending that event. Rather, I'll be at another gathering that has serious political overtones of its own, the Open Source Convention in Portland, Oregon. I'll be speaking about my book, of course, from the angle of asking if we're entering an era of something that resembles open-source journalism. People like Dave and Jay have helped persuade me that we are, and I'm glad of it.

    posted by Dan Gillmor 04:46 PM
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    Forgetful President Critiques Candidate's Inexperience

  • Reuters: Bush Raises Issue of Edwards' Experience to Be VP. President Bush criticized Democratic vice presidential candidate John Edwards in his own home state on Wednesday by questioning whether Edwards has sufficient experience to be a heartbeat away from the presidency.
  • Given that Bush had no more experience when he became president (not vice president), this is almost funny. He gets two points for hypocrisy, though.

    posted by Dan Gillmor 09:03 AM
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    Important Win for Trustworthy E-Voting

    A federal judge has ruled (960k PDF) that California's tougher new rules on touch-screen video voting systems are valid. This is extremely good news for everyone except the recalcitrant local voting officials who've been trying to block Secretary of State Kevin Shelley's efforts to clean up a process that invited voter distrust.

    posted by Dan Gillmor 07:51 AM
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    Bush Administration Silences FBI Whistleblower

    Via Dave Farber's Interesting People mail list)

  • Boston Globe: Translator in eye of storm on retroactive classification. Sifting through old classified materials in the days after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, FBI translator Sibel Edmonds said, she made an alarming discovery: Intercepts relevant to the terrorist plot, including references to skyscrapers, had been overlooked because they were badly translated into English.

    Edmonds, 34, who is fluent in Turkish and Farsi, said she quickly reported the mistake to an FBI superior. Five months later, after flagging what she said were several other security lapses in her division, she was fired. Now, after more than two years of investigations and congressional inquiries, Edmonds is at the center of an extraordinary storm over US classification rules that sheds new light on the secrecy imperative supported by members of the Bush administration.

    In a rare maneuver, Attorney General John Ashcroft has ordered that information about the Edmonds case be retroactively classified, even basic facts that have been posted on websites and discussed openly in meetings with members of Congress for two years. The Department of Justice also invoked the seldom-used ''state secrets" privilege to silence Edmonds in court. She has been blocked from testifying in a lawsuit brought by victims of the Sept. 11 attacks and was allowed to speak to the panel investigating the Sept. 11 attacks only behind closed doors.

  • Why? Maybe, as Republican Sen. Charles Grassley says in this story, "''Frankly, it looks like an attempt to impede legitimate oversight of a serious problem at the FBI."

    Even now, Congress as a whole has yet to locate its spine.

    By the way, the story notes that Sens. Grassley and Leahy have, at the government's request, removed from their websites letters they wrote to the FBI demanding answers about this situation. The story also says the letters are available on the Internet but doesn't say where.

    They're here, at the invaluable Memory Hole.

    More information:

    The first major news organization to cover this story was CBS' 60 Minutes show. Here's that 2002 report,

    And the increasingly helpful Disinfopedia wiki has much more.

    posted by Dan Gillmor 06:55 AM
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    A Lot of Blogs

    As of yesterday, Technorati was tracking more than 3 million weblogs. Dave Sifry explains.

    posted by Dan Gillmor 06:38 AM
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    July 06, 2004
    Uh, Oh


    Not sure what's going on, but some of my recent comments have disappeared. We deleted some porn spam, but as far as I know I didn't delete any of my own comments. Weird. Our tech folks will be looking into it.

    UPDATE: Hmmm, it gets more puzzling. I was temporarily blocked from posting comments myself. Weirder.

    posted by Dan Gillmor 04:31 PM
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    Cheney's Non-Evidence of Saddam-Al Qaeda Links

  • Reuters: Cheney Had No New Data on Saddam, Al Qaeda. The Sept. 11 commission, which reported no collaborative links between Iraq and al Qaeda, said on Tuesday that Vice President Dick Cheney had no more information than commission investigators to support his later assertions to the contrary.
  • What a surprise.

    posted by Dan Gillmor 03:21 PM
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    Sez Who?

    The normally redoubtable Financial Times begins this story about copyright infringement this way:

    The urban comedy film Soul Plane, starring rapper Snoop Dogg, flopped when it opened in US cinemas earlier this year. The reason was not any critical panning, but a more troubling phenomenon for the industry - piracy. More than a month before the film was released, high-quality bootleg versions could be downloaded from the net.
    This fits into the "interesting if true" category. But there's no evidence offered in this piece to support the assertion that copyright infringement had even the slightest role to play in the failure of the movie at the box office.

    We went to several first-run movies over the weekend. Both are available on the file-sharing networks. Both drew good crowds.

    And, as the BBC reports today, Hollywood took in record revenues last month. Some disaster it's having with downloads.

    Gee. Maybe Soul Plane bombed for another reason: that movie-goers didn't like it. You think?

    posted by Dan Gillmor 02:19 PM
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    Stop Using Internet Explorer

  • Stephen Wildstrom (Business Week): Why I'm Staying Away From Internet Explorer. In late June network security experts saw one of their worst fears realized. Attackers exploited a pair of known but unpatched flaws in Microsoft's (MSFT ) Web server and Internet Explorer browser to compromise seemingly safe Web sites. People who browsed the sites using Windows computers -- without downloading anything -- were infected with malicious code. I've been increasingly concerned about IE's endless security problems, and this episode has convinced me that the program is simply too dangerous for routine use.
  • See also Paul Boutin's good advice on browser choice.

    posted by Dan Gillmor 07:45 AM
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    Kerry's Pick

    John Kerry's naming of John Edwards as his preferred running mate makes sense. It's the safe choice. Whether it's the smart one remains to be seen.

    Edwards' blatant economic protectionism during the primary campaign is a worry, though. Kerry has been a free trader for the most part. He need to make clear that he won't go for the protectionist stuff his rivals were advocating.

    posted by Dan Gillmor 07:22 AM
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    July 05, 2004
    ACLU Comes to Silicon Valley

    The organization that helps protect the Bill of Rights is looking for some good people in Silicon Valley.

    posted by Dan Gillmor 05:39 PM
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    July 04, 2004
    Celebrating Independence and Patriotism

    Declaration of Independence

  • Pete McCloskey: Patriotism (and shame) on the Fourth of July. The word "patriot" is too precious to allow it to be used by the thundering rhetoric of politicians that patriotism requires not only "supporting the troops" but also supporting the foreign policy that puts them at risk.
  • NY Times: Recording of John F. Kennedy reading Declaration of Independence.

  • posted by Dan Gillmor 08:57 AM
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    July 4, 2004

    American Flag(This is also my Sunday column in the San Jose Mercury News.)

    On Independence Day, 2004, how fares American liberty?

    Brilliantly, if you compare the United States with the tyrannies that still control the lives of countless people.

    Not badly, if liberty means the right to seek economic gain in a capitalist system -- especially if you're starting with the right connections and a privileged background.

    Not as well, when you look at growing pressures on longstanding freedoms. Governments have exploited fears of terrorism to curb many precious liberties, and technology has continued to help snoops of all kinds invade our privacy.


    posted by Dan Gillmor 08:31 AM
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    July 03, 2004
    Moves to Make SpyWare Officially Okay

  • Ed Foster: The Can-Spy Act? Oh, oh. In case you haven't noticed, there's a very familiar pattern to current legislative activity regarding anti-spyware laws. It's very reminiscent of where Congress was last year at this time on anti-spam legislation, and that ultimately led to the disastrous Can Spam Act. Are we soon to see the enactment of the "Yes, You Can Spy Act" as well?
  • posted by Dan Gillmor 07:59 AM
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    July 02, 2004
    China's Latest Censorship Move

  • BBC: China to censor text messages. China is expanding its censorship controls to cover text messages sent using mobile phones. New regulations have been issued to allow mobile phone service providers to police and filter messages for pornographic or fraudulent content. But analysts fear the real targets are political dissidents.
  • posted by Dan Gillmor 10:23 AM
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    Mobile Number Phone Directory Panned

  • Chicago Tribune: Customers rebelling against plan for cell-phone directory. The proposal for a wireless number directory surfaced in May from the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association. Shortly after, legislation was introduced in Congress and some states that were seeking to regulate the directory. For one thing, lawmakers wanted to assure that no number would be listed without permission and that carriers could not charge for unlisting a number, as wired phone companies do.
  • I just notified my mobile carrier, T-Mobile, that if it participated in this directory, forcing me to opt out at some later date, I would give serious thought to moving my service to another carrier. This should be opt in, period.

    I'm paying when people call me. For that reason alone I don't want to have my number widely distributed. The people who need to have it, do have it.

    Why is this so difficult for the carriers to understand, anyway?

    posted by Dan Gillmor 08:12 AM
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    July 01, 2004
    An Academic Look at Blogs

    "Into the Blogsphere" is an academic exploration of the "rhetoric, community, and culture of weblogs." Some of this is pretty dry for average folks, but it's worth some time if you care about the subject.

    posted by Dan Gillmor 10:35 AM
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    Housing Bubble, Continued

  • SF Chronicle: Will Housing Bubble Burst? Amid the frenzy, however, some alarming trends have emerged. For example, there has been an increase in the number of Bay Area homes that fail to appraise for the purchase price, according to Ed Krafchow, president of Prudential Realty of California, Nevada and Texas. In such cases, a lender often walks away from the deal or asks the buyer to pony up more purchase money. "There's a lack of rationality in the market," Krafchow said.
  • This story, which is running across the top of Page One in today's Chronicle, is an important cautionary note. I hope people are paying attention, finally, because the mania in home-buying is a clear and present danger to our economy.

    posted by Dan Gillmor 10:24 AM
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    Oracle: Anticompetitve or Trying to Survive

    (This is also today's column in the San Jose Mercury News.)

    So it still seems to come down to a couple of core issues in Oracle's bid to buy rival PeopleSoft: Would a merger harm customers by taking a whack out of competition? Or are technology and economics reshaping an old marketplace into a highly competitive new one?

    Larry Ellison's federal court testimony Wednesday in his company's antitrust battle against the Justice Department didn't settle anything. Only one person's opinion will matter in the end: the judge's.


    posted by Dan Gillmor 08:07 AM
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    In Saturn's Orbit

    NASA JPL PictureCongratulations to the teams from several nations who successfully put the Cassini-Huygens spacecraft into Saturn's orbit for an exploratory mission. Wonderful pictures, brilliant engineering, a boon to science -- as good as this gets.

    posted by Dan Gillmor 07:20 AM
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    Meanwhile, in Hong Kong

  • AP: Political battle cries sound over Hong Kong . Hundreds of thousands of people marched in Hong Kong Thursday to demand the right to elect their own leaders and lashed out at Beijing for clamping down on the territory’s democratic aspirations.
  • posted by Dan Gillmor 07:07 AM
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    SARS Hero Jailed?

  • Tim Bishop: Dr. Jiang Yanyong, hero of the SARS epidemic, imprisoned in China. According to several sources, the Chinese authorities have detained Dr. Jiang Yanyong, the retired surgeon, People's Liberation Army veteran, and long-time Communist Party member who was one of the heros of the SARS epidemic. As you may recall, at a time when the Chinese government was lying and denying that there were more than a handful of SARS cases in China, and was driving SARS patients around Beijing in ambulances to hide them from the World Health Organization, Dr. Jiang Yanyong wrote and signed a letter to the Beijing TV station and Time Magazine telling the truth about the magnitude of the SARS epidemic in Beijing. This simple act of truth telling did as much as any other act to stop the spread of SARS, and to begin the process of containing the epidemic. As I noted earlier, given that the party line became that the officials who concealed the SARS epidemic were the wrong doers, Dr. Jiang Yanyong was not punished for speaking out, and was even faintly praised in a People's Daily article.
  • posted by Dan Gillmor 06:55 AM
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