Saturday, April 28, 2007

Virus Writers, According to Flickr its Wide Open

This came up as a comment.  It seems Flickr staff claims it can't block IP level.  If this is true, which it certainly is not, Flickr is wide open to DOS attacks.  Having a major global web site unable to block IP would be like a Hackers dream, read for yourself, but it sounds more like either heather does not understand what she is talking about or just making an excuse for not doing anything to protect users from criminal attacks.  It simply can not be true, the firewalls must be able to stop IP that are sources of attacks.

There are also over 2 million links on Google to Yahoo IP blocking, so the technology is certainly there.  My own testing indictes that flickr admins can block ips to forums.

So the question is why did heather lie.

view photos

Flickr Staff

heather says:

Eudaemonian, I'm sorry that we haven't gotten back to you in a timelymanner. We've been reviewing the case and instances such as these it'sa bit of a quandry, given that we can't block individuals at the IPlevel

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Thursday, April 26, 2007

Untitled Billy Warhol working to Remember those deleted by Flickr

Billy Warhol working to Remember those deleted by Flickr

Source BillyWarhol's

Body politique!Flickr Aborts Gail's Orenstein's site. 1 million visitors served! Will rebuild 150 testimonials lost, 3,451 photos uploaded and 40 pics with over 1,000 comments!

People should be Outraged over this kinda shit*

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Making a Web 2.0 Survival Plan

Social Networks provide an excellent way for publishers to share their work and connect with communities.

Sadly with the large firms of Google and Yahoo buying up social networking space it is critical to insure that your social networks are backuped so you can rebuild them if you are suddenly deleted. This recently happened to Gail Orenstein. Without explanation or warning Flickr deleted her popular network that contained connections to thousands of fans. So how can you protect yourself in a climate of Global Corporate Censorship?

Well this method has been proven under fire.

1. The key is to have as many social networks as possible. Don't keep all your friends on Flickr or MySpace, but run a Flickr page, a couple of Blogger blogs, and a MySpace. Doing this prevents you from being exposed to a single network.

2. Gail and I also backed up all the text and contacts from Flickr in to a number of Google sites using Blogger. This is done with an excellent tool called Flock Browser. Flock Browser lets you drag and drop any content in to a web blog tool that will blog the content and styling to your own blogs.

In this case all the testimonials are dragged from the Flickr site on to the blog tool in Flock, press the publish.

You can define a set of blogs with public API to post to and add technorati tags. Flickr will alert Technorati that you have blogged an item for more distribution. Pressing publish again will blog the entire.

Now you have a full back up of your testimonials posted to Google, where it is also free of Flickr new filter system and can show up in Google searches.

Follow this procedure for comments on your photos as well. So in case Flickr deletes your site you can quickly make contacts with your old community and give them email message about. It might take an entire weekend but we were able to contact over 300 members of Gail's community in one night.

Within 24 hours of Flickr deletion Gail's site was back and she had over 20 new testimonals. We don't know what Flickr thinks of this, nor do we care. This method can work for any of your social networks you are concerned about, especially one's run by Yahoo which is promoting considerable censorship in an effort to capture the China market.

This method can give you a public record of your community independent of the company that presently may try and take it away from you. You can also use this method to save and distribute Wikipedia articles under threat of deletion you feel are important or would like to work on.

Flickr is a wonderful tool but the community is dominated by cyber-bullies and nut cases and the corporate culture is corrupt and pandering to China. So everyone with real art should start a blogger site, download Flock and make themselves safe.

With this method Gail had her site back and running, and most of her best contacts online in 5 hours.

Robert Hooker
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Monday, April 23, 2007

Now its all of us in front of those tanks.

The biggest battle of the Internt is joined.

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Yahoo China

Yahoo China

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Monday, April 16, 2007

Yahoo Utterly Corrupted By China

Another cyberdissident imprisoned because of data provided by Yahoo

Reporters Without Borders called on Yahoo! to supply a list of all cyberdissidents it has provided data on, beginning with 81 people in China whose release the worldwide press freedom organization is currently campaigning for.

It said it had discovered that Yahoo! customer and cyberdissident Li Zhi had been given his eight-year prison sentence in December 2003 based on electronic records provided by Yahoo. “How many more cases are we going to find?” it asked.

“We were sure the case of Shi Tao, who was jailed for 10 years last April on the basis of Yahoo-supplied data, was not the only one. Now we know Yahoo works regularly and efficiently with the Chinese police.

“The firm says it simply responds to requests from the authorities for data without ever knowing what it will be used for. But this argument no longer holds water. Yahoo certainly knew it was helping to arrest political dissidents and journalists, not just ordinary criminals. The company must answer for what it is doing at the US congressional hearing set for February 15.”

The foreign-based news website posted on February 5 the plea of cyberdissident Li’s lawyer, Zhang Sizhi, at an appeal court hearing in February 2004. Zhang said his client, who used the e-mail address and user-name lizhi34100, had been sentenced on the basis of data handed over by Yahoo! Hong Kong in a report dated August 1, 2003.

Li, a 35-year-old ex-civil servant from Dazhou (South-West), had been sentenced on December 10, 2003 to eight years in prison for “inciting subversion.” He had been arrested the previous August after he criticized in online discussion groups and articles the corruption of local officials.

Local sources said Yahoo! Hong Kong’s cooperation with the police was also mentioned in the court’s verdict on Li.

The US house of Representatives Committee on International Relations will hold a hearing on February 15 about the ethical responsibilities of Internet firms. Yahoo! has been invited to attend.

49 cyberdissidents and 32 journalists are in prison in China for posting on the Internet articles and criticism of the authorities.

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Sunday, April 08, 2007

Found on Flickr

In the Western world, since World War II, the swastika is usually associated with the flag of Nazi Germany and the Nazi Party. Prior to this association, swastikas were used throughout the western world.

Some stupid bitch on Flickr tatooed this on her friends back.  Its seems the idiot learned it was a peace symbol in India, but used the precisely rotation, right facing and dimensions of the Nazi sysmbol to scare her friend wiht a life long hate crime.

This is suppose to be an accident, the girl's wanted a cool Hindu peace tatoo.

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Deconstructing the Surge

Gates: Surge unfolding as predicted
By UPI Staff
United Press International
April 6, 2007

WASHINGTON (UPI) -- U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Thursday that increasing troop strength in Iraq and stepping up security in Baghdad is working.

Planners predicted the increase in major insurgent bombings by insurgents, Gates told reporters at a news conference. He blamed a "relatively small" number of people for sectarian killings, the Washington Post reported.

"The early signs are positive," Gates said. "There is a great reluctance to engage in happy talk about this. It's a tough environment."

Gates said that by late summer officials should be able to determine if the surge in troops has been a success.

While the U.S. military is stretched, it still has vast reserves, he said, and has the capacity to respond to additional threats if needed.

"There's more than one audience here, so I want to make sure ... our potential enemies also know that the United States armed forces have enormous power and capacity," he said, addressing the television cameras.

Copyright 2007 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved

A above story was located in the GOP web site where where I copied it.  To conduct a discursive analysis one would first reference the context in which the article was presented by the GOP which aimed to give the piece an added level of meaning.

The site GOPUSA is surrounded by American flags and rolls to stories about the GOP. The site facilitates emailing and other web 2.0 features to make an unsigned articles from a US official in to a viral message.  The effort is to use the power of GOP political presence to promote a story which only states Gates message.  By placing what is essentially a government statement in to a new story places the genre of news around a message that the surge is working.

So what does the statement say.  The article makes no assertion about the accuracy of the statement and only responds relays a statement by an official

Firstly there is a strange assertion of proof presented that the surge is working.  It is stated that the surge was expected to raise the level of violence.  Thus the very fact the violence is going up proves the surge since the surge asserts that violence would increase.

So the level of violence is established as unable to impact the surge.  The surge is divorced from the situation in Iraq.  Certainly a decrease in violence would be taken as proof of greater than anticipated success.  But an increase in violence to common sense would be that the surge is failing, but in the world of "planners" increased violence is the expected outcome at this phase.

In such a language game essentially the surge is utterly independent of the current reality.  The surge would work if violence increased or decreased.

So what current events can be viewed to prove the surge.

This is not addressed, rather two conventional stories of the right in the US are repeated.  The insurgency's is "relatively small" which is meaningless.  A large thing can be relatively small if you don't staff relative to what.  Relative to what is the number small.  Relatively enables small to be made without needing any meaning.  Since no relative standard is given the term can be defended.

"The early signs are positive," Gates said. "There is a great reluctance to engage in happy talk about this. It's a tough environment."

The only signs given are the increase in attacks, which is positive.  And the agent of happy talk is never identified.  One can suspect it is the media, and the tired claim that the media is against the war is being repeated, and no question this is part of the intention.  But after 5 years of such statements the agency of the media needs to be removed to make the line plausible.  Thus the failure to engage in happy talk is coming from an unstated form of bias, which is not identified and not called biased, but almost certainly coded.

As for the "tough environment" my first read is he meant Iraq.  But again the code could be read differently.  An environment is also a medium, is the environment the government that finds itself in tough, is this yet another coded message that the media is making it hard on the Bush administration.

After removing any direct meaning to the standard lines that things are getting better and the media won't say anything about it, we get the same happy talk as before.  Reduction in violence will take place in the summer months.  Generally according to Iraq Causalities there is a slow down in deaths between April and September, so the conditions are being set for a potential future slow down, in any period during the summer, taken as a success.  Also the insurgency follows patterns, like all combat units, of standing up and standing down.  Increased activity in the Spring will mean decreased at some point in the near future.

So this article says nothing, accept presenting the same Rumsfield comments in a new code.  Gates simply provides a change in style, but the substance is the same.  The surge is the same old same old just repackaged.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

A little simple

finally get “semantic” Web


Yesterday I got a look at Radar Networks’ stealth stuff. It won’t be on the market until later this year but for the first time I finally understood what the semantic Web was all about and what benefits it’d bring us.

I don’t think I could explain it in ASCII text. I think that’s the problem. I read Tim Berners-Lee’s paper. I didn’t get it. I read tons of other stuff about it. I didn’t get it. It took someone building a new system and demonstrating it to me for me to get it.

Basically Web pages will no longer be just pages, or posts. They’ll all be split up into little objects, stored in a database (a massive, scalable one at that) and then your words can be displayed in different ways. Imagine a really awesome search engine that could bring back much much more granular stuff than Google can today. Or, heck, imagine you could view my blog by posts with most inbound links.

And I’m not even doing it justice (and I’ve been asked not to reveal what Radar really is doing until later this year).

It’s funny, yesterday I was thinking to myself “the industry has gotten boring.” Then came along Radar Networks, which definitely is doing something not boring.

Comment: Though I like Scoble this is a bit simplistic.  He seems to have utterly missed the entire concept of meaning, and of geo-information placing context.  My pieces of information are so heavy contexted by links of defined kinds, like place, types, ect, that a bot can constructed meaning.  I would suspect the sematic web will depend on the success or failure of some of the bigger ideas in Web 2.0 which are still be conducted.

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Interview with Allen Pizzey on CBS the PublicEye

Interview with Allen Pizzey on CBS the PublicEye

Brian Montopoli: It seems that some reporters, including yourself and CNN's Michael Ware, have really taken umbrage at John McCain's recent comments, essentially saying that there are a lot of neighborhoods where you can walk around relatively safely. Is it fair to say that that really sort of bothered reporters?

Allen Pizzey: Yes. It's disgraceful for a man seeking highest office, I think, to talk utter rubbish. And that is utter rubbish. It's electoral propaganda. It is simply not true. No one in his right mind who has been to Baghdad believes that story.

Now, McCain and some other senators were there on Sunday, and they claimed, "Oh, we walked around for a whole hour…and we drove in from the airport. Gosh, aren't we great, we drove in from the airport." Excuse me, Mr. McCain, you drove in in a large convoy of heavily armed vehicles. The last one had a sign on it saying "Keep back 100 yards. Deadly force authorized." Every single car that they approached or passed pulled over and stopped, because that's the way it is. When one of those security details goes by, every ordinary person gets the hell out of the way, in case they get shot.

If he did walk around that market, and I didn't see him do it, and he didn't announce he was going to do it, you can bet your life there were an awful lot of soldiers deployed to make sure that nobody came near that place. He's talking rubbish. And he should not get away with it.

Brian Montopoli: There used to be a pretty vigorous debate about whether the media is reporting the war through an anti-administration liberal bias lens, though that has died down a little bit of late. How do you feel about that argument?

Allen Pizzey: I dismiss that. Because I think the Bush administration in particular thinks that anything that doesn't wholly support everything they say is against them. And you don't have to support one side or the other. If the administration makes idiotic claims, or claims that are patently, to us on the ground, wrong, why should we not report that they're wrong? All we're doing is reporting what we can see and understand.

Now, no reporter is as objective as we'd like to be. Objectivity is a principle to which we strive to adhere, but we all have our own little biases – our upbringing, our personal political beliefs, whatever touches us in a human way. All of that affects our reporting. But I don't think that we have a particular administration bias. I don't care one way or another. I'm not even American. I just happen to work for Americans. I just do my job.

NOTE: The construction of a conflict between the Bush-McCain Party and the media.  McCain said I could walk around Baghdad, without being specific about the security he would need, he simply stated he could walk around Baghdad.  And he has the pictures to show it.  McCain never said I could walk around Baghdad without hundreds of security forces and a major security operation.  In fact to Bush and McCain the streets of London and Paris are off limits, there ability to walk or not walk anywhere is conditioned upon their having security operations in place.  So the debate is no longer "how are conditions for the people of Iraq" or "what is the war's results at this point in it" but "did McCain walk down a street or not."

It also seems that in 2008 Bush-McCain are establishing a media free election, starting out with the assumption the news in Iraq is being negatively constructed.  Again since all discourse is constructed and there is not much point in the media reporting everyone who didn't get kidnapped, rapped or murdered because of the war every day it is true that the media is construction and edited image of Iraq that is not the same as reality.  No news media coverage is ever a map of reality.  Most people in cities do not encounter crime everyday, so should the media not cover crimes that happen? 

Bias is a very key issue, mostly because bias is so critical to GOP position, especially with the GOP deploying its survival strategy.  Social biased expressed in the media about people of color, Muslims, the poor, the rest of the world, and the economy as core to GOP power. Conservatives understands the bias of media coverage because as a political movement it is all about assumptions applied to observations.  The very nature of conservativeness is that you already knew it before it happened, that things never change.  It is fueled by a flood of doom and gloom biased news coverage about minorities, single mothers, teens, and the poor.  In Iraq they just exposed a bit of the play book.

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Middle East fears broken Iraq

BBC Middle East Editor Jeremy Bowen
By Jeremy Bowen
BBC Middle East Editor

There was a time in 2003, between the removal of Saddam Hussein and the start of the insurgency, when you could stroll through Baghdad down to one of the teahouses on the banks of the Tigris without worrying too much about getting kidnapped or blown up.

Scene of car bomb in Baghdad, 20-03-07

For those few months, supporters of the Iraq war generally felt pretty good about the way things had gone.

No weapons of mass destruction had been found, but it was just a matter of time.

Yes, there had been looting and banditry, but it would pass.

It seemed, to the instigators and supporters of the war, that the dream of the American neo-conservatives was coming true.

Iraq was being remade a beacon of democratic values. It would become such a successful friend of the West that all its neighbours would want to copy it.

Watershed year

Of course, it has been clear for some time that the neo-con dreams were delusions. But they should not be forgotten, because they are, after all, a big part of the reason why we all ended up in this mess.

I say "we" because it is going to be very hard for anyone to avoid the consequences of having a broken country and a bloody series of wars at the centre of the world's most strategically important region.

Homeless Iraqi women living in destroyed building in Baghdad
Nearly two million Iraqis have been displaced within their own country
The year 2003 was a watershed in the modern history of the Middle East. The results of the invasion are going to be rumbling around the region for a long time - a generation or more.

Some are already clear. The war has already produced the biggest movement of people in the Middle East since the Palestinian refugee crisis after the establishment of Israel in 1948.

More than a million refugees from Iraq are in Syria, around a million more in Jordan and almost two million have been displaced inside Iraq.

The war between Shia and Sunni Muslims in Iraq terrifies people.

In Saudi Arabia last month a Shia engineer told me how worried his community had been during Ashura, the annual commemoration of the death of their martyr Hussein, the grandson of the prophet Mohammed.

"It's simple," he said. "Some of the Sunnis, the extremists, regard us as infidels. We're terribly worried that what's happening in Iraq could happen here."

Shia militiaman in Iraq - file photo
Iraq's neighbours fear a spread of Shia-Sunni conflict
When you travel around the Middle East and ask people about how the war in Iraq has affected them you get a combination of regret, anger and trepidation.

Last week I visited a senior Saudi security official, a general. I asked him whether the invasion by America, Britain and their friends four years ago had made Iraq into a recruiting sergeant for Islamist extremists.

He said it had, and explained.

"It inspires these people," he said. "Some of them think it is their duty to go and perform jihad in Iraq. They think they are supporting the Muslims in Iraq and actually protecting the Islamic civilisation and culture in Iraq."

He denied, by the way, that Saudi Arabia's tolerance of some religious extremists was also making matters worse.

'Sound of freedom'

Saddam Hussein was a never a good neighbour, but after his armies were expelled from Kuwait in 1991 he was contained.

The conservative, mainly elderly Sunni royalty who run the Arab Gulf like predictability. What is happening in Iraq now is not at all predictable, and that makes them nervous.

At the biggest arms fair in the Middle East, which was held in Abu Dhabi last month, the best-selling items were weapons and equipment for border security and counter-insurgency.

American aircraft carrier USS Eisenhower - file photo
Two US aircraft carriers are in waters near the Middle East
And what about the Americans?

Some of them still seem to be believers in the dead dreams of four years ago.

On the flight deck of the enormous US aircraft carrier the USS Eisenhower in the Gulf this week, warplanes were being shot out of the steam catapults on the flight deck with engines that roared and screamed so loudly you felt it in your sinuses, teeth and jawbone.

"Listen to it," one of the officers told me when the warplanes were launched and streaking up the Gulf to Iraq.

"It is the sound of freedom."

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Marketing in Second Life doesn’t work… here is why!

Written by Wagner James Au
Wednesday, April 4, 2007 at 4:30 PM PT | 19 comments

Last week, the Hamburg-based research firm Komjuniti published the first extensive survey of Resident attitudes toward real world marketing in Second Life. It’s been a long time in coming: a British branding agency established a forward operating base in SL back in early 2004 (and for their efforts, were greeted by throngs of sign-waving protesters threatening to boycott their island.)Coke in SL

In succeeding years, a miniature dot com boom has attracted a slew of big name companies and established brands, from MTV and Coke, to Dell, American Apparel, Coldwell Banker, among many more. Up until now, few have asked hard questions about what these companies were gaining for all that effort and cash (other than any publicity hit from the announcement.)

The early results from Komjuniti, as it turns out, are not encouraging: 72% of their 200 respondents [PDF file] said they were disappointed with real world company activities in Second Life; just over 40% considered these efforts a one-off not likely to last.

As bleak as these numbers may seem, it’s worth noting that they aren’t actually too far off from reactions to traditional Internet advertising. For example, four years after Net-based advertising had reached full fury, Yankelovich Parterns conducted a 2004 study and found that 60% of consumers had a significantly more negative opinion of marketing and advertising on the Web now than a few years previous, while 65% described themselves as feeling constantly bombarded by ads online. So in a relatively similar space of time, advertisers and brand promoters in Second Life have managed to annoy their potential customers only slightly more then their established brethren.

More worrying, however, are another pair of numbers: while 41% of respondents in the Yankelovich study said that Internet advertising had at least some relevance to them, a mere 7% of respondents in the Komjuniti study say that the SL-based promotion would have a positive impact on their future buying behavior.

Why has the failure been so thorough? Not necessarily for a lack of desire, because the Komjuniti participants also report “they would like to be able to interact more with the brands represented” in SL; metaverse versions of established hotels and retail brands garner the most positive reaction. These two points offer a sliver of hope to the metaverse marketer. As to the underwhelming results thus far, I can suggest three factors not covered in Komjuniti’s analysis.

Teleporting is to SL Advertising What the Channel Clicker is to TV Ads

The standard means of travel in SL is point-to-point teleportation, near-instantaneous transit from one x,y,z location to another. (Though it gets more press, Superman-esque flying is mostly used in short, localized bursts to get around obstacles.) P2P teleporting renders billboards and most other location-based advertising useless, and in any case, most SL marketers buy and develop on private virtual islands, where they can fully control the branding experience.

Due to server architecture, however, these islands are only accessible by teleportation, making it the ultimate opt-in experience. Giving marketers the unique challenge of getting Residents to voluntary dive into their ad, and stay long enough for any kind of meaningful brand immersion. So it’s not all that surprising marketers are largely floundering in Second Life: it’s like trying to create ads in a 3D Tivo.

Death by Green Dots (or lack thereof)

Residents navigate the world through a dynamic map; in it, every avatar in-world is represented by a green dot, and this feature has become a quick way for getting a visual read on where other Residents are in the world, and what they’re doing. In various locales and islands, green dots congregate in large numbers, and users’ immediate inference is, if lots of people are going to these places, something interesting must be going on there.

Any noticeable clump of green dots attracts more dots, and as those grow, more follow– a feedback loop colloquially known as “the green dot effect”. Second Life’s most successful entrepreneurs (who’ve proven far more agile and inventive then most of their real world counterparts) sustain this flurry of dots by holding constant events, giveaways, and games, and even go so far to pay Residents to visit. Amazingly, corporate marketers have been slow to replicate these homegrown strategies. (Surely several interns can host regular activities at their company’s SL site? Has to beat photocopying and bagel runs.)

A Failure of Imagination

To play in Second Life, corporations must first come to a humbling realization: in the context of the fantastic, their brands as they exist in the real world are boring, banal, and unimaginative. Car companies are trying to compete with college kids who turn a virtualHomegrown car dealership automotive showroom into a 24/7 hiphop dance party, and create lovingly designed muscle cars that fly, and auction off for $2000 in real dollars at charity auctions.

Fashion companies have it even harder. A thriving homegrown industry of avatar clothing design (free of production costs and overseas mass production) already exists, largely ruled by housewives with astounding talent and copious amounts of time, and since the designers are popular personalities in Second Life (whose avatars become their brand), they enjoy– and frankly deserve– the home team advantage. Homegrown SL fashion

Faced with such talented competition, smart marketers should concede defeat, and hire these college kids and housewives to create concept designs and prototypes that re-imagine their brands merged to existing SL-based brands which have already proved themselves in a world of infinite possibility. Or as the Komjuniti study suggests, they can keep building sterile shopping malls, and continue wondering why Residents prefer nude dance parties, giant frogs singing alt-folk rock, and samurai deathmatches– and often, all three at the same time.

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Companies urged: 'let your staff blog'

By Simon Atkinson
Business Reporter, BBC News

Dell Latitude D620 notebook
About 100,000 blogs globally are created every day
After being delayed for seven hours at a New York airport recently, Anthony Mayfield arrived home and blogged about his experience.

Having derided the customer service and lack of information in his online musings, he did a quick search of other blogs.

Soon he discovered seven other people who had been in the queue with him had done the same thing.

"I linked those blogs to my blog, and the next day, if you put 'Continental Airlines' and 'complaint' into Google, my site was one of the first to come up," he said proudly.

Impassioned plea

Mr Mayfield was recounting the tale to BBC News Interactive at a conference in central London called Business 4 Blogging.

For the hundreds of delegates - many working in public relations for large corporations - it was the sort of tale that could make them wince.

They had come to hear how social media - including blogs, wikis (which allow users to add and edit online content collectively) and other user generated content - could benefit businesses.

Or, indeed, threaten them.

Strangely, given the conference title, there did not seem to be much blogging go on.

"Perhaps", one attendee grumbled "it's because you have to pay to get onto the wireless network. You'd never get this in America."

Darren Strange
I know it sounds scary that you have hundreds of people writing what they like about the firm, and you having no control over it
Darren Strange
Microsoft blogger

Delegates chatted, downing fruit juice served in small shot glasses (because those taller ones are, like, so Web 1.0).

Meanwhile experts greeted each other with surprising familiarity for people who hadn't met before. "Hey, I love your blog, aren't you the guy who takes pictures of train stations?" one person said.

Among them was Darren Strange, the UK's senior product manager for Microsoft Office 2007 and also one of the software giant's top three bloggers in the UK.

He delivered an impassioned plea for firms to allow staff free reign to write their own blogs.

"I know it sounds scary that you have hundreds of people writing what they like about the firm, and you having no control over it," Mr Strange said.

"Yes, things will go wrong, people will say things that perhaps they shouldn't but the benefits outweigh the downsides."

The room of PR executives meanwhile had been stunned into silence.

Ego boost

His own blog, Office Rocker!, discusses issues at Microsoft and Microsoft Office 2007.

Frank assessments and a willingness to engage in discussions have helped him build up a loyal following.

One of his more popular recent postings was his account of how he failed miserably while using one of the Microsoft programmes for which he is responsible.

The entry was called "Death by Powerpoint".

"I'm no Robert Scoble," he said in reference to the Microsoft employee whose blog about his life and events inside and outside the firm became the unofficial corporate voice of the company.

"But I get about 200,000 hits a month.

Office Rocker screengrab
Darren Strange's Microsoft blog gets about 200,000 hits a month.

"All that is good for the ego I suppose, but it's not a mouthpiece, it's a conversation about something I am passionate about".

Allowing employees to have their own blog was a positive thing for a firm, Mr Strange added.

These benefits, he said, included having a "genuine" voice talking about the company and communicating, rather than pushing things on users.

And when a problem arises - be it a faulty product or even a delay at an airport - directly addressing a problem in a blog could help perceptions among the increasingly powerful online community.

"In that respect, these blogs are worth having, almost as a defence mechanism against bad publicity," he argued.

Unlike most organisations, including the BBC, Microsoft has no regulations for staff who write blogs, a revelation that brought another gasp from the audience.

"The longer it goes without having a set of rules, the harder I think it will be to implement one," he said.

"In fact if they ever did, I think I'd probably leave."


However giving staff some terms and conditions to use if they choose to blog would be helpful, argues Ged Carroll, of the digital strategies group at PR agency Waggener Edstrom.

"You can make life a lot easier for people by giving them some common sense guidelines.

If a blog is lifeless, you'll soon find out because nobody will link to it. It has to challenge the audience, encourage some debate.
Anthony Mayfield

"People should not think that because it's a new medium, that all the old rules go out of the window.

Mr Carroll said Microsoft was probably a "special case" because staff were probably all technology-minded with a common set of values.

"For most companies it would be helpful to let employees be free to blog, but to give them guidelines on how to be a good blogger," he said.

"That is empowering."

When not stuck in airports and raging about shoddy service, Mr Mayfield works for Spannerworks, a company advising firms on, among other things, how to use blogs effectively.

He said not everyone was cut out for writing a blog and that they required creative, confident authors.

"If a blog is lifeless, you'll soon find out because nobody will link to it. It has to challenge the audience, encourage some debate.

"More important is how a company listens and how it finds out what other people are saying.

"Companies have been used to a level of control, steered by their PR firms, and that just doesn't apply anymore."

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Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Virtual feds visit Second Life casinos

Technology News

Virtual feds visit Second Life casinos

NEW YORK (Reuters) -- FBI investigators have visited Second Life's Internet casinos at the invitation of the virtual world's creator Linden Lab, but the U.S. government has not decided on the legality of virtual gambling.

"We have invited the FBI several times to take a look around in Second Life and raise any concerns they would like, and we know of at least one instance that federal agents did look around in a virtual casino," said Ginsu Yoon, until recently Linden Lab's general counsel and currently vice president for business affairs.

Second Life is a popular online virtual world with millions of registered users and its own economy and currency, known as the Linden dollar, which can be exchanged for U.S. dollars.

Yoon said the company was seeking guidance on virtual gaming activity in Second Life but had not yet received clear rules from U.S. authorities.

The FBI and the U.S. Attorney's Office for Northern California declined comment.

Hundreds of casinos offering poker, slot machines and blackjack can easily be found in Second Life. While it is difficult to estimate the total size of the gambling economy in Second Life, the three largest poker casinos are earning profits of a modest $1,500 each per month, according to casino owners and people familiar with the industry.

The surge in Second Life gambling coincides with a crackdown in the real world by the U.S. government, which has arrested executives from offshore gambling Web sites.

Most lawyers agree that placing bets with Linden dollars likely violates U.S. anti-gambling statutes, which cover circumstances in which "something of value" is wagered. But the degree of Linden Lab's responsibility, and the likelihood of a any crackdown, is uncertain.

"That's the risk; we have a set of unknowns and we don't know how they're going to play out," said Brent Britton, an attorney specializing in emergent technology at the law firm Squire, Sanders & Dempsey in Tampa, Florida.

Britton said Linden Lab could potentially face criminal charges under the 1970 Illegal Gambling Business Act or the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act. The latter law, passed last year, takes aim at credit card companies and other electronic funds transfers that enable Internet gambling.

"What they did was go after the processors, and made it a crime to process payments that relate to online gambling sites. Linden could potentially be held as the same sort of processor," said Sean Kane, a lawyer at New York's Drakeford & Kane who has studied the legal issues of virtual worlds.

"If you're buying money on the Lindex (a virtual currency exchange) and utilizing it for gambling purposes, Linden could have a much higher level of responsibility," he added. "If they would be found in violation, that's difficult to say, but I can see a much stronger case being made."

Linden Lab's rules prohibit illegal activity.

"It's not always clear to us whether a 3-D simulation of a casino is the same thing as a casino, legally speaking, and it's not clear to the law enforcement authorities we have asked," Yoon said.

Even if the law were clear, he said the company would have no way to monitor or prevent gambling in Second Life.

Copyright 2007 Reuters. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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Deconstructing McCain

Deconstructing the Surge and the Semiotic Failure of McCain

The Surge has been from the start an object only of constructed American political meaning, divorced from military reality on the ground in Iraq.  By its definition the surge can only succeed.  The surge is simply the insert of more troops in to Iraq, and by inserting more troops in to Iraq it is an accomplishment.

But that is too cute for an American public which has clearly given up on the war.  McCain, aging and nearing the end of his career has been granted by the GOP elites who destroyed him one chance to run as the war candidate, to insure that the Iraq War is defended in the election before the almost inevitable end after a likely 2008 victory by a group of Democratic super-stars fighting it out to see how can set new fund raising records or get more press time. 

Thus McCain constructed a walk through Iraq, with over 100 US troops around him and heavy security he showed that it is possible, for a short period, for a heavily guarded and planned US leaders to be in public in Iraq.

Given Cheney's last visit to Afghanistan this is a measure of how poorly Bush's war has gone.  The ability of a US leader to visit Iraq or Afghanistan and now hear a suicide bomber or have a rocket fired at them is now a massive success.  The nation that spends half the world's budget for defense is reduced to trying to show it can avoid a punch by a group of bare foot insurgents.

McCain visit failed as a semiotic message mostly because there is no desire in the United States to buy it any more.  McCan and the GOP are playing to their own crowd now, trying to establish the myth of the war that could have been won but was abandon.  Essentially they are trying to turn Iraq in to Vietnam themselves, establish some indication that things might have worked if only....

But McCain's own feebleness, not present before, in the hot Iraq sun was probably the main story.  Clearly the time spent in Iraq under body amour and moving in high security had taken a toll on the rapidly aging Senator and he looked sickly, weak, and tepid. 

Drudge, always desperate to promote headlines, elected to focus on a black spot on his head rather than the surge itself.  The black spot was certainly a strange feature since politicians travel with groups of image consultants who can make over these types of things.  Was it more an expression of a black shadow moving over McCain in his mission, a failure of the established GOP magic to deploy military power to cement domestic control.

Rarely in American history has one of the major parties seen its fortunes turn so rapidly.  In 2003 Bush forced the US in to the war in Iraq as a virtual dictator.  2004 saw a close election but still the GOP gained some power.  But by 2006 the myth that America could not lose a war after 9-11 and a President could not fail had stopped working as a narrative to the news.

The nature of binary systems, and the GOP is very binary in its thinking, means that a collapse of one side leaves a switch.  The myth that a blood and guts US President would win a 9-11 based war has fallen, and the surge is a final feeble effort to define an object so vague and so tautological that it can be claimed that there is success.

But the limits of its ambition are an indication of how much GOP discourse has collapsed.  The dirty tricks and accusations of treason don't work when you are seen as having lost a major war.  The democrats, most who supported the war, have effectively positioned themselves as its opposition since taking power in Congress and this has become essentially a no brainier

One period in American history is ending: the war on terror.  The age of Bush and Chaney is coming to a rapid close, and may be over already.  Come 2009 a new age will begin.  Very likely the President and 2 in line for power will be 2 women and a black, or some other combination.  The democrats have essentially the gay guy, the woman and the black guy and these three a raising record sums of cash.  The white male, who just 100 years ago was the only person who counted as a human in American politics, will for the first time fully be a minority.  Bush supports, who just 3 years ago knew the feeling of total power, will be reduced to a marginal group, the butt of jokes and lectures on history.

And that is the problem.  Established power groups rarely give up authority lightly.  These people stoled the 2000 election and will almost certainly deploy strategies more horrifically that an surge to hold on to power.  It is risky times for the US.

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