Tag Archives: internet

Best Practices for Time Travelers

Maciej Cegłowski:

When John Titor first showed up on IRC chat in October of 2000, he was enjoying a neat kind of double billing – as his 38-year-old self sat downstairs in the kitchen, typing away, a two-year-old version of himself lay sound asleep upstairs in bed. The elder Titor had been sent back in time by the U.S. Army, which needed him to fetch some legacy computer hardware from the 1970’s, and he had a sort of layover in the year 2000. So like anyone with time to kill, he went online.

Titor arrived in Florida in a 2036 model Corvette (later sold off) outfitted with a 500 pound military-grade time travel device that he photographed and posted online, complete with manual. The reason for his visit was utilitarian – he had been sent back to the 1970’s to fetch a model IBM 5100 computer, “because Unix has problems in 2038”, and the 5100 had an undocumented feature that made it highly desirable to programmers working on the Unix bug. Apparently the Army of 2036 knew enough to build a time machine, but wasn’t able to fix a word-size error in a legacy operating system.

That bit actually made the whole story sound plausible to me.


Internet death sentence

AT&T disconnects whole families from the internet because someone in their house is accused of copyright infringement

Cory Doctorow at Boing Boing:

The customers who are being disconnected have never been able to face their accusers or have a day in court. The people they live with are not accused of any wrongdoing. The internet they are losing is likely the only option they have for broadband — or one of two options, with the other one likely being a cable company like Comcast who may now join AT&T in a race to the bottom.

The internet is not a video-on-demand service, it’s the nervous system of the 21st century. Terminating someone from the internet terminates their access to family, education, employment, civic and political engagement, health care information, and virtually everything else we use to measure whether a society is functioning well for its citizens.


Kathy Sierra says she lost nothing by quitting social media after receiving numerous death threats

Sierra was the target of a flood of graphic death threats over her blog about web design. Yes, that’s right — web design.

Benjamen Walker’s Theory of Everything podcast:

In 2007 writer, programmer, and horse trainer Kathy Sierra quit the internet because of misogynist hate trolling. She stayed off the social web for 7 years but last year she came back to see what Twitter was like. She tells us why she only lasted a few weeks and her theory about why so many women are targets online. Plus Danielle Keats Citron explains how we could use the law to drain the cesspool.

Planet Money looks at the surprisingly rambunctious world of top-level Internet domains

.bike, .ninja, .plumbing, and .cool join the old familiar .com, .edu, and .gov, leading to a massive land grab by speculators looking to scoop up prime Internet real estate.

The whole thing has always seemed like a scam to me — a classic case of rent-seeking. As far as I can see, top-level domains serve no useful purpose at all other than make money for people who produce nothing of value in return. People should be allowed to call their website by any unique string of characters.

Top-level domains — and other Internet directory services — are overseen by ICANN, which has been in the news lately for other reasons, as the Republicans are wetting the bed about Obama supposedly giving away the Internet which isn’t even close to the truth.

The Wild West of the Internet

Pew: 13% of Americans don’t use the internet. Who are they?

Older, less educated, and rural Americans are less likely to be online.

About 2/5 of adults age 65 and older don’t use the Internet, compared with only 1% of 18-29-year olds, says Pew Research. Also, the less educated you are, the more likely you are to not use the Internet — about a third of adults with less than high school education don’t use the Internet. And rural Americans are twice as likely to not go online.

45% of waking hours spent staring at screens, say researchers

Aditya Kishore, Telco Transformation:

It seems our electronic devices now own us, rather than the other way around. New research has found that the average US consumer spends 50 hours every week in front of some kind of screen.

I don’t even want to think about how that number works out for me. It’s one of the reasons I’m a virtual reality skeptic. “Not enough time connected to the Internet” is not one of the problems I have in life.


What the rest of the tech industry was doing 25 years ago when the World Wide Web launched

Tim Berners-Lee published “a short summary of the
WorldWideWeb project” on the newsgroup alt.hypertext Aug. 6, 1991.

Mike Murphy at Quartz has more:

The first website, which was literally a website explaining what a website was, went online in November 1992. It was created by Tim Berners-Lee, at the time a researcher at CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research). But before the site went live, Berners-Lee brought up the project he was working on—hyperlinks, the technology that allows pieces of information to be linked to each other on the internet—on a Usenet page. Usenet was a pre-internet forum when just a couple million people were on the internet; its archives have since been acquired by Google. If you want to find the first rumblings of the modern web online now, you have to trudge through some incompletely archived pages on Google Groups.

Berners-Lee was responding to a question someone asked about whether anyone knew anyone working on the concept of hyperlinks. As one of the people directly working on that exact topic he seemed perfectly situated to respond.

Internet pioneers discuss ways to make it open again

The Fathers of the Internet Revolution Urge Today’s Software Engineers to Reinvent the Web

Organized by Brewster Kahle, founder of the Internet Archive, sponsors included the Ford Foundation, Google, Mozilla, and others, speakers included Tim Berners-Lee, who literally invented the Web, and Vint Cerf, co-author of the TCP/IP protocol that underlies the Internet.

Berners-Lee noted problems with the siloed web of today: It’s tough to do something simple like sharing between Facebook, Flickr, LinkedIn, and other siloed services. “All they want to do is share the photos with the colleagues and the friends—and they can’t,” Berners-Lee said. “Which is really stupid. You either have to tell Flickr about your Facebook friends, or move your photos to Facebook and LinkedIn separately, or build and run a third application to build a bridge between the two.” He also criticized the need to trade privacy for access.

The Internet pioneers suggested some solutions.

[Tekla S. Perry/IEEEE Spectrum]



Blake Snow at the Atlantic tries to imagine a world where the Internet never happened:

Not long ago, browsing the Internet, I happened to stumble on a list titled, “The Best Sci-Fi Books of All Time, According to the Internet.”  Like most lists of its kind, it was subjective and far from definitive, but still, it represented an interesting challenge. As someone who reads for pleasure as much as for job security, I decided to finish as many of the titles as I could handle.

After completing over a dozen (and taking in many of the film adaptations) the following occurred to me: Not one of these acclaimed futuristic stories—at least none of the many I was exposed to—took place in a world with any version of the Internet. All instances of published media, daily communication, romance—all offline.

In part, this has to do with the constraints of narrative writing, explains the technology writer Clive Thompson. “A lot of science fiction was primarily focused on moving people and things around in exciting ways,” he says. “These forward-thinkers were using flashy visuals to hook their readers, while understandably overlooking non-sexy things such as inaudible conversations.”

And inaudible conversations are the bread and butter of the world wide web. As Jon Stewart once put it, the Internet today “is just a world passing around notes in a classroom.”

But my experience led me to an interesting thought experiment: How might we live without the world’s largest note exchange? Or, in other words, what would the world be like today if the Internet ceased to exist?

Snow focuses on the conversational elements of the Internet – social media, email, and messaging – to the exclusion of information-gathering and business. To tell the truth, the paragraphs I quoted are the best parts of the article. The rest makes points we’ve seen elsewhere: The Internet lets us work more flexibly, but we put in longer hours. And it makes us less empathetic.

For me, life without the Internet is like life without electricity. I could do it, but it would be hard. That’s extraordinary, considering I was past 30 before the Internet went mainstream.

Three or four years ago I decided to take an Internet break while on vacation, but that didn’t last any longer than the time it took to think it through, because I realized I rely on the Internet to shop, get news, and communicate. Instead, I decided to take a break from social media. Which was actually nice and I’ll have to try that again sometime. Sometime.

Did Nintendo Fire an Employee to Appease a Gamergate Mob?

The mob was outraged at Nintendo for toning down the sexualization in American versions of some games, particularly sexed-up depictions of teen-agers and eliminating the features in one game that allowed players to change the sizes of women characters’ breasts. They blamed Nintendo employee Alison Rapp, and harassed her until she was fired. Rapp actually lobbied to keep the breast-size-change feature.

Yes, this is a real thing that actually happened.

Did Nintendo Fire an Employee to Appease a Gamergate Mob [Joshua Brustein and Jing Cao – Bloomberg]

The People’s Platform: How “free culture” stifles the creative middle


The culture of listicles and Instagram makes it harder for the creative middle — people who are neither superstars like Beyonce, or amateurs working for free — to make a living, while enriching the Googles, Facebooks, and Amazons of the world. Tim Wu reviews The People’s Platform” by Astra Taylor for _The New York Times:

Astra Taylor is a documentary filmmaker who has described her work as the “steamed broccoli” in our cultural diet. Her last film, “Examined Life,” depicted philosophers walking around and talking about their ideas. She’s the kind of creative person who was supposed to benefit when the Internet revolution collapsed old media hierarchies. But two decades since that revolution began, she’s not impressed: “We are at risk of starving in the midst of plenty,” Taylor writes. “Free culture, like cheap food, incurs hidden costs.” Instead of serving as the great equalizer, the web has created an abhorrent cultural feudalism. The creative masses connect, create and labor, while Google, Facebook and Amazon collect the cash.

Taylor’s thesis is simply stated. The pre-Internet cultural industry, populated mainly by exploitative conglomerates, was far from perfect, but at least the ancien régime felt some need to cultivate cultural institutions, and to pay for talent at all levels. Along came the web, which swept away hierarchies — as well as paychecks, leaving behind creators of all kinds only the chance to be fleetingly “Internet famous.” And anyhow, she says, the web never really threatened to overthrow the old media’s upper echelons, whether defined as superstars, like Beyoncé, big broadcast television shows or Hollywood studios. Instead, it was the cultural industry’s middle ­classes that have been wiped out and replaced by new cultural plantations ruled over by the West Coast aggregators.

If you win the Internet lottery and your video goes viral, and you get an interview on The Today show, then what?

It’s just back to serfdom (with exceptions, like E. L. James, author of “Fifty Shades of Grey,” which began as “Twilight” fan fiction). In any event, the odds of going viral are comparable to winning the lottery, but the lottery, to its credit, actually pays out in cash. You might say virality is the promise that keeps the proletariat toiling in the cultural factories, instead of revolting and asking for something better.

Wu says Taylor overlooks hobbyists and amateurs — people posting selfies on Instagram aren’t in it for the money. And Wu also says the Internet permits creation of whole new genres, like Awkward Family Photos (which I’m not so sure is a new thing — a site like Awkward Family Photos reminds me of those little novelty books you could buy at the cash registers of shopping mall bookstores in the 70s and 80s.)

And the Internet is great for consumers — it’s never been easier to get great content from sites like Netflix and Amazon.

Taylor’s solution: “sustainable culture” along with more public support for the arts.

My $0.02: I make a better living on the Internet than I did before. And steamed broccoli is one of our favorite foods.

Content and Its Discontents

Image: NesuKurosu

This is how danah boyd works


For years danah boyd has been watching the internet through an academic lens, studying how society interacts with technology. Her recent book, It’s Complicated, looks at how teenagers, born into an online world, are navigating social media and whether they’re better off for it.

I’m danah boyd, Researcher at Microsoft, and This Is How I Work

Law professor Tim Wu had an epiphany at an Atlanta strip club that led to developing the principle of net neutrality


He was working for Silicon Valley networking company Riverstone Networks, which cooperated with Chinese authorities on censorship technology. And that was only part of the problem at Riverstone, which came under SEC scrutiny for scheming to defraud investors. Wu’s immediate boss, Andrew Feldman, pled guilty to felony charges, and Feldman and four other Riverstone executives settled SEC complaints.

It all crystallized for [Wu] on Sept. 12, 2001 — the day after the 9/11 attacks. He was stranded in Atlanta at a trade show with other company employees. Their business engagements were canceled because of the attacks, and, with no other plans, his colleagues decided to go to a strip club. On such a solemn day, the tawdry revelry repelled him.

“I wondered how I’d gotten there,” he recalls. “I realized that what we’d been doing all those months was abhorrent.” He had been living in a world based on nothing but money, he said, and saw that “the idea that the private sector, the free market, on its own has all the solutions is just a myth.” He added: “When it’s just about money, there are no values.”

He looked for a way out and got a job teaching law at the University of Virginia. But the Internet preoccupied him. “I thought of it as a kind of perpetual frontier, the place where everyone gets a shot, where the underdogs have a chance. The Internet has been that. And I wanted some principles that would keep it that way.”

He got back in touch with [mentor Lawrence] Lessig, who encouraged him in May 2002 to put his thoughts down on paper. The result was a sparkling memo, “A Proposal for Network Neutrality,” that asked: “What principle can balance the legitimate interests of broadband carriers in administering their networks with the danger of harm to new application markets? And how can such a principle be translated into both clear legal guidelines and the practice of network design?” The answer was in the title: a new creation called network neutrality. Mr. Lessig began sending the paper to his contacts the next month.

Defending the Open Internet

“There is no such thing as network neutrality. You’re being played”

Imagine a chess game, but with four players. Each player has their own strategy, some have advantages….say, extra queens left over from prior games, and one has a disability…say, that player can only move their chess pieces like checkers.

In network neutrality, the four players are the government, the content providers, the network providers (carriers, service providers), and you, the consumer. You’re the one playing checkers.

Christian Renaud: There is no such thing as network neutrality

RSS just keeps humming along

What makes RSS truly powerful is that users still have the control. The beauty of the system is it that no one can force you to be tracked and no one can force you to watch ads. There are no security issues I am aware of and no one ever has to know what feeds you subscribe to. This may be the last area of the Internet that you can still say things like this.

The Old Reader: behind the scenes – What Not Dying Looks Like

I wrote a whitepaper evangelizing RSS for the publishing company I worked on in 2005. I proclaimed RSS would be as big as the Web or newsletters. That didn’t happen. On the other hand, Facebook and Twitter are very RSS-like. And I’m still using RSS as my primary channel for accessing many websites.