Is the Internet a Global Argument Clinic?

Sometimes the Internet seems like one giant argument clinic. Case in point…

The Argument Sketch (or Argument, Argument Clinic, or Six More Minutes of Monty Python’s Flying Circus when including the non-argument sections) is a sketch from Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

Palin: “An argument is a collective series of statements to establish a definite proposition.”

Cleese: “No it isn’t”

Palin: “Yes it is. It isn’t just contradiction!”

Cleese: “Look if I argue with you I must take up a contradictory position.”

Palin: “But it isn’t just saying ‘No it isn’t!'”

Cleese: “Yes it is.”

Palin: “No it isn’t! ? Argument is a intellectual process. Contradiction is just the automatic gainsaying of anything the other person says.”

Ahhh Isn’t our freedom to argue online wonderful!?! 😉

Open Letter to the Government from an AWOL Soldier

Yesterday I got an email from James Craven. He’s an Indigenous Leader, Radical Pedagogue, and anti-war activist. He sent me a link to a Open Letter to the Government from an AWOL Soldier by James Circello of Iraq Veterans Against The War. I found this writing intense and compelling. So I share it with you here bellow the fold in its entirety. I hope you can find the time to read it and think about this soldier’s point of view.

Special thanks to Stan Goff for all your inspiration and the wisdom you share with such love.

Continue reading “Open Letter to the Government from an AWOL Soldier”

Your Comments are Valuable

Ever notice how your comments on the Chapel Hill News blog Orange Chat end up in the paper? First time I noticed my comments there I though, “Wow. That’s cool. My words in print for people to see.” Its kind of like a letter to the editor. But now I am concerned that all this user generated content isn’t being obtained ethically.

Comments on a blog are information. Information is a commodity. It has real value. To discover this value you need to know how to use it. But before you do that where do you get this commodity? You ask people to give it to you. What do you provide in return? The going “rate” is space to leave a comment and the “privilege” to have it put in front of thousands or millions of people. If you can get these returns by creating your own blog and doing some Search Engine Optimization yourself then you may be able to compete with large corporations. This is the entrepreneurial democratization of commerce. This is one way sites like Digg or are making money in the Internet age.

I am not against this practice. Its a popular form of business. But are these businesses compensating you fairly? I believe the majority of the people out there using sites, leaving comments and clicking links, are not fully aware of the resources they are creating. User generated content is quite important to democracy and community. But when we don’t understand its value we may not be equal partners in business transactions.

Our comments and letters are actually a type of free user generated content turned into profit. When you sign up to log into many sites and leave comments you can relinquishing your rights to what you write in your comments. Try reading the terms and services. Notice that little check box above a submit button? Usually there is a link there to some confusing legalese. Contained therein are words that strip you of your copyrights. (Not all sites. Comments on this blog are the exclusive property of there authors.)

Those few words you write in comments on Orange Chat may not have any value else where but they do contribute to the content of the paper. There are a ton of “free” websites that collect user generated content and leverage it to create sales from advertising online. In fact this is a main tenant of Web 2.0 business models. Take free data, represent it, sell ads, and provide premium services. aka the Freemium Business model.

The past few years has shown a real change in the relationship that journalists have with blogs. Before newspapers started blogging we wrote about local issues on our blogs. We made two way conversations possible and integrated first person stories about events and ideas. All before many journalist knew what a blog was or thought them worthy of concern.

Now we see how important local blogs are to local political reporting. Reporters read local blogs like Orange Politics to understand what some are thinking and discussing. Blog comments can be the ultimate research tool in understanding street level thought about local events. Blogs can be lead generation machines. Especially for a reporter who may not live in a local community for a long enough time to know people or the issues.

I applaud journalist use of blog and their comments for research. But recently I think some may have crossed the line. I believe our copyrights have been violated.

RE: Councilman seeks recount Front page story in the Chapel Hill News on Sunday November 11, 2007. In this story several comments left on where reprinted verbatim. Orange Politics was referenced as the source, but that was not enough to fulfill the copyright terms of the sites Creative Commons license.

The Chapel Hill News use of comments in their for-profit publication appears to violate the Creative Commons license this website uses. This license applies to the posts and comments.

The Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 1.0 Generic license that uses has the following conditions:

You are free:
* to Share — to copy, distribute and transmit the work
* to Remix — to adapt the work

Under the following conditions:
* Attribution. You must attribute the work in the manner specified by the author or licensor (but not in any way that suggests that they endorse you or your use of the work).
* Noncommercial. You may not use this work for commercial purposes.

* For any reuse or distribution, you must make clear to others the license terms of this work. The best way to do this is with a link to this web page.
* Any of the above conditions can be waived if you get permission from the copyright holder.
* Nothing in this license impairs or restricts the author’s moral rights.

Has the Chapel Hill News obtained written or verbal permission from commenters Tom Jensen or Mark Marcoplos to waive these conditions?

Has the Chapel Hill News made it clear to others the license this site uses by linking directly to this site and/or comments? (FYI, each comment on this site has a unique URL.)

Here are direct links to the comments quoted in the Chapel Hill News that appear to violate the Noncommercial condition of the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 1.0 Generic license.

Tom Jensen’s Comment on Orange Politics reprinted in the Chapel Hill News

Mark Marcoplos’s Comment on Orange Politics reprinted in the Chapel Hill News

I, Brian Russell, hereby provide permission to reprint my comments or posts on Orange to not for profit publications. All other publications must obtain written permission from myself to publish any text. Thank you.

All in all I am quite happy that journalists use Orange Politics as a source. I object to their lack of direct linking to specific sources and disregard for the legal terms of websites. The people who work hard on non-profit sites like Orange Politics do it for there community, not for profit. When for profit websites like lift text verbatim they profit unfairly from there communities hard work. Ignorance of our copyright terms is not an excuse.

This problem could be fixed in several ways. I’d like to see the Chapel Hill News, and all other for profit media companies, to link to all sources inside a stories body content. (using a URL) Also they could obtain direct written permission from each copyright holder if they intend to profit from their republished comments. Finally I think all modern journalists, editors, owners and others need training in modern copyright law especially as it pertains to the Creative Commons license.

Help me write a Story

I found this neat Ruby on Rails web app called Invent a Story. So I started a story with the word(s) National Enquirer. Basically you are given a few words to choose from and asked to write a sentence with it. Then other people are invited to add to the “story”. Here is my sentence.

Today I finally got fired from the National Enquirer.

SO go on over there and add to this web 2.0 exquisite corpse. Fun!

Elections are Over Yeah!

I get excited over local elections. Ever since I met Ruby and moved to Chapel Hill I’ve been hooked. I love learning about this whole process. One of my favorite bits this year was Ruby’s election coverage videos. (I’m a bit jealous actually. I want to do vids like this!) She made these with her Palm Treo 680 and a audio headset.

This is great citizen journalism that gets the info out there. Yes I said journalism. Ruby has publicly said many times she doesn’t consider herself a journalist. But she is providing information people want and need. She is trusted by many and scorned by others, but such is the life of a politico with a strong opinion.

One Lesson from Startup Weekend Chapel Hill

I had a good time at Startup Weekend Chapel Hill. It was exhausting but a worthwhile experience. Here’s one lesson that I learned.

Find Data then Write an Web Application For It

When we brainstorm ideas for creating web applications we think about what you can do to data. Like how to present it, manipulate it, rearrange it, etc.. That seems to be the logical way to go about it. We take for granted that there is data out there to use. But is there really? Where is it?

For example: messaging, IM and SMS, is experiencing a serious surge in popularity. Web sites like are gaining mass use and expectance. The mobile web is another big frontier being explored by web developers. When we think of new applications to build we base our decisions on what we’ve used and what is popular. This can be a good strategy because it positions your app in a highly visible place. (ex. Pownce got bought by Google after cloning Twitter.) Plus if one app is popular there must be a reason for it. So why not make something like it.

The problem with this approach is not the lack of originality its the direction with which we think about it. Lets think about the data first. What data will our website application use? Where will we get the data? How much data do we need? And most importantly HOW CAN WE CREATIVELY PRESENT THE DATA TO MAKE IT UNDERSTOOD AND USEFUL?

At the end of the Startup Weekend Chapel Hill we came to a realization that their wasn’t enough data. For people looking for a place to work you need data about those places. For someone who wants to advertise a place you need data about people who want it. I believe the core team who will take on will find the data and put it out there. Lack of data is why the site was released as a invitation beta. A wise move IMHO.

The spark that got me thinking about this was Jake’s comment that we should purchase some data to fill in the database to start with. I didn’t know there where companies that sold data like this. But it makes perfect since. Sadly I don’t think we can buy quality real estate and user data we need. That is up to the community who will use WorkPerch. They must provide this so it can be useful.

My suggestion to future Startup Weekends and web app developers in general is to brainstorm your app idea but then collect a bunch of data first. With so many people working on a project you could easily distribute the effort to find data. Thirty people could gather a ton in a few hours time.

Then the team could verify who owns the data. Is it in the public domain? Do we need to license it? How much will it cost? Next the data could be shared and merged. Once its in a common file format like xls or cvs the data could be put into a relational database. Then the structure of the web app could be determined. How will the user navigate this data (flow)? How will the web app logic parse this data and represent it? (graphs, print to screen) How will the web app users add to the data or manipulate it?

This way of looking at web apps isn’t new. But just having another angle to think and to apply I found really constructive. Thank you Startup Weekend Chapel Hill participants for creating an environment where we could learn so much.

Oh and one more thing. Chapel Hill Startup Weekend was in The Town of Carrboro. That is NOT Chapel Hill. No matter how you parse it. I don’t care that its a few feet away. You can not lump RTP and Carrboro together. You can not lump Chapel Hill and Carrboro together. You can not dismiss the creative vibe of this small Town. UNC may be next door but its Carrboro where cool companies like Blog Ads flock. So much more than semantics. Dig it! 😀