Do I Have To Say That I Found This Article On The Drudge Report?

David Carr reports from SXSW on a new "Council on Ethical Blogging and Aggregation" forming, which will attempt to curb the body snatching effect of link zombies like the Huffington Post. It's good to create guidelines — or even best practices — for how much content is OK to steal.

(I reprinted an entire article once — it was back when didn't permanently save all their City Section articles. I know that's weird to think about, but this was actually the case back in 2005. I won't even mention, except that I just did, the fact that the City Section itself is no longer part of the paper. Anyway, I was interested in this particular story because our old apartment overlooked the place that the story was written about, and I wanted to pin the article to my digital bulletin board — hmmm . . . what a concept! — so I copied the whole article. If it upsets someone I'll be more than happy to take it down, but in a way keeping it as is says a lot about the history of the site, right?)

The obvious solution is to ban advertisements on aggregator sites. I'm pretty sure this wouldn't work though. And if it did work, they'd just find some other way to make it lucrative — like sell your demographics to third parties or something like that. But seriously — removing the remunerative component would remove the main reason most of the bad-style of aggregators are in business. That's just a modest proposal though . . .

I'm curious what the guidelines will look like. I sort of assume it's going to be difficult to set up good guidelines though. The only explicit one I ever saw used to be printed in online stories for the Brooklyn Eagle, which — regardless of whether it was original reporting or (ironically) a summary of a blog post — always featured the following disclaimer (until recently; they're updating their website and the disclaimer isn't there anymore):

All materials posted on are protected by United States copyright law. Just a reminder, though — It's not considered polite to paste the entire story on your blog. Most blogs post a summary or the first paragraph, (40 words) then post a link to the rest of the story. That helps increase click-throughs for everyone, and minimizes copyright issues. So please keep posting, but not the entire article.

I like the Brooklyn Eagle OK — sometimes they will have an interesting article that I would like to link to on the blog, or maybe even excerpt, but I'd always scratch my head when I'd see that strict 40-word limit. For one, that previous sentence is 40 words (41 if you include the long dash), and I could never figure out what a good excerpt that short would look like. Could we fudge a little the way that people like to fudge in the express lane? Or would I be impolite? Or if not, how far could I go and not be impolite? Such is the problem with guidelines.

Have you ever looked at Fair Use laws? I'm looking at this educational materials example from Stanford: I like, in particular, the 250-word limit for poems. Has any poet ever purposely done 251-word poems? Then the class could play Where's Waldo with the missing word in the excerpt . . .

And then Carr reports on 'the "Curator's Code of Conduct" which, by operationalizing link etiquette, seems to really indulge people's latent Eureka! complex:

The Curator's Code will use a symbol resembling a sideways S to express that a piece of content came directly from another source, and a different figure — a curved arrowlike symbol — to signal what is commonly known as a "hat tip," or nod to a source that inspired a further thought. The Curator's Code supplies the appropriate symbol and then the blogger or writer simply puts in a hyperlink behind it as they normally would.

[Maria] Popova, who spends hours a day scrounging the Web for remarkable artifacts, has noticed that many idiosyncratic discoveries suddenly become ubiquitous once unearthed. And the source of that little gem, or the credit for someone else who dug it up, often disappears when it is reposted.

"Discovery of information is a form of intellectual labor," she said. "When we don't honor discovery, we are robbing somebody's time and labor. The Curator's Code is an attempt to solve some of that."

Setting aside the richness inherent in the idea that people on the internet are somehow being robbed of their intellectual labor by reposting or summarizing or linking to someone else's intellectual labor, the platform that really prevents this tipping of hats from taking place isn't so much the Huffington Post as it is Twitter, where attributions easily fall by the wayside when you're only limited to 140 characters. Maybe someone way smarter than myself can figure out how to fix that one. Good luck, pard'ner.

Y'all come back now, yahear? [Tip of Hat]

Posted: March 11th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: FW: Link | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Nothing Brightens The Day Like A Good Old School Shooting

The news about the school shooting in Ohio was horrible to hear about, but one bit of information stood out:

The name of the gunman, who is now in police custody, has not been released because he is a juvenile, said Tim McKenna, the Chardon police chief. Until adjudicated to the adult court, authorities will not identify him.

McKenna asked for patience and said that the investigation will be painstaking, as authorities have to conduct hundreds of interviews and listen to hours of 911 calls regarding the shootings.

The gunman was described by one student as a bullied outcast, while another spoke of him as being quiet but a "good kid."

Students who witnessed the shooting described how the gunman approached a group of friends who were sitting at a cafeteria table. One student said the shooter seemed to have targeted them.

. . .

FBI officials would not comment on a motive. But one of the students who witnessed the shooting said the gunman was known as someone who had apparently been bullied.

It stood out because one of the biggest lessons of Dave Cullen's excellent book Columbine was that so much bad information was floating around in the reporting immediately afterward. The biggest piece of bad information was that the two Columbine shooters were responding to school bullying.

Why does this matter? (Don't you love the rhetorical trope of asking the question for you?) (You know where I noticed this a lot — on walking tours in foreign countries; it seems that tour guides always say that.) The reason this matters is that in the aftermath of Columbine the kneejerk reaction was to think that schools had to "do more" to get through to kids to show them right and wrong. Let's be clear: Schools can only do so much to teach kids right and wrong and sometimes there's not a lot any one school can do to save its students from a psychopathic child.

(I was going to call this the "Jeremy" premise but then I thought to make sure I remembered that song correctly, and Wikipediaed it — it's actually about a kid who kills himself at school but the MTV censors wouldn't show that so the video unintentionally makes it seem that the protagonist of the video kills his classmates.) (I don't have the energy right now to talk about Pearl Jam, but oh, let me assure you, if I felt like spending another 600 words on it, you'd get an earful on that topic.) (I will say this, though — the lyrics are definitely oblique and specific enough to make you believe that it was about the kind of school shooter you read about in the papers.)

(Here's an unnecessarily provocative connection, though: It's not dissimilar to a big topic like global warming, where the way we conceive of the issue of global warming necessarily assumes that humans can do something to "fix" the problem.)

So it was interesting to see the first reports from the Ohio shooting state that some said the suspect "felt bullied." I want to hear what Dave Cullen has to say but his blog is stuck on January 4 (something about John McCain it appears) . . . he is writing on his Twitter, however . . .

Posted: February 27th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: FW: Link | Tags: , , , , ,

Don't Look Now, But Ape Has Taken Control

When I'm scrolling through the Village Voice Runnin' Scared feed on my reader I usually skip past the "Clip Job" feature — that's the thing where the editors dig up old stories from the Voice archives — but this one about 53rd and Third Avenue caught my eye this morning. It's from 1972, and profiles a hustler named Eddie who turned tricks in the neighborhood:

He came to New York a couple of years ago, started hustling Third and 53rd, met a woman somewhere along the way, and married her. They still live together in a hotel in the East 30s. She works a schlock job during the day while Eddie sleeps off the night. She knows what he's doing, doesn't care, it's his profession.

Eddie hasn't seen sunlight in weeks. At 6 p.m. he gets up, drinks a glass of tomato juice, has a couple of eggs if his wife is around to scramble them, then usually goes to a 42nd Street movie. He liked "Shaft" and "House of Wax." He seldom hustles 42nd. By midnight, he's at Third and 53rd.

And I say "turn tricks" because every time I'm in that neighborhood I always think of the Ramones song "53rd and 3rd", with the Dee Dee lyrics that go something like "53rd and 3rd/Standing on the street/53rd and 3rd/I'm tryin' to turn a trick."

Now you might see a picture of the Lipstick Building on the Northeast corner of 53rd and Third and sooner think of Bernie Madoff than Dee Dee Ramone:

885 Third Avenue (Lipstick Building), Midtown Manhattan

Yes, looking at it today, it's really hard to visualize the area's seedy past. That's just how cities evolve, but still — it's weird. (I'm thinking about it and realizing that the now-iconic Citicorp Building was probably part of a revitalization project during that era, right?)

And where exactly did all the male hustlers go anyway? Is it just that they're on the internet these days? Maybe an updated version of "53rd and 3rd" would read more like this: "Soliciting on Craigslist/On my laptop in my room/Casual encounters/M4M 4 U." Or something. It certainly doesn't have the anti-romance of "53rd and 3rd."

I was just talking about "53rd and 3rd" the other night because we happened to be in that neighborhood visiting some friends. We were at a bar afterward, an establishment about as unseedy as Dee Dee's 1970s world was seedy. At one point I was watching the bar's Twitter feed on a television screen above the door — perhaps you've come across this — you tweet hash tag-[bar whose name I can't remember even though this was just last weekend] and then your message scrolls on the screen. Which also means that there's a new kind of passive-aggressive activity you can participate in that involves tweeting stuff about other people in the bar — it's kind of unnerving. Was I complaining too loudly about someone's buzzkilling slow-tempo jukebox picks? Did that lady behind us hear us talking about them? Yikes. Saturday night pickup scenes are bad enough without enduring semi-anonymous chatter published to the world in real time.

Speaking of things technology destroyed, does anyone make crank calls anymore? Or did Caller ID bring that down? Wikipedia says yes. I expected there to be a piece about the advent of Caller ID inhibiting prank calls, but apparently there isn't. I'm disappointed — maybe this is too obvious? Even for Slate?

The Wikipedia also posits that the difference between a "prank" and a "crank" call revolves around the heightened level of hostility in the latter — another mystery solved! Until now I assumed they were interchangeable, and in fact for years I preferred "crank call," mostly because of the Billy Idol song "Crank Call," which I took to mean that "crank call" was in wider usage. I never looked at the lyrics before. They're incomprehensible:

They want love they want a pantomime
To cut you in two that's a sexual crime
They dig the dirt they deal in
They dig the dirt they feed on

Crank call
Ain't no fun at all

What in God's name is he talking about?

As a kid I used to chew on lyrics like this and think something along the lines of "Wow, adults are so smart and cultured — maybe one day I will also learn to speak a language as complex and evocative as Billy Idol's lyrics." Eventually I realized that some lyrics are just really shitty — like high school poetry set to music.

Here's another verse:

We drop in you in heaven or hell
Ape has taken control
They're breakin' the kids
They're beating the bids
And that is all they feed on

To be fair, maybe it's the Internet lyric industry that screwed these up — my cassette of Rebel Yell is somewhere inaccessible right now (very, very inaccessible) so I can't confirm it.

Never mind, it's on YouTube. Not the best song on the LP, for sure. It plods along in that lazy sort of 1980s midtempo that feels so dated (I think Lady Gaga songs resurrect this goofy midtempo, but that's a topic for another day).

OK, as a point of clarification, here's what I think the actual lyrics are for the verse above:

There's nothing new in heaven or hell
Hate has taken control
They're breakin' the kids
They're beating the bids [?]
And that is all they feed on

OK, doesn't make much more sense, but a little more sense — though I love the idea of "Ape has taken control." Awesome — Google "ape has taken control" and it's all Billy Idol!

It occurs me that if I bring up Billy Idol, I should probably say something nice about him. OK, how about this — I'm reacquainting myself with "(Do Not) Stand In The Shadows" and — wow! — memories of the end of side two of Rebel Yell are flooding back — hey, that's a pretty good song — at least one that some bearded Williamsburg kid might consider covering.

OK, now I'm re-relistening. Sorry to do this, but . . . God, that guitar solo is way too "Rock Me Amadeus." And Billy sounds like he's too self-consciously trying to meld Johnny Rotten and Elvis. And the lyrics . . . yes, there is something great about the way Billy stubbornly refuses to rhyme — it breaks the monotony of the mellifluous vowel sounds you're used to — but sometimes his lines land like a thud. Like this, for example:

Well you know you won't run, you won't hide and you jump like a son of a gun! Ooow!


In here today let me hear you say you're alive and you're living with me. So don't try to hide and don't try to die in the dark of the night. Wooow!


He makes it sound like "in the dark of the night."


Actually, a pattern is emerging — whenever there's a line ending in a non-rhyme Billy always seems to insert one of those pre-Jersey Shore fist pump/sneer/"Wooow" screams that he's famous for. I love it.

Then again, maybe this song is best left unturned:

If you missed it, that blond dude in the Queensrÿche outfit is Billy. And one of the above lines has now been updated to "Well you know I don't run because I don't hide and I fuck like a son of a gun!"

Well, OK then!

That was sure a nice trip down memory lane.

As I was saying, if you Google "prank call" you'll see that there is a cottage industry of websites that will prank your friends for you. The Internet just makes everything better, doesn't it?

Posted: February 3rd, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: M+/MR | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,