Scripting News for 3/6/2007

Who’s the parasite? 

I’ve finally watched the third installment of the Frontline News War report.

They just repeated the point of view of professional reporters, over and over, from every conceivable angle, a p.o.v. we’ve been hearing for a long time. They want reassurance that they’re at the top of a pyramid that includes all the rest of us. Very much like the tech industry, probably like very other group of people. I bet doctors feel that way about the rest of us too (including reporters).

In an offline email conversation, Andrew Baron, who was interviewed in the report said something that I think bears repeating — that there’s a difference between reporting and journalism. I think he’s right about that.

There aren’t many bloggers who are reporters (leading to the common conclusion of reporters that we’re parasites).

But they miss that they feed off their sources, in other words they are parasites of their sources (to use the same negative tone they use with bloggers), and their sources aren’t waiting for them anymore. What are they doing? Key point — they’re becoming bloggers. Duh.

A bit of history — at the same time I asked the NYT to support RSS, I also asked them to offer Times-hosted blogs to anyone who is quoted in a Times article. If only they had done that, how different things would be now.

USA Today sort of took a half-step towards that, but none of them, so far, have been willing to extend their authority to their communities. Hell, none of them have even made the leap to realize that their sources are part of their communities, a very very important part of their goodwill, and worth developing, at least conserving.

Jay Rosen is my rabbi when it comes to the authority of the Great Newspapers of the 20th Century. That would be a good title of a book, eh? (Not for me to write, I’m thinking about the great bloggers of the 21st Century).

Google and books 

Look at all the people saying stuff about Microsoft’s opinion of Google’s scanning of all those books. Lots of comments, but it’s so simply obvious that Google is wrong. In so many ways.

First, it ought to be opt-in. The argument that Google indexes the web so why can’t they index books the same way has one huge problem — the web grew around search engines, and the book industry didn’t. To come in, after the fact, and try to use the web as precedent is to confuse the order in which things happened.

Second, okay, if it can’t be opt-in, let it be opt-out. In the web we have the Robots Exclusion Protocol that allows you to say that a search engine can’t index your site. Where’s the equivalent of that for Google’s book indexer?

Third, there’s a little thing called the Open Content Alliance, that Google could join, if they didn’t think they were the last word in everything related to everything, which it seems pretty clear they do.

Fourth, there is a little thing called copyright, and I think it clearly prohibits the wholesale duplication of stuff that other people created. I don’t know, maybe it’s just me, but that seems kind of obvious.

Point of view 

My.Netscape, the first RSS-aware net application, makes a comeback. Tech bloggers miss the significance. They say it’s just a rehash of Netvibes. If they had been aware of how RSS came to be, they would realize that it’s the other way around, Netvibes is a reprise of My.Netscape.

Here’s an example of the value of future-safe archives. In February 1999, over eight years ago, I saved a screen shot of My Netscape viewing the pre-RSS syndication of Scripting News. I ran a Davenet piece commemorating the event.

Today’s links 

Megite has a river of news and it’s great!

BBC: “A former key White House official, Lewis Libby, has been found guilty of obstruction of justice and perjury.”

One year ago today: What is an unconference?

13 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Anton2000 on March 6, 2007 at 1:43 pm

    Oh Dear Dave, just how right you are, the world is evil.

    Fake professor in Wikipedia storm

    Let us repent our sins – the world will stop revolving soon!!!


  2. When we put information on Wikipedia concerning our company; facts, they were erased by some guy in Norway cause he’d never heard of us and basicaly didn’t like us. I know after that, it was made up of the same liberal types who only want to feed you one type of sugar…while me being a libertrian, wants to mix and match as I see fit. We still haven’t won the battle b/c the buy in Norway is some big-time wikipedia editor, or has high ranking (however they rank themselves) and he runs his wiki the way he sees it.

    the real problem I have with this wiki mentality is, they’re say they’re totally open; but, in reality, its the same clique-ish mentality we saw in highschool.

    you can see that in the way Apple gets waaaay more favorable press than Microsoft, even though Apple has had its fair share of major gafs.

    I just can’t understand why people can’t catch themselves thinking in a certain mentality, then moving to a higher position, and going, “WOW! Its all propaganda.”


  3. we competed with my.netscape at epicentric, more precisely the “enterprise” version of my.netscape which didnt last through the aol acquisition, and wasnt server software anyway. anyway looks like the web 2.0 startups are going to reinvent a lot of the portal functionality that got build in the 97-99 timeframe.


  4. Posted by Steven on March 6, 2007 at 10:45 pm

    Dave you should listen to the debate about Google book search recoreded last year. It is a good listen on the argument for both sides of the issue:


  5. Posted by Matt on March 6, 2007 at 11:02 pm

    A few quick notes on book search, replying to your points in order:
    (first) – I think the logic works both ways.. just because search engines were there early on the web doesn’t inherently grandfather in legality. Fair use can include wholesale copying in transformative instances (see kelly v. arribasoft), which seems to apply. I’m not sure if you’re arguing a moral or legal point here, though, so maybe I’m off subject.

    (second) Publishers and authors can opt out, it’s described here Not as good as robots, definitely, but it is opt-out.

    (third) I’m not sure why not choosing to join an organization makes them “wrong”… book search existed years before OCA.

    (fourth) “I think it clearly prohibits the wholesale duplication of stuff that other people created” Actually, it doesn’t always. For example, the betamax case created precedent to allow you to record stuff on your VCR… wholesale copying of copyrighted material. I’m not saying that this is the same type of use, but I am saying that copyright law is more complicated than you portray it.


  6. “Fourth, there is a little thing called copyright, and I think it clearly prohibits the wholesale duplication of stuff that other people created. I don’t know, maybe it’s just me, but that seems kind of obvious.”

    Um. Except that Google aren’t duplicating wholesale and offering it all back up. They’re trying to duplicate everything and then offering up selected small sections. And doesn’t US (note the US) copyright law allow for that under fair use? It seems important to me in this debate that Google aren’t going into competition with publishers. They’re providing search into the publishers works which adds value to the publisher’s product. So should adding value to other people’s copyrighted works be illegal? If you wrote a blog about a physical book you read and included a quote from that book would that be different?

    And I agree with your other comments in points 1-3.


  7. Posted by billg on March 7, 2007 at 5:35 am

    I’ve had a few dealings with copyright and copyright lawyers. U.S. law does allow fair use, and it focuses on the duplication of small sections. The “offering up” part, I believe, isn’t crucial. I.e., duplication that exceeds fair use guidelines is copyright violation, regardless of how you may or may nor make that copy available to others. In practical terms, not distributing your copies will keep you under the radar and reduce the chance of a lawsuit. But, I’ve never been told that “I didn’t distribute them” is a good defense.

    Copyright law provides guidelines and illustrative examples of fair use, but it does not provide a formula to determine if a given action is a violation. That’s all down to case law and precedent.

    I’d also question if the issue of the harm done by an alleged violator plays into a determination that the violation occured. It seems more likely to play into the size of damages awarded in a civil suit. Ditto the notion of adding value by exposing unauthorized copies to more people. The obvious counter argument is that exposure of snippets via Google is as likely to hurt sales as it is to boost them. In any case, both issues seem pertinent only after a violation is confirmed.

    Google seems like it’s throwing its weighty reputation around in this instance. If the benefits are so obvious, they ought to be able to sell this — literally — to publishers. I.e., if it really does add value — increase sales — why not make it “opt-in for cash”? Google’s not stupid, so perhaps they don’t believe that’s actually the case.


  8. “We are all Sources now.”

    RE: the blogger as source rather than a quasi-journalist. Here is a rambling thought or two in response to your post on source vs. journalist

    Dave, your argument is starting to gel. You have made any number of criticisms of old media in the past, but this is a critical one.

    I look at the loop as a fluid one (even if the existing hierarchies don’t appear to represent it that way). Source->Newspaper->Blog and then (maybe)->Newspaper is what that existing map looks like. But now it’s Source->Blog->Newspaper->Source->Blog. The reality may be more spaghetti than this neat little line. Call it a Spaghetti of News instead of a River!

    This dynamic is more fluid when the source is part of the story, as it is with tech issues(for example), than a report on a single incident. Then the feedback whine commences! If Jobs had a real blog instead of a manifesto on DRM * and he responded to the “Comments” on his DRM screed — the “Comments” being the newspapers, record company whores, bloggers, then you would have a juicy example of this feedback in action.

    Not everyone will have or wants a blog, but anyone CAN. This is town meeting democracy + D.I.Y. writ large. Hmmm… “We are all Sources now.”

    *(not that I didn’t agree with his manifesto, not that I don’t like the form, b/c manifesti are cool–and not that I don’t love FSJ…)


  9. “There aren’t many bloggers who are reporters (leading to the common conclusion of reporters that we’re parasites).”

    To be pedantic, reporting is just a genre of writing, alongside essays and stories, and blogggers most certainly fall into that genre. When I describe a dinner I ate or a wine I tasted, I’m reporting. When someone else liveblogs a keynote, they’re reporting. A kid writing a letter home about summer camp is reporting. It’s all about relaying information about some topic.

    Journalism is the field you study in J-school, and it has a universe of mores and tactics and peculiar habits, just like any other field. (Obviously bloggers can do journalism as well). So I would say that there are lots of bloggers who are reporters, and not as many who are journalists.


  10. Derrick, when they talk about reporting, they mean the process a reporter goes through.

    1. Interviews, research.

    2. Assemble a story.

    3. Fact-checking and editing.

    4. Publishing.

    The process is unique, most bloggers aren’t doing this whole thing. Our process is different, and I’d argue no less rigorous, just more distributed, and step 2 is something everyone does for themselves.


  11. I think when those fancying themselves to be real reporters talk about reporting, they mean the first item on your list: finding the story and getting it out of original sources.


  12. Ah, yes. Good point. It’s one of those unfortunate overloaded terms. I would agree that most individual bloggers don’t go through all of those steps, though I like the point that our version is much more distributed. I know if I get something wrong in a post, a dozen readers suddenly find the urge to comment and I issue a correction.

    As a somewhat-related aside, have you heard the term “Wikipedic knowledge”? I heard about it on a word-puzzle mailing list I’m on, and I quite like it. “This signifies that you know a great deal about X, in the form of facts you heard or read somewhere you don’t really remember and whose accuracy you can’t vouch for. But it’s probably mostly right.”


  13. Dave,

    I found Lawrence Lessig’s comments on the Google books issue both relevant and enlightening (includes stats on books in copyright but no longer in print, for example):

    The stats are contested, of course…but the point is valid regardless.


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